Finally! Someone ELSE is saying what I’ve been saying for YEARS!

January 20, 2011 5 comments

OK. I like Lance Armstrong as much as the next guy. Or at least as much as the next Non-French guy. What’s not to love? He went over to France and kicked all their butts in their bike race for 7 years in a row. How sweet is that? Sounds like a Great American Hero.

I hope he didn’t dope. I hope all the smoke that surrounds Lance Armstrong doesn’t mean that there is a fire. But that’s not the way it usually works out, does it?

Here’s the logic I have been using for years with my friends, my email groups, and anyone that will listen: OK — you mean to tell me that Lance’s biggest rivals and even some of his teammates have been busted for doping — and the only guy that was winning the Tour de France during those years was the ONLY ONE NOT doping?

Let’s look at the list. And this is all I can remember from the top of my mind, without doing internet research:

1998 tour winner Pantani is now dead cuz of his doping, couldn’t touch Lance during his 7 year stretch

1997 tour winner Ulrich out of the sport for doping, finished 2nd to Lance many times, but couldn’t beat him

former teammates Hamilton (banned for doping) and Landis (banned for doping)

I’m sure there are many more that a more educated cycling fan can tell me about Lance’s teammates, connections with blood-doping doctors, etc.

Here’s where the logic fails for me: Either doping doesn’t work, or Lance just figured out a better way around the system. How could one man — the only man to win during those hugely doping years — beat all of the rest of the field of blood dopers?

And now finally someone else is saying the same thing. And it’s in America. I imagine they have been saying this stuff in France for years.

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Categories: Politics, Travel Tags: ,

The Quantitative Easing

January 20, 2011 2 comments

From our friends at xtranormal. Definitely one of the best videos I have seen in a long long time.

Watch It

Please post your thoughts or other links on the topic. After you quit laughing of course.

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?

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?

Uncle Mo’ and the English

June 28, 2010 4 comments

I have to say it was like watching the 1966 highlights all over again. (Not old enough to have seen it the first time.)

The World Cup Final, 1966. Extra time. England 2, Germany 2. An English shot comes in, hits the top bar, and bounces down. Center referee doesn’t give the goal, but the Soviet linesman has his flag raised signaling a goal. After a brief discussion between the referees, the goal is given to England and they go on to win the World Cup 4-2. There is very little video evidence of the goal, but based on what I have seen (and I’ve seen it all cuz there is so little) it is pretty clear that the ball didn’t cross the line. No matter. Goal is given. England win.

I have heard (and read, and seen on TV, player interviews, etc.) the English say, “It doesn’t matter, we would have won anyway cuz we won 4-2.” Even Franz Beckenbauer won’t get drawn in on the subject. He stays away with grace and aplomb. When asked about it, he simply shrugs and says, “It’s a pity we have to continue speaking about a goal from 1966.” Now that is class my friends. No matter that it may have robbed him of his first World Cup title. We’ll never really know what would have happened. The Soviet linesman Bakhramov later said he thought the ball had bounced back off the net, not the crossbar, so he did not bother to observe whether the ball bounced over the goal line or not. To add more controversy to the tale, Bakhramov, according to lore, was asked on his death bed how he knew the ball crossed the line. He replied, “Stalingrad”, where over 75,000 Soviets died fighting against the Nazis.

Now it’s 2010, and I thought I was in a Red Sofa Time Machine. England down 2-1, and Lampard hits a wonderful shot over the German goalie. It bounces off the top bar, into the back of the goal (clearly behind the line), back to the top bar, and the second time down it bounces outside of the goal, onto the field of play. Goal. Game tied 2-2.

Alas Frank, it was not to be.

But the goal was not given.

Yes this game needs goal line technology. Yes it would have changed the game if the goal had been given. I mean think about it: you are working your socks off to tie a game, and then you do, only to be denied. Uncle Mo (aka Momentum) is a tricky thing, and if the English could have tied the game, they would have stolen Uncle Mo away from Germany and put him in their own back pocket. They could have gone on to score 1 or 2 more before half time.

All the talking heads are saying that “In the end the better team won.” Mostly likely this is the case, but that’s not what always happens. That is denying the historical upsets of Uruguay over Brazil at the Maracana in 1950. Or the German Amateurs over highly favored Hungary in the Miracle of Bern in 1954. Or the German upset of Holland’s Total Football in 1974.

Goals are so important at the international level that if you steal one, a team might not recover. Clearly England could not, just like Germany could not in 1966. Germany, now let off the hook, still had Uncle Mo riding shotgun for the start of the 2nd half, and went on to demolish England 4-1. Clearly the Germans can say “well the better team won”, but I’m not sure we know that. Maybe England could have woken from the sleep they’d been in through their first 4 games. Maybe Rooney would have scored another goal before half time to lead 3-2 and gone on to win the Golden Boot and become a Knight and Hug the Queen and “Wayne” would have gone on to be the most popular name in England for years to come. Maybe. Link HERE. (You’ve GOT to watch that video if you haven’t seen it yet.)

Or England might have done what it always does: sat back and see what happened, and then lost to Germany on penalties.

Funny the Karmic Twists that can come about in this ol’ game.

So does this mean that Argentina will some day be knocked out of the World Cup by an opponent scoring with a hand-ball? If FIFA implements goal line technology, it might never happen. But I wouldn’t hold my breath on it.