Monday, May 30, 2011

Memorial Day 2011

To commemorate Memorial Day 2011, HERE is a set of pictures I've taken of places where Americans gave all. To those who served, thank you.

Below are two pictures from the set.

On top is a wall inside the citadel in Hue City, Vietnam. On these grounds, US Marines battled the North Vietnamese Army during the Tet Offensive of Jan. 1968.

On the bottom is a water's edge view looking at Omaha Beach in France where the U.S. Army battled and defeated the Germans as part of the D-Day landings on June 4, 1944.

NOTE: Pictures taken by Marc Osborn and are not for any use without prior written permission.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Notes on Sounders FC from a Novice Fan

First, let me say I love Sounders FC. I am a fan and will loyally be one win, lose or draw. Indeed, I enjoy having a local team that's in the top league for soccer in the U.S., and overall am quite pleased with their first 2+ seasons in MLS. This is all doubly true since the NBA Sonics were stolen out of Seattle and moved to Oklahoma City.

In particular I love how the Sounders have won a number of critical games in dramatic fashion, consistently reside in the upper third of the standings, have made the MLS playoffs twice in their two seasons and won the U.S. Open Cup twice in a row. I also really like the game atmostphere at home games. Not bad for an expansion team. Not bad at all.

Perhaps it's because I just witnessed them losing a home game to Dallas last night, but I'm now increasingly frustrated with this team - mainly for it's inability to score goals (that's pretty important as it turns out), but also for sloppy play (I know...easy to say when you're a fan) and - given these two problems - also what seem to be 1-2 fatal breakdowns in defense every game.

Lets take a look at these together because I think they're linked. And it all starts with...

Sloppy Play
Look, I get it...this is not English Premier League talent out there. I'm fine with that. And, I know two key players are out with injuries. However, even before those inures happened, I am consistently amazed this season by what appear to be very frequent lazy or way-off passes that either go out of bounds or directly to an onrushing opponent. This is particularly bad in the midfield, and it seems that this season the great majority of the "full 90" is spent in the middle third of the field for the Sounders as they muddle around trying to get possession of the ball.

Naturally, this sloppy passing turns into more opportunities for the other team to possess the ball, move it forward and attempt to score. And they do. I know at least one game - the opener vs. L.A. - was decided specifically on the fact that a Sounder defender kicked the ball DIRECTLY to a Galaxy player deep in the defensive end of the field and the Galaxy player booted a goal past the Sounders keeper. Just one example, but a good (or actually bad) one. Seems like each game the opponent gets a couple quality goal chances because of this type of thing.

Meanwhile, the Sounders don't seem to. In fact they appear to have a chronic case of the...

Inability to Score
This manifests itself in two ways. First, limited opportunities. Because they are fiddling around trying to get possession in the midfield and playing defense, the Sounders do not seem to put together aggressive pushes forward or artful runs that can result in chances on goal. Other MLS teams seem to be able to do this regularly. I've seen it - both against the Sounders and in other matches unrelated to Seattle. Add to that the sloppy passing element, and you've got what to my eye and experience amounts to fewer and poorer goal opportunities overall. You can't score if you're not near the goal with the ball - simple as that.

The second way the Sounders inability to score goals is manifested is in just simply flubbing around with the ball at critical moments in front of the goal. This seems to happen over and over and over again in each game. I know the players are not trying to screw up, and I know scoring a goal in soccer is not easy, but how many times this season has one of them been directly on goal or with an open chance and instead of directly shooting it they try and settle or dribble around...ultimately either firing off a lame shot, having it blocked or being dispossessed? Many times. Far, far too many times. Put the ball into the net in the most direct and quick fashion possible please.

The combination of sloppy play and the inability to score exposes the team to...

Fatal Breakdowns on Defense
These happen. Even on good teams. It's just the way it is. But, when your offense cannot score goals and this happens...opponents score, and you just lost the game 1-0 or maybe 2-0. Just one breakdown and you're done. That's all it takes.

This past game really put each of these points in sharp relief. The Sounders possessed the ball pretty well actually, but still were sloppy in the midfield, misfired on some key pass opportunities and managed to screw up a LOT of quality goal scoring chances as usual. Meanwhile Dallas opportunistically scored their one goal on a "fatal breakdown" on defense. And that was the game. At the time of the goal I said to my buddy, "well, this is going to be 1-0 or 1-1...that's it." He agreed. We both knew the Sounders were not going to score or if they did it would be eeking one out in desperation at the end. We were correct. They lost 1-0.

