In his column, Marvin Tort looks at the scuttlebutt concerning the latest round of executive reshufflings:
With Ricardo Saludo moving out, the position of Cabinet secretary becomes available. Coffee shops are also rife with rumors that outgoing Armed Forces Chief of Staff Gen. Hermogenes Esperon is likely to be appointed to the Defense post, while Defense Secretary Gilberto Teodoro (a nephew of Eduardo “Danding” Cojuangco) will likely move to the Interior department. Interior Secretary Ronaldo Puno, meantime, will reportedly move to the Palace as executive secretary, while Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita will either be posted abroad or moved to the state gaming regulator Pagcor.
Another version of the rumor has Environment Secretary Lito Atienza moving to the Interior department, considering his long-time experience as a local official, first as vice mayor and then as mayor of the City of Manila. Other potential vacancies in the Cabinet are from the possible replacement of Agriculture Secretary Arthur Yap, who may be moved back to the Palace as Cabinet secretary in place of Saludo; and Finance Secretary Gary Teves, who may be either posted abroad or named to head either a government financial institution or a government-owned and -controlled corporation.
There seems to be some issue with some Cabinet performances, particularly those of Yap and Teves. Yap, who is reportedly intending to run for the Senate in 2010, is getting plenty of undeserved flak nowadays because of the escalating prices of rice and wheat as well as corn and livestock, while Teves is reportedly being made to account for the Bureau of Internal Revenue’s (BIR) collection shortfall for 2007. In the latter’s case, a party-list congressman who sits in the powerful Commission of Appointments already voiced his intention to ask Teves to explain the shortfall the next time the Finance secretary appears before the commission.
The Agriculture and Finance posts are obvious hardship posts, more so now with the brewing problems involving food security as well as limited government finances for much-need infrastructure and public spending. In this sense, it may be highly unlikely for the Palace to attract “new faces” to assume these posts. But it can choose to rehabilitate older faces, including former representative Butch Pichay, who may yet be interested to give Agriculture a go after failing in his bid to “plant” himself in the Senate. As for Finance, on and off several names have been bandied about, including those of Trade Secretary Peter Favila and Education Secretary Jesli Lapus, who were both at one time bankers in their respective professional careers. Also rumored to be considered for the post is the Development Bank of the Philippines’s Reynaldo David. Prior to joining Finance, Teves was also a banker, serving as chief executive of Land Bank of the Philippines.
What a deep bench!
History Unfolding makes an interesting comparison between Richard Nixon and Hillary Clinton, but finds her wanting, in comparison to Nixon, in one respect: party loyalty. This bears reading in the wake of Clinton’s victory in Pennsylvania (what does her winning margin mean? “Not a ringing endorsement,” says History Unfolding. See Slate’s Trailhead).
Back in 2007, I pointed to this entry, Samsung Slush Fund Scandal (via Global Voices). The drama came to a head with the results of an investigation that found the head of Samsung should be indicted for tax evasion, etc. but stopped short of pinning him down on the original allegations of maintaining a corporate slush fund to influence the government. No conviction, mind you, just a finding of cause for prosecution. Still, over the past few days, Korea’s Samsung Faces a Revolution Over Resignation, Scandal:
As a result, the company faces a continued crusade by the its former legal affairs chief, Kim Yong-cheol, to bring the chaebol to justice on allegations that it maintained a massive slush fund to pay off politicians, judges, journalists, civic groups and scholars and, so Kim claims, just about anybody else it needed to bribe. Kim and two civic groups — the Solidarity for Economic Reform and The People’s Solidarity for Participatory Democracy — said they will file appeals to the nation’s prosecution to reinvestigate.
The giant conglomerate also faces the continued animosity of the Catholic Priests Association for Justice, a 30-year-old association of priests that played a unique role in the drive for democracy in the 1980s and continues to serve as the nation’s conscience; Kim brought his allegations to the clerics last October before going public with them.
On another Korea-related note, see A Hanjin Heavy construction project inside a protected forest raises a storm of protest.
On to the blogosphere.
A story related by a friend in the bureaucracy.
A highly Americanized Secretary of Foreign Affairs was appointed and he decreed that it was high time the bureaucracy dispensed with typewriters and computerize its operations.
Studies were made; orders were placed; greater and greater heights of efficiency would soon be reached.
