Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Volcano in Iceland: Heathrow Airport reopens

While the Volcano in Iceland remains active and harmful to Iceland and the World's economy, Britain has decided to reopen Heathrow Airport. According to The Washington Post, Britain backed off on its own no-fly rule and allowed flight operations to resume.

The problems caused by the eruption of the volcano in Iceland have caused an estimated 300,000 flights to be cancelled and almost a billion in economic damage. New York City, alone, has suffered over $250 million in economic damage.

The British Civil Aviation Authority maintains that test flights of planes in low levels of ash were successful. But given the known dangers of such flight attempts, and the varying skills of pilots in what is an unusual situation, it would seem to tempt fate to invite flights while the airspace is far from clear of volcanic ash.

While the British CAA has been accused by some of overreacting to the volcano in Iceland, reopening due to economic and family pressure, not discounting such issues, is dangerous if as it appears, CAA officials aren't clearly sure of the level of safety in the European airspace.

The decision to reopen Heathrow at this time is a risky one. We can only pray to God that it was the right one.

Stay tuned.

Oakland Mayor Ron Dellums breaks tie; money for campaigns and IRV

Oakland Mayor Ron Dellums made a rare visit to the Oakland City Council tonight, Tuesday, and for the purpose of breaking a tie vote on an alternative created by Councilmember Jean Quan to a resolution that if passed would have taken money from the Oakland public campaign financing program and put it into a plan for educating voters on the new Instant Run-Off Voting system.

Quan's alternative split money $100,000 for campaigns, and $100,000 for IRV education. The current City of Oakland program provides just over $200,000 for public campaign financing. In other words, the city helps you by providing matching funds.

The Mayor stepped forward after a lively but brutally nasty two-minute statement by Oakland's number one gadfly Sanjiv Handa. Sanjiv accused the City of Oakland and its City Council of being "greedy" because incumbent councilmembers running for reelection didn't want to have competition. While this space agrees with Sanjiv in principle, Handa's anger, with him almost shaking at the podium, was unnecessary.

After saying that he was a proponent of public financing "going way back to the 60s," and giving the signal that he was going to cast a vote against the amendment, he voted for it, making no one happy, as such votes tend to do.

Dellums tie-breaker decreased public campaign financing assistance by $100,000. After Mayor Dellums pointed out that the City of Oakland did not have to get into the business of edcuating voters because non-profit organizations were doing it, Dellums essentially voted against his own principles and logic.

Stay tuned.

2010 NFL Draft has Zennie and Small Luxury Hotels of The World

Sam Bradford 
The 2010 NFL Draft is Thursday night, and as I wrote in the previous blog post, I'm making the trip thanks to The Inn at Irving Place, part of The Small Luxury Hotels of The World brand. The Inn's located in the middle of Manhattan and just two minutes or so from Radio City Music Hall where the NFL Draft will commence on Thursday night

It's a partnership to pay attention to for bloggers because it has nothing to do with what I blog or video-blog about NFL players. At a time when media's broken and businesses are trying to figure out how New Media can help them, this is a great example to follow. But my post is more about the NFL Draft than that, so let's press on. I'll have blog posts about New York life from my experience during the NFL Draft, so be alert for them!

The 2010 NFL Draft marks my sixth consecutive trip to New York City to join my good friend and media partner Bill Chachkes. Again, the venue's Radio City Music Hall in Midtown Manhattan. But while the Draft itself is Thursday and at night for the first time, Draft-related events have already started.

For example there's the "NFL Play 60" event that's held Tuesday and Wednesday this year. "NFL Play 60" is a five-hour gathering in Central Park that features the college football players invited to be at the draft, local kids, and the media. The kids and the players - and the media, though I didn't see anyone do it - go through football related drills. This year, I'm going to dress to catch a football or three. In 2009, I was wearing cocktail attire to Central Park. Nuts.

As to what parties I'm going to attend, that's still up in the air, but not like the movie of the same name. The problem with the NFL Draft, and it's a good one, is that you have to space out time not just to blog but to compress and upload videos. The idea of using a cellphone camcorder and uploading on the spot from an event just doesn't sit well with me from a quality perspective. So time has to be made to produce content from the event. I also plan to just stick around The Inn at Irving Place and do more NFL Draft research.

