Wednesday, June 23, 2010


As the bad calls piled on the U.S. football team, they never gave up, never stopped believing in themselves, never stopped believing that the game isn’t over until the final whistle blows from the referee. The United States played its best game of the competition against a tough, defensively well organized Algerian team, that was content to counterpunch.

From the start, the United States pushed forward, putting the ball on the ground, opening up the game in the flanks, especially right flank with Cherundolo, playing possession ball and showing the tactical discipline necessary to break down the Algerian defense. The chances came, but the finishing touch kept eluding the players in a nerve-wracking game. The British announcer said redundantly that you could “feel the tension” and recalled a Rolling Stones song, “19th Nervous Breakdown.”

The U.S. team is progressing by leaps and bounds and should play even better in its first round of 16 match, possibly against Germany or Ghana, possibly Serbia or the Aussies. At this point the U.S. doesn’t care: bring ‘em on! Among the notable performances, the defense as a whole was solid. Carlos Bocanegra and Jay DeMerit are two outstanding central defenders who command their territory with physicality and confident touch. DeMerit is emerging as a real “sheriff” in the back line, owning the air game and winning his 50-50 challenges. In the match with England, DeMerit won the duel with British star Wayne Rooney, consolidating his starting role on the team.

Setting aside the obvious standouts -- playmaker Landon Donovan and Clint Dempsey’s plucky opportunism -- Michael Bradley, the coach’s son, is team MVP. The team’s engine, Bradley is the midfield link from defense to offense, through which the U.S. transition game passes. His tireless work, running the length of the pitch and organizing the attack was key to the U.S.’s time of possession and ultimate victory. Up front, Jozy Altidore, the talented 20 year-old striker is the team’s post-up reference in the air and power speed on the ground, counterattacking with danger behind the back of the defense. Finally, Landon Donovan has grown into his role as the team’s go-to guy, its best player and playmaker. This could be his Cup to make a lasting imprint.

It didn’t come easy, but in the last analysis this was no fluke, no “miracle.” From the start the United States was clearly the superior team and unlike, e.g., the French and British, played through adversity and bad referee calls to be rewarded with a first place group finish for the first time since 1930. It just goes to show that hard work, the team’s belief in themselves, and a never-say-die attitude pays off in the end. That’s what separates the winners from losers in any sport.

This was the headline from Brasil’s newspaper, O Globo. Perfect.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Fade Away Time for the General as Rolling Stone Gathers no Moss

The beltway types are all abuzz over the showdown between President Obama and General McChrystal tomorrow concerning statements attributed to the General in a controversial Rolling Stone article, “The Runaway General.” First, kudos to Rolling Stone for showing up and showing that relevant media isn’t dead in this country. The Gray Lady and Washington Post are reduced to reporting about Rolling Stone’s scoop; delicious irony for Jan Wenner who started his anti-establishment rock music magazine with a $7,500 loan from family and friends and a mailing list stolen from a local radio station.

Notably, this is just the latest in a series of hard-hitting articles by Rolling Stone, from Matt Taibbi’s fine reporting lifting the rock on the financial bailout, to BP’s malfeasance. This is Pulitzer territory for Rolling Stone, and I hope they get it. At the very least, Rolling Stone deserves our unofficial Hunter S. Thompson Fear and Loathing in Reporting Award.

To the question at hand: General McChrystal and his staff have not only exercised poor judgment, but worse, behaved with demonstrable insubordination. Whether or not this is an isolated incident within the officer ranks by a “runaway general” or a generalized culture of disdain in the military for President Obama’s leadership, it should be nipped in the bud. General McChrystal’s meeting with the President should be simply a formality to give him the courtesy of offering his resignation rather than be fired outright. Period.

And to those Chicken Little Republicans who will predictably yell and scream that replacing the General would throw Af-Pak policy into disarray, cause dissension in the ranks, etc. –- the usual partisan political sniping masquerading as deep concern over military policy –- civilian authority firing generals is hardly unprecedented. The most famous of these incidents was President Truman’s dismissal of General Douglas McArthur over a military policy dispute at a critical juncture of the Korean War.

General McArthur was, without a doubt, the most accomplished field commander of his time. But he was not irreplaceable. Nor did his “prima donna” ways or failure to salute the President sit well with Harry Truman, who was never impressed with McArthur’s pomposity: “I was ready to kick him into the North China Sea, I was never so put out in my life,” said President Truman. He canned General McArthur and never looked back. Likewise, President Obama should fire General McChrystal in the interest of maintaining intact the civilian chain of command and affirming the commander in chief’s authority.

Monday, June 21, 2010

The Cup Runneth Over

French Team Storms the Bastille –- In the latest development in a week of Cup craziness, the French team refused to train (not itself out of character) after a “dispute” on the field, one day after a player was sent home early for insulting the coach. France team Director Jean-Louis Valentin has resigned leaving his rebellious team leaderless in what seems to be a complete breakdown of authority, with multiple resignations. The French were battling bad Karma ever since their qualifying hand ball scandal by star striker Thierry Henry sent the team to the Cup, as Ireland was unjustly DQ’d.

Commenting on the European sides’ early troubles, the NYT summed it up perfectly: “The Italians can’t win, the English can’t score and now the French won’t even take the field.”

And Then There Were Two (Atrocious Referee Calls) -- Nothing like a bad call to fire up U.S. interest in football … Someone wrote that Koman Coulibaly, the referee who disallowed a good U.S. goal against Slovenia, is probably the only Malian Americans ever heard of. It’s not a name that rolls off the tongue. But most everyone knows of Coulibaly as the generic referee who made that awful call, dashing the American team’s storybook comeback and complicating its passage to the knockout round of 16. How can a guy whose nickname is “sleepy eyes” ever be picked to referee a crucial World Cup match? He may have been born on the Fourth of July but his middle name is Benedict Arnold.

