Thursday, May 28, 2009

Partisan Car Dealership Closings

The Washington Examiner discusses what started as just a little rumbling has gotten more pronounced:
Evidence appears to be mounting that the Obama administration has systematically targeted for closing Chrysler dealers who contributed to Repubicans. What started earlier this week as mainly a rumbling on the Right side of the Blogosphere has gathered some steam today with revelations that among the dealers being shut down are a GOP congressman and closing of competitors to a dealership chain partly owned by former Clinton White House chief of staff Mack McLarty.

The basic issue raised here is this: How do we account for the fact millions of dollars were contributed to GOP candidates by Chrysler who are being closed by the government, but only one has been found so far that is being closed that contributed to the Obama campaign in 2008?

Florida Rep. Vern Buchanan learned from a House colleague that his Venice, Florida, dealership is on the hit list. Buchanan also has a Nissan franchise paired with the Chrysler facility in Venice.

"It's an outrage. It's not about me. I'm going to be fine," said Buchanan, the dealership's majority owner. "You're talking over 100,000 jobs. We're supposed to be in the business of creating jobs, not killing jobs," Buchanan told News 10, a local Florida television station.

Buchanan, who succeeded former Rep. Katharine Harris in 2006, reportedly learned of his dealership's termination from Rep.Candace Miller, R-MI. Buchanan owns a total of 23 dealerships in Florida and North Carolina.

Also fueling the controversy is the fact the RLJ-McCarty-Landers chain of Arkansas and Missouri dealerships aren't being closed, but many of their local competitors are being eliminated. Go here for a detailed look at this situation. McClarty is the former Clinton senior aide. The "J" is Robert Johnson, founder of the Black Entertainment Television, a heavy Democratic contributor.
While the evidence appears to be coming in, I think what is missing is a more fundamental question:

Why is the govnerment making this decision? The government, read the Obama Administration, is pushing a fast track bankruptcy deal for Chrysler. The government will be or is the primary owner of Chrysler. While that proposition carries a number of possible problems in and of itself, it begs the question why is a shareholder making these decisions of which dealerships to close?

In normal business, it is the officers and executives of a company that make these decisions, not the shareholders. So why is the government making any decisions about which dealerships to close? No matter what, I think there is an impermissible meddling in corporate affairs here.

Couple: County Trying To Stop Home Bible Studies - San Diego News Story - KGTV San Diego

County Trying To Stop Home Bible Studies
A local pastor and his wife claim they were interrogated by a San Diego County official, who then threatened them with escalating fines if they continued to hold bible studies in their home, 10News reported.

Attorney Dean Broyles of The Western Center For Law & Policy was shocked with what happened to the pastor and his wife.

Broyles said, "The county asked, 'Do you have a regular meeting in your home?' She said, 'Yes.' 'Do you say amen?' 'Yes.' 'Do you pray?' 'Yes.' 'Do you say praise the Lord?' 'Yes.'"

The county employee notified the couple that the small bible study, with an average of 15 people attending, was in violation of county regulations, according to Broyles.

Broyles said a few days later the couple received a written warning that listed "unlawful use of land" and told them to "stop religious assembly or apply for a major use permit" -- a process that could cost tens of thousands of dollars.

"For churches and religious assemblies there's big parking concerns, there's environmental impact concerns when you have hundreds or thousands of people gathering. But this is a different situation, and we believe that the application of the religious assembly principles to this bible study is certainly misplaced," said Broyles.
Now, if the local neighborhood complained about parking and parked cars, this maybe a different story, but as related the county employee appears to be discriminating on religious grounds and there in lies the problem. It is just plain ugly and dumb.

Another Emergency for Obama

Health care legislation has to be passed "Now or never."

Really, the same argument has been made for at leat 15 years. yet we still have health care, we still have about the same level of uninsured and we still have the same problems.

So President Obama, where's the fire?

'Power' move by male students ruffles U. of C. --

A University of Chicago student has formed a male advocacy group, calling it Men in Power. The group, the first male advocacy group on the campus among approximately 9 women's advocacy groups, is getting attention and has probably irriated a lot of people.

Given the overwhelmingly liberal attitudes on college campuses, I would give Men in Power about 70% chance of being sued in the next year.

Government Motors

The Government will own over 70% of GM according to details of a deal that is rumored to have been reached.

In another end run around the bankruptcy process, GM will likely enter a fast track bankruptcy with an Obama Administration backed plan similar to Chrysler's.

According to the Yahoo Finance report, GM has been losing money for over four years. While the company may be getting a financial restructuring courtesy of a reluctant American taxpayer, there is still no guarantee that a GM car is going to be a good value.

I bet Ford Motor Company is happy that they didn't take that federal bailout money. At this point, I would take a crappy Ford over anything GM makes.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Memorial Day Musings

Three Day Weekend-check
Picnic with the family--check
Painting my daughter's bedroom with help from my daughters--check.
Sleeping in a little--check.
Planting a small garden with my girls--check.
Visiting the Dairy Queen at dusk for ice cream cones--check (although messy).

Celebrating the freedom secured by all those who have fallen in the defense of our country--Double Check.

As we spend the today planting gardens, having picnics or watching baseball or whatever, it is easy to forget that the freedom to do what ever we want on Memorial Day is not simply some government decree setting aside this day. Memorial Day is a time for recalling that freedom is free, it comes at a cost that can't be measured dollars or budgets.

Take a few minutes today to remember that.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Jimmy Conrad--Chef

This is just hilarious.Kansas City Wizards having breakfast, complete with a whining rookie and quick thinking veteran.

Sure The Ad is Almost Four Years Old

But ESPN's ad from the 2006 World Cup is still great and the best thing is that it is absolutely true.

One game can and does change everything.

Chrysler Cram Down Deal Getting More Scrutiny

Forty-six of Chrysler's secured creditors are asking a court put a halt to the federal government, cram-down reorganization of Chrysler--as well they should.
Three of Chrysler’s secured creditors are mounting a fresh attempt to thwart the carmaker’s Chapter 11 reorganisation on the grounds that it violates their legal rights and the US government’s authority under the Troubled asset relief programme.

The three – all Indiana state pension funds – are among a group of 46 creditors that had appeared to back away this month from efforts to derail the process under which a “new” Chrysler would emerge from bankruptcy protection by July 1. The new entity would be owned by a union healthcare trust, the US government and Italy’s Fiat.

Chrysler, with backing from the US Treasury, had offered its secured creditors just under 30 cents on the dollar to settle claims totalling $6.9bn. Four big banks, holding the bulk of the claims, accepted the offer following political pressure from Washington.

However, the Indiana State Teachers’ Retirement Fund said on Wednesday that it had a fiduciary responsibility to its members to continue the fight. The fund stands to lose $4.6m under the current settlement proposal and has teamed up with Richard Mourdock, Indiana state treasurer, to try to recover those losses.

The latest objections could galvanise other lenders to renew their challenge. “I fully support their motion and believe a number of lenders (including us) will ultimately join their group,” said George Schultze of Schultze Asset Management, one of the creditors that had abandoned an earlier legal fight.

In a court filing on Wednesday, the Indiana funds accused the government of adopting a strategy of “the ends justify the means”.
It is an interesting show down for the Obama Administration, the autoworker's union is facing off against a teacher's union (among others) retirement fund.

The procedural fight has moved beyond the Bankruptcy Court overseeing the cram-down (as it cram it down everyone's throat) and is now in the appellate review. I expect a Circuit Court of Appeals will have to rule on the matter and an emergency Supreme Court hearing is not out of the realm of possibility.

Having been involved in a couple of smaller bankruptcy proceedings that have taken years, the speed of the Chrysler "bankruptcy" is frightening and it should be frightening to lots of people.

Tracking Stimulus Spending May Not Be as Easy as Promised

Alec MacGillis of the Washington Post writes about stimulus money tracking:
Shortly after the economic stimulus bill was signed, Vice President Biden was talking up the administration's Web site to track the spending,, when he accidentally directed people to

As slip-ups go, this one had an upside: Unlike the government site, the privately run is actually providing detailed information about how the $787 billion in stimulus money is being spent.

To build support for the stimulus package, President Obama vowed unprecedented transparency, a big part of which, he said, would be allowing taxpayers to track money to the street level on Together with a spruced-up, the site would inject the stodgy federal bureaucracy with the same Webby accessibility and Facebook-generation flair that defined the Obama campaign.

