Saturday, November 30, 2013

Arsenal Win Again - 3-0 at Cardiff

Arsenal started strongly, got on the board in the 29th minute, from a beautiful Ramsey header that looped over the Cardiff keeper and into the far corner, controlled the rest of the first half, almost gave up the equalizer in the second and then killed off the game with two late goals. Things began quickly with a nice shot from outside the box by Wilshere after a strong buildup that almost opened the scoring on 1:37. Then things got a bit odd when on 14 minutes, Ozil flicked a pass from Wilshere through to Giroud, who appeared offsides. Rather than shoot on goal as he waited for the whistle, everyone stopped, including Giroud and the opportunity was lost. But Ozil, looking the best he has in a month, sent a tight and quick cross from the left that Ramsey finished like a tall striker 15 minutes later. Things went pretty much to plan throughout the rest of the first half, though Arsenal had some opportunities to put in a second.

The second half started much as the first, with Giroud just missing a goal when Ramsey cut back across the goal and sent him a peach of a pass, that was beat the keeper but was saved on the line by Ben Turner. From there, Cardiff, a team that has beaten Man City and grabbed a late draw against United, moved into the ascendancy and would have equalized but for a spectacular reflex save by Sz of a strong Frazier Campbell header over Gibbs, in the 51st minute. Soon after, Giroud tried to chip the goalkeeper and then had a shot deflected, though Lee Mason called for a goalkick (the third questionable decision of the day). In the 75th, with the game still in the balance, Flamini came in for Cazorla (with his sleeves rolled up rather than cut!) and five minutes later Monreal subbed in for Wilshere. Arsenal began to reassert their control and Ramsey sent it just wide from distance in the 81st minute. In the 86th minute, Ozil sent a wonderfully weighted through ball to the charging Flamini, who scored his first goal since his return, with a powerful, high shot from close range. Up 2-0 Arsenal continued to press and after Walcott came in for Ozil in the 90th minute, Odemwinge lost possession in the Arsenal box, Ramsey charged up the pitch with the ball, passed off to Walcott on the right, who cut it back across for another great finish for Ramsey.

And that’s how it ended, 3-0 Arsenal, with 56 percent of the possession and 15 shots with 6 on target (compared to 10 and 4 for Cardiff). Ramsey added two more goals to hit 13 for the season in all competitions and Ozil added two more assists, looking comfortable for most of the game. Wilshere seemed more in control as well, and after his brace Tuesday against Marseille might be coming back into form, after a relatively average return this season. A few thoughts on the game …

1.     Rambo Returns: The incredible rise of Ramsey continues and his goal threat should be opening up more opportunities for Giroud, but he appears to be experiencing a slight dip in form. Though he is essential in the buildup and in holding the ball up, in addition to being an extra defender on set pieces, he appears ready for a break. He had a great chance to score early but just stopped, then missed two other good opportunities later. The reality for Arsenal at present is they have the best midfield in England and with goals possible across the squad, they are a team to be reckoned with going forward. With Wilshere starting to chip in and Walcott returning, this could be the season when they finally end the drought.
2.     No Gibbs Left Behind: The rise of Kieran Gibbs has been quite impressive since the beginning of the new year. His defense has improved, his speed and dribbling skills get him into dangerous positions and his cross is substantially better than it used to be, though it is too often blocked by the right back. But he needs to work on his defending in the box. But for the excellent save by Szczesny, Cardiff would have equalized as Frazier Campbell towered over him with Gibbs not even jumping. This is not the first error this year – off the top of my head, I’d say seven or eight at least – and several others have led to goals. Monreal is more solid in many ways than Gibbs, with a better cross, better ball control and better positioning, but has become a late defensive sub this season. This is not a call to change, but to work on that aspect of Gibb’s game, as someone appears to have done with Giroud and his hold-up play, which has improved phenomenally in the past two months.
3.     Pressing wins: Pressing up appears to be the way for Arsenal to dominate teams. While they can often lull teams to sleep with their incredible passing and movement, before attacking at will, by pressing up the pitch they tend to force their opponents into errors that can lead to scoring opportunities. When Arsenal sit back, as they do on occasion, they look porous and tend to give up opportunities, as they did again today. But when they are pressing high up the pitch, they can essentially cut off the attack before it ever gets started. This shouldn’t be done against teams that have trouble scoring or those that like to send balls over the top (like Stoke used to and West Brom appears to at times), but it can disrupt the attack of the better teams (as Man U showed against us a few weeks ago). This strategy has been a key aspect of Barcelona’s dominant recent spell that casual fans, and some lazy pundits, ignore and one of the reasons Dortmund overachieves based on their spending and revenue. It is difficult to do this for a whole game, but with all of the options in the middle, particularly when Ox and Podolski return, it is a formula that could win them more big games this season.
4.     The comeback kids: the growing stature of Mertesacker and Koscielny is really something to see, particularly if you look back a couple of seasons when Per was being criticized for being too slow for the EPL and Kos made far too many mistakes (though we can forgive him for that flub that gave Birmingham City the Carling Cup in 2010, it still hurts). Add to that list the rise of Ramsey, the return of Wilshere, the brilliant free capture of Flamini and the aforementioned improvement in Giroud and Gibbs and this feels like a talented team that is also hungry to win (something that sometimes seemed lacking over the past five or six seasons).


Friday, November 29, 2013

Obama Vendetta - Christian Militia Style

Right-wing groups have always relied on galvanizing the nutty, violent and unstable (often conspiratorial) masses, from Hitler and Mussolini to the religious evangelicals and Reagan Right. And the results can often be tragic. The much maligned Tea Party and bygone militia movements of the 90s generally threaten more than they accomplish, but the threats are still there and create the chaotic political and social climate in which we currently live.

A Christian Militia group known as the Christian American Patriots Militia has just threatened the President’s life, claiming he has usurped the constitution and currently serves as a dictator. This is, of course, a federal crime, but the mislaid anger that I have written about in the past is so obvious here. It is this ability to scapegoat, to disassemble, to disarm, to enrage, to misinform and foment hatred that has served conservatives for a century at least. Will it ever end? Here is the Facebook post for those who might be interested:

Monday, November 25, 2013

Arsenal Four Clear at the Top

After hitting the post twice early and holding out against a dangerous attack from Southampton, Arsenal snagged the full three points in the final five minutes to secure a 2-0 win and a four point lead at the top of the table. It was a hard-fought win when the team was not at its best, demonstrating the chops that could lead them toward their first title since the Invincibles era ended, beating the in-form team in the EPL (5 wins and 3 draws in last 8). And the win saw them pick up points on most of their competitors, as Everton and Liverpool played to a scintillating 3-3 draw, Man United again lost a late lead to drop two points to Cardiff City on the road (maybe we should start calling this Moyes’ time) and Tottenham were slaughtered by Man City 0-6.

