Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Dioxin Contaminated Irish Pork: An Al-Qaeda Attack?

No terrorist organization had claimed responsibility yet, but pork products seem like a very inviting “soft” target for a terrorist attack. Will there be a “Happy Christmas” for this year?

By: Vanessa Uy

If – hypothetically speaking – I was an al-Qaeda operative, attacking one of the most “holy” symbols of Christendom and Christmas, like pork and pork products, could probably produce the most “psychologically paralyzing” damage to the West. Though the current dioxin-contaminated Irish pork is yet to be linked to an attack by an established terrorist group, the incident is by no means still “relegateable” to every major newspaper’s “page 23” spot. Especially when / if the “alleged” attack happens this time of year.

Back in the days when “Ike” was still the President of the United States, Santa Claus was often portrayed unabashedly feasting on a piece of ham intended for a dozen people by himself. Often with strips of bacon on the side, a symbol often hijacked by meat / pork producers portraying Santa’s “corpulence” as being healthy, often to usher in the Christmas / Holiday Season. So, other than the Nativity Scene, Santa Claus, and the Christmas Tree, ham and other pork products are not only post WWII symbols of the Christmas Season, but also – if you will – of post 9 / 11 Christendom.

Dioxin is a carcinogenic and a teratogenic (can affect developing human fetuses) chemical that can be created in our contemporary urban lifestyle via burning unsorted garbage, especially if those garbage / municipal waste is a heterogeneous mix of paper and an organic halide-based plastic like polyvinyl chloride. This method of “making” dioxin is the number one reason of how groundwater tables near major metropolitan areas are contaminated by dioxin via mismanaged municipal waste landfills.

The other one where dioxin can be “accidentally” produced is by faulty and hasty industrial processing of crude oil sourced products. Like the Agent Orange defoliants used in Operation Ranch Hand during the Vietnam War. Or in today’s Irish pork scare, the dioxin-contaminated lubricant used in the machinery that grinds up swine feed. Even some pork samples produced in the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland test positive for PCB s.

The dioxin levels found on suspect Irish pork products contain on average 80 to 200 times above the minimum safe limit established by the US Environmental Protection Agency and its EU counterparts. Given that when it comes to the risk assessment of absolute minimum levels of dioxin in food products deemed fit for human consumption can readily become a “political” issue since there are still no binding limits set on “absolutely” save dioxin levels. But everyone of us alredy knows by now that threat assessment / risk assessment studies have already become a political issue in our post 9 / 11 world.

Given that the coming Holiday Season is very dependent on pork and pork products. The worldwide supermarket recall of Irish pork products manufactured during the month of September this year and onwards spells disaster. Not only for pork aficionados, but also for Irish pig farmers as well. Vegetarianism or being vegan might be good for one’s body and for planet Earth’s environment. But an overwhelmingly large number of us won’t be having a joyous Christmas Season without pork.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

USS Barack Obama

Though many believed that he’s destined for greatness by winning the US Presidency through his promise of hope. Would a US Navy aircraft carrier someday be named after President Barack Obama?

By: Vanessa Uy

Even though it is still quite presumptive given that the 20th of January 2009 inauguration day is still a couple of months away. The thought did came across our minds after receiving free brochures about how to reserve for guided tours on board one of the US Navy’s most advanced aircraft carriers, the Nimitz-class USS Ronald Reagan super-carrier. After all, if the former President Reagan’s doctrine of “Peace Through Strength” brought to us the glorification of the Military-Industrial complex by Hollywood. Remember the naval aviation movie Top Gun, it heavily draws inspiration from then President Reagan’s “Cowboy Diplomacy” and managed to make Hollywood action heroes like Sylvester Stallone, Chuck Norris, and Arnold Schwarzenegger gain an air of “sensibility”, then the Obama presidency could be comparable in greatness; Right?

It was just recently announced that a new Nimitz-class super-carrier named after the former president George H.W. Bush – outgoing President George W. Bush’s dad - or “President Bush, Senior” as he is more affectionately called has just been completed and ready for sea trials. Plus a new series of Ford-class aircraft carriers / supercarriers named after former US president Gerald R. Ford are already on the planning and pre-production stage. The “Howls of Protest” can now be heard of some Americans old enough to have lived through and remembered the Ford Administration. Given that President Ford was never elected and worst of all he pardoned then President Nixon over the Watergate debacle raised questions whether to name a series of the US Navy’s next generation of aircraft carriers after President Ford.

Given that someone like President Ford whose somewhat “marginal” – even controversial - influence of the history of the US Presidency gets an aircraft carrier – even a series of them - named after him, then surely the “expected” greatness of President Obama deserve some speculative prognostication. But since there won’t be an aircraft carrier named after President-elect Obama anytime soon, then it’s safe to assume that the vessel will be radically more advanced than existing ones.

Probably it’s safe to assume that the plane-launching system on the USS Barack Obama might use superconducting electromagnet or rail-gun technology as opposed to existing systems that uses a system of steam-driven piston and pulleys to accelerate high-performance jets to take-off speeds. The ship’s propulsion system might work using nuclear fusion, thus ending the problem of long-lasting radioactive wastes. Or it might employ a yet undiscovered technology that works on the principle of entropy-manipulation through a cyclical time-loop. This could give the term “ Groundhog Day” a whole new meaning if an unforeseen accident ever happens. Or what about a really exotic but might be feasible top-secret propulsion technology based on the workings of Sam Cohen’s “enhanced radiation weapons system”. Like the ballotechnic “red mercury” superfluid that mimics that of the “primordial superfluid” that originally permeates throughout the early Universe a few moments after the Big Bang. A newfangled “steam ship” if you will, only this time the working “steam” might be our exotic “ballotechnic superfluid” with a working temperature of trillions of degrees centigrade.

Also, if the now President-elect Obama’s kids choose to have naval careers, they might gain a command posting on a ship with their father’s namesake sometime in the future. Given that our hypothetical super-carrier USS Barack Obama won’t be underway any time soon. But still, given the proposed technology, this vessel might be a proof of concept that might be used as a basis for large volume space travel in the foreseeable future.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Republican Party Failures: Lack of African-American Appeal?

As an American political party that grew out of the slavery question, is the Republican Party ignoring its African-American constituency at its own peril?

By: Vanessa Uy

Often referred to as the political party spearheaded by Abraham Lincoln that lead to the emancipation of the slaves who are of Black African descent and thought them the value of free enterprise. Though conceptually it viewed slavery and polygamy as morally reprehensible barbarism, the Republican Party has since then – and still is - played a major part in shaping the United States into the most powerful country in the world. Even though Honest Abe would find that in its current incarnation, the Republican Party is a wholly different animal from the one he founded over a hundred years ago.

The Republican Party does have African-Americans that had done their part in preparing the United States for the 21st Century. It would we inconceivable to imagine America’s victory in the first Gulf War without Colin Powell, or Condoleeza Rice keeping Bush Administration’s Neo-Conservative’s and their “excesses” in check. But the question now is, what the Republican Party must do to in order to distance itself from the women-as-God-fearing-male-subordinate ideologue of Alaskan Governor Sarah Palin during her ill-conceived vice presidential candidacy?

Well, not much if you think that the party is already very much corrupted – and co-opted - by extreme right-wing Christianity during the Reagan years. But I do believe that there’s still plenty of life left in the Republican Party. If only they’ll take the steps in reexamining the ideals exemplified by Abraham Lincoln. Which is kind of hard given that the news footage being aired of the recent McCain-Palin rallies consists mainly of the “older White demographic” who might be old enough to remember the days when gasoline was still being sold at 10 or 25 US cents per gallon.

Believe it or not, some political pundits even think that Barack Obama being elected into the US Presidency could be a good thing for the Republican Party. Is it maybe that because Abraham Lincoln’s vision of equality of all men is now one step closer, only at the cost of the victory of a rival party candidate? But hey, as it was noted throughout history, reforms aren’t always painless as their authors and planners might suggest.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Risqué Kid’s Halloween Costumes: Demagoguery over Reality?

The issue is probably as old as the Bush Administration’s Neo-Conservatives’ tenure in power, but is this the issue of risqué Halloween kid’s costumes grounded in reality?

By: Vanessa Uy

This particular issue might move to the proverbial backseat this time due to the hotly contested 2008 US Presidential Election – especially with the sale of presidential candidate Halloween masks predicting the winners with bizarre accuracy. But together with the stories of folks who are now fast approaching 60 telling stories about how the Cuban Missile Crisis of October 27, 1962 had them making their own family's ad hoc fallout shelter back in the day. The issue of Halloween costumes that are too sexy seems to manage to stay forever relevant.

Probably it was the FOX News broadcast from last year that shone a light on this thorny subject. Especially that guest who looks like Eddie Munster who testified on how the Genie played by Barbara Eden on the 1967 TV series I Dream of Genie had made him “sexually traumatized”. Given that this particular costume derived from Scheherazade – i.e. the wife of the sultan of India and narrator of the tales in the Arabian Nights’ Entertainments - is one of the most aspirational Halloween costumes for girls aged 10 or below. Probably up there with Wonder Woman or the leotards worn by Degas’ “Tiny Dancer” sculpture. That guy would probably be appearing next on Chris Hansen’s “To Catch a Predator” on Dateline NBC.

Recently, the “arbiters of taste” on CBS Early Edition on their October 22, 2008 broadcast has presented new sets of girl’s Halloween costumes which they deemed “too risqué”. The black suede leather “streetwalker” costume definitely passes muster – to me at least – as too risqué for young girls. But when they brought out a bumblebee ballerina costume similar to that worn by that little girl in a Blind Melon music video titled No Rain back in 1994 as too risqué, I said to myself oh boy here we go again… But seriously though, are these people who point out age-inappropriate Halloween Costumes doing their part in halting the global scourge of child pornography, or are they just desperate for attention? Maybe Penn and Teller can do an exposé on this on their show.

The problem with labeling Halloween Costumes, as too risqué is that 100% of the cases presented on the media only applied to girl’s costumes. What about boy’s costumes? Should we be – together with the Federal Government - start banning little boys from wearing Robin Costumes (Batman’s young sidekick)? Especially in Boston because of the inappropriate effects it might incur on their local parish priests?

