Curveball
  Curveball  

"Irreverence is the champion of liberty and its only sure defense."
- Mark Twain

"Anyone who combines politics and baseball is an idiot, because everyone knows that ping-pong is the greatest sport. Oh, and I'm really a Communist who hates NASCAR and listens to Joan Baez in the dark.
-- Glenn Reynolds

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Andre Vladimir Sebastian is a figment of your imagination. Honestly, you really could have done better than him, now couldn't you? Next time, put a little effort into it.

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The Edwards-Clinton Mind Meld
Reading this Washington Post profile of Sen. John Edwards, running for the Democratic nomination for president, one is struck by how similar it is to every other newspaper feature on Edwards. This man knows how to stick to a script and spin the media. He also, it is quite clear, thinks of himself as the savior of the world. This is the main theme in pretty much every bio and profile I've read of him. The first few times I read about his idea that he was called to enter politics to do right for the little man, I thought it was kind of hokey. Now I find it kind of creepy. Not that politics can't be a noble calling. I just don't buy it coming from him. There's a certain auro of the untrustworthy about him. And now I know why. Asked by The Post what he thought of Edwards, U.S. Rep. Mel Watt, D-N.C., said, "What has impressed me most is he's such a quick study. He has the same kind of mind as Clinton when it comes to soaking up issues and seeing how they fit together. And he has the ability to connect those issues to real life." Just what this country needs: a president who thinks just like Clinton.

  posted by AVS @ 7.6.03


7.6.03  

 
EU Taxes EBay
Further proof that the European Union is a sinister plot to ruin everything good and decent in this world: The PU, I mean, EU has announced that eBay will have to pay a value added tax on every transaction, the BBC has reported. EBay responded by saying it would raise its fees to cover the costs. It will soon cost six pounds to list an item if you live in Britain. If you live in the United States, it costs between 30 cents and $3.30 to list an item, depending on the item's price. Just one more reason why living in America is better than living in Europe endless, where there's nothing but "elegance and decadence."

  posted by AVS @ 6.6.03


6.6.03  

 
Democrats Boycott Their Own Dinner
Blogger Geitner Simmons, an editorial writer for the Omaha World Herald, posted a very brief editorial from his paper which I thought well worth reprinting in full.

Activists with the Nebraska Democratic Party will no longer call their annual get-together the Jefferson-Jackson dinner. Thomas Jefferson was a slaveholder, and Andrew Jackson was a slaughterer of Indians, Democrats said in explaining their decision. (Of course, both men were also towering figures in the creation of the modern concept of democracy.) Will Democrats also boycott, out of high principle, any Lewis and Clark activities? That would seem logical, since the expedition, which included a slave owned by William Clark, was the brainchild of the unmentionable Mr. Jefferson.

  posted by AVS @ 5.6.03


5.6.03  

 
Moral Courage And Rachel Corrie
Steven Zak has a well-written piece in Israeli Insider countering Susan Sontag's apotheosis of terrorist apologist and enabler Rachel Corrie, the American woman who died in a confrontation with an Israeli bulldozer in March, in the May 5 issue of The Nation. (Charles at Little Green Footballs linked the Zak piece this morning.)

Sontag praises Corrie for her courage and her willingness to be ostracized from her "tribe" for her beliefs:

Let's start with risk. The risk of being punished. The risk of being isolated. The risk of being injured or killed. The risk of being scorned. We are all conscripts in one sense or another. For all of us, it is hard to break ranks; to incur the disapproval, the censure, the violence of an offended majority with a different idea of loyalty. We shelter under banner words like justice, peace and reconciliation that enroll us in new, if much smaller and relatively powerless, communities of the like-minded. That mobilize us for the demonstration, the protest and the public performance of acts of civil disobedience--not for the parade ground and the battlefield.

To fall out of step with one's tribe; to step beyond one's tribe into a world that is larger mentally but smaller numerically-- if alienation or dissidence is not your habitual or gratifying posture, this is a complex, difficult process. It is hard to defy the wisdom of the tribe, the wisdom that values the lives of members of the tribe above all others. It will always be unpopular-- it will always be deemed unpatriotic--to say that the lives of the members of the other tribe are as valuable as one's own. It is easier to give one's allegiance to those we know, to those we see, to those with whom we are embedded, to those with whom we share--as we may--a community of fear.


Zak counters:

Actually, the sacrifice Corrie emblematized was that of others -- the victims of violence that she facilitated. She dedicated her life to protecting tunnels used to smuggle weapons and bombs from Egypt into Gaza. The elaborate structures, dug from inside homes under living rooms, bathrooms and bedrooms and often outfitted with electricity, elevators and communications equipment, serve as a means to the murders of Israeli civilians.

