Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Israel, Hamas, and moral idiocy

Alan Dershowitz lets loose:
There have been three types of international response to the Israeli military actions against the Hamas rockets. Not surprisingly, Iran, Hamas, and other knee-jerk Israeli-bashers have argued that the Hamas rocket attacks against Israeli civilians are entirely legitimate and that the Israeli counterattacks are war crimes.

Equally unsurprising is the response of the United Nations, the European Union, Russia, and others who, at least when it comes to Israel, see a moral and legal equivalence between terrorists who target civilians and a democracy that responds by targeting the terrorists.

And finally, there is the United States and a few other nations that place the blame squarely on Hamas for its unlawful and immoral policy of using its own civilians as human shields, behind whom they fire rockets at Israeli civilians.

The most dangerous of the three responses is not the Iranian-Hamas absurdity, which is largely ignored by thinking and moral people, but the United Nations and European Union response, which equates the willful murder of civilians with legitimate self-defense pursuant to Article 51 of the United Nations Charter.

This false moral equivalence only encourages terrorists to persist in their unlawful actions against civilians. The US has it exactly right by placing the blame on Hamas, while urging Israel to do everything possible to minimize civilian casualties.
Israel is showing the world how you treat terrorists, now if the European Union had any spine, they would follow suit and not given in to the politically correct crowd.

Dershowitz had this to say as well, which I thought important: "The terrorists have learned how to exploit the morality of democracies against those who do not want to kill civilians, even enemy civilians." I don't condone the killing of civilians, but it is important to remember that the Palestinians actually elected a Hamas government, maybe the Israeli attacks will inspire them to make a more rational choice in their next election.

Reading's Adam Federici Scores Against Cardiff

To tie the match with seconds left in stoppage time. Big deal you say, yet another last gasp effort to salvage a point, right.

Well not so much, you see, Federici is Reading's backup to Marcus Hahnemann--he's a goalkeeper.

This is not your normal, goalkeeper floats a long free kick or punt over the head of an unsuspecting and ill-prepare opposing keeper, Federici scores on a corner kick, after a scrum in the six yard box.

Cool stuff.

Premier League football news from the Barclays Premier League Wenger: Arsenal so close

Aresenal Manager Arsene Wenger says his team is close to dominating the Premier League.

Of course, that is similar to what he has said for like four years and his squad haven't won any silverware for years now.

Perhaps a new talking point is needed.

Illinois Senate Seat

Some people think it could go to the Supreme Court. Some of the scenarios include a battle between Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich and the Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White, who has vowed not to put the state seal on Roland Burris appointment. Another scenario is that the Senate Democratic Caucus is threatening not to seat Burris.
Constitutional law professor Dawn Clark Netsch tells CBS 2 this appointment could likely be the subject of many lawsuits, one arguing the governor had to appoint a senator thus mandating Jesse White certify the appointment, and others questioning the U.S. Senate's grounds for refusing to seat Burris.

Certainly there will now be immense political pressure on Quinn to make that replacement an African-American.

What remains to be seen, however, is whether Blagojevich is ready to fight this all the way to the Supreme Court.
The latter scenario intrigues me. Burris is constitutionally qualified to be a Senator, he is over 30, has been a U.S. Citizen for at leat nine years, and is a resident of the state he will represent. But the Constitution also gives the Senate the power to seat or not seat individuals in the Chamber. What would be the grounds for refusing to seat Burris, because it is not his qualifications. Illinois law gives the Governor, no matter how tainted, the power to appoint replacements for vacancies in Senate seats, which Blago has done. It is an interesting argument.

But this episode and the one in New York, simply reinforces my contention that a special election should be held to fill vacancies in the Senate to complete terms.

Villa Gets Win, Stays in Fourth in Premier League

Hull City 0-1 Aston Villa. Villa is not only winning big, but grinding out results on the road as well. If Villa had won against Stoke City and Middlesbrough earlier in teh year, they would be sitting second behind Liverpool on 44 points.

But grinding out last nights result on the road is making me a believer in Marin O'Neill's crew.

Fulham's Year In Photos

There are lots of good ones. Included in the retrospective, Brian McBride's return to form, a few goals, The Great Escape, the Johnny Haynes statue dedication, Roy Hodgson, and form this year, even training ground photos.

Lots of good stuff for Fulham fans.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Gasoline Prices for 2009

Steve Verdon reports that prices are likely to remain low, with oil trading at $70 to $80 per barrell.

Six months ago everyone was worried about $12 a gallon gas. Oh, the roller coaster.

Rep Charlie Rangel's Problems

It is a long list that could see more added to it:
* Rangel used official House stationary to seek contributions to the Charles B. Rangel Center for Public Service at City College of New York. House rules forbid use of official stationary for such appeals.

* Rangel led a successful congressional effort to protect a tax break that benefited a oil company after the firm’s chief executive pledged a $1 million contribution to the Rangel Center at City College.

* Rangel failed to properly report income he received from a vacation property in the Dominican Republic.

* Rangel failed to comply with state law regarding his ownership of four rent-controlled apartments in New York City.

* Rangel improperly claimed a tax deduction for a primary residence in D.C., despite also claiming his primary residence back home in his New York congressional district.

* Rangel routed $80,000 from his campaign committee treasury to his son for virtually no work on a web site.
Didn't know about that second one, though until now.

Remember, its the most ethical Congress ever!!!

Update: Missed this one: Rangel paying parking tickets with campaign funds.
House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Charles B. Rangel of New York has used campaign funds to pay $1,540 in fines from parking tickets in the District of Columbia in the last two years, according to federal campaign finance records and his office.

Rangel’s campaign committee and his “leadership” political action committee have combined to make 14 separate payments to the D.C. treasurer for “automobile expenses” since March 16, 2007, and a Rangel spokesman confirmed that campaign aides believe they were for tickets.

One $30 ticket from Dec. 9 is still outstanding, according to a search of the recognizably district-descriptive “NYREP15” vanity plate affixed to the congressman’s PT Cruiser on the Web site of the District of Columbia’s Department of Motor Vehicles.
Really, do you think he is just simply too arrogant to beleive he will ever get caught, or just too stupid?

Roland Burris Tidbit

Hmmmm maybe Senate Democrats are right to be reluctant:
In an ironic twist, Roland Burris was appointed to his first state government job in 1973 by Illinois Governor Dan Walker -- who later went to the hoosegow, one of three Illinois governors since 1960 to end up wearing prison garb (there have been seven elected governors during this period).
Burris may not have been involved, but since Blago looks to be on the fast track to becoming the fourth Illinois governor in 48 years to find himself behind bars, it is a little too messy.

The Seven Biggest Political Blunders of 2008

John Hawkins lists pundits blowing the New Hampshire primary, Eliot Spitzer, and Hillary Clinton's fictious bullet dodging story as in the top seven.

Deployment Being Used Against Parents in Child Custody Battles

These kinds of stories offend me. In a nation where we are seeing multiple, long-term military deployments, I would think that the military would be helping families get through these kinds of incidents.

Using deployments as weapons in custody fights seems disingenuous at best and anti-military at worst.

Hard Budget Times Might Mean School Redistricting

As the fiscal outlook for schools get bleaker, there is growing concern about the impact of budget crunch will have on capital improvement projects and the possible redistricting of school lines as some schools are closed and the building of others gets delayed.
As the economic outlook grows increasingly bleak, school systems in the Washington region are delaying construction and even considering shuttering schools, moves that could force wide-scale shuffling of students among campuses and disrupt deep connections that students and families have to neighborhood schools.

This month, Prince George's County's interim superintendent, William R. Hite Jr., proposed closing six under-enrolled schools and parceling out those students to other schools.

Prince William County is considering putting plans for a badly needed high school on hold, a decision that would result in shifting students to balance enrollments.

Loudoun County is facing delayed construction of schools planned for fast-growing neighborhoods and the prospect of closing a handful of under-enrolled schools.

The budget crunch is hitting schools in many ways, forcing increases in class size and cutbacks in staff and programs, but the possibility of uprooting students could be among the most painful for students and their families.

Boundary changes can cause heartache and outrage as students are plucked out of one school and dropped in another, separating them from their friends, teachers, sports teams and clubs. Families that settled in neighborhoods based on the local schools could find that they will be sending their children somewhere unexpected. The changes can be especially hard at the high school level.

"I know a lot of parents here are loading up the pitchforks and shovels now, in case the peasant revolution has to start in January," when proposals for boundaries in Loudoun will be unveiled, said Ed Sugg, whose children attend Little River Elementary School and Mercer Middle School, both in the southeastern part of the county.
There are multiple impacts and not just on class sizes and transportation schedules. While I feel for the families who will be affected (it won't happen to me since I live withing 3/4 of a mile of three elementary schools, the local middle school and the local high schoo, so even if we get redistricted it won't have a material, long term effect on my family), the fact is that our school systems have long ridden a fine line where one major economic blip, like the housing market bubble bursting, could set off a chain reaction of problems, resulting in what school systems now face.

