Monday, January 30, 2006

Some Personal Views On the 2000 US Presidential Elections

I have been in the US for over 26 years, so I feel I may be able to insert some ideas into this discussion, which started in MlQ3’s blog and continued here.

I essentially agree with the analogy of the dominance of elites in both countries. And I would add to the list of enumerated qualifications (wellborn, wealth and intellectual) another one, that of incumbency. Studies and polls show that incumbents are very difficult to depose in the US legislative branch of government. Once ensconced, they pretty much stay for life, unless other family members are so inclined to succeed them.

And the further observation that elections of members of the elites may be more symbolic than what real democratic participation ought to be, may also have legitimacy here in the States studying the conduct of past elections. Percentage of actual voters during presidential elections gravitates around 50+% of registered voters, not counting eligible voters who are in sizeable numbers and may just be apathetic to the process. Non-presidential elections, meaning statewide, county-wide and city-wide elections, are worse. Getting it to the 40s is considered satisfactory. In my many years in the most populous state of California, there had been instances where they fell below 40%.

Definitely then, elected officials do not truly represent the real majority of Americans.

Is this acceptable? Or is this typical throughout the rest of the democratic first-world countries of the world?

But I beg to differ on the following.

Two of the four justices giving dissenting opinions in the GorevsBush 2000 case were appointed by Republican presidents. And one of them you cited, Justice Stevens who was appointed by Pres. G. Ford, a Republican. And the other two by a Democrat president. Thus, it would be difficult to support the statement that the SC decision followed strictly along partisan lines. And by that I mean partisan political lines. I believe it would be more honest to say that the justices predictably vote along certain ideological lines, their positions on certain ideologies being known to the general public. One of the benchmark issues which would support this contention would be the hot-button issue of abortion (ROEvsWADE). The delicate but sometimes deceiving component in all this is the fact that certain issues are so identified with either party that decisions favoring one could readily unleash the partisan charge from the other side. To illustrate, legalized abortion is an issue near and dear to the Democratic Party, or the liberals. Thus, any SC judgment favoring reproductive rights could be construed as partisan, but in reality could stem simply from the ideological beliefs of certain judges, whether formed before or after their appointment.

It is ironic to note that even religion may not be a factor in partisan politics. The most vocal members of the US Senate for abortion are Catholic Democrats, though there are also on the Republican side of the aisle, Protestants who favor abortion. Now, with regard to the Supreme Court, the newest member who is still waiting in the wings to be confirmed, is also a Catholic and will make him the fifth Catholic member of a bench numbering only 9 justices. And Catholics represent only 20% of the entire population.

Yet, we have not heard a squeak from the pro-abortion groups including their Democratic leaders in the Senate regarding this obvious slant in the composition of the bench, given how adamantly anti-abortion the Catholic religion is.

In fine, I would find it difficult to accept a statement that purports to portray a Supreme Court that rules along strictly partisan political lines. And their for-life appointment releases them from any pressures that may impact on their freedom to judge based on their convictions.

And it is not completely true to say that “when Americans go to the polls during the presidential elections, they vote for electors not the presidential candidates”, because Americans do vote for the presidential candidates, and their electors, along partisan lines and on a statewide-basis. As implied below, electors from the victorious party will vote for the state-wide winning presidential candidate. But as also noted below, on very, very rare instances one or more of these partisan operatives will vote for the losing candidate, splitting the total electoral votes of that one particular state.

http://www.archives.gov/federal-register/electoral-college/about.html

Electors - In most States, the political parties nominate slates of electors at State conventions or central committee meetings. Then the citizens of each State appoint the electors by popular vote in the state-wide general election. However, State laws on the appointment of electors may vary.

Is my vote for President and Vice President meaningful in the Electoral College system?

Yes, within your State your vote has a great deal of significance. Under the Electoral College system, we do not elect the President and Vice President through a direct nation-wide vote. The Presidential election is decided by the combined results of 51 State elections (in this context, the term "State" includes DC). It is possible that an elector could ignore the results of the popular vote, but that occurs very rarely. Your vote helps decide which candidate receives your State's electoral votes.


And lastly, charges coming from Jesse Jackson, Jr. and Greg Palast were advanced to dispute and cast doubts on the election results of 2000.

But first, we have to know where these individuals are coming from, because that ought to be pivotal in judging credibility and validity particularly of statements that are of a very political nature. Mr. Jackson, son of Rev. J. Jackson, Sr., belongs to the opposing party and Mr. Palast is very undeniably partisan, and is described as a progressive or liberal. Aside from his challenges in the 2000 elections, he has also questioned the results of the 2004 Elections in Ohio, and had proclaimed Kerry as the winner of the entire race. Now, honestly if he had what might be considered an earnest diligent man’s good chances of proving his charges, then I would suggest that Gore and Kerry would have been the last persons to concede their defeats. But we know those are not the cases. So I will suggest further that we concede the benefit of the doubt to the proclaimed winner. And let the dissenting issues rest.

And because in the meantime, independent and non-partisan sources favor the incumbent.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

A Short Collated Primer On Plagiarism and Copyright Infringement

The two terms stand for two distinct and different behavior.

Plagiarism: Definitions and Facts

Plagiarism is using someone else's work without giving proper credit - a failure to cite adequately.

If you use someone's exact words without putting them in quotes and giving credit, you've committed plagiarism. If you've paraphrased someone's work and haven't given credit, you've committed plagiarism. If you've included a photo or illustration in your report but didn't give credit, you've committed plagiarism.

Schools enforce plagiarism by giving the cheaters academic consequences.

Plagiarism is typically not illegal. In fact, plagiarism is typically not recognized in law. But the State of California, for example, has incorporated and defined in its legal codes a kind of plagiarism (of term papers) as illegal behavior and thus punishable by law. Other states have also acted similarly.

However, plagiarism wears different masks as:
• Copyright infringement
• Unfair or illegal competition
• Outright fraud
Being found guilty of any of these offenses could result in significant financial penalties or expensive out-of-court settlements to the offending party.

And it is also unethical. It can get you in trouble at school (for breaking the rules about Academic Honesty). It can get you in trouble at work (by giving you a bad reputation or getting you fired).


Copyright Infringement: Definitions and Facts
First, a definition of copyright:

Copyright is a type of law that exists to protect intellectual property. Copyright -- the "right to copy" -- is an exclusive right. It excludes everyone except the person who owns the intellectual property.


