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Archive for July, 2010

US Military at Dangerous Point in History

July 20, 2010 2 comments

Sometimes I like to read commentary by foreign press about American issues. We’re at a point where all media has an axe to grind, and it’s sometimes nice to get an outside view.

This is an interesting article by Britain’s Daily Telegraph which says that America’s armed forces are at a breaking point.

The ongoing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are going on longer than anyone thought they would, and we are trying to do it with fewer numbers. Our armed forces for the Vietnam war was 3 times what our numbers are today even though our population has increased 60% since that war.

We witnessed second hand that the troop surge in Bush’s final months did wonders for the war in Iraq. For whatever reason, the US is now getting ready for an even greater reduction in Armed Forces than when Clinton was in office in the 1990’s.

Military personnel are being required to take multiple tours of duty.

Military divorces are way up, as are cases of mental illness and disorders for our soldiers.

Soldiers are opting out of renewing at astounding rates, making those that stay in — even the worst performing soldiers — able to be promoted to leadership positions.

Suicides involving military personnel are way up.

National Defense is a serious issue that needs to be part of the next election process. Take a minute to read this article about more poor decisions by the Obama White House on our national security. Why make this a partisan issue? Isn’t this the President that sold America on his ability and willingness to not play party politics? Why is Obama willing to risk our nation’s security over partisan politics?

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Obama’s Economy Not Working

July 16, 2010 7 comments

It’s the ECONOMY, Stupid!

Barack Obama’s White House has decided to back a Keynesian economic policy of “let’s get big government dollars to spend our way out of this economic crisis.”

Is it working? Absolutely Not.

Has Obama effectively lined his supporter’s pocket’s in the process? Absolutely.

When US Automaker General Motors was in financial trouble, the US Government effectively took GM over. As the US Gov’t reworked the company, it ditched the banks and creditors of GM, and transferred huge amounts of the “New GM Ownership” to Unions and other Obama supporters. It’s almost like when a new King started in England, and he decided to take enormous tracts of land from people he didn’t like, and bequeath enormous wealth to his new supporters. Basically it’s robbery, but legalized!

In the Federal Reserve minutes from their meeting last month, there were some very important words hidden near the back, in the small print: The Fed doesn’t think that the US Economy will recover for 5 to 6 years.

In other words, far from winding down the Great Recession and talking about the new Economic Gains that Obama has been touting this week, this shows that in the global economic crisis, the US is now becoming the problem.

The new Fed Reserve minutes show a complete change in policy, demonstrating how fast the recovery has lost steam. International Monetary Research says that the US authorities have “botched the policy response.” Oh really?

  • New home sales at 300,000 in May, lowest since records began in 1963
  • Outbound exports from Long Beach (major SoCal shipping port) dropped from 139,000 in May to 116,000 in June.
  • Philadelphia’s new manufacturing orders index plunged to -4.3 in early July

So what will Barack Obama and his team of Economic Advisers do? According to Gabriel Stein of Lombard Street Research, they are “throwing in the towel.” Washington wants to start another round of government spending again — raising the debt level from $2.4 trillion, to a whopping $5 trillion.

Sound HOPEful and CHANGEful to you? Me either.

We need to get government deficit spending to stop before the dollar becomes totally worthless. Out of all the dollars ever created in the 234 years of USA’s history, over half has been created in the last 3 years.

We need to get the US Government out of the business of spending money on stimulus programs and bailouts. We have spent billions of dollars, and it hasn’t brought the economy out of the recession. Now we want to do it again?

The US Government needs to stop the bleeding. Reduce entitlement payments immediately. Reduce the size of the behemoth that has become our Federal Government, creating Czars of This and Czars of That, each with mandatory staff and spending budgets. We need to get out of the business of saving failing banks and businesses. Let the AIG’s of the world fail. Stop the bailout spending spree. And reduce the US Federal Income Tax.

The more money is in the hands of the individual consumers, the better. What, we won’t be able to afford all of the government programs? It’s okay. The individual cities and communities will pick up the slack, feeding the poor, helping them back onto their feet.

It’s what Americans do.

