Refuge of scoundrels

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TO Samuel Johnson (born 1709; died 1784), poet, essayist and author of A Dictionary of the English Language (published in April, 1755), do we owe the observation that “Patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel.”

His biographer James Boswell (born 1740; died 1795) claimed that Johnson wasn’t condemning patriotism but how it was being misused by the unscrupulous to justify even the foulest of deeds. If that was indeed what Johnson meant, he was not not only being astutely observant about his times; he was also being prophetic. Scoundrels have indeed used patriotism, or love of country, to justify even the worst crimes.

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Conspiracy theory

Leni Robredo
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ELVIS Presley faked his own death in 1977, and at the ripe old age of 81 still lives today as a grounds keeper in Graceland, the home he purchased in Memphis, Tennessee at the height of his film, music and television career in 1957.

The military-industrial complex — the alliance between the US military and the arms industry driven both by profit as well as the aim of maintaining US military supremacy — has the potential to undermine individual liberties and the democratic process.

Both are conspiracy theories — attempts to explain an actual or possible event as the result of a secret undertaking by groups or individuals to further their own purposes or interests. The first example above is patently false and the result of wishful thinking among some of the more devoted Elvis fans. But it can be argued that the latter possibility, since then US President Dwight D. Eisenhower warned about it in his farewell address in 1961, could very well happen or has already happened.

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The Pollyanna Principle

Statue of Pollyanna
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THE ADVENT of every new year inevitably brings with it not only the cheery predictions of hacks who claim to have the power to foretell what will happen in the next 12 months by telling the world which celebrity will be sleeping with whom or how the economy will perform. It’s also one more opportunity for the survey firms to regale the citizenry with what the average man-on-the-street thinks is in store for him in this earthly paradise. Not to be outdone, one’s favorite commentator is also likely to weigh in with his or her forecasts on what will happen in the political scene in the coming 52 weeks.

Almost to a man (and woman), whether feng shui hack, man-on-the-street, or media pundit, these creatures will tell you every new year that they expect — they don’t hope, they expect — things to be better, whether in terms of better employment opportunities, the lower price of eggs, or the bright prospects for an end to corruption, the coming of peace, and the achievement of social change.

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Reckless endangerment

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EIGHT out of ten Filipinos, a December 17 Social Weather Stations (SWS) survey has found, fear that they or someone they know could be a victim of extrajudicial killings or EJKs.

As Senator Grace Poe has observed, the fear is understandable in view of the epidemic of killings in the course of the Duterte anti-illegal drug campaign. The police killing spree has claimed not only the lives of drug pushers and users; it has also victimized both those individuals who have nothing to do with the drug trade as well as drug addicts driven to the habit by poverty and desperation.

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Regime of unreason

President Rodrigo Duterte
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THEN CANDIDATE Rodrigo Duterte described himself as a “socialist” and a “leftist” during the May 2016 campaign. He hasn’t made the same claim since, and, despite his appointment of two presumed leftists to the Cabinet, there isn’t a shadow of socialist thought or principle in either his statements or his emerging policies.

What the entire country has been getting since Duterte assumed the presidency, in addition to the usual profanities, is a mulish obsession with drugs, drugs, drugs. It’s as if the trade in illegal drugs and drug abuse were the country’s only problem, and the one single thing that defines existence in these 7,000 islands of 100 million people.

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Ramos in the time of Duterte

Fidel Ramos and Rodrigo Duterte
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FORMER President Fidel V. Ramos has been credited with — or blamed for — convincing Rodrigo Duterte to run for the Presidency and supporting his candidacy. Duterte has so acknowledged Ramos’ role in making the former city mayor president — the first politician in history to hold that post without any previous experience in a national office. (Duterte has been mayor of Davao for two decades and in between terms represented Davao ‘s first district as a member of the House of Representatives.)

In apparent recognition of his responsibility in inflicting the Duterte administration on the country, Ramos has made it his business to call it to task for what he sees as its many failings. But it’s not so much what he has so far been critical of but what he has so far failed to call attention to that provokes questions on what Ramos’ agenda could be.

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