Thursday, July 31, 2008

Dara Torres and the Mind and Body of an Athlete

Jeff Taylor Reason Magazine, undertakes the case of Dara Torres, the 41 year old, five time Olympian who is swimming near the top of the swimming world. In a world where Torres is competing against athletes who are young enough to be her own daugthers, everyone assumes that Torres has found some way to cheat.

Taylor talks about the physiological and psychological benefits of motherhood (Torres has a two year old daughter). He talks of personal turnarounds, etc:
The advantages of motherhood might be all psychological, yet very real nonetheless. Certainly the sports comeback meme routinely features a mental and emotional component.

Besides, the Official Feel Good Story of MLB this year has been the resurrection of Josh Hamilton. The former number one overall draft pick, who spent a couple years digging ditches after blowing almost $4 million on a cocaine addiction, was an All-Star just a couple weeks ago. Hamilton's sober status is confirmed with regular urine tests, the negative results of which are taken at face-value. At every opportunity, Hamilton credits his religious faith and his wife with turning his life and career around.

With that, Hamilton joins former NFL and Super Bowl MVP Kurt Warner, who came from absolutely nowhere to guide the St. Louis Rams' Greatest Show on Turf to a title. His absurd fairy-tale story was not doubted as the likely product of cheating. Athletes like Hamilton and Warner routinely tout a change in personal outlook or relationships as having a profoundly positive impact on their performance.

With these examples in mind, it seems totally plausible that Dara Torres, happy mother of a two-year-old girl, has found a focus and sense of well-being that she might not have previously. Here is where it becomes clear why Forde and other Torres doubters like to portray swimming as primarily a function of lung capacity. Admitting that the ability to focus and maintain a peace of mind might boost performance undermines the case against Torres.

Fortunately for her, swimming is not just about lungs. Body control and consistency of stroke matter. Think of all the things that can go wrong with a golf swing. Now imagine aiming to take the perfect swing several times a second. In short, perhaps the 41-year-old Torres is finally the swimmer she was always capable of being.
Torres' success does come with a price tag, over $100,000 per year for her coach, trainer, two massueses (I think), a nutritionist/cook and a nanny. But it is hard to argue with success (just look at the physical results:

Photo from New York Times.

Clearly she has worked to hone her body and perhaps it is with the benefit of age comes the need of consistency and certainly the ability to focus on goals. There are 20 and 25 year old kids competing in the Olympics who would kill for a body like that.

But is she cheating? I doubt it, with this much scrutiny, it is highly unlikely that she is doping.

So the question is, how is she doing it?

My theory is brains. In short, she is pushing the envelope of her sport and her age by being smarter than everyone else. Yes, she has raw talent and certain physical attributes that make good swimmers, flexible ankles for kicking, somewhat big hands, long arms, thin body. She is clearly dedicated to training and working her body. Her sport is one without the impact abuse of say running or soccer, so that can extend her competitive career. But she appears to be going at thinks much smarter than her competition.

I hope she wins because as I approach teh big 4-0 myself, I would like to know that if I am smart, I can still compete with the younger guys to a certain extent.

College Class Transparency

I like this idea. Hat tipPhi Beta Cons.

Most of my classes weren't a surprise when I got there, and some turned out to be more interesting than the description. Still, more information is helpful, particularly when it comes to some of the more flexible subject matter class. A student has a pretty good idea what Physics 101 is going to be about, but far less knowledge of "comparative literature" or something similar.

Remedial College Classes--Are they Worth if For Students

Inside Higher Ed links to a study that indicates that there are mixed results at best. Money quote from the study:
Meanwhile, the likelihood of passing subsequent college-level English composition was slightly lower for reading remedial students while no difference was found in future math course performance for math remedial students. No discernable impact was found in terms of certificate or associate degree completion or transfer to a public four-year college. Overall, the results suggest that remediation might promote early persistence in college, but it does not necessarily help students on the margin of passing the cutoff to make progress toward a degree.
The problem with remedial classes is that for the schools, they are something of a win-win--they can promote a more open admissions policy and still charge full freight for a class that the student will not get credit for. So the students come, unprepared for college, are forced to take (and pay for) a class that may or may not make them ready for full college level courses. Oh then there is the evidence that students who take remedial classes are far more likely to drop out, thereby increasing the revenue potential for "remedial level" students in a college.

Recently, I noted the cynical treatment, saying:
If K-12 institutions are taking a beating for not preparing students for college, colleges and universities, including community colleges, need to be beaten severly about the head and shoulders for their cynical treatment of these less than fully prepared students as little more than profit makers. Incentivize the colleges to push K-12 schools to do better. One such way would be, at least for public colleges and universities, prohibit those institutions from charging full tuition for remedial classes (and take care that schools are fudging the definition of remedial classes) and requiring that schools make available all services given to student athletes be made available to all students, among other actions.
Tuition may be necessary (a case can be made that it is not) for remedial classes, but if the student isn't going to get any credit, they shouldn't have to pay full price. Antoher idea would be to start billing that student's K-12 school system for indemnificaion for failing to do their job. That would be a big financial incentive for K-12 schools to do a better job. Can you imagine that annual bill?

The Race Card

Jonathan Martin calls it like it is:
Which brings us to Obama yesterday in Missouri, testing out a new line that seems unambiguously aimed at accusing the GOP of using race (something which McCain and his campaign have not done):
"Nobody thinks that Bush and McCain have a real answer to the challenges we face. So what they're going to try to do is make you scared of me," Obama said yesterday. "You know, he's not patriotic enough, he's got a funny name, you know, he doesn't look like all those other presidents on the dollar bills."

Asked Thursday if Obama was referring to race, Obama spokesman Robert Gibbs said, "No."

"What Barack Obama was talking about was that he didn't get here after spending decades in Washington," Gibbs said.
Right, neither did Lincoln, but his face, along with those of many other white men, adorns a dollar bill.

Obama is covering himself here just a bit by making his accusation predictive -- "going to" -- but this seems to be a pretty clear effort at having it both ways.
Sometimes it is just simply too transparent. Even us unsophisticated hicks from outside the urban areas understand it when we see it.

Basic Description of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac

When you strip down all the dressing, it is pretty easy to see how Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac got into their problem, and who really is to blame.

Look, I think home ownership is a great thing (I like owning my home), but admittedly my wife and I have come very close to getting in over our head and floundered for a while. That is our fault and we pay the consequences of it. But unfortuneately, there are people who don't take personal responsibility for their actions. But when government makes it easy to escape the consequences, whether you are a person or a corporation, it is very had to expect anything to change.

Scratching My Head

It does make you wonder:
Idling behind a Lexus this morning I saw the latest bit of agitprop from the Obama campaign -- a "Got Hope?" bumper sticker. The first question that popped into my mind was, "How bad can it be if you're driving an ES 350?"

It seems that the racially polarized, economically dysfunctional country our Obama supporter is so keen to change has treated him pretty well. Maybe he's in it for the other guys. You know - the 95% who keep making their mortgage payments on time, the record breaking numbers of college graduates, the millions of Americans who consume Ipods, flat screen TVs or hundreds of other accoutrements of a society so wealthy it has no historical parallel.
If Obama is elected, what will America look like in the summer of 2012?

A Book for My Reading List

Just the review has me interested.

Obama and Race

Instapundit notes:
And have you noticed that it's always Obama who's actually injecting race into the campaign, under the guise of warning about what those Evil Republicans will do? And is it really likely that John McCain would be out there saying 'don't vote for Obama, he's black?'
McCain won't ever do, wouldn't ever do and knows that if he even insinuated it he would be drawn and quartered in the media.

But Obama can say it, he's black--its okay.

Start Drilling

In today's political atomosphere, it takes some real work or a real concern to get a majority of Americans to be in favor of anything but Mom. More than two-thirds of Americans think that increasing drilling off America's shores is a good thing.

Since President Bush lifted the executive ban on off-shore drilling, I have seen gas prices in my neighborhood drop almost $.20 a gallon. That is without drilling even happening (admittedly there are many other factors involved--I don't want to give the impression that I am not aware of the multitude of factors). So what happens if we actually start drilling? What if Congress actually voted on expanding continental shelf drilling?

This Congress is not popular and not even scheduling a vote is political cowardice at the worst.

Iraqi Interior Minister Takes Time to Visit & Thank Wounded Soldiers at Walter Reed

Just goes to show that gratitude is not dead yet.

Obama's Veep List

Sebelius, Kaine, Bayh, Biden and my goodness what a motley lot we have here.

Let's look at this list from a viewpoint of what Obama lacks and where these potential picks can lend a hand.

1. Executive experience. Sebelius, Kaine and Bayh all have it. Biden doesn't. Really, McCain doesn't have any executive experience either, so this is really a weak point overall for Obama. Experience in general would be helpful--Obama lacks it, but all of these people have it, so terms of balancing the scale on the expereince level, all would help Obama a little.

