Monday, September 30, 2013

What Is Fueling Possible Government Shut Down?

OK, so it looks like the federal government is going to shut down Tuesday because of the inability for Congress and the President to agree on passing legislation to keep the federal government operational and the related linkage by Republicans of de-funding the healthcare reform act passed in 2010.

But what is fueling this development?

Is it a principled argument by Republicans for reducing the deficit? Hardly. Republicans are the least credible party on that issue. Remember the 1980s and the 2000s? Right. Is it really a desire to kill the healthcare reform act? Maybe, but that I think is a tactic for the bigger reason.

No, I think the answer for the impasse is: Republican electoral politics.

Sure, the Rs want to embarrass, stymie and obstruct Obama as much as possible to weaken him. It's been quite clear since 2008 that they will oppose anything he wants or decides no matter what. But that's not what I'm talking about. After all, Obama cannot be elected again.

Who can?

Congressmen and women.

Right now, the Republicans own the majority in the House of Representatives. That party also has a small but highly active and influential core of true right wing believers. Teach creation in schools, no gun laws whatsoever, anti-abortion in all instances, anti-gay rights, no taxes (literally) and on and on. These are the things the group hold dear and focus their zealotry.

You may have heard of this group. They're called "The Tea Party," and they are strong enough, dedicated enough and organized and mobilized enough to target and defeat Republicans who do not toe their extreme line. This is particularly true in mid-term elections when popular turnout is lower - elections such as what are coming up in 2014.

Think about it. The current Rs in the House are all up for re-election in 2014. They know the Tea Party has the ability to target them next year by running negative ads, fielding a challenger and turning out in droves come election day. So, they do NOT want to be seen as "weak" against Obama or "caving" on any of the hard core believer issues. Rather, they are compelled to orchestrate a very public act of defiance. They literally fear for their seats, and that's enough to puff out their chests and hold the economy hostage by refusing to deal with the President or the Senate.

And they've picked the elimination of the healthcare reform law passed in 2010 as an issue to go to battle make dang sure the Tea Party is paying attention.

To be clear, the Republicans in the House have made a strategic decision that they'd rather crash the economy through government shut down than risk losing their seats next year by dealing with the Democrats to move forward on economic issues.

In the end, the Republican Party is captive to the Tea Party and therefore the US government and our economy are too.

Its a short term play by the Rs, but I think either a government shut down or a defunded Obamacare law will cost the Republicans a longer term price by alienating even more people and limiting their long term electoral potential.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Week 5 Pac-12 Predictions

And now it begins. Yes, league play. No more cream puffs to practice on.

Here is what I think will happen this week...

Oregon (3-0, 0-0) vs. Cal in (1-2, 0-0) Eugene. Oregon will win this one. If this was at Cal I'd say you never know 'cause I have seen some CRAZY things happen to the Ducks when they play in Berkely. But this one's in night. UO 44-Cal 20.

Washington (3-0, 0-0) vs. Arizona (3-0, 0-0) in Seattle. OK, the Huskies have it going, but they've played poor competition so far. UA is a much stiffer challenge. This one is in Seattle and with the Dawgs getting the hang of their new O, I think they will come out on top in a high scoring game. UW 49-UA 44.

WSU (3-1, 1-0) vs. Stanford (3-0, 0-0) in Pullman. Nice start for the Cougs so far this season. Hope springs eternal that WSU will win at least six and get to a bowl game. But one of those wins won't be this weekend. Stanford rolls up the Cougars. Stanford 33-WSU 17.

Oregon State (3-1, 1-0) vs. Colorado (2-0, 0-0) in Corvallis. Hmmm. Interesting matchup. An over achieving Buffalos squad and an underachieving OS team. Could go either way. I'll go with the home team. OS 24-CU 10.

USC (3-1, 0-1) vs. ASU (2-1, 0-1) in Tempe. Two teams questioning where they're at so early in the season. I think ASU has a shot here. I'll pick them to win. ASU 28-USC 24.

