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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. I dunno. I think at the end of the day you have to trust your best instincts. A cool thing about CR is that, to a far greater extent than the cultural right in the US believes, character really counts here. Yeah, you can probably trust a Marriott, but after this it all amounts to getting vibes from a person and going with your sense of them. Then too, if you notice (I have) people will be real quick to give you a receipt. It may not be worth anything even if you go to court, but watch the receipt. Those who strive to be honest will almost always even volunteer one. It's a tough issue. I did a small deposit long distance and there was no problem, though I was prepared to tell the driver to take me to a hotel if there was. You have to trust at some level, while not being a sucker. There is no one answer.
  8. I bumped into a former neighbor of mine today, a Greek artist, who seemed to be very down in the income column and darn near begged me to help find him work. Well, OK, let me post on his behalf. He has real paintings to sell, and he is darn good, but practically he offers portraits. I believe that he has a varying price scale, never too high, depending upon whether you want a portrait in charcoal or oil or whatever. It makes sense. However, what mostly makes sense is that this is an awfully nice gift for someone, or even for yourself. You can get an artist's portrait for cheap. The other day, or rather days, I took a picture of a Tica and then had it printed and framed to give to her. She was tickled, since simply having a framed photo of herself was beyond her means. If I had the dough, it would be nice to commission an artist to do a painting. But the cost isn't that much for most people. Anyway, I have no financial interest in this at all (my oversight) but if you might be interested BC me and I'll send you his phone number. He speaks Spanish and English, and I would assume Greek.
  9. I actually read AM CR and missed this but, yes, the tourism increase this year would actually lower the value of the dollar. I also read that Intel's exports to the US have been up, as well as others. Whenever dollars come in and aren't spent (on imports) it floods the local market with dollars and lowers their value. I am guessing that CR imports from the US are down. I can't say about drug money, although US money to help fight the drug trade may have an effect. Again, the more US dollars that come into CR vs. the fewer that are spent for US goods (or others paid in dollars) the lower the value of the dollar would be. I think. I'm sure there are complicating factors.
  10. Well, this is actually one of my points of departure. I don't know about the yen (though it could easily be checked) but the dollar is doing well against the euro and the pound. I also believe that the cordova in Nicaragua is still depreciating against the dollar. Blaming Obama or anything else inside the US for the decline of the dollar vis-a-vis the colon doesn't seem to me to make any sense. What's happening in CR has to do with what's happening in CR, not the US.
  11. It's 506 today, over a 1% loss in a little over two weeks, which is in keeping with the roughly 1.5% per month loss over the past 8 months or so. However, I have a conjecture that I would like to put forward for comment or criticism. The decline in the value of the dollar has roughly coincided with China's construction of the new soccer stadium. Now, maybe the absolute amounts aren't significant enough to have affected anything and I have no idea how exactly the finances worked, but China did pump a lot of money into the CR economy over a compressed period of time. China could have flooded CR with dollars during this period, which would in theory lower the value of the dollar, and in fact China could have flooded CR with dollars with their artificially depressed currency, which would have magnified the devaluation effects on the dollar. Again, the specifics elude me, but it was a massive project over a short period of time in a fairly small country and the timing coincides. It's possible that we're all just experiencing the consequences of China's massive infusion of cash into a small economy, and once that works its way through the system we'll be back to relative normal. Of course, if this conjecture has merit, the soccer stadium is in part being financed by a gringo tax--so I hope you like soccer! Again though, whatever is going on is specific to the CR economy, since the dollar isn't devaluing elsewhere, at least with anywhere near the same intensity.
  12. Actually folks, while I'm keener on idle musings than the next person, I think it may be time for us to put our collective thinking caps on and figure this out. Basically, the dollar is now worth about what it was when groceries, bus fares, and so on were 20-25% lower. This is starting to be a problem.
  13. Just idle musings, but I'm wondering what clause in the constitution will be used to make this argument. It does sound weird, when you compare to like a policy that amounts to requiring every citizen to spend a minimum of say $100 a month at a fast food joint, but even if THAT policy were passed I'm confused about which article or clause in the constitution would prohibit it. I mean, last I looked there was nothing in the constitution that forbids a draft--that is, calling your reluctant ass up and sending you to the front lines--so I can't figure out how taking a lesser thing, namely your money, would be unconstitutional. I'm just interested in the legal reasoning here. My two cents is that IF there is a constitutional basis to make this kind of argument, the feds have covered their asses by allowing people to opt out and pay a tax. Yeah, yeah, you can argue that taxes are illegal too--but that argument has had a tendency not to win. The law doesn't actually require a person to buy health insurance, just encourages them to buy it or pay a tax instead. Since we're already paying Medicare and Medicaid taxes, plus the government already has laws requiring public hospitals to treat all comers, I'm hard-pressed to see how a tax with an option not to pay it will be unconstitutional. The legal reasoning eludes me.
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