Saturday, July 14, 2007

Boxing Blogging: HBO's Welterweight Tripleheader

HBO put on a huge welterweight card on tonight. Kermit Cintron (27-1, 25 KOs) faced Walter Matthysse (26-1, 25 KOs) for the IBF Welterweight title. Arturo Gatti (40-8, 31 KOs) looked to continue his career against "Contender" alum Alphonso Gomez (16-3-2, 7 KOs). And then the show moved out west to feature WBO titlist Antonio Margarito (34-4, 24 KOs) defending his crown against 6'1" Paul Williams (32-0, 24 KOs).

Cintron/Matthysse was first, and it did not last long. Matthysse got put down for the first time in his career at the end of the first round (a round which, prior to that, did not seem to be moving strongly in either fighter's favor). In the second, Cintron came out fast, putting down Matthysse again with a hard shot. The Argentinian got to his feet, but was clearly wobbly. Cintron then finished him off with a devastating upper-cut/hook combination, only the first of which was necessary (the second landed flush as Matthysse was going down). Were it not for some of the truly sensational KOs we've seen this year (Wilson over Nwodo, and Donaire upsetting Darchinyan), I think it'd be in the running for knockout of the year. As it is, welcome back to the division's elite, Cintron.

Going into Gatti/Gomez, I was predicting a unanimous decision for Gatti. Fighting at home in New Jersey, against a "Contender" guy (read: somebody who has more exposure than talent) who isn't reputed to have great punching power, this was the type of fight Gatti should win handily if he had anything left. Gatti does not have anything left, and Gomez was making him pay for stepping into the ring for seven long rounds before putting him down for the count and his career. All the while, the fans were on their seat hoping for one of Gatti's legendary comebacks. But his heart didn't seem to be in it for a drawn-out, blood and guts affair. Gomez was landing right hands all night, and when Gatti went down, the New Jersey boxing commissioner himself ran into the ring to make sure the bout was stopped. Gatti announced his retirement at the end of the fight, and while it may have been overdue, he's given boxing a hell of a ride over the course of his career.

Finally, the main event: Margarito/Williams. Both men felt like the division's elite had been ducking them. Margarito was putting a lucrative bout against Miguel Cotto on the line to send a message that he--who had been avoided for so long--would take on any and every legitimate challenger.

This fight was, to put it simply, fantastic. Both Margarito and Williams are volume punchers who like to use their height and reach to control fights and overwhelm their opponents with pressure. Margarito is 5'11" with a 30 inch reach (pretty high for a welterweight), but Williams is 6'1" (and looks even taller) with a 30.5 inch reach, which is freakish. As a result, it was Williams who was able to throw most of the punches, and Margarito was forced to settle for looking to land the harder shots. Williams controlled the early rounds, but Margarito began to come on strong later as he began to time Williams and the younger fighter began to fade, just a bit. What was crucial on the cards was how some of the closer early rounds were scored--I scored two of them (I believe rounds 3 and 6) even because Margarito got in some good body work that was beginning to effect Williams. But most observers (and I believe the judges) gave them to Williams, granting him a sweep of the first six rounds, whereas I had it 3 rounds for Williams, one for Margarito (the fourth), and two even at the halfway point. Margarito won a majority of the later rounds, but ended up coming just short, with Williams taking his crown by a 116-112, 115-113, 115-113 unanimous decision. I had it 115-115--had Margarito won the 12th round, I would have given him a decision (and, more importantly, those two 115-113 cards would have evened-up, giving him a majority draw).

Nonetheless, Williams fought a magnificent fight, and showed that he is the real thing at 147 pounds. With a title, Williams obviously deserves the chance to take on another one of the division's elites. And Margarito should definitely still be considered a match-up for a top fighter in the Welterweight division. For that matter, I wouldn't say no to a re-match for these two. They spent the entire night throwing and landing some big shots, and neither gave an inch. Truly, an excellent display of boxing, and one of the best non-PPV cards HBO has put on in a long while.

