Muhammad Ali

AliMuhammad Ali has passed away at the age of 74. Given the great love and honor shown to him since carrying the Olympic Torch at the Atlanta games in 1996 and being awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by George Bush in 2005 it is perhaps difficult to remember how reviled he was in the 1960s after he converted to Islam, changed his name, and refused to be drafted.

David Susskind, the well regarded television producer and talk show host, said this to Ali in a bitter exchange in 1968:

I find nothing amusing or interesting or tolerable about this man. He’s a disgrace to his country, his race, and what he laughingly describes as his profession. He is a convicted felon in the United States. He has been found guilty. He is out on bail. He will inevitably go to prison, as well he should. He is a simplistic fool and a pawn.

We should remember these things, however, because more than Ali’s courage in the ring, it was Ali’s courage in fighting the US government and much of the US public that made him a great American.


So what's wrong with what Mr Susskind said?

I am pretty wary of anyone who converts to that most left-wing of all religions - Islam.

How exactly is Islam a left wing religion? Of the major religions, its not the closest at all to Leftism. Its the most friendly to capitalism as Muhammad was a merchant and recognized property rights. The important values of leftism are egalitarianism, pro-gay, anti-family, anti-religion, socialism, etc. None of those are valued by Islam. Call me the next time you saw a Transsexual bathroom law in an Islamic country or a socialist regime. It won't happen because Islam is not close at all Left wing.

it's not leftist as you describe leftists, it's totalitarian ( which also fits the far left). The left supports it because they're always in love with minorities and want loudly to be seen as opposing bigotry, never mind that Islam is the most intolerant of creeds.

As everyone knows, Stalin's political platform was strongly pro-gay, including making/keping it a criminal offense.

Its the most friendly to capitalism as Muhammad was a merchant and recognized property rights.

The zakat tax and taking the ban on usury seriously strikes one as especially capitalist.

The important values of leftism are egalitarianism, pro-gay, anti-family, anti-religion, socialism, etc. -

Ameriburger alert! ;) In most of the world that is generally liberalism, not leftism. Only a small number of mostly crazy Westerners have ever argued Islam is liberal.

Iran and Saudi Arabia are left-wing utopias, I take it? High taxes, gay rights everywhere, a tolerance for minorities, secularism? Hmmmm? Hmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm?

It is left-wing in its commitment to abstractions, its intolerance of diversity, contempt for individualism, its glorification of egalitarianism, its distaste for local tradition and local precedent, its aspirations for being a universal religion, among other things

If I have to rank religions on a left-to-rigth axis, I'd say the ancient Roman and Greek pagan religions are the farthest to the right. Hinduism is right of center. Christianity is venter-left. Islam is radical far left.

Jesus Christ, and how his worshippers apparently lived in the couple of centuries after his death, however, is about as far left as one can go. Assuming a belief in divinity is considered 'far left.'

"its aspirations for being a universal religion"
You mean, like Christianity? Seriously?

Out of your list, you get one thing correct: Islam is a universalizing religion, like most forms of monotheism. Beyond that though, even if we limit ourselves to normative Sunni Islam, diversity and ambiguity are built into the very fabric of legal practice (a feature that used to be a feature of Western polemic- Weber's qadi under the tree dispensing 'personalized' justice and all that). If you take into account the vast range of belief and practice that has and is encompassed by 'Islam' you would be hard pressed to find a more diverse and locally variable religious tradition, other than perhaps the Indian religions.

It's "left wing" in that it is something you don't like. And you don't like left wingers. Therefore Islam is left wing. QED.

This is the worst comment I have ever read on MR.

You're going to make Harding and Ray jealous.

One of the worst.

Ali was rude, arrogant, uncivil, contemptuous of opponents and racist (Nation of Islam at the time was virulently so).

And yet, I'm sure Alex despises Trump for all of these things.

So what makes Ali the hero and Trump the devil? Ali's biases were counter-cultural and mostly anti-American. And the media loved it.

"So what makes Ali the hero and Trump the devil?"

Perhaps that Ali's career was to punch people in the face, while Trump will be one election away from public office?

But Ali - while basically behaving like Trump - was a "great American."

