Monday, February 28, 2005


A New Orlean's Moment

New Orleans’s is one of those towns where the unexpected happens. Sometimes it's riotously unexpected, sometimes more subtle. As an example I offer up the cafe I dined in last night. Tired from a long day, a colleague and I went decided to dine in the hotel. Like many restaurants in NOLA, this one's dining room walls were adorned with an impressionist mural of French street scenes. The only problem was that it was a Thai restaurant. Interestingly enough, someone had painted on little conical Chinese hats on the Frenchmen in the mural. Funny and odd, just like this town.


Social Security: Coalitions Form...

Resistance is Futile

Well, despite the tepid reception from the public, the White House is moving ahead with its quasi plan to reform Social Security. Better yet they've form a coalition of trade associations to promote their effort. Not an unusual event, but what's strikingly different is the level of control over the coalition retained within the White House. This has been typical, in my experience over the last four years of how this Administration operates. This is our plan, you're organization will spend this much to support it, if you don't like it...well, we don't like you.

But with only 1 in 3 people thinking the debate is moving in the right direction, will it be enough.


Smells Like Feet

And my Liver Hurts

Ok, New Orleans is charming, kind of like your drunk Aunt at a family gathering charming. But seriously, I'm managing to mix in some fun with my work down here. Yesterday at 7:30 am, I gave my big speech, which went over quite well, and took some time in the afternoon to walk around the 'quarter.' During my walk about I swear I saw Ingacious Reilly.

Friday, February 25, 2005


Spreading Freedom!

"Let Freedom Reign!"

Iraq moving toward Islamic law.

Covered in layers of flowing black fabric that extend to the tips of her gloved hands, Jenan al-Ubaedy knows her first priority as one of some 90 women who will sit in the national assembly: implementing Islamic law.

She is quick to tick off what sharia will mean for married women. "[The husband] can beat his wife but not in a forceful way, leaving no mark. If he should leave a mark, he will pay," she says of a system she supports. "He can beat her when she is not obeying him in his rights. We want her to be educated enough that she will not force him to beat her, and if he beats her with no right, we want her to be strong enough to go to the police."

Hmm, perhaps "Concerned Women of America" are advising the new government. Let freedom reign indeed.

(OMG- My postings are all very negative today. I need to get on my flight to NOLA ASAP and gulp down some hurricanes.).


Kansas: Our Own Little Tabilan

No Wonder Why the Best and the Brighest Flee

Kansas AG demands abortion records

In Topeka, Hate Mongering Is a Family Affair,9171,1029829,00.html

After marriage victory, evolution an issue for some clergy

Monkey trial redux
The Kansas State Board of Education is preparing to put the theory of evolution back on trial


Funny or Creepy?

Sean Hannity Expands His Growing Empire

Hey, let me be the first to say that I love listening to deep thinking conservative thinkers, liberals too. But Sean Hannity has always impressed me as 1) Not a deep thinker and 2) a hack.
In fact, it seems his major line of thought is delivered to him in daily doeses from the RNC in the form of talking points memos. (I used to help create I know what they sound like...)

Anyway, I guess Mr. Hannity is not content with a radio show and his nightly program on Fox. It seems, he's opened up his site as a dating service to conservative singles. I can't tell if this is funny or creepy...probably a little of both. No word yet on any mass weddings or such.


Oh yes, a notice how many of these 'conservatives' are either single mothers or values indeed.


Quote of the Day

"If you were to flash ahead a hundred years from now, this controversy over judges . . . would not be a major matter in the life of the country," he said. "But minority rights are." - Judiciary Chairman, Arlen Specter.


Off the to Big Easy

Weekend Business Trip to NOLA

Which always gets me singing...

Long before the SuperDome,
Where the Saints of football play,
Lived a city that the damned called home,
Hear their hellish roundelay...
New Orleeeans...
Home of pirates, drunks, and whores!
New Orleeeans...Tacky, overpriced, souvenir stores!
If you want to go to Hell, you should make that tripto the Sodom and Gomorrah on the Mississipp'!
New Orleeeans...Stinking, rotten, vomiting, vile!
New Orleaaans...Putrid, brackish, maggoty, foul!
New Orleeeans...Crummy, lousy, rancid, and rank!
New Orleeeans!


Rip Van Winkle Moment:

Just One Question:

Let's say it's October 2000, the presidential race, Gore v. Bush, is in high gear. Suddenly for no apparent reason, you slip into a coma. Five years later, on February 25, 2005 you awake, no worse for ware, and strangely refreshed. Curious about what's happened in the world you ask the nurse what's been happening.

She tells you this:

Your heart skips a beat, your confused. "What happened?" You ask. "When will we finally get rid of those big government democrats?"

She looks at you with pity. "What do you mean?, The Republicans have never had more power, they control the Presidency, the House and the Senate.

You feel weak. Your eyes roll back and you drift off to sleep. Hopefully 2008 will be better.

Thursday, February 24, 2005


When Tulips Lie

DC Under Winter Storm Warning: 5 Inches of Snow Expect

Well, winter is having the last laugh. Yesterday, as I was leaving my house for the airport, I noticed that the tulips in my year were sprouting. I thought, great, plants know what's going on so winter is behind us. Little did I know that the Tulips were getting their intelligence from the CIA.


So Many Assassinations, So Little Time

Let the Purges Begin!

While Congress and the President may be focused on the four years they have to pass their legislative agenda, Republican political operatives have more important tasks to eating their young.

Yes, four years is not a long time when your talking about setting up the passage of power to Bush's true heir. So, GOP ops are getting busy undermining the slate of moderate republicans like McCain, Hagel, Guilliani, Pataki and the likes to boost the prospects of more conservative candidates like Frist, Santorum and such. (Although I think Santorum will be lucky if he gets re-elected in 2006, seeing that he's a resident of Virginia and all.)....

