Friday, December 30, 2011

Top Ten Boxers I'm Glad Won Titles (1-5)

(See Boxers #6-10 and a description of this list here).

* * *

5. David Diaz (Lightweight, 36-4-1, 17 KOs)

Hey, remember when folks were wondering whether 135 lbs was just too high for Manny Pacquiao? David Diaz does. Part of the trifecta of Diaz's (the others were Juan and Julio) who possessed lightweight titles, David Diaz was seen as the weakest of the three when he was picked as the opponent for Pac-Man's experiment with higher weight classes. In retrospect, that's probably unfair (I think his career stacks up quite well against Julio Diaz). But anyway, I get ahead of myself.

Diaz is the sort of guy who's always performed above expectations. He earned a spot on the 1996 Olympic team by upsetting far more heralded Zab Judah, losing in the second round to eventual silver medalist Oktay Urkal. Diaz started his professional campaign 26-0 before being knocked out by Kendall Holt (see below). A year later, Diaz won the interim WBC lightweight title by defeating Jose Armando Santa Cruz, then, after being elevated to full titlist, defended against what was thought to be a long-faded Erik Morales in a win that looks much better in hindsight.

That paved the way for the payday against Pacquaio, who wowed the boxing world by destroying Diaz over the course of nine rounds. That set up Pacquiao's mega-fight with Oscar De La Hoya, and the rest, as they say, is history. Though I do like to point out that Diaz gave Pacquiao more of a challenge than either De La Hoya or Ricky Hatton. Diaz lost in his attempt to get his old title back from Humberto Soto, and then was knocked out in a hellacious war this past year versus prospect Hank Lundy.

4. Luis Collazo (Welterweight, 31-5, 16 KOs)

A skilled southpaw fighter from Brooklyn, Luis Collazo has been on the short end of several close decisions where he was the short money -- something that I imagine would be particularly gnawed at him had he never managed to hoist a belt. But fortunately, that wasn't the case, as he won the WBA welterweight title in 2005 against Jose Antonio Rivera, and defended it once against Miguel Gonzalez before accepting a challenge from undefeated Junior Welterweight star Ricky Hatton, who was moving up in weight and looking to establish himself as a superstar.

Collazo lost a unanimous decision in a fight many thought he won, but in which a Collazo victory stood to lose various boxing promoters massive sums of money (it would have, for example, derailed Hatton's ability to become a viable opponent for Pacquaio and Mayweather). Collazo lost more clearly to Shane Mosley before challenging HBO blessed-son Andre Berto for his WBC belt. In a life-or-death struggle that could have gone either way, Berto escaped with an exceedingly narrow unanimous decision win.

Since then, Collazo fell virtually off the map, winning a bounceback fight immediately after the Berto loss, then taking a nearly-two year layoff. Upon his return, he lost a disappointing decision to fringe contender Freddy Hernandez (whom Berto had earlier starched in one), which may have spelled the end of Collazo's run as an elite contender.

3. Kendall Holt (Jr. Welterweight, 27-5, 15 KOs)

Kendall Holt is nicknamed "Rated R", but he might as well be nicknamed "Enigma". I'm not sure I've ever seen a fighter in as many different varieties of fights as the Patterson, New Jersey-based fighter. Sometimes he unleashes devastating, one-punch KOTY candidates like against Julio Diaz. Sometimes he wanders aimlessly around the ring and is lethargically outboxed, like against Danny Garcia. Sometimes he's involved in all-action slugfests that last round after thrilling round, like against Ricardo Torres. Sometimes, he's involved in all-action slugfasts that don't last past the first round, like against Ricardo Torres in the rematch (or Thomas Davis).

Sometimes, all these qualities manage to come together within the space of a single fight, like against Timothy Bradley. There, he alternated between being utterly dominant (knocking Bradley down twice in the first and twelfth rounds) and utterly disinterested (most of the rest of the fight). To my eyes, it looked as if Holt was thoroughly in control for any part of the fight where his head was actually in the bout -- unfortunately, that consisted of a bare handful of rounds.

And that, in a nutshell, is the Kendall Holt story. The athleticism is there. The power is there. The head is most certainly not there. The upshot is a wildly inconsistent fighter who did manage to lift the WBO Jr. Welterweight title and hold it for one defense in 2008.

2. Cristobal Cruz (Featherweight, 39-12-3, 23 KOs)

Cristobal Cruz turned pro in 1992 at age 14, winning his debut by second round knockout. His record began to reflect that of a Mexican fighter with no serious promotional backing who turned pro at 14, and in 2007 when he faced a comebacking Zahir Raheem, he sported a fugly 34-10-1.

The Raheem fight was ugly, as Zahir Raheem fights often are, but in my opinion Cruz acquitted himself quite well -- I scored the fight a draw. The judges all gave the fight to Raheem by shutout or near-shutout, which is what happens when you're a 34-10-1 fighter against a former champion in an ugly fight. And that figured to be the Cristobal Cruz story -- a journeyman guy who got on ESPN2 once as a comeback opponent, did better than expected, and was firmly not rewarded for it by judges who weren't paying attention.

But by stroke of luck, the powers-that-be brought in Cruz as opponent for Thomas Mashaba as the latter geared up for a title shot. Cruz and Mashaba went to war in an incredible fight that saw Cruz break the Compubox record for most punches thrown in a fight. But it was a tight fight, and nobody knew how the scorecards would read. As it happened, Cruz managed to squeak out the upset majority decision victory, and the title shot that would have gone to Mashaba instead was handed to Cruz.

Cruz met Orlando Salido for the vacant IBF featherweight title, in a rematch of a fight Salido had won. In an exciting match, Cruz won by split decision and approved his record to 37-11-1 in the process. Cruz defended his title three times, including a spirited match against Jorge Solis which featured new and exciting innovations in fouling, before losing it to (who else) Salido in the 2010 rubber match.

A twenty-year pro now at age 34, Cruz is still going strong, scheduled to fight Juan Carlos Burgos in February 2012.

1. Nate Campbell (Lightweight, 34-9-1, 25 KOs)

Nate Campbell is number one on my list for several reasons. He's a genuinely nice guy, and he won his titles (three at once) in a pretty sizable upset. But most importantly, Campbell tops this list because of what he would have been remembered for if he hadn't managed to finally, at age 36, win the title that had eluded him for so long.

Campbell got a late start to boxing, originally inspired to try the sport after shadow-boxing to stay awake during late shifts at his job. His career started off with 23 straight wins before losing to Joel Casamayor in a closely contested bout. But it was his next big shot, an IBF title eliminator against Robbie Peden, that nearly defined his legacy. Well ahead on the scorecards going into the 5th round, Campbell stuck his chin out, daring Peden to hit him ... and proceeding to get himself knocked out. He was knocked out again in a rematch with Peden for the IBF Junior Lightweight title, then lost again to Francisco Lorenzo. Career momentum that was regained after an upset victory over undefeated Kid Diamond seemed arrested when he lost a split decision in a title eliminator to Isaac Hlatshwayo.

Going back into the trenches, Campbell kept at it, winning another eliminator against Matt Zegan and then (because this is boxing) yet another eliminator by thoroughly beating up Ricky Quiles. This made him the mandatory for IBF lightweight champ Julio Diaz, but his shot was delayed to make way for a (Julio) Diaz vs. (Juan) Diaz unification match. The latter, younger Diaz won, and Campbell was the decided underdog against the undefeated "Baby Bull" -- a charismatic Mexican-American fighter who now held the IBF, WBA, and WBO lights and that many were heralding as the next big thing. Campbell, for his part, never blinked -- I still remember Dan Raphael describing "The Galaxxy Warrior" as "supremely confident" in the months leading up to the fight.

And he backed it up. Campbell came out aggressive and put unprecedented pressure on Diaz. A cut caused by an accidental headbutt seemed to rattle the young champion, and Campbell kept on him. Most observers thought Campbell had won, but hearts stopped when the announcer declared it a split-decision. But in the end, the right guy had his hand raised, and Nate Campbell had the victory he had been searching for his entire career.

After the Diaz fight, Campbell's characteristic bad luck reasserted itself and his career spiraled downward with astounding celerity. A big payday against Joan Guzman fell through when the latter came in grossly overweight and refused to fight. Campbell declared bankruptcy, then lost his belts on the scale in a fight against Ali Funeka. The Funeka fight was Campbell's last great hurrah, seemingly battling father time as much as the South African, seemingly falling behind the fight only to surge back on the strength of 2nd and 11th round knockdowns. His majority decision victory was the last major triumph of Campbell's career -- he was being thoroughly dominated by Tim Bradley before that fight was stopped (it was later ruled a no contest), then lost to Victor Ortiz. A defeat to journeyman Walter Estrada led Campbell to announce his retirement, but he came back to lose to Danny Garcia and Khabib Allakhverdiev.

Still, I know of not a single person in the boxing community who does not consider themselves a Nate Campbell fan. Brash and occasionally foolhardy as he may be, he just seemed to exude a likeability and professionalism that won him admirers across the sport. And while most of us wish he'd end his career, we also hope he stays in the game as an announcer (for which he's shown natural talent). And all of us remember that great day in Mexico, March 8th, 2008, when he upset an unbeaten star to finally put those belts -- those belts which fans dismiss and commentators deride, those belts which cheapen the sport and drive away new viewers, those belts which Campbell had been pursuing fruitlessly for 8 years -- around his waist.

