Monday, June 29, 2009

Developing Nation


One of the problems that the US has faced in international soccer competition over the last 10 years is one of geography. The CONCACAF region that they compete in just isn’t very strong. Mexico (like the US) is a 2nd tier team on the world stage, and depending how narrow you want to slice your tiers, only Costa Rica and Honduras might be considered 3rd tier, and that may be generous. Against that competition in World Cup qualifying or in the region’s championship (the Gold Cup), we are generally able to win all of our home games, including the big one against Mexico. Then on the road, we lose in Mexico (thanks to Mexico’s strength but also the tough conditions playing at 7,500 feet in smog in Mexico City), lose or tie one or two other matches, and win the rest to qualify/win the competition.

So it’s tough to know how good the team really is. Yes, we have become the dominant team in the region, and in 2002 made a nice run to the World Cup quarterfinals. But friendly matches against European or South American teams and the 2006 World Cup, along with the relative lack of success our individual players have had in Europe, suggest the US still has a way to go to really being a threat to go far in the World Cup.

That is why the Confederations Cup was going to be so interesting. One year from the World Cup, the team got to play some real matches on a neutral field against some of the best teams in the world. When I saw our draw, I didn’t think we’d win any games. Brazil and Italy to start things off is an obvious challenge. Egypt, the reigning African champs, are fairly similar to us in terms of overall talent, and were playing on their own continent. I missed the Italy game, but it seemed like we were a bit unlucky to lose in the way we did. And despite looking horrible against Brazil, we were not supposed to beat them, so it was hard to get too upset (except maybe with a perceived lack of courage/effort.)

As a result, it was really the Egypt game that I was most interested in, and that is where I think we showed where this team is. Egypt had beaten Italy, and lost to Brazil 4-3 before playing us for a berth to the next round. It was a decisive yet scrappy victory, where the team showed some real fire to go along with some individual skill. We had to then get very lucky to make the semi-finals (which we did), and then had to get lucky to beat Spain (which we did). Not to take away from the amazing effort against Spain – the victory was deserved. But clearly Spain is better than us, and I’m not sure we could beat them 3 out of 10 even with them spotting us that first game.

The Brazil game almost changed that view. In the first half, clearly they had more individual skill, but the US took it to them, playing good physical defense backed up by a superior keeper, taking the offensive chances when they came. The second half reversal wasn’t inevitable, but expected. The US team is just not as good as Brazil. And there’s no shame in that, as of the 202 teams in FIFA maybe 5 could say with a straight face that they are as good. But, as with the Spain game, being not as good did not necessarily mean that the US had to lose. And as someone who desperately wants to see the US get better, it was really exciting.

So what did we learn from the two weeks, which started with two tough losses (including one where they looked awful), but then transitioned to a great win over Egypt, a shocking win over Spain, and a tough loss to Brazil? To me, the Egypt win coupled with even being highly competitive in the Spain and Brazil games (win or lose) has told us a lot about the team. The 2nd tier comment up front could be challenged, but now I don’t think it would be true to say the US isn’t up there in that 2nd tier. And what does that mean? That means that quarterfinals in 2010 is a real possibility, and not getting to the round of 16 would be a big disappointment.

PS – two things to ignore over the next few weeks (we’ll see if I can follow my own advice). The Gold Cup, where we will be fielding a team that has exactly zero of our starters from the Confederations Cup, and the FIFA rankings that come out later this week. I wouldn’t be surprised if we jump into the top 10 which means exactly nothing (just like it meant nothing when we dropped into the mid to high 20s).

Closing the barn door


In her never-ending attempt to make sure that everyone in Connecticut lives a happy, stress-free, and immortal life, Governor Clubwoman this afternoon signed into law a provision wherein
the state's organized crime law will be expanded to include securities fraud and state officials will be able to freeze the assets of anyone convicted of investment fraud ...

The bill-signing fell on the same day that disgraced financier Bernard Madoff was sentenced to 150 years in prison for a multibillion-dollar fraud scheme that ensnared thousands of investors.

