Sami Al-Arrant

For a guy who won’t talk to his hometown newspaper, Sami Al-Arian gets more coverage in the Tampa Tribune these days than Bob Buckhorn, Ronda Storms and Luke Lirot. Sami, the poster boy for guilt-by-terrorist-association and misunderstood rhetoric and erstwhile punching bag of Bill O’Reilly, is, along with Mrs. A-A, a regular ranter in the Trib’s letters to the editor and guest columns. They may not like their coverage by the Trib — indeed, Sami terms it “fascist” — but they should have no complaints about the availability of a forum.

Curious juxtaposition last Monday (Dec. 10), though, between the Trib and the St.Petersburg Times.

The Trib did a page one, top of the fold, Metro piece — with color photo — on Al-Arian’s speech in Largo at an Amnesty International event. The Trib quoted extensively from his presentation that excoriated the Israeli government for its “terrorist” policies and reproved U.S. Attorney General “J. Edgar Ashcroft” for his heavy-handed approach to Arab-Americans and Muslims. Etc. Etc.

Interestingly enough, sibling TV station WFLA, Channel 8 also covered it and did a lengthy piece on Al-Arian’s speech the night before.

As for the Times, it didn’t cover it, although it ran a wire piece with file photo on page three of City & State the following day.

Could it be that predictable Palestinian polemics from Al-Arian are, well, less newsworthy to the Times than to the newspaper Sami won’t talk to?

Not necessarily.

“We either missed it or ignored it and then thought better about it the next day,” said Neville Green, the Times’ managing editor/Tampa.

Handling Heisman hype
Much of the annual media controversy over the Heisman Trophy can be easily reduced. Just change the eligibility criteria.

Being awarded to “The Outstanding College Football Player of the United States” is beyond broad. It invites controversy over offense and defense and hyped statistics piled up by non 1-A players. It also allows periodic bias toward underclassmen.

Here’s the new standard: “The best upper-classman/student athlete playing offense at the 1-A level.”

It means that the Heisman can truly represent the best in big-time college football, a sport too often beholden to commercial interests and double standards for impact athletes. It would officially encourage gifted players to continue through to their junior and senior years and attain something other than a degree of fame and/or fortune. It would preclude bogus students and criminals from being eligible.

By the way, Nebraska’s Eric Crouch was a wonderful choice. He may not be a great pro, but so what?

Drink to that?
Amid all the reaction and over-reaction to more restrictive laws during a national emergency, there’s a tendency in some quarters to hunt for laws that may actually be eased. The Tampa Tribune found some, which could be “eased in the name of logic and liberty.”

The Trib, in a recent editorial, zeroed in on business regulations that only a bureaucrat could love and the federal tax code that gives byzantine a bad name. Here, here.

But what’s with easing off the legal drinking age of 21? Just because it used to be 18, which matches the dubious legal age for voting, is not rationale enough. If you can’t handle the responsibility to vote, then you don’t, which is the case with most 18-21 year olds. Or you vote the way your parents or social studies teachers suggest. Democracy survives and you learn as you go.

But if you can’t handle liquor responsibly at 18, the consequences can be horrific and tragic. Especially on the road. That’s why the age limit was raised from 18 to 21 in the first place. Moreover, when the legal drinking age is lowered to 18, the ages of those trying to pass for 18 is commensurately lowered. Logic — and human nature — should tell us that.

A legal drinking age of 21 is obviously not a panacea for eliminating teen-aged drinking. A societal sanctioning of 18, however, is an invitation. To disaster.

No one should want to drink to that.

Vested interest
Product placement is nothing new to American movie fans. The pricey practice has even given rise to ethical questions, such as those involving tobacco products. But it’s perfectly legal, of course, and can be an effective way to promote a product in a high-profile, even positive, context.

Which brings us to The Protective Group, an American manufacturer of military and law-enforcement equipment that includes protective vests. The kind Osama bin Laden fancies.

Sure enough, one was on display in the infamous “Bin Laden, Done That” video the world has been watching. No mistaking the care-and-use label on the olive drab number featured in the video.

What to do? Two things.

First, express patriotic outrage.

“I am horrified that our enemies are using our products,” said Melvyn Miller, CEO of The Protective Group.

Second, make the best of it.

“On the other hand, I understand,” noted Miller. “If I had a $25-million bounty on my head, I would try to obtain the best protective product possible and get it between me and my enemies.”

Not exactly a textbook testimonial, but at least there’s no placement fee.

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