Saturday, October 27, 2007

Boxing Blogging: Super Middleweight Division

For a long time, the super middleweight division had been somewhat of an ugly step-sister in the world of boxing. With the glut of talent from welterweight to middleweight, 168 pounds was where interest started to fade into the likewise unimpressive heavyweight ranks.

But recently, the supers have gotten a serious shot in the arm, and the future looks bright. Topping the list of upcoming boxing excitement is the unification bout between fellow undefeated titleists Joe Calzaghe (43-0, 32 KOs) and Mikkel Kessler (39-0, 29 KOs). Calzaghe and Kessler are indisputably numbers one and two in the division, making this fight all the more meaningful as a legitimate case of the best fighting the best. Even the loaded welterweight division can't do that, given that after pound-for-pound #1 Floyd Mayweather, it'd be impossible to decide who the legitimate #2 guy is (Shane Mosley? Miguel Cotto? Paul Williams?).

But even after the Calzaghe/Kessler mega-fight, there are some interesting events on the horizon -- most notably from middleweights decided to jump up to the division. Contender Allan Green (25-1, 18 KOs) is moving up to the division, and the "1" on his record, slugger Edison Miranda (28-2, 24 KOs) may well join him. Former division champion Jermain Taylor (27-1-1, 18 KOs) is widely expected to move up after he fights his rematch against Kelly Pavlik (32-0, 29 KOs), who I also wouldn't be surprised to see move up in weight after a few defenses.

Meanwhile, this season of "The Contender" is taking place at super middleweight. I know a lot of folks like to rap on ESPN's reality series. But the fact is, the level of competition on the show has gotten better every year, and the fighters remaining in the tournament (Jaidon Codrington, Sakio Bika, and Sam Soliman) all are live names in the division. Bika and Soliman have both presented themselves quite well against the top names at their weight classes. As for Codrington, after being on the wrong end of the 2005 knockout of the year (at the hands of Allan Green), he's rattled off nine straight victories and has torn through the Contender ranks, winning his two bouts in less than three rounds. Because of the speed and brutality of his knockout loss to Green, some folks question Codrington's chin. But in my opinion, anyone can get clipped, and while I do sometimes raz on Green, he's an excellent fighter with a killer instinct -- the sort of guy that'd threaten anybody in their 10th pro fight. Codrington has shown resilience coming back from that beating, and I personally think a re-match down the road (which is not out of the question, given that they are both on title contention paths) would be very intriguing (not to mention marketable).

Friday, October 26, 2007

We Don't Know What Happened in Jena Until We Ask The White Folk

In the latest rendition of "White southerners are the most credible sources about racial going-ons in the south", we get this article by Jena local Craig Franklin alleging several "myths" about how the story has been coverage. It's really rather pathetic, but unsurprisingly it sounds "entirely believable" to Jonah Goldberg. Essentially, the warrants for the "myths" are that this resident has Black friends. Indeed, "Jena is a wonderful place to live for both whites and blacks," and soon they will go back to their idyllic state of integrated happiness and light, "Just as it has been all along"(!!!) Honestly, who could believe this claptrap? This is a town that voted overwhelmingly for Klansman David Duke as recently as the 1990s.

The mendacity of this is unbelievable. Myth #4 is that of the "DA's Threat to Black Students." How do we know its a myth? Because the DA denies it, of course! Who you gonna believe, a respectable member of the community, or Black people? Myths #5 & 6 similarly appear to rely on (probably White) eyewitness testimony as definitive proof that Black folk are lying. The first sentence of Myth #9 ("Mychal Bell's All-White Jury") is a concession that it isn't a myth after-all, his jury was, in fact, all White. In Myth #2, we're supposed to believe that a White high schooler in Louisiana doesn't know the racial history behind a noose. I can scarcely think of a claim that strains credibility more. And so on and so forth. It stuns me that this is being accorded any credibility whatsoever.

Taking a class on civil rights history this term, one thing that is being impressed upon me quite clearly, from reading a wide variety of sources (primary and secondary) is that when it comes to racial politics and policy in the south, Whites have no credibility. Not because Black people never lie, but because Whites have been historically near-pathological in their willingness to deny racism in the south. They did it because they knew any assertion they made in opposition to a Black person would automatically be accepted as true, no matter how outlandish. This was a key brick in the wall of White supremacy, and it conditioned White folk to feel comfortable rewriting reality, secure in the knowledge that they'd never be called on it. It was a general corruption of the entire idea of truth, and it is embedded in America's racial discourse in the form of Derrick Bell's "rules of racial standing":
Not only are blacks' complaints discounted, but black victims of racism are less effective witnesses than are whites, who are members of the oppressor class. This phenomenon reflects a widespread assumption that blacks, unlike whites, cannot be objective on racial issues and will favor their own no matter what. This deep seated belief fuels a continuing effort - despite all manner of Supreme Court decisions intended to curb the practice - to keep black people off juries in cases involving race. Black judges hearing racial cases are eyed suspiciously and sometimes asked to recuse themselves in favor of a white judge - without those making the request even being aware of the paradox in their motions.

