Saturday, June 30, 2012

When Commies Speak in the School Yard . . .

I have a background rich with communism. Strange, given that I am a middle of the road American, raised on a small family farm, educated in a progressive and normal suburb of the healthy American metropolis, Denver Colorado, educated at an agricultural college, Colorado State University, pulling down a decent 3.2 grade average, and dutifully serving my country as an artilleryman in Viet Nam.

It all went bizarre in Viet Nam, as I reflect on it. Uncle Sam kindly introduced me to Asian cultures, and my Meyers Briggs INFJ personality, a rather wayward spirit knowing no chains, enticed me toward the exotica I found in peoples who live very differently than the peoples of my Denver suburb. And especially toward the women peoples found looking stylish and pretty, always with smiles and lively humor.

So I became a rather common-man's Somerset Maugham, sitting in the corner of the Raffles Hotel in Singapore under a palm tree and slowly spinning ceiling fan, watching half-naked dancers leap between and over snapping bamboo sticks at risk of losing an ankle or two, sipping a beer (not a girlie drink like a Singapore Sling), and making notes for a new story in a bound notebook largely full of empty pages.

When I returned to the States, I fled my roots for good, moving to California and whatever was waiting there. Well, I discovered the joys of a Murphy Bed waiting there, swinging down from its storage space in the wall, in my dumpy little apartment in Hollywood just off Melrose. Down to my last $120, I moved in with my girlfriend, a pert and pretty Chinese girl from Singapore, schooled in London, legs from heaven, mind from Mensa with an IQ around 170.

Protesting K+12. Are these our teachers?
That was my first brush with communism, for her father was a dedicated commie, having fled from his capitalist wife early in his marriage, going to China, and writing commie writings. My girl friend, soon to become my first wife, indoctrinated me in the challenges Chairman Mao faced to unify a huge, very poor country split into a bazillion fighting factions. So if he was a little ruthless, it was for the greater good.

I became a long-haired rebel and earned my FBI file by attending anti-war protests, the war being in Viet Nam. The trend line went something like this. Drive to rally. Have car license plate recorded by FBI. Watch non-descript brown van show up across the street off and on for several weeks with a funny antenna sticking up from the back. Make sure sex is loud and untoward anti-American comments are not.

My second brush with communism came between marriages 1 and 2 when I was continuing to explore other cultures, and the women thereof. This time I was dating  a Mexican labor union organizer. Well, I learned that basically labor organizers and communism in the U.S. were rather like soul brothers. Both are inclined to see corporations and capitalists as evil, greedy, self-serving bastards. Never quite catching on that corporations are the reasons jobs exist in the first place, and if the capitalists were not out there innovating and getting efficient, the laborers would still be hauling coal out of deadly dust-filled mines in buckets rather than cruising to the very clean Aircraft manufacturing plant in used but quite serviceable Chevrolets

So I can spot a good commie when I read one, and so I quote from people representing teachers in the Philippines:

  • Mr. Roger Soluta, KMU secretary-general, of labor center Kilusang Mayo Uno, protesting the expansion of school grades: "K+12 seeks to systematically produce contractuals who receive lower wages and are denied of benefits, job security, and other rights. K+12 will give away diplomas for entry into severe exploitation by big capitalists."

  • Mr. Benjie Valbuena, Vice-chairperson of the Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT): “Pnoy must prioritize education in a genuine way – in the current budget call and planning, address long standing deficiencies, shortages and call for a higher Salary Grade for teachers in particular. Job creation and poverty reduction will not happen if the same failed globalization policies of previous administrations are retained. There must instead be more democratic income, asset and wealth reform and greater assertions of economic sovereignty in the country’s international trade and investment relations."

  • Ms. France Castro, Head of the Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT):  “If President Aquino is genuinely concerned on the quality of our education, he should not blindly follow the dictates of monopoly-capitalists."

This kind of blame-the-other-guy mentality, wrapped up in some ideological statement that takes capitalism as a swear word, makes me want to puke.

Well, fortunately, these people are the warts, not even the nose, and certainly not the mind and body of education.

I'm all for teachers organizing and getting a unified voice. But how about an intelligent one? And one that takes one's self-responsibility as the primary charter, and what others do as a secondary interest. Not one that is always out looking for someone else to do the good, hard work to make education and teaching whole. Do it your damned self. There is nothing worse than an educated whiner who pretends to teach values to our children, thereby teaching children how to whine. Meanwhile doing nothing to promote innovation and efficiency in teaching.

  • Capitalists are the reason for failure of education in the Philippines? I don't think so. They are the solution, if you'd look up from your painting of simplistic commie slogans on cardboard and notice things like the internet. The internet is a beautiful capitalist tool.

  • How about the Catholic Church being one very big reason by virtue of a morality that promotes overbirthing in a poor nation that can't provide that many well-paying jobs?

I get sick of a "solution" that keeps asking for more money, like beggars in graduation gowns groveling for jobs because the beggars exist, not because they are talented and ambitious and can make the capitalist employer wealthy enough to pay them big wages.

End of rant.

I was led to this verbal binge by a comment on my blog from the good Angel C. de Dios, Ph.D. at Georgetown University in the U.S. With a name like that, how can you go wrong? His web site is at:

I believe Dr. de Dios is sincerely interested in the well-being of education in the Philippines. He has done some thoughtful articles about curriculum issues and, of course, represented the pro-teachers (as labor) groups I have quoted.

