With Brazil’s World Cup Over Focus Now Shifts to Russia and Qatar

I want to start by saying that I am in no way a soccer fanatic or expert. I did not watch much during the tournament except for bits and pieces when the US team had a match. However, my expertise of the game, or lack thereof, will not be needed for my analysis. I will not discuss the scores of matches, how many times red cards were handed out, or how many games were won in extra time. What I kept thinking about was the controversy surrounding not only this year’s World Cup in Brazil, but the World Cups in Russia in 2018 and Qatar in 2022.

Brazil’s World Cup

One of the best pieces of coverage about the controversy surrounding the World Cup in Brazil, and FIFA itself as organization, aired on Last Week Tonight with Jon Oliver[1]. In the segment Oliver details not only the rumors dealing with the history of bribery, but also the hypocrisy around FIFA calling itself a non-profit organization. He also highlights how FIFA uses its power to strong arm countries into writing new laws or changing current laws to benefit them. Some of the highlights from the segment are:

  • The government of Brazil spent more than 11 BILLON dollars getting ready for the World Cup.
  • The new stadium in the city of Manaus, which cost 270 MILLION dollars to build, only hosted 4 World Cup games. (If you do the math that came out to 67.5 MILLION dollars a game. Keep in mind Manaus does not have a soccer team).
  • When it comes to World Cups FIFA, not the hosting country, is usually the one getting most of the money.
  • FIFA and their subsidiaries are exempt from the hosting country’s tax codes. That’s 250 MILLION dollars in taxes in the country of Brazil.
  • Due to a high death rate concerning alcohol and fans, in 2003 the Brazilin government banned alcohol in stadiums. However, the government later passed, thanks to pressure from FIFA, the ‘Budweiser Bill’ (Budweiser is a FIFA sponsor) that gave permission to sell beer in stadiums during World Cup matches.
  • FIFA spent 27 MILLION dollars creating the movie ‘United Passions’ to let the world know, according to them, how ‘great’ FIFA is.
  • In 2022 the country of Qatar will be hosting the World Cup. In the summers there the temperatures can reach up to 122 degrees.
  • Former vice president of FIFA Jack Warner resigned after bribery accusations (reportedly received 2 million dollars for his vote giving the World Cup to Qatar).

For those of you who may want to watch the segment in its entirety: 

Did Russia and Qatar Help Each Other Win World Cup Bids?

Now that the 2014 World Cup has ended the focus has shifted to the 2018 World Cup in Russia and the 2022 World Cup in Qatar. In an article written by BBC Sports[2] it discusses what it says are several leaked e-mails in which former FIFA vice-president Mohamed bin Hammam:

  • Visited Vladimir Putin in the Kremlin to discuss “bilateral relations” between Russia and Qatar a month before the votes for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups.
  • Brokered government level talks for Thailand’s Fifa executive Worawi Makudi to push a deal on importing gas from Qatar to Thailand. Makudi told the paper he did not receive a concession for his part in any gas deal.
  • Invited Germany’s former Fifa executive Franz Beckenbauer to Doha just five months after the vote with bosses from an oil and gas shipping firm which was employing him as a consultant. The firm involved says it was exploring possible Qatari investments in the shipping and maritime sector but that no deal ever came from the talks. When approached by the Sunday Times, former German international Beckenbauer declined to comment.
  • Fixed meetings between nine Fifa executive committee members, including Blatter, with members of the Qatari royal family.
  • Arranged a meeting between the Qatar bid team and Uefa boss Michel Platini at European football’s headquarters in Nyon. Platini, who has openly admitted voting for Qatar, says Bin Hammam did not attend the meeting and insists he has nothing to hide.

 

A Bribery Scandal Is Not The Only Thing Plaguing The 2022 World Cup.

In an article written on MotherJones.com by Sam Brodey titled “A Guide to the Scandals Plaguing the World Cup”[3] he points out terrible treatment of the workers responsible for creating the new stadiums and buildings that will be host to the World Cup matches and ceremonies. According to the article 1,200 workers have died since it was announced that Qatar won the bid to hold the World Cup. Most of the workers come from South and Southeast Asia and they cannot leave Qatar without the written permission of their employer.  Kafala[4] is a system in which a worker is contracted to his employer for a period of time. The problem arises when the employer will not pay the money the worker was promised, and in many cases not pay them at all. They are not able to look for better jobs because the employer has their passport. They cannot leave the country and could be there working for an indefinite period of time.

ESPN’s investigative program E:60 did an a piece documenting worker abuse, high rate of worker death and the slavery-like system in which the workers and their employers operate. In the video Jeremy Schaap spoke to Sharan Burrow, the General Secretary of the International Trade Union Confederation[5] (ITUC). The organization’s mission is to defend workers rights around the world.  Burrow has visited Qatar 12 times since 2010 and refers to it as a “slave- state in the 21 century.”[6] Workers are not to be around Qatari citizens and are placed in workers camps. These camps are crowded and have horrible sanitary conditions where the air is permeated with smell of fecal matter. Burrow states that more than 4,000 workers will die before a game is even played in 2022.

