Monday, June 30, 2008

Obama's Staff Pay

Reports that Obama's female staffers earn, on average, less than his male staffers is complete RUBBISH and should be viewed as nothing more than conservative rabble rousing, and that is hard for me to say as a conservative.

Essentially, what these reporters are doing is comparing female salaries to male salaries, without taking into account the job that is being done. Is Obama's senior staffers, i.e. his Chief of Staff, his Legislative Director, his Press Secretary, men or women? How many of his district staff are woment (district staff tend to be paid less than DC staff for a variety of factors).

You cannot simply add up the salaries earned by female staffers and divide by the number of female staffers and expect to come up with a comparable number. This is the same tactic that other "equal pay" proponents argue about. You have to compare positions, job duties, years of experience etc. If a woman is doing the same job as a man, say Legislative Assistant, and has the same general level of expereince, they should be paid the same. Wihtout knowing anything else, my guess is that they are. Keep in mind that these salaries are a matter of public record. Good luck on proving experience levels.

Bobby Jindal Passes Political Gut Check

Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal(R) vetoed a pay raise passed by the Legislature:
“I have opposed this pay raise at every turn and from the very beginning. A doubling of legislative pay is clearly excessive and it takes effect prior to the next election, which I believe is bad policy,” Governor Jindal said. “This bill would also have set up a system to give legislators automatic pay raises in the future without additional legislative votes - which is a lack of accountability that we cannot accept.”

The Governor had previously said he would not veto the pay raise to allow the legislature to conduct its own internal affairs. “I clearly made a mistake by telling the legislature that I would allow them to handle their own affairs,” Jindal said. “As with all mistakes, you can either correct them or compound them - I am choosing to correct my mistake now.

“I have said that I was not going to stop legislators from more than doubling their own pay by vetoing this because I did not want to give them any excuse to slow down the momentum of our reform movement here in Louisiana. It turns out this is an unsustainable position. I have come to realize that the reforms I have been fighting for are simply incompatible with this legislative pay raise.

“I was trying to preserve our reform agenda and our momentum by tolerating this legislative pay raise that I knew was completely excessive. But the two cannot coexist.

“The bottom line is that allowing this excessive legislative pay raise to become law would so significantly undercut our reform agenda, and so significantly diminish the people’s confidence in their own government, that I cannot let it become law. So, I have vetoed the bill.”
I suspect an override is in the works.

However, this episode does highlight a particular danger. Jindal campaigned on a promise to clean up the corruption--which is good. One way to clean up that corruption is to permit legislators to earn a reasonable salary for their work, which for the Louisiana legislature over the past year has meant almost a full-time job. The pay raise helps that effort. But pay raises for legislators are politically bad mojo. So Jindal was between a rock and a hard place on this one.

I think he navigated the right course. Objecting to the pay raise taking effect before the next election is politically safe. It says to the legislature, pass this thing to take effect after the next election and you might get my signature, but all the general public sees is "Vetoed pay raise."

Davis Ruling Reaction.

From Tony Mauro:
The Court now has a solid majority of five justices — Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas, Anthony Kennedy, Samuel Alito Jr. and Chief Justice John Roberts Jr. — who are hostile to campaign-finance reform on First Amendment grounds, says University of Chicago law professor Geoffrey Stone. The shift is attributable to the arrival in 2006 of Alito — who authored the Davis ruling — as the successor to Sandra Day O’Connor, who generally supported campaign-finance laws.

Rick Hasen, election-law expert Loyola Law School in Los Angeles, says the rationale of the Davis opinion puts in jeopardy spending limits on corporations and unions and may even threaten public financing of campaigns.
I am not sure that Hasen's concerns are founded.

The law's prohibition against the use of corporate funds to support candidates is pretty solid and long standing. I don't think the prohibitions against corporate/union money are going anywhere, Davis notwithstanding.

Fulham McBride Tributes Continue

Fulham salute McBride's Magic Moments and it includes time with the U.S. National Team as well as Fulham matches:
USA v Italy, 17.06.06

World Cup 2006 and in a close-fought group match against Italy, Brian was the victim of a vicious elbow from Daniele de Rossi. Rather than theatrically writhing on the floor like many players would, he picked himself up, jogged to the sidelines for stitches and returned to lead the line for the remaining 60-plus minutes of the match.
I remember this match and the blood streaming from McBride's face.

Classic toughness.

Fulham Convenes Training Camp Tomorrow

The player list is missing some names from last season and has some new ones.

Players who had international call-ups, including Americans Clint Dempsey and Eddie Johnson get a couple more weeks off and will return on July 12.

The Whites first exhibition match is July 15 away to Southend United.

Not much else on the transfer window activity, but I expect a bit more. Fulham still need a big target man up top and could use some more help at right back.

Ben Olsen Returns

OK, he only played 15 minutes at the end of a drubbing of the L.A. Galaxy, but it was great to see him on the field again.

The roar of the crowd when he stepped on to the field in place of Jaime Moreno was loud, louder I think that the roar after DC's goals. Olsen didn't play great, but he didn't play poorly either. Given that speculation all season has been on whether he will return or retire, it is good to see him return.

In reality, though, Olsen's career is coming to a close. His ankle injuries have just compounded to the point that he is clearly in the twilight of his career. Which is a shame since he is a beautiful (if scruffy looking) footballer and were it not for his ankles I could see five or six more years with United.

Plan B for World Cup 2010

The Sun is reporting that FIFA President Sepp Blatter has hinted that if South Africa don't get their construction and security issues resolved in preparartion for the 2010 World Cup, FIFA might move the tournament to England.

Reports indicate that South Africa is very far behind in their stadium and infrastructure construction plan. Couple that issue with security concerns related to foriegners, you have a perfect brew for taking the World Cup from South Africa (the first time the world's biggest tournament has been held in South Africa) and giving it to England, whose stadium situation is outstanding, with several stadia being perfect for hosting the World Cup matches and the Final at legendary Wembley.

Of course, the interesting side benefit would be that it is highly likely that if the 2010 World Cup is in England, the 2018 World Cup would be in the United States.

Update: Turns out that Blatter never actually said England or anywhere else for that matter. He does have a plan B, but still displays confidence in South Africa's ability to host the biggest tournament in the World. Right now, I don't share his confidence.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Obama and The Supreme Court

Henry Mark Holzer wonders, what kind of justices would Obama appoint, probably those like liberal icon William Brennan:
Those who subscribe to Living Constitution ideology believe that the founding principles of this Nation are passé, that the Declaration of Independence’s ringing endorsement of limited government and individual rights is outdated, that the Constitution’s creation of a representative republic is from a long past moment in history, and that the Bill of Rights is not a restraint on government but rather a source of newly invented “rights.”

The Living Constitution’s partisans’ high priest was the late Warren Court era Supreme Court Justice William J. Brennan, Jr. According to him, in a 1985 speech, the Constitution “embodies the aspiration to social justice, brotherhood, and human dignity that brought this nation into being. * * * Our amended Constitution is the lodestar for our aspirations. Like every text worth reading, it is not crystalline. The phrasing is broad and the limitations of its provisions are not clearly marked. Its majestic generalities and ennobling pronouncements are both luminous and obscure.” (My emphasis.)

Brennan was saying that: the Constitution, rather than delegating specific powers to the federal government (Articles I, II and III), respecting state sovereignty (Tenth Amendment), and recognizing the existence of enumerated (Amendments I-VIII) and unenumerated (Amendment IX) rights, instead embodies amorphous “aspirations.” Whose aspirations, Brennan did not inform us.

But Brennan did tell us what those aspirations are: “social justice, brotherhood, and human dignity.”
We can aspire to those things, but when it comes to the law, what are the legal definitions of those ideals?

Therein lies the problem. The law, which admittedly, has its gray areas, must depend upon the definitions of words and Justices must struggle mightily with the definitions. To this day, I don't think anyone can give me a clear, commonly understood, objectively sound definition of any of Brennan's aspirations.

That is the danger of Obama admiring a man like Brennan. While Brennan may have provided a conscience for the Court, we need judges to make tough decsions and those decisions need to be based on law as it is written, not as we aspire the law and society to be.

The Criminal Justice System and Racism

Heather MacDonald asks: Is the Criminal-Justice System Racist? It is a fair question, and MacDonald answers no, stating that the high percentage of blacks behind bars reflects crime rates, not racism.
If a listener didn’t know anything about crime, such charges of disparate treatment might seem plausible. After all, in 2006, blacks were 37.5 percent of all state and federal prisoners, though they’re under 13 percent of the national population. About one in 33 black men was in prison in 2006, compared with one in 205 white men and one in 79 Hispanic men. Eleven percent of all black males between the ages of 20 and 34 are in prison or jail. The dramatic rise in the prison and jail population over the last three decades—to 2.3 million people at the end of 2007 (see box)—has only amplified the racial accusations against the criminal-justice system.

The favorite culprits for high black prison rates include a biased legal system, draconian drug enforcement, and even prison itself. None of these explanations stands up to scrutiny. The black incarceration rate is overwhelmingly a function of black crime. Insisting otherwise only worsens black alienation and further defers a real solution to the black crime problem.
After examining, at length many of hte common charges, that police over-arrest blacks (they don't), that prosecutors and judges over-prosecute and over-sentence black offenders (in fact the opposite is true, in that blacks tend to get more lenient sentences in most crimes including murder), and that the drug wars make more blacks criminals (wrong again), MacDonald concludes:
The evidence is clear: black prison rates result from crime, not racism. America’s comparatively high rates of incarceration are nothing to celebrate, of course, but the alternative is far worse. The dramatic drop in crime in the 1990s, to which stricter sentencing policies unquestionably contributed, has freed thousands of law-abiding inner-city residents from the bondage of fear. Commerce and street life have revived in those urban neighborhoods where crime has fallen most.