Great Americans can't be president?

Look, our impressions of public figures is mostly cartoonish nonsense. In the last election, Obama was depicted as the caring professor and Romney the unfeeling plutocrat, when in real life Obama is a cold narcissist about whom no one can recall warm anecdotes, while Romney had a slew of people recalling his unsung kindness and charity. Same with Sanders, the grumpy but caring grandad - but in reality an unlikeable and contemptuous person who's ginned up a career out of envy and spite.

Trump is depicted as reckless and dangerous even while he has spent decades cutting deals and staking out the middle ground. The greatest fear in the GOP is that he's actually a Democrat.

And Clinton is depicted as the rights crusader who will help the helpless, when she's risked national security to hide her gluttonous corruption and incompetence.

Politics is nonsense, the media is nonsense and the only real solution is limit the power of those who wish to wield power.

You just proved my point. The threshold for being a "hero" is near-zero in sports, particularly compared to politics, where half the population will hate you no matter what.

If you want to be thought of as a hero, become an athlete or astronaut.

No. This was what Alex wrote and this is the reason he was a hero, more than Mayweather, Lewis, Frazier etc.

"We should remember these things, however, because more than Ali’s courage in the ring, it was Ali’s courage in fighting the US government and much of the US public that made him a great American."

It was his politics. And his politics were favored by the arbiters of culture so he's a hero, and Trump, who shares the same characteristics, is a zero.

As I said, cartoonish nonsense.

You're not actually that far off. What is the difference between a "fighter" and a "bully"? A "fighter" punches up, while a "bully" punches down. That's why people don't like or respect Trump, but have alot of respect for Ali.

It's about time the African American community as well as America as a whole starts to emulate worthier black heroes.

Sterling men like Tom Sowell, George Washington Carver, Walter Williams or even Ben Carson....better role models than Ali anyday.

Stop fixating on his conversion to Islam. Read about what he did . Not serving in the war was the greatest act of rebellion .

It wasn't a 'great' anything. Elijah Mohammed at least went to prison for that.

It's easy to say that in hindsight. Ali sacrificed a lot: A championship title, his boxing career, lots of money, respect from his peers, etc. To say that he didn't make a great sacrifice is ridiculous especially considering there was no guarantee that Ali would get his boxing career back or that he wouldn't go to Prison.

He was permitted to challenge Joe Frazier just 3 years later and was being paid $5 million a year in the mid-1970s. He had income losses from his tangles with Boxing federations but he'd have had income losses had he been on active duty in the military. Elvis Presley did his military service without complaint (and with considerable opportunity cost). Per Alex Tabarrok, Presley's a weasel / chump and Ali's a great American.

In other words, something happened after the fact that made his past decision look like no big deal. Great hindsight bias there, Art.

At the time he made the decisions, it seemed more likely his future path would be like Jack Johnson's.

Art Deco is usually brilliant in his comments but he is so wrong here. Ali was sentenced to 5 years in Prison for his draft evasion. The only reason he didn't serve time was because he appealed the decision. It's absurd to say that sacrificing 5 years of your life in prison (alongside millions of dollars) is not a great sacrifice. Are you saying that Ali had magical powers where he could see in the future and tell that he would have a successful career 3 years later?

The only reason he didn’t serve time was because he appealed the decision. It’s absurd to say that sacrificing 5 years of your life in prison (alongside millions of dollars) is not a great sacrifice. Are you saying that Ali had magical powers where he could see in the future and tell that he would have a successful career 3 years later? -

No, I'm saying there was no actual sacrifice and he would have had to sacrifice had he done what he was obligated to do and entered the military. You're saying he was a great man cuz he coulda been a contender.

Not sure what the deal is with federal court, but in New York, everyone convicted at trial appeals.

Per contemporary news accounts, that was the maximum penalty. The sentence was notional, subject to review, subject to parole hearings.

He served no time. He was walking the streets pending his appeals and the suspension was lifted in the interim. The federal supreme court contrived an excuse to annul his conviction. He was handled rather gently by federal authorities.

Keep in mind Tabarrok's thesis. He's a great man for flipping off his draft board. He isn't. It's an indicator of Tabarrok's degenerate values that this would be offered as a serious assessment.

