Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Washington Democrats getting desperate? But political stock car racing rules

In an already nasty political re-match for the Washington gubernatorial race, things seem to be getting worse. No, I am not talking about the two candidates duking it out on the racetrack with sponsored super stock cars in Monroe; I mean the recent articles about the Washington State Democrats suing Secretary of State Sam Reed over how Dino Rossi chooses to list his partisan preference on the November ballot.

August primary ballots were mailed out and listed Rossi’s party as “prefers GOP’ – Not Republican, as he did in 2004. Washington election law allows candidates to list their party preference however they want, as long as it is not lewd or offensive. If the state's Democrats have their way, Rossi will be listed as a Republican in November.

So extreme is their position on this, the party is seeking a temporary restraining order to keep counties from printing ballots until they get their way. Never mind that scores of ballots have been printing already and even some mailed out to deployed military personnel. If the court rules in favor of the Democrats, those ballots would likely be invalidated and new ones would have to be sent out, potentially stalling a repeat of an election that four years ago lasted months.

Politically this can’t fare well in any way for the Dems. Washingtonians have a severe intolerance now for election malfeasance. When the public understands that this election could be stalled and military members will (again) have trouble voting, the kickback will fall to Chris Gregoire, who has a multi-political liability here. She is the State’s Chief Executive, who vowed after 2004 to reform the election process, she is a candidate in this election, and moreover, she is a Democrat. All of these make political backlash ultimately fall to her. You have to wonder what Democratic strategists were thinking in their war room when they came up with this one.

The Democrats are already lacking. Gregoire has repeatedly, and perhaps too loosely, tried to tie Dino Rossi to the Bush Administration, and subsequently blame him for her budget woes. The strategy there is thin at best. The latest court maneuver reveals that that Dems are nervous. Depending on the poll your read, Rossi is only trailing by an average of 3 points, and in some he is even leading. They have reason to be scared. But trying to involve the courts in removing a simple moniker (however brilliant and politically advantageous) is more a sign of desperation than anything.

Barack Obama’s “Change We Can Believe In” campaign isn’t likely helping Gregoire either. More polls show that McCain is not only seeing significant gains nationally, but it looks like Washington could become a battleground state this year as well. To me, Washington is still overwhelmingly “blue” and I expect Obama to win here handedly, but I don’t think it will be to Gregoire’s benefit. Having a very different campaign, even a career that is exactly the opposite of the “change” Obama is talking about means bad news for her.

For the sake of voter confidence, I am really hoping that the Dems pursuit of a court-ordered election stall won’t last past a news cycle. If it does, Washington has an even bigger concern for how Democracy takes place in a state that seems more in favor of courts to rule elections than the people.

Friday, September 19, 2008

I am a PC...and I use a Mac

I saw this commercial for the first time last night. By far, one of the best advertisements I have seen – especially as a come back to the Mac ads which has cleverly assailed Microsoft for so long (since 2006).

It looks like MS has ditched Jerry Seinfeld in favor of this new strategy. The ad features a variety of people from all walk claiming that they are a "PC". I love Mac, and will likely always be a Mac user, but that doesn't replace a good response for competitive advertising.

My only question is, why did it take Microsoft two years to devise a comeback?

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Must Listen: The Classic Crime

A must listen to band is The Classic Crime. No kidding, these guys could single-handedly rejuvenate the rock scene.

I emceed a concert they headlined on Monday night alongside A Current Affair and Theories of Gabriella. Good bands are always good live. Especially those who bring energy and full sound to the stage. My true test is to see if you can always tolerate listening to a band’s music at say…work. The Classic Crime passes that test.

I’ll spare you the punchy serendipitous review. These guys speak from themselves. Oh, and they hail for Seattle, so I may be biased in my view. Matt McDonald, the band’s front man even grew up in Lynden, so its good to see some homegrown talent.

Check them out from the site of your choice by first digging

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

GM comes around?

I am not a terribly huge fan of domestic cars. The 80’s did everything it could to destroy my generation’s perception of Detroit heritage. Cars made by GM, Ford and Chrysler have a notorious reputation for producing ugly cars, with poor quality and horrible resale value.

In recent years we have seen some of that turn around. Chrysler revamped the Dodge lineup by introducing the Magnum, Charger and now the Challenger, then Ford came out with its own retro styling of the Mustang, ushered in a decent mid-sized sedan with the Fusion and have some other cool projects in the works.

However, the biggest turnaround seems to be for GM. A (finally) stylish Pontiac lineup has arrived. No longer does the brand have th
at ugly, chunky plastic molding. The Solstice and G6 are sleek and stylish, and the all-new G8 is what car enthusiasts have been begging for from Americans for decades. Plus, Pontiac has shifted strategy with their lineup going to all rear-wheel drive – an excellent strategy in the re-birth of horsepower boom.

