Potpourri

  • Wolf Blitzer asks Dick Cheney about the rightist reaction to his upcoming grandchild. Uh, awkward.
  • Forbes.com ranks the Internet’s top 25 celebrities. Interesting that I’m not included. Obviously, name-recognition/celebrity status is an important criterion for this list, but how are some of the bloggers comparably ranked with the Wikipedia guy? Clearly the latter has a greater impact on the web.
  • Roger Federer is a machine. That is all. Oh, and I could sure go for a good tennis match. Too bad it’s January, and that I don’t have a tennis partner.
  • There’s a new invention out called the HyperBike (also here). It’s a machine in which the rider stands upright and uses his or her arms for additional power. Allegedly, the contraption will go up to 50 mph. That sounds kind of fun, if true. But I given the wind resistance that thing must generate, I doubt that is a sustainable speed. Moreover, given the HypeBike’s large size and weight (200 pounds), I don’t be trading my Trek in for one anytime soon. Imagine trying to plod uphill on a windy, narrow Tennessee road in that thing.
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Americanizing Soccer

I’m sure in some corner people have been talking about how David Beckham will transform soccer in America. I haven’t heard the conversation, but then again I usually don’t hear anyone talking about soccer.
I do see that in at least one aspect, Beckham’s $250 million arrival will make soccer more American. No, I don’t think Beckham will necessarily cause more Americans to watch soccer, or play soccer, or even like soccer. But this deal definitely makes the MLS pay structure much much more Americanesque:

Unfortunately for Becks, clouds have apparently started to circle over his new club, even before he joins them. His extraordinary wages are causing some friction with his future team-mates, with midfielder Peter Vagenas telling FiveLive: “Of course there is resentment. But a wise man once said you are worth what you negotiate. On the one hand you would say more power to him but on the other hand you think ‘why can’t I be earning that?” He gets £63,000 a year, hardly peanuts, but when compared to Becks…
However, LA Galaxy coach Frank Yallop insists that Vagenas’ comments were tongue-in-cheek: “I know our guys and they’re not the jealous type,” he said. “We have players on $31,000 a year, but we also have someone like Landon Donovan on big money. The salary cap is a way of life over here. He will drive the sport on here. Every kid under 10 in America plays soccer.

So the Galaxy now embody your good ol’ American corporation, with one guy (CEO) getting paid 500 times more than all the other workers. Imagine you are one of the no-names getting paid $30,000 to do pretty much the same thing as Beckham. Yeah, that ought to work well to build team unity.

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Bush Turns Green

SOTU preview:

President Bush will lay out a bold plan in his State of the Union tonight for Americans to cut their consumption of all gasoline by 20 percent over the next 10 years, ABC News has learned.
. . .
Such a dramatic reduction in gasoline consumption would require new standards of the Corporate Average Fuel Economy system, known as CAFE, and an increased availability in the U.S. auto market of vehicles that run on alternative fuels.

We’ll see whether this is an actual plan with CAFE requirements (which Republicans have rejected for years) or just another of those voluntary goals.
Call me a cynic, but I don’t believe Bush would push for any energy policy which wasn’t supported by Oil, Inc. Is this an implicit signal from big oil that current levels of oil consumption are unsustainable? That, based on current growth models, production won’t be able to meet demand in five or ten years? I don’t think Bush is proposing this for the fun of it. And we know that conservation is just a virtue, not an energy policy.

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Hirohito Effect

The apparently-departed Billmon periodically referred to Emperor Hirohito’s incredible face-saving spin during his radio broadcast announcing surrender (World War II) to the Japanese people:

Despite the best that has been done by everyone-the gallant fighting of the military and naval forces, the diligence and assiduity of our servants of the State and the devoted service of our 100,000,000 people-the war situation has developed not necessarily to Japan’s advantage, while the general trends of the world have all turned against her interest.

“The situation has developed not necessarily to Japan’s advantage”–that’s one way of putting it.
Today we seemingly have our own Emperor Hirohito:

WALLACE: Mr. Vice President, why should we believe that this time you’ve got it right?
CHENEY: If you look at what’s transpired in Iraq, Chris, we have in fact made enormous progress.

One has to wonder how Cheney maintains credibility in anyone’s mind these days. But apparently he does, both inside the White House and among the 33%.

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Their Plan

In another shocking development, it appears Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is full of it. Here’s what she said yesterday regarding President Bush’s plan to ramp up the conflict in Iraq (emphasis added):

And I said that I thought it was important to have the Maliki government have a little time now to make its plan work. After all, this is the Maliki government’s plan. They came to the President with this plan in Amman. They said, we need to put together a plan that will help us to deal with the problem that our population doesn’t believe that we can secure them.

Contrast with today’s New York Times:

Iraq’s Shiite-led government offered only a grudging endorsement on Thursday of President Bush’s proposal to deploy more than 20,000 additional troops in an effort to curb sectarian violence and regain control of Baghdad. The tepid response immediately raised questions about whether the government would make a good-faith effort to prosecute the new war plan.
. . .
While senior officials in Washington have presented the new war plan as an American adaptation of proposals that were first put to Mr. Bush by Mr. Maliki when the two men met in the Jordanian capital of Amman in November, the picture that is emerging in Baghdad is quite different. What Mr. Maliki wanted, his officials say, was in at least one crucial respect the opposite of what Mr. Bush decided: a lowering of the American profile in the war, not the increase Mr. Bush has ordered.

It’s very surprising that what we hear from Washington is at odds with what’s going on in Iraq. That’s a new development. Anyway, this is a good set up for the blame game when if this surge fails to turn things around. The Iraqis failed to deliver on “their” plan.

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More Sports Salary Craziness

Just when you thought sports salaries couldn’t get any worse:

David Beckham agreed to a five-year deal with the Los Angeles Galaxy of Major League Soccer, leaving the Real Madrid club at which he enjoyed worldwide popularity but experienced disappointment on the field.
. . .
MLS recently changed its rules on salary caps, clearing the way for Beckham to sign a lucrative deal. British news reports put the Galaxy deal at $250 million.

$250 million? I didn’t realize the entire MLS was worth that much, much less one player.
I guess I can understand the economics of this in revenue-producing sports, but here we’re talking about soccer. In America. I consider myself to be a fairly knowledgeable sports fan, and I couldn’t name four teams in the MLS. But if someone wants to shell out that kind of money for a player, more power to them. I’m just glad I’m not a Galaxy ticket buyer.

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