Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Scrod by the IPod: The Saga of Nano Nano

A few years ago, some of the Dental students on the Nicaragua trip began sporting these little white plastic machines with ear plugs. "Haven't you heard of an IPod??" Will asked incredulously. "Oh... that is one of those things..." I said, "how does it work?"

Will explained you downloaded music to these things and carried it along with you. You could copy an album, or a few songs, the early IPods could not hold much. Interesting, I thought.

Technology comes to me slowly. I usually develop a wait and see attitude. Usually the early versions are obsolete quickly and are expensive. I remember the $225 calculator my dad bought that performed the 4 basic math functions and that was it. A year later one that could do everything but calculate in Blugonian math cost $50. He was always hacked about that.

So, it was with trepidation that I bought an IPod to take to Nicaragua. A cute small silver Nano. It seemed to be all that I needed. I took it home, got it set up and it loaded all the music I had stored on the computer, which immediately overwhelmed the capacity. I think it was going to be too small. I played with it a bit, getting familiar with its functions and quirks. It seemed easy enough, albeit a bit touchy...sometimes doing things I did not want it to do.

I was told it had to be charged and hooked up to connect with the Itunes system so that it would play and I could download music. The screen had this huge DO NOT DISCONNECT sign on it as it whirled and did its thing. I would still be waiting for it, had I not just got impatient and decided to click on the little arrow to disconnect. I thought I had killed it, but it seemed to be ok. After a bit of getting to know you time, I dubbed the little machine "Nano Nano" (with apologies to Mork and Mindy.

I was so thrilled to finally be able to listen to some music on the plane down, rather than the short, scratchy selections they play on coach airline programs. All plugged in and ready to go, it turned on and got stuck. Would not do a thing. Turn on, off, play nothing. Just lit up and was stuck on the main menu. I put it in its box and hoped it would wear out and turn off. A peek inside my carry on revealed Nano Nano happily glowing away.

With all the warnings about turning off such devices, I was concerned that Nano Nano would cause our plane to crash, causing the autopilot to think a swamp in Belize was actually Managua Airport. Luckily, the little malfunctioning machine did not interfere with the navigation system and we landed ok.... the little beast still glowing bright but refusing to budge. Only after totally discharging did it reset itself and seemed to be ok. It was fun to plug into Nano Nano and listen to music while I basked in the sun, sipping a sweet mojito.

A couple of days later, the menu scrolled along by itself for about 4-5 hours, never stopping, just shuffling along. Then the earplugs quit. Nano Nano was no longer my friend.

Yesterday, Nano Nano went back to Costco. "Our most returned item" said Dave, the guy in electronics. He suggested a bigger model, one that seemed to be more reliable. My friend Michael agreed it was a better model so now I have a full size Ipod, a sleek back one with a big screen and 30gb of storage instead of 2. It is still a tricky little thing, but I am getting used to its quirks and maybe we can be friends. After all, it took the end of LPs to get me to buy a CD player. With CDs still around, I am in on the ground floor with this contraption.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

McCaskill is Selling Out

I had high hopes for our newly elected Senator Claire McCaskill. But as reality sets in and the campaign promises fade, I am beginning to see that she is no better than other politicians who fail to deliver on their promises and back stab those who supported them.

Claire lobbied hard for the gay vote and by and large got it. Gays were also supportive of the raise in minimum wage and the stem cell initiative, issues that brought out large numbers of progressive voters. She was actively supported by the Human Rights Campaign
and local gay political groups. All the gays I know voted for her and repudiated the far right former Senator Jim "No" Talent.

BUT! It has been reported that Claire has told a TV interview that she is "ok" with the stupid "don't ask don't tell" policy that had undermined military effectiveness, led to massive discharges of key military minds (god knows they need all they can get)and rampant homophobia. It is like a white politician working for the black vote and then saying that separate but equal is ok by them.

Claire, we expected more..... please do not let us down.

Monday, November 27, 2006

They Took the Fun Out of Flying

Sometimes I really wish I were a "pato" and had my own set of wings. I hate flying these days. The long lines, the security BS, Customs, rude passengers, smaller cramped and downright uncomfortable seats it is more of a hassle than a pleasure.

It didn't used to be that way. I used to love to get on a plane and go all over. Small puddle jumpers to jumbos, it mattered not. I enjoyed settling in, watching the world go by. Checking in was pretty painless, the seats not bad and even the food was ok sometimes. I remember a steak dinner in coach on a Denver-St Louis Ozark DC-9 flight, now they are the cramped regional jets, turbofan powered tubes and all you get is peanuts...if lucky.

As you can surmise, I am back from Nicaragua. The flight back was got me here. But good god, all the damn rules, and lines and searches and the overall sense of is nerve racking. I know not what is worse, the rules, the damn Transportation Insecurity Administration or the stupid public... maybe all of the above. I got through ok as I packed no liquids, no electronics but the small Ipod in its original box, no toothpaste or any sharp objects. All my metal was removed, shoes, wallet, and just about everything else. I breezed through. But my companions, who obviously are not as aware as I, screwed everything up by carrying toothpaste, water, computers, nail files and other essentials along. It made me weary.