But three months after the bill was signed, offers little beyond news releases, general breakdowns of spending, and acronym-laden spreadsheets and timelines. And congressional Democrats, state officials and advocates of open government worry that the White House cannot come close to clearing the high bar it set.
I will give the Administration the benefit of the doubt that they truly intended to be open about where the money is going. But when you are talking about that amount of money, you need a whole team of people tracking it and seeing that it is being spent and reporting back. Good luck.

That much money being spent that quickly (remember this is an crisis we don't want to go to waste), you invite shoddy record keeping, backdoor favors and not quite effective follow-through.

The DC Kids Are Alright

Of course last nights U.S. Open Cup play in match was going to be important for DC United, the current holders of the Cup didn't make the automatic tournament as an MLS side since they didn't make the MLS playoffs last year, so they have had to play through the play-in rounds. Coach Tommy Soehn would normally play reserves or lesser played players and he did, but proving just how deep the United Squad is this year, Clyde Simms, Luciano Emilio, Louis Crayton and Dejan Jakovic didn't even dress for the match. Jaime Moreno and Santino Quaranta didn't even make it off the bench and DC United still pounded in four goals in the first 26 minutes and won the match 5-3.

Cementing his already solid claim to Rookie of the Year, Chris Pontius netted a brace and had an asssit as well as finding himself starting in yet another position, the deeper, holding midfield role normally played by Clyde Simms. If my count is correct, Pontius has not played four different positions this year and has five goals in all competitions (I think).

The United midfield and attacking lines are looking very good for the squad moving into the hard summer months when not only will the MLS schedule start running hard, but also the CONCACAF Champions League will get busy and United will need that depth and good play to do well. United still look shockingly fragile in the back though. I know Soehn likes to play the 3-5-2 and usually it works well for him. But the defense is simply letting too much through. I know Soehn played the kids last night, but the squad needs to work on their defense.

On the plus side, at least DC United didn't have to come from behind last night.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Tim Howard on SportsCenter This Sunday

This is good publicity for Howard and the U.S. Men's National Team, as well as for Everton who will be playing in the FA Cup and week from Saturday. Oh how matters have changed in the past 15 years.

I am reading a book called Soccer in a Football World: The Story of America's Forgotten Game by Dave Wangerin, a very well researched and detailed book about this history of soccer in this country and it extends much farther back that the historic 1-0 win over England in the 1950 World Cup. I highly recommend it not only for histocial purposes but also for the amazing storytelling of Wangerin, you would hardly know you are reading a soccer history book.

Wangerin devotes and entire chapter of the book to one of the most historic events in soccer history in America, the World Cup in 1994. At a time when there was no top flight, truly professional league in America, the United States staged one of the most commerically successful World Cups ever. The U.S. Men's National team, which automatically qualified as the host nation, was expected to crash out in the group stages just as it had in the World Cup 1990 in Italy (the first appearance in the World Cup by the U.S. in 50 years), but did not. The charismatic "hair boys" of Alexi Lalas, Cobi Jones and Tony Meola, couldn't even generate a great deal of interest in America and unless you were a soccer fan (like me) or playing host to a dozen orange clad, maniacal Dutchmen (like me and my Dutch college roommate), you would have hardly known there was a World Cup going on. The press coverage was dismal, particularly of the U.S. Men's National Team.

However, the success of the American side in the tournament got some media attention and it seemed like soccer would do okay as a niche sport.

In 1994 you could probably ask 1000 random people on the street if they could name 2 players for the U.S. national team and probably get 1000 blank stares. Today, I would imagine maybe 150-200 of those 1000 people could tell you that Landon Donovan plays on the U.S. side and maybe even Tim Howard. You will also get about 100 people who will say David Beckham, but at least they can name a soccer player.

The fact is, 15 years on from the World Cup 1994, soccer is a much more covered sport in America and it is not just the odd game here and there. ABC/ESPN covers every Men's National Team game live and in JP Dellacamera and John Harkes, they have a pretty good commentating team. (At least my head doesn't hurt when I listen to them). In 1994, ESPN would never have spotlighted a soccer player like they are with Howard. In 2009, they are. Granted Howard has a great soccer and personal story. He has played in the MLS and with Manchester United. This season he has had 16 clean sheets, a record for his Everton club. He has posted multiple shutouts for the U.S. National Team and he is ensconsed as the U.S. #1 keeper barring injury. Howard is the latest in a long line of gifted American keepers that started with guys like Tony Meola and run through Kasey Keller, Marcus Hahnemann, Brad Friedel, Brad Guzan and developing keepers like Chris Seitz.

I also like the fact that ESPN is highlighting a keeper rather than a goal scorer like Donovan. Don't get me wrong, Donovan is a big part of the American team, but tapping and spotlighting a vital defender is important for the U.S. non-soccer audience to understand the game.

Howard will be spotlights on ESPN at 10:30 AM and 6:00 PM Eastern Time.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Fulham On the Cusp Of Europe

What a difference a year make.

With one game to go a year ago, Fulham were in need of a win to stay in the Premiership. Facing an FA Cup Finalist in Portsmouth a year ago, Fulham grabbed a 1-0 win to stay up.

This year, Fulham are again in a race, but this time for a place in Europe on a seventh place finish. At the beginning of the season, I would have been happy with a mid-table finish with something like 45 points (which would have just fine). But with one game left this season, Fulham sit in the driver's seat to win a Europa Cup spot.

Just like last year, Fulham will face an FA Cup Finalist, this time in Everton. However, what is different (aside from Fulham's current form) is that Fulham will face Everton at Craven Cottage and the atmosphere should be spectacular. Right now I wish I had the money to travel to London just to watch this game at the Cottage.

A single point against Everton--just a draw--will give Fulham a spot in European competition just a year after barely avoiding relegation. At the same time Fulham host Everton (who is already assured of a European spot by position in the League as opposed to winning the FA Cup), the only team who can reach Fulham is Tottenham, who in order to catch Fulham need to win against Liverpool at Anfield. Yes, I know Liverpool have nothing to play for, but they are still one of the best teams in the world. Then Tottenham would need one of these scenarios:

1. Fulham draw against Everton AND Tottenham score six clear goals against Liverpool (not bloody likely)

2. Fulham lose against Everton.

Simply put, a win against Everton and Fulham are in Europe.

Everton, on the other hand do have something more to play for. They are only a point ahead of Aston Villa in the League. Everton's current position (5th) guarantees them automatic Europa League group stage position, where as a 6th Place finish without an FA Cup Win means a qualifying round first. Aston Villa who currently sit sixth and are on an absolute shocking run of form with one win in their last six matches, will face a Newcastle side at Villa Park. Newcastle are an even bigger shambles than Villa, but the match should be a Villa win. Newcastle are fighting for their Premiership lives (and according to rumors their financial survival). If Villa win and Everton only draws or loses to Fulham, Villa get the automatic groups stage.

There is much to resolve on the last weekend for the middle and bottom ends of the table and that will make Saturday quite eventful.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Obama Says Deficit Spending Unsustainable

According to Not to state the obvious, but he and Congress are the one'e spending money without a thought as to priorities or the consequences.

So if it is unsustainable, you can be that the default method to curb deficit spending won't be to stop spending, it will be to raise revenue (read taxes).

Chrysler To Eliminate 789 Of Its Dealers, About 25 Percent Of Them -

Yeah, after the news that Chrysler was severing ties wtih 800 of its dealers, this reaction was bound to happen.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Chrysler and the Rule of Law

Todd Zywicki:
The rule of law, not of men -- an ideal tracing back to the ancient Greeks and well-known to our Founding Fathers -- is the animating principle of the American experiment. While the rest of the world in 1787 was governed by the whims of kings and dukes, the U.S. Constitution was established to circumscribe arbitrary government power. It would do so by establishing clear rules, equally applied to the powerful and the weak.

Fleecing lenders to pay off politically powerful interests, or governmental threats to reputation and business from a failure to toe a political line? We might expect this behavior from a Hugo Chávez. But it would never happen here, right?

Until Chrysler.