Utah and UCLA have the weekend off.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Pac-12 Week 4 Predictions

Well, I was wrong about Oregon last week. Oh, they won just like a predicted. But where I was wrong was by how much. I thought the big SEC boys from Tennessee would, based on talent alone, keep this one close and Oregon would pull away in the fourth quarter. Turns out it was close only in the first quarter and the Ducks ended up pulling away before halftime on their way to a 59-14 win.

Meanwhile, UW got its second win...this time on the road. Although not too impressive of a victory it still puts them in good position to go 3-0 before they start league play.

And, you have to hand it to ASU and UCLA for taking on Big 10 powers Wisconsin and Nebraska respectively and coming away with wins.

Here's what I think will happen this weekend...

Washington (2-0, 0-0) vs. Idaho State in Seattle. The Huskies will advance to 3-0 with an easy win in this one. UW 41-ISU 9.

WSU (2-1, 1-0) vs. Idaho in Pullman. Conventional wisdom would say any team that can go down to LA and beat USC should have no problem with Idaho at home. But we're talking about the Cougs here, and USC ain't the same this year. So who knows. None the less, I'll say WSU 27 - Idaho 13.

Oregon State (2-1, 1-0) vs. San Diego State in San Diego. The Beavs barely won in OT vs. Utah last week, so I say this is not a "gimmie" for them. Still, I think they'll win. OSU 24 - SDSU 17.

Stanford (2-0, 0-0) vs. Arizona State (2-0, 0-0) in Palo Alto. The only true league game this week. Stanford has played far inferior competition in their first two while ASU has taken out Wisconsin. And this one is in the desert. I call an early upset with the Sun Devils pulling it off. ASU 31-Stanford 28.

UCLA (2-0, 0-0) vs. New Mexico State in Los Angeles. UCLA once again proved it's the real deal this year by going into Nebraska and winning last week. They will have no trouble with NMSU. Bruins 44 - NMSU 13.

Utah (2-1, 0-1) vs. BYU in Provo. In-state battle of the biggest two universities. BYU is pretty good. Utah is not. I'll say BYU wins 27-20.

USC (2-1, 0-1) vs. Utah State in Los Angeles. USC is not up to its normal standards this season and Utah State is no pushover any more. But, I think the Trojan talent will win out. USC 28-USU 17.

Oregon, Cal, Arizona and Colorado all have byes this weekend and will be back in action Sept. 28.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Pac-12 Week 3 Predictions

Wow. That was a pretty dang good weekend for the Pac-12 last Saturday. WSU upset USC in LA in the first league game, Oregon blew out Virginia on the road, Oregon State notched a win, Cal got a scare from Portland State but put them away in the end and Stanford finally got into action with a win.

With most teams still playing out-of-conference games this week, what will happen? Here's what I think...

#2 Oregon (2-0 overall, 0-0 in league play) vs. Tennessee in Eugene. Pac-12 vs. the Northwest! What? SEC teams are notorious for a) not playing challenging out-of-conference games, and b) not traveling outside the south to play out-of-conference games. So, big kudos to the Vols for coming to Eugene in return for the Ducks playing in Tennessee a couple years ago. How will this one go? I predict the Ducks will win - moving to 3-0 entering league play. But, I don't think it will be the blowout that the last two weeks have been. I think Tennessee has some great athletes and will challenge Oregon some. I say UO 31-Tenn 20.

#20 Washington (1-0, 0-0) vs. Illinois in Chicago. Is UW for real? Was the win vs. Boise State last week a preview of a newly blossomed powerhouse? Or, was that more chalked up to the emotion of opening the new stadium and the fact that Boise is, in reality, not that good...they've said goodbye to 13 starters from last season. Well, the road will be a good test for the Huskies and provide some indication. Illinois is not a world-beater, but they are a Big 10 team and this is on the road in Chicago. I think the Huskies get it done though. UW 27-Illinois 17.