The lines are sooooo long, and what pisses me is that the TSA people seem to have an attitude that we are the enemy. I guess maybe some are, but I think the people bound to blow up a plane are going to do it no matter what. I just hope they don't use their eyeglasses or underwear. We'll have to give those up next. They herd you along like cattle, and do not dare look annoyed or nervous or speak out of turn. You get "the treatment". Pulled aside, double checked, baggage checked. It can take you hours. They may even make you drink your breast milk like they made a lady do once, or turn on all your electronics, or even strip search.

I was in a long ass line in Houston one time with the stupid TSA flack checking everyone's ID. He'd look at it, look at you, look at the ID again, read it front and back and then do it all again. Some one asked him to speed it up they had a plane to catch. "Arrive earlier" he said with a smug arrogance and proceeded to quadruple check that lady's ID.

I could go on.. but you get the drift. All the bitching in the world would not change it. It is now more of a hassle than convenience to fly. If I ever win the big prize, trust me, I'll charter a jet.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Working Life

San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua 11/25/06

A few days ago, I spent an hour or so in the office of "La Prensa", one of two leading daily papers here in Nicaragua. Dan and Cesar are using them to print some postcards that will be sold at the hotel here in San Juan del Sur. It was an interesting glimpse into everyday Nicaraguan life.

The offices are on the busy Careterra Norte in Managua. Once we announced to the guard that we were here to see Carmen Moya we were ushered to the parking lot. We entered the building through the shabby door, up a sterile concrete stairs to a large office.

A lady asked to help us and Cesar said we had an appointment with the aforementioned Carmen. They went to work and I waited.

The office was clean as a whistle as usual. Despite a lot of garbage in the streets due to inadequate services, Nicas are personally among the cleanest people I have ever met. The office equipment was old but usable. I have seen worse in some of the offices I have had. The walls were scuffed and sloppily painted. Evidence of a recent paint job could be found on the fronds of the potted palm next to me.

Across the room was an office with 3 large windows and a door. Obviously the woman in it was important. Not as important as Carmen since Carmen's windows had blinds and the wood of her door matched the wood of the frame. The other lady's office had no blinds, and her door was lighter than her frame. She had the fax machine, a computer and lots of files so I assumed she was the office manager. All the employees came to her with the papers and issues. She answered the phone and ran interference for Carmen. She appeared to be an efficient employee.

The most amusing employee was the older man who occupied a space between the office manager and a low tangerine colored wall. He meticulously read a form, punched it on top with a two hole punch, placed it in a large bound ledger and then went on to another. Despite a computer near by, I assume most of the records are still paper. After doing this for about 30 minutes, he attempted to log in his computer. He was frustrated in his attempt, whether it was his or the computer's fault I could not tell. After 4 attempts, each about 2-3 minutes apart,he looked around as if to see if anyone was watching, clicked off the computer and went for coffee. A wall paper of a fully clothed glamor shot of a lady filled the computer screen. Could not get away with that in the States anymore. After a coffee break, he returned and the computer decided to co-operate. He spent the rest of the time typing some form in the computer.... slowly and deliberately, looking slightly bewildered the whole time.

That was the way I saw the whole office work... slow but deliberate. Like Nica life.

I was also fascinated in a totally different way with a young fellow who appeared to be a mid level functionary. He had a desk in between the two tangerine walls; his choice of color I wondered? He worked hard and was neatly dressed in a "La Prensa 80 Anos" (Nicaragua has a long history of freedom of the press, unparalleled in Latin America) polo shirt and clean, pressed khakis. Where did he live? In a nice house with a car, was he a a resident of one of the poor dirty streets or did he make enough to live in a nice barrio with a house and AC? Did his whole family live in one small house and all sleep together in one room, did they have a tv... cable? How much does someone like him make?

He was obviously educated and a bit above average. In the States, he might own a small house or rent a nice apartment with a pool and fitness center, have money for a car and maybe a 401k. But average here is dirt poor in the states. I wished more for him, and the others in the office.. but somehow I imagine it is still a deep, frustrating poverty that we, in the US, can barely imagine.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Dia de gracia

Thanksgiving Day in Nicaragua. We'll have Turkey, mashed potatoes, yams, brussels sprouts (YUM) and assorted other delights...all with a Central American twist. 14 of us for dinner tonite at 6:30. Should be fun.

Going off to Rivas with Dan for a bit to run around. I am thinking of heading off to Masaya for shopping on Fri. It will piss Greg off, but I am wanting to shop and go off on my own agenda and such. We'll see.

Check out Dan Cesar for pics of yesterday's adventure and lunch at "La Hora Taco".

