Saturday, June 30, 2012

Spain/Italy in Euro Final and In Pictures

So it's Italy vs. Spain in the big Euro 2012 final tomorrow.

Diane and I have been to both countries - Italy in 1996 and 2011, Spain in 2004.

While the lads on each soccer side battle it out on the pitch, here are some pictures from both countries that I took.

Spain pictures HERE and HERE.

Italy pictures HERE.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Electoral College Map Will Tell the Story

As the Presidential election heats up this summer, rolls into the conventions and then heads down the home stretch in the fall you will see a lot of national polls saying Obama is at X%, Romney at Y% in the polls. And that'll be OK for what it is. And you'll hear plenty about those numbers.

But, as we all know from our civics class (and as was so dramatically brought home to us in the 2000 election) who gets the most overall votes is not necessarily the winner. In fact, that's not a measure of winning or losing at all in U.S. Presidential elections.

Nope. Let me re-introduce you to "the electoral college." While there are a lot of details to it, basically, each state counts for a certain amount of "electoral votes" based on the number of Congressional seats and Senatorial seats it has. So, a state like California has a lot of electoral votes while a state like North Dakota has very few.

Anyway, the way you win the Presidency is you win enough states to get you to a majority of the electoral college - 270 electoral votes.

This means that it's not really one big race the two Presidential candidates are running, but rather 50 separate races...focusing on whatever strategy and states they think will get them to the magical 270 vote electoral vote count.

All that to way you can keep track of how things are going for real in the race is to look at an Electoral College Scoreboard map and track how things are going for your candidate over the next few months. There are quite a few out there. The one I'm currently looking at is HERE.

You can see that based on up-to-date polling in all the states that Obama would win more electoral votes than Romney at this point, but not enough to get 270 electoral votes. Not surprisingly, we see several key states with lots of electoral votes are in the "tossup" category. If one candidate were to win a few more of these than the other...that candidate will be the next President.

It's also kind of fun to see where each candidate has their strongest support. For example, check out the huge lead Obama has in California, NY and Washington State. Makes sense. Then look at Romney-land. Big leads in the South and rural states...also not surprising.

Here's to some interesting map watching.

Conservatives Attempt to Blame Obama for Colorado Wild Fires

All you need to know about the mentality, strategic approach and utter contempt for  average Americans by some conservatives is in full evidence with THIS STORY today where we see that they are trying to blame Obama for the Colorado fires.

That's right. Obama - someone they accuse of being a big spending, big government socialist - is now accused of essentially starting and growing the fires for underinvestment in fire fighting airplanes.


But is anyone surprised? After all, conservatives and Republicans have - since the moment Obama was sworn in - taken the twin strategic approaches of "blame Obama for everything" and it's close cousin "take the opposite stance as Obama on everything" as an all out effort to a) stall anything he wants to do, and b) create conditions favorable for Republican wins.

Ergo...Colorado is a swing state and could go either way in the election come November. So, gin up some negativity about Obama now and see if it sticks. That's what's going on here.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Commence Republican Spin

Several hours now since the Supreme Court handed down its decision upholding the Constitutionality of the nation's healthcare reform law.

I've noted that Republican talking points are concise and consistent:

  • This is a tax and represents a HUGE tax hike on Americans - they're saying this because the law was held Constitutional by the Court as they determined that Congress could tax Americans if they did not have health insurance....and thus compelling them to buy insurance. So, taxation is the mechanism that makes the law hold. The law has not changed, but this "tax" interpretation is the one now from the right and you will be hearing A LOT about it over the next few months. 
  • The act will actually raise healthcare costs and limit coverage to Americans. This is the typical Republican playbook. Take what your opponent is running on or claims that they make and reverse them. Convince Americans that their "strength" is their weakness. Facts need not be considered. 
  • It represents a program we simply cannot afford. So says the party that ran our economy into the ground and manufactured our massive debt when they ran all branches of the government from Jan. 2001 to Jan. 2009. Sorry. Try again. You have zero credibility on this.
  • We will move to repeal it legislatively. Now this is a true statement. They will. I suspect we'll see the first try in a few days and then more tries into the election season. And then certainly if the Rs control any amount of Congress or the Presidency come January 2013, they'll try again.