The scoring for Arsenal started in the 22nd minute after Southampton goalkeeper Artur Boruc played out an old Laurel and Hardy bit, trying to dribble around Giroud not once but thrice before being robbed of the ball and watching it passed into the net behind him. It was the kind of luck and fortuitous pressing that exemplifies the newfound toughness that secured fourth place last season. The goal followed two near misses, first from Wilshere, who chipped Boruc in the 11th minute, only to see the ball hit the far post and pop back to the Poland number one. Then an Ozil pass was flicked with a backheel toward goal by Ramsey, only to again be denied by the woodwork. Giroud’s goal seemed to settle the Gunners a little, though Southampton continued to press throughout the rest of the first half and into the second.

As time wore on, Arsenal gained control of the game, passing the ball around neatly and pressing forward, though without the all-important second goal. Theo Walcott came on with 20 minutes left for Cazorla, finally returning from a two-month layoff. Mikel Arteta was subbed out four minutes later, after suffering what appeared to be an ankle problem, with Rosicky adding some flair through the midfield as Wilshere and Ramsey slotted back. With five minutes left in regulation, Jose Fonte pulled at Per Mertesacker on a corner and a penalty was rewarded. Giroud stepped up to complete his brace and the Gunners were on their way to another win. A few thoughts on the game …

1.     At present it looks like Man City and Chelsea are the two biggest competitors for the crown, though Man United could still sneak into the picture if they can gain more consistency. Luckily for Arsenal, Man City has been below average on the road and Chelsea seems like a different team from week to week – though more consistency seems to be slipping in. The Gunners have an important midweek UCL match against Marseille at the Emirates before two winnable games against Cardiff (the giant killers so far) and Hull, before playing Chelsea at home. If we can charge into the new year still in the lead, our confidence should grow.
2.     Szczesny gets better week by week and is now staking claim to being one of the best GKs in the EPL. He had two outstanding saves in the game and seems increasingly solid with his distribution and long balls, cutting out the errors that have hurt Arsenal, and Poland, over the past couple of seasons.
3.     Ozil appears to be in a bit of a funk. While he did create the early opportunity, his play has been below what we saw earlier in the season – losing the ball, coming up short on passes and failing to get into positions to shoot. Rumor has it that he has a virus that has kept him from full fitness, but given our options in the midfield, a rest might do him good. I do think the return of Walcott, and Podolski in about three weeks, should help substantially, as the added speed will allow him the opportunity to send in through balls, but I also wonder if our possession-based game at home isn’t undermining his excellent open field play. Hopefully, he can shine in the next few games against weaker opponents.
4.     Wilshere still has a lot of work to do: I thought Wilshere was better on Saturday, but still made a number of maddening decisions that almost cost us. He only dribbled into double and triple coverage three times, though two resulted in dangerous counters. He still missed some passes and doesn’t clog up the back as well as others. But the early chip and some sumptuous passes throughout might do his confidence a world of good. We shall see.
5.     The increased options across the middle allow for some tactical flexibility, with the Gunners sometimes pushing forward, sometimes playing on the counter and sometimes pressing up the field. There was less of the latter in this game, probably because Southampton can push the ball forward with pace and flourish too well. But the strategy seemed to work well after the opening goal and we retook control of the game when an equalizer seemed more and more likely. But a speedier striker for certain games would really help the squad going forward, giving Giroud the occasional rest and creating more speed across the front three. Let’s hope Wenger takes out the purse again in January; even with his recent statement that Arsenal can win without another striker.


Saturday, November 23, 2013

British Airways Creepy New Ad Campaign

British Airways has a new ad campaign, with animated billboards that have a child rise and point toward the sky as BA planes fly by. While clever, it just feels like a further step down the road toward the full colonization of our children’s dreamscape. You can watch the ad here: Slate.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

The Real American Holiday ... Sales

Cartoon by Angelo Lopez - Obamacare Woes

Higher Education Under Attack: Attacks on the Humanities

As promised, here is the first installment of my short series on major trends in postsecondary education that appear to challenge its more idealistic and democratic spirit. As I mentioned in the introduction, this article from Harper’s outlines the attack on the humanities in great detail, and is worth a read. The attack on the humanities is arguably part of a bigger project to undermine the most sanguine and idealistic aims of higher education from its inception. It is based on the fervent belief that knowledge can serve the goals of social, political and economic development and provide the framework for a vibrant democracy and public sphere. Higher education has the potential to open young people’s minds to the world around them, to introduce alternative narratives of the past, present and future and to cultivate a love of learning and critical reflexivity that will serve them the rest of their lives. Across the globe, universities have often served as hotbeds of radicalism that foster revolutionary fervor or the belief in positive social change, creating frameworks for praxis.

At the heart of this romantic vision is the humanities, which continue the ancient tradition of creating spaces for independent thought and inquiry unencumbered by religious, state or economic pressures. While this romantic vision has often abutted against the reality of university funding and imperatives, the humanities have never been a major source of revenue and thus freed from some of the pressures associated with the sciences, medicine, law and business programs. The humanities are thus the location where some of the most radical and critical work is done in humanities, challenging conventional wisdom, entrenched ideologies and dominant discourse and narratives that shape the public sphere. Critical theory, cultural studies, critical race theory, literary theory, poststructuralism, postmodernism and other more critical theoretical paradigms have all emerged or been further articulated within the humanities, challenging deeply held beliefs and the propaganda strategies of government and corporations.

The humanities have also generally served as the foundation of ethical studies and political theory, shaping individuals that will go into other fields with the insights and inspiration of a more humanistic, collective vision of social rights and responsibilities. If one believes that democracy is an idea and an ideal that must be constantly cultivated and reaffirmed, then attacking the humanities merely serves to undermine the broader goals of the university and its vision of enriching the lives of the individual and society overall. While much work since World War II has shown us the limitations of Enlightenment beliefs about freedom, democracy and using science and reason to improve the human condition, it is still clear that rigorous intellectual work is at the heart of the struggle toward the common good. Without these tools, we fall further into the trap of a fragmented, atomistic world where greed and self-interest dominate cultural exchange and interaction.

It is also true that the humanities, and social sciences, have increasingly become one of the few places in the university, and the larger society, where conventional wisdom and hegemonic ideas can be challenged. While the humanities have more recently placed little currency on engaging in the public sphere, many scholars continue to do this work, challenging popular narratives, hegemonic ideologies and the rhetorical strategies employed by the media, politicians and the power elites. By pushing the humanities to the side, we eliminate one of the few spaces where ideas can be critically analyzed and challenged providing alternative ways of seeing and being in the world. Without a diversity of ideas and theories, we run the risk of reifying hegemony and ossifying the public sphere, making us less adept at adapting to an ever-changing world.

