Saturday, March 27, 2010

Dirrell DQ11 Abraham

In what was, for the most part, an exciting if one-sided fight, Andre Dirrell (19-1, 12 KOs) prevailed over previously unbeaten, Super Six tournament leader Arthur Abraham (31-1, 25 KOs). Unfortunately, it didn't quite happen the way Dirrell would have liked. Dirrell was well in control of the fight on every card, including knocking "King Arthur" down for the first time in his career in round four. But he was beginning to tire, and referee Laurence Cole (who was at his typical levels of incompetence) missed what should have been a knockdown against "The Matrix" in Round 10.

In round 11, though, things got scary. Dirrell slipped on a ring logo in the corner, and went down. Abraham then proceeded to uncork a massive right hand that knocked Dirrell out cold. You can see it here (at around 55 seconds in):



Dirrell was clearly, clearly already down when the punch was thrown. And so Abraham was disqualified, rightfully so.

So a couple of things. First, Abraham loses massive points for acting like a punk. I can accept, barely, that he did not intentionally mean to hurt Dirrell. Things can get a little wild in the ring, and its the referee's job to get between the fighters in situations like this (Cole, predictably, was way out of position). Nonetheless, this was an obvious foul, and Abraham lost a lot of respect for both trying to pretend that Dirrell was not on the floor when he hit him, and then later accusing Dirrell of acting.

Which moves us to number two: Dirrell was obviously not acting. You don't act the twitching you saw from Dirrell when he was on the canvass. If you're acting, you don't keep up the facade after the announcer already has proclaimed you the winner (Dirrell, for quite some time after the fight, still didn't seem to realize he had won). You don't show the signs of clear disorientation that Dirrell demonstrated if you're acting. And finally, unless you're a bad guy on an episode of House, I don't think actors can fake trained doctors into thinking you might have a brain bleed. Dirrell almost definitely suffered a severe concussion as a result of Abraham's blatant foul.

And finally, number three: This fight is the exact reason I hate Francisco Lorenzo's true acting job that got him a DQ win over Humberto Soto. I supported the fine against Lorenzo at the time, precisely on the grounds that his behavior leads folks to think boxers are faking injuries when they're not, and in a sport such as this, even a moment's hesitation can quite literally be fatal.

As much haterade as I direct towards Cole, he did act reasonably quickly to make sure a doctor was in the ring, and was quite firm in making the correct DQ ruling. But what if he had wondered, even for a few extra moments, if Dirrell was just putting on an acting job? A bunch of the folks I was watching with were pretty quick to say that Dirrell was at least partially BSing. Again, observing how Dirrell behaved both after the punch landed, and in the aftermath responding to Showtime's attempts to interview him (attempts that failed because Dirrell was essentially incoherent), that assessment is obviously wrong. But it's the actions of people like Lorenzo who plant that seed of doubt when faced with situations like Dirrell's, and frankly that's not acceptable given the risks these fighters take on for our entertainment.

Oh, Here We Go Again

Someone call the waaaaambulance. The UNHRC once again is throwing a hissy fit because not everyone treats it as God's gift to human rights (or Judge Goldstone as His messianic messenger himself). Honestly, I don't think I know of any substantial political body with as thin a skin as one finds on the UN Human Rights Council. Maybe it's due to the incredible dissonance of existing as a living mockery to the very idea of justice, fairness, and equality. That's got to do some serious psychological scarring.

Friday, March 26, 2010

You Control The Protest

Ta-Nehisi Coates' post on the problems besetting the Tea Party protests is characteristically excellent. All three critical points he makes are really solid:

(1) The civil rights movement was effective because it knew how to choreograph a protest, to maximize its effectiveness while minimizing the potential for embarrassment. The participants were drilled in proper protest behavior. So while the media may have been rearing to go with "crazy Black people run wild in the streets" storylines, the protesters themselves saw it coming and reacted accordingly, defusing the threat.

(2) Of course folks opposed to the Tea Party agenda are going to try and paint their protests as bad things that the rest of the country should also think are bad. That's their job. It's the Tea Party folks' job to behave in such a way so as to make that tactic unfeasible, and it's their fault that they're not.

