Phil Caldwell

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Is Bleacher Report Losing It’s Cutting-Edge Freshness and Going Corporate?

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I may end up getting myself cast off Bleacher Report for good with this rant, but what the heck.  Taking risks are what makes life exciting!

As a writer for Bleacher/Report,

Bleacher Report is one of the great stories of the “new journalism” era.   It is a place where young writers trying to get started, can advance up the writer chain with a “points system.”   It’s great.

It’s also a place where some of us older guys finally have the freedom to cut loose and write what we really feel.  There’s none of the business politics holding us back that is so rampant and routine at every single newspaper in the country. B/R is a young company started by young guys, most of whom don’t even know about the battles common, where writers have daily punching bouts with their editors.

Sadly things are changing at Bleacher Report, but it was bound to happen.  It cannot be avoided.

A couple weeks ago I wrote a totally sarcastic and absolutely hilarious (<–note witty sarcasm) article about the Texas Longhorns.  Now I’m not a Longhorn-hater particularly, but I found it interesting how Texas just may find themselves on the outside looking in when all these new NCAA football leagues are finalized.  Nobody wants Texas in their conference, because of the reputation they enjoy as being fiscal bullies with special rules.  I wrote a nice long, sorta fast-moving piece about that very subject.

Well after about 2500 reads in a couple days, an Oklahoma fan got all offended.  He said it was because I was hostile to women in the piece because of a quip (I said something like Sooner women have leather skin and tend to lose the razor in places where we’d prefer they keep using it).  Something like that.  Totally me horsing around like I do when I write.

Well the article got pulled.  And although the reason given was that the B/R staff (who will remain nameless) felt the content was “trollish,”  because I was flipping too much crap at Texas and Oklahoma fans. I felt it was because this guy didn’t like me making wise cracks about his favorite team.   In other words, I was giving them too hard a time with my article, and we can’t have that. We can’t offend these very important people of higher-ups at institutions.   We can’t have guys taking shots at other football programs just for fun.  Especially when it’s at the Oklahoma Sooners (all stand up and salute please).  You can’t take cheap shots at the Oklahoma Sooners you idiot.  Do you know how many big bucks are there are down in the flat-lands of Oklahoma?!?  Ever hear of oil wells?!?

Which is interesting, because what attracted all of us veteran writers to Bleacher Report in the first place, was the fact that here was a new website that was sorta “Wild-Wild-West.” Unlike crusty old newspaper editors, here you could write anything, and you didn’t really have to worry about your editor pulling the piece, because you took cheap shots at a sacred football institution that just happens to have a whole bunch of wealthy alumni, some of whom provided start-up funds for your site.

That’s precisely what was so attractive about Bleacher Report!  Fans could be fans.  Fans could bait the other team’s fans, raging debates would break out, insults would fly, and it was one big tailgating party in print.  A hootenanny of epic proportions.  But we’re all having harmless fun here so what’s the big deal??  College football teams.  We don’t know these guys other than their names.  Why NOT take cheap shots?!  This is where cheap shots live and breathe.  College football forums by college football fans.

See that was what was so cool about Bleacher Report, and the concept of the site.  That’s what got B/R the hits in the first place.  B/R was doing this sports thing from a new young angle, that hadn’t been seen in the more traditional media.  And guys like me, who have long-since gotten over the notoriety of seeing our names in print, could sorta air it out here, like we can’t everywhere else.  But that’s what made Bleacher Report so unique.

Now it appears, Bleacher Report is maturing (unlike me), and we’re now seeing a bit more hesitance to allow classless boobs to write wise cracks.  They’d like to see this more traditional.  Lose the T-shirts, let’s go back to the white shirts and ties and sell life insurance.  This isn’t the Boston Red Sox, this is the NY Yankees.  Corporate-style media, so now it’s time to stifle these undisciplined punks, and let’s get this group of renegades house-broken and back to the confines of semi-boring reading material without jokes.

Now I totally understand why Bleacher Report feels the need to tighten up the writing standards (ie: more profits from more exposure, which you can’t do if you’re taking cheap shots at the Texas Longhorns).

