Thursday, January 31, 2013

Chicago: A War Zone?

42 people in 30 days.  

Seriously, that is how many people have died in Chicago of gun violence.  42 People in the incomplete month of January.  

The most recent of the 42 homicides was the Tuesday murder of a 15-year old girl who took part in Obama's second inauguration. The girl, Hadiya Pendleton, was standing with a group of friends in Vivian Gordon Harsh Park when a gunman ran up, opened fire, then fled the scene. 

A gunman ran into the park, opened fire and ran out.  Why?  Because he knew for certain that, in the absence of visible police, he was the only person armed in the entire place.  

Chicago is the gun-control capital of America, yet NBC News accurately describes it as "bullet-scarred."  

If NBC said it, it must be bad, right?

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Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Three to Read: Self-Improvement Edition

Yes, the New Year is well underway and right now, most of the world has taken a New Year's Resolution or two and without any sort of scientific measure, my guess is that a fair number of people are approaching the two-three week mark and that commitment that was felt at the start of the month is beginning to wane.

Now, don't feel bad.  Part of the problem with New Year's resolutions, whether they are a matter of losing weight, or working out, or cleaning you house, budget or what ever, is that doing anything new over the long term takes a while to build the habit.  So here are some tips for helping you do that:

First, Make your Commitment Public
First from Stever Robbins, the Get It Done Guy on Quick and Dirty Tips.  The first thing to do is don't call them resolutions, call them commitments.  Next, this tip I love:
Now it's your turn. Once you've found your driving passions, find someone you trust and respect. Make them a promise about the steps you'll take to reach your passions more directly than you're doing now. You needn’t make a total life change, just promise to take the first few steps with limits in place to keep you safe. Then put your promise in writing and sign it. You'll feel your entire being start to gear up to make it happen.
It is the publicness of the commitment that may be the key to making the "resolution" stick.  You are free to put down below to put one of your New Year's Commitment, but it doesn't have to be put on the interwebs, maybe making the commitment to your significant other or a good friend.  

Make Steady Consistent Progress to Achieve Your Goal
Most of the resolutions people make have no mechanism of measurement, i.e. lose weight, or work out more, don't cut it.  so I am going to assume that you are smart enough to know that you have to be able to measure your progress at the end.  So what is next?  Well, Brett and Kate McKay of the Art of Manliness (if you are a man or know a man, this is a fraking BRILLIANT website that you should check out), have a question:  What is your 20 Mile March?  In other words, what is your daily task that you will do to achieve your goal, no matter what is happening, whether you are having a good day or a bad day.

The McKays talk about a book called Great by Choice by Jim Collins and Morten T. Hansen (I have not read the book myself, but I have read Good to Great by Collins and thought it a brilliant read, so Great by Choice is high on my "to read" list).  Collins and Hansen and the McKays discuss the race between Robert Falcon Scott and Roald Amundsen to be the first to reach the South Pole.  Amundsen succeeded where Scott did not because Amundsen developed a plan and methodically stuck to the plan, no matter what the conditions were.  This is not to say that Scott didn't haave a plan, only that Amundsen's success was, according to Collins and Hansen, the product of methodical adherence to the plan, even with the days were good.  

Collins and Hansen took the phrase 20 Mile March from a man who methodically walked 20 miles a day in an effort to walk across the United States.  The man walked 20 miles no matter what the weather conditions, rather than walking 40-50 miles a day in good weather and only a few miles or no miles when the weather was bad.  Similarly, Amundsen's team went 15 miles a day, no more on the good days, and no less on bad days.  

The lesson from the cross-country walker and Roald Amundsen is clear, stead progress will achieve the goal faster than spurts of huge success followed by no progress.  So develop a plan, with clear interim goals and every day make progress toward that goal.  For help, here is a list of seven attributes of a good plan that you should consider:

  1. Clear performance markers
  2. Self-imposed constraints
  3. Appropriate to the individual
  4. Largely within your control
  5. A proper time frame -- long enough to manage, yet short enough to have teeth
  6. Designed and self-imposed by the individual
  7. Achieved with high consistency

Of course none of these attributes is "magical" but a plan built around these principles will yield success far more often than failure, consideration of all seven attributes is key to success.