It happened again, in Brasil’s match against the Ivory Coast. (Or Cote D’Ivoire, as they prefer to be called –- I’ll stick with Teabaggers … oops, wrong buffoonish rabble.) Despite a world-class striker in Drogba, the Ivory Coasters are definitely not ready for primetime. As the game progressed, the outclassed Coasters became increasingly frustrated with Brasil and started hitting maliciously.

First it was Elano. After scoring his goal, he took a hard open-cleat hit to the shin, knocking him out of the game. Then it was Lúcio’s turn to be stepped on. And so on. In neither case did the French referee offer a yellow card to tamp down the dirty play. As the game wound down, Kaká got into a shoving match with a Coaster. Yellow card. Then, he wasn’t even looking when a Coaster deliberately collided with Kaká’s back and fell to the ground in a pathetic acting job bought by the French referee. So Kaká got a second yellow and was red carded. Absolutely ridiculous refereeing.

Beautiful Vixen Blamed for Spain’s Loss –- Since it is one of the favorites to win the Cup, naturally Spanish fans were casting about for someone to blame for Spain’s shocking defeat to Switzerland. They settled on goalkeeper Iker Casilla’s beautiful girlfriend accusing her of “distracting” Casillas with her legitimate presence on the sidelines as a reporter. She’s fortunate the days of the Spanish Inquisiton are past, otherwise ... Will girlfriend reporter be at her post when Spain squares off against Honduras in a must-win? Stay tuned.

Abstinence = 0 Goals -- Meanwhile, the English Team has shot blanks through two games, as their coach enforces his no-sex policy with the help of closed-circuit TV. Argentina and Brasil have no such restrictions, and won their first two games by comfortable margins. So much for abstinence.

“Kimmy, What’s the Frequency?”
–- After the North Koreans’ historic 7-0 drubbing by Portugal, it seems Dear Leader Kim Jong-Il’s secret psychic communiqués to his team haven’t produced the desired results. Hope the hapless PRK players won’t get sent off to reeducation camp or ten years hard labor upon their early return to Kimmy’s socialist paradise. The guy who cried during the playing of their anthem might get leniency points for good behavior (acting).

Gotta love the Cup!

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Shakedown and Shakeup!

First, there was the White House “shakedown” of BP in the best Harry Truman tradition. And to alleviate this toxic British invasion of our shores, enjoy the shakedown song with a little twisting and shouting in the wind thrown in for good measure:

Next came the BP shakeup, followed by a yatching romp around the Isle of Wight. Tony Hayward might have felt entitled after a Republican member of Congress got down on his knees and licked his shoes. Republicans and conservatives can’t help it; they LOVE corporations. They’re really tight with Big Oil. They HATE government. As long as progressives are critical of government’s response to a catastrophe such as the BP Gulf oil volcanic eruption, they are delighted to piggyback on our criticism, if it’s DESTRUCTIVE of government. The moment government does something RIGHT for the victims of this catastrophe, the moment government demonstrates its assertiveness and relevance on behalf of the “small people” -- the Gulf state residents it represents -- Republicans and conservatives GO BALLISTIC.

In short, they show their TRUE COLORS.

Rachel Maddow breaks it all down, dissecting the relationship beween the GOP (Gulf Of Petroleum) and Big Oil:

Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Taking a page from Harry Truman and JFK versus the steel magnates, Mr. Obama summoned BP Chairman of the Board Carl Henric-Svanberg and CEO Tony Hayward to the White House for (at last!) a Give ‘Em Hell Harry moment. The President read them the Riot Act and told them how it was going to be. They caved on every point. BP’s interest is staving off more dangerous legal challenges to its existence and stock value, including bankruptcy, and as President Obama said, to “remain a viable company.” Significantly, the $20 billion escrow account is not a cap but a floor.

Republicans and the ultra right wing can characterize it as a “Chicago-style shakedown” all they want, but if Harry Truman was in President Obama’s shoes he’d be comfortable with the fit. (And Truman knows from shoes!) He would own the criticism, though he might call it instead a “Missouri shakedown.” As Truman told his staff before taking control of the steel mills, “the President has the power to keep the country from going to hell.”

So when Republicans start bitching that the President is “setting a bad precedent” by negotiating this escrow account, the reverse is actually true. It’s BP and corporate Big Oil government that are distorting our constitutional government “of, for, and by the people”-- not to speak of our national sovereignty. The precedent for President Obama’s executive action exists in the actions taken by his predecessors JFK, Harry Truman, and FDR, among others.

Despite his qualifier, Joe Barton (a former, and current, BP employee) did not go rogue on his GOP colleagues. The day before his stunning public apology to Tony Hayward, the Republican Study Committee accused the White House of “a Chicago-style shakedown” in negotiating the the $20 billion escrow account to compensate victims of BP’s criminal negligence. The only difference is those wingnuts defended BP behind closed doors, while Barton slavishly worshipped his corporate owner before the American people. He forced his leadership’s hand, as a peeved John Boehner threatened to strip Barton’s ranking member status unless he retracted his statement -- or “misconstrued” his “misconstruction” else he be misconscrewed.

Nice to see Republicans twisting themselves into New York pretzels trying unsuccessfully not to appear to kiss corporate ass in front of the voters. The fact is, the party is largely indistinguishable from the Teabaggers, despite admonitions from astroturf Freedomworks supreme leader Dick Armey for Teabagger candidates to avoid using the label “Tea Party.” Good luck tamping down your dirty little secret, Dickie. It should go over as realistically as your “Death in Venice” painted hair. Enquiring minds want to know: Are you now, or have you ever been a member of the Tea Party.