Instead of being fiscally austere, focusing money only on educational programs, we now have school systems that are trying to be everything to everyone, resulting in a reliance by parents on the extra-curricular activities and services provided by the schools, which are the first one hit when economic times get bad.

Really, what did we expect.

'All-Out War' on Hamas

I don't know if the Koran has a quote equivalent to "you reap what you sow" but it seems that Israel is no longer in the mood to be nice about Hamas attack and is pulling no punches.
Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak declared "an all-out war against Hamas" on Monday as fighter jets raked the Gaza Strip with bombs for the third straight day and Palestinian fighters sent dozens of rockets flying deep into Israeli territory.

The Palestinian death toll rose to 364, according to Palestinian medical officials. The Israeli death toll stood at four, including three people killed in rocket fire Monday. One of the rockets hit a bus stop in Ashdod, a coastal community 23 miles north of Gaza, another sign that Hamas is launching longer-range rockets than it did before a six-month truce expired Dec. 19.

Israel sealed off an area around Gaza on Monday, declaring it a "closed military zone," amid indications that the army may be preparing for a ground offensive. Meanwhile, Israeli jets continued to strike targets across the narrow coastal strip, including a security compound and the homes of suspected Hamas operatives.

While previous Israeli assaults on Gaza have pinpointed crews of Hamas rocket launchers and stores of weapons, the attacks that began Saturday have had broader aims than any before. Israeli military officials said Monday that their target lists have expanded to include the vast support network that the Islamist movement relies on to stay in power in the strip. The choice of targets suggests that Israel intends to weaken all the various facets of Hamas rather than just its armed wing.
Of course, Palenstinians elected the political wing of Hamas to power in their long sought after state. If you lob missiles into Israel, a state you have claimed should be wiped from the map, did you really think the Israelis were simply going to sit on their hands and say "bad boy" and send for what amounts to a slap on the wrist? I didnt' think so.

By the way, all that blubbering about "proportional response" is just that blubbering. It is time for Isreal to kick a few asses over there.

Is This The Best We Can Do for Senators?

First, in Illinois we get a all but convicted dirty governor appointing a former close advisor we know nothing about and apparently because he is black and in NY we get the eloquently vague Caroline Kennedy who isn't doing her family name any credit.
Caroline Kennedy's second act as a Senate hopeful didn't get much better reviews from New York's press than her first.

A New York Daily News columnist said "the wheels of the bandwagon are coming off." New York Post State Editor Fred Dicker already put her on his list of 2008 losers. And The New York Times said "she seemed less like a candidate than an idea of one: eloquent but vague, largely undefined and seemingly determined to remain that way."
It is said that America gets the government it deserves, but are we really getting that, or are we just letting it go a little too much.

I am leaning to a constitutional amendment that would require special elections to fill Senate vacancies as well as vacancies in the House. These processes simply seem a little to vague, undefined and quite frankly fishy.

No Blacks In Senate

Via Drudge:

Congressman Bobby Rush (D-IL) said "This is a matter of national importance. There are no African Americans in the Senate, and I don't think that anyone, any U.S. senator who's sitting in the Senate right now, wanna go on record to DENY one African American from being seated in the U.S. Senate. I don't think they want to go on record doing that"...

Arguably it is also of national importance that we don't have yet another govnermental scandal that results out of one crooked pol naming a close advisor to a Senate just because he is black.

Senate Dems Say They Won't Seat Burris

Via Breitbart:
Senate Democrats said Tuesday they would refuse to seat the man Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich has picked to succeed President-elect Barack Obama, saying that the taint of scandal would follow the new senator to Washington.

"Anyone appointed by Gov. Blagojevich cannot be an effective representative of the people of Illinois and, as we have said, will not be seated by the Democratic Caucus," Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada and his deputy, Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois, said in a statement.

Former Illinois Attorney General Roland Burris told the Illinois Senate president early Tuesday of Blagojevich's decision to appoint him.

Senate leaders, scattered for the holidays, immediately convened a conference call to respond to what they saw as a sticky situation. Some involved in the call were wary of being seen as denying a black man a seat in a chamber where there are no blacks, according to two officials knowledgeable about the talks who requested anonymity in order to speak freely.

That sensitivity is why the statement includes a section explicitly saying that any "shadow" of impropriety or the Democrats' refusal to seat Burris was a reflection on Blagojevich, not Burris.
I don't know a think about Burris other that was is in this story. But given the track record of the Blagojevich administration in Illinois, the fact that Burris is a former member of that Administration is not a good sign in general.

The governor has the ability and power to appoint a replacement, but I think he and the state would be better served by holding a special election.

Bob Bradley Names Training Camp Squad

As the U.S. Men's national team prepares for their Jan. 24 friednly against Sweden, U.S. Coach Bob Bradley has called 25 players into camp to begin on January 4.

The squad is top heavy with MLS players and a quartet of players from Scandanavian clubs who are on winter break. Some very notable names in the squad, which include

GOALKEEPERS: Jon Busch (Chicago Fire), Will Hesmer (Columbus Crew), Troy Perkins (Valerenga IF), Matt Pickens (out of contract). I like the inclusion of Busch and Hesmer along with Perkins, but honestly, I would have loved to see Joe Cannon on this list instead of Pickens. Still these guys are realistically just battling for third back up behind Tim Howard and Brad Guzan. But the U.S. continues to generate quality keepers and this crop is no exception. Keeper is the one position in the U.S. development that I never worry about.

DEFENDERS (8): Jonathan Bornstein (Chivas USA), Danny Califf (FC Midtjylland), Sean Franklin (Los Angeles Galaxy), Cory Gibbs (Colorado Rapids), Clarence Goodson (IK Start), Chad Marshall (Columbus Crew), Chris Wingert (Real Salt Lake), Marvell Wynne (Toronto FC). Lots of quality, young players here. Of this group, I would expect to see Califf, Goodson, Wynne and Marshall in camp pretty often this year. Franklin has earned a shot, but I think another year of seasoning under Bruce Arena will go a long way to helping him. If the U.S. qualify quickly in the final Hexagonal, I could see Franklin getting some run outs in later matches. My only concern with Marshall is that he doesn't have great speed, but then again neither does Carlos Bocanegra. Boca makes up for it with better position, which I think Marshall lacks. Gibbs, Wingert and Bornstein will have to be impressive to overcome the holds that Steve Cherundolo and Heath Pearce have on the outside backs. Wynne gets included because, let's face it, he is probably the fastest guy on the pitch.

MIDFIELDERS (9): Geoff Cameron (Houston Dynamo), Brian Carroll (Columbus Crew), Ricardo Clark (Houston Dynamo), Eddie Gaven (Columbus Crew), Stuart Holden (Houston Dynamo), Jack Jewsbury (Kansas City Wizards), Sacha Kljestan (Chivas USA), Robbie Rogers (Columbus Crew), John Thorrington (Chicago Fire). Cameron is a surprise here, but other than not, nothing really jumps out at me as a shocker. Carroll is long over due and I think he is a better holding midfilder than Clark. The young wingers Gaven and Rodgers were formidable for Columbus and could be for the U.S.

FORWARDS (4): Brian Ching (Houston Dynamo), Kenny Cooper (FC Dallas), Charlie Davies (Hammarby IF), Chris Rolfe (Chicago Fire). I still don't get Bob Bradley's fascination for Chris Rolfe, but the rest of this group is solid. Ching is a workhorse, but lacks the speed of Cooper and Davies.

Some names that I kind of hoped I would see here, even if for just a look, Jeremiah White (AGF Aarhus), Santino Quaranta (DC United--a personal favorite), the aforementioned Joe Cannon (San Jose).

Any others?

Roy Hodgson Looks Back on 2008

It has been a good year for the Fulham gaffer, and Hodgson notes:
"It’s been a great football year for me,” said Hodgson as he looked back on the past 12 months. “I got thrown into the deep end; we had a very poor start. It took us until February until we actually won a game, after five or six games we’d only taken one point and a lot of defeats.

“But to turn that around as the players did, with fantastic work and commitment, and to actually keep us in the league was a great feeling. To kick on from there and finish the year in the top half of the table, we’ve got to be very satisfied with that.

“But we remain humble and we remain very conscious of the fact that it can change very quickly. We’ve got to be careful that we don’t get carried away.

“We’ll congratulate ourselves to a moderate extent but at the same time, we realise there’s an awful lot of football to be played in this league, we’re a long way from the 40 points that we’re targeting. It’s important that we keep our good qualities alive and we don’t, for one minute, start to believe that it’s going to be an easier task than it’s actually going to be.”
Staying focused on the task at hand is what will keep Fulham in the top half of the table and might earn Hodgson manager of the year votes.

Rumor has it that Hodgson gives his team complete dossiers on their opponents prior ot each match. Not sure what is in those dossiers, but they should include a note to Andy Johnson and Bobby Zamora to start scoring some goals.

