Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Sing the Star Spangled Banner

Don't mangle it says Burt Prelutsky at Big Hollywood:
"Not being a constitutional scholar, I am naturally reluctant to become too embroiled in these matters. However, there is one thing about which I have a strong opinion, and I find it odd that nobody else seems as incensed as I. I’m referring to the singing of our national anthem at public events.

Admittedly, “The Star-Spangled Banner” lacks a certain something, musically speaking. But over the years, singers ranging from my aunt Sara to Richard Tucker have been able to do it justice, merely by singing it simply and sincerely. But at some point during the past dozen years or so, certain female singers have decided that the only way to perform it was as if they were auditioning to provide orgasms for a porno soundtrack.

Maybe I’m being too harsh. Perhaps these song birds don’t intend any disrespect to the anthem. Perhaps they simply don’t understand that patriotism means loving your country, not having sex with it."
I can't agree more.

It is the National Anthem and should not be alterd to fit "artistic license." With the possible exception of Jimi Hendrix's take on it. But to be fair, he didn't sing it, his guitar did.

I am Sick of Green

For the past several months, when my attention is not elsewhere, I have been noticing more and more the assualt on us all about the need to be "green" that "green is cool," that "green is beautiful."

If I hear one more thing about being green, I think I may turn green myself, as in that green color you get just before you throw up!.

Look, I love the outdoors and I want to save as much of our environment as possible so that my girls have parks to play in, forests to hike in, beautiful country to look at. We do our "part" but for far more practical reasons.

First, we recylce because it cuts down on the trash we generate in our house. I do this not just because it is environmentally friendly, but because in my development we only have trash collection once a week and I don't like to have to store so many bags of trash until the collection happens.

Second, we have energy efficient, compact flourescent bulbs, not because they are "green" (remember they contain mercury which is not a "green" metal), but because they cut down my astonomically high electric bill. Ditto for turning the the air conditioning thermostat up when no one is home. Ditto for turning the heat down when no one is home (it is natural gas heating, but the point is the same.

Third, we do teach our girls about respecting the environment so that others may enjoy it.

I am not opposed to other steps so long as being "green" doesn't cost me any more in greenbacks. That is the problem with the "green" movement is that I don't see how most of the efforts save money, create jobs or necessarily makes the world a better place.

Another for example is that it seems to be "green" to buy local produce. I don't have a problem with local produce, other than the fact that here in Maryland, I don't see a lot of orange trees, or banana trees. I also like other fruit that you just don't find much of here. Now, I like to take the girls to the local orchard and pick apples and other fruit and do so because I like to support that local business, not because it is "green." But if I can get apples or organges, or grapes or anything else cheaper at my grocery store, why should I "buy local" just because it is "green." And I don't buy the idea that it is necesarily "green" to do so because there are less shipping costs.

People embrace green ideas not because they are green or at least not just because they are green. They do them for other incentives (like my light bulbs) and most likely because it doesn't cost them extra to do so. But if I didn't realize real costs savings from some of my efforts, I am not likely to indulge in those behaviors.

Sing It Brother Kudlow

Larry Kudlow:
Unfortunately, all this looks like the polar opposite of 1981 — when Ronald Reagan began to move the nation progressively to the right. Today, Obama is tugging the country left. It appears that he is more popular than his policies, but that he is effectively using this popularity to simultaneously move his agenda forward and increase the strength of his party.

The Democratic machine is gathering steam and looming large in Washington. None of this is good.
Be afraid, be very afraid.

Freedom in this country will never be lost at the point of a sword, but at the stroke of a Presidential pen.

Remember that when you go to the polls in 2010.

Fulham's Roy Hodgson Hopeful of Good Trasnfer Season

From Fox Soccer:
Roy Hodgson believes Fulham's impressive season should make it easier to entice his transfer targets to Craven Cottage this summer.

Fulham are challenging for a place in Europe next season following a superb late run that has lifted them to seventh in the Premier League.
Certainly qualifying for Europe next year will make transfers easier, but it will also, of course, depend on the budget Chairman Mohammed Al Fayed, gives Hodgson. But even if Hodgson gets himself one more Brede Hangeland discovery in the summer, it will be worth it.

If Everton beat Chelsea for the FA Cup and Fulham can stay in seventh place, they will get a Eurpopean spot. Not bad for a club that last year had to pull off the Great Escape to stay in the Premier League.

Roy Hodgson has to be on the list for manager of the year, along with Everton's David Moyes.

MLS Best XI to Face Everton

According to Goff. Everton, which could be an FA Cup winner by the time they come to the States, is an exciting squad.

Can you image Chad Marshall and Marouane Fallaini going noggin to noggin in the box? Or Tim Howard playing against the MLS again? What about Tim Cahill? Louis Saha?

This summer is going to see lots of good soccer with Everton coming to the States for the MLS All-Star game and probably a friendly or two against and MLS or even USL side. I would also love to see the Everton Academy come over and play a few matches against U.S. academy sides.

But this summer will also boast teh World Football Challenge with Club America (Mexico), Inter Milan (Serie A), AC Milan (Serie A) and Chelsea (Premier League) coming to the states to play six matches all over the country.

There is quality soccer played in this country and it will be good to see top sides playing in the states and show not only how the world plays the game, but the improving quality of MLS soccer.

What a Jerk! has a video of a goalkeeper throwing a ball and hitting a ball boy after the ball boy was a little slow in giving the ball up. I don't know if the ball boy (teenager) said something rude to the keeper, but really, the keeper needs to keep his cool a little better.