Oregon State (1-1, 0-0) vs. Utah (2-0, 0-0) in Salt Lake City. Neither team has played high quality opponents and both teams are suspect. I think Utah may win this one, but I'll give the nod to OS as I think they have superior tallent on both sides of the ball. Oregon State 19-Utah 10.

WSU (1-1, 1-0) vs. Southern Utah in Pullman. How about them Cougs!? Not only did they upset USC in L.A., but they held the Trojans to seven points. Wow. Who knew the WSU defense was up to that? And who knew USC's normally potent offense would be so anemic? Either way, the Cougs got a big one and will continue their roll with a big win over Southern Utah. WSU 28-SU 9.

#5 Stanford (1-0, 0-0) vs. Army at West Point. The Cardinal beat up on a weak San Jose State team to open its season and gets only a slightly more difficult challenge this week. Stanford wins this one too. Stan 31-Army 6.

Cal (1-1, 0-0) vs. #3 Ohio State at Berkley. This is a real nice match-up. Don't underestimate Cal. They've been getting their "sea legs" under them with a new coach over the last couple weeks and have good talent on their roster. They've also already played a Big 10 school, Northwestern. Could they upset the highly ranked Buckeyes? Yes, they could. But they won't. Cal makes it interesting for a while but OSU wins. OSU 30-Cal17.

#18 UCLA (1-0, 0-0) vs. #22 Nebraska in Lincoln. Another good one! UCLA is on the road for this game. I call upset on this one. The Cornhuskers will win a close one. Neb 24-UCLA 21.

Arizona (2-0, 0-0) vs. University of Texas San Antonio in Tucson. This one won't be interesting or close. UA 49-UTSA 13.

Arizona State (1-0, 0-0) vs. Wisconsin in Tempe. A third Pac-12 vs. Big 10 match up for this weekend. I like it. While certainly Wisconsin could win it, I think ASU pulls it out at home...and perhaps pull away in the fourth quarter. ASU 41 - Wisc 27.

Colorado (2-0, 0-0) vs. Fresno State in Boulder. Check out Colorado at 2-0. Nice. Now they get the Bulldogs at home. As much as I'd like to see the Buffs move on to 3-0, I think reality returns this week and they drop this game to Fresno State. FSU 27-CU 17.

USC (1-1, 0-1) vs. Boston College in L.A. Hmmm. Not sure what to make of USC at this point. I'll go with the fact that this is in L.A. and, despite their start this season, USC is USC. I'll take the Trojans to win. USC 20-BC 14.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Glasvegas Release New Album: Later...When The TV Turns To Static

Scottish band Glasvegas have released their third album. It's a 10 song set titled Later...When the TV Turns to Static. I've been listening to it now for a week or so, and below is a review. You can see my previous reviews of their Glasvegas and Euphoric Heartbreak albums.

Lets start with the album name as Glasvegas main man James Allan puts a lot of thought into song and album titles. The name references a time gone by and hour of the night that used to be very solitary for anyone up all night and alone. That's right, at one time people, there were only a handful of channels on TV and at about midnight most or all of them went off the air. Yep. No programing overnight. Just static. But more than referencing the past, with the title I think Allan is trying to use nostalgia or remembrance of a now-gone nightly event to make a point  about human emotion. Specifically, that moment when the TV goes off (or did) and you were left alone, in the dark with your thoughts with only the blank canvas of the TV static to stare at and project our feelings. That's my take on it. I remember those times.

Album cover of Later...When the TV Turns to Static

Taken as a whole, this album is a serious affair with themes and music that for the most part make you think rather than tap your toe. Allan is one of the more gifted lyricists going these days in my opinion, and on this new album he is plumbing the depths of his ideas. This ends up meaning that Later... is the type of album you'd listen to loudly on your home stereo by yourself after dark with your drink of choice in hand instead of bopping along to in your convertible on a sunny road trip.

