Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Power Rankings of World Leaders

Here's the new power rankings of world leaders. The last one was posted on July 6.

Rank Leader Country Previous Rank
1 Xi Jiangping China 1
2 Vladimir Putin Russia 3
3 Kim Jong-un North Korea 2
4 Ali Khamenei Iran 4
5Shinzo Abe Japan Not Ranked
6 Emmanuel Macron France Not Ranked
7Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic Croatia Not Ranked
8Abiy Ahmed Ethiopia Not Ranked
9 Sauli Niinisto Finland Not Ranked
10Donald Trump United States 9

1. The only reason the Chinese didn't collude with Trump in 2016 is because Russia beat them too it. All joking aside, U.S. President Donald Trump has been the gift that keeps on giving to Xi and China. The Belt and Road Initiative has filled in for Trump and America's increasing absence on the world stage.

2. After the World Cup helped give off the appearance of a statesman, the autocratic leader of Russia traveled to Helsinki to have a summit with the President of the United States. Putin had Trump eating out of his hand, parroting Putinist propaganda on issues ranging from Russia meddling in the 2016 U.S. election to Macedonia's participation in NATO potentially leading to World War III. Russian media hailed the summit as a victory for Trump. President Trump was eviscerated even by fellow Republicans. So of course, Putin received an invitation to the White House to rip Trump a new one again. Putin most ardent enemy in Europe is Theresa May who has been struggling. Her diplomatic boycott of the World Cup didn't gain any traction among other countries and two cabinet members resigned over her interpretation of Brexit. Putin is feeling high.

3. Kim is still living large off of his summit with Trump. He got POTUS to salute one of his soldiers and praise him endlessly. Trump trumpeted the summit as a victory for denuclearization and Kim decided to ramp up his program as a result.

4. Trump threatened Iranian President Hassan Rouhani over mild comments Rouhani made. Trump continues to embolden hardliners such as Ayatollah Khamenei and the Quds Force. Iran will likely be a nuclear power soon since Trump backed out of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action and even U.S. military power won't slow it down for long.

5. While President Trump has treated Abe like something to use and throw away, Abe has hit back by agreeing with the EU on a huge free trade deal. Also in the TPP, Japan is angling to be a leader in global free trade.

6. Macron's bid to be the leader of the Western Alliance faltered when Trump backed out of the Paris Climate Accord, the Iran Deal, and generally berated his allies. But France's World Cup win represented the benefits of multiculturalism and immigration. Defeating an ethno-state in the final drove home the point. That win has been soured by the Benalla Affair, in which a member of Macron's security detail beat the hell out of some protesters.

7. Grabar-Kitarovic was the true star of the World Cup. She traveled to the games from Croatia flying coach. She sat in the stands and cheered for her team. Then she took selfies with other fans. She also gave some world leaders Croatia jerseys. Her humility stole the show.

8. Ahmed heads one of the fastest growing economies in the world. On top of that, Ethiopia and Eritrea finally found peace. It's been a good few weeks for the reformer.

9. Niinisto, who hosted the summit between Putin and Trump in Helsinki, has led the charge to improve relations between the two former Cold War adversaries. Boy were relations good between the two. It was a love in.

10. The first U.S. president not to be considered the leader of the free world since World War II has fallen even farther down the list. He's actually in danger of falling off the list. Real intelligence professionals were seriously postulating as to whether Trump is a controlled asset of Russia. Others called him treasonous for backing Putin over all of his own intelligence agencies. He's trying to distract from his embarrassing performance in Helsinki by threatening Iran.

Saturday, July 21, 2018

Mark Kriegel is Annoying, Bring Back Teddy Atlas

Late last fall, ESPN replaced Teddy Atlas with Mark Kriegel for their live boxing broadcasting. The switch was a mistake.

Teddy Atlas has his quirks, but what I'm looking for in an announcer is knowledge of the subject and  entertainment value. Atlas fills both requirements. Kriegel fills neither.

The Storylines
The perfect place for Kriegel on a broadcast is doing those bio pieces before the fight that I usually just fast forward through. Every action has some deeper meaning or some deeper story behind it with this guy. A fighter's orphaned childhood eating garbage out on the streets led him to that straight right-left hook combination in the 4th round. What the hell? It's a fucking boxing match, not a Russian novel. I want to know that he landed the combo because the opponent's left was low after a jab, not because he overcame bipolar disorder through years of intensive therapy.

The Repetition
I read Mark Kriegel's book The Good Son about Ray Mancini. It was enjoyable until he recycled the the same old trope: Mancini was avenging his father's career which was successful, but the father never reached the pinnacle of his profession. Kriegel never really built off of that idea, he simply repeated it. He does the same thing when he announces fights and introduces his storylines

The Lack of Knowledge
I blame Howard Cosell, but boxing has a long tradition of placing non-experts in the expert chair. You got the sense that Cosell knew what he was taking about. That doesn't mean Mark Kriegel also knows. Besides the occasional mention of a jab, Kriegel doesn't provide anything of substance. And when he mentions a jab, his accent travels back in time 50 years, but for just a word.

