Like many people who take an interest in political arguments, I have a lamentable (and probably incurable) tendency to assume that almost anyone who doesn’t agree with me is at best ignorant and at worst arguing bad faith. The fact that I’ve so noticeably failed to cultivate the virtue of open-mindedness in myself, makes me respect it more in others, and this is why, I’m a devoted fan of Ben Six’s Back Towards the Locus. Whilst I violently disagree with about half of the stuff he posts, the man could never be accused of arguing in bad faith; he’s always at such obvious pains to give a full hearing to views other than his own that’s it’s a wonder he ever gets anything done.[1]


Now, as you can probably tell from my deployment of the standard blogosphere “I have nothing but the greatest respect for this person” trope, I’m about to take issue with something Ben said on the internet. Indeed I am. Specifically, this seems to be an object lesson in the dangers of offering people the benefit of the doubt.


Ben’s convinced himself that the problem with conservatism that it has trouble talking about values. Possibly because they’re not allowed to bring religion into it any more. This seems to me to be on the face of it fairly ridiculous, and Ben pretty much gives the game away with his first example – Norman Tebbit’s latest attempt to render the Daily Mash obsolete by giving us the benefit of his wisdom on gay marriage:

“When we have a queen who is a lesbian and she marries another lady and then decides she would like to have a child and someone donates sperm and she gives birth to a child, is that child heir to the throne?”

I actually had to ask what the worry about this is meant to be. Ben cleared it up in comments: “I think he’s saying that you would have a child who was as much the offspring of someone who was not in the royal family as of someone who was.” Now, obviously, this is ridiculous. Ben understands this – Tebbit’s outburst is, in his words, both ludicrous and irrelevant. He goes on to say, however:

What is interesting to me is that Norman Tebbit, that war horse of old Toryism, is phrasing his opinions in the terms of practicalities rather than of values. He, and others like him, are unable or unwilling to defend the virtues of the present but merely admonish us regarding hazards of the future. They caution against change, but give little sense of the value of conserving. This, it seems to me, has long been a problem for conservatives.

There seem to me to be two problems with this. The first is a sort of philosophical one. Conservatism is meant to be the stance of respecting existing institutions because they’ve stood the test of time, and so probably embody greater wisdom than is accessible to the puny brains of those who would reform or abolish them. It’s an admonition not to tinker with any of the political machinery because you probably don’t understand what it does. As Michael Oakeshott put it:

The spring… a conservative disposition – is to be found in the acceptance of the current condition of human circumstances as I have described it: the propensity to make our own choices and find happiness in doing so, the variety of enterprises each pursued with passion, the diversity of beliefs each held with the conviction of its exclusive truth; the inventiveness, the changefulness and the absence of any large design; the excess, the over-activity and the informal compromise.

So when Ben says that he has “no clear sense of the kind of society that it is right to inhabit” and that he’d like conservatives to offer their thoughts on this, he’s asking them to do something explicitly unconservative.

The second point rather cuts against the first. Because real life conservatives don’t look remotely like the political philosophy ones. They’re very happy to have society impose all sorts of values on people. Which as, far as I can make any sense of what Tebbit’s statement, is what it’s meant to be doing. It’s an appeal to the values that have been motivating the Tory base in all this, namely that lesbians are icky and that letting them have kids is weird. You certainly can’t talk about some batshit worry concerning the offspring of our hypothetical lesbian queen as a “practicality” of the gay marriage in any normal sense of that word.

I submit that, insofar as conservatives have a problem,[2] it isn’t so much that there aren’t any values on display, as that the values on display are unappealing to many people.

[1] Probably more importantly, he’s a fan of both MMA and Jason Molina, and having thus appeased my more fundamental prejudices, gets a free pass with everything else.

[2] I say “insofar as” because it’s not actually clear to me that this country has a shortage of bigots with the right to vote.


Ramon Dekkers, RIP

Ramon Dekkers was the both the best, and the most important, non-Thai Muay Thai fighter, ever. If you spent any time in Thailand in the nineties, you couldn’t help but notice that he was the only Western fighter whose name people actually knew. That was because he was going out to Thailand, and fighting against the best they had, in a weight division that the locals actually cared about. He was doing this at a time when there were legendary Thais fighting at his weight, and he was winning. Not every fight, by any means. but that’s actually an accolade in itself – Dekkers didn’t have  a carefully managed career of big money fights, with a promoter carefully watching out to make sure that his boy’s record didn’t get tarnished. Instead, he took on every other bad-ass out there, at a time when the Muay Thai world was full of them.

I don’t ask other fighters for autographs. I’ve made two exceptions to that rule. One was Anderson Silva. The other one was Ramon Dekkers. Dekkers is the only one I kept.

For posterity.

“Skate-boarding is not a crime, although it may be a breach of the peace.”