Feliz Dia de Gracia!

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Cold Front

(I did something wrong so click above for the pic)

San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua 11/22/06

This storm brought some wind and a little rain and some cool weather. It was only 75 here today... people are wearing sweaters. Spent most of the day in Managua. It was warmer there.

There are some people here behind me now talking of investment and making money...they miss what Nicaragua is really all about.

Today we (Dan, Cesar and I) took 3 older gringos out for lunch in Managua. These folks fight for the poor, live simple lives and are not concerned about their investments.. they are my heros.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Managua Nicaragua

I was a bit disappointed today. I thought we were going to Managua, but due to some issues with a project they are working on, Dan and Cesar are not going until tomorrow.

Everyone here thinks I am nuts. I like Managua. Crazy, sprawling, wild, dirty, noisy, vibrant, active, musical, historic, frustrating, it has a charm and viva. That is unlike San Juan del Sur which is for the most part and despite the efforts of the invading gringos ricos still a small town. I feel claustrophobic here after a few days.

Everyone here knows everyone, but me of course. The gringos talk of investments and land and houses. Some don't speak to others due to long held grudges real or imagined. Most here at Pelican Eyes rarely descend down the hill to the village. There is dirt down there...there is life too.

This is the down side to this place. I thought I wanted to live here, but not so sure now. I hate to think I have descended to the "let's go watch the sunset crowd."

Now if a place in Managua would open up......

Interesting fact about Managua. Few of the streets have names in a city of almost 2 million. The vast majority of the place was never rebuilt after the earthquake and civil war of the 70s and 80s. Anything that was built was haphazard and without any plan. So, you give directions to a place using a system of directions and landmarks.

Arriba is up or east, as in the sun up in the east.
Al Lago is towards the lake or to the north
Abajo is down or to the west, as the sun setting
a las montagnes is south or towards the mountains of Masaya and Mombacho

So my friend Grant's address is Telcor Monsignor Lescano (the Mgr Lescano District post office)una quadra arriba (one block east) and media quadro al lago (1/2 block north.)

Gotta love it....

Monday, November 20, 2006


San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua...11/20/06

Forecast today is much of the same as the last two days. Poor me......

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Sunday in the Pool with Pato

Sunday, November 19th...San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua at the bar at "La Cascada"

Arturo, my favorite bartender, has just made me a wonderful mojito. I am happy.

Accomplishments for the day: ate breakfast, swam all day, lunch, more swimming, visited with the Williams who just arrived for the week, Dan made spaghetti at the house, watched TV. Taught Juan Carlos how to make a "slow comfortable screw up against the wall" Sloe gin, vodka, orange juice, southern comfort, galliano. Used to get drunk on them in college. I am now famous for the drink which is sweeping the place.

Got to be famous for something....

Saturday, November 18, 2006


San Juan Del Sur, Nicaragua 11/18/06

Vacation, what a concept. I have not had a real one in a looooooong time. For the next ten days, no watch, no cell phone, no reality. I even had to ask the waiter here for the date. My adjenda for the day.... swim.... drink, maybe lunch, swim and lay by the pool, swim some more, drink... and then dinner. May go to a party for the local fishing tournament that is held here.

Trip down was good. Delta airlines took good care of us, made good connections and no lost luggage. The pain in the ass security was a pain in the ass and I am certain it will not do much except annoy people... but I complied with their demands and got through ok.

Weather here, upper 80s.. humidity is not bad and there is a breeze.

Well, the pool is calling me.... and a mojito is in order soon. I am too lazy about putting batteries in the camera so look at

Piedras Y Olas

For pictres of where Pato has landed and what I am doing.

Hasta Luego!

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Flying South

Pato is flying south with all the other ducks... do ducks fly south?? I guess some do. Anyway, this duck is heading for Nicaragua for a few days to rest, visit friends and soak some sun. Unfortunately, the first order of business will be to get a tooth polled. ARRRRRGH... it came loose this PM and too late to do anything here. What a pain.

I may be able to blog a bit there, depending on the availability of a computer. So stay tuned, otherwise I return on 11/27.

Hasta Luego!

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Inmate No. 27593-112

The Us Bureau of Prisons got a new inmate today. Jack Abramoff, inmate No. 27593-112 began serving his 6 year sentence in a relatively cushy, as far as prisons go, center in Maryland. He sent the following email to his friends, likely his last for a while:

"Unfortunately, things are going to get worse (starting today no doubt) before they get better, but I am confident that ultimately the turmoil will subside and we will have our lives back." Now that your friends have been voted out of office, we can have ours back too.

Like all federal inmates, Abramoff will have a prison job. Unlike his previous work, which involved chartering jets for exotic excursions and making huge campaign donations, he will make between 12 and 40 cents an hour. New inmates typically start in lower-paying food service jobs and move up to more desirable jobs. Hopefully he will not get special privileges.