Gilmore Leaves the Race

Republican candidate and former Virginia Governor Jim Gilmore has announced he is dropping out of the contest for the 2008 Presidential election. Lagging far behind in fundraising and popular support, Gilmore lashed out at the nomination schedule that he blamed for the demise of his candidacy:
“I have come to believe that it takes more than a positive vision for our nation’s future to successfully compete for the Presidency,” he said. “I believe that it takes years of preparation to put in place both the political and financial infrastructure to contest what now amounts to a one-day national primary in February.”

That might be true (though I wonder how it explains Senator Obama). But running a successful presidential campaign also requires a candidate who has more to his name than spending one term as a governor where there is a near-universal consensus he crashed his state into oblivion. Gilmore's Virginia legacy was to send the state into near bankruptcy and catalyze its move from solid red to purple (which is why the two subsequent governors after he left have both been Democrats). Don't get me wrong--us Donkeys appreciate the help. But it's not a complete mystery why Republican voters might have been less than enthused about Gilmore's candidacy.

UPDATE: Here's the Post's coverage:
Gilmore's real strength, however, has always been his absolute certainty in his own ideas and beliefs. As governor, the confidence gave him strength while also earning him the enmity of political adversaries who grew frustrated by his unwillingness to compromise.

A Southern Republican governor with "absolute certainty in his own ideas and beliefs," who refuses to compromise and infuriates his political adversaries?

Gosh, what possibly could have gone wrong?

Friday, July 13, 2007

The Stanford Prison Experiment Hits TV

With a gendered twist (via Feministing):
The participants will be brought to a remote, primitive location where the women will have the opportunity to “rule” as they build a newly formed society – one where there is no glass ceiling and no dressing to impress. For the men, their worlds of power and prestige are turned inside-out and upside-down. And for these women, turnabout is fair play!

In order to win, the men must accede to the women’s every demand, 24/7. Here, women command and men obey. Over the series’ duration, the men will be eliminated by the women until one last man is standing.

How will the men react? How will the women treat the men? Can women effectively rule society? Will the men learn what life is like for some women in today’s world? Will this new society be a Utopia or a hell on earth? And in the end, who will be man enough to succeed in the new social order?

And since the whole thing is being run by Fox, you know that it'll be classy.

The show is called "When Women Rule The World." In actuality, it sounds more like a modified repetition of the Stanford Prison Experiment, only without scientific planning. Reality shows that try to examine human behavior from a psychological standpoint rarely do a good job at it. The danger is to extrapolate from whatever happens on this show to make any real-world conclusions. I'd also note that any implicit claim that this even remotely resembles the feminist vision of the world is a gross mischaracterization of feminist theory and advocacy. I'm not talking about the results here, I'm talking about the set-up--feminists do not desire female "domination", indeed, the more radical you get, the more likely you are to see deconstructions of the entire concept of dominion.


Left Behind

Phoebe Maltz wonders about those who say they want to critique the left "from the left." If they disagree with the left about so much, why do they call themselves leftists? Why not become a rightist? Or adopt some other political identity?

Well, the obvious answer is that you're attacking the left from a position even further to the left, but from the context I don't think Phoebe is talking about that. However, I would say that she is overestimating the amount of dispute "critics from the left" have with their supposed compatriots--they probably are on the same page for most issues, and are just at odds over one (probably high profile) thing. It seems silly to strike out on one's own just because of a handful of differences.

However, at the core, I think the answer to Phoebe's question lies in the realm of a shared set of commitments or presuppositions. More than policy end-results, this is how I think most people (or at least most intellectuals) determine who they consider to be in their camp or not. People don't come up with their political beliefs in a void--they do so by drawing on rich veins of argument, writing, and schools of thought. The people engaging in the debates Phoebe wonders about are, I suspect, having an intramural affair--it is entirely possible that a right-winger might not identify with the reasoning a leftist uses to get from point A to point B, even if she too agrees with B. And on the flip side, even where they agree on end points, a person who identifies with a certain intellectual paradigm may not want to associate himself with another, even if they end up agreeing on certain end-point policies. This is especially true where the person suspects his would-be allies have made their decision based on reasoning or beliefs he finds repugnant.

