Friday, November 30, 2007

Gay General Puts GOPers on Spot and CNN squirms

Yeah, because it would be so terrible for the GOPers to have to answer the Gays-in-the-Military question again.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Superficial Observations from 10 minutes of the GOP debate

Does anyone else think that Rudy Guiliani talks as if he has just OD'ed on about 100 cups of coffee? Maybe that's how they talk on his planet.


Grampa Fred is the only major political candidate who routinely and consistently states that he "has no opinion on" X. Case in point (for today) the GOP consumption tax proposal (a horrid idea). Every candidate except Fred has taken a position on it. But not Freddy. He just says, "I've got no opinion on that." How can the man be taken seriously when he has no knowledge or position on extremely relevant ideas?


Romney is trying his hardest but he just doesn't have a natural speaking bone in his body. When asked on CNN this morning to explain how he could allow a construction crew staffed with illegals to work on his house (5 years ago), he was irate but really struggled to just say the obvious. (Well gee John, was it really my responsibility to conduct background checks on all of the workers of the company that I contracted to do the work? I was Governor if you remember, not an INS agent.) I have a hard time seeing him winning anything.


Ron Paul is destined for a Howard Dean Moment. Too shrill, too happy to be there.


Tancredo is clearly apesh*t insane and should be institutionalized and/or sent back to Guiliani's planet. His answer to space exploration betrayed his intergalactic origins. (Of course, he doesn't want to send men to Mars, then people might find out he's the ORIGINAL illegal alien.)


Thompson is the best cure for insomnia ever.


Huckabee said, "Well blacks voted for me!"


McCain reminds me of an overpunched boxer in the 10th round who is just flailing wildly and striking nothing. It would be sad if he wasn't such a weasely flip-flopper.


Who the f*ck is Duncan Hunter and why the hell is he on the stage?


Huckabee frightens me. I've had enough Christianity in the White House to last a lifetime, thanks. His comment about sending Hillary to space was not only lame, but smacks of sexism. Not surprising from a white, southern bible thumper.


In general, a totally uninspiring field.


Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Sean Taylor, Rest in Peace

I would say that I am still in shock over Sean Taylor's passing. I, of course, heard the news yesterday and devoured every bit of information there was on the internet so I was prepared for the worst. Getting shot in the femeral artery is as unlucky as it comes and, as the woman on CNN said this morning, it's essentially like punching a hole in a pipe - you either put your finger on the hole or you bleed out. So I knew there was a very good chance that he wouldn't survive the attack.

That being said, I checked the WaPo last night before going to bed and there was positive news. I was very hopeful that one of my team's best players was going to make it. The paper said that Taylor had been responsive, squeezing a doctor's hand. So, when I turned on the TV this morning, I was definitely shocked to find that he had passed in the night.

And now, five hours later, I don't even want to think about it. Every story I read, every little bit that comes out, it just makes me sad and feel the pain of a loss that is not really personal but still hurts.

As fans, we create an artificial, emotional attachment with our teams and with the players we watch week in and week out. We love them and hate them and take what is probably an unhealthy interest in their lives. Even though I lived out of the US for most of Taylor's career and barely got to see him play, I still felt that attachment. He was one of my guys. He played his heart out. And yeah, he made mistakes both on the field and off the field, but I never wavered in my support. Everything was forgiveable because his gifts were too divine, his vision and athelticism too God-given, and the legend that I knew he would create would last forever.

It goes without saying that my grief is mixed with selfish disappointment. I won't get to see the "grim reaper" (a now, quasi-inappropriate nickname) destroy opposing wide receivers. I won't get to see Taylor team with Landry to form the most potent backfield of all time. And over the course of the next 6-8 years, I won't get to see the safety that in all likelihood would have gone down as one of the greatest, if not the greatest ever. Taylor was the Michael Jordan of safeties. And I'm intensely disappointed that he isn't going to be around to lead my team back to glory.

I know that this is tougher on his friends and family. I can't imagine what it must be like. And I can't imagine how the Redskins are going to play this Sunday. This loss is devestating on so many levels.