 In Qatar and Russia Homosexuality Is Illegal

Qatar’s multiple human rights violations of its workers are not the only thing tarnishing the 2022 World Cup. The country’s antigay laws are also drawing criticism. In Qatar homosexuality is illegal and there have been documented cases for foreigners being deported or imprisoned. In a 2010 article in The Guardian the president of FIFA, Sepp Blatter, when asked about the concern about the way LGBT fans may be treated when they attend the games he was quoted as saying that they “should refrain” from homosexual activity[7].

Russia has had its own documented history of mistreatment and discrimination associated with their antigay laws. If you watched even a small portion of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi you may have come across news segments where Russia’s enforcement of their antigay laws came under fire. In an article that appeared on MotheJones.com in August of 2013 titled “How Russia’s Anti-Gay Law Could Affect the 2014 Olympics, Explained” the writers detail what the law entails and the consequences one faces if they break that law. The law, Article 6.21 of the Code of the Russian Federation on Administrative Offenses, states that a person can be fined if they are “accused of spreading ‘propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations amongst minors’ between 4,000 and 1 million rubles ($120 to $30,000). It passed by a vote of 436-0. A law passed in 2012 also bans gay-pride events in Moscow for the next 100 years.”[8] There have also been cases of beatings and torture of persons within the LGBT community, both by other citizens, who feel that being a homosexual is wrong, and by the police.

What Does the Future Hold?

Will Russia and Qatar fix the issues plaguing them before their respective World Cup’s? The thing is no one really knows. If they do not, one can expect loud protests in the streets and a real chance of violence. If FIFA and the host countries don’t find a resolution then we, as a whole, could wind up talking about politics and laws instead of the games themselves.

 

Works Cited

 

[1] “FIFA and the World Cup .” Last Week Tonight with John Oliver. HBO. 8 June 2014. Web. 17 July 2014. <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DlJEt2KU33I&feature=kp&gt;.

[2] “Qatar 2022: Fifa sponsors back corruption investigation.” British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) . N.p., 9 June 2014. Web. 17 July 2014. <http://www.bbc.com/sport/0/football/27751265&gt;.

[3] Brodey, Sam. “A Guide to the Scandals Plaguing the World Cup.” Mother Jones. N.p., 12 June 2014. Web. 17 July 2014. <http://www.motherjones.com/media/2014/06/fifa-world-cup-scandals-brazil-qatar&gt;.

[4] Khan, Azfar. “Why it’s time to end kafala.” The Guardian. N.p., 26 Feb. 2014. Web. 17 July 2014. <http://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2014/feb/26/time-to-end-kafala&gt;.

[5] International Trade Union Confederation. N.p., n.d. Web. 17 July 2014. <http://www.ituc-csi.org/&gt;.

[6] “Qatar’s World Cup.” Host Jeremy Schaap. E:60. ESPN. 1 June 2014. Web. 17 July 2014. <http://www.espnfc.com/video/latest-videos/600/video/1857246&gt;.

[7] Gibson, Owen. “Fifa boss tells gay fans: ‘Don’t have sex at Qatar World Cup’.” The Guardian. N.p., 14 Dec. 2010. Web. 17 July 2014. <http://www.theguardian.com/football/2010/dec/14/fifa-boss-gay-fans-no-sex&gt;.

[8] Levintova, Hannah, and Ian Gordon. “How Russia’s Anti-Gay Law Could Affect the 2014 Olympics, Explained.” Mother Jones. N.p., 16 Aug. 2013. Web. 17 July 2014. <http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2013/08/sochi-olympics-putin-anti-gay-law-explained&gt;.

 

Mark Cuban Says In Radio Interview: “If I think the ethical thing is to vote the other way of the 29 other guys, I will.”

On May 29th  Mark Cuban said, during an interview on Spike Lee’s radio talk show on SiriusXM NBA Radio[1], concerning the vote to oust Donald Sterling, that if he had to vote differently than the other 29 owners he would have. Here are some highlights (or lowlights depending on your opinion) of what he said:

“I don’t know. If I think the ethical thing is to vote the other way of the 29 other guys, I will. I haven’t made up my mind on anything because I don’t know all the details. I’m not going to jump to conclusions. It’s not fair to the process. Mess up the process and then he (Sterling) has a lawsuit forever. I’m not going to know until I hear the presentation (June 3). What he (Sterling) said was awful. It was horrific, it was racist. There’s no place for it in the NBA, but it’s not going to force me to make up my mind without hearing all the facts. When all this went down, I was probably the only owner that sat down with all my players and we discussed everything. Everything. Everybody’s gotta be careful because everything has changed. And that’s the slippery slope, part of the slippery slope I talked about. We’re all going to be held to a different standard going forward.”[2]

From what I can surmise from his words he feels that even though he might disagree and even find disgusting what Sterling said he wants to protect himself on two fronts. The first being that if the league were to conduct things too rapidly and mess up anything with the legal process then Donald Sterling could have legal grounds to sue the NBA. The NBA has lawyers and so does Sterling, and if he wanted to he could drag this issue on forever. That, in turn, could look bad for the league and affect the owners bottom lines. Mark Cuban is not only an NBA owner, but he is also an entrepreneur and business man. He may see voting to oust Sterling as a bad business move in the long run. The second has to do with setting a precedent. Again, even though what Sterling said was reprehensible, Cuban may want to guard himself and other owners from having their team possibly stripped from them because of something they said in what they thought was the privacy of their homes.  The words don’t necessarily have to be racially charged, but it could be a myriad of things from having affairs or having arguments with your spouse. If the NBA decided to say that those supposedly private actions hurt the image of the league, could the owner then be stripped of their team?