For example, take a leftist who supports aggressive action to promote women's rights in the Arab World. He says that he supports this stance due to liberal notions of equality for all persons and the belief that the subjugation of women, regardless of culture, is wrong (incidentally, the belief that Western liberals and feminists wouldn't sign onto that is one of the more peculiar myths to have been perpetuated against the modern left. But whatever). Looking at right-wingers who also are loudly decrying abuses of women's rights in that region, he might still not want to join their camp, for a variety of reasons. He might think they are being disingenuous, and don't actually care about women (wait for the first Islamic feminist to start demanding abortion rights and see what happens). Even if their commitment is genuine, it might be based on stereotyping or other beliefs he might not want to be associated with ("won't somebody please save these heathen savages?"). It's not all about the end game--the journey matters just as much. Because of that, people are quite reasonable to try and convince their old traveling mates to sign on to a new destination, rather than search about for new parties who say they're going where you're going but getting there in a morally intolerable way.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

True Colors

I'm always stunned when the Family Research Council disappoints me. Not because I think they are a particularly admirable or principled organization. Much the opposite--my standards for them have dropped so far I simply refuse to believe they could be undercut. And yet, time and again I am proven wrong.

Today's atrocity is their reaction to Hindu chaplain Rajan Zed delivering a prayer before Congress. It is the first time a Hindu invocation has been given in Congress, and thus is somewhat of a milestone. And the FRC, which has fought tooth and nail to preserve prayer in the public square, fight against "hostility" towards religion, and generally pressed that official religious exercise does not result in favoritism or discrimination against people or creeds, has issued a response from its chief, Tony Perkins:
There is no question that under the first amendment Zed enjoys freedom in this country that Christians do not enjoy in his home country. But does that mean it is appropriate for him to open the nation's highest elected body in prayer? I think not. This prayer is more than ceremony, although many may treat it as such. It is a plea to God....

No one can legitimately challenge the fact that the God America refers to in the pledge, our national motto, and other places is the monotheistic God of the Jewish and Christian faith. There is no historic connection between America and the polytheistic creed of the Hindu faith. I seriously doubt that Americans want to change the motto, "In God we Trust, which Congress adopted in 1955, to, "In gods we Trust." That is essentially what the United States Senate did today.

Now, I am not surprised that the FRC is not thrilled at Zed's barrier-breaking. I have no doubt they deeply dislike Hinduism, view its practitioners as hell-bound infidels, and do not want to see it gain any credibility or presence on America's shore. However, I am stunned that they would say it out loud. This was an easy mark for the FRC. There is no risk that Hinduism will take over America (they don't even have the hyperbolic "Muslim hordes will turn us into a Sharia state!" fear to go on here). This is obviously not going to become the norm. The vast majority of American legislative prayer will still take place within the Christian religious tradition. This was a gimme. Talk about how this proves America is non-discriminatory. Show that it gives lie to liberal cries of Christian domination or theocracy. Brag about how ecumenical we are. It won't change reality, and it would score some points.

But no. The FRC simply can't stand Hinduism, and couldn't take the incredible gift it was being offered here. So they spouted off, and made themselves look like idiots in the process. Let us take note of some of the ways how.

1) "Zed enjoys freedom in this country that Christians do not enjoy in his home country." Zed is from Reno, Nevada. He was born in India, but that hardly matters. If he was originally from India, he now calls Reno (and thus, America) his home. This is his country, just as much as it is mine (well, obviously, since I'm Jewish and thus every bit as damned) or any of the FRC's Christian buddies.

2) The capitalization of "God" when it refers to the Christian deity, but the lower-case for Hindu ("gods"). This is just disrespectful.

