Friday, November 30, 2007

The Aftermath

As you probably know, the siege of the Manila Peninsula is over. If you have no idea what I'm talking about, read about it here.

So after all their posturing and bravado, these idiots surrendered after a whiff of teargas and a 50mm cannon pointed at their asses. They say it's to protect the civilians and the journalists-- if they're really concerned and ready to fight, they should have prevented those civilians from being there in the first place. They say they never intended to fight-- then why march down the streets with guns brandished? They say they only wanted to be heard-- last I checked, weapons, armbands, and fatigues were not prerequisites for a presscon. They should be honest that they surrendered because they saw there was no groundswell of support for their pathetic and idiotic little adventure. They wanted to launch a revolution, and they were embarrassingly shunned. Boohoo, no one wanted to attend their sad, sad party.

As I write this, Metro Manila is in the middle of a 12mn-5am curfew. Payday preceeding a three-day weekend and the bars are closed by 10pm. What really riles me is that these idiots just gave GMA the perfect reason to impose this sort of thing. If she tried this yesterday the whole country would be up in arms; because of these idiots, people are accommodating and understanding.

What doesn't topple GMA only makes her stronger. Thanks a lot, idiots.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

What brave men they are

Senator and ex-Navy Lieutenant Senior Grade Antonio Trillanes IV has vowed to stay at the Manila Peninsula hotel "as long as necessary".

Oh the humanity! How much more suffering to these soldiers have to endure? Their sheets have been there for half a day already, and the cordon bleu chef has left the kitchen. Why should we let them suffer in such indignity? They only walked out of their trial to defend the constitution-- why do we punish them by making them stay at an airconditioned hotel? With soft mattresses and fluffy pillows. Why do they have to suffer such pain and hardships? Isn't it enough that they braved through the fountain to get to the revolving door?

Oh, how they suffer.

Idiots, all of them! Idiots!

As of this posting, read the latest here, here, and here.

I'm sick and tired of these smiley-smiley passive-aggressive confrontations. These idiots should just plan their coup properly and shoot it out already. At least Honasan had the smarts to plan his adventurism and the balls to shoot it out-- he even got to fire rockets at Malacanang! All these idiots do is barricade themselves in posh hotels and order room service. Do they want to stage a coup in airconditioned rooms? Gravel and asphalt not soft enough? "Today a hotel, tomorrow the world!" Come on, if you're gonna attempt to topple the government at least do it properly with more than a prayer's chance of success. No wonder Honasan publicly disowns you guys.

Idiots too these civil society groups and bishops who join in. They're saying this is a "spontaneous" event-- do they think we're fucking stupid? "Oh, we just happened to be in Makati with these banners and press releases when they were marching through." They can "spontaneously" combust for all I care. And look at their logic-- the government is violating the constitution, so let's use unconstitutional means to topple it. What the fuck?!?

The cops and military should just grab these people and haul them in jail, guns blazing if need be. These idiots have the gall to do this stunt because they know the cops and the military will be too pussy to do anything about it-- well prove them wrong, goddammit! Evacuate the hotel and gas them out! You can do it to unarmed people marching towards Mendiola, why not do it to armband-wearing armed putschists and their cohorts? Grab these idiots and lock them up in your camps-- you've had enough practice with students and farmers anyway.

Don't get me wrong-- the GMA administration is sleazy, corrupt, and morally bankrupt. (No news here, bishops. Don't beat yourselves with press releases of things we already know.) But there's only one thing worse than the GMA administration, and that's sleazy, corrupt, and morally bankrupt idiots who stage coups.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Ninoy must be rolling; Covetousness, Marx, and the WGA strike

It's so good when you can make a commentary just by juxtaposing quotes:

"I am not against the granting of a pardon to persons who deserve it. However, people who have refused to accept their guilt and have shown no contrition for the crime they committed do not deserve pardon."
-- Sen. Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino III, on the pardoning of ex-Sgt. Pablo Martinez who has been in jail for 24 years for the murder of former Sen. Benigno "Ninoy" Aquino, Jr.

"I am happy for former president Joseph Ejercito Estrada and his family. I pray that as a free man, former president Estrada will harness the lessons he had learned from the sufferings he had endured and continue to serve our less fortunate brothers and sisters."
-- Former Pres. Corazon "Cory" Aquino, on the pardoning of former Pres. Joseph "Erap" Estrada barely a month after his conviction for plunder.


