Monday, July 31, 2006

Mount Tabor (the other one)

Portland, Oregon, is one of only two cities in the continental United States (Bend, OR, is the other one) that have an extinct volcano within its boundaries. We love it so much we made it a park. How's that for audacity.

Mt. Tabor is named after the more famous mountain in Israel, but from the pictures I think you can see that it shares little with its namesake. This is a mostly idyllic place, with playground equipment, tennis courts, large grassy fields, statues and many winding paths through forests with large trees.

That it was a volcano was discovered well after it had been declared a park. The cinders used to make some of the roads inside the park came right from the cone itself. A good cross section of the cone can be seen behind the basketball courts.

Up in the grassy knoll at the top is a statue of Harvey Scott, editor of the Oregonian until his death in 1910. The statue was a gift from his wife. Wonder if any of the current editors are eyeing immortality in bronze. But we live in different times, where news print is underclassman in a world of mass media. Quick, how many of you even know what the name of the editor of the Oregonian currently is?

Mt. Tabor is a great place to spend an afternoon. It's right in the heart of the east side of Portland, and a quick drive from anywhere. Surrounded by neighborhoods, it is the quintessential urban park. I recently took my son and a couple of his friends there to kill some time and let them run free for a while instead of taking my house apart (free range children). It's actually quite relaxing for the adult. They found trails to run down, trees to jump out from wielding light sabers (plastic, of course) and merry-go-round to get dizzy on.

Directly behind the grounds seen above are the tennis courts where the cinder cone cross sections is. Can you see it? No? Sorry, I ran out of battery in the camera, otherwise I would have gotten a better shot.

Here is the USGS site on the volcano. Provided are air photo, map and some quick facts. Mt. Tabor (along with Rocky Butte, another volcano in Portland city limits) is one of possibly 50 cinder cones in a formation known as the Boring Lava field, which extends to the southeast of town and includes Powell Butte (which I've blogged before), Kelly Butte and Mount Scott.

This guys takes much better pictures than I do. Check out some of his colorful shots of the park.

More pork transparency...

but not from the pork-meisters themselves.
Club for growth has a cool chart telling us exactly how our representatives voted on some pork related items when they were forced to have to vote for each item individually instead of voting for lots of hidden items wrapped up in some larger, more meaningful sounding bill.
Comes in that Earl "the Bowtie" Blumenauer voted down 5 of the 19 up for vote. That doesn't sound very appealing, but it does put him in the elite group of Democrats that beat the Republican average, and over shadows the measly votes of the rest of the Oregon contingent. I don't think any of them even voted to remove any of the port projects.

College in Vermont?

Contrary to age old thought about where you might go to college (or where you might send your children), instead of tiers of schools, where you might try to get into a high class institution, but fall back on a state school or local college, people are now thinking geographically.
States where the college age demographic is full to the brim, the university system can be hard to crack into. However, states that are losing populations of students have much to offer.
The most selective private colleges have become phenomenally so. Flagship public campuses are increasingly difficult to penetrate. But there are hidden gems around the nation, higher learning institutions cached in states where population growth is stagnant or dwindling.
Ponder this map (I relish an opportunity to present a map).

Now consider the states, in blue, where the shift in upcoming college age students is dwindling. Universities in those places still have much to offer, and are apparently offering good deals too.
Students who, in less competitive times, would have been shoo-ins for the nation‚’s most elite colleges may want to research which universities have raised their academic profiles. “The University of Oklahoma is a classic example,‚” Mr. Longanecker says. “Many students never used to consider it. Now it has the largest share of National Merit Scholars in the country. There are other just amazing finds. At Montana State University, the students who go there have a heck of a deal. It is a great school, in a beautiful location, with faculty that is unbelievably dedicated, and nonresident tuition is below most private colleges.”

So the college situation in this country is more fluid than you might think. Schools ebb and flow in what they have to offer.

Please. Invade us!

