Monday, August 31, 2009

Update On The Randy Stirm Boat Situation III

I found Randy and Cherry a place to stay in Cagayan De Oro, so they aren't shelling out money for a hotel every night anymore. I talked with Randy, and he told me that he almost has his small fishing boat (the one whose engine was damaged while towing the larger boat away from Gingoog) completely repaired and ready to get back to work.

Randy also told me that he looked through photos he had taken on his phone on that day in Gingoog and found some "really incriminating" stuff... important people doing stuff that will get them in trouble or something — Randy wasn't very specific.

Normally, the Stirm's case like this against a government like Gingoog would never stand a chance of getting anywhere. The denials and stonewalling and coverups would simply be a complete blanket that would smother the entire process in its infancy. However, the Stirm's case is special simply because of the massive amount of video (and photographic) evidence that Randy and his wife took while this entire event was occurring. In other words, the Stirm's case actually has an abnormally high chance of winning.

Just a thought, but perhaps the ubiquitous nature of mobile phones with video cameras in The Philippines may wind up being the best tool for fighting the endemic corruption here. The prospect... and practice... that any malversation is being recorded might be enough to stifle official misconduct, or at least provide its victims enough evidence to prosecute it.

Also, below is another article from Herbie, and thanks to writer Mark Francisco for letting me post it.
Capitol would help Stirms if couple seeks help, says exec
By MARK FRANCISCO

The capitol said it would help the couple who complained about alleged abuses committed against them in Gingoog city if they sought the provincial government’s help.

A capitol official said the couple, Randy Stirm and his Filipino wife Cherry, could bring their complaint to the provincial government so it could task its legal department to look into their case.

The American and his wife, residents of Jasaan town, Misamis Oriental, have earlier threatened to wage a legal battle against Gingoog city hall officials, the local fisheries office and Navy and police personnel for allegedly holding and damaging their over P2-million fishing boat last Aug. 14. The couple alleged that they were harassed over trump-up charges.

Gingoog is a component city of Misamis Oriental province.

The couple said Navy personnel in Gingoog fired at the fishing boat at least 18 times and local fisheries officers, who did not identify themselves, searched the boat without a warrant.

The operations were made on orders of Gingoog Mayor Ruthie Guingona and it was Vice Mayor Marlon Kho who "called the shots", alleged the couple.

Guingona has admitted that she ordered a multisectoral group to stop big fishing boats operating on Gingoog waters.

Kho, for his part, strongly denied having a hand in the Aug. 14 operations. The vice mayor said he was in Manila at that time, but the Stirms maintained that Kho should be held responsible and that they even personally talked with him.

Provincial attorney Imelda Marie Beltran said she has yet to look into the Stirms case but she said an administrative complaint against the local officials could be brought to the Civil Service Commission (CSC), the Office of the Ombudsman or the Presidential Anti-Graft Commission (PAGC).

Beltran said alleged abuses done in connection with the functions of government officials and employees would be looked into by these agencies.

Expats' Ladies Charities Visits Bethany Orphanage

Epril went today with the other Expatriates' Ladies Charity members to Bukidnon Province to visit the the Bethany Christian Home for Children, bringing donations of clothes, milk, rice — and of course lollipops — for the orphans. Bethany was founded by American nurse Louise Lynip in 1950, but she was caring for the local population in Bukidnon even during the Japanese occupation of World War 2. She cared for orphaned children all the way up to her death in 2007 at the age of 94.

Here is video of Mr. Jim Cunningham, Bethany's current director, giving a talk about the history of the orphanage, it's current operation, and its plans for the future.


In the photo below, are some of the adorable and needy children living at Bethany.

Of course, Epril immediately latched onto the cutest little girl, and she wouldn't let her go until the other ELCI ladies finally dragged her back to the van to go home later in the afternoon.

Actually, being a couple interested in having children, Epril and I are now pondering the possibility of adoption from an orphanage here... maybe even Bethany. We haven't gotten past the contemplative stage yet, but we are going to start looking into the process. We'll keep you updated on that... I'm sure it's not a simple process.

Anyway, like any charity, Bethany Christian Home For Children relies on your donations to function. Please look here for contact information so that you can donate assistance to these children, or contact Daisy Kline, President of Expatriates' Ladies Charity for more immediate access to the opportunity to do some good.

WoWoWee Taped In CDO and 50,000 Attend

National hit variety show WoWoWee was taped in Cagayan De Oro yesterday, and 50,000 people showed up for the program. Interestingly, suspended host Willie Revillame was the one to compere the event. Speculation that the still-popular TV host might be using an event like this as a stepping stone to a political campaign was also voiced.

Willie was suspended after making remarks about Corazon Aquino's funeral on his TV show: He voiced on the air his objections to a "split screen" broadcast of his wacky and whimsical show alongside Aquino's (obviously somber) funeral cortege. Of course, he was right, that ABS-CBN putting his show side-by-side with a funeral was stupid... but Willie said it exactly the wrong way: He basically said that the TV station shouldn't be showing Aquino's funeral alongside his funny show (making it seem as if he thought his show to be the more important); he should have said that the TV station shouldn't be showing his funny show alongside Aquino's funeral.

Willie is a nice guy, but a political career — a Senate Seat — for somebody who misspeaks that badly? Hmm. Well, The Philippines did elect the actor Joseph Estrada to be their president and (after impeachment, being tossed out of office, and sentenced to life in prison for corruption... and makes it onto lists of The Most Corrupt Politicians In History) may incredibly be elected President again, it is obvious that The Philippines has priorities for their elected officials that can be a bit difficult to fathom.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Daily Report: Shooting The Breeze

I didn't do much today... mostly sat around and watched TV and played video games.

I had some paint shipped to me here in The Philippines in a friend's balakbayan box. It's that special color-shifting paint that goes from purple to green depending on the angle that you are looking at it. I'm going to paint the Motorstar motorcycle with it. I'm also trying to find some copper-chrome paint to buy as well so that I can paint the highlights to look like shiny copper metal. Who knows? If I put enough money and time into the bike, maybe I can eventually sell it for what I paid for it.

Epril went out shooting today. Epril and I are starting to feel left out: Almost every American we know... and his Filipina wife... is a handgun enthusiast. Add to that the fact that The Philippine Eagles (which I joined recently) could probably list "sport shooting" as one of its top 3 raisons d'etre, and we're thinking that it is probably time to keep up with the Joneses...

...or at least I think so. Epril got to the firing range today with every intention of becoming the next Annie Oakley, was handed a pistol by Eve VanOrden, and nearly pissed herself out of anxiety: No shots fired. Maybe next time though, she says.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Daily Report: I'm Stuffed

Another ineffectual day of work. I need to get started earlier, work straight through lunch, and then I can eff-off in the afternoon.

In the evening it was out to dinner at Spooks. Mike Bird (henceforth known solely as "Bird", as he prefers) and Emelyn were there for the first time ever. Bird really shuns the nightlife when he is in The Philippines, preferring to sequester himself and his family in his riparian bamboo existence out in the jungle, save for the occasional chores and shopping and appointments. The reason they were there tonight was because they were staying at the hotel across the street, so that they could catch an early-morning ferry to the island of Bohol for a few days' vacation. Randy and Cherry Stirm were there to, out from their secret location in Cagayan De Oro, where they still are keeping their heads down after the death threats.

Epril and I usually don't eat the buffet at Spooks. I can get my 180 pisos worth... or close to it, but Epril couldn't eat 180 pisos of food at one sitting if it were Kobi steak. Bah... I should stop bitching: $3.50 for an all-you-can-eat buffet... and I'm calculating whether my Sunshine is getting her money's worth. Sorry.

The food on Spooks buffet — as I said, I haven't had it in a while — is really quite good. I started off with 5 or 6 chicken skewers brushed with a nice tangy barbeque sauce. Then there was strips of pork in a brown gravy on top of little balls of what are simply the best mashed potatoes ever. I had 4 plates of that. From there, it was on to "chicken cordon bleu nuggets"... bite sized versions of the famous dish — had about 12 of them. After that was a very nice fruit salad with bits of that local version of Velveeta, the white-colored "Eden" cheese mixed in. Three servings of that. (There were some other dishes too that I didn't try: Vegetables, pancit/pasta are the ones I can remember.)

Hell... I ate enough that between Epril and I, we got our 360 pisos worth.

