Thursday, November 13, 2008

What I was hoping for!

Kazakh former Prime Minister, Akezhan Kazhegeldin, writing in for Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty explains why he is Welcoming America Back.
Belonging to a clan makes being principled impossible as clans esteem loyalty more highly than convictions, sometimes even more than common sense. And what U.S. politics has lacked in recent years on the international arena is principles. The peoples of Central Asia have felt this especially strongly because they had expected concrete actions to follow President Bush's declarations of support for democracy and human rights.
...we can now expect there to be less national self-interest in international politics, less of a split between "old" and "new" democracies, and less willingness to turn a blind eye to violations of democratic standards for short-term gain.
(The key word there being "less", since there will never be politics without self-interest.)

Mr. Kazhegledin has very high expectations of the US now, and he may be disappointed. But he's got better ground to stand on in making his case of less clan-based politics in Central Asia. He's an idealist, but I cannot see why a shot of idealism can be bad for his region and beyond.

And for another reaction on RFE/RL related to Central Asia, Obama Victory Sparks Hopes For Change In U.S. Policy In Central Asia.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Haven't we had enough?

Yes, just cafe press being entrepreneurial, but this is rather unsportsmanlike, I have to say.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

My President Obama

This is what it means to me.

It unleashes immeasurable amounts of creativity. Whether you liked's Yes, we can! as a musical composition or not, that video (made in a few days) was an indication of creativity to come throughout the election. I don't think this will be limited to music. I think we are entering a period of people opening up their minds to possibility. No speech changes the world, but if words move and inspire, new stuff, for lack of a better word, is going to come out of us all.

It is creating new energy!

It turns the cynicism about America on it's head. When Obama sits down with a Medvedev, Chavez, Ahmadinejad (without or without conditions), Hu or Bozize, it will be a completely different conversation than if it had been any other candidate. You cannot have watched that campaign and come away saying American is under the thumb of the nameless powers that be. I believe Obama's conversations will be more about the issues than about outrageous conspiracy theories simply because of what he is and because of what his campaign has accomplished.

It begins - and it is only a start - to restore some integrity of to the ideals that are woven through American history.

It is a very welcome challenge to realize that we will confront race, which remains an elephant in the room in American and around the world. And it isn't only black and white. We still live in a world where the shade of your skin, the nationality of your passport and your ethnicity in that passport matter far too much. It's not going to be an easy conversation, but we are going to make it more explicit.

To those who say, "unproven", "inexperienced" and that we should get ready for disappointment, I say give it a chance. I have risked to be inspired and I cannot tell if it will last, but the injection of inspiration has and will change my life. Of that, I am sure.

Yes, we can.

Friday, October 31, 2008

The Economist for...Obama!

Yes! It's Time. While not entirely unexpected, I had been waiting to read the rationale from The Economist, which again debunks this absurd soundbite about Obama being a "socialist" because some plumber in Ohio was concerned about his business when his profits might quadruple at some undisclosed future date.

There is certainly praise for McCain's past leadership and early primary victory, but that went downhill.
...the Candidate McCain of the past six months has too often seemed the victim of political sorcery, his good features magically inverted, his bad ones exaggerated.
And crucially:
The choice of Sarah Palin epitomised the sloppiness. It is not just that she is an unconvincing stand-in, nor even that she seems to have been chosen partly for her views on divisive social issues, notably abortion. Mr McCain made his most important appointment having met her just twice.
In contrast:
Of course, Mr Obama will make mistakes; but this is a man who listens, learns and manages well.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

"Power From the People"

Just had a conversation with my wife about the potential for connecting energy producers, so as I troll through my backlog of, I was excited to see this post on the potential to have kinetic energy production in the less developed world. Maybe she'd already read this. Ah, the trials of keeping up with the blogoshpere...a topic for another post.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Thank you, Colin Powell!

Photograph by Platon from The New Yorker

Since it was said, I only read or saw the Daily Show take this on, albeit in its own sarcastic way. But they took it on...until Colin Powell, who cut through this humiliating issue and spoke to the absurdity of it all.

A column in the Times summed it up perfectly. "It was a tonic to hear someone push back so clearly on ugly innuendo."

But it hasn't only been the McCain campaign. It was shameful that two young women in headscarves were asked not to stand behind Obama at a speech in Detroit. I don't like that this happened, but can almost empathize with people who asked them to move. It appears to be that bad and it has to stop. All I know is that it will require leadership to address it and so far the only person I have seen to demonstrate that kind of leadership is Monsieur Obama.