2. Foriegn policy weakness. Biden is the hands down champ here, with more foriegn policy experience in his little finger than Obama in his whole body. But the Biden weakness is that he is a Senator with foriegn policy experience and that really isn't going to help. Biden has been in the Senate since he was elected at age 29 (he was 30 by the time he was sworn in). Sure he is more knowledgeable, but he has never had to suffer the ignominy of a foriegn policy defeat since it is the White House that takes the blame.

3. Unrehearsed campainging. I don't really know Sebelius that well, but Kaine, Bayh and Biden are all good choices. Obama excells at the big event, scripted speech type events, but falters and stumbles when dealing with smaller, unrehearsed or interactive events, where he can't rely on prepared remarks or responses. In particular, having seen Kaine closer up, he is better at it than the others.

4. The "Gravitas" factor. One knock agaist Obama is he is something of a lightweight, he looks and sounds smart and may actually be smart, but he doesn't come across that way. A VP pick will need to add some depth to the campaign. I like Bayh and Biden for this concept.

Marc Ambinder notes:
Sebelius and Kaine are both governing choices, not campaign choices. They're not going to match Obama's enthusiasm levels; they're not going to do all that well at the VP debates; they're not even going to solve political problems (even Kaine). But they are solid; they are centrist-in-style; they are Washington outsiders; they know how to balance budgets and deal with Republicans. As an historical analogy, think Clinton's choice of Gore.

Choosing Biden or Bayh would put in the White House strong and knowledgeable legislators who would be expected to do heavy lifting with allies and adversaries. both would do well at the debates; Biden is flashy and might upstage Obama, but he'd be the best sheer campaigner and his selection would bring a jolt of enthusiasm to the Democratic ticket (as if it needed more). The downside here is the same as the upside: the focus will be on the ticket and not on Obama, per se. Bayh and Biden would call attention to Obama's manifest lack of engagement with American foreign policy. And Biden, in particular, would face a prolonged period of press recapitulation. (And could Obama trust him to keep his mouth shut?)
Obama, assuming he wins, will want to win one more time, and unless he can successfully govern in the White House, 2012 will see his exit. Thus, I am thinking Sebelius or Kaine, with Bayh in there.

Video of New England-Atlante Match

Video highlights of last nights New England game. The brutal attacks on Shalrie Joseph are ridiculous and the hip and shoulder check of Dube was cmopletely uncalled for.

Guch to Play for Inter-Milan?

Chris Courtney speculate:
The loss of the soon to be 35 year-old [Marco] Materazzi is a particularly hard blow given his strong physical presence in the middle, which is hard to replace at this stage. There was some talk in Milan of an interest in bringing in Chelsea defender Ricardo Carvahlo, who played for Mourinho at both Porto and Stamford Bridge. This may not be so easy since the failure to seal a deal on Frank Lampard may have soured both sides soured on any further negotiations right now.

This makes me wonder if Mourinho may look to acquire Oguchi Onyewu not only as an early season stand-in but as a player to take on Materazzi's role in the future or better yet, to give him a sturdy physical partner to replace the often ailing Chivu. The new Inter boss had been keen to sign Onyewu in January 2007 during his last season at Chelsea but was not able to convince his club to spend the money at the time. Having been sold on him once before, could Mourinho now decide that the "American Materazzi" is at least a short term answer to Inter's defensive woes? At the same time, if Chelsea did sell Carvahlo to Inter, could this open an opportunity for Onyewu at Stamford Bridge and give Gooch the Premiership break he has been looking for? Is Gooch even ready for either club?
I have to be honest, I don't see Onyewu in an Inter-Milan jersey unless Jose Mouriho can convince the Inter board that he is a good fit. Sure, Onyewu is a big boy and quite a physical presence in the central defense. Yet at teh same time, I am not sure he can play Italian style soccer.

Likewise, I don't see him as a regular at Chelsea either. He might make the first team and would certainly benefit from the training environment, but Onyewu has been a regular starter and contributor at Standard Liege, and I don't know if he can take riding the pine for most of a year at Stamford Bridge (of course a loan deal through January could help Onyewu as well as a lower level club). I do like Onyewu's chances and style in the Premier League more than Serie A.

Blanco's Punishment Is.....

I attended the U.S. Open Cup match where Chicago Fire's Cuauhtemoc Blanco essentially assaulted Clyde Simms and was ejected after just 15 minutes. Yesterday, the U.S.S.F., which oversees the U.S. Open Cup tournament handed down a two year ban from the tournament for Blanco or at least six games, whichever comes first. This means that at age 35, Blanco will probably never appear in a U.S. Open Cup match again.

Honestly, I think this is fair. The attack on Simms was bad enough and probably would have warranted just a three game suspension, but Blanco would not leave the sideline area and may have assaulted a DC United employee. The latter I don't know about and didn't see, but it did take at least five minutes for Blanco to leave the field and caused Marc Burch (who was ejected at the same time) to not be able to leave the filed since he had to walk past the Chicago bench area and Blanco (who was certainly dawdling). Burch was correct in not leaving, preventing another incident, but Blanco created the problem.

I think Blanco's post ejection behavior is what got him the big suspension. Like I said, his on-field behavior, while wrong and reprehensible, probably would have gotten three games.

The question is, what will the MLS do? MLS doesn't run the tournament, but his behavior does reflect poorly on the league. I think at minimum a fine and a trip to an anger management counselor would be a good first step. (I normally don't go for the touchy-feely stuff, but it will wound Blanco's macho image a little more and that punitive effect will be better served). If the MLS decide to do nothing (which is their right), they have set a precedent that it doesn't matter how poorly you behave in non-MLS competitions, there are no reprecussions from the league and that is a bad precedent to send. A fine of at least 10 percent of his monthly salary is in order.

All MLS Superliga 2008 Final as New England Wins

New England's 1-0 win over Atlante creates an all-MLS Final in Superliga, with teh final to take place next week.

Shalrie Joseph, whose name you don't see very often on the score line, provided the lone goal of the match.

So an all MLS final is good for the MLS as it proves that the league can win international competitions. The problem, as Kartik Krishnaiyer pointed out, is that this year, almost every controversial call went against the Mexican sides. That is a problem and Kartik wonders if that means trouble for the competition in the future.

I agree that it is a problem, but it is not a problem that is going to be solved by the FMF (the Mexican federation) whining about it. It is no secret that American officiating at the professional level is not on par with the level of play. However, the only way American officials are going to get better is to officiate these higher level tournaments. Advancing the game is not only about the players, it is about the coaching, and it is about the officiating. Pachcua is complaining that their goal got called back, but they lost 2-0, a 2-1 loss is still a loss.

I do think that the FMF will ask for some changes to the event, perhaps by having some of the matches in Mexico (which I think would be great) and perhaps by having international officiating crews (which I think if you mix in some American officials and Mexican officials this can be a good move as well). But I think the level of competition in this year's tournament justifies keeping the competition alive.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Stupid Kids are A School's Fault

So alleges a lawsuit filed in South Carolina after a boy was injured with a "punching game." The boy wasn't hurt by the punch itself, but by a subsequent fall. The lawsuit names the school as responsible?

How, exactly?

Litigation Accounting Disclosures

Overlawyered has the link.

It is an interesting question. FASB is tasked with coming up with standards for public traded companies to report on the quarterly and annual reports to stockholders. Will this kind of information disclosure, help or hurt the investing public?

Politics in U.S. hiring: When is it improper? |

An Intersting report, but are we really sure that this occured? Are the jobs invovled truly career jobs? I don't know and this report doesn't make it clear either.

Denver ProComp Negotiations

The Quick and the Ed has a good summary about the economic principles, including incentives that go into designing a compensation system for teachers. The summary does a good job, but fails to account for one big mover--what is the market, i.e. the voters, willing to bear in terms of salaries.

But what the story does reflect is the tension between old-school union ideas of compensation and the package put together with teachers (as opposed to union officials or negotiators) providing imput.

That is why the political maneuvering in pay negotiations is far more important than the actual terms of the negotiation itself. Threatening a strike when thousands of Democratic activists are in town (many of them teachers or union supporters) makes the possiblity of a strike more palatable for the Denver teachers and less so for the city.

However, the City can pull an ace out of their hat--the voters--which supported the ProComp plan to the tune of cedeing $25 million to make it work. The City should not shy away from breaking out the big gun of public opinion.

This is where too many cities and school systems lose. They don't play the big guns. ProComp was negotiated and endorsed by the union, the school system and the voters. The City should just call the union on it and actually dare them to strike and shut the schools down.

The primary effect of the strike will be to put the union into the position of having to admit that their primary goal is protecting teachers. There is nothing wrong with this position, but the unions often couch their spin in terms of "good for the students." Striking is good for the teachers, not the students and such a position is clearly exposed when teachers strike.

Of course, you will also see a number of teachers cross the picket lines and the size of the line crossing contingent surely indicates the relative strength of the union.

Robbie Keane to Liverpool “An Enforced Sale” | The Offside

What complete bollocks! Sure, Tottenham would have liked to keep Keane, but Keane has been Liverpool fan all his life. With twenty million quid and no doubt a generous donation to Tottenham's charity by Liverpool, Tottenham shouldn't be complaining so much.