The brand I am most impressed with is Chevy. It’s the American at heart in me that has always pulled for Chevy to do better. I dry heave at the days of the Lumina, Corsica, Beretta and Cavalier. Eeek. Chevy’s newest offerings include a really cool looking Malibu that will make anyone double take and the SS Cobalt that will give any 350Z, RX8
or S2000 a run for its money, in FWD fashion. The new 2009 Camaro is something I have been lusting after ever since its concept reveal in 2006. If I can get my hands on one of these, you can bet I’ll be trolling the bully frequently.

Today I popped open Google News to see that Chevy has also officially unveiled its newest eco-friendly iteration in the Chevy Volt. It’s an electric car hybrid with an estimated 150hp that will get you 40 miles without hitting it up for gas. Most of all, this car is actually…attractive.

This is a critical move for GM. I truly believe that the future of the company rests in the hands of this single product. If it can’t make a ultra-reduced emissions vehicle, with a little bit more than a little bit of power, and do so with style and charisma, the company (who posted a recent 6% dip in trades and record-setting profit losses) may eventually become pink-slipped – or worse, bear the name of Toyota.

But here’s what’s puzzling to me. In 2003 GM canceled it’s EV1 program which delivered a compact all-electric car that could take you 160 miles on a single charge, that you could plug into your wall outlet at night, and that actually had a little zoom behind it. Those were the days when automakers weren’t particularly concerned with economy or alternative energy. And, if you believe everything that the film "Who Killed the Electric Car" tells you, then you’d see that GM actually worked hard to kill the program in favor of big oil.

Now, 5 years later, and with gas prices more than double what they were at the time of the EV1 program buzzkill, one has the wonder if GM regrets literally pulling the plug on the technology.

The Volt will take me 40 miles before the electric battery runs dry, but the EV1 had 4 times the range and was all-electric. With consumer demand for alternative energy like never before, why hasn’t GM simply resurrected the project instead of offering the medium that the Volt has?

The Volt seems to be one of the best legit hybrid offerings yet. Heck, I am a horsepower nut and swore off the smugness for years, but this is actually a decent option to me, and I can only hope that as GM develops its technology, that we’ll eventually see it improve in both style and economy.

Just don’t nix the gas-guzzling horsepower on the Camaro before I get to it!

Monday, September 15, 2008

Truth and Objectivity in Journalism

Many of you may have watched Charlie Gibson interview Sarah Palin the other night. Many more of you heard about it in the succeeding days. Gibson was praised for being a tough journalist, asking hard pressing questions about Palin's experience and questioning her qualifications to be VP.

Back in June, Gibson also interviewed Barack Obama. Today the American Thinker just released a comparison of questions Gibson asked Obama and Palin in each interview. I highly encourage you to read that article.

This is disturbing to me not because I really like Sarah Palin as a candidate, but because of what Journalism has become. Fair and balanced isn't fair and balanced. "News worthy" is a marketing term and most mainstream journalists seem to have conceded their biases and it's obvious. It's important to add that my political beliefs have nothing to do with this view. I am often just as bothered by Fox News as I am CNN.

Journalists have a duty to report, ask questions and inform the public, but all the more they seem to be more engaged with the politic, which calls into question their integrity. Gibson, who is a noteworthy journalist, really lowered the standard of quality journalism this time.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Best Video Demo

I have been researching a lot of video demos lately in order to develop our own for PIER. In that process you see a lot of good and a lot of bad video demos. I think the tenancy of some companies is to be too self-absorbed in their products, especially in the Software as a Service biz (SaaS). They make the demo that's too lengthy, too full of jargon, too....boring.

Then I found Angelsoft's video demo. It's simple. Fast moving. Interactive. And most of all, captivating. I have watched it several times now. I actually get what they do. For new media, this is a great example.

Angelsoft 3.0 Introduction Video from Angelsoft on Vimeo.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Web Pick: COLOURlovers

This website was on Time's 50 Best Websites 2008 list. For those of you in the design biz, I highly recommend it. COLOURlovers provides oodles of color combos for you and even free swatches and patterns. For design neophytes, this is also a great source if you don't know what looks good together.

Check them out at

Monday, June 30, 2008

Some wildfires begat others

Northern California is seeing largely some of the most complex wildfires to date. As I write, there are 1,420 fires burning across approximately 364,600 total acres of land. Response is substantial with more than 19,000 state and federal personnel responding. And for such a large area of land, surprisingly only 28 residences, 1 commercial building and 19 outbuildings have been destroyed. Devastating to those with interests vested in those structures, we should be fortunate to have such limited structural damage.

One of the key lessons responders learn from these types of crisis events is how quick and effectively you respond will determine how much of your message is truly communicated, or how much the media gets their information elsewhere – eliminating you as a source.

The federal disaster response system, known as the National Information Management System, is the code responders use to organize information gathering and dissemination. When several agencies and organizations combine to collaborate their response efforts, usually a Joint Information Center (JIC) is set up to help coordinate messages and information.