He joins Adam Taff of Kansas another greedy Republican in Federal Prison. Both deserving of their fate.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

A Liberal's Pledge

Michael Moore is at it again!

A Liberal's Pledge to Disheartened Conservatives
November 14th, 2006

To My Conservative Brothers and Sisters,
I know you are dismayed and disheartened at the results of last week's election. You're worried that the country is heading toward a very bad place you don't want it to go. Your 12-year Republican Revolution has ended with so much yet to do, so many promises left unfulfilled. You are in a funk, and I understand.
Well, cheer up, my friends! Do not despair. I have good news for you. I, and the millions of others who are now in charge with our Democratic Congress, have a pledge we would like to make to you, a list of promises that we offer you because we value you as our fellow Americans. You deserve to know what we plan to do with our newfound power -- and, to be specific, what we will do to you and for you.

Thus, here is our Liberal's Pledge to Disheartened Conservatives:

Dear Conservatives and Republicans,
I, and my fellow signatories, hereby make these promises to you:

1. We will always respect you for your conservative beliefs. We will never, ever, call you "unpatriotic" simply because you disagree with us. In fact, we encourage you to dissent and disagree with us.

2. We will let you marry whomever you want, even when some of us consider your behavior to be "different" or "immoral." Who you marry is none of our business. Love and be in love -- it's a wonderful gift.

3. We will not spend your grandchildren's money on our personal whims or to enrich our friends. It's your checkbook, too, and we will balance it for you.

4. When we soon bring our sons and daughters home from Iraq, we will bring your sons and daughters home, too. They deserve to live. We promise never to send your kids off to war based on either a mistake or a lie.

5. When we make America the last Western democracy to have universal health coverage, and all Americans are able to get help when they fall ill, we promise that you, too, will be able to see a doctor, regardless of your ability to pay. And when stem cell research delivers treatments and cures for diseases that affect you and your loved ones, we'll make sure those advances are available to you and your family, too.

6. Even though you have opposed environmental regulation, when we clean up our air and water, we, the Democratic majority, will let you, too, breathe the cleaner air and drink the purer water.

7. Should a mass murderer ever kill 3,000 people on our soil, we will devote every single resource to tracking him down and bringing him to justice. Immediately. We will protect you.

8. We will never stick our nose in your bedroom or your womb. What you do there as consenting adults is your business. We will continue to count your age from the moment you were born, not the moment you were conceived.

9. We will not take away your hunting guns. If you need an automatic weapon or a handgun to kill a bird or a deer, then you really aren't much of a hunter and you should, perhaps, pick up another sport. We will make our streets and schools as free as we can from these weapons and we will protect your children just as we would protect ours.

10. When we raise the minimum wage, we will pay you -- and your employees -- that new wage, too. When women are finally paid what men make, we will pay conservative women that wage, too.

11. We will respect your religious beliefs, even when you don't put those beliefs into practice. In fact, we will actively seek to promote your most radical religious beliefs ("Blessed are the poor," "Blessed are the peacemakers," "Love your enemies," "It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God," and "Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me."). We will let people in other countries know that God doesn't just bless America, he blesses everyone. We will discourage religious intolerance and fanaticism -- starting with the fanaticism here at home, thus setting a good example for the rest of the world.

12. We will not tolerate politicians who are corrupt and who are bought and paid for by the rich. We will go after any elected leader who puts him or herself ahead of the people. And we promise you we will go after the corrupt politicians on our side FIRST. If we fail to do this, we need you to call us on it. Simply because we are in power does not give us the right to turn our heads the other way when our party goes astray. Please perform this important duty as the loyal opposition.

I promise all of the above to you because this is your country, too. You are every bit as American as we are. We are all in this together. We sink or swim as one. Thank you for your years of service to this country and for giving us the opportunity to see if we can make things a bit better for our 300 million fellow Americans -- and for the rest of the world.

Michael Moore

P.S. Please feel free to pass this on.

Monday, November 13, 2006

La Vie en Rose

I remember it clearly albeit the exact date is lost, it was sometime in 1973.. I was 16. The commercials had billed it as a lifetime event. Curious I watched, and was mesmerized. A slim, sequined lady, old, singing unfamiliar songs of a bygone era. She did not have a strong lyrical voice like Barbra or Judy, but she had a way of communicating. Almost speech singing...remember George Burns in his last years? Words spoken more than sung.. a hint of a melody here and there.

An Evening With Marlene Dietrich. That CBS special ignited my now 33 year passion for this unique singer and actress. Finally, it is available on DVD with the German songs and several songs from the live concert in London that were not televised.

She was born Maria Magdalene Dietrich in Berlin, Germany on December 27, 1901. Marlene made her film debut in 1923. In 1929, she was given the role of "Lola" in "The Blue Angel", which was one of the first European sound films. Dietrich sang in several of her films including The Blue Angel, in which she sings "Falling In Love Again", along with "Lili Marlene" can be considered her theme song. During WWII she sang for Allied troops and was outspoken in her hatred of Hitler, despite his admiration for her.