"These are the kinds of images going out on Al Jazeera that are killing us around the world," Mr. Powell said. "And we have got to say to the world it doesn't make any difference who you are and what you are. If you're an American you're an American."

Thank you, Colin Powell. The whole slide show is excellent.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

"A Conservative for Obama"

Barack Obama is not my ideal candidate for president. (In fact, I made the maximum donation to John McCain during the primaries, when there was still hope he might come to his senses.) But I now see that Obama is almost the ideal candidate for this moment in American history. I disagree with him on many issues. But those don’t matter as much as what Obama offers, which is a deeply conservative view of the world. Nobody can read Obama’s books (which, it is worth noting, he wrote himself) or listen to him speak without realizing that this is a thoughtful, pragmatic, and prudent man. It gives me comfort just to think that after eight years of George W. Bush we will have a president who has actually read the Federalist Papers.
Thank you, Wick Allison.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Help us, please!

What times! SNL merges with CBS news and Jon Stewart's life has never been easier.

When John McCain won the Republican primary, I was genuinely proud. His integrity showed that something can defeat cash in an election. But what a difference a few months can make. The bile coming out of the election, especially since the selection of Sarah Palin, has thrown us back into politics being no more than a screaming match at a football game. How dismal.

Is Sarah Palin that important? You betcha! Cynical. Divisive. Condescending. I wouldn't mind so much if she ever made a point that was of policy substance. And seeing her with McCain, hearing his approval of her and watching Fox News applaud her reminds me how far away we are from having serious discussions about economics, the environment, terrorism, much less places like Russia. The ultimate insult was this clip, when asked about Hamas. Oh, yes, the issue of democracy in the Middle East is absolutely a superficial question - sorry, she was impatient! Good thing the question didn't register in her brain due to it being so superficial, also, you know.

But it's between McCain and Obama. When I ask myself why, the answer is that Obama isn't being controlled by this perverse force of Fox/Rove that celebrates ignorance, American exceptionalism and Us(a) versus Them. We are digging a deep grave for ourselves if this wins the day again. What a contrast to listen to the mad rantings of McCain and Palin this week and then hear Michelle Obama today.

Obama isn't going to fix it all overnight and maybe we are too far gone. But he represents such a refreshing breathe of air that the thought of losing it makes me feel like choking already.

The New Yorker lays it out for us. The choice, this time, on every issue is very, very simple.

Friday, June 13, 2008

The Wisdom of Whores

Always wise to flip back through recent shows on Fresh Air!

I have been taken by the challenge the solving the HIV/AIDS epidemic and enjoyed the interview with the author of The Wisdom of Whores, Elizabeth Pisani. The book floats the idea that we might try "making fun things (sex, drugs) safe, instead of trying to make safe things (abstinence, monogamy) fun". The book Excerpt on the Fresh Air page has some great insight into the UN system.

Also related was a BBC Today debate about methadone (Harm Reduction) and whether it really got addicts off drugs. In grad school, I was very much interested in the concept of harm reduction, also praised in the interview with Pisani. What I thought was amazing is the need for societies to care for those people that are often most looked down upon, not only as an act of charity, but as an act of pragmatism and self-preservation. If Russians, want to stop HIV, it means rethinking the modern "gulag" and helping their drug addicts, who spread HIV; in India, it means caring for the commercial sex workers. I guess with methadone, it isn't a black and white decision, but it is so hard to tell as an outsider. I think, on a basic level, I believe it is better to get issues out in the open so they can be solved, rather than pretending that human can select absolutes (like the Bush administration's use of abstinence programs in trying to stop HIV). On the other hand, the gent criticizing methadone on the BBC had some good points about making sure methadone isn't used as a crutch.

By the way, have also discovered the BBC not uses tags and URL links, rather than just putting up entire shows! My, it is all getting easier!

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Ugly still, but proud American

Yes, all of this Obama-mania is excessive and will inevitably be punctured should he win the presidency and start making tough calls or big mistakes. For now, though, what it reveals is how much many foreigners, after all the acrimony of the Bush years, still hunger for the "idea of America" — this open, optimistic, and, indeed, revolutionary, place so radically different from their own societies.
So said Mr. Friedman today. I had to lay off my own Obama-mania, but, you know, it really is exciting.

