Friday, May 12, 2006

Randomization, 05/12/06

Good night, Colorado. The Avalanche proved to have no answer for Anaheim's speed, and they were eliminated last night after a 4-1 loss in Game 4. Give credit to the Ducks, who never relented, despite a couple hairy moments in Denver. The Avs gave Anaheim everything they had, especially early, in Game 4, but when the first period ended in a 1-1 tie, it was pretty much over.

Good night, Kerry Fraser...I hope. Fraser, a veteran NHL referee, was assigned to work last night's Ottawa-Buffalo game. He couldn't have done a worse job if he had done the game with his back turned to the action. Fraser reverted to past NHL referee form, refusing to give Buffalo a two-man advantage despite numerous rather obvious attempts by Ottawa to set up said five-on-threes. Fraser ignored cross-checks and trips on Maxim Afinogenov in the third period, preferring instead to nail Derek Roy for a dubious, at best, tripping penalty, and for an inexplicable diving penalty on a knee-to-knee hit later in the third period.

Meanwhile, the Senators apparently decided to turn into the New Jersey Devils circa 1995, clutching and grabbing their way through the last ten minutes. Fraser and referee Eric Furlatt are guilty of ignoring much of the clutter that the NHL wants called. If Fraser is allowed to work another game without a reprimand from officiating supervisor Steven Walkom, then the NHL's edict toward officials will ring hollow. They've done a great job so far of trying to be consistent, even going so far as to call penalties in overtime that don't involve blood flowing (!), and Fraser took them a step in the wrong direction in Buffalo last night. He's a veteran referee who has called some big games over the course of his career, but if Fraser has had a flaw in the last five years or so, it's been his tendency to let too much go, under the ridiculous guise that "the players should decide the game, not the officials".

Penalties are penalties, and when an officials lets penalties go because he doesn't want to decide the outcome of the game, that's exactly what he is doing. Let's hope that last night isn't the start of a trend.

New deal for Driver. In what has to be considered a slap to former Packer Javon Walker, wideout Donald Driver has apparently agreed to a four-year contract extension with Green Bay. While Walker whined this week about GM Ted Thompson driving him out of Green Bay by saying "No" when Walker asked for a new contract, Driver handled his situation perfectly. He asked for a renegotiation with two years left on his current deal. The Packers responded, apparently, with at least a "We'll see". When Walker made his demands even clearer publicly before the NFL Draft, reports surfaced that Driver was also displeased and wanted out because the Packers wouldn't re-do his deal. Driver almost immediately denied those reports, acknowledging that he wanted a new deal, but making it clear that he had no intention of holding out or demanding a trade as a means of getting what he wanted.

So what happens after Walker was traded? Driver gets a two-year extension, making his deal for four years and $17 million. While it probably wasn't a good thing to have Walker make his distaste so public, Thompson has done a good job of showing both fans and players that he will reward loyalty and hard work with contract extensions and new money on deals. Meanwhile, Walker is probably somewhat upset that Thompson rewarded Driver and not him. Someday, Walker might understand why Thompson did it, since Walker is about as loyal as a prostitute, and the team was never happy with Walker's handling of his contract situation last offseason, even though Walker had the good sense to report to training camp on time when it was clear he had no leverage. Simply put, Walker was a moron, and Driver was smart. The results are completely justified and not a surprise in the least.

Quick non-sports thought. The big uproar in the States yesteday was the story in USA Today that chronicled a program being run by the National Security Agency to log the telephone numbers being called around the country. The massive project includes a database of phone records of tens of millions of Americans, with cooperation from companies like Verizon, BellSouth, and AT&T (at least one major company, Qwest, did not cooperate). The administration is apparently not listening to these calls, only logging the numbers being called to look for potential patterns that could lead to terror cells within the United States.

My feelings are increasingly mixed.

On one hand, it's obvious to me that stopping terrorism has to be a high priority. And I expect that "taking my shoes off at the airport" won't be the most significant sacrifice I will have to make in this regard. I fully support the government's attempts to collect intelligence on our enemies, as long as those enemies are suspected international terrorists and not Iraqis that we've made mad (I believe wholeheartedly in the War on Terror, and I do not believe that our invasion of Iraq was a necessary part of that war). And I have nothing to hide.

On the other hand, I'm starting to get increased feelings of disdain towards this project, because there are issues with the privacy of tens of millions of innocent people in this country. And where are these phone companies? Why are they not protecting the privacy of their customers? Qwest had the good sense to tell the government to get lost, because they apparently had issues about the nature of the NSA's program and the lack of judicial oversight. But I'm very curious as to why these companies didn't have any sense of obligation to protect their customers' privacy. Somehow, "The government asked us really nice" isn't working for me as an excuse.

We'll see where this goes. I'd like to get some clearer answers from the government about what they're doing and why they are doing it, what the exact scope of this project is, whether anything meaningful has come of it to this point, why the phone companies lined up to give up their customers' private information, and what the legal answers are here. Obviously, if the government has done something illegal, we are going to have issues, but if what they did was well-structured and within the law, I'm not sure I'm going to have a problem with it.

Right now, it doesn't strike me as a huge deal. But if word gets out that the feds were secretly wiretapping domestic phone calls (which they said they weren't going to do), or if this leads to other cover-ups of secret projects, there could be a huge controversy. For now, I'm willing to back off and let the story develop. I know the Democrats are going to hate the idea, and the Republicans are going to support it. That alone is strange, because the Republicans used to be the people who were against this kind of government involvement in people's private lives. It's amazing how these stances change when your party gains power in Washington and lets it poison their minds we get into a wartime situation.


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