law

UK Has Become a Democracy by Evolution Rather Than Revolution

Introduction

In first century B.C. Roman Empire was spread through out whole Europe including Southern Britain which including modern England. Roman Empire prevails not only by military means but also their culture, law and political system. At that time Rome was ruled by Senate, with the principles of ancient Democracy. That was a legacy of Greece to Rome. While conquering the world these Roman donate Democracy all over its territory as well as England. After the collapse of Roman Empire in 3rd century A.D. British people enjoyed some kind of independence from outer world. After some time whole island scattered to a number of kingdoms. Then, there was nothing left something called Democracy anymore. Only monarchs were left there which relies on feudalism.

Various invasions and migrations made mixed nation in Britain. British history was intermingled with dozens of cultures like Celtic, Roman, Anglo Saxon, Jute, French, Dane, Norse and Norman.

The main turning point of British history is invasion of William of Normandy in 1066.He beat the Saxon King Harold at the battle of Hastings. William and his descendants over England with violent and totalitarian regime and there was no liberal democracy. Gradually Norman Knights and those Saxons, who had some land and money, secure great power over the Kings. They had their own army as well as taxation process. Therefore Kings couldn’t rule country without their help (both military and financially).Especially the reign of inept Kings. However, the main characteristic of the British Constitution is there is no book or archive in written form. We can figure it out as series of bills consent in parliament and customs evolved time to time. These Bills and Customs built up evolution rather than revolution. From here let us consider main archives to prove that.

Magna Carta

In the reign of such inept King John in 1215,the great barons of the land rose up in mutiny and forced the King to sign an agreement called “Magna Carta”(Great Charter). They were questioned whether the King really should have total power over the country. From signing Magna Carta “the king to renounce certain rights and respect certain legal procedures, and to accept that the will of the king could be bound by law. Magna Carta was the first step in a long historical process leading to the rule of constitutional law.”

This is a revolutionary moment in British history. Probably, the preamble to the British constitution. Actually, the incident is seems like a revolutionary one, though it didn’t change structure of Monarch or abolish it. Feudalism continues. Only change was Nobles and Pope gets some power rather than before and some human rights were accepted as inviolable. Below mention the most valuable clause in the Charter even modern constitutions also added as fundamental right of human beings. That was;

“No free man shall be arrested, or imprisoned, or deprived of his property, or outlawed, or exiled, or in any way destroyed, nor shall we go against him or send against him, unless by legal judgement of his peers, or by the law of the land”.

In particular it set up the right of habeas corpus, which means the right to appeal against imprisonment. However the successors of King John broke the clauses of Charter and again move to power of absolute monarch again. Therefore Magna Carta can’t consider as a revolutionary incident of world history.

Church and Monarch

Monarch is not the only section which used the power in Medieval England; The Roman Catholic Church acted significant character in great deal. The Church owned large acres of land, had power of charge and raise taxes, and even its own system of courts to try people who had broken its laws – called Canon law. So, for on these issues there was a clash between Monarch and The Church in England.

Clear example for that, is the matter of divorce Henry VIII and Catherine of Aragon. The Church wasn’t let the king do so. The monarch turned on the Church with a vengeance. He seized Church lands, closed ancient monasteries, and took all the property of them and finally appointed himself as head of the Church, which meant the Pope was no longer be obeyed in England. This was a major turning point in English history because it increased power and wealth of the monarch, and because the Church land was sold to wealthy merchants, it also created a new group of landowners, who in time went into parliament and took part in government. This is the first event the members of the parliament took sufficient power. This is revolutionary act, but it last only in Henry’s regime, then his daughter Mary convert the country to Catholic, but again in the era of Elizabeth I, she followed Henry’s path. That demonstrated, this revolutionary act not accepted at once by people of England. This (independence from Church) was the second step of the evolution of British Constitution.

Parliament Power

The Monarch and the Parliament work together peacefully most of the British history, except some incident. Elections to the House of Commons were held regularly but only landowners got to vote.

Struggle between King Charles I and Parliamentarians is the most crucial incident happened in British history. King Charles I refuse to ruling with the agreement of Parliament, and wanted absolute monarch. In 1642, civil war broke out, Charles I defeated and executed. Finally Britain became a republic under leadership of Oliver Cromwell for 11 years without a monarchy. After his death again the country became a monarch.

From this example we see the British people react revolutions very slowly. There was no much power given to the King by Parliament after this incident. So, these two institutions have compromised there power to neutralize hostilities with each other from here. Eventually, parliament gains the power over monarch.

After the incident so called “English Revolution” which overthrew King James II and gave the throne to William of Orange is dynamic example for how much power parliamentarians gained after 1642 civil war. Before that had no power to decide and appoint the King. That showed slightly some of the King’s power slightly leaked to Parliament by passing Bills and Acts. So, King’s absolute power and divinity reduce by time but not in instant. People introduce this incident as a revolution, but still it didn’t change the former political structure significantly.

Thenceforth, despite the monarch have some power, the King or Queen would only govern the country with the agreement of Parliament. In effect, power shifted from a single monarch to the members of an elected parliament and the unelected House of Lords.

Political Parties

After the power centralized in the Parliament factions of society rose up as parties, which carried out their own policy. Not only parties, some wealthy individuals also rose up independent candidates.

The first two great political parties are Liberal Democrats (Whigs) and Conservatives (Tories).In eighteenth and nineteenth centuries these two parties’ bitter rivals, but once one party came to power they ruled the country in harmony as a one nation.

These two parties had their own policies, which always gave priority when they come to power. Conservatives were generally Catholic or Anglican while were from a more Calvinist or radical Protestant tradition. Religion in the eighteenth and nineteenth

centuries was a big issue and it was the root of the enmity between the two parties.

