More photos on Flickr

I´ve got some new photos up, including shots from the recent tropical storm (filed under the Leon folder).  Check them out here

I´ve also added the handy dandy Flickr widget to the sidebar, scroll down and from there by clicking the more photos link it will also send you to my photostream. 

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Published in: on May 30, 2008 at 6:12 pm  Leave a Comment  

Tropical Storm Alert/We Ok

Here is a Spanish language page from La Prensa, the daily Nicaraguan news.  It says there are reports of 3 dead so far, 10 missing, and thousands evacuated.  Prayers for the dead and their families.   

It´s a day after Alma (which oddly means Soul in Spanish), the first tropical storm of the year.  It did not become a full on hurricane but we were here in Leon which was pretty much the landfall-epicenter of the storm.  It was pretty wild.  We made a mad rush to the grocery store in the middle of a lull not knowing whether stuff would be open today.  But it is.  The winds became pretty severe and it was weird going through the eye. 

Chloe and I waited it out at our hostel.  Pics to come.  We made some friends and we had a hurricane party (though technically it was as I said a tropical storm party).  Which ended of course with a drinking game.  We were out of power most of yesterday, so when we went to the store the only candles they had left were La Virgen Maria and Jesus.

It was quite fitting to be illuminated during our inebriation by this lady.

 

 

Published in: on May 30, 2008 at 9:25 am  Leave a Comment  
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Obama´s First Hundred Days

Interesting piece from Marc Ambinder.

At a fundraiser in Denver last night, Sen. Barack Obama signaled that he would use the grace period of his first 100 days in office to push through national health insurance plan. In general, a fresh administration is given some latitude to pursue a single domestic policy goal; think of George W. Bush and No Child Left Behind — although Democrats were a bit shell-shocked then.

And:

NB: Other Obama 100 day priorities include a “signal to the world” on energy and climate change, and a review of every Bush executive order.

First off this is semi if not outright ludicrous.  In three months of taking power you are not going to get through health care, climate change, and executive orders.  Not with the absolute mess the bureaucracy will be at the end of the Bush days.  You think it´s crazy there now with everybody jumping ship and writing books that slam the Chief, wait til November, December.  It´s going to be the looney bin then.

Second, why can´t we go to the days when Congress actually initiated and started legislation and the Executive just either vetoed or signed and executed the law?  Why not have Obama signal basic principles he would like to see in a health care bill and then let the Congress deal with the specifics as it is Constitutionally mandated to do?  Note this would not be any different with McCain.  It´s a sign of how much that mentality has been lost that both parties adhere to the same MO though with different goals and policies in mind of course.  The Wyden-Bennett bipartisan health care plan would be the way to go in this manner imo.

But the point about restoring the executive branch to integrity starting with the Department of Justice, reviewing every Bush decision and overturning those that are unconstitutional would be extremely welcome on this end.

Published in: on May 29, 2008 at 11:29 am  Leave a Comment  
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Doc on history of the Revolution

This is a documentary that was made in 1979 the year of the Sandinista Revolution by Australian journalist John Pilger. His wiki here. As the wiki states Pilger has been a long time critic of US foreign policy. This video is decidedly one-sided in its depiction of the events. (pro-Sandinista). I post it because that side is the one not often shown in the West or rather the US.

You also get to see an honest to God liberation theologian in the film.

The Vatican under John Paul II and then Cardinal Ratzinger (now Pope Benedict) stood against the liberation theologians because they were seen as Marxists. JP II was in the midst of the East European, particularly Polish Catholic struggle against Soviet communism. John Paul could not see a difference between what was going on in Latin America and the Soviet Union. Reagan saw things similarly i.e. that Nicaragua would become a Soviet satellite in the Western Hempishere a la Cuba. The movie questions that fundamental assumption. It examines the possibility that this country was on its own trajectory (not without serious problems or potential pitfalls) trying for something different and unjustly robbed of its sovereignty.

It also exposes the paranoia (from our vantage point today) of the Cold War.

A more balanced doc would show also the atrocities committed by the Sandinistas (of which there were many) particularly in response to atrocities perpetrated by the Contras.

Edit:  Not sure if the video is coming up.  If not, the link is here.

Published in: on May 29, 2008 at 11:21 am  Leave a Comment  
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Leon Thread

Haven´t seen much of the city yet.  Arrived last night went to see the new Indy Jones movie (not bad particularly for $1.50!!!).  Today we are experiencing the brunt of a rising tropical storm that could become the first hurricance of the season.  Slated for the West Coast of (you guessed it) Nicaragua.  The streets are currently fairly flooded and it has been raining hard pretty much non-stop for the last 12 hours.