Hezbollah has taken, lately, to voicing plans to kill certain members of the Lebanese leadership once Israel stops attacking them.
And even when the battle with the Israelis is over, he adds menacingly, Hezbollah will have other battles to fight. "The real battle is after the end of this war. We will have to settle score with the Lebanese politicians. We also have the best security and intelligence apparatus in this country, and we can reach any of those people who are speaking against us now. Let's finish with the Israelis and then we will settle scores later."
Kind of makes you hope that Israel finishes Hezbollah off, like they say they want to do. I don't know about you, but if you were Lebanese here, wouldn't you be, like, hoping for a western-style invasion right about now?
The terms "invasion" and "occupy" have kind of a bad reputation, especially lately when directed at the U.S. However, I'm sure that having U.S. troops controlling vast parts of Lebanon would be a welcome sight compared to what they usually get, or what they're having to cope with right now.
But the only way it'll happen is if the Lebanese government practically begs us to. And even then I'm sure someone will make a stink about our next "invasion." Condi Rice recently went to Lebanon and gave lip service to some sort of international force to help out, but Walid Jumblatt, the Druze leader (who has already been threatened by Hezbollah) notes that unless you have a Kosovo style occupation and the Syrian border is completely closed, you aren't even coming close.
"If Israel comes out victorious from this conflict, this will be a victory for the Sunnis and they will take the Shia community back in history dozens of years to the time when we were only allowed to work as garbage collectors in this country. The Shia will all die before letting this happen again."
Better dead than Smeg. I suppose that if the Shias are victorious and gain firm control of Lebanon they'll force the Sunnis and Druze to be their garbage collectors? You think, maybe, that if the Shias in that region weren't so homicidal maybe they would be accepted more easily into Society and upwardly mobile. You dig your own graves in this world sometimes.

What if?

Cool web application.  Using GIS technology, these guys allow you to see what the blast radius of a 10-kiloton nuclear weapon would be on your own city or town.  (Recommended, unfortunately, that you use MS Explorer.  Firefox didn’t work so well)

Enter your zip code and a map comes up pretty quickly.  It centers the circles on the centroid of the zip code zone, so the center might not be your house.  But it’s one of those handy things about nuclear bombs that you don’t have to be right next to your target to destroy it (hence the old adage that close only counts in horseshoes, hand grenades and nuclear war).

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

The heat is on

Up until last week, I would have said that we, here in the Northwest, were having one of the milder summers I can remember. It's nice to live in a place where the day time temperatures don't get up past 90 very much. It's one of the reasons I abandoned the southwest after high school.
However, even those 100+ degree days in Albuquerque were tolerable compared to heat waves up here. The thing about the southwest, and please forgive the use of this cliche, is that when it gets hot, the humidity tends not to bother you much. I can remember being outside and active on 100 degree days as a teenager.
So it was with dismay that I noted the oncoming heat wave we just experienced this last weekend. Two days at 100+ and a couple more in the high 90s. This is that's paired with high humidity. You folks on the east coast of the U.S. know what I mean. It saps the life out of you. Luckily, these waves don't normally last very long, and aren't native. Usually they swoop in through the Gorge from the drier lands east of the Cascades. This one came from California. Thanks so much, guys.

With hot weather comes fire. You probably hear it often said that our forests are tinder boxes waiting to consume the countryside. Well, there is some truth to that, and we do indeed have some fires going in Oregon and Washington. Keep your eyes out if you are recreating.
This site, the National Fire News, brought to us from the handy National Interagency Coordination Center (nice to know those folks at the Fed are coordinating for a change), and it's Northwest version, has a list of all the current fires blazing.

In Washington there's a big fire burning in the Wenachee/Okanogan national forest. It's in the hills, near the wilderness areas. Might be close to Lake Chelan too, so keep updated.