Or maybe...Obama? Seems like the first black president might make a good role model?

If your kid grows up to be a successful politician, you've done something horribly wrong

Obama missed his true calling as a local TV news anchor.

His career in politics is about as admirable as the career of a man who sells timeshares.

His career prior to 2007 is notable for its lack of accomplishment in any endeavour other than getting elected.

BHO would still be some kind of a community organizer spending Saturday nights with Bill and Bernadine if David Axelrod hadn't picked him out of a line-up of potential electoral grifters and propelled him to a seat in the Illinois legislature.

Thank God that George W. Bush became president for a better reason - his daddy, and his daddy's previous boss just happened to have helped make the Supreme Court reflect Republican interests, and his brother just happened to be governor of the state where voting was contested.

No grifting going on there.

There isn't some kind of *limit* on the number of uninspiring politicians whose actual accomplishments in the real world aren't all that impressive.

You don't need heroes other than your own father. Someone like Joe Walcott, who fathered six children and managed to make rent in a serious of taxing blue collar jobs, will do fine. Someone like Floyd Patterson, who lived a quiet life and founded local volunteer agencies will do so as well. Dr. Sowell has contributed his lucid intelligence to all of us, but his most important contributions are to his own.

And if you grow up without a father, or one who is in prison, it must be because you have low IQ.

If only there were somewhere on the internet where you could learn what correlation meant, imagine the valuable contributions to discussions you might make.

Initially I thought I had nothing to say on this, because my direct memories are pretty dim. I can remember my dad and granddad being unhappy with Cassius becoming Mohammed.

Maybe the thing to remember is that those unhappy people were born in a different time, and had opinions formed by World Wars. They saw Vietnam as good vs evil fight in that tradition. It took them years of progression before people like McNamara could write an apology for the difference.

So, anyone who is not a WWII vet, who did not see in 1967 that the equation was different, don't pat yourself on the back too hard.

Good comment

More coddling of vets...

BTW, on Twitter Alex wrote "Conscription is slavery; Ali knew it better than most."

I regard that as pretty dumb. YMMV.

It's not dumb. It's repulsive.

The draft isn't slavery, but the draft is and was an awful policy, and the Vietnam war was a pointless train wreck. The world would not have been made a better place by Ali or any number of other people getting shot in that war. Personally, I'm glad sensible people like Muhammed Ali, Bill Clinton, George W Bush, Mitt Romney, etc., found ways to avoid it.

Johnson knew the war didn't make sense in terms of protecting US interests even as he committed more troops and his own prestige to escalating the war--there are recorded conversations where he's saying that outright. But he also knew that it was politically unwise to allow himself to be attacked as soft on communism, so he went ahead and got thousands of Americans and millions of Vietnamese killed rather than leave himself vulnerable to political attack. I suppose Hillary Clinton and the rest of the Democrats who went along with the invasion of Iraq can sympathize, as I imagine exactly the same thought processes were involved.

the Vietnam war was a pointless train wreck.

That you refuse to acknowledge the point does not mean there was no point. By 1973, the Army, Marines, and the South Vietnamese Army had broken the Viet Cong and implemented a successful agrarian reform. The conquest of South VietNam in 1975 was a conventional invasion by the North VietNam Army that the Democratic congressional caucus insisted on allowing.

The conquest of South VietNam in 1975 was a conventional invasion by the North VietNam Army that the Democratic congressional caucus insisted on allowing."
Really? After all the money "we" gave to the South Vietnamese generals and all the men lost kicking the Communists?

Yes, they cut off aid to South VietNam in 1974 and refused to allow the use of American air power in early 1975.

Oh, I think the country in general was pretty united in the belief that we were done with Vietnam in 1975. To overcome that, you would have had to go against all the principles of government we believed in. You wouldn't want to do that would you?

Scott Alexander refers to that kind of argumentation as "the worst argument in the world."

Why is it dumb? America is supposed to be the land of the free. Since when does a free country jail somebody and ban them from their profession because they refuse to go to war? That's not freedom to me.

Ali is over rated. He was a great boxer before his ban and perhaps a decent good will ambassador in his later years. it stops there. His conversion to Islam was a low point.

