Thursday, May 05, 2011

Ecuador On Eve Of Control Of Media, Muzzling Of Journalists, Bloggers

As a five-year observer of the ongoing legal battle between Chevron and Ecuador, this blogger's come away with a view of Ecuador that it is more like an authoritarian dictatorship than the democratic socialist government it paints itself to be.

In that, it must be asserted that a fair trial for any American business firm would be impossible to achieve in Ecuador, when the public opinion is essentially influenced by the government through the media. An opinion that differs from the state can result in the capture of the media outlet by Ecuadorian President Raphael Correa's Adminstration.

On Saturday, May 7th, the petroleum and agrobusiness nation will take a giant step in that direction as it considers a 10-point law that will control media content - legislation that, while years in the making, rubber-stamps the media-muzzling practices of President Correa (in photo with members of the media who are nice to him).

And while reports are that the referendum has the popular support of the voting people, a recent survey revealed that only 16 percent actually knew the contents of it. The most controversial item in the proposed set of laws, is a "council to regulate content deemed violent, sexual, or discriminatory." And by content, it refers to media content.

Roque Planas of Americas explains that:

Correa regularly butts heads with the media; he vilifies them regularly in speeches, accusing them of bias and inaccuracy. "Our greatest rival in this plebiscite is not the opposition. Our biggest rivals are the media, who come up with a fresh scandal on a daily basis," Correa said last week.

But Correa really didn't need the upcoming Saturday vote to collect media outlets that produce messages he doesn't like. Just ask Ecuadorian business leader Joyce DeGinatta, who, in 2009, had her television program, which had been under government scrutiny, cancelled, and the network it was on taken by the Ecuadorian government. Here's the video, with English text, from CyberDenizen On YouTube:

And according to the Committee To Protect Journalists, this week, a Ecuadoran provincial radio reporter named Walter Vite Benítez was sentenced to one year in jail, and for critical comments he made about the mayor of the City of Esmeraldas, Ecuador.

To put it another way, Benitez was jailed for the same critical comments this blogger, and many columnists and journalists, have made about Oakland's Mayors, from Jerry Brown to Jean Quan.

And what did Benítez do? He referred to the Mayor by his title, without using his name, and had been critical of that town's overall government.

And in March, the Committee To Protect Journalists also reports that President Correa himself filed a defamation complaint against the newspaper El Universo and its three executives and opinion editor. And the result of this complaint could be to land them in jail and have to pay "hefty fines" - specifically three years in jail and $80 million.

Looks like Chevron's not the only organization Correa's trying to shake down. He's doing it to some of his own people.

And for...what?

Referring to Correa as what he's acting like: a dictator.

In a searing column dated February 6, 2011, and entitled "NO to the lies," Emilio Palacio, Eluniverso's opinion editor, calls Correa "the dicator" rather than using his name, and writes (using Google Translate)...

I understand that the Dictator (devout Christian man of peace) does not lose an opportunity to pardon criminals. Pardoned drug mules, sympathized with the murderers prisoners in the Littoral, asked citizens to stop stealing for no victims, he cultivated a friendship with squatters and became legislators, to who betrayed him. But Ecuador is a secular state where not allowed to use faith as a legal basis to exempt the criminals pay their debts. If I committed a crime, I demand that you prove me otherwise, do not expect any judicial pardon but due apologies...

What happens is that the dictator finally understood (or their attorneys did understand) that it has no way to prove the alleged crime of September 30 and everything was the result of an improvised script, in the midst of this rushing to hide the irresponsibility of the dictator to go to get into a barracks revolt, to open his shirt and yelling kill him, like a true fighter cachacascán that strives to show in a circus tent of a forgotten town.

Emilio Palacio is referring to Correa's actions of last year and during the police uprising of last September 30th that challenged the President, who was hit by a gas canister, and eventually resulted in the death of three people. Correa, who came out, supposedly to restore order, ended up trying to take his shirt off, and allegedly yelling for the directors of the uprising to kill him where he stood. Hence the reference to "to open his shirt and yelling kill him, like a true fighter cachacascán that strives to show in a circus tent of a forgotten town," in Palacio's column.

Here's the BBC video report, showing Correa grabbing to rip off his shirt and tie, and saying, basically, "here I am, kill me":

It's that person, President Rafael Correa, which Ecuador's about to give sweeping powers of media control to.

God bless the United States Of America.