Maybe this is just a ploy by TV networks to prop-up their sagging fall season ratings. But the risqué Halloween costumes issue will probably be here to stay. Especially if that Larry Flynt “movie” about Gov. Sarah Palin’s “Drill Here, Drill Now” energy independence program becomes famous and every girl in America aged 10 and below starts to dress like Gov. Sarah Palin – the way Hustler Magazine CEO Larry “Barely Legal” Flynt sees her.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Popular Music Goes to Washington

A concept that used to be inconceivable back in the good old days of “Reaganism”, does the increasing use of copyrighted popular music in US Presidential campaigns mere kitsch, or does it expose the ugliness of American politics?

By: Vanessa Uy

The trend probably first gained widespread media notice during the 1992 Clinton-Gore campaign ticket using Fleetwood Mac’s Don’t Stop (you know the lines: “Don’t stop thinking about tomorrow…”). But the 2008 US Presidential Race has made the issue of using copyrighted popular music in campaign ads an especially contentious one, especially the Republican McCain-Palin campaign ticket’s practice of “drafting” songs like Van Halen’s Right Now and Heart’s Barracuda instead of nicely seeking permission from the artists themselves. Instead, the GOP ticket drafted these songs like the way they use young Americans in their prime as cannon fodder for Halliburton and KBR. If this isn’t bad enough, Senator John “The Manchurian Candidate” McCain even used Jackson Browne’s Running on Empty on an anti-Obama political campaign ad highlighting Senator Barack Obama’s lack of experience. McCain did this without asking permission from Jackson Browne which is a sure sign of GOP-style hypocrisy given McCain and his ilk's propensity of admonishing musicians inspired by Woody Guthrie’s “socialist” views. A move that’s even worse than McCarthyism.

Maybe the Democratic Party always has a penchant for doing things like this right. Like Senator Barack Obama’s choice of using Stevie Wonder’s 1973 R&B classic Signed, Sealed and Delivered. A song brimming with an eternally optimistic view on life, which surprisingly doesn’t sound corny in comparison to the song’s hackneyed brethren.

So far, the Democrats had managed to avoid the pettiness of their GOP rivals by officially releasing ads criticizing their rival candidates that utilized copyrighted popular music. To me, it would be very interesting if the Democrats ever attempt to pull-off such an undertaking. Especially the Lunachicks’ song Spoilt is ripe for the taking as an almost biographical critique of the 8 years worth of George W. Bush’s miserable failure - which the GOP’s Vice Presidential candidate and Alaskan Governor Sarah Palin affectionately termed as the Bush Doctrine. Or what about Lunachicks’ Fallopian Rhapsody as a critique for Governor Sarah Palin’s anti-feminist Heinrich Himmler inspired Lebensborn pro-life stance. Given the choices, how long can the Democrats resist to be drawn into such political pettiness, or maybe the Democrats are a better bunch of people than I am? Maybe the message is Washington D.C. will never be like your private listening den or I-pod.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Bridging the “Two Americas”: An Overlooked Foreign Policy Issue?

Ever since the 2004 US vice presidential hopeful John Edwards shed light on the issue of (mostly economic) disparity of the “Two Americas”, no follow-through has been done to alleviate the “alienation”. Does Foreign Policy experience start here?

By: Vanessa Uy

Its been four years since John Edwards first brought the issue of “disparity” between the “Two Americas” into the media spotlight. Of those four years that has passed, almost –if at all – has been done to address this issue. Despite the fact that the disadvantaged part of the “Two Americas”, were largely made up of African-Americans and other cultural minorities in the US.

Ever since the Civil Rights movement began in the turbulent decade of the 1960’s, the divisive politics that engendered a schism of the perfect American Union was finally addressed. From the Native Americans who were virtually made “foreigners” in their own country to the African-American community who never got a fair share of the American Dream ever since Abraham Lincoln declared the Emancipation Proclamation. When it comes to healing the rift between the European Anglo-Saxon majority (hegemony?) and those on the other disadvantaged America – the cultural minorities alienated to the point that they feel as if they are foreigners in their own country. There’s progress for sure – albeit a painfully slow one.

One issue that became de rigeur in the 2008 US Presidential Race is Foreign Policy. No one in his or her right mind wishing for that much-coveted position in the White House will ever make a speech about “Foreign Policy Begins at Home”. It could be tantamount to political suicide. And yet, the ill-conceived policies of the past US Administrations had virtually created an another America. An America that’s not only disadvantaged financially, but also left out of their rights to reap the benefits of all the good things that America’s Founding Fathers had fought for. The divisive politics that lead to this was exemplified by that January 28, 2008 Newsweek cover story about how President George W. Bush and his neo-conservatives destroyed America.

The present Bush Administration not only widened the rift further between the African-American community and White America, but also made all of America’s ethnic minorities – especially Americans of Arab descent – virtually foreigners in their own country. Since the Republican Party / GOP ‘s selection of Alaskan Governor Sarah Palin as their Vice Presidential candidate. The GOP used the Foreign Policy experience issue to criticize their Democratic rivals. Yet they are oblivious of the Bush Administration’s folly of government mismanagement of creating a “Foreign Policy” crisis right on American home soil – i.e. the schism of the “Two Americas”.

Strangely, the Alaskan governor and Republican VP candidate Sarah Palin has been “discretely quiet” about the Native Americans / First Nations people in Alaska protesting against the wholesale crude oil exploration on their ancestral lands which could lead into widespread environmental degradation. Governor Sarah Palin has been also “discretely quiet” about the “good” things she has done to the Native American / First Nation community in Alaska during her tenure as governor of that state. Alaska may be close to Russia but I wonder if Governor Sarah Palin had ever been close enough to a Russian TU-95 Bear to make her ears ring for three straight days. Where is the Foreign Policy experience there? Yet Sarah Palin tried to single-handedly wipe out the progress made by the Women’s Liberation movement during the past 30 or so years with her overtly misguided NAZI / Ku Klux Klan-leaning “Pro-life” stance.

While the Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama had worked with inner city youths in his home base of Chicago, Illinois. Especially Chicago’s South Side famed for it’s disadvantaged African-American communities left out of the American dream. Barack Obama had been very busy working on schemes to make these disadvantaged communities a contributing and prosperous part of America. To me, this is Foreign Policy in action on American home soil aimed at alleviating the damage made by the divisive and obstructionist politics of Bush Administration Neo-Conservatives. And yet the real issue is conveniently spin-doctored to fit into the lipstick on a pig / lipstick on a pit bull-soccer mom rhetoric and demagoguery. Wlth this make the 2008 US Presidential Elections even more interesting?

Friday, August 29, 2008

2008 Beijing Olympics: The Big Picture

Praised by the current International Olympic Committee president Jacques Rogge as truly exceptional. But as the Beijing Summer Games closes, will the injustices and Human Rights violations being done to make it possible also end?

By: Vanessa Uy

When China won the much-coveted International Olympic Committee or IOC bid to host the 2008 Summer Olympic Games back in 2001, a small but significant number of people view this as a “Faustian Pact” between the heavy-handed Beijing Government and the IOC. This was unfortunately proven as the years past into the run-up of the Beijing Games. Amnesty International had received findings that China has used the Beijing Olympics not only as a pretext for cracking down on political dissidents, but also of corrupt Government Functionaries unlawfully evicting legally titled residents from their land and homes just to built the Birds Nest Stadium and other Olympic-related facilities. In their desperation to make the air around Beijing pass World Health Organization safety standards. The party officials has even ordered factories around Beijing to suspend their operations and removing 90% of cars from running two weeks before the Games just to pass the WHO clean air standards. Note that the level of pollutants on the air around Beijing is usually five times above the safe limit mandated in the WHO standards, and these are just the normal gripes that we know about.

There’s a long list of issues on why the numerolologically-very-auspicious-by-Feng-Shui-standards 2008 Beijing Olympics got it’s unflattering moniker of “The Genocide Olympics”. The issue of The People’s Republic of China’s unlawful annexation of Tibet back in 1951. The June 4, 1989 incident at Tiananmen Square, and the Beijing Government’s active complicity of the humanitarian crisis in Darfur due to the party officials’ dealings with the present Sudanese government has unfortunately allowed the Beijing Olympics’ Torch Relay to be compared, even to Adolph Hitler’s 1936 Berlin Olympics. The 1936 Berlin Olympics is when the first Torch Relay of the Modern Olympics originated by the way. The dark side of the 2008 Beijing seems to make the Milarepa Fund / Free Tibet movement forever in vogue, and even made Joey Cheek’s Team Darfur probably as famous as the bravado displayed by American swimming star Michael Phelps winning scores of gold medals that are up for grabs.

On the lighter side, the Beijing Government has even ordered gourmet restaurants around Beijing not to serve dog meat dishes as a means of appeasing “Western Sensibilities”. Which is relatively easy to enforce given that the party officials can easily evict long-time residents just to set-up the Olympic facilities.

Given that the modern Olympic Games thrive best in a climate of artificiality, witness the lovely voice of Yang Peiyi singing “Ode to the Motherland” being lip-synced into the perfect “Borg Girl” and Chinese version of a 7-year-old Courtney Cox Lin Miaoke. This issue alone is a 250-page doctoral thesis subject-in-itself, the ultimate of political constructs that those in the know call it as “Dadaism”. Dadaism is all about “If the tail were smarter, it would wag the dog”-type political spin doctoring. About why you’ll only see Sub-Saharan Black African children being used in existing ant-child soldier / anti-child combatant campaign posters, instead of a pubescent Armenian girl who looks like Dakota Fanning carrying a Soviet-made big bore anti-materiel rifle. I just hope that when Yang Peiyi grows up into a Chinese version of “Sarah Plain and Tall”, the Beijing party officials will generously reward her contribution to the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

As the 2008 Beijing Olympics draws to a close, the next Olympic venue - namely London – will be hard pressed to match the opening and closing ceremonies of the Beijing Games. Which by far is seen by many as the best in all the history of the Modern Olympiad. But the London Olympic Games 0f 2012 is still four years away, maybe it's too soon to tell. Given also that IOC assessments conclude that the 2008 Beijing Olympics is the most watched so far of all the Summer Olympics that came before it, the injustices wrought by China’s Foreign Policy adventurism – sadly – will remain unseen by the worlds major news providers. Even Roberta Cohen of the “Little Green Men Chasing” Brookings Institution having indisputable proof of the Beijing Government’s complicity of the on-going systemic ethnic cleansing in the Darfur Region of Sudan is of hardly any consequence when the International Community is reluctant to tackle these issues. If the Bush administration run US Government continues supporting a very wasteful energy policy of borrowing billions from Beijing just to buy crude oil from people who hate America to the core. Then the injustices in Darfur and Tibet will surely go on. A compromised superpower surely can’t save the world.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Should Team Sports Be Banned From The Olympics?