Anyway, Guilliani, for all his support of President Bush's reelection, got body slammed by the Kerik nomination (some say that the whole nomination went forward knowingly to damage him). Now Pataki is in the stop light in the conservative Rag..National Review...(Headline: Mr. Republican - NY Gov. George Pataki is not a conservative -Note to National Review....neither is George Bush).

Even pragmatic conservatives like Virginia Senator George Allen have come under the gun for being too 'gay friendly' or perhaps even gay. (That charge is getting a little tired. I mean it's so Malaysia circa 1998-Anwar Charged with Sodomy: )

Anyway, the challenge is that none of the social/conservative candidate wannbes have an once of charisma and can't even come close to matching Mr. Bush's down home earnestness. First seems to be the leading pick among those 'in the know' and rumors have it he will become Vice President in 2006 to help boost his chances. (Mr. Cheney will allegedly step down- of course we've heard that before.)

So, in addition to battling the down and out Dems, look for a lot of inner-party warfare and intrigue. Oh yes, and we already know that any moderate republican is somehow

Wednesday, February 23, 2005


Logan Airport Rocks!

Well, kind of. It's older and the decore looks fresh out of the early 80's, but they have free wifi!

I just finished a speech, having flown up here early this morning and am sitting waiting for my shuttle flight home. Thank goodness for the wifi, 'cause otherwise I'd be trapped here in the boarding area being forced to watch Crossfire on CNN.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005


I Couldn't Agree More

I don't know much about the person who wrote this, other than that I completely agree with them. The GOP has morphed into a big government party. Alas....

The Right's Right


Making My Workload Lighter

New Round of Speculation About Rehnquist's Farewell

Rehnquist's retirement is hanging over DC like Damocles sword. The potential for an epic confirmation battle for his replacement is likely to poison the well so badly that little if any legislative work will be accomplished during or after the process unfolds.(I'm keeping my fingers crossed!) Of course this is on top of a Senate where some Republican Committee Chairs won't even speak to their Democratic counter parts, so it's hard to see how much worse it could get.

There is the possibility though that the battle for Rehnquist's replacementment won't be so epic. He's a conservative and replacing him with a like minded justice would not change the balance of the court. (Expect to hear that talking point a lot) Of course if that doesn't work, they can always play the gay angle that seems so popular right now.

And for those who need clarification:



AARP Watch

American Spectator Ad: AARP Hates Soldiers, Loves Gay Kisses, So You Should Support Social Security Reform.

Ok, this makes absolutely no sense to me. Check out the American Spectator's web page and on the right hand side there is an add for social security reform. (Actually it's just an anti-AARP ad). The ad has two photos, one of a soldier and one of two men kissing. Below the box it says "AARP's Agenda" then a red "X" appears over the soldier and a green check mark over the men kissing. Gee how persuasive. I'm sold!

As I mentioned yesterday, by the time this debate is over, we'll all be looking at our grandparents and thinking.."Pink-0, Commie-Fag loving, Child Killer!". It's just surprising how quickly, and how predictably this is transpiring.

By the way, the clicking on the ad will take you to the site operated by the Swift Boat Vets.

UPDATE: The Spectator has pulled the above mentioned ad, you'll have to go to the Dailykos (a well written left of center blog) for the


Howard Dean and the Dems.

Crazy or So Crazy He's Sane?

I remember about 15 years or so ago (a scary statement in itself) there was this little congressman from Georgia who everyone thought was a little off. He's go on to the house floor every night and talk and talk to get coverage on C-SPAN. He had these grandiose visions of a plan to restore a Republican majority to the Congress. He was clearly bright, but everyone thought that he was a little off, and some within in his own party thought he was a loon. Of course he was the person primarily responsible for the Republican Revolution and his name was Newt Gingrich.

Howard Dean, to me, seems to be cut from the same cloth. Oh the pundits can blabber that this is the death knell of the Democratic Party as we know it, that Dean is way too liberal for America. Maybe they're right, maybe not. But Howard Dean is a man of many talents and his record is generally much more moderate than it is portrayed. More importantly, Mr. Dean has managed to wrestle control of his party away from the out of touch, fat cat insiders here in DC. And that alone (coming from a fat cat insider) is good news. Mr. Dean should not be underestimated in his quest to restore a Dem. majority and maybe that's why the talking heads are making such a fuss.


Gasp! Panic!

Some Republicans Debate Stance on Taxes

Yup, it's looking increasingly like Senator Lindsey (that's a girl's name) Graham's proposal to fix social security by raising the tax cap (currently only the first $90,000 of income is taxed for SSI) is the consensus for fixing the funding problem. Probably the best bet. It will be interesting to see how much my taxes will go up and if there will be a concurrent cut in my future benefits.,,SB110903245754660411-IBje4NklaB4oJ2sZX2IbaaHm4,00.html


Dollar Watch

Oil exporters' shift to euros hurts dollar

Moves by Middle East oil exporters and Russia to switch some revenue from dollars to euros lie behind the U.S. currency's weakness, and a further rise in crude prices could prompt more declines, billionaire investor George Soros said Monday.


From EOE's Tastes Like Chicken Dept.

Cat Clinic Outrages D.C. Parents
Procedures Done In School Cafeteria

Monday, February 21, 2005


I Think I'm Alergic To My House

Call Me Weezey

Ok, it's been an interesting week or so. Last week I woke up in the middle of the night weezing. Although I've never experienced asthma, I think this came pretty close. Anyway, after visiting the doctor twice, I've gotten an inhaler to get me through the short term until I can find out what's irritating my dander? mold spores? dust mites?....