3) "The monotheistic God of the Jewish and Christian faith." This one is so obscene, it can be divided into four independent specimens of idiocy. First, I've heard that many Hindus consider their religion to be monotheistic--one God in many forms, yes, but that can't be too distressing to anyone who believes in the Trinity. Second, if it is the God of the Jewish and Christian faith, then it has to be the God of the Muslim faith too--we're all stemming from the same Abrahamic tradition. Third, there is no more of a "tradition" from the Framer's era of viewing this God as a "Jewish" God than of a Hindu God. Rewriting history to pretend like most American Christians at the founding viewed Judaism as completely full and equal partners is intellectual dishonesty. Fourth, this faux-inclusiveness for Judaism is belied by the prayer Perkins cites as the exemplification of an "appropriate" prayer, referring to America "as the only nation on earth that came into being 'for the Glory of God and the advancement of the Christian faith.'" Well gosh, that puts me in a bind, now doesn't it? Given that generally, me and mine are the first targets (and I use them term deliberately) of Christian "advancement" efforts, that's a bit disconcerting. Don't play me, Tony. You're not really on my side here. The smile I'm getting is one of a predator. Jews are a marginalized non-Christian religious minority in America. And when you start supporting discrimination of any non-Christian minority, you threaten all of them. That's why, Abrahamic ties notwithstanding, I am far more tied to Zed than I'll be to you (It's also worth noting that Jews tend to be treated rather well in Hindu-dominated counties, especially compared to our history in Christian locales. There, "the advancement of the Christian faith" has been the moniker by which my people have faced continual persecution, oppression, bigotry, hate, and genocidal rage. What makes you think I'd trust you more than them?).

Other reactions:

Nathan Bradfield of Church and State pretty much has an orgasm over Perkins' fine words of wisdom. I doubt this will make a difference, but I'll pitch it anyway. I love it that y'all say you want to include Jews. But standards such as the ones you advocate are inherently anti-Semitic, threaten my equal religious standing, and are the reason Jews will never leave the Democratic Party no matter how often you pledge your allegiance to Israel. They are the words of an enemy, not a friend. As an observant Jew, there is very little I find more repellent than this false partnership. At least with Hamas you know where you stand. Here we have folks trying to enlist the good name of Judaism to hurt other religious minorities and bring about our own demise. Play the Christian partisan if you want, but don't pretend to be my friend while you prepare the dagger for my back.

If Mr. Bradfield wants a Jewish perspective from actual Jews (and mine isn't sufficient), here's another. I guarantee you--every major Jewish organization in America is coming down on Zed's side here.

A smattering of liberal blogs have commented on the disruption of Zed's prayer by Christian fundamentalists. Talk about hostility to religion in the public square. When is the last time radical liberals interrupted a Christian preacher--much less because he was the wrong religion, and not because our public squares should be neutral turf?

This has been a post written in anger, so let me end on a positive note. Zed's prayer is a great moment for America and our progress into a diverse, pluralistic, tolerant nation. I am sorry that it had to be marred by a few religious extremists. But I am confident that vast majority of people, from all faiths and from none, share in the ideals and principles that allow Zed his moment, and are as proud that our nation has taken this step as I am. God bless you.


I thought the plural (and adjective) form of "Hindu" was "Hindi." I thought "Hindus" sounded silly. It turns out I was wrong, and now I look silly. The correction has been made. Sorry, PG :-(.

The Next Democratic Supreme Court Justice

Veteran Supreme Court observer Tom Goldstein has his picks for who a Democratic President might pick for his or her first open SCOTUS seat. They are:

Hon. Johnnie Rawlinson, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit

Chief Justice Leah Ward Sears, Georgia Supreme Court

Hon. Sonia Sotomayor, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit

Hon. Kim McLane Wardlaw, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit

All four are, of course, extremely qualified. In terms of demographics, Judge Rawlinson and Justice Sears are African-American, while Judges Sotomayor and Wardlaw are both Hispanic. All four judges are women.

Without knowing anything about their decisions, relative politics, or any number of other pertinent information (in other words, going solely off bios), Judge Sotomayor seems to have the clearest path to confirmation. She's been serving in the judiciary as long or longer than any of the other three candidates, being appointed in 1992 (Justice Sears was also appointed to the Georgia Supreme Court in 1992). She has the advantage of being originally appointed to her district court seat by President Bush, before being elevated to the 2nd Circuit by President Clinton in 1997. Her credentials are the most overtly elite (Princeton/Yale), compared to North Carolina A&T/Pacific (Rawlinson), Cornell/Emory (Sears), and UCLA/UCLA (Wardlaw). Finally, she gets an advantage over Rawlinson and Wardlaw in that she doesn't hail from the 9th circuit, which, regardless of these judges' particular decisions, will inevitably tar them with the dread label, "activist." (For what its worth, Goldstein, who is far more informed than I, gives Wardlaw the inside track).

