Saturday, July 16, 2011

Usain Bolt: The Tea Party's Worst Enemy

The Tea Party is launching a new chapter in South-Central Los Angeles, to battle "the meme repeated and supposedly proven by a series of Racers, Racists and Race-hustlers" that the movement is infected by racism. I'm not sure what a "Racer" is other than someone who runs for a living, but whatever.

Interesting trivia note: Barack Obama got 84% of the vote in California's 35th congressional district, anchored in South-Central LA. Hey, best of luck to the new chapter, which is being led by a man who alleged that the Black community suffers from a "lack of moral character". "Look what they did to the [New Orleans Super]Dome [after Katrina]. In three days they turned the Dome into a ghetto."

H/T: Balloon Juice.

Friday, July 15, 2011

The Left Resurrects?

Bernard Avishai is optimistic about a new protest movement in Israel, that has unified Jews and Arabs together to peacefully promote a vision of peace and equality.

Meanwhile, Knesset speaker Reuven Rivlin has an editorial in Ha'aretz where he declares himself "ashamed and mortified" that he was unable to stop the boycott bill from passing. Rivlin is a member of the right-wing Likud Party, but he's also always been particularly attentive to minority rights.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Cracks in the Coalition

The major point behind this story is that Yisrael Beiteinu is largely composed of nutcases. And that's nothing new. But insofar as cracks are beginning to form in Israel's governing coalition, maybe the government will fall, and they'll have to hold new elections. And maybe the results will enable a new governing coalition that's less prone to massively self-destructive behavior.

Or maybe the new elections will make things worse -- heaven forbid I dare express optimism about anything in this region of the world.

You've Got a Lot of ....

Tablet Mag: Rep. Michele Bachmann tackles Yiddish; Yiddish wins:

You know what's, er, choot-spa? Trying to drop in Yiddish without having the foggiest idea of how to say it right.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Considering Michele Bachmann Wants To Use Jewish Eyeballs For Soup....

Desperate again to believe that Jews are abandoning Obama, Republicans are now touting (and not even accurately touting) a laughably bogus push poll that attempts to, er, "document" Jewish views. Take this question:
Considering what President Obama has proposed for Israel just over a year before his 2012 re-election campaign — a return to the 1967 borders, dividing Jerusalem, and allowing the right of return for Palestinian Arabs to Israel — how concerned would you be about President Obama’s policies towards Israel if he were re-elected and did not have to worry about another election?

Why yes, if I "consider" naked lies about candidates (by all means, tell me where Obama has proposed a right of return for Palestinian refugees!), I guess that would raise some "concerns". I have to admit, being a pathological liar makes everything easier.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

More on Israeli Morons

Israel's anti-boycott law is most obviously a huge win for the boycotters. But it also has accomplished something observers might have thought impossible -- united all branches of the American Jewish community in a chorus of condemnation. In my original post in the matter, I noted the ADL's statement expressing discontent with the law's impingement on free expression norms. Commentary Magazine called it an "unforced error" and a "mistake". And obviously more progressive Jewish organizations have been vociferous in their critiques.

But the true stunner is that it looks like this law is even too much for ZOA's Mort Klein, who said "Nobody was more appalled by the boycott of Ariel theater than me, but to make it illegal? I don't think so."

I mean, seriously? How badly do you have to fuck up for Mort Klein to attack you from the left? Mort Klein criticizing Israel for being too harsh on its critics is like hearing Pat Robertson condemn a "family values" org for being too homophobic. It's a sign that you didn't just go off the deep end, but cracked your head open on the side of the pool mid-leap.

Boycotting Democracy

The Israeli government just voted to pass a law exposing those who call for a boycott of Israel (or just Israeli settlements) to civil liability (without requiring proof of damages). A Yisrael Beiteinu MK is already promising to sue another MK under the law who called for a boycott of the Ariel settlement. Meanwhile, the Israeli left now appears to mobilizing behind a boycott of settlement goods in order to protest the new law. Finally, the ADL, typifying the American Jewish inability to criticize Israel, released a statement that the law may "impinge on the basic democratic rights of Israelis to freedom of speech and freedom of expression." Wait ... that sounds like a statement critical of Israel! Perhaps they tripped. Or perhaps the meme that they're unable to do so is stupid.

Anyway, and speaking of stupid, one thing we have to remember is that Israel has a government. That, pretty much by necessity, means that some of the people in the government will be stupid, and it also means that sometimes those stupid people will even gain a majority. I'm not sure how anyone in the United States could fail to realize that possibility -- look at our own House of Representatives. Sometimes circumstances conspire so that a Michele Bachmann is a bona fide political force. One hopes that such times are rare, but one cannot hope to extinguish them completely. And when the nuts do take over the asylum, they pass constitutionally dubious (I'm skeptical this one will survive review by the Israeli judiciary) laws that turn out to be massively counterproductive.