Strangley enough, I'm pretty much fine when I leave the house, only to get progressively worse the more time I spend at home. Very frustrating and odd to be considering staying an extra hour or so at work. Oh well.

So, if you've noticed that I've been slacking off a bit on the blog, your right...appologies. I have a lot of travel this week, so we'll see if the weezing continues to stop when I'm out of the house. Besides, what an experience it will be to blog from New Orleans (Feb 25th to March 1) while all doped up on Benadryl and Albuterol and dealing with nicotine withdrawl....


The darlings of the blogosphere

Excellent story on how two youngish programmer types helped foster the blogger revolution.


Enemy #1=AARP

Swiftboat Vets to Go After Seniors Group

Well, despite all the press and discussion on Social Security reform, the real legislative battle is still sometime off. Decision makers here in DC are still testing the waters and feeling out their counterparts and constituents on just how far they can go with any proposal. But, as mentioned several times in this forum, a huge hurdle stands in the President's way and that's the AARP.

Today, the NYT is reporting that the Swiftboat Veterans for "Truth" are putting together a $10 million campaign to counter the AARP's opposition to 'private accounts'. If they are successful, perhaps by mid summer we will all be condeming the aged for being commies, shooting unarmed vietnamese children and generally being traitors to our great country.

Look out!
Swift Boat Vet consultants are back, baby! Hired by conservative lobbyist group USA Next to attack those nasty old people at AARP with a $10m ad budget: "They are the boulder in the middle of the highway to personal savings accounts. We will be the dynamite that removes them."

Friday, February 18, 2005


Weekend Reading:

Springtime is Making Me Sick!
I blame it on the rain, or perhaps the fact that one day its 60 degrees and the next its 30 degress. Anyway, as a result, Elephant's been sick as a dog this week, even heading to the Dr.'s office twice (which is two more times than I've been in the last three years). Anyway, I'm tired and cranky, but starting to fell better. Enjoy the potpuri of articles below over the weekend as I rest up.

Iraq’s Shias go from exclusion to dominance
An alliance loyal to Iraq’s top Shia Muslim cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, has won the largest number of seats in Iraq’s parliamentary elections. But it will need to form a coalition with other groups to govern the country—the broader the better, to avert a civil war

J-School for Jerks
As the second George W. Bush administration gets under way, holdovers from the first one seem to include not only a handful of cabinet secretaries but also the fierce divide that characterized American politics for much of Bush's first term. For evidence of both look no further than the political shoutfests on cable television

Batesline Takes on Tulsa World News
It is just Elephant, or is there a growing discomfort on the part of traditional media at the growing role that bloggers play as a check and balance to their power? Here's a great example of a local blogger taking on the only major paper in Tusla, and the extremes to which the paper goes in silencing his criticisms.

Harper's Index for January 2005
Fun Facts and stats to ponder

Thursday, February 17, 2005


Raise My Taxes, Cut My Benefits


Ok, so let me get this straight. Now the possibility exists that the GOP administration will increase my taxes, borrow $2 trillion dollars (requiring future tax increases) and still cut my future Social Security benefits? Did we elect George Bush or Ted Kennedy?

I still say, keep the system the same (and reluctantly raise my taxes) or privatize this whole deal....


I'm Confused....

Iraq War Has Made America Safer...But...War Helps Recruit Terrorists, Hill Told
Intelligence Officials Talk Of Growing Insurgency

Hmmm...After months and months of telling us that invading Iraq has made us safer we get a report from Porter Goss (new and promising head of the CIA) that Iraq is turning into a major terrorist training ground....Paging Mr. Orwell....


We're #2!

China emerges as global consumer
China has overtaken the US in the consumption of basic agricultural and industrial goods, a survey has found...

Good for them, now in the next couple of years, when the Chinese allow their currency to appreciate, they will also have the largest economy. Meanwhile, we continue to debate the dangers of gay sponges....

Wednesday, February 16, 2005


Nicaragua: volcanoes, Hammocks and Traffic Stops

Cops are the same the world over

Following a successful day of zip lining through the jungle canopy, it was time to engage in a little less stressful exercise, touring and shopping. After sleeping in, I met up with my amigo Silvio. Silvio is a former gangbanger (He even has tattoos of his fallen 'homies' on the back of his neck) from LA who for some reason is now living in Granada. Anyway, he had introduced himself to me in the park the previous evening and offered his services as a tour guide. As he was fluent in both Nica-Spanish and English, I figured what the hell, I'll either save $60 or get caught up in some kidnapping adventure. Besides he offered a price that was 1/2 that of the established tour companies.

So, Silvio and his buddy Louis picked us up around noon and we headed off on our adventure. We drove up from Granada to Masaya and stopped at the Masaya Volcano National Park. At the park you drive up to the gaping maw of Masaya volcano and can walk right up to the edge of the crater. The huge crater was active that day and was spewing out steam and noxious gases like Ed Asner after a chili cook off. The cloud of steam and gas billowed up into the sky and when the wind shifted in our direction, sent us all coughing and scrambling for the car. Funnier yet were the broken English emergency instructions given to us at the park gate. It offered these helpful tips:

In case of gas release, move down wind. (Helpful advice for any situation)
When crater spews rocks, hide under car.
In the event of eruption, move away from the lava.

Pretty helpful if you ask me, but thankfully, the volcano gods were happy and no emergency action was needed.

Another nice thing about the volcano is that it afforded excellent views of Nicargua's central valley and one could see Lake Managua, Managua city and the avenue of volcanoes stretching into the distance.