Negative Netherlands, Diving Spaniards

July 12, 2010 14 comments

Good for Spain. Here’s a country that has collapsed many times under the weight of expectations, never having even won a World Cup Quarterfinal in their storied history. (Of course they had 2 perfectly good goals called out in 2002 Korea/Japan when playing against the hosts, the game being refereed by Egyptian referee Gamal Ghandour and his Ugandan and Trinidadian assistants. Um, we might need to make sure we have top class refs at the World Cups, eh FIFA?)

Of course I wanted Germany to win, but I do like Spain. It’s funny. On my first trip to Spain some time in the mid-90’s, I bought a Spain jersey. I love the country, speak the language (Castellano, at least), and I felt bad for their many collapses and unfulfilled expectations over the years. I never thought at the time that they would develop into a world powerhouse and become Germany’s Biggest Nemesis From Europe, having won the Euro 2008 Final over die mannschaft, as well as knocking them out of World Cup 2010. Ack!

But as for 2010, the best team won. It’s a sad commentary on the defensive nature of high-stakes soccer that we have to say things like “I’m so glad the best team won.” I mean, isn’t that what playing the game is for? When you watch an NFL championship, you figure that the team with the highest score at the end of the game was the best. But in soccer, with the difficulty of scoring goals against a team focused on fouling and defending to the hilt, you always have that possibility that the”best” team — the most creative team, the team with the most shots on goal, the team with most possession, the team that wants to play attacking soccer — doesn’t win. I believe it’s one of the biggest detractions against the game of soccer to the casual or non-soccer fan world wide: Why is it so difficult to score goals, and why does the “best” team some times (too often?!) not come out on top?

English Referee Howard Webb had a difficult job. Here’s a guy that’s accustomed to refereeing in mostly honest, hurly-burly England. But then he gets asked to referee the World Cup Final between the Negative Fouling Netherlands and the Amazing Diving Spaniards. Webb was out of his gourd. They needed someone that could tell the difference between a real foul and a dive, and just wave “play on.” When Referee Héctor Baldassi of Argentina did this in Spain’s game against Portugal, the Spaniards quickly realized that diving doesn’t pay, and immediately stopped the heinous practice. Webb, take a lesson from your colleagues, eh?

How is this not a Red Card Mr. Webb? (photo daniel ochoa de olza)

And it’s great that Holland was finally found out. Holland could have been beaten by Slovakia, except for some poor finishing by the Slovaks. The Brazil game was a good scalp for Holland, but they were gifted the equalizing goal by a Brazilian goalkeeping error. And Holland lucked out to play against an understrength Uruguay squad, which was without their captain and best defender Lugano as well as – up to that point – their best striker Suarez.

The Dutch can't handle the truth (photo frank augstein)

So really, I think the love affair with the Netherlands being so great was an illusion, which was uncovered in the Final. I mean sure — they made Spain work for it — but anyone can do that by putting 9 guys behind the ball parking the bus, tackle ferociously and often times unfairly, and hope to score a goal on a counter attack. Even Portugal showed us that. But Holland? That was light years from Total Football.

Whew! That was close.

Spain Celebrates World Cup 2010 (photo Laurence Griffiths)

FIFA, since apparently I know better than you do, here are some changes needed to the game of World Football. I’ve kept the list short. I think you already know why.

1. Goal line technology. You need to give the goals if they are scored, and in this day with the technology we have, it’s unforgivable. England were robbed, and we’ll never know what could have happened in that game. At least the universe is slightly more aligned if you balance 2010 with 1966. Get the goal line technology now. FIFA says that they don’t want to implement it because it wouldn’t be available to all levels of the game. That’s ridiculous. Little league baseball and high school football don’t have it — and it doesn’t matter. The NFL and MLB have replay to get the calls exactly right when the stakes are so high. FIFA needs to do the same for high-stakes soccer matches.

In the mean time, put “magic chalk” or something in the mouth of the goal behind the goal line. That way, like in tennis, it can be determined if a ball bounced there. Is there chalk on the ball? Where did it bounce? Yup. It’s a goal. Hey, at least it’s a start.

2. The yellow card accumulation process needs to be altered. Protect the players from atrocious fouls, and even from the rugby tackles in the penalty box on corner kicks. But a yellow card for what Thomas Mueller did? That was poor. And having it keep him out of a semi final game? Idiotic. Not having him in Germany’s semi final game robbed the Germans of their attacking spark and undoubtedly changed the game in favor of the Spaniards.