Malcolm Gladwell's "Outliers," Education and What Politicians Can Do to Generate Success

Essentially, says Thomas Sowell, politicians can do nothing:
"This is not to say that nothing can be done. One of the most inspiring chapters in 'Outliers' is about a KIPP charter school serving minority students, whose academic performances far exceed those of other minority students, even though these students were selected by lottery, rather than on the basis of ability.

A lot could be done to support and expand such schools. But a crucial factor in the success of the KIPP schools is a commitment by the students and their parents to a demanding educational program. No politician or bureaucrat can create that.

Indeed, politicians and bureaucrats have done much that has had the net effect of spreading attitudes that undermine the prospects of using currently available opportunities.

If enough people read and ponder the implications of 'Outliers,' perhaps that can help begin the much needed process of turning around current counterproductive attitudes toward education and toward life."
KIPP succeeds in some samll part because of the discipline it imposes upon students, but the key to KIPP's successes lies largely in the committment of its students and their parents to get a solid education which will lead them out of poverty, but only on the legs of the student's efforts.

The government can do the former, imposing restrictions and regulations upon people, but only the committment and effort of individuals can lead to success. As the old saying goes, you can lead a horse to water, but you can't make him drink.

Treasury Gives $6 Billion More to GM

Will the madness ever end?
Stepping into deeper waters to help the auto industry, Treasury Monday night added $6 billion to the $17.4 billion bailout announced Dec. 19, chiefly to help the financial arm of General Motors Corp.

Using financial markets rescue funds, Treasury will purchase $5 billion in senior preferred equity from GMAC LLC, and up to $1 billion more will be lent to GM itself so the automaker can participate in a rights offering at GMAC, which has wanted to reorganize itself as a bank holding company.

GMAC won approval from the Federal Reserve last week to become a bank holding company, but that was contingent on the auto and home loan provider raising at least $30 billion in capital. Treasury’s announcement would appear to move GMAC closer to that goal, and a GM spokeswoman was optimistic Monday night.
It is getting stupid now.

How much money can the American taxpayers really give away? Yes, the U.S. government is now part owners of GMAC, but I don't see that as a good thing.

Here is an odd thought--why can the government buy risky, near junk status, stocks in failing companies and that is OK, but won't put a portion of Social Security funds into say better performing stocks?

Monday, December 29, 2008

Fulham Coincidence?

American international Clint Dempsey has started the last eight matches for Fulham, who are on a nine game unbeaten streak.


Interesting stat fact, this time last year Fulham were sitting 18th with 14 points and Lawrie Sanchez had gotten the sack and Hodgson had been hired.

Clint Dempsey's Brace and Scolari's Reaction

Fulham garnered two wins over the weekend, with a 0-0 draw against Tottentham at White Hart Lane and leveling against Chelsea 2-2 at Craven Cottage. Clint Dempsey scored a brace and a yellow card for his shirtless celebration on Sunday. The two draws mean that Fulham have extended their streak to nine games without a loss, granted, there is an awful lot of draws in those nine games, six draws.

While I am happy that Dempsey netted twice for the Cottagers, I have to be honest and say that he is the lucky recipient of horrendous marking on set pieces by Chelsea. Here is Dempsey's second goal, on a solid header, and the reaction of Chelsea manager Luis Felipe Scolari.

Fulham has been playing with superb organization in the back. Goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer and the defense anchored usually by Brede Hangeland and Aaron Hughes, have put together eight clean sheets this season. Yes, they looked good at times on Sunday, but Chelsea should really have won that game.

Roy Hodgson has done superbly this getting the Fulham back line organized and disciplined. The midfield is working well, with Clint Dempsey learning to play well on the wing on either side and hitting a good streak of form of late, Simon Davies playing on the opposite wing. Until a recent injury, Jimmy Bullard and Danny Murphy have been solid in the central midfield. My only beef right now for Fulham is the scoring. Bobby Zamora and Andy Johnson work very hard harassing the opposing back lines, but they are not working well at doing their primary job, i.e. scoring goals. Hodgson seems happy with his 4-4-2, and it certainly is getting results for the Whites, but good grief, we need some more goals.

But Fulham's recent run is good news. They are six points clear of the relegation zone in a very tight table. Coming up are a series of fixtures against teams in the bottom half of the table, with games against Blackburn Rovers(19th place-18 points), West Ham United (10th Place-25 points), Sunderland(15th place-22 points), and Portsmouth(12th place-23 points) in January. If Fulham can grab 6 to 7 points in four games, Fulham will be clearly on the verge of a top half of the table finish and and certainly shouldn't find themselves in a relegation dogfight at the end of the season.

Next up for Fulham is Sheffield Wednsday this weekend in FA Cup Third Round action.

Americans are More Charitable Than Other Nations--Does It Matter?

Americans make a large share of charitable donations and always have. But what motivates that charitable instinct? Elisabeth Eaves of tries to offer an answer but in the end doesn't really:
It's easy to attribute cynical motives to givers. Having been surprised to read that Dick and Lynn Cheney gave 78% of their income away in 2005, I mentioned the figure to several friends and family members, resulting in much sputtering.

Since it struck them as impossible that the Dark Lord himself could give so much to charity out of, well, charity, they groped for other explanations--and quickly hit upon the tax break.

I don't know about the Cheneys, but the tax break can't account for most American giving. After all, you still have less money after your donation than you did before--depending on what you earn, the hit to your pocket book is at least 65% of the dollar figure you gave, and more if you're not in the top income bracket. (And while most Americans give to charity, most don't itemize their tax deductions, which would be required to take advantage of the break.)

Indeed, America has a culture of giving that goes far beyond tax breaks. While the wealthiest citizens give the most in sheer dollar amounts--the top 10% accounting for at least a quarter of giving, according to Arthur C. Brooks--it's in fact low-income employed Americans who give the highest portion of their income, or 4.5%.

The other cynical motive often attributed to givers is that they are building monuments to themselves: They desire to be remembered. But I can't see how this kind of self-interested giving is a bad thing. In some cultures, tradition dictates that the wealthy extend lavish hospitality in exchange for respect; this has the benefit of spreading food and resources around.

In America, the rich seek to gain respect and admiration through philanthropy; this, too, has social benefits regardless of the givers' motives. A child getting an education at the Mary Smith Elementary School couldn't care less why she endowed it. To use a real world example, if someone is cured of malaria as a result of Gates Foundation-funded research, what does it matter what Bill Gates' motives were?

In the end I don't think Americans are more generous in their hearts than other people, nor that they have more cynical motives than anyone else. They are responding, rather, to their culture.

For all its polyglot shifting, U.S. culture is unique when it comes to a belief in philanthropy. It's a value that may be rooted in Christian tithing, but has spread to the secular world. Maybe it's a recognition that with individual freedom comes responsibility, too.

In philanthropy in America, public morality plays its proper role: causing members to do what's good for the group, through expectation and social pressure rather than the law.
Do we give because of social pressure or because of the law? In the end it doesn't really matter.

The American impulse toward charitable giving is important though. When the excrement hits the wind creating device anywhere in the world, the outpouring of assistance from private groups like Catholic Charities or even the mismanaged Red Cross, is staggering. That doesn't even account for the giving that goes unnoticed and unquantified from individuals who suddenly respond with brilliant idea and effort in a one-time burst of giving.

While people may wonder why Americans give more than other nations, perhaps their curiousity should be saved for this question: What if Americans didn't give on the scale they do? How much more suffering would there be?

Are Muslim Nations Tiring of Terrorists Giving Them a Bad Name

Well, the Egyptians certainly seem to be:
Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit harshly censured Hamas today (27 Dec), placing responsibility for the current situation on Hamas. At a noon press conference broadcast on Egyptian television, he said that Egypt had repeatedly cautioned against continuing the situation and that whoever did not listen (Hamas) should assume responsibility and not blame others. He added that Israel had publicly warned that continued rocket fire would lead to military action.”

Passive Homes

Homes that don't use energy to heat and cool the house.:
"Architects in many countries, in attempts to meet new energy efficiency standards like the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design standard in the United States, are designing homes with better insulation and high-efficiency appliances, as well as tapping into alternative sources of power, like solar panels and wind turbines.

The concept of the passive house, pioneered in this city of 140,000 outside Frankfurt, approaches the challenge from a different angle. Using ultrathick insulation and complex doors and windows, the architect engineers a home encased in an airtight shell, so that barely any heat escapes and barely any cold seeps in. That means a passive house can be warmed not only by the sun, but also by the heat from appliances and even from occupants’ bodies.

And in Germany, passive houses cost only about 5 to 7 percent more to build than conventional houses."
Intriguing. Yes, it gets cold in Germany, but the heat extreme doesn't much go the other way.

While certainly reducing the cost of heating/cooling a house by 95% is inticing, can it work in a place where it can be 100 degrees F in the summer and 0 degrees F in the winter. That is, is a passive home as efficient at keeping cool as it is in keeping warm?