Now they have the cash to go after David Bently and Andrei Arshavin.

FC Dallas Confirms Rejection of Cooper Bids

FC Dallas has rejected bids for Kenny Cooper.

Fine, the club should be able to do so. But at this rate, Cooper deserves to get paid more. According to this information, Cooper will make a guaranteed $83,000 this year. My guess is that Cardiff would have probably tripled that salary easy. Six players on FC Dallas make more than Cooper:

Dulio Davino $400,000.00
Juan Carols Toja $150,000.00
Dario Sala $139,875.00
Pablo Richetti $138,625.00
Adrian Serioux $125,900.00
Anthony Wallace $103,000.00

I am not saying these players aren't worth their salary, (Well maybe Wallace, but as a Generation Addidas player, his salary doesn't count toward the cap). Cooper has played all but about 15 mintues of Dallas' 18 games. He has eleven goals and 3 assists. Cooper has himself made 1/3 of all the teams Shots on Goal (he is a striker, but still that is a lot of production).

So if Dallas want to keep Cooper, that is their right. But at the very least, Cooper has earned a payraise. If Dallas makes it to the playoffs, it will have been on teh shoulders of Kenny Cooper and they should reward him accordingly.

Crystal Palace 0-0 Fulham

Here is the write-up on a club friendly against local Coca-Cola Championship side and local London Club Crystal Palace.

Manager Roy Hodgson dressed a number of Fulham Academy players to give his normal first team a rest after returning from their South Korean Tour.

Fulham Sign a Quality Right Back

Fulham signed Fredrik Stoor, a Swedish International from the Norwegian club Rosenborg to a four year deal. Stoor made three appearences in Euro 2008 and has experience in the Champions League.

I like John Pantsil and with the signing of Stoor, there should be some quality competition for the right back position. At the end of the season, when Paul Stalteri's loan deal was complete, right back was really a concern for me, as it didn't look like any of the current players could play in teh position and Eliot Omusuzi, who is developing well, didn't have the look of a 38 game player, yet (I hope his loan deal will help him develop). So this move by Hodgson I have to praise.

Houston Dynamo in Superliga Final

MLS's Houston Dynamo, a team that has been on a bit of a roll of late, advanced to the Superliga 2008 Finals last night with a 2-0 win over Pachuca, the defending Superliga champions.

Pachuca has seriously become Houston's archrival in international play. Last year Pachuca elimited Houston from the Superliga in the Semi-finals in penalty kicks. Pachuca also elimanted Houston from the CONCACAF Champion's Cup, so the Mexican side has been something of a real thorn in the side of the Dynamo. But not last night. Bobby Boswell and Corey Ashe scored the goals for Houston.

Tonight New England and Atlante square off and New England has looked strong, very strong lately. I am hoping New England take the win and set up an all-MLS final.

Carnival Action

I have been pretty remiss in keeping up with Carnivals.

Here is this week's Carnival of Education.

The Homeschoolers Carnival is here.

Carnival of Maryland XXXVIII links to articles written by the Maryland bloggers (see blogroll on the left hand side.)

Please go read.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Things You Don't Need to Worry About

John Tierney writes:
10. Unmarked wormholes. Could your vacation be interrupted by a sudden plunge into a wormhole? From my limited analysis of space-time theory and the movie “Jumper,” I would have to say that the possibility cannot be eliminated. I would also concede that if the wormhole led to an alternate universe, there’s a good chance your luggage would be lost in transit.
Tierney has less esoteric "concerns" that shouldn't really be concerns like killer hot dogs or the concern that using your air conditioning in the car on a hot day (or any day) is killing the planet.

There was only one fatal shark attack last year. Good to know as this is Shark Week on Discovery Channel.

Briiliant for One Keeper, Humiliating For The Other

Courtesy of 101 Great Goals: Jung Sung-Ryeong vs Ivory Coast.

It is not something you see every day.

Thanks Ryan Giggs

Manchester United's long serving midfielder Ryan Giggs blames agents for the mercenary nature of world football.
Manchester United veteran Ryan Giggs has slammed players' agents for fueling the mercenary nature of football transfers.

Giggs said: "Many players want to make as much money as they can and change teams for ten grand.

"How is that going to make much difference to their lives? Foreign players always have their home somewhere else, so they are going to have their eyes on going back."

The Welshman added: "If you get those players on their own they are good lads.

"So a lot of the blame has to go on their advisors and agents who make a lot of money out of these deals and don't have the interests of the player at heart."
Giggs' comments come on the heels of the Cristiano Ronaldo transfer saga. When agents for players stand to make a killing themselves, it is hard to deny the conflict of interest. Assuming Ronaldo goes to Real Madrid for the reported £70 million, then Ronaldo's agent, Jorge Mendes will make about 15% or £10 million or so, not to mention the continued cut of Ronaldo's imaging rights, endorsement deals, etc.

Of course, football is not the only sport dealing with such pressures. Here in teh U.S. American football, basketball and baseball mega deals can make the agents very, very rich men.

The question of course is not whether such deals are good for the players (financially they are, but who is taking care that they don't blow the money) or the agents. But I think Giggs might be getting at the real question--is it good for the game.

This coming from a man who has made a record 759 appearences for the Red Devils and has been with the club for 18 years.

UEFA Earns $394 Million From Euro 2008

That is a hefty chunk of change.
UEFA said turnover during three-week tournament in Austria and Switzerland was US$2.04 billion (€1.3 billion), with more than half the money coming from the sale of broadcasting rights.

At least 155 million people watched each of the 31 matches live on television, UEFA said.

The cost of organizing the event grew from €313 million in 2004 to €600 million (US$943 million).
If TV rights got $1 billion, then UEFA brought in $1 billion in other methods, ticket sales, merchandising, and other revenue stream.

That the tournament was one of the best run, produced events I have seen in a long time helps. But really, it was the quality of the games that got people watching. Now if South Africa can do as good a job, then I think the beautiful game will see an explosion in this country as well.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Eduwonkette: Get to Know Jim Spillane

Based on just a quick read of Spillane's activities, Eduwonkette is absolutely right.

Here is a guy with a different take on educational reform issues.

Integration by Socio-Economic Class

Integration Joanne Jacobs points to a New York Times Magazine piece talking about the new integration movement in schools, integration by socio-economic class. Jacobs brings together comments from both proponents and skeptics.

So my question is also pretty basic, what kind of mix is appropriate? Is it 1/3 rich kids, 1/3 middle class kids, 1/3 poor kids? Is there some other options? How do we determine socio-economic status? Is it by where people live? What about the fact that neighborhoods change over time? What about the current problem of people living in homes they can't really afford? What other factors will become "shorthand" for socio-economic status--neighborhood, what car your parents drive, how you dress, what?

From a practical standpoint this is hard in comparison to simple racial integration. With race, you can more or less see in the appearance of a child. But you can't tell socio-economic status by looking at a kid. So we will take the short cut and probably use where a student lives as a sign of class.

How is this helping anyone? Should we take whatever steps are necessary and devote the proper resources to helping those who need help rather than attempting to solve every problem by "integrating" kids into a classroom that some researcher thinks will provide educational benefits?

Charter Schools: Doing More with Less

Edufalck highlights a study that talks about charter schools and notes:
But what is most interesting is the statistic that public charter schools receive, on average, 40 percent less funding that other public schools.

Imagine that. Held to the same academic standards by the school district and state. Teaching the same pool of students (or possibly the most difficult students in the pool). Tied to the same real estate, utility, and staffing costs as other schools in the city. Yet these charters are only getting 60 cents on the dollar to deliver BETTER results than those fully-funded schools.
First I would note that at least in Maryland charter schools must, by law and as recently interpreted by the Court of Appeals, recieve essentially the same per pupil funding as a traditional public school (with a small, probably around 3% discount for administrative costs like payroll, etc).

But that is not the point. Many charter opponents argue that charter schools are not doing any better academically than traditional public schools. Fine, but there is at least one lesson to be had if the 40% discout is indeed accurate---

You don't have to spend so much money to get the same results.

By corollary, what if the charter school was getting the same per pupil budget? What would their academic achievements look like then if they were hamstrung by budgetary constraints that don't exist for traditional public schools.

MLS Expansion: The Problem of Player Depth

Fox Soccer channel's Bobby McMahon opines on MLS' expansion plans for 2011 and beyond. With 16 teams (counting Seattle (2009) and Philly(2010)), MLS is looking at a couple more cities in 2011. While the list "officially" contains Montreal, Vancouver, and Ottawa(?!!) in Canada and St. Louis, New York City, Portland, Atlanta and Las Vegas (?!!) are listed among U.S. hopefuls. I will have more on the candidates themselves later.

But McMahon brought up a real challenge for the MLS in terms of players.
But perhaps a greater challenge relates to the product – the talent pool and in particular North American talent. With over 50% of an MLS team’s roster coming from domestic sources the youth, academy and college systems will need to pump out an unprecedented number of players otherwise the on-field product is going to suffer.

