Monday, November 30, 2009

Jimmy Conrad Has a Vision and It is A Good One

Kansas City Wizards centerback, MLS veteran and U.S. international Jimmy Conrad writes a column for ESPN Soccernet (and he actually writes it) and his latest piece is here. This column is about a vision he has for MLS and I must say that I like a lot of his ideas.

My favorite one is not MLS1/MLS2 with promotion and relegation (and he defends it pretty well as well) but a monopoly on professional soccer in America. See here:
Become a monopoly. MLS needs to buy the United Soccer League, the Major Indoor Soccer League and any other league with thoughts of being a competitor. Despite my instincts to the contrary, competition, in this regard, creates gray area and confusion, and if our main goal is to become one of the great leagues around the world while developing homegrown talent and a superior national team, everyone needs to be working together.
In many ways this is a brilliant idea--despite my usual belief that competition in the marketplace breeds success better than a monopolistic enterprise. But take a look at the National Football League--they absolutely dominate that sport. While there are club leagues and of course youth leagues, the NFL is really the only place where professional football is played. Even the Arena Football League, a somewhat distinctive game (which it must be said produced Kurt Warner and other NFL players) has failed financially. But unlike professional American football, the collegiate system of soccer in America does not greatly serve the player development needs. Conrad makes some pretty convincing arguments for this aspect of his vision.

Conrad posits that USL would be come a reserve league, a place where young players or veterans rehabilitating from injury can get some game time with something at stake. The demise of MLS's Reserve Division in 2008 meant that young players would only see action in a limited number of games, usually U.S. Open Cup games and maybe the odd friendly here and there. The result is that the U.S. Open Cup doesn't draw fans because it was known that MLS teams, the teams with the biggest stars wouldn't play those big stars, negatively affecting the fan draw. I liked Conrad's idea for the indoor leagues.
The MISL can be converted into a "See Them Before They Are Stars In MLS" Indoor League. The league could and should be held during the MLS offseason from the end of November to the beginning of March, and the rosters for these teams could and should be littered with players who played less than 1,000 minutes during the regular season in MLS. Again, it's an opportunity to get players valuable touches on the ball under pressure with lots of eyes watching instead of having them sitting on the couch waiting for preseason training to roll around. The league could barnstorm around the country, hitting a variety of markets, or a rule could be introduced that each team in MLS has to have an indoor team. The best example I can give to prove why this would be beneficial to the league is that the majority of professional soccer players from America grew up in California, Texas or Florida. That's because, due to the climate, the kids in those states can play all year. The indoor league would provide MLS with this opportunity.
My only addition to this idea would be to have the indoor game played with futsal rules rather than the traditional indoor rules with boards and astroturf. Futsal would generate young players with skill on the ball, quick passing skills and short bursts of speed that also generates a lot of excitement and skill on the outdoor pitches. It should be noted that a lot of Brazilian superstars developed their ball skills by playing futsal as youngsters. A MLS off-season futsal league also will keep the game itself in the public's eye.

I would like to explore Conrad's vision of league structure, which for soccer purists includes a single table with promotion and relegation. But that is a topic for a different post.

MLS Players Union, Contracts and the rest of the Footballing World

Now that the MLS season has ended, attention this off-season will be focused on the Collective Bargaining Agreement between MLS and the Players Union, which ends in January and if the league, owners and players cannot come to an agreement, a work stoppage and/or a lockout is possible. Neither scenario is good for the league and the development of the game in the U.S.

In that light, the guys over at Major League Soccer Talk have been having a series of posts about the talks and the position of the Players Union and even the recent intervention of FIFPro, the international body that represents professional players around the world.

In a recent post, Eric Altshule discusses the difference between a MLS player contract and a European contract. Altshule writes:
If there is one thing the owners fear and will try to avoid at all costs, it is having a situation like what exists in Europe where a player contract is really a one-way street with the top players in a ridiculously powerful position. In American sports, a player contract is a binding and respected document, but in Europe, it is really only binding to the team.
I will admit that owners no doubt fear this kinds of arms race and I can see the desire of MLS to keep teams in rough parity. To that extent, Altshule is right. Altshule then makes the following analogy to professional baseball:
To illustrate the difference, let’s take the case of one of the best American athletes on a mediocre team – San Francisco Giants pitcher Tim Lincecum. Lincecum may be the best young pitcher in a generation having won two straight Cy Young awards while the Giants have missed the playoffs for the past six seasons. I am sure that a wealthy team like the New York Yankees have already photo-shopped pictures of Lincecum in pinstripes, but they know that Lincecum is contractually obligated to the Giants, in one form or another, until after the 2012 season. Until that time, Lincecum is a Giant, and there is no way for him to realistically agitate for a trade to the Yankees and there is no way for the Yankees to “unsettle” him without violating Major League Baseball rules in a way they would not dare. Lincecum knows that though he may be underpaid at the moment, he does have a humungous payday coming in 2012, and there is nothing he can do to change that date. He just needs to stay healthy and keep pitching well.
This is accurate insofar as it goes, but there is one aspect significantly missing in this analogy.

One of the demands that the Player's union is looking for is guaranteed contracts. I don't think they are going to get it, but I understand the demand. But in Europe, the contracts are guaranteed. As much as Altshule may protest about the contracts in Europe being slanted toward the player, the contracts are more or less guaranteed. European leagues are regulated by UEFA and includes specific legal protections that guarantee freedom to contract. The teams are used to this and there are, at least on paper, rules against tapping up a player. But lets assume that the world operates as Altshule notes, in that players can essentially engineer a transfer for themselves, their old club is at least compensated in the form of a transfer fee. Keep in mind that the earlier a player is in their contract, the larger the transfer fee will be.

But a big difference between a player in Europe, a Major League Baseball or NFL player and a MLS player is what happens when the player is that when his contract is up, he is a free agent. This is exactly how it is handled in Europe, a player whose contract has ended can transfer anywhere he likes. Case in point is Oguchi Onyewu, whose contract at Standard Liege had concluded and he went to AC Milan on a free transfer. Taking Lincecum above as an example. When his contract is over in 2012, he is a free agent, free to pursue a spot with Yankees or any other team in MLB or overseas.

In MLS that is not the case and that is a big problem. Take the case of Ricardo Clark, the Houston Dynamo holding midfielder whose contract is now over. Clark is looking for a transfer to Europe. Now he can do that as he is technically a free agent. But let's assume that Clark doesn't get that transfer to Europe and another team, say the Philadelphia is looking for a holding midfielder--that transfer is not necessarily going to happen because Houston will still hold the rights to Clark. Thus, he is not a free agent at all because he can't sign with any team he wants.

There in lies the problem, in the fear to prevent a price and player war, MLS and team owners have gone too far. It is not simply the veto power over player transfers, or even the common demand that players surrender the traditional 10% of the transfer fee they are entitled to get, but rather it is the overall control that MLS and clubs have over player and player rights.

