Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Fall of the Berlin Wall – 20 Years After

Hailed as the iconic event of 1989 and as a supposedly history-ending one, did the fall of the Berlin Wall resulted in a better world 20 years later?

By: Ringo Bones

Imagine an American serviceman stationed close enough to witness the iconic event back in 1989, later reading Francis Fukuyama’s The End of History. Later participating in Operation Desert Storm and later returning to the sight of the former Berlin Wall around December 1991 with a copy of Fukuyama’s The End of History in hand. In this surreal setting, what would we be going through his head?

For those of us who had lived a significant portion of their lives during the Cold War, most of us had thought that the Berlin Wall would last well into the 21st Century. Who knew that it fell just a few years after when the former US President Ronald Reagan pleaded the then former Soviet premier Mikhail Gorbachev to “tear down this wall”. Not to mention the then US President George H. W. Bush castigating the Berlin Wall as the monument which stands as the failure of communism. To our generation, the fall of the Berlin Wall on November 9 1989 meant the advancement of civil liberties for those people trapped behind the Iron Curtain. The "Minzhu" revolution that started in the People's Republic of China a few months before the one that fell the Berlin Wall in November 1989 resulted in a bloody crackdown in Tiananmen Square Massacre of June 4, 1989.

Sadly the euphoria behind Fukuyama’s End of History is only just that – mere euphoria. Even though thousands of former East Germans and other folks trapped on the Marxist-Leninist side of the Iron Curtain got a taste of what we in the Capitalist West had always taken for granted – i.e. a relatively high standard of civil liberties (up to a point?) and conspicuous consumption. Most of folks who used to live behind the proverbial Iron Curtain never really benefited the supposed prosperity they are supposedly entitled to 20 years later. Our “protracted” global mini recession that started in the latter half of July 2007 and supposedly ended in the summer of 2009 resulted in the reevaluation of the “theories” established by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels. Which caused most of us asking whether capitalism can really reform itself.

Unfortunately, Western Capitalism had managed to turn itself into the proverbial “Evil Empire” that we all had dread since the days when the Soviet Union was still a formidable superpower. Western Capitalism even resorted to using politics and Anglo-Saxon Protestantism to deny global warming. Thus denying the environmentally conscious among us our “End of History” moment when it comes to saving our environment. Even the global warming issue is now the prime mover of that Doomsday Clock in the headquarters of The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists when it used to be only nukes. If the upcoming UN Climate Conference in Copenhagen fails, the clock would be permanently stuck at two minutes to midnight – assuming if luck were still on our side.

As one of the folks responsible for formulating the “Reagan Doctrine” Francis Fukuyama really forgot to advise then President Reagan about very important aspects of American foreign policy that still matters today. Maybe it didn’t fell into Fukuyama’s purview, but he should have advised Reagan the folly of thinking that Islamic Fundamentalism is the moral parallel of the Anglo-Saxon Protestant Work Ethic that made America a superpower. Now, we can all safely blame Ronald Reagan for empowering the thugs that later became the Taliban and Al Qaeda.

The end of communism in Europe is a mixed blessing at most. Due to the Cold War “victors’” oversight, countless millions had died in the Balkans throughout the 1990s due to the rise of extreme nationalism / tribalism of the breakaway Yugoslavian territories. In other parts of the world, this had resulted in the rise of powers and despotic nation / states that simply can’t and won’t be reasoned with. And I often hear that our current state is “supposedly” better than the Empire of the Soviet Union lasting forever. Would this have resulted in most of us being cooped up in a 10 feet by 20 feet room150 meters underground with a 30 dollar Geiger Counter from the 1950s with only World War II era c-rations for breakfast, lunch and dinner for the next 35 years?

Friday, October 16, 2009

President Obama's Nobel Peace Prize: Too Premature?

Even though the Nobel Committee has since stood by their decision to award President Obama the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize, does it seem too premature or is the Nobel Committee trying to raise a political statement?

