Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Jon Swift Memorial Roundup

The Vagabound Scholar has resurrected the late "Jon Swift's" yearly roundup "The Best Posts of the Year, Chosen by the Bloggers Themselves". It was a great thing Jon did, and a great thing the Vagabound is doing, both for the blogosphere community and to honor Jon's memory.

Head over and check it out.

Punishment and Reentry -- The Case of Michael Vick

Over the past several years, the case of Michael Vick has registered a continual and deep discomfort with a lot of how we talk about (and practice) crime and punishment, and the disjuncture between the moral justification of punishment and the way it is actually operationalized in our society. As Vick is enjoying a successful year in the NFL, there are still those who are outraged that he is even allowed to play in the NFL -- that he is permitted to return post-punishment with seemingly no permanent disabilities.

I was in the let Vick play camp well before the President registered his agreement on the subject, and I think that point is pretty clear. I also still maintain that, gravity of Vick's crime notwithstanding, there was a deep loss of perspective in those who labeled it a crime against humanity.

But there's a bigger point here worth exploring, and it goes into the psychology of punishment and how we go about rationalizing the state-inflicted violence that is the penal system.

When I say state-inflicted violence, I don't mean it as a judgment. Sometimes violence is acceptable -- in self-defense, in just wars -- and incarceration (the coercive locking-away of a person under pain of severe injury or even death if he tries to leave) as punishment for crime is one of those cases. But violence needs justification, and so, in order to rationalize punishment, we have to tell ourselves that the person is a bad person. Which of course, in a way, he is -- people who drown dogs or beat women or rob banks are bad people. But only so much so. The problem is that whereas criminal penalties are generally temporally limited (e.g., a jail sentence of two years), moral judgments have no such borders. Having concluded that someone is a bad person is the warrant that justifies the incarceration, but it does not fade away upon their release. We find, post-release, that our thirst for retribution hasn't been quenched. After all, there is a bad guy out there, living his life freely, successful, even happy. There is a disjuncture between the formalized, limited, moral judgment of incarceration, and the broader narrative of wrongfulness that sustains our ability to render that judgment under law -- a narrative that enjoys no such bounds or constraints, a narrative that, may, fundamentally, be incompatible with any sentence for felons other than life without parole.

Philosophically speaking, this is a problem for retributivist accounts of criminal punishment. But practically speaking, it's an even bigger problem for successfully reintegrating felons back into the mainstream of American life. Both in absolute and per capita terms, the US has the highest rate of incarceration in the world. It is both social and moral folly to permanently write off our entire population of convicts as irredeemable (which, in effect, is what we have done ever since we officially abandoned rehabilitation as a goal of incarceration). Frankly, if we don't think anyone will successfully turn away from a life of crime -- and we consider it an injustice upon their victims when they do and meet with success in their new lives -- then our criminal justice system is a farce. Why do we bother letting folks out of prison in the first place, if we think they're doomed to fail and are aggrieved when they don't accommodate?

Needless to say, I'm not endorsing mandatory life sentences. I'm endorsing a broader shift in how we think about criminals -- one that demands considerably more agility than "they are bad people". The narratives by which we justify imposing punishment on the offender have to include an ending through which we impose an obligation on society to forgive once the punishment is included. Our stories can't end with the bad man. They must contain a restorative element, or they will fail.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

New Year's Resolutions 2011!

It's that time of year: New Year's Resolutions! Here are the lists from 2010, 2009, 2008, and 2007. And of course, we begin by evaluating my performance of the previous year's goals.

Met: 1, 2, 3, 4, 6 (but I overcooked it), 7, 9, 10 (barely), 11, 12.

Missed: 13, 15 (but it wasn't a very good game anyway).

Pick 'em: 5 (I supposed I should never be satisfied with my performance on this one), 8, 14.

Again, I'd say a decent performance! But onward we go, to next year's ambitions:

(1) Succeed as a teacher (Pick 'em)

(2) Get Sticky Slopes published (Missed -- through no lack of effort, unfortunately)

(3) Solidify post-clerkship plans (Missed)

(4) Explore new facets of my love of Jill, and expand the horizons of our relationship (Pick 'em)

(5) Be more appreciative of the things Jill and I already share and adore about each other (Pick 'em)

(6) Enjoy my first foray into being a real adult with a real (well, "real") job (Met)

(7) Make friends in Champaign-Urbana (Met)

(8) Keep track of law school friends, and keep in contact with law school profs, after graduation (Met)

(9) Write at least a full draft of a new law review article (Met)

(10) Link up with the Jewish community in Champaign-Urbana (Missed)

(11) Tolerate awkwardness better (Missed)

(12) Finish law school strong (Met)

(13) Keep the blog posts flowing (but don't let it interfere with #9) (Met)

(14) Visit Carleton (Missed)

(15) Holistically speaking, look back in 2011 and feel content. (Met)

Safety First

Spotted on twitter: "Think I'll have my daughter do some pole dancing videos. That way if she ever disappears the cable networks will cover it 24/7."

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Lieberman Tirade Shows Weakness of Israeli Government

Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman unleashed a shocking string of vitriol at a recent Foreign Ministry meeting, attacking, among others, the Israeli government, the Palestinian Authority for its stated goal of reaching an agreement before the end of 2011, the state of Turkey, and South American nations which have announced their recognition of the state of Palestine. In the course of the speech, Lieberman declared that there is no foreign policy Israel could pursue which would garner the approval of all coalition members.

Criticism of Lieberman has poured in from all sides, with PM Netanyahu stating that only he gets to set Israeli policy. But it was the opposition-leading Kadima Party which raised the most salient point, stating: "Lieberman said what every citizen in Israel knows: Israel has a government with no real policies, a government without direction and a government without leadership." It's a governing equivalent of a headless chicken -- it just wanders aimlessly from one crisis to another, half of them the result of the government's own incompetence.

Avigdor Lieberman has been an unmitigated disaster as foreign minister -- which is what happens when a state takes a Russian Sarah Palin and put him in charge of international relations. And the inability of the rest of the Israeli government, most notably Netanyahu, to effectively rein him in demonstrates the fundamental inability of the Israeli government to function at the level it needs to in order to solve the dire problems it faces today. One wonders how long this government can even last at this point. I just hope that the Israeli populace is beginning to recognize that its government can't govern. Say what you will about Kadima -- and they have their faults -- but they're a serious party in a country whose political class is rapidly devolving into farce.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Make It Complicated

A paper by Robert George, Sherif Girgis, and Ryan Anderson (H/T) seeking to defend the moral propriety of restricting marriage to heterosexuals, is making the rounds in right-ward circles.

I don't think it's particularly impressive. For a piece that purports to provide a positive case for the intrinsically heterosexist quality of marriage, its positive case is remarkably thin -- solely occurring in Part I.B, pp. 252-259, and effectively only in Part I.B.1, pp. 253-255. That argument, claiming that only generative sex can provide a truly comprehensive "bodily union", seems to be a recycled and cross-applied version of the arguments John Finnis made to argue that homosexual sex was intrinsically immoral -- an argument that I think was definitively shredded by Catholic legal scholar Michael Perry over a decade ago.* (The other two arguments contained in Part I.B are scarcely worth mentioning. George's claims in I.B.2 regarding the intrinsic superiority of heterosexual marriage over gay marriage as an environment for rearing children are on the margins of the relevant literature in the field. And I.B.3 is a less-than-one-page blip that tosses out some disconnected rhetoric on "marriage norms" that, by the author's own admission, are dependent on accepting the points made previously in the section.).

Returning to the Perry/Finnis discourse, it's notable, I think, how this debate does seem to be reprising similar ones over whether the state can morally proscribe homosexual conduct -- a debate that raged hot and heavy until approximately 9 months after Lawrence v. Texas. Once that case came down and the requisite fulmination about "activist judges" had subsided, the moral case for outlawing sodomy effectively died -- virtually nobody, not even virulent gay rights opponents, is willing to admit they want to recriminalize sodomy in the United States.

However, I don't think the function of George's argument is to persuade. That isn't to say that he doesn't believe what he wrote, or that many others don't agree with him. But I highly doubt that there is anybody who started sympathetic to marriage equality, who will be remotely convinced by George's argument.

The function of George's argument, in conservative circles, is to restore the question's status as one of reasonable disagreement. A considerable chunk of the conservative movement, privately, has no problem with gay rights. They may oppose gay marriage as a matter of political expedience, but once it becomes reality (and it will, slowly, fitfully, but inexorably), they don't expect the sky to fall. It is a closer cousin to sodomy than abortion in this respect -- once the battle is won, the issue will die. And they know this. They know where the nation is headed. They can't expect this to be a live issue in 50 years.

These people know they're on the wrong side of history. And yet, they still have to sleep at night, knowing who they've crawled into bed with (so to speak). And that's where Professor George comes in. He makes this issue look like something complicated -- a question upon which it is reasonable to expect some folks to be mistaken. There is no shame in being wrong about such an issue, after all. We expect a considerable chunk of the population to get hard questions wrong. It's not a moral failing. And consequently, there is no moral failing in allying with such people. It'd be akin to disowning an early 20th century scientist for initially doubting Einstein.

