Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Is It Time for Youth Transfer Fees in the MLS?

L.E. Eisenmenger makes the case at Soccerlens in a wonderful piece that should be read. Eisenmenger writes:
US soccer has progressed to the level where like the rest of the world, MLS clubs should considering paying modest youth transfer fees to local clubs that develop the young players they select for their U16 and U18 academy teams.

Reimbursement in the form of scholarships would encourage local clubs to develop complete players instead of focusing on wins and also to invest in low-income players, further improving the vision of youth player development in the US. Ultimately, it could help turn out a better selection of youth products and somewhat limit MLS clubs’ need to invest in their own youth programs.
I couldn't agree more.

As a referee, I spend a fair amount of time looking at promising young players in the U13 to U16 range. But I also see a fair number of good players on high school teams that I don't see on premier level youth teams around my home. The reason is that top level teams can cost as much as $1,000 or more per year for a player to play and that kind of cash is hard to come by for poor youth players.

The biggest problem facing American soccer as I see it is the pay to play system which discourages talented young players, usually minorities, from playing at the highest levels because they can't afford the fees. But if MLS teams and USL-1 and USL-2 teams implement a youth academy, particularly residential academies similar to the top clubs in Europe and to a lesser extent South America, then they should be required to pay a fee to the local youth clubs that produced that player. I am not talking a six figure fee, or even a high five figure fee, but a modest fee of even a few thousand dollars will go a long way to getting more scholarships to these premier level clubs so that they can recruit, train and develop young players who, for whatever reason, can't afford the pay to play system.

Now don't get me wrong, I don't want to turn these youth clubs into a big business of just being suppliers of players with no concern as to the player's development or happiness. But for youth clubs that consistently pass good players onto to top colleges and even professional ranks, they should be rewarded by the professional clubs that pick these players and the transfer fee should be going to fund scholarships for poorer kids and higher trainers and fitness coaches for everyone, as well as coaches for each team.

Read more:

On MLS Referees and Referees in General

Ives Galarcep had a post last week discussing MLS referees. I love Ives' blog because he does ask some of the hard questions and solicits responses from readers. My own comment was this:
For all the ref haters out there, how many matches of any level have you refereed? Refereeing games is hard and it gets harder the higher the level you get. In general I referee five to eight games a week between high school matches and premier level youth matches. The speed of play and the physicality of MLS games makes the game hard to call, full stop.

Remember, most of the "controversial" calls get reviewed over and over and over again on slo-mo, replay and post-game analysis. A referee has about, at best, 2 seconds to make a decision. In that time, they have to replay the incident in their head, decide if the action is a violation of the laws of the game, who violated the law, which law was violated, and then lift and blow the whistle. It is not as easy as the arm chair warriors would have you think. For the arm chair refs out there, go to your local park and watch, in real time, a game at the U15 premier level, a game in which you have no personal stake and see if you can make the right call even half the time.

Now after that game is done, imagine the players 8 to ten year older, faster, stronger, and the years and professional experience that have accumulated. Do you think you can still do it?

It takes years to develop referees, just like it takes years to develop players. In order for a referee to become a national level referee, they have to pass the laws test, referees several hundred games at the U-19 or higher and that takes time, usually a few years at best, in order to get the game experience necessary to be a national level referee. You can't simply start a whole host of referees and hope to develop them in a couple or three years--it can take five, seven or even 10 years. Also, keep in mind that referees, although they are well paid, most have a regular day job as well.

I do belive, however, that USSF, which overseas the MLS officials, has not made the job of the referees easier this year. At the start of each year, USSF issues various position papers and directives, usually with a mind to encourage attacking soccer. But the dichotomy is that while the directives encourage attacking soccer, they run counter to the referee's responsibility to keep the players safe.
A fair number of the comments talk about inconsistency of the refereeing in a game, but almost always with the notion that the referee is either a) biased, b) rubbish or c) outright corrupt.

As a soccer referee myself, I generally take offense to the notion, expressed by many, many fans of the game, that the referee's are biased in favor of one team or another. Accusations of corruption without any shred of proof other than a call against your team simply make my blood boil. So let me tell everyone out there a little secret:

Referees could give a toss about which team wins or losses--we really don't care. I will let you in on another little secret, a lot of referees hope for a really dull game; a clean, foul-less blowout or tie game. We really don't want to make a lot of calls, we really don't want to court controversy, we really don't want to issue yellow or red cards and really, really, really don't want any player to get hurt. By we, I believe I can speak for every referee in America and probably the world. I want my post-game report to be simply the date of the game, time of the game, level of the game and score of hte game. The less I have to write the happier I am.

Now having said that, I take my responsibilities as a referee very seriously. As a generally youth and high school referee, my absolute first priority is the safety of the players. If a player is endangering the other players, I have absolutely no conscience about issuing a card, it causes me absolutely no concern or pain. I will then write up the situation in the driest, most fact based manner I can.

But as my comment above suggested I think the USSF has done a disservice to the upper levels of the game, particularly at the USL-2, USL-1 and MLS levels in this country. In the quest for attacking soccer, the USSF has burdened referees with a task that they should not have to shoulder--namely the promotion of attacking soccer.