After that it was back on the motorcycle home to Jasaan. Epril doesn't like riding on the motorcycle with me much. It makes her nervous. She is funny though, because she has no ability to judge speed: Sometimes I hunch down over the handlebars in my "aerodynamic pose", and Epril immediately starts poking me in the side, shouting "Slow down!" I look down at the speedometer and we are only going 60 kph (45 mph). Other times, I'll be driving along at 90 kph (60 mph), but in a sitting-up-and-relaxed position, and Epril will be as happy as a clam... or at least as happy as a clam who would rather not be on a motorcycle at all. The thing I don't understand is that back when we were in Thailand, I often went down the highway at 120 kph (80 mph), and Epril never complained about it then. (Perhaps all the cars buzzing by us at 140 kph was the reason.)

This weekend is the City of Jasaan's birthday. So all kinds of events are planned. After getting back from Spooks, we stopped by the town plaza near the house tonight and wandered around. All of the barangays (neighborhoods) had pretty little nipa huts up showing civic pride. Our "home" barangay of Kimaya (we live in the barangay of Upper Jassan, but Epril's family lives in Kimaya) had the nicest little bamboo pavilion of them all, with a collection of aubergines, ginger, and beans, and (naturally, since that is where the port is) a fish tank with the local fauna swimming about).

Finally, it was home where I played with Tyson a bit, and then went to bed.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

I Always Thought This Might Be A Good Business

Old car restorations are becoming popular in Cagayan De Oro.

Car import taxes are based on age and engine size. You could go to America, buy an old 1940's or 1950's car with no engine for very low cost and ship it to The Philippines for very low taxes, set up a low-cost and high-skill restoration facility here to do a ground up restoration, have the parts fabricated by hand, or shipped from America (including a new engine), and then ship a show-ready sedan or roadster or hot rod off to clients in China, Singapore, Indonesia, or even back in America or Europe for a very healthy profit... say, 1 million pisos per car?

Just a thought. Not my thing personally, but I'll put it out there as a freebee for anyone who wants to do it.

On second thought, a 1972 Corvette Convertible (I like black, with pipes, thank you) sold to me below cost will be a fair trade off if you take my idea and make a fortune with it.

Question

If Obama's new healthcare plan ("Medicare for all", I call it) is implemented, would it cover me here The Philippines?

If that cannot yet be directly ascertained... and that may likely be the case... then lets just focus on Medicare and assume that "Obamacare" will follow the same rulebook: Are any of you taking advantage of Medicare while here in The Philippines, and if so, what does it involve?

Oh. Nope: No Medicare for people living outside of The United States... so probably no Obamacare either.

Update On The Randy Stirm Boat Situation II

Okay readers, I went all Walter Winchell on your asses and interviewed Randy by phone and asked every question I could ask and got every answer I could imagine. Here is the nitty gritty:

(1) Randy is charged with illegal fishing by using active fishing gear (nets on winches, apparently) in municipal waters. However, Randy says that this is a charge that can only be brought against foreign-owned fishing vessels. Randy's boat is Filipino-owned, and therefore he says that charge has no merit. When Randy shows up in court with his Filipino father-in-law, and papers showing that his father-in-law owns the boat (Randy never went out on the boat, only his wife), the case will be dismissed.

(2) There are no charges placed for Randy having stolen back his boat from the lumber mill where it was taken, because the city of Gingoog never gave a receipt or any kind of impound papers for taking the boat in the first place. Therefore the boat was never "officially" impounded. (I guess the City of Gingoog realized that these charges would never stick, so they never went after them.) Gold Star Daily's information was apparently mistaken in this aspect.

(3) Now comes the fun part: Randy's boat was never even fishing in Gingoog waters. When the Navy first boarded his vessel, evidently they gave Cherry (Randy's wife, on board) a receipt... an accurate/official one... noting that it was boarded in a place called Magsaysay, more than 20 kilometers away from Gingoog waters. He still has this receipt. When the Navy provided a copy of that receipt to the official record, or whatever, Randy says the receipt had been changed to read Gingoog.

(4) Just to be a prick about it, Randy's lawyer is going to be filing all charges against the Gingoog government in the court in Davao, on the southern tip of the island of Mindanao. (Apparently this is allowed.) Then, every time there is a court hearing, practically the entire city government of Gingoog will have to ride 8 hours each way across the entire island of Mindanao to attend court.

Okay class. Any questions?

p.s. If you'll notice, I've got a "Randy Stirm" tag on all of these blog posts now, so that you can click on that link (or click here) and it will display all of the articles about Randy in order. If you are linking to my blog about Randy, this is the link I would recommend that you use from now on.

Daily Report: Goodbad Day, Goodbad Movie

I've been having a lame week of work so far. Ugh. For the record, my job is now almost 100% speech recognition, which means that I'm getting paid two-thirds what I used to for essentially the same amount of work. Plus I don't have overtime anymore. Plus the new software is slower than the old software which means I couldn't do the same amount of work I used to do even if I wanted to. Essentially, I'm working about 25% harder than I was 2 years ago and making only about 40% as much money.

In the evening Epril and I went over to Mike Bird's house and hung out for a while. We're going to try opening a little pizza stand out front of our house to bring in a bit of spare cash in these lean times. If that goes well, maybe next Spring when I get my tax refuned, we'll move to a proper storefront location.

Mike loaned me a movie tonight called "Knowing" with Nicolas Cage. I had never heard of it. (Being in The Philippines, there are no movies advertised on TV — or at least I never see them — so even blockbusters can slip by completely unnoticed.) I enjoy it when I watch a decent movie with absolutely no idea beforehand what it will be about.

I enjoyed the movie quite a bit, although the plane crash scene was simply the most awful thing to watch. There are gruesome and gory scenes in movies, which just make you cringe and say ewww, and then there are accurate depictions of awfulness and suffering which will actually give you nightmares. Anyway, I thought the end of the movie was cool, but obviously the scientists give it a thumbs down.

Update On The Randy Stirm Boat Situation

Randy told me today that the Gingoog City Government has finally filed charges against him: Only one charge actually, the use of "active fishing gear" in munincipal waters. I'm not sure exactly what that means, but Randy gave me the impression he wasn't arguing with it. It's apparently only a 1,000 pisos fine or so... not the 2-million piso fine that the Gingoog folks were allegedly going to impose on Randy at the dock a couple of weeks ago.

(Note that Randy's claim is in contradiction to Gold Star Daily's statement in today's article below that states that Randy was charged with "alleged illegal fishing and for taking back the fishing boat that was seized by authorities".)

One commenter in another post said Randy was also guilty of using a "superlight" to attract fish. Randy denies this, and the lack of any mention of such charges against him — either by Randy or in the Sun Star article — would seem to support his position, since it would seem an obvious charge if that were the case. (Perhaps the "illegal fishing" charge is a coverall inclusive of several individual charges, I don't know... I just pass along what I am told.)

Randy interviewed with The Manila Inquirer today, and is going to meet with Mayor Jaraula of Cagayan De Oro, and I guess several human rights groups are interested in hearing his story. Also, Randy and Cherry were on "TV Patrol", the ABS-CBN local news broadcast, last night. The video is online, but cannot be embedded, and is all in Visayan, and is at the 20-minute point of a 30-minute broadcast, so... click here and figure things out ("Cagayan / 08/26/09") if you want to see for yourself.

Here is today's article from Gold Star Daily, as always with thanks to Herbie and Jigger for letting me post it in full.
Gingoog officials have filed a complaint against American Randy Stirm, his wife and the crew of FB Cherry 1 for alleged illegal fishing and for taking back the fishing boat that was seized by authorities on the waters off eastern Misamis Oriental.

Gingoog Mayor Ruthie Guingona yesterday said this even as she confirmed that she ordered big fishing boats that enter Gingoog Bay seized.

The order was for a group composed of the Bantay Dagat, Gingoog Bay Alliance, Navy and the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR), among others, to protect Gingoog’s small-time fisherfolk.

Guingona admitted to being the chairperson of the Gingoog Bay Alliance, a group which Stirm accused of wanting to establish a monopoly in the area.

He said the group was partly responsible for the Aug. 14 incident.

Stirm said the alliance is neither registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) nor the Cooperative Development Authority (CDA).

Guingona said Gingoog’s small fisherfolk have long been complaining because they were supposedly being harassed by armed people on big fishing boats. She said fishermen have complained that they were fired at.

She said the illegal fishing operations were being made at the expense of Gingoog fisherfolk.

Guingona said complaints against the Stirms and their crew were filed before the Gingoog city prosecutor’s office. The complaint was docketed as X-07-INZ-09H-0000304.

Prosecutor Constancio Collera was reportedly tasked to handle the complaint.