Of course, the issue really isn't that complicated. Professor George's argument is, as one commenter put it, "trying, desperately, to find some way, any way to overcome the naturalistic fallacy ... and of course, failing." There is a lot of totemic hand-waving towards this idea of "bodily union", but it is an argument which lies on a precariously thin reed of "biological compatibility" -- a naturalistic fallacy if there ever was one, and the style of argument that, as noted, Perry had long-since dismantled.

To my conservative friends who think that George's article will give them cover for their dalliances with the merchants of discrimination -- will shield them from the harsh judgment of history's gaze -- know this: it won't. This issue will not be seen as one of reasonable disagreement whose ultimate answer was, by the year 2010, still in doubt. This issue will be seen as the premier civil rights challenge of our times. And the enablers of the old, discriminatory ethos will be found guilty. Mark my words on that.

* Michael J. Perry, The Morality of Homosexual Conduct: A Response to John Finnis, 9 Notre Dame J. L. Ethics & Pub. Pol'y 41 (1995).

UPDATE: Vice President Joe Biden just said it is "inevitable" our nation will eventually reach a consensus in favor of gay marriage, and, following DADT repeal, mentioned DOMA as the likely next piece of the anti-gay agenda to fall. An interesting statement, given that then-Senator Biden was among the "yea" votes for the Defense of Marriage Act when it originally passed in 1996.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Basic Instincts

For much of his career, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) was one of the foremost champions of immigration reform. Then a few things happened. He lost the 2008 election to Barack Obama -- an event which unquestionably left him spectacularly bitter. He also faced a right-wing primary challenger in 2010 that left him racing to deny he ever was a maverick.

And so when the DREAM Act came to the floor, McCain voted nay. Grant Woods, an old friend of McCain and his first chief of staff, explains why:
Woods said "it hurts" McCain to vote against legislation like the Dream Act after years of working on reform but said the senator felt betrayed when Latinos overwhelmingly supported Obama in 2008. "When you carry that fight at great sacrifice year after year and then you are abandoned during the biggest fight of your life, it has to have some sort of effect on you," he said.

So basically, much like everything else McCain has done over the past two years, his DREAM Act vote was a fit of pique to wound those who kept him out of the Oval Office. Of course, it's no mystery why Latinos broke hard for Democrats in 2008, and it seems like their instincts that Senator McCain was naught but a fair-weather friend were spot on. "Country first", indeed.

Gay Men Get all the Breaks

What could be more entertaining that primer by a conservative Christian website on how to find out if your husband's gay? Nothing, that's what! Seriously -- this is hilarious. It's like someone took a catalog of gay stereotypes and added bullet points. Although, some of them are pretty tragic. Only gay men are sarcastic? Only gay men are interested in "strange sexual demands" (like, oh, say, lubricant? No, really)? Only gay men can travel alone to big cities? Only gay men groom?

Really, is this a warning for wives or an advertising pitch for men? You know what "they" say: "Once you try man, you're always a fan."

UPDATE: Doh! Got taken in by a satirical website. Egg on my face.

Boxing Labels: A Typology

A few years ago, I read a news report on Carlos Baldomir's miraculous 2006, in which he scored a shocking upset over Zab Judah to win the Ring Magazine lineal welterweight championship (he then defended the title against Arturo Gatti before losing a lopsided decision to Floyd Mayweather Jr. later that year). In the story, Baldomir was referred to as a "journeyman", and I remember being quite offended. Obviously, Baldomir is not in the same league as a Floyd Mayweather, but there's a significant difference between someone who, even on a great night, is capable of becoming lineal welterweight champion, and a Reggie Strickland.

To try and rectify that, I'm trying to create a typology of boxing labels, so fighters are referred to properly and given their just due. I'm not saying they're perfect, or even that I myself have or will use them consistently. But I think they're solid benchmarks.

Superstar, Star, and Action Star

The best of the best (with one caveat, see below). What makes one a star (of any variety), in my book, is that one's fights are meaningful simply because the fighter is participating in them (and not because, say, a title is on the line). So, for example, Bernard Hopkins and Kelly Pavlik fought at a catchweight in 2008, with no belt at stake. But the fight still mattered, because Hopkins and Pavlik were in it. Obviously, a belt can help make a fight even more meaningful (e.g., Sergio Martinez and Paul Williams II for the lineal middleweight title), but the point is the fighters exert an independent gravitational pull.

Within the category, a superstar is a boxer whose popularity transcends the sport itself. A star's fights are important to boxing fans, but a superstar's fights are important to the public. Superstars show up in Nike commercials and are guests on Dancing with the Stars. They're the folks who, if you ask a random guy off the street what they think of boxing, respond "I don't watch it, but I hear that Pak-kow guy is pretty good."

An interesting permutation of this group is the action star. Unlike stars or superstars, an action fighter may not be amongst the sports elite. But like other stars, his fights are meaningful because of the fighter, not the belt. Usually that's because the boxer fights with an exciting style and has won a ton of fans. Arturo Gatti is perhaps the prototypical example of this: his fights were important because they were Gatti fights, but Arturo Gatti was never really amongst the sports top fighters. He was just an raw, brawling, tough, exciting-as-hell slugger, and folks loved him for it.

Superstars: Manny Pacquiao, Floyd Mayweather
Stars: Bernard Hopkins, Shane Mosley, Miguel Cotto
Action Stars: John Duddy, Arturo Gatti

Champions and Titlists

This category exists parallel to the above -- one can be star and a titlist or champion, or one but not the other (or, of course, neither). A titlist is someone in possession of a sanctioning body belt, while a champion is the holder of the lineal, Ring Magazine title (a/k/a, "the guy who beat the guy who beat the guy") in his weight class. One would hope that most of the fighters good enough to win titles are stars in their own right, but it's not always the case (any Vyacheslav Senchenko fans in the house?). Even a champion doesn't necessarily have to be a star -- perhaps Carlos Baldomir is an example of that. And on the flip side, one can definitely be a star with no titles in one's hands -- Bernard Hopkins being a prime example right now.

Champions: Sergio Martinez (Middleweight), Juan Manuel Marquez (Lightweight) (note that both of these fighters are also stars in their own right).
Titlists: Andre Ward (Super Middleweight), Vyacheslav Senchenko (Welterweight) (Ward is also a star, but Senchenko most certainly isn't).

Contenders and Fringe Contenders

What makes a contender? A contender is someone who is not a star, doesn't have a title, but most observers think would have a decent chance of winning one on any given night he's put in the ring with a titlist. A contender might be as good or better than a current titlist -- he just happens not to be in possession of a belt. A fringe contender is someone who, on any given night, may be able to beat another contender, and fighting the fight of his life could upset a true titlist. A title bout against a fringe contender is generally considered a weak but not inexcusable defense (but one would rather see them defend against a true contender). Fringe contenders often also double as high-level gatekeepers (see below).

Contenders: Sakio Bika (Super Middleweight), Luis Collazo (Welterweight)
Fringe Contenders: Ray Austin (Heavyweight), Said Ouali (Welterweight)


Gatekeepers have widely varied divergent skill levels. What they share in common is their service as a measuring stick for prospects (below), letting observers get a gauge for how good another fighter is. Each one is a milestone for a fighter, letting them know they have progressed to a certain skill level. Gatekeepers are generally expected to lose to the prospects they face, but it's not necessarily a foregone conclusion -- the whole point is to test whether the guy is for real, or just a hype job. Consequently, gatekeepers usually have some amount of skill, sufficient to actually test young talent. Since they are "supposed" to lose, unfortunately, it also means they're often on the wrong end of the decision in tightly contested (sometimes not-so-tightly contested) fights.

Zuri Lawrence (Heavyweight), Jerson Ravelo (Light Heavyweight).


Who counts as a prospect? It's a little arbitrary, but I would say a prospect is someone who we can imagine reaching at least contender status at the pinnacle of his career. Of course, they're not there yet, and there is another degree of arbitrariness as to when a fighter graduates from prospect to contender. Incidentally, prospects skip over the "fringe contender" stage -- a fringe contender is nearly invariably someone who was once a contender but has since shown they couldn't hack it at that level.

Matvey Korobov (Middleweight), Sadam Ali (Welterweight)


Everybody else. Journeymen are the lifeblood of boxing. Most cards are filled with journeymen -- sometimes fighting each other, sometimes being fed to a prospect. They have a wide variety of records and talent levels. Sometimes they can even rise above their humble origins and become a fringe contender (or even a real one). Sometimes they're simply tomato cans. But in any event, they're worth saluting.

Reggie Strickland (Super Middleweight), Peter Buckley (Welterweight).