A fourth problem relates to the larger issue of the commodification of knowledge. Universities, like all education in the U.S., are increasingly seen as a means to an economic end. Rather than an institution that serves the lofty goals of preparing young people from their future social, political and economic lives, schooling is increasingly seen merely as a vehicle for training and sorting and providing for social mobility. Lost are the broader goals of education as a fount of freedom and intellectual growth, of balancing the interests of the individual with those of the community, state, nation and world, of inculcating hope in the possibility of change and of teaching the rudiments of citizenship and active civic engagement. When we commodify education, we make it merely about getting a good job in the future, teaching students that grades and degrees are more important than actually learning. This increasingly occurs from Kindergarten straight through to graduate school, undermining not only the ideas of growth and development but of learning in general. Schooling is just something you have to do on the way to future prosperity, not something to take seriously. This relates to the neoliberal agenda for education, cutting off the channels of dissent by tying it so closely to its economic imperatives that all else is lost.

Finally is the notion of creating well-rounded adults that understand our past, our cultural heritage and the key markers of our common cultural identity, fostering tolerance and cultural sharing, creative and critical individualism, the imagination and the belief in the democracy and social justice. By eliminating or curtailing access to these courses, we arguably only further narrow the curriculum and reinforce the notion of a self-interested population that magically maximizes happiness and freedom by orienting their behavior to the dictates of the market. Without a shared history, what does it even mean to be an American? Without an understanding of the arts and culture, can people enjoy these enriching activities? And without an understanding of the past and present, how can they make decisions to improve our future? At stake in the end, is the kind of world we live in and the ability to envision and struggle toward a better future.

I conclude with a recent example of the attack on the humanities, at one of the 17 University of North Carolina campuses – Elizabeth City State University (Inside Higher Ed). The historically black college that enrolls approximately 2,300 students has been for a long time, created 25 years after the Civil War with the explicit goal of “"teaching and training teachers of the colored race to teach in the common schools of North Carolina." But facing severe budget cuts, as are most publically-funded universities in the country, they are considering cutting degrees in physics, political science and, ironically, history.  These major are considered “low productive” by the central office of the UNC system, with 11 percent of all majors now in this category. That many are in the humanities is not surprising, given the lack of clearly transferrable job skills associated with these majors. But will classes still exist in these imperative departments in the future? Will they attempt to further commodify education by allowing students to skip their liberal arts requirements completely? Students may be happy, but this merely reflects the ways in which education has already become little more than a stopping ground on the road to future employment, perceived by many kids as little more than a necessary economic signal. Carol Geary Schneider, the President of the Association of American Colleges and Universities perhaps put it best, claiming “"Nothing is more fundamental than history to students' understanding of their roles and responsibilities as citizens of this diverse and still decidedly unequal democracy. Cutting out history means cutting out both memory and hope.” Unfortunately, this school is not alone as non-liberal arts schools across the country seek to place their energies in those programs that generate research funding and potential patents or intellectual property, leaving the humanities out in the cold as budget pressures intensify. Who is hurt beyond the humanities professors and staff that are losing their jobs? Arguably the whole country, its citizenry and our collective future. Who benefits? Corporations and the power elite. Who do you support?

Monday, November 18, 2013

The Week in Conservative Craziness (and its Underlying Sanity)

I thought I would highlight some of the latest examples of conservative craziness just in the past week below (thanks to this Salon article). But before doing so, I thought it important to note that this is part of what I shall henceforth call conservative triangulation. The conservative revolution that Reagan commenced has counted on three distinct, but often overlapping, discourses to feed their powerful rightward push.

The first discoursed targets those who simply wish to act in a more self-interested, greedy manner without feeling bad about it. These include CEOs, corporate boards, business executives, Wall Street traders and analysts and, most importantly, many in the middle class. The arguments here are simply legitimation for lower taxes, freedom to screw workers, consumers and customers without government intervention and freedom to amass as much wealth as humanly possible. It is an attack on the New Deal and the idea that government can play a key role in maintaining full employment and soften the blow of the business cycle (ala Keynesianism). Really it is an attack on the FDR’s three R’s: recovery (through government spending and stimulus), relief (to those who were suffering through social security, welfare, unemployment and the like) and regulation (to ensure business doesn’t undermine the social contract). We can see the opposite in Reagan and Clinton, who both pushed for small government, cuts to the welfare state and deregulation.

The second discourse revolves around the perceived failure of LBJ’s Great Society and the belief government could solve the dual social problems of poverty and racial inequality. While his reforms actually worked to some extent, the silent majority of Nixon was never happy giving back to the lazy poor and undeserving blacks. And so Reagan initiated a very effective attack on affirmative action, feminism and what he might label the “moral degradation” of America. By blaming the victims of inequality for their plight, he fed on latent racism and white working class resentment at their falling quality of life (locating the source of their pain in the Civil Rights movement rather than fundamental changes in the economy – like moving production overseas (and thus shifting us from a Fordist to Post-Fordist economy (or from manufacturing to service-based), the explosion of globalization and thus labor and capital competition and the dramatic reduction in unionization that quickly followed). The race resentment has since become a key component of conservative discourse, backing the economic arguments with white male resentment at perceived racial progress. This discourse has since become conventional wisdom of far too much of the population, with the notion of reverse racism more often discussed in many political spheres including the media.

Finally, are the famous “wedge issues” that now pull otherwise liberal-minded Americans to the right. Abortion was the hot button issue in the 90s that cost democrats many Catholic and Evangelical Protestant voters, but this is only one among many – that include gay rights and marriage (helping an unpopular Bush II to a second term), gun control (even in the wake of so many senseless deaths in the past few years), “illegal” immigration (which helped Schwarzenegger win the CA governor’s office, among many others) and religion inside and outside schools.