Top Ten Boxers I'm Glad Won Titles (6-10)

One of the most common complaints about the contemporary boxing landscape is the proliferation of "world titles". The WBC, WBA, WBO, and IBF all are considered "major" sanctioning organizations, each with their own champion (sometimes more -- the WBA has been known to have three in a single weight class). Add that to the legitimate Ring Magazine lineal title, and, well, that's a lot of folks who get to stroll around calling themselves "champ".

I don't necessarily disagree with this critique, but I tend to be a little more muted about it. In part, this is because the belts do sometimes (sometimes) accomplish useful things, forcing mandatories or elevating a talented but somewhat obscure fighter (often from Europe or Asia) to global prominence. But in part it's because the fighters care about them. It matters to them a great deal to be able to say they were "world champion", and I'm not from the sidelines willing to dismiss an institution that clearly means so much to the guys actually duking it out in the ring.

In this top ten (split into two posts), I give a list of ten people (in the recent past -- I only became a boxing fan in the last decade) whom I'm glad managed to win a title. Generally, this means folks who barely got over that hump -- for whom winning a title gives their career meaning it would have otherwise lacked, and legitimacy that I think their talent and dedication deserves. It's not that I'm sad Oscar de la Hoya won a title, it's just that it was never really touch-and-go for him -- he was a multi-division champ and international superstar. I'm talking about folks who scraped and clawed at the edges and, finally -- if only briefly -- managed to reach the top of the mountain. But when they retire, and talk to their grandkids, they'll be able say not "I once was a contender", but "I once was world champion".

10. Corrie Sanders (Heavyweight, 42-4, 31 KOs)

Essentially a fringe contender for his entire career, Sanders with a South African southpaw with fast hands and a vulnerable chin. He had amassed a solid 38-2 record prior to challenging Wladimir Klitschko for the heavyweight title, but was seen as a major underdog, with both of his two losses coming by stoppage and with Klitschko having the deserved reputation as a titanic puncher. Sanders also was 37 years old and had fought a mere 3 rounds in the past 2 years. Yet instead of the walkover many expected, Sanders dropped Klitshcko twice at the close of round 1 and twice at the start of round 2 to score the colossal upset. The iconic image here is a tie between Sanders screaming at Klitschko to get up after the first round knockdowns, and his trainer jumping into his arms after the fight was stopped.

Sanders immediately vacated his belt to challenge Vitali Klitschko for the WBC title, and was knocked out in 8. He never challenged for a title again, and last fought in 2008, a first round knockout loss to Osborne Machimana.

9. Carlos Quintana (Welterweight, 28-3, 21 KOs)

Despite a solid amateur background that included being a member of the Puerto Rican Olympic team, Carlos Quintana never really seemed to be in the conversation as a potential elite fighter. He first rose to prominence on an HBO card where he was intended to be the B-side showcasing far more hyped prospect Joel "The Love Child" Julio (who never did win a title). Despite suffering a flash knockdown in round one, Quintana thoroughly out-boxing Julio to win the fight and earn a shot at Miguel Cotto's 147 lbs belt. It was a competitive fight, but Cotto eventually overwhelmed Quintana with his power, knocking the younger Puerto Rican down with two painful body shots in the 5th (Quintana retired in his corner after the round).

That was the fight everyone remembered when Quintana signed to challenge unbeaten Paul "The Punisher" Williams. Williams had earned the moniker of the most-avoided fighter in boxing with his freakish, 6 foot tall frame, incessant activity, and surprisingly good inside presence, and had just won the biggest fight of his career in a slugfest against Antonio Margarito. Yet Quintana seemed to be in charge throughout the whole fight, brilliantly using his jab to control distance and keep Williams at bay. As Max Kellerman memorably put it, the story of the fight was "Carlos Quintana punches Paul Williams in the face". Yet Quintana's slick style and underdog status had people worried that a robbery was coming, and everyone was on edge when the scores were read. No need: Quintana won by unanimous decision to hand Williams his first defeat and lift the WBO welterweight crown.

The very next fight, of course, Williams knocked Quintana out in the very first round of their rematch to win the title back. Quintana then won two more fights against middling opposition before challenging Andre Berto for his title and getting knocked out in the 8th. He fought just one time in 2011, a win over journeyman Yoryi Estrella.

8. Cornelius Bundrage (Jr. Middleweight, 31-4, 18 KOs)

Cornelius "K9" Bundrage first was displayed to American boxing eyes against Sechew Powell in one of the wildest (and shortest) fights ever broadcast on ShoBox. It featured a double knockdown four seconds into the fight, followed by the Bundrage being knocked out seventeen seconds later (a confused Bundrage remarked in his corner: "I got knocked out that quick?").

Bundrage then became a contestant on Season 3 of The Contender, and was the final fighter picked to join a team. Boldly declaring that "the last shall be first", Bundrage was impressive in the tournament, beating Michael Clark, Walter Wright, and Norberto Bravo while losing to Steve Forbes and taking the bronze.

Still, Bundrage wasn't really considered to be a true contender for a title. A knockout loss to Joel Julio seemed to verify this, as Julio himself was really considered only a B+ fighter. His victory over Kassim Ouma (see below) was seen more as proof of how far Ouma had fallen, and a loss to Contender winner Grady Brewer was just icing on a bitter cake. But an upset knockout victory over previously unbeaten Zaurbek Baysangurov in Germany put Bundrage back on the IBF charts, and he was slated to face Yuri Foreman (see below) in a title eliminator. That fight ended in a no-contest due to a headbutt, but in my estimation Foreman seemed to be in charge early. Foreman elected to pursue a shot against WBA titlist Daniel Santos, which handed Bundrage a fight against reigning champ Cory Spinks in Spinks' hometown of St. Louis.

Even though Spinks was considered quite faded, Bundrage wasn't really considered an elite challenger. But he proved the skeptics wrong, knocking out Spinks in 5 (something previously done only by Zab Judah) and handing Bundrage the IBF 154 lbs title.

Bundrage is actually the only reigning titlist on this list, and has already made one successful defense of his belt. And who was his opponent? Why, none other than Sechew Powell, who had KO'd Bundrage in 21 seconds in that wild Showtime fight, so many years ago.

7. Kassim Ouma (Jr. Middleweight, 27-8-1, 17 KOs)

In a sport filled with tough stories, Ouma's may rank as among the worst. Born in Uganda, Ouma was pressed into service as a child soldier at age 6 in Uganda's civil war. He eventually left the army and joined the Ugandan national boxing team, defecting to the United States in the late 1990s (an act for which his father was killed by the government in retaliation). Despite never being wounded in his time a soldier, Ouma was shot twice in drive-by shootings upon arriving in Florida.

Ouma won his belt in 2004 against tough Verno Phillips, defending once against Kofi Jantuah before losing his crown to Roman Karmazin. Since then, Ouma has specialized in the "brave, losing effort", a skid that began in a near-suicidal performance against then-middleweight champion Jermain Taylor (albeit one that established him as among my personal favorite fighters). This wasn't actually considered to be a major hiccup, as Ouma was considered too small to be a true middleweight and was excused for his ill-advised jump up a weight class.

Unfortunately, upon dropping back to 154, he then lost what was supposed to be a bounceback fight against Saul Roman and another to Cornelius Bundrage. Then, after a win over journeyman Martinus Clay, dropped a split decision to Gabriel Rosado and a UD to prospect Vanes Martirosyan -- the last of which, in Ouma's defense, very well could have been a brave, winning effort (he dropped Martirosyan in the 9th and one could have very easily scored the fight for Ouma). This past year, he challenged emerging star Gennady Golovkin for his WBA middleweight belt, but lost in (what else) a brave effort.

6. Yuri Foreman (Jr. Middleweight, 28-2, 8 KOs)

Ah, the "Kosher Krusher". Yori Foreman was part of a trio of Jewish boxing "contenders" that most real boxing fans viewed more as marketing ploys. Roman Greenberg was knocked out by Cedric Boswell, and Dmitry Salita was annihilated in one round by Amir Khan. And Foreman -- a slick boxer who wishes he had Paulie Malignaggi's pop -- wasn't really seen as any better. He had managed to eke out split-decision victories over Anthony Thompson and Andrey Tsurkan -- both decent gatekeeper types, but neither the sort that a true title contender should be struggling with. And though he looked decent against Cornelius Bundrage before that fight was prematurely stopped on a headbutt, few -- myself included -- gave him much of a shot when he stepped up to challenge reigning WBA titlist Daniel Santos.

Boy were we in for a surprise. Not only did Foreman dominate the fight, he actually put Santos on the canvas twice (in the 2nd and 12th rounds) to win the bout handily and earn the title of world champion.

In his next fight, Foreman was matched against Miguel Cotto as the latter attempted to bounce back from his loss to Manny Pacquiao. The fight was the headliner in the first boxing match at the new Yankee stadium, and early on Foreman had decent success with his stick-and-move strategy. Unfortunately, Foreman's knee gave out in the 7th -- bad for any fighter, but disastrous for a guy like Foreman who depends on lateral movement and who has no power to speak of.

Yet Foreman bravely carried on, trying to stand in the pocket and trade with Cotto despite (a) Cotto being one of the best body punchers in the sport and (b) Foreman not having any power even when he can put weight on both legs. The result was predictable: Yankees fans were treated to an extraordinary display of boxing courage, and Foreman was treated to having the crap kicked out of him before the fight was finally stopped in the 9th. Foreman fought just won more time, losing by corner retirement in the 6th round to Pawel Wolak.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Champagne in Champaign

Going back to Champaign today, after a lovely trip to Minnesota. And then tomorrow, a bunch of college friends of ours are coming out for New Year's celebration (Champagne in Champaign, 2011-12. Clever, right?). So the streak of good days is looking to continue.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Are You Calling Me a Racist!?!?!?!