There's one category of fighter I can't think of a good label for -- and, ironically, it might be what characterized Baldomir before his fight against Judah. These are folks who have been fighting too long to be really be called prospects, but are effectively unknown against upper-level competition (they often are pretty obscure, until they get brought in as a random opponent for a name-guy). On the other hand, they're clearly better than journeymen, and it seems unfair to group them with the Peter Buckley's of the world. "Fringe Contender" probably comes the closest with respect to their typical talent level, but they haven't been hanging around the fringes of the division's top 10, so we don't really know for sure.

Suggestions would be appreciated -- but do them a favor, and don't call them "journeymen". They're better than that, and they deserve a better name than that.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Fabulous Prizes

Throw this in the I'm an awful person for laughing pile. Is it hypocritical, though, for me to also be appalled at Fox News' carelessness?

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

The Big Announcement

So, I feel I've been teasing you with promises of news for awhile. It wasn't intentional, I swear -- I really was consistently on the edge of being able to announce stuff, and events kept transpiring to put it off. But now, I can finally reveal the entire story -- as well as my employment for the next two years.

This past September, I was offered and accepted a clerkship for the 2012-2013 term with Judge Diana Murphy on the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals, Minneapolis.

And next year, I will be a visiting professor in the Academic Fellows program at the University of Illinois law school.

These are both incredibly exciting opportunities. Judge Murphy and I really clicked in the interview -- I can't tell you how much I am looking forward to getting a chance to work with her (and Jill isn't displeased with getting to go back to the old homestead for a year).

But the Illinois position -- which I just found out about today -- represents the attainment of a dream I've been pursuing for nearly a decade. Obviously, it's not permanent, and there's a lot of things I still need to do. But starting next August, I will be able to say that I am a law professor.

The story of how this all came about is, I think, worth recounting -- and hopefully will justify the slow-roll of the news. My interview with Judge Murphy was at 7:30 AM on the first Thursday that "on-plan" federal judges could conduct interviews. It was, as I said, going fantastically -- we really seemed to click in a way that I can honestly say has never happened (at least so smoothly) in any job interview I've ever had.

Unfortunately, Judge Murphy had already finished hiring for 2011-12 term at 7 AM (yeah, I thought 7:30 was a prime slot too). But she immediately made me an offer for the following term (2012-13).

This presented a problem, for Covington had recently revised their clerkship policy such that attorneys could no longer start with the firm, then leave to clerk. We could graduate, clerk, and then begin with the firm, but they didn't want a situation where incoming attorneys got a few months of training and then, just when they began to be integrated into cases and clients, they left again.

That was the original reason why I couldn't announce the clerkship -- without something for the 2011-12 year, I couldn't accept Judge Murphy's offer without running afoul of Covington's new policy. So I immediately set to work trying to find something -- another clerkship or, preferably, a teaching fellowship, to fill the gap year so I could stay in harmony with Covington's policy.

Once it became apparent that a different clerkship wasn't on the table, the first candidate was a teaching fellowship at the University of Chicago -- specifically, the Kauffman Fellowship. And it looked good -- I met with a dean, and he said that assuming the funding was renewed, he saw no reason not to hire me. And as for the funding, he didn't know what the foundation was waiting for, but he thought maybe if he told them that he had a excellent candidate lined up for next year, that would shake loose a few dollars so they could formalize things.

That was the second iteration of nearly-having news. But as you might have guessed, it didn't pan -- despite our best efforts, the funding didn't happen. So it was back to the drawing board.

Meanwhile, there was some good news -- Covington had reversed its clerkship policy (albeit with a stated preference that we not start-then-leave), meaning I could accept Murphy's offer and return to Covington next year. That was, at least, a load off my shoulder. But it did impose a November 1st deadline to accept Covington's offer. On the theory that the Kauffman fellowship should be forthcoming, I managed to secure an extension until December 1. But once the Kauffman fell through, I had to beg for more time.

I was all amped up to actually beg -- I basically had a speech prepared and everything. After the initial pleasantries, I started into my spiel, beginning with "So some things have come up, and it's looking like I won't hear anything until February/March...." and before I got any further, the legal recruiting director brightly remarked "oh, so we won't hear from you until March? Great, I'll mark it down!" I was so prepared to have to plead my case that I don't think I really processed that, and basically continued with the begging as if she hadn't said anything, which I have to imagine sounded incredibly strange until I finally managed to restore a grip on myself and thank her.

And in that extra space of time, I applied for and received this offer at Illinois -- thus bringing my long, chaotic autumn to a close.

Speaking of Covington, I do need to give them specific thanks for being so flexible with deadlines. They extended their timeline twice to accommodate me, and if they hadn't done that, I wouldn't have been able to secure this opportunity. I am so grateful for that. I also need to thank my recommenders, but in particular Lisa Bernstein, who shepherded me through this process like a pro. And of course, everyone else -- my friends, family, Jill, the whole crew -- who was so patient with me throughout this whole ordeal. I'm sure I was more than a bit manic at times, and they kept me sane.

Anyway, to close out, it seems like such a milestone in my life should have at least some impact on my blog. And you'll note at the top that I have a new tagline. It's a bit premature -- I'm not a professor yet -- but I told myself as soon as I got my first teaching gig, I'd make the change.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Puerto Rico!

My first trip to the Caribbean is off on the wrong foot, of the "wake up at 4:45 AM to catch the flight" variety. But I assume it's all positive from here, and I definitely could use the break.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

B-Hop the Eternal

Last night, Bernard "The Executioner" Hopkins (51-5-2, 32 KOs) came off the canvas twice in route to a majority draw with Ring Magazine light heavyweight champion Jean Pascal (26-1-1, 16 KOs). Scores were 114-112 Hopkins, 113-113, and 114-114. I had it 115-111 Hopkins, and I firmly believe he won the fight.

Many of my friends in the boxing biz were rooting for Pascal this fight. It was nothing against Hopkins, they said. Rather, it was a simple calculation about what's good for the sport. Pascal has genuine superstar potential -- he's already getting there in Canada. He could be a draw. Whereas if Hopkins wins -- well, it's another big notch on his legacy, to be sure, but it doesn't do anything for the sport. I mean, how long can he go on?

A fair point, I said. But I was rooting for Hopkins. Why? Because Pascal beating Hopkins is just a younger guy beating an older guy. But every time Hopkins wins, you're seeing something legendary. And I like watching history happen.

Scorecards notwithstanding, I think few people were not awestruck by Hopkins performance last night. It didn't start off that way, to be sure. Hopkins was dropped in the first and third rounds -- albeit the first one appeared to my eyes a clear rabbit punch. A close second round meant that Pascal could easily be up 5 points just three rounds in -- and it seemed like father time may have finally caught up to the Executioner. Worse, the score gap effectively forced Hopkins out of his usual game plan. He couldn't fight a clinching, tight, inside game -- that leads to close rounds, and Hopkins couldn't afford close rounds while in a hole on his opponent's home turf.

So instead, Hopkins did something I think very few of us thought he could. He pressed the action offensively. He began effectively stalking Pascal across the ring, landing digging body shots that had Pascal afraid to let his hands go. After the fourth round, you really had to start reaching to find rounds to give to Pascal -- a clean sweep for Hopkins would be a very reasonable assessment. It was domination, nearly as sublime as the domination put on Pavlik. And in a sense, more so -- for Hopkins did it while overcoming severe early adversity.

Given that I think the first knockdown was a blown call, it's easy for me to say that was decisive on the scorecards -- it could have swung anywhere from 1-3 points to Hopkins on all cards, giving him a unanimous decision instead of a majority draw. But boxing is funny thing -- I think those two early knockdowns forced Hopkins to fight a more aggressive and ultimately more effective fight than he had been planning. Had he not tasted canvas, would have been so offense-minded? Who knows?

So what's next? It's an interesting question. The WBC has ordered an immediate rematch, but I believe Pascal is contractually obligated to rematch Chad Dawson in his next fight. So I can easily see the WBC stripping Pascal and putting Hopkins and some schlub in a bout for the vacant belt, thus letting Hopkins gain his place in history as the oldest fighter ever to win a title.

Even post-Dawson, a rematch between Pascal and Hopkins looks dodgy. Hopkins is never setting foot out of the United States again, and Pascal will be loathe to give up the money he earns while fighting out of Quebec. There aren't many places other than Canada that Hopkins/Pascal really draws (legend that he is, Hopkins has never really been a fan attraction). Plus, I think Pascal knows in his heart of hearts that hewas lucky to escape with a draw, and will be uninterested in tempting fate further. It's a shame, but this business will likely be unfinished.

Nonetheless, tonight was another incredible performance by a man who seems to laugh in the face of age. I don't know when Bernard Hopkins finally will become old, or when he'll finally elect to hang 'em up. But I do know it's a privilege to watch him fight. And I'm greatly appreciative I got the opportunity to do so.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

The DREAM Collapses

I had expected the DREAM act to fail. The GOP is in the grip of a hysterical anti-immigration fervor, such that even children -- children who often had no choice in coming here, children who often know no other country, children who are working hard and want to go to college, or defend our freedoms in combat -- these children, to the GOP, are enemies. The concept of "terror babies" is one that could only occur in a diseased political climate.

