We are accepting donations

Saturday, August 27, 2011

No "Sesame Street" gay wedding for Bert and Ernie

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Bert and Ernie may be best friends, but that doesn't mean the "Sesame Street" pals are gay. And whatever the puppets may or may not be, one thing is certain, they won't be getting married, producers of the long-running kids TV show made clear on Thursday.

The educational workshop behind the 40 year-old TV series dismissed the idea of a made-for-TV, same-sex puppet wedding in response to an online campaign and petition to have the two "Sesame Street" characters get married as a way to beat homophobia and encourage tolerance of gay people.
In recent days, almost 9,000 people have signed a petition encouraging the wedding at and/or become friends of a special "Bert and Ernie Get Married" Facebook page, sparking a lively debate on Twitter and other social media.

Bert, who is fascinated by pigeons and gets easily upset, and oval-headed, free spirit Ernie, have lived together at 123 Sesame Street since 1969. They share a bedroom, but sleep in single beds. Sesame Workshop noted on Thursday that as puppets, Bert and Ernie don't have sexual preferences.
"Bert and Ernie are best friends. They were created to teach preschoolers that people can be good friends with those who are very different from themselves.

"Even though they are identified as male characters and possess many human traits and characteristics, they remain puppets, and do not have a sexual orientation," Sesame Workshop said in a statement posted on its official Facebook page.

 The petition had argued that their marriage would help to put an end to bullying and suicides of gay, lesbian, transgender and bisexual young people.

"We are not asking that 'Sesame Street' do anything crude or disrespectful by allowing Bert & Ernie to marry. It can be done in a tasteful way," the petition read.

"Sesame Street" is seen in either the U.S. or local TV versions in more than 140 nations and has won multiple awards for its educational content for pre-schoolers.

(Reporting by Jill Serjeant; Editing by Bob Tourtellotte)

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Submarine for Navy? Noy Bares AFP Shop List

Navy eyeing to acquire two more Hamilton-class ships from the US. (photo : ofwheroes)

MANILA, Philippines - President Aquino yesterday enumerated a list of military equipment to be acquired in fulfillment of his promise of modernizing the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) during his term.

Aquino said among the equipment to be purchased are jet trainers that would enhance the skills of pilots and radars to monitor the country’s territorial waters.

“With regard to the equipment I want…I want everything. But what we will acquire, we have lead-in jet trainer… to keep the skills of the jet pilots, especially the fighter pilots still active. We won’t have the fighter jet but we will have these lead-in jet trainers to keep their skill levels,” Aquino told reporters at arrival ceremonies for the BRP Gregorio del Pilar at Pier 13 in Manila.

Aquino said the government plans to acquire surface attack aircraft, air defense radars, long-range patrol aircraft and closed air support aircraft for the Air Force.

“For the Navy, strategic sea-lift vessels, off-shore patrol vessels, naval helicopters – there are at least three of them, coast watch stations, similar weather-heavy endurance cutters,” he said.

Aquino said the Army would be provided with new assault rifles, armor assets, tanks, armored personnel carriers, force protection equipment like helmets and bulletproof vests, night-fighting equipment and radios.

Aquino said the Navy is still studying whether it needs to purchase a submarine to secure the country’s territory.

“The (acquisition of a) submarine is being studied by our Navy, whether or not practical, whether or not it meets our needs,” he said.

Aquino said a country in Southeast Asia bought a refurbished submarine for a bargain price of $12 million but ended up spending more to refit the vessel for tropical conditions.

“They ended up spending the same as if they bought it brand-new,” Aquino said.
Navy chief Vice Admiral Alexander Pama said they are cautious on the plans to purchase submarines to beef up their capabilities.

“This is a complicated matter,” Pama said. “We don’t want to commit a mistake by jumping into something. As I said, we don’t want to buy something which eventually we cannot chew and swallow,” he said.

When asked if the purchase of submarines is possible under Aquino’s term, Pama said: “I cannot second guess the President…there are several factors (to be considered)…it starts from our capacity, in terms of resources and second, our readiness.”

Pama said they are also eyeing to acquire two more Hamilton-class ships from the US.