I disagree with educators blaming President Aquino or the budget. I believe they ought to focus on how shrill and disorganized they are. How un-unified. How unimaginative. And how they look past the issues of morality (overbirthing) and culture (over-blaming, with little self-responsibility). And kindly lose the commie ideology and words; they were hot in the 1950's but read "imbecile" in 2012.

Two busted institutions in the Philippines are education and the courts.

It is not really a budget issue in either case. It is a case of the subject institutions being disorganized, inept and in denial as to their own failure to stand up.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Fighting over Islands

What are the principles by which claims to the Spratley Islands can be resolved? And how do we sort them out?

Possible Standards for Deciding Who Gets What

China argues territorial rights by historical precedent. It's fishermen have long fished these islands and they are within the Communist realm's 1949 "nine-dash map" of territorial claim. Therefore, they belong to China. Never mind that no other Asian Pacific country accepts the nine-dash delineation. The problem is that none protested it from 1949 to 1970.

Well, China is a nation of 1.35 billion residents and its resource demands are enormous. It is the big hungry dog of Planet Earth and the Philippines must seem like a cute little puppy to the beast. If not lunch . . .

The Philippines also argues for historical precedence, by prior various visitations and occupancy of some islands. It has all the argumentative weight of a 90 pound weakling with sand kicked into its eyes by the muscular brute pushing its way across the seas.

But history is the first of the conceivable standards we can use to sort this out:

  • Standard 1: Historical Precedence

The fundamental truth is that no nation has inhabited most of these islands, although many have touched upon them. Habitation is virtually impossible because many are bare rocks and the logistics of support make residency difficult. The Philippines does have residents on Pag-asa Island near Palawan, and perhaps others as well. China recently objected to the establishment of a kindergarten school on  Pag-asa by Filipino residents. Clearly, the Chinese know nothing about the Philippines or where Filipinos live.  They are blindly pushing their ideological line of ownership of the seas.

Occupation is another possible standard, and favors the Philippines on at least one island.

  • Standard 2: Occupation

The Philippines bases its case on UN rules which define a nation's territory to extend 200 miles from its shores: United National Convention of the Laws of the Sea (UNCLOS). The Philippines signed the agreement In 1982*. China withdrew from the mandatory enforcement provision of UNCLOS in 2006. Still, the UN standard is a strong argument and is the one applied by the Philippines as it pursues oil exploration in the vicinity of the Spratley's Reed Bank (within 200 miles of the Philippines).

  • Standard 3: Distance within 200 miles, per UNCLOS.

Standard three is geographic integrity. That is, is the disputed land somehow connected by land mass to the nation staking claim? Are the Spratleys an integral part of the Philippine Islands, for instance? We'll look at some topographical maps shortly. It appears that this standard does not help the Philippines. Nor does it help China.

  • Standard 4: Geographic Integrity

There is another standard, and that is called pushing and shoving. It is the standard by which China is living as it argues historical precedence and insists its nine-dash line is definitive, although no other nation recognizes it.

  • Standard 5: Biggest Bombs

Well, being the biggest bully is certainly no rational basis for adjudicating claims. Although it is a common one. It is how the American Indians lost their claim to the richest lands in the world. But we will set the matter aside, because if it ever comes into play, we will simply let the U.S. and China sort it out.

Also, it would seem to me that historical claim is wobbly for the simple reason that times have changed. The fact that China likes to fish near these islands has no relevance to the fact that it is oil that is now important, not fish. China's fishermen have no claim on the oil. Grabbing some fish is not tantamount to planting a flag and staking a land claim, or an oil claim, for China. Especially when the land is right next to some other country.  It is fishing. That's all it is.

The Lay of the Land . . . er, Seas

Here are four maps.

The first (MAP 1) is China's Nine-Dash Map. It is silly, is it not? Never in the history of the world has territorial claim been laid out by a four year-old's crayon drawing, with no foundation other than someone saying "I think it should go like this!"

The second Map (MAP 2) shows the general lay of the land and seas. China and the Philippines recently had a dustup over what the Philippines calls "Scarborough Shoal". This uninhabited but rich fishing area is 140 miles from Luzon. The Spratleys are more to the south. Neither is geographically contiguous to any nation, as the topography illustrates.

 The third Map (MAP 3) confirms that Scarborough Shoals is within the 200 mile UN territorial line. A rill (underground canyon) separates this island's topography from the Philippines.

 The last map (MAP 4) shows the Spratley Islands in relation to the 200 mile mark. The Philippines, under UN guidelines, has rightful claim to approximately one fourth of the islands, Malaysia also one fourth, and about half would reside outside the 200 mile mark for any nation.


JoeAm's Suggested Approach for the Philippines

The Philippines should adhere to its categorical rejection of the nine-dash map and encourage other nations also to oppose the claim as illogical and hostile to nations in the West Pacific. China must learn to respect other nations. Fishing in a sea does not stake a national claim to that sea. The US cannot claim the entire Pacific because its boats ply the waters there.

I am not a great fan of the Akbayan Party, but appreciated the perspective of Congressman Walden Bello as he responded to China's strange criticism of the new school at Pag-asa:

“Building a school within our territory cannot in any way undermine China’s sovereignty.  The Philippine government has all the right to make use of its own territory especially to provide social services to its people. It’s already bad that China is infringing on our sovereignty with its unimpeded incursions. Now it is virtually telling us where we can and cannot implement infrastructure projects within our territory. It is absurd and boorish."

Boorish China is.

President Aquino's approach is correct. He has stated that the Philippines considers the UN 200 mile boundary reasonable and enforceable. He can pursue a case for UN endorsement of Philippine territorial boundaries, whether China agrees or not. It isolates China in the international community. There is no other body qualified to mediate the dispute. Certainly China cannot be trusted to operate with good will toward the Philippines in one-on-one dialogue.