And in terms of raw political calculation, the GOP is exceptionally worried that these new American citizens will be Democrats. Latinos already are leaning mildly Democratic, and while that's a lean that's growing more severe each year due to the aforementioned GOP anti-Latino hysteria, the fact remains that for many GOP strategists, creating new paths to citizenship means creating new Democratic voters. So, concerns of justice notwithstanding, the DREAM act was likely to fail for the same reason DC remains disenfranchised.

But I was wrong. I was wrong to lay the blame entirely on Republicans.

The cloture vote failed, 55-41. Five more votes, and it would have passed. And wouldn't you know it, but five Democrats voted against cloture. They are Senators Max Baucus (MT), Jon Tester (MT), Kay Hagan (NC), Ben Nelson (NE) and Mark Pryor (AR). Senator Pryor is, in fact, a graduate of my high school -- a fact which now thoroughly embarrasses me. Three Republicans -- Richard Lugar (IN), Lisa Murkowski (AK), and Robert Bennett (UT) -- broke with their party, along with both Senate independents, giving us our final tally.

I assumed the DREAM act would collapse because I assumed Republicans would not let it pass. And let's be clear -- the vast majority of the Senate GOP voted against the bill. We should harbor no illusions: they are primarily at fault here. And it's worth noting that the DREAM supporters did their job -- they got the support of a majority of Americans, a majority of House members, a majority of Senators, and the President. It is a sign of our dysfunctional times that this wasn't sufficient.

But the point isn't about laying blame down. I had been fatalistic about the DREAM act because I assumed it was a sure-fire victim of GOP obstruction -- something that would fail even if the Democrats managed to keep a united front. But it wasn't. They needed Democratic help. And they got it. Five Democrats, whose presence in my party shames me.

Part of me wants to close with some tripe about how we're the real victims here -- about how America is hurt when we turn away smart, motivated kids who have worked hard to get into college, or have sworn the deepest oath imaginable to our nation by agreeing to serve in uniform. And we are hurt by our short-sightedness, no doubt. But the real victims remain the immigrants themselves -- shut out of the only country they known by a political class that is willing to turn children into monsters.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Early Signs for Obama '12 Are (Mildly) Positive

It was a rough cycle in 2010, but the odds seem favorable for Obama in 2012, based on some early polling -- including some figures that frankly surprised me.

One the perils of being a liberal is that we always seem to think we're isolated from the American people. It's not a crisis of principle -- we think we're right, of course -- we just tend to think of ourselves as members of a small, enlightened minority. It's a theme hammered in relentlessly by the media ("Liberal coastal latte-sipping elites can't connect with real Americans!"), and trap I fall into myself, sometimes.

So while I like President Obama quite a bit, after months of coverage wherein Obama was persistently referred to as an out-of-touch, distant, elitist, socialist, Marxist, fascist, pick-your-favorite-ist, enemy of America -- I figured that most Americans didn't really like Obama much anymore, personally or professionally.

But that's only half true. Obama's job approvals have been hovering in the mid-40s for months. But his personal approvals are still sky-high -- 72%. Of course, Republicans still loathe him, and being personally-liked doesn't secure re-election by any means (folks could think he's a decent-enough guy who's in over his head). But it's a far more resilient number than I would have expected.

And it seems to be bearing out when you do some early head-to-heads. Put Obama against Mitt Romney -- a generic "known" Republican, and he's up 47-40. Not fabulous to be under 50%, but still a decent spread. Obama versus a generic unknown Republican -- played helpfully by Sen. John Thune (R-SD) -- and you get Obama ahead by 47-27.

So the baseline right now seems to be that at least 47% of the country would vote for Obama right now against your typical Republican. But what about against the Ice Queen herself, Sarah Palin? Once again, my fear of being out-of-touch rears its head -- sure, I detest the former half-term Governor, but is that just me?

Looks like it's not. Obama trounces Palin, 55-33. That's a rather massive leap. Republicans may be enamored with their last VP nominee, but the country can't stand her. And she manages to give Obama an 8 point bump above his baseline score.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

We Wouldn't

In late 2007, I declared that the upcoming presidential election "is about torture". I was wrong. It wasn't. Despite my assertion that torture should stay in the public eye until we come to terms with it and, ultimately, eradicate it, our preference towards inertia won out:
We, as a people, desperately want to ignore this issue. We want to pretend it doesn't happen. And unless there is a constant media blitz forcing Americans to come to terms with our torture policy, we'll continue to ignore it.

The soldier accused of leaking material to WikiLeaks is currently being held in solitary. He hasn't been convicted of anything, and he wasn't on suicide watch (though now apparently we have to pump him full of anti-depressants to keep his brain intact). There is a solid case to be made, one this made in chilling detail in The New Yorker, that long-term solitary confinement rises to the level of torture.

But, as Ta-Nehisi Coates points out, the New Yorker's question -- is solitary confinement torture? -- is no longer the most salient one. Years after Abu Gharib and waterboarding, years after a Bush administration that explicitly sanctioned torture and years into an Obama administration that has done its utmost to insure there is never any accountability for it, a more harrowing question emerges: Even if it is torture, would we even care?

I think the answer is clear. No. We would not. Much as we have with prison rape, we, as a society, have come to terms with permitting torture of those we detain -- convicts, military detainees, even the accused. It is now part of who we are as a nation. And it will take a great, soul-wrenching shift to turn us away from it.

Block by Block

This NYT tool which lets you examine American Community Survey data for every neighborhood is, as Matt Yglesias says, pretty awesome.

It turns out that Hyde Park, for example, is relatively White close to the Midway (the proportion of White residents crashes south of 60th street), then gets progressively more and more integrated as you move north, until the White population basically disappears north of 47th Street.

Meanwhile, the census tract I live in now is nearly 70% White -- but borders a tract which apparently has 0 White residents.


Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Busy Busy Bee

Just finished finals. Going home on Saturday. Going to Puerto Rico on Monday. Still have stuff to do between now and Monday. Busy busy bee.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Labels versus Teams

Matt Yglesias argues in favor of political labels:
If you go to a store you’ll find that a huge quantity of the goods on sale are labeled to indicate which brand makes them. There’s a good reason for this. Normally, how much you’re willing to pay for a good or service depends on the quality of the good or service in question. But there’s no way to sample the quality of a can of soda without buying it first. So how am I to know whether or not I want to buy that can of Diet Coke? Well it’s simple. I may not have had that can of Diet Coke before, but I have had many other cans of Diet Coke. And I can infer that the Coca-Cola corporation, having invested a great deal of time and money in building the Diet Coke band is going to make a good-faith effort to turn out a consistent product. That doesn’t necessarily mean everyone will like the taste of Diet Coke. But it does mean everyone knows more-or-less what Diet Coke tastes like, and then they can make their soda-consumption choices in a coherent way.

Politics, he argues, should be the same way. Political labels provide a coherent and efficient method of sorting candidates, making it easy for the electorate to identify which politicians match their policy preferences.

There's something to this, but I think it may assume a considerably more informed and engaged electorate than we have. The better analogy might not be to labels, but to one's favorite sports team. Most people come by their favorite teams fairly arbitrarily (most commonly, the location where they're born). And while theoretically the labeling of different teams could enable easy sorting for a fan to optimize her rooting pleasure ("The Devils specialize in tight, neutral-zone trap defense backed by stellar goaltending. That's my kind of hockey!"), nobody really does that.

Political participation, by and large, seems to operate the same way. The best predictor of what party a given American supports is what party their parents support. People support their political "team" because it's fun to root for a side (indeed, this is one of the ways to overcome widespread rational political ignorance), not because they've sampled the various brands and come to a rational voting decision.

Indeed, when one tries to break down the analogy, a host of problems crop up. All one needs to know about Diet Coke to know if one will like it or not is to buy one can and taste it. There's no easy parallel in politics. Political campaigns are highly suffused in rhetoric designed to appeal to all voters (everybody hates crime, everybody likes education, everybody wants more jobs), so there isn't really effective branding along a host of politically salient axes. The real impact of a given politician on any specific aspect of any particular citizen's life is going to be, at best, highly attenuated, making it difficult to say whether John Doe's advocacy of X policy really is something one likes or dislikes beyond mere gut instinct.

Of course, if one has extremely well-developed policy preferences and pays close attention to the political arena, then it is possible to rationally sort good politicians from bad ones. But if one is that engaged, then one likely doesn't need labels to serve as a proxy. Put another way, the level of participation one needs to have in the soda market in order to rationally order preferences is very low, while the level of participation one needs to have in the political system in order to rationally order preferences is extremely high. Political labels don't really overcome this information deficit so much as they give people a reason to participate in politics notwithstanding their general lack of information.

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Maryland Verges on Approving Gay Marriage

Bucking the trend in most states, the 2010 elections have drastically improved the prospects of legalizing same-sex marriage in Maryland. Democrats added 2 seats to their already-overwhelming majority in the State Senate (Republicans made mild gains in the House of Delegates, but are still outnumbered by a 2:1 margin). Moreover, shifts in committee assignments means that the key committee where same-sex marriage rights had previously been bottled up now contains a majority of gay rights supporters.