As to the Draft, while many expect Sam Bradford to be taken #1 by the St. Louis Rams, but I'm of the view the Rams can't afford his $50 million signing bonus. It's a recession. The NFL's been hit hard by it just like everyone else. I can't see the Rams looking all that in the face and picking Bradford. The Rams will either trade the pick and move down or pick a defensive tackle, Ndamukong Suh or Gerald McCoy.

To me, Bradford'a great quarterback, but Notre Dame's Jimmy Clausen is better by a bit. Jimmy has an incredible competitive fire and essentially ran the New England Patriots offense under Charlie Weis, when he coached the Fighting Irish. Clausen's read to come in, start, and win now.

The two best running backs are C.J. Spiller and Jahvid Best, of Clemsson and Cal respectively. While Spiller's ranked higher, it's not by much, and were it not for the injury issue many would have Best at the top. Still, Spiller's speed is just plain scary.

But I root for Jahvid Best. He's done a lot for Cal and I look forward to meeting him. GO BEARS!

We also can't overlook Stanford's Toby Gerhart. He should go late in the 1st round or early in the 2nd round. He's that good. The next Jim Brown.

As to speed, while Notre Dame's Golden Tate has it, I'd take Florida State's Dez Bryant over Tate. Bryant's so call character issue is way overblown. He may have, OK, did, lie about his association with Deion Sanders, but that doesn't mean he's going to rob a bank. Bryant would be the perfect receiver for the Oakland Raiders.

If they take him.

Stay tuned.

Oakland uptown beating shows young black male problem

The terrible death of 59-year-old Tiansheng Yu one again sheds light on a problem that has plagued Oakland for some time, yet many don't want to talk openly about it. This space has, and will continue to do so.

The City of Oakland has a problem with young black men who just walk around picking people who they think are welcome targets for violence.

I blogged about this problem many times. In the case of the "mugging over at Wayne Avenue in 2007,"a man who lived on the 300 block of Wayne Avenue in Adams Point was mugged at gunpoint. Someone in the area two black men do the crime in what was described as an "underlit driveway."

In 2006, a young woman walked around China Hill, Haddon Hill, and Grand Lake posting a letter called Muggings on Athol.

The letter, as I wrote then in Oakland Focus, stated a painful fact: that whites are the targets of assault and theft crimes committed by African Americans in the area. She wrote:

We are faced with two decisions: 1) Either move out of Oakland , or 2) Stay and fight back. We've chosen to try option #2 and have contacted the police, the mayor's office, Pat Kernigan's office, and are now contacting the Neighborhood Crime Prevention Council of the Oakland Police Department to formally organize a Neighborhood Watch Program. We want to try and combat this before we resign ourselves to abandoning Oakland.

All of this happens while I have walked as a black man in Oakland without incident. Not once. The problem isn't just one of race but of fear. A friend of mine who's blonde, white, and female had a job in downtown Oakland where she walked home at midnight for year. But when someone tried to talk to her, rather than react in fear, she held her head up and said hello to them. She never, in six years of this practice, had a problem.

The point is, the kids attack because they think they can get away with it. They think the person's scared and will not face them or fight back. Or they think the person will not talk to them. The best way to combat this is to simply be aware and not afraid. But mostly aware. Awake to the fact that a young black man might just hit you from the side.

We have to get back to the days when we told kids what we expected from them without fear. That's the time I grew up in. So, today, I don't expect to be called the N-word. I don't care to hear someone call me "OG"; I'm not anyone's Original Gangster.

There are a lot of us as black men in Oakland who feel this way. But what has to happen is others who aren't black have to take up the same behavior as we do. It's your town too.

Stay tuned.

Toby Gerhart is the NFL's 21st Century Jim Brown

See > nfl, nfl draft, toby gerhart, 2010 nfl draft, jim brown , small luxury hotels, new york city

Thoughts on Stanford's Running Back who-should-have-won-The-Heisman Toby Gerhart before this blogger leaves Georgia for the 2010 NFL Draft in New York City (thanks to The Inn at Irving Place, part of The Small Luxury Hotels of The World brand), and in the wake of my good friend Yahoo! Sports Mike Silver's post called Race factors into evaluation of Gerhart.

The fact that Toby Gerhart is a generational cultural test has been the case since he started running through and around people in 2009. You have to see Toby Gerhart in person to appreciate that he really is that fast.