The government has allotted P11 billion this year to bankroll the military’s capability upgrade program.

Of this, P8 billion will come from proceeds from the Malampaya natural gas project in Palawan while P3 billion will be sourced from the military’s modernization funds.

Budget Secretary Florencio Abad earlier said the government would implement a P40-billion military modernization project over the next five years, starting in 2012.

Abad said the government would allot P8 billion annually over the next five years for the Armed Forces’ modernization program.

Aquino vowed to exercise good governance to enable the government to upgrade the military’s capabilities.

“Through our responsible governance, through the straight path, we can do more…we won’t stop with ships. We won’t be contented with helicopters,” he said.

“We can offer modern weapons, faster patrol craft and more effective equipment to our soldiers and police without wasting money from our state coffers…We will buy these new equipment at the right price.”

Navy is still studying whether it needs to purchase a submarine (photo : US Navy)

Only the beginning

Aquino said the arrival of BRP Gregorio del Pilar, a decommissioned US Coast Guard cutter, is just the beginning of efforts to modernize the AFP.

“This ship symbolizes our newly acquired ability to guard, protect, and if necessary, fight for the interests of our country,” Aquino said as the refurbished Hamilton-class cutter dropped anchor.

“This is just the beginning. Expect more good news because we will not stop at one ship,” he said.

Aquino led officials in touring the 3,390-ton warship, which is about 46 years old.
Aquino said the former US Coast Guard cutter, now the Philippine Navy’s flagship vessel, would protect the country’s exclusive economic zone and its oil and gas exploration activities in the South China Sea.

“This will upgrade our capability to guard our exclusive economic zone as well as the (oil and gas) service contract areas,” he said in a welcoming speech.

The cutter will join the current flagship BRP Rajah Humabon, a former American destroyer, which is among the oldest active warships in the world.

Del Pilar will be deployed to protect the country’s interests in the disputed Spratly islands, and will be tasked to patrol the Philippine Exclusive Economic Zone, including “service contract areas” where oil and gas explorations are held.

Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa Jr. said the new warship “represents a significant step forward in our efforts to improve our Navy’s capacity to patrol and secure our waters.”

Ochoa, who heads the Cabinet cluster on security, said they are currently spearheading reforms in the AFP that seek to address this concern.

The Armed Forces Modernization Act, which took effect in 1995, has given the military the opportunity to modernize in 15 years with a total fund of P331 billion.

More than16 years have passed since the law was enacted but critics said the military is not even close to a modern battle force. The delay in the implementation of the law has been attributed to lack of state funds.


The Philippine government has acquired the 115-meter (378 feet) long Weather Endurance Cutter (WHEC) from the US Coast Guard almost free through the Excess Defense Article (EDA) in line with the Philippine Navy Capability Upgrade Program with the refurbishing and transport cost amounting to P450 million.

The ship, formerly known as USCGC Hamilton, 42 feet in beam and 15 feet and seven inches in draft, has a maximum speed of 26 knots powered by two turbine and two diesel engines.

It has a helipad and a hangar and could accommodate two helicopters with foldable rotor blades at any given time.

A total of 95 Filipino sailors maneuvered the ship from California on a three-week voyage home, accompanied by US Navy destroyer USS Fitzgerald and two similar US Coast Guard Hamilton cutters.

The sailors led by Navy Capt. Alberto Cruz were taught by their US counterparts on how to operate the ship during their three-week voyage. They underwent trainings in the US as early as February and completed their training last July.
They made a stopover in Hawaii before dropping anchor in Guam last Aug. 16. From there, the ship sailed to Manila, arriving on Aug. 21.

Navy sailor John Rances, one of the Filipino seamen who were trained to operate the ship, said there was no dull moment during their voyage.

Rances said they were constantly trained on operations and maintenance of the ship, including take off and landing of helicopters on deck.

Pama said American sailors who trained Filipino Navy men to maneuver the ship were impressed.

“Based on their (US troops) observations, I think they are not pulling my leg, the Pacific Fleet Commander, 7th Fleet, (said) they were quite impressed with our troops,” Pama told reporters.