But regardless, it is quite pleasant to see a number of well-qualified minority women who could make it to the bench of America's highest Court under a Democratic administration. The "small pool" argument takes another dagger. I think that America's political institutions have at least some obligation (not a paramount obligation, but some obligation) to "look like the nation." Others lecture that pure academic, experiential, or intellectual qualification should be all that matters. Happily, we are now in a situation where both of our desires can be reconciled, as there are several excellent candidates for the Supreme Court who could make everybody happy.

Goldstein also created an expanded list of 30 potential nominees (PDF), which is worth taking a look at. Of the 30, 24 of them are either women or racial minorities. Seven (including Goldstein's first four) are both women and minorities. The three names in that category who did make Goldstein's final roster of first seat candidates were Vicki Miles-LaGrange (Federal Judge for the Western District of Oklahoma 1994-present, University of Ghana/Vassar/Howard), Patricia Timmons-Goodson (North Carolina Supreme Court 2006-present, UNC/UNC), and Martha Vasquez (Federal Judge for the District of New Mexico 1993-present, Notre Dame/Notre Dame).

Other names of note on the list include Harvard Law Dean Elena Kagan, Yale Law Dean Harold Honju Koh, former Stanford Law Dean Kathleen Sullivan, Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm, Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick, US Senators Ken Salazar and Barack Obama (though the latter, Goldstein concedes, might be otherwise occupied from 2008-2012), and former Solicitor General Seth Waxman. Gender-wise, the list is composed of 18 men and 12 women; race wise it includes 11 Whites, 6 Hispanics, 12 African-Americans, and 1 Asian-American.

I can't wait until 2008

Boxing Blogging: July 11th, 2007

Haven't done this in awhile, but last night's WNF card had some interest, so let's hear it. Starting off with the undercard, which featured two "prospects", in the sense that they were undefeated, but neither of whom had faced any real challenges. Although both won, Daniel Lomeli (5-0, 0 KOs) looked far better in his match against Ronald Hurley (1-2-2, 0 KOs), than Anthony Salcido (13-0-1, 8 KOs) did against punching bag Sammy Ventura (25-18, 20 KOs). Lomeli had a built in advantage in that his fighter was willing to mix it up with him, giving us four exhilarating rounds that had no lack of action. But what impressed me most about Lomeli (aside from his first round knockdown) was his discipline in working the body. Good body punchers are tough to find, and its especially tempting to go head-hunting for the big shots in a short fight. For Lomeli to commit himself to that route, at this stage in his career, is a very good sign. Salcido got the knockout that was expected against Ventura (who has been knocked out in over 80% of his losses). But in general, he did not display the killer instinct required to really make it at an elite level. He did not seem to interested in mixing it up with Ventura, somebody who a genuine prospect would dispatch with no effort. Incidentally, I think that the stoppage was early--Ventura should have been assessed a technical knockdown given the way he fell against the ropes, but he deserved at least a count.

The main event, though, had genuine implications beyond developing a prospect. It featured top junior middleweight Joel Julio against "Contender" alum Cornelius "K9" Bundrage. Before the fight, I told my brother that it was either going to be a really good bout, or a mismatch, depending on whether K9 is for real. A lot of smack has been talked about how "Contender" fighters get too much exposure and are thus overrated and overmatched at the top levels. K9 was supposed to be one of the weaker fighters on the show, but gritted out some surprising upsets to take a bronze medal. Although Teddy Atlas said that he had never faced anybody at Julio's level, that isn't entirely accurate. His two losses have come to former titlist Steve Forbes, who probably is a step beneath Julio, and Sechew Powell, who definitely is in Julio's ballpark (Powell's only loss is to elite junior middleweight Kassim Ouma, and he has victories over an impressive roster of fighters). The problem for Bundrage is that his loss against Powell was a first round blowout where he went down twice in about a minute of action (the first was a double-knockdown, but Bundrage was clearly more hurt by it). From that, it was unclear whether he had the chin to stand up to the power punching Julio.

