Monday, April 30, 2012

Rating President Aquino: Part II

In the first article that brainstormed a method for rating President Aquino, I proposed seven areas of job performance that can be scored and summed to reach a total score. Link to article. The job performance functions are:

  1. Presentation
  2. Global engagement
  3. Infrastructure
  4. Health and security
  5. Wealth building
  6. Social cohesion
  7. Timeline architecture

In this article I'll brainstorm some more: (1) proposing a scoring method, (2) doing a first cut at "Presentation", and (3) doing a first cut at "Global Engagement."

Scoring Method

The President's performance in each area will be scored from 1 to 10, with 10 being very strong and 1 being very weak. However, the first and last areas, "Presentation" and "Timeline architecture", are not actually productive work areas, but management qualities or disciplines. They will be given a 50% weighting. The other six areas will be given 100% weighting. The result is a numerical score that will fall somewhere between 6 and 60.


How presidential is President Aquino? Does he project strength, intelligence, smooth diplomacy, calmness, rational thinking?

  • Does a president have to look like Mitt Romney, square jawed and handsome, to be presidential? What is he walks with a limp or is a little chubby? One of America's toughest presidents was a short little sparkplug with a huge moustache and a scowl; his name was Teddy Roosevelt. One of the most respected was in a wheel chair, Franklin D. Roosevelt.

  • Does President Aquino look Hillary Clinton and Barak Obama in the eye, as an equal? Yes.

  • Does he sometimes look like a scared deer in the headlights when in a tough predicament, like when doing a news briefing on a bus massacre? Yes.

  • Does he smile congenially when meeting heads of state, putting them at ease? Yes.

  • Does he get overly emotional when a Chief Justice goes against his will? Yes.

  • Does he look like a nerd or an athlete? Nerd.

  • Does he have a sense of humor? Yes.

  • Does he express complex ideas simply but profoundly so that people can grasp them? Ummmm, half and half. His State of the Union presentations contain a lot of self-indulgent back-patting.

  • Did he handle the flare-up of "noynoying" gracefully? No. He would have been better served by self-deprecating humor than issuing photos of himself hard at work lugging files or reviewing documents.

  • Does he come across as sincere? Yes.

Presentation: Score 6. This is a first quick cut at it. At 50% weight, assign 3 points to the President's overall score.

What could President Aquino do to improve? De-politicize and de-personalize the attack on the Chief Justice in order to build strength in the Judiciary, not disrespect for that branch of government. Be less a "showman" and braggart and more an achiever. Be less sensitive about criticism; use his natural humor and charm to disarm critics. Get more things moving, explicitly (like an HR Bill, or electricity solutions for Mindanao). He should explain them, not gloat about them. He should continue to grow and display the maturity domestically that he does in international relations. He has the influence and national support to move things; he ought not squander this rare and powerful opportunity to move the Philippines forward. Maturely. Confidently. With grace and humility.

Global Engagement

The President oversees executive functions that determine how well the Philippines and Filipinos engage with other nations. Immigration, OFW's, imports and exports, tourism, customs, territorial rights. How well is President Aquino shepherding the various elements of Philippine global affairs?

  • Has he established inter-executive relationships with top leaders of Asian neighbors, trading partners and the United States? Yes.

  • Is his position regarding China and the United States firm and rational? Yes. The aim is to protect the positive aspects of the relationships (e.g., trade with China, mutual defense interests with the U.S.) while working through the significant face-off over national boundaries in the seas. He is balancing this well.

  • Are the mechanisms supporting international commerce smooth and efficient? No. Red tape and irrational fees remain in place. Customs remains corrupt.

  • Are overseas investors turning toward the Philippines? Yes. The stock market is strong, investment ratings are up, economic stability is recognized globally, the peso is strong.

  • Can rich overseas individuals and businesses invest freely in the Philippines? No. Although unrestrained investment should not be permitted, the existing stance, unchanged under President Aquino, is heavy with restrictions, burdens and fees.

  • Is the network supporting OFW's the most advanced in the world? Yes. It is an area that the Philippines manages well, advocating and taking specific steps to ensure the safety and improving working environment of its overseas workers.

  • Is tourism looking more promising? Definitely.

Global engagement: Score 8.5. Assign 8.5 points to the President's overall score.

What can President Aquino do to improve? (1) Pursue an "anti-red tape" drive as aggressively as he is after corruption. Clear the avenues for investment, with proper regulation. (2) Replace the top management of Customs and insist on clean-up and focus on processing efficiency and security supporting an active flow of goods. Not fee-raising. The goal should be for importers and exporters to make money. Not Customs.

Next Up

In the next article on this subject, we will assign initial scores for: (1) Infrastructure, and (2) Health and security.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

A Brainstorming Blog: Scoring the President

I've been working on a way to counter the arguments of the 100 percenters, the people who believe that if you support President Aquino on one thing, you are a "yellow-tard" who follows the President around singing his praises. Or, the opposite. If you criticize him you are disloyal to the Philippines. I've found that this black and white positioning, "you are for me or against me", is common in the Philippines. It is an outcome of the notion of "face" which overlays fact and reason with a quality of personal engagement that is highly defensive and often irrational.

So you have clans and families fighting one another to the death and bloggers running around as little totalitarians.

