Political Pundit

What is going on?!?!

There is no letting up in the mideast conflict between Israel and Lebanon, a conflict that began mid July; a conflict that, at the rate Israel is advancing without any intervention from superpower allies such as the US and UK, might linger a long while. And a conflict on top of the current crises in Iraq and Iran.

And today, Scotland Yard announced the capture of 21 suspects believed to be terrorists out to replicate, if not, outdo 9/11’s horrors with a grand plot to carry and detonate liquid explosives over transatlantic planes from London to key US cities.

Whatever happened to the concept of world peace? Is it exclusively confined to question-and-answer portion of beauty pageants these days?

Crap. Why can’t everyone be like Cat Stevens?

Seriously, what’s going on?

What’s up, civilization?

World War III?


I received an email from an acquiantance the other day about a concerted effort by an alliance of private companies here in the US to help victims of the recent earthquake in Yogjakarta, Indonesia. The effort is to provide long term relief support to displaced children and families with vitamins and medicines. The alliance is disseminating the email for additional contributions from individuals and companies willing to extend financial support to the cause.

Now this practice is one proof that people are not really indifferent to social issues; that there are individuals and organizations who feel making a contribution translates to making a difference in the lives of many in need.

That feeling could be made into an equation: making a contribution = making a difference.

The equation, unfortunately, is non sequitur or the inference or conclusion does not follow the premise or evidence.

Cases in point: Last year's Asian Tsunami and Hurricane Katrina disasters.

CNN reported in drop-off locations for relief contribution that people donated goods displaced families and individuals found no benefit from. And these include:

(1) Cosmetic items such as lipstick and make-up; (2) Canned food with weeks left before expiration; (3) Winter jackets, tattered clothes, evening dresses ; (4) Stiletto shoes, soccer cleats, and high-heeled boots; (5) Embroidered drapes and table cloths (6) Shower curtains and caps, loofas, and bubble bath soaps; (7) Thong panties and underwear with worn-out garters, and; (8) Medicines such as Viagra and Lipitor.

However good the intentions people have to help others mired in times of crises, making a contribution requires not only a great deal of sensitivity but some common sense as well.

An aid official interviewed by a reporter emphasized the relief operations best by saying:

We don’t mean to be ungrateful, but it would be appreciated if people take a little more care before just unloading their basements and garages […] [the victims] are not beggars, [they] don't need hand-me-downs."

Perhaps, if one can't contribute through financial means, a prayer for the victims would suffice. That would amount to something significant than having victims receive contributions and feel more disappointed and nuisanced than relieved.

Poor Mother Nature. It's not enough that she gets pillaged and abused in real time, she gets caught in a maelstrom of opposing media blitz about climate change on TV and film, too! On one end, there's Al Gore and his documentary-movie 'An Inconvenient Truth' and on the other, there's the public policy organization Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) and its recent 'We Call It Life' ad campaign. Now, from a former Public Relations practitioner's point of view, I find this media war of sorts, well, pure entertainment that might end up, at least, in a Kanye West rap lyrics sheet.

Al Gore's 'An Inconvenient Truth' opened last week with critical praise in his attempt to enlighten the indifferent American public about the effects of carbon dioxide emissions and harmful pollutants to climate change causing severe storms, melting ice caps, and rising sea levels unprecedented in modern human history. I haven't seen the movie yet but I can pretty much surmise the images and flow of narration are proximal to Michael Crichton's fictional literary piece 'State Of Fear' (complete with graphs, maps, and figures!). Of course, Al Gore is backed up by scientific studies (including today's report in the New York Times about the Arctic region being a tropical area 50 million years ago brought about by 'a gigantic fart of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere'), and the lessons ingrained in each individual from elementary science (remember the full-page 'greenhouse effect' illustrations on textbooks?), which make the movie all the more reputably credible.

Well, apparently not credible enough to the people behind CEI.

According to CEI, Al Gore is one of a growing number of 'alarmists' who spins the truth that carbon dioxide is a harmful pollutant when it actually is 'essential to life' because it is 'part of a harmless natural process' that also makes life better for people .

The fuels that produce CO2 (carbon dioxide) have freed us from a world of back-breaking labor, lighting up our lives, allowing us to create and move the things we need, the people we love […] Now some politicians want to label carbon dioxide a pollutant. Imagine if they succeed — what would our lives be like then?"