Strangely enough, he became humble and loveable as he aged. Avuncular even. In his younger days, he was insufferably arrogant. Can you imagine Michael Jordan or Wayne Gretzy running around saying how great they are?

I think you fail to contemplate fight promotion. It's a character act, and he perfected it.

Michael Jordan is one of the most arrogant sports stars out there. I can imagine Jordan saying he was the greatest because he did all the time.

Ali was a great athlete and a charming, charismatic man but he was also someone who was much closer to the views of Malcolm X than Martin Luther King, Jr. on race and how he viewed the United States. Here he is expressing opposition to interracial dating and marriage in a way that probably made David Duke proud: . It is understandable why people in the 1960s would have worried about some of his associations and stated views.

The term 'charismatic' was coined by Max Weber to describe men of rare inspirational ability. Ali wasn't Buddha or Christ. He was a professional athlete with a big mouth.

I am quite familiar with the etymology of the word. So what?

So what? You're misusing it.

Depends how you look at misuse, or the fact that only one meaning of charisma comes from German - '"gift of leadership, power of authority," c. 1930, from German, used in this sense by Max Weber (1864-1920) in "Wirtschaft u. Gesellschaft" (1922), from Greek kharisma "favor, divine gift," from kharizesthai "to show favor to," from kharis "grace, beauty, kindness" (Charis was the name of one of the three attendants of Aphrodite) related to khairein "to rejoice at," from PIE root *gher- (5) "to desire, like" (see hortatory). More mundane sense of "personal charm" recorded by 1959.

Earlier, the word had been used in English with a sense of "grace, talent from God" (1875), directly from Latinized Greek; and in the form charism (plural charismata) it is attested with this sense in English from 1640s. Middle English, meanwhile, had karisme "spiritual gift, divine grace" (c. 1500).'

And it is worth pointing out that word meanings change and shift by highlighting this from the above citation - 'More mundane sense of "personal charm" recorded by 1959.'

Whoops. Somehow I missed this and posted the exact same thing. I just saw this clip recently so it was the first thing that came to mind.

A great and proud man.

He was proud of his culture and did not want it diluted through intermarriage between culture and race. I completely respect that point of view. Ali was a proud and courageous man.

Come again? He wasn't a 'great American'. He was an entertainer with considerable athletic skill. In his prime, he was an obnoxious braggart. (He's also been a sad wreck for the last 3 decades). He certainly didn't compare favorably to Floyd Patterson or Jersey Joe Walcott as a man.

it was Ali’s courage in fighting the US government and much of the US public that made him a great American.

Refusing to fulfill lawful service obligations (which 65% of my father's contemporaries undertook without complaint, and 45% of Ali's undertook without complaint) does not make you a 'great' anything. A dweeb like the young Bernie Sanders 'fought the U.S. government' until he'd run out the clock on his service obligations, because the Selective Service System was anything but ruthless. The amount of 'courage' it took to do that would not be overly taxing for most men.

"He’s also been a sad wreck for the last 3 decades."

Should the State regulate boxing? Or merely nudge away from head injury? I'd hope that government doesn't fund boxing at this point. Football seems to be playing a defensive game, with instrumented helmets to document how much damage is being done.

Refusing to fulfill lawful service obligations (which 65% of my father’s contemporaries undertook without complaint, and 45% of Ali’s undertook without complaint) does not make you a ‘great’ anything.

This is utter nonsense from start to finish. First, it is perfectly legitimate, and legal, to challenge what the government claims is your lawful obligation. Ali did that, risked his career, risked prison, and ultimately won in court. That merits admiration, I think. How do you feel about businesspeople who challenge regulations they don't like?

Second, I assume your reference to 45% of Ali's contemporaries refers to Vietnam era draftees. Let me assure you that they did not universally undertake their duties "without complaint." That is a laughable claim.

Actually, his challenge was humbug, as was that of Bernie Sanders, but it was humbug the elite bar were willing to chow down on at the time. Neither Ali nor Sanders were members of a pacifist sect which had withdrawn from everyday social intercourse. Unlike the Amish and Mennonites, the Quakers and Brethren have gone suburban and commonly undertake alternative service. Ali did not do that either.