The proposal has been around since modern revival of the Games started in 1896 about team sports should be eliminated. The rational being is that it is tantamount to simulated war games. Is this the Olympic Ideal in extremis?

By: Vanessa Uy

The proposed idea of banning team sports from the Olympic Games has perennially manifested in and out of discussion whenever we reexamine if our current Games are “keeping the faith” of the original Olympic Ideal. Compared to the amateurism versus professionalism debates of the past, which inevitably resulted in the creation of the American “Dream Team” wrecking havoc in the 1992 Barcelona Olympic basketball competition, the rational behind banning team sports from the Olympic events is by no means just a mere political demagoguery and anti-war rhetoric. After all, the two World Wars of the previous century have resulted in the cancellation of the continuity of the Modern Olympiad three times, as opposed in ancient Greece where it was on going wars and conflicts – not the Olympic Games – that gets suspended. Plus the recent widespread global criticisms on the Beijing Government’s questionable Foreign Policy decision to sell arms and provide technical support to the incumbent Sudanese government that’s responsible for the on going conflict in Darfur is a case in point. War is indeed seen by all as the worst anathema to the Olympic Ideal.

But if both team spirit and cooperation an (supposed?) integral part of the Olympic Ideal; wouldn’t it be bunkum to criticize on this? After all Mikhail Bakunin – famed anarchist and student of the “Human Condition” – have cited that humanity is very cooperative and creative when it comes to destroying his or her fellow human beings. Not to mention that the Olympic Games might become a tad bit boring if soccer / European football and basketball were removed because these “interesting” sports are for all intents and purposes signify simulated war games.

Has our argument now devolving into some philosophical “crepuscular zone” reminiscent of the former US Supreme Court Chief Justice Potter Stewart’s inability to define obscenity? Will commercial sponsors now be fleeing in droves because the Olympic Games had become boring and people lost interest in it because the probably two main crowd-drawers of the Olympics - namely European football / soccer and basketball are banned just because they "vaguely" resemble simulated war games to the powers-that-be. Thus creating a situation that compromises the Games’ ability to “pay its way”?

The good news is that team sports will still be an integral part of the Olympic Games for the foreseeable future – maybe for thousands of years hence. So for now, those in favor of banning team sports from the Olympic Games may just as well sit back, relax, and enjoy the Games. After all, many of us are still busy formulating “politically correct” ways to show our disdain against the Beijing Government’s stance on Tibet (or is “unlawful annexation of a sovereign territory” even defined as war anymore), His Holiness the Dalai Lama, and Darfur without burdening the ordinary working class Chinese. I’m welcome to any suggestions.

Should There Be A Permanent Site For The Olympic Games?

With growing global concerns over the Beijing Government’s less-than-stellar Human Rights and Foreign Policy track record, is it high time for the International Olympic Committee to consider a permanent site for the Olympic Games?

By: Vanessa Uy

During the dawn of Western Civilization, the Olympic Games were originally part and parcel of ancient Greece’s theology and belief system. The games were held in honor of Zeus for nearly 12 centuries with almost no intrusion by politics. Back then, the Olympic Games were more than a display showcase of athletic prowess. Contests of dance and choral poetry are held together with the games on the plain of Olympia. The Olympic Celebration was of paramount importance to the ancient Greeks, even wars were interrupted to assure that the quadrennial (every four years) celebrations would take place.

But isn’t it high time for the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to consider a permanent site or venue for the Olympic Games – preferably in Olympia, Greece. After all, the Olympics have been cancelled three times since the Games’ modern revival in 1896 because of the two World Wars. Never mind the constant plague of nationalistic political rivalries, plus the newer threats of “commercialism” that had turned the beloved “Hallowed Ground” of the Olympics into just another backdrop for advertising. Plus the constant threat of boycott every time the nation who won the coveted IOC bid still needs a lot of progress. Especially when it comes to Human Rights, the right to habeas corpus, or just the plain basic ethics that we in the “Enlightened Christian West” seems to take for granted on an alarmingly daily basis that this inevitably created “Gitmo” and Abu Ghraib.

Under our current agreement, the IOC chooses sites for the summer and winter Games several years in advance. Once the host countries are selected, it is the responsibility of the governments – and their respective local business entities - of these selected countries to provide all the facilities and the bulk of the financing for the Games. But these requirements have shown a track record of constantly reverting to excessive displays of nationalism by the host countries. Not to mention the construction of extremely expensive facilities which are seldom utilized after the said country’s duration to host the Olympic Games ends.

A permanent site for both summer and winter Olympic Games would be helpful in turning our present Olympics into a much stronger institution. Currently, the Olympics are seen as nothing more than a short-lived spectacle that’s vulnerable to political and commercial exploitation by their temporary host’s country. Given that the proposal for a permanent Greek site has a rational that the region is relatively stable politically both at present and in the foreseeable future. Plus, there could be an added bonus that the Games could acquire an identity of their own just like the celebrations of old.

In addition of a permanent site for the Olympics, it could also be a big help if the duration of the Games were extended from two weeks to, maybe, two to three months. In my opinion, this would allow the Olympic participants / athletes an opportunity to better know one another and also allows them to share experiences that are generally impossible in our current politically-charged competitive setting.

During my research: I’ve found out that thirty years ago the government of Greece had suggested proposals on some ways to proceed in establishing a permanent site for the Olympic Games. Especially when it comes to on how the financial burden shall be born. The Greek proposal suggests the formation of a politically neutral and militarily inviolable “Olympic State” in the area of the original site at Olympia. If this Greek proposal does go underway, the “Olympic State” would fall under IOC jurisdiction, although sovereign territorial rights would remain with Greece. The IOC would install and own the facilities at the site, plus the Olympic Committee would also be permitted to administer the Olympic area and granted powers to govern it. This enables the IOC to determine the terms of and conditions for entry. Greek law would apply within the area, but Greek military forces are forbidden to enter under any circumstances.

For all intents and purposes it was a good proposal. But many IOC member countries failed reaching a consensus especially when it comes to how the financial burden should be borne. And also of on how to equitably appropriate the financial benefits of the games among IOC member nations. Faced with this difficulty, the Greek proposal for a permanent site for the Olympic Games became more or less shelved indefinitely. But given the “perennial” problem of countries with less-than-stellar Human Rights and Foreign Policy records managing to win the much coveted International Olympic Committee bids to host the Olympic Games, isn’t it high time to reconsider the Greek proposal for a permanent site / venue for the Games?

Child Pornography: Do We Really Know It when We See It?

From Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland author Lewis Carroll’s portrait photography of Victorian children to Annie Leibovitz’s Vanity Fair photos of Miley Cyrus. When it comes to child pornography, do we really know it when we see it?

By: Vanessa Uy

If it’s hard to draw a timeline that shows how often free speech is co-opted by despotic political leaders, let alone made impossible to sort it out from genuine out and out obscenity due to the influence of “Aspirational Paedophilia” posing as free speech / artistic expression. Was this “threat” to Western Civilization started in 1998 when Hustler magazine CEO Larry Flynt started the Barely Legal franchise - thus making paedophilia aspirational – back in 1998? Or was it when the Russian teen Lesbian duo Tatu and accused punk poser Avril Lavigne battled for fame in 2003? Though many anti- Avril Lavigne websites still accuse Avril Lavigne of glamorizing the “Dickensian Dinginess” aspects of child pornography, by citing the way Avril Lavigne’s on-stage butt-crack exposure which became sexist humor fodder on the Joe Rogan Dough Stanhope era “The Man Show” is similar to the way Fiona Apple and Sheryl Crow glamorized the "Heroin Chic” in the late 1990’s. This despite the fact that Avril Lavigne will probably be turning 24 this year, thus proving the 21st Century adage that the blogosphere is indeed a fierce and fickle mistress, especially as an art critic. Add to that the recent row over the Miley Cyrus a.k.a. Hannah Montana “controversial” Vanity Fair portraiture by Anne Leibovitz and the Australian child pornography row over artist Bill Henson’s photo exhibition in a Sydney gallery depicting nude pre-pubescent kids that even “Lord of the Rings” and “Elizabeth” star Cate Blanchett managed herself to get embroiled. But the question remains; do we really know child pornography when we see it? Or is child pornography just a manifestation when the most cherished of our sociological constructs like Human Rights and Civil Liberties get trampled upon every time Halliburton and KBR exercises their “right to be greedy”?

When it comes to defining pornography and / or obscenity, the rational among us – which I hope constitutes the majority – always point out the immortal words of the former US Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart. The famous quote of former US Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart goes as: “I know it when I see it.” Some say this highlights his failure to define obscenity during the Jacobellis v. Ohio case back in 1964 which later became a landmark US Supreme Court decision. But to some people – including myself – believes that what US Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart meant about his famous quote “I know it when I see it” is that cases of pornography and / or obscenity should be examined on a case to case basis. Especially when it comes to Bill Henderson’s controversial photo exhibitions that the current Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has deemed obscene even though thousands of others have deemed it as mere artistic expression.

Sadly the wisdom of this landmark US Supreme Court decision went on unheeded – even viewed as just a mere US Supreme Court docket - when then President Ronald Reagan spent millions of American taxpayers’ money on a dubious pro-conservative biased study on pornography. Reagan asked then Attorney General Edwin Meese III to head this “commission on pornography”. This culminated into the 1,960 page report titled “Attorney General’s Commission on Pornography Final Report” dated July 1986. Unfortunately, the Reagan – Meese definition of “pornography” is next to useless when used as a benchmark to find out whether the “staged” antics of Avril Lavigne, Miley Cyrus and their ilk are guilty of glamorizing child pornography and / or promoting aspirational paedophilia.

