Dylan Campbell

thoughts on politics, entertainment, life, etc.

Hitting the Nail on the Head

After going on a community service trip to Mexico last month I have been thinking a lot about the whole concept of service and the role it plays in our modern society. A couple years back a world history teacher told our class that all community service was self-serving. He said that people did it to make themselves feel better about living such luxurious lives. At the time I thought that was just cynical babble. Now I am questioning the very service that I do.

For example, last month our service group spent many thousands of dollars to bring roughly 20 students and teachers across the border to do construction work on some Mexican schools in poor communities. Let me first say that the intentions of the group were all good. I soon found out that all of our work over the next two days would consist of mixing and pouring cement. Hold that thought.

I ran some numbers in my head:
  • Around 150 man hours of labor
  • 160 miles of driving from our school to the border
  • 160 miles from the border back to our school
  • $6,000 of fundraising
  • All the food, water, shelter used while we were there
  • Etc.
And in the end we mixed cement. But don’t misconstrue my message. Buildings need foundations, and foundations need cement. However, mixing cement does not require all the resources listed above. When I think about this trip I begin to wonder if sometimes we sacrifice efficiency when we go out of our way to help people.

Realistically, the most effective way to lay a cement foundation in Mexico is not to bring 20 high school students from the San Fernando Valley down to do it. Every day people from that country come to our country to mix cement. That is a fact. One thing I noticed while mixing cement was that the local people helping us both outnumbered and outperformed us. Without us, the project still would have been finished.

Now I enjoyed the trip and trips I have taken in the past because I believe they help to open up a dialogue and to see both sides of a very polarizing issue that even today is being debated in the halls of Congress. And I also recognize that there is a need for service and service organizations in the world. But I have seen first hand that when it comes to service activities we are willing to bend the rules that regulate most other types of organizations. In business efficiency and productivity reign supreme. We have to start looking at service in this same light. If we do not, we will ultimately hurt the people we are trying to help.

I previously said that the intentions of the trip to Mexico were good, and I truly believe that. I think that a majority of service organizations in Mexico have a common goal of alleviating poverty. As brutal as this may sound the real solution to poverty is cutting a check. The bigger the check the better. There are, of course, certain problems that cannot be solved through checks. A clothing drive works effectively when people donate clothes and time to gather them and send them where they’re needed. But money buys AIDS vaccines, malaria pills, potable water, food at UN distribution centers, clothing, and yes, cement. The thing about community service is that it can make us feel good, but that can never be the primary goal. The goal is to not only do good, but the most good possible.

When we stop caring about getting the most bang for our buck, we truly stop caring about global poverty. Sure, making donations isn’t like building a house or laying a foundation. It lacks the all the poetry and symbolism. But it works. And if that is what is most necessary, if that is what hits the nail on the head, then that is what we need to really start giving.

Sources: Mike Gwaltney (photos)

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The Illustrated Guide to GOP Scandals

Slate Magazine has a really sweet new guide to all the major Republican scandals. Relive your favorite moments like: Karl Rove deleting 5 million emails, Abu Ghraib Annual Naked Prisoner Pageant, NSA Wiretaps, and many more. It's a great refresher guide for those who might have forgotten the days of Delay and Foley. The most recent passage is on Paul Wolfowitz (see left) who has been dubbed the "architect of the Iraq War" and more recently set up his girlfriend with a ridiculously high salary at the State Department. How comforting that even the World Bank isn't immune from corruption.

The Illustrated Guide to GOP Scandals via Slate.com

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Edwards: No. 3 and Slipping

It seems that this election has gotten off to a rocky start for the 04’ Vice Presidential candidate. His first quarter fund raising came in a distant 3rd at $14 million dollars to Barack and Hilary’s $25 and $26 million, respectively. The $400 haircut fiasco didn’t help his street cred but, as an afterthought to my last post, I think the extended election season will result in some sort of scandal for all the major candidates.

His new ad campaign is pretty lousy as well. In this ad, “the People” apparently didn’t get the message when President Bush vetoed the Congressional bill to end the War in Iraq. The ad suggests, nay, demands that Congress send the same bill “again and again.” What part of divided government don’t these people understand? Sending the bill again and again without a supermajority to override the veto is simply a waste of time. “I the Person” would no longer like to be identified with those who consider stubbornly ignorant legislation an effective use of taxpayer’s money.

But the thing I don’t understand about Edwards is how he gets away with blatantly pandering to the working class. Last week the Associated Press took a survey to get to know some of the candidates on a personal level. Everyone was asked about their dream job other than politics: Kucinich would be an astronaut, Richardson would be playing center field for the New York Yankees, Huckabee would play rock bass. John Edwards? Apparently if the politics thing didn’t work out his second choice would be… drum roll please…. A MILL SUPERVISOR. Kucinich would be sipping tang in zero G’s, Obama would be designing office buildings, Giuliani would be calling ball games, and John Edwards would be SUPERVISING A MILL. My question for Edwards: What’s stopping you? You just built a 28,000 square foot mansion. I’m sure you have some room on the property for your own personal mill. Nobody is buying it when you say you want to be poor. Not with hair like that.

Sources: http://customwire.ap.org/dynamic/stories/2/2008_THE_PERSONAL_SIDE?SITE=FLROC&SECTION=

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Why the Extended Election Season is Good for America

The first round of intra-party debates are over and they have left a lot of Americans feeling overwhelmed by how early the 2008 Presidential race has kicked into full gear. Potential Republican candidate Newt Gingrich is calling it an “absurdity”: “You have people running for an entire year so they can run for an entire year so they can get a job in January 2009.” But I think the early start is good for two reasons: it weeds out illegitimate candidates and puts more nominating power in the hands of the people.

The spreads of candidates at both debates were fairly daunting (eight Democrats and ten Republicans) but bar any surprised entires into the race, the field will only narrow from this point forward. Gravel and Richardson might make for good e-punditry or Youtubery but few see them as viable candidates. It’s a good indication for our democracy when the election season is finally longer and more heated than our American Idol season. “Diverse” might be an understatement when describing the field of candidates. We have Democrats who sound suspiciously like Republicans and Republicans who could pass for Democrats if they changed the color of their tie. For now, however, the range is good. It gives the American people choices beyond bargaining moderates.

Back in the day (say… the late 1800’s) presidential nominees were picked mainly by party leaders. Today, the front runner is derived from poll standings and fund raising tallies. Whoever ends up getting the nom will need a consistent stream of cash and an equally consistent stream of volunteers and supporters. Behind us are the days when the candidate with the biggest coffer was also in debt to big business and interest groups. As Obama has proven, small donations from thousands of people can be just as effective as thousands of dollars form a small group of millionaires and PAC’s. Two years of campaigning will command some evolution in the process. Time will tell if Hilary can eat of $2300 plates every night for the next 80 weeks. Fringe candidates will die off sooner, showdowns will emerge, and the undecided’s will get more time to decide. And that’s good any way you look at it.


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© 2006 Dylan Campbell