Did you know that May is Anti-Graft and Corruption Awareness Month? Information is a good tool for ferreting out graft and corruption, and a Freedom of Information Act will be a step in the right direction. As Uniffors puts it, with the proposed bill being sponsored on the floor of the House, Cockroaches placed on notice.
My Arab News column for the week’s Cooperation in the Wake of Rice Panic. (and recently, it was Canada’s turn: Food-buying panic hits Canadian stores). The column refers to the chart above, distributed in a recent newsletter of Nouriel Roubini. As it is, Rice prices may fall by 50% by yearend–economists. But for now, it’s belt-tightening all around, as The Unlawyer, who is visiting Singapore, noticed.
My entry yesterday focused on the effect on prices of the government’s rice purchases; today’s news has OPEC-style rice cartel up. Interesting information also in Why rice prices surging to record highs. (export curbs; building up national rice stocks; falling world inventories; speculation; changes in land use; and growing population being the main causes).
Incidentally, three articles by Cielito Habito I haven’t linked to, yet: Is there a rice shortage? and (Mis)targeting the poor and Food, fuel and finance . The middle column is particularly relevant because of the question of mapping the poor:
During the Ramos administration, targeting was done by focusing government assistance on the 20 poorest provinces, defined as the provinces with the highest percentage incidences of poverty. It was soon realized, however, that only 11 percent of all poor Filipinos were in those provinces, many of which were smaller ones. Thus, even if all the poor in those provinces were lifted out of poverty, it would make a small dent on national poverty levels. The targeting scheme was thus refined to focus on the 5th and 6th class municipalities, on the premise that the poor can be found in the poor municipalities. We know, of course, that not all people in such municipalities are poor, and even 1st class municipalities have many poor dwellers.
The Estrada administration took a different approach: government sought to focus assistance to the 100 poorest families in each province and city, with the local governments tasked to identify them. With little data on which to base the selection, it took two years for the LGUs to finally come up with their lists; by then, a new administration had taken over.
The Arroyo administration took yet another approach to targeting, as exemplified in its Food-for-School and Tindahan Natin Programs (FSP and TNP respectively). Government has devised a Food Insecurity and Vulnerability Information Mapping System (FIVIMS) that identifies very, very vulnerable (VVV), very vulnerable (VV) and vulnerable (V) LGUs. All 17 towns and cities in Metro Manila are included as target areas regardless of vulnerability level, for clearly political reasons. For FSP, all VVV municipalities are also automatically included, along with the poorest municipalities in VV and V provinces. For TNP, locations of stores were based on a rapid poverty mapping done by DSWD, focused on prevalence of malnutrition and lack of rice supply.
Unfortunately, our track record at targeting the poor has been downright dismal. Studies by Dr. Rosario Manasan and by Dr. Celia Reyes of the Philippine Institute for Development Studies (PIDS) have measured leakage rates (percentage of non-poor beneficiaries) and undercoverage rates (percentage of the poor who do not benefit) of the above targeting mechanisms. Results show that more than half of the recipients of the targeted assistance are actually non-poor, with leakage rates of 62 percent for FSP and 66 percent for TNP. Undercoverage of FSP was estimated at 80 percent, i.e. only one-fifth of total target beneficiaries are assisted by the program.
Interestingly, Metro Manila accounts for the bulk (71 percent) of the leakages in FSP. Similarly, the leakage rate for TNP declines from 66 to 59 percent if Metro Manila stores are not counted. Substantial leakages in targeted assistance is the price government has been paying for buying political support from the more visible and more vocal constituencies in Metro Manila through their indiscriminate inclusion in targeted assistance programs.
Vulnerability, incidentally, seemed a very good criteria, it’s a concept that’s been adopted by the International Red Cross, for example: Red Cross efforts are supposed to focus on vulnerable populations and individuals, not just in times of disaster, but in general.
The failure of the various government programs to target the poor, however, boggles the mind, in that it shows how trying to take a scientific approach can easily be subverted by human behavior -or “gaming the system” as it’s been called.
The Mount Balutacan Monitor points to a report that the provincial government in Misamis Oriental is in shock because a massive shipyard project has croaked.
My column for today is Senate swindled?
