Some people mean more together than they do apart, whatever the stage. Churchill and Hitler. Bogart and Bacall. Ali and Frazier. And for all the deserved accolades for Muhammad Ali, I've always believed that each at his best, Joe Frazier, who died Monday night at age 67, was the better fighter. And the better man.
I don't know if I agree with any of this (the opening line strikes me as a banal truism) but the part that really rankles is the notion that Frazier was "the better man." For those who don't know, Muhammad Ali, in the lead up to his first fight with Frazier and I believe even the follow-ups, engaged in some of the worst intra-black racist rhetoric probably ever witnessed in modern sports.
The old clips--where Ali berates Frazier as a "gorilla"--recalls the sort of thing which all of us (black people) experienced on bus-stops and playgrounds, but was magnified by the stage, the camera, and the fact that it was grown men. None of Ali's taunts are particularly original, but they're laced with a "blacker than thou" nationalism that's really disturbing.
And yet Ali went down in memory as symbol of courage--in and out of the ring--as well to riches and fame. Frazier--the son of sharecroppers--ended up living above his gym in Philadelphia. To make matter worse, it was Frazier who defended Ali and gave him money after he was stripped of his title for resisting the draft. In recent years there's been a blowback of revisionism highlighting Ali's behavior toward Frazier. It's tended to ignore Frazier's own behavior in regard to Ali's Parkinson's Disease, or to justify it by highlighting Ali as the original villain.
I think complicating the portrait of Ali has been good essential work. But I think that Dave Anderson's sense that Frazier was actually "the better fighter" and "the better man" shows what happens when correctives to our morality plays, themselves, become morality plays themselves.
You can start a fairly nasty debate over who was the better fighter. The acolytes of Ali have the record--two out of three. The acolytes of Frazier have "If"--"If" Eddie Futch hadn't stopped the fight. Still, I concede that an argument is there to be made. But when you start talking about who was the "better man" I think you're into a business beyond athletics. Frazier and Ali have always been battle-ground for the boomers. It's a little sad to see this play out after a man has died.
I also think there's this sense that Ali was rather magical, for his critics, in the worst sense. He wasn't supposed to beat Liston--and his critics will note that he wouldn't have, if Angelo Dundee hadn't forced him to. There's still some sense that he defeated Liston, in the second fight, by shadowy means. And he certainly wasn't supposed to beat Foreman. He did so in the most shocking way--not by beating him to a pulp, or superior hand-speed--but by some voodoo called the "Rope-A-Dope." In When We Were Kings, George Plimpton actually jokingly attributes Ali's victory to a succubus. (Video below. There's a moment at about 4:30 where you see Plimpton and Mailer, mouths agape as Foreman goes down, that symbolizes what I mean.)
I don't enough about boxing to explain the begrudging admiration for Ali among some boxing writers. But I know that when I see people explaining away a series of events with "Ifs" that they're generally on shaking ground.
Issued last summer, the rules are the centerpiece of the White House’s climate-change-fighting agenda, and they play a big part in the recent, tepid optimism about global warming. Without the proposal of the plan, the United States couldn’t have secured the Paris Agreement, the first international treaty to mitigate greenhouse-gas emissions, last December. And without the adoption of the plan, the United States almost certainly won’t be able to comply with that document. If the world were to lose the Paris Agreement—which was not a total solution to the climate crisis, but meant to be a first, provisional step—years could be lost in the diplomatic fight to reduce climate-change’s dangers.
The number of American teens who excel at advanced math has surged. Why?
On a sultry evening last July, a tall, soft-spoken 17-year-old named David Stoner and nearly 600 other math whizzes from all over the world sat huddled in small groups around wicker bistro tables, talking in low voices and obsessively refreshing the browsers on their laptops. The air in the cavernous lobby of the Lotus Hotel Pang Suan Kaew in Chiang Mai, Thailand, was humid, recalls Stoner, whose light South Carolina accent warms his carefully chosen words. The tension in the room made it seem especially heavy, like the atmosphere at a high-stakes poker tournament.
