Saturday, October 31, 2009

Fulham Add to Rafa Benitz's, Liverpool's Woes

Fulham hosted the Reds at Craven Cottage this afternoon and handed Liverpool a 3-1 loss as Liverpool were reduced to nine men. Liverpool lost two players in three minutes to sending off while Fulham led 2-1 at the time. In the 87th Minute, Clint Dempsey put the game out of reach.

Bobby Zamora and Erik Nevland netted the other two goals for the Whites.

Friday, October 30, 2009

The Constitutionality of the Pay Czar?

Professor (and former judge) Michael McConnell makes the case that the Pay Czar Kenneth Feinberg is an unconstitutional officer because he hasn't been appointed by the Senate. Thus, Feinberg's actions to slash compensation and several very large financial services companies is likewise unconstitutional--and will probably be challenged.
Lost in the arguments over economics and political theory, however, is a more basic question: Was this action constitutional?

Mr. Feinberg's ukase is the most prominent example (and not just by the Obama administration) of the exercise of power by an individual unilaterally appointed by the executive branch without Senate confirmation—and thus outside the ordinary channels of Congressional oversight. Earlier this month, the Senate Subcommittee on the Constitution conducted hearings into the constitutional basis for this practice, which many see as an end-run around checks and balances. The Obama administration declined Sen. Russ Feingold's (D., Wisc.) invitation to send a witness to the hearing to explain the constitutional basis for its various "czars."

So who is Kenneth Feinberg, and where did he get the power to set pay for executives at private firms?
And therein lies the question.

Look, I have no doubt that the President is within his rights to name as many advisors as the Congress will appropriate money for. But Now these czars are exercising significant powers with little or no oversight from Congress and on dubious legal and constitutional grounds. The Obama Administration is hardly the first to do this. But that is kind of like the argument you mother used to make: "If your friend Johnny jumped off a bridge would you follow him."

My fraternity has a saying, "Merely because a practice is prevalent may be the poorest reason for continuing it.." I think the end of the line for czars is coming--and soon.

Obama White House A Little Too Defensive?

First it was the battle with Fox News, now with You may not recognize Edmunds unless you listen to a lot of car commercials or are a car junkie. But I think they are a pretty unbiased source of news about the automotive industry. Well the White House didn't like their analysis of the Cash for Clunkers program and called Edmunds out on the White House blog.

Methinks the skin at the White House is a tad too thin.

But there is a larger problem that should be obvious by now---if you disagree with the White House line, you are an enemy that must be destroyed. It would be far better to ignore this, but the White House seems to be picking all the wrong battles.

Stimulus Money Saving Jobs

That may not need to be saved. The story in the New York Times is that the federal stimulus money has been saving teaching jobs.
The best symbol of the $787 billion federal stimulus program turns out not to be a construction worker in a hard hat, but rather a classroom teacher saved from a layoff.

On Friday, the Obama administration released the most detailed information yet on the jobs created by the stimulus. Of the 640,239 jobs recipients claimed to have created or saved so far, officials said, more than half — 325,000 — were in education. Most were teachers’ jobs that states said were saved when stimulus money averted a need for layoffs.

Although the stimulus was initially sold in large part as a public works program, only about 80,000 of the jobs that were claimed Friday were in construction.

Of course, counting jobs that were saved can be a squishier proposition than counting jobs that were created. Teachers have been laid off in some areas — and budget officials say that there would have been more layoffs without the stimulus money — but it is difficult to say with certainty how many teachers would have been laid off without that money.
I am all for saving teacher jobs, but the saving of teacher jobs is something of a spin job as well.

Here's the thing, a public teacher is a public employee, it is not a private sector job that creates wealth and drives the economy forward. Sure a teacher could be considered and economic multiplier, but they are long term multiplier, it can take years, decades even for their impact to be felt. But it is a feel good metric that applies in a politically popular area.

The fact remains, without the stimulus money continuing to flow, you cannot keep these teachers employed unless the economy recovers and generates tax revenue to keep these teachers employed. Perhaps the better economic recovery action would have been to allow those teachers to be laid off, looking for other work or acting as entrepreneurs themselves.

A Red Card Worthy Tackle

I have been asked before what kind of things deserve a straight red card in soccer by new referees, by new fans and by soccer novices.

Well, some things are obvious--striking a player in the face outside the run of play. Striking the referee is a good way to end your day as well.

Oh, then there is this tackle:

I love this comment by the fellas at Dirty Tackle. The referee initially only showed McManus a yellow card, but then the assistant ref pulled him aside and side something to the effect of “Are you serious? That deserved, like, eight red cards.” And the mistake was then corrected.

Of course, the interesting thing about this play is that if McManus had been a little closer in his timing, i.e. not so blatantly late about it, it probably would have gotten just a yellow and that would be all.

So it is just a matter of degrees.

MLS Playoffs Start with a Winner of a Game

Look, I know the score was 0-0, but it was a very, very entertaining nil-nil draw last night. The MLS Playoffs started with a bang as two teams, Seattle and Houston, the 3rd and 2nd seeds in the Western Conference respectively, faced off to open up the 2009 post season.

I know a lot of soccer purists, including me, don't really like the playoffs thinking it yet another unnecessary americanization of the game, but if all playoff games were like last nights, I could lend tepid support to the idea. The two teams, the expansion Sounders and the two time-MLS Cup winning Houston were a magnificent study in American soccer. Almost identical in every facet. Take a look:

The Coaches: Seattle's Sigi Schmid won the MLS Cup last year with Columbus and has another on his mantle with L.A. Houston's Dominic Kinnear has won the cup twice. These are two of the best coaches in the MLS (along with Bruce Arena and Steve Nichol). Tactically, these coaches know how to pick apart an opposition and that makes for a great coaches chess game.

The Team Personnel: Both teams boast a solid collection of veterans playing well mixed with brilliant youngsters and cemeted with quality journeymen. The teams are led by the old guys--the two oldest goal keepers in the league--Kasey Keller (39) and Pat Onstad (41), each of whom is a legitimate contender for goalkeeper of the year (I think Chivas USA's Zack Thorton will win it though). Each team boasts a legitimate Defender of the Year Contender (Seattles Jhon Kennedy Hurtado and Houston's Geoff Cameron). Seattle boasts an outside contender for Rookie of the Year (Steve Zakuani) and Newcomer of the year (Freddy Montero). Houston's midfield is led by two U.S. National team regular selectees Stuart Holden and Ricardo Clark. Seattle's midfield engine is Freddie Ljunberg, the designated player/underwear model, who has enjoyed a fantastic season after starting the year on the injured list, but Ljudberg fits in with the team, rather than standing too far above it. Plus there is a fair amount of crossover in these teams. Seattle defender Patrick Ianni wore the Dynamo orange as did midfielder/striker Nate Jacqua.

Finally, both teams, while they have had their injury problems, have enough depth and stylistic consistency that allows for bench players to step and fill in for injured players without disrupting the squad too much. Case in point, Patrick Ianni was a last minute replacement for Seattle's strong central defender Tyrone Marshall. Ianni is my vote for man of the match.

The Tactics: Both squads build from the back, with a solid back line in front of great keepers. The result is the two teams with the lowest goals against this year (29). A low scoring match-up seemed inevitable and was delivered. But both teams are solid counter-attacking teams, which gave great end to end action last night, with quick counters that lit up the field. Seattle has allowed just one set-piece goal this year and Houston not many more than that. Both teams boast quick strikers in Freddie Montero and Dominic Oduro. In addition to the great end to end action, the field was kept wide with lost of touchline to touchline movement. I think Houston was better off the ball in general, but Seattle showed great movement and vision as well.

The Chances: Patrick Ianni has to feel robbed. The last minute starter had to great headed chances off set pieces. The first, a back post header on a corner kick was quite literally cleared off the line by Houston's Brian Mullen after Ianni's strong header beat Onstad. A few minutes later, on a free kick from the left, Ljundberg found Ianni again, only to see Ianni's header find the crossbar. Playing against his former team, Ianni was literally inches away from being the hero of the Sounders fans and the goat of his former team. But Houston was not without its opportunities either, with Canadian international Andrew Hainnault just missing on a set peice header. Both Keller and Onstad had some quality saves to keep a clean sheet.

The Atmosphere. I have said it before and I will say it again. I have GOT TO GET to Seattle to see a match. Qwest Field was rocking with 36,000+ screaming, singing, chanting, energetic, emotional fans on a THRUSDAY. It was a sea of rave green and it was loud, it was kinetic and it was a crowd that enjoyed the game beyond belief. You could feel the atmosphere through the TV. It was so loud that you couldn't hear a whistle that called a Nate Jacqua goal back. You could barely hear the final whistle. The Seattle Sounders FC and their supporters are clearly one of the best stories of the year and it is great to see them in the post season.

