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May 07

Rice moldering in schoolhouses

In the news: RP April inflation at 8.3 percent yr/yr; highest since 2005. John Mangun advises, Get out of the PSE now.

Leonor Briones says there’s the danger that rice stockpiled in public schools may be devoured by rats before the rice can be given to schoolchildren. Her column reminded me of something I didn’t quite understand, at the time I’d heard it. Dinky Soliman said she was against using public schools to distribute rice relief to the poor, telling me of stories involving kids being mugged as they staggered home, and cases where families sold the rice instead of feeding it to their kids, but it seemed to me as good a means for distributing relief as any. But Briones explains the problem with the program:

I talked to a number of municipal mayors when I made a presentation on the Millennium Development Goals last Wednesday. I asked them about the picture of happy children and their kilo of rice. My simple question: How was the rice distributed to the children in April when classes closed as early as March?

A mayor from a Visayan town smiled and admitted that there was something wrong with the timing of the delivery of rice. When the rice finally reached the poor municipalities, the children were already gone for summer vacation.

A mayor from Mindanao complained that the DepEd program was not coordinated with the mayors. He agreed that the rice arrived too late for the children. “So where is the rice intended for them?” I asked. “They are stored inside the classrooms while waiting for the children to return in June,” he answered. “The rats!” I exclaimed in alarm, “The rats will eat the children’s rice!”

Someone in the group drawled, “Which specie of rats? The four-legged variety with tails or the two-legged kind without tails”?

Rice intended for children have an inexplicable way of arriving only after the kids have gone for summer vacation. This has been going on for a number of years. It happened this year, as recounted by the mayors. It also happened last year and the year before.

Amando Doronila speaks of a Mekong rice conspiracy .

Someone who used to be involved in the Roco campaign once told me that perhaps the most effective post-Edsa reform, was the imposition of term limits. By restricting politicians to a fixed number of terms, the Constitution made possible the transfer of office from elders to younger leaders, who, by virtue of the fact that they’re younger, have a higher chance of instituting innovations in governance. A Newsbreak article, Most governors still from political clans, but with varied trainings reminded me of this observation:

A good number of governors, however, no longer fit the stereotype of politicians’ children filling in their parents’ shoes even before they could practice in the field they studied in college. Forty-five out of 58 (77.58 percent) had practiced as businessmen, doctors, lawyers, engineers, and professors before their foray into politics…

Twenty-four of 58 governors (41.37 percent) were businessmen or businesswomen before they assumed elective positions. Ten of the 58 governors in the survey (17.24 percent) were working as lawyers, while five (or 8.62 percent) were doctors or health professionals.

A big majority of the governors (70.68 percent) have a bachelor’s degree. Governors with master’s degree accounted for 17.24 percent, while those with doctorate degrees (PhDs and MDs) accounted for 8.62 percent.

More than one-third of them (36.20 percent) studied business-related courses – business administration, management, commerce, economics, and accountancy – while 32.74 percent were able to obtain a law degree.

The dynastic nature of politics hasn’t changed, but as I’ve pointed out time and again, this isn’t surprising considering the dynastic nature of Asian politics in general (e.g. Japan, India, Malaysia, Indonesia, and an emerging dynastic trend in China) and Philippine society in particular (families of lawyers, doctors, etc.). The organization of society according to clan kinship survives, in its purest form (arguably) in Muslim Mindanao (see the description of the book, Rido: Clan Feuding and Conflict Management in Mindanao).

An interesting point to consider is to what extent resentment against the dominance of political families is widespread, or not: is it resentment against non-performing families in particular localities, or a more comprehensive objection to family-based politics? Is it a question of modernity clashing with traditional society, that is, a purely meritocratic mentality fed up with hierarchical notions of society, or simply a new kind of pseudoaristocratic coalition clashing with the existing powers-that-be (same urge to control, just a desire for a new brand)?

James Fallows, in his blog, points to a contest in which readers were asked to identify “the stupidest policy ever.” The winner?

Hundreds of entries later, the results are clear. An absolute majority of contestants spoke in favor of … mandates and subsidies for ethanol use as the stupidest manifestation of bipartisan public policy in the last 50 years.