Beyond that, the Philippines should identify a specific set of civilian goals and gain U.S. concurrence with them. This should include: (1) oil exploration and drilling within the 200 mile zone, and (2) establishing needed residential services on islands where Filipinos live (e.g., schools, electricity, water).

The Philippines should continue to pursue a plan for shared development of resources on the portion of the Spratleys that is not within the boundaries of any other nation.

Is there a need for tact?

To a point.

The fundamental Philippine position should be low key. On the other hand, the Philippines should heartily protest Chinese bullying when it rears its ugly head, such as when an admiral recently stated that Chinese naval boats should attack Philippine vessels. The Chinese ambassador should be summoned to the Philippine Foreign Ministry every time this occurs, and a protest lodged. And every time China mentions the nine-dash line or territorial ownership of the entire South China Sea, that point should be rebutted as absurd by Foreign Affairs spokesmen.

President Aquino should keep his own thoughts out of public media. He should reserve his authority for very serious messages only. Like issuing an ultimatum for Chinese military ships to leave Philippine waters. If he speaks too often, he dilutes the power of his voice.

Scarborough Shoals is clearly within the Philippine territorial claim and China's nine-dash map looks as greedy and illogical as it appears in MAP 1. Yet China has fished there for years. How does the Philippines push fishing vessels out? That is almost impossible.  Position: allow Chinese vessels to fish while constantly monitoring for illegal fishing, removal of coral, or other damaging activities.

What would the Philippines do if China moved oil exploration equipment onto the islands? Or continued to defend against Philippine enforcement of illegal activities? Or patrolled in Philippine waters with Chinese military boats?

That is a different matter, and the Philippines would be wise to explore ideas with the United States. The Philippines is ill equipped to enforce any action against an armada of Chinese military vessels. But conceding any island within 200 miles would be a horrible precedent, and allowing the Chinese to operate militarily within Philippine waters is tantamount to occupation.

Beyond that, the Philippines should pursue its interests, and even allow or encourage further inhabitancy of any islands within the 200 mile range. It need not ask China for permission. It need not broadcast its plans and programs, in respect of China's very childish "face" issues. It should just do it.

In summary:

  1. Pursue UN endorsement of Philippine claims
  2. Rebut every senseless Chinese utterance through Foreign Affairs.
  3. Hold the President's power in reserve for major issues.
  4. Consult with the U.S. on specific hypothetical Chinese aggressions and prepare for them.
  5. Occupy the habitable islands within 200 miles as a normal course of Philippine business.


 *Philippine conditions attached to its 1982 signature on UNCLOS:

1. The signing of the Convention by the Government of the Republic of the Philippines shall not in any manner impair or prejudice the sovereign rights of the Republic of the Philippines under and arising from the Constitution of the Philippines.

2. Such signing shall not in any manner affect the sovereign rights of the Republic of the Philippines as successor of the United States of America, under and arising out of the Treaty of Paris between Spain and the United States of America of 10 December 1898, and the Treaty of Washington between the United States of America and Great Britain of 2 January 1930.

3. Such signing shall not diminish or in any manner affect the rights and obligations of the contracting parties under the Mutual Defence Treaty between the Philippines and the United States of America of 30 August 1951 and its related interpretative instruments; nor those under any other pertinent bilateral or multilateral treaty or agreement to which the Philippines is a party.

4. Such signing shall not in any manner impair or prejudice the sovereignty of the Republic of the Philippines over any territory over which it exercises sovereign authority, such as the Kalayaan Islands, and the waters appurtenant thereto.

5. The Convention shall not be construed as amending in any manner any pertinent laws and Presidential Decrees or Proclamation of the Republic of the Philippines; the Government of the Republic of the Philippines maintains and reserves the right and authority to make any amendments to such laws, decrees or proclamations pursuant to the provisions of the Philippines Constitution.

6. The provisions of the Convention on archipelagic passage through sea lanes do not nullify or impair the sovereignty of the Philippines as an archipelagic State over the sea lanes and do not deprive it of authority to enact legislation to protect its sovereignty, independence and security.

7. The concept of archipelagic waters is similar to the concept of internal waters under the Constitution of the Philippines, and removes straits connecting these waters with the economic zone or high sea from the rights of foreign vessels to transit passage for international navigation.

8. The agreement of the Republic of the Philippines to the submission for peaceful resolution, under any of the procedures provided in the Convention, of disputes under article 298 shall not be considered as a derogation of Philippines sovereignty.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Definitive Answer: Why Doesn't the Philippines Change?

This enlightenment struck me right between the eyeballs the other day as I was busy on my school bus run driving my kid to his nursery school where he is learning to speak English and sing Bible songs and ignore his teachers. Like he ignores everyone hereabouts, except his American father who attaches discipline to misbehavior. No one else seems to get the connection. It's also why the dog obeys me and no one else. Kids and dogs are not all that different, you know.

But I digress.

The little lady and I had just finished up another minor inter-cultural spat as I groused about her half-hour shower when we were running a half-hour late to get the kid to the school bus on time. I suggested that she could have gotten clean in 15 minutes. She suggested that I could have fed the kid myself.

Well, both are right, of course, but our agreed upon work is that she feeds the kid because I have to . . . um, work . . . on the computer. We also have agreed that the American standard of time management is to be followed to prevent hubby (that's me) from going apoplectic in a high blood seizure, and dropping dead.