What is surprising to me is that the keeper didn't get a red card for violent conduct (because if I was the referee I surely would have shown the red card). Violent conduct does not have to be directed at other players, coaches, the officials, but it can be directed at the fans, ball boys, anyone around.

What a jerk!

The DiploMatch

Adam Spangler went to Pier 40 in New York to see and photograph and unusual charity soccer match. A group of United Nations Ambassadors, including Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon got together to raise money for charity.

The game was sparsely attended and given the nature of the participants, not particularly well publicized. Still it is cool.

Adam may not be the greatest photographer, but the facility looks pretty cool.

Monday, April 27, 2009

GE Can Put 100 DVD's on a Disk

Just a lab breakthrough, but way cool.

The technology is holography.
But optical storage experts and industry analysts who were told of the development said it held the promise of being a big step forward in digital storage with a wide range of potential uses in commercial, scientific and consumer markets.

“This could be the next generation of low-cost storage,” said Richard Doherty, an analyst at Envisioneering, a technology research firm.

The promising work by the G.E. researchers is in the field of holographic storage. Holography is an optical process that stores not only three-dimensional images like the ones placed on many credit cards for security purposes, but the 1’s and 0’s of digital data as well.

The data is encoded in light patterns that are stored in light-sensitive material. The holograms act like microscopic mirrors that refract light patterns when a laser shines on them, and so each hologram’s recorded data can then be retrieved and deciphered.

Holographic storage has the potential to pack data far more densely than conventional optical technology, used in DVDs and the newer, high-capacity Blu-ray discs, in which information is stored as a pattern of laser-etched marks across the surface of a disc. The potential of holographic technology has long been known. The first research papers were published in the early 1960s.

Many advances have been made over the years in the materials science, optics and applied physics needed to make holographic storage a practical, cost-effective technology. And this year, InPhase Technologies, a spinoff of Bell Labs of Alcatel-Lucent, plans to introduce a holographic storage system, using $18,000 machines and expensive discs, for specialized markets like video production and storing medical images.
If they can make them cheaply, it will be a big jump forward and make things like Complete Series DVD sets a lot cheaper and easier to store.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Fulham Vault into Seventh Place

By beating Stoke City 1-0 at Craven Cottage, Fulham find themselves in position to see European competition next year by moving ahead of West Ham United into seventh place in the Premier league.

The game didn't look all that good in the beginning with Bobby Zamora leaving the game in the 19th minute to be replaced by Erik Nevland. But it was Nevland who netted the winning goal in the first half as Fulham held on to grab three points.

Across town, West Ham was hosting Chelsea, but it was the Blues that took the three points from the Hammers. With the West Ham loss and the Fulham win, Fulham go two points ahead of the Hammers with a better goal difference as well.

This time last year, the Cottagers were scrambling to avoid relegation and this year, Fulham is looking at a Europa League spot.

I would have been happy this year just to finish in mid-table but out of the relegation scrap. That Fulham might see European competition was just too much to ask. This is just great to experience.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Sick Ball Control Skills in the Most Unlikely of Settings

Just mind-blowing. Don't be surprised if Futsal teams or professional teams start looking up rhythmic gymnasts the was Usain Bolt was consulted for speed drills.

No Going Back

The Wall Street Journal notes a massive sea change in Presidential Politics is in the offering:
Mark down the date. Tuesday, April 21, 2009, is the moment that any chance of a new era of bipartisan respect in Washington ended. By inviting the prosecution of Bush officials for their antiterror legal advice, President Obama has injected a poison into our politics that he and the country will live to regret.

Policy disputes, often bitter, are the stuff of democratic politics. Elections settle those battles, at least for a time, and Mr. Obama's victory in November has given him the right to change policies on interrogations, Guantanamo, or anything on which he can muster enough support. But at least until now, the U.S. political system has avoided the spectacle of a new Administration prosecuting its predecessor for policy disagreements. This is what happens in Argentina, Malaysia or Peru, countries where the law is treated merely as an extension of political power.

If this analogy seems excessive, consider how Mr. Obama has framed the issue. He has absolved CIA operatives of any legal jeopardy, no doubt because his intelligence advisers told him how damaging that would be to CIA morale when Mr. Obama needs the agency to protect the country. But he has pointedly invited investigations against Republican legal advisers who offered their best advice at the request of CIA officials.
The fundamental problem inherent in this kind of a "retribution policy" (and that is exactly what it is) is that it will dissuade the best and the brightest from taking up a public service job. If the Obama Administration prosecutes the Bush Administration lawyers for giving legal advice on what is no doubt one of the toughest legal issues of our time, you can forget getting some of the best legal minds in the country to ever word the government again, under any administration.
So the CIA requests a legal review at a moment of heightened danger, the Justice Department obliges with an exceedingly detailed analysis of the law and interrogation practices -- and, seven years later, Mr. Obama says only the legal advisers who are no longer in government should be investigated. The political convenience of this distinction for Mr. Obama betrays its basic injustice. And by the way, everyone agrees that senior officials, including President Bush, approved these interrogations. Is this President going to put his predecessor in the dock too?

Mr. Obama seemed to understand the peril of such an exercise when he said, before his inauguration, that he wanted to "look forward" and beyond the antiterror debates of the Bush years. As recently as Sunday, Rahm Emanuel said no prosecutions were contemplated and now is not a time for "anger and retribution." Two days later the President disavowed his own chief of staff. Yet nothing had changed except that Mr. Obama's decision last week to release the interrogation memos unleashed a revenge lust on the political left that he refuses to resist.

Just as with the AIG bonuses, he is trying to co-opt his left-wing base by playing to it -- only to encourage it more. Within hours of Mr. Obama's Tuesday comments, Senator Carl Levin piled on with his own accusatory Intelligence Committee report. The demands for a "special counsel" at Justice and a Congressional show trial are louder than ever, and both Europe's left and the U.N. are signaling their desire to file their own charges against former U.S. officials.

