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In defense of Bill Simmons

I’m going to talk about sports, but only sort of. This really isn’t about sports as much as it is about the role of journalists in the age of digital media and social media. Bill Simmons got suspended this week for nothing more than doing what we will be getting back to doing here in October (WDDIJcast and The Wrath of Ruthless have been on vacation due to …well due to needing a production break honestly). He spoke his mind on his own podcast about the situation, and used the circumstantial evidence including the very public stature of the NFL to come to the reasonable conclusion Roger Goodell is lying his ass off about the Ray Rice video.

Here’s what he said: [soundcloud url=”https://api.soundcloud.com/tracks/169016474″ params=”auto_play=false&hide_related=false&show_comments=true&show_user=true&show_reposts=false&visual=true” width=”100%” height=”150″ iframe=”true” /]

Now, does that sound like this was his opinion? Or does that sound like he was making a legal conclusion? Sounds like opinion right? Exactly. This is Simmons non-ESPN podcast. But the power fo the NFL caused ESPN to change tactics on 2 separate things. What’s that? What else did they do? Well they went from supporting their guy, to offering him up to the altar of NFL. Take a look below.

 


What you see there in the highlighted section is a direct reference to Simmons comments, not long before they decide to suspend him from all ESPN work for 3 weeks. Now I’m not going to throw Stephen A. Smith under a bus but he got 1 week for just positing that women should be careful of provocation in general. Hell Michelle Beadle even publicly derided him for the comments the same day on air on ESPN. But somehow calling Goodell a liar, based on what information Simmons has, on his podcast, is worth a 3 week suspension. Bullshit.

And I’ll tell you why its bullshit. Because Roger Goodell isn’t an NFL player. He isn’t an NFL owner. He’s supposed to be the voice of reason and authority in the NFL and supposed to be a neutral arbiter of the rules and punishments based on those rules. The very idea he might have swept this under the rug is worth investigating further. The idea he might actually be more corrupt than Paul Tagliabue And in the face of what all we know, despite the spin ESPN is doing literally right now on First Take and The Herd, Bill Simmons cannot be the only one who thinks he is lying.

SO why suspend him? ESPN brought back constantly controversial Keith Olberman who just recently took aim at all the hyperbolic exuberance and celebration of Derek Jeter. They’ve let columnists come back after all kinds of incidents in recent time (Dan Lebatard I’m looking at you). But above all what message does this send? It says that if you say bad words about the NFL, ESPN will defend the league over your ability to give your opinion on an opinion based medium. No wonder Jason Whitlock’s “black Grantland” isn’t up and running. No wonder a certain former ESPN face is still inexplicably on NBC Sports Network.

Because if you say anything that might make them mad you’re out for almost a month. Put this in perspective. You can talk about the NBA, MLB, or make crazy disrespectful statements about futbol aka Soccer live on THE SPORTS REPORTERS but nope, say a bad thing about how shittly Gooddell has handled this matter, and imply based on everything the entire public knows, that Gooddell is *SHOCKER* lying to coverup how little the league gave a shit one of their stars gave his fiance a Mayweather piece in full view of a camera, and you have to sit in time out and not get paid. We come to reporters like Simmons to give opinion. If I’m listening to a podcast, I don’t expect to hear the same things I hear on ESPN shows. If I wanted that, I’D WATCH THE ESPN SHOW!

But this is scary for the average person. Not because Simmons is some everyman held down by corporate power. But because this is similar to how the 24 hour news networks roll. Fox News has an agenda. And anytime their hosts and contributors get out of that agenda they are mysteriously off air with replacements until they are back on message. MSNBC has an agenda and quite famously when Olberman, and of course Cenk Uyger deviated into something not the same as their agenda they were gone.

Sports should be the one area where there isn’t an agenda other than sports. And perhaps the constant conflict of interest that ESPN has by being so intertwined with the NFL is turning the objective nature of Sports into the agenda that Gooddell and the league has of “Protect the Shield.” I just expected better of the so-called World Wide Leader in Sports. #FreeBillSimmons I’d say more but I don’t want to be banned from the internet by the NFL and well…WORDS DON’T DO IT JUSTICE!

 

– THE Ruthless Wonder

The FIFA Corruption: Part I

AND… We’re back!!!!  My sincerest apologies to my fellow writers, and of course my Commander-in-Chief Ruthless.  But my deepest apology goes to you; the readers!  I have deprived you of sports awesome, and I am truly sorry.  Assuming Ruthless does not execute me I promise to be more prompt and consistent in my posting.  However, first a quick word on a specific social situation in my home state… for those here for sports, simply skip the next paragraph.