The close relationship between the rule of law and the enforceability of contracts, especially credit contracts, was well understood by the Framers of the U.S. Constitution. A primary reason they wanted it was the desire to escape the economic chaos spawned by debtor-friendly state laws during the period of the Articles of Confederation. Hence the Contracts Clause of Article V of the Constitution, which prohibited states from interfering with the obligation to pay debts. Hence also the Bankruptcy Clause of Article I, Section 8, which delegated to the federal government the sole authority to enact 'uniform laws on the subject of bankruptcies.'

The Obama administration's behavior in the Chrysler bankruptcy is a profound challenge to the rule of law. Secured creditors -- entitled to first priority payment under the 'absolute priority rule' -- have been browbeaten by an American president into accepting only 30 cents on the dollar of their claims. Meanwhile, the United Auto Workers union, holding junior creditor claims, will get about 50 cents on the dollar.

The absolute priority rule is a linchpin of bankruptcy law. By preserving the substantive property and contract rights of creditors, it ensures that bankruptcy is used primarily as a procedural mechanism for the efficient resolution of financial distress. Chapter 11 promotes economic efficiency by reorganizing viable but financially distressed firms, i.e., firms that are worth more alive than dead.
I suppose what I find most interesting is how fast and loose with the rule of law the current administration plays.

The rule of law doesn't apply when a company is "too big to fail." Right? This is not the first time that Chrysler has been in this position, but it is the first time that creditors are getting screwed in the process in favor of junior lienholders.

Chrysler and the Rule of Law

Todd Zywicki:
The rule of law, not of men -- an ideal tracing back to the ancient Greeks and well-known to our Founding Fathers -- is the animating principle of the American experiment. While the rest of the world in 1787 was governed by the whims of kings and dukes, the U.S. Constitution was established to circumscribe arbitrary government power. It would do so by establishing clear rules, equally applied to the powerful and the weak.

Fleecing lenders to pay off politically powerful interests, or governmental threats to reputation and business from a failure to toe a political line? We might expect this behavior from a Hugo Chávez. But it would never happen here, right?

Until Chrysler.

The close relationship between the rule of law and the enforceability of contracts, especially credit contracts, was well understood by the Framers of the U.S. Constitution. A primary reason they wanted it was the desire to escape the economic chaos spawned by debtor-friendly state laws during the period of the Articles of Confederation. Hence the Contracts Clause of Article V of the Constitution, which prohibited states from interfering with the obligation to pay debts. Hence also the Bankruptcy Clause of Article I, Section 8, which delegated to the federal government the sole authority to enact 'uniform laws on the subject of bankruptcies.'

The Obama administration's behavior in the Chrysler bankruptcy is a profound challenge to the rule of law. Secured creditors -- entitled to first priority payment under the 'absolute priority rule' -- have been browbeaten by an American president into accepting only 30 cents on the dollar of their claims. Meanwhile, the United Auto Workers union, holding junior creditor claims, will get about 50 cents on the dollar.

The absolute priority rule is a linchpin of bankruptcy law. By preserving the substantive property and contract rights of creditors, it ensures that bankruptcy is used primarily as a procedural mechanism for the efficient resolution of financial distress. Chapter 11 promotes economic efficiency by reorganizing viable but financially distressed firms, i.e., firms that are worth more alive than dead.
I suppose what I find most interesting is how fast and loose with the rule of law the current administration plays.

The rule of law doesn't apply when a company is "too big to fail." Right? This is not the first time that Chrysler has been in this position, but it is the first time that creditors are getting screwed in the process in favor of junior lienholders.

Freshness Date

Jim Geraghty: "All statements from Barack Obama come with an expiration date. All of them."

Ha, Ha, Ha, Ha.

Remember the Obama Promise to Close Gitmo?

Well, even the U.S. Senate is thinking that it is a bad idea. DISSENTING JUSTICE has the story:
And just when it seemed that all of these changes in anti-terrorism policy were too good to be true, today's Wall Street Journal reports that the Obama administration might indefinitely detain some Guantanamo Bay inmates in the United States following the closure of the facility. Presumably, the indefinitely detained individuals would include the 50-100 people Gates described in late April.

The Senate, however, has already launched an effort to block the potential policy. Today, the Senate will consider legislation that would give Obama emergency money he has requested to fund the closure of the Guantanamo Bay prison. The legislation, however, would grant the funds only if the President agrees not to transfer any suspected terrorists to locations within the United States.

If the Senate measure fails, then the Obama administration could potentially implement the indefinite detention policy. According to the Wall Street Journal article, possible plans include indefinite detentions within the United States authorized by a newly created "National Security Court."

The use of a special National Security Court to determine whether the government could detain suspects would go against Obama's campaign assertion that these individuals should have full habeas corpus rights. The idea of indefinite detention contradicts his campaign rhetoric that condemned this practice.
Author Darren Hutchinson then asks the question: "How does the indefinite detention of terrorism suspects in the United States, as opposed to Guantanamo Bay, represent an improvement over the Bush administration's policies?"

The answer is that it isn't. But what the move does prove is that national security and the personal security of American citizens is not a high priority for the Obama Administration (not that I have figured out what his priorities actually are).

Read some of the comments as well for some true snarkiness.

The Method to Pay for the Government Money Madness, Part II

The Cap and Trade version, courtesy of Betsy's Page:
The administration might talk about turning some of that money back to taxpayers, but they can't turn back much of it because they're planning on using that money for more of the massive spending that they're anticipating for his health care plans.

Even liberal economists recognize the deep risks of raising taxes in the middle of such a weak economy. Just calling it cap and trade to disguise that it is really a tax increase for every household won't avert the effects.

We'll be reading story after story in the future about how the government didn't reap the anticipated revenues. And you can point your finger right now at these tax increases to explain why this recession will continue.
This after testimony before the Senate Finance Committee by Congressional Budget Office Director Douglas Elmendorf which said that cap and trade will increase the tax bill for American households by an average of $1,600 per year. Oh, yeah that is average which means that higher tax brackets will pay more.

You can't spend trillions of dollars without a plan to find ways to get that money back. By spending so much money, the Obama Administration is basically dictating that anything and everything that can be taxed, will be taxed.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Who Okayed This Idea

Pennsylvania High School Orders Shot Glasses as Prom Favors: Who signed off on the idea? The school's principle:
A Pennsylvania high school ordered more than 450 shot glasses for its prom, a move the assistant principal now says sent the wrong message.

As the Warwick High School students left last week's dance, the prom committee handed them souvenir shot glasses. The girls who attended last year's prom got a picture frame; the boys, a money clip.

Assistant Principal Scott Galen says: "Unfortunately, this year the junior class didn't have quite as much money."

Galen says the principal signed off on the purchase order, but that paperwork simply said "prom souvenir" and didn't identify the mementos as shot glasses. Galen says he's certain this will never happen again.
Sends the wrong message? Gee you think?

Gays in the Military--Well Not Soon.

I remember back in 1992 when Bill Clinton promised to lift the ban on gays in the military (as if there had never been gays in the military before). Then Clinton got into office and what we got was "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" an absolute mockery of a policy. In 2008, Obama said he would remove the ban on gays in the military (again, as if there are no gays currently in the service), but it looks like that won't be happening soon either.

Quite frankly, as a veteran and a conservative, I could give a toss. Gays are in the military now and I hate to tell the world this, they are often known or at least strongly suspected to be gay and it doesn't matter. They do their job, they have the respect of the compatriots and they will continue to serve.

Get over it.

If You Disagree With Obama, Are You Anti-American?

Ben Shapiro:
If you attack President Barack Obama’s policies, are you attacking America? According to today’s left, the answer is yes: Barack Obama is America. And opposition to Barack Obama or any of his policies is therefore, by definition, anti-American.
I remember the days, not so long ago, when dissent was the highest form of patriotism.

Of course, a Democrat wasn't in the White House then.

Chrysler to Cut 800 Dealers on Thursday

Ouch. Can't stay in business if you are not selling cars.

Doesn't seem like a wise move to me.

Health Care Reform Is Key to Saving Medicare, Obama Administration Says

But it is just shuffling money around.

Overseas Votes Dramatically Undercounted

Wrong on so many levels.
One out of every four ballots requested by military personnel and other Americans living overseas for the 2008 election may have gone uncounted, according to findings being released at a Senate hearing Wednesday.

Sen. Charles Schumer, chairman of the Senate Rules and Administration Committee, said the study, while providing only a snapshot of voting patterns, "is enough to show that the balloting process for service members is clearly in need of an overhaul."

