Wednesday, April 30, 2008

MAR: Government Will Compete With Drug Industry!

In case you haven't been paying attention to what the so-called Cheaper Medicines Bill is really all about, just read the Press Release from Senator Mar Roxas (allegedly "Mr. Palengke==Mr. Market):
Roxas, principal author of the Affordable Medicines Act and co-chair of the bicameral conference committee, thanked the members of the bicameral conference committee, led by bicameral committee co-chair, Rep. Antonio Alvarez, for signing the report. Both houses will now ratify the bicam-approved bill and officially transmit to the Office of the President for signing.

"We may have had our differences but it was all worth it because the final version of this vital health measure is really a product of vigorous debate and comprehensive study," the long-time advocate of affordable medicines said.

The former trade secretary recalled that he was sued by a major pharmaceutical company when he was at DTI for bringing in affordable medicines from abroad.

"Even then, there was a great deal of pressure for the government not to compete with these drug companies. Now that the law is passed, not just the government but even the private sector can import drugs or medicines from another country as long as they comply with the guidelines to be set by the Bureau of Food and Drug Administration and the Department of Health," Roxas said.
SOCIALISM here we come. Well we shall see whether all that "vigorous debate and comprehensive study" can turn this government into a worthy competitor against all those evil imperialist drug companies and their accursed Intellectual Property Rights ideas. Never mind of course that even the World Health Organization points out that only ONE PERCENT of the Essential Medicines on its list is still under patent protection. We shall see if the Office of the President and the Dept. of Health can start a competitive generics drug industry based on "parallel importation", price controls and what his side kick Pia Cayetano has suggested will be taxes to support the scheme using "5% of the GDP".

Of course, we will never see the dead and dying from all this big government socialistic phantasmogria. Whatever they're smokin' -- give me some of that psychedelic stuff already!

Monday, April 28, 2008

Cheaper Fake Medicines Bill

UPDATE: Noy Oplas' paper Making Medicines Cheaper: the Role of Innovation, Competition and Taxation should be read in full by anyone who really wants to understand the issues surrounding the so called Cheaper Medicines Bill (ratified today by the Congress bicameral committee and likely to be signed into law in the next few days). Here is his Conclusion section (please pass until Mar Roxas and Pia Cayetano see this!)

When the legislators who are in the frontline now telling the public that their legislation can indeed bring down the prices of medicines, run for the same or higher offices in 2010, they and the public will be in for a big disappointment. And the same legislators who were in the frontline enacting said legislation will be forced to look for another set of scapegoats since the public will ask them why prices of quality and safe medicines are still high.

ho could possibly be against the idea of lower prices for life-saving medicines? Especially after it has been suggested that the cause of high medicine prices are those greedy capitalist pigs with their imperialist intellectual property rights protection laws! Look, they say, at marvelous India, where they've dispensed with such crass Western ideas as patent protection for inventions and discoveries and so you can buy Norvasc there at ten times lower price than in the Philippines. The main proponent of the alleged cheaper medicines bill about to be signed into law by President Arroyo, Sen. Mar Roxas said on radio today that it would bring about cheaper medicines for the poor in three ways: (1) parallel importation from places like India would create competitive pressures and force "foreign drug companies" (read American and European) to lower their prices; (2) "reform" in intellectual property rights protection would "encourage" and "strengthen" the generics drugs industry by breaking "unfair" patent monopolies and extensions of patent protection; and (3) price regulation would set "maximum retail prices" for a list of commonly used drugs.

To me, this is an example of lethal demagoguery that will lead to cheaper fake medicines that will kill or seriously harm many innocent people, and more expensive real medicines that will truly be out of the reach of poor people.

I agree with Bienvenido Oplas Jr. of the NGO Minimal Government Thinkers who enumerates some pertinent and eye-opening facts: (1) Only one percent of the World Health Organization's "Essential Medicines List" is presently under patent protection, which means Mar is all wet on this since the generics drugs industry can already produce 99% of those essential medicines without worrying about those nasty imperialist protectors of IPR; (2) 30% of drugs sold in developing countries are fake or low dose versions of the real thing, with India's much vaunted "independent" drug industry producing much of the 42% of drugs sold in India that are fake. (3) Taxes and import duties are a main reason for the high price of medicines, not patent protection, which is necessary to keep the flow of important new medicines coming, given that in the US it costs an average of $800 million in R&D, marketing and regulatory costs to bring a new molecule to market.

Given the penchant of Filipinos for fake DVDs, fake watches, fake brand name blue jeans, and even fake fake knockoffs of the real things, they are likely to think that fake medicines are just as good as fake digital copies of the real things. Combined with the euphemism of "parallel importation" (read hundreds of viajeras going to India and coming back with suitcases of pseudo Norvasc and other "killer medicines"), I think we have the recipe for another spectacular government sponsored social disaster. Without a massive government testing and quality control program for hundreds or maybe thousands of new drugs and multifarious or unknown sources and manufacturers of them, parallel importers may as well import rat poison and dispense them through the upcoming Price Regulatory Board instead of putting people through a regime of quite possibly fake or under-dose meds.

Years from now, after the toll in death and suffering this misbegotten legislation will have caused, I wonder if anyone will remember what remarkable idealism, and anti-Western indignation accompanied its accursed birth.

The bill's supporters may claim to be choosing "patients over patents" but in the light of the facts they are really choosing "fakes over patients" whose real costs are infinitely higher than what is paid for high quality meds.

Philosophically, I am also opposed to the idea of price regulation for medicine that sets maximum retail prices for drugs, because it will only legitimize the market for fake or underdose generic drugs by supplying a Suggested Retail Prices even for them.!

Friday, April 25, 2008

A Godellian Approach to Infalliblilty

There is no need to continue reading this post, if you do not agree entirely with the following and have no doubt as to the common sense and meaning of each of the words that are used in these AXIOMS:

(AX1) A STATEMENT is any grammatically complete English sentence.

(AX2) Every STATEMENT falls into one and exactly one of three SETS:

(T) The set of statements that we have decided and agree are TRUE.
(F) The set of statements that we have decided and agree are FALSE.
(U) The set of statements that we have NOT decided and agreed belong to either Set (T) or Set (F).

(AX3) The operation of this exercise is first, to propose statements for consideration; and second, to decide and agree which of the three sets it belongs to.


(D1) At the outset the set (T) contains exactly three statements that we agreed and decided (if you got this far) are in fact TRUE, namely Axioms (AX1), (AX2) and (AX3) which are all valid Statements, by inspection, and are decidedly and agreeably TRUE by our common sense and agreement of the meaning of "axiom".

(D2) For any new statement that is proposed, the first logical step to make is to decide and to agree whether or not it belongs to the set (U), that is, whether there is any logical hope or possibility that we can decide and agree about whether it definitely belongs to EITHER set (T) or Set (F).

(D3) I shall now demonstrate that the Set (U) is definitely not empty, that is the Set (U) is not the NULL set. Consider any paradoxical or logically inconsistent statement like the Liars Paradox:

(LP) "This very statement is false."

Assume first that (LP) belongs to the set (T), that is, that LP is TRUE. If (LP) is true then it must be FALSE, that is, it belongs to Set (F). But if (LP) is false, then (LP) must be true and so also belongs to set (T). And so on. Thus in order not to violate AX2, we are forced to decide and agree that (LP) belongs to one and only one set, the set (U) because we cannot decide that it belongs to either Set (T) or Set (F). Quod erat demonstrandum (Q.E.D.) -- The set (U) is not empty.

I believe, though we have not decided or agreed to this, that every paradoxical or illogical statement of this sort (LP) belongs to set (U), that is, we cannot logically decide which of the two disjoint sets, (T) or (F) it belongs to.

(D4) Consider another statement which is not a paradox but is nonetheless very strange:

(NAP): "This very statement is true."

Does (NAP) belong to Set (T), (F), or (U)?

I can't say at the moment, so let's hear your opinion in the Comment Thread.

(D5) I wish to propose for discussion the following Definition:

(D5D1) An INFALLIBLE statement is one that we decide and agree CANNOT belong to either Set (F) or Set (U), even if we cannot decide and agree that it belongs to set (T).

(D6) Please propose your own definition of 'infallible statement".

(D7) Is the set of all statements that don't belong to (T) (F) or (U) empty?