Though the effort would be subject to a filibuster, Democratic leaders are confident that it will be overcome (with the support of conservative Democrats who will vote against the bill but allow it to come to a vote). After that, it is likely that the law will be taken to a referendum in 2012. Polls are showing a slim majority of Marylanders favor marriage equality.

We'll see if this comes through, but we can only hope. The only downside I can see is that legislative passage likely means the Maryland Court of Appeals will never have occasion to reverse the blot on its record that is Conaway v. Deane. But I guess that's their problem.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

....Oh, and This

Yeah, in addition to all that stuff about this blog "an outlet for my writing and a place to hash out my thoughts", it's also a repository for anything which happens to amuse me. For example, this this this.

UPDATE: Rats, it's cut way off (you can't even see Betty as "Chaotic Evil!"). Click the pic for the full thing.

Two Meta Issues

1) I've become aware that blogger is eating some comments that contain URLs. It isn't doing it for my comments, and I actually do see the comments that are eaten (they're emailed to me same as all others, hence I often don't notice that they never actually make it onto the site), they just don't show for whatever reason. I don't know if I'm special as the proprietor, or if certain commenters have been flagged by the system as possible spammers. I also don't know how to fix it, and, given it's finals season and the identity of the most-affected commenters, I don't really care right now either. But I did want to register my awareness of the situation.

2) The story behind the name of this blog is simple: I was a debater in high school, and wanted to have a space where I could present arguments and sources to the debate community. Very rapidly, this blog moved away from that mission, but the name stuck (at one point I considered changing it to "The Dissenting Opinion", but I felt it was already too late. Ditto with changing the URL). Hence, the title of this blog ought not be taken as providing any explicit or implicit commitment to running my comments section in any particular way. It is, more or less, a historical accident.

At this stage, the purpose of the blog is to give me an outlet for my writing and a place to hash out my thoughts. That project is aided by intelligent interlocutors (agreeing or disagreeing). This being the internet, though, "intelligent interlocutors" are in short supply. To the extent that certain readers have historically helped deepen my understanding of issues, I'm grateful (I think those commenters know who they are, and I do wish they'd participate more often, though I understand why they don't). But I don't give participation ribbons, and don't see my comments section as an open invitation for trolls to roll in the mud with each other. My sole criterion for participation on my site via my comment threads is whether or not I, in my sole discretion, feel like there is a positive contribution being made. If one doesn't like that, Blogger is free! Start your own site. Link to me and rip/laud me to your hearts content. I may even respond. Or I may not.

Most comment boards are awful. I can think of two exceptions, Alas, a Blog, and Ta-Nehisi Coates, and it is no accident that both are heavily moderated. Unfortunately, Blogger as a platform doesn't give me the moderating tools I'd need to replicate their environment (and I don't have a broad enough readership base anyway). So unless I want to start deleting comments one-by-one, I'm forced to rely on self-regulation, and that's typically been a massive failure.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

House Committee Chairs Released

Here's the list of who will be chairing the various House Committees.
Agriculture: Frank D. Lucas (Okla.)

Appropriations: Hal Rogers (Ky.)

Armed Services: Howard P. "Buck" McKeon (Calif.)

Budget: Paul Ryan (Wis.)

Education and Labor: John Kline (Minn.)

Energy and Commerce: Fred Upton Mich.)

Financial Services: Spencer Bachus (Ala.)

Foreign Affairs: Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (Fla.)

Homeland Security: Peter T. King (N.Y.)

Judiciary: Lamar S. Smith (Texas)

Natural Resources: Doc Hastings (Wash.)

Oversight & Government Reform: Darrell Issa (Calif.)

Science & Technology: Ralph M. Hall (Texas)

Small Business: Sam Graves (Mo.)

Transportation & Infrastructure: John L. Mica (Fla.)

Veterans: Jeff Miller (Fla.)

Ways & Means: Dave Camp (Mich.)

Obviously, no Republican whose in a position to become a Committee chair is going to be someone who I'd truly like to see in the position. But there is some silver lining. John Kline on Education and Labor isn't bad -- I saw him at the first congressional hearing on employment discrimination against the transgendered, and he wasn't bad. Fred Upton on Energy and Commerce is notable because it means Rep. Joe "I'd like to apologize to BP" Barton (R-TX) isn't chairing it, which can only be a good thing.

On the other hand, there are, as expected, some catastrophes. All signs point to Darrell Issa leading a 1990s style witch-hunt against the Obama administration -- something all the more dangerous because Issa is a very smart, very effective, and very incisive Congressman. Putting Peter King -- the man who publicly wondered if Eric Holder is on the side of al-Qaeda (rich given that King is one of the few congressman who did, in fact, openly ally with actual terrorists) -- is a joke. In Lamar Smith, we have an extremist who once spoke at a conference where speakers advocating executing American judges who were insufficiently right-wing.

And then there's all the rest. Paul Ryan has a reputation for wonkishness, but it's not one that seems grounded in any actual mastery of economic facts, so much as it's grading on a massive, massive curve accounting for the anti-intellectual bent of the GOP mainstream. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen will insure that our policy towards Cuba will stay on the same failed trajectory it's been on for the past 40 years (and if that means sabotaging Israel, so be it), but other than amount of rhetoric devoted to the issue it's probably no real change. Spencer Bachus at least had the balls to call out Sarah Palin for something.

Monday, December 06, 2010

Still Here

Finals studying is taking a lot out of me, along with other annoyances on my plate. Stuff has been accumulating on my browser, but I haven't even mustered the energy for a roundup.

* * *

Texas conservatives are unhappy that their uber-conservative speaker also happens to be a Jew.

New comments by Helen Thomas about how we're all owned by the "Zionists" have prompted Detroit-Mercy to withdraw their sponsorship of a diversity award named after her.

For the last time, progressive Zionists aren't Zionists in spite of our progressivism, but because of it.

An interesting exploration of Columbia's local Palestinian solidarity chapter, and how its understanding of "solidarity" means that it institutionally refuses to communicate with the local campus Hillel (individual members are free to talk as they please, but the group has ruled out any official dialogue events to try and better understand the positions or sentiments of the Columbia Jewish community).

As time passes, it shouldn't be surprising that the taboos which might have once precluded Israel's fascist parties from associating with European fascist parties are falling away.

Israel's woefully inadequate fire responsive services may be the "Katrina moment" that finally causes the majority to recognize just how much of their resources are being squandered on Haredi subsidies and settler fantasies.

Look, it's not that complicated: Your judges are "activist", mine are "engaged".

Friday, December 03, 2010

Staring History Down

Regarding continued GOP intransigence over the repeal of Don't Ask Don't Tell, Matt Yglesias asks:
I really wonder what’s happening, subjectively, inside the heads of people who oppose repealing Don’t Ask Don’t Tell. Do any of them think they’re on the right side of history here? That people are going to look back from 2040 and say “if only we’d listened to John McCain thirty years ago?”

I've often wondered the same thought myself. I can't imagine that any but the most deluded souls are unaware where this debate is heading, or how it will be evaluated 30 years hence. The opponents of DADT repeal have to be aware that they will be considered villains by history.

In a sense, that makes it a little admirable (odd as that is to say). There is something to be said for looking history in the eye and standing on principle, knowing full well you are forever committing your name to disgrace. For the people whose opposition to gay equality is genuine and heartfelt, there is something rather amazing at their willingness to take on such a role. I disagree with such people stridently, and will do my utmost to ensure that they are inscribed as villains sooner rather than later, but such deep commitment is a rare thing.

Of course, that only applies to those whose opposition stems from heartfelt commitment. For those who act this way for the sake of short-term political expediency -- or worse, pettiness and spite -- it's just sad.

A Commentary on John Derbyshire

It's well-established that John Derbyshire is a schmuck of the highest order. A man who once told the UPenn Black Law Students Association that they were biologically inferior and used the Virginia Tech massacre to chide the victims for not reenacting his favorite Rambo fantasies, his latest endeavor is criticizing George W. Bush's efforts to combat AIDS in Africa.

Hence why this comprehensive evisceration by Peter Wehner at Commentary is so pleasurable to read. What I like about it is that it hits Derbyshire from two very important angles. First, it castigates him for how he "seems eager to celebrate his callousness, as if it were a sign of manliness and tough-mindedness." That's not a sign of toughness, it's the sign of a sociopath. But because so much of this ill-informed pseudo-machismo is based off the notion that "bleeding hearts" just aren't attuned to the "real world" and the "actual consequences" of their efforts, Wehner also simply annihilates Derbyshire on the facts regarding AIDS in Africa, the salience of our reform efforts, and why it is in America's interest to do so (while noting that even if it wasn't in some hyper-narrow sense of "interest", there is no intrinsic reason why America can't or shouldn't be interested in alleviating a massive pandemic catastrophe and saving millions of lives at modest cost).