A technique that seems to work in countering the "100 percenters" is one that uses a numerical scale to evaluate the President. For example, I respond to the "yellow-tard" accusation with the simple statement:

  • "I rate President Aquino 6.5 on job performance on a scale of 1 to 10, 10 being high. The rating is down from last year's 7.5."

Why does it work? Because if they apply the same thinking numerically that they use in their slanderous "yellow-tard" accusations, they would have to score the President a "0". Now, they might be inclined to do that for the sake of making a bold statement, but it is absolute nonsense. And doing so paints them as emotional, irrational and disingenuous.

Invariably, they skip right past the statement without response. They don't want to get onto the slippery slope of having to defend their extremist positioning with reason.

But if you asked me how I came up with 6.5, I'd have to admit it is loosey goosey. It is the artilleryman's technique of bracketing the target. 7.0 seems too high and 6.0 seems too low. So I peg it at 6.5. Last year it was better because the President had not gone "political" in attacking the Chief Justice, and he had not let the HR Bill languish unattended.

I need to come up with a better system or risk being cut to shreds for sloppy rating standards.

So I need some components I can score and maybe weight. The components have to be comprehensive enough to represent the whole of the President's job performance. But not be so detailed that people go numb trying to absorb them all. In other words, I couldn't do a rating of each of the 19 cabinet positions as a part of some technical evaluation. Eyes would glaze over.

Let me start a little brainstorming right here. I'll type some ideas and start to compile a list of job qualification skills for the presidency. It will be innovative. Completely new. Maybe a tad outlandish, or brilliant, I don't know. We can withhold judgment until the end, in proper brainstorming fashion.

First of all, I eliminate from consideration the President's personal life. He is entitled to one, so I don't care what car he drives, who he dates, or whether or not he plays computer games. I do care if he oversleeps and is not on the job a decent number of hours. I also do care about the pubic persona he presents, for he represents the Philippines and Filipinos. If he swears like a sailor or goes to the back wall of the UN to take a leak, that would be bad. If he projects calm, decisive strength, maturity, intelligence and thoughtfulness, that would be good. Perception is reality, in a way.

  • "Presentation"will be the first quality on which he is scored. How "presidential" is Mr. Aquino?

One significant area that engages several cabinet secretaries has to do with how the Philippines and Filipinos engage with other nations. Immigration, OFW's, imports and exports, tourism, customs, territorial rights. It is more than foreign affairs. I've concocted a broader name for it.

  • "Global engagement" captures the disparate elements nicely. That will be the second quality on which the President is scored. How well is he shepherding the various elements of Philippine global affairs?

The island structure of the Philippines is a real headache. Great for beaches. Bad for getting electricity and gas and foodstuffs distributed. Or to get a car from point A to point B. Hell, it is hard to get a car from Pasay City to Kaloocan. We need an evaluation that absorbs several cabinet posts dealing with how we move people and goods and power around. Infrastructure is a fine word. As used here, it means more than trains and roads. It means internet service and gasoline and rice stocks and roads and air service and ferries that don't sink. It is the physical process of moving stuff and communicating.  Phones and mass media are included here. They form the framework for exchanging information effectively.

  • "Infrastructure" is fundamentally important.

China is flexing its naval muscles right over there a couple of hundred miles. Defense of Philippine interests is critically important. But why do we defend against anything? Well, basically for security. The same reason we have police. Or a court system that lets us remedy damages against us. Or hospitals that keep us healthy.  Is it bizarre to put defense in the same bucket as health care and the courts? I think not. The fundamental goal is to make sure Filipinos are well cared for and protected, and if the method is guns or courtrooms or hospitals, it matters not. It matters whether we are healthy and secure. Protections against global warming should also go in this bucket. Bonding as a collective is why nations exist.

  • "Health and security" is therefore our fourth subordinate measure.

I'm going to suggest a different concept than "the economy" as an element of presidential success. It is not a striking enough term for what I believe the President should be doing. He should be leading the Philippines to greater wealth. That is the whole purpose of managing economic performance. But wealth-building overlaps with social prerogatives, too, one of the most pronounced being out-of-control population growth and another being management of scarce resources.  It is important to see the world as capable of generating a limited amount of wealth from shrinking resources, and to judge whether or not the Philippines is acquiring its proper share. Today it is not. Functions such as tourism and trade fit in this bucket. Credit ratings. Investor interest in the Philippines. And also we must distinguish between short-term wealth building and long term gains.  Not sacrifice one for the other.

  • "Wealth building" is the fifth component upon which we will measure the President.

We have the same situation with regard to corruption. It is not profound enough to form a rating on its own. Corruption exists because Filipinos accept cheating as an appropriate value. When resources are limited, you bend the rules to get a bigger share. So corruption is related to poverty, and it is related to social values, the notions of right and wrong. How, exactly, does the Philippines fit together, socially? Are its social institutions constructive? Are values? It would be wrong to assign the president "blame" for values long in the making, but it would not be wrong to assign to him the expectation that he would recognize the deficiencies that exist, and have ideas about correcting them. Going on a drive to jail corrupt people is not enough to score high on this element. Awareness of dysfunctional Philippine values and behaviors is important. Education goes into this box, too, for it is in the schools that good values and behaviors are taught. Or not taught.

  • "Social cohesion" is the term we will assign for now to this element of the President's mandate.

