Friday, February 08, 2008

Boxing Blogging: 2/08/08

The Ding-a-Ling Man was back in action on ESPN2 tonight against undefeated B.J. Flores, along with two journeyman schmoes nobody has heard of. We'll start with them.

Dhafir Smith (20-16-6, 4 KOs) UD8 Rayco Saunders 15-9-2 (7 KOs)

Not exactly the fight ESPN2 match-makers wanted to put up, no? Saunders was coming off a 14 month layoff and hadn't won a match since 2005. Dhafir Smith is the epitome of a journeyman, but he's someone I had heard of. Why? Because his name always seems to pop up when looking at the records of solid guys. Look at some of his losses: Andre Ward, Curtis Stevens, Max Alexander, Wayne Johnson, Henry Buchanan. Not elite guys, necessarily, but solid opposition. And it prepared him to do just a little bit more to beat Saunders. I won't belabor this one, because it's a meaningless fight. But Smith can win against fellow journeymen, and his record is slightly underinflated from all the fights he's taken against folks well above his level.

B.J. Flores (21-0-1, 13 KOs) UD12 Darnell Wilson (22-6-3, 19 KOs)

118-112? 118-112!?! What cocaine is that judge on? I will admit that my scoring (116-112 for Wilson) was possibly giving too much credit for Wilson's aggression, and there is one round, at least, which I gave to Wilson which I felt uncomfortable about (round seven). So really, I saw it 115-113 for the Takoma Park based Wilson. Teddy Atlas, too, had it 115-114 for Wilson, and I for one simply can't reward a fighter for simply running away. Boxing I can handle. If Flores had been throwing out the jab, and simply frustrating Wilson by utilizing range, that'd be one thing. But he didn't throw at all. He just backpedaled. Wilson landed more shots, and harder shots, and deserved to win, period. A 118 scorecard for Flores means that judge had him winning or even in all but two rounds. Given that Flores was being battered around the ring in at least two rounds (eight and twelve), that means that judge literally gave nothing else to Wilson, and that's absurd.

The thing is, Wilson, who was being totally ducked by all the top cruiserweights, shouldn't have had to take this fight to get a title shot in the first place. Four straight knockout wins over Daniel Judah, Dale Brown, Kelvin Davis, and Emmanuel Nwodo should have been more than enough. Wilson admitted that Flores had precisely the style to give him trouble. But because nobody was willing to give him the shot he deserved (and I'm not saying he would win a title fight, just that he deserved one), he had to take a fight that he really shouldn't have.

And let's be clear, this wasn't a sterling performance by Wilson. He did have trouble landing effective offense. Flores was much bigger, quicker, and longer than he was. Flores did make him miss -- often wildly -- and a top cruiserweight could make him pay for that. Wilson is in many ways one dimensional, and if he doesn't catch you, he's actually rather ordinary. All of this would have mattered if Flores was actually throwing punches. He wasn't. You can't win fights without throwing punches. Except apparently a USBA title.

This was an IBF Title Eliminator. That's Steve "U.S.S." Cunningham's belt, who was watching in studio. Cunningham will take Flores apart, and frankly, I hope he does. Flores may have won the fight, but he set himself way back in my eyes by fighting scared, by fighting ineffectively, and by coming away with a gift decision.

Oh, and what a sucky night for ESPN! One of their most watchable stars takes a loss, on a card where one fight was utterly meaningless and the other was a stinker. Network executives have nightmares over evenings like this.


Pre-Birthday Roundup

Again, I deeply apologize for the lack of substantive blogging. My birthday is on Monday, and I've decided that I will undoubtedly be rejected from some school that day for the simple reason that the universe can't resist that sort of irony. It's just too cute. But in the meantime, I plan to celebrate over the weekend as I prepare to turn 22 (21, incidentally, is my lucky number -- does this mean my luck's run out?).

Anyway, here's what's been attracting my browsing eye of late:

ZOMG, Sharia law! Conservative law professor Eugene Volokh dispels the panic.

Also at Volokh, Dave Kopel draws attention to a split amongst civil rights groups on the Heller case (constitutionality of D.C.'s handgun prohibition) before the Supreme Court. The NAACP defends the law and notes the rates of Black victimization in handgun death cases. But the Congress on Racial Equality (CORE, which I didn't even know still operated) instead takes note of the long tradition in America where gun control laws have been discriminatingly enforced in order to render Blacks vulnerable to political and social violence. The NAACP responds by saying that's a 14th amendment issue, not a second amendment issue, and should be resolved accordingly.