(an image of an African woman pounding wheat with traditional tools appears in the ad, perhaps threatening the urban lifestyle-oriented Americans that this is what society would turn into without carbon dioxide emitting industries)

The caveat about CEI and its media campaign, though, is this: CEI is composed of conservative and right-wing corporate bigwigs (ExxonMobil and other oil companies) and individuals who wield influence in and serve as front organization for Washington. One needs to be no scientist to figure that one out, judging from US President George W. Bush's remarks last week:

[L]et's quit the debate about whether greenhouse gases are caused by mankind or by natural causes; let's just focus on technologies that deal with the issue."

What his statement means is this: America under Dubya's watch won't be swayed by any media attempt to change public policy towards greenhouse gas emissions vis-a-vis climate change. It won't be buckling down and signing the Kyoto Protocol soon. And, it certainly won't be giving Al Gore and his silverscreen debut a Michael Moore moment of plucking the public's consciousness from apathy without a good PR fight.

Alas, with all the semantics and the trade of barbed allegations and visual display of opposing viewpoints on the matter in the media today, the public is perhaps burnt out to even think and care as it is in the war on Iraq. Just the same, the public warrants nothing less than the truth about the relation between greenhouse gas emissions and climate change. The fate of nature and human kind is at stake here, people! But then again, the question is: Between the two sides, who speaks the truth? Well, I have an idea and my guess is most people do. But why spoil the visual fun? For now, have a popcorn and enjoy the entertainment as they unfold, yeah?

If there was such a thing called 'A Day of Absence' to commemorate by when I was in high school, it would have saved a lot of students the trouble of coming up with lame excuses and trips to detention for skipping classes. But yesterday's 'Day of Absence' was not some silly stunt born out of adolescent boredom or academic burnout. It was actually called 'A Day Without Immigrants,' when immigrants boycott work and school for a day in protest of bills passed in both the US House and Senate early this year that make felons of illegal immigrants and make immigration enforcement and citizenship process stricter for them. From Long Island to Long Beach, Lower East Side to Los Angeles, huge street protests were organized to show the economic importance and influence the immigrants (legal or illegal) have in the daily grind of the American economy.

The country, founded and labored by immigrants over centuries, is engulfed with unemployment, crime, and (the current favorite of an excuse) terrorism — social problems that are conveniently blamed on the influx of immigrants out to chase the proverbial American dream or cross to greener pastures.

I will not chew out a mouthful on the issue because it's all over most, if not all, media organizations anyway. Besides, my opinions may be deemed biased because I am an immigrant-in-waiting (so to speak). What I would like to do is raise a crucial point that may be a twig in a branch of the issue; well, it's actually more of a question: Where are the Asian immigrants? After all, they are stakeholders of this issue, too.

Perhaps because of the recurrent border protection concerns with Mexico and Cuba, the issue is fixed on the Latino community in the US. True, of the 11.1 million who are in the country illegally, 78 percent are Latino but whatever happened to the 13 percent who are of Asian origin? Based in Immigration records in 2000, the largest group of undocumented Asians were Chinese (23 percent), followed by Filipinos (17 percent), Indians (14 percent) and Koreans (11 percent). So where were they in all of these protests across the US? Surely, as one of the most persecuted and discriminated immigrant races in US history (eg Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 and Asiatic Barred Zone Act of 1917), Asian-Americans (numbering almost to 15 million now) could at least sympathize with and rally behind the cause of their Latino counterparts.

The debate, of course, is still hot whether the 'Day Without Immigrants' national protest served as a catalyst favorable to the immigration cause or only resulted to fear of (and therefore all the more reason to pass measures to curtail) the expanding clout of immigrants in the American public; but this issue definitely warrants a more pro-active role among the Asian-American community. This is a perfect time to disprove the popular belief and misconception that Asians are a passive lot. This is a perfect time to prove that Asians sincerely embrace the political and civil liberties Americans claim to be champions of. This is the time to be present, to speak and be heard, and to be counted. In a chance to contribute for change, absence in this political exercise won't make others grow fonder of them. 

On my way to a drive-thru at McDees for another unoriginal breakfast, I tuned in to this FM station that features a Stupid News segment in its morning program. This segment, among other equally outrageous ones, chronicles recent events that people would find, well, stupid. One of the news that stood out was a cooperative in Indiana selling politically-correct labeled pastries with the Gingerbread Man becoming the Gingerbread Person.

