Monday, June 27, 2016

Who said it XIII?

I haven’t done a Who said it? in a long time. I think we are up to no. 13, but if I’m wrong, I really don’t care. Jot your answers down and scroll down for the results after you are done. I can't figure out an easier way to do it. As usual, these quotes come from my own library and I make no pretense I'd do any better than anyone else if I didn't know the answers. They are meant to be hard but interesting. Quotes in purple. Apologies as usual for the formatting problems. I've been doing this 10 years this September and still can't handle it. I deserve an editor for the next decade.

1.                First I want to say that nothing ever is said of the white man who waylays the little colored girl when she goes to market. Nobody has anything to say about that. But when the Negro does something that is not nearly so serious there is a great hue and cry.
               I wasn’t to say that I never made any statement attributed to me to the effect that I could get any white woman I wanted. I can lay my hand upon the Bible and swear that I never made such a statement. My father was a Christian and my mother is a Christian, and I know what I means to swear by the Bible. I want to say that I never said anything of the sort about any woman of any color.
               I have been quoted falsely. The newspapers and the public have taken advantage of me because of my color. If I were a white man not a line of this would have reached the newspaper.
               But I do not want to say that I am not a slave and that I have the right to choose who my mate shall be without the dictation of any man. I have eyes and I have a heart and when they fail to tell me who I shall have as mine I want to be put away in a lunatic asylum.
               So long as I do not interfere with any other man’s wife, I shall claim the right to select the woman of my own choice. Nobody else can do that for me. That is where the trouble lies.

a    a.      Jack Johnson      b.    Malcolm X     c.    Muhammad Ali      d.    Clarence Thomas

2.  Our American combination of capitalism and socialism is far more successful than either the capitalism of our not-so-gay Nineties or the communism of Russia; and this Hegelian synthesis was the achievement of five Democratic administrations.

a        a. EleanorRoosevelt    b.   Will Durant    c.    Barack Obama    d.    Richard Nixon

3.  Ignorance more frequently begets confidence than does knowledge: : it is those who know little, not those who know much, who so positively assert that this or that problem will never be solved by science.

a    a. Isaac Newton     b.   Thomas Jefferson   c.   Charles Darwin    d.   Albert Einstein     

4.   Can anybody remember when the times were not hard and money not scarce?

a      a. John Adams   b.   Abraham Lincoln    c.   Ralph Waldo Emerson   d.   William Faulkner  

5.  Try not to become a man of success. Rather become a man of value. 

a     a. Isaac Newton     b.   Thomas Jefferson   c.   Charles Darwin    d.   Albert Einstein     

6.     The History of mankind is one of continuous development from the realm of necessity to the realm of freedom. This process is never-ending. In any society in which classes exist class struggle will never end. In classless society the struggle between the new and the old and between truth and falsehood will never end. In the fields of the struggle for production and scientific experiment, mankind makes constant progress and nature undergoes constant change; they never remain at the same level. Therefore, man has constantly to sum up experience and go on discovering, inventing, creating and advancing. Ideas of stagnation, pessimism, inertia and complacency are all wrong. They are wrong because they agree neither with the historical facts of social development over the past million years, nor with the historical facts of nature so far known to us (i.e., nature as revealed in the history of celestial bodies, the earth, life, and other natural phenomena).

a    a. Adam Smith   b.   Woodrow Wilson   c.  Mao-tse-Tung   d.   Bernie Sanders

7.  [T]he submarine may be the cause of bringing battle to a stoppage altogether, for fleets will become useless, and as other war material continues to improve, war will become impossible.

a     a. Herodotus   b.   Robert Fulton    c.   Adolf Hitler    d. Jules Verne      

8.  Sensible and responsible women do not want to vote. The relative positions to be assumed by man and woman in the working out of our civilization were assigned long ago by a higher intelligence than ours. 

a    a. Dolly Madison   b.   Grover Cleveland    c.  Theodore Roosevelt   d.   Warren Harding

9.  The boy will come to nothing.

a    a. Augustine Washington after George fell down a flight of stairs   b.   Thomas Lincoln’s favorite               comment about his son.   c.  Theodore Roosevelt Sr. after looking at baby Teddy.   d.  Jakob Freud             after young Sigmund relieved himself in his parent’s bedroom.   

10.  When those countries have a man to lunch, they really have him to lunch.

a     a.  Ferdinand Magellan on leaving the Philippine  Islands.    b.  Joseph Chamberlain returning to England after the Munich Agreement    c.   Ronald Reagan discussing African countries.    d.      Barack Obama on an open mike after an international summit.

1.  a.   Jack Johnson, the first black heavyweight champion defending himself when the powers that be sought to punish him – and quite openly in many cases of winning the world championship from a white man and for marrying a white woman. The prejudice that was seen from crowds, the judges and prosecutors (some of whom had been social friends of his), many whites and even some blacks is so disgusting, that we would have trouble believing that even a prejudiced man these days would publicly express himself so.

2.  b.   Will Durant in a letter to the NY Times in 1952 (Truman still president).

3.  c. Charles Darwin in The Descent of Man (1871)

4.  c. Ralph Waldo Emerson in Work and Days

5.  c.  Albert Einstein in an oral quote to Life Magazine (1955)

6.  c.  Mao-tse-Tung from Quotations from Chairman Mao. But it’s fun to imagine it in Bernie Sanders’ voice.

7.  d.   Jules Verne. Just because someone writes prescient science fiction doesn’t mean they have any idea of what is going to happen.

8.  b.   Cleveland. He was probably right that a lot of women felt that way at the time.

9.  d.   Sigmund Freud’s dad. I wonder what that really meant.  

10. c.   It was Reagan. Only Donald Trump could probably get away with saying something like that today. Magellan never left the Philippine Islands alive. Chamberlain famously said, “Peace for our time.” Obama and other pols have said a lot of stupid things on open mikes, but not that as far as I know.

Friday, June 24, 2016

Fading confidence

I am usually politically optimistic, at least since the late '80s, early '90s, when my politics moderated as I educated myself and I learned more and more about American history. I learned when Reagan was president, that no matter how much we fear a president (and this young then liberal feared him terribly), it is usually not so bad as we thought it would be and we get through it. I have carried this attitude ever since, through two presidents I liked, George H. W. Bush and Clinton (though some bad mistakes were made by him, since admitted) and through two I thought were and think are awful, Bush 2.0 and Obama.