So that's my novice assessment of their season so far - predominately sloppy play, ample wasted goal scoring chances and other teams capitalizing on fatal breakdowns on defense. Right now, that's earned them a record of 4-5-5. That's decent, but not good. I think at least one of these three issues will need to change for them to improve their position in the standings. If not, they'll probably squeak into the playoffs, but how far can you go with that style of play? Not too far. Here's hoping for improvement!

By the way, if there are some more insightful and intelligent soccer fans out there who can enlighten me or think I'm off base, I welcome the input. I'd love to know what I'm missing or if I'm just plain wrong on some of this (seriously).

Trickle Down Econmics Debunked

As anyone who has read my blog over time knows, I am a firm disbeliever in the magic pixie dust that conservatives call "supply side" or "trickle down" economics.

This is because, well, it doesn't work. Sure, it's wickedly efficient for creating spectacular new wealth for the already richest 1-2 percent of our society, but for the rest of

Nope. It does not work. And not only that, but it has both been repeatedly proven to not work in recent and older history AND it's implementation has directly caused virtually all of our current major economic problems.

Posts by me on this topic are HERE, HERE and HERE.

But don't take my word for it. Check out the recent article from SLATE that - as articulated by a friend of mine - uses facts, data, truth and in-depth analysis to debunk the prevailing conservative economic program of the past 30 years.

This is important to understand now because the Rs and conservatives (and to some degree even Ds by the overall lack of desire to challenge) are once again prescribing "trickle down" economics as the big answer.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

She's Running

Yep, Palin is in.

Evidence? Click HERE to see what she's been up to and if you think that it signals her intentions.

And by the way, I want Palin to run.

The more nutso, out-of-touch-with-most-Americans candidates from the Republican side the better because it positions their party as, well, nuts and at the same time it will help produce an easier to defeat opponent for Obama as R candidates compete to be the most right wing.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Spring Trip to CA - Napa Valley

Diane and I took a four day mini-escape to Northern California this May. We split our time between the Napa Valley and about two hours away at my uncle's place in Ardoro County.

I'll report on both parts of the trip, but I'll start with the Napa Valley. We've been there before, but it's been a number of years and we were eager to re-imerse ourselves in the beauty, tastes and activities the area has to offer. And, the fact is that this winter and "spring" has been particularly cold, gray and rainy in Seattle. So that provided sharp motivation to head south and get some sun. Lastly, we met up with friends down there to share the fun, and that's always a good thing.

After flying into the Sacramento aiport, we picked up our rental car and drove traffic free to the town of Napa - a trip that took us less than two hours. A note to people considering going to Napa, but who are not planning to visit San in/out of SAC. Literally, within less than 2 hours picking up your car at the airport you can be in Napa Valley tasting wine.

Basking in the warm California sun, here's what we did in our 1.5 days in the valley...


Bistro Don Giovanni - I saw on the funny and to a degree educational show Drinking Made Easy that this place made a "Blondie Mary" yellow Bloody Mary from yellow tomatoes. So, after checking into our hotel, we headed over there to see if we could get one as a mid-afternoon libation. Well, no such luck. Turns out that May is not tomato season. Many people may know this. It didn't occur to either myself or Diane. But, with such nice weather and a gentle garden to sit and sip something cold we changed plans and had a divine Margarita instead. It was Cinco de Mayo that day after all. The Marg included limoncello liqueur and, well, it was one of the best we've ever had. (Right: Patio view at Don Giovanni. Photo taken by: Marc Osborn)

Cindy's Backstreet Kitchen - for our first of two dinners in the Napa Valley, we went to Cindy's in St. Helena. We heard about this place from friends who had eaten there before, and indeed the restaurant is not on the main drag running through the town. Rather, it's situated off of the secondary road of St. Helena...the entrance tucked away down a narrow pathway between buildings. Simply put, this was a delightful place. A favorite among locals if you believe the great waiter we had, this restaurant is casually elegant with tasteful interior and a broad but not too extensive menu.

