Saturday, March 22, 2008

The Hillary Two Step

On the one hand, Kevin Drum is right: The paranoid rantings by Obama supporters that Hillary Clinton is only staying in the race to damage the Illinois Senator enough so he loses in 2008, clearing the path for her in 2012, are crazy. There is nothing to suggest that Clinton would do something so suicidal, or that she doesn't recognize how it would crush her own ambitions four years down the road. Clinton's running a tough campaign, maybe too tough, but she's not in it for sabotage.

On the other hand, there's Jerome Armstrong, who's really been on an anti-Obama tiff recently: "I can't help but recognize that the call to shut down the nomination battle before all the votes are counted, hopefully a position held by a vocal minority, is unfortunately reminiscent of the Bush supporters mantra against Gore in Dec of 2000.", anymore than calls for Huckabee to leave the race when he was getting walloped by McCain were akin to Bush/Gore. Clinton is certainly closer than Huckabee was, but all parties seem to agree that she has a very scant shot at winning. It's perfectly rational to say that it's now time to bow out gracefully, before this fight drags on any longer.

For a long time I've been of the position that the protracted primary fight between Obama and Clinton wouldn't hurt Democrats, because fundamentally it's because we have two stellar candidates to choose from and it's a tough choice. But these last few weeks have seemed to give us a turn for the worse, with a lot sharper exchanges -- not so much between the candidates themselves, but between their allies. If it keeps up like this, it's going to be tough to unify in time for the general, and that does worry me. Only Democrats could blow an election because of too much talent to choose from.

Subjective Orientation

Matt Yglesias and Rob Farley made a point yesterday about how liberals and conservatives are looking at foreign affairs that I hadn't thought of. Here's Matt:
It's striking how much of conservative thinking about national security these days centers around subjective factors -- determination, emboldening, "claiming victory" -- rather than on objective assessments. Objectively speaking, withdrawing from Iraq would cut off a major line of recruiting for al-Qaeda while simultaneously freeing up vast quantities of American manpower and other resources. How "bold" that makes al-Qaeda leaders feel (and you've got to figure these fuckers were pretty "emboldened' already when they blew up the twin towers, right?) has nothing to do with anything.

Farley goes on to argue that this is actually a rather common thread in America. Personally, it reminds me a lot of the so-called Green Lantern Theory of American foreign policy (that America, as the hegemon, can accomplish anything it wishes so long as the Will of the American People stands behind it). But insofar as these terms take primacy in our discussion of such issues as the war in Iraq -- such that we're more concerned about showing "resolve" than we are about actually creating a safer and more democratic role -- we begin to run into trouble.

DeMarcus Nelson

DeMarcus Nelson is my favorite player on the Duke Basketball team. Plagued by injuries, he seemed to have been around forever. But with Duke getting knocked out in round two by #7 West Virginia (who would have thought missing 15 straight 3s would lead to such problems?), Nelson's career is finally over. And worse yet, he ended it on a terrible slump -- really having off games both against Belmont and the Mountaineers.

Speaking as someone who ended his own competitive days (in high school debate) on a really rough run, I know how much that sucks. It's obviously tough to lose, and tough to end your career, but there is special agony to knowing that you finished on the down slope.

So Nelson, just know that you've still got a fan, and I wish you luck in whatever you do for the rest of your life (basketball or otherwise).

Friday, March 21, 2008

Boxing Blogging: 3/21/08

Sure, everyone is watching March Madness. And I am too. But I'm also making time to watch the boxing, and was treated to one of the biggest upsets ever to air on Friday Night Fights: Andy Lee getting stopped by Contender Alum Brian Vera.

But first the undercard:

Aaron Pryor, Jr. (9-0, 6 KOs) UD8 Alphonso Williams (10-4, 8 KOs)

I thought the fight was a draw, but I can't really protest Pryor eking out a tight unanimous decision victory (I can protest the ludicrous 79-73 card one judge gave though). But Pryor, a very tall middleweight, was sorely tested by a game Williams, who had him hurt in rounds one and seven. Williams had a tendency to throw wide and smother himself, which limited his effectiveness, but Pryor couldn't keep him on the outside -- a problem for someone as tall and lanky as the undefeated prospect. Ultimately, Pryor gets the nod, but he needs a lot more time in the gym if he's going to step any further as a professional.