The time for budget proposals came and various underlings filed into the SECFORAF’s office, equipment requisitions in hand. They boasted computers and the necessary appurtenances thereto; but then, the boss noticed that there was still a budget provision for the purchase of typewriters.
“Goddamnit,” the Secretary of Foreign Affairs thundered, “I thought I told you to get rid of these damned things!”
A bureaucrat nodded, took the paper, looked at his boss, and quietly said, “brownouts, Sir.”
The SECFORAF grabbed the requisition papers and signed.
This story was brought to mind by Power Not by Desire, But By Right , in which cocoy continues the dialogue that’s been taking place between himself and various bloggers, and the group discussion that’s ensued. He has a key insight in comparing the debates on moving the country forward to debates between advocates of science and defenders of religion. The science-versus-religion debate is one that irks me, because it is essentially futile.
I never tire of asking people to read Stephen Jay Gould’s essay, Nonoverlapping Magisteria, much as it explains my own views of religion and science dealing with things that are really separate departments in our lives (an interesting critique of this, from the point of view of those interested in actually reconciling science with religion, is in A Separate Peace: Stephen Jay Gould and the Limits of Tolerance).
Religion and science deal with different Truths. Randy David was telling a group of people at a book launch recent of an Italian Marxist intellectual who is Gay and a practicing Catholic. How could he reconcile all these, he was asked. In a Postmodern world, he said, all things are possible. But that is already straying into the idea that there is no such thing as Truth.
The question of science and religion matters though, when religion is put forward as a problem in society, and therefore, politics, and when politics, it’s proposed, should be approached in a more scientific manner. Both represent dangerous situations.
Both science and religion, for example, have been used to promote the persecution of minorities; the solution to the dangers posed by both is a pluralistic, secular, but not atheistic, political order of some sort.
It would be wrong to demand of someone that they commit one of the ultimate crimes in religion -apostasy- in the name of science; it would be equally wrong to let science run rampant without ethics; but it would be wrong to confuse ethics with religious morality. Such a puzzlement! Hence my view that these are achieved only by trial-and-error and evolution, and not by attempts at social engineering -which all political revolutions are.
There is this impatience with religion, and anything non-scientific, as -well, to use the term with delicious irony- something anathema to progress, sanity, most of all, Reason with a capital “r”.
Since the Renaissance and the Enlightenment, people have tried to approach human behavior from a scientific point of view; the scientific method informs our behavior far more than we usually think; and up to the 19th Century -think of the Germans and their reduction of the Art of History into the History as one of Social Sciences- it seemed science would rule all and triumph absolutely. cocoy’s Elliot Maggin quote could just as well have been written by the revolutionaries in France who gave the world the far more rational Metric System. But the French and other revolutions also tells us that there is nothing new about the desire to topple superstition except the superstition that such desires are new or that they can be accomplished in willful defiance of a society’s norms.
Where did his and subsequent Five Year Plans get him or the Russians? His successor, Stalin, had to (temporarily) rehabilitate the Russian Orthodox Church, and appeal to the Motherland and not Glorious Socialism to inspire the Soviets to resist the Germans; he also had to restore military ranks, gold braid, and decorations to motivate the military. And the result is the rebuilding of Orthodox Churches throughout Russia after Scientific Socialism collapsed, because it proved to be a religion like any other.
Same with Mao, Pol Pot… There is no Final Solution for society, though there was once that effort to achieve a lasting “solution” to the “Jewish Question.” Yet how did that turn out? Israel was established after the Third Reich was consumed in the flames of shelling and fire bombing.
Robert MacNamara pioneered the use of computers for strategic bombing during World War II; his attempt to wage the Vietnam War in a scientifically rational manner, as Barbara Tuchman described it, placed that American effort as part of a continuum –“The March of Folly: From Troy to Vietnam”– that includes the Trojan War and its famous horse.
Randy David pointed out that in terms of society, we are undergoing a crisis of modernity. The crisis is being exacerbated by our political class, which finds itself uncompetitive in terms of public expectations and its own narrow interests. Society, too, is torn between modern attitudes and values and yes, fear of upsetting the status quo, which is to put it mildly, imperfect but at least, predictable.
