Monday, August 29, 2011

Michele Bachmann Quotes God - Says He Sent Storm and Quake Because of Overspending

I wondered which would come first - the Republican party presidential contenders blaming Obama for the recent east coast earthquake and hurricane or their attribution to those events to "the wrath of God" for the budget deficit etc.?

Well, we now know the answer.

While it is entirely possible that a "blame Obama for the earthquake and hurricane" strategy will still emerge among conservatives, for now, this his past weekend, Bachmann has gone the "wrath of God" route and said that the two natural events were God's displeasure with government spending.

Yes indeed, filling her role as "nut job" to a tee, this past weekend Republican candidate Michele Bachman said...

"I don't know how much God has to do to get the attention of the politicians. We've had an earthquake; we've had a hurricane. He said, 'Are you going to start listening to me here?' Listen to the American people because the American people are roaring right now. They know government is on a morbid obesity diet and we've got to rein in the spending."

Wow. That's pretty impressive...quoting God.

You don't believe that she said that? Check it out HERE and HERE.

Who knew God was so wound up about goverment spending. Where was the Almighty One when Bush and the Rs were putting the USA in historical debt over the last 10 years? Oh, that's right, he was using such things as hurricanes to "punish" places like New Orleans for embracing and indulging in "hedonism" - so said another God quoter at the time, Pat Robertson.

Anyway, now that she knows she was caught on camera and catching some heat for her comment, Bachmann is playing the whole thing off as a joke. (By the way, watch the linked video above and see if you think she was joking.)

So, why care? Just a stupid comment by a stupid person trying to appeal to a whole bunch of other stupid people...right?

Well, here's the thing: Bachman is in or near the lead for the Republican nomination at this point. In other words, she is a serious candidate to win the Republican nomination. This is the type of person the Rs very well may nominate. And where it gets really scary is...with the economy in the dumper (thanks W and friends) and not going anywhere good soon, whomever the Republicans nominate will have a VERY good chance of defeating Obama come November 2012.

My GOD not let that happen.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

It's Pac-12 Prediction Time

OK everybody...or everybody interested in Pac-12's that time of year again. Kickoff to most schools' opening games is only a week away. That can only mean one thing: predictions.

Last season I followed a hunch that my Oregon Ducks would be very, very I covered them and the then Pac-10 season closely with posts, analysis and entries about each week's games. I'd predict late in the week and re-cap on Sundays. Thing is...that takes time. This year I'm pretty sure the Ducks will be good again (but probably not 12-0 good), but I'm going to scale it back a bit and try to be more brief.

To start this new approach off, below is my prediction for a) how the Pac-12 will finish this season, and b) the first weekend of games.


North Division
  • Oregon (10-2 overall, 8-1 in league play) - the world is their oyster if the O-line gels quick and QB Thomas stays healthy. Wins the division.
  • Stanford - (9-3, 7-2) - great QB, solid talent, but key losses from last year + new coach.
  • Washington (7-5, 5-4) - Dawgs get over the hump and win more than they lose this season.
  • Cal (6-6, 5-4) - Bears not that good. Not their year.
  • Oregon State (5-6, 4-5) - lose too much talent all around to compete for top end of this division.
  • Washington State (4-8, 3-6) - steady improvement continues, but not enough.
South Division
  • ASU - (10-2, 7-2) just might be their year.
  • USC (9-3, 6-3) - not eligible for a bowl or Pac-12 championship game.
  • Utah - (8-4, 6-3) - could cause a stir their Pac-12 debut season.
  • UA - (5-7, 4-5) - lost five straight to close out last season. May upset 1-2 teams, but overall not that great.
  • UCLA (4-8, 3-6) - another season, another sub-par performance.
  • Colorado (3-9, 2-10) - sorry CU.
Pac-12 Championship Game

Oregon vs. ASU (outside chance it's Utah) in Eugene, OR - Ducks win. Better team, home field advantage. Win takes them to the Rose Bowl.

Oregon vs. LSU in Dallas. LSU wins 24-17. Ducks good, LSU good. But, UO O-line has some new guys, it's a road game and no Cliff Harris for this one. Advantage to the SEC squad by a little.

UW vs. Eastern Washington in Seatte. UW wins 31-10. ESU is good for their division, but if UW is really "on the rise," they'll beat 'em pretty bad.