The production of players who can perform at the top level is not something that can just be turned on at a spigot. The MLS problem is compounded when you consider the consistent exodus of some of the best American and Canadian players to European leagues.

With the salary cap as it is, the best North American-born players can make more money playing for average teams in second tier leagues in Europe let alone the bounty that might be available should they make it to any of the top flights.
The current collective bargaining agreement ends after the 2009 season. So the Philly franchise and the future expansion clubs will be subject to a new CBA. So that leads to the question, is the MLS and the owners going to start paying competitive wages to its core squad players?

As McMahon pointed out, many youngsters and not quite college grads can go to Europe in particular, but potentially Asia/Australia and Mexico and make a pretty good living as a soccer, better than they could here in teh states playing for the MLS. For 2009, the minimum salary for senior players (i.e. not development players) will be $34,000 per year. Development players will make $1,175 per month, which assuming they are with the club the entire year, their salary would be $14,100 per year. Senior development players 2009 salary is $1,75 per month, or $18,900 per month. This might be good money for some 16 year old kid working at McDonald's but it pathetic for a major sports league, particularly since, given the depth of the average MLS squad, means that most senior development players and quite a few development players will see first team action in any given season.

McMahon is right, a number of players can go to Europe and play in lesser leagues, like Austria, Ireland, Scandanavian countries or play in lower divisions, i.e. second or third divisions, and make $50,000 or more with much more of a chance to move into the upper reaches with hard work and good performances. The same cannot be said for a development player, who usually must take a second job or live in someone's basement to make ends meet.

In order for the MLS to maintain its expansion and keep players in the states, they are going to have to radically ramp up their salaries, with developmental players in the range of $30-40,000 and senior players with a minimum of $65-75,000 per year if they want to have any hope of holding on to players and allow them to develop the game in this country.

I think the quality of play in the MLS is, right now, on par with the middle ranges of the the Coca-Cola Championship in England or Serie B in Italy or Bundesliga 2 in Germany. On any given day, I think a MLS club can compete with the lower teams in the top European leagues, but not over the course of a 38 game season. I think MLS Comissioner Don Garber and the owners would like to have a league that is considered of a good quality internationally, but that cannot happen if you pay poverty wages (comparatively) to your average squad player. These guys can go overseas and be squad players for much more money.

In any given year, the top MLS players will be looked at by overseas clubs. That is a given and that is the nature of the player market. But if we want to see real transfer fee money coming to the MLS, we need to develop the league's level of play and that means getting the top American player prospects playing in this country. (it also requires other things like better quality coaching and for goodness sakes a real soccer field to play on, but that is another post as well).

So the question is, if Garber and company are going to expand MLS, is the CBA renegotiation going to include massive pay increases? I certainly hope so.

Union PAC Contributions

I would love to see the details this rule. As reported by the Wall Street Journal:
No other major institution could get away with its bosses demanding that every single one of its workers step in line behind its political preferences. This is the sort of imposed political obeisance that infuriates so many workers and turns them away from unions.

The SEIU political mandate may also violate federal law. Union and corporate PACs are supposed to rely on "voluntary" contributions, and it is illegal for them to use money secured by the "threat" of "financial reprisal." It's hard to see that an SEIU mandate enforced by financial penalties of 50% isn't a "threat" or would qualify under any definition of "voluntary."

There's more. As many workers who would rather not join a union realize, employees can be required to join a union or to pay dues as a condition of employment. It is illegal, however, for a union to take these compelled union dues and use them to affect federal elections.
The Departments of Labor and Justice are reportedly looking into the matter and I suspect that the FEC is not far behind.

Ulsan 1-2 Fulham

Results from Fulham's South Korea TourUlsan 1-2 Fulham. Zoltan Gera and Simon Davies scored for the Whites.

I would kill for non-pirated video.

Eddie Johnson watch: Reports indicate that he blew a chance to even the score late in teh first half. Don't know if this was the reason he got subbed out after halftime or not.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Fragile by Design

Arnold Kling looks at Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and discussed the fragile nature of their design.
This summer’s episode of the crisis in housing finance featured Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, two government-sponsored enterprises (GSEs). While it was often said that Fannie and Freddie were “too big to fail,” the real reason the government rescued the two mortgage giants is that their portfolios are too difficult to liquidate. Unlike Bear Stearns, the investment bank that collapsed suddenly earlier this year, Fannie and Freddie cannot be merged into other firms.

The GSE bailout exposed the fragility of our mortgage finance system. Years of government intervention have made the mortgage market heavily dependent on the GSEs. (As Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson has noted, in the first quarter of 2008 they funded 70 percent of all mortgage originations.) By the same token, the government policies that fostered this excessive concentration also made the GSEs highly susceptible to the sort of “run on the bank” that took place earlier this month.
Kling notes that Fannie and Freddie were designed to deal with catastrophic failures like the great depression, but are incredibly fragile when faced with something new.
Fragility is a common characteristic of centrally-planned systems. Designed to withstand historical shocks, they can fail catastrophically when faced with a new experience. The classic example is the Maginot Line, which was well-suited to the historical experience of World War I but unsuccessful when confronted with the Nazi blitzkrieg.

The opposite of a centrally-planned system is an emergent order, or what economist Friedrich Hayek termed a “spontaneous order.” A classic example would be the English language. No one designed the English language; it emerged and adapted over time. Language does not work well when it is designed top-down, as the failed example of Esperanto illustrates. Common law, which is built up over the years by precedent, is another example of an emergent order.
These are brilliant illustrations and I urge you to read the whole article.

Will The Democrats Jump the Shark on Energy?

Good Question. I like this graph:

Hear, Hear

For Ken DeRosa who is still waiting for a sound reason to expand school services into health and additional social services:
I'm still waiting on someone fom Broader, Bolder to offer some evidence supporting the effectiveness of their call to expand public education to cover a myriad of social services.

This week both Diane Ravitch and Randi Weingarten offer tepid defenses over at The Education Gadfly.

Let's take Ravitch's defense first:
I care as much about academic achievement as Checker or anyone else in the world, but I don't see any contradiction between caring about academic achievement and caring about children's health and well-being.
The issue isn't about who cares about children's health and well-being. The issue is whether public schools, who are by and large failing at their primary task of education, should take on the additional responsibilities of caring about children's health and well-being. You could care very much about the health and well-being of children and NOT think it's a good idea to hand these services over to our public schools.

The argument seems to be that since children attend school every day (cough, cough) that social services could be easily provided at school. Then why not hand over these responsibilities to the post office. After all, they make house calls six days a week regardless of the rain, snow, heat, or gloom of night. They could give the kids a quick vision screen and drop off any drug prescriptions.
No one in their right mind would delegate such tasks to the Post Office, it is clearly not their job. Likewise it is not the job of schools to ensure the health of their students, beyond simple things like safety on the playground or preventing the kids from running with scissors.

When and if, the schools can accomplish their first mission with a degree of success closer to 99% than we currently are, then we can start thinking about expanding school services.

But I would like to point. I have no problem with the schools being teh "site" of a free, basic health clinic, so long as it is not funded with school money or staffed by school employees. Schools are used by many groups for non-school related functions (i.e. churches, civic associations), but that is very different than the schools themselves providing the services.

Have Charter Schools Won in DC

Perhaps so, when Marion Barry, the symbol of the old guard in Washington DC politics is promoting 2 charter schools, maybe it is a time for DC to sit and wonder why.

What is Achievement?

That is the $64 Billion dolalr question, isn't it?
In today's education reform era, student achievement is king. We want to see our kids succeeding. We want to see test scores rise. We want to know we can better compete against foreign nations on things like PISA and TIMSS. We want assurances our students are getting a top-notch education measure by results, and not by processes.

But what, exactly, is achievement? Eduflack and a close friend have been debating this very issue this week, and it really has me thinking. Do we, as a nation, now believe that student achievement is only measured based on state-offered standardized tests? And if not, what else qualifies as a measurement tool?
When you get a definition for achievement, you can answer a great many of today's greatest education debates.

DC Teachers Union President George Parker Gets It

But will others:
GEORGE PARKER: The charter school enrollment is increasing. Public school enrollment is decreasing. We are now a competitive school district where student achievement may very well determine our existence.

JOHN MERROW: More than a quarter of D.C.’s school-age children now attend public charter schools, where teachers do not have to belong to the union.

GEORGE PARKER: Normally, unions have not had to contend with any sense of accountability or responsibility for student achievement, and our existence and survival has not depended upon that.

JOHN MERROW: Why hasn’t student achievement been a bread-and-butter issue for teacher unions all along?

GEORGE PARKER: I think that there has been a union paradigm of union and management of, “This is your turf. This is our turf.”
But the question is whether union officials like George Parker will survive in the DC teachers' union where other leaders think Parker is too cozy with Chancellor Michelle Rhee.

Will Obama Get a Bounce in the Polls After His Foreign Trip?

