The death of nations and rise of allegiances

The Tower of Babel by Pieter Bruegel

By JoeAm

The future cannot go back to the past. It is impossible. The past was slow and well defined. We lived in our home town and were loyal to our nation. We wrote letters and dialed our telephone and crossed borders carefully and with proper authority. Now we blast electronic messages every which way . . . e-mails, messenger, twitter, facebook, instagram, texting . . . and we move easily across the planet in cars, planes, and trains. We are not landlocked to where we grew up or lived. Many of us have dual allegiances, or none at all. Ask Filipino overseas workers about that.

Even within our nations it’s not the same. People are at each other’s throats, hard disagreements, insults, attacks, physical violence. America is a cauldron of hostility, conservative versus liberal. Britain is leavers versus remainers. China is religious and ethnic strife. Korea is a love-hate fest, France is heading for yet another revolution, and even calm and mature Canada and Australia are breaking down into partisan rancor. The Philippines is a complete mess, a killing field defended by educated people.

I am struck at how nasty Americans are to other Americans. And how nasty Filipinos are to other Filipinos. In each case, the nation is less important to people than their allegiances. American Republicans long ago took up partisan cudgels, loyalty to party more important than loyalty to the union of Americans. Democrats responded in kind.

Russia has greater sway in the American White House than do democrats. China has greater sway in the Philippine Palace than do Filipinos who back democracy and human rights.

Journalists are no longer objective to defend the interest of the nation. They align with political interests.

What is a nation these days? Not what it used to be, for sure. It is hard to see the homeland as a self-contained unit any more. The homeland is cross-fed by international intrusions and adventurism. It is cross-bred with personal interests, each taking priority over national loyalty. Lies and propaganda knit the fabric of knowledge. Every discussion is polluted with harsh, unbending partisan argument.

What we have here is the rise of allegiances.

  • The disenfranchised migrants, the white supremacists, and the colored world.
  • Those for religious tyranny or against religious harmony (Muslim terrorists representing the former, Chinese forced dispersion of Muslims the latter).
  • Self-interests backed by corporate interests (Go America!) or backed by corruption (Go Philippines!).
  • Those hostile to capitalism versus those hostile to socialism.
  • The rich versus the poor, the entitled versus the powerless.
  • Political persuasion X versus political persuasion Y.

In all of these cases, the well-being of the nation is set aside in favor of narrower causes. We see global unions of like advocacies. The fascist white totalitarians. The political totalitarians, left or right. The religious totalitarians. The green totalitarians. The defenders of the people totalitarians. The human rights totalitarians. The corporate power totalitarians.

The concept of nation as the place where interests are contained and merged with opposing interests to find a moderate well-being no longer exists.

Only conflicts exist, one allegiance facing off, hard and unbending, against another.

In the Philippines, we see a very peculiar result. Mainstream citizens are in favor of Muslim separation, for the Chinese coming in, against poor people having rights, and in favor of power, entitlement, corruption, cheating, and tax skimming. It’s bizarre. These are all thrusts opposite of what the Constitution says should be the rules for unity and harmony.

There is no nation, Philippines. There is an archipelago with people on it that is divided into various vested interests. Nationhood is a propaganda slogan.

The Armed Forces of the Philippines doesn’t defend the Constitution. The troops do what they are told by the Commander in Chief, and he despises the Constitution.

Who is left to defend the idea of unity?

A dwindling group of well-educated old people who remember what it was like to believe in nation.

The youth have no idea. They are nose-down in their cell phones. They don’t read, they have no knowledge about patriotism. They have no passion for the Filipino struggle against oppression. They don’t care about Jose Rizal or what Ferdinand Marcos did to strip the nation of its wealth and dignity. Most Filipinos have no idea. And they don’t want any.

Filipinos only have their allegiances. They are so wrapped up in self that they can’t even help their neighbors across the street. Or care if someone in the next barangay is shot by cops without regard for guilt or innocence. Or if Chinese are coming in and taking all the good construction jobs, leaving Filipinos to hauling sacks of rocks.

But Philippine Muslims have a purpose. The corrupt self-dealers in government have a purpose. The resilient poor are totally self-absorbed. Their purpose is to get to the next day. The educated olds have a purpose, but they are growing weak and feeble. The youth have a purpose and it is mainly to play. The Chinese have a purpose. Boy, do they. The Philippine armed forces are order-takers.

And so the nation is lost, as many nations are lost. The Philippine Constitution is degraded from a set of elegant, high-minded ideals to a piece of paper largely ignored, or deployed only when useful.

Only allegiances remains.

What’s your loyalty to? Is it to inclusion?

On whose terms?