WSU vs. Idaho State in Pullman. Even the Cougs should beat ISU like a drum. 41-10.

Oregon State vs. Sacramento State in Corvallis. Beavs win 23-9.

Stanford vs. San Jose State at Palo Alto. Cardinal win big 44-13.

Cal vs. Fresno State in Fresno. Upset. FSU wins 24-21.

Utah vs. Montana State in Salt Lake City. Utes all the way 35-21.

USC vs. Minnesota in L.A. USC still too good and at home. They win 28-10.

UCLA vs. Houston in Houston. UCLA gets beat bad 49-10.

Colorado vs. Hawaii in Honolulu. Rainbow Warriors win 24-17.

ASU vs. UC Davis in Tempe. Umm...yeah. Sun Devils win 31-7.

Arizona vs. Northern Arizona in Tuscon. N.A. is not a pushover, but 'Cats win this one 27-13.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

R.I.P. Elvis Presley

It was 34 years ago that the "King of Rock and Roll" died.

Rest in peace Elvis.

(Below: Elvis' Graceland estate, the grave of Elvis Presley)

NOTE: Pictures above taken by Marc Osborn. Use of these pictures is not permitted without prior written consent from Marc Osborn.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Where the "Cool Kids" Will Be Oct. 9 in Seattle

I just learned that one of my favorite new bands, Mona, is co-headlining a show with another good up and coming band, Funeral Party, on Oct. 9 in Seattle's Ballard neighborhood at The Tractor Tavern.

This is a chance to see two new, hot U.S. rock bands up close and personal...and I'm guessing at a pretty cheap price.

I'm going. Hope to see you there.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Who's Responsible? You Are.

In the wake of the debt ceiling debacle and related matters - not to mention enduring high unemployment, wage stagnation, shriking middle class, high cost of education, gridlock in DC, Social Security and Medicare future in doubt, etc. - there's a lot of blame being tossed around.

Power-hungry conservatives blame Obama and Democrats while full-well knowing that it is conservative economics that have a) dominated the last 10 years and b) consequently created most the problems we are now experiencing. They are essentially banking on the American public's collective amnesia in an effort to pin their failures over the past decade on Obama in order to win more seats and/or majorities in both houses and the Presidency in 2012.

Meanwhile, weak and wishy-washy liberals attempt to blame, well, hmm. I guess they're saying "the politics of division" or "politics" are the problem. Kinda right, but so woefully articulated and so poorly fought that it has the force of impact of a bowl of cold oatmeal hitting an already soaked sponge. Soft.

But one group that is not being called out for the blame That's right, the citizens of the U.S. are to blame for either a) voting for the bozos running the country now, or b) not voting.

Let me put it to you this way...
  • Are you a "red stater," or hard conservative voter? You sitting on your couch drinking light beer and watching NASCAR and Fox News - literally cheering when someone like Palin or Bachman gives a speech? You are to blame for our situation because of your habitual voting into office of people who enact economic policies that are KILLING our country. Tax cuts for the rich and big companies and massive deregulation of business, financial, environmental and housing sectors does not - repeat, does NOT - benefit you, your community, your fellow citizens or the nation as a whole. That agenda has never worked in the U.S. and it never will. To the contrary, every time it has been enacted in force, it has led to major economic crisis. History is clear on this and you are ignorant of this. So, you keep voting for these people and they keep passing that agenda - duping you.
  • Are you a "blue state" liberal or "progressive?" You sitting outside on your lawn with your legs crossed smoking a J? Maybe a white wine spritzer and some brie while watching a re-run of The Big Chill? You get fired up when you hear Obama talk about finding common ground and the power of the American people to overcome anything? You are to blame for our current situation - perhaps even more than the red staters. Why? First, you keep voting for REALLY wimpy and spineless Democrats who cannot or do not enact a progressive agenda nor effectively defend common sense programs and values. OK, maybe you say that you can only vote for the Ds or progressives that get put on the ballot. But, that leads me to my second point here, which is while your type did muster one big push to get Obama elected, since then you've pretty much said, "OK, did my part...I'm done." And with that, things have gone right back to the way they were before - ie, Republicans kicking Democrats in the head with Democrats responding in kind with, "thank you sir may I have another?" Conservatives are highly motivated, you are lazy.
  • Are you someone who does not vote? Are you sitting around thinking to yourself, "it doesn't matter who I vote for...they're all the same anyway?" You more turned on by The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills than what's going on in your state capital or DC? Hey, I get it. I share a lot of those feelings (but not about Real Housewives), but if you're not voting, you're part of the problem. Put it this way...if a few more of you had turned out and voted for Gore in 2000, we would not have been treated to that catastrophe of the 2000s called the presidency of George W. Bush - a man, an administration and an agenda that more directly than anything else put us in the mess we see today. Thanks for that.
So there you go. You want to blame someone for our current economic crisis, the debt, unemployment, environmental issues (oil spill anyone?), engagement in two wars for going on 10 years now? Don't automatically look to your neighbor or your political opposites and start screeching about how "they are ruining America." They might be, but only becuase YOU let them. More than that, YOU elected them. Ergo...who's to blame? YOU are. Ponder that over you next Bud Light, spliff or spritzer.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Romania: On the Trail of Dracula - The Series