Michael Barone asks that question and the response is, well not yet.
The assumption among most observers seems to be that Barack Obama will get a bounce in the polls from his trip to Afghanistan and Iraq, the Middle East, and western Europe. But it's not apparent in the polls that have come in to date. Gallup tracking shows him with a 46 percent-to-42 percent lead, about what he's had since clinching the Democratic nomination June 3. Rasmussen tracking shows him ahead by just 47 percent to 45 percent and the day before had the race at a 46 percent-to-46 percent tie. The Detroit News poll shows Obama leading in Michigan by only 43 percent to 41 percent, and there is some good news for John McCain in the recent Rasmussen poll in Ohio showing McCain ahead 46 percent to 40 percent. This last is a contrast with another poll in Ohio, showing Obama ahead 48 percent to 40 percent, conducted by the North Carolina Democratic firm PPP, whose record this cycle seems to me to have been erratic.
While Obama may have "needed" to go abroad to prop up some sembelence of foriegn policy credentials, his messianic type speech yesterday did really help. I don't seem as having done anything substantive and his speech, while somewhat inaccurate as lots of other bloggers have pointed out, really did nothing to elevate him in anyone's eyes as a serious thinker about the reality of the world. Sure, I like aspirations of peace, freedom and justice, but the world is seriously lacking of all three in many places, including places in Europe it should be noted. So what did the speech do, it gave Obama thousands of screaming, cheering fans (none of whom or very, very, very few of whom can vote for him) and the feeling of supriority.

But the effort really does not demonstrate any semeblence of a real foreign policy, not even an outline that would separate him from anyone else with general good intentions.

Barone also notes this interesting little tidbit:
Another interesting result from Rasmussen. He now shows that voters believe the United States is winning rather than losing the war on terrorism by a 51 percent-to-16 percent margin. A year ago, in July 2007, the numbers were 36 percent to 36 percent. That's a big change. It could mean that voters will want to continue something like the current approach, which would be good news for McCain. Or it could mean that voters will decide that we don't need to worry about terrorism much anymore, which would be good news for Obama. Stay tuned. I don't think the voters' decision-making process is complete yet.
We are only one attack away from a massive change in that number. Of course, the media meme on the war on terror has greatly shifted as a result of changes in Iraq.

Holy Cow!! Quantas Airline Flight Damage

Tammy Bruce links to video of teh Quantas airlines flight that ended up with a six to eight foot hole in its fuselage very close to the wing.

Check out the flight attendents serving drinks to oxygen mask wearing passengers!!. Great, give them alcohol to dull the senses and oxygen to sober them up faster.

Newt: No Boring White Guys

Newt Gingrich warns John McCain not to pick a "boring white guy" as his VP candidate. The two names that Gingrich mentioned are certainly neither. Bobby Jindal (a guy, but certainly not boring or white) has said he is not interested (thankfully--he will be better off as governor of Louisiana for a while). The toehr name is Gov. Sarah Palin of Alaska. She is white, certainly not a guy and I have no idea if she is boring or not. But she does make a lot of sense on a number of levels.

Brian McBride Will Play In Chicago

Of course, we always knew he would, the question was always the price Chicago would have to pay to get the rights to McBride from Toronto (I am still amazed that a club that didn't exist when McBride left the MLS suddenly gets rights to him, but then there are a lot of MLS rules I don't get). I was also wondering if MLS would make up a new rule for McBride like players (I called it the McBride Rule of the U.S. International Rule).

Fortunately, the MLS didn't create a new rule on the fly (see Beckham rule or the Designated Player). But Toronto has striker problems in a bad way. From another SBI Post:
The trade between Chicago and Toronto FC for the rights to Brian McBride does involve Chad Barrett. A source with knowledge of the deal confirmed to SBI that the package I discussed last night is, in fact, what Toronto will receive. TFC will acquire Barrett, a first-round pick and allocation money in exchange for the allocation spot Chicago will now use to acquire McBride.

The deal doesn't end there.

Chad Barrett is in the final year of his contract so TFC had some incentives included in the trade that will mean Chicago must give up something more if Barrett doesn't re-sign with MLS in 2009.

So why did TFC do the deal? Apparently Danny Dichio's concussion is worse than first believed and the rest of his season could be in jeopardy. With Jeff Cunningham buried in the basement of the TFC doghouse, Toronto was desperate to add a veteran forward. The club is still searching for an international forward but the hope is that Barrett will be able to step in and start while the club searches for a second striker.

As for suggestions that MLS commissioner Don Garber forced Toronto to make the deal, that is not the impression I am getting. It really came down to Toronto's forward situation becoming so dire that it had to act for fear of hurting its own chances of securing a playoff spot. Say all you want about Chad Barrett, but he has scored goals in MLS and can produce if given chances. Toronto's midfield is good enough to produce chances. It just hasn't had anyone to finish them lately.
Dichio is just bad luck, but I don't understand why Mo Johnson and John Carver are so down on Cunningham, but they are and them's the breaks. Don't be surprised if Cunningham doesn't find his way to another club in the next couple of weeks.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

DC's Rhee Setting the Bar For Innovation

Continuing on a path of tearing up the old way of thinking in DC public schools, Chancellor Michelle Rhee is looking at a really changing the teacher pay structure in the city, at the expense of time-honored traditions, like tenure and seniority.
D.C. teachers interested in the huge salary increases proposed by Schools Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee would not only have to relinquish their seniority but also risk dismissal by spending a year on probation, according to details of the plan released yesterday.

The tradeoff, part of one of two salary scenarios under discussion, could earn an instructor with five years of experience as much as $100,000 in base pay and bonuses. The structure would put the city's teachers in an elite class in a profession in which the national average salary is $47,600, according to the most recent survey conducted by the American Federation of Teachers.

D.C. school officials said the leaps in pay would be subsidized partly by private foundations.

The plan is the centerpiece of Rhee's attempt to make the Washington school system a national model for linking teacher pay to improved student achievement. She says increased teacher accountability is key to any effort to overhaul schools, and she has targeted a seniority system that she thinks protects ineffective instructors.
Now the proposals are still being negotiated, but essentially, there are two options for teachers to see significant pay increases.

Option 1 would see a 28 percent increase in pay over five years and a $10,000 reform bonus (for dealing with the stress) paid over two years. In exchange, teachers would give up the seniority right of "bumping" a
less-tenured teachers if a school closes. A teacher could land a job at another school only with the consent of the principal. Teachers unable to find a principal to hire them could opt for early retirement, a $25,000 buyout or a year's grace period -- with salary and benefits -- to continue searching. If that was unsuccessful, the teacher would be fired.
Of course, the problem that teachers and some union officials see is that the principals are hired and fired (no tenure for them) by Rhee, which union conspiracy theorists see as just a way for Rhee to rid herself of undesireable teachers in a roundabout way since she has not been able to get direct firing authority.

The second option would see base pay increase by 20 percent over five years, the $10,000 bonus and annual performance bonuses of up to $20,000. Now this kind of bonus structure is real bonuses, not these mealy three or four thousand dollar bonuses. Of course, this comes with a couple of trade-offs. In addition to the anti-bumping provisions, the teacher would be on a one year probation where they could be fired without any other notice. The teacher would need a recommendation from teh principal to keep a permanent job and all new hires into the DC system would be on probation for four years. Of course, the manner in which bonuses would be determined was left unsaid as it is still be negotiated.

Of course, there are some union officials and teachers who think that Rhee is trying to take away "rights" of teachers with this plan. My short answer is that a job as a teacher is not a "right" and poor performance should not be rewarded with a protected status, no matter what.

I have never heard of anything like this anywhere and it does lead to some interesting dynamics which makes me think Rhee and her team are ten times smarter than any school administration that this town or union has ever seen.

Rhee appeared with union President George Parker and presented the ideas, which are still being negotiated. Rhee's last job was looking at how school systems could improve their relationships with unions and reform union contracts, attempting to at least level the balance of power between the system and the unions. So Rhee has directly engaged Parker and as the story seemed to note, a schism is developing in the union. The divide pits the Parker faction, which is at least open to change, against the "union rights" faction. The division will become public and the union will have to finally determine, in a public fashion, whether the teacher's union will be on the side of making the schools better in DC or maintaining a status quo that is not doing the school sytem any favors.

I think Parker probably understands what is being done, but I am not sure anyone else in the union leadership understands. Rhee will either make the union a partner in improving the schools or will marginalize the union, breaking its power in the arena.

Second, Rhee clearly will get a victory at elminating the power of bumping. Bumping creates a lot of tension among the teachers themselves and puts principals on the defensive every summer, particularly principles at new schools or schools that have a lot of new hires. Such a principal never knows if some other teacher is going to come in and bump a teacher from a school. This makes planning and developing a proper mix of knowledge and experience at a school very, very difficult. Given the school closures that will be happening this year and in the coming years, it is clear that this is real problem. It is not eliminating seniority, but it is curtailing one of the key perks of seniority and allows a principal at the more popular schools to have a bit more security in their staff from year to year.

