Category Archives: World

Trump logic and steel imports

The Trump Doctrine is in full flight this morning.

President Don says he’s gonna lay the steel tariff smack down on China. Funny thing, though:

China, China, China - where's China?

China … China … China – where’s China?

However, he now says he might exempt Canada and Mexico from the tariffs.

The Trump Doctrine: Imagine a problem that doesn’t exist. Use it to piss off everybody. Then propose a “solution” that wouldn’t work even if the problem were real.

Happy Monday, yo.

Thanks to Lex and Gavin for pointing this out to me.

Messi and Ronaldo stay home? How to make sure all the best players go to the World Cup.

As qualifying wraps up this week, we’re staring at the very real possibility next year’s FIFA World Cup will be staged without Lionel Messi and/or Cristiano Ronaldo.

That the greatest competition in world sports, save possibly the Olympics, would fail to include the men most regard as the two greatest players alive (and certainly two of the greatest of all time), seems unthinkable. But it could absolutely happen.


The Situation

Messi and Argentina are in trouble.

Currently sitting in sixth place in South America’s CONMEBOL qualifying table, Argentina could yet finish fifth and secure a two-legged playoff against New Zealand with a draw in Quito if Peru lose to Colombia, but the 1978 and 1986 world champions are in no position to chance their luck by relying on the results of others, so they have to win to be sure.

Ecuador, eighth in the 10-team group, is a side Argentina should handle (not that “should” has mattered a whit in their campaign so far). Thing is, Quito is the highest capital in the world at 9,350 feet, an oxygen-free elevation that’s utterly hellish on visiting players not used to it. Which is to say, all of them. So this is a dicey test, to say the least.

If they get that fifth spot New Zealand should be a formality. Again, though, “should.” Football can be an odd game, and Argentina’s inability to play up to the level of its abilities (admittedly, against exceptional competition) has it in a predicament that’s uncomfortable, at best.

Ronaldo’s Portugal also find themselves in a bit of a spot. They play Switzerland in Group B tomorrow. If they prevail, they win the group and advance. Pretty straightforward, except that the Swiss are a perfect 9-0-0 in the group. Should Portugal draw or lose, they face a home-and-away playoff with one of the other runners-up, a group that might serve up Sweden, Italy, Denmark or Croatia. Not a cakewalk in the bunch.

The Implications

While the Messi/Ronaldo scenario is unprecedented due to their quality – between them they have won the last nine Ballon d’Or awards for best player in the world – the truth is world-class players miss out on the Copa all the time. In some cases their national sides get nudged out by fierce competition (especially in Europe). A quick look at the UEFA table as it stands today shows that, thanks to the fact Europe only gets 13 slots, several talented sides will be staying home. The list of at-risks includes nations like Sweden, France, Switzerland, Portugal, Serbia, Denmark, Italy, Greece, Iceland, Croatia and several more.

In other cases you have talented players who simply hail from smaller nations with weak programs. One of my favorites some years ago was Iceland’s Eiður Guðjohnsen. Iceland has emerged as a serious football enterprise in the last few years, but at the time Guðjohnsen acknowledged that he had to set his sights on club glory because he understood national success wasn’t in the cards. Guðjohnsen wasn’t an elite star like Messi or Ronaldo, but he was certainly quality enough to have deserved a shot at the Cup. If only he’d been born 1,000 miles to the southeast…

The Solution

FIFA’s move to expand the tournament to 48 teams beginning in 2026 will alleviate some of the problem. Under that system one imagines Portugal and Argentina are, at least, closer to safety than they are today. Still, since one the primary goals of the new process is to afford more slots to the less powerful regions, we can still still expect the Copa to leave any number of worthy players at home. I’m not just talking about Europe and South America, either. There are exceptional individual talents in most African nations, and MLS has provided a means for Central American and Caribbean players to hone their skills against much stronger competition than ever before.

So what if a slot were reserved for a team featuring players whose countries didn’t qualify? Team FIFA, Team World, Team UN. Make it charitable – Team UNICEF, Team Red Cross, Team Oxfam. 

To assure wide participation, you might institute a limit of two players per nation (or not – we can hack out the details later), but this idea would accomplish multiple goals.