Matt Yglesias and Kevin Drum talk about the mis-match between what the lefty blogosphere imagines the authentic Democratic view on foreign interventionism and what it actually is. Contra the assumption that any inclination towards interventionism is merely political cowardice, and not the expression of a genuine view, both Yglesias and Drum observe that Democrats occupy a whole spectrum of space on this issue, and many are genuinely conflicted. Drum is correct that the left-blogosphere has caused some genuine movement on this issue (which you can observe in yours truly), but I, too, still am not quite on-board with how far I "should" be on the issue.

Commenting on the liberal vs. progressive debate, Robert Farley notes that the latter makes life much easier for IR profs trying to convince their students that Foreign Policy "liberalism" has nothing to do with American-political "liberalism."

One of the all-time immigrant crazies is running for Congress in the PA-11.

One of my arch-conservative friends (he supported Thompson, then Romney) ruefully remarked on his switch to McCain, "you don't have to fall in love, you just have to fall in line." Republican Senators whose relationships with McCain have been iffy, at best, are taking the same advice. My friend, incidentally, is thinking of supporting Clinton over McCain in the general (this is the sort of guy who in years past referred to her as "the Hildebeast").

The latest Senate line is up at The Fix.

Phoebe Maltz critiques the latest "why aren't Jews bestest friends with Evangelicals?" article.

Stay classy, Coulter (and who on earth is fooled that she wasn't "officially" invited to CPAC? She's speaking there, they're responsible).

Bookstores are doomed. It's sad.

The Philippines has created an all-female police unit focusing on domestic abuse and violence against children. Probably a good idea, albeit some of the rhetoric floating around it is eyebrow raising.

Joss Whedon is a BAMF.

Finally, I'd like to welcome The Faculty Lounge to the blogosphere.

Obama's Unity

At the VC, Ilya Somin critiques Obama's reliance on "unity" rhetoric. But I think he misunderstands. Somin is correct that calls for unity can suppress the legitimate political differences that constitute democracy. But Obama's rhetoric, as I've heard it, is a reaction not against the existence of disunity but against the creation of it -- the Rovian politics that actively tries to divide the nation so that it's easier to mobilize your side to a victory against the "enemy."

Juxtaposed against this, I think Obama is right that we should remember our unity as fellow citizens, fellow Americans, neighbors, friends, and countrymen. As he put it in his famous DNC speech:
The pundits, the pundits like to slice-and-dice our country into Red States and Blue States; Red States for Republicans, Blue States for Democrats. But I’ve got news for them, too. We worship an "awesome God" in the Blue States, and we don’t like federal agents poking around in our libraries in the Red States. We coach Little League in the Blue States and yes, we’ve got some gay friends in the Red States. There are patriots who opposed the war in Iraq and there are patriots who supported the war in Iraq. We are one people, all of us pledging allegiance to the stars and stripes, all of us defending the United States of America.

The line about "slice-and-dice" is indicative -- it's the creation of division that he objects to. Indeed, later on in the same passage he actively concedes political division and affirms the patriotism of both those who supported and those who opposed the Iraq war. So I think it's better to read Obama's unity rhetoric not as a political agenda, but as a critique of a particular political strategy that has been dominant in American politics for quite some time now.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

No Waterboarding Investigation

Surprising nobody, Attorney General Michael Mukasey has announced that he will not open a probe into CIA waterboarding, despite conceding it was probably illegal. The stated reason is the Nuremberg Defense that it would "send a message that Justice Department opinions are subject to change.":
"Essentially it would tell people, 'You rely on a Justice Department opinion as part of a program, then you will be subject to criminal investigations ... if the tenure of the person who wrote the opinion changes or indeed the political winds change,'" he said. "And that's not something that I think would be appropriate and it's not something I will do."

Or it would, you know, send the message that just because President Bush says it's okay to torture, it's still not okay to torture. But whatever.

It infuriates me to no end that everyone is going to get away with this.

The Travails of Tommy Lasorda

"When we win, I'm so happy I eat a lot. When we lose, I'm so depressed, I eat a lot. When we're rained out, I'm so disappointed I eat a lot." -- Tommy Lasorda, former Manager of the Los Angeles Dodgers.

It also applies to blogging, in times of extreme bipolarity (as when admissions and scholarship decisions come flooding back).

If This Is a Crime, Then We're All Guilty

Out of Hagerstown, MD: Police: Crack Found in Man's Buttocks.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008


Libertarian Party sends funeral wreath to the GOP national headquarters, mourning the death of their small government principles with the upcoming nomination of John McCain.

Floridians are Morons

The Orlando Sentinel: "Confused Florida voters try to cast ballots in Super Tuesday primaries."

Florida, of course, voted last week in a primary that (for Democrats, at least) didn't actually count for anything.


I've become more enamored of late of using "progressive" as a stand-in for "liberal", which has become quite the muddy name of late. But Matt Yglesias authors a dissenting opinion to that trend.

