The aesthetics of redemption

My column for today is The aesthetics of redemption. It’s as much a response to items such as this one, see Clarissa Ocampo vs. Jun Lozada, as anything else, but also a reiteration of a point I’ve felt strongly about for some time, see She is as they are, from March 2, 2006.

In the news, Think tank to draft 10-yr economy blueprint: it’s about time such a think tank buckles down to work. What can we see, 10 years ahead? A provocative article in The Asia Sentinel says, a peso-dollar rate of 56 to 1! See Philippine remittances could slow: The global slowdown may mean a fall in remittances, the Philippine lifeblood, and an end to the party for the peso :

That said, the trend is clear and at some point it is likely to impinge on all remittance sources to varying degrees. High and rising energy and food import costs are also likely to erode a Philippine current account which has been in a healthy surplus for an almost unprecedented time. Looking ahead, the issue will be whether remittances will stagnate because of the US (and probably very slow growth in Europe), resulting in a weaker peso and the unwinding of a cycle that has taken the usually sickly peso from 56 to 40 against the dollar over the past three years, the fastest rise of any Asian currency.

Many would argue that the strong peso has been damaging the wider economy, encouraging imports, reducing the peso value of remittances, deterring investment in industry and agriculture, helping rentiers at the expense of productive capitalists. But to politicians, not least Arroyo, it is a virility symbol.

The nation has become so dependent on the seemingly endless increase in inflows which created the strong peso that any major reversal or even slowdown will be shock to the system. Don’t be surprised if the peso is back at 56 before the decade is out.

In History Unfolding, historian David Kaiser ponders the collapse of Bear Stearns in the context of the Baby Boomer Generation to which he belongs:

The Boom generation has never believed much in restraint, least of all in the economic field. We have cut marginal tax rates from 91% in 1963 and 50% in the late 1970s to 35% now, vastly increasing the incentive for managers to increase profits as much as possible–partly by cutting the labor force–because they can keep so much more of the proceeds. We have chpped away at the Depression-era restraints, allowing commercial and investment banks to combine during the late 1990s. (The Clinton Adminstration did impose fiscal discipline–probably its one real domestic achievement–but it paved the way for the coming crash in many ways as well.) We have developed new financial instruments like bonds backed by sub-prime mortgages that have been every bit as seductive as the Mississippi bubble in the early 18th century or prime Florida land in the 1920s. And by creating new institutions not subject to regulation, such as hedge funds, we have allowed clever Boomers and Xers to avoid the regulations that their parents and grandparents so wisely put in place. Last Friday almost became the Black Friday of a new generation when Bear, Stearns melted down. Bear Stearns, the New York Times informed me, works on 96.66 margin–of every $1 million it invests, $966,000 is borrowed. Much of those investments have now collapsed along with the subprime market, undoubtedly threatning a whole range of banks, hedge funds, non-profits and pension funds as well as Bear Stearns itself (since they are presumably the ones whose money Bear Stearns was playing with.) The Federal Reserve stepped in to ward off the catastrophe, but it will not be able to continue to rescue failing firms that way without implicating the whole nation in the potential crash.

The Warrior Lawyer points out why the Bear Stearns collapse matters to us:

Why should we care then if another capitalist enterprise should go under ? Banks like Bear Stearns serve a worldwide clientele of corporations, institutional investors, governments, and wealthy individuals. Its almost a given that the Philippine government has done business with investment banks like Bear Sterns and its kind and will continue to do so in the future. In a globalized economy, the fallout from a U.S. financial crisis will impact us adversely. The resulting volatility and panic in the US stock market will send shock waves to European and Asian markets. These fears and uncertainties are driving world stock markets to their recent lows. Furthermore, the US, one of our major trading partners, is already experiencing a de facto economic recession. This will dampen our prospects for continued economic growth.

Incidentally, remember the foreign analyist I met, back in 2005? See The President’s “sweet spot,” from July 28, 2005. He was from Bear Stearns.

During an economic downturn, or worse, in times of an actual shortage in basic commodities, a government has to wield its authority and at the same time, appeal to a reservoir of good will and expect a certain amount of instinctive obedience on the part of the population. You have to wonder what reservoirs the present administration has left.

In Already we have riots, hoarding, panic: the sign of things to come? by Carl Mortishead (hat tip to Thoughtcrime), there’s this:

The President of the Philippines made an unprecedented call last week to the Vietnamese Prime Minister, requesting that he promise to supply a quantity of rice.