The pressure to divert even more offenders from prison, however, will undoubtedly grow. If a probation system can finally be crafted that provides as much public safety as prison, we should welcome it. But the continuing search for the chimera of criminal-justice bigotry is a useless distraction that diverts energy and attention from the crucial imperative of helping more inner-city boys stay in school—and out of trouble.
Often critics of the American criminal justice system will point out that other Western nations have far lower incarceration rates that America. That may be true, but what is their crime rates as well?

How about this question, which MacDonald did not explore, what is the percentage of the black prison population that a). come from single parent households and b). are unwed fathers (or mothers) themselves? Could cultural and socio-economic factors play a greater role than police or prosecutorial conspriacies? Perhaps if those social conditions were addressed then maybe, just maybe, the story would be different?

The Unintended Consequences of Focusing on Proficiency

Summarizing neatly my concerns about the short shrift given to high achieving kids, Eduwonkette quotes one of her commenters:
One of my worries about the emphasis on "proficiency" -- and the lack on emphasis on anything above proficiency -- is the unintended consequence of creating a two-tier, mostly segregated, educational system. Public school teach poor kids basic skills, and parents who want more than basic skills try to figure out how to get their kids into private schools -- or, if they can, move to affluent suburbs.

Now, public schools that teach poor kids basic skills are better than public schools that don't teach poor kids basic skills. But in my district -- which has an interesting demographic mix -- there's a clear tension between the "let's make sure everyone's proficient before we think about anything else" point of view, and the "we need to make sure each kid makes a year's progress every year" point of view.
To be sure, I worred about the two tier aspect, but from a different perspective.

Henry Cate, commented on my post on a similar subject. My post had to do with resource allocation, sort of, but the resource allocation is a real problem.
"I don't think the schools necessarily need to spend more time or money on gifted students ..."

I do.

It should be at least somewhat roughly at the same level. Cheri Yecke reported in The War on Excellence that the bottom 5% or so got something like ten times as much as the top 5%.
Henry quoted me in the first sentence there. Looking back, I created a bit of confusion. I don't want more money spent on educating high acheiving kids than is spent on other students of any ability level. I am not advocating a higher per pupil expenditure just becuase they happen to be successful in school.

But I can imagine a trend where parents with high achieving kids are looking for other resources.

As a kid, my friends and I, who spent parts of our summer at soccer or other sports camps, would tease the kids who spent parts of their summer at academic camps. Geeks, Nerds and other less polite terms were used. But I can easily imagine more parents doing so in order to keep their kids moving in a positive direction educationally.

I know that schools, like any other operation, have to allocate resources that are not only scarce but finite. However, it is impossible to not worry about whether the resource allocation is doing the most good for the most students.

High School Says No to Hats, and I Say Good

Prior Lake High Schools in the Minneapolis area will no longer permit hats or hoods to be worn in school.
Students at Prior Lake High School sometimes hide iPods under hooded sweat shirts to listen to music during class.
They’ll bicker and throw each other’s hats off the school’s interior balconies, or they’ll pull hats low over their eyes to prevent security cameras from identifying them, according to Principal Dave Lund.

That’s why, he said, students will find a new “no head-wear” policy in place when they return to school in September. The Prior Lake-Savage school board approved the policy on Monday as part of the 2008-09 school year’s student handbook.

High schools all over the state, including in St. Paul, Minneapolis, Eden Prairie, Lakeville and Apple Valley already ban hats during the school day. Schools say they want to be sure students can be identified on security cameras and want teachers to be able to watch their eyes during tests.

I guess it dates back to my youth, but I find the wearing of a hat indoors a little offensive. There are times when it is acceptable (like a country bar), but most of the time it is impolite. Here is the summary of the policy:
The policy The student handbook for 2008-09 describes the "no headgear" policy during school hours as: " 'Headwear' includes but is not limited to; scarves, baseball caps, headbands, hats, stocking caps, winter headwear, hoods and bandanas. This policy is usually relaxed during Homecoming and Spirit Weeks. Headwear may not be worn or visible unless they are related to religious practice or function, and/or are needed as a matter of health."
It is good that the inmates are no longer running the asylum.

Replacing Bob Bradley--The Three Who Can Do the Job

In my last post, I talked about Bob Bradley's shortcomings as the manager of the U.S. National Team. I would like to reiterate, there is much that Bradley has done well, namely getting U.S. Soccer to really go after tough friendlies, like England, Spain and Argentina. I think as a policy, the U.S. Soccer honcos need to be scheduling on top 30 teams for friendlies, with a few exceptions like Canada and Mexico. Bradley has taken the necessary steps to develop the U.S. Program, but he has reached the limit of what he can provide and it is time for the U.S. to ask Bradley to step aside and find a top choice manager.

This post is going to talk about three possible managers, one is clearly a number one choice, but the other two should not be viewed as second choices, call them 1a and 1b, instead.

First, lilke Brian Lomax over at, I think U.S. Soccer should be making the retention of Guus Hiddink, the current manager of the Russian National Team whose contract is ending after the Euros, as the number one priority. Hiddik guided the South Koreans in the 2002 world Cup. Granted, South Korea was a host nation but Hiddick guided the South Koreans to group wins over Poland and Portugal (and a draw with the U.S.), a round of 16 win over Italy in extra time and a quarterfinal win over Spain on penalties before losing to Germany in the semis and a 3-2 loss to Turkey in the consolation game. In 2006, Hiddick led the Socceroos of Australia out of the Group stage with a win over Japan, a loss to Brazil and a draw against Croatia, before losing to eventual World Cup winners Italy. Now he is leading Russia in the Euros and doing very well.

Hiddick prefers an open style of play, with lots of attack. But he is also adept at tournament football, which means having team that is not necessarily the best 18 players in teh country, but the 18 players who can play best together regardless of the combination on the field. Hiddick has proven that he can identify players who work well together. Furthermore, Hiddick has built teams with amazing fitness, essentially, he puts together teams that essentially outrun and outlast opponents. This factor is of vital importance in tournament play, where teams play a game every 3-4 days.

Hiddick is by far the best manager that will be shortly available and a top class choice. Hiddick made contenders of the South Koreans with less talent that is available in the U.S. (that is not a knock on South Korea but a factor of population size).

But let's assume that U.S. soccer doesn't get or won't go after Hiddick. The next two choices are also foreign managers with outstanding technical skill and knowledge, and both coach in teh MLS right now--Stevie Nichol and Ruud Gullit.

Stevie Nichol, currently the coach of the New England Revolution brings a brilliant tactical skill to his team in addition to being able to identify and use talent. Nichol has brought in young African players to the Revs, and has helped them develop. This season, because of injuries, suspensions, international call-ups and the like, Nichol has had about a dozen different starting line-ups in 15 games for the Revs and they still sit atop the league in points. Combine that flexibility and ability to have young talent that can contribute regularly, Nichol has built a team that has made the eastern conference finals six years running and the MLS Cup Final three years running and looks like a dead lock for the playoffs this year, even without Taylor Twellman scoring up top. Granted, it would be nice for Nichol to win the MLS Cup as manager, but the consistency is stunning.

Nichol is not wedded to any player or any formation if it will serve the tactical needs of the situation. He has developed players consistenly, and those players have proven to be exciting. What Nichol will bring to the U.S. Men's Team is the ability to evaluate and develop young talent, something I think Bob Bradley lacks to a significant extent and the ability to coax the best out of young players, by providing both technical training and the confidence in those players to allow them to play. Nichol favors a more balanced approach to soccer, which means attack is permitted, even encouraged when appropriate.

On the other side of America is Ruud Gullit, the current coach of the L.A. Galaxy and I guess coiner of the term "sexy football." What Gullit has done with the Galaxy in one season is tremendous. He has taken a squad built, for better or worse by Alexi Lalas (who is a far better footballer than general manager), consisting of a three real stars (Ruiz, Donovan and Beckham) and a squad of underpaid rookies, and built a goal scoring machine. The two current leading contenders for the MLS Golden Boot are Landon Donovan, (11 goals in 10 games) and Edson Buddle (9 goals in 10 games). Gullit's worst nightmare would be having both Buddle and Donovan called up to the National Team, since the two of them have scored 20 of the teams 31 goals.

But what is even more impressive is the squad of rookies that Gullit has developed. Players like Sean Franklin, Brandon McDonald, and Ely Allen have developed well under Gullit's tutelage. There is not one player in the regular starting rotation that does not look comfortable on the ball, Abel Xavier the lone possible exception. While the Galaxy give up a lot of goals (and too many cheap goals), that they are outscoring opponents is what is making LA's football quite sexy.

My first choice would be Guus Hiddick, by a country mile. But I can't say in the least that I would be disappointed to see Nichol or Gullit in Bradley's position.

I know that many think Bradley will likely stay in place through the 2010 World Cup, but he shouldn't if the U.S. want to be contenders.

David Healy's Expectations for Coming Season

Fulham striker David Healy believes the Club will not be involved in the relegation battle next season.

Here's hoping. I can't take another season like that, it is not good for the heart or the blood pressure.