Speaking of biofuels, on April 8, VeraFiles published Ethical lapses mark passage of biofuels law, which has led to an angry response by Sec. Gary Teves, and a snippy reply by VeraFiles.

Incidentally, this week’s episode of The Explainer was uploaded by some kind soul to YouTube. You can watch it in five parts: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4 and Part 5. Hat tip to Geeky Rockstar.

In the blogosphere, discussion on blogging and the media continues.

This is a debate between people who slaved away to obtain a degree in a field of specialization, and people who are engaged in the same kind of activity but on a part-time basis and without formal training. Formerly, journalists had to contend with the literati, who sniffed that journalism isn’t literature at all; and you have academic historians peering down their noses at people who write “popular history,” etc. Now bloggers have taken the opposite tack: challenging the experts and calling into question the relevance of their credentials. See Marck Ronald Rimorin’s The Us-Against-Them Mentality in the Blogging vs. MSM Debate, and J’s Thoughts on blogging v. traditional journalism. Cocoy weighs in with Zeitgeist: Why Blogging v. Traditional Journalism is More than That.

I had a discussion with The Jester-in-Exile concerning my view that bloggers are Pamphleteers in electronic guise, while he views the blogosphere as a Speaker’s Corner. We began this discussion a year ago but at the last iBlog resumed it, and I countered that for now, the Pamphleteer model makes more sense because a blogger can blog without allowing comments, and thus, doesn’t have to welcome debate. Which doesn’t mean some sort of conversation isn’t taking place -ever writer conducts a dialogue with the reader. And while people may generally agree freewheeling comments are a bonus, they are not a fundamental requirement. Perhaps, if video blogging replaces written blogs, then the Hyde Park Speaker’s Corner model will be triumphant. Then again, as Robert McHenry pointed out last year in the Encyclopedia Britannica Blog, the more things change, the more they stay the same:

Try this: for “orator” read instead “politician,” and for “ingenious critics” substitute “newspaper columnists” or, if your prefer, “bloggers.”

Few contemporary public figures would dare address an audience quite so bluntly, warning them, in essence, that they are too easily led by pundits and office-seekers who are only eager to parade their cleverness before their fellow citizens. So just how archaic is this speech?

This particular English-language version is by the great Oxford scholar Benjamin Jowett, translating from the Greek of Thucydides. The speaker is Cleon, an Athenian politician of the “I’m just a plain man, I don’t make fancy speeches, I just tell the truth” variety that we are still quite familiar with.

Another article, also in the Encyclopedia Britannica blog, is When Appearances Rule: The Perils of Periclean Democracy, by Joseph Lane:

However, the bigger context of Plutarch’s Pericles is useful to understanding this development. In the opening of the biography, Plutarch claims that there is a real difference between poets and sculptors who make something “beautiful in appearance” and statesmen who actually “benefit others by their actions.”

Over the course of the narrative, that seemingly firm distinction is stealthily but steadily erased as Plutarch reveals that Pericles’ reputation as one of the greatest statesmen of antiquity is itself little more than a carefully cultivated appearance created by the protagonist’s collaboration with a series of political “artists” who help him craft the facade of great successes. The Acropolis building project (for which Pericles is still celebrated) proves to be little more than a grandiose jobs program. It was designed to secure Pericles the votes that he needed to maintain a constant hold on the highest elective offices. During this reign of more than two decades of political dominance, Pericles “rules” by constantly inflaming and manipulating the population’s aspirations to be “great” and “beautiful” while leading Athens steadily towards bankruptcy and a war she cannot win. Our celebration of him, Plutarch suggests, is little more than evidence that we are easily fooled by the “appearances of beautiful things.”

From Thucydides to Pericles via Plutarch, and by extension their heirs the Propagandists of our own birthing as a nation: the ancient model of the Pamphleteer -who does with the written word what the Orator does with the spoken word- points, in a sense, to the continuing importance of rhetoric. The glitter of words can, indeed, be fool’s gold -but it is, sometimes, the only treasure the past can bequeath the present.