Ta-Nehisi Coates really gets at the heart of the phenomenon:
As an aside, I think there's an essay to be written about why any accusation of a racial offense is so often reduced to "Are you a racist?" It would be as if my wife said, "You forgot to check Samori's homework" and I responded, "I'm not a bad father."

That. Times a thousand.

It's Always Funny in Philadelphia

Former Senator Arlen Specter (R, then D-PA) tries his hand at stand-up comedy. And I'll be honest -- he's surprisingly funny. My favorite:
“I called [Bill] Clinton up on his 65th birthday and said, ‘Bill, congratulations on being 65. How do you feel?’ He said, ‘Oh, I feel like a teenager, the problem is I can’t find one.”

Solid stuff, particularly given that Specter is nearly 82 years old.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Pryor Restraint, Part II

What is going on in Birmingham? I just wrote a post about how Judge Bill Pryor, known as one of the more conservative judges on the 11th Circuit, keeps on joining surprisingly liberal opinions (I attributed this to the presence of a friend of mine who is currently clerking for him). And here is another one, perhaps the most shocking of all, since it flatly reverses an opinion by the same panel.

The case is one I commented on before, centering around whether calling a Black employee "boy" is evidence of racial animus in an employment discrimination case. The 11th Circuit had previously ruled "no", and was reversed by the Supreme Court. Then on remand, it answered "no" again (with respect to the facts of this case), and remanding the case for a new trial. And now, the trial having been completed again, with another verdict for the plaintiff, the 11th Circuit has finally caved, vacating its last opinion and upholding the verdict (save for the punitive damage award).

The New York Times observes that the opinion of the court reads more than a little begrudging (Pryor did not author this opinion), taking it upon itself to chastise an amicus brief by a group of civil rights leaders and concluding that the "verdict could have gone either way, and it went Hithon's way." But still, wow. It's rare to see a panel reverse itself like this, and a serious pattern with Pryor is emerging.

The question is whether it will continue without my secret agent in his chambers. Only time will tell.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

New Year's Resolutions 2012

It's a Debate Link tradition: New Year's Resolutions! Here are my previous resolutions for 2011, 2010, 2009, 2008, 2007. But first, we appraise my performance on last year's resolutions:

Met: 6, 7, 8, 9, 12, 13, 15.

Missed: 2 (through no lack of effort, unfortunately), 3, 10, 11, 14.

Pick 'em: 1, 4, 5.

And now, to 2012!

(1) Get at least one scholarly article published. (Met -- several times over!)

(2) Recover my copy of Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood. (Met)

(3) Successfully move to Minneapolis. (Met)

(4) Don't embarrass myself as a law clerk. (Met -- not yet anyway, as far as I know)

(5) Create more crossword puzzles. (Met)

(6) Go to a University of Illinois sporting event. (Met)

(7) (Continue to?) succeed as a teacher. (Met)

(8) Solidify post-clerkship plans. (Missed)

(9) Visit Carleton. (Met)

(10) Find a new television show to watch. (Met)

(11) Be more Jewish with Jill, wherever we are. (Met)

(12) Use my punching bag (or otherwise exercise) more. (Well, technically I met this...)

(13) Try to get some writing done while clerking (aside from that which is professionally required, of course). (Well, technically I met this too...)

(14) Read more books. (Met)

(15) Take this blog's upcoming involuntary sabbatical with grace and poise. (Missed)

That last one, of course, needs some explanation (unless I already made this announcement, in which case, sorry, I forgot). Once I start my clerkship, the canons of judicial ethics will severely circumscribe my ability to comment publicly on legal or political issues -- i.e., do much of what this blog does. Hence, I will in effect have to take a sabbatical from blogging.

This won't happen until right before I start in Minnesota (and I'll announce it in a proper goodbye post). And I still haven't quite decided on the logistics -- I might simply refrain from posting (or perhaps only on completely safe topics like boxing), or I might make the site "private" (password-protected). But regardless, this is quite bittersweet. The blog will celebrate its 8th birthday in June, which, when you think about it, is a very impressive run. It's been a very important part of my life for (wow) almost a third of my life, and it will be no small thing to not be able to write anymore. It really feels like I'm losing something very special.

You'll note that I'm calling this a "sabbatical", and I hope that makes clear my intention to return. Which is my intention, though of course a year long break can change many things. In any event, we still have quite a few months of posting before then. So no sense dwelling on it. In the meantime, happy holidays and happy new year!

The Parallels are Astounding

It's amazing how much the internal dynamics of Israel and the Palestinian Authority remind me of each other right now.

For example, one constant refrain about the PA is that it isn't a "partner for peace." Though there are Palestinian leaders who talk the talk, and may even be willing to walk the walk. the PA is internally divided, and many key members of Fatah and other constituent PA elements have no interest in pursuing a peace deal with Israel.

Now compare that to this article where Israeli FM Avigdor Lieberman declares that "now isn't the time" for negotiations with the Palestinian, versus this article from the same day where Netanyahu says he's willing to negotiate with Abbas "anytime, anywhere". Obviously, on one level this is yet another example of Lieberman being a massively destructive loose cannon. But on another, it's a symbol that the Israeli government, like its Palestinian counterparts, may be too fractured to be able to make a credible commitment to any serious peace agreement.

Meanwhile, in the Lieberman article he talks about how Israel doesn't need any lectures on how to deal with violent "price tag" settlers. And while I'm not sure I think they need a "lecture", again, Israel and Palestine seem to have a remarkable similarities in terms of how they deal with their homegrown terrorists. In both cases they'll capture them, sometimes, and hold them, sometimes, but not consistently or reliably, and their hearts don't really seem into it. And, surprise, surprise, that breeds mistrust amongst their counterparts.

Unfortunately, matching dysfunctions don't lead to a happy, productive relationship, so I don't expect any progress in the near-future.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Failed System

After Newt Gingrich (along with Rick Santorum, Jon Huntsman, Rick Perry, and Michele Bachmann) failed to qualify for the Virginia primary ballot, the Gingrich campaign had sharp words for Virginia's "failed system":
"Only a failed system excludes four out of the six major candidates seeking access to the ballot. Voters deserve the right to vote for any top contender, especially leading candidates. We will work with the Republican Party of Virginia to pursue an aggressive write-in campaign to make sure that all the voters of Virginia are able to vote for the candidate of their choice."

As the article observes, Virginia doesn't allow write-ins for its primary ballots, so it will be an uphill slog for Gingrich indeed.

But seriously -- how pathetic is this? One can understand how Huntsman and Bachmann failed to qualify in Virginia, since Bachmann's lost all her supporters and Huntsman never had any to begin with. And the Perry campaign was probably stymied by the literacy requirement latent in any signature-gathering drive (it's just like Jim Crow!). But for Gingrich, this is just a colossal failure in basic campaign organizing. I mean, if he can't organize a basic signature drive effort, how can he manage a job like being the President?

Come to think of it, that seems like a pretty solid rationale behind Virginia's system for getting candidates on the ballot. Way to go, Old Dominion!

Friday, December 23, 2011

How Would You Like Me To Raise It?, Part II

Several years ago, I wrote an open call inviting people who say they oppose anti-Semitism, but think many claims that something is anti-Semitic (or raises the specter of anti-Semitism) are done in bad faith, to explain how one who genuinely believes that a given statement had anti-Semitic overtones should raise that issue without being summarily dismissed.

This question returns to the fore of my mind with the news that the progressive Truman National Security Project has expelled Joshua Block for his role in a spat where he said certain statements by Center for American Progress bloggers were "borderline anti-Semitic". I'll refrain from commenting on the substance of that particular dispute, save to note again my belief that the term "Israel-firster" does carry with it anti-Semitic overtones (and one of the authors who used that language has since apologized for it). Rather, I want to focus on the tropes of what arguments are permissible and which ones are "silencing", and how that impacts our broader state of discourse about the Israeli/Palestinian conflict.

In the email informing Block of his expulsion, Truman National Security Project head Rachel Kleinfeld wrote:
"This has nothing to do with your policy views, and is a decision solely made on the basis of the need for this community to privilege the ability to debate difficult topics freely, without fear of mischaracterization or character attacks," she said in the email. "Your actions outside the community have caused too many to fear conversation within the community. That fear is not baseless, given your own actions. As the point of the Truman Fellowship is to help the next generation of leaders think about hard topics together, we need people to feel that they can debate with security."

One certainly understands what Kleinfeld is getting at here. It is damaging to be called an anti-Semite, or be told that one's writings echo anti-Semitic themes. It makes people nervous. And given some of the background on Block's behavior, where he was accused of specifically shopping "oppo research" on his colleagues to conservative outlets, one can understand how this comes off as a breach of trust between Block and his fellows.

Yet still, left unsaid in this report is how it would be appropriate to raise the issue of anti-Semitism, if one genuinely believes that it is in play within certain rhetorical tropes or arguments being played out amongst ones colleagues. Clearly, the answer can't be "never" -- that would be a form of silencing far more egregious than even the worst spin on what Block is accused of. If the goal of the Truman Project is to "debate difficult topics freely", well, how anti-Semitism interacts with global perceptions of Israel and its conduct is the very embodiment of such a "difficult topic".