Power of Lords

House of Lords is not elected from election, though at the time, the House of Lords could in effect veto any laws drawn up by the House of Commons. In 1911, then Liberal Government introduced Parliament Act and removed veto power of House of Lords. As a result of the Parliament Act, the House of Lords has the right to scrutinize proposed laws drawn up in the Commons and to ask members of that House to think again three times. If the Lords reject a law a third time, the House of Commons can say enough and the proposed Act passes into law despite objection from the Lords. After that, the House of Commons secure their primacy over the House of Lords. This is another example for evolution of British Constitution; because they change it according to temporary demands arises at that time. Veto power is always be a threat to modern Democracy. It was indirectly reduce of the power of monarch and wealthy families, because all of Lords are appointed by monarch, and also many of the Lords are descend from wealthy families who didn’t like common people’s welfare. Whatever the matter abolishment of veto power of the House of Lords; House of Commons didn’t try to abolish that institution. For this reason we can’t pointed it as a revolution.

Earning Full Democracy

There was no full Democracy in Britain until first two decade in twentieth century. Women were granted voting power at those days. Prior to that only men had the power to vote, even earlier only for the wealthy; and also majority of population didn’t have the power to choose who govern them.

Conclusion

Today, we see Britain as one of the best democratic country of the world. It earns and continues Democracy from evolution. When comparing France, Russia and USA it took too much time to change in to one political structure to another. Their democracy still evolving and turning more freely. That democracy affects them today more harshly because any party who form a government has to make a coalition. This is very bad to country’s stability. However, they manage to keep the country safe on the name of Democracy.

Philippine Oil Deregulation – A Policy Research Analysis

I. INTRODUCTION

The Policy As An Output

Embodied in the Republic Act No. 8479, otherwise known as the “Downstream Oil Industry Deregulation Act of 1998,” is the policy of the state that deregulates the oil industry to “foster a truly competitive market which can better achieve the social policy objectives of fair prices and adequate, continuous supply of environmentally-clean and high quality petroleum products” (Congress 1998).

With deregulation, government allows market competition. That means government does not interfere with the pricing, exportation, and importation of oil products, even the establishment of retail outlets, storage depots, ocean-receiving facilities, and refineries.

It has been a decade ago since lawmakers made a proposition that deregulation would secure the Philippines from the vulnerability of oil price shocks due to its heavily dependent on imported oil. But it is now increasingly apparent that many are calling to scrap the law as six out of ten Filipinos favor the repeal of RA 8479 (Somosierra 2008).

The Policy As A Process

When President Fidel Ramos started his administration in 1992, the country had already started feeling the effects of power supply deficiencies, with major areas already experiencing power interruptions. The power crisis caused a slowdown in the national economy for nearly three years and prodded the government to initiate major reforms in order to rehabilitate the energy sector (Viray 1998, p.461-90). In response to a power supply crisis, Ramos revived the plans to liberalize the oil industry that were cut short during the Aquino administration due to Gulf crisis.

The government’s efforts to enact an oil deregulation law were also intensified in 1995 when the Oil Price Stabilization Fund (OPSF ) started to threaten the fiscal stability of the economy. Deregulation was thus seen as the solution to the recurring deficit.

The problem of the OPSF deficit was in part related to the highly political nature of oil prices, which encouraged government to defer price increases as much as possible in order to avoid public protest even at the expense of incurring a fiscal deficit. However, government mismanagement of the fund also included using it for non-oil purposes such as financing other government projects or the public sector deficit when it was in surplus (Pilapil 1996, p.12).

At the height of a strong lobbying effort for deregulation by oil companies and despite the loud opposition of militant groups, the industry was eventually deregulated in 1996 with the enactment of RA 8180 (the Downstream Oil Industry Deregulation Act of 1996) in Congress.

However, Supreme Court declared in 1997 the unconstitutionality of RA 8180. The Court decision stemmed from three provisions in the law that were deemed to inhibit free competition and therefore, violated the anti-trust mandate of the 1987 Constitution (Supreme Court 1997). But administration Congressmen quickly re-filed the oil deregulation bill leading to the new oil deregulation law. RA 8479 was then enacted to pave the way for the full deregulation of the oil industry. Since then, government has no longer control over the industry. What it can do is only monitoring.

Applicable Models

The policy model that best describes the policy process is Vig and Kraft 1984 model where policy stages/phases are characterized by five elements: 1) agenda setting, 2) policy formulation, 3) policy adoption, 4) policy implementation, and 5) policy monitoring.

On the other hand, the model that best describes the policy approach is Mixed Scanning because the Ramos administration resorted to rational planning process and incrementalized on liberalization plan of the Aquino government.

II. THE POLICY IN THE CONTEXT OF THE POLICY SYSTEM

The Policy Environment

Identified policy environment includes the regime characteristics of Ramos Administration, socio-economic structure in 1990’s, and the prevailing international financial influence on the country’s economy and politics.

The Policy Stakeholders

Identified as stakeholders in this policy are the Filipino people, the President, Legislators, Supreme Court, DOE, DOJ, DTI, NEDA, the oil companies, NGO/advocacy groups, and media.

The Interrelationships Between Policy Environment And Stakeholders

Despite a strong opposition coming directly from ordinary people, transport groups, and NGOs, the oil deregulation policy was still pushed through. It was formulated and instituted under the regime of President Ramos who, in his flagship program called the Philippines 2000, envisioned to make the country globally competitive by pursuing the thrusts of deregulation, market liberalization, and privatization. The media then exposed the fact that the biggest factor that influenced the formulation of the policy was the perceived eventual bankruptcy of the Oil Price Stabilization Fund, which had been originally established by President Ferdinand Marcos for the purpose of minimizing frequent price changes brought about by exchange adjustments and/or an increase in world market prices of crude oil and imported petroleum products.

Influenced by the International Monetary Fund, Ramos administration argued that there was a need to deregulate the industry because under a regulated environment, prices are not allowed to rise and fall with market levels. This means that when prices went up, government had to shell out money to subsidize the difference between the old and the new price.