To hear the complete segment click below or follow the link:

https://soundcloud.com/siriusxmnba/mark-cuban-says-he-doesnt-know-how-he-is-going-to-vote-on-donald-sterling-siriusxm-nba-radio

 

 

What Do You Think?

 

Works Cited

[1] SiriusXM Radio. Web. 2 June 2014. <https://www.siriusxm.com/siriusxmnbaradio&gt;.

[2] “Mark Cuban on Why He Hasn’t Decided How He’ll Vote on Donald Sterling Issue.” SportsDayDFW.com. Dallas Morning News, 29 May 2014. Web. 2 June 2014. <http://www.dallasnews.com/sports/dallas-mavericks/headlines/20140529-mark-cuban-on-why-he-hasn-t-decided-how-he-ll-vote-on-donald-sterling-issue.ece&gt;.

 

Mark Cuban’s Comment’s: What Is Prejudice?, Where Does It Come From? and How Do We Overcome It?

Mark Cuban, who is known primarily as the owner of the NBA team The Dallas Mavericks, recently made comments during a sit down with Inc. Magazine’s Growco Conference[1] online that has gotten the sports world buzzing. What did he say exactly to get people talking? He acknowledged his prejudices and expounded on the subject as a whole, highlighting that everyone- famous or not, black or white- has their own prejudices whether or not they would like to admit it.

I can understand the sensitivity people may have to Cuban’s comments due to the climate surrounding the NBA at the moment. The Donald Sterling situation, where he appeared to say racist statements about African Americans[2], is still heated and does not appear to be going away anytime soon, even though it seems like former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer just bought the L.A. Clippers for a reported two billion dollars[3]. This is pending the approval from the NBA’s Board of Governors (the owners). Sterling vows to sue the league[4].

Donald Sterling’s History of Racism and Discrimination

His behavior is egregious and disgusting. It is deep within his soul, and as his history shows, it will never change.  He has made his racism into more than a 30 year career. His prejudice, racism, and acts of discrimination have been well documented from not paying his African American coaches[5] to refusing to rent apartments in buildings he owns to African Americans or Latinos, for which he was sued by the United States Department of Justice for housing discrimination[6] in 2006.

The Difference Between Prejudice, Racism And Discrimination

Now I think that it is important to highlight the various distinctions of three terms: Prejudice, Racism, and Discrimination. Prejudice, as stated in the word itself, is to judge something or someone only on what you see, hear or what is in front of you. Racism stems from someone feeling superior to another person, whether in intelligence or ability, because of their race. Discrimination involves the act of treating someone unfairly or different. The reasons for discrimination could vary from race, gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation etc. Some people upon hearing either one of these terms may automatically think of the other two because they may assume the terms are mutually exclusive; as to say if someone hears that another person has a prejudice then that must mean that they are racists or that they practice discrimination. Although they can co-exist in certain scenarios, they are not the same and not exclusive to one another.

The Evolution of Prejudice?

Prejudice is something that is hardwired in to every human being who is capable of forming thoughts. It is something for which we have evolution to thank.

Homo sapiens[7], or modern day humans, you and I, came into evolutionary existence around 100,000 years ago. Back then there were no laws, no supermarkets, or highly structured societies. Back than it was kill or be killed. 100,000 years ago every animal and disease was trying kill and/or eat the human being. In order to survive those conditions you had to be choosy not only about what you ate, but also about whom you associated with.

If you saw a berry or a plant you had to make a decision by smell or sight on whether or not something was safe enough to eat, because eating or drinking the wrong thing could mean severe sickness or death. When humans began to travel in groups of hunters and gathers the prejudice expanded to not just what you ate, but also the people you allowed to be in your group. You had to quickly judge and think “is this person a friend or a foe?”, “Can I trust this person?”, “is this person a good hunter/gather?” and “how can they help the group?” Even though they might not have had the language to say those things their actions conveyed such thinking.

Having certain prejudices not only helped in selecting food or groups it also played a role in choosing a mate for the survival of the species. Known as ‘sexual selection[8]’ by Charles Darwin, mates could be chosen based on a variety of factors, one of them being strength. Even though sexual selection can be seen as the female having the choice to pick the male that is not always the case. In certain instances males can become the ones with the choice while the female compete[9]. If you were successful enough to find a partner that meant your genes and not that of your competition would be passed on. Sexual selection still goes on in the animal kingdom today; take for example the peacock [10]that will show off his bright tail in hopes that a female may want to mate with him or birds singing[11] in order to attract a mate with their song.

 If You’re Going To Use Darwin’s Theory To Explain Hatred… DON’T!!!

It is important to note that Darwin’s theory was meant to be used to describe how a species could survive and adapt. Anyone who tries to use his theory to explain their racism or hateful prejudice or bigotry is misusing and distorting it.

Where Does Prejudice Come From?

Prejudice stems from FEAR. Fear of the unknown. Someone may be afraid of someone else by the way they look or dress or speak, but as soon as they begin knowing each other the prejudice can be lessened or go away. Now, that is not to say that certain prejudices or bigotries can be solved as easily as a math problem; saying ‘this minus this equals that’ does not work in these cases. Prejudice, racism, and discrimination are all far too complex for someone to solve in an article no matter how long it is.