Those officials won't be the only ones who suffer if all of this goes forward. Congress will face questions about what the Members knew and when, especially Nancy Pelosi when she was on the House Intelligence Committee in 2002. The Speaker now says she remembers hearing about waterboarding, though not that it would actually be used. Does anyone believe that? Porter Goss, her GOP counterpart at the time, says he knew exactly what he was hearing and that, if anything, Ms. Pelosi worried the CIA wasn't doing enough to stop another attack. By all means, put her under oath.
What Obama is proposing is tantamount to giving a criminal defendant a pardon and then prosecuting the defendant's lawyer. Lawyers are paid to give legal advice and I will be the first lawyer to tell you, sometimes that legal advice is (a) not easy to give, (b) not going to be acceptable to everyone, even your "client" and (c) absolutely must not be considered improper just because someone else doesn't like it. It is advice--plain and simple. In this case, Justice Department lawyers gave advice and their political "clients" used that advice to formulate a policy. If you don't like the policy, fine--work to change it. But don't go after the lawyers for doing their job.

The issue of legality regarding interrogation techniques is an unusual one and almost certainly the most difficult one the Justice Department faced in 2002. It is fraught with moral, legal, international and human rights questions. But the time we live in is difficult (and was more so in 2002), it is filled with dangers that can't simply be wished away and are not subject to the same sort of left/right, right/wrong, moral/immoral dichotomies that we are used to seeing. I don't know if I could do that kind of work, but I am glad that there are lawyers for the govnerment who are willing to take on that task--we need them, no matter what party is in power.

Once you start down this path, you can't ever go back. Ours is a system and a society that is not particularly good at letting bygones be bygones.

Pelosi Briefing on Interrogation Techniques

Glenn Thrush at notes that Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who has denied knowledge about interrogation practices, was actually present at a 2002 briefing where, reportedly, techniques like water boarding were described in detail. There are conflicting positions and information, but Pelosi's own staff admitted she was there:
A Pelosi spokesman passes along her response to the article when it first appeared, claiming that Pelosi's successor on the intel committee -- Yep, Jane Harman -- lodged a protest with the CIA when she learned waterboarding was in use.
"On one occasion, in the fall of 2002, I was briefed on interrogation techniques the Administration was considering using in the future. The Administration advised that legal counsel for the both the CIA and the Department of Justice had concluded that the techniques were legal.

I had no further briefings on the techniques. Several months later, my successor as Ranking Member of the House Intelligence Committee, Jane Harman, was briefed more extensively and advised the techniques had in fact been employed. It was my understanding at that time that Congresswoman Harman filed a letter in early 2003 to the CIA to protest the use of such techniques, a protest with which I concurred."
Lower down in the article, the authors and their sources acknowledge Pelosi & Co. were severely constrained in what they could do with the information
I know that Members of Congress go to a lot of briefings and sometimes forget if they were actually there or if a staff member briefed them later. But this is a big issue and the Democrats are making a mountain out of the issue.

This time, I think Pelosi & Co. are really stepping in it big time. Objecting to something nine years after you were first briefed on it smacks of political opportunism. The only way out is if Nancy Pelosi can find a letter she wrote to the Bush Administration objecting to the waterboarding practice. But remember, in 2002 (the date is no certain), this was a country still healing after 9/11 and Pelosi was probably in a different political "mindset."

There in lies the problem for Pelosi, her moral compass is attuned to her political compass a little too much. If waterboarding is objectionable now on moral grounds, why wasn't it objectionable in 2002? Was 9/11 a factor? Maybe, and maybe not. But I think Pelosi thought the matter politically expedient in 2002 when the U.S. and ambitious politicians likes Nancy Pelosi had to look tough on terrorism. Today, well it is not as important to look tough on terrorism as it is to appear to be morally outraged that your political opponents used an interrogation technique that is out of favor.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Arsenal vs Liverpool -

Man what a goal scoring affair. Liverpool and Arsenel combined for eight goals, but scored by just three different players: Fernando Torres and Yossi Benayoun each netted a brace for Liverpool and Arsenel's Andre Asrshavin grabbed four--yes four, goals for the Gunners.

Some goals were classy, like Torres' header, some courageous--see Benayoun's back post heroics almost getting kicked in teh head and then almost sliding into the post, some were just cracking shots--Arshavin's second.

However, there was just some awful defending and clearances.

Real Madrid's Pepe Loses His Mind

How do you get three red cards in less than three minutes, act like this. Look the push was a, in itself a red card offense, maybe. Certainly Pepe earned his second yellow with that little shove. However, the raking of the cleats (whether he connected or not is irrelevant) and the knee to the back are straight red card offenses in any situation. Pepe's season should be finished since he is looking at a minimum of a three match ban (one for each red card) and probably more for the obvious swipe with the cleats.

I give props to Real Madrid keeper Iker Casillas for getting control of Pepe and checking to see if the victim of Pepe's assualt was okay.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Fantastic Illustration of Obama's Ordered $100 Million in Cuts

Via the Instapundit. Make sure you have good glasses on to see the small size of Obama's request compared to everything else.

ABC's Jake Tapper Wonders About the Obama Fuzzy Math

Jake Tapper asks the question about how White House Spokesman Robert Gibbs considers $100 million a big number one week, but $8 billion was small a few weeks ago:
LOVEN: The deficit's giant. $100 million really is only a step.

GIBBS: But no joke.

LOVEN: You sound like you're joking about it, but it's not funny.

