Wednesday, May 30, 2012

"Bloviating Ignorami", the Game

George Will, respected conservative newspaper columnist in the United States, coined a descriptor the other day that will live in infamy. He called "The Donald", that is, Donald Trump, U.S. real estate, gambling  and entertainment tycoon, a "bloviating ignoramus".

Well, I have a reasonably large vocabulary, but the term "bloviating" was new to me. I could guess it was not flattering from the context, but to be sure, I looked it up:

Bloviating Ignoramus
Bloviate (v): To discourse at length in a pompous or boastful manner

Well, for sure, that is Donald Trump. Stuffed up full of himself with his mouth running on about inane things (like questioning where President Obama was born) rather than substance, yet somehow believing the world circles at his feet. He wanted to run for president but declined when he discovered most of North America thought he was a joke. South America thought he was an idiot. Europe thought he was an ordinary American. Asia thought he was a bloviating ignoramus, but expressed it differently. In Chinese characters it comes out something like "big pig who eats his own shit".

So I have a word association test for you. I will shout:


And you shout back the name of the first person you think of.

Here's a sample, if I shout it at myself.



Get it? Just in case you don't, let me try another one. An example. It has to be different from the list-leader.



Okay, I'm sure you comprehend the nature of the test. Your turn.



Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Arroyo, Santiago, Marcos, and Get Real Post

When I lived in the U.S., I would tune into C-Span, the television network that airs broadcasts of the Senate and House in action. It is a patriotic place of contention and argument, bias and posturing, facts and reason. Some days civil, most days down and dirty.

The Supreme Court impeachment trial showed me something similar. Patriotic people, contentious and argumentative, biased and posturing, wrestling with facts and reason. Most days were down and dirty.

But you know, the Philippines has moved FORWARD and HIGHER, both with the outcome of the trial, and the democratic maturity demonstrated in the proceeding. It has moved FOR transparency and accuracy of public reporting by government employees. It has moved FOR integrity in the Supreme Court, a fundamental requirement for independence and respect.

No revision to the bank secrecy law is required, I think, as the Senate has declared clearly that SALN's must include dollar-denominated deposits. Case law is as good as written law and anyone who purposely withholds dollar deposits does so at considerable peril.

I'm guessing that one outcome of the trial will be much more attention and documentation put behind the SALN's. That's good.

The one law I would suggest OUGHT to be added is an act that creates a regulatory agency that oversees broadcast and print media. Today these media are self-regulated and pretty much out of control. If there is an ethical foundation for news reporting, it is not very strict. Rumor and borderline slander make up much of the sensationalist reporting. Media form a loose and irresponsible mob, in the main, more interested in titillating and attracting audience than integrity of reporting. This is not in the public interest.

I'm not that familiar with the political parties or persuasions of the senators. I found most of the arguments thoughtful and, frankly, uplifting. The exceptions were the dark political accusations of Senator Arroyo, the lunatic ranting of Senator Santiago, and the odd argument of Senator Marcos that puts the Bill of (personal) Rights above the Constitution. All three gave great arguments for continuing the ways of the non-transparent and corrupt.

I trust that Get Real Post will emote and rationalize away the proceeding as the opposite of what it was. They will claim it confirms the vacuity of the Filipino, and their vindictiveness.

No, no. You won't find much respect for democratic process at Get Real Post. The real vacuity rests with the values of GRP editors and its loyal thugs.

I hope President Aquino has a happy visit with President Obama in the U.S. next week. President Obama will be thoroughly briefed on the outcome of the trial, you may be assured.

Then President Aquino ought to return to the Philippines and go to work on constructive acts. Get out of  political name-calling, and do some work. He's got less than four years left.

He was grossly out-of-line during the trial as he or his spokesmen meddled in Senate affairs.

It is good that he is enthusiastic about fighting corruption. It is bad that he lacks a certain discipline. He displays the same kind of loose discipline that got Chief Justice Corona in trouble.

He also tends to shade his appointments toward friends rather than competence. He needs to go with competence. His selection of the Supreme Court Chief Justice will be under a huge microscope.

The Good, the Bad, the Ugly

Do you know why I love the Philippines and Filipinos? Because they have character.

They're good, they're bad, they're ugly.

Take the impeachment trial. Senator Enrile is a good guy. He holds the wisdom of the ages in his still brilliant legal mind. Sure it takes him some time to piece his sentences together, to rummage through the crowded or clouded memory banks to find precisely the right words to line up, to make every sentence mean something. But if you wait patiently, you find impeccable logic and profound thinking. Like the last two questions he asked that demonstrated clearly that the bank secrecy laws and SALN are NOT in conflict, leading even a half-wit to figure out that SALN requires voluntary disclosure of dollar amounts . . . or resignation because you can't live up to the oath.

Well, also not grasping the notion is the defense who clasped desperately to any log they could find as they shot down the river toward destiny. Interestingly, they lost control when the defense took over the trial and they got upended by calling the Ombudsman to the stand.

But lead counsel Cuevas was another good guy. Sure, he was stuck with defending a slimeball, but somebody's got to do it. He had to stand at the mike and face the condemnation of Enrile as the other attorneys slunk down in their chairs as the Chief Slinker Corona exited during his infamous walkout. Other attorneys were evidently in on the ploy, but poor Mr. Cuevas was not. Still, he hung boldly in there, apologizing and doing all he could do to protect his ill-mannered client.  Throughout the trial, he had to work in a public spotlight with and against colleagues who were friends and former students of his. But he stuck to the high road, vigorously arguing the law and the facts, slanted to reinforce his interpretation of the law.

One of the "bads" was the Chief Justice who redefines slime-in-a-robe . . . offering up any excuse, any whine, any political attack in the name of vengance. His walk-out will define him for life, and his pathetic look, sitting eyes down in his wheel chair, getting reprimanded like a child.