An ESPN official said they took Teddy Atlas off the broadcasts because he treated Kriegel horribly during one telecast. Yeah, because Teddy Atlas holds people who don't know anything about boxing to account. It was cathartic to hear Kriegel called out for his lack of knowledge about boxing.

You, Sir, Are No Larry Merchant
The gradual delivery, the contrarian attitude. Kriegel is channeling his inner Larry Merchant. The difference is we waited to hear Merchant finally finish his thought because it was worth waiting for.

Muhammad Ali Isn't Fighting Tonight
Max Kellerman had to learn this. Bringing up old fighters can be illuminating, but only if done so with care. When Kellerman first started announcing fights on HBO, he compared every Sakio Bika fight to Hagler-Hearns (not an actual example). Kellerman brings up old fighters more judiciously now. Kriegel should be taking notes.

The Jose Ramirez Fixation
Mark Kreigel is in love with junior welterweight contender (don't try to talk to me about the alphabet belts) Jose Ramirez. His infatuation with Jose Ramirez makes Dick Vitale and Duke look like puppy love. Kriegel has managed to mention Jose Ramirez in virtually every fight he's called this year. I mean, Jose Ramirez is pretty good and has a nice back story, but he's not the face of boxing or anything. I can deal with hearing about Jose Ramirez during his own fight and occasionally when another 140 pound contender is in the ring. But enough already.

ESPN should bring back Teddy Atlas. The only problem is Tim Bradley has really come into his own as an announcer since Atlas left. That's primarily because providing anything of substance falls completely on his shoulders during the broadcast. When he called a fight with his old coach, Bradley's voice was neutered. Now, he is the lone boxing expert on the team (all apologies to Joe Tessitore, but Tess does a great job of knowing his place). Neverthless, I'd be willing to sacrifice Tim Bradley's continued improvement if we can mute Mark Kriegel. In the mean time, I'll be patiently waiting to once again hear Teddy Atlas rip a judge's bad scorecard.

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

A Presidential Press Conference

"I asked Emperor Hirohito in all seriousness if Japan attacked Pearl Harbor and he said no. Why would he lie to me? I don't see any reason why it would be Japan. It could be other people. There's a lot of people out there." - President Franklin Delano Roosevelt on December 7, 1941 at a joint press conference with Japanese Emperor Hirohito.

Friday, July 06, 2018

Power Rankings of World Leaders

Here's the new power rankings of world leaders. The last one was posted on June 13.

Rank Leader Country Previous Rank
1 Xi Jiangping China 1
2 Kim Jong-un North Korea 2
3 Vladimir Putin Russia 5
4 Ali Khamenei Iran 7
5Narendra Modi India Not Ranked
6 Mohammad bin Salman Saudi Arabia 10
7 Abdel Fattah el-Sisi Egypt Not Ranked
8 Recep Tayyip Erdogan Turkey Not Ranked
9 Donald Trump United States 6
10Pedro Sanchez Spain Not Ranked

1. The trade war is happening and China is in a great position to win it. Xi doesn't have to worry about his political constituency because he is the unchallenged leader of China. He can put a real hurt on the U.S. since its president Donald Trump managed to alienate his allies before entering this trade war. The North Korean situation is going swimmingly for Xi as well as Trump has already capitulated on a few issues that bolster China. And in a recent Democracy Perception Index (DPI) report, China was one of the top countries for the questions about the government acting in its people's best interest and- amazingly- about the perception of its news media being balanced.

2. Kim defeated Donald Trump during the Singapore summit. Donald Trump was caught by cameras saluting a North Korean soldier. It was bad enough that the President of the United States met with the North Korean dictator as if they were equals, called a halt to necessary defensive military exercises with South Korea, and didn't get anything of substance in return, but now POTUS is saluting random North Korean soldiers. And oh by the way, after vaguely promising to denuclearize, the North Koreans have increased nuclear production at secret sites.

3. One of the most upsetting sights at the World Cup was watching Putin and Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince MBS shrug their shoulders as Russia continuously scored goals in the tournament's opening match as if to say, "Let the peons have their fun, this frivolity is of no consequence to us royalty." Otherwise, the optics have been good during Putin's World Cup as none of the stadiums have collapsed and no foreigners have been beaten (except for maybe Neymar, but that's a different story). Don't underestimate Putin's ability to fix the World Cup as his low-ranked Russian squad is still alive. Putin is now preparing for his summit with Trump, who is developing a reputation as an easy mark. Russia- bewilderingly- was number one in the DPI report's question about feeling free to express one's political positions. This despite the untimely deaths or arrests of those who express the "wrong" opinions about Putin.

4. As the Iran Deal continues to crumble following President Trump's withdrawal, the pressure is on Europe and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani to revive it. Trump is threatening the U.S.'s European allies with sanctions for trading with Iran, which moves the Europeans to the Iranians' side in the dispute. And if a new deal can't get done, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei benefits. Iranians are protesting the bad economy, Now Khamenei can play that old anti-American nationalism tune and hope to blame Iran's economic woes on the Great Satan. And Iran may soon be free to start up its nuclear program once again.