The good news is that level headed folks everywhere now see the 1,960 page “Commission on Pornography Final Report” as nothing more than the Reagan Administration’s attempt at co opting every freedom loving American’s Right to Free Speech back in the 1980’s. Which makes the then President Ronald Reagan’s remarks on the signing of the Child Protection Act of 1984 rather somewhat bunkum. Hell, Avril Lavigne could have uttered those same remarks on Saturday Night Live and everybody would think that it’s one of those retro 1980’s stand up comedy routine.

The bad news is that the legacy of the Reagan – Meese pornography commission fiasco means that every “devout” Anglo-Saxon Protestants around the world now harbor an “eternal suspicion” every time they see those beautiful Victorian era Art Nouveau-like child portrait photography of Lewis Carroll – a.k.a. Oxford mathematician Charles Dodgson. And interpret these as “child pornography”. Just like the current fiasco pertaining to Annie Leibovitz’s “Homage to Lewis Carroll” Vanity Fair photos of Miley Cyrus. Although the one where Miley Cyrus’ perky pubescence showing through her diaphanous sports bra might inspire every Vladimir Nabokov wannabes to invent lepidopteral / entomological labels for pubescent teen-age girls.

Despite of the political demagoguery that has become part and parcel on our attempts of defining what constitutes pornography and / or obscenity, to me, we may be misleading ourselves. Let along completely missing the point every time we examine the problem from the very narrow and somewhat limiting perspective of Abrahamic Theology / Judeo-Christian Morality. And everyone can now freely hate me as I say Darwin and Nietzsche could be right on the mark.

After reading the main article of the February 2000 issue of Discover Magazine about how Mother Nature utilized beauty as a survival trait. It began to dawn on me that as a society Western Civilization has yet to sort out what falls under “Slave Morality” and what falls under “Master Morality” in order to accept the true nature of ourselves. Babies, young kids, even pubescent teen-aged girls are genetically designed to be beautiful because it has a better chance of survival every time grown-ups with means (i.e. money, food, power, WMD s etc.) feel obliged to take care of them. We should be thankful to Mother Nature for delaying the manifestation of the "ugly gene” (usually this gets full-blown when one reaches 18) in each and every one of us for as long as humanly possible.

Though some might label my Darwinian embrace of aesthetic beauty as mere demagoguery, well, that’s their loss. Although in a perfect world, scantily clad perky pubescent teens do make great superheroes. Bad guys and everyone’s “Uncle Phil” would be “too distracted” to be evil. Someone should send a memo to Marvel Comics’ Stan Lee about this. But in the end who would you trust as the final arbiter when it comes to what constitute pornography and / or obscenity, yourself or an “organization” who thinks that the decision for one of their founders to burn alive 3,000 Jews is a good thing?

Friday, June 6, 2008

The Anti-Semitism of John Hagee

Prominent spiritual advisers with controversial views seems to be de rigueur in presidential election season America, even the paragons of mainstream conservatism – the GOP – had joined in the bandwagon. Will this end the separation of Church and state?

By: Vanessa Uy

If you think Reverend Jeremiah Wright’s brand of Black Liberation Theology is too “out there” then Pastor John Hagee’s Israel Lobbyist’s acceptable-form-of-anti-Semitism must be something that belongs in a parallel universe. Though only known by the Senator John McCain’s supporters as his major endorser, Pastor John Hagee became famous almost overnight when his anti-Semitic views about the Holocaust were being broadcast by major news channels like NBC for example. Not only that, Pastor John Hagee is also found to be anti-Catholic. Kind of odd considering he supports Adolph Hitler’s “action” on European Jews during World War II - F.Y.I. Hitler is Catholic by the way.

Pastor Hagee’s latest controversy started when one of his sermons about his view that God (the Protestant Anglo-Saxon kind) was right in allowing Adolph Hitler to exterminate all of Europe’s Jews. According to the Pastor, Adolph Hitler was a “hunter” sent by God who was tasked with expediting “God’s Will” of having the Jews re-establish a state of Israel. Because of this, many in the United States now view that Senator John McCain’s presidential bid is now in peril due to his endorsement by this controversial pastor. Anti-Semitism by Evangelical Christian pastors is by no means a new phenomena, back in the late 1960’s Billy Graham once spoke against the Jewish community’s stranglehold on the American nation during his stint as then President Richard Nixon’s spiritual advisor. A pastor that harbors views that is no longer welcome to a majority of people who are already accustomed to the open egalitarianism of 21st Century America.

As a spiritual leader and pillar of his community, to me, Pastor John Hagee is a walking contradiction. This is so because Hagee help found the Christians United for Israel – an Evangelical Christian pro Zionist organization. I’m a bit suspicious of pro Zionist Evangelical Christians and their ilk like the pro Israel lobbyists because they often denigrate Jews who chose to remain in American soil – especially those living in Brooklyn. And another proof of Hagee being a walking contradiction is that the San Antonio B’nai B’rith Council awarded him with its “Humanitarian of the Year” award. By then it was the first time this award was given to a gentile.

To me, people like John Hagee and their ilk i.e. the somewhat hypocritical Israel support lobby that’s currently active in Capitol Hill, is the major reason why détente between Israelis and Palestinians was never achieved – let alone a viable diplomatic solution to this somewhat intransigent problem. And what about those pro Zionist / pro Israel Evangelical Christians who have a low opinion on Jews living in America, especially in Brooklyn. Would somebody explain this to me in an erudite manner without resorting to the sci-fi / fantasy section of the Holy Bible. Or should I resign my fate that this is the only explanation the rest of humanity will ever get.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Of Reverend Wright and the American Dream

A growing number of Americans viewed him as the one who jeopardized Senator Barack Obama’s bid for the 2008 presidency, but should the American voters damn Reverend Wright for speaking out what he had on his mind?

By: Vanessa Uy

Carole Simpson – one of Senator Hillary Clinton’s supporters – said on a Larry King Live interview that Baptist preachers, in general, have very big egos. Though somewhat an unfair generalization, I do agree with Carole Simpson’s view on Baptist preachers. In my view, one does need a very big ego when preaching something that is inexorably will someday go out of fashion like institutionalized / mainstream Christian doctrine. Even the subatomic particles have adopted Buddhism’s “Eightfold Way” a few moments after the Big Bang. Sadly, how subatomic particles chose their way of life – or my Friedrich Nietzsche like critique on Christian slave morality - is the least of Reverend Jeremiah Wright’s problems in the face of the US election season demagoguery.

Reverend Jeremiah Wright gained worldwide fame – or notoriety depending on your point of view – when his polemic critique on the Bush Administration’s despotic Foreign Policy that lead to the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center towers was aired all over US national TV and the Internet. Though many before Reverend Wright had expressed more damning polemics on the shortcomings of the American society and of the powers-that-be on Capitol Hill from John Steinbeck’s “The Grape of Wrath” to Exene Cervenka and Lydia Lunch (remember “Rude Hieroglyphics” back in 1995). Reverend Wright’s uniqueness in comparison to the previous reactionaries his relatively close connection to the 2008 presidential hopeful Senator Barack Obama. By being senator Obama’s pastor Reverend Wright was inadvertently thrust into the scrutiny of the “Stuffy as a Box” conservative values of White House power politics. Obama’s political opponents are now using Reverend Wright’s views against his bid for the presidency. But how sincere are the concerns of Senator Obama’s political rivals? Are they playing the ugliest variant of the “race card” by reserving the role of Tom Joad only to white male Americans?

As of late, the Reverend Jeremiah Wright has been known for a lot of things. A self-made man, an enlightened patriot – but a 21st Century American mass media-manufactured-caricature of an African-American he is not. Before becoming a pastor on the Trinity United Church of Christ, Jeremiah Wright lived an overachieving life that’s more a product of Gene Roddenberry’s writings than Death Row Records. Wright served six years in the US Navy and was part of the medical team that treated former President Lyndon B. Johnson’s gall bladder back in the 1960’s. In short, Reverend Wright really did pay his dues when it comes to patriotism.

Like the late Archbishop Oscar Romero of El Salvador who was an outspoken critic of government repression, Reverend Jeremiah Wright has also adopted Liberation Theology to criticize the shortcomings of the Bush Administration. Not just on Foreign Policy, but pretty much on everything from the economy to promoting the arcane demagoguery and racist ideology of Anglo-Saxon Creationism / Intelligent Design. By adopting James Hal Cone’s Black Liberation Theology, Reverend Wright has very much upset the White American status quo. Especially since James Hal Cone’s Black Liberation Theology – to me - sounds like a mixture of Friedrich Nietzsche’s views on power politics and Socialist-leaning Latin American Liberation Theology. When Black Liberation Theology espouses the idea that the task of Black Theology is to kill Gods who do not belong to the black community does carry a shameful implication. But does this implication meant that the Calvinism and Protestant Work Ethic that made America the last true geopolitical “Superpower” has been denying the African-American community from benefiting the bounty of this American Dream?

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

The Olympic Games: Politics As Usual?

Ever since the modern revival of the Olympic Games back in 1896 in Athens, Greece, the Olympics had since been plagued by nationalistic political rivalries – even cancelled three times - due to world wars. Will a once sacred institution ever gain independence from fractious politics?

By: Vanessa Uy

The Olympic Games have even earlier roots than our current modern equivalent that started back in 1896. The first Olympics were held in 776 BC at Olympia, Greece. Back then, nothing was of more importance to the Greeks than the quadrennial (that’s every four years) festival of sporting events and religious rites. Olympia was even considered a sacred ground. Wars were suspended, and a solemn peace – Ekecheiria – lasted for the duration of each and every Olympics.