I have lived and grown up in Missouri for most of my life.  I feel it necessary for at least a brief remark on the situation in Ferguson, Missouri (just outside of St. Louis).  I will leave the much more in-depth analysis and commentary for my fellow writers and other individuals much more intelligent than myself.  I will simply say this:  A man once shared his dream with an entire nation.  While some small steps may have been made, and the man’s dream is now shared with every school child in America (we even celebrate a national holiday for the man) we are still very distant from realizing that dream.  My thoughts and sympathies go out to all the people around the world who suffer from the sort of militaristic treatment seen in Ferguson, MO.  Oppression is a horrific and terrifying thing especially in the “land of the free.”  But as a nation remember this; our nation is also “home of the brave,” and brave people, like the man who shared that dream long ago, can absolutely change the world.

OK… and now, speaking of the world, on to “the world’s game,” (Known as Futbol around the world and Soccer here in the USA).  The World Cup, one of the biggest sporting events in the entire world, wrapped up earlier this summer.  This is supposed to be a showcase of “the beautiful game,” but the true problem is that it masks the overwhelming troubles of the game. It is probably no secret to people in the USA that there is inherent cheating at sports.  Maybe it is widespread, or maybe it’s only a select few jackasses that want to win WAY more than they give a shit about their integrity.  It goes without saying though that the bigger the sport, and the poorer the places it is played in, the far more likely corruption can take place.  The organization known as FIFA is the governing body for the sport of soccer (futbol) for the entire world.  The are stationed in Europe, but yet investigations like this one are becoming far more common:

http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/sports-jan-june13-soccer_02-05/

Hell, even the organization’s most coveted showpiece, The FIFA World Cup, was under hot water due to scandal:

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/06/01/sports/soccer/fixed-matches-cast-shadow-over-world-cup.html?_r=0

So what is the point of all this?  Well, let me fill you in… it is rampant and drastically changes the product fans receive watching the games.  Sure there has not been any ties to the massive clubs of the world; Barcelona, Real Madrid, Manchester United, Chelsea, Liverpool, Bayern Munich, or Paris St-Germain.  But these clubs scout players from lower leagues, and as one of the above articles suggests:  That is the problem point.  Referees at lower levels of professional soccer are akin to those umpires in the minor leagues of baseball.  They do not get payed much, and have horrific travel schedules that frequently keep them far away from their families.  Many players get paid very little for their international work (which in turn can cost them paychecks they would be collecting by trainning with their club team.  ALL it takes is a persuasive peron, with plenty of cash (often times an amount close to what a player or ref could make in half a year), and a player or ref interested in making money.  The overall goal of these payoffs, somehow to create better odds when games are bet on so the man who handed cash can totally clean up as a local bookie (or from a local bookie).

This kind of action has been frequent throughout soccer, but the problem is no one has ever truly eyed the all-powerful government body FIFA.  Well that is all changing with the recent determination to host the 2022 FIFA World Cup in the country of Qatar.  I realize that is a long way off, but it is truly better for us as a group that does like honest sporting competition to address it now.  The dirty politics makes the stuff we see here is the USA between politicians seem almost tame… almost.  There is so much to touch on, and it will ultimately lead to another of my famous Radical predicions.  For this issue I Radically predict you’ll want to read Part II of this story next week because right now… Words Don’t Do It Justice.

Lets Talk Iraq

You might notice I dropped my usual header, well, I have a category now so it isn’t really necessary for me to throw it up there anymore. I’ve talked about Palestine in my last post because it is an issue somewhat close to me, considering one of my best friends who helped me through the hard times happens to be a Palestinian-American, and I have listened to him countless times talk of the problems and the struggles the Palestinian people face. Hamas is definitely not a good group of guys, but Palestinian’s themselves shouldn’t have to suffer unjustly because of terrorists. But, we’re not going to talk about Palestine today on I Have No Mouth, But I Must Scream; no no, today we are going to be talking about another hotbed of extremism in recent years, Iraq.

Some think it is hard to pinpoint where exactly everything went wrong with Iraq — honestly, I’m not entirely sure myself how to explain it all, but I’ll do my best to give you the abridged version of modern Iraq. Iraq is a complicated beast and is another country that is similar in nature to Palestine in that it shares its origin as a British Mandate. Originally, the British had installed a Sunni King and shit was relatively alright under his rule for a time until a bunch of revolts later and Iraq would find itself in the hands of one Saddam Hussein.

The Abridged History of Iraq

As you may already be aware, Saddam Hussein was a dictator, a crazy dictator who ruled Iraq with an iron grip. He was genocidal toward the Kurds and oppressive to the Shiite  who had both tried to side against him at the behest of the newly formed Islamic Republic of Iran. This lead to a war between Iraq and Iran, in which America publicly supported Iraq by supplying Saddam with money and weapons while also covertly supporting Iran via the CIA. This eventually blew up in the governments face and came to life as the Iran-Contra Affair. Likewise, recently declassified documents reveal that America sold Iraq a whole bunch of “dual purpose” items, which is to say we sold them chemicals that could be used for chemical warfare and insecticide; viruses and bacteria that could be used for medicine, but could also be used for biological warfare. Yeah, we knew what Saddam was going to use them for but we still did it, because we hated revolutionary Iran about as much as we did Iraq.

