Two Ships of Fools

“Gulliver’s Travels” is generally thought of as a children’s book. That’s because people read a simplistic  adaption with its funny drawing of little men tying up a giant Gulliver. The real story by Jonathan Swift is a lengthy, biting adult satire and head-on criticism of British royalty and government, not to mention lawyers and anyone else Swift could get his scathing humor upon. Well, Swift was Irish, so a bit of poking of the lordish Brits is expected. The story is classic intellectual insult of the 10th degree. Hard reading, I might add. I’d take it five pages a day with a John Grisham novel on the side for casual reading.
Sometimes I feel a political bitterness similar to that Swift exudes. It has cropped up on two occasions this past week, one dealing with America the other with the Philippines. It lacks humor, I fear.
I’ll take America first.
The American Ship of Fools
I have for some time thought Mitt Romney, as Captain of the Good Ship America, would represent the nation as George Bush did. As a ship of fools. I find Mr. Romney both stiff and pedantic, as well as unprincipled. Willing to shift a viewpoint because he might get more votes, not because it is good for America.

Aspiring Captain Romney
He has been predictably nasty in criticizing President Obama, whom I hold up as an intellectual and leadership giant among American presidents, the lagging economy and a few gaffes being simply the realities of a difficult job. One of the criticisms of the President that Mr. Romney makes is that President Obama is an “apologist” for America on the international stage. As if President Bush had the right tack, unilateral arrogance and unmitigated sneering at other countries. And he suggests Mr. Obama doesn’t understand business, as if the only people who do are vulture capitalists like the Snobster.
Well, Mr. Romney is learning that playing the diplomatic game requires exactly the kind of respectful nuance that President Obama gives other leaders and nations. Starting his tour of Europe, the Mittster succeeded in offending all of England by sneering at the preparation the Brits have made regarding the Olympics. After all, Mitt ran the Olympics in Salt Lake City a few years ago, so he knows how to do it. British Prime Minister Cameron shot back that it is easier to run an Olympics “in the middle of nowhere”. So you know Romney blew that one big time. And given the box he has built for himself that look a lot like a political coffin, he cannot apologize for his poor choice of words.
He also failed to remember the name of a British dignitary standing right next to him. And an aide started the whole trip off by suggesting (black) Mr. Obama can’t really understand Brits like (white) Mr. Romney can. Boy howdy, that raised a stink across America, white and black.
This U.S. presidential campaign is nasty. It reflects the anger building in America as more and more people are pushed into extremes by loud, manipulative name-calling entertainment scavengers like Rush Limbaugh. Although an ardent capitalist, I turned against the whole Republican method, manner and madness a couple of years ago when the Chair of the Republican Party suggested that Republicans are the “real Americans”. Then what the hell was I doing in Viet Nam with my independent ass on the line, Mr. Steele?
They are idiots, the whole party. Unprincipled in their closed-minded extremist principles. Dealing for their own advantage, not the public’s. I would almost swear they were schooled in the Philippines. A lot of democrats are also scurrilous and skunky, congressional leaders Pelosi and Reid amongst them. They play the vindictive card as if they trained on Mindanao.
If Mr. Romney is elected President, the U.S. is gone for good. Destined to the historical waste heap of arrogant superpowers, sooner rather than later.
The Philippine Ship of Fools
You know I support President Aquino, right? I think he is good for the Philippines. His anti-corruption stance has slammed the door on big ticket theft. The economy is ticking along nicely, whether by accident or design, who knows. But the stability is by design. The increase in debt ratings to near investment status, the roaring stock market, the glowing international press. That can be placed squarely on the reputation and deeds of Mr. Aquino.
  • “A good guy. Not corrupt. Honest. Sincere.”
Then let me ask you, have we been tricked? Led by the bright yellow glow onto a ship, a rusty barge, filled with Filipino and transplanted fools?
    First Mate Abad
  • Is it true that the allocation of development funds (pork) is blatantly political, rather than business-like and objective, to build a better Philippines? If so, do Secretary Abad and his financial people not understand that this is a form of corruption? It is the nasty trade of favors that sets aside the PEOPLE’S INTEREST in favor or the favored? Does the “good” Mr. Aquino not understand that this is the same value stream that leads to corruption? Funds to the favored? I don’t like the Arroyos either, but why punish the decent Filipinos who live in their districts by withholding development funds?
  • Is it true that the investigations of Ms. Arroyo and Mr. Corona were amateurish and incomplete? If so, what the hell is Ms. De Lima doing on the roster of Supreme Court Chief Justice nominees? I thought we were interested in competence. Is this another one of those “favor” deals?
  • Is it true that Chinese fishing boats are ripping up coral just off the coast of Palawan, and the Philippine  Coast Guard is not permitted to try to stop it in favor of “diplomatic discussions”?  Have you ever tried to have a diplomatic discussion with a bully in heat? Because that is what China is behaving like. The Administration won’t undertake specific acts to defend Philippine soil . . . er, seas, resources, whatever? Do I hear the grunting sound of a nation rolling over?
  • Is it true that SALN reports of legislators are “off limits” to public inquiry? Giving the authors the time to doctor the paperwork of these documents that assure a properly manipulated “transparency”? In other words, transparency only counts when it can be used to nail an opponent, like Mr. Corona? Do you grasp how CORRUPT that thinking is? To HIDE transparency documents?
The legislators are behaving like that paragon of transparency, Mr. Mitt Romney, who refuses to release his tax reports for years prior to 2010. Running and hiding. THESE are people who represent us, or want to?
And thus, we go full circle on our destiny-bound Ships of Fools . . . to the rocks, to the rocks . . .  where the sexy sirens of greed and self interest call seductively for our kind trust, generous handouts, and enduring penchant for being played as fools  . . .
21 Responses to “Two Ships of Fools”
  1. Anonymous says:

    From: Island Jim-e (aka: The Cricket)1. Question: Why did Walt Disney name hisfamous dog cartoon character "pluto"? Doyou suppose that it had any "out of the world" or "politial" commentary intentions?2. "Gullables" be the name of those who arekept in the dark-ages and fed "crap"…tokeep the "plutos" in power (domination byforce of arms, rules, laws or the lack thereof…what is new except the percentage range of the "mushroom" factories…no matter what country you exisit in today?3. The "Ship-of-fools" will soon be coming (visiting) a "water-world" near your "lifeboat" sooner than we think-me-thinks! The time to pay attention andact to prevent the highwater mark fromreaching your eye-brows is now fastapproaching….!Note: A big chunk of Greenlandglacier has just broken off due to: a. "hot-water" (the media who ignores their duties and realities to fatten their egos andpockets at the expense of the public) b. "hot-air" (politicans who ignore the"serve and protect" functions to fattenup their pockets and those of the rich-"pluto"-based aliens among us)! 4. The name of the "ship of fools" isTITANIC II–(no we have not learned orbenefited from the lessons of history-or just choose to ignore them!)Question: Does anyone know what happenswhen depleated uranium is used for/inmilitary vehicles/munitions? Does anyoneknow what happens to the environment(mother earth/oceans/air) when the remains of atomic "left-overs" are dumpedinto the caves and oceans? Does anyonebother to do follow up studies or evencare that we may have already planted theseeds of our own distruction? 5. Are we just too busy playing gamesthat distract us from the modifications, adaptions and adjustments necessary forour own salvation? 6. Seems like the "plutos'" of the worldare eating/stealing the cheese and cake andleaving the rest of us to fight with therats over the crumbs!Happy are they who can walk on wateras TITANIC II sails into the sunsetin what remains of our lifetimes!Chirp!

  2. Glad to have injected such stark optimism into your thinking, Jim-e. I repeat, we are a stupid species for being so smart. The strident self-dealers win every time because they are willing to sacrifice principle for their benefit. No conscience? May mean survival. But neither your nor I want to be around when the angry and ruthless take charge. We can direct our arks toward Greenland which is likely to be a tropical isle soon. Evidently during July, they had a four-day melt that scraped all the ice off the continent like never before. It was magic. The ice was here today, gone four days later. White turned brown.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Two ships have one thing in common, dirty politics. Romney plays his own game, PNoy have minions playing without all his blessings, hopefully. Otherwise his anticorruption stance goes down directly to the drain.China bullying has gone to extreme if it unleashed the reef poachers. Aquino must not act like Carter when Castro launched Mariel invasion. PNoy shoud learn from that history the havoc created by weakness. Could he be effective Punishing the offenders knowing how corrupt the police, military and the judges? Until the People themselves realize how deep In shit we are right now, the Phiippines will end up like that glacier. The next generation will become the Dorothy and entourage needing the Oz to take them back to the good 'Ol Home.

  4. The Chinese convoy of fishermen is about as blatant as China could be without firing guns at Philippine ships. Total disregard for the affront it is to the Philippines. The military garrison established in Vietnamese contested areas, and conflict with Japan over another island shows China has little respect for other nations. Gotta take a stand, hard.