That's a pretty powerful list, I think. And about the right length. Is it comprehensive? If we had an issue, could we rightfully place it in one of these buckets? I'm thinking that we could. But we do need a timeline on this. A given president can only do so much during his six-year stint. Global warming, for instance, or getting rid of poverty, or improving education. These have a long timeline to them. But a president can move incrementally toward a goal. So the President would remiss if he did not have a plan that fit his actions into goals that construct history in a strong and progressive way, from the front end.

  • "Timeline architecture" is the final element, the glue, the set of priorities.

So that is our starting point. We have seven elements on which to score the President. Each is substantial.

It's time for a breather. All this thinking is exhausting. We must next confirm that this set of job performance criteria is comprehensive. Look for important areas that have not been addressed and try to plug them in. Also consider if some elements deserve a heavier weighting that others. And noodle with some scoring.

Here they are again, the things we would expect the President to take care of on his job:

  1. Presentation
  2. Global Engagement
  3. Infrastructure
  4. Health and security
  5. Wealth building
  6. Social cohesion
  7. Timeline architecture

If the Philippines could get significant advances in each area within a president's six year term, the nation would be doing better than it has done in the past. Social cohesion, for example, has not moved much in 100 years.

Next up: (1) designing the overall rating scale, (2) rating "Presentation", and (3) rating "Global Engagement".

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Sexy Songs that Broke Barriers: A Short Playlist

I was reflecting on women the other night, as I have been inclined to do since the age of 12, sometimes obsessively, sometimes regretfully, often hornily, once in a while angrily. 

I enjoyed the dialogue that broke forth from the blog the other day about Filipinas and the men they attach to. 1DC asked why I hitched up with a Filipina and that got me to thinking. Why do I like Asian women? Basically because they have an exotic and feminine allure without being airheads. Nice skin. Sweet, smart, strong.

What about American women, I asked myself? What's wrong with them?

Absolutely nothing. American women come in all sizes and shapes, personalities, and sexual proclivities.  Speaking statistically, a greater percentage have really large mammaries.  Look it up. They drink better than Asians, for sure. Some have freckles, which are fun to count on a sunny day. There are more athletic women in the States than in the Philippines, judging from the joggers out at daybreak, or the enrollment list at the aerobics gym.

All that thinking eventually led my brain to music and I started reflecting on popular songs that address love and sex. Not modern songs. Almost all of them do, it would seem. The Lady Gaga video "On the Edge of Glory" is a blond crazed cat in heat. Nice song, actually.

I'm talking about the golden oldies, the breakthrough songs that introduced sex to singing in America and the greater civilized world.

Now Elvis was one sexy dude, with his smoldering sneer and swiveling hips. But he sang about blue suede shoes and hound dogs and love that is true. Not sex, explicitly.

The first breakthrough song I recall was Bob Dylan's "Lay Lady Lay". Classic Dylan nasal twine, slow and sultry. Not only was he inviting the girl to stay for awhile, he was telling her to stretch out on his big brass bed. His hands were clean, he insisted. Grandmas and preachers shrieked in horror. Radio audiences loved it.

Lay, lady, lay, lay across my big brass bed
Stay, lady, stay, stay with your man awhile
Until the break of day, let me see you make him smile
His clothes are dirty but his hands are clean
And you're the best thing that he's ever seen.

I don't really recall the historical order of things, and won't look it up, as it is largely irrelevant. Bob Seger crooned two songs that stoked everyman's fancy. In "Roll Me Away", he rode his motorbike into the mountains, stopped at a bar and met a girl. They had a few drinks. She looked into his eyes, went out and climbed on that bike. They rode off into the mountains together. Then he did the classic of heavy-breathing sex songs in "Night Moves", telling true tales of what many young men go through in the back seat of their 60 Chevy with a willing girl "with points of her own, riding way up high". They weren't there for love, no, indeed, but for . . . um . . . educational achievements.

Three less sexual songs, but nice for their beat and the tenor of "guys and girls in the mood":

  • " Long Cool Woman in a Black Dress" by the Hollies. This appeals to any man who has ever been in a bar and had a pretty, sexy woman walk into his life. Or dreamed about it. The beat is foot stomping hard. Remind me to tell you about that little dive in Hollywood sometime . . . Sha Na Na  . . .

  • "American Woman" by The Guess Who. Well, we Americans get inspired by Filipinas and some Europeans find American Women attractive but too much to handle. So they dump them and flee, as reported in this fine anthem to American female allure and frustration. In the angry fade-out, you can barely hear the singer shouting "good-bye American woman, good bye American shit . . ."

  • "She Just Wants to Dance" by Keb' Mo'

She can feel it in her fingers
And it moves on down her spine
And when it hits her hips
She parts her lips
And you know she's feeling fine

Oh, baby, yeah!

'Nuf said.

The real groundbreaker, though, opening the way for Lady Gaga and others, was Led Zeppelin's "Whole Lotta Love" with its throbbing beat and the most incredible singing climax in music history, "You need looovvvvvvveeeeeeeeeeeeeee" drifting deep into the canyons of music history. That was 1970. I remember it well.  I was getting some action that year, and married her in September.

You need coolin’, baby, I’m not foolin’,
I’m gonna send you back to schoolin’,
Way down inside honey, you need it,
I’m gonna give you my love,
I’m gonna give you my love.

