Monday, March 26, 2012

Prediction: Supreme Court Will Overturn Healthcare Law

Here is my prediction on the Supreme Court review of the national health care reform law...

They will overturn it. Or, more specifically, they will overturn portions of the mandate that every individual has to buy insurance...such that the law is effectively negated. And thus will end, before it actually even was enacted (virtually none of the law's provisions have been enacted yet), the nation's most significant attempt at modernizing its health care system and making it more equitable and beneficial for more people. The infant law will be snuffed out in its cradle.

And if that happens? Well, we're back to where we were before the law was passed - a system predicated on earning maximum profit rather than one attempting to use the free market system to provide quality care for the maximum number of people.

Regardless of the outcome, I'll leave the bickering, taughting, celebrating and commiserating to others.

However, I will also point out something very ironic that I read today in an article about the healthcare law debate...

If the Supreme Court rules that the individual legal mandate in the health care law is not consitutional because Congress cannot compel an individual to buy private health insurance products (the law mandates you buy private insurance, not government run insurance), it will be simultaneously negating one of the primary pillars of conservative reform proposals for Social Security - namely, mandating that everyone buy commercial (private) pension funds.


As the article also points out, this does not mean it's likely that the conservative majority on the Supreme Court will suddenly support the health care reform act now because they want to preserve the chances for Social Security privatization in the future. No, it likely just means that those conservative judges will find a way to both call the health care mandate unconstitutional and any future Social Security privatization mandate OK. With a heavy sigh, I have to agree with that assessment.

Oh, and one more irony pointed out...if if Obama and the Democratically led House and Senate had simply enacted a single payer program back in 2009-2010, it would have been beyond constitutional challenge -- because government has an unambiguous power to tax and to use the revenues for public purposes.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Oregon Rose Bowl Helmet Sprouts Wheels

The Oregon football helmet used during the 2012 Rose Bowl appears to have sprouted wheels and reconfigured into a slick sports car.

Don't believe me?

Here's the helmet...

And now check out this car...

Ever see the Oregon 2012 Rose Bowl helmet and this car in the same place at the same time?

I thought not.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Glasvegas Posts New Song (Demo)

Glasvegas has posted a news song called If?

You can hear the song by going HERE. They are billing it as a "demo" of a song that will appear on their next album. Sounds pretty polished to me already.

The sentiment of this song is essentially IF it weren't for painful or negative things in life, how would we ever know and enjoy the good. The run of the song lists out all kinds of these comparisons, and does so in typically compelling Glasvegas fashion with the crescendo of emotion crashing in with the line..."If our love was ever to part ways, then the world as I know it would never ever spin again."

If - get it? - if this is an indication of what their next album will be like, count me in.

Give it a listen.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

GOP Welches on Budget Deal, But Why?

The GOP has decided to renege on one of the tenets of the budget agreement they made with the President.

Remember that whole debt ceiling fiasco last year? Right, the one in which a deal was struck that said that a small number of selected Rs and Ds (a "Super Committee") would work together to find $1.2 trillion in debt reduction by a certain deadline, and if they could not then automatic cuts would go into affect. Those automatic cuts would be big across many of the sectors of government spending - including the Department of Defense. This was the agreement. Predictably, the Super Committee failed to come to an agreement - primarily because the Rs refused to consider even one penny of tax increases to help balance the budget. Therefore, the consequential automatic cuts are now scheduled for January of next year.

But wait. This week, Republicans in the House decided that, you know, well...we're not going to go along with the defense part. In fact, we're going to introduce legislation to exempt defense spending from any cuts.
People, the defense budget is one of the biggest (and some estimate the single largest area) of spending the Federal government does. Any serious debt reduction would have to include some reductions to defense expenditures. It's that simple.

So, why would supposedly budget and debt conscious fiscal conservatives now want to now go back on their pledge and exempt one of the largest area of spending form any debt reduction?

I'll offer some ideas:
  1. By exempting defense, that means cutting even more on domestic programs such as Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and others - programs that Republicans have quite literally been trying to reduce or get rid of since the 1940s. A little "bait and switch" is no big deal to conservatives when they feel they have a substantial shot at realizing a generational goal. To me...this is the reason.
  2. No politician, in particular conservatives, want to be on record as sanctioning defense cuts in an election year. Sure, the actual cuts wouldn't take place until Jan. 1, 2013, but they are being discussed now...during an election cycle.
  3. Similarly, the GOP may want to try and paint Obama as "soft on defense," by being "in favor of defense cuts" during an election year - even though those cuts were part of the deal between Obama and the Rs.
  4. While many Democrats are "in bed" with defense contractors (jobs in their districts, big campaign donations), Republicans tend to do better by the "military-industrial complex" and they may not want to be seen to be favoring cuts to the very companies that fund their campaigns.
Finally, I'll offer this as a criticism for the President:

In case you hadn't noticed over the last three years and three months you have been in office, the Republicans play HARD BALL. That means they will do anything to get what they want, including going back directly on something they said they would do. And they'll do it with a smile on their face and try to make it look like it's your fault. Hard ball. This is who you are dealing with. They are not a party of compromise or "working together" to do right by the American people. No, they are not. They want what they want and they will do what it takes to get it. The end.