Municipal Bankruptcies in 2009

Very likely, very damaging, and very likely to be the recipient of major government bailouts.

After all, if you bailout the UAW, shouldn't the government also bailout the American Federation of Federal, State and Municipal Emplpoyees? The government bailing out municipalities makes marginally more since, given that government employees generally can't go on strike.

Two Looks At Caroline Kennedy

New York Daily News and the Washington Post. From the Daily News' Micheal Goodwin:
Asked about her qualifications, she fell back on gibberish and the Kennedy name.

"As a mother, as an author, as an education advocate and from a family that really has spent generations in public service, I feel this commitment," she said. "This is a time when nobody can afford to sit it out, and I feel I have something to offer."

The "sit it out" part is revealing. Among those who want the job, she has done the least public service by any measure. She didn't even vote in about half the contested elections in the last 20 years.

Sensing she's not ready for prime time, her handlers, most of whom have connections to Mayor Bloomberg, suddenly insisted media questions be submitted in writing. The answers they provided, under their names, were vapid. And she will not, as is the campaign custom, release financial documents that reveal her wealth and holdings. We're expected to trust she has no conflicts of interest.

Even the one job she had in public life has come into question. Apparently on the basis of a chance meeting with New York's schools chancellor at a party on Martha's Vineyard, she signed on as a part-time fund-raiser. How much she raised and how much she worked have been challenged, but no matter. The point is that this self-described advocate for the public schools did not send her children to them.


Limousine liberals are a dime a dozen, and carpetbaggers are nothing new in New York. And with the social scene constantly churning out the old for the next new thing, there's no reason middle-aged dilettantes can't also try their hand at politics.

They just can't start in the Senate.
This is from the Washington Post:
But that's when I caught myself, and my more out-of-the-box side spoke up: Kennedy had young children, and no matter how much child care her money could buy, she clearly wanted to be a very-much-there primary caregiver. Perhaps, like many women in her situation, she found stimulation and satisfaction in whatever tasks most easily fit her schedule and her life, and her kids' lives. You could say her work history was spasmodic; you could say it was scattershot. But you could also say that as her children have grown up, her focus on public life has intensified, culminating in her fundraising for the public schools and her participation in Barack Obama's presidential campaign. You could say that, consciously or unconsciously, she was preparing for this moment.

Rather than a privileged aberration, I prefer to view Kennedy as a bellwether, a case study in how things could be if only the workplace were more accepting of an unconventional CV, one that may brim with great experience and skills and talent but is also peppered with gaps and one-off projects and volunteering. After all, if workers can no longer expect the security of a 50-year career with IBM or Procter & Gamble, then maybe employers should stop expecting each and every job applicant to present them with an old-fashioned sequential résumé. Maybe now's the time to change our thinking about what constitutes the ideal CV.

When we talk about women going back into the workforce, it's illuminating to consider the circumstances under which they left it in the first place. For many women, it was never truly a choice, never truly voluntary. As Pamela Stone, author of "Opting Out?: Why Women Really Quit Careers and Head Home," points out, many are pushed out by jobs with long hours, rigid workweeks and inflexible demands. "These women haven't opted out," says Stone. "They've been shut out, by workplaces that don't pair well with family life."
The Post's bit is rubbish. Caroline Kennedy is not like say, my wife, who left her work when we had children, we couldn't afford to have her work with the cost of childcare being what it is. Caroline Kennedy is not like us--not by a long shot, nor, as Goodwin points out, is she ready for the Senate.

Houston Imminent Domain Problem

It is this kind of problem that makes people trust government less. On a personal note, I hope it doesn't interfere with this project for a soccer specific stadium in Houston. Of course, that is a bit parochial of me as well.

Stimulus Does Have to Mean Pork

Clifford Winston puts a spin on the Obama Stimulus plan. A nice optimistic thought, but given the penchant of Congress to use "stimulus packages" as a pork barrel project, (See the NASCAR provisions in previous bills), do you really think that pork won't be a part of the bill?
President-elect Barack Obama says he will create or protect some three million jobs by spending a massive amount of federal dollars to build roads and other "shovel ready" government projects across the country. The projects in this economic stimulus package, he says, will "not be based on politics and lobbying."

Nice thought. But already Mr. Obama is facing pressure by public officials from coast to coast to run in the other direction. In recent weeks, for example, the U.S. Conference of Mayors forwarded to Congress a list of 11,391 infrastructure projects that, we are to believe, are "ready to go." Several media outlets quickly pointed out that this list is full of pork -- the most flagrant examples are a polar-bear exhibit, an antiprostitution program, and a water-park ride. The nation's governors, transit officials, and the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials have sent along their own lists, which are likely to contain their own "bridges to nowhere."

But the deepest problem Mr. Obama faces is not the diversion of funds to pork-barrel projects -- contrary to popular belief, this generally amounts to a modest share of public expenditures. The problem is rather that infrastructure spending itself is productive only when it produces a large social return.(emphasis added)
Considering that Congressmen need Mayors as much as Mayors need Congressmen, do you really believe that at stimulus bill won't be pork laden?

However, in defense of Winston, he does go on to point out the problem with federal transportation spending, i.e. that it misallocates funds and misallocates incentives with respect to how federal dollars in transportation projects.

Of course, a larger problem for me is how does infrastructure spending broadly stimultate the economy? The New Deal was laden with infrastructure spending and much of it didn't really produce long term economic gain, while it did underemploy millions of people.

Friday, December 26, 2008

It Is Not a Win, but A Point Away from Home for Fulham

The Cottagers traveled to White Hart Lane and nabbed a point, with Fulham grabbing their fourth consecutive clean sheet away from home and extend their unbeaten streak to eight games. True, it is dropping points, but given Fulham's dismal away record in the past years, a point is a point. The draw puts Fulham five points clear of the relegation zone and into 8th place on the table, which gives an indication of just how tightly packed this season is in terms of the standings. Another indication, Fulham, on 25 points, is just two points shy of finding themselves in a spot for the UEFA cup next year, with a game in hand over Hull City and everton and just four points behind Arsenel.

Interestingly, defensive Stalwart Brede Hangeland did not see action and did not dress for today's game. Given that Fulham will host Chelsea on Sunday, I am not sure we should read much into that the non-start. But with the rumors of Hangeland leaving in the January window, it is hard to simply dismiss speculation.

I haven't seen highlights yet, but the game report describes some outstanding work by Mark Schwarzer, Danny Murphy and a few opportunities denied by Tottenham's netminder Heurelho Gomes (who is reportedly fighting for his job with Spurs) against Clint Dempsey and Bobby Zamora.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

MP & Silva strikes MLS TV Rights deal

MP & Silva strikes MLS deal Apparently the deal is worth eight figures. This will do two things for MLS: First, it will secure a revenue stream for MLS for the next five years and second, it will broadcast games around the world, particularly during the summer, at a time when most European leagues are out of season.

A good deal, now hopefully MLS can keep putting an improving quality product out.

Hilarious (Unsuccessful) Crossbar Challenge

Check this video out.

Did anyone Think to Test the Turf

Five years ago, in an effort to bring safer soccer to Harlem, without all the dust and dirt that caused many residents to complain. Now those same fields, with artificial turf installed at a cost of over $1 million, are closed....


Did anyone think to test the turf or the ground before installing the turf. I smell some corruption somewhere along the way. Who were the contractors on the job, who are they connected to in New York. Start checking on these names:
Work on the project began in January 2003. The project was designed by Parks & Recreation landscape architects Shirley Kindler-Penzi and Andrew Penzi and work was overseen by Ahamad Baksh and Vincent Macluso. Construction was performed by D. Gangi Contracting Corporation. Source.
My goodness, how stupid.


I hope and wish for everyone to have a very Merry Christmas with friends and family.

While celebrating with loved ones, I hope everyone takes a few minutes to think about and thank those people who are not with their family today, including the military, police, fire and medical personnel who are serving all over the world today.


Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Changes Here

I have always had an open commenting policy on this blog. I know I don't have a huge audience of readers, but those who do read, I have always encouraged and permitted comments.

However, recently, I have been getting more and more comment spam, mostly of a commercial variety and I have decided that it is time to start putting the kibosh on such activity.

I will still have a policy of allowing anyone to make any comment about the subject matter of a post. I will not censor legitimate speech and debate, but if you are plugging some sort of commercial matter, you can rest assured that I will be rejecting your comment out of hand.

Yes, I have ads on my blog and if you want to pay me to post advertising, I am more than willing to talk, but I will not allow comment spamming.

To all my readers, I hope you will understand any delays in having your comments appear here.

The Death of Weyrich and the Future of Conservatism

Jennifer Rubin lays out the challenge:
Paul Weyrich, co-founder of the Heritage Foundation, the Free Congress Foundation, and numerous other conservative organizations, has passed away. His talent was organization: perceiving that ideas alone would not carry the conservative movement and then going out to create the organizations that would spread conservative ideas, develop future leaders, and energize the grassroots.