We started our dinner with a cocktail. Diane had the very innovative and delicious Tahi-Gin-Tini that was made of gin, fresh lime juice and a cayenne pepper rim. Wow. I had a sip and instantly wished I had ordered that. I had a very classy Margarita...and why not, we'd had one earlier that day at Don Giovanni and it was still Cinco de Mayo. Just about half way through those drinks, our Malaysian Lamb Curry Puffs arrived. Lets do a little "Sesame Street" on this dish. "Malaysian" good. "Lamb" savory. "Curry" spicy. "Puffs" yum. "Malaysian Lamb Curry Puffs" awesome.

Next up we split a spinach, papaya and avocado salad. This proved a very nice change up from the appetizer and set things right before the main course. Also, at this point it's worth nothing that the pace of the meal was very nice...not too fast, not too slow. Just right.

With a delicious bottle of Franciscan Cab alighting on our table just in time, our entrees arrived. Diane had an unbelievable chicken dish. That's right. You read that correctly. A spectacular chicken dish. Trust me. I had a bite. Called "Pollo Loco," this thing was a pounded out piece of chicken breast slathered in I don't know what to bring out some really excellent flavors. Sitting on top was an avocado salsa and beside it a cheese filled green chili (not spicy). I had a very nice lamb stew with peas, carrots and savory gravy. To close things out, we shared a delightful desert.

While not cheap, our bill came to just more than $150 (before tip). For all we got - a cocktail, bottle of wine, salad, app, entrees and a desert - we felt that the cost was pretty reasonable as these things go in the area. Satisfied all the way around we left the restaurant and headed back to our hotel. All told, if you're looking for a casual but nice place to get some tasty, inventive food...not to mention great cocktails...this is your place. Check it out.

Alexis Baking Company (also know as "ABC") - the next morning, we ventured out in the sunlit morning to this place for breakfast on the recommendation of the bartender at Bistro Don Giovanni. Good move. This is a small, bright cafe on First Street in Napa. Order at the counter, get you food delivered to your table. That's how it works at ABC. I had the superb eggs benedict and Diane had what she described as "the best huevos rancheros she's ever had." Throw in some oversized cafe a laits and this place cannot be beat. Looking for a breakfast spot in Napa next time you're there? Think no further. Go to ABC.

Soda Canyon Store & Deli - after our breakfast at ABC, we met up with friends for a bike ride around the valley. More on that below. About half way through our ride we stopped at this roadside deli for lunch. Located on the Silverado Trail road south of the Oak Line cut off road, the Soda Canyon Store is like many "delis" in the Napa Valley in that it serves much better food than you would expect than a similar place anywhere else. Indeed, I had a chicken BLT on toasted roll and Diane had a spinach salad with sliced apples on the side. Really good flavors. We enjoyed our lunch outside at a picnic table under the shade of some trees. (Right: Soda Canyon Store. Photo taken by: Marc Osborn)

Redd - Following a day of bike riding (see below), our little group re-convened at Redd in Yountville for dinner. Redd is a very nice, very cool place serving what I guess most people would consider to be neuvo American cuisine. The restaurant itself describes if fare as an "updated interpretation of wine country cuisine with influences from Asia, Europe, and Mexico in a relaxed yet elegant environment." I would agree with that. We sat outside at an enjoyable table. As the night wore on, the temps dropped and the staff turned on much needed heat lamps.

Starting things off with a nicely made old fashioned cocktail for me, a martini for Diane and vaious other libations for others in our group, the table soon moved into sampling of appetizers that included spring onion and asparagus tempura, glazed pork belly, hamachi sushimi and yellowfin tuna tartare. For dinner, I had the sauteed skate fish with vegetables, gnocchi and herb butter. Diane had the Halibut with asparagus puree and prosciutto. Both dishes were delicious! Throw that together with some nice Syrah from local vintner and all was delightful.

Henry's - After dinner, we drove back to the town of Napa to find a bar to wind up the night in. Right near the intersection of Main Street and 1st, there are several establishments. However, most of the nicer looking ones were packed. So, as we walked down the street I saw a place called Henry's, peeked in and suggested we belly up in there. This bar gets described as a "dive bar," but it's much nicer than that. I mean come on. You're in Napa. None the less, it was not tony, chic or what have you and from what I could tell there were way more locals in the joint that we tourists. Suffice it to say that beers were drank and good times enjoyed.