The ship arrived in Manila Bay last Sunday and underwent customs and immigration inspection.

Officials said the cutter would serve as the lagship of the military’s Western Command (Wescom) based Ulugan Bay in Palawan.

It was learned that the ship would be fitted with additional modern radar systems to cover most of the country’s maritime domain within its exclusive economic zone in the West Philippine Sea.

The vessel, being a weather high endurance cutter, will also be used to conduct search and rescue operations. The US Coast Guard used the ship for drug and migrant interdiction, law enforcement, search and rescue, living marine resources protection, and defense readiness.

Parañaque City Rep. Roilo Golez suggested the ship should be equipped with missiles to make it more lethal.

Golez, a former national security adviser and a graduate of the US Naval Academy, was among the administration officials who toured the ship when it docked at the South Harbor in Manila yesterday.

He said installation of a missile system in the newly acquired vessel is not expensive and worth the investment, considering “the multitrillion-peso resources, minerals, fish, oil” within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone.

“And of course, there’s no price to our country’s sovereignty,” Golez said.

“The next step is to give the ship missile capability. This is technically feasible for a song. Its 76mm gun, though rapid firing, is no match to the capability of the naval powers in the region, which can fire a missile salvo from way beyond the horizon,” he said.

Golez said there are many missile systems that the AFP can acquire from France, Germany, Italy or the US.

He said the missile range should be anywhere from 60 nautical miles to 150 nautical miles to cover the 200-mile EEZ.

“This is very doable and would be quite a force multiplier,” Golez said.

The Philippines clinched the deal to acquire the Gregorio del Pilar early this year, before tensions with China flared.

The US has since promised to help upgrade the Philippine military further, but no details have been released.

China’s state-run media this month warned the Philippines it could pay a “high price” for building up its military presence in the South China Sea, renamed the West Philippine Sea.

However, bilateral ties remain strong in other areas, and Aquino will pay a state visit to China next week.

BRP Gregorio del Pilar Arrives at Manila

The Philippine Navy’s largest and newest vessel in its inventory, BRP Gregorio Del Pilar (PF15) has arrived in Philippine territorial waters last August 17, 2011. A Philippine Navy Islander Aircraft PNI310 flew over PF15 while she was transiting the Philippine Exclusive Economic Zone at 230 nautical miles east of Northern Samar. (photo : The Philippine Fleet)

PHL Navy's biggest warship arrives at Manila Bay

President Benigno Aquino III is set to formally welcome on Tuesday the Philippine Navy’s newly acquired — and largest — ship.

The Hamilton cutter ship arrived at the Manila Bay on Sunday morning after sailing for more than a month from San Francisco in the United States. It will be named BRP Gregorio del Pilar, after one of the country’s heroes.

Navy chief Vice Admiral Alexander Pama boarded the ship at the Manila Bay anchorage and had a lunch with the 95 officers and men, led by Capt. Alberto Cruz, that sailed the ship from the US last July 18.

“They already arrived and they will undergo immigration and quarantine [inspection]. This is part of our regulation whenever we have ships coming from abroad," said Pama.

The 44-year-old ship was acquired from the US Coast Guard through the US Excess Defense Articles program.

The ship will be deployed at the West Philippine Sea where the country has a vast maritime interest to protect.

President Aquino, accompanied by Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin, will lead the formal welcome ceremony for the ship and its crew on Tuesday morning at the South Harbor. Guests will have the chance to tour the ship.

Pama said the acquisition of the ship will have a big impact on the Navy’s capability on the protection of the country’s maritime resources.

“This will be icon to the revival of the capability upgrade of the Philippine Navy… This will be a symbol of our seriousness [in upgrading the Navy capability]. Because we are a maritime nation, this will jumpstart our revival of our Navy’s capability," he said.

Noting that the ship was able to cross the Pacific Ocean, Pama said the ship can represent the government anywhere in the country despite any the sea condition.