Another sign is part of a larger trend, which is, that official wrongdoing is measured according to the past (i.e. Marcos) and if it isn’t an exact duplicate, then it’s nothing to worry about -but governments around the world have realized they can be more subtle about repression that past regimes, and subtlety lies in a “legalistic approach” to challenges to authority. What is this “legalistic” approach? The mantra of the administration, “bring it to court,” and say, Sweden, where two officials resigned over a firm they were formerly associated with, turning out to have exaggerated earnings; a year previously, the trade minister resigned over allegations of tax evasion.
In Sweden I was told sixty years of Socialist rule was broken only twice, most recently in the last election; observers won’t be surprised if in the next election blatantly racist party representative’s end up elected; reason, order, equality, have their limits. In the end, one Swede told me, they voted against the Socialists simply because they were tired of the same old faces, never mind if the Conservatives kept many of the policies and programs of the previous regime. We are men and women and not machines.
Postmodernism is beyond my ken but it seems to me that cocoy’s approach is true to his nature as a programmer. That requires a particular mindset, a way of ordering data and problem solving.I can only guess at what, precisely, separates a programmer’s way of thinking from, say, mine.
I cannot use the terms he takes for granted with any sort of precision. Reboot? Debug? Both point to the same Operating System? Replace the OS altogether, but will it be better? Are these even the proper terms or analogies?
Not necessarily and probably not; but will focusing on the rapidly changing face of technology and how its changing society, and basing political proposals on that be new -or as innovative as we might think? New Order, New Society, all old, old, old. Even Marx has been criticized as essentially pining for a return to what? Rousseau’s State of Nature?
For those, like me, who view things organically, is there any fundamental clash with the cultural programming other people propose? Only in terms, I think, of frames of reference. An organic development is something the British point to, their last revolution having been in 1688, and it was a (fairly) peaceful one, though it involved foreign conquest. Yet revolutionary changes have taken place, most recently when the Death Duties were imposed and took the aristocracy out of politics. But you are speaking here of looking at things in terms of centuries, generations, not nanoseconds.
But returning to things here at home. I think everyone dissatisfied with how things are, expresses dissatisfaction with the absence of competition.
Or put another way, what are perceived to be unfair competitive advantages for some. Say, the Catholic Church in population policy.
Condemning practicing Catholics or their clergy for medieval-minded approaches to population is futile because it requires apostasy of believers. On the other hand, the scientific method can be used -or what passes for it in terms of studying society- to determine if certain assumptions are valid. We assume the Church has political clout. Does it? But more importantly, in what ways, and what, if any, are the limits to its political influence? What are the views of the general public in the case of religion’s faith and morals and how they are applied in real life? Do religions wield a positive or negative clout, are they better at proposing, or more effective at opposing, policy? And so on. A scientific approach to competition solves the problem with requiring or wasting time on getting people to denounce their religion.
Incidentally, good to see Benign0 is blogging. He brings up the question of trust; there are institutions in the Philippines that do function, and function in the public interest, or at least, which come close to doing so (it may sometimes be subdivisions of particular offices, such as portions of the National Archives, or say, the government office tasked with preparing maps, even some parts of the Office of the President, or even much of NEDA or some sub-offices of the Department of Education, for example) but the problem is the ramshackle approach that permeates everything else -and it goes beyond government, and includes the private sector.
Which is not to say changes aren’t taking place. They are, and those changes are, to my mind, profound -the end of the “old obediences” (see Charisma versus routines. the genesis of this in comments I wrote on August 21, 2007 and August 22, 2007) This is actually a revolutionary change, to my mind; but it cannot be accelerated although it will have the tendency to accelerate changes. But there is a difference between believing you can push it along and working to harness the momentum such changes have already produced.
Someone deeply involved in the peace process told me that you need a decade of peace for it to really sink in and alter people’s behavior, so that development takes place. At best, 2010 can only be the first glimmerings of a Reform Constituency and a realistic expectation, assuming we retain the current setup, is for that constituency to be poised to take power in 2016. Therefore if one of the goals is to exact justice for the crimes of the past few years, forget about it. And my suspicion is, this desire will actually hinder the coming together and the gathering of the momentum for that change in leadership and attitudes to governance in 2016. Because it will only lead to current wounds festering beyond 2010.
Just a tidbit: didn’t realize, until I reviewed my June 10, 2005 entry, that the admin’s fondness for the Mabuhay Rotonda dates to the early days of the crisis.