By: Ringo Bones

Whether you are an unabashed fan or a very staunch opponent, it seems that almost everyone around the world who is not a Nobel peace Prize Committee insider seems to have reached a consensus. Especially in questioning whether US President Barack Obama being awarded the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize seem a tad premature. But noting that a number of recent Nobel Peace Prize laureates of the 21st Century are either former US presidents or vice presidents and are distinguished democrats, the Nobel committee and the world is probably trying to send an urgent message to post-Bush America.

After the very rabid high-profile and somewhat Aryan Nation-leaning opposition to President Obama’s policies and plea for bi-partisanship by Über-Aryans Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh and the rest of the American chapter of the Waffen-SS who called themselves as the “Tea Party”. President Obama probably deserves the Nobel Peace Prize for just keeping his cool. I wonder if a sensible-minded opposition during the Bush Administration as loud as today’s Tea Party protesters would ever get away expressing their views without being sent to some clandestine CIA prison run by then Vice President Cheney.

According to the Nobel Peace Prize committee, President Obama just barely made it for this year’s nomination in February 1, 2009. Considering the new president is officially in office for just 11 days, gripes on whether he truly deserves it are thus inevitable. But does president Obama really deserve being this year’s Nobel Prize laureate? After all, giving Nobel Peace Prizes posthumously - if you believe in the crazy conspiracy du jour about an upcoming assassination - can be a very politically contentious issue. Mahatma Gandhi really missed out on the Nobel Peace Prize that he really deserved.

Back in May 2009, I checked out a Website called politifact.com after they did an evaluation on the feasibility of President Obama’s promise of phasing out nuclear weapons around the world. The site’s panel of experts stated that President Obama has yet to initiate the important steps to make his promise of a nuke-free world a reality. And considering the February 1 nomination, a renewed Israeli-Palestinian peace process was still a few months away. Further reinforcing the rumors of a prematurely awarded Peace Prize.

But if you ask me, I think President Obama really deserves this year’s Nobel Peace Prize. And probably the same reasons why the Norwegian-run Nobel Peace Prize Committee awarded it to him in the first place. Ever since the US Strategic Air Command disestablishment of 1992, no US president has ever initiated diplomatically for further nuclear weapons reductions around the world. Preventing an accidental all-out nuclear war is still a valid excuse by the way. And don’t forget that former President Clinton was probably the last one to initiate a significant and meaningful Israeli-Palestinian peace process. President Obama’s promise of doing both during the very early days of his administration is probably all the luck and the rationale that he needs in being the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize laureate. Glenn Beck’s obsession with NAZI-related numerology – i.e. the 9-12 and the 88 mm shell – was probably too much for the Jewish members of the Nobel Peace Prize committee.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Remembering Corazon Aquino

After losing her battle with cancer, does the rest of the world still care about Tita Cory’s contribution to the betterment of Philippine society?

By: Ringo Bones

To those Filipinos old enough to remember the hardships of the “Marcos Dictatorship”, the banning of the 1970s era anime called Voltes V was probably the last straw. Never mind the late, former dictator’s first lady Imelda Marcos’ tacit complicity (or was it really her idea) to assassinate Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino, Jr. (Corazon Aquino’s husband) back in August 21, 1983 after returning to his homeland to start a peaceful revolution against the Marcos dictatorship.

The assassination of his husband – which is still unsolved till this day by the way - is primarily what dragged a nondescript Filipino homemaker named Corazon “Cory” Aquino into the limelight of Philippine politics. After running against then Philippine “President for Life” Ferdinand E. Marcos and losing against him in a sham election. Corazon Aquino managed to pull of a miracle when the entire Philippine nation rallied with her – remember the yellow ribbons and confetti - in a bloodless coup that finally put an end to the Marcos dictatorship back in February 25, 1986. That became famously known as the EDSA Revolution, not to mention after being sworn in as the new President of the Philippines, Corazon Aquino was chosen as Time magazine’s Person of the Year in 1986. Not to mention her approval in allowing to display Imelda Marcos’ abandoned 3,000 pairs of shoes in an ad hoc “museum of infamy”. Corazon Aquino will forever be inexplicably linked to Imelda Marcos’ Filipino-poverty-funded “shoe fetish”.