Wanna Whole Lotta Love
Wanna Whole Lotta Love
Wanna Whole Lotta Love
Wanna Whole Lotta Love

You’ve been learnin’, baby, I bean learnin’,
All them good times, baby, baby, I’ve been yearnin’,
Way, way down inside honey, you need it,
I’m gonna give you my love… I’m gonna give you my love.

Wanna Whole Lotta Love
Wanna Whole Lotta Love
Wanna Whole Lotta Love
Wanna Whole Lotta Love

You’ve been coolin’, baby, I’ve been droolin’,
All the good times I’ve been misusin’,
Way, way down inside, I’m gonna give you my love,
I’m gonna give you every inch of my love,
Gonna give you my love.

Wanna Whole Lotta Love
Wanna Whole Lotta Love
Wanna Whole Lotta Love
Wanna Whole Lotta Love

Way down inside… woman… You need… love.
Shake for me, girl. I wanna be your backdoor man.
Keep it coolin’, baby.

I didn't think about the Department of Education or Chief Justice Corona all night. 

Friday, April 27, 2012

Morality Police

I see where Egyptian courts, under the influence of conservative Islamic law, are jailing a popular comedic actor for portraying roles deemed an insult to Islam. Artists in the country and film producers are aghast. And journalists and writers and cartoonists and anyone else who believes in the freedom to cast ideas into the big landscape, for the meaning or feeling they convey, are stunned.

On a very different, trivial, almost funny level, I'm hounded on Get Real Post by guys who follow me around like stalkers warning others to watch out for my lies and phoniness. They use the simplistic one-line pot shots to demean me, I suppose because they view me as some kind of threat. Sometimes the pot-shots are elaborate parsing of every sentence, and twisting them into meanings never intended.

These are the morality police. The people appointed by themselves to ride herd on the rest of us to make sure we are expressing proper ideas properly.

The penalty for failure is, in the upper extreme, jail time. For the lower extreme it is a personal insult.

Oddly, although the morality police believe they are keeping other people upright, they are actually demeaning themselves and us as a gracious, thinking people.

Name-calling represents the complete bankruptcy of intelligence. Nor is it nice. It is like arguing on the back of a bullet. It is slapping a simplistic label on a complex being, as if that being's views had no value, no significance. It is the ultimate in disparaging behavior and personal slander.

It is too easy. Too fundamentally missing the point.

As if painting a house green could somehow hide the termites in the wood. As if sizzle determined the tenderness of a steak. As if platitudes can properly represent complex issues.


The morality police are good at that. Reducing people to simple ideas. An actor plays a role; he did not write it, produce it, or market the movie. The actor is supposed to be the morality policeman of the entire film industry?

Give me a break.

I suppose I am a morality policeman, too, when I offer up opinions on things. That's why I try to remember to attach a way to solve the problem to any criticism. Whacking at someone with a stick is wholly useless unless an alternative behavior is clear and possible.

Is rote education bad? I think so. It does not build aspiration or creativity or problem solving. So in making that judgment, I am trying to police those who teach by the book. But I don't want to jail them. I want to change the curriculum.

If I were a conservative Muslim, I wouldn't want to jail an actor. I would want to pressure filmmakers to stick with story lines more compatible with my faith. Do a rating system on Muslim values and attach a rating to each film based on faith-true content.

Getting cigarettes out of the mouths of our film heroes because it sends the wrong message to kids is a good thing. But don't jail Sean Penn if he sucks on a cigarette for artistic impact.

And don't slap easy words on people who deserve to be respected for the intricacies of the paths they have taken to get where they are. No matter how wrong they are.

A talented actor. A funny man, credentialed and representing Egyptian artists well in the global arena of professional acting. Jailed for seven months for ACTING. Not playing himself. ACTING. Jailed for playing a part well.

The only true morons around here are those calling other people morons. And those pretending to own the only values that count. 

Thursday, April 26, 2012

The Hacienda and the Pig Pen by Jose Mexicano

Buenas dias, amigos e amigas. Como esta usted? Donde esta la Hacienda?

Do I hear singing? Why, I believe I do. Look! Over there! A bunch of farmers, singing joyfully!

Su casa est mi casa!
Su casa est mi casa!
Nyahh nyahhh nyahh!

Ah, Tarlac. I'm in Tarlac. Yes, yes, I know the place well. It sits upwind from Pinatubo and downwind from those heavy breathing socialists who display a great deal of envy toward land barons. Land barons are the connivers who ended up with all the land in the Philippines, by hook and crook.  They got the land and lorded over it until the socialist Legislature and its lapdog Judiciary got their hands in the pie.

Never mind that socialism is dead, dead, dead, unable to figure out ways of converting passion to profit or land to cash. Never mind that 6,800 small farms are not exactly the way of building a powerhouse export nation.

The top bastion of apolitical, scholarly learning and honorable bearing, sloppy SALN's, and a tendency to go for President Aquino's jugular or balls, depending on the day of the week (I refer here to the Supreme Court), decided to give a big land baron's land away for a P200 million song.

Thereby writing "basket case" all over the Philippine rendition of justice.

Here's a brief historical review which I stand ready to correct, for we confirmed Mexicans, merely Spanish of a different colored serape, confess to being confused by Filipino values and logic.

