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About kenn

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  1. I think the grand error is to equate public with private morality. The two domains really are different, and lots of good public figures have had their personal foibles. Of course, as sectorbets notes, when a politician (like Arnold) makes private morality a political issue, then fails to live up to that standard himself, you can't really let that politician slide. BTW, as a lefty, I must ask if Arnold-the-immigrant didn't confuse his parties when he got off the boat. To my mind he has always fit better in the contemporary Democratic Party than the Republican Party--and if he had just been a Democratic he wouldn't have been as pressured to embrace silly family values things he obviously didn't believe. He must have just confused his parties. More seriously, Arnold harkens back to a former time when there were a lot more moderate Republicans than there are today. I miss those folks. Arnold and only a handful like him remain IMO the best hope for the Republican Party, and thus indirectly for the country. Politicians after all have to work together across the aisle, and my sense is that even lefties can work with a guy like Arnold. I wish there were more Republicans like him. Oh well, another sex scandal. Counting Osama's enthusiasm for pornography, this makes three this past week. Public figures fall almost everyday on this issue, which strikes me as a mistake.
  2. Hey ciclista, thanks for the links. Note however that Google (which only recanted under pressure from CR) is deferring to the US Department of State. Oh brother. This is the same outfit that still claims that Nicaragua's first free elections were in 1990, overlooking the earlier one that Ortega won in spite of US interference, and neglecting to mention that the first Bush administration spent more per vote to influence the 1990 elections in Nicaragua than Bush had spent on his own 1988 campaign and failing to note that Bush invaded Panama on the eve of Nicaragua's 1990 elections in part to put the fear of (the US) God into Nicaragua. Just check the State Department website on Nicaragua if your don't believe me. It whitewashes the whole thing. Or check out these clowns' website on Costa Rica, where they warn Americans against going into San José because of the "crime." They don't mention that their own embassy personnel were burglarized in their private snooty enclaves in the way this usually happens, namely an inside job. The State Department is the last outfit I would trust for accurate information, so now they are cartographers too? Oh baloney, it's political. As I see it, Nicaragua is probably right in staking its claims. It does own the river, no dispute about that, the boundaries are uncertain enough for it to have a reasonable claim to the disputed territory, and Costa Rica has repeatedly dragged its feet when asked to clarify the boundaries. Well, Nicaragua is saying "put up or shut up," and that's actually fair. Nicaragua needs to develop that river much more than CR does, because Nicaragua is poor and needs to develop where it can (an agenda that ironically helps CR, since a more developed Nicaragua is in CR's interest), but since CR has many other developments it can drag its feet. All Nicaragua is saying is that "the time is now." Fair enough. And yes, Nicaragua has its "army" there, but CR's "police" cost CR three times the amount that Nicaragua's "army" costs it, so is Nicaragua wrong in saying that "police" is just a nice term for "army"? Granted, the Nicas are behaving abrasively, sort of taunting CR, and you would think this could have been an issue in which Ortega could have called Chinchilla and said. "Hey, we'd like to dredge the river, yet there are some border issues. Can we work something out?" Well, he didn't, so he's a jerk, but he's also a pretty darn good politician and maybe knows better than we do how its done. Had he politely called Chinchilla he may have gotten the "mañana" treatment. I dunno, you may not like the guy or the way he's going about it, but big picture is that Ortega may be right. Nicaragua has the rights to the river, they are not invading CR (although there are some border issues), and CR needs to wake up and deal with it. This doesn't mean CR should cave on everything, but it does mean that CR is obstructionist here. And, regarding our Risk players, oh you better believe that Ortega would love for the US soldiers to come to CR's aid on this one. This would give him a royal flush: The Yanquis are once again attacking! I don't believe either CR or the US is so stupid as to take this bait, but this is one of the risks frankly of having US troops nearby. My God, if one US soldier got close to that border it would be a slam dunk win for Nicaragua in the international community. I really doubt that this was Ortega's intention--he's not that stupid either--but he would take it if handed to him. He would similar love to have a trigger-happy CR cop misbehave, which would verify his argument that CR is not pacifist. So don't even think of going here. Any military action becomes a win for Nicaragua, which