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Showing posts from April, 2008

Noblesse Oblige

President Gloria Arroyo's directive to give cash subsidies (to the tune of 5 billion pesos annually) to poor families has attracted criticism from Cardinal Rosales of Manila and other aid organizations. The critics say that the dole promotes dependency and indolence. I agree on the first but as one study on poverty has pointed out, the poor are hardly indolent if their dignity is respected.

The poor need jobs not doles! This has pointed out by the critics. I would agree with them.

The whole scheme is nothing but pure populist political gimmickry. We are not surprised. Gloria has to do all what she can if she wants to hold on to the Presidency. But as every person knows, a dole is an affront to human dignity. But that is precisely what Noblesse Oblige doesn't consider. It is convenient for the President.

In Pinoy class stratified society, Noblesse Oblige is convenient. But there is no nobility in the governing class. We have two major classes.The class that steals wealth and the c…

Up theirs!

I finally saw that controversial rectal surgery video (taken in a Cebu government hospital) on a cable news channel in which a 39 year old gay florist was on the operating table as doctors (and nurses) try to remove a 7 inch body spray canister from his anus. On the video were several medical staff taking photos with their cellphone cameras.

The video was allegedly taken without the patient's consent and the doctors and nurses were cheering and laughing. The video was uploaded on YouTube and got 7 million hits until it was taken out of the site.

The issue has raised questions and medical ethics, patient confidentiality, privacy, gay rights, class discrimination and good grief, Catholic theology!

I believe that the antics of the doctors and nurses have made an a_s of the health professions.The doctors and nurses have shoved up something in theirs! They have shot down the traditional respect we have for them. It is time that the spotlight be on doctors and nurses if they step out of et…

A cocktail chat with F. Sionil Jose

I just came from the celebrations marking the 60th anniversary of the Fulbright Program in the Philippines. My mom and sister were also there being Fulbrighters like myself.

The creme of the creme of Pinoy academia, arts, sciences and intellectuals were there.Ex National librarian Dr Serafin Quiason was as bubbly as ever on a zillion topics most of them dealing with Queen Gloriana. Ateneo VP Tonnette Palma Angeles were there too. National artists Napoleon Abueva (sculpture) and F. Sionil Jose were moving through the cocktail crowd. My mom knew both men since she was a librarian. Abueva was dean of Fine Arts at UP and that college was then on the 3rd floor of the Main Library building. Abueva designed the Fulbright award trophies. Sionil Jose was and is still at 85 promoting reading.

My mom introduced me to Sionil Jose by simply stating the truth. "My son has read all of your books! In fact he has all copies of your books."

Sionil Jose repliedand smiled "My condolences. Wh…

You don't need to be a lead guitarist to finish a science PhD

This post should inspire ABD's (all but dissertation) and other PhD candidates losing steam!

Queen's lead guitarist Brian May was very recently installed Chancellor of Liverpool John Moores University. The largely honorary university post is usually given as a recognition of great achievement. What then is Brian May's great achievement aside from Queen rock gigastardom?

May was once enrolled as a PhD student in astrophysics in the 1970's having earlier graduated with an honours degree in physics. But when Queen became a global hit, he abandoned his PhD studies. Thirty years later,in October 2007 he completed his PhD thesis on "A Survey of Radial Velocities in the Zodiacal Dust Cloud" passed his viva voce, made revisions and was granted the degree.

(Brian May didn't get any special treatment in the PhD exam. Almost all candidates revise their thesis.)

I agree with the university. Finishing a PhD is an achievement in itself. Finishing a PhD after 30 years despi…

The only sure things in life.....

Everyone has heard of the aphorism "the only sure things in life are taxes and death" Perhaps we may add "climate change"! But nonetheless I have been taxed by four countries, the UK, USA, Australia and my beloved Philippines.
My UK tax I had to pay to the Bermudian government for some crust I earned at the Bermuda Biological Station.  It was pretty straightforward and was easy. It took me two minutes to lodge the form. The US of A will hound you to the ends of the earth (or even the galaxy, remember that Apollo 13 astronaut?) for tax money. So now that I am in Manila, I received the tax form in the mail which I sent with payment. In Australia, I had to work for a crust on student wages and I lodged my tax form at the Australian Tax Office. I received a cuppa and an Anzac bikkie in return. They keep the customer satisfied! After all it is the taxpayer who makes the Commonwealth run.
In my beloved Philippines, I get a tax computation two days before the deadline. And …

Food riots and a political delusion

The hungry like the drunk are unreasonable. The global rice crisis has claimed its first political victim. The PM of Haiti just resigned over food riots in Port-au-Prince. The Haitian mob also murdered the Nigerian police officer who was driving a UN vehicle. This is a portent of things to come if things get worse. The Philippines is no exception.

Here in the Philippines politicians are in self delusion. Palawan Rep. Abraham Mitra says that a food riot is an "alien concept". If being hungry is an alien concept then I would agree,but hunger isn't alien. It is endemic.

The politicians and government spin doctors keep on playing the Gloriana mantra that our "macroeconomic fundamentals are good". Philippine Star op ed columnist Cito Beltran today writes that in a crisis you can't eat money. This is only partly true. Of course you can eat money! You have to be 1) a termite or have 2) wood cellulose digesting bacteria in your gut (in that case then you really mu…

Rice price or rice crisis it is still a crisis!

