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”.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

The Brookings Institution: The Real “Men in Black”?

Is the Brookings Institution – which is primarily an economic security study concern – responsible for the excruciatingly slow scientific progress of space exploration 50 years after Sputnik I?

By: Ringo Bones

In the 20th Century it took us only 44 -or so- years from the first airplane flight to an airplane flying faster than the speed of sound. Why can’t our existing space programs progress just as fast? Ever since that National Geographic documentary about space exploration in which a Brookings Institution report was published. This report advising NASA against reporting findings on the existence of extraterrestrial life to the general public, every coffee shop and internet café in the Far East are now a buzz about the Brookings Institution’s true purpose. But first, here’s a primer on that said institution.

The Brookings Institution is a non- profit public policy “think tank” based in Washington, DC. As the United States of America’s oldest “think tank”, Brookings is devoted (primarily?) to public service through research and education in the social sciences, particularly in economics, government and foreign policy. The Brookings Institution’s stated principal purpose is “to aid in the development of sound public policies and to promote public understanding of issues of national (i.e. the US of A ‘s) importance. Brookings was founded in 1916, when a group of “reformers” (or is that government officials of limited legislative powers dissatisfied with the incumbent administration) founded the Institute for Government Research (IGR), the first private organization in the US devoted to analyzing public policy issues at a national level. The Institutions founder, philanthropist Robert S. Brookings (1850-1952), originally financed the formation of three organizations: The Institute for Government Research, The Institute of Economics, and the Robert Brookings Graduate School. The three were merged into the Brookings Institution in 1927. The Brookings Institute, is currently headed by Strobe Talbott a former Clinton administration appointee in the US State Department.

The “mystique” surrounding the Brookings Institution began in 1958 when the United States Congress created the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) under the new Space Act to replace its 1915 predecessor the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics or NACA. Throughout the 1960’s, under US Government behest, NASA adopted a very unusual non-disclosure policy that prohibited their management from releasing information concerning the discovery of sentient extraterrestrial life capable of space travel. The policy was created and fashioned after the Brookings Institution report entitled “Peaceful Uses of Outer Space”. In that report, the Brookings Institution recommended prohibition of disclosure with a warning against the revelation of the existence of extraterrestrial life to the people of America and the world. Brookings Institution thinkers feared (vicariously?) social, economic, and religious upeaval could result. Many now believe that the Brookings Institution’s conclusions were based on the now famous events, which transpired in October 30, 1938, the public reaction to Orson Welles’s radio broadcast of “The War of the Worlds” and the local panic that ensued.

In the 21st Century, humanity’s level of sophistication has surely risen “a few notches” since that 1938 radio broadcast. To me, it’s quite “difficult to understand” how a futuristic agency tasked with the goal of space exploration -like NASA – can be handicapped by a fear, which originated before most of us were born. Are civilian astronauts / “space tourist” immune to the US Government’s “behest” to keep quiet about “ET”? Maybe this is why none of the billionaires are setting up their own space programs in frenzy.

Does extraterrestrial life exist, is the moon landing “staged’? To end the speculation, civilians should be allowed free access to space despite of the dangers and fiscal costs. Sometimes I wonder after all this time there is no photo of the Apollo 11 landing site taken by a space probe –preferably commissioned by a non- US Government entity (Will China or India suffice) - orbiting 100 kilometers above the moon.

In my opinion, it seems like the people in charge of the Brookings Institute were still living in an “Aristotelian Mindset” when they fashioned their “Peaceful Uses of Outer Space” report. It’s a pity that the great literary giants in Europe during the late 15th Century onwards didn’t write “science fiction” the way Gene Roddenberry makes conjectures about “alien civilizations”. I mean, What if William Shakespeare wrote a “story” about how to properly interact with the native peoples of the “New World”?

In Brookings Institutions defense, they are seldom –if ever – taken seriously by the various US administrations that came and went since the end of World War II. Brookings even made it into then President Richard Nixon’s famous “enemies lists”. Brookings even warned the US Government back in 2000 that if the proper financial reforms aren’t done, a credit crunch – as what is currently happening –can occur.