What's needed, and what I think would be a very salutary development by Kleinfeld if she was able to put it together, is some set of guidelines delineating how one can appropriately raise the specter of anti-Semitism without it being automatically dismissed as a "personal attack" or a "mischaracterization". After all, this is an issue that is dogging progressives, not because they're more prone to anti-Semitism, but because of the dissonance between an intellectual tradition that (rightfully) leans towards hearing the complaints by minority groups that they face prejudice and discrimination, and a growing structural unwillingness to actually engage with those complaints (the right has the latter characteristic but not the former). This would also help dissipate the cynicism some hold that there is no such mechanism for raising the issue of anti-Semitism, that it will always be derided and dismissed, that it will always been seen as in bad faith.

One thing that makes the Israeli/Palestinian conflict so difficult to discuss is that there are a ton of very complicated, controversial issues that one needs to have a handle on before any conversation can even begin without it dissolving into gibberish. One issue is the very real, very salient hardships and injustices the occupation imposes upon Palestinians on a daily basis. Another is the very real, very salient security threats Israel faces from its neighbors who continue to yearn for its destruction. And a third is the very real, very salient specter of anti-Semitism, which doesn't just magnify the threat that Israel faces in the Jewish mind's eye, but also has noticeable and concrete consequences with respect to how Israel is treated, perceived, and evaluated in the global sphere. Discussing that can be difficult, and I don't envy Kleinfeld for having to navigate this very difficult terrain. But it's the project she's laid out for herself, and it's an important one.

Into the Whirlwind

This book looks absolutely fascinating:
God deserves obedience simply because he’s God—or does he? Inspired by a passion for biblical as well as constitutional scholarship, in this bold exploration Yale Law Professor Robert A. Burt conceptualizes the political theory of the Hebrew and Christian Bibles. God’s authority as expressed in these accounts is not a given. It is no less inherently problematic and in need of justification than the legitimacy of secular government.

In recounting the rich narratives of key biblical figures—from Adam and Eve to Noah, Cain, Abraham, Moses, Job, and Jesus—In the Whirlwind paints a surprising picture of the ambivalent, mutually dependent relationship between God and his peoples. Taking the Hebrew and Christian Bibles as a unified whole, Burt traces God’s relationship with humanity as it evolves from complete harmony at the outset to continual struggle. In almost every case, God insists on unconditional obedience, while humanity withholds submission and holds God accountable for his promises.

Contemporary political theory aims for perfect justice. The Bible, Burt shows, does not make this assumption. Justice in the biblical account is an imperfect process grounded in human—and divine—limitation. Burt suggests that we consider the lessons of this tension as we try to negotiate the power struggles within secular governments, and also the conflicts roiling our public and private lives.

The book is Robert Burt, Into the Whirlwind: God and Humanity in Conflict (Harvard UP). Via Rick Garnett.

UPDATE: Oh, and incidentally, if an intrepid Book Review editor out there is looking for a reviewer....

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Just the Latest Victim of the Gay Agenda

A gay activist has sent an open letter to former Minnesota Senate Majority Leader Amy Koch (R), formally apologizing for destroying the sanctity of her marriage after she admitted to an affair with a younger (male) subordinate. Koch had been a critical figure in Minnesota Republican's quest to bar gay marriage, and now its evident why -- her own marriage was teetering on the precipice, and even the slightest breeze that marriage equality might bring could push her over the edge.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

The Next Leg

I elongated my DC trip to cut out the intervening stop back in Champaign. But tomorrow, that comes to an end, and I fly out to Minnesota to spend time with Jill and her family. Blogging will be appropriately sparse tomorrow, and perhaps for the next week or so as well through New Year's.

Paul's Folly

Ta-Nehisi Coates points out that, even taking Paul's excuses for his racist, bigoted, anti-Semitic, all-around-nutty "Ron Paul Newsletter" at complete face value, it still would be enough to render him unfit for the Oval Office: "You need not be a racist to be disqualified for the presidency; a truly stunning level of incompetence will do in a pinch."

On the other hand, my dad is actively rooting for Paul to win the Iowa Caucuses -- not because he supports Paul (lord no), but because, in his words, "it will sow chaos".

Even the Liberal!

Arutz Sheva, media arm of the Israeli settler movement, sets a new record in "even the liberal"-ism:
[Friedman's] snipe at Israel, which also was an insult to the Congress, was widely criticized both in Israel and the United States. Even the liberal Washington Post’s columnist Jennifer Rubin wrote that Friedman hit “rock bottom.”

"Even the liberal Washington Post" is nothing new -- but using Jennifer Rubin as your specific source for bipartisan condemnation crosses into a whole new level of hackery.

(Oh, and FYI, I'm exceptionally dubious that Friedman has called "settlers", writ large, "terrorists". Settlers who commit terrorist acts, perhaps, but then, that's what they are).

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

A Movement of Lone Wolves

Tom Friedman has written to the Washington Jewish Week to express regret over saying that congressional applause for Bibi Netanyahu was "bought and paid for by the Israel Lobby". He acknowledged that the rhetoric he used suggested a "grand conspiracy theory" that he does not endorse, and said in retrospect he should have used alternative language like "engineered".

I was alerted to the apology column by Israeli peace activist Didi Remez, who called it an "unconditional surrender". Upon reading the column though, I thought that was a pretty odd characterization. Friedman specifically said he stood "by 100 percent" the argument in the column, which is that Israel's growing right-ward tilt is alienating American Jews and endangering the safety and longevity of the Jewish state and its democracy. For an "unconditional surrender", that's pretty, well, conditional.

The point is not to knock on Remez, who quickly and to his credit conceded that he was off the mark in characterizing the column the way he did. But his instinct is reflective of a broader trend I see a lot in people who occupy the niche held by Remez and others like him. It is a tendency to view themselves as isolated, perpetually on the defensive -- solo Jeremiahs who against overwhelming odds are trying, perhaps futilely, to get Israel to change its path.

I can see the appeal of this outlook. Obviously, there is something uniquely exhilirating about being the lone wolf -- fighting the good fight against a numerically superior foe with all the resources and all the advantages. It's like being part of the Rebel Alliance or the Polish Underground. Moreover, it comes fit with its own excuse for failure: if you're up against overwhelming odds, then any victory (no matter how small) is an extraordinary accomplishment and, if defeat comes, it is only what is already expected.

But this description is of only limited accuracy. There are, in fact, a great many people who, in their own way and to varying degrees, have concerns about Israel's directions and policies, and wish to push it towards what they see as a more salutary direction. Friedman and his column exemplify that. Why, then, the instinct to presume defeat -- not to embrace the fact that Friedman remained steadfast in his broader critique of the Netanyahu government, but to reflexively engage in lamentation at another warrior's fall?

One gets the sense, sometimes, that these activists are almost afraid to make progress. Progress brings pressure -- a larger movement requires more negotiation internal to the group, and if one has a serious cadre of support, suddenly defeat is not expected but represents an actual failure. Once you're off the fringe, there are no more participation badges. And that's a scary thing.

I had this same thought while reading this post about the stagnation of the OWS movement. It seems like the movement can't bring itself to exert actual influence, because taking a step like that would imply the possibility of failure. So they come up with elaborate justifications to remain vague and amorphous and disengaged from the nitty-gritty of politics, and then when change doesn't happen they can freely blame the system's stacked odds.

OWS is fading out, but not because it didn't tap into something real. It's starting to disintegrate because it couldn't bring itself to actually flex its muscle in any meaningful sense. They say it's because doing so would betray the principles of the movement, or sacrifice moral purity, or reinforce the system they're trying to undo, but you'll have to forgive me if I don't buy it. Maybe they believe it, but I think the real thing here is fear that if they really go balls-to-the-wall, they might fail anyway, and will have to reckon with that. So they bask in the dignity of having not really tried in the first place. It's the fantasy of "I coulda been a contender".

I don't want the movement to redress growing economic inequality in America to suffer that fate. And nor do I want it to happen to the movement that is trying to save Israel's status as a Jewish, democratic state. But one of the first things we have to do is break the reflex that says we're outsiders, that we have no friends in power, that we're all lone wolves. We're not. It's not the case that we dominate the power structure either, to be sure. But we have our friends in high places. We have sympathizers with influence. We have a solid base of support in Israel, and a solid base of support amongst American Jews. They might not always bear the recognizable marks of the hardest of the hardcore, but they're there, and they can be mobilized. But it can't happen so long as we interpret every event as if it demonstrates our own marginal status.

UPDATE: If you're looking for an example from the flip side, check out this tweet by Electronic Intifada's Ali Abunimah: "Hey @RJCHQ d'ya hear about the Israeli family in NH who made 10,000 phone calls for Ron Paul? They must hate Israel lol." I find this very perplexing. Abunimah's politics would suggest he'd be happy both at the prospect of an American President who took a less friendly line towards Israel (as Paul would), as well as a slackening of Jewish support towards Israel (as Jewish Paul supporters probably already have). But the tenor of this tweet suggests the exact opposite instinct: Obviously Paul can't really be hostile to Israel, because he has some committed Jewish supporters (fun fact: Pat Buchanan had Jewish supporters too!), and there's no way that any American Jews could possibly have views on Israel remotely in accord with Abunimah's. If Jews are acting politically, the only logical explanation is that they're doing it to make Abunimah miserable.

Now, most of the time it is true that Jews hold views on Israel which are well out of sync with Abunimah's (which is a very good thing). But the instinct to assume it's just impossible that somewhere, politics might be playing out in your favor for once, is of a kind with the phenomenon I identified in this post.

South Sudan Leader Travels to Israel

The President of newly independent South Sudan has traveled to Israel and had warm words for the Jewish state, describing it as a steadfast ally of South Sudan's aspirations of independence and offering a model for how to survive as a young nation with hostile neighbors.