Let me assure you that they did not universally undertake their duties “without complaint.” That is a laughable claim.

No, what's laughable is your addled newspaper reporter's assumption that ordinary Americans thought like graduate students at Columbia. A comfortable majority (~2/3) of young men who entered the service during the years running from 1962 through 1973 enlisted rather than waiting for induction. Most were not posted to Indo-China. About 17% of the most vulnerable age cohorts (1944 to 1951) were so posted. Opinion surveys undertaken a decade after the war indicated that only a modest minority (~10%) who had been so posted regretted their service. A seven digit population of young men served in Indo-China but you fancy a five-digit population fartin' around in Canada or in Sweden or on the membership rolls of the Students for a Democratic Society are the voices of their generation. Not true. It's just that those were the ones who got academic jobs later and those were the ones the media cared about at the time (and later).

Talk about addled.

Did it ever occur to you that a fair number of those who enlisted did so in anticipation of being drafted, and wanted some control over their destiny? How old are you? Did you live through those years, as I did, or are you just fantasizing? Let me tell you something. No one wanted to be drafted and go to Vietnam. Yes, some dodged by going to Canada. Some, like Cheney, got an endless series of student deferments. But there were other ways to avoid it. If you had the right connections you got into the National Guard or something (Yes, it took connections). Or you joined the Navy or Air Force, where the dangers were much less.

A seven digit population of young men served in Indo-China but you fancy a five-digit population fartin’ around in Canada or in Sweden or on the membership rolls of the Students for a Democratic Society are the voices of their generation.

Again, this is idiotic. Do you seriously imagine that those who were drafted and sent to Vietnam were happy about it, regardless of what those so-called surveys say? They weren't.

Did it ever occur to you that a fair number of those who enlisted did so in anticipation of being drafted

If you'd bother to read my words, you'd see that was alluded to; I've also scanned the articles in Journal of Political and Military Sociology attempting to differentiate between the two subsets of those enlisting.

Let me tell you something. No one wanted to be drafted and go to Vietnam.

No, no one in your social circle you care to remember.

Yes, some dodged by going to Canada.

A tiny minority did that.

Some, like Cheney, got an endless series of student deferments.

He had deferments on and off between 1959 and 1966. They were not 'endless'. He was not in school the whole time. There were no Americans in combat anywhere between January of 1959 and November of 1961 and between November 1965 and March of 1965 the number in combat in VietNam averaged 13,000. Had Mr. Cheney enlisted, the chance he'd be sent to Indo-China during those years was < 1%. The only salient period re his deferments lasted from March 1965 to July 1966, when he was finishing a BA degree and had an odd graduate school deferment of the sort which were not granted after 1967 (Sanders also had such a deferment). From July 1966 onward, he had dependent children. Men with dependent children were categorically exempt all throughout the time conscription was in effect (1940-47; 1948-73) bar from the fall of 1943 to the fall of 1945.

But there were other ways to avoid it. If you had the right connections you got into the National Guard or something (Yes, it took connections).

Richard Cohen propagated that meme regarding Dan Quayle. It was debunked in Cohen's own paper in 1991 and has been debunked regarding George W. Bush's service.

Again, this is idiotic. Do you seriously imagine that those who were drafted and sent to Vietnam were happy about it, regardless of what those so-called surveys say? They weren’t.

I'm quoting the survey. You're quoting the contents of your rectum.

Did you live through those years,


or are you just fantasizing?

Quit projecting.

Between November 1961 and March 1965.

"No, no one in your social circle you care to remember."

No one. Period. Not in my social circle or any other. Your idea that there was great upswelling of patriotic fervor in support of the war is so bizarre as to ge a symptom of serious psychosis.

I think the Supreme Court of the US, which has the final and only relevant say in these matters, would disagree with your claim of his deferment being "humbug". And they made that very clear in when they ruled in Ali's favor.
Also, if there was this huge desire to go to war in Vietnam, they would have gotten enough volunteers that they didn't need to start drafting 23 yo men, like Ali. Didn't happen, no matter what you want to believe about it.
Finally, and it should be obvious by now, we choose to leave Vietnam as a country. Nixon was elected because he promised to get us out of there. And he did. And we got rid of the draft after that war because we realized what a bad idea it was. The bottom line is the costs *never* outweighed whatever we got out of the fight. If we'd left 10 years earlier, communism would still have died the same way it did, so looking back, there's no way to justify our part in the conflict. In fact, we've done more for Vietnam and its people through trade and diplomacy than we ever did through war.