Basing on the existing facts about the case, the Brookings Institution cannot be held wholly responsible for arresting the development of space travel because they merely work in an advisory capacity. Their “Space” policy may be found wanting but at least some of their ideas keep “minor wars” from getting out of hand while Wall Street goes about like its business as usual.

Blackwater Security Consulting: Malfeasance in Arms?

While Blackwater’s notorious September 16, 2007 incident is a day which will “Live in Infamy” for most of Iraq’s civilians, is this another case of “Ways v Means”?

By: Vanessa Uy

The first time I heard of Blackwater was back in April of 2007 when a former “Dogs Of War” neighbor of ours talks about back in the days when they “Liberated” Zimbabwe back in 1979, they weren’t behaving like Blackwater personnel. I think they’re telling the truth because they’re not afraid to post their own pictures on their MYSPACE account. Ah, to not live in fear, priceless.

Known for their close ties to the GOP, Blackwater Security Consulting was founded in 1997 by ex US Navy SEAL Billionaire Erik Prince and Al Clark. As Blackwater’s exploit’s got inadvertently scrutinized by the international media thus gaining their reputation as mercenaries. However under international law, American citizens working for Blackwater are not considered “mercenaries” when they are assisting the US military. While the Organization of the Islamic Conference recently classified Blackwater as a terrorist organization, due to it’s recent excessive use of force on innocent Iraqi civilians.

Blackwater is based in the US State of North Carolina where it operates a tactical training facility - which it claims to be the world’s largest. The company trains more than 40,000 people a year from all of the various military services and a host of other agencies.

Of the US State Department’s three major private security contractors, Blackwater is currently the largest. At least 90% of the company’s revenue comes from government contracts, two-thirds of which are “no-bid contracts”. Blackwater’s current president, Gary Jackson, is also a former US Navy SEAL.

Blackwater was one of the several private security firms employed following the US invasion of Afghanistan. Blackwater was also hired during the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina by the Department of Homeland Security to maintain order in New Orleans and to “apprehend looters”.

Incidents of misconduct and malfeasance of some Blackwater personnel happened way before the September 16, 2007 “shooting spree” incident. According to the US State Department, on December 24, 2006, a drunken Blackwater employee shot and killed a bodyguard who was protecting the Iraqi vice president. In the weeks after the September 16, 2007 incident, the legal status of Blackwater and other security firms in Iraq is a subject of contention.

I don’t know personally anyone of those currently employed by Blackwater who’s assigned in Iraq but could this be a case of a few bad apples ruining the whole bunch? I mean Blackwater –as a corporate entity – usually does whatever it can to maintain the professionalism of it’s personnel because I question the wisdom of running the company via some kind of Machiavellian machination. Or is their primary mission in Iraq is to rule by fear i.e. “To rule by fear is to rule completely”?

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Deconstructing the Feminist-Filipina

Is Feminist-Filipina a socio-political construct that will eventually evolve into this uber-being or just a soapbox for empty materialism as a corporate byproduct of Corporate Manila?

By: Vanessa Uy and May Anne Uy

The Feminist-Filipina: What a curious beast? Do they define themselves by pledging allegiance to cause oriented groups currently in vogue like “Gabriela?” (Aren’t they always in vogue?). Or are they collectively taking a stance –however unpopular- against a part of our heritage that we should not have been proud of. Like the 500 or so years of the Catholic Church’s hegemony on our nation that has managed to keep the genocidal acts against the native peoples of most of the “New World” and the destruction of these people’s way of life from becoming common knowledge. We –the writers-wonder if the concept of “self determination” and “human rights” means something to The Vatican back then? Is the Feminist-Filipina in essence a stillborn ideology due to preceding historical events? To find out, first let’s take a look into the past.

Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel saw history as a “dialectic”-a process of constant change brought about by the inevitable clash of opposing ideas. According to this theory, the tension between conflicting ways of thinking caused a struggle for power/control. Out of this struggle came: new ideas, new solutions, and the process cycles back again. Hegel’s “idea-centric” view on the dialectic should make our present day information society a “Dialectic Nirvana” for him. While Karl Marx’s view on this “dialectic” was to us more pragmatic because humanity doesn’t live on ideas alone. Marx’s view on the “dialectic” was not limited to opposing ideas but rather humanity’s ceaseless desire for material self-improvement. In other words, everyone want’s to get rich by any means necessary. To Marx, the “dialectic” was actually a struggle for coveting material goods and the control of the means of producing them. History was the record of this struggle.

If you think both of Hegel’s and Marx’s view on history sounds like a book report on Nicolo Machiavelli’s “The Prince” to you, then you are not alone. Many an enlightened scholar subscribes to this point-of-view. Like the “ideas” extolled by Sun Tzu’s “The Art of War” or Miyamoto Musashi’s “The Book of Five Rings” are practically a handbook on how to deal with conflict within the ever-changing socio-political dynamic in a manner that’s still acceptable in our contemporary supposedly-politically-correct-pluralistic society. And just because these works are old, it’s very important not to undervalue the ideas and lessons contained in the writings of Machiavelli, Sun Tzu, or Musashi. We are not talking about abstract philosophies here that might be discussed in the corporate meetings between TV moguls and the “Focus Groups” on how to boost the viewer ratings on upcoming “Pinoy Soap Operas.” There are human ramifications on what the general population perceive, as correct and how these people conduct themselves in our society while harboring their pre-conceived ideas. Believe it or not, the responsibility has fallen upon us-like manna from heaven- to enlighten everyone. Even those who are out to get us feminists!

The Catholic-centered Philippine society has a perception that feminism is much like Darwinism-determination without strategy which they have a disdain for being a Godless ideology. On why after all this time they can’t declare détente is beyond us. Even though the Philippine society in general are somewhat complacent on the issue on the necessity for women in general to learn noble traits which are traditionally reserved for men like militaristic-style honor and self-sacrifice. Is this a holdover from our Victorian past? Gene Roddenberry’s Star Trek like the works of Friedrich Nietzsche isn’t exactly curricular requirements on this part of the world.

Are the glory days of the Feminist-Filipina still yet to come, or does it “suffer” from being viewed as just a passing phase or a fashion statement du jour? Must we be at the mercy of the Holy Bible toting folks who continue to confuse their maps for our territory? That’s a shame though since the most interesting parts of the Holy Bible are seldom discussed like Genesis chapter 19 verses 32 to 34 or that Iron Maiden song about Revelations chapter 13 verse 18.

Art of Election

After World War II, art academics describe Dadaism as an artistic movement hijacked by politicians to embellish their propaganda machines. Here’s some of the how and the why.

By: Vanessa Uy

Whenever election time comes around, I tend not to take my civic duties lightly. Since this is one of the few times when we ordinary folks are granted the power to decide the future of our nation and for the betterment of everyone. But there’s no ignoring that art, for better or for worse- plays a much larger role than you think in the coming political races.

Dadaism, as defined by Webster’s dictionary as an artistic movement based on deliberate irrationality and negation of the laws of beauty and organization. If at first we steer away from the political connotations, Dadaism in my experience has a fixation with the absurd or flippant imagery, object d’art or actions were presented as opposed to conventional art works. For example, a wooden bust of George W. Bush were presented with a machete attached by a chain, visitors are invited to chop at it if they so desire. Dadaism’s strongly represented protest against the conventional sentimental admiration of art. The movement gained popularity in France, from 1916 until the start of the 1920’s, when a sect of Dadaism that has grown tired of politics merged into surrealism. In more recent times, surrealism is more commonly displayed in the cover art of albums by the Rock group Yes and the Salvador Dali-esque Anthrax’s “Persistence of Time” album cover art.