Some of the rules changes and interpretations I can live with. For example, when I first started refereeing oh so many years ago, if a player was even with the last defender, he was offside. Now, even with the last defender is onside. That is a reasonable rule change that tends to promote attacking soccer without burdening the referee. Rules changes and rules interpretations are one thing, if they can, in and of themselves "promote" attacking soccer. But some of the recent decisions and directives complicate matters for referees, which leads to inconsistent application and thus inconsistent refereeing.

For example, the USSF places great emphasis on "risk taking" for referees. What does that mean? What I might consider a "risk" is not something someone else would call a risk but rather a danger. The USSF wants referees to hold off on calling a lot of ticky/takcy fouls, little fouls in the middle of the field in order to keep the game flowing. However, allowing some behavior to occur unchecked often leads to escalating behavior that could be a 100 percent misconduct or in fan terms, a yellow card, because the players become impassioned and to a certain extent emboldened by the lack of calls that slow things down, allows players to catch a breath and stop and think a little.

So from my perspective, not tightening up the game in the middle of the pitch by calling some of these small fouls that don't necessarily lead to a goal scoring opportunity on a free kick is a pretty big risk, a risk of losing control of the game and an increased risk of players getting hurt.

The way I see my role as a referee, I have two primary missions:

1. Ensure the safety of the players. The only change in a players condition I want to see is sweat and being a little out of breath. I don't want to see any players get hurt. It doesn't matter if I am refereeing 8 year olds or 18 year olds or adults, everyone needs to go home safely.

2. Enforce the laws of the game. My task is to do this as fairly and as accurately as possible. Attacking soccer cannot happen if the players are breaking the rules, even if it is an inadvertent foul.

That is it, just two primary tasks and that occupies probably 98 percent of my time on the pitch.

Attacking soccer is the responsibility of the coaches and players. If a team wants to put nine or ten men behind the ball, nothing I can do as a referee is going to change that and I shouldn't try to. If the fans want attacking soccer they should push the players and coaches to provide it; the USSF should not task the referees with that responsibility.

Soccer By Ives: Monday Morning Centerback: On MLS referees

Not your Usual Cover Band

I am not a big fan of System of a Down, but this cover is a bit unusual.

School district could backpedal on policy -- Page 1 -- Times Union - Albany NY:2997:

This just seems odd that a school district would have a policy against walking or biking to school.

At a time when health experts all over the country are telling us that our children don't get enough exercise, to have a policy that says a student of appropriate age can't ride their bike to school is patently stupid. The boy in this story is 12 and rides with his mother on days when the weather is cooperative. I will admit that it is probably not a good idea to be riding your bike to school in the rain or in the snow (this story takes place in Albany, NY area), but when the weather is not too extreme then the 8 miles this boys bikes is probably ten times healthier for him than anything he will do in school.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Howard Kurtz on Roman Polanski

If Polanski was an ordinary Roman, and not an award-winning film director, we wouldn't be having this debate. There is sympathy for him because he's considered a great artiste. The Hollywood elite wouldn't give Polanski the plumber the time of day if he had sexually assaulted an underage girl. And that suggests to me a stunning double standard.
Of course if Roman Polanski were a plumber he probably would not have been offered the kind of plea bargain he made and skipped out on. Additionally, it is highly unlikely that his 30 year European sojourn would have been allowed to have happened for 30 days by the authorities in Europe. If Roman Polanski were a plumber, he would have been found, arrested, extradited and put on a plane within 30 days.

Kurtz is right, it is a double standard and it is wrong.

Students Save Law Prof's Life

Good, but do they get an A in the Class for being compassionate?

Whoopie Goldberg: Polanski’s Child Victim Wasn’t Raped

Whoopie Goldberg said it, but let me compare my sources:

The State of California brought a statutory rape case and Polanski copped a plea bargain.

Whoopi Goldberg, who wasn't even there says nope no statutory rape.

Hmm, the more credible source is what?

Monday, September 28, 2009

Time for Obama to Own It

Howard Fineman makes the case that the time has come for Barack Obama to own the Presidency and his Administration, a matter that he has not done:
If ubiquity were the measure of a presidency, Barack Obama would already be grinning at us from Mount Rushmore. But of course it is not. Despite his many words and television appearances, our elegant and eloquent president remains more an emblem of change than an agent of it. He's a man with an endless, worthy to-do list—health care, climate change, bank reform, global capital regulation, AfPak, the Middle East, you name it—but, as yet, no boxes checked "done." This is a problem that style will not fix. Unless Obama learns to rely less on charm, rhetoric, and good intentions and more on picking his spots and winning in political combat, he's not going to be reelected, let alone enshrined in South Dakota.

The president's problem isn't that he is too visible; it's the lack of content in what he says when he keeps showing up on the tube. Obama can seem a mite too impressed with his own aura, as if his presence on the stage is the Answer. There is, at times, a self-referential (even self-reverential) tone in his big speeches. They are heavily salted with the words "I" and "my." (He used the former 11 times in the first few paragraphs of his address to the U.N. last week.) Obama is a historic figure, but that is the beginning, not the end, of the story.

