Wednesday, February 22, 2006

President Bush's Is Right; CNN's Lou Dobbs and Others Wrong About Port Deal

I see no concreate reason why the US can't suddenly partner with this organization of long standing. They're not new.
To block the deal for essentially racist reasons is not American.

Moreover, the matter of Terrorism is more complicated than many of us chose to understand. You can complain, bitch, and moan, but like it or not, this deal is actually best for the US and the World. I'd rather have an Arab firm -- with the great attention it gains -- run some cargo transactions, than a British firm I know nothing about. Oh, except that they're white.

NFL Revenue Sharing with Players - I Say Scale The Percentage

The impass between NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue and NFL Players Association Executive Director Gene Upshaw seems to be over the size of the percent of revenue the league will share with the players. I say, rather than have a fixed percentage, scale it with repect to overall increase or decrease in annual league revenues. Simply, if there's an increase, the percentage is somewhat greater; if there's a decrease, it reduces.

Now, the measure should be gross revenues, not net revenues. Or perhaps a better measure is revenues minus player playroll for that year. This way, if there's a year where, for a combination of reasons, overall player payroll is higher than the previous year (incentives, etc.), but overall NFL gross revenue is lower, the percentage would be lower than the year before.

Just an idea.

NFL is headed toward a labor showdown by the end of this week - Washington Post

Deadline Looms For NFL, Players
Attorney: Deal 'Seems Doubtful'
By Mark Maske
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, February 19, 2006; Page E01

The NFL is headed toward a labor showdown by the end of this week barring an unlikely last-minute breakthrough in negotiations, Players Association Executive Director Gene Upshaw said, signaling that the labor peace that for 13 years has been a key reason for the league's success is on the verge of dissipating.

A written message sent Friday from a union attorney to NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue said it "seems doubtful" that team owners and players will be able to settle on an extension of their collective bargaining agreement beyond next season. Upshaw, who has worked closely with Tagliabue for years to avoid the sort of labor strife that has affected other professional sports leagues, said in a telephone interview that the union now is ready for a fight.

"The closer we get to the deadline the more pessimistic I am that anything will happen," Upshaw said. The owners "don't seem to believe we're willing to take it all the way. . . . But we are."

Upshaw said he regards the end of this week as the deadline for a labor deal and he has little hope that scheduled bargaining sessions on Tuesday and Wednesday will produce movement toward a settlement. He plans to address players' agents in two groups this week in Indianapolis, the site of the NFL scouting combine.

The current labor deal leaves the NFL's 13-year-old salary cap system in place through the 2006 season. A failure to agree to an extension of the deal would leave the sport without a salary cap in 2007 -- and perhaps beyond. Upshaw has said the players will not allow a salary cap to return if they play a season without one.

The salary cap sets an annual ceiling on the amount each team can spend on players. Next season's cap is projected to be between $92 million and $95 million per team. Without one, wealthier teams such as the Washington Redskins could spend whatever they wished on players, but people on the management side maintain that certain changes that would come with a season without a salary cap -- such as players needing six seasons of experience, instead of four, to be eligible for unrestricted free agency -- might keep it from being the bonanza for players' salaries that Upshaw and the players envision.

The labor impasse already is wreaking havoc on teams' planning for the March 3 opening of the free agent market, since it is effectively leaving teams with less wiggle room under the 2006 salary cap.

With league revenues burgeoning after the completion of a new set of national television contracts worth almost $4 billion per season, Upshaw has been seeking to expand the pool of revenues from which the players are paid. But the two sides remain unable to agree on what percentage of the expanded revenue pool the players should receive.

In a related issue that is complicating talks with the union, the 32 owners have been unable to agree to a system to increase the amount of locally generated revenues that they would share. Several teams, including the Redskins, in recent years have expanded the revenues they generate on their own, outside the shared revenue stream each team receives collectively, primarily through network television contracts and leaguewide marketing deals. The owners' deliberations have become so combative, Upshaw said, that he has been told nine of the wealthiest teams have banded together and are threatening to sue if the clubs have a revised revenue-sharing system forced upon them. The Redskins, who generate the highest revenues in the league, would be among that group of nine.