A preliminary investigation has been scheduled at 2 pm on Sept. 7 and a subpoena is expected to be served anytime soon.

Guingona said big fishing boats are only allowed to fish beyond 15 kilometers from the shore.

What happened, she said, is that big fishing boats would enter the restricted area to fish.

"Some of these fishing boats come from Oroquieta, Jasaan, Camiguin, and even as far as Cebu," she said.

Guingona said the Navy, with the help of the Bantay Dagat, seized Stirm’s fishing boat last Aug. 14 because the American had no permit to fish, an allegation strongly denied by Stirm.

Stirm has maintained that his boat is registered and that he has a government permit to fish in the "Bohol Sea".

According to an online version of the Encyclopedia Britannica (britannica.com), Bohol Sea, also called Mindanao Sea, is an area measuring about 170 miles that includes Mindanao, Leyte, Bohol, Cebu, and Negros.

Aside from violation of some fishery laws, Guingona said, the Stirms also face a complaint for taking their fishing boat back.

Guingona said the boat became like a "government property" the moment it was seized.

The Stirms have earlier threatened to sue Gingoog officials, local fisheries, Navy and police personnel for the alleged illegal seizure of FB Cherry 1. They claimed the over P2-million boat was in bad shape when they retrieved it.

Stirm said the Navy fired at least 18 shots at the boat and authorities searched and took it without a warrant. He said authorities who did not properly identify themselves searched for firearms but found none.

Guingona said she was unfazed by the threat of a lawsuit. "We are ready to face them (in court) because they violated several laws," she said.
As I said in comments in the other blog post, my gut instinct is that The Philippines should keep local waters for local fishermen (and I know nothing, so feel free to convince me otherwise, but don't expect me to argue my position with facts... it's just my feeling), and I neither support nor condemn, agree with nor dispute Randy or any actions that he may have taken that led to his problems... only the treatment and extrajudicial law that he faced as a result of his actions. Randy faced the maritime equivalent of getting pulled over by a police officer, and having the police officer insist on destroying his car right there at the side of the road. Obviously that's wrong, and the people in Gingoog were wrong too.

(Click here for all blog posts related to Randy Stirm's situation.)

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Law of Convenience, Wrong Then, Wrong Now

Back in 2004, the heavily Democratic state legislature of Massachusetts created a law that stated that any Congressional vacancy must be filled by a special election... not by an interim gubernatorial appointee. This was done because the Massachusetts Democrats didn't want the then-governor, Republican Mitt Romney, appointing a Republican to the U.S. Senate if/when Senator John Kerry won the 2004 Presidential Election, creating a vacancy.

Bad law, but okay.

Now, in 2009, Democrats are considering repeal of the law so that the now-governor, Democrat Deval Patrick, can immediately appoint a pro-healthcare interim Senator to fill the recently-deceased Ted Kennedy's Senate seat and ensure a possibly/probably critical vote in favor of Obama's healthcare plan.

Bad law... and not okay.

I disagree with a partisan political body creating a law for their own benefit, but I particularly disgree with that same partisan political body repealing that law once the threat to their hegemony is gone... or even/especially when their own law winds up threatening the very hegemony they sought to protect with the law in the first place.

To quote the British: That's just not cricket.

Yup, I'm Still A Fan

So who's best positioned to lead the protesters into the next presidential election? Whispers asked a dozen GOP and conservative leaders to come up with a top 10 list. First, Rep. Ron Paul, popular among the town hallers.
If you can get yourself past the nuts and marshmallows of this Rocky Road Texan, he's the best conservative (in the Constitutional Literalist sense... not the Jesus + Torture = Freedom sense) in America.

After Obama finishes prinking up America's living room with vases of healthcare daffodils, business-bailout doilies, and taxing-the-rich antimacassars, I'll gladly welcome this governmental disciplinarian in to spray the Lemon Pledge of States' Rights and run the Hoover of budgetary constraint.

Earth Tribbles

Sorry for the cute.

Progress In Randy Stirm's Situation

Randy updated me on things today. The media and lawyers on his side have informed Randy that the politicos in Gingoog have started scapegoating their subordinates on the surface, and are indicating more furtively a desire for a quiet resolution to this incident underneath. Smart. Certainly much smarter than death threats.

Suprisingly, Randy has kept his biggest bargaining chips close to his chest, and off the internet: Video evidence that if presented in court would render any further discussion or defense pointless. My personal guess is that the folks up in Gingoog are coming around to this realization: That every minute — not just the 15 minutes already on YouTube — of Randy's interactions with the people in Gingoog is waiting in the wings, and in the end they will not only deal with Randy in his dominant position, but thank him afterwards for not putting all that damaging evidence out there for the world to see.

What festering truths the press can or may drag out into the daylight after the fact will of course be the fault of the perpetrators of this incident. Single episodes of bad behavior don't always lead to justice, but one's luck can run out. It's up to Herbie and Jigger at Gold Star Daily to determine if it's Gingoog's City Hall's day to pay the piper. Randy may give his nemeses a break in the interest of financial recompense, but Herbie and Jigger aren't bound by such quandries.

To be honest, from the beginning, I thought Randy and Cherry should cut a deal with the Gingoog folks and focus on money, not justice. I found the concept distasteful, but still figured it was what was best for The Stirms and their business; pari passu, I felt that getting the story out there, putting the pressure on, and waging a publicity battle was also beneficial because, for Randy and Cherry, raising the stakes would mean more chips on the table at the end of the game. Also, Randy and Cherry suffered badly both financially and emotionally: The cost to not only their business, but their pride and loss of security, had first to be paid in column inches and prime time minutes before pisos could be discussed. That's understandable — even, I imagine (though they would obviously never admit it) to the people up in Gingoog.

Personally, I think we're quickly arriving at the moment where it can be said that The Stirms have the upper hand, and negotiations are ready to start. It is my opinion that this incident will never see a court room: The Philippines, both legally and politically, is wired to settle problems like this via negotation, not litigation.

To note though, this is all my own supposition and my own point of view. What course Randy takes from this point forward is up to him. Maybe he'll ride this tiger to the tag end. Randy has lots of paths that he can take, and he is gathering ammunition, support, momentum, advantage, and confidence with every passing minute. While I offer my advice, Randy is his own man and handles his life and business in ways that he is most comfortable with. I wish him luck.

(Click here for all blog posts related to Randy Stirm's situation.)

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Top Gear Vietnam Video

I had tears of laughter rolling down my face with these videos. What great TV this is. Top Gear is a long-running British car enthusiast program, and one of their running gimmicks is to take the 3 hosts on a road trip somewhere in the world. The catch with these road trips is (1) each host must buy his own dilapidated transportation which will not survive past the end of the trip (or sooner), (2) the hosts will play pranks on each other throughout for comedic effect, with embarrassment being the primary objective. Anyway, the Top Gear guys rode scooters through Viet Nam recently, and here is the video. James May having to wear a spaghetti colander as a helmet is particularly funny.



Randy Stirm Threatened With Gun After Article

Gold Star Editor Herbie is once again going serial on us with a news story, and has provided an update to Randy Stirm's boat situation today... namely the death threat that Randy experienced yesterday by 2 masked motorcycle riders here in Jasaan.

I've been cc'd a couple of e-mails others have sent to Randy, after I handed out his e-mail address on the Yahoo CDO Expatriates group. I'm really happy to see some support coming in for this man. I'm his friend, but I have no resources other than this blog with which to help him out. The Stirm's lives are in danger, they're broke, and I'm pretty sure they are feeling quite alone out here and depressed about everything. Anyone who wants to get in touch with them and offer assistance or just encouragement should certainly do so. Hell: Leave a comment here if you want and I'll make sure Randy reads it.

Anyway, as Gold Star Daily News website still seems to have the collywobbles about showing up on my computer screen, I am once again thanking Herbie and Jigger for letting me put up the entire article here... and thanks for putting my quote in the newspaper... anonymously, as preferred.
Gunmen stop Stirm, threaten to kill wife
By JIGGER JERUSALEM


Armed men yesterday threatened the American who spoke out against the alleged abuses of government people in Gingoog city.

The men, riding a black Honda XRM motorcycle, stopped Randy Stirm near the Kimaya Bridge in Jasaan town at around 7:55 am, showed a police blotter signed by PO3 Elesio Junsay and Senior Insp. Lorenzon Larot.