Thanks to anyone and everyone who checked out my series about our recent trip to Romania. We had an excellent time, leanred a lot, met wonderful people, ate great food, drank great beer and loved every moment of it.

So that everything is all in one place, I've gathered together all the posts from my series for easy access and reading should you want to revisit the adventure and check out more pictures. And if you're happening on this for the first time - dive right on in!

Bucharest and Snagov
Peles Castle, Sinaia and Simon Village
Photo Feature - Romania Trip Pictures
Bran Castle, Brasov and a Hike
Viscri and Sighisoara
Biertan, Gypsies, Sibiu and Tilisca Village
Hiking to Dracula's Castle and Last Night in Bucharest

Details on the Romania portion of our trip:
  • Dates: June 18-26
  • Route to get there: Seattle-NYC-London-Bucharest
  • Guide service: Pan Travel
  • Guide: Andrei
  • Cities visited: Bucharest, Targoviste, Siniai, Brasov, Bran, Sighisoara, Sibiu
  • Villages visited: Simon, Viscri, Biertan, Tilisca
  • Castles visited: Peles, Bran, Poenari
And lastly, for anyone interested, I will be reporting on the second portion of our trip - our visit to Italy - in a another series of posts on this blog that will be titled "Italy and La Dolce Vita" - along with pictures to supplement. Come back and check it out.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Romania: On The Trail of Dracula - The Real Dracula's Castle, Back to Bucharest

The morning feast in Tilisca equaled the previous evening's dinner in terms of size and taste. Elina outdid herself with a huge morning spread - locally produced cheese, sausage, meats, eggs, bread...the works. Perhaps the highlight were the diversity of home made jams.

Anyway, we left Tilisca on this - our last full day in Romania - with the goal of finding and hiking to the actual "Castle Dracula." Yes, it does exist. I'm talking about the castle fortification built by Vlad Dracula (aka Vlad Tepes...aka Vlad the Impaler) in the 1400s. Straddling the boarder of Transylvania and Walachia, the castle is where Vlad retreated if or when he needed maximum protection. Remember, Vlad was primarily holding court and impaling people in and around Targoviste. But, no self respecting ruler and ruthless dictator can go without a castle high on a craggy peak. Right?

As we drove through the countryside, valleys and passes on our way to the castle and the hike we'd need to do to get there, two things went through my mind. First, it's looking awful rainy and cloudy out here...I sure hope when we get there the weather is good and the castle isn't socked in with fog. And, then I reviewed in my mind some of the stories I'd read about this castle.

First, while the castle pre-dated Vlad and was used after his death, he is credited with fortifying it and turning it into a more substantial fortress. To do this, the legend goes he force marched a large group of local nobility from the Targoviste area who he as angry at all the way into the countryside and to the location of the castle...then made those nobles build and fortify the structure as slaves. So long and hard was the work, and so unwilling was Vlad to have mercy on them, that he basically worked many of them to death...clothes falling off of them as they labored. And naturally, Vlad tortured and killed many people up there and in surrounding areas by many means - including his preferred method of impaling people on a long wooden spike. (Left: View of Dracula's castle from the valley floor.)

