Musings from George

Oh yeah. Obama
July 3, 2011, 12:04 am
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I have to admit that I really enjoyed the President’s presentation at the correspondents dinner. He eviscerated Donald Trump in a masterful way, worthy of a Saturday Night Live skit. He turned the birther movement into a stillborn movement in one slick jujitsu move, worthy of his intelligence and education. Where is _that_ Obama now, with Boehner painting him into a corner and Pakistan making a mockery of our billions-plus investment?
I read too much, and I read the wrong things. Somehow I can listen to AM radio, read the NY Times and Times Magazine, occasionally ingest Vanity Fair, and still read the occasional book (“The Irony of Vietnam — the System Worked” is sitting on my nightstand table!)
I hope that Obama can grow into the leader who challenged the status quo in 2007 and 2008. I fear that Obama has become weary of the fight exactly when we need someone willing to sacrifice nice for effective, to trade the country’s future against his own political future, and to do the right thing simply because it is the right thing. Taxes have to go up, benefits have to go down, and subsidies have to disappear over time (yes, even ethanlol). We have to bring our soldiers home, we have to accept that other countries will do what we have done (nuclear weapons, navies included) and we have to be honest about our friends — Pakistan is a rotten friend, and we are in too many fights defending Israel. I believe in projecting strength, and I am proud of my nephew who served three terms in Iraq — but I am anxious to get out of no-win situations defending people who don’t like us and fighting people paid by our “friends”. Obama scored a knockout against Osama, and needs to refute all in Pakistan that supported him. Start by cutting off our $3 billion lifeline — seems easy enough to get their attention.
We could do a lot of good in the world with 150,000 armed volunteers — but we are not doing it in Iraq or Afghanistan. Let’s help Mexico and Sudan, and see where the chips fall in Afghanistan.


How does anyone blog daily?
July 2, 2011, 11:49 pm
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So much has happened since I last blogged, and somehow the world has continued to turn and everything is working well. A few thoughts…
– I have done a lot of volunteer work in my life. I have been a Boy Scout, I have worked (paid) for the Youth Conservation Corps digging hiking trails for the public, I have volunteered as a coach for a high school team, a college team, a T-ball team and a youth soccer team. I have taught reading lessons in K-5, mentored high school kids in chemistry, and did the equivalent of Junior Achievement for a high school on the wrong side of the tracks.
I have fed the homeless (many times). I have built houses with Habitat for Humanity (many times, many places). I have given money to charities since I first earned a living wage — not 10% of my wages, but enough to get into the Leaders Circle or the Founders Circle or the … you get the point.
People assume that I must feel saintly because of this, and assume that I am affecting many young lives in a meaningful way. But I don’t believe that, and I don’t like anyone assuming that I believe that. We each give what we want to give — time or money. We give what we want to, and should not make any assumptions about the way people feel about receiving it. I can barely remember my elementary school teachers’ names, let alone any one lesson — so why should I assume my twenty hours tutoring Rafael are going to change his life? Why should I assume that playing water polo for me for four years in Enumclaw shaped anyone’s life? I don’t. Why do others assume that my footprint or fingerprint would be so strong, when I don’t assume that??
We who volunteer do it because we like people. We like even homeless people, or kids from poor homes and bad neighborhoods. We do it for selfish reasons — I like winning a game, and I take some pride in the fact that these kids knew nothing about water polo / baseball / soccer when I started with them. I will not win a World Series, and I am not looking for the next Derek Jeter… I am simply happy to coach my son’s team and to see kids get better. I am honestly happy to lose a close game rather than win a game that isn’t close.
Short summary: don’t assume I am doing good things because I am a good person, and don’t imply great results. I do what I do because I have fun doing it, and where I can I hope that people around me are having fun too.
Homework assignment: go out and volunteer. Comment on how it made you feel, and what impact you feel you have had. Picking up trash by the side of the road is fine, but buying dinner for the guy who isn’t allowed to go into McDonald’s is much more rewarding. He won’t bite you, and he will be grateful. Don’t give him five dollars to buy something you wouldn’t buy — buy him a Big Mac, and know that the calories are actually good for him. Really, I did that — wearing a suit and working for McKinsey. I may not be your typical volunteer, but I promise you there are many opportunities to do what I do and to feel good about it.