According to the National Economic Development Authority (NEDA), had the government opted not to deregulate, OPSF obligation would have ballooned to at least P8.3 billion in 1998. The P8.3 billion is equivalent to the construction of more than 4,500 kilometers of provincial roads, 51,000 deep wells of potable water, 25,000 school houses, or free rice for 20{512b763ef340c1c7e529c41476c7e03bc66d8daea696e1162822661d30dde056} of the poorest Filipinos (Bernales 1998)

The Supreme Court in 1998 ruled in favor of the constitutionality of the Downstream Oil Industry Deregulation Act of 1998. Since then, it has been the policy of the subsequent administrations to deregulate the industry. DOE, DTI, DENR, DOST are agencies mandated to serve as the monitoring-arm of the government.

Is The Policy Working?

The answer is obviously “No.” IBON Foundation reported that the Oil Deregulation Law has further strengthened the monopoly of the big oil companies as automatic oil price hikes are allowed. Consequently, other oil companies took advantage of the policy, hiking pump prices of all petroleum products by around 535{512b763ef340c1c7e529c41476c7e03bc66d8daea696e1162822661d30dde056} since the Oil Deregulation Law was first implemented in April 1996 (Bicol Today 2007). The policy is also unable to solve or, at least, mitigate the effects of global oil crisis.

III. THINKING ALOUD

A. Repeating The Process

a.1 Problem Definition/Structuring

It has been recognized that the problem with oil is far from over as deregulation policy fails to meet its goal to foster a truly competitive market and reasonable oil prices. The current president herself, Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, acknowledges the fact that the oil crisis is threatening to erode the very fiber of the Philippine society.

Unlike in 1998, the crisis today seems to be more irreparable as the United States is facing what many economists describe as the worst economic crisis in its history, triggering unstoppable skyrocketing of oil prices and prices of foodstuffs around the world. As already stated, the oil crisis is a global one and has to be addressed not only at the national level, but at the international level as well.

But why is the oil crisis a global crisis? Is it really beyond the government control?

The Philippines, like many other nations, buys the oil at the spot market. By “spot” is meant, that one buys the oil at a market only 24 to 48 hours before one takes physical (spot) delivery, as opposed to buying it 12 or more months in advance. In effect, the spot market inserted a financial middleman into the oil patch income stream.

Today, the oil price is largely set in the two futures markets: London-based International Petroleum Exchange (IPE) and the New York Mercantile Exchange (NYMEX). Here, traders or investors buy or sell certain commodities like oil at a certain date in the future, at a specified price. Basically, traders invest in the futures market by buying futures contracts called “paper oil” or simply paper claim against oil. The very purpose of buying oil is not to wait for the actual delivery of the physical oil in the future, but to sell the paper oil to another trader at a higher price. That’s how investors engage in widespread speculation; and it is becoming a viscous cycle. Almost all countries, including the Philippines, buy the oil at the spot market where the price is already at its peak.

In a year 2000 study, Executive Intelligence Review (EIR) showed that for every 570 “paper barrels of oil”-that is futures contracts covering 570 barrels-traded each year, there was only one underlying physical barrel of oil. The 570 paper oil contracts pull the price of the underlying barrel of oil, manipulating the oil price. If the speculators bet long-that the price will rise-the mountain of bets pulls up the underlying price (Valdes 2005).

This only disproves the popular assumption that oil price hike has something to do with the “law of supply and demand.” In fact, as much as 60{512b763ef340c1c7e529c41476c7e03bc66d8daea696e1162822661d30dde056} of today’s crude oil price is pure speculation driven by large trader banks and hedge funds. It has nothing to do with the convenient myths of Peak Oil. It has to do with control of oil and its price (Engdahl 2008).

In its recent statement, IBON Foundation cited a study conducted by the U.S. Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, which revealed that 30 percent or more of the prevailing crude oil cost is driven only by speculation. IBON further cited that speculation adds about $35 to a barrel of crude oil (Martinez 2008).

a.2 Developing Alternative

In the face of the alarming oil price hike that threatens the survival of ordinary Filipino people, a number of stakeholders call for alternative solutions: 1) amendment of the Oil Deregulation Law, 2) scrap/repeal the law, 3) removal of 12{512b763ef340c1c7e529c41476c7e03bc66d8daea696e1162822661d30dde056} vat on oil, 4) seek alternative sources of energy, and 5) engage in country-to-country oil agreement.

a.3 Options Analysis

1. Amendment of the Deregulation Law

As the public continues to hurt from surging oil prices, many policy makers call to re-examine the Downstream Oil Industry Deregulation Act of 1998. One of whom, is Ilocos Sur Rep. Eric Singson who has sought several amendments in the said law to ensure transparency in the pricing of oil products and encourage greater competition in the retail industry, which has been under the influence of giant oil companies. He cited the need to amend Sections 14 and 15 of RA 8479 to strengthen the powers of the Department of Energy (DOE) so it can effectively carry out its mandate to inform and protect the public from illicit practices in the oil industry and to provide more financial assistance for the establishment and operation of gasoline stations, which will encourage investment and fair competition (Malacanang 2005).

2. Scrap/Repeal the Oil Deregulation Law

To many, amending the law is not enough to rectify the skyrocketing prices of oil and oil-based products; they demand for the repeal, instead. A lawmaker from the Lower House, Cagayan de Oro City Rep. Rufus Rodriguez filed House Bill 4262 aiming to repeal Republic Act No. 8479, arguing that instead of fostering a competitive market, the law has only strengthened the oil cartel in the country and brought the oil prices up. The bill also seeks to re-establish the Oil Price Stabilization Fund. He articulated that dominant oil companies still dictate the price because even new oil industry players get their supply from the giants (Sisante 2008).

Militant groups and other non-government organizations have staged rallies and strikes all over the country in opposition of the deregulation policy. Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU), one of the country’s prominent labor groups, contested that cartelization still exists amidst deregulation. In its recent statement, KMU articulated that with recent Dubai oil prices pegged at $97 per barrel (as of 3rd week of September), local price of diesel is at P49/liter; while when Dubai crude was at $97/liter on Nov. 6, 2007, diesel in the Philippines was sold only at P37.95/liter, or P11.05/liter lower than the present rates (GMANews.TV 2008).