Some people once owned some land. They hired workers to grow crops on the land. The workers became known as farmers, although they owned no farms. But it was a kind name, and they did live there. The farmers grew the crops and, when they sold them, they were taxed a small amount to fund a cooperative program, sort of a mutual assistance league for farmers . The Chief Landlord, an hombre named Cojuangco,  borrowed the cooperative's money to buy up a big hunk of land that became known as a hacienda. The farmers argued the money was not intended for that purpose, and shouted "you, Cojuangco,  used our money to grab the land we are working on. Give us the land, as we have worked hard and earnestly there, and paid our taxes. So give it to us."

Now if Philippine farmers sound a lot like commie pinko beggars to me, please forgive me, for my eight gallon sombrero sometimes inadvertently tilts down and blocks my eyes and ears, and weighs heavily on my brain.

One day the argument got out of hand and Cojuangco's hired enforcers shot some of the farmers. This is, after all, the Philippines, where the law is not the law. The pistola is the law, especially if wielded by a rich don. 

And it came to pass that the fight got down and dirty and rolled from the mud pits of the hacienda to the feeding trough of the court system. The two are hard to distinguish, one from the other, but many of the court system's inhabitants are robed and, although attorneys and pigs have similar values and ways of foraging for food, the attorneys are not pink.

It came to pass that the highly efficient courts, absolutely dying to be thought of as respected and independent, kicked this hot potato around for a mere 23 years. They finally determined that the Conjuanco land, under Philippine laws, needed to be distributed to the farmers at 1989 market value. Or P200 million. Not the 2006 value placed on the property when the courts ruled that LAND must be distributed, not shares of stock in the land. From P5 billion pesos to P200 million . Inflation does not count in Philippine courts, an amazing feat of economic prestidigitation that turns judges into dictators and rich enemies into paupers.

Well, as we learned from Pancho Villa, revolutionary shit happens, just as the mobs of France stormed the Bastille one day long ago and chopped up and hanged the ugly, the bad and the good, no matter the right and wrong of the chopping and hanging. If they had money, let the suckers die. That's an expression I picked up when I sneaked across el rio grande into the land of the gringo. "E pluribus unum" they exclaimed, unless the pluribus is Mexican, then "let the suckers die!"

I also learned that it's the principle that counts.  And here, the main principle seems to be to ascribe some kind of honor to sticking it to the Conjuangco family in a really fine way. They are, after all, the target of more envy than any clan in the Philippines.

Of course envy would be the national flag of the Philippines if anyone could figure out how to paint it.

Or is it ego, I forget . . .

Especially after some hombre down the Cojuangco family tree a ways who happened to be President made the mistake of driving for impeachment of the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. That got him hollered at real loud by his in-laws. He was supposed to be coddling and cuddling up to the ethically challenged men in black.

The critics of the Cojuangco family also castigate the poor President, which makes for an interesting situation for him, rather like damned if you do and damned if you don't.

He had the foresight to unload his share of the family hacienda when he was elected President. He wanted to be seen as unattached to the legal case so he could do his job better. But people, critics that is, refuse to let him get away with having honorable values. He has the wrong name for that. They know he is out to get the Chief Justice. Just as they know he is representing the Conjuanco's who are hollering in his ear for going after an allegedly corrupt Chief Justice.

If none of this makes any sense to you, don't worry. A lot of Filipinos will tell you what the correct version is. THEY know.

Filipinos always know the facts, and how to tell what is right from what is wrong.

And every Filipino can tell you what is in the heart of their President, that sly, manipulative, scheming-dog relative of a land baron. With certainty.

For myself, being of a different cultural ilk entirely, the land of wild-ass murderous drug gangs and police who shoot first and never ask anything, I'm rather of the opinion that you can lead neither a Chief Justice nor a mule to agua nor can you make it drink.

Hasta la vista, Baby, and have a tamale on me.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012


What does dignity mean to you?

I referenced the Humpty Dumpty New World Dictionary and found the following definition: "A quality of behavior or thought that impels man to live well and for the betterment of the community."

This definitions suggests a scale of acts, from low to high, bad to good, sinful to angelic. It also suggests that there is generally a reason beyond one's own self interest for acting. Namely, to make a better community.

A dignified Brit is often seen by others as a snob because self-interest appears to be his main reason for being. I've tweaked the definition to mean dignity is a quality of act that does not "put down" others, but respects and raises others. It also represents the discipline not to bow to the unsavory lures of Satan, pretty women or greed, but to seek to climb ever upward on a scale of knowledge, dependability, self-awareness, kindness and skill.

Or handsome men, if you are woman.

What is the opposite of dignity? Here are some examples:

  • A drunk lying dirty and stinking in the gutter.
  • Cheating to win.
  • The acts of a liar, thief, murderer or rapist.
  • Insulting someone we don't even know.
  • Using deceit and manipulation to win an argument rather than information, logic and probabilities.
  • Swearing at a charity dinner.
  • Throwing trash out the bus window.
  • Pissing on the neighbor's wall.
  • Playing loud music all night long.
  • Allowing your dog to run around dirty, mangy and flea-infested, crapping where the kids play.
  • Stealing coral.
  • Cutting down logs illegally and causing deadly floods to roar through cities.
  • Spitting on the sidewalk.
  • Blowing your nose into your shirt.
  • Taking your kid from school so he can work.
  • Having babies you can't nourish or nurture.

