Monthly Archives: April 2011

Costa Rica

For the next three weeks, I´ll be studying Spanish in Costa Rica. I hope to update the blog a couple times a week.

One question I have about the country is about its lack of military. If you´re researching travel in Costa Rica on the net, you´ll find sources that happily attribute the country´s relative peace and prosperity (relative to its Central American neighbors) to its decision to disband its army around 1948.  Money not spent on national defense is spent on education and healthcare, leading to a higher standard of living, goes the story.

It sounds great, but there´s got to be more to it. At least, that´s what I´m thinking; I´d like to find out while I´m here.  Is Costa Rica a bit like Japan or Switzerland?


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Filed under General & Miscellaneous

KCMO holds onto empty buildings

The Kansas City Star reports that the Kansas City, Missouri school district now owns thirty-eight empty school buildings. And they’re wondering what to do with them. Actually it’s a shell company that owns the schools,  not technically the district. That makes it harder for the board to act, but also gives the board some cover for anything that goes down.

Is Kansas City expected to gain a sudden influx of K-12 students in the next couple years? I don’t think so. It’s been hemorrhaging students for years. So it seems pretty obvious what to do here: sell the buildings and be done with it. Use the proceeds to shore up district finances and invest in the future, then focus on current students and the schools they actually attend!

Holding on to a couple extra buildings might make sense. But ultimately, this is a no-brainer. You’ve got to focus on what you’ve got, and cut loose of extra baggage. That’s what’s right for students and taxpayers, and that’s who the district serves.

Kansas City is not in a unique situation. Other cities have faced similar issues, and other school districts – just like Kansas City – have balked at selling the assets out of fear other, non-district schools might use them. The district would be better-off focusing on improving its own performance rather than worrying about potential competition.

If the district administration, the board, and other actors refuse to release their grip on empty buildings, it will start to look like desperate treasure-hoarding while the castle crumbles.


Filed under Education

Boots on the ground in Libya

What do CIA operatives wear on their feet when they go into North Africa? Depending on the answer to that question, the United States may already have boots on the ground in Libya. President Barack Obama has told the nation that American troops would not get involved in that nation’s conflict. Our involvement was ostensibly to pursue and then enforce a no-fly zone, then to hand it all over to NATO – which we substantially supply and sponsor.

However, the Wall Street Journal reported Thursday that the president authorized the CIA to explore ways to assist the opposition, and that the agency “has placed covert operatives on the ground in parts of Libya, feeding intelligence on ground targets to the U.S. military and coalition forces for airstrikes and reaching out to rebels aligned against Col. Moammar Gadhafi, officials say.” Reporter Adam Entous, who quotes unnamed officials throughout the piece, writes:

“There are a variety of ways in which the CIA could aid the rebels, from supplying them with intelligence from satellites and informants to helping arrange arms transfers.”

I’ve added the italics for effect.

To take out anti-aircraft targets and other positions, it’s good to have intelligence. There’s not really a tactical argument against sending in operatives, other than the normal risks assumed. However, this should be a wake-up call to everybody that it’s hard to just dip your toes  in the water with something like this. It can easily suck you in.



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Filed under Libya