3. Removal of 12{512b763ef340c1c7e529c41476c7e03bc66d8daea696e1162822661d30dde056} VAT on oil

Senator Mar Roxas said that government must heed calls to remove the 12{512b763ef340c1c7e529c41476c7e03bc66d8daea696e1162822661d30dde056} value-added tax (VAT) on oil and oil products as prices continue to go up despite the lowering of oil prices in the world market. Roxas had filed Senate Bill No. 1962. However, in her eighth State of the Nation Address (SONA), President Arroyo, stated that it will be the poor who will suffer the most from the removal of VAT on oil and electricity as this will mean the loss of P80 billion in programs being funded by her tax reform (Arroyo 2008).

4. Alternative sources of energy.

While many have engaged themselves in the long-running debate about amendment vs. repeal of the law, a number of stakeholders argue that Philippine government must, instead, focus on alternative sources of energy to rectify the heavy dependence on imported oil. Senator Juan Miguel Zubiri, now considered “Father of the Philippine Biofuels Bill,” has hyped biofuel as the miracle product which can lower oil prices. But more and more scientists are worried that focusing on biofuels could jeopardize food production.

The Philippine LaRouche Society, an increasingly emerging think tank organization in the country, says that biofuel advocacy is a losing proposition as it competes with food production for human consumption. The organization calls, instead, for the revival of the Bataan Nuclear Power Plant (BNPP) as soon as possible to provide the population with a cheap, reliable, and continuous source of power to subsequently free the people from dependence on oil. The organization further articulates that since that will require huge financial requirements, the Philippine government must, therefore, declare a moratorium on foreign debt payments-since much of which are onerous and merely product of “bankers arithmetic” (Billington 2005).

5. Country-to-country oil agreement

The Philippine LaRouche Society has long been proposing to the government to initiate immediate steps to establish bilateral contract agreements with oil-producing countries of not less than 12 months’ government scheduled deliveries at reasonable, fixed prices. Government can also enter into commodity-swap agreements with oil-producing countries.

As a member of the United Nations and other intergovernmental associations like APEC and WTO, the Philippine government should join the growing worldwide call for a fair and honest oil trading by de-listing oil as a commodity traded in the futures market.

a.4 Deciding the Best and Most Feasible Option

It must be known to all the Filipino people that oil deregulation, as a policy, has failed to foster a truly competitive market towards fair prices and adequate, continuous supply of environmentally-clean and high quality petroleum products. Proposed solution # 2 (scrap/repeal the Oil Deregulation Law) is therefore a better option. But repealing the Deregulation Law is not the ultimate answer to the rise in oil prices. Even if the law is repealed, the Philippines will still be subjected to the same factors-a rise in oil prices in the global market.

Proposed solution # 5 (country-to-country oil agreement) can address the issue of the oil crisis at the international level. How about the efforts to solve the crisis at the national level?

The Philippine government must revive the Bataan Nuclear Power Plant to provide the population with a cheap, reliable, and continuous source of power to subsequently free the people from dependence on oil. As proposed, government must direct enough funds, instead for debt servicing, towards the revival and upgrade of BNPP. Removal of the entire E-VAT, not only on oil, must also be taken into consideration to ease the pain of the Filipino people. By moratorium, government doesn’t have to extract a pound of flesh out of every Filipino to have the means to fund its programs.

B. Why seemingly “better” options are not adopted? The Peculiarities of the Philippine Policy System

From the standpoint of the present administration, amending RA 8479 seems to be difficult to adopt because re-regulating the oil industry would mean subsidizing oil prices-something like OPSF. To many, this does not work in an era of rising crude prices because it would entail government resources. This is where debt moratorium comes in as an effective fiscal strategy. But moratorium, to many skeptics, is unwise because they fear the blackmail or retaliation of the multinational creditors. Our leaders must learn how then President Nestor Kirchner of Argentina defied the predatory financial institutions, averring that “There’s life after the IMF.”

On the other hand, many leaders deem country-to-country oil agreement impossible to implement as the giant oil companies have still strong influence on the policy-making process in the country. On the part of the oil companies, it will be a huge loss if government will assert its power to have a bilateral agreement with any of the oil-producing country. Also, many leaders consider the Philippines as a small nation with no voice in the international assembly. But it is a matter of having “big balls,” to put it in a figurative language. After all, they are the leaders and are mandated by the Constitution to protect and promote the general welfare.

Another peculiarity of the Philippine policy system is the negative perception towards nuclear energy. BNPP has been stigmatized as being environmentally dangerous and as being associated with “corruption.” The fact of the matter is, the technology has already evolved and been modernized. The Philippine government spent $2.3 billion to build BNPP without generating a kilowatt of electricity. It is high time to revisit the old strategy to finally free the country from dependence on imported oil.

It is worth mentioning that the International Atomic Energy Agency inspected the power plant in Bataan early this year and reported that this could be rehabilitated, in full compliance with high international safety environment standards, in at least five years at a cost of $800 million (Burgonio 2008). The Philippine LaRouche Society emphasizes the importance of declaring debt moratorium as a fiscal strategy to start the rehabilitation. The organization argues that the Philippines is servicing the debt over US $10 billion per year, which is more than enough to start the full operation of BNPP (PLS 2008).

IV. INTEGRATION AND RECOMMENDATIONS: TOWARDS A BETTER PUBLIC POLICY SYSTEM

With the recognition that oil crisis is a global oil crisis, affecting the lives of all inhabitants of our planet, it is incumbent, therefore, upon the leadership of the Philippines to immediately take the following steps:

A) To immediately repeal the oil deregulation law, for the government to assert its sovereign power to have control over the oil industry and economy as a whole.

B) To propose at any international summit or assembly that oil, being a commodity, critical to the continuation of human life, be de-listed as a commodity traded in the futures market, thereby escaping the clutches of unscrupulous people and speculative financial institutions.

C) To initiate immediate steps to establish bilateral contract agreements with petroleum-producing countries of not less than 12 months’ government scheduled deliveries at reasonable, fixed prices.