And some cases are perplexing. Is a woman who sells her body for sex undignified? Or is she working diligently at her profession?

How many of us are dignified 100 percent of the time? About 0 percent.

Dignity is not binary, 1 or 0, black or white, and you either have it or not. It is a discipline, a trend line, and it requires effort. That means it is sometimes hard. It means swallowing a swear word or having the character not to cheat to win. It means saying no to quick and illegal ways to get rich. It means the Golden Rule, treating others as we would wish to be treated. It is NOT the easy road.

Ignorance promotes undignified behaviors.

Often ignorance is accidental, a fluke of the fates. If you are the 12th kid born into a family, you aren't likely to receive the dignity-building love, attention and education that other kids receive. You might tend to go around most of your life looking for love in the most undignified ways. Drunk at the tuba table. Beating up others. Lying and cheating. Infidelity.

  • Honesty is dignified.

  • Admitting a mistake is dignified.

  • Sacrifice of self for community is dignified.

  • Working for self-improvement is dignified.

Dignified people work at it. They learn manners and taste. They develop self awareness and righteous values.

It is like learning to run a marathon, I suppose. You start with five miles and then build to 26. You start with slow speed and build to fast. You learn the tricks of the trade, when to cruise and rest, when to pump, what to eat and drink. It is a discipline.

Dignity is a discipline.

On a scale of 1 to 100, where 1 is a slob in the gutter and 100 is an angel, I figure I am at about a 68.

Last year, I was a 66.

It is slow. It is arduous. Three steps forward, two back.

It is worth it. The effort is worth it.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Ilda and Gender Issues

I must confess that when a writer I regularly bash prepares a thought-provoking article, I need to step to the candor plate and offer up a compliment.

Ilda wrote such an article the other day posing the daring challenge: "Filipinas are Forced to Look for Real Men from Overseas".  Interesting topic, provocatively presented. You can't read this article and NOT think for it touches everyone, man, woman, Filipino, and foreigner.

Now for background, understand that Ilda and I have personalities that clash. I argue that we disagree so violently because we are fundamentally the same (sly, conniving, wordy escape artists), but she argues we are very different (I am the conniver; she is pure). (I'm the whore, she is the virgin.) Plus she thinks I am gender biased and don't like women writers.

So there you go. But we subsist in the general same space, writing about Philippine culture and people and events, in agreement 80% of the time and arguing a little unkindly the rest of the time.

In this article, she did not come down with clear conclusions, being satisfied to bat about some ideas and letting her readers bat some more. Which they did.

The walk-away questions I was left with were:

  1. What is love between a young Filipina and an older Westerner? Is it (a) sexual  love, (b) romantic love, (c ) loyalty love, (d) practicality love, (e) or money love? Or (f) all of the above or (g) none of the above?

  1. Are Filipinas submissive or dominant in a relationship?

  1. Why do some Filipinas turn their romantic eyes toward Westerners, and away from Filipino men?

Well, of course, we can't let these questions walk away without an opinion attached.

What is love between a young Filipina and an older Westerner?

I rather think it is hard to put all the fish in the same bucket. There are too many different kinds. The two variants that distinguish white/Filipina relationships from Filipino/Filipina are, more often than not: (1) age, and (2) culture. 

It seems to me not many people have the key to everlasting fealty and adoration, anywhere. Filipino dead-beat dads must number in the hundreds of thousands. Filipino husbands with mistresses, well, a big bunch. So I ask, with that as the moral framework, what do we care what a handful of old white guys and young Filipinas do?

I suspect these "odd couple" relationships start the way boy-girl relationships always do, with electricity, which turns to passion that either is long-lasting and respectful or blows up. Any love relationship is also bound in practicality, so if security and material wealth are important to the Filipina what's really new with that? Only missionaries and others who enjoy self-sacrifice don't seek material security.

White Guys Aren't Totally Stupid
The only near-certainty is that the Filipina will be widowed young, and will need to find long-lasting fulfillment alone, or with her family, or with someone else.

Sounds like the kind of thing we all wrestle with during this phase of life or that. So for myself, I don't care about why other people are getting together. Everyone rows his own boat.

Are Filipinas submissive or dominant in a relationship?

Well, in the Philippines the Catholic Church has for several hundred years imposed a value of feminine submission. Westerners are also steeped in Christian values, but over the past 100 years they have achieved  the "scientific" and practical enlightenment that women are downright competent in many jobs. Gender equality is a big deal in the States, the place where racial and gender bias was rampant until only 50 years ago. Divorce is common in America. About 50 percent of all marriages don't make it until death do the partners part.

 In the Philippines, one of the last places in the world where divorce is not possible, wives are bound to, and therefore subservient to men for life. Even when the man is abusive or a deadbeat who has the heartlessness to abandon his kids, fathered in the heat of the moment, no care attached. Many poor women are also deprived of the education and methods that could allow them to build more fulfilling lives for themselves and more fruitful lives for their children. By producing fewer than a dozen kids, and treating them as something other than laborers.

Divorce and HR Bills are acts of law. Therefore, the LACK OF ENLIGHTENMENT in the Philippines rests with the LAWMAKERS not the citizens. This backward bondage of women in the Philippines is a gross failure of government.

