Thursday, March 24, 2005

Revolving doors or lack there of.

"An MP, once done with parliament, cannot be employed anywhere" Raphael Wanjala (sourced from thinker's room (IQ Plus):

Since it was announced that MPs are planning to allocate themselves a 1.5 million shilling golden handshake, a lot has been said about the irresponsibility of this project. This coupled with the constant raises and perks that legislators award themselves, got me thinking. Why does this happen in Kenya? why do politicians think that being an MP is a get rich quickly scheme?

I have come to a tentative - obviously not complete answer - it is more lucrative to earn money while in government than out of it.

This is in stark contrast to the US where one uses a government job as a stepping stone to better things. For example, former Homeland Security head Tom Ridge was open in saying that he wanted to leave his $170,000 job in the public sector, for better things in the rivate sector. He left government and is now on the Board of Home depot. The same goes for; former administrator of NASA, Sean O'keefe, who is now chancellor of Louisiana State University, former secretary of Health Tommy Thompson, who is earning good money as a partner in a prestigous D.C law firm and consultancy and Former minority house leader Dick Gephardt, who is about to join Golman Sachs. According to Bloomberg, 12 of the 48 legislators who left their jobs in January, are now working as lobbyists, and the rest have acquired high paying gigs as consultants etc. They left their $155,000 a year jobs for $1,000,000 plus jobs in the private sector.

This is obviously different from their Kenyan counterparts who, as Wanjala noted, find it hard to get employment. I can vaguely remember an article the EA Standard had in 2003 (or 2004(, that profiled a number of former MPs (deposed in 2002): Njeru Kathangu, Wanyiri Kihoro, Steve Ndicho amongst others. I believe that the jist of the story was that they had fallen from grace, and were finding it hard to survive outside of parliament.

Me thinketh that we need to find a way to make it that it is more lucrative to be in the private sector than in the public sector. This will obviously take a long time, and will mean massive growth of the private sector, but I think it is probably the only way that we can curb the get rich quick schemes of MPs, as well as, public sector corruption.

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

First Ladies: First Mboch or much more?

I had never thought much about what role a first lady should play in our society, Kenya had not had one for 24 years and so it was not a major issue. However, over the past 2 years, Kenya has been involved in a nascent debate on what a first lady should and should not do. This issue has been brought to the fro due to Lucy Kibaki's outspokenness and willingness to defend her husband.

Personally, I have never thought much about the Rucy intrigues, however, in the past week a number of events have conspired to force me to look into the issue. First was palaver's commentary on Lucy being a president: This was followed by a hisorychannel program on the Role Edith Wilson played when her husband fell ill. The last draw was an A&E program on the role first ladies have played in American politics, over the 20th century: "20th Century with Mike Wallace: First Ladies"

The latter show profiled the first ladies and the roles they played, from Eleanor Roosevelt, to Hillary Clinton. From the program, one can see that the first ladies had a variety of styles and attitudes towards their roles as first ladies. There were those who were very active in the political scene: Eleanor rosebud, Betty Ford and Hillary Clinton, to those who were subdued and removed from the political scene: Elizabeth "Bess" Truman and Marie "Mamie" Eisenhower.

The program raised a number of issues, principal among which is whether there exists an ideal role for a first lady. Should a first lady focus being a housewife, entertaining dignitaries and being involved with non controversial charity work (e.g Jackie Kennedy) or can she be involved in the rough and tumble world of politics and public policy?

Many would argue that since she is unelected and unappointed, she hould focus on the former role, that is do charity work, and raise awareness on non controversial issues (e.g AIDS or Education like Lucy Kibaki). My major concern is that though these issues are oncontrovesial, they are still public policy issues, I therefore, see no reason to constrain the first ladies field of involvement. Unless we want to relegate her to the role of FIRST MBOCH.

Moreover, let us bare in mind that a first lady comes to the position with various inerests; there are those issues that she feels strongly about and has partcipated in prior to being first lady and would in all probability want to continue to persue those interests. A good example would be Betty Ford's participation in the Women's movement and her support for the Equal Rights Amendment and abortion rights (contrary to her husband's party's point of view). Should she have foresaken her inerests and abandoned them at the gates of the White House? I think not. We can not expect first ladies (nor anyone at that) to abandon there beliefs and interests, just because they are in a new position. Humans are not vacuums that can be evacuated at one's whim.

