A Brief Overview of American Soccer

David Wangerin, author of Soccer in a Football World, explains why his favorite sport has taken its time to catch on in America.

1985_regIn 1981, the fourteenth year of its existence, the North American Soccer League started to crumble. Membership fell from 24 to 21 teams, crowds thinned and a prized network television contract with ABC had been cancelled. Three years later, the league died – and twelve years passed before another took its place.

Major League Soccer is showing rather more promise in its fourteenth year. It operates with more teams than it’s ever had; attendance is still tracing a (modestly) upward path; and though it still loses money, one or two teams are apparently starting to come out ahead.

A quarter-century may have passed since the NASL kicked its last ball, but its legacy has proved surprisingly enduring. This season marks the arrival of MLS’s newest team, the Seattle Sounders, a name that stretches back to the NASL’s heyday. MLS intends to add two more teams in 2011: one will be called the Portland Timbers, a name of similar vintage, and the other, probably, the Vancouver Whitecaps, who won the NASL in 1979. First, though, the league will also add a team from Philadelphia. A well-marshalled lobby is pressing for it to be named it the Atoms, NASL champions of 1973.

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Ordinary Poverty: A Little Food and Cold Storage Blog

Temple University Press author William DiFazio (Ordinary Poverty) addresses the inequalities of current economic crisis in this blog entry

1674_reg“I ain’t got no boom,” a young, new mother responded to my question on how she was doing as a result of the economic boom of the Clinton years. As I described in Ordinary Poverty the economic boom of the 1990’s had bypassed the poor in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn and the United States. We now know that the economic bubbles of 2000 and 2007 would burst and the “new economy” would never really happen, it was a fiction, the economists and finance capitalists were wrong and now instead of endless prosperity we have a world crisis in capitalism and the whole country has “no boom.”

While the President and his cabinet focus on bailing out the banks and the auto industry the massive inequality in the United States is ignored. Like the Titanic the captains of the economy ignore the iceberg of inequality and the number of poor locked in steerage is swelling as more and more middle class people join them destined to sink with the economy. This inequality is an important cause of the current crisis in capitalism; 70% of the US economy is based on shopping but Americans cannot consume as they did in the past because for almost forty years wages haven’t kept up with prices even with the supposedly low inflation rates and only massive debt gave them the appearance of still being middle class. With credit closed to the middle classes more of them are becoming poor, Ordinary Poverty is now about them as well. The supposedly “lazy” poor also worked harder at lower and lower wages, including people on welfare. They are forced to cheat because the welfare grant is insufficient for the poor to live on. The welfare grant in New York State for the last eighteen years is $291 per month for a family of three; though Governor Paterson has proposed a 10% increase the first in almost two decades but it’s too little too late. The current crisis in capitalism has made the lives of the poor more difficult as soup kitchens and food pantries are increasingly overwhelmed by an increasing client base. St. John’s Bread & Life, where much of Ordinary Poverty takes place is feeding almost 1,300 people a day and has a rotating, monthly clientele in its food pantry of 15,000 people. Thus, as more and more people show up for meals and donations decline St. John’s Bread & Life is increasingly in debt. The homeless population is exploding, moving into tent cities, like the Hoovervilles of the Great Depression and in RV’s, once recreational vehicles for a summer vacation are now permanent housing for people who once were middle class. These newly poor are college educated, newly unemployed or underemployed many who of them have walked away from their foreclosed houses.

As the crises escalated the first African American President was finally elected but President Obama as he spends trillions of dollars trying to bail out the banks, AIG and the automobile industry, barely has an extra dollar to spend on the poor. He also acts as if the growing inequality of the last forty years has had no part in this crisis. After all, since Moynihan wrote The Negro Family Study, in 1965 and he explained that poverty was a racial and psychological problem, the result of the “tangle of pathology” of the deteriorating Negro family structure and that it was not the result of the failures of American capitalism to provide jobs with above poverty wages to tens of millions of American workers. Of course, now we know that Moynihan was wrong though he served as the source of conservative ideology on poverty. In reality welfare was a cheap solution to the labor force problems in the United States and legitimated the refusal of corporations to pay higher wages. Instead it replaced workers with technology and by shipping jobs to developing countries where non-union workers were paid the lowest wages and given no benefits. For American workers instead of higher wages, credit cards and debt were exchanged for an imagined higher standard of living. If the labor market inequality that has plagued the poor, the working and middle classes was taken seriously by President Obama, Citibank, AIG, Bank of America and General Motors who have been bailed out by the government would not be allowed to lay-off workers or cut wages and benefits. Instead, both the corporate and government solution is to save business by firing workers and cutting the wages of those who still have their jobs. If they really understood the place of inequality in all of this they would raise wages and benefits so that a real economic stimulus would be accomplished. Instead, Obama’s economic experts Geithner and Summers increase inequality because wages cannot be raised, yet they want consumers to spend as if wages don’t matter which just increases their debt and causing more and more poverty, does. These once middle class people now show up at soup kitchens and food pantries. Obama’s solutions are just the newest version of Finance capital’s mantra that the financial profits of the rich are based on the increased debt of ordinary people. As a result of the continuation of capitalism real politics, dressed up with Obama’s “Yes we can,” ideology and with no real change results in more and more middle and working class people sinking into poverty, which continues to become evermore ordinary and now they too have only “a little food and cold storage.”