He couldn't. Julio doesn't look like a puncher to me, but records don't lie, and he's knocked out his opponents in all but three of his fights. Julio does have a killer instinct, and looked close to stopping the fight after knocking Bundrage down early in round three. To his credit, Bundrage managed to stay alive and even took the fourth round. But that was his only bright spot of the night, and Julio floored Bundadge again in round 8 and followed up with a flurry that forced the referee to stop the fight. Bundrage's problem (aside from the fact that he was just outclassed) is that he looks to the ref too much for help. At least three times throughout the fight, I saw him get tagged while looking away from Julio to complain. For a guy whose done his share of ethically ambiguous tactics, this is particularly annoying. Also, Bundrage's one advantage over Julio might have been that he's physically stronger, but he didn't make any effort to get inside. In an outside punching war, Julio had two hands and Bundrage had one, and he was going to go down.

Julio's record is now 32-1, 30 KOs, and he is about ready for a title shot. Bundrage falls to 26-3, 15 KOs.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Order of the Phoenix Movie Review

Okay, let's start out with the most surprising detail before we get to the main text of the review: Voldemort looks quite cutting in the black suit, shirt, tie combination. I'm dead serious. He has a damn good tailor, whoever he is.

The movie itself was satisfactory, if not outstanding. The Order of the Phoenix was one of the two weakest books (along with Chamber of Secrets), and if anything it seemed like an even worse candidate for film adaptation. But, perhaps recognizing their constraints, it actually came to life about as well as could be expected. As usual with the HP flicks, people without a background in the series (i.e., at least having watched the other movies) will be completely lost, but these movies were always made under the assumption that its viewers were fans already. Within that framework, the movie rolls along, doesn't go for too much, and most importantly, doesn't focus on the parts of the book that would spell disaster for its cast (in other words, it didn't make Daniel Radcliffe act).

One of the movie's better lines is when Hermione Granger tells Ron that he has "the emotional range of a teaspoon," but honestly, that line would have better been spoken to Mr. Potter. Daniel Radcliffe has always been limited by the fact that he can't express more than one emotion, and this script must have taken that into account. In the early movies, the magic emotion was "surprise." In this movie, surprise is out, and glowering is in. Boy, can Radcliffe glower. And to be fair, glaring and steaming and smoldering is how Harry spends most of Book Five, which is one of the reasons it aggravated me so much. Mercifully, the movie's producers decided not to focus on that theme of the book, and so for most of the movie Harry is rather expressionless. Which is where he is at his best. Aside from that, little of the acting was worth note. The other main characters manage to hold themselves reasonably well. Dolores Umbridge was, in my view, overplayed, but my brother said she hit the target dead on. Luna Lovegood flirted with being really well done, but was a bit too affected even for such an outlandish character.

Shorter than its predecessors, the movie still has pacing problems, tending to drag when the producers get CGI-happy. The reverse problem, of course, is that the movie feels perpetually rushed--the product of cramming a book the size of Order into a watchable movie. Major plot events occur in a single scene, without expounding, lending the whole show a "blink and it's gone" feeling. Prioritization would have helped here--there were a lot of areas that got short-changed, and a few that could have donated some precious minutes. The time spent showing Harry training his DAers, especially, could have been shaved and redirected to prevent the movie from being spread so thin. The final battle in the Ministry of Magic got the right amount of time and rang reasonably true (Bellatrix Lestrange was played beautifully, by the way), so kudos there. However, as it went on, it began to over-reach itself. Too many flashing lights, too much wanton destruction, even the summoning of a monster. It felt like it was cribbed from a Dragon Ball Z cartoon, or a Final Fantasy "limit break" animation. If, after defeating Voldemort, the soundtrack had broken out into FF's "victory" theme (da-da-da-daaa-da-daa-da-daa-daaa!), I wouldn't have been the least surprised. This shouldn't happen.

