A conservatory of Ldotter blogs.

Saturday, July 16, 2005

The desire to win. . .

. . .at all costs manifests itself in the most sickening of ways at times. And just when you think you've heard the most sickening of all, along comes someone like Mark R. Downs, Jr., who paid one of the kids on his T-ball team -- yes, T-ball -- to injure a mentally disabled teammate so he wouldn't have to put him in the game and risk losing. What is truly sad is that this man had the great good fortune of being born in a place like the United States, with all its blessings, instead of some hell hole in the Middle East where they abduct mentally disabled children and fit them with suicide bomber vests. What kind of human being would sink to such a level of depravity? No kind. This requires a mindlessness seen only in sharks and jackals.

I have no children of my own, and far be it from me to tell others how to raise theirs. But, it seems to me that parents would do much better for their children if they picked their coaches based on what they can actually teach a child, rather than the number of wins they can put together over the course of a summer baseball season. Far too many coaches today seem to teach kids that losing is the greatest disgrace a person can endure in competition, and that it must be avoided by any means -- when, in truth, cheating is by far the greater disgrace. And cheating doesn't even begin to describe the subhuman conduct involved in this case.

But, even in cases where the lack of honor and dignity isn't as pronounced as it is in this one, the lesson many children learn is that losing is such a bad thing that one must fear it to such a degree that morality can be set aside in order to avoid it. Inevitably, this forces children to choose between victory and their own consciences, and a healthy child will always choose to follow his conscience. The end result is that a healthy child will have no interest in sports because the pursuit is beneath his sense of dignity, leaving competitive games to be played by children who turn out to be like, well, a great number of sports superstars playing today.

Is this something Congress needs to get involved in? No. Congress is not much different from the sports world in its lack of honor and dignity. But, there ought to at least be some kind of national agenda to promote good sportsmanship. One would think the various professional sports leagues would be anxious to back this kind of initiative with some percentage of the billions raked in every year through sporting events and licensing. While codifying it into law is a non-starter -- we don't need a House Subcommittee on Little League -- shaming the players organizations and owners into spreading around a little seed money to promote something that will, in the end, be in their best interests seems like a good place to start. That is, assuming the players and owners are in any way capable of experiencing shame -- an awfully big assumption given the evidence before us today.

A hat-tip in sadness to Lucianne.com.

Friday, July 15, 2005

Random Thought

People who are the most vocal about banning smoking in bars don't generally hang out in bars anyway. It's too difficult to sit on a barstool with a stick up your ass.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Molly Ivins. . .

. . .today retracted a gross misstatement of fact she'd made in her previous column. I think that's a perfectly admirable thing to do, so I'll resist the temptation to heckle her. But, that won't keep me from chiding the presumably large number of MoveOn folks who believed exactly as she had until she was corrected.

I assume Molly didn't arrive at her numbers by accident. One doesn't just pluck a figure out of the air when discussing the number of people Saddam murdered during his reign. It's most likely a number she's heard bandied about in conversation with like-minded acquaintances who appear to have some sense of authority on the issue. So, one would presume that Molly isn't the only one among her circle of indignants who needed to be disabused of the notion that Saddam had killed less than 20,000 human beings over a 30-year period. You really have to wonder how widely held this belief has been among the left. What would cause them to so readily accept such a low number when the reality is that Hussein is directly responsible for at least 300,000 dead Iraqis?

Whether it's willful ignorance, or denial, there is something wrong on the left when one of its beloved opinion writers gets such a basic, important fact so wrong. Whatever the case, it slipped past at least one editor (likely more) before going to publication (assuming anyone bothers to read her work before printing it). To me, that indicates an institutional problem. I know. I'm as stunned as you are.

But, there's an irony in all of this. It seems that Ivins (and many others on the left) feel that the moment the number of civilian dead in this war surpasses the number produced by the Hussein regime, the war becomes inherently unjust and immoral -- and the bodycount was to become a rallying cry. The irony is that the left holds up as its shining example of humanitarian wartime triumph the war in Kosovo, which is far closer to having cost more civilian lives than the ethnic cleansing it sought to end. In the last days leading up to NATO intervention, Clinton administration officials were trumpeting bodycounts of "up to 100,000." As it turns out, the number of bodies that have been discovered in and around Kosovo is much closer to 3,500. And, 3,500 is close to the number of civilians killed over the course of the sustained aerial campaign. At least these are the most recent figures I've heard. I haven't followed the developements very closely over the last several years, so the numbers are subject to revision.