As an analogy, imagine you are an IT specialist and you work for General Electric's shipbuilding division. But that division is facing cutbacks and you are told by the company "Thanks for the years of work, but your services are no longer required. Sorry." You try to get a job with another company, but it doesn't work out for you. You hear from a buddy that the electric generator section as General Electric is hiring IT people. But because you worked for the shipbuilding division, you can't take a job in the generator section because the shipbuilders have the rights to your services. You can't take the job with the generator division without the say so or release of the shipbuilders.

If you worked for General Electric, this state of affairs would never be allowed, particularly in the world of at will employment. Essentially what MLS has is the exact opposite of what Altshule claims to exist in Europe--here MLS player contract are cancellable at will by the teams and the MLS (up to a defined date where contracts and pay for the year are guaranteed) can fire a player without much notice and no recourse for the player. At least in Europe, when a player gets transferred there is a transfer fee that eases the blow for the club.

While I don't expect the owners and MLS to give in on the guaranteed contracts, I do believe there has to be some sort of true free agency at the end of a contract. If a player is transferred to another club via an intra-MLS trade, fine. But if the transfer is to Europe or elsewhere, then the player is not only entitled to his share of the transfer fee. There must be more parity between the parties to this contract.

The Funnies

This clip had been making the rounds in soccer circles, but I can't get over how funny it is.

Last year when Hull City played Manchester City in the English Premier League, Hull City were playing so poorly that manager Phil Brown held his half-time team talk out on the pitch in a move that you don't usually see outside of lower league or youth games. Well, in the same fixture this year, midfielder Jimmy Bullard scored an equalizer (on a dodgy penalty call) and then had a "team talk" goal celebration.

timing is everything and apparently Brown is not at all angry about being shown up. Of course, he wouldn't be, since after an unbeated November, the Tigers are four points clear of the relegation zone, are playing well and Brown has kept his job.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

DC United's Ben Olsen Officially Retires

In a move that was expected, DC United midfielder and fan favorite Ben Olsen has officially retired as a player. In his career with the Black and Red, Olsen has won two MLS Cups, was the 1999 MLS Cup MVP, two time all star and a member of the 2007 Best XI. There is no doubting that Olsen is a great player and has the potential to be a good coach in the MLS, but there are things that Olsen did off the field that cannot be ignored, and one of them was for Santino Quaranta.

As many people know, Quaranta struggled with severe drug addiction and recently got clean. It was Ben Olsen who provided a hand to Quaranta enabling the young man to come back into form this year. Here is a quote from Quaranta on the matter:
Santino Quaranta's thoughts.....

"When I called him when things were bad for me, he helped me so much as a person. It's not about the soccer; everybody knows what he does on the soccer field and everyone respects that. For me, it's the bigger picture of who he is as a person. He gave me hope. He was the person who said I could come back from all of it, and afterward, I believed I could."
While I always liked the way Olsen played, both for DC United and for the U.S. National team, he will be the first to admit that early on he was all energy and little focus. But between 1999 and 2004, he really matured as a player and became the kind of player that fans love, teammates love and opposing players respect.

But one thing that I think might be missing in the coming years off the field, is Olsen's sense of humor and willingness to have some fun promoting the league. I loved these videos that were done in the lead up to teh 2008 MLS Cup.

While Olsen was good, I thought Chris Klein did a good job as well looking like he was going to burst.

I love Ben's talk with the red headed boy in this video:

"It's more of a craving, an endless longing that haunts me in the darkness of night."

Great stuff. Oh and who can forget this photo of Ben and his teammates for the Body Issue of ESPN the Magazine.

I hope we see Ben Olsen on the sidelines as an assistant next year.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

The 'Real' Jobless Rate: 17.5%

This story highlights for me one of the greatest difficulties in determining the state of our economy. I don't really care about stock market fluctuations or large scale matters to see what the economy is doing, although I understand that these are important matters. To me the health of the economy is people driven, i.e. what are the economic indicators on the ground and at the kitchen tables of people. Thus, things like unemployment rates, home mortgage defaults/foreclosures, savings rates, credit card balances, and take home pay matter much more to me than other types of figures.

But when it comes to defining some of those indicators, it becomes a bit hard. What is the unemployment rate--well that depends on who you are counting and that is difficult:
As experts debate the potential speed of the US recovery, one figure looms large but is often overlooked: nearly 1 in 5 Americans is either out of work or under-employed.

According to the government's broadest measure of unemployment, some 17.5 percent are either without a job entirely or underemployed. The so-called U-6 number is at the highest rate since becoming an official labor statistic in 1994.

The number dwarfs the statistic most people pay attention to—the U-3 rate—which most recently showed unemployment at 10.2 percent for October, the highest it has been since June 1983.

The difference is that what is traditionally referred to as the "unemployment rate" only measures those out of work who are still looking for jobs. Discouraged workers who have quit trying to find a job, as well as those working part-time but looking for full-time work or who are otherwise underemployed, count in the U-6 rate.

With such a large portion of Americans experiencing employment struggles, economists worry that an extended period of slow or flat growth lies ahead.
To me, there is a third measure that needs to be discussed, i.e. those who are simply out of work, whether they are actively looking or not. Underemployment may be a problem, but a great many of us may be underemployed but we are still drawing a paycheck--which is more than somewhere between 1 in 10 and 1 in 5 Americans are doing--depending on how the counting is being done.

But it is not just the numbers that matter, but who is unemployed. Increasingly we seem to be seeing otherwise employable people who would work in entry level jobs being without work. I know that employment is a lagging indicator, but when young people are out of work, they are not getting the skills they need to escape the "lay-off" danger zone later on, continuing the cycle.

So here's the thing--what is the real unemployment number. Are we getting good data and information from government sources? How do we define unemployment? Do you have to be actively looking for work? Does it matter how you define it when the number is around 15 percent?

Photos of the MLS Cup

Adam Spangler went to Seattle and shows that even if Seattle Sounders FC wasn't in the MLS Cup final, they are without a doubt the best host city you can imagine for a final. Spangler has great photos, I particularly like this one of Seattle minority owner Drew Carey.

Photo Credit: Adam Spangler

But it is not just the owner who is passionate, look at these guys:

More MLS Finals Reaction

I have a few more thoughts on the MLS Cup Final.

Kyle Beckerman--he had a solid Gold Cup performance and looked like one of the best, unsung players in American soccer on Sunday night. He was an absolute destroyer in the midfield, but did so in a way that was clean and efficient. At age 27, Beckerman is something of a journeyman, but last night, when combining with Andy Williams and Clint Mathis, he looked the much better midfielder on the pitch. In my mind, I think Beckerman a far better option for holding midfielder for the U.S. National Team than Ricardo Clark. Beckerman is not hasty, he is hard but not reckless and I don't see Beckerman getting stupid red cards early in matches. But even more than that is that Beckerman is a better passer of the ball than Clark. In many ways, Beckerman is a more complete player than Clark. Now whether Beckerman can displace players like Mo Edu and/or Jermaine Jones remains to be seen, but Bob Bradley has to be thinking about it now.

Beckerman is certain to get a call in for the U.S. National Team camp in January, but I think he would be far better off going on loan to a European club for a few months, his game will get far more out of it than spending time just training. Spending some time in Holland or Germany might be a good way for Beckerman to spend his winter.