The alliance makes some sense -- Sudan and Israel are not friends, and South Sudan and Sudan obviously aren't either. In any event, hopefully this is the start of a long and mutually beneficial relationship.

Pryor Restraint

Judge Bill Pryor of the 11th Circuit is perhaps most well-known in these parts for casting the critical 6th vote which upheld Florida's ban on gay adoption. That was a low point for the federal judiciary. But he's been showing some signs of independence these past few weeks -- first joining an opinion that held transgender discrimination is a form of sex discrimination, and now upholding a judgment that a student who refused to follow professional guidelines when they conflicted with her personal views on homosexuality could be expelled from a state university's counseling degree program (Pryor wrote an interesting concurrence to the latter which I encourage you to read).

What's changed? Well, one of my close law school friends is currently serving as Pryor's clerk. So I'll just credit her with all the good coming out of Birmingham

Monday, December 19, 2011


I just got a robo-call urging me to support a "draft Hillary Clinton" movement for 2012. The message was brief, and assured us that if Secretary Clinton were President right now, unicorns would frolic and manna would be falling from the sky as we speak (it was actually something to the effect of "banker robber barons would be in jail and all young people would be able to find jobs". So not too far off). The message didn't say who it was from, but directed me to this website, which also doesn't reveal who is backing it.

So there's the question: Is it a GOP dirty trick? Or is this yet another play by some exceptionally bitter bitter-ender like noted woman-of-the-people Lady Lynn de Rothschild (who's currently supporting Jon Huntsman, so we can rule out an aversion to quixotic campaign strategies)? Obviously, it's not Clinton herself, who has made no motions indicating the slightest interest in challenging President Obama. So who?

Place your bets in comments.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

The Newt Republic

I'm not sure how you can read about Newt Gingrich's proposal to arrest judges who issue rulings he disagrees with without feeling a deep, shivering terror at the state of American democracy.

What's most amazing is that, even after saying stuff like this, we'll still be treated to beltway claptrap about how Newt is the "thinker" of the Republican field; that he's "visionary" and that at least he "has ideas". How those "ideas" deviate from Michele Bachmann's or, for that matter, Hugo Chavez is entirely unclear. But being a raging lunatic has never stopped anyone from seizing momentum in a GOP primary.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Wake Up Call

Two good columns went up yesterday regarding the state of Israel's belated awareness of the danger it has created via the settlement monster. Lara Friedman of APN takes on a slightly more lecturing tone, noting that prescient individuals had been warning of this outcome -- a radicalized group of religious fanatics with no loyalty to the state and no regard for either Jewish or democratic values -- for quite some time. Only now, after years of coddling the settlement project and dismissing its violence as isolated or aberrational, are Israelis finally realizing what is before their eyes.

Meanwhile, Jeffrey Goldberg hopes that the settler's attack on the army -- far and away, the most venerated institution in Israel -- will finally mark a sea change in how the state treats these homegrown terrorist agents. In fact, Goldberg has a recommendation on just where these thugs can settler if they're so bent on filling the land -- Ketziot, in the Negev, which has the twin advantages of being near a Biblically significant location and also being the home of Israel's largest prison camp for violent terrorists.

UPDATE: Whoops -- posted an update to this article rather than the one before. My bad!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Tikvah Scrubs False Claim Against J Street

Reporting on the J Street/Berkeley controversy, and specifically the opposition of a possibly-pro-Israel, possibly-not group called Tikvah, I noted that they claimed that J Street had hosted BDS chieftain Omar Barghouti. This was a key part of their claim that J Street was secretly pro-BDS and thus beyond the pale. The claim that J Street would have hosted Barghouti rang false to me, as they are of radically different political persuasions, so I looked into it. And unfortunately for Tikvah, it turns out there is no record of any such hosting -- indeed, googling "J Street" and "Omar Barghouti" reveals a story where Barghouti was actively spurned by J Street. I dropped them a comment asking for documentation of this claim, since as best I can tell it appeared to be made out of whole cloth (it never made it past moderation).

Well, the good news is that Tikvah changed their post and deleted that claim. The bad news is that they left no indication that the post had been modified or that a significant factual statement they had made turned out to be erroneous and was deleted.

Not to go all blogger ethics panel, but there is a pretty commonly accepted norm of behavior in the situation: You put the retracted claim in strike-out form (like this) and then post an update explaining the correction. See here for an example. That's the difference between admitting a mistake and transparently correcting it, and trying to play cover-up and pretend like nothing had been wrong in the first place. It's unbecoming (and dare I say unjewish) behavior, but given what limited experience I have with this particular group, I can't say I'm surprised that their standards of professional conduct are as lax as their support for Israel's status as a Jewish, democratic state.

UPDATE: A Berkeley J Street organizer contacted me regarding a similar piece posted up on the Hasbara Fellowship website, which also apparently originally had the false Barghouti claim and also has been scrubbed without comment. More interestingly, to me anyway, is what replaced it: a link to a "a list of additional questionable actions taken by JStreet." The piece is authored by Lenny Ben-David, and for the most part it is an incoherent mess of innuendo and hand-waving, with a fair bit of guilt-by-association-by-association thrown in (Tikvah, being in quite the glass house on this score, may not wish to throw stones). But you may recall Ben-David from an earlier anti-J Street hit piece arguing that the organization can't be trusted because it receives support from Arabs. He returns to that theme in this article, and it is as racist and counterproductive now as it was then.

To repeat: Peace between Israel and its Arab neighbors means Jews and Arabs are going to have to agree on things. If the fact that an Arab person agrees with a position is enough to per se discredit it, that's another way of saying peace is definitionally impossible (since any position an Arab agrees to -- even if 20 minutes ago it was precisely what Israel claimed to want -- is now rendered suspect). People like Ben-David and, it seems, Tikvah, are not primarily concerned with Israel's security, or its longevity, or its democracy, or the safety of the Jewish people. What seems to scare them most, and motivate them the most, is the possibility that they might have to agree with an Arab. Just like the "pro-Palestinian" protesters I saw who booed the proposal for a Palestinian state because it meant having to agree with a Zionist, Tikvah and Ben-David are fearful of an Israel at peace with its neighbors because it means having to agree with Arabs. They're manifestations of the same disease, and one that neither Israel nor Palestine can afford right now.

Military Courts To Try Violent Settler Extremists

Among several measures aimed at combating a spike in extremist "price tag" settler activity, Bibi Netanyahu has announced that settlers arrested for these sorts of crimes will be tried in military courts, same as violent Palestinian militants (one measure Bibi rejected, over the protests of quite a few members of his cabinet, was officially charging the extremists with terrorism). This created an amusing strange-bedfellows scenario between far-right settler nationalist parties like National Union, and left-wing human rights groups like B'Tselem, both of which are uncomfortable with the usage of military courts (though for the former, of course, it's only a problem when the settlers are subjected to it).

My own position on this is somewhat similar to the stance I took when Iran sentenced a man who had blinded a woman with acid to be himself blinded. As I said then, clearly I think putting out someone's eye as a punishment is barbaric. But there are plenty of attributes of Iran's judicial system I find barbaric, and certainly I don't find it any worse when they're used to punish crimes against women as opposed to punishing women themselves. And in general one of the ways one sees reforms of unjust practices is by ensuring they're enforced against the majority as well as the minority. Here, I'm generally uncomfortable with over-reliance on military courts and am sympathetic to the notion that they do not provide fully fair trials. But if they're going to be the forum by which violent Palestinian attacks against the IDF are tried, then I see no reason to treat violent Israeli settlers any differently.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Chinese Village of Wukan Revolts

A small fishing village of about 20,000 in southern China has effectively revolted, chasing out its Communist Party leadership and resisting efforts by riot police to reassert control. Tensions originally started when the local Communist Party began selling off their land to developers, and escalated once the local police kidnapped village representatives who had been invited to help mediate the dispute (one later died in police custody).

The village has food and water for 10 days, as well as a pharmacy, but it is effectively being blockaded (including along its harbor). While I wish them the best of luck, I'm dubious this ends well for them. But perhaps some sort of flotilla like thing could be organized to relieve them? Thinking outside the box here.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Post-Travel Mini-Roundup

Settled into Maryland. I'm thinking of staying for awhile, then going directly to Minnesota (instead of flying back to Champaign in the interim). I just can't handle all this travel.

* * *

The IDF is thinking of expelling "price tag" settlers from the West Bank (they apparently are having difficulty mustering up enough evidence to charge them with crimes).

Meanwhile, the Jersualem Post notes that if it had been 50 Palestinians who infiltrated and attacked an army base, the outcome would have been far different (and far bloodier). The fact is, these "price tag" thugs are terrorists and should be treated accordingly.

If I were a poor Black kid, I'd magically become insanely technologically literate through sheer force of will. I'd also simply think away all the other constraints upon my life chances -- hunger, gangs, health care.... whatever. I'd basically be Superman. It'd be awesome. Damn it, now it's all I want to do. Where do I sign up?

Speaking of the above, the Onion beat them to it. Seriously, the parallels are scary (Via).

Monday, December 12, 2011

Mega Travel Roundup

I'm going to Maryland, and then to Illinois, and then to Minnesota, then back to Illinois, then to Nevada, then back to Illinois, then to New York! Yeaargh. (This is over the next month and a half, starting tomorrow).

* * *

Do teachers dislike creativity?

Poor Mitt Romney. Every time he has to converse with actual human beings, the threat of disaster looms.

Fascinating article about the Black QB at a private Virginia school that was founded as part of massive Southern resistance to school integration.

Jeffrey Goldberg explains why the support of Christian "Zionists" won't sustain an US-Israeli alliance in the event American Jews are permanently alienated from the Jewish state.