But I hope, and perhaps this is me just externalizing my own image upon his memory, but I hope that the Redskins respond much like I imagine Taylor would have if his place had been reversed and some other guy had gotten killed. That is to say, with quiet, stoic intensity. Maybe that's one thing I liked about the guy from afar. He didn't have to say a damn thing. He didn't care if the media liked him or if the public knew who he was. He was a football player. It was his job. He just brought it on the field each and every game. And that's how I hope the guys respond to this on Sunday and for the rest of the season. Bring it. Raw intensity. Honor his memory by playing the way he played. Destroy Buffalo and march to the playoffs. Because moments like these are either/or moments. You either respond or you don't. And I'd like to think that the Redskins will respond with heavy hearts, but with the best possible memories of Taylor's legacy.


Thursday, November 22, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving!

Well, I just ate a very large and succulent rack of barbeque pork ribs. It wasn't turkey, but damn was it good. God bless Colombia and it's 100,000 good restaurants.

So, on this Thanksgiving, I give the royal salute to all those Nob Commanders out there who make our world so rich to live in.

Like this guy, who pardons turkeys and kills murderers.

Mission Accomplished Brownie!

(Did someone say brownies?)

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

And a nation goes wild

There was a huge futbol game yesterday between Colombia and Argentina. World Cup qualifier match. Here in Bogotá. And, Colombia won 2-1. I was sitting in bed with the game on very low (as the misses was sleeping) while I built an empire on Civilization 4 (yes, I’m a dork). Each time Colombia scored, the building practically rocked with cheers. The entire city was tuned into that game and the roars were heard in the building, across the street, down the road, and everywhere in between. Futbol is huge and nothing is bigger than the World Cup.

After the victory, the car honking began. A great number of people, it seems, took to the streets to celebrate. There was singing, there was honking, there was shouting. The people celebrated late into the night. When I turned in at about 11:30, I still heard the horns and the cheers.

This victory was more significant than Saturday’s over Venezuela. Argentina is hated down here. Most people refer to Argentineans as arrogant, especially in terms of futbol. And they still talk proudly of a match that Colombia 5-0 in Buenos Aires 14 years ago. So, it goes without saying that there was a significant amount of pride on the line.

But more so, in terms of the World Cup, Colombia has now drawn Brazil and beaten Argentina, the consensus two best teams in South America. They still have to play Uruguay, which is a very strong side, but with 8 points (2 wins, 2 draws), Colombia is in strong position to return to the World Cup after not making the field in ’06. I can only imagine how crazy this city, this nation will be if Colombia makes it in ’10.

UPDATE: It's worth nothing that Colombia has played 4 of 20 qualifying games and that the World Cup is 993 days away. Yet, the passion is so high that everyone is talking about the match at the office and half the country celebrated into the wee hours of the morning. Viva futbol Colombiana!


Friday, November 16, 2007

Presidential Debate #12,304,501 of the 2007-2008 Election Cycle

Ok, so even I’m getting tired of these “debates”. So I confess ahead of time that I didn’t watch more than 25% of the thing. That being said, I have several comments:

1. Wolf Blitzer is a nobby toad who should be immediately fired. He spent the entire night feeling self-important and trying to force candidates into unfavorable positions with yes/no or either/or false questions.

2. The candidates should have beat back on Blitzer more. He’s more or less universally considered a nob. There’s no downside on a Blitzer beat down.

3. The non-big 3 (Dodd, Kucinich, Biden, and Richardson) need to immediately go away. Do not pass go. Do not collect $200. I’ll address each:

- Dodd – I like your bulldog style. You can be the next Sec of Education or something. But you’ll never be president. You’re wasting my time.
- Kucinich – I like that you believe in ETs and conspiracies. You can be the next Sec of the Interior. You know, some out of the way, barely in public view type of job. You are embarrassing.
- Biden – I love how you just say stuff without care. But really, what they hell are you doing? You’re not in line for any position aside from Senator (D-Delware). So please stop now while I still like you.
- Richardson – Look, just own up to the fact that you’re just not that good a politician. You stink in these debates and you come off looking bloated. I hear you’re a great diplomat. You get Sec State.