On less idiotic and irritating news, it seems brain scans have shown that relative wealth (i.e., your wealth as compared with those around you) is a more important determinant of happiness than wealth level (i.e., what you can actually buy). This comes as no surprise to anyone who has envied someone else's stuff, or boasted one's wealth and watched others salivate in envy. However, this is an area in which mainstream economics still has to catch up.

Take any microeconomics textbook and you'll find that the utility(i.e., happiness) function, U(.), is defined as U(X, L) where X is a vector of goods and services and L is leisure time (sometimes L is even left out). In the Becker-type altruism models, you get U(X, L, V) where V(X, L) is some other person's utility. However, I have not seen a utility function that explicitly takes into account the impact of covetousness on utility. That part of utility that makes people want to get one over the other guy. This might sound crass and brutish, but, if you think about it, homo economicus is supposed to the paragon of selfish behaviour, so why not extend the description?

Among the early economic theorists, it was Marx who came closest to this concept of covetousness, albeit among classes rather than individuals. He acknowledged that it is possible for the material condition of workers and peasants to improve under the capitalist mode of production; however, their material improvement comes at the expense of their social position because the capitalists get rich even faster. This was confirmed by Kuznets (and lots of other later economists), who observed that economic growth exacerbates inequality-- everyone gets richer, but the rich get a bigger share than the poor.

Which brings us to the Writers' Guild of America strike, which has deprived me of my daily dose of The Daily Show with Jon Stewart and Late Nights with Conan O'Brien. It's a classic problem of splitting the pie-- the writers want a bigger share of the proceeds from their labour than the producers are willing to give. Eventually they will have to settle, but only after relative bargaining strengths have been determined.

I really hope the writers win this one, but chances are they'll get a small fraction of what they're asking for. The producers have time and options on their side, and eventually some of the starving writers (and not-so-starving writers like Ellen DeGeneres) will break the picket line and go back to work.

I think a better strategy for WGA would have been to conduct their strike one network at a time. Say, begin with CBS and close down all CBS shows but keep, say, NBC running. Ratings, along with advertisers, will flock to NBC and strike fear into CBS producers' hearts, making them likely to give in to the writers' demands. After CBS comes Fox, ABC, NBC, etc., all falling one after the other. It is the threat of advertiser flight that scares these producers, not work stoppage. The writers mistakenly believed that the product of networks is shows. The product of networks is advertising airtime; the shows are just there to attract ratings. By simultaneously stopping work all the networks were equally affected by the writers' strike, so there was no ensuing advertiser flight. For producers, it is relative position that matters in attracting advertising dollars, something that the WGA missed.

Which brings us back to the article on brain scans.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Very Bad Taste

Before everything, I would like to convey my condolences to the Saguisag family. They truly suffered a terrible and unimaginable loss.

I'll go straight to the point-- the Inquirer's front page today (9 November 2007) is in very bad taste. It's so bad that I think it crosses into the unethical.

Just yesterday, dr.sbdink and I were discussing another article on the accident posted at GMA News. He felt that the treatment of the story was voyeuristic; i.e., that details such as "dragged Saguisag's van by 20 to 30 meters" or "The van was crushed" were unnecessary. I took a different view-- details on the strength of impact were needed to give a complete picture. I thought those details were valid in an article reporting an accident, although I have reservations about the style of the writer (there's a reason why obituaries are separate from the news).

On the other hand, the Inquirer front page crossed the line by publishing the bodies of the dead and injured. What value does that serve in the article other than pure voyeurism? The accident picture showing the impact would have been enough-- why did they have to publish slumped bodies and shocked victims?

Publishing pictures of the dead, dying, or injured is an ethical tightrope. Even during wartime, when the horrors and evils of war are the story, it isn't an easy decision whether or not to publish these kinds of images. Editors have to ask themselves whether publishing those images is necessary, and weigh two sometimes opposing forces-- what the public needs to know vs. the dignity of the dead, dying, or injured. In war, sometimes the public does need to see in stark red how horrifying the situation is, but in an accident? Does the public really need to see that? And did the Inquirer editors even consider for a moment how the Saguisags would feel to see their slumped mother published on the front page of a national broadsheet?

Now compare this treatment to another tragic accident-- the death of Princess Dianna in 1997. Photos of a dying Princess Diana were taken and offered to various papers, but no tabloid dared publish them even ten years after the fact (they were eventually shown only in court). Dianna deserves more respect than that, and her family doesn't need to see her dying image in the corner newsstand.

Even for the British tabloid press, known for its crass sensationalism and voyeruism, some ethical lines should not be crossed.