Tuesday, March 24, 2009


My apologies to the few regular readers out there.

My real job has been intense of late and thus the light blogging. I am trying just to keep up on the news and have little time to comment.

Work will keep me busy for another couple of weeks and then I should be back to normal.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Seattle 3: 0 New York

Man what a fantastic opening to the MLS season. Seattle did not look like an expansion team last night, they looked like a team with organization, energy, skill and above all, a young man who could turn the league on its ear this season. Hats off to Sigi Schmid for putting out a team that performed. Hats off to the Sounders who took the game by the throat from the first minute and didn't really ever let go. Seattle has become the first expansion team to win their opening match since Chicago did it in 1998 and in 1998, Chicago won the MLS Cup. An omen? Well, let's not get too far ahead of ourselves.

Man of the match has to be 21 year old Columbian Fredy Montero, who got the first goal of the 2009 MLS season, the first goal for the Seattle Franchise and his first goal in the MLS, all by the 12th minute of the game. Montero grabbed an assist when Brad Evans made a brilliant penetrating run, collected a nifty pass from Montero and then nutmegged Red Bull keeper Danny Cepero for the second goal. Finally, in the second half, Montero stripped Mike Petke of the ball about 10 yards into the New York half, muscled the bigger Petke off and then broke away, made Cepero committ and buried his second goal of the night. Sigi Schmid subbed the young Columbian off in the 89th minute in order to give the young man the standing ovation he earned. Watch MLS, you are going to have to do more than just mark this guy, you are going to have to be smart with the ball. Montero and to a lesser extent Nate Jaqua harrassed the New York back line and midfield.

Seattle played with an amazingly high level of energy and New York simply looked flat. New York's own Columbian sniper, Juan Pable Angel had a few chances, but mostly didn't get the service he needed, New York really is missing Dave Van den Bergh. The New York midfield were like ghosts out there. Mac Kandji and Dane Richards, two speedy wingers were contained and the central midfielders simply couldn't string three passes together under the Seattle pressure.

To be fair, New York probably will never see that starting line-up again. Khano Smith, Albert Celades, and Alfredo Pacheco will all be available next week and that should provide more stability and skill in the central midfield. For New York, it looked like former Maryland Terrapin standout Jeremy Hall could get some serious minutes this year. After coming off the bench around the 30th minute, he played well (made a few rookie mistakes, but never repeated them) and helped shut down Sebastion Le Toux a little.

On the Seattle side, Sigi Schmid has a problem--where to put Freddie Ljunberg when he gets healthy? Probably for Nate Jacqua or Brad Evans. Although Evans looked good at times, the midfield trio of Le Toux, Sanna Nyassi, and Osvaldo Alonso looked like quite the trio. Nyassi made some bad challenges, but he looks like he is faster than his brother, Sainey, who plays for New England (if that is possible).

Finally, Qwest field is probably going to be harder to play at than BMO field in Toronto or RFK in DC, 22,000 season ticket holders plus another 8,000+ meant a raucus crowd, a fantastic atmosphere and a knowledgeable crowd. What a place to play. The only drawback is the artificial field, but it really didn't look as fast as concrete field like the old Rice Eccles was for Real Salt Lake or Giants Stadium for New York.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Dallas ISD records show school held 'cage fights'

Seriously, did these school officials just lose their minds.

Duke Coach to Obama: Worry About the Economy, Not NCAA Picks - Presidential Politics | Political News - FOXNews.com

As a Maryland Terrapin Alum, I am bred to despise most things about Duke Basketball, although I have to admire what Coach K has done down there. But Coach K head the nail on the head with this comment:
"Somebody said that we're not in President Obama's Final Four, and as much as I respect what he's doing, really, the economy is something that he should focus on, probably more than the brackets," Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said from the Blue Devils' first-round site in Greensboro, N.C.
I have to agree.

Duke Coach to Obama: Worry About the Economy, Not NCAA Picks - Presidential Politics | Political News - FOXNews.com

As a Maryland Terrapin Alum, I am bred to despise most things about Duke Basketball, although I have to admire what Coach K has done down there. But Coach K head the nail on the head with this comment:
"Somebody said that we're not in President Obama's Final Four, and as much as I respect what he's doing, really, the economy is something that he should focus on, probably more than the brackets," Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said from the Blue Devils' first-round site in Greensboro, N.C.
I have to agree.

House passes bill taxing AIG and other bonuses

House passes bill taxing AIG and other bonuses.

A legally suspect ploy is what House Minority Leader John Boehner said. I have to agree.

When AIG got bailout money, there were hardly any strings attached to it and now Congress is trying to attach strings to the deal that weren't there originally.

I don't think AIG should pay bonuses, from a PR standpoint that is just brutally stupid. But it is their decision. Taxing them now borders on an ex post facto law, which I don't think it is, but it certainly looks that way.

Why is Kasey Keller always "old" or "aging"

I saw this post at The Offside previewing Seattle Sounders FC. And it included this comment:
As it stands, the offense looks like it won’t have much trouble scoring, but the defensive remains a question mark in front of proven — but aging — keeper Kasey Keller. Nevertheless, MLS is coming to Seattle and they sure look like they are ready for it to be there.(emphasis added)
. Kasey Keller is 39 years old. Is that old for a professional footballer, yeah, maybe, but not so old for a goalkeeper. Keller is not even the oldest first team keeper in MLS. Pat Onstad, the first team keeper for Houston just turned 41 and no one is saying that his career is over.

Here are the likely first team goalkeepers in the MLS (not saying this is a lock, but likely)

Jon Busch (Chicago) 32
Dan Kennedy (Chivas) 26
Wil Hesmer (Columbus) 28
Preston Burpo (Colorado) 36 (Matt Pickens is 26)
Dario Sala (FC Dallas) 34
Louis Crayton (DC United) 32
Pat Onstad (Houston) 41
Kevin Hartman (Kansas City) 34
Donovan Ricketts (Los Angeles) 31
Matt Reis (New England) 34
Danny Cepero (New York)* 23 (Jon Conway is 31)
Nick Rimando (Salt Lake) 29
Joe Cannon (San Jose) 34
Greg Sutton (Toronto) 31
Kasey Keller (Seattle) 39
*Cepero will start probably the first 10 games since Conway has a ten game suspension for performance enhancing drug use. After that it will be a matter of Cepero's performance to see whether he stays where he is at.

As you can see, the above list (not counting Pickens who could start). there are 15 teams here, here are the stats

Youngest-- Danny Cepero (23)
Oldest-- Pat Onstad (41)
Average Age--32.6.
Median Age--34 (Cepero's age skews things).

If you put Conway in you get these stats
Youngest: Dan Kennedy (26)
Oldest: Pat Onstad (41)
Average age: 33.5
Median Age--34.

As you can see, Goalkeepers tend to be a bit older. The position requires as much, if not more, experience and knowledge than pure athletic ability. Not to say that these men are not good athletes, they clearly are. I am just saying that it doesn't require 90 minutes of running. But it does require 90 minutes of concentration since, as a keeper you might go 89 minutes without doing a thing, but in that 90th minute you have to make the one save to keep your team from losing or drawing at the last minute.

MLS is Here!!

Look, I love soccer and I love watching European Soccer, particularly England and now Spain. But MLS is my home league and I am excited that it is back!!.

Tonight, the expansion Seattle Sounders will take on New York Red Bull out in Seattle in what I hope will be a good game because the league really needs to demonstrate that it can put a quality product out on the pitch and that will help draw fans to the game more than any one player (David Beckham).

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

A Veteran Defined

I don't know if I posted this recently or not, but I still believe it to be true.