  • Silverado - we hit Silverado on our first afternoon in the Napa Valley. Fueled by memories of good wines, a nice setting and a great view, we thought Silverado would be a great first winery stop and an excellent place to wile away an hour or so in the sun while tasting wine. Memories proved correct and we had a really good time. $15 or $25 tasting menus. (Right: View from Silverado winery balcony. Photo taken by: Marc Osborn)
  • Robert Sinskey - this was the first winery stop on our day-long bike ride around the valley. We came here more out of convenience and necessity than anything else as we had to pull off the road and wait for some of our party to catch up. As we did, we sampled some nice wines that, had we had a backpack, I think we would have bought. That not being the case, however, we moved on. $30 tasting menu. Also to note, they have a small, casual wood fired kitchen that serves tasty snacks.
  • Stag's Leap - just down the road was Stag's Leap. We stopped here just because of the famous see what the place was like. Nice facility, nice wines. $30 tasting fee.
  • Clos du Val - we pulled off here based on the recommendation of a number of people, plus the ivy covered building looked quite inviting. The Chardonnay was good here, and we're not Chardonnay fans by any means. They also had a few blends that we liked. But again, no bags meant no purchases. $20 basic tastings with more expensive ones on offer if you want.  
  • Silenus - this was our best stop I think. Silenus is not a winery on it's own, but rather a facility where growers and vintners without the deep pockets to buy wine making gear can come and make and store their wines. As a result, the tasting room is full of wines from small producers that you ain't gonna get anywhere else. We tasted quite a few and were impressed by several...enough so that we did buy some bottles and I drove back to pick them up after we dropped off our rental bikes. One other thing worth noing about Silenus...or more accurately one thing we learned from the guy at that any winery opened after 1990 is required by law to do tastings "by appointment only." As we were told, this is one way that the local government attempts to cut down on drinking and driving - by limiting the ability of people to literally just drive around the valley stopping at any and as many wineries whenever they want to drink. We also learned that the tasting fees are another tactic to help mitigate the amount of drinking. Again, trying to minimize over-drinking some by putting up barriers.
Bicycle riding - as mentioned, the way we saw the valley on our full day there was to ride bikes through it. Starting in Yountville at the Napa Valey Bike Tours, we and our crew picked up our rental bikes in the morning and headed out under warm temps. We did not use a guide, and instead just got a map and recommendations from the bike shop team. Diane and I rented a tandem bike. We've never ridden one and wanted to try, so this seemed like one of those "now or never" we did it. I have to say, it was fun. (Left: On the tandem! Photo taken by: Michele)

Also, a quick note on this bike isn't easy to find. We had a hard time, and after we found it several people in cars asked us if we knew where the shop was. Anyway, it's at the far end of Yountville tucked away in the middle of a shopping center and there are not any signs (that I saw) on the street. So, if you think you're in the right place based on the address and your are. You just need to go into the parking lot, park and walk to the middle of the shopping center.

Once squared away, we took off. Our route started by leaving Yountville via the Yountville Cross Road and heading all the way across to the Silverado trail - the less busy road that parallels the very busy Highway 29. After turning south on the Silverado Trail road, we soon stopped at the Robert Sinksy winery. After that we continued on and hit the Stag's Leap and Clos du Val wineries and then stopped at about 1 p.m. for lunch at the Soda Canyon Store in between. We then backtracked up to the intersection of Sliverado Trail and Oak Knoll Ave., swung left and cut back across the valley. We went right over Highway 29 and onto a close parallel road north. We stopped at Silenus and then pushed on back to Yountville to complete the loop. All told, it was about a six out tour. This was a really fun experience and I'd recommend it to anyone.

After our dinner at Redd and the outing to Henry's Bar that evening, we turned in. The next morning we headed out of Napa north and east to start our visit with my uncle, cousins and other family and friends.

That will be the second part of this post about our trip, so check back to get some tips on wineries in Ardoro County.

Monday, May 23, 2011

"Honey Badger Don't Care"

OK, I admit I may in fact be the last person in America to see the HILARIOUS video describing the honey badger animal, but in case not...I wanted to post it here for you to see for yourself.

The honey badger is a real animal...and a real bad ass one too...but the video describing it that literally made me cry it was so funny.