At it peak in 1944 the active duty armed forces was 17%of the labor force and an even smaller share of the population.

How in the world did you come up with the idea that the US ever had 65% of the population in the military.

I see the notions like 'father' and 'contemporaries' seem to tax your noggin severely, as does the distinction between a cross sectional assessment and a life-cycle assessment. For the record, my father was born in 1928. The great majority of people puttering around in this country in 1944 were neither male nor his contemporaries. Nor was every last one of them who had military service in uniform in 1944. His Navy pilot cousin was discharged in 1940. He entered in 1948.

If you examine the Statistical Abstracts published during the period running from 1971 to 1975, you will find one with a report of the military service history of the male cohorts of the calendar years of 1930 through 1938. About 55% were on active duty, shy of 10% in the Guard or Reserves, shy of 25% disqualified categorically or contingently, and 12% deferred for various other reasons. The men of these cohorts were subject to conscription until their 26th birthday and permitted to enlist (IIRC) until their 36th birthday, so you're talking induction and enlistment dates anywhere from 1948 to 1974. The circumstances facing the 1927-29 cohorts were quite similar to the nine succeeding cohorts.

With regard to the cohorts running from 1939 to 1953, the Statistical Abstract provides annual statistics on first enlistments and inductions during the period in question, which you can compare to the dimensions of the birth cohorts in question (including a decrement for young men who die before they are eligible to enlist). There are also stock figures for the National Guard (and, IIRC) the Coast Guard as well.

@Art Deco: I think we all get the point that you don't like Ali. But why do you need to post 20 comments on this page to say it? Get yourself a blog if you have so much to say about Ali.

I may not agree with AD on everything -- though I do with regard to the insufferable showboating (young) Ali -- but he contributes more than most to MR, simply by virtue of his well backed up arguments.

Well backed up?

"(He’s also been a sad wreck for the last 3 decades)"

This is not really a well backed up argument to me. It looks more like a personal attack to someone who was sick.

Well, tell them to quit answering me and I'll quit answering back.

I'm happy to forgive Ali his transgressions. I was happy to do that 30 years ago. What I'm not pleased to do is say nothing while a professor on the payroll of the Commonwealth of Virginia utters this rot. Ali's not the scandal. Alex Tabarrok is.

The scandal? It is people like Art Deco who get other people killed for causes they don't necessarily support, but he does. Sadly, it has always been so and I fear that will not end soon. I was at Lai Khe, RSVN from August 1966, to September 1967. My experience and opinion is that an overwhelming proportion of enlisted personnel thought the war was pure bullshit. I do not know what the officer personnel thought. So, I say that Bernard Yomtov is correct and Art Deco is poorly informed. He should STFU. Of course it could have been completely different in other places and times, like Ypres, Waterloo, Vicksburg, Stalingrad or Borodino. I wasn't there, so I can't say.

So what you're really saying is, this is about *ethics in higher education*.

"We should remember these things...that made [Ali] a great American."

Of course, the reason Ali was chosen to carry the torch in Atlanta and was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom was precisely because, even 10 and 20 years ago, we had already recognized that "these things" made him a great American. So, it's not the 1960s anymore.

In the 60s, the draft might very well have been the most widespread infringement on liberty perpetrated by the government in the sense that all males were subject to it, even if many found ways to get around it. Today, the most widespread infringements might be immigration restrictions, mandatory participation in Social Security, or lack of K-12 school choice. (Note, I use the term "widespread", meaning encompassing the most people, not necessarily the most harmful to any individual.) If conscientious objectors today decided to hire an undocumented immigrant, or refused to pay Social Security taxes and diverted the funds instead into a private retirement account, or sent their kids to private school by reducing their property tax payments by the amount of tuition, then they would likely be reviled by some every bit as much as Ali was in the 60s. In 30 or 40 years would such objectors be awarded Medals of Freedom? Remains to be seen.