The committee, working with the Congressional Research Service, surveyed election offices in seven states with high numbers of military personnel: California, Florida, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Texas, Washington and West Virginia.

It said that of 441,000 absentee ballots requested by eligible voters living abroad -- mainly active-duty and reserve troops -- more than 98,000 were "lost" ballots that were mailed out but never received by election officials. Taking into account 13,500 ballots that were rejected for such reasons as a missing signature or failure to notarize, one-quarter of those requesting a ballot were disenfranchised.
This has to be fixed and there is no excuse not to get it fixed immediately.

I remember requesting ballots for absetee voting and then seeing how rediculously difficult it was. I also recall different standards and procedures for me (a Florida voter at the time) and my roommate (a Wyoming voter). One standard, one easy to follow procedure, every vote counted. Period. Full Stop. No execuses.

U.S. Eyes Bank Pay Overhaul

Oh, we are not just talking regulatory changes, or alterations or limitations on the type of investing banks can do. Nope, we are also talking about how financial services companies can pay their own employees.
The Obama administration has begun serious talks about how it can change compensation practices across the financial-services industry, including at companies that did not receive federal bailout money, according to people familiar with the matter.

The initiative, which is in its early stages, is part of an ambitious and likely controversial effort to broadly address the way financial companies pay employees and executives, including an attempt to more closely align pay with long-term performance.

Administration and regulatory officials are looking at various options, including using the Federal Reserve's supervisory powers, the power of the Securities and Exchange Commission and moral suasion. Officials are also looking at what could be done legislatively.

Among ideas being discussed are Fed rules that would curb banks' ability to pay employees in a way that would threaten the "safety and soundness" of the bank -- such as paying loan officers for the volume of business they do, not the quality. The administration is also discussing issuing "best practices" to guide firms in structuring pay.

At the same time, House Financial Services Committee Chairman Barney Frank (D., Mass.) is working on legislation that could strengthen the government's ability both to monitor compensation and to curb incentives that threaten a company's viability or pose a systemic risk to the economy.
Yes, that's right campers, coming soon to a bank near you is wage and salary control, that 1930's and 1940's era bust of a program.

It is one thing to put strings on federal bailout money, but it is an entirely different thing to start telling private companies who have taken no federal money, how they can and cannot compensate their employees.

Geithner: Bailout repayments will broaden program - Yahoo! Finance

IN order to help smaller banks, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner said the bailout money paid back by large banks will be used to help smaller banks.

Wait, I thought that big banks wouldn't be allowed to pay back the money. The money that Geithner says will be available to help smaller banks will come from .....

Yep, taxpayers. Bailout round........ Oh crap I don't remember which round of bailouts we are on.

Here it Comes: The Method to Pay for the Government Money Madness

Sin taxes are coming.

We already tax cigarettes at an incredible rate (which is growing as more people quit, but more on that some other time). Is smoking a sin? According to the goverment it is and so it is taxed.

The government wants to overhaul the health care system at an estimated $1.5 trillion over 10 years (like that number will hold up). So to pay for it, peopple like me, a relatively healthy 40 year old who doesn't smoke, doesn't drink that often (a beer or two on a dinner out--which doesn't happen too often) but with one real bad habit--I like to drink Coke. Now the government is going to consider that a sin and tax me for it. Or at least the Senate Finance Committee is thinking about it.
On Tuesday, the Senate Finance Committee peeked into vending machines and liquor stores, company payrolls and health savings accounts, looking for a mix of tax increases and spending cuts as a way to pay for a health overhaul — which could cost more than $1.5 trillion over 10 years.

Experts thought the big debate might be public plan vs. no public plan. But that may well pale in comparison to the difficulty of settling on a way to finance health care reform.

“I wish there were a number of painless options,” Robert Greenstein, executive director of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, wrote in his prepared testimony. “There aren’t.”

There appeared to be a bubble of support among the experts for taxing bad behavior, including a $2 tax on a pack of cigarettes and a higher excise tax on alcohol.

But soda and sugary drinks found a friend Tuesday in Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), the ranking member on the Finance Committee.

He categorically rejected the idea during a conference call with reporters.

“No,” he said swiftly, when asked if there was any chance of taxing it. “I think, quite frankly, the only reason it’s being brought up is to get it shot down early so it doesn’t become part of the debate. I don’t think it’s going to have any legs at all.”

Still, it’s easy to see why the bad-habits tax was so tempting: Taxing tobacco, junk foods and alcohol could raise $600 billion over 10 years.
I like Sen. Grassley, but sure he is not so naive to think the the Spend-crats won't support their spending habits by taxing anything they don't like? At $60 billion a year in revenue, you can bet it will happen. Keep in mind that a federal sin tax will be paired with a state and probably local sin tax, in addition to the sales taxes already in place.

The result--that $1 coke on the McDonald's dollar menu will probably cost you another quarter if not more in taxes.

Has Conservative Talk Radio Gone Too Far

My favorite liberal, Camille Pagli is asking that very question:
In a harried, fragmented, media-addled time, there is an invigorating simplicity to this political fundamentalism. It is comforting to hold fast to hallowed values, to defend tradition against the slackness of relativism and hedonism. But when the tone darkens toward a rhetoric of purgation and annihilation, there is reason for alarm. Two days after watching 'Seven Days in May,' I was utterly horrified to hear Dallas-based talk show host Mark Davis, subbing for Rush Limbaugh, laughingly and approvingly read a passage from a Dallas magazine article by CBS sportscaster David Feherty claiming that 'any U.S. soldier,' given a gun with two bullets and stuck in an elevator with Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid and Osama bin Laden, would use both bullets on Pelosi and strangle the other two.

How have we come to this pass in America where the assassination of top government officials is fodder for snide jokes on national radio? Davis (who is obviously a glib horse's ass) did this stunt very emphatically at a news break at the top of the first hour. It was from there that the Dallas magazine story was evidently picked up by liberal Web sites and disseminated, pressuring CBS to denounce Feherty, who made a public apology. The gravity of this case was unfortunately overshadowed by feisty comedian Wanda Sykes' clumsy jibes at Rush Limbaugh the next night at the Washington Correspondents Dinner. Sykes (who is usually hilarious) was rushed and inept, embarrassing herself and her hosts. But what Mark Davis did, in irresponsibly broadcasting Feherty's vile fantasy, was an inflammatory political act that could goad susceptible minds down the dark road toward "Seven Days in May."
I don't think Davis was particularly funny with that bit and I think Wanda Sykes was even less funny. But Davis is not the first, nor will he be the last radio show host (on either side of the political spectrum) to make dumb assassination jokes. The number of time that Air America hosts routinely bashed and threatened with bodily harm top Republican leaders is beyond count.

But Paglia does make a good implicit point, not just about conservative talk radio, which has been in full fledged panic mode since Obama's election, but about the general polarization of American politics in general.

Gone are the days of teh moderates of each party running the show. We have swung from the hard right of Newt Gingrich in 1994 to the extreme left of Nancy Pelosi in less than 20 years. Iconic speakers who got things done have been replaced by ideologues more in love with their own press and position than being in love with a Country with real problems needing real solutions. Missing from all this is the average Joe and Jane Smith who are just trying to get by and find no solace in either party and thus tune out of politics--leaving the playing field to the extremists.

Politics in America is no longer about solutions, but about positions and winning. I believe that most people in America want four things from their government:

1. A strong national defense. At the height of the Roman Empire, a Roman citizen could walk the breadth of the Empire and never fear being attacked. Why? Because everyone in the world new that if you attacked a Roman citizen, the full weight of the mightiest army in the world would come crashing about your home and head. America wants that security. We don't necessarily seek out war and probably don't want the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, but we also want to be secure in the knowledge that if the world screws with us, we are the biggest, baddest, meanest, most effective mother f-----s around and you don't mess with America.

2. Low taxes. Ours is a nation born, in part, out of a tax revolt. This is a country that abhors paying large taxes. It is not so much a desire to not have govnerment do things for us, since there is ample evidence that we do want something from the government, but when it comes to a situation of lower taxes or more government help, I think most people would rather have lower taxes.