Check it out and gain a new appreciation for a) the honey badger, and b) the genius of the narrator.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

New Rock Music for 2011

OK, so here we are nearly six months into 2011. If you are like me, over recent years you've lamented the lack of quality new rock and roll. Sure, we all have our favorites from years gone by...some of whom are still active. And that's great. Love it. But, what's new?

Two quarters into this year (and that's how us corporately indentured slaves measure things), based on my listening I can report that rock and roll is alive and well actually.

For example, here is some NEW music by either NEW rock bands or relatively new bands that you should check out:
  • The Joy Formidable - check out their 2011 album The Big Roar.
  • Mona - Nashville based rockers spit it out on their debut album by the same name.
  • Funeral Party - L.A. pop rockers know what's up with their first full length album called The Golden Age of Knowwhere.
  • Glasvegas - epic, heartfelt rock from these guys in their second album called Euphoric Heartbreak
  • The Vaccines - this English guitar based pop rock group hits some nice chords and tunes that make you want to jump around...and that ain't a bad thing.
  • British Sea Power - with their new one called Valhalla Dancehall, this British group really rocks out in a smart and compelling way. Check it. 
  • Sharks - this band's compilation of work over the last 4-5 years is called The Joys Of Living. They haven't had a full LP release, so this is it for them so far. I say check it out and see if you dig.
For sure there are some other rockers keepin' it real such as Foo Fighters, Social Distortion, U2 and some others. But, in terms of what's new from new or recent band, I think these are among the best.

One last note, if you noticed that most these rock bands are from Britain, you are not seeing things. Nope. Unfortunately, the USA has for the most part given up on rock and roll in favor of pop (in all of it's varieties), country (or what passes for it today), hip-hop and dance music. If rock bands want to get a hearing today they either need to be from Britain or go there to get known. Sad but true.

New Classic Car Pictures

I've added a bunch of new pictures to my "Classic Cars" set.

This time it's a number of (mostly) Chevrolets.

Click HERE for the set.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Virtual Tour of CBGB

CBGB was a small club in NYC that became a Mecca for punk and new wave acts in the late 70s and onward. The initials stood for Country, Blue Grass and Blues...which as I understand it was the type of musical acts the club initially hosted or aspired to. However, that's not exactly the type of music that ended up being played there. Anyway, as many of you may know, this iconic institution shut down in 2006.

Today I ran across a link that gives you a virtual tour of the space as it was toward the end. So, if you've never been or want to relive memories, take a tour of CBGBs by clicking HERE.

They start you out in the bathroom, but by looking around you can see and click on arrows that take you other places around the club.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

It's The End Of the World As We Know It...And I Feel Fine

Just like the famous song by REM, I feel fine about the supposed "judgement day" that is supposed to happen this weekend on May 21, and then the actual destruction and true "end of the world" on October 21, 2011. Info on the end of the world prediction promoted this year HERE.

Why am I OK with this?

Well, because there will be no judgement day this weekend (unless you mean the result of one of the NBA or NHL playoff games) and the world isn't going to end in October. No really, neither of those things are going to happen. Seriously.

Indeed, come 12 a.m. May 22, our globe and everyone in it will be the same as it was the day before. The only "judgements" that will be happening will be the ones we all already engage in every day. No Jesus, no rapture...nothing of the sort. And come October 22, the world will be it's normal self - for good or bad.

Religion is about many things, but among the top things it is about is control of people by fear. And what could be more scary than the end of the world and wanting to secure your spot on the side of the supposed "good guys" team. And that's why as soon as the big event doesn't happen, there will be more predictions of the end of the world right away.

See my earlier post HERE for my thoughts on these type of "the world is ending" warnings and how I can single handily prove the nut holes who espouse them wrong.

Meanwhile, on a serious note about "the end of the world," I think that there are only three ways this will happen:

1) By human kind's own hand - nuclear war, pollution or some other single or series of man-made mega disasters.

2) A massive asteroid hits the planet. That would do it. Ask the dinosaurs if their world ended.

3) As will inevitably will happen, our sun dies...first expanding massively to engulf our planet and then collapsing into a black hole. That would literally destroy the entire planet leaving nothing. Of course, this might be three million years from now...but it will happen at some point.

And that's pretty much it.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Spring Football Generates Fall Predictions

With spring practices now complete, it's time for the 2011 Pac-12 football predictions.

First off, no, that's not a typo in the above sentence. There are now indeed 12 teams in the league with the addition of Utah and Colorado.