The only thing that stuns me more than the backwardness of legislators is the passiveness of women.

Yet, in their hearts and minds and work efforts, Filipinas stand equal to men. Poverty does that. Exactly 50% of the past four presidents have been women. None had 14 kids, I observe with a wry smirk on my face.

Filipinas are neither submissive nor dominant, as a GENERALIZED rule, as far as I can tell. Filipinas are quick of mind and hard-working, although not particularly well-read.

Why do some Filipinas turn their romantic eyes toward Westerners, and away from Filipino men?

The operative phrase is "away from Filipino men". The intimation in Ilda's article is that Filipino men are bound in a macho culture that lacks tenderness or courtesy toward women. The suggestion is they are lazy and don't bring home much upward progress. So Western men look attractive by comparison.

I personally have mixed feelings about this. I see Filipino men working extraordinarily hard doing the laboring of the nation. But I also know they will not stick with a job if there is a reason not to. Money comes in from an Uncle or they have a hangover from last night's loud karaoke bash. They simply don't show up for work, not comprehending that they leave the employer in a bind.

Among educated young Filipino men, I often see humor and  . . . yes, charm. But they are not the mainstream of manhood here.

To some extent, I see Philippine gender roles as a cultural remnant of the feudal age. The Philippine workplace has largely not adopted the modern management techniques of Western nations. Workers are offered few incentives, no counseling, no promotional opportunities, no place to go. The nation is locked into favors and has not injected into the workplace a passion for productivity and profit and healthy motivation, or aspiration for advancement. So the workplace is a big, boring, un- inspiring pit of stagnation.

Men just work there. And the women are stuck with the men.

And in conclusion, folks . . .

This is a nation whose people lack a broad view of a way to build riches by exerting willful, upright, manly or womanly dedication, humor and talent. It lacks the motivation, the drive, of self-fulfillment through work. Through self-improvement.

Government doesn't get it. Bosses don't get it. Ergo, people don't get it.

Women just make the best of what they have to work with.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Blogs and Broads

The blogging software I use is blogspot. It is very basic, requiring no technical knowledge. It is one of Google's free services. It also has a variety of tools for the blog editor. I can allow comments or not, or moderate them as they come in. I can easily eject a comment. It also provides statistics on readership, how many people visit each article, by day, week, month, year, or since the beginning of recorded time.

The trends are fascinating. Sundays are usually slow days, readership wise. The most active reading days are the weekdays. Most of the comments originate: (1) from the Philippines, and (2) the U.S., with a smattering from (3) from Australia, and (4) Europe. Little or nothing from Africa or China or Asian neighbors of the Philippines. Nothing from Hong Kong or Singapore, although they are English Speaking. Nothing from India or Russia or anywhere else.

The main determinate of number of reads is subject matter. I can loosely group the articles into four main categories:

  • Those about the Philippines, its culture, character, government, and developments
  • Those about the U.S.
  • Those that are original satire or book reports: call it word play
  • Those about blogging, generally Get Real Post

On a scale of 1 to 10, 10 being very popular,  this is the scoring:

  • Blogging/Get Real: 10
  • Philippines: 8
  • U.S.: 5
  • Book Reports/Word Play: 1

Readers seem to enjoy best the arguments and angst associated with blogging, in particular, Get Real Post. The Philippines is popular. Readers aren't really into what is going on in the States and they skip the literary stuff entirely.

So I've stopped doing book reviews. But I will cite meaningful passages now and then. I won't do much on the States unless it is instructional about the Philippines. If I want to hype readership, I could find some more juicy gore to display. Find the anger and probe it.

See, we all go for the gusto and gore. Sex probably, if I ran some racy photos.

And that is precisely why Benigno permits his small cadre of thugs to attack at will. It fires people up. In that regard he is just like ABS-CBN news, showing bodies. It isn't really intellectual, what he is doing. It is marketing. Going for the ratings. That goal is black and white, in his Mission Statement.

But the key point I wanted to make is that there are few women in the crowd, here or at GRP. Now, GRP I can understand. No woman wants to risk being labeled in sexual terms, or even gender terms. Ilda claims I am anti-woman, but I ask, isn't blogging in general, and especially thuggish GRP, somehow anti-woman? It is not drawing them in. What is the ratio of Filipinas to total population? Why is there a "glass door" at GRP? It is invisible, and it keeps women out.

Raissa Robles attracts women. She is that self-professed "investigative journalist", although I suspect her techniques are not as investigative as those of Harry Bosch, murder detective for the Los Angeles Police Department as written by Michael Connelly. But her blog dialogues are fluff and chatter, more like chat rooms laced with perfume and little china cups for tea. I have this bias, cognitive or otherwise, that blog sites should exchange information, not cute quips. They should be hard cover, like a book, not mushy like a chiffon petticoat.

Is THAT what is required to attract Filipina readers? Fluff and feathers?

God, I would hope not.

You'd never catch Hillary Clinton wasting time on such superficial natter. She'd rather kick her feet up and have a beer with the guys and discuss history or law or politics.

Is Joe Am gender biased? You betcha. I think men and women are very different, and thank God for that.

I also think that men and women can do most jobs equally well. There are superior men for a given job and superior women for a given job. We are not all equal in education and innate talent. I would guess that men are better warriors than women, for they are stronger and were trained from the getgo to hunt the wooly mammoth, but a woman behind the controls of a fighter jet would be nastier than most men.