Don't get me wrong, each song has something musically interesting about it, but as an entire body of work I think it's honest to say that this is an alternative music album and not at pop rock album. Don't expect Fallout Boy, Muse or My Chemical Romance here. And this is great to me. In fact, this is one thing I like best about Glasvegas. The world is full of standard issue pop rock bands, but this group works its guts out to give you something more to ponder...and yes, it turns out there are a couple toe tappers anyway.

Here are the songs on the disc with some comments from me...

Later...When the TV Turns to Static. "Only I can turn things the other way." The album opener is a return to unusual or alternative themes for songs that Glasvegas explored on their debut a few years ago. Instead of a song about love, a girl (or boy) or what have you, this one is best I can tell about a guy in prison reflecting on what it is like to be locked up and what his hopes are behind those "prison fences and defenses" as he thinks about what must be going on back on his home street and house. Or is he actually now out of prison and back up on the edge of his bed "up in the attic?" Either way, the point is made. The loneliness of isolation and the hope of overcoming a tragedy or major life mistake are well communicated - whether behind prison walls or freshly released but equally sequestered in a dark attic. And yeah, the image of that late night time when the TV goes to static does evoke the feeling well.

As for the music, this is an atmospheric mid-paced song that has a solid wall of guitar from Rab Allan raging below the surface and punctuated with occasional feedback and noise as James Allan's voice soars over the top. Binding it together are the steady bass and drum work by Paul Donoghue and Jonna Lofgren respectiviely. This is a solid start to the album and a "grower" song that you will like more and more as you listen to it.

Youngblood. "Off the edge of the cliff goes the vehicle carrying something happy." Starting with some electronic noises and guitar squeal, this one is a spikier tune right off the bat as a thudding bass and sharp drums join quickly. Over the course of the song, the music builds and builds so that by the end this one is in full loud rocking mode before tapering back to the electric noises that began the tune. The subject of the song seems to be about a young love just finished and the hurt that goes with the separation - realizing that while the hurt is real, it's also "part of growing up." The "youngblood" reference seems to be the other person in the now-defunct relationship, recognizing that this person will probably love and leave again.

Glasvegas Publicity Picture
Choices. "I don't want to be told, but independence is hard to hold." OK, this song is a downer. To me. Well done, but a downer. Why? Well, this song is about how someone is at the end of their rope in virtually all aspects of their life and the fact that they still have "choices" - implied possibly as either killing themselves or perhaps some other (hopefully more positive) changes. No matter which way you go on that, it's a pretty depressing lyric. Combine that with the slow, sparse music and vocal delivery and, well, lets just say this ain't "Fun, Fun, Fun" by the Beach Boys. Probably not one I'll listen to very often.

All I Want Is My Baby. "It's all about the money, money, money." Normally you would think a song about "wanting my baby" would be about someone desiring their lover. But this is Glasvegas, so it is about wanting custody of a daughter from an abusive and bad-behaving former lover. Yep, "all I want is my baby." Literally. In the song, the voice exoriates a former partner for her hypocrisy, for the embarrassment she's putting him through and asks if she has ever heard of karma. It also seems that paying off the woman is maybe something she has suggested as a way of seeing the daughter again.

Meantime, this is back to the mid-paced tempo of the first couple songs after the downturn with "Choices."

Secret Truth. If "Choices" was depressing, then "Secret Truth" is haunting. Musically, this one's more up tempo and follows "All I Want Is My Baby" well. This is a lament about a relationship lost, and it seems to be saying that even though the singer instigated the breakup, he wishes they had not. That's the secret truth. Or I suppose you could take it the other way and the secret truth is that while the breakup was painful it was perhaps all for the best. Either way, it makes you think about the decisions you make in life and what the real truths are behind those decisions. We may display our motivations publicly, but we also may have - and often do have - "secret" truths around what we do.