There is only so much political mileage that can still be had by his reminding the world that he is not George W. Bush. It was the winning theme of the 2008 campaign, but that race ended nearly a year ago. The ex-president is now more ex than ever, yet the current president, who vowed to look forward, is still reaching back to Bush as bogeyman.
In a little over a month, Barack Obama will celebrate the anniversary of his election and absolutely nothing substantive has been done in his Presidency other than a rather lengthy "blame Bush" game. The problem is that no one outside of Washington is really playing "Blame Bush" any more. The voting electorate knows that Bush isn't the President and hasn't been involved in the political debate in almost a year.

So the Fineman is right on teh money, Barack Obama can no longer duck his responsibility and ownership of the helm of the Great Ship of the United States. His watch, by pretty much every measure other than television appearances, is an abject failure. He has failed to capitalize on the multitude of crises facing the country pursuant to Rahm Emanuel's belief about not wasting crises. His centerpieces of policy--cap and trade, health care, economic recovery, and so forther are abject failures. Furthermore, Obama can't blame a contrary Congress, as I said, Democrats overwhelmingly control both chambers. Obama can't blame the courts, for they have not been in a position to rule on Obama initiatives because none have become law.

Fineman's advice and mine as well, were I disposed to helping Obama, would be to focus all his excess energy on one policy goal.
The model is a man whose political effectiveness Obama repeatedly says he admires: Ronald Reagan. There was never doubt about what he wanted. The Gipper made his simple, dramatic tax cuts the centerpiece not only of his campaign but also of the entire first year of his presidency.

Obama seems to think he'll get credit for the breathtaking scope of his ambition. But unless he sees results, it will have the opposite effect—diluting his clout, exhausting his allies, and emboldening his enemies.
The problem Obama faces on this score is something very un-Reagan like. Obama and the Congressional Democrats want a grand, perfect solution right now. Reagan was the master of asking for the big deal and compromising for a smaller deal in order to move the goalpost forward. Obama wants perfection, Reagan was happy for good enough.

Realism is something that has escaped the Obama Administration and if they don't start embracing realism, the reality of their failure will come to fruition in 2012.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Honor, Humility and Sportsmanship

Stories like this one always make me feel proud and hopeful for the future.
Thamail Morgan took the kickoff and headed up the field.

He was at the 20 ... 30 ... 40

He had been avoiding, dodging or just simply running through tacklers on the way. Football always had come easily for Morgan. This game was no different. By the time he hit midfield, only open space was ahead of him. The two-time Arkansas all-state selection was headed for a touchdown.

40 ... 30 ... 20

He glanced at the clock and saw the final seconds ticking away. He realized his team, Cave City, was on the way to a victory over Yellville-Summit, comfortably ahead, 34-16. He also realized two other things: This wasn't an ordinary game. And he wasn't the same Thamail Morgan.

When he reached the 2, he stopped. He took a few steps back and took a knee at the 5-yard line.


"I did not tell him to kneel down, he did it on his own," Bradley said. "I did not expect them to kick it to him. I figured they would kick away, because he has the ability to break away. I did not know that he was going to do what he did. He broke tackles, ran sideline to sideline, and got to the 2, and just stopped. That is when he backed up and took a knee on the 5-yard line."

Morgan did not do this completely on his own.

"We were on the sidelines yelling for him not to score," Bradley said. "Some of the players on the field were saying it, too. But I'm not sure how much he could have heard all of it."

He heard it, Morgan admitted. But he didn't need to.

"Before the game, we as a team talked about being classy,'' he said. "We did not want to come out in a game like this and not show any class.

"As I was running, some of my teammates told me not to score, and I knew that scoring was not the right thing to do."

He was glad to be a part of what happened.

"I just want to thank my teammates for not only being classy all night, but pushing me to be classy as well,'' he said.

The gesture was well received.

"We weren't sure how gloomy they would be before the game,'' Morgan said. "They had gloom, but it was not as bad as we thought. We met before the game, and they told us that they did not want us to feel sorry for them, and they did not want us to back off just because of what happened. They wanted us to play them like we would have if Duffy has still been there with them, so we did.

"After the game, they complimented us, and even thanked us for the way that we played them. They are some really cool cats, and I wish them the best of luck with their healing process and the rest of their season. I hope they make the playoffs."
Morgan's team was playing a small rural Arkansas co-op team (a combination of two smaller schools who combine in order to field a football team) that had suffered the tragic loss of a player due to a car accident. This co-op team took the field as part of the healing process and Morgan's team clearly dominated the game, but rather than simply running up the score, Morgan's gesture is a symbol of class, of not kicking a team when they were down, recognizing that by simply taking the field in their circumstances is important enough.

Read the whole story, because Morgan's own story is interesting and this episode may actually rebuild Morgan's own damaged future.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Are We Witnessing the Implosion of ACORN?

I would say yes. The stories of their disregard for the law are becoming not only numerous, but legendary. To be fair I had never heard of ACORN until last year's election, although I am sure they have been around for a while.

ACORN is under investigation in at least half a dozen states for fraud related to voter registration.

ACORN is the subject of a shocking advice to pimp/prostitute tandem in not one, not two but three states.

ACORN is looking at tax liens from the IRS and Lousiana, for, you guessed it, not paying their taxes.