Next, a definition of intellectual property:

Intellectual Property: something you created with your mind that has commercial value, including written, artistic, and musical works.


Copyright infringement is using someone else's creative work, which can include a song, a video, a movie clip, a piece of visual art, a photograph, and other creative works, without authorization or compensation, if compensation is appropriate.
The courts enforce copyright infringement. The courts assign consequences for copyright infringement. This means someone may come after you with a lawyer if you violate his copyright. Your school can report copyright infringement to people who have the legal power to take you to court. Students have been sued for copyright infringement before. In some cases, the court may require you to pay the fees for both your lawyer and the copyright owner's lawyer.


A more comprehensive definition follows:

Copyright infringement is using someone else's work without getting that person's permission. The author of any original work, including books, essays, Web pages, songs, pictures, and videos, automatically gets the copyright to that work, even if she doesn't label it with the copyright symbol and her name. The work must be fixed in tangible form, which means it must be stored on something physical, such as paper, canvas, a CD, or a hard disk. This makes college students copyright owners, since they've already written many original works for school.

The owner of a copyright gets to decide who can legally make copies of that work. It is illegal to copy large sections of someone else's copyrighted work without permission, even if you give the original author credit.


Relationships Between The Two

Often, plagiarism and copyright violations go hand in hand. But it's possible to break copyright without plagiarizing. And it's possible to commit plagiarism with out breaking copyright.

Plagiarism doesn't have to include copyright infringement. For example, William Shakespeare's plays are not copyrighted because they're too old. Even though it would technically be legal to copy from one of those plays for an English assignment, it would still be plagiarism if you didn't give credit to Shakespeare.

You can plagiarize the ideas in a work without violating its copyright (which only protects the specific expression of those ideas), and you can also plagiarize the content of out-of-copyright works whose authors died 70+ years ago and they're then considered in the public domain.

Example of violating copyright without committing plagiarism: If you use a copyrighted illustration in a book, and did not receive permission to do so, you've committed copyright infringement even if you give credit for the picture. Giving credit keeps it from being plagiarism, but that won't keep you from getting fined in this case.


Additional Concepts

Fair Use Exemption
Allows you to legally copy small amounts of someone else's work. Just make sure to give the author credit so you won't be guilty of plagiarism!


Derivative Work
Taking a copyrighted work and changing it creates something called a derivative work. Since you made changes to create the derivative work, you share the copyright for it with the copyright owner of the original work. Since you don't own the entire copyright for the derivative work, you must still ask for permission before making copies of it. Because of this, taking someone else's work and changing some of the words only creates a derivative work and does not give you full ownership of the copyright.


How Plagiarism is Treated Around the World

While plagiarism knows no geographic boundaries, some parts of the world (Indo-China in particular) have until very recently tolerated and even condoned plagiarism in its various forms (copyright violation, fraud). Recent court cases in India, for example, suggest a much lower tolerance for plagiarism than in the past. Areas of southeast Asia remain a problem spot, particularly when considering the lucrative “business” of pirating DVDs and CDs is actually a form of plagiarism (copyright violation). In the U.S.plagiarism is considered at a minimum to be ethical misconduct, and for many businesses can be cause for immediate dismissal. Legal cases arising out of plagiarism are often pursued aggressively through the courts by injured parties.


Tools To Combat Plagiarism and Copyrights


1.
If you're jumpy and want to make extra sure you haven't copied, then plug some phrases from your essay into PlagiarismChecker.com. Hopefully, you'll never have to say that what seems like plagiarism was just an accident.


2.
there is another device on the internet called the Way Back Machine and it takes you back in time – virtually. Found at www.archive.org, the Way Back Machine allows you to type in the URL to your website (or obviously any website) and it will show you a timeline and view of the different versions your website has gone through. It’s like a massive internet scrapbook.


3.
A free website is available called Copyscape www.copyscape.com. It works very similar to (and is programmatically tied with) Google. Simply go to a page on your website, copy the URL and paste it into the search prompt at Copyscape. Copyscape will then search the web looking for plagiarizers of your content for that page


4.
Another way is to copy a block of text from a page on your website, go to Google.com and paste the text into the search prompt, making sure to put quotes at the front and end of the text (an exact word search). If you copied a section of text that’s not too common, Google will find any other sites who have stolen your text.


ACKNOWLEDGMENT AND REFERENCES

Statements in this blog entry are all quotes and are collated verbatim from the following sources:

References

1.
Plagiarism and Copyright - What Are the Differences? (The Council Chronicle, Nov. 05). 16 Jan 2006 . The definitions were modified to make them more consistent with copyright law's use of the terms "tangible form" and "idea".


2.
Stanford Policies: Copyrighted Material and File-Sharing Networks - Stanford University Office of Judicial Affairs. 16 Jan 2006 http://www.stanford.edu/dept/vpsa/judicialaffairs/guiding/other.copyfile.htm


Websites:

http://www.plagiarismchecker.com/plagiarism-vs-copyright.php
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Talk:Plagiarism
http://www.waunakee.k12.wi.us/midlschl/msb/copyright.htm
http://www.ieeepcs.org/newsletter/archive/oct2005/pcsnews_oct2005_plagiarism.php
http://www.i2integration.com/Default.aspx? tabid=997

Added Disclaimer:

While full attribution has been made to all the statements quoted and collated verbatim above and thus, plagiarism is avoided, there is still the possibility that there may be copyright infringement since no due diligence was exercised to find out. Thus, this early if indeed some violation was made, I will appreciate being informed so the item(s) in question can be immediately removed.

EDN Profile

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

In Defense Of The US Armed Services

It is with pained effort and sadness that I write the following entry:

Mrs. Gail Ilagan (gail@mindanews.com) of MindaNews, under her column Wayward and Fanciful wrote two articles dated November 7th and November 17th, 2005, dealing mainly with the ongoing rape case lodged against several US Marines under Philippine jurisdiction. The columns are still available here:

http://www.mindanews.com/2005/11/07vws-ilagan.htm
http://www.mindanews.com/2005/11/18vws-ilagan.htm

And I had only learned about these writings after reading several blogs on the subject.

But first a little introduction.