Next, because the league now has 12 teams, it also has two divisions - North and South - and a championship game at the end of the regular season, but before any bowl games.

So, part of predicting the ultimate winner of the league this year and going forward will be to predict the winners of the two divisions.

Based on what I've read and seen this summer, here's how I see it shaking out.

I think the top two here could easily flip, but for now...
  • Oregon - I do not think UO goes undefeated this season. They'll lose a Pac-12 game I think and probably their game against LSU down in Texas to open the season. I suspect the league game they'll lose is probably to Stanford on the road. That one game on Nov. 12 could very well be the key for the entire division because both Oregon and Stanford have the ability to beat every other team in the division - I just think Oregon has slightly more talent back overall and a consistent coaching staff and will end up on top of this division by a game.
  • Stanford - you might think Stanford is a shoe-in for the division and league title with their all-everything QB back, but they're not because they lose a lot of talent on both sides of the ball and the coach who got them to their current level is gone. So, I think Stanford drops a couple league games - I'll guess to USC on the road and to Arizona on the road. And of course Oregon could beat them in that Nov. 12 game.
  • Cal - this team has talent and good coaching. They'll finish in third place I think.
  • Washington - UW, you got a little better last year finishing 6-6 and then winning a bowl game, but you lose your starting QB and some talent on D (like your leading tackler). I think 6-6, 7-5 is what you're looking at again. 
  • Oregon State - not the Beavs year this time. I think they sink. Oh sure, they'll upset some teams (and as usual when they play Oregon they'll play great), but over the course of the season I see them slipping down to the lower tier of this division.
  • WSU - this team will be better in 2011, but I think they're still looking at losing most their league games. Sorry Cougs. I wish I felt differently. I do.
  • USC - I think USC is the class of  this division. They are currently ineligible for post-season play, so could not play in the Pac-12 championship game. But in any case, I think they outclass all these teams. The downside for USC is they play both Stanford and Oregon on the road. I don't see them winning at Autzen, but they have a good shot at Stanford down in L.A. A run through the rest of this group undefeated would still get them to the top of their division, however.
  • ASU - this is one of those teams that is picked highly every year and every year finds a way to disappoint. Entertaining at times and unwatchable at others, ASU confounds the experts. I'm not expert, but I've seen enough "failure to launch" with the Sun Devils that I don't think they're going to surpass USC on the field.
  • Arizona - two seasons ago, these guys finished second in the league and expected great things in 2010. Not so much. Sure, they won more than they lost and made a bowl game, but they lost their last four games and then got killed in their bowl game. They are good enough to rise up any week and knock someone off and probably will to the degree that it'll land them in this position.
  • UCLA - similar story with the Bruins as the Sun Devils - a lot of hype every year, no corresponding results. So, I'm slotting these guys in for lower middle of the pack until otherwise proven different.
  • Utah - not going to be very good in their debut Pac-12 season. Sorry Utah, I just don't think so.
  • Colorado - just not that good.
  • Oregon vs. Arizona State. Yep, I think that's how it'll pan out. Because USC is not eligible, I think we'll see the Sun Devils slip into this game. A plausible alternative from each division would be Stanford and Arizona if things fall right for them. Anyway, if my prediction comes true I think Oregon will have the better record than ASU and therefor the game will be at Autzen. And therefore, I think we're looking at a third straight league title for UO. 
If that all comes to pass, I do not think Oregon will be in the national championship game. They had their chance last year, and it's REALLY difficult to get into that game unless you're in the SEC. No, I think the Ducks would be looking at the Rose Bowl. And if that happens, I'm really hoping for a more winnable match up than they've had the last two bowl games.

Funny, Outrageous or Odd Rock Band Names

Next up in this little series, a band named...

A Gun That Shoots Knives.

Oh, the irony.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

How Long Until Conservatives Start Using the bin Laden Victory Against Obama?

Remember back in the 2004 Presidential election when conservative groups (with the tacit approval of the Bush campaign) spent big money on anti-John Kerry ad campaigns that turned the reality of Kerry's Vietnam War service and hero status into a liability?

You know, they "creatively" re-told his war service story in a way that questioned if he was even present at the scene of some of his most heroic actions, if he did what he said he did, whether he really merited the awards he won and even raising questions about whether or not he actually just shot some local Vietnamese in the back by mistake. While the messages came from several fronts, the primary identified group behind it was Swift Boat Veterans for the Truth.