D) To design a comprehensive energy development program, such as nuclear power plant being the most cost-efficient source of energy to date, for the purpose of freeing our country from complete dependence on imported energy sources. To this end, moratorium on foreign debt must be taken into account as a paramount fiscal strategy.

The crisis, which we now face as a nation, requires understanding of the problems through diligent study and concomitant courage to do what is right for the benefit of the present and future Filipino generations.

Nature of Political Parties in the Philippines

No one likes to be judged by mere appearances. That said, we may as well say that we should not judge a candidate’s worth based on which political party he belongs to. After all, being affiliated to a party has its own curses and blessings.

In the political arena of the Philippines, history tells us that there are more negative aspects than positive ones on being affiliated to a political party.

The issue of party came to my mind following the departure of Chiz Escudero, a presidential aspirant in the 2010 elections, from the Nationalist People’s Coalition (NPC). Some pundits are quick to conclude that for Escudero leaving NPC he has just committed a “political suicide.”

It sounds logical to say that Escudero’s surprising decision was a political suicide. That is for people who surmise that winning an election depends on party affiliations. Or that one’s strength is defined by a party’s backing.

To my mind, political party is nothing but a nonsense group of opportunists. It is composed of fake acquaintances and pretentious friends. People are there because they want to get something out of the party, not because they want to be catalysts of the noble vision of the party.

It is difficult to recall when was the last time the Philippines truly had a genuine political party – I mean a party that really has a specific direction and a set of well-founded principles it adheres to.

Here are some existing political parties in the Philippines with names of corresponding leaders: Lakas-Kabalikat ng Malayang Pilipino-Christian Muslim Democrats (Gloria Arroyo); Nationalist People’s Coalition (Eduardo Cojuangco Jr.); Liberal Party (Manuel Roxas II), Nacionalista Party (Manny Villar), Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Satur Ocampo); Partido Demokratiko Pilipino-Lakas ng Bayan (Aquilino Pimentel Jr.); Pwersa ng Masang Pilipino (Erap Estrada); United Opposition (Jejomar Binay); Laban ng Demokratikong Pilipino (Edgardo Angara); Liberal Party (breakaway) (Lito Atienza); Partido Demokratiko Sosyalista ng Pilipinas (Norberto Gonzales); Kilusang Bagong Lipunan (Ferdinand Marcos Jr.); Lakas-Christian Muslim Democrats (breakaway) (Jose de Venecia Jr.); and People’s Reform Party (Miriam Defensor-Santiago). And there are nearly a hundred other regional, minor, or party-list groups whose names we only find in election forms.

We have too many parties – and it is not helping us as a nation. Whenever there is a conflict of interest within a party, we can expect that a new party (also called a breakaway party) will be formed. Thus, the number of party groups is on the rise.

More often than not, a new political party is formed by those who were left behind at the choosing of a party’s official candidate in an election, not that they wanted to make a difference in our society so they established their own group.

At the national level, the emergence of new political parties is a strong sign of a widespread dissatisfaction among members of the same group. Since there is no law that prohibits the creation of a new party and we are not a two-party system country, politicians are confident that, with their money, they can always form a new party if they don’t get what they want.

In the U.S., we don’t hear of a Hilary Clinton forming a new political party because she was not nominated as the presidential standard bearer of the Democrats. It could have been a different story if Mrs. Clinton were a Filipino politician.

At the local level, it is even more difficult to talk about the essence political parties. The sad thing is that it has always been an issue of who the highest bidder is. Without a doubt, the affiliation of a local candidate to a particularly party is solely based on financial attachment. Nothing else, truth to tell.

Those who truly want to serve our people must be sustained by the patriotic principles they adhere to, not by the support of their disappearing party.

Those who are desirous to become public servants cannot just be sustained by the indulgence of their political party but by the mandate of the people – for the interest of the common good

Short Introduction to Scientist Isaac Newton

Isaac Newton was a preeminent contributor to the fields of mathematics and physics. He was born in 1642 in Lincolnshire, England, and was described as a natural philosopher during his lifetime. His work guided the scientific revolution during the 17th century. Until today Newton is widely recognized as one of the most influential scientists of all time and a key figure in the scientific revolution.

As a child Newton attended The King's School in Grantham where he began to develop a foundational knowledge of mathematics. After being widowed for the second time Newton's mother tried to motivate him to become a farmer. He hated leaving school and was re-admitted after the headmaster convinced his mother to let him return. He repeatedly rose to be the highest-ranked pupil.

Newton began studying at Cambridge's Trinity College in 1661. It was there that he recorded his first theories about mechanics. His work was informed by his study of philosophy and astronomy. His discovery of a generalized binomial theorem in 1665 was the starting point from which he developed his theory of calculus.

After obtaining his degree from Trinity Newton spent two years at home studying. He made significant progress developing his theories of optics and calculus. His work impressed professor Isaac Barrow, and he was elected as a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1672.

The field of optics fascinated Newton. To prove his theories of color and dispersion of light he built a refracting telescope for the Royal Society in 1672. He published his notes of Colors in 1671, and they were later developed into the work Opticks .

Newton published his first collection of work concerning gravitation and mechanics in 1687. Principia was an achievement that had been in development for many years, and defined three universal laws of motion. These laws would go on to create the basis of classical mechanics, and directly advance machinery during the Industrial Revolution. After publishing Principia Newton found himself receiving international recognition and acclaim.

In Newton's later life, when asked for an evaluation of his achievements, he answered, "I do not know what I may appear to the world; but to myself I seem to have been only like a boy playing on the seashore, and diverting myself Now and then in finding a smoother pebble or prettier shell than ordinary, while the great ocean of truth lay all undiscovered before me. "

Later in his life Newton would devote a great deal of time to the study of alchemy and biblical interpretation. He died in 1727 and was interrupted at Westminster Abbey.