Mrs. Ilagan describes herself as a teacher of Social Justice, Family Sociology, Theories of Socialization and Psychology at the Ateneo de Davao University where she is also the associate editor of Tambara. Her column is a regular feature of MindaNews under the Section MindaViews.

Based on my personal assessment culled from her past columns, Mrs. Ilagan exhibits great facility and eloquence with the English language and possesses a confident acuity in the subjects that she writes about. And I admit to having been a regular reader of hers in the past, until I realized that her anti-American biases at times made her depart from her usual disinterested and impartial writing demeanor. That’s when I stopped reading her.

I was actually in the Philippines, in Northern Mindanao, when these articles were written, not far from where Mrs. Ilagan teaches and I suppose also lives. Aside from this, we also share other common experiences. I was educated in Xavier University, also known as Ateneo de Cagayan, and was a college instructor there for a few years, before moving on to other endeavors and finally leaving the country for the United States. So we both can point to being connected with renowned Jesuit institutions.

But it would seem from my own personal assessment again that this is where our similarities part ways, very divergently. All my three sons joined the US Marines Reserve, pretty much soon after they graduated high school. The eldest was activated during the First Gulf War and another one was activated for six months last year and served in Kuwait during the current war. With God’s blessings, all three are now back in civilian life, are all in law enforcement, and with families of their own. My only son-in-law is an Army veteran having served for 20 years and is now working for a civilian company.

It is not difficult to understand then why I find many statements of Mrs. Ilagan in those two articles quoted above, but more so on the latter one, quite uncomfortably disheartening and very disconcerting. Made worse by the knowledge that she is a professor of subjects that from their titles alone would readily suggest even to the uninitiated that they deal with delicate but critical human issues both individually and collectively in society. And in a university noted not only for molding “men and women for others”, but also quite distinguished in molding students to think critically and to practice fair play.

I do sense a deep personal anger and outrage in her two columns, for no question about it, rape is a very grave offense in any situation and for whatever reasons. And I understand this, but that notwithstanding, shouldn’t we as Christians be bound by a deeper sense of restraint and circumspection, especially in condemning others?

And yet Mrs. Ilagan was quick enough to rebut a dissenting commenter, saying that indeed she has “prejudged” the case that she was writing about. I suppose based on newspaper accounts that she herself dismisses lightly and from personal negative anecdotal experiences that she wrote about. But it definitely does not speak well for practicing fair play. Granted that she is writing an opinion column, still shouldn’t one exercise proper restraint and circumspection in matters like this, giving weight to one’s implicit responsibilities to the reading public?

And in my judgment, Mrs. Ilagan is also remiss for outrightly making several uncorroborated generalizations, which a little amateurish research could have exposed them to be at the very least disingenuous.

And for this I shall be more specific and quote verbatim passages from those articles. Mrs. Ilagan directed the following statements to a US retiree mentioned in a newspaper account:

I bet this guy doesn't have the money to live in continental USA. He stays here in almost-America where he can get more for his money and carry on with the chauvinist pig part. He probably visits with force and no agreement, too.

Apart from that terse mention of him in the news, I presume Mrs. Ilagan does not know him from Adam but yet felt justified enough to make such derogatory presumptive statements. That guy’s comment was reprehensible, and so were Mrs. Ilagan’s.

And the following are how Mrs. Ilagan described her experiences with servicemen in old Subic Base, in the company of her brother, who is/was also ironically in the US military. By the way, I suppose Mrs. Ilagan realizes that the Marine Corps is just a distinct but separate part of the US Navy. Thus, Subic was not all Marines. But anyway, I apologize for the agony and misery that Mrs. Ilagan has had to undergo interacting with those inadequately-schooled servicemen. But still I can’t find any meaningful justification to generalize that these guys, implied to mean the entire US military in old Subic, only had one sinister thought taught them about island girls.

Away from each other, they'd send me short letters in chicken scrawl with lots of bad spelling and punctuation.

…these guys were taught that little brown island girls mostly dream of getting stateside and would do anything for a shot at the American dream.

In this macho culture, d**khead was a badge of honor that they all tried to live up to. They only allowed each other one thing on their minds every time they left the boat. Rare was the baby boy who wanted to rap about Charles Dickens or American geopolitics with Teach. Rambo was the only work of a literature professor that we ever discussed. I read the book. They watched Sylvester Stallone and Richard Crenna.

Then, Mrs. Ilagan makes bold generalizations about the recruitment process of the US Military, and its composition:

I did a lot of interviews back then, and not much has changed in the recruitment procedures of the US military. It's still, by and large, a volunteer army where kids from depressed neighborhoods and high unemployment suburbs sign up to serve and protect mother, flag, and apple pie. For most of them, military service is the only way out of poverty and the lack of opportunities. It's the only way to get past chicken scrawl and bad grammar. Most of them do only one tour of duty until they qualify to avail of the GI Bill, so the US military organization has to take in new recruits in this age bracket for it to maintain a steady roster of soldiers.

I’m not sure where her facts came from. From her brother? Or from some distant past reference book? But I assure her that a little sleuthing, no special skills or access required, would have accorded her the opportunity to learn more, and in detail, about recruitment and the composition of the US Armed Services. And maybe then her generalizations would become more kind and circumspect.

Here are some pages to visit:
http://www.dod.mil/prhome/poprep2002/index.htm
http://www.dod.mil/prhome/poprep2002/chapter2/c2_raceth.htm
http://www.dod.mil/prhome/poprep2002/chapter2/c2_education.htm
http://www.dod.mil/prhome/poprep2002/chapter2/c2_geography.htm

There should be sufficient data in that site alone to inform her that the US military, and its recruitment and composition, are very much equal opportunity – taking from the rich to the poor areas, from most parts of the continent, from whites to all kinds of minority with whites registering more for obviously they are still a majority of the population, etc. And yes, it is still “completely” voluntary armed services, not a trace of the draft among its members.

Military recruiters are having a hard time filling the required roster. More and more, the only takers come from the poorest of America's poor.


Again a little Googling on the net would have given her the latest figures on recruitment of the US Armed Services which would disprove her claim:

http://usmilitary.about.com/od/joiningthemilitary/a/06recruiting.htm

Mrs. Ilagan is free to psycho-analyze, for after all, she appears quite adept with the intricacies and special jargon associated with the study, but one still cannot deduce how the behavior of a few could be applied generally to a whole group, say of the Marine Corps of 175,000, or of the Navy of about 500,000, or of the whole US Armed Services of 1.4 million.

