Centrist Democracy Political Institute - Items filtered by date: June 2023
Friday, 30 June 2023 21:15

The politics of gender choice

JUNE is Pride Month — a celebration of the LGBTQ community. This is never as passionately celebrated as in America, where this community has gained equal rights, political power and overall equality in the land of opportunities. In the Philippines, we too have our Pride Month, as always being spellbound by American culture, aping whatever America does, being her brown brothers or sisters, or whatever politically appropriate gender appellation lodged between the traditional biological male (M) and biological female (F). In America, it is offensive to address people as simply biologically born M or F. What was once simply known as the third sex, lesbian and gay (LG), now has more permutations: binary (B), transgender (T) and queer (Q). This article will attempt to dissect, dichotomize and demystify the arcana surrounding the concepts of gender, hopefully making it understandable to the Filipinos who "gaya-gaya" now are undergoing the same issues as America is today.

Time was simpler when gender issues as topics of debate simply ranged from gender roles, identity, sexual choices and inequality, and discussions revolved around social and cultural expectations that are associated with being male, female, or gay (lesbian). No longer! Gender roles have become more fluid than just the gender identification assigned to individuals at birth. An invented term, — cisgender, which did away with the old concept of straight," now describes people whose gender identity matches the sex they were assigned at birth. Someone assigned female at birth (AFAB) and identifies as a woman — is a cisgender woman — vice versa with that of the (AMAB) as a cisgender man. On the other hand, an AFAB or AMAB person who identifies with the opposite is a transgender woman or transgender man.

Gender identity now refers to an individual's internal sense of being male, female, or somewhere in between. Translated in layman's language, gender identity is a deeply personal experience, with individuals being able to express themselves in a way that feels authentic to them. In short, transgenderism (trans) is related to a person's gender identity — the way they identify sexually, regardless of biological definitions of sex. This is usually a rejection of the gender assigned to them at birth.

Transgender and intersex

Another perspective, intersex," was introduced in the book "Galileo's Middle Finger" (Alice Dreger, Penguin Press). The author uses biology and anatomy as points of departure. There are "intersex individuals" born with anatomy corresponding neither to the standard biological definitions of male or female — a set of ovaries and a pair of testes. These people straddle the gender divide and over the millennia have been stigmatized by society; and condemned to cruel alterations or normalization toward a sex the doctor assigns them at birth. Accordingly, "...people deemed to be more male than female might have their clitoris removed, for instance, and those deemed to be more female might be injected with hormones.

"In a way, the difficulties faced by people who are transgendered are the opposite of those faced by people who are intersex. Many want to undergo sex-change surgery and take hormones, but access to these resources is often very hard to secure."

Gender assignments at birth

In another interesting book by an anthropologist, "She/He/They/Me" (Robyn Ryle, Sourcebooks, 2022), the "common sense" gender distinction between males who "normally have a penis" and females who "normally have a vagina" may no longer be valid. She advances the idea of societies with only one gender, i.e., the ancient Greeks, where women were seen as inferior versions of men; the Mohave people of North America, with a variant gender category called "alyha," all classified as boys at birth and later could be assigned as girls at age 11, depending on their observed proclivities. Her thesis is that "gender doesn't exist in a vacuum; instead, it intersects with other dimensions of society, such as class and race ... and ... the actual meaning of 'masculine/feminine' and their related terms can drastically change between different cultures, eras, and groups of people within a particular society, such as races and socioeconomic classes."

The birth doctors almost have an autocratic, arbitrary pronouncement on the child's gender following a heterosexual bias toward boys with penis and girls with vagina, declaring them as such. And overall, "The medical establishment remains heteronormative. It continues to control what gender a person does or doesn't get to be. And this presents challenges for both transgendered people as well as intersex people." (Ryle)

With an intersex condition, the family and the birth doctors resort to the "concealment-centered model," where hormones, surgery or other medical interventions are used to "treat" the child's actually harmless condition. Some of these interventions are irreversible. An alternative is the "patient-centered model," where parents and doctors provisionally assign a gender at birth, allowing the child to choose a gender when older. The latter is much preferred, especially if the gender assignment is not at odds with the gender identity the grown-up personally prefers later in life.

Preferred pronouns and backlash

With the emergence and new activism of this community (LGBTQ++), even the English language has been drastically altered, with the community insisting on preferred pronouns for themselves. Proponents of preferred pronouns, mostly to avoid conflicts with the community, kowtowed to these demands — addressing "she" when in truth the addressee is a "he" — simply to be polite and not to cause offense. It reached ludicrous heights when the binary and transgender people were to be addressed as "they/them."

In a relatively young nation populated by waves of migration from all corners of the world, the diversity of cultures forged in the cauldron of its collective history has always been celebrated. An outwardly tolerant society has emerged but has been disturbed of late by demands from these diverse minorities and sub-cultures.