Resolutions Crash on the Shores of Failed Habit Formation
The most fundamental reason why resolutions fail has little to do with the actual resolution (in most cases--a resolution to build a rocket to the moon in the next year is not practical).  Rather most New Year's Resolutions fail because we do not allow enough time or make enough of an effort to build the new habit.  

If you Google how long it takes to form a new habit, you will get an answer of anywhere between 21 days and 28 days.  Well, that may be possible, if the habit is something simple, but in reality, our New Year's resolutions are rarely simple and the require the creation of new neural pathways so that the effort to achieve a resolution becomes a habit (a good habit obviously).  Jeremy Dean, author of Making Habits, Breaking Habits, in 2009 briefly highlighted a study out of England which suggested that habits can take as few as 18 days to form and as many as 254 days.  However, the key finding is that it takes on average 66 days for a new habit to become ingrained in our neural pathways and become automatic behavior.  

So now that we are at about the three week stage (21 days), on average you will need another 45 days (or over six weeks) to keep building that habit until it become a truly automatic habit.  The study found that early repetition is key to forming the habit.

So whether your habit to lose weight (the most common among New Year's Resolution) takes the form of eating healthier foods, eating less or working out (second most common resolution), the fact is it could take almost 8 months to form that habit.  Which is why the development of a plan, and a consistent, measurable effort every day is key to making your Resolutions Come true.

I don't mean to be a downer, truly I don't.  So for all of you out there who made a resolution, feel free to share it below.  I would love to hear about it.  Tell me your goal and your deadline.  

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Wednesday, January 09, 2013

Three to Read--Lower Education Edition

Well, yesterday I did the Higher Education Edition of what I am trying to make a daily feature here.  Today, I thought lower, i.e. K-12, education would be a good topic.

It's Those Darn Kids....
The engagement level of students drops precipitously as Daniel Pink notes in what is called the School Cliff, according to Gallup:

“[Our] research strongly suggests that the longer students stay in school, the less engaged they become.” Primary school kids begin their educations deeply engaged — but by the time they get to high school, more than half are checked out. And the problem is even worse for our most entrepreneurial students.

Brandon Busteed, Executive Director of Gallup Education, points to several factors for the decline. An “overzealous focus on standardized testing.” Not enough project-based or experiential learning. Too few pathways for students who won’t, or don’t want to, attend college.

Teenagers who aren't engaged?  I am shocked, shocked I tell you!!!  Seriously, it is hard to stay motivated as a teenager to begin with, but with "modern" education, it is well nigh on impossible.  Teenagers have a pretty sharp B.S. detector and well, as a group they detect a lot of B.S. in schools.

What to Do, What to Do?  How about More Than One Option?
Back when  I was a middle schooler--oh so many years ago, i.e. more than 25 years--most students went through a school year long cycle of four vocational/trade classes, including shop class, home economics, automotive and I can't remember the other (it has been a long time since middle school).  In those classes students learned practicalities of running a household (cooking, budgeting, etc), basics of fixing a car (changing a flat, the oil, basic maintenance) and simple repairs on the house.  These were not only valuable personal skills but exposed students to other options other than college.  My high schools (I moved after my sophomore year) had year long vocational programs where students who liked to work with their hands had a chance to learn not only valuable skills, but MARKETABLE skills that would lead to an often lucrative career or at least a solidly middle class one.

You mean pathways, like vocational or trade education?  Remember yesterday's Three to Read, which noted that 92% of high school students say they are going to college but only 68% actually enroll?  What to do with those other 32%?  Well, as this story from Wisconsin notes, there are not a lot of options because of politics.

Some observers say the nation and schools have overemphasized college as a postsecondary option. 
“There are no young people going into the trades,” Hall said. “The push for college prep is so prevalent in the high schools that the talented young people who are good working with their hands are being told, ‘You have to go to college to get good jobs,’ and that’s just not the case anymore.” 
The shortage of technically prepared employees “goes back to (President Ronald) Reagan,” said Richard Meeusen, chairman, president and CEO of Racine Federated’s parent company, Badger Meter. “We have presidents and leaders who say every child should have the opportunity to go to college.
“Unfortunately, it sends the message to parents that if they don’t send their kids to college, they’re failing.” 
“Now we’re saying, ‘Where are our electricians, auto mechanics, HVAC (heating, ventilation and air-conditioning) workers and CNC (computer numeric control) operators?’” Meeusen said. 
He added, “We’ve ripped out all the shop classes and replace them with calculus.”