The American on Monday threatened to sue Gingoog Mayor Ruthie Guingona, Vice Mayor Marlon Kho, local fisheries officer Genevieve Cruz, and Navy and police personnel over the alleged illegal seizure of his over P2-million fishing boat on the waters off Gingoog. He alleged that his wife and crew were harassed over trump-up charges of illegal fishing, and that the fishing boat was badly damaged.

Stirm, a resident of Luz Banzon, Jasaan town, said the armed men told him: "If you don't make a deal, we will kill your wife."

Stirm told the police the men covered their faces with bandannas and threatened him with caliber .45 pistols. The police blotter showed that Stirm claimed that he was driving his Multicab (van) and was headed to a gas station when the armed men blocked his way.

He said he might be able to identify the men if hears their voices again.

Stirm said he was driving the van when he noticed a motorcycle tailing him. He said he slowed down so the motorcycle could overtake.

This, he said, gave the men the chance to block his door.

Stirm said the two men pointed their guns at him with a warning that they would kill his Filipino wife Cherry if he rejected a "deal".

Stirm told The Gold Star Daily that he just replied: "Let’s see what happens."

He said the men then sped off.

Stirm said he knew what the men meant by "deal". During a gathering of expatriates last week, he said, a lawyer came to him and tried to talk him into agreeing to an out-of-court settlement.

He said the lawyer told him to forget about the alleged injustice and in return, his boat would be repaired. But here’s the catch: Stirm is supposed to share his catch to those who would repair the fishing boat.

The American said he rejected the proposal.

Stirm has sought police protection. But Jasaan’s police chief, Insp. Larot sent a letter to the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) and asked it to see if the American could be placed under a protection program.

In his letter to the NBI, Larot stated: "This office referred the case of... Stirm which occurred particularly at Gingoog City which is not our area of responsibility and the suspects [are] probably residing thereat."

Stirm said he was contemplating on reporting the matter to the US Embassy.

The Stirm case has caught the attention of expats in Cagayan de Oro, Misamis Oriental and even in Cebu. One expat wrote: "Welcome to the real business world, Philippines style. A perfect-but-sad descant to Mayor (Constantino) Jaraula’s message of 'foreign business owners welcome' that we listened to at International Night this past Sunday... and far too illustrative an experience for foreign small business owners here."

Jaraula met with expats from this city and Misamis Oriental at Pryce Plaza last weekend. The "International Night" was one of the Cagayan de Oro fiesta activities.
C'mon Jasaan Police Department: "Not our area of responsibility"? Okay, granted: Maybe, in the shallowest sense. But Randy Stirm's life was threatened in Jasaan. Randy Stirm lives in Jasaan. Randy employs more than 20 people here in Jasaan with his fishing operation. Do you really want to play "pass-the-buck" in a situation like this with human lives in your jurisdiction? If you're not sure it's your duty to protect the American, and that perhaps police protection should be based on nationality, how about at least protecting the Filipina wife these people threatened to kill? Think about it. Please.

(Click here for all blog posts related to Randy Stirm's situation.)

This Got Me Laughing

This is a great allegory for life, where life is the skateboard.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Randy Stirm's Fishing Boat Seizure On Front Page

The Gold Star Daily News has the story of Randy Stirm and his problems with the Gingoog government and fishing co-op as it's headlining article today.

Here is the article that interviews Randy Stirm and his wife Cherry, and details the incident in which their fishing boat was seized in the waters off Gingoog (that is pronounced "HING-oh-oag"). I'm posting it in full here, because currently attempts to view the page here in The Philippines seem to be fruitless; only an empty page shows up. Thanks to Editor Herbie Gomez and Writer Jigger Jerusalem for allowing me to post it in full.

(In the article, the Vice Mayor of Gingoog claimed to be in Manila during the entire kerfuffle. I guess Randy forgot to put up the videos on YouTube that show His Honor standing on the dock that day. Oops.)

(UPDATE: This morning after this article came out, two guys on a motorcycle threatened Randy with a .45 pistol and threatened to kill his wife if he didn't drop the case. The local police here in Jasaan don't seem particularly inclined to do much about it. Welcome to the real business world, Philippines style. A perfect-but-sad descant to Mayor Jaraula's message of "foreign business owners welcome" that we listened to at International Night this past Sunday... and far too illustrative an experience for foreign small business owners here.)

American prepares raps vs Ruthie, Kho
By JIGGER JERUSALEM


An American and his Filipino wife yesterday threatened to file charges against Gingoog officials and law enforcers for allegedly seizing their fishing boat illegally on the waters off eastern Misamis Oriental and damaging it over a week ago.

An 8:01-minute video recording of the alleged harassment was posted on Youtube. The complainants said there are more.

Facing charges are Gingoog Mayor Ruthie Guingona, Vice Mayor Marlon Kho, Navy and police personnel and a local fisheries officer.

Randy Stirm and his wife Cherry said their lawyer was preparing charges, possibly separate, against the officials in connection with alleged acts of harassment last Aug. 14.

Stirm claimed Navy personnel fired shots at the fishing boat FB Cherry, harassed its crew and then seized it without a warrant.

When the fishing boat was retrieved, equipment, including an expensive net, were nowhere to be found. It had bullet holes and the booms and rope work were cut, said Stirm.

The over P2-million boat was also badly damaged it would take at least P600 thousand to repair it, Stirm told The Gold Star Daily.

"The boat is everything I have," said Stirm. "Now, I’m penniless."

Stirm said the heavily armed Navy men who boarded the fishing boat did so on orders of Mayor Guingona. He said Vice Mayor Kho "was the one who was calling the shots all of the time."

"I begged him (Kho) and told him that the boat was everything we had. I cried," said Cherry. "He just said he didn’t believe me because 'we have plenty of dollars.'"

The Stirms said they went to city hall and asked to meet with Mayor Guingona. They said they were given the runaround instead.

"She (Guingona) didn’t want to talk to us," Stirm said.

Stirm also questioned the legality of the Gingoog Bay Alliance, one of the groups that allegedly helped the Navy in confiscating the FB Cherry 1. He said the group is neither registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) nor the Cooperative Development Authority (CDA).

A local fisheries officer identified as Genevieve Cruz was rude and refused to properly identify herself, according to Stirm. Cruz's actions were caught on video.

Cruz and Vice Mayor Kho are allegedly closely associated with a cooperative that supposedly want to monopolize fishing in the area, said Stirm.

Stirm furnished this paper two video recordings of the alleged abuses which he also posted on Youtube. One of the recordings showed a vehicle on a wharf which allegedly belongs to Vice Mayor Kho.

For his part, Kho strongly denied involvement in the alleged Aug. 14 harassment. He claimed he was in Manila from Aug. 13 to Aug. 16.

"I had no involvement in it. The Bantay Dagat is under the office of the mayor. I was only aware of the incident because I was informed," said Kho.

Kho also denied ever meeting the Stirms.

Maricel Jimenez, a staff member of the Gingoog city fisheries office, said officials have filed a complaint against Stirm for alleged violation of five fisheries laws: use of active gear in municipal waters and bays, unauthorized fishing, employment of unlicensed fisherfolk for a commercial fishing vessel, obstruction of law enforcement officers and violation of the Philippine Fisheries Code of 1998.

But Stirm has maintained that the FB Cherry operations were legal and that the accusations were all made up. He said the damaged fishing boat is registered.

"They said we had firearms in the boat. Where are the guns?" Stirm.

He said a subpoena has yet to be received by him or his lawyer.


(Click here for all blog posts related to Randy Stirm's situation.)

Daily Report: My Blind Family

Epril told me the other day I look like Bruce Willis without my facial hair. Then today her younger sister Ednil said the same thing. Great: First I have to pay to send Tyson to the veterinarian, now I have to pay to send these two nuts to the optometrist. I look as much like Bruce Willis as I look like Bruce Lee.

I took Tyson for a walk after work today. There is a house out by the city plaza with a menagerie of cement animals in the front yard. Tyson apparently thought they were real, so I had some fun, petting the things and saying, "Oh... Good rhinoceros!" Tyson had a fit. Glasses for him too.

Older sister Susan has developed a new recipe based on something that one of my old maids in Thailand used to make: She takes ground pork, diced onions, potatoes, and carrots, adds in flour and Magic Sarap seasoning, and fries up patties of this stuff. Delish. We had the entire family over, plus Fatima and Mark, for dinner tonight. I watched TV and played some video games before going to bed.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Daily Report: International Night In Cagayan De Oro

I've forgotten how to tie a tie.