(From here on, any reference to “candidates” will only refer to the big 3. Unless specifically mentioned, I will now ignore the irrelevant tier.)

4. I didn’t think anyone made any particularly strong inroads on any topic. Some commentators think this means Hillary won. I don’t know. She’s better at these events than Obama but I thought she exposed serious weakness by saying she wouldn’t increase taxes on the top 6% of Americans to pay for social security. Nothing like standing up for the wealthy from a Democrat. I thought Obama skewered her on that and she came across as a petty, scolding schoolmarm in her response (by correcting Obama when he misspoke and said “tax reduction” instead of “tax increase”).

Generally, I think Hillary is coming across as increasingly sour and unpleasant. And personality matters in politics. People forgave Bill for his “transgressions” because they had a vision of laughing it up with him in private. They liked him. People also liked (like?) Bush and even if he does a crapilicious job, history has shown the public still votes for likeable characters. To me, Hillary is increasingly unlikeable. I can’t imagine having an engaging conversation with her while I can envision that with Obama or Edwards. Maybe my impression is incorrect. But this is what she is putting off in my eyes.

5. Obama and Edwards need to skewer Hillary on her Iran vote. CNN (i.e. Clinton supporter Carville – so much for journalism ethics) was saying that it won’t hurt her much unless Bush takes military action against Iran. He’s wrong.

The entire Democrat defense of voting for the Iraq war authorization bill was that “it didn’t authorize force” and that they expected that Bush would ask for further congressional authorization. He didn’t. The defense of the Iran vote is that “it doesn’t authorize force” and that Bush would have to seek a second resolution. Only an idiot would think that Big Tex would keep his word this time around when he didn’t last time meaning that only an idiot would vote for that bill. Hillary voted for it. Do the math.

The perfect moment to skewer Hillary came when she talked about how she’s always built bridges and worked in the spirit of bipartisanship. Obama should have stepped forward and said that bipartisanship is not always a good idea and cited her votes for Iraq and Iran military action as exhibits A and B. Her desire to seek “compromise” directly contributed to the greatest foreign policy disaster in 40 years. That’s not the mark of leadership – it’s the mark of cowing under pressure.

These votes authorizing the President to seek military solutions to our MidEast problems are the defining moments of Hillary’s Senate tenure and shouldn’t be allowed to go away. Obama has built his campaign on being a principled man who won’t bend in the face of GOP nuttery. He has to contrast that by showing that Hillary is either a) an idiot for making the exact same mistake she made with Iraq by voting for the Iran bill or b) someone who caves under the pressure from the Bush admin and GOP freaknuts.

Let me recap to make this a bit clearer.

Obama et. al. attacked Hillary for voting for the Iraq War.

Team Hillary responded by saying it wasn’t a mistake but had she known then what she knows now, she wouldn’t have voted in favor.

The others responded with, “she won’t admit making a mistake and Iran!”

Hillary says “it wasn’t a mistake and the Iran vote didn’t authorize war.”

The others: ….uh…..

Now is the time to strike back. Hillary’s Iran vote proves that she learned nothing from her Iraq vote and indicts the central premise of her campaign – that she’s experienced enough to lead and that she learns by doing. Voting for a law that President Bush would definitely use to launch a war against Iran if he gets his gumption up is the best argument that Hillary isn’t the choice.


Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Fiction meets reality

Didn't they make a Denzel Washington movie about this?

The cluster**** continues.


Formal Renunciation

Read this.

Then you will understand the following:

I hereby renounce any and all affiliations I have with the Catholic Church. I will hereby not consider myself Catholic as long as the Church continues to "require" members to vote based on Catholic moral teachings. When the Church revokes its decision in this matter, I shall reconsider my position.

My spirituality remains my own. My interpretation of the bible and "religious" matters will be mine and not influenced by a sexist cult with a penchant for child molestation and a dark, secreted, and bloody past. I will do my best to follow the personal moral code which overlaps some of Catholic teaching and is heavily influenced by that teaching but is increasingly in conflict with the narrow ideals of that Church. And, I will reject any and all direct political appeals by that Church.