During her presidency, Corazon Aquino’s term in office was probably the most coup-infested administration in the history of the Philippines. Even though her economic reforms made a majority of Filipino’s improve their economic status by a few notches the corruption culture that was set-up during the Marcos Dictatorship was still there. And this is still an on-going social justice issue that is driving the corruption and extra-judicial murder spree during the Estrada Administration. The Philippine labor force were “Going Galt” in droves so to speak (like in that famous Ayn Rand novel), by choosing cushy jobs overseas. Making patriotism still synonymous with poverty till this day.

Even though every Filipino old enough to remember the EDSA Revolution of 1986 will forever owe her a debt of gratitude after freeing us from the thrall of the Marcos dictatorship, an overwhelming of Corazon Aquino’s critics still question her overuse of her policy of reconciliation. Especially those in the small business community where they loss between 1.5 to 3 million pesos (about US$30,000 to 60,000) a year during the corruption plagued presidency of Joseph Estrada. Corazon Aquino’s “reconciliation” with the “ethically challenged” former president Estrada is probably one of her –if not – her greatest political mistakes. Add to that the increasingly “politically empowered” Catholic Church which many ethnic Muslims are now questioning the increasingly “Papist leaning” Philippine political system at a time where a thriving Islamic community from various parts of the world has been increasingly doing their part in strengthening the economic prosperity of the Philippines in recent years.

Even though her administration did create scores of politically unintended consequences that still haunts us to this day – i.e. an increasingly Papist leaning state – we “older” Filipinos still chose to remember the former Philippine President Corazon Aquino as our savior that delivered us from the clutches of the Marcos dictatorship. Especially at a time when the Reagan Administration became very busy propping up dictators around the world that loved the smell of American money. Tita Cory (Aunt Cory) will forever be remembered for her People Power revolution, a bloodless coup that ended a 20-year reign of terror.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Iranian Revolution Version 2.0

Given the majority of Iranians are dissatisfied with the recent “dubious” June 12, 2009 presidential election, will the time for another Iranian Revolution with a scale like that of 1979 is nigh?

By: Ringo Bones

Like many people around the world, I too am envious with the Iranian people’s vigilance against tyranny – unlike the “majority” of Americans who stood idly by as George “Dubya” Bush stole the 2000 US Presidential Election from Al Gore. But the question in everybody’s mind is will the scores of on-going demonstrations in Iran eventually lead into a revolution that will rival in scale to the one that eventually ousted the Shah back in 1979?

The Twitter-fueled scores of protest against the disputed Iranian presidential election of June 12, 2009 probably gained legitimacy of becoming a larger revolution. When one of the protesters - Neda Agha Soltan - was shot by an "inexperienced" Basij Militia sniper while her gristly slow death was broadcasted around the world via You Tube. Given that she only wanted freedom and democracy in Iran in which the disputed presidential election had utterly undermined only shows how dedicated Iranian citizens are when it comes to patriotism.

The possibility of the repeat of that iconic 1979 Iranian Revolution that eventually ousted Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi could be more than likely now than ever. Because the 2003 Nobel Peace Prize laureate Shirin Ebadi had already shown her support for the opposition presidential candidate Mir Hossein Moussavi during the historic July 17,2009 protest rally. Given that Shirin Ebadi holds so much political clout to the “Iranian Diaspora” worldwide, Iran’s Guardian Council would now be working overtime convincing the Iranian people on why they should accept incumbent hard-line President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

The International Community has been condemning the Iranian Revolutionary Guard’s heavy-handed crackdown of demonstrations by opposition supporters who cited election irregularities. The condemnation over the heavy-handed crackdown of opposition supporters had now reached another level as Shirin Ebadi rallies the Iranian Diaspora around the world to never stop their peaceful resistance against the June 12 sham presidential election of Iran. If were lucky, today’s generation too young to remember the Iranian Islamic Revolution of 1979 could once again witness another – hopefully more peaceful – Iranian Revolution in the 21st Century.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

The April 15, 2009 Tax Day Tea Party: Hypocrisy Par Excellence?

