Tag Archives: middle-east

Mistakes are Always Forgivable, if One Has the Courage to Admit Them

Earlier this summer, I wrote a post about the 2022 World Cup. Qatar was awarded the 2022 World Cup in December of 2010 at a meeting in Zürich. Usually, facts like the time of year and the place a decision happened are inconsequential. However, from what we know about decision-making, it’s possible that these small factors may have contributed to a country in the Middle East being awarded an event that takes place in the summer.

A couple of days ago, the FIFA President, Sepp Blatter, admitted that they ‘may [have] made a mistake at the time.’

While it would have been easier had FIFA not make this mistake 3 years ago, I’m glad that they’ve admitted to it now. It gives them lots of time to try to come to some agreement with some of the soccer leagues who aren’t receptive to the idea of interrupting their season. If you’re not familiar with soccer, the Premier League‘s season takes place in the winter months (the Northern hemisphere’s winter months, I should say). The World Cup usually takes place in the summer (again, Northern hemisphere’s summer months), so that the Premier League’s season can finish. As I discussed in my post in July, there are all sorts of contracts that the Premier League will probably be hard-pressed to try and break. Of course, with the force of FIFA behind it, one would assume that there could be some deal arranged to work this out.

The bit I want to highlight from this piece of news is that the leader (and the organization), didn’t remain steadfast in their wrongness. FIFA could have very well went on believing that playing soccer in 122° weather wouldn’t have that much of an effect on the quality of the competition. They could have continued to look for opinions/facts that confirmed their belief in their rightness.

Let this news be an example to you and your organization: mistakes can be forgivable, so long as you admit to them. If there’s no admission of error, then there’s little room or time for correcting.

Note: The title of this post is a quote from Bruce Lee.

Does the Middle East Today Look Like Europe Before WWI?

I recently saw a tweet that was rather intriguing:

If you care about international relations, this probably was rather intriguing to you, too. The part that got me interested was the comparison between what Europe looked like before WWI and what the Middle East looks like today. There’s been plenty written about the Middle East with things happening in Syria, Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, etc. So, I thought this post from Foreign Policy would make some interesting parallels between what Europe looked like then and what the Middle East looks like now.

Sadly, this wasn’t the case. It seemed that this brief article was more about what the strategy should be for the US in the region. While that’s probably important, I was more interested in looking at things from a historical perspective. As far as I can tell, history often repeats itself and as a result, it is one of our greatest teachers. So, if we could learn something about what happened in Europe before WWI, that might give us some indication of how things are going to proceed in the Middle East. Of course, it’d be purely speculative, but it might be enlightening.

I don’t know enough about what Europe looked like before WWI nor do I know enough about what the Middle East looks like now to make informed guesses. If I did, you can be sure that the rest of this post would have been a comparison of those two topics. The one thing I will say, though, is that I bet that if conflict does bubble over like the Admiral is *kind of* predicting might happen, I wouldn’t be surprised if there are some parallels to what happened before WWI.

Who Wants to Play Sports in 122° Weather, in the Middle East, in the Summer?

A couple of days ago, I saw a headline that the FIFA President, Sepp Blatter, was going to ask the executive committee to consider moving the 2022 World Cup, set to be played in Qatar (a country that borders Saudi Arabia), to the Winter. It seems to me that this should have been considered when Qatar was chosen as the host back in December (is that ironic?) of 2010.

I did some checking and since there’s been a World Cup for soccer (or football, depending on your geographic orientation), the event has always taken place in the “summer.” Every World Cup happens in the month of June or July. A few times, it started in May, but it has always, at a minimum, gone into June. Some have taken place solely in July. None of the previous 19 World Cups (dating back to 1934) have taken place in any of the other months. So, it would seem, considering moving the 2022 World Cup to the Winter would be unprecedented.

Adding another layer to this debate is that the English Premier League (one of the best soccer/football leagues in the world), isn’t interested in having the World Cup move to the Winter as it will affect their schedule. Not only will it affect one year’s schedule, but it’s likely to affect two year’s schedules. And, it will have an affect on broadcasting contracts.

As I read more and more about this story, I’m still flabbergasted that something like this wasn’t considered. It seems that someone, somewhere along the line should have thought about playing sports in 122° weather, in the Middle East, in the Summer. Along those same lines of due diligence or “thinking ahead,” I remember reading something recently about concerns that it won’t be cold enough in 2014 for the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia. Let’s hope that those concerns aren’t realized.

Lies, Damned Lies, and Statistics: America’s Dependence on Mideast Oil

Earlier this morning, I came across a headline that was a bit shocking (to me): “Americans Support the Keystone XL Pipeline by Wide Margin.” All of the data I’d seen regarding polls of Americans showed that there certainly wasn’t a wide margin in support or against the pipeline. So, with my curiosity piqued, I clicked the article to find out that 67% (of the survey respondents) support building the pipeline. That still seemed a bit surprising, as, like I said, most polls I’d seen had stayed in the range of 45/55 or 55/45.