From the 1950s to the mid-1970s Dietrich toured internationally as a successful cabaret performer. Her repertoire included songs from her films as well as popular songs of the day.

With Bert Bachrach as her arranger, her limited vocal range was enhanced to maximum dramatic effect. Spectacular gowns, tight fitting,slinky dresses, careful stage lighting and temporary mini-facelifts helped to preserve Dietrich's glamorous image well into old age. Later she began including a version of Pete Seeger's anti-war anthem Where Have All the Flowers Gone?, reigniting her anti war activities
This concert is tremendous. Even after 33 years it is amazing, moving and wonderful. Marlene shines, she is subtle, fragile beautiful.

However at 72 her timing and voice are not as strong as in many of her recordings. As I mentioned earlier, many of the songs are almost spoken. Yet, there are no performers like this anymore, and we are lesser people for it.

It was like being introduced to her magic all over again.

An Evening With Marlene Dietrich is available through and other DVD retailers.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Moscow State Symphony Concert

One of the true jewels of the Kansas City arts scene is the Harriman-Jewell Series sponsored by William Jewell College. For 42 years, the series has brought many top names to the area including Luciano Pavarotti and Jan Peerce who made their professional recital debuts here. Not only top singers, but dancers, dance ensembles, orchestras and soloists are presented in concert.

On Fri Nov 10 the series presented the Moscow State Symphony in concert at the Folly Theatre. Pavel Kogin led the orchestra with soloist Stephan Jackiw as soloist. The program was solid, East European and Russian favorites: Smetana "Vltava", Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto and Dvorak Symphony # 9.

Unfortunately, the concert was held at the smallish Folly Theatre as the Lyric was occupied with the current production of Thomas' "Hamlet" and the Music Hall is undergoing reconstruction. The Folly is great for chamber and solo concerts but is a stretch for a full orchestra. It was obvious the orchestra was crammed on stage. The brass and basses were almost off the stage in back. This contributed to a bit of a constricted, hard sound.

Perhaps being so crowded contributed to the extraordinarily fast tempi in every piece. Kogan led a technically brilliant "Vltava", but I missed the atmosphere, especially in the "Moonlight: Dance of the Water Nymphs". Perhaps they were trying to stay afloat in the turbulent waters, as "The Moldau" flowed rapidly past Prague, sweeping all before it.

The Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto is of course one of the giants of the genre. Similar in scope and form to the First Piano Concerto, it literally pours forth themes and melodies, many appearing once never to be developed or heard again. Also, as in the Piano Concerto, its first movement is a grand allegro with a broad sweeping principal melody. The "Canzonetta" and Finale pale in scope but together perfectly balance the grandeur of the Allegro.

Stephan Jackiw is all but 20 yrs old and I predict will be a talent to watch. Again a brisk performance, I would have loved a bit of lingering over some of the lyrical passages, a bit less tension in the Canzonetta, and the cadenza was bit too showy and self-indulgent. But when he was allowed to linger a bit, a rich, sweet tone emerged from both the instrument and the performer's soul. Fiery, impassioned, technically brilliant and communicative, he made quite an impressive local debut.

The audience was mesmerized by his performance and even broke all decorum by giving him a standing ovation after the first movement Allegro. Perhaps a little too enthusiastic but indicative of his incredible technical ability and rapport with the audience. Not just a mere note spinner, I think with some seasoning, he will be a major figure in the violin world for the next generation. With his lean, gutsy playing I would love to hear him in the Bartok or Stravinsky Concertos. With a little more polish, the Beethoven or Dvorak would be in stellar hands.

The large orchestra was more than up to the spirited performance, yet kept its distance, letting the violin be the star.

The last half was the familiar Dvorak 9th. Again the brisk tempi ruined some of the more contemplative and atmospheric sections and smeared the tempo relationships of the movements. When the opening movement's "allegro molto" section is taken at the speed of light, where can you go with the even faster "molto vivace" scherzo? The Largo was more of an Allegretto (I kid you not) but did feature a lyrical and solid English horn solo. I may be spoiled, growing up as I did with the incomparable Kertesz performances, which in my opinion get everything right. Everything else pales in comparison.

The audience was rewarded with a Dvorak Slavonic Dance #2 (e-minor op 46) again played with technical brilliance. My ride was leaving so I missed the second encore, which I believe was by Glazunov.