I'm not saying every Black charge is right and every White denial is wrong. I'm saying that, given a clash of story, Blacks should be accorded presumptive validity barring clear evidence to the contrary. There is precisely no grounds, when hearing a Black account and White account of a given racial event in America, to default in favor of the White view. There is a lot of grounds for doing the opposite. Extreme position? Perhaps. But historically, it's been borne out time and again. And I can see no other explanation for why someone like Mr. Goldberg would find such an absurd apologia to be even remotely compelling.

Could Cleland Avenge Himself?

A new poll indicates that Senator Saxby Chambliss might be vulnerable in a rematch with former Georgia Senator Max Cleland. Chambliss is up 36%-24% over Cleland, with 40% undecided. Those are terrible numbers for an incumbent.

Cleland hasn't expressed interest in the race, which makes sense given how he was treated in the first go around. Still, I hope he jumps in and obliterates Chambliss, who is without a doubt one of the most repulsive members of the US Senate (starting with how he got there, with the paradigmatic slime ad connecting war hero and triple amputee Cleland with Osama bin Laden). He deserves to go down hard, and I can see no better justice than Cleland being the one send him back to whatever cesspool he emerged from.

Genarlow Wilson is Freed!

It was a close call (4-3), but the Georgia Supreme Court has ruled that Genarlow Wilson's 10-year prison sentence for receiving oral sex from a 15-year old, when he was 17, was "cruel and unusual punishment." As a result, Wilson shall be freed immediately.
Chief Justice Leah Ward Sears wrote in the majority opinion that the changes in the law ''represent a seismic shift in the legislature's view of the gravity of oral sex between two willing teenage participants.''

Sears wrote that the severe punishment makes ''no measurable contribution to acceptable goals of punishment'' and that Wilson's crime did not rise to the ''level of adults who prey on children.''

I can't say it any better than TalkLeft: "If you believe in justice, the best news you are likely to hear today is this." The Wilson case was a travesty from day one, merely amplified by the state's dogged pursuit of keeping Wilson behind bars for as long as possible -- even as public outrage grew. It is fortunate that justice appears to have finally won out.

Also worthy of note, Chief Justice Sears is rumored to be on the short-list for a potential Democratic Supreme Court nomination.

The opinion (and dissent) of the court is available here.

Up the Creek

Alaskan Senator Ted Stevens' lawyer, Brendan Sullivan of Williams and Connolly:
“By the time somebody comes to me, they are pretty far up the creek,” Sullivan has said. “The good thing is they will pay almost anything.”

Having worked at WC, this strikes me as largely accurate. WC is for people who are a) really wealthy and b) in really serious trouble. They are very good at what they do, and charge accordingly.

Even corrupt Senators like Ted Stevens deserve good legal advice. I just hope that in this case, the best advice Mr. Sullivan can give is for him to take a plea deal.

It's That Most Wonderful Time of the Year

It's Islamo-fascism Awareness Week, that magical time of year when Republicans briefly pretend to care about gay rights. And to celebrate, Kieran Healy has a poem:
Oh the Feminists hate Republicans
And Republicans hate the Feminists
To mock all Feminazis
Is an old G.O.P. rule

But during Islamo-Fascism Week
Islamo-Fascism Week
You’ll see Ann Coulter On Our Backs at USC
She’s helping Muslims seek
Their Feminine Mystique
Simone De Beauvoir’s really very cool

Oh FrontPage hates the atheists
The liberals and the Darwinists
The godless and the secular
In the groves of Academe

But during Islamo-Fascism Week
Islamo-Fascism Week
The Origin of Species is beyond critique
Mr Horowitz, he has a plan
To carpet-bomb Tehran
With hardback copies of The Selfish Gene

Oh Conservatives hate the sodomites
And the lesbians and degenerates
Repressing deviant urges
Is a vital party test

But during Islamo-Fascism Week
Islamo-Fascism Week
See Rick Santorum weep for every closeted Sheikh
Defend the freedom of the West
And the freaks who represent it best
It’s only for a week so have no fear
Be grateful that it doesn’t last all year!