So if we agree on the standards, my wife missed the mark this morning by running casually late in the Philippine tradition. Then she used the tried and true method of shifting blame to me for the screw-up.

My argument in the car somehow moved away from time management and into a thing called "responsibility", the thing my wife was trying to deny by blaming me for not feeding the kid.

That's when the enlightenment came. The Mormon Tabernacle Choir raised its lusty sopranos to the rafters of their fancy temple somewhere near here, the gongs from the Chinese symbols bonged loudly from the Spratleys, and the bells of Adano rang across the seas from Italy singing praises to the Lord for this rapturous moment.

Unless my wife accepts responsibility for meeting our American clock, we are bound to do this over and over again. Unless she says "I goofed on that one" and "I must change", she will not change.

That, my friends, is why not much changes in the Philippines. Because everyone is so damned skilled at blaming and making excuses rather than manning up, owning up, and figuring out a better way to do things. Rather than making the commitment, the effort, the uncomfortable work, the demanding work of finding new patterns that SUCCEED rather than fail. Over and over again, fail.

No one looks inward and says "I must do better. I must change." Rather, responsibility is cast upon others."

It would help this nation immensely to move forward if its leaders would discover the joys of responsibility achieved rather than try so hard to avoid the shame of responsibility unfulfilled.

  • When the Department of Education says "DepEd is responsible for the lousy condition of our schools", instead of blaming the budgeting people, education will improve.

  • When the Catholic Church says, we, as moral custodians of the Philippines, are responsible for the poverty and crime here, rather than blaming government for poor economic management, then over-birthing will slow and poverty and crime will abate.

  • When the top managers of Customs says "we must end our corruption ourselves", it will stop.

  • When the President says we will modernize, then the RH Bill will stop languishing and a divorce bill will be on the front burner. And nepotistic hiring practices will be banned in favor of COMPETENCE.

  • When the Chief Justice says "we, the judges, are responsible for the integrity and independence of the courts", rather than blaming the President or those upset with how things are going, then the courts will gain work discipline, respect, and independence.

To change, people far and wide must get disgusted with excuse-making and blames. They need to recognize these destructive traits and condemn them. They must become a hateful practice, these weasely attempts to avoid responsibility.

They are an addiction, and the Philippines is a nation of addicts.

Any time someone inserts a reason that is not directly connected to their own acts, it is most likely an excuse, an irrelevancy, an insistence on not doing the hard work of changing. It is a distraction. It is avoidance. It is shameful.

When Filipinos become skilled at accepting responsibility, the nation will thrive. Wealth will increase, happiness will climb, corruption will drop and things will get done to foster a cleaner, healthier, safer, saner place to live.

Oh yeahhhh!

p.s., my good wife put a clock in the bathroom this morning.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Fire in the Belly: "Filipinos for Filipinos"

Let us assume that most Filipinos accept that people in power have advantages. The powerful can appoint sons, daughters, wives and nephews to important government jobs, whether qualified or not. They can squeeze out a little cash from awards to favored contractors for the building of roads and bridges. Their position gets them cars, staff, expense accounts and nice travel arrangements. They live the good life.

The powerful can do this because they are "winners" in Philippine society, even if their values by Christian standards are pretty oily, or even downright disgusting. In the Philippines, power is respected, no matter how it is used. Even the Ampatuans are respected in some places.

So Senator Enrile can stage a coup and get elected to the Senate. Imelda Marcos can be the husband of a failed dictator and gain election to Congress. Manny Pacquiao can be a superb boxer and thereby qualify for a seat in the House; one he seldom sits in.

They are the "winners". They have power and they have a following, a loud one. People EXPECT those in power to use their position for gain. It is what anyone would do if they had the chance.

Well, that is one way to run a country, and it is not for this transplant to say his nation does any better. After all, politicians in the U.S. are for the most part undiplomatic, narrow-principled manipulators with little real regard for the public well-being. Somehow they get re-elected.

But I have this naïve idea that there is a more rewarding way to run a country.

It goes back to Jeffersonian principles of rights and responsibilities. Not just rights. And certainly not rights only for the powerful.

What do civic responsibilities entail? That is, what should you and I be doing to contribute to the development of a strong community of fellow islanders, our nation.

In the United States, we have some basic obligations to take care of: pay taxes, obey laws, respect authority (while maintaining rights of free speech), serve in the military or other ways. Some times sacrifice of oneself for the good of others is requested, but the desire and need for that is diminishing (the military uses drones instead of soldiers). Vote. And to vote, we should be reasonably well informed on important issues.

That's the minimum. Anything we do beyond that is fine, too, and would put us into the category of an "activist". Attending rallies and marches, organizing rallies, making dollar contributions, volunteering to work on candidate campaigns, getting involved in issues-based organizations, NRA, NAACP, NOW and the like. Running for office. A lot of people get involved.

I think the minimum responsibilities also apply in the Philippines. But there is a lesser motivation, lesser opportunity here to go beyond that to become an "activist". For one thing, when one becomes an activist in the Philippines, one creates enemies. This has something to do with loss of face for whomever one is active against. For many people, the personal affront of someone coming at them with criticism is too much to bear. Ampatuan is the extreme example of that. Rampant violence during campaigns illustrates the problem.

For another thing, too many people simply don't care very much.

So activism in the Philippines is not so widespread.

Okay then, what's a Filipino citizen to do, really, if he sees his country falling short? And he CARES?

I know there are high-moral people in the Philippines. Lots of them. They swim upriver, though. They  shake their heads at the gullibility of their fellow Filipinos who elect people with such deficient character to important positions. They see the abuses but can't do much about it. They have no power.