83 Responses to “The death of nations and rise of allegiances”
  1. John Dyte says:

    Methinks you have a longer concept of the existence of nations. It was only a 100 years ago that the British Empire began to dissolve as well as other empires in Europe. Nations in Africa and South America are less than a hundred years old. The Philippines as a nation on its own feet has not even reached 75. That is barely 4 generations. In this context, the U.S. eastern states could actually consider themselves as one of the oldest nations. But I get what you mean. It was our generation that grew up thinking we have finally reached a point of civilization to have clearly defined nations that are collectively protected with a right to exist and with citizens loyal to its ideals. But it looks like “times they are a changing”. The question then becomes, how do we manage that change? As we know from history, change and turbulence become synonymous but it can be managed in pockets. Pockets that feed of each other until equilibrium.

    • Thanks for the longer perspective. I think nationhood is still an important concept, but people seem to have lost the thread in favor of their allegiances. It just seems dramatic to me, this idea that Russia is closer to the White House than Democrats, and China is closer to the Palace than ‘yellows’. If the President can pick non-national allegiances like that, it follows that citizens in general will stop giving so much weight to nationhood and start developing their own allegiances. I think it may be wise for Filipinos to start studying Mandarin, for example.

  2. karlgarcia says:

    No interest to the nation means no national interests.
    Irineo often opined about loyalty to one’s group, clan or inner circles this maybe a form of self interest.

  3. karlgarcia says:

    Click to access Rethinking%20Philippine%20National%20Interest%20Towards%20Calibrating%20National%20Policies.pdf

    A Good collection about nationsl interrsts for future reading.
    It might have second guessed Duterte, but some are spot-on even if most are written before 2017.

    Just a few blanks to fill and we would almost know what there is to know about Philippine Nationsl interrsts.

  4. karlgarcia says:

    If China deports Filipinos will we stop deporting Chinese?

    • I think it is an issue regarding legal and illegal immigrants. President Duterte apparently said there were 300,000 Filipinos working in China as a way of saying the Philippines should accept Chinese workers here. The statistics suggest that there are fewer than 10,000 OFWs working legally in China. There are three million recent Chinese immigrants in the Philippines, some of whom are working in construction jobs. Chinese language is helpful because the bosses are Chinese. Well, this is a fine example of Duterte being more loyal to China than the Philippines, and he appears to be blowing smoke to make a case that will keep the masses quiet.

  5. edgar lores says:

    1. An excellent summary of the disheartening global situation.

    2. And it boils down to one question: What are you loyal to?

    2.1. Often the question is answered as: Who are you loyal to?

    3. As far as I can see, the nation-state is here to stay for some time. Even before the Treaty of Westphalia (1648), there were kingdoms that were recognizable as nation-states. And in modern times, there have been experiments for regional constructs and religious ones.

    3.1. The nation-state will remain for the foreseeable future. It is eminently viable as a political and economic life form that is independent of other nation-states and that effectively organizes and regulates the society/ies within.

    4. What is happening is the nation-state identity is being fragmented into identities of lesser constructs. Along factional lines delimited by isms, parties, issues, and personalities.

    4.1. The Philippines represents a peculiar case because the fragmentation is happening (a) before the firm establishment of a nation-state identity; (b) the cleavage is mainly between personalities of dynastic families; (c) the sub-national identities are maintained by regional, religious, business, and fraternal affinities; and (d) the amalgamated identities are strengthened by the polarities in news and social media.

    4.2. One does not identify as a Filipino but as Dutertian of a Catholic/ Mindanoan/Lex Talionis background.

    5. This brings us back to the question in item 2 and 2.1.

    5.1. My answer would be that we should not be loyal to a personality. Rather, we should be loyal to the principles of the ideals that we hold high and that are established (a) in the Faith that we adhere to, (b) in the Constitution, and (c) in the rules of Good Manners and Right Conduct we were taught at home and in schools.

    5.2. Persons should command our loyalty only to the extent that they embody these ideals.

    5.3. And even as we are loyal to the ideals, we make them into a reality.

    • Excellent step forward from where the article left off. I agree that nation states will remain prominent, if divided, and your section 5.1, stating that we should be loyal to ideals and not persons is excellent. And such a great leap for most Filipinos. I don’t know how the nation comes to actually live that realization.

  6. Very disturbing report from senatorial candidate Neri Colmenares, from his tweet thread yesterday evening:

    Neri Colmenares

    THREAD: My comments on the Chico River Irrigation Pump loan agreement signed between Ambassador Zhaojian Hua, on behalf of the Export-Impot Bank of China, and Department of Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III, on behalf of the Philippine Government, on April 10, 2018.

    The Loan Agreement is onerous & highly favors China. It sets an annual interest rate of 2% for the Php3.6 Billion loan plus an annual “Commitment Fee” of .3% and a “Management Fee“ of US$ 186,260. China demands that the loan be ‘paid in full without counterclaim or retention.”

    The 2% interest rate is exceedingly high compared to loans offered by other countries which only charge .25% per year. China is demanding that payment be automatically included in the General Appropriations Law, practically usurping the powers of Congress.

    On top of the expensive rates, China still have the gall to require that the contractor be a Chinese company. the Chinese contractor would most likely hire Chinese workers, adding to an even greater influx of Chinese workers, leading to the displacement of Filipino workers.