But, I'm getting more than a little discouraged and disappointed. First it was the choice of Trump by a plurality of Republicans, though he was despised or at least unwanted by a majority of them. Then it was the choice of Clinton by the Democrats, though only Jim Webb, as unwanted by them as he was appreciated by me, could have been satisfactory to me. As well, it was, in my view, foolish of many Republicans to think that they should try and get their far right candidate, Cruz, who was disliked terribly by his peers and the establishment, and who was far too right wing to get elected in a general campaign, nominated. And their indifference or even polite dislike of my choice, John Kasich, who actually was a conservative (normally much too conservative for me, but not in this environment) disappointed me. But he was not enough of a "conservative" in the modern vogue - he didn't make unrealistic statements about immigration, overly appeal to religion or call enough names. Unlike McCain and Romney, his moderation or RINO nature if you must, wasn't going to outlast the right wing this time.

And then there is the "rise" of Black Lives Matter, a nouveau Black Pantherish group, who by shrill self-victimization, screaming, intimidation and simple guilt, took over the microphones from the candidates who liked them, and shamed them from even saying something as obvious as "all lives matter." This on the heels of the clamor over Ta-Nehisi Coates' book which basically sounded a death knell for racial harmony. And, out of fear of losing their base, the Democratic candidates kowtowed and surrendered, just as Republicans traditionally do with its far right. And then I saw a relatively new show that was one of the few I liked - Blackish, do an episode about cops killing blacks. Sure, they had one character take a moderate position, but the episode was overwhelmingly meant to say cops kill blacks and there is no justice - at the end, all of the adults go to the protest when an indictment fails (which the show admitted was based on the facts of that case) except the grandmother who paints "black owned" on their garage and then defiantly sits there with frozen fruit waiting for her oppressors, who I doubt in real life would be coming. The gentleman I sometimes refer to in this blog as Eddie, a strong progressive, discussing it with me, said he thought it was very even handed. It was if by even handed you mean that all whites are bigots and all cops murderers.

And then was the rise of nouveau socialism, which, being an avid New York Times' reader, it seems almost all of their readership has adopted. This is championed by Bernie Sanders, who, though a nice old fellow with the courage of his convictions, would destroy our country as surely as if we were invaded by more advanced aliens, and holds true to his convictions while to the south of us, Venezuela starves under the same type of thinking as his own.

And then was more more bigotry from Trump against Muslims and Hispanics (his followers claim he doesn't express it well enough - and maybe he doesn't - but hasn't he had enough time to do so?) and more proof of Clinton's ineptness as Secretary of State, now that it is known that so many diplomats and perhaps even Kerry secretly deplored her and Obama's policies, and the State Department's Inspector General's criticism in its report concerning her email practices, which is, of course, ignored by the media.

And part of that is the rioting by the left outside of Trump rallies, as if that is okay. Yes, Trump said stupid things. Most things he says are fairly stupid. And he did inspire a couple of idiots in his audience to hit with a fist, protesters who were disrupting the rally. I blame him for that. But, it is not Trump supporters who are trying to disrupt Clinton rallies. It is mostly Sanders supporters who are attacking Trump's supporters and trying to hurt or kill him.

But, nothing has hit me so hard as the so-called publicity stunt of the congressional Democrats, who shut down the house. I don't know what to call what they did. Certainly disorderly, obnoxious, childish and possibly criminal. Even at the height of the hysteria surrounding Obamacare, no Republican did this. And it is not the same as when the Republicans took the floor in 2008 AFTER Pelosi called a recess. It is not the same as when a senator lawfully filibusters.

It was, at best, unlawful and a destruction of our civil society. In the NY Times and on television, it was celebrated. Yeah. As if this was the sixties.

John Lewis, a true civil rights icon, lost any sympathy or respect from me as he led his juvenile followers in protest. I can only think of one word for it - disgusting. And it doesn't matter to me what the bill is. If that is okay, then it is okay for Republicans when in the minority to halt the process until a bill they want comes to the floor.

Revolting. Disgusting. Disappointing. Discouraging. These are the words that come to mind for me. By the way - did Hillary Clinton condemn it? Did Pres. Obama? No and No. Apparently, disorder is just fine if it is their side protesting.

Maybe my right wings friends, long waiting for violence, will be happy if there is a lot of it at the conventions. Maybe the self-professed victims of the world, pretty much everyone these days, will get what they want - a civil war. Ycch. What a tragedy for our country if it comes even close to it in the days of summer.

All I know is that what the Democrats accomplished this week was to make me think, at least momentarily, if we have to have one of these knuckleheads for president, it had better be Trump - making me choose between a McGovern and Goldwater is not what I wanted or expected. But, after the last two presidents, what should we expect? Good candidates.

And don't even start me on Gary Johnson, who started his campaigning with a most underwhelming performance on CNN. If his plan is to bore Clinton and Trump to death, he has made a good start.  I may end up sitting home after all this year on election day.

Post script from 6/26/16: My quote of the week: "Churchill must be dying in his grave over this." -Doris Kearns Goodwin. You think they would have checked on that before they interred him.

I was going to write a little on Brexit, but I'll quote myself from my NY Times comment a few days ago:

So, it's not good that a country that makes a union with other countries can leave it freely and voluntarily and still trade, participate in each other's security, while having its own sovereignty and no war? Why? I'd say we've come a long way.

Other countries like Switzerland and Norway aren't in the union but are successful. They have accommodations with the EU. Britain isn't closing its end of the Chunnel. Its still an ally and trading partner.

A majority of Brits, and there was a huge turnout, did not want to go down the path of endless regulations and they were concerned about immigration and open borders.

The hand wringing about Trump, Nazis, etc., is just astonishing. Markets go down, but they recover if they are financially sound. We all want what we are comfortable with to continue, but this is not momentous. The EU is still so new, I don't even see this as historic. And if other countries leave, then like an unhappy couple, it was not meant to be. They'll be okay if they have a good attitude and cooperate.