I was standing out front of my house in my suit, ready to go to the Mayor's International Night in CDO with Ron Schreuder, who had brought me a necktie to borrow, laughing as I wrapped and flapped this thing around my neck. Ten years ago, before heading out to the office, this was a 5-second autonomic activity. Now, here in The Jungle, such pointless accoutrements were a thing of my past.


Epril and I dressed up in our best
clothes for The Mayor's International
Night Banquet.
---------------------------------------------------
All photos below were contributed by Rene
from Reno Digital Photography and Design.
Copyright please.


Above, Jane, Jackie, Angela, Mylene,
Marissa Turner, and Laila McCrea
pose with Mayor Jaraula.

Expatriate wives Joanne, Angela,
Biama pose with the Miss Kagay-An
2008 and her two runner-ups.
They're just lucky Epril wasn't a
contestent... or tall.

Cherry, Janeth, Daisy, Agnes, and
Ling.

The Dutch contingent of tonight's
party was well-represented. That's
my friend Ron in the middle row
on the far right.

Rene, photographer and receipient of
the coveted Jungle Jil Excellence
Endorsement, and his lovely wife.
Until now: The Mayor of Cagayan De Oro, as part of this week's fiesta celebrations, made the decision to host a big party wassailing the foreigners in his city. A perfectly respectable decision in the opinion of this particular foreigner as well as about 125 of my compatriot expatriates, and so we put on our Sunday best (including a few who could still tie a tie), and showed up at Pryce Plaza Hotel's Grand Ballroom at 6 p.m. (Epril wore a stunning black evening gown, hired a makeup artist to do her face and hair, and was easily the prettiest girl in the place, the presence of Miss Kagay-An 2008 notwithstanding.)

Epril and I rode with Ron, and Cherry and Randy Stirm. (Ron's wife is about 11 months pregnant, and took a pass on the event.) We arrived right at 6 p.m. and found the event to be on Filipino Time, and so joined the rest of the expatriates in the Pryce Plaza's swanky cocktail bar beforehand. Drinks were gasp-inducingly expensive: 260 pisos for my vodka tonic... that's 5 American dollars! Can you imagine paying $5 for a drink? (Heh.)

Hizzoner started the evening off right with the words, "Welcome. Let's eat!" The food being served buffet style wasn't much better than what you will find at the average Filipino wedding... although the carrot sushi was just silly. (Don't you hate it when buffets serve cheap food that is pretending to be expensive?) However, there was an apple tart with fresh whipped cream that was simply delicious. Of course, when the Pryce Plaza ran out of food after only about 75% of the people had eaten, even the silly cheap food would have tasted good. The banquet staff at the hotel must not have known how many people had signed up... or that little list they had with all the attendee's names on it must not have had numbers next to the names... or something.

Anyway, there was a very nice "Filipino" band. (I'm going to call them "Filipino" bands from now on, since bands such as this are the apotheosis of music-making groups in this country: 5 or 6 people, female vocalist in front, with male backup/lead vocalist playing guitar, and a repertoire that includes everything from Buddy Holly to Black Eyed Peas.) In addition, there was a dance troupe of pretty young girls that Micheal Turner had hired to do thesexydance a few times. Finally, there was the new City Hall Chorus, which the Mayor had commissioned especially in anticipation of this event. They were simply marvelous, decked out in traditional Filipino finery, who provided us with the national anthem, a couple of canticles, and then a rather lovely supply of traditional Filipino dances and songs and displays.

There were several speakers from the expatriate community: Asia was represented by a Korean fellow, who talked about his experiences in knowing and living with the people of Cagayan De Oro. A Dutch fellow got up to represent the Europeans, and amazed all the Filipinos with his pitch-perfect macaronic speech (English, Tagalog, and Visayan) and his 50 years of experience living in The Philippines. Michael Turner represented the Americans and Canadians by talking about business opportunities and civil service in Cagayan De Oro. Daisy Cline gave a nice speech for the expatriates wives, talking about the charitable efforts of the Expatriates' Ladies Charity.


Epril (in black, front/right) and the
other expatriates' wives have their
photo taken with Mayor Jaraula of
Cagayan De Oro.
After that, The Honorable Mayor Constantino G. Jaraula got up and gave a perfectly fitting and rousing speech about "togetherness" and "equality" and "welcoming" for expatriates in his community. It was a very nice speech which everyone appreciated. Then, all of the foreigners came up on stage and were given Certificates of Appreciation for their attendance. After that, the event devolved into a cocktail hour and a bit of dancing by the ladies and The Overserved. (I've got pictures, and I'm not afraid to use them!)

I met the Mayor and actually spoke with him for quite a while. I didn't expect to, but Alan Cline told me that the Mayor was planning on writing a book, so when I met His Honor, in order to make small talk, I asked him about his book. It turns out he is planning a book on The United Nations Security Council and its decisions through the years... something I can definitely talk about. So we chatted about that for 15 minutes. The two of us got along very nicely. (I'm awaiting a nice photo of the Mayor and myself to put on the blog. When it arrives by e-mail, I'll put it up.)

The Mayor was exceptionally cordial and friendly, and it was very clear that he took the purpose and opportunity of International Night very seriously. He stayed throughout the entire event, long after the punch had run out and the tables cleared, and the milieu had diminished to informal clusters of informal conversations surrounding a bunch of pretty wives in evening gowns dancing a circular congo line to "La Bamba". (The Mayor seems to be a gregarious fellow: I noticed him animatedly "getting down" to the music over by his table on more than one occasion.)

I also met several other Cagayanon grandees, including Mr. Rana, who is the Chief of Staff of the city government, Mr. Ping, who developed Cogon and Agora Markets for the city, and several other city officials as well.

Overall, the first annual International Night was a fine event. I really am looking forward to the next one, next year, with Cagayan De Oro's next Mayor (as Mayor Jaraula is retiring). It's the best excuse I can find for putting on a tie.
UPDATE:

Here's the photo I was waiting for: Mayor Jaraula and I in mid-conversation. The photo was snapped by my friend, Rene, who owns Reno Digital Photography & Design. He is Cagayan De Oro's top wedding photographer, and you should visit his website at http://www.renodigitaldesign.com/ or contact him at 855-2546. He is really as good as you can get.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Daily Report: Nothing But Lightning

An average day of work today, with no notable occurrences or appurtenances to add or subtract from it.

It was threatening to rain with thunder rumbling in the distance this evening, and then suddenly, a bolt of lightning hit the radio tower over at the college campus one block over. Heheh. A cool bang. It wasn't the loudest thunderclap I have ever heard (that was Thailand, July of 2003), but it was the longest (while still being really loud) coming in at well over a second. I give Tyson credit, he wasn't scared... unlike Susan, Epril, and Ednil. I hope that the folks over at Polytechnic had everything attached to that tower grounded.

Hmm... My jungle perch is a bit tall, although there are much taller cellular towers and lots of TV antennas on metal poles of equal height nearby that might help... maybe I should add a lightning rod or something to the 4th floor roof. It seems to me though that that is kind of like putting out a welcome mat for lightning... who wants that?

Anyway, it was an otherwise boring evening around the house. I watched a bit of TV and then played Gran Turismo 5 Prologue, the car racing simulator, on the PS3. Christ, but that's a pretty thing to watch in high-def. GT5 Prologue is just the "teaser" version of the yet-to-be-released full game, with only 6 or 7 tracks and 75 cars. The full version is delayed and will have 80 tracks and 1000 cars. Always wanted to race a 1964 AC Cobra Daytona Coupe at Monaco? You'll have your chance soon.

Now, if I could just afford the full racing kit, with the bucket seat, steering wheel, shifter, and pedals.



Of course, once I got something like that, I'd probably go right off the deep end and set up something like this guy, who networked four XBox 360's together to provide a 4-monitor (left, right, center, rear-view mirror) racing experience that is simply insane.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Daily Report: Long Chats

Being Friday, it was off to CDO tonight. Epril had gone earlier in the day to join up with the Expats Ladies weekly prayer meeting. (She made Baby Jesus very happy, I tell her.) I rode into town after sundown with Cherry and Randy Stirm, to introduce them to some of the local kanos.

We hung out first at Spooks, where I chatted with this fellow named Don from Scotland. We had a nice chat about the differences between The Philippines and Thailand. It's a common subject people broach with me: I think all expatriates keep one eye on the horizon, even if they have no immediate intention of going there.