The law will not help Madoff's many victims in Connecticut, but Rell said she hopes it will help prevent other Madoff-type scams.

"What happened to the people who believed in Madoff serves as a warning sign to all of us that the criminal element is everywhere. White collar criminals are as slick as the schemes they peddle," the governor said.
In other words, we should all be verrrry afraid, but not if Mama Mary has anything to do about it.

For what it's worth, it seems to me that one of the underlying elements of the entire Madoff fiasco was the fact that he's
a Jew accused of cheating Jewish organizations trying to help other Jews ... and of betraying the trust of Jews and violating the basic tenets of Jewish law ...

So in synagogues and community centers, on blogs and in countless conversations, many Jews are beating their chests — not out of contrition, as they do on Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, but because they say Mr. Madoff has brought shame on their people in addition to financial ruin and shaken the bonds of trust that bind Jewish communities.
I know that this perceived treachery has always been in the background since the story became known, but it's an additional piece to an already sordid episode.

Jeff Adrien


I know exactly three things about mens' college basketball: UConn, UConn, and UConn. Thus, it was a bit of a surprise to me that the Huskies' Jeff Adrien didn't get drafted by an NBA team the other night.

"[going undrafted] isn’t always the worst thing in the world. You’re going to get interest ... and a lot of times, you can pick a team that’s good for you.”
Indeed, Adrien has already worked out with the Celtics, and, should Mr. Adrien ultimately sign with the Green, I can't think of a better situation for both the player and the team.

(In other sports news, the state is beside itself with the news that Middletown wunderkind Joey Logano won a NASCAR event yesterday.)

Saturday, June 27, 2009



This item couldn't help but catch my eye:
Alcohol consumption is linked to one in every 25 deaths worldwide, according to a study that concludes the effects of drinking are as harmful as smoking.
The reference to smoking is an interesting one, since the US government has finally done something about its injurious effects.

As much as it'd be nice if something comparable could be done about the horrific effects of overindulgence, it's been shown time and time again that nothing can be done other than ensure that we as individuals don't fall prey to John Barleycorn's horrid effects.

Friday, June 26, 2009



Kudos to the US team (or should I say "side"?) for its victory over España the other day to gain the Confederation Cup's final Sunday against Brazil.

Apparently, the US's victory has generated a tempest in a teapot. Viz.,
some Americans—mainly, it must be said, on the right—... decry the baleful influence of soccer upon the American ideals of manly sporting excellence.
I didn't know that such enmity existed, but I'm always interested in knowing what scab the wingnuts are picking this week. Sigh.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Holy Joe strikes again


Steve Benen has the details.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

John Smoltz


This morning's WEEI interview with the 42-year-old-future-Hall-of-Famer can be found here. I happened to have heard it, and it's a pretty impressive performance: Smoltz is among the most quietly confident people I've ever heard in my life. (E.g., he fully expects to join the Senior Golf Tour when he turns fifty.)

At any rate, it'll be interesting to see what he's got (left) tomorrow night when he takes on the Nationals. Those of us in Red Sox nation are sure he'll have more in the tank than Dice-K, but that certainly isn't saying much.



While not all crazy people are Republicans, it sure is starting to look like all Republicans are crazy people.

Mark Sanford looks like yet another Repub who can flush his grandiose goals down the toilet.

UPDATE — It turns out that this is about as salacious as might've been expected.

Deet Petite


Those who may be spending some time in the Constitution State this summer may be interested in the following:
The next week or two could bring a mosquito baby boom in Connecticut.

Chief State Medical Entomologist Theodore Andreadis says recent rainy weather left behind standing water, which the insects need to reproduce.

"Mosquitoes need water to develop," Andreadis said. "Three of their life stages occur in water.

"There is no great mystery," Adnreadis said. "The more rainfall and flooding you have, the larger the mosquito populations are as we proceed throughh summer."

Although bats eat insects like mosquitoes, Andreadis says the winter bat die-off will probably have only a small effect on the mosquito population.