Stoner and five teammates were representing the United States in the 56th International Mathematical Olympiad. They figured they’d done pretty well over the two days of competition. God knows, they’d trained hard. Stoner, like his teammates, had endured a grueling regime for more than a year—practicing tricky problems over breakfast before school and taking on more problems late into the evening after he completed the homework for his college-level math classes. Sometimes, he sketched out proofs on the large dry-erase board his dad had installed in his bedroom. Most nights, he put himself to sleep reading books like New Problems in Euclidean Geometry and An Introduction to Diophantine Equations.
Everything that was supposed to be silenced is suddenly being said.
The tight grip of oligarchy upon the American political system slipped a little last night in New Hampshire.
On the Democratic side, voters cast their ballots for one of the most implausible candidates in modern presidential history—less because his rhetoric was so mesmerizing or his program so inspiring than as a protest against an expected winner perceived as a lavishly compensated servitor of organized wealth.
In her concession speech, Hillary Clinton boasted of her small donors. More than 70 percent had given less than $100, she claimed: “I know that doesn’t fit with the narrative.” As Ken Vogel of Politico immediately tweeted, the claim also distorts the facts. Clinton may have a lot of donors, but the bulk of the value of her donations—85 percent—has come from the biggest givers. And her family’s personal wealth, and its foundation’s assets, can also be seen as built on the largesse of banks, corporations, and foreign governments.
When he tweets “BILL COSBY INNOCENT !!!!!!!!!!” is one example.
There are quite a few plausible theories for why Kanye West tweeted “BILL COSBY INNOCENT !!!!!!!!!!” last night. One might be that during a late night in the studio working on an album scheduled to be released in less than 48 hours, he decided to procrastinate and grab some publicity by tweeting out the most trollish thing possible (closely preceded and followed by more banal missives about sneakers and Michael Jordan). Another might be that he’d seen the news that a judge had dismissed Janice Dickinson’s defamation suit against Cosby’s ex-lawyer and mistook that small victory for the Cosby camp for a larger one. Or maybe he wanted to remind people of America’s innocent-till-proven-guilty paradigm, as if the entirety of the Cosby conversation in the past two years hasn’t already engaged directly with it. Or maybe he really believes Cosby is innocent, despite, as Sarah Silverman put it, the testimony of around 50 women with nothing to gain due to the statute of limitations on rape.
He bridged traditional GOP divides, while his opponents have not yet displayed broad appeal.
NASHUA, New Hampshire—Donald Trump won twice in New Hampshire last night: once because he transcended many of the Republican Party’s historic divides, and a second time because the voters most resistant to him remained fragmented.
With his commanding New Hampshire win, Trump demonstrated again that his maverick appeal has replaced many of the party’s traditional fissures with a new dividing line based more on class and education. Equally important, the results virtually ensured that the voters most resistant to both Trump and Iowa winner Ted Cruz—mostly white-collar, mainstream conservatives—will remain divided. Their split will persist at least through the critical South Carolina primary approaching on February 20, and possibly through the Super Tuesday cascade of contests on March 1.
The script for J.K. Rowling’s new play, set to premiere in the summer, will also be published in book form.
When J.K. Rowling announced last October that her Harry Potter series would get a new story—in the form of a play that featured her beloved book characters as adults—fans greeted the news with mixed feelings. As I wrote at the time, it was exciting to see the author experiment with a new medium and a non-Harry-centric tale in Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. The play picks up the story 19 years after Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, and focuses on Harry’s relationship with his son, Albus Severus. The casting choices that were later announced—with a black actress, Noma Dumezweni, in the role of grown-up Hermione—were even more heartening.
And yet. I complained that few of Rowling’s millions of fans would be able to actually attend (or afford tickets to) the two-part play during its run in London’s West End: “The nature of the theater experience means the vast majority of fans won’t get to experience the communal joy of seeing what Rowling’s dreamed up for them. They’ll be trying not to feel too sad that the first new Harry Potter story in almost 10 years won’t be one they can binge-read the day it comes out.”