Israel's problem isn't that it has a higher propensity for electing stupid legislators than other countries (particularly those who use proportional electoral representation). All countries have their share of idiots, and all experience times when their electorate wafts in favor of unreflective populism. Israel's problem is that it is more vulnerable than most other countries, and thus is less able to afford periodic flights of madness.

A Success Story's Last Chapter?

Dana Goldstein reports on going-ons in Northern Virginia, where shifts in student population may cause district lines to be redrawn, moving a largely White and wealthy subdivision (Wakefield Chapter) from Annandale High School (49 percent low-income and about one-third Latino, 29 percent white, 23 percent Asian, and 15 percent black) to Woodson High School (Two-thirds white and 6 percent low-income).

The interesting part of the debate is how it is shaking out within Wakefield Chapter. Parents of younger students support the move, believing that their students will benefit from it. But parents of students already in Annandale High -- and those students itself -- are stridently opposing it, pointing out to the immense benefits they've received from attending a diverse (and academically very successful high school).
This decision has opened up an interesting rift in the neighborhood. Parents of younger kids --those currently attending whiter, wealthier elementary and middle schools--are in favor of the switch to Woodson. They assume that their own already-privileged children will get more out of a high school experience learning alongside similar peers. But current Annandale High students and parents who live in Wakefield Chapel oppose the move, saying Annandale's diversity, school spirit, and challenging curriculum have shaped their lives in positive ways. In an online petition, they also mention that Wakefield Chapel parents are active volunteers at Annandale, and that rezoning those families to another high school would negatively impact the entire Annandale student body, especially low-income kids whose own parents aren't able to get involved at school.

Dozens of Annandale High families are actively opposing this rezoning, even though current students would all be allowed to finish their high school careers at the school. These parents and teens believe that keeping Annadale integrated is the right civic decision, the best policy for future generations.

This tracks findings common amongst scholars who study integrated schools (something becoming rarer and rarer as resegregation accelerates) -- products of these schools are consistently laudatory of their experience and how it helped enable them to be at ease in multi-racial settings (or where they themselves are in the minority), preparing them for an increasingly globalized and multi-cultural workforce. The major blight on such schools was that minority students were dispirited by the contrast between their integrated educational lives and their lives outside the school doors which remained largely separate and unequal.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Gingrich's Infidility Saves His Bacon

Newt Gingrich refrained from signing a conservative Iowa group's "Marriage Vow" pledge, probably because he recognized that -- as a prominent serial adulterer -- he'd be a national laughingstock if he did (well, more so). Gingrich instead gingerly offered to help "sharpen" the language so he could sign.

But fortunately for Gingrich, the delay probably evaded a serious gaffe. Michele Bachmann and Rick Santorum -- who already signed the pledge, are now scrambling after folks pointed out the pledge implied that family dynamics for Black children were better under slavery than they are today (Robert George: "Black unemployment? Also low then, too!"). The specific claim -- that "a child born into slavery in 1860 was more likely to be raised by his mother and father in a two-parent household" than a Black child today -- is, in addition to being offensive on face (as the "two-parent household" here typically involved a slave woman and the master who raped her), also wrong on the facts.

Bachmann's damage control included a claim she didn't endorse the slavery portion of the four-page document (which was part of the preamble), wrongly explaining that in the antebellum south marriage was common and recognized amongst slaves, as well as a campaign release telling us that Rep. Bachmann "believes that slavery was horrible and economic enslavement is also horrible". That's definitely going to extinguish the fire alright.

So yeah: Lucky Gingrich.

"Deficit Hawks"

Jon Chait introduces the least effective lobby in Congress.

Not-So-Hypothetical Question

If I go to bed too early ("too early" defined relative to how early I've been getting to sleep on the surrounding days), my body interprets it as a nap instead of actual full-night's sleep. The upshot is that, instead of sleeping for, say, 10 hours (I like to sleep in), I end up sleeping for more like four. And, since I'm already going to bed "early", that means I wake up at around 3:45 in the morning.

Now, I know me, and I know that four hours is sleep is not enough to keep me functional for the entire day. But I also know I'm not going to get back to sleep anytime soon. So most of the time, I just lie there with my eyes closed and hope that it at least counts as a sort of half-sleep. But does it? Is there any somnolent value to lying in bed while conscious with one's eyes closed? Or might I just as well get up, write a blog post (again, oh-so-hypothetically), and just suffer through the day (or take a nap when I'm tired again, probably around noon)?