In my personal opinion, Mrs. Ilagan does a great disservice to her profession and to what should be considered civil demeanor for a teacher of young minds for making such reckless generalizations:

That unique sociodemographics likely goes with an early socialization experience that exposes the young to little or no adult guidance in an environment that hones raw survival skills in merciless competition over territory and hierarchy in prestige. Put the baby boy in uniform, whip him into shape the US Marines way, and immerse him in a culture where to be a d**khead is the only way to be, and you got a formula that spells disaster for clueless little girls wherever they may be.

Here’s hoping she restudies her statements and thinks otherwise.

UPDATE:

I had also posted the above blog to my close email group, composed mostly of former residents of our old hometown in Northern Mindanao, hoping to solicit some feedbacks.

I quote one below coming from RoyS:

The anti-American sentiment in the country is I think exaggerated. It's always the small minority that gets the headlines and air time. Not to mention the newspaper columns. And judging from one what hears and reads, the GI's have already been demonized. They will have their day in court. But in the meantime, the judicial process as provided for in the VFA should be followed. This includes putting the accused under the US Government's custody and making them available during the trial. Until the VFA agreement is amended, the process defined in it should be observed. Ironically, there is a lot of noise from the Opposition when in fact the VFA was entered into by the Philippine Government when Erap was President.

On second thought, the accused should be turned over to the Philippine Government and kept in a Philippine jail. Then they can simply walk away as the recent "escapes" from civilian and military jails here would prove
.


My rejoinder to the few who responded:

True, anti-American bias has always been a part of the political and social landscape there, and is usually magnified by a vocal minority. And I and most of us, I believe, are not hyper-sensitive about it. It is even healthy to publicly air all sides to an issue.

But when rhetoric becomes so bad, then I believe it becomes incumbent for some of us to point it out and to make the writer to account for such irresponsible writing.

I followed this columnist's writings in the past and initially thought it good to have another good writer from Mindanao get some exposure and readership. But this and past polemics about her anti-American biases are in my opinion just over the top. And her teaching at an Ateneo makes it more reprehensible given what we know about the origins and purposes of Jesuit institutions in our country.

To me, this is yet another example, where knowledge, whether little or sufficient, can sometimes ease out our sense of humility, making us overly eager to impress the world with how intelligent we are, unmindful of the consequences.

In that same on-line paper, MindaNews, there is another columnist (Patricio Diaz) who spent some time at our own Xavier University for his Master's degree. And to me, he has always been an exemplar of what responsible journalism ought to be. Or for that matter, what a responsible Christian ought to be.

MORE UPDATES:
Another member (NesE) who is a US veteran chimed in with the following post:

Couple of months ago when I read Gail Ilagan article I was already planning my rebuttal piece that I was going to email directly to her address. I am very familiar with Gail as she was an active member of at least 2 news groups that we both belong (Rizal and Alibata) I remember her strong and articulating argument on several issues. We of course disagree on the US Armed Forces as I am a veteran myself. She used visiting her brother (US serviceman) and meeting other American member of his unit. Like all overprotective brother of course she was warned about not getting into certain traps (for lack of better words). I am little bit disappointed that she took this as predatory action as I know her as strong willed lady.
From that experience she went on to read articles that were one sided against the men in uniform. The most glaring misstatement that US servicemen are coming from the bottom of the barrel of the US population are no longer true. Today US armed forces are all volunteers and mostly coming out of the middle class. In time of war as we are now engaged I myself is surprised that we still have enough volunteer to carry the dirty work. It is a polyglot force (fil-am on the forefront) that has surpassed all the expectation. Certainly the morale is high as the greatest generation (Tom Brokaw). What I saw in my Vietnam experience I can say that we came a long way. The US current forces realized that they are in harms way and constantly ambushed. They are taking pot shot from all direction and certainly would not break with another cheap shot like the media has tried.

I can’t more convincing than what you have written. I was developing it on the same line. I never finished the email to Gail Ilagan as I intended. Please do it for me and the visayan yahoo group.


Interestingly, A US Air Force veteran, who is a doctor, has the following to add:

The one sure thing that happens if there exists an overwhelming repudiation of an entity is a backlash of an over-kill. The table is now turned around, the repudiated is now the underdog, can't hardly breathe nor at best open her mouth because of a barrage of well armed, high tech, and incredibly knowledgeable credible people, unrepresented, unarmed, and therefore needs a defense.

A defense like no other.

A group of jolly Japanese (Korean) soldiers of the Imperial Army tossed an infant to the air high enough and lovingly catching it with the point of their bayonets. Indefensible. And I carry that with me even to mildly chastising one of my daughters to tell her boyfriend that "his people killed" her grandpa. My father's father and her mother's father. By a seemingly unbeatable force the Japanese military was, no different from the undeniably greatest force on earth at Clark Air Base and at Subic Bay, whose soldiers raped a defenseless woman. It carries with it a very heavy burden to me, to you, and to Ms Gail Ilagan.

Always, and from it emanates what Ms Ilagan's realm of understanding exudes, undoubtedly nationalistic and limited of exposure from the western environment and an almost non-existent knowledge of military life, what she understands in general and whatever available knowledge she has. This is the basis of her contentions or views, and of course, her convictions. This is defensible.

Her conviction and the courage to take it on your face, another perspective of the same.

In her understanding, a woman was raped by an overpowering raw force of not so well educated young bully with obviously no regard to her pains. If you're a woman I say lady, go ahead and say anything and just about anything you want to say to this creep. Say it loud. Say it on top of your voice, so you at least ease somewhat the agony of the woman spirit of women all over the world who are victims of the atrocious despicable act.

Ms Ilagan a woman and a respectable woman, did just that, based on her understanding and realm of knowledge. That’s defensible.

Rightfully so, Ms Ilagan has now a day in court of public opinion and a new day of public awareness of this heinous act and exposing the derailed priorities of so many, of defending the wrong people and not the victims.

If at all, Ms Ilagan needs exposure to military life and procedures, exposure to other environments like the western way, and to the rule of law and due process.

But for heaven's sake, not repudiation of a woman, her courage, and her conviction.

And I followed it with this post:

Your points are all well taken, though I am not necessarily agreeing with them.