3. Privacy. Most Americans want to live their lives free of government oversight, free to follow their own path. But, a funny (tragic) thing has happened over the past couple of decades, we have become a society in which surveillance, by others and the government, is cheap, easy and difficult to defeat. As a result, people have become more and more insular. This is the "Bowling Alone" phenomenon writ large. With the ability to communicate quickly and easily along with the many benefits of technology, we are becoming less a society and more a collection of individuals who live in a given place. Why? Because out there in the world, nothing is private, nothing is sacred, and everyone can know everything about you. We fear public opinion, we worry over what our neighbors and others think about us because we are sure it is the worst thing possible. So we retreat to our homes, to ever shriking circle of friends to control what happens. If Americans could once again feel secure that not everything about them is collected, stored and poured over by someone, then we will likely see more public engagement.

4. Basic Social Safety Net. Americans know that sometimes bad things happen to good people. I think most Americans like the idea of a basic social safety net, things like unemployment insurance, short term welfare assistance and basic medical care for everyone. But I don't think Americans embrace the idea of long-term welfare for the able, and certainly don't like the idea of corporate welfare. Bailouts are become the norm, not the exception, and most Americans in the middle see themselves footing the bill for not only the basic social safety net, which most Americans accept and support, but also footing the bill for bad business decision making and that galls them. Help for the individual faced with difficult circumstances has a place in our heart, help for the idiot CEO holding out his hand saying "we are too big to fail" is not well received.

I think that for most of modern America, these were the basic principles that united this nation. Moderate politicans of both parties operated on these principles, perhaps not explictily, but certainly as part of an underlying platform. But where are those people today? The polarization of politics, helped along by the polarizing entertainement of talk radio and other media outlets, has driven these four fundamental concers to the fringe so that our political leaders don't find solutions based on these ideas, but take positions at the extreme ends.

But with extremism comes the missing middle of America--Joe and Jane Smith who is assiduously courted by both parties at election time and then systematically ignored during governing time.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

The Battles in the Premier League

On Wednesday, Manchester United and Wigan Athletic will play their game in hand and put all teams in the premier league on the same number of games with two weeks left in the season.

The Title Race. If Manchester United win against Wigan on Wednesday, the magic number is 1 and I find it difficult to believe that Manchester United will drop all six remaining points. Manchester United play Arsenel at Old Trafford on Saturday and then travel to Hull City on the final day of the season. Liverpool's run-in is a little dicey playing West Brom on Sunday with West Brom riding high on emotion with a potential relegation zone escape (I don't see it but they seem to and that is all that matters) and hosting Tottenham at Anfield on the final week with the Spurs making a bid for Europa league next year. Any dropped point and Liverpool are done. Mathematically, Chelsea have a chance of taking the title, but Manchester United and Liverpool would both have to tank it in the last weeks and Chelseas would need to score a fair amount of goals.

Title Race Winners--Manchester United by four points.

The Relegation Battle
The win yesterday by Newcastle makes this potentially the most exciting of the remaining battles in the Premier League. In reality, this is a six horse race, although I think Portsmouth is probably safe, albeit by the skin of their teeth. That leaves Sunderland (36 Points), Newcastle (34), Hull City (34), Middlesbrough (31) and West Brom (31). It is ugly at the bottom, so lets take a look at the run-ins for each team.

Sunderland--Away at Portsmouth (5/18), Home to Chelsea (5/24)
Newcastle--Home to Fulham 5/16), Away to Aston Villa (5/24)
Hull City--Away to Bolton (5/16), Home to Manchester United (5/24)
Middlesbrough--Home to Aston Villa (5/16), Away to West Ham (5/24)
West Brom--Home to Liverpool (5/16), Away to Blackburn (5/24)

If Sunderland can beat Portsmouth, I think Sunderland will be safe, but they will be playing at Fratton Park and Portsmouth will be looking to assure their Premier League status. If Sunderland lose to Portsmouth, they could get sucked into the battle. I don't see Sunderland taking points off Chelsea, but with the FA cup final the following week, Chelsea may sit a little, but that runs kind of counter to the Guus Hiddinck style. Points in next two games (1 for a season total of 37)

Newcastle's massive victory yesterday put them safe on goal difference. They face two tough opponents. Fulham (who admittedly have a dismal road record, but have found very solid form of late and Aston Villa who are looking to keep a hold on the automatic Europa League spot, will be searching for a couple of wins against lower table teams in their final week to keep that spot. I just don't see more than three points here and maybe just one point in the last two games. (Points in next two games--0 with a total of 34)

Hull City is a team that once sat third in the league have had absolutely dismal form, stinking up the joint in just about every match since Christmas. If they don't get the three points against Bolton, they can pretty much hang it up. Bolton don't have much to pay for, being safe for next season, but right now I just don't see where the goals are coming from for the Tigers. I don't see Manchester United choking up any points. (0 points in next two games, season total 34)

Middlesbrough--that thud you heard yesterday was the sound of the door slamming shut on Middlesbrough's Premiership status. Their final two games against Aston Villa and West Ham just don't hold any promise of points, with Villa looking for Europa League group stage and West Ham fighting for seventh and Europa League, unless a miracle happens, Middlesbrough are just playing for pride at this point. (0 points in next two games, season total 31)

West Brom--at the start of May, I thought they were done and dusted, then the Baggies have won two games on the bounce and put themselves in a position for escape, although it will be really really hard. Even if they can't pull it off, they could kill of Liverpool's hope of a title. The Baggies are still playing good football and a draw against Liverpool and losses by Hull and Newcastle would put them in a position to escape on May 24. A draw againts Liverpool would give Manchester United the title. The problem is that West Brom found their form just a little too late. (1 point in next two games, season total 32).

Teams going down: Hull City (34 points behind Newcastle on Goal Difference), West Brom (32 points) and Middlesbrough (31 points).

The Battle for Seventh Place
Who would have thought that one of the more interesting battles this year would be fore seventh place? Seriously, seventh place? Even in elementary school, the kid that came seventh place didn't get a ribbon.

But the fact is that seventh place this year means Europa League qualification round and that means some extra money, prestige and the all-important European competition. Sure, it is the Europa League, but it is international competition. Because the FA cup is between Chelsea and Everton, both of who are assured of European competition already, the seventh place team is next in line for the spots that is surrendered by Chelsea or already occupied by Everton in the Europa League.

Four teams have a shot, Fulham, Tottenham, Manchester City and West Ham United. Here is the situation:

Fulham (50 points) will play away at Newcastle (5/16) and Home to Everton (5/24) to finish the season. Fulham (yes!!!!!) control their destiny, if they win out, they go to Europe. If they win and draw, they will end the season with 54 points and have a better goal difference than both Tottenham and Man City, so unless those teams finish with two wins and big scorelines, Fulham will stay seventh. Unvbelievable for a team that escaped relegation last season on the very last day. For the second year in a row, Fulham face and FA Cup finalist on the last day of hte season--just an interesting note. A couple of fortunate notes for Fulham, Tottenham and Manchester City will face each other next week, a win by either and a point by Fulham will eliminate the loser.

Tottenham (48 points) have had a remarkable comeback. At one point Spurs sat dead last in the league on just two months nearly 10 weeks into the season. However, Spurs will close out by hosting Man City (5/16) and then away to Liverpool. This will be a tough six points to get for the Spurs, but they must win out or have Fulham drop four points to get to seventh. Man City have been horrible on the road and White Hart lane has been almost fortress like for the Spurs, so I can see three points there. But I just don't see Liverpool choking at Anfield. Liverpool have to win to have a hope of the title. At best I can see three points here.

Manchester City (48 points) will travel to White Hart Lane and their away form is actually worse than Fulham's this year (and that is saying something). If they lose on Saturday, they will need to beat Bolton on the final day and hope for Tottenham to lose and Fulham to have dropped everthing against Newcastle and Everton.

West Ham United (47 points) travel to Goodison Park to face Everton (5/16) and close out against Middlesbrough on May 24. The only way they can make it to Europe now is to win out and hope that Fulham, Manchester City and Tottenham don't earn more than three points. A tall order.

As a Fulham fan, I have to say that I like the fact that we are in control of our own destiny. The magic number is four, any combination of those four points will see us in Europe next year. Newcastle might be a test because St. James's Park will be rocking this weekend since they will probably know that a win against the Cottagers will put the Toon Army safe. But even a draw will put matters in their own hands on the 24th.