The following quote is slightly redacted from Megyn Kelly's show on YouTube. She was a former adherent.

"Trans madness is sweeping the nation: female inmates raped by male sex offenders declaring themselves trans female right before heading to prison.

"In 2016, the community demanded access for transgender women to ladies' rooms/bathrooms. In 2018, school kids were introduced officially to the concept of trans-kids, encouraging them to own to who they are.

"New York City schools pushing the idea to children that "gender is just a social construct" and malleable, asking if they were still boys and uncomfortable with their bodies; and immediately affirmed as 'trans,' knowing that these kids will normally grow out of their feelings if allowed to upon reaching puberty.

"In Connecticut women's sports, teenage girls were losing in the track and field to competing runners who raced as boys a year before, then simply declared themselves female, dominating the women's races.

"Hospitals bragging about oodles of cash brought on by cross-gender procedures, including on teenagers."

And an ensuing backlash!

Bud Light, America's top-selling beer suffers great losses after being boycotted in the wake of its partnership with transgender influencer Dylan Mulvaney.

Target stores lost $10 billion in market value in 10 days amid a boycott on Pride-themed clothing for children as young as 2 years old. It has since downsized its in-store displays.

Where will America and the LGBTQ++ go from here?

Published in LML Polettiques

A MONTH after Putin invaded Ukraine, I wrote in my column: "Prayers will not help Ukraine now. Putin is unfolding his endgame pursuing what to him is in the best interest of Mother Russia — an altogether justifiable response to what America and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) allies have been doing all along." (The Manila Times, March 9, 2022)

The following week, I wrote further: "Today marks the 20th day of the invasion of Ukraine by Russia. In the coming days, Putin will unveil his endgame. Thousands will be dead and those that fled the cities are the lucky ones. Kyiv, Kharkiv, Lviv and Odesa will be reduced to rubble." (TMT, March 16, 2022)

I was wrong! Ukraine survived Putin's onslaught holding him to a stalemate. But I was spot on: "America will not shed blood for Ukraine. No 'boots on the ground'! With its NATO allies, the US will simply arm Ukraine, encourage it to resist, and Russian and Ukraine boys will die. Victims all for a surrogate war for democracy. Not a drop of American blood spilled. But this act by America and NATO using Eastern Europeans to butcher each other is pushing Putin into a corner."

Then again in the eighth month of the Ukraine invasion, on Oct. 5, 2022, I wrote a piece that will be confirmed by a leading American politician today. "Now things are becoming clearer as to the motivations and direction the war is going. If conspiracy theorists were to be believed — and the evidence of this is overwhelming, the military-industrial complex [is] the primary beneficiary. And we can all draw our own conclusions... The symbiosis between its economic and military components is directed toward serving each other's vested interest — one twin obtaining war weapons, the other paid to supply them. The armed forces of the US and the defense contractors, all orchestrated by the Pentagon, need the enabling participation of a complicit US Congress forming a three-sided triangle — now aptly called the military-industrial-congressional complex (MICC)."

And my conclusion: "So, is Ukraine winning? Who cares? Business is good!"

NATO and Russia's abattoir

Today,16 months after Putin's invasion, a Democratic presidential candidate revealed some disturbing facts, which confirmed many of my suspicions. Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. (RFK), scion of one of America's political dynasties, son of the assassinated US attorney general and nephew of the assassinated president, John F. Kennedy, has this to say: "What we're doing in Ukraine now is just a massive assault on Ukrainians. We have trapped Ukraine in a proxy war against [Russia] and they are being devoured by the geopolitical machinations of neocons in the White House ... in reality, every step we have taken, every decision we have made appears to have been intended to prolong the war and to increase the bloodshed."

And contrary to the news being peddled by American media, that Ukraine is gaining the upper hand and winning the war, a different perspective is being offered: "Russia-US proxy war ... has killed hundreds of thousands of Ukrainian troops for a geopolitical goal which has 'nothing to do with Ukraine'." And the surrogate war for democracy be damned! We've been had.

Perhaps RFK's pronouncements contesting Biden's seat should be taken with a grain of salt. His position also hews close to the GOP's disgraced Donald Trump who boasted that he can end this war within a few days of his re-assumption to the US presidency.