Matt Remillard (13-0, 7 KOs) UD4 Jesus Salvador Perez (25-19-3, 14 KOs)

Yawn. Remillard looked ordinary, and Perez looked like someone who is now 2-17-1 in his last 20 (which the former title challenger is). Remillard did knock down Perez once in the first, but aside from that it was a rather drab affair (I'll admit flipped over to catch the basketball for much of it).

Brian Vera (16-1, 10 KOs) TKO7 Andy Lee (15-1, 12 KOs)

First of all, congratulations to Vera, who fought an outstanding fight. I admit, I did not give him a chance against Lee, who many thought was a burgeoning star. The first time I saw Vera fight, it was a majority decision win against Samuel Miller that I thought had a whiff of home cooking to it. The second time, it was him getting blitzed in two rounds by Jaidon Codrington. Lee, being a class ahead of both of these guys, looked to blow out Vera, and that's precisely what I thought would happen.

And in the first round, all signs pointed to my prediction being accurate, with Lee scoring a knockdown. But Vera stormed back and began to hurt Lee, simply through constant pressure and a good chin. I thought Lee blew some chances by not jumping on Vera when he had the chance -- he was repeatedly stunning the smaller fighter with lefts, but didn't follow up. Vera's heart kept him coming forward, and it's always a mistake to let someone like Vera stay in the fight.

In round seven, Vera had Lee hurt and was battering him around the ring. Now, I'll join the chorus of folks who question the stoppage as early. Lee was getting hit and was clearly hurt, but he was throwing back. In fact, he landed the last punch of the fight -- a solid counter reacting to a flush shot Vera placed that ultimately prompted the referee to step in. The ref had been giving Lee a look for quite awhile, but I'm not sure how I feel about waving the fight off in the middle of the ring when both fighters are trading. It's a controversial way for a rising star like Lee to lose his "0", and this sport has enough controversy already.

But none of that should be used to take anything away from Vera. He came back from on the canvas, walked through some brutal left hands, and took the fight to Lee. He earned a lot of respect from me tonight.


This is a great story about how biologist P.Z. Myers was expelled from a screening of "Expelled." Apparently, the producer of the movie (which is about how "big science" is suppressing creationism) left specific orders that Myers -- a prominent critic of the creationist movement -- was not to be let in. But they did unknowingly admit Myers' companion that day -- atheist writer Richard HDawkins.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Friends and Lovers

A new study shows that guys mistake friendly gestures by women as sexual come-ons, and sexual come-ons as friendly gestures. Thus guaranteeing us a life of misery and solitude unless by sheer dumb luck we're tackled on the sofa by our to-be paramour. So to all my female "friends" who really were just willing me to jump them, much apologies.

Also, Ezra's right: examples of which signals were which would have been a nice addition to the article.

(Men, of course, as so tastefully commented by LitBrit, er, "wear their hearts on their sleeves", if you will).

Power Couple

Rumor on the street is that super-prof Cass Sunstein, who recently announced he is leaving Chicago for Harvard Law School, is involved with former Obama adviser and all-around BAMF Samantha Power. Power, of course, is based out of the Kennedy School.

Sunstein was previously linked with Chicago Professor Martha Nussbaum -- who, coincidentally, just turned down an offer from Harvard Law School and will remain at Chicago.

[This is my equivalent of celebrity gossip]

What Goes Around

Over at the new Convictions blog, Richard Ford makes a point I hadn't thought about with regards to the development of conservative race jurisprudence:
The equal protection clause is now as likely, if not more likely, to block race conscious efforts to remedy racial injustice as it is to block racial discrimination as conventionally understood. And so ironically, making it difficult to establish an equal protection violation-- once a conservative position--may soon be in the way of conservative efforts to reverse and prohibit race conscious remedial policies.

There are three directions this can go. The first is a loosening of the standards, making it easier for both traditional civil rights plaintiffs to show proof of discrimination but also easier for those blocking efforts to remedy racial injustice. Observing the recent Snyder case, this is how Professor Ford sees things progressing. The second option is that the rules remain tight, and conservative advocacy groups find it harder than they initially suspected to undermine affirmative action and other such programs because the bar is set really high for proving intentional, specific discriminatory patterns.