Seventh Place--Fulham on 54 points.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Real Salt Lake: Williams has hope for ailing wife

I have written about Real Salt Lake veteran Andy Williams and the cancer battle his wife is facing. Andy Wiliams is still hopeful. Teams around the league, including DC United have rallied together to help find a bone marrow donor for Marcia Williams.

Chelsea 1:1 Barcelona--Ballack and Drogba lose their heads

While a lot of this clip is showing the Barcelona squad celebrating, and a classy Frank Lampard exchanging jerseys with Andres Iniesta, the back end of the clip shows Chelsea's Didier Drogba acting like a spoiled child whining about being told he can't go to Disneyland.

It is hard for me to say that Chelsea is right or wrong. It is likewise hard for me to say that Barcelona deserved to go through. It is hard for me to say that the officiating was good, because it clearly is not. But here is what I do think about Drogba.

He is a diver. And part of the reason that Chelsea will be watching the Champions' League final rather than playing in it is because Drogba and his diving partner Nicholas Anelka didn't do their job and put the ball in the back of the net. They had chances to put Barcelona away and they didn't do it.

Now about that phantom hand ball on the last minute Ballack shot. Having seen the replay a couple of different times, I thought it was a handball from the angle of the video. But here is the thing, having seen that the referee was in the correct position, I have tried to imagine the play from his point of view, because his viewpoint is different than the viewpoint of the replays. I think from his viewpoint, you could say that the shot went off of the back rather than the arm. But I also think the referee had doubts, and I don't know how many times I have been told as a referee, if you have doubts about whether to give a penalty, don't give the penalty.

It was a game changing call and in the end I think the referee got it right. Ballack can scream all he wants. Drogba can rant all he wants about it being an f****** disgrace, but the fact of the matter is, I think the referee got that one right.

But that doesn't excuse the refereeing from the rest of the match. Anelka took a Greg Louganis which resulted in Eric Abidal's red card (which by the way shouldn't have been a red card--yellow perhaps but not red, it is not a denial of an obvious goal scoring opportunity because Anelka clearly did not have possession or control of the ball, Victor Valdes was coming out and probably would have smoothered the ball). I am not saying that the lack of a penalty call was an "evening of the balance sheet" but clearly the refereeing was not as good a quality as it could have been.

Chelsea put on a good display of defensive work. Michael Essien (even apart from his goal) showed why he is one of the best midfielders in the world). John Terry and Alex anchored a solid back line for Chelsea. But one poor clearance, a lovely pass from Messi to Iniesta and wonderful, first time shot puts Barcelona through to the final.

Did Barcelona earn their berth in the final? No, I don't think they did. Chelsea lost this game. They blew their chances and lost their nerve in the last minutes. Barca didn't earn it, but neither did Chelsea.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

This Just Sucks

Kind of a funny own goal. It was a well struck shot that hit the cross bar and then strikers the keeper in the head and falls into the net.

The keeper even had a little smile about.

But it does suck.

Joey Barton==Thug

Great Soccerlens piece:
In all honesty, the tackle Barton was sent off for at Liverpool was not the worst he has committed. Another player could probably have just about convinced the world that it was born out of frustration, and ill-judged at worst. But not this player. Shearer’s refreshingly honest post-match assessment of his midfielder’s aberration summed it all up pretty perfectly:

“I wasn’t happy, I was bitterly disappointed at the way that happened,” said the Newcastle manager, “I asked him to stay calm in the heat of the battle but it was a stupid tackle and he deserved to be sent off. It’s about 90 minutes, not about 75 or 80 minutes, it’s about keeping calm for 90.”
Alan Shearer is right, not only in his assessment, but also in his dropping Barton, who when he keeps his head is not a bad player.

Barton should be done as a professional footballer and it should have happened months ago. He has lost all of his chances and I wouldn't want him on my five a side pub team, I would rather play short handed.

Arsenal 1-3 Manchester United

Say what you want about Cristiano Ronaldo being a diver, a wanker or a prissy prima donna, the two goals he scored yesterday were magnificient. Soccerlens has a good write up. Here is a link to the free kick rocket that Ronaldo scored from about 35-37 yards out. Truth be told, Arsenel keeper Manual Alumnia blew it. He was moving in the right direction, and had he put his hands out quicker, Alumnia would have deflected that shot in what would have been a saves of the week highlight. Instead, Alumnia's miss essentially doomed Arsenel in the 11th minute.

But Ronaldo's second goal is fantastic. Not because it was a great shot, or the result of some nifty dribbling, but for the sheer athletic grit. Watch Ronaldo, who collects a cleared ball about 35 yards from his own goal, makes a nifty flick to Park and then sprints (and I mean sprints hard) for some 70 yards or so to collect the cross from Rooney and well and truly kill of the tie. You can see Ronaldo just laying tracks at the bottom of the screen as Park, Rooney and Ronaldo execute what has to be what can only be classified as a perfect counterattack. What impresses me about this goal is from Ronaldo's first touch to Park, there are seven touches of the ball, one by Ronaldo to start, two by Park, three by Rooney and then the one-time finish from Ronaldo.

Great stuff.

Arsenal fan hangs self in wake of Champion's League Loss

I have often written that deaths at a soccer match are tragic and each death that could be prevented should be accounted to someone. Often we hear about deaths because of a stadium collapse, or a crushing incident, or something similarly silly. But really, this is just absolutely dumb.
Police say Suleiman Alphonso Omondi, a 29-year-old Kenyan living in Nairobi, hung himself wearing his Arsenal gear after the match. Just a tragic story. This poor guy threw away his life for a filthy rich bunch of guys who'll never even know him.
I couldn't agree more, while I think football is an important part of who I am and what I love, it is still just a game and there is no reason to punish yourself because a bunch of overpaid athletes can accomplish a task at home.


Serendipity. Last week, I heard a Dennis Miller Show interview with House Minority Leader John Boehner (April 30, 2009) in which Boehner noted that as a man who has been in federal government service for 16 years, he is used to dealing with budgets in terms of billions, but even the spending now, measured in trillions of dollars, is difficult for even him to grasp. I too have a really hard time wrapping my head around the size of the numbers. Then
Remember when President Obama ordered his Cabinet to cut $100 million from the budget.I saw this video. What I like about this video is that it shows not only the relative size of the federal budget, but how much of the federal budget is committed to mandatory spending, how much to discretionary spending, and how much (about 1/3 or so) has to be borrowed. Then the speaker shows how much Obama's $100 million really is.

It is pretty astounding (and the patience it took to stach the pennies is impressive.

More Amassing of Power in the Federal Government

Jonathan Adler points out something I didn't know:
USA Today reports that state and local governments now receive more money from the federal government than from their own taxpayers.
The sales tax had been the No. 1 source of state and local revenue since the mid-1970s, according to the Bureau of Economic Analysis. Before that, property taxes were the primary source. That changed in the first three months of 2009.

Federal grants — early stimulus money plus conventional federal aid — soared 15% in the first quarter to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of $437 billion, eclipsing sales taxes, which fell 2%.

The dominance of federal money is set to expand dramatically this year because tax collections are sinking while the bulk of federal stimulus aid is just starting to arrive.

David Bernstein Doesn't Get It

And neither do I:
Apparently, many of the same folks who just months ago were telling us that "dissent is the highest form of patriotism" think just dandy for the president to brand bondholders as "speculators" who are "refusing to sacrifice like everyone else" when they refuse to go along with a corrupt giveaway to a core Democratic constituency, the UAW, at their expense.

UPDATE: Oh, but I forgot, criticism of Bush was justified because his administration was asserting unprecedented executive powers and trampling the rule of law because of a phony "emergency" that was really a cover for both ideology and political partisanship, while the Obama Administration is, um, well, ...
Bernstein points elsewhere for more thinking:
Business Insider reports that more than one Chrysler senior creditor has corroborated Thomas Lauria’s allegation that the Obama administration threatened them with public attacks if they didn’t surrender their contractual rights. One of their sources says that the Obama team comprises some of the worst “ends justify the means” people he’s ever encountered.

As I noted yesterday, the problem that we are facing with the current administration is not just their willingness to amass power without consideration of how to exercise that power, but rather it is the inability of this Administration to make any sort of prioritization.