And for all that, you sir, have by my estimation been extremely naive in your time in office. While you've been trying to forge coalitions, the GOP has been trying to find ways to proverbially "crack your skull" politically, damage you and make you unelectable in 2012. And they've been doing it since November 2008.

I'll put it one last think LBJ or FDR would take the crap Boehner, McConnell and their buddies are doling out? Hell no they wouldn't and neither should you. That's why if you get a second term, you should definitely wake up to this so you can face reality and get some things done.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Stay Classy UW B-Ball Fans

Basketball crowds are usually pretty tame when compared to football, soccer or even baseball. Sure, b-ball fans have passion, but it's usually in a more positive direction. Yeah for our side! That type of thing.

Indeed, there is usually something about other sports that fires up the masses so that you more frequently see overt displays of hostility and hate.

But, that doesn't mean basketball fans are immune to disgusting behavior.

For example, check out this short video clip of University of Washington basketball fans I took at last night's NIT game in Seattle....

Yep. That's right. Thousands of people booing 18-22 year old women and a guy in a Duck suit. It went on and on. Keep in mind, they're not booing the opposing team, the coach or something that happened during the game. Nope. They are booing the cheerleaders and mascot during a performance during a time out in the action. Nice.

Now, this is not to say that similar behavior would not happen elsewhere - including at Oregon would the roles be reversed. It would be equally bad if that were to happen.

But, there are two points I'd like to make:

First, what is it that drives people to do this type of thing? Really? Booing the cheerleaders? Not very creative and, I suspect most of the guys in the crowd doing the booing didn't avert their eyes to avoid looking at what the group of women were doing out on the floor...if you know what I mean. In attempts to answer my own question, it's probably as simple as: hey, there's some people out there representing the rival school participating in this game, I certainly don't want that school to win, so I'm going to boo that symbol of the school to communicate my displeasure. Just so base though. Lame.

Second, UW sports fans need to get down off their high horse. Typical spin out of Montlake is how horrible other fans (UO, WSU, USC, etc.) are to Husky fans and how such boorish behavior is not part of the UW fan base. After all, they are the "classy" fans in the Pac-12. I can personally attest based on some experiences at UW football games that this is definitely not true. The video from last night adds to the busting of that myth. Remember, I'm not saying other school's fans are not bad at times. I'm just saying, UW fans have no monopoly on good fan behavior...they're just as bad.

Anyway, the game itself was fun. Both teams played well at times and poorly at times, with the outcome in doubt down to the last minute. Congrats to the UW team for pulling out the win, and good luck to them as they advance in the NIT. Meanwhile, Husky fans...think about who and where you boo in the future.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Gas Prices and the Presidential Election

Four years ago I wrote about how gas prices would magically come down during the Presidential election cycle. You can see my posts HERE and HERE.

The premise of my posts at the time was that oil companies and the energy sector of our economy has enjoyed such spectacular and historical profits with Republicans in the White House that they would be willing to take a hit for a few months to help ease one very painful economic issue that most Americans ascribe to "the economy"...and therefore, in theory, lessen their likelihood to turn out to vote or to vote for Obama on the need for a better economy and more likely to be open to vote for McCain.

Based on my personal experience at my local gas pumps that year, I can say that I was right in my prediction about prices.

For the exact same reasons, I now predict that gas prices will rise steadily over the next several months and into prime time election season. To be clear...the energy sector wants a Republican as president for the major deregulation and massive tax breaks they believe a conservative will bring to their industry. Therefore, it benefits them for the electorate to have a reason to be mad at the Democratic incumbent and more likely to vote for the Republican alternative. Gas prices are such an ever day reality in virtually every Americans' life that a steady or steep  rise would really hurt. So, I think oil companies will find ways to raise prices during this election season.

Sure, you'll hear about the threat of a nuclear Iran, reduced refining capacity in the U.S. and general screwed up global economy as reasons. And yes, some of those things do have an impact on gas prices here in the U.S. But think about this: four years ago we were in "hot" wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and in the absolute depths of the economic crises...and prices at the pump when down!

No, what you need to do is compare all that international and infrastrcuture reasoning with the motivation of US energy companies to sustain record profit margins on a quarterly basis...and my opinion is you see the primary reason for gas prices going up now. It's a long term strategic play by big oil to do what they can to maximize the chances of a Republican winning the presidency...and more seats in Congress if possible.

So to close, gas prices at the local Shell station near my house in the Seattle area at $4.09 per gallon today, March 13, 2012. I'll check back with you in the early summer and then October to see where we're at and if I'm correct on my prediction.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

"New" Pictures from France

Similar to a recent post I did on "new" pictures I had found (or more accurately re-discovered) when going through my shots of Southeast Asia, so now have I done the same with the collections of photos I took on our trip to France in 2007.

Indeed, upon review I found some that I did not at the time consider for my book on our trip nor for Flickr, but that now I think deserve an airing.