Then came the intrusion of fractious politics of one form or another, which now threaten the upcoming 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics with widespread boycotts. The rationale behind this boycott range from Beijing’s unlawful annexation of Tibet to the Beijing Government’s complicity in the ongoing genocide in the Darfur Region of Sudan due to its lax regulation of armaments exports. Not to mention the spotty Human Rights record when it comes to handling its own political dissidents. Sadly the genocide and crackdown of political dissidents issue also applies to Tibet and to the country’s exiled spiritual leader His Holiness The Fourteenth Dalai Lama of Tibet.

The political turbulence plaguing our modern era Olympic Games have occurred several times before of varying degrees of controversy. Even during the 1896 Athens Olympics, a row over who’s following the Gregorian or Julian calendars was a point of contention. But controversy became big-time during the 1936 Berlin Olympics, which also started the tradition of the Olympic Torch Relay. Our current Beijing Olympic Torch Relay lately became a target of anyone expressing his or her political sentiments over the Beijing Government’s “Shameful Policies”.

After reading a book by Richard Mandrell titled “The Nazi Olympics”, which is about how the author saw the 1936 Berlin Olympic Games. I finally gained a clearer understanding about the rationale of anyone using the Olympic Games as a platform to express political views. Though the books salient theme is about how athletes are increasingly regarded as national assets. Comparable to the procurement of World War II era “prestige necessities” like fighter planes, submarines and synthetic rubber manufacturing plants. Add to that the triumph of African-American track and field athlete Jesse Owens, which shattered Adolph Hitler’s belief in the “Aryan Myth”. This finally made maintaining a “stable” of athletes a necessity if a country wants to maintain her national standing.

And who can ever forget on how John Carlos, the US gold-medal sprinter in the 1968 Mexico City Games who bowed his head and raised a black-gloved fist during the playing of his national anthem as a critique of the Civil Rights situation in America. He later said: “The Olympics is nothing but a full political scene – everything in the world athletics is. It’s country against country, ideology against ideology. The people you run for – the officials – overshadow you with their political ambitions, with the face they want you to put for your country.”

Then came the shocking assassination of 11 Israelis at the 1972 Munich Games by Palestinian militants is by far politics at its bloodiest. The “political debacle” that spurred on this terrible incident remains unresolved till this day. And might get even worse before it gets better.

The 1976 Montreal Olympics was more popularly known for leaving the host-city with a billion-dollar debt. Yet the political overtones were very much alive when 17 African nations refused to compete in the Montreal Games due to the exclusion from Olympic membership of South Africa and Taiwan by the International Olympic Committee.

The 1980 Moscow Olympics was popularly known for being synonymous with the word boycott. The US led boycott of the games which Canada, Japan and the then West Germany were among the nations that later followed suit has called into question whether this is the beginning of the end of the Olympic Ideal. Though many then viewed that the boycott was justified primarily because the Civilized World’s protest over the then Soviet Union’s unlawful invasion of Afghanistan just to quell a suspected threat of Islamic Fundamentalism is very much justified. The planned boycott of a growing number of Western nations over the upcoming Beijing Olympics is partly bolstered by the relative success and the political ideals behind the US led boycott of the 1980 Moscow Games.

The 1984 Los Angeles Olympics was boycotted in a tit for tat response by the then Soviet Union and other Warsaw-Pact countries / allies. The Los Angeles Games was more famous for its blatant commercialism despite it’s the first time that a host-city finally earned a profit from the games.

The “minor quip” of the 1988 Seoul Olympics was the press finally finding out about the scandal over the use of illegal performance enhancing substances like anabolic steroids which later plague the athletes who used them with chronic health problems several years later. Luckily, no one used then President Chun Doo Hwan’s brutal crackdown of student protests as an excuse for boycotting the games.

The 1992 Barcelona Olympics was more of a PR issue for the city when the spectators were greeted with a high incidence of petty crimes like purse snatching and pick pocketing. Though no one threatened to boycott the games using Tomàs de Torquemada, the Spanish Inquisition, the Colonialism / Imperialism issue, complicity on the Trans-Atlantic slave trade, and the unsolved disappearances / murders during the Franco dictatorship as an excuse.

The 1996 Atlanta Olympics was a controversial one because the proposed venue of the centennial of the modern Olympics was supposed to be Athens, Greece. But the city of Atlanta outbid Athens. No one threatened to boycott over this. The threat of domestic terrorism by now largely forgotten Christian Fundamentalist / extremist who blew up the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City back in April 20, 1995 is the only big issue surrounding the games. Though a prankster was charged with disturbing the peace by blowing up a somewhat large firecracker during the opening ceremonies.

While the 2000 Sydney Olympics was largely incident free. The planned protest by Native Australians or Aborigines about the “Stolen Generation” issue was kept out of the media’s gaze probably due to the efforts of then Australian Prime Minister John Howard’s “Secret Police Apparatus”. Though the Aborigines later got their apology when Kevin Rudd became the current Prime Minister of Australia.

The controversy surrounding the 2004 Athens Olympics were mostly pertaining to the politics of money and bureaucratic red tape which dangerously delayed the finishing of the facilities to be used during the games. The issue over the partition of Cyprus never came up though.

The upcoming 2008 Beijing Olympics is probably the most controversial Olympics to date not just because of the “political overtones” surrounding the event but also the levels of air pollution in Beijing which could pose as a health hazard to the athletes. Will the Beijing Government stop the wheels of their industry just to keep the air quality acceptable during the games? Though the International Olympic Committee’s decision for Beijing to host this year’s Olympic Games was decided over three years ago. The long list of “rationales” for boycotting it did not gain widespread discussion until near the end of 2007. Back then the row over YAHOO! CEO Jerry Yang giving the Beijing Government vital information that allowed them to arrest journalist Shi Tao as a political dissident seems like an excerpt from a bad episode of the TV series 24, was the only popularly known rationale for boycotting the games. The banality of evil for those who don’t witness it first hand notwithstanding, yet it was when the Beijing Government’s heavy handed crackdown over the unrest in Tibet got the badly needed media exposure did everybody became convinced that boycotting the games is a moral imperative. Adding to that the spotty Human Rights record, not to mention the AN YUE JIANG and her shipload of weapons bound for the ailing “Mugabe Regime” in landlocked Zimbabwe being uncovered in the port of Durban in South Africa only strengthens the case for a boycott. But the question is should we?

The Beijing Government has been accusing the Western media for their somewhat biased reporting in regards to the upcoming Summer Olympics. But the BBC’s extensive news coverage regarding the plight of the working class Chinese eking out a living. What about the athletes who probably spent years – even decades - honing their skills? Should these people just voluntarily penalize themselves over the International Community’s failure to deal with Beijing’s heavy handedness diplomatically? This has got me thinking whether there is a better way other than an all out boycott in showing our disapproval over how the powers-that-be ran China. When the US government staged a trade embargo against the then “Apartheid Government” of South Africa, they choose only goods that are of use to the Apartheid Regime. While necessities are still available to the average black South African. Top level dignitaries like the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon says he will not attend the opening ceremonies of the upcoming Beijing Olympics citing scheduling conflicts of his junket. Maybe the participating athletes – as a sign of protest – will do what John Carlos did during the 1968 Mexico City Olympics, a symbolic show of defiance.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Islamophobia Anyone?

The term has now served as a popular description of the mindset of the people running FOX News. Is “Islamophobia” a mere byproduct of the 9 / 11 attacks or a deeper symptom of disdain by the West over non-Christians?

By: Vanessa Uy

As time went on, the Patriot Act has more or less devolved into the reading of the Riot Act to American Citizens subscribing to the Islamic faith. Also, the Bush Administrations “War on Terror” had turned into something more that half of the world’s population always feared – a war against the non-believers of Christianity. But there’s a growing consensus that the Bush Administration / GOP definition of “non-believers” does not only apply to Muslims, but also to women, ethnic minorities, homosexuals, even practitioners of so-called “rational thinking” and “reason”. Yes, rational thinking and reason: the two greatest foes of Creationism. Plus given the recent public rantings of Barack Obama's pastor - Reverend Jeremiah Wright - only serves to show that organized Christianity in America is no longer ashamed to show "political ambitions".

As America is being destroyed by the current Bush Administration in a way that most al-Qaeda operatives can only dream of, I have a nagging feeling that the root cause of all of this is the means in which the Bush Administration made “The Power of Christ” somewhat oversold. I mean has anyone seen Pat Robertson going into the refugee camps in the Darfur Region of Sudan turning stone into bread? How about doing the same miracle in areas worse hit by Hurricane Katrina? It really seems like the “Blue State” regions of America are fast becoming the last bastions of reason, literally. And it seems it's now up to them to act as the last bastion of socio-cultural tolerance.

The “brand” of “Christianity” that the Bush Administration is presently promoting – by force – around the world has been creating global resentment on an unprecedented scale. The Bush Administration’s Christendom’s core mission really is to wipe out Civil Liberties and the right to self-determination around the world. When they imprison Viktor Bout, we can kiss goodbye to our right to self-determination. Its getting very, very hard for the Bush Administration’s Christendom to realize that the world doesn’t want to be saved, only to be left alone. I just hope that the term "Islamophobia" will only apply to George "Dubya" Bush and his Neo-Conservatives.

Friday, February 15, 2008

The One Laptop Per Child Program: The Politics and the Bureaucracies

With two major competing programs known so far. Will the current one laptop per child program really help children in developing nations prepare for future I.T. jobs, or will the two competing programs devolve into a commercialism turf war similar to the VHS and BETAMAX War of the early 1980’s?

By: Vanessa Uy

Despite over-extensive press coverage, a lot of us “nettizens” never seemed to have lost interest on the promises and the problems surrounding the one laptop per child program. As of late, there are two major programs all rivaling the merits for their raison d’être like fiscal sensibility, technical feasibility and sheer practicality. The two programs are currently field tested on a scale to accommodate the need of a typical school in Nigeria to gauge the success – or failure – of the program.