Fulham's Last Interview with Brian McBride

Great Interview and over view of McBride's last season in the EPL.

A class act, no doubt about it and the MLS is rightfully proud of his return.

This Would Have Been Entertaining

Dana Milbank describes the Congressional testimony of David Addington, Vice President Cheney's former chief of staff.

I am not sure that Addington didn't make things worse for himself, but I do appreciate the fact that he was being adversarial. Too often Congressional witnesses are a little to obsequious for my tates.

Davis v. FEC: What’s Next?

Eric Brown asks a very good question:
Where do candidates stand who have accepted contributions under the Millionaire’s Amendment due to their opponent’s personal spending and the election has not yet taken place?
Although there are not many of there, there are some candidates operating under the old rules.

The really big question, though, is not what candidates have to do that have accepted funds under heightened limits, but what about those candidates that have spent that money raised under heightened limits?

Now that the FEC is fully reconstituted, perhaps an answwer will be forthcoming soon. I suspect some sort of temporary safe harbor for funds already spent, but there may be some rules for refudning contributions coming.

Obama: Not As Different As We Thought?

Or were led to believe. Generally, after securing the nomination, most political candidates of either party begin a tack toward the center on policies, this is normal since it is the middle voters that give a candidate a victory.

But I suppose what bothers me most about Obama's politics (and I have never liked them at all) is that he stands there and says he has a different way to do things, but doesn't really follow through.

Where are teh creative solutions and policy proposals? Where are the rejection of traditional politics that sold so many people on Obama? For that matter, where are they from John McCain? Or anyone?

Thursday, June 26, 2008

The Second Amendment and Guns Near Schools

Mark Walsh makes an important point from the decision in District of Columbia v. Heller decision handed down by the Supreme Court:
In his opinion for the 5-4 majority in District of Columbia v. Heller, Justice Antonin Scalia has a passage stressing that the ruling "should not be taken to cast doubt on longstanding prohibitions on the possession of firearms by felons and the mentally ill, or laws forbidding the carrying of firearms in sensitive places such as schools and government buildings, or laws imposing conditions and qualifications on the commercial sale of arms."

In his dissent, Justice Stephen G. Breyer questioned why Scalia believed those exceptions were consistent with the Second Amendment.

"Given the purposes for which the Framers enacted the Second Amendment, how should it be applied to modern-day circumstances that they could not have anticipated?" Justice Breyer asked. "Assume, for argument’s sake, that the Framers did intend the Amendment to offer a degree of self-defense protection. Does that mean that the Framers also intended to guarantee a right to possess a loaded gun near swimming pools, parks, and playgrounds? That they would not have cared about the children who might pick up a loaded gun on their parents’ bedside table?"
Breyer makes a fair point.

But here is the problem and why cases that may come in teh future may end up with markedly different results. The District of Columbia, despite home rule, is still subject to Congressional oversight. As a result rules for other cities and states result in a different analaysis.

Second, while the Court affirmed the right of individuals to bear arms, it expressly said that some reasonable restrictions are still permissible.

But here is my rebuttal to Breyer. Should parents be concerned about children picking up a loaded gun from their parents' beside? Sure they should and a rational parent will take necessary steps to prevent the problems that may be associated with that danger. What the majority is saying is that the government should not be the ones make the safety determination. A child injured by picking up a loaded weapon in their home is a matter for the family to deal with and I am sure than any parent will bear the stain of guilt for that injury forever. But because it may happen does not lead to the necessity of the state barring possession of weapons. Therein lies the heart of the Second Amendment.

Technology and the Classroom

Two of my favorite teacher bloggers, Bill Ferriter and Nancy Flanagan are working on a structured debate about technology and learning.

Bill describes a split in the educational community that I think applies to a number of professions. There are those traditionalists who think that today's novices and neophytes should operate as they once did. In the law field, there is a certain relucatance on the part of older lawyers to embrace the modern technology and tools. Bill and Nancy appear to be on opposite sides of the teaching debate as far as technology in the classroom goes.

Bill has been a great advocate of incorporating technology and tools into his classroom, while Nancy appears to be more of a traditionalist, but doesn't forsake the importance of technology.

So the question remains, is one of them right or are the both right. Just because I like the fence post under my posterior, I think they both are.

Nancy makes a good point:
Successful individuals are not creative and collaborative due to fluent use of digital tools. Their success comes from a solid grounding in applied knowledge and skills, integrated into a moral framework that nurtures socially positive innovation. It's worth remembering that technology can also be used very effectively for exploitative and harmful purposes.

We have also not come close to providing equitable access to knowledge and skills, let alone digital tools, for a significant proportion of our public school students.
Incorporating technology in the education of our children is great, if all the students have the same access to technology, but we all know that not to be the case. On the other hand, should we do a disservice to some or all of the students when it comes to technology? Because some percentage of students don't have access to the internet or technology, should we deny all students such exposure? Or should we try to address teh shortfall? Therein lies a significant societal problem.

But Bill worries that Luddites will continue to dominate education:
Think about it: Commitment to toil seems to define nearly every aspect of our professional lives.

We punish kids mightily for turning in late assignments while awarding gold stars for neatness; we celebrate quiet students while constantly scolding the rambunctious; we give 83-question multiple choice tests to 12-year olds to "assess learning," and allow lines and bells to dominate our day.

Most of us take a yeoman's pride in doing things the hard way! We celebrate fingers stained with overhead pens as the marks of good math teachers or brag about the size of our VHS collections. We continue to be confused by websites and generally frown on electronic media of all kinds.

Only in a school will you find dozens of people insisting that Wikipedia is the seed of the devil, that all good research reports need a bibliography, and that a hefty file cabinet is the sign of accomplishment.

No wonder kids hate school.
From his own writing and from no other source, I think Bill may have successfully integrated technological tools into his lessons, which is great and I hope more will follow his lead.

However, my greatest fear is that some teacher will think that technology can solve more problems than it really can. Just like any other field, technology is no substitute for the fundamentals. A lesson plan that is not sound independently of the technology will teach kids nothing just because you add a blog or a wiki. Technology is no substitute for substance.

There is where I think Nancy and Bill converge. Until and when teachers can provide solid lesson plans purely on substance of teh lesson, then the addition of technology will not provide that substance.

DC United's Franco Niell On the Way Out

According to Goff, the ARgentine forward has just not been of help to the United this season and has never meshed with the club.

How Is This Not More of an International Story

Apparently, some suspects arrested in a home invasion in Phoenix are members of the Mexican Army.

If an American military man had done a similar thing in Mexico, even if off duty, the whole world would be up in arms about the "invasion of Mexico," but with shoe on the other foot, Drudge is the only I can see reporting the news.

Metro Workers Snagged in Sex Sting

I used to ride DC's Metro to and from work and school everyday. I knew and had semi-witnessed some overly sexual acts, largely at night when coming home from school, usually just a little overly aggressive petting. I have heard stories, but never actually witnessed, actual sex acts performed on the Metro, a la Risky Business. But, that was riders. Employees on the other hand, I don't think was what Metro had in mind for its system.
A Metro station manager and a Metro custodian were arrested on prostitution charges after an undercover transit police investigation found they arranged sexual trysts for money from inside the Dupont Circle Metro station.

At one point the employees used the Metro loudspeaker system to facilitate an illicit sexual arrangement, according to police who arrested the pair last week.
The story goes on from there.

But here is my question, how were the police tipped off that something like this was going on. Metro workers at the stations spend a fair amount of time working alone, so it seems odd that this would be occurring and that the police would get wind of it.

Stupid Reaction to Heller Decision

Normally, I won't call another writer stupid, but I can't help it in this case. Colbert King says today's Heller decision is a victory for the killers and thugs who have ruled DC streets for decades.
And to make sure that D.C. gun owners are free to fire their loaded handguns at will, the Supreme Court went one step further and killed the city's sensible requirement that weapons be equipped with trigger locks.

So now it has come to pass that D.C. residents can keep handguns, as well as rifles and shotguns, in their homes. A well armed, informal militia we shall be -- ready to fire back in self-defense at the shooters who believed they had the right to their guns all along.

Flush with victory, a giddy National Rifle Association has announced its intention to file lawsuits in other jurisdictions with tough handgun laws. For starters, the NRA has taken aim at San Francisco and Chicago. See what we have unleashed, D.C.?

America, more body bags, please.
Look, criminals in Washington DC have had nothing to fear when weilding their guns than other criminal. Law-abiding citizens did not keep weapons, other than on pain of criminal sanctions and confiscation, and the criminals knew. They acted with impunity against non-criminals, knowing that they had nothing to fear from someone who they knew wouldn't have a gun to defend themselves.

Now, maybe a criminal will think twice about weilding a gun, after all, your victim might be carrying as well. Maybe the city will be better off if more people had weapons.

Here is the other thing that King got wrong, very wrong, about the decision. Justice Scalia said trigger locks were no permitted, but gun licensing is, background checks are, concealed carry limitations are permissible. So the fact that the Second Amendment still means something in this country is important, but the right to keep and bear arms is not without limiations.

Jonah Goldberg on Mac v. PC

MacTopia or an Apple Government:
I think this isn't quite right. Liberalism promises an Apple government. One that is seamless, smooth-running, sleek, chic and aesthetically uplifting. It is a world of Deweyan positive liberty, where the government takes so many of the hassles out of life that it liberates you to be all you can be. That's why liberals think the extra money is worth it. And frankly, if government could be an Apple government, I think the money would be worth it.