This is not the first time that Chrysler has been in trouble and it is not the first time that the government has been there to assist Chrysler (Remember Lee Iacocca and the "comeback"). But in this case, the government is looking not to assist the company, but to alter the ownership structure and is treating those private individuals who have invested their own money (as opposed to taxpayer money) into the company as if they were lepers or raging swine flu suffers. When the government treats private investors in the way the Obama administration is treating Chrysler investors, there is no incentive for private investors to step up to the plate.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

More War Money Needed

Reuters reports on a request for another $92 billion in emergency funds for the war efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Normally, I would let this go without so much as a comment since I generally think that we should fund the wars as necessary. But this story gives me pause now because the Administration and Congress are essentially treating the taxpayer as an ATM that has no limit. There is, I think, a distinct lack of priority to be found in the Obama Administration's agenda. President Obama cannot do everything he wants, yet we seem to be on that road, where no matter what, no matter how much it costs and no matter whether it is wise or not, Obama keeps writing checks and Congress keeps signing them without so much as a question of what is the priority.

This Is American Soccer, US Soccer, MNT, WNT, and MLS » Blog Archive » the Cosmos, for free!

Will the MLS see the return of the Cosmos? That is the subject of a great piece by Adam Spengler who spoke with Peppe Pinton, the man who owns the rights to the famed NASL Franchise that at one time was the most successful American soccer team.

With the arrival of former NASL clubs Seattle Souncers, Portland Timbers and Vancouver Whitecaps into the MLS in the next couple of years, it has become something of an assumption and certainly a question of when North America's most famous soccer club will be resurrected and brought into the American soccer fold once again. To a certain extent, Pinton is the Cosmos and his personal interest may not be easily separated from corporate interest, but he does have a plan and it is not an unreasonable one:
The next step is very simple. What I realized at Lazio, and what makes sports so great in many places, is to have a second franchise in the same city. Rome and Lazio. Inter Milan and Milan. Juventus and Torino. Particularly—and I think MLS is doing this in LA—the New York market. You need to create competition—Mets and Yankees. You could have Red Bull and Cosmos here in New York—and they could be playing in the same stadium for heaven’s sake. I played Lazio in Olympic Stadium with Roma. No big deal. The economics become much better. Stadiums have empty dates that need to be filled. They are already building their own stadiums all over MLS. Now let’s fill them, while creating rivalry and fan appeal. What needs to be done is lift this asset which is free and clear—I repeat: free and clear for any team. There is no doubt, no loophole. Someone can have the same franchise that Pele and Beckenbauer played for. They get all the trophies, all the history that I have preserved.
To a great extent I have to agree, the "megapolis" that exists between Portland, Seattle and Vancouver, with their long soccer histories, will generate intense rivalry and will be good for the game and the league. The same could be said of the Washington, DC, Philadelphia and New York corridor. Already the DC United/RBNY rivalry is getting solidified.

A second franchise in New York could be beneficial and if that franchise has the history of the Cosmos behind it, could bring some competition in the city, much like the multiple rivalries you see in Europe and South America: Roma/Lazio, Inter Milan/AC Milan, Fenerbache/Galatasary, Boca Juniors/River Plate, Chelsea/Arsenel, etc. But such rivalries take years, decades even to build. Indeed, one of Pinton's analogies, Mets/Yankees in New York or Cubs/White Sox in Chicago is flawed because until the 1990's there was no cross competition between the teams as they competed in different "leagues."

I am not sure if or more probably when, a Cosmos franchise will join MLS, but I do think it almost a certainty. What role Pinton will have, and what he will achieve as a result, is of course an interesting side question but one that will have to be resolved.

Monday, May 04, 2009

Soccer Action You May Not Have Seen over the Weekend

Soccer Insider has the story and video of hte Greek Cup Final between AEK Athens and Olympiakos

Big story points:
1. AEK carries 2-0 lead to the 89th Minute.
2. Olympiakos scores first goal in 89th Minute, gets equalizer in injury time.
3. Olympiakos scores in extra time, but the scorer gets his second yellow for excessive celebrating
4. Olympiakos gets a second players sent off for a harsh tackle
5. AEK ties the game in extra time with a two man advantage.
6. Penalties goes to 17 rounds
7. Hero of the match is Olympiakos goalkeeper Antonis Nikoplidis who saves penalty number 17 from AEK and then scores the winning penalty.

In case you are wondering when one team has only nine players on the pitch at the end of the match going into penalties, the other team can only use 9 players, which gives them an advantage of sorts.

That means with 17 rounds of penalties, just about everyone kicked twice. Pretty amazing stuff.

Healtcare at the Dinner Table

A simple example of why we have so much over spending on health care:
If you go to dinner with a large group of strangers and you know that the bill will be split evenly, aren't you more likely to order pricier dishes and drinks than you would order if you, and you alone, were responsible for picking up your full tab?

The answer is surely "yes." Let's say that you'd be content to order the pork chop priced at $15, but would get even greater enjoyment from ordering the rack of lamb priced at $25. If you alone were responsible for your tab, you'd order the lamb only if it is worth to you at least the extra $10 that it costs. So suppose that you value the lamb by only $8 more than you value the pork chop. In that case, you'd order the pork chop. You wouldn't spend an extra $10 to get extra satisfaction worth only $8.

But if the bill is evenly shared among, say, 10 diners (yourself and nine others), then if you order the lamb, your share of the higher bill will be only $1. That's $10 split evenly 10 ways. You'll order the lamb.

You might think that this sharing arrangement is good. After all, in this example, the cost to you of getting something you valued more (the lamb rather than the pork chop) was reduced. It became sensible for you to order the lamb.

Look more deeply, though. What happened is that society (here, the 10 diners) was led to supply something that wasn't worth its cost. The lamb was worth to you only an additional $8, but to make it available to you, society spent $10. Ten dollars were used to raise the welfare of society by only $8. (You're a member of society, so any improvement in your welfare counts as an improvement in the welfare of society.) That's a waste of $2.

You are better off, but the group is worse off.

Now look even more deeply. Everyone at the table faces the same incentives that you face. You're not the only person who will order excessively costly dishes and drinks. Everyone will. The entire table over-consumes. The total bill is higher -- even your share is higher -- than it would have been had the bill not been split evenly. Resources are wasted.

Such sharing of our medical-care bill takes place now on a massive scale. It is impossible to see how expanding this sharing will reduce the bill.
Don Boudreaux is talking largely about socialized medical programs like Medicare and Medicaid, but it applies with equal force to private health care plans.

In private health plans, the healthy subsidize the sick, which is fine, in so far as it goes. But when the true cost of health care is hidden by low co-pays for routine visits, there is no incentive for us to limit our consumption or make smarter choices.

In a true insurance example you have the liability sections on your car insurance. If you drive safely, avoid accidents, don't speed, etc., you get a smaller insurance payment. If you drive a safe car, you get a discount. The idea is that if you make choices that decreases your insurance needs, you get the benefit of not having to pay for expensive insurance. (It is not a perfect system since you do have to have some coverage for the uninsured driver).

But with health insurance, because other people are footing the bill for your health care, there is no incentive to take steps to make yourself healthier. For example, I don't smoke, do drugs or engage in risky sports like motorcycle racing. But if I have a co-worker who does, he and I pay the exact same price for health insurance. Thus, there is little incentive (other than personal) or benefit (other than personal) for living a healthier life. I don't begrudge people who smoke, drink or race motorcycles (one hopes they aren't drinking and racing), for those are their personal choices. My problem is that I don't want to pay for their health care.

but because there are no incentives or benefits in any health care scenario, we as a society tend to over use. If you want to end overuse, start making it worth people's while to limit both their consumption (a refund on your premium if you make no more than X number of visits to your doctor in a year) and for choosing healthier living, i.e. discounts for non-smokers or refunds no matter what plan you are on.

Don't Doubt that Congress is Looking to Limit Your Freedom of Speech

The Volokh Conspiracy posits some interesting scenarios:
1. I try to coerce a politician into voting a particular way, by repeatedly blogging (using a hostile tone) about what a hypocrite / campaign promise breaker / fool / etc. he would be if he voted the other way. I am transmitting in interstate commerce a communication with the intent to coerce using electronic means (a blog) "to support severe, repeated, and hostile behavior" -- unless, of course, my statements aren't seen as "severe," a term that is entirely undefined and unclear. Result: I am a felon, unless somehow my "behavior" isn't "severe."

2. A newspaper reporter or editorialist tries to do the same, in columns that are posted on the newspaper's Web site. Result: Felony, unless somehow my "behavior" isn't severe.