Israelis look on nervously as GOP candidates race to be further right-wing than the Israeli right.

Russell Simmons urges Americans of all stripes to protest Lowes' decision to give in to anti-Muslim bigotry and pull their advertising from "All-American Muslim". Also, Adam Serwer points out that the attack on shows like "All-American Muslim" demonstrates that -- shock of shock -- Islamophobes have a problem with Muslims, not "radical Muslims".

I hate having to link to Commentary, but there is a point that "Israel-firster" (used by some CAP folk as well as M.J. Rosenberg) has uncomfortable anti-Semitic overtones. Of course, this from the magazine that posted Jennifer Rubin's anti-Semitic article on why Jews dislike Palin, so, you know, pot and kettle (it only adds to the irony that Rubin herself has been at the forefront of attacking CAP).

Good post on False Dichotomies regarding how the nature of anti-Zionist rhetoric poisons any possibility of a one-state solution where Jewish citizens are viewed as equal. Simply put, if you view essentially all of Israel's Jews as colonialist Nazi interlopers, the odds that you're going to tolerate them wielding any sort of substantial political power or autonomy is relatively small. Which, come to think of it, characterizes a lot of anti-Zionist rhetoric towards Jews worldwide now.

Alabama discovers some foreigners aren't Latino -- indeed, some are executives at factories employing countless Alabamans -- panics about its anti-immigrant law.

We Have Always Been At War with, er, "Asia"

A local news channel is aghast that Sidwell Friends school (where Sasha and Malia Obama attend) served (gasp) Asian food on the anniversary of Pearl Harbor:
What are President Obama's kids eating at school on Pearl Harbor day? Japanese food and other Asian items.
Here are the options for Malia Obama and her sister, Sasha on the "Day that will live in Infamy:"

Asian Mushroom Soup
Oriental Noodle Salad
Classic Spinach Salad
Teriyaki Marinated Chicken Strips
Szechuan Tofu & Veggies
Garlic Roasted Edamame
Vegetable Fried Rice
Fortune Cookies

One might note that while Teriyaki chicken is Japanese, Szechuan Tofu is in fact Chinese. And while yes, one can lump them all together as "Asian" cuisine, believe it or not Pearl Harbor was not an attack on America by the entire Asian continent. It's true. In fact, I have credible sources that tell me we were allied with the folks who gave us Szechuan Tofu & Veggies in that very conflict! True story.

(Via, with the original pointer from my former history Professor, Harry Williams).

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Peterson/Khan Recap

Last night, Lamont Peterson won a close split-decision victory over titlist Amir Khan in Peterson's hometown of Washington, DC, lifting two belts in a massive upset and a beautiful fight. There was some controversy over the refereeing, and that has some validity, as I'll discuss below. But the first thing that has to be said is that it was a great fight, and a career-defining performance by Peterson, who was a massive underdog going in. I told my girlfriend before the match started that "one of my favorite fighters is on tonight, and he's going to lose." Boy, did he prove me wrong.

Unfortunately, there are questions about the referee. What I think is clear is that he didn't seem ready for a fight of this magnitude. He seemed jumpy, was often out of position, and was extremely unclear about when he was breaking the fighters. But the controversy stems from deducting two points from Khan for pushing off -- which is a foul, but one that is rarely penalized. Rarely isn't never -- Mayweather was penalized against Castillo for much the same infraction -- but it isn't common. I'm not wild about the deductions, but that comes with a ton of caveats. "Not wild" isn't the same as outraged. Khan committed a foul, he was warned about it, he kept doing it, and eventually he got penalized. Then he did it some more, and got penalized again. The point Max Kellerman made about the lack of a "hard warning" I see, but only for the first deduction (I think deduction #1 counts as the quintessential "hard warning" before deduction #2). There's no disputing that Khan was pushing off, and there was no disputing he was warned about it. This isn't a case where there was a phantom low-blow or anything like that.

The other thing this wasn't, despite Khan's incessant attempts to claim otherwise, was a fight where Peterson's infractions were ignored while Khan's were jumped on. Did Peterson come in with his head low? Yeah, sometimes, but never in a way that led to any headbutts. And plenty of times Khan was holding his head down entirely of his own volition. Those, to me, washout. And while Khan claimed he "had to" push off because Peterson's head was low is simply bogus -- Khan was pushing Peterson off because Peterson was effectively ripping him up in close. A low head doesn't require pushing.

Meanwhile, Khan was the beneficiary of a borderline knockdown call in the first round. The first time Peterson tasted canvas in the first was ruled a slip because he was caught in the referee's legs. Bad positioning by Joe Cooper, but the right call. The second time, which was scored a knockdown, Peterson's legs were tangled with Khan's. Was it a blown call? I don't think so, not the least because tangled feet are very hard to spot, but it may have been the wrong one (Max Kellerman tried to sneak in that observation in the midst of several righteous tirades by Jim Lampley, mostly without success). Take away the two point deductions, and Khan wins by UD. Take away the two deductions and the knockdown, and it's a majority draw.

And speaking of that, let's talk about the scores. The two judges who gave it to Peterson scored in 113-112, which translates to each fighter getting six rounds apiece. That sounds about right to me (I had it 114-112 Peterson, or 6-5-1). The one judge who gave the fight to Khan had it 115-110. All the points shenanigans make that deceptive, so let me break that out for you -- that's a 9-3 Khan advantage. Does anyone think Amir Khan won nine rounds in that fight? 7-5 in either direction I can absolutely see, but 9-3? Come on. (Some folks made hay about the time it took to add up the cards. I don't think that signifies anything -- I can tell you what 7 rounds to 5 adds up to in my sleep, when there are no knockdowns or point deductions. When those come into play, then I actually have to do the addition. And when it's as close as this fight was, I do the addition slowly).

Hopefully, that dispenses with the refereeing section of the discussion, because I would really we rather focus on the fight itself. The story was actually pretty simple: Khan won on his front foot, Peterson won when he could force Khan on his back foot. And how did Peterson create the latter situation? Body work. Virtually everything good Peterson did started with the same thing -- a ripping one-two combination to the body which I found myself yelling at the TV for Peterson to throw more. Those two body shots -- which always seemed to land with wicked force -- force Khan up, allowing Peterson to get in his grill and hammer him on the inside until Khan was able to scamper (or push) off. The rounds where Peterson was able to do that for any significant portion of time were the rounds Peterson won, and the rounds he won clean.

It's easy to say Peterson could have put this fight beyond doubt by being more willing to press the action in that vein in some of the slower rounds. It is true what Max was saying, that Peterson has a tendency to keep his hands in his pocket until he thinks everything is lined up perfectly, and I think it's equally true that the special moments in last night's fight occurred because Peterson was able to overcome that instinct and throw with more abandon. But I also think it doesn't give Khan enough credit. He was genuinely elusive moving around the ring, and those four punch combinations he'd stop and throw, though mostly caught on the gloves, did have the effect of stopping Peterson from coming in. It's also worth noting that in the last round, where Peterson really did get a little reckless trying to rush Khan, Khan was mostly able to pick him off and move away. While aggression is the order of the day against Khan, he's a good enough fighter to force you to be intelligent about it.

The final thing I want to say is that I absolutely understand why Khan is upset. It was a close fight that went against him, in his opponent's hometown. My conspiracy-o-tron is not buzzing too loudly, because Khan had the money behind him, which counterbalances the hometown edge, but in the heat of the moment that's going to rankle. I'm sympathetic. But I don't think he was robbed, and I think acting as if that was the story of the fight doesn't give due credit to an outstanding performance by Lamont Peterson, who turned in the fight of his life.

Congrats, champ.

* * *

I couldn't figure out where to add this in, but another congrats is due to Maryland heavyweight Seth "Mayhem" Mitchell, who made a huge impression with a second round TKO of Timor Ibragimov. Mitchell, a converted football player, looks like he may have the goods. He had been getting along on natural athleticism, and there was a question about how he would handle someone who really did know his way around the ring. Ibragimov, an amateur standout and a solid pro, was a legitimate test. And boy did Mitchell ever pass -- hammering Ibragimov (who'd never previously been stopped) with right hands until the ref stepped in at the close of round two.

Mitchell looked outstanding to me, throwing in combinations beyond the classic heavyweight 1-2, and showing a good finishing instinct when he had Ibragimov hurt. He reminds me a bit of Chris Arreola, except unlike Arreola Mitchell is in impeccable condition. I'm excited to see more. We had a great card tonight featuring "Havoc" (Peterson) and "Mayhem" (Mitchell), and I think few DC fight fans would say no to more cards featuring them in the future.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Take It Down From the Inside

Everyone is so focused on Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) complaining about the "eight unelected and, frankly, unaccountable judges" on the Supreme Court, that they overlooked his proposal to abolish the federal government. To wit: That the Supreme Court prohibited mandatory, state-sponsored prayer in school is "one of the reasons I’ve called for doing away with the federal government."

Well, that's proportionate.

Qatar Depicts "Palestine" as West Bank and Gaza

Maps of Israel and Palestine are touchy subjects. Partisans tend to get angry at maps which don't depict the land in question in the form they like. Sometimes, this leads to hilarity, as when the Palestine Solidarity Committee complained about an Israeli map which did not separate out Israel from the West Bank and Gaza ... same as the PSC's own logo which also presents the territory undivided. Or when a flight to Tel Aviv didn't include Israel on its inflight map, and instead told bewildered passengers they were going to Mecca.