Everyone has a right to express their anger, but does the affluent-yet-ungrateful Anglo-Saxon Protestant community of America really in a position to protest against the Obama Administration’s tax structure?

By: Vanessa Uy

After America’s reputation as the only superpower on the face of the Earth was reassured yet again by President Barack Obama’s decisive action that freed Captain Richard Phillips after being held captive by Somali pirates. Sadly, the jubilation was rather short-lived because the affluent-yet-ungrateful lunatic fringe of the Anglo-Saxon Protestant community surprisingly managed to sum up the courage to protest against the Obama Administration’s “taxation without representation”.

Though in my opinion, rich spoilt white folks protesting their government’s unfair tax structure by reenacting the 1770 Boston Tea Party really is a big improvement. After all, aren’t these the same people who used to truck bomb the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building and firebomb planned parenthood clinics during the Clinton Administration? An improvement in expressing one’s disdain against the government like this year’s Tax Day Tea Party really brings a whole new meaning to the phrase “Yes we can.”

Probably the only good thing that has come out of the April 15, 2009 Tax Day Tea Party demonstrations is that it has done the job that is supposedly should have been performed by every sixth-grade social studies teacher in America were paid to do. Which is teaching America’s young impressionable kids about the original Boston Tea Party of 1770. Though I often confuse this historic day with the Boston Massacre of March 5, 1770. I just hope that the teabags that they used in this year’s Tax Day Tea Party were bought at fair trade prices.

But still, the thought still haven’t left my mind if the Fox News Channel had given Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols their own shows back in 1995 – like the one currently done by Glenn Beck or Bill O’Reilly on Fox News Channel. Those Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building employees would have been happy living out their lives till this day, instead of dying needlessly back in April 20, 1995.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Is Nationalization Killing the Protestant Work Ethic?

Critics called nationalization of the banking industry in America as nothing more than rewarding failure, but will it ultimately kill the Protestant work ethic in the long run?

By: Vanessa Uy

President Obama really did scored big during the London G20 summit back in April 2, 2009 for leading the way in allowing the attendant countries to reach a consensus in tackling our on-going global financial crisis. Even though France, Germany and the rest of the EU were very reluctant at first in “throwing money at the problem” via economic stimulus packages – given that this is the very thing that saved Japan from her economic “Lost Decade”.

But back in America, populist anger has been brewing since the start of 2009 over TARP-fund misappropriation through overly extravagant executive bonuses of the likes of AIG and their ilk. Many now see the nationalization of ailing banks and other financial institutions as nothing more than rewarding failure. The question now is will nationalization – which many economic pundits believe mark the death-knell of American capitalism – is now poised to kill off another cherished American value – namely the Protestant work ethic?

Even though the Protestant work ethic had become inexplicably linked to the Reagan-era “greed-driven” economic prosperity of the 1980s, even though the concept already reached full-bloom in 20th Century America where everyone – especially the “Turn of the Century” (1900s) immigrants – stating that anyone who works hard will be rewarded handsomely. But Capitol Hill’s current flirtation with nationalization, where failing financial institutions are unfairly rewarded through the TARP funds, does sound just like a repeat of the dubious concepts of the past. Like the Johnson Administration-era redistribution of wealth of the mid-1960s - a.k.a. “War on Poverty” which usually just resulted in a heavier tax burden and fewer crucial services for the working poor and the middle classes.

Hastily set-up ill conceived government programs like the outgoing Bush Administration’s TARP funds to bail out ailing banks and other financial and corporate institutions became the focus of populist anger. Especially during the first few months of 2009 were economic and financial issues are as politically polarizing as religious extremism – given the ever-increasing number of job losses and home foreclosures.

Poorly executed government programs of “social service” – especially the TARP funds which to me are nothing more than welfare of billionaires who are taking too many risky financial decisions for their own good – do more harm than good. Especially when the American taxpayer are now the underwriters of their ill-conceived high-risk financial adventurism. They tend to undermine the Protestant work ethic that made the post World War II American economy the gold standard of capitalism. Nationalism – especially when it is poorly executed – will ultimately lower productivity. Which only serves to bolster the idea harbored by socialist-leaning anti-capitalists who think that capitalism cannot reform itself. Looks like those Ché Guevara T-shirts will never go out of fashion.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Can Capitalism Really Reform Itself?