Corrie was acting on behalf of the radical Arab-led International Solidarity Movement (ISM), a group dedicated to "resistance" against "the occupation of Palestine." In her diary, Corrie writes sympathetically of the killing of Israelis by Arab terrorists. "[T]ry to imagine, please," she gushes, "the courage it requires."


He continues:

Terrorists like Omar Khan Sharif and Asif Mohammed Hanif who, under the cover of Corrie's ISM, slipped into Israel from Gaza on April 30 and went to a Tel Aviv beachfront pub strapped with bombs that might have come through Corrie's tunnels. There they murdered three people and maimed 55, all innocents who were merely enjoying drinks and human company -- life-affirming acts that required negation.

Zak nails Sontag and Corrie for romanticizing and luxuriating in the deaths of innocents. His rebuttal is excellent, but I think it misses a key point. Sontag idiotically proclaims: Generally a moral principle is something that puts one at variance with accepted practice. And that variance has consequences, sometimes unpleasant consequences, as the community takes its revenge on those who challenge its contradictions--who want a society actually to uphold the principles it professes to defend.

Under Sontag's definition of morality, if the prevailing social norms were those of the far left (as is the case in San Francisco, Martha's Vineyard, Ann Arbor, Chapel Hill, etc.), the only moral position would be on the right. Also, under her definition Palestinians who support Israel's right to exist and oppose the terror that Rachel Corrie assisted would be morally superior to the suicide bombers Sontag (and Corrie) support. But I digress.

Seems to me that Corrie did exactly the opposite of what Sontag praises her for. She didn't remain among her "tribe" and urge it to conform to her view, suffering the social ostracism that would follow. Rather, she fled to a part of the world where her views were shared by the majority of the people. The famous photo of her burning a paper American flag before a bunch of smiling Palestinians is very telling. She isn't doing this in downtown Dallas, where she would probably have had the snot beaten out of her. She is doing it in the Palestinian Territories, where it's an every day occurrance.

Corrie's death at the blade of an Israeli bulldozer doesn't prove her a model of the morally superior, even by Sontag's definition. No doubt it took physical courage to face that machine. But how does that make her any more morally or physically courageous than, say, the Israelies who day after day go out to the malls, the cafes, the nightclubs, knowing that by setting foot out their doors they make themselves targets of the terrorists Rachel Corrie aided? The Israelis face death at the hands of their neighbors every day. They face death because of every one of their neighbors hates their "tribe" and wishes it wiped from the face of the earth. Yet they don't flee. They go about their lives, defying their enemies simply by living. That's morally courageous. I don't for a second believe that Rachel Corrie thought she was in real danger from that bulldozer. She knew the rules. She knew that the Israeli military takes great care not to harm civilians. The Israeli civilians have no such comfort.

  posted by AVS @ 5.6.03



 
Sosa's Slug-Sticks Solid
Sammy Sosa's other 76 bats were all found to be solid wood, no cork, according to an MLB investigation reported in The Chicago Sun-Times. Looks like Sammy was telling the truth when he said the corked bat was one he used for pre-game home run exhibitions and it accidentally got mixed in with his game bats. Still doesn't explain why his muscles went from normal size to Godzilla size some time in the late '80s, early '90s. But if he is on 'roids, at least we know he draws the line somewhere when it comes to cheating.

  posted by AVS @ 5.6.03



 
Kirk Elder Ruminates On Bad Shoes
It was encouraging, in these uncertain times, to read that our borders are being protected from an invasion of men in bad shoes. But what, I wonder, is to be done about the feet of those who live here, which are clad in brothel creepers and running shoes and jelly sandals, Polyveldts and cowboy boots? Not to mention the Italian slip-ons favoured by photocopier salesmen: the ones in soft black leather with the gold bar across the front, which are worn with a black nylon hose which triggers static with every second step and causes electrical storms in Arizona, in the same way as a squashed butterfly in a rainforest can change the outcome of a war.

Read the rest here.

  posted by AVS @ 4.6.03


4.6.03  

 
Handsome Men Have Better Sperm
That's according to a new study conducted in Spain, which I found at NYC99. But if that's true, then, uh, how come all them ugly guys you see at Wal-Mart have 25 kids in tow, and all the handsome guys you see at Brooks Brothers have none?

  posted by AVS @ 4.6.03



 
Priest Proclaims God Doesn't Exist
This is both an Onion story and a bar joke come to life. A Lutheran priest in Denmark has proclaimed to his congregation, "there is no heavenly God, there is no eternal life, there is no resurrection." He was suspended, of course. The interesting sidebar to this story is that his bishops can't fire him. In Denmark, the national government employs the clergy, so the bureaucrats in the Ministry for Ecclesiastic Affairs have the final word on whether the "Reverend" Thorkild Grosboel will be defrocked. I don't see how he can't be. It'd be as if an editor at Dog World magazine proclaimed, "You know, cats really are the best pets."

  posted by AVS @ 3.6.03


3.6.03  

 
Sosa Caught With Cork!
Sammy Sosa was caught with a corked bat and expelled from a game tonight -- by the same official who tossed out George Brett for using pine tar on his bat 20 years ago. A lot of people thought Sammy was using steroids through the 1990s, but maybe it was corked bats all along. Wow.

