Sunday, December 30, 2007

Some products I recommend

Since it's the holiday season, let me indulge my consumerism and recommend some products I find good and worth buying:

1. Tom's of Maine Natural Deodorant Sticks
The deodorant sticks from Tom's of Maine do not contain aluminum and no artificial fragrance. There is really no solid scientific proof, as far as I know, that says aluminum is bad in deodorants, but better to err on the side of caution. Besides, I believe that armpits are supposed to sweat so I only use deodorants not anti-perspirants. Tom's of Maine does the job and you can rub it in without worrying if aluminum will trigger your future Alzheimer's.

Tom's of Maine products available in Shopwise and Rustan's. Never buy it in Healthy Options because it's overpriced there.

2. Kirkland fish oil

Newsweek had an article before which interviewed 5 medical experts on the forefront of research on geriatrics and, if I remember correctly, three of them are personally taking fish oil pills plus a multivitamin daily. Sanjay Gupta, CNN's medical correspondent who has recently written Chasing Life: New Discoveries in the Search for Immortality to Help You Age Less Today, also has started taking fish oil pills after he has interviewed experts on the subject in the course of his writing the book. Here's some information on fish oil fatty acids from the US National Institutes of Health.

There are many fish oil pills available. Some are very expensive. Buy the Kirkland brand. Consumer Reports did a survey of various fish oil pills and ranked it as the best and free from mercury. Kirkland is also the cheapest at around 800 pesos per bottle of 400.

3. Jason natural fragrance-free daily shampoo

Free of parabens, harsh chemicals, dyes, and fragrance, it still does what a shampoo is supposed to do: wash your hair. The nice thing I like about this is that it has no smell so you don't end up a walking advertisement for the shampoo you are using.

4. Bench styling stick
Bench has a winner in this. It's not a gel, not a pomade, not a cream, but it works well and does not leave your hair stiff and shiny. It's also easier to wash.

I think I should stop here before Inquirer Super gives me a ring.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Web prowl

On the seventieth anniversary of the Nanking massacre this month (pictures of Iris Chang's seminal book on the subject shown here in a Japanese bookstore), the Asahi Shimbun calls for Japanese Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda to take the opportunity to express regret and hope for reconciliation. From the New York Times, a personal essay on how difficult it was to find a kidney and how altruism is simply not enough to ensure there's a ready supply for organs for people who desperately need them. America's NPR picks the year's best in world music. The Economist writes on rising food prices and the opportunity it presents to the world's poor farmers if governments can steer the right policies. From the Yomiuri Shimbun, Japan must prepare for war between the United States and North Korea. Time picks Vladimir Putin as its Man of the year.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Complaint against the Metrobank credit card

Tony Lopez over the holidays was complaining about his Metrobank credit card which he said gets refused too often, and took a swipe at the fact that a foreigner (an Australian, I think) heads its credit card operations. Today, he follows it up by printing a reader's complaint against Metrobank regarding her being billed for annual charges for a card Metrobank offered but which she had refused and returned to the bank.

I have a Metrobank credit card and had at least one experience similar to Tony Lopez's. Even if your Metrobank card is still within its credit limit, it sometimes inexplicably gets refused. It's not a big problem for me, but I can imagine the inconvenience for people who don't bring cash or who are in a hurry.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

The looming return of the tycoon

The military and Bangkok's snooty middle classes booted him out of power, sent him to exile, and banned his Thai Rak Thai Party, but Thaksin Shinawatra is now poised to retake the leadership of Thailand as his political supporters, rallying under the banner of the newly-constituted People' Power Party and promising his return, won half of the parliamentary seats contested in the last elections.

No revenge for a politician could have tasted sweeter. Some deposed populist leaders took years and years to plot their return (Newsweek notes here that it took Argentina's hugely popular Juan Peron eighteen years), but Thaksin might just make it back in a little less than two years. Speaking in Hong Kong, Thaksin said he will return sometime between February and April. (His political enemies probably want to mark his return on the Ides of March, better to finish him off.)