Prejudice As HATE

At times during the course of human history that fear of the unknown has been used as a way to turn populations against themselves not as a means of survival, but as a form of hatred just because someone or a group may be different from you. These examples include the holocaust (around 6,000,000 Jews were murdered including 91% of the Jewish population of Poland[12]), the anti – Irish sentiment[13] in the U.S. and Britain in the 19th century, the prejudice and discrimination against Muslims after 9/11 (according to a report from the Department of Justice[14] from 2011 “The Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) reported a 1,600% increase in anti-Muslim hate crime incidents in 2001), the caste system[15] (which still exists) in India in which you are treated differently based on what family you happen to come from. The worst victims of the caste system are known as the ‘untouchables.’ They are systematically denied food, proper housing, medical care and an education. And of course America’s all too well known history of prejudice, discrimination AND racism with slavery and the Jim Crow laws[16].

I would detail the crimes against the Native American’s[17], but that would require five more pages just to start.

Everyone May Have Prejudices, but Not All Prejudices Are Equal

Now, it is important to note that not all prejudice should be treated the same. To say so would be illogical and just plain nonsense. I point this out as to say trying to compare Cuban’s comments to that of Donald Sterling is incorrect in my opinion. Trying to compare the two would be like saying one guy stole a pencil and the other rubbed a bank at gunpoint and they should both get 50 years in prison. Although, they both committed crimes under the law wouldn’t 50 years in prison for stealing a pencil a little excessive?

A Form of Acceptable Prejudice?

As a people most, if not all of us, are aware (consciously or unconsciously) that at least some forms of prejudice, for a variety of reasons, exist in our society and we have come to accept them, take for example judging someone based on appearance. Anyone who has a job or who is looking for a job knows how important dressing well for an interview is. If you were to go interview to try and land your dream job would you show up in sweatpants, sneakers, wearing a white tank top or even in denim jeans that are down to your knees exposing your underwear? Most of you, man or woman, would probably not. Now look at it from this perspective: if you were an employer and someone walked in dressed like that would your first instinct be “I have to hire that person?” probably not.  Your resumé may clinch the job for you, but anyone who has had to go through the job process knows that appearance and presentation matters.

In 2011 an article on BusinessInsider.com[18] listed several factors associated with appearance and presentation. Several studies indicated colorations between how someone spoke, dressed or even the color of their hair, among other attributes, could affect whether they were given a job, promoted or even paid more. Among some of the results were if you were a woman “64 per cent of directors said that women who wore make-up look more professional and 18 per cent of directors said that women who do not wear make-up “look like they can’t be bothered to make an effort”. If you were a man “60% of businessmen without beards or moustaches feel that these features are a bad sign. Some feel [sic] that the person can’t be bothered to shave and others that they are hiding something.”

Is that fair? Depending on who you ask the answer may be ‘yes’ or it may be ‘no.’

These characteristics of how someone is judged in the corporate world can seem downright ridicules, but they are there.

Some years from now that may change and society may feel that dressing however you want to go to a job interview is acceptable and that will be the new norm, then the businesses and employers would have to change to that norm, but that has not happened yet.

According to Malcolm Gladwell[19], in his book Blink[20]: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking, we make snap judgments or what he calls ‘thin-slicing’ as soon as we “meet a new person or have to make sense of something quickly or encounter a novel situation…Snap judgments are, first of all, enormously quick: they rely on the thinnest slices of experience … they are also unconscious.”

No One Should Rely On Anyone Else To Eliminate Their Prejudice… That’s Their Job!

In different segments of society there are different ways of dressing and speaking or acting that are deemed acceptable or not acceptable. I bring that up because although in certain situations (such as a job interview) where someone may have to conform at least a little that should not always have to be the case. It should not be the job of the person who is prejudiced against to conform to the person who has shown such prejudice. The person who has that prejudice should acknowledge that it is there and work on it.  Especially, in today’s world with laptops, tablets and Smartphone’s where it only takes a few key strokes to find out information on a culture or segment of the population once unknown to them; it is their job to educate themselves and eradicate their ignorance. Once they educate themselves that fear that may have once been there, can no longer be used as a crutch, as it once was. If that person still holds such prejudice it is by choice. In an age of technology where access to the internet is as easy as looking at your cell phone ignorance is a choice not something set in stone.

Shining a Light on Prejudice

I share this information not say that we, as a society, must accept someone’s prejudice or condone it, but instead to say that when we see or hear prejudice we must, as a collective, call it out and give it a voice. If we pretend to be such an evolved species that we do not have prejudices, no matter what they are, we are fooling ourselves. The way to battle prejudice is not to pretend it doesn’t exist and sweep it under the rug, but to shine a light on it and try to figure out why someone would have such intolerance. We must not only be aware of others’ prejudice, but also the ones within ourselves.

In Closing: The Difference Between Donald Sterling and Mark Cuban and Becoming More Informed

The difference between Donald Sterling and Mark Cuban is that Sterling has systematically, over time, used his racism to discriminate and transgress against others. His racism runs as deep as the ocean. Over the years there has been no evidence to suggest that he wants to change. Whereas someone’s prejudice that stems from fear can change with knowledge, his racism will always be with him. He will always feel that he is better than someone else because he is white and they are not, no matter who they look or their other qualities.