(D8) Is NAP an infallible statement? Am I the Pope?

(D9) Are there any identifiable DISJOINT sets of statements within the Set (U)?

I know, I know...this is the weirdest Philippine Commentary posting ever! But I want to test the hypothese that seemed so clear in my head before but looks really strange to me now that in a quintessentially Goedelesque way:


The basic idea is that for Papal Infallibility to be "logical" it has to stand outside the Deposit of Faith that is Divine Revelation (Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition). It is no longer Religion but Mathematics.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Overpopulation As Obesity

I just don't buy the thesis, as I understand it, that there are too many Filipinos and the Church is to blame. I think there are just as many Filipinos as there should be in the world today, no more and no less. It's not the number of Filipinos in the world that is the problem. No, it's the leaders who don't provide the means of an expanding world for them that is the problem.
Dominique Cimafranca (The Village Idiot Savant blog) makes a similar point:
Just because Thailand's population growth rate is lower does not automatically translate into a stronger economy and greater agricultural output. Comparisons of economic and agricultural figures for both countries will show why things are they way they are.
I have to concede the point to both of these gentlemen that neither the "absolute number" of Filipinos in the world today (Richard) nor the "relative number" of Filipinos to Thais (Dominique) is by itself capable of explaining either the absolute or relative states of the Philippine economy and society.

Dysfunctional leadership, massive graft and corruption, and backward states of education, industry, agriculture and administration are all equally if not more important than the population number.

As the post title suggests, I wish to make the analogy that OVERPOPULATION (which neither Dominique nor Richard regards as a problem) IS a problem like being overweight or downright obese.

First, let us observe that having a weight problem can also be regarded in absolute or relative terms. To Dom's point, merely being heavier than another person does not enforce the conclusion that one is less healthy than the other, for there are many other factors that determine health. To Richard's point, whatever one's weight may be, given that one does everything else to promote good health, one's actual weight could be regarded as no problem at all.

However, I wish to reason by way of analogy that even if all these other factors were made equal or otherwise dealt with, we would still be substantially better off if Filipino families could attain the smaller number of members that 80 to 85% of them say (in public opinion surveys) that they truly want because they believe they would be better off economically.

Most overweight people have the same sense that they would be better off physically if they could just shed some pounds. The heart's function and cardiovascular health in general are directly affected by being overweight or obese. The heart has to work harder because (somewhere I read that) every pound of extra weight means an extra mile of arteries, veins and capillaries are required to carry blood to those millions of extra bodily cells. Likewise, the economy has to pump out more of the primary social goods like food, shelter, clothing, education and the like for the millions of citizens. Of course, society has to do that anyway no matter what the population is, but who would deny that IF we were 60 million strong instead of 90 million, we would need about a third less rice, oil, food, shelter and clothing, etc. In this sense, I think that reducing the population growth rate is generally a CONSERVATIVE principle, even if "birth control" as such is usually associated with "liberals" because the latter tend to paint the problem as a "women's issue". Of course, all mothers ARE women, but I think that obesity is a gender-neutral problem and treating population as a feminist issue only burdens the matter with emotional and ideological baggage that is material but not central to the main point.

The analogy also suggests that "the other problems" that Dom and Richard point too as the causes of social and economic woes are analogous to bad personal habits deleterious to health. Graft and corruption could be likened to smoking; bad economic or political policies would be like not getting enough rest and exercise or refusing to treat hypertension, diabetes, or cholesterol problems. Yet even if we did all these things and fixed all these other problems, if at the end of the process we still found our selves to be overweight or obese, it would still be benefical to address THAT problem too.

Here we get into the HOW. I am dead set against abortion which I would liken to liposuction or amputation. But EATING LESS would not be a bad idea, and this would be analogous to pills, condoms, IUDs and other forms of "preventative contraception". In this mode, we would lose weight and reduce our waist size like reducing the population size mainly by attrition assuming that the death rate stays more or less constant.

Just as a person who loses weight gains strength and vigor, is more productive, lives longer and can do more and better things, a society that does not breed and feed like rats and rabbits can invest more in health, education, welfare, economic and social activities.

Finally most overweight people I know (like me) are generally less healthy than people who are close to some ideal weight for their height, age, temperament and daily activity. Similarly, if you look at the population growth rates of the wealthier nations, they are much lower than the poorer ones and the population profiles of those that have made the demographic transition have a characteristic shape (rectangular as opposed to triangular). Just so, obese folks have a pear-shape while leaner people are uhmm, sexier.

I don't know of course that HAPPINESS correlates, but we aren't really talking about that at the moment. Anyway looking at this problem like this seems to be less emotional and ideological, though I want to tackle the issue of Papal Infallibility from a Godellian point of view in my next post.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

An Atenean's Opinion of the Jesuits (Before They Exiled and Murdered Him)

There's a wee lil tempest in a teapot going on over at the Philippine Daily Innuendo over some guidelines or other that the Philippine Jesuits have issued about People Power. PDI Senior editor John Neri has some comments on the comments of Manuel Buencamino and Filomeno San Juan on the guidelines. All three are alumni of the school run by the local Jesuit order (that for some odd reason is located along a road called "Katipunan." ) Well, before he was exiled, then setup and murdered by his former mentors, Jose Rizal made his opinion of the Jesuits known by putting them in a conversation between Don Filippo and Pilosopong Tacio in Chapter 53 of the Noli Me Tangere:

[Excert from the Noli Me Tangere by Jose Rizal, Chapter 53, entitled "Il Buon Di Si Conosce Da Mattina -- A Fair Day Is Known by the Morn" from the 50th Anniversary Edition of the 1956 English translation by Jorge Cleofas Bocobo]

“According to you, do the Jesuits keep up with the march of Progress?” Don Filipo asked in wonder; “why are they attacked in Europe?”

“I shall answer like an old follower of Scholastic philosophy,” answered the philosopher, lying down again and resuming his ironic expression; “in three ways may men go along with Progress: ahead, side by side, or behind; the first guide it, the second allow themselves to be carried, and the last are dragged, and the Jesuits belong to the last. They should certainly like to guide it, but as they see it so strong and with other tendencies, they capitulate, they would rather follow than be crushed or be left behind in the darkness. Now, then, we in the Philippines are at least three centuries behind the chariot of Progress; we have scarcely emerged from the Middle Ages; for this reason, the Jesuits who are backward in Europe, represent progress when they are seen from here. The Philippines owes them her nascent education and the natural sciences, the soul of the XIX century, just as our country owes the Dominicans Scholastic philosophy which is already dead despite Leo XIII: no Pope can revive what common sense has sentenced to death and executed (pause). But what was the original question?” he asked, changing his tone. “Ah! we were speaking of the present condition of the Philippines. Yes, now we are entering upon the period of struggle, I mean you, the youth; the old generation belongs to the night: we are about to depart. The conflict is between the past which with curses clings and holds on to the tottering feudal castle, and the future, whose triumphal hymn is heard from afar illumined by the splendor of daybreak, bringing with it the Good Tidings from other countries (pause). Who will fall and be buried in the ruins of the structure that is falling down?”
José Rizál had the Jesuits' number 122 years ago. Except they hadn't invented the veridically correct term for them yet: CLERICO-FASCISTS! But then again, I prefer my own neologism: "Spanish Taliban."

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Visit the National Museum of the Filipino People--It's Marvelous!

[Invitation via email from my old friend JOHN SILVA who deserves just an awful lot of credit for the marvelous work he's done at the National Museum of the Filipino People. We're so proud of you John!!]
(FYI, DUE TO DEMAND, MAY 2ND May 10th May 17th May 18 and May 24th, ARE ADDITIONAL DATES FOR THE TOUR)

Dear friends,

If you haven't been on a tour of the National Museum, well, here's your chance. You'll be pleasantly surprised at how beautiful the museums are (the former Finance Building and the former Legislative Building) with its extensive renovation inside yet keeping with its neo-Federal Style architecture outside.

There's fifteen galleries in the Museum of the Filipino people (formerly Finance) to explore our archaeological past and our anthropological present. The highlight of is of course four galleries devoted to the 1994 recovery of the Spanish galleon San Diego. It's treasures give insights to the incredible 300 year trade that linked us to the Americas. We’ll also see the current temporary exhibits in the museum.