The Next Game: The teams will travel to Houston to play in Robertson Stadium on a pitch marked with throwball lines. I hope Houston can pack their stadium with a sea of Orange. I hope Seattle travels with some fans. It will be a cagy affair and it looks like the team that makes the first mistake will lose. A single goal will likely decide this match-up. Seattle have proven that they can win on the road. Seattle went 5-5-5 on the road this year, but Houton are 8-1-6 at home. But Houston's weather advantage is blunted a bit since it is not July/August hot and humid in Texas right now.

The only thing that really sucks, the return leg will not be broadcast on ESPN, but on Telefutura.

Great game and a great 0-0 draw.

James Cameron’s ‘Avatar’ - Trailer

James Cameron’s ‘Avatar’ Trailer. Although it will certainly be a little pendantic, it certainly looks cool.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

English Parents Banned From Supervising Their Own Children in Playgrounds

because they may be pedophiles. The London Mail Online has the story out of Watford:
Parents are being banned from playing with their children in council recreation areas because they have not been vetted by police.

Mothers and fathers are being forced to watch their children from outside perimeter fences because of fears they could be paedophiles.

Watford Council was branded a 'disgrace' yesterday after excluding parents from two fenced-off adventure playgrounds unless they first undergo criminal record checks.

Children as young as five will instead be supervised by council 'play rangers' who have been cleared by the Criminal Records Bureau.

Councillors insist they are merely following Government regulations and cannot allow adults to walk around playgrounds 'unchecked'.

But furious parents attacked the move and threatened to boycott the playgrounds.

Concerns were raised last night that other councils around the country are adopting similar policies amid confusion over Government rules and increasing hysteria over child protection.

It comes amid an escalating row over the Government's new anti-paedophile database, which will contain the names of more than 11million adults cleared to work with children and vulnerable adults.
Now before Americans run off thinking, oh that will never happen here, don't be so sure.

Remember we are on course for the Nanny State here in America. We already have sex offender registration databases and pretty silly rules when it comes to making sure kids are "safe" which is simply another way of the govnerment getting more involved in your life.

Price to PepsiCo for Not Being in Court: $1.26 Billion

Soft drink giant Pepsi got slapped with a $1.26 Billion default judgment for failing to appear and answer a suit in a Wisconsin court. Shocking, but the excuse cited by Pepsi--a secretary didn't forward a letter properly.

I have been involved in similar case in recent months, where two junior level employees mismanaged a matter--not nearly on the scale we are talking about here, but the court had little sympathy for my explanation on behalf of my client, a fairly large company. Implicitly, the court was saying, you should have better procedures.

I don't think the default judgment is going to stand, generally courts are adverse to default judgments if there is a good reason. The question will be whether the court buys the excuse or not. It really is a toss up. In a corporation as big as Pepsi, they should have better procedures and better communications between their corporage agent in North Carolina and their legal department in New York (why the separation at all?).

Certainly Pepsi has a meritorious defense, i.e. a very lapsed statute of limitations. The Plaintiffs are going to have to prove that Pepsi stole the idea to bottle water from them and then prove that they had no idea that it was their idea that was stolen for 15 plus years. That is going to be a very hard burden to prove given that Aquafina has been on the shelves for over 15 years.

Still, here is the overall lesson for everyone. Clean your desk of all the paper on your desk every day. Had this secretary done this, she would have seen the letter the day she got it, or the next day at the latest. This would not have been a problem at all.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

How's That Stimulus Working for Ya?

Ooops, I'm sorry that should read "how's that stimulus NOT working for you. House Ways & Means Ranking Member Dave Camp (R-MI) has issued a chart that shows the jobs President Obama's office projected would be created (or maybe created or saved) as a result of the stimulus bill we absolutely needed. Yeah--not a lot of job creation or even job savings.

Click to see larger image.

DC United Need Help to Advance in CONCACAF Champions League

Toluca F.C. 1, D.C. United 1 - Video. the Black and Red get a point on the road in Mexico and have to wait to see what Marathon do tonight against Jabloteh. To a certain extent, DC have to feel done in, they clearly dominated large sections of this game and a dumb foul led to a penalty.

Check out the absolute brilliant goal by Chris Pontius in the sixth minute. A wonderful piece of control and an screaming shot from about 25-27 yards out. That has to be the goal of the year for DC United.

For DC United to advance, Marathon have to tie or lose to Jabloteh--a not very likely scenario as Jabloteh have failed to win any points in the group stage.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Could Crashing out of Champions League Be Good For Liverpool?

Ian Wright makes the case, and I think he makes it well:
Liverpool's season could blow up right in front of their faces this week - and I am not referring to that blooming red beachball.

All jokes aside now. The loss at Sunderland, not helped by an inflatable, has left boss Rafa Benitez staring at a defining point in the season - and it's still only October.

It could all be over for them by next Sunday.

Liverpool are at home to champions Manchester United after facing Lyon in the Champions League this week, looking up from a worrying third place in their European group.

Losing to the French club will leave them floundering in Europe and facing an undignified and unexpected exit in the group stage.

It sounds shocking... but maybe it wouldn't be such a bad thing.

Ask Liverpool fans - and I have and I know quite a few - and they will tell you the Premier League is the trophy they want above all others.
After Sunday, the Reds have lost four games in the Premier League this season, that is one more than Liverpool lost all of last year, and we are only at gameweek 9. Liverpool have looked very shaky at the back, even leaving the red balloon incident aside. As Sunderland found this weekend, without Steven Gerrard and Fernando Torres, there is little threat. Add to the missing is Dirk Kuyt, injured as well, and Liverpool have lost their three best goal scoring threats. As Liverpool's opponents have found (as well as the rest of the league) there is not a lot of depth on the Liverpool bench.

But Liverpool run a real risk right now of dropping out of the top half of the table. Liverpool sit 8th with 15 points. Liverpool could very lost to Manchester United on Sunday at Anfield, and wins by Stoke City(away to Tottenham this week) and Burnley (home to Wigan) could see Liverpool drop to 10th. (Note, Stoke may not win at Tottenham but Burnley has a 100% record at Turfmoor). Now I don't see Liverpool finishing in the bottom half of the table, but Liverpool, financially, have to make the Champions League next year. That is why crashing out of this year's Champions' League by the end of hte year will be helpful to Liverpool--their attention won't be divided and they can focus on finishing in the top 4. Without Champions' League money in the 2010-2011, Liverpool's owners, Tom Hicks and George Gillette will be forced to sell-their debt load is simply too high.

Focusing on the League will benefit Liverpool. However, while crashing out of the Champion's league could mean Rafa Benitez cashing his last Liverpool paycheck.

Read more:

Monday, October 19, 2009

Law and Order Republicans Are Going to Have a Cow

As the Obama Administration announces new rules regarding federal marijuana prosecutions, the reaction is bound to be over the top and utterly wrong by the Republicans.
Federal drug agents won't pursue pot-smoking patients or their sanctioned suppliers in states that allow medical marijuana, under new legal guidelines to be issued Monday by the Obama administration.

Two Justice Department officials described the new policy to The Associated Press, saying prosecutors will be told it is not a good use of their time to arrest people who use or provide medical marijuana in strict compliance with state law.

The guidelines to be issued by the department do, however, make it clear that agents will go after people whose marijuana distribution goes beyond what is permitted under state law or use medical marijuana as a cover for other crimes, the officials said.

The new policy is a significant departure from the Bush administration, which insisted it would continue to enforce federal anti-pot laws regardless of state codes.

Fourteen states allow some use of marijuana for medical purposes: Alaska, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington.
Now, I am not a big fan of medical marijuana use, in fact I oppose it. I oppose because I am sure that we can find a non-marijuana substitute among the plethora of medicines out there. Seriously, if we can have ten drugs on the market for erectile dysfunction, drugs for thin or weak eye-lashes, hair loss in general, and more serious problems like cervical cancer or asthma problems, then our drug companies must surely be able to mimic the relief given by medical marijuana.

I understand that the federal government has an interest in stopping interstate drug trafficking and that it is a legitimate concern. But I do think the federal government has gotten too involved and too overbearing in matters that quite frankly should be the law enforcement purview of the states. I think if a state wants to decriminalize marijuana, that should be permitted. I think the federal government could prosecute the person who transports drugs across state lines, but should not be invovled in state drug policy.

Oddly enough, I think that this move by the Obama Administration is one of the smartest it has made. It is in line with federal principles and states' rights. But to be fair, this is an odd policy area to suddenly come to grips with the 10th Amendment.

But Republicans are going to overreact. They are going to claim, wrongly, that Obama wants to legalize marijuana and I simply don't see that. I do see an acknowledgement that states have a legitimate policy interest and I think Republicans should take their battle to the states to prevent decriminalization or expansion of medical marijuana laws. But you can be sure that the GOP is going to react improperly on this matter.