It's not gone, merely dormant.

I personally think arguments against it are infantile fantasy. When it is needed, it is needed. Dream castles won't fill the void.

There is a pretty good argument that it shouldn't be used when it is not needed, as now. There is also a pretty good argument that national service can be more universal, even in peacetime.

If a government can't find enough volunteers to fight in a war, that's a pretty good indication that it shouldn't be fighting that war to begin with. If people think it would be in their interest to lose a war rather than support the government in fighting it, then the government has failed long ago.

If a government can’t find enough volunteers to fight in a war, that’s a pretty good indication that it shouldn’t be fighting that war to begin with.

It's a lousy indication. The last time this country attempted a general mobilization without conscripts was in 1861. There's a reason for that.

Modus ponens/modus tollens my man.

we had already recognized that “these things” made him a great American.

Which 'we' is that, Kemosabe? The Presidential Medal of Freedom has been hopelessly debased by PR operatives of the sort who worked for Mr. Bush and it should be abolished.

Why are immigration restrictions on that particular list? An infringement on a foreigner's freedom to move to your country at will is what one would call exercising your country's fundamental right to control who gets to live within its borders.

Muhammed Ali opposed race-mixing and didn't understand why people would want to destroy their culture and their heritage, and have kids who didn't look like them.

Really gets into it starting at 2:00 into the clip.

Were he properly concerned with the integrity of his heritage, he'd have died a Methodist or a Baptist with the name 'Cassius Clay'.

That depends on how many years back "heritage" entails.. While it is irrational to take the religion of the slave seller (Islam), it is no more rational to take the religion of the slave buyer (Christianity).

Well, I'm not really familiar with Mr. Ali, but I think he was onto something there. If we're considering the concept of miscegenation as being for polar bears (with grizzlies) and for red wolves (and coyotes), since it might mean their disappearance as species, why not humans? Or at least leave things to chance and individual preferences, rather than the incessant promotion of it in the media.

The widespread belief at the time was he claimed to be a conscientious objector BECAUSE of his draft status, and that it was both a commercial move and a cowardly move to avoid serving his country. The distinction between him doing violence in the ring and on the field of battle was not believe to be authentic. I know nothing about Ali's particular beliefs, nor whether his Imam preached conscientious objection, but clearly mainstream Islam did not and does not. At the time, religious beliefs were generally only viewed as authentic if they were the teachings of a Religion (rather than personal interpretation). Not much has changed.

The Nation of Islam was a heretical sect teaching that whites are mutant devils bound to be destroyed in a coming racial apocalypse. Elijah Muhammed went to prison during WW2 in defiance of conscription. After Muhammed died in 1975, a minority of his sect (still called 'Nation of Islam) followed Louis X (later Louis Farrakhan) in keeping to heretical teachings. A majority followed his son W. Deen Muhammed to orthodox Islam (under the corporate name 'American Muslim Mission').

Which is what Muhammad did, also later adopting Sufism. He was born here the descendant of American slaves, so I consider him an American indeed. A thousand times more than the Pakistani opportunist who just landed in Houston an hour ago.

In my opinion, Title VII should extend only to the extent needed to protect the Constitutional rights of Native Americans and descendants of the American slaves. Everybody else, you came here voluntarily.

If Muhammad Ali had been conscripted or even enlisted voluntarily his time in the military would have been spent in MWR activities, base tours and golf with flag officers. It would have been a tax-payer financed vacation and he knew as much. His refusal to accept involuntary servitude cost him four years of prime athletic ability and millions of dollars.

It would have been a tax-payer financed vacation and he knew as much.

He knew nothing of the issue of your imagination.

It's a rare day I agree with Chuck Martel, but I strongly suspect he's right.

Ali could have gotten away with a few patriotic speeches, some exhibition bouts, and the tours Chuck mentions. He'd go through some basic training, just to show what a regular guy he was, and that would be that. Two years later he's discharged and is Mr. All-American boxing champ.

He knew nothing of the issue of your imagination, either.