The most dangerous fire in Oregon, although not the biggest yet, is the Black Crater fire near Sisters. It's near McKenzie pass on Hwy 242. It's only 100 acres, but listed as zero percent contained, so it could get much bigger. Evacuations are happening in the area. If I were traveling across the Cascades I would not take hwy 242 or hwy 20 at this point.

The Foster Gulch and Mclean fires are burning in Hells Canyon area at 2500 and 1500 acres each.

There's a 400 acre brush/grass fire a few miles from the Crooked River ranch (off Hwy 97).
And there's a 42,000 acre brush fire way out in the middle of nowhere in Harney county (apologies to the few people who actually live way out there).

There's a good map at the Northwest site showing the fire locations.

What if?

Are Democrats turning against teachers’ unions?  Mickey Kaus links to Eduwonk, who has some evidence on the national level.  (Scroll down a little)

Monday, July 24, 2006

Lebanon war continues

Things are still going cruddy in Lebanon.  I haven’t paid a lot of attention this weekend, just enough to know it’s still going on and Israel is still pushing into the southern part of the country.

I think we all know that Iran and Syria had something to do with this, at least in the sense of providing support for Hezbollah, but this statement at the end of an article from India provides some context that puts suspicion in it’s place.

      Above all, the kidnapping of the Israeli soldiers by Hezbollah took place on 12th July, the deadline set by the international community for the Iranian acceptance of the multilateral proposal for the nuclear standoff. Since then the crisis along the Israel-Lebanese border, and not Iran’s suspected nuclear ambitions, has dominated the international agenda. Even the meeting of G8 leaders in St. Petersburg that was supposed to evolve a consensus stand vis-a-vis Iran was hijacked by the new crisis.

That’s interesting.  So Iran might have planned this in order to deflect attention from what they are up to.  If so, they are probably selling out Hezbollah for their own interests, as Israel might just pull off eradicating them this time.  At least they are strongly motivated and serious to do so.

It also shows continuing depth to what the international community is thinking regarding the conflict.  There is definitely not the united chorus against Israel this time around, although there is still some of that.  There is a ubiquitous recognition that Hezbollah bears a lot of blame here.

Contrary to some sensationalists, this is not yet WWIII.  Yes, there is a war on terrorists, sponsored by the U.S.  and yes there is a war in Lebanon.  However, this is far from worldwide in scope, and as this editorial argues, we can’t take our eye off the nuclear ball in Iran and N. Korea.  Because it could turn into world war without western resolve in those arenas.

As for Israel, I’ve stated many times to friends that I sympathize with what Israel is going through here, i.e. we’ve had enough and we’re not going to take it any more.  The fact that they are killing innocent Lebanese, to a certain extent can’t be held against them, otherwise you would have to blame America and England for bombing Dresden or Hiroshima.  There’s always going to be collateral damage in war, even if you are trying to target military installations or Hezbollah outposts only.

Although you could defend the WWII allies somewhat by blaming all Germans collectively for putting Hitler into power, I don’t think you can say that of the Lebanese.  They have had events more or less thrust upon them.

This article by David Horowitz takes issue with the claim that Lebanon is innocent in all this.  He points out that Lebanon hosts Hezbollah and has for years.  Hezbollah has a significant presence in the government, and continues to get supplied through the Syrian border, which Lebanon seems to allow.

However, I think Horowitz is being unfair to the Lebanese.  It ignores the fact that Lebanon was occupied by Syria for well over a decade.  During that time, Lebanese hatred of Hezbollah has grown and their desire for freedom and democracy increased.  But Hezbollah has been in place for quite a while, and was strengthened by the Syrian occupation.  Now they are better armed than the Lebanese army, and after decades of civil war, the last thing Lebanon wants is another one.