I wonder. Is that true?

Thinking here. Pause for thinking . . .

They have no power. Hmmmmm . . .

Right thinking people, silent because they have no power . . .

In the age of the internet? Hmmmm . . .

Perhaps the REAL situation is they have simply not figured out how to organize. Or they have the MENTAL CONCEPT of what it takes to wield civic power, but not the FIRE IN THE BELLY to step outside themselves and actually DO something.

Or perhaps they are afraid of the consequences. Consequences they cannot anticipate. And which experience suggests may be angry.

Do you consider yourself to be a regular person? A small person, really, of no particular stature in the Philippines? A powerless person?

What if there were two of you working together, would you have a little more power?

What if five?

What if 500?

What if 2 million?

Do you think you might get a newspaper editor to look up?

Do you think you might get a candidate interested in your support?

Do you think you might be powerful enough to influence a bill?

The U.S. is rich with institutions that gather the power of many "little" people and unify them into one big force. NOW (women). NAACP (blacks). Tea Party (conservative Christians). NRA (gun owners). AARP (seniors). And many more. Most have a band of attorneys fighting for their cause in the courts. And publicity specialists to articulate their positions. And fund-raising experts.

What does the Philippines have? An occasional protest by this group or that, generally a march down Roxas. Somehow throwing their cause in the face of the United States gives it added meaning. Like a couple of weeks ago when several hundred leftists were blocked by riot police from going to Roxas to protest the poor treatment of farmers and the presence of the US in the Philippines, as if the two were somehow connected. Nothing like a good shout at the US regarding the plight of farmers in the Philippines.

The newspapers, always interested in a sensationalist angle, put small-time, loud, controversial protests such as this on the front page. As if half the nation were behind the rabble-rousers.

Half the nation is taking their nap, sorry. The other half is out working.

I personally think the lack of "power to the little people" comes from a lack of "fire in the belly". A lack of passion. An inability to get past lethargy or apathy or fear or whatever this drag is that makes Filipinos far and wide complacent, subsistent, or downright subservient.

Those who see, stand back. Those who understand, turn away.

The accumulation of power by the common Filipino merely lacks organization. It lacks someone with the courage and ability to organize.

I'd do it but it is not my job.

I'd find two smart, aggressive people to join me and we'd put together a cause and an organization.

Mine would be aimed at getting a Fair Employment Law passed to end nepotistic hiring and to energize careers. And it would be aimed at getting a divorce law passed to end the ridiculous human bondage of women to abusive, useless men. And it would be aimed at privatizing education.

The name would be something like "Filipinos for Filipinos".

But, as I said, that is not my job . . .

I've got the fire in the belly, but no platform to stand on . . .

What are you standing on?

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

Look for JoeAm's blockbuster article "Principles for Organizing Insurrection", coming soon to a blog site near you  . . .

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

The Matter of Ms. Arroyo's Health

Former President Arroyo is reported to be in bad health and considerable pain. President Aquino is not inclined to provide her any special rights to get medical care, pointing to her prior use of medical cause to try to flee the Philippines. Holding Ms. Arroyo to account is one of the central planks of his anti-corruption agenda and he does not want to be seen as softening.

The two extreme arguments are as follows:

  • Ms. Arroyo made life hell for a lot of people and deserves her pain. I don't care what happens to her.

  • Mr. Aquino is heartless. Some people treat their dogs better than he treats a former president.

We hear calls for consideration from the esteemed Senate President Enrile and others. After all, she was a president of the Republic. She has not yet been convicted. This is the middle road.

I wrote a comment somewhere in the blogosphere that I would be inclined to let her go to Hong Kong, or wherever she wants, to secure medical services. If she took the opportunity to flee, it would: (1) prove the point that she is a scoundrel of the utmost lack of character, (2) save the Philippines a lot of grief and allow the nation to move on to more important matters, and (3) portray President Aquino as living up to Christian values of charity and compassion.

I would note that charity and compassion outside the family are not traits commonly found in the Philippines because many Filipinos read generosity as weakness. Generosity and compassion are good traits. I suspect that Filipinos who see them as weaknesses have esteem issues.

Having said all that, I certainly understand Mr. Aquino's animosity toward this lady. She has done everything within her power to undermine and "defeat" President Aquino, specifically making midnight appointments and stocking the courts with cronies who will, presumably, try to keep her out of jail. It would not be surprising if the Supreme Court's Hacienda Luista decision were an Arroyo decision.

So it is, what? Ironic? That she demonstrated absolutely zero diplomatic consideration or charity toward Mr. Aquino. Now she wants it from him?

What we are observing is what occurs daily in Filipino interpersonal involvements. Everything is done to "win" and save face. It's a one way ticket to ride, my way or the highway. There is no nuance, no sportsmanship, no consideration, and precious little responsibility in evidence for things that go bad. Blames and excuses and ridicule; the whine, the 115th dialect of the nation.

When do you figure we will hear Ms. Arroyo state that perhaps her stocking the Supreme Court with political allies may not have been in the best interest of THE PHILIPPINES.

Not in her life time.

The Corona supporters screamed that Mr. Aquino undermined the independence of the courts by pushing impeachment. What exactly do they figure Ms. Arroyo did with her cozy appointments?

The one-sided blindness around here is palpable. Any rationalization to save face.

So this is all a bunch of macho posturing to me, wasted energy lacking principle. Win. Lose. Both sides are engaged in old school, dysfunctional Filipino interpersonal dealings. These values are low class.