What I like about Friedman's column today, Obama on the Nile is that he captures what I have been seeing for awhile. In the Central African Republic, people I met were watching (with amazement!) as America has wrestled with and actually come to terms with nominating a person of color to potentiall be president. They are inspired not out os some naive hope, but that things can change. Here in the UK, it was total disbelief among the Euro trash that the same country that re-elected W. after a fear mongering campaign in 2004 could actually elect the son of a Kenyan. The disbelief echoed Roger Cohen's column, The Good American and Monsieur Obama, as he described the French reaction:
Out in the troubled suburbs, with their large African and Arab populations and broad mistrust of a political system that has produced one black parliamentarian among the 555 representing mainland France, Obama is an urban legend.
America needs this. Even if Obama is flawed (he is) and even if politics will be politics (it will), I can't let this moment pass without savoring a little social change.

I think Clinton's campaign also was great for the US this year. People got involved. But, I stick by my inital fears about a Clinton presidency - the "dynastification" mattered. And no matter how clever and skilled she was, her campaign was always going to have too much baggage. Not her fault, but it mattered a lot. I greatly appreciated her speech on Saturday and truly hope her supporters will take her words to heart.
I want to take all our energy and all our strength and do all we can to help elect Barack Obama as our next president of the United States.

Saturday, June 07, 2008

Not "intentional or deliberate"

Does even matter if Bush et al were intentional or deliberate?

Scott McClellan seems to be everywhere selling his book. I guess one should appreciate the courage of a whistle blower, even it he certainly has some financial incentives that must be driving him. And since he won't be working in republican politics anytime soon, he better do well with book sales.

Jon Stewart, in my opinion, is doing an brilliant public service as a comedian who cuts through the political smokescreens we keep choking on. His interview (and part 2) of McClellan comes across as funny, obviously, but I see this kind of political interview like a joust with his guest. I was amazed he got the word "criminal" out of his mouth. Genius interviewer!

Terry Gross has some interesting questions about the effectiveness of these shows. Very interesting to hear McClellan's response. Yes, Terry, it would be great if we could talk and not just about talking points! Also, excellent interview.

Bob Herbert, who I have come to appreciate recently, hit a tone that most expresses my feelings about the book (which I won't read, by the way). Aside from US lives Herbert describes...
The war in Iraq, which has taken 100,000 or more Iraqi lives, and which will cost the U.S. upwards of $3 trillion, and which continues indefinitely, is a scandal and a crime. Scott McClellan is a little late to be blowing the whistle on this outrage.

Sunday, June 01, 2008

The Footprint Chronicles

Patagonia, in a what I think is a sign of things to come, now has something called The Footprint Chronicles, which allow you to see four indicators for a selection of products: distance traveled, CO2 emissions, waste generated and energy consumption.

Obviously, there is no way to compare with similar products or really look behind the calculations, but it seems like it will only be a matter of time.

They issue their own caveat:
These examinations are partial and preliminary. Each season we'll examine a few new products. As we learn more, our examinations will gain more focus, and we’ll work to change our harmful practices with all the speed we can muster.
Very exciting and hope to see how others develop this idea.

Saturday, April 05, 2008

"I know he's not John Wayne"

Regardless of who we vote for or where we vote, this is an amazing NPR story about the waves the US election is making in Kenya. It reveals the hope and the scars of racism and sexism that extend far outside the US. On a joyous note, Coco Tea's song made me smile as much as the comment about a "woman's place" made me cringe. Women politicians being physically beaten in Kenya highlights how far there is to go.

Also interesting that wikipedia is a battle ground for the election. It is simply amazing that you have a living and breathing (computer monitored) entry on Clinton and Obama.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Online Philanthropy Markets

Interesting post via PSD blog about a publication by Keystone: Online philanthropy markets: From 'Feel-Good' giving to effective social investing?.

The call for a reliable framework to guide social investment seems like a common challenge.

Review to follow...

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Clinton Rules

OK, I will stop soon...but it will be hard for me.

This image worries me. I trusted in something different. Now I see inspired people beginning to dislike each other over the democratic primaries. Meanwhile, Bush and McCain head into the white house.

Two points today:

Obama is still winning and seems to have won Texas. Is this reflected in the headlines? What's going on?