When everyone calms down, they will realize that not that much has to change during the separation process (2 years?) and many accommodations and satisfactory deals will be made. And the EU should really look at itself and ask - why did Brits want to leave? Sometimes it's not them - it's you. 

and then earlier today:

You would think from the way anti-democrats, the media and even markets are acting, that Britain declared war on the EU rather than make a lawful choice under EU procedures. There is less outrage over Putin and Assad than there is over the lawful choice of an ally and trading partner.

There is an anti-democratic, incipient fascistic movement going on in Europe and America that seeks by force and intimidation to tear down the foundations of a political and economic system that has provided not only the western world, but the third world with life saving and enhancing technology, and successful educational, economic and political models.

In America we have had a group take over political rallies by intimidation, a minority party in congress take over the floor because they didn't get their way, protesters throwing rocks and disrupting events. Sadly, most of the media either ignores these things, or cheers them on - as if it is just politics or even free speech, in many cases because it is their own party or they think they have the same interests. This is mindful of Germany in the '20s and '30s.

Union can be a source of strength and security. But only when it is voluntary. I didn't care whether Britain exited or not. But I support its right to do so and despise the threats, hand-wringing and retribution in reaction to it. I am sadly reminded of a spouse being divorced, deciding to burn down the house and sacrificing the kids, rather than cooperate and move on.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Ali! Ali! Ali!

Earlier this month I saw on television that Muhammad Ali, self-styled "The Greatest," was not doing well, far worse than his family was letting on. I took a pause, figuring he would last a while, maybe years, and wondered how I would take it when he had died. I had a number of heroes when I was young and Muhammad Ali had ranked high among them. I never analyzed why. Like many other great athletes, I just idolized them. I grew up in, until recently, a far more racially defined era. My parents, who were definitively Democrats and liberals, were prejudiced in subtle ways that would probably shock them now to recognize it had they still been alive. Though some people I know these days think white people are always prejudiced against blacks, I do remember how many of my childhood sporting heroes (all athletes back then) were black - not just Ali, later Sugar Ray Leonard, but Jesse Owens, Gale Sayers, Willie Mays, Hank Aaron, Bobby (not Barry, his son) Bonds, Nate Thurmond (not Bill Russell for some reason), Oscar Robertson and others.

Derailed myself already. Amazing. Anyway, the day after I heard he was sick, he died. It hit me a bit. I can't say I bawled at all or even got teary. But, I did spend a lot of time thinking about it and felt a whole range of emotions. I wasn't sure what it meant, but I knew that a lot of people, especially guys in my age group, were feeling it too. There was something very special about Ali. Not just superior athletic ability and what we call heart, but he was so emotive and personable that you felt some connection with him that you didn't with other athletes. 

I'm 57 this month. I was born at the very end of the '50s and grew up in the '60s and '70s. Basically, I was born near the end of his amateur care career and graduated high school ('76) when he was reaching the end of his most productive years. He won gold in Tokyo in '60 and beat Frazier to win their rubber match in '75. He continued on for years, but he was never truly the Greatest after that. Like Joe Louis before him and other champions, he hung on too long and tried to come back too often.

You can read about Ali's life in many places and I have no interest in trying to write my own mini-bio here. I just want to go over the fights I remember and give my impressions about him and what he meant to me. I pulled up Ali's record to help me with the order of matches ( is a great website), but the memories are my own and I am surprised myself how much came rushing back when I looked and how many of his fights I remember to one degree or another back to when I was a little kid. For example, I remember he fought and beat a not too important fighter named Alfredo Angelista, but I have no idea what round or how. My strong memories of him are not surprising. Back then I and my friends, mostly Bear, were big boxing fans.

I wasn't born when Ali was winning 100 fights in Golden Gloves and amateur competition, and I was about 1 when he won a gold medal in the Olympics. He turned pro and won numerous fights before facing the tough and frightening Sonny Liston in '64 for the championships. I doubt I saw the fight at the time. Frankly, I cannot remember if I saw many Ali fights live (on tv). It was a different technological era. Often I learned what happened by reading the New York Times the next morning. If you were lucky you could see a great fight on Wide World of Sports weeks after it was fought, but there was no video, so if you missed it, you missed it. I've seen a number of them online in the last few years, including the Liston fights, some perhaps for the first time.

The '60s and '70s was a golden age for heavyweight fighters, maybe the last golden age for them.  I can think of the list of these fighters off the top of my head and it is long. Ali heads any list, but he fought most of the rest of them. Some were great and some very good. Few were bum of the month material. Joe Frazier, George Foreman, Ken Norton, Jerry Quarry, Floyd Patterson, George Chuvalo, Ernie Terrell, Ernie Shavers, Ron Lyle, Oscar Bonavena, Buster Mathis, Jimmy Ellis, Joe Bugner, Karl Mildenberger, Jimmy Young, Bob Foster (really the light heavyweight champ), Archie Moore (though in his twilight), Henry Cooper (not a big name, but one of the few to knock Ali down) and so on. Some he fought more than once like Frazier, Chuvalo and Norton. Many of his fights were brutal. The two with Chuvalo were punishing. After one fight, Chuvalo likes to brag, though he lost, he went dancing and Ali went to the hospital. Norton broke Ali's jaw in their first fight and all three went the distance, then 15 rounds. In my opinion (and Ali's), Norton won at least 2 if not all of them, though officially, only the first. He was just a perfect match up for Ali, even if not as great overall. The three Frazier fights were classic slug fests, In the first of them Frazier took Ali out. It is considered one of the all time great fights.  Ali includes in his list of his toughest fights (which he admitted he changed every time he was asked) some fighters you wouldn't have thought were so tough, like Bugner, Cooper, Bonavena, Mildenberger and others. At one point or another though, he probably had twenty fighters in the list.