Really? Moscow without Snow

Moscow Mayor Promises a Winter Without Snow. I am not sure of the science behind that. But what about all those towns outside Moscow that will get all the dumped snow.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Major League Soccer Very Blown Call

This blown call cost the Chicago Fire two points and a chance to secure the second Eastern Conference Playoff spot.

Reis took Rolfe down. It does not get to be more of a stone cold penalty than this one. Take a look at the second replay angle, you can see Reis make contact with Rolfe's right leg and bring him down.

Now it might be questionable as to whether Reis deserved to be sent off or just a yellow card, it is clear that Reis--not Rolfe deserved the card. IN my opinion, Reis should have been sent off for denying a goal scoring opportunity.

Here is the capper, it is remotely possible that Chicago could miss the playoffs completely and it would come down to this play.

The Case Against Mexico

After the final round of CONCACAF World Cup Qualifying, Mexico grabbed the number 2 spot after drawing with Trinidad & Tobago on the final match day.

However, Kartik Krishnaiyer makes the case that Mexico should not have qualified.
Mexico should have been eliminated in the semifinal round of qualifying. At Estadio Azteca in August 2008, against Honduras, CONCACAF’s best and brightest officials took a 1-0 Honduras lead and made it into a 2-1 Mexican victory based on two blatant dives and frivolous sending off for Honduras.

Cuauhtémoc Blanco, one of the least sporting players on the planet (and one that sadly plays on our own domestic league) appeared to have talked the officials into one of the calls after his team mate, Gio Dos Santos fell to the ground, and the other call was made, when Blanco himself hit the deck all too easily.

Mexico, later benefited from a clear dive by Andres Guardado versus Jamaica at home, and then survived to draw with Canada after two Canadian shots hit the post, and a clear Free kick shout for Paul Stalteri, was not given.

When it was all said and done, Mexico ended tied for second with Jamaica but won passage to the Hex on goal difference. CONCACAF can be questioned for this, because from an economic standpoint, Jack Warner and his allies probably preferred a Mexican team that is solid attendance draw in both qualifying and Gold Cup to a Jamaican side which represents a small, anglicized Caribbean Island. (Although it should be noted that Warner’s original election as head of CONCACAF was backed by Jamaica and not Mexico, but then again Sepp Blatter was originally backed as FIFA President by England.)

Mexico constantly getting calls was a combination of the cheating nature of Blanco and company, simple economic considerations, and the intimidation officials feel at Azteca. It also could have been due to the number of Latin officials that were assigned to Mexico’s games against non-Spanish speaking countries. CONCACAF without Mexico, is in terms of power like Oceania was before Australia left. The prospect of Mexico being eliminated at an early stage of qualifying must have shook Jack Warner tremendously.
I totally agree with Krishnaiyer on Blanco and Jack Warner. Blanco, for all his skill and excitement, is a cheat and has always been a cheat. He is an example of the worst of soccer, a man who refuses to beat people on skill and fees the need to cheat and bully and beg for indulgence from referees. There have been numerous MLS games where Blanco deserved not only a yellow card but two yellow cards for diving. That his coach Dennis Hamlett allows him to get away with it is likewise disturbing.

I heard on a podcast (I forget which one) Jack Warner described as the worst dictator who hasn't killed anyone. Warner is corrupt but no one has proved it. I despise Warner and all that he has done in CONCACAF. Football fans in the rest of the world consider CONCACAF a joke and Warner is a big part of that thinking.

Do I think economic considerations matter in football? Yes. Sepp Blatter and FIFA must have been sweating throught their Saville Row suits at the prospect that the two most exciting players on the planet might not make the World Cup as both Argentina (Leo Messi) and Portugal (Cristiano Ronaldo) were on the verge of not making the World Cup (and Portugal still might not make it). But Warner knows that Mexico not making the hex is a big hit to the wallet of CONCACAF.

Yet despite this information, I don't think a fix was in from Warner's office. However, I do think that sometimes referees feel the heat in some of the worst football caldrons in the world like Azteca stadium.

I think that CONCACAF will be a far better confederation if Warner was gone and Mexico will be a much better footballing nation with Blanco not playing.

MLS Gets Exciting

The penultimate weekend of the Major League Soccer regular season settled a couple of things and blew open a few others. Expansion franchise Seattle Sounders FC joined the list of teams that have clinched a playoff berth, continuing their almost Cinderella season. Already holding the U.S. Open Cup and a play in spot in next years CONCACAF Champions League, the Sounders win yesterday over Kansas City earned the Sounders a berth as the fourth Western Conference team to advance to the post-season.

The Playoff List
So far five teams have qualified

--Columbus (49 points--1 game remaining)
--Chivas USA (45 points--2 games remaining)
--L.A. Galaxy (45 points--1 game remaining)
--Houston (45 points--1 game remaining)
--Seattle (44 points--1 game remaining)
Yes, that is four teams from the western Conference and Colorado is knocking on the door and FC Dallas might make it as well if a few games next week break their way. That would be six teams from the West and just the top two from the East.

Here is the schedule for next week:

Chivas at Chicago (Thursday)
Toronto at New York (Saturday)
D.C. United at Kansas City (Saturday)
Colorado at Real Salt Lake (Saturday)
FC Dallas at Seattle (Saturday)
San Jose at L.A. Galaxy (Saturday)
Houston at Chivas (Sunday)
New England at Columbus (Sunday)

Race for Supporter's Shield.

If Chivas loses on Thursday to Chicago, Columbus will win the Supporter's Shield without another game. If Chivas wins on Thursday, the Supporter's Shield will be determined, as it should be, on the last day of the season. If Columbus wins on Sunday, they win the Supporter's Shield for the second year running. Chivas could win the Supporter's Shield if they win their final two matches and Columbus draws or loses to New England. L.A. and Houston are out of the Supporter's Shield race and no one else is close.

Still open is the second automatic qualifier spot for the Eastern Conference. Chicago had a chance to clinch the berth Saturday, but were robbed by a shockingly bad blown penalty call.

With three playoff spots open, there are no less than six teams who can clinch those three spots on the final weekend. Those teams are:

Chicago (42 points)
Colorado (40 points)
Toronto (39 points)
New England (39 points)
D.C. United (39 points)
FC Dallas (39 points)

Simply, Chicago can qualify with a win or draw against Chivas to secure a playoff birth and deny Chivas the Supporter's Shield. Now Chicago losing to Chivas is a real possibility. Chivas has been solid these past few weeks and Chicago looks to be in pretty bad form, particularly at home. Chicago has had poor form at Toyota Park, with a 4-4-6 record and a -2 goal difference. Of course, Chivas is likewise pretty poor on the road, going 4-7-3 with a -7 goal difference. Chivas has been pretty good on the road lately and overall in good form, with a draw in the Sounders cauldron and a big win over DC United. Chicago have looked shaky. I still think Chicago can pull at least a draw and clinch a berth in the playoffs on Thursday.

Colorado controls their own destiny. A win and they are in the playoffs on 43 points. A draw or a loss and they could be caught by any number of teams and be on the outside looking in. If Colorado win, there will be just two playoff spots left and five teams looking for a spot.

If Chicago loses to Chivas, then it is possible to end the weekend with five teams tied on 42 points. If Toronto, DC United, New England and FC Dallas win, and Chicago loses, those five teams would have 42 points each and you go to tie-breakers.

The first tie-breaker in MLS is head to head results against teams with the same number of points. It gets complicated because there are five teams. The permutations get crazy, but the only one that really matters is if Toronto, DC United, New England and FC Dallas win this weekend.

As noted above a Chicago draw puts them in the playoffs. A Colorado win puts them in the playoffs. That would leave just one playoff spot available for four teams now sitting at 39 points.

This weekend will be spectacular to watch.

American Football is Un-American

Mike Flynn, writing at Big started talking about Rush Limbaugh's aborted attempt to become a part owner of the St. Louis Rams NFL team. I think Rush got railroaded by political correctness. While you may not like some of the things that Rush says, you cannot with a straight face claim he is not a savvy businessman. But I digress from my point.

Flynn actually pointed something out--American football is decidedly un-American in execution:
Rush took to the pages of the Wall Street Journal to address the mau-mauing that scuttled his NFL dreams. Personally, I’m a little mystified why Rush would want to own part of a football team. Oversized, preening and pampered athletes set in strictly defined roles and running elaborately orchestrated “plays” designed by a full bureaucracy of coaches seems, frankly, I dunno…unAmerican. Quite unlike the other football, where there are no plays, few coaches and wide latitude for individual initiative and improvisation. (How did we get stuck with the collectivist top-down heavy sport?) But, to each his own.(emphasis added)
I hadn't really thought of American football in quite that way. I had always decried its lack of fluidity and thinking. Only on a broken play do we see any hint of improvisation and usually it results in a loss or not much of a gain.