The three strategies together helped Republicans get many voters who would clearly be better served by Democrats and their slightly more liberal policies. The media tends to focus on the latter two, and the third in particular, while ignoring the most important element of the strategy – namely the first. This allows the rightward economic policies to continue their march toward corporate-fascism without sufficient scrutiny or substantive critique. How else can we explain the lack of real action in the wake of the 2007-08 financial crisis? Whenever economic crisis has emerged in the past, people demanded government action to provide relief, recovery and regulation of the perceived perpetrators of said crisis. But this time around there was little support for more than the rhetorical Obama promise of unelaborated “change.” Once Americans saw what that change was, the old ideological commitments kicked in and the triangulation strategy employed on all fronts. The Tea Party is nothing more than a Plutocratically constructed “populist” movement that fed all three of the abovementioned strategies simultaneously. And it continues to work. So I’ll reiterate some of the craziness this week, but recognize that it is part of a much larger and more sinister plot to undermine the role of government, democracy and freedom itself:

§  Sarah Palin is at it again, writing an entire book on the war on Christmas, Good Tidings and Great Joy, decrying how liberal the new Pope is (for actually reading what Jesus stood for and believing in some of it – and Pat Buchanan said essentially the same thing, though more articulately) and then conflating foreign debt and social services with slavery in the following brilliant argument, “Our free stuff today is being paid for today by taking money from our children and borrowing money from China,” she said. “When that note comes due — and this isn’t racist so try it anyway, this isn’t racist — but it’s going to be like slavery when that note is due, right? We are going to be beholden to a foreign master.”
§  TV Pundit and conservative hatemonger extraordinaire Pat Robertson told a caller worried about her gay son to ask him if he has ever been “molested,” as that is apparently the only way one would ever make that terrible choice. Then he suggested that she send him to one of those conversion therapists ala But I’m a Cheerleader.
§  Sandy Rios of the American Family Association claimed that the gay Kansas City waiter who didn’t receive a tip from a Christian family a couple of weeks ago because they claimed they and god didn’t approve of his lifestyle (in a note) was a ruse – without any proof to support the claim. In fact, it appears this occurred with a lesbian, ex-Marine waitress as well; though it involved mistreatment as well. Makes sense in America, I suppose – any excuse to avoid helping others (even when they are serving you).
§  Ted Cruz’s father, Rafael, claimed this week that atheism leads to sexual abuse of children: “Here is the logic he laid out to the assembled gun-toting crazies: “If there is nothing, if there is no God, then we are ruled by our instincts. Atheism leads to moral anarchy … Do we know any politicians that have done that?” he asked the crowd. “Hitler!” answered Larry Pratt of Gun Owners of America. “Oh, we don’t have to go that far, Larry, just go to Washington. Just go to the White House.” From there, it’s a short hop to sexual immorality, perversion and sexual abuse, Cruz concluded. Of course, we could say the same of the average Catholic Church a few years ago, couldn’t we?
§  Both plagiarizer Rand Paul and donut-friendly Rush Limbaugh made rather outrageous claims about Obamacare this week. Paul claimed Obama is coming after “our donuts” with the new trans fats banning and that we should line up the FDA agents to see how much they weigh. Limbaugh went a bit further, claiming Obamacare is not only advocating safer sex, but promiscuity with this peach of an argument, “If you like your risky, promiscuous lifestyle, you can keep it. That’s what Obama is promising.” Many might say this sounds pretty good, but Rush isn’t done yet, taking the argument to its logical conclusion, at least in right-wing, conspiracy-happy, nut farm land: “If you like being a prostitute, then have at it!”

§  Finally, Lindel Toups of Lafourche Parish City Council in LA, argued that they should close libraries and replace them with jails given this rather alarming use by Mexicans and hippies: ““They’re teaching Mexicans to speak English,” Toups said “Let that son of a bitch go back to Mexico … There’s just so many things they’re doing that I don’t agree with… Them junkies and hippies and food stamps [recipients] and all, they use the library to look at drugs and food stamps [on the Internet]. I see them do it.” Well, why didn’t you say so? Close those libraries immediately! Actually, while we’re at it, we should probably close that damned “internet” thing as well!

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Racism A-Go-Go

A popular trope that developed around the time of the Obama election in 2008 was the notion of a “post-racial” society (Who's Afraid of Post-Blackness? or check out a whole list of recent books in this “genre” here). I’ve already written about the rather absurd claim, made among white and black social critics, media pundits and politicians of a particular ilk – considering the Trayvon Martin case among a host of others just this year. But the last week has brought more anecdotal evidence that any nod to a “post-racial,” or more specifically “post-racist” society is a long way off. And these examples don’t even need reference to the reality of dramatic income and wealth differentials, incarceration rates, unemployment rates, educational and testing gaps and life expectancy differentials. A few examples should suffice to show the way race continues to dominate particular frames within the news cycle:

§  A high school football game was cancelled in a suburb North of Boston because racist graffiti was painted on the side of a black player’s house: ESPN. The graffiti read “"Knights don't need n------," aimed at the eighth-grader playing for the freshman and JV teams.
§  Jason Whitlock of ESPN wrote this troubling article in response to recent debates about the use of “n****” by black athletes, after an incident in the NBA, with Charles Barkley and Michael Wilbon among others claiming white people should not have the power to frame this issue. I agree with the latter two, particularly as we could argue the capture of the n-word is a perfect example of transcoding, taking a derogatory term and undermining its power by redefining it and using it yourself. But notice the general tone of the article, including the following argument: “lack American culture has been turned upside down and corrupted by mass incarceration, the destruction of the traditional family unit and commercial hip-hop music. The impact of these corrosive forces can be seen in the values and perspective of African-Americans across economic and class lines. We have a new normal. As it relates to the N-word, Barkley and Wilbon, like many African-Americans, have adapted to the new normal. The N-word is a cherished possession.”
§  Last week, Richard Cohen of the Washington Post wrote the following editorial piece regarding Christie’s chance of gaining the GOP nomination for president in 2016. The following passage caused an uproar, particularly as the editor decided not to redact it in any way: “Today’s GOP is not racist, as Harry Belafonte alleged about the tea party, but it is deeply troubled — about the expansion of government, about immigration, about secularism, about the mainstreaming of what used to be the avant-garde. People with conventional views must repress a gag reflex when considering the mayor-elect of New York — a white man married to a black woman and with two biracial children. (Should I mention that Bill de Blasio’s wife, Chirlane McCray, used to be a lesbian?) This family represents the cultural changes that have enveloped parts — but not all — of America. To cultural conservatives, this doesn’t look like their country at all.” Notice how he attempts to use the old rhetorical device of saying what something isn’t, right before he says something that is? It’s an old trick, but one that still works with those too lazy to think much.
§  Debates continue to rage around the bullying incident between the troubled Richie Incognito and black player Jonathan Martin, who walked away from the team after Incognito’s racially charged hazing and threats. Incognito has been trying to justify his actions by claiming everyone does it in a Fox interview, while others argue that Martin is the one to blame in the incident for allowing it to get “out of the locker room” or not reporting Incognito earlier (see here, for example)

§  As three of the four incidents are from the world of sports, this might be a good time to note how often racism finds its way into sports – even those dominated by black athletes. I already wrote about the racism in European football several months ago, but there are plenty of examples here in the U.S., beyond those noted above. For one, is the tendency to focus on the athleticism and, often, animalistic features of black athletes while talking about the intelligence and hard work of white athletes. This is truer at quarterback than any other position, with the record-breaking freshman season by Cam Newton largely ignored last year while Colts wunderkind Andrew Luck receives treatment seemingly one step below that afforded a football deity. We saw the divergent treatment of Barry Bonds and Mark McGuire in their homerun hunts, even as there appears to be increased embrace of difference in the sport in recent years. And then there is basketball, where the few white athletes in the entire league worth talking about are again deified as “geniuses” who are the “smartest guys on the floor,” have “basketball smarts” or other epithets that define them as more intelligent than their black peers. Finally, is the world of sports announcing, where a white announcer tends to be the host among the black athletes that surround him – with the most ridiculous case being Terry Bradshaw – thus reinforcing the notion that blacks can entertain us, but only with a white guide to keep them under control (much like those “white savior” inspirational films about white teachers civilizing the “savage barbarians” in their classroom).  