From the Weather Channel:

Tropical Depression One-E formed late Wednesday evening and this morning has become Tropical Storm Alma the first named storm of the season in the eastern Pacific.

Some moderate strengthening will continue, while drifting north along the western coast of Nicaragua with a threat for torrential rain and flooding in central America. Alma is forecast make landfall along the northern coast by later this afternoon and then weaken over western Honduras.

Hurricane Warnings are now posted along the west coasts of Nicargua and Honduras with a Hurricane Watch for El Salvador. All residents and mariners along the coast need to pay close attention to Alma and take measures to protect property and life the next 24 to 36 hours.

Tropical storm warnings have been posted for the coasts of Costa Rica, Nicaragua and El Salvador, with tropical storm conditions also expected along the Pacific coast of Honduras.

A major threat with Alma will be torrential rains that may cause life-threatening flash floods and mud slides. Extreme caution is advised in the path of Alma the next 24 to 48 hours. Be prepared to move to higher ground and away from flooded areas during this tropical event.

So we may be stuck here for a few days.  We were thinking of going up to the northern highlands but that might not be possible with so much rain and possible flooding.

Also there may be a taxi and bus strike upcoming.  That would also put a major damper on my desire to go to the north.  But either way we are shifting more into the political terrain and history of this country.  Grenada was mostly spared the violence during the Revolution and Contra War.  Leon not.  I´ll get some pics up of bullet hole buildings.  And the rain.

Published in: on May 29, 2008 at 11:06 am  Leave a Comment  
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More Granada Pics

Published in: on May 28, 2008 at 10:25 am  Leave a Comment  
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Nica pics

I´ve got the beginnings of some pics up on Flickr.  Unfortunately the wireless connection went out as it was downloading the photos from the memory stick.  More to come.  But a start.

View them here.

Mi esposa and I are in Granada now.  Lovely city.  We are going up to a volcano tonight–hopefully we won´t get rained on.  Last night there was monsoonish like torrents that poured from the heavens.  We are in the beginning of their rainy season, so to be expected.

Either tomorrow or the next day it will be off to Leon and then from there to sites in the highlands of the north which I am very much looking forward to.

Published in: on May 27, 2008 at 1:09 pm  Leave a Comment  

First Look Wedding Photos

Some initial shots for perusal from our wonderful photographer Jennifer Salt.

View them here.

Published in: on May 26, 2008 at 7:53 pm  Comments (1)  

Obama’s Latin American Speech

Since I’m here, thought I’d give it a summary. Speech can be read here.

George W.’s policy towards Latin America (such as it was) has been very poor.  Brazil is a major regional force to be dealt with and the shift towards left but outside the Andes not leftist governments (left-liberal, left-liberalization) need not threaten the US….e.g. Brazil, Argentina, and Chile.  But of course that has been only interpreted through the lens of Venezuela and Cuba.

So what does Barack have for us?

He echoes what has been dubbed the Obama Dignity Doctrine elsewhere particularly the last two:

What all of us strive for is freedom as FDR described it. Political freedom. Religious freedom. But also freedom from want, and freedom from fear. At our best, the United States has been a force for these four freedoms in the Americas. But if we’re honest with ourselves, we’ll acknowledge that at times we’ve failed to engage the people of the region with the respect owed to a partner.

He then (dumbly imo) sees the return of Ortega to power here in Nica as of the same ilk as with Ecuador.  He does however deftly tie the rise of anti-Americanism in the region (such as it is overhyped though it may be) to the Iraq War and the failure of diplomacy of the Bush-McCain era.

This is vague but very intriguing:

It’s time for a new alliance of the Americas. After eight years of the failed policies of the past, we need new leadership for the future. After decades pressing for top-down reform, we need an agenda that advances democracy, security, and opportunity from the bottom up.

Very interestingly that is not a critique of Bush but also of Clinton who pushed for so many trade deals in the region (like CAFTA which Obama voted against).  This links with his own political grassroots emphasis in his own election.  Very interesting to see how he could link what is the grassroots organizer side of himself from local politics to international.  Again see Obama Doctrine.

But emphasizing not only democracy (a la neconservatives) but also security and freedom from want he is starting to harken back to a realist George HW Bush strain as well as the possibility (I hope) that he has been learning from and reading Bounded Power and the possibility of a republican (small r) foreign policy shooting the gap between liberal internationalism, liberal humanitarian interventionism, and radical neoconservatism and a return to imperial projects (of the right).