His passing comes at a particularly critical time for conservatives and emphasizes the enormous challenges on the Right. The leaders of Weyrich's generation are passing from the scene, the institutions which they founded have matured. But the question remains: what next?

There is not just an intellectual dilemma for conservatives -- which keeps pundits bickering about the meaning and direction of "conservatism" -- but a realization that the organizational and technological advantage which conservatives enjoyed for nearly a generation has been matched or exceeded by the other side. One can quibble that the liberal opposition is not an intellectually robust or coherent one, but it is a darn successful political force which has swept to coast-to-coast wins in two successive election cycles.

As for conservatives, the existing institutions don't quite seem sufficient to the task of growing the party, developing new talent, and incubating new ideas. Perhaps what is already there can be enhanced, but it may be that entirely new groups must be created to rebuild and revitalize a movement that is not just intellectually depressed but organizationally weak. So, while pundits already obsess over the next presidential nominee, a better question is: who will be the next Paul Weyrich?
Clearly, the answer for conservatives is not to try to build everything from scratch. Conservative thing tanks like the Hoover Institute, Heritage Foundation, and others must continue to be the incubators of ideas and suggestions for conservatively based policies.

The Democrats have done several things well of late and ideas are not one of them. Obama's basic premise is a 21st Century version of the New Deal (at least in terms of PR if not in terms of actual policy). What Democrats have excelled at is packaging, PR and candidate recruitment. If conservatives are to be successful, they will need to do better than Democrats in those areas. Candidates are not born, they are nutured, developed and bred in the crucibles of down ticket races, in campaigns for county council, state house and state senate races, mayoralties and governorships. Looking for candidates is like looking for the next Brett Farve, you have to spend a lot of time and a lot of energy (and yes, lose a few races) to find a truly great winner.

Conservatives (and not just republicans) have to do a better job of finding leaders, people with the emotional intelligence to connect with people, and the intellectual intelligence to explain ideas to people and the political intelligence to fight both in debate and on the hustings, with liberals over the future of the country.

Weyrich knew that ideas were important and he could spot a good conservative idea within seconds. What conservatives needs is a Paul Weyrich who can do the same with people.

Detroit--"It sucks"

When I was a kid, I used to love KISS, it was rebellious and relatively simple, rock and roll packaged in a wrapping that I thought made my parents mad (I think my father may have liked some of their music--not that he would ever admit that to me). I used to spend hours listening to KISS and one of their songs, "Detroit Rock City" was a fun, straight forward song. I also like Bob Seger and the Silver Bullet Band (a group my father definitely like and was not afraid to let me know that). In fact, as a youngster, I dreamed of seeing Bob Seger at the Joe Louis Arena.

Now, I can't imagine myself going to Detroit except on business and I wonder why. Matt Labash paints the picture why:
Somewhere along the way, Detroit became our national ashtray, a safe place for everyone to stub out the butt of their jokes. This was never more evident than at the recent congressional hearings, featuring the heads of the Big Three automakers, now more often called the Detroit Three, as that sounds more synonymous with failure. Yes, they have been feckless and tone-deaf in the past, and now look like stalkers trying to make people love them with desperation moves such as Ford breaking the "Taurus" name out of mothballs, or Chrysler steering a herd of cattle through downtown Detroit for an auto show (some of the longhorns started humping each other in front of reporters, giving new meaning to the "Dodge Ram," which they were intended to advertise).


It happens, though, when you're from Detroit. In the popular imagination, the Motor City has gone from being the Arsenal of Democracy, so named for their converting auto factories to make the weapons which helped us win World War II, and the incubator of the middle class (now leading the nation in foreclosure rates, Detroit once had the highest rate of home ownership in the country), to being Dysfunction Junction. To Detroit's credit, they've earned it.


How bad is Detroit? It once gave the keys to the city to Saddam Hussein.

Over the last several years, it has ranked as the most murderous city, the poorest city, the most segregated city, as the city with the highest auto-insurance rates, with the bleakest outlook for workers in their 20s and 30s, and as the place with the most heart attacks, slowest income growth, and fewest sunny days. It is a city without a single national grocery store chain. It has been deemed the most stressful metropolitan area in America. Likewise, it has ranked last in numerous studies: in new employment growth, in environmental indicators, in the rate of immunization of 2-year-olds, and, among big cities, in the number of high school or college graduates.

Men's Fitness magazine christened Detroit America's fattest city, while Men's Health called it America's sexual disease capital. Should the editors of these two metrosexual magazines be concerned for their safety after slagging the citizens of a city which has won the "most dangerous" title for five of the last ten years? Probably not: 47 percent of Detroit adults are functionally illiterate.

On the upside, Detroit ranks as the nation's foremost consumer of Slurpees and of baked beans on Labor Day. And as if all of this isn't humiliating enough, the Detroit Lions are 0-14.
Of course, Labash's imagery makes Detroit even less appealing.

But is Detroit simply in a death spiral? Can it be resurrected? Does Detroit, which is synonymous with the Big Three Automakers, live and die by automobile manufacturing? Can it be saved? Should it be saved?

Clearly government corruption is a big problem in Detroit (see Kwame Kilpatrick) and Labash points out the Sausage Bribe lady as well (how odd is that). But where do you start?

Caroline Kennedy Won't Make Financial Disclosure

This is not the way for Caroline Kennedy to endear herself to voters.
If she were applying to be, say, an undersecretary of education in Barack Obama's new administration, Caroline Kennedy would have to fill out a 63-item confidential questionnaire disclosing potentially embarrassing text messages and diary entries, the immigration status of her household staff, even copies of every résumé she used in the last 10 years.

If she were running for election to the Senate, Kennedy would have to file a 10-part, publicly available report disclosing her financial assets, credit card debts, mortgages, book deals and the sources of any payments greater than $5,000 in the last three years.

But Kennedy, who has asked Governor David Paterson to appoint her to succeed Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton — and who helped oversee the vetting process for Obama's possible running mates — is declining to provide a variety of basic data, including companies she has a stake in and whether she has ever been charged with a crime.

Kennedy declined on Monday to reply to those and other questions posed by The New York Times about any potential ethical, legal and financial entanglements. Through a spokesman, she said she would not disclose that kind of information unless and until she becomes a senator.
If I were Governor Paterson, I would require anyone looking to be appointed to a Senate seat at least complete the 10 page, publicly available report for all Senate candidates, after all, Kennedy is a Senate candidate, she just won't be elected.

Given the vetting process that is inherent in any normal campaign, this is one that should be done.

This is a stupid mistake on her part.

Hillary Clinton Writes Off Campaign Debt to Self

It was big news when Hillary Clinton loaned her campaign millions of dollars to keep her machine running. I was pretty sure that if she lost that she would simply write off most of the debt to herself as a candidate contribution (which are unlimited). Well, she has written off $13.2 million in loans to her campaign.
Hillary Clinton formally wrote off the $13.2 million she lent her presidential campaign, closing a chapter on her failed race for the White House and helping ease the way for her Senate confirmation as U.S. secretary of state.

Forgiving the loan takes Clinton’s personal debt off the books, a step toward shutting down her presidential-campaign committee as she prepares to become the top U.S. diplomat.

“If you’re going to go into a position like that, you want to try to clear away whatever you can,” said Larry Noble, a former general counsel to the Federal Election Commission.

Clinton started lending money to her campaign in January while competing in Iowa and New Hampshire as she tried to keep pace financially with Barack Obama, who was on his way to raising more money than any candidate in history.
Not all that surprising, but not only does it close a chapter in the 2008 presidential campaign, it essentially forcloses any possibility that she will run again.

Unions Sue Schwarzenegger Over Furloughs

Government employee unions in California have filed suit over the state's plan to require all govnerment workers take two furlough days per month beginning in February.
Last week, Schwarzenegger issued an executive order to require that all state employees take two unpaid days off each month starting in February. The governor said the measure is needed to conserve cash, with the state budget gap estimated to reach $42 billion a year and a half from now.

The lawsuit, filed in Sacramento County Superior Court, asserts that only the Legislature can alter the pay of workers who have labor contracts with the state. It asks the courts to issue a temporary stay to stop Schwarzenegger's efforts, which could affect 230,000 workers.

"We don't think he has the authority," said Bruce Blanning, executive director of Professional Engineers in California Government.

The union, which represents 13,000 engineers, surveyors and others working for the state, filed the lawsuit along with the California Assn. of Professional Scientists.
California's Governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger has been working with the legislature to get a deal to close a $42 billion budget shortfall. Apparently, California will be broke in two months.

Given the California legislature's penchant for spending and the voters inability to just say no to all sorts of mandated spending via referenda, it seems to me that this is a problem of their own making. The problem of course is that the California economy drives a great deal of the national economy. I don't want to say, as California goes, so does the U.S., but clearly there will be an impact.

I would expect a plea for federal bailout in a couple of weeks.