An interesting examination of how the rhetoric hasn’t wilted, but bloomed, thanks to technology, is undertaken by Mary Stuckey in How Technology and Online News Saved Political Rhetoric.

Anyway, just as not every blog welcomes or even accepts comments, one has to ask whether any real consensus exists on blogging as a conversation. People have been having conversations with the written word and with authors even if the writers have predeceased the reader.

And it has to be asked to what extent online publishing has been revolutionary.

The invention of the printing press made possible the widespread, accurate, reproduction of texts. Its manifestation is the neighborhood public library instead of royal and monastic collections, and yes, the challenging of authority, particularly religious authority.

The Internet made possible the instantaneous distribution of information across time zones and borders. It has no manifestation because of its virtual nature.

The permanence, then, of knowledge has been lost; as has the durability of information.

Entire books have vanished because card catalogs were dispensed with but any error in the encoding of data into computer systems means a misclassified book is an inaccessible book -a book that might as well have been destroyed, and will remain a lost book until rules once again allow readers to freely browse library stacks, a rare privilege these days.

The question then, is what is the implication when hieroglpyhs can still be read, cuneiform can still be decoded, but yesterday’s op-ed piece in the Philippine Star is so difficult to track down as to be lost forever; anything from Inq7.net says is basically gone, links do not persist, whatever appeared on line in Today Newspaper has disappeared without a trace -save, perhaps, a dead link in some comment thread.

A broken hard disk can lose as much written knowledge as was lost when fires and plunder destroyed the Great Library at Alexandria over a period of centuries. The person caught up in the Zeitgeist will not care to consult the original texts, though they’re preserved in the libraries, because if not available instanenously and in soft copy, it’s not worth retrieving -meaning, human civilization prior to the 1990s has never been more at risk since the Dark Ages following the collapse of the Roman Empire or the Cultural Revolution in China.

30 comments

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  1. BrianB

    Giving rice to school kids and the responsibility of feeding their family is like a politician with an infectious disease kissing babies.

  2. TonGuE-tWisTeD

    One rural wife tells her husband, “Our five children will be taking home from school 5 kgs of rice everyday. We can keep 3 and sell 2. I told you we should have had TEN kids!”

  3. Jon Mariano

    Giving children rice to go to school may not be the best way to do it but is alright. Any other suggestion out there? But as usual, somebody always makes a mess out of it.

    How about making suggestions on how to improve or correct the flaw? (aside from scrapping it altogether, that is.)

  4. Jon Mariano

    If you’ve never felt the joy of receiving free rice (when you’ve got none at all), then you will just focus on the negative…

  5. jakcast

    Rice distribution through public school kids is quite a good idea, I believe. The school would know who among the students are siblings and therefore there would be a systematic way so that the beneficiary-families do not get more than their equitable share.

    However, because of the bad timing, there’s another great idea gone to waste.

  6. BrianB

    Jon Mariano,

    The point I was making is that Government is putting a burden on minors to bring food to their families. This is borderline unconstitutional. Dinky is right. Imagine how desperate people are right now. A hungry man desperate to feed his family sees a school kid carrying a kilo of rice back home. What will he do?

  7. UP n student

    On this rice distribution item. One would think that Malacanang would just give the rice to the mayors for the mayors to distribute.

  8. leytenian

    Mar Roxas proposed measures:

    Roxas had proposed the following measures to ensure a plentiful domestic harvest:

    1. All conversions of irrigated land should be stopped, and investigate how much has the government spent on irrigation for these converted lands;

    2. Ensure that all of the inputs necessary–seeds, fertilizer, pesticides, among others–must be made available to farmers;

    3. Consider the development of ‘small water impounding’ irrigation systems, which costs only about P30,000 per hectare, versus large-scale irrigation through dams which costs P100,000 per hectare;

    4. Invest in eliminating wastage in the drying of rice, estimated at 30% of annual consumption, and more than enough to cover the NFA’s importation of 2 million MT of rice or 17% of annual consumption;

    5. Revisit the plans to develop the Agusan and Lanao marsh areas for planting, as these are ideal for planting rice, similar to the Vietnamese river delta basin;

    6. Reactivate the peace process in insurgency areas to allow the unimpeded cultivation, planting, tending and harvesting of crops in these areas;
    http://www.senate.gov.ph/press_release/2008/0506_roxas1.asp

    I favor most the number one proposal. Investigating “how Much”. I hope the investigation will not just end for the irrigation budget. If this measure if taken seriously and followed by other government sectors, this might lead to a bigger solution to solve non- transparency of financial transactions and will eventually prevent further corruption. It’s about time for honesty.