But, as the King said, "Begin at the beginning, go on till you come to the end: then stop." The first fight he had that I am conscious of remembering was with a relatively unheralded Brit, at least in our country, though a European champion, Henry Cooper. Ali, not yet the champion, won easily (as he also did a few years later). He had predicted he'd beat Cooper in five. He seemed to be carrying him but just before the bell to end the fourth round, Cooper knocked him down. Ali's glove was split and Dundee sought of helped it along a bit with his finger, but the times keeper said Ali only got an extra 40 seconds to change it. In the fifth, Ali beat Cooper so severely that his face was a bloody mess when the referee stopped the fight. I remember the fight, that Ali was knocked down, but I'm not sure at less than 4 years of age how much I could have known about boxing or what a match entailed.

I certainly understood what a boxing match was in '64 when Ali fought Liston next for the championship. I knew Liston was heavily favored to win. Clear as glass I remember my mother telling me that that they were rough men and not to admire them. I did anyway. I know I rooted for Ali but I don't remember why? I was not much past four and a half? I doubt I knew that Ali pretended to freak out at the weigh-in and that everyone thought he must be terrified or crazy. I doubt I knew of his ebullient and brash character or that he was a 7-1 underdog. I doubt I knew what odds were. Maybe I did, but I don't remember. What I do remember is that when I heard Ali won it made me think of David and Goliath. Or maybe I heard someone say that. I did know who they were. If anyone approximating them actually lived, it was 2500-3000 years ago, but I heard about them all the time in my young life. Ali beat Liston again the next year, knocking him out this time, but I have no independent memory of the fight, only knowing now what I've read. 

I don't know how much I paid attention to him after that before but before 1968. Probably quite a bit. As a young man I had a huge appetite for athletes and sports and was learning more and more about them as I got older and started playing them myself. Ali beat Floyd Patterson, who Liston had also destroyed, but a former champ himself, and he beat Chuvalo, a Canadian champion, for the first time just after his draft board problems started. Ali won easily on points but at the time said Chuvalo was the toughest fighter he had ever fought. I don't doubt it. I've written about Chuvalo before and though he was not an all time great, he was uncommonly steadfast. You could beat him, but not stop him. 

I remember Ali beating Mildenberger, which I found interesting at the time - probably because he was European and I found that exciting, but can't remember anything of the fight. I do remember Terrell, who angered Ali by not using his Muslim name (Terrell claimed that he hadn't meant anything by it). I didn't like Terrell for it, whether he was guilty or not. But Ali pounded Terrell, just not quite finishing him, carrying him the distance. Many people found it quite cruel and I think I was a little disappointed to hear it.

There was another fight against Zora Folley, who Ali beat fairly easily. Again, I remember the fight, but no specifics. Then a three and a half year lay off because Ali refused to go to Vietnam. The story of his fight with the U.S. government, his courage in losing his livelihood, although he made some kind of living giving speeches, and his eventual victory is a post in itself, but I will only say a little more below.

Ali came back against Jerry Quarry, who was a small heavyweight, much later a cruiser weight when that category was created, very popular and scrappy, usually losing only to the best fighters, though also beating very tough guys like Lyle and Shavers. He was several times the no. 1 contender and was never knocked out. But in three rounds Ali cut him and it was over. Quarry fought for a long time and suffering from dementia, died young. His worsening condition, along with that of another semi-great fighter, Wilfredo Benitez, in the 1990s, were the first times I remember being conscious of the terrible toll boxing takes on its athletes, particularly those who fought a long time.

Ali had to fight Oscar Bonavena, the number one contender before Frazier. Bonavena was certainly far nastier to Ali than Terrell had been, if Terrell had been at all, taunting him for not going to war and calling him a chicken. Ali only stopped him in the 15th round and once again called it his toughest fight. But, next he was going to fight Frazier, who had won the championship tournament held in Ali's absence, and that's what I cared really cared about. Bonavena was good, and I was worried about Ali getting passed him. But he was no Frazier, who had already beaten Bonavena twice. 

I know I did not see the first Ali-Frazier fight, though it was broadcast all over the world on tv. I was not aware back then, in fact not for decades, that Frazier had befriended and tried to help Ali while he was banned, even lending him money. Still, Ali taunted Frazier mercilessly. It was billed as the Fight of the Century, though it was not the first time that century a fight was so named. I went to bed that night knowing Ali would win. I was wrong. It was not the first time I had been devastated by a sport's upset, but I remember feeling it hard. Frazier had knocked him down and won a unanimous decision. I saw the fight myself some time afterwards, possibly on Wide World of Sports, and before their next fight. Frazier had won it decidedly. It was not surprising. Frazier was a great fighter. And though he was to lose two out of three to Ali and then get destroyed by George Foreman twice, no one can take that first one away from him. Both went to the hospital, Frazier for weeks. Sometimes it is said that Ali was not ready to fight for the championship yet after his time away. I can't agree. He had beat two top fighters on the way to the Fight of the Century, and the second one was a war.

Shortly thereafter, the Supreme Court ruled decisively in Ali's favor in his fight with the government over his conscientious objector status (CO Status). I will say this, which is not the standard line you will read on what transpired.  It is often said that Ali "won," defeated the U.S. government while what point he "won" on is never stated. The truth is, the decision was first tentatively 5-3 against him, then 4-4 (one justice, ironically the only black justice, recused himself, because he had been solicitor general when the matter began). A tie would have sent Ali to jail - as it would have affirmed the lower court order against him. Justice Stevens worked out a unanimous decision which gave Ali a procedural win, declaring that the draft board had failed its requirement of stating the reasons for denying his conscientious objector status. Reading the case, and applying the law at the time (with which I do not agree for several reasons), it seems to me that Ali was guilty as charged, for he did not oppose all war, as was required for CO status. He clearly agreed with "holy war," or Jihad, that is he would be part of a war he felt was declared by Allah, and thus we would expect that was approved of by his spiritual leader. In present times, you have to wonder if this would not have played out differently in the media, with the public and with the court, given global jihad.  But, all this I learned decades later. At the time all I knew was that Ali would fight again and that once again David had beaten Goliath.

But, Ali and Frazier were soon to be outshone by George Foreman, at least temporarily. He won the Olympic gold in 1968, and soon cut a swath through the professional ranks, knocking out almost everyone and usually fairly quickly. He was only 3-0 when he came up against Frazier, who was still champ and the heavy favorite. Foreman bounced Frazier off the canvas so many times the referee stopped it in the second round. He destroyed Norton as quickly.