Pavel Kogan (son of Leonid Kogan and Elizaveta Gilels sister of pianist Emil Gilels) has led the Moscow State Symphony since 1989 and has developed the ensemble in to a technically superb orchestra. It would be wonderful to have this same group record the Tchaikovsky with Jackiw, it would certainly be worth hearing again. Would not replace the Heifitz or early Perlman with Leinsdorf (which has some similarities to Jackiw's performance) in my collection but would certainly demonstrate the Concerto's future is in good hands.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Thank you, America

I could not resist posting this email I received from my friend Pat. Sums everything up nicely in my opinon. ~ Pato

Thursday November 9, 2006
The Guardian

For six years, latterly with the backing of both houses of a markedly conservative Republican Congress, George Bush has led an American administration that has played an unprecedentedly negative and polarizing role in the world's affairs. On Tuesday, in the midterm US congressional elections, American voters rebuffed Mr Bush in spectacular style and with both instant and lasting political consequences. By large numbers and across almost every state of the union, the voters defeated Republican candidates and put the opposition Democrats back in charge of the House of Representatives for the first time in a dozen years.

When the remaining recounts and legal challenges are over, the Democrats may even have narrowly won control of the Senate too. Either way, the results change the political landscape in Washington for the final two years of this now thankfully diminished presidency. They also reassert a different and better United States that can again offer hope instead of despair to the world. Donald Rumsfeld's resignation last night was a fitting climax to the voters' verdict. Thank you, America.

In US domestic terms, the 2006 midterms bring to an end the 12 intensely divisive years of Republican House rule that began under Newt Gingrich in 1994. These have been years of zealously and confrontational conservative politics that have shocked the world and, under Mr Bush, have sent America's global standing plummeting. That long political hurricane has now at last blown itself out for a while, but not before leaving America with a terrible legacy that includes climate-change denial, the end of biological stem-cell research, an aid programme tied to abortion bans, a shockingly permissive gun culture, an embrace of capital punishment equaled only by some of the world's worst tyrannies, the impeachment of Bill Clinton and his replacement by a president who does not believe in Darwin's theory of evolution. The approval by voters in at least five more states of same-sex marriage bans - on top of 13 similar votes in 2004 - shows that culture-war politics are far from over.

Exit polls suggest that four issues counted most in these elections - corruption scandals, the economy, terrorism and Iraq. In the end, though, it was the continuing failure of the war in Iraq that has galvanized many Americans to do what much of the rest of the world had longed for them to do much earlier. It is too soon to say whether 2006 now marks a decisive rejection of the rest of the conservative agenda as well. Only those who do not know America well will imagine that it does.

The Democratic victory was very tight in many places, but its size should not be underestimated. November 7 was a decisive nationwide win for the progressive and moderate traditions in US political life. The final majority in the House will be at least 18. The recapture of the Senate, if it happens, will involve captures from the Republicans in the north-east, the north-west, the midwest and the south. The Democrats won seven new state governorships on Tuesday, including New York and Ohio, and now control a majority nationwide. Republican governors who held on, like Arnold Schwarzenegger in California and Charlie Crist in Florida, only did so by distancing themselves from Mr Bush. The statewide Democratic wins in Ohio give their 2008 presidential candidate a platform for doing what John Kerry failed to do in this crucial state in 2004.

Claire McCaskill's win in the Missouri Senate race showed that Democrats can win a state which almost always votes for the winning presidential candidate. If Jim Webb has won the recounting Virginia Senate seat, Democrats will have gone another step towards re-establishing themselves in a changing part of the south. In almost every one of these cases, as in the Connecticut contest won by Joe Lieberman running as an independent, the Democrats have won by cleaving to the centre and winning the support of independent voters. The new House Speaker Nancy Pelosi may be the Armani-clad San Francisco leftwinger of the caricaturists' dreams but she heads a caucus that will demand caution on some of the baby-boomer liberal generation's pet subjects.

The big questions under the new Congress will be the way that Mr Bush responds to this unfamiliar reduction in his authority and whether the Democratic win will push the president into a new Iraq policy. At his White House press conference yesterday, Mr Bush inevitably made plenty of suitably bipartisan and common-ground noises. He had little alternative. But they rang hollow from such a tarnished and partisan leader. It will take more than warm words in the immediate aftermath of an election reverse to prove that Mr Bush is now capable of working in a new way.

The departure of the disastrous Mr Rumsfeld has come at least three years too late. But it shows that Mr Bush has finally been forced to face the reality of the Iraq disaster for which his defence secretary bears so much responsibility. As the smoke rose over the Pentagon on 9/11, Mr Rumsfeld was already writing a memo that wrongly pointed the finger at Saddam Hussein. He more than anyone beat the drum for the long-held neoconservative obsession with invading Iraq. It was he who insisted, over the advice of all his senior generals, that the invasion required only a third of the forces that the military said they needed. He more than anyone else is the architect of America's humiliations in Iraq. It was truly an outrage that he remained in office for so long.

