Monthly Archives: February 2009

2010 Primer: The Free Agents

Continued from Part 1, The 2010 Team by Team Offseason Primer:

Now it’s time to focus on the other element that makes the 2010 class matter: the players themselves.

What makes 2010 so special is not just the top-shelf guys who are getting the attention right now; 2010 has a slew of players who could be major contributors on championship contenders, and the sheer number of players matters too, especially when considering the possibility (inevitability?) of multiple higher-level guys going to the same squad.

That said, here is my ranking of the free agents in that class, with some ruminations on where they could end up.
[NOTE:  All players are Unrestricted Free Agents that summer unless otherwise noted]

Tier 1: Franchise Players

1. Lebron James– The best player in the world, and also the most important domino in terms of the possibility of a free agent Pied Piper. My best guess is that his effect on other players would be much more dramatic if he chooses to go to a larger media market (Knicks, Nets), which also coincides with more desirable cities to live in. If he stays in the Cleve, the status quo there should continue, but I’d put it at over 50-50 that he would have another Max-quality free agent to play with if he went to NYC.

2. Dwyane Wade– Possibly the most interesting player in terms of 2010 ramifications because of his insane skill and the variety of places he could end up. I see him going in one of three directions: First (and most likely), he says in South Beach with Beasley and the rest. Miami is a great place to live, the “fans” love him, and they have a decent core with management that is happy to build around him. The next most likely possibility is that he moves to a new city with a star, probably LeBron. D-Wade is a winner and I could see him wanting to play with another top shelf guy, which also seems to fit his personality on the court. Finally, the sleeper option for Dwyane is Chicago. Chi-Town is home for him, and Derrick Rose is exactly the type of player I could see Wade saying “Man, I want to play with him.” Something to keep a sharp eye on is any interaction between Rose and Wade at the 2010 All-Star Game, since both should be on the floor for the same team at some point. Like Lebron, Wade will probably be one of the first dominoes to fall in the 2010 offseason, considering the salary offers won’t really vary (other than Miami and everyone else), so D-Wade can think about his decision long before it needs to be made.

3. Brandon Roy (Restricted Free Agent)- I fully expect that Brandon will either sign an extension sooner rather than later or Paul Allen will match any deal he could sign as an RFA, but he’s on here in the interests of full inclusion.

4. Chris Bosh– His choices are nearly identical to D-Wade’s, but I think he is less likely to choose Door #1 than Wade (despite admittedly no direct knowledge on the thought process). In short, he will either stay in Toronto, join forces with another All-Star (probably LeBron or Wade), or go home, which for him is Texas, and Houston should have sufficient cap space in 2010 (as could his hometown Mavericks if Dirk leaves…)

Tier 2: Top-Notch Complementary Stars

5. Joe Johnson– Of the top tier guys, Joe seems the most wide open now. Part of why I love him so much as a Free Agent in this class is that he could easily go to a team where he’d be ‘The Guy” or join up with another star, both of which make sense with his game (much like Bosh and D-Wade…hmmm….). My gut expects him to stay in Atlanta unless one of the New York area teams makes a great offer, likely New Jersey if Vince Carter ends up out of town.

6. Dirk Nowitzki (2010 player option)- By most accounts, Dirk is an incredibly loyal guy. I really don’t see him leaving Dallas unless it is clear that Dallas is not a legitimate contender for the NBA Finals and/or his buddy Steve Nash goes to the right place and he can come along. Should neither of those events occur (seems about 50-50 to me), Dirk will absolutely stay in Dallas, and it would be shaky that he leave regardless.

7. Rudy Gay (Restricted Free Agent)- Like Brandon Roy, there is a substantial likelihood that he gets offered a hearty extension. However, Rudy’s ownership does not appear willing to break the bank for anyone, which could allow a team to pry Rudy away if he wants to leave. Furthermore, I consider Rudy the most likely guy to just sign his 2010 qualifying offer to become a marquee unrestricted free agent in the 2011 off-season.