The former Legislative Building, now the National Gallery of Art, will be another formidable encounter as we journey through 200 years of Filipino arts and sculpture in seven galleries. The most spectacular sight is the gigantic and original rendering The Spoliarium by Juan Luna. We pause here to appreciate and learn how this masterpiece inspired our brave band of Filipino students in Madrid, including Jose Rizal, to alter their lives and helped in the formation of our nation.

John L. Silva has been Senior Consultant of the National Museum for close to ten years and has the most incredible stories and insights about the collection. He teaches arts education in an interesting and humorous manner and delights and inspires his audience to be proud of their culture and history.

Proceeds from the fees (700 pesos for adults, and 500 pesos for children up to 18 years) will go to John's I LOVE MUSEUM PROGRAM, which brings public school teachers to the National Museum and to their local museums, taught the importance of arts appreciation and transmit that information to their students. Studies show that an arts educated child raises their academic achievements, promotes love of reading, and makes them better citizens.

The tours are three hours in duration, and begins at 10:00 am sharp (ending at 1:00 pm) at the rear entrance of the Museum of the Filipino People, (former Finance Building) Agrifina Circle, Rizal Park. Attendees are requested to wear walking shoes and reservations are strongly encouraged by texting or calling John Silva at 0926 729 9029. The tours will be held April 5, 19th, 26th and May 2, 10, 17, 18, and 24, 2008.

An attached PDF is an announcement and please pass this on to your friends.

See you at the National Museum.

John L. Silva

Monday, April 21, 2008

Papal Infallibility and the Union of Church and State in Breeding Hunger and Poverty

OR: The Real Reason the Church Won't Change It's Stand on Birth Control ... Is That It Cannot!

hile I am extremely gratified to see that a vibrant public debate has now again arisen over the problem of overpopulation in the Philippines. I am led to the depressing conclusion that the Catholic Church cannot and will not change its stand on population management issues any time soon by a recent review of the history of the allegedly infallible teaching that contraception is a "grave moral disorder and mortal sin" -- even if it does not involve abortion.

As the nation faces frightening oil and food price crises there lies unmasked a dogmatic policy that reeks of supernal vanity and infernal indifference to the terrible consequences of the last 40 years. For it was indeed in 1968 that Pope Paul VI issued the encyclical Humanae Vitae.

What is perhaps not widely known is that the ultimate reason for the Church's now unchangeable stand has little to do with with its moral position on sex and birth control and more to do with preserving the authority of the Church and that supernal piece of hubris and vanity called papal infallibility. This analysis by John Swormley from Christian Social Action (Feb. 1998) provides details that ought to make people mad not only because of the destructive social effects but also the long term damage done to the Church itself:
The birth control story begins with the Second Vatican Council in the early l960s and the decision of two popes to re-examine the church’s position on birth control. Pope John XX Ill had intended to begin that re-examination, but he died before he could begin the process. His successor, Pope Paul VI, appointed a Papal Commission on Population and Birth Control.

That commission was two-tiered: (1) a group of 15 cardinals and bishops; (2) a group of 64 lay experts representing a variety of disciplines. A member of the lay commission, Thomas Burch, a professor at Georgetown University in the 1960s, said the pope had asked them to try to find a way to change the church’s position on birth control without destroying papal authority.

Commission Voted for Change

After two years of study, the lay commission voted 60 to 4, and the clergy voted 9 to 6, to change the position on birth control, even though it would mean a loss of papal authority, because it was the right thing to do. However, a minority report was submitted to the pope. The co-author of that report was a Polish archbishop, Karol Wojtyla, who later became Pope John Paul II.

A Roman Catholic historian and theologian, August Bernhard Hasler, tells the story in his 1979 book, How the Pope Became Infallible. He provided the following quotation from that minority report, which actually was the one accepted. It clearly sets forth the basis or reason for the current Catholic crusade against birth control and family planning:

“If it should be declared that contraception is not evil in itself, then we should have to concede frankly that the Holy Spirit had been on the side of the Protestant churches in 1930 (when the encyclical Casti Connubi was promulgated). and in 1951 (Pius XII’s address delivered before the Society of Hematologists in the year the pope died).

“It should likewise have to be admitted that for a hall a century the Spirit failed to protect Pius XI, Pius XII, and a large part of the Catholic hierarchy from a very serious error. This would mean that the leaders of the Church, acting with extreme imprudence, had condemned thousands of innocent human acts, forbidding, under pain of eternal damnation, a practice which would now be sanctioned. The fact can neither be denied nor ignored that these same acts would now he declared licit on the grounds of principles cited by the Protestants, which popes and bishops have either condemned or at least not approved” (page 170).

Dr. Hasler concluded: “Thus it became only too clear that the core of the problem was not the pill, but the authority. continuity, and infallibility of the Church’s magisterium.”
I find this explanation enlightening and logical because I've always been puzzled about the apparent inconsistency of promoting at least one method that does result in preventing pregnancies, albeit unreliably, in the natural rhythm method (VaticanRoulette) yet regarding as anathema pills, condoms and IUDs as the very devil's handiwork.

Since then, many Catholic Churches in Latin America and Europe have quietly ignored the Pope and adopted a more enlightened and liberal view towards birth control excluding abortion. But unique even among Catholic countries around the world, the Church and the State in the Philippines have been shamelessly united in a thoroughly irresponsible do-nothing population policy that is only breeding hunger and poverty and destroying the lives of millions of families.

There are undeniably other contributory factors, such as graft and corruption, but only the deaf and the blind would deny that the resulting level of poverty, hunger and deprivation would surely have been avoided or minimized if the leaders of a holier-than-thou Church and the most-corrupt State in Asia thought and acted more humanely and realistically about the issue.

Indeed, the situation has suited the Church hierarchy just fine, since it is not legally responsible for anything but its own dogmatic preachings on faith and morals. Meanwhile the State cynically profits from a quid pro quo that allows Catholic dogma to reign supreme in the social and religious spheres even as Catholic Church inaction and silence allow corrupt and illegitimate leaders like Gloria Macapagal Arroyo to lord it over politics and the economy.

With Pagcor's blood-and-vice-stained gambling money disguised as charity serving as the conduit for institutional bribery on a massive and despicable scale, the Principle of the Separation of Church and State has been perverted into a thinly a disguised regime reminiscent of Spanish Taliban theocracy that also ignored the people's long-term welfare.

I wish I could say that a widespread impetus towards a more enlightened population policy (as found in Latin American and European Catholic countries, and our regional neighbors), might be expected as the Catholic Bishops discern ever more clearly their utter failure to prevent the greater evil and injustice of the avoidable hunger, poverty and potential social chaos, compared to whatever evils they discern in simple, effective modern birth control methods. We are not even talking here about abortion, which I condemn and should always remain criminal and illegal in the Philippines. (Ironically, there are said to be up to half a million cases of illegal abortions in the Philippines annually--most of which are attributed to the lack of effective birth control measures).

I lay the responsibility for those abortions squarely on their betters who have indeed deprived the people access to readily available means of avoiding such a morally debased action but have been led to it by their own desperate desire to save another child from the evil of destitution.

Unfortunately I do not think such a conscientious reconsideration by the Catholic Sanhedrin of their culpability in a mortal sin of omission is even forthcoming even if they have condemned millions of families to lives of misery and demoralization.

The reason for such pessimism is my conviction that the real motivation behind the intransigent Catholic Church stand against birth control is the need to preserve Church authority via the doctrine of Papal Infallibility.

ABSOLUTE POWER has absolutely corrupted both the Church and the State. No wonder the CBCP and Gloria Macapagal Arroyo share a bed in the Pagcor Hotel.

What Hypocrites Our Bishops Be!

Bishops to Couples for Christ: Screen all sources of donations!

An official of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines urged the Couple’s For Christ, a Catholic charismatic group, to screen the companies that want to help in the programs of CFC's social action arm, Gawad Kalinga (GK).

Bohol Bishop Leonardo Medroso, a member of CBCP’s Episcopal Commission on the Laity, said CFC should start discriminating which companies that want to help in GK programs are promoting the use of contraceptives as family planning method.

"They should really screen all their donors," Medroso said during an interview over Catholic Church-run Radyo Veritas Sunday.

He said the CFC should be careful in getting donations or help from companies that have anti-life perception or those promoting the use of artificial method of birth control.