Trivial? Yes. Stupid? No.

I say trivial because renaming the Gingerbread was all too forthcoming. In fact, it was done a bit late. Anyone would've expected it to happen soon, what with the political-correctness campaign turning into a movement of sorts in the 1990s. And we are, after all, living in a politically-correct, gender-sensitive, non-discriminating world — or atleast attempt and aspire to. Surely, Martin Luther King or Rosa Parks didn't die famous for nothing; Surely, Judith Butler's or Gloria Steinem's books aren't just chick lits. They stand for something significant; True testaments of change, of something progressive.

The Gingerbread Person today may tickle and stretch one's sense of humor or strike one's fancy on semantics but at the end of the day, it is the Gingerbread Man no more. Gingerbread Person… yeah, it does sound progressive. 

US President George W. Bush — yes, the man who found himself locked in an auditorium in China two weeks ago (and yes, the same one who tried to mediate between two squabbling dogs in the White House amidst pressing socio-economic problems) — has finally admitted that the decision to wage a war on Iraq came from 'wrong intelligence' and has taken responsibility for it.

Finally, the (arguably) most powerful leader in the world used his not so powerful IQ and delivered the message to his people: I have poor judgment and made a terrible decision out of it.

The entire world knew the Iraq war and invasion were wrong; The entire world knew the real reason and motive behind the war and invasion; And the entire world knew Dubya and his decisions on Iraq and terrorism, per se, were wrong since Colin Powell made sweeping accusations on Iraq's capability to manufacture WMD in the UN's Security Council back in 2002.

How can Dubya be right when he barks up the wrong tree? How can he mistake Saddam Hussein for Osama bin-laden? How can he fight terrorism in a country where the only exports it sends overseas are not trained terrorists but drilled oil? How can he pass the buck to 'wrong intelligence' when it is clearly his own decision to settle an old score with Saddam Hussein and secure oil contracts in the end under his fumbling (and obviously misdirected) campaign on terrorism?

If there is anything the entire world was guilty of, it was giving Dubya too much benefit of the doubt and entertaining wild what ifs in dire hopes terrorism (and Osama bin Laden, who, by the way, remains at-large) would crumble as hard as the blown down WTC.

Four years later, with more than 2,000 KIA troops and no trace of any WMD, the war on Iraq proves to be the biggest blunder in intelligence and leadership (Dubya, personified).

Despite this blunder, Americans have decided to keep Dubya and his intelligence through re-election. But for the rest of the world, all it had to do was to presume with greater intelligence that Dubya was waging a wrongful war on Iraq.

And now, the presumption is confirmed true: Guilty! 

Timing. You've got to give it to the Japanese.

When the Chinese closed its doors to Western-led global development during the Qing Dynasty, Japan's Meiji era opened and started its Western-style modernization. When colonization was turning into old school in the West, Japan started its Greater Co-Prosperity Sphere campaign. And when Hollywood movies were lording over world cinema in the 1950s, Japan created Godzilla (OK, the segue isn't exactly brimming with logic here).

Half a decade after the 21st century began, Japan is about to do something the world has (arguably) embraced since Godzilla's debut: a leapfrog to feminism.

Recent news reports the Japanese Parliament is set to allow a female royal succession into the Imperial Chrysanthemum Throne with Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi endorsing such an unprecedented move. This development could not have come at a better time when (1) an overwhelming pressure to produce a male successor to the Imperial line from Prince Naruhito and Princess Masako reaches a disappointing turn with Masako openly admitting stress and depression have eaten her Harvard-trained, high-brow upbringing self; (2) the dominance of the Japanese salarymen — the Japanese patriarchy personified — is demystified and dissipated, and; (3) the population in Japan is dwindling and aging.

What's wrong with having a female imperial leader anyway? Queen Elizabeth has been ruling UK for more than 50 years. There's Beatrix of Netherlands and Margaret of Denmark, too. Women presidents and ministers have come and gone. And so fussing over the possible female rule over the Imperial Household of Japan should not become an issue, at least in the eyes of the more progressive and open socities, but should be considered an inevitable reality (as inevitable as having a female or an African-American president).

It's hightime the Japanese eat up its traditional past and embrace change. Feminism in Japan? Finally! 

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