5 Myths Americans Believe About Vietnam

1. Religion is not tolerated in Vietnam.

Quite the contrary! Sometimes I read stories on the web about religious persecution in Vietnam, but what I see here in Ho Chi Minh City is a very religious people, far more religious in general than Americans. People here will nearly all say they are either Catholic or Buddhist; it’s hard to find anyone who would call themselves Agnostic or Atheistic- I haven’t met one yet.

The Catholic Church is one of the biggest property owners in Ho Chi Minh City. There are huge, newly built churches everywhere. I can see a gimongous church being built in the distance from the window where I’m sitting right now. In the evenings and on Sundays there are crowds of people at all the churches, often spilling out into the street and adding to the traffic mayhem. The most popular tourist attraction in Saigon is a cathedral- the Notre-Dame Cathedral in District 1.

There are also Buddhist temples in every neighborhood; many of them are huge. Thich Nhat Hanh, the rock star of Buddhist monks who was living in exile in France for many years, recently returned to tour Vietnam with an entourage of over 300 monks.

Granted, there are conflicts between the Vietnamese government and some religious leaders who get involved in politics. I don’t know the details of these conflicts but I’d venture to say they involve only a tiny minority of religious people. In the past, certainly there has been severe religious persecution in Vietnam, but things have changed a lot. The official government line is that religion is free and accessible to all, and I haven’t seen anything different.

2. The Vietnamese hate Americans because of “The American War.”

My own experience is only in the south, and it may be different in the north, but what I have experienced would actually be the opposite. Even when I first came to Vietnam as a tourist in 1996, I never heard or felt anything but tremendous love and respect for America and Americans.

To the Vietnamese, just like to people in developing countries everywhere, American is the promised land, the land of opportunity. Nearly every Vietnamese family has at least one member living in the USA, so America is the country that is taking care of their loved ones.

Unlike Americans, especially baby boomers, who will never get past the Vietnam war, the Vietnamese have gotten over it. The bulk of the Vietnamese population, it’s own baby boom, is only in their mid-20’s. Their parents have stories but most people are too young to remember the war.

Also consider Vietnamese history. Americans don’t have much of a history, but the Vietnamese collective memory goes back 5000 years. The Chinese occupied Vietnam for 1000 years. France occupied Vietnam for 100 years. America was here for all of 30 years, merely a small blip in Vietnamese history. Contrary to Americans’ sense of self-importance, the American episode isn’t all that significant. (I don’t know how accurate those figures are; those are the numbers that Vietnamese people will recite if you ask them.)

This is a topic that is big enough for it’s own article, but suffice it to say that I’ve noticed far FAR more tension between the north and south of Vietnam and between local Vietnamese and overseas Vietnamese, than between Vietnamese and Americans. (My personal plea to Americans: get over it!)

3. They’re all Communists.

I cringe when I hear Americans refer to the Vietnamese as “those commies,” as if everyone was running around in blue suits. Vietnamese people are just like everyone else: most of them couldn’t care less about politics. They just want a decent job, food on the table, and an iPhone. Most of them will bitch about their government if given a chance, just like Americans. The number of people who are actually in the Communist Party is a very tiny number, even smaller than the number of people in Vietnam’s Cao Dai religion.

4. Vietnam doesn’t have modern technology.

Out in the countryside, this is true. My wife’s family just got electricity at their house a few months ago. They still don’t have running water. But in the cities it’s different. I’m typing on a computer that I bought here in Ho Chi Minh City, using a broadband connection that is just the same (as far as I can tell) as in America. My university classroom is wired with wifi and a projector; I have to tell my students to close their laptops and pay attention. I’ve heard there are some schools that have those touchscreen interactive projectors, but I haven’t used one yet. I’d brag about my modern cell phone but I can’t afford one. My students can, though, and I’m often envious of their gadgets. There are electronic gadgets or sale in my neighborhood computer store that I can’t even identify.

I have a friend who works for the Vietnam office of a British architectural firm and he said their counterparts in England were worried that the Vietnamese staff might not be able to open the AutoCAD documents they sent, because surely the Vietnamese must be using some ancient version. In fact, because of the lax enforcement of copyright laws, the opposite was true. The Vietnam office had the latest version, whereas the British office only had an older version! Since all the latest software is practically free here in Vietnam, it’s common for people to have $20,000 worth of software on their computers, if not more.

5. Vietnamese people are not “free.”

What is freedom, anyway? The ability to do what you want, right? If you want to rock the boat politically in Vietnam, of course you’re going to have a tough time, but citizens do rally against their government. And for big-business people, you’re going to run into restrictions. But for the average person, like me for example, Vietnam feels much more “free” than America.

Here in Vietnam, it’s all up to your local police guy. If he’s happy then everything’s okay. You want to open up a company in your house, maybe even a school? No problem, just pay your local official a (very) small sum and off you go. Try to do the same in the USA and you are screwed. Try to open a school or a restaurant in America and you’ll be shut down if your stairway is an inch too narrow. In my experience, the average person is much more free in Vietnam to do what they want than in America.

Take a look at the traffic police. Here in Vietnam your traffic cop has no radio, no computer, many don’t have guns. They can often be pacified with a hundred-thousand Dong ($6). In America an ordinary policeman has a fast car with a computer and is armed to the teeth. Disobey one small traffic law and instantly your entire criminal record is on their screen.

One of the tragedies of America that people don’t talk about much is it’s prison population: the USA has the highest incarceration rate in the world. It has less than 5{512b763ef340c1c7e529c41476c7e03bc66d8daea696e1162822661d30dde056} of the world’s population but over 23{512b763ef340c1c7e529c41476c7e03bc66d8daea696e1162822661d30dde056} of the world’s incarcerated people- four times the world average. America’s prisons are full of men and women whose lives have been virtually ruined because of some small, victimless crime they committed. Is that freedom?

Obviously, the contrary to what I’m saying here could easily be argued. The government and police in Vietnam are basically the equivalent of the Mafia, and they do what they want, arbitrarily. But I’m talking about what your average person can and can’t do, and especially just the way it feels to live here vs. the USA. One of the reasons I love living in Vietnam is that I feel much more “free” here than I do in America. You can argue the opposite all you want, but this is the way it feels to me- Vietnam: free. America: not free.