Happy IFA Week, everybody!

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Triple Play

I know anti-FRC blogging is like a bad drug habit, but I just can't kick. They are just so unbelievably hackish it manages to make my blood boil. Today's daily update by leader Tony Perkins is a perfect example.

The first item is an attack on Native Hawaiian Government Reorganization Act, which they illustrate via someone holding a match to the constitution. Even if the Akaka Bill is a bad idea, I fail to see (and the FRC doesn't even purport to explain) what it has to do with the FRC's broader agenda -- except insofar as that agenda is "harass liberals," which, to be fair, is the only unifying thread I've ever seen in the FRC's work.

This is aptly demonstrated in the second item, which is a rant about Charlie Rangel's tax reform bill. What is breath-taking here is the perfidy with language. Rangel's bill would "increase taxes" on many "married couples" (what a meaningless phrase -- Bill and Melinda Gates are a "married couple"), but it would "increase welfare payments through the earned income credit," something you may know as the "Earned Income Tax Credit", but while the FRC can't stand policies that actually help working families, they wouldn't be caught dead opposing a tax cut, so hence we have our little omission. Perkins concludes:
The overall proposal resembles more a Marxist proposal of redistributing income than something worthy of the leaders of the free world. I'd agree with Congressman Rangel that the tax system needs a major overhaul, but more in the direction of simplicity and equality, not of a socialistic labyrinth.

Come on, Tony. Red-baiting is so 1950s.

Finally, the last item tries to diffuse the Democratic Congress' accomplishments writ large (on the occasion of the House's 1,000th roll call vote). Here, at least, some of their problems bear a relationship to the FRC's stated policy aims, such as "presents to the abortion/pro-death community by supporting Planned Parenthood and passing a bill to increase embryonic stem cell experimentation, and gifts to the homosexual lobby by voting on so-called 'hate crimes' legislation," they open the list with neither killing babies nor killing homosexuals, but rather by opposing the minimum wage hike (and here you thought that the anti-Marxism rant was a one-shot deal!). It is, as Perkins puts it, but a "gift to the labor unions." How horrid! The working class gets all the breaks.

If there is a difference between the FRC and the propaganda arm of the RNC, I'm just not seeing it.

Watson Retires

James Watson, DNA pioneer, has announced his retirement from his current position as chancellor of the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory in the wake of recent inflammatory comments about race.
In a statement, he noted that, at 79, he is “overdue” to surrender leadership positions at the lab, which he joined as director in 1968 and served as president until 2003. But he said the circumstances of his resignation “are not those which I could ever have anticipated or desired.”

Dr. Watson, who shared the 1962 Nobel Prize for describing the double-helix structure of DNA, and later headed the American government’s part in the international Human Genome Project, was quoted in The Times of London last week as suggesting that, overall, people of African descent are not as intelligent as people of European descent. In the ensuing uproar, he issued a statement apologizing “unreservedly” for the comments, adding “there is no scientific basis for such a belief.”

Make of it what you will. I'm curious to see how this apology, in tandem with his retirement, will be received vis-a-vis other apologies from persons who have made racist remarks in the recent past (e.g., Trent Lott, Michael Richards, Don Imus). Did Watson seem more sincere? Does he get extra "points" for resigning pretty much immediately after the event? He did seem to make a more sincere apology than the standard, inadequate, "I'm sorry if anyone was offended."

I think there are some interesting dynamics around racial apologies, and they need to be explored in greater detail.

What The Hell is Wrong With My State?

I'm a Marylander. And normally, I'm quite proud of that fact. But recently, my state has been letting me down big time. I'm not even talking about the state Supreme Court's refusal to strike down our anti-gay marriage law (the infamous "we won't be 'beguiled' by plain meaning!" case), which, though disappointing, hardly distinguishes us from the rest of the country. But recently, our courts have ruled that consent cannot be withdrawn by a woman after the initial penetration. And now, via Bean, apparently a Maryland judge just threw out a case where a cop observed a man hitting his girlfriend outside a gas station. The women disappeared, and the judge decided that since "Sadomasochists sometimes like to get beat up," he couldn't assume the punches weren't consensual.

Judge Harris went onto explain that it had to be clear that the defendant's actions were not consented to by the victim, and asked, "How do you determine that without the victim?" (Byron L. Warnken, a professor at the University of Baltimore School of Law, posed this question to a Sun reporter: "What would we do in a murder case?")