    A dangerous component of the Agreement is a vaguely worded provision that does not recognize our sovereign rights & could allow China to take control of our patrimonial properties should we fail to pay the loan, much like what happened to Sri Lanka’s Hambatota Port.

    It provides that any dispute such as a delay or default in payment shall be resolved by the China International Economic and Trade Arbitration Commission (CIETAC) and shall be governed by the laws of China. It even imposes that the venue shall be in Beijing

    Our children will continue paying for this highly disadvantageous loan as we get enmeshed in a debt trap in the amount of hundreds of billions of dollars from China. Ang masama rito, ginigisa na nga tayo sa sarili nating mantika, tayo pa ang pinagbili ng bawang at sibuyas.

    We challenge Sec. Dominguez and Pernia to make public the official copy of the Chico River loan agreement and similar agreements they have signed with China, including those for the PhP12 billion Kaliwa Dam Project and PhP17 billion Davao Bridge Project.

    • edgar lores says:

      Alarm bells ringing. Is anyone paying attention except for candidate Neri Colmenares? Is the Senate performing due diligence?

      • Not that I’ve read about.

      • karlgarcia says:

        Recto is paying attention.

        “There is no danger of us being drowned from Chinese debt,” Dominguez said in a speech before the business community during Sulong Pilipinas 2018.
        He made the statement even as Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto said the public did not know that the country owed $1.75 billion in five loan packages.
        As a result, he stressed the importance of a Senate-approved bill mandating four Cabinet men to make two “national fiscal status” reports before a House-Senate oversight panel in a year.

        Recto said this was also needed with the “national debt meter moving up but without us knowing the details.”
        “If the President has a report to the country, his people should also have report on the public debt,” Recto said.
        Dominguez, citing data from the Department of Finance’s International Finance Group, said the loan from China accounted for only 0.11 percent of the country’s total debt.

        “We borrow with great prudence, aware that it is the taxpayer who ultimately pays for the debt,” Dominguez said.
        “Thus we take care that the funds we borrow are wisely used and produce sufficient economic benefits to make the debt service easier down the road.”
        The Philippines finalized two loan agreements with China: $72.49 million for the Chico River Irrigation project and P18.724 billion for the New Centennial Water Source-Kaliwa Dam Project during Chinese President Xi Jinping’s state visit on Tuesday.

        • edgar lores says:

          Karl, thanks. Someone is performing Senate oversight.

        • Good to know. Dominguez is being illusive I think. It is not just the rate on the loans that is wrong. It is that they are written to be obedient to Chinese laws and adjudicated in Chinese courts and mandating Chinese workers. It is a sell-out, and who is gaining from selling out the Philippines?

          • karlgarcia says:

            Subic, Clark and Bay Area will soon be if not yet controlled by the Chinese.
            There will be no more US bases making EDCA worthless.

            Who is gaining? Dennis Uy? Before he attacked Lucio Tan’s PAL’s debts debts and now Manny Pangilinan’s PLDT.
            He uses threats to the big guys to gain favor from the underdogs and also for his cronies.

            • I think about that a lot. I think there is nothing wrong with Chinese having large commercial interests in the Philippines as long as Filipinos benefit with more jobs and opportunities to employ skills here rather than abroad. The early signs are not good, though. It seems to be Chinese investment for Chinese workers, and that cannot have a good end, I think.

    • NHerrera says:

      Ordinarily, in a functioning government, we may say: let us not rush but wait for the responses of the concerned Secs, Pernia and Dominguez, before we comment and judge, but as discussed by Neri Colmenares above:

      1. Considering what has happened worldwide and what has already happened in the country, it is not unreasonable to side with Colmenares until proven otherwise.

      2. Yes, indeed. What is being done by the House and Senate Leaders on this and similar such agreements in other non-too-cheap Chinese-funded Projects.

      • I hope an uproar develops. Colmenares made available the actual loan agreement and I want to try to look that over tomorrow. I think China is clearly going to take the Philippines down, especially if Duterte packs the senate. Squeeze it, manipulate the economy, move in.

  7. Pablo says:

    Joe, you started to describe a worldwide chaos slowly emerging from a relatively stable past 60 years. And then focused on Philippines. But, let’s not leave the world view yet. In the 50’s, we had the atom bomb scares and the world was shaking. Now we have the doomsday clock at almost 12 and nobody seems to notice because there is indeed Brexit, Trump, climate change, the rapidly increasing income disparity and worldwide the “haves” are stripping the “have-nots”.
    If you stay a little bit longer with the global perspective, you see that the Philippine situation just nicely follows the evolving worldwide chaos. The BBC produced a much better compilation than I am able to make, it is worth reading:

    Hence, I wonder if it is worth while to focus on the Philippine situation. Surely, it would be great if the killings would stop, if we would start to care for the people on the next island, if we would become a nation of decent, caring and law abiding citizens. For sure, the nation would prosper at a speed never seen before because Philippines has everything a nation can only dream of. Resources, educated people, a steady inflow of foreign currency (OFW’s) and in general friendly and caring people. But we throw it all to the dogs and bite each other where we can.
    Like everywhere else, we are following the trend to self-destruction.
    And nobody is calling us to order, we are all on the same path.