It’s true that Hezbollah has a large presence in the government, but they have a pretty sizable population in southern Lebanon, and in a truly representative government, you are going to have some representation by all major groups.  Would democracy be served by excluding groups of people, even if you didn’t agree with what they stood for?  (Temper that with the fact that a democracy just might decide that a certain group defies everything your country stands for and you might have justification for exclusion.  I.E. if a party running in the U.S. had violence and distinct anti-constitutional values on it’s platform you might see censure here)

Give them a break, they’re getting bombed currently.

Other news:
Israel would agree to international forces on the border, but make them NATO, not UN.
Condi Rice made a visit to Beirut on her way to Israel.  She declared Aid for Lebanon in the wake of the war, but didn’t say anything significant toward Israel and their role in all that.  Which is telling.

Syria wants to talk, but their opening bargaining chip is that they want Israel to give up Golan Heights.  Yeah, whatever.  Call us back when you have a serious offer.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Still no Mexican President-elect

They are marching in Mexico City today.  This article claims that there are over one million people marching for Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador’s claim that he deserves to win the Presidential election down there, or at least that there should be a manual recount of all the votes in the entirety of Mexico.

      "I think we have to get ready for six years of Andres Manuel taking the Zocalo," said Sigrid Arzt, a partner and founder of the organization Democracy, Human Rights and Security.
      "It is very unfortunate for our young democracy that we have this person with so much power who claims to be democratic but buries all the legal institutions simply because they are not giving him what he wants," she said.

Sounds like 2000 up here in the states.  Now while I’m not thrilled with politics in general in Mexico, which generally cause the kind of conditions that force Mexicans by the millions to jump the fence on our southern border, and Filipe Calderon is probably not the solution, I would say he’s a damn sight better person to have in the highest office in Mexico than Andres “Hugo is my copilot” Obrador.

      "This is just the beginning," said Talia Vazquez, Lopez Obrador's coordinator for Mexicans abroad. "The support among immigrants who want a change in Mexico is overwhelming, especially at a time of an intense anti-Mexican mood in the United States."

Umm, except for the fact that 60 percent of all Mexicans living abroad voted for Calderon.  Wanting change isn’t necessarily meaning ANY change.  Kudos to all those Mexicans who aren’t falling for the usual leftist dogma during a hard economic time.  It’s about time some Latin American countries learned from history that leftist socialists talk a nice talk, but generally drive their countries into the ground and then solidify their power until they become nothing more than fascist dictatorships.  Listen to Obrador’s supporters.

      "We don't care if the markets tank," Ramos said, when asked if he was concerned that demonstrations like Sunday's could negatively affect Mexico's stock market. "Why should we care if the rich lose their money?"

Holy cow!  Who do you think is providing jobs down there?  The government can’t do it all on it’s own.  Luckily, I think that the vast majority of Mexicans trust the electoral process (whether they should or not), and just want to get on with things.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Pork Fest 2006

There’s a pork fest about to happen in the US House.  Republicans are moving a health and human services appropriations bill containing 1700 earmarks.  This is truly bi-partisan, as those earmarks are designed to help all incumbents in the November elections.

The Democrats also have a minimum wage increase tied to the bill, so they are just as motivated to get it passed.  Tom Coburn (R-OK) and Jeff Flake (R-Ariz) has at least threatened to try and strike Amendments with no identified sponsor.

Write your Rep and tell them to at least support Flake’s amendments to identify sponsors, if not cut back on the earmarks.

War in Lebanon

Breaking news:  Israel is planning an invasion of southern Lebanon.  You might think that this is the 80s and 90s all over again, but it’s not.

Basically what happened is Israel is getting fed up.  Hezbollah kidnapped one of their officers and launched some missiles, not just into Israel but into Haifa, which is a major town.  Here’s an explanation of Israeli nerves right now.

Israel apparently has dropped thousands of leaflets around Lebanon saying that anyone not affiliated with Hezbollah better get under cover, because they’re coming in.  Lebanon is freaked out, but not at Israel.  They are pissed at Hezbollah for causing Israel to do this, which is the correct attitude I think.  Lebanon hasn’t cleaned up the Hezbollah areas and demanded that they give up all their weapons because they are afraid of them.  The Hezbollah army is actually more dangerous than the Lebanese army.