Mrs. Ilagan in my opinion does not need more representation. She has the bully pulpit because she has the entire readership of MindaNews to espouse her causes. And some of her columns are linked to or quoted by a number of bloggers. One that I can remember now, by a very popular Filipino blogger(MLQ3)who is read by many of our compatriots on-line.

For her part, Mrs. Ilagan is a well-schooled, scholarly and highly intelligent professor teaching at Ateneo de Davao University. In a real way, she represents the Filipina of today, capable and independent of thought

If anything therefore, in my opinion, it is my positions that are under-represented and need the light of day.

Friday, January 20, 2006

The French Cartesian Logic

Amando Doronila, Philippine Daily Inquirer columnist, in one of his regular columns, this one entitled, Analysis: US Embassy calls De Castro 'illiterate’, had this to say:
To recall, Descartes is the father of famous French Cartesian logic that helps us understand the brilliant opposition by President Jacques Chirac's Prime Minister Dominque de Villepin at the UN Security Council to the US plan to invade Iraq as well as the dynamics of France's independent foreign policy.

Reading the entire column, the reader gets the sense that this is yet another not-too-subtle attempt at a comparison between France and the USA, with of course, the latter biting at the shorter end of the stick.

It argues, and I interpret and embellish a bit, that the US, particularly its foreign policy, is quite blind beyond what it sees on its nose and really, quite illiterate, while France with its pure Cartesian logic can only be brilliant.

One cannot help but agree that France with its steadfast dedication to Cartesian logic and resolute commitment to fixed principles and positions will most of the time be at loggerheads with the Anglo-American attitudes of pragmatism. After all, the French are quite determined to cling to Cartesian logic as their celebration of rational thinking processes, and this permeates in most of their public demeanor.

But what is Cartesian logic?

First, give credit to French philosopher, Rene Descartes, who in his Discourse on the Method summarizes his line of reasoning in the famous phrase, 'I think, therefore I am' (or in Latin, 'cogito ergo sum').

This was allegedly borrowed from the writings of an earlier religious leader, St. Augustine, who attempted to refute skepticism during his day. He wrote thus:
On none of these points do I fear the arguments of the skeptics of the Academy who say: what if you are deceived? For if I am deceived, I am. For he who does not exist cannot be deceived. And if I am deceived, by this same token I am' (City of God, 11:26)

No doubt because of his being French, the French mind has wholeheartedly soaked in and accepted Descartes logic and embedded it in its psyche, allowing it to serve much like I suppose the “reason” that most ordinary folks rely on.

Many who have visited and stayed in France attest to this addictive dedication by the French to this logic. And foreign diplomats have observed that the French enter into negotiations bringing this with them and arguing from this uniquely French standpoint, culled obviously from its long history and superb education. As a matter of fact some jokes revolve around this. And one goes this way:

One is reminded of the French diplomat who supposedly said that although NATO peacekeeping worked in practice, he wasn't sure it would work in theory.


Does consistent adherence to this obviously two-dimensional logic make for “brilliant” arguments or suppositions, iron-clad hypotheses? Or effective, responsive, and independent foreign policy?

That at times the French have been called arrogant does have some merits when examined closely, some would say.

Recall the recent brouhaha about the wearing of scarves by its Muslim population. This clearly was a case where its very secular leanings framed in Cartesian logic was brought into the fore, over what most normal people would agree was really quite petty. But look at how the entire country was thrown into almost chaos because of it.

In the words of others, the French have adopted and manipulated Cartesian thinking into some kind of exclusively French way of reasoning, rather than simply for rational thinking. A rather exclusive and closed system that has put the French at odds with many in the world today. Again, some would say this is arrogance, because this pervades in practically all strata of French society of many generations.

Still others would say that this logic has also been adapted to justify buck-passing, or laying the problem on somebody else’s doorstep. To illustrate, a typical French reply to terrorism has been that because they have made their peace or appeasement with terrorism, wherever else it may exist is the problem of that country, not theirs. Thus in that kind of logic, “when confronted with an intractable problem, one must not confront, but misdirect”. And this about explains the French way of looking at the rest of the world.

And not just the rest of the world, but even among themselves. One local expression translates to “the worst foreigners come from Paris”.

Thus, domestically also, France is quite in disarray. The French economy is quite anemic in growth, saddled with continuing and mounting deficits as it continues to disregard EU admonitions. And not helped by its chronic high unemployment. Deteriorating race relations have also gone more public, especially with the émigrés from the former colonies, again not helped by growing anti-Semitism. Even their renowned French cuisine has had to suffer as many Frenchmen are now into processed food as studies reveal. And of course, their nonchalance on the issue of terrorism, comforting themselves with the thought that that is somebody else’s problem.

Even in the issue of trying to maintain national sovereignty amidst its membership in the transnational EU and the scraping of the Franc for the Euro, the French have had to undergo a tortuous use of Cartesian logic to balance conflicting views and attitudes held by many of its citizens. It is a wonder they have acceded to certain EU arrangements they are currently under, though it should be noted French voters convincingly rejected the referendum on the proposed EU constitution.

Related Posts:
Get To Choose: France or USA
Revisited: Get To Choose: France or USA

Acknowledgment: Some data/facts extracted from Richard Chesnoff’s book, The Arrogance of the French; and other sources.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

In California USA: Profiling The FilAm Homeowner

What would undoubtedly be an easily quantifiable, easily measurable and tangible cost of investment in one’s country would be home ownership.

And the typical FilAm in his adopted country, the US of A, is no different.

Let us proceed then to lay out the ground that will reveal this fact.

But first. How many FilAms do you think are in the US?

The latest reliable figure who can extract is about 5 years old, the 2000 US Census which reported that there are 2,364,815 Filipinos that have been counted and registered. Extrapolating for the ensuing 5 years hence and of course, accounting for the teeming number of Filipinos who are not properly documented here, it would be safe to deduce that there are now closer to 3 million Filipinos here in the US.

Now, what percentage of that number would be here in the State of California?

Our source is again rather old, dating from 1996, from the Sacramento Bee, which reported, “Filipino Americans – roughly 1 million – are now the large ethnic group in California.”

Again accounting for the intervening 10 years and the number representing illegals which arguably has increased in growth rate over the same period (inversely proportional to the deteriorating economic conditions in the old homeland?), we can safely surmise that about 1.5 million FilAms reside in the sunshine state of California.