Whether active duty, retired, national guard or reserve - is someone who, at one point in their life, wrote a blank check made payable to "The United States of America" for an amount "up to and including their life".
That is HONOR, and there are way too many people in this country who no longer understand it.

-Author unknown-

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

What if the World Cup were like the NCAA Basketball Tournament

Wouldn't that be interesting? 64 teams, you play one game at a neutral site, lose and your gone, win and you move on.

Goff brings you the idea (which he started yesterday). See here and here. Go to his blog and watch for the remainder of the hypothetical match-up.

Mayor: bloggers a great danger to city

From Inside Charm City:Mayor: bloggers a great danger to city. The City in question is Salisbury, and the outgoing Mayor Barrie Parsons Tilghman said:
Tilghman said in her address Thursday that over the last five years, the presence of a small group of suspicious, mean-spirited people focused on the negative has grown, endangering the city’s vitality.

Tilghman says some people are avoiding serving their city because it’s not worth chancing the scorn of bloggers.
A couple of things here.

First, I will conceed that a number of bloggers particularly in smaller towns and localities not only have an agenda, but often make matters personal rather than professional. That will, of course, taint their coverage and commentary on local political matters.

Second, local politics, particularly in smaller cities and towns, is a great deal more personal than state level or national level politics. Part of the reason is that you not only have to deal with politicians on a political level, but often on a personal level as well. The makes the political interaction a dynamic that is hard to separate from the personal dynamic. Such a system leads to bitterness and grudges.

Third, if a few bloggers are causing a person from not running for office, then clearly they have too thin a skin to be in office.

Fourth, I tire of the strawman of "bitter bloggers" or "mean-spirited bloggers" without any details. If you don't like a newspaper editorial, you may call out that editorial staff at say the Baltimore Sun, there is a distinct identity to the group of people who write the Sun's Editorials. If you have a problem with a particular story, many of the Sun's articles are signed, so you have named a person. If you do the same with the Annapolis Capital, may have a smaller group of people to point to, but they are identifiable. If you point to a small town newspaper, you have a distinct group of identified people. These are identifiable and identified when a politician expresses exasperation with a particular newspaper.

But the nature of blogging is a) it can be anonymous and b) it can easily utilized as a strawman for all that a politican perceives as bad about the internet. Because of the anonymity, politicians think it is useful just to slap the broad brush around. But if the politician has a problem with a blogger they perceive to be mean spirited, why not at least name the blog, even if the blogger themselves is anonymous. If that blog is mean spirited in your eyes, then naming it as such is surely not going to suddenly raise the ire of the blogger--they already don't like you the politician. So what is the risk.

The reason, of course, is that by simply saying bloggers, a politician does not have to confront the fact that what the blogger may have said or opined upon was accurate or not. If accurate, how does the politician defend it. If it is not accurate, why not correct the record?

Can bloggers be mean spirited? Of course, but that doesn't necessarily make them wrong--just mean. Can bloggers be wrong? Yes, probably pretty often. But here is the thing, I don't see where any blogger has so much influence in a small town the people just simply don't want to serve.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Fulham Get Three Points, Double Away Goals

Fulham grabbed a crucial away win against Bolton at the Reebok stadium. In doing so, the Cottagers literally doubled the number of away goals scored this season.

The 1-3 win at Bolton secured the Whites to 37 points, probably another 4-6 points will secure their safety and perhaps another 10 points in nine games will get them a top ten finish. But their run includes a number of tough games.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

2 arrested in FBI raid at Obama appointee's office

Don't know what to think about this, but it clearly is not something the Obama Adminstration needs on their plate.

More amatuer hour?

Could have seen this coming?

Energy companies are moving to low tax Switzerland.
The tidy towns and mountain vistas of Switzerland are an unlikely setting for an oil boom.

Yet a wave of energy companies has in the last few months announced plans to move to Switzerland -- mainly for its appeal as a low-tax corporate domicile that looks relatively likely to stay out of reach of Barack Obama's tax-seeking administration.

In a country with scant crude oil production of its own, the virtual energy boom has changed the canton or state of Zug, about 30 minutes' drive from Zurich, beyond all recognition. Its economy was based on farming until it slashed tax rates to attract commerce after World War Two.
when you announce your intent to tax the living daylights out of corporations, you cannot expect them to stay around and take it like a dolt.


Do Stability Balls help kids learn?

Apparently so, or at least it gives their bodies, which in young students at least, needs to be active, something to do in order to let their mind concentrate.
“The whole theory with the brain is that when your body’s engaged, your brain’s engaged,” (teacher Tiffany) Miller said. “I call it actively sitting. They’re maybe moving their legs a little, wiggling some. But their upper body, they’re focused on writing, on the teacher. It really works.”
Of course, whether 10 year olds are sitting on stability ball or in a desk or chair, their legs are moving anyway.

Two bonuses using Pilates stability balls: focused minds and stronger core muscles in the kids.

The Wisdom of the Los Angeles Teacher's Union

I use wisdome facetiously of course.

Joanne Jacobs

History and Teacher Pay

Of course, as we should all know, very few things happen in a vacuum, particularly when it comes to public policy, education and funding. Joanne Jacobs has a post about education spending in Georgia, which is somewhat interesting, as far as it goes. But this comment struck a chord:
Joseph G. Martin Jr. of the Consortium for Adequate School Funding in Georgia says schools must spend more money on teacher pay now that educated women have other career options and on teaching students who aren’t fluent in English.
As I have argued before in this space (here and in a case study here) teacher pay is rarely as poor as some would have you think. Is teacher pay not quite what it should be for the role that teachers play in our society? I think there is a good arguement for that.

But the scale of teacher pay is subject to the past (and current) political and social forces. For example, as few as 50 years ago, most teachers were women because there were (honestly) fewer other professional opportunities for women. Whether that is right or wrong is the subject for a different time. Also at that time, if women did work outside the home, their income tended to be supplementary rather critical to household finances. (this is based on a married, two income family rather than a single woman working after college). Modern families often rely upon the teacher income as necessary rather than a luxury or supplemental income. Thus there is a drive (not without individual merits) to increase the pay for teachers. But such drives run counter to other forces, including general economic forces, that are exerting a downward pressure on teacher salaries.

Forces, like smaller class sizes, union contracts that focus on credentials and years of service, tend to exert downward pressures on salaries. Smaller class sizes requires more teachers, which means a larger labor pool which reduces the quality of teachers necessary to fill all the positions. More bodies means that the finite pool of resources to pay teachers is divided among a larger population. Additionally, in order to achieve mandatory step increses based on years of service, teacher contracts receive smaller pay raises for simple time in position, rather larger pay raises based on things like success (however measured) in a classroom. The consequence is that pay does not go up quickly for teachers who show good improvement in their own skills and knowledge in relation to their peers.

So the history of a large female labor pool in teaching no so long ago, coupled with the modern political and policy pressures has created a situation where teacher salaries simply cannot go much higher without a drastic re-think of how we manage our schools and employ our teachers.

NCAA, Cheating and Expectations

Although this is a few days old, Corey Bunje Bower points to a story out of Florida where Florida State University is looking some pretty minor sanctions for what appears to be a wide spread cheating scandal involving 61 student athletes and multiple adults (by which I am guessing not other students, but instructors or other hired by the university). Bower seems on the one hand incredulous at the "sanctions" and partly sad at the almost laissez-faire attitude of the NCAA on the matter. Here are the sanctions:
-"Public reprimand and censure"

-The school is placed on probation (apparently not of the double-secret variety) for four years

-The teams involved lose scholarships -- but only a very small number (1-2 in football, fewer in other sports)

-The teams must vacate all victories in 2006-07

-The next time they do something, the NCAA is going to be really angry
Bower notes that it is hard to take seriously the stated ideals of upholding the importance of academics and punishing schools that violate cheating rules.

