Saturday, November 05, 2011

Kirkland's Back

I thought it was wishful thinking.

A few years ago, James Kirkland was fast becoming one of my favorite fighters. He had impressed me in fights against Eromosele Albert and Brian Vera, and a knockout victory over Columbian slugger Joel Julio had him in line for a break-out fight. But it wasn't just that he won, it was how he did it. Kirkland fought with a raw passion and almost animalistic hunger I have never seen in another contemporary fighter. Some fighters have that look in their eyes like they're there to win a fight. Some fighters have that look that says "I'm going to knock you out". With Kirkland, it was different. His look said "I'm here to inflict pain". It made for a series of brutal, savage, thrilling fights.

Then Kirkland got sent away to prison for a parole violation (possession of a firearm). There are a lot of boxers who are troubled in various ways, but this seemed like a genuine case of just a poor choice -- Kirkland didn't attain the gun surreptitiously or in any context suggesting he had malign intent -- and a lot of folks in the industry backed him up come sentencing.

Still, Kirkland went away to prison, and there was no telling how that might change him. When he got out, he split with long time trainer Ann Wolfe and looked subpar in several comeback performances. Then came the shocker -- a first round knockout loss to unheralded, light-punching Nobuhiro Ishida. It was the sort of outcome that seemed to confirm everyone's worst fears. Kirkland wouldn't be the same after prison. His chin wouldn't hold. His once bright star seemed faded.

Of course, one could try to explain it away. Kirkland just needed to get back together with Wolfe. His chin couldn't be that bad -- after all, he'd beaten some big bangers, such as Julio. But to my ears, as someone who desperately wanted to see the old Kirkland, it rang hollow. You can't train chin. The Ishida loss wasn't on a fluke shot -- Kirkland just looked bad in there.

It felt like wishful thinking.

The match-up against Alfredo Angulo was one that had been on many a fan's wish list before Kirkland went to prison. Both were come-forward brawlers who thrived on pressure and packed a punch. But after Ishida, how much could the fight really promise? Kirkland and Angulo both had pressure and both had power, but only one, it seemed, had a chin. Angulo -- never down as an amateur or a pro -- was known as someone who could take a wallop. It seemed like only a matter of time, and possibly not much of it, before he simply overpowered Kirkland and ended the night.

And at first, it looked exactly like it would follow that script. Both men came out firing at the bell, and the brawl was on. But thirty seconds in, Kirkland was dropped by a rocket right hand that would have ended most men's nights. He beat the count, but proceeded to be on the receiving end of a pounding for the next 1:30, with the referee almost stopping the fight.

Kirkland was barely hanging on, and I was silently pleading Don't stop it. Let me have my war. Kirkland can still come back. There can still be the fight I dreamed of tonight.

With the punches Angulo was landing, it seemed like wishful thinking.

But Angulo finally punches himself out. And Kirkland -- showing incredible recuperative powers -- turned the tables, stunning Angulo and dropping him at the end of the round to even the score. It was the first time Angulo had ever been down, and he was hurt.

Round one was a round of the year candidate. From then on though, the old Kirkland was back.

Angulo was still hurt going into round two, with Kirkland applying monstrous pressure. The fight became a savage affair, but Kirkland's training with Ann Wolfe paid off, as he showed incredible endurance and tenacity as Angulo slowly began to break. After a 10-10 first round, I scored the fight a shutout for Kirkland who -- it must be said -- was still taking plenty of shots that would have been lights-out for many fighters. It was an incredible display.

By round six, Angulo's legs were gone and he had slowed nearly to a crawl. He was showing incredible heart, but it was getting close to the "physical safety" point for him. Finally, trapped against the ropes and eating punches, the referee stepped in. It was a good stoppage, giving James Kirkland a TKO6 victory.

Whenever you turn on the television to watch a boxing match, you dream you'll get to see a fight like this. Most nights, it's just wishful thinking.

Most nights, but not every night. Congratulations, and welcome back, James Kirkland.

Canadian Boxer or Jedi Knight?

I just put this up at Bad Left Hook, but I'll repost here as well (and if you prefer, here it is in Sporcle form):

(1) Bardan Jusik

(2) Janks Trotter

(3) Schiller Hyppolite

(4) Kyle Katarn

(5) Arash Usmanee

(6) Corran Horn

(7) Manolis Plaitis

(8) Ghislain Maduma

(9) Even Piell

(10) Denton Daley

* * *

ANSWERS: (1) JK (2) CB (3) CB (4) JK (5) CB (6) JK (7) CB (8) CB (9) JK (10) CB.

Huntsman Girls, Part II

Ryan Lizza profiles Jon Huntsman's three daughters (@Jon2012Girls). They just seem like really cool, smart, well-adjusted human beings. I like them. The story about the youngest one dating the son of Huntsman's Democratic opponent in the 2004 gubernatorial race is particularly hilarious.