This is a huge and significant number. And to give one a concrete perspective of just how significant this number is, consider that the entire city of San Francisco, premier city of Northern California, is only about 800,000.

That then is the backdrop against which we profile the FilAm homeowner in California.

An Overview Of Housing In The US

For the past 14 years, the US housing market has been enjoying a consistent boom, capping it with record setting levels in 2004. This rising tide of housing wealth has injected considerable purchasing power to consumers boosting consumer spending to record levels, too.

Since 2000, annual averages of housing starts have hovered around 1.9 million units nationwide. In California, at the end of one month (December 2005) 51,250 new and resale houses and condos were sold. If that month was typical for the entire year that would mean that California alone accounted for 615,000 units to contribute to the national total. Of course, this figure includes resale houses.

In the midst of these very stupendous growth patterns, serious concerns have erupted and typically center around what could be described as signs of a housing bubble and an impending bust. However, data from researches at best could only single out a few high-priced markets where these concerns would merit more serious considerations. These are New York City and its surrounding areas, many metropolitan areas in Southern Florida, and of course, California, particularly Southern California and part of Northern California where the Bay Area is located. But in most metropolitan areas in the country (77 out of the 110 considered largest) house prices have not strayed too far from median household incomes.

And it is interesting to note that the long running boom notwithstanding, there continues in this country more favorable long-term prognoses for the housing market. And these will be favorably accounted for essentially by current and prospective immigrants. Family reunification laws, more popularly known to our compatriots as the avenue allowing for visa petitions for relatives, and the very inviting US economy known worldwide for its free markets, will no doubt not stem the tide of immigrants which in the 90s hit 10 million. It is expected that immigrants in the next decade will be responsible for one third of the growth in the number of households here in the US.

FilAms In California

At the end of 2004, the percentage of Americans nationwide owning their own homes was 69.0%. The FilAms, forming part of the census group labeled Asian or Pacific Islander, reflected less than that national average, registering only 59.8%. Meaning therefore that 41.2% of these Asians did not own their own homes.

However, on a statewide basis, California registered only 59.7% which is almost identical with the rate among FilAms nationwide. In California therefore, home ownership for FilAms is aligned with home ownership of the rest of Californians.

The Home Market In California

At the end of 2005, the median cost of a house in the state was $458,000, with the typical mortgage payment peaking at $2,140 a month.

But if you live in Southern California or the Bay Area in Northern California, the figures are quite different. Much higher and pricier.

Thus, at the end of the year the median cost of a house in the Bay Area was 625,000. And if you live specifically in San Francisco County that median is $749,000.

Since my old house was in contiguous San Mateo County, where FilAm-dominated Daly City is located, the median cost is again different, registering $733,000.

In conclusion, aside from the formidable purchasing power of earnings of all the FilAms residing and working in California, consider the amassed wealth of the 59.8% of FilAms who own their own homes, with each individual asset commanding median prices ranging from $450,000 to $750,000.

Note:
Data in this blog taken from US Census Bureau, Dataquick, and Joint Center For Housing Studies Harvard University.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

An Improved Philippine Peso

Mr. Rod Ceralvo in one of the Email lists that I belong to had this very precise and easy-to-understand dissertation on what and how the present improvement of the Philippine peso vis-à-vis the US dollar would affect the citizens of the Philippines in general, and in particular, the OFW family which gets its essential funding from abroad. OFW is acronym for the Overseas Filipino Workers, representing the millions of Filipinos who have gone abroad, either temporarily or permanently, to search out for employment opportunities that otherwise are not available in the home country.

-Immediate/Obvious/Short term: It means fewer pesos for every remittance sent by an OFW to his/her family. (Para na ring binawasan yung sweldo na iniuuwi ng isang breadwinner sa kanyang pamilya). This means a decrease in the purchasing power of the OFW family. Therefore the OFW family has to immediately cease and desist from their usual spending, may be, even downgrade their standard of living, but rest assured that this is only temporary.

-After the short-term: An improved exchange rate will gradually (and hopefully not very long) translate to lower prices of utilities, commodities and many other day-to-day needs that the OFW family regularly purchases and consumes.

-An improved exchange rate will lead to lower import prices (good news for local businesses because most of them still rely heavily on imported raw materials).

As such, it will enable the oil and other utility companies to buy/import more oil, gasoline and other fuel products with fewer pesos. This will translate to lower prices at gas pump/stations (so dapat bumaba rin yung presyo ng pamasahe sa jeep at bus), lower Meralco bills (pwede ng buksan ulit yung aircon), lower Shellane/gasul/kerosene bill, lower telephone & cable TV bills, etc.

-A lower exchange rate will also make the price of the latest Xbox cheaper. SM, Western Appliances, Abenson, etc. will also be able to cut the prices of their electronic and appliance items, specially computers, karaoke equipment, washing machines, DVD and LCD-TVs from Korea.

-A lower exchange rate, which at the onset translates to lower domestic purchasing power for OFW beneficiary families, will, in time, translate to a general increase in the real purchasing power, i.e. it will be cheaper to buy imported goods, cheaper to travel abroad, etc.

-The most significant effect of a lower exchange rate for the OFW family, as well as for the rest of the nation, is the resulting lower price of important imported medicines, especially those medicines required by the aging members of the OFW family.

So you see in the above example, the immediate effect of an improved exchange rate is the lowering of the purchasing power of an OFW family. But as pointed out, is only temporary. There are always time lags in the rise and fall of exchange rates and its effects on other economic variables like prices, import, export, GDP, BOP, and the standard of living. Even in the most sophisticated economies, an improved exchange rate doesn’t immediately translate to improvements in the living conditions of its people. The economy needs time to adjust. I was surprised to read that, as one of the country’s ex-economic managers, Mar Roxas hurled a cheap shot at this positive development. Wrong choice of a fight!

Now let’s go further, to the macro level. I happened to browse at the NEDA website (www.neda.gov.ph ) and examined the components of what our country sells and what our country buys. Do I need to mention that our country buys (import) more, a lot more, than what our country sells (produce, export)? I guess not – everybody knows that we are over-spenders, living beyond, way beyond our means, borrow here, there, and everywhere. Anyway, the NEDA statistics only confirmed what we all knew all along – that we import a lot more consumer electronic items and components, mineral fuels, oil and related materials, cars & other transport equipment, dairy products & even rice, medicine & medical items, etc. We export less and less of our products: semi-conductors & electronic items, apparel & clothing, handicrafts, etc, banana and coconut. And what effects will an improved exchange rate on these NEDA numbers, to our economy?