The thing is, I’ve only encountered the Pimentel resolution in bits and pieces online. It’s not on the Senate site. It’s not in the news sites. So a thorough review of what the bill contains is impossible.
For background see Federalism gets majority backing in Senate and 16 senators now back Pimentel’s shift to federalism. Background in Newsbreak’s In a surprise move, senators give qualified yes to charter debate. which also gives a digest of the Senate’s proposed changes to the Constitution:
The resolution will require the revision of 14 of the existing 18 Articles of the Constitution and the addition of two new articles. It seeks to adopt a federal presidential bicameral form of government.
Specifically, it calls for the creation of 11 federal states out of the existing political subdivisions of the country and one federal administration region.
It seeks the transfer of the legislative department to the proposed Federal State of Central Visayas, the judicial department to the Federal State of Northern Luzon while maintaining the executive department in the proposed Federal Administrative Region of Metro Manila…
…Other major proposals: the election of senators based on states; the election of senators representing overseas voters; the election of the president and the vice-president as a team; the abolition of the Judicial and Bar Council which screens nominees to the judiciary etc.
Blog @ AWBHoldings.com asks who is afraid of Federalism, and engages in counting potential votes (and potential opportunities for double-crosses in the voting), and he points to the whole subject of constitutional amendments being viewed as a Trojan horse.
Who else is critical of Federalism? Senator Arroyo is against it, and his argument is one shared by quite a few people, too: Federalism to create ’11 little fiefdoms, 11 little kings’.
For the thinking behind Pimentel’s proposal, blogger reytrillana reproduces a recent speech in which Pimentel explains why he supports Federalism. Blogger A Simple Life supports a serious examination of Federalism but thinks the current proposal provides for too many states:
One thing of concern though, is that 11 states plus one administrative region I think, is just a bit too many. Seven (7) states and an administrative region would be better, i.e., feasible and sustainable:
1. Northern Luzon (Ilocos, CAR, Cagayan Valley, Central Luzon)
2. Southern Luzon (CALABARZON, Mindoro, Marinduque, Bicol)
3. Western Visayas (Western Visayas, Romblon, Palawan)
4. Eastern Visayas (Central Visayas, Eastern Visayas)
5. Northern Mindanao (Western Mindanao, Northern Mindanao, CARAGA)
6. Southern Mindanao (Davao Region, SOCCSKSARGEN)
7. Bangsamoro (ARMM)
8. Federal Administrative Region (NCR)
One stumbling block is the rhetorical attraction (rhetorical, because not precisely factual, as Torn and Frayed has argued; one thing a Federal system does not abolish is a national capital; and one thing Federalism does not remove, is the need for, or authority, of a national government) of being freed of “Imperial Manila” while getting the nagging feeling, on the other hand, that this might be a license not for regional growth, but regional chaos.
That Federalism will only balkanize the country is is indeed a cause for worry; see Francis Fukuyama (China’s powerful weakness: Beijing’s reach isn’t big enough to stop local governments from abusing the rights of ordinary citizens) writing in the Los Angeles Times, on how even strong, unitary states are concerned over the periphery ending up lawless regions.
On a related note, Ian Baruma, in The Last of the Tibetans, takes a look at Tibet and wonders if the Tibetans aren’t going to end up like the American Indians:
The Chinese have much to answer for, but the fate of Tibet is not just a matter of semi-colonial oppression. It is often forgotten that many Tibetans, especially educated people in the larger towns, were so keen to modernize their society in the mid-twentieth century that they saw the Chinese Communists as allies against rule by holy monks and serf-owning landlords. In the early 1950Ã¢â‚¬â„¢s, the young Dalai Lama himself was impressed by Chinese reforms and wrote poems praising Chairman Mao.
Alas, instead of reforming Tibetan society and culture, the Chinese Communists ended up wrecking it. Religion was crushed in the name of official Marxist atheism. Monasteries and temples were destroyed during the Cultural Revolution (often with the help of Tibetan Red Guards). Nomads were forced to live in ugly concrete settlements. Tibetan arts were frozen into folkloric emblems of an officially promoted Ã¢â‚¬Å“minority culture.Ã¢â‚¬Â And the Dalai Lama and his entourage were forced to flee to India.