I'll never give the Church a dime. It will either learn the hard way (by decreasing membership and revenue), the easy way (by actually listening to its parishoners instead of dictating from above like a monarch), or not at all (stubbornly refusing to do the right thing as is its motto - see Germany, Nazi). Either way, I'm done with the Church and any church that seeks to dictate my political choices.

Good luck and God bless.


Recapping the week

It’s a gorgeous morning here in Bogota and instead of sitting on a balcony somewhere in the sun and sipping coffee while I write, I’m stuck under sterile florescent lights in a cramped office currently being dominated by a loud and serious argument among four of the team members. Instead of resolving their dispute by looking at source materials (contracts, the law, etc), they choose to disrupt the work space and potentially create further rifts within the team by their aggressive attacks. I find it all terribly distracting and more or less impossible to work through, so instead of continuing to translate, I’m going to drink a cup of black coffee and spend the next 15 minutes writing this blog post.

I had a friend from the US visit over the last week. He came for my wedding and enjoyed it so much that he decided to come back. We were glad to welcome him, but I don’t think Colombia opened its arms for him this time. It started with a water problem. On Friday, a water main burst in my neighborhood. That made taking showers or doing anything else, more or less impossible. (There was some flow, but not enough to make the hot water heater kick in and cold showers in Bogotá are basically suicidal.)

But, we dealt and overcame. There are some in this city who never have running water, not to mention hot water, so this wasn’t much of a crisis.

On Saturday, we packed up the car and drove to Villavicencio. Since my mate had already gotten to know Bogota, we wanted to show him something just a bit different and what’s better than the Llanos after all? Of course, we didn’t get going until 2:30 in the afternoon, a full 2 hours late, which meant we lost a full day in the Llanos. But at least we arrived safe and sound.

Sunday morning, disaster struck. My wife awoke with muscle spasms in her shoulder and neck. She had that happen once before and I drove her immediately to the hospital. (Fortunately, I was in the car with her that time.) They had to give her a shot as well as other medications and she did physical therapy for 6 weeks or so. This is the second time she’s had this problem and while it wasn’t as bad as it could have been, it was pretty bad.

Around midday I took her a pharmacy about 20 minutes away (we were staying in the country). We missed out on horseback riding but my concern was for her so I didn’t mind too much. After all, I can go horseback riding at any time here in Colombia.

The meds she got from the pharmacy didn’t help much so by late afternoon we made the decision to drive into Villavicencio and take her to a clinic. We all piled into the car and headed off. Things were going well. She got into the clinic, my buddy and I took the two children that were with us to get some ice cream while my wife’s friend waited with her. My wife got a shot and some meds (although we couldn’t find one of the medications in any of the 6 pharmacies that we visited – i.e. the difference between Bogota and Villavicencio) and we were ready to head back to the finca.

But then.

The car wouldn’t start. A nice ambulance man tried to give us a jump but that didn’t work. We judged it was the battery since hooking up the cables did give power to the car so we called our insurance company and they sent out a tow truck. While we were waiting we sent the rest of the group (the friends and kids) to a local shopping mall to get some food and wait for us there). The tow truck driver got it started and we thought we were good to go. He told us not to turn off the car because running the engine would charge the battery. He then led us to the shopping mall (as we weren’t totally sure where it was).

On the way, we lowered the windows, eschewing air conditioning as an energy hog. The moment at which we pulled up at the mall and the tow truck driver left, the car died. And then it started raining. With the windows down. At this point, my wife and I burst out laughing. It was just too funny.

We managed to get the tow truck driver on the phone relatively quickly and he came back to help. The rain was mostly straight, so not much came into the car, and by the time the tow truck arrived, it had tapered off. Our friends, thinking we were good to go, appeared laden with bags of El Corral (hamburgers).

Then the tow truck driver informed us that the battery was not holding the charge and there was no point in trying to start it again. We would have to tow it back to Bogota (we have to get it fixed by Renault to keep the warranty intact). After some serious maneuvering (we had “parked” in the taxi line and that was a whole ‘nuther problem) we got the car on the flatbed and the guy took off. We had a quick dinner in the mall (where are friends had returned after awhile) and then took taxis back to the finca.