But Apple government, call it MacTopia, is fool's gold. It will always be a PC government, because that's what government is: a bunch of perpetually outmoded parts that have trouble talking to each other. It sells itself as the cheap fix but ultimately costs you more because of its constant system errors, freeze-ups, and faulty patches that only kick problems down the road. It is a system of impenetrable jargon designed not to improve efficiencies but to empower the bureaucrat-technicians who wield a gnostic-like power over the rest of us simply because they know what gets plugged in where and what an alt-dot-sys-bat file is. Citizens must take their word for what we need because the PC government system is rigged to keep us in perpetual stupefaction about how the system works.
Yeah, that is government operations in a nutshell.

Court Upholds Heller

The Supreme Court has ruled in Heller, from the Syllabus:
The Second Amendment protects an individual right to possess a firearm unconnected with service in a militia, and to use that arm for traditional lawful purposes, such as self-defense within the home.

Today is a good day for the Bill of Rights.

The Heller opinion is a beefy 157 pages (compared to the 37 page Davis decision).

Lots of analysis will be present all day.

Supreme Court Invalidates Millionaire's Amendment

In an 5-4 opinion written by Justice Alito, the Supreme Court has invalidated the Millionaire's amendment to the McCain-Feingold law, also known as BCRA.

First, the Justices had to determine if the Court had juristiction to hear the case, which it determined it did, largely on the grounds that the issue was one capable of repitition but evading review. Davis had suffered a concrete enough injury to have standing, the arguments of the FEC notwithstanding.

Second, the Court ruled that the Millionaire's Amendment violated the First Amendment. Justice Alito notes that because the increased limits for candidates facing self-financed opponents were the only one permitted increase limits, there is a rather clear equal protection argument and that it impermissibly burdens Davis' right to spend his own money on his campaign. The Millionaires Amendment "requires a candidate to choose between the First Amendment right to engage in unfettered political speech and sujection to discriminatory fundraising limitations." Slip Op. at 12. Justice Alito notes that this is very different from the public funds limitations imposed by the FECA and discussed in Buckley v. Valeo. In Buckley, a candidate who decided to forgo the public funding retained the complete right to spend of his own pocket freely. Under teh Millionaire's amendment, the right to spend freely is abridged by the discriminatory contribution limits imposed on the different candidates. Slip. Op. at 13.

Justice Alito notes that there is not compelling reason for limiting the self-funding of candidate personal funds. There is no corruptive influence. Furthermore, the asserted grounds, that the asymmetrical contribution limits serve to level the playing field is not a legitimate governmental interest.

The Court also rejected the disclosure requirements of the Millionaire's Amendment, which basically stated that because the asymmetrial contribution limits are unconstitutional because there is not legitimate govenrmental interest to support them, it follows that since the dislcosure requirements were imposed only to support the imposition of the asymmetrical limits, the disclosure requirements are also unconstitutional.

The full opinion can be found here.

All in all, I think this is the right opinion. There are a couple of points where I think the Court is a shakier ground. I think that the equal protection arguement is sound reasoning, but the comparison to limits on spending by taking public funding is a little suspect. Clearly, candidates operating under different limits focuses a spotlight on different rules for similarly situated persons--that is equal protection. The different contribution limits is a distincition in kind that simply cannot stand. However, if the law treated all wealth, personal and political wealth (that is treating massive campaign warchests like someone's personal bank account) then you might be on better grounds, although based on the reasoning presented here, I am not sure of that any more.

A number of commentators wondered if the Court would simply reject the case for lack of standing, i.e. that Davis had lost both elections and therefore the issue was moot. I had always thought that the Court was going to have to use the "capable of repetition but evading review" standard to even take a look at this case. I am glad they did.

I have long oppose the Millionaire's Amendment, believing its effect to be nothing more than blatant incumbent protection. To say that I am glad to see it go is a solid victory for the First Amendment.

Reading's Dave Kitson to Fulham?

Fulham Transfer Rumors include this one:
The Reading exodus (expected, in any case) continues, with striker Dave Kitson a target for Fulham and full-back Nickey Shorey a target for Portsmouth.

Rumor Rating: 4 - It’s a matter of time before the big stars leave - Shorey has never hid his ambitions of playing for a bigger club and Kitson is at least somewhat proven at the top level.
With the departure of Brian McBride and the rest of the Fulham striker corps resting on teh shoulders of Americans Clint Dempsey (proven but out of position up front) and Eddie Johnson (unproven still) at least Kitson has proven that he can put the ball into the back of the net. I don't know how much Kitson will go for, but with Reading relegated (thanks to Fulham) Kitson leaving is almost a given.

South American Soccer--Copa de Liberatadores

Ecuadorian side LDU stunned Brazilian side Fluminese 4-2 in the opening game of the Copa de Liberatadores in Quito. Four goals in teh first half put the Ecuadore side in a solid lead heading into the final leg on July 2 in Rio.

If LDU wins, they will be the first Ecuadorian team to win the CDL. Good luck fellas!!!

That is what makes soccer great--stories like this.

Charity Soccer Match Hosted by Steve Nash

Yeah, the basketball Steve Nash, who played a soccer growing up in Canada and whose brother plays for the Vancouver Whitecaps in USL-1. Some soccer players you may have heard of were there, including Thierry Henry, Saloman Kalou, Jozy Altidore, Claudio Reyna, former Liverpool players Robbie Fowler and Steve McManaman. In addition to Nash representing the NBA, there was Baron Davis, Brazilian Leandro Barbosa (apparently Brazilian basketball players use both of their names instead of just one), Raja Bell and David Lee.

The "pickup game" was a charity event to raise funds for Nash's charitable foundation. ESPN was there and there will probably be a feature story on it sometime soon.

Great photos at the link including one that gives you an idea of being a goalkeeper on the receiving end of a Thierry Henry penalty kick. Not that I wouldn't have minded.

Chelsea FC Builds Academy Network

Cool soccer news for Raleigh, NC.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

World's First 'Building In Motion' Set For Dubai

Interesting Concept.

Will it get built? Don't know, but I can imagine that a desert nation that has an indoor skiing building can figure this one out.

I don't know if I want to pay $4 million for an apartment though.

Germany 3:2 Turkey

The Turks have been robbed. A last minute goal by Philip Lamm have given the Germans a win to advance to the Euro 2008 Final on what ESPN considers to be one of the worst semi-final performances ever.

However, the Turks have nothing to hang their head about. They defied expectations, taking the game to the Germans and losing only by sheer bad luck. The game saw three goals in the final 14 minutes of play. The Turks might have gotten a draw and forced extra time if their final free kick had been on target as the German keeper Jens Lehmann had a miserable performance.

Fantastic football all around and I salute the Turks for helping to make this Euro tournament one to watch. Thanks!!!

Euro 2008 Semi Final--Germany v. Turkey

At halftime, it is 1-1. Turkey have been doing what they needed to do, taking it to the Germans. Hats off to the Turks, they really do not know the meaning of the word quit.

Turkey has started the match with only three fully fit subs and a couple of key players serving suspsensions for yellow card accumulations. One of the three subs is the reserve goalkeeper who, if he comes on would come on as a field player. The Turkish Manager probably told his team to go for it and do what they do best, take the game to the opposing side. The Turks have had the majority of possession and the majority of shots with 14 shots, 10 of which have been on frame. Clearly the Turks are playing well above what everyone thought they could.

Can't wait for the remainder of the game.

Eduwonkette on High Achieving Students

Eduwonkette has a great post with state data that may provide a great deal of support for the notion that high achieving students may be getting the short shrift in the NCLB era.
Savvy New York City parents have long suspected that high achieving kids are losing out in the push to boost the achievement of the lowest performing students. But those suspicions are often cast aside by public officials as helicopter parent whining or muted class warfare.

But a review of 4th grade test score data from 2003-2008 suggests that these parents have been on to something. Between 2003 and 2008, the fraction of students scoring in the highest achievement level on the 4th grade NY state ELA test has plummeted.

In 2003, 15.6% of 4th graders scored at Level 4. By 2008, only 5.8% did. In other words, the fraction of students scoring at Level 4 in 2003 was about 2.7 times higher than this year. At the same time, the percentage of students scoring at proficiency has increased 9 percentage points, from 52.4% to 61.3%.
This may not be a damning indictment, but it does go to show that there is a disconnect.

Now, to be fair, this is not all that surprising. Schools are, fairly or unfairly, measured on their success at getting student to the proficient level. As I, and others, have noted, schools can only pay so much attention to anyone priority, so the lack of attention paid to high achieving students is not all that surprising.

But least people use this New York finding the Eduwonkette highlights as fodder for more attacks on NCLB, I think it is important that we not confuse correlation for causation. Just because there is a relationship between the decline amoung high achieving students for the time frame since NCLB, we should not believe that NCLB caused the dip.

I submit, based largely upon anecdotal and personal experience, that high achieving students are routinely given the short shrift. Even with gifted and talented programs, many schools simply do not offer enough instruction for high achieving kids. Whether the problem is a lack of focus, lack of understanding, lack of funds or lack of priority, high achieving students are often not stretched to the maximum potential.

I further submit that this trend has been the case long before NCLB was even on the legislative agenda in Texas, let alone nationally. American schools have long struggled with the outlier cases, whether it is high achieving students or learning disabled children. Part of the problem is the "return on investment" matter, that is teh schools get the most "bang for the buck" by focusing on the kids in the middle of the bell curve. But in recent decades a great deal of attention has been paid to learning disabled kids, (with the moniker of "special needs kids" which also applies to high achieving kids also). So the kids with the greatest potential have long been on the bottom of the list for attention. Again, I don't necessarily fault the schools for the lack of focus, but it seems to be finally coming home to roost, particularly in the era of the helicopter parent.