So you say it is a budgetary thing, well try a little creative thinking, like this person:

State Rep. Thomas Weatherston, R-Caledonia, said he’s working with other legislators to address the shortages in technical careers.
“Our high schools, they don’t have good technical education programs mainly because of the price,” said Weatherston, an adjunct professor in motorcycle safety at Gateway Technical College. “But technical colleges do have that equipment. 
“So I would like to see us find a path that would allow high school students to spend part of the day at a technical school, so they can learn a skill while still in high school.”

Such arrangments are not new.  As a youth (again many years ago) my school district had a dual enrollment program where some seniors would take some courses at the high school and some at the local community college where they would earn college credit.  Usually these were the top kids in the class academically.  But, given that community colleges excell at providing technical and vocational training, there is no reason why such a program can't also be used for those students looking to learn a trade.  

And the Others?
One of my biggest complaints about the local school that my daughters attend ( and most public schools for that matter) is that because of legal mandates, the schools do a good job with the kids on the lower level of the academic achievement and intelligence spectrum and a decent job for those kids in the middle.  But any kid on the upper end of the curve in any subject, most elementary and middle schools do not offer anything to enrich their education at all.  For example, my oldest daughter (the Peanut) excels in history and loves history, but the school does almost nothing to help foster that interest or provide her with a means of exploring more on her own.  While we can supplement at home, she probably needs more than we can provide.

The consequence of this feeling that public education is "notoriously inadequate" has lots of people and not just "scary religious people" considering homeschooling.  Glenn Reynolds in USA Today writes:

New York's public school system is indeed notoriously inadequate. And, like most public school systems (or public systems of any kind), it's run more for the convenience of the staff and bureaucrats than for the benefit of parents or kids. Some kids do fine anyway, of course, and some parents aren't in a position to pursue alternatives. But for many parents, traditional schooling is no longer the automatic default choice. 
That makes sense. Traditional public schools haven't changed much for decades (and to the extent they have, they've mostly gotten worse). But the rest of the world has changed a lot. The public who eagerly purchased Henry Ford's Model T (available in any color you want, so long as it's black!) now lives in a world where almost everything is infinitely customized and customizable. That makes one-size-fits-all education, run on a Fordist model itself, look like a bad deal.
Reynolds argues that with so many choices in so many other areas of life, there is no reason why parents can't customize the education of their children.  And when needs are being met, parents with choices vote with their feet.  Reynolds then describes the death spiral that is likely to follow:
As kids (often the best students) leave because schools are "notoriously inadequate," the schools become even more notoriously inadequate, and funding -- which is computed on a per-pupil basis -- dries up. This, of course, encourages more parents to move their kids elsewhere, in a vicious cycle.
Does this mean the end of public education? No. But it does mean that the old model -- which dates to the 19th Century, when schools were explicitly compared to factories -- is at risk. Smarter educators will start thinking about how to update a 19th Century product to suit 21st Century realities. Less-smart educators will hunker down and fight change tooth and nail. 
Who will win out in the end? Well, how many 19th Century business models do you see flourishing, here in the 21st?

Yep, change is coming and like most changes, the old guard never likes it and at least as far as education is concerned, it is truly the kids that suffer when adult beneficiaries of an inefficient and ineffective system hold on to that antiquated system.

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Tuesday, January 08, 2013

Three to Read--Higher Education Edition

Last month, my oldest child turned 11, that means in seven years she will be making a decision about going to college and which college to attend.  Considering that eight years ago, just after her birthday, we were in London and that seems like just yesterday, higher education is starting to creep in to my mind (not to mention the difficulty of paying for said higher education--scholarships anyone?).  So, here are a few higher education related stories:

The Cost Driver Behind that Big Tuition Bill--Administrators!
Tuition continues to rise, outstripping inflation in most cases, despite efforts by some states to institute tuition freezes and the like.  What is driving those costs--administrative bloat perhaps?  Benjamin Ginsburg at Minding the Campus talks about wasteful administrators.  First the history:

Today's great universities were created by faculty who-contrary to the myth of the impractical professor-often turned out to be excellent entrepreneurs and managers.  Over the last several decades, however, America's universities have been taken over by a burgeoning class of administrators and staffers determined to transform colleges into top-heavy organizations run by inept bureaucrats. 
To professors, the purpose of the university is education and research, and the institution is a means of accomplishing these ends.  To the professional deanlets and deanlings, though, the means has become the end.  Teaching and research have been relegated to vehicles for generating revenue by attracting customers to what administrators view as a business-an emporium that under the management of the deanlets may be peddling increasingly shoddy goods. 