"You cannot accept help from a funding agency which has anti life perception," Medroso said.
Father, how about the illegal log in thine own jaundiced eye?? Susmaryosep! I wish these Men in Skirts would stick to paedophilia and the fathering of illegitimate children with their confessants. They might actually get more sympathy than this trapeeze act of utter and debased hypocrisy.

After all is said and done, what matters is that we as responsible human beings, both as individuals and as institutions, demonstrate our dedication to the Truth and Justice of the God we profess to worship. I think this means we must show that we have the decency and discernment to see what the greater evils are and where worse injustices liel and not hew to dogmatism and authority to display our feet of clay!

It brings disdain to Religion and abets the greatest of all evils...the destruction of the moral spirit through the bad example of men who profess to uphold and preach it. If the bishops will not themselves do as they pontificate unto others, they should be strung up by their silly cilices for mocking God and crucifying men on the cross of their fakery and hypocrisy. They should use condoms on their foul mouths and contraceptives on their fouler minds. Whatever evils they claim attach to birth control, excluding abortion of course, those cannot possibly exceed the evil and injustice they themselves are teaching by blatant example.

Shame on them. Mark their upside down Crucifixes, everyone!

Sunday, April 20, 2008

John McCain's "Hundred Years In Iraq" Remark

Here is YouTube video of the GOP's Presidential candidate, Senator John McCain, answering a question from the audience during the New Hampshire primary earlier this year about his position on Iraq and America's commitment there:

Here is my transcript of the exchange:

Audience Member: "President Bush has talked about staying in Iraq for fifty years..."

Sen. McCain: "...Make it a hundred..."

Audience Member: "Is that what you're saying?"

Sen. McCain: "We've been in Japan for 60 years. We've been in South Korea for 50 years or so. That would be fine with me, as long as Americans are not being injured or harmed or wounded or killed."
We know of course that Hillary Clinton is for immediate, unconditional withdrawal "within 60 days" of assuming her possible presidency, and that Barack Obama has indicated he would "change the mission in Iraq" and expects ground commanders to comply.

But what does puzzle me about John McCain's statement that is being completely ignored, conveniently, it seems, by both pro- and anti-war forces during this presidential campaign is the CONDITION he explicitly lays down for staying in Iraq a hundred years or more: as long as Americans are not being injured or harmed or wounded or killed."

This is so typical of John McCain over the years and one reason he is suspect even among the GOP faithful--for wanting to have his cake and eating it too. I cannot in fact imagine how America could EVER disengage from Iraq or that part of the world, because even IF Americans are being injured or harmed or wounded or killed there, as they certainly are now, and certainly will be in the future, there is NO RATIONAL CHOICE but fix the situation. It is in America's national interest, and the rest of the world's, that the conflict be settled one way or another.

Whatever one thinks about how and why we got in there, there ought not to be any confusion that there is no NO GETTING OUT. Ever.

If I were to choose a candidate solely on this criterion of understanding the need for America's commitment in the fight against Islamist terrorism, and the consequences of past action and policy, I wouldn't vote for any of 'em!

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Only the Democrats Can Beat the Democrats in 2008

AFTER WATCHING the debate in Pennsylvania between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, it seems they are doing a fine job of that. I am more than ever convinced that John McCain could still win the 2008 US Presidential elections. It happened once before, in 1912, when Theodore Roosevelt and William Howard Taft split the GOP right down the middle and Democrat Woodrow Wilson won the elections. But tonight was probably the nadir of both campaigns in terms of demoralizing their respective bases and justifying some gloating from the Republicans. The Atlantic uber-blogger and Obama supporter, Andrew Sullivan tries to put the best face on an ugly and uglier situation by divining a coming Pro-Obama Backlash.

He points to Matt Yglesias who is humorless in castigating Hillary Clinton for her low down attacks on Obama, saying "The lame excuse that she's making this and that outrageous smear because the Republicans will do it later is pathetic. Maybe they will. But she's the one doing it now." Maureen Dowd was wittier a week or so ago when she suggested that Hillary's real justification for her her behavior is that she is toughening up Obama so that if he does become the U.S. President he will be ready for really mean characters like Iran's Ahmadinejad by having tussled with someone even meaner!

Only the Democrats can beat the Democrats in 2008. Just as the Elephant gave birth to a Bullmoose in 1912, this year the Donkey could sire an Ass. I only know about this lil bit of US Presidential history because I've lately been reading William Howard Taft's papers. He was the first Civilian Governor of the First Iraq (the Philippines), President of the United States 1908-1912, and until his death, Chief Justice of SCOTUS. If he had won in 1912, Philippine History might not have turned out as it has!

Did Jose Rizal Ever Write or Publish in Tagalog?

I've been asking this question among knowledgeable friends and acquaintances, both here and abroad because I honestly do not know the answer and cannot myself point to any verifiable work of his that would qualify in the affirmative. Whenever the Language Wars flare up I often get thrown in my face the following quotation attributed to him:

Ang siyang hindî nagmamahal sa sariling wikà,

Ay mas mabantot pa sa bulok at malansang isdâ

But can anyone tell me when and where he is supposed to have written or said this and what might be the authoritative reference for the oft-repeated claim. We know of course that he wrote the most masterful Español and was quite literate in French, German and English, with a smattering of Japanese thanks to sometime paramours and girlfriends. (His common law wife Josephine Bracken, with whom he fathered a son, spoke English, though badly we are told.)

My good friend the antiquarian and goldsmith Ramon Villegas also points to Makamisa, alleged by Ambeth Ocampo to be an unfinished novel in Tagalog. But half a chapter hardly qualifies as "an unfinished novel" and I consider the report apocryphal, though I am largely ignorant of the details of the supporting research.

If you know of any other works by Rizal in Tagalog please let me know in the Comment Thread.

For those interested in how to raise money for NGOs and foundations, please visit the weblog of another good friend, John Silva. who is also associated with the National Museum.

Long on my blogroll and a favorite is this Bikolnon poet.

Sacre bleu! -- The French worry about Anglospheric hegemony.

Many thanks to "Angela Stuart Santiago" in the Comment Thread for pointing out a poem by Jose Rizal that contains the line cited above about smelly fish and those who loathe their own native language. Given the valuable info I found Spanish and English translations of that poem (Sa Aking Kababata -- A Mis Companeros De Ninez -- To My Childhood Companions) in the 1961 book, The Complete Poems of Jose Rizal in Spanish and English, "Where Slaves There Are None". Lo and behold, the translation from Tagalog into Spanish is by Epifanio de los Santos (EDSA!) . The English Translations are by Alfredo S. Veloso. The book is illustrated by Alfredo R. Roces. and was published by Vasquez Bros. & Co. Inc. for the Rizal Centenary in 1961. There are only one or two things that bother me about this however. Angela's reference says the original in Tagalog was written in 1869, when Rizal was but eight years old. But then again all the rest of the poems and plays in the book are equally sophisticated. The second observation is this IS the only poem in the whole volume said to be originally in Tagalog. The others are all Spanish, as most of Rizal's written works are. Thanks again to everyone who contributed to this post, especially Angela Stuart Santiago. I think we shall see more of Rizal's poetry around here and read on my poetry site as well, Reading Poetry Out Loud.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

A Rebuttal of Isabel Pefianco Martin's Fear-mongering and Mythmaking About Languages in the Philippines

First let me thank Rodel Rodis, President of the San Franciso City School Board, for helping to crystallize, during a recent email exchange, many of the ideas in this essay, which I offer as a comprehensive rebuttal of the points recently made by Isabel Pefianco Martin, president of the Linguistic Society of the Philippines in two articles published by the Philippine Daily Innuendo.

Fearing English in the Philippines

Martin: Sometime ago, at a teacher training session I conducted, I made the mistake of suggesting that Math and Science teachers consider code switching (using English and Tagalog) as a strategy for making lessons less difficult for their students. I did not know that the school had just implemented an English-only policy in the classrooms, corridors and faculty lounges. No wonder teachers and students rushed to the quadrangle during break time!
I've been asking around to find out which school this might actually be. Maybe the British or American School? I know that several model schools supported by the Books for the Barrios NGO insists on the students reading a book in English once a week and speaking English at every opportunity. But I am not aware of a school as Pefianco describes above. If anyone knows, I would like to know. There is no response to my emails to the Linguistic Society of the Philippines. I suspect it's a set up for the strawman argument about to follow. It is certainly not any school that follows the Basic Education Curriculum which nearly all private schools do even if they add religion and enrich the main subjects that public schools MUST teach: Math, Science, English, Pilipino and Makabayan. I come to the conclusion that this paragraph's claim of such a school's very existence is apocryphal at best and is probably fictional. But correct me please if anybody knows of such a school.