But American football is decidedly socialistic in its set up. The plays are controlled not by the players but by the centralized bureaucracy of a whole plethora of coaches. Now, American football teams have 19 coaches. A starting offense and starting defense in football consists of 22 players--not counting special teams, a punter and a place kicker.

By contrast, Manchester United, one of the biggest football (soccer) clubs in the world has 10 coaches and that includes their director of their youth academy and conditioning coaches.

But it is the rigidity of American football that is so Un-American. Everything is centrally planned. American football teams will often script as many as their first 20 or 30 or even more plays before the teams even take the field. The coaches make most of the decisions. In fact, while much is made of the role of the quarterback, how many quarterbacks have the knowledge, skill and freedom to call plays from the line of scrimmage and how many times a game is that freedom exercised.

Thus, despite chuckleheads like Jim Rome berating soccer as "Un-American" it may in fact be the most American sport around, one that cherishes individual effort in a team environment. Not that I will be able to convince people like Rome and the other sports punditry in this country of htis point of view, but there you go. Soccer is more American than American football.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Obama Goes on Offensive with Health Care Reform

This past Monday the health insurance trade association, America's Health Insurance Plans, released a study which indicated that the current health care financing reform bills being floated about would cause insurance premiums to increase by 18 percent.

Today, in his weekly radio address, the President hit back. In his address the President said that he is considering a move to repeal the McCarran-Ferguson Act.
The president complained bitterly about the insurers’ attack on the legislation. “The insurance industry is rolling out the big guns and breaking open their massive war chest to marshal their forces for one last fight to save the status quo,” he said.

His signal of support for reviewing the industry’s antitrust exemption put him in league with Democratic leaders in Congress pushing for repeal or revision of the McCarran-Ferguson Act, which was passed in 1945 to keep regulation of insurers in the hands of the states. Although he did not explicitly endorse overturning it, a spokesman said it was the first time he had raised the matter publicly as president.

Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, the Democratic leader, testified at a Judiciary Committee hearing on Wednesday in favor of getting rid of the exemption. A day later, Representative Nancy Pelosi of California, the House speaker, said, “There is tremendous interest in our caucus” in such a move.

Assistant Attorney General Christine A. Varney, the head of the antitrust division at the Justice Department, testified at the Senate hearing that repealing McCarran-Ferguson would create more competition, which could help reform industry practices.
I have to tell you that such a move should be not only considered but actually implemented.

Here is the scenario. Let's assume that you are an individual with their own business in say, Maryland. You have a say three employees. You want to do the right thing and provide health insurance for your employees. You begin to shop around and you find a great policy from an insurance carrier in Pennsylvania. The problem is that under the regime created by McCarran-Ferguson, you probably can't buy that policy because your business and your employees live in Maryland. Simply put, unless that insurance carrier is licensed in Maryland, you have zero hope of buying that plan. Even if the carrier is licensed in Maryland, there is no guarantee that they offer that plan in Maryland--where it must be said, the cost of health care is higher than central Pennsylvania.

See, the McCarran-Ferguson plan ensured that states would be able to regulate insurance companies, but it also stifled competition since most insurance carriers cannot offer coverage across state lines.

Taking our hypotethical, say our central Pennsylvania insurance carrier covered a fair number of people in central Pennsylvania, but was also willing to cover a few people in the more expensive state of Maryland. That PA insurance company could keep premiums low for the Marylanders because they covered more people in PA, thus the majority of the pool of insured were in a less expensive locality. By adding only a few people from Maryland, they can keep their rates premium rates lower.

So to a certain extent, while the President thinks the "anti-trust" exemption is a threat, it may actually be what a fair number of carriers want--that is, a way to expand their business by working across state lines.

Stuart Holden

Cracking wise, displaying the Scottish accent and busting on Brian Ching.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Dennis Miller: The other side of 'but'

Dennis Miller in the Washington Examiner:
I guess I've been hearing it for years now as the country has slid into knee-jerk relativism. Till now though, it's merely been an equivocating grandfather clock in the background, metronomic, at worst nettlesome. It was at the beginning of l'affaire Polanski, though, that I realized how much I've come to detest the word "but."

One liberal pundit or another (banality = interchangeability) was bleating on and on, and I actually heard the words "what Roman Polanski did was wrong but ..." and it hit me like an air horn in a Trappist monastery. With a simple wave of the conjunctive wand, we now believe that we can explain away absolutely anything!


If we don't have unanimity on the rape and sodomy of a 13-year old girl, well, we're never gonna have it, are we? If "but" appears as a fulcrum in a sentence about an occurrence this horrific, it signals a brokenness in the American spirit that even a card carrying, "eyebrow-raised-higher-than-Pelosi's" skeptic like me could never have imagined.

"But" appears to have become America's verbal Continental Divide. Rainwater falls down one side, drivel the other. Polanski is a monster and the evil he perpetrated on that child demands punishment. No "buts."
Here's the thing. I have been known to use the "but" as well, whether to excuse or justify some action.

Miller is right though, we tend to rationalize all sorts of things. Seriously though, have we become so accustomed to situational ethics that we can excuse pretty much everything?

Brilliant Tax Idea

From Don Boudreaux:
The real and truly harmful epidemic in America is not obesity, but meddlesomeness. I dislike taxes, but if government is destined to create yet another ’sin tax,’ I propose that it be, not a calorie-added tax, but a meddlesomeness-added tax. It’s time that Mr. Zinczenko and other busybodies pay for the harm that they impose on others.

Donald J. Boudreaux
Of course, the problem with Boudreaux's idea is that a government can't tax another government.

I Loved This Letter to the Wall Street Journal

Just Brilliant:
Regarding "Mrs. Pelosi's VAT" (Review & Outlook, Oct. 8): Several years ago when our children were very young, my wife and I hosted a different European au pair each year for six years. During the course of their stay in America, each au pair proudly commented that in their respective European country medical care was free.

When their time with us came to an end, each au pair went to the Mall of America and purchased several pairs of jeans, as well as other clothes, before returning home. At the time, jeans cost between $15 and $30 each. I asked these young women why they were buying so many jeans before returning to their country. With some astonishment at my lack of understanding, they explained that the same jeans in their country retailed for between $80 and $100. The price differential, of course, was due to the value-added tax and the higher costs of doing business in European welfare states.

I thought to myself, "Ah, but your medical care is "free."

Mark Douglass

Having spoken to a number of people and responded to a number of Facebook posts about so-called free health care, I find it amazing that supposedly smart people can't seem to realize that there is no such thing as a free lunch, or importantly free health care. Health care costs money. Period. Full Stop.

The money to pay for health care, even one supposedly provided by the government, must come from somewhere. That will come from you, me and the taxes we pay on a variety of items.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Rock climbing: a Gender blind sport?

I don't know about being the only gender blind sport out there, but it is a sport that women can and often do excel at, particularly early on.
Sports generally reward bulk, speed, strength, and, often, height—all traits in which men tend to have the physical advantage. But climbers can’t rely on brute strength alone. The typically feminine assets of balance, flexibility, and a sprinkle of grace are essential to navigating the vagaries of ancient rock and plastic gym holds. (To effortlessly “dance up the wall” is a high compliment.) Excessive bulk, be it muscle or fat, while not a showstopper, is a definite disadvantage in a sport that rewards a high strength-to-weight ratio. Height can help or hinder, depending on the contours of the rock.
I can attest to that from personal experience.

I once took a couple of people out rock climbing who had never been before, a man and a woman. All three of us were in the Navy and were in good shape. We were working on a climb that was relatively short (about 50 feet) and in the middle of the difficulty grades. The man was very strong, but like many people who first start climbing, thought that the most important attribute to climbing is strength. But in reality, climbing is a movement sport, where the ability to not only to move on the rock, but also imagine and visualize yourself as you move. In truth, men and women can both understand the movement part of the climbing, but men tend to revert to brute strength when they get in a jam on a climb. Women however will look for ways to move.

There is another reason why women tend to advance quicker as climbers. Women's center of gravity tends to be closer to their hips. One secret to climbing is to keep your weight distributed and your hips over your feet. Women, for some reason instinctively know this. Women will climb with their feet more than their arms and that makes them better climbers initially.

However, at the highest level of climbing, men tend to have a bit more of an advantage, whether it is height or strength, at the leading edge of climbing difficulty, men tend to excell a little more.

If Rush LImbaugh said this about Chris Matthews....

Every media person in American would be calling for Limbaugh to be run out of town on a rail, if not taken off the air immediately. But if a liberal says it, it is okay:


Camille Paglia

Castigates the media again.

She is one of the liberal commentatos who has the backbone to call a spade a spade and does not fear any reprecussions. That is why I may not agree with her, but I admire her.