I agree, but what does NCAA stand for--National Collegiate Athletic Association. In recent years, particularly as some college sports are bringing in billions of dollars of revenue, i.e. football, men's basketball and now more than ever, women's sports like women's basketball and even soccer, athletics are starting to bring tens of millions of dollars in revenue each year. In fact, for many big time schools, the money brought in by football and basketball subsidize the athletics program for the entire school. So for that reason, the NCAA has understandably begun to focus on the athletics part a little too much.

To be fair to the NCAA, their emphasis is not all that surprising. To a certain extent the NCAA is not damaged all that much by a cheating scandal, while the individual university is greatly undermined, not only from its athletic program but also for its own acadmeic integrity. So while the NCAA is working to build the financial resources and rewards to be found in college athletics, it would be remiss to resort to too strong a sanction for something that doesn't damage really damage the NCAA. Also, while I don't want to imply that the NCAA is lenient on some programs, there has to be a realization by the NCAA that some programs generate more revenue. For example, there is a difference between the Duke basketball program's draw for TV revenue and say, University of Central Florida. Florida State football, while not performing all that great in the past few years, is headed by a legendary man, with a long history and on the verge of making history himself. Florida State still generates good revenue for the NCAA and too much damage or too harsh a sanction, i.e. killing off scholarships on a wide scale, would impact the ability of Florida State to generate ratings and revenue for the NCAA.

To me, the greater concern is not the NCAA's motivations, but the motivations of Florida State and the "adults" who were part of the cheating scandal. Student Athletes, particuarly in money sports and at well-known programs, have an incentive to keep their scholarship and will be tempted to take some shortcuts. The fact that school officials and "adults" at the school facilitated that effort is more troubling. A university is supposed to be a place where academic integrity is supposed to mean something. I have no problem with tutors (I was one myself), I have no problem with athletic departments making an effort to help student athletes (so long as the same resources are available to all students). I do have a problem with universities cater to student athletes, creating a sense of entitlement in the athletes and that is where the temptation to cheating arises and comes forth.

In reading the NCAA report, I think Florida State got off pretty light because it basically did not contest the allegations against it, figuring, rightly as it turns out, that accepting blame and prostrating themselves would limit the damage done.

The worst part about this incident is that it won't be the last. If the NCAA was really serious about sanctioning schools, the punishmnet wouldn't be loss of a few scholarships, it would be the loss of all scholarships in any sport implicated. Obviously you can't punish innocent student athletes, but let's say the sports affected were football, men's and women's track and field and women's swimming. The sanction would be those students involved lose their scholarship and if the academic infraction is serious enough under the university's student conduct code, be expelled. Students currently on a scholarship, but innocent of the cheating, would be allowed to complete their career or transfer to another institution with no impact on their eligibility (in some sports if you transfer schools, you can't compete for the new school for a year). Students who had signed a national letter of intent would be permitted to either vacate that letter with no penalty or would be permitted to accept a scholarship from the school. However, after those current letter of intent holders get their scholarships, that sports program can offer no new scholarships for a period of five years.

Yes, this would effectively kill many sports programs, for a decade or more, but the penalty has to be harsh, it has to be draconian and it has to meted out without consideration of the impact on the school's bottom line.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

A Moment of Silence at Algave Cup

The Original Winger has a photo of a German Women's National Team Player Navina Omilade observing a moment of silence prior to their match in honor of the 15 victims of a shooting at a German school.

I Don't See it?

I am not an evangelical Christian so I don't really have a dog in this fight, but the Christian Science Monitor's Michael Spencer seems to think that Evangelical Christianity will disappear in the next 10 years:
We are on the verge – within 10 years – of a major collapse of evangelical Christianity. This breakdown will follow the deterioration of the mainline Protestant world and it will fundamentally alter the religious and cultural environment in the West.

Within two generations, evangelicalism will be a house deserted of half its occupants. (Between 25 and 35 percent of Americans today are Evangelicals.) In the "Protestant" 20th century, Evangelicals flourished. But they will soon be living in a very secular and religiously antagonistic 21st century.
I don't buy it at all.

As a Catholic, I have been hearing and reading about predictions of the Roman Catholic Church dying off or shrinking to irrelevance, but I haven't seen it. Will the population of evangelical Christians in America decline? Yeah, maybe, but a complete collapse in the next 10 years, I just don't see it.

Do I think evangelicals have been outside the mainstream on a series of issues? Yeah, I think so. I tend to think that most Americans view abortion with a health dose of skepticism, but are reluctant to completely ban it. I don't like abortion, and would never counsel a woman to have an abortion, but really, in the end, it is not my choice (unless it is my underage daughter--which I pray never happens). But by the same token, I think most Americans find themselves in teh camp of abortion should be legal in some cases, rare in all cases and certainly safe.

I also tend to think that Evangelicals tend to make too big an issue about school prayer, conservative values in schools, etc. I do believe that schools have tilted too far left and the general lack of presentation of religion, even as a social force (leaving aside religious doctrine) in our own history is shocking and shameful. But really, I think that most evangelical Christians are actively engaged in the upbringing of the children than those points of view are rarely missed.

The fact is that Evangelical Christians will remain a potent social and political force in this country and like it not, some of the moves by the Obama Administration are certain to galvanize that community even more.

So, a collapse of evangelical Christianity in the next decade? I just don't see it.

Ha, Ha

Via the Instapundit:

That's Rich

John Edwards speaks about poverty, calling the need for Americans to get involved a "funamental moral issue."

Seriously, you can't make this stuff up. John Edwards lecturing America about poverty and morality.

How about that Fuzzy Math?

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) noted that since President Obama took office, Congress has spent about $1 billion dollars an hour.
“In just 50 days, Congress has voted to spend about $1.2 trillion between the Stimulus and the Omnibus,” McConnell says. “To put that in perspective, that’s about $24 billion a day, or about $1 billion an hour—most of it borrowed. There’s simply no question: government spending has spun out of control.”
The math: 50 days times 24 hours equals 1,200 hours. 1,200 times 1 billion equals 1.2 trillion (a thousand billions is a trillion).
That is the nature of our spending and it is poised to go up as the Senate will vote today on a $410 billion bill to fund the federal government. That would push the hourly spending rate on this 51st day of the Obama presidency to just over $1.3 billion per hour.

By the way the federal minimum wage is now $6.55 per hour, or 0.000000000004 percent of the over $1.3 billion that the government is spending. I don't even know how to express that in words, but it is really, really, really damn small. How is that supposed to make people feel?

Hypocrisy, they name is Nancy Pelosi

After Democrats have routinely, roundly and publicly criticized CEO's and other executives from the nations troubled financial and automotive industries, it looks like another case of not practicing what they are preaching. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has routinely requested the use of military aircraft to shuttle her, her family and members of Congress around the country.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has repeatedly requested military aircraft to shuttle her and her colleagues and family around the country, according to a new report from a conservative watchdog group.

Representatives for Judicial Watch, which obtained e-mails and other documents from a Freedom of Information request, said the correspondence shows Pelosi has abused the system in place to accommodate congressional leaders and treated the Air Force as her "personal airline."

Pelosi's office disputed the claim, pointing to White House policy enacted after the Sept. 11 attacks allowing for the House speaker to travel to his or her congressional district via military aircraft whenever possible for security reasons. Her office said she typically uses the same kind of aircraft used by her predecessor, Dennis Hastert.