Masaya Market

After the volcano, it was a short drive to Masaya market, noted as being one of the larger handicraft markets in Central America. Truth be told, the market wasn't that big, but did offer a nice selection of hand made hammocks (Nica hammocks are the best), pottery, leather goods and most oddly, small ceramic fruit that when opened up show people in various sexual positions. (which of course prompted me to do my best Dan Quayle impression by stating, "Wow, I bet these are popular with young boys."). Anyway, I stocked up on some of the ceramic porn (as gag gifts....Yes, that gag gifts) and when prepared to leave Masaya to return to Granada.

As we negotiated the street around the town square, a cop suddenly appeared in front of the car and waived us over. Both Louis and Silvio appeared a bit nervous. From my vantage point there wasn't anything in particular that Louis (the driver) had done wrong. The cop started asking for the driver's papers and identification. Silvio translated, punctuating his comments with "this is billsh*t man". The cop finally turned to us in the back seat and demanded our passports. I'm either a savvy or stupid traveler as I don't carry my passport once in the country. I carry instead a copy of my passport. The cop took it and said that he needed proof that we were in the country legally and that this was a big problem that could take some time to resolve. I'm guessing that the 'problem' could have been 'resolved' with a $20 bill or so, but that would just encourage corruption right? So anyway, we co-operated and said that if the officer had to call immigration to establish our status that we'd be happy to wait as we were in no hurry to go anywhere in particular. Some more hemming and hawing by the officer and then we were free to go. Louis and Silvio where mortified and totally embarrassed by the situation. "Dude, this has never happened to me in Nicaragua, ever!" Silvio reported. And from his agitated state, I believed him. None-the-less, this did not taint my view of Nicaragua, its people or the safety of the country. After all, it was just a few years ago that DC's police chief set up a 'safety inspection' on the 14th street bridge to nap commuters and it tied up traffic for hours. Cops are the same the world over....

Tuesday, February 15, 2005


Flight of the Creative Class

Richard Florida on How to Kill What Makes America Work

A couple of years ago, Richard Florida published a book titled "The Rise of the Creative Class." It was an interesting tome on how creative individuals (computer workers, educators, writers, artists, lawyers, and other entrepreneurs) flock to certain areas of the country that offer a diversity of experiences, a tolerant environment, and a good quality of life. These cities, like Austin, Seattle, DC, NYC and others are the core of the continuing reinvention of American culture and business. The benefits of the work of the creative class spill over to other parts of the country, but the genesis of this constant reinvention is the socially diverse, libertarian realms that consistently vote blue. What's more important is that workers in the creative class are sought the world over and can work just as easily in Austin or Brussels or Tokyo. How to get them and keep them is key not only to a healthy city, but a healthy national economy.

However, the results of the last election have Mr. Florida feeling a little down. His next work is titled "Flight of the Creative Class" and his main hypothesis is thus. . . .

Thanks to the GOP takeover of Washington, and the harsh realities of the Big Sort, economically lagging parts of the country now wield ultimate political power, while the creative centers--source of most of America's economic growth--have virtually none. Democrats Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer speak for Silicon Valley and Hollywood. New York Charles Schumer and Hillary Clinton, also Democrats, represent New York's finance and publishing industries. Washington State, home to Starbucks and Microsoft, has two Democratic senators, Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell. Boston's Route 128 and Washington's high-tech Maryland suburbs are also represented by Democratic senators. It's hard to understate how little influence these senators have with the Bush White House and in the GOP-controlled Congress.

The gist of Mr. Florida's theory is that state's like Ohio, Michigan, Virginia and others that choose to take a hard line on social issues will continue to see a migration of the best and brightest to other more socially liberal areas of the country. The result will be higher growth and wages in those regions and lower growth and reduced opportunities in the more hardline states. It's not an argument for Democratic (the party) economic theory, but rather an argument for a more libertarian social policy as the key to attracting the type of knowledge based workers that are key to current and future economic success. If Ohio chooses to pass a ban on gay partnerships, it shouldn't be surprised to find an exodus of the creative types to more socially tolerant states. Ohio can do what it wants, but DC, NY, MA and other states should be free to do what they wish on social issues as well. It's the imposition of some national homogeneity, I think, that could kill the creative class in American.

Monday, February 14, 2005


Jungle Adventure: Elephant v. The Volcano

Hanging by a Thread

On Sunday morning we all got up early and met up with out travel guide from Mombotours. We piled into the Landcruiser and set off into the jungle that spilled down from Mombacho volcano on the outskirts of town. The road was beyond rough, sort of like Scott Circle in DC, but worse. Actually it wasn't so much a road as it was a wash, where rain water had carved a channel in the side of the mountain. Anyway, we lumbered up the slope, into the cool lush forest on our way to the canopy zip line tour.

A zip line tour, for the uninitiated, is a pretty boss way of getting a glimpse of the jungle canopy. The tour company had set up 17 lines in the tree tops on about halfway up the side of the volcano at about 2,000 ft. The lines ran from tree to tree and varied in length from a dozen yards (for the Tarzan swing) to nearly 200 yards. Wearing climbing gear (harness, safety line, helmet).

Before we got the zip line course, the jeep stopped at an over look on the side of the mountain. From the vantage point, nestled among the cocoa trees, you would see all of Granada and the curving shore of Lake Nicaragua. You could also see Las Isletas, a small archipelago of about 300 islands at the base of the volcano created by an ancient eruption. It was pretty cool. Before we piled back into the jeep, we all got to sample some fresh cocoa beans. Actually we got to taste the sweet, almost jolly rancher like pulp that surrounds the actual bean used to make chocolate. It didn't taste like chocolate, but it didn't taste bad either.