Robbie Findley may be a solution for Bob Bradley up top. In many ways, Findley is much like Charlie Davies, speedy, scrappy and a handful for defenders because of his movement. I think Davies is stronger and has better balance--perhaps because of his background as a wrestler in high school, but Findley is otherwise like Davies. Whether Findley can break into the National Team set up remains to be seen and had Real Salt Lake not progressed in the MLS Playoffs, I think Findley would likely have seen time with the U.S. squad in the most recent round of friendlies.

Andy Williams and Clint Mathis--these two journeymen players, Williams has spent his entire career in MLS and Mathis, who spent time in Europe and has come back, may be the two most under-rated midfielders in the league. Along with Beckerman, these two men were spraying passes around the pitch, letting the ball do the work and picking apart L.A.'s midfield duo of Jovan Kirovski and Chris Birchall, which forced David Beckham to come inside to pick up the ball and leaving Landon Donovan stranded up top. Although goalkeeper Nick Rimando won the MVP trophy for the final, I think these two men deserved the nod as well.

Jason Kreis--what can you say, at age 36, Kreis is the youngest coach to win the MLS Cup. Quite literally one day a couple of years ago, Kreis was a player for RSL and the next he is the coach. The transition from player to coach is brutal to begin with, but to do so in midseason is almost unthinkable, but Kreis has done it and done it well. I do believe that he had a vision for this club and has been successful in building a club to implement that vision.

As the underdog, it would have been almost permissible for RSL and Kreis to park the bus, put nine or ten men behind the ball and hope for a goal on the counterattack, particularly with the vulnerability of the L.A back line to a speed based attack. But Kreis has not done that all year and didn't against L.A. and credit to him for doing that. RSL played their game all season, sometimes successfully and sometimes not. But in the last month of the regular season, Kreis had found his starting 11 and a style of play that was successful. RSL plays possession, but it is not a negative possession style of play, they possess the ball looking for the pass forward that will unlock a defense.

Can Kreis' history as a striker (he is third all-time goals scorer for MLS with 108 and at the time he became coach, he was the record holder) be informing his coaching style? Perhaps, but I also tend to think that Kreis likes a free-flowing style of play and I think that his style of play is going to alter the way soccer is played in MLS. Kreis' style is not just athletic, but it is also aesthetic and he has quitely assembled a squad that can implement that style of play.

In an interview with Fox Football Fone-In last night, Kreis was asked about his aspirations. I think clearly Kreis will one day helm the U.S. National Team, particularly if he stays on this trajectory, proves that he can spot talent, develop talent and create a system that makes the best out of the talent he has. But Kreis also indicated that it would be a dream to coach in the Premiership or in the first division in a serious league. Kreis could do it, but I would like to see Kreis have another couple years of success on the MLS touchlines and then move to U.S. National Team for the 2018 World Cup Cycle.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Thoughts on the MLS Cup Final

Hats off to Real Salt Lake, the team that qualified dead last for the playoffs, on the last day of the season grabbed their first MLS cup in their five year franchise history, capping off an emotional month of play for RSL. They played like champions last night and deserved to win.

Jason Kreis' boys did a remarkable thing in the past month:

October 24, 2009. Last day of the regular season for RSL, needing to win over Colorado and get a little help to get into the playoffs and they did it.

October 31 and November 5. As the eighth team in the Playoffs, RSL was drawn against the Columbus Crew--arguably the single most consistent team in the league for the past two years, the two time Supporter's Sheild winners, a team that was largely the same from their MLS Cup win in 2008. RSL not only beat Columbus at the Rio Tinto, they went into Crew stadium, went down two goals in the first half and then rallied with three unanswered to knock off the defending champs. RSL played the way Jason Kreis wanted them to and they won--deservedly so.

November 14. RSL, still the underdogs go to Toyota Park to meet the team that most people favored to make it to the MLS Cup--the Chicago Fire. True, the Fire sucked at home this year and RSL were absolutely atrocious on the road (the win against Columbus notwithstanding). But in 120 minutes of soccer, neither team could score. The two smallest keepers in the league, Nick Rimando for RSL and Jon Busch for the Fire kept both teams in the game with some outstanding saves. Chicago boasts two of the most experienced veterans in teh league, Cuahtemoc Blanco and Brian McBride and despite chances neither found the net. In the penalty kicks, the little guy Rimando was absolutely thrilling, saving three penalties before last minute substitute Ned Grabavoy blasted his penalty in past Busch who had gotten his hand on the shot. RSL, the 8th seeded team goes to Seattle for the Final.

Aside from a shocking 18 or so minutes at the end of the first half, RSL was on top in this game. When Bruce Arena shifted Landon Donovan more up top, the RSL back line was slow to shift and the Galaxy made them pay with an outstanding goal by Mike Magee assisted by Donovan and David Beckham.

Unfortuneately, someone forgot to tell Donovan and Beckham that there was another 50 minutes to play the game because after that goal, both key figures were absolutely MIA for the rest of the game. It was by far, the worst I have seen Donovan play in a couple of years--he just didn't figure into this game at all after the first half. Beckham, who was admittedly injured, did his best, but in this case, his injured best was not enough. It was, ironically, the L.A. Galaxy back line of Todd Dunivent, Greg Berhalter, Omar Gonzales and Sean Franklin that kept L.A. in the game. Despite the speed of Robbie Findlay and Yura Movsisyan, the back line was prepared, well-positioned and very well-disciplined agaisnt the RSL attack. Were it not for a broken play and scramble, I don't think RSL would have scored. When Gonzalez left the game injured, his Maryland teammate and roommate A.J. De La Garza came in and made some big plays. For a team that last year shipped more goals than any other team in the league, L.A.'s back line proved to be the line that kept L.A. alive.

A great big hats off to Josh Saunders. L.A.'s starting keeper, the big Jamaican international Donovan Ricketts actually broke his hand in a collision with Omar Gonzalez, played for about 15 minutes and then left immediately after the goal by RSL. Saunders comes into a pressure situation and makes a series of great plays and saves to keep the Galaxy in the game. At teh end of penalties, after saving two shots, Saunders looked devasted, but it was not his fault in the least. He did exactly what back up goalkeepers do, come into the match and kept his team in the game. Nothing more can be expected.

But RSL, man what a team this year. A team that has the lowest payroll in the league, whose only real stars would be Findlay, Kyle Beckerman and Nick Rimando, this squad of no-names, coached by 37 year old former player in Jason Kries, played their game and played it well. For large stretches of the game, they controlled possession, dictated the pace and smoothered the L.A. stars. Despite an 20th minute substitution for the injured Javi Morales (who was in tears on the bench) and halftime substution to Will Johnson was played the first half despite an illness, RSL showed amazing grit and determination to play attacking soccer. Their brand is not Barcelona attractive, but neither is it old school English Route 1 soccer either. They played well as a unit and they worked for each other.