He said that after the arrival ceremony on Monday, the ship will be undergoing dry-docking and repainting. The color of the ship will changed from the current white to gray, the Philippine Navy’s official color.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Cebuanos reclaim Plaza Independencia

Plaza Independencia

The Plaza Independencia in Cebu stands witness to its rich and turbulent past. (Photo by Marlen Limpag)

Cebuanos are starting to frequent once more the Plaza Independencia in Cebu City. The spot has had many functions along the course of Cebu's history: as a military training and parade ground, a premier public park during the reign of Queen Isabella in Spain, and even as a symbol of liberation, after a P16.9 million renovation .

It used to be that people steer clear of the plaza because of its reputation as a haven for thieves, pickpockets, and muggers who take advantage of poorly-lit areas. "Diri man to matug ang mga kawatan sa una (Thieves used to sleep here)," said a City Government employee relaxing in the park.

Bushes and plants allowed to grow wild on many areas of the park also made it a popular place for trysts.
Not anymore. Today, Plaza Independencia stands clean and proud as it did during the childhood of Cebu City Mayor Michael Rama.

Rama said he grew up in the plaza. He has memories of his parents bringing him there when he was a child, and they had allowed him to run around and he had been happy.

The park, at present, is a no-smoking zone and is off limits to vendors. Security personnel patrol the perimeter, and make their rounds on bikes. A sign says alcoholic beverages, indecent acts, bladed weapons, and motorized vehicles are not allowed inside the park.

Concrete pavements neatly divide the plaza into different sections. A paved section that loops along the perimeter may be used for fitness activities like walking or running, said Rama, who added that it will even become longer when he opens the part of the park that was closed in 2007 during the construction of the South Road Properties tunnel.

Rama said he removed the overgrown bushes and plants so the park now has a clear view of Magallanes Street and Malacañang sa Sugbo, adding that the renovation was mostly done except for a few areas that need landscaping.

The park had stood for different things at different times in Cebu's history. It was Plaza de Armas in the 1600s, wrote Lucy Urgello Miller in her book "Glimpses of Old Cebu: Images of the Colonial Era." Spanish soldiers used the square for military training and as a parade ground.

The Obelisk

An obelisk at the center of Plaza Independencia is dedicated to Spanish conquistador Miguel Lopez de Legaspi, who established in Cebu the first Spanish settlement in the country. (Photo by Marlen Limpag)

During the reign of Queen Isabella in Spain in 1855, Miller adds in her book, an obelisk was built as a tribute to Spanish conqueror Miguel Lopez de Legazpi, founder of the Spanish settlement in Cebu, at the heart of the plaza. This structure still stands today.

Filipino historian Resil B. Mojares said in a newspaper column in 1994 that it was considered a premier public park during the Spanish era, lined with trees and lighted by kerosene lamps while music from the serenatas (serenade) filled the air.

According to Miller, from Plaza Armas, it became Plaza Mayor when its expansion brought it near properties of the Cathedral of Cebu and then later, in the 1870s, the plaza was renamed Plaza Maria Cristina in honor of Spain's Queen Regent who took over the throne when her husband died.

Historical artifacts — gold death masks, gold earrings, Thai Bluish-green "guan" celadon, jars and earthenware — were unearthed underneath a portion of the plaza in 2008, when civil works for the construction of the South Road Properties (SRP0 tunnel started.

A marker said the park was renamed Plaza Libertad and became a symbol of Cebuano liberation from Spanish rule during the American colonial period. It hosted performances from the municipal band and became a favorite hangout of Cebu's elite.

When the Americans left, it became Plaza Independencia and it is by this name that it's known today.
The plaza also faced threats: squatters encroached near the area in the late 60s and the City Council recommended that it be bulldozed in the 70s.

Newspaper reports in the 1980s said the City Government was able to reclaim the plaza with the help of the private sector and built inside the park a skating rink, children's playground, and food stalls. It was these activities together with the Sunday singing contests courtesy of a radio station that the present renovation ended.

Two friends agreed it was more fun then because the park buzzed with activities. Joggers would start the day followed by those doing tai chi. Then more people would come in and eat snacks or meals in food stalls while others would bring their own and have a picnic. Around 5 p.m., the music would play and the rotunda would be filled with skaters.

Today, a picnic at the plaza is not allowed and activities will need a permit. It's stricter but much, much safer and children can run around without parents having to worry, said a security guard.