But Judicial Watch said that Pelosi was notorious for making special demands for high-end aircraft, lodging last-minute cancellations and racking up additional expenses for the military.

The e-mails showed repeated attempts by Pelosi aides to request aircraft, sometimes aggressively, and by Department of Defense officials to accommodate them.
The problem is two fold in the hypocrisy front. First, House Democrats (under Pelosi's leadership) have made a big deal on the environmental front over the use of gas guzzling cars, but a military plane burns a lot of fuel flying back and forth to California. (It should be noted that Dennis Hastert's round trip was shorter than Pelosi's one way trip). Second, from an economical standpoint, what's wrong with flying commerical regularly--it helps the economy, right?

When Members of Congress travel abroad on official business, flying in a military aircraft puts the full weight and power of the U.S. behind their trip. I don't have a problem with that concept and think it appropriate. But flying commerical domestically, just make sense (and it is cheaper). I think that any Member of Congress or Senator who is flying within the United States should be required to fly commercial or on stand by with the military and fly on military aircraft only when the aircraft is going that way with a military purpose and not just to shuttle Members of Congress around. Otherwise, book your flight on Southwest or US Air or anywhere else.

Governor Sandford Rejects Stimulus Funds

South Carolina's Governor Mark Sanford (R) has rejected the stimulus funds:
The move will cement Sanford's growing reputation as a political powerhouse among Republican party stalwarts nationwide — though how much of the estimated $8 billion in stimulus funds destined for South Carolina will be affected is unclear. The law allows state legislative leaders to accept funds the governor rejects.

"Our objections to the so-called stimulus bill have been well-chronicled for the way it spends money that we don't have and for the way this printing of money could ultimately devalue the American dollar," Sanford said on Tuesday, even as he acknowledged that he'll accept some.

"Those of us opposed to this package lost the debate on these merits, and I now think it is important we look for creative ways to apply and use these monies in accordance with the long-term interests of our state," he said.
In the end, the question of whether governors accept the funds will generate something of a governmental/constitutional battle regarding federalism and the soveriegnty of the states.

The decision also sets up a potential battle between Sanford and the South Carolina legislature. If the Legislature accepts the money, will Sanford veto any budget or spending package in the state that is dependent upon the money. Such a move will clearly be the principled move. Given that the legislature could, I assume, override the veto, such a vote would clearly put the legislature in the position of owning the acceptance of the stimulus funds and it will remain to be seen how that will be perceived by the voters in South Carolina.

Wal-Mart May Drive the Movement to Digitize Health Records

And they will probably do it for far cheaper than the government will do it.

Eleven Dead in Rampage in Alabama

Man goes on two county killing spree.

Fulham Tonight

While nearly most of the football focuse tonight will be on the Champions League and in particular the match at Old Trafford between Manchester United and Inter Milan, Fulham have a match this evening against Blackburn. The match is a reschedule that resulted from a frozen pitch preventing play back in January.

Tonight's match is the eighth in a series of nine games which Fulham have played or will play in teh space of just four weeks. The players have to be getting a little tired and thus Blackburn, who have had the advantage of having nearly two weeks off, will be fresh. But the game is at the Cottage, where Fulham have been strong all season.

Blackburn currently sit at 18th in the league table on 27 points, while Fulham sit tenth on 34 points. A win by Fulham will almost guarnatee that they will stay up with just 10 matches to play in the league. A Blackburn win will vault the Rovers out of the drop zone and put them two point clear.

Fulham really need the win in advance of a pretty tough run in for the final games. Here are the last ten games for Fulham this year:

Bolton away
Manchester United at home
Liverpool at home
Manchester City away
Middlesbrough away
Stoke City at home
Chelsea away
Aston Villa at home
Newcastle away
Everton at home.

Of the 10 games remaining, Fulham will face six top ten teams. The Bolton game in particular is a six pointer that can put some distance between Fulham and the bottom of the table. But Fulham's away form is still prety bad and really, getting a point from the away matches will be important. In the last three games Villa and Everton may be competing for European spots.

It will be tough, but it is looking like the drop zone cut will be around 35 points or so, but to be safe a solid 8 points in the final 11 games will certainly see Fulham safe and perhaps even in the top half of the table.

UEFA Champions League Round of 16 Leg 2, Day 2

Some good match ups today, with the two teams I think most likely to make it to the final taking the pitch today. Manchester United will host Inter Milan and Barcelona will play host to Lyon today. Here's hoping for another spectacular day like we had yesterday.

Roma hosts Arsenel. The Stadio Olimpico is the venue for the Champions League Final this year and Roma supporters are all claiming that they are "destined" to get there. But I have to tell you, while Arsenel have been struggling in the Premier Leauge, they are getting some of their key playes back to form. Eduardo and Theo Wolcott will probably be in the starting 11 today and the back line anchored by Gael Clichy and William Gallas have been solid for the Gunners for most of the season. A goal by Roma early will make the game interesting since the Gunners come into the match with a 1-0 lead on aggregate. An early goal by Arsenel will put Roma into the position of chasing the game and needing three goals to advance. But a defensive set by Arsenel could deny the aggregate equalizer. I think Arsenel will advance on a 2-1 aggregate.

Barcelona hosts Lyon. This ties stands at 1-1 on aggregate with Barcelona getting a vital away goal. Barcelona, when the draw for this round occurred, was flying high in La Liga and looked almost unstoppable. But recent weeks have seen a dip in form, including the draw with the French Champions. Lyon travel to the Camp Nou to take with a slight disadvantage due to Barcelona's away goal. But with all the weaponse that Barcelona have, Messi, Henry, Eto'o, et al, it seems like playing at home on a European night will give Barca's weapons the impetus to get moving and scoring. If Barcelona can get a an early goal, Lyon will need two goals advance. A 1-1 draw will force extra time, but a score draw in excess of that scoreline will see Lyon through. Barcelona's defense has been a little shaky and I thing Pep Guardiola's men need to stick with what they know, possession and attack. I think Barcelona will win 3-1 tonight and advance 4-2 on aggregate.

Porto hosts Atletico Madrid. This is a 2-2 on aggregate scoreline and Porto carry an advantage on away goals going into tonights match. But Porto has a big fat, confiddence killing monkey on their back--they have been eliminted from the Champions League in teh round of 16 for something like three years running. Not an omen that should be forgotten. But in Madrid, the Porto side dominated play and could have had as many as four or five goals. Atletico has had improved form in the past couple of weeks in La Liga. But for Athletico to advance, a defensive mindset is likely to be the favored approach. A 1-1 scoreline will not see Atletico through, but neither will a scoreless draw. So Atletico will need to get a goal or two and hold the Portuguese to a clean sheet. With Porto playing at home, I would put the advantage to Porto. Tonights result 1-1, with Porto advancing 3-3 on the away goal rule.

Manchester United hosts Inter Milan. The marquee matchup of the day and indeed the leg, will pit the leaders of their respective leagues against each other as well as two of the most accomplished managers in the game today as Sir Alex Ferguson and Jose Mourinho meet each other again. Mourihno is looking for lightning to strike again like it did five years when Mourihno led FC Porto to a win over the Red Devils five years ago. Rumors are swirling that Mourinho would be Ferguson's replacement when Ferguson finally retires. Manchester United has been practically unbeatable at Old Trafford this year and certainly the atmosphere will be fantastic. An early goal by Inter will probably unleash the United offensive machine and make for a spectacular game. Unlike the last match, United will have Vidic back in the line-up and the addition of the most consistent defender in the Premier league will help. While a lot of people think Ferguson will start Wayne Rooney and Dimitar Berbatov up top, my favorite is to see a Rooney-Carlos Tevez pairing, particularly since Tevez has been fantastic of late and proves to be a difficult man to defend against. Advantage goes to Old Trafford and United. I think United will take a 2-0 win and advance 3-1 on aggregate.