As far as the state employees unions, this is not the time to be complaining about a couple of days off per month, it could be worse, you could be without a job period, which quite frankly is how I would have acted--start firing people. But then, I am not the governor either.

More companies lining up for piece of bailout fund

Like you couldn't have seen this coming from a mile away.
Meanwhile, financial industry groups are pushing to use the bailout fund to help a wider array of companies, including automotive financing companies such as GMAC Financial Services. GMAC is 51 percent owned by Cerberus Capital Management LP, a private equity firm; General Motors owns the rest.

GMAC, which provides financing for GM vehicle and dealer loans along with home mortgages, is having trouble finding adequate support from its bondholders for a debt transaction that would allow it to become a bank holding company and gain eligibility for bailout money.

Commercial real estate developers said Monday they also are petitioning the government for support from the $700 billion rescue fund. The Real Estate Roundtable said an estimated $400 billion of commercial real estate mortgages will come due by the end of 2009 without adequate refinancing options.

Industry officials said thousands of office buildings, hotels, shopping centers and other commercial buildings could be headed into foreclosure or bankruptcy unless the government provides support.
Once you start giving away free money, everyone wants a piece of it and given the nature of Democratic politics, all you have to do is show how it will affect some preferred victim group--the poor, the minorities, the unions, or any other Democratic "constituency."

I don't blame companies for this, they are simply reacting to the situation. Of course, given the situation, not one of them will actually do anything to correct their behavior which has led them to this point, but why should they, Obama and Barney will be there to help them out.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Feeling Black and Blue About the Purple Line.

It might surprise many people to think that I am a big advocate of mass transit (so long as taxpayer money is not overly involved). I have been living in the DC metro area for almost 20 years now and I have heard talk of the Purple line for almost that long. Marc Fisher writes about some of the problems. This strikes me as important in the debate:
Spend some time behind the battle lines of the War of the Purple Line (and believe me, there are folks who have devoted decades of their lives to this thing) and my bet is you will come out as I have, concluding that pretty much all of them are right. But they are so right, so committed to their path as the one true way, that their positions have hardened and the very notion of compromise strikes them as abhorrent.
This particular observation is a result of the long and bitter debate about the Purple line. To be absolutly frank, even with Obama Job Corps workers, this thing is not going to get built and that is a shame. First, the bloody thing is going to be phenomenally expensive to build, something like $2-$3 million per mile for on grade building, double that and more if the builders have to tunnel or elevate the tracks in anyway. That is just for the tracks, to say nothing of the stations, etc that will have to be built to support the line.

But even if the line could be built much cheaper than that cost, the intractibility of the various parties means that any opportunity to begin building in the next four years is incredibly unlikely. So, by the time we can even consider getting something built, it won't be able to move forward.

Maryland blew their chance to get this done more than 15 years ago. Today, the growth and density along any path that could be utilized is going to already overdeveloped and unlikely to be to successful.

A shame.

More Stimulus?

Is the economy in danger of being overstimulated? On the heels of massive federal bailouts, giveaways and borderline nationalization of industries, we get this bit of news:
"President-elect Barack Obama has expanded his goals for a massive federal stimulus package to keep pace with the increasingly grim economic outlook, aiming to create or preserve at least 3 million jobs over the next two years.
The more aggressive target, up from 2.5 million jobs set a month ago, comes after a four-hour meeting last week in which Obama's top economic advisers told him the economy is now expected to lose as many as 3.5 million jobs over the next year. Obama was told that could drive unemployment, currently at 6.7 percent, above 9 percent, a figure not seen since the recession of the early 1980s.

With liberal and conservative economists calling on the government to spend $800 billion to $1.3 trillion to stanch the bleeding, the greater danger to the nation, Obama was told, lies in doing too little rather than too much.

Given that gloomy forecast, Obama last week presented congressional Democrats with a proposal to dedicate $675 billion to $775 billion over the next two years to middle-class tax cuts, aid to strapped state governments and investments in domestic priorities such as infrastructure, health-care technology and education -- a package designed to jolt the economy while deterring further layoffs and putting people back to work."(emphasis added)
. Is there such a thing as too much economic stimulation? To be honest, it all seems overwrought to begin with.

Waivers for High School Exit Exams.

Maryland Students will be able to graduate this year, even though some of them will not have passed the required high school assessments. The Baltimore Sun writes:
The state Board of Education's decision to let some students graduate in 2009 without passing the mandatory high school assessments tests is a bow to practical realities, but it shouldn't become the norm or weaken Maryland's commitment to higher standards.

This is the first academic year in which the tests are mandatory for graduation, and a relative handful of the state's 55,000 seniors are in danger of not getting their diplomas in June because they either haven't taken the tests or have failed in one or more subjects. The board's decision lets them apply for a waiver if they fulfill all the other requirements for graduation and can show they couldn't pass the tests for reasons beyond their control.

About 4,000 students potentially fall into that category. Some are students new to the system who are not native English speakers and haven't yet achieved enough proficiency in the language to take the courses or pass the test. Others are special education students whose programs aren't geared to the exams.
"Practical realities" should be read as code for "lacking backbone" among educational and policy leaders for backing down on the program they implemented to increase the standards and make the high school diploma in Maryland mean something.

A high school diploma is a path to a better standard of living and should not be awarded from simply showing up. I undertand that non-English speakers may need additional time or help to pass the courses, but that should be an incentive to keep them for another year and/or really help them. The state also runs into a definitional problem, i.e., what is the length of time for which a waiver could be granted? Is one year in the system enough time? Two years? Three years?

But you also run into something of an equal protection argument as well. Let's take two groups of students who, at least would be nominally permitted a "not enough time in the system" waiver. Immigrants and out-of-staters who move into the country. Let's take an immigrant from say Africa, who moves to Maryland as a junior in high school. They are a non-native English speaker and would need time to complete the necessary courses in order to pass the exam. Rather than keeping that student longer, the state grants a waiver for the graduation exams. Fine, if that is the policy. But what of someone whose parents are in the military and are stationed in Maryland (say at Ft. Meade) for that student's senior year. This student doesn't pass the exams, should they be granted a waiver as well? What about students who are native English speakers, say from Great Britain or Australia? Should they be granted a waiver as well?

The problem with the waiver (outside of special education waivers), what is a permissible waiver and what is not? Better to not grant waivers and require the passage of the exams to get the diploma.

The practical reality is more of a political failing and a desire not to face that failing reality. The concept of the high school assessments was that by the time they would be required to graduate, Maryland schools would have improved enough to make the passage a fairly easy exercise for nearly every student. The practial reality, though, is taht schools, particularly in the poorer, minority sections of Baltimore and Prince George's County, have not improved enough and the consequence is that most students there are not equipped to pass the exam. The granting of waivers under any circumstances is not a reflection of the conditions beyond the control of the student, but a means for the state and the public education system to overlook their own shortcomings and failings. If they grant a waiver of the exam requirement, then the public schools don't have to take responsibility to correct their failure to prepare a student adequately to take the exam. That is the practical ("political") reality here, an inability to actually face up to the systems many failings.

Salary Cap in English Championship League

One of my biggest complaints about Major League Soccer (Mickey League Soccer) is that the MLS uses a hard salary cap--at least in theory because there are two significant exceptions--the designated players who has only part of his salary counting against the cap and a Generation Addidas player who has none of their salary counting against the cap. In many respects, the hard salary cap puts MLS clubs at a significant disadvantages when it comes to international play and the development and retention of talented players.

But the Coca-Cola Championship, the league just below the English Premier League, is now considering a salary cap according to the The Guardian (hat tip Sports Law Blog).
Championship clubs are considering a salary cap to help prevent spiralling financial losses as the economy heads into a recession. Most clubs in the division are losing significant money because they pay what one chairman described as "unsustainable" wages on players they hope will win them promotion to the Premier League.

Without the cushion of the multimillion-pound television deal enjoyed by the 20 Premier League clubs, Championship clubs are reporting tougher economic conditions, with away gates beginning to suffer and sponsorships and corporate hospitality harder to secure.
Clubs in the Championship work to get promoted to the Premier League, with the top two teams moving up automatically and the next four compete in a playoff for the third promotion spot. At the bottom of the table, the worst four teams get relegated down to League 1. The problem is that the Championship has to survive on game day revenues, merchandising and sponsorships, the Championship does not get tens of millions of dollars in TV revenue.

I generally don't like the idea of a salary cap, as I think it favors the owners at the expense of the players and creates disincentives on a number of levels. I understand the desire to have a salary cap for the owners, but when ever a salary cap is in place, you will often see a degradation in the level of play because you are not trying to get the best players you can afford, but rather you are looking to keep you payroll down under and artificial limit, so owners tend to look more at second class talent rather than the best available talent.