Veteran Andy Williams, who off-field issues including a wife with a rare form of leukemia, would have made this season an almost wash for him, played amazingly well, even as a 32 year old journeyman. Williams who normally would have been subbed out at the end of the game, put in a solid 120 minutes, despite obvious exhaustion.

But in the end it was Nick Rimando, who at 5'9" is the smallest goal keeper in the leauge, who made the day. Despite his size, Rimando is an absolute beast on penalty kicks. He saved three last week against the Fire, made two saves last night and was such a distraction that the normally clinical Landon Donovan actually pulled a Roberto Baggio on his penalty kick. (for non-soccer readers look up Baggio and the 1994 World Cup final).

so the Cinderella run is complete and RSL hoists the Anschultz Trophy. They deserved to do so and I will have more thoughts later.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

MLS Expansion Draft

Next week, all the MLS teams will have to release the list of players who will be available for the Philadelphia Union to select in the expansion draft. The rules are that each team can protect up to 11 players and a few players types, like Generation Addidas players are generally exempt. The final protected list is due next week.

Climbing the Ladder takes a look at some scenarios of teams protecting players. The names selected certainly are possible.

Match Fixing In Europe

German prosecutors have been making arrests for the past two days and the breadth of the scandal is pretty big.
German prosecutors investigating about 200 games in Europe, including at least three in the Champions League and 12 in the Europa League, ordered more than 50 police raids in Germany, Switzerland, Austria and the United Kingdom, leading to the arrests. The matches under investigation were played in Germany, Belgium, Switzerland, Croatia, Slovenia, Turkey, Hungary, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Austria, although to-date no matches played with Britain are under suspicion.
Man, 200 hundred games!!!!

If you want a good story of how matching fixing has occurred and how it can happen, read Declan Hill's The Fix.

Friday, November 20, 2009

How To Get From Climate Change to AIDS in Two Easy Steps

Yes, you can go from one potential global disaster to a global epidemic in just two steps, if you are a U.N. Official. Climate change increases HIV/AIDS infection. So says a representative from the U.N..
The effects of climate change have driven women in communities in coastal areas in poor countries like the Philippines into dangerous work, and sometimes even the flesh trade, a United Nations official said.

Suneeta Mukherjee, country representative of the United Nations Food Population Fund (UNFPA), said women in the Philippines are the most vulnerable to the effects of climate change in the country.

“Climate change could reduce income from farming and fishing, possibly driving some women into sex work and thereby increase HIV infection," Mukherjee said during the Wednesday launch of the UNFPA annual State of World Population Report in Pasay City.

In the Philippines, small brothels usually pop up near the coastal areas where many women perform sexual services for transient seafarers. Often, these prostitutes are ferried to bigger ships by their pimps.
Let's follow the logic here, if you can:

1. "Climate change can reduce income from farming and fishing": This is an assertion without a great deal of proof, but notice the equivocation "can." The statement isn't the unsupported "Climate change reduces income" which is a declarative, but you have simply the possibility that climate change might reduce income. Ironically, lets assume that climate change does alter farming and fishing income--the assertion doesn't say, but does imply, that income would go down. That may not be true--if for example the crop or fish supply becomes less scarce, the price would go up--not down. So in order for climate change to reduce income from fishing and farming--then we would have to have more food--not less. So the state is filled will all kinds of potential and no assertions of fact.

2. "...possibly driving some women into sex work"--again note the equivocation. Certainly if poor women lose their agricultural jobs, then sex work might be one alternative, but so too would manufacturing jobs, not working at all, tourist work or just about any type of work. Also note the fuzzy number "some." Some could mean half a dozen out of 10,000 or some other small percentage. Hardly a crisis of any scale.

3. "...and thereby increase HIV infection." I will admit that an increase in the sex trade produces a related increase in the HIV infection rate, I believe that matter has been well-studied and well-documented. However, increases in HIV infection rates in a given area may not be solely the result of an increase in the sex trade. So just because the sex trade increases in a given local does not fully explain any increase in the HIV infection rate.

Oh, and here is another shocking news bit: "In the Philippines, small brothels usually pop up near the coastal areas where many women perform sexual services for transient seafarers." First, remember that the Philippines are a nation comprised of a lot of islands. Seafarers, being seafarers, have to spend their time on ships, which have to make port in order to make any money. As sure and as certain as the tides and the sun rising in the East, where there are sailors and ports, you will find brothels and prostitutes. In fact, I would bet that if you look at the history of seafaring trade going back to Mesopotamian times, prostitutes were part of the economic activity of any port. The fact that some women engage in the sex trade in coastal areas is not something new.

That doesn't it make it right or wrong, but the problem with such statements by the U.N. is that they attempt to create a crisis where none exists. To say that climate change causes an increase in sex trade and thereby an increase in HIV infection is a statement made without a shred of proof or causation. It is irresponsible in the extreme--but that is nothing new.

Jesse Jackson Plays the Race Card

Seriously, does this man have any shame whatsoever? From
The Rev. Jesse Jackson on Wednesday night criticized Rep. Artur Davis (D-Ala.) for voting against the Democrats’ signature healthcare bill.

“We even have blacks voting against the healthcare bill from Alabama,” Jackson said at a reception Wednesday night. “You can’t vote against healthcare and call yourself a black man.”

The remark stirred a murmur at the reception, held by the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) Foundation as part of a series of events revolving around the 25th anniversary of Jackson’s run for president. Several CBC members were in attendance, including Chairwoman Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), who’d introduced Jackson.

Davis, who is running for governor, is the only black member of Congress from Alabama.

He is also the only member of the CBC to have voted against the healthcare bill earlier this month.
Who knows how Davis would have voted if he weren't running for governor in a state the certainly leans Republican.

In my opinion, Jesse Jackson is one of the biggest race baiters on the planet and lest there be any doubt, Jackson essentially called Davis a traitor to his race. Is there any doubt about which party is truly the party of racists?

I love Davis' response though:
“One of the reasons that I like and admire Rev. Jesse Jackson is that 21 years ago he inspired the idea that a black politician would not be judged simply as a black leader,” Davis’s statement said. “The best way to honor Rev. Jackson’s legacy is to decline to engage in an argument with him that begins and ends with race."
So tell me, who is the man who doesn't consider race the end all, be all of existence.

California Universities Won't Be the Last To Increase Tuition

During the economic boom years, many state universities did not increase tuition or had token increases in tuition. Well, now it looks like in the face of massive state budget shortfalls, state university systems are looking at the possibility of massive tuition hikes. In California students are protesting a possible 32% tuition increase of what would amount to $2,500 per year.

Now don't get me wrong, when you are paying roughly $7,000 per year already, a one third increase hurts and I do sympathize with students getting smacked around by this particuarly hike. But the problem is not this tuition increase, but the years when there were no increases. You cannot hold a service price level for so many years (despite the fact that the costs of that service have increased every year) and not pay the piper at some point. Now it is time to pay the piper and the University Regents have only themselves to blame.

College costs money and those costs go up every year no matter what is done. But for years universities have been reluctant to increase fees--particularly on in-state students. Increasing tuition on in-state students is political dynamite. Well now, instead of small, 2-5 percent increases every year, the UC system is looking at a one-third increase in the political equivalent of thermonuclear device.