The personal appeal by Gloria Arroyo to Nguyen Tan Dung for a guarantee was a highly unusual intervention and highlighted the Philippines’ dependence on food imports, rice in particular.

“This is a wake-up call,” said Robert Zeigler, who heads the International Rice Research Institute. “We have a crisis brewing in rice supply.”

While Neal Cruz says Rice shortage, no; high prices, yes , prospects of a shortage or higher prices at least, is enough to inspire an impassioned plea from The Magnificent Atty. Perez:

Look at the sugarfields of Negros Occidental, where you still see to this very day, poor and uneducated laborers being paid so much less than minimum wage for backbreaking work. Look at the farms and haciendas that conveniently side-stepped coverage from CARP by allegedly growing “cattle” and having “agricultural corporations” on their land. Go to the farmlands of Capiz where in this age of tractors and the scientific method of farming you still see farmers tilling the land with the lowly carabao and drying their grain by the roadsides where it may be swept away by strong winds and rain.
You see, the problem is not that our population is too big for our food production to supply to. Our problem is that our current agricultural system for the whole country is still stuck on methodologies and farming techniques used at the turn of the 19th Century, which does not yield enough to feed our starving nation. Hence, we have to import food at a higher premium when we have the capacity to solve our own problems with the right farming science and technology.

A U.P. professor I talked to a few weeks back bluntly told me that our agricultural productivity is still at 1940’s levels while our neighbors have vastly increased theirs. And recall, as well, the observation by Dr. Michael Alba that the government isn’t keeping track of formerly agricultural lands being lost to real estate development, because of a change in methods (instead of having people actually conducting a periodic inventory of land, less precise aerial surveys, I believe, take place).

And, as usual, the problem’s compounded by another reality: that one of the many criticisms leveled against this administration is how smuggling is not only rampant, but allegedly condoned at the highest levels of government.


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    • UP n student on March 19, 2008 at 2:02 am

    cvj: Somewhere out in the blogosphere is this sentence — once a specific number of our Congressmen forward the document to the Senate, then GMA will most likely get impeached out of Malacanang.

    It is a cold-blooded sentence. And I like it (versus “..our congress has turned a blind eye”) because the sentence is implementable. The action-item — for the CBCP and other special-interest groups to coalesce and work on the congressmen to forward the document to the Senate.

    • cvj on March 19, 2008 at 2:03 am

    Brianb (at 1:53 am), hvrds commented about that very issue:

    As an economist, Gloria Arroyo knows her way around statistics so there has been a lot of redefinition going on during her term. Pity, because it often makes the figures non-comparable with preceding years. Once Arroyo is gone, one of the first order of business would be to revisit and adjust, or if not possible, rebaseline the statistics to better reflect reality.

    • cvj on March 19, 2008 at 2:07 am

    UPn, if you believe that impeachment is “implementable”, why don’t you actively work for it?

    • BrianB on March 19, 2008 at 2:13 am

    Any statistic on number of Filipnos earning minimum wage or above. Anyone?

    • mindanaoan on March 19, 2008 at 2:13 am

    cvj, now, there’s a problem we can work on. how to thwart bogus impeachments.
    don’t fret our president is not like in other countries. at least she’s not idi amin.

    • hawaiianguy on March 19, 2008 at 2:16 am

    UPnS: “GMA-in-Malacanang as President is forbidden by the Constitution.”

    That’s why GMA and her cabal in congress would like to change the constitution. Then, GMA can assume a different title, as PM. Just a 1000 thinking of this? Just add Nograles and his crocs with ULAP, and their rabid supporters, that easily makes more than 5000 already.

    I still believe that they are seriously planning to do a cha-cha before 2010, under the guise of fixing a broken system.

    • cvj on March 19, 2008 at 2:41 am

    Any statistic on number of Filipnos earning minimum wage or above. – Brianb

    Brianb, i haven’t found the exact statistic but here are annual family incomes per decile for 2006.

    I don’t know the minimum wage but if you know the figure, you can use it to compute what you’re looking for.

    • Bert on March 19, 2008 at 2:46 am

    “Incidentally, medyo natawa ako sa oyster clams, crabs and lobsters na ulam mo with kamote…sa amin sa bundok, luxury items ang mga iyan.”

    It’s not as easy as it sounds, nash. To be able to get to the oyster clams, you have to brave knee-deep muck and mud under lush, mosquito-infested mangrove swamp, cut two or three pieces of about a meter long mangrove roots, which would yield about two kilos of oyster with shell. Extracting the clams from the wooden roots is another hurdle. The lapu-lapu or the lobster you have to swim and catch with crude spear, and most natives are pretty adept at swimming. The crabs abound in brackish water and easy to catch if you know how.