Finally, we arrived at the zipline course. We climbed up to the first station, about 70 feet above the forest floor. The first zip line was about 100 yards and was a good length to get used to the system. Go too fast and you'd slam into the tree or the platform at the other end, go to slow and you'd get stuck in the middle and have to haul yourself up. Unfortunately, I was the first off the platform. I sailed into the air and made it most of the way, having to pull myself up a few dozen feet to the platform. But from that point on it was smooth sailing as we zipped from tree to tree with out effort, all the while enjoying the view of the lush jungle. Surprisingly, the things like speed and height seemed to fade into the background and didn't ever really jump out as an object of apprehension or fear.

The final station was by far the most interesting. The station itself was on a giant Ceiba Tree (Legend has it that the Ceiba tree holds up the sky). This tree was massive, probably about 10 feet (or more in diameter) at and least 200 feet or so in height. The massive branches were host to an incredible variety of epiphites- orchids, mosses and other plants...too many to count. It was sort of like a garden in the sky. But getting down was interesting, no ladder, rather you had to repel down to the ground about 7 stories below. The guides made it seem effortless, and to be honest it was quite a rush. As I was waiting on the ground for the others in the tour group to finish, I counted at least 12 different kinds of butterflies. Blue, orange, red, white. All in all pretty awesome.

(Here's a website with some pics of the zip line tour, about 1/2 down the page.)

Sunday, February 13, 2005


Borrow and Spend or Tax and Spend?

Bush Threatens a Veto

Yes! President Bush is threatened a veto of a spending bill! But wait! He's not going to veto the bill because is spends too much, he's threatening a veto because the bill doesn't spend enough?! Egad!

You see, the cost of the much touted medicare drug benefit (e.i. - drugs for Seniors) keeps expanding. First the White House estimated it would cost $400 billion over ten years. Then, just after it was passed, they upped that amount to $550 billion or so. Now the cost is estimated at over $750 billion for ten years and Bush is holding out to fully fund it. Who cares if he's already planning to borrow $2 trillion to pay for Social Security Reform, another $80 billion for Iraq..both of which aren't counted in the projected record deficit for FY2005. (Does anyone besides me remember Bush going after Kerry for his alleged $2 trillion in new spending?)

What gets me is that the GOP is supposed to be the party that believes in accountable government. I've been saying that 'value' has been dead for some time. Of course now it's just become a great joke, leaving us the voter with a choice of voting for a secular big government party or an evangelical big government party.

Hopefully soon, more and more voters will wake up to this as their attention moves from terrorism to the domestic economy. When they do start looking at what's transpiring, they won't be kind. The opportunity to reverse this so called revolution is here and it's wide open. Paging Dr. Dean? Paging Senator Hagel?

Thursday, February 10, 2005


Me Gusto Nicaragua

Fui a Nicaragua y toda lo que conseguí era una camisa de la te

I'm back. Nicaragua is a wonderful country, and as interesting and nice as its cities, towns and landscape are - the people (Nicas) are some of the nicest I've met anywhere. So let's get to the details.

Granada: The City by the Sweet Sea

I arrived in Nicaragua about 6pm on Friday, Rene, the driver from my hotel in Granada, met me in the baggage claim and we were off. 45 minutes later we pulled into the town square of Granada. A handsome, spotlessly clean Spanish colonial square, full of locals out relaxing and socializing in the cool night air. The Hotel, La Gran Francia, is a gem of a place. A restored Spanish colonial structure with 10 ft tall wood doors (some dating back to the 1500s) and rooms surrounding a small, lush courtyard. My room was spacious and decorated with local art.

After checking in, I headed up to El Balcon, the second story bar on a balcony overlooking the town square. This is where things get a little blurry. You see, the El Balcon has the best Mojitos I've ever had, and after a long journey, I was thirsty. Oh yes, and the fact that I rarely drink alcohol probably played a role too. Anyway, I was sitting there looking over the town square when a local 'mariachi' band set up on the corner and starting singing. It was very nice. A couple more mojito's later the band took a break and the staff at the bar put on a Milli Vanilli CD. It's hard to explain the dissonance of sitting on a balcony looking out at a Spanish colonial town, horse and buggies trotting past as you're listening to...."It's a tragedy to me to see the dream is over, and I never will forget the day we met.... girl I'm gonna miss you!".... But despite the surrealism, it was...well pretty darned cool. I staggered back to my room and drifted off, humming blame it on the rain.

Despite my mojito consumption, the next morning I awoke early and strangely refreshed. Grabbed breakfast at the hotel cafe (included) and set off to explore the city. First destination was the local market. Of course I'm not talking Safeway here, rather the teaming and crowded alleyways where local farmers set up stalls to sell their products. Fresh veggies, live chickens and adorable piglets seemed to be on the menu. One lady, having made here purchased, was walking up the street, holding a small pink pig by the hind leg. The pig seemed pretty content. I imagined that he told his colleagues, "Hey guys, this nice lady invited me over for dinner!" (Luckily for the pig, a local later told me that most of the piglets purchased were for raising/breeding so the little guy was not destined - at least in the near future-for the dinner table).

After checking out the market, I wandered south of town to the shores of Lake Nicaragua, known to early explorers as the Sweet Sea. Almost as large as Lake Erie, Lago de Nicaragua (or Chocibola in the native tongue) was an impressive site. It is apparently, the only habitat of fresh water shark. Looming in the distance what the island of Ometempe with its nearly perfect conical volcano, Conception. I sat enjoying the vista, the cool breeze off the lake and a diet coke in a glass bottle. After a few minutes, a local man, about 40 or so, approached me and we chatted. His name was Clifford and he was from the Mosquito Coast (The largely unpopulated Atlantic coast of Nicaragua). Anyway, he spun some pretty good yarns about his time as a Contra. True or not, it didn't matter, it was a fun story. I bought him a Coke and we chatted for a while. He promised that if I returned, I was welcome to visit him in the Mosquito Coast to relax, drink marijuana tea and perhaps find a wife among the mosquito women.

