Archive for the ‘congress’ Category

Promises from Obama’s speech to Congress

February 25, 2009

With his ambitious assurances that he’ll lead the country to a brighter future, Pres. Barack Obama delivers his speech to the joint session of Congress, the first in his month-old administration, saying that more money will still be required to take care of the worsening banking crisis. He went on to discuss his budget priorities to be spent on energy, healthcare, and education.

In an optimistic tone, in spite of the faltering economy, Obama said, “Tonight, I want every American to know this: We will rebuild, we will recover, and the United States of America will emerge stronger than before.’ “—Yahoo News/ AP (02/24/09, Loven, J)

It sounds good.

Responding to Obama’s speech, the Republican minority through Gov. Bobby Jindal of Louisiana reiterates the party’s cooperation with the administration, but it believes the $787 billion stimulus package passed by the democratic majority is excessive, wasteful, and irresponsible. This is a massive amount which will be taken from taxpayers’ money. The government hasn’t shown any slowing on its extravagant spendng which hurt the common person in the main street.

The reaction of the public is mixed. Many may have been consoled by Obama’s assurances which they badly want to hear, but there are lingering doubts on whether the stimulus package will work. The majority expects it will —although there’s no convincing indication that this is true.

Consumer confidence is down. Persistently, many ask how one can spend his way out of the recession without compromising the finances of the next generation. There is distrust in the way the government spends public money. But almost everyone wants to believe things will be better, the world brighter, after Obama’s address. (Photo Credit: Iwriteplays)=0=

RELATED BLOG: “Obama addresses congress for the first time” Posted by mesiamd at 2/25/2009

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Obama addresses congress for the first time

February 25, 2009

Pres. Barack Obama at present enjoys high level of public support optimism and confidence. Americans badly needs him at this time even if political trust doesn’t necessarily translate to economic confidence. The stock market for the last month continues to flounder in spite of the change Obama has been pursuing.

Those badly hurt by the economic downturn watch silently where the recovery program will go. Rightly so, it is early to give in to pessimism, but there is a cause for concern.

Those with money are afraid to invest—the stock market behaves erratically as if to suggest that something isn’t right. It is expected to go for undetermined amount of time in spite of the bold assurances of Obama. People badly affected by the financial crisis are confused, some can’t get over their shock on what’s going on.

Opinion on B. Obama:

——————————–Approve———–Disapprove——–No Opinion

His job as president————63%—————–22——————-15
Foreign Policy——————-57%—————–17——————-26
The Economy——————-57%—————–32——————–11
Iraq Situation——————–54%—————–24——————–22
Source: New York Times (02/23/09, Zeleny, J; Thee-Brenan, M)

On Tuesday, February 23, at 9PM eastern time, Obama will address the joint congress. He enjoys strong political clout with about 2/3 of the American people supporting him. A rising number however is skeptical. In spite of the benefit of the doubt, many are struggling to fend off their ambivalence. There are those who feel they’re practically on their own, without much reason to believe the government will look after them since their finances have been ruined by mismanagement. They can’t take the thought of bailing out irresponsible Americans in cahoots with unscrupulous bank lenders who bought homes beyond their means.

Obama’s Disapproval Rating Doubles

According to a recent Gallup poll, Obama’s new disapproval rating rose from 12% last month to 24% this month. This is 50% higher than the 16% average for a month-old new presidency. —-Los Angeles Times ( 02/24/09, Malcolm, A)

Americans really can’t be too trusting these days, not even with Obama’s popularity. Words cannot change reality. Sixty (60%) of the public worries that someone in the family will lost a job in the coming months or the next year. Fifty-five (55%) of the Americans says they are just trying to make ends meet. While Americans are under no illusion to believe that the economic problem will die down soon, it’s unclear if they who are extravagant and used to good life can weather the turbulence of the recession.