Given the 19 goal performance yesterday, it will be hard to top the scoring total, but some exciting games certainly are possible.

U.S. U-20's Advance to U-20 World Cup

With a 2-0 win over El Salvador despite finishing the game with only nine men, the U.S. secured a berth in the U-20 World Cup to be held in Egypt. This is the the first time the U-20's have beaten El Salvador outside the U.S. in the qualifying tournament. Although the U.S. has qualified for the U20 World Cup 12 times, they have never won the CONCACAF tournament.

Yesterday I noted that Mexico was sacked from the tournament after two rounds. The U.S. is looking strong and have a real chance to win the tournament.

The U.S. will face the Group B runner up on Friday, which could be either Costa Rica, Canada or Trinidad & Tobago.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Mexico loses to Canada in U-20 World cup Qualifying

That massive groan from South of the Border last night was the entire Mexican nation bemoaning the state of the national team programs. The Mexican club league is by far the best in the CONCACAF region (sorry MLS, but until MLS teams can win in Mexico, that is going to be the truth). The Mexican sides used to be feared on the international level and not just by CONCACAF opponents. But even with a quality league, the Mexican international teams, well---suck and the performances aren't getting any better.

The Mexican senior national team barely qualified for the World Cup qualifying Hexagonal quite literally thanks to other results in their group. The Mexican team got beat in teh U.S. (again). The Mexicans didn't qualify for the 2008 Olympics. Now their U-20 team not only got beat by Canada (not exactly a soccer powerhouse but growing), the Mexican U-20 sits at the bottom of their qualifying group with one game to go. In fact, the Mexicans are eliminated from the competition completely after two two matches in their qualifying group. Mexico lost their opening match 0-1 to Costa Rica and then lost yesterday 0-2 against Canada to sit bottom of the table with zero points. Costa Rica and Trinida & Tobabo each have four points in two games and Canda has three points. Canada will face Costa Rica and Mexico has a chance to spoil the advancement of T&T.

DC United Stadium Woes Continue

Getting some obstruction on the financing part.

While the DC United fan in me wants some help in getting the stadium built, the fiscal conservative in me gets upset when owners want to foist a large chunk of the cost on taxpayers.

If I were McFarlane and Chang, I would buy some land and build the stadium myself and then thumb my nose at everyone in DC and Maryland when they start raking in the cash from everything else. I would charge massive amounts of rent for say the University of Maryland to use the facility for games or the hosting of teh NCAA final four.

But of course, buying the land and building the stadium is hard, even for developers like McFarlane and Change. We will see what the Maryland General Assembly have to say next week.

UEFA Champions League Round of 16 Leg 2

Thinks were very, very exciting, with a lot of goals.

Where to start. Well, how about in Athens, where Villareal scored a couple goals to win 2-1 tonight to advance 3-2 on aggregate. A semi-exciting game as Villareal opened the scoring account early in the second half. Six minutes laters, Panathinaikos leveled the score on the night and on aggregate. Twenty minutes from time, the Yellow Submarine scored again and the scoreline remained unchanged.

Over in Turin, Chelsea came into the night with a one goal lead they grabbed at Stamford Bridge two weeks ago against Juventus. A draw of any kind or a win would see the Blues through to the quarter finals. Chelsea boss Guus Hiddinck kept his unbeaten record record for Chelsea intact as Chelsea and Juventus drew 2-2 tonight with Chelsea advancing 3-2 on aggregate. Michael Essein returned from his injury tonight and netted a goal in first half stoppage time, for a quality return. With Essein back and Didier Drogba getting out of his funk he experienced under Luis Felipe Scolari and scored another for the Blues in 83rd minute. The Drogba goal put an exclamation point on the the performance, which to that point would have had Chelsea advancing on the away goal rule.

Meanwhile in Liverpool at Anfield, Liverpool laid a hefty smackdown on Real Madrid with a 4-0 drubbing and advanced on a 5-0 aggregate. The night saw Fernando Torres start for the Reds and grabbed an early goal in the 17th minute. Steven Gerrard scored twice, including once on a penalty. Andrea Dossenna, who came on for Torres, scored the fourth for Liverpool. With the convincing win, Liverpool manager Rafa Benitez will sure to be unbearable in teh press. But with Liverpool essentially out of the title race in the Premier League and previously ousted from the FA Cup by Everton, the Champions League is Liverpool's only shot for silverware this year. Their performance tonight is an emphatic point for Benitez and despite booting Real Madrid from the Champions League he may have actually improved his chances of getting the Real Madrid manager's job this summer.

But if you think that the Liverpool game was a goal fest, and that the Liverpool match is an abberration in the usually defensive minded Champions League, you would be wrong. Tonight Bayern Munich, a team struggling for consistency in the Bundesliga, made Liverpool's four goal performance seem absolutely dull by comparison as Bayern laid a seven goal performance on Sporting Lisbon. Although Bayern didn't keep a clean sheet, they did score the biggest margin ever, advancing on a 12-1 aggregate over the Portuguese side. Yes you read that right a 12-1 aggregate score over the two games. Lukas Podolski grabbed a brace, Bayern were gifted an own goal and four other Bayern players grabbed a goal. Even without stars Franck Ribery and Luca Toni, Bayern still went with a largely A-team starting line-up.

All told, in the first round first leg, the eight teams scored a grand total of nine goals. In the second leg, the goal scoring tally was 19 goals tonight. 19!!! That is scoring. Will it continue tomorrow night? I certainly hope so.

Vancouver next MLS city?

That's the rumor.

Vancouver has had a professional team for quite sometime, dating back into the old NASL days. Assuming this is true, this would be the second USL-1 to make the jump to the MLS.

If Portland gets their bid in this round (which I would hate to see since I want to see a club in St. Louis), that would make three USL-1 teams making the jump. If three teams have done it, why on earth don't we consider a promotion relegation system? Why is it only one way?

A Look at the FIFA 6+5 Rule

From an Arsenel Fan?Yeah, seriously.
Let me just nail my colours to the mast, I’m an Arsenal fan who is for the 6+5 rule, a paradox I hear you cackle. I’m a football purist and I believe that the essence of club football is that clubs are agents of the communities they take the name of, and that they should represent these communities to the fullest.

As an Arsenal fan, I and many of my Gooner mates love the likes of Fabregas and van Persie to bits, but if either of them were a Londoner and to a slightly lesser extent English, there is no doubt in my mind we would love them a billion times more. Just look at the love for Theo Walcott and Jack Wilshere. I am in no doubt this would be the same for fans up and down the country, and across the globe. For me it is all down to identification, and that is what the modern fan is losing. Clubs aren’t representative of them anymore and are more akin to American franchises, stock piled full of the best “here-today-gone-tomorrow” talent.

This is all why I hope that the 6+5 rule allied to the locally trained players rule goes through. Imagine every team with 5 world class foreigners, allied with 6 local lads battling for the cause. Obviously a slightly exaggerated, romantic and unlikely example, but you get the gist.
Interesting, outside of Europe's top leagues (which is really what FIFA is talking about) the 6+5 rule would not really impact most leagues, which are largely dependent upon native players. Indeed, in MLS, clubs have only a limited number of foreign player spots.

I think the impact of the rule, intended to develop local players and native players, will be to actually diminish the commercial quality of soccer on an international level. But it will have its greatest impact on places like Africa and Asia where high quality players head to Europe and make an impact and draw attention to their nation's footballing skill. But by denying the number of European spots available to world class players from say Africa and Asia, these players don't benefit from playing at a higher level and as a result their national teams and national programs will suffer.