Cuban admitted to having prejudices and bigotries and admitted that having them is wrong. In that interview I didn’t hear him say that it was someone else’s job to teach him how not to feel that way. He took ownership of his feelings and said that he, not anyone else, had to change them. In Cuban’s history, which we know of, there has never been a documented or suspected case of him discriminating against someone. Could he have used better analogies or examples to prove his case, certainly, but a couple of seconds or bad wording should not lead someone to throw away his entire argument. I would say that the fact that he thought it appropriate, at the time, to use those descriptions lends to his point that he obviously needs to become more informed.

After the interview with INC. Mark Cuban issued an apology to Treyvon Martin’s family concerning his ‘hoodie’  comment, but stood by the rest of his argument.

The statement read:

“In hindsight I should have used different examples. I didn’t consider the Trayvon Martin family, and I apologize to them for that. Beyond apologizing to the Martin family, I stand by the words and substance of the interview. I think that helping people improve their lives, helping people engage with people they may fear or may not understand, and helping people realize that while we all may have our prejudices and bigotries we have to learn that it’s an issue that we have to control, that it’s part of my responsibility as an entrepreneur to try to solve it.”

 

                                                                                                                                                      

Links for further reading and viewing:

Reading:

Origins of Slavery in America, History.com – http://www.history.com/topics/black-history/slavery

• Tale of the Peacock, PBS -www.pbs.org/wgbh/evolution/library/01/6/l_016_09.html

• Understanding Prejudice – http://www.understandingprejudice.org/

• What does it take to spark prejudice in humans?, BBChttp://www.bbc.com/future/story/20130409-what-sparks-prejudice-in-humans

• Critical Thinking and the Nature of Prejudice, criticalthinking.org –       http://www.criticalthinking.org/data/pages/19/cbb793a3159353eb2051dc5f5804cffb5135355a9cf6a.pdf

• Test Yourself for Hidden Bias, Southern Poverty Law Centerhttp://www.tolerance.org/Hidden-bias

• Musicians’ Appearances Matter More Than Their Sound, Nature.comhttp://www.nature.com/news/musicians-appearances-matter-more-than-their-sound-1.13572

• How We Are Judged by Our Appearance, Psychologytoday.com –     http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/subliminal/201206/how-we-are-judged-our-appearance

 Videos:

First Take Reacts to Mark Cuban’s Comments — Part 1

First Take discuss society’s challenges with racism

Works Cited

[1] Aspan, Maria. “Mark Cuban, Post-Sterling, on Combating Racism: ‘We All Have Our Bigotry’.” INC. N.p., 2014. Web. 28 May 2014. <http://www.inc.com/maria-aspan/mark-cuban-discusses-bigotry-post-donald-sterling-fiasco.html?cid=sf01001&gt;.

[2] Golliver, Ben. “NBA investigating Clippers owner Donald Sterling for alleged racist comments.” Sports Illustrated. Time Warner Company, 29 Apr. 2014. Web. 27 May 2014. <http://nba.si.com/2014/04/26/donald-sterling-nba-investigation-racist-comments-clippers/&gt;.

[3] “Clips Sale Pending Board Approval.” ESPN Los Angeles. ESPN, 30 May 2014. Web. 30 May 2014. <http://espn.go.com/los-angeles/nba/story/_/id/11008952/nba-approves-steve-ballmer-bid-buy-los-angeles-clippers&gt;.

[4] “Donald Sterling Files $1B Lawsuit.” ESPN Los Angeles. ESPN, 30 May 2014. Web. 30 May 2014. <http://espn.go.com/los-angeles/nba/story/_/id/11008282/attorney-says-los-angeles-clippers-owner-donald-sterling-suing-nba-1-billion&gt;.

[5]Adande, J.A. “Legal Filings Show Frustration of Clipper GMs.” ESPN. N.p., 6 Jan. 2011. Web. 30 May 2014. <http://espn.go.com/blog/truehoop/post/_/id/23649/legal-filings-show-frustration-of-clipper-gms&gt;.

[6] “Sterling Sued by DOJ for Housing Discrimination.” ESPN. Associated Press, 7 Aug. 2006. Web. 27 May 2014. <http://sports.espn.go.com/nba/news/story?id=2542741&gt;.

[7] “Origins of Humankind .” Evolution. PBS, n.d. Web. 27 May 2014. <http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/evolution/humans/humankind/o.html&gt;.

[8]“Darwin, Beauty and Sexual Selection.” Endless Forms Charles Darwin, Natural Science and the Visual Arts. The Fitzwilliam Museum, Unversity of Cambridge, n.d. Web. 27 May 2014. <http://www.darwinendlessforms.org/gallerydarwin/darwin-beauty-and-sexual-selection/&gt;.

[9] Stockley, Paula, and Jakob Bro-Jørgensen. “Female Competition and Its Evolutionary Consequences In Mammals.” Biological Reviews 86.2 (2010): 341-66. Web. 28 May 2014. <http://www.liv.ac.uk/mbe/pdf/11_Stockley_BR.pdf&gt;.