again is probably mostly right on this issue. Our would-be pundits also pontificate about how Ortega engineered this to fortify his support (or create it) in Nicaragua. Maybe, but that's not the way I see it. I think Ortega is just Ortega. He sees this and a hundred other things as part of his agenda. He's a bull in a china store for sure, and lots of what he does make enemies, but I don't think he starts out trying to make enemies. I think his enemies just come, because he's a bull in a china store, and when they come he is quite willing to use them for his advantage too. I say he did the river project because he believed it was good for Nicaragua and Nicaragua's right, and if an altercation with CR comes so be it: He'll use that altercation too. He's a driver, plays hardball, and uses offense as defense. I have qualms about Nicaragua's abrasiveness on this issue, but I suspect that at the end of the day Nicaragua is actually right--or at least close enough to right to make its claims reasonable. As a resident of CR I am therefore appalled by CR's nationalistic and frankly xenophobic reaction. The Ticos are allowing all their anti-Nica prejudices to surface now. It's no longer "Nica jokes" told around the dinner table but serious anti-Nicaragua venom. Well, I want CR to have what is rightfully its too, and it seems possible that Nicaragua is overstepping here. So I don't want to abandon CR. Even so, I am ashamed of some of my Tico friends, who are making this an anti-Nica crusade when it is really just something that both countries need to sit down and discuss. I mean hell, this is a win-win situation for both countries. CR benefits from the development of the river too. This is not zero-sum. Both countries can and should win if we take away the saber rattling. But for here, I mostly have qualms about expat sympathies, which veer decidedly in favor of CR. I don't understand this. Perhaps it is expat ignorance. I can't tell you how many expats I know who think the Latinos they deal with are Ticos when they are Nicas. Many just think because they are in Tico Land they are dealing with Ticos, and thus feel a loyalty to Ticos without even realizing that they are dealing with Nicas. Or, maybe it's just a new geographic loyalty operating. I prefer NOT to take a position on this issue, since I'm neither a cartographer nor an expert on the legal history of treaties either. I don't know who is right here. However, I'm pretty sure that you don't know either, and the way I read it it Nicaragua may well be right and CR wrong. At minimum, it is an issue on which the countries can profitably work together. So I say let's all simmer down, and try to support both Ticos and Nicas in reaching a resolution while vociferously rejecting xenophobia. Come on, this is a win-win issue, let's work toward that solution.
  3. Well, as one of your directionless liberal arts types (and getting a little old to get a job unless there's an opening as a Wal-Mart greeter) I must congratulate you for being sort of right about the meaning of "third world." It was a Cold War concept, thunk up by our friends at the Pentagon, to denote those countries that were allied with neither the "free" nor the "communist" world. However, the way I heard it is that the "third world" was also where the Cold War was really fought. Hmmm, go figure, that's kind of what happened, wasn't it? The third world was the poor battleground for the Cold War. We could also ask what happened to the concept of the third world. Ya know, it became "low income country" according to the UN, which also has "high" and "middle-income" countries. Go figure, the highs are pretty much the old first world, the middles disproportionately the old second world, and the poors the old third world. The high, low, middle makes it sound so mathematical and neutral, like just calculate GDP and you're done, without any explanation for why the countries differ. I'm not a real fan of Pentagon classifications, but I prefer theirs to this new-fangled one because it suggests a reason for third world poverty. On the other issue that started this thread, I believe the poster is right that gringo liberals outnumber gringo conservatives in CR, and wacko gringo liberals are more prevalent than monkeys. This said, I sure seem to run into a lot of gringo conservatives, and moving the Amnet channel for FOX News seemed to elicit the biggest hand wringing since the Titanic went down. God help us if Jeopardy is ever canceled. It's a mixed bag down here, that's for sure. Though I keep having to tell my Tico friends that they gringos they meet are NOT typical of the gringos in the US. Left, right, or just goofy, expats are a problematic bunch. Besides this, anyone know a Wal-Mart looking for greeters? I'm what I would prefer to call unemployable rather than directionless, but any line on gainful employment would be appreciated. You see, I have these useless liberal arts degrees and could really use the guidance of those of you who knew what education was really for while I was just floundering flunky and then forced to mark more time as a college professor. Maybe if I had majored in widgets all would be better . . .