    Anyway, it’s not an everyday feast over there in the place where I came, as the people live in grinding poverty, just occasionally when inertia and good luck would have it, for the rural folks, as in any other rural areas with same environment, are used to easy living inspite of their hapless condition.

    • cvj on March 19, 2008 at 2:46 am

    cvj, now, there’s a problem we can work on. how to thwart bogus impeachments. – mindanaoan

    Actually, impeachment is supposed to be a remedy, not a problem. While you’re at it, here’s a list of fifty-three (so far) Gloria-related problems that blogger Kabayan compiled.

    Maybe you can add to the list.

    don’t fret our president is not like in other countries. at least she’s not idi amin. – mindanaoan

    Sounds like a good campaign slogan.

    • hawaiianguy on March 19, 2008 at 2:47 am

    cvj, mindanaoan,

    Formal codes are always the reference for behavior in governance. But there are other codes which public officials can use to circumvent or get around the laws. Funny, these codes – once made public – are even denied by those in authority as non-existent (non-evidence) like the sources where they supposedly come from. PCIJ decoded some parts of Hello Garci, where Gloria said “yung dagdag, yung dagdag” ( Lozada also cracked the code (or its nemesis) “bubukol,” which many people understand in reference to the overprice that might get noticed.

    Randy David wrote an elaborate analysis of the ethnography of pinoy communication on this. Someone like Gloria need not tell Garci bluntly, “I need more than 1 million votes over FPJ.” (What she said was: “Will I still get more than 1 million votes?”) It’s enough that she phoned him 15 times and expressed concern over what the outcome might be. The cue is more than clear for someone who knows the meaning of “dagdag-bawas.”

    But the worst of all is when these formal codes are deliberately misused to hide a messy affair. Am still thinking to this day how Gaite managed to get cash and advance P500k to Lozada, making it appear it’s his “own.” Who believes him?

    • cvj on March 19, 2008 at 3:08 am

    hawaiianguy, i think unfamiliarity with the above codes that Randy David mentioned (whether such unfamiliarity is deliberate or not), is a prerequisite to continued support for the Administration. That, plus continued emphasis on formalities at the expense of substance.

    • hawaiianguy on March 19, 2008 at 3:32 am


    You’re right, I agree.

    • Bencard on March 19, 2008 at 3:37 am

    mlq3, i see that benigno, rego, mindanaoan and upnstudent have addressed the points you raised on “court of public opinion”. i think i have nothing more to add or detract from their observations, to which i agree. just one thing though, if i may. while a public office is not a “right” but a privilege, its deprivation is still governed by law. no one can be removed involuntarily except under the terms and the processes provided by law. no man, or group of men, can deprive a president of his/her office just because they don’t like her, or they think she is unfit to continue in office. that’s anarchy, no more, no less!

    brianb, yeah, you’re right. my faith in the rule of law (as opposed to the rule of men) as an ideal concept in governance of human society, is childlike. but take my advice. before making a comment, make sure you know what you’re talking about. the rules and procedures on truth-seeking in a civilized society are accepted, not for “peace of mind”, but because they are the only ones which can ensure “human truth”, as distinguished from “divine truth”, the latter being beyond the realm of human understanding. better than mortal combat, “jack en poy” “palabunutan” or hulaan, right? but i guess, it’s too much to expect you to understand that.

    i leave it up to the readers of my comments, other than you, to judge whether “all i know” are legal procedures and therefore, i am “irredeemable”. i’m sure you’ll find a lot of agreement from like-minded people (as yours) in this blog. honestly? i don’t think you are so hot yourself!

    • nash on March 19, 2008 at 4:00 am

    ” i think i have nothing more to add or detract from their observations”

    …but here is another 100 words of more of the same thing…

    Tingnan mo nga naman how inconsistent our resident counsel is…I have nothing more to add tapos verbal diarhea naman na paulit-ulit…hindi porke’t malalim na ingles na tamang subject-verb agreement eh may substance ano.

    • nash on March 19, 2008 at 4:08 am


    Yes, it’s such a harsh reality.

    Kaya naman I always hope for an ideal and just market where fishermen and farmers always get a decent price for their produce.

    You mentioned the P25/kilo kamote… it is likely that 4 levels or more of middle men have padded that price..Of course, you can never eliminate middle men, pero sana nga lang mabawasan. Smuggling isn’t helping us either.