Baucus "Bill" a Fiscal Fantasy Land

From Forbes:
President Barack Obama claims we cannot reduce the long-term deficit without health reform. The Congressional Budget Office's estimate of the Senate Finance bill championed by Max Baucus lends some credence to this theory. The CBO estimates that the bill will reduce the deficit by $81 billion over the next decade, and even more beyond that. But that's assuming Congress will make good on its threat to cut Medicare by hundreds of billions of dollars.

Even the CBO does not believe that.
Not only is the bill a fiscal fantasy, it is still, at least as far as I know, a legislative fantasy as well. I haven't seen or heard of any actual legislative language that can be viewed on a paper.

There is no way, on this Earth, that a Congress that wants to be re-elected will ever make substantive cuts to Medicare. So any savings are simply not going to happen and I beleive that the Obama Administration doesn't seriously believe they will be able to make those cuts.

Terminally Ill Drug Trials

Via Futurepundit:
I'd like to see a change in US Food and Drug Administration policy where people with just a few months left to live should be free to try drugs that are currently in stage I trials or even drugs which have only been tried on other animals. If you are going to die then you should be free to try anything. If I had several months left to live due to cancer I'd rather try experimental drugs even if they might kill me sooner. If the result was simply to rule out the further use of an otherwise promising drug as least I'd die for some constructive purpose.
This is not a bad idea, but one that will face a number of obstacles from medical ethicists and maybe even governmental busy bodies.

Ironically, at some point, drug trials have to take place on humans. So the question is, why can't someone who is terminally ill not be allowed to take any medicine that holds a chance for them. So long as the patient has the cognitive ability to understand the risks and the willingness to absolve the drug company from liability, I don't seem why this is such a bad thing.

Jozy Altidore Puts Phil Brown and the World on Notice

Ives Galarcep's quick summary of hte U.S. Men's National Team draw with Costa Rica had this bit:
Jozy Altidore was a man possessed. We all know the teenage striker has tons of talent, but on Wednesday night we say a player who combined both talent and a determination to win. He acknowledged after the match that he is determined now to make the most of every chance and every game because it can all be taken away at any moment.

“Charlie’s really close to all of us and I just realized that at any single second you might not be able to play like you would so you have to make sure you take every opportunity,” Altidore said. “I realized that, and I realized that the hard way, by my friend not being able to play for five or six months. I’m going to try and make sure that from now on, when I step on the field I will play like its my last because you never know.”

As devastating and sad as Davies' situation is, there is comfort in knowing that he has inspired teammates, including Altidore, and it wouldn't surprise me one bit if Altidore goes to Hull City now and becomes a force.
I wouldn't be surprise either.

Like a lot of young men and women, it is hard to believe that at age 19, your professional playing career, which you have had for two+ years, could come to an end in the blink of an eye. That Jozy has learned this lesson will probably be the boost that could take Jozy to the next level. I do believe he will work very, very hard in the next months. I will be wonderful to watch the young man make an impact with Hull City and with the national team.

Watch out world, Jozy is coming at you.

Defense Budget Plundered for Earmarks

Remember the days when Democrats were crying "fund the troops?" Well that apparently no longer applies:
Senators diverted $2.6 billion in funds in a defense spending bill to pet projects largely at the expense of accounts that pay for fuel, ammunition and training for U.S. troops, including those fighting wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, according to an analysis.

Among the 778 such projects, known as earmarks, packed into the bill: $25 million for a new World War II museum at the University of New Orleans and $20 million to launch an educational institute named after the late Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, Massachusetts Democrat.

While earmarks are hardly new in Washington, "in 30 years on Capitol Hill, I never saw Congress mangle the defense budget as badly as this year," said Winslow Wheeler, a former Senate staffer who worked on defense funding and oversight for both Republicans and Democrats. He is now a senior fellow at the Center for Defense Information, an independent research organization.
Yeah, that is a wise use of Defense department funds.

And just what are those 13,000-15,000 additional troops President Obama is going to send to Afghanistan supposed to use to defend themselves, feed themselves or move around the country. Yeah, this is bad, real bad.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Charlie Davies Injured in Car Accident - Breaking News | has the short story.
Charlie Davies, a striker for the United States national soccer team, was involved in a one-car accident early Tuesday in which another person was killed, a USA Soccer spokeman said.

Davies was in surgery Tuesday afternoon and in stable condition, USA Soccer spokesman Neil Buethe said. The extent of his injuries were unknown, but Buethe said they were not life-threatening.

It is not known whether Davies was the driver or a passenger in the car.
Holy cow!

U.S. to Face Denmark In Friendly

Yanks Abroad notes that the USSF has scheduled a November friendly with Denmark on November 18th.

Given that both teams secured World Cup qualification on Saturday, this is a good match up for both teams.

For the U.S. it will be an away match, something the U.S. needs to get better at playing. While the Americans reguarly win at home, their away record is spotty against quality opposition. For the Danes, who won their European qualification group despite less than stellar performances, it will be an opportunity to show the world that their qualification didn't hinge on Sweden stinking up the joint.

The game will take place at the home stadium of AGF Aarhus, the club where Benny Feilhaber plies his trade. Another American seeing regular playing time for Aarhus is Jeremiah White. Given the European site and the fact that MLS playoffs will still be going on (the MLS final is on November 22 and could include U.S. MNT regulars from L.A. Galaxy, Columbus Crew or Houston Dynamo,) U.S. Coach Bob Bradley may call a primarily European based squad or some fringe MLS players who are out of the season, which may give White a chance to get called into camp.

Both teams are quality sides and the match up is, I think, pretty fair.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Soccer Leadership In America

Brent Latham, writing at Yanks Abroad, has a post-mortem of the U.S. Under 20 Team that crashed out of the Youth World Cup that is taking place in Egypt. The Americans got spanked by Germany and South Korea and exited the tournament after the group stage. The young Americans scored four goals in one game against Cameroon, but surrendered three apiece to the Germans and Koreans. By comparison, in past years, the U20 teams had advanced as far as the semi-finals and beaten youth teams with pedigrees such as Brazil and England.

As Latham explained, the problem with the American team was not skill in its players. Pound for pound this Young American team was a good as previous incarnations that included players like Freddy Adu, Jozy Altidore and Danny Szetela. It is not as if this team didn't have confidence, in pre-tournament interviews, the players believed that they could advance in the tournament and have a good chance of making the finals, or even winning. Their confidence could border on arrogance, even hubris, but the best athletes are often brimming with the belief that winning the gold medal is their birthright.

Latham's problem was with the team's leadership, i.e. Coach Thomas Rongen. Even before the tournament began, Rongen was saying his team had no shot to win, he just wanted to make the second round. Rongen also complained about his players lack of playing time with clubs. This excuse bothered me most--he picked the team, so why not pick players who were getting playing time?

The fact is that Latham is right. The problem with soccer in America is not talent. In a nation of 350 million people, there is bound to be a deep talent pool to draw from. The problem is not facilities or equipment--the U.S. can afford to pay top dollar for gear. The problem is leadership.

From Sunil Gulati on down, the U.S. Soccer Federation has become not a body focused on excellence no matter what, but a body that is focused on preparing excuses for the youth teams. At the senior national level, coaches Pia Sundehage and Bob Bradley have done well. Bradley has not been spectacular, but he is winning and accomplished a major goal last night. But at the younger levels, I wonder how much the U.S.S.F. is preparing, seeding and cultivating the massively deep talent pool in this country.

But another matter is bothering me as well about the U.S.S.F., i.e. while playing talent is growing, coaching and refereeing talent is not. Latham discusses having winners at the helm of the national teams and that it important. But we also have to have winners at all levels.

Perhaps the problem is that until recently in American soccer history, we haven't had winners in these positions because our winners were still (and are still) playing. As the initial round of successful players like Brian McBride, Kasey Keller, Brad Freidel, Ben Olsen and Frankie Hejduk are approaching retirement, perhaps we will have coaches with tactical knowledge and experience. I don't buy the argument, necessarily, that you have to have played at the highest level to coach at the highest level. But success breeds success and we need leaders who are successful to coach at the highest levels and to manage the Federation at the highest level.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

US National Team Books their Place in South Africa

With a 3-2 win over Honduras in Honduras, the U.S. have secured passage to their six consecutive World Cup Finals. The match against Costa Rica on October 14 is academic now for the U.S.

The U.S. win in Honduras is the first loss by the Hondurans at home in this qualifying cycle.

Conor Casey (yes Conor Casey), showed the same kind of form that has him in the thick of the MLS Golden Boot race and grabbed a brace, his first two goals for the U.S. ever and Landon Donovan netted the third. Honduras had a chance to claim a point but Carlos Pavon missed a penalty high and blew a header over the bar as well in the last four minutes.

With this win, the U.S has 19 points in qualifying. Mexico, after their win tonight, has 18 and the two CONCACAF powerhouses will go to Mexico. Costa Rica won tonight to move into the the third automatic qualifying spot. Honduras falls into the fourth place spot, which will face the fifth place team from South America (currently Argentina).