Before Ali fought Foreman for the championship after losing to Frazier, he had 14 fights (I counted), including some against top fighters like Jimmy Ellis, Buster Mathis, Chuvalo again, the old champ, Patterson for the second time, the light heavyweight champ, Bob Foster and frankly, a couple of nobodies whose names on his record drew a blank from me. He lost only once, to Norton, then beat him, his jaw healed, in the rematch, another split decision. Maybe Ali really deserved to win. I'm not sure and memory has faded. But, I don't think he did.

Then Ali, having avenged himself against Norton, avenged himself against Frazier in their second fight, which was also the least dramatic of the three. They had a wrestling match, maybe real, on Howard Cosell's show during the build up because Ali called Frazier "ignorant" for saying (probably joking) that he was "resting" in the hospital after their first fight. Ali won a unanimous decision against the aggressive Frazier, but held an awful lot, which, if legal, does not impress me much.

Though Foreman destroyed Frazier and Frazier beat Ali once, Ali was still the natural fight for the championship against Foreman. Nothing could draw like it. They fought in Zaire in what was dubbed the "Rumble in the Jungle." The fight is legendary, including the run up to it, which is the subject of books and at least one movie and I'm sure more documentaries. I'm not going all through it, because I can't do it justice here. Did I see the fight as it happened? I don't remember. Was I listening on radio? Maybe. Though I can remember which fights I saw as they occurred starting in the early '80s, I just can't remember earlier. In some part, that is because they simply started showing more big fights on tv as time progressed, at least soon after they were held, and probably partly because it is closer in time and easier for me to remember them.

The Rumble was one of the greatest fights I ever saw. I put it up there at the top near multiple Sugar Ray Leonard fights (at least 6 of them would make my top 20), Ali-Frazier I and III, Arguello v. Pryor I and II, Danny Lopez v. Mike Ayala, Lopez v. Sanchez I and II and Matthew Saad Mohammad v. Yaqui Lopez. There were many fights I did not see and many years I paid no attention at all. Really not much since the '80s, particularly after Sugar Ray Leonard defeated Marvin Hagler, establishing himself as the greatest fighter of his generation.  But, that doesn't change anything. You like what you like and few people can see all that many fights. Even journalists who cover fights can only see so many.

Two things stand out from the "Rumble."  First, how much almost everyone thought Foreman was going to kill Ali, including me. Foreman and his crew prayed in the locker room he would not literally do so. The most memorable aspect though was rope-a-dope, which meant Ali lying on the ropes absorbing punch after punch from Foreman. Wait, I must have seen the fight, right? I can remember screaming at the tv, sure Ali had panicked and couldn't fight back. Or . . . maybe that was later. I wish I could remember. Dundee was in the corner begging him to get off the ropes. But, Ali knew himself better than any of us. He let Foreman punch himself out and Big George finally went down, seemingly more from exhaustion from throwing his own fists, than receiving Ali's, in the 8th round. Ali had shown he was smarter, braver, more heroic than most everyone else. After the fight, I was sure that he "discovered" rope-a-dope after panicking and almost giving up, when he realized that Foreman wasn't hurting him enough and that eventually he would punch himself out. Apparently not. He had in fact practiced it. And, James Brown, the NFL great and Ali friend, said that Ali actually winked at him during the fight, indicating everything was under control. In any event, David had slain one more Goliath.

Ali was more than half done, but not quite. He beat Chuck Wepner, a great big journeyman fighter with an okay record but no chance. Ali dominated, but at one point Wepner kind of knocked him down (he stepped on his foot and hit him) and then Ali battered him until he went down in the 15th, a bloody mess (the Bayonne Bleeder was, after all, his nickname). Next he beat a heavy puncher, Ron Lyle, who had to that point only lost to Jerry Quarry and a future champion, Jimmy Young. But, Ali toyed with him too and then in the 11th round knocked him so blooey, Ali himself signaled to the ref to step in. He beat another pretty good journeyman, Joe Bugner, who he had beaten before, but again could not stop him and got a decision.

I won't even really discuss his "fight" with the professional wrestler, Antonio Inoki, which, though real enough, was a little ridiculous (most Inoki just lay on the floor and kicked Ali in his legs). There are a lot of rumors about who thought it was fake and when, but it doesn't matter. How stupid.

And then the third fight with Frazier, again one of the greatest fights ever. Frazier lost 4 times in his career - twice to Ali, twice to Foreman (do we count his last fight, when he came out of retirement 5 years later to draw with a nobody muscleman who would lose his next 5 fights? Let's not and say four in his real career.)

The fight was famous for its preliminaries in Manila, the Philippines, partly for Ali's partying, his vicious and ungrateful taunting of Frazier and not least, his continued affair with a ring girl from Zaire that drew his then wife, to come to the Philippines to try to break up the two of them. She didn't succeed and Veronica PorchĂ© later became his third wife, and is the mother of Laila Ali, probably the greatest female boxer of all time. The fight, took place in great heat, as in Zaire, and was as brutal as any he had fought. Ali had thought Frazier was done, and even whispered to him during the fight, "they told me you were washed up," to which Frazier replied, "they lied." But, perhaps the heat caught up to Joe and Ali pummeled him in later rounds. Frazier's trainer threw in the towel before the 15th round against Frazier's wishes. But his eyes were virtually closed and he would have likely been knocked out. Ali collapsed after the fight, but got up and declared in an interview that Frazier was the best fighter in the world after himself. He may have been right, although Foreman had clobbered Frazier and would again. But Ali himself was never the same after that fight.

I don't remember two of his next fights against ordinary fighters, but he beat both, and in between beat Jimmy Young, a pretty good fighter - in his prime anyway (his later years were a disaster) - and who the next year beat both Lyle and Foreman (something only Ali had managed so far; the loss to Young essentially retired Foreman for ten years, after which he made his own astonishing comeback). But Young didn't show up for his fight with Ali, and actually kept ducking his head out of the ring. No one found it funny.