    Sometimes, when I go down to Manila I’m shocked that cabbages are at such a high price knowing that it was bought for less than half that back home…

    • Bencard on March 19, 2008 at 4:09 am

    nash, so what’s your beef? rebut it. if you can’t, just shut up!

    • nash on March 19, 2008 at 4:12 am


    “As an economist, Gloria Arroyo knows her way around statistics”


    On the contrary, remember when GMA lost her temper at this teacher who told her of the classroom shortages????

    GMA doubled the capacity of the classrooms (instead na 50 pupils per class, minasahe niya into 100 or something like that) and said that the shortage was solved!

    Economista my ass! More like a magician who isn’t funny.

    • nash on March 19, 2008 at 4:21 am



    Sometimes, we don’t even bother to plant at all knowing we will be operating at a loss.

    I can’t say we don’t have good roads or irrigation (because we do in Benguet and Nueva Vizcaya) but for the other reasons you mentioned plus the rampant’s just really hard for farms to break even.

    And so jobless farmers = social problems (alcholism, depression) My clan alone has suffered many suicides…iniinum nalang yung pesticide

    • nash on March 19, 2008 at 4:26 am


    sorry, wrong basa…I should have said “you are right – gma knows her way around statistics” naduling ako, i jumped over the word ‘way around’

    mea maxima culpa

    • nash on March 19, 2008 at 4:30 am


    I meant you contradicted yourself in the first sentence alone.

    I normally stop after an inconsistency.

    Why should I rebut a flawed argument?

    You claim to be a lawyer then you should know that. 101.

    I can, like I did before but Wala ako sa mood magpatawa ngayon. Pasensiya ka na.


    • Bencard on March 19, 2008 at 5:49 am

    if you are trying to bait me, forget it mister. you are not in my league!

    • Bencard on March 19, 2008 at 6:42 am

    ricelander, i don’t pretend to be an “astute lawyer” but i’ll humor you. take or leave what i say here (afterall, libre naman- you get what you, or don’t, pay for). kung may plano kang magbulgar, kailangang paghandaan mong mabuti. segurohim mong meron kang ebidensiya (dokumento, litrato, videotape, voice tape, o ibang testigo na may tuwirang kaalaman sa pangyayari) maliban sa iyong sariling testimonia. isipin mo lang na kung kasapakat ka sa katiwalian, maari ka ring balikan, unless makakuha ka ng deal sa prosecutor bilang “star witness”.

    mabuti rin kumuha ka ng magaling na abugado na mapagtitiwalaan mo para mapangalagaaan ang iyong kapakanan at maalalayan ka sa iyong gagawin.

    • benign0 on March 19, 2008 at 7:03 am

    The problem is that those toiling cretins as you call them can be far more decent humans than any of those button pushers that you idolize — or which you believe to be part of. Because everything is relative, to some people where I work, YOU are the equivalent of a toiling cretin. — DuckVader

    Unfortunately for hopeless romantics like you, efficiency as a measure does not distinguish between “decency” and ACHIEVEMENT.

    Losers are losers whether they were robbed of their entitlements or not. Life’s not fair.

    Winners get to write the history books while watching the amusing but petty antics of Third World societies on their wide screen plasma TVs

    Losers, on the other hand, get to sit around and complain about how imperialism robbed them of their “natural resources” and how the despots that rule them to this day continue to get away with murder.

    Tough luck. 😀

    • benign0 on March 19, 2008 at 7:05 am

    Here’s another good one courtesy of Sean Connery’s brilliant character in that late 1990’s film classic The Rock:

    Losers whine about doing their best.
    Winners go home and fnck the Prom Queen.

    Tough luck to all the world’s losers! 😀

    • anthony scalia on March 19, 2008 at 8:25 am


    “Disagree, UP n. Every Filipino has it in mind. The anti-GMA (include me) are paranoid about it, the anti-anti-GMA are praying for it. Can anyone tell me what the ones in-between are thinking?”

    disagree – the anti anti gloria aren’t praying about it. anti anti gloria is not the same as pro gloria

    the anti anti gloria just want to tolerate her stay till 2010, no more no less

    i can already foresee a constitutional challenge to gloria becoming an MP and eventually a PM (after 2010)

    though there is no precedent yet to rely on, there’s a legal principle which says what can’t be done directly cannot be done indirectly.