Owners of lower-revenue teams say that if no plan for bolstered revenue-sharing is put in place, football will become, like baseball, a sport of have and have-not clubs in which only a handful of wealthier franchises will have realistic championship aspirations.

The labor stalemate also impacts planned stadium construction. Upshaw said the players will stop participating in a stadium-loan program that they fund in cooperation with the league if there are no labor and revenue-sharing deals. The teams planning new stadiums include the Dallas Cowboys, Indianapolis Colts and the New York Jets and Giants.

Upshaw previously has said he would, if there's no deal, recommend to the players at a March 9 executive board meeting that they begin the process of decertifying the union, a tactic that would seek to eliminate the possibility of a lockout by the owners. It also could lead to the players going to antitrust court to challenge any new system imposed by the owners.

Upshaw and Tagliabue skipped the Pro Bowl in Hawaii last week to return to the East Coast after the Super Bowl and resume the labor deliberations, but Upshaw said there has been no progress.

A letter written by union attorney James Quinn, delivered by e-mail Friday to Tagliabue and Harold Henderson, the league's chief labor executive, said that "we are rapidly approaching the next league year and our ability to get a deal done in this short time frame seems doubtful. Gene, Jeff [Kessler, another union attorney] and I are particularly concerned that so little progress has been made on the core economic issues that we have been discussing for nearly two years."

In the e-mail, Quinn identified the "three bedrock issues" in the negotiations as the salary cap, revenue sharing and the stadium loan program. He wrote that "in order for us to continue any form of salary cap, the players must obtain a significant increase (both in dollars and percentage) in our overall share of total league revenues." On the revenue-sharing issue, Quinn said that the union has "repeatedly made clear that we will not agree to any form of salary cap that does not deal with the 'free-rider effect' which unfairly benefits a handful of high-revenue clubs."

Upshaw has said that some owners of the league's wealthiest franchises aren't devoting a fair portion of their revenues to players' salaries. He has exempted the Redskins' Daniel Snyder, whose team generates the league's highest revenues but also usually has one of the NFL's heftiest player payrolls.

The teams share their national revenues equally, but the success of the Redskins and some other clubs in increasing streams of unshared local revenues has led to a fractious internal debate in which the less-prosperous franchises are seeking to have more of those revenues shared.

"There's a lot of infighting on their side," Upshaw said. "They don't believe they're going to have to do this, but that's the only way the low-revenue clubs can afford their commitment to us. My understanding is that there's a group of nine [wealthy teams] that's saying, 'If you force us into more revenue sharing, we'll sue you.' "

Of the stadium loan program, Quinn wrote that "the players are prepared to continue the . . . program in a form that makes sense to both sides" but it must come within the context of a bolstered revenue-sharing deal. Upshaw said the union will not contribute to any future stadium projects if there aren't labor and revenue-sharing deals in place. An NFL spokesman said yesterday the league had no response.

All of the uncertainty is creating extra work and additional worries for those people in charge of running teams.

"Right now we're operating with a Plan A and a Plan B," Baltimore Ravens General Manager Ozzie Newsome said. "We have both of them ready to go. That's all you can do. We've never faced a year like this since I've been on this side of the fence. We've never been where it went down to the 11th hour like this not knowing what the system is going to be."

Ravens Ray Lewis to Oakland in exchange for Kerry Collins?

That's the rumor around the message boards. Where it came from is not clear, but it's taken on a life of its own. On face, it's a great trade, with Lewis coming back to play in a defense he's familar with, assuming Art Shell keeps Rex Ryan as defensive coordinator.

We'll see what happens. The question is will it be a straight-up trade, or with draft picks? Who would give up what? It seems a simple trade would make all sides happy. But here's the Ravens rub: does this mean giving up on Kyle Boller, or just having an experienced backup that could push for the starting job. Collins knows and played for Ravens Offensive Coordinator Jim Fassel, so the trade seems logical from a relationship standpoint.