Israel insists that they aren’t going to stop until Hezbollah is neutralized and they get their man back.  I don't think that the rest of the Lebanese are going to try and stop them either.

Of all the news medias out there, I would keep my eye on this one.  Pajamas media is on top of it, pulling together news reports and blogger reactions to events.  Most notably they are looking for Lebanese and Israeli blog reactions.

To get caught up read these three posts.

The United Nations Security Council is going to hold an immediate session to discuss the crisis.  However, I doubt that anything meaningful is going to happen considering the resolution that was vetoed by the US earlier this week.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Final World Cup post

All right, I mean it.  This will be the last official World Cup posting.  At least for a while.
I just wanted to sum up a few things that I was reading on the USA national team and what this country is going to have to do to compete on the international stage.  If nothing else, we’re going to have to get more serious about paying attention to what’s going on, because one thing you need that the rest of the world has that we definitely don’t have is absolute passion.  I’m not saying our boys didn’t try hard, but the kind of importance that other countries place on this tournament and this sport drives the players to higher levels of performance.  You don’t think so?  Ask yourself why the same countries win time and time again, despite how much exposure the sport has in the rest of the world.  America is a land of many choices when it comes to our pastimes, and winning the cup just isn’t that important yet.

Oh, yeah, and American fans aren’t going to give it that kind of importance until they learn the game, and they aren’t going to learn it until they get more exposure, and they aren’t going to get that exposure until ESPN, ABC and everyone else shows something more than the World Cup every 4 years.  Hear that TV People?

There are a lot of other reasons.  This Boston guy who worked in soccer for years says that the game is still too difficult for American athletes.

      Though hitting a baseball may be the single most difficult feat in sports, soccer is hands down the most demanding team sport to master. Soccer players must contemplate a seemingly endless number of possibilities regarding what to do when the ball comes. In motion on a field that is up to 120 yards long and 75 yards wide, with 9 other field teammates to consider, the possibilities are many, and relatively complex. It is like a chess game, but the board is gigantic, and the pieces are moving quickly. From an intelligence perspective, the only other somewhat analogous sports are basketball and hockey, which also demand quick thinking within a free-flowing game. Yet, given that players in those sports must consider merely 4 other teammates over a smaller field (i.e., court, rink), mastering the intelligence of soccer is a far more intricate and demanding feat.

Jamie Trecker asks 5 questions that American Soccer needs to answer before it can progress:
-If Claudio Reyna is the best American player, why did he play in only ONE World Cup win in this three Cup appearances?
-Did Landon Donovan fail in 2006 because he isn’t good enough to get the ball, or because it was not given to him?
-Was the USA team over trained?
-Do we need better coaching or what can a coach to with the players he has?
- What can be done to attract superior athletes?

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

$300 for vasectomy

Paying drug addicts to become sterile.

      Barbara Harris drove her RV gingerly through Old Town and staked her territory beneath the Burnside Bridge, one of the first stops on her cross-country mission as head of Project Prevention, a foundation that offers $300 to drug users willing to be sterilized or use long-term birth control.

      Harris founded her program in 1998. Originally called C.R.A.C.K. -- Children Requiring a Caring Kommunity -- it immediately attracted attention and criticism. Supporters call Harris a hero. Detractors label her tactics as modern-day eugenics.

Like the “K” on community?  Don’t people who care about kids teach them to spell correctly?
Sorry.  Mean jab.  Anyway, I think that people who complain about “modern-day eugenics” have a flimsy logical argument.  I can see what they are getting at, however most historical eugenic-type attempts at controlling breeding had to do with actual genetics.  I.E. you wanted to control some genetic feature of the human genome so that people in the future would be genetically free from some sort of deficiency (or perceived deficiency) or genetically steer some race toward more whiteness or whatever. 