GIBBS: I'm not making jokes about it. I'm being completely sincere that only in Washington, D.C. is $100 million not a lot of money. It is where I'm from. It is where I grew up. And I think it is for hundreds of millions of Americans.

LOVEN: The point is it's not a very big portion of the deficit.

TAPPER: You were talking about an appropriations bill a few weeks ago about $8 billion being minuscule -- $8 billion in earmarks. We were talking about that and you said that that...
Gibbs goes on to tap dance around the matter. Talking about how all these little things add up over time. But they really don't. You have to make big changes in spending if you are going to cut into a massive deficit that we have now.

Good Question?

A Rahm Bomb for Jane Harman?Is Rahm Emanuel the source of teh NSA wire tap leak?

Harman is not a favorite of the Obama Administration, particularly on matters related to national security. James Lewis writes:
Congressional Quarterly just reported a highly secret National Security Agency wiretap report on Rep. Jane Harman.


Before we get to the content of the wiretap, all you ACLU types should be hitting the ceiling in rage. Because NSA wiretaps are the most carefully protected, super-secret operations carried on by the Federal government. Even during the Bush Administration, when the CIA carried on an unconcealed war on the Bush policy in the War on Terror through selective and politically damaging leaks to the New York Times, no wiretap recordings were released. Wiretaps of Members of Congress are even more sensitive, especially prominent Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee.

Keep that in mind as we go on.

The news report quotes three or four sources (it's hard to tell). But the release of an NSA wiretap transcript, in the absence of a court order or public court proceeding, is unprecedented.

So this leak has to come from the top. If these sources are to avoid prosecution and/or loss of their jobs, they must have been assured that the Obama administration explicitly authorized it, and that Attorney General Holder would not prosecute. NSA presumably will not even complain about this leak of its top national security means, content and procedures. Without that top-level assurance, everybody involved in this report has to fear an instant subpoena from the Justice Department and from the House Intelligence Committee.
Now Lewis's writing is full of supposition, but it is not exactly a tissue of suppostion.

NSA reports are never fodder for release--it might give away too much as far as means of collecting the information--even if the subject of the release is not that damaging (and I am not saying this release is not damaging).

The problem is that if the White House did this to "one of their own" what does it bode for us? Since the White House is not getting bent out of shape of using national intelligence means to smear Congressional democrats, it is hard to believe that the at least don't have knoweldge of what was happening before it happened.

Americans--Not As Dumb As Elites Think

Michael Barone has a good column that bespeaks a greater knowledge among Americans regarding the economic crisis.
We’re used to assuming that most Americans don’t know a whole lot about government and public policy. Over the years I’ve been inclined to think that those of us in the commentariat tend to be overly cynical about this. Voters often can’t explain their opinions very clearly and often have a hard time getting the answers to quiz questions right, but they operate off a higher level of knowledge than we often give them credit for.
For a long time, I have believed that, as a whole, the American voting population is a far more sophisticated body that a lot of political professionals give them credit for. I believe that the current economic crisis is going to lead to a real shift in how voters are going to judge their elected officials. Will it happen in next year's elections? Maybe not, but the longer the economy is in the toilet, the more sophisticated and knowledgeable Americans are going to get.

The reason that political professionals often think of voters as idiots to be manipulated is that the fail to see the dissonance between their faith in polls as indicators of group behavior and the viewing of individual results of the polls. Political professionals assume, for instance, that emotion can sway large groups of voters and history proves them right, a point no more strongly made than in the 2008 elections. But the problem with emotional responses is that after the emotional tide has washed away, we are left with the cold hard facts and those facts are evoking a different emotion, one of skepticism that the path we are on may not be the best for our country.

Barone notes:
So what do our surprisingly knowledgeable fellow citizens think the government should be doing about our economic problems. Pollster Scott Rasmussen reports that 52% of Americans now worry that the government will do too much to fix the economy. That’s up (insignificantly) from 50% in March and (significantly) from 43% in mid-February. Only 31% fear the government will do too little, down from 40% in March and 43% in February. To put it another way, Americans in April worry that the government will do too much rather than too little by a 52%-31% margin, while Americans in February were split 43%-43% on whether the government was doing too much or too little. That’s a significant shift of opinion over a short period of time.
Why the shift? My belief is that as Americans have begun educating themselves about economics (all basic economic books and most of the more complex economics books are checked out from my local library), there is becoming far less faith in the ability of government to fix the economy and a concern that the "solution" is not so much a solution as a massive sea change in American governing philosophy.

Whether you consider yourself a liberal or a conservative, by in large Americans don't like massive change in our govnernment in too quick a time. We like change, but we don't like whiplash. We like progress, but we don't want to rush headlong into it. When too much is changing too fast, Americans want to know why and that is why Americans are becoming more knowledgeable. But with the knowledge comes the danger to the govnerment in power--that they will be found out to be either (a) incompetent or (b) conspiratorial.

I still have faith in the American people to do what is best over time, despite any bumps in the road. I think that come 2012, we will be looking at a far different government.

Because You Can't Let Ethics Get In the Way of a Good Crisis

From The Hill:
House Democratic leaders, including Speaker Nancy Pelosi (Calif.), have ratcheted up the pressure on their rank-and-file members to oppose a resolution calling for an ethics committee investigation into the ties between key Democrats and a controversial defense-lobbying firm.

Democratic leaders have told their members they should let the ethics panel do its work and stop supporting a measure sponsored by Rep. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) that calls for an ethics probe into political donations from the now-defunct PMA Group lobbying firm and earmarks its clients received.
So, it was OK when Democrats were hounding (properly) former Republican representatives but not so much now.