Second, I don't like Clinton Rules, which are the general rules. I didn't like that 3 a.m. commercial and I don't like Canadian "leaked" memos affecting elections. I appreciate the Brooks column. I yearn deeply for something different. But I don't think he should hit her in the kneecap.

Is that Nancy Kerrigan reference? That really takes it back to the 90s.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Stop, Mr. Krugman!

Why don't you re-read your column on February 11. You told us that you would like to see moments with more "strong assurances from both Democratic candidates that they respect their opponents and would support them in the general election." You implied the supporters of each should do the same.

But today's column is all about scaring "progressive activists" with a handful of rhetorical questions that frame the likely nominee as all superficial personality and likely to lose to McCain's personality in the general election.
All in all, the Democrats are in a place few expected a year ago. The 2008 campaign, it seems, will be waged on the basis of personality, not political philosophy. If the magic works, all will be forgiven. But if it doesn't, the recriminations could tear the party apart.

No, that isn't what happened and it won't tear the party apart. We read your very pro-Clinton pieces and considered them very carefully. Thank you for your insight, as always. But this hasn't been all about personality - and I am tired of this being seen as a pejorative term - over political philosophy. It is about leadership, which I think is a lot more than just personality, and it seems a lot of people support Obama's leadership over Clinton's. Either one of them have the political points that can win in November.

You, like all of us, are welcome to make another plug for the policy issues you think are important, but stop implying that the progressive activists of Obama have been duped into supporting an articulate Bloomberg, as you did today.

Go Obama or Clinton. Let's just get it over with.

Friday, February 29, 2008


I hate the politics of fear.

Senator Obama responds: "I will never see the threat of terrorism as a way to scare up votes, because it's a threat that should rally this country around our common enemies. That is the judgment we need at 3 a.m."

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Worth thinking about again...from NPR

Building on that last post about Obama's positive message...check out this NPR story about a guy named Mark McKinnon, senior adviser to McCain and former adviser to W who helped defeat McCain in 2000. Listen to the end of the interview about how he'd be "uncomfortable" being McCain's adviser if its an Obama vs. McCain race. Not sure if it is praise for Obama, but points to what will likely be a different type of race if he is the democratic pick.

And, while cheeky, I love Daniel Schorr's imaginary letter from Senator McCain to W.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

"The cynics can no longer say our hope is false."

I would like to remind anyone on the democratic side that Mr. Krugman is right about one thing - it is important that those supporting Clinton and Obama need to re-assure each other than they would support either candidate in the election.

Senator Clinton, I will support you if you are the democratic nominee.

But I really disagree with with Krugman's comment that "most of the venom" is coming from supporters of Obama. That comes from immature politics and it is gushing from immature supporters for all candidates. It makes me cringe to read the comments on the NYT website (and it makes me want to run and hide when I listen to Fox News). But it is exactly the rhetoric of Obama that most counteracts the venom of poisonous politics. Since when is the ability to speak, inspire and generate positive energy a weakness? It isn't a "cult of personality"; it definitely isn't a "platitude", Senator McCain; it is a rare, rare quality called leadership, finally.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

I am inspired! (and well done Missouri...)

via Dowd column today...
"I think we should never be derisive about somebody who has the ability to inspire," Senator [Claire] McCaskill told David Gregory on MSNBC on Tuesday. "You know, we've had some dark days in this democracy over the last seven years, and today the sun is out. It is shining brightly. I watch these kids, these old and young, these black and white, 20,000 of them, pour into our dome in St. Louis Saturday night, and they feel good about being an American right now. And I think that's something that we have to capture."
Inspiration matters! It is scary to be inspired. I am inspired! Run, Obama, run!

On to Kansas, Louisiana, Nebraska, Washington and even the Virgin Islands!

Friday, February 01, 2008

"Malaria and How to Beat It"

The debate on giving away free malaria nets (and other health interventions) continues in The Economist. Now the WHO is backing the drive to kill the notion that paying a small amount makes a greater impact.

I am a bit confused in my own logic on this one. The Economist saying give it away, while I am intuitively feeling like "free is more effective" still ignores a few key points. Maybe the simple lesson is summed up best by hwig, a commenter on the article...
Giving out free nets is fine but it should be accompanied by a strong program of education otherwise they will be misused in exactly the way described at the beginning of the article.
Is that right?