    gloria cannot be chief executive for another term, whether immediately following or later. that cannot be skirted via the MP then PM route (assuming constitutional amendments are ratified)

    the only way for gloria to be a PM is to be an interim PM until 2010 (that is if constitutional amendments can be passed and ratified way before 30 June 2010). beyond 2010 di na pwede

    kaya my friend, don’t be paranoid. sobrang nadadala na ang mga anti gloria ng too much emotion

    an amendment that extends a term of office cannot benefit the incumbent; the extension takes effect at the term after the incumbent’s term. so halimbawa, in-extend ang term ng congressman from 3 years to 5 years, the 5 year term will start to be enjoyed by those who will be elected at the next election

    • anthony scalia on March 19, 2008 at 8:46 am

    clarissa ocampo went against her big boss EPCIB CEO george go when she testified. a career suicide move, it would seem at that time

    (hey i suddenly remembered “go Erap go, go to george go” sang to the tune of ‘i will survive’)

    • benign0 on March 19, 2008 at 8:59 am

    Based on a view over the limited horizons of a forum discussion, it seems more people (particularly young people) are on to the brazen bias exhibited by the Philippine Media nowadays — particularly ABS-CBN or what some commentors now call ebs-CBN.

    The rate at which great ideas are created in the Philippines is outstripped by Pinoys’ world-renowned abilities at corrupting the same ideas.

    Cory has gone from Ms. Edsa Revolution to Pathetic Chump in 20 years. Lozada has gone from Star Witness to circus chimp in a very small fraction of that time — a matter of months.

    If ABS-CBN weren’t the profit engine that it is, it would’ve suffered the same fate of progressive irrelevance.

    Then again, I see no shame in profiting from the ignorance of a people who find no merit in intellectual growth in the first place. 😉

    ABS-CBN and the rest of the Philippine Media (JOURNALISTS included) at some point have to drop this whole pretensious, messianic perception of themselves and come across clean and SIMPLE as professionals and businesses out to make a buck for their trouble. That way, everyone is CLEAR on what one another is all about.

    It’s simple, really.

    – 😀

    • rego on March 19, 2008 at 9:11 am

    “Then again, I see no shame in profiting from the ignorance of a people who find no merit in intellectual growth in the first place. ”


    Im actually happy to note that people power is not happening anymore. Im taking it as somehow pinoys are growing. Slower but getting there.


    Paano ‘yan, Bencard. Mukhang they get good advice from another good lawyer like you because witnesses are disappearing at wala namang document kasi nakatago. I would need the help of FBI, don’t you think, for their snooping gadgets?

    Do you think ang unang qualifications dapat ng whistleblower e dapat walang bahid, as in faultless…?

    Kasi, kung ganito din lang, aba, I think therefore citizens are better advised, huwag na kayong magsumbong. Delikado. Magugulo lang ang buhay n’yo wala namang mangyayaring mabuti. Kakantiyawan lang kayo ni Ca T, RegO, benignO, atbp hehehe.

    Tanggap na lang nang tanggap. benignO will call you a winner.

    • UP n student on March 19, 2008 at 9:26 am

    to benigno, who says “….. I see no shame in profiting from the ignorance of a people who find no merit in intellectual growth in the first place.”

    It appears you haven’t forgotten those leadership lessons from your seminarian-days. 😳

    Quick… someone send beningn0 Noli Me Tangere!!!!

    • mindanaoan on March 19, 2008 at 9:31 am

    hawaiianguy, kabayan’s list you pointed to is not a list of system problems. they are gripes against a pet peeve. in any case, the issue we were discussing was: is it permissible to go around the system, run to the court of public opinion, cite unwritten code of ethics, invite some kind of alien morality (or just call it people power) to effect a system change given that you are boxed in by current parameters? can we allow someone to take the law into his hands because the person he suspects of murdering his brother was acquitted by the courts?

    • mlq3 on March 19, 2008 at 9:43 am

    benign0: review the poll tax, the protests, and riot, then the eventual resignation of margaret thatcher and every single one of your questions will be answered. the 8 month unraveling of her government began with a protest and then the supression of that protest.

    review as well the causes of de gaulle’s resignation as president of france.

    • UP n student on March 19, 2008 at 9:44 am

    benign0 making light of Cory : “Cory has gone from Ms. Edsa Revolution to Pathetic Chump in 20 years” is a reflection of the politics of power. This is my perception of how this works:

    FVR commands the attention of the Malacanang-resident because FVR has a power-base in the military brotherhood code-of-whatever. Plus Carlyle, maybe there is something in Carlyle.