I'd really like to know the genesis of the number Molly cited in her original article.

A new blog. . .

. . .has entered the 'sphere, and it comes from an intelligent, witty, and very kind friend of mine. And you thought YOU were cranky? Well, she's kind unless you happen to be a raving pinko. Nevertheless, she's still intelligent and witty. And a former ice dancer. And, she's recently semi-retired from a career in the legal profession. "Cranky" is her new pursuit, and to encourage her to keep on keepin' on, I thought I'd link up to it. A little background:

"Also, after you've competed in your first competition, you no longer expect life to be fair - you're generally just relieved that your partner didn't stick a toe-pick in your leg! And oddly, you don't come away with lowered expectations. You just become more determined to do your best, particularly when, like me, you possess minimal natural talent. I always had to work twice as hard to achieve half as much. And I never minded.

But I'm still not going to miss most of the lawyers I've encountered! Some yes - and more about them on future posts."

Welcome aboard!

Monday, July 11, 2005

In a word. . .

. . .Hitchens.:

"We know very well what the 'grievances' of the jihadists are.

The grievance of seeing unveiled women. The grievance of the existence, not of the State of Israel, but of the Jewish people. The grievance of the heresy of democracy, which impedes the imposition of sharia law. The grievance of a work of fiction written by an Indian living in London. The grievance of the existence of black African Muslim farmers, who won't abandon lands in Darfur. The grievance of the existence of homosexuals. The grievance of music, and of most representational art. The grievance of the existence of Hinduism. The grievance of East Timor's liberation from Indonesian rule. All of these have been proclaimed as a licence to kill infidels or apostates, or anyone who just gets in the way."

Yes, Christopher Hitchens has his warts. But writing isn't one of them. Even when he offends me, he does it with unmatched clarity. He's one of those rare writers who can put together a sentence that will call you back to read it again because of its elegance rather than incoherence. A hat-tip to Andrew Stuttaford at The Corner.

A recent email exchange. . .

. . .got me thinking about the accusations of prisoner mistreatment and torture at Abu Ghraib and GITMO. That's nothing new, since the story has been blog fodder for months. I'm a relative johnny-come-lately to just about any subject in the news these days. While I was away, Dick Durbin equated US policy with that of Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia, Karl Rove rope-a-doped a bunch of self-declared centrists into rising up in indignation before realizing that they were outing themselves as liberals, we've celebrated another Independence Day, and our staunchest ally in the Global War on Terror was attacked. Needless to say, I can't fall back on the "slow news day" excuse for not blogging lately.

The email exchange took place between myself and a vocal critic of the military's treatment of detainees, and it was surprisingly civil. Some of the replies I got were rather terse, but always respectful -- which is a rarity when it comes to email exchanges over such contentious issues. Hell, these days, you have to expect death threats whenever you write teasingly about dogs and cats. So, if you can rationally discuss something that strikes at the very heart of the issue of human rights, you've accomplished something that can't even be done in the hallowed halls of that most august body -- the single greatest deliberative body on the face of the earth -- the United States Senate. I consider it a badge of honor.

One of the big problems I have with critics of detainee treatment is that among them there seems to be a rush to accept the stories of abuse at face value. Whether or not they actually do accept these tales, I don't know. What I do know is that there seems to be a complete lack of urgency to disprove or debunk any of the claims, nor any apparent desire to factor in the known fact that many of the people in custody have been specifically trained to use international aid groups as a conduit for propaganda to put pressure on the respective governments of the coalition forces in order to weaken their resolve. This is no small thing, and should be included in any report that emanates from an investigation into human rights violations against detainees.