Honduras must win against El Salvador on Wednesday and have Costa Rica either lose or tie in order to go to the World Cup automatically. That last game will be interesting.

This is New

The World Cup qualifying match between Mexico and El Salvador was suspended for six minutes for:


Via Reuters:
The World Cup qualifier between Mexico and El Salvador was halted after three minutes on Saturday due to a swarm of bees inside the visitors' goal.

The match was stopped for more than six minutes while officials sprayed the area around the goalposts of El Salvador keeper Miguel Montes to clear the bees.
Yeah, I never thought that would happen in a professional match.

I have to be honest, as a referee and player, I have never, ever, ever, had a match suspended for bees.

The Common Sense of the American Voter

Over half of Americans favor a middle class tax cut over increased spending on health care, according to Rasmussen. Maybe Obama should hire common everyday Americans as his advisors.

Friday, October 09, 2009

Barack "Who's Vain" Obama

George Will, before the Nobel Peace Prize:
Presidents often come to be characterized by particular adjectives: "honest" Abe Lincoln, "Grover the Good" Cleveland, "energetic" Theodore Roosevelt, "idealistic" Woodrow Wilson, "Silent Cal" Coolidge, "confident" FDR, "likable" Ike Eisenhower. Less happily, there were "Tricky Dick" Nixon and "Slick Willie" Clinton. Unhappy will be a president whose defining adjective is "vain."
Barack "Who's Vain" Obama. I kind of like it.

Michael Barone Issues Challenge for a New Narrative.

Following up on my last post, this Michael Barone piece discusses the two narratives that formed the basis of Betsy Newmark's post. In his piece Barone suggests that neither narrative he discussed fully explains what has happened and issues something of a challenge for a third narrative so, here is my two cents worth:

Americans are dissatisfied with the politics of the current crop of leaders. The wins for Democrats in 2006 and 2008 were a rejection of Republican led politics. The current "uprising" by TEA party activists and the rejection of big government politics that Democrats thought was being embraced through their victories in 2006 and 2008 point to a desire not for Republican big government or Democratic big government, but for a smaller government that is less intrusive into their day to day lives. The massive reaction to health care reform, the failed stimulus package and other big government initiatives shows that Americans are looking more and more away from government. While we want the help that big government can give us, Americans are learning that the price is too high.

That is why I think a battle is coming regarding the proper role of the federal government in our society and a federalism battle is approaching.

A New Narrative on Democratic Control

It wasn't that Democrats were successful so much as Republicans were incompetent. An interesting analysis.

The Baucus Non-Bill is So Good

That Democrats are exempting their states from some of the provisions. Kimberly Strassel:
How good is Sen. Max Baucus's health reform bill? So good that Democrats have made sure some of the most costly provisions don't apply to their own states.

The Senate Finance Committee is gearing up for a final vote next week, and Chairman Baucus now appears to have the Democratic votes to pass his bill. Getting this far has of course meant cutting deals, and those deals, it turns out, are illuminating. The senators are all for imposing "reform" on the nation, so long as it doesn't disadvantage their constituents.

A central feature of the Baucus bill is the vast expansion of state Medicaid programs. This is necessary, we are told, to cover more of the nation's uninsured. The provision has angered governors, since the federal government will cover only part of the expansion and stick fiscally strapped states with an additional $37 billion in costs. The "states, with our financial challenges right now, are not in a position to accept additional Medicaid responsibilities," griped Democratic Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland.

Poor Mr. Strickland. If only he lived in . . . Nevada! Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, who is worried about losing his seat next year, worked out a deal by which the federal government will pay all of his home state's additional Medicaid expenses for the next five years. Under the majority leader's very special formula, only three other states—Oregon, Rhode Island and Michigan—qualify for this perk, on the grounds, as Mr. Reid put it recently on the Senate floor, that they "are suffering more than most."
Interesting, isn't it.

Obama: "I will accept this award as a call to action"

So much for humility and Kaus's sugestion.

Via Washington Independent:
But I also know that this prize reflects the kind of world that those men and women, and all Americans, want to build — a world that gives life to the promise of our founding documents. And I know that throughout history, the Nobel Peace Prize has not just been used to honor specific achievement; it’s also been used as a means to give momentum to a set of causes. And that is why I will accept this award as a call to action — a call for all nations to confront the common challenges of the 21st century.
What is most ironic, this is the only "substantive" achievement of Obama's first year in office, a prize whose value and integrity have been undermined by this award.

Of course Obama is going to accept the award, he is so self-centered and his hubris wouldn't allow him not to accept. Saying he will accept the award as a "call to action" is just like Obama, to take a stance that once again his "humility" should be a call to action to others reveals the Messiah complex that seems to drive him to such behavior.

There are a lot of Peace Prize Laureates who must be considering giving up their awards. Ten Years ago Doctors Without Borders won the Nobel Peace Prize. Now we have Al Gore and Barack Obama as winners. What a joke.

"living out a satire"

An Althouse commenter on Obama's Nobel Peace prize:
This just reinforces my ongoing impression that we've been living out a satire for the past year or two. We elected a callow nobody as President on the strength of a few vacuous speeches. The healthcare debate -- driving trillions of dollars in anticipated future expenditures -- got turned around by comments someone scrawled on Facebook, and now the Nobel Peace Prize committee has decided to award prizes for good intentions. It's like no one's even serious about anything anymore. None of it matters. It's the Society of the Spectacle.
I have been feeling ill all day and hoping that this is just one massive hallucination. But alas, I don't think it is.


Remember that all important Baucus health care financing reform bill that was supposed to be the be all, end all of legislative superlatives, yeah well, according to the Congressional Budget Office--there is no Baucus Bill. It doesn't exist. Like all the legislation in this arena, it is a figment of the imagination, a list of concepts, talking points and ideas. As William Jacobson notes:
Before everyone gets too deeply into their thoughts, please keep in mind the following (get ready, all CAPS, bold, indented signifies a really important concept):
The CBO scored the concepts described by the Baucus Committee. There is no legislative text. None. Baucus and his Democratic colleagues refused to reduce their concepts to actual legislation prior to a vote. Here is the CBO's disclaimer:
CBO and JCT’s analysis is preliminary in large part because the Chairman’s mark, as amended, has not yet been embodied in legislative language.
.The Baucus Concepts are disasterous, but that's for another post. For this post, let me get across a simple concept: THERE IS NO BAUCUS BILL.
But, I would expect that little hiccup to get in the way of passing the health care non-bill. The Senate seems prepared to simply pass health care financing reform in a budget reconciliation anyway, so why would the lack of language get in the way.

What?????!!!!!! President Barack Obama wins Nobel Peace Prize

YOU HAVE GOT TO BE KIDDING ME!!!!!!!! The man has done nothing, I repeat nothing substantive and he gets the Nobel Prize.

The last Nobel Peace Prize recipient I have any respect for is Muhammad Yunus and Grameen Bank for their microcredit work. Yunus and Grameen created something that helps people. What the hell has Barack Obama done to help people.

I have no respect for the Nobel Peace Prize committee, whatsoever.

For the list of Nobel Peace Prize winners, see here.

Betsy Newmark quips:
Heck, I would have preferred Bono to this. Instead they award Obama for the speeches he's given.
The Times of London (yes that London) reacted thusly:
The award of this year’s Nobel peace prize to President Obama will be met with widespread incredulity, consternation in many capitals and probably deep embarrassment by the President himself.

Rarely has an award had such an obvious political and partisan intent. It was clearly seen by the Norwegian Nobel committee as a way of expressing European gratitude for an end to the Bush Administration, approval for the election of America’s first black president and hope that Washington will honour its promise to re-engage with the world.

Instead, the prize risks looking preposterous in its claims, patronising in its intentions and demeaning in its attempt to build up a man who has barely begun his period in office, let alone achieved any tangible outcome for peace.
At least the Brits have a sense of proportion.

Mickey Kaus suggests:
Turn it down! Politely decline. Say he's honored but he hasn't had the time yet to accomplish what he wants to accomplish. Result: He gets at least the same amount of glory--and helps solve his narcissism problem and his Fred Armisen ('What's he done?') problem, demonstrating that he's uncomfortable with his reputation as a man overcelebrated for his potential long before he's started to realize it. ... Plus he doesn't have to waste time, during a fairly crucial period, working on yet another grand speech. ... And the downside is ... what? That the Nobel Committee feels dissed? ... P.S.: It's not as if Congress is going to think, well, he's won the Nobel Peace Prize so let's pass health care reform. But the possibility for a Nobel backlash seems non-farfetched.
You can bet that the hubris of Barack Obama will not allow him to decline the Nobel Prize.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Required Viewing for Everyone

"No wonder our perception of beauty is distorted."

Check this video out.