Drug Problems vs. Drug Money Problems

With California considering the legalization (and taxation) of marijuana, Judge James P. Gray author of Why Our Drug Laws Have Failed and What We Can Do About It – A Judicial Indictment of the War on Drugs (Temple University Press, 2001), addresses the issue of Drug Problems vs. Drug Money Problems

by James P. Gray

1589_regAs all sophisticated people know, life is full of distinctions. One of those critical distinctions is the difference between drug problems, and there certainly are many, as opposed to drug money problems.

There is no doubt that illicit drugs can sometimes be dangerous and addictive and cause harm. Many people’s health and lives have been ruined, and families torn apart emotionally and financially because of the havoc caused by the abuse of and addiction to illicit drugs. So without question this is a big problem.

But there are even larger problems that are caused exclusively by drug money. For example, for years we have been hearing and reading about the large-scale violence and corruption that takes place with drug dealers in Colombia, Mexico, Afghanistan and many other countries. And certainly the United States has had its share of this violence and corruption as well. But these problems are not actually caused by drugs, they are caused by the drug money.

Similarly, it is drug money that is causing drug-addicted people to commit crimes in order to get the money to buy their drugs. Obviously that includes burglaries, purse-snatchings, check offenses, shop-liftings, and prostitution. As a practical matter, all of the illicit drugs themselves are extremely inexpensive to raise, manufacture and package. In fact they are actually “dirt cheap.” The only reason they are expensive is because they are illegal, and that expense causes many crimes.

So if we would change our drug laws to hold people accountable for their actions instead of what they put into their bodies, we would begin greatly to reduce the drug money crime. And this could be easily done by undercutting the market for the sale of illicit drugs by the government strictly regulating and controlling these sales to adults. Of course, any sales or transfers of any of these drugs to children would still be prosecuted.

We could start by treating marijuana like alcohol. That would result in the savings of huge amounts of taxpayer money that are presently being spent on efforts to eradicate marijuana and to prosecute non-violent marijuana users. And in spite of these efforts, marijuana is still the largest cash crop in my home state of California. (Number two is grapes, if you care.) In addition, we could generate additional billions of dollars annually simply by taxing the sales of marijuana to adults, just like we do for alcohol. And all of this would have the substantial additional benefit of making marijuana less available for our teenagers than it is today. Why? Because illicit drug dealers don’t ask for i.d.

So what is not to like? We should pattern our conduct after most countries in Europe and start to address these problems as managers instead of moralists. This would reduce the crime, violence and corruption brought about by drug money. And then we could re-focus our efforts upon the actual drug problems themselves.

I think everyone agrees that the federal government does not have all of the answers in this area, so why don’t we allow each state to decide what is best for its people? This is the concept of federalism upon which our great country was founded. There are viable alternatives to our present failed federal policy of Drug Prohibition, so let’s allow each state to try some alternatives. What do you think?

James P. Gray is a retired judge of the Superior Court in Orange County, the author of Why Our Drug Laws Have Failed and What We Can Do About It – A Judicial Indictment of the War on Drugs (Temple University Press, 2001), and can be reached at JimPGray@sbcglobal.net, or through his website at http://www.JudgeJimGray.com.

Muhammad Ali: The Making of an Icon

by Michael Ezra

1923_regMichael Ezra blogs about Muhammad Ali and his inspiration for writing Muhammad Ali: The Making of an Icon (now available from Temple University Press).

Although I am not yet forty years old, my relationship with Muhammad Ali the literary figure spans three decades. As just another seven-year-old dragged to the flea market by his bargain-hunting father, I used my only dollar to purchase a worn copy of the book Muhammad Ali: The Holy Warrior by Don Atyeo and Felix Dennis. I didn’t really understand the book or the photo captions, but found it interesting nonetheless.
In sixth grade, when the teacher asked the class what profession we desired as adults, I answered “boxing historian.” During the summer before my senior year in college, my father and I, still searching for literary bargains (we had graduated to outlet malls by then) came upon a discount copy of Thomas Hauser’s definitive biography Muhammad Ali: His Life and Times. I bought it and declared that I would write my undergraduate thesis about Ali.

Almost twenty years after I completed the thesis, Temple University Press published my book Muhammad Ali: The Making of an Icon. Ali was the subject of both my master’s thesis and Ph.D. dissertation. I have read countless pages about him—which makes sense because he holds the Guinness World Record as the most written about figure in history, ahead of Napoleon, Abe Lincoln, and Jesus—watched hours of videotape and spent years thinking about how to make meaning of one of the most misunderstood figures in American cultural history.

For all that is written about Ali, nobody had ever explored in depth how the economic consequences of his career affected his cultural image. The predominant narratives about Ali frame his politics—refusing to be drafted into the Vietnam War, joining the Nation of Islam, remaking himself as a figure of tolerance and racial reconciliation—as paramount to how Americans have come to understand him.
Muhammad Ali: The Making of an Icon does not deny the importance of Ali’s politics, but also urges readers to consider how people have capitalized by spinning such narratives into allegories. Throughout Ali’s fifty years in the limelight, people have made money by framing him as an American hero, a villain, a moral force, or an all-time-great fighter. My book details how these processes have worked.

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