For instance there was a problem some years ago with states mandating that certain mental health patients become sterile.  But I think in this case, since the program is completely voluntary and the target group is not any particular genetic group but a group with a social/chemical problem, the opponents have little argument on this point.

While I applaud the reasons for the foundation, that it would reduce the number of unexpected children born into a life of drugs, crime and poverty, I think that I have a problem with the permanency of it all.  For $300 (and I’m assuming the operation is covered as well) you give up your ability to reproduce for life.  What if you clean up and want to change your life and start a family somewhere down the road.  Can an addicted person on drugs make that kind of decision for themselves?

ID for Vote

Georgia’s law that only registered voters with State ID can participate in the vote is getting some significant roadblocks this week.

      The state's top elections official testified Wednesday that about 675,000 registered voters have neither a Georgia driver license nor state identification, as a federal court considers a request to block a Georgia law that requires voters to show photo ID.

      U.S. District Judge Harold Murphy was hearing the civil rights groups' motion less than a week before the new law would apply for the first time at the polls.

Earlier a County Superior Court judge issued a restraining order on the law until the issue is resolved.  Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, a little time for citizens of the state to pick up a state ID of some sort before the law fully goes into effect would be a good thing.

Apparently there is a case now before the state Supreme Court and this one before a Federal judge on the same bill.  Quite a barrage of lawsuits against this attempt to curtail voter fraud.

You can probably guess many of the organizations pushing these cases; ACLU, NAACP and Hispanic groups.  They would like you to think that this law is going to disenfranchise some group of people or another, but this is another case of phantom victimhood.  Basically you are a victim if you don’t get a readily available ID card that proves you are a citizen.  I realize this is harder for some people than others, but how hard is that really?  I would rather leave a small few voters who don’t want to bother with the small amount of time they would have to spend to acquire proof that they can indeed vote out in the cold than deal with the potential voter fraud.  Call it my “Sacrificing the incompetent for the sake of preventing access to the malicious” attitude.

By the way, don’t most states require you to carry some sort of ID on your person at all times?  In an age of heightened security and danger from terrorism, why aren’t we required to have that ID anyway?

Cooperation and Credit Cards

Let it not be said that bi-partisan bills that engender massive support from both parties never happen.  In fact they happen more frequently than you would think.  Take this bill designed to ban the use of credit cards in online gambling.

      The U.S. Congress has voted 317-93 in favor of a bill that will place a ban on many forms of Internet gambling because credit cards, banks and other online credit companies will no longer be allowed to make payments to Internet gambling web sites.  It would be the job of the Treasury Department and Federal Reserve to try and make sure that companies are not allowing the payments to online gambling sites that are traditionally overseas.  Law enforcement and Internet service providers will work together to block user access to gambling web sites.

The effects of this are really unknown.  How do you police it, and what about off shore gambling?  There are still many critics, but despite that, the heavy majority that voted for it is enough to illustrate that it’s definitely the will of the people talking and not some partisan thing.

I wonder how the credit card companies feel about this.  I would imagine that they are ambivalent toward it.  Both nervous that congress just exercised the power to limit the use of credit, and relieved as gambling with credit is a fast ticket to bankruptcy and a rise in that sort of thing can’t be good for the industry’s bottom line.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Italy def. France

What happened?  This game is going to be seared in the memories of many people world wide.  But perhaps that’s going to be for the wrong reasons.  The best soccer team in the world has been crowned and Italy sits alone on the throne.

If you were watching and you care, you have many reasons to dislike the result.  One is that it was low scoring and went to penalty kicks.  I hate penalty kick situations, but only because it rewards teams who bottle up games and don’t have the flair to score.  It often can punish the team who played better in the match.  It’s even worse in a final game, because even though someone has to win, it won’t necessarily reward the better team.