  4. I forgot to mention the role of drug money in CR. AM Costa Rica mentioned this, and I suspect it's real. CR is increasingly seen as a safe place to park and spend drug money, which guess what is in dollars. I'm not forecasting nothing. The 700 colone to the dollar figure was just given by AM Costa Rica or some other such outlet (I forget) as what the exchange rate would me today IF CR had maintained its daily devaluation rather than switching to the market-band system. Oddly, this sounds right viscerally. I used to buy coffee at 500 colones and now keep seeing it at 700 colones. Basically, CR inflation keeps going, and my dollar that was worth 580 last year at this time but is now worth 500 should be worth close to 700 simply to keep pace. We're not only talking about the decline of the dollar relative to the colone but also the failure of the dollar to rise in tandem with inflation. We're 25% down from where we should be to keep pace, and that hurts. But what happens in the future is anyone's guess. There's no specific reason why CR would or perhaps should care about protecting those of us with dollar incomes. Based upon the last proposed revisions of the residency law, some of which went through, CR no longer feels that it needs gringo residents. They are probably right about this too. CR has probably passed the development point where they need to go this route, so they don't. I can't blame them either. As for what's going on in the US, well, I partially disagree. Sorry, I see the healthcare bill as a money saver over the long haul, and it simply is. It's just nonsense in my book to see it otherwise. However, there are obviously details that need to be addressed, mostly because in order to pass it every vested interest had to be promised a continuing windfall. Obviously that can't be sustained. Taxes also have to go up somewhere. Pick your poison, but there is no free lunch. Somebody somewhere has to pay (while somebody somewhere has to take a hit). As for term limits being and solution, I'm in the naysayer camp. There are certainly lifers I'd like to get rid of, but I personally think it's a myth to imagine that an amateur congress is mysteriously superior. I had no problem with guys like Edward Kennedy or Robert Byrd hanging on, and don't have a problem with John McCain continuing. I don't think amateurs are the answer. What I do suspect is going on is that the US wants a weak dollar now, because that helps exports, which in turn theoretically helps business, which in turn theoretically helps the overall economy. I'm not sure I buy all this, mostly because I suspect that global business headquartered in the US is already doing well. The corporations have rebounded, only the slugs haven't. However, I fear that the US is mostly a plutocracy these days so whatever business wants it gets. Our friend Obama does veer liberal (thank God) so surely knows what's happening, but Obama actually isn't that liberal (despite rumors to the contrary), is only one cog in the machinery, and has to put a little faith in trickle down. The upshot is that the US wants a weak dollar now to goose a recovery.
  5. It probably depends upon exactly what you do. In general, gigging is a lost cause in CR. You can do it, but the pay is incredibly low. Most gringos who do it pass the hat and get a free bar tab, plus go semi-solo with an Ipod or the like. There is very rarely enough money to pay a full band. If you do instrument repair, it probably depends upon the instrument and you. Guitar shops abound, and labor rates are low. I'm a retired drummer who has yet to be lured back into the business. I would enjoy it, but when I calculate the costs I realize that I would almost have to pay to play, or at best break even. The singer/guitarists can do solo gigs with recorded background and come out ahead, but we sidemen are goners.
  6. Unless my thinking cap is on crooked (wouldn't be the first time) it's an issue of supply and demand. There are just more dollars in CR than before, and that drives the value of dollars down. Why are there more dollars? For starters, the IMF has pumped a bunch in for loans to fill the potholes and build the bridges that all the expats grumble about. Second, if anyone cares to note, CR exports continue to rise while imports remain flat. This brings more dollars into CR without sending them out. Coupled with this is more US businesses locating in CR. The declining value of the dollar is actually linked to CR's development success. Third, there's the money that China has pumped in, which with an artificially low currency compared to the dollar drags down the value of the dollar. Not least, there is CR self-interest. The CR Central Bank is buying up $50 million in dollars a month to "stabilize" the currency, but this only offsets the IMF money, nothing more. It's perceived to be in CR's interest to have a low dollar because that fuels exports by making them cheaper. The irony in all this is that the fall-off in US tourism dollars actually helping the dollar retain value. If more tourists arrive with more dollars that will depress the value of the dollar further. All of this is a huge issue to expats with dollar incomes. In reality, the dollar should be worth around 700 colones today to offset inflation over the past couple of years. Forget the 550 or 580 figure, the buying power figure is around 700. Not saying that gringos are entitled to anything, but the fact is that those of us with dollars are paying for the soccer stadium, the roads and bridges, and the overall exports with what is in effect a tax. It's something to think about.