Next, an example of the problem:

One typical example of administrative bloat and its consequences was illustrated by the American Association of University Professors and featured in a 2012 report by John Hechinger of Bloomberg News.  Between 2001 and 2010, the number of tenure and tenure-track faculty at Purdue, of one of America's great land grant universities, increased 12 percent while the number of graduate teaching assistants actually declined by 26 percent.  Student enrollments in this decade increased by about 5 percent. 
During the same period, though, the number of administrators employed by the university increased by an astonishing 58 percent and resident tuition rose from just under $1400 to nearly $9000 per year in a pattern that appears highly correlated with administrative growth.  One $172,000 per year associate vice provost had been hired to oversee the work of committees charged with considering a change in the academic calendar-a change that had not yet even been approved.  Since the average Purdue graduate leaves school with about $27,000 in debt, the salary of this functionary is equivalent to the education loans of six students.
This new administrator blithely told the Bloomberg reporter, "My job is to make sure these seven or eight committees are aware of what's going on in the other committees."  At the same school, the chief marketing officer earns $253,000 and the chief diversity officer $198,000 per year.  The marketing officer spent $500,000 to "rebrand" the university, developing the slogan, "We are Purdue. Makers, all. What we make moves the world forward."  Very catchy, indeed!  Perhaps the marketing department could develop a slogan that would help explain to parents and students why they must take on more and more debt to pay the salaries of ever-growing hordes of administrative parasites. 

A statistical model and a solution:
A recent paper by two respected economists, Robert Martin and R. Carter Hill, shows that the fiscally optimal ratio of administrators to faculty at research universities is one full-time administrator for every three faculty.    Deviations from this ratio produced significantly higher costs per student.  The unfortunate reality as Martin and Hill found is that the ratio has almost been reversed--2 administrators to one faculty.  Martin and Hill's findings suggest, moreover, that about two-thirds of the growth in higher education costs between 1987 and 2008 can be attributed to the rise of administrative power during this period.


I would suggest-and I fully recognize the mischievous nature of this suggestion--that university, and perhaps other non-profit boards as well, should be subject to the requirements of the 2002 Sarbanes-Oxley Act from which they are currently exempt.  For most schools, this would entail enhanced Board accountability for administrative actions, the creation of an independent audit committee, an organizational procedure for the protection of whistle blowers, a formal process for the identification and selection of new board members and a strengthening of conflict of interest rules.          
I believe that if Board members were legally more accountable for administrative conduct they would be more cautious about whom they hired to manage the university and would also pay closer attention to what those individuals did once appointed. Perhaps if they were held to account, Boards would be careful not to turn over their campuses to the high-handed and profligate presidents who seem all too common in the world of higher education.  Indeed, in order to avoid trouble, Boards might even find it useful to fully consult the faculty on matters of administrative hiring and retention.

Read the whole thing.

Social Education for Professionals
I do not find it surprising that too many of our recent college graduates have no idea how to navigate even the most basic challenges of the work world.  I have seen for myself some of the most basic failings, such as recent graduates and near graduates coming to interviews in wholly inappropriate attire, inability to talk about even the most recent news in a small talk environment, or new hires who consider office hours to be an "optional" concern.  Part of the problem is that these young people never learned them at home (a fact of life that will be addressed in my household).  So colleges are offering optional "etiquette" courses:

More than a third of managers think their youngest hires act less professionally than their predecessors, according to a national survey by the Center for Professional Excellence at York College in Pennsylvania. 
“A good resume and a degree only gets you to the table,” says Matthew Randall, the center’s director. “Professional behaviors are what gets you a job. And what colleges are trying to do is help these students develop the behaviors that employers want.”


And it’s not just communicating that appears to challenge this latest group of college students. It’s mingling, networking, handling conflict, eating—even dressing.
“Students don’t really know what’s meant by professional dress, whether it’s a young lady wearing a skirt that’s way too short or a young man whose pants aren’t really tailored,” says MIT’s Hamlett. “Most students just roll out of bed in whatever it is they want to wear. There’s this ‘come as you are’ about being a college student.”