And in the case of Mitt Romney...of course he is saying all these things too...but doing so after supporting and passing a virtual carbon copy of the national law in his state while he was governor. Since that is public knowledge, you can see that Mitt is literally counting on Americans to be short-term-memory morons and just go with whatever he is saying today.

SCOUSA Upholds Healtchare Reform Law

I have to say, I am SURPRISED that the profoundly conservative majority of the Supreme Court has voted to uphold the nation's healthcare reform law. This is not something that I thought would happen.

What I am getting out of the first news reports I am hearing is that the Court decided that the entire law is Constitutional. More specifically, the majority opinion says that the law is upholdable under a taxation provision of the US Constitution, but that it was not under the commerce clause as orignally argued by the White Hosue and reform supporters. That's a bit of a twist.

So, while upholding the law under tax provisions, the Court also said that the federal government cannot require individuals to buy something as part of regulating commerce health insurance.

I note that this also would mean going forward that laws requiring people to buy other things as part of regulating commerce would not pass muster as private pension funds as part of a conservative overall of Socail Security. That's something conservatives have long talked about doing, but I seriouly doubt Republicans would try to enforce a individual mandate requiring purchase of private investment services as part of an overhaul of Social Security by relying on a TAX provision to do it. Just not their thing, and despite a keen ability to do a 180 on issues at a drop of hat...that might be a bit much for even them. So, the ruling today might be a double whammy against the conservative agenda.

One person who should be a bit perplexed by the decision today is Mitt Romney. After all, he championed and successuflly passed a very, very similar law in Massachesetts when he was governor. So, he was correct on what was best for Americans by supporting this reform back in the day, right? But he also has consistenly railed against the national healthcare reform law since he began running for President. Odd to run against the exact thing you championed previously. But that's Mitt for you.

But, all that being said, with its decision today the Supreme Court has upheld that:
  • Expands coverage to 32 million Americans who are currently uninsured
  • Health insurers cannot turn you down for coverage based on pre-existing conditions
  • Insurance companies could no longer denying children coverage based on a preexisting condition
Do I think that a little thing like a ruling by the Supreme Court will stop Republicans and conservatives from trying to get rid of this law - in some way, some how? Hell no. If anything, this will compell them to double down on new and creative was to either effectively neuter the law or - if they gain majority power and the Presidency - just straight out repeal the law legislatively. You watch...that's what Mitt will run on now.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

A Trip to P-Town for the Derby

Last weekend I executed a day trip by train from Seattle to Portland and back to watch the big rivalry match between Sounders FC and Portland Timbers. Rivalry games in soccer are called a derby (pronounced dar-bee).

Marquee at stadium - June 24, 2012
To do so, I would need to endure lines of early morning zombie passengers at the train station, an unending conversation by some high school guys heavily featuring the words "dude" and "like," and then of course the whole thing about being a fan from the visiting team - in enemy territory - and all that comes with that.

 Oh, and my team played poorly and lost.

 Sounds like I had a rotten time, right? Nope. Far from it. In fact, I had a great time.

 Let me explain...

This started off a bit rough. Turns out, to get to Portland from Seattle by train in order to be present and accounted for to enjoy some pre-game beer and get to the stadium by 2 p.m., you need to take the 7:30 a.m. departing train from Seattle. That's pretty early folks. And so it was that I stood in line at the station behind quite a few people who for all the world acted like they'd never taken any type of public transportation ever. Seriously. People...I know it's early, but if the check-in kiosk is open and nobody is using it, you can step right up and use it yourself. You don't have to wait for an invitation. This happened far too many times for me to walk away feeling good about how smart humans are. Interesting to observe, but kinda depressing.

OK fine. Whatever. I get on the train and into my seat and three high school guys roll in and sit in the row in front of me. Sporting Sounders jerseys, scarves and whatnot, at least they were on "the good guys" side as far as I was concerned. But, then commenced a running teenage conversation that lasted most of the train ride to Portland. Now, what was interesting (or horrifying) about these guys' conversation was not the content - mostly just high school guy stuff about sports, girls, prom, some travel stuff, the game and the like - but that virtually every fourth word was either "dude" or "like." Seriously. Almost every sentence started or ended with "dude" and contained a few "likes." Let me give you an example..

Guy #1: Dude, what do you think, like, is going to happen at the game today.