Fort San Pedro

Enclosed within Plaza Independencia grounds is Fort San Pedro, the smallest and oldest triangular bastion fort in the Philippines. (Photo by Marlen Limpag)

Rama said the plaza is a "labor of love" and Cebuanos should love the plaza and care for it. "There should be people who love the plaza. If you don't love something, you don't care about it," he added.

Tourists can't afford to miss visiting this historic park that has stood witness to Cebu's past. The plaza is accessible by cab or jeepney from any point of the city. The plaza is bounded by M. J. Cuenco Avenue and Legaspi Extension. Adjacent to the park is the Cebu City Post Office and another important landmark, Fort San Pedro. Several jeepneys from various points in Cebu City also pass by the plaza.

Dining in Mactan Island’s ‘sutukil’ restaurants

Photo by Marlen Limpag

The staff prepares to weigh the fish picked by a customer from a selection of seafood, before cooking it the sutukil way.

Mactan Island in Cebu is known for its posh resorts and world-class hotels like Shangri-La as well as eateries that specialize in three methods of cooking seafood — sugba (grilled), tuwa (stewed), kilaw (raw) or sutukil (a combination of the first syllables of the three words).
While such dishes are ordinary fare in many restaurants in Cebu, what's special about the eateries in Mactan is they offer to have a single order of fish done in those three methods.

Of course, you will have to pick a big fish so the tail half of it can be grilled, the flesh from the remaining half scraped off the bones and prepared raw in vinegar and spices, and the head part becomes soup or stew.
Sutukil, though, is not anymore an offering limited to that row of open wooden eateries built over the shallows in the village of Mactan but it is in this place where it first gained prominence.

Not too keen on fish? Don't worry, they also have shrimps, crabs, squid, and shells cooked the way you want it.

The food is enough to make your eating experience memorable, but you can make it more worthwhile if you keep these handy tips in mind.

Photo by Marlen Limpag

Customers at one of the sutukil eateries choose from the seafood displayed at the buying area.
  Be ready to pay high. How much will you spend for a good meal in sutukil? At least P500 pesos or more if you come in as a group and you're footing the bill. You should also keep in mind that the price of the seafood is different from the cost you pay for cooking it.

Don't expect anything fancy. It's nowhere near five-star. The wooden tables are cheap as are the plastic tablecloth, chairs, and utensils. The servers are in shirts and jeans. You do get to dine with the view of the sea and the mangroves with their occasional bird visitors.

Expect great service but be prepared for the worst. Most strive to offer quality service to customers, whether locals or foreigners, but be prepared for less, especially if there are several other diners. During the many times I've been there, I never had any bad experience, but a friend who visited the place while on vacation said customer service was virtually non-existent as at that time the place was packed.
In my case, eatery people directed us to the best spots, answered questions with incredible knowledge and politeness, and were attentive to our needs.

Mario Alabastro, 28, also only has good things to say. "We took the time to enjoy the food. When we're done, we noticed that we were the only ones left. But they never asked us to leave or showed any hint of impatience. They just let us enjoy the food."

Doris Tiston-Banawa, though, had the opposite experience. It might be that weekends and peak tourist seasons are not the best days to eat there.

Photo by Marlen Limpag

Grilled, stewed, and prepared raw are the three methods by which fish is served at the sutukil eateries in Mactan, Cebu. Feel free to add shrimps, pork, crabs, and squid to your menu.
  Do tip. If you're given great food and service, you don't have any excuse not to do so. In my case, it was more than just for their satisfactory service. It's my little way of helping out the restaurant crew who depend solely on the restaurant for their sustenance. I remember a Boholana, who was just turning 14, spending her summer vacation working there so she can have some cash for the incoming school year.

Take time to choose your eatery. Don't let those paid-on-commission basis "barkers" pressure you into choosing one too soon. Compare prices and see if the seafood is fresh. You can even go inside and check if the view appeals to you.