I don't think that some investigations are something that the House should manage themselves and this is one of them. The FBI is looking at PMA and there will be questions for House members, but there needs to be an investigation. Everyone assumes that lobbyists "buy votes" all the time, but it is not usually the case. But if PMA was violating the rules and candidates and Members were violating the rules, then we have a different story.

"Most Ethical Congress Ever" must be premised on the idea that Ethics comes from lack of ethics investigations.

Sen. Feinstein's Personal Earmark

Sen. Dianne Feinstein's husband is getting paid!!. How is it that this is not a conflict of interest?

Gee! You Think?

The TARP Program inspector general says that the program is ripe for potential fraud.
In a 250-page quarterly report to Congress, the rescue program's special inspector general concludes that a private-public partnership designed to rid financial institutions of their "toxic assets" is tilted in favor of private investors and creates "potential unfairness to the taxpayer."

The report, which examines the six-month old, $700 billion Troubled Asset Relief Program, is scheduled for release Tuesday.

Using blunt language, Inspector General Neil Barofksy offers a series of recommendations to protect the public and takes the Treasury to task for not implementing previous advice. The report also commends Treasury and the Federal Reserve for creating some safeguards.
Any time that you have that much money flowing with very few restrictions or adequate oversight, you are almost guaranteed to get some fraud and abuse.

The worry of course is that this report may not actually spur any restrictions or input to manage the oversight a little better.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Teaching as a Fall Back Job

I don't espouse this a realistic for the vast majority of people who have been laid off, fired or otherwise affected, but in fact there may be some room for some people to actually help with the teacher shortage. While there are reports of teacher shortages, they tend to come in four areas: math and science, English as Second language, urban areas and rural areas.

Just as the military becomes a more "viable" option for young people in tough economic times (although less so now with combat operations going on), teaching is often seen as a sort of viable option. But there are obstacles, the first being certification and licensure. The second is commitment--are these "fallback teachers going to stick it out?" The answer is mixed to be sure, some will and some won't but what is the difference between these new teachers and the steady stream coming from teacher colleges?

There is no telling who is going to be successful as a teacher, whether they are starting their first career or their second or third. But the unfortunate thing is that given that most teacher will get tenure by simply gutting it out for three years, means that we may get some solid teachers who go to their second career and there may be those who are just space fillers. If the economy stays bad, it can mean that we as a society lose because those space fillers with the negative motivation (i.e. being unemployed) will stick it out, marking time and collecting a paycheck.

I have never doubted that teaching is not easy, I know that it is not. I don't think it is a second career for everyone, but we shouldn't also be discouraging the notion either.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Remembering HIllsborogh

Here is a write up on the ceremony remembering the 96 people who died at the 1989 FA Cup Semi-Finals in a crowd crush.

HIllsborough is one of the greatest tragedies in world football, and ranks with the Munich Air Disaster, Heysel in memory.

However, it is important to note that even though Hillsborough changed the face and functioning of English football (getting rid of terraces at the top levels of the game), there are still incidents around the world where football fans die at matches. Most recently in a World Cup qualifier between Malawi and Ivory Coast saw 19 people killed and 130 injured in an incident at the stadium.

Each death is a tragedy and if memorializing Hillsborough will help us learn teh lesson about fan safety at a football match.

Fulham's Prospects for Europe

Back in August when the Premier League started up, I had hopes only that Fulham would avoid a relegation battle as the Premier League season wound down. With six games to go in the League, not only to Fulham essentially assured of staying up, being 13 points above the relegation zone, but by sitting in 8th place in the league there is a slim hope that the Whites might find themselves in European play next year. The inaugural Europa League (essentially a re-branded UEFA Cup) is within sight.

England will have four champions league spots next year and it looks like Manchester United, Liverpool and Chelsea will get the three automatic group stages berths and Arsenel will have to play into the groups again next year. Normally, that would mean that the next two spots in the table, currently held by Aston Villa and Everton, would see Europa League spots. Fulham, sitting 8th but only one point beind 7th Place West Ham United, would be on the outside looking in.

But here is where things get interesting, there are two ways in which Fulham might find a place in at least the Europa league qualifiers. First, with the semi-finals of the FA Cup coming up this weekend, the four teams in the FA Cup semi-finals are Arsenel, Everton, Chelsea and Manchester United. The winner of the FA Cup gets an automatic berth in the Europa League. But if that team is in a league position where A) they have a Champions League berth or B) a Europa League Berth, and win the FA Cup, then the next elgible team gets a spot. With all four teams in the FA Cup currently sitting (comfortably) in a European spot, the 7th place team in the League is likely to get a European berth next year. Right now that is West Ham, but as I said there is only a single point between Fulham and West Ham (their run in schedules are below).

Now if Fulham finish 8th, not all hope is lost for European play. UEFA has a fair play spot available for the league and the team that demonstrates the best fair play through out the season. I don't know where the Premier League sits in the UEFA fair play rankings, but Fulham are top spot in the Premier League Fair Play Table. The calculations for the Fair Play spot are convoluted at best so I don't know how this would work out, but Fair Play is a possibility.

Fulham six game run in looks like this:

Away to Middlesbrough
Home to Stoke City
Away to Chelsea
Home to Aston Villa
Away to Newcastle
Home to Everton

I can see 9 to 11 points out of this set of fixtures. Fulham have been solid at the Cottage all year, so three points are probable from Stoke and maybe a point each from Aston Villa (whose form of late has been horrid) and Everton (tough to play anywhere) for five points at home and may be as many as 9 points (Villa and Everton look all but assured of European play so there will be little to play for). Away from home, three points from Middlesbrough seems possible given their shocking form. Chelsea is always tough at stamford Bridge and have looked good with Guus Hiddinck at the helm. A point may be the best to hope for, but not likely. Finally, Newcastle are tough in the Northeast and they may still be in the midst of a relegation battle, so a point would a good result but you never know which Newcastle team will show up so three points is not out of the realm of possibility. That would be 3 to 6 points on the road.