  • First, as indicated above, it would assure that the world’s greatest tournament featured the world’s greatest players. All of them.
  • It would provide an opportunity for talented footballers from weak footballing nations a chance to compete on the biggest stage – something that may never happen for them with the present system.
  • It would widen the Cup’s appeal. Expanding to 48 teams means you’ll have 48 nations invested. Adding Team World means another 15-20 nations now have something to cheer for. Consider this year’s US qualifying. Unless disaster strikes, the Yanks will qualify for Russia, but our prospects were far from certain even a week ago. What if we had failed to qualify? Under a Team World system, American supporters would at least be able to cheer on Christian Pulisic, the kid who seems destined to be our greatest player ever. That would be a wonderful thing for everybody, having the world’s largest economy paying at least a little attention, don’t you think?
  • Finally, maybe there’s a global harmony angle. If Team World featured players from, say, the US, Iran, Syria, Slovenia, China, North Korea, Cuba, South Africa, Azerbaijan, Libya, Papua New Guinea… See where I’m going with this? For a few weeks nations that know little about each other, or maybe don’t like each other at all, would have cause to learn more, to interact, to bond, to pull together. You never know.

I’m sure there would be a variety of logistical hurdles, but I can’t see a downside, especially since FIFA clearly wants to be more inclusive.

And having your best players sitting at home? That’s not good for anyone.

Can the Caribbean survive?

What will the islands and the Atlantic and Gulf coasts look like in a generation?

Hurricane Maria climateI’m not a climate expert, so I want to tread cautiously here. That said, our recent spate of catastrophic weather has raised some uneasy questions in my mind.

As I write this Hurricane Maria is lashing Puerto Rico. It is, in the estimate of some officials, the worst storm in the island’s modern history. Catastrophic devastation is certain. Death is likely.

This has been a hellish hurricane season. Harvey pounded the Caribbean and Texas to the tune of billions of dollars in damage, leaving at least 165 dead along the way. Irma “caused catastrophic damage in Barbuda, Saint Barthélemy, Saint Martin, Anguilla, and the Virgin Islands as a Category 5 hurricane. As of September 19, the hurricane has caused at least 101 deaths, including 44 in the Caribbean and 57 in the United States.” Jose mercifully veered north, although it was threatening the northeast for a while, and after Sandy we know for sure that major storms aren’t just a southeastern thing anymore.

Climate can be a capricious thing, of course – it had been several years since the US mainland had been hit by a hurricane – but there is reason to fear that 2017 is a harbinger of the new normal. There is now debate among scientists as to whether it’s too late to do anything about climate change (Neil deGrasse Tyson this week placed himself in the too late camp) and if this is the case, hurricanes are a likely manifestation of Climate 2.0. More of them, and more powerful.

Which has me looking at what the last few weeks have done to the Caribbean. The Leeward Islands have been crushed. Puerto Rico is having its day right now. And we know that the rest of the region is simply waiting its turn. Cuba. Haiti and the Dominican Republic. Bermuda. Jamaica. Central America and Mexico.

And of course, the US mainland. In the age of the new normal nothing within 50 miles of the coast from North Carolina to Texas can feel safe, can it?

What if the parade of devastation we’ve seen this year becomes the rule instead of the exception? What if, late each summer, one aspiring Category 5 after another forms off the west coast of Africa and marches this way? What if the region has to hunker down, then emerge to count its dead and asses the economic damages once or twice (or three times, or four, or five) annually?

How many times can you clean up and rebuild?

I find myself wondering if the Caribbean can survive. If I lived there I know I’d already be considering how I might get to safer ground, although, since many of these areas are comparatively poor, it may not be possible for a lot of these citizens to escape.

Beyond this, I wonder the same kinds of things about US coastal areas. I don’t know that I think people are going to abandon Houston and Miami, but we saw an interesting stat as Harvey approached Texas: 80% of homes in the Houston area had no flood insurance. Which made me ask another question: if I ran an insurance company, would I write storm and flood policies for people in these areas?

Would I live there if I couldn’t get insurance? Could I live there knowing that it’s not if, but when?

I don’t have a lot of answers. Just questions. And as I watch hurricane season 2017 throwing one haymaker after another, the questions grow more dire.

Arab world cutting ties with Qatar: FIFA’s four-point plan

What should FIFA do now that the Arab world has had enough of Qatar’s bullshit? Double down, baby!

A number of Arab countries including Saudi Arabia and Egypt have cut diplomatic ties with Qatar, accusing it of destabilising the region.

They say Qatar backs militant groups including so-called Islamic State (IS) and al-Qaeda, which Qatar denies.

The Saudi state news agency SPA said Riyadh had closed its borders, severing land, sea and air contact with the tiny peninsula of oil-rich Qatar.

Seriously – Qatar is so bad that Saudi Fucking Arabia is stepping away from them. Read more

Examining a cynical, fake-patriotic Facebook meme

Instead of making yourself a tool for those whose agendas run counter to the best interests of the nation that flag represents, how about stepping back and asking  who’s playing you, and why?

This meme came across my Facebook feed earlier today.


Obviously somebody has an issue with Colin Kaepernick (and other black athletes) protesting injustice in America by refusing to stand during the national anthem. Read more

What does Brexit mean for the Premier League?

