Friday, February 22, 2008

Questions for civil society

While people are beginning to salivate at the prospects of removing Pres. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo over the mishandling of Jun Lozada and the alleged unmitigated greed and corruption of associates and family members; civil society, the most "credible" and relatively "organized" institution engaging the Arroyo administration, should apprise the Filipino people on:

1. Who are the alternative leaders that will be acceptable, morally and competently, to the people?
2. How government institutions such as COMELEC, DOJ, NEDA, Customs, DOTC, SBMA, DA/DAR, DENR, etc. will be reformed in the short-term, medium-term, and long-term?
3. How will the economic growth momentum that is occurring during the GMA administration be sustained?
4. How will the House of Representatives and Senate be reformed to make them more responsive and responsible?

Can we ask civil society to come up with a framework soonest since the la affaire Lozada might snowball into something uncontrollable?

I ask this because civil society, especially in the Philippine context, were and are active in the democratization process, in advocating for economic and policy reforms, had members who joined government, are vehicles of significant amounts of development aid funds, and have partnered with government in the delivery of numerous services and projects. They also have organizational and geographical breadth across the country. See the works of Dr. Ledevina Cariño and Dr. Gerard Clarke, among others.

Abandoned homes in the U.S.

About 3.5 million or 1% of the population, or 10% of the poor are homeless in the United States in a given year, while at least 335,000 are homeless in any given week.

Yet, in Buffalo, New York, there are 17,000 abandoned homes,due in significant part to the mortgage crisis and economic downturn in the region.

In Providence, Rhode Island, there are over 700 abandoned homes, necessitating drastic action from the Mayor to financially help homeowners spruce up and rehabilitate these homes.

The U.S. Conference of Mayors predicts that 361 metropolitan areas will lose $166 billion in 2008. In the Rust Belt cities, the economic woes linger. Cuyahoga County, which Cleveland is part of, has roughly 17,000 vacant foreclosed properties. Baltimore has 16,000 foreclosed properties, an increase of 3,700 from the year 2000 figures of 12,300.

Along with abandoned homes are abandoned pets.

Some homeless people have noticed the trend and have acted. Anecdotal reports show that the homeless are taking over some of the abandoned homes.

The faltering U.S. economy is the top dinner debate. provides a contrarian and more in-depth assessment of the situation as well as a timeframe of the economic downturn.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

States as voyeurs

The US-based Electronic Privacy Information Center and the UK-based Privacy International published online (hardcopy can be purchased) in late December 2007 their annual comprehensive survey of global privacy of 70 countries' state of surveillance and privacy protection policies and practices. The 2007 Privacy & Human Rights Report is very disturbing in that powerful countries such as the United States, Russia, China, Australia, and several European countries have either a state of "endemic surveillance" or have "systemic failure to uphold safeguards."

The Philippines ranked better than the United States, but is one of several states with "extensive surveillance". See map below.

figure from Privacy International website

Diversity, Education, and Innovation

Charlie Rose interviewed Dr. Susan Hockfield, 16th president of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. A noted neuroscientist, she has extensive academic managerial experience. There area many gems of wisdom in the interview and it seems that MIT is going to be a leader in alternative energy and biotechnology in the coming years. I like her participatory and inclusive approach to education and her proactive embrace of diversity. She relates an inspiring story of how how one of her political science professors graphically showed how diverse America is.

Pretty obvious, but America's greatness lies in the diversity of its people. This diversity enables the country to bring the best, brightest, most innovative and most creative people on the planet to work on cutting edge science, technology, art, and ideas.

So, xenophobics, listen and take note.

Viral internet and the unfolding ZTE-NBN scandal

Last week I commented on the the Jun Lozada exposé of former NEDA Secretary Romulo Neri's fears in revealing all about ZTE-NBN deal. One of my comments was the rapidly increasing number of webpages devoted to this controversy. Below you will find a crude listing of the number of webpages if one types in some keywords at Google. Note that many of the webpages are irrelevant or not connected to the ZTE-NBN issue. Nevertheless, the first 10-20 page listings are mostly correct/relevant.

Second, the total number of webpages have increased multiple times from last weekend. The GMA administration blundered with their almost criminal handling of
Jun Lozada when he arrived from Hongkong. Support for him has likewise gathered momentum in inverse proportion to the disgust at this administration's actions toward him.

Keyword search at Google:

Personalized Results 1 - 10 of about 597,000 for NBN deal. (0.30 seconds)
Personalized Results 1 - 10 of about 11,000 for NBN-ZTE deal. (0.26 seconds)
Personalized Results 1 - 10 of about 5,680 for ZTE-NBN deal. (0.07 seconds)
Personalized Results 1 - 10 of about 166,000 for Jun lozada. (0.23 seconds)
Personalized Results 1 - 10 of about 67,000 for Rodolfo Lozada Jr.. (0.30 seconds)
Personalized Results 21 - 30 of about 50,100 for jun, moderate their greed. (0.08 seconds).

Lastly, this scandal might not only affect the Macapagal and Arroyo clans, but other business families as well as seen in the off-the cuff statement of former NEDA Secretary Neri.

I think when Catholic masses or interfaith prayer rallies are being organized with an intentional focus on the controversy, civil society is beginning to mobilize to directly challenge government- once again.

The next few weeks will be interesting.

Monday, February 18, 2008

it's copper

it's copper, originally uploaded by livingplanet.

Well, the 2008 Tucson gem, mineral, and fossil show ended yesterday. It was a great showcase inspite of the traffic snafus, looming economic recession, rising prices, unpredictable weather (still the best in the nation), and other hassles.

We spent the last day visiting the premier show, the Tucson Gem and Mineral Society show at the Tucson Convention Center. This year's theme "Minerals of the USA" did not fail to impress. Display cases had collections from the Smithsonian, Carnegie, Royal Ontario Museum (Canada), and a number of private collections. I've uploaded a handful of pictures in Flickr and will continue to do so in the future (click on the link).