Monthly Archives: November 2008

Column: Facts, the law and Joker Arroyo

Tomorrow's column, today. To be published on November 18, 2008

The other week, the Inquirer published  a letter from Sen. Joker Arroyo taking Neal Cruz and me to task for columns criticizing his initial reaction to the Supreme Court ruling on the controversial Memorandum of Agreement on ancestral domain. “Two hacks-in-law of the Inquirer Bar distorted my comments and made them the lead paragraphs of their respective columns on the MOA-AD decision despite the desk having relegated [them] to the Page 8 caboose of the first page news,” the famous lawyer thundered.

I can repay the senator in his own coin, and indulge in the language of insult. (Neal can very well take care of himself, and choose his own currency.) I can, for instance, ask the man I voted for twice for the Senate why, in the eighth year of the 21st century, he would ask for a faxed copy of the Court’s decision while abroad, and not an e-mail of the digital file. If he had, he wouldn’t have had to offer his sage opinion only on the basis of “the petitory and dispositive portions” of the decision, as he admitted. Or I can tease him for his inability to contain his displeasure at the Inquirer news editors’ decision to relegate his words of wisdom to “the Page 8 caboose of the first page news.” Why, those no-good palookas (to borrow the language of the caboose-referring generation), did they think a senator of the Republic was not good enough to ride in the Pullman?

But I subscribe to the basic idea that public discourse is essential to the democratic project; the exchange of invective (or, to use the language of the blogs, mutual snark) often obscures rather than clarifies discourse. Besides, what good would it do? It won’t help us determine whether the main and perhaps even unarticulated assumption driving Senator Arroyo’s letter is in fact healthy for democracy. That, I submit, is the real issue.

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Missing page

Could not write my column yesterday (for publication today), because I was in two critical meetings (the first segued naturally into the second), and I could not and did not want to leave. Oh, well.

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Add one more vote

And Omaha makes 365.

In the last month and a half of the longest presidential contest in US history, I was struck by the emerging reports about Barack Obama's unusual ground game. I devoted half a column (the second half) to my impressions, illustrating the point by focusing on the Democrat's campaign to win one electoral vote out of the five allotted to Nebraska, a decidedly red state. (And one of only two states that do not hand over all their electoral votes to the state-wide winner of the presidential race.)

Well, as it turns out, Obama did win the lone electoral vote in Omaha, Nebraska. The race was finally called yesterday. One wonders, though: Is Mark Penn sitting up and taking down proportional-allocation notes?

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Documenting Obama (online version)

If those banner headlines (here and here) whetted your appetite, take a look at the way these online news websites handled Barack Obama's election triumph. (Thanks to the indispensable Mindy McAdams, and of course Gary Ritzenthaler, who did heroic work.)

PS. Mindy, as usual, is right. Iterasi's appeal seems irresistible.

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“Nery dabbles, as usual, on unfamiliar grounds.”

Hmm. A senator of the Republic is royally pissed off. In a Letter to the Editor published in the Inquirer yesterday, Joker Arroyo takes a swipe at both Neal Cruz and me, "two hacks-in-law of the Inquirer." It's a fun read.

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More banner headlines

More of the same, actually (I think the images Geoff Menegay pulled together all come from Newseum too). But his page loads much faster (it still takes a few minutes, though). And his mash-up look looks much better.

If I had been editing a US newspaper's front page, I would have toyed with either of the following headlines: "Oh-bama! "or "Yes, he did!" (It would have had to be a US newspaper; the second option wouldn't have worked in a Philippine setting.) Well, so much for original ideas. Many newspapers in Menegay's collection (which I stumbled on because of the redoubtable, and uncannily accurate, Votemaster at Electoral-vote.com) ran with the exact same headlines, down to the exclamation mark.

Picture 1 The Beaumont Enterprise of Beaumont, Texas, however, came up with a real beauty: "Race is history." Yes, in more senses than one. 

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Doro’s memoirs

Amando Doronila's memoirs span two volumes; the Inquirer and Anvil Publishing launched the first book, "Afro-Asia in Upheaval," on October 23. As with his 2002 bestseller, "The Fall of Joseph Estrada," it fell to me to choose excerpts from the first volume to run on the front page. It was, as before, an eye-opener.

