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.