Stay tuned.

NFL Network Steve Mariucci On 2011 NFL Draft Quarterbacks

This blogger had the pleasure of interviewing former Cal and San Francisco 49ers, and Detroit Lions Head Coach, and now NFL Network Analyst Steve Mariucci at the NFL Play 60 event at the 2011 NFL Draft. This marks our third consecutive interview, and like the first two, very informative.

The focus of our conversation, held during the NFL Play 60 event in Chelsea Park in New York City, was the quarterback controversy that marked this year's NFL Annual Player Selection Meeting.

What does he think of the 2011 NFL Draft quarterback class? Best he's seen? "Well, we'll never know how good this class will be until they start playing." Coach Mariucci says that the advantage this group has, is there's no free agency. Meaning a team can't go out, as the Oakland Raiders did last year during the 2010 NFL Draft, and trade for a quarterback, like they did for Jason Campbell, who played for the Redskins at the time. In 2011, if they need a QB, they have to pick from the litter of the NFL Draft.

Steve was correct. Of the quarterbacks, Cam Newton, Christian Ponder, Jake Locker, Blaine Gabbert, Andy Dalton, and Colin Kaepernick all went in rounds one and two of the draft last week. And were it not for an arguably overblown concern for his character, Ryan Mallett would have been the seventh quarterback taken within that time frame, and not the third round, where the New England Patriots got him. Score it for Steve Mariucci.

Steve Mariucci vs. Chris Brown And Me

Chris Brown, the football coach and editor of the blog SmartFootball has a small feud with this blogger. He says it's easier and better to avoid moving around an offensive skill position player from, say, running back to wide receiver. I argue that such a view makes an offense inherently inflexible. Where side does Mariucci come down in this?

In the middle.

"I agree with you, to make the receiver play the tight end spot," he says. But where Steve goes away from my idea is when the receiver happens to be in, say, the halfback's position, and the defense brings a full blitz. Now, you have the person who plays receiver, trying to block a linebacker.

My response would be to have the receiver not block, but run a "hot route" - we lacked the time to get into more detail, but you see what I mean. I simply hold that it's better to think of a skill position player in as flexible rather than fixed, which allows for more ways to attack a defense.

Steve On Cam Newton

"Every year, the top quarterback in the draft, and he's one of them, he and Blaine Gabbert, arguably. The Tim Tebow intrigue. The Vince Young intrigue. The Matt Leinart (intrigue)...Hard to predict their future. The quarterback is harder to predict than the weather. If either one of those quarterbacks (Newton or Gabbert, and it was Newton) goes to Carolina, it's going to be tough sledding." And because of Carolina's rebuilding program.

Steve As Coach?

Will we ever see Mariucci as a coach on the sidelines? "Hopefully, the UnderArmour High School Football League."

Too funny.

Stay tuned.

Blaine Gabbert Jacksonville Jaguars 2011 NFL Draft Pick Interview

Blaine Gabbert's the number one pick of the Jacksonville Jaguars, and he could not be happier. When I finally met the former Missouri Quarterback, it was easy to tell he'd got the message that Cam Newton, and not he, would be the 1st pick of the 2011 NFL Draft. But he together with Aldon Smith, the defensive end drafted by the San Francisco 49ers, mark the first time in that school's history, two Missouri players were picked in the first round of The NFL Draft.

And, Gabbert, who's friend Christian Ponder calls "Sunshine," and who was drafted ahead of him and to the Minnesota Vikings, handled the whole deal very well. The best way to get Gabbert away from thinking about what bothers him? Talk about fishing. It puts a smile on his face: "I spend a lot of time out there. You just gotta do it."

He also enjoyed New York City during the NFL Draft, and said it was his first time. According to a photo from his own Twitter account, Gabbert had a great view in a corner room high over Manhattan in the New York W Hotel.

Gabbert also met EPIN College Football Reporter Erin Andrews, and took in a lot of meetings, from breakfast with Gatorade reps, to easting with "high level" New York City public officials (reads like the Mayor). In all, Gabbert had a great intro to the NFL.

Now, with the Jacksonville Jaguars, Gabbert goes into a system not unlike the one he played in at Missouri. The Jaguars used the spread about 40 percent of the time in 2010, even with the presence of star running back Maurice Jones-Drew. He's also paired with Mike Shula as his quarterbacks coach, who worked with current starter David Gerrard.

