Sunday, January 31, 2016

102. Apple and Its Strategy of Feeding on Our Conspicuous Consumption

When I started using a Mac in 2005, I was finally relieved of the viruses that plagued Windows. I thought I joined the elite group of computer enthusiasts who could afford to blow 100 grand on a white machine.  I often sneered at my fellow lawyers who continued to toil on what I perceived as inferior products of Apple's competitors, and I enjoyed listening to MacCast, a podcast exclusively on Apple products. This feeling of superiority is the same feeling that Thorstein Veblen observed in his Theory of the Leisure Class, where he hypothesized that people of leisure consume not because of need but because of the want to be better than their neighbors. Well, I don't belong to the leisure class as I have to toil day and night to keep body and soul together, but I think that indeed, conspicuous consumption has been prevalent in this age of technology, where everyone is in a race to have the fastest, spunkiest, coolest, and often most expensive gadget in the world. Within months I have accumulated six IBooks, one MacBook Air, three IMacs, and two MacMinis. I've assigned the lBooks and MacMinis to the associates and staff in the office and used the IMacs and MacBook for work. We were probably the only virus free law firm in the country. But soon enough, Apple was updating its  operating system in rapid succession, and the Apple system I have in the office was outdated in less than two years. Suddenly, the threat of computer viruses has been replaced by an even more serious threat of absolecense. With this trend I reckoned, our office would have to spend more than half a million pesos on Apple computers every two years, which is too much, considering we only use the computers for word processing and email. Yet, I caught Apple's strategy early enough: Apple is going to dump us with new and cool stuff every six months, feeding our propensity for conspicuous consumption, and blurring our vision on how much money we should be spending on its gadgets, which we will take away from other items in our budget such as wellness and health. Thus, before Apple could make more moves to convince us that our old Macs are no longer cool, we shifted back to Windows, which  is no longer prone to viruses, at least for the moment. But Apple is unrelenting. The strategy of preying on people's propensity for conspicuous consumption is also employed on iPhones, which  went from  small to big, thick to thin, and which   was originally a music hard drive that grew antennas and became phones and internet  devices. This has got to stop. People shouldn't be blowing serious money on smartphones every year. Unfortunately, we all fall into this magical daze whenever Apple has a new product, and like the kids lured by the Pied Piper of Hamelin, we follow Apple's lead and, in exchange for a year of gadget bliss, we give it our money in reckless abandon.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

101. Rizal's Memory

In that story by Jorge Luis Borges, Shakespeare's memory is transferred from one person to another through a telephone call. The premise sounds preposterous at first impression but Borges executes it well and the possibilities of  Shakespeare's memory inhabiting a modern human brain becomes entertaining and profound. I have been toying around with Borges's scheme and have wondered whose brain from my own memory of historical characters would be cool and handy in 2016. Let's imagine Rizal's brain, for example, which would be relevant to smoothen out some blurred lines on his biography, such as his recantation. Perhaps, Rizal's brain can be asked to finish his third novel, Makamisa. Maybe he can even do a review of his, "Mi Ultimo Adios," or at least give it his own title. It may be of interest to Rizal enthusiasts, but we must also be wary of the torments that lurk in his memory -- his dead baby, his aging parents, the revolution that he spurred which led to his execution, and  his sweet stanger, Josephine Bracken, whom he left behind a young widow. As in Borges's story, the amusement tapers off when the host realizes, it's not going to be easy. We don't want to do this. Beautiful Borges story. Let's keep it at that.

Friday, January 22, 2016

100. Campaign Finance Issues: Why no independent election expense?

In Ejercito v. COMELEC (G.R. No.212398 November 25, 2014), Ejercito argued that an election borne by a political supporter without the knowledge and consent of the candidate should not be counted against the candidate's expense limit. The Supreme Court said, however, that in this jurisdiction the concept of independent election expense is not applicable. Thus, a political advertisement worth more than Php 23 M, which Ejercito claimed was paid for by a supporter, was deemed as overspending against Ejercito's limit of barely Php 4.5 Million, leading to his disqualification. As a matter of fact, Section 4 Rule V of Comelec Resolution No. 9991 known as the Omnibus Rules on Campaign Finance, requires all political expenditures to bear the written consent of the candidate or the political party. What is the implication? If, for example, I print on my own volition my advocacy for the presidency of Allan Carreon, the intergalactic ambassador, I would need Allan Carreon to sign off on it, otherwise I have just committed an election offense. Further, whatever money I spent on the sticker is charged to Allan Carreon's election expense limit. Poor guy. If the Martians decide to bankroll his campaign without his knowledge, he could be disqualified not as a nuisance but as an election overspender, like Ejercito in 2013. 