Below are a few as teasers, but you can see the selection at the top of my Flickr Photostream now and as part of my France set.


Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Insights On Most Viewed Posts

I was looking at statistics for which posts to this blog have received the most hits and views "all time."

What I found was interesting in several ways...

The most viewed single post on this blog by a long shot is one that I wrote, ironically, on the topic of which photos from my Flikr Photostream were getting the most views. The title of this all-time eyeball getting post was "Naked, Gay, Vietnam, Taj...and Don't Tread On Me." The title is literally a descriptive list of the pictures getting the most looks on Flickr.

Not much of a post really as it just runs down the top 10 most viewed pictures and my quick thoughts on why these pictures might be getting views.

But oh that title. Turns out as you know...there are A SHIT LOAD of people online looking for either just naked pictures of people or naked gay people. And that headline was too much for them to pass up a look. I know...surprise, surprise.

So you know, "naked" referred to a picture I took of the naked bicycle riders in the annual Solstice Parade in Seattle. And the "gay" picture referred to was a shot of a person participating in the Seattle Gay Pride parade, not naked. And the other items were

The rest of the top five most viewed were mostly travel essays that I wrote or an album review. This restored some amount of hope in me for humanity and I was pleased to see some alignment between what I enjoy writing about and people's interests in viewing things on my blog...
All that said, to help generate more traffic, I'm considering adding "naked" or "gay" to every single title of the posts I write and put on this blog. You know, like...
  • Naked, Gay Report on Travel to France
  • Naked, Gay Album Review of Latest from U2

Monday, March 5, 2012

What Republicans Are Campaigning On

The following is certainly presented in a confrontational way, but if you go line-by-line and take out the emotion of it, I'm hard pressed to see any error here.

This is indeed a list of prominent issues being discussed daily by front-running Republicans seeking the Presidency. In many cases, these are actual quotes from one of the candidates.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Finding Good Modern Rock and Roll

For anyone interested in rock and roll music, the USA is a wasteland...or at least that the way it seems. For example, look at a recent Billboard "Hot 100" list of songs.

By my count, there are only THREE performers on that list that even come close to rock and roll - Coldplay, Foster the People, and the Black Keys. You'll never mistake any of them for AC/DC, the Who, Chili Peppers, the Clash or similar. But, they are at least on the outer edges of being rock and roll. Other than that, it's all soul divas, techno synth rap, some country and, well, that's about it. 97 percent of the list is that.

Sure, there are "legacy" acts that still find success even if they aren't on a hot 100 list. You know, U2, Green Day, Foo Fighters, Metallica and similar. But people, these are bands who came into being and fame a good 20-30 years ago. Whatever they do now - good or bad - tends to be hailed as "rock is still alive." I don't think so. I think it says that some people from 30 years ago really are talented and have continued to come up with quality rock that nostalgia hounds continue to eat up. Hell, I'm one of them.

But, this does not mean rock is still "alive" in my opinion. For that, it would take new groups with new songs regenerating the form anew pretty regularly. You don't see that least not on the surface of things.

This leaves me often wondering where the good, new rock and roll is. I'm talking about new music by bands or performers starting out now...or within the last few years lets say. Turns out: a) it's out there, but b) it's hard to find.

Indeed, you have to do some homework, take a few risks and explore to find them. You have to, as Joe Strummer said, be "diggin' the new."

With that in mind, below are several new/recent bands that I've invested time in and think are the real deal. They key to me is that while they all exhibit their influences, they bring something new to the table in their sound primarily. I've done the work so you don't have to...
  • Mona - a combo of sounds from this band out of Nashville, this is a modern, new, talented, legit rock band in the best sense of it.
  • Howler - gritty with some pop hooks, this Minneapolis band is just coming on the scene and I'm liking them.
  • Funeral Party - rock and roll from today's Los Angeles - not a re-hash of 1980s Whiskey A Go Go Sunset Strip big hair LA rock.
  • The Gaslight Anthem - NJ band belting out well crafted rock using just the basics - guitar, drums, bass and heart felt vocals. The real deal.
  • Glasvegas - thoughtful, epic, emotional rock that takes on issues far beyond the normal set of topics.
  • British Sea Power - arty, angular, powerful rock music put together with sometimes odd and disconnected lyrical themes. Makes you think.
  • The Courteeners - from Manchester, this band's sound is somewhere between Oasis and Blur with a little Morrissey drama thrown in.
  • The Joy Formidable - female lead singer and guitarist belting out a powerful rock that reminds me a bit of Nirvana, but slightly more poppy.
Will we be talking about any of these bands in 10-20 years? Likely not given the odds of what it takes the "break trough" especially in the musical environment of the USA. But, that's not exactly the point I'm trying to make. No, I'm saying...real, vital and new rock and roll is indeed around. It lives in the moment, on stage and online rather than on the radio. You have to look to find it. But when you do, it's just as "alive" as ever. Get going people.  Rock on.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Mona Debut Out Now

The self titled debut album by Mona is out now on iTunes.

As I understand it, it'll also be out on CD and vinyl next Tuesday.

Great band, really good album. Check it out!