While the Stanford Offensive Line at times gave Toby truck-sized holes to run through, there were more occasions when Gerhart just plain knocked people over. Toby Gerhart is the NFL's 21st Century Jim Brown.  Just watch:

Now the problem is some people insist on comparing Toby to a white running back because he's white. It's racist, not because of the comparison but because it's a put down of white running backs: it's a code-name for "slow."

Racism is to put a person down because of their skin color and that's what some NFL personnel evaluators are doing to Toby Gerhart. In effect, they're taking money out of his pocket that he'll have to win back with tough play in the league.

Because of such perceptions, Gerhart will be selected in lower rounds of the NFL Draft when he really should be taken in the 2nd round at the worst and the low 1st round at the best.   This is a player who ran for 1,857 yards and 27 touchdowns in the Pac-10.  Think about it.

Consider the racist evaluations as some gave Gerhart as told to Mike Silver:

One team I interviewed with asked me about being a white running back. They asked if it made me feel entitled, or like I felt I was a poster child for white running backs. I said, 'No, I'm just out there playing ball. I don't think about that.' I didn't really know what to say."

That revelation alone is enough to make the blood boil. If someone said that to a black college player, they would be rightly branded racist. It's amazing someone thought they could get away with treating Toby Gerhart that way.

But the NFL's problem is that some people in it stereotype others, thus Stanford's Toby Gerhart can't be a fast powerful running back who happens to be white, any more than Florida State Cornerback Myron Rolle can be a smart Rhodes Scholar player who happens to be black.


Racism prevents the proper evaluation of college football players for the NFL. Remember this blog and Silver's article when you watch the NFL Draft Thursday night.

Stay tuned.

NFL Draft update: Dr. Bill Chackhes on the wide receivers

In this second installment of the NFL Draft view from Dr. Bill Chackhes - the first was on the quarterbacks - Bill focuses on the top NFL Draft Wide Receivers available from his perspective.

1. Golden Tate - Notre Dame
2. Dez Bryant - Oklahoma State
3. Stephen Williams - Toledo
4. Brandon LaFell - LSU
5. Freddie Barnes - Bowling Green

Like many, Golden Tate moved ahead of Dez Bryant in Bill's view. In the Gridiron Draft Guide, Bill reports that Tate is not "a pure pattern runner." Chachkes says he compares favorably to the Carolina Panthers' legendary receiver Steve Smith. While he doesn't expect Tate to be the first receiver taken in the NFL Draft, Bill thinks in terms of "overall skill set" he should be.

When this blogger thinks of Golden Tate, he sees a receiver who can just plain get downfield in a hurry. I've watched a lot of Notre Dame games; Golden Tate was always able to separate and catch the deep ball. He plays bigger than his 5-11 size. But is he better than Dez Bryant? That's another great debate; I'd have to say no.

Stay tuned.

NFL Draft update: Dr. Bill Chackhes on the quarterbacks

In this NFL Draft update, Dr. Bill Chackhes of Football Writers Online and Zennie62.com will present his take on the best quarterbacks in the 2010 NFL Draft, which starts Thursday night. His views are gained from his publication, The Gridiron Draft Guide.

For those who's never heard of Bill, he's the modern day equivalent of the late Joel Buschbaum. Buschbaum was a self-made college personnel scouting expert, who almost single-handedly built the publication Pro Football Weekly into star status. Like Buschbaum, Chackhes is obsessed with football scouting and reporting. Bill has attended every NFL Draft over the past 3 decades and 25 years as a member of the media.

Here's how Bill rates the quarterbacks:

1A) Colt McCoy - Texas
1B) Sam Bradford - Oklahoma
2) Tony Pike - Cincinnati
3) Dan Lefevour - Central Michigan
4) John Skelton - Fordham University
5) Ryan Perriloux- Jacksonville State
6) Jimmy Clausen - Notre Dame

Why Colt McCoy? Bill says that he's a consistent winner. His ball position in throwing is "excellent." He has Bradford behind McCoy for several reasons related to how Bradford doesn't move in the pocket.

Bill's take on Jimmy Clausen, who's rated sixth, has to do with his throwing motion. Bill complains that Clausen lifts his foot up after he throws consistently. Where I take issue with Bill is that this was done before the Notre Dame Pro Day where Jimmy really improved in a lot of areas. Personally, I think Clausen's now the best quarterback available, followed by Sam Bradford, then Colt McCoy.

Stay tuned.