Colleges blame in part an entitlement mentality of the millennial generation raised by helicopter parents hovering so much, but certainly the art of face to face communication and social aptitude are disappearing.  

College Preparation Gap?
Of greater concern to many college professors and education thinkers is the lack of preparation among high school students for college.  Check out the infographic about preparation conducted by Hobson's.

Some key take-aways:

  • 92% of high school students say they are going to college, but only 68% actually enroll and fewer still graduate within 6 years of matriculation.
  • More than 2 out of 3 students (69%) were very concerned or extremely concerned about their academic preparation for college.  Which is not surprising since....
  • 1 out of every 2 new students in two year colleges are placed in remedial classes.  Among new enrollees of four year colleges, 1 in 5 find themselves in remedial classes.  Student concerns about preparedness are not unfounded.

So there is room for criticism in our secondary education system as well.
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Friday, January 04, 2013

Three to Read--December Jobs Report Edition

the Bureau of Labor Statistics has issued its December jobs report.  A wealth of news, good and bad can be found in these reports.  Given the massaging of formula and statistics, the redefinitions of "unemployed" and "underemployed" the BLS report, from a statistical standpoint is something to be taken with a grain of salt.  Of course, the big number 7.8% unemployment continues to haunt the Obama Administration and I suspect that lots of massaging is taking place to keep that number under 8.0 percent, but that is a rant for another day.

Hinting at Good News?
Mark J. Perry of the American Enterprise Institute (not one of President Obama's biggest fans by any stretch, does find some good news in the report.
Bottom line: As reflected in today’s employment report, three of the strongest sectors of the U.S. economy continue to be manufacturing (including motor vehicles), housing (construction) and energy (oil and gas drilling).  Looking forward, we can expect ongoing expansion in output and jobs from those three engines of U.S. economic growth in 2013.
Good news indeed.  These sectors tend to produce significant upstream and downstream employment.  The largest question remaining for me is how much of this growth is private sector versus public sector driven?

The More Things Stay the Same
Of course, most commentators from the right are not happy with the report.  As Rick Moran noted:
The best that can be said is that the jobs outlook isn't getting any worse. Of course, it's not getting any better either so there you have it; the perfect encapsulation of the Obama presidency.
Moran has pretty good reason to be less than thrilled.  From the BLS report itself:

Among the major worker groups, the unemployment rates for adult women (7.3 percent) and blacks (14.0 percent) edged up in December, while the rates for adult men (7.2 percent), teenagers (23.5 percent), whites (6.9 percent), and Hispanics (9.6 percent) showed little or no change. The jobless rate for Asians was 6.6 percent (not seasonally adjusted), little changed from a year earlier. (See tables A-1, A-2, and A-3.) 
In December, the number of long-term unemployed (those jobless for 27 weeks or more) was essentially unchanged at 4.8 million and accounted for 39.1 percent of the unemployed. (See table A-12.)
I love that phrase, "essentially unchanged."  The adverb, being redundant, does not help the President in anyway.  Those numbers are quite painful to look at, particularly among blacks and young people.

Still the Unknown
Doug Mataconis at Outside the Beltway has probably the best summary of all:
At this point, it’s difficult to know what’s going to prime the jobs engine. At the very least, continued business uncertainty over what the heck Washington is going to do on issues ranging from the debt ceiling to the budget isn’t helping the situation, but there seem to be other issues at play here. Despite the Obama Administration’s promises, health care costs, and most importantly the cost of health care insurance for employers, continue to rise across the board. If that continues to occur, the marginal cost of each new employee rises and it becomes less advantageous for an employer to engage in new hiring than to use their existing work force to meet existing needs. It also appears that many employers are cutting back on full-time employment in favor of part-time labor. Again, motivated in no small part to the requirements of the new health care laws. Unless these and other incentives change, I don’t see employers revving up the jobs engine any time soon.
This may be the the most clear cut example of what is really happening.  The fact is that some sectors are recovering, but across the board there are lots of unknowns and frankly unknowables.  I believe a great deal of uncertainty stems from the fact that Congress keeps kicking the can down the road, first with the "fiscal cliff" and now with spending cuts.  The truth is, the lack of resolution of major political problems is what may very well be holding this country back.