2006 NFL Draft: Will Vince Young Fall to the Oakland Raiders?

This post on the Oakland Raiders Yahoo! Message Board reveals a possible outcome worth monitoring:

Message: 1
Date: Wed, 22 Feb 2006 03:31:33 -0000
From: "Andre"
Subject: Just A Little Note To Ponder

In a recent article by Chris Gargano, someone stated that Vince Young
could fall directly in the Raiders lap whether we win the coin toss
for #6 or not. Knowing that we need youth, talent, and a deep ball
thrower...not to mention a good scrambler in case for some God aweful
Reason Moss, Porter, Curry, Gabriel cannot get open, why in the hell
would you not draft Vince Young. Also there is a possible trade for
Ray Lewis in order to get rid of Collins. Does this sound like the
making of a team you can this is not freaking fantasy
football....these are facts that could very well develop... and free
agency will be Christmas for the raiders because there are some good
lineman D and O available.....any comments from Intelligent raider
fans who can feel the energy of this team increasing by the numbers?

Blogging Better Than Mainstream Media: Ted Rall's Rant - Check it Out

The Bland Leading The Blind
The nanny press and the cartoon controversy


LAS VEGAS--Of course it was a provocation. In September, the editor of a right-wing Danish newspaper decided "to test cartoonists to see if they were self-censoring their work, out of fear of violence from Islamic radicals." Though some declined, 12 artists accepted the editor's invitation to make light of the Prophet Mohammed, and submitted work equating Islam with terrorism and the oppression of women, among other things.

Five months later, editor Fleming Rose has learned that cartoonists have good reason to watch what they draw. Thousands of demonstrators, furious at the publication's violation of an Islamic stricture banning graphic depictions of the Prophet, marched through the streets of Cairo, Karachi, Istanbul, Teheran and Mehtarlam, Afghanistan, where at least five were killed by police. Gunmen took over the European Union office in Gaza. Mobs burned Danish flags and called for a Muslim boycott of Danish goods. Iran withdrew its ambassador from Copenhagen. Danes were ordered to flee Lebanon after mobs burned the Danish consulates in Damascus and Beirut, where they also trashed a Christian neighborhood. The Danish cartoonists, having been threatened with beheading, are presumably catching up on their Salman Rushdie while they weather the storm.

Adding fuel to the fire, said the Times, were "a group of Denmark's fundamentalist Muslim clerics ... [who] took their show on the road" last fall, traveling around the Middle East showing a package that included cartoons that had never actually appeared in any newspaper, "some depicting Mohammed as a pedophile, a pig or engaged in bestiality." Newspapers in France, Germany and elsewhere further fanned the flames by reprinting the Danish drawings.

Being provoked, as I tell myself when I'm sitting next to Sean Hannity, doesn't justify reacting with violence. And as Kuwaiti oil executive Samia al-Duaij pointed out to Time, there are better reasons to torch embassies than over cartoons: "America kills thousands of Muslims, and you lose your head and withdraw ambassadors over a bunch of cartoons printed in a second-rate paper in a Nordic country with a population of five million? That's the true outrage."

As the only syndicated political cartoonist who also writes a syndicated column, my living depends on freedom of the press. I can't decide who's a bigger threat: the deluded Islamists who hope to impose Sharia law on Western democracies, or the right-wing clash-of-civilization crusaders waving the banner of "free speech"--the same folks who call for the censorship and even murder of anti-Bush cartoonists here--as an excuse to join the post-9/11 Muslims-suck media pile-on. Most reasonable people reject both--but neither is as dangerous to liberty as America's self-censoring newspaper editors and broadcast producers.

"CNN has chosen not to show the [Danish Mohammed] cartoons out of respect for Islam," said the news channel.

"We always weigh the value of the journalistic impact against the impact that publication might have as far as insulting or hurting certain groups," said an editor at The San Francisco Chronicle.

"The cartoons didn't meet our long-held standards for not moving offensive content," said the Associated Press.


If these cowards were worried about offending the faithful, they wouldn't cover or quote such Muslim-bashers as Ann Coulter, Christopher Hitchens or George W. Bush. The truth is, our national nanny media is managed by cowards so terrified by the prospect of their offices being firebombed that they wallow in self-censorship.