He says it is still too soon to say what effect the larger mosquito population will have on West Nile Virus this summer.
With Connecticut "home to 49 species of mosquitoes," visitors would be well advised to pack plenty of repellent before they leave home.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Overdue fines and missing books


My duties, such as they are at this time of year, always remind me of this riotous scene from Seinfeld:

Monday, June 22, 2009

The state of American politics today


A few bloggers have pointed out this story, but it seems the Republicans are disappointed that Sonia Sotomayor
doesn't have the punch out there in terms of fundraising and recruiting, I think—at least so far," said Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), who most likely will be elected as the No. 4 Republican in Senate leadership this week.

The calculus could certainly change when Sotomayor's confirmation hearings begin July 13. But the Republican senators' initial review of Sotomayor's record, together with the meetings they've had with her, have left them doubting that she'll be controversial enough to help them or hurt the Democrats heading into the 2010 elections.
Apparently, everything has to be a political issue with these idiots. It's not only the topics the Republicans are embracing that are turning off Americans; it's the fact that they want to make everything controversial. I've got to think that most Americans see through this nonsense and are tired of it. I know I am.

Sunday, June 21, 2009



God, I wish I could write (and think, for that matter) like Jason Linkins. His best passage today:
According to "[Sen Evan] Bayh's intelligence" -- the [Iranian] protestors want a "fair election" and a "better life" and young Iranians want "hope" and "future" and the right to bog down their own legislature with pointless sops to corporate interests.
Meanwhile, Linkins refers to Connecticut's senior senator as Countrywide Chris. I wish this alliterative no-brainer had occurred to me.

Friday, June 19, 2009

326 Minutes


And here I was, thinking of blasting the Evil Empire for wasting its fans' money, when, lo and behold, I discover this:
The Yankees announced they are rewarding those fans who stuck it out for Thursday's five-plus hour rain delay—and even those who left.

All fans with tickets to Thursday's game may redeem them for a free bleacher, grandstand or terrace ticket for any non-premium game for the rest of this season and in 2010. Fans can also use the tickets as coupons for half-price ticket in any other non-suite section.
I think this resolution is only fair, but the entire situation sure does point out a (possibly unforeseen) problem with interleague play.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

He's still an idiot


... but Senator Sanctimony's statement regarding BO's announcement that benefits will now be extended to same-sex partners of federal employees shows at least a modicum of sense.

Six years later


The Olde Towne Team had its 500th consecutive sellout at the Fens last night, and it's kind of interesting to see who was in the home team's lineup when the streak began.

Watermelon Man


The Courant's banner this morning is a puff piece on the inordinately wet weather we've had in the Constitution State this spring.
Remember the last time we had a week without rain? It was back in mid-April for those living in Greater Hartford. Since May 1, the region has had rain on 26 out of 46 days, said Joe Furey, meteorologist for Fox 61 TV and WTIC-AM radio.

But it's not all bad. Lawns are green. Connecticut-grown lettuce is in its prime. Students stuck in school aren't sweltering. There are benefits to gray, wet days.
Indeed. At a site I'm familiar with in New Haven County, the grass is growing too quickly. Moreover, the lettuce, beets, potatoes, and carrots are probably more prolific than they've ever been, but the melon, tomato, and squash plants, while alive, are pretty puny.

So much for this season's version of global warming.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Transparency in the days of Obama


Glenn Greenwald has the update this morning, and it's not a pretty picture.

Just kill me


Item: "School's out for summer—except for hundreds of children in western San Bernardino County [California] who, because of an administrative snafu, must make up 34 days of school this summer."

Let's see ... 34 days? About seven weeks? Yeah, that'd just about eliminate any summer vacation for students and staff.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Financial Reform


As usual, it seems to me that Bob Reich is absolutely right.

Oh, that the nation's financial system (and any overseers) can get it right this time.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Quote of the Day


Nobody ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American public.
—H.L. Mencken
I just love stories like this.
Nearly 800,000 calls were received by a federal hot line this week[end] from people confused about the nationwide move on Friday to drop analog TV signals and broadcast only in digital.
Apparently these dim bulbs slept through the thousands of announcements that've been made in the last year and more. Moreover, one postponement of the changeover wasn't sufficient.