(3) The Tea Party is probably institutionally incapable of remedying this problem, because if you weed out the crazies, there's nothing left there. The sort of folks that cause the tea party to come off as extremists to the bulk of the American public aren't fringe actors, they're the base.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Fabrication

In an otherwise unimpressive ("the liberal Democrat Lanny Davis" -- oh please) column for Pajamas Media, Ron Radosh does say one thing of importance right at the start: describing the "fabricated crisis" between Israel and the United States. That's very true, but not in the way he means. Who is calling this flare-up a "crisis"? Not the Obama administration. Not the Netanyahu administration. The only people who seem desperate to characterize this as a crisis are Obama's right-wing Republican opponents.

Which raises the question of "why?" Why are conservatives so eager to turn what would seem to be a rather routine, if somewhat high-profile, dispute between allies into a "crisis"? Here, they strike me as the equivalent a sad-sack lover, searching frantically about for cracks between the the Democratic Party and Israel, and the Democratic Party and its Jewish base. Oh no, they're having a fight!, they moan, as (not too far) inside their hearts leap with glee. Maybe she'll leave him! Maybe then she'll come rushing into my arms, the man who always loved her most!

It's kind of pathetic. The American/Israeli relationship is not so fragile that any public disagreement represents a "crisis". This is something recognized by the Americans, the Israelis, and pretty much every sane commentator around the world. The only folks who don't get are the ones on the outside, looking in. Creepers.

It Could Be, But Probably Won't Be

The UNHRC is apparently set to consider resolutions relating to the "organ theft" charges recently leveled against Israel, upon the submission of a Libyan NGO. Now, obviously, simply making spurious accusations against Israel isn't grounds for contesting the accredition of an NGO body -- that treatment is reserved for Jews who don't display the proper degree of reverence towards a body that views them with the respect of a spit bucket. Likewise, the High Commissioner on human rights cannot be expected to review or screen the language of such NGO submissions -- that practice, too, seems restricted to Jewey-Jew organizations with their offensive Jew language.

But I keep on hoping -- maybe this will be the "contradiction-closing case". A phrase coined by Derrick Bell, it refers to a case by a generally prejudicial body that goes in favor of the party it spends most of its time subjugating, normally because the case is such an outrageous departure from generally norms of equity that even the subjugaters can't help but notice it. The decision is proof that the body is fair, the system is just, and that it rules "merely according to law" and facts. The credibility gained by the case then can be drawn upon as it goes back to its standard operating procedures of maintaining an oppressive sphere.

It won't be, though. Despite the UNHRC's demonstrated track record of being a one-track Israel-bashing machine, whose concern for human rights is 8,522 square miles wide and an inch deep, there has been little substantive pressure on them to modulate their stance even a teeny bit. I'm genuinely curious if there has ever been an anti-Israel resolution forwarded to the council that they've voted down. I doubt it. Maybe this will be the first. I doubt that too.

Shots Fired at Cantor's Office

The House minority whip, Rep. Eric Cantor (R-VA), has reported that bullets were fired at his office in Virginia. Obviously, this is very scary and needs to be investigated. And the perpetrators should be caught and punished. But Cantor's attempt to both link and detach this from the rhetoric of political violence would make a contortionist proud:
He also accused Democratic National Committee Chairman Tim Kaine and Rep. Chris Van Hollen of Maryland - a member of the Democratic House leadership - of "fanning the flames" of violence by using threats that have been made against Democratic members "as political weapons."

"Legitimate threats should be treated as security issues, and they should be dealt with by the appropriate law enforcement officials," Cantor told reporters on Capitol Hill. "It is reckless to use these incidents as media vehicles for political gain. ... Enough is enough. It has to stop."

So on the one hand, Rep. Van Hollen is "fanning the flames" of violence ... but he's doing it by noting that rhetoric promoting violence has, in fact, been leading to violence? And he should stop doing that because it makes political violence ... political?

I know enough about the left to know we have our share of crazies who would do shit like shoot at a Congressman's office (particularly, it must be said, a Jewish congressman). But the difference here is that there hasn't been any concerted campaign by the national Democratic party to portray the Republican position as totalitarian, to cast GOP members as enemies of the state, and to openly advocate "revolutionary" measures soaked in blood-drenched language. It isn't Democratic cartoonists who have presented their adversaries as gang-rapists of the Statue of Liberty.