Almost a Point!

Kentucky GOP gubernatorial candidate David Williams, on his way to a truly embarrassing thrashing at the hands of incumbent Democrat Steve Beshear, has decided to take the truly low road, attacking his opponent for participating in a Hindu prayer ceremony at a factory ground-breaking that was bringing desperately needed jobs to the state. The company which owns the factory is based out of India, hence the ceremony, and Williams proceeded to attack the proceedings as "idolatry", "prayers to false gods", and urged Hindus to "come to Jesus".

Now, in the course of all that Williams almost brushes up against a legitimate point. He said that he's a Christian, and thus he would not feel comfortable participating in religious ceremonies of other religions -- be they Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, or whatever. I empathize with that: as a Jew, I feel very uncomfortable when asked to partake in Christian religious ceremonies -- though I note that my discomfort in this respect would likely spell the end of any political ambitions I harbor, as I doubt Williams' tolerance extends towards non-Christians who want the option to opt-out of Christian ceremonies (a confidence I'd have even without Williams oh-so-stereotypical foray into "isn't it time that someone stood up for (Christians) for a change?" victimology). But sure, in abstract, I think it is perfectly legitimate for Williams not to want to engage in religious ceremonies of non-Christian religions.

The problem is that obviously, Williams' objection goes not to his own (dis)comfort level, but that Beshear didn't share it -- and more specifically, that he didn't share the proper degree of revulsion to that strange religion practiced by those foreigners over yonder. The overall tenor was of rank religious bigotry; the sad flailing attacks of a man who is already on his way to a humiliating defeat.

Friday, November 04, 2011

Israel as Political Issue, Part II

Given his position he has to be more delicate about it, but I think the AJC's David Harris' clarification of using Israel as a "wedge issue" is roughly in line with how I described it.

The examples Harris gives are not of honest disagreements about policy. They're cases where the tail is clearly wagging the dog -- where President Obama's opponents are looking for something to bash him with and just concoct frivolous objections in the hope that if they sneer enough, it will cause "the controversy brews!" style reporting. And that, for the reasons I expressed, is something qualitatively quite different from honest debate over various policies the US can take towards Israel (or that Israel can take towards Palestinians).

Stand Out

I'm not sure what it is about women's boxing that inspires paroxysms of ridiculous sexism. The 2-minute round rule in women's boxing seems inexplicable to me but as an expression of sexism. We have Cuba, home of the best amateur boxing program in the world, announcing that it would not allow women to participate because "Cuban women should be showing off their beautiful faces, not getting punched in the face." Now, the AIBA is floating a plan to force female boxers to wear mini-skirts in the ring.

The claim is that the, er, distinctive uniform will help women "stand out" from their male counterparts. I have to admit, I didn't realize it was that difficult to tell women apart from men without the help of a skirt. Oddly enough, some male boxers do wear skirt-style trunks in the ring, which only makes the "stand out" point more absurd (my point being that boxers should -- within rules of safety and fairness -- be able to wear whatever style of trunks they like. But a mandatory va-va-voom rule for female boxers is absurd and prejudiced).

Thursday, November 03, 2011

The Resistable Force vs. The Moveable Object

That was the joke moniker given to the 2010 Junior Welterweight clash between Amir Khan and Paulie Malignaggi. The title played off the fact that Khan had a notoriously weak chin, while Malignaggi is one of the most feather-fisted fighters to make it to boxing's elite echelons. As it happened, Khan completely overpowered Malignaggi offensively, stopping him in the 11th round (later, Khan even managed to rehabilitate his chin by winning a brawl with Argentine slugger Marcos Maidana).

But this title also may apply to the 2012 presidential election, argues Jon Chait. We have an unpopular incumbent presiding over a weak economy. On the other hand, he'll be facing off against a Republican who will likely be reviled by much of the electorate. It's hard to know how that will shake out -- reelection is often just a referendum on the incumbent, but Obama -- as much as his popularity has taken a hit -- still starts at a noted advantage over Romney and a gaping one over anyone else the GOP might put up.

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Interfaith Dialogue: The Good and the Bad

The good: An interesting conference brought together various Imams and Rabbis to explore the commonalities between Shariah and Halacha.

The bad: The Vatican's new liaison to the Jewish community is very much getting off on the wrong foot.

Cribbing Hate

There is an annoying trend one can spot occasionally that declares Islamophobia to be the new anti-Semitism. The implication is that anti-Semitism is mostly a thing of the past, no longer a problem, and that the attention paid to it should now shift to prejudice and bigotry against Muslims. Of course, anti-Semitism is not over and vigilance is still required against it -- the effect of the meme is less to encourage attention to Islamophobia than it is to encourage ignoring anti-Semitism.