End of Cold War precedents

To put things in proper perspective, we may have to go back to when Premier Gorbachev presiding over a deteriorating USSR in 1991presaging the end of the Cold War, extracted a promise from US President George H. W. Bush (41st) that NATO will not move East to the former USSR territories. Bush did promise. And the Soviet Union dismantled 400,000 troops and vacated East Germany, allowing the two halves of Germany to unify under NATO. This unprecedented conciliation by the Soviet leadership was never responded to in the same manner as it should have. And in the coming years, the lone world hegemon, America, inched its way into the old Warsaw Pact, enhancing NATO's forward defense and military presence. Thus, in over two decades, NATO has had its foothold in Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland. These four former USSR territories are now under NATO command through the Multinational Corps Northeast Headquarters in Szczecin, Poland; installing the nuclear-capable Aegis missile systems in Poland and Romania. While not formally part of NATO, four battlegroups are being set up in Bulgaria, Hungary, Romania and Slovakia. This altered drastically the defense and security profile in the Euro-Atlantic area.

Consider a similar scenario in 1962 when another Kennedy had to fend off the encroachment of the then powerful USSR under Nikita Khrushchev when short-range ballistic missiles (SRBM) were stationed in Cuba. The world was brought to the brink of nuclear war. Not much difference now with NATO at the gates of Russia. Thus, the invasion of Ukraine.

America's intentions on Ukraine

Unbeknownst to the USSR, America may not have intended to keep its word — if indeed they were given. Even prior to the Vietnam debacle, America had always pined for containing the USSR. Zbigniew Brzezinski, a counselor to President Lyndon Johnson and President Jimmy Carter's national security adviser (NSA) then articulated that "US strategy should be to suck Russia into a series of wars in little countries where we can then exhaust them." And this was reiterated by the current defense secretary, Lloyd Austin: "... degrade the Russian army ... exhaust it and degrade its capacity to fight anywhere in the world." This has been the dominant mindset in America's foreign policy whether the US is led by Democrats or Republicans.

Ukraine was the biggest and most populous of the 15 constituent republics of the Soviet Union and the westernmost border of the USSR, a buffer against NATO encroachment. It was the "apple of Putin's eye." Its invasion by Russia was the sum total of NATO's relentless encroachment over the years that included the CIA-sponsored Euromaidan Revolution in 2013 resulting in a regime change in Ukraine, which in turn gave Putin the alibi to annex Ukraine's southern peninsula of Crimea in 2014 and recognize the Russian-sponsored separatists states of Donetsk and Luhansk in the southeast, collectively known as the Donbas region.

Apparently, both sides have drawn and crossed each other's lines, with NATO — in hindsight perchance welcoming Putin's "aggression" giving it the pretext to go into Ukraine — salivating for Putin to do what he had to do — defend the integrity of his territory — or at least for Ukraine to remain the last buffer for Russia's borders. Both provided casus belli for each other's acts.

Thus, in the words of RFK, "We have now turned Ukraine into an abattoir that has devoured 350,000 young Ukrainians. They are lying about how many people have died, they're concealing it from us — the Pentagon's concealing it from the American people. Ukraine is concealing it from their people..."

Whether these are simply mutterings of another politician vying for the US presidency is of no consequence. Ukrainian and Russian blood is spilled on the altar of hegemonic geopolitics.

Published in LML Polettiques
Wednesday, 07 June 2023 23:52

Bashi Channel — where we go to war!

NOT much is known to the Filipino public about the Bashi Channel in the Batanes and the Babuyan islands off the northern coast of Cagayan province. But this is where we go to war.

Bashi's strategic importance is that this narrow passage is a global trade route, rivaling the Malacca Strait between Malaysia and Indonesia, and the Formosa/Taiwan Strait between Taiwan and the Chinese province of Fujian. Underneath pass submarine communications cables connecting the US West Coast, Japan and South Asia, carrying approximately 97 percent of data and telephone traffic.

I wrote in my previous columns about the CSIS/CNAS wargaming of China's Taiwan invasion, drawing America to war. Bashi similarly ensnares the Philippines, albeit reluctantly, into this conflict. I draw heavily from the CSIS/CNAS public documents furnished to this columnist.


Three narrow straits separate China from the rest of the world through the open waters of the Pacific. First is the Yonaguni Channel to Taiwan's northeast spanning 120 kilometers to Japan's westernmost Yonaguni island — where cruise missiles are currently being installed. The second chokepoint is the Formosa/Taiwan Strait itself fronting China's Fujian province, whose narrowest point is just 180 km. The third chokepoint is the Bashi Channel, integral to the Luzon Strait 100 km from Taiwan, straddling the gateway to the Pacific.

But in the event of hostilities, this is "... critical either for Chinese naval forces to break out of home waters and get into the open Pacific to target US military installations on Guam to the east, or for US warships to get into the South China Sea." (CNN Brad Lendon, April 4, 2023)

Dominance over these chokepoints will spell the difference between victory and defeat for opposing forces. Both the Yonaguni and Bashi channels, if held, will prevent China's invasion forces from encircling Taiwan to the north and south compelling a frontal assault across the Taiwan Strait. Both are part of the First Island Chain, the US strategic maritime containment conceived originally during the Cold War projecting US power in the Western Pacific, restricting sea access by Russia and now principally China. These two channels are key to China's successfully reacquiring Taiwan or prove to be the graveyard of ships for both Chinese and American allied forces. Control therefore of supply lines through this channel is imperative. Kaohsiung in southern Taiwan is its largest container port, handling 62 percent of its cargo volume. US forces will have to supply Taiwan through Kaohsiung from US pre-positioned logistics in bases in the Philippines and Japan.