By threatening club finances and limiting player movement, Brexit may inflict serious damage on the world’s best league…

brexit-premier-leagueOn the sports side of things, we have this headline this morning:

Premier League refuses to speculate on effects of UK’s ‘Brexit’ from EU

The world’s most prestigious football league might be unwilling to speculate, but I’m not. England’s vote to leave the European Union has many uncertain about what it means for the Prem, but nobody sees it as a good thing. Lots of uncertainty. Lots of breath-holding. And for some, probably a good bit of prayer.

From where I sit, Brexit looks to be an unmitigated disaster for the Premier League. Read more

What Abby Wambach should have said

Is Abby Wambach a xenophobe? I doubt it. But her remarks on foreign-born players were clumsy at best.

On Wednesday night Abby Wambach, the greatest striker in women’s soccer history, played her final match, an uninspired 1-0 loss to China that was in no way the sort of send-off she deserved.

While the game lacked fireworks, her appearance earlier in the day on the Bill Simmons podcast ignited a bit of a firestorm.

In the interview, Wambach launched a broadside at men’s national team coach Jurgen Klinsmann, saying that he should be fired for failing to develop the US youth program. Read more

Premier League TV deals, the Super League and the death of European domestic football leagues

Can Europe’s domestic football leagues survive the new Premier League TV deals? Not a chance.

Barclays-Premier-LeagueA good bit has been written about new TV deals for England’s Premier League – Sky domestically and NBC in the US – and the numbers are frankly mind-boggling: Sky is ponying up more than £5.1B (~$7.75B) and NBC is paying around $1B for rights through 2021-22. When rights for all international deals are factored in, the Prem will haul in around $4.3B a year. (Massively detailed analysis here.)

This is great news for the league’s clubs, obviously, as the payout for even the worst teams will assure that they’re wealthier than all but the biggest clubs in the rest of the world. The top 14 English sides are already among the world’s 30 richest before the new deal even takes effect. Read more

Cecil the Lion’s killer doesn’t quite get it

Walter Palmer, the dentist who killed Cecil the Lion, says he did nothing illegal and that he’s going back to work.

I don’t think Dr. Palmer understands the issue. He doesn’t grasp why people are so upset. He thinks we’re all mad because we mistakenly believe that he broke the law.

No, Walter, we know you acted legally. We live in a country where it’s legal for rich people to buy Congressmen. Most places it’s called “bribery” or “graft” or “corruption,” but here it’s called “lobbying” or “free speech.” Read more

Dir En Grey: Japanese Metal from Hell (Saturday Video Roundup)

Godzilla ain’t the only hardcore badass from Japan.

I’m not the Japan expert around here – that distinction falls to blogger, poet, photographer and Japanophile extraordinare Dan Ryan – so I won’t pretend that I know anything about J-Pop. It just felt like a nice day to do something a little different for SVR, and I’ve been thinking about Dir En Grey for the past couple of days.

They’ve been around for a number of years and seem to have evolved through some changes (both musical and visual), so you can surf YouTube and find a range of styles – everything from a sort of melodic Metal that we might associate with, say, Queensryche, to moments that, more than anything, remind me of Tool, to hell on Earth horror Metal that would scare the piss out of Lordi, to straight-up Nu Metal. I’m not so much into the weasels-ripped-my-throat-out brand of singing, but hey, you might like it.

So let’s get our J-Metal on, shall we? We’ll start with “The Final.”

Read more

Are the kidnapped Nigerian school girls really America’s problem?

Boko Haram is evil and we all want to see the victims rescued. But how is it our responsibility?

Many of us have watched in horror as the story of the kidnapped Nigerian school girls has unfolded. The idea of a terror group like Boko Haram selling these victims into “marriage” violates every atom of our shared morality.

But the other day I saw this headline from the Beeb:

Nigeria abducted schoolgirls: Was US slow to act?

I have to tell you, I was a little taken aback. Read more

П is for Pussy Riot: thinking ahead to the next Russian Olympic Games

Pussy Riot’s commitment to social justice in the motherland is more than admirable. It perhaps merits a spot in Russia’s artistic canon.

The 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia closed today, and if you set aside the homophobia and generally strong-armed approach to governance by the host, one Vladimir Putin, these games were remarkable in just about every way.

The images of the opening ceremonies have lingered with me for the past couple of weeks. If you watched, you know that the creative team built their narrative around the highwater marks in the nation’s glorious history, honoring their accomplishments in the arts, literature, science and technology. Given Russia’s considerable heritage, the little girl’s interaction with Cyrillic alphabet primer, associating a historical moment with each letter, couldn’t help being an impressive reminder to the world of the nation’s rich cultural legacy. Read more

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