Later after a siesta and a few more mojitos, I was back on the village square to check out the action. The handsome cabs were lined up along the north end of the park, the horse teams manes decorated with pretty bows. People were milling about and Spanish guitar players were drifting from bench to bench playing and singing. I picked up a local drink called Cacao. It's made with fresh chocolate beans, milk, cinnamon and god knows what else. It's alleged it closely resembles the original chocolate drink consumed by the early settlers. I liked it, but a couple of backpackers from Norway thought it tasted 'like meatballs.' In fact, it tasted like a really yummy Yahoo. As the evening progressed, the square became more crowded and the whole pulse of the small town seems to speed up. In addition to the mariachi bands, there was a little 'party' train that made a circuit around the center of the city. It was a tractor, made up to look like a train, pulling two brightly decorated carts full of parents and children. For the teens, there was an old school bus; it's top shorn off and painted bright colors. A DJ sat in the back and about 1/2 the seats had been removed to make room for a dance space. The bus, trailing the party train, cruised around town chocked full of dancing Nica teens.

The action continued to swirl about me and the mojitos seemed to be drinking themselves. I stumbled back to my room looking forward to heading out into the jungle for a canopy zip line tour.

(To Be Continued...)

Thursday, February 03, 2005


Elephant on Vacation

I'm so out of here....

Ok, just a not to say that I'm out of here for a week. I'm packing my bags and heading someplace warm. Nicaragua actually. Why? I'm not sure. Originally I was planning a trip to the Caribbean, but its rather expensive this time of year and a visit to Nicaragua was 1/3 the cost of a trip to a Caribbean Island. Nicaragua as you may know, is a fledgling democracy in Central America, a country that's been pushed around throughout its history by the good ole USA, but interestingly enough, it is one of the safest countries in Latin American and is frequently noted as being the next Costa Rica.

My trip will take me to four cities. Granada on the northern shore of Lake Nicaragua, Masaya a little north of Granada, Managua (the capital) and Leon, north of Managua. Granada and Leon are known for their Spanish colonial charm, Masaya for it's large volcano and native crafts market and Managua...well its know primarily for having been destroyed by an earthquake in the 1960s/1970s, they didn't rebuild so much as start from scratch next to the ruins.

Activities will include a jungle canopy zip line tour, a volcano hike, visit to a coffee plantation, relaxing, and practicing me espanol. If an internet connection is available, I'll do my best to post some updates.

Some interesting info on Nicaragua and its cities:



(Someone's pictures of Granada, Leon, Managua)

History of Nicaragua

Elephant will return on Valentines Day!

Wednesday, February 02, 2005


SOTU Impressions

Big Government Conservativism

I must admit, I continue to be surprised by our President. On his policy reccommendations on immigration, tax reform, energy and social security, I'm generally in agreement with him and hopeful. But when it comes to social issues he alienates me. His faith based iniative, anti-gang program and such are more akin to proposals of LBJ or big government democrats than a small government program. I also suppport his concept of spreading freedom and democracy, but am left scratching my head when it comes to his (and his Democratic predessor's) resistance to giving DC residence representation in Congress.
As he just said, "The only force to combat terror is the force of human freedom....," but not in DC I guess...we still have to deal with Congressional tyranny...

So in short, I'm hopeful that Mr. Bush will further the debate on issues that government should be involved in like social security, taxes, immigration and such, but am dissapointed and motivated to fight his proposals on social issues. But I guess that's what makes politics so much fun. Either way it's going to be a challenging four years.


OMG! I'm listening to SOTU

He's on fire isn't he?

Wow, I turned on the radio and there he is...the Prez delivering his SOTU. He sounds confident. He just finished talking about immigration and he's so right, but of course no one in the GOP really supports his proposals. Now he's talking about Social Security. Promising the protect those fifty five and over, but what about me?

His rhetoric seems to be focused on the semi-truths and points outlined in the GOP memo I posted earlier in the week. Wow, he is really sticking to the talking points on this. Shortfall in 2030 of $200 billion dollars (less than what we've spent on Iraq). Are those jeers in the background? Bush is using strong words, crisis, bankruptcy, collapse. But even if we do nothing by 2042 benefits will only have to be cut 20% to keep the system in balance. (versus the alleged proposals of cutting it by 40%). But again, It's a good thing to be talking about and I'd be just as skeptical if it were a Democrat talking about this. (since it was both the Dems and the Republicans that spent the $1.5 trillion 'surplus'.)

Personal accounts...fine, interesting idea, but the current proposals would limit the amount I could invest and limit my investment options. Again, why not just cut my FICA tax by 2% and let me choose how to invest it. Oh, here it is, limited investment options, requirements that I couldn't liquidate the account...very parternalistic....nanny state type things. So I guess I'm to the right of the president in that I would support exploring true partial privatization.

Now the socail issues. FMA...George is still in the pocket of the evangelicals. Now Abortion...."Culture of Life"....limit stem cell research look for common ground.... I was with him on the policy proposals, but he's loosing me now.

Now we're on to activist judges....every candidate deserves an up or down vote....(Even though he's gotten 95% of his nominations past)...Don't isolate citizens...(Except on FMA I suppose)...Another spending proposal...anti-gang..capitalizing on his outreach to the African American Communtiy that started with FMA....


OMG! I'm listening to SOTU

He's on fire isn't he?