The American’s would turn against Saddam after some shady business involving Kuwait and the fact that America basically liked Kuwait better. To clarify, America never really liked Iraq we just didn’t want Iran’s counter-attack to lead to a complete surrender from Iraq, it was preferable for America that the war between the two drag on as long as possible. Anyways, we made a big fuss about Iraq using chemical weapons (that we gave them) on the Kurds and a few trumped up media reports (that later came out to be lies) about the treatment of Kuwait’s citizens and we had ourselves a country  fully justified in going to war. We went to war, we kicked Saddam’s ass, but George Bush Sr. stopped just short of actually seizing Baghdad and dethroning Saddam.

The frequent oppression of the Kurds by the Iraqi’s during both of these periods of time lead to Iraqi Kurdistan becoming a major partner to the United States and an enemy of Saddam. The entire northern most half of Iraq was essentially sealed off and declared Kurdistan with an American enforced No Fly Zone. This allowed Kurdistan to flourish. Likewise, America had earned itself a permanent military base in the Middle East conveniently located on the border of Iraq by helping Kuwait.

You can see the building blocks falling into place, right? The Sunni leaders of Iraq oppressed the Shiite majority. Now, a majority of the population of Iraq adheres to the Shiite faith and thus tried to revolt against Saddam’s rule shortly after the First Gulf War. Iraq responded with crushing repression and more of that lovely chemical gas we sold them. Anyways, so things were never really all that great for Iraq, even under the rule of the Sunni King the Shiite majority were oppressed.

Fast-forward several years and we’ve got another Bush in office who leads America into a valiant War on Iraq in order to disarm Iraq of WMDs. We know now that the British intelligence on the issue was bunk, and that the only real credible evidence we had that Iraq had any WMDs anymore was simply because America knew we had sold Iraq the stuff for chemical and biological weapons back in the good ole days when we were hoping that Iran and Iraq would kill each other off for us. The war is a joke as Saddam’s military was hardly capable of mounting any sort of real defense against America, who has become awfully fond of Blitzkrieg since World War II.

Where it Leads Us

There. I have hopefully given you an adequate enough abridged history of Iraq to hopefully explain to you with some clarity how the current situation in Iraq developed. After we had occupied the country and the military had surrendered, there was the ever prominent question as to what were we going to do with them? See, despite being a tyrant of hilarious proportions, the Iraqi Military had actually managed to wiggle itself out from complete Ba’ath party rule due to the numerous fuck ups caused by Saddam meddling in the military during the Iraq-Iran War.

While Saddam was a dictator, it is easy to argue that he was the dictator that Iraq needed, not necessarily the leader it deserved. No one is trying to excuse the crimes he committed against his own people, but a State of Iraq did not exist before the British Mandate, and every attempt at governing it prior to Saddam was short and rife with oppression and sectarian strife anyways. The only thing that held Iraq together for as long as it did before Saddam was the interference of outside countries. There was sectarian violence when Saddam was in-charge, yes. There is no denying that Saddam was oppressive to the Shiites, but there is also no arguing that the country has not been worse off since his departure.

America made every misstep and miscalculation that could be made in regards to Iraq. The country was mostly pacified after the initial occupation because despite what people like to believe, the Ba’ath party was actually a secular organization. Yes, Saddam brutally repressed the Shiite Majority but it was incited by the Islamic Revolution in Iran stoking the flames for a similar revolution in Iraq. Likewise, the Iraqi military of Saddam was a mostly secular organization. America’s biggest mistake in the post-war period was the dissolution of the Army in 2003, which suddenly saw several high level generals and thousands of soldiers disgruntled and unemployed.

Honestly, it wasn’t until after the First Gulf War that Shariah Law saw a return to Iraq as Saddam sought to portray himself as a devote Muslim in order to gain regional allies for future issues. The dissolution of the Iraq army would lead to the insurgency that America would be embattled fighting for the next several years. The memory of Sunni rule still fresh in the minds and scars of the Shiites would eventually spark a full-blown civil war following the bombing of one of the Shiite’s holy sites.

Meanwhile, Kurdistan continued to grow and flourish in the North free of Iraqi rule. The Kurdish Self-Defense Force, known as the Peshmerga, even helped the United States during their initial invasion. Kurdistan was able to pull itself together faster than the rest of Iraq had, and security of Iraqi Kurdistan was handed over to the Peshmerga long before it was returned to the rest of Iraq. The sectarian civil war would eventually come to an end, as would America’s occupation of Iraq.