For South Americans, particularly, Brazil, the effect will be the opposite. Brazil exports thousands of players every year, but with restrictions on the number of foreign players, the market for Brazilians will dry up. That means only the very best, top talents from Brazil will get exported, meaning that other quality players will play in the Brazilian leagues and improve the quality of that league, which quite frankly can help that nation's football league.

While I applaud the effort to develop home grown talent for clubs, I think this is a solution in search of a problem.

UEFA Champions League Matches

This week is the second leg of the UEFA Champions League Round of 16. There are four matches today and four tomorrow and I am hoping that we will get some better games than the boredom we suffered through two weeks ago.

Today's matches:

Liverpool hosts Real Madrid. Liverpool always sets up well for Champions Leage and carrying a 1-0 win at the Bernabeu with the surprising win two weeks ago, I would expect that Liverpool will set up to protect the win. A quick goal by Real Madrid should open the game up. The intersting undercurrent is that Liverpool manager Rafa Benitez is rumored to be on teh short list for the manager position at Real Madrid. If Liverpool wins today, he may actually start packing his bags. If Liverpool loses, all those contracts he rejected recently will come back to haunt him. Liverpool will not have Yossie Benayoun who was injured in training and may be with Fernando Torres as well. Steven Gerrard should be back.

Liverpool will be tough at Anfield, like they always are on European nights. A score draw is likely, 1-1 tonight with Liverpool advancing 2-1 on aggregate.

Juventus hosts Chelsea. Chelsea grabbed a goal two weeks ago to carry a 1-0 win into Turin tonight. Chelsea have enjoyed a resurgence under Guus Hiddinck, not having lost a game and grinding out results. Juventus, on the other hand have been a real up and down team even thought they sit second in Serie A. Juventus is tough at home. This is the one match that I can really see going to extra time. Juventus needs the one goal and I think they can get it. Tonight I would see a 1-0 to Juventus in regular time and Chelsea nicking in extra time to advance 2-1 on aggregate.

Bayern Munich hosts Sporting Lisbon. Bayern put a spanking on Sporting two weeks ago and carry a massive 5-0 lead on aggregate. The only way Sporting could advance is if they score six goals tonight at Allianz Arena. Yeah, even with Bayern likely to be putting a largely B team on the pitch tonight, I don't see Sporting grabbing this win.

Panathinaikos hosts Villareal. This tie was one of my surprise matches from the first leg. I didn't expect the Greeks to grab a goal in Villareal, but they did and the tie goes back to Athens at a 1-1 on aggregate. The Greeks have historically been very tough at home and I think they hold the advantage in this tie. Villareal's form has been a real up and down this season and I am not sure how they will operate tonight. I think Panathinaikos will take this tie with a 2-1 win tonight to advance 3-2 on aggregate.

Should be lots of good play tonight with some teams needing to chase to win.

MLS Almost Back

Here is the commercial for MLS First Kick.

I am hoping to get a season preview post done in the next week or so.

Monday, March 09, 2009

CONCACAF Gold Cup Venues

July 8th may find me at RFK stadium in DC, depending on who is playing.

16 arrested in fight at nonviolence concert


Maryland Delegate Pat McDonough Calls Obama Porkulus "Trillion Dollar Trick or Treat"

In this post at Inside Charm City.
President Obama unfortunately has managed to impose his so-called “Stimulus Package” upon the American people. In reality, this massive spending program is designed to bail out deficit-ridden state governments and hopefully provide re-election guarantees to politicians like Governor Martin O’Malley. This pork-laden part of the Obama initiative should be characterized as a “treat” for state politicians, but not the taxpayers.

Maryland was clearly on a path toward spending restraint and sensible fiscal management. The spendaholics in Annapolis were beginning to show signs of addiction recovery. The real reason for their change of heart was the indisputable fact that tax revenues were “in the tank.” Although it was the equivalent of attempting to force feed raw meat to vegetarians, the spendaholics were compelled to change their ways.

At the beginning of January, the Governor glumly announced he was underfunding education by 69 million dollars. Strangely, he made this dire announcement with a big smile. This smile baffled me and others. Then, in February, President Obama masquerading as Santa Claus, raided our grandchildren’s piggy banks and dumped more than 3 billion dollars into O’Malley’s budget crisis. The reason for the smile had been revealed.

Now, Maryland spendaholics are back in business filling every special interests’ wish, ignoring serious financial problems, and insuring their re-election bids.

The politicians received the treat and the people received the trick.
McDonough calls the Obama stimulus money "street cash" for the Democratically controlled General Assembly. He is right, the money will go to ensure re-election, but not long-term health for the state.

Education on the Increase

It is a interesting tidbit that when the economy hits the skids, enrollments at colleges (particularly now online colleges) tends to go up. Well, workers looking for a bachelor's or a master's degree aren't the only people seeking more education, high school drop-outs are also returning in big numbers as well. That is good news all around.

Montgomery County Priorities--Not Good, Unless you Own a Horse

the last time I checked, the state of Maryland was facing something like a $2 billion budget shortfall (although I haven't heard how much money we are punishing our children for with Obama Handout money). Montgomery County Maryland has its own better than half a billion dollar shortfall (estimated to be $520 million and maybe growing), so you would think that the Montgomery County Politburo Council, would be looking long and hard at spending priorities. Well, apparently they areby dropping $700,000 for an equestrian center in upper Montgomery County.
The state has already spent nearly $700,000 to build the Woodstock Equestrian Center near Beallsville.

Now the county is planning to add more funds. This coming Tuesday (March 10), the County Council will seek approval to add funding for the project. The County Planning Board has requested a special appropriation of an additional $750,000 to pay for an outdoor riding ring, terraced seating, a storage area for jumps and maintenance equipment. A “special appropriation” means they can appropriate this with reduced oversight and procedure. Why? Because, as the funding request notes, “The County Council declares that this action is necessary to act without delay in the public interest.”

Whenever you hear someone citing “the public interest”, it’s time to reach for your wallet. What’s the “public interest” here? The county cites “recreational opportunities”. Recreation — for whom? We’re not talking about playground basketball here. Riding horses is an expensive hobby, undertaken by folks with a lot of disposable income. Those who benefit from the center should be paying for it – not the taxpayers. But this is a typical MoCo ploy; taking money from taxpayers to subsidize the leisure of the rich.
I really question the mindset of a county council who thinks this is a spending priority. I know that you can't cut all parks and recreation spending, but seriously, how many people is this going to serve?

For that kind of money, you can maintain a lot of parkland that already exists or pools or basketball courts, tennis courts or dozens of other facilities that are used by more than a handful of people.

Eduardo’s Brilliant Goal

Arsenel's Eduardo seems to be well on his way to a great recovery after a horrific injury from last year. He as two goals in three games and this one is just brilliant.

With Eduardo back, Theo Wolcott back and Cesc Fabregas soon to be back, Arsenel could still nick the fourth Champion's League spot from Aston Villa.

Going to be a fun couple of months.

Sunday, March 08, 2009

MLS Salaries

The 2009 MLS Salary list (preliminary at least) is out (Ives Galarcep and others have the link). Once again there is a massive discrepancy between the bottom and the top.

I was listening to the World Soccer Daily Podcast and they had Sean Wheelock on as a guest and one of the things Wheelock talked about was the salary structure. He noted that in the NFL (a league with a hard salary cap like MLS), there was not only a salary cap, but a real salary floor, one with a minimum salary that guaranteed a decent wage.