What is the Law of Attraction? Plato’s Got the Answer!

These days, you don’t have to look too far to find hoards of gurus ready to help you answer the question: What is the Law of Attraction?

Arguably, one of the most famous of these folks is Rhonda Byrne. Her hit book and movie The Secret, is currently the de facto standard in all things metaphysical. Although she credits century old New Thought writers like Wallace D. Wattles for her inspiration, it was actually Plato who may have first answered the question: “What is the Law of Attraction?”

If he were still alive today his response would be simply: “likes attract”. This great philosopher, was of course, speaking of his “first law of affinity” and the science of chemistry. However, starting in the middle of the 20th century, scientists actually started to apply this law to us ordinary folks.

So, into today’s lingo, this translates as “we become what we think about”. Self-help legend, Earl Nightingale, actually coined this phrase in the 1950’s.

Does this mean that if you repeat a few Law of Attraction affirmations that fame, money and wealth are yours for the taking? Ah, if life were that simple! Affirmations can act as a springboard to train your mind to think more positively, but you still have to work hard at this.

Consider this – if your thoughts are constantly focused on “wanting” or “getting” something, then what you are really focusing on is you “lack” of something and thus you attract more of that negative stuff into your life. It took me a while to really understand how profound this is!

Training you mind to concentrate on positive thoughts and truly believing in your own self-worth are fundamental to the Law of Attraction. When you are able to grasp this concept, the door to abundance will fling itself wide open!

If you were given the chance to sit down with Plato and ask “What is the Law of Attraction?”, his response might sound something like this:

“Believe in yourself! You are a truly magnificent and deserving person! When you abandon the cycle of negative thinking, prosperity will follow.”

Now get to work!

Masonic Secrets Exposed! Freemason Simon Gray Receives Death Threats for Revealing Freemason Secrets

Are you contemplating joining a Freemason Lodge? Perhaps you’re tantalized by the secret Freemason handshakes, or the ancient Masonic rituals. Maybe you’re just being pressured by your relatives because you’re from a traditionally Mason family. Or perhaps you’re just interested in the pursuit of Truth.

Does large-scale organized secrecy among powerful individuals unsettle you?

It should.

Enter Simon Gray. Why should this man be important to you, you might ask? Simon was a Freemason who did something extremely dangerous and deviant under Mason Law. For the first time, a Freemason has made available to the general public the most closely guarded secrets of Freemasonry.

Shortly after Simon released his collection of 120 out-of-print books and rare documents on Freemasonry (many of which were written by Masons themselves), he was immediately expelled from his Masonic Temple. Shortly after his expulsion from his Freemason Lodge he received official death threats from the highest levels of the Masonic Order.

Any book you can find on Freemasonry worth its salt focuses almost always on the history of the Masons and its possible origin relating to the Knights Templar, drawing on primary sources such as news articles and other stories in the past, but there have never been primary sources written by Masons themselves… Until Now.

The biggest reason why the Freemasons continue to receive so much attention in popular culture and the minds of conspiracy theorists throughout the years is due to the abundance of high-profile politicians and businessmen that the Freemason Order has kept on its roster for hundreds of years.

On top of that, they’re a secret society, and certainly the oldest known of today that operates on a global level.

I do not envy Simon Gray. This brave ex-Freemason stands alone, delivering Masonic Secrets to the masses, with a shadow looming over him. That shadow is an exceptionally powerful and old secret society that has a history of influence in government and law enforcement.

Due to the excessive death threats and pressure from Masonic Temples around the world, Simon in all probability will be forced to take his site down very soon.

I can tell you right now that there has never been a larger collection of top-notch information on Freemasonry revealed before this, nor will there be anything like this released ever again.

Simon has released 120 out-of-print books, manuscripts and journals, many written by actual high-ranking Masons of modern and ancient descent. That’s over 25,000 pages of exclusive content that you’re not going to find anywhere else (even if you’re a Mason).

That’s right, almost all of the knowledge that Simon has released will never be known to 99{512b763ef340c1c7e529c41476c7e03bc66d8daea696e1162822661d30dde056} of all Freemasons, and will probably not be available to the public for much longer.

If you have any interest in Freemasonry or secret societies ancient and modern, you absolutely can’t afford not to see what Simon Gray has to say; get invaluable rare information on the Freemasons, direct from the source.

Gender Bias, Gender Discrimination, Gender Equality

From Looking for a Better World: One of my major interests is in the equality of women in all societies. Gender bias is as hurtful and destructive as any other bias. Though I am not particularly liberal, I have for my lifetime been opposed to the macho philosophy, the Islamic plunder of womanhood, the gender distinctions in the professions and the entire “woman driver” and, yes, even “blonde joke” phenomena.

Women and men are not created equal. They each have their God given strengths, focused on their responsibilities for procreation and family viability. Those differences are not easily dismissed … however those differences do not condone gender discrimination in society and certainly not in the workplace. In fact, because of the glass ceiling and gender discrimination, professional women need to be better than their male counterparts to succeed! That makes them better choices … and, in fact, I have made those choices! My physician, ophthalmologist, podiatrist and a recent surgeon are all female. Obviously, female clergy are welcome in my world.

I attended a lecture given by an oil minister from an Islamic state. He was asked when women would gain equality … and he jokingly replied “When the sands of the Sahara turn to Jello.” I cannot accept the gender inequality issue and I certainly am opposed to the current Islamic extremism.

Plunder and disrespect of women among the Muslim extremists are but a cursor of their disregard for life. It is just a clue, albeit a significant one, towards the larger issues of suicide bombings and indiscriminate slaughter. If the gender issue was gentler, their other more acceptable behaviors could follow.