And I put President Aquino among the bad, too, for this particular exercise, the trial. He just could not shut up, never understanding that his political condemnations of the Chief Justice during the trial were exactly the thing we hate about the Chief Justice: it's called meddling. Reaching for the court of public opinion rather than the principle of justice, the principle that Mr. Corona deserves a trial untainted by Executive opinion.

One ugly was that goody-two-shoes Keh fellow, who took it upon himself to go directly to Senator Enrile, as if he, Keh, were an esteemed part of the judicial process because he is idealistically pure. Well, he got what he deserved. A belt whipping on national TV.

The other ugly was whipping the belt . . . Senator Santiago. She used to be refreshing, her candid rants putting people in their place. But now every time she steps to the microphone, there is anger in every word. Maybe she should consider retiring, eh? The Senate is a demanding job, and no one will ever be able to live up to the perfections that she demands. She has become a bore, not refreshing.

And for me, personally, it has been a delight watching the various senators perform. I say "perform" because I think they do a lot of acting. My favorite was young Estrada, and I'm sorry to understand that he is close to the Arroyos. He has a disarming way of laughing at things. We never quite know what he is laughing at, but he laughs a lot, and sometimes I suspect he is laughing at us. That's very different than the stiff formality we see in other senators, and I like it.

Perhaps the ugliest of the uglies are the media, the sensationalists posing as journalists.

No dirt, no rumor, no slander is too cheap for them to blaze in the headlines. I suppose they don't have enough staff or professionalism to actually dig for facts, to write in-depth stories that interview several perspectives. To do thoughtful pieces. No, they take the quick hit, the vivid display of shock and surprise, and wrap it in tissue paper. Then put it in the headlines. Then look for the anger that flows forth to add "substance" to the story.

I look around my neighborhood and I see more goods and bads and uglies. They are all over the place. More goods than bads. More bads than uglies.

And I find myself, like Senator Estrada, inclined to laugh a lot.

And so I am happy here.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Down to the Wire

The impeachment trial is nearly over. No one is predicting a win except the defense and prosecution. Both predict a win, or at least are arguing vociferously right down to the wire.

It is easy to see why acquittal is possible. The $2.4 million dollars and P80 million have been reasonably explained away by Mr. Corona. Bank secrecy laws. Comingled funds. Unclear SALN rules. After 45 years of professional work, an inheritance, money from sale of property, it is within reason that he would have this amount. Is five properties out of line? Maybe or maybe not, given the entangled family web that is the Coronas. If Mr. Corona were a top-flight judge with above-board, objective, apolitical views, and an honorable attitude regarding transparency, there would be no conviction.

But that is not the case. Mr. Corona has stonewalled his information, fought all the way, issued political condemnations of the Executive and Legislative branches as well as the Ombudsman, prosecution attorneys and media. He argues that this is to protect the independence of the judiciary whilst he has blatantly tried to undermine the reputation and standing of the other branches of government. "His" court has been instrumental in blocking interviews with Supreme Court Justices that were fundamentally important to many of the impeachment charges. That's why they were dropped.

Here is why I would vote for conviction:

  • It is a political call, not legalistically pure.

  • Mr. Corona did not report substantial assets. The excuse-making reflects a fundamental opposition to transparency. Transparency is critically important to ending corruption. Every Supreme Court case going forward will come down against transparency in the future if he remains in his seat.

  • Acquittal would empower the Supreme Court, make it the dominant of the three branches of government; unassailable by impeachment, unapproachable by Executive, run by a political man of weak legal ethics.

If the Senate acquits, the Philippines will remain locked down in hidden accounts, precious little transparency, and weaker Executive and Legislative branches. The courts will remain under the direction of a Chief Justice who does not represent the Philippines responsibly or apolitically or, in my opinion, competently. Mr. Corona is guided by forces other than the law, and that is the definition of corruption.

The courts will remain a barrier to transparency and honesty.

That's bad.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Impeach Philip Squared!

This commentary is follow-on from the previous article about America's failure to elect Jessica Sanchez as their idol. Jessica has become a Filipino idol and her loss in the American Idol competition was a crushing defeat for the Philippine Nation. Filipinos wept openly at the unfairness of it all. They place this heartbreaking loss right alongside the time a few years ago when Colonel Doctor Congressman Manny Pacquiao got thumped by some chump boxer named Morales from Mexico. To this day, Filipinos are convinced Morales had unfairly loaded his gloves with lead pipes.

It is rumored that rabid Jessica fans plan to close down Roxas Boulevard in Manila to protest in front of the American Embassy. Some are arguing that the VFA agreement should be torn up, and the Philippines should look to Japan and Italy for military backing in its little spat with China. One was quoted as saying "America, keep your damn submarines out of Subic Bay! . . . Unless it is named the USS Jessica!""

Well, JoeAm has broadened his literary portfolio to include investigative  journalism, not wishing to be out done by a couple of blogging women named Raisa and Ellen. He has dug deeply into this matter to find out exactly what went wrong. Who cheated. Who stuffed the ballot box for that white guy Phillip squared. How America went so wrong in its claim of racial diversity by failing to put Jessica on the masking tape X, mid-stage, where the winner stands when that most handsome of emcees, white guy Ryan Seacrest, crowns her. Joe set out to find out why Americans hate Filipinos so much they'd cheat an innocent 16 year old Filipino . . . oops, American with Filipino mama . . . out of her rightful title.

He first visited the Manila International Airport, and with 200 well-placed pesos, was able to get five minutes on the immigration computer to see the last time Jessica visited the Philippines. He concluded the record-keeping must be wrong, because her name was not listed.

So Mad-Dog Joe hooked up with a young niece in San Diego to get a sneak interview with a few of Jessica's friends at Chula Vista High School. His niece, an American out of Germany, 7th generation, went in disguise as an advance scout for the upcoming Charice concert tour in the US. You know, checking for places to include in the publicity rounds.