    Cory has no power-base, except money, and apparently, the money she is willing to “unleash” ain’t sufficient. Now things should change if Cory can deliver 5% of the votes on her say-so. Then the Malacanang-resident (and many of the members of Congress) will be more inclined to listen to Cory’s pleadings for whatever cause she pleads for, and “minorities” who want their pleadings to be acted on by Malacanang can “coalesce” with Cory.

    The resident of Malacanang has closed-door sessions with the CBCP, not because of religiosity, but because of (the threat of) votes delivered. “Minorities” who can “coalesce” with the CBCP (like those American anti-birth-control anti-sex-education groups) can then have the men-in-cassocks be messengers for their cause.

    • mlq3 on March 19, 2008 at 9:49 am

    aames, she was undeniably brave, but those were precautionary security measures. no aspersion of her was intended or should be construed.

    • mlq3 on March 19, 2008 at 9:51 am

    mindanaoan, the whole confirmation system is being abused:

    • UP n student on March 19, 2008 at 10:01 am

    mlq3: Margaret Thatcher’s “reign” unravelled because she had lost the confidence of the members of her own party (as the members of her party began to feel the heat from the population concerning Thatcher’s policies on local government taxation, plus “it’s the economy!!! Madam!!”). She was effectively voted out.

    • mindanaoan on March 19, 2008 at 10:06 am

    mlq3, yes, the system needs rethinking. my point tho’ is that the attitude of those involved did not include throwing jamby out because they assent that the rules is on her side.

    • UP n student on March 19, 2008 at 10:17 am

    mlq3: what I wanted to point out to (re Margaret Thatcher) is that she left office per “normal script”. It was not the “surge” in Trafalgar Square that forced her out. The booting-out process involved members of her party (whose actions reflected (a bit) of what they thought their constituency were concerned with).
    “Lost the confidence of her party” is analogous to “forward the impeachment documents to next step”.

    • DinaPinoy on March 19, 2008 at 10:25 am


    ABS-CBN profiteering ba ika mo?

    panoorin ang ingenuity ng pinoy….er…EBS-CBN!

    • rego on March 19, 2008 at 10:28 am

    “Kasi, kung ganito din lang, aba, I think therefore citizens are better advised, huwag na kayong magsumbong. Delikado. Magugulo lang ang buhay n’yo wala namang mangyayaring mabuti. Kakantiyawan lang kayo ni Ca T, RegO, benignO, atbp hehehe.”

    Sus Ricelander nag paka OA.

    Read carefully all my comments. In this particular thread, I praised Clarissa Ocampo while I cant give the admiration for Lozada. Clearly, I am not against anyone na gustong magsumbong. I Just wanted them to do it more effectively. Nang matapos na tayo noh.

    Geeezzz this has been taking soooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo loooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooong already!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    • UP n student on March 19, 2008 at 10:48 am

    Side-topic: Important conference kicks of Yale University July 2008

    Christians, Muslims move ahead on global talks
    Religious leaders plan to meet this year in the US, Britain, and at the Vatican to defuse tensions.
    By Jane Lampman | Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor

    Gatherings of top religious leaders and even some heads of state will take place this year in the United States, at the Vatican, and in Britain, aimed at defusing tensions between the West and the Muslim world.
    The first-of-their-kind dialogues – which will kick off in July – will begin with theological discussions but seek practical results. Yet they’re stirring some debate within the faith groups as to the proper way to engage “the other” and whether common ground can be found.

    The initiative was sparked last October by “A Common Word Between Us and You,” an open letter from 138 Muslim clergy and scholars from more than 40 nations to the leaders of all the world’s major Christian churches. Concerned that “the future of the world depends on peace between Muslims and Christians,” the Muslim leaders proposed dialogue on the basis of the shared principles of “the love of God, and love of the neighbor.”

    Most of the churches responded positively, buoyed both by the letter and the authority of those who signed it – representing most schools of Muslim thought.

    “The Christian response was overwhelming, and we’ve been humbled by it,” says Sohail Nakhooda, Jordanian editor in chief of Islamica magazine and a member of the Muslim planning team. “This meant we had a lot of serious work ahead!”

    Yale University will host the first global conference in July, which will involve a broad spectrum of Christian denominations, as well as Jewish clergy and political leaders. At a Vatican meeting in early March, plans were set for a Catholic-Muslim forum in November, in which the pope will participate. Muslims plan a conference with Anglicans in Britain in October focused on the scriptures, and are talking with the Orthodox churches as well.