The Philippine Daily Inquirer has the rice price crisis as a headline. Perhaps it is good politic to say it is just a matter of market forces and economics but it may be better to dish out the plateful of truth, we have a global food crisis.

The IRRI and Philippine rice experts have listed climate change as big factor together with land conversion and the biofuels boom. Nonetheless none of them would want to say that we have reached the two major determinants for carrying capacity (K) of planet Earth. Water is the first limiting factor followed by cultivated land. Both resources as any freshie environmental science student knows are finite.

IRRI board chair Professor Elizabeth Woods listed the following areas of immediate concern

1. An agronomic revolution in Asian rice production to reduce existing yield gaps. Farmers have struggled to maximize the production potential of the rice varieties they are growing, so there is a gap between potential yield and actual yield. Farmers must impr…

Teilhard, the Skull and Vatican Embarassment

Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, the French Jesuit preist, palaeontologist and evolutionist who is remembered in science for correctly interpreting the evolutionary significance of Peking Man is the subject of a science biography by Amir Aczel entitled "The Jesuit and the Skull". While Teilhard's science credentials are impeccable, he is best remembered in his attempt to integrate Catholic belief and science in a mystical way. For doing this,Teilhard was not allowed to publish any of his works when he was alive. The Jesuits and the Vatican ordered the embargo.

The Teilhard science bio is one of the recent books that have been published looking at the relationship of science and faith. Many of these books were written by Jesuits, the most notable are those by Guy Consolmagno SJ. While Aczel (a non Jesuit and a Scientist) tried to deal with the same subject and tried to capture the two sides of Teilhard's life,he so fails miserably. Aczel unlike Consolmagno did not have the…

Sport and Liberty are inseperable

In light of the protests over Beijing's crackdown on Tibetan protests and the protesters' attempts to extinguish or trip the Olympic torch bearer, Jacques Rogge, International Olympic Committee (IOC) chair has spoken out. Mr Rogge called on Beijing for a "rapid, peaceful resolution" of the Tibetan problem.

The IOC has finally got sense in its head!

I think everyone who has competed in sport would realize what the IOC belatedly realized and the Beijing government (as well as most governments) can never realize is that sport and liberty are inseparable.

The athlete wants to be better than his/her best and that can only be achieved in total freedom. This is the same freedom that citizens in democratic countries enjoy.

We can thank the protesters for waking us up on that truism. Olympic sport and probably all sport has become big business and of course the politicians benefit from it. Nation-states would use sporting events as a stage to demonstrate their superiority. An Oly…

Assassinating the Olympic Flame

The Olympics have earned its share of power plays ever since the Superpowers made it a Cold War arena. We have seen the Americans and its allies boycott Moscow 1980, the Palestinians massacre Israeli athletes in Munich 1972, the Russians boycott L.A. 1984. The end of the Cold War saw almost all of the Olympic movement participate. Now with Beijing 2008, there is talk of world leaders boycotting the opening ceremony but the Olympic teams will compete.

There are protests over China's appalling human rights record in Tibet and elsewhere. Since China is the new superpower to rival the US, we are not surprised at the latest protest actions.

Olympic boycotts and unfurling separatist flags (banned by the IOC) at the opening rites are now passe. The protests have moved to newer ground with new techniques. One technique is to trip the torch bearer and if that doesn't work have a water pistol or a fire extinguisher and douse the Olympic flame.

Well that is really assasinating the flame!


On being gwapo and living in a jungle condo


The Philippine Daily Inquirer yesterday had this editorial entitled "Ugly" about Metro Manila Development Authority Chairman's Bayani (BF) Fernando's tarpaulins on EDSA. This editorial would have been on target if it didn't dish out another round of innuendos on BF.

That BF isn't ugly is beyond debate (I don't know him that well to say he is vain). I have met him on several occassions and he strikes me as a dandy and to some extent a fop. My brother-in-law works with Fernando on many projects and according to him BF buys the best shampoos and hairsprays. No wonder he can keep that coiffure intact during 1) crisis situations and 2) disasters that hit the Metro!

Not even Queen Gloriana can keep an intact coiffure during her stressful situations!

The politicians who would like to rip Fernando's tarpaulins can hold no candle to BF's gwapo. Can Rambotito be called gwapo? Can Roilo Golez be as gwapo as BF?

Fernando's turf and river can be called g…

Will the Reverend Malthus have the last laugh? Karl Marx the second to the last?

In the undergrad course I teach "Environment and Society" one of the important environmental issues we take in class is human population growth. And no one can take stock of the issue without bumping into Thomas Robert Malthus and his theory on population.

Malthus was an Anglican country parson who wrote one of the most influential works in science "An Essay on the Principle of Population". This essay influenced Darwin and Wallace at a time they were formulating their evolutionary theory.

Malthus being a parish priest was able to create his theory from christening, marriage and funeral records. What better place to be a demographer!

Malthus' essay has three important concepts. Some environmental science textbooks call these as "prophecies" while some call it "predictions". For the sake of scientific objectivity, I prefer the latter term.

The predictions are

1) Population will increase exponentially as long as their is enough food (Malthus initial…