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Christie Meets the Sycophantic Sunday Talk Show Hosts

This title sounds like an ideal Abbott and Costello remake for the present age, but what I’m referring to are the softballs that the Sunday talk show hosts gave the recently-victorious Chris Christie this past weekend. I wrote a couple of weeks back about the rather skewed coverage Obamacare and the election received, but this is even worse. Slate’s David Weigel highlighted his treatment in an article on Monday, “Chris Christie Proves Just How Stupid the Sunday Shows Are.” As everyone who pays any attention knows, Christie is emerging as a potential frontrunner to take on Hillary Clinton in the next presidential campaign. I have read laudatory comments from pundits/op ed columnists across the media landscape, including the Washington Post (here), Time (here), New York Times (here) and the Sunday talk show circuit mentioned above. What is fascinating is the tendency to ignore a number of facts: 1. East Coast moderate Republicans have a relatively poor record in recent nationwide elections (and that goes for liberals as well, lest us forget), 2. Christie won reelection partially because of his laudatory response to Sandy Hook and moderate stance on a host of issues, 3. Christie’s record in New Jersey (as I noted in a previous post) is not that great when it comes to jobs, poverty or education, 4. Tacking to the right, as he would have to do, has also been a strategy wrought with problems both in the GOP primaries and certainly in the election (as Romney, among many, has shown) and 5. As a hot head and, well, “large person,” does he really have a shot to win?

But let’s take a look at the questions he received from our most respected television personalities, who seem to have forgotten how to actually critically interview anybody on the right (thanks to Weigel for this list):

David Gregory, Meet the Press
Unless you want to announce on the show this morning, and I suspect you don't, let me ask this question, which is how do you think, even as governor of New Jersey, that you can effect, that you can impact the Republican Party with this re-election?
Mitt Romney told me here last week that you could save the Republican Party. Does it need saving? And are you the guy to save it?
In New Jersey, according to the exit poll there, shows that you would trail Hillary Clinton even in your own state. Do you view that and say that she is formidable, that you'd be an underdog if it were to come to that?
Here's the question. Are you a moderate or are you a conservative? This is how our blog First Read described some of that criticism already coming from the likes of Rand Paul or Marco Rubio. 
The Wall Street Journal, about your economic record, concluded this is an editorial Wednesday as the biggest area of disappointment, failing to improve the state's economy. The state jobless rate is still 8.5 percent, among the 10 highest in the country. 
Do you think Obamacare is doomed? Do you think the Republican Party has an obligation to make it work at this point?

George Stephanopoulos, This Week
When Rand Paul was asked if you're the man to beat in 2016, he called you a moderate. ... He said that it's a tough road for you, is he right? So is he right? Can you play in places like Iowa and South Carolina?
You also said that undocumented students in New Jersey should get in-state tuition rates. Do you think other states should adopt that policy as well?
Do you think that national solution [on immigration] should include both a path to citizenship and that relief on in-state college tuition?
There's also been a lot of questions about the president's health care plan. You called on him to apologize this week. He seemed to take your advice, a couple of days later he did apologize for people who were getting their health plans canceled.
You didn't set up an exchange, but you did accept the expansion of Medicaid under Obamacare. And some, again, of your potential rivals like Ted Cruz are going to come after you on that. What's your answer?
A possible run for president brings a whole 'nother level of scrutiny, are you prepared for that?
You saw that Time magazine cover this week. We're going to show it right there. "The elephant in the room." Did that bother you at all or did you think it was clever?

Norah O'Donnel, Face the Nation
You won 66 percent of independents, 51 percent of Hispanic voters. ... Is there a lesson there for the rest of the Republican Party?
Do you believe the Republican Party, Congress, needs to pass an immigration bill in the next 14 months in order to appeal to Hispanic voters?
A lot of Republicans tell me you are already laying the groundwork for a run for president in 2016? What does Mary Pat say about this?
What major policy and political goals do you have for the next year?
[On Obamacare and Obama] This week he apologized to the American people. Do you think that's enough?
You were the one who suggested to President Obama that he do an interview and say, I'm sorry?

We have known for a long time that the media sucks in America and that there is a rightward bias, no matter how loud Fox and its acolytes scream of a “left-wing media conspiracy.” But the cravenness, obsequiousness and inability to fact check or ask piercing questions is rather astounding. Of course, look what happens when you do take on a politician on the grand stage, as Candy Crowley found out in the 2012 Presidential Debate (The Daily Beast). One hopes the media remembers, at some point, that stupidity and objectivity are not the same thing – and that objectivity is an absurd goal to begin with. 

Monday, November 11, 2013

Obamacare and its Critics (whose pants appear to be on fire)

The right has been seeking to overturn the Affordable Care Act ever since its passage in early 2010. As the most significant regulatory overhaul of the U.S. healthcare system since the 60s (Medicare and Medicaid), it fundamentally challenges notions about what the government can and should do. There have been several approaches used by conservatives to turn the public against it, including the erstwhile fallacious argument about “death panels,” the equally questionable argument that healthcare rates will go up, calling it “socialist,” shutting down the government to attain their goal through ransom (holding the country hostage actually seeming to me a relatively accurate portrayal of the failed attempt), decrying the state of socialized medicine in other countries and most recently by denouncing the problems with the website (the only valid critique) and with an absurd attack on the notion that people without children should have to pay for kids with children. In this blog post, I will explore the majority of these claims, providing strong counterarguments to each. I will ignore the “death panel” and ransom strategies, as the former is patently absurd (see The Daily Show takedown here: You Tube) and the latter was covered in a previous entry.