Now, even one of the most liberal states in nation, Maryland, is investigating ACORN.

Seriously, if two early twenties kids in ridiculous pimp wear can get dirt on ACORN, what do you think professional investigators are likely to find?

Monday, September 21, 2009

Obama open to newspaper bailout bill - The Hill's Blog Briefing Room

Really? Hey, I need a bailout. Can I get one? If were are going to give bailouts to newspapers now, what next?

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Not the Best Democratic Ad

This is not the best way to make your point:

To be honest, it is somewhat true that the concept of a "czar" has become more and more of a problem. Generally, of course, a president is free to appoint his own advisors. But the scope and power of the "czar" class of appointee is getting a bit obscene. Of course, Congress is partly to blame for giving the Executive branch a little too much control over specific policy areas, ceding to the President too much discretion over the dispostion of finances.

Dems in Trouble?

Charlie Cook, probably the best election analyst in America, notes that attitudes of Americans regarding the Democratic Congress create a problem for Democrats, which Cook summed up like this:
I am becoming convinced, based on this and other research, that although many independent voters are disappointed in specific things that Obama has done, they still hope that he will do well and believe that he might. To be sure, red America has already given Obama the thumbs down. And blue America just wishes he would be more liberal. But it's purple America, the independents who voted for Democrats in the 2006 midterm election by an 18-point margin, that makes the biggest difference right now. Most House Democrats live in blue America and show little awareness that their party has a problem. However, the Democrats' majority is built on a layer of 54 seats that the party picked up in 2006 and 2008 that are largely in purple -- or even red -- America. Democrats ought to keep in mind that 84 of their current House members represent districts won by President Bush in 2004 or John McCain in 2008.

A whopping 48 of those Democrats -- eight more than the size of their party's majority -- are from districts that voted for both Bush and McCain. That America is very different from the Democratic base in blue America, and it sees many major issues very differently.(emphasis added)
The manner in which Congress, or more accurately the House, has moved sharply left is no doubt leaving a bitter taste in the mouths of those purple-district residents.

I think Cook's assessment of independent voters is pretty accurate. Most people want the President to succeed. But I think that most Americans, particularly independent Americans don't like sudden and drastic change. There is little doubt that the Obama Administration's domestic agenda is a radical change from what has happened in the near and middle past. While the Bush Administration can hardly be considered a small government administration, some of the big government changes are a result of factors outside out control, specifically the reaction to 9/11.

But indepdendent voters are not stupid and they are clearly not happy with what their elected representatives are doing. The longer the domestic policy battles rage and the longer economic uncertainty reigns, the less likely that the Democrats are going to be in control come 2011. In the rosiest of circumstances, it is likely that the Democrats will not control the House by more than a 20 votes and more likely to be 15 or less. Senate Democrats are almost assured to not have a filibuster proof majority, although losing control of the Senate is not at all likely.

The Gender Card

The Obama Administration's blitz over the next few days to drum up support for their health plan that doesnt' really exist has taken a turn into the micro-targeting:
Michelle Obama said women are being “crushed by the current structure of our health care” because they often are responsible for taking care of family illnesses, arranging checkups and monitoring follow-up care.

“Women are the ones to do it,” she said to an audience of 140 people, including representatives from groups such as the Women’s Chamber of Commerce and the National Council of Negro Women. “Mothers are the ones that do it. And many women find themselves doing the same thing for their spouses.”

Women also are more disproportionately affected by the lack of insurance options because they are more likely to work part-time or at small businesses that don’t provide coverage.

“It’s not surprising that so many millions of women are simply going without insurance at all,” Obama said.
That last line simply cracks me up.

There is an acknowledged bloc of uninsured Americans, between 45 and 48 million depending on where you get your numbers. So statistically, between 22 and 24 million of those uninsured people must be female. So while the First Lady's statement is true, the way it is couched is to make it seem like women represent a disproportionate share of uninsured. So it is somewhat misleading.

The fact that this kind of semi-micro-targeting is necessary, it seems to smack of a bit of desperation by the Obama Administration.

The Individual Mandate Unconstitutional

David Rivkin and Lee Casey make the case in the Wall Street Journal that the individual mandate at the core of the health care reform bills is in fact unconstitutional.
As every civics class once taught, the federal government is a government of limited, enumerated powers, with the states retaining broad regulatory authority. As James Madison explained in the Federalist Papers: "[I]n the first place it is to be remembered that the general government is not to be charged with the whole power of making and administering laws. Its jurisdiction is limited to certain enumerated objects." Congress, in other words, cannot regulate simply because it sees a problem to be fixed. Federal law must be grounded in one of the specific grants of authority found in the Constitution.
Okay, so far so good, although the lesson of limited govenrment does seem to be lost on our current Congress and Administration, but to be fair I can't really blame them, they have power and they want to exercise that power, and their predecessors had steadily increased the power of the federal government despite the dictates of the Constitution.

The enumerated powers that Congress has regularly used to expand federal power has been the commerce power and the spending power. Generally the Courts have interpreted these powers pretty broadly, but as Rivkin and Casey point out, just because Congress says it affects interstate commerce doesn't actually mean that the action Congress has taken is Constitutional.