The Iranian Election


Back from being immersed in the weekend's Sox-Phillies' series. It was fun for the most part. (BTW—I'm not entirely proud to say that I personally witnessed another of Beckett's few major implosions.)

Anyway, the bigwigs are tiptoeing around the recent Iranian election, hoping that they don't offend, while others are calling the election for what it is: an out and out fraud.

Anyway, I'm just shocked—shocked!—that a nation could have a fraudulent election in these modern times.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Our protector


Golly. Connecticut's senior senator sure has been a ball of fire recently with his concern over his constituents' fiscal and physical health.

Not only has he
announced his support for the creation of a new agency with broad authority to protect consumers of financial products such as mortgage loans and credit cards,
but he's also been instrumental in the
Senate passage of the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act. [Health Committee] Chairman [Ted] Kennedy authored the bill and Dodd acted as the lead cosponsor, shepherding it through committee mark-up and debate on the Senate floor.
Wow! What a guy! This sudden benevolence can't have anything to do with his status in the polls, can it?

Size, apparently, does matter


I know this story has been around for a couple days, but it's worthy of noting: [has reported] that slight differences in the new [Yankee Stadium] are mainly responsible for the record number of home runs.

The weather Web site says, "Taking into account the dimensions of the field and wall height, has calculated that 19 percent (20 out of 105) home runs would not have flown out of the old stadium."

... a "gentle curve" in the fence as it extends from right field to center field, caused by a new scoreboard, has the ballpark playing up to 9 feet shorter in spots.
In these days of GPS and advanced engineering technology, you'd think the builders could've figured out that they were nine feet off in their plans. There doesn't seem to be anything that can be done; the plutocratic Yankees certainly aren't going to lose seats by moving the affected fences back. Nevertheless, the number of homers going out of The House That YES Built is really kind of ridiculous: 293 balls will leave the yard in 2009 if the current pace holds up.

Meanwhile, the Sox are visiting another bandbox this weekend. Coincidentally, I'll be in the Keystone State Saturday and Sunday and so will have a chance to hear the weeping and gnashing of teeth from the Phils' announcers as the Olde Towne Team smacks balls all around and out of Citizens Bank Park.

UPDATE — Speaking of the upcoming series at CBP, the highest paid player in the series will be the Phils' Ryan Howard at $15 million per annum. While it may not be a surprise to various readers of this blog, I was quite surprised to discover who the series' second highest paid player will be.

The end of an era


I sure am going to miss falling asleep to the ABC and CBS audio signals on my super duper clock radio. Oh well. Technology marches on.

Quote of the Day


"Obey the Constitution or die."
—Arrested Internet radio host Hal Turner, encouraging Connecticut
to "take up arms" against three state officials
It's been quite the time for the crazies recently, hasn't it?

First, Scott Roeder comes out from under his rock and kills Dr. George Tiller. Then, Washington's Holocaust Museum gets shot up, and now this.

The current Republican leadership rails against the erstwhile hippie scum of the 1960s, but it's their own kind who are guilty of bringing chaos to their sacred republic. Say what you want about Air America, et al, the hosts never called their opposition racists or called for their deaths.

Steve Benen also comments.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Of course he's bald


He's 69 years old.

He's also 66" tall, which might have something to do with his obsessive gun toting.


Real racism


In these days of morons like Newt Gingrich throwing around the "R" word like so much confetti, it's instructive—but ever so discomfiting—to be reminded of what the real item looks like.

UPDATE — Steve Benen also comments on yesterday's episode.

Quote of the Day


"I'm not ready to make that decision right now."
— New York Yankees manager Joe Girardi on whether he'll take
pitcher Chien-Ming Wang out of the team's starting rotation
Another night, another victory, but it almost seems tainted because the Every Fifth Day Concession was the Evil Empire's starting pitcher.

Needless to say, the faithful are getting a little impatient.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Fenway Fantasy


For those who've been frustrated by the current sellout streak of the Olde Towne Team, there's a way to see a game—and in a skybox no less.

There is, however, one catch ...