One Dadaist symbolism that’s been hijacked by political forces was the “fasces”. The fasces were formed by a bundle of rods bound with a red cord, which was carried by the lictor (attendant of a magistrate) in ancient Rome. The fasces symbolized the magistrate’s authority to enforce obedience. Outside the walls of Rome, an ax (securis) was carried in augmentation to the bundle of rods; the ax indicated that the, magistrate, as a military commander, could exercise the power of life and death over those under his command. The fasces, was chosen by Benito Mussolini as the symbol of his 1919 movement in Italy, which became the “Fascist Party”.

The Marxist-Leninist Socialism’s iconic hammer and sickle emblem, which symbolizes Communism, was used on the Soviet flag. During the Cold War, the hammer and sickle was a very ominous iconic symbol, which the Western powers say best symbolizes the “Evil Empire” which brought humanity to the brink of nuclear annihilation.

One politician here in the Philippines has an electoral poster designed to make this certain politician look like an Orwellian “Big Brother.” This poster design, castes the politician in a sinister light even though this certain politician has a good track record with an altruism that doesn’t pave the proverbial road to hell. Better consult your “focus groups.” Just like the wooden George W. Bush bust with the machete, political/election posters are torn down after election in a cathartic expression of renewal.

To know more about Dadaism, check out DW-TV’s Arts21 web site.

Evangelical Christians and Al Qaeda: 21st Century Axis Powers

Have you ever wondered why Osama Bin Laden never specifically vilifies Evangelical Christians? Are they consolidating power like what Hitler and Mussolini did? Take a look at my musings to find out why.

By: Vanessa Uy

That May 14, 2007 BBC news broadcast of Dr. Thomas Ice of Liberty University probably brought a sense of disbelief to millions of BBC’s “level-headed” viewers around the world. While the other million or so was sent on a mad dash to write their own “Techno Thriller” novel to rival the best of what Tom Clancy has offered to date. Does anyone agree with me that the BBC’s news story on Dr. Ice is a good springboard to write a good fictional story? The one that comes to mind is about people like Dr. Ice initiating events that would lead to an all-out nuclear exchange that in our present reality seems indefinitely postponed by the Grace of God and Her Infinite Wisdom.

Did you remember a while back when the Bush Administration invaded the sovereign country of Iraq in search of WMD? A few months afterwards, there was a growing interest on the exploits of the “Baghdad Sniper” who targets American soldiers with impunity via a Dragonov sniper rifle. Dragonovs are basically Kalashnikovs modified to have a much longer range and improved accuracy. Have you noticed that most of the “Baghdad Sniper’s” victims are Mexican or/of Latino descent, and the “white” people who got shot are either Jewish or/of Eastern European descent especially those whose family name ends in “S-K-Y.” The kind of people who are often vilified by “Evangelists.”

Have you ever wondered: Why Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell or any other famous Evangelical religious leaders never got vilified by Osama Bin Laden and/or Al Qaeda? The similarities of their religious ideologies are quite uncanny. They both reject the relevance of rationality and cultural diversity to their religious teachings. They go out of their way to keep women subservient by any means necessary. And the most curious quirk of all: their belief that their “God” only chooses a particular race to be granted salvation. The Evangelical “God” chooses the white Anglo-Saxon race. While Bin Laden/Al Qaeda’s “God” favors Muslims of Arabic descent. They have an unhealthy fixation of rationalizing men’s “rights” to abuse women if it suits their fancy. Looks like half of humanity will be doomed if this “Religious Madness” is allowed to escalate even further.

Jerry Falwell: A Legacy of Hate

Ever since he founded the “Moral Majority” back in 1979, Jerry Falwell probably has a dubious influence of creating a rift between Islam and the West.

By: Vanessa Uy

When Jerry Falwell passed away last May 16, 2007, all my sentiments point to good riddance. For most rational level- headed Americans, Jerry Falwell may seem no more than a minor irritation to accepted standards of civil liberties. Jerry Falwell influenced the creation of PMRC (parents music resource center) back in the 1980’s which bought us the “Parental Advisory: Explicit Lyrics” stickers on our records/CDs that are still with us today. But it’s much more serious for us here in parts of South East Asia, where Jerry Falwell’s ideas are used by right wing militants- to murder Socialist/Left Wing activists from 1970’s till the present.