Act like the locals. There's no better way to do this than by arriving at the area aboard a jeepney. You pay a minimal fare and avoid getting taken for a ride by unscrupulous taxi drivers. Take one with the Punta Engaño signboard. The eateries are just 30 minutes away from central Lapu-Lapu City, which shares Mactan Island with the town of Cordova.

A gorgeous view, scrumptious seafood meals, and great company: all these make for an unforgettable sutukil experience.

Monday, August 8, 2011

A Failed Presidency -- The American Problem

Few Americans needed Standard & Poor to confirm the mismanagement of the United States government and its finances.  The downgrading of American credit will raise interest rates on America’s huge debt and ultimately on all Americans.  Popular polls say that most Americans blame Congress—but that’s too simplistic.  As much as Barack Obama would like to shift that blame onto Congress, the fault lies squarely on the shoulders of President. It is first and foremost a leadership problem that is crippling America—and the leader is President Barack Obama—not the many members of Congress.

No matter how many speeches he makes, the conclusion is clear: Obama’s greatest failure is spending America into enormous deficits, and being clueless about how to get the economy to recover.  His speeches, riddled with “I” and “We” are mostly serving to indict him for his failings.  Appearing on TV more than any other sitting president, Barack Obama is constantly “explaining” why things aren’t working, when he should be working on what to do different and better.

Instead he is “campaigning,” which is the only thing he knows how to do reasonable well.  But he can’t fix the economy; he has neither the experience nor the knowhow to do it.  His failed, misguided policies have only exacerbated the size of his mistakes and shortcomings. 


“I didn’t say ‘Change we can believe in tomorrow.,.’ I didn’t say, ‘Change we can believe in next week…’  “We knew this was going to take time.”  —Barack Obama, Aug. 4, 2011.

Obama has surrounded himself with academics, theoreticians and politicians and all of their solutions are wrong, flawed and ineffective.  Don’t take my word for it.  Look at the evidence.  Nobody in his  inner circle has meaningful business experience.  He not only doesn’t understand business, he dislikes businesses; they are only useful as a way to collect taxes to redistribute.

For Barack Obama’s first 18 months, and occasionally even today, he and his loyalists try to place the lion’s share of the blame for America’s problems with George W. Bush.  There is little doubt that Bush erred seriously on several counts:  he initiated two expensive wars and then saw the Iraq war mismanaged for at least 2-3 years.

Then Bush failed, along with the (then) GOP led Congress to rein in spending to compensate for the cost of these wars.  Finally, he reduced tax rates and created the Medicare prescription drug program (which turned out to work better and cost far less than was feared). Coincidentally, the much-maligned TARP initiated by Bush actually staved off a financial collapse and is largely being paid back by the banks and insurance companies involved.  In perhaps his greatest mistake, Bush failed to veto a single spending bill sent to him by Congress.

Bush’s mistakes were clearly serious errors, but they pale in comparison with Obama’s failures since he took office.  The Democratically controlled Congress was complicit with Obama’s failures.  They have not submitted, and Obama has not submitted a realistic budget for the country in over 800 days—a clear failure to meet their responsibilities. (Exception: Obama’s irresponsible Feb. budget, which was voted down 97-0 by a Democratically controlled Senate.)

To chronicle Obama’s failures and his shortcomings is impossible within the length of a simple blog post.  A few of them are most notable.  Obama aided and abetted by Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid rammed the new health care legislation down the throat of America—and Obamacare was created.  Parts of it are well-intentioned, but much of it is feared by Americans and especially small businesses.  Arguably some of Obama’s greatest damage to the economy has been done by his appointees in the EPA, NLRB, CPSC, et. al., and the Justice Department.  American business is oppressed by regulation. Sadly, Obama barely realizes this.

Next came the $840 billion “stimulus” package, (mostly pork and patronage), which worked poorly or not at all—unless you consider creating jobs at $275,000 each to be a good solution.  Not enough “shovel-ready” projects were really “shovel-ready” Obama admitted recently, chuckling awkwardly at his naiveté.  Obama and his experts (now mostly gone back to finance or academia) predicted a drop of unemployment to under 8% when the number of jobless went the other way—upward.  Now, more Americans have been out of work, for longer, than any time in the past half-century.

