Archive for June 19th, 2006

Let me say this straight off: I was wrong about the US soccer team. They did not, and will not destroy soccer in this country. I say this after having watched a thrilling game against Italy, which ended in a 1 – 1 tie.

That's right, soccer un-fans. A tie was thrilling.

As always, some thoughts:

The US owned the midfield. We saw this in the last World Cup against Germany, who the US outplayed. The US hustled, tackled well, and made fantastic developing passes though the midfield. The Italians were forced to play long passes to their flankers up front and consequently had fewer chances.

The US desperately needs a world-quality striker before they can compete in the World Cup. That was the frustrating thing about this game. The US developed and developed, pushing the ball up to the goal box time after time, but couldn't do anything with the ball. Weak crosses across the box. Some half-decent shots from outside. But nothing serious or deadly, nothing to stretch the defense or cause double- or triple-teaming. Nobody creative, except Dempsey, who doesn't appear to have the speed to take him to the next level.

On the other hand, the Italians had dangerous strikers, and they scored on a fantastic curling pass behind the defense on a nice header into the corner.

I hate it when the referee decides the game. I had fifteen minutes of joy – after the US goal and then the red card against Italy. When the next red card came against the US, the joy turned to rage. That's one of the reasons I haven't written about the game until now.

Didn't it look like the Italian player respected the US squad from the beginning? There weren't the usual plethora of crybaby antics usually associated with Italy. That, or Portugal and Mexico set the bar low during the last tournament. I can still see Figo's twisted whiny face… But seriously, I don't think anybody writes the US off anymore.

Other random WC thoughts:

Brazil looks beatable. Ronaldo looks like Maradonna. Circa 1994. Fat, huffing, two steps too slow, a flash of former brilliance sandwiched among ugly sloppy plays…like that complete whiff on a ball in the goal box. You read that right: a Brazilian missed a ball he aimed a kick at. In the World Cup. That's like a pro bowler getting a gutter ball. Tiger Woods dinking a ball off the tee. Larry Bird putting up an air ball from the key.

France's Zidane passes the ball backwards well.

That said, South Korea didn't look so great beating France. I'm still annoyed by the speed skating routine the Koreans did after scoring a goal on the US in 2002. But then again, they did knock Portugal out of the tournament so we could advance.

Argentina's the team to beat. Look for them to knock England out. Why is it they always meet? Fight a war over some rocky island, and get paired up in every World Cup afterwards. FIFA has a perverse sense of humor.

By the way, after US midfielder Pablo M got his red card, who else thought the match was fixed? After all, it's Italy's soccer league that's embroiled in a corruption scandal revolving around match-fixing…

I linked to Matt’s post on Washington corruption in today’s “Links…”, but I think what he wrote is important and deserves more examination. In it, he essentially argues that Burns and the GOP are trying to insinuate that it’s Washington culture that corrupts rather than some flaw in the man. The idea is that Tester, too, will succumb like Burns to the money and politics in the nation’s capitol, so why not vote for the corrupt dog you know – Conrad Burns – over the soon-to-be corrupt dog you don’t – Jon Tester.

I think Matt pretty much squelches that idea in his post:

It’s also a truly mind-boggling situation in which the Burns campaign continues to attempt to tar-and-feather Tester…for the pre-recorded calls last year. Robo-calls have been used for years by both parties. The law in question is undoubtedly unconstitutional (which is why no prosecutor will expend the resources to enforce it) and may not even apply to federal candidates, whose campaigns are regulated by federal law. But even if the law is enforceable and constitutional, the attempt to conflate in the public’s mind the use of robocalls with the apparent quid pro quo and staggering cronyism of the Burns operation is moral relativism of the absolute worst variety. One form of violations is a technical violation, akin to forgetting to register one’s vehicle. The other amounts to the very sale of our republic, akin to vehicular homicide.

A couple of points Matt doesn’t bring up:

First. This tactic is an implicit acknowledgement that Burns is corrupt.

Second. The assumption that Washington will always corrupt is a dark ideology devoid of hope or faith. Yes, I expect my representatives to give a little here to take there. Compromise is necessary in politics, and I expect and hope Jon Tester will make compromises in order to bring about legislation that benefits us all. But I don’t expect he’ll sell his office to lobbyists.