But at least the passing of Mr Rumsfeld shows that someone in the White House now recognises that things cannot go on as before. Business as usual will not do, either in general or over Iraq. Mr Bush's remarks last night showed that on Iraq he has now put himself in the hands of the Iraq Study Group, chaired by his father's consigliere James Baker, one of whose members, Robert Gates, an ex-CIA chief, was last night appointed to succeed the unlamented Mr Rumsfeld. Maybe the more pragmatic Republican old guard can come to the rescue of this disastrous presidency in its most catastrophic adventure. But it has been the American voters who have at last made this possible. For that alone the entire world owes them its deep gratitude today.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

A Turn in the Road

Maybe we are on the way to getting our country back. Stopping the gravy train for those who are only looking out for themselves and their narrow interests. Wrenching power from those who want to foist their radical beliefs on everyone. Maybe the poor, the minorities, the gays and lesbians can regain a voice in what is going on. A Democratic House will but the breaks on all the giveaways for the rich and powerful. Maybe now we can have a civilized, rational debate on Iraq, not a slandering of anyone who dares to differ with Bush.

The emperor got his wings clipped. In his press conference today, he sounded flustered, angry and resentful. He has no class, so I did not expect anything else.

The architect of the disaster in Iraq Donald Rumsfeld was the first victim of the post defeat White House. I wonder if more purges are coming... Karl Rove will be there to the bitter end, as will Cheney... Bush can't survive without them.

Here in MO, Jim "No" Talent got his ass kicked, we got stem cell research protection, light rail in KC and a Lesbian in the State Senate. I am proud that the state came to its senses.

My faithful reader Zaine said it with more enthusiasm than I have at the moment, so I'll let him speak for me:

"2004 has been avenged, oh hell yeah! The message of this election is: George Bush, SHUT THE FUCK UP. You're stupid, you're a hateful evangelical nutcase, and everything you've done since 2001 has been wrong. Every single goddamned thing! So sit down, shut the fuck up, and sign whatever Nancy Pelosi puts in front you, bitch!"

My sentiments exactly.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Election Day

It is that simple

Monday, November 06, 2006

An Open Letter to Ted

I am torn, should we as gay men welcome Ted Haggard to the brotherhood?

You all know who he is right? He's the former head of the National Association of Evangelicals and the big mega-church in Colorado. Ted got outed it seems by an escort he paid for sex, drugs and massages over the last 3 years. First denying it, then admitting to buying drugs but never using them...(yeah right)then he finally had the balls to admit, "I am a deceiver and a liar. There is a part of my life that is so repulsive and dark that I've been warring against it all of my adult life."

I can only assume he means he is gay.

Part of me wants to say, "hey Ted.. brother... we know how you feel. But it is ok. It is really ok to be gay, you are not alone. It is not repulsive and dark, you only are indoctrinated that it is. Gay sexuality is a great a gift from whoever or whatever created us as heterosexuality is. I am glad, Ted, you lifted this awful deception from your shoulders, it is a killer. Many gay men in your position have decided they were so awful and undeserving that they took their own lives in fear and shame. Many live on eggshells, like you did for years... a lot of us know that, and like most of us, we break one and get caught. But together and proud of ourselves and our brothers we can move beyond that... that is what Gay Pride means. Come on Ted, the hand is open, we forgive you, come...."

Part of me wants to say: "hey Ted, asshole...why have you spent time, energy and money destroying the lives and jobs and relationships of your brothers? Why stand in hypocrisy and vilify yourself? Why?? Why hide??.. are you afraid of the monster you created, the anti-gay legislation and backlash you fostered? Are you afraid GW won't speak to you anymore. He won't no matter what, he is only for himself. By your vocal support of making gays less than second class citizens, you hurt me, Ted, and that is hard to forget. You made my life and others' miserable, destroyed relationships and true families, made people ashamed of themselves, twisted sacred words to support your radical agenda, you have put people in prison by making it ok to hate us. Matthew Shepard's blood is on your hands. What the fuck were you thinking? If you were Jewish in the 30s would you have been a Nazi to make yourself feel better and to survive due to the deaths of your brothers?? Is that the bible you read?"

I hope he is headed towards reconciliation and light. But I can see that he is not quite ready. I fear he will get sucked into the vortex of the Ex-Gay movement and become its new poster boy. Continue to be a pawn in a sick and twisted world. Ted even admits it didn't work: "For extended periods of time," he states in his letter to his congregation, "I would enjoy victory and rejoice in freedom. Then, from time to time, the dirt that I thought was gone would resurface, and I would find myself thinking thoughts and experiencing desires that were contrary to everything I believe and teach. Through the years, I've sought assistance in a variety of ways, with none of them proving to be effective in me."

My wish for you Ted is acceptance. Accept who you are, that gay sexuality is real. Admit that the evangelical church can not "cure" for sexual addiction, or being gay.
Continue to go to church if you want. But read your Bible closely, see that forgiveness and acceptance is the message of Jesus.

Come home Ted. I think you maybe surprised at your welcome.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

God Save the Queen from Herself

One of this year's most talked about films, and sure Oscar nominee (and winner if the Academy decides it didn't "peak early", the excuse given for Brokeback Mountain's failure to garner an Oscar)is Stephen Frears' "The Queen," a subtle, often funny, yet ultimately tragic study of royal manners and duty above self.