    Like the BBC article showed, all civilizations eventually self-destructed. But this time, we do it thoroughly and take our environment down with us.
    Writing this, I am sitting on my patio, 35 meters above sea level, but looking out over a densely populated coastline which will not be there in 20 (10??) years time and wonder what all those people will be doing. I am afraid that the current hardening of people is just a precursor (muscle flexing?) of things to come and we should focus on important things instead of who-said-what in Philippines. Forget the old-boys, they are set in their ways and even the “good ones” are part of the system. Maybe the only hope is what is happening now around the world, where very young people start to take the lead. Imagine, 12 year old kids showing us what is going wrong and not stopping when the old guard tells them they are going to solve it for them.
    But in Philippines, the kids are not taught to think for themselves. I do not see an Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez emerging from the masses here and the old guard is busy with their incestual petty fights.

    Maybe then, the Philippines is not a bad place to be because as the joke goes: In Philippines, everything happens 20 years later.
    So, us, the old guard, can still reach a respectable age….

    However, somehow, I am afraid that the smaller communities will be swallowed by the big ones when the pandemic evolves.

    • Oh, I think the world view is scary. The distractions we have that keep us from working on preserving the planet will be the death of us all. On the other end of the spectrum is doing nothing at all and just riding the wave until it crashes. The middle ground is where most of us work, and I find I can actually influence thinking in the Philippines, but not in the US or anywhere else, so I write on, toting the bucket until someone else grabs it.

      Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez has a lot of gifts, her brain being one, her charisma another. There are a lot of brains in the Philippines but charisma seems to be unique here. You have to be a bad boy or bad girl to have any. VP Robredo has the charm and good values, but not the charisma as recognized by most people. I suppose Senator Trillanes is closest to the model. He is starting to gain some traction in what I would guess might emerge in a run for the presidency in 2022.

      • Pablo says:

        Doing nothing is not an option, but my argument is that the established order has failed the people and the young people need to be activated, a challenge in Philippines. The only time I have seen younger people engaged effectively was when Gina Lopez ran her show, she had quite an active (and very young) support group, these people believed in what they were doing and knew how to handle the social media. However, when she was ousted, the Pleasant, Pliable Philippine nature prevailed and instead of creating an uproar, things sizzled out.
        But it did show that there is a force which CAN be activated. And it seems to be the only hope. The question is who is going to run that show…
        Trillanes? Is he in effect not one of the establishment? Albeit the better choice maybe, but still willing to play the game. The people wanted a “bad boy, an outsider, to shake up the system” and they got Duterte & Trump. Indeed, be careful with your wishes, you might get much more than you wanted.
        Maybe not very effective, but speaking engagements at local schools (grade-12) about climate change, planning, science and asking what is important to these people, is fun. Hopefully it puts some seeds in the minds of these kids. They are about to join the electorate and universities. Probably better than trying to support the establishment and in the end just being used as an excuse to continue on the old road.

        • I don’t offer wishes, actually, just analysis. If the restraint to constructive achievement is popular disdain for ‘yellow’ politicians, and preference for a bad boy, it seems to me that Trillanes is closest to fitting that description. It is not me wanting the bad boy, it is Filipinos. Gina Lopez did have flair, but did not stay engaged after her departure. Speaking at schools is a program requiring many people, many hours, a common agenda, and Dep Ed buy-in. I don’t see much liklihood that will happen.

          • popoy says:

            Nowhere are these etched
            in the history of nations but
            It is so true today amongst us
            The use of words
            In succinctness.

            Corruption pays handsomely
            Allegiances pays lucratively
            Among dirty politicians,
            Their families, their sycophants
            And perennial money bagmen.
            Constantly, consistently, admirably
            Crimes no longer today crimes
            pay unfailingly.

            Nobility, honor, integrity,
            Patriotism and love of country
            Like crime does not pay; today.

            • Eloquent statement of the pragmatics. You probably think in stanzas by now, eh? 🙂

              • popoy says:

                OH, JoeAm, I still write in essay format like the three parts that recently got published on Casinos. Excerpts are hereinbelow:

                Perhaps the worst that can be said about Casino playing is to compare it to illegal drugs addiction; where the extreme examples are suicides or fatal overdoses. The Casino games are never ever fatal to players. Nobody dies because of Casino overdose; pockets and bank accounts could be drained and emptied, real and personal properties could be downloaded. Indeed, to be penniless and homeless is a rarity like the number of jackpot winners. And that make Casinos thrive and multiply.