There are still too many player making part time salaries for a full time job. Until MLS can address the minimum salary, the quality of the football will suffer.

Friday, March 06, 2009

Is Health Care a Right?

Back in one of my earliest political science classes, the instructor (the inesimable Diane Harvey now at George Mason) asked what is the difference between a civil right and a civil liberty?

The answer is the role of the government in the freedom in question. A civil right is something that the govnerment guarantees--like the right to vote for those who are eligible. A civil liberty is the ability to do something free of governmental inference, like traveling.

Mike Rappaport as the question of whether Health Care is a right.

If you listen to the Obama Adminsitration and the Congressional Democrats (and more than a few Americans), you would think that high quality health care is a right. But as Rappaport points out,
As a matter of political theory, that may be a useful question, but as a matter of politics, the better question is, how can we make as much high quality health care available as possible at a reasonable cost?

But let's assume it is helpful to talk about health care being a right. So aren't Canada and England depriving their citicizens of rights when they force them to get on 6 month waiting lists for medical procedures?
That is a question we have to wrestle with in this country. If we view health care as a civil right, how can we square the notion that with governmental determination and formulation of health care as a right that the government itself may be the one inhibiting the right to receive high quality health care.

A little political Chuckle

Courtesty of the lads at Power Line

Man, that was UGLY with a double underscored, big U

Last night at 11:00pm I was watching teh Montreal-Santos Laguna CONCACAF Quarterfinal. I was rooting for the Impact and at half-time they looked almost like sure winners. They came into the match with a 2-0 aggregate leader. The Impact had conceded one goal but scored twice in the first half to lead 4-1 on aggregate with two critical away goals. Looking good right--

Then came the collapse and it was a monumental collapse, one for the record books really. I can't even come up with a comparison in soccer. For baseball fans, it would be like the Yankees being 8 runs ahead with one out in the bottom of the ninth and then getting shellacked.

Santos Laguna scored four goals in the final half, including two in stoppage time to cap an extraordinary come back. The second half looked like a finishing exercise for Santoa, seriously, the number of crosses, shots and attempts made it look as though Montreal were a U12 teams playing against a bunch of in form pros (which Santos were). Montreal were walking, they looked like zombies for most of the second half. Gone was the exciting counterattacks, the zippy passing and teh slashing runs that had Santos on their heels in Montreal and keeping Montreal competitiv last night. Instead, Montreal bunkered and they couldn't handle the 9 man attack that Santos was pushing.

Furthermore, in the final mintues Montreal had the chances to take the ball and run to a corner and hold it, killing off teh clock, but didn't take them.

To be honest, when Santos scored their third goal, I thought Montreal were beaten last night. Their heads were hanging, hands were on their hips and they were sucking wind. At that point, Santos's only opponent was the clock, would they have enought time to score two more. The last goal for Santos was practially handed to them on a platter and the dismal penalty area defending doomed Montreal.

Now, only Puerto Rico remains of USL teams and as much as I hope they beat Cruz Azul to make it to the finals, but I fear an all Mexican final.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Houston (and MLS) out of CONCACAF Champion's League

Last night Houston traveled to Cancun to face Atalante in the second leg of the CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinals. They looked like crap.

Goff and the commenters wondered what the deal with MLS's poor performance in the competition. Why is the USL Team's of Montreal and Puerto Rico succeeding and MLS clubs (allegedly a better league) are not?

First, let me say that with respect to Houston, I think they are something of a shadow of their former selves even last year. With the departure of their midfield general Dwayne DeRosario, Houston has been looking for the general who can put the team on their back and carry them and quite frankly they have played enough games to find that guy. I think Dominic Kinnear is hoping that Rico Clark and/or Stuart Holden will grow into that role, but they are young and not likely to make that advancement at this stage in the year. Houston was also without Bobby Boswell and Eddie Robinson, two of their leading defenders.

Second, I think Montreal and Puero Rico are much better defending teams than any MLS club that was in the competition this year. The result is that their organizatio on defense gives them the opportunity to hold a clean sheet longer and then counter attack. It is not pretty football, I admit, but take a look at Liverpool in the UEFA Champions League. They play a very negative style of football, but it serves them well in two legged affairs. Montreal and Puerto Rico also have played that way, which means that if they never concede a goal, the worst that is going to happen to them is that they will draw. In these types of competition, the goal is to advance, not necessarily play the best, most attractive style of football.

Third, I think that MLS as a league and the teams individually, have taken the mindset that it is more important to get into the competition that it is to do well in the competition. The reason is that getting into the competition means that you get some money (not much) but you also get the headache of playing in another competition. The fact that the same teams in teh Champions league were the same teams that were in Superliga last year meant a lot of fixture congestion. So, they got in and more or less tanked the competition. I would be interested to see how the teams react this year when the teams that are in the Champions League will not be involved in Superliga.

Fourth, MLS needs to address how teams that are successful are punished for their success. I would like to see MLS give two or three additional roster spots for teams that make it to Champions league and a bump in the salary cap to get a fighting chance.

Finally, I don't buy the "it's preseason for us." Teams know the competition is coming and can begin training earlier. The USL teams, Puerto Rico and Montreal are also in preseason (and can you imaging preseason training in Montreal in January and February?

Tragedy in Pakistan

Thanks to Chris Courtney of Letters From Vagabondia for bringing this story to light.
Sri Lankan are crazy about volleyball but their national cricket team is widely followed, having developed itself into a global power, winning the 1996 World Cup and winning the Asian Cup in 1996 and 2004. The island nation of 20 million has had its share of troubles in dealing with an ongoing insurgency and being hit hard by the 2004 tsunami but when the Lions take the field, they always have something to cheer for.

Today, on their way into the stadium in Lahore, Pakistan, the team bus was ambushed for a sustained 30 minutes in an attack which killed five policemen and injured eight Sri Lankan national team players, coaches, and an umpire. To put yourself into a Sri Lankan sports fan's shoes, this was like having the American national basketball, soccer and baseball teams attacked and injured while on their way to a match abroad against a top opponent.
I admit, I barely know anything about cricket and don't pretend that I do. But, there is no call for this kind of behavior anywhere in the world.

Yes, sports are supposed to "transcend" political disputes, but we know they don't. If you want protest at a sporting event, fine, but let the athletes move about in peace and security.

I join Chris in saluting the Pakistani policemen who died defending a sports team from another country--their actions go above and beyond the call.

My condolences to everyone injured and the families of those slain by these terrorists.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Obama Notices the Stock Market

Finally. With the stock market crashing like a six year old coming off a sugar high, it seems the President Obama has finally taken heed of the stock market.

To the extent that the market decline is a function of a lack of confidence, this might help. But the problem is that with a four thousand point decline from its high, and an over 2000 point decline since his election, the damage has already been done.

The Obama economic policy announcments have no fomented a feeling of confidence in the investing class and has lead to the greatest destruction of wealth ever (even greater than the Great Depression). While I wouldn't call what we are in a depression (I really want to make that clear), I think it has been long past time for the Obama Administration to take a good long hard look at teh correlation between their policy announcements and the stock market tanking.

Parent Teacher Conference Days

I have a beef and a question to ask of all the teachers out there regarding Parent Teacher Conference days.

In my home county of Frederick County Maryland, there are several days each year set aside for teachers to conduct parent teacher conferences. In the fall, because teachers meet with the parents of all kids, there are three days in a row in which there are half days, i.e. the students go in four hours late or leave three and a half hours early. In the spring, there are two days since the teachers don't meet with every child's parents. (I should note that the teachers my daughter has had are very reliable with email and are willing to meet if necessary).