The third option, of course, is that the bar is set low for those attacking racial remedies and high for everyone else. I won't say that's the most likely outcome, but it's not impossible either.

Post-Election Huckabee

I wanted to post this yesterday, but I want to reiterate how impressed I am by Mike Huckabee's defense of Rev. Wright:
And one other thing I think we've gotta remember. As easy as it is for those of us who are white, to look back and say "That's a terrible statement!"...I grew up in a very segregated south. And I think that you have to cut some slack -- and I'm gonna be probably the only Conservative in America who's gonna say something like this, but I'm just tellin' you -- we've gotta cut some slack to people who grew up being called names, being told "you have to sit in the balcony when you go to the movie. You have to go to the back door to go into the restaurant. And you can't sit out there with everyone else. There's a separate waiting room in the doctor's office. Here's where you sit on the bus..."

And you know what? Sometimes people do have a chip on their shoulder and resentment. And you have to just say, I probably would too. I probably would too. In fact, I may have had more of a chip on my shoulder had it been me.

Back when Huckabee was running, I described him someone with "a lot of personal charm and charisma" but "a lot of positions that are -- bluntly -- crazy." And that's true. But the thing about crazy people is sometimes they're crazy in the best possible way. Huckabee has a lot of good stances on many issues (such as immigration). On the campaign trail, trying to get the GOP nod, he walked a lot of them back. But now that he's free from pursuing the nomination, he can go back to saying things like this -- things that you rarely hear institutionally powerful Republicans say, but things that have a lot more power coming from someone like Huckabee than even an orator as powerful as Obama.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

More Fun With Killing Hitler

Time Travel rookie mistakes (via Reason).

This is getting to be a trend.

Black Conservatism Revisited

First of all, I want to thank all of the folks who have helped touch off this conversation and have given me so many kind words, particularly Andrew Sullivan for the original link, Rod Dreher at Crunchy Con and the Dallas Morning News, Jim Buie, Robert George, Rafique Tucker (who gets special shout-out as a fellow Marylander), and all the other folks who have left comments or emailed me. I really think this is an important conversation to be had, and I'm particularly gratified that so many people have been so willing to accept with an open mind the existence of parallel Black political orientations which don't perfectly map on to what we normally think of as "liberal" and "conservative".

I wanted to take this opportunity to tie up a couple loose threads in my brief exposition of Black Conservative ideology, the most glaring of which was relying a bit too heavily on separatism as a unifying factor of Black Conservativism. To be sure, I think that it is a very important strand in Black Conservative thought, and one that exists left and right. But someone inquired how Clarence Thomas (who is quite tied in with an important "White" institution, after all) fits into this metric. And he doesn't -- at least, not quite. Justice Thomas is clearly not a separatist. But he does, I believe, subscribe to the more critical aspect of Black Conservatism -- a deep skepticism that Whites will abandon racism, particularly due to high-minded moral appeals. But unlike the separatists, Thomas' Black Conservatism simply urges Black people to accept that racism will be there and will always be there -- and win anyway. Elsewhere I called it the "hit me with your best shot" strain of Black Conservatism -- that which does not kill Black people makes them stronger, so rather than complain or fruitlessly war against the existence of racist people and racist institutions in American life, just grit your teeth, lower your shoulder, and win the game.

Now, this may make sense for Black people. The reason I say I respect Black Conservatism is that -- in a world where racism still is an important constricting force -- it's important to let Black people decide for themselves how they want to adapt to it. I don't think I have the right to ask Black folks to constantly be warriors for integration. But, I don't think White folks can take this same position. It's one thing for a Black person to say to his fellows, "look, Whites are always going to be racist, so you got to figure out a way to survive in that world rather than wasting your energy on a fruitless quest to end racism." It's quite another for a White guy to tell Blacks, "look, we're always going to be racist, so you have to figure out how deal with that and thrive anyway." Black conservatism is a very convenient philosophy for White people, because it essentially assumes the worst in us, absolving us of our duty to overcome racism. I think our response to Black Conservatives has to be one of respect, but also of a burning desire to prove them wrong -- to show them that, yes, we can and will extend the hand.

