Friday, September 28, 2012

Imelda Marcos’ 3,000 Pairs Of Shoes: Monument To Despotism?

Seen as the scope of plunder for those of us on the disadvantaged side of the 20-year long dictatorship of Ferdinand Marcos, are the 3,000 pairs of the former Philippine First Lady a fitting monument to despotism?

By: Ringo Bones

Given that the rate of extreme poverty more or less remained the same since one of Asia’s most feared dictators by the name of Ferdinand Marcos was booted out on that famed relatively bloodless EDSA Revolution of 1986, the recent BBC coverage of that notorious Imelda Marcos’ 3,000 pairs of shoes falling into disrepair due to recent floods and years of unchecked termite damage since their sequestration by the PCGG only raised more questions about the method of the former Philippine First Lady’s madness when she decides to have a runaway shoe fetish when most working class Filipinos can barely afford an extra emergency pair of shoes, never mind three square meals a day. With all that’s been said and done, will this make Imelda Marcos’ 3,000 pairs of shoes nothing more than an anachronism of the long-gone decade of the economic excesses of the go-go 1980s, or a genuine monument to despotism?

Given the very terrible civil war currently going on in Syria could have happened here in the Philippines if the Marcos Dictatorship had stubbornly clung on to power, the news coverage of the shoes being renovated as just a mere trivial curiosity from a conspicuous consumption at the expense of the poverty stricken from a bygone age only raises painful memories to those who have endured through the Marcos Dictatorship first hand and to the younger generation of Filipinos who had never experienced first hand how it is like to have their whole village secretly massacred by government soldiers under the behest of a bloodthirsty dictator. I just hope that this won’t devolve into some historical footnote written by delusional war criminals that managed to evade prosecution and now has inexplicably managed to acquire their own political constituency. 

Monday, September 24, 2012

The Cuban Missile Crisis – 50 Years After

Billed by historians as the 14 days that almost brought the world to the brink of nuclear Armageddon, did humanity ever learned vital lessons from the Cuban Missile Crisis? 

By: Ringo Bones 

Strange as it seems to the younger generations who just heard it being billed by historians as a very important milestone in the Cold War era superpower struggle between the United States and the then Soviet Union, for the rest of us, the Cuban Missile Crisis is more than just a “minor geopolitical inconvenience” that ruined everyone’s Halloween celebrations back in 1962. Even though the bulk of that iconic historical event lasted 14 days, the crisis reached its peak on October 27, 1962 – and to those who had experienced it first-hand, it seems like the closest humanity has ever came to an all-out nuclear exchange between the Cold War era superpowers. But are the vitally important lessons learned from the Cuban Missile Crisis still register in the consciousness of everyone 50 years later? 

Like the Sino-Indian War of 1962, the Cuban Missile Crisis might only get a low-key 50th Anniversary observance this Halloween of 2012. And given that Al Qaeda does not yet have a Military-Industrial-Complex that rivals that of the former Soviet Union, the younger generation that can be bothered to Google it on Wikipedia will probably harbor the perception of the Cuban Missile Crisis as a rather unique but quaintly esoteric event of the second half of the 20th Century that pales in comparison to the current threats that we face in our day-to-day post-9/11 world. But is it really nothing more to our younger kin than a thrilling historical backdrop of the movie X-Men First Class or some other elaborately produced video game? 

Imagine yourself making plans for Halloween which will arrive in two weeks time back in 1962, and then on the evening news, the press just dubbed the geopolitical “commotion” in the Caribbean as the Cuban Missile Crisis and Def Con 2 has just been sounded and if you live near a US Air Force base, the roar of those older, noisier turbojet engines revving up can be quite hard to ignore. The crisis escalated within the following days when the Soviet Union and the new Fidel Castro’s Cuban government repeatedly deny the existence of intermediate-range nuclear ballistic missile bases in Cuba that had just been established by the Soviet Union despite a few high-altitude reconnaissance photos taken by U-2 spy planes proving the contrary. And the Kennedy administration drew a line in the sand declaring that it would not tolerate the development of Soviet bases with such offensive military capabilities in the Caribbean just 90 miles from US soil. 