5. Modi is the top democratic leader on this list. India's economy is thriving, but relations between the Hindu fundamentalist government and the large Muslim minority has been a cause for concern. A UN human rights report on India's only Muslim-majority province, Kashmir, was rough on the Indians, who have run the state as a military autocracy for decades. However, the recent DPI report put India near the top with China in terms of the perception of a balanced media in the eyes of India's citizens. That might be because India's cable news media is basically people from all sides of an issue screaming at each other.

6. Women can now drive in Saudi Arabia, a great news story for MBS, who has overseen a disastrous war in Yemen, the bizarre kidnapping of the Lebanese prime minister, a counterproductive blockade of Qatar, and the jailing of female activists. He also was one half of the "let them eat cake" duo at the World Cup with Putin, arrogantly shrugging away his soccer team's pitiful performance. But in that recent DPI report, Saudi Arabia easily won the question about the government acting in its people's best interest and- astoundingly- did well on a question about whether the average citizen's voice matters.

7. Sisi is back on the list because of the DPI report. Egypt was second behind Saudi Arabia for the question about the government acting in the people's interest and tied for second for the question: do you feel that the voice of people like you matters in politics? That is an incredible achievement for a hapless despot.

8. Erdogan won another presidential election. This was an important one because it basically made him dictator for life in the once-democratic country. Erdogan has a knack for just clearing the 50% threshold. I have a feeling he'll do much better next election with his increased powers. It's like that old expression: With increased power comes increased comfort to fix your next election. The good news is Turkey has taken in a lot of Syrian refugees, something the United States and many European countries are loath to do. In the DPI report, Turkey- shockingly- was one of the best countries in terms of the government acting in its people's interest. Apparently, not many Kurds, Istanbulites, and Izmirian were polled.

9. Trump has had a terrible month. Separating children from their parents on the border with Mexico was inhumane. Saluting the North Korean soldier was treasonous at worst and stupid at best. The trade war is going to cost a lot of Americans their jobs and will increase the price of many consumer goods. He entered the trade war after alienating his allies, never a good plan. After being duped by Kim Jong-Un during the pair's summit, he's going to be bamboozled by Putin during their July 16 summit. You never know, Trump might end up giving Putin Crimea and California and still claim he got a great deal.

10. When the Italians heartlessly refused the Aquarius, a boat laden with refugees, Sanchez's Spain answered the call and allowed the ship to dock. Whereas French President Emmanuel Macron, British Prime Minister Theresa May, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau have all failed to sway Trump, perhaps, ironically, Socialist Sanchez will be a more effective leader of the Western alliance and the liberal world order.

Sunday, July 01, 2018

Top Ten Pound-For-Pound

Here's my pound-for-pound list. I take into account ability and accomplishment. The previous list was posted on April 11, 2018.

1. Vasyl Lomachenko (11-1, 9 KOs) [1]
2. Terence Crawford (33-0, 24 KOs) [2]
3. Gennady Golovkin (38-0-1, 34 KOs) [3]
4. Sergey Kovalev (32-2-1, 28 KOs) [4]
5. Srisaket Sor Rungvisai (45-4-1, 40 KOs) [5]
6. Leo Santa Cruz (35-1-1, 19 KOs) [Not ranked]
7. Naoya Inoue (16-0, 15 KOs) [Not ranked]
8. Errol Spence (24-0, 21 KOs) [6]
9. Mikey Garcia (38-0, 30 KOs) [7]
10. Guillermo Rigondeaux (17-1, 11 KOs) [10]

Exiting the list:
Adonis Stevenson (29-1-1, 24 KOs) [8]
Keith Thurman (28-0, 22 KOs) [9]

Stevenson drew with a good opponent, Badou Jack, but that result isn't good enough to warrant staying on the list.

Thurman falls off the list due to inactivity. A good win will put him back on.

Entering the list:
Santa Cruz fell off the list in April and is now back on with an impressive win over Abner Mares. He's now beaten Mares twice, avenged his lone loss to Carl Frampton, and has bested a number of good fighters. Spence hasn't quite faced the same competition as Santa Cruz. He beat an undefeated, but untested Carlos Ocampo in one round in June. Garcia has fought a similar amount of solid opponents, but doesn't yet have a signature win; Santa Cruz has three.

Inoue hasn't fought anyone great, but he has demolished good fighters. His bigger opponent in May, Jamie McDonnell, was no slouch. Inoue stopped him inside one round.

What to Watch for:
Golovkin faces Canelo Alvarez in a rematch of their September draw. Alvarez failed a drug test before the scheduled May 5 match up. If he's clean, Canelo may return to the list. GGG might make a good case for #1 with a great showing.

Kovalev is in tough against undefeated contender Eleider Alvarez in August.

Cruiserweight Olexandr Usyk was supposed to face Murat Gassiev in May. That fight is now slated for July 21. The winner could crack the top ten pound-for-pound.

Mikey Garcia faces the undefeated Robert Easter, a legitimate and lengthy lean lightweight on July 28.