None of this was peculiar to Tibet. The wrecking of tradition and forced cultural regimentation took place everywhere in China. In some respects, the Tibetans were treated less ruthlessly than the majority of Chinese. Nor was the challenge to Tibetan uniqueness typical of the Communists. General Chiang Kai-shek declared in 1946 that the Tibetans were Chinese, and he certainly would not have granted them independence if his Nationalists had won the civil war.
If Tibetan Buddhism was severely damaged, Chinese Communism has barely survived the ravages of the twentieth century, either. But capitalist development has been even more devastating to Tibetan tradition. Like many modern imperialist powers, China claims legitimacy for its policies by pointing to their material benefits. After decades of destruction and neglect, Tibet has benefited from enormous amounts of Chinese money and energy to modernize the country. The Tibetans cannot complain that they have been left behind in ChinaÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s transformation from a Third World wreck to a marvel of supercharged urban development.
But the price in Tibet has been higher than elsewhere. Regional identity, cultural diversity, and traditional arts and customs have been buried under concrete, steel, and glass all over China. And all Chinese are gasping in the same polluted air. But at least the Han Chinese can feel pride in the revival of their national fortunes. They can bask in the resurgence of Chinese power and material wealth. The Tibetans, by contrast, can share this feeling only to the extent that they become fully Chinese. If not, they can only lament the loss of their own identity.
The Chinese have exported their version of modern development to Tibet not only in terms of architecture and infrastructure, but also people Ã¢â‚¬â€œ wave after wave of them: businessmen from Sichuan, prostitutes from Hunan, technocrats from Beijing, party officials from Shanghai, and shopkeepers from Yunnan. The majority of LhasaÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s population today is no longer Tibetan. Most people in rural areas are Tibetan, but their way of life is not likely to survive Chinese modernization any more than the ApachesÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ way of life survived in the United States.
Since Chinese is the language of instruction at Tibetan schools and universities, anyone who wishes to be more than a poor peasant, beggar, or seller of trinkets must conform to Chinese norms, that is, become Chinese. Even Tibetan intellectuals who want to study their own classical literature must do so in Chinese translation. Meanwhile, Chinese and other foreign tourists dress up in traditional Tibetan dress to have their souvenir pictures taken in front of the Dalai LamaÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s old palace.
Baruma’s article, while focusing on Tibet, basically lists the grievances and concerns that have convinced some people to advocate Federalism.
In Federalism Today, which dates back to 2002, Ronald Watts tackled the question: why the Federal appeal?
To what can this increased interest in federalism be attributed? One major factor has been the recognition that an increasingly global economy has unleashed centrifugal economic political forces weakening the traditional nation-state and strengthening both international and local pressures. As a result national governments are faced increasingly with the desires of their populaces to be both global consumers and local self-governing citizens at the same time. Thus, the nation state is at the same time proving both too small and too large to serve the desires of its citizens.
These developments have contributed to the current interest in federalism, not as an ideology, but in terms of practical questions about how to organize the sharing and distribution of political powers in a way that will enable the common needs of people to be achieved while accommodating the diversity of their circumstances and preferences.
The lessons proposed are interesting, too:
Experience since 1945 has taught us three major lessons. First, federal political systems do provide a practical way of combining, through representative institutions, the benefits of unity and diversity, but they are no panacea for all of humanity’s political ills. Second, the degree to which a federal political system can be effective will depend upon the extent to which there is acceptance of the need to respect constitutional norms and structures and upon an emphasis on the spirit of tolerance and compromise. Third, effectiveness also depends upon whether the particular form or variant of federal system that is adopted or evolved gives adequate expression to the demands and requirements of the particular society in question.
It seems to me many interested in Federalism like it because Federalism is a Solution to Resolve Ethnic Conflict, as Ellis Katz suggests. On the other hand, there’s Federalism as a means to more equitably distribute national resources. See the abstract of Fiscal Federalism and National Unity.