In any event, at the 2011 Arab Games in Doha, "Palestine" was depicted as consisting of the West Bank and Gaza. Which to my mind is a positive development -- building a consensus around two-states is always a good thing, and it's particularly good coming from a nation that currently does not have diplomatic relations with Israel. Of course, I heard about it from a very upset blogger at Electronic Intifada -- the "upset" part is unsurprising, since EI is a critical player in the irredentist faction of Palestinian politics. Not being a fan of either Jewish or Palestinian irredentism, though, I'm glad on the occasions where I can see it marginalized.

So good on Qatar. While who controls what particular patch of land will ultimately be decided by negotiations, in broad strokes there is no solution but one predicated on 1967 borders with agreed-upon swaps. The more people who endorse that basic vision, the better off we are. It was gratifying to see a majority of Palestinians endorse that vision this past April, and it's gratifying to see Qatar sign on as well.

Friday, December 09, 2011

Offend Better!

In what might be a first, home improvement company Lowe's has pulled its advertisements from a television program due to complaints over its portrayal of Muslims. Specifically, that it portrayed them in too positive a light. Apparently, depicting Muslims in ways other than "blood-thirsty terrorist" or "stealth threat to the American way of life" does "not meet Lowe's advertising guidelines."

Thursday, December 08, 2011

Berkeley Hillel Urges Berkeley JSU to Reconsider

Ha'aretz reports that the local Hillel has belatedly entered the fray in support of J Street after the university's Jewish Students Union controversially voted to exclude them from membership. Hillel had been sharply criticized for its lack of leadership on the issue, but now has come down rather decisively on J Street's side:
"We respect the right of the Jewish Student Union, an organization sponsored by UC Berkeley student government, to make its own decisions, but we encourage JSU to reconsider its vote and include JStreetU as a member," wrote Board of Directors President Barbara Davis and Executive Director Rabbi Adam Naftalin-Kelman in a letter to Haaretz and the Northern California Jewish Weekly.

"Berkeley Hillel is committed to creating a pluralistic community that embraces the diversity of our Jewish tradition," added the Hillel directors. "At a time when Jewish students are seeking community, we are careful not to exclude Jewish students, and we embrace the wisdom of our namesake Hillel by embodying the value of an inclusive community."

The letter continued: "Berkeley Hillel is steadfastly committed to the support of Israel as a Jewish and democratic State with secure and recognized borders and as a member of the family of free nations. Berkeley Hillel supports a range of student groups whose activities advance our mission. The JStreetU chapter adheres to our Israel policy and Hillel International’s Israel Guidelines and will receive the support of Berkeley Hillel as do the broad spectrum of other Israel-focused groups working with Berkeley Hillel including, Bears for Israel (AIPAC group), Tikvah: Students for Israel, Israel Action Committee, Tamid, and Kesher Enoshi."

Tikvah also came out with a defensive post where they claimed they hoped to be "proven wrong" about J Street. That, I suspect, will be a difficult task, since their original belief that J Street is secretly anti-Israel is so devoid of factual analysis that I'm not entirely sure how it could be falsified at all. The claim that J Street supports BDS appears to be entirely fabricated,* and the claim that J Street is only critical of Israel and lets the PA and Arab actors off the hook entirely is obviously, completely, wildly, flagrently false. So that leaves the speaker who said that Jerusalem has become a "symbol of violence", which is a remarkably thin reed to rest on (even if the comment is objectionable, which I'm not sure it is -- the ongoing struggle regarding who is allowed to live in what neighborhood in Jerusalem surely is symbolic of the broader conflict between the Israeli and Palestinian peoples). Again, to be frank, I think Tikvah has far more work to do in proving its pro-Israel bona fides than does J Street. Step one would be to disassociate itself from groups which give prizes to anti-Semites like Glenn Beck.

One wag on twitter characterized Tikvah as having a policy encouraging Jews to be apathetic about Israel. While, as I noted in my last post, Tikvah's claims to be neutral on any question regarding Israel beyond basic acknowledgment of its right to exist as a Jewish state is performatively false, that's almost a relief, because actually taking that stance seriously would be catastrophic. Caring about something means having opinions about it. J Street cares about Israel, which means they have opinions about what actions it should take and what actions it shouldn't. Those beliefs put them in line with some Israeli leaders (like Tzipi Livni and Kadima) and against others -- which is how it works in a pluralistic political environment.

* Not only have they not given any sources about J Street's alleged hosting of BDS kingpin Omar Barghouti, they didn't even let my comment asking about it through moderation. So I remain convinced it didn't happen. But hey, maybe Max Blumenthal has the scoop!

Yesterday's News Roundup

I went to bed last night before I could do a roundup, so much of this stuff is from yesterday.

* * *

Is Israel responsible for the OWS crackdowns? No. But is Max Blumenthal lying about his sources? In all likelihood, yes.

Jeffrey Goldberg agrees with Peter Beinart that the settlements are slowly making a "one-state solution" inevitable, and if Israel wants to survive, it has to muster the balls to cut them loose.

11th Circuit decides that discrimination on basis of transgender status is sex discrimination. Arch-conservative Judge Bill Pryor surprises by joining the opinion.

HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius' overruling of the FDA on P;an B is a complete and utter disgrace.

Palestinian poet successfully gets Jewish Israeli Arab writer booted from a panel.

Tim Kaine and George Allen are already trading shots as they chase Virginia's open Senate seat.

Finally, someone from Berkeley has linked through Facebook to my discussion of their JSU's appalling decision to exclude J Street. I'm just curious about the context (is it someone's wall, or is it a Facebook page for one of the relevant orgs?). So if someone knows and wants to drop a comment to satiate my curiosity, I'd be grateful [UPDATE: Mystery solved, I think!].

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Blogger as Media

A federal district court judge in Oregon has just held that a blogger is not a member of the "media", at least if she is not affiliated with a more "traditional" media source such as a newspaper or television station. The case involved a defamation suit against a blogger, Crystal Cox, who had posted allegedly false information about a corporation. She attempted to defend herself by invoking a media shield law which would have protected her from divulging her sources. The court held that
although defendant is a self-proclaimed "investigative blogger" and defines herself as "media," the record fails to show that she is affiliated with any newspaper, magazine, periodical, book, pamphlet, news service, wire service, news or feature syndicate, broadcast station or network, or cable television system. Thus, she is not entitled to the protections of the law.

Cox represented herself in court, which is nearly always a bad decision, and she so far is indicating she'll represent herself on appeal, which is even worse.

The decision itself strikes me as wrongheaded on a host of levels, being in accord neither with what I understand to be the original understanding of what "media" is, nor the animating values that cause us to provide media actors with enhanced protections. This is demonstrated by the courts' own list of archetypical media outlets -- how does one "affiliate" with a "pamphlet"? Pamphlets, of course, were a key aspect of public communication at the time of the founding, and they bear much in common with modern blogs -- they were produced individually, with varying degrees of professionalism, and were circulated organically and haphazardly. Their status as "media" stems not because they approximate newspapers, but because they are opining to the public about public affairs in an intentionally public manner.

Indeed, the court's list doesn't really articulate a standard for when something is media or not -- it simply gives a list of entities which assuredly are media, finds that Cox isn't a part of any, and thus assumes she isn't. That doesn't provide any real basis for adjudicating future cases. What it does do is sharply limit "media" to mostly corporate actors -- businesses and institutions that can afford to set up large printing presses or television networks. This is sharply contrary to the democratic understanding of "media" present throughout our nation's history, which allowed for and encouraged mass participation in the conversation.

Hopefully Cox can be persuaded to attain counsel or, at the very least, some public interest organizations can intervene to make sure this issue is argued fully.

UPDATE: An important update to this story.

Putting the "Buster" in "Mythbusters"

One of the zany experiments staged by the "Mythbusters" television show nearly turned into a suburban tragedy Tuesday afternoon in Dublin when the crew fired a homemade cannon toward huge containers of water at the Alameda County Sheriff's Department bomb disposal range.

The cantaloupe-sized cannonball missed the water, tore through a cinder-block wall, skipped off a hillside and flew some 700 yards east, right into the Tassajara Creek neighborhood, where children were returning home from school at 4:15 p.m., authorities said.

There, the 6-inch projectile bounced in front of a home on quiet Cassata Place, ripped through the front door, raced up the stairs and blasted through a bedroom, where a man, woman and child slept through it all - only awakening because of plaster dust.

The ball wasn't done bouncing.

It exited the house, leaving a perfectly round hole in the stucco, crossed six-lane Tassajara Road, took out several tiles from the roof of a home on Bellevue Circle and finally slammed into the Gill family's beige Toyota Sienna minivan in a driveway on Springvale Drive.

That's where Jasbir Gill, 42, who had pulled up 10 minutes earlier with his 13-year-old son, Manvir, found the ball on the floorboards, with glass everywhere and an obliterated dashboard.

Since thankfully nobody was hurt, I'm free to marvel at the incredible "my poor meatball" trajectory of this cannon shot.

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Berkeley JSU Rejects J Street U

Last year, Jewish organizations at UC-Berkeley barely staved off an effort to get the student government to divest from Israel. Apparently on the theory that what Berkeley needs is fewer outspoken Jewish opponents of the BDS movement, the university's Jewish Student Union has voted to exclude the local campus chapter of J Street from membership (Bradley Burston has good commentary). Instead of following in the footsteps of the British UJS, which elected to take the lead in pushing for a peaceful, two-state solution which preserves Israel's Jewish, democratic (and thus Zionist) character, the Berkeley JUS instead apparently is looking to sabotage that vision.