Well, that fell flat, too. It would appear that her friends had no idea who Charice was, so that was a bummer to start out with. Then it was revealed that Jessica rarely talked about the Philippines. Her friend Kirsty, an Irish American blonde chick on the cheerleading squad, stuck her megaphone in my niece's ear and shouted, "Like, she's AMERICAN, you know?" And some tall black guy behind her in CVHS athlete's jacket tossed in, "Is the Philippines one of those countries spun off from Russia?"

His buddy, a fat white Jewish guy with skull cap, thick glasses and a hard copy of Dostoevsky's "Brothers Karamazov" under his arm, whacked the jock in the arm and cried out "You stupid Doofus, the Philippines is in South America next to Argentina. That's why everybody there has Spanish names."

My niece left, quickly and quietly.

Undeterred, Joe Am booked a quick flight to meet with a highly placed source at Ateneo U in Manila, a professor of psychology who requested anonymity so as not to be dragged into the alley by rampaging students with "Jessica" tattooed on their arms. Gangs of marauders have been prowling the campus looking for anyone stupid enough to admit they liked Phillip squared over Jessica. They carried heavy metal chains and batons of very hard and illegally harvested nara wood.

The psyche professor suggested we go out onto the Plaza lawn to avoid being overheard.

"Why all this craziness in the Philippines for an AMERICAN singer?" I asked, left eyebrow arched in the way I imagine Sherlock Holmes would arch his.

"Associative pride," said the professor leaning his back against a fat tree. "The belief that if a Filipino does well, Filipinos finally get the recognition they lost when they were colonized by the States."

"Golly whiz," I uttered, censoring my irreligious tendency to exclaim "Holy Christ. That was over a century ago! The Sanchez kid is only 16! And she knows nothing about the Philippines."

The professor smiled. Or perhaps it was a wince. Or maybe just gas. "Well, things here don't change very fast. You understand this you ever try to set an appointment with a doctor or do a credit card transaction or buy a rubber. You can't. Parents feed kids the same attitudes as always, that Americans are imperialists and Filipinos are always taken advantage of and the only way to do better is to pray to the Lord for help."

"Not develop productive plans and execute them? Like, get modern or accept responsibility themselves?"

"Not in the cards, sorry. They pray, just like the Senate does when they open an impeachment trial. They don't look to the law for guidance, or their own sense of responsibility to their oath of office, but to the Lord. After all, there is no word for "responsibility" in any of our 114 dialects."


"You don't know the half of it!" said the professor, his eyebrows furrowed deeply.


"Think of the effort that goes into making up excuses. It's enough to make a grown shrink cry." The professor reached into the breast pocket of his tan corduroy blazer for a tissue. "Why, some Filipinos are even accusing Fox Network of rigging the voting on Idol! Evidently they discovered that Phillip squared is a Republican and Jessica belongs to the Young Democrats Society at school."

"Ah, so that's the reason for his win?"

"No, no, that's just what the lunati . . . er, Filipinos are saying. The reason for his win is that the audience of American Idol is mostly white women who dig sexy white guys. Plus that mousy Jimmy Iovine, the Idol music guy, gave Jessica a lousy song to sing at the end of three months of brilliant singing. He gave Phillip squared a cool song."

"Ah, that would explain why Jimmy Iovine fled for Iceland in the dead of night."

"Yes, it would."

I paused to think this through, chewing on my pencil eraser the way I imagined Sherlock would gum his cocaine pipe. "Well, psychologically speaking, exactly what makes the Philippines so desperate for wins by its contestants?"

The professor leaned forward in a threatening manner, snapping open a five-inch switch blade knife. "Please make sure you don't cite me as the source or I can make . ..  ummm . . . arrangements, you dig?"

"Loud and clear. Very."

He leaned back and returned the blade to the pocket of his corduroy jacket.

"First of all, consider if you were the 7th or 8th or 9th kid in a family, you simply don't get enough loving attention to build a sound base of esteem. You need more attention, more strokes. Always you need more. For the rest of your life, you need more."

"Hmmm, makes sense. I suppose the Catholic Church has not considered that."

"I'm not going there! But consider that you are one of 50 students in a school classroom. How much encouragement and nurturing do you figure you get?

"Damn little. You probably crave notice."

"Exactly. And consider that Filipinos everywhere are out seeking wins. At government offices and doctors offices you are treated as a nothing. In discussions with friends, the golden rule does not apply, and you are ridiculed for every mistake. Teachers order you about as if you were a child. Drivers in nice cars run you into the ditch. How would you feel?"

"Desperate for positive strokes. Needy, for wins."

He nodded, a slow, sad nod. "But the big need-builder is poverty. Consider if everybody seemed to have more than you. And no way could you ever catch up."

"Yeah, I see. You'd look for cheers wherever you could find them. Even in America."

The professor stood up and walked off. He paused about 10 paces away, turned, and said.

"And therapy is condemned across the land. So there is no cure." He turned and walked off.

It took a moment for all this to sink in. I turned to the fat tree and shouted. "Impeach Phillip! He stole the title from Jessica!"

And I reached for the tissues in my backpack.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Jessica Sanchez and Racial Profiling

Congratulations to Jessica Sanchez on her marvelous achievement, beating 69,998 other contestants to reach the final stage at American Idol. One guy topped her in the wild and woolly 132 million vote final contest, and so let's also extend our congratulations to Phillip Phillips.

A lot of Filipinos are upset that Jessica Sanchez did not win American Idol. She was out-polled by a white guy with a guitar.  Here's a sampling of some readouts:

  1. "Phillips is the American, Jessica the Idol" said one.