Third, by stabilizing the school staffing, Rhee gets rid of the gaming that routinely happens each summer, when school principals know that a teacher is retiring or leaving, but get the teacher to hold off announcing until the last possible minute. The reason for holding off is to avoid the "bumping problem." By eliminating that problem, the principal can work with Rhee and central HR to start hiring the kind of teacher he needs rather than simply taking the next senior teacher looking for a job, regardless of qualification.

Fourth and finally, Rhee's move at this time, sets up a fight with the school board and City Council. I thought this little tidbit interesting:
The information packet distributed yesterday included a copy of a little-used 2000 law on the District books that allows principals to diminish the importance of seniority by using other factors, including job evaluations, in deciding whether to retain teachers.

What Rhee intended by distributing copies of the law was not clear. She did not respond to a request for an interview.
People may wonder why include it, but this is smart politics. It shows that Rhee has done her homework on the law in DC. I have no doubt that this law, had Rhee not made it public, would have been quietly repealed, taking away Rhee's key weapon in her "principal input" teacher staffing plan. By putting it into the packet Rhee telegraphs to the union and to the City Council that she is on to the game and they can be assured that if they try to repeal it now, she will call them out publicly. This is absolutely brilliant politics. What it does is gives teachers and administrators clear legal authority for what she proposes by having principal input and/or veto over bumping teachers until such time as these pay plans are finalized--thereby preventing the last minute bumping at schools this summer. It also tells the City Council that they need to stick by their word to let Rhee and Mayor Adrian Fenty get on with the business of making the schools better. It dares the City Council to repeal the law and if they do Rhee and Fenty will jump all over them as being anti-school improvement and in favor of the old way of doing things that does not help DC school kids.

Rhee and her team are smart cookies and DC should finally be on full notice that they are not dealing with the same old school superintendent here that will bow to old political power.

Is This Why I Am Not "Feeling" The McCain Campaign has a couple of really good links about McCain's campaign on the internet.

But this quote really hit home:
Reader C.J. Burch emails: "To win elections the Republicans are going to have to defeat the media...not co-opt it. That they can't figure that out is a sign that their judgement is dangerously suspect."
I have been largely underwhelmed by the McCain camp and while I am sure the election will be close, I don't think McCain is doing nearly enough to make it happen for them.

Even his ads seem.... not very aggressive.

Here is what I think is the problem, for nearly a decade, John McCain was the media darling among Republican lawmakers. But with the rise of the Messiah Obama, they have a more liberal figure to glom onto, thus, bye-bye McCain.

Sturgis Out, McCarty In for Olympic Team

Soccer By Ives reports:
FC Dallas midfielder Dax McCarty has replaced Real Salt Lake midfielder/defender Nathan Sturgis on the U.S. Olympic team after Sturgis suffered a right hamstring injury during training.

The loss of Sturgis leaves the U.S. team with four natural defenders on its roster (Parkhurst, Wynne, Orozco and Ianni) and a fifth in converted midfielder Maurice Edu.

What do you think of McCarty replacing Sturgis? Is the U.S. team's lack of defenders a cause for concern? Should U.S. coach Peter Nowak have called in another defender?
Should Nowak have called in another defender? Sure, but he can't. At this stage, Nowak can only call in his alternates, which consisted of Dom Cervi, Frankie Hejduk, McCarty and Robbie Findlay. Hejduk is the defensive alternate, but also over age, so unless Parkhurst, Guzan or McBride go down, Hejduk is out.

Edu can play central defense to a certain extent so you have you have to convert, do something like this Put Orozco, Parkhurst and Wynne on the back line and Edu slightly ahead of them.

But this was a risk that Nowak took when naming so many midfielders. He still has options, but given the general skills of most of the players, maybe he won't need them.

Iraq Banned from Beijing Olympics

BBC SPORT reports:
Athletes from Iraq have been banned from taking part at this summer's Beijing Games, the International Olympic Committee has announced.

The team was already the subject of an interim ban after the Iraqi government replaced the country's Olympic committee with its own appointees.

Under the IOC charter, all committees must be free of political influence.

As a result the team of two rowers, two sprinters, one archer, one weightlifter and one judo competitor cannot attend.

"We sent a letter to the Iraqi government today saying that as the situation stands today it is unlikely to have Iraqi athletes at the Beijing Games," said IOC spokesperson Emmanuelle Moreau.
Fine so far as it goes. But some of teh athletes could have competed under the Olympic flag had this decision come sooner:
BBC Radio 5 Live sports news correspondent Gordon Farquhar added: "The four Iraqi athletes that qualified could have competed under the Olympic flag but the deadline for confirmation of places has passed."
I would hope that the IOC would make an exception to allow these althetes to compete even though politics, both internal in Iraq and at the IOC don't make their training and sacrifices amount to nothing but wasted time.

This Is Just A Taste of What Makes the FA Cup Great

The FA Cup will get started early with 762 teams entering the competition and some of the early round qualifying matches will be videotaped and broadcast by ITV and on

Now, if we could get the same thing going here in the States for the U.S. Open cup.

Aston Villa to Have the Two Brads

FOX Sports is reporting that Blackburn have accepted a bid from Aston Villa for American goalkeeper Brad Friedel conditioned on Blackburn finding a replacement.

That seems an odd condition to place. If you are selling Friedel, then sell him. I think Blackburn will find a replacement for Friedel though I am not sure who.

Brad Guzan was purchased a few weeks ago, but has yet to join Villa as Guzan is awaiting a work permit and is now on Olympic Duty for the U.S., giving Villa a few more weeks to get the work permit.

With Adu In Hand, AS Monaco Still Seeking Bradley

Now that AS Monaco have secured the services of Freddy Adu for the season (with an option to buy) the French rumor mills claim that Monaco is still fter American Micahael Bradley. Reportedly the offer is 6.5 million Euros (just shy of $10 million) and Heerenveen is reportedly asking for 10 million Euros (about $15-16 million) for the midfielder.

In reality, I think a deal could be in the offing here. Reportedly, Premier League side Middlesbrouh and Bundesliga side Bayer Leverkusen have only offered in the 5-6 million euro range. Heerenveen have a good thing in Bradley, using him in more of an attacking midfield role and Bradley delivered, setting a record for goals by an American in the top Eurpopean leagues. Bradley, if he stays with the Dutch club will see European action. But if he moves to Monaco, he will also see a lot of first team action and the probability of pairing with Adu in the midfield would probably have U.S. Men's National Team coach Bob Bradley practically salivating.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Is Mexico Taking the MLS Seriously?

Thanks to Superliga, they might be:
In Mexico, the conventional wisdom regarding Major League Soccer runs something like this: It's the United States, so it must not be good.

Ask any Mexico-based footballer their impressions of MLS before they've competed with or against an MLS club and they'll admit they know little about the league. Once they've played against an MLS club, though, most of them seem to realize the same thing.

"These teams are fast and their football has improved quite a bit," Santos midfielder Fernando Arce said.

MLS may not be highly respected among Mexican soccer supporters and media but a growing number of Mexican clubs are experiencing the American league firsthand. Through such events as SuperLiga, Mexican coaches and players are leaving with positive impressions of the ever-growing league.

"There is a good level here," Pachuca coach Enrique Meza said. "The soccer here is fast-paced and of an important caliber."
In this year's competition, each team is there on merit (as opposed to last year when MLS clubs were essentially handpicked by the league). New England is the only team to go unbeaten in the group stage, winning over both Mexican sides Pachuca and Santos Laguna and drawing with Chivas USA. Houston won their group on the backs of a healthy goal differential of +5. Right now, I think New England would be the favorite to win this, the combination of their English style of play, suprising depth, and very consistent play makes them a threat. The only think that New Englans will be missing in teh semi-final and final is Michael Parkhurst who is in Beijing. Other than that, I don't see much standing in their way of winning.

I think having an MLS club win this year is important in order to keep fan interest in the tournament alive.

Interesting side note, New England could make it a quadruple this year. They are in the semis of Superliga, the U.S. Open Cup, and must be considered the leading candidate for winner of the Supporter's Shield and a strong candidate to win the MLS Cup. They would be the first MLS club to do it and I have to say, I like their chances.

OK, It is the National Enquirer

But really, it seems like they have the goods on the former Senatorand his "second family." Sure, I expect a libel suit, but the law is that truth is an absolute defense to defamation, and Edwards will have to prove that he is not having and affair or a child with a woman not his wife.

Jindal Out of Veepstakes


Bobby Jindal was just elected Governor of Louisiana. If he can clean up that state, both literally and figuratively, then the chances are that Jindal will head the GOP ticket at some point in the future. He has passed a couple of political gut checks lately and being associated with McCain at this point is probably not in Jindal's best interest.

The Concept of Service Nation

It really does violate the notion of liberty according to Jim Lindgren. Mandatory volunteerism is an absolute oxymoron.
Service Nation is an organization devoted to stripping away this bulwark of Anglo-American liberty, hoping by the year 2020 to require every young American man and woman to be drafted into either military or community service. Their more immediate goals include passing a National Service Act in 2009 (which would probably not require universal service).