And then in his fourth fight of '76, the year I graduated high school, he fought his rubber match against Norton, who had beat him the first time, breaking his jaw. Norton was a great fighter who lost only to Ali and Foreman to that point. You can argue he didn't exactly fight a who's who before the first Ali fight, but he knocked almost everyone out. Not surprisingly, he lost later in his career to a few others - they almost all hang on too long. I know I saw this fight broadcast live, as it was played at the movie theater I then worked at, which had well over a thousand seats. It was a unanimous decision for Ali, but I try to be objective even when I favor one fighter over another. I desperately did not want Ali to lose the rubber match, but I thought he did, in what Ring Magazine rated one of the most disputed fights in history. I don't think Ring or I was wrong as Ali himself eventually said,  "Kenny’s style is too difficult for me. I can’t beat him, and I sure don’t want to fight him again. I honestly thought he beat me in Yankee Stadium, but the judges gave it to me, and I’m grateful to them."

He should have retired then with that gimme. He fought Alfredo Evangelista next, and though I barely remember that one, easily beat him, without really trying, in a fight that kind of let everyone know his time as a fighter was just about up.

But, he didn't stop. He next fought Ernie Shavers, still a powerful and dangerous man, but who other than one good punch (Ali said it shook his kinfolk in Africa), couldn't touch the champ. But, it was another decision.

I wish he stopped. But he didn't. He was no longer David with the slingshot, but the old legendary king and his time was up.  He fought an Olympic light heavy champion named Leon Spinks, who with his afro and gap tooth smile, was a sight and not even the best fighter in his family. His light-heavyweight brother Michael was. The brothers both fought on one of the greatest, if not the greatest, Olympic boxing team ever. Still Ali was a 10-1 favorite. Either he couldn't do it anymore or he didn't try hard enough. Spinks became the first heavyweight to win the title in a decision since James Braddock (Cinderella Man). He was gracious, saying "I'm the latest, but he's the greatest." There was a rematch and Ali, who worked hard to get ready, took his title back, but in another decision. And he did win in my view, if anyone did, but it was not impressive. I wasn't sure Spinks even wanted to keep the title. He later said that Ali was still his idol.

And then thankfully, winning his third title, he retired. He should have remained so. Two years later, he came back and fought the new champ, a great fighter always in Ali's shadow, Larry Holmes (who, of course, also stayed on too long until he was clobbered by all the young studs in the next generation). Holmes did not want to fight Ali, but how do you turn away millions of dollars which you probably couldn't earn in any other fight? It ended after the 10th when Ali's team threw the towel in before the 11th. Ali was a shadow of himself.

Over a year later, he fought once more, this time against Trevor Berbick, a ranked fighter (actually, the Canadian champ too) who would not have been top 20 in the '60s or '70s, but was young, and that was enough. He did everything he could to hold Ali up and not hurt him. Ali lost a unanimous decision and thankfully, retired for good.

Ali had a fantasy before the fight that when he easily beat Berbick, he would fight again for the championship, against a one punch wonder, Mike Weaver. Weaver had won the championship, after getting the tar beat out of him for 15 rounds, by knocking out the champ, John Tate, with one lucky punch. The glory days of the heavyweight division were over and fighters like Berbick, Michael Dokes, Greg Page, Gerry Coetzee, Donovan Ruddock, Carl Williams, etc., none of who you will find in the boxing Hall of Fame, were the big names until Tyson lit up the division for a while.

In any event, that was it for Ali. The love and amnesia for his faults (his unfaithfulness, his sometimes stated hatred of white people, his allegiance to Elijah Muhammad, his turning his back on Malcolm X when he reformed, much if not all of which he later regretted) that people now have for him was not quite there. It is hard to say what came first - his slow surrender to Parkinson's Disease or his more amiable and easy to love personality. But, no doubt, in 1996, when, arms shaking, he managed to light the Olympic cauldron in Atlanta, he became beloved here as he already was the world over. It truly was an emotional moment.

One of the big questions always is - was Ali the greatest ever? I don't know. Like in all sports, the athletes usually get better and better and it is hard, if not impossible, to judge between eras. That being said, I don't think there has been a heavyweight champion since him, other than Tyson, who could have beat him - and I don't know that Tyson would have either until Ali's later years. Ali is the greatest heavyweight in my lifetime, and probably the greatest boxer period in that time frame, although I think Sugar Ray Leonard and perhaps a few others might contest that. In their own eras I'd have to say that other heavyweights were also in his league - Dempsey, Tunney, Louis and Marciano, for sure. Perhaps Jack Johnson in his brief prime. He was a prototype for Ali more than people know in his boxing style and personality.

At this time in my life, my feelings for Ali are far more positive than negative. Isn't that what happens when people get old an mellow (I mean him, not me). He was a hero to me when I was young, and though he certainly would acknowledge many character flaws, who doesn't have them? I can't say facing discrimination as he did, I would not have acted in much the same way. His unfaithfulness to his wives is not attractive, but, given the temptation he faced as world champion and perhaps the most famous person in the world, it is easy for anyone else to say they would have been more faithful. I can't excuse the unkindness with which he treated Frazier in particular, but I don't know that in Ali's mind it all wasn't marketing either.

In any event, the Greatest is gone and it meant something to me, perhaps the passing of a symbol of my youth and also a great example of what someone could make of themselves against great odds. 

Tuesday, June 07, 2016

Political update for June, 2016

There's always the unforeseeable. Like if Trump and Hillary both choke on kumquats (a funny word, don't you think?) and Joe Biden and John Kasich are the nominees as I predicted way back in '15 - that would be unforeseeable (and make me look so smart). But, forgetting that, it looks like Clinton and Trump. Here are my predictions and comments.

I think Trump is going to win despite the stupidity of his recent attack on a federal court judge overseeing his case because his parents were Mexican. I say this with him still down in the polls. In any event, I think he is going to win because he will attack her vulnerabilities and she is not good at warding them off. And, frankly, neither is her husband so much anymore. He's not your grandfather's Bill Clinton any more. He's more like Grandfather Bill Clinton. And while I was dead set against the politicized impeachment, which was not only unfair, a debasement of our justice system and stupid politically for the Republicans, Trump is right - if they attack him on women, then it is fair game.