8. Steve Nash (Phoenix holds a 2009 team option)- Earlier in the piece, I referred to Lebron as a “Pied Piper.” Well, here is the other major draw in the potential 2010 class. My take on things is that players would love to play with Nash much in the same way as Jason Kidd, especially since Nash is higher up on the inevitable career downslope than Jason is. The most logical destination is the Knicks, with Steve’s former coach and a city that is incredibly desirable to live in. What makes Nash different is that the Suns have the 2009 team option to sit on which will have a substantial effect on where Steve ends up, since it appears unlikely that he would sign a one year deal should Phoenix decline his option. Continue reading

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10 Israel-Palestine News Updates

“This is a monumental and historic step in the struggle for Palestinian equality, self-determination and peace in the Holy Land by non violent means. I see what these students have accomplished as a replica of the support of their College of our struggle against apartheid in South Africa. Hampshire College’s decision to divest should be a guiding example to all institutions of higher learning.” – Archbishop Desmond Tutu’s statement in support of Hampshire’s divestment. 
 
 
 
British MP George Galloway on the blockade: “Almost every window has been broken but Israel refuses to allow glass across the border. So, in the bitter winter, 61,000 families whose homes have been destroyed are living among the rubble and the rest are freezing because they’ve got no windows.”
 
Statement by US Congressmen Keith Ellison and Brian Baird after visiting Gaza: “Inquiring about the status of relief efforts, the Congressmen learned that some aid material has been allowed in since the intensity of the attacks lessened a month ago, but much is still being blocked by the Israeli defense forces. Examples of aid that has been banned by the Israeli Government include: macaroni, tomato paste, lentils and other food. Basic building materials, generator fuel and parts to repair damaged water treatment equipment have also been kept out.”
 
Juan Cole accuses Olmert of continuing war crimes and collective punishment: “Outgoing Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has ruled out allowing needed goods into Gaza, which Israel has virtually surrounded from land and sea, until Hamas releases captured Israeli soldier Sgt. Gilad Shalit. Olmert is thereby committing a war crime. You can’t collectively punish the general Gaza population if you are the occupying authority. It is not allowed to torture that wailing child in the video above by keeping out painkillers, just because some adult somewhere from the same territory captured an Israeli soldier.” 
 

“If this had happened in our own country, there would be national outrage and an appeal for urgent assistance…the arbitrary and unreasonable Israeli limitations on food and repair essentials is unacceptable and indefensible. People, innocent children, women and non-combatants, are going without water, food and sanitation, while the things they so desperately need are sitting in trucks at the border, being denied permission to go in”

“It’s hard for anyone in our country to imagine how it must feel to have a sick child who needs urgent care or is receiving chemotherapy or dialysis, then be forced to take a needlessly lengthy route, walk rather than drive, and wait in lines as long as two hours simply to get to the hospital. As a health care professional myself, I found this profoundly troubling, no, actually it’s beyond that, it is outrageous,” said Baird.

5. Next Israeli Government likely to be formed by Likud and Yisrael Beteinu (led by outright racist Avigdor Lieberman ). Likud, led by Benjamin Netanyahu, does not recognize the Palestinian state’s right to exist. Netanyahu has stated that he would like to see the West Bank divided into a collection of disconnected economic zones with dedicated business projects.” 

6. Mustafa Barghouti speaks at Columbia University and publishes an opinion in The Nation. 

7. Stephen Walt writes about the prospect of a 2 state solution dying

 
9. LA Times publishes editorial asking “Is it possible to be both a Jewish state and a democratic state?”and openly deploring the treatment of Israeli Arabs. 
 
10. NYU student group calls for divestment from the occupation and increased efforts to allow students in the occupied territories to come study at NYU.
 

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Israel’s Response to Non-Violent Protest in Palestine

Jayyous is the focal point of non-violent demonstrations against the separation wall crawling across the West Bank. In response to the ongoing weekly protests against the construction of this aparthied wall (which appropriates 8% of the West Bank) have been met with a swift and brutal Israeli response. From a report by Mohammad Ethman posted on Mondoweiss (and with additional reporting from the Palestine News Network):

In the early hours of the morning on Wednesday, Occupation forces raided the village of Jayyous and arrested at least 65 people. Both entrances to the village have since been blocked off with mounds of dirt and stones, and an indefinite curfew has been imposed. Soldiers have also occupied 10 homes throughout Jayyous, and have erected Israeli flags on each of these houses. 