3. The politician votes the wrong way. I think that's an evil, tyrannical vote, so I repeatedly and harshly condemn the politician on my blog, hoping that he'll get very upset (and rightly so, since I think he deserves to feel ashamed of himself, and loathed by others). I am transmitting a communication with the the intent to cause substantial emotional distress, using electronic means (a blog) "to support severe, repeated, and hostile behavior." (I might also be said to be intending to "harass" -- who knows, given how vague the term is? -- but the result is the same even if we set that aside.) Result: I am a felon, subject to the usual utter uncertainty about what "severe" means.

4. A company delivers me shoddy goods, and refuses to refund my money. I e-mail it several times, threatening to sue if they don't give me a refund, and I use "hostile" language. I am transmitting a communication with the intent to coerce, using electronic means "to support severe, repeated, and hostile behavior." Result: I am a felon, if my behavior is "severe."

5. Several people use blogs or Web-based newspaper articles to organize a boycott of a company, hoping to get it to change some policy they disapprove of. They are transmitting communications with the intent to coerce, using electronic means "to support severe, repeated, and hostile behavior." Result: Those people are a felon. (Isn't threatening a company with possible massive losses "severe"? But again, who knows?)

6. John cheats on Mary. Mary wants John to feel like the scumbag that he is, so she sends him two hostile messages telling him how much he's hurt her, how much she now hates him, and how bad he should feel. She doesn't threaten him with violence (there are separate laws barring that, and this law would apply even in the absence of a threat). She is transmitting communications with the intent to cause substantial emotional distress, using electronic means "to support severe, repeated, and hostile behavior." Result: Mary is a felon, again if her behavior is "severe."
All these scenarios would make Eugene Volokh or anyone else a felon under the Megan Meier Cyberbullying Prevention ActOf course, such a law is almost sure to fail on a facial challenge to its consitutionality, but the fact that 15 Representatives think that this is not unconstitutional is shocking.

Is cyberbullying a problem? I guess so, but how much of it is a matter of thin skin and how much of it is libel or slander? I don't know if Congress can solve cyberbullying, and I don't think they should, assuming there is something they can.

What a Chucklehead

Sen. Arlen Specter (D-PA).

More On Government Motors

Govenrment telling automakers how to run their business. Look, I don't think GM cars totally suck (I own a Pontiac Vibe) and I don't think that the Japanese automakers are any better at making a car than Americans are. The problem is one of perception and cost.

First, the perception is that American cars are quality cars. I don't think they are of lesser quality across the board. But I do think American consumers believe that and that is the problem of marketing and response to problems (which for Pontiac is sometimes not good).

Second, is one of cost. The Japanese cars, even those still made in Japan, come in at a competitive price point and that accounts for the cost of importing them. Japanese cars made in this country cost less than their American counterparts, not much less, but again, less on average. You can't argue with the sticker price, it is what it is.

But the idea that the federal government can do something better for American car makers that the American car makers haven't figured out for themselves is absolutly ludicrous. The way to make American car makers more competitive is to get out of their way, let the succeed or fail on their own.

The Obama Imperial Presidency.

The Legal Basis of the Obama Administration's actions in the market place and private business is being questioned, and rightly so.
As the President intervenes in more and more industries, a key question is how he does it and what he is trying to achieve. Is he trying to reorganize insolvent firms while, as much as possible, preserving the rights of stakeholders as established under existing contracts? Or is he trying to achieve a "fair" outcome as he judges it, regardless of preexisting rules and agreements? I fear it may be the latter, in which case politics may start to trump the rule of law.
The biggest problem we are facing with these actions is not just a constitutional or legal basis of the proposed solutions because it is simply possible to find one if you look for it. The problem is that too much legislation is being rammed through Congress without any sufficient look both into the fundamentals of the law as well as the details.

We are being victimized by the abdication of the legislative power in favor of the executive. Of course, what we are not hearing about is the "Imperial Presidency" of the Obama Administration.


After last week's Champion's league snoozer er, match, between Chelsea and the goal studded Barca team, there have been catcalls and cries of "negative football" coming from all ends of the Earth, such as the one here at Soccerlens. Look, I know the game at the Nou Camp wasn't the pretty, attractive attacking football we have grown to see from Barcelona. But hats off to Chelsea for doing what Bayern Munich couldn't do, hold Henry, Messi and Eto'o scoreless. Between those three Barca strikers and a little help from their friends, Barca has scored 100 goals in La Liga, dropped 12 on German powerhouse (well normally) Bayern. But while goals are great, if you hold your opponent to a clean sheet, the worst you are going to do is tie.

I am no Chelsea fan (far from it), but after watching a History Channel program on Sun Tzu, I have to remind people, that a good defense is just a important as a great attack. There are not many teams in football that can go goal for goal with the Catalans and they shouldn't try. If teams try to play Barca football and outscore Barcelona, they will get trounced--see Real Madrid this past weekend. Playing defensive is usually not a good recipe for winning a one-off game, but the Champions League is a two legged affair, and teams have to play with that in mind. Guus Hiddink's tactics were smart and dead on. If Chelsea hadn't proceeded with a defend first attitude at the Nou Camp, they could have emerged from their road trip to see themselves down several goals and that would have been disasterous (although it would have been interesting to see if Pep Guardiola's men could play a defensive set at Stamford Bridge).

Chelsea are in a hole on Wednesday, having to face a Barca team that is flying high. Chelsea have to attack and have to win clear. A score draw means Barca advance on the away goal rule. A scoreless draw means penalties and that is just a massive crapshoot (see Champion's League final from last year). Like it or not, "negative football" sometimes wins two legged ties, and even championships. I don't think Chelsea can pull this tie out, but I don't begrudge them their attempt.

Friday, May 01, 2009

The Problem with Government Motors

Private Investors get screwed and that is wrong:
The deal that is coming out of the government aid and deadline for GM is truly astounding. As the WSJ breaks down the numbers, private bondholders of GM securities would get 5 cents on the dollar for their investment and own 10% of the company; the government will own 50% of the company and a return of 87 cents on the dollar; and the UAW would own 40% of the company and have a return of 76 cents on the dollar. Now we know why Obama and the UAW have been fighting so hard to keep GM out of the bankruptcy court.
In a genuine Chapter 11 bankruptcy, these three groups of creditors would all be similarly situated -- because all three are, for the most part, unsecured creditors of GM. And yet according to the formula presented Monday, those with the largest claim -- the bondholders -- get the smallest piece of the restructured company by a huge margin.
The goal seems to be to drive private investors away from the company and leave the UAW in control. What will the government's next action be if GM doesn't recover and people don't buy GM cars in the numbers that they need? Will the government pass laws to favor the car company that we and the unions hold such a large stake in? Will mandates go out to all government agencies that they can only buy GM cars?
That this is wrong on so many levels should be obvious. But really, is this anything more than nationalization/socialization by any other name.

It sucks and it stinks and more people need to be pissed off about it.

Obama Can't Blame Republicans Now

Bill Kristol has this bit of "good news":
Similarly and contrarianly, I wonder if today’s Arlen Specter party switch, this time to the president’s party, won’t end up being bad for President Obama and the Democrats. With the likely seating of Al Franken from Minnesota, Democrats will have 60 seats in the Senate, giving Obama unambiguous governing majorities in both bodies. He’ll be responsible for everything. GOP obstructionism will go away as an issue, and Democratic defections will become the constant worry and story line. This will make it easier for GOP candidates in 2010 to ask to be elected to help restore some checks and balance in Washington -- and, meanwhile, Specter’s party change won’t likely have made much difference in getting key legislation passed or not. So, losing Specter may help produce greater GOP gains in November 2010, and a brighter Republican future.
Now, Obama owns everything that happens in Washington and he can't blame the GOP for whatever goes wrong.

The Pay Gap Boogeyman

Do women earn less than men? I think the empirical evidence would say yes, on a whole. But it is my firm belief that you have have a man and a woman who are equal in all respects of education, experience, age, time in service, etc., that is all the factors that are accounted for when determining pay, you don't have pay difference. The problem is that when looking at the pay gap, researchers rarely find such a siutation in a large enough sample and so they have to control for things like, age, education, experience, years in the workforce and that whole pesky personal choice thing. The lesson from this post is to read carefully everything you cite to, because it may come back to haunt your conclusions.