But the individual mandate is not being clothed as interstate commerce.
Of course, a health-care mandate would not regulate any "activity," such as employment or growing pot in the bathroom, at all. Simply being an American would trigger it.

Health-care backers understand this and—like Lewis Carroll's Red Queen insisting that some hills are valleys—have framed the mandate as a "tax" rather than a regulation. Under Sen. Max Baucus's (D., Mont.) most recent plan, people who do not maintain health insurance for themselves and their families would be forced to pay an "excise tax" of up to $1,500 per year—roughly comparable to the cost of insurance coverage under the new plan.

But Congress cannot so simply avoid the constitutional limits on its power. Taxation can favor one industry or course of action over another, but a "tax" that falls exclusively on anyone who is uninsured is a penalty beyond Congress's authority. If the rule were otherwise, Congress could evade all constitutional limits by "taxing" anyone who doesn't follow an order of any kind—whether to obtain health-care insurance, or to join a health club, or exercise regularly, or even eat your vegetables.
I think that Congress is indeed overreaching with an individual mandate and a challenge to the law is almost assured as soon as a real case can be raised under the law--should it pass.

While the Courts have generally been generous in interpreting the commerce and spending clauses, I don't think they will be as generous with the taxing power. Therein lies the problem. Congress is going to have to work very, very hard to try and put the individual mandate in to a commerce pigeon-hole rather than a tax pigeon-hole.

But to be fair, I don't think either the taxing or spending or commerce clauses are going to save the individual mandate.

It's Not About Race

So says David Brooks in a pretty good piece in the New York Times. Brooks says that the so called racism that many on the left, from Jimmy Carter to Jeanneane Garafolo, are accusing the right wing for harboring against President Obama is not racism at all but a schism that is just as deep seated in American history--the conflict between the "common man" and the "elite." Down at the Mall last weekend, Brooks came across the Tea Party protesters mingling with and purchasing food from the Black Family Reunion Celebration:
Several thousand people had gathered to celebrate African-American culture. I noticed that the mostly white tea party protesters were mingling in with the mostly black family reunion celebrants. The tea party people were buying lunch from the family reunion food stands. They had joined the audience of a rap concert.

Because sociology is more important than fitness, I stopped to watch the interaction. These two groups were from opposite ends of the political and cultural spectrum. They’d both been energized by eloquent speakers. Yet I couldn’t discern any tension between them. It was just different groups of people milling about like at any park or sports arena.
But the cries of the racism of Rep. Joe Wilson (R-SC) and other continue, not because these people are truly racist, but because it is an easy route to take--if you have opposition to what a black President is trying to do, it must be racism.

But it would seem to me that on an everyday level, we truly are reaching a largely post racial nation. That is not to say that there aren't pockets of racism, on both sides, but I think that for the most part, most Americans don't really give a toss about race. In fact, I would wager that for the most part, we simply don't care. Everyday we see more and more mixed race couples, bi-racial kids and the mixing of people from different races. For the most part, we don't notice or care--at least we don't in my world--limited as it may be.

So what drives the liberal left to cry racism? The obvious answer is insecurity. I suspect that a fair number of Democrats were surprised by Obama and don't know how to properly defend him as a President and politician. Obama's near instant arrival on the scene didn't give Democrats a time to vet him a little more, to plot a way to describe Obama in terms other than racial terms--i.e. our first Black President, a President for the post-racial America. In fact, I suspect that among Democrats, Obama is seen first as a black man and that is more indicative of a party more concerned with race than with policy.

I think the mish-mash of opinions and placards David Brooks saw among the Tea Party protesters is indicative of a general dissatisfaction with Presidential policies. But dissatisfaction with the President's race is not a factor.

Friday, September 18, 2009

The Biggest Lie on Health Reform

Arnold Kling has it and it is not what you would think:
What is misleading about statements (a) - (k) is that each of them referred to a plan that, strictly speaking, does not exist. As far as I know, the Obama Administration never submitted a plan to Congress.
So when Obama refers to "this plan" what does he mean.

Honestly, I can see a massive, if massively stupid, triangulation on the horizon. Congress fails to pass a health care financing overhaul* and then Obama turns around and blames Congress for its ineffectiveness. This would work if A) Republican controlled either chamber or B), the current margins of control were so thin that just a few Democratic defections could make the difference. But neither A or B is present so, that is why such a triangulation move will be stupid.

Equally as stupid will be to blame Republicans or the people for lacking vision. I just don't think that is a recipe for getting re-elected.

* I refuse to call any bill that is passed "health care reform." We don't need to reform our health care--which is excellent given the general health and well-being of people in this country. What is being talked about is the manner in which we PAY for health care and in that area we need a great deal of reform.

Affordability a Concern on Health Care

Gee, you think! Cost of the bill has always been one of the two top concerns among the voters regarding the plan and it doesn't take a polling genius to figure that out.

Here's the thing, health care has three main components that have to be balanced, universality, affordability or comprehensiveness.

Universality means how many people are covered. Under the Obama plan, everyone would be covered and everyone would be required to have health insurance. Sounds nice, but you can bet that there will be minimums for health care and that means that someone has to pay for it. Under the most common plans I have heard discussed, for a family who earns up to 400% of federal poverty level (up to about $80,000 for a family of four), they would get federal subsidies and/or public coverage.