Third. Boss Hogg Burns is one of the worst Senators in Congress. This Congress has to be one of the worst in the last…two hundred years? Burns is a laughing-stock in Washington. Why do you think no one’s coming to campaign on behalf of Burns? He’s radioactive. No one wants to be seen with him. We're not talking usual levels of corruption here. We're talking money-in-the-freezer levels. Tester would have to go out of his way to match Burns' compromised record.

In the post, Matt took a stab at why these Burns scandals should be important to Montanans. After all, Burns is doing everything he can to make his irresponsible earmarking and wayward spending habits look beneficial for Montana; ironically, you can see it on his website – “What Conrad Means to You!” – in which he has an interactive map of the state showing the pork projects he’s “delivered” for each county.

But his corruption has actually hurt Montanans.

Take the Inland Northwest Space Alliance, which Burns and Denny Rehberg funded with a $3-million grant from Congress. A grant which was pretty much p*ssed away on salaries and contracts for friends and family of the two Congressmen. H*ll, even the Missoulian thought it was a big SNAFU that shows pork doesn’t pay:

It's hardly cause for wonder that the level of corruption in Washington, D.C., has risen coinciding with the proliferation of earmarked budget provisions. The ability to dole out significant sums from the Treasury to cronies and contributors without meaningful oversight by anyone is corrosive to democracy. It's a practice that has tended to blur the distinction between campaign contribution and bribe, since some contributors get something tangible in return for their investment.And, if nothing else, as INSA has demonstrated, it's a good way to waste money. Whatever ultimately comes to light involving INSA, this mess ought to debunk the notion that, however irresponsible, pork-barrel spending is always good for the folks back home.

(Kudos to the Missoulian for finally writing a decent editorial that wasn’t just a regurgitation of some rightwing press release. And it’s not just a partisan thing; this was probably the best written editorial in months. The truth frees, people…)

So why, besides a loss of $3 million, is this a bad thing for Montana?

INSA was a great idea. Its purpose was to seed in Montana the next generation of space-exploration tech companies. Get it? This was a nonprofit dedicated to bringing high-tech business to the state, to turn Montana into the next Houston or Cape Canaveral!

It was a great idea. It’s something everybody wants.

But instead of a group kicking off high-tech investment in Montana, bringing investment, entrepreneurs, jobs, and money to the state, Burns, Rehberg & co. doled the money out to their friends and family. You think the federal government is going to fund any more high-tech projects in Montana as long as Conrad Burns is around?

Conrad Burns has cost us a possible future. Can that be calculated in dollars?


Tell me, why are we in Iraq again?

Matt has a fantastic post up about how Burns and the GOP are using the worst kind of moral relativism to draw attention away from the junior Senator’s insidious, unrepentant, and damaging brand of corruption.

Eric Coobs is dead to Wulfgar! Coobs earned it, too, by trying to smear Tester’s character by saying gay people like him. Lowest form of rhetoric, and Coobs should be ashamed. Typical hate-mongering from the right.

Well, the Iraq “victory” didn’t last long. It was over before it started. Digby tells us about a cable from the US Embassy that “…outlines in spare prose the daily-worsening conditions for those who live outside the heavily guarded international zone: harassment, threats and the employees' constant fears that their neighbors will discover they work for the U.S. government.” Al Qaeda is busy, too.

Murtha on Rove: “He’s sitting in his air-conditioned office on his big, fat backside-saying stay the course.” Zing!

Frontline to do a segment on how VP Cheney got us into the Iraq mess. Must-see TV. Frontline is awesome.

White House reporter Helen Thomas calls her peers, “lapdogs,” in her new book.

The debate on Net Neutrality: Telecom puppet Mike McCurry gets his *ss handed to him. Contact your Senator.

Speaking of humiliating corporate goons, Sirota chats with John Stossel.

Democrats vs. Republicans: the issues. Seems clear to me…

Why racial profiling won’t help deter terrorism.

If you click on any link today, this is the one: The Brick Testament. Trust me.

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