It has lately become a target of populist anger due to the policymakers’ inability to rein in on financial executive excesses, but is it possible for capitalism to reform itself?

By: Vanessa Uy

Ever since that AIG executive bonus debacle received round the clock press attention, populist anger in America and across the world has now been directed at the excesses of capitalism. Not to mention the Bernard L. Madoff’s hedge-fund-as-a-pyramid-scheme financial scandal and Sir Allen Stanford’s equally dubious investment scheme. The state of the global economy – as of late – has now turned into an issue as politically polarizing as that of religious extremism. But given that every head-of-state around the world are now pledging to do their part to reform the excesses that plagued capitalism since back in the days when Ronald Reagan ruled the free world, is it really possible to reform capitalism – or create policies to make capitalism reform itself?

The G-20 Summit in London, England has been touted by British Prime Minister Gordon Brown of rising to the challenge to reform capitalism for the better. With the promise to reform the world’s financial system through international regulations and tighter controls of hedge funds and mortgaged backed securities, as it’s main goals. There is literally a lot of money riding on the G-20 Summit in London. Though the warm-up protests last Saturday March 28, 2009 only highlights the concern that now capitalism really is the target of global populist anger. But the question now is whether our “enlightened” world leaders choose quantitative easing at the expense of their citizen’s economic well-being – or will there be a repeat of 1999’s Battle in Seattle?

The problem with our existing capitalist framework of our global economy is that it is very dependent on the existence of financial disparity between populations – i.e. it only works if there are poor people working for the rich people. And this is the very reason why the world’s “significant” population of multi-millionaires and billionaires are extremely reluctant to commit to “Going Galt” – i.e. mimicking John Galt of Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged where über-rich people formed their own commune in a secluded island. Imagine billionaires employing multi-millionaires as gardeners and landscapers. Or how about multi-millionaires peddling 5-dollar MSRP (manufacturer’s suggested retail price) devilled eggs and selling them to their billionaire customers at 30 thousand dollars for starters. Maybe Karl Marx and W.E.B. DuBois were right in stating that capitalism cannot reform itself. Or as I see it – capitalism is extremely reluctant in reforming itself. Even if it means it’s very survival is at stake.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Was Abraham Lincoln a Racist?

As the only “White Guy” with enough clout to deserve mention during Black History Month, do most Americans harbor an overly rosy view of the 16th president of the United States?

By: Vanessa Uy

As the closest thing to America having her own Jesus, is the book written by Dr. Henry Louis Gates, Jr. titled Lincoln on Race and Slavery serve as a polemic as damning as the Nag Hammadi Documents? Given that an overwhelming number of Americans have an overly rosy view of America’s 16th president, it might as well be.

As the Director of the W.E.B. DuBois Institute for African and African American Research at Harvard University Professor Gates has the unique position of having access to very important - and the not so pertinent – knowledge. On how then-President Lincoln’s policy on the emancipation and drafting of former African-American slaves to fight for the Union Army during the civil War. In his book, Professor Gates managed to use the not so flattering aspects of then-President Lincoln’s policies with great effect in his warts-and-all biography of Abraham Lincoln.

Compared to recent biographies about Abraham Lincoln, Professor Gates’ view on America’s 16th President is a stark contrast compared to the overly rosy view harbored by Adam Gopnik’s book titled Angels and Ages: A Short Book About Darwin, Lincoln, and Modern Life. While Adam Gopnik praises Lincoln’s “Liberty for All” idealism even to the black African slaves, Professor Gates paints a somewhat more somber view on Lincoln. Especially on his not so popular policies instituted during his presidency, not to mention Lincoln’s well-documented racism against black slaves.

While Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln by Doris Kearns Goodwin is probably the “book-of-the-moment” when it comes to biographies about Abraham Lincoln. Not only because it influenced President Barack Obama about Lincoln’s “emotional temperament” of living through and resolving crises, but also because Goodwin’s book concentrates more on the aspects of Abraham Lincoln that most Americans hold dear.