The person with whom I had this exchange is keen to point out that he doesn't rely on the questionable and unproven claims, but rather focuses on the claims of abuse that we know are true to a reasonable degree of certainty. This is all well and good, but often there's a rhetorical trick (or is it a misstep?) employed when discussing those few confirmed instances. What happens is, these instances are highlighted and discussed, the details laid out in vivid color, and then placed alongside the proverbial "hundreds and thousands" of claims that haven't been confirmed to anyone's satisfaction. The effect is essentially to conflate several blood curdling tales of inhumane treatment and outright torture with thousands of accusations of varying brutality for which there is no evidence to back them up.

Also, there seems to be no willingness to take into account the fact that at least one of the accusations of mistreatment made by a leading news publication turned out to have no basis in fact, and would eventually lead to several civilian deaths as a protest centered around the allegations spun out of control and led to a full-scale riot. In this case, it wasn't actual prisoner abuse that led to the riot. Rather, it was a supposed (and apparently fictional) instance of mistreatment of the Koran that infuriated the prostesters. Is there any real doubt that the people who led this protest had been treated to analysis of the reports from international aid groups which suggest that there have been hundreds and thousands of instances of abuse and mistreatment?

Granted, the administration has done little to curry favor with journalists, often frustrating them with its characteristic reticence and secretiveness. But, the fact remains that the reason that the administration takes such a tack with the press is that the administration has a somewhat justifiable (and healthy) paranoia toward it. And, if you need an object lesson as to why it's justifiable, all you need to do is look at the treatment given to both Karl Rove and Dick Durbin by the mainstream media outlets following their recent provocative statements.

But, beyond the questions of veracity regarding both the administration's explanations and the claims collected by international aid groups, there's a larger question as to the basic morality and immorality of torture itself. My counterpart in the exchange holds that under no circumstances can torture be morally justified. And, it is on that very basic point where I part company with him. I happen to think that torture can be justified given the proper set of circumstances. Whether or not that happens to be the case in this situation doesn't go directly to the question of whether or not it's universally true that infliction of unbearable pain and suffering on a person is justifiable.

For instance, suppose you've been tipped off that there is a bomb hidden in an elementary school located in a densely populated area, and that it is set to go off in one hour. You have in custody a person who knows the exact location of the bomb, but he is uncooperative. Is it moral to use torture to extract information from that person so bomb squads can defuse the explosives?

That's just one of many instances one can invision where, to my mind at least, torture is not only justifiable, but a moral imperative. Whether or not any of the detainees who are known to have been tortured were done so in an effort to save lives from an immediate threat, I don't know. But, I do know that torture is not universally wrong.

Sunday, July 10, 2005

There are no expletives. . .

. . .strong enough to describe the frustration I've experienced in the process of getting my computer back up and running, but I've finally managed to get it done. And, in the process, I suffered the loss of every single one of the music files I thought I'd managed to salvage in the crash due to a mechanical hard drive failure. I honestly thought my music library was safe from the wrath of the Crash Gods due to the fact that they were stored on a slave drive. But, it turns out, nothing can stop them once they have their designs on your data. And no data is sacred.

I thought for a moment about sending the thing off to one of those outfits who specialize in recovering data from hard drives, but after a brutal price estimate, have decided to simply dispose of the thing and forever remove from my life the temptation to spend anywhere from $500 - $2,700 on a quest to regain my precious collection. There are times in life when you simply have to make a fresh start of it, and this seems to be one. Besides, I did have a lot of music which I never listened to, but simply kept on the drive as filler -- a sort of GPA-padding for music lovers.

So, now that I'm back online and my computer operates somewhat close to the way I want it, it's just a matter of finding time to do my blogging. I'm nowhere near establishing anything close to a routine. It seems every day brings another task, chore, event, obligation, or commitment. Absent those, there are always leisure pursuits and merriment. I've spent precious little time at home (reflected in general disarray) over the past few weeks, and I really can't see that changing much in the immediate future. In fact, I've spent so little time reading and watching news that I've fallen behind on current events. So, at this point, I really don't know what I can say on the blog that will contribute anything to anyone's understanding of the world as we know it. So, if you came here looking for answers -- sorry 'bout that.

I will eventually catch up, but for now, I have a small cookout to attend this afternoon.

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