  9. UP n student

    I thought Mar Roxas has also given his support to large-scale farming (which is more efficient, e.g. allows use of mechanized techniques).

    Thailand average farm size is 3.7 hectares.
    Philippine average farm size is 2.5 hectares.
    Indonesia average farm size is less than 1.0 hectares.

  10. cvj

    I thought Mar Roxas has also given his support to large-scale farming (which is more efficient, e.g. allows use of mechanized techniques).

    Thailand average farm size is 3.7 hectares.
    Philippine average farm size is 2.5 hectares.
    Indonesia average farm size is less than 1.0 hectares. – UPn Student

    …and yet our rice yield (aka productivity) is lower than Indonesia’s (7/10’s) and higher than Thailand’s. Refer to page 25 of the referenced document.

    www3.pids.gov.ph/ris/dps/pidsdps0513.pdf

    That negative correlation between ‘average farm size’ and rice yield should tell us something.

    Remember that what we are trying to do is to maximize is output per area of land, and not necessarily minimize labor per area of land. Those are two different objectives.

  11. PhilwoSpEditor

    “A broken hard disk can lose as much written knowledge as was lost when fires and plunder destroyed the Great Library at Alexandria over a period of centuries. The person caught up in the Zeitgeist will not care to consult the original texts, though they’re preserved in the libraries, because if not available instanenously and in soft copy, it’s not worth retrieving -meaning, human civilization prior to the 1990s has never been more at risk since the Dark Ages following the collapse of the Roman Empire or the Cultural Revolution in China.”

    Sadly, this is true… Hence the importance of hard copies, for scholars [real ones, not just the people who get less tuition to pay for] to enjoy and cherish. One virus can destroy files, which I’ve learned the hard way with my USB device.

    We’ve become so accustomed with a monitor instead of a book, that it becomes so ironic to actually have people understand what they really read.

  12. jakcast

    @ PhilwoSpEditor

    As one blogger puts it, attention span in new media is as long as the next click of the mouse. I guess we have to return to mainstream media and read books, newspapers, periodicals from time to time in order to cultivate a longer attention span.

    Ironic, indeed.

  13. supremo

    Just give rice vouchers to the kids and redeem them through the rice outlets instead of giving the actual rice. The rice outlets will them get reimburse by the government. Tell the dumb government bureaucrats that it is easier to transport paper rice vouchers instead of the actual rice.

  14. UP n student

    to PhilWoSpEditor: this string of words is not exactly true : “…The person caught up in the Zeitgeist will not care to consult the original texts, though they’re preserved in the libraries, because if not available instanenously and in soft copy, it’s not worth retrieving”.

    What is precisely true is that the value of (missing) information can (under certain circumstances) drop to practically-zero after one or two days. If I can’t find in three hours, a statistic on the average-farm-size in Ethiopia in 1920 (for tomorrow’s presentation to the World Health Organization), then I will just rewrite the report and remove the reference to the Ethiopia-statistic.

    And then, there is this scenario. Filipinos are hard-pressed to consult the hard-copies in libraries because (A) there are very few libraries in Pinas and (B) the odds extremely high that the library does not have the hard-copy desired. {For Pinas, even the electronic-copy is probably not available. Reason — subscription fees.) Rason-B (the nearest 3 libraries do not have the hard-copy available) is true even in prosperous urban cities! I remember Abe Margallo (US-of-A based) not able to find a copy of an economics book that cvj(Singapore) kept referencing.) And you won’t find a copy of Mein Kampf in a Berlin nor Stuttgart library, nor of the King James bible in a Riyadh bookstore.

    ————-

    Another minor comment —— a few of those who “get their words” from books (as opposed to reading the words from the monitors) do not understand, either. Saying it more precisely — there can be a mismatch between their understanding and my undersanding of the words.