What is true, though, is that many of the tactics and mechanics of Islamophobia have clear, obvious parallels to anti-Semitism. This is a theme discussed in detail by Hussein Ibish, and an interesting new post at Middle Class Dub hits it home by pairing up quotations from Nazi propagandist Julius Streicher with contemporary anti-Islam extremist Robert Spencer. They make effectively identical claims using effectively identical styles. It's very eye-opening.

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Israel to Accelerate Self-Dismemberment....

In response to Palestine's successful bid to gain membership in UNESCO, Israel has approved a wave of new settlement construction, apparently on the theory that hacking off one's own nose is worth it to spite someone else's face. Seriously, one gets the sense that radical Palestinians can just play Israel like a flute at this point. Do something Israel doesn't like, and watch as they furiously self-destruct.

Feedback Loop

Sometimes, the breathtaking dimness just bedazzles me:
So far this week, four of the world's top five oil companies have announced more than $24 billion in third quarter profits. And by the logic of Rep. Cliff Stearns (R-Fla.), that should mean those oil companies deserve more subsidies, not less.

Speaking at a town hall meeting Oct. 22 in his home state of Florida, Stearns displayed a very sketchy grasp on how subsidies should work, explaining to Climate Progress that incentives should be given to mature companies, not early-stage companies.

"When somebody is successful, then you give them the subsidies and the tax credit," explained Stearns, talking to Climate Progress. In short, the rich get richer. This is how the 1% operate. No wonder income inequality is growing in this country.

For those in the slow section of the class, that's the exact opposite of how subsidies are supposed to work. Now, ideally, in a pure capitalist society there are no such thing as subsidies. But I'm not a pure capitalist, and subsidies often make sense as a way to get a new industry off the ground in the face of entrenched competition (e.g., environmental energy), or to maintain a public service that wouldn't be able to fund itself (roads, other public transportation options). The one area where subsidies make no sense is as some sort of governmental bounty for the already-profitable.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Death To....?

The Times Higher Ed has a piece up on the recent outburst by a Kent State history professor who yelled "death to Israel!" after a fierce exchange with a Bedouin Israeli ex-diplomat. The remark was swiftly condemned by the university President, and I'm reasonably content with that outcome. Unlike the recent UCI case, the remark was neither intended to nor had the effect of permanently disrupting the diplomat's event. And while this particular professor's record isn't exactly unblemished (he wrote a column praising a suicide bomber, and is alleged to contributed to a Jihadist website), there isn't the sort of pattern or practice of behavior that would lead, in my view, to a hostile environment. At the end of the day, he behaved like a dick, and was called out on it by the President of the university. Can't ask for more than that.

But AAUP President Cary Nelson (and my Illinois colleague, in the English department) disagrees with me, and I found his statement somewhat interesting:
Calling out a political slogan during a question period falls well within the speech rights of any member of a university community,” he said. “Expressive outbursts do not substitute for rational analysis, but they have long played a role in our national political life. More surprising, to be sure, is President Lefton’s invention of an absurd form of hospitality: you must not question the moral legitimacy or the right to exist of a guest’s home country. Awareness of history would suggest such challenges are routine elements of international life.

The first half of this is true, but also somewhat besides the point. Obviously, expressive outbursts can be a part of national discourse. So too are critiques of those outbursts. Academic freedom doesn't mean freedom from criticism; to the extent the university president thinks this professor acted like a jerk, he shouldn't be immunized from being told so.

The second half, by contrast, just strikes me as strange. It's a "routine element of international life" for persons to have the very existence of their home states be challenged as a moral affront? I'm genuinely curious what other examples Mr. Nelson has in mind. After all, one thing one often hears from folks who think anti-Zionism plays by its own rules is that one essentially never hears the call "death to China" or "death to France." It isn't just guests from those countries which are spared the indignity -- such rhetoric isn't part of our discursive vocabulary at all for other countries.

I'm a little baffled, then, at what Nelson is referring to that he thinks is such a routine part of being part of international life. Any ideas?

Sunday, October 30, 2011

The Changing DC Region

The Washington Post has a pair of fascinating articles on shifting residential demographics in the DC area. The first documents the decline of White enclaves in the region. The second looks at the rise of the overwhelmingly Black and very wealthy Prince George's County.

How does this work? Well, it seems that (at least in the DC area), barriers to minority groups moving to White neighborhoods are finally starting to crumble, and when members of other racial groups move in, Whites aren't moving out. That being said, Whites still aren't willing to affirmatively move into neighborhoods that are predominantly non-White, which allows spaces like PG County to continue serving as Black enclaves.

Anyway, they're both good reads. Highly recommended.

UPDATE: Ta-Nehisi Coates has characteristically great thoughts.

Huntsman Girls

(A) Why does Jon Huntsman have to be a Republican and (B) Why does he have to run this year?

I still am baffled by why Huntsman is running this time around. But he is one of the last men standing in the "not insane" wing of the GOP, and to his immense credit, he's mostly managed to hold that line while running this time around (of course, that probably has something to do with his less than scintillating poll numbers).