The apocalyptic turn the Republican Party has taken is a scary thing, and one they need to get under control. But if they insist on just seeing it as another political battle to struggle against the Democratic Party with, what hope is it that they'll take steps to remedy the problem before something more serious occurs.

Officially Court Bound

TULIP reports that the Bongani Masuku case is officially heading to the Equality Court, after Masuku ignored a 45-day deadline to apologize to the Jewish community for remarks the South African Human Rights Commission ruled constituted hate speech. One thing I don't know is what deference the Equality Court gives to findings made by the SAHRC (do they review de novo, for abuse of discretion, or what?).

You can read my prior coverage of the case here, here, and here.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

FFXIII Midway Review

I picked up a copy of Final Fantasy XIII over break (X-Box 360 version), and am currently playing through it. About halfway through (Chapter 7), I'd say it's good, but I wouldn't say it's great.

Story: The game very quickly gives off a cyberpunk vibe that I think is very cool -- recalling the good old days of Final Fantasy VII. I like the plot progression so far, and the story feels novel while at the same time lying well within the Final Fantasy corpus. A-.

Characters: Lightening is a good strong character; one of the strongest female characters I've experienced yet, and the first female lead character in all the FF games I've played. Vanille started off being unbearably annoying, and now exists just on the ragged edge of toleration. For the record, I know its possible to create an irrepressible female character without her being absolutely obnoxious (see, e.g., Penelo), so this is a definite step backwards. And as for Hope, well, I wonder if it is a cultural thing that there has to be a whiny adolescent blond kid in every series iteration. He's always there, and he's always annoying. Other than that, the cast is pretty nondescript. B.

Music: Blah blah not as good as when Uematsu was doing it blah blah I'm old and grumpy blah blah blah. B.

Gameplay: Okay, problem. First of all, this game is linear. Like, even granting that it is a JRPG and a Final Fantasy game, this game is on rails. The levels are not expansive at all, basically involving walking in a straight line towards various monsters -- more reminiscent of Jade Empire than anything. But unlike even Jade Empire, not to mention every other Final Fantasy game, there are no real towns -- just dungeon after dungeon after dungeon. They integrated shops (which you essentially never use) into save points, just to insure the lack of need for towns.

The battle system is pretty good, though I think ultimately a step backwards from the FFXII gambit system. The latter was such a drastic departure from the series, and was so successful, that I'm surprised they didn't stick with it. Speaking of miscues from the last game, the whole bit about augmenting weapons is really poorly designed. For starters, they don't tell you that this is a something you do until quite a ways in. Meanwhile, you're acquiring "components", which for all the world look like "loot" from FFXII that you're supposed to sell off. Deceptive, that is. And once you do start upgrading weapons, the process is quite hazy. You can get efficiency bonuses, but its more guesswork than anything else. Once you start upgrading weapons, it becomes nearly impossible to justify switching to new gear, meaning you're stuck piling on the same old weapons until they eventually transform into something new (I haven't gotten that far yet). It's counterintuitive, frustrating, and a clear step backwards for the series. C+.

Overall: B.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Last Chance

Thomas Sowell goes off the deep end in his paranoid delusions about the Obama administration:
The ruthless and corrupt way this bill was forced through Congress on a party-line vote, and in defiance of public opinion, provides a road map for how other "historic" changes can be imposed by Obama, Pelosi and Reid.

What will it matter if Obama's current approval rating is below 50 percent among the current voting public, if he can ram through new legislation to create millions of new voters by granting citizenship to illegal immigrants? That can be enough to make him a two-term President, who can appoint enough Supreme Court justices to rubber-stamp further extensions of his power.

When all these newly minted citizens are rounded up on election night by ethnic organization activists and labor union supporters of the administration, that may be enough to salvage the Democrats' control of Congress as well.

If only we had launched a military coup like you recommended last time, Sowell! Now, having seen a bill passed by Congress (shudder) and facing the prospect of voters voting (oh noes!), we're really caught on the edge of the precipice.