Mood affiliation is not virtue. Ali said bad stuff about things that Tabarrok doesn't like. That doesn't make him a good guy.

On the topic of African American heroes who went against the status quo and power at great personal cost.

Martin Luther King Jr's hate mail:

FBI treatment of MLK Jr:

That's courage not found today.

News flash. Public figures get hate mail. All of them.

You could call King courageous. You could also call him brazen. He continued with his extracurriculars even after the FBI played tapes for Coretta, as did others in his entourage.

seriously, don't know king just didn't give in to the covert surveillance tactics like a good citizen would.

I'm not really sure why anyone under the age of, say, 45 cares at all about him

I'm 37 and when I see LeBron giving an encomium on Ali, I think, "WTF does he know or care about Ali?"

Maybe Twitter educations are more intense than I realized.

You mean, other than the part he played in fighting the draft, which actually matters a great deal to anyone under the age of 26. Especially if we get a hot head in office who gets us involved in a stupid war (like Vietnam).

Twenty-some years ago I was in the lobby of the Fairmont hotel in San Francisco. After noticing Norman Mailer in the lobby, I headed for the lift. I guess I jumped in as the doors were about to close. Once in the elevator I looked up (he was big) and it was unmistakably Mohammed Ali. I think he had one other guy with him. Instinctively, and a bit playfully, I put up my dukes. Ali, very slowly and a bit shakily, reached into the pocket of his sports jacket and took out a few small slips of paper. They had his signature pre-printed on them. I don't think he was dexterous enough to select only one. He didn't say a word and neither did I. He was a great presence just standing in the elevator.

One can disagree (perhaps) with Ali's decision to avoid the draft; but, there seems little doubt that this was due to sincerely held beliefs. He was a great man in and out of the ring.

He was, when you met him, a congenial invalid. One can certainly sympathize with that and some invalids offering it up can be instructive for the rest of us. But be precise. Invalids are not 'great'. That's not their vocation.

I sometimes wonder if you yourself have mental deficiencies, hence I cannot consider you great despite my deep desire to do so.

I'm not a doctor but I do read fringe stuff on the internet so I think I'm pretty qualified to make those decisions.

To be precise, I'm not claiming that Ali was great merely because he was a "congenial invalid". But, now that you mention it, it was part of his greatness. He faced his disability with courage and great dignity. I'm not sure why it is that you think those with disabilities or "invalids" have only that condition as a "vocation" or that they are, for some strange reason, automatically excluded from consideration in the pantheon of "greats",

He destroyed sports, by destroying sportsmanship.

I think he had some help from Joe Namath.

And Messrs. Connors, Nastase, and McEnroe.

How did he do that, exactly?

And by the way, sports seem to be fairly popular these days, for something that was "destroyed" by Ali.

Jeezus, Art. Don't you have a job? Family commitments? Hobbies?

An article in the Guardian about his many offspring notes offhandedly that the mother of one of his children was "a 16-year-old woman". I think if the article were about anyone else, that would have been "a 16-year-old girl" -- and he would have been taken to task for it.

The age of consent in the UK is sixteen, at that age she can marry, so for that purpose she is viewed as an adult.

Of course, odds that someone who gave birth at 16 got knocked up at 16 aren't that high

The Vietnam was a more moral war than World War Two. WW2 was fought side by side with mildly Fascist countries like Brazil - and of course to enslave Poland to Salinism.

That Muhammed Ali refused to fight just means he made the Killing Fields possible. Perhaps conscription is slavery. But it is not the sort of slavery that refusal to serve brought to Indo-China. Everyone who died in Tuol Sleng died in part because of the people who refused to serve.

Sure, the Viet Cong never did anything bad to him. Nor did the Nazis every do anything bad to any American. But we don't cite Charles Lindburgh as a hero for opposing World War Two.

"That Muhammed Ali refused to fight just means he made the Killing Fields possible."

I thought this was common knowledge in 2016.

"The Vietnam was a more moral war than World War Two."

A laughable, trollish statement. The regime that actually put a stop to the killing fields of Cambodia was none other than the Socialist Republic of Vietnam.

This is a first .... a tyler post that i agree 100%. And yes conscription is slavery.

But it's not a "tyler