The $100 Million Health Care Vote?

ABC's Jonathan Karl reports on $100 Million Health Care Vote "buyoff" of Senator Mary Landrieu (D-LA), a Senator who has been wavering on the health care bill and whose vote Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid absolutely needs.
What does it take to get a wavering senator to vote for health care reform?

Here’s a case study.

On page 432 of the Reid bill, there is a section increasing federal Medicaid subsidies for “certain states recovering from a major disaster.”

The section spends two pages defining which “states” would qualify, saying, among other things, that it would be states that “during the preceding 7 fiscal years” have been declared a “major disaster area.”

I am told the section applies to exactly one state: Louisiana, the home of moderate Democrat Mary Landrieu, who has been playing hard to get on the health care bill.

In other words, the bill spends two pages describing would could be written with a single world: Louisiana. (This may also help explain why the bill is long.)

Senator Harry Reid, who drafted the bill, cannot pass it without the support of Louisiana’s Mary Landrieu.

How much does it cost? According to the Congressional Budget Office: $100 million.
Karl also includes the two pages of legislative language, which is quite dense that demonstrates the lengths to which Congress will go to protect an earmark or payoff.

Now, this is not the first time that complex legislative language has been used to hide a goody sent to a particular state or district in order to garner support, nor will it be the last time.

But the scale of this section is simply mind-boggling.

I wonder what Governor Bobby Jindal (R-LA) thinks about the influx of money? Will he accept it? Will he use it? My sense might be no--and remember, Bobby Jindal probably knows more about government run health care policy that half the Senate put together. Jindal was the staff director of the National Bipartisan Commission on the Future of Medicare, a former Assistant Secretary of Health and Human Services and the director of the Louisiana Hospital System.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Tipping and that Mandatory 18% Gratuity

Philadelphia Inquirer is carrying a story in which a gorup of college students were arrested for failing to pay a $16.35 tip. A group of college students were at a local pub in Bethehem, PA and apparently got very poor service and declined to leave a tip, although they did pay the full bill.

But because there were six or more of them, the pub put an 18% gratuity automatically on the bill.
They were with a half-dozen friends at the Lehigh Pub in Bethlehem last month, so the establishment tacked what it called a mandatory 18 percent gratuity onto the bill of about $73, according to reports.

Pope and Wagner refused to pay.

"You can't give us terrible, terrible service and expect a tip," said Pope, a 22-year-old Moravian College senior who's a Pottsville native, according to the Lehigh Valley Express-Times.

They had to find their own napkins and cutlery while their waitress caught a smoke, had to ask the bar for soda refills, and had to wait over an hour for salad and wings, they told NBC10.
I have long had a problem with the notion that a server is entitled to a mandatory gratuity just because there is a large party. If a party of 8 comes into a restaurant, they will have the same demands of the kitchen and wait staff as two parties of four, perhaps less in some cases. So the mere fact that they are all together does not justify a mandatory gratuity.

I also have a problem with the expectation of a tip for restaurant servers. A gratuity is a symbol of thanks for doing a good job. I have been known to pay as much as 25% for truly exceptional service, I have also been known to leave a single penny for truly awful service.

I had a similar experience many years ago. A group of 8 friends or so from college went to a local bar and grill. We sat in the bar area on a not particularly busy night. After about 15 minutes, a waitress comes by and takes our drink order. The bar was 10 feet away but it took another 20 minutes before our drinks arrived. The waitress then took our food order, which involved mostly appetizers, soups and salads. Ten minutes later she comes by and quite literally tosses silverware onto the table and disappears. Another 40 minutes elapse before our food arrives and several of us who ordered soup didn't get soup spoons. So after waiting a few minutes, we went to the bar to get our silverware and to get our drinks refreshed. After eating, no one came by to ask if we wanted more drinks, which we did get from the bar tender, or if we wanted something else like desert. Our bill came, about $100, which we paid in full, but left no tip since we received absolutely pitiful service. Keep in mind that most of us in our group had at one time or another been a server or bartender.

A few minutes later as we were in the parking lot, the server, a bouncer and the bar manager came up to us in the parking lot complaining about us not paying the bill. A local police officer was nearby and came up to us. After hearing that we had paid the bill but no the tip, the police left--saying it was not his problem. The waitress complained that we had stiffed her a tip, that she deserved the tip because we were a party of 8 and there was a mandatory tip requirement. We explained to her and the manager that we paid for the food and drink we consumed and that the service was practically non-existent and did not warrant a tip. The waitress then complained that they were shorthanded and she was covering twice her normal area. We then noted that if she had told us that up front, we would be far more forgiving for slow service, but not forgiving about nearly no service.

For all the waiters, bartenders and other service personell who routinely get tips. Just because you aren't paid minimum wage and rely on tips is not enough to expect a tip. I will pay a ten to fifteen percent tip for acceptable service. For good service you might see 15 to 18 percent and truly good service will get rewarded. But if you don't put out even a minimal standard of effort, why should I pay you for not doing your job? Your job is relatively simple, take my order, bring me the food and drink I order and check occaisionally if I want or need something. It is not rocket science, it is service. Do a good job, get rewarded, do a poor job--expect to reminded of your incompetence.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Denmark 3:1 United States--Friendly

The U.S. Men's National Team conceded three goals in 8 minutes against the Danes in the last U.S. match of the year.

Jeff Cunningham put the U.S. up 1-0 going into halftime and in doing so, probably cemented a call up to the National Team camp in January. But the back line didn't do themselves any favors.

Today is the last day of qualifying for the World Cup. Algeria grabbed the last of the African slots winning over Egypt in a one game playoff taking place in the Sudan. Greece stole a spot with a 1-0 win over Ukraine in Kiev. Slovenia beat Russia on the away goal rule to advance to their first ever World Cup. Portugal also made it as well.

The last Eurpoepean match--between France and Ireland is now tied 1-1 on the aggregate over the two games with each time having an away goal. As of this time, there are about 15 minutes left in regular time. If the aggregate is still tied at the end of this match, they will play 30 minutes of extra time and then to penalty kicks if still tied.

The last open spot is between Costa Rica and Uruguay which will take place later tonight. The Uruguans are in the driver seat with a 1-0 lead playing at home.

Another Goalkeeper Goal

Diego Rodriguez (San Lorenzo) vs Independiente in the Brazilian League reserves match.

I love it when keepers score for their club.

Elizabeth Lambert “still deeply regrets” Her Actions Against BYU |

Elizabeth Lambert became something of a household name as the result of losing her head in a Mountain West Women's Soccer semi-final match.

Suspended indefinitely from her team (putting her scholarship at risk as well), Lambert has been looking to explain and reconcile her actions. According to this story, Lambert had received just two yellow cards in over 2,500 minutes of play (a game is 90 minutes long and doing the math, we are talking about almost 28 full matches, so clearly she is not necessarily the dirty player she looks like.