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Thursday, January 03, 2013

Three to Read-Football and Throwball Edition

Number 1 Overall Pick, Prof. Andrew Wenger
In the world of United States sports, we are used to some crazy rules, and Major League Soccer is no different, with things like Designated Players, Generation Adidas contracts, homegrown player contracts all having some or all of their salary exempt from the salary cap (or team budget as MLS calls its).  But by comparison, I suppose MLS rules are easy--I still don't get the salary cap economics of the NFL.

Well, in Europe there are not a lot of regulations on club spending for players.  But UEFA (the governing body of European football) is imposing Financial Fair Play rules.  Andrew Wenger has an excellent post about FFP rules.  Wenger certainly shows the quality of his Duke University education, shows his analytical skills that earned him a history major.  Oh, yeah, Wenger was also the #1 overall pick in MLS for 2012, being selected by the Montreal Impact.  How many #1 draft picks in other sports can put together such a cogent and relevant article?

In European soccer, [financial] regulations are largely non-existent.  Thus it is a utopia for any ambitious owner to attempt to lead their club to the apex of European soccer, the UEFA Champions League.  Many clubs have attempted to attain this goal by building a team full of talent.  Clubs have used modern financial instruments such as leveraged buyouts and excessive amounts of debt.  They have given their plans fancy names such as the “Galacticos Project.”  This sometimes-dangerous process of building a talented team is where regulation is lacking in protecting European club soccer.  In 2009, UEFA did a study of the 655 European soccer clubs and learned that half of them ran a deficit the previous year.[2]   The lack of financial regulation has recently allowed several soccer clubs to go into bankruptcy because they could not pay their creditors.  In response to such occurrences, there is increasing pressure to implement some financial regulations to help protect the solvency of the world’s game.

It is a good, well written historical account of UEFA trying to make sure that clubs don't spend themselves and their competitors into bankruptcy.

Throwball Follies
Leaving the world of Football and entering the world of Throwball (what I call American football), Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett announced the the State of Pennsylvania is suing the NCAA in order to have to the sanctions imposed by the NCAA against Penn State University's disgraced throwball program for its systematic cover-up of years of sexual abuse of boys by former assistant coach Jerry Sandusky.  It should be noted that Penn State accepted the sanctions and is not a party to this suit. Outside the Beltway's Doug Mataconis has a pithy summary: "Corbett’s attempt to undo those sanctions is effectively an argument that the PSU football program should not be punished at all for what it did, and I don’t see how that can be a morally defensible position."

Christine Brennan, writing for USA today, shreds Governor Corbett:

It’s not a coincidence at all that the announcement was made Wednesday, right after the New Year’s Day bowl games. Corbett said he “didn’t want to file during football season to take away from the team’s momentum.” 
He actually said those words. Something this vitally important had to wait for the football season to end? If this weren’t such a serious topic, if this weren’t so pathetic and appalling, it would be laughable. Who is running this state, Barney Fife?
Indeed, both Brennan and Mataconis note that the timing of the suit may be a last ditch effort to keep head throwball coach Bill O'Brien at Penn State rather than take a lucrative job in the NFL or at least not at Penn State.  Mataconis also notes that Corbett is up for re-election in 2014.  Being a friend to Penn State may help.

Back (to the Future of) American Soccer (or real Football)
As I noted above, Major League Soccer has a whole bunch of rules regarding player salaries and the salary cap.  One of the exemptions from the salary cap is the homegrown player, that is players that have developed in a teams Academy and affiliated clubs.  These players can be signed by the club and have their entire salary be exempt from the salary cap and if the player is sold or transferred abroad the team gets the lion's share of the transfer fee.  Over the past several years, most MLS clubs have signed multiple homegrown players to contracts, but there is an interesting demographic trend that is beginning to develop--the true homegrown and hometown player--epitomized by Columbus Crew's Will Trapp.

On December 13th 2012, Trapp signed a homegrown player contract with Columbus Crew after two years at the University of Akron and four as a pupil in the Columbus Crew academy. The Lincoln High School product heads into the 2013 season a professional soccer player, fulfilling a dream of his in more than one category. Not only does he get paid to play sports, but as well…. Wil signed a contract for the team that he has watched and loved growing up.

This year, Major League Soccer would be old enough to vote.  That means for young players like the 19 year old Trapp, he is growing up and playing in a time when he cannot remember there not being MLS as part of the sporting landscape.  As I have noted in other places, the growth of the American soccer community is dependent upon the aging of the millennial generation, of Will Trapp's generation.