One of the "nay" voters, identified as "co-president of the pro-Israel student group Tikvah", explained his vote by saying "J Street is not pro-Israel but an anti-Israel organization that, as part of the mainstream Jewish community, I could not support." This position was expanded on at Tikvah's site, which, while conceding that J Street talks the talk of being "pro Israel, pro peace", argues that its actions speak otherwise. The indictment is rather brief and exceedingly unpersuasive -- deciding whether talks or greater sanctions on Iran is the quintessential embodiment of a tactical question which people can and are likely to disagree on, and the claim that J Street has hosted BDS chieftain Omar Barghouti is one I have not seen verified or even mentioned anywhere else on the internet (a Google search reveals an apparently much-discussed instance of Jeremy Ben-Ami rebuffing Barghouti, but nothing about hosting him -- I dropped a comment on Tikvah's site asking for clarification).

Nonetheless, I'm sympathetic to the claim that not all those who proclaim themselves to be "pro-Israel, pro-peace" really deserve the moniker. For example, Tikvah claims to be a pro-Israel organization and their blogger says he supports the creation of a Palestinian state, thus preserving Israel's Jewish and democratic character and with it the Zionist vision. But I'm dubious -- to wit, I'm skeptical that any group which would act so aggressively to exclude J Street actually is either "pro-Israel" or "pro-peace". Just as Tikvah is entitled to be skeptical of J Street's bona fides, I'm entitled to be skeptical of theirs.*

For example, on their website Tikvah proclaims its agnosticism to any question relating to Israel save "the right of the Jewish people to self-determination in their homeland." We can note immediately that their claim of neutrality on other issues appears to be fictitious -- after all, one's beliefs on the tactical question of sanctioning Iran are clearly quite severable from one's beliefs about Jewish self-determination, yet they explicitly use it as a litmus test for "pro-Israel" in opposing J Street.

But, more to the point, Tikvah's one issue does not -- or at least does not clearly -- commit itself to defending Israel as a Jewish, democratic state. Since, as expressed earlier, my understanding of Zionism is as the Jewish iteration of liberal nationalism, the agnosticism towards Israel's democratic character could easily render Tikvah a non-Zionist organization (while Tikvah has a section on its site that asks the question "What is Zionism", it doesn't provide answer, instead providing a history of the Jewish presence in what is today Israel). Meanwhile, their apparent endorsement of the Zionist Organization of America provides a clear link to what at this point is an anti-Zionist organization that hands out awards to raging anti-Semites -- a far clearer link that J Street's, at best, nebulous contacts with the BDS crowd.

I don't have a problem with line-drawing in the Jewish community, and I specifically don't have a problem with declaring out-of-bounds positions inconsistent with maintaining Israel's position as a Jewish, democratic state. But that standard has to cut both ways, and while there certainly left-wing Jewish groups that don't meet it (not J Street, but the JVP springs to mind), there are right-wing groups that also cannot honestly state they are committed to that vision. Is Tikvah one of them? I'm not sure, and my default would be to be inclusive rather than exclusive. But if they want to play hardball, then that's the way the game should be played, and in a world where J Street isn't pro-Israel, then neither is Tikvah.

* For clarity, I'm not and have never been a member of J Street, though I'm sympathetic to their aims. I'd characterize myself probably as more as an Ameinu (formerly known as the Labor Zionist Alliance) guy, as I think they've done a better job firmly locating themselves as "Zionists" in the way that I understand the term.

Monday, December 05, 2011

Bitch, Please!

In happy blogging news, Tedra Osell, better-known to blogosphere veterans as "Bitch, Ph.D", will make her return to the medium as a co-blogger at Crooked Timber. An outstanding pickup for CT (which already is a great group blog), and equally outstanding for the rest of us who missed Bitch, Ph.D's fantastic blog.

Yitzhar Settlers Abduct Palestinian Shepherd

Ha'aretz reports that a group of Israeli settlers from Yitzhar have abducted a 60-year old Palestinian shepherd (as well as his flock). Apparently negotiations are ongoing with Israel to secure the man's release (Ha'aretz does say it is having trouble corroborating the report).

Assuming the report is true -- and Yitzhar is a hotspot of terrorist "price tag" activity, so it's well within the realm of possibility that it is -- well, let's just say priority one is getting this person back to his family. Priority two is bringing his kidnappers to justice. Priority three is accomplishing priority two without hurting any of the abductors. Hopefully they can resolve this without violence, but it sounds to me basically like a hostage-situation, and the hostage-takers should be treated like any others. If they have to send in a team, that's what they have to do. And if the rescuers are attacked, well, sometimes the IDF has to kill violent terrorists. I'd rather they be arrested and imprisoned, but that's only a preference.

Sunday, December 04, 2011

In Every Word

Likud MK Ofir Akunis, who is promoting a controversial bill sharply circumscribing the foreign funding of Israeli NGOs -- earning criticism from Abe Foxman, among others -- now is under fire for saying Sen. Joseph McCarthy (R-WI) "was right in every word." He later backtracked, claiming "I didn't say McCarthyism was right, or that every word that McCarthy said was right." (I'm curious as to the difference between saying McCarthy "was right in every word" and "every word that McCarthy said was right", aside from sentence construction).

Akunis then proceeded to describe his "right and just" bill as saying "that a foreign country will not transfer money to another country." Which, correct me if I'm wrong, is basically a request for Israel to be boycotted? Obviously that's not what Akunis means either, but this is still impressively bad phraseology (One caveat: English may not be his first language and I do not know if these comments were made in English).

Mis-Match Mish-Mash, Part II

Via Ilya Somin, George Will forwards the "mis-match" hypothesis as an argument for abandoning race-based preferences in education admission. Argued most forcefully by UCLA law professor Richard Sander, the mis-match hypothesis argues that race-based affirmative action places minority applicants in schools above their level, at which point they struggle mightily. Someone who would have been a B+ student at the University of Iowa becomes a C- student at the University of Michigan. This has the effect of discouraging minority students, leading to worse rates of employment and bar passage than we would see in absence of affirmative action. The first thing that has to be said about these studies is that they are deeply controversial, not in the "their conclusions are uncomfortable" way, but in the "the data doesn't support the conclusions" sort of way. That's always important to note before we cede too much terrain to this argument off the bat. But putting that aside, it is an argument I continue to find very, very strange. The basic thrust of the argument is that it is worse for a student to attend a better school. That's counter-intuitive to begin with, but one can see Sander's logic. Where it starts to crumble a bit is that nobody seems to notice or worry about "mis-match" in any other situation but race-based preferences. Legacy admissions are the obvious control case, as they offer a situation where (mostly) White students are admitted to a school they likely otherwise would not have been in absence of the preference. Two things jump out here. First, I've yet to hear anyone say these students are "mis-matched". People argue against legacy preferences on the grounds that they are unfair to the marginal candidate not admitted to the university, but I've yet to hear anyone argue they hurt the legacy beneficiary. Second, if we're to take mismatch seriously, we'd have to come to the hard-to-swallow conclusion that wealthy, well-connected parents -- the epitome of the sophisticated education consumer -- are deliberately sabotaging their children's academic futures. Someone should tell them. On a smaller scale, Sander's hypothesis indicates that all the steps law school applicants take to improve their profile without actually becoming smarter (e.g., LSAT prep courses) are actually self-destructive. I took an LSAT prep course and my LSAT score went up four points. Since my LSAT score basically was carrying my GPA on its back, that may have been no small thing in getting admitted to the schools I was. Was I shooting myself in the foot? Oh cruel world, if only I had been placed properly, at the appropriate law school, my life probably wouldn't be such a dismal failure right now. The other oddity about this, particularly stemming from someone like Somin, is how openly paternalistic it is. Somin writes that he is "pessimistic about the ability of government to institute compensatory justice preferences that are simultaneously equitable and effective in accomplishing their objectives." This is purely an attempt to harmonize some cognitive-dissonance, because it is Somin who is taking the interventionist, big-government approach here. He promotes a one-size-fits-all government mandate which stifles local innovation and prevents schools from adopting the admissions policies they think are optimal for creating the best possible incoming classes. Public universities are essentially market participants -- they for the most part act similarly to their private counterparts, except when some state law or regulation constrains them or otherwise forces them to modify their behavior. When it comes to affirmative action, it is pretty clear that most state universities, left to their own devices, would practice it. They don't because some law or regulation or court decision forbids it. To test this hypothesis, imagine if tomorrow the University of California, or Michigan, or Nebraska was cut loose and went private. Would they utilize affirmative action for their next incoming class? I think the answer is obviously yes -- in all these controversies, the university administration wants to have such programs and it is some act of government which forbids it. Somin's argument, hence, is clearly a plea for greater government intrusion in the field of admissions policy -- it replaces what is in essence quasi-private market competition amongst universities (each university decides its own policy, and presumably the one with the best admissions policy is rewarded by having better students, more successful alumni, greater prestige, etc.) with a blanket legal rule. And the "why" is even more embarrassing: First, because he, in his judgment, thinks that the admissions directors and college administrators are so bad at managing these programs that it is better for a government power (the Supreme Court) to make the decision for itself (a command-and-control model); and second, because he is worried for the sake of the students who are being given the opportunity to attend their dream school (i.e., naked paternalism). The cop-out here is to just say government should get out of the field of education entirely. That's a cop-out because it doesn't answer how we should structure legal rules in a world where that's a pipe dream. It would seem the answer, from a libertarian perspective, would be to have the rules governing these schools approximate a free market regime as much as possible -- to wit, allow the schools to implement whatever admissions standards they want, and certainly don't step in as a paternalistic measure to protect admitted students from their allegedly unwise choices.