  1. The jokesters at ABS-CBN news were chuckling that since Jessica's father is Mexican and her mother is Filipino, why is she on American Idol? And when Pacquiao fights another Mexican, which national anthem will she sing?

  1. Another Filipino commented that racial diversity in America is a joke, or Jessica would have won.

  1. "Heartbreaking loss" roared the newspaper headline.

Well, let's parse this a bit, shall we? It is instructional in our cross-cultural dialogue.

First of all, let's deal with points one and two. If the Pacquiao fight were in Las Vegas, as most are, Miss Sanchez would sing the American National Anthem. What stage of denial are you people in?

Before getting to the point on racial diversity in America, let's go to the math.

Miss Sanchez is 50% Filipino by heritage and 50% Mexican by heritage. She is 100% American by nationality.

Now it is odd that Mexicans did not go wild voting for her. But Filipinos did. There are a bazillion Mexicans in the U.S. at last count, or maybe two bazillion if you include the illegals, some of whom may have cell phones, undoubtedly stolen. Filipinos, on the other hand, have been going nutso on Facebook to rally voters, and Ms. Sanchez's pretty face has been all over the place in the Philippines. President Aquino said he was rooting for her to win.

JoeAm, interestingly enough, is 93.75% German, and 100% racially Caucasian, by heritage. He suspects that German President Angela Merkel would not be rooting for him if he were a finalist in anything.

Now Philipp Phillips is . . . ummmm . . . let's see now, no one knows and no one cares. He's white. Some Filipinos appear to believe he cheats or has an advantage because he is not tinted of skin.

That view is reflected in comment number 3 on America not being culturally diverse because Miss Sanchez did not win. Boy, that is one quirky way to look at things. I'm sure glad we have a black President instead of some Abe Lincoln kind of white bright guy.

You know, race is completely irrelevant to anything, right? It is not as if one race is monkeys and another sloths and another zebras. It means our body structure varies because we grew up where there was sun, or there was not, or our butt muscles are well-developed because our ancestors did a lot of running fleeing lions in the grass, or our hair genes have blond in them, like some Samoan Islanders. Race is completely irrelevant to anything at all, except sun tans.

Citizenship or nationality means someone belongs to a different tribe, for security and sustenance. Nothing more or less.

Cultural values differ because different tribes arrived at their existing place through different wars and mountains and religions and other experiences. Communications and values vary a bit, culture to culture. It is a learned thing.

It seems to me this is one of those squirrely moments when a great many Filipinos somehow take second place as a personal insult. Race, nationality and culture get screwed up in a personal ball of twisted values. It is rather an upside down version of pride. Failing to win becomes an insult. Complainers start looking for people to blame. And obviously, America is to blame for Jessica's "heartbreaking failure" by not really being racially accepting of Jessica.

Well, first of all, people who issue anything but praise for Miss Sanchez diminish her achievement. Why would anyone wish to diminish this kid's brilliant achievement? Gripes and excuse-mongering suggest she should feel bad rather than good. It also denies her the growth she has achieved from her entry in the program as an insecure, stiff lounge singer to her winning style at the end, confident, bold, more emotionally attached to the song and audience, and clearly having fun. Why deny her the glory of that accomplishment which she earned through three months of hard work?

“I started thinking about how long the journey was, how far all of us had come — me and Jessica, Hollie and Josh and everybody. It’s insane, man. It’s not as easy as you think.”  Phillip Phillips on why, in tears, he could not finish his song after winning. Entertainment Weekly interview.

Yet the sense of Jessica's "failure", her "heartbreaking loss", is palpable in the Philippines.

Never mind that Ms. Sanchez beat out 69,998 other contestants. Never mind that Filipino tastes in music may be different than the mainstream American audience that does the voting. That audience consists of a lot of women . . . a lot of white women . . . who like good looking white guys with guitars who can sing, and who, like Phillip Phillips, have a unique kind of showman charisma. And who, in a particularly sultry song, look right at the camera and invite all those women to spend the night.

That the guy beat Jessica, who had about 300,000 Filipino Americans dialing up their votes like crazy for four hours, is testament to the white guy's popularity.

But many Filipinos would appear to prefer to take the win away from Phillip Phillips. Claim he did not deserve it. Claim there was a rat in the pantry. Jessica should have won. She was cheated. He was white.

Why, they almost sound a lot like Judge Corona on the witness stand.

Trust me, you don't need to weep for Jessica. She won, and she won big time.  She'll make more money than all of us, by far. She'll be a superstar because she is that good. She may even visit the Philippines. Or Mexico. Or Europe.

Does Jessica resent Phillip's win?

“I think America made the right choice, not that I don’t think I’m good, but he’s worked hard for it. He’s really, really put his heart and soul into it, and he’s pushed through all the health issues, and he’s done it. He did it.” Jessica Sanchez in an interview with Entertainment Weekly after the competition.

Why no resentment?

Because she thinks like most Americans do. The singers shared the journey together, an intense but friendly competition. Also because she was raised in a competitive culture that in the main respects both winners and "losers". Sportsmanship is big in America. Competition and striving to do your best are big. A loser in a sports contest is a loser in a game. He or she is usually a winner in life.

Phillip Phillips will also be a superstar, of the mode of Bruce Springsteen or  Paul Simon or . . . Hell, Phillip Phillips, who is unique, as a white guy with a guitar.

Now as for American racial diversity . . .

Jessica is a model of American racial diversity. Mexican and Filipino heritage. Welcomed to the land of the huddled masses along with her fellow imports from Ireland, England, Spain, France, Portugal, name the African nations, name the Latin American nations, name the Asian nations, India, Russia, Iran, Israel . . .  Well, you get my point. NO country is as diversified, racially or tribally, as America. NO country has been as open at accepting immigrants from ANYWHERE. All citizens are 100% American, and almost all subscribe 100% to America's values.