Many say Thaksin's return bodes ill for Thailand. His politics polarized the country and draw attention the the gap between the affluent and liberal Thailand, on one hand hand, and the poor, rural Thailand on the other, not unlike what Joseph Estrada did to the Philippines.

Another contrast is that the leader of the opposition is exactly the sort of leader that stereotypically sweeps the middle classes off their feet: Abhisit Vejjajiva has movie-star good looks and a Western education.

The issue that the Thais will face next year is the essential problem of democratic majoritarian rule: What should a conscientious minority middle class properly do when its choice of a leader is resoundingly rejected by the poor majority that has ideas of its own?

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

This land is whose land?

Land reform, it seems to me, is one issue only a disinterested youth with no independent income can have a totally objective, non-partisan view. One's bias is automatically dictated by one's position in the society.

If you or your family owns a sizeable property yourself, you'll most probably be decrying the economic efficiency lost by dividing properties and distributing them to farmers who don't even have the capital to develop the land themselves. Conversely, if you don't own land, you'll probably be incredulous of the seeming gall of landlords to selfishly hold on to property through every loophole they can see in the law.

In the case of the Sumilao farmers and their demand for their ancestral land in Bukidnon, it is probably correct to say that when viewed strictly in terms of potential economic contribution, at least in the the short term, the land in question is better off ending in the hands of San Miguel than the farmers who marched cross-country.

Many people are of the above opinion and some columnists have even started questioning the "landless" credentials of the farmers, like Emil Jurado in today's column.

The first time I heard of the march by the farmers, my first thought was that it was futile. After all, had there not been a final Supreme Court Case decided against them? I thought only God or a revolution can give them back the land. But, in fact, there is a solid possibility that they have a valid case that might win them back the land.

Here's the lowdown of the story: To save the land from land reform, the Quisumbings promised to convert it from agricultural to agro-industrial use in five years' time. They, however, failed to deliver on the promise and instead sold it to San Miguel, which plans to set up a piggery on the property.

As Dean Bernas points out here, the farmers have a valid case in saying that because the Quisumbings did not deliver on their promised land conversion of the property to agro-industrial use, the land conversion should be revoked.

Meanwhile, DAR Secretary Pangandaman has asked the farmers to write a position paper, which the farmers, I think, submitted to the secretary a couple of days ago.

With all the incendiary and highly emotional quality of this Sumilao issue, I cannot help but think former President Corazon Aquino could have spared the nation the emotionally draining debate on land reform if she only unilaterally parcelled off the land in 1986 during her revolutionary tenure as president. Instead of discussing weighty issues on how to move the Philippines forward in the highly competetive global economy, here we are in the great age of the global knowledge economy still debating on what to do with land, that primary source of wealth of a bygone era.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

A more independent Japan without the LDP?

It seems President Arroyo is not the only one fond of an overly large contingent in a foreign trip; Japanese opposition leader Ochiro Ozawa is accused of the same thing in his trip to China, where he brought with him 45 Minshuto lawmakers--24 from the Upper House and 21 from the Lower House-- while the Japanese Diet is in session.

China apparently is giving Ozawa the red carpet welcome to prepare for the time when the bumbling LDP of Japan is finally thrown out of power. In this sense, the visit by Ozawa is comparable to the historic visit by Taiwan's opposition Kuomintang two years ago: an opposition party warming up to China while the ruling party maintains a more distant stance.

Ozawa is concerned about the declining regard for Japan in the international community, with it being increasingly seen as a mere minor player that curries favor with China and the United States. North Korea has, for instance, proposed to chuck out Japan from the six-party talks. Ozawa is proposing a more independent Japan that maintains an equal distance between China and the United States. Earlier, Ozawa blasted Prime Minister Fukuda for supporting Japan's refueling mission in the Indian Ocean to support U.S.-led anti-terror activities.