Martin: This practice of enforcing English-only zones in schools is symptomatic of the lack of awareness among school heads about the nature of languages, as well as the basics of learning a language. One important reality that many overlook is that students will not learn a language if they fear it.

In the Philippines, the language most feared is English. I see this in my students who joke that their noses bleed after they talk in English; in my friends who claim that they speak English only when they’re drunk; and in my doctor who suddenly switches to Tagalog after I tell him that I teach English. We see this fear of English in classes where students feel stupid because they mispronounced a word; in contact centers where applicants take accent neutralization sessions; and in English review centers that continue to mushroom throughout Metro Manila. Fear of English is also manifested in predictions that the country is approaching an English-deprived future; in House bills that seek to make English the sole medium of instruction in schools; and in courses or training programs that focus only on developing grammatical accuracy.
It is a fair enough premise that fear of a language might deter learning it. But is it fair to disparage half a million teachers by claiming they are ignorant of such an elementary fact? I think the linguist is actually borrowing from the perhaps better known phenomenon of a fear of Math. The examples presented surely don't prove such a fear exists, nor the alleged ignorance of the teaching corps. Lookit. Joking about nose bleeding after speaking in English reveals a rather great sense of humor on the part of the Linguist's friends, but the joke may be on her and she doesn't get their intention to make fun of high falutin' English professors. It may also be true that getting drunk is the prerequisite not to speaking English, but having to speak it with someone whose profession is its correction and criticism. The Doctor who switches to Tagalog upon learning of the same is likewise being jocular, not apprehensive, surely. As for those working at call centers taking accent remediation and English review courses, I would say they are afraid of losing a valuable job, not expressing a fear of English by doing so.

Martin: Many research studies prove that learning a language becomes more effective when emotional barriers are eliminated. Linguist and educational researcher Stephen Krashen refers to these emotional barriers as “affective filters.” The formula for success in learning a language is painfully simple: the lower the feelings of fear (low affective filter), the higher the chances of learning.
Maybe our teachers never heard of "affective filters" but I doubt they need Mr. Krashen or Ms. Pefianco to tell them that fear is not an effective tool in education. Granted there ARE teachers who are that deluded, but I think teachers have bigger problems, including a lack of English language competency themselves.

Martin: One famous Filipino who exemplifies the lack of fear of English is boxer Manny Pacquiao. I have observed with delight how Pacquiao, in his post-fight interviews, confidently and effortlessly churn out so-called “carabao” English to share his joy over his victories. Pacquiao does not fear Barrera or Morales. Why on earth should he fear English?

Just recently, 17-year-old Janina San Miguel was crowned Bb. Pilipinas World 2008 despite her “funny” English during the pageant’s Q&A. Janina’s experience proves that personal successes need not be dependent on proficiency in English. Why fear English then?
Here the argument has shifted subtly, as befits a sophisticated Linguist. I suppose after one has just won a world boxing title or a Beauty Contest, any self-confident person could care less what people think of their "carabao English." But surely that is not the same as "not fearing English".

Martin: From a linguistic standpoint, all languages are equally perfect and complete. This means that there really is no reason to fear English. Nothing in the sound system or writing system of English makes it superior to other languages. Conversely, nothing in the sound system or writing system of the national and local languages makes these languages inferior to English. It is the Filipinos’ attitude toward English that elevates the language to a prestige form. It is this same attitude that makes it difficult for most Filipinos to learn it.
The claim I've highlighted in red above is a dubious one, especially when applied to the problem of choosing a suitable Medium of Instruction, which after all is the primary subject of our discussion here. I've made the point often enough: the medium should fit the message, which in this case are those five subjects in the curriculum, Math, Science, English, Pilipino and Makabayan. I am sorry, but the claim that all languages are equally perfect and complete cannot possibly apply to the problems of teaching these subjects. For one thing I insist that the Medium of Instruction cannot avoid having to be a written language. It is utterly inconceivable how any school system could do without this aspect of languages. The needs of math and science for symbols and vocabulary are self-evident and indispensable, and likewise for all the subjects to conduct tests, write textbooks, assign readings, it is inconceivable that any old language will do because they are all equally perfect and complete. This is simply FALSE!
Martin: Another reason English should not be feared is that the language is not owned by one country or one race, as many Filipinos believe. The profile of English today reveals that ownership of the language is already shared across continents and cultures. In international English Language Teaching circles, academics do not talk about English in singular terms anymore. There is widespread recognition that several Englishes exist—American English, British English, Australian English, but also, Malaysian English, Singapore English, and yes, Philippine English. In addition, “non-native” speakers of English are beginning to outnumber “native” speakers in the world today.
I suppose our Linguist also thinks very little of other linguists by implying that they are ignorant of the existence of dialects which indeed accounts for the vast richness of the Anglosphere. Here also, the Linguist reveals a kind of reverse colonial mentality. One of the most generous acts any civilization can perform for another is to share its language. I daresay, the "native" speakers of English that we encountered in history, the Americans, certainly did that for the Philippines, which largely accounts for the very existence of the Linguist and her profession on these shores. Since when in other words has a fear of English in the Philippines existed because people were made to think it was "owned" by the Evil Colonizers when it was and still is their greatest gift to us, and perhaps the most valuable and interesting part of our cultural heritage?
Martin: To be sure, English occupies an important place in Philippine society. But, it is only one language among the 150 that exist today. It is believed that most Filipinos speak at least three different languages. For these Filipinos, English might not even be one of the languages they speak. So when English is first introduced to them, it should be introduced slowly and gently, with much respect for their first languages.
This is a truly irrelevant point because English happens to be one of the very few languages, perhaps the only one in the Philippines that is a written language with the qualifications to teach the key subjects of the curriculum. But her point stems entirely from the naive notion that all languages are created equal and useable as media of instruction. They are not. But such inequality should not be any occasion for an inferiority complex. We are merely choosing the best tool for the job. The idea that English cannot be owned by Filipinos is part of a subliminal elitism that the Linguist herself seems to reveal.

Martin: Teaching and learning English in the Philippines may be a difficult task, but it need not be a frightening experience. So much has already been spent on testing the proficiency of teachers and then training these teachers to become more proficient in the language. But simply focusing on testing and training, without recognizing the multilingual context of teaching and learning English in the Philippines, only reinforces fear of the language.

This year, the International Year of Languages, all language education stakeholders are invited to reflect on their policies and practices so that Filipinos will finally regard their languages, including English, not with fear, but with confidence and pride.
No one denies the multilingual context of education in the Philippines. The thesis that Filipinos "fear" English is nothing but a strawman argument however, which I think is more intended at self-aggrandizement when after setting it up, the Linguist insists that people should not be afraid of her subject or profession. It is when obscurantism slips into the stream of the argument that I suspect such motives.

Myths about languages in the Philippines

Martin: While the nation awaits the outcome of the hearings on the ZTE-NBN deal, a small, almost invisible battle continues to be waged among stakeholders of language and literacy in the country. Very few are aware of the persistent efforts of lawmakers to institutionalize English as the sole language of learning in basic education. Even fewer wonder if the Speak English Only Policy of some schools or the present Bilingual Education Policy of the Department of Education actually works.

I have been reflecting on these movements in language and literacy for some years now. I have come to realize that many arguments about the issue are hinged on buried premises, on myths about languages in the Philippines.

The first set of myths has to do with English in the Philippines. There is a prevailing belief that if you don’t know English, you simply don’t know! This myth is evident in Filipinos who laugh at those who do not speak English with native-like fluency and accuracy, in school heads who will not hire a teacher because he or she has a strong Ilocano accent, and in teachers who give low marks to students with subject-verb agreement or preposition errors in their compositions. These teachers overlook depth of insight or evidence of critical thinking in the students’ writings. The link between intelligence and English language proficiency is very flimsy. In this world, you will find intelligent people who cannot speak a word of English, as well as not-so-smart ones who are native speakers of the language.
If I were a school head out to hire an English teacher for my school, should I be faulted for seeking someone who speaks fluently with a universally understandable accent, all other things being equal of course? As for students who cannot write sentences where verbs and subject agree and have error filled compositions, I think they should get low marks even if one takes proper account of "depth of insight" and evidence of "critical thinking." But of course there are intelligent people who DON'T speak English. Some of them are called French, Russians, Chinese, and Hindus. But I think it is rare in ANY language to be capable of deep insight and to think critically, but for some mysterious reason cannot get the basics of writing well down pat.