In my experience, JICs have been notoriously slow to approve messages and push it out for public consumption. Early on, this can make or break the JIC's relevancy in the response. If there are too many chefs in the kitchen, per se, too many lawyers codifying each sentence, too many agency managers needing to initial a press release, then the media characteristically gets impatient. Largely, the rise of bloggers as a media source is due to their ability to get information out fast.

The present California wildfires are no exception. So far they have pushed information out, but from now central outlet. As I peruse news coverage of the fires, it's evident that the media is looking elsewhere to make their news "breaking".

And, to nobody's discredit but the media, in today's mass information age, sometimes when news and updates get slow, many media outlets will make hay out of nothing. I recently found this article (from a less that reputable source I am sure) noting that the current wildfires are causing pollution. The first two paragraphs of the article read,

Sacramento, CA (AHN) - Pollution readings in California have jumped from 2 to 10 times above federal benchmarks for clean air, according to Dimitri Stanich, spokesman for the California Air Resources Board.

With a weather forecast of more thunderstorms and dry-lightning strikes, firefighters don't see any relief in sight for Californian's suffering from a rash of wildfires.

Interesting that the two paragraphs seem like they refer to the same subject, but really, the two are separate reports with the media drawing its conclusion. However, if wildfires in California are indeed to blame for such a large jump in pollution, someone needs to point out that the fires are well outside federal regulation...

Friday, June 13, 2008

News legend Tim Russert dies at 58

NBC has just reported that "Meet the Press" producer and anchor Tim Russert died today of a heart attack while prepping for this Sunday's edition of his show. I am speechless. Russert was a great reporter and I will forever remember him for the "whiteboard" role he played covering the 2000 presidential election. Journalism has today lost one of its greats. My condolences to his family and colleagues.

NBC's report follows:
NBC News and MSNBC
updated 12 minutes ago

WASHINGTON - Tim Russert, NBC News’ Washington bureau chief and the moderator of “Meet the Press,” died Friday after a sudden heart attack at the bureau, NBC News said Friday. He was 58.

Russert was recording voiceovers for Sunday’s “Meet the Press” program when he collapsed, the network said. No details were immediately available.

Russert, the recipient of 48 honorary doctorates, took over the helm of “Meet the Press” in December 1991. Now in its 60th year, “Meet the Press” is the longest-running program in the history of television.

In 2008, Time Magazine named him one of the 100 most influential people in the world.

Timothy John Russert Jr. was born in Buffalo, N.Y., on May 7, 1950. He was a graduate of Canisius High School, John Carroll University and the Cleveland-Marshall College of Law. He was a member of the bar in New York and the District of Columbia.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Operation Homecoming: Writing the Wartime Experience

It’s nothing new for warriors to write about their experiences in battle. Soldiers have done this for thousands of years. David wrote poetically about his battles with the Philistines, Homer wrote of Troy and Sparta, Dick Winters wrote of his Band of Brothers in WWII, and on and on. We know about these because the experience has been written, documented and passed on for generations.

In my generation’s war, those in Afghanistan and Iraq, the experience is no different. When those wars began, the National Endowment for the Arts brought to the desert writing workshops, encouraging young servicemen and women to tell their stories. They did. And those experiences were compiled in a book titled, “Operation Homecoming: Writing the Wartime Experience”.

Like many books, it was subsequently made into a film. Last night, I had the chance to view the Oscar nominated documentary and spent an hour and twenty minutes glued to the screen, and on the verge of tears. These guys were not only telling their story, they were telling my story, and the story of so many others, too.

The film is powerful. It features select essays and poems written by the guys who were there. These stories are narrated by notable actors including Aaron Eckhart, Robert Duvall and John Krasinski. In some you will laugh, because laughing at the madness and monotony is what we do in war, others you will cringe, because war is disgusting, and in some you will cry, because if you know anyone who has been there, you will know how much grief comes out of it.

Most importantly, the film does not Hollywood-ize war. It’s not glorified here. Do you want to know what it’s like in the deserts of Iraq or in the mountains of the Hindu Kush? Watch this film. These guys know, and their stories are powerful. The film also features notable authors who are also combat vets including Tobias Wolfe, Anthony Swofford and James Salter. As each describes their wartime experiences, in different wars and in different times, you realize that their experience is not unlike your own.

Operation Homecoming is a must see for those who want to know what it’s like “over there” without the filter of the news. It’s powerful, riveting and most of all genuine. You can get it on Netflix.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Best headline ever: Hillary Dangerfield Gets No Respect

Even better than a crafty headline is Bill Clinton’s increasing insanity. What happened to him? He went from moderately successful POTUS, to a philanthropic change-the-world gospel to angry husband of a presidential candidate.

Type in ‘Angry Bill Clinton’ on You Tube and you’ll see what I mean. That query is loaded with clip after clip wherein The Comeback Kid is talking stern to reporters, shaking his finger, and often going on 10 minute ‘shame on you tirade’.