[10] Brennan, Patricia L. R. “Sexual Selection.” Scitable. Nature Education, n.d. Web. 27 May 2014.      <http://www.nature.com/scitable/knowledge/library/sexual-selection-13255240&gt;.

[11] Mayntz, Melissa. “Bird Courtship Behavior.” About.com. N.p., n.d. Web. 27 May 2014. <http://birding.about.com/od/birdingbasics/a/courtshipbehavior.htm&gt;.

[12] “Statistics of The Holocaust.” The History Place. N.p., n.d. Web. 27 May 2014. <http://www.historyplace.com/worldwar2/holocaust/h-statistics.htm&gt;.

[13] Daniels, Jessie. “St. Patrick’s Day, Irish-Americans and the Changing Boundaries of Whiteness.” Racism Review. N.p., 17 Mar. 2012. Web. 27 May 2014. <http://www.racismreview.com/blog/2012/03/17/st-patricks-irish-whiteness-2012/&gt;.

[14] “Confronting Discrimination in the Post-9/11 Era: Challenges and Opportunities Ten Years Later .” United States Department of Justice. N.p., 19 Oct. 2011. Web. 27 May 2014. <http://www.justice.gov/crt/publications/post911/post911summit_report_2012-04.pdf&gt;.

[15] The Impact of India’s Caste System on Woman. Narr. Urmi Basu. Perf. America Ferrera. Independent Lens, 2012. Web. 27 May 2014. <http://video.pbs.org/video/2276630812/&gt;.

[16] “Jim Crow Laws.” Separate Is Not Equal: Brown V. Board of Education . Smithsonian National Museum of American History, n.d. Web. 27 May 2014. <http://americanhistory.si.edu/brown/history/1-segregated/jim-crow.html&gt;.

[17] Lewy, Guenter. “Were American Indians the Victims of Genocide?.” History News Network. George Mason University, Sept. 2004. Web. 30 May 2014. <http://hnn.us/article/7302&gt;.

[18] Shontell, Alyson. “If You Look Like This, Your Pay Check Will Be Higher Than Average .” Business Insider. N.p., 26 Feb. 2011. Web. 27 May 2014. <http://www.businessinsider.com/if-you-have-any-of-these-20-physical-features-your-pay-check-will-probably-be-higher-2011-2?op=1&gt;.

[19] Gladwell, Malcolm. Gladwell.com. N.p., n.d. Web. 27 May 2014. <http://gladwell.com/&gt;.

[20] Heathfield, Susan M. “Why “Blink” Matters: The Power of First Impressions.” About.com Human Resourses. N.p., n.d. Web. 27 May 2014. <http://humanresources.about.com/od/workrelationships/a/blink_effect.htm&gt;.

 

Sagan’s Quotes: Charlie Rose Interview (1996) #6

According to a report from the Congressional Research Service, released on March 14th, out of the 535 people elected to Congress (435 in the House of Representatives and 100 in the Senate) there are “2 physicists, 6 engineers, and 1 microbiologist (all in the House, with the exception of 1 Senator who is an engineer).” That is exactly 9 members of Congress with a background in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics). If you do the math that comes out to 1.682242% or rounded up to 1.7% with any background in STEM*. Reading those numbers makes Carl Sagan’s next quote, said in the year 1996, seem more profound.

#6

Living in a society based on science and technology:

“We live in an age based on science and technology with formidable technological powers … and if we don’t understand it, by ‘we’ I mean the general public, if it something that ‘oh I’m not good at that; I don’t know anything about it’; than who is making all the decisions about science and technology that are going to determine what kind of future are children live in, just some members of congress, but there is no more than a handful of members of congress with any background in science at all”

sagancollection

In Case You Haven’t Seen the Other Quotes Or Want to Get The Quotes in Full Context You Can See The Full Interview Here:

*There is also one astronaut in the Senate.

 

In Case You’re Interested:

I found an interesting article titled “Physicist Elected to Congress Calls for More Scientists-Statesmen”, from Scientific American, in which Representative from Illinois Bill Foster, who is a particle physicist and a businessman, discusses the lack of scientists in Congress and he would like to change that.

 

Sagan’s Quotes: Charlie Rose Interview (1996) #5

#5

What religion deals with and where it gets into trouble according to Carl Sagan:

“Religion deals with history, with poetry, with great literature, with ethics; with morals including the morality of treating compassionately the least fortunate among us – all of these are things I endorse wholeheartedly. Where religion gets into trouble is in those cases that it pretends to know something about science… The trouble comes with people who are biblical literalists, who believe that the bible is dictated by the creator of the universe to an unerring stenographer and has no metaphor or allegory in it.”

Carl-Sagan-1970

In Case You Haven’t Seen the Other Quotes Or Want to Get The Quotes in Full Context You Can See The Full Interview Here:

Sagan’s Quotes: Charlie Rose Interview (1996) #4

#4

 Sagan on the difference between science and religion:

“The thing about science is first of all it’s after the way the universe really is and not what makes us feel good, and a lot of the competing doctrines are after what feels good and not what’s true.”