As for rooting for Jessica, no problem. That's great. It's good to have a favorite, whatever the reason. Looks, voice, style, personality, nationality, heritage. Good reasons to pick a favorite. Competition is exciting. Put some money on it next year, really amp up the juices.

If able to vote, I would have voted for Phillip. I like his musical style and electric charisma. But I would have smiled if Jessica had won. And Phillip would have smiled, too, proud of what the young American girl achieved with her really big, really expressive, WORLD-CLASS voice and style.

If I a may be allowed to assume a grandfatherly pose now. . .

I think Filipinos would do well to see themselves as racially blind, secure in their nationality, respectful of all tribes, and culturally broad-minded.  They need not judge themselves or their nation a failure because someone they cheered for lost. They should be secure enough to never ever take away a winner's glory. Or the glory deserved by someone who competed well.

For sure, nothing should be taken from Jessica Sanchez, a 16 year-old wonder kid, citizen of the entertainment world. How can an achievement that was so uplifting be heartbreaking? It was a glorious achievement.


Thursday, May 24, 2012

Looking Through Bear Dung and Get Real Articles

A number of years ago, I was hiking up a wild mountain in Alaska with a naturalist who would not go anywhere without his bear gun. He was a realist naturalist, I suppose, and understood that the large creatures in that part of the woods would eat first and growl later. We came across a big pile of bear dung, fairly fresh. He took a stick and flipped through the shit to examine what the bear had been eating.

Reading Get Real Post is a little like that.

As you probably know, the editors of that blog site have banned me from commenting there. They view me a little like Corona views the Ombudsman, always poking around in uncomfortable places. Getting too near to the truths that threaten their intellectual or emotional fabric. So am relegated to having to comment in a side hallway rather than the courtroom of direct and honorable argument.

Well, they have delivered the normal tripe about Chief Justice Corona, the rationalizations that extremists are inclined to cling to as their icon of virtue turns into an out-of-touch, blathering, sniveling malcontent on nationwide television. The Chief Justice behaves rather like a large two-year old on a three hour tantrum and the Get Real proud patrons try to tell us how cute he is.

Pathetic is different than cute.

As it was my commentary regarding an article by Get Real scribe Arche that got me banned, I take special interest in his articles. I find that he is an intelligent guy, not unkind, writes well, but is evidently pinned to the same agenda as the editors, and doesn't mind being the berries in the Get Real turds.

Here's what he writes about those who would find fault with the undignified Corona meltdown.

  • Despite what Filipinos everywhere said about demanding the truth from Corona’s mouth, they are not really after the truth; they are only after someone whom they can verbally beat up like a lingual punching bag. We are not a truth-based society; instead, we are a ridicule-based society, especially when people are convinced that, in repeatedly demeaning the respondent’s image

Let's see, Mr. Corona spent three hours beating up on dead men, presidents, government officials, legislators, and prosecuting attorneys, blaming and whining and crying his way in self indulgent self pity. Filipinos are supposed to, what, sit back in admiration of his judicial bearing and intellectual might?

When he signed his waver, people actually cheered. It is what they want. Transparency. Then he pulled his dirty trick. On the people. They are supposed to roll over and praise the guy?

  • One would seriously think that if Corona intends to get away from everything through acting, he would be more creative than to act “sick” and instantly earn the ire of the Filipinos who simply can’t move on from the Arroyo incident. And yet he went sick.

Indeed, his driver and car were ready for his quick exit . One would seriously think that is masterfully unplanned, impromptu accidental arrangement.

He exited full strength. He got sick after he was stopped from fleeing by the Sergeant at Arms. It is called "loser's limp", like when the star player whose team is getting pulverized suddenly ends up with an injury that serves as his excuse for not being responsible for anything that transpired on the field. And the blind hyper-allegiant fans gets suckered in. Rather like some blog article writers.

When Chief Justice Corona was wheeled back to the courtroom, he did not even have the grace or courage to look ONCE, from his wheel chair, at Senator Enrile as he spoke.

  • And now, we have another prospect of mistrial based on “grave abuse of discretion.”

Right. Abuse of discretion. I tell you, the bear is crapping big now. Presiding Senator Enrile abused Chief Justice Corona by using his discretion to allow him to speak. The man kept running on after Senator Enrile interrupted three times to respectfully suggest he was out of order. Corona didn't care. He was on a mission.

  • Corona not only signed his waiver authorizing government bodies to examine his accounts, he is also giving Filipinos the opportunity to check out the accounts of the other politicians by challenging them to sign their waivers too!

His second surprise, making his waiver contingent on 189 other signatures, was a vindictive dirty trick. On the people. It made a mockery of transparency. I fear Arche is trying to reconstruct by dumping a whole bottle of perfume into this growing pile.

  • In many aspects, Corona’s dare was pretty nifty, hitting two birds with one stone. The first bird was the reputation of his persecutors. The second one was the hypocrisy of the Filipinos, attempting to uphold the rule of law only when it suits their egotistic purposes.

Yes, and that's pretty nifty, too, slandering the entire Filipino nation as indulging in hypocrisy, as you write this tripe.

The only attitude I see from the normal Filipinos around me is to want a honest and forthright Chief Justice. You know, Chief Justice Corona could have won the day by reporting the balances in his four dollar accounts, after having effectively rebutted the Ombudsman's Power Point presentation.  He could have won the day by signing the waiver on secrecy, unconditionally. What a statement of credibility and openness that would have been! What a dramatic statement FOR transparency! But he signed it, waved it, read it. Then pulled it back.

Insulting the people who were so generous of heart as to give him the benefit of the doubt.

Then he walked out.

Insulting the people's earnest representatives in the Senate.

The man is emotionally challenged with a debilitating persecution complex. He is unable to stand the heat in a kitchen he entered surreptitiously, in the dead of night, as a favor to a woman now in jail.