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

99. Back to the Past

At the January 5, 2016 conference for adoptees, adoptive families, and foundlings, human rights lawyer Glenda Itong said that she found the Royal Decree issued by King Charles IV in February 19, 1794 extending legal protection to foundlings. The decree was effective in all of Spain's colonies, including the Philippines.

Subsequently, the Spanish Civil Code was enacted and the essence of King Charles IV's foundling decree was in the provision on Spanish citizens which deemed that all foundlings found in Spanish territory are deemed Spanish citizens. When the Philippine Civil Code was enacted in 1950, however, this provision on foundlings was left out in the text. Curiously, the Family Code which was enacted in 1987  also left this out. This makes me wonder how the best legal minds of the 50s, including Arturo Tolentino whose Annotations on the Civil Code are standard texts in law schools, missed it. The repealing clauses of the Spanish Civil Code, the 1950s Civil Code and the Family Code are expressed, such that the Family Code appears to be the actual state of the applicable law on foundlings, which sadly does not state anything. In Tecson v. Comelec, the Supreme Court said that "(A)n accepted principle of international law dictated that a change in sovereignty, while resulting in an abrogation of all political laws then in force, would have no effect on civil laws, which would remain virtually intact." Is it possible therefore to argue that the King Charles IV's Royal Decree on Foundlings is still good law? For, indeed, how can a new law repeal something and be totally silent on a specific provision and therefore discard a centuries old legal framework on the protection of perhaps the most vulnerable human beings on the planet? An entire vacuum has been left out and that leaves King Charles IV greatest achievement as King of Spain in the dustbin. As Justice Marvic Leonen asked in yesterday's oral arguments before the Supreme Court, "Are we called to be legalists, or are we called to be justices?" I'm sure Rizal would be turning in his grave if he learns that the Spanish Crown treated foundlings better than the sovereign Philippines. And Manuel L. Quezon, who preferred a government run like hell by Filipinos, would be cursing at the lawyers who messed up.

Sunday, January 03, 2016

98. Natalie Cole

I used to joke around with the lyrics and burst into song, "I craze you like miss you." I drove other people crazy indeed. I was a teen-ager and played the piano for long hours with the old reliable Jingle Song Book Magazine. I was particularly amused with the shifting of the keys in  "Miss You Like Crazy"  and would play it endlessly through the night.  But more than that I was proud to be a Natalie Cole fan. The lady had class, and the bonus was she was Nat King Cole's daughter. Her pinnacle of success came when she did the duets with her late dad's recordings, which was technically marvelous. They sounded like fresh recordings. That was a magical feat considering how Nat King Cole's old recordings sounded on CDs -- they sounded really old.  But the duets with Natalie made them sound new. And I'm not just saying new in the sense of bit rate but also in the sense of artistry. Yet, Natalie Cole soon drifted away from the recording scene. Meanwhile, I graduated from law school and soon found a job, I had more freedom to pursue my musical interests. But there was no new Natalie Cole album in the late 90s and 2000s. So, I indulged instead in Pavarotti, Bocelli, Louis Armstrong, Silje Nergaard, Sting, True Faith, The Dawn,  Rivermaya, Eraserheads, and a lot more, including the boxed set of The Beatles.  Then, about three years ago, a new Natalie Cole album popped out of the iTunes store. It was her Spanish album, which was the first recording she's had in many years. I downloaded the songs immediately, and for several months, it was the only album on my playlist. I listened to it while waiting in traffic, jogging, reading, waiting for the airplane, and whenever I wanted to lift my spirits. Listening  to familiar songs in another language opens us to the various creative possibilities in life and awakens us to humanity's immense capacity for enjoyment of familiar things. Perhaps, it's just Natalie Cole, the cool mezzo-soprano with that precise diction and clarity of tone.  Who knows? I learned that the songs in the Spanish album were originally Spanish songs but were popular in their English translations. Natalie Cole actually recorded those songs in their original Spanish versions in 2013 and made them sound they were new. Sadly, she had a drug problem, which  was the reason why she stopped recording after those years doing duets with her dad's recorded voices. When she came back with her Spanish album, it was a triumph not only against the drug menace but also against the temptation to wallow in dark obscurity. Indeed, after a string of successes, dark obscurity is tempting and easy, but she came back and it was good. Unfortunately, she is gone now.  Natalie Cole -- she's never going to make old songs sound new again. But I'm thankful for having had the privilege of listening to her in this life. Rest in peace Natalie Cole.