What Do Jews Actually Believe?

Three interesting links on that front:

(1) Adam Serwer, digressing from a post on a different topic, observes that "Jewish perspectives aren't really all that common on television despite the number of Jewish reporters -- instead, you have a reverse Al Sharpton problem, where the "Jewish perspective," is almost entirely represented by a minority of public intellectuals who are actually conservative, despite the fact that most Jews are liberals."

(2) Jeffrey Goldberg likewise takes aim at the AIPAC conference for not having a sufficiently large tent. Though most Jews, including most pro-Israel Jews, are liberal, the conference attendees lean definitively to the right. There are some exceptions, including the ATFP's Ghaith al-Omari.
But the dearth of speakers who approach the most contentious issues of the Middle East from a left-Zionist perspective is noticeable. Most American Jews voted for Obama; most American Jews are liberal; and most American Jews understand the difference between the legitimate security needs of the State of Israel and the theological, political and economic needs of the small minority of Israelis who have settled the West Bank. So would it hurt to bring in speakers from the Meretz Party, from the kibbutz movement, from the New Israel Fund, from the Reform Movement, so that the AIPAC attendees could hear for themselves the views of Zionists who disagree with the policies of Israel's right-wing parties?

J Street, by contrast, Goldberg gives strong credit to for welcoming diverse perspectives (even if the organization "sometimes makes me crazy").

(3) And finally, speaking of J Street, they've got their latest poll out measuring the attitudes of American Jews on various issues. Obviously, J Street is an advocacy organization, so take their data with a grain of salt. But for information not easily gained (like standard favorable/unfavorable questions for political candidates), it's probably pretty solid. And it's interesting across the board.

PACBI and I Come to an Agreement

Well, at least we have a consensus on one issue: Believing in the propriety of Israel as a Jewish democratic state, regardless of any other political commitments regarding the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, is inconsistent with supporting PACBI's boycott agenda. Glad we got that squared away. I think some folks were under the misapprehension that the BDS movement in any way sees itself as in pursuit of a just, two-state solution that respects both Jewish and Palestinian rights to self-determination. Essentially all the available evidence already pointed otherwise, but it's nice to see the PACBI organizers make things explicit.

What Does It Mean To Have Dual Loyalties?

One of the more pernicious charges leveled at pro-Israel Jewish voters is that they possess "dual loyalties" -- their allegiances are split between Israel and the United States. Some make the point with the characteristic vitriolic racism we've come to expect. But Glenn Greenwald ties it to the ever-present Republican push for Jewish votes through claiming that their party is better for Israel:
I've previously noted the glaring contradiction among neoconservatives, whereby they simultaneously (a) tell American Jewish voters to vote Republican because (they claim) the GOP is better for Israel and (b) insist that it's anti-Semitic to point out that some are guided by their allegiance to Israel when forming their political beliefs about U.S. policy. Obviously, anyone who does (a) is, by logical necessity, endorsing the very premise in (b) which they want (when it suits them) to label anti-Semitic. Neoconservatives constantly make political appeals to Jewish voters expressly grounded in the premise that American Jews are guided by allegiance to Israel (vote Republican because it's better for Israel), yet then scream "anti-Semite" at anyone who points this out. When faced with this glaring contradiction, their typical response -- as illustratively voiced by Commentary's Jennifer Rubin, after she argued in a 2008 Jerusalem Post column that American Jews should vote against Obama because he'd be bad for Israel -- is to deny that "that the interests of the U.S. and Israel are antithetical" and insist that "support for Israel in no way requires sacrificing one’s concerns for America’s interests." In other words: to advocate for Israel is to advocate for the U.S. because their interests are wholly indistinguishable, even synonymous. [internal hyperlinks omitted]

Now, I think I've sufficiently registered my displeasure at the notion that Jews are single-issue voters whose vote can be grabbed based on whomever runs to the most hawkish position possible on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It's deeply patronizing to begin with, and clearly doesn't match either Jewish political behavior nor expressed Jewish preferences regarding the conflict; yet, instead of re-evaluating what it would take to get Jewish votes, Republican operatives just moan louder and louder that we're crazy. So yes, that annoys the hell out of me.