Martin: Another misconception about English is that the language cures all economic ailments. This is evident in House bills that seek to make English as the sole medium of instruction in the elementary and high school levels. The goal is to produce English-proficient graduates for contact centers, hospitals and medical transcription offices, never mind if these graduates are unthinking products of the schools. This belief that English brings in the money is also evident in most contact center training programs which overemphasize proficiency in the language, while sacrificing the agents’ ability to manage culture-diverse environments. Working in a contact center is very demanding. The ability to speak like an American will certainly not ensure excellent performance in the contact center jobs.
I don't know about all problems, but English proficiency has certainly proven to be our salvation for many of them, like family poverty and hunger when the OFWs are repatriating $12 billion a year and the Call Center and BPO industries are said to potentially bring in an equal amount. The ability "to speak like an American will certainly not ensure excellent performance in the contact center" but I guarantee you you that an INABILITY to get verbs and subjects to agree will surely get you fired!
That some Filipinos aspire for native-like proficiency in English is symptomatic of another misconception about the language. This aspiration points to the myth that there is only one kind of English language in this world, and that is, Standard American English. What many do not know is that World Englishes exist, and Philippine English is just one among these many Englishes.
The Linguist is apparently not aware of the sophistication of the Call Centers nowadays, who in fact train specialists in the various English dialects. There is Midwestern English, Southern English, Standard English, etc. And indeed they even do Spanish, French, German...

In 1969, Teodoro Llamzon, the first president of the Linguistic Society of the Philippines, already wrote about this in his trailblazing “Standard Filipino English.” In 1996, at De La Salle University-Manila, a conference on the theme “English is an Asian Language” reintroduced this idea of English as a Philippine language. It was at this conference that poet Gemino Abad proudly declared that the Filipinos have “colonized the English language!”
I am all for regarding the English Language as part of our cultural heritage. Filipinos have certainly excelled in its practice.

Martin: And then there is the myth that English and Filipino are languages in opposition to each other. This is evident in those who insist that English should be totally removed from basic education, as well as in some of the reasons cited for opposing House Bill 305 and Executive Order 210. Nationalism always seems to be associated with the Filipino language, as if one cannot express one’s love of country in English or in the local languages.
Finally, the most dangerous of all myths is the belief that there is no place for the local languages in basic education. This is evident in the existence of the Bilingual Education Policy, as well as in the persistent efforts of lawmakers to pass House Bill 305 (formerly known as HB 4701). In public schools across the nation, teachers have already been using the local languages (a.k.a. first language or mother tongue, which includes English and Tagalog in the cities) in teaching basic concepts to schoolchildren. No amount of legislation can remove the first languages from their natural settings, which to my mind include the schools.
Bilingualism is written into our Constitution, so the alleged efforts to go monolingual are bound to fail. But it is perverse to claim that ANYONE is trying to prevent teachers from using the Mother Tongue at the lowest rungs of the education system. It is unavoidable.

And I must say something about the so - called Mother Tongue Hypothesis. There appears to be a large body of academic research and experience to show that TOTAL IMMERSION is actually the fastest and most effective means of learning a "foreign language" (ie, a language one does not already know.) The ample commercial success of outfits like Berlitz also confirms this idea.

But we don't even have to look that far, because isn't TOTAL IMMERSION how we learn our first language at our Mother's Knee to begin with?

Scientific American on A. Rey Pamatmat's Play On Alan Turing

IN A HUGE TRIUMPH for the Filipino American artistic and scientific community Scientific American is full of praise for a new play on Alan Turing, the Father of Modern Computer Science, entitled "Pure" written by A. Rey Pamatmat, whose blog is now proudly on my blog roll (and ought to be on yours!). Here's an unconscionably large excerpt of the review written by Melinda Wenner (read it all!)

Called the father of modern computer science, Turing is most famous for conceptualizing the Turing machine, an abstract machine or primitive computer that has the ability to reduce any mathematical process to a series of simple steps, and then perform it. As the play reveals, however, this is only one of a number of Turing's contributions to science. He also devised the Turing Test to explore the limits of artificial intelligence (a machine "passes" the Turing test when it fools a person into thinking, based on its conversational skills, that it is human); he helped England break German naval codes in World War II; and he modeled biological processes such as plant structures using mathematical formulas like the Fibonacci sequence. The play communicates his complex ideas through Turing's character as he tries to convince his colleagues of the importance of his work.

Pure is less about Turing the mathematician, however, than it is about Turing the man. Pamatmat first became enamored with Turing after reading David Bodanis's book Electric Universe: The Shocking True Story of Electricity,which suggests that Turing's passion for science was fueled by his homosexual love for a childhood friend, Chris, who died from tuberculosis when Turing was a teenager. Pure suggests that Turing may have turned his attention to artificial intelligence—a field that explores, at its core, the meaning of life—to celebrate Chris's life and let it live on in his work. In almost every scene, Turing has a brief conversation with the dead Chris; it later becomes clear that the entire play is set in the hazy moments before Turing's death, when he is hallucinating or perhaps communicating with Chris's spirit in the afterlife.

Congratulations Gat A. REY PAMATMAT ! You do us all PROUD! (So effin' coooool!)

Great post from Abe N. Margallo (Red's Herring) on the Neri v. Senate Case: Is the Supreme Court clueless of the meaning of oversight?

New on the blogroll is Atty. Rodel E. Rodis (Telltale Signs) of the San Francisco City School Board.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Are the Catholic Bishops to Blame for Overpopulation?

The graphic nearby shows the population of the Philippines in the 20th and early 21st Centuries. I fit the data with what mathematicians call an EXPONENTIAL curve, the signature of natural processes that we call EXPLOSIONS. There are also two data points for Thailand, a country to which the Philippines is often compared, which shows how their population paths diverged beginning in the 1970s when Thailand COPIED Ferdinand Marcos' family planning program and implemented it, while successive Philippine Presidents dilly-dallied, hemmed and hawed, knelt and prayed before the Catholic Bishops of the Philippines, who have consistently taught that birth control is tantamount to murder, which of course paints Buddhist Thailand in the dark colors of genocide for having prevented the birth of 26 million people that Philippines did not.

So did the Philippines avoid murdering babies. Read this and weep from the International Herald Tribune and the United Nations Population Fund:

About 473,000 abortions, or a third of 1.4 million unplanned pregnancies, occur in the country yearly, said Rena Dona, a U.N. Population Fund official.

Two out of five women who want to use contraceptives don't have access to them, Dona told a forum on family planning.

A U.N. study showed the country needs about US$2 million (euro1.47 million) for contraceptives yearly from 2007 to 2010 to provide them free or at subsized prices to the poor.

Alberto Romualdez, a former health secretary, doubts the budget for family planning would be available anytime soon, and fears a rise in population.

"The problem is that the conservative elements of the church heirarchy seem to have the upper hand in getting access to the president's ear, that is why her policies reflect the extreme conservatism of those who oppose any kind of family planning," he added.

That's about 15 million abortions during the period of comparison with Thailand, which is indicative of Social Weather Stations findings that about 80% of Filipino families want to have fewer children. Who are the murderers now?

I vehemently oppose ABORTION as MURDER. Which is why Philippine Presidents should stop listening to the Catholic Bishops and their insane addiction to Vatican Roulette, perhaps the effect of another addiction: the one to PAGCOR.

According to the econometric studies of the University of the Philippines Center for Population Development during the same period Thailand's per capita income increased over eightfold, while the Philippines limped along with a 2.6-fold increase in the same statistic. How can we even account for hunger, poverty and deprivation that has been visited on the Filipinos by the Law of Unintended but Foreseeable Consequences?

Some on the Comment Thread have mentioned the HIV problem in Thailand. But I daresay that all over the Philippines, cheek by jowl of every Catholic Church are whorehouses, massage parlors and sex dens of every gender and abomination. Given the Church's predilection for self-deception, there is an evil omen in the fact that the United Nations estimates our HIV infection rates to be 10 to 20 times the official government estimates.