Obamacare not only violated many of his eloquent campaign promises; e.g., Taxes on Americans earning less than $200/$250,000 per year will no increase one penny—except for the new Obamacare tax to 3.8% applied to investment income—which will hit millions of Americans. When faced with his party’s impending losses in 2008 elections, Obama dispatched Rahm Emmanuel to attempt buying-off candidates in the 2008 primaries with a promise of high-level jobs, a legally questionable practice at best, and unethical one at worst.

During Obama’s term in office the deficit has grown astronomically as he continues, even to this day, to insist on more spending and more taxes (especially those on “millionaires and billionaires” a category that most Americans earning $200-250,000 per year hardly imagine including them.)

Those who point to his achievements name “bailing out” GM & Chrysler—but many experts feel that was done by using executive power for further illegal actions, denying legal bondholders their rightful returns.  There is also a strong belief that ordinary bankruptcy could well have accomplished the same result at a cost of almost $20 billion less of taxpayers’ money.  But then spending too much of taxpayers money has never bothered this White House.

To make Obamacare’s outrageous financial claims, Obama & his Democratic Congressional minions desperately needed to cut its cost.  Thus, buried in the 2000+-page bill, Obama and his accomplices Reid and Pelosi cut $500 billion out of Medicare.  Now he pretends to worry about seniors while ignoring Medicare’s impending insolvency.  After all, even if Obama could win a second term, he will be gone before Medicare fails, and be able to blame it on his successor.

Barack Obama was going to close Gitmo—until he realized that it was as unrealistic as much of his campaign rhetoric.  Obama has violated the law, which requires the president to act within 15 days after the Medicare commission advises him of a financing problem.  His Democratic allies gave him a waiver in his first year, but this year—he simply ignored the law.

Obama followed Bush’s foreign policy and even left most Bush appointees in charge, until recently.  Obama’s vanquished primary opponent Hillary Clinton has precluded him from making as big a debacle of foreign policy as he has on domestic policy.  He tried, early in his career, kowtowing to foreign dictators and despots, apologizing for America instead of protecting and defending it.

The ultimate failure of President Barack Obama is that he is unable or unwilling to lead; to define anything more than vague generalities as a solution to America’s daunting problems.  Even his own allies in the GAO state, “we can’t value a speech.”  In his desperation to run for reelection, Obama continues to abdicate his responsibilities.  The debt ceiling was a showcase of his failings as he periodically jumped in and out of negotiations until he literally neutralized himself.

The president made himself an outsider in the decision, even as he tried to sound like a voice of reason, making speech after speech, saying less in each successive one.  Senator Harry Reid and House Speaker John Boehner finally fought through massive partisan problems to reach a compromise agreement—but it was clearly too little, too late.  Kicking the hard work down to a twelve person “super-committee” was not enough to settle financial markets.

While Barack Obama campaigned, making still more speeches at his 50th birthday celebrations, the Wall Street voted with its money and the Dow-Jones average dropped over 500 points and the S. & P. dropped even more—5%+.  117,000 jobs created in July don’t even approach the number needed to offset new entries to the workforce. The drop in unemployment from 9.2% to 9.1% signals more unemployed Americans giving up, not more of them being hired.

Happy Birthday Mr. President.  You have accomplished something no other president has done.  You’ve spent America into a hole that will take a decade to fix, and kept more Americans out of work longer than anyone in recent history, and you’ve accomplished all this in record time, only 2-1/2 years.  Who knows how much harm you can do given still more time.


John Mariotti is an internationally known executive, consultant and an award-winning author. His book, The Complexity Crisis was named one of 2008’s Best Business Books.  In a recent novel, The Chinese Conspiracy, he merges an exciting fictional thriller with the factual reality of America’s risk from Cyber-Attacks. (  Mariotti does Keynote speeches, serves on corporate boards and is a consultant/advisor to companies.  He can be reached at .