I have now officially finished my public law module for the year, and will thus likely never get to share that joke with anyone.

It’s a walk-off!

Ben Six despairs at the state of women’s pro-wrestling:

It’s as insulting to the viewers as to the performers. We’re supposed to think that dames who make tour cyclists look like bodybuilders, and who smile broader and blander than presidential candidates, are formidable wrestlers. This wouldn’t be farcical if they could actually work but – especially as they’ve begun to recruit performers from the world of modelling rather than sports – many wouldn’t know a boston crab from seafood. Meanwhile, talented performers who – shock horror! – carry muscle mass or an ounce of fat are humiliated. This may change – I’d go into the details but they’d bore you silly – but, ’til then, the whole darn thing is just degrading people.

As an MMA fan I might be inclined to get all smug and superior about how this is what happens when you watch worked fights. On the other hand, as an MMA fan, I’ve watched Strikeforce trying to match Gina Carano with people who are either half her size or who’ve never had a pro fight before, so it’s not like I can get too smug. That said, I think that this is just plain strange:

I don’t find women’s rugby or cricket as much fun as their male equivalents for the same reason I’d prefer to watch England than Romania or Zimbabwe. The enjoyability of the sports – for me, at least – is enhanced by a level of pace and strength the male physique is better suited for.

Now obviously I have no idea about what it is in particular about the England men’s rugby team that Ben prefers to the Romanian one, but I think we can rule out the idea that the English physique is just better suited for rugby. I’d guess that the reason no-one wants to watch the Romanians is that they’re drawing their rugby players from a small talent pool, not coaching them as well, and paying them peanuts. Seems to me that a lot of the problems with women’s sports can probably be explained the same way.

This might seem like pointless righter-on-than-thou-ism, but there is a substantive point here. If the problem with women’s sports is that there’s not enough money, and not enough women doing them, then part of the solution has to be more money and more women getting involved in the sport.

This is why I’m actually sort of ambivalent about the inevitable tendency to sex up women’s fights. On the one hand it’s ridiculous (we do have channels that show actual porn, people!), and patronising. On the other it does get more exposure and money for female fighters. I’d guess that, on balance, it encourages women to get involved in the sport. For every potentially talented fighter who finds it all too tawdry, I’m guessing there are a fair few who think “I’m pretty sure I could make easy money beating the shit out of that girl!”

Obviously it’s a little harder to achieve the same result in pro-wrestling (and here I may be forced to get just a little smug and superior). The fact that MMA involves real fighting does enforce a minimal level of honesty amongst promoters. Talented pro-wrestlers will always have a harder time proving that they’re talented, rather than just hyped. But that’s hardly a problem that’s confined to the women’s game, is it?

It’s just not natural

[Guest post from the soon-to-be-Mrs Creation]
I don’t like watching them fight, it doesn’t look right and shouldn’t be allowed.

I’m not entertained by it and don’t find it interesting to watch. Moreover, there’s something about it that makes me feel downright uncomfortable.

Basically, it’s lower-level fighting. There are various techniques that they cannot do properly and so you don’t see the full MMA skill-set. It’s not their fault, they’re just not built that way.

I find it annoying when valuable PPV time is taken up by putting these fights on the card. I mean, most of these fighters aren’t even that attractive!

I suppose heavyweights should be allowed to fight, I just don’t want to watch it.

And what’s more, their boobs get in the way.

… but with people

Damn, this is good.

To gi or not to gi

Over at the rather spiffing new BJJHacks, they’re promoting the virtues of the gi.They make three points. The first, that more matt-time is better than less, is obviously true. I wonder about the second and the third though:

2: If you can escape when wearing a gi, you can escape damn near anything when no-gi
Boxers hold weights in their hands when they shadowbox. When they drop the weights, their hands are a whole lot quicker as a result. It’s the same reasoning behind running while wearing a weighted vest, or dragging a sled. Once you take away the weight, your body moves a helluva lot faster.

Wearing a gi has much the same effect. The added weight and friction of the cloth makes it harder to move when you’re on your back, and you’ll learn how to escape tight submissions without relying on low-percentage explosive movements.

I think this is right so long as its taken as advice for beginner and perhaps intermediate level grapplers (which I hasten to add is all I am). But aren’t gi and no-gi grappling are fundamentally different animals these days? And doesn’t that mean that athletes are going to have to specialise more?

3: If it’s good enough for the best, it should be good enough for you
Do you know how many UFC champions, past and present, are black belts in BJJ? Fifteen. Yup, fifteen! If you don’t believe me, go take a look.

Is this not just a legacy effect of the fact that both MMA and submission grappling largely developed out of BJJ? Again, the fact that those sports all seem to be going their different ways to some extent suggests to me that the gi is going to start looking less relevant to MMA.