                Still forebodings remain haunting, the red flags flutter in the breeze of the prudent and righteous that Casino playing is gambling and could be dangerously addicting. Just consider the confession of a Fentanyl abuser who claimed his FIRST HIGH which he theorized as HEAVENLY was his FIRST and LAST. He said there was nothing like the blissful experience. Everything was so damn good: the wine, the food, the sex, the touch, the smell, the silence and laughter, the lightness of being. It is something worth seeking again and again and could be worth dying like lemmings jumping to their deaths from high cliffs to the sea. Drug addicts overdosed and die seeking that first Nirvana (meaning no place)—TRULY IMPOSSIBLE one for a repeat or encore. Winning the jackpot in a Casino is so different, however. There seems to be no report yet of a jackpot winner dying while seeking his second jackpot.

                Play responsibly is every Casino’s advice to the players. For those in need of advice or assistance there are phone numbers to call. And there is ready anytime the internet and Google for advice. This part two’s suggested conclusion: Casinos treat their players fair and square.

              • Ah, yes. Casinos have hooked a lot of Chinese and I guess the Philippine economy is benefiting from that. The condo projects are paying off for someone.

              • popoy says:

                While I was writing those pieces, Come to think of it JoeAm why didn’t I think of that: Chinese and Casinos. It is because (honestly, I hope) I only had played in Casinos in California and Ontario purportedly owned by KATUTUBO, the American Indians and the First Nations, a positive policy of their governments. In the Philippines, it was as OFW before the time of Erap and successors when Casinos have not been virusized by the corrupt.

              • popoy says:

                And Oh about the condos (condiminiums), in the late 90s I read a condo in Metro Manila being referred to as “condemonyo” (with the devil?).

  8. canadadry says:

    The Courage to Oppose Duterte-The Extraordinary Path of Otso Diretso

    How enviable it is to be with the Otso Diretso Team. It’s easy to be with Hugpong, they are in power, they’ve got the money, they’ve got the police, they’ve got the name recall. One living in today’s Philippines see the Duterte Team of Hugpong as invincible, a sure winner. And that is where it gets interesting. Imagine a way by which someone who don’t believe in Duterte’s gospel (dividing Filipinos, of religion hatred, China loving, drugs oriented, ruling by killings and threats and intimidations, embracing the corrupt) great act of expression without incurring attention and threat: vote against the Hugpong and straight Otso Direstso. And who are in the Otso Direstso? Ordinary men and women whose simple goal is to serve. After the election they may lose and be forgotten but in this time and day to simply be in the election against Hugpong is raw courage in the tradition of Leila De Lima, Senator Trillanes,and Chief Justice Sereno and most of all Ninoy Aquino. Otso Diretso to me is a finger to the Duterte values of governance by Killing,intimidation,corruption and poverty.

    It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.(T Roosevelt).

    • Yes, your comment caused me to type out a tweet wondering when Filipinos will tire of crooks, cheats, and showmen. By Filipinos, I mean the “everyday man or woman”. It’s not working for them, but its like they have to figure that out for themselves.

    • edgar lores says:

      The Otso Diretso stand out as the gladiators in the arena.

      From my vantage point, I can see an army in the arena with them. Active, yet invisible and nameless.

      They provide voice, presence and logistics… and are equally as tireless as The Eight.

      This army is composed of unsung heroes devoting their time, energy, resources and prayers for the miracle that may happen in May. If. If they can cut through the apathy and spark the wisdom of the crowd.

      May it be so.

  9. Micha says:

    “There is no nation, Philippines. There is an archipelago with people on it that is divided into various vested interests. Nationhood is a propaganda slogan…They are so wrapped up in self that they can’t even help their neighbors across the street.”

    We have a cult of the self, a veneration of the self. The self above all else. The self before the commons, before the community.

    The individual exist not for the state; the state exist for the individual.

    We have an economic system – capitalism – that affirms and venerates such rugged toxic individualism.

    Why are we surprised?

    • Hummmm, I suspect there are as many different forms of capitalism as there are governments. The controls vary. The common thread seems to me to be managed greed in the interest of productivity and prosperity . . . and defense. With the good comes the bad, with the bad the good, and there are all kinds of shades in between. But even with the abuses of concentrated wealth and people left behind, it is undeniable that managed greed has made a whole lot of people comfortable . . . obese even . . . and fomented longer lives, better health care, more knowledge, and a whole lot of entertainment and fun. To me, the most important criticism would not be to condemn the outputs or value of the productive energies of capitalism, but on the management of the greed. If there is an alternative to capitalism that would balance people’s well-being better, we should certainly examine it critically.

      • Micha says:

        The transition has to be made from extreme neo-liberal capitalism to socialist democracies as is being successfully done in many European countries like the Netherlands, Germany, Switzerland, Austria, Denmark, Canada and others.

        Like all transition phases there are kinks to be ironed out but the important thing is to recognize that capitalism is an unsustainable system, socially toxic, and will plunge the planet to environmental extinction.

        All the social ills we are witnessing now, locally and globally, is borne by the congruent effects of an economic system that venerates selfishness and greed. Western civilization is being destroyed slowly but surely by this, unless it is smart enough to recognize that there is way out, a much better and feasible alternative.