On Monday, my wife and I rode in the tow truck back to Bogota. The insurance company only provides one car (taxi) so the rest of the group had to cram together in a mid-sized sedan. We got back first as they left 3 hours after us (so they could enjoy the finca a bit more) and when we arrived we found the house still without water. Ouch.

The rest of the group arrived around 7 pm, tired and desirous of showers. They were disappointed. My friend left on Tuesday, still not having showered. We did buy some water at the local Carulla so that we could “wash” the best we could.

All in all, life happens, just not usually all in the same moment. So, I don’t know if Colombia was giving my friend the brutal reality after treating him so well the last time, but either way, his experience was quite different this time around.

But at least I got to eat Mamona before I left the Llanos.

(Mamona is meat, slowed cooked in the ground, and indescribably delicious.)

Next time, I think we’ll just have to meet at the coast. Maybe Cartagena will be more welcoming.


Friday, November 02, 2007

Hillary Clinton and the Gender Card

There's a good bit of talk in the media about Hillary playing up her role as a woman and how tough it is and she is, etc. To her credit (although this is political subterfuge at its best - candidate denies what the campaign is doing under the covers), she stated:

“I don’t think they’re picking on me because I’m a woman, I think they’re picking on me because I’m winning,”

Of course, she followed that comment up with this one:

“I anticipate it will get even hotter — and if you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen. And I’m very comfortable in the kitchen.”

The "issue" at hand is that her campaign is hitting back at the fact that in Tuesday's debate, everyone seemed to gang up on the frontrunner. Not that there is anything unusual about it. In fact, what was more unusual this cycle is that no one seemed to be broadsiding the frontrunner. Now that they have, the Clinton campaign has been acting all put out and pouty like a cheerleader who missed out on being selected Prom Queen. (Sorry, couldn't help myself. HRC started mixing metaphors with the kitchen comment.)

There's more to this story and you can read a summary here. But I won't go into more details about the specific comments made because it's not terribly important to my point.

My point is, the Clinton campaign, and HRC to a certain extent, is doing their best to remind everyone that Clinton is a woman making a historic push to be the first woman president. Any denial of that central fact belies credibility. So, when someone says that HRC is not playing the "gender card" that smacks of over Hillary-love and can't be respected as an independent opinion.

The issue of whether this is justified or not is a different story. To some extent the Obama campaign has been playing politics with his race as well. (I have no means to measure which card is "more" in play, race or gender.) And I believe this to be the natural evolution of American politics as distasteful as it is. The bottom line is until we have a woman and black president, the gender and race issues will be in play given the American obsession with firsts.

So in this sense, I don't blame either candidate. But, I do take offense to the Clinton campaign acting so put off by it all. Obama said it best,

"Mr. Obama then said that he had not introduced race into a Democratic debate in Iowa. “We spent, I think, the first 15 minutes of the debate hitting me on various foreign policy issues,” Mr. Obama said. “I didn’t come out and say, look, I’m being hit on because I look different from the rest of the folks on the stage. I assumed it was because there were real policy differences there.”

(Note: I am already on record as opposing Hillary as the candidate. Not only do I like Obama much more, but I hate the idea of political dynasty in the US and I find her stance on Iraq and Iran naive at best, dangerous at worst. Nor do I think we should nominate a candidate on percieved electability - which is the crux of the HRC campaign. In other words, take what I say with that specific lens in mind.)

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Regional developments

Two countries with different ideological leanings are headed in the same direction - legally authorized tyranny.

Venezuela's Chavez will likely have a lifetime appointment as President as of December.

Colombia's Uribe is greasing the wheels to change the constitution again and establish himself as candidate for a third term.

Somewhere along the way, democracy is being pissed on by two entirely different people, with entirely different plans, but for the same reason. It's good to be the King.

Somewhere a whole legion of 18th Century democratic thinkers are spinning in their graves.

(I especially like the 6 hour workday idea from Chavez. The man has perfected the art of buying votes through legal means.)

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