  5. Anonymous says:

    China flexing too much muscle lately against its neighbors. Question is what is it up to? A ploy? About what? Economic collapse or sensing it could no longer leep keeping the leash on its people? Their taste of capitalsm is poisonous to its core thus the alternative is giving them pain of conflict to continue control of society. Akin to western world purveyor of war in developing countries to foster its military business.Aquino must stop the Chinese Aggressive approach by whatever means including publicly asking assistance from the mighties. Reality, on our own military power, we could not topple China. Diplomacy is fine as long as there is status quo which is not the case. China keeps on pushing the envelope knowing Philippines does not have full ASEAN support. This group treaty is useless, should be abandoned by Philippines but it can't because it needs it economically and financially. On final analysis, all what China wants is some concessions from US by using weak Philippines as bullying victim and threat of conflict between its neighbors. YUAN is the silent factor behind all of these. Its that same old "its the economy, stupid". China sees its economy "Euroing" so it employs pre emptive strike mode.Johnny linJohnny lin

  6. Edgar Lores says:

    1. I’m not sure whether the Republicans were schooled in the Philippines or whether Filipino politicians were schooled in Georgia (reputedly the most corrupt state.) On balance, I believe it’s the former, the colonials teaching the colonialists.2. Mitt embroiled in a Corona-like controversy by not releasing his tax returns? He should take a leaf from the Chief Justice and suspend his campaign.3. The pork barrel is the piñata of politicians. It is as traditional as the Barong, as natural as Mayon volcano. No one perceives that it is not only a form of corruption, but the fountain of corruption. It has been used by the Executive to control and manipulate the Legislature, and by the Legislature to enrich themselves. As someone has suggested, a possible solution is to have national and local development and infrastructure planning centralized so as not to be at the mercy of politicians and the political cycle.4. The offices of the Department of Justice and the Ombudsmen have nothing on the Keystone Cops, and it seems on GMA. You say amateurish and incomplete, I say shambolic.5. On China: for too long now the view is that nations are not expected to behave as moral entities and need look only after their own interests. This political philosophy must change. The hope was that the United Nations would constitute a super world government. Sadly, we are centuries off from reforming and redefining the concept of a nation-state.6. How do you make politicians keep their word on the disclosure of SALNs? I guess in the same manner that you make a chicken cross the road.

  7. Anonymous says:

    Only one solution to our corrupt politicians and government employees:Declare ONE General Amnesty to reveal all their assets. Computerize and centralize all public projects. Afterwards, those still hiding their loot and found living beyond their salaries, Shoot them publicly to teach everybody a lesson. Guaranteed after setting exampes on top level and even minor employees, they will straighten up.The Result: the unemployment figure will drastically go down with new government hires. Johnny linKilling two birds with one shot.

  8. "The pork barrel is the piñata of politicians. It is as traditional as the Barong, as natural as Mayon volcano."I rather got this idea from Mr. Abad's perspective on it, that this is the way things are done. It was one of those cross cultural "moments" for me, because I see the trade of favors as being rather "class discriminatory" in that those with power can discriminate against those not having any. In that sense, it is a revolting as racism, or stomping on someone when they are down.I appreciate your thoughtful comment. I especially like the close. A lot of chickens in the Philippines live dangerously, if I judge by how many dash across the road in front of my speeding Honda Civic.

  9. Johnny, Your last paragraph is enlightening. I had no considered this a part of China's global manipulation and posturing. That's a great insight. I was looking at trees, you showed the forest. Thanks.

  10. Second reading."Shambolic" is a great term (4).Your perspective that maybe we aren't civilized for moral unions like the UN is very profound. I see the descent of U.S. governance into deceit and acrimony and wonder if we are even fit to govern ourselves, democratically.

  11. Edgar Lores says:

    @Johnny LinI agree that the establishment of a central database for SALNs is the way to go. This could be housed with the office of the Ombudsman. The main monitoring software application would link and receive inputs from the databases in the BIR, the AMLAC, Customs and perhaps GSIS. It can then sift through the data, analyse for discrepancies and raise red flags. The hurdle would be privacy laws. In my country of exile, welfare cheats are uncovered in this manner.Your two-pronged solution to the problems of corruption and unemployment is – ah, er – drastic but logically sound.

  12. Anonymous says:

    @edgarOnly Philippine government agencies are reluctant to computerize everything. They are clinging to old paper shifting ways. If they accept computerization, they are recommending outside contractors who will control the entire database which is what happened to LTO on licensing and tags and NBI with clearances. The reason is all about corruption. They would have hard time tampering records with computerization. Go to a government office now using computers and more often than not you will be told that the computer is down so they must do everything by hand.This govt employees culture must be ended before any meaningful fight against corruption would be successful. This is also one reason why FOI is not gaining legs because the end result is complete computerization. Politicians are delaying as much as they can or their bottom line would be revealed prematurely. Very simple technological application but the bureaucrats are preventing its success.