I suggest Arche needs to wipe the . . . umm, film . . . from his eyes and look simply at the disreputable and disrespectful display that was put on by the Chief Justice, with his "vast legal knowledge", in the guise of testimony, last Tuesday. And stop slandering good people who, when they see the king is naked, simply say the king is naked.

Laughing in the Philippines

Filipinos have a sense of humor appropriate to their social condition. That would be earthy rather than nuanced.

"Huh? Nice going, Crazy Joe, confusing us in the very first sentence."

By earthy, I mean Filipinos "get" sex jokes and ridicule because sex is very popular here and ridicule is an art.

But take a stab at satire and minds glaze over. Or humor that requires having read a lot or traveled a lot. Little foundation exists here from which to laugh. If you don't know stereotypes of Mexicans in America, you don't get ethnic digs aimed at Mexicans and the Americans who are so biased they end up being the butts of their own jokes.

My readership drops like a rock when I publish book reports or articles on reading, and my readership brainpower is probably among the upper 10% of Filipino intellectual might. Maybe 5%.

I bring this up because I am reading a totally hilarious book and I'd guess I get only about 25% of the jokes. They come so fast, faster than the three stooges can throw pies. Pages and pages of the author's wild-ass I'll make it up as I go slapstick on a novel.

The author may surprise you if you are a spy buff and enjoy the Bourne series by Robert Ludlum. Because the writer of this hilarious book is Robert Ludlum. Yes, that master of multi-dimensional spy intrigue.

The book is "The Road to Omaha", written in 1992. I found it at my favorite used-book store at Robinson's Mall in Tacloban.

Figuring out the plots for all those intricate spy books must have driven Ludlum up the wall because he lets his laundry out in this masterpiece. If a racial slur exists, it is used in this book. Ludlum applies stereotypes and slurs like Sancho Panza applies idioms.  Hebes and Wops, Spics and Darkies, Chinks and Redskins romp through the plot burying our ordinary outrageous stereotypes in an abundance of laughter. There are about a dozen main characters and they are positively uproarious. The main main-man is General MacKenzie Hawkins'. My favorites are his two adjutants, D-One and D-Two, a couple of Spics who tried to mug the General in the men's room.

Meet the General:

The lone figure in the nondescript gray suit huddled over the rolltop desk, which wasn't much of a desk, as all its little drawers had been removed and the rolling top was stuck at half-mast, was General MacKenzie Hawkins, military legend, hero in three wars and twice winner of the Congressional Medal of Honor. This giant of a man, his lean muscular figure belying his elderly years, his steely eyes and tanned leather-lined face perhaps confirming a number of them, had once again gone into combat. However, for the first time in his life, he was not at war with the enemies of his beloved United States of America but with the government of the United States itself.

Here are our esteemed General's professional values, expressed out of his own mouth during confrontation in the men's room with his future special forces:

"Get this straight, soldados estupidos! Never in all my years have I ever let a man's race, religion, or the color of his flesh have a goddamned thing to do with my appraisal of his qualifications. I've promoted more Coloreds and Chinks and Spanish-speaking personnel to the officer corps than most anyone in my position - not because they were Coloreds or Chinks or Spics, but because they were better than their competition! Is that clear? . . . You're just not in their ranks. You're pissants."
Well, fortunately, the great general was also a great trainer, and the two pissants were trained up to become his most loyal special forces, rising within the span of a few days from private to corporal to sergeant to lieutenant to captain. That's where I am now, halfway through the book.

What is my point in raising this matter?

Well, for one thing, to say without equivocation that humor is good for the soul. Sex jokes are funny (I have an extensive repertoire of two jokes), but I prefer the innocent and impromptu kind. Like when I told my son to go take his bath. He raised his head up from his toy trucks to exclaim loudly: "I can't hear you, I have bananas in my ears". He is 3 1/2.

I also enjoy word play. . . an original JoeAm-ism: ". . .declare an empanada and wage a fat war."

My second point is that fiction is fun and I rather think fiction writers are among the deepest souls on the planet. Mr. Ludlum made his name with spy novels. But clearly there was a deeper and broader writer underneath.

The humorous Ludlum.

Possibly he prayed, too, eh?

Charles Dickens and Mark Twain. Two of my favorite writers, one British, one American. Tremendous senses of humor, often attached to compassion, rendered within totally serious affairs. Kafka, master of the absurd. Jonathan Swift, master of satire. Humor requires seeing things in different dimensions, true and warped. Timing is everything.

So, to my recently adopted motto, I add a third and fourth admonition.

Aim high. Shoot straight.

Read lots. Laugh well.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Independence of the Courts and Other Misunderstandings

I refrain from critiquing the impeachment hearing and testimony of Chief Justice Corona as I tend to have compassion for the emotionally challenged.

But I'd like to comment on the complaint of court employees that the impeachment of the Chief Justice infringes on the independence of the judiciary.

I'm not convinced court employees even understand what independence means.

Independence does NOT mean left alone to wield justice in some cocoon that seals the courts off from any engagement with the Legislative and Executive branches. All branches of government must interact in order to understand one another, and to provide the checks and balances that keep government from slipping into autocracy or incompetence.

So when the Supreme Court acts on the constitutionality of a law passed by the Legislature, it is not infringing on the independence of the Legislature. It is doing its job. Or if it cites an executive order as unconstitutional, it is not infringing on the independence of the Executive branch. It is doing its job.

The impeachment process is a legal foundation of Philippine democracy. The Legislature is charged with the "job" of assuring impeachable officials are not on a wayward path.  It is astounding to me that workers in the branch of government that protects and serves this democracy somehow see it as an infringement upon their independence. Indeed, in this case, impeachment is aimed at ASSURING independence of the courts.

And the Ombudsman has a job to do, too, and if anyone were to respect this job, it would be an impartial judge.

How is it, then, that court employees feel such a threat?