Precisely because they subvert free speech from within with their oh-so-reasonable odes for "moderation" and against "sensationalism," the gatekeepers of our national nanny media are more dangerous to Western values than distant mullahs and clueless neocons combined. Editors and producers decide not only what's fit to print but also what's not: flag-draped coffins and body bags arriving from Iraq, photographs of Afghan civilians, their bodies reduced to blobs of blood and protoplasm, all purged from our national consciousness. You might think it's news when the vice president tells a senator to "go f--- yourself" on the Senate floor, but you'd be wrong--only tortured roundabout descriptions (like "f---") make newsprint. "This is a family newspaper," any editor will say, arguing for self-censorship--as if kids couldn't fill in those three letters in "f---."

As if kids read the paper.

The nanny media, even more prudish since 9/11, covers our millions of eyes to protect us from our own icky deeds. In Afghanistan in 2001, while covering a war that had officially killed 12 civilians, I watched a colleague from a major television network collate footage of a B-52 bombing indiscriminately obliterating a civilian neighborhood. "If people saw what bombing looks like here on the ground," he observed as body parts and burning houses and screaming children filled the screen, "they would demand an end to it. Which is why this will never air on American television." But other countries don't have our nanny media. Europeans and Arabs see the horror wreaked in our name on their airwaves, assume that we see the same imagery and hate us for not giving a damn. America's self-censors make anti-Americanism worse.

Ugly truths come out one way or the other. While the Muslim world was raging over the Danish Mohammed cartoons, Washington Post cartoonist Tom Toles received a chilling letter from the Joints Chief of Staff in reaction to his single-panel rendition of a quadriplegic veteran; if not for the nanny media's slavish refusal to run photos of the real thing, would that abstract image have shocked anyone? While we're at it, using prose to describe graphic images--as editors and anchormen are doing about the Mohammed imagery--makes as much sense as talking about the Rodney King police brutality video. "[Describing the cartoons without showing them] seems a reasonable choice," editorialized The New York Times, a paper whose readers' right to know apparently includes classified surveillance programs--but not cartoons.

Toles "crossed the line" from appropriate commentary into outright tastelessness, complained the Joint Chiefs. Similarly, many Muslims say the 12 Danish cartoonists "crossed the line" when they indulged in blasphemy of one of the world's major religions. U.S. State Department spokesman and honorary mullah Sean McCormack helpfully tells us where The Line is drawn: "Anti-Muslim images are as unacceptable as anti-Semitic images," he said. But who can distinguish "anti-Muslim images" from "acceptable" satire? Taste is subjective. Right-wing Time columnist Andrew Sullivan, who has repeatedly called for censoring my work because it's critical of Bush, calls the Danish cartoons "not arbitrarily offensive" and thus acceptable free speech. Lefties, on the other hand, rallied to get Rush Limbaugh fired from his gig as a football commentator.

Hypocrisy abounds: Everyone supports the free speech they agree with.

Which is why, in a nation with a truly free media, there is no line. To hell with the nanny media. Free speech is like a Ferrari: What good is it if you don't use it or if you barely use it, only driving it in town, in stop-and-go traffic? It's useless until you can head out to the Arizona desert and push it past 150 mph. Short of libel, slander and impersonation, anything goes--that is, if you believe in the First Amendment.

What if millions of people take offense? What if some of them turn violent, even murderous? So what? No one can make you angry. You decide whether or not to become angry. If journalistic gatekeepers worry about the mere possibility of prompting outrage, they'll validate mob rule and undermine our right to a free press, one that covers the controversial along with the bland.

While deciding what goes into the paper and the evening news, good journalists ought to be guided by only one consideration: Is it news? If the answer is yes, send it out. Even if it's tasteless as all f---.

Postscript: A European Muslim Web site has posted a cartoon depicting Anne Frank in bed with Adolf Hitler. "If it is the time to break taboos and cross all the red lines," the site explains, "we certainly do not want to fall behind." It's an idiotic cartoon. Breaking taboos, on the other hand, is something our nanny media ought to try.