Charlie Rose Interview with Justice Antonin Scalia

The video is here.

Hat Tip: Howard Bashman.

Tomorrow Big Day at Supreme Court

Chief Justice John Roberts announced that tomorrow the Supreme Court will issue opinions in the remaining cases from the October 2007 term. From Scotusblog's Lyle Denniston:
At the close of Wednesday’s public session, Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr., announced that the Court will issue all remaining decisions for the Term at 10 a.m. Thursday. The test case on whether the Second Amendment protects an individual right to possess a gun is among those remaining (District of Columbia v. Heller, 07-290). The others still pending are cases on the constitutionality of the so-called “Millionaire’s Amendment” on campaign finance (Davis v. FEC, 07-320), and on federal regulators’ power to undo wholesale energy sales contracts (Morgan Stanley Capital v. Public Utility District, 06-1457, and a companion case).
Lots of fodder tomorrow for Court watchers.

Today's decisions included Kennedy v. Louisiana, the death penalty for child rape case.

Replacing Bob Bradley--The Case Against Bradley

The First of a Two Parter

I want to make it clear, that I think Bob Bradley has done a fine job, but he has reached the limit of what he can contribute to the U.S. campaign to win a World Cup. Bradley has tested the team, looked a few young players and managed to show the world that the U.S. has the talent, in parts, to compete at the absolute highest levels of world football.

Tactically, Bob Bradley can offer nothing more to the team and for that reason, U.S. Soccer needs to replace Bradley as the manager of the U.S. National Team. Bradley has displayed an inordinate loyalty to some players, not that Bradley is necessarily completely alone in that stance, see, for examble, Bruce Arena and Jeff Agoos. That loyalty has, to a certain extent blinded Bradley to the abilities of other players to contribute. On teh opposite hand, Bradley has restrained some players to the point that their developement in to truly world class footballers is in jeopardy (see Freddy Adu, see also Michael Bradley for different reasons). Finally, Bradley appears wedded to a defensive minded, bucket 4-4-2 with two defensive, holding midfielders and sacrificed upon the alter of not wanting to get scored upon, the ability to score goals in bunches and find players capable of scoring those goals.

In short, Bob Bradley has built a culture on the Men's National Team based upon not wanting to lose rather than wanting to win.

Take the above mentioned Freddy Adu. Without a doubt, Adu is the most creative and technically proficient player on the U.S. side. Sure Landon Donovan can score goals, take players on and has a big enough chip on his shoulder for five or six strikers. But Freddy Adu can create goal scoring opportunities where none existed, setting up the likes of Donovan. What is Bradley's big criticism of Adu--he doesn't defend enough, that Adu needs to check back into the defensive third more. Pardon me, but that is like telling Fernando Torres to check back into defense. Freddy Adu should do his defedning in the attacking thrid (the best defense is a good offense) and in the midfield. Yes, Adu should come back on set pieces like free kicks, but Adu strength is attack and creativity and you can be creative on defense.

What about Michael Bradley, the coaches son. Bradley scored nearly 19 goals in all competitions for Henreveen last year. Michael is wasted in a holding midfielder spot and teh manager at Henreveen knew that and gave Michael the freedom to attack and make plays, a freedom Michael does not enjoy in his father's system.

As noted, tactically, Bradley seems wedded to a system that is not well suited to the character of his players. His style of play is on the way out on the international scene. Witness the Euro 2008 tournament. The teams that stuck with a traditional, bunkered defense and strike on counterattack have all been dismissed from the tournament. France, Italy, Greece, Romania, Croatia, Czech Republic, all played a defense first, score on the counter attack style of play and each have lost to teams that play open, attack oriented football. Germany, the Netherlands, Spain, Russia and Portugal, have all displayed a movement-oriented, go-forward style of play. Turkey, the surprise of the Euros played with no fear of losing and a refusal to quit trying until such time as the final whistle blew. As a result, Turkey, Germany, Russia and Spain are in the semis, all with an open style of play that makes games exciting.

A defensive minded game is not going to win games against teams that continually press forward. Sooner or later, a mistake in defense will be made and the opponents will score on a bunkered side, it is only a matter of time.

Bradley has at his disposal players who have an attack oriented mindset, who want to move forward and score. But instead of crafting a system around those players, Bradley forces the players to play in his system, a system that is dying all over the world. A good manager designs a system and makes tactical changes to that system to match his players and the conditions on the field. Bradley is too limited in that skill.

Finally, Bradley does not stand up to the MLS or force U.S. Soccer to stand up to the MLS. Bradley has relied heavily upon European based players, and not just because those players a necessarily better, but because European Leagues respect the FIFA international breaks and rarely give Bradley stick for calling players into camp. MLS, on the other hand, not only plays through the international breaks, but often allows clubs to object to players being called into National Team Camp, or asks as a condition of releasing the player, that the player return for weekend matches. Such an effort is ludicrous and actually keeps good players out of the U.S. camp, possibly costing the U.S. the best players possible in certain areas and certainly limiting the scope of Bradley's player pool. I am talking about players like Kenny Cooper, Edson Buddle, Michael Parkhurst, Jimmy Conrad, Brian Ching, Stuart Holden, etc.

What Bradley needs to do is tell the MLS and U.S. Soccer to respect the international breaks. MLS teams currently play two games a week sometimes and there is no reason not to do so in order to accomodate international breaks. But Bradley routinely laments the scheduling difficulties with the MLS, citing that as a reason why more MLS players aren't called into camp. Instead of griping, Bradley should be calling Sunil Gulati and Don Garber out on the matter. MLS players being successful on the international stage increases the cache of the league and U.S. Soccer, if it is really interested in winning a World Cup in the next decade, needs to put every player possible at the disposal of the U.S. National Team Coach.

Instead, Bradley gripes and complains, when she should be doing much, much more.

I think Bradley has done a fine job to this point. But this point is as far as he can push the team and the national team development. It is time for Sunil Gulati and U.S. Soccer to ask Bradley to step aside and find a replacement who can move the program forward.

Next Up: The three managers who can make that happen.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Another First In The Bush Adminstration

The first female Army Four Star General.

Can Bill Clinton claim that?

When Is a Financial Liability Not A Liability?

When you are a sitting Senator and you don't have disclose your mortgage as a liability on your financial and ethics disclosure report.

Given that a strong minority of Senators are actually millionaire's maybe they don't carry a mortgage. But in reality I doubt that since the mortgage interest deduction is the one solid deduction you are guaranteed to have. So why shouldn't it be disclosed, particularly in light of the sweetheart mortgage deals that the Subprime Six have received.

Kudos to Senator Cornyn for his move.

Wasn't This a Plot Line on the Wire?

Baltimore Mayor Sheila Dixon's ties to a local developer are being probed.
Prosecutors are investigating whether Baltimore Mayor Sheila Dixon received thousands of dollars in gifts - including fur coats - from a prominent developer whose projects benefited from tax breaks and zoning changes she supported as City Council president, a document obtained by The Sun shows.

Court records, drafted by the state prosecutor's office in November, indicate that Dixon also went on lavish trips to Boston, the Bahamas, Chicago and Colorado with the developer, Ronald H. Lipscomb. In one instance, the two left Baltimore for New York by train hours after she had voted to approve a tax break for one of his company's largest projects.

Yesterday, a Baltimore City grand jury began calling witnesses in the case to testify in a courthouse a block from City Hall.

The documents, presented by prosecutors to a Baltimore County District Court, offer the most detailed accounting yet of the two-year investigation into City Hall spending and provide new information about possible ethical lapses that occurred when Dixon was City Council president.
Seems very familiar.

Brandi Chastain Would Be Proud

An American woman hiking in Germany got lost and injured, but used her sports bra to signal rescuers.
Berchtesgaden police officer Lorenz Rasp said that he helped lift 24-year-old Jessica Bruinsma of Colorado state to safety by helicopter on Thursday after she attracted the attention of lumberjacks by attaching her sports bra to a cable used to move timber down the mountain.

"She's a very smart girl, and she acted very resourcefully," said Rasp. "She kept her shirt and jacket for warmth, but thought the sports bra could work as a signal."


She fell 16.4 feet (five meters) to a rocky overhang, where she spent the next 70 hours on the narrow ledge, sustained by water that she found by breaking into a supply box on the ledge.

She badly bruised a leg and dislocated a shoulder in the fall, and the cliff was too isolated for her to climb free, Rasp said.

Rasp said the cable was only within reach because the timber transport system was out of service. When a repairman restored the line on Thursday, the cable car started moving up the mountain and Bruinsma's bra reached the worker at the base. He knew of the missing hiker and immediately called police.
Resourcefulness defined.

Very smart and witty.

Why Is This Man Even Relevant Anymore

Kofi Annan calls for "climate justice."
Former UN secretary general Kofi Annan on Tuesday called for 'climate justice', saying that it was polluters who should pay for the effects of climate change, and not the poorest and most vulnerable.

He said funding should be made available to help disadvantaged communities adapt to the effects of global warming as he urged for the international community to focus on adaptation measures.

"We must have climate justice. As an international community, we must recognise that the polluter must pay and not the poor and vulnerable," said Annan at the first high-level meeting of his new humanitarian forum.