Most people in the U.S. believe their country is going to hell. But they’re wrong. What a three-year journey by single-engine plane reveals about reinvention and renewal.
When news broke late last year of a mass shooting in San Bernardino, California, most people in the rest of the country, and even the state, probably had to search a map to figure out where the city was. I knew exactly, having grown up in the next-door town of Redlands (where the two killers lived) and having, by chance, spent a long period earlier in the year meeting and interviewing people in the unglamorous “Inland Empire” of Southern California as part of an ongoing project of reporting across America.
Some of what my wife, Deb, and I heard in San Bernardino before the shootings closely matched the picture that the nonstop news coverage presented afterward: San Bernardino as a poor, troubled town that sadly managed to combine nearly every destructive economic, political, and social trend of the country as a whole. San Bernardino went into bankruptcy in 2012 and was only beginning to emerge at the time of the shootings. Crime is high, household income is low, the downtown is nearly abandoned in the daytime and dangerous at night, and unemployment and welfare rates are persistently the worst in the state.
Why Donald Trump's anti-immigration rhetoric was enough for movement conservatives to forgive his history of liberalism.
Last summer, Donald Trump described Mexican immigrants as “bringing drugs, they’re bringing crime. They’re rapists.” In December, he called for “a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States.” Many commentators claim that this wild rhetoric helps Trump suck up media oxygen or appear like a straight-talking political outsider. But the most important benefit of the anti-immigrant language is that it inoculates Trump against the charge of being a closet liberal.
Trump has a seemingly fatal vulnerability in the Republican primary: His past support for a host of moderate and liberal positions. In recent years, Trump said he would “press for universal health care,” claimed that he was “pro-choice in every respect,” remarked that “I hate the concept of guns,” stated that Hillary Clinton would “do a good job” in negotiating with Iran, asserted that the GOP was “just too crazy right,” and even said, “In many cases, I probably identify more as a Democrat.”
But raising the minimum wage doesn’t really address the fact that black men without criminal records have about the same shot at low-wage work as white men with them; nor can making college free address the wage gap between black and white graduates. Housing discrimination, historical and present, may well be the fulcrum of white supremacy.
This is (in my view) the crux of Ta-Nehisi Coates’ argument. Class-based solutions are good, and will by their nature affect the most change within communities of color that have greatly suffered for the entire history of this country and beyond. Simply addressing the symptoms, which have been disproportionately been suffered by people of color, will not address the problem, and there are symptoms of systemic racism (which Coates cites) that cannot be addressed in the frame of a class struggle.
I agree with him. Fully and truly, if a policy could address these systemic and greater-than-class symptoms of a problem I have been an unwilling beneficiary of, I would support them.
They would not, however, be an issue by which I decide my vote for president. This is in part because of the absolute dichotomy of our political system. When I view the candidates, and the state of our electorate, I could not support a candidate who purely thought the way I thought. There is too much to be lost by supporting the grander ideas of my intellectual person than the practical implications of embracing someone whose ideas were succinctly in my own sphere at the expense of that person being written off to history while their opponent governs our country.
After getting shut down late last year, a website that allows free access to paywalled academic papers has sprung back up in a shadowy corner of the Internet.
There’s a battle raging over whether academic research should be free, and it’s overflowing into the dark web.
Most modern scholarly work remains locked behind paywalls, and unless your computer is on the network of a university with an expensive subscription, you have to pay a fee, often around 30 dollars, to access each paper.
Many scholars say this system makes publishers rich—Elsevier, a company that controls access to more than 2,000 journals, has a market capitalization about equal to that of Delta Airlines—but does not benefit the academics that conducted the research, or the public at large. Others worry that free academic journals would have a hard time upholding the rigorous standards and peer reviews that the most prestigious paid journals are famous for.