But I would argue you’re also killing the freshness and the attraction that led many of your readers to the site in the first place.  Fans like to argue and pop off about their teams.  But now suddenly we can’t write certain things about certain teams?  Really?!

Let’s go back to my Texas example again.  Do I hate Texas?  Well no, I didn’t.  But now that my article got pulled because some of my funnies got Texas alumni sideways ….. well let’s just say cheap shots may have to find their way back to the between-the-lines method, like we’ve done for years in the traditional print media.  You can still get your shots in, but it’s not like the NY Media anymore.  Nope, now it’s like the Duluth, Minnesota media, where everything is polite and politically correct and unoffensive.

Me quipping to the B/R staff during this exchange “Well it looks like the Big12 isn’t the only place where Texas gets special rules.” probably didn’t earn me an invite to the B/R Christmas Party at the end of the year, either.

“Hey you punk!  You can’t say Texas is like an uninvited guest showing up with a plastic blond on his arm while everybody else rolls their eyes!!  This is Texas!!  The Texas Longhorns!!  Everybody LOVES the Texas Longhorns!!  And if they don’t, we’ll have them censored so fast it will make the critic’s keyboard melt!”

My point is that yes, I admit it, some of my stuff can be crass and tends to tease certain groups of fans.  But that’s why we read Bleacher Report.  It was different than all the other boring CBS.comand FOX.com stuff.  That’s precisely what made it so attractive to your readers, and yet now it appears the goal is to kill that freedom and go back to stuffy frowning editors refusing to let us write witty and cheap-shot rhetoric.

Now what fun is that??!

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Nike, Phil Knight and the University of Oregon: Should the Ducks Be Doing It?

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EUGENE, OR - JANUARY 13:  Nike founder Phil Knight speaks to the crowd  before the Oregon Ducks versus the USC Trojans game at the grand opening of the Matthew Knight Arena on January 13, 2011 at Matthew Knight Arena in Eugene, Oregon.  (Photo by Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images)Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images

Well over a decade ago, on May 12, 1998, facing growing outcry and pressure from human right’s groups across the nation, Phil Knight—Nike’s CEO and current funding father of all things Oregon Ducks—spoke at the National Press Club in Washington, DC and made 12 promises to reform the business practices at Nike.

Today Knight claims these practices are all ancient history.  Many others, however, beg to differ.

There are literally hundreds of groups critical of Nike that insist Knight’s claims of reform are nothing but a huge dupe.

They claim that Nike hasn’t done much at all to change practices of ordering products from manufactures with long histories of worker abuse.  That it’s still going on, Nike has changed very little, and all these pretty uniforms and new stadiums at the University of Oregon have been funded by corrupt and in some cases, a form of blood money.

Meanwhile last month, reports broke about Oregon using agents and trainers to help sway new recruits to the Duck program.  The last thing Phil Knight and Nike need is a feisty NCAA rule committee sticking their nose into private business practices.

Defenders of Oregon insist the rumors are wide-spread throughout many college programs in the country, and thus the charges are inflated.  Shrugs and apathy have been the norm from the faithful in Eugene.

108032030_crop_340x234Steve Dykes/Getty Images

However, with the NCAA now pointing their little radars at what’s going on “deep in the woods,” even the most apologetic Knight supporters have concern meter needles fluttering to and fro—especially now that the hapless Duck program is finally winning some actual football games.

And with the basketball team threatening to do the same, suddenly the university’s relationship with Phil Knight is growing in national significance—especially with goofy uniforms that could blind rodents recently on the BCS stage, all produced by corporate giant Nike.  One big four-hour long apparel commercial using college students as unpaid models.

Yet the question still remains.  Did Nike reform it’s business practices or merely shuffle them under the rug for the past decade?

Last month Oregon unveiled a new basketball arena with “state of the art” everything.  At the opening ceremonies was a strutting Phil Knight in a rock concert setting—bursting flames and dancing cheerleaders in halters, celebrating the new basketball palace.

During his speech, in a darkened arena using a new cool light system that made that dopey “O” thing glow like socks at a football game, Knight pointed out that the arena had been dedicated to his recently-departed son.  Today Oregon fans are sensitive about this, especially when would-be cheap shot artists like me question this cozy relationship.

But the questions are still there, unanswered.