So, to me, both parties are a bit scumbag for failing to aspire toward a higher road, for failing to accept accountability for ANYTHING, for endless rationalizations, for failure to be flexible in the face of changing circumstance.

Win. That is the agenda. If you can't win then blame and ridicule and accuse.

Somehow I think this obsession with winning makes people losers.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Social Drains on Economic Gains

Why does the Philippine economy persist in failing to generate enough wealth to cut into the nation's deep poverty? It is not a monetary issue, this persistently laggard struggle. It has little to do with numbers.  It is social. It is the people infrastructure that relentlessly sucks the life from wealth-building.

"Hey, Joe! Whatchu drivin' at?"

Well, corruption is a social drain. It is one of the more tangible. But it is not so damaging. Consider when a government contract is let for an amount greater than the true value of the project. The excess covers kickbacks, padding, and "expenses" like travel first class in luxury resorts. The illegal money that stays in the Philippines works to support the Philippine economy. It is not lost. What is lost are the projects that don't get done because the budget is eaten away by the bloated, overbid projects. So the infrastructure that could be built is only partially built. Year after year, lagging, lagging, lagging . . .

Small corruption, the P100 under the table to the LTO lady to get on the top of her stack of paper, is generally spent in the Philippines. It is not lost. It is just "value creation" that is not taxed.

Everyone understands that corruption is bad. But it is not the main reason for the weak Philippine  economy. Indeed, fighting corruption represents a distraction. Leaders get complacent and happy with their showboat achievements on corruption and don't do anything about the more fundamental problems.

Here are the three barriers to wealth-generation that are bigger than corruption:

  • Weak employment practices. Gigantic damage.  Much bigger than corruption. It's just that you can't see the tangible shortfall so clearly. Hiring favorites, friends and family instead of hiring for competence. Blocking top performers by giving someone's uncle a job. Not nurturing productivity. No performance reviews. No promotions. No merit increases. No innovation. No fast-tracking of top producers. These good disciplines don't happen enough here. Managers are autocratic straw bosses, not motivators. This simply sucks the good thinking and productive work out of the drive for profit, for wealth. The Philippines flat out lacks the dynamic drive for productivity and success that you can see in the United States. And everyone just shrugs . . . "it's the way we do it, Joe . . ."

Yes it is.

  • Catholic values keep the nation forever poor as the over-birthing masses eat away the jobs the economy is trying to generate. This is easy to fix, but no one has the nerve to go against the Great Protector of dark age Philippine morality. Its is not about abortion; that is a flame-thrower the Church uses to blast away well-intended opponents. It is about telling the people it is important that they have small families, for the good of the nation. So simple to fix. So impossible to do, given what appears to be a lack of commitment in the Executive Office to get the birth rate down.

  • Education that does not inspire kids to look forward (plan, organize and make good decisions), look outward (ingenuity), or look inward (healthy self esteem). Kids are subjects for authoritarians to rule over. Memorize this. Upchuck that. Sit down, shut up. That capitalistic fire in the belly, the competitive zeal and commitment to achieve, is dead out. Snuffed, grades 1-12. Filipinos create little, invent little, innovate few new processes that are productive. They don't learn how.

"It's the way we do it, Joe."

Yep. You do.

Those are the big three. The big dawgs of economic impotence.

Oh, there are other social flaws as well, but they are not as pronounced in dragging the economy down.

Women are held in check by a warped puritanical morality that says education about birth control is bad because it may encourage sex outside of marriage. As if coat hanger abortions were irrelevant, or as if it were okay that 12 women die daily because of unhealthy pregnancies. Women are held in check by marriage contracts that have no termination clause. So husbands can beat them, have relationships with other women, abandon the wife and kids, and any woman who wants out will found herself attacked in the courts like she is some fiendish criminal. What a waste of judicial resources, what a misguided morality.

Backward is as backward is. Sorry, ladies.

But that's the way it is . . .

The courts are horrible at handing out quick, precise justice. So the wrongs that damage society are never corrected, fostering a slow bleeding of vibrancy from the economy. Case law is so tainted by favoritism that it has the legal weight of a stack of comic books.

Too bad the bar is stocked with drinks instead of attorneys with a fine sense of right and wrong and the honorableness to pursue right with a vengeance.

Some day we will have a Rizal kind of president. A guy with depth of vision who can see what is really going on around here. Not a continuation of the line of presidents who are locked into the very culture that holds the Philippines back. Who are blind to the ways their culture is assured of being mediocre, or even backward.

A president who can see that the Philippines would flourish with employment practices that energize  productivity, with social values that free Filipinos instead of hold them in dark age limbo, and with education that brings fresh, bright thinking to the nation.

Some day . . . it won't be the way it is . . .

Sunday, June 24, 2012

A Philippine Colony on the Moon?

This is today's science report.

While the Philippines is trying to figure out how to get electricity to Mindanao, the rest of the world is moving on . . .

The Kepler spacecraft launched by the U.S. several years ago, is out there finding planets that might be habitable. It watches 150,000 suns, scanning for shadows the planets make as they pass in front of a particular sun. Once the satellite has spotted a planet, it runs spectrographic analyses to determine the composition and size of the orb, and its distance from its sun. By studying the size of the sun and composition of the planet, astronomers can identify those which are temperate enough to support life as we know it. They figure there are a bazillion habitable planets in the Milky Way.

Kepler was in the news this week because it identified two planets in extraordinarily close proximity to each other, one of iron, the other of gas. The close proximity and differences in composition astounded the international science community. It is understood that Manila residents merely yawned. Nothing in it for them.