Under normal circumstances, I might not have posted this video, but after seeing this article about a pencil thin model, I have been thinking about the matter a great deal.

I have two young daughters who (in my admittedly biased opinion) are two of the most beautiful creatures on the planet, but I wonder sometimes about the images that are presented on TV about what is pretty and beautiful or not. For me, so long as they are healthy I will be happy. But health is not just physical health, which as long as they live at home I can have an impact on, but their mental and emotional health is important as well. I have girly girls (no tomboys in the Johnston family) and I just want them to understand that being a girl is not about being just like every model you see on TV or in magazines.

Thus endeth the rant.

Federalism Clash Coming in California

Yeah, California. The issue is not economic stimulus funds or intrusions by the federal govenrment into traditionally state functions like education or local police. Nope, it is about dope.

Efforts are underway in California to put three marijuana legalization measures on the ballot next year.If any one passes, it could set up a clash between a state's right to regulate the health and welfare of it citizens against federal drug policy.

Despite his othewise liberal views, President Obama has stated that he is opposed to the legalization of marijuana. So here comes the clash.

As the federal government has expanded its reach into more and more areas of policy that traditionally have been the purview of the states, battles over the proper role and relationship between state and federal government have been brewing. It has taken some time for such a battle to come to the fore and it seems odd that legal marijuana could result in a Supreme Court battle that will test the Court's stance on federalism in a real and direct way.

Now, just because the issue is on the ballot does not mean it will pass and there may very well be a majority of Californians opposed to the legalization of marijuana and so that ballot iniatives will die in the election. But this could be a long term battle for proponents and they don't mind the effort failing next year. I don't know the language of all the proposals, but I am sure that proponents are willing to have marijuana taxed in much the same way as alcohol and tobacco are taxed--which will generate millions of dollars in tax revenues for the state, which is not an idle consideration for California. I also think that the state will continue to allow employers to conduct drug testing to make sure their employees are not high on the job.

But suppose it does pass, what we will be facing is a real question as to teh efficacy and survival of the United States as a federal republic. Clearly the Obama Administration is in favor of centralizing more and more power in the federal government. But the Bush Administration (either one of them) cannot be called a states' rights Administration either. In fact, since the days of FDR, we haven't truly had a state's rights presidency. Even at best, Ronald Reagan probably didn't care so much one way or the other, his eyes were on other targets and reducing the size and impact of the federal government probably wasn't high on his priority list.

For a fairly logical discussion of the matter of federalism, allow me to suggest listening to Dan Carlin's Common Sense Podcast #160 which he titled Frozen Shoulder Federalism.

So the question that may be asked is where do I stand.

I don't favor the legalization of marijuana and if asked, I would not vote for the legalization of marijuana, even for medicinal purposes.

However, I firmly believe that states should have the right to make that decision for themselves. Just because my state has declared that marijuana should not be legal doesn't mean the citizens of another state can't make the opposite decision.

There are federal government considerations at stake here and I understand that. Concerns over drug trafficking are real and if California legalizes marijuana, how can the U.S. Government police the drug traffic flowing into other states. Well, I think there is a constitutional solution but it would also not only attack the concept of federalism, but would also alter the course commerce clause jurisprudence.

Under the Constitution, Congress has the right to regulate commerce among the states and the Indian tribes and with foreign nations. But what if California said that only marijuana certified as grown in California is sold in California? That is, by definition, no interstate commerce. The problem is that a long line of Supreme Court decisions, including crucial civil rights litigation, has said that if a local activity impacts, even in a small but significant way, interstate commerce, it can be regulated by the federal government. Thus, even if the dope grown and sold in California stays only in California, it could be considered as impacting interstate commerce if a resident of say, Nevada, crosses into California to buy marijuana. The act of a Nevada, or Oregon or Arizona or New York resident traveling into California and buying marijuana (even if they use the pot in California) is, almost by definition, interestate commerce. Doesn't that give Congress the right to regulate it?

There in lies the question.

Federalism may be seeing a resurgence and the legalization of marijuana may not be the ideal test case, but it may be the best one we have for a few more years.

Corzine Attacks Opponent's Weight Issue

Talk about the politics of personal destruction.
Corzine is the sitting governor of New Jersey and this is the kind of attack he has to stoop to: It is about as subtle as a playground taunt: a television ad for Gov. Jon S. Corzine shows his challenger, Christopher J. Christie, stepping out of an S.U.V. in extreme slow motion, his extra girth moving, just as slowly, in several different directions at once.

In case viewers missed the point, a narrator snidely intones that Mr. Christie “threw his weight around” to avoid getting traffic tickets.

In the ugly New Jersey contest for governor, Mr. Corzine and Mr. Christie have traded all sorts of shots, over mothers and mammograms, loans and lying. But now, Mr. Corzine’s campaign is calling attention to his rival’s corpulence in increasingly overt ways.

Mr. Corzine’s television commercials and Web videos feature unattractive images of Mr. Christie, sometimes shot from the side or backside, highlighting his heft, jowls and double chin.
Corzine, who is physically fit, has been more and more overt about attacking Christie on his weight problem.

I am not sure why, but the race for New Jersey's governorship has been intensely personal this year. This is not good for politics and it is not good for New Jersey--and I don't even live there.

School Children Banned From Kensington Public Parks

Seriously? What the heck is Kensington thinking?

The town is banning use of a public park, by kids, during the period from 9:00am to 4:00 pm. During school hours, a private school, Brookewood, uses the park for recess. But now the town says that the students (elementary age students) create $4,000 a year in damage that they are demanding the school pay. The school is willing to help clean the park and put down mulch but not pay $4,000 per year for use of the park.

I loved this:
Brookewood's headmaster tells ABC 7 News it's a public park for all too use but Kensington's mayor disagrees. By phone he said the park is for taxpaying citizens -- not abuse by a private non-profit school.
So I have a question for Kensington's mayor, how many kids at the school are the children of tax paying citizens? I would guess that at least some signficant percentage. So can those kids use the park? Can they bring guests?

Kensington is just being dumb here and should repeal the ban.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

More Cash for Clunkers Post Mortem

From the Wall Street Journal:
Cash for clunkers had two objectives: help the environment by increasing fuel efficiency, and boost car sales to help Detroit and the economy. It achieved neither. According to Hudson Institute economist Irwin Stelzer, at best "the reduction in gasoline consumption will cut our oil consumption by 0.2 percent per year, or less than a single day's gasoline use." Burton Abrams and George Parsons of the University of Delaware added up the total benefits from reduced gas consumption, environmental improvements and the benefit to car buyers and companies, minus the overall cost of cash for clunkers, and found a net cost of roughly $2,000 per vehicle. Rather than stimulating the economy, the program made the nation as a whole $1.4 billion poorer.

The basic fallacy of cash for clunkers is that you can somehow create wealth by destroying existing assets that are still productive, in this case cars that still work. Under the program, auto dealers were required to destroy the car engines of trade-ins with a sodium silicate solution, then smash them and send them to the junk yard. As the journalist Henry Hazlitt wrote in his classic, "Economics in One Lesson," you can't raise living standards by breaking windows so some people can get jobs repairing them.
I could have told you that without all the fancy economic data.

Monday, October 05, 2009

This is Why I Like Bobby Jindal

Because the man has some common sense and the huevos to express them. This piece in the Washington Post was brilliant in its simplicity and carries with it the harbinger of things to come with Jindal. Ten ideas to reform health care financing.

I am sorry, the problem is still not health care itself. It is the manner in which we pay for it or suffer with not being able to pay for it. It is the cost, not the quality, of health care that is the problem.

Still, go read the whole piece.

the Problems with Big Government

Oh there are lots, and after reading this story from the Washington Times, I don't even know where to begin:
"You don't need to know. You can't know." That's what Kathy Norris, a 60-year-old grandmother of eight, was told when she tried to ask court officials why, the day before, federal agents had subjected her home to a furious search.

The agents who spent half a day ransacking Mrs. Norris' longtime home in Spring, Texas, answered no questions while they emptied file cabinets, pulled books off shelves, rifled through drawers and closets, and threw the contents on the floor.

The six agents, wearing SWAT gear and carrying weapons, were with - get this- the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Kathy and George Norris lived under the specter of a covert government investigation for almost six months before the government unsealed a secret indictment and revealed why the Fish and Wildlife Service had treated their family home as if it were a training base for suspected terrorists. Orchids.

That's right. Orchids.

By March 2004, federal prosecutors were well on their way to turning 66-year-old retiree George Norris into an inmate in a federal penitentiary - based on his home-based business of cultivating, importing and selling orchids.

Mrs. Norris testified before the House Judiciary subcommittee on crime this summer. The hearing's topic: the rapid and dangerous expansion of federal criminal law, an expansion that is often unprincipled and highly partisan.

Chairman Robert C. Scott, Virginia Democrat, and ranking member Louie Gohmert, Texas Republican, conducted a truly bipartisan hearing (a D.C. rarity this year).