As a conservative, I’ll be the first to confess that I am often enamored by Bill’s charm and charisma when in the spotlight. But perhaps he’s too close to a high stakes presidential election? Maybe he just longs so badly for the trappings of the White House again, he’s become so much more connected to Hillary’s bid that even she is.

Even more entertaining is his insistence that the MSM is conspiring against his wife. It’s entertaining because this is hardly the behavior Americans expect from an ex-prez. We see them as humanitarians, authors, ad hoc diplomats and even skydivers. To see a former president looking more like a reality show star is...foreign to us.

In any event, I do hope he keeps it up. I love the political game and have always longed for a convention fight just like the old days. However, the length of Hillary and Barack going at it wears on me. Bill’s insanity is the only thing that keeps this race interesting. Someone pass him more crazy pills, please.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

We still remember

“For love of country they accepted death.” President James Garfield

As Memorial Day approaches, I have reason this year to be especially observant. Last year at this time I was in Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. Shortly before my arrival there, a good college friend of mine, First Lieutenant Forrest Ewens, was killed in the Pech River Valley in the northern part of the country.

Forrest arrived with the 10th Mountain Division as a Platoon Leader. While on patrol on the volatile Pech River Road, Forrest’s vehicle struck an IED and he was killed. I worked closely in the first half of my tour with the 10th Mountain guys and asked many of them about their memories of him. Many knew him, and all revered his leadership, camaraderie and dedication to his country.

As we approach the second anniversary of the day Forrest gave the last full measure of devotion, I am grateful to him
and his family in so many ways. Forrest played a big role (though I don’t think he knew it) in my decision to join the Navy. He was the kind of American we should aspire to be like, and we all miss him dearly.

Not too long ago I got a MySpace message from Forrest’s mother. She is another great patriot who has shown great strength and conviction. She has three boys including Forrest. All three are/were in the Army. I often think about her sacrifice ands imagine the burden she must bear knowing the sons she raised are bound in perpetual risk. But though it all she is encouraging. In her message to me she was, thanking me for being a friend and for serving. But secretly I think she must be haunted by the role she played in the rearing of three warrior boys. And as we look to Memorial Day and honor Forrest for his sacrifice, let us also honor his mother.


While Memorial Day is often reserved for American service members who died in combat, I will also be remembering the death of another this year. One of my duties while in Afghanistan was to manage a score of local national interpreters hired by the U.S.

Most of these guys are young, between 18-24 years old. In the wake of the Taliban’s fall in late 2001 many of them saw an opportunity to help their country. They learned English, and were hired to support the mission.

Of all Afghans, these guys are likely some of the most dedicated to their country’s struggle for freedom
and independence. Their job is not simply to interpret conversations between Americans and Afghans. They are cultural advisors, laborers and friends to their American employers.

I remember once, when my team’s convoy was struck by a vehicle-borne suicide bomber and there were a handful of Afghan casualties in the wrong place at the wrong time, our interpreter got out of the armored vehicle, without armor or weapon and little regard for his own safety he began delivering medical aid to the wounded. His family later saw him on the news and asked him about it. Because many “terps” are worried about the security of their identities due to their high-risk professions, he denied the heroism.

When it comes time for American’s to conduct high-risk searches in buildings, these guys are right there in the line-up, usually the second or third to burst into a building, again unarmed. Truly, they are some of the most devoted to the cause to put themselves at this sort of risk, at only $900 and 4 days off a month.

60 minutes just aired a great story last week on local interpreters in Iraq. If any one deserves appreciate for their country, it’s these young men willing to sacrfice so much for love of country and the pursuit of freedom.

Mir Zaman Momin Khan was always one of my favorites. He had been working for US forces since their 2001 arrival and had the battle scars to show. Zaman walked with a limp. The s
tory goes that in early 2006 Zaman was at a district police station with a U.S. Special Forces Commander for a meeting with the local village elders. Zaman immediately noticed something wrong with the chai that is customarily served and insisted that the Commander not drink it. When questioned about the seemingly rude behavior, Zaman stuck up for the Commander arguing that they just weren’t thirsty. Shortly after, a gunman stormed in and shot them both at point blank range. Although the SF Commander sustained 2 gunshot wounds and Zaman was shot 4 times in the legs, Zaman managed to save the day – and the Commander – by advising him to stop screaming lest the gunman come back and finish the job. Fortunately both were MEDEVAC’d to Bagram Air Field for treatment. The Commander eventually returned to the states and Zaman to his home district of Zormat.

He showed up at the gates of our camp not long afterwards, ready to get back to work. The only problem was that he had raging infections in his legs and could barely walk. With the help of the American medics, he was literally put back on his feet. Often writhing in pain from the screws in his leg, he was given a “Gator” vehicle ride around in to ease the amount of walking he had to do.