Guy #2: Dude, all I know is we're gonna win. Like, no way we can lose dude.

Guy #3; Dude, I heard like you have to tie your scarf so Portland fans won't like steal it. That's lame dude.

And so it went. As much as I was initially fascinated by this, it quickly became real tedious. Good thing I had an iPod. From there, thinks were looking up and "getting better all the time."

Arriving in Portland right on time at 11 a.m. - thanks Amtrak - I connected with my buddies and found out we were to meet at The Matador Bar in downtown Portland and right across the street from the stadium. I've never been to the Matador before, but that is one excellent bar. Between the cool bartender, loads of TVs with sports on, a great selection of beer and a studious jukebox, this was the place to be.

As I waited for my friends to show, quite a few Sounders fans started rolling in. This was a bit surprising. I did not notice any animosity between fans of the two sides, so all was good. One Sounders fan did tell me that the reason he came into the Matador was that up the block at another bar, some Portland fans told him to "Get the F*%#K out of our bar."

Our view from behind the giant banner (click link right for video)
And then my friends arrived. Good times catching up, predicting the game and generally enjoying the day. For the record, we all thought the Sounders would probably win...perhaps tie. Too much talent on that squad to lose to a Timbers team not having a good season.

With the sun shining, we made our way into the stadium and to our seats. The place was rocking, packed and ready to roll. Just before kickoff, fans in our section raised a HUGE banner commemorating their Timbers past and present. Impressive.

And then the game started. My review of this match goes like this:
  • Back and forth run of play slightly favoring Portland to start.
  • Clearly an uninterested Sounders squad transitioning to mostly defense.
  • Two really great crosses by Portland combined with horrendous defensive breakdowns by Seattle leading to two very nice goals for Portland in the first half. Queue screaming Portland fans in wild celebration.
  • Some resurgence by the Sounders in the second half and a decent goal scored to make it 2-1, but even then I knew...I just knew that it was too little too late.
  • And it was. Throw in a last minute red card to one of the Sounders players and, well, that pretty much was the capper.
  • Portland rode out the win and deservedly their fans went bonkers.
Game action - Sounders v Timbers
Off to the bar across the street for some post-game libations before I had to get back on the train to head home. Now, I must report that at no time was I harassed by Portland fans for wearing my Sounders scarf - not before, during or after the match. Sure, a little good natured ribbing here and there, but very mild stuff. I was impressed - particularly considering the amounts of alcohol I saw being consumed.

At last it came time for me to say my goodbyes and walk back to the train station for my ride home. Trudging under a disappointed hear but sunny Portland skies, I made it to the train no problem and enjoyed a quiet ride home.

It was a long ride considering it was a Sunday, but I arrived back to the Seattle station on time again at 9:45 p.m. All good and home after that.

So, what did I learn in my Sunday soccer sojourn?
  • I have some really nice friends - old and new - in Portland.
  • Portland is a great soccer town, and while they hate them some Seattle Sounders, they actually treat visiting fans just least from everything I observed.
  • Amtrak can actually run on time.
  • The Sounders are not as good as their early season success indicated...and it's mostly a mental thing in my opinion. Could be a long second half of the season.
  • Confirmation of my theory on sports...if you play horrible, you lose. Simple as that. Thanks Sounders for making that all to painfully obvious.
  • The vocabulary of high school boys has devolved into a few words spoken between "dude" and "like."
Timbers fans going bonkers
The Sounders and Timbers square off twice more this season, once more in Portland and one time in Seattle. So, while not encouraged by what I saw Sunday from my side, taking 2 of 3 from Portland this season is still possible. Here's hoping.

 NOTE: All pictures in this post taken by Marc Osborn and are not for any use without prior written permission from Marc Osborn.

SCOUSA Will Overturn Healthcare Reform Law

As the Supreme Court of the United States of America prepares to rule on our nation's healthcare reform law (aka "Obamacare") this week, a reminder that my prediction is that they will overturn all meaningful portions of it...rendering it essentially null and void. Back to square one.

You can see my original post on this prediction HERE.

We'll see if I'm right. Hope not, but we'll see.

Friday, June 22, 2012


The big Euro 2012 soccer tournament is currently taking place in co-host nations Poland and Ukraine.