After that, we were going to go to McDonald's, but instead made a last minute decision to go to Kinse Amigos for bar-be-que. Randy sat and talked with Mike Turner and Joe Palugna about his boat situation. I talked with this fellow Dave. He's an old Canadian Jew who has lived one of those adventure-filled, death-defying lives that soon will only be found in adventure films: Military action in Algeria with the Foreign Legion, fighting for Israel in the Sinai, going to work for the American Government after Dien Bien Phu. Now he bakes. I look forward to trying his cornbread.

Epril kept Cherry company the whole time with Marissa Turner's help. They all got along quite well, and I think are keen on being friends. The big "Mayor's International Night" banquet is being held this Sunday evening at Pryce Plaza and all of Cagayan De Oro's foreign population will be attending. The girls are all excited, talking about dresses and makeup.

Democrats To Go Fully Partisan On Healthcare Bill

It makes sense. Even people as mentally slow as Congressional Democrats eventually realize that after negotiating and waffling around on this healthcare bill, cutting it up and taking out "offensive" bits to appease The Right, they haven't convinced a single Republican (even the ones whom they were negotiating with) to vote for the bill. Everybody knew that sooner or later the Democrats were going to ask themselves, "Why negotiate with Republicans at all?"

I'll give the Democrats some credit for trying: Even after an election where they were given almost untouchable majorities in Congress, they still made a not-so-insignificant effort to accommodate Republican desires. Republicans shot them down at every turn... and not with facts and figures and reasoned debate, but cries and lies of "death panels" and "Government-paid abortions" and "illegals getting healthcare".

From a purely political standpoint: Fuck them. Republicans lost last year and now it looks like they get to be ignored for a while. They had their chance to debate the healthcare issue like grownups from a minority position and they blew it. I'm not sorry at all about it: It's exactly what they deserve.

Maybe now the Democrats will get their act together and coalesce into a single-minded political party. That's probably asking too much. I'm sure that the chances for the Healthcare Bill passing are lower now due to this approach. (I don't know if that is a good thing or bad thing... I haven't followed the debate.) If the bill does go down to defeat because of it, at least the Democrats will come across in the end as principled... and not pansies.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Filipino Future

My friend Elmer posted a link over at the Yahoo CDO Expats Group (link) to an interesting article about problems The Philippines currently faces (article), and speculates that based on the current situation, The Philippines may not last 100 more years.

It basically lists the following negative factors:

1. Falling rice production.
2. Very poor ranking in World Competitiveness Yearbook.
3. Very poor ranking in science and technology.
4. Very high ranking in corruption.
5. Very poor military forces.
6. Rapidly growing population.

The author claims that The Philippines "has a lot more going against it than for it. It is headed down a path of self-destruction that will inevitably transform it into something radically different".

I disagree. The author is looking at The Philippines in a vacuum. Aside from corruption, The Philippines has much better footing than most countries on earth to step up the ladder of progress that the new "wired" economy has presented, and it sits on the doorstep of China, the world's up-and-coming economic powerhouse.

The Philippines has indeed stagnated comparitively since the end of World War 2. (Prior to World War 2, The Philippines by every measure had the highest standard of living in all of Asia.) But these negatives that the author mentions all can be addressed. The positives that The Philippines possesses, however, cannot be addressed — they are inherent.

Compare The Philippines' human capital to Pakistan or to Kenya. Compare The Philippines' natural resource reserves to Thailand or Mexico. Compare The Philippines' social stability to Nigeria or Iran.

Progress is the natural order of things. I think that The Philippines has all the requisite factors... more than most countries, even... to progress quite well (i.e.: improve agriculture, competitiveness, science, corruption, military, population growth, et cetera) in the coming century.

In part two of the article (link, sure to be broken soon), the author proposes three solutions to The Philippines problems. While he admits that "our three suggestions barely scratch the surface of what needs to be done, they are part of the fundamental changes that must happen," why he chose these three particular suggestions leaves me a bit bewildered.

The first suggestion is population control. This is idiotic. Self-imposed population controls come about naturally from economic success, not the other way around. Poor families have lots of children to provide lots of small incomes... and increase the likelihood that one or two of those children will go on to bigger and better things. That may not be the truth (having fewer children indeed may lead to more successful children) but convincing people of that fact... or enforcing it by law... is hardly going to yield any benefits.

The second suggestion is better education. Pablum. In fact, the public education system in The Philippines is much better than many other countries one could think of. Thailand comes immediately to mind. If you want to improve education in The Philippines, get more kids to attend school on a regular basis. Get more kids to learn what is being taught. The Philippines doesn't need better education, it needs better learning.

The third suggestion is to get rid of maids. Which particular orifice of his body the author pulled this low-brow populist claptrap out of is obvious. Why he thinks that depriving a million or so Filipinos of this particular job (versus others) is not so obvious. He says that The Philippines must not allow "the poor to be relegated to a life of servitude and in effect 'waste-away' as a marginally productive member of society." Yes, yaya: Please go sit at home and wait for a different job because you are wasting away here by earning a living taking care of our children. Go pick rice under the hot sun instead, so that you can be more than "marginally" productive.

Anyway, I'm guessing that the second part of this article was a poorly-thought-out addendum to the first part. It's obviously worthless, but I figured it would be fun picking it apart anyway.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Philippine Navy Shoots Up American's Fishing Boat

A friend of mine who lives here in Jasaan, Randy Stirm, has a fishing boat. Apparently people from the area of Gingoog, a town about 50 miles north of here, don't like outsiders fishing in their waters. Randy's crew (captained by Randy's wife) sailed Randy's boat into these waters and was fishing there. The local Gingoog fishermen surrounded the Jasaan boat and brought it to shore.

According to Randy, the Vice Mayor of Gingoog, who runs this fishing co-op that Randy claims is illegal, called in the Philippine Navy, and he ordered the boat destroyed on the spot.

Apparently, since there was no trial, no court order, and since the maximum fine that could be levied against a vessel for illegal fishing was 500 pisos, and not wanting to lose a 3-million-piso boat, Randy's crew (and wife) decided to head back out to open waters and set sail for a more favorable jurisdiction, leaving Randy on the pier to record the whole event. The Philippine Navy gave chase, caught up with the boat, and ordered everyone on board into the water so that they could sink it. The crew refused, so the Philippine Navy apparently shot up the boat with the people still on deck.

The boat did not sink, and was brought back to the pier where it still sits foundering. Nobody on Randy's boat was shot, although whenever bullets fly in the direction of people, that is obviously more a function of luck than intent.

The only source I have for this information is Randy, his wife, and this video. I obviously haven't taken the time to interview anybody else for this story or obtain different points of view... that's not my job. Randy certainly was very clever to get the whole thing on video. He claims he has about 2 hours of video total of this ordeal, including many local officials making quite incriminating and illegal statements.

This is the first video posted so far. I personally don't hear any shots on the video recording (although Randy has assured me that you can hear them if you listen carefully), but anyway, since Randy has promised more videos, I'm sure that the details will be filled in through additional videos that will be posted on his YouTube account.



p.s. You may be wondering how Randy got away with standing alone on a dock surrounded by a mob of angry local fishing mafia: He is a huge guy (well over 6-foot-5), ex Navy SEAL, and an honest-to-God former Japanese Sumo wrestling champion and black belt in every martial art under the sun. Randy said that after the first four guys who tried to attack him with knives wound up in the water, everyone else decided to leave him alone.
UPDATE:

Randy and his guys (and big German Shepard, Eddie) went up to Gingoog last night and stole his boat back. Randy had been told that the Gingoog folks were planning on taking his boat to the town square today and burning it in some sort of effigy... and obviously an effort to destroy all the evidence. His boat is in sorry shape, with bullet holes, all of the booms and rope work cut and destroyed, all of the wires cut, and the engine in who-knows-what kind of shape. It has been towed by another of Randy's vessels out to sea and is headed to a secret location.

(Click here for all blog posts related to Randy Stirm's situation.)

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Quotacious

"This court has never held that the Constitution forbids the execution of a convicted defendant who had a full and fair trial but is later able to convince a habeas court that he is 'actually' innocent."

Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia








A point of order and mark of intelligence in defending the easily defendible and reinforcing the common-sensical is to accomplish such things without sounding like a completely heartless prick.

Stating that there is nothing unconstitutional about a death penalty "oopsie" is a good example of being a completely-correct-yet-heartless prick. The avatar of justice may be blindfolded, but there is no evidence that she has no heart.

Actually, the Troy Davis decision (from which the above quote is taken) begs an interesting debate about whether The Supreme Court is obligated to take the justice system off its self-imposed auto pilot (i.e., take off that blindfold) when it comes to matters not of the constitutionality of law, but of the fairness of the process and result. Is it within the Supreme Court's purview to overturn an otherwise-correctly-prosecuted court case and decision that complies in all ways with the U.S. Constitution and the laws under it?