Last June, as I hopped into a Humvee to ride to Kabul so I could go on leave, I saw him rolling across our camp in his Gator. He waved at me and with his usual big grin yelled, “Goodbye Cole! Have a good time with your family! I’ll miss you!”

That was the last time I would see Zaman. When I returned to my camp following stateside leave a month later I was met with the news that Zaman, on his way home for his two days off to see his family, was kidnapped and beheaded by Taliban militants.

Reading the intelligence report, my eyes welled up with tears and the news of the loss of a good friend. Zaman had two daughters and a wife at home whom he loved to be with. It was suspected that he was long a target of the bad guys for his support of America and the new Afghan government. That was an understatement. He wasn’t just a supporter; he was an Afghan Paul Revere. Maybe that’s what got him killed. But he was enamored with the idea of freedom, a concept that was foreign to him for most of his life. To him, freedom was a cause to which he was willing to give everything for. It wasn’t a business opportunity, it was hope that his daughters would grow up in a better world than he did.

Zaman also knew that real freedom meant courage to face the terrible and hope

His is just one of many similar stories of Afghans and Iraqis dying in service to their country, each day bearing the courage of freedom and hope for future happiness. Afghanistan lost a great patriot that day and a year later, I still find myself mourning the loss of a friend.

This Memorial Day, I remember Forrest Ewens for his sacrifice, for his love of good, and his devotion to his fellow man. I also remember Mir Zaman, who is the finest example of a patriot and believe in the freedom doctrine. Both will especially be in my thoughts along with a handful of others I know who were killed as a result to their dedication to helping build a free and independent Afghanistan and protecting the world from ugly terrorism.

To those who gave all, thank you. We still remember.

Monday, May 05, 2008

Stacy's mom hates provocative lit

This is the greatest story ever: A local mom was outraged when recently visiting an Urban Outfitters store at the Alderwood Mall near Seattle. The mother, Marci Milfs, said the store had on display books that she believes are inappropriate to the tween audience the store caters to. Among the racy books were “Pornogami: A Guide to the Ancient Art of Paper-Folding for Adults” and “Porn for Women”.

All caviler sexual attitudes aside, does anyone else find it outrageously ironic that the woman’s name is Milfs? Marci Milfs may hate porn, but I bet she is H-O-T.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Food Shortage: What would Mormons do?

If you have not read about it in the news you have no doubt felt it at the pump and in grocery store lines. Food and gas prices are soaring.

For me, this sharp increase over the last year seems a bit more shocking. When I left for overseas in early summer 2006 groceries seemed to be somewhat stable. Since returning last November after being gone nearly a year and a half, the difference is more obvious. Food in America basically requires special financing plans, a second mortgage or a third world GDP.

But a larger concern seems to be the shortage of it. A sudden surge of Westerners rushing to make bio-diesel seems to be getting the brunt of the blame. Ironically this hasn’t reduced our fuel efficiency or costs nearly as much as we hoped it would. Further, such an effort seems to have more been like shooting ourselves in the foot, since now in addition to ginormous gas prices we have ginormous food prices. The other day I was surprised to find that lemons on Safeway’s produce aisle were on sale for 89 cents each. Whoa, a lemon? Well, I guess as the old adage says, when life gives you lemons, make…you get it. But actually, life isn’t giving me lemons; it’s selling them to me at way too high a price.

So what to do about it? There is no doubt the alternative energy solutions are needed, but let’s not be too hasty with that idea. It’s now becoming increasingly clear that the bio-fuel solution isn’t a solution at all. In fact, I find it ironic that the many bandwagon environmentalists have done more to harm than good in the name of conservation and being everything green. I blame Al Gore, if for no other reason than he’s an awkward lark with sketchy facts at best. We need to avert bio-fuels and move on to more efficient solutions like hydrogen (which I think is the best solution for transportation fuel, if we can master it).

Americans should also reduce their dependence on foreign crops and begin thinking about the home garden again. Imagine if every American family began to grow their own vegetables. I am no economist, but I think this would aid in the shortage solution.

But the overall point is not just blind conservancy. That doesn’t work. Just because it seems environmentally sound, or is an energy alternative, does not mean it’s a great economic practice. As governments continue to hash out solutions, I think I’ll make like a Mormon and build up my food storage.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Local murder story reminds us to behave ourselves in private, too

Of late, the news here in Bellingham has been consumed with the disappearance of Ferndale High School Assistant Track Coach Jeremy Scully. Last Thursday, Scully was reported missing and on Saturday his car was discovered alongside a road near Lake Samish, just south of Bellingham. The keys were still in ignition and the door was ajar. On Sunday, several hikers stumbled upon a body on Blanchard mountain with a gunshot wound to the head. This morning, the Bellingham Herald reports that the body was Scully.