All in all, it was a fine movie, worth seeing, but nothing ground-breaking or earth-shattering. Given how weak the movie series started, I'd be quite pleased if it managed to find its niche as solid but unremarkable, as it seems significantly more possible for the movies to get worse, then to get better.


Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Private Affairs

U.S. Senator David Vitter (R-LA), a key ally to GOP Presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani, has admitted his link to a D.C. "madam", who ran an "escort service" frequented by many of the city's high and mighty. Vitter apologized for his "serious sin" and remarked:
"Out of respect for my family, I will keep my discussion of the matter there -- with God and them. But I certainly offer my deep and sincere apologies to all I have disappointed and let down in any way."

Certainly, I feel terrible that a man's marriage and personal life is about to be dragged into the public sphere as so much political football. These concerns are private, and should stay between Vitter and his family.

What's that you say? Vitter voted for the Federal Marriage Amendment? Twice? Oh dear. I guess he thinks that marriage is something that deserves to be a public issue and political football. Well then. Game on.

In the same vein, Ann Althouse notes that:
I hate seeing people publicly humiliated for the sexual things they do in private. But the government is criminally prosecuting a woman, Deborah Jeane Palfrey, for what it says was a prostitution ring. These are federal charges, and the senator, David Vitter, has some responsibility for the laws that make this prosecution possible.

Palfrey can't say God has forgiven her and walk free. In fact, Vitter's statement hurts Palfrey because it strongly implies that Palfrey was doing what she's accused of. Vitter's confession -- intended to move us to mercy -- links him to criminal activity, but only she is facing criminal punishment.

Shouldn't the expiation of Vitter's sins wait until he has introduced a bill that would create a federal right to engage in the business of prostitution? It's not a matter to be resolved within the realm of church and family as long as Palfrey is being prosecuted.

LGM and Matt Yglesias make similar comments.

I'm #9!

According to SSRN download statistics for the past two months (May 11th to July 10th), my article is ranked #9 in downloads among all articles in the Law & Society: Public Law section. It reached that lofty position with 58 downloads.

The article, in case you've forgotten, is entitled When Separation Doesn't Work: The Religion Clauses as Anti-Subordination Principles, and it is forthcoming soon in the Dartmouth Law Journal. Thanks to everybody who has read and commented on it.

Monday, July 09, 2007

Sheehan To Challenge Pelosi?

Cindy Sheehan has announced that, if Nancy Pelosi doesn't introduce articles of impeachment against George W. Bush, she'll take her on in the 2008 Democratic primary. John Cole has the best reaction:
Y’all created this monster, giving her the ABSOLUTE MORAL AUTHORITY to say whatever she wanted, regardless how ridiculous it was, so have fun with her. Now she is IN UR BASE AND KILLING UR D00Dz! Good luck.

My opinion on Cindy Sheehan was that she suffered a devastating loss, one that few of us could ever comprehend. I hold her no malice--I have no idea how I would respond in her shoes. But she isn't a credible political commentator, and she is not helping the party or the country.

Diamond in the Rough

This is what Conservapedia (the conservative, er, alternative, to Wikipedia) has to say about Sephiroth, the main bad guy in Final Fantasy VII:

"A highly dangerous psychopath with superhuman strength. He is also a leader of a dangerous cult known as Jenova's Witnesses. He is the main antagonist of the game and brutally murders Aeris in the Canadian Rockies."

On the one hand, the "Jenova's Witnesses" thing is brilliant. On the other hand, the above excerpt is from their entry on Trigonometry.

"The truth will set you free," indeed.


A post at The Ambrosini Critique has reminded me of a post I've been meaning to write for some time now, but have never gotten around to.

The apex of Chief Justice Roberts' opinion in the recent school desegregation cases, the line he hoped would be quoted and deified as a constitutional cornerstone, was this: "The way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to stop discriminating on the basis of race." It represents a vision by which the harms of racial hierarchy (represented by, though by no means limited to, discrimination) can only be overcome by strict color-blindness. Admitting color, even for remedial purposes, even without intending to stigmatize, even where it is sanctioned by both Black and White parents as in the best interests of their children, is and will be disastrous. Race and color must be avoided at all costs, lest we be consumed by the darkness of our racist past.