Matthew 25:40


The Wall Street Journal tries to put a good spin on this, but the fact remains that
charitable giving dropped about 2% from a year earlier, or 5.7% in inflation-adjusted dollars in 2008, according to the annual Giving USA study released Wednesday. As a measure of gross domestic product, giving is still historically strong: The roughly $308 billion in charitable gifts was 2.2% of GDP, down slightly from 2.3% in 2007.

Still, it was the first decline since 1987 and the second since the group began tracking charitable donations in 1956. Gifts to private foundations fell by 19.2% and at many charities, donations weren't enough to replace funds lost by deep endowment declines and financial scandals.
Knowing how local churches (i.e., mine) are really struggling these days, this (only the second decline in giving in the last half century) comes as no surprise.

I'm very glad that Mrs. Monocle and I have been able to sustain our level of giving—in fact, consciously increasing it in some instances in order to make up for what others might have to cut back on. I certainly encourage others who are fortunate enough to have kept their jobs to do the same.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009



This morning Steve Benen reports on an interview Governor Gogo had with Sean Hannity last evening wherein she denounced BO's economic plan by averring that it "defies any sensible economic policy that any of us ever learned through college." Benen responds:
I'm going to assume Palin was absent the day they taught Keynesian theory. She really seems to believe the principal goal of government in the midst of an economic crisis is to lower the deficit. In other words, what she "learned through college" is that Hoover was right.
What Benen doesn't point out is that she must have missed the Keynesian theory lecture six times.

Did she miss it at Hawaii-Hilo? Or was it at Hawaii Pacific? Perhaps she slept in that day at North Idaho College. Or perhaps she was out of town during her first sojourn at the University of Idaho. Or Matanuska-Susitna College. And she was probably way past Economics 101 by the time she returned to the U of I.

Ah ... So many opportunities; so many chances squandered.

Big Money and Judges


Yesterday's SCOTUS decision seems to me to be a no-brainer given the unbelievable nature of the case.
In a 5-4 vote, the court decided that West Virginia Supreme Court Justice Brent Benjamin deprived Harman Mining Co. of the right to a fair trial because he participated in a case involving a major contributor to his campaign.

Harman executives had complained that there was the appearance of bias because the chief executive officer of Massey Energy Co. contributed $3 million to Benjamin's election campaign at the same time Massey was appealing a multimillion-dollar jury verdict — now totaling $82.7 million — against Harman.

Benjamin refused to recuse himself and voted with the 3-2 majority to overturn the verdict. Harman appealed to the Supreme Court.
I have two questions.

First, how in the name of common sense could four judges side with the defendant in this case? Antonin (Screw 'em All) Scalia went out of his way to decry how the decision will erode "public confidence in the nation's judicial system." This from a man who had no trouble in siding with the majority in the hideous Bush v. Gore case and refused to recuse himself from deciding a 2004 case involving Vice President Dick Cheney and his energy policy task force after having gone duck hunting with Cheney in Louisiana shortly after the court agreed to hear his case.

Second, when will a decision like this affect the legislative branch of government?

UPDATE — I forgot to say that I think electing judges is an absolutely terrible idea.

Monday, June 08, 2009

I'm on YouTube


Again. Your correspondent can (just barely) be seen in the back row, second from left.

Can you hear me now?


No posting over the weekend as two modems went pfffft! I'm hoping the third time is the charm.

On a happier note, I rewired our cable connection (and added our new DVR/VCR unit) and, thanks to Chill's technological guidance, things are going swimmingly. We can now actually receive On Demand and can view the latest extremely bizarre episodes of CSI: Miami. Talk about a show that's jumped the shark ...

Friday, June 05, 2009

Question of the Day


Lakers vs. Magic: Does God care who wins?

I've really gotta stop blogging.