Saturday, April 12, 2008

The Inglisero War on English--"Using English Conveys False Information to Filipinos"

2008 is the International Year of Languages. Fittingly therefore, the ever politically correct Philippine Daily Innuendo our biggest English language daily newspaper, has seen fit to feature the prolix writings of Isabel Pefianco Martin, president of the Linguistic Society of the Philippines (LSP). Together with some National Artists and English-writing pundits, it seems that PDI and LSP's Ms. Martin have launched a War on the English Language in the Philippines. Her latest offerings are two Commentaries published in the Op/Ed pages: first was Myths about languages in the Philippines which was brilliantly rebutted by a Letter to the Editor from Russ Sandlin. A second piece appears today, Fearing English in the Philippines which is full of straw-man arguments such as the unsubstantiated claim that Filipinos are actually afraid of English and that someone (who???) wants to make English the SOLE medium of instruction in the schools, despite the fact that the Constitution itself upholds bilingualism and NO ONE I know of is against the use of the Mother Tongue in the early years of public schooling. I've had my say on the Language Wars in numerous Philippine Commentaries over the years. But this being the I.Y.L. I would like to present a rather novel linguistic observation on the Ingliseros' whole strategy of war on English in the public schools.

I shall never tire of pointing out the supernal irony in the fact that these Inglisero pundits and commentators use as their exclusive weapon of choice, what else but the English Language itself [sic!] In so doing they present a kind of unconsciously paradoxical counter argument similar to the Liar's Paradox -- "This very statement is false." which I might restate as the Inglisero Liar Paradox:

"Using English conveys false information to Filipinos."

Since the sentence uses English, it must be conveying false information to Filipinos that using English conveys false information. Which means using English conveys true information to Filipinos. Which means using English must convey false information to Filipinos, and so on ad infinitum... {twiddles his lips making a funny befuddled sound.}

From the psychiatric point of view, there is also the point that what these people are really doing is exhibitionism of their English language skills in an effort to awe and impress others with their patriotic but self-loathing erudition.

Nota bene:(a lil Latin if you please)
The term "Inglisero" is kanto-boy Tagalog slang which is a bit difficult to translate. But it might be enlightening to recall how Joseph "Erap" Estrada once used the female gender form of the term when he denied making a girl friend out a bit of Fil-Am fluff, a second runner up in a beauty contest whom Luis "Chavit" Singson did "do" and brought in to Manila two years ago to try to embarrass his old partner in crime. Erap said, "Hindi ko pinatulan ang babaeng iyan. Hindi ko nagustuhan kasi Inglisera siya!" --- meaning to say she was a fake and put on airs by artifically speaking in English all of the time.

Friday, April 11, 2008

How Catholic Hierarchy Loves the Poor and Makes More of Them

ON MY WAY BACK TO MANILA'S MIASMA, I listened to a great AM Radio interview (DZMM with Joel Reyes Zobel: "Gising na Bayan!") of Dr. Ernie Pernia, UP Economics Professor with the Philippine Center for Population Development (PCPD), an NGO that promotes modern and traditional birth control methods. He makes some points that really hurt:

1. In 1970 both Thailand and the Philippines each had about equal populations of 37 million people.
2. Today Thailand has 66 million population while the Filipinos are a teeming 90 millions with only two thirds of Thai land area.
3. Thailand is growing at an average 0.9% per annum while the Philippines is at 2.1% population gtrowth rate, even though in 1971 the Thais merely copied a 1969 family planning program started by Ferdinand Marcos. If the rate stays constant, there will be 180 million Filipinos in 2040!

He places the blame squarely on the Catholic Church and its inexplicable stranglehold on the brain cells of Philippine Presidents (save that of Fidel V. Ramos, a Protestant), resulting in completely ineffective programs. Both Marcos and Cory Aquino succumbed to the clerical ministrations of Jaime Cardinal Sin, who truly loved the poor as much as his current successor, Gaudencio Rosales. So much that they are principally responsible for the vast expansion of poverty in this country.

But Dr. Pernia reserves his severest criticism for the current promoter of Poverty Through Reproductive Fecundity, Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, who, thanks to the Catholic sisters of the Assumption Convent seems to have assured the Men in Skirts of the CBCP that under her watch, the Filipinos will continue to multiply like rats in a rice granary.

Not really a good analogy on my part because of course, as Dr. Pernia points out there is another painful irony in the comparison with Thailand, which exports fully one half of its annual 26 billion metric ton rice production. The Philippines, meanwhile is the WORLD'S LARGEST IMPORTER OF RICE, in spite of the fact that she hosts the International Rice Research Institute in Los Banos, the world's foremost rice R&D center which launched the Green Revolution in the fifties and sixties, thus preventing a likely global war and famine.

The population explosion has destroyed government's ability to cope with such problems as food production, housing, infrastructure, education, social services, energy--everything! Just think this coming school year the education system has to deal with 2 million more students. They'll run out of shifts in the day to double and triple up on classrooms. There won't even be enough mango trees to teach under before too long!

This circumstance he blames on the inconstancy of the government's agriculture, infrastructure, education and population management programs. Under GMA for example, he says that this year the Philippines is spending a BIG FAT ONE MILLION PESOS on "population management materials" (condoms, pills and other modern birth control implements) because of insane Catholic Church propaganda that anything other than Vatican roulette (natural rhythm method) amounts to being "abortifacient"--clearly a scare and smear tactic.

Dr. Pernia points out that in many Catholic countries like Italy, France and even South American outposts of the Catholic Taliban, birth control (or "population management" as Pernia prefers) has become a nonissue. Catholic Bishops abroad have taken a more liberal and enlightened stance, which may also be why as a group they don't father as many children as their Filipino confreres, who I suppose may be credited for a weird kind of consistency.

The final painful cut has to do with an inexplicable thing: SWS and Pulse Asia surveys all show overwhelming majorities of Filipinos (80% or more) who approve of family planning and wish they could have more access (afford) to modern birth control methods.

Susmaryosep! The one million pesos GMA budgeted this year will hardly pay for the Bishops next big feed at the trough of Pagcor. Well no wonder they like "Vatican Roulette"! Now they will even have a hand in the rice crisis. Pharisaic fascists!

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Government-made Disasters

JOHN MANGUN of the Business Mirror has some interesting thoughts on governments, free markets, the biofuel and food security issues. (Via email)

By John Mangun

There is an ancient Hebrew adage found in the Book of Proverbs. “Pride goes before disaster, and a haughty spirit before a fall.”

A more modern translation of the ancient Hebrew would read, “First pride, then the crash; the bigger the ego, the harder the fall.”

For the last 30 years, governments around the world believed that the answers to basic human needs are fulfilled best only when under their legislative and administrative command. Governments have created laws and infrastructure to take more and more control over economies out of the hands of the people and have therefore subverted the free-market system.

Today, around the world, we are seeing the results and consequences of government pride and subsequent action to control the vastly complex organism called the economy.

From Europe and Africa, through Asia to the Americas, the world is facing a food crisis. No nation will be spared from the “unintended” consequences of many widespread bad government policies over several decades. Even China, while officially denying (as usual) any supply problems, is paying farmers substantial cash amounts to increase wheat and rice production.

Riots and near-riots occurred in several countries in the last few months, in as diverse places as India, Mexico, Egypt and Russia. Although public unrest over food shortages is not uncommon through history, the recent disturbances center primarily on the availability of subsidized food.

Perhaps the most indicative example of bad government policy happened in Egypt where literally thousands “torched buildings, looted shops and hurled bricks at the police who responded with tear gas Sunday” (Associated Press). Since the 1970s, the Egyptian government has subsidized bread prices, a loaf selling for the equivalent of 1 US cent or about 40 Philippine centavos. Bread that is not subsidized by the government sells for about 10 times higher.

Of course, this 30-year policy was designed to “help the poor.” Then again, all government interference in the free market is to help the poor. How much is Egypt spending each year on food subsidies to help the poor? Nearly $14 billion.

That means that the Egyptian government could give each year $700 cash to every adult and child living below the poverty line, almost doubling their average annual income. Something about teaching a man to fish and not simply giving him food for one day.

