Monday, October 31, 2005

SCOTUS Nominee, Take 2

So Alito has been nominated.

Wow, never heard of the guy. In fact, never heard of any SCOTUS
nominee before they were nominated! But damn if I don't have an

Actually, I get so very tired of this process. The hypocrisy from both
sides of the political aisle is depressing. And to think that both
will continue to insist that they are simply trying to find a competent

When are we going to finally come up with the SCOTUS Range-finder 4000
that taps into each potential candidate's brain stem, extracts their
rulings on the top 5 issues of the day and presents them to the Senate
in the candidate's blood so that we don't have to hassle with the

Just a question.

Question of the Day

Question on front page, top of the fold, of my newest Christian Science
Monitor World Edition: A Fair Trail for Saddam Hussein?

Question from me: Do I really care?

Feel Good Corps

After 18 months or so, I guess a volunteer can offer an opinion about
the Peace Corps with some authority. At least concerning their

I entered the Peace Corps with great expectations and ambitions. After
living my life with one purpose in mind, my own happiness, I decided I
would make some sort of contribution to the world that was completely
altruistic. Well, I can't say that I am as self-actualized as I had
hoped but I have adjusted to a very meager allowance and humble living
conditions. In the states I would be at the bottom of the poverty
ladder, scrambling for the first rung.

Surprisingly though, when you are poor by choice it is easier to live
with than I expected.

But this experience isn't supposed to be about me. Ok, I am hoping to
gain some things (personal growth, blah, blah, blah), but I am really
here to help in transferring technical skills to Ukrainian businesses.
Frankly, it is a long, tough road.

And so it is for most of the business volunteers I know. The Ukrainian
business culture is so alien to western styles of management etc. that
it is practically impossible to get anybody to actually follow any of
your advice. Why? Grants.

Everybody loves grants. Organizations love to receive them,
organizations love to give them. In the end, everybody is happy. But
what good does it do? From my experience, organizations in Ukraine use
their PCVs to write grant applications. For what? Oh, they don't
know, They'll think of something. PCVs read about grants. PCVs study
grants. PCVs become experts in grants. And PCVs write the grants.
Some PCVs are successful in grant applications and receive great, and
well deserved praise, And commonly the money is misappropriated and/or
ends up in somebody's undeserving pocket.

And what does the organization learn? "Wow, let's write more grants.
Let's get the UN or George Soros to prop us up again next year!"

Is anybody doing follow up studies to see what the actual impact of the
granting system is? I don't mean some dry accounting of money spent,
but a study that evaluates the results of this system.

Is this money doing any real good? What is the percentage that is

But more importantly, how much harm does it do? How much do grants
keep Ukraine businesses and government mired in a system of begging for
money, stealing what they can and never going through the difficult
steps of building a real organization that is self-supporting?

What is our role here? Are we here to make measurable contributions or
is that really important? Do we care if we are effective or just
giving the impression of effectiveness?

Are we really just the Feel Good Corps?

I and many business volunteers supplement our time here in other
activities. I teach a management class and participate in two English
clubs as well as other such activities. But I would much rather be
providing the expertise that I have brought with me.

Sunday, October 30, 2005

Third Way

Yes, that tired phrase that party operatives scoff at. The third way.
Who is going to finally get it?

The blogging world is known as being dominated by the right. Wrong.
From my perspective, the blogging world has a larger percentage of
people who support the war in Iraq, not right-wing causes.

The problem is that some people believe that supporting a strong
defense is a left-right issue. It isn't.

The irony of the past few years is that the Democrats have embraced
their "Base" in an effort to build support. The Democratic brainiacs
who are paid large sums of money to provided real smart advice decided
a while back that the Dems have to show their courage and take a stand
on the important issues. The only problem is that they seem to have
decided that if the Republicans are on one side of an issue, they have
to be on the other. My 6 year old niece understands the silliness of
that. Voters want to believe that you arrive at your position through
conviction, not through a temper tantrum.

So those of us who tend to be center or center left, who are not
typically one issue voters, had to make a choice such as "What is more
important to me, gay marriage or national security?" Well, sorry Mr. Sullivan, but as much as I
really, really, really want you to have the right to marry, my fear of
a nuclear device lighting up Manhatten is a little more compelling.
And the same goes for the other pressing issues of the day. Security
trumps everything right now.

And by the way, John Kerry didn't support gay marriage either.

From my perspective the party that usually wins is the one that manages
to create the image of the most centrist. I've never understood why
anybody would think leaning to the wingnuts would be effective.

So what will happen in 2008? My prediction is the most moderate
candidate will win.

But here is the irony, if a Democrat wins, the right will say they are
a flaming liberal, if a Republican wins, the Dems call them a right
wing wacko. Of course, to wingnuts everybody not in their wing is an

So if you want to know who is the real centrist, the voters will let you know. And it will probably tell you where you stand in the political spectrum too.

Scooter's Patooter in the Roto-Rooter

I'm trying very hard to maintain a balanced view on this indictment.
When Clinton lied and then lied about lying and then was outed as a
liar, I was furious, not only because of the lying, but because it
shifted my perspective of everything he had done before.

Suddenly I could see how the many women who had made accusations
against him were possibly, and in my mind, probably, telling the truth.
Suddenly I could see how Clinton had a history of destroying women who
dared to cross him. Suddenly I could see what I couldn't see before.
And I felt like a dupe. Although I had problems with about half of
his politics (probably true for most politicians) I voted for him

And I suddenly felt like I could finally understand the anger that
people felt over Nixon. My father had always defended Nixon with
something along the lines of "He wasn't involved in Watergate and all
he did was try to protect his friends." or whatever. Clinton taught me
how infuriating it is to have the President lie to you.

Do I think presidents always speak the truth? No, the nature of the
job, I assume, requires some bending of the truth periodically. But
the key here is "the job". If the president is doing his job in an
honorable manner, I'll accept a fib now and then. Otherwise, keep it
above the board.

And by the way, that also means if a lawyer asks
an inappropriate question about issues outside of the job, refuse to
answer. But don't lie. Under oath.

So with Scooter's situation I keep thinking that if I am intellectually
honest, I will be equally outraged. For now I just can't muster it.
Perhaps in the coming months there will be revelations that get me to
that point but I am so flabbergasted at the political maneuverings that
are being revealed between the CIA and the Administration that I'm too
dumbfounded to summon up very much anger.

What is, or was going on there? Are these people professionals or
children? Are they serious about their role in national security?

How is it that our national intelligence agency sends a guy on a secret
mission and he ends up using that trip for political ends? How is it
that somebody can blatantly leak supposedly classified information
without repercussions? And then write an op-ed about it?!?!?!?!? I
honestly don't understand.

But then am I changing the subject? This is about Scooter right? He
is the one that revealed Valerie Plame's name to the world right?
Well, no, all I can tell is that he said he heard it from one person
but they believe he heard it from somebody else. From everything I've
read, the secret, revealer of the Plame name is still a secret.

I'm as far away from Washington as you can get and frankly I still
don't know the meaning of the new (to me) hot word "meme" so I won't
even begin to address Fitzgerald's motivation except to say that it
seems that most people agree he is a straight shooter. I hope that is
true and that this is all resolved clearly and cleanly. And if Scooter
Libby broke the law, he should be punished.

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