To me, Jerry Falwell’s legacy of his “Moral Dictum” of harassing and vilifying the non-Christian members of the human race is tantamount to “cultural genocide.” His “follower’s” utter disregard for environmental concerns brought us global warming which they claim as their right by virtue of “Anglo-Saxon Manifest Destiny.” Now doubt, Jerry Falwell is Al Qaeda’s raison d’être for without Al Qaeda many young Muslims think that they would be wiped out by people like Jerry Falwell before the end of the 20th Century.

Despite of Jerry Falwell’s passing, there are a lot of “Christian Bigots” lining up to take his place like Ann Coulter. She single handedly started a campaign of “cultural genocide” to anyone who doesn’t subscribe to the “Moral Majority’s” views. If she gets enough political power and clout, Ann Coulter would allow legislation of a law that would outlaw anthropology and shut down the National Geographic Society.

When God Goes To War

From the Biblical “conflicts” and Medieval Crusades to the present day sectarian violence in Iraq. Is God’s big plan about us killing each other off?

By: Vanessa Uy

Why does an ideology that supposes to foster brotherhood and sisterhood for all mankind- became a platform for- most if not all recent conflicts and strife? No, I’m not talking about Marxist-Leninist Socialism for those of you who are “Cold War” veterans out there. I’m talking about this arcane ideology where God say’s one thing and the followers do another, in other words- religion. I’m not one of those people who subscribe to the notion that Iraq is the Arabic for Yugoslavia. This schism in monotheism has been around since these only-one-God organized religious groups became established. In Jerusalem, where this “covenant” between the one and only God and mankind was consecrated, we were one step closer to universal peace. In actuality though, a “holy industry” was established which became a tourist attraction of itself. But it also spawned the inevitable unholy rivalry between the faiths. If you look at Judaism, Christianity, and Islam closely, you could see both the kinship and the disparity between them. How’s that for cognitive dissonance T.S. Elliot style.

The schisms that were grabbing news headlines at present are between Sunni and Shia Muslims being played out in the major urban centers of Iraq. While in the Christian front, it’s usually a sensationalized shouting match on “Faith TV” as opposed to the IRA bombings in Dublin, Ireland more than 20 years ago. In seeking answers to why something that’s so beautiful with lofty altruistic aims for mankind could become something ugly like a Holy War probably is a question for the ages. But I think we should have the moral responsibility to avoid our ignorance blinding our faith.

The present rift between Islam and the West has its roots on injustice, especially on how the United States Government conducts their “War on Terror.” Would the same powers-that-be investigate the links between The Vatican and the IRA. Or what about when Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols bombed the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in April of 1995, nobody placed 700 Club’s Pat Robertson and Rev. Jerry Falwell under surveillance. But when Osama Bin Laden’s Al Qaeda launched a suicide attack at the World Trade Center Building towers on September 11, 2001, Muslims worldwide are still feeling the “inconvenience” of George W. Bush’s “War on Terror.” This undoubtedly brought about by a convenient scapegoat of the “intelligence reports” that the Arab elite are funding the spread of the “Wahhabi Doctrine” by any means necessary.

Here in the Philippines- religion should not be relegated by the government as a mere “philosophical abstraction.” There are human ramifications on what the general population perceive as canon / dogma or fact in relation to how they conduct themselves in a pluralistic society. I have first hand experience on the mindset of these supposedly God fearing Christians. They are self-styled Christian Supremacists who abhor a -2400 Fulton Street San Francisco-or a-Seattle, Washington-style pluralism. They don’t want Muslims, Feminists and Communists to be integrated into mainstream society. They hassled most –if not all-of my friends during most of 1999 imposing their own agendas about their outlandish Bill Gates / Microsoft / Y2K Bug / 666 conspiracy theories.