And now comes the controversy, all over again.

Gabbert now finds himself in the middle of another quarterback controversy, and not with Cam Newton, but one that strangely involves yet another black quarterback, Dave Gerrard. (You know Blaine's got to wonder what the deal is with this situation.)

This week, Maurice Jones-Drew was on Sirius Satellite Radio to talk about Blaine Gabbert, and said "David [Garrard] is still our quarterback, he's a great guy but we know Blaine is going to come in and fight hard for it and he's going to push David."

Then, former Oakland Raiders Quarterback Rick Gannon asked if Jones-Drew was surprised that the Jaguars would draft another quarterback. Maurice said "Well, I think once they saw him fall, he was, obviously, early on he was the number one player to come off the board and for him to fall to ten, I guess they wanted to get the best player available. Still, like I said before, David's our guy and he's always going to be our guy. I mean, since I've been there that's all I know and that's who I played with from the beginning. When I was a backup and he was the backup we played together, we have a bond. So I know David will fight through it. It's going to be tough at first. It's always tough when they draft at your position but David's a strong guy, strong minded. He'll be able to go out there, fight through it and we'll win games."

For for Jones-Drew, having a guy like Gabbert in their pushing Garrard is a good situation for them. But what Blaine has to do, is sit and learn, and fit in. That's the best way to handle his situation. Let's see how he does with it, but I think he will be fine.

Prince Amukamara Meets Tiki Barber - NY Giants At 2011 NFL Draft

Of all of the NFL Draftees at the 2011 NFL Draft, former Nebraska Cornerback Prince Amukamara has the least walking distance: he gets to remain in New York City because he was the first pick of The New York Football Giants. And Tiki Barber, Giants Running Back Legend, was there to welcome the Prince to NY Giants land.

Tiki, planning a comeback to the NFL, was there working for Yahoo! Sports, and, with this blogger, was able to speak with the new Giant. But I decided to turn the tables on Tiki and Prince, and ask the young player what it was like to talk to the legend before him. Prince was at his best "As you can see, I was startled and speechless with him holding the microphone to my lips. But, I mean, it's an honor. He's one of the best, and I hope I don't let him down."

Tiki praised Prince for his answers and poise, as evident when Prince said he "might live on the Jersey Shore" in response to Barbers question if Prince was going to live in New York City or outside New York City. (Tiki was advocating for living in New York City.)

In Prince, Giants fans are getting a guy who's "ready to work" and happy to be in the Big Apple. Indeed, by the time I officially met him, Mr. Amukamara had already attended several parties, and even forgot the name of ESPN College Football Reporter Erin Andrews.

And how's Tiki Barber's comeback going? Barbers says that his training is coming along and "is good. I'm back working hard. I'm back in the gym with my strength trainer. My power-lifting coach. He's killing me. But it's what you need." Tiki's listening to classic rock as he works out, "squatting a thousand pounds a day" he says.

As for his timetable, Barber expects to be on the field in two weeks. He says the lockout gives him a chance to get back in shape and not worry about the OTA's. He always enjoyed training camp, and is looking forward to being with the NFL team that gives him a chance.

Regardless of what you think about Tiki Barber, and this blogger's rooting for him to succeed, watching him "reinvent" himself is fun.

Now, let's see if he can take a hit from Prince Amukamara.

AJ Green, WR - Cincinnati Bengals 2011 NFL Draft Pick Likes The Slant

Alabama and Georgia featured two of the best wide receivers in the South, and now they were both top picks in the 2011 NFL Draft: Julio Jones of the Atlanta Falcons and A.J. Green of the Cincinnati Bengals.

On the plane up to the NFL Draft, a man I was sitting next to was really upset Green left Georgia, skipping his senior year for the NFL. But Green's stock is so high, he had to do it. Plus, he's in a position to contribute to the Bengals Wide Receiving Group, and possibly even replace Number 85 Chad Ochocinco.

Indeed, where Chad has been blasted over the middle by the New York Jets, who then said he didn't want to get hit over the middle, A.J. Green, in an interview at the NFL Draft, says his favorite pattern to run is, get this, the Slant and is not afraid of getting hit, saying "You just go in there. You gonna get hit, regardless. You can't have that at the back of your mind."

And to clarify, as the video shows, we weren't talking about Chad at the time; A.J. Green was talking strictly about his favorite pattern to run, and I asked him about dealing with the safety closing in to make the hit.