Researchers at MIT in the States have concluded that snowfall on Mars is not comprised of large flakes, as we find on earth, but minute fog-like particles that drift in the valleys of the planet. Data comes from America's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter circling the red planet like the alien spacecraft that it is, to those little orange Martians hiding in caves amongst the rocks. The photo on the left is an illustration by Steven Hobbs of Stocktrek Images. Illustrators in the Philippines are mainly working on comic books and fake covers to pirated CD's.

In Great Britain, researchers at Sheffield University have compiled a definitive treatise on the origins, construction and symbolism of the Stonehenge Monuments. Construction of the huge stone monuments (there are eight separate memorials in the area) began about 8,000 b.c. and ended in 5,000 b.c. Yes, folks, 3,000 years in the building. Chipping the huge stones from quarries in Wales, pushing and pulling them to Stonehenge along rutted muddy roads, and cranking the big heavy bastards into place. To them it was like space travel is to us. We'll never see what happens in the end, but we know it is important to keep shooting off the rockets.

Stonehenge is way before the pyramids, you understand. And Jesus was not even a gleam in his almighty Father's eye.
Given the layout and location of the rocks, which have specific and meaningful alignments to the sun, moon and stars, people of the British Isles at the time figured this to be the center of the world. They appear to have built the monuments to celebrate the unity of many regional peoples into one peaceful humankind. Meanwhile, on the Philippines ,in 2012, the nation cannot figure out what language to speak.

Microsoft announced its foray into building computers, the hardware. It's slick new machines are light, powerful, and the perfect integration of machine and software. Microsoft evidently became upset that PC manufacturers were not doing enough to keep up with Apple. Their machines were clunky Chevrolets when Microsoft wanted Porsches. Next up, Microsoft smart cell phones.

Meanwhile, in the Philippines, the nation was busy herding millions of karabao along the farm to market roads between the rice fields and the mud ponds where the animals cool off in the evening.

It was also announced this past week that there is water on the Moon. Scientists have identified trace amounts at the cold south pole of our rocky neighbor. The discovery is of immense significance because water can be broken down into its components, oxygen and hydrogen. That, folks, means air. And that means it is possible to colonize the moon.

Meanwhile, in the Philippines, the island nation is single-handedly doing the utmost to combat global warming by burning anything and everything from wood to plastic to acidic batteries, thereby stuffing its air full of carcinogens to kill people off and stop overpopulation, whilst simultaneously blocking the sun's rays from warming things up overly much. That, folks is science at the cutting edge.

As for my headline, A Philippine Colony on the Moon. That is a big joke. haha

Yours, dripping with unsightly sarcasm this grumpy Sunday morning,
Joseph August America

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Fudging and Filipino Legislators

Let me try to characterize the Philippine social value called "Fudging". If we flip through the Humpty Dumpty New World Dictionary, skipping past a particularly popular American obscenity because it is not relevant to his inquiry, we come across the definition we need:

  • Fudging: a propensity to work around the edges of the law for personal gain.

It derives from the Latin word fudgare, which is the infinitive expression of a verb meaning "to cheat benignly". Roman gladiators used it when they laced their loin cloths with hot chili pepper, at least preserving their family valuables from the maws of hungry lions.

"Hey Ben Hur, pass the Tabasco sauce, eh?"

Well, the inquiring mind of Joe America sees the Philippine Congress as being in a bit of a predicament because fudging has been, until now, an accepted Filipino social value. But that has changed.

Bam! Has it changed.

It changed because we had the page turning, dial flipping drama of Chief Justice Corona biting the proverbial impeachment dust at the hands of his Excellency, President Aquino, who pursued the case like a pit bull on a fluffy toy poodle.

The heavy mace of punitive embludgenment (note to self; add this fine descriptive word to the HDNWD) was called an "SALN", a particularly simple document that asks elected officials to add up what they own and what they owe and put it on paper. But the math was a little much for the Chief Justice, no matter the 26 years of education you are likely to find in his curriculum vitae. So the President and all his men, and a few women to boot, whacked the Chief Justice upside the head and tossed him under the historical bridge like a log heading downriver into the West Philippine Sea.

Well, in truth, it was not the math that nailed the Chief Justice. It was fudging.

He skirted around the edges of the law on his SALN, concocting some weird interpretation of bank secrecy laws meaning that his hidden and potentially ill-gotten wealth could be socked away in a thick iron vault under no eyes but his own. He did not have to enter dollars on his SALN. That is the way an incompetent Chief Justice fudges. He interprets laws to his personal benefit.

The Chief Justice also intermingled money from businesses and relatives and his own accounts in such a web of confusion that it would take 23 senators from now to eternity to figure out exactly whose is what. That is another way to fudge.

Alas, whereas fudging was perfectly fine in 2011, and everybody was doing it. It is processa non grata in 2012. That is, it is illegal.

And double alas, we have a bunch of representatives who impeached the fluffy puppy and a bunch of senators who convicted him who are also sitting on SALN's prepared under the 2011 Filipino Code of Conduct, where "to fudge" carried a certain macho bearing, as "man, we are screwing ordinary citizens  and pulling the wool over their blind and ignorant eyes; aren't we rich and grand!"

If the spotlight turns on the hooks and crooks in the legislative math-making, we'll likely find half the government out on its ass in the middle of the road. So the legislators have called a "time out". They are huddling and muddling and trying to figure out a way out of these troublesome woods. Once they discover how screwed up the SALN's of their colleagues are, they must decide what to do.