Also, one story goes that during one of the many battles against the Ottomans that Vlad Tepes became famous for - and is still revered for today in Romania - his wife learned that he had been killed. It is said that reports of Vlad's death were a planned ruse enacted by the Ottomans to potentially defeat him amid confusion by Vlad's troops. In despair over her husband's death, the wife threw herself off the castle battlements and to her death in the deep cavern below. Vlad - not being dead - defeated the Ottomans (again) and then found out about his wife's death.  Legend has it that the Ottoman fake-out then became one of the key events that made him up his game in terms of being the entirely ruthless and dangerous impaler that the world came to know. True story? Who knows. Maybe. Probably. But not certain. A good story none the less.

Third, I'd heard that the castle is one of the most haunted places on earth. Given all that happened there, even taking out dubious horror stories, I could see how this might be the case.

Today, the castle is called Poenari Castle and we eventually got to the base of the hill it resides on about mid-day. Lucky for us, the skies opened up and the temperatures rose so that by the time we saddled up for our hike it was sunny and pleasant. Score! Andrei parked the truck at a nearby restaurant and we walked over from there to the trail head. Andrei said that we ought to plan on about an hour to get to the top. Um...well, not quite. Yes, it was steep. But, walking up through the shade of the forrest, we were able to make good time and did the entire assent in 20 minutes. (Right: We reach the top of the hike to the castle.)

Once there, we walked around inside the ruins and marveled at the view. There is a serious drop off on each side of the castle and you could see how it would be pretty easy to defend against attackers. You could also see how Vlad's wife would have easily died by flinging herself off the battlements and into the gorge below.

While we encountered nothing that would indicate a haunting, it was a bit spooky to think about the stuff that happened here under Vlad Tepes' rule. Check out some of these pictures. You can see more on my Flickr Photostream HERE. (Left and below: Shots of and from Poenari Castle.)


The castle is not huge, so we did not need all afternoon to look around. We poked around the battlements, looked at the walls, went into what remained of one or two rooms and imaged what had happened there over the centuries. All in all, we were might impressed that we had found and hiked to the actual Castle Dracula - the real castle of the real Dracula.

 From our perch we could also see back down to where we parked and the restaurant. After we were satisfied we'd seen the castle completely, we started back down the hill with lunch on our minds. Arriving back down at the red-roofed building we sat down for a delicious lunch of local sausages, polenta and cold beer - after all, we had earned it! Feeling pretty full, Andrei noted that this restaurant had donuts on the what we had in Brasov. Well, we couldn't pass that up. We agreed that it was unlikely that they could possibly be as good as the Brasov donuts, but that we needed to try.

After lunch, we took one more look up at Dracula's castle and then departed toward Bucharest for our last night in Romania. The drive took about three house from the rural zone of the castle all the way into the center of Bucharest. Arriving in the late afternoon, we rested up and then went out for one last fling on the town. Walking in the nice evening weather, we crossed a number of wide boulevards and went through a few neighborhoods to ultimately reach that same restaurant/bar zone we had seen a week earlier on our first night in Romania. (Left: View from our walk on our last night in Bucharest.)

Crowded and bustling with people out for a good time, we walked one of the narrow streets and selected a good looking restaurant to sit down at. Virtually all these places had outdoor seating and virtually all patrons sat outside...all the better to see the "street parade" of people going by. The place we settled on served middle eastern food - good middle eastern food. So, with Andrei we sat and nibbled on appetizers - remember, we had that big lunch of sausages and donuts - and of course Romanian beer. In fact, on this last night in the country I think we found our favorite beer - Ciuc Unfiltered. Wow. Really good.

After a while, a kid walked up to our table with a box that contained three birds on a perch, along with a little container of what appeared to be folds of paper. Talking to Andrei, it turned out that the kid was - for a price - offering to have one of his birds chose the fortune of one of us. Too good to pass up. Diane volunteered. The bird eyed Diane, slowly turned around and carefully picked out a slip of paper from among the many available and placed the paper in Diane's hand. The bird had sized her up and selected her fortune. Andrei read it out in English...something about good health and winning the lottery and providing a set of numbers sure to win. We agreed that Andrei could have the numbers, but that if he won we were coming back to Romania on his dime.

All of this proved to be a great way to end our trip - fun times with Andrei soaking up yet another element of Romanian culture.

In the meantime, we finished our Romania experience the next morning. It was a simple get up, eat breakfast and go to the airport. Oh, with one exception. We left door to the room's balcony open during the night because it was hot in there and there appeared to be no air conditioning. We awoke not in a hotel room, but a swarm of mosquitoes. What! We hustled our packing and got out of there as quick as we could. But, we were bit up.