    “One of the best things that’s happened is the opening of an avenue of discussion with denominations where we never thought it possible – with Evangelicals,” Mr. Nakhooda adds.

    The most in-depth Christian response, a letter authored at Yale Divinity School, included many prominent Evangelicals among the signers. But that response, “Loving God and Neighbor Together,” has spurred debate among Evangelicals, whose views on Islam and dialogue with Muslims vary greatly.
    Some influential conservative leaders were distressed by the wording of the response. John Piper, pastor of a large Baptist church in Minneapolis, and R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, said the letter and any dialogue should speak from the unique Christian standpoint, including the nature of Jesus Christ and the Trinity. Given different understandings of God, “to talk as though the love of God is a common standpoint is wrong,” Dr. Piper said in a video that’s played on YouTube.

    The president of Wheaton College, a prominent evangelical school, initially signed the letter but later withdrew due to concerns within his college community. Numerous influential evangelicals are on board, however, including megachurch pastors Rick Warren and Bill Hybels.

    Viewing this discussion among Christians as healthy, Yale has put the questions being raised on its website along with responses. For example, is Allah the same God that Christians worship?

    “The point of the Muslim letter was starting with common ground,” Mr. Cumming says. “They resisted the temptation to polemicize against [Christian] doctrines, and our response resisted the temptation to polemicize for them.”

    On the Muslim side, there are those who are reluctant to join a dialogue because of negative statements some Christian leaders have made about Islam, Nakhooda says. But those voices are overshadowed, he says, by “the fact that so many of the most important figures who have street credibility in Muslim capitals are fully behind it.”

    • DuckVader on March 19, 2008 at 10:52 am

    Benigno says:

    Here’s another good one courtesy of Sean Connery’s brilliant character in that late 1990’s film classic The Rock:

    Losers whine about doing their best.
    Winners go home and fnck the Prom Queen.

    Tough luck to all the world’s losers! 😀


    Prom queen gets pregnant and you’re forced to marry her and you find she’s got a lot of space between the ears. The real winners right the book and then appear on Oprah 🙂

    • DuckVader on March 19, 2008 at 10:54 am

    Benigno writes:

    Unfortunately for hopeless romantics like you, efficiency as a measure does not distinguish between “decency” and ACHIEVEMENT.


    Fortunately for me, I still believe in decency vs. plain achievement.

    • mlq3 on March 19, 2008 at 11:02 am

    upn, precisely, the heat is what’s felt, and to save itself, the party will sacrifice the leader.

    there are many ways and many fora to put the heat on a ruling party and its leader.

    and part of the heat comes from the tactics the leadership pursues when it comes to those critical of it. such as sending mounted police to charge protesters in the heart of london.

    • cvj on March 19, 2008 at 11:03 am

    hawaiianguy, kabayan’s list you pointed to is not a list of system problems. they are gripes against a pet peeve. – mindanaoan

    The pointer to Kabayan’s list came from me. What’s your criteria for accepting something as being a system problem or dismissing it as a “gripe against a pet peeve”?

    is it permissible to go around the system, run to the court of public opinion, cite unwritten code of ethics, invite some kind of alien morality (or just call it people power) to effect a system change given that you are boxed in by current parameters? – mindanaoan

    If our well being depended on it, i believe the answer would be yes. The political system does not exist for its own sake. It forms part of the environment in which we the people exist. As individuals, we deal with it as with any other environmental problem. Al Gore’s analogy of boiling the frog is applicable to our situation.

    • benign0 on March 19, 2008 at 11:05 am

    benign0: review the poll tax, the protests, and riot, then the eventual resignation of margaret thatcher and every single one of your questions will be answered. the 8 month unraveling of her government began with a protest and then the supression of that protest. — mlq3


    I think UP n student already responded to what you highlight above.

    What was implicit but not explicit in UP n’s response was the scenario where the official in question chooses not to resign as I stated explicitly in my original comment to you:

    If for example, this official chooses not to bow to the people, what then? If force is used to remove this official from office, how exactly are we to determine beyond reasonable doubt that such force was warranted? — benign0

    Thatcher resigned voluntarily bowing to pressure from members of her party as UP n highlighted. Such a process is possible under a parliamentary system of government.

    Unfortunately the only analogy of that process in the Philippine setting is impeachment.

    So the original question remains:

    If the court of public opinion renders its “judgment”, what then? More importantly, so what?

    More questions but still no resolution Mr. Quezon. This discussion is a microcosm of the world you espouse.