This is a sad story to me, and one that seems to have caught my attention. I did not know Scully, and know little more about the case than what investigators have told the media. However, it seems random and odd that someone like him would disappear and be found murdered.

The news has also made a big deal out of the fact that Scully had an online membership to an adult swingers site. The connection to that and his murder is still largely speculation. However, it seems to be the most highlighted part of the case, second to the recent identification of his body.

That brings up a more trivial point. We all have our skeletons in the closet, some that we may not be so bashful about, even while we are alive. But I think this is a point that behooves us all to pay attention to (Larry Craig take note): the things that we consume ourselves with, whether they be illicit or not, embarrassing or not, righteous or not, all have larger implication on the mark we leave and our perceptions of others. As humans we are compelled to do good and make right. I always say that we ought to make the world a little better for us having lived in it. Sadly, sometimes our biggest efforts to do that can be thwarted by our smallest secrets.

It’s saddening to me that Jeremy Scully will not be remembered in public view as a great track coach and teacher who likely influenced the lives of many young people, but instead be remembered as that teacher who was involved in some freaky underground swinger site.

Christ compels us to live by a higher standard. He said that no longer is it just a sin to commit adultery, it is even a sin to think about committing adultery. Meaning, do the right things even when nobody else is looking. Be prudent, practice righteous. Because you never know when the things you do will define the memory of your life.

My condolences to Jeremy’s family and his girlfriend.

Monday, April 21, 2008

A big dam project

African policymakers have begun discussions on building what could be the biggest and most powerful hydroelectric dam in the world…

…Actually, I got nothing. I just thought that the pun in the headline was rather awesome. But, coming from the Pacific Northwest where dams are plentiful, this is a remarkable show of progress for the African nations. Dams, remarkable in their ability to deliver efficient power, irrigation, jobs and much, much more could represent a turning point for many Africans hoping to develop a viable industry and strengthen an otherwise impoverished economy.

Also, speaking of dams and puns, I am reminded of a story from way back when I was in college and hosting the “Morning Breath” radio program on Spokane’s KWRS 90.3 FM with Sean Taylor.

We had the opportunity to interview then-Senator Slade Gorton just prior to his 2000 election defeat to Maria Cantwell. That year, dams on the Columbia River were a hot-button issue for Washingtonians. Sitting in a dank cinder-block room that represented the senator’s Spokane campaign headquarters, Sean and I grilled him on the future of dams in Washington State. His wife, a kind and proper woman sat next to him almost monitoring our edgy and irreverent interview style.

When the interview was finished, we asked Slade to provide us with a few station I.D. quotes to re-air for the show. In good humor he agreed to say for one of them, “This is Slade Gorton and I discussed the dam issues on Morning Breath” – hilarious to a couple of college kids; but not to Slade’s wife. If ever I received a cold stare from anyone, it was Mrs. Gorton. I wonder what she would say to the headline of this blog post….? As much as I like to lay claim to it, I am highly doubtful that our prompting of a sitting U.S. senator to curse on air contributed to his electoral demise.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Book Review: Duane Knapp's The BrandPromise

The BrandPromise book is Duane Knapp's continuum of his last work, The BrandMindset. In his most recent brand philosophy, Knapp concentrates on how your brand can deliver a distinctive experience to all stakeholders and customers by making a Brand Promise.

It's not enough to make a promise, Knapp says, you must truly live that promise; and he shows you how in ten easy to read chapters. Knapp asserts that its not just business as usual, full of marketing tricks. Instead he offers a definitive solution of how to make a brand genuine.

Those who have read The BrandMindset will find that The BrandPromise is narrows the scope of what genuine branding is. Knapp delights readers with inspirational prose and concise examples of real companies experiencing real success in each chapter.

Throughout the book there is a reoccurring theme: provide unique experiences that enhance customers’ lives. Knapp believes that in order to do this, an organization must connect with its stakeholders on both a functional and emotional level. Customers must not only discover a practical benefit to a brand that will meet their needs, they must also have an emotional connection with that brand.

Much of the content from chapter to chapter identifies brand strategies for different organizations (corporations, non-profit groups and personal brands) each with the underlying “promise” theme. After several chapters the information seems repetitive. However, I believe this is intentional. Knapp wants his audience to understand the importance of his idea for distinctive branding. By the end of the book, the reader gets it, and the message sticks.

Knapp’s book also provides a blueprint for how an organization makes a promise. The chapter devoted to this process emphasizes that all associates from top to bottom must be involved in developing a brand’s promise. Further, Knapp dictates that once an organization has made its promise, it must stick to it. Any organization seeking to “make a promise” will want to pay special attention to that chapter and take it to heart.

The writing is simple, but clear and Knapp seems to be putting his philosophy to work in his own writing. It’s clear that Knapp himself wants his readers to have a distinctive experience and feel energized to employ their own brand promise. Moreover, many organizations could benefit from applying Knapp’s promise principles.