(For those of you who don't follow baseball, Sammy Sosa is one of the most impressive home run hitters of his generation. Corking a bat means you hollow out the center and fill it with cork. It makes the bat lighter, which allows you to swing it faster, which allows your hits to go farther, which is why it's against baseball rules. Sosa has more 60-homer seasons than anyone in major league history, and earlier this year he hit his 500th home run -- a milestone that used to guarantee entry to the Hall of Fame. This discovery taints all of his records and accomplishments at the plate.)

A few years ago I was at Wrigley Field and saw Sosa hit one so hard it struck a house across the street from the stadium. I was amazed, but apparently he does this on a regular basis. He's always seemed a charismatic, likeable fellow. It's disappointing to learn he's a cheater.

  posted by AVS @ 3.6.03



 
Rick Pitino Says Columnist Made Up Quotes
Louisville men's basketball coach Rick Pitino has charged that Syracuse Post-Standard columnist Bob Snyder made up two quotes he attributed to Pitino -- one of which has Pitino bad-mouthing his own conference. With all the flap over Jayson Blair and Rick Bragg, newspapers across the country are reviewing their staffs and their standards. But until now I doubt much attention has been paid to sports departments, where standards can sometimes be looser because some editors don't consider sports "serious" news. It'll be interesting to see which side folds first in this scandal (I doubt it'll be Pitino), and if it puts added scrutiny on any other sports writers.

  posted by AVS @ 3.6.03



 
John Keegan On Gulf War II, And The West Vs. The East
Western civilisation, rooted in the idea that the improvement of the human lot lies in material advance and the enlargement of individual opportunity, is ill-equipped to engage with a creed that deplores materialism and rejects the concept of individuality, particularly individual freedom, military historian John Keegan writes in Wednesday's Daily Telegraph. He argues that the ease with which we defeated Saddam ensures the continuation of the conflict between the civilizations.

Physically, the coalition achieved a great victory, at virtually no cost to itself and at little national cost to Iraq or its population. Its centres of population, the government quarter in Baghdad apart, were left undamaged. There were few casualties among the civilian population and Iraqi military casualties were not numerous. Nevertheless, the psychological cost to Iraq, to the Middle East and to the wider Muslim world, will undoubtedly prove very great.

Islam achieved its initial success as a self-proclaimed world religion in the seventh and eighth centuries by military conquest. It consolidated its achievement by the exercise of military power, which, perpetuated by the Ottoman Caliphate, maintained Islam as the most important polity in the northern hemisphere until the beginning of the 18th century. Islam's subsequent decline embittered Muslims everywhere, but particularly those of its heartland in the Middle East.

Muslims, convinced of the infallibility of their belief system, are merely outraged by demonstrations of the unbelievers' material superiority, particularly their military superiority. The Ba'ath party, of which Saddam was leader in Iraq, was founded to achieve a Muslim renaissance.

The failure of the Ba'athist idea, which can only be emphasised by the fall of Saddam, will encourage militant Islamic fundamentalists - who have espoused the idea that unbelievers' mastery of military techniques can be countered only by terror - to pursue novel and alternative methods of resistance to the unbelievers' power.


  posted by AVS @ 3.6.03



 
The WNBA = Self-Inflicted Torture
ESPN contributor Stacey Pressman attends a Women's NBA game for the purpose of answering this question: "Would you rather attend a WNBA game or drink a shot of horse whiz while being pelted by goose feces?"

She concludes:

The bottom line is that the physical limitations and differences between men and women are writ larger in a sport like basketball where larger-than-life moments of amazing physical feats are what you remember: Dr. J's baseline reverse layup, Kareem's sky hook, or Jordan's kiss-the-rim dunk.

The big news in women's basketball last season was Lisa Leslie's historic dunk, the first in the women's pro game. When the physical differences are so large as to render a basic -- yet thrilling -- aspect of the men's game practically nonexistent in the women's game, it is clear why it is not as compelling.

But heaven forbid you point out these differences, or admit that you actually like some excitement in your basketball. If you do ... well, you're just a sexist pig. Or, in my case, a woman who panders to men.

It's easy to want to like the idea of women's basketball. It's easy to say "I believe that women's basketball is just as entertaining and enjoyable as men's basketball." It appeals to our democratic values and the better angels of our nature to strive for egalitarianism. The reality is, those cherished notions just do not ring true when it comes to basketball.