Following a dramatic speech by President Kennedy in which he delivered an ultimatum to the Soviet Union and declared a “quarantine” of Cuba, the Soviet Union eventually acknowledged the existence of the bases and agreed to the removal of the missiles after a 14-day standoff that almost sent the entire world to the brink of an all-out nuclear war. Complicating the events, then Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev was almost ousted in an attempted coup by a bunch of disloyal high-ranking Soviet military personnel. But as judged by history, cooler heads did prevail – though the events of the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962 did cast a long shadow for the rest of the Cold War. 

During the Carter administration, the progress of a second round of strategic arms limitation talks – called SALT-II back then – in the US Senate was brought to an abrupt halt when in late August of 1979 the Carter administration belatedly discovered a Soviet combat brigade in Cuba. U.S. – Soviet tensions reached their peak once again in September 1979, when the United States strongly protested the alleged combat brigade of 3,000 Soviets in Cuban soil. The USSR replied that in fact no Soviet combat units were present in Cuba. What the U.S. intelligence reports had disclosed, said Moscow, were the same military advisers that had been openly training the Cuban armed forces for 17 years. Members of the US Senate and Congress were skeptical of the Kremlin’s reassurances back then. 

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Mitt Romney Versus The 47%?

Despite being unrepentant of his somewhat disparaging comments made on the 47% of Obama Voters during his private fundraiser, will this hurt the prospects of US Republican Party presidential hopeful Mitt Romney’s chances of being elected as the next President of the United States?

By: Ringo Bones

According to early coverage of the story on CNN’s Anderson Cooper 360, the hidden camera footage of the US Republican Party’s presidential hopeful Mitt Romney caught making disparaging comments of the 47% of the voters – which he referred to as “Obama Voters” – as being too dependent on US government handouts was first uploaded on the Mother Jones website. More controversial still, Romney also made comments about how he would have a better chance of being elected to be at the helm of the White House if he had been born Mexican. But will this political faux pas caught on tape disparaging US government welfare beneficiaries ruin chances of Mitt Romney winning the US Presidential Elections this coming November 2012?

Even though President Obama previously made such – though of a polar opposite – strongly worded speech about his political opponents during his campaign trail back in 2008 on how ultra-conservative right-wing Evangelicals stick with their guns and religion, Mitt Romney’s political gaffe will be perceived by more people as much more serious – even by non-Americans – because Romney and his conservative constituents had been unabashedly telling more level headed Americans and other level headed people elsewhere in the world how to live out their lives with scant regard to their present situations. Worse still, Romney’s latest campaign speech faux pas only proves of the prevailing perception of the “47%” of him as being an aloof rich guy who doesn’t care about the very poor in America. Maybe Mitt Romney needs more time to hone his rhetoric to even rival that of Ronald Reagan.

Islam Versus The West: A Deadly Kultur Kampf?

As the protests sparked by the latest anti-Islam film has now sent 12 people to their deaths, will the Kultur Kampf between the Christian West and the Islamic world ever be resolved?

By: Ringo Bones

To everyone who worked with him in the rebuilding of the post Gaddafi Libya, Ambassador Christopher Stevens – the US Ambassador to Libya – seems to be the highest profile victim of the widespread protests caused by the uploading of an ant-Islam film to the internet that eventually caused offense to everyone in the Muslim world. Though Ambassador Stevens was friendly to the Libyans he was working with in facilitating to improve their country after 40 years of the Gaddafi dictatorship, many now wonder if Stevens is just one of the unfortunate bystanders in these current clash between Islam and the West.

This is not the first time that an “artistic” work created in the somewhat liberal West had offended the generally conservative sensibilities of the Islamic world. First of these that gained worldwide press attention was Salman Rushdie’s The Satanic Verses – a work of literature that disparages the Prophet Muhammad that eventually made the then Ayatollah Khomeini to issue a Fatwa against the author. In our post 9/11 world, there was that controversial Prophet Mohammad caricature that was published by a Danish newspaper that sparked widespread anger and protest in the Islamic world a few years ago. And the latest one was a low-budget anti-Islam polemic style documentary that was made by an Egyptian born Coptic Christian living in the US who was a few years ago convicted of a real estate fraud and whose posting of the controversial video back in June 2012 supposedly violated the offending filmmaker’s parole.