But anyway. Ultimately, then, the unifying force in Black Conservatism is not separatism (though many are, to varying degrees), the unifying force is the belief in the permanence of racism. Black Liberals seek ways to obliterate racism, Black Conservatives seek ways to thrive in spite of it.

So that's the main thing. The other quick point I wanted to expand on was where conservative Black Conservativism differs from conservatives who are Black (someone asked why I wouldn't characterize Ward Connerly as a Black Conservative). The short answer is that the latter simply doesn't believe that racism is a major factor in affecting the life chances of Black people anymore -- their problems lie on other axes. Needless to say, these can start to bleed into each other -- the line between saying racism exists but you should simply push past it through the will to succeed and saying that racism is not really that important is thin, but it is there. Blacks who are conservative don't necessarily believe that racism continues to be a big player in the affairs of Blacks, Black Conservatives think it's a permanent feature of the landscape, but that can't be an excuse for failing.

Job Huntin'

I have a job interview today. Wish me luck as I venture from the warm confines of the intertubes into the harsh reality of the real world (although, ironically enough, this job might entail me blogging).

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Obama's Speech

It's here, it's brilliant. I think it particularly shows the complexity of the interplay between Black Liberals (Obama) and Black Conservatives (Wright) that I explored in this post. Obama is not in Wright's camp. But he understands why folks are, and he and his coalition see their goal not to disrespect or stomp on them for their lack of faith in White people, but to simply go out, and prove them wrong.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Bear Bottom

As someone who keeps a casual eye on the stock market (and who, of course, wants a functioning economy upon graduation), obviously I'm concerned with Bear Stearns sudden collapse. When a titan that big falls, the shock waves are going to be massive no matter how swiftly the government moves to stem the damage. One hopes that our public institutions are up to that task -- but the track record of this administration hardly inspires confidence in that respect.

But the other thought that persistently nagged on me was the very fact that Bear Stearns (through J.P. Morgan and the U.S. Federal Government) was getting bailed out in the first place. Obviously, I superficially see why this is so -- if they didn't, we'd be faced with a massive economic meltdown. But something rings uncomfortable to me that the powerful are insulated from the risks that they take by virtue of their power. If I kidnap folks and enslave them, I face life in prison at least. If a corporation does it, they're faced with a fine. A stiff fine, perhaps -- but shouldn't the executives and officials who concocted this deal also face criminal charges? Cigarette companies knowingly released a poison on the market without telling anyone of the risks. Yes, they get sued -- but the CEOs aren't being arraigned for manslaughter. Powerful actors consistently get to privatize the gains and publicize the busts. It's only the little people who have to worry about their own skin.

Like Darren Hutchinson, I'm not opposed to the Bear Stearns bail-out per se. But when I see it juxtaposed against strident opposition to public aid for other folks, who haven't behaved nearly as irresponsibly as Bear Stearns and whose mistakes have not wreaked nearly the havoc on American society, I grow white with anger. All this talk about "personal responsibility" and "welfare queens" and "no hand-outs", it's utter bogus. If you matter enough, the government will be there to back you up in the end. It's merely a question of who we think matters.

Obama's Race Speech

This looks interesting:
Far from putting the controversial issue of race behind him, Barack Obama has decided to address the issue head on in a speech Tuesday.

"I am going to be talking not just about Reverend Wright, but the larger issue of race in this campaign — which has ramped up over the last couple of weeks," Obama told reporters in Monaca, Pennsylvania.

Obama's chief strategist David Axelrod characterized the speech, to be delivered in Philadelphia, as "a discussion on race and politics."

It'll be interesting to see which direction he goes with this. The momentum, obviously, towards going even more aggressively post-racial. Obama remains well positioned to do this, and it's the politically safe choice given the continued fallout from his affiliation with Rev. Wright.

But -- while I think it's important for Obama to sound themes of racial reconciliation, and I have no doubt he will -- I hope he displays enough political courage to remind (White) American voters that race is not a non-issue in America, that significant gaps still exist between our ideals and our reality, and that it does nobody any favors to simply slide on past the continued effects of racism in the American polity. If he manages to say that, without antagonizing a primarily White audience, it would be an impressive display even for someone blessed with Obama's considerable political gifts.