In spite of the media’s overwhelming biased adulation for Obama (as described in Bernard Goldberg’s book “A Slobbering Love Affair: The True (And Pathetic) Story of the Torrid Romance Between Barack Obama and the Mainstream Media “)it is still the truth that matters. People can’t live with the promises and eloquent words of a president, they need to see tangible results, especially those who put their reliance on the government to solve their problems. (Photo Credit: Alex Johnson)=0=

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Banning the words “Muslim” & “Christians” in the media lexicon: ultra-sensitivity & the desire to sanitize reality

October 18, 2008

The Philippines seems to have joined the bandwagon of onion-skinned nations who give lots of thought on words that are otherwise innocuous. Per se, I don’t see anything wrong in using “Muslim” or “Christian” to describe a person, whether he is a criminal or saint. Adjectives make descriptions clear. If one calls a “dirty spade a dirty spade,” then that’s the honest truth. Regardless of whether the spade is sleek clean or dirty, it is objectivity that we desire in communication. Sometimes reality does bite. Risking of minor abrasion, I believe it is better to articulate truth than be restricted from using words that could be helpful in understanding.

The Philippine House Bill 100, now on its way to its third and final reading in congress, proposes to prohibit the use of “Muslim” and “Christian” or any word that indicates religious, regional, or ethnic affiliation. Violators (i.e. newspaper editors using “Muslim terrorists” to describe a convict) are threatened by a hefty fine of P50,000.

Authored by Rep. Juan Edgardo Angara with Reps. Pangalian Balindong, Arnulfo Go, Luzviminda Ilagan, Bienvenido Abante, Justin SB Chipeco, Yusop Jikiri, Raul del Mar and Neptali Gonzales, this bill shows how political correctness has crept into our brain like a neuron-gobbling worm. Why have they become wimpy in describing reality?

The “criminalizaton” of specific words in our media lexicon can be a new road to curtail our basic right for free speech. It is an attempt to sanitize reality and reprogram our way of thinking—perhaps to make as feel good that we don’t offend any religious groups including those who want to harm us— even if nasty, libelous, and more vitriolic words are hurled on us in the media everyday. However good-intentioned these congressmen are, they better be specific with the words they want banned. For fairness and balance, it will serve them well to consider adding more negatively charged words in their list such “discriminatory” terms as lesbian, homosexual, mentally retarded, old, disabled, illiterate, obese etc.

Our legislators say the words “Muslim” and “Christian” create “a sweeping generalization on other members of the race, culture or region” when the words are used to describe a suspect or convict. I don’t think this is true. I believe our rational mind doesn’t think this way, unless certain neutral words are accompanied by qualifying statements that lead to a particular derogatory generalization.

The bill’s stand seems distorted by its own tunnel-vision. There is the desire for political correctness and perhaps an inclination for approval. There is that unexpressed subliminal paranoia that we might want to cast away.

As long as “brandings” only refer to the criminals or suspects, those who are unintentionally linked with them by religious or ethnic associations need not worry. It isn’t the media’s fault. The people who make unfounded generalizations and make unfair conclusions are the ones who are culpable. Guilt by association without evidence is often debunked and doesn’t hold credibility in intelligent news reporting. Our legislators must be mature to understand this.

Congressmen may want this House Bill No. 100 like a comfort Barbie doll for all, but they fail to see that many Filipinos are fair, highly discerning, less paranoid, more considerate, and smarter than they think. Rooting for political correctness and becoming hypocritical in the process, at the expense of truth, is not the way to bring peace in the world. It only adds up to the cumbersome double talk that we are too tired of hearing. In spite of our frailties, let us try to work together to build a more honest world. (Photo Credit: VanLuchi; CiudadanoPoeta)=0=

Excommunication, discipline in the marital bed & the controversies of contraception

August 2, 2008

The wagons of confrontation have circled many times between the opposing camps of the Roman Catholic Church (RCC) and the supporters of the Reproductive Health Bill (RHB.) The former supports natural family planning while the latter aims to make artificial contraception available to the poor. Arguments roil between the two sides with little hint of resolution.