Let’s enumerate:
When the peso is strong, it is cheaper to import all the things that we are buying (remember, we are a buyer economy) , consumer goods and capital equipments like computers, electronics, machineries & equipment, raw materials, and other inputs to production. Indeed good news for businesses that rely on imported input or raw materials. This is also good for those who are investing on call centers, telecoms and BPOs who are buying and bringing in new technology from other countries.

Cheaper prices of imported foodstuff, i. e., apples, grapes, oranges, even rice, are also good news for consumers. Cheaper price of gasoline means cheaper price of kuryente(Meralco), pamasahe sa jeepney & bus, and operationally, for LRT & MRT, and even travel and shopping in Hongkong. These all translate to lower rate of consumer price inflation, which means improvement in the living standards index. Sory hindi applicable ang living standard index sa Payatas but good enough for the average OFW family.

Negative:
The sectors of our economy which will suffer more from a strong currency are our export industries, particularly the SMBs (not San Miguel beer, but the small-medium businesses). Right now our handicrafts, woodcrafts, toys, gifts & collectibles, home furnishings, Christmas décor, apparel and garments industries, etc. are gasping their last breath, trying to survive from stiff competition from China, Vietnam, Indonesia, new republics from eastern Europe and Africa.

A strong currency certainly is not good news for this sector. It will make our exports more expensive, and a fall in exports has negative effect on our economic growth. I don’t know if you are aware that the SMBs are the largest employers in the country. A shutdown of this sector will slow down considerably our economic growth and can have more grim consequences than we can imagine.

Of course these SMBs can choose to produce new product lines where both domestic and overseas demand is less sensitive to fluctuations in exchange rates, less price elastic, i.e. where non-price factors are more important for the buyers, and where there is higher income elasticity of demand.

For a fragile, strange economy like ours, there are certainly losers and winners in the fluctuation of the exchange rates, both short-term and long-term. The good news is, on the average the OFW family has more leverage and hedging abilities than the rest of the population, to offset the negative effects of a strong currency, and likewise, fully enjoy the positive effects of a deteriorating peso exchange rate. A great economic paradox indeed! Happy New Year!


No further comment.

Monday, January 09, 2006

In The Forefront: The US Illegal Alien Problem

2006 promises to be the year when the US illegal alien problem will be decided by the US Congress.

The House has already passed a version of it. But expect for more hotly contested deliberations in the Senate.

Where should one stand on this issue? And this question is rather uniquely important to the first generation immigrants, or the new immigrants already embraced by the country as among its legal and lawful residents and/or citizens.

The war of words continues to be waged outside the halls of Congress.

To be fair and balanced, some commentaries on the points raised are offered:

1. Very typical, especially in media, in the defense for the illegal alien problem is the use of the very emotional historical view that the nation was founded by and is composed of immigrants. As a historical account it is quite accurate, but to use as an argument in favor of the illegal alien problem is rather specious.

Modern nations now have set boundaries and exercise sovereignty within those borders. And each nation has promulgated laws not only defining their borders but also laws defining who may be allowed to enter and become its citizens.

These are all accepted and respected internationally.

For to disregard these would be to invite chaos and anarchy.

How far do we go down history, or prehistory, to determine property rights of people or their freedom to be anywhere they like to be? Whether present territories were acquired legally, justly, or fairly is not anymore the issue. These accepted realities will have to stand. If the opposite were true, then clearly this country should be in the thick of a heated shouting match, or even war, with its southern neighbor who clearly at some point in the past used to occupy good portions of several states.

2. And indeed, they should not be called "illegal immigrants" because they are not immigrants, but not for the reasons advanced. Here's a clarification below from a paper prepared by George Weissinger of New York Institute of Technology:

By way of introduction, immigration law violators are not immigrants. They are aliens who are in the United States in violation of law. There is a profound difference between individuals who legally apply for admission and fulfill all the requirements for admission, and those who decide to enter the United States, or intentionally overstay their visa in violation of law. Labeling such violators as intending immigrants only confuses the issue and juxtaposing these two categories is specious logic. A few of the important differences include criminal and health backgrounds of intending entrants. A lawfully admitted alien must undergo health screening and will not be admitted if found to have a communicable disease. Similarly, certain criminal convictions exclude some aliens from admission into the United States as well. Of course, the smuggled alien, or one who enters without inspection, bypasses such rules and regulations.

3. Those who entered legally but are now here illegally because of reasons such as an expired visitor's visa, students violating the terms of their stay, etc., are not called undocumented aliens.

The use of the term undocumented is not a trivial oversight. Being undocumented implies several things. On the one hand, it implies that the suspect merely failed to obtain documents in some attempt to enter the U. S., or that the alien would otherwise be admissible if documented. An important difference in perception occurs when the label is applied.


4. Here is how an immigrant is defined:

An immigrant is a permanent resident alien lawfully admitted into the United States and is allowed to work in the United States and remain in the United States indefinitely. A non-immigrant alien is one that is lawfully admitted into the United States for a temporary period of time. Except for some classifications of non-immigrants specifically entitled to work (such as intra-company transferees, or diplomats) non-immigrants are not permitted to work in the United States without permission from the INS.


5. And lastly, here are some very important facts about this problem:

The INS estimated that there were 7 million illegal aliens residing in the United States in January 2000. According to INS, 69% of this unauthorized immigrant population was from Mexico. (USINS, 2003) However, the top 15 sending countries accounted for 89% of the total illegal alien population and included Mexico, El Salvador, Guatemala, Colombia, Honduras, China, Ecuador, Dominican Republic, Philippines, Brazil, Haiti, India, Peru, Korea, and Canada. This means that a significant number of illegal aliens entered the United States through other than the Mexico-US border and that they fall under the jurisdiction of the investigations section (interior enforcement), not the Border Patrol.

Friday, January 06, 2006

Blog-Tapping

spidering through 20 million blogs in under a minute. Running linguistic algorithms takes another few minutes

The company's next frontier: algorithms that will classify bloggers by ethnicity, location, income, social class and level of education

What is this?

An extension of the NSA’s super-secret surveillance activities that stretch globally?