I do think that Lambert lost her mind and I am willing to give her the benefit of the doubt based on the records. However, I do think she is trying to apologize as best she can. She does have a point though, soccer is a physical game and the girls are just as physical as the men. But here is a big difference between the women's game and the men's game: in the men's game, retaliations tend to be immediate and once the retaliation is done, the players tend to not think about it further.

Women, in my experience only, tend to let an affront simmer a while and retaliation can come much later in a match or even another game. Men have no memory, women will remember.

I think that is what makes the Lambert incident so different--the retaliation was largely immediate and that is what may be so schocking about it in addition to the rather violent nature of the foul.

I also agree with Lambert that the referee should have done more to control the match. Unlike Lambert, I am willing to throw the referee and his assistant referees and fourth official under the bus. Of no less than three incidents, Lambert could have been ejected from the game or at the very least cautioned, but was not until much later in an action that should have been a red card and was not. Referees have to have courage in these situations to issue the cards even if it means costing a team the game.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Jobs Saved or Created in Congressional Districts That Don't Exist

ABC News, not exactly the greatest critic of the Obama Administration points out a fairly big error by the Obama White House:
Here's a stimulus success story: In Arizona's 15th congressional district, 30 jobs have been saved or created with just $761,420 in federal stimulus spending. At least that's what the Web site set up by the Obama administration to track the $787 billion stimulus says.

There's one problem, though: There is no 15th congressional district in Arizona; the state has only eight districts.

And ABC News has found many more entries for projects like this in places that are incorrectly identified.

Late Monday, officials with the Recovery Board created to track the stimulus spending, said the mistakes in crediting nonexistent congressional districts were caused by human error.

"We report what the recipients submit to us," said Ed Pound, Communications Director for the Board.

Pound told ABC News the board receives declarations from the recipients - state governments, federal agencies and universities - of stimulus money about what program is being funded.

"Some recipients clearly don't know what congressional district they live in, so they appear to be just throwing in any number. We expected all along that recipients would make mistakes on their congressional districts, on jobs numbers, on award amounts, and so on. Human beings make mistakes," Pound said.
There are three things that jump out at me.

1. The Obama Administration is quick to blame someone, anyone else for a mistake. This time they cite that "some recipients" (a nice non-specific way to blame someone without actually naming them) don't know what congressional district they live in. After nearly a year in office, this Administration routinly blames the Bush Administration for its problems and difficulties. Clearly this is another problem to blame on the Bush White House.

2. The Obama Administration is apparently staffed with a bunch of low level incompetents, otherwise, this kind of mistake gets caught. I will admit that not everyone walking the street knows how many Congressional Districts are in each state, but someone working for the White House should know how to do a basic fact check. Such an oversight cannot be excused nor should it be blamed on some junior staffer or website manager. Someone should have proofed the information and didn't and there is no one to blame but the White House.

3. What we have here is almost a Potemkin Presidency. The Obama Administration will sacrifice just about everything--even common sense and accuracy--to look good. I fully understand the desire to put a good spin on matters, particularly economic matters when citizen confidence in the soundness of the economic plays a big role in the actual soundness of the economy. But seriously, there has to be at least a shred of fact behind the spin or it is false front. We have more of a false front than we have a genuine leader right now.

Monday, November 16, 2009

The Strange Dichotomy of Obama's Decision Making

In a thought provoking piece for the L.A. Times, Doyle McManus suggests that Obama needs to rethink his Afghanistan re-thinking.
The decision about whether to send thousands more troops to Afghanistan was never going to be easy, but events -- and a collision of egos in Kabul -- have conspired to make it even harder.

Obama was right to insist on a full review of whether U.S. interests are better served by expanding the American military footprint in Afghanistan or shrinking it.

But now, two months into his second "comprehensive policy review," after eight Cabinet-level meetings and several slipped target dates, the president still hasn't made up his mind.

In George W. Bush, we had a president who shot first and asked questions later. In Barack Obama, we have a president who asks the right questions but hesitates to pull the trigger.
While I might debate the characterization of President Bush, as well as whether President Obama is asking the right questions, I don't think that the President is doing himself any favors by spending so much time looking for a perfect solution, one that demonstrates committment to Afghanistan, but preserves the ability for the U.S. to take an "off-ramp" and get out of Afghanistan.

Anyone who has been in a position of leadership knows that you almost rarely get to make important decisions with perfect information. Indeed, most decisions are made in the complete absence of even great information--if you have good information you have to consider yourself lucky. When it comes to foreign policy decisions like this one, even decent information would be a god-send.

But what I find most interesting is not the hesitation President Obama is exhibiting, but something a little more telling--his indecision shows a lack of confidence that is not present in other matters of his Administration.

Case in point. President Obama is absolutely convinced that health care reform is necessary including a massive intervention into a major sector of the economy. His belief is certain despite the plethora of evidence that would suggest he be a little more circumspect in his intervention. The President has put forth a goal (whether that goal is wise or attainable is not relevant in this context) but has left it to others to establish the methods for achieving that goal. Fine--I don't like the process, but it is a process.

But when it comes to Afghanistan, the president seems incapable of expressing a goal for the country and then leaving it to others (namely his commanders and diplomats) to accomplish that goal.

Why the difference in approaches?

I don't buy the answer that goes something like this "Well, with Afghanistan he is committing troops to harm's." It is true that Afghanistan would mean the committment of troops, but the counterargument is that if the President commits even 100,000 more troops, the impact on Afghanistan may be great, and the impact on most of America in the short term will be relatively small--confined largely to the military and the military families. Most Americans right now don't give a toss about Afghanistan, could explain its importance in the grand scheme of things and it is hard to believe that a majority of American will care next year either.

But the President has committed the country to a domestic path than will affect tens of millions in a very real, very economic, indeed a very personal way. He has apparently done so in the sincere belief that it is the right thing for the country. If we are talking about net effect on the American people, it would seem that the domestic agenda carries the greater potential for negative impact that committing or not committing more troops to Afghanistan.

The difference in approaches to this problem lies in Obama himself. The President cannot seem to muster the same audacity in decision making he demonstrates on domestic issues to foreign policy issues. But it also runs deeper. The President's decision making apparatus (internal or external) is woefully inadequate.

Most leaders will tell you that they make decision based on information they have in front of them, wish they had more information, but understand that they have to make a decision often in the absence of information. The president has made a domestic policy decision in the presence of information that would caution against his action. At the same time, the President faced with the knowledge that he doesn't have any information on Afghanistan, refuses to make a decision.

In one case he ignores the information he has and in the second, he seeks information he can't get. In both cases, we have a flawed decision making process. What it means for us is that we have three more years of bad decision making ahead of us.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Justice Dept. Asked For News Site's Visitor Lists

Well, that's troubling on so many levels. CBS News reports:
In a case that raises questions about online journalism and privacy rights, the U.S. Department of Justice sent a formal request to an independent news site ordering it to provide details of all reader visits on a certain day.

The grand jury subpoena also required the Philadelphia-based Web site "not to disclose the existence of this request" unless authorized by the Justice Department, a gag order that presents an unusual quandary for any news organization.