Well, for one thing, their "leader" has painted the picture that way. One of grand victim.

One clear conclusion that can be drawn from the Chief Justice's opening statement is that he has failed to disassociate himself emotionally and politically from the other branches of government. His hyper-sensitivity to criticism and process has placed him on the defensive, and on the attack, blaming his troubles on the President and the 188 members of the House who impeached him. And on the Ombudsman who was, after all, simply doing her job with the best information available. The Chief Justice having secured all other avenues of access to his financial records.

So here we have a Chief Justice who does not grant other parts of government the right to abide by their oaths of public service. To do their jobs. He sees threats everywhere. He establishes the hyper-sensitive pipelines to other branches of government that erode the essential judicial mandate of separation and impartiality. The scary thing is that the entire roster of court employees seems have to taken up the flag of sensitivity and is waving it in public demonstrations. THEY, too, are undermining judicial independence because they have no idea what impartiality means. THEY, too, are emotional.

It takes discipline to hold to a steady course in a storm. To think proper thoughts rather than bow to emotions. It takes maturity and perspective. The maturity of the wise. The perspective of the aloof, the observer, the man who stands alone on the mountain top and sees all that is happening below, without climbing down and mucking around in what is happening below.

Senator Enrile has it.

The Chief Justice has come down from the mountain and the price is lost independence of and respect for the judiciary. Lost is impartiality. And lost is the TRUST we must have that the judicial mind is an extraordinary mind, an objective mind, that can reflect on all facts and render clear judgment.


Impeachment is not an infringement on independence of the courts.

It ASSURES independence by making sure the Chief Justice is influenced by no forces other than law, fact and reason.

His personal sensitivity is wrong for the top judicial official in the land. His need to blame and make excuses and whine undermines the impartial integrity of the courts. The bedrock of its independence.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

The Philippines Rams Headlong into the Internet

The internet is a wonderful but lawless land. It is open to all, regardless of age or ethnicity, religion, nationality, political party or moral persuasion.

It is this latter quality, unrestrained moral persuasion, that makes the internet a lawless land. And the most powerful force on the planet for good.

Who roams there?

Identity thieves, hackers, child-hunting perverts, deceitful people pretending to be who they are not, manipulators, slanderers. Angry people. Men who post naked pictures of ex-girl friends on line. Trolls. Stalkers. Casual slanderers. Destructive hackers. Anonymous people who roam about spouting revolution or even terror.

Google, tracking your every click.

Photo source: socratezonline
Facebook, revealing your intimate details to friends who can reveal you to the whole world.

Let me tell you, it is a dangerous place.

Convenient, no doubt. Cool. Far reaching. Amazing knowledge is available at the click of a mouse.

But dangerous.

Some countries such as Iran and China build walls to keep unsavory internet information offshore. Their net is managed. It is their way of forcing integrity, or their version of the law, onto the wild beast that is the world-wide-web. And they seek to punish those who don't abide by their thinking.

There are hackers and blog site operators who share the values of Iran and China. They abhor those who think differently, or attack, not the ideas, but the person who would have the audacity to break with their thinking. They bully and slander and deceive and damage, and, like Iran and China, or old-school Filipino tribal lords, cannot comprehend a different way forward.

But there is no courtroom on the internet, no regulator.

There is only open-sourced integrity.  And there is a lot of that around.

Integrity is the desire to be constructive within a huge community. The internet forms the most brilliant brain in the world, dedicated to acquiring all knowledge and spreading it. The potential to do harm or even destroy is large, but subordinate to good will, for now. The internet is more angel than devil.

How will we use this power?

The Philippines is a place where archaic values and the forces of the internet collide. The internet is a broadminded institution, the broadest. It advocates all ideologies simultaneously. It brooks no censorship, no control. Because it is completely free-thinking, it is also a massive exercise in checks and balances.

Archaic censorship values confront Lady Gaga and get blasted back to the dark ages by the free-wheeling internet. "I'm not a creature of your government, Manila!", she roars defiantly, and launches into the Christian- condemned "Judas". I figure that video is going viral about the time of this posting.

Well now, Lady Gaga may have just coined a superb motto for the internet.

"I'm not a creature of your government, Manila!"

Government officials hang onto the misconception that they have some kind of special privilege, the right to be thuggish bosses. To hide their illicit transactions, like in the old days. To lord it over the masses. To intimidate and bluster and threaten. But it's a new world. The forces of public awareness and condemnation, marshaled on the internet, strip them naked.

Senator Santiago can rant and she will be ranted at. It is not her world any longer. Hers to manipulate.

Senators of the archaic mold may think they can push away the wave of public confrontation that is smacking the Chief Justice into humiliation. They may think they are immune, powerful enough to hold challenge of their own SALN's at bay. Maybe they can. For a month. For a year. For three years.

But eventually, they, too, will go down if they adhere to the misconception they can abide by two masters: greed and public service. If they think they can hide. Too many sharp eyes are on the lookout, using the power of the internet to spread information that crooks until now have kept locked in a desk drawer. Somehow it will find its way to the Ombudsman, or a journalist. Or a popular blogger. Or a viral video.

Big Brother is not a government agency, spying on the people. It is the people, holding the government to account.

Values that no longer work are revealed for their failure.

Totalitarianism, big and small, in the cloaks of religion, the robes of scurrilous judges, or the suits of autocrats, cannot stand where there is a robust sharing of information, real time. And where there is a conscience.

And, if we are vigilant, those on the internet who have no integrity will, in due time, be consigned to the dustbins of irrelevance.

There can be no return to dark age thinking when enlightenment shines brighter than it ever has.

Aim high. Shoot straight.

Monday, May 21, 2012

The CBCP Doctrine of Faith, or JoeAm Eats His Hat

An important institution promoting high values in the Philippines is the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines ("CBCP"). The CBCP is influential both in the church and in the mainstream of Philippine social and political activities.