Imitating Europe

Thomas Sowell questions the wisdom of imitating European wage and welfare policies.
If anyone suggested that Tiger Woods should try to be more like other golfers, people would question the sanity of whoever made that suggestion.

Why should Tiger Woods try to be more like Phil Mickelson? If Tiger turned around and tried to golf left-handed, like Mickelson, he probably wouldn't be as good as Mickelson, much less as good as he is golfing the way he does right-handed.

Yet there are those who think that the United States should follow policies more like those in Europe, often with no stronger reason than the fact that Europeans follow such policies. For some Americans, it is considered chic to be like Europeans.
I think an important point to consider if looking at European policies is the number of those countries reconsidering those policies.

Anne Applebaum: No Job for Mr. Nice Guy

Anne Applebaum writes:
Perhaps it's just a coincidence, but in the past few days, I've felt overwhelmed by a tsunami of commentary, all of which purports to prove the fundamental nastiness of Barack Obama or, alternatively, the deep unlikability of John McCain. You thought our presidential candidates were nice guys, regular guys, guys with whom you'd like to sit down and have a beer? Guess what, lots of people are now telling me: They aren't.

Thus David Brooks of the New York Times has contrasted the warm and fuzzy Obama on our television screens with "Fast Eddie Obama, the promise-breaking, tough-minded Chicago pol who'd throw you under the truck for votes." The Daily Mail of London has called McCain a " self-centred womaniser who effectively abandoned his crippled [first] wife." In recent months I've also read, or been told, that John McCain snubbed the Vietnamese peasant who saved his life and is rude to his (second) wife in public; that Obama abandoned his beloved church to save his political skin and for similar reasons had some nasty friends in Chicago; that both candidates " flip-flop" on the issues nearest and dearest to them, merely in order to win votes. From whatever political quarter it comes, and regardless of whatever merit it may have, all of this commentary starts with the same assumption: The reader is meant to be shocked, shocked, that these two men -- men who have submitted themselves to months of brutal campaigning, men who have thrown their wives and families to the wolves, men who know they might at any second need to abandon their closest friends -- these two men are not, in fact, very nice people at all.

But why on Earth should anyone expect them to be? In its wisdom, the American nation has devised a presidential election system that actively selects for egotistical megalomaniacs: You simply cannot enter the White House if you aren't one. You might start out as an idealist, of course, and I would even give Obama and McCain the benefit of the doubt here. I'm sure both are patriots, both care about America, both want to make the world a better place.

But in order to become the candidate, each also had to make a series of utterly ruthless decisions, decisions that most nice guys would find unpalatable.
Admittedly, ambition for the White House is not for the faint of heart or for those looking to avoid the limelight, so in that respect it is difficult to imagine some utterly lacking in ambition becoming president.

But does ambition have to be equated with being "not very nice?" Does running for president necessarily entail "utterly ruthless" decision making?

I think presidential candidates and Presidents have to make some very hard decisions that require a certain amount of cold calculation. But I don't see either man as utterly ruthless. Their chosen path entails certain, exorbitant sacrifices by those around them, their family most of all. But they couldn't possible make this run without at least the full, private support of their family. Consultation is necessary.

True, neither man has a stranglehold on moral certitude. But just because they are deeply flawed and deeply ambitious men does not make them bad guys. In person they are undoubtedly engaging, even gregarious personalities. But don't confuse private jocularity with an inability to make hard public decisions. Indeed, we expect our Presidents to make hard decisions, some of which may require a cold and hard heart.

USA Women's Olympic Roster Set

No real surprises. A couple of commenters noted that Briana Scurry is only an alternate, but really, she has been on teh U.S. team for what--forever?

Even many of the names that are not household names have lots of experience. The average number of caps for these players is 77 and 4 have over 120 caps. Seven of these players played in the 2004 Olympics and 2 played in the 2004 and 2000 Olympics as well.

Although the women's game has gotten more competitive on the international level, the U.S. still has to be one of the favorites. As usual, the squads for Norway, China, Brazil and Gernamy will be strong. The Canadian team has also surged in recent years.

The U.S. is in Group G for the Olympics, which puts them with Norway, Japan and New Zealand. It should be noted that there are only three groups--E,F,G as the Men's Olympic teams are in Groups A-D. Odd I know. The top two teams from each group advance as well as the two best thrid place finishers in the groups.

Funny Beckham Sharpie Ad

Courtesy of Goff. It's kind of funny and I don't have to look at him in his underwear. The Sharpie contract is at least family friendly.

Monday, June 23, 2008

George Carlin Has Died

For a long time I have loved the comedy of George Carlin. Here was a man who used comedy to teach a few lessons or to point out a silly or serious difference in how we see things that are relatively the same. But no matter what, he always challenged us with the power of ideas.

I didn't always like Carlin's views on political matters (he said he had a little more faith in people rather than property-I tend to think a little differently), but as a political humorist, he was classic. Carlin is the only comedian I know of who had a Supreme Court case evolve out of a bit. His "7 Dirty Words" monologue was both brilliantly funny and the foundation for a case about free speech. Ann Althouse has a wonderful collection of clips ( I love the one about football and baseball) including the 7 Dirty Words bit.

NY Times' Obit
Mr. Carlin began his standup comedy act in the late 1950s and made his first television solo guest appearance on “The Merv Griffin Show” in 1965. At that time, he was primarily known for his clever wordplay and reminiscences of his Irish working-class upbringing in New York.

But from the outset there were indications of an anti-establishment edge to his comedy. Initially, it surfaced in the witty patter of a host of offbeat characters like the wacky sportscaster Biff Barf and the hippy-dippy weatherman Al Sleet. “The weather was dominated by a large Canadian low, which is not to be confused with a Mexican high. Tonight’s forecast . . . dark, continued mostly dark tonight turning to widely scattered light in the morning.”


By 1972, when he released his second album, “FM & AM,” his star was again on the rise. The album, which won a Grammy Award as best comedy recording, combined older material on the “AM” side with bolder, more acerbic routines on the “FM” side. Among the more controversial cuts was a routine euphemistically entitled “Shoot,” in which Mr. Carlin explored the etymology and common usage of the popular idiom for excrement. The bit was part of the comic’s longer routine “Seven Words You Can Never Say on Television,” which appeared on his third album “Class Clown,” also released in 1972.

“There are some words you can say part of the time. Most of the time ‘ass’ is all right on television,” Mr. Carlin noted in his introduction to the then controversial monologue. “You can say, well, ‘You’ve made a perfect ass of yourself tonight.’ You can use ass in a religious sense, if you happen to be the redeemer riding into town on one — perfectly all right.”

The material seems innocuous by today’s standards, but it caused an uproar when broadcast on the New York radio station WBAI in the early ‘70s. The station was censured and fined by the FCC. And in 1978, their ruling was supported by the Supreme Court, which Time magazine reported, “upheld an FCC ban on ‘offensive material’ during hours when children are in the audience.” Mr. Carlin refused to drop the bit and was arrested several times after reciting it on stage.
The Washington Post's Obit is here. More reactions at Memeorandum.


The CONCACAF Dozen for the next round of World Cup Qualifying:

Group 1
USA, Guatemala, Cuba, Trinidad & Tobago

Group 2 ("The Group of Death")
Mexico, Honduras, Canada, Jamaica

Group Three (Cake Walk Group)
Costa Rica, El Salvador, Haiti, Suriname

The U.S. Opens the next round (with a home and home against each team) with games against August 20 in Guatamala City, September 6 in Havana and Sept. 10 against Trinidad in Chicago.

The top two teams in each group advance to a home and home hexagonal.

Right now I see the U.S. and Guatamala advancing in Group 1, Costa Rica and El Salvador from Group 3.

Group two is a complete toss up. I can see any of the four teams advancing.

The question for the U.S. will be how many players that have seen playing time in the last few weeks will be spread over to the U.S. Olympic squad, i.e. Freddy Adu, Sasha Klejstan, Michael Bradley and therefore unavailable for the early matches. How many of their clubs will allow them to train for Olympics, play in Olympics and then go to full U.S. team for Havana/Chicago matches.

Barbados 0: 1 USA

While the matter of the U.S. advancing to the next round of World Cup Qualifying was never in much doubt, the U.S. performance left a few questions in my head.

First, some credit is due. I believe Bob Bradley did the right thing by calling in young players who did not have a lot of international experience and putting them on the field. I would like to have seen some other players (Kenny Cooper and Michael Parkhurst-anyone), but that is the breaks. It was nice to see players like Danny Szetela called in, although is performance left something to be desired. I was glad that Bradley sat Onyewu and Bocanegra, giving Jay DeMerit and Danny Califf more of an opportunity to play.

I also should give credit to Barbados. They came out with the objective to play, and play hard, which they did. Yes, it is obvious looking at their team that they have a combination of professional and amatuer players, but they had two really good chances and if karma had been smiling on them, they could have stolen the game. I tip my hat to their "never-say-die" attitude.

Three players deserve a strong "atta-boy" to start, Freddy Adu, Eddie Lewis, Heath Pearce and Drew Moor. First is Adu. Everytime he plays, there is a certain creative spark that the U.S. needs. With every cap Adu earns, he is looking more and more like a player who is ready to put the U.S. on his shoulders and carry them, kicking and screaming if necessary, to the next level of world soccer. This was not his Spain performance level, but he should have put Bob Bradley and the manager at Benfica on notice that he is ready to play. If he can get regular minutes with Benfica, by the next round of qualifying, Freddy should be a monster for the U.S.