The same thing happened in the 2002 World Cup Final in Korea/Japan. Michael Ballack was kept out of the Final against Brazil due to a yellow card from the semi-final, and it ruined the game. We want to see the best against the best, and FIFA needs to perform some sort of review of the yellow card accumulation procedure. Did Mueller’s yellow endanger another player? Absolutely not. Then suspending him from a semi final game should be waived.

3. Post-game video analysis of simulating a foul can earn you a suspension. I am glad that Spain won over Negative Nancies Netherlands, but something needs to be done about people like Sergio Busquets, Andres Iniesta, and Arjen Robben. Sergio Busquests got tackled in the opening 5 minutes of the game, and went to the ground like he had been shot. He needs to be suspended for crap like this. He did the same thing in the Champion’s League Semi Final between his team Barcelona and Internazionale. An Inter player hit Busquets on the back and he fell over grabbing his face, which resulted in a red card for the Inter player. Acts like that need to be punished with a 1-2 game suspension.

Andres Iniesta was fouled by yet-another-hard-tackle-by-Van-Bommel-hacking-the-player-and-missing-the-ball. Iniesta fell onto the ground, apparently writhing in pain. When the referee waved play on, Iniesta immediately jumped up, fit as a fiddle, and hacked Van Bommel to the ground. Iniesta needs to be suspended for 1-2 games based on video analysis of this type of behavior.

And Robben? Too many times to count!

One master diver admiring the work of another (photo frank augstein)

Best of the Bunch and Lalas the Octopus?

July 7, 2010 2 comments

Spain have outdone Germany at their own game: Patience. Persistence. Defense. Great goalkeeping. Opportunistic. And a well-timed header by Carles Puyol means they are going to the World Cup Finals.

No one from Die Mannschaft jumping with Puyol of Spain

That’s twice in a row now that my adopted German mannschaft has failed in the semi finals. I said Ballack was one of the main reasons they faltered in 2006, but he wasn’t to blame this time. The Germans looked tired, out of sorts, struggled to keep the ball, and devoid of ideas.

FIFA has to do something about the rule keeping out the best soccer players at the end of these tournaments. Ballack missed the 2002 Final in Korea/Japan, and the game was ruined. Totally lopsided win by Brazil. And this time, arguably the best German player of the tournament, 20-yr old Thomas Mueller (4 goals, 3 assists) on the top scoring, free-flowing German team was kept out of the game. No, the statement, “the top-scoring, free-flowing German team” is not an oxymoron. I think Bastian Schweinsteiger is the best of the bunch, but Mueller brings the attacking focus that many previous German teams have been without.

Without their best attacking option, Schweinsteiger and teammates struggled.

Like today for example. They were hardly themselves without him. FIFA can’t keep teasing us like this. We want to see the best players play against the best players, and to have Mueller sit out this very important semi final based on that yellow card against Argentina was terrible.

And Spain are keeping at it. Some could say boring. Patient is the word they prefer. The same things were said about Germany in 1982, 1986, and 1990, when they went to 3 World Cup Finals in a row. Sure they stuttered, at times drawing 0-0 with inferior opposition, and famously lost to East Germany in 1974 when they went on to win the World Cup.

Today Spain beat Germany at their own game. They are painstakingly patient at building the game from the back. They push forward slowly. They probe. If they don’t like what they see, they give it back to their defenders and try, try again. Spain lost to Switzerland after being lost for most of the game. At times they struggled against mighty Chile, and had just enough to beat plucky Paraguay. They grind out 1-0 wins as though they were from Mainz and Berlin, not Madrid and Barcelona.

So what’s the prognostication? Ask the Octopus. Evidently this creature has picked 6 for 6 correctly in all of Germany’s games so far, including their loss to Spain today.

Or ask Alexi Lalas. Evidently he picked 4 out of the 4 Semi Finalists correctly: Uruguay, Netherlands, Germany and Spain. He picked Netherlands and Spain to advance, and then the Netherlands to win it all.

I’m going to have to go against Lalas on that one. I’m sticking with my original pick: Spain. But I’m no octopus.

How could the little bugger have known that Germany would lose to much shorter Spain by not marking up on a corner kick?