What will this mean for the Championship if a salary cap is imposed? Well first, it will not attract top class owners who want to buy a club on the cheap and then invest and make it grow, like the owners of Queen's Park Ragners are doing or the owners of Hoffenheim have done, and then turn a profit when or if the club is sold. Second, you will see the gulf between the top flight and the lower leagues widen with the promoted teams all but assured of going back down the next year. Sure, you might see a club like Stoke City or Hull City stay up for a season, maybe two, but it will become a rarer occurance.

Clint Dempsey Goal Video

From Fulham's 3-0 win over Middlesbrough over the weekend. Not a powerful strike, but a well placed one.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Fulham Takes Big Win Over Boro

The midfielders carried the day for Fulham FC as Fulham tickled the twine three times against Middlesborough at Craven Cottage with a 3-0 win. The win extends Fulham's unbeaten streak to seven games. The win puts Fulham even further away from the relegation zone and another week in the top half of the table.

The next games will be against other London teams, with Tottenham away on Boxing Day and Chelsea just two days later at the Cottage.

Danny Murphy, Jimmy Bullard and Clint Dempsey all netted for the Whites, with Dempsey starting at striker in place of Bobby Zamora. Bullard grabbed a rebound for the first goal. Murphy slotted home a penalty kick and Dempsey fired a thrid, all before expiration of the first hour.

Although Andy Johnson did not score for Fulham, he was twice denied by the Middlesborough goalkeeper and the game could have easily been four or five-nil.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Interesting Soccer and Law Question

Sports Law Blog has a post about a recently decided case in North Carolina, in which the North Carolina Court of Appeals reversed and remanded a case back to he trial court to consider on the merits of the case whether a spectator at a soccer event can claim a negligence cause of action against the owner of the field for injuries sustained when a ball struck her in the head during warm-ups.

For those of you not schooled in law, and even those who are, may not know that in general a fan hit by a baseball at a baseball game generally will not be able to maintain a suit for damages. However, that rule doesn't necessarily apply to soccer games.

While the appeals court sent this back down to the trial court for a trail on the merits of the case, I have a hard time seeing how the defendant's win at trial. I suspect a settlement will occur.

Interesting, the opinion spends a lot of time talking about how baseball owners can't held liable for injuries and then say soccer stadium owners don't get teh same protection. The injury occured during warm ups, and one of the cases cited in the opinion clearly state that warm-ups are part of the game and if owners allow fans to watch warm-ups they are subject to the risk.

What may cause this case to be a win for the plaintiffs is the lack of netting at the Cary, NC stadium. In baseball stadia, you often see netting near the home plate area to protect against foul balls, hit sharply behing homeplate which deny most fans the ability to react to protect themselves. But that same netting is not found further out long the first and third base paths and certainly not in outfield seating, the theory being that you can react. The law seems to indicate that netting at some parts of the field will absolve the owner from liability. I don't know of any soccer specific stadium which has netting behind the goals regularly. Some stadia, like Crew Stadium in Columbus, and Pizza Hut Park, being multi-use facilities, often have stages behind one goal with netting, but the only times I have seen the netting up is when a work crew is setting up for a concert or other event or if there is equipment on the stage.

Here is an interestin question, what will happen to the owners of soccer fields in North Carolina for youth games, where there are not only no stands, but certainly no netting. Could they be held liable? Seems pretty foolish, right?

Chalk this one up to the litigiousness of our society.

Hillary Clinton's Conflict of Interest

Five hundred million of them according to the New York Post.
Now, compelled by the Obama transition team to make it public as a condition of his wife's appointment as secretary of state, it becomes clear that the list is a virtual encyclopedia of conflicts of interest for the husband of a senator - to say nothing of the husband of an incoming secretary of state.

Particularly troubling are the massive donations from Arab governments in the Middle East.

Pardon us for looking such generous gift horses in the mouth, but it is hard to imagine so many governments, monarchs and businessmen in the Middle East giving money unless it was with some hope of a political return. Will that return now come with the appointment of Sen. Clinton as secretary of state?

How can Hillary Rodham Clinton mediate and negotiate conflicts in the Middle East impartially when her husband's library and foundation - over which he has total control - have been bankrolled by the very nations with whom she must negotiate?
I don't care that the Obama team has insisted that Clinton not take funds from Arab governments in the future, but because it creates a distinction that doesn't really exist. When you are dealing with some of the Arab gulf states, if you are getting money from a sheik out there, you are getting money from the government.

Once again, Bill Clinton is going to sabotage his family and his party.

Man this is dumb

Congress voted themselves a $4,700 pay raise.
A crumbling economy, more than 2 million constituents who have lost their jobs this year, and congressional demands of CEOs to work for free did not convince lawmakers to freeze their own pay.

Instead, they will get a $4,700 pay increase, amounting to an additional $2.5 million that taxpayers will spend on congressional salaries, and watchdog groups are not happy about it.
Hypocrisy, thy name is Congress.

Ford says does it not need short-term loans from bailout

Ford says thanks, but no thanks to bailout loan.

This may actually prove to be the smartest move of any of the big three automakers. By not taking a govenrment bailout, Ford will not appear to be adversely greedy to the vast majority of Americans who oppose the car maker bailout.

One reason why Ford is not in as much trouble is trucks. Ford sells more trucks than most of the carmakers combined and their trucks are quality, durable products that elicit amazing brand loyalty. In the south in particular, if you drive a Ford truck, you will basically always drive a Ford truck.

Ford says does it not need short-term loans from bailout

Ford says thanks, but no thanks to bailout loan.

This may actually prove to be the smartest move of any of the big three automakers. By not taking a govenrment bailout, Ford will not appear to be adversely greedy to the vast majority of Americans who oppose the car maker bailout.

One reason why Ford is not in as much trouble is trucks. Ford sells more trucks than most of the carmakers combined and their trucks are quality, durable products that elicit amazing brand loyalty. In the south in particular, if you drive a Ford truck, you will basically always drive a Ford truck.

Soccer and History

Goff has the story of a World War II soccer match, in France, about seven weeks after D-Day.

This is why soccer is the world's game. Read the whole bit.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Arsenel's Eduardo Back in Action

Ten months after sustaining a horrific injury, Arsenel's Eduardo da Silva is back in action. Check out the highlights.

Time's Person of the Year

Not all that shocking: Barack Obama.

To be fair, I am not trying to be sarcastic, because he is the first black elected President so it is historic. Of course the coverage is a bit overwrought, but after all it is Time.

Thomas Sowell on Postponing Reality

Thomas Sowell writes and compares how we postpone reality for the education of our kids, the current problem of the automakers, and the problem 100 years ago created by the automakers:
For thousands of years, horses had been the way to go, whether in buggies or royal coaches, whether pulling trolleys in the cities or plows on the farms. People had bet their futures on something with a track record of reliable success going back many centuries.

Were all these people to be left high and dry? What about all the other people who supplied the things used with horses-- oats, saddles, horse shoes and buggies? Wouldn't they all go falling like dominoes when horses were replaced by cars?

Unfortunately for all the good people who had in good faith gone into all the various lines of work revolving around horses, there was no compassionate government to step in with a bailout or a stimulus package.

They had to face reality, right then and right there, without even a postponement.

Detroit and Michigan have followed classic liberal policies of treating businesses as prey, rather than as assets. They have helped kill the goose that lays the golden eggs. So have the unions. So have managements that have gone along to get along.

Toyota, Honda and other foreign automakers are not heading for Detroit, even though there are lots of experienced automobile workers there. They are avoiding the rust belts and the policies that have made those places rust belts.

A bailout of Detroit's Big Three would be only the latest in the postponements of reality. As for automobile dealers, they can probably sell Toyotas just as easily as they sold Chevvies. And Toyotas will require just as many tires per car, as well as other parts from automobile parts suppliers.
Ironic, huh.

Bailout Backlash

More and more Americans are beginning to resent the continual government bailouts of corrupt or poorly run companies.
Americans have begun an angry backlash against bailouts that could become a national revolt in 2009.

The Federal Reserve has cut interest rates by some 500 basis points. Government agencies have poured close to $8 trillion into banking bailouts. The Treasury secretary has promoted massive government support of troubled, failed and corrupted institutions.

This program is a 100 percent top-down exercise involving the largest amount of money in history.

Virtually none of this money directly helps average Americans. Virtually none of it trickles down to the people who suffer the most and pay for the program.

After $8 trillion we are still debating whether any money should be used to directly help average Americans.

The Fed has cut rates dramatically. It is shameful that after all of these rate cuts and all of these bailouts, banks continue raising credit card interest rates, lowering credit lines, refusing to lend to creditworthy businesses and allowing the Grapes of Wrath-like foreclosure crisis to continue with minimal effort to address it.

The banks don’t trust the banks. The banks don’t trust their customers. Business does not trust the banks or the government. Taxpayers don’t trust anyone.
Sorry, I am not surprised.

The amount of money that is being spent could have given each person living in America some $20,000 each.

I wonder if the lawmakers who supposedly read The Hill, read that article and even will consider it.