The reatonship between the president and the first lady, can also not change at a whim. The first couple will typically have an already established working relationship. They first lady may play a supportive role, not involved in an of her husbands business (e.g. Marie Eisenhower), or may play a behind the scenes role like Nancy Reagan, where she would act as a confidant and advisor to the president. Or be a partner, like Rosalynn Carter and Hillary Clinton, who were overtly involved in policy matters and advising their husbands (Carter actually attendend cabinet meetings). All these roles were developed prior to the couples occupancy of the white house, and had worked for them to that point. Can we trully expect them to foresake those routines that have enabled their marriages to survive the tumuts of politics, when they arrive at the state house? I shudder to think what that would do to the stability of their relatonships, and let us remember, the president is both a public and private individual, what happens at home will affect what happens in the office.

Finally, we can not expect the first lady to sit quietly in the corner, as her husband is being attacked or maligned by his political enemies. Last year during the election cycle, first lady Laura Bush would constantly voice her disapproval at those who were attacking the president's credibility, on Iraq and other issues. Hillary Clinton coined the term: "Vast Right Wing Conspiracy" in response to the impeachment of her husband. And Lucy Kibaki has been callin for the resignation of those dissatified with her husband's work etc. It is a first ladies right, indeed I would argue responsibility, to come to the defence of her husband. I see nothing wrong with that.

From the brief look at the first ladies of the 20th century, it is clear to me that the role of the first lady , depends on the occupant of that office. There is not concrete role that a first lady can play, and in most cases the holder of the office, decides what she her role should be. However, one role that all have played (and future first ladies/husbands) is that of confidant and advisor, a president will always need a supportive mate to bounce ideas off or seek solace from. Let us remember that we do not elect only the public man/woman to the office of president, we elect his/her private self as well, and the first mate is part and parcel of the whole individual.

This article on Nation appeared after I had first published the above, but has similar sentiments. I did not plagaize it:

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Madame Presidents: The Case of Edith and Ruucy

This morning while I was putting my head down to take a nap, I turned my tele on to the history channel. I thought I would leave the tele on and try to sleep (I tend to sleep faster with the tele on, and I may as well be learning something as I sleep), so I leave the tele on and turn my head to face away from the tele - like to listen not watch.

Well, I am slowly drifting into my nap, half listening to the program on tele, the dude was talking about some first female president of America, my synapses start snapping, what is this dude talking about? there has never been a female prezo, so I am like I must have heard wrong. So I ignore the dude.

Then he starts on how Woodrow Wilson had a stroke and for a coule of months his wife - Edith Wilson - was in essence the president, controlling who saw the president and what information he received. He also spoke of her ostracizing the presidents closest advisors (personal secretary and long friend), as well as, blocking cabinet secretaries from seeing the preezo.

At this point I could not take it, I shook the sleep out of my head (akin to Jon Stewart shacking his head in bemusement: "Whaaaat?") and sat up to watch the rest of the show. The reason this show really caught my ear was in part due to Tuesday's edition of Palaver on the EA Standard:
I swear the similarities are amazing. History does surely repeat itself. This time 86 years later, and in a different continent.

Some info on Edith Wilson:

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

This is Just hella funny

Makes me wonder, who would I support if Kenya were to ever play my beloved Germany?

Wolfowitz as head of World Bank

What do yall think about this. The principal architect of the Iraq war, (and he had been plotting it since the early 90's) becoming head of the World Bank.

Well the matter has come to pass, Bush has indeed nominated Paul Wolfowitz as head of the World Bank. I have yet to come up with a concrete response to the issue, but two things come to mind.

One, I hope that Mr. Wolfowitz will not focus all his efforts on the Middle East. I know that he believes that the democratization and economic development of the region will be the Panacea for the world's problems, but I hope he will not neglect other areas, specifically Africa.

However, I do hope that he will try to implement in the WB, the Bush administrations system of giving aid to those who commit themselves to reform (like the Millenium CHallange Account).

Name change

Well by popular demand (Nico insisting on calling me "butty" instead of Itina), I have decided to change the name of my blog from Itina Rasa to the more innocous Githush. But seriously my mom got wind of my blog and was not pleased with the title, and being the mamas boy that I am, I had to do what she said.