My blogs contain frequent criticisms of the Catholic Church on two points: (1) the Church's failure to acknowledge any responsibility for poverty in the Philippines, specifically as it pertains to high birth rates that overwhelm the impoverished nation's ability to create meaningful, well-paying jobs, and (2) holding women in ignorance and bondage, the former as it pertains to birth control education, the latter as it pertains to women subordinated to abusive, deadbeat husbands without legal right of divorce.

Regular commenter brianitus, old and wise beyond his years, points out that the Church is simply acting on its charter and should not be expected to do otherwise.

Well, that is a good point, and I confess ignorance about that charter.

So I went to the CBCP web site and referred to the "Episcopal Commission on the Doctrine of the Faith". It is one of many commissions that illustrate how the Church is organized to carry out many good deeds.

Here is what it says, word for word, pasted as published:

The Commission on Doctrine of the Faith

  1. Shall promote and safeguard the unity of faith and morals in the country.
  2. Shall see to it that the doctrinal declarations coming from the Magisterium of the Universal Church must be firmly obeyed and “teachings concerning faith or morals enunciated by the Roman Pontiff or the College of Bishops when they exercise their authentic Magisterium, even if they do not intend to proclaim such teachings by a definitive act” (Ad Tuendam Fidem, nn. 2-3) must be followed.
  3. Shall take care that the doctrinal declarations of CBCP, which deal with “new questions and (act) so that the message of Christ enlightens and guides people’s conscience in resolving new problems arising from changes in society”, must be adhered to by the faithful with a sense of religious respect as coming from the authentic Magisterium of their own Bishops (M.P. Apostolos Suos, n. 22).
  4. Shall publicize the documents of the Papal Magisterium and comment on them as the needs of the Church in the Philippines require.
  5. Shall promote the writing of textbooks by authors who are recognized for their scholarship and their steadfast fidelity to the Church’s Magisterium.
  6. Shall promote the work of theology by fostering cooperation among theologians, religion teachers in universities and seminaries, and all other experts in the ecclesiastical disciplines.
  7. Shall help resolve questions seriously and nationally undermining the doctrine of faith and morals in the Country.
  8. Shall be vigilant on attempts to disseminate atheism in universities and schools, mass media or parishes, and to inform the Conference about it, thereto giving its recommendations to counteract this serious danger to the faith.
  9. Shall maintain communication with the Pontifical Council for Dialogue with Non-Believers on matters of mutual concern and interest.

Let me try to clarify and interpret these guidelines, for my own understanding as much as anything:

  1. The CBCP has a role of promoting high values and "unity of faith" in the Philippines. I think "unity of faith" means harmony within the Catholic Church, not conversion of non-Catholics to Catholicism. I think that's what Muslims think, too.
  2. The CBCP is an extension the greater Roman Catholic Church and its faith and values.
  3. This one surprises and pleases me. It says the CBCP will address how changes in society influence people's conscience, relying upon the message of Christ to enlighten and guide people through these changes. I have argued the Church is stuck in the 1500's. Clearly, the CBCP recognizes the Church must be responsive to societal changes. I acknowledge my error.
  4. The CBCP will communicate and clarify documents from Rome based on the needs of the Philippine Church. This is a profound statement, that the Philippines has unique needs in matters of faith.
  5. The CBCP will promote textbook writing by authors of faith.
  6. Theology will also be promoted.
  7. The CBCP Will engage in political dialogue when acts are seen as undermining the doctrine of faith and morals.
  8. The CBCP will combat atheism, which is seen as a "serious danger to the faith".
  9. The CBCP will act as intermediary between Rome and non-believers on matters of mutual concern.

All in all, I find this to be a very constructive charter. It is straightforward. The Catholic Church of the Philippines represents the Roman Catholic Church, is a caretaker of national values, is politically engaged if necessary, responds to change, recognizes the uniqueness of the Philippines, and promotes greater knowledge.

So if I have issues with the Church position on birth control education and divorce, I need to cut to the faith-chase on these matters, perhaps articulating them in terms the church is chartered to understand: "people's conscience in resolving new problems arising from changes in society."

That is a challenge, isn't it, regarding poverty brought about by an overabundance of people, or unsustainable consumption of the earth's resources? There are two aspects to consider when applying Christ's message: (1) Rome's doctrine, and (2) needs unique to the Philippines. So, speaking not so hypothetically,  if the parent Church doctrine were destroying the Philippines, what course would the CBCP take? Evidently the course of destruction, whilst rationalizing away any responsibility for this.

Put another way, the CBCP's holy hands are nailed to the Roman doctrine and we residents of this over-birthing nation are all likely to grow poor, angry and die because of it.


That "Section d" is looking a little, um  . . . excuse me . . . impotent. Rather like a rubber stamp, with no reservations or guilt attached.

Regarding divorce, we could ask the question of why, when every other high-moral nation allows divorce under reasonable circumstances, does the Philippine Church adhere to a "no divorce" stance?

What unique social circumstance in the Philippines requires that Filipinas be bound to abusive husbands when the rest of the world is somehow enlightened by a different moral light?

Is the unique circumstance CBCP ignorance, rather akin to that of a "slow learner"? Or is it discrimination against women?  Or is it more nefarious? The CBCP has these poor people snookered and is going to ride the power train while the riding is good?

As I don't think anyone from the CBCP is likely to find this article and enlighten JoeAm, I suppose I will have to dig some more into Church pronouncements and justification for its positions on HR and divorce. I need to understand how the CBCP resolves the tension between Rome and the Philippines on matters that are "socially problematic" in the Philippines.

I have this nagging idea that what they are doing and what Jesus would do are not aligned. That they are protecting a rigid organizational code whilst ignoring the harm being done to Filipinos.