In my Race LASIK article, I noted the peculiarity of proudly naming a philosophical paradigm after a medical disorder. Few of us actually wish to be medically color-blind. I know I am quite happy that I can identify my laptop as black, my desk as white, my sheets as blue, and my New Jersey Devils jacket as red. And I certainly cherish that ability strongly enough such that I want to preserve it, even at the "expense" of also being able to see that this man is Black and this man is White. I assume most people are no different than I am in this respect. So right from the start, there is at least some dissonance in the "color-blindness" paradigm--it isn't really accurately describing the society we want to live in.

A better name for what most people call the "color-blind" mentality, I propose, is a "colorphobic" mentality. As a society, we are terrified of color (in terms of race), and we wish to banish it. Any admission of color into our city gates is poisonous, corrupting, corrosive. We can't handle it. And the mark of a mature society, one that has gotten beyond racism, is that it never uses race, never discriminates or differentiates on the basis of race, and does not, in fact, even notice race.

I want to quickly distinguish what I'm talking about here from a concept called "negrophobia", coined by Jody Armour in his article, "Race Ipsa Loquitur: Of Reasonable Racists, Intelligent Bayesians, and Involuntary Negrophobes" (later published as a book). Negrophobia refers to the condition of being afraid of Black people, generally as the result of some psychological trauma (for example, being mugged by a Black man). Armour examines whether such a condition could or should be used to excuse certain discriminatory behavior (see here for a scenario). This is not what I mean by "colorphobia." By colorphobia, I mean a fear of the entire concept of race, not necessarily (or specifically) of people of color.

To be sure, it is not entirely unreasonable for us to fear color. After all, the majority of America's history has used color to enact and legitimize some of the gravest and most horrifying injustices. Slavery. Jim Crow. Lynchings. Rape. Even genocide. White people who feel guilty about such atrocities, as most do, understandably do not want to return down that path. It is the site of our lowest moments as human beings. Instinctively, we are averse to anything that seems to even risk bringing as back there.

In our heads, race has become the villain, the perpetrator of these crimes against humanity. One could argue that this serves the function of shifting the blame from the shoulders of White people--now it's not the fault of people, it's the fault of a concept. That's a subject for another post. What I want to focus on is how this historical narrative has cast race as irredeemably corrosive to the functioning and maintenance of a civilized, liberal society. More so than any other distinction we might make, race is uniquely invidious in that it can never be used, regardless of motive, regardless of end. This construction of race as a larger-than-life, invincible, unconquerable foe, can be described by no other word but a phobia. Color-blindness is the political manifestation of hiding from a demon we fear we cannot tame, one that will consume us if admitted into our presence.

Race has primarily been used for terrible things, that's true. And it is a truth admitted by all the advocates of color-conscious policy. However, they argue that in our current situation race is an indispensable tool for righting these wrongs, and for creating and ordering a more just society. We can't do without it. The color-blindness mentality has us run from our past through exile and banishment. This is no longer a tenable option. We have run for too long. We must use race without subordination. And to do that, we must show courage, face our fears, and overcome the monsters in our past.

The mark of mature society, of one that has gotten beyond racism, is not that it shuns race. That is the mark of an immature society still beholden to its past and unable to move beyond its phobia. The mark of a mature, post-racist society, is that it uses race without subordination and without fear. This does not mean that we use race uncritically. Like most tools, race can be a dangerous thing, and should not be wielded casually or with reckless abandon. But it cannot be avoided altogether. We must use it courageously, with noble purpose, to forge a path towards justice. Anything else is cowardice.

And in that way, race without fear will give us a world where nobody need fear race.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Who's Irrational Now?

In a recent post, I described my irrational exuberance regarding Israel and the state of Jews in the world more generally--a feeling poorly grounded in fact, but the result of a collection of hunches, sentiments, and gut instincts that told me we may be on the verge of turning a corner.

CNN has just announced that the Arab League will be making a historic first visit to the state of Israel.