The outrage caused by the offending anti-Islam film seems not going to die down anytime soon as the security arrangements of US and other Western embassies in Muslim majority countries around the world are beefed up in anticipation for protests that may go out of hand. Given that it can be very hard to separate religion and politics in the Islamic world, such incidences of a “Kultur Kampf” will continue to happen because Western style freedom of expression will never be compatible with the conservative sensibility that is part and parcel of being a devout Muslim in the Islamic world.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Bettina Wulff And Her Google Problem

The slight “quirkiness” of Google’s famed search engine used to only affect Rick Santorum with “shameful” search results, but now, is the former German First Lady getting street-cred that she doesn’t need?

By: Ringo Bones

A few days ago the news that the former German First Lady Bettina Wulff is suing Google for defamation because the famed search engine’s autocomplete function “hints” that she had a somewhat “racy” past – as in suggesting that she used to be a high-class escort. As the wife of the wife of the former German President Christian Wulff, such quirky Google search results suggesting that she has a “racy” past is just the kind of street-cred a woman of her stature doesn’t need. But is the Google “overlords” at Mountain View or Palo Alto at fault?

A few years ago, a prominent gay rights activist in America launched a campaign to make a GOP homophobic politician by the name of Rick Santorum have his surname to become the latest word in the American English lexicon signifying the “nastier” aspects of male gay sexual intercourse. Maybe it was the work of internet-savvy “hacktivists” not employed by Google who tweaked Google’s famed search engine via esoteric search engine optimization tricks that if you Google search Santorum – the search result, more often than not, is something that should be reserved for ages 18 and above. But is such web-based trickery also at work when it comes to Bettina Wulff’s latest “Google Search Problem”? 

During his tenure as the German president, Christian Wulff – as I know from news coming out of Germany – never got to any fight with internet-savvy German or Eurozone based anarchists and their ilk. And based on the still developing story on Bettina Wulff’s Google problem, it could be that this “smear campaign” could be the work of one lone internet-savvy cyberstalker who knew a thing or two about high-level Google search engine optimization tricks.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

The Ronald Reagan 3D Hologram: Political Eye Candy?

Supposedly to be unveiled in the 2012 Tampa US Republican Party National Convention before it was “upstaged” by Hurricane Isaac, was the Ronald Reagan 3D hologram nothing more than mere political eye candy? 

By: Ringo Bones 

Some dyed-in-the-wool US Republican Party diehard might have been hoping that it might steer the general public’s general impression of the GOP away from the Congressman Todd Akin legitimate rape controversy, but a high-tech 3D holographic version of Ronald Reagan was never unveiled at the 2012 Republican National Convention in Tampa. Rumor has it that the GOP’s top brass are too afraid that the 3D hologram of Ronald Reagan could upstage a rather one-dimensional Mitt Romney or the GOP top brass responsible for getting insurance for the high tech equipment used in the 3D Ronald Reagan didn’t had time to get one. And there’s even a GOP insider who voiced out that the 3D hologram of Ronald Reagan could be used for partisan purposes given the current fractious political climate in Washington, D.C. But to the public at large, many of them now wonder if the Reagan 3D hologram slated to appear in Tampa is really more advanced than previous 3D holograms? 

To older folks closely following advances in 3D video technology, they could safely assume that the Reagan 3D hologram truly represent the current state of the art in 3D holography because back in May 24, 1991, NASA used its newly developed 3D laser scanning technology on a happily retired Ronald Reagan in his home in Santa Barbara, California, making Reagan the first ever US President to get a 3D holographic portrait. Sadly, the GOP top brass remains silent on whether or not any of the 3D holographic data obtained by NASA on taking Reagan’s holographic portrait was ever used on his 2012 3D hologram slated to appear in Tampa. 

But according to the New Scientist magazine, the technology used on the Ronald Reagan 3D hologram was the same one used on the Tupac 3D hologram used on his posthumous Coachella show. It is called Pepper’s Ghost projection technology and it has been around since the 1800s. 3D imaging data was obtained via CGI and live footage then processed by 3D holographic technicians at Digital Domain – James Cameron’s visual effects company. Pepper’s Ghost technology works by partially reflecting light off a piece of glass from a hidden room. In practice, this 3D video projection technique only works best in exhibition halls and room not too brightly lit by ambient sunlight. Though 3D holography may represent the latest in political campaign gimmickry, they can’t improve the image of a one-dimensional politician. This belongs to the eye candy bin.