Strange tastes


It's been reported that Angela Merkel prefers George Bush to Barack Obama on a personal level. Given the fact that President Fratboy handled Germany's chancellor in 2007 in a way that would make him liable for sexual harassment in any public school in America, it's hard to figure out why.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Quote of the Day


"It’s absolutely unjust to give me a cold at this time of year."
—Anne Macdonald, a 57-year-old media relations director
from Ithaca, NY, complaining of her summer cold
I'm sorry to say I feel her pain.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Bummed Today


Money talks, and the comments at this link show what a bunch of cretins are in our midst.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Quote of the Day


With apologies to monocle for stepping on a feature that I enjoy, but I thought this one was too good:
What this country really needs right now is a serious case of mind your own damned business. We’ve turned into a nation of busybodies and scolds, and people just need to back off. --John Cole
The whole rant is here. The quote requires greater context, of course; otherwise between this and the cheeseburger story below, you'd think this was turning into a libertarian blog.

Virtue, Liberty, and Independence


While I know few readers of this blog have any vested interest in this, it's interesting to note that
Democrats in Pennsylvania don't appear to be buying Gov. Ed Rendell's line that Arlen Specter ought to go unchallenged in a 2010 Democratic primary for U.S. Senate.

In a new poll released by Susquehanna Polling and Research, 63 percent of the people surveyed said they believe Specter ought to face a primary challenge in 2010.
Since I believe that Snarlin' Arlen is about as true to the Democratic Party as is Connecticut's junior senator, I'm hoping this gets interesting—for the principal reason of creating a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate.

Supersize me


In its never ending attempt to let us Connecticutians know what's good for us,
The state House of Representatives granted final legislative approval Monday night to a bill requiring major chain restaurants to publish the number of calories for each food item on their printed menus and menu boards.

The bill would apply to national chains with at least 15 restaurants, including outlets such as Subway, McDonald's, Dunkin' Donuts, Pizza Hut, Outback Steakhouse, Wendy's and Chili's. The calories would be posted both inside the restaurant and at drive-through windows, starting in July 2010.
Needless to say, the libertarian part of me thinks this is absolute nonsense, and I'm not alone. Even Mama Governor, who might be expected to think an idea like this one is just fine, believes that
"if you walk into a restaurant and order a bacon double cheeseburger with the large fries, you probably don't need a sign to tell you there are healthier options out there."
Whew! When even our protective-to-a-fault governor sees through a piece of superfluous legislation, you know it's ridiculous.

Mark your calendars


I see that BO today will
sign the Ronald Reagan Centennial Commission Act—a bill that creates a commission to plan and coordinate activities that will honor former president Ronald Reagan on the anniversary of his 100th birthday.
While too many people look upon Ronnie Ray Gun as a paragon of executive expertise, I prefer to think of him as someone who cuddled up with fascistic and anti-Semitic juntas, who caused horrendous deficits through his blind devotion to the half fast theories of Arthur Laffer, who was actively hostile to unions, who led an administration where nearly 200 government officials faced investigation and prosecution, and who essentially tried to bankrupt the government, pressuring it to reduce spending and thereby justifying draconian cuts in social programs.

Call me cynical, but I don't think such a man deserves any honor—especially since the commission that will plan and coordinate his encomia is sure to expend money the government doesn't have.

The big day is February 6, 2011. That'll be a Sunday, so the holy rollers can all pray for his soul while they attend church.

Monday, June 01, 2009

Question of the Day


Glenn Greenwald asks it:
What kind of a country passes a law that has no purpose other than to empower its leader to suppress evidence of the torture it inflicted on people?
Not surprisingly, the Senator from AIPAC is co-sponsoring this hideous legislation.

Make it stop


After half a year of arguments and more than 19,000 pages of legal briefs, the battle over recounting election results for Minnesota’s vacant United States Senate seat reaches the state’s Supreme Court [today]. And that may not be the last stop.
At the risk of stating the obvious, this entire episode shows just how FUBAR the American political system has become.

Tempus Fugit


This is the time of year when people in education often say, "I don't know where the year went!" My invariable response is to assert, "I don't know; I think of things that happened in September, and they seem like a hundred years ago."

That gives them pause.

The Sotomayor Hearings


Pat Leahy says
he will set his own schedule for Sonia Sotomayor's confirmation hearings ... to confirm her before an August recess.
With all this nonsense going on, the hearings can't come soon enough.