For instance, in 1994, Italy was rewarded with a heartbreaking loss after the greatest player in the world at the time, Roberto Baggio, missed his penalty at the end of the game, handing a horribly lackluster Brazilian side their 4th World Cup trophy.

So call it poetic justice, or call it what you will.  Italy played fate and earned their 4th Cup trophy in the same manner.  I think they played better throughout the cup than Brazil did in 1994, had to face and overcome some tough opposition (Czechs, Germans) and definitely had the best defense in the tournament and the world.  However, the French outplayed them for much of the game and definitely had more creative flair.  Their downfall might have resulted from the other bad taste in my mouth from this game.

That would be Zidane head-butting Marco Materazzi late in overtime.  In one of those unexplained freak moments in sports, one of the greatest players to ever walk out on the pitch, the hero of the 1998 World Cup and France’s captain, sent Materazzi to the ground by thrusting his head into the Italian defender’s chest.  That kind of thing, if the ref sees it, will get you thrown out of the game and probably the next game after that.  But for Zidane there will be no more games.  He was planning on retiring after the Cup, so add that to the list of reasons why Zidane should have held back and ignored the verbal abuse.  Here’s a non-exhaustive list:

1.You are the team captain, lead by example.
2.This is the last game of your storied career.  Don’t go out on a bad note.
3.You’ve been one of the best players in the tournament.  Your team needs you in the most important game in the last 8 years for your country.

4.You are the best penalty taker on the pitch and it looks like it might go that far.
I could go on.  Reports are coming in now that right before the incident, Materazzi held Zidane’s shirt, tweaked his nipple and said a couple of things.  Zidane responded in a haughty kind of way, and then Materazzi said something that apparently made Zidane lose it completely.  Players accept a certain amount of mouthing off on the field, but there is considerable argument right now that the statement was racial, and FIFA might come back and penalize Materazzi over the incident.  Zidane is known for seeing red and over-reacting, but so is Materazzi, so it wouldn’t be unheard of.

Despite that, Zidane won the Golden Ball award, declaring him the best player of the tournament.  Which, before that ugly moment in the final, I think he deserved.

But that’s beside the point.  Italy have the Cup. 
I’ll tell you a funny (funny=tragic) story.  There are, in fact, a few things more important to me than soccer.  The main one here is God, and on Sunday morning, while the game was airing live here on the west coast of North America, I was attending church.  I had a friend TVO the game, but even if I couldn’t I wouldn’t have skipped church.

However, I got the DVD from them, and planned to watch the game later that night after having dinner with my parents.  My parents brought a friend over, whom I hadn’t seen in a while, so it was great to chat with her over the meal.  At some point in the meal we got to talking about this Italian friend of hers, and she dropped the bomb.  Boy, he’s sure got to be happy right now that they’ve won the World Cup, or something like that.

My humble response was something like this:  “NOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!! AAAAAAAAARRRRRGGGGG!!!”
So I go into this game knowing the eventual victor, I was determined to enjoy the play anyway.  Which I did.  The Italians played their game and did it brilliantly in the first half.  They marked the Frenchmen close and didn’t give them room to move.  Their attacks were quick and responsive off of their defensive takeaways.  The goal off the corner kick was brilliant and well deserved.

The French turned it around and played their game to the hilt in the second half and it was beautiful.  Zidane directed many dangerous attacks on the Italian goal and Patrick Viera, Makalele and Thuram were impenetrable.  The fact that neither team could get a goal in the run of play wasn’t really a detractor.

For those of you who thought that Malouda dove in the box to get that penalty kick that resulted in the Zidane goal for France: yes, it’s arguable that France didn’t deserve that kick.  However, they did deserve one about 20 minutes later when Malouda was obviously taken down inside the area.  Big no-call by the ref, but perhaps he was making up for the first one.

All this to say, bit congratulations to the Italians.  They get bragging rights for the next 4 years, and the pressure is off them for a while.  Say what you want about Italian football (physical, conservative, defensive, scandalous), they own it right now.