Wow, I turned on the radio and there he is...the Prez delivering his SOTU. He sounds confident. He just finished talking about immigration and he's so right, but of course no one in the GOP really supports his proposals. Now he's talking about Social Security. Promising the protect those fifty five and over, but what about me?

His rhetoric seems to be focused on the semi-truths and points outlined in the GOP memo I posted earlier in the week. Wow, he is really sticking to the talking points on this. Shortfall in 2030 of $200 billion dollars (less than what we've spent on Iraq). Are those jeers in the background? Bush is using strong words, crisis, bankruptcy, collapse. But even if we do nothing by 2042 benefits will only have to be cut 20% to keep the system in balance. (versus the alleged proposals of cutting it by 40%). But again, It's a good thing to be talking about and I'd be just as skeptical if it were a Democrat talking about this. (since it was both the Dems and the Republicans that spent the $1.5 trillion 'surplus'.)

Personal accounts...fine, interesting idea, but the current proposals would limit the amount I could invest and limit my investment options. Again, why not just cut my FICA tax by 2% and let me choose how to invest it. Oh, here it is, limited investment options, requirements that I couldn't liquidate the account...very parternalistic....nanny state type things. So I guess I'm to the right of the president in that I would support exploring true partial privatization.

Now the socail issues. FMA...George is still in the pocket of the evangelicals. Now Abortion...."Culture of Life"....limit stem cell research look for common ground.... I was with him on the policy proposals, but he's loosing me now.

Now we're on to activist judges....every candidate deserves an up or down vote....(Even though he's gotten 95% of his nominations past)...Don't isolate citizens...(Except on FMA I suppose)...Another spending proposal...anti-gang..capitalizing on his outreach to the African American Communtiy that started with FMA....


Social Security Reform: Another View

Social Security: Crisis? What crisis?
Some experts say the urgency to reform Social Security is manufactured -- and very troubling.

I don't vouch for this, but then again I don't vouch for the President's claims either. Information, as they say, wants to be free. So here's another take on the 'crisis' in America's public pension program.


Rating the Other Topics in Tonight's SOTU

President Bush is likely to talk about other topics in tonight's speech. These are reported to include: (Rated from * to ***** stars)


Social Security Reform: Holy Flriking Schnit!

Administration officials have said the president may recommend a cut in the government benefits promised to younger workers when they retire, possibly in the range of 40 percent

Better yet, the cut off for future cuts is looking like it will be anyone under 55! Goodness, this will be a tough sell. Keep taxes the same, borrow $2 trillion dollars and cut my future benefits up to 40%?! Although if anyone can pull off this Orwellian feat it is Mr. Bush.

Can anyone else see the House and Senate flipping to the Dems on 06?


Culture War Wednesday: Another Gay Cartoon Character

Stations to air controversial cartoon

Yes, the Bunny is back and causing a furor because in this episode (as you've probably read elsewhere), Buster visits a farm in Vermont that is run by a Lesbian family. Now, keep in mind that this Buster character, from what I've read, has visited other families across the country including a mormon family and an evengelical family in Viriginia. In those two cases the faith of the families was discussed as part of the episode. My understanding of the Vermont episode is that the 'L' word is never mentioned, the fact that the two women are a couple is not address, the program simply shows that they are the owners of the farm. No discuss of their 'life style' is presented. So why the fuss?

I don't know. But apparently our new Education Secretary Margret Spellings seems to have figured it out. She decried the use of public money to "promote alternative lifestyles".

But is merely showing two women who happen to own a farm 'promoting' a lifestyle?

If it is, then does the fact that Margret Spellings has divorced, remarried and left her young children with one of her husbands back in Texas make her a bad mother and promote poor mothering (at tax payer expense no less!)?

The answer to both questions is a resounding No!

If PBS focused solely on single sex couples and excluded showing people of faith, or more traditional couples then I'd join the chorus of critics. But to demand that even showing an image of a lesbian couple is tantamount to promoting an alternative lifestyle demeans the very important issues of educating our children. Tolerance of same sex couples is not a tacit approval. According to the last census there were at least 600,000 such couples in our country (probably more). So if just acknowledging their existance is some how detrimental and encouraging tolerance is some how a vice, then what is the alternative? Reparative thearapy camps?

Verdict: Today's Emeny of the Future: Margret Spellings


Culture War Wednesday:

What the Culture War is Really About

Are you as tired as me of hearing about the so-called Culture War? The repeated claims that the very fabric of the United States and our ‘moral values’ are about to be ripped asunder by the various incarnations of “God-less, Evil-Them�?

I am. In fact I’ve been thinking a lot about this issue lately as you hear those various news reports about some new ridiculous wrinkle in political correctness or the latest attack or ‘outing’ of a cartoon character. The truth is, that this isn’t a culture war per se, nor is it a war between liberals and conservatives, democrats or republicans, or Coke vs. Pepsi drinkers. To put it simply, it’s just another eruption in the ongoing battle between the forces of enlightenment and ignorance that has plagued humanity since who knows when. I for one don’t intend to let the forces of ignorance prevail.

What got me thinking about this is the article below. It claims that the ‘theory of evolution’ is responsible for over 135 million deaths!

Even as a person of faith I find this article offensive. But alas, these types are increasingly becoming vocal and in some cases militant. This battle has many fronts, from the Zealots of the Middle East to our own homegrown version of the Taliban. But fight them we must, with facts, reason and gentle humor.

So, for the near future, look for our new feature, “Culture War Wednesdays� to provide you with a voice of reason, intellect and perhaps assurance that sane, free thinkers still exist. In the coming weeks we can explore the follow topics together: Evolution, The Family, The Founding Fathers and Religion, the So-Called Family Groups, and more. I think it could be…well, enlightening.