In particular, Spain seems to be a model for approaching Federalism from the point of view of finance, see Fiscal federalism and regional integration: lessons from Spain and the more complex Public Spending and Fiscal Federalism in Spain. Period 1984-1998. Spanish concerns over Federalism are reported by Giles Tremlett in a 2005 article. Spain is an interesting example because of the difficulties the Spaniards faced after the demise of Generalissimo Franco: how do you turn a feudal society into a functioning, modern democracy? See Federalism and the State of the Autonomies in Spain:
After 39 years of dictatorship (1936-1975), the death of General Franco offered Spain an immense opportunity to rebuild its institutions and create a system of government where the diversity of cultures was not an impediment to the reintroduction of democracy. It is with the Constitution of 1978 that this country ended the ancient discussion about the form of State that would better ensure governance and opened the path to the creation of the State of the Autonomies.
Incidentally, if anyone can help me get a copy of Democracy and Federalism in Spain (see this abstract, too). as well as Mexican Federalism Revisited, and Federalism and Caudillismo in the Mexican Revolution: The Genesis of the Oaxaca Sovereignty Movement (1915-20), I’d highly appreciate it.
Mon Casiple simply thinks the Senate proposal is a gambit to derail a Palace initiative -and that the gambit’s worked.
Meanwhile, my column also looks at the President’s plans to overhaul her cabinet; RG Cruz says the President’s become rather flirtatious about the whole thing. Mad Miriam weighs in, too: New Cabinet to be 2010 admin senatorial slate–Sen Santiago. The scuttlebutt for some time now has focused those waiting in the wings for appointments – includingRalph Recto, Tessie Aquino-Oreta (said to have already completed her Department of Education lineup of appointments) and Vicente Sotto III.
In the blogosphere, on an overseas political note, BuzzMachine looks at Democrats engaged in a schism in a top American political blog. In Malaysia, as you know Jeff Ooi is the first Malaysian blogger (Screenshots) to become an MP. He takes a frustrated -but highly humorous- look at parliamentary procedure in Speaker (Sabah): ‘No supplementary questions during Q&A today’.
And on a cultural note, see Why I Gave Up Blogs To Read More Books by Coconut Headsets.
Meanwhile, Al Gore needs to be off the list. He is a politician and a popularizer of a cause but it isn’t his ideas being discussed. Being a public intellectual means having thoughts that are original enough to influence lesser people’s thoughts. If agreeing with experts and promoting their ideas is public intellectualism, half the people with blogs can qualify.
Indeed, there is The dilemma of defining a Public Intellectual as blogger gov4sale dissects the question,
The best example comes from Alan Lightman in his article Ã¢â‚¬Å“The role of public intellectualsÃ¢â‚¬Â
Lightman bring the example of Ralph Waldo Emerson and his essay Ã¢â‚¬Å“The American ScholarÃ¢â‚¬Â in this essay Emerson describes the meaning and the function of the intellectual.
In this essay Emerson describes the intellectual as Ã¢â‚¬Å“preserves great idea of the past communicates them and creates new ideas. The intellectual does all of these things not out of obligation to his society, but out of obligation to himself.Ã¢â‚¬Â
The idea of the intellectual that is described by Emerson feels more of a noble idea, but a very true one, what Emerson describe as an intellectual is by far the most tangible idea ever.
To add to the above notion but with a more political character Edward Said describes Ã¢â‚¬Å“the intellectualÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s mission in life is to advance human freedom and knowledge, this often means standing outside of society and its institutions and actively disturbing the status quo.Ã¢â‚¬Â
With these two ideas combine together we draw a very distinct picture of what a public intellectual is, although some may disagree with this idea.
Lightman also bring a hierarchy of levels of public intellectuals
-level one: speaking and writing for the public exclusively about his/her discipline, example Brian GreenÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s book The Elegant Universe.
-level two: speaking and writing about his/her discipline and how it relates to the social, cultural, and political world around it, example James WatsonÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s the Double Helix.
-Level three: by invitation only. The intellectual has become elevated to a symbol, a person that stands for something far larger than the discipline from which he or she originated. According to Lightman these intellectuals is asked to write and speak about a large range of public issues. Example Einstein was asked to give public addresses on religion, education, ethics and world politics.
The Daily Telegraph unveils The 50 most influential US political pundits. The Debatable Land starts a survey on American Presidents: who are the most over-rated and the most under-rated? (On a personal note, can anyone help me turn this, into something more like this, without breaking the bank?)