Affordability is not just the expense to the individual person, but the cost of the overall plan to the federal govenrment.

Comprehensiveness is how much is covered.

In general, all health insurance plans are a balancing act between these three points, but in essence you can only choose two attributes:

You can be universal and affordable, but it won't be comprehensive, i.e. the notion of rationing services.

You can have insurance that is universal and comprehensive, but it will never be affordable, to the individual or the country as a whole.

You can have insurance that is affordable and comprehensive---but it can't cover everyone. That is just a fact.

It seems shocking to me that our govenrment leaders haven't thought about cost until now. Seriously!!!?

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

That's Why It is Called a "Bounce"

Rasmussen Reports™:
Following President Obama’s speech to Congress last week, support for his health care reform plan increased steadily to a peak of 51% yesterday. However, the bounce appears to be over. The latest daily tracking shows that support has fallen all the way back to pre-speech levels.

Forty-five percent (45%) of all voters nationwide now favor the plan while 52% are opposed. A week ago, 44% supported the proposal and 53% were opposed. (see day-by-day numbers).

The latest figures show that 23% Strongly Favor the plan and 41% are Strongly Opposed. In late August, 23% were strongly in favor of the plan and 43% were strongly opposed.
It is a temporary phenomenon, the more people ruminate on the plan, the more you get strong or even weak opposition.

Right now, given the numbers, I am not sure that even scrapping the public option is going to save the plan.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Diving in the MLS

Ives Galarcep asks the question: Should MLS suspend players for diving? My short answer is absolutely and they should also consider a little financial pain as well. Here would be my punishment scale as well. This would be for a season and for a player.

First offense: suspended one match,* $500 fine**.
Second offense: suspended one match, $2500 fine.
Third offense: suspended two matches, $5000 fine or 5% of base salary, whichever is greater.
Fourth offense: suspended three matches, fine equivalent to 10% of base salary.
*This suspension would be over and above any yellow card suspension that could result for accumulated cards or if the diving yellow is the second yellow in a game (diving or simulation is a 100% misconduct, yellow card offense). So the punishment in that case is a two game suspension or what ever is listed.
**Fines should be matched by the club AND coach in order to put an end to this kind of behavior.
For teams that get multiple divers, they too need to be feeling the pocketbook pain, say $20,000+ for multiple offenders.

If I could, I would give a red card to players diving in the box to get a penalty, but since that is currently not the FIFA regulation, I can't do that.

When I referee, I usually give a specific instruction about dissent (another big pet peeve of mine), but usually only at premier level club soccer or high school games. I don't like back talk, but after my games this weekend (high school games), I have come to the conclusion that I might need to add a diving instruction in order to make clear that I won't tolerate that behavior.

Why do I feel this way? Diving is cheating and it should be punished as cheating. But it is not like another type of foul, which is technically cheating. But when it comes to an everyday type of foul, awarding possession to the other team and potentially a red or yellow card depending on the severity of the foul, is sanction enough.

But diving is another matter. Not only is it cheating and a foul, it is a direct attack on the authority and credibility of the refereeing crew. In this sense, diving is another form of dissent and disrespect. A player who dives, no matter how mild or how theatrical, is implicitly saying to the refereeing crew, "I don't think you are a good enough referee to catch me breaking the rules." But a diver shows his dissent and disrespect in an insidious manner, by trying to get his teammates, coaches and the fans on his side to force a referee into an incorrect action.

While I don't tolerate such language, if a player is calling me, the referee an "f---ing idiot" (or something similar) at levels where I and other players can hear it, it is at least a direct affront, a stupid one, but a direct one. I will still card a player for it, because it is a personal, public attack on the referee, but at least it is a direct attack on just the referee.

But diving is not just a matter of personal stupidity, it is cheap, cowardly and it demeans the referee and most importantly it demeans the game. It is this latter affront that bothers me most. I have a pretty thick skin and I know that players and coaches don't like every decision I make as a referee and I am comfortable with that. I am not, however, comfortable with with players of the game demeaning the game itself. I am particuarly displeased with professionals demeaning the game and their profession. Their actions have an impact beyond the immediate match on the pitch but also to their fans and the thousands of up and coming players. If a pro gets away with a dive, it is worse than some 15 year old high schooler.

Ghost Fleet of the Recession

This story from the Daily Mail is simply stunning.
Here, on a sleepy stretch of shoreline at the far end of Asia, is surely the biggest and most secretive gathering of ships in maritime history. Their numbers are equivalent to the entire British and American navies combined; their tonnage is far greater. Container ships, bulk carriers, oil tankers - all should be steaming fully laden between China, Britain, Europe and the US, stocking camera shops, PC Worlds and Argos depots ahead of the retail pandemonium of 2009. But their water has been stolen.

They are a powerful and tangible representation of the hurricanes that have been wrought by the global economic crisis; an iron curtain drawn along the coastline of the southern edge of Malaysia's rural Johor state, 50 miles east of Singapore harbour.
While we in America wonder what will happen in this country, this story gives you an idea what is going to happen at Christmas time, etc.

This has to be one of the finest stories about looking ahead in the world economy that I have seen written.