Upon getting to the actual survey, I scrolled to the question that led to the headline. Here’s the question that was read to survey respondents:

The President is deciding whether to build the Keystone X-L Pipeline to carry oil from Canada to the United States. Supporters of the pipeline say it will ease America’s dependence on Mideast oil and create jobs. Opponents fear the environmental impact of building a pipeline. What about you – do you support or oppose building the KeystoneX-L pipeline?

Do you see anything wrong with this question?

Let’s start with the idea that they’re telling respondents what supporters say and opponents say. If the respondent doesn’t really have a strong opinion about the question, they may prefer to identify with one group or the other (and they might even if they have a strong opinion!) One could argue that there’s a response bias present. There has been quite a bit of press about “America’s dependence on foreign oil.” So, someone might not want to oppose that viewpoint in a survey. That is, the respondent wouldn’t want to appear, (to the person conducting the survey), that they don’t think that reducing America’s dependence on foreign oil is as important as the environment.

Juxtaposing the dependence on foreign oil with environmental impact is a bit unfair. As I said in the previous paragraph, I’d bet that most people have heard/read something about the America’s dependence on foreign oil, but they probably don’t know very much about the environmental impact of oil. Now, that could be a messaging problem for the environmental movement, but there hasn’t been a compelling enough case made. (If there were, there certainly wouldn’t have been this many people who were “A-OK” with building the pipeline.)

Lastly, let’s actually examine this so called dependence on foreign oil. From the US Energy Information Administration:

The United States relied on net imports (imports minus exports) for about 40% of the petroleum (crude oil and petroleum products) that we consumed in 2012. Just over half of these imports came from the Western Hemisphere. Our dependence on foreign petroleum has declined since peaking in 2005. [Emphasis added]

In doing the math, 60% of the petroleum (oil) that the US consumed in 2012 was produced domestically — inside the US! In doing some more math, we’re told that just over half of the imports came from the Western Hemisphere. Meaning, less than half of the imports are coming from countries outside of the Western Hemisphere. Meaning, less than half of the imports could be coming from the Mideast and we already know that only 40% of the oil consumed in the US comes from imports. In fact, this same agency tells us just how much oil is imported from Persian Gulf countries: 29%. So, 29% of the imports (40%) is how reliant the US is on Mideast oil. Again, doing the math the total US consumption of Mideast oil: 11.6%. Does 11.6% sound like dependence?

If you recall the last line of the quote from the agency: “Our dependence on foreign petroleum has declined since peaking in 2005.

The next time you read survey data, I hope you’ll remember this post and consider just how construed the results may be.

[Note: The title of this post is a quote that was popularized by Mark Twain.]

That Which Is You — Is Me

Last month, there was a big hullabaloo when Al Gore sold Current TV to Al Jazeera. A great majority of that outrage (at least from what I could tell) stemmed from the fact that Al Jazeera is an Arabic news network (or to that’s their perception). Note: the criticism of selling to an oil-backed company was far more substantiated. While that might have been how the network started, they report on far more than just Arabic news. There’s obviously more going on here than ethnocentrism and people who don’t want news about the Arabic world, though.

The obvious answer would be that some Americans are still fearful of people who look different from them. Notably, Americans are fearful of the people who look the same as those people who were part of the tragic events of 9/11. Is this reasonable? Is this fair? Is it fair to loop in 23% of the world’s population (that’s almost 2 billion, by the way) because of 19 people? Now, to give people some credit — it’s not all their doing.

To be more specific, people are subjected to these “us-them” perceptions if/when they watch the news. When was the last time you saw a TV program where a Muslim person was the protagonist — where a Muslim person was the hero and not a terrorist. This is unacceptable.

Did you know that there have been more terrorist-related deaths as a result of a white person committing the act of terrorism?

There’s one more thing I want to say on this matter and I hope you give me some leeway on it. As I watch the unfounded vitriol directed at Muslims and people with brown skin, I can’t help but think of Black people and the civil rights movement. Of course, I wasn’t alive during the events that led to the movement, but from what I’ve heard/read about it, it seems to me that some Americans treat brown-skinned people the same way that they treated black people back then. Don’t get me wrong — I know that there were plenty of unspeakable acts committed against black people back then (that aren’t necessarily happening to brown people today).

I’m sure I’m not the first person to draw the connection between what happened back then and what’s happening today. It’s just disappointing to me that this kind of stuff still happens. When will we — as a species — see: ‘that which is you — is me.’