UPDATE: For those of you who care, the eventual resolution was falling back asleep from 9 AM until 1 PM. Efficient!

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Weekend Boxing Roundup: 7/9/11

I actually had some trouble figuring out what date to put up top. Today's the tenth, the weekend's action started on the eighth, but ultimately I figured the main events were on the ninth. So there you go.

Friday, July 8th

Jesus Gonzalez (27-1, 14 KOs) UD12 Francisco Sierra (24-4-1, 22 KOs)

Former can't-miss prospect Jesus Gonzalez, trying to reach his former potential in a comeback bid, took a nice step forward in a grueling fight against Mexican slugger Sierra. Sierra is alternatively best known for being blown out by Edison Miranda in one, or for laying a hellacious beat-down of Donovan George that ended with George out cold from a shot that landed a split-second after the bell (the referee ended up docking Sierra two points, and he won a technical decision). He also was a full weight class heavier than Gonzalez, as he could "only" drop 12 pounds in the week's notice he received for the fight, coming in 8 pounds over the 168 lbs contract weight.

This fight was mostly controlled by Gonzalez, but it was a ton of fun the whole way through and saw both fighters on the canvas (Sierra in the fourth, Gonzalez in the fifth). It's easily Gonzalez's best win of his comeback, and he looked pretty good, but also like someone who still was a long way away from Andre Ward quality. Why mention Ward particularly? Because Gonzalez actually is the last man to beat Andre ... when they were 12. Fun trivia fact, but Ward would obliterate Gonzalez in any rematch.

Yuandale Evans (15-0, 11 KOs) TKO6 Emmanuel Lucero (26-7-1, 14 KOs)

Evans scored four knockdowns en route to a stoppage win over former title challenger Lucero. Lucero is the midst of a comeback of his own after struggles with alcohol, and while he was never particularly competitive, he was game as all get out and kept trying to take the fight to the younger man. Evans looked like someone with promise -- if nothing else, he has the physique of a bona fide contender -- but while Lucero was a decent next step, he isn't big enough or good enough to give us a real feel for the Cleveland-based fighter's potential.

Also, Evans' nickname is "Money Shot". Really.

Janks Trotter (5-0-1, 5 KOs) TKO2 Arturo Crespin (6-2-1, 2 KOs)

This was a rematch of Trotter's one blemish (a technical draw after a headbutt), and it was clear that Trotter -- the fighter with a name voted most likely to be shared by a Jedi Knight -- made it evident that he was the dominant force in the ring. Again, Crespin gave it his all, but he was knocked down in the first and then utterly starched in the second. Trotter was a former Canadian amateur standout before he decided he wanted to work on an oil rig for awhile, but now he is apparently back in the game. Who knows -- he could have the tools to actually make some noise.

Saturday, July 9th

Lucian Bute (29-0, 24 KOs) TKO4 Jean Paul Mendy (29-1-1, 16 KOs)

As expected, Bute annihilated Mendy, who got this shot after getting the shit kicked out of him by Sakio Bika, who then proceeded to get himself disqualified hitting Mendy while he was down. I love Bika, but he does have a habit of being his own worst enemy sometimes. Anyway, Bute has already beaten Bika, and Bika was obliterating Mendy, so this wasn't expected to be particularly competitive. And it wasn't -- after three easy rounds, Bute knocked Mendy out cold in the fourth. He's now looking at a likely match against Kelly Pavlik back in Montreal in what I think may prove to be Pavlik's last stand -- Bute is just too good at 168, and Pavlik (a) isn't a true Super Middleweight and (b) isn't what he used to be, unfortunately.

Carson Jones (31-8-2, 21 KOs) TKO6 Germaine Sanders (27-10, 17 KOs)

Two of my personal favorite spoiler-types squared off in Oklahoma last night, with Jones -- who was slated to be Antonio Margarito's comeback opponent before Texas remembered that he was still suspended -- coming away with the knockout victory. Sanders has been around for a long time, mostly as a gatekeeper sort. Though he's now lost seven straight, they've been against brutal competition, including Shamone Alvarez, Jesus Soto-Karass, Mike Jones, and Randell Bailey. It was also only his second stoppage loss (the other coming in 2002 against famous banger Teddy Reid).

Jones, for his part, feels like he's been around forever, but he's actually only 24. That's probably because he's in the ring so often -- a whopping 24 fights since 2008 (he turned pro in 2004, so it wasn't just puffball fights for a new guy either). He's probably best known for busting the bubble of knockout artist/hype job Tyrone Brunson, but has been quietly putting together a decent resume. He's an honest, hardworking sort who comes to fight. He can be maddeningly inconsistent -- there are some really shaky losses amongst those eight defeats -- but he's also got some decent wins and I've seen him flash real skills. I root for him because any break he gets will be entirely of his own doing. This was a solid win over a solid gatekeeper, and I'd like to see him step up again.