    But forget me. Just recall the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court disagreeing with “majority opinion” on what the 1987 Constitution “says” should be done regarding “Neri vs Senate”.

  15. Bencard

    supremo, make sure the voucher is not negotiable nor exchangeable for cash. also that it cannot be redeemed by anyone but the person named in it, and with sufficient i.d. as much as possible, must be counterfeit-proof.

  16. BrianB

    UP n, we’re already more efficient than Thailand. Large industrial-size farms will only destroy the soil.

  17. UP n student

    BrianB: One thing attractive about Thailand’s ineffiency 😐 is ability to produce more than enough to feed its people.

  18. BrianB

    Less people, that’s all, and more arable land.

  19. supremo

    UP n student,

    Thailand’s smaller population size and bigger arable land contributed to their success.

  20. BrianB

    “Sadly, this is true”

    I still remember the devastation Manolo’s mailing list brought upon me in 2002. All my poems, which only existed in tangible form as throwaway tissues and scraps of paper – which my father actually mistook as scraps and threw away. Hundreds of peoms written in a ten-year span. I don’t write poems anymore.

  21. supremo

    Bencard,

    I agree. It’s a pity that some people take advantage of this very simple feeding program.

  22. magdiwang

    regarding john mangun’s opinion on selling shares now at the PSE. i think if you are a daytrader you should follow his recommendations. if you are for the long term, its the best time to get in and accumulate more shares. you can never time the market. the only way you can beat it is to invest consistently for years on solid companies. philippine companies have a lot going for them, they have high profit margins and not overtly leveraged.

    the PSE always do well when the DOW is at a tear. while US equities will try to test the march lows, i believe it already formed a bottom and will not take much for it to rocket up bringing the PSE with it.

  23. Rightist and Superficial

    BrianB :

    Giving rice to school kids and the responsibility of feeding their family is like a politician with an infectious disease kissing babies.
    May 7th, 2008 at 3:41 pm

    What!?!?

  24. BrianB

    Rightist (and superficial),

    That’s what she said.

  25. magdiwang

    i am surprise with GMA’s strong advocacy to open meralco’s books to look behind the reasons for the high power rates.

    who would want to take on the lopezes right now who are also influencial in their own right. the president is picking a fight, im sure she did her homework and currently the lopezes are on the defensive. hmmmmm…..people who dislike the elites should now put their money where their mouth is.

  26. BrianB

    magdiwang,

    Wouldn’t it be smarter to let these two elites kill one another off?

  27. benign0

    I guess we have to return to mainstream media and read books, newspapers, periodicals from time to time in order to cultivate a longer attention span. – jakcast

    It takes long attention spans to learn what REALLY matters. Unfortunately the visual interface and rich media enabled by today’s technology has replaced text as a means of transmitting information to eyeballs.

    So the so called “tech-savvy” today, in all ironies, is actually more attention-deficited than previous generations — because they are not used to absorbing information the old way (and in most fields of REAL learning such as science, mathematics, and REAL literature, the only way).

    Visual and rich media technologies are creating a LEARNING DISABILITY in today’s youth by making them hooked on rich media and stunting their ability to concentrate on absorbing rich knowledge through text.

    At the end of the day, when a computer crashes, all your left with is a command prompt and none of those icons and pointers some people have become addicted to. 😀

  28. magdiwang

    Wouldn’t it be smarter to let these two elites kill one another off?

    hehehehe it wont get any better than these two titans at each others throat.

    the way i see it, gma threw a curveball before the 2010 election to rattle the other economic elites eyeing the presidency. guess who would benefit? or she is trying to put the senators on the spot to take sides on the issue. anyways many of us on the sidelines will just watch this unfold and keep mum as filipinos generally abide by the saying the enemy of my enemy is my friend.

  29. BrianB

    The Arroyo’s and the Lopezes have been at it since their Iloilo days. A Lopez patriarch was responsible for bringing down Mike’s lolo’s political career. Go figure.

  30. grd

    blockquote> people who dislike the elites should now put their money where their mouth is.- magdiwang

    right, where are those anti-elites out there?

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