Carl Sagan Cosmos

In Case You Haven’t Seen the Other Quotes Or Want to Get The Quotes in Full Context You Can See The Full Interview Here:

Sagan’s Quotes: Charlie Rose Interview (1996) #3

*For Anyone Coming Across This Page Who Hasn’t Seen The Previous Pages In This Series:

I have been watching updated version of COSMOS: A Spacetime Odyssey, airing on Fox and the National Geographic Channel, hosted by Neil DeGrasse Tyson, and I began thinking about the host and creator of the original COSMOS: A Personal Voyage– Carl Sagan. As I listen and watch his speeches and interviews, in my opinion, he gives some amazing quotes when talking about science and the universe. His interview with Charlie Rose is an example.

What I want to do is take six (6) quotes from that interview, his last full sit down interview, and post one (1) quote on its own at a time so that whoever may come across these pages can stop and think, even if for only a second, about what it means and the relevance it holds even in the year 2014.

#3

Sagan on discussing the use of religious scripture as a tool to prove or disprove a scientific fact. A good question to think about.

“Who is more humble? The scientist who looks at the universe with an open mind and accepts whatever the universe has to teach us, or somebody who says ‘everything in this book must be considered the literal truth and never mind the fallibility of all the human beings involved in the writing of this book.’”

 

In Case You Haven’t Seen the Other Quotes Or Want to Get The Quotes in Full Context You Can See The Full Interview Here:

Sagan’s Quotes: Charlie Rose Interview (1996) #2

I have been watching updated version of COSMOS: A Spacetime Odyssey, airing on Fox and the National Geographic Channel, hosted by Neil DeGrasse Tyson, and I began thinking about the host and creator of the original COSMOS: A Personal Voyage– Carl Sagan. As I listen and watch his speeches and interviews, in my opinion, he gives some amazing quotes when talking about science and the universe. His interview with Charlie Rose is an example.

What I want to do is take six (6) quotes from that interview, his last full sit down interview, and post one (1) quote on its own at a time so that whoever may come across these pages can stop and think, even if for only a second, about what it means and the relevance it holds even in the year 2014.

#2

When discussing what makes us feel good versus what is FACT; relying on faith and disregarding science.

“What is ‘Faith’? It is belief in the absence of evidence. Now I don’t propose to tell anybody what to believe, but for me believing when there’s no compelling evidence is a mistake. The idea is to withhold belief until there is compelling evidence; and if the universe does not comply with our predispositions, OK, then we have the wrenching obligation to accommodate to the way the universe really is.”

If You Want to Get The Quotes in Full Context You Can See The Full Interview Here:

Sagan’s Quotes: Charlie Rose Interview (1996) #1

I have been watching updated version of COSMOS: A Spacetime Odyssey, airing on Fox and the National Geographic Channel, hosted by Neil DeGrasse Tyson, and I began thinking about the host and creator of the original COSMOS: A Personal Voyage– Carl Sagan. As I listen and watch his speeches and interviews, in my opinion, he gives some amazing quotes when talking about science and the universe. His interview with Charlie Rose is an example.

What I want to do is take six (6) quotes from that interview, his last full sit down interview, and post one (1) quote on its own at a time so that whoever may come across these pages can stop and think, even if for only a second, about what it means and the relevance it holds even in the year 2014.

#1

When talking about the general public’s lack of knowledge and understanding in the fields of technology and science:

“There’s two kinds of dangers one is what I just talked about- that we’ve arranged a society based on science and technology in which nobody understands anything about science and technology – and this combustible mixture of ignorance and power sooner or later is going to blow up in our faces, I mean who is running the science and technology in a democracy if the people don’t know anything about it; and the second reason that I’m worried about this is that science is more than a body of knowledge it’s a way of thinking, a way of skeptically interrogating the universe with a fine understanding of human fallibility. If we are not able to ask skeptical questions, to interrogate those who tell us that something is true, to be skeptical of those in authority then were up for grabs for the next charlatan – political or religious – who comes ambling along. It’s a thing that Jefferson lay great stress on. It wasn’t enough, he said, to enshrine some rights in a constitution or a bill of rights – the people had to be educated and they had to practice their skepticism and their education, otherwise we don’t run the government, the government runs us.”
 
 

If You Want to Get The Quotes in Full Context You Can See The Full Interview Here:

How CNN Is Using Our Need for CLOSURE against Us and How We Can Guard Against It

Last week as part of his New Rules[1] segment on Real Time[2] Bill Maher discussed the issue of CLOSURE. He brought up this topic while discussing the issue of CNN’s ongoing coverage of missing Malaysia flight 370. He joked that Wolf Blitzer was like a doctor who was trying to revive a patient long after it’s obvious the person is dead. But what CNN is doing, sadly, is no surprise to me. With the invention of 24 hour news networks having to fill time, terms like ‘news’ and ‘breaking news’ have lost their meaning.

When CNN began covering the saga of missing Malaysia flight 370 their ratings increased, dramatically. Now part of me gets it – CNN feels like they have found the goose that lays golden eggs and they feel that until that golden goose stops producing for them they may as well keep at it.

According to the New York Times in an article published on March 17th by Bill Carter titled ‘CNN’s Ratings Surge Covering the Mystery of the Missing Airliner[3]’ he details that when they began covering the story CNN’s ratings “soared last week and over the weekend, rising by almost 100 percent in prime time. The network even managed the rare feat of edging past Fox News for leadership in several hours.”At that time Anderson Cooper, in the 8 PM time slot, beat Fox News’ own Bill O’Reilly in the ratings on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday in viewers between the ages of 25 and 54. That was the first time that had ever occurred.