108030778_crop_340x234Steve Dykes/Getty Images

Exactly how did Mr Knight earn all these dollars?

It’s just wonderful that he’s donating funds to universities, but what has Nike been doing under the radar?

For two decades now, we’ve been hearing rumors about eight-year-olds working long hours with no time off, suffering physical injuries, all while producing sneakers and head bands, at far less cost than could be done in the United States.

Our country forces companies to pay minimum wages, and grants rights to workers not seen in third world countries. Thus the question becomes “Why is Phil Knight so reluctant to build factories in his own country, where manufacturing practices are regulated, if he indeed has reformed these practices?”

If everything is on the up and up, and if workers are being treated abroad like they would be at home, why does Nike consistently write short-term contracts abroad?

Michael Moore, the windbag producer of such comical documentaries as Fahrenheit 911, where creative editing made a former President look like a bumbling vacationing fool, is also critical of Phil Knight.

For the record, I’m not a huge Michael Moore fan.  Mr. Moore does things with his films that are downright immoral themselves, in my opinion, thus his editing practices do not bode well for some of his arguments.  Furthermore, I’m very suspicious of anyone who decries capitalism while owning a gaggle of pompous mansions scattered across the globe.

But even a Moore-skeptic like me looks at these interviews with Phil Knight with raised eyebrows!  There are some issues here that are not being addressed, which appear greater than how many college football or basketball games the University of Oregon wins.

Such as why Phil Knight refuses to allow Michael Moore to film the inside workings of one of his off-shore manufacturing facilities?  What are we hiding here?

Like most universities, Oregon prides itself on being concerned with the environment and issues that all of us should be concerned about.  Issues about our fellow man, the quality of life for others, and concern for the innocent in lands far away, where children walk shoeless through filth and muck.

None of these are necessarily liberal vs. conservative arguments, nor even religious vs. secular concerns—they are issues that focus on common decency.

So what are we to make of this conversation between Phil Knight and flabby Michael Moore in the documentary?  A small piece of that conversation:

Michael Moore: But you’re in charge, you’re the boss-

Phil Knight: Yeah, I’m in charge of it, basically

Michael Moore: Just tell ’em, no one under 16, just like our shoe factories. Just tell em. You’re Phil Knight.

Phil Knight: Well, actually, I think that over, within a fairly short period of time you’ll see some of that, but it won’t happen, it won’t happen over the next six months probably.

Michael Moore: But you’re committed.

Phil Knight: No, no, we want good labor practices in all these countries. We try to be the best citizen we can be.

Michael Moore: So you’re telling me now that you’re committed to not having people work in your factories under the age of 16?

Phil Knight: That’s true in the shoe factories in Indonesia…

Dusty Kidd: (Nike’s labor relations chief) We are one of 20 or 30 customers in our apparel factories, so we can’t dictate to them nearly to the extent-

Michael Moore: Is it safe to say that’s your goal? Is it safe to say that’s your goal-to not have people-

Phil Knight: We can impose that and will do that in those apparel factories that we basically have the dominant position in. But we can’t do that when we’re just a minor buyer.

108031648_crop_340x234Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images

Michael Moore: But, anything that you control, you’re going to, you’re goal-

Phil Knight: In Indonesia, in Indonesia, we’re moving towards age 16.

For me, football fan or not, that conversation bothers me.

But no more than do these other allegations made in a paper written by Bette Jean Bullert of Seattle University.  In her paper, Bullert alleges the following:

“Between 1989 and 1995, only 21 news articles appeared in the U.S. press linking Nike to strikes in Indonesia, but 1996 was a pivotal year in the anti-sweatshop campaign. Seven years of survey research, international studies on globalization and human rights and organizing by NGOs came to fruition. But it took a celebrity and a fired Nike worker to put a human face on the sweatshop issue and escalate the conflict in the mainstream American media…

“…Knight was silent on the issues of wages and the length of the work day. Nike contracted with a factory in China whose employees said they worked 11 and 12 hour days with only two days off a month, and earned 16 cents to 19 cents an hour with no overtime. The anti-Nike campaign has responded by expanding its data collection in China and continuing to monitor conditions in other factories.