In 2006 I wrote a column entitled, “The ethanol-biofuel deception.” I received an e-mail from the director of the Agricultural and Development Economics Division (ESA), United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO), kindly saying, “It’s the best piece I have read about biofuels and certainly the most sobering.”

National governments would not listen to the FAO’s concerns about food-supply disruption. Now, the United Nations is being forced to limit food-distribution programs because of the rising costs due in part to the shift from food production to biofuel-crop production.

On the subject of biofuel, although underreported in the local media, the Philippines is about to become a big importer of another commodity—ethanol. From Reuters: “The Philippines plans to import about 170 million liters of ethanol from Brazil and Thailand in 2009. The Philippine government had passed a Biofuel Act in 2007 that made it mandatory to mix 5 percent of ethanol in gasoline from February 2009. ‘It will translate into 200 million liters of ethanol a year,’ said Archie Amarra, executive director of Philippines Sugar Millers Association Inc. ‘Our production capacity is not much. . . we have one ethanol plant with capacity of 30 million liters per year.’”

Now here is the sentence that scares me; “‘The ethanol imports would be a temporary measure as the Philippines would boost capacity to meet its domestic needs within the next five years,’ Amarra said.”

The current world price of ethanol is about P20 a liter, meaning we will import about P3.5 billion worth of ethanol this year; and maybe this amount annually for the next five years.

Does that make sense? Perhaps the law should have been written to more slowly increase the amount of biofuel mix mandated to avoid having to spend billions to import ethanol. Doesn’t anyone in government that makes policy think about the future?

Sen. Mar Roxas II has called for a 10-year food-security plan. The senator proposes a “soup-to-nuts style,” meaning from seed distribution to market access. It sounds noble, but it may create an economic disaster for the Philippines.

When the biofuel bill was passed, did anyone know that the Philippines would spend P3.5 billion in 2009 to import ethanol? Were the future consequences ever discussed?

When the bill was passed, one congressman said the country would save about $300 million a year in foreign exchange. I wonder if that amount is before or after the $100 million we will spend on ethanol imports next year.

The nation does not need a 10-year plan. What we need is for policymakers to consider the results of their action three, five, 10 years in the future.
The road to hell is paved with green, err, good intentions.

Speaking of food, I was shopping in the Baguio city market. There's a new coffee available at both Garcia's and Umali's (deep in the back of the market area near the vegetable "bagsakan"--Sagada Black Roast (P270/kilo, unless you are a suki P230/kilo). There is also civet coffee at P6000.00 per kilo...but only the European tourists are suckers enough for forest cat sh*t coffee. Strawberries are plentiful, deep dark red and luscious (P80-140/kilo). Small pungent ginger is P100 for a ten kilo sack. Sayote tops, broccoli, carrots, and Nueva Viscaya citrus (dozens of varieties) are all widely available at good prices. Even the poor can live in abundance as long as they don't seek their salvation in Manila's slums or depend on the government for handouts...

Monday, April 7, 2008

My Annual Physical-Psychological Exam As a One Mile Bike Run

Once a year, when I can manage it, I like cycling up Kennon Road from Sison town in Pangasinan to Baguio City in Benguet province. It's a kind of combined physical and psychological exam which amazingly enough I seem to have passed with flying colors yesterday along with a much younger and stronger nephew. It's thirty klics as motor cars go, but about a mile up as elevators go. The first twenty kilometers almost anybody can do since the elevation change is only roughly a quarter of a mile. But the last ten kilometer stretch is what Filipino lowlanders call "the Zig Zag Road" and where most of the altitude (and attitude!) change actually occurs. We did it in four hours on a diet of water, seedless black grapes, feta cheese, lakatan bananas and a good deal of "lakas ng loob." Being a 3 day holiday weekend, there were an unusual number of cars on the road and several of them were being driven by the usual homicidal maniacs still high from inhaling Manila's miasmic fumes with predictable malevolence-inducing effects. But though I love all of the Cordillera's roads and highways, like the Mountain Trail (Halsema Highway), Kennon Road is special as a kind of roadway to the Philippine mountains. It was built over a century ago, representing the first multimillion dollar appropriation of the Philippine Commission under William Howard Taft and his zoologist colleage Dean Conant Worcester, the American discoverer of Baguio (then a grazing land of the Carino family). Anyway, the only downside of this exercise for me is that now I am sure to gain weight from rewarding and congratulating myself. As I type this out, lunch on the verandah of the Baguio Country Club (another centuried institution) is beckoning. Hmmm, should I have the buffet or ride on up the mountain trail to Sagada...? (Take one guess!)

Thursday, April 3, 2008

The Biofools Behind Biofuels

Senate Minority Leader Aquilino Q. Pimentel says that he sees no reason to repeal or suspend the Biofuels Law he co-authored with Migz Zubiri (and the Sugar Baron lobby) last year. He advances the same basic reasons Migz and his friends at Greenpeace did in pushing the law:

(1) Biofuels are "green" or environment friendly, allegedly because they are "carbon neutral" -- taking up carbon dioxide while living and giving up the same when they are fed to the cars.

(2) Biofuels will help the Philippines achieve energy independence from imported fossil fuels.

(3) Biofuel production won't compete with food production because the government has already identified sizeable areas for additional rice planting.

They haven't been paying attention to the recent scientific research on this matter, they aren't listening to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, or doing the simple arithmetic needed to see what a dangerous and possibly deluded idea biofuels actually are as a solution to the energy crisis and the sharp increase in global food prices.


(1) Scientists at Princeton University strenuously disagree with Nene and Migz in this recent Scientific American article, Biofuels Are Bad for Feeding People and Combatting Climate Change.
"Prior analyses made an accounting error," says one study's lead author, Tim Searchinger, an agricultural expert at Princeton University. "There is a huge imbalance between the carbon lost by plowing up a hectare [2.47 acres] of forest or grassland from the benefit you get from biofuels.

By turning crops such as corn, sugarcane and palm oil into biofuels—whether ethanol, biodiesel, or something else—proponents hope to reap the benefits of the carbon soaked up as the plants grow to offset the carbon dioxide (CO2) emitted when the resulting fuel is burned. But whether biofuels emit more or less CO2 than gasoline depends on what the land they were grown on was previously used for, both studies show.

Tilman and his colleagues examined the overall CO2 released when land use changes occur. Converting the grasslands of the U.S. to grow corn results in excess greenhouse gas emissions of 134 metric tons of CO2 per hectare—a debt that would take 93 years to repay by replacing gasoline with corn-based ethanol. And converting jungles to palm plantations or tropical rainforest to soy fields would take centuries to pay back their carbon debts. "Any biofuel that causes land clearing is likely to increase global warming," says ecologist Joseph Fargione of The Nature Conservancy, lead author of the second study. "It takes decades to centuries to repay the carbon debt that is created from clearing land."

In other words, biofuels, better called agrofuels, won't be any cleaner to burn than fossil fuels like gasoline, from the point of view of climate change or global warming. They are likely to be worse, especially if they utilize so called wastelands and forests. The impact of converting such lands to agrofuel production is not GREEN at all.

(2) Slate Magazine asks Why Are Global Food Prices Soaring? Some good answers are coming from Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, whose recent presentation on the global food pricing situation is sobering.

"In 2007, the FAO Food Price Index averaged 157, up 23 percent from 2006 and 34 percent from 2005. Except for sugar, prices of which declined sharply, international prices of other major food commodities rose significantly in 2007."

Surging oil prices have been the big factor, but so has the surge in biofuel production in traditional exporting countries. From Slate's The Explainer, "High oil prices have also created a secondary problem: The burgeoning interest in biofuels. In 2006, 14 percent of the total corn crop in the United States was converted into ethanol; by 2010, that figure will rise to 30 percent." The United States feeds the world, in more ways than one. So when Iowa farmers feeding the corn crop to the cars in the form of ethanol, expect the rest of the world to get the hungries, or pay more to eat.

The Biofuels Law of 2006 is bound to benefit only the Sugar Barons, whose lobby fulsomely supports Migz and Nene.

(3) Finally, it is hard to imagine how the biofuels idea could be of any significant benefit, given the limited land area this Archipelago of mostly mountains and sensitive wetlands possesses not already needed for present and future food requirements. I did the simple arithmetic for the biofools when they passed that law in 2006, based on yield information from the Washington Post's own computation of the possible impact on a continental nation like America.