Big Brother’s footprints getting into bloggers’ thought processes and writings?

It is common knowledge that keeping private and personal information private is already a daunting task nowadays.

SS Numbers, credit card numbers, gender, educational attainment, viewing and spending habits, and other personal information. These are now easy ores to mine.

But this newest development takes all the spying efforts a step beyond.

But breathe easy, though. Because right now this new development is deployed primarily as a survey tool made available to business.

As this article painstakingly explains, this software called a spider is used to gather information on bloggers – essentially their age, gender, and of course, their educational attainment, for use of businesses in their marketing strategies.

Do you use sarcasm in your blog writings?

What about elongated spellings (such as soooo good)?

Do you use hip-hop terminologies?

What about multiple exclamation marks (such as !!!!)?

Do you use such adjectives as sordid and hilarious, or some elaborately emotive turns of phrase?

If you do, then know at least that you have been tagged.

This is abominable!

Oooops!

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Greed: In A Different Light

The tired cliché that life is short so make the most of it is one among a few bromides that graying individuals are inadvertently assaulted with when pondering and planning for the ensuing years after employment. Family members, relatives, close friends, busybodies, or even casual acquaintances, in their mistaken eagerness to say the right things sometimes trip over themselves advising dear uncle, dear dad, dear grandpa or grandma, etc. to start living life more fully the minute retirement frenzy simmers down.

Once veteran parents pull back from outside employment, casual conversations around family gatherings typically revolve around endearingly-intentioned recommendations to the recently idled individuals to speed up life’s pace before Father Time catches up and physical activities could be greatly curbed due to the inevitable downward spiral of physical and mental health brought on by incalculable stress and time.

Travel around the world and visit exotic places typically seen only in glossy brochures, and colorful TV adventure programs. Gorge on all those exotic foods those places boast about in their travelogues. Soak the sunshine on those gorgeous beaches, idling away the days and afternoons sipping wine and fingering dainty hors d’oeuvres. Waste not a moment without indulging those tired bodies with hedonistic pleasures fit for the ancient demigods.

One is quite sure that one in the threshold between work life and own life has heard at one time or another statements like the above.

As one who is not really overly fond of exotic places, or long travels, and not really enticingly attracted to strange food, I always feel ill at ease being at the receiving end of such a barrage . At times making me feel downhearted and consumed by perceived naiveté on the question what life really is all about.

One can't help sense a deep feeling of unfulfilled longings, having been accused by inference of letting life pass one by, of laying waste nature’s bountiful offerings laced with alluring hedonistic attractions. A life quite unexamined and thus wasted and fruitless. Fit to be axed at the roots and to be burned to embers?

After a while one grows the compelling impulse to re-examine one’s priorities and purposes in life.

Am I really remiss in dismissively shunting aside all these well-intentioned recommendations as balderdash? Or are they simply snippets of taken-for-granted conventional wisdom, and thus easily rebuttable?

Lo and behold. After some gut-wrenching introspection, one inevitably is gifted by some unknown higher power with some bright discerning moments

What we have here may be a subtle but hidden strain of greed (and gluttony), cleverly disguised as to appear well within the bounds of living a good life. Greed taking on new dimension and meaning.

We normally associate greed with acute and over-indulging yearnings and inordinate accumulation of material goods (and gluttony as exorbitant attachment and proclivity to food, usually beyond normal satiation).

And digging some more, might not greed and gluttony apply also to other aspects of human life, like say the accumulation of human experiences? The inordinate and frenzied pursuits of life experiences?

As a species we do have an almost innate propensity to hurry and rush head-on through life. Adolescents cannot wait becoming older and be soaked with the more daring experiences of adult life. We are forever finding ourselves hurrying on everything we plan and do. And we rush so we could plan and do more. In the process, we constantly are finding ourselves behind schedules, which bring on more hurrying to be able to keep up.

Life is forever one big rush after another. Sometimes we wish we were Superman, or at least the Flash.

Thus, might not some form of insipient greed be involved in this very noticeable mad scramble to experience and accumulate all the possible activities that life could offer during our short sojourn here?

And for what lasting and worthwhile reasons?

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

For The Numismatist In Us - 4


Click Image To Enlarge
Originally uploaded by avnerijr.
As you may imagine, the lower denomination coins were the ones quite in use, rapidly changing hands. Thus, the country also made use of the five centavo coin made of an alloy of nickel, and a large one centavo coin made of copper. There was also a half-centavo coin also made of copper.

For The Numismatist In Us - 3


Click Image To Enlarge
Originally uploaded by avnerijr.
The next one shows some of the coins made of silver that were issued during the American regime, in one peso, fifty centavo, twenty centavo, and ten centavo denominations. The unique characteristic about these coins was that emblazoned at the reverse side were the words: United States of America. On the obverse side you had the word Filipinas at the bottom. The others in the picture were issued when the country had already become a republic.

For The Numismatist In Us - 2


Click Image To Enlarge
Originally uploaded by avnerijr.
Spain’s reign of almost 400 years ended at the turn of the 20th century. And the second picture shows a couple of notes issued by the then Philippine National Bank with the face of Pres. McKinley. The third note is nothing more than the coupon-bond quality fractional notes quite common during the presidency of Ramon Magsaysay. They easily got mutilated and the quality of the printing was poor, very much like currency during the Japanese times.

It was not uncommon then to have banks print and issue currency. Bank of the Philippine Islands (then known as Banco de las Islas Filipinas) also printed currency during the Spanish times.

For The Numismatist In Us - 1


Click Image To Enlarge
Originally uploaded by avnerijr.
For you out there who are into numismatics, (and who is it who does not love money?), the case of the history of the Philippines may be a good study on how the “coin of the realm” evolves to its present forms, typically to forms that are not worth the paper or metal they are printed or minted on.

The Philippines underwent through the travails of being under two colonizers, one maybe considered despotic and the other maybe, benign.

The two countries involved were Spain and the United States.

Naturally, these two named countries circulated their own currencies in the islands, either as part of the realm and thus using the coins of the realm, or as a separate entity and thus, minting its own currency for its own purposes. The later was the case with the US.

Anyway, this first graphic shows what the typical native way back in the 1700s and 1800s may have been clutching in his/her hand on the way to market, typically made of silver and some copper. Imagine that large coin dated 1742 could have been held at some point in the breast pocket of a man of nobility assigned in the islands.