“…At the same conference, the United Students Against Sweatshops (USAS) and other student organizations launched the Workers Rights Consortium (WRC), a coalition with labor unions and human rights groups. In the three weeks since its founding, 45 universities have signed on with the commitment to be sure items that carry the university logos are not made in sweatshops. Phil Knight has withdrawn a $30 million commitment to his alma mater, the University of Oregon in Eugene, because the university has joined the WRC.”

So here’s my question, Oregon Duck fans:  If it turns out that Phil Knight indeed has earned his billions, either today or in the past, by exploiting workers in other nations deliberately and callously…is the University of Oregon still willing to accept his multi-million dollar donations?Will you Duck fans still support this?

Should Stanford University accept money from Phil Knight, if it is proven that Nike’s off-shore operations are at odds with the most minimum standards in first world nations?

 

***

If controversy remains about Nike manufacturing practices, should the University of Oregon accept donations from Phil Knight?

  • Yes

    74.4%
  • No

    25.6%

Total votes: 387

***

 

 

Sources for the above, plus more about the Nike controversy, are at the below links:  

 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xVuScVCF1Ws

http://www.teamsweat.org/

http://www.dogeatdogfilms.com/mikenike.html

http://www.oxfam.org.au/explore/workers-rights/nike

http://ccce.com.washington.edu/news/assets/conference_papers/bullert.pdf

http://www.globalexchange.org/campaigns/sweatshops/nike/stillwaiting.html

http://business.nmsu.edu/~dboje/nikeworkers.html

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/jim-keady/why-is-nike-afraid-of-dis_b_458936.html

Written by PhilCaldwell

March 11, 2011 at 11:00 am

Victory Lap or Huge Humiliating Defeat?

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I’m still enjoying this latest grumbling by our pals in WaDC.
President Obama groused this morning that pulling the troops from Iraq is “not a victory lap.”  And he’s right.  It certainly is not a victory lap for Democrats, because Democrats are looking like they were wrong about whether a Democracy could work in Iraq or not.
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Perhaps I’m biased on this due to my education and upbringing, but I was with President Bush on this decision from the start.  Contrary to all the political rhetoric from the left, this Iraq venture was what I would deem a “learned lesson from history.”   Like me, Bush was a history guy too, and we history guys apparently look at things differently than the rest of the world  does.   We learned, or should have learned, from wars our fathers and grandfathers fought,  that leaving bad guys in power with the potential to gain more power is not a wise thing to do.  Because …….. history has taught us (the hard way) that they will likely do more evil in the future.
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You remember back in 2003 thru 2006 when it seemed Democrats were rooting for defeat?  Harry Reid declared “we are a defeated nation.”  Polosi said exactly the opposite of her previous on-the-record rhetoric during the Clinton years, where she argued that Saddam was a threat and needed to be stopped.   Howard Dean too, seemed to go through a metamorphosis once he say it was politically savvy to do so.
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Then when all these prophecies failed to materialize,  and it looked like Bush had acted wisely as Iraq settled down, Democrats were furious and did everything they could to stop the success.  Including printing military secrets in the NY Times that might have brought sedition charges had hey done this 60 years earlier.
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Obama the candidate promised to pull the troops within 18 months.  And he wasn’t saying “combat troops” when he made that promise, he was saying “troops.”
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Let me speculate on what is going on: (I can do that right, since that’s what all of you have been doing about Bush’s motives for the past eight years while insisting your speculation is hard fact?). Likely what happened is that young and enthusiastic rookie idealistic Pres Obama went to the Joint Chiefs and said something like “Hey fellas, we’re going to pull all the troops and send them home!  Isn’t that wonderful! ”  At which the grumpy and crotchety joint chiefs said  “Uh …… well no son …… no we’re not going to do that.   We just built a shiny new $4 billion base here in this lovely country which we intend to both staff and run for decades.  Now go home and take that skateboard with you!”   Humiliated, overridden, scolded, young pres Obama then came up with this creative “combat troops” nonsense designed to dupe the really stupid and/or gullible.
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Bottom line: There’s still 50,000 troops in Iraq. There will be thousands of troops in Iraq for years to come, just like there is in Korea and Japan and Germany.  Hence Obama actually did NOT keep his promise because his problem was unrealistic.  The threat in the Middle East is real, peace is not going to be the result of a nation that flees, the troops are stationed in Iraq to keep the peace, and no troops means no peace.  Wiser minds prevailed, he is showing wisdom by listening to those wiser minds, and here we are.
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Just like Bush did, I might add.