My understanding of the law here, incidentally, is that once the elements of a crime have been established "beyond a reasonable doubt" (which they were here), then the burden is on the defendant to show why there was a good "excuse" for the actions (i.e., this was consensual S&M...outside a gas station).

But yeah. As The Nation puts it, apparently "Some Domestic Violence Victims Like Being Hit."

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Is Dodd Due?

I like Chris Dodd, but politically he's seemed to be stuck in Mike Huckabee mode: everybody seems to be a fan, but nobody thinks he can win, so he can't get any traction. At the last debate I watched, I thought he gave a solid performance, but he also won the award for most "who's that guy?" from my friends (aside from Mike Gravel, of course).

But lately, the Dodd campaign has been showing some life. RCP wonders if Dodd is becoming the candidate of the netroots -- this cycle's Howard Dean. In the latest Daily Kos straw poll, Dodd surged from single digits to a 21% share of the vote -- second place behind John Edwards (31%) and comfortably ahead of Obama (16%) and Clinton (9%). This followed the announcement of Kos himself that he cast his first vote in the poll for Dodd back in September. Others are giving Dodd a second look as well: For example, Scott Lemieux says he's "getting pretty close to endorsing Dodd."

Perhaps more importantly, Dodd is beginning to drive the movement of other Democratic contenders. He was the first to announce that he was going to filibuster the telecom amnesty bill, a position that Clinton and Obama now are (sort of) adopting. He was way out in front of the other presidential candidates in terms of trying to repeal the abysmal Military Commissions Act. And in general, he's been one of the few candidates who hasn't designed his whole campaign around defusing the "Democrats want America to die in a terrorist strike." Which isn't to say he doesn't take foreign policy seriously: he just knows that it's a false choice between keeping America safe, and keeping America America.

I give Dodd a lot of credit. His campaign is rejuvenating itself, not because of reckless pandering, and not because he's got a big name. It's coming into its own because he's willing to take the right stands, at the right time, for the right reasons. That's a quality I like in a President. And Chris Dodd deserves another look from all those Democrats (including myself) who have thus far restricted ourselves to the "top-tier" crew.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

His Hero

Looks like W likes more about Putin than just his soul:
Q: Mr. President, following up on Vladimir Putin for a moment, he said, recently, that next year, when he has to step down according to the constitution, as the president, he may become prime minister; in effect keeping power and dashing any hopes for a genuine democratic transition there.

BUSH: I've been planning that myself.

Time to break out my favorite bumpersticker!


Wake Up

Tim F. on the latest conservative stunt, "Islamofascist Awareness Week":
Let’s get past the question of why anyone would think that Americans forgot about angry muslims attacking us six years ago. That seems vanishingly unlikely when at any given time a Republican is running for office somewhere. Rather, what strikes me the about David Horowitz’s latest publicity stunt is the remarkable degree to which David and his drooling followers seem utterly unaware of the actual threat. Reading through a typical rightwing blog or speech by 9/11-humping candidates like Giuliani you get the impression that they have no idea that al Qaeda is a Sunni movement that detests Shiites and secular Arab leaders as much as they detest us, that Zarqawi spent most of AQI’s energy attacking the Shiite community, that Iran and the Sunni Arab world view one another with thinly veiled hostility. The idea that Israel and Iran shared a 20th century strategic arrangement that ranged from diplomatic refuge during the Holocaust to Israel intervening on Iran’s behalf during the hostage crisis has not and will never penetrate Horowitz’s pointy little head.

This is not a trivial point. Our true enemies, in the sense of the people who attacked us unprovoked, represent a small minority of hardened extremists. Their long-term strategy and even their very survival depends on mainstreaming their radical ideas into a broader arab movement. To the degree that we nurture the modernist and moderate factions of muslim society and emphasize the differences between them and the cave-dwelling nuts, al Qaeda loses. But to the degree that we lump all of Islam into a mistrusted category that gets strip searched, disappeared, tortured and denounced without discrimination bin Laden’s fringe movement wins big time. When moderate muslims cannot travel in the west without narrow-eyed suspicion or even open abuse from a Malkin-inspired hysteric, anti-western preachings sound more and more credible.


That second line is a great zinger, but the substantive point is solid as well. There is a threat to America from Islamic extremists. But a) they are not a monolith and b) they are not more dangerous than, inter alia, Hitler or the Soviet Union. Get a grip. And stop helping terrorists.