Read more:

September 14, 2009 Playlist

I find myself in a pretty good mood, which considering the challenges facing me at work is a tad suprising. So this week's list is positive in tone and includes somethings that are new but more things that are a little older.

1. Reel Around the Sun by Twelve Girls Band. If you liked Riverdance, you will love this cover of one of Riverdance's most recognizable tunes. Twelve Girls Band plays traditional Chinese instruments and does this clearly Irish tune great justice with the music.

2. Beautiful Day by U2. What more do I need to say? It is a beautiful day here in Frederick and this song is simply reflective of my mood and the weather.

3. The Champion in Me by 3 Doors Down. As you can see by my playlists, 3DD is one of my favorite bands. This song, written for the U.S. Olympic team contains positive energy, positive message overlaid on top of a rocking riff and hook. It gets me pumped up a great deal.

4. Summer Song by Joe Satriani. Yes, it is older, yes, it is a tad commercial and yes, it is the end of summer almost autumn, but the song feels summery, feels positive and feels energetic.

5. Zap by Eric Johnson (Live). Johnson is another guitarist who does a great job and this song, one of my favorite of his, is simply fun. Johnson's guitar work is cleaner and sharper than Satriani's and that lends itself to the positive feel a great deal.

6. This is My Song by Carbonleaf. A feel good song, with a feel good hook and very clever lyrics. A sample, "My name is Hope, Luck just ran out/He said he'd return without a doubt/ahh but don't you believe him."

7. Optimistic Thought by Blues Traveler. Enough said. The Lyric:
"And if you need to contemplate
Well here's an optimistic thought
Life I embrace you
I shall honor and disgrace you
Please forgive if I replace you
You see I'm going through some pain
But now I see clearly
And the dawn is coming nearly
And though I'm human and it's early
I swear I'll never forget again"

8. Sweet Home Alabama by Lynyrd Skynyrd. For a bunch of boys from Northeast Florida, this classic anthem about Alabama always seemed a little ironic, but Sweet Home Florida doesn't have enough syllables. But still, you can't help but sing along with this one and that is positive.

9. Wonderful by Gary Go. A pop feel good song, catchy lyrics, an almost instant brain hook groove, I just feel, well wonderful, after hearing this song.

10. December 1963 (Oh What a Night) by Return 2 Zero. An a capella band with a great cover of a classic tune. Even with the a capella version, you can feel the energy that flows from the song.

11. Beautiful Girls by Van Halen. Classic Van Halen, fun, flirtatious and peppy. And who doesn't like beautiful girls.

12. Keeping the Faith by Billy Joel. A comfortable song by and about a man who is comfortable with who he is and his past. A celebratory song of the history of a man who realizes that his past has made him who he is today. The song has a serious do-wop beat making it fun to listen to as well.

13. I'm Not Running Anymore by John Mellencamp. Another song by and about a man who has learned to love what he has and celebrate it. I love the lyric about his sons:
Well I got two circus clowns here who like to fight
They got one black eye and a bloody nose
They are the hoodlums of my third wife
Whatever I say they will oppose

14. I Know What I Like by Huey Lewis & the News. I do know what I like and that is fine and fun. Classic, R&B rock song with loads of positive energy.

So there are this week's songs. Going to have to burn this one to CD for the car.

Friday, September 11, 2009

U.S. Nervous About Stimulus Fraud

Like I didn't see that coming a mile away.

Remembering 9/11

There are many people who have suffered for these past 8 years the loss of a loved one. I was fortunate in that I did not lose any one person that horrific day, but there is no doubting that we are all touched by the events of that day.

A friend of mine lost her husband that day at the Pentagon. Darin Pontell was not a man I ever met, but he must have been a special man because he captured Devora's heart.

The local Howard County Maryland press ran a feature on Devora and Darin yesterday. Devora continues to talk about her husband and that day and I share in her hope that one day, the evil men who planned the attacks will be brought to justice.

And so, on today, this anniversary of horror, I stand at attention and render full honors, not only to Lt. (j.g.) Darin Pontell, but to Devora Pontell as well. For each of them is a hero and deserve our thanks.

For Devora as well, Philia and Brothers Are We--forever.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

All about the celebrations

Too funny. A bunch of MLS players did some very funny videos for a Volkswagen Junior Master's In South Africa.

Want to see Houston's Geoff Cameron do the Bunny Hop, or Guillermo Barros Schelotto "Toot the Boot," check out the videos.

The funniest bit is New England's Steve Ralston correcting the pronunciation of his name, twice and then doing the Cranky Donkey.

Absolutely hilarious.

The Future of American Health Care

Could tragic stories like this one from Great Britain be the future of American Health Care under any sort of nationalized plan put forward by President Obama and Congressional Democrats. The story involves the most helpless of victims--a premature baby:
Doctors left a premature baby to die because he was born two days too early, his devastated mother claimed yesterday.

Sarah Capewell begged them to save her tiny son, who was born just 21 weeks and five days into her pregnancy - almost four months early.

They ignored her pleas and allegedly told her they were following national guidelines that babies born before 22 weeks should not be given medical treatment.