Written by PhilCaldwell

August 31, 2010 at 1:58 pm

Timeline from Obama’s Seattle Visit

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Just reviewing the time frame & accomplishments made during yesterday’s Obama “Boom-Boom” campaign swing:

11:15am – Obama arrives midst adoring press corps & swooning teenaged groupies.

11:30am – Surgeons rushed to Boeing Field to help remove Christine Gregoire’s lip marks off Presidential hind quarters

11:32am – Obama Secret Service personnel perform immediate CPR on tennis-shoed Senator Murray attempting to resuscitate a personality

12pm – while munching on lunch goodies at the Tutta Bella pizza chain, Obama pledges $118.4 million to study expenditures of campaign tours charged to American taxpayers as Presidential visits.

12:18pm – Obama pledges $14.6 million towards study of Pioneer Square bodily odors.

12:36pm – Obama turns swimming pool water at the Westin Hotel into fine Roman vintage Domaine Romanée-Conti wine.

1:16pm – Presidential motorcade ticketed from four separate stoplight photo cameras

1:46pm – Obama scolds Tea Party protestors for being “out-of-touch” with American concerns

1:49pm – Obama reminds fans that grannies are in-fact a “right wing special interest group”

1:58pm – Obama grants $18.4 million to study the affects of botox injections in Nancy Polosi’s facial features

2:22pm – Blushed & sweating, Obama giggles that he cannot accept the SeattlePI’s Joel Connelly’s offer to carry and birth his next three children

2:32pm – An eery Obama-lookalike cloud formation floats mysterily over St Mark’s Cathedral, patrons fall to their knees

2:50pm – Congressman Jim McDermott raced to Harborview after suffering terrible infection while having Obama’s portrait tattooed across his privates.

3:15pm – Obama pledges $28.6 billion to eradicate dirty needles from tattoo parlors

3:32pm – Obama condemns Republicans for pushing tax cuts; Sternly lectures how America cannot afford this midst these troubling times of reduced revenue

3:33pm – Obama pledges $319.6 million to study reduced revenues.

3:52pm – Waterfront Teguilla shots for all paying $10,000 per plate while condemning Republican waste and arrogance

4:36pm – A scantily clad Patty Murray performs erotic belly dance on the patio of Ron Glaser

4:37pm – Visibly distraught President tramples 17 secret servicemen in a mad dash for his SUV hybrid.

4:45pm – Presidential motorcade rushes from the Medina neighborhood back towards his motorcade, Boeing Field.

5pm – while climbing the staircase to the new shiny Presidential private jet, Obama pledges $326 million towards eradicating wrinkles from former Attorney Generals.

5:07pm – Obama pledges $28.5 billion to support for Al Gore’s “carbon footprint” initiative – criticizes business CEO’s for wasteful spending habits

5:15pm – Obama and his jet burn $28,000 in fuel taking off from Boeing Field.

Written by PhilCaldwell

August 18, 2010 at 8:22 am

Obama vs Bush Spending

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Could one of you, who are so very upset about our ex-Pres’s spending habits, please explain something?

On one hand you rant and rave about the spending that happened during the George W. Bush years.  For example, the bailout bill passed during his last few months on September 19, 2008.    On this you seem to want to assign all benefits to Obama.  But then at the same time you consistently try to tag the expenditures to Bush.

If you wish to tag the benefits to Obama, fine, but then Obama also tagged for the spending.

Democrats, with a supermajority, did not oppose or amend the first “Bush” bailout bill in either house, which they could have done.  So you really cannot blame the first bill’s spending on Bush when the majority of the funds got/get released during the Obama administration.   Thus your argument that “this spending happened under Bush’s watch” is just plain silly since Democrats both had then, and have now, the power to override previous bills passed.  Especially when money from that bill has not been released.

Written by PhilCaldwell

July 11, 2010 at 10:16 pm

Posted in Politics