There is a whole generation of boys and girls who not only play soccer, but also are fans who have had the opportunity to see live professional soccer in their own country.  They have their own heroes now.  Sure Messi, Ronaldo, and other famous players can be seen regularly on TV and occaisionally here in the United States, but they can also see Beckham, Dononvan, and others right here in the states.  That is where MLS has made significant inroads.  MLS' slow steady progression, coupled with an very public effort by NBC/Universal family of networks to boost the game has built a community the only way it can be done, slowly.  
But the game is also building an even broader fan base outside of MLS.  A good idea of the growth of the game from a fan and supporter viewpoint is found at lower levels of the game.  Even at the college level, some schools are drawing significant crowds to games.  Just this year, the University of California Santa Barbara drew over 13,000 fan for a single game.  UCSB averages well over 3000 fans a game, as do other title contenders such as Maryland and Akron.  For college games. 
Even at the high school level, while nothing beats the social draw of the Friday night football game, soccer games are drawing more fans than just the parents and family of the players.  Sure, crowds are measured in the low 100 fans, it is the fact that students are coming to support their team that makes a difference.  It is the student fans that matter. 
These students, aged 14-17, are the generation that will alter the soccer community in America.  These teenagers have grown up in a country with its own developing league, with access to world soccer unmatched in previous years.  Whether it is the fact that they are fans of DC United or Manchester United or Inter Milan, the access to the favorite teams means they learn more about the game.  They have role models to emulate on the field.  They learn the rules, the tactics, the style of play of their game and the come to follow their team.  Just like the baby boomer generation followed the Yankees, the Dodgers or the Red Sox, modern teenagers no longer abandon the sport of soccer when they enter high school.  Indeed many are embracing it because their non-playing schoolmates embrace it.  The fact that these young men and women no longer feel the stigma of playing soccer as opposed to football or baseball, they are seen as true athletes and supported as such.  
The Millennial Generation is the first in the United Statess that cannot remember a sports landscape without MLS.  they will pass on their love of the game to the next generation, so that in 20-30 years, 40,000 fans at an MLS game will not be restricted to Seattle.

The MLS draft will take place later this month, all of the players being drafted this month will be similar to Trapp, they will have grown up in America (for the most part) in which they cannot remember not having a soccer league in the United States.  That is how the game will grow.

Check out my soccer blog at Nutmegs and Stepovers

Wednesday, January 02, 2013

Three to Read

Three items that I suggest people read:

Victor Davis Hanson

These are the most foreboding times in my 59 years. The reelection of Barack Obama has released a surge of rare honesty among the Left about its intentions, coupled with a sense of triumphalism that the country is now on board for still greater redistributionist change. 
There is no historical appreciation among the new progressive technocracy that central state planning, whether the toxic communist brand or supposedly benevolent socialism, has only left millions of corpses in its wake, or abject poverty and misery. Add up the Soviet Union and Mao’s China and the sum is 80 million murdered or starved to death. Add up North Korea, Cuba, and the former Eastern Europe, and the tally is egalitarian poverty and hopelessness. The EU sacrificed democratic institutions for coerced utopianism and still failed, leaving its Mediterranean shore bankrupt and despondent. 
Nor is there much philosophical worry that giving people massive subsidies destroys individualism, the work ethic, and the personal sense of accomplishment. There is rarely worry expressed that a profligate nation that borrows from others abroad and those not born has no moral compass. There is scant political appreciation that the materialist Marxist argument — that justice is found only through making sure that everyone has the same slice of stuff from the zero-sum pie — was supposed to end up on the ash heap of history.

Read the whole thing.  Seriously, take 15 minutes and read the whole thing.

Commercial Space Flight
Private Space Flight Companies are looking toward a big year in 2013 and that is good news.
Private companies building new spaceships to soar through orbital and suborbital space are looking forward to an action-packed year in 2013, with new flight tests, launches, wind tunnel tests and rocket technology trials all planned during the new year.
Companies like SpaceX, Boeing and Sierra Nevada Corp are among the companies competing for a commercial crew contract from NASA to ferry crew up to the International Space Station, which contract is expected to be awarded in 2014.