Essentially, the incessant ad campaign run by those conservative groups re-painted Kerry's image as a war hero into a dishonest, wimp liar. It raised enough questions about his service to minimize or even eliminate his edge over Bush in terms of military service and command experience. It turned a Kerry strength into a weakness.

So I ask the question...

In the 2012 election, how long will it take these same type of conservative groups to start turning President Obama's bin Laden victory...and all of the positives that the results say about Mr. Obama's guts and leadership abilities...into a liability? I ask "how long" because I am 100% convinced they'll try.

You know...Obama didn't really authorize the mission because the military was already on it (and besides Bush had already set things in motion), Obama didn't really give the go-ahead for the mission, he was playing golf while the mission was going on, he took credit for the actions of the Seal team, he should have captured bin Laden alive and not "had him killed," Obama "lied" or "was less than honest" about the details of the raid, bin Laden isn't actually dead (or even if he is) and the mission was a ruse to boost Obama's military credentials, and on and on an on.

Basically, I see a series of ads questioning Obama's handling of the bin Laden mission that raises questions about his honesty and leadership abilities. The fact that bin Laden was hunted down and killed on Obama's watch and based on his orders will, of course, be ignored. Again, this will be an attempt to turn perhaps Obama's biggest strength and victory into something that is used against him to effect.

Also, as a reminder, the U.S. Supreme Court last year decided that companies have the same First Amendment rights of free speech as human beings. So, they can spend as much as they want on political advertising now...and they will. Which side do you think companies will mostly be on - Democrat or Republican?

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Tolling, Tolling Everywhere...It's Coming

You may already know about the upcoming tolling of the 520 bridge here in Seattle.

But, did you know that there is now talk of tolling on the I-90 bridge, the new 99 tunnel (if it's ever built) and on I-405?

That's right, if you live in the city of Seattle and you want to go a) to the Eastside and back, b) around the Eastside once you're over there, or c) one end of Seattle proper without getting on the traffic loaded I-5 you will need to pay. Or so it looks.

Throw in $4-$5 a gallon for gasoline and driving in Seattle will be more expensive than ever.

The only silver lining might be that - much like huge taxes on cigarettes leads some to quit smoking - that if the average Seattle citizen cannot (or does not) want to afford driving because it is so expensive, they may start using public transportation more. Of course the shadow in that silver lining is that the Metro bus system in King County is pretty horrible - takes forever to get anywhere, unreliable arrival and departure times, etc.

Not looking good any way you slice it.

To Release the Pictures Or Not?

To release the pictures or not?

That is the question of the moment regarding how to definitively prove to the world that Osama bin Laden is dead. While there is no serious doubt among Americans and many/most around the world, there are and will be doubters.

In my opinion, asking another question first will help answer the question over releasing the pictures. And that question is...

What of these two situations are worse...

Having large portions of the Middle East and terrorist groups literally bank on, recruit and appeal to anti-American sentiment based on the accusation that we really did not get bin Laden, he's still alive and appealing to the notion that we're unwilling to release pictures as their proof of argument?


Having large portions of the Middle East react in revolt and anti-American sentiment to the gruesome picture of the dead bin Laden - not to mention terrorists groups mythologizing bin Laden as a martyr and appealing to terrorists to avenge his death?

It's a close call because both situations result in terrorists using the death or non-death as recruitment and motivational purposes. Either way, they're going to twist things and use them for their advantage.

All that said, as gratifying as it would be to show the U.S. haters in the Middle East just what the U.S. will do to them if they try and/or actually attack our country...I think the answer is actually to not release the pictures unless or until a material situation develops where we can achieve something by doing so.

By this I mean I think it would be worse for the greater Middle East to see the pictures and react in horror to them. We would be generating more bad will and potentially enemies in the region than would be the case if we don't release the pictures. After all, pictures are very tangible and real. They are portable and could be used as quite compelling recruitment tools. From what I've read, the picture that best IDs bin Laden is quite horrific with a huge wound to his face. This would definitely elicit a negative response in the Middle East. And besides, who wants to see a t-shirt with the destroyed head of bin Laden on it? What? You don't think that would happen? Of course it would, and probably here in the States by Tea Partiers or worse.