Factors in Fulham's favor. The starting 11 for the past three games has been the same and they are playing very well together. They look fit, not tired, and are really playing solid football (even the Liverpool last minute loss was a fine display of football).

West Ham's run-in looks like this (Iinterestingly enought, Fulham and West Ham will face five of the same teams in the last six rounds):

Away to Aston Villa
Home with Chelsea
Away to Stoke City
Home with Liverpool
Away to Everton
Home with Middlesbrough

This weekend, West Ham will face a wobbly Aston Villa at Villa Park. But the big difference between some of these games will be where they take place. West Ham face Stoke at the Brittania--a tough place to play--and Aston Villa at Villa Park, also not an easy place to play, and Everton away. Fulham plays those three teams at home. Additionally, with Liverpool on a cracking run of form (they scored four goals against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge last night) and sniffing a Premier League title, there will be no quarter there. Chelsea is also looking like a possible title contender as well. The only three points I think should be in the bag will be the Middlesbrough match. I think West Ham manager Zola will be hard pressed to get a total of nine points from this fixture list.

Fulham have one other advantage--goal difference. Only three other teams in the Premier League (Man United, Liverpool and Chelsea) have conceeded fewer goals than Fulham who have given up only 28 goals all season. Sure, they have only scored 33, but that gives them a +5 Goal difference. West Ham have a +1 difference and are looking at the current goal machine of Liverpool as well, so a negative goal difference is not out of the realm of possibility.

In August of last year, I was simply hoping Fulham finished 12th or 13th in the league, now it looks like a European spot is not impossible. What a turnaround. A top half finish is great, and Europena spot would just be gravy.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Democracy and Capitalism

Megan McArdle makes some outstanding points with regard to the Fed and Congress:
I've been thinking a lot lately about the political theory of an independent central bank. A lot of the libertarians I know have deep issues with the activities of the Fed, which have been largely unaccountable to elected officials.

That's a valid critique. But here's the problem: the Fed has performed vastly better on any metric except "being elected" than the Congress. There's little doubt in my mind that if we had not had an independent central bank, unemployment would be many percentage points higher, GDP would have contracted much more strongly, and we wouldn't now be making optimistic noises about the thing bottoming out.

Where does that leave me?

Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry tackles this question as part of a larger post on the compatibility of democracy and capitalism, and his thoughts mirror mine.
Megan McArdle is very happy that Ben Bernanke, unelected and unaccountable, has a bigger role in the response to the financial crisis than Maxine Waters, and is only able to take the dramatic steps he is precisely because he is unaccountable, and so am I. But -- and I realize this is a cliché, but an unescapable one -- even if you have the smartest technocrats running the country today, what about their successors, and their successors' successors? The historical record of unelected governments in this regard is not very good.
Democracy is not so much about electing people as having a process and a system of checks and balances that ensures that basic rights are protected.

Of course, libertarians and liberals and conservatives all mostly abandon this committment to Democracy when there's a principle they care about at stake; democracy is, of course, good and wonderful, but that shouldn't let the majority dictate their opinion on the position of homosexuality in the public sphere . . .

All the people that I know, left and right, who are currently very worried about the democratic implications of the Fed's actions, seem to spend an awful lot of time trying to insulate their pet cause from the democratic process--whether that cause be property rights or sexual behavior. As an institution, what the Fed is doing now is not much different from what most of them want the Supreme Court to do on some issue or another: rule it out of the bounds of majority debate. All of those people would, of course, say that that's different--their issue is really important, and personal. But trust me, any student of the Great Depression will tell you that what happens in a massive financial crisis is both really important, and very personal.
McCardle does make a valid point about how we abandon our principles of "democratic government" when it suits our cause, whether we be upset about any issue from abortion to medical marijuana. The fact is that we do tend to think that "my issue" is not subject to the normal whims of the democratic policy making process.

In teh context of the Fed and whether it is elected or accountable in any way is, of course debatable. To the extent that I understand what the Fed is doing (which by the way, they and the Obama Administration and Congress do a poor job of explaining to Joe Public), I don't have a quibble with the Fed taking action. What I have a quibble with is the essentially free hand that Bernake & Co. have been given with practically no oversight from Congress. The same goes with the Treasury Department under Tim Geithner.

And no, I am not being harsh on a Democratic administration or a Democratic Congress because I am a Republican. I am being harsh because, for all intents and purposes, we are tossing the whole idea of checks and balances and Constitutional government out of the window on the premise that we are in an "emergency." While we do need responsive agencies like the Fed or FEMA or DHS or what ever alphabet agency you want to toss out there, the fact is that none of these agencies can or should operate outside of oversight by the people we elect to office. Deference to experts is one thing, but failing to question them at all is entirely another.

We as a nation cannot simply give up the foundation of our nation because of a crisis nor should we give any administration, of any party, a free pass because they say so. If anything, during a crisis we need that oversight even more, just to make sure we don't head down a road blindly for so long that we don't know or can't find our way back.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Camille Paglia on Modern American Liberalism

Coming from a liberal icon, this has to hurt Democrats a lot(there is a difference between a liberal and a Democrat, by the way). Paglia writes:
"Yes, something very ugly has surfaced in contemporary American liberalism, as evidenced by the irrational and sometimes infantile abuse directed toward anyone who strays from a strict party line. Liberalism, like second-wave feminism, seems to have become a new religion for those who profess contempt for religion. It has been reduced to an elitist set of rhetorical formulas, which posit the working class as passive, mindless victims in desperate need of salvation by the state. Individual rights and free expression, which used to be liberal values, are being gradually subsumed to worship of government power.