One “version” of the program is the brainchild of philanthropist Nicholas Negroponte. One of the aims of his one laptop per child program is to provide a bridge that would span the gulf of the existing “Digital Divide” that exists in developing countries. Another aim of Nicholas Negroponte’s program is to promote computer literacy in the poorest parts of the world. The computer laptops used in Nicholas Negroponte’s pilot scheme costs a little over a hundred US dollars each, they’re Internet / Mesh Network capable and can send video and still pictures to the Internet via it’s built-in webcam. If it succeeds, the program would serve as an irrefutable proof of the modern computer’s feasibility as an educational tool even in developing countries. One of the program’s more intransigent problems is the endemic lack of a steady supply of mains / grid electricity in developing countries. This problem can be solved by using a rip – cord operated generator similar to those used in those portable radios that are distributed throughout Africa during the 1990’s to help broadcast information in preventing the spread of HIV / AIDS. Though equipping the laptops with such generators would increase their price, there are also plans for solar / photovoltaic chargers for the laptops built-in batteries. Despite of the problems, the hands on / try something / creativity promotion proviso of the laptops has been one of the most redeeming qualities of the program. By training their problem solving skills, the laptops have become a very positive educational influence to the students despite of Nigeria’s rigid “old school” tradition of educational hierarchy that new knowledge and skills should flow only one way – from the teacher to the students.

The other one of these one laptop per child program that rivals Nicholas Negroponte’s is being run by the Intel Corporation, and is called the Intel PC classmate program and is tried on an another school in Nigeria. The Intel PC classmate program according to Intel is about investing in school kids (Tapping the knowledge economy?). The laptops that are provided by Intel to the students currently costs 350 US dollars each. The reason Intel’s laptops are more costly is because of the extensive use of solid - state flash memory technology in their laptops. At present, solid – state flash memory technology is much more expensive than conventional data storage devices like hard drives and CD / DVD burners. But solid – state flash memory devices can work much more reliably than their “conventional” counterparts in the arduous conditions typically found in the environment where the laptops could be used like dust, moisture, and the shock forces produced when the laptop is “accidentally” dropped. The Intel Corporation says their program is investing on Nigeria’s children by “grooming” them to acquire skills as future I.T. employees. Thus making the children’s job prospects in the future much more secure.

From my point of view, both programs are really visionary in tackling the current problems that can be encountered when developing countries try to improve their educational system. Will the promise of both programs remain but a dream when faced with the harsh realities of the high cost of upgrading the telecommunications infrastructure of developing countries just to make them Web 2.0 compliant, and what about these countries electrical grid infrastructure? Plus, let’s not forget that most developing countries like Nigeria is still currently trying to upgrade their existing “conventional” educational system just to provide basic literacy skills – which includes the English language by the way – which are a pre – requisite to computer literacy.

Even though both of the one laptop per child program is already 5 years old. Both of the programs original “mission directive” was to alleviate the “lack of qualified teachers” problem in developing countries by allowing financially disadvantaged kids access to the vast stores of knowledge that’s available on the Internet. Despite of current technical problems like status of the local telecommunications and power grid infrastructure, plus the politics of censorship that’s recently discussed by this year’s Internet Governance Forum (IGF) held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The greatest benefit that the one laptop per child program will be to the environment because unnecessary air travel will be kept to the absolute minimum. This is so because NGOs and program overseers can track the progress of there respective “pet projects” on-line because the kids are uploading the video documentation of the program’s progress. Who knew that something that started out as an educational program is now a part of the solution in reducing our overall “carbon footprints”?

Friday, February 1, 2008

Internal Revenue Allotment Law Loopholes: Gentrification in Disguise?

Every democratically elected government has the legal right to tax their constituent citizenry in order to raise the much needed revenue to maintain it, but what if the said government resorts to rigmarole and bureaucratic legalese to increase revenue collection. Taxation without representation anyone?

By: Vanessa Uy

Before we delve into the essence of what is Internal Revenue Allotment or IRA, lets briefly review the facts surrounding the current fiscal environment of the Philippine Government. Our country is in deep financial woe. The current marching order of the incumbent administration is to look for new revenue sources. This means the Philippine Government has to improve existing tax collection laws, which sadly it has failed to do during the past 30 years or so. Tighten up the government’s budget and maximize to spend what’s left on “concrete infrastructure” i.e. infrastructure projects that blend utility with public relations appeal. The benefits of maximizing spending is a proven idea that allowed the economist John Maynard Keynes to formulate plans that saved America from the Great Depression. In keeping with the subject at hand, just what is Internal Revenue Allotment?

According to the Section 284 of the Local Government Code of the Philippines (RA 7160), Internal Revenue Allotment (IRA) is a local government’s share of revenues from the national government. It (the amount) is largely based on land area and population. LGUs (Local Government Units) also derive revenues from various sources. Typically, the IRA for municipalities accounts for 90% of total revenues. Since cities have more sources of local revenues like taxes collected from large business establishments, their IRA ranges from 50% to 70% of the total.

Recently, there’s a row over a number of municipalities being “fast tracked” by the national government to be declared as cities even though the annual average population and income of these municipalities barely meets the criterion needed for it to be legally declared as cities. The reason the national government did this so that they can save a bundle by reducing their IRAs to these municipalities. Other legal “loopholes” in the IRA law are exploited by the incumbent administration include the short - term financial incentives to a municipality’s bid for becoming a city despite a lack of existing taxable viable commercial infrastructure in the present and in the foreseeable future. Also, what about domicile data? Since the majority of Filipinos now work abroad, the average annual population of these municipalities could vary wildly because an overwhelming majority of these workers can go home only once every 18 months. Some of them even have to wait for 5 years just to go home. This government oversight – i.e. inadvertent omission or error – could result in long – term reductions in Internal Revenue Allotment of those municipalities.

To compensate for lost revenue, these city / municipality hybrids will fall back on the methods that will work expediently under the current political climate is by increasing the rates of real estate tax. Surely this will lead to gentrification since our tropical climate has become a Mecca for Western tourists. It won’t be long that only “expats” (ex patriots / rich foreign nationals) can afford to keep their homes while the long - term native residents (ordinary Filipinos like you and me) will be driven to the “poorhouse” thanks to exorbitant real estate taxes.

If I sound unduly alarmist, it is because the Internal Revenue Allotment existing “legal loophole” has shed light on the fact that our country’s outlying municipalities had inherited – by legislation – the proverbial “Bad Part of a Social Contract”. You know: that bad part of the social contract from the incumbent administration that willingly sidelines social justice issues just to improve the government’s revenue collection. Why should those citizens living in the outlying municipalities owe Feudal Obligations to the Makati Corporate Elite?

As of late, President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo and her Public Relations Campaign Machinery has purchased TV airtime about how the majority of us Filipinos had benefited the previous seven years of economic progress that her incumbent administration had brought. You know that “Sa pitong taong nakalipas, ramdam namin ang asenso” TV adverts. You know, those public on air testimonials of Filipinos who benefited our country’s economic progress during the past seven years. Even though to me that particular advert reeks of jingoism, the truth can’t be denied. The problem is, does the extra money that us Filipinos earned during those previous seven years of economic progress will just be used to pay the coming exorbitant real estate tax increases? Just because the national government wants more revenue while the outlying municipalities be forced to increase real estate taxes just to keep their basic programs running. If our newfound prosperity only allows us a pittance to spend on something just to keep our existing roofs over our heads, then to me this doesn’t qualify as economic progress. And who among us would be genuinely happy to owe Feudal Obligations to people who by far are not exemplars of ethics and social responsibility like our corrupt elected government officials. If this does not qualify as gentrification, then I don’t know what is?

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Fahrenheit 911: Did it miss by a Mile?

Once ridiculed as: “The proof that President George W. Bush piloted the plane that slammed into the North Tower of the World Trade Center building in September 11, 2001.” Is “Fahrenheit 911” a legitimate critique on the Bush Administration?

By: Vanessa Uy

I don’t know how many people in the United States are kicking themselves for voting Bush another term in office when the Hurricane Katrina/FEMA fiasco came out, are approval ratings a good indicator? Despite of John Ashcroft spontaneously bursting into song, Fahrenheit 911 just missed the Abu Ghraib Prison scandal by just a few months. That story could have added a “sense of legitimacy” to “Fahrenheit 911” that might convince hard core Republicans that they are betting on the wrong horse so to speak. Then came FEMA’s mishandling of the Hurricane Katrina disaster, then the sex scandals of Republican Congressmen with their pages with mounting e-mail evidence…then came Reverend Ted Haggard…

In Michael Moore’s credit, he really tried hard to tackle in presenting the evil behind relatively esoteric subjects like Halliburton that can easily hide their scandal via corporate rigmarole that can have most average citizens in need of legal assistance just to keep up. In all of this, I just wonder how many virgins did the Moral Majority/GOP sacrificed in order to postpone the arrival of Hurricane Katrina so that “she” won’t become a 2004-election issue?

Is Zimbabwe a Threat?

Is Zimbabwe qualified to head the UN’s Sustainable Development Program, or are the European Union’s concerns groundless?

By: Vanessa Uy

In May 4, 2007, Zimbabwe was elected to head the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Program via “Secret Ballot.” This made Francie Nhema, Zimbabwe’s environment minister very magnanimous in victory. But there are lingering questions on how Zimbabwe could head this UN program when President Robert Mugabe’s flawed land reform policy has transformed the country from “Africa’s Breadbasket” to a country whose agricultural system can hardly even feed her own people. And for the first time, the US Government showed concern on Zimbabwe’s human rights violations and the Mugabe regime’s treatment of the political opposition. US State Department’s Dan Reifsnyder voiced his concerns over Zimbabwe’s ability and qualifications to run the UN Sustainable Development Program. The British Government and the European Union have always been mindful of Zimbabwe’s human rights record of the past three years or so. Is President Robert Mugabe another Idi Amin in the making? Only time will tell.

Once upon a time, the former British colony called Rhodesia changed her name to Zimbabwe back in 1979 to assert her newly acquired freedom and sovereignty. In 1980, Robert Mugabe was elected president. That’s right people, he’s been running the country since that time. My “dogs-of-war” buddies have viewed Robert Mugabe’s Zimbabwe –at the time- as a model for African self-determination. But 20 or so years later it’s as if Zimbabwe has fallen from grace. President Mugabe’s heavy-handed approach to quell the political opposition has been criticized by the EU for a number of years now. And President Mugabe’s greatest folly is the expulsion of “white farmers” from their own farmlands. These lands were given to native Zimbabweans with no industrial- scale farming expertise. This policy has decimated Zimbabwe’s agricultural industry since then.