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

French Connection

A new study reveals intense bias against French Muslims of Senegalese descent in the French job market (and a milder one against Christians of Senegalese descent). The study was modeled off the famous Are Emily and Greg More Employable than Lakisha and Jamal? study, which revealed similar (racial) biases in American labor markets. However, this topic is considerably less-studied in France because of that nation's near-fanatical devotion to "colorblindness" and the pure secular state. As this study pointedly demonstrates, that policy is an abject failure.

TSA Ain't Gay, M'Kay?

Three years ago, Loudoun County, Virginia County Supervisor Eugene Delgaudio (R) attempted to draw Muslim support by attending a rally and pledging to "stand with you". But he then immediately followed up by asking whether those in the crowd "come in peace" and whether they pledge allegiance to the United States.

This displayed, to say the least, exceptionally poor judgment -- akin, I remarked, to "giving a speech at a GLAAD event and demanding to know how many audience members have molested children."

Perhaps I should have used a different example:
A widely distributed e-mail written by [Eugene] Delgaudio for the Public Advocate about TSA, claims the pat downs are part of a "Homosexual Agenda." And he criticizes TSA's non-discrimination hiring policy.

"It's the federal employee's version of the Gay Bill of Special Rights... That means the next TSA official that gives you an 'enhanced pat down' could be a practicing homosexual secretly getting pleasure from your submission," Delgaudio wrote.
When I read outlandish things like this, I can't help but recall that classic Onion article, "Repeal Of 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' Paves Way For Gay Sex Right On Battlefield, Opponents Fantasize".

... in related delusions, how about this doozy from a Minnesota minister: "Keith Ellison is advancing Sharia law through 'homosexual agenda'". Talk about a strange bedfellows (the bizarre thing -- well, more bizarre, anyway -- is that this particular minister has in the past explicitly applauded the execution of homosexuals in some Muslim countries).

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Die Another Day Roundup

Terrible Bond flick, but it did contain perhaps the best one-liner in the series ("How's that for a punchline?").

* * *

Rep. Steve King (R-IA) wants folks to know we have an "urban" President.

The DADT report is out, and it looks good for team anti-discrimination.

Best quote from a soldier in that report? "We have a gay guy [in the unit]. He’s big, he’s mean, and he kills lots of bad guys. No one cared that he was gay."

The NAACP is hosting a summit on the growing resegregation of our schools.

TNC on the "secession ball" neo-confederates are planning on hosting.

What makes food safety the one thing that actually managed to secure GOP cooperation this term?

US condemns Palestinian pseudo-science which denies Jewish link to the Western Wall.

Federal court judge issues a preliminary injunction blocking enforcement of an Oklahoma law which would forbid courts from considering international or shariah law.

From the WIkiLeak: Qatari emir says he "can't blame" Israel for mistrusting Arabs.

Speaking of the WikiLeaks, I haven't been following them that closely, but I read somewhere that the one party whose private communications contained no surprising revelations is Israel. They're communiques with America apparently relay much the same things as what they say in public. So much for shadowy Zionists.

Monday, November 29, 2010

The Galaxxy Warrior Packs It In

Days after losing a decision to journeyman Walter Estrada, former lightweight titlist Nate "the Galaxxy Warrior" Campbell (33-7-1, 25 KOs) has announced his retirement. Campbell, who shocked undefeated unified lightweight title holder Juan Diaz to win three belts in 2008, was never able to capitalize on his success. In his next scheduled fight, Joan Guzman came in grossly overweight and refused to carry forward with the fight, plunging Campbell into bankruptcy. Following that, Campbell lost his titles on the scales against Ali Funeka, but managed to gut out a razor-thin majority decision (with the two knockdowns he scored -- including one clutch 11th round knockdown with the fight up for grabs -- proving the difference) in his last top-level performance. He ended his career with a no contest against Tim Bradley in a fight Bradley appeared to be dominating, then a loss to Victor Ortiz and Estrada. The time was right for him to hang the gloves up.

Campbell was one of those guys who I'm really glad won a title. Yes, he shot himself in the foot with some ill-advised showboating against Robbie Peden. But, putting that aside, Nate Campbell was a professional who worked hard everyday, took pride in what he did, and scrambled to the top of the sport the hard way. He started late, never really had anyone in his corner (his promoter, Don King, pretty much actively sabotaged his career), was the B-side of nearly every major fight he was in, but kept plugging away until he finally managed to wrap a belt around his waist. He says he wants to stay in the game as a trainer or commentator, and I think that sounds just fine. So while I'll miss him in the ring, I look forward to seeing him around boxing for many years to come.

Thanks, Nate -- and congratulations on a fine career.

Where Kristol Goes, So Go the Jews

Benyamin Korn, Director of Jewish Americans for Sarah Palin (what a lonely fellow), has a column up trying to argue that educated Jewish Americans are turning toward the former half-term Alaska governor. His examples? Senator Joe Lieberman (I-CT), Bill Kristol, Seth Lipsky, and John and Norman Podhoretz.

Color me "lol". The fact that Republican hacks "intellectuals" like Kristol and the Podhoretzs support Palin demonstrates nothing more than the shallowness of what constitutes intellectualism in the conservative movement. Lipsky, now at the New York Sun, finds it fascinating that Palin is a constitutional originalist -- I'll pay $40 to the first person who can show to me that the Governor has thought through that position with anything approaching a 1L's rigor (not to mention, originalism as an exegetical method is pretty foreign to Judaism). And then we have Joe Lieberman, whose following amongst intellectual Jews (outside Kristol-esque hacks) has withered to virtually nothing.

I mean, can any read this paragraph without breaking out laughing?
Lieberman, Kristol, Lipsky, and the Podhoretz’s are sophisticated, educated, thinking Jews who appreciate Palin's heartfelt support for Israel, her forceful and informed advocacy for energy independence, her strong stance on national security, and her fealty to traditional moral values (sometimes we forget these are Jewish values, too!). All are bellwethers of the increasing respect for Sarah Palin amongst us – the educated and affluent American Jews.

It's a giggle a minute, here.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

It Takes Two, Baby

This Jerusalem Post captures two very distinct elements on my outlook on the Israeli/Palestinian conflict.

The first thing the article talks about the Fatah Revolutionary Council's latest meeting, in which it refused, among other things, to permit recognition of Israel as a Jewish state ("The council also renews its refusal for the establishment of any racist state based on religion in accordance with international law and human rights conventions.") or to consider lands swaps as part of comprehensive peace agreement with Israel ("[I]llegal settler gangs can't be put on an equal footing with the owners of the lands and rights."), or the idea of establishing a Palestinian state with temporary borders in preparation for final status talks. All this leaves me wondering precisely what Palestinians think is being negotiated over here? If negotiations are about compromises and give-and-take, is there anything the FRC is prepared to, well, "negotiate" over?

When it comes to negotiations, Palestinian officials seem to think only one side has an obligation to show up. It's not that there aren't things they have just claim to -- of course there are -- but there's scarcely any notion of reciprocity. "Jewish state"? No. Land swaps? No. Temporary borders? No. Recognition of basic historical facts like the Jewish connection to the Western Wall? No. It's paralleled by the seeming Palestinian approach to armed conflict, where, there too, only one side is apparently allowed to show up.

It's ridiculous. The refusal to countenance land swaps in principle is an arbitrary red-line on a subject which, until now, everyone took for granted would play a role in a final status agreement. And paired with the refusal to consider temporary borders, it puts the kibosh on one of the more promising proposals (by Kadima MK Shaul Mofaz) which would create a provisional Palestinian state on roughly 60% of the West Bank (comprising 99.2% of the West Bank's Palestinian population, plus additional land to create territorial contiguity), as a first step to final borders. Undoubtedly, the ceding of certain settlement blocs to Israel would be matched by land swaps back to the Palestinians. It's a decent plan, and is the outline (subject to negotiation) of a fair one, and now it appears to be a dead one. Go figure.

Meanwhile, shoehorned into the bottom of the article is a proposal by Yair Lapid (son of Shinui founder Tommy Lapid) that we detach the creation of a Palestinian state from the question of peace between Israel and Palestine. It's an idea that's appealed to me for awhile now. Often, the question of Palestinian statehood is debated as a question of dreams and nightmares: the dream that it will lead to a rapid solution to the entire conflict (in which case it should happen immediately), the nightmare that it will lead to a catastrophic and irreversible deterioration in Israel's security situation (in which case it shouldn't).

But of course, those aren't the only alternatives. Also possible -- and I think most likely -- is that the creation of a Palestinian state would neither solve the conflict, nor exacerbate it. It may bring peace moderately closer, or it may make Israel moderately more precarious, or it may have a negligible effect. In that case, it seems like the balance of rights would counsel immediate creation of a Palestinian state, as the benefit to the Palestinians (independence) would outweigh the prospective harms (at worst, moderate deterioration in Israel's security). As Lapid writes, the creation of an independent Palestine may not bring peace, but it certainly will make the conflict easier to manage than in the status quo:
[T]he establishment of a Palestinian state would “take the world off our backs, curb the process of turning us into a pariah state, enable us to maintain our security with fewer restraints, lift the burden of controlling three million people, and enable us to manage the discussion on our final borders and the future of the settlements.”