Thus ended our trip to Romania. What an experience. So much seen, so much learned - much more than just Dracula. 'll have some broad observations about Romania on my very last post about our trip once I've reported on the Italy portion. So, check back for that.

After a quick breakfast downstairs at the hotel, Andrei dropped us off at the airport where we said our goodbyes and began our journey to the second part of our trip - Italy.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

How I Know the Debt Compromise Isn't That Bad: The Tea Party Hates It

I'm  not a huge fan of the recent debt ceiling agreement - other than coming to the agreement averted making our already iffy economy much worse long term.

And Hell, how can you get excited or take seriously any debt reduction plan that keeps the Bush tax cuts on the wealthy and big business AND in which President Obama pretty much caved on all the key issues?

But you know why I think that this recent deal is at least least heading in the right direction?

The Tea Party hates it.

That's right. They think it isn't enough and is a sell out to their cause.

In my estimation, the Tea Party principles are so far off base for what's actually happening in this country and what's needed to fix it that the fact that they don't like this compromise is a good thing. It means we're not going down the path they would advise.

Seriously, these are people who have amnesia when it comes to how our debt and economic crisis happened. How did we get into our mess? Right:
  • HUGE tax cuts for the wealthy and big business
  • Massive deregulation of the financial and real estate industries - resulting in a meltdown in each
  • Overwhelming outsourcing and offshoring of U.S. jobs by companies...who by the way don't pay any taxes either
  • The spectacularly poor decision making by President Bush to commit us to an 8 year (so far) war in Iraq and the costs associated with that
  • Our war in Afghanistan and the costs associated with that
These are the core reasons. Not Social Security. Not Medicare. Not some secret socialist plot to overtake "America."

And what does the Tea Party say they'd do to balance the budget and get us out of our debt? Lets look at their platform:
  • Eliminate excessive taxes. Hey, nobody wants to pay "excessive" taxes. Unfortunately, this one has the distinct and familiar sound of code for actually meaning cut taxes for the rich and corporations. It's all in what you define as "excessive" and for whom.
  • Eliminate the national debt. OK - when in debt, you have to cut spending and raise revenue. Otherwise, you're just cutting and that will lead to bigger problems. So, this one and the first plank cancel each other out.
  • Eliminate deficit spending. I guess you achieve this if you eliminate the debt. But then, once you've eliminated the deficit, without revenue the government cannot function...and since you are against "excessive taxes," you don't have that revenue. government really. Nice.
  • Protect free markets - simple code for deregulation and protecting the ability for companies to outsource and offshore jobs. Really people, that's what this nets out as. My guess is that this one is in here because there is a perceived "socialist" element (aka any spending at all) by the Federal government as a result of the financial bailouts and the healthcare reform law.
  • Abide by the Constitution. Fine. But we all know the Constitution is interpreted in many different ways. Again, my thought is that this is in here because of a perception that certain things Obama has done are not Constitutional such as healthcare reform.
  • Reduce the Overall Size of Government. Nobody wants a big, bloated bureaucracy that weighs down the economy. Conversely, nobody wants a wafer thin government that does virtually nothing. Oh, you think we'd be better off with a super small government? Look at the entire history of our country. It is only in the period between the 1940s and 1970s that we had what is perceived to be "big government." And that same time frame is when this nation had its very best economic times. Before that...there was a very small middle class, a few super wealthy and a very large poor population. After, well, you know how things have been going. So, I give the Tea Party an D- on this one.
  • Believe in the People. As written by the Tea Party, this one is just a re-statement of the "protect free markets" plank. If the Tea Party actually believed in the people, then they'd be in favor of healthcare reform, repeal of Bush tax cuts, closing corporate tax and offshoring loopholes and strong Medicare and Social Security programs.
  • Avoid Pitfalls of Politics. Oops. Too late.
  • Maintain Local Independence. Almost "power to the people" if you ask me. Somehow I don't think this is what they mean.
Strip out some paranoid stuff and you get a perception for the exact things that got the USA into the mess we're in now. So, none of this crap will actually work. And since the people espousing this crap didn't get what they wanted in the recent deficit deal, that is a good sign in my book.