Let’s start with the general critique of any active government role for making the healthcare market more equitable and access more widespread. As with any attempt in this regard, the charge is often that this is “socialism” and thus against the American way. Since Obamacare does not meet any of the criteria for socialism, meaning the public ownership or government control over a public good, I will forgo any deeper analysis of this. But let’s look at three facts that undermine the commonly-held notion that markets are always better than government: 1. Americans have among the lowest life expectancy of any industrialized country in the world, even as the richest country in the world (Common Dreams or Wiki), 2. America has the highest infant mortality rate of any industrialized country in the world (CIA World Factbook) and 3. Americans pay more for healthcare than any other industrialized country in the world (Graphs from Washington Post). Thus the leading indicators of the “quality” or price of the system show us that it is far inferior to countries that fully embrace socialized medicine and that the most important statistic of all – life expectancy – leaves us right alongside countries that are developing rather than fully developed.

Second is the related argument that people in countries with socialized medicine get worse service. The above-mentioned statistics undermine this argument quite profoundly, but we can go beyond this to look at countries with socialized healthcare (which includes most of the advanced economies in the world) and explore statistics on their effectiveness. First, I again turn to the Washington Post, which has a short article outlining many of the fallacies sold to the U.S. public by conservatives and the medical establishment (or check out this piece from Huff Post about the underlying fallacies of the ideological argument itself, or a call to embrace socialized medicine here). Among the fallacies is the idea of high costs, long waiting times, the lack of choice and the inability to secure additional services if one wants to pay more. But the statistics are clear here, with the U.S. paying more for worse, and often unnecessary, healthcare services: see this PBS series, this Common Wealth Fund report using OECD data or How Stuff Works, with even the Daily Mail providing evidence of our comparative weakness in comparison to other wealthy nations.

Third, let’s look at the fallacy that Obamacare will lead to an increase in insurance premiums. While that might be the case in the short term, as people are forced to buy better plans than those offered previously, simple economic logic dictates that, over time, premiums should go down. Why, you ask?  Well, insurance companies base premiums on their expected risk (and costs) versus the money they receive in premiums from the whole pool of the insured. Healthy candidates at the same age and with the same demographic information as unhealthy candidates generally pay the same rate – and thus healthy people subsidize the unhealthy, at least in the short run. If an insurance company can create a big enough pool of the insured, they can balance the risk across many people who will pay more than they use. This lowers the overall cost to the company, increases profits and allows for lower rates. Since many of the uninsured are young, they should actually balance the risk factor of total insured people by a particular company down, thus allowing a decline in rates. Overall, this should reduce rates over time. On top of this, the increase in choice and information available to consumers, increases competitive pressure and tends to decrease prices over time – particularly if collusion is taken out of the formula by government regulators and the potential for new entrants into the insurance market. Thus the second major argument against Obamacare is based on a fallacy and misreading of simple economics – or a rhetorical/propaganda device used by the right given the realization that lower rates reduce profits for their corporate sponsors (the biggest insurance companies).

Finally, is the recent surreal argument that people without children, or who don’t want children, shouldn’t have to pay for people who are having them (and thus the childcare costs associated with that rather common activity) – as if reproduction of the species is some woebegone aim that no longer exists in the spectacle society, digital age and knowledge economy of the 21st century ('GOP's Newest Demented Crusade: War on Mothers"). Is it really so long ago and far away that LBJ thought the country could end poverty and racial discrimination? Have we moved so far away from the most basic of social contract ideals that people are really only responsible for themselves and their individual, self-interested needs, wants and desires? Has faith in government collapsed so far that we are to be left to the whims of the market, corporations and the power elites? And can a society survive if it does nothing to create, cultivate and support a shared sense of community and associated living? These are all questions the new GOP answers with a resounding “no,” so loud that many in the media can’t seem to even think of what “yes” might look like. Is it really plausible to allow insurance companies to refuse payment for pregnancy and associated child care costs? Are we hoping to approach the Afghanistan level of infant mortality? Or are we simply saying that poor people shouldn’t have children at all? If so, what are the provisions for staffing all the crappy, low-skilled jobs that the American economy now banks on for the still rising corporate profits? This argument is so absurd I shall spend no longer criticizing it.

The reality is quite simple. The American healthcare system is overpriced, under regulated, inefficient and of questionable quality (when measuring silly things like saving lives). Obamacare does not go far enough to address this national travesty, but at least it provides a partial and temporary solution that can serve the goals of equal access and equal treatment, at least at a baseline level. The middle class and rich can still pay for better plans. The insurance companies can still overcharge, though the market should now punish them for doing so. Doctors can still order unnecessary procedures. And the system can still focus on palliatives and cures, rather than prevention. But the critiques of Obamacare, beyond its failed website, are unfounded and, as is so often the case in American politics, obfuscate the real debates around the issue. One hopes the media can at least tacitly acknowledge this reality in their future coverage. And I heard pigs are banding together to start a new, low-cost airline service.  

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Arsenal Lose to Man United (0-1) Yet Again

After a week that was shaping up as the best in years, Arsenal were brought back to earth by a highly-motivated United side that chased every ball as if their lives depended on it. Most impressive might have been Wayne Rooney, who did just miss two great opportunities to score, but otherwise was all over the pitch like a whirling dervish on speed. The Gunners withheld an early onslaught from United, but then ceded the game’s only goal on a corner, when Aaron Ramsey took too long to close, allowing RVP to head it across goal and beyond Gibbs on the line. One can’t help but wonder if Mertesacker would have kept that effort out by getting to the ball first, but the German International was out with illness. One can also ask the question of whether RVP is one of the biggest a*holes in the history of the club.

Maybe it is too much to ask that an ex-Gunner would show a modicum of respect to his former boss and team. But the more I see of Robin Van Persie, the less I like him and it was thus little surprise that he celebrated his goal as if United had just won the league. It was his third in three since making the switch a year and a half ago and only adds to the pain us Gooners feel. And one shouldn't forget that this makes it one win in the past 11, with RVP failing to contribute to any victories except one during his tenure at Arsenal. On the other hand, I still believe his departure has been the springboard for a revival at Arsenal that still sees us top of the league (by two points over Liverpool) and top of the “group of death” in the Champion’s League. The weekend was also made better by losses by Tottenham and Man City and draws for Everton and Chelsea (with the latter the most undeserved I've seen in ages. There are far too many late penalty calls in the league this year, with many questionable ones that favor the favorites).  

Arsenal looked a bit frazzled right from the onset, and particularly after the opening goal. But they began to settle right before half-time and looked the more likely to score for much of the second half. Unfortunately, the passes lacked the necessary precision in the final third, Giroud and Ramsey both settled the ball when they had clear shots, Ozil and Cazorla missed good opportunities to facilitate counters, there were a few too many errant passes and the Gunners just didn’t seem to want it as much. Even given all this, anyone but the truly pathetic Bendtner probably would have scored on the excellent cross from Bacary Sagan in the 91st minute. Instead Bendtner watched the ball slide by, lunging at it with his foot too late – thus blowing our last real chance and showing himself to be an unworthy option yet again. Overall, Arsenal lacked the cohesion that has made them so difficult to beat this term, the leadership of Mertesacker at the back and really the speed on the wings to get past a rampant and organized United defense. In fact, one wonders if Walcott could have made a difference in this game, or Ox? I couldn’t help but notice that our best chances emerged when the youngster Gnarby came on the pitch and started charging down the right side.