Eddie Lewis proved once again that even though a mid-30's veteran, he has much to contribute. He was all over the midfield and his clinical finish with the assist of Freddy Adu was classic. He earned the captain's armband and the opportunity to keep playing for the U.S.

Drew Moor yesterday made a solid case for consideration as the U.S. right back. He was solid in attack, made great defensive plays and his crossing is slightly better than Steve Cherundolo's. Will he be the regular U.S. right back, I don't know, but he has earned another long hard look. At the beginning of the year, I worried about our outside backs, but Pearce, Cherundolo and Moor have put those concerns to bed. I think that any combination of the three is going to serve the U.S. well.

But here are a few problems that yesterday not only revealed, but brought into start relief. First, we have holding midfield problems. Yes, Micheal Bradley had a better game than he has in the past. But his first touch is still not going to cut it against better CONCACAF teams, let alone top sides that the U.S. will likely face in South Africa. He is still sloppy with his distribution of the ball. Now, under most circumstances, this would not be a problem. But Bradley's dad (Coach Bob) has insisted upon playing Michael as a holding midfielder in a 4-4-2 bucket formation and that is not going to cut it. Can Michael Bradley make a contribution to the side, yes, but not as a holding midfielder--at least not yet.

Bob Bradley needs to find strikers other than Landon Donovan. Chris Rolfe had a good performance when he came on and earned another look. DaMarcus Beasley is not a striker, he doesn't have the strenght to compete against big defenders (and the Barbados' central defenders are big boys) and can't play with his back to goal. Yes he has the speed to go foward on the wing, but he was out of place. So Coach Bradley, call up Kenny Cooper, give Rolfe another look, think about Edson Buddle, but get some real strikers up top and stop trying to "convert" a midfielder.

Which leads me to another point, Freddy Adu is not a striker, unless you are content that he be a withdrawn striker. Freddy will score a goal here and there, and there really is no one more dangerous on a free kick for the U.S. right now (maybe Donovan). But Adu is a creator and should be playing in the middle of a 4-2-3-1 or a 4-4-2 midfield diamond formation. Adu needs the freedom to run at people, attack, create chances with his passing and keep goalkeepers honest with long range strikes. He is too short to play an up top striker and is a waste with his back to the goal.

Kartik talks about the weakness of the game and I think he is right.
Playing young kids in friendlies on US soil, or in a Copa America where the results do not matter is one thing, but playing them in qualifiers we learned tonight is downright cruel. Does Bob Bradley deserve the blame for tonight’s squad selection? No, that blame must be placed squarely on Major League Soccer and its clubs whose decision to play right through CONCACAF qualifiers and in the case of teams participating in Superliga accelerate their schedule.
However, I don't think it is cruel to play these young players in a World Cup Qualifying match, in fact I would argue that they needed to be played in this match, away from home in order to get a better feel for what all the hubbub is about.

But Kartik is right, the MLS needs to deal with FIFA International breaks and World Cup qualifying much better than it is. In reality, I don't think teams will mind playing two games a week for a couple of weeks, if it means there is a true international break. Bob Bradley in a number of interviews has lamented the difficulty of working with the MLS in getting those players into camp and onto friendly rosters, let alone in to camp for qualifiers and tournaments. I will admit that sometimes a delay of three or four days, even a week if it is an extended camp may be necessary, but Bradley cannot call on as deep a pool of talent for camp without the MLS players. This has led to an over reliance of foreign based players and that is a shame. Having MLS players in addition to Donovan make a name for themselves on the international level will make the MLS more exciting to American and even foreign fans alike. Aside from the aforementioned Cooper, Parkhurst and Buddle along with other potential strikers, that could be considered, there are younger players like Stuart Holden that could be called in, or veterans like Jimmy Conrad who are worthy of consideration. I would like to see Matt Reis on the roster as Tim Howard's back up. But with the MLS insisting on not honoring the FIFA breaks and traditions, we are stuck with a more limited pool.

I think the experimenting was worth it. I fully expect the U.S. to make it out of their next qualifying group. But unless the U.S. starts playing these young players and MLS gets its head out regarding international breaks, there is going to be problems in 2010 and beyond.

Eddie Johnson on U.S. National Team, Fulham

Here's hoping that Johnson can improve this year with Fulham and become worthy of some real minutes.

He is talking like he is maturing, lets see if he actually does.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Fear In A Crisis

John Robb has a book review that should be read as well as the book he reviews, it is all about response in a crisis.

It is said that bravery is merely the ability of one person to keep his head for five minutes longer than everyone else who has panicked. That "keeping" one's head might be a result of training, luck or just personality, but it can and does make all the difference.
We can counter fear, however. The best method, FBI trainers say, is to get control of your breathing. “Combat breathing” is a simple variant on Lamaze or yoga training—breathe in four counts, hold four counts, exhale four counts, and repeat. It works because breathing is a combination of the somatic (which we control) and the autonomic (which we can’t easily control) nervous systems. Regulation of the autonomic system deescalates the biological-fear response and returns our higher-level brain functions to full capacity. So one of the best ways you can prepare yourself to overcome fear in a crisis is as simple as a meditation, Lamaze, or yoga class.

Fortunately, in many disasters, someone is often biologically and psychologically well-suited for dealing with the chaos. Such people typically are the most likely to survive or to shepherd a docile group of survivors out of a disaster zone. What makes them different? Some have a natural psychological buffer that allows them to bounce back from extreme stress. Examination of people who always perform well in extreme circumstances has shown high levels in the blood of “neuropeptide Y”—a compound that allows one to stay mentally focused under stress. It’s so closely correlated with success in pressure situations that it is almost a biological marker for selection into elite groups for military special operations.

If you’re lucky enough to have someone like this in your group during a disaster, your chances of survival are much better. But even those of us not so disposed can, through training and experience, manufacture a workable degree of self-confidence.
Interesting is the science behind fear and its response.

Croatia 0:0 Turkey at Full Time

The Turks continue to surprise, keeping the second Euro 2008 quarterfinal all tied up, despite Croatia having the upper hand in most stats.

Extra time is coming. The winner of this match will face Germany in the semi finals on Monday.

Seattle Sounders FC's Season Ticket Selection

This Is How Sports Fans Were Meant to Buy Tickets via Enjoy the Enjoyment.
For every section, the Sounders give you the price per game and the amenities that accrue to each seat, but also how full the section is, what percentage of people who've bought tickets there like to chant and sing, or stand. It tells you who their favorite soccer team is (almost every section picks Sounders FC) and where they play rec league ball.

Bradley Names 18 Man Roster for Barbados Trip

Can Bradley be ready to do a little experimenting?

Here is the list of players Bradley has named to his 18-man squad:

Dominic Cervi (out of contract)
Brad Guzan (Chivas USA)
Chris Seitz (Real Salt Lake)

Carlos Bocanegra (out of contract)
Dan Califf (FC Midtjylland)
Jay DeMerit (Watford FC)
Drew Moor (FC Dallas)
Oguchi Onyewu (Standard de Liege)
Heath Pearce (Hansa Rostock)

DaMarcus Beasley (Glasgow Rangers)
Michael Bradley (SC Heerenveen)
Sacha Kljestan (Chivas USA)
Eddie Lewis (Derby County)
Danny Szetela (Brescia)
John Thorrington (Chicago Fire)

Freddy Adu (SL Benfica)
Chad Barrett (Chicago Fire)
Chris Rolfe (Chicago Fire)

Given this roster, I wonder how attack oriented this team will be? Here is what I would expect to see at the start of the match.





I would probably expect Szetela to come in for Klejstan or Lewis, Barrett for Rolfe and maybe Moor in for Pearce or DeMerit.

Here is what I would like to see.





But I would be extremely suprised to see Bradley not start at least Boca or Onyewu in the back. I actually think this line-up would exploit the speed and attack mindedness of Adu, Szetela and Klejstan in particular. Adu and Klejstan can light it up and Bradley has to like Klegstan because he defends as a midfielder and can attack like mad (his goal last night should be a candidate for GOTW). Szetela lit it up in the U20 World Cup last year. Can you imagine that line with Donovan on the left or up top with someone like Dempsey?

The experience and steadiness of Lewis combined with the speed and tenacity of Thorrington could provide a wonderful linking opportunity in the mid-field. Boca and Onyewu are pretty well solidified in the center back, but I think Bradley should rest one of them and let DeMerit, Califf and Moor work. If I were Bradley I would sit both Boca and Onyewu and give his young defenders a shot. Give Eddie Lewis the Captain's armband and let Adu control the match.

Really, what I want to see is Bradley let the team, no matter who starts, just play and attack. Teh game could be very entertaining if they are released.

That's What Happens When You Rely on Small Donors

You don't have to report them as much, but you do need to keep track of their activity.

Political Lessons in an Adam Sandler Movie?

Micheal Totten notes that there are, and they are refreshingly Pro-Israel.
This, then, is no Mel Gibson movie. Gibson’s politics, in fact, are swiped at in this movie. No cultural conservative could possibly have written You Don’t Mess with the Zohan. Sandler’s character becomes the most sought-after hairdresser in New York City because he joyfully includes sexual favors for senior citizens as part of his salon service package. At no point in the film is there even the slightest suggestion that there’s anything wrong with promiscuous sex or brazen prostitution.