But they do not even discuss the Constitutional Amendment that ought to be required before they can mandate community service and take away the hard-won Anglo-American liberty from involuntary servitude. The Constitution gives the Federal Government the power to raise a military, which in the 18th century contemplated an obligation of male citizens to serve in the military. In my opinion, the Constitution does not give the Federal Government the power to compel community service.
I have no problem with encouraging volunteerism or charitable giving by providing tax incentives and the like.

I have a problem with requiring community volunteerism. I do not have a problem with a draft since a military draft is designed to address issues of national survival, so that we can have these kinds of debates. I do think that in this day and age, though, given that many, indeed most jobs in the military can and are done by women that simply exempting women from the draft may not be the wisest course of action. There are still many jobs in the military that can be done by either men or women and if you have women doing many of the non-combatant jobs, it would allow men to go out and get shot at for their country, thereby needing fewer men for the draft, but that is another subject.

Requiring volunteerism means that there has to be regulations and when your regulate something, someone, somewhere has to make value judgments as to what counts and what doesn't and therein lies the rub, because it will be govermnent making the decision.

Russian Player Carded for Rough Tackle

Big deal you say, it happens all the time, right. Well, not when the tacke is of a fan invading the picth. Check the video, he wasn't even close to the ball.

Transfer Rumors

Fulham reportedly made a 10.5 million pound offer (about $21 million) for Everton Striker Andy Johnson.

This would be a good signing for Fulham but a bad sign for Eddie Johnson. With Bobby Zamora already making an impact for the Cottagers up top, the addition of Andy Johnson would make Eddie Johnson less like to make the first team, let alone the starting 11. Now Hodgson went after Eddie Johnson last year and perhaps Hodgson is looking at EJ as an impact sub.

Footballers Doing Good

When all the press about footballers this time of the year seeming to focus on transfer fees and contract talks, it is good to see that some footballers using their stature to focus on more serious matters than the beautiful game. Manchester United's Ryan Giggs has been involved in UNICEF for nearly a decade and while in South Africa on tour with United, Giggs took time out to bring attention to the HIV epidemic in Africa.
Raw admiration is etched across Ryan Giggs' face. Phumzile, a young man living with HIV, has just produced a brief video diary detailing the road he has travelled since discovering his illness and overcoming the stigma attached to it – still a huge obstacle in South Africa – by revealing his status to his family.

Giggs sits alongside Phumzile in the spartan classroom of a comprehensive school in Gugulethu, a township 15km outside Cape Town. The Manchester United midfielder has met Nelson Mandela and witnessed some of football's greatest players at close hand, yet his facial expression when he turns to Phumzile at the end of his story betrays a humbled man in the presence of someone of true substance. "Seeing and hearing the lad's story showed what bravery is all about and what being a man is about," Giggs said. "He shared what he has been through and that took so much courage.
Quality stuff.

Follow Up On Columbus

A number of sporting news outfits, including Fox Soccer Channel are reporting that the incident over the weekend between Columbus Crew fans and West Ham United fans, a brawl is what I called, wasn't so bad as initial reports made it out to be. However, looking a video of the incident, I will say that "hundreds" being involved may be overstating the issue, but dozens of people were brawling. Kartik Krishnayer has a thoughtful piece on the problem.

Kartik points to the falling attendence numbers for Columbus as one of the reasons why Columbus as an organization have turned a blind eye to the behavior. Here are some of the incidents that Columbus really hasn't addressed:
1- Columbus did not adequately police the tailgate area before the season opener with Toronto and thus many TFC fans were attacked and with a lack of port o lets for such a large tailgate area, inevitably tensions flared and not only did fans urinate on the ground but they began fighting with one another.

2- At the same match the police presence was so minimal several TFC fans were able to storm the pitch and head towards the goal Columbus was defending.

3- When I discussed the Toronto situation openly and honestly and tried to engage TFC fans on my CSRN show the complaints about me being “too soft on TFC” all seemed to come from Crew fans. Days later several Crew fans were shouting racial obscenities at New England players as caught on You Tube. The Columbus fans also were caught throwing glass bottles and coins on the pitch during the 2nd half of the match.

4- The organization and supporters group in complete contrast to the strong a decisive actions of Chivas USA and Houston in fighting hooliganism tried to cover up the situation and wouldn’t give up the individuals involved. The team would not take action so the league had to after several embarrassing columns were written in newspapers, some of which hardly cover the sport normally. Even more alarming was the attempt by some Columbus supporters to go after sponsors of the MLS Rumors site who had exposed the behavior at Crew Stadium. This is the way off a hooligan, to threaten and bully.

5- In defiance of a league wide ban Columbus fans began sprayed confetti and streamers on opposing players while attempting a corner. Now I cannot recall the specific match but it was done. Why the security did not confiscate the items at the gate is beyond anyone’s comprehension. The league wide ban was more or less enforced throughout the rest of the league. When pressed on the situation at Crew Stadium, Columbus GM, Mark McCullers blamed Toronto FC for the trouble league wide and avoided totally the issue of racist fans.

6- Sunday’s incident: West Ham has a reputation for having rowdy fans, but we’ve hosted English clubs before and never had trouble. The poster promoting the match was an implicit call for some sort of nationalistic pride from the fans, which often times in the past has evolved into violence when West Ham is involved. I’m as nationalistic as it comes when this game is involved whether it be the US National Team, Superliga, or even the Carribean club cup which USL side Puerto Rico participates in. But saying “we take on the Brits, you push us over the top,” is in fact way over the top to steal a line from Crew promotion department. How would Tigres supporters have taken a posted in Dnever prior to the Tecate Cup match two weeks ago that read ” Colorado fans put us over the top against the Mexicans?” The poster and its message strongly indicate to me the Crew management has no interest in stopping the continued incidents at Crew Stadium.
In contrast, other teams have really cracked down on improper behavior. I love passionate fans, it is what makes going to a match so much more special than watching it on television. However, I have young daughters who I want to enjoy the match as much as I do (I already have my oldest chanting the cleaner chants (D.C. United and Ole, Ole) and calling for the can of magic spray when an opposing player writhes on the ground in mock agony), but I cannot take them to a match when I feel it is unsafe.

Kartik notes that if you ask uninformed Americans to do a one word associtaion with soccer, you get "hooligan." I think the English FA and UEFA have done a fine job cracking down on such behavior and the police authorities have helped. It seems to me that the Columbus Crew front office and the Columbus police department need to do the same.

The American tradition of tailgating, not seen in England, should be encouraged, but must be better policed, by the authorities and by the club itself.

I have heard that Columbus will play its next home game to an empty stadium. I haven't seem confirmation of that from an official source, but it is tragic that if it is indeed the case.

Columbus Crew is a fine, quality side and I would hate to see both the club and the League damaged by this incident. It doesn't make for good soccer, and it doesn't make for good press for the beautiful game.

Busan l'Park 1:0 Fulham

Fulham dropped their first pre-season friendly during their tour of South Korea falling 0-1 aganst Busan l'Park in South Korea. The minute by minute match report here.

Manager Roy Hodgson continued to experiment a little with the back line, starting with John Pantsil at Right Back, Brede Hangeland and Leon Adreasen in central defense and Tony Kallio at left back. At the start of the second half, Hangland and Andreasen made way for Aaron Hughes and Paul Konchesky. I think at the end of the preseason, you will see a back line consisting of Pantsil, Hangeland, Hughes and Konchesky from right to left. Toward the end of last season, Hughes and Hangeland featured quite often together and seemed to get things working. Pantsil looks like he is making a good run for starting right back and Konchesky has been a rock at left back. The only problem I see right now is that there does not seem to be a lot of depth to the Fulham back line and I worry about injuries and exhaustion as the season wears on.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Western Oil Shale Potential: 800 Billion Barrels of Recoverable Oil (7/22/08)

From the Bureau of Land Management comes a promising new program.

Of course we are still years away from seeing any actual oil, and of course the environmental nuts will tie everything up for a few more years. But at least someone is taking the need seriously.

Altidore Gets Break At Villareal

Jozy Altidore saw action in Villareal's pre-season friendly and something of a lucky break:
Yellow Submarine coach Manuel Pellegrini has indicated that Altidore will remain with the first team until at least January due to an injury to veteran forward Nihat Kahveci. Kahveci suffered a thigh injury during the Euro 2008 tourney while playing for Turkey and eventually required surgery, keeping him out of action for the first half of the Spanish season.

So, Altidore will have a chance to prove his worth as Villarreal faces a tough run of Spanish league and Champions's League matches during the fall. Regardless of how well he does at the Olympics, he'll need to work extra hard to integrate into his new club team after missing so many weeks of preseason training. Opportunity is knocking - will he be ready to answer?
I hope he will do so, America needs a stunning breakout from the young man and help develop interest in the sport here.

Michael Essien Gets Five Year Deal with Chelsea

I am not a big Chelsea fan, but I am a big Michael Essien fan, and he has signed a new five year deal with Chelsea.

Essien is one of the best players in the world and seems like a sure replacement for Claude Makelele as the holding midfielder.