The Catholic Bishop Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) which identifies itself as protector of the unborn (pro-life) and defender of morals is pushing for sex education, restraint in the marital bed, and responsible parenthood. The Church teaches that proper distribution of wealth, not abortion and artificial birth control, is the answer to over-population and poverty.

Opposing the Church’s doctrine seems to diminish RCC’s influence, but proponents of the RHB face moral censure. They run the risk of being refused holy wafer and sacred wine during masses. They are under threat of excommunication by the Church.

For political expediency and fear of retribution in the afterlife, the Catholic majority and its leaders struggle to abide with the Church teachings. In the name of faith and fidelity, many pander on CBCP’s advices which strongly oppose artificial contraception (pills, intraunterine devices (IUDs), bilateral tubal ligation (BTLs), vasectomies, spermicides, morning after pills, barrier methods such as condoms etc.)

On the other hand, defenders of RHB want to give women the right to decide. Backed by population advisers of other countries, the United Nations (UN,) Asian Development Bank (ADB,) and the World Health Organization (WHO,) they believe the bill is a practical solution to reduce the high incidence of maternal and infant mortality, a way of curbing population explosion. They question the correctness and infallibility of RCC’s teachings on birth control, bringing back the old debates on morals and the separation of the church and the state.

RHB supporters assert artificial contraception is a basic human right. They believe lack of access to contraceptives leads to unwanted pregnancies and drives poor women to seek illegal and unsafe abortions which run up to about 500,000 a year, 79,000 of which are hospitalized for complications and about 800 die.

The CBCP counters by saying the pro-choice supporters’ position isn’t morally sound. Catholic bishops reject the legislative measure as anti-family and anti-life. Airing their position, Msgr. Oscar Cruz, Archbishop of Ligayen-Dagupan asserts artificial contraception is a pathway towards “killing the unborn” and are “instruments that favor abortion.” Brian Clowes, research manager for Human Life International agrees, saying that RHB had traces of “influence” from England and the United States, linking the issue with foreign intervention.

Yet Filipinos expect the government to uphold their rights independently from the Church. RHB proponents like Reps. Edcel Lagman (Albay,), Mark Leandro Mendoza (Batangas,) Janette Garin (Iloilo,) and mayors Sherwin Gatchalian (Valenzuela) and Tomas Osmena (Cebu) want the RCC to reconsider its Vatican-backed anti-contraceptive stance. Because the Church is unlikely to change its position, they go ahead working for the bill’s passage which they believe will benefit the country.

Pia Cayetano, chairman of the Senate Committee on Health and Demographics, said she welcomes the views of all sectors on the controversial issue, but she can’t give weight on views solely from one religious doctrine. Social Welfare Secretary Dr. Esperanza Cabral who supports artificial contraception debates the issue with Environmental Sec. Lito Atienza, instrumental in foiling birth control from the services offered by the government.

Too many babies, worsening poverty, and pervasive hunger are real problems that can’t be ignored. Sooner or later, Filipinos have to make a choice on an issue whose decision is long overdue. The bill proposes the state to launch a nationwide information campaign on all methods of family planning and then have the people decide which method to use. The Church calls for discipline in marital bed, responsible parenthood, and natural family planning. Many Catholics however dodge the controversy by quietly deciding for themselves. Not all of them however follow the teachings of the Church. =0=

From The Underbush, Some Notable Numbers

June 25, 2008

P200,000
-Sulpicio Lines, the operator of the sunken Princess of the Sea, pegged the approximate insurance value (less than $4,000) of a dead victim’s life in the Philippines.

9 years
-The length of time it took Sulpicio Lines to know of the new guidelines on ship travel which was revised in June 27, 2007. Edgar Go, representing the ship company said they were not informed of the revision that could have avoided the sinking of the Princess of the Sea. =0=

P331.5 billion
The amount paid by the Philippine government (P133 billion in interest and P198.53 billion in principal) on maturing debts from January to May, 2008 according to the Department of Finance. As of April 2008, the country has a trade deficit of $531 million (approx. P24 billion.)