Miss Capewell, 23, said doctors refused to even see her son Jayden, who lived for almost two hours without any medical support.

She said he was breathing unaided, had a strong heartbeat and was even moving his arms and legs, but medics refused to admit him to a special care baby unit.

Miss Capewell is now fighting for a review of the medical guidelines.

Medics allegedly told her that they would have tried to save the baby if he had been born two days later, at 22 weeks.

In fact, the medical guidelines for Health Service hospitals state that babies should not be given intensive care if they are born at less than 23 weeks.

The guidance, drawn up by the Nuffield Council, is not compulsory but advises doctors that medical intervention for very premature children is not in the best interests of the baby, and is not 'standard practice'.

Read more:

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Weekly Playlist: September 7, 2009

This is the list on my iPod right now for the week. I was in a bit of an escapist mood coming off the Labor Day Weekend.

1. Runaway by 3 Doors Down. A fun song with a really good hook.
2. Escape by Hoobastank. This song includes one of Hoobastank's best guitar riffs that just sits in your head.
3. Escape by Journey. Sensing the theme yet. Sure, it is pure arena rock, but it too has one of Neal Schon's niftiest licks.
4. Flying in Blue Dream by Joe Satriani. By far still my favorite Satriani tune and would easily make my Desert Island Dozen, an escapist piece by far.
5. Cabo Wabo by Van Halen. Classic Van Halen (with Sammy Hagar) tune about Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. If you have to escape, you might as well have a destination in mind.
6. I Alone by Live. A song from my college days, but I wouldn't necessarily need to be alone on my escape, but I like the song.
7. Come Talk to Me (Live) by Peter Gabriel. Complete with a pre-"Dawson's Creek" Paula Cole on backing vocals, this song opens Gabriel's live recording in Italy on Secret World Live. An etheral song that counter acts a little the I, Alone from Live.
8. Mary Mac by Carbonleaf. A great tune with lots of energy and fast lyrics. I can't imagine how many mistakes this song had.
9. I'm Bad by The Last Vegas. Not really related to the theme, but just a great, simple, guitar heavy song.
10. Adouma by Santana. Just because.

Thursday, September 03, 2009


Chelsea given transfer ban until 2011 from FIFA, meaning they will not be able to sign any new players (that means any new players not already with the club) until the January 2011 transfer window.

An appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport is surely to be filed.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Lebanon’s Land Mine Team

Courtesy of

I will never complain about my sore heel again (well, not that much anyway).

Pandemic Bill Would Expand Police Powers

This is a little chilling to think about. Of course, you should never let a good crisis go to waste, not when you can expand police powers.

Look, in a pandemic situation, a lot of people are willing to act to stop the spread of any disease, and will likely do so voluntarily. But I want a warrant from a judge, based on decent probably cause before letting police into my home just because there is a pandemic about.

Note that the power is extended not just when there is a pandemic threat but also upon the declaration of a state of emergency--which probably means any state of emergency.

Nice huh!.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

The Return of the Weekly Playlist

I love music and I will be honest, I don't have much in the way of any music I won't listen to, at least once. I got an email that said they like the stuff I put up about music, i.e. the reviews etc.

Previously, I would post a weekly playlist of songs that I am listening to on my iPod. I got out of the habit of doing that and I think it would be good to get back into it.

To be honest, I am not in a financial position to spend as much on music as I used to. Many many moons ago, when I was in the Navy, I spent a fair chunk of my paycheck on CDs, many of which were stolen when my house was broken into while in college. Since I was dumb at that point, I had no renter's insurance to cover my loss (about 400 CDs, including rare CDs that I had bought in Europe). So, it is very nice that I can buy whole disks on iTunes without adding to the clutter in my house. I have also gotten in the habit of downloading each week the free iTunes song. It has helped me find some interesting new artists.

Anyway, I hope to begin regularly posting, hopefully on Monday, the week's playlist of 10 songs that for whatever reason have piqued my interest and made the list.

The August 31, 2009 Playlist

1. "The Fixer" by Pearl Jam. This is the first single off their new album.

2. "AFH" by Slackjaw. This is a great song by a now defunct band from the Charlottesville VA area in the late 1990's. You can get their material at iTunes.

3. "Into the Now" by Tesla. A straightforward rock band and song.

4. "The Saints Are Coming" by U2 & Green Day. This is on U2's 18, a greatest hits album and a great song.

5. "Flatbush and Church Revisited" by Vernon Reid & Masque. A raggae tinged instrumental by one of the most talented guitarists around. The album "Other True Self" is a very worthwhile investment if for nothing else than the varied styles on the album.

6. "It's Not My Time" by 3 Doors Down. Are 3DD groundbreaking? No, but they are entertaining and this song is certain one of the hooks they put together so well.

7. "Light Grenades" by Incubus. A fast paced burst from a band that a lot of people don't like, but I think are interesting.

8. "Barracuda (live)" by Heart. Simply Classic.

9. "All Along the Watchtower (live)" by Dave Matthews Band. A live gem of a cover that opens with emotion and ends with nothing but power. I hope Bob Dylan is proud.

10. "In America" by Charlie Daniels Band. A 1980's era, bald faced ode to Patriotism and don't mess with us-ism. Funny how history repeasts itself.