I have an idea.

Just declare amnesty. Stamp each SALN "accepted as filed" and move on. But next year's damn well better be precise to the decimal points and it had better include dollars and Russian rubles and even that well-tattered scrap of paper called the euro.

Recognize that social values have changed.

People who lived by the old values ought not be punished because the rules have suddenly changed.

"Well, then, Chief Justice Corona should be pardoned," you might argue. "He should be given his job back."

No, no. His warped SALN was relevant to his competence, and the impeachment an expediency for a greater good. His error strewn SALN proved his judicial injudiciousness. There was no intent to prove theft; there was intent to prove bad ethical character. A Chief Justice is paid to be a law-based and high-minded arbiter of disputes. He is not supposed to use his expertise to manipulate laws for personal gain.

A legislator is not an objective arbiter of the laws. He is a writer of laws, wherein the laws reflect the preponderance of the political ideology in place at the time. In other words, a legislator is PAID to be political. A Chief Justice is paid to be NON-POLITICAL.

So the legislative SALN's that may not add up don't prove anything with regard to a legislator's ability to write laws. Besides, who needs the hassle of trying to sort out all that paper muck when Filipinos are starving and many poor women are uneducated about birth control?

The main point is to move on. Certainly, the Philippines loves a good blood bath. The sensationalist television stations would love to see hundreds of legislators with their eyeballs gouged out, lying in the middle of Roxas Boulevard or wherever they'd get dumped. And the tabloid press, masking as mainstream newspapers, would love to rumble out edition after edition of 196 point headlines screaming which legislators couldn't add things up right.

The legislators that FUDGED!

But, the glory of gore aside, it would be better to focus an intense spotlight on 2013 SALN's as the clear benchmark of present wealth. And then 2014 and subsequent years to examine change. 

The point is made.

The point is clear.

Fudging is now a swear word.

Move on. Get transparent, get honest, and get some bills passed.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Getting from A to B and B to C on Education

Last year, I got inspired about education, specifically, a way to stop the current pattern of doing things, forever building hollow-block classrooms and stuffing them with 45 kids each led by an overworked, underpaid, undertrained teacher who is happier than the kids are when the day ends. I wrote six articles about it.

The idea is to start rolling out internet classes to selected schools. Buying the kids laptops, enrolling honors students first, and letting them study at home or the coffee shop or the school cafeteria. Take some of the pressure off the brick and mortar, and the teachers. Leverage the brainpower of a few centralized teachers to do lessons for thousands of kids. Receive tests and papers on line. Grade them centrally with interns or lower-paid staff. Innovate, both on how lessons are delivered, and on the curriculum.  Teach things like leadership (small group exercises), problem solving, planning and organizing, judging risks prior to making decisions, that sort of thing. They would not be asked to memorize the table of elements, but they would have to know how to find it on line as a reference source. Local teachers would organize the program and counsel students.

These articles got a lot of circulation and a few months ago I read that a member of Congress involved on an education committee was talking up the idea about on-line education.  That's great, and I hope something happens. The current model is unsustainable.

I am perplexed about how to get from A to B and B to C, to get anything done.

Here's the Filipino condition. Problems here are generally recognized as insurmountable. People just can't get around them. They give up. Get stopped in their tracks by any objection. Don't do anything. Filipinos are very good at finding the flaws in things, the warts, the bugs, the barriers. The tolerance for risk is low. After all, who wants to be associated with problems?

They do not evidence much skill or desire to work around the barriers.

Therein lies the solution to the mystery as to why not much changes in the Philippines. Problems are seen as BEING the project. They are not seen as a challenging WRINKLE to the project, the hurdle to be overcome, the barrier to be passed, the bug to be squashed. Problems are not seen as the rewarding part of the project, once overcome.

No, problems stop it dead.

The problem BECOMES the project and no one wants to be associated with it.

The reasons? Face and ridicule. Face is the impossible demand for self-perfection. It is the defensive motivation that generates all the excuses and blames you witness. And ridicule is the vehicle by which one Filipino whips another into a lower state, thus elevating himself.

So the tolerance for risk-taking is low in the Philippines, indeed. The ability to give up is high. The desire to achieve is hammered into submission by fear of ridicule.

So I have an idea of how the Department of Education can make this very easy on themselves. There are  a number of on-line schools in the United States offering high school  classes. Like anything, I suppose, some are better than others, but here are two examples:

Knowledge of physics in the U.S. is the same as knowledge of physics in the Philippines, and English proficiency is expected among Filipino honors students. So there is no need to re-invent a bunch of new courses.

Just find the three best schools and have them bid on the Philippine core curriculum. Include with the bid requirements the need to develop a few new courses specific to the Philippines (Philippine history; tagalog), or to social programs focused on developing a competitive mindset among kids (team work, decision making). Have them bid on packages of 1,000 students, 5,000 and 10,000.

Ascertain that the rigors of the class work are appropriate to assign credentials to the program comparable to a physical high school.

You could have your program put together in a year.

I tell you what, if I were a younger man, I would not offer up this ideal in a public forum. I'd keep it quiet and develop the school privately myself in the Philippines, get it credentialed, and start selling enrollments.

I don't think this is rocket science.

I'd get rich by helping Philippine kids get smart.

Frankly, it is an idea only one entrepreneur short of a million dollar business: a private, on-line school teaching modern subjects in modern ways.

If the Department of Education REALLY wants to make it easy on themselves, they only need to assign a small portion of their bloated brick and mortar budget to funding a few start-up private/public educational programs providing internet-based education.