Just after midnight, 25 Jeeps and 75 soldiers on foot entered the village and began conducting house-to-house raids, forcing their way into homes at gunpoint and arresting dozens of youth, including the son of the mayor of Jayyous. The soldiers beat whoever tried to prevent them from breaking into the houses, including at least one elderly woman. 

After conducting the raids, the Occupation forces brought a bulldozer into the village to seal off the two entrances to the village with mounds of dirt and stone. They then began shouting in loudspeakers throughout the village that Jayyous had been placed under curfew, and they proceeded to occupy 10 houses, enabling them to control the village from strategic rooftops. 

For several weeks now, Jayyous has been the site of intense repression at the hands of Occupation forces, who have not hesitated to enter the village and indiscriminately fire live bullets and tear gas. However, this operation conducted by the soldiers is the most large-scale crackdown to date. On Sunday evening, soldiers entered the village and destroyed a newly-painted mural on the Jayyous municipality building, for no other reason than to harrass and anger the people. The aim of the Occupation forces is to threaten and intimidate the entire village, in order to stop the strong weekly demonstrations that have been held in Jayyous for the past several months. 

Despite this repression, however, the people of Jayyous refuse to end their resistance. On Friday, Jayyous will hold its demonstration as usual, and activists from surrounding areas will come to the village as well to join in the protest, making it even larger and stronger than in past weeks. 

The people of Jayyous urge you to come to the village today to see the occupied homes, the ongoing intense repression, and the massive military presence. The media is also urged to come to the village on Friday to cover the demonstration, as well as the repression and clashes that are sure to take place.

This isn’t an isolated case. International Solidarity Movement provides footage and a journalistic account of the occupation of Nil’in, which has also been a center for non-violent protest against the wall. 

As I mentioned in an earlier post, there are three major obstacles to non-violent resistance in Palestine:

1. Palestinians don’t have access to the mainstream Israeli citizens who need to see what their country is doing,

2. Their efforts are met with brutal military repression (I’m not sure you can call teargassing children and shooting at ambulances anything but brutal), and

3. The media is largely silent on this repression.  

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The Problem with 2 States

It won’t fix the discrimination/oppression/aparthied (depending on how open your eyes are) against Arabs in Israel. 

In fact it seems like it would make legitimate reforms central to a true democracy (equal access to roads, building permits, education, loan access, etc etc) less likely and ethnic cleansing (via Lieberman’s loyalty oaths / lack of roads, education, building permits, all Israeli parties’ house demolitions, etc etc) to New Palestine all the more enticing and practical.  

Remember, if your democracy is predicated on evicting people of different faiths, then what you really have is a theocracy. 

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Israel on the Brink

Israeli elections are tomorrow and polling indicates that Benjamin Netanyahu will win a plurality, followed closely by his political enabler, Avigdor Lieberman. While Netanyahu and the Likud party refuse to acknowledge the right of Palestine to exist (double standard, anyone?) and envision a future for them worse than aparthied, they look tame compared to the outright racist Lieberman, who wants to institute loyalty tests as a tool to expel Israeli Arabs or strip them of their citizenship. 

At the same time, Hamas is negotiating with the current Israeli government to release Gilad Shalit, in exchange for border openings and a release of roughly 1,000 prisioners, possibly including the universally popular Marwan Barghouti. If this happens, the next election would likely spell the end of Fatah power, as well as the political reunification of the West Bank and Gaza. 

Hamas continues to moderate by negotiating with Israel and telegraphing acceptance of the two state solution, and as a result the occupied territories seem primed for political reunification. In Israel, the recent attacks on Gaza have resulted in a wave of ethno-national extremism. Considering that its only real accomplishment has been the wrecking of her electoral prospects, I think Tzipi Livni would agree that Operation Cast Lead has backfired horribly. 

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What’s the goal of these tax cuts?