I have to say that, while the term "progressive" is meant at some level to evoke the 1920s political movement, I think the term transcends that, and it's a bit silly to try and link contemporary self-identified progressives, Jonah Goldberg-style, to their turn of the last century peers.

What's Left

A couple of thoughts as I continue to observe the results from the (Republican) Alaska caucus and the (Democratic) New Mexico primary.

1) The Republicans really are fragmented aren't they? Huckabee dominated the south. Romney owned the upper-midwest and rockies. And McCain took the border and blue states. McCain has claimed the front-runner mantle, and deservedly so, but there is a lot of fissure in the party, and it ain't going away soon.

2) Throughout the race, pundits have been way too quick to dismiss Mike Huckabee. They did it after his great display in the Iowa Straw Poll, they did it after he won Iowa outright. And he's again showing the pundits up with a good display tonight. Huckabee's wins in Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Tennessee and West Virginia are hardly anything to sniff at. Moreover, he came within one percent of toppling John McCain in the treasure trove of Missouri. You have to think that, had there not been a steady drumbeat of "he's a nobody, he can't win", he could have pushed himself over the top in the Show Me state, and arguably have been the real winner of Super Tuesday.

3) Meanwhile, where Republicans are beset by regional divisions, Democrats are showing the breadth of their appeal. This isn't to say the neither has a base: Clinton runs very strong in the North East, and Obama rules the plains and rocky mountains. But Obama squeaked out a win in Connecticut, and Clinton took Tennessee and Oklahoma in what would apparently be Obama territory. Right now, they're dueling very close in Missouri and New Mexico. Both have strong appeal nation-wide, and that's good to see.

4) Matt Yglesias notes something in the California exit polls that's at least a little strange: Obama is going to lose that state while winning both Black and White voters. The problem is that Clinton is winning handily amongst Latinos and Asians. Only in California, perhaps, but as Matt says, "Time was winning whites and winning blacks was by definition the same thing as winning."

5) And finally, for those of you still paying attention, Mitt Romney is handily ahead in Alaska with 44% of the vote (75% caucus). Huckabee is second with 22%, followed closely by Ron Paul and then John McCain. Meanwhile, in New Mexico, less than 1,000 votes separates Obama and Clinton with 38% counted. Obama is carrying a narrow lead.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

The Upshot

I don't think anyone could have foreseen that the Democratic race would remain this close after Super Tuesday. Even with MSNBC calling California for Clinton (with only 15% counted -- did we not learn something from Missouri?), it's difficult to say that anyone truly "won" the day.

Clinton, to be sure, won some big-ticket blue states tonight: New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, and probably California, plus Arizona, Arkansas, Oklahoma, and Tennessee. But even though it looks like he'll fall short of the grand prize of the Golden State, Obama appears likely to win the majority of states today: Alabama, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Kansas, Minnesota, North Dakota, and Utah, and probably Missouri and Alaska as well. Hardly a shabby haul.

For most the race, I argued that no movement was good movement for the front-runner Clinton. So long as the race dynamics didn't change, she comes out ahead. But tonight, that's been reversed, and my instinct is that Obama merely needed to keep steady in order to be well positioned down the line. After all, everyone agreed that the winds were changing in Obama's favor -- the only question was whether it was happening fast enough. If the race ended on Super Tuesday, it would end for Clinton. But it didn't end today, and now we need to look at what's next on the Democratic schedule these coming days.

Democrats have seven more primaries and caucuses in the immediate future (from February 9th - 12th), in Louisiana, Nebraska, Washington, Maine, Maryland, D.C., and Virginia. From what we've seen today, I would strongly favor Obama in two: Nebraska and D.C.. Obama has thus far been dominant in the upper plains states, and D.C.'s overwhelmingly Black electorate should carry Obama there.

But what should be more disconcerting for Clinton is that none of the upcoming states match the profile of areas where she's run strongest. Her bread-and-butter tonight was old-school, Northeastern liberal locales (NY, NJ, MA). None of the states coming up meet that profile. Maryland might be the closest, and superficially shares a lot in common with Massachusetts, where Clinton did quite well. But analysts are saying that Clinton won Massachusetts due to a mix of old-fashion machine politics and the support of blue collar factory workers. Neither is a major player in Maryland, which both has a far more influential Black vote and whose White populace tends to be more along the lines of Obama favoring "Latte liberals" than gruff union men. Clinton does have the backing of many of the state's high profile Democrats -- but ask Obama how well that turned out for him in (you guessed it) Massachusetts.

Louisiana I'd favor Clinton in, although Obama's overall strength in the south gives me pause. But with Katrina still dispersing the state's African-American population to the four corners of the nation, and the fact that Louisiana seems to have kept more than the usual amount of conservative "bubba" Democrats inside the fold (who would likely favor Clinton), I think she stands a very good chance to win there.