I'd Rather Be Dead (Than Be With You). "You showed me what this world can do." The title of this song is right up there with Glasvegas' early Christmas album song called "F*^%k You, It's Over" as brutally honest and clear song title.

A piano driven song without much other instrumentation, the title of this one says it all. Someone has been done horribly wrong by a lover and is not happy about it. Someday - maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but soon - the guilt and the consequences of other person's actions are going to be real. Does this mean the protagonist is going to attack the other person, harm themselves or simply that a heap load of negative karma is going to catch up to the other person? Who knows. But, remember, he'd rather be dead than be with her.

Magazine. "How could I not see that what I was looking for was inside of me already." This is an
Glasvegas on stage
interesting one, and pretty straight forward. The first half of the song is a bout someone who is empty, does not like themselves and searching for answers of all different kinds...and finds what appears to be those answers in the form of a famous person on the cover of a magazine. An image, an attitude to emulate. Trying to be like that hero in the magazine appears to be the way to fill up his spirit and provide an identity. But then, halfway into the tune, the protagonist suddenly realizes how shallow that really is...that the only way to really be happy is to be ones self, love ones self and realize what he's looking for is already inside him - not in a magazine, not in religion or in the approval of others. He puts the magazine on the shelf and gets on with life.

The music matches this more upbeat message and "Magazine" is indeed one of the more accessible tunes on the album. Thumbs up.

If. "If our love was ever to part ways, the world as I know it would never ever spin again." Musically and lyrically, this is full on Glasvegas in all their glory and the star of this album. Get it. It's also clearly the most poppy, commercial song on the album. Hear the song and see the video HERE (short ad in front of the video).

The binary premise of the song is that without one extreme, how would we even know the opposite extreme existed. If not for this, we wouldn't have that. It takes one side of things to truly know the other - making both real. For example, in one line James Allan sings, "If not for dark, how could I recognize the spark. If not for evil, the kind man would walk by invisible."

Much of the rest of the song uses the same juxtaposition of things (sun/rain, Mary/the devil, etc.) to make the point, culminating several times with the crescendo chorus that if "our love would ever part ways" the world would surely end - simultaneously implying that a love shared and active keeps the world turning. For anyone who is or ever has been in love - either short term lust and longing or lifelong love - this is the ultimate and personal payoff on the "if" theme of the song and for that it packs a powerful emotion punch.

Mid-way through, the song re-trenches with what I'd call a tip o' the hat to the Talking Heads using a wordplay on that group's song "Road to Nowhere" - flipping it on its head to be on the more positive "road to somewhere." It then seamlessly picks back up into the main riff and finishes.

Musically, I'd call this a mid-paced rock song featuring Rab Allan's shimmery guitar and "oooh, ahhh" backing vocals, a galloping drum beat from Joanna Lofgren to move things along and solid bass work from Paul Donoghue. I'd compare it to earlier Glasvegas songs such as "Geraldine" or "The World Is Yours" - both excellent tunes.

Neon Bedroom. "Between your four walls, I picture myself there soon." This song is about a young student who has an anonymous infatuation with an older person. The student goes so far as regularly walking past the older person's house after dark and seeing the TV flicking - casting a shadow of the person and making them wonder what it's like inside that house and how they'd like to be there with this older person. Teenage fascination and desire.

And, up and until about 3/4 the way through the song you think this must be a young teenage guy lusting and longing for a slightly older woman. This is easy to understand certainly because of Allan's male voice. But then he sings out, "I'll be a woman soon." So...the character is a girl, not a boy. Is the focus of her attention and older guy? A woman? We don't know. And that's probably by design. What's left is clear though...this young person is aching for her adult future and, in this moment, hoping it's with this person on her street.