        • I trust you are a fan of Rep Ocasio-Cortez. 29 year old waitress who gets to the point. Basic socialist leanings. Her questioning of Cohen was a brilliant piece of work that bar topnotchers cannot emulate. She’ll be president when she is old enough.

          • edgar lores says:

            The closing statement of Chairman Elijah Cummings was great.

            • I’ve yet to see that. I suppose the lesson we can learn on this, to be applied to the Philippines, is that it really does matter who has the heaviest weight in legislative bodies. As long as crooks, cheats, and showmen (and women) dominate the Senate, there is little chance the Philippines will become a progressive nation.

              • edgar lores says:

                Agree. There is no balance right now. The weight heavily leans to one side… and it is dragging the country down.

                The Cummings remarks are non-partisan. He is like a father scolding an errant child (Cohen) but what he says goes beyond the circumstances of the moment.

          • Here is the episode. She is lining up witnesses and discovering documents for further investigation.

          • Micha says:

            She and Bernie started an important national conversation. High time to ramp it up.

          • chemrock says:

            I wish google will come set up their campus in my country now that Ocasio-Cortez has gallantly chased them out of New York.

            • Micha says:

              Chased out google campus in NY? That’s news that is not in the news.

              Maybe you’re referring to Amazon, chemp.

              • Interesting article. It lays out the leftward positioning of Ocasio-Cortez, rather hard it appears. Breaking up Amazon is the goal. Don’t sign me up just yet. “Today was the day a group of dedicated, everyday New Yorkers & their neighbors defeated Amazon’s corporate greed, its worker exploitation, and the power of the richest man in the world,” Ocasio-Cortez tweeted following the announcement, referring to CEO Jeff Bezos.

                Certainly cost the community a lot of jobs.

              • Note the emotionalized argument, as if being rich were bad, and being powerful were bad. (And successful. And having the wherewithal to create a lot of jobs.) So this destructive, anger-building style of argument comes from both left and right today.

              • Pablo says:

                Cost the community a lot of jobs? A bit short sighted in my opinion. The one who has wrecked most jobs is Amazon, a disruptive organisation. Not allowing unions etc… While at the same time killing the high street. Maybe it cost NY some jobs, but Amazon needs to do the HQ work somewhere, so they will find another location and hopefully one where the WILL have to pay tax. Last year, Amazon paid zero ZERO federal taxes. Do you think that is fair? While Joe Block paid for roads, medical, defence, education.. whatever, Amazon profited from all these facilities while not contributing. Good argument to say that they paid a lot of workers who pay taxes. But then why does your Pop-and-Mom shop around the corner pay taxes?
                Same thing for many big corporations. Although I think that ACO is probably going a bit too far, this is peanuts compared to the destruction of social systems instigated by Big Capital. A natural reaction: a swing in one direction inevitably leads to a swing back in the other direction.

              • Short-sighted? Hmmm, I was just popping off a top of mind reaction. I’d say it was unsighted as I have no advocacy on this matter. Your arguments make a lot of sense, and your last paragraph correctly states the reservations that generated my unsighted remark.

              • karlgarcia says:

                Politics used to be politically correct. Just kidding.

              • Micha says:

                Amazon wasn’t chased out. They were exposed of their disgusting racket of having cities compete for their headquarters #2 and, in the case of New York, having taxpayers fork out $3 billion subsidies for a company that’s worth a trillion and its head hydra, the philandering Bezos, is the richest man in the roasting world.

              • Damn, I wish I owned Amazon stock. Bezos is really working hard for those guys. Tremendous success. Took a lot of heat and ridicule for years for all the losses he was willing to absorb to get his infrastructure right, and be the best in the world at what he does.

                “Take him down, man!!! Fucker showing everyone up with success like that.”

              • Pablo says:

                It was.not really Bezos who took the hit if years without profit, it were the shareholders who took the risk. And there is nothing against a reasonable return, but what is the argument that the state should subsidize Amazon and GM and the rest of the biggies, so people have a job and the state pays billions in subsidies, roads and all infrastructure so the biggies can make gigantic profits. Or afford to work inefficient without feeling the pain.
                Ofcourse everybody would like to have got the shares because it would have meant making a killing.
                But is that what it is about? Making a killing and let others (mom-and-pop stores and all the others) pay the price? I thought competition was about a level playing field so the best wins, not about bullies. And sure Jeff worked hard for it, but that us not an argument as many people work hard for their income.
                Just ensure the playing field is level.

              • Oh, I think the uneven distribution of wealth is a huge problem, one of the biggest behind climate change. But I find it hard to criticize the people who innovated, pushed hard, and won big, nor do I care to join the Luddites who would still have us weaving our clothes with wooden looms.

              • But, hey, I am not here to defend Bezos, only the value of free market competition as a great tool for innovation and wealth creation, from which we have all benefited. Here. Bezos can defend himself:


              • edgar lores says:

                I am an Amazon customer.