A.J. Green will be as much an asset to the Bengals as Jones will be for the Falcons. And from the looks of the latest news, Chad's not leaving the Bengals any time soon.

Von Miller, LB - Denver Broncos 2011 NFL Draft Pick Interview

Von Miller, The Denver Broncos 2011 NFL Draft Pick at linebacker, looks more like a professor than a football player. So if Von Miller does live up to his lofty potential, his nickname should be "Dr. Linebacker."

After he was selected as the second pick in the 2011 NFL Draft First Round, Miller said he was so busy, he'd felt like "a machine." But Miller, the 6-1, 243-pound standout defender from Texas A&M, played like a hitting machine in college, so it's not surprising to here that coming from him.

While some, like Clark Judge at CBS Sports, have said there's no obvious "best pick" from this year's NFL Draft, others would counter that Miller is the exception to that rule. He was never once placed out of the top five or ten in anyone's draft list, and now he's the second pick in the draft.

Miller's looking forward to the "honor" of working with Broncos Linebacker Elvis Duberville, and being a Denver Bronco, even though he was at Dallas Cowboys fan. He says he's a team player who will do everything it takes to win.

To Oakland Raiders fans, who have to see Miller twice each NFL season, he says "I'm sorry."

Clark Judge Of CBS Sports Gives View Of The 2011 NFL Draft

Clark Judge has covered the NFL Draft for CBS Sports as an NFL Columnist since 1982, and so has a reasoned, seasoned view of the 2011 NFL Draft. We talked about the draft at the NFL Play 60 event in Chelsea Park last week, where Judge offered that it, contrary to this blogger's assertions, was not the most contentious of all recent drafts - the 2005 Draft was.

"It's one of them, certainly, but I remember back in 2005," he said. "Reminds me a little of the 2005 Draft. San Francisco had it (the first pick in the first round), nobody wanted it. So they wanted to trade out of there - couldn't. So they ended up drafting for need, took a quarterback - Aaron Rogers or Alex Smith, they took Alex Smith."

"In this draft, you go 'Is Cam Newton the best quarterback out there?' I don't know. Maybe? But no one knows. Is he the best player? Probably not. I think Patrick Peterson's probably the best player in the draft. Everyone's got a hole in them, and Patrick Peterson, after three or four year, might be a safety, not a cornerback. So, it's a draft that's got a lot of talent, but not one consensus guy like Ndamukong Suh was last year. I remember, a few years ago, (2008), Calvin Johnson (Detroit Wide Receiver) was the consensus guy. You don't hear that this year."

For Clark's views on the NFL Draft and the NFL, click here: CBS Clark.

I noticed he's soured on Cam Newton's chances, but I think Newton, especially with all the crap thrown at him from the mainstream media, is going to perform extremely well.   Regardless, that, the debates, is what makes NFL Draft Prospect watching fun.

J J Watt - Houston Texans 2011 NFL Draft Pick Interview

Today's the official start of the NFL Draft recap period, as it was partially held-up by the announcement of the end of Osama Bin Laden, starting with President Obama's address on Sunday. Now, we can get back to the issue of the NFL and the NFL Draft, with a focus on the interview of J.J. Watt, the former junior Wisconsin Defensive End (he skipped completing his senior year), who selected for the same role by the Houston Texans.

Watt, one of the highest rated defensive ends along with Aldon Smith (49ers), Ryan Kerrigan (Redskins), and Cameron Jordan (Saints), understands that his job is to come in and contribute right away. As was the case when the Texans picked Mario Williams number one in 2006, and over Reggie Bush, the job is still to get Indianapolis Colts Quarterback Peyton Manning. "I'm extremely excited," he said. "Anytime you get to work with Mario Williams. He's a guy who makes everyone better around him."

Watt is friends with former Missouri Quarterback Blaine Gabbert (Jacksonville) and former Florida State Quarterback Christian Ponder (Minnesota Vikings), and connect frequently via Twitter, but Watt says their fishing trips, and plans to hit the Florida Keys to take advantage of an excursion they won will have to be placed on hold, because it's time to go to work.

Updates report that Watt received what's called a "preliminary playbook" from the Texans, part of an effort to make sure Watt's able to prepare for the NFL while the NFL Lockout is active. The 6-6, 292-pounder also went over the "basics" of the Texans Defense with coaches last week.