US Seventh Fleet

The key to dominance over Bashi and the other chokepoints is air superiority, missiles and naval blockade. The US Seventh Fleet with its flagship, the USS Ronald Reagan, has a carrier strike force of up to 10 to14 guided-missile destroyers and cruisers armed with theater ballistic missile interceptors, long-range Tomahawk land-attack missiles and anti-aircraft armaments. An additional 8 to 12 nuclear-powered submarines are some of the Seventh Fleet's deadly adjuncts. If needed, it can be augmented by the Nimitz Carrier Strike Group (CSG), currently operating in the Philippines seas (South China Sea/West Philippine Sea) for a combined total of perhaps 50 to 70 surface ships and submarines, squadrons of 150 aircraft of all types, and 27,000 American sailors, marines and special forces.

But air cover from carriers, though formidable, will depend on the capability of carriers and the armada to launch and retrieve them from sorties while under relentless threat of China's land-based missiles. In the CSIS/CNAS war games, two aircraft carriers are sunk by China's missiles, hundreds of aircraft and two dozen assorted ships. China suffers worse losses.

But while the US Navy can maintain the vessels in the area for months, carrier-based jets can only sustain operations for a few hours requiring extensive maintenance, logistics and service facilities. This conundrum compels the aircraft with a flexible operational range to follow the floating bases while under hostile missile reach. Land-based aircraft with a wide operational range are critical to air superiority over the Bashi chokepoints and cover over Taiwan itself.

This is where the EDCA sites in the Philippines come into play.

EDCA military sites (bases)

Much has been written about the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) of the Philippines with America purportedly for humanitarian and relief operations to mitigate climate change disasters in the Philippines.

This fiction, perpetrated by the two governments diverting their respective citizenry from EDCA's real purpose, will not hold for long. Unknown largely to both publics and coming from impeccable sources, "... 300-strong US special forces in Zamboanga have been there since 2002, continuously. They are rotated every six months to satisfy the provisions of the VFA." This is the template for the nine EDCA sites. The Pentagon in a briefing conducted by its spokesman Sabrina Singh stressed that the EDCA sites "... would not see a permanent US military presence — that's not allowed under the EDCA — but would be available to US forces in 'contingencies.' This is really about regional readiness ... you're going to see an increase of rotational forces in the region ... the Department of Defense would work in lockstep with Philippine partners to rapidly modernize the bases."

In short, these contingencies being envisioned are in line with the coming conflict with China over Taiwan. On March 13, 2023, for the first time, F22 Raptors fighter jets were deployed to Clark Air Base in a joint exercise with the Philippine Air Force. This presages F-22 and F-35 deployment in the EDCA sites which are now being improved with mostly American dollars. The EDCA sites in Luzon would fulfill the requirement for air superiority over the Bashi Channel and the southern Taiwan port of Kaohsiung, while those in Balabac in Palawan will provide armed muscle facing the Chinese artificial island military bases.

Chinese invasion scenario

"Between 2026 and 2027, China will invade Taiwan. The first option for China is to do a pre-emptive strike going for an early knockout with its warplanes and missiles on Taiwan's small air force and weak navy, a surgical strike with all its resources going for a quick decapitation of Taiwan's defenses, communications and leadership."

Simultaneously, China executes a "Pearl Harbor raid," raining missiles on the nine EDCA sites, demolishing their second-strike capabilities, and jeopardizing air superiority over Bashi and Kaohsiung. There is no doubt that these EDCA sites will be a magnet for Chinese retaliation or pre-emptive targeting. And many of our people will die." (From "Wargaming China-Taiwan conflict," The Manila Times, April 4, 2023)

This debate on whether EDCA bases are good or bad for the Philippines is no longer efficacious and is simply moot.

When the 1947 MBT and the 1951 MDT with America were signed, our government condemned us to take sides. What is infuriating is the propensity of our leaders to play charades with the Filipinos, insulting their intelligence by not telling them like it is, while American decision-makers are open about EDCA expansion as a deterrent to China's invading Taiwan. And if deterrence doesn't work — then EDCA bases must be used to fulfill their true purpose. A platform to defeat China. And if you ask the man in the street, chances are they'd go with America rather than China. There is no middle ground.

We never really did have a choice!

Published in LML Polettiques