Yet it was not a catastrophic loss, particularly as it was at Old Trafford. A point would have served us better from a momentum point-of-view, but it was a valiant second-half effort and a little bad luck, and questionable refereeing on fouls, contributed to our inability to come back. Now we have two weeks off and one hopes that is sufficient time to get back some of our missing players. Walcott’s speed would be a nice option for the team at present, or Ox’s inventiveness in games like this. I also think Giroud could really use a break, and Podolski could provide that opportunity. Let’s hope they get back soon, that Ozil gets back to his top form, that Cazorla recaptures his and that we take care of an impressive Southampton team at home in a fortnight.  

Liberal Washing

Salon writer David Sirota wrote an interesting article last week about a concept he calls liberal-washing, “about wrapping corporate America’s agenda in the veneer of fight-for-the-little-guy progressivism, thus portraying plutocrats’ radical rip-off schemes as ideologically moderate efforts to rescue the proles.” The idea is that corporate America sells a form of reverse populism that screws the middle class while not only getting Republican support but sufficient votes and cover from “liberal” lawmakers. This is often done with a famous liberal offering their strong endorsement from Clinton’s support for tougher crime laws and long mandatory sentencing, welfare reform, media deregulation and banking reform to Edward Kennedy’s co-sponsoring of No Child Left Behind.

But the trend runs even deeper, with everything from the anti-union stance that emerged in the 70s to the transformation of responsibility for retirement from employers to employees (with the much touted 401(k) and 403(b) plans). It includes the privatization of public goods like prisons, education and gas & electric, the deregulation of markets, tax cuts for the wealthy, attacks on environmental regulations and, of course, one piece of legislation after another choosing employers and corporations over citizens and democracy.

Sirota notes a number of more recent examples including the NSA Surveillance program that Diane Feinstein supported, the Center for American Progress coming out to support Goldman Sachs and Machiavellian CEO Lloyd Blankfein (“shared social goals in areas like housing, clean energy and — most recently — preventive social services.”), New Jersey Senator Cory Booker liberal-washing the private equity industry’s predatory business model and anti-public school agenda and prominent union leaders supporting Rahm Emmanuel’s run for mayor in Chicago. It also reminds me of Pew and the recent revelation that they are supporting cuts to public employee retirement plans, supporting the agenda of one of their funders while hiding behind seemingly “objective” research.

The reality is that too many liberals are for sale and the “New Left” era that Clinton and Blair initiated 20 years ago was simply a way to move the entire political spectrum to the right, allowing Bush and later Cameron to rise to the highest office and implement a radical right-wing agenda that no longer felt radical. Liberal washing also moves to the level of discourse, with anyone talking about race either labeled a race-baiter or racist, anyone discussing class called a socialist or charged with engaging in “class warfare” and any discussion of raising taxes on the wealthy, beyond the scope of reasonable (even when it involves ending what was supposed to be a temporary cut to begin with).

As we watched the Tea Party loons attempt to shut down the government to force feed even more cuts, Democrats finally stood strong, but only because the Obama administration had finally had enough. The reality is this sort of action would have been unheard of 40 years ago and the media reaction shows us how far to the right we have moved. The attacks on liberals are endless from every corner of the public sphere, including the conservative media, the supposedly “liberal” media, on radio, in schools and now, increasingly, in higher education.

“Liberal washing” simply serves to further legitimate the conservative revolution and effectively does so by not only convincing moderates to support these policies of the 1 percent but by pushing many moderate democrats to play along as well. The question that emerges is whether there is any way to stop this push to make America the land of the few that solely supports corporate and elite interests. The answer is certainly yes, but it requires finding compelling progressive voices that can infiltrate the increasingly insular media and DC landscape – and ensuring that those voices are not just engaging in empty rhetoric. The left needs to reorganize and fight back before it is too late. One hopes they can actually learn to sit in a room together and do so, as the splintering into a thousand fragmented pieces merely reinforces the rightward tact that continues to take us further and further away from the dreams of freedom and democracy that many of the founding fathers envisioned for our future.  

Thursday, November 07, 2013

Arsenal Win Again! (1-0 at Dortmund)

Two weeks after a disappointing 2-1 loss to Dortmund at the Emirates, Arsenal pulled off something no team in Europe ever has in the Champions League – winning at the 80,000 fans’ strong Westfalenstadion. And they did it after suffering through a first half and beginning of second half in which they were largely dominated – though not broken. And that appears to be the new spirit of this Arsenal squad, finding ways to win even when they are outplayed. After the 62nd minute goal from the unstoppable Aaron Ramsey (his 13th in all competitions this young season, including the two he has scored for Wales), Arsenal grew in stature and held out against a late Dortmund charge.

Things didn’t start so brightly though, with Dortmund missing a number of opportunities to score in the first 45. Neven Subotic steered just wide of the post and Henrikh Mkhitaryan -- the scorer of the opening goal at the Emirates – was just off target when allowed a run on Wojciech Szczesny’s goal. The second half started much as the middle of the first went, with several chances missed and two goals rightfully adjudged offsides by the Danish ref; who otherwise had a series of questionable decisions that all went the home side’s way. But with Dortmund seemingly on the edge of scoring, Arsenal turned the screw just after the 60th minute, as Rosicky stole the ball, pushed it forward to Cazorla, who sent it out to Ozil. The German international look his time, squared the ball and sent a perfect chip from the edge of the box to Giroud, who headed it right into the charging Ramsey’s path. Ramsey finished with a header past the goalie and Arsenal were suddenly, and surprisingly, up 1-0. And though the Gunners spurned a few more chances, they kept the pressure on Dortmund up throughout and held on for the win.

It was the sort of victory a season can be built around, and this one was much more important than the inspiration for the late run last season, with the 2-0 win over Bayern on the road meaningless in the end. Now Arsenal lead the group and a win at home against Marseille in a couple of weeks should all but guarantee passage. However, goal differential could come into effect and it will be important to keep another clean sheet against Marseille and score at least a goal or two. Why? Because it could be that Borussia, Napoli and Arsenal could all finish on 12 points, with tie breakers the difference between advancing to the knock out stage or waiting for next year (if Dortmund beat Napoli and Marseille and Napoli beats us in the Day 6 matchup at Napoli. Though if Napoli wins or draws, we would be through with a win). In any case, Arsenal held strong with their rejuvenated back four – scoring the second successive clean sheet (something they have done against Tottenham and Liverpool in their two biggest games so far this season in the EPL) – won with only four shots on goal (all coming from the Ramsey goal onward), held tough against a team that was undefeated at home this season and scores in bunches and essentially turned around a European campaign that seemed in trouble a fortnight ago. The next test comes Sunday, on the road at United, but even a loss might not undermine the impressive start to the season that sees Arsenal charging toward a first trophy in eight years. COYG!