Every executive, celebrity, bureaucrat and association interested in taking the steps to energize his or her organizational appeal ought to read The BrandPromise. Doing so will not only transform your outlook on your own brand, but on every other brand you come in contact with every day. The BrandPromise is a must read!

Buy the book on
Also, see this review at the book's Amazon page

Saturday, March 22, 2008

7th Generation Nissan Maxima Makes Its Debut

This week Nissan debut the next generation Maxima. For those of you who know me, know also that I am a car guy and love Nissans – the Maxima in particular.

At first glance the new Max is stunning. It seems to fall in line with the European sport saloon styling while staying true to Nissan’s design and heritage.

It’s good to see that Nissan has also reintroduced the “Four Door Sports Car” (4DSC) label as well. The car seems to be following its natural evolution. You can tell it’s a Maxima. Now offered in S and SV trim levels (doing away with the former SL and SE trims), the sportier SV has taken the reigns as the top model.

The car retained a unique grille design that Nissan defines as being in scope with the GTR styling. Maybe. But to some, the front end looks more like a Scion tC than a GTR. I think it looks like neither. The headlights definitely resemble those of the GTR, but that is where the similarities end. The 2009 Maxima is it’s own car. It’s lines and curves are natural. The side has a beautiful flow to it with its “L” shaped ridge. The back end is conservatively styled with minimal badging.
Nissan also seems to be intent on defining auto-design innovation with accents like it’s newest attempt in a dual view sunroof and unconventional wheel and grille design. The interior is well equipped, and heavy in amenities and gadgets, including a 9-gig music storage drive, upgraded navigation and it’s traditional Bose audio system.

Let’s get down to sportiness. The car now offers a 290hp 3.5L V6 power plant with 261 lbs/ft of torque. This is a pleasant surprise since Nissan downgraded Maxima’s horsepower from 265 to 255 in its mid-generation revision in 2007. The car also features a revised Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT) with a “Ds” mode and manual mode. As an added feature, and much to my excitement, the Maxima will now have sport paddles shifter at the wheel.

Maxima will retain its front-wheel drive platform. Looking at the sport sedan market, this may seem like a disappointment to many who had hoped for an AWD or RWD car. My guess is that Nissan will not do this lest in infringe on Infiniti G35 territory and upgrade to a much more competitive market. By keeping the FWD platform Nissan can boast that the 2009 Maxima will be the highest performing front-wheel drive sports sedan in the world – a remark made at its debut at the New York Auto Show this week. This is strategically a good move for Nissan. Further, with its CVT, Nissan seems to have alleviated many complaints that the car’s power produced a lot of torque steer before. I can attest to this. A romp on the gas pedal in my 2006 Maxima will be like trying to hold the reigns of spooked horse and carriage. Fun at first, but not when it inhibits the car’s ability to perform.

My only criticisms of the car are minor. The unique front end is pleasing, but slightly lacking. It seems to me that the bottom of the bumper in unfinished. The car would look way more full with a front splitter or lip spoiler. I will be anxious to see any body kit options for this by Stillen. The car, as with all Nissans it seems, still sits to high. Likely to improve ride quality, it still looks awkward and detracts from a sporty stance that many BMWs and Audis have. I have never loved any gap between wheel and fender and lowering the car slightly would give it a better overall look.

As a primarily performance-minded enthusiast, I do wish Nissan would keep the 6-speed manual tranny option, and even added a big brake kit option to the SV model. But I understand the marketplace and see why these things are not available.

With 19-inch 10 spoke wheels, the car is finished off with a gorgeous look. It hits dealerships this summer and you can bet I will be there to test drive it. With the revival of the 4DSC, I can now only be excited to read it’s hopeful numbers in Motor Trend, Car and Driver and Road & Track in the coming months.

Click here to read the full press release by Nissan about the 2009 Maxima

Click here to see more pics

Monday, March 17, 2008

More on Character

As a follow up to my previous post, Character Really Is King, I just read this news story on Controversial minister off Obama's campaign.

The relationship between Senator Obama and Rev. Jeremiah Wright was referenced by Sowell in his recent column. It appears that now that relationship, at least in the political sense, has dissolved – likely due to political pressure.

It should be noted here that Mr. Obama has been a member of Rev. Wright’s church in Chicago for twenty years. The role of Wright has traditionally been as a spiritual advisor but was parlayed into a political one with the advent of Obama’s bid for the White House.

It’s no secret that Wright has now, and in the past been known for his inflammatory remarks. However, while on the subject of character, Obama said that (in the twenty years he has been attending Wright’s church) he never heard those remarks before.

"Had I heard those statements in the church, I would have told Reverend Wright that I profoundly disagree with them," Obama said, adding, "What I have been hearing and had been hearing in church was talk about Jesus and talk about faith and values and serving the poor."

Yet, it is interesting to me that Obama waited 20 years, until the presidential primary heat is nearing a boil, to denounce Wright’s remarks.