Kristina Clair, a 34-year old Linux administrator living in Philadelphia who provides free server space for, said she was shocked to receive the Justice Department's subpoena. (The Independent Media Center is a left-of-center amalgamation of journalists and advocates that – according to their principles of unity and mission statement – work toward "promoting social and economic justice" and "social change.")

The subpoena (PDF) from U.S. Attorney Tim Morrison in Indianapolis demanded "all IP traffic to and from" on June 25, 2008. It instructed Clair to "include IP addresses, times, and any other identifying information," including e-mail addresses, physical addresses, registered accounts, and Indymedia readers' Social Security Numbers, bank account numbers, credit card numbers, and so on. (links in original omitted)
Such a move is troubling on so many levels, that I don't know where to begin.

The article goes on to say that the Electronic Frontier Foundation is representing Ms. Clair (a good thing) and sent a letter to the U.S. Attorney which included a number of faults, including improper service, and an overly broad subpoena. The subpoena was withdrawn after the EFF got involved. But this story is reflective of a bigger problem.

The subpoena is a grand jury subpoena and generally those are kept confidential and so an order to not talk about the subpoena is not uncommon. But the fact that the subpoena was issued to the person who runs the server and not is bit troubling. It would seem to me that is the target of the probe, otherwise, why not serve the subpoena on them? Why serve it on a third party hardware administrator? What has done to warrant such scrutiny of not only themselves, but whoever visited the site on June 25, 2008. Lots of questions to which we are likely to never find an answer.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Health Care Costs and the Price of Care

In all the hubub of the health care financing bill, there has come to be a very massive misunderstanding of the nature of cost of health care versus the price of health care. Betsy Newmark links to a great piece by Thomas Sowell who talks about the nature of cost. Actually, last week Sowell had a series of four columns discussing the costs of medical care.
There is a fundamental difference between reducing costs and simply shifting costs around, like a pea in a shell game at a carnival. Costs are not reduced simply because you pay less at a doctor's office and more in taxes-- or more in insurance premiums, or more in higher prices for other goods and services that you buy, because the government has put the costs on businesses that pass those costs on to you.

Costs are not reduced simply because you don't pay them. It would undoubtedly be cheaper for me to do without the medications that keep me alive and more vigorous in my old age than people of a similar age were in generations past.

Letting old people die would undoubtedly be cheaper than keeping them alive-- but that does not mean that the costs have gone down. It just means that we refuse to pay the costs. Instead, we pay the consequences. There is no free lunch.
Therein lies the problem, people looking for a free lunch.

Simply put, in health/medical care, or indeed in anything, there ain't no such thing as a free lunch ("Tanstaafl")(note--I didn't create the acronym-see Robert Heinlein's The Moon is a Harsh Mistress.) That is what Sowell is trying to show, TANSTAAFL, means that the costs of medical treatment will not be magically reduced by eliminating waste, fraud and abuse, or setting prices at a certain point for certain services--those costs still exists.

Basic economics teaches us early on that price is largely a function of supply and demand. The more demand you have or the less supply you have, the priced tends to go up. If you have high supply and/or low demand, you get lower prices. Pretty simple right.

However, the provision of goods and services, any good or service, carries with it certain inherent costs which tends to dictate where the price range will begin. Thus if it costs $100.00 to manufacture, market, sell and deliver your widget or service, the seller cannot set a price below $100.00 and expect to make a profit. Indeed, such short selling might be a short term loss leader, but at some point either the seller will have to raise prices or get out of the business of selling that good or service.

It doesn't matter if the govnerment sets the price of the widget or service at $88.00, it still cots the seller $100 to make the widget or provide the service. Thus, while the price has been set, it has not reduced the costs of the product at all.

Medical care is chocked full of costs. It is expensive to educate doctors in this country. It is expensive to use all those wonderful machines that make diagnosis and treatment better and more efficient, like CAT scanners, MRI devices, heart rate monitors, even the simpler thermometer and stethescope. Each of those devices also carry costs to make, from patent costs for certain machinery or software that makes the machine so useful, to the cost of the metal and plastic used to make the physical shell of the machine. While the costs of these machines can be spread out among many patients, there is still a cost that is passed on to the patient, a costs that cannot be ignored. A hospital has to have power, water, and redundant systems for those utilities in case the power goes out, as well as specialized systems for the disposal of medical wastes. Again costs that are spread out but still real.

While doctors and medical providers can negotiate a price for their service--which negotiations are largely outside the hands of the actual consumer of the service, but that is another issue--they cannot simply ignore the costs of the service. To do so for long means that they will not be in business for long.

Getting back to TANSTAAFL, even a free lunch has costs.

What the health care bill says is that the Democrats believe that they can provide the proverbial free lunch. Simply waving a magic wand or setting a price for a good or service does not eliminate the costs. The worst thing is that these supposed smart people on Capitol Hill think they can reduce those costs.

Monday, November 09, 2009

ARRRGGHHHHH! This Meme Has To Stop!!

In an otherwise reasonable editorial, the Washington Posts's Fred Hiatt repeats a meme that somehow keeps creeping up. Hiatt's lead:
The House passage of health-care reform Saturday night should be a moment of celebration. In a country as wealthy as America, no one should have to go without medical care. As in other developed nations, everyone should have access to doctors, to medicine, to preventive services. The House bill would take America a giant step closer to that goal.
Can you spot the problem?

If not, you have not been paying much attention to the debate and to health care in America or how it is delivered.

First let us be clear, no one in this country in need of medical care will ever go without. If you need an emergency room, you can go and you will get treated. If you need a doctor, you can find one.

The problem is not access to health care, it is paying for health care. There are Americans who can't afford health care and make no mistake, this monstrosity of a bill will do absolutely nothing to reduce the cost of care, in fact, it will make health care more expensive by subsidizing it.

But here is the vicious self-fullfilling prophecy that we are going to be entering into.

1. In an effort to promote access to and payment for high quality health care services (which is by no means a right--no matter what anyone says), the government will subsidize care for those who can't get health insurance through their employer or what ever reason may exist.

2. As sure as the sun will rise in the East tomorrow, those people who previously had to make a decision about whether to go to a doctor, will now go without thinking twice because the govnerment is footing the bill.

3. Employers, unable to compete with the government subsidized health programs in terms of cost effectiveness will force more and more people onto the public rolls, which then adds to the demand.

4. As more and more people demand care without having to personally pay for it, the costs to the government will go up, leading to the verge of bankruptcy that Hiatt himself warns us of.

5. As a result, in order to control costs, the government will have to start controllling use of the health care services (to the uninitiated, that is how Canada, Britain and other Western Eurpean nations control costs--it is also, essentially, rationing).

6. Then the prophesy will be fulfilled when people are being denied access to care they need, not because they don't have the ability to pay for cadillac level health care, but because the government is telling them they can't.

The problem we face with this health care bill will be years away, if not decades, but given that we can see what happens with government run health care in other nations, why is it we can't see the future here. Do we really think that we are that much smarter?

Washington Freedom Get Chippy

Goff has the story on the Freedom's latest marketing campaign taking swipe at the Washingotn Redskins.