As a Fulham fan, this will make the Southwest London derby brilliant, although still tough.

Fulham Loan Omozusi

Fulham loaned out Eliot Omozusi to Norwich City for the season.

Omozusi is a solid defender with brilliant prospects and I would have liked to see him at Craven Cottage this season, but with the signing of John Pantsil to play right back for Fulham, Omozusi was not likely to see much playing time. So the loan to Norwich will probably give Omozusi more of a chance at first team experience in the Coca-Cola Championship, which play 46 games a season.

Former Fulham defernder Dejan Stefenovic also signed with Norwich City on a permanent deal.

Donovan to the Premiership

His agent did not issue a denial. But it was one of those, non-answer answers.

If Donovan is going to go to Europe, now is the time. Donovan is 26 and in good form, both for the National Team and the Galaxy. There would be no work permit issues since he has been on the National Team call ups for the past several years. I figure that his best bet would be some mid-table team. He wouldn't get playing time with a big four club, and there would be too much pressure for him with a bottom table team.

Of course, if Tottenham get sell Dimitar Berbatov, Donovan might be a good fit there.

Adu heading to Monaco on season-long loan from Benfica - Soccer -

Adu Freddy Adu has been loaned to AS Monaco in the French Ligue 1 for the upcoming season, with an option to buy at the end of the loan period.

I hope this move gets Adu some playing time. Monaco finished last season 12th in the 20 team top French league.

College Degrees and Pay

Joanne Jacobs notes that acollege degree is no guarantee of future prosperity.

Maybe not, but it is a damn good predictor of it.
A small subset of workers with financial skills are earning enormous salaries in finance and corporate law. But most college graduates are finding that a BA or even a BS is not a ticket on the gravy train.
Yeah, but effort really is the final determinant.

Great Idea!!

Robert Pondiscio at The Core Knowledge Blog suggests that instead of a personal essay with college admission packages, why not require a research paper be submitted. His rationale is imminently logical:
Which is more predictive of college success, past academic work, or a personal essay, where students labor to make themselves seem well-rounded, fascinating and irresistible to schools?

Dropping personal essays could have an interesting trickle-down effect as far down as elementary schools. The “curriculum” in my elementary school (the tedious and content-free Teacher’s College Writer’s Workshop), forces children as young as third grade to grind out endless personal essays, “small moment” stories and memoirs (!) designed to plumb the depths of their eight-year old souls. But it seldom, if ever, called for kids to write anything approaching a simple five-paragraph expository essay, let alone a research paper. That might change if doing so became a requirement for college admissions.
Having worked as a writing tutor at the University of Maryland, College Park, the flagship university of the Maryland system, I can tell you there were a very large number of otherwise bright students who had no idea what an five paragraph essay looked like, much less had the ability to research an question and present a cogent thought or argument on the subject.

This is brilliant, I only wish I had thought of it.

City School Chiefs Lobby for Hot-Button Issues

1.) Create national standards:

Right now, Atlanta Superintendent Beverly L. Hall said the only way for districts to measure their students' performance against the rest of the country is participate in the National Assessment of Educational Progress' program measuring city schools' achievement.

"We need to have national standards and national assessments so then everybody can understand that if you're proficient in math in California, you're proficient in math in New York," said Joel I. Klein, the chancellor of New York City Public Schools.

"If you look at the countries that are doing well, they all have national tests and national standards," he added.

"The fact that you have 50 different hurdles for our children to jump over, that doesn't make any sense," said Arne Duncan, the CEO of Chicago Public Schools.
Does this have any impact?

The Problem With Colleges in a Nutshell

Okay, not completely, but this story is an real idicator of quality problems in higher education:
The study finds that the majority of new faculty feel unprepared to do their job, with women reporting lower levels of confidence in their abilities than men. Furthermore most faculty are working for pay outside of their institution, earning between $6-15K per year to supplement their approx $50K 9-month base salaries.

Let me just say : No surprises here! When I landed this very sweet job at Wisconsin, having just graduated from the highly-regarded sociology program at U. Pennsylvania, I arrived and immediately felt as incompetent as I've ever felt in my life. On a daily (hourly) basis I found myself thinking (saying), "I have NO idea how to do this. I can't do this. I'm terrible at this. I'm going to get fired..." I felt bad for my first class of graduate students, most of whom could tell (as their later evaluations revealed) that I hadn't a clue how to teach. In fact, it was my first class ever, since I spent my time at Penn wisely building the research portfolio that enabled me to get a job at a great school like Wisconsin. I never TA'd, and most certainly never taught a summer course-- I've still never taught in the summer actually-- since I was socialized to understand the importance of grant-writing and publishing, relative to those other potential activities.
If it happened to this one professor, how many others have this problem and how does it impact teaching at the college level.

Are Maryland's Testing Gains Real Or Not

A fair question.Given the incentives, I am not convinced that the achievements are real.

This is one of the problems with the NCLB regime and allowing states to determine the standards for proficiency--if the test change from one year to the next, how are we to know if they are consistently measuring the same thing?

More on Merit Pay

From The Quick and the Ed:
I picture what Ms. Oldham might look like, and I can see her mulling the pros and cons of merit pay. She's probably worried that it would reduce teachers to nothing more than cogs on an assembly line, but also understands the implicit logic that good doctors and lawyers make more money than bad ones. Teachers, on the other hand, are paid only by credentials--all teachers in the same district with a bachelor's degree and 12 years experience, for instance, are paid the exact same amount no matter their talent or specialty area. (emphasis added)
And teachers are paid different from assembly line workers how?

This passage is particularly in line with my previous posts on the subject:
A common argument against merit pay, and the one repeated by Ms. Oldham, is that there are too many human elements for the measurement of teaching. But that argument overlooks even the simple version of the merit pay equation. Race, income and prior achievement are all factored in, and the error term captures all those things that are not predictable--a student's situation at home, whether they had a good breakfast, whether it's too hot or cold, etc.--all things that surely affect the student's score but are not measurable.

It might seem a little too whiz-bang to trust the capabilities of modern statistical computer programs, but mathematicians far greater than I are working to refine the exact statistical equations. We've made giant strides in our ability to compute the value an individual teacher adds to student learning. Let's not let fear of complex, modern math get in the way of promising reform.

The Theories Behind Merit Pay

Corey Bunje Bower's post on the subject does a pretty good job of posing the various questions and assertions on the matter, to wit:
The basic theories behind merit pay, as far as I can tell, are that:
-Teachers will work harder if they know that better teaching will result in more money
-It's more fair to pay teachers based on how good they are than on seniority or education
-Successful teachers are more likely to stay in the profession if their success is rewarded
-Brighter and more driven people are more likely to enter the profession if they know that their success will be rewarded
-Less successful teachers are more likely to leave voluntarily if their pay isn't advanced


And these mean that there are a lot of unanswered questions about merit pay, including:

-How much harder are teachers able/willing to work for more money?
-Would teachers motivated by money behave differently from teachers motivated intrinsically?
-How many more people would consider teaching if merit pay were common?
-How large of a role do salaries play when teachers leave the field?
-What types of people would enter teaching if pay were different?
-How well can we measure how "good" a teacher is?
-Will teachers buy-in to any measure of their success?
-Can a rewards system that is both fair and easy to understand be created?
-What type of behavior should be rewarded?
-What types of challenges or additional responsibilities should be rewarded?
-Do teachers know how to alter their behavior so that they will be more successful? (i.e. if teachers work harder, will they necessarily be better?)
Fair enough, but Bower's response that we need more research before doing anything simply isn't good enough at this stage. Do we need more research, sure. But how are we going to get enough information to study the question unless we TRY SOMETHING.

I don't think that merit pay is going to be any kind of panacea to our teacher quality problem. But I do know this, it will not hurt the problem. To be honest, I could care less if a teacher is motivated by merit pay, some intrinsic motivation or a combination of those or any other factors. As a parent and a citizen, I just want good quality teachers who are educating our kids.

Yes, Bower is right on some of his questions and determining a system to reward "quality" is the greatest stepping stone to implementing a true merit pay system. Bower notes that economically speaking, we generally act as 'rational beings' in that most people will pursue that which gives them the most gratification of whatever need or desire they have. Some people will always be motivated by other than pecuniary interests--but a fair chunk of us are motivated by material gain, or at least by a reward commensurate with our effort. But if we are speaking in more or less economic terms, then the market place, that is the children and the parents and to a lesser extent the teaching and general community, will determine pretty well which teachers are determined to be of higher quality and thereby desrerving of higher pay.

While I can't offer specifics, I can say this, merit pay is coming, we will probably see it by the time my youngest graduates from high school and most certainly in my lifetime. There is simply too much demand from society and from teachers themselves to see pay being differentiated according to skill and success at mission, that is teaching kids. Our challenge now is not to envision merit pay, but to devise a system in which we can fairly assess teacher effectiveness and quality.

But in order to do that, we have to experiment. We have to try things out in the real world, that is the only way to answer Bower's questions.