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Friday, September 28, 2012

And That's Just The Local News

...(T)he only thing left to do is shout -- not moan, or complain, but yell out at the top of your voice whatever it was you had to say. What you've never said before. What perhaps you don't even know till now--Jean Anouilh

Two news articles made me think of the quoted passage above.

This bill—the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012—was passed in the Philippine Senate that Senator Guingona is trying to amend.
The article quoted Senator Guingona as saying, “Without a clear definition of the crime of libel and the persons liable, virtually any person can now be charged with a crime—even if you just like, retweet or comment on an online update or blog post containing criticisms.”

What is alarming is that the Presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda agrees with the bill.
They find nothing wrong with it. 


Senator Tito Soto (the unapologetic plagiarizer nonpareil) apparently had a hand in the inclusion of libel in the Cybercrime bill; the good senator helpfully informed reporters that, “Libel is a crime. What do you think it is?”

What chutzpah!

A world of butthurt is what he must have felt against “netizens”—after all, if not for these people, his plagiarizing ways would not be exposed.
It’s because of them that the name sotto is now synonymous with copying other people’s works. At least here in this corner of the world. 

Payback time, you beeyatches!!

I can just picture him gloating.
And thanking the Good Lord that he has the power to punish those who dare criticize him. 

It did not occur to the senator and to the president and his people that censorship has never been effective in silencing critics, which, given the president’s background, is supremely ironic.
Two other senators, according to this article, are seeking to amend this breathtakingly stupid law. 

I hope they succeed, but I won’t bet on it.

The Chief Justice of the Supreme Court—an appointee of the President—has publicly declared that her appointment is from God.
Whether she thinks Aquino is God Himself is anybody’s guess. 

No wonder these people think they can get away with anything.

Speaking of God, the second article is equally, if not more, revolting.

Charismatic group rallies behind sacked ‘ivory’ priest

Besides being linked to the illegal ivory trade, the monsignor is also accused of molesting altar boys twenty years ago. The Vatican had in fact suspended him from his position in the Archdiocese of Cebu, even before his involvement in the ivory trade was exposed.

The molestation charges were denied by the monsignor, saying that it was in fact him who was seduced and raped by those nasty boys.

Words, they fail me.

True to the revolting nature of these news articles, we find that a religious “charismatic” group has been holding prayer vigils for the priest.

Maybe it's just me, but I could not muster an iota of sympathy for this priest.
A flaw in my character, I know.

The leader of this group was quoted in the article as saying that, “Personally, between 1,000 accusations and one word of Monsignor Cris [Garcia], I still believe in Monsignor Cris.”

Oy vey, as the Yiddish expression says.

This seems an appropriate time to lie down and assume the fetal position while sucking one’s thumb. 
Or ask Futurama's Professor Farnsworth if we could go with him:

Friday, September 14, 2012

Hammurabi's Babylon

              After the Sumerians and the Akkadians, another group of Semitic people from the deserts of Arabia arrived in Mesopotamia around 1900 BC and built the first Babylonian empire.
              The new arrivals built upon the prevailing culture in the area, which was Sumerian. Led by Hammurabi, the Babylonians made the first collection of laws in history, the famous ‘Code of Hammurabi.”
The "Code"on a clay tablet

              The code had a stern sense of justice, and the principle of “eye for an eye” was advocated here. Punishment for criminals was usually death. 
Hammurabi consolidated and united the Babylonians in building a mighty empire. He improved irrigation, and organized a well-trained army. Temples were repaired, and he promoted the chief Babylonian god Marduk over older Sumerian gods. The Babylonians also added to the knowledge of astronomy, advanced the knowledge of mathematics, and built the first great capital city, Babylon.
Marduk, the Babylonian sun god.

Hammurabi established a strong central government in ancient Babylonia, and with its written laws, was deemed fair to its citizens. The government was so effective that the Romans copied it centuries later, with the same form of central government.
Economy was controlled solely by the government, and there were no privately owned businesses. The king appointed priests, who were answerable to him, to control the economy. Hammurabi also built roads, which made it easier for citizens to travel and trade. In addition, the roads made it easier for the king’s soldiers to enforce the laws. While the Sumerians had city-states and were often at war with each other, the Babylonians had one central government, with cities united under one strong king. The Code of Hammurabi was the one unifying factor in ancient Babylonia.
Hammurabi (standing) depicted here receiving his royal insignia from Shamash