U.S. Men's National Team Roster for November Friendlies

U.S. Men's National Team Bob Bradley has named a 22 man roster for the November friendlies against Slovakia and Denmark. Interesting stat--the U.S. is one of only six teams to play its last two 2009 fixtures against other World Cup bound sides. This will be the U.S. first match ever against Slovakia and the first time to play Denmark in Denmark.

Here is the roster (and comments):

GOALKEEPERS: Brad Guzan (Aston Villa), Marcus Hahnemann (Wolverhampton), Troy Perkins (Valerenga).
I am not surprised to see Tim Howard getting a break here. Guzan is likely to get the nod in both games in order to keep him sharp, although his apprenticeship with Brad Friedel is apparently going well given his Carling Cup performance a couple of weeks ago (saving four penalties in the match). Hahnemann and Perkins are battling it out for the third spot on the World Cup roster. Right now I would give Hahnemann the nod given his experience and locker room presence, but he is not getting a lot of playing time for Wolves.

DEFENDERS: Carlos Bocanegra (Rennes), Jonathan Bornstein (Chivas USA), Steve Cherundolo (Hannover), Jimmy Conrad (Kansas City Wizards), Clarence Goodson (IK Start), Frankie Hejduk (Columbus Crew), Chad Marshall (Columbus Crew), Heath Pearce (FC Dallas), Jonathan Spector (West Ham).
With Oguchi Onyewu and Jay DeMerit down with injuries for a few more months, Bob Bradley has got to be worried about his centerbacks. Bocanegra is present for centerback. Bradley must feel a little lucky here given that with Columbus getting booted from the MLS playoffs, Chad Marshall will probably get a good look assuming his knee is in good enough shape. Clarence Goodson will also see time. I wouldn't be suprised to Spector in the middle either, he has good size. Conrad and Hejduk are there for leadership and I would be surprised to see them get a lot of playing time. Pearce and Bornstein are going to battle for the left back position. Bornstein has been playing well of late and Pearce is trying to win the spot again. Cherundolo and Spector are the current right back options.

Defenders must be the biggest concern for Bob Bradley heading into a World Cup year. Injuries are killing the central defense and left back has been a problem for the entire qualification process and still a little suspect.

I am suprised to see that Edgar Castillo didn't get a call-up for left back. But then again, I think Bradley has enough evaluation problems right now to add another.

MIDFIELDERS: Michael Bradley (Borussia Mönchengladbach), Clint Dempsey (Fulham), Benny Feilhaber (AGF Aarhus), Sacha Kljestan (Chivas USA), Dax McCarty (FC Dallas), Robbie Rogers (Columbus Crew)
The MLS playoffs have decimated the midfield for Bradley with Landon Donovan, Stuart Holden, Rico Clark and Kyle Beckerman all still playing. Mo Edu and Jermaine Jones are still a little iffy with his knee injury. I think all of these players will see significant time in the next two matches, and I wouldn't be surprised to see Bradley and Dempsey getting less time than the others. I would like to see if Kljestan has regained some form on the international level, which has been missing for almost a year since his hattrick against Sweden in January. Robbie Rogers will certainly spend a lot of time on the left wing.

FORWARDS: Jozy Altidore (Hull City), Conor Casey (Colorado Rapids), Jeff Cunningham (FC Dallas), Eddie Johnson (Fulham).
With Charlie Davies' injuries and Brian Ching in the MLS playoffs, this was going to be an interesting selection. Conor Casey was pretty much a lock along with Altidore.

I am surprised to see that Jeremiah White, Feilhaber's Aarhus teammate, didn't get a call, I would have thought that an easy one. Likewise, I am surprised that Kenny Cooper didn't get a call either.

I am very, very happy to see Jeff Cunningham on this list. His form in the MLS over the past three months is one of hte most important reasons why FC Dallas almost qualified for the MLS playoffs. Cunningham's biggest knock is that he is very inconsistent. Certainly he is on fire right now and if he keeps that form next year, he could continue to get calls into to camp.

Friday, November 06, 2009

Jobless rate tops 10 pct. for first time since '83

This story will get buried behind the Ft. Hood massacre. While the Ft. Hood story is important, tragic and should get top coverage, I'm afraid that the Obama Administration is dodging a bullet with this bit of news.

The Most Transparent Government Ever

Pelosi Breaks Pledge to Put Final Health Care Bill Online for 72 Hours Before Vote. Shocking, I know.

Sticking with Unnecessary Violence In Sports

An amateur adult American football player is facing assault charges after brutally strking a referee with his helmet.

The local football referees' association is considering not officiating those games in the future and rightfully so.

As a soccer referee, mainly on the youth levels, I generally don't worry about players getting physical with me. At 6'4" tall and carrying about 225 in weight, being in decent shape and having some self-defense training, I don't worry about players getting up in my face in an aggressive manner. Parents on the other hand can sometimes get bent out of shape, but I have never had a physical confrontation and hopefully never will.

But my soccer referees association has made it clear to our client leagues that abuse of referees will not be tolerated. I don't think that any league has ever been denied our services for referee abuse, but we could do that. Leagues that don't harshly crack down on such behavior risk not only not have sanctioned referees at their matches, they run the risk of the league losing it sanction from the state of Maryland and the U.S.S.F.

So why do we worry about aggressive behavior and abuse of referees. One thing to keep in mind is that many of the games that I referee are for boys and girls between the ages of 12 and 18. Many of them are competing not only for the current game, but for college scholarships and maybe even more. These players are coached by paid, professional coaches and for all intents and purposes, many of the leagues I officate are professional level leagues. No the players aren't paid, but the parents and clubs do spend a significant amount of money on the teams, coaches, players and so forth. So much that the referees have to treat the games as professional games, protecting the players and demanding a higher standard of care by the players, coaches, parents and fans.

Holy Catfight Batman

I have referred boys games and girls game in my refereeing career. In general, boys tend to be immediate retaliators if they have been wronged. Girls, in general, tend be less of an immediate retaliators, but sometimes they can. The game is physical, there is always a little bit of pushing and shoving going on. I usually let a little pushing to go on without a whistle, same with jersey pulling unless is it just so blatant as to need a call just to remind the players that there are rules.

Having said that, the refereeing crew just completely dropped the ball on this game and they were lucky that no serious injuries took place. Check out this video of Brigham Young University and University of New Mexico. Check out the New Mexico number 15. When the NCAA sees this video, this girl has to absolutely be suspended for multiple matches if not longer. It is shocking how much this girl just abused the other team and got just a yellow card. I counted three fouls that deserved a straight red card, particularly the hair pull and the karate chop to the neck.

The refereeing crew really dropped the ball on this matter.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

MLS Goal of the Year Nominees

My top three

1. Donovan's Volley in week 21
2. Jacqua's volley in week 11
3. McBride's nifty control and finish in week 3.

Honorable Mentions

1. Quaranta's week 8 daisy cutter.
2. Montero's massive cross bar rattling long range blast in week 28.
3. Clint Mathis' big volley in week 6.

Great Goal Celebration

Massive points for creativity here. However, does this get a yellow card?