“Looking for a Better World” deals with this and other issues of ethics. The book teaches that we can all make this a better world. If you want to read more, see:

The Vindication of Harold Norman

Harold Norman was only twenty six years old on November 22, 1963, the day President John F. Kennedy was shot. The young African-American was an amiable fellow with a ready smile. An order-filler for the Texas School Book Depository, Harold routinely shared a myriad of jokes with fellow employees to help the day go by.

As JFK’s motorcade was scheduled to approach the Depository, located at the intersection of Elm and Houston Streets, Harold was joined by co-workers James “Junior” Jarman and Bonnie Ray Williams, all of whom planned on viewing the passing procession from open fifth-floor windows at the southeast corner of the building. In a crouched position, Harold stationed himself at the corner window, while Williams and Jarman knelt at the windows immediately right of him. It was the lunch hour and the three men had the choice of either standing with other employees who had congregated downstairs at the Depository’s main entrance, or having the entire upper floor to themselves. The latter option was a way to avoid the crowds below and, as JFK’s driver would be required to make a sharp turn from Houston to Elm Street beneath them, the commanding, bird’s-eye view each anticipated having of President and Mrs. Kennedy seemed ideal.

The motorcade finally reached Dealey Plaza. Sure enough, Harold, Bonnie Ray, and Junior were exhilarated with the panoramic sight of the handsome JFK and Jackie seated in an open blue Lincoln Continental, smiling and waving to the crowds at curbside.

“The weather,” Harold recalled decades later, “was picture-perfect; and I was surprised at how sandy-colored President Kennedy’s hair was.”

The presidential limousine had no sooner negotiated a slow turn onto Elm Street when, suddenly, three shots rang out!

The Texas School Book Depository had been built as a warehouse in 1901. The ribs in its antiquated wooden floors were wide enough in some areas to detect conversations from co-workers on stories above and below.

The first report was loud – too loud — followed closely by a second burst, then a brief delay, and finally a third explosion, all approximately ten seconds in duration. The windows trembled with the reverberations. Stunned, Harold was certain someone was shooting directly above him. The upper floors of the building shook as motes of white powdery-like dust descended upon Bonnie Ray’s head. What the three men heard overhead was unmistakable. Gunfire! –accompanied by the click-click sounds of a rifle’s bolt action. Ejected shell hulls were heard bouncing on the floor above with a ping. To Harold, who was experienced at firing a rifle, the ear-splitting resonance briefly reminded him of a segment from the popular ABC-TV television series “Combat!” He excitedly pointed upward and exclaimed, “Listen!” Bonnie Ray gasped, “No bullshit!” “I can hear the shells being ejected!” Harold urgently shouted.

The trio’s senses fired on all cylinders; their pulses, and minds, racing. What villain is on the sixth floor? Why would he want to harm President Kennedy? This can’t be happening! Harold, Junior, and Bonnie Ray, all open-mouthed at the unfolding drama, had little idea that the assassin taking beads on the nation’s president was one of the Depository’s newest employees.

With blaring sirens, screams, and utter confusion erupting in the streets below, the men hoped President Kennedy wasn’t wounded. They darted to windows on the west side of the floor in an attempt to catch a glimpse of President Kennedy’s vehicle, but the limo had already sped away from Dealey Plaza. Glancing at one another, and realizing full- well the significance of their frightening experience, Harold and Junior sprinted down to the building’s main entrance in search of the nearest policeman. The first cop they approached, Officer W. E. Barnett, was already in conversation with Howard Brennan, a construction worker who became the most important eyewitness in the plaza, having watched in horror as Lee Harvey Oswald had taken deliberate aim and fired the final shot that terminated the life of America’s thirty-fifth president. As Harold and Junior approached, Brennan recognized both as the men he observed situated in the fifth-floor windows beneath the assassin.

Harold was categorically the closest person to Oswald during the assassination sequence, merely several feet away to be exact. He was the key ear-witness to the crime, while Howard Brennan would prove the most decisive eyewitness. Few know that these men had met only minutes after Kennedy’s murder had taken place, and while several spectators in the plaza mistakenly ran in the direction of a grassy incline and railroad overpass, Norman and Brennan both pointed Officer Barnett in the accurate direction of the sniper’s nest.

On September 17, 1994, nearly thirty-one years following the tragic events in Dealey Plaza, Harold Norman passed away at Dallas’s Baylor Medical Center. He died without fanfare, his modest Dallas Morning News obituary not once mentioning the gentleman’s innocent, yet noteworthy bond to John Kennedy’s death three decades prior.

Equally unsettling is the fact that, although Harold and his fifth-floor co-workers were interviewed by Warren Commission investigators in March 1964, William Manchester’s book, The Death of a President, failed to mention them in its text or index. Manchester was a celebrated author whose 1967 work is today recognized as one of the foremost and authoritative contemporary narratives of the assassination. Why the three young African-Americans, whose testimonies were vitally essential to the most shocking historical event of the latter half of the twentieth century, were omitted, is mind-boggling!

Had today’s influx of internet and cable mass media existed in 1963, Harold Norman would not have been neglected, becoming a frequent guest for interviewers desirous of an honest recounting his harrowing experience and historical perspective. Instead, the truth was overshadowed as the American people became enamored with conspiracy theories and fictionalized docudramas promoted by a cottage industry of opportunists – some sincere – others blatant liars for profit. And while several among the latter emboldened Harold to revise his story in an attempt to suit their multi-assassin agendas, he never deviated from the truth. Thankfully, great advances in modern-day forensic computer technology have all but obliterated the ridiculous conspiratorial balderdash, thereby justifying the unfeigned ear-witness and eye-witness testimonies of Harold Normal and Howard Brennan, respectively.

“President Kennedy was a special leader,” Harold said, his voice choking with emotion only weeks before his death. “He made us feel good about ourselves.”

For anyone old enough to remember the sensation of shock, tears, and anger upon receiving the news that JFK had been shot, the moment is frozen in time. And as America moves closer to the fiftieth anniversary of this inspiring and beloved president’s senseless loss, we should also recognize Harold Norman, a good man whose traumatic proximity to the most nightmarish of historic events was, for him, especially sorrowful.