The code also provided for the protection of traders and buyers (especially the buyers). We can say that Hammurabi also enacted the first consumer protection laws; responsibility on both sides (buyer and seller) was required by law. If either of them was dissatisfied with the result, the government could be called in to settle the dispute.
Taxation was handled by the Grand Vizier, who was the most important of the official dignitaries. Taxes in ancient Babylon were not as high as taxes in Egypt under the Pharaohs. In Egypt, they used taxes to build enormous buildings like the Pyramids. Babylonian taxes were used mostly to support their own citizens, and to pay for government workers.
Three classes represented Babylonian society: the awilu, a free person of the upper class, the wardu, or slave, and the mushkenu, a free person of low estate, who was legally placed between the awilu and the wardu. Slaves were mostly prisoners of war, but a number were recruited from the citizenry as well.
The basic unit of the Babylonian society was the family. Women had important legal rights; she could own properties and engage in business. The husband could divorce his wife for any reason, especially if she had not borne him any children. Children were under the authority of their parents, and could inherit property. However, a man can sometimes sell his own children as slaves if things got a little tight at home. Generally, Babylonian children were well loved by their parents.
Much of the Babylonians’ technology was inherited from the Sumerians, particularly in irrigation and agriculture. Considerable engineering skills were needed to maintain the various canals, dikes, and reservoirs left behind by the Sumerians. They had to use maps, surveys, plans, and do calculations to govern agriculture effectively. They used the mathematical system devised by the Sumerians, which was based on the number 6, not 10. They used almanacs and a reliable calendar, all of which were first developed by the Sumerians.  

Babylonians were also skilled in metallurgy, in preparation of paints, dyes, cosmetics, and perfumes. There were also provisions in the Code about surgeons, suggesting that they also made progress in the field of medicine.
The Sumerian system of education was also adopted by the Babylonians, with schools serving as the empire’s cultural centers. Students had to learn cuneiform, and they had to do a lot of copying and memorizing textbooks and Sumero-Babylonian dictionaries, which were composed primarily of lists of words and phrases and names of trees, animals, birds, insects, countries, cities, villages, and minerals. Students then also had to learn mathematics and literature. Literature for the Babylonians meant the Mesopotamian myths, epics, hymn, proverbs, and essays.
            Cities in ancient Babylonia resemble today’s villages in Middle East. Many houses were built of mud bricks, and stood only one-storey high. No windows faced the street, and rooms were arranged around an inner courtyard. One of the rooms could be devoted to the gods.
            The Babylonian civilization lasted from the 18th century BC until the 6th century BC. The city and its culture remained intact despite being conquered by various kingdoms. It continued to be regarded as a center for learning and culture even by its conquerors.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

The Joke's On Us

Image is from here.

Funny, but unfortunately the joke's on the voters. But I guess it’s true what they say—we get the leaders we deserve. 
After all, it’s the people who are responsible for putting men and women like these in power.

Reminds me a little of Senator Tito Sotto, (incidentally also a TV comedian) who shamelessly copied parts of his privilege speech from bloggers and is apparently unapologetic about it. He seems to be oblivious of the ethics involve in such matters. 
If he were a student who copied word-for-word some parts of his assignment from the internet, he might get in trouble with his teacher, but that's about it.

But he’s a Senator, for Christ’s sake. So yes, we do have a bit of a situation.

The trouble is, the Senator does not even realize the sordidness and the tackiness of his actions. In his mind, he should not even have to apologize--although his aide made an apology of a sort to the blogger, however lame the apology was.

The Senator, rather peevishly, said: “Why would I copy from a blogger? She’s just a blogger.” He had also disingenuously presented himself as a victim of cyber-bullying, the poor dear. 

His chief of staff, meanwhile, piously declared that what they did was not plagiarism per se, since there are no provisions in this country’s laws that penalize anyone who copied from the internet.  
Smart lawyer, that one. His professors in law school must be very proud of him.

Read about the whole sordid tale here.

But wait, there's more. 
The Senator apparently did it again during another speech in the Senate; this time, he copied parts of Robert F. Kennedy’s speech, and translated them directly into Filipino. When some sharp-eyed “netizen” (the Senator and his staff must be sick of these people) notices this, the Senator said, in his usual classy manner, “Why, did Kennedy know Tagalog?” 
Gee whiz, Senator. How hard could it be to provide attribution? Or maybe, I don't know--cite your sources?--instead of giving the impression that you yourself (or that brilliant staff of yours) came up with those ideas? That sort of thing doesn't work anymore.
We have the Internet now, remember? 

It makes me cringe, just thinking about the whole thing. I am embarrassed for him, really.

Meanwhile, the country’s newly-appointed Chief Justice is telling people that her appointment is from God Himself

Perhaps she is referring to the current President (who was actually the one who appointed her, and who, by the way, also consulted God on whether he should run for President or not), or maybe Thor; but I don't think so. She actually means the Judeo-Christian god.  

The whole thing is surreal.

They use God a lot, don’t they? It is very handy for those in power to claim that God is on their side.

As Seneca said, "Religion is regarded by the common people as true, by the wise as false, and by the rulers as useful."

If the people who are tasked with important decisions that affect millions of people are like these, then we are royally--in the words of Leonard Hofstadter--"attached to another object by an inclined plane, wrapped helically around an axis."

What should people do, when they have leaders like these?
Probably wait for the next elections to vote for a new batch of jokers out there--of which we seem to have an unlimited supply.

I don't know, maybe we do deserve them.
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