Does that seem transparent to anyone beside myself? Thought so.

Partisan politics aside, that only further draws into question Sen. Obama’s integrity. Let’s hope the American electorate continues to question these small things when deciding whether or not Obama is fit to be in charge of the large things.

Character really is king

There is no doubt that Thomas Sowell is one of my favorite modern political philosophers. He has a way of bringing issues down to the core – explaining in plainsong prose how something really works.

This weekend, my mother of all people sent me his latest commentary. While nothing new in revelation, it was a great refresher on the impact of character and a reminder that in these modern times, the issue of character is at odds with talking heads who say it doesn’t matter.

I found this article much in line with one of my favorite books on character, The American Leadership Tradition by Marvin Olasky (Sean Taylor still holds this book hostage from me). Olasky examines a series of prolific and controversial leaders and analyses how their personal lives and character impacted, if at all, their ability to lead. It’s worth the read for anyone interested in being a person of influence.

Sowell adds his corollary to ALT drawing on Eliot Spitzer’s recent disgrace of public discourse and even pulls punches from the Barak Obama camp. In a time when people say character doesn’t matter, that the personal is absent from the professional or even political, Sowell’s article is a great reminder that is really does.

Read Non-Judgmental Nonsense by Thomas Sowell

Friday, March 14, 2008

Airlines and Broken Promises

It’s 0330 on a Tuesday morning. I need to drive from my home in Anacortes to catch a flight out to Charlotte from Seattle. The airport, an hour and a half away, requires me to be there at least an hour before my departure time if not longer. I am a speed traveler and like to push it. Don’t leave me in a crowded terminal at 0600 with crying babies and crabby travelers waiting for my flight to leave. I like to get to the gate and go. My flight doesn’t leave until 0645, but I know I will likely have to endure horrid lines before I arrive to my tiny seat in coach.

Much of the wait time on a busy early morning at any airport is in the security line. I have conceded that in the post 9/11 world extra precautions are needed. I have also conceded that at little more than minimum wage, TSA personnel are very inefficient; but they try hard despite their incompetence and you win some, you lose some.

Private enterprise is, as a matter of survival, required to be more efficient than government agencies. So I have still not been able to figure out the self-service check in process most airlines have implemented.

Let’s be right honest with ourselves. We common travelers are a bundle of nerve-racked, incompetent cads. Our minds are filled with way too many things between the parking lot and seat 16B. Do I have any contraband that will get me arrested? How am I doing on time? Why doesn’t this fat guy in front of me move? Is the line at Starbucks long? How am I doing on time? All these factors, however unintelligent, contribute to the fact that we cannot check ourselves in and that the area at those kiosks are a nightmare.

I guess I have resented self-serve anything that used to be full service. I hate self-checkout lines at Wal-Mart because if there is a technical issue I have to get help from a blue vest staffer anyway. And those kiosks at Delta or United or American aren’t any different. Moreover, I figure that I have just dropped a grip of cash to take a six hour journey from Seattle to Charlotte, with little more than a bag of pretzels and minus three inches of leg room, so at least the airline could do is empathize with me and check me in. Nope.

An airline’s neglect to serve its passengers is really a broken promise from company to customer. It’s not about what works (in this case, what doesn’t work), it’s about delivering an experience that makes the passenger feel good. Airlines need to acknowledge that the average passenger has a lot on their minds and should do everything possible and economical to reassure them of their experience. Don’t expect much satisfaction from me when I am tired, hungry and have to check myself in.

Enter Alaska Airlines. These guys seem to get it. At Sea-Tac they recently implemented what it has named “The Airport of the Future.” In a streamlined check-in counter, Alaska has sworn off conventional self-service and still managed to help twice as many passengers in an hour than its larger competitors. While the check-in process is still largely self-serve, which I resent, there are more agents standing by to provide more assistance. It’s a fair compromise. On top of it, Alaska will save nearly $8 million with Airport of the Future. Check it out in this month’s issue of Fast Company magazine.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Back to the blogosphere

Nearly 20 months ago (wow, that long?) I called the blog quits for a while. Many know that I was deployed by the US Navy to serve a 12 month combat tour in Afghanistan. That tour was extended to 15 months and only five months ago I returned. I have used the latter time to catch my breath, reflect on the experience and decide what's next for me in the blogosphere. The options are limitless. I am currently exploring the idea of retiring the Underdog Blog and starting anew. I still may do just that. The primary reason being that this blog has, in so many ways been a political blog. It is where I have digested my thoughts on public policy. In my career, I have since moved beyond professional politics. A short lived career, but one that I do not deem to be over.

Since returning from overseas, I have merged into the private sector and found a niche doing marketing and communications for a small company doing big things. I have returned to Bellingham, and I am exploring the many topics to write about in a blog beyond just the political.

So stay tuned here, lots of things will be happening at this site in the near future; and I look forward to once again bloviating for the masses.