I actually think women can write better than men. Studies show that women are generally more literary. But there are also extraordinary men writers, and men seem to have a better knack at writing for both the male and female audience. If other men are like me, we don't get inspired by "Pride and Prejudice", but do with Dickens or Clancy or Dostoevsky or Kafka or Grisham. Plot, politics, guns, argument. Not sensitivities and perfumes and romance and pretty dresses.

But, all in all, it seems to me there should be one rule for writers: (1) There are no rules.

That's the one I subscribe to.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Tech, Ain't That a Bitchin'?

I see Apple is about to pour some new iPhones, literally. The company has been working with liquid metal components since it acquired technology to the material in 2010. Now rumor has it that the actual body of the next iteration of the  iPhone will be "metallic glass". That is, the metal casing will have the properties of glass - smooth, hard, pourable, an integrated whole - rather than the properties of metal, brittle, susceptible to scratching, and made by stamping, bending and screwing parts together.

That's pretty slick, if you are into the aesthetics of the phone, as well as how it works.

Smaller, faster, slicker. Bigger memory. Better software. Lighter. Those are the trend lines in computer devices, eh? Those are the trend lines on functionality, here on earth.

Then we have the technology going the other direction, looking out. I remember as a kid in Colorado, we could sit on the front lawn, a mile above sea level, and look up through the clean, crisp air to see a sheet of white above us, the Milky Way. Stars as thick as the cream from Bossy the Cow's udder. Well, man is one curious animal, and the space probes are as astounding as Apple's mind-bending miniaturization projects.

We wait patiently for years as a chunk of metal with technology so far out of date as to be clunky speeds ever outward. Poking at the moons of Saturn, going to the edge of our solar system and beyond. One effort is to identify planets that might be inhabitable; that is, in the temperate zone about a sun, like our earth. There are billions.

Gadzooks, can you imagine all the creepy-crawly things out there? Green, black, brown. Big teeth, ravenous vegetables. Stinky scum bubbling new life forms.

Certainly somewhere out there some one, or some thing, is looking back at us.

Cameras with something like 8 billion pixel power are being prepared for launch. To bring details never before seen right to your computer. This is Hubble updated, with improvements many multiples of power over that ground-breaking big space telescope. Ground-breaking! Ha. Space breaking!

You are undoubtedly familiar with Google Earth and the satellite views of our planet provided there. I can zero in on the red roof of our house on Biliran Island and see the walls around the place, the tree clumps, the out buildings.  I can spy on Iran's nuke projects almost as well as the government spy agencies. The last time I tried to spy on U.S. bases, my screen went dead.

The new toys the military is working with would scare the beJesus out of Beelzebub. Lasers and miniature drones and bot-technology that can walk a robotic camera and microphone down the halls of the Chinese embassy and rest it in a convenient flower pot. I don't even want to think about it.

Google Earth Screen Shot
You want to know why North Korea and Iran can't get successful rocket launches off? I suspect that somewhere in the basement of a non-descript building near Washington DC is a team of the most capable hackers ever hatched. I'm convinced these guys can put an electronic worm up your ass if they want.

I have given up on the principle of personal privacy. It does not exist. I figure it is better to concede and keep my blood pressure down than try fruitlessly to keep the prying eyes and software cookies of Google and other commercial spy agencies from tracking me around and drawing up an accurate psycho-profile that knows me better than I do. I tell ya, what they will do for profit and amusement . . .

I recognized they had me when, one day on my news roll, where stories get tailored to my liking based on my clicking patterns, my old Alma Mater came up. The Colorado State University basketball team had defeated Nevada Las Vegas, an astounding upset of a nationally ranked team. The Google computer, knowing I graduated from Colorado State, figured out that I would like to know of that achievement and popped it onto the news roll. So of all the universities on the planet, of all the games being played, it matched me to that game. Next time, it will probably add "Go Rams" to make sure that I know what it knows, my allegiance.

Cr e e e e e py.

But I digress. Have you checked out Microsoft's telescope project?

You can download the operating software or run it as a browser program. If you want to feel small and insignificant and totally awestruck with where our explorations are taking us, load it up. It has a special Mars project that lets you get onto and into that planet like you never imagined. You and I have put a bazillion tax dollars into satellites and probes, and it is a fine, fine return when we can sit down at our desk at home and prowl the craters of Mars or the moons of Saturn.

Like, I'm old enough to remember getting a black and white television in 19** (censored as age-obscene) and thinking,"wow, cool".  Or my trusty Osborne computer in 1980 with its whopping 64,000 bytes of memory.

Now computers are getting atomic in scale. Cadillac will have a self-driving car out in a few months. We are digging into and under the ice of Antarctica and into the deepest depths of the Mariana Trench. Scientists have created a genetic product called XNA that is completely artificial, but works just like living DNA, growing and adapting to pressure.

I tell you, knowledge is exploding. The world I knew as a school boy is gone. Dead. Socially, scientifically, psychologically. It is gone.

Only in the Philippines is life pretty much the same as it was in 1900. Here, people fight progress as if they would lose themselves if they gained new skills and disciplines and knowledge. Getting rid of the old ways is blasphemy here.

"We are fine the way we are, Joe. We don't need no stinkin' Western ways. Go away."