There’s a seriousness, though, beneath the surface of what is otherwise a ridiculous and crude cartoon with live actors. Israelis are portrayed as the good guys, which is not exactly what might be expected from Hollywood these days. Jokes are made at their expense, but the humor is not politically charged. Zohan brushes his teeth with hummus, for instance. His dad stirs it in his coffee.

American mall rats who buy theater tickets just for the laughs get a brief lesson on the Six Day War in 1967 and on Israel’s rules of engagement designed to shield innocent civilians from collateral damage. Zohan may be a raunchy comic book type of character, but he accurately represents most Israeli soldiers I’ve met in at least one way – he would much rather hang out with beautiful women on the beaches of Tel Aviv than fight Arabs. He’s easy to get along with as long as you are not trying to kill him. And if you are trying to kill him – watch out. The United States is correctly portrayed as a place where tension still exists between Israeli and Palestinian immigrants, but where that tension is also significantly muted and where some members of each community have pitched the old world hatreds over the side.

The second half of the movie gets even more silly and less believable when it begins to push a can’t-we-all-just-get-along message. Zohan’s boss, love interest, and the film’s heroine is Palestinian. The message is arguably appropriate, though, for a slap-stick American comedy. No one should expect a gritty, realistic treatment of tragic Middle East politics from a film like You Don’t Mess with the Zohan. The message, while a bit unrealistic, does manage to prevent a pro-Israel movie from becoming an anti-Arab movie, which is at it should be.

You Don’t Mess with the Zohan is not anti-Arab, nor is it really right-wing. It is far too juvenile and bawdy for that. But it’s refreshingly not leftist either. Those who love to hate Israel will hate Sandler’s new movie as much as Hezbollah and Hamas undoubtedly will.
Given the limited movie time my wife and I have, Don't Mess with the Zohan probably won't make our viewing list until pay-per-view or HBO, but still, is there a change in Hollywood a comin'?

Alberto Gonzales "Politicized" Justice Department

That is an odd way of describing the Justice Department's operations under Gonzalez.

Can we just accept that no matter what Administration is in the White House, there is a certain amout of politicization of Cabinet Departments? The Justice Department is an executive agency--is is not the Courts, who are supposed to be neutral. An executive agency is tasked with carrying out the orders and policies of the White House.

Law enforcement is a political activity to a certain extent. The White House tells the Justice Department what is more important and what is less important in some respects. The Justice Department, just like every other agency, is given a priority list.

Did Gonzalez step over the line on some matters? Maybe and maybe not, but we cannot investigate him for politics.

The Janus Factor

David Brooks talks about the two faces of Obama--the orator and the machine politician.
But as recent weeks have made clear, Barack Obama is the most split-personality politician in the country today. On the one hand, there is Dr. Barack, the high-minded, Niebuhr-quoting speechifier who spent this past winter thrilling the Scarlett Johansson set and feeling the fierce urgency of now. But then on the other side, there’s Fast Eddie Obama, the promise-breaking, tough-minded Chicago pol who’d throw you under the truck for votes.

This guy is the whole Chicago package: an idealistic, lakefront liberal fronting a sharp-elbowed machine operator. He’s the only politician of our lifetime who is underestimated because he’s too intelligent. He speaks so calmly and polysyllabically that people fail to appreciate the Machiavellian ambition inside.

But he’s been giving us an education, for anybody who cares to pay attention. Just try to imagine Mister Rogers playing the agent Ari in “Entourage” and it all falls into place.
Brooks takes Obama's opting out of the public financing system as the opportunity to really highlight Obama's dual nature, that of the high-minded, "change" candidate and the pragmatic, I want to win candidate.
Dr. Barack could have changed the way presidential campaigning works. John McCain offered to have a series of extended town-hall meetings around the country. But favored candidates don’t go in for unscripted free-range conversations. Fast Eddie Obama threw the new-politics mantra under the truck.

And then on Thursday, Fast Eddie Obama had his finest hour. Barack Obama has worked on political reform more than any other issue. He aspires to be to political reform what Bono is to fighting disease in Africa. He’s spent much of his career talking about how much he believes in public financing. In January 2007, he told Larry King that the public-financing system works. In February 2007, he challenged Republicans to limit their spending and vowed to do so along with them if he were the nominee. In February 2008, he said he would aggressively pursue spending limits. He answered a Midwest Democracy Network questionnaire by reminding everyone that he has been a longtime advocate of the public-financing system.

But Thursday, at the first breath of political inconvenience, Fast Eddie Obama threw public financing under the truck. In so doing, he probably dealt a death-blow to the cause of campaign-finance reform. And the only thing that changed between Thursday and when he lauded the system is that Obama’s got more money now.

And Fast Eddie Obama didn’t just sell out the primary cause of his life. He did it with style. He did it with a video so risibly insincere that somewhere down in the shadow world, Lee Atwater is gaping and applauding. Obama blamed the (so far marginal) Republican 527s. He claimed that private donations are really public financing. He made a cut-throat political calculation seem like Mother Teresa’s final steps to sainthood.
Look, I have no bone to pick with Obama wanting to win, if he didn't he shouldn't have gotten into the race. It is fine to want to win.

My problem with this latest move is that he puts, side by side, his ambtion to win (not a bad thing) and his principals for an easy comparison. Obama appears ready, even eager, to sacrifice the latter in pursuit of the former.

I have many problems with McCain's positions on policy matters, not to exclude his campaign finance program. While McCain has waffled on issues before, I don't think and can't remember a time when his flip-flopping was so patently contrary to stated principles. The brazenness of Obama's decision to opt out of public financing is what is shocking. While his assertion that contributions from individuals is "public financing" is, technically, accurate--the smarminess of the assertion is what galls me.

The question is, how much gumption will McCain have to stick with his principles regarding campaign finance? Does McCain have the backbone to stand up for his principles or will his ambition be his own undoing? Will we be left with two candidates whose ambtion to be President is worth the sacrifice of a principled stand?

I fear that we will.

Does Education Matter Still for Candidates

James Joyner asks the question do the Educational credentials of the presidential candidates really matter now?
I ask because I’ve noted quite a bit of chatter about the educational attainments of the presidential candidates and wonder why they matter so much to people all these years later.

Barack Obama must be smart, after all he was president of the Harvard Law Review! John McCain sure is dumb, why he graduated near the bottom of his class at the Naval Academy!

Obama’s young by presidential nominee standards, to be sure. Still, he’s been out of law school since 1991. And, goodness, McCain graduated Annapolis in 1958 — before Obama was even born. I mean, I know we threaten school children with putting things on their “permanent record,” but this is ridiculous.
At this point I don't think it matters at all.

Here is why. By this stage we expect our presidential candidates to have some experience (some more than others) and also expect that Presidents need to be able to find, hire and manage some people who by all accounts are smarter than they are. Look people gave George W. Bush a lot of stick for not being particularly bright, but Presidents are not lacking from talent coming to their door to work. Obama and McCain won't either, so their individual educational achievements really don't matter much anymore.

Bocanegra to Play in League Un Side Rennes

U.S. International Carlos Bocanegra, who was released from Fulham in May will sign a three year contract with French side Rennes.

Rennes, who finished sixth in the Ligue 1 last year, were using center back Djimi Traore on loan from Portsmouth last year, so this will settle one of their manning woes.

I can't find terms of the deal, but the transfer was free as Bocanegra had been released. No word on whether Bocanegra will play this Sunday in the qualifier against Barbados.

The Rowdies Return to Tampa Bay

USL announced yesterday that a new ownership group has come together to bring the Tampa Bay Rowdies back to the Sunshine State for a USL-1 side starting in 2010.

I have to say that I am glad to see the Rowdies name back. As a kid, I remember my father picking my brother, sister and I up from school on Friday afternoon's, making the four hour trek from Orange Park, FL (near Jacksonville) to Tampa to watch a 90 minutes soccer game and then make a four hour trek back that night. If my mom went, we stayed in a motel over night, but if Mom was working-it was four hours down and four hours back in one night.

The history is long and brilliant. From the days as a NASL club through the A-League and now a return to USL-1 soccer, there are a lot of players and fans in the area. I for one and really glad the club has returned under the Rowdies name. It was a part of my youth and part of my family history. I will have a childhood club to support in a couple of years and nothing could make me happier.

I wonder if my father will once again make the treks to Tampa to see the Rowdies play? Probably will be over nighter's now that he doesn't have to haul three rambunctious kids back and forth.

From the Press Release on USL:

The Tampa Bay Rowdies will field its first team in 2010 in the USL First Division, the top flight of United Soccer Leagues. Plans for 2009 include hosting exhibition matches, hiring staff and signing players and starting the Tampa Bay Rowdies Youth Academy. USL Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer Tim Holt says the team will bring good things to the community, fans and youth who have grown up as the game has matured.
The club has named Perry Van Der Beck as its technical director and director of community development. Van Der Beck is a well-known former Rowdie with strong local youth soccer ties. He was the first Rowdie ever drafted out of high school and was captain of the 1980 US Olympic team. Van Der Beck later coached the Tampa Bay Mutiny and has coached numerous youth teams as a Tampa resident.

"The ownership group is serious about the game and have a wonderful respect for the traditions that were established here in the 70’s. I am proud and happy to be a part of it all, especially with so much local support and expertise," said Van Der Beck.
Interstingly, USL is headquarterd in Tampa, which hasn't had a team in USL since 1993. USL founder and CEO Francisco Marcos was a Rowdies fan and public relations officer for the club in its NASL days.

Another great thing: the Rowdies will build a new soccer specific stadium--without taxpayer money.