Update March 24, 2008: A few more comments on the matter from the PSD blog, which has a link to the WRI post that has commentary on the issue.

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Jenna Bush in 2049!

Very well put, Mr. Kristof!
Mrs. Clinton has proven herself an excellent senator, and presumably would make a superior president. Yet...28 years...two families! That needn’t be decisive, but it’s too important to be ignored.

Nobody loves Kazakhstan more than me, but...

But I got to say, Bill Clinton is trying to make me really dislike him.

Read: An Ex-President, a Mining Deal and a Big Donor.

Is Clinton doing it for the good of his foundation? For the good of Kazakhstan? Sorry, this sounds very, very fishy.

And what is with the timing of this story? I saw nothing related to current events and actually caught the story when it popped up on my Google mail news feed.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Tuesday is a HUGE day!

I can't recall being excited about a politician, until May. I was disappointed to read the NYT endorsement of Clinton, but was far from convinced.
Mr. Obama and Mrs. Clinton would both help restore America's global image, to which President Bush has done so much grievous harm. They are committed to changing America's role in the world, not just its image.
On the major issues, there is no real gulf separating the two.
It goes on to say how they are impressed with Clinton's experience and concludes that she's more qualified/best choice.

OK. That's one opinion, but no policy differences of note and generally an acceptance that "experience" wins the day.

I will let three people express the way I would respond...

Bryant Jones, a 25-year-old, white, normally Republican voter, quoted today in Roger Cohen's column:
I'm 25 and for my entire life a Bush or a Clinton has been in the executive office, either as vice-president or president. The United States is not about dynasties.
Not a usual for me, but William Kristol on today's op-ed page:
Right now, Hillary Clinton is ahead in the polls in almost all the big states voting. She is a tough and capable campaigner, and she may be able to hold on to those leads. But it is now clear that putting her in the White House brings a hyperactive Bill back in with her. Who needs it? Liberals and Democrats can get basically the same policies without the Clinton baggage, and in choosing Obama, they can nominate a more electable candidate.
Most importantly, Toni Morrison, as quoted from a letter printed in the NYT:
In addition to keen intelligence, integrity and a rare authenticity, you exhibit something that has nothing to do with age, experience, race or gender and something I don't see in other candidates. That something is a creative imagination which coupled with brilliance equals wisdom. It is too bad if we associate it only with gray hair and old age. Or if we call searing vision naivete. Or if we believe cunning is insight. Or if we settle for finessing cures tailored for each ravaged tree in the forest while ignoring the poisonous landscape that feeds and surrounds it.

Wisdom is a gift; you can't train for it, inherit it, learn it in a class, or earn it in the workplace -- that access can foster the acquisition of knowledge, but not wisdom.
And I was not convinced by Mr. Krugman comparing Obama to Clinton in 1992. Huge difference.

I'm daring to be excited!

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Not Enough Innocents Abroad

Last week's opinion on Peace Corps, Too Many Innocents Abroad brings up some old questions about the value of the organization.

I don't think that the article was as anti-Peace Corps as many responses I read seemed to imply. It was asking for some self-evaluation, which can't be bad.

Peace Corps isn't a development organization (and shouldn't be compared to one). What kind of organization it is...up for debate. I love it and sometimes hate it (for many of the reasons mentioned in the article). But I think its best strength is as cultural exchange organization. (Well covered in the letters that followed and the response from Senator Chris Dodd.) It will keep getting support because a lot of people, especially me, know that this is valuable. Impossilbe to measure, but also impossible to deny for anyone who had gone through it. I was so humbled by what I learned about being an "outsider" from my two years in Russia as a volunteer. It was invaluable for me, even though there are a lot of things I might want to change about the old PC. I considered leaving after a year and would have, but really thought the people I worked with valued my contribution.

As a policy suggestion, rather than just recruit more older PCVs, we need Peace Corps in Saudi Arabia, Iran and Pakistan, if we could convince those governments of the value of exchange and solicit the invitations needed. Nothing would be better for "peace" than dumping some snot-nosed 25-year-olds (like I was) into a really odd situation. It would be tough to find valuable, semi-structured, sites, but I am sure there is something Americans could be good for in these well-educated countries. I still maintain that cultural exchange and cooperation on "soft" issues like the environment was key to thawing relations with the Soviets. I can't imagine it was less scary to visit Russia in early 1980s than it would be to visit Tehran today.