What to Make of Blogs

Journalistic status of bloggers contemplated

When Big Media writes about bloggers, they often make me laugh. I think this line from the linked story...

Are they journalists with an obligation to check facts, run corrections, and disclose conflicts of interest? Or are they ordinary opinion-slingers, like barbers or bartenders, with no special responsibilities or rights?

Oh, 'professional' journalists may have an obligation to check facts, run corrections and disclose conflicts of interest, but they rarely do. Jason Blair, Armstrong Williams, Maggie Gallagher and Fred Barnes are just a few the immediately come to mind.

The age of phampleteering is back, in electronic form and the professional media will just have to get used to it.


I'd Vote "No" on Gonzales

Torture Memo, Iraq Scandal, Gitmo -Too Damaging to U.S.

There used to be a time when my fellow members of the GOP and their supporters in the field would shudder at the prospect of an Attorney General that condoned torture and turned a jaundice eye toward our rights under the Constitution. They'd head out to the local gun shop, buy ammo and move to compounds in Idaho...

The fall out from the "Torture Memos", the torture photos from Iraq and Gitmo bubble up in my mind when I hear the Administration talk about a "Culture that Values Life." Yes, Mr. Gonzales has an interesting story, but the events set loose by his loosey-goosey interpretation of the Geneva Convention and rights of people in U.S. custody will have a lasting impact on the U.S. both at home and abroad. For me that trumps any customary discretion to the President on his cabinet picks.

See the memo here:


Why I Am Skeptical of "Personal" Socail Security Accounts

Bush "Proposal" is too tepid, promotes ever bigger government

Ok, since the GOP has yet to unviel their proposal for social security reform let me just say this. I'm becoming increasingly skeptical of what I'm hearing of the plan. Oh, not because I don't think people should be allowed to invest money in the stock market, but rather I don't think that if I'm allowed to invest part of my FICA tax in the market that I should be limited to four, five or six government controlled accounts and only allowed to invest up to $1,000 per year.

But, as I've said ad naseum, at least we are talking about it and we shall see what becomes of this...


This Would Never Happen Here!

Let's Trim Our Hair According to Socialist Lifestyle!

"We cannot help questioning the cultural taste of this comrade, who is incapable of feeling ashamed of his hair style," the station said Monday, showing a man identified as Ko Gwang Hyun, whose unkempt hair covered his ears.

"Can we expect a man with this disheveled mind-set to perform his duty well?" the announcer asked.

North Koreans have never been known for mop tops, but the campaign -- dubbed "Let's Trim Our Hair According to Socialist Lifestyle" -- suggests that popular tastes have changed recently.

Oh wait...maybe it could...

First They Came for the Smokers....
Lose weight or lose your jobBusiness owner who forced workers to quit smoking now wants them to get skinny, too.


Ground Hog's Day Report From the Pentagon

Intelligence on Punxsutawney Phil

Pentagon and intelligence services spokesmen could neither confirm nor deny that the operative known as "Phil" located in Pennsylvania did or did not in fact see a shadow.

"We can neither confirm nor deny reports of a early spring," reported Captain McSweeney, "We do know that there are things we don't know, like the capability of Phil to even see his shadow."

McSweeney's comments came just days after a CIA report indicating that there was evidence of winter extending well into July. "This is the same intelligence that the Clinton Administration had" noted an unnamed source at the CIA.

President Bush noted that regardless of the challenges, "[I]t is our moral duty to spread freedom and democracy around the world, which in turn will promote a spring like climate of personal liberty." He then issued an order to dispatch two brigades of the Army of Compassion to place fake tulips in snowbanks around the country.


One Tenth and Growing...

Health Care a Bigger Problem than Social Security

As a lobbyist who works on behalf of relatively small employers I can tell you that this rings true to me. Worse yet is the mushrooming cost of medicare/medicaid in light of the bloated perscription drug benefit added by the GOP. Oh yes, then there is the Pension Benefit Garauntee Corporation (like the FDIC for pensions)...everytime you hear of a large corporate bankruptcy the PBGC steps in to insure that the company pensions are honored.

Tuesday, February 01, 2005


You Gotta Love This....

WTOP Reporter Calls Bush on "Spreading Freedom and Democracy"

Yesterday, a reporter from DC's local talk radio station WTOP asked Scott McClellen if President Bush has changed his position on voting rights in Congress for citizens (like Elephant) of the District of Columbia. After all, the reporter asked, people in Baghdad are voting for delegates to their national legislature (in part due to the sacrifices of American troops), shouldn't the same rights be extended to DC?



What To Do about the SOTU?

Bush will Speak, but Elephant won't be listening.

Well, we're in the countdown to the President's State of the Union (SOTU) Address. I for one just can't seem to get excited about it. Promises and talk of freedom, culture of life and other 'visions' when the reality on the ground is much different. Pledges to cut federal spending, when in fact the opposite is true. On domestic policy, Bush makes most Democratic presidents (save maybe FDR) look like fiscal conservatives. I welcome his ideas, I pray for the success of our country, but I just can't listen to him anymore.


Resistance is Futile....

In iPod America, legions in tune

I've had my iPod for over a year now. Still working great and no loss of data or any battery problems. Looks like the iPod culture is spreading too. Great article in today's USAToday on how iPods are working their way into people's daily routines.

This sounds fun...

iPods also are turning the average club-goer into a tastemaker for the masses. Cafe Saint-Ex in Washington, D.C., hosts a monthly party in its Gate 54 lounge during which iPod owners are allowed to plug their devices into the sound system and give fellow revelers a taste of their own collections.

Perhaps a blogging field trip to see how the masses react to my iPod Shame list?

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