The emphasis in Bounded Power is on promoting security, freedom from fear which Obama mentions.

And towards Cuba:

My policy toward Cuba will be guided by one word: Libertad. And the road to freedom for all Cubans must begin with justice for Cuba’s political prisoners, the rights of free speech, a free press and freedom of assembly; and it must lead to elections that are free and fair.

Now let me be clear. John McCain’s been going around the country talking about how much I want to meet with Raul Castro, as if I’m looking for a social gathering. That’s never what I’ve said, and John McCain knows it. After eight years of the disastrous policies of George Bush, it is time to pursue direct diplomacy, with friend and foe alike, without preconditions. There will be careful preparation. We will set a clear agenda. And as President, I would be willing to lead that diplomacy at a time and place of my choosing, but only when we have an opportunity to advance the interests of the United States, and to advance the cause of freedom for the Cuban people.

This is far stronger than McCain’s insane Bush-like embrace of the failed embargo.   But even this position of Obama’s is not as strong as earlier discussions he had of possibly lifting the embargo.  Obama’s policy is in that sense still far too hardline but given the insanity of US politics around that little podunk island.  Open the place up to trade and tourism and that shell of a communist government would fall faster than you can see ‘mas rapido por favor’.

But at least he is sticking with the other element of the Obama Doctrine—preparations no preconditions and serious diplomacy across the region.

From this he is invoking Reagan–better than McCain interestingly enough–and a New Day for America kinda strength in the twilight of a lost war much like Vietnam.

And this is both politically shrewd (electorally) and humane and actually the correct policy limited though it is and refracted through this overly libertad-ish lens:

It’s time for more than tough talk that never yields results. It’s time for a new strategy. There are no better ambassadors for freedom than Cuban Americans. That’s why I will immediately allow unlimited family travel and remittances to the island. It’s time to let Cuban Americans see their mothers and fathers, their sisters and brothers. It’s time to let Cuban American money make their families less dependent upon the Castro regime.

And on trade the same position he held on NAFTA; CAFTA, and the like:

Trade must be part of this solution. But I strongly reject the Bush-McCain view that any trade deal is a good deal. We cannot accept trade that enriches those at the top of the ladder while cutting out the rungs at the bottom. It’s time to understand that the goal of our trade policy must be trade that works for all people in all countries. Like Central America’s bishops, I opposed CAFTA because the needs of workers were not adequately addressed. I supported the Peru Free Trade Agreement because there were binding labor and environmental provisions. That’s the kind of trade we need – trade that lifts up workers, not just a corporate bottom line.

There’s a great deal more in the speech. Showing yet again this dude is very wonkish and would likely have a similar cabinet and government around him.  Less ideological, more pragmatic within the bounds of their given philosophy of governance.  Very interesting though not would I would like on all fronts.  But again the alternative is insanity for this world.  The world and the US can not afford 4 or 8 more years of lost time, further losing wars and corruption, and lost opportunities.

Granada Thread 2–History

From the Wiki:

Granada, with an estimated population of about 116,000 (2005), is Nicaragua‘s fourth most populous city. It is the oldest city founded by Europeans in Central America. This is after several cities in Mexico were priorly settled by Spanish, i.e. Veracruz and Mexico City, among others. It is historically one of Nicaragua’s most important cities. It is situated on the northwestern shore of Lake Cocibolca and was founded by Francisco Hernández de Córdoba on December 8, 1524. It has a rich colonial heritage, seen in its architecture and layout. Granada is commonly nicknamed the “Gran Sultana del Gran Lago” – the Great Sultan of the Great Lake.

Nicaragua received Independence from the Spanish empire during the 1820s during the period of Revolutions throughout the Region (think Simon Bolivar & Crew).  After which Granada which was the bastion of conservative Nicaragua fought with liberal Leon.  Liberal meaning in the classically liberal James Madison, George Washington, Deist sense.

The two cities fought for power prior to the accession of the Somoza Dictatorship.

The liberals in Leon in their on going war with Granada hired an American mercenary named William Walker who saw what he thought was a good opportunity and tried to take the country over (which he did for a short period) as well as extending an empire further south in Costa Rica.  Granada was his base for further exploration and conquest south.  He was eventually forced into a retreat and one of his generals burned Granada prior to their flight.  So much of the ancient Spanish colonial (founded in 16th century by the Conquistador Cordoba) was destroyed in the process.

Published in: on May 26, 2008 at 7:19 pm  Leave a Comment  
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