Also, Trump is all anyone talks about on most days.  Even if it is how crazy he is. If Hillary choked on the kumquat (still funny) alone, they'd cut to Trump at a town hall meeting with his hands crossed around his throat making choking sounds.  He is a bigoted, knuckleheaded guy who seems like he has no knowledge of almost anything relevant to being president. He is often obnoxious, demeaning and speaks gibberish fluently, changing direction mid-sentence more often than Sarah Palin. I just don't believe media-folk and his friends who say he is different in person. Charming? Why? Because he's a famous person who acts like he cares about them? Please. I'll wait until I see it. Of course, Clinton is often pretentious, smug and perhaps the most obvious phony among modern politicians. For whatever reason, he wears it better than she does. That may in fact be because she is a woman and life isn't always fair. Nevertheless. . . .

How many times can I say it. I don't want either of them for president, but if I am going just by who would be more interesting, of course it's him. It reminds me of an episode of the tv show Coach, I think back in the '90s. His girlfriend was talking to a guy who wanted to be her man (while Coach hid in the closet) and trying to explain Coach to him and why she was staying with him. I'm paraphrasing, but she said something like. "It's a roller coaster. (beat) But what a ride."


There is all the evidence in the world that our Supreme Court, which has always been political in highly contested cases, whatever they tell you, seems neutered. They are doing what they can to salvage their weakened institution. Clearly, the Republicans are not considering an appointee until they have a chance to win the election. If they lose, they may end up with someone more radical than the current nominee, Merrick Garland, obviously a very impressive judge. If not the first time, then the second time.  But this poor guy who cried when he was chosen for the honor of it can't even get a hearing. And I don't blame the Republicans. It is, in my opinion, within their constitutional framework not to select anyone. The president nominates and they advise and consent. He doesn't want their advice, then they don't have to consent. Trump's list of potential Supreme Court nominees is his promise to the right that they will get a pro-life and pro-business justice to replace Scalia. Of course, they can't trust Trump at all. They just don't know it well enough yet. I think they learned a little more this week with JudgeGate.


Do you know what would really disappoint me? If John Kasich agreed to be Trump's running mate. I have a lot of respect for Kasich. He was the most decent candidate this time. He was the most experienced candidate this time. He did stay clear of the childish fights in the Republican debates. And he lost, getting out after Cruz, when he realized staying in would destroy his reputation in his own party, because the party was going to back Trump, having no faith he could beat him.

And that has to sting. He could have beat Trump but for the belief of many Republicans that only Cruz could. I don't think Cruz would beat Ross Perot right now in a general election. I like Cruz personally. I don't like some aspects of his politics, particularly the view of the first amendment as subordinating the law to subjective religious beliefs (or Christian ones, anyway). But, he was a terrible candidate, popular with only a small portion of his party. But, he convinced people like Lindsay Graham, who said obviously Kasich was the right candidate, that only he could beat Trump. He convinced a lot of politicians of it. I think they made the wrong choice. Not because I like Kasich better. I liked Jim Webb best of the Democrats but would never say that he had a snow ball's chance in hell. But, I think had the party early gotten behind Kasich, instead of Cruz and Rubio, maybe the Republicans would have had a chance of beating Trump, who they now have to choke down.

But, anyone who agrees to be Trump's VP, which means lap dog, is not someone I will likely respect. Chris Christie has sold his soul. Carson, who I like a lot personally, but is not even as qualified as Trump to be president, sold his too. They can and I am not that disappointed (more so in Carson). I didn't respect them as much as Kasich. But, if he also sells his soul, I will lose respect for him, regardless of that cliche that when the country calls you have to answer.


For a few years now there has been a good question of what will happen to the Republicans. In the 1850s they split off from the dying Whigs and soon became the most dominant party for many years (though, because Lincoln was a Republican and won the Civil War). It does not mean that a party which splits off now will fare as well. There are three large Republican factions now - cultural, fiscal and Trumpian.  I don't know if he really stands for any of their hopes. I don't know if he even knows what he stands for other than himself, his businesses and his family. The cultural Republicans have no counterpart on the left or among the independents with whom they could coalesce into a strong party. The fiscal or moderate group does. Though there are few Jim Webb/Joe Lieberman Democrats, there are some, but there are a lot of independents who would be attracted enough or at least okay with Republican economics and judicial desires, without the religious overlay. Of course, that also describes Gary Johnson.

I don't know that anything so dramatic will happen. It may be a slow death, or, the party may come roaring back with Trump or without him next time. Naturally, I hope for the middle road, as I prefer moderates, but, I can't call that a prediction. More of a fantasy.


Speaking of Trump, and he really is almost anyone talks about on political shows anymore, the NY Times hit piece on him about women really was pathetic. My first comment on their site they wouldn't publish. I've learned to restrain my criticism of The Times itself in my comments on their own site, as they will not hit the publish button, but, sometimes they will not publish anything that analyzes or takes apart any of their pet ideas. My second comment, which was shorter and started with a criticism of Trump (you have to reel them in sometimes) said mostly the same thing. A model who was offended by being told she looked good in a bathing suit and then who dated him for six months? That's their best argument. A beauty queen who got an eating disorder only when she was put in a press conference about her weight gain. It's not a condition that occurs with a pushed button. The first one, the model, quickly went on the offensive, going on tv to say that she had a good relationship with Trump and was promised it would not be a hit piece. It just made The Times look bad. They tried this with McCain too, claiming he had had an affair, which he took apart the next morning with enough confidence that he was widely believed immediately, and they tried it with Romney with some success, going back to his high school stupidity to insinuate he was a bully (and he was a bully then).

I love the NY Times. They are the greatest media outlet ever as far as I'm concerned. They are the only daily site worth reading on foreign affairs, science, art, books and many other subjects and they are at least among the best in national politics and business.  But, they have their failings. Their movie and tv reviews are written by people who have "taste" and don't seem to enjoy anything actually enjoyable and their admittedly biased liberal editorial slant makes anything they report with any political consequences open to cynicism; makes them refuse to report seriously on anything that reflects badly on the left (Black Lives Matter, rioting by Sanders' supporters, the "safe spaces" movement, etc.) and gives their opinion sections a very one sided slant - even their Republican writer, David Brooks, is generally a moderate. I like his work, but even if he is to the right of the reflexively left wing columnists, it is not even attempting to present a spectrum of opinion. The Times should not be the equivalent of Fox or MSNBC.