Talk About a Tough Sell

Spinning Congressional pay raises:
"It's one thing to put a positive spin on Barack Obama or a charity that helps kids with cancer. But a serious public-relations professional should welcome a challenge, something almost impossible to paint in a positive light. How about this: 'Members of Congress are slated to receive a $4,700 pay raise beginning in January, increasing their annual salaries to $174,000. The increase for 535 House and Senate members would cost taxpayers more than $2.5 million.' Yes, that's the same Congress that has a lower approval rating than George W. Bush. The same one that thinks money comes out of a big storage vault out in Arlington, judging by the way they're just throwing tax-payer funds into bailouts these days. The same one that's been lecturing the auto industry about it's budgeting."
If Congress continues to talk about national sacrifice, I want to see Congressional pay cut by 10% at least.

Won't happen though.

Who will Bailout Uncle Sam?

That's the question:
The United States of America is bankrupt. Don’t believe it? Consider this: Federal obligations now exceed the collective net worth of all Americans, according to the New York-based Peter G. Peterson Foundation. Washington politicians and bureaucrats have essentially mortgaged everything We the People own so they can keep spending our tax dollars like there’s no tomorrow
Who will bailout Uncle Sam? The answer is right now, my children, grandchildren and great grandchildren--your too.

Not exactly the way it should be done, but when you consider the me generation that is running our govnerment, it is not all that surprising.

Who's to blame for economy? - Opinion -

Who is getting lumps of coal for the eonomic mess? Lots of people:
Investment bankers

In the war on drugs, the top target is always the traffickers. The same principle is true with the massive implosion of credit markets and corporate ethics. In this case, the traffickers were the Wall Street firms that created bundles of subprime mortgages and other toxic financial instruments, then peddled them as low-risk, high-return investments. These securities, and enormous side bets on them, fueled the housing bubble and infected the global financial system.


In any crisis of confidence or failure of government, it's a pretty good bet that members of Congress are involved. The credit crisis is no exception. Lawmakers from both parties not only ignored signs of trouble but also actively invited irresponsibility in the name of protecting key constituencies. On the Democratic side, members supported virtually any program that provided credit to low-income purchasers and inner cities, regardless of whether this lending was prudent. The banking committee chairmen — Sen. Chris Dodd, D-Conn., and Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass. — defended federally chartered Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac from charges that they were taking on too much risk and prodded the companies to back riskier loans. On the Republican side, then-House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, R-Texas, and other members thwarted efforts to rein in predatory lending.
There are a lot of actors involved, but you have to wonder, when the recovery comes (and it will come), will the saviors be recognized as well and will we learn the lessons from the failings of these actors?

Investment banks probably will, Congress probably won't.

Is America Ready for Real Sacrifice?

If you put aside the hyperbolic rhetoric we are seeing from Obama and even Members of Congress, the answer is probably not.
But before we run the forensics on whether or not Americans are up to a voluntary sacrifice of any magnitude, let's first look at what Obama has proffered. Nothing in his campaign rhetoric, nor anything since he won the election, would suggest he subscribes to the civic virtues of sacrifice that was so in evidence in the 30s. Indeed, one could argue that our era and the one some seven decades earlier are so different in degree as to constitute a different civic species.

To wit, beyond the fact that today's middle class enjoys a quality of life that would stun those who suffered the staggering penury of the 30s, those poor souls could only dream of the multi-tiered safety net that we take for granted, and, that gives rise to a misguided civic complacency regarding risk and economic misfortune. And, isn't it the case that the nearly $1 trillion that Congress, our president, and president-elect are proposing to spend, is evidence that suffering has been consensually redacted from our civic lexicon?
But there is another problem with the terminology as well.

While the generation of the 30's certainly suffered, it would be hard to aruge they sacrified in terms of economics (that cannot be said for World War II). Today, the question is how does one define suffering? Truly, there are those in this country who are suffering, those who are struggling, who are just getting by and the concerns of such individuals is not to be taken lightly. But how would we define suffering now. As noted above, the social safety net all but guarantees that individuals will not suffer even a modicum of what the earlier generations did, particularly when you consider that even families fully dependent upon welfare and government subsidies have color TVs and cable television.

The greater concern I have is that the definition of sacrifice underlying the Obama and Democratic Congress vision of sacrifice is sort of "Robin Hood by government fiat" in which certain groups will suffer and sacrifice more than others.

If this economic downturn truly is an event requiring great national sacrifice, then the sacrifice should be national, not cherry picked, and should be suffered equally. Of course, such a notion is foriegn to the Democratic party as there is always a victim group that is more worthy than you.

Do the Feds have Rahm Emmanuel on tape talking about the Obama Senate successor? If so, what do the tapes say?

NY Tax Proposal

You might protest New Yorkers, but you can't say Gov. Patterson is not creative.Among the items that would be taxed are:
Movie tickets, taxi rides, soda, beer, wine, cigars and massages would be taxed under Paterson's proposal. It also extends sales taxes to cable and satellite TV services and removes the tax exemption for clothes costing less than $110.

But for iPod owners, this one is going to hurt:
Gov. Paterson's proposed $121 billion budget hits New Yorkers in their iPods - and nickels-and-dimes them in lots of other places, too.

Trying to close a $15.4 billion budget gap, Paterson called for 88 new fees and a host of other taxes, including an "iPod tax" that taxes the sale of downloaded music and other "digitally delivered entertainment services."
New York is facing a $15 billion budget shortfall and Patterson's budget is harsh in many ways. But here is one thing that sounds like it will help, state employee layoffs. So how many state employees are losing their jobs--521--that is all.

For comparison, Montgomery County Maryland Schools Superintendent proposed laying off 280 employees that would save the county some $38 million dollars. By my math, assuming salaries are roughly equivalent, New York will save about $72-73 million with that move. Not exactly getting the payroll down Mr. Governor.

Anyone have the odds that Governor MOM and the pickpockets in the Maryland General Assembly won't be following Paterson's lead?

Bundle Up Kiddies

The USA-Mexico World Cup qualifier will be held in Columbus on Feb. 11. This is a repeat of the last February qualifier against Mexico, called la guerra fria, for good reason.

Looks like the return match will be played in the smoggy altitude of Azteca stadium.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Jose Torres and Pachuca

New U.S. International Jose Francisco Torres is, to my knowledge, the first and only American to play in the FIFA Club World Cup. His club side, Pachuca is in the semi-finals and will face Liga de Quito (LDU), the South American champions tomorrow. Torres played 68 minutes for the Mexican side, who won the CONCACAF Champions cup last year for the right to play in the Club World Cup.

LDU have not been on great form of late and so a Pachuca win is definitely possible.

This kind of high level exposure is important for American Internationals and the more players playing at the highest levels the better.

Balckburn Sack Paul Ince

With only three wins in 17 games and Blackburn sitting in the relegation zone, it was probably inevitable.

Ince, quite frankly, didn't have the resume to support a Premier League manager's job.

PTA Moms for Superintendants?

Aside from a few qualification flaws, why not?

Madoff Madnees

So here is my question about the whole Bernard Madoff thing, how do otherwise smart people, backed by legal and investing experience and seasoned professional, make such a decision to invest millions without any real due diligence?

Was Madoff that good at creating a shroud of legitimacy? I simply refuse to believe that somewhere along the line, someone didn't get a hint about this guy until now.

Gay Penguins Expelled From Zoo Colony


A pair of gay penguins were expelled from their zoo colony for stealing eggs. Sounds like nature doing its thing (not that I knew there were gay penguins, but hey, I don't know a lot about penquins either). So what happened next:
A pair of gay penguins thrown out of their zoo colony for repeatedly stealing eggs have been given some of their own to look after following a protest by animal rights groups.

Last month the birds were segregated after they were caught placing stones at the feet of parents before waddling away with their eggs.

But angry visitors to Polar Land in Harbin, northern China, complained it wasn't fair to stop the couple from becoming surrogate fathers and urged zoo bosses to give them a chance.
You have got to be kidding me!

Look, the fact that the penguin colony shunned these two male penquins is a function of their nature. Why are humans so full of hubris that they think they can change this behavior and alter nature.

Really, don't they have something better to do than protest this kind of thing?

This May Be the Only Way I Could Score on Iker Casillas

Just watch the video.

EPL FanZone

EPL Fan Zone is a show in which the producers find a fan from each of the clubs playing in a given match and put them in a studio and let the two fans provide their commentary and thoughts on the match.

Usually, the matter isn't all that intriguing, but occaisionally, the events of a game lead to some wonderful reactions because these are fans, true, hard-core, love the team till they die fans.

The recent match between Everton and Aston Villa was noteworthy because of two goals scored in the end of match stoppage time. At the end of the match, Villa lead 2-1 and in stoppage time, Jolean Lescott scored an acrobatic goal to level the match in teh 93rd minute. After an exhuberant celebration and thinking a draw was in the bag, Villa nabbed the goal ahead goal something like 20 seconds later.

These two rather dumpy guys really get into their celebration.