Nonetheless, I think this dual loyalty argument needs some interrogation. Specifically, what does it mean to have dual loyalty?

The general definition I read is that one has conflict loyalties when one is willing to prioritize the interests of another nation over ones own. So I constantly read folks saying how the US supporting Israel clearly isn't in America's interest, because it has this effect on our budget or that effect on our other foreign policy priorities in the region or the other effect on our general national security posture. Implicit in all of this is a pretty narrow, generally neo-realist (think Walt and Mearsheimer), understanding of what "American interests" are. Neo-realists would hold that nations are only interested in maintaining and augmenting their national security posture; because the structure of the international system is anarchic, states cannot trust one another and must perpetually behave defensively.

I don't entirely reject this outlook, but I think that it is typically taken too far and doesn't match actual state behavior. And particularly for a hegemon like the United States, it really doesn't make sense. To say the United States must adopt its foreign policy towards Trinidad and Tobago with an eye towards minimizing security threats simply defies belief. States want security, yes, but states want lots of other things as well: prosperity, cultural interchange, and moral progress, to name a few. And, as we might expect, these values are often contested -- what is in "America's interest" depends greatly on moral priors which can and are disputed; in most cases, to say "you're not behaving in America's interest" is to say "you're not behaving in my conception of America's interest". So long as one is putting forward a good faith vision of what the American project should be, I don't think it makes sense to accuse them of failing to be loyal to America. Fool-hardy, perhaps, but not disloyal.

And I do think such a conceptualization of pursuing the American interest can encompass urging policies which help another nation. Let's say the United States was considering adopting a policy which would simply gratuitously hurt Greece. I think a citizen would be perfectly justified in opposing it; it is quite reasonable to conceptualize American interests in such a way so as to not be vicious to other countries for no reason (I also would expect Greek-Americans to be more vocal in their opposition -- something I see no problem with. Greek-Americans have the same right as everyone else to promote their own conception of the national interest). Even if we modify the hypothetical so that the policy was not "gratuitous", but instead was just financially exploitative: suppose Wall Street had an opportunity to loot Greece blind, sending billions of assets into our borders. Once again, I don't think "loyalty to America" requires one to support the action. Mutual international prosperity can be an American interest. And once we accept that, we can accept anything as at least potentially in America's interest, because that category is something that gets developed through a process of democratic deliberation -- it doesn't exist in the ether waiting to be plucked out by Salon columnists and Harvard neo-realists.

The point is that these appeals to "American interests" (and this is hardly the only context in which they pop up -- including, often, assertions that folks opposed to the prevailing wisdom regarding the American/Israeli relationship are hostile to American interests) almost always take as a given a static conception of what American interests are that is usually the very thing under dispute. By fiating that conflict away, they can then cast their opponents out of the realm of true citizenry. I don't think the move is legitimate.

So is there such thing as "dual loyalties"? I can think of two examples, neither of which describes what pro-Israel Americans are doing. The clearest example is when someone simply does not see themselves, in good faith, as pursuing a project that is in the American interest. Often times, people don't -- I doubt the American al-Qaeda terrorists think they're doing what they're doing for the ultimate good of America (even if they think that it is ultimately good for the people of America). Loyalty in this case means loyalty to the sovereign. Second, I think one could argue that pursuing benefits for an extraterritorial body in a way that runs contrary to domestic law is an example of dual loyalty. I'm not actually convinced of this, because I really think that loyalty is a state of mind, and if a person truly believes their acts are good for America even if they breach the law, I'm not sure loyalty is the block I'd hang them from. Nonetheless, it is a little semantic, since I have no qualms about saying such a person can be punished for their malfeasance. And since I think that loyalty to a country does provide at least a general duty to obey the sovereign, I don't feel that uncomfortable with this formulation (though consider the age old movie plot where the hero has to deliver some secret to the enemy that reveals domestic treachery in order to stop the war which would destroy America).

Monday, March 22, 2010

The Big Win

I referenced this poster when my mom was freaking out over whether the Democrats would pass the health care bill.



A big win for Obama and Pelosi, but an even bigger win for America.