These two leaders have begun giving voice to the increasing number of experts who worry about "overcriminalization." Astronomical numbers of federal criminal laws lack specifics, can apply to almost anyone and fail to protect innocents by requiring substantial proof that an accused person acted with actual criminal intent.
First, why does Fish and Wildlife Service have a SWAT team. Second, why are SWAT Members conducting a search of a private home against someone who must be so dangers that they cultivate orchids? Third, the story doesn't say if the search was conducted with a warrant (I certainly hope it was, but that is not clear). Fourth, why is it only now that Congress is conducting hearing on the growth of federal criminal statutes.

The problem with overcriminalization is not that we have more criminals, but that so many regulations created and implemented by federal agencies, acting under poorly ceded Congressional delegation now carry criminal penalties for what could best be considered oversights or at worst misunderstandings of the law.

Some criminal laws are easy to understand and to be frank, commons sense. We know we are not supposed to steal, kill or drive a motor vehicle under the influence. It is not just that these actions are criminal by our standards, it is that they are easy to understand. But too many regulations means that the average guy on the street can't possibly know what is criminal and what is not when complying with regulations. The fact that someone can go to federal prison for two years because his paperwork was improper is ludicrous on its face.

But that it happens tells me that we have too many laws on teh books and not enough Congressional oversight. When a regulation is proposed by a federal agency, it must go through a notice and comment period and then must be sent to Congress for final approval. Take a single day out of the Federal Register and you will find dozens of proposed regulations for dozens of agencies. There is no way for Congress to examine and consider these regulations, so for the most part they get a rubber stamp. Lo and behold, a federal criminal regulation is put in place and Congress didn't really pay attention.

Add to it the fact that, as we have learned, Congress doesn't read all of the bills they create, let alone all the regulations that are passed pursuant to a law they passed. If Congress can't be bothered to read its own work product, can we really expect Congress to read the work product of federal agencies.

ACORN Just Can't Get Out of the News

Now it looks like the "community organizing" umbrella group is the subject of not a $1 million dollar embezzlement scheme, but a $5 million dollar scheme. Andrew Breitbart's Big Government is on the story (still)
An internal review by the board of directors of the community organization ACORN determined that the amount allegedly embezzled from the community organization was $5 million, well more than the previously reported amount of nearly $1 million, according to a new subpoena in an investigation by Louisiana Attorney General Buddy Caldwell.

The subpoena, released this afternoon, says, “It is still unclear if some of the monies embezzled are from state, federal or private funds.”

Caldwell issued subpoenas in August seeking documents related to Acorn International then-President Wade Rathke and his brother Dale Rathke, who kept the group’s books. Those subpoenas were focused on possible Acorn violations of state employee tax law, obstructing justice and violating the Employee Retirement Security Act.
If the crooks are stealing $5 million, does it really matter if it was private, state or federal funds? Embezzlement is embezzlement.

So now we have not only lower level employees who are implicated in improper activity, we now have upper level employees, with access to tens of millions of dollars who are implicated in improper activity. I don't think the whole "poorly trained employees" schtick is going to work much longer.

An Interesting Question

If you are a soccer referee, a website that you should add to your list of reading material is Ask A Soccer Referee, a website that answers questions posed by referees all over the country about the laws of the game, game administration and even "inventive Commentators" or others. The Refereeing staff at U.S. Soccer Federation answers the questions.

The way the questions and answers are presented, you can get a great test of actual game incidents or real life questions, and if you are a referee you can test your knowledge. But sometimes, you get some outlandish questions like this one:
My 15 year old son has been a soccer referee for many years. He hasn’t noticed this before, but last night came home after reffing two games and noticed his ears felt blocked and his hearing was fuzzy. He is still experiencing ear discomfort, and is supposed to ref many games at a tournament this weekend.

I am very concerned that he sustained some noise induced ear damage. As a parent I’ve been concerned for years with the loud whistle blowing at all games/sports. A ref, however is exposed to these loud whistle blasts continuously and it is closer to his ears than all the players!

He does not want to wear earplugs as he says none of the other referees do. He also says it will interfere with his reffing, and his ability to hear properly. I’m much more concerned that this part-time job could cause permanent hearing damage/loss.

My question is: what kind of ear protection do referees who are concerned about noise induced damage from whistles use? I hope I don’t hear that the majority of referees don’t wear ear protection. It is definitely something all referees should be aware of and concerned with.
Now the staff at USSF noted that in their decades of experience they have never heard of this problem, so I also took it with a grain of salt.

However, my second reaction was my goodness, this person, who is clearly a hypochondriac in disguise, is over-thinking the problem. Maybe the boy has had the issue for a few days and is only now telling mom. Maybe it is something different completely unrelated to soccer. Maybe the boy has an ear infection. But what ever the reasons, this is not a soccer problem, but a health problem.

I was also thinking. In a 90 minute game, one in which I am blowing the whistle a lot, I can't imagine I blow the whistle for more than three or four seconds at a time. Over the course of a match, maybe I would get two full minutes of blowing the whistle. I am not sure how damaging that would be. I admit, even at age 40, I sometimes listen to Metallica or Shinedown with the volume a little high on my iPod.

So really, parents of young referees. Not everything is related to refereeing.

Why a Public Option Spells Doom for Health Care Financing Reform and the Congressmen who support it

From Rasmussen Reports™:
Sixty-three percent (63%) of voters nationwide say guaranteeing that no one is forced to change their health insurance coverage is a higher priority than giving consumers the choice of a "public option" health insurance company.

The latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that just 29% take the opposite view. They say it’s more important to give people a government-sponsored non-profit health insurance option.

Most liberal voters say giving people the choice of a public option is more important. But most moderates put guaranteeing that no one is forced to change their health insurance first, and conservatives overwhelmingly agree with them.

Currently, 53% of insured voters say it’s likely they would have to change their health insurance coverage if the health care reform plan proposed by President Obama and congressional Democrats becomes law. That helps explain why 54% of voters believe that the health care system needs major changes, but just 41% support the comprehensive reform proposed by the president.
These numbers indicate that while a lot of people think something needs to be done, they still maintain enough common sense to realize that drastic change is worse than no change at all.

Dr. Helen: Will small business "Going Galt" be Obama's downfall?

the National Federation of Independent Business will tell you time and again that small businesses are the engine of the American economy, whither they go, so to does the country. Dr. Helen is noting the case and we are looking at a "capital strike," i.e. a tendency of small businesses not to move forward because of the uncertainty surrounding the political climate.

While the Obama Adminsitration is going after big business with a "pay czar" and other angles of attack on big business, they have completely forgotten that their actions trickle down to small businesses. Small businesses have little margin for mandates and costs, so they tend, in times of uncertainty to do nothing. They don't hire people, they don't expand, they don't invest in new equipment, they don't do anything risky at all--because the cost/benefit analysis is not in their favor.

Dr. Helen thinks that the Obama Administration is likely to founder upon the shores of American small businesses and I wholeheartedly agree.

The case against Charlie Rangel

The New York Post's Isabel Vincent and Melissa Klein look at Charlie Rangel and make a pretty strong case for why this guy should be facing an indictment not re-election.
So it would go for Charlie Rangel over the next four decades — a pattern of tax evasion, special treatment and enrichment that seemed to increase with his power and prestige in Congress. Whether it’s living in rent-stabilized apartments while making a hefty salary, or failing to disclose hundreds of thousands of dollars in earnings and assets, his actions betray a consistent, defiant sense of entitlement. And when he is caught, the powerful Democrat blames a right-wing conspiracy.

Never mind that his critics are often independent, or even liberal.

“Although Charlie Rangel has an admirable record over 40 years, none of that excuses his reprehensible ethics violations,” said Melanie Sloan, executive director of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, a non-partisan government watchdog group that since 2008 has included Rangel on its list of the most corrupt members of Congress. “There is a pattern of violations that suggest at a minimum carelessness and arrogance that he doesn’t think the rules apply to him.”
It all makes me start to think positively about one thing I thought I wouldn't support--term limits.

The "Historic Health Care Debate"

No Mayo writes:
I no longer know what saddens me more, the state of American politics or the state of American journalism. Perhaps the problem is that they have become one and the same and are sharing the ride into the sewer.
I am not sure either.

Here's the thing, I know that editors have to make decisions about what goes into the paper and what doesn't. I know that journalists make decisions about what to put in their stories and what not to put in their stories. All of that is fine with me--to a point. I also know that they have a First Amendment Right to print what they want--they can even print lies. (Lies tend to invite lawsuits which is why most papers don't print lies).

But why call yourself a journalist or a newspaper or a news source if you are going to even attempt to present multiple sides of an issue. That is what I think No Mayo is talking about--not that newspapers are so slanted, but that they pretend to hold themselves out as objective.