The Supreme Court decided (against Scalia's dissent) that it should make such a correction: That it is indeed the Supreme Court's responsibility to not only examine the law exclusively, but to adjudicate the results of that law even when it is correctly applied. I don't disagree with either side of the decision here: One one hand, even the most honest and earnest miscarriages of justice should always be corrected... even by the Surpreme Court if all else fails, and on the other hand, as Scalia so bluntly said, that really is not the Supreme Court's job. (Also, as Scalia pointed out elsewhere in his dissent, this Supreme Court decision overturned a 1996 lower court decision against Davis that was based on a law that is constitutional... creating what amounts to an inadvertent and unintended post hoc Supreme Court opinion on that particular law.)

Monday, August 17, 2009

Death Panels

Does anybody reading actually believe that this new government-run healthcare bill in Congress actually plans on setting up "death panels" to kill grandma?

The "death panels" that Republicans have been talking about lately are actually a stipulation for end-of-life consultations (inserted to the bill, I might add, by a Republican Congressman) in which an elderly patient sits down with his family, his doctor, and perhaps his lawyer, and they all discuss what measures should be taken to prolong life in generally hopeless medical situations.

You see, medicine has gotten to the point where a body can be kept alive long past the point where a person's mind has either (a) left the building or (b) can tolerate the suffering or the intrusion caused by efforts to sustain life. Without a proper "living will" in one's medical record, your grieving spouse may refuse to give you up and force the last remnants of your waning and noncommunicative spirit to suffer hugely for a few more days (or weeks, or months) on this earth before your body goes beyond what medicine can sustain.

The default position of doctors, barring all other input from a patient's medical decision makers is to prolong life for as long as it can be sustained. A close second is to minimize suffering. When those two efforts start to work against each other — when prolongation of life causes suffering — doctors will turn to the end-of-life decisions like DNR/DNI (do not resuscitate / do not intubate) forms on file to make decisions.

Republicans and their "death panels" want to now remove this decision-making process from the list of things that would be covered by government-run health insurance. Well... let's be honest: They want to do away with the entire healthcare bill, and are just using this as a red herring to scare people. They know as well as everybody else about end-of-life directives, but they come up with these falsehoods purposefully to derail the opposition and turn ignorant public opinion against them.

Sad but typical.

Daily Report: Dumb Dogs Rule, Revisited

I actually forgot to mention the biggest news yesterday: Tyson is in the vet's again. He wouldn't eat and was throwing up. Remember how I mentioned Tyson likes to chew on rocks? Well, he ate one... about the size of a plum. We didn't know that though: We just knew that he was starving, dehydrated, and really looking like he was on his last legs, and we were quite alarmed. Epril, Susan, and Marc emergently drove Tyson to the vet's in CDO on Sunday evening. He pooped out the rock today, and immediately started feeling better. We'll pick him up tomorrow. I swear, Tyson's vet gets more of my money than the folks who sell us his dog food.

This evening at work, a bunch of jobs got stuck in the computer system. Since they wouldn't transfer over to the new software, and were beginning to go past due, I was told to open up the old software and do them there. Instantly, it was like back to 18 months ago and nothing had changed. In 2 hours, I did 1,000 lines of work... what I normally do now in 4½ or 5 hours. Sigh. It felt good.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Daily Report: Kanopallooza

This weekend was a very social one for Epril and I and the local expatriates here in Jasaan.

First, on Saturday morning, our new friend Randy Stirm stopped by to thank me for putting him in touch with my lawyer friend, Joe Pallugna. Randy lives here in Jasaan and owns a fishing boat. He ran into some trouble with a nearby fisherman's mafia who have stolen his boat. I recommended Joe because he is the best "fixer" in the southern Philippines. (If you ever have a problem that needs fixing, visit Joe at his website.)

On Saturday afternoon, Epril and I went out to visit Tom Greaney at his massive beachfront estate. Tom is a retired Californian postmaster general, and has built this expansive Bali-style abode on about 2 hectares of beachfront here in Jasaan. His compound is a never-ending combination of houses, gardens, plazas, bungalows, nipa huts, verandas, all overlooking Macajalar Bay. We had a nice afternoon wandering the grounds and chatting.

On the way back from Tom's house, Epril and I met another foreigner in the street, a younger fellow named Scott, also from California, who had moved to Jasaan about a month ago. That makes a total of 6 kano living here in Jasaan full time (and an additional similar number who stay here part of the year), which is a surprising amount for the location and size of this place. But, as I have said before, Jasaan is a particularly pleasant place to live, and it's distance-from-yet-proximity-to Cagayan De Oro make it appealing to people who dislike living in a Filipino urban area.

On Sunday, Randy and his wife, Cherry, were invited for lunch at our house and we had BBQ chicken. Randy is actually a retired sumo grand champion... one of three big-name foreigners to break into the upper echelons of the sport in Japan. He topped out at 200 kg (440 pounds), which much to my surprise is much heavier than most Japanese sumo ever get. (I was also surprised to learn that cardiovascular endurance is a big part of sumo training; Randy was running 10 miles per day in training at that weight.)

Epril and I had invited Scott and his girlfriend, Tatum, to lunch as well, but they did not show up.

Sunday afternoon, after lunch, there was a big thunderstorm and the electricity went out and it stayed out until after I went to bed. That's what I get for claiming the rainy season is over.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Daily Report: Ribs

I was up nice and early this morning. Epril is such a joy in the morning, always waking me up with giggles and tickles and smiles.

It looks like the rainy season is finally and truly over here. It still rains occasionally, but not as a daily occurrence. Actually, when I moved to Asia, I was thinking the rainy season would be like the movie Forrest Gump's Viet Nam: Rain all the time... Big ol' fat rain. It isn't... at least in the places I've lived.

We had a lunch date today with Ron and Marla. Ron is from The Netherlands and owns a bakery, bar, and internet café here in Jasaan. They put out an incredible spread of food, including beef with broccoli, fried rice, a nice fruit salad, and the most wonderful ribs in a thick sauce.

Being payday today, Epril was off to Cagayan De Oro to hit the ATM. It's a drawback to living out here in Jasaan: There is no ATM within 20 miles of us. It's not the worst thing in the world: We just withdraw enough cash to last us for a week and then some. Anyway, I stayed behind tonight and watched television while Epril went out by herself. She is spending the night in CDO with the expatriates' wives, and they are out for some disco time without the husbands.

It is also another drawback to living out here in Jasaan: I don't let Epril come back to Jasaan alone at night... after 9 p.m. I think it is risky for her to be alone in a taxi or jeepney on a generally empty highway at those hours. Therefore (this is the second time so far since moving out here), I arrange for her to stay at friends' houses when she is out in CDO without me until a late hour.

So, for the fourth night since meeting 17 months ago, I have the bed to myself. Off to bed early.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Daily Report: Sudden Problem, Sudden Clarity

Tyson has spent pretty much every day since he came to our house lying at my feet under my desk while I work. Today, for some reason, he decided to chew on one of the wires under there: The wire to my foot pedal, which I use to start and stop dictations as I am typing them. Suddenly my foot pedal stopped working. Fortunately, I have a backup foot pedal, but it is an older one that is sketchy in its function. Tyson is obviously banished from my office henceforth.

I'll take the ruined foot pedal to a computer shop in Cagayan De Oro to see if the wire can't be repaired. If not, since there are transcription centers in CDO, I'll see if I can buy a new one.

I purchased the DVD set of the first season of the original series of Star Trek from one of the local expatriates, Dave Z., and have been watching it. It is the remastered version: They went back to the 35-mm film originals and re-scanned them in high definition, and also remade some of the old space scenes originally done with plastic models with CGI computer versions. The show really looks gorgeous on the big screen TV. I highly recommend this DVD set to any Star Trek fan.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Daily Report: Only Skin Deep

One thing about girls worldwide is that they are always looking for ways to improve their looks. I try to explain to Epril that she is perfect and cannot be more beautiful; she still is naturally inclined to try.

Unfortunately, here in The Philippines (and in many parts of Asia), beauty products are sold that would never be approved for sale in Europe or America due to safety reasons.

About 2 weeks ago, unbeknownst to me, Epril went out and bought herself what is, in essence, a $5 chemical peel. For 5 days, her face was covered in flaking bits of skin, and then for another 5 days she had light and dark blotches on her skin. Only now, her skin is coming back to it's original radiant lustre.