P100,000
-The monthly travel allowance of a Philippine congressman in trips, local and abroad. This taxpayer’s money could be the source of cash used by 59 representatives (1/4 of the entire Congress,) in accompanying Pres. Gloria M. Arroyo in USA on July 21 to 30, 2008, a junket which critics call “extravagant and insensitive.”
22%
The overall percentage of improvement in the National Achievement Test (NAT) for grade 6 Filipino public school students—from 43% in 2003 to 2008’s’s 65%; DepEd’s Jesli Lapus eyes a 75% mark by 2010.

1 month
-It took the media to correct the misleading news about the “lost Amazon” tribe, not having contact with civilization (mentioned in mesiamd’s blog on 05/31/08: “The stonehenge’s secret revealed, a lost Amazon tribe discovered…) The disclosure brings to recall similar hoaxes woven around indigenous forest-dwellers, like the Philippine Tasadays whose made-up secrets were revealed after Marcos was driven out of the country.

10 million
-The number of millionaires in the world with an asset of at least 1 million dollars; representing 1/5 of 1% of the world’s 6.7 billion people; a rise of 6% from 2006 to 2007; a third of these millionaires live in America.

24 million
-Center for Disease Control (CDC’s) estimate on the number of Americans afflicted with diabetes, representing 8% of the total US population; based on a 2007 data; another 57 million have deranged (prediabetic) sugar levels putting them at risk to have the disease.

$231,000
-The average home price in America. According to the US Department of Commerce, May 2008 home value dropped 5.7% from last year’s prices, dragging down the economy and firing fears of a recession.

12%
-Today’s percentage point advantage of Barack Obama against John McCain in the US presidential race. This double-digit (06/25/08) lead may not hold until November’s election.

$80,451,178
-The price of Claude Monet’s impressionist painting “Le bassin aux nymphéas,” or “Water Lily Pond,” an exquisite artwork auctioned off at a highest price so far by Christie’s in Europe (see photo by Lefteris Pitarakis, AP)

What will 59 congressmen do in USA?

June 21, 2008

In Albay, a staggering 200,000 people (40,000 families) have been evacuated as a result of this week’s typhoon Frank. The national unemployment rate has reached 8% and inflation rate is about to breach the 10% mark. Pres. Gloria M. Arroyo has asked Filipinos to be frugal in the midst of rising fuel prices and rice shortage.

But 59 congressmen, a fourth of 238-member legislative house will join Mrs. Arroyo and her family (including the husband and two congressmen-children) in a US visit this coming week to the White House.

According to Philstar (06/21/08, Diaz, J,) the Philippine delegation, like in the past, is composed mostly of Arroyo’s friends and Kampi party members. It is larger than the 34-member group which accompanied her to France, Spain, and England and the 15-member team which attended the World Economic Forum in Dagos, Switzerland.

The US trip has no major agenda that the public knows except that Mrs. Arroyo is meeting Pres. George W.Bush, World Bank President Robert Zoelick, and Millenium Challenge Corp CEO John Danilovich. Arrangements to see US State Secretary Condolezza Rice, Presidential Candidate Barack Obama, and some “select” US senators are still on the works at this late hour.

It is unclear what role most of the 59 congressmen will play in the travel which many suspect is a lusterless, low-yield, swanky junket at a time of crisis. Rep. Elpidio Barzaga, Jr. of Cavite weakly justifies the trip in saying, “We can help explain the security situation, especially now that the Ces Drilon kidnapping has again tarnished our country’s image abroad.”

The travel has tell tale signs of a business and pleasure trip. It is proximate to the time when Manny Pacquiao who has avid fans among the congressmen, goes on a boxing match with WBC lightweight champ David Diaz on June 28, 2008 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Travelers have many things to do in America and they’ve lots of places to visit other than Bush’s White House. Go figure. Can we now connect the dots? =0=