When America had left Iraq, they left behind a fairly competent and secular military force. Unfortunately, the Prime Minister of Iraq  still bore the memories of Ba’athist oppression and of the recently civil war. Fueled by paranoia, the Shiite majority quickly became the oppressors of the Sunni minority as competent military officers were replaced by Shiite cronies, loyal to the Prime Minister, who took on powers that made it so the special forces of Iraq reported directly to him. The United States Troop Withdrawal was mainly prompted by pressure from the Shia ran country of Iran, who basically informed the Prime Minister that the United States would eventually leave Iraq but that Iran would always be its neighbor.

The civil war in Syria saw the perfect brewing ground for the organization once known as Al-Qaeda in Iraq to blossom as the newly fermented ISIS. They would launch an offensive into Iraq and the Iraqi Military, which had been gutted by al-Maliki’s own paranoia of being ousted in a coup. This paranoia and his anti-Sunni policies fueled the success that ISIS was able to gain from this event. Likewise, seeing the country falling about, Kurdistan has talked even more adamantly about total independence from Iraq.

This situation does not seem fixable. There is no strong leadership of Iraq and the Sunni’s, Shiites, and Kurds all share disdain for one another. Will there ever be a stable Iraq? It is doubtful. It seemed more likely that Iraq would become a satellite of Shiite ran Iran, but new reports seem to indicate that al-Maliki has resisted Iranian suggestions that he step down. So…Will the country survive the civil war? Who knows, really.

The better question to ask is should it? Not every country in the world can be a melting pot and with cultures that have as much disdain for each other as these, maybe Iraq would be better represented if it were broken down into a confederation, where a central government provided international security for the whole and allowed the internal sects to govern themselves. I doubt it would work out, but Iraq doesn’t seem like it can manage staying stable without the brutal grip of a dictator.

People often wonder why I describe myself as an Imperialist, or why I seem surprisingly tolerant toward more authoritarian governments. Why? Because some of the most successful, longest lasting governments were dictatorships and Empires. It is hard to see the light of democracy when it disintegrates so quickly into chaos and corruption. Saddam may have violated the civil rights of his people and done terrible things to them, but he also held the country together for twenty four years. Iraqi Citizen’s in Baghdad recalled that they used to not worry so much traveling through the city when it was run by the Ba’ath party, but now that they have been freed from the tyrant, they worry about being shot for simply entering the wrong neighborhood.

There is such a thing as the lesser of two evils, and we were foolish to believe that just giving a country democracy and freedom would unify it and put an end to the plight of the people. If anything, the State of Iraq has suffered more under its independence than it did beneath the dictator. Saddam was an evil man, there is no arguing that, but should be so quick to pass judgment and blame when we were the ones who gave him the means to his tyranny? Could he have gassed the kurds had we not supplied him the chemicals to use on Iranians?  That’s a question we’ll probably never know.

In parting, I will leave you with some words of another slain dictator.

Woe to the hand that shed this costly blood!
Over thy wounds now do I prophesy—
Which, like dumb mouths, do ope their ruby lips
To beg the voice and utterance of my tongue—
A curse shall light upon the limbs of men.

Domestic fury and fierce civil strife
Shall cumber all the parts of Italy.
Blood and destruction shall be so in use,
And dreadful objects so familiar,
That mothers shall but smile when they behold Their infants quartered with the hands of war

I am not saying that Saddam stands on the same level of the man for which this text speaks, but I will point out that by modern standards Gaius Julius Caesar would be held to the same contempt which Saddam was. Both were oppressive tyrants, and both were killed for their sins. Likewise, civil war followed immediately in the wake of their death. You see, that is the problem with history. It tends to pay homage to itself and those in charge seldom believe the same tragedies could befall them. Just as Hitler believed he could invade Russia where others had failed previously, so too did America believe we could topple a dictatorship and that democracy would simply flourish.

The problem is that life doesn’t work that way, neither does the world. The death of Saddam and the fall of the Ba’ath party led to those that wished to re-establish the Ba’ath party, likewise, the people which had been wronged by Saddam sought revenge for the crimes enacted upon their people by the people of Saddam. The problem? If Saddam had been left in power, Iraq would have never crumbled to the state it has. At what point do we hold the scale in measure of the lives lost under Saddam to the lives lost without the tyrant?

Only time will tell how Iraq fares in the future, but so far the prospects of an in-tact Iraq surviving seem bleak at best. If nothing else, I deeply hope that we learn our lesson that we cannot just take sections of land an arbitrarily carve borders into them and then proclaim who shall govern it. How different would Iraq be today if the British Mandate had installed a Shiite leader? What if the British Mandate had installed a democracy that had allowed the people to vote for self-determination, rather than installing a king? The world may never know, but Iraq might have had a chance to flourish as Babylon of old had.