I wish I could get this message out to every girl on the planet: If you find a product that claims to do for $5... or $20... or even $50 what normally costs hundreds or thousands of dollars to do in a doctor's office, for God's sake, don't use it. The Philippines is filled with this junk. My wife, thankfully, was spared from any real or lasting damage, but shit like this can really hurt people.

We had visitors today: A new friend, Tom Greane, and his wife, Grace. He is another foreigner (from California) who lives a couple of miles up the coast from me here in Jasaan. I saw him playing tennis at the town park with his wife the other day and stopped and introduced myself and invited him to stop by, so today he took me up on his offer. We had some iced tea and chatted for a while. We'll be going over to the Greane's house this Saturday for the afternoon.

Tonight, I walked into the bedroom, not immediately noticing Epril's laptop, screen-saver on, sitting open on the bed. I stripped, climbed onto bed, picked up the laptop computer, and opened up the desktop. Epril had left her webcam on, and her friend, Honey Mae (now in England), was there sitting at her desk with her webcam still broadcasting to Epril's computer. I had been walking around in the buff, being broadcast over the internet. Gee: Thanks Sunshine for getting my "face" out there. (I sure have been getting a lot of extra exposure to unsuspecting girls lately.)

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Oy Vey

Meanwhile a doctor in Malaysia has said that avoiding masturbation and homosexual activities are among preventive measures people can take to reduce their chances of contracting [A(H1N1)].

Dr. V. M. Palaniappan, an eminent practitioner of complimentary therapy, said that such activities caused the body to develop friction heat which in turn, produced acid and made the body hyperacidised.

Dr. Palaniappan told Bernama, the Malaysian national news agency, that masturbation and homosexual activity made “the body become an easy target for pandemic A(H1N1) infection,” however, the normal sexual union between members of the opposite sex was absolutely safe.

Dr Palaniappan, a former associate professor of ecology at Universiti Malaya, said his 33 years of research had shown that high acidity in the body resulted in loss of immunity, thus making people more susceptible to viral diseases such as pandemic A(H1N1).
I gave up having sex with pigs so I wouldn't get this virus, but going straight and giving up fapping is just asking too much.

PI Upset Over GMA's 1M Piso Dinner Party In NY

The top headline today out of Manila regards a general sense of outrage... at least among the chattering class that makes up the press in The Philippines.

While in New York City, President Arroyo and her husband had a wedding anniversary party and 50 people attended. It was at Le Cirque (review), a played-out, gimmicky, high-end chain restaurant in New York City... expensive, but probably not in the top 20 restaurants in New York City, price-wise.

So how much would the bill be? Yes, exactly, a lot... but try explaining that to someone who doesn't understand prices in New York City.

I will: The bill was $20,000. For starters, there was the 20% service charge for a group of 50 people, which alone would have been over $3,000. Add in 30 bottles of champagne at $200 each, plus 200 cocktails (4 per person) at $10 each, plus 30 bottles of wine at $100 each, and you've got an additional $11,000 for the bar tab. Then add 50 appetizers at $20 each, 50 entrees at $40 each, and 50 desserts at $15 each, plus coffee and aperitifs, and you've got an additional $5,000.

So that comes to $19,000 just on a quick baseline guesstimate.

Anyway, to sum it up: For the folks here in The Philippines, $20,000 for a dinner party for 50 people at an upscale restaurant in New York City is very, very par for the course. If you don't like it, just be glad the party wasn't in London or Moscow or Tokyo.

(By the way, having lived in New York City for 6 years, I'll add in a quick link to my favorite restaurant in case anybody wants a recommendation: Becco with its $22 all-you-can-eat pasta dinner is the best pasta meal in New York City. The mushroom walnut ravioli and oxtail rigatoni are fantastic.)

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Daily Report: Jungle Party

I had my 40th birthday party today, held at Faustina Pool Resort here in Jasaan. I hired 2 jeepneys to bring all my friends out from Cagayan, plus all of my friends and family from here in town. I'd say there were about 60 people total.

We had a huge amount of food: A roast pig, BBQ chicken, pizza, spaghetti, pancit, umba, and biko for dessert. In addition, there was plenty to drink. I made a huge cooler of my world-famous Cagayan Cocktail, which was a monster hit. Even the professional drinkers in the crowd were impressed at the immense kick the drink provided. Everyone got drunk, wet, and stuffed with good food. At the end of the day, there were absolutely no leftovers.

I shaved off my mustache and goatee for the party... first time without in about 5 years. I figured that being my 40th birthday, there should be some symbolic, futile gesture on my part to grasp on to my fleeting youth. More importantly, Epril — never having seen me without — was curious how I would look. Now she knows.

I'm waiting for some better photos of the party. Everybody kind of sat all over the place up at the pool resort, so there is no photo with a bunch of people (including me) in it, except this one below.
Recipe for a bucket of Cagayan Cocktail:
  • Two 700 mL bottles of strawberry lambanog
  • Half a 700 mL bottle of vodka
  • One 700 mL bottle of Orchid triple sec
  • One 300 mL (large) bottle of Island Mixers lime juice
  • 4 cans of San Miguel Strawberry Margarita
  • Two large cans of pineapple juice
Put in the freezer for at least 36 hours.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Taillight Out

Epril and I got pulled over by the police again today.
(Just kidding.)

Thursday, August 6, 2009

An Old Man's Birthday

I was just sitting on my bed in a state of total dishabille (except for an autologically-placed laptop computer) when Epril's best friend Fatima, thinking me elsewhere, walked into the bedroom. She saw me naked, screamed, and ran out of the room.

If there is a more aprapos and condign way to start off one's 40th birthday, I can't imagine it.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Communist Rebel Leader Arrested in CDO

One of the New People's Army top members was arrested in Cagayan De Oro on Saturday night. Apparently he was in town as part of a negotiating team under the auspices of the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees ("JASIG"), i.e. a white flag more or less. (Local authorities claim that the fellow was "on vacation" in Cagayan de Oro when he was apprehended, and not part of any negotiations.) Well, JASIG agreement or not, it apparently didn't nullify the 5.6 million piso bounty on his head.

The arrest has had unexpected bonuses though: Apparently feeling a little demoralized with this latest setback, quite a few other communist rebels have laid down their weapons and surrendered to authorities.

A Time To Dress Well

Yet another difference I've noticed in The Philippines:

I was watching coverage of former Philippine President Corazon Aquino's wake on television. One thing that really surprised me was the fact that many of the people who were passing by the catafalque were wearing T-shirts. Even the Vice President of The Philippines stepped up to the casket to pay his respects wearing a short-sleeved golf shirt (admittedly yellow... Corazon's "official" color). I saw only one barong (the formal men's shirt of The Philippines) in all the crowd, worn by former President Estrada.

It's the same when you go to church here: Most folks wear T-shirts and jeans. Formal dress seems to be limited to old ladies now.

I suppose that one can claim that most Filipinos are too poor to afford even a single formal outfit for special occasions. That seems a bit weak an excuse, especially for a Vice President. I imagine that it is more just a relaxing of attitudes about appearances in this country, and nothing more. But then why would the cashiers at Robinson's Supermarket be better-dressed than those people attending a State Funeral?

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Daily Report: Night On The Town

Epril and I had a night out in Cagayan De Oro tonight, which has been a rare thing since we moved out to Jasaan 5 months ago. (We make it into Spooks every other Friday, on average, but that is about it.)

So first we went out to Bigby's at SM Mall (kind of a Ponderosa-style family joint) where I had my usual, soup of the day and canneloni, and Epril had her favorite, pork chops with cherry sauce. That was $14 with tip, which is a fairly good deal. After that, it was upstairs to the theater to watch the new Harry Potter movie. (Tickets are 90 pisos ($1.80) per person. Beat that.) It was a pretty good movie, but the sound was a bit muffled; I think the theater got a bad copy of the film or something.

After that it was off to Zax... which bears a new name, "Star Entertainment", though nothing else has changed. It is now a popular spot with hobbyist dancers, who like the music selection: Lots of variety with opportunity to tango and cha-cha and even some swing and of course plenty of disco. The one band, The Sunlight, covers most of the dance music, while the second band, The Sunriser Band, is more entertainment-oriented, with its drag queen Elmer singing funny songs and telling jokes. I wish I spoke more Visayan (the languge of the Southern Philippines), as based on the volume of the laughter and applause, Elmer apparently is very entertaining if you can understand him.

We left Zax at a little after midnight, and had a nice drive back to Jasaan.