It’s good that the US Government finally gave a damn about this issue and voiced their criticisms over the Mugabe Regime. In the last 4 years, it seems like only 10 Downing Street gives a damn about the course of action President Mugabe takes. It seems that the policymakers on Capitol Hill are willing to overlook one more of Africa’s problems, like they did back in April of 1994.

A Ban on Cluster Bombs

In Lima, Peru a conference was held campaigning for a total ban on cluster bombs by next year. Will it fair better than Princess Diana’s campaign for a global ban on land mines?

By: Vanessa Uy

In the week ending May 26, 2007 – the conference for the comprehensive global ban on the use and production of cluster bombs / sub munitions took place in Lima, Peru. 46 countries have already sign up earlier this year in Norway in support for the campaign, while 20 more countries have sign up during the conference in Lima, Peru as a show of solidarity in banning the use and production of cluster bombs and/or sub munitions. Not surprisingly, the biggest users and producers of cluster bombs and/or sub munitions namely: the US, Russia, China, and of course Israel are absent.

As anti-personnel weapon systems go, cluster bombs don’t work very well militarily. This is due to the inherent manufacturing faults where sometimes 50% of the sub munitions won’t explode immediately upon deployment. These UXO (unexploded ordnance) has a nasty habit of maiming and killing non-combatants/civilians long after the military conflict is over. The UN has even declared that UXO - like land mines are considered as a pollutant because of their ability to render croplands useless. Since the 1980’s, there has already been a global campaign to ban these weapons. In the Vietnam War movie “Bat 21”, the indiscriminate nature of cluster bombs were portrayed on celluloid. Also unexploded ordnance has a nasty habit of being turned into IED (improvised explosive devices) by resourceful “freedom fighters.” It was also known that as late as the mid 1990’s, nomads of the Sub-Saharan region have the misfortune of finding out that anti-personnel mines laid by German Field Marshal Erwin Rommel’s “Afrika Korps” still work.

Desperate Housewives: Desperate for Ratings?

Who would have thought that feminism and post-modernist consumerism would result in a very, very ugly dialectic? Desperate Housewives, Girl Power gone wrong?

By: Vanessa Uy

Hi, my name is Vanessa and I never watched a full episode of Desperate Housewives in my entire life. All the facts I learned from this politically incorrect TV Series is what I've overheard by "Desperate Housewives'" fans talking on the bus. Though I’ve watched enough World War II movies that made me extra sensitive to racial epithets. If I had to choose between watching a season of Desperate Housewives and an instructional video from Médecins Sans Frontièrs (MSF or Doctors Without Borders) on how to treat assault rifle trauma, I’d choose the later. Besides Teri Hatcher / Susan Meyer may have a low opinion on non-Hollywood doctors like MSF or Filipino medical personnel for that matter.

The “Desperate Housewives” row over Filipino doctors is about the September 30, 2007 episode of the show. In this particular show is a scene were Teri Hatcher’s character – Susan Meyer – was being confronted by a doctor with the information that she may be experiencing menopause. During the conversation, Susan Meyer (Teri Hatcher’s character) cut the doctor short and this is when she uttered the racial slur. This is the excerpt.
Dr. Mayfair: “I know for a lot of women, the word “menopause” has negative connotations. The heart aging, brittle bones, loss of sexual desire…”
Susan Meyer: “Before we go any further, can I check those diplomas? ‘cause I would like to make sure that they’re not from some “med school” in the Philippines.”
To me, this qualifies as an attack on us Filipinos. The writing staff of Desperate Housewives intentions might just be for the purpose of entertainment but we Filipinos, say that this is really underhanded. We have been offended – if not ridiculed by the said statements.

As Americans, I can assume that the writing staff of Desperate Housewives that their society doesn’t tolerate racial slurs and I experienced this first hand. Back in February 2001, while vacationing with my relatives in Wisconsin. I almost got into a fight with a group of African–Americans because I was telling a funny anecdote to my cousin – in a Bavarian dialect – in which a group of African–Americans misinterpreted as a racial slur directed at them. Plus I’m a pale skinned green- eyed redhead (Chinese-Uzbek-German ancestry) didn’t help matters either. Fortunately, the group understood my pleas in explaining my esoteric language use and the tense situation was peacefully resolved. Understandable since obscure Bavarian dialects is not a major part of the American high school curricula.

Now, for the sake of justice, it’s my time to cast a critical eye on the TV series “Desperate Housewives”. I always view any-town-USA-gated-communities with disdain even if I’m presently residing in one. These “communities” represent the dark side of Capitalist Consumerism. These are the communities were probably the malfeasant personnel of the private security contractor “Blackwater” grew up. I think the writing staff of Desperate Housewives should undergo ethnic or cultural sensitivity training by sentencing them to do community service in San Francisco’s Castro Street district. Or doing volunteer work in a Turkish-Armenian support group.

Extraordinary Renditions: The 21st Century Inquisition?

As yet another program by the Bush Administration / Oligarchy to turn back the clock on human rights and civil liberties on a global scale. Will Tomàs de Torquemada’s bureaucratic legacy outlast Einstein’s Relativity Theory?

By: Vanessa Uy

The world owes yet another debt of gratitude to courageous news channels like the BBC who are brave enough to report on the shortcomings of the US Government’s “War on Terror.” It’s a well- accepted conventional wisdom that torture seldom – if ever – works because anyone under the pain and torment of torture will say anything to end it. Thus proving the unreliability of information / intelligence obtained under duress. Even when armed with the foreknowledge on the ineffectiveness of “Ecclesiastical Inquisition” style of torture, the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) still practices these “Extraordinary Renditions” on captured Al Qaeda / terrorists suspects. “Extraordinary Rendition” is CIA speak for flying captured terror suspects without trial to another location or country with lax human rights laws to be tortured as to extract “useful information.” As featured in BBC’s “The World Uncovered” documentary about the CIA’s “Extraordinary Renditions”, Ethiopian exile and long time UK resident Binyam Mohammed suffered under the inhuman conditions of the CIA sanctioned torture. Radical Egyptian Cleric Abu Omar was abducted in Milan, now his whereabouts is unknown. While Khaled El Masri was taken to one of the CIA’s secret “Black Sites” then tortured. He was later released due to his innocence but not before enduring “Inquisition” style torture that left him mentally scarred for life.

These “Extraordinary Renditions” had been going on since the succeeding days after the September 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center and has been kept out of the prying eyes of the world’s media. Luckily, humble “plane spotters” have photographic proof of the planes used in these “Extraordinary Renditions” like the Gulfstream with registry numbers N379P, thus have blown the cover on the CIA’s “illegal operation.” Dick Marty, the Council of Europe’s chief investigator has already collected enough proof that the CIA ran secret prisons in Europe since 2002. Also, there is enough proof so that the 25 CIA agents can be tried “in absentia” in Milan.

How did it come to this? Has America squandered the world’s sympathy after the September 11, 2001 attacks? Haven’t the last thousand years taught the West about the futility of torture as an intelligence- gathering tool? And by the way, how can arresting Muslim Clerics who are more concerned about how to spend their scant funds on improving their local Mosques cripple Al Qaeda? Had the Bush Administration / Oligarchy came to a point that they think they are so infallible that everything they do for our protection they think is right. Must we stand idly by that for every legitimate Al Qaeda operative that the CIA agents apprehend 50 innocent people have to undergo the CIA’s “Extraordinary Rendition.”

The CIA’s “Extraordinary Rendition” reminds me of the days when the Vatican was still a “superpower.” The Vatican set up the “Inquisition” supposedly to protect mankind from evil, but all that happened was a lot of property confiscated by the Papacy and a lot of people burned at the stake – close if not similar- to the CIA’s “Extraordinary Rendition” of today. Did the burning of Joan of Arc or Giordano Bruno change the Catholic Church for the better? God only knows. And don’t even ask me to try to fathom on how Galileo – by accepting Copernicus’ views- threaten the Catholic Churches “Canon Law.”

The Bush Administration / Oligarchy had ran the “War on Terror” and “Operation: Enduring Freedom” in a way that reflects obsession of turning back the clock to the good or bad old days, depending –of course- if you’re a Democrat or a Republican. Back to the days of the “Ecclesiastical Inquisition” with the CIA’s “Extraordinary Rendition”– or even further- to the days before the existence of the “Magna Carta” with their “warrantless arrests” of terror suspects. Their actions make the Baader-Meinhoff Gang / Red Army Faction seems more humane by comparison.

It’s only in the 21st Century that we now fully realize the extent of damage “Institutionalized Torture” can inflict. Former political prisoners incarcerated during the 1970’s and 1980’s are now speaking out their own individual ordeals and torments. A well-known side effect of this “Institutionalized Torture” is “Indoctrinated Dehumanization” where whole societies forgot what human rights and civil liberties mean. Here in the Philippines, “Indoctrinated Dehumanization” is the resulting side effect of the “Institutionalized Torture” widely used during President Ferdinand Marcos’s regime. At that time, torture was routinely practiced with impunity to suppress political dissent. As a side effect of this, a generation of Filipinos – probably 99% of them- who are in the High School and College-level readily accepts legally/state sanctioned torture as right as long as it saves lives or stops terrorism. I wonder if the Philippine Government has complicity in the CIA’s “Extraordinary Renditions” program. Better brush-up on my Urdu and Pashtun, who knows if you could accidentally meet face-to-face with these “terror suspects.”

When George W. Bush’s term ends, will he gobble up needlessly the Secret Service’s resources because he made so many enemies by allowing the CIA’s “Extraordinary Renditions” to go on? With this issue dogging him, he can never retire quietly and peacefully. There are probably three places when he can retire with guaranteed security with the peace and quiet he so desires. The Chemical Corps section of Fort Bragg amid tanks of dimethyl sulfate. The Groom Lake facility in Nevada officially known as “Area 51” where Hangar 18 is a very good defensible position. Lastly, NORAD the US Space Command complex inside Cheyenne Mountain officially known as “Area 52.”