                Bezos took advantage of technology in many different ways and I think he deserves the rewards of his imagination and labors.

                I can go to the Amazon website, browse and find books at cut-rate prices and buy one with one click. Within seconds, the book is downloaded to my computer. With another click, I can have the book downloaded to my tablet which is my main reading device. Or I can wait and log on to my tablet later and my tablet library will be auto-synchronized with my main computer library. I can do this in the loo.

                The purchase gets automatically charged to my credit card and I don’t have to pay until I get my statement in the middle of the month.

                Compare that to the old days and you appreciate the great convenience. No need to shower, to dress up, to drive to the mall, etc.

                It is amaz(on)ing stuff.

              • My daughter lost her job at Barnes and Noble books because Amazon beat them at delivering books electronically. Am I supposed to be mad at Bezos? Should I weep for Barnes and Nobel and lovers of paper books? I’d end up weeping for myself because I love paper books, especially old ones with hand-written notes from the author. Should I hate Bezos?

              • Micha says:

                Amazon relied on public infrastructure for its success.

                Bezos: I’ve witnessed this incredible thing happen on the internet over the last two decades. I started Amazon in my garage 24 years ago — drove packages to the post office myself. Today we have 600,000-plus people, millions and millions of customers, a very large company.

                How did that happen in such a short period of time? It happened because we didn’t have to do any of the heavy lifting. All of the heavy-lifting infrastructure was already in place for it. There was already a telecommunication network, which became the backbone of the internet. There was already a payment system — it was called the credit card. There was already a transportation network called the US Postal Service, and Royal Mail, and Deutsche Post, all over the world, that could deliver our packages. We didn’t have to build any of that heavy infrastructure.

              • Because he was smarter than everyone else.

              • That confirms Bezos was smart. Did his research.

              • It seems to be a life-cycle, doesn’t it? Start young, work hard, succeed richly, get old, recognize that you don’t need all that money, give it away. Bill Gates works almost full time at it, I think. I once did work for a charity in Los Angeles for Steven Spielberg. He has several generous programs going. He seeds them and staffs them and they multiply his gifts through the gifts of others. It’s like an industry.

              • karlgarcia says:

                Even some of the poor are generous. It will all come back. Bill Gates and Buffet never get tired iof giving.

              • NHerrera says:


                @edgar — I can do this in the loo.

                Hahaha. It is just possible — if a survey is made — that more than 50 percent who own a smartphone or a tablet brings the device to the loo.

                By the way, I too am an Amazon customer and glad about the services.

              • Ah, it’s a worthy argument, capitalism vs socialism, modern vs antiquity, competitive vs compassion. I think none of us walked in Bezos’ shoes, he made a lot of people rich, put some out of work, made Edgar’s trips to the loo productive, abused some workers they say, ponied up to mandate a $15 minimum wage to compensate for that, kept moving forward, taking obstacles as opportunities and excelled. I couldn’t have done that. Micha couldn’t have done that. Let’s give the guy some credit and change the laws that need to be changed but without destroying innovation or the drive to excel.

              • NHerrera says:

                Yes, let’s do!

              • NHerrera says:

                On a recent visit of a Balikbayan relative, we talked about Amazon. I learned that one innovation of the company is the use of non-regular employees or non-subcontractors, but mere individuals living close of Amazon Branches — and such arrangement spreads easily by word of mouth — to deliver purchases by customers close to the branches. And by “close” I mean in US terms, that is, with the use of the individual’s personal transport and the excellent US road networks. This is especially convenient when the individual is going home, and thereby earn extra money, while reducing the cost to Amazon — a synergy.

              • karlgarcia says:

                Have you guys try buying popoy’s book via Amazon.
                I haven’t tried Amazon yet and I asked for a free copy instead. ( joke only popoy)

              • edgar lores says:

                I looked it up a long time ago… and it was there.

                There was no Kindle version and the paperback was not cheap.

                I decided to enjoy the works of the master here at TSH… for free. (Can you tell that Ilocano blood runs in my veins?)

              • NHerrera says:

                Ah, I note you have adopted the Ilocano Blood, too, karl. Me, too — meaning, I am “cheap,” too, when like edgar I can get portions of popoy’s wisdom here in TSH for free. 🙂

              • karlgarcia says:

                Maybe I am part Ilocano.

              • karlgarcia says:

                We are part Ilocano, NH.

              • chemrock says:

                Sorry for join in late, but I have something notewhorthy to share.

                @ Micha — thanks for correcting me — of course it’s Amazon, not google.

                @ Pablo — for going the common route of shooting Amazon first for the $ billion profits and zero tax last year. We need to temper this populist argument with a better understanding of what’s the reason behind all this.

                1. There is a difference between tax avoidance and tax evasion. The first is about being smart working within the laws, the second ala Pacquaio, is wrong and outside the laws.

                2. Amazon’s zero tax was not because they hide profits in overseas subsidiaries through transfer pricing, or conceal funds in offshore companies. Many other companies do that, and that whilst legal, is morally apprehensible.