We've never been to Ukraine, but in 2002 we took a great trip to Poland to see some of the towns and places where my wife's relatives came from...and what a great trip it was. What? You think Poland wouldn't be an interesting place to visit. You'd be wrong. Beautiful old cities and towns, great food, nice people, loads of historical places to see.

Check out some of the pictures I took while in Poland on my photostream HERE.

A couple teasers below...

Main square of Wroclaw, Poland

Main square of Krakow, Poland

Monday, June 18, 2012

Egypt's Elections May Change Tourism There - And Not for the Better

Given the NEWS TODAY about the religiously fundamental Muslim Brotherhood winning Egypt's national elections over the weekend, I'm glad Diane and I were able to go to and tour Egypt when we did.

My review of our trip is HERE, and you can see pictures I took while there on my Photostream HERE.

At the Giza Pyramids in 2010

With the election results, Egypt might not be as open, friendly or accommodating to western tourists going forward. I recall reading a while ago that one thing the Muslim Brotherhood was considering if it won power was that it would legislate that all tourism would have to be solely for educational purposes and - of course - the country would not allow tourists to wear things like bathing suits, shorts or any form of dress considered immodest by their religious standards. That is basically the same as them saying, "western tourists not welcome." Tourism is such a huge element of their economy, that such policies would be - to me - economic suicide. And that won't be good for anyone in Egypt or in the Middle East. For example, you think Israel is excited about the prospect of an economically depressed Egypt run by fundamentalist Islamic party?

But hey, if the majority of Egyptians want a conservative religious political party running their nation and voted them into power democratically in hopes that their approach will help lift masses out of poverty and division, all we can do from afar is sit back and see how it goes. I'm  not confident, but we'll see.

In the meantime...we went to Egypt in calmer times, saw it, had a great time and am glad we can count that among our lifetime achievements.

NOTE: Above photo taken by me, Marc Osborn. It is not authorized for any use without prior written permission from me.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

2012 Fremont Solstice Parade - Photos

We attended the annual Solstice Parade in Seattle's Fremont neighborhood yesterday. Famous for featuring naked bicycle riders at the beginning, the parade draws a huge crowd each year and also includes all sorts of whacky, political, musical and artistic acts...all merrily prancing, dancing, marching or jamming on by. 

I took my camera.

And yes, I took some pictures of naked bicycle riders, but you know what people? I am not posting them. OK one in my Photostream to show you what 99% of the people looked like. 

But moreover, I feel that if you have to cruise the Internet to find pictures of painted up naked people riding their bicycles in a street have too much time on your hands. Either go to the parade and see the spectacle yourself, or just find something better to do with your time. 

Below are a few shots I took, but more can be seen the top of my Photostream HERE.

Monday, June 4, 2012

100,000 Views For My Pictures

Hey, my Flickr Photostream has now received 100,000 views!

Primarily made up of pictures I've taken on many of Diane and my world vacations, the collection features all kinds of stuff. Here is just one example of the type of pictures on my site:

Morning Market at Hoi An, Vietnam
Anyway, over the course of building up to 100,000 views, the "most looked at images" are below. You can click on each title to see the pictures if you want:

  1. Close up of the Taj Mahal - by a long shot, the most viewed. Who knew?
  2. Naked bike riders at the annual Fremont Solstice Parade in Seattle - not too surprising I guess considering what most people are looking for on the Internet.
  3. The USS Enterprise aircraft carrier (now a museum) moored at Charleston, SC.
  4. The former capital building of South Vietnam - now a museum in Ho Chi Minh City.
  5. Carved wooden spiral staircase inside Peles Castle in Romania - a newcomer to the top 10 recently.
  6. A naked guy dressed as Big Foot at the Fremont parade - same comment as #2 above.
  7. A view of modern Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam.
  8. Don't Tread On Me flag - took the picture in Charleston, SC.
  9. Folly Beach near Charleston, SC.
  10. Temple of Warriors ruins at Chichen Itza, Mexico.
While I'm proud of each of those shots, it amazes me that THESE are the ones people want to look at repeatedly considering how much else is present on my Photostream. But I guess there's no accounting for taste. Oh well, thanks to anyone and everyone who has come to my photo site and checked out my pictures. 

More to come for sure!

Picture in this post taken by Marc Osborn and not authorized for any use without prior written permission.