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Inuman Food

Lori Baltazar

The ultimate crispy pig is chicharon bulaklak

Whether you're swigging down a bottle of beer, shooting down shots of lambanog (local wine made from coconut), or taking your time with a bottle of wine, there's nothing like pairing pulutan with a drink. Incorrectly but steadfastly believed to "line the stomach," thus allowing for less alcohol absorption (read: beer belly) pulutan takes a myriad of forms--from glorified street food using the different anatomies of chicken and pigs to more upscale versions rebranded as tapas.

Pulutan is not a meal or a snack even. It's food that always has alcohol at its center, is often grilled or deep-fried, is always oily, and should be able to be eaten with your fingers, most of the time anyway. Here, a few of the popular pulutans:

Because nothing spells sisig like excess, a whole raw egg is cracked atop


Practically everything except the pig's oink and meat are used to make this Kapampangan original. Skin, cheeks, nose, ears, even the animal's inner organs are chopped up, boiled, seasoned, and grilled. Sometimes it's even fried with plenty of chopped onions and chilies and salt. When it comes to table, people reflexively reach for the liquid seasoning and tak-tak-tak! it on followed by squeezes of calamansi. And because nothing spells sisig like excess, a whole raw egg is cracked atop. There's even sisig mixed with chunks of chicharon to make crunchy sisig, a heart-stopping (literally!) version of the original sisig which is soft and salty.

Chicharon Bulaklak

Filipinos love crispy pork in all its forms: lechon, crispy pata, lechon kawali, chicharon. But the ultimate crispy pig is chicharon bulaklak. It's fried pork intestines that when deep-fried bloom, hence the "bulaklak" assignation. And truly, they do look like flowers, curly edges that ripple around a middle of fat and a chewiness that alternates between tough and tender. There's a feral, very deeply meaty flavor about a good chicharon bulaklak and it's at its best when dipped in a vinegar-soy sauce concoction or eaten as is sprinkled with grains of salt or even MSG.

Lori Baltazar

It's best to eat these when hot off the fryer

Crispy Crablets

Admittedly less common than the above, these are wonderful because you can eat the whole thing, head and all. These soft-shelled baby crabs abound in riverbanks but can be cultured in fish ponds too. After cleaning and being soaked in gin to remove any off-odors, they're dredged in seasoned flour and then flash-fried. It's best to eat these when hot off the fryer and dipped — make that dunked — in strong vinegar anointed with siling labuyo (bird's eye chili) and salt.

Lori Baltazar

A favorite in reality shows and is often used jokingly to instill "fear" in foreigners visiting Manila …

Balut & Penoy

Sold at night by itinerant vendors shouting the characteristic "Baluuut . . . penoy!" this is the first choice of people who've pulled together a spontaneous drinking session outside their home. Usually sold together and swathed in a grimy, threadbare cloth to keep the eggs warm, the eggs are differentiated only by scrawled markings with a fast-fading marker pen.

Balut and penoy are both duck eggs but it's their incubation length that determines their look and thus, taste. The more benign is the penoy, an infertile duck egg which, while it sounds technical, looks and tastes like a regular boiled egg. It's usually sold with grains of coarse salt pressed into a fold of newspaper. Use this instant receptacle to hold the pieces of peeled eggshell and then press the salt onto the penoy.

The balut is a favorite in reality shows and is often used jokingly to instill "fear" in foreigners visiting Manila. An incubated duck egg with a 16-18 day-old embryo, this is made edible after being boiled for up to 30 minutes. A balut can be off-putting right from the get-go with its webbed shell interior and indescribable texture — from the chick itself to the lone bone.

Grossness aside, both these eggs are favorites among beer drinkers. And that they're regarded as aphrodisiacs and energy boosters is but a plus.

Meat on sticks--cheap and satisfying with a variety to please the pickiest eater


Filipinos have their own inimitable way with grilling meats on sticks. Whether it's whole meat parts like pork bbq or animal innards (isaw and tenga and betamax et al.), this is food that's marinated, skewered, and cooked. Cheap and satisfying with a variety to please the pickiest, plus it can be eaten out of hand, what could be better than that?

Lori Baltazar is the whiz behind the popular food blog, Dessert Comes First. Looking for more tasty Timpla articles by Lori? Find them here. You can also follow Lori on Twitter.

Your Ad Here Click here to join ugg
Click to join ugg