  7. What if? Well, what if the Martians invaded and only Hershey bars would stop them? Man, I'd be in favor of Hershey bars! Really, I'm tired of these fictitious scenarios used to defend US military aggression. Right, IF Saddam had had weapons of mass destruction AND was intent upon deploying them against us, there would have been a reason to invade. But guess what? He didn't and he wasn't. So much for the justification for invasion (except for the 300,000 - 600,000 Iraqis the US slaughtered). IF CR actually needed US military support, THEN you would have a point. But it doesn't and you don't. The drug cartels are already throughout Central America, Guatemala in particular. (And hey, they have a military, what gives? I thought a military would prevent this!) I'm just lost how this can be construed as an argument for a US military presence in CR. Hershey bars I could understand, but the US military? Naw, not good, more problems than it is worth. And that CR accepts cash from countries with militaries, which I think most do (even Switzerland!), is I suppose for this reason beside the point. Like duh, yeah, the countries from which it accepts money have militaries. I bet the people in those countries also drink milk. Does this mean that milk drinking protects CR? Come on, spell out the connection between a foreign military and CR or shut up. As for me, yeah, I would live with the consequences. Not that anyone cares, but after much reflection I have decided that I am not a pacifist. I think some countries, probably most, ought to have a military and occasionally deploy it. (However, I also believe that in a republic the military should be largely comprised of citizens through universal conscription. Basically, if everybody had to fight, everybody would think long and hard before entering a war, and we could also shut up the career blowhards who believe that they know better than the rest of us.) That said, there is ample evidence in the world today that pacifism works. Gandhi pulled it off in India, Mandela in South Africa, MLK in the US, and CR hasn't done a bad job of it either. As a pure matter of strategy, sure, I'd go without a military backup if I were CR. It's smarter, more effective, and more humane. But the opposition keeps asking "What if?" like Alexander the Great is fixing to descend and kill all he men while raping all the women. Well, yeah, it could happen, but it doesn't seem likely to me. Alex and his ilk aren't around anymore. I think they went to Mars to regroup. Worse, I suspect that when they return it will be as bankers, not soldiers, because that's where the real power is and they're not stupid. As the saying goes, the US military is always prepared to fight the last war but never prepared for the current one. I dunno, but it seems to me that lots of Americans are still sitting around hoping to liberate France and not willing to admit that it was 65 years ago and ain't nobody been liberated by the US military since. It would seem a B movie fiction that the US is poised to protect and defend say CR. Yeah right. I say thanks but no thanks, go back to Tokyo or Frankfurt or wherever the hell you guys feel you're welcome, because it ain't here.
  8. I love these kinds of posts, because they are so easily rebutted! I assume that the poster is a Proud American and wants to see his country as better than it is, but except for the charge that the US "stands up and fights more than anyone else" (hard to discount, since the damn US military is just about everywhere, even in CR) the points are just factually incorrect. You can Google it for yourself, but here's a link I found right away about how the US ranks on foreign aid: http://www.cgdev.org/section/initiatives/_active/cdi/_country/united_states Not good? You got it! And we have to wonder whether "aid" delivered by battleships is included in this low figure. I assume it is. I happen to agree that China's presence globally is important, and not usually for the long-term good, but now that I think of it I haven't heard of China sending 46 battleships to CR, or actually even one. At the same time, does China have 20,000 soldiers in Japan, military bases in Germany, arms in Colombia? I'm thinking not. China is a shrewd player, and not to my mind always for the good, but it has the knack of playing diplomatically, which is frankly a strategy the US might want to copy. It's much smarter (the people like you more) if you send in guys in business suits with checkbooks than when you send in soldiers in uniforms with guns. The US may win in fire power in the short run, but is losing in the long run. Blah, blah, blah
  9. I hate to do shameless self promotion, but in the outside chance anyone is interested here is the Amazon link to my recent book about Nicaragua: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1556528086/ref=s9_simh_gw_p14_i1?pf_rd_m=ATVPDKIKX0DER&pf_rd_s=center-2&pf_rd_r=0ZFKTSD4XT985ABKD520&pf_rd_t=101&pf_rd_p=470938631&pf_rd_i=507846 Regarding Nicaragua's elections, no, not till next year, and believe you me it is a can of worms. Gunboat (or at least dollar) diplomacy is though nothing new in Nicaragua (or CR for that matter). The US has consistently supported the Sandinista opposition financially, i.e., in EVERY election, and I can't dismiss the possibility that Bush the First invaded Panama in part to dictate the outcome of Nicaragua's elections a few months later. It was, it appears, a matter of killing two birds with one stone. As for the boss, the Nicaraguan contras actually called the US Ambassador (to Honduras, where the war was orchestrated) "the boss" during the 1980s. I'm not kidding, they really did.