A few days ago, I visited the web sites of both Maoist Internationalist Movement (MIM) and the Revolutionary Anti- Imperialist League (RAIL). Their views on extra judicial killings / murders of Left-leaning organizations like “Gabriela” here in the Philippines perked my interest and since this became a hot topic recently. To me either the RAIL “blogger” doesn’t live here or is practicing self-censorship because he or she lacked vital knowledge on the kind of Christianity that’s practiced here in the Philippines. The RAIL “blogger” probably doesn’t share my daily experience with these gun-toting Christian Supremacists who see sexual equality / liberation and pluralism as no different from Marxist-Leninist Socialism and who believe they have a shot of sainthood by killing anyone who harbors such thoughts. Does these murders become extra judicial when the present administration does a very lousy job in educating the Christian majority about basic human rights or at least the “Cold War” is over and that there never was an “Evil Empire.” In the US, these supposedly extra judicial killings are labeled as hate crimes for the religious component I just mentioned. You may think I’m a stooge of the current administration, but don’t hate me for telling it like it is. I live in a culture where most- if not all- of the people go about with a blind obedience to the Christian God. A culture victimized by 500 years of genocidal Catholic oppression. A culture that doesn’t even have an equivalent- word for extra judicial killing and hate crime in their native vocabulary. It’s really hard to change a group of people whose religious leaders think that Sufi Islam and Hinduism are pseudo-religions founded by 1960’s rock stars and hippies.

Who Owns God?

By: Vanessa Uy

“Anything done out of love is beyond good and evil.”Thus spake Friedrich Nietzsche.In the ten years of my mortal existence I had always wondered what the phrase “God is Love” means.Currently one of the loudest voices- claiming- infalliability- though- short- in- correctnes today are the Evangelical Christians.Since their Talibanization in the late 1990’s for hyping the Y2k Bug, they have in my opinion,abandoned all rational thought,the only thing needed to establish a dialogue between the Christian West and Islam.But enough about the altruistically themed adverts circulating in the BBC and CNN.

First, some axes to grind.For the most part,Evangelical Christians have a fairly limited ambition.On a personal level,they want to gain this supposedly “Eternal Life” stuff and annoy anyone of us who doesn’t subscribe to their belief system (though not necessarily in that order);on a professional level, they want you to learn,albeit forcibly,about Jesus Christ.And usually that’s about as far as it goes.

Me,on the other hand ,wants more. Not the one content with the usual fire and brimstone rhetoric,I just want to pull a deeper resonance every time I am invited by my Buddhist , Jewish,and Muslim friends to join them in celebrating one of their various high holidays;I’m somewhat disinterested in the dogmatic good versus evil dichotomy that is so manipulated by the evangelical powers-that-be as to infringe upon our civil liberties like going to certain art exhibitions and listening to music.In short ,how can the Christian West respect the beliefs and customs of other civilizations if they don’t respect the civil liberties of their constituents?

It isn’t that left-leaning-feminist-liberals such as myself fail in their attempts to advance Western Civilization or humanities collective perception about God,or are even wrong for wanting to do so.Maybee I’m just avoiding being pigeonholed by a media perception of feminists as spoiled rotten rich kids, anglo liberal inside,whatever color outside.We do care about how the rest of humanity looks at the Holy Church or Western Civilization.A media perception that in the mid 1990’s we came very close to achieving our ambitions of a utopic society could be our battle cry or our collective raison d’etre at best.

But the fact of the matter is that almost all organized religions really doesn’t need reinventing.Moreover ,feminist- liberals as a lot still seems a little too brainy for our own good.Sure ,altruism,the kind practiced by the evangelical powers-that-be,is a very noble idea,but like the amoral,money hungry Corporate World,they are run by people,who are in general more interested in self gain (material wealth,a good afterlife).Evangelical Christianity isn’t exactly the sort of philosophy that thrives on introspective reflection i.e. free thinking.

Should feminist-liberals shoulder the burden in establishing a dialogue that will result into a fruitful outcome in improving relations between Islam and the West.If we succeed,we may well rewrite the book on how the media and humanity should perceive God.Until then,however,there’s this late 20th.century movement called “empty materialism” or shop ‘till you drop for the uninitiated,an idea that’s much easier to acquire.