We like lists because we instinctively want to classify everything see how Time Magazine did so in this year’s The World’s Most Influential People. But after that, we want to rank things. With regards to the Time 100, Joel Stein threw caution to the winds to try to cobble together a formula: then someone said he should refine it, which he did.
For The Top 10 Emerging Influential Blogs in 2008, a thorough effort to define criteria’s been undertaken by Can Talk Tech but what is a solid criteria for him may differ from the way other people approach the same task.
Let me weigh in with my list. Let me begin with a caveat: there are quite a few blogs I’ve added to my reading list over the past year, but they’re not new enough (cut-off is a blog birthday after July 1, 2007) to qualify for the list. These blogs are in no particular order. They represent my biases as to what I consider significant and these choices aren’t necessarily endorsements of these blogs, their advocacies, etc. Though for many of these blogs, I do heartily sympathize with them, which is why I follow them -but not all.
Update, July 30, 2010. I have changed some of my nominations, my final list is as follows:
1. Writer’s Block which is a fine example of intellectual efforts by a writer online.
2. The Mount Balatucan Monitor one of the regional blogs that makes inter-regional cross-pollination possible.
3.Since scaRRed_cat seems no longer updated, and though a good example of a veteran journalist trying to adapt to sharing articles online, I’ve decided to nominate fritzified.com instead. A wholesome combination of lifestyle, food, gadgetry, even fashion, but written from an intelligent point of view and not just flashy superficiality.
4. Mon Casiple’s Weblog on Philippine Politics. The finest example of an old school pundit settling in on the interweb.
5. I’d previously nominated Brian Gorrell’s The Not So Talented Mr. Montano? If Malou Fernandez was the Affair of the Diamond Necklace (complete with a mystery: she flew coach), then the birth of this blog was the Bastille moment of the Philippine blogosphere. His recent decision to start outing people, though, is reprehensible. His other motives and postings can be debated but his outing people, well, I don’t know. For that reason, I nominate At Midfield, instead. Ging Gagelonia is a journalist who broke new ground through his reportage and commentary in the blogosphere on the Sulpicio lines sinking.
6. New Philippine Revolution, an intriguing blog and one that I think has a covert following among the politically-inclined. Also, an example of how anonymous blogging can be effective.
7. Vera Files. Had a discussion on Twitter if this counts as a blog or not, but Juned Sonido opined it does. If so, it marks the emergence of what could comprise the Big Three in independent journalism online.
8. Ateneans ACT, which became a forum for advocacy and debate among the alumni of one school, and which served as a model for advocacy and inter-generational debate, lost its steam. While this site marks the evolution and, to my mind, coming of age of the political advocacy blog, I have decided to nominate stuart-santiago instead. Seems to me male bloggers still dominate and hers is a voice of rationality and questioning that bears following.
9. Team RP, particularly because it’s on Multiply and there seems to be a lingering bias of sorts I can’t quite pin down, but it seems to be there, against Multiply/Friendster etc. blogs. This blog is significant because it’s wedded to an advocacy site, and it’s an advocacy led by, and targeted at, the youth, which conventional wisdom tagged as apathetic -but who proved the pundits wrong after NBN-ZTE broke. The kids were just waiting for an issue that really engrossed them.
10. I’m not sure if FilipinoVoices.com counts, because it’s composed of veteran bloggers and commenters, but, well, it’s new and is making ripples, if not waves.
You may be interested to read the choices of Filipinayzd, atheista (campaigning, actually, for Visit Sagada), Viloria.net, SELaplana, My First One Million Pesos, and Mapiles.com, Tingog.com and Shari.
Elsewhere in blogolandia, The Journal of the Jester-in-Exile takes a look at the hostility and patronizing attitude he believes afflicts many journalists; a relevant reading’s John Nery’s Barbarians at the gates? And see The Race: Newspapers have a bright future as print-digital hybrids after all Ã¢â‚¬â€ but theyÃ¢â‚¬â„¢d better hurry, in the Columbia Journalism Review (thanks to Hector Bryant Macayle for the link). The Marocharim Experiment has a thought-provoking entry on media-blogger issues.
Hiraya: Endless Journey takes a meta-look at blogging.
Adel Tamano takes up blogging at The Opposite of Apathy.