No, I say don't release the pictures - at least not now. Go ahead, let terrorists spin theories that bin Laden is alive. He's not. And that fact alone, regardless of spin, means Al Qaeda  and other groups are up shit creek. Meanwhile, we spare ourselves the negative reaction region-wide at a time when in many countries over there change is happening. And guess what? If we for some reason need to release the pictures to achieve something, we have them.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Obama, Bush and bin Laden

Now that the news of bin Laden's death is all over the place and people have had a chance to embrace and digest it in their own way, here are a few related thoughts on who secured this outcome and who did not - as well as a question about how long it'll be until we see the "bin Laden not really dead" theories materialize and from whom...

The Bush/Obama Comparison
  • Attack. BUSH: The worst attack on American soil by foreigners - an attack masterminded and led by Osama bin Laden - occurred on the watch of President George W. Bush. OBAMA: Directed, sanctioned and gave the go ahead for the operation that found and killed bin Laden. And, no successful terrorist attacks carried out on U.S. soil in his presidency so far.
  • Mission Accomplished. BUSH: Proudly flew that now infamous banner bearing that phrase on an aircraft carrier in the early days of the Iraq war - a war by the way that had nothing to do with bin Laden or the 9-11 attacks. I think we can all agree that the banner was a tad premature. That's being kind. OBAMA: No banners, no gloating or landing on an aircraft carrier in a flight suit like Bush. Nope, just a short announcement to the nation on a Sunday evening that justice had been served and confirming the killing of bin Laden. "Mission Accomplished" ineed.
  • Quotes. BUSH: On Bin Laden in 2002: "I don't know where bin Laden is. I have no idea and really don't care. It's not that important. It's not our priority." And: ""I am truly not that concerned about him." OBAMA: On Bin Laden in 2011: "Today, at my direction, the United States launched a targeted operation against that compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan. A small team of Americans carried out the operation with extraordinary courage and capability. No Americans were harmed. They took care to avoid civilian casualties. After a firefight, they killed Osama bin Laden and took custody of his body."
  • Timing. BUSH: In office for eight years. No capture or killing of bin Laden. OBAMA: In office for just over two years and Bin Laden is dead. Those are the facts. My opinion is that the American people need to keep that in mind when judging Obama as a leader in the 2012 elections.
I think these facts and comparisons tell the tale quite well actually. Bush was a man who took his job lightly and the degree that he ignored concrete evidence that an attack such as materialized on 9-11 was being planned. We know how that turned out. He then made a series of errors that not only did not kill bin Laden, but actually made our situation worse. Meanwhile, Obama is a man who apparently is on the ball and dead serious about fighting the degree that within two years of serving in office, bin Laden is dead.

Rumors and Conspiracy Theories
U.S. media is reporting that the body of bin Laden was burried at sea. So, as you read this post, the body of bin Laden resides in the cold, dark depths of the ocean. A fitting place for him for sure. But, no body to see means those who believe in him or his cause - or are against the U.S. or Obama - will be able to suggest that he is not really dead.

I think we'll see skeptism in two ways:
  1. The Middle East. Indeed, the Middle East and Arab world thrive on ruomor and conspiracty theories. From listening to NPR today, I've heard this is already starting over there with people doubting the story of bin Ladens death.
  2. Right wing conservatives in the U.S. There are those here who will not want to give credit to Obama for this action and will raise questions about whether bin Laden is really dead and/or that the whole thing was faked to make Obama look better going into the 2012 election cycle. Remember, there's a certain percentage (and a percentage who gets a lot of media attentions) who believe Obama was not born in the USA.
Obviously, for some people who don't want to believe it, no amout of disclosure will be enough to prove bin Laden is dead. In any caes, I will be quite interested to see if or how the U.S. proves to the world that bin Laden is indeed dead.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Bin Laden Dead

Osama Bin Laden is dead...shot and killed by U.S. military forces.

This is huge news and I for one am pleased and relieved. If ever a man deserved to die because of his actions...Bin Laden is that man.

Of course, I also think that terrorism has many leaders and the U.S. and the world are now not suddenly safer because of this. In fact it might get more dangerous in the short term as terrorist seek to prove they can still inflict attacks.

But for now, this is the biggest news in the battle against terrorism since 9-11-2001.

Will be interesting to see how we now prove he is dead to the world.