However, for all their success in the ratings their ability in covering actual meaningful news has dropped off the face of this earth. They themselves, as a network, have become like that of Malaysia 370; M.I.A.

What does this have to do with CLOSURE? Everything.

The reason CNN’s ratings have gone up is because people are tuning in wanting to find out what truly happened to that missing flight and the people aboard it. Why? Well, that is the question I have been contemplating. Why do people need closure? Why is it so important?

Let’s define CLOSURE. The Merriam- Webster[4] online dictionary defines CLOSURE in several ways including ‘a feeling that something has been completed or that a problem has been solved’ or ‘a feeling that a bad experience (such as a divorce or the death of a family member) has ended and that you can start to live again in a calm and normal way.’

What I have been starting to realize is that everyone, on every part of the world, regardless of circumstance, status or career will want closure at some point in their lives about something. Why exactly is that? I believe that it is within our human nature to want answers to things we do not yet fully understand or that are beyond our control.

That is why religions exist. Good, bad or indifferent religion provides a way for a person to feel less uncomfortable or uncertain about death or the world in general. If you know how the story ends you don’t have to be afraid to turn the corner to see what comes next. Television and movies use the same premise. Every week they leave you with cliffhangers or questions in hopes that viewers will tune in next week to find the answers. In the case of movies there are sequels upon sequels that slowly, over time, reveal a big twist at the end. Now before I move on I want to say that I do not lump in religion with movies and television as a way to call into question the veracity or importance of whichever religious text you read is true. If it is true and holy to you then so be it. I only bring that up to showcase the need and sometimes urge for closure.

It is that need for closure that CNN uses to its advantage. They know that their viewers want the information about this situation, especially the families of the victims, who now themselves, have become part of the media 24 hour machine- all in the effort to drive up rating while not even dispensing actual news.

Like I said- everyone has the need to have answers about something in their life, even scientists and science educators. However they have a method of testing known facts against belief.

One of my favorite scientists, Carl Sagan, had a system of trying to detect pseudo- science falsehoods against proven science. In his book ‘The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark[5]‘ in a chapter titled “The Fine Art of Baloney Detection[6]” he laid out steps one could use in order to try and separate proven scientific logic and fact against unproven and sometimes false statements. I came across this and I loved it.

The steps are as follows:

  1. Wherever possible there must be independent confirmation of the “facts.”
  2. Encourage substantive debate on the evidence by knowledgeable proponents of all points of view.
  3. Arguments from authority carry little weight — “authorities” have made mistakes in the past. They will do so again in the future. Perhaps a better way to say it is that in science there are no authorities; at most, there are experts.
  4. Spin more than one hypothesis. If there’s something to be explained, think of all the different ways in which it could be explained. Then think of tests by which you might systematically disprove each of the alternatives. What survives, the hypothesis that resists disproof in this Darwinian selection among “multiple working hypotheses,” has a much better chance of being the right answer than if you had simply run with the first idea that caught your fancy.
  5. Try not to get overly attached to a hypothesis just because it’s yours. It’s only a way station in the pursuit of knowledge. Ask yourself why you like the idea. Compare it fairly with the alternatives. See if you can find reasons for rejecting it. If you don’t, others will.
  6. Quantify. If whatever it is you’re explaining has some measure, some numerical quantity attached to it, you’ll be much better able to discriminate among competing hypotheses. What is vague and qualitative is open to many explanations. Of course there are truths to be sought in the many qualitative issues we are obliged to confront, but finding them is more challenging.
  7. If there’s a chain of argument, every link in the chain must work (including the premise) — not just most of them.
  8. Occam’s Razor. This convenient rule-of-thumb urges us when faced with two hypotheses that explain the data equally well to choose the simpler.
  9. Always ask whether the hypothesis can be, at least in principle, falsified. Propositions that are untestable, unfalsifiable are not worth much. Consider the grand idea that our Universe and everything in it is just an elementary particle — an electron, say — in a much bigger Cosmos. But if we can never acquire information from outside our Universe, is not the idea incapable of disproof? You must be able to check assertions out. Inveterate skeptics must be given the chance to follow your reasoning, to duplicate your experiments and see if they get the same result.

 

I put Sagan’s steps here somehow hoping that the people who are tuning in to CNN eager to uncover some new evidence about the missing plane come to terms that they may not ever get it. We, the viewing and/or listening public, must in our own right become mini scientists ourselves. We must question-against known facts- if something is true or not. Gone are the days (if there truly were any) of media outlets giving their public solid facts about events good or bad. In its place now there is biased, propaganda, emotion inducing uneducated guesses of what could have happened; where they lure you in with ‘breaking news’ just to discover that it is the exact same news from two hours ago. We as a public cannot trust whole hardly the news to be our filter; to let us know what is and what is not important. We must now be tasked with doing this ourselves. In the world of TV and 24 hour networks more viewers’ means higher ratings which, in turn, mean more money. I don’t think CNN will stop doing what they’re doing until their rating tell them to do so. It is because of this we as the viewing public must be careful not to let our hunger for CLOSURE stand in the way of facts.

 

Works Cited   Continue reading