    • UP n student on March 19, 2008 at 11:48 am

    mlq3: I will agree that demonstrations, rallies (along with Letters-to-the-Editor, TV-interviews, and hiring of lobbyists) are among the many legitimate ways/many fora for a population-segment (or a business-segment) to communicate their concerns, issues, priorities to a ruling party and its leader.

    • mlq3 on March 19, 2008 at 12:14 pm

    again, the question is, if a leader espouses policies or represents a government that has lost its appeal to the public, and the leader is protected by a fixed term, what are the options?

    for the leader, to toughen it out, and stamp out protest. this can work or fail, it can boomerang. so thatcher imposes a poll tax, people get angry, she sends in the mounted police, people get even angrier, the party jettisons the pm and by so doing hopes to stay in office (which the tories did), but the point is theparty was responsive to the people -after making a mess of crowd dispersals.

    for the population, it’s to engage in protest to express its sentiments, and protests can include marches, petitions, demonstrations, civil disobedience. if violence is resorted to, the authorities are strengthened, because the authorities can employ superior force. unless the situation (using force) strips government of its legitimacy -forcing the politicians to jettison the leadership for self preservation.

    returning to the leader, in between formal elections the leader can resort to a referendum to revalidate the leader’s mandate. this is what de gaulle did in the face of student demonstrations. he lost the attempt at revalidating his mandate. he resigned.

    peaceful demonstrations, and mounting peaceful political pressure, is what makes a resignation, i suppose, “voluntary,” whether in the case of thatcher, de gaulle, nixon, estrada, etc.

    the what then or so what depends on the interplay between leaders and the public. at the very least, public pressure forces a leader to reform or be more conciliatory, if formerly confrontational. public pressure from europe, for example, led to the dropping of the policy of liquidating the above-ground forces of the left, even if there was similar domestic pressure but the administration chose not to bow to that domestic pressure. it bowed, however, to international pressure.

    public pressure and legislative oversight led to the jettisoning of the nbn-zte deal; whether it will lead to actual convictions is a different matter; what was resolved, however, was that a policy the public was not convinced of, and which kept raising inconvenient questions for the administration, had to be scrapped. there is an ongoing review, too, of the administration’s policies towards the spratleys, which can only clarify that policy, and justify it before the people or which opens so many new cans of worms it will deservedly be reconsidered if that’s the case.

    at the very least: what then? oversight, pressures that work in favor of transparency, and possibly, genuine accountability whether sooner or later, in other words, limits on the instinctive desire of leaders to exercise impunity.

    what then if, in the face of public opinion, officials won’t budge? it raises the ante and increases the pressure for retribution, again, if not sooner, then later (or yes, possibly never at all: but at least the citizenry tried). you may not remove the president before 2010, because of many factors, including the inability of her critics to understand public disgust with *all* officials and not just those of the administration, or the lack of clear-cut action plans, or the disillusionment of the public with past exercises, or their biases that a clever crook with good table manners is preferable to a bumbling, lazy, drunk crook, etc.

    i’ve written about minimum and maximum expectations. at the very least those who want to move faster and those who don’t want to move at all, are fostering a debate on methods and objectives. this can only be healthy, if your premise is that the public is capable of a certain wisdom, and for example, if they are upset with the government but don’t want to take to the streets, but on the other hand condone those who do, it works out, somehow, in the end.

    another example: those who want the president to go, but do not accomplish it before 2010 -but along the way, make it impossible for her to perpetuate herself in office beyond that, then that is an achievement that makes the vigilance from 2005-2010 worth it. if it results in lakas-kampi being trounced at the polls, better yet, come 2010, or if it results in the beginning of the end for them, politically, and the rise of a reform constituency that may not win in 2016 but begins to flex its muscles and does even better by 2016, then that’s great, too.

    but every act of citizen-involvement has a role to play in the democratic setting. secretiveness and unresponsiveness are instinctive in the present crop of officials; if they weren’t hounded, they wouldn’t budge; if they budge, they can be made to budge more. it’s never futile because it forces other people to clarify their own stands and limits.

    • mlq3 on March 19, 2008 at 12:25 pm

    upn, thanks for that. and as different groups and individuals propose their solutions, it is up to the body politic to debate those proposals, or shrug them off. in the end, whatever one’s individual advocacies may be, one must accept the public’s will.

    • mindanaoan on March 19, 2008 at 1:39 pm

    cvj, yes, the political system does not exist for its own sake. it exists for all of us and those of future generations who will benefit from an orderly and stable government. to undermine its institutions for the sake of your well being is, i’m sorry to say, selfish.

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