P.S. Not to kill a dead horse, but it was yet another impressive performance without Wilshere, who may well have to be kept out of our biggest games if we want to end that drought this season. 

Tuesday, November 05, 2013

And this is the GOP Answer?

It appears Chris Christie will soon be announcing his bid for Republican  Presidential nomination, after the expected landslide victory in New Jersey today. And it appears he may be the top conservative candidate at the moment (CNN). But what should we think of this Governor and his record? His handling of Hurricane Sandy was certainly impressive, particularly crossing the partisan divide to work closely with Obama (and actually commend him for his assistance). But what can we say beyond this? Some data and thoughts …

-         Poverty rates have hit a 50-year high, with an astonishing 24.7 percent of the state’s population now categorized as poor. That’s one in four!
-         And that poverty rate happens even as New Jersey continues to have the highest property taxes in the country and as he cuts business taxes by $600 million a year and pushes personal income tax cuts (though the poor will pay more with his plan)
-         Even given this, New Jersey’s credit rating has fallen under Christie
-         He cut the budget deficit of $11 billion through major spending cuts
-         Christie has attacked teachers and teachers unions, cut retirement and health benefits and potentially undermined the incredible work they have done (NJ has the lowest dropout rates and among the highest test scores in the country)
-         Vetoed expanded early-voting system (fitting within the conservative push to undermine poor and minority voting)
-         Christie does hold some “liberal” positions on homosexuality, immigration reform, green energy and gun control – though he switched from pro-choice to pro-life in 2011 (and eliminated family planning from the state budget in June 2012) and is against gay marriage
-         Beyond this, are questions regarding his ethics, tendency to be late and (though probably unfair) weight.       

Is this really the answer to the nation’s problems? I’ll leave that for my dear readers to decide. 

Monday, November 04, 2013

Higher Education Under Attack

This month I will explore the attacks on higher education in the blog (see the Chronicle article “College at Risk”), arguing it is part of the closing of the American mind to any alternatives to neoliberal economics and its corporate/conservative agenda. There will be four posts covering the following issues:

1) The vocationalization of higher education, by focusing more on training future workers for specific jobs than preparing us for social and political life as well (Neoliberalism & the Corporatization of HE)
2) Attacks on the humanities (see the attached 2009 article from Harper’s Link) and liberal professors (UCLA's Dirty 30), undermining the most critical and radical space in academia today.
3) The “audit culture” that has emerged – ranking and numbers creating a business-like mentality that skews the actual quality and effectiveness of schools (
4) The corporatization of colleges and universities (Dissent)

The overarching idea is that higher education is being attacked and undermined as an institution of autonomous, independent research and intellectual work (which has never been completely true, of course) that not only prepares the next generation for work and life but provides empirically-grounded critiques of contemporary politics and culture and strategies and policy reforms that could lead us on a path to a different future. This fits within the attacks on K-12, the media and the public sphere in general, continuing the commodification of education as the neoliberal agenda spreading its wings to influence more and more of the cultural, political and economic spheres by infiltrating their institutions and supplanting their ideological commitments. 

Arsenal Opens Five Point Lead at Top

Arsenal restored order at the Emirates with a huge 2-0 win over second place Liverpool, overcoming two setbacks in a seven day period less than a week ago, against Dortmund in the UCL and Chelsea in the Capital One Cup. It was a dominating performance that included sublime goals from Santi Cazorla in the first half and the indomnitable Aaron Ramsey in the second, with excellent pressing, pinpoint passing and strong defense in between. A few thoughts from a game that restored some faith that this Gunner team could actually challenge for the title right on through to the end …

1) Are we better without Wilshere? This is the question that I continue to ponder as I watch the flow and control of the game improve whenever he is off the pitch. Cazorla was the real creative force in this game, with Arteta serving as the fulcrum and Ramsey as the box-to-box force, while Ozil was largely anonymous and Rosicky pushed forward with resolve. Even in a game where we lacked a strong defensive mid (Arteta just doesn’t patrol the middle like Flamini) and no natural wingers, we were still able to get around Liverpool’s back three with ease – particularly on the right with the surging Sagna.
2) Pressing up is our best strategy: When Arsenal sit back and absolve pressure, bad things too often happen, as we lose our organization or discipline or push forward and get caught on the counter. But when we press across the field, as Barcelona does whenever they lose the ball, we become a true force to be reckoned with and can beat anyone in the world. In fact, it was this approach that led to the second leg win over Bayern last season and could very well give us a result against Dortmund on Wednesday.
3) Striker/DM: even with all the positives from the game, one couldn’t help notice that Giroud missed two chances to score and give us a two-goal cushion, with the first a one-on-one with the goalkeeper Mignolet. Top-class strikers need to score with those opportunities and it is clear, after the pathetic performance by Bendtner in the Capital One Cup last week that we need a second striker to keep our momentum pushing forward to the end. I also think we need a second defensive midfielder to backup Flamini, as there is really no one to take that role at present. The team played brilliantly together and Liverpool had few chances to score, or even get off decent shots (Suarez did have two decent chances he sent wide), but a quality striker or DM might have made the result even more impressive. Given that we are still in the Champion’s League and have the FA Cup starting next year, backups will be a necessity.
4) Depths from Despair: it’s incredible to consider that before the season most, including me, thought we had too thin a squad and now, forgoing the aforementioned needs at striker and DM, we are packed with talent across the field. Even with Ox, Podolski, Flamini and Walcott out, we seemed head and shoulders above Liverpool at almost every position – with better finishing, better passing and better control across the pitch. Suarez and Sturridge might be the best striker pairing in English football at present (though Rooney and RVP certainly have their own argument to make), but we kept them split up and off the ball most of the game. Even as the press continues to doubt our credentials, as perennial Arsene and Arsenal haters, Wenger has built a quality team that combines youth with more seasoned internationals.

This is just the first step in a trying period for the Gunners, who next take on Borussia Dortmund at the Allianz and then head to Old Trafford to face a United team that seems to have found form after the inconsistent start. After that, things don’t get much easier with a strong defensive unit in Southampton and a trip to Cardiff. But if the Gunners continue to play at the level seen Saturday, a trophy might be the long-awaited award the team finally brings home.