  10. Don't dodge it, tens of thousands of lives are at stake. Sure, it's pretty much a slam dunk that pot should be legal, and no the effects of it and alcohol are NOT similar. Pot is way better from the standpoint of social harm. The US (and other societies) tolerates alcohol, and probably should, and it should accordingly tolerate pot. It gets tougher with some of the other drugs. To my mind cocaine is not a good thing. Its mere use (even if legal) has more casualties. So it's tough I think to be purely libertarian on this. However, when you consider how much harm making cocaine illegal inflicts upon Latin America, you have to I believe reject that policy. Thus I think we should ideally hammer out some middle ground of policy--probably legalizing it in the US AND getting on top of educational and treatment programs, or something along these lines. I have no one policy recommendation, just say that we should put our heads together and find something that doesn't kill so many people or waste so much money. And it is a question of where money is spent. Plan Colombia has cost the US billions. It's not free. Yet while Uribe appears to have dented the supply in Colombia, in part with US aid, we see that some of the problem has shifted to Central America and Mexico, while Uribe's initiatives have provoked Venezuela. I don't think that in the big picture Plan Colombia has worked. And since it's not as if the US is doing nothing or spending no money, it seems to me that the US should rethink policy and redirect money to what might work. And yes, my thinking is that attention should be directed to demand, since attention to supply hasn't worked. But really, real people are being killed, innocent people, so this isn't a game. It's also quite possible that those of us in CR are paying for this through a lower exchange rate, resulting from more drug money being run through CR, in addition to whatever US taxes we pay. It's therefore important, not simply an academic exercise. An innocent student was killed in my neighborhood not long ago, caught in a crossfire between rival drug gangs, and if that was my kid I would be more than pissed. Come on, Americans can do better than this, we really can, and we have a moral obligation to try. We're still the major market (demand . . .) and are already spending billions. We're involved and can do better.
  11. Nice "fact" to call me a draft dodger. And I'm supposed to be impressed that you spent 26 years sucking on the military teat and now collect a pension for same? Last I looked scant few Americans with real jobs get such early retirements. No wonder you believe what you do, otherwise you couldn't sleep at night. If you must know, I was among those who vowed to leave the US if my countrymen were bloodthirsty enough to reelect W, and I did. Rush Limbaugh and others taunted that it was an idle threat, and we pansies wouldn't really leave the land of opportunity. Well I did, and I chose a pacifist country. The last thing I want is to have to live with career military retirees like you. Why don't you go back to the US if you think the militaristic state is so great? I'm trying to get away from guys like you, and really don't understand how you can retire to in good conscience to a pacifist country after a career in the opposite. You think the US military is great, but guess what, don't even want to live there yourself. For heaven's sake, go back to your VFW and leave those of us who don't agree with your alone. You've made your bed, lie in it. BTW, normally "Military" wouldn't be capitalized, though I gather it is in your mind. Ken, NOT Ret
  12. And would you knock it off about emotions? Yours is a naive view in my opinion that emotion and reason conflict, and from what I see you find so-called facts to bolster your emotions. Give it a rest. Yes, people feel about things, and ideally that prompts them to seek out facts, but there isn't the conflict you imply, and unless you are Dr. Spock I don't believe you are any different.
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