Whatever else one might say about Israel's security posture towards, say, Lebanon or Syria, it's clear that it has been easier to manage than the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. The reason is simple -- interstate conflict is well-studied, well-modeled, is easy to predict, and possesses well-established rules and norms of conduct governing the parties. Intra-state occupations and ethnic conflict possesses none of these qualities. Changing the status of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict to something like the Israeli/Syrian conflict would be decidedly less than ideal, but it would also be a marked improvement over the status quo.

Of course, as the first part of this post indicates, simply establishing a Palestinian state is not so simple, as the Palestinian approach to negotiation appears to be stuck in near-maximalism. But what can you do?

So Easy, a Bacterium Could Do It

Next time you fail to solve a Sudoku puzzle, prepare to be more humiliated than usual.

Boxing Roundup: 11/27/10

I'll give thanks for last night's fights (well, all but one of them). So let's recap some of the action, and give me thoughts on where everyone goes next.

Carl Froch (27-1, 20 KOs) UD12 Arthur Abraham (31-2, 25 KOs)

This was the stinker of the night, as Froch meticulously outboxed Abraham all evening for a landslide decision. Abraham couldn't get off all night, thanks to Froch's lateral movement and persistent jab. It was the recipe that Andre Dirrell used to hand Abraham his first loss, but folks weren't sure if Froch was up to Dirrell's level of slickness. And honestly, he's not -- but he was close enough to make it an easy night.

Froch has had a lot of doubters, myself included, but it is getting close to the point where he is forcing folks to take him seriously. Yes, "King Arthur" is probably a bit overrated, particularly out of his natural 160 lbs weight class (Froch's reach advantage, in particular, was absolutely lethal tonight). And yes, we really don't know how much Jermain Taylor had left when Froch stormed back for a dramatic 12th round KO (we know he had nothing left when Abraham starched him). But these wins, coupled with an ever-more impressive one over Jean Pascal and a tight decision loss to Mikkel Kessler, demonstrate that he's the real deal. He's deceptively talented along every dimension -- faster handspeed than you think, better footwork than you think, more elusive than you think, more powerful than you think, and exactly as tough as you think -- and that's a solid combination. I can't wait to see him in against Glen Johnson in the semis, which I think has the potential to be a firecracker of a fight.

As for Abraham, he's in trouble. He's been beaten twice now by the same gameplan,and he hasn't historically been good at adjusting. And he faces tournament favorite Andre Ward next, who is nothing if not good at adjusting. I see Ward boxing to an easy decision. Abraham's power makes him dangerous with anyone who is willing to mix it up with him, but that makes him little different than a Germanic Edison Miranda.

Andre Ward (23-0, 13 KOs) UD12 Sakio Bika (28-5-2, 19 KOs)

Exceptionally wide scorecards aside (the judge who scored it a Ward shutout might as well not have attended the fight, and I'd take it as a kindness to the sport if he didn't attend any others in official capacity), this was a grueling fight in which Ward justifiably took a tight decision. But Bika gave him all kinds of hell early in what was easily the hardest fight of Ward's career, and I include Mikkel Kessler in that mix. Ward likes to bully folks on the inside, but Bika is all about that style, and was ripping Ward to the body early on. But Ward, as ever, adjusted mid-fight and began neutralizing Bika's looping hooks and landing the precision shots on the inside.

More importantly, unlike many bullies, Ward showed that he doesn't crumble against the same tactics. Both men threw almost as many headbutts and elbows as they did punches. But whereas Bika's stemmed more from his style as bang-em-up brawler, Ward's fouls were, dare I say it, more tactical -- reminding me a lot of Bernard Hopkins. In the final round, for instance, Bika was going for the knockout and stunned Ward with a hook. So Ward intelligently held on, then, as the ref was separating the two, hit Bika on the break. Bika complains, the ref admonishes both fighters to keep it clean, and all of the sudden Ward gained an extra 30 seconds to recover.

Ward is really amongst the very elite of the sport under any metric, but particularly in the category of ring technicians. Along with B-Hop and Mayweather, he's one of those fighters that seems to know all the tricks, and has both the physical tools and the presence of mind to change courses when the fight isn't going his way. That's a very valuable skill, and one of the reasons Ward, I think, is a potential #1 P4P guy in the future.

As for Bika, I think he did show that he belongs in the conversation of top Super Middleweights, and demonstrated that he'll be a hellish outing for any fighter in that class. He's built like a Men's Health centerfold, exceptionally strong, and brings incredible pressure to the table, has a mean streak the size of the Dan Ryan Expressway, and carries serious power in those looping hooks. Unfortunately, most of the good match-ups in the division are tied up in the Super 6. Lucien Bute already beat him and would probably do so again (though Bika has improved markedly from their first match-up -- but then, so has Bute). Bika would shred Allan Green, I think. I think he'd tear through Robert Stieglitz, who I'm equally sure wants no part of Bika. Librado Andrade is a dream fight for fans of oldest-of-old school street fights. Bika/Kessler would be interesting, as Bika brings exactly the sort of raw pressure and intensity that sometimes causes Kessler to fade. Whatever it is, I'm interested.

Andre Berto (27-0, 21 KOs) KO1 Freddie Hernandez (29-2, 20 KOs)

This was a mismatch on paper, as Hernandez jumped straight from B/B+ fighters to an A/A+ guy in Berto. And it turned out to be a mismatch in practice, as Berto put him down in the first with a pretty sweet right hand. Hernandez got up, but was unsteady, and the ref waved it off. For Berto, this was an audition for Manny Pacquiao, and along that axis it was a pretty rousing success. And given that I'd much rather see Pacquaio against Berto than against most of the other names being thrown out (Mosley, Cotto, Marquez at 147), that's a good thing. But in terms of finding out more about Berto, it does nothing. He's really only been in against one truly elite foe, Luis Collazo, and that was a white knuckle affair which Berto barely squeaked through. As for Hernandez, this was likely his one shot at glory, and he didn't exactly cover himself in it.

Jason Litzau (28-2, 21 KOs) SD10 Celestino Caballero (34-3, 23 KOs)

Jason Litzau, previously seen on the wrong end of one of my favorite knockouts, was brought in as a mere opponent to showcase Caballero and see if the latter could force the issue with a desperately desired fight with either Yuriorkis Gamboa or Juan Manuel Lopez. But Litzau came to fight, and Caballero, who felt like he's been overlooked in the 122 and 126 lbs weight classes, overlooked Litzau. Caballero, who came up in weight, didn't have his usual towering height advantage (he's 5'11", Litzau is 5'10"), and seemed at times stunned that his opponent was actually firing back. Caballero did start to wake up a bit late in the fight, but it was too little, too late.

Litzau, whom many (including myself) had written off as a one-dimension brawler with a poor chin, has easily the best win of his career and, paired with a technical decision over Rocky Juarez in his last fight, may be seeing a bit of a career resurgence after being obliterated by Roberto Guerrero six fights ago. It was a great fight, a great performance by Litzau, and probably the upset of the year. And Caballero may have just dealt his own career a mortal blow. His physique alone makes him a nightmare for anyone in the lower weight classes, but he brings no money and a ton of danger, and after losing unimpressively in his big showcase fight, nobody has any incentive to get in the ring with him. It'll be a long road back for the 34-year old.

Juan Manuel Marquez (52-5-1, 38 KOs) TKO9 Michael Katsidis (27-3, 22 KOs)

I missed the first half of this fight to finish up Ward/Bika, and what I apparently missed was the fight everyone expected it to be -- a knockdown, drag out brawl which pitted Katsidis's insatiable aggression against Marquez's legendary counter-punching. After Marquez's lopsided loss to Floyd Mayweather at 147, folks were left wondering how much of it was the weight, and how much was Marquez finally aging. His victory over a severely faded Juan Diaz didn't answer much, but tonight filled in any gaps that might have been left. Marquez stood in and traded with the younger, hard-hitting Katsidis, and it paid off. But Katsidis was certainly in this fight every step of the way, and put Marquez on the canvas in round 3 -- a wild round which saw Katsidis going for the kill and Marquez displaying incredible fortitude to survive and turn the tables.

Marquez wants, more than anything else, a third fight with Manny Pacquiao. In a just world, he's earned at 135 or 140. But the world isn't just, and at 147 it's simply a mismatch. Marquez, being the warrior that he is, will undoubtedly take the fight at 147 (as someone remarked, Marquez would agree to fight Pacquiao with no weight limit, no gloves, and no ropes if that's what it took), but I can't see it ending well for him. What I can see if Marquez as a future hall-of-famer, going down as one of the greatest Mexican fighters of our generation, and one of the greatest counter-punchers of any generation.