                3. Amazon’s zero tax was due to 3 strategies, none of them designed by them them to disadvantage the public. They simply adopted tax avoidance mechanisms that were there, namely :
                (a) Trump’s tax reform last year allowed 100% deduction for capex. This tax measure was to encourage companies to send on capital investments, so obviously Amazon speeded up capex plans to take advantage of the immediate tax write-off allowed.
                (b) Amazon took full advantage of tax credits for R&D. These are perks allowed by Congress, a fiscal tool to encourage innovation which is good for the economy. Amazon obviously has a big R&D budget.
                (c) Stock-based compensation. This is huge and most people just don’t understand it. Back in 1993, Bill Clinton acted to prevent high income inequality by a ruling that for federal tax purposes, any compensation over $1million is tax allowed. The exception is where compensation is by stock options which is tax allowed. So whilst it disincentivised high executive salary, it incentivised stock-based compensation. The higher that Amazon’s stock price rises, the more that they can charge to the net profits for tax purposes. So billions and billions are paid out this way which suits the company fine in many ways. For one, there is no impact on cashflow. No need to pay out billion $, simply issue new shares.
                (d) Trumps tax reform that lowered the tax rate has an immediate of making close to $1 billion of 2018 profits tax free.

                4. Now we have to appreciate that it took Amazon many many years before they become profitable. All those years of accumulated losses are tax allowed which must have taken them many years to utilise write of against profits of later years.

                5, People like Ocasio-Cortez with a skewed view is unable to see the wealth that Amazon will bring to NY in the form of local taxes, like the sales tax. Not to mention the multiplier effect a company like Amazon can bring. Some disturbing angst drives people to put their faith in the economic sense of a young lady who a few months ago was a bartender.

                Part of the reason people like Jeff Bezos become filthy rich is because Amazon share price rise and rise and rise. It’s a fascinating thing to appreciate that even in the years that Amazon struggled and made losses year after year, people trusted the counter and its price just kept rising, making many immensely rich. Why begrudge a man who had visions and worked smarter than others and grew filthy rich working the system, and who is a wealth multiplier in the industry.

              • Pablo says:

                Tax avoidance is within the law. Certainly. That does not make Amazon criminal.
                But look at the bigger picture.
                Like you described, laws are created and then “cleverly used” to create this enormous wealth.
                And more laws are created. And used to avoid more tax.
                Joe Block, however, has to pay taxes. And he feels it is wrong that HE has to pay federal taxes and many incredibly rich people do not pay their fair share.
                That means that he argues that the laws are wrong. And that means that if people like Sanders and AOC can get enough voters to see that the increasing gap is wrong, they can change the laws. And your argument goes flat.
                It is a matter of balance and the rapidly increasing gap is creating instability and problems. Because, let’s face it: If Amazon and GM and.. and.. have huge influence and resources and they use that to create more laws to pay less taxes. And make more profit. So Joe Block has to pay more because eventually somebody has to pay. (Mind you, I did not say pay more taxes. Maybe in order to subsidize the lesser taxes of the big companies, services get cut but then Joe Block has still to pay for these services but now privately. At the end it means the gap gets bigger)
                So, when is the income disparity enough? Never? Just continue the trend of the last decades and call the big companies smart and use that as an argument for limitless greediness?
                Well, Joe Block has friends and at some time, their sense of injustice will blow up.

                I am not personally affected by Amazon, GM or the likes. I buy my books in a beautiful bookshop and never an American car and support the local brewery. So, those companies are uninteresting, I think.

                But, what I am saying is that at SOME point, things will go very wrong. And you might hope that reasonable people will make the laws such that a income balance is achieved which most people consider acceptable.
                But most likely, when Joe Block and his friends blow their tops, the few powerfull people will knee-jerk and things will go hopelessly out of control and then it WILL affect me (and the rest of the world).

                So, I am not saying that Amazon is wrong. I am saying that we have been creating a system which is on the way to self destruction.
                And you might hope that there are many more Sanders’ and AOC’s coming to bring some balance into the system before the self destruction happens.

                The law (And especially the tax laws) are written by people and meant to serve these people fair and square. The laws got incredibly (over?) complicated and although normal people don’t understand the details, they do “feel” if they are treated for suckers.
                And people don’t appreciate being taken for suckers. In Philippines the result is already happening, right? The more advanced countries are more resilient, but when it happens there, the effects will be worse.

                You might not agree with Sanders and AOC, but you might wish they multiply because the alternative is daunting.

              • chemrock says:

                For 2 (c) … compensation over $1million is tax allowed…..

              • chemrock says:

                @ Pablo
                You are now talking about the redistribution and more equitable wealth distribution — that I am totally in agreement.

                The earlier part in criticism of Amazon I disagree because it’s kicking the wrong horse.

                Sander’s passion I respect, although I think he goes too far left. But Ocasio-Cortex is something else. Hers is not about building, but pure angst. So far, where are her ideas put forth?

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