This is not the only time Allan has used his straight, male voice to tell the story of others not like him. Two songs on their previous album, Euphoric Heartbreak, communicate feelings from the perspective of a closeted gay man. And on their debut album, Allan voices "I am Geraldine, I'm your social worker." I like this. It's bold. It opens up many stories to tell and feelings to express for Glasvegas that would not be possible by creating songs strictly from the straight, white, male perspective. 

Finished Sympathy. "Sick to death of the means to an end." I think this one is about the final, crushing realization that something - a relationship or perhaps innocence - is over. Done and dusted. There is no longer even sympathy from those involved, just...the finished finality of things. Over. And it hurts at least one party as expressed by the singing voice of James Allan with backing voice provided by Rab Allan.

Previously released as a sparse demo on the band's If EP earlier this year, the song appears here with more fireworks. I like the change. It takes the song from being primarily a piano ballad to a song drenched in guitar sounds and a number of musical and vocal crescendos that punctuate the theme of the song and keeps it moving along nicely.

  • Download now - If, Magazine, Later...When the TV Turns to Static, Youngblood, Finished Sypathy
  • Want more? Try these - All I Want is My Baby, Neon Bedroom

Glasvegas has three albums out now, along with a Christmas EP. Below is a 15 song set of what I would consider the best songs from those releases. If inclined, you could put these together for a great "album" of music. All are available on iTunes:
  1. Geraldine
  2. Go Square Go
  3. It's My Own Cheating Heart That Makes Me Cry
  4. Daddy's Gone
  5. Flowers and Football Tops
  6. Euphoric Heartbreak
  7. Lots Sometimes
  8. Dream Dream Dreaming
  9. The World Is Yours
  10. Whatever Hurts You Through the Night
  11. Cruel Moon
  12. A Snowflake Fell (And It Felt Like a Kiss)
  13. If
  14. Magazine
  15. Finished Sympathy

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Pac-12 Week 2 Predictions

It was an interesting first week in Pac-12 play. The only real surprise was Oregon State losing at home to second division Eastern Washington. Wow. Oregon State has a habit of starting seasons very poorly and steadily improving over the ensuing weeks. We'll see if they can bounce back from this embarrassing defeat.

Other than that, favorites or home teams performed as expected. Here is what I think will happen in Week 2 of the season...

Oregon (1-0 overall) vs. Virginia at Charlottesville, VA. The Ducks will face a better opponent than last week and this one is on the road. However, I fully expect Oregon to roll big against an overmatched UVA squad. I'll say UO 38-UVA 17.

Oregon State (0-1) vs. Hawaii in Corvallis. Another home game against a supposedly inferior team. We saw what happened to the Beavers last week. I think Eastern Washington is better than Hawaii though. I expect the Beavers to win this one 27-21.

WSU (0-1) vs. USC in L.A. The Cougs have a tough start to their season having to play Auburn on the road in Week 1 and then travel to USC in Week 2. The Trojans will win this one 38-20.

Stanford (0-0) vs. San Jose State at Palo Alto. Stanford sat out last week, but gets things going this week with an easy win over local school SJS - Cardinal win 49-10.

Cal (0-1) vs. Portland State at Berkley. Cal gets better after loosing to a good Northwestern squad by beating up on a lower division opponent. Cal 31-PSU 13.

Arizona (1-0) vs. UNLV in Las Vegas. Arizona keeps it going with another win. UA 36-UNLV 16.

Utah (1-0) vs. Weber State in Utah. Utah is not a good Pac-12 football team. But they're better than Weber State. They win 27-21.

ASU (0-0) vs. Sacramento State in Tempe. ASU gets going on a strong note with a dominating win to start their season. ASU 49-Sac State 23.

Colorado (1-0) vs. Central Arkansas in Boulder. CU looked as good as they have in several years last weekend in beating in-state rival Colorado State. And guess what? Despite whatever troubles they've had, they are better than Central Arkansas. They will win 27-10.

Washington and UCLA sit out the action this week as both teams have a bye week Sept. 7.