As for Katsidis, he showed why he is one of the premier action fighters of our time -- this decade's answer to Arturo Gatti. There is not a single fight Katsidis could possibly be in that doesn't have the potential for fight of the year honors. He is a great sportsman and a great star, and I look forward to seeing him again in the ring, soon.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving

I suppose I'm thankful for the subject of the last post, but I'm also thankful for many other things -- great family, great friends, great opportunities, and a great platform to express myself every day. Have a wonderful Thanksgiving, everyone!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

DeLay Found Guilty

Former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-TX) has been found guilty of all counts by a Texas jury. He faces five years to life in prison for money laundering charge, plus two to 20 years for conspiring to illegally funnel corporate money to various Texas Republican candidates. He could also get probation.

This case was very messy, with allegations that even some of the judges involved were in the pocket of the DeLay machine. But the indictment was a beautiful day in my life. And the conviction is no less sweet.

DeLay maintains his innocence and is expected to appeal.

The Missing Voice

The Washington Post has added Jennifer Rubin to their stable of writers. I can't express how thrilled I am that the author of one of the more infamous anti-Semitic hit pieces in the past couple of years is joining America's preeminent political paper.

Meanwhile, a Goldblog reader points out the emergent trend of conservative pro-Israelism being expressed in seemingly anti-Israel ways. Cites include Rep. Ros-Lehtinen's break-up of Israeli/Cuban rapprochement, Rep. Eric Cantor (R-VA) trying to make it easier for Congress to vote against aid for Israel by decoupling it from the general foreign aid bill, and the hilariously-named Emergency Committee for Israel backing ex-Rep. Pat Toomey (R-PA), who voted against aid for Israel on several occasions, in his successful Senate bid against Rep. Joe Sestak (D-PA).

... and adding to the list, Republican opposition to the new START treaty. Anybody who is worried about Iran's nuclear ambitions has to be worried about the proliferation of loose nuclear material floating around. Israel, of course, has more to fear than most from nuclear proliferation extending to Iran, which is why START is so clearly critical to its long term security needs.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Back Home

Thanksgiving at my place! Everyone's invited (not really).

Meanwhile, a club shut down a pre-paid party for Harvard and Yale alums because too many Black people were on the guest list.

Monday, November 22, 2010

The Friend of My Enemy ...

Potential rapprochement between Israel and Cuba, sparked by Fidel Castro's surprisingly direct condemnation of anti-Semitism in relation to anti-Israel politics, now looks to be off, thanks to the timely intervention of Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), incoming chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. Ros-Lehtinen has a reputation for being pro-Israel, but an even stronger one for being anti-Castro, and was exceptionally displeased at seeing the wide rift between Israel and Cuba be even partially bridged. Prime Minister Netanyahu has apparently written a letter of apology to Rep. Ros-Lehtinen.

I don't want to overstate things -- it was hardly the case that Israel and Cuba were on the verge of becoming besties until Ros-Lehtinen stepped in. And likewise, I don't consider what Ros-Lehtinen did to be inappropriate -- she has policy preferences which she is entitled to exercise, and furthering the isolation of Cuba matters more to her than countering the isolation of Israel. That's useful knowledge for me to have, but we're allowed to have differences of opinion.

I do think that Jeffrey Goldberg's wry comment about the relative power of "lobbies" is well-taken. But more fundamentally, this whole notion about who "controls" whose foreign policy -- that it is some unique abomination if the US adopts anything but a reckless, devil-may-care attitude towards how our foreign policy decisions impact other countries -- is substantively absurd. Countries (particularly, we'd hope, friendly countries) are constantly in dialogue with each other and adopt their policies to match the desires of their friends. Sometimes that means Israel varies its policies to suit allies in the US, and sometimes vice versa. Of course, here I think the policy Israel is being forced to pursue to appease Rep. Ros-Lehtinen is substantively bad for both them and us, but the process itself is decidedly normal.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Presto! Property

Stewart Baker on intellectual property:
Conservatives — and especially libertarians — seem like a cheap date on this issue. You’d think libertarians would have been in the forefront of objecting to governmental intrusions into our lives at the behest of a special interest — let alone the creation of a new class of quasicriminals, defined as more or less everyone who entered high school after 1996, who can be investigated and prosecuted whenever the government or some member of industry decides that they are too troublesome.

But no. For a lot of libertarians, judging by the comments to David’s post, all the RIAA has to do is call its new government-created entitlement a form of property, and, presto bingo, it’s sacrosanct.

Come to think of it, maybe I can persuade readers here that TSA’s new enhanced security measures are just fine — as long as we enforce the rules by giving all the passengers on the plane a “property” right not to travel with people who refuse body imaging and enhanced patdowns. Instead of relying on oppressive government regulation, we’d just let the passengers collect millions in “statutory damages” from noncompliant travelers.

He's riffing off of Larry Lessig's Free Culture here. The whole post is worth a read.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Voters are Morons, Part 566

I'd like to use this as a an opportunity to mock California voters in particular, but Kevin Drum is undoubtedly right that it probably applies nationwide:
Californians object to increasing taxes in order to pare the state's massive budget deficit, and instead favor closing the breach through spending cuts. But they oppose cuts—and even prefer more spending—on programs that make up 85% of the state's general fund obligations, a new Los Angeles Times/USC Poll has found.

That paradox rests on Californians' firm belief that the state's deficit—estimated last week at nearly $25 billion over the next 18 months—can be squared through trimming waste and inefficiencies rather than cutting the programs they hold dear. Despite tens of billions that have been cut from the state budget in recent years, just a quarter of California voters believed that state services would have to be curtailed to close the deficit.

I remember reading a study which first asked voters if they believed foreign aid should be cut -- the answer being a resounding "yes". The next question was how much the respondents believed we spent on foreign aid -- an amount they overstated dramatically. Finally, when asked how much we should spend on foreign aid, they gave a figure that was something like triple what we spend currently.

The Price of Publication

I am pleased to announce the official publication of my Comment: David Schraub, The Price of Victory: Political Triumphs and Judicial Protection in the Gay Rights Movement, 77 U. Chi. L. Rev. 1437 (2010). As Professor Solum would say, download it while it's hot!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

My Favorite Knockouts: Corrales TKO10 Castillo & Williams TKO6 Potter

One of the reasons I love boxing is that it's a sport where the competitors show incredible grit and determination. Obviously, many sports have their share of astonishing comebacks and contestants with incontestable heart. But there is very little that compares to the sheer willpower and desire it takes to comeback from being so hurt that you literally can't stand-up, throwing back, and winning a fight.

The first matchup between Diego Corrales and Jose Luis Castillo is considered an all-time classic, and the 10th round, shown here, is arguably one of the greatest rounds of all time. Corrales had always been a never-say-die sort of fighter -- in fact, he lost his undefeated record to Floyd Mayweather, who knocked him down 5 times across the course of the fight. When his corner finally stopped it after knockdown #5, Corrales, who was hopelessly behind and being battered pillar to post, was visibly furious.

This second one is a little macabre -- just warning. But though it shows a different sort of "comeback", I think it falls into the same category -- a demonstration of an indomitable will to win which I don't think has parallel in any other sport.

Switch 'em Off

A poll surveying American attitudes towards the coming GOP takeover of the House makes it very clear that the Republicans do not carry with them a "mandate". In fact, they asked that very question, and only 17% of Americans thought the elections constituted a mandate from the American people.

Rather, Americans voted in Republicans because they were frustrated with Democrats, and wanted a change. Not that they expect much -- 64% think Republicans will do as well or worse.

So it's basically a classic mid-term in a poor economy. Change for change's sake. It's not an illegitimate opinion by any means. But it's not a mandate.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

My Favorite Knockouts: Hernandez KO8 Litzau

It is surprisingly rare for two truly evenly-matched competitors to step into the ring with each other. Generally, it happens in only two situations: Either two prospects, to try and establish which one is "for real", or at the very pinnacle of the sport, where the best (sometimes) fights the best.

A significant amount of modern boxing coverage, though, falls under the category of the "showcase fight". The guy being groomed to be a star is trotted out against an opponent who looks credible on paper, but is pretty much expected to lose and make the prospect look good, feeding anticipation for the prospect/contender's next fight.

But the nice thing about boxing is that the opponent can always be a spoiler. Here, Jason Litzau was the prospect, and Jose Hernandez was meant to be the main course in his coming out party. And for most of the fight, it looked like it. Hernandez did show he could hurt the chinny Litzau with a first round knockdown, but Litzau controlled the rest of the fight, with Hernandez stalking but unable to land. Until Round 8 (go to 1:40 if you want to skip the first round knockdown).

I saw this fight, and the energy was electric. A genuine, underdog, come-from-behind, one shot knockout that was itself a beauty to behold. Hernandez parlayed this into a decently high-profile fight against Rocky Juarez (which he lost), and has since faded into obscurity, fighting and losing one more fight to a journeyman in 2009. Litzau has labored on the fringes for awhile now, getting annihilated by Robert Guerrero in his one title shot. Litzau himself is playing "opponent" for Celestino Caballero's jump up to Junior Lightweight at the end of the month.