The fact is that, despite whatever high-minded notions we hold, only one truth is self-evident:

Women's basketball is an inferior game, and in ode to its professional acronym, Will Not Be Accepted ... except of course, in the state of Connecticut.


  posted by AVS @ 3.6.03



 
The WNBA: = Self-Inflicted Torture
ESPN contributor Stacey Pressman attends a Women's NBA game for the purpose of answering this question: "Would you rather attend a WNBA game or drink a shot of horse whiz while being pelted by goose feces?"

She concludes:

The bottom line is that the physical limitations and differences between men and women are writ larger in a sport like basketball where larger-than-life moments of amazing physical feats are what you remember: Dr. J's baseline reverse layup, Kareem's sky hook, or Jordan's kiss-the-rim dunk.

The big news in women's basketball last season was Lisa Leslie's historic dunk, the first in the women's pro game. When the physical differences are so large as to render a basic -- yet thrilling -- aspect of the men's game practically nonexistent in the women's game, it is clear why it is not as compelling.

But heaven forbid you point out these differences, or admit that you actually like some excitement in your basketball. If you do ... well, you're just a sexist pig. Or, in my case, a woman who panders to men.

It's easy to want to like the idea of women's basketball. It's easy to say "I believe that women's basketball is just as entertaining and enjoyable as men's basketball." It appeals to our democratic values and the better angels of our nature to strive for egalitarianism. The reality is, those cherished notions just do not ring true when it comes to basketball.

The fact is that, despite whatever high-minded notions we hold, only one truth is self-evident:

Women's basketball is an inferior game, and in ode to its professional acronym, Will Not Be Accepted ... except of course, in the state of Connecticut.



  posted by AVS @ 3.6.03



 
Mississippi Learnin'
The Christian Science Monitor reports that Mississippi is making great strides in public education, and other Southern states are following suit. Mississippi Governor Ronnie Musgrove had a very good explanation for why Southern states fell so far behind the rest of the nation in educational achievement in the mid to late 20th century.

Not that long ago, Musgrove recalls, a rural state such as Mississippi offered plenty of work for unskilled laborers on its farms. "In the 1950s, '60s, and '70s, education was never a priority throughout the South," he says. "You could get through life without it. But the world has changed. Today, you need a skilled work force."

A particularly jarring wake-up call for Mississippians, says Musgrove, was the passage of the North American Free Trade Agreement in the early 1990s. "As a result of NAFTA," he says, "the kind of businesses that create entry-level jobs have just passed right over us."


It's funny, though, what the Christian Science Monitor defines as improvements in education.

Today, Mississippi ranks 50th in the percentage of adults who have high school diplomas, and sixth in the percentage of 16- to 19-year-olds who do not.

Last December, the state became the first in the nation to place an Internet- connected computer in each of its K-12 public school classrooms. Of those computers, 32,000 were built by Mississippi high school students.

Last year, when the New York-based Princeton Review looked at accountability and testing systems in all 50 states, it ranked Mississippi sixth in the nation - a giant leap from 50th on earlier surveys.

And when it comes to complying with new federal education laws, Mississippi is suddenly a leader. "We were looking at the No Child Left Behind data, and Mississippi came up on our radar screens," says Christie of her group's efforts to track state policies with respect to the new law. "We were just totally impressed."


Mississippi kids still can't read, but hey, they have computers in every classroom, and they comply with all federal regulations!


  posted by AVS @ 3.6.03



 
No Medical Service For You, Fattie!
Britain's Labour Party has plans to require all smokers and overweight people to sign contracts in which they pledge to halt their self-destructive behavior, The Times has reported. If they don't keep up their end of the contract by dieting or quitting smoking or what have you, they could be denied treatment. Writes Times Political Correspondent Melissa Kite:

Written contracts would set out the patient’s responsibilities while offering them help to cut down or quit smoking, lose weight, take more exercise or eat a more nutritious diet, The Times has learnt. Those who failed to keep their side of the bargain or kept missing appointments could be denied free care.

The contracts would also bind doctors to certain standards of care and to providing a formal channel of redress if they fail to measure up.

The move comes amid growing concern about the strain on the health service from avoidable illnesses linked to smoking, alcohol, bad diet and workplace stress.


This is the logical end result of nationalized health care. In a free market, individuals make their own choices about how to live their lives, and they suffer the consequences or reap the rewards, whichever is applicable. Live a healthy life, pay lower insurance premiums. Eat, drink, and smoke yourself into such a state that you look like thisor this, and you'll pay higher premiums, not to mention die early and unhappy. But in a socialized system, the government gets to tell you how to live. And if you refuse, you don't get treatment.

  posted by AVS @ 2.6.03


2.6.03  
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