  13. Joe, Traditionally, pork is dispensed pretty much like US foreign aid. Plenty for friends, zero for enemies. Abad innovated the use of pork barrel.Like you, Abad and PNoy realized that there are innocent victims when pork is witheld. So Abad and PNoy decided to cut out the middleman. If Cong Joe is opposing an administration bill or is on warpath against the administration, Sec. Abad will not give Rep Joe any pork. Instead he will go directly to the Gov. Tom and Mayors Harry and Dick and give them the project that would have passed through Rep Joe's hands. The locals realize that they can get their pork without Joe's help. And so Joe's political base is undermined without causing undue hardship on his constituents. That's why you hear complaints by the opposition that their pork has not been released but if you look at the DBM's books you will see that the pork has been releases except that it did not go through the congressman.Once upon a time, pork, both here and in the US, was sacrosanct. And it guaranteed he independence of Congress. Power over the purse. But times have changed. Economic mismanagement by the executive was blamed on congress' insatiable appetite for pork and so its power over the purse was taken away. In the US the line-item veto was introduced, in the Philippines release of appropriations was placed in the hands of the president coupled with line-item veto. Thus as Sen Byrd of West Virgina warned, in a series of thirteen speeches against the line-item veto, that the US would go the way of the Roman Empire, into an irreversible decline because the people gave up their power over the purse to Caesar.I believe in district pork because it is the great leveler. If appropriations are determined from a national perspective then its distribution will be determined not on needs per district but on the potential national votes. It is the utilization of pork by the district and not pork itself that is wrong.

  14. MB, I greatly appreciate the explanation. Is there a neutral source that does the arithmetic to show that the Arroyos' constituents are not being gamed out of their roads? How does an interested but skeptical person track things?I used to admire Senator Byrd. He spoke with passion, right or wrong. I was a CSPAN freak in the US.Up with district pork and bbq pork.

  15. joe,try the dbm site. I think they post fund releases there

  16. Anonymous says:

    JoeI belong to the district of GMA. We still get our share of projects, albeit, way way below the proportions during GMA time. What is surprising was a finding in the COA that Mikey Arroyo current pork spending was concentrated in Pampanga instead of his constituents, the security guards.On Senator Byrd, he should be the poster boy of Pork Barrel worldwide. West Virginia which he represented until he died in his nineties has the most paved highways and in-roads leading to Nowhere. There is even a bridge crossing no river and not connected to a road. That must be the bridge everyone is saying "I will cross the bridge when I reach it"

  17. Anon, thanks for the insights, namely that local projects still get funded and the Arroyos are still scurrilous. Yes, Senator Byrd was one of the "good old boys" who knew how to work the system and pork for his constituents. I didn't admire him for his deeds, but for his "presence", rather like Marlon Brando in acting. They should film that stuff, larger than life. Ted Kennedy was that way, too.

  18. Edgar Lores says:

    This comment has been removed by the author.

  19. Edgar Lores says:

    @manuelbuencamino and other commentatorsThank you for citing the rationale behind the need for pork to be at the local level. I acknowledge and agree.But politics aside, there is a case to be made for centralised national planning:1. There are infrastructure projects that span provincial boundaries. For example, national highways, trains, ferries, power grids and communication systems, to name a few.2. There is a need to establish national standards for the technical specifications of infrastructure projects.If I may cite two examples from Australia, where planning and development is almost purely at the state level while funding is sourced from both the state and federal levels:1. The rail tracks in three of the eastern states use different gauges.2. The width of highway lanes is narrower in New South Wales than in Queensland.Results: Trains cannot pass from, much less through, one state to another. And the margins of safety are compromised: The Welshmen are more at risk than the Queenies.No doubt funding must primarily be borne at the national level, but a central planning office must design and manage national-level projects and, perhaps furthermore, must sign off that the design and specifications of local projects are up to scratch.In this way, the anomaly of building bridges carrying the initials of the mayor would be avoided.(As an aside, applying the (@Johnny) Lin-esque approach to problems of this kind:1. The mayor’s pay (and pension) must be docked for the cost of redesign, labor and material of removing his initials.2. The mayor must personally contribute his hands to the labor.I am not certain that @Johnny Lin will agree that this solution is drastic enough. In which case we must denominate two levels of Lin-esque solutions: (a) a Johnny B Goode level and (b) a Johnny B Damned level.)So at least a two-tier system of infrastructure planning and development must be considered.

  20. Edgar, you make a good case. Manila is another example, a hodgepodge of patchworked planning from the 10 cities that make up the metropolitan area. A traffic nightmare, no continuity, no priority for investment that considers the whole.

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