Part 1: Sukarno joked as his regime crumbled

Part 2: A people uncowed by US bombs

Part 3: Johnson bullies Marcos in Manila summit

At the launch party, Vergel Santos and I agreed it would be a nifty idea to publish an oral history of veteran journalists, talking about how journalism was practiced in the old days. Yeah, just might work.

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Banner headlines

For the record: A sampling of newspaper front pages after Obama's predicted-but-still-improbable win. This one selected by the Columbia Journalism Review; this one, from the Newseum, courtesy of Andrew Sullivan's popular (and prescient) blog. I think I like the San Francisco Chronicle's take best:

 

CA_SFC

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Column: Expelling Catholics

Published on November 4, 2008

I received a forwarded email on Sunday purporting to explain “why being Catholic is not compatible with being pro-RH bill (contrary to the claim of 14 Atenean professors).” I was struck by the opening argument of the letter-writer, which described a false analogy. Call it misleading absolutism.

“To be an Atenean, a student must abide by the rules and regulations of the school, otherwise, Ateneo may expel any student found guilty of violating these, especially the major ones. It is unfortunate that 14 professors of the Ateneo do not apply the same principle to the Catholic Church.”

The analogy is false, because the professors did not in fact violate “the rules and regulations” of the Church in prayerfully discerning their position on the issue, and then acting on it. In fact, as even a cursory reading of the professors’ 16-page statement would show, they took extra pains to ground their reasoning on Church principles.

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Column: Why Obama has won

Published on October 28, 2008

I am not, of course, referring to next week’s US presidential contest—although I would wager that, in the aggregate, both the national and state polls are accurate and that Illinois Sen. Barack Obama would win the White House by over 300 electoral votes. Seven days is a long time in politics; something cataclysmic, a national-security November surprise, could still happen.

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Column: Lions of impeachment, tamed

Published on October 21, 2008

It was yet another disappointment to hear Sen. Joker Arroyo’s reaction, coursed through an overseas telephone call, to yet another pressing controversy: last Tuesday’s Supreme Court decision on the since-scuttled Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain (MOA-AD).

“For a decision with such far-reaching consequences, the high court was sharply divided, 8-7, and it could pose more problems in the future,” the human rights icon told the Inquirer. “A change of one vote would make the minority opinion the majority decision, and conversely, the minority decision would become a dissenting opinion.”

This view makes sense only if Arroyo had not read the 12 opinions on the case that cascaded out of the high court last week—and only if a “moot and academic” majority ruling would have necessarily declared the MOA-AD constitutional.

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Column: Terminal decadence

Published on October 14, 2008

Some time ago, Conrad de Quiros reintroduced a useful concept to public discourse: Jacques Barzun’s notion of “decadence.”

He began by quoting a key paragraph from Barzun’s epic survey of Western culture, “From Dawn to Decadence,” which painted a bleak landscape of routine meaninglessness. The paragraph’s conclusion: “When people accept futility and the absurd as normal, the culture is decadent. The term is not a slur; it is a technical label.”

My own understanding of decadence is terminal; that is to say, it involves endings. It has an end-of-days feel, but without the rapture.

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Column: Obama in Omaha; 2010 in 2010

Published on October 7, 2008

Note: A day after the US elections, the lone electoral vote of Omaha, Nebraska remains un-apportioned.

I share the Kapatiran Party’s central conviction that it is the Filipino Catholic’s moral obligation to get involved in politics. I do not agree with everything the party stands for; I happen to think, to give one example, that slowing down population growth, until we are better able to balance our population and our resources, is the radical Christian thing to do. But on the core belief that political engagement is a religious duty, or more precisely the duty of those who live by religious principles, there is no argument.

That is why I could barely contain my enthusiasm when I heard from Nandy Pacheco and Eric Manalang, party founder and president, respectively, about Program MMX. The program, which they presented to the bishops during Laity Week, is both an earnest of the party’s long-term ambition and proof of the party’s pragmatism.

What does the program set out to do? To field enough Kapatiran candidates for city and municipal council positions to win 2,010 seats in 2010.

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Meanwhile …

I spent entirely too much time on sites like this (politics as inside baseball) and this (the breakout online star of 2008) than was probably healthy, but I'm glad to know that old friend Gibbs Cadiz marked the milestone and spoke for me and many other Filipinos with his heartfelt Obama posts: here and here.

Coming up: a column dump (a whole month's worth).

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