More tax cuts in the stimulus? And at the expense of more efficient and stimulative spending? It really begs the question, how much is enough? Its strange that on their only real platform, Republicans have never explained their vision. At what point will taxes be low enough that they are no longer the first and only priority of the Republican party? For example, as an alternative, I can tell you exactly what I want to see in terms of spending on health care, which would be to stop spending once everyone is adequately covered (which is actually not that expensive considering that many other developed countries are still functioning even while offering their citizens universal health care). And I’d be satisfied with federal funding for things like schools when kids who are eligible and interested in college can actually afford to go to schools worth their academic potential. But when it comes to the biggest priority of Republican legislators, they have never explained the goal of the tax cuts they never stop asking for.  So isn’t it time we stopped listening? 

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It’s too bad Congressional Democrats are (largely) incompetent

As someone with a double major in Economics (focus on money and banking) and Political Science (focus on US politics) and a minor in Public Policy, the economic collapse and subsequent attempts to fix it are somewhat in my academic wheelhouse. Keeping that in mind, here goes…

Congress really screwed the pooch here. If there was ever a time to make a firm line in the sand on an issue, it is now. The simple truth is that the GOP economic orthodoxy does not work. Now, let’s be clear that the GOP ideas are not the same as conservative economic ideas- there is some good there in the big picture.

The fundamental problem is that that a true stimulus needed two core things:
1. It needed to be sufficiently big to work
2. It needed to have a relatively small proportion of the bill be tax cuts.

The reasons for this should be somewhat clear- the GOP has clearly decided to put their short-term (and likely long-term) political viability into fighting the Democrats’ view of a stimulus package, and as stated before their ideas don’t work. As such, it is illogical to believe that they will become more amenable to future stimulus over time, which necessitates making the stimulus part of the gigantic amount of legislation to fix the mess sufficently big so that we won’t need to try to push another one through with all of the other political landmines that need to be handled this term (massive economic re-regulation, foreign policy, etc). The fact of the matter is that tax cuts are simply less effective than spending to fix problems in a recession- it was true eight years ago and it was true eighty years ago. The beauty of economic investment is that you can put the money into jobs that cannot be sent abroad, which means the money will go to US citizens, most of whom do not have the ability to save, so all their money will go back into the economy, largely to more people that can’t afford to save it, so the cycle continues. Effectively, the point where the multiplier stops is where a person can choose to sit on the money, because while saving money can yield positively for the economy, it is not nearly as good as a spending loop because the ceiling of benefits is high, especially when banks are run by buffons.

Keeping that in mind, it should be somewhat easy to see why tax cuts are less effective: they give money to people who aren’t going to spend it to a much larger degree (reducing the multiplier) AND people’s spending habits are not changed as positively with tax cuts as they are with actual money in their pockets. The argument can be made that some/many businesses do this in a way that affects things on a macro level, but it is wholly less effective than spending the money. Plus, spending goes to things that we can actually use, whether that be infrastructure work like fixing the electric grid, green energy like solar farms, and even old-school spending like roads and bridges. Not only do those things keep the money cycle going- they produce “things” that help our efficency and ideally our emissions as well.

Here’s a chart (grabbed from Jed L over at Kos) from the CBO estimating multipliers:
 

Now, the GOP philosophy would have some grounding if there was some reason to believe that the high level people at the major economic institutions (banks and whatnot) were competent and/or interested in the long term. However, this is so blatantly not the case that it is an irrelevant logic. In a way, it reminds me of if someone said “Michael Jordan? He was the best player of all time- of course he can run the front office of an NBA team! I know he messed up Washington so badly that it took their team years to recover, but he’s MJ!” The definition of insanity is trying the same thing and expecting a different result, and that’s what a stimulus stacked with tax cuts is.

 

So where do we go from here? Assuming the Democrats (particularly President Obama) don’t grow a spine and put some competence in this bill, the next step has to be economic re-regulation. It is an issue that makes current Congressional Republicans look stupid(er than usual), and is one with gigantic political will behind it. After that, hopefully Dems will have the political capital to either fix health care, eliminate the income cap for Social Security (easiest fix to a major problem we have), or do a stimulus that will actually work.

Maybe then we can have some people in power with spines.

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