In recent years, books and movies that portray the less flattering aspects of Abraham Lincoln – no matter how historically accurate – never seems to attain mainstream success. Even the relatively popular movie titled Cold Mountain. Which is about then President Lincoln’s questionable policies during the Civil War was remembered more for Renée Zellweger’s overuse of BOTOX – rather than the movie’s historical merits. Though the movie did inspire a few Americans to voice out that Abraham Lincoln should be tried posthumously for war crimes under the rules of the Nuremberg Convention.

Dr. Henry Louis Gates, Jr. is no less flattering when it comes to Abraham Lincoln’s “human frailties”. Historical documents did cite Lincoln’s racism. Not only on Lincoln’s vehement opposition of interracial marriage, but he also harbored grave doubts about the intellectual capacity of African Americans, publicly used the “N-word” until at least 1862, enjoyed “darky” jokes and black-faced minstrel shows. All of which a middle-school civics teacher in the United States would rather wish their students never learn about Abraham Lincoln.

Even though Lincoln finally freed the slaves and drafted them to fight for the Union Army. But whether this was all in the name of political expediency or a genuine concern for African American welfare at the time is anybody’s guess. Professor Gates was leaning towards the political expediency angle. Nevertheless, the Civil War redeemed then President Lincoln - which was nevertheless a miracle in itself.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

George W. Bush: Worst US President Ever?

From his ill-advised prosecution of America’s War on Terror to the Hurricane Katrina relief fiasco just to name a few of his major blunders. Is George W. Bush really the worst US president?

By: Vanessa Uy

When then US President George W. Bush managed to create his own link bomb on cyberspace back around 2005 – i.e. the “miserable failure” link bomb – via his own incompetence. Many around the world wondered if the “insightfully challenged” US president can claim the title as the worst elected US president of all time. And yet, actions proving his utter disregard to what makes an enlightened world leader continued unabated.

The shoe-throwing incident by concerned Iraqi journalist Muntazer al-Zaidi back in December 2008 – a sign of expressing one’s contempt to another person in the Arab world – only serve to highlight the Islamic world’s disdain on the actions and policies underwritten by then US President George W. Bush. Worse still, President Bush then feigned ignorance when interviewed by reporters moments after the incident. But what does make George W. Bush the worst US president ever? Was it the lack of insight or just plain “sins of commission”?

Remember the few weeks after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks when the whole world was very sympathetic to America? Back then, most – if not all – of us would be ready to “conveniently overlook” every Human Rights, Civil Liberties and Geneva Convention violations committed by the Bush Administration in order to bring those responsible of the 9 / 11 attacks to justice.

But sadly, it all went downhill from there when the Western World’s waning and dying Islamophobic sentiments were enthusiastically revived by the Bush Administration Neo-Conservatives in order to be used as a “valuable tool” on the War on Terror. From the unlawful violation of Iraqi sovereignty back in March of 2003 in order to search for non-existent weapons of mass destruction to the Abu Ghraib prison scandal were only the minor players were ever brought to justice. The then US President George W. Bush was indeed on a fast track to infamy. Sadly, all of which were never hindrances for his reelection back in 2004. Which then made everyone wonder if then Vice President Dick Cheney ever performed a “Virgin Sacrifice” in order to delay Hurricane Katrina’s arrival for a year. All of which eventually became fodder for that Internet “miserable failure” link bomb of then US President George W. Bush back in 2005.

The newly elected US President Barack Obama may have inherited a monumental mess left over by the outgoing Bush Administration. Though in spite of this, the American people – and the rest of the world – can now wake up from the 8-year nightmare that is the Bush Administration. By promising to put science back to it’s rightful place, President Obama now makes it easier for scientists and policy-makers to start tackling the problem of global warming. Which during the Bush Administration was made very difficult by mobilizing resources to promote bad science – i.e. the NAZI-leaning science of Creationism and Intelligent Design. If President Obama manages to fix what former President George W. Bush did to the perception of science in America within the first 100 days of his presidency. Then President Barack Obama could easily earn my vote as one of the best – if not the best – elected US president of all time.