I think Maine favors Obama, though I admit my only grounds for this are that a) it's a caucus, which Obama seems to do better in, and b) in terms of political outlook, the state seems most akin to Minnesota of the Super Tuesday states (it also bears an obvious resemblance to New Hampshire -- but they don't caucus). That wouldn't normally be enough for me to render a prediction, except that I think Obama blew everyone in this state away with his crushing victory in Paul Wellstone's old state. The flip-side of this is Washington state, where I favor Clinton for no stronger reason than Washington seems to be a nothing-special, comfortably blue state, and Clinton seems to do well in those environments where there isn't some sort of latent movement politics going on.

Which leaves Virginia. Even a few years ago, I'd have put Virginia as Clinton territory in the primaries, no question. A significant chunk of Virginia Democrats seem to be precisely her cup of tea. But Virginia Democrats are energized right now. And they are energized because they can feel their state changing. They've won the governor's mansion, twice in a row. They're about to take control of both U.S. Senate seats. They've done precisely through the type of progressive but cross-over friendly campaign tactics that have exemplified the Obama campaign. In short, Obama reminds Virginians of what they've been doing already in their own state. Popular governor Tim Kaine is firmly behind Obama, and he to many is a symbol of the new Democratic energy in Virginia. That could give him the edge.

So, if we are to take my predictions as anything more than what you paid for them (which you shouldn't), that would give Obama a five to two state edge in the next set of primaries (D.C., Maine, Maryland, Nebraska, and Virginia versus Louisiana and Washington). That would definitely shift the momentum firmly in his favor. And with the wind at his back, Obama may just sail to the nomination.

Minnesota Caucus

I just got back from my first time caucusing. The site for Democrats was at the local Middle School. A few random thoughts:

1) Caucuses are dumb. They're inconvenient, they're chaotic, and they're confusing. Real states just vote.

2) The place was swamped. The line for Carleton's precinct alone was of Soviet breadline proportions, but even overall turnout was incredible. Obama seemed to be the main beneficiary.

3) Minnesota has this weird thing where you can vote for President without staying for the actual "caucus" part (which you need to do to select candidates for any other race). Since I dislike both major Senate candidates and don't really care about the local races, I skipped out. But I'm not sure how, if at all, my vote (hand-written on a blue slip of paper put into a box) counts. My girlfriend thinks maybe it goes towards superdelegates? Or perhaps its just moral suasion because the "winner" in announced. Anyway, apparently the delegates selected at the caucus hold the real power.

4) Traffic jam meant a 3 minute ride to the caucus site took 40 minutes. Great news for democracy, less so for my blood pressure. Also, how to pass time in line at the site? Professor spotting! I bagged three (not including the one who was coordinating at the front of the line).

5) There were many "Obama '08" signs. I read them in my head as "Obamanate", which I think makes a great verb ("We're going to Obamanate this caucus!"). My girlfriend extended it to "Obamanation", until we decided it's too close to abomination.

Everybody Hates Romney

A quick follow up on my prior post on Huckabee's WV primary. My friend Jim thinks that Huckabee supporters flock to McCain because they draw from Reagan Democrats who are socially conservative and fiscal liberals. I think that's plausible, though I also thought they'd be more inclined to support Romney because of McCain's perceived apostasy on social conservatism.

But the other alternative that's been bubbling up is that Mitt Romney is really, really loathed by a big chunk of Republican voters. He just rubs folks the wrong way. And even if they don't trust McCain, their hatred of Romney burns hot and true.

It Could Be!

Eugene Volokh makes two points off of this picture. First, if you look at the interior of the venue, it looks like the couple got married in Hell. True. Second, he says that he likes the "non-traditional" wedding dress of the bride, but notes that they're generally worn by folks on their second or subsequent marriage.

Inexplicably, he doesn't connect these two points. Who arrives at your wedding when you engage in sinful behavior like divorce? Could it be....Satan? Apparently!

Super Tuesday Begins!

Sorry for the lack of posting. Carleton's mid-winter break (and mid-winter ball!) was this weekend, so as far as I'm concerned Monday was an extension of the weekend. Meanwhile, some exciting (but distracting) news kept me occupied. Long story short, I was gone, but now I'm back (at least until I leave to caucus in Minnesota for Obama).

In the first results of the day, Mike Huckabee pulled out a win in West Virginia as John McCain supporters broke away to vote for the Arkansas governor. It's possible they were voting strategically to deprive their biggest rival a primary win, but this USA Today article (via friend of the blogger Jim Kiner) notes that there actually is a surprising amount of overlap between McCain and Huckabee voters already.