The film takes place in the Summer of 1997, beginning the day Tony Blair and the Labour Party wins the national elections in Great Britain and culminating in the days surrounding the death of Princess Diana. Combining vintage photos and films (Diana is not portrayed but is always seen in media photos, aptly illustrating her role as a media darling) and blending fact and fiction, "The Queen" gives a wonderful, wickedly voyeuristic view into the private world of the Windsors.

The purely fictional parts are so natural and well crafted you just want them to be true. We want to believe that Prince Philip (James Cromwell) looked at news footage Diana at her wedding to Prince Charles and grumbled, "She was a nice girl. Then..." Or that Cherie Blair (Helen Mc Crory) called the Windsors "emotionally retarded nutters" and finally Blair himself stating "Will someone please save these people from themselves?" Blair will soon realize that the someone will have to be him.

The crown jewel in this film is the incredible performance by Helen Mirren as HRM Queen Elizabeth II. She looks remarkably like The Queen, and has captured her manners and presence perfectly. Cold, precise, and regal; yet beneath we see the young princess who, like her father, really did not want the job she inherited.

Ultimately, it is a sympathetic portrait. If you look and listen closely, the Queen is as much a trapped victim of the Royal tradition, protocol and duty as Diana was.

To Queen Elizabeth, Diana was a shameless, annoying ex-daughter-in-law and thus no longer a member of the royal family. Diana is not entitled to a state funeral, any royal tributes and thus should have a quiet, private funeral with dignity and a stiff upper lip. What gives the film its dramatic impact is how Elizabeth II comes to understand this massive error in judgment in the face of mounting indignation of the people and how it shakes her to her very core. "I've never been hated like that before," she says after reading the news and hearing the people speak of the shame they have in their monarch. It shocks her into making some precedent breaking decisions, pushed on by Blair. I, for one, remember watching the funeral when the casket came by the gate at Buckingham Palace and The Queen bowed to Diana. I am sure I was not the only one who gasped at that tradition breaking moment.

Tied in a nice neat package and running for a reasonable 1 1/2 hours, the film rarely misses. The background characters such as Alex Jennings as sly but well-meaning Prince Charles, and the half dead Queen Mum (Sylvia Syms)add a depth and never get in the way.

I do predict an Oscar for this film, at least for Mirren. Definitely worth checking out.

Friday, November 03, 2006


On Tuesday, we will head to the polls in an important exercise in democracy. School board and city council members, dog catchers and judges, to Governors and members of Congress, we have an opportunity to make our voices heard.

Elections are choices, in a representative democracy we choose who will represent us in the thousands of decisions our leaders make on a daily basis. I for one care deeply about gay rights, national security, health care, the right to choose, the environment, education, and more. The choices we make Tuesday will be among the most important in history. Will we continue on the path we have been on for the last 8 years, or begin a rethinking of our policies and place in the world stage. Will our votes count, or will they be thrown out like in the last two elections. Weill we make stupid decision like one gay fellow who voted for our worthless boy-Gov and rationalized it by saying "they all screw us, might as well be a cute one doing it."

That crap results in the clowns we have in office.

Think carefully about your choice and consider which candidates will help your hometown and this country become great again.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Ted Pays for It

Oh will the hypocrisy of the far right wing evangelical "Christians" ever end?? Now it seems that evangelist Ted Haggard an out spoken proponent of a proposed amendment to ban same-sex marriage in Colorado, has stepped down from the ministry of his church and resigned from the National Association of Evangelicals after a male escort alleged he had a three year gay affair with Haggard.

But while Haggard denies having a gay affair, the man who alleges the pastor paid him for sex is sticking by his statements. The paid "Escort" broke his story on TV and then repeated them on a Denver talk radio show Thursday. He defined his relationship with Haggard as a "sexual business relationship". The escort was motivated by Haggard's support of an initiative from the hyper-right "Focus on the Family" group to ban Gay Marriage and his opposition to a proposal to allow civil unions. "People may look at me and think what I've done is immoral, but I think I had to do the moral thing in my mind and that is expose someone who is preaching one thing and doing the opposite behind everybody's back". The escort states he had gay sex with Haggard and also had voice mails and a letter from him.

Focus on the Family Nazi James Dobson defended Haggard:

"It is unconscionable that the legitimate news media would report a rumor like this based on nothing but one man's accusation.."

So why did Haggard immediately resign, Jimmy? Guilt??? This can't set well with GW, Haggard supposedly talks to Bush frequently. Haggard has bragged that the only disagreement between himself and the leader of the Western world is automotive: Bush drives a Ford pickup, whereas he prefers a Chevy. Good god, we are doomed if this is our "leadership".

Will be interesting to watch over the coming days.

By the way, the male escort is no kid, he is supposedly 49yrs old.