Astronauts: NASA’s Weakest Link?

Conventional wisdom states that a system is only as strong as its weakest link. Does this mean that NASA’s greatest asset - human space explorers i.e. astronauts -are also their greatest liability?

By: Vanessa Uy

Ever since NASA astronaut Lisa Nowak’s adult diaper-aided crime-of-passion / escapade became headline news, things have not been going well for NASA’s manned space exploration program. Then came the allegations of the drunkenness of shuttle astronauts slated for current missions – the “bottle to throttle” fiasco. And the most disturbing of all: the pre-flight sabotage of the vibration monitoring / detecting computer that’s slated to be installed in the International Space Station (ISS) which seems like the proverbial “last straw” that NASA won’t be able to recover. Despite a live news conference last 27th of July 2007 that aired on both BBC and CNN about the administrative action that would be taken by NASA to investigate these allegations and the establishment of a “Performance Integrity Criterion” that will be followed rigorously by the astronauts. Despite of the recent successful launch of the Space Shuttle Endeavor, is NASA’s reputation already tarnished beyond repair?

At the cost of almost a billion dollars per launch, the American taxpayer has every right to be mindful about the professionalism and integrity of their astronauts for a lot of reasons other that the “astronomical” cost of running the best manned space exploration program on the planet. Ever since the 1980’s, there are scientific experiments -whose benefits even includes a cure for cancer- can only be performed in the weightless conditions i.e. in space. So Americans held their astronauts with high regard like some “latter day messiah.” To me, the pre-flight sabotage of the vibration-monitoring computer is the most disturbing of all the “irregularities” that has surfaced in recent investigations. If this is true – and the “tampering” incident had been going on since NASA first started the series of “microgravity environment” experiments back in the 1980’s – then the data obtained during this experiments should be taken with a “grain of salt.” That’s billions of dollars and countless man-hours of drudgery wasted, in other words - one giant “step back” for mankind.

Recently, the “Blog-o-sphere” is abuzz with opinions/suggestions that since NASA launches more unmanned missions like the latest PHOENIX Mars robotic space probe, the administrative body should fire all of their astronauts. To me, the problem with this logic is that at present –or even in the foreseeable future- we still don’t know how to build “robots” that are smart and self-aware enough to replace our “human space explorers.” The “human versus robot” debate extends even to the nurse / caregiver camp, but this is a topic for future discussion.

There exists a “Kultur Kampf” between the two main schools of thought weather it would be ever possible that we humans can ever construct a “robot” that is self-aware and as smart as us. On one camp, Alan Turing – the Great Grandfather of our modern computer technology- believes that by the middle of the 21st Century advancements in computer technology would allow us to design and construct “computers/robots” that are self-aware and as smart as or even smarter than us. Alan Turing even designed a test named after him - the Turing Test - as an evaluation tool to see if a “computer system” has the ability for self-awareness and human like intelligence. Turing “dreamed-up” the concept back in the 1940’s by the way. In the other camp is Roger Penrose – one of the greatest living theoretical physicist today- who theorized that electronic computers can never replicate the process of the human mind that give rise to self-awareness and intelligence. To put it in overly simplistic terms, a skilled blacksmith can create a very beautiful sword but that same sword can never create a blacksmith – even a mediocre one. Sadly, I’m subscribing to Roger Penrose’s view because it’s backed up by my own day –to- day “empirical evidence.” Though the last time I heard from Roger Penrose, he was very optimistic about “quantum computers.” Even if we are fortunate enough to have developed human-like robots -10 years from now- capable of replacing NASA’s astronauts, when was the last time a space probe / robotic spacecraft had a ticker tape parade down Madison Avenue after returning from a successful mission? Bill Oakley and Josh Weinstein produced “cartoons” doesn’t count by the way.

Like it or not, humans are way better designed than “robots” when it comes to tackling the unexpected nature of space exploration. The American Taxpayer and the global community of space exploration enthusiasts will just have to live with the “frailties” of our very human astronauts like tendencies to “blow out some steam” once in a while. And there is the ever- present potential to resort to “substance abuse” in an otherwise stress-filled occupation. Despite all of this, there’s one thing we humans have that won’t probably be replicated by our “faux-sentient cybernetic creations” – for centuries to come – is our ability to better ourselves. This is the raison d’être of drug rehab and alcohol treatment centers that guarantees the job security so-to-speak of their counselors and psychotherapists. And I just can’t help but re-emphasize our ability to better ourselves. As proof of this, one of the latest astronauts on the Space Shuttle Endeavor – Barbara Morgan – has transformed herself through training from a “mere” schoolteacher to a full-fledged astronaut. She had done this because current NASA policy doesn’t allow “civilians” to ride in the space shuttle since the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster over twenty years ago.

And let’s not forget that our global overpopulation problem has no other “viable” solution in the foreseeable future other than space colonization. The sooner we develop our space exploration programs into a viable space colonization endeavor the better off humanity could progress without destroying the fragile ecosystem of our planet.

Bad Habits From the Cold War

Are assassinations of dissidents a holdover of the Cold War – era Soviet Union? Or is it just a bad habit that’s extremely hard to break.

By: Ringo Bones

The news on Alexander Litvinenko’s assassination using polonium210 in London triggers déjà vu to us folks old enough to live in the shadow of the Cold War. During 1978, an almost similar event occurred in London. The Bulgarian Georgi Markov, one of the staunchest critics of the Soviet State at that time was poisoned using an umbrella equipped with a pneumatic pellet shooting mechanism that fires a 1.7 mm diameter pelet laced with ricin (a toxic protein found in castor beans) injector. Markov survived his agonizingly painful ordeal when a doctor tried an unproven procedure, removed the then unknown ricin pellet from his wound. The BBC and Germany’s DW-TV was the first news agencies to cover the said incident. Unluckily, Litvinenko’s case was so rare that doctors were at a loss as to what to do. It was only a few days later that the investigators knew the cause of his death. Rumors are abound that the secret apparatus of the former Soviet Union used to smuggle radioactive substances into the U. S. Embassy in Moscow, supposedly to kill American V. I. P. s softly.

Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, there had been well - documented incidents where radioactive substances are used for murder. Near the end of 1993, Russian “Mafia” assassins allegedly planted gamma-ray-emitting pellets in the secluded workspace of a businessman in Moscow. He died within a few months of exposure. There have been more than half a dozen similar cases that’s been reported in Russia since then.

Is polonium going to be the active ingredient of those “dirty bombs” that “terrorists” are supposedly planning to deploy? That will be tough because most experts will point out that polonium has a half-life of about 139 days, which means it has a nasty habit of vanishing over time. Even though that only minute amounts of polonium are needed to kill an individual, most of what is produced commercially only amounts to a few grams per batch of production. And that’s enough to satisfy most legitimate uses of the element throughout the entire industrialized world. So if you want to procure substantial quantities of polonium for your evil needs. Either you have your own nuclear reactor designed to produce radioisotopes or you regularly rub shoulders with the powers-that-be that regulate the nuclear industry that they would look the other way every time you would do an evil deed. Isn’t it sad that when the fruits of modern technology are misused, it’s always used to maintain an oppressive status - quo.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Is Creationism Racism

Creationism – the ideology – has hidden consequences that belie it’s metaphysical / intellectual you say tomato type syllogism. Is creationism really just a harmless intellectual exercise?

By: Vanessa Uy

Ever since I started listening to my 78 RPM shellac of the Billie Holiday song Strange Fruit on a regular basis back in 2005, I started to wonder if we, as a society, has really advanced since 1939 the year Billie Holiday’s Strange Fruit was released. Sadly, it seems like we are constantly reassured that racism is alive and well. And the proof of this is the Jena High School incident in Jena, Louisiana where the white high school pranksters still think that lynching is fun – in 2007! Scarier still is that this “American Bible-Belt Racism” is based on “their” fundamentalist interpretation of the Holy Christian Scripture.

Ever since proponents of the literal interpretation of the Holy Bible justified Archbishop James Ussher of Armagh, Ireland, in 1650 to conclude that “God” began creating our universe in 9 a.m. on the 23rd of October in 4004 BC. This declaration of dogma –more or less- made Organized Christianity a relatively racist religion that brought us the anti-miscegenation statute of the state of Virginia, the famous Scopes Monkey Trial, to the “Children of Ham” debates between Mormon presidential candidate Mitt Romney and Christopher Hitchens. Although the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints / Mormon faith’s “racists” stance has since been reformed. This happened back in 1978 when Spencer W. Kimball, the Mormon Church’s 12th president, proclaimed that the “long-promised day” had arrived, in which every worthy man, black or white, could take up priesthood in the Latter Day Saints.

Despite reforms and the “toning down” of the racist / separatist stance of the Religious Doctrine of various Christian sects, there are some who are still sticking by their “racist” interpretation of Holy Scripture. Like the US Aryan Nation, also known as the Church of Jesus Christ Christian whose battle cry of “ Serve the Lord of Glory and His Holy Race” makes Al-Qaeda look like a bunch of drunken college frat boys in comparison. Plus a host of other racist Christian sects that had almost made it to the mainstream American political process, like the 6th Day Creationists and the Ku Klux Klan.

Despite of the devastating social impact of creationism in present- day pluralistic-Politically-Correct America, President George W. Bush approved the teaching of creationism / intelligent design in public schools a few years ago. Maybe, we still need constant reassurance on the dangers of extreme fundamentalist Christian beliefs like creationism. Even a couple centuries before Archbishop Ussher toyed with the idea, Tomàs de Torquemada ordered during his heyday in the Spanish Inquisition for 2,000 Jews to be burned alive. This incident should have served as a “red flag” on the dangers of fundamentalist beliefs. Yet, the present Bush administration would blame the news about the burning alive of 2,000 Jews by Torquemada on the “Liberal Media”.

To me, the degree of harm that a belief in creationism can inflict upon you probably rests on where your genetic make up lies on the wrong – or – the right side of the Caucasus Mountain Range. In short, Anglo-Saxons never had it so good in George W. Bush’ America. Thank God for Barack Obama for finally talking about that proverbial “Elephant in the Room”.