So a trend continues and one ends.  The trend of European teams winning in Europe and losing elsewhere stomps on.  It’s only been broken once, and that was when Brazil won the Cup in Sweden.  Next cup is set to be played in South Africa (or somewhere in Africa), so Argentina or Brazil anyone?

The other trend that was broken was that either Brazil or Germany has been present in the final game in all but one of the World Cups since 1950 (in 1950 there was no final, instead there was a final “group” that Uruguay came out on top of.  Brazil, however, was in the group).  The one cup final was 1978, when Argentina won their first title by defeating Holland.

Brazil has 5 titles, and Italy now has 4.  Germany has 3 and Argentina and Uruguay have 2 each.  England and France have one.  On to 2010!

Monday, July 10, 2006

World Cup 2006, finit.

My overall comments on the World Cup this year.  I had probably the best time watching soccer than I ever have.  I think that partly stems from the fact that I got to watch far more games than I ever have.  I also got to share a bit of it in my writings here, as well as see some exciting action. 

Sure the USA didn’t get as far this year, but replace that excitement with all the controversy regarding refereeing, diving and possible violence.  OK, maybe not, but unlike 2002, there was some really good soccer played this time around.  There were only a few teams in 2002 that I thought were playing really well, Brazil among them.  Turkey was another.  This year I found I was enjoying some actually creative midfield play and true attacking soccer from a number of teams, including Germany, Spain, Portugal, Argentina, Italy, and (finally, when they got around to it) France.

I hope that the trend continues.  Many people are getting soured by the increase in “professional fouling” and diving to get advantage.  I certainly agree that this takes away from the game, and if nothing else I hope that the refereeing trend in the last few games, where they let the game progress instead of let fouls control the pace of play, continues.  I also hope that countries get shamed at some point into trying harder to play well instead of develop those “professional” skills mentioned above.  I know I speak for Billions when I say that good soccer is a joy to watch, in those uncommon moments when it happens.

And one more comment on the refs.  Sure there were some bad refs and some bad calls that changed games, but just because there was a record number of yellow and red cards in 2006 doesn’t mean that many of them weren’t fully deserved.  The game has gotten quite physical.

Some other interesting articles as a result of the passing Cup.
Jamie Trecker looks at ideas to reform the Cup so the process won’t be so grueling for the players, and games during the qualifying and final will have more importance.  Although I think the wisest thing in the comments section of his post pointed out that the larger club leagues forcing more club games and more regional tournaments is what is causing players to wear out, not all the national team games.

Another thought on why American soccer players are not ready to compete for the ultimate prize.

Here’s an opinion about what’s going on in the Italian league.  It’s not just a game or two fixed by officials from one team or another.  It’s the officials from several teams fixing matches by manipulating referees over a period of years.  What happens when the perennial top 4 or 5 teams with billions in TV, marketing and ticketing revenues suddenly gets thrown down into the Italian minor leagues?

Here’s the Guardian’s best and worst of the Cup.
ESPNs All star team of the tournament is here.

My impressions of the final game later.

Oregon November Ballot

Just got a notification from my state senator listing the ballot measure that he thinks we are going to see in November’s election this year.  Thusly:

      -Parental notification on abortions
      -Restrictions on government use of eminent domain
      -limits on campaign contributions
      -Ban on the use of credit scores in calculating insurance rates
      -Stronger nursing requirements for nursing homes
      -Term limits for legislators
      -Colorado style spending limits
      -Expanded personal tax deductions
      -Expanded state prescription program
      -Election of judges by district
      -Open primaries

These are just the state measures.  I’m also expecting to see something about a county or regional tax to replace the Multnomah County tax we’ve been saddled with for the last 3 years.   Remember, that was a temporary tax.

I see some measures that I’m likely to support, some that I’m sure I won’t, and a few that I’ll definitely need more information on.  Let the mayhem begin!