The downside to these availabilities is that, of course, it messes with my schedule on a supreme level. I, of course, make time to meet with the teacher. But I also have to make arrangements for the care of my daughter on those other days when she goes in late or leaves early. That is hugely disruptive to my schedule and I am sure the schedules of every other parent. For example, one day students will go is four hours late. The next day, they will get dismissed three hours early.

So here is my question, why break the days up? Why do we have to disrupt two or three school days by late arrival or early dismissal when a whole day can be set aside for conferences and not disrupt multiple days for students and their parents. It is far easier to find care for my daughter for one full day off than two half days with different time frames.

I remember from my school day (oh so many years ago), I don't recall getting out early or going in late for parent teacher conferences. Back then teachers had full teacher planning days, where I assume planning, parent conferences and professional development took place. (I have to assume since when I was a kid, I just looked at the day off as a day off.) So when and why did it change. At least in Frederick County, teachers have professional development days separate from teacher work session days and separate from parent conference days. It seems incredibly inefficient.

I would love to see and explation for this structure.

Senate Votes for Earmarks

Not that I am surprised at the result, but an estimated $32 billion in earmarks remain in the an omnibus appropriations bill. The bill, estimated at some $490 billion in spending comes on the heels of the roughly $800 billion "economic stimulus" bill passed recently and the $745 billion TARP bill and what ever other money has been spent willy-nilly.

I expect more Tea Parties and a groundswell of opposition and not just from conservatives. I think middle America is going to start screaming (in pain or terror) of the spending coming out of Washington.

Now, what will President Obama do? Will he veto the earmark laden bill? Probably not. After all, agenda is more important than fiscal discipline.

Class Sizes and Quality Teachers

Joanne Jacobs riffs on a Jay Mathews column, which indicates that smaller class sizes works on a targeted basis, i.e. for kids learning to read in say K-3 or for poor students who are behind for whatever reason. Jacobs notes:
However, when California reduced K-3 classes to 20 students, teacher quality declined, especially at schools serving low-income, minority students. That wiped out any benefits. A research consortium “found no relationship between statewide student achievement and statewide participation in class size reduction.” To keep classes small, schools are cutting funds for libraries, after-school programs and teacher training.(link in original omitted)
Quite some time ago, I made the argument that smaller class sizes actually defeats the purpose of having the highest quality teachers and paying them a salary they are worth. There is another obstacle to reducing class sizes that almost never gets talked about--classroom space. As I said over two years ago:
The most finite resource in any school system is not teachers, or money, and certainly not students. No classroom space is the single most precious commodity. Simply hiring teachers without expanding classroom space will strain the space resources of any school.

For example, let us assume a school in growing Frederick county has 850 students (which is pretty close to the average size in Frederick) and a student teacher ratio of 16:1 (which is the Frederick average), this means that there are 56 or 57 teachers in the school. Assuming that each teacher has his/her own classroom in which to work, there must be 56 or 57 classrooms. Let us assume again, for the sake of argument that the school has 60 spaces available for classrooms. When the new 10 percent of teachers is hired, you will be getting 6 new teachers, but there are only at best 3 available classrooms. Where will you put the other three teachers?
Simply reducing class sizes, in addition to the downward pressure on pay and teacher quality, strains the physical as well as monetary resources of a school system.

It is far better to have quality teachers than simply quantity.

Rep. Heath Shuler (D-NC)

The man stank up the Washington Region as the quarterback for the Washington Redskins. But when he tops the Nancy Pelosi Doghouse list before even Rush Limbaugh, he must be doing something right in my book.

The Virtue of Making $249,000 as opposed to $251,000

Instapundit has a lot of links to various stories.

Recently, my wife and I were talking about the Obama policies and I noted that the Obama Budget calls for reducations in the mortgage interest deduction, the charitable giving deduction and other matters that would affect (at least initially), those making $250,000 or more.

I jokingly told her that we can never make more than $249,000 while the Obama plan is in place (not that we are in any danger of being there anytime soon). But I am not the only one making that calculus:
Can you say “going John Galt?” Upper-Income Taxpayers Look for Ways to Sidestep Obama Tax-Hike Plan. “A 63-year-old attorney based in Lafayette, La., who asked not to be named, told ABCNews.com that she plans to cut back on her business to get her annual income under the quarter million mark should the Obama tax plan be passed by Congress and become law. So far, Obama’s tax plan is being looked at skeptically by both Democrats and Republicans and therefore may not pass at all.”

But wait, there’s more:

Dr. Sharon Poczatek, who runs her own dental practice in Boulder, Colo., said that she too is trying to figure out ways to get out of paying the taxes proposed in Obama’s plan.

“I’ve put thought into how to get under $250,000,” said Poczatek. “It would mean working fewer days which means having fewer employees, seeing fewer patients and taking time off.”

“Generally it means being less productive,” she said.

“The motivation for a lot of people like me – dentists, entrepreneurs, lawyers – is that the more you work the more money you make,” said Poczatek. “But if I’m going to be working just to give it back to the government — it’s de-motivating and demoralizing.”

Via Doug Bandow, who comments: “Now that’s going to help us get out of the recession! Punish hard-working professionals and convince them to cut back services for the rest of us. Great thinking Mr. President. Or, to paraphrase George W. Bush: Heck of a job, Barack!”
Links in original omitted.

Seriously, Mr. Obama's plan is killing the impetus to be successful. People who make $250,000 or more know they are getting taxed more in terms of straight dollars and they accept that as a price for their success. However, the interesting phenomenon here is that Mr. Obama is changing the rules for those who make good money and contribute to government coffers. Thus, the perverse incentive to force people to make less than $250,000. The dentist's comments above should be a warning sign to everyone. I wouldn't be surprised if those people that aren't hired or fired because a business owner is looking to get under the $250,000 cap end up on the government payroll or worse, the government dole.

Why is Mr. Obama punishing the very people who drive the economy?

Fannie and Freddie Likely to Stay in U.S. Hands - NYTimes.com

I am not surprised. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac will likely stay as taxpayer owned entities.
Despite assurances that the takeover of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac would be temporary, the giant mortgage companies will most likely never fully return to private hands, lawmakers and company executives are beginning to quietly acknowledge.

The possibility that these companies — which together touch over half of all mortgages in the United States — could remain under tight government control is shaping the broader debate over the future of the financial industry. The worry is that if the government cannot or will not extricate itself from Fannie and Freddie, it will face similar problems should it eventually nationalize some large banks.
At least one can make an argument that nationalizing entities that were previously government owned entities is one thing, but given that taxpayer ownership of financial firms is becoming the norm rather than the exception, I am just not that surprised.

For all those people arguing that we should nationalize some or all the banks, keep this little bit of news in your head. Once in, it is going to be hard to get out.

Monday, March 02, 2009

Aston Villa Blow Massive Opportunity

After going two goals up with about 15 minutes left to play, Aston Villa took their foot off the gas and allowed Stoke City (Stoke) to score two goals in the final three minutes of play to steal a point at Villa Park.

On Saturday Fulham and Arsenel drew 0-0 and that gave Arsenel 46 points in the league with 11 games remaining in the league. On Sunday, Aston Villa started the day with 51 points. A win would have given Villa an 8 point lead with 11 games to go. Eight points is not an insurmountable lead, but it is tough to make up that many points in 11 games. But by choking (and it is a huge choke), Villa now have a two win lead over Arsenel.

Villa could come back to rue this particular game.

Sunday, March 01, 2009

A Pentagon Memorial Slideshow


I just got a question from my seven year old daughter about what I was watching. My wife was still pregnant with her when 9-11 happened. It seems so strange that it was so long ago. Even today, it is hard for me to describe what happened that day and why.