The hit piece just looked desperate, as if it was written by a group of kids who said - hey, let's get Trump good. Of course, they didn't get him good. And, as I pointed out in my comment, it would probably help him. It certainly made him look more sympathetic to me. And it was also grossly unfair, in a contest that includes Bill Clinton, not to at least write a token "Of course, this pales in comparison to claims that . . . ."


I recently visited Botetourt County, Virginia, where I used to live, for a few days. It's a conservative bastion to say the least. I think they were 70-30 Romney in 2012, as opposed to his 53-47 trouncing nationwide. Some research I did showed that they were heavily for Trump in the primary, though I would have thought they'd have been for Cruz, being in the Bible Belt and all. The number one answer of why they support Trump - The Supreme Court. No. 2. - he's not Clinton. Admittedly, I didn't have a very large sample, but it was not unexpected.


Are there any good political books anymore? I haven't seen any that caught my eye. The last one I read that I thought was fantastic was Robert Caro's fourth installment of The Years of Lyndon Johnson and that published in 2012.  Henry Wiencek's Master of the Mountain on Jefferson and his slaves was controversial, because it hits an American icon, and I thought excellent but that was also 2012. I loved Meacham's Jackson, but that was 2008! His Jefferson was 2013, but not as good, and, Chernow's Washington, 2010, is perhaps the best Washington, but nowhere near as good as his 2005 Hamilton. Game Change, on the 2008 election came out in 2010. There have been a few good books on economics I'm not going over here, but, what am I missing that was great?


So that transsexual thing. Uncomfortable. When it arose, I immediately felt sympathy for the people who were endlessly stigmatized for being who they are, even if I can't understand it. It's easy to call it sick or crazy, although that would draw the ire of many, but that doesn't mean they are dangerous. I thought about this one a lot and read the Charlotte ordinance, the State law and the federal letter to NC. I have to come out on the side of NC. They are right that the federal law is badly defined and when I read it, I don't see how men who think they are women are being discriminated against. And I do think it opens the door to abuse, not from transsexuals and not from many heterosexuals, but certainly from some. Are judges going to now decide who legitimately thinks they are a women and who is feigning it? Are parents of young girls going to have to go to the bathroom with men, even harmless ones? I guess that's the idea. Are businesses going to be fined and harassed because they want to protect a majority of their customers in a way that doesn't seem remotely like Jim Crow laws? It's already happening. The culture of identity politics, of doing away with gender (except in cases of rape claims in which men are evil and always lying) is one reason that as bad as Trump is, I can't imagine voting for Clinton.


I began with Trump, let me end with him. How politically stupid is he? I think that's the real problem. I actually don't believe he's as bigoted as he seems to the media or many others right now (a bigot yes, but my family thinks I'm a bigot). He really wasn't saying that a judge of Mexican descent is incapable of judging a non-Hispanic. He was saying that he feels this judge, who happens to be of Mexican descent but born in America, is biased against him because he wants to build a wall between the U.S. and Mexico. It's a unique situation and doesn't mean he thinks that a person of Hispanic-American descent is unable to judge an Anglo-American. That is logical, as was Trump's politically stupid remarks about abortion. It also doesn't mean he hasn't made other racist comments, which he has and this is a last straw type of thing - logic be damned.

His remarks on both though have hurt him a great deal with many in his own party.  I can't say it is true with his strong supporters, who will see only the logic in what he said and perhaps agree with it, and the others really have nowhere else to go unless they are okay with the increase in federal power, the increasing debt and more racial politics. Maybe they are and don't want to say.


Frankly, it is hard for me to listen to any on the right whine. At least, whether it is Clinton or Sanders, the left will get someone they like, because ideologically, they are more united on the far left, then Republicans, who are all over the place. They could have nominated Kasich. They could all vote for Johnson - who is the third party they are looking for, but, as usual for a moderate, a namby-pamby one who will behave civilly, not make rah-rah speeches and who probably doesn't have the political power to get in a debate. I think he got in one Republican debate in 2012 and did great. They were and are both standing right there, and are more traditional Republicans than Trump - the party agrees with them more than with Trump, more so Kasich, who also polled best against the Democrats. But, they were rejected because this time around illegal immigration is the right's raison d'ĂȘtre and they didn't make the right noises.

I'm awaiting the results for the last Super Tuesday. I'm hoping that Sanders wins California because I can't stand the nature of partisanship that demands only your candidate gets to speak and run. Sanders hasn't lost yet. He can hope for a Hail Mary because technically, he has lost nothing. But, if he doesn't win California, it will be more difficult practically to make the argument.

Still, it makes me feel good to see the party establishment being cautious about bashing him - afraid to alienate his young followers. Politics are disgusting, but, really entertaining.

POST SCRIPT - WELL SANDERS LOST, so that's really done unless by some miracle she gets indicted and I've said from the beginning, as long as she might be president - it isn't happening. As for Trump, the chattering class is going crazy, even Joe Scarborough, generally a friend of Trump (though not a supporter) and the host of my favorite non C-Span show. Still think he'll make it. 

About Me

My photo
I started this blog in September, 2006. Mostly, it is where I can talk about things that interest me, which I otherwise don't get to do all that much, about some remarkable people who should not be forgotten, philosophy and theories (like Don Foster's on who wrote A Visit From St. Nicholas and my own on whether Santa is mostly derived from a Norse god) and analysis of issues that concern me. Often it is about books. I try to quote accurately and to say when I am paraphrasing (more and more). Sometimes I blow the first name of even very famous people, often entertainers. I'm much better at history, but once in a while I see I have written something I later learned was not true. Sometimes I fix them, sometimes not. My worst mistake was writing that Beethoven went blind, when he actually went deaf. Feel free to point out an error. I either leave in the mistake, or, if I clean it up, the comment pointing it out. From time to time I do clean up grammar in old posts as, over time I have become more conventional in my grammar, and I very often write these when I am falling asleep and just make dumb mistakes. It be nice to have an editor, but . . . .