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Archive for February 18th, 2007

What kids learn from playing sports

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Cheating is good:

For generations it has been one of the great American axioms, accepted truth on diamonds, courts and gridirons everywhere: Sports builds character, instilling the values of teamwork and good sportsmanship.

But amid fresh headlines of alleged cheating in auto racing, continuing controversies over steroid use in baseball, track and cycling and ugly brawls among basketball players comes a nationwide survey suggesting a decidedly darker vision of sports.

“There is reason to worry that the sports fields of America are becoming the training grounds for the next generation of corporate and political villains and thieves,” says Los Angeles ethicist Michael Josephson.

The latest two-year study of high school athletes by the Josephson Institute found a higher rate of cheating in school among student-athletes than among their classmates. It also found a growing acceptance of cheating to gain advantages in competition.

Josephson’s report, based on interviews across the country with 5,275 high school athletes, concluded that too many coaches are “teaching our kids to cheat and cut corners.”

The provocative findings were met with strong reactions from all sides — some acknowledging problems while others scoffed.

James Staunton, commissioner of the 565-school California Interscholastic Federation (CIF) Southern Section, which governs high school sports for most of the Southland, said he “hopes” ethical deviance hasn’t “gone that far.”

“What this points out to me is that we still have a tremendous amount of work to do with our athletes, parents and coaches,” Staunton said. “For all the good things we talk about in sports, and the wonderful things we promote, we’re fighting some societal pressures.”

The commissioner acknowledged finding “that kids are powerfully motivated for the wrong reasons.”

Some established Southland prep coaches dismissed Josephson’s conclusions, including Chino Hills Ayala High’s Tom Gregory, a 27-year veteran basketball coach. “I’ve used basketball as a tool for my players to become better people,” he said.

The survey’s conclusions may be open to some dispute. Josephson found, for example, that about 25% of teen athletes considered rule-bending and aggressive behavior in competition acceptable. A substantial majority did not find it acceptable, though the percentage who considered that behavior acceptable had risen since a previous survey.

Among other notable survey results were:

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Written by Leisureguy

18 February 2007 at 10:00 am

Posted in Daily life, Education

Taking on Guantánamo

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An important article in the new issue of Vanity Fair. It begins:

The whole purpose of setting up Guantánamo Bay is for torture. Why do this? Because you want to escape the rule of law. There is only one thing that you want to escape the rule of law to do, and that is to question people coercively—what some people call torture. Guantánamo and the military commissions are implements for breaking the law. Why build a prison here when there are plenty of prisons in Nebraska? Why is it, when we see photos of Abu Ghraib, we think that it is “exporting Guantánamo”? That it is the “Guantánamo method”? —Lieutenant Commander Charles Swift to the author, January 2007.

He could not even get his client a pair of socks. That realization came to Charlie Swift, a lawyer in the navy’s Judge Advocate General’s Corps (jag), as he landed in Guantánamo. It was December 22, 2006, a few weeks before the fifth anniversary of the arrival of the first enemy detainees at the American naval base in Cuba. Swift had been a jag defense lawyer for 12 years and was making his 30th visit to Salim Ahmed Hamdan, a diminutive Yemeni who had been held for more than five years. The first time Swift met Hamdan, in January 2004, the prisoner was in shackles. “I am freezing,” Hamdan told him. “Can’t you get me a pair of socks?” After that, Swift brought Hamdan socks. Sometimes his client was given them, sometimes he was not. Now, nearly three years later, Hamdan was at the center of a landmark Supreme Court case, Hamdan v. Rumsfeld, held up as a symbol of detainees’ rights and the need for the Geneva Conventions, yet he was still mired in legal limbo.

The island, once again, seemed inexpressibly strange to Swift. He always drove past a sign that read honor bound to defend freedom. “This is probably not the best sign for this place,” Swift said to himself on one of his first trips. Seeing the rec hall and a McDonald’s, he made notes for a future jury summation: “This is the island of misfit toys.”

An order had been issued just before he arrived. Hamdan was to be taken to Camp Six, a nether zone on the base, and placed in solitary confinement. His days would be spent in a tiny room kept cold by air-conditioning. Mail from his family in Yemen was withheld for months. Immediately, Swift called Washington to speak to his partner, law professor Neal Katyal. This was the fourth year Katyal had spent his holidays preparing legal briefs on the subject of President Bush’s military tribunals. “They’ve put Salim back into solitary,” Swift told him. “That is outrageous,” Katyal said. “But what about the notes?” Camp authorities had seized the notes Hamdan took after a recent visit with Swift. Katyal was furious at this violation of lawyer-client privilege.

Through the holidays, Katyal wrote draft after draft of possible briefs for the Supreme Court and the Court of Appeals. He made phone calls trying to learn what the Department of Defense would include in the new guidelines for Guantánamo it was issuing in January. Swift and Katyal were bogged down in procedural delay. A few months after their decisive victory the previous June, when the Supreme Court had declared the military tribunals illegal, Congress had passed an onerous new law, muting the court’s ruling on the no-man’s-land of Guantánamo. Now the lawyers were planning a new strategy to take before the appellate court. This time, in addition to going up against the administration, they would be challenging Congress.

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Written by Leisureguy

18 February 2007 at 9:10 am

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