Carlos Molina (19-4-2, 6 KOs) UD10 Kermit Cintron (32-4-1, 28 KOs)

Speaking of hard-working guys you can't help but root for. I love Carlos Molina. He only had six amateur fights, and he could easily be 24-1 instead of 19-4-2. His draws are against exceptionally talented Erislandy Lara (in a fight I and most others thought he won) and Julio Cesar Chavez, Jr. (in a fight I assume Molina won because in any JCC fight I automatically give the other guy an extra two rounds compared to the judge's scorecards). His losses include a majority decision loss to JCC in the rematch (see above for what I think of that), and another majority decision and a split decision loss. Meanwhile, he's unbeaten since 2008 and just notched up a career best victory.

And it's not luck. He's a very active fighter, but it isn't just swarming -- he varies his punches very well, really commits to the body, and is defensively quite slick and tricksy. He has a little more power than his KO percentage would suggest, but still not much -- enough to buzz a guy if he catches him flush, but not enough to KO anybody by anything other than an accumulation of punches. But that's really the only aspect of his game that isn't a solid B+. I'd love to see him against Pawel Wolak or Cornelius Bundrage (some folks mentioned Alfredo Angulo, but I think that's an awful style match-up for Molina).

As for Cintron, he did not look good at all coming off a 14-month layoff. He couldn't get his punches off, on the rare occasions that he did they didn't land, and even when he did connect they just didn't seem to carry that concussive force they used to when Cintron was fighting at welterweight. It is a big step back for Cintron, even granting that Molina should be seen as a bona fide contender now, and I'm not sure where he goes from here. It's true to that Molina looked good last night, but Cintron also looked bad. It's that simple.

Brandon Rios (28-0-1, 21 KOs) TKO3 Urbano Antillon (28-3, 20 KOs)

Can you say Hagler/Hearns? I can. Three rounds of non-step, punishing action that ended when Rios caught Antillon early in the third. Antillon got up and bravely tried to keep fighting, but he was never able to shake-off the effects of the knockdown, was put down again, and the fight was stopped shortly thereafter as Antillon wobbled around the ring while breaking from a clinch. Prior to that, though, we had nine minutes of sustained, in-the-trenches action that lived up to expectations. It's greedy of me to wish it could have gone longer, but I do -- it was that much fun.

Both fighters deserve to and assuredly will grace our TV sets in future fights. But Rios in particular may well be the best lightweight in the world out there. And you couldn't pick a more exciting fighter to hold the label. The kid loves to bang, and you know in any Brandon Rios fight he will be there to hit and be hit.

Rico Ramos (20-0, 11 KOs) KO7 Akifumi Shimoda (23-3-1, 10 KOs)

I didn't see this fight, but what I heard Ramos was fighting tentatively and being thoroughly beaten in the first half of the fight, only to turn it around with a sensational one-punch knockout to take the title from Shimoda. That, to me, sounds like Gerry Penalosa's similar one-punch knockout over Jhonny Gonzalez, except that "Penalosa" and "fighting tentatively" ought never be seen in the same paragraph as one another (Penalosa was getting beaten handily in that fight, but not for lack of effort).

Max Kellerman declared "all sins are forgiven", but I'm not sure about that -- it could have been a lucky punch. Credit to Ramos for having the ability to throw it, and for hanging in there and turning it up in the seventh round, but I'd still be worried about the lackluster performance during the rest of the fight.

Paul Williams (40-2, 27 KOs) MD12 Erislandy Lara (15-1-1, 10 KOs)

Folks are saying this is a robbery, and from what I saw they're right. I missed the first three rounds, but from what I'm told those were all clear Lara rounds, and making that presumption I had it nine rounds to three for Lara. I don't think Williams looked "shot", but I don't think he looked great either, and that overhand left by a southpaw is apparently his permanent kryptonite.

There's just not that much to be said about the fight itself. Lara looked stronger, faster, more powerful, and slicker in there. He deserved the "W". He didn't get it. The three judges at ringside were relatively inexperienced and did not have a good reputation in the major fights they have scored. The nicest thing you could say was that they were mesmerized by Williams' typical volume, even though most of those punches didn't land or had no snap. Meanwhile, Lara landed overhand left after overhand left to noticeable effect.

Unfortunately, you can't overturn decisions just because the scorecards are substantively appalling. But one hopes that the New Jersey commission looks into this and takes a hard look at whether any of these three judges deserve to be ringside in the future. The boxing public and, especially, the boxers themselves, deserve better.