Civil Asset Forfeiture
Civil Asset Forfeiture is on the rise.  In one case out of Philadelphia, one woman was able to beat a system that seems decidedly stacked against innocent people who get caught up in the government's taking of private property without conviction of a crime, or in the case of Tammy McClurg, not even being charged of a crime.

Should you lose your business if a handful of your customers break the law without your knowledge or consent? The Philadelphia District Attorney says yes. In 2008, the DA filed a civil asset forfeiture action against Danny Boy’s II, a corner bar in the Holmesburg neighborhood of northeast Philly suspected of being a “nexus” for drug activity. 
Civil forfeiture, a practice recently labeled “state-sanctioned theft” by a Pennsylvania judge, allows the government to seize assets—cars, cash, homes—without first, or ever, proving that the property’s owner committed a crime. Danny Boy’s II owner Tammy McClurg was never even charged with one. 
But the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania ordered her to shut down for nearly two years while she fought the taking. In addition to paying legal fees, McClurg, a single mother of three, had to keep up on mortgage payments, utility bills, and taxes for the bar, her sole source of income.


According to a recent Philadelphia City Paper investigation, the DA brings hundreds of forfeiture cases against real estate each year, and it splits the proceeds with the Philadelphia Police Department. Combined with seizures of cash and other property, the DA and police rake in around $6 million annually from forfeitures. Few cases ever reach a neutral arbiter—owners must attend multiple rounds of hearings run by assistant district attorneys before they see a judge—and even when they do the deck is stacked against them. 
From the City Paper:
…Having one’s day in court is no guarantee of success, either: The burden of “preponderance of evidence,” unlike that of proof beyond a reasonable doubt, means that the DA doesn’t have to present an airtight case—just one that strikes a judge (or, in rare cases, a jury) as even slightly more believable than that of the respondent. 
The government’s case against Danny Boy’s II was apparently not convincing. Last year, a trial judge found that McClurg had proven she was an innocent owner, ending what she called a “nightmare.” That outcome is vanishingly rare. According to the City Paper, a judge rejected forfeiture in only 48 of the 8,000 cases filed in 2010—0.6 percent.

Note that McClurg "had proven she was an innocent owner."  The problem with civil asset forfeiture is that it allows the state to trump up pretty much any charge it wants, and then does not have to actually prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the property should be forfeited.  Reason has done a fantastic job of covering civil asset forfeiture abuse.
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What is the Tipping Point for Increased Safety Through Gun Ownership?

As Malcolm Gladwell famously noted, in any trend there is a tipping point, a point in time and development where a growing trend begins to make an impact on society as a whole.  There is a point in which a fashion trend, for example, goes "viral" seemingly exploding on the scene when in fact it has been bubbling in certain circles for months, years even.

In the aftermath of a rape in an Indian bus that lead to the death of the victim, Indian authorities have seen a big jump in inquiries among women for gun licenses.  In the wake of reports of sexual abuse of women and girls as young as 11 in the media, the fact that women distrust law enforcement in India is not surprising and a push to have more self-protection is to be understood.

As Glenn Reynolds put it: "Smart move. And if enough women carry guns, this sort of thing won’t happen much."  Which leads to the question, how many is enough women?

Clearly, if all women were carrying weapons, no man in his right mind would attempt a rape, or any other kind of assault, after all, even idiotic men have some sense of self-protection.  At the other end of the spectrum, if no women are carrying weapons then attackers may act largely with impunity--particularly in light of a dearth of law enforcement on the matter.

But somewhere in between none and all is a magic number, a certain percentage of women who are carrying weapons that will begin tipping the scales to safety for ALL women.  What is that number?  Is it one in five, one in ten, one in a hundred?  If on a given bus if one woman is carrying a weapon, but the potential attacker doesn't know who, how many women are protected by that uncertainty?  If that figure is then extrapolated to society as a whole, then there does not need to be an entirely armed population, only that portion of the population necessary for would be rapists, muggers or other assailants to think twice.

In the United States, where gun ownership is a constitutionally protected right (at least in most of the United States), not everyone needs to be carrying a weapon in order for there to be enough risk for an assailant to be prevented by the presence and potential use of a weapon against the assailant to be a deterrent force.  this seems to be a fairly good example of the free rider feature of society.  Not everyone needs to be armed to have a safer society, just enough of us.  

So what is that magical percentage?  Any one have any ideas?  

Check out my soccer blog at Nutmegs and Stepovers

Tuesday, January 01, 2013