The problems on the American left were already manifest by the late 1960s, as college-educated liberals began to lose contact with the working class for whom they claimed to speak. (A superb 1990 documentary, 'Berkeley in the Sixties,' chronicles the arguments and misjudgments about tactics that alienated the national electorate and led to the election of Richard Nixon.) For the past 25 years, liberalism has gradually sunk into a soft, soggy, white upper-middle-class style that I often find preposterous and repellent. The nut cases on the right are on the uneducated fringe, but on the left they sport Ivy League degrees. I'm not kidding -- there are some real fruitcakes out there, and some of them are writing for major magazines. It's a comfortable, urban, messianic liberalism befogged by psychiatric pharmaceuticals. Conservatives these days are more geared to facts than emotions, and as individuals they seem to have a more ethical, perhaps sports-based sense of fair play.

Probably the main reason for my unorthodox view of politics (as in my instant approval of Sarah Palin) is that I had much more childhood contact with working-class life than appears to be the the norm among current American columnists. One of my grandfathers was a barber, and the other was a leather worker at the Endicott-Johnson shoe factory in upstate New York. Thanks to the G.I. Bill, my father was able to attend college, the only one in his large family to do so. I was born while he was still in college and mopping floors in the cafeteria. Years later, he became a high-school teacher and then a professor at a Jesuit college, but we never left our immigrant family roots in industrial Endicott. To this day, I have more rapport with campus infrastructure staffers (maintenance, security) than I do with other professors or, for that matter, writers. Don't get me started on the hermetic bourgeois arrogance of American literati!"
What Democrats espouse now is socialism, bordering a what Jonah Goldberg called "Liberal Fascism." (go read his book of the same name).

Althouse: A question about sexting.

"My question: When did nudity become pornography?" Answer: When it involves a 16-year old girl--sort of.

Here is a more relevant question: Why isn't the girl in trouble for sending the boy an nude picture of herself--according to CNN--she took the photo. Why isn't she a sex offender?

The White House Explanation for the Obama Bow

So blantantly wrong it is embarrassing.I just don't know how you can spin that. It is not like the photo showed a slight hunch to get closer to Abdullah, but a full-blown, down by the waist bow.

Seriously, the White House spin meisters need some help.

Michael Phelps Shennaigans

Seriously, the man is old enough to drink so what if he was drinking straight from a bottle of Grey Goose."It may not be wise, it may not be smart but it is something someone in his early 20's will do.

There is no report of him leaving the club driving. No laws were broken. Leave the man alone for Pete's sake.

Garber: DC United Future Uncertain

In an interview with MLS Commissioner Don Garber, Steven Goff notes that the collapse of a stadium deal in Prince George's County and the failure of the DC City Council and Mayor's office to get off the dime for a stadium deal, the Commissioner was pretty blunt:
"We don't seem to be able to get a deal done and it could be that, if something can't be resolved, we will move the team."
Move the team!!!!

This is rediculous. DC United is by far the most successful professional sports team in the area, with four MLS Cup wins, multiple playoff appearances, and a rabid fan base that supports the club through everything. But the failure of the club to get a stadium deal, and the fact that RFK is a hole, oversized and crumbling, means that MLS may not have a choice but to move the club---probably to St. Louis. Garber said further:
"I am both confused and shocked by what took place in Prince George's County. I am confused because the county very formally reached out to the team to see if they would engage in discussions about moving the team to the area. [United] dropped everything in D.C. and began negotiations, had a press conference and talked about their mutual desire to pursue the concept. And then I read that the council won't even support a bill with the state to look at the project. I certainly hope other businesses that are interested in bringing jobs and economic development to that county have a better experience with them than we did. It's not something I have ever experienced in any other city I have worked in in this country, and for the last 10 years, I have been personally involved with 10 stadium projects and this region of the country has been the single most-difficult area to try to get something finalized. It has me very concerned."
Garber mentioned other cities in Maryland and Virginia have interest but did not specify any particular ones.

Personally, I would like to see a large stadium built at the Montgomery County Soccerplex (where the Washington Freedom now play). But that would take some real infrastructure work in the form of roads and access to the highways as the Soccerplex is a bit of a pain to get out of after matches.

I don't want to see the team moved out of DC altogether, but the local governments surely aren't making this any easier.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Judge dismisses Stevens' conviction

U.S. District Court Judge Emmett Sullivan dismissed the conviction of former Alaska Senator Ted Stevens (R) noting, "In nearly 25 years on the bench, I've never seen anything approaching the mishandling and misconduct that I've seen in this case." the stunning and public rebuke was made against prosecutors in the Justice Department's Public Integrity Unit (yes, you read that right). Judge Sullivan has appointed a special prosecutor to investigate the handling of the Steven's case because he thinks the matter too important and too egregious to be left to an internal investigation.

Key evidence and procedural missteps doomed the prosecution team.
Judge Sullivan repeatedly scolded prosecutors for their behavior during trial. After the verdict, an FBI whistleblower accused the team of misconduct and Sullivan held prosecutors in contempt for ignoring a court order.

The prosecution team was replaced and, last week, the new team acknowledged that key evidence was withheld. That included notes from an interview with the government's star witness, contractor Bill Allen.

On the witness stand, Allen said a mutual friend told him not to expect payment for Stevens' home renovations because the senator only wanted the bill to cover himself. It was damaging testimony that made Stevens look like a scheming politician trying to conceal his freebies.

But in the previously undisclosed meeting with prosecutors, Allen had no recollection of such a discussion. And he valued the renovation work at far less than what prosecutors alleged at the trial.

Because the investigation and trial took place on the George W. Bush watch, the Obama Administration supporters and lefty blogger will say it is another example of Bush ineptitude, but keep in mind two things:

1. Most Public Intergrity Unit prosecutors are career civil servants (the top people are usually appointed but the day to day lawyers are usually careerists.)
2. The prosecutors misbehavior led to a conviction. It is not like they threw the case to save a Republican, they convicted the guy through cheating.

What Judge Sullivan did was absolutely right. Stevens' defense team had an absolute right to see all the evidence, particuarly exculpatory evidence. The prosecutors didn't do it and the result is that the conviction had to be overturned. That is not to say that Stevens isn't guilty of something and he clearly failed to obey the Senate's own rules. But the rule of law must control and it didn't here.

Villareal to U.S. this Summer

Will the Yellow Submarine be in the U.S. for the MLS All-Star game this summer? Goff has the story. This would be great as the Villareal side would probably feature both New Jersey born stars, Giusseppi Rossi and Jozy Altidore. That would be a great way to feature the two young players and the rest of the Villareal squad.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

USA 3:0 Trinidad & Tobago

Jozy Altidore scores three more, putting at scoring four goals in two games and a total of six goals in 9 games for the U.S.--and all that based on getting absolutely no playing time for his club team. The U.S. looked good, but should have won this game. Trinidad did not provide as tough a test as say Costa Rica will. I am happy for Altidore, but I really don't expect Bob Bradley to continue with this kind of set up going forward.

First, Altidore and Brian Ching are not going to work well together unless Bob Bradley sets Altidore free to roam, pick the ball up and carry it forward. The problem is that Altidore, who has the strength, speed and gumption to take players on, is wasted in that kind of a role. Altidore is a goal scorer and a poacher. He needs to be playing up top, holding the ball and dishing it off and going to goal to poach the net. But Altidore would be competing with Brian Ching for that role. Now, I think that over time, Altidore will prove better at the target striker role than Ching, if based on nothing more than age and size. But Bob Bradley has not shown any inclination to give Altidore that shot on a regular basis. Ching has demonstrated that he can do the job and take the abuse that is dished out by CONCACAF back lines, but I don't think Ching is going to be able to perform that role against stiffer international competition.

Second, the 4-4-2 set up Bradley used last week puts a massive burden on the outside fullbacks. With Landon Donovan on the left and Clint Dempsey on the right, what the U.S. has are not traditional wingers in any sense. Both men like to roam inside a little bit too much. Such a mindset robs the American attack of any width from their midfielders (and with Bradley's insistence on keeping his central midfielders pulled back with defensive responsibilities) and a great big hole is opened up in the midfield. The hole is either filled with Donovan and Dempsey or it is left open. When Donovan and Dempsey start moving in, the pressure is on the right and left backs to provide that width. So far, Frankie Hejduk has proved up to the task, literally running like the energizer bunny. I think Hejduk has the form to make it to the 2010 World Cup and has easily supplanted Steve Cherundolo as the number 1 right back, but the man is 35 and will be 36 next year for the World Cup, it is a risk.

On the left side was DaMarcus Beasley, not a natural left back, although he did play well. Beasley has a boat load of speed, the ability to take players on in the attack and the necessary defensive skills to play the position--if he could last 90 minutes making the regular overlapping runs and then getting back to defend, time and time again. By the end of the match Beasley looked knackered and did not contribute much on attack or defense. He is not going to be the solution for the long term and Heath Pearce is not the solution either. Can Jonathan Bornstein make the jump? What about Marvell Wynne? Alternatively, the U.S. might want to cosider putting Clarence Goodson into central defense and move Carlos Bocanegra (who plays left back for Rennes) to the flank. What about moving Hejduk to the left and slot Wynne into the right? There is not winger on the planet, including Gabby Agbonglahor or Theo Wolcott, who is going to out sprint Wynne. The problem with Wynne on the flanks is that his crossing ability needs some real work. Simply put, left back is one of the biggest positional concerns for the U.S. and I don't see a solution on the horizon.

But last week in Nashville, the U.S. fans were treated to a "what could be" display, with the combination of Donovan and Altidore, the best U.S. player combining with what could be the future best player that America has produced and it was a treat to watch them hook up and score goals. But really, it is little more than a what if display. I simply don't see Bradley giving up on Ching, although I think Altidore could do the job of being a target striker. Likewise, I don't really see the future of Donovan on the left wing. I would think that even if Altidore is playing up top, Donovan is more creative when given license to play all over, off of the target striker and that boils down to a 4-5-1. In the 4-4-2 we saw last week, there is simply not enough width to the U.S. and without the width, they become very easy to defend. Unless Bradley is prepared to play a 4-4-2 with more of a diamond midfield, i.e. a single holding midfielder and an attacking/playmaking central midfielder, the U.S. doesn't have the left back position solidified enough to make it a viable threat and option.

Monday, April 06, 2009

40 per cent of Australian women wear a bra with a cup size DD or bigger | Health & Lifestyle |

Seriously, this is news in Australia. Another reason to love the Aussies.

But It is NOT Nationalization

Look, I don't care what the Obama Administration calls it, it is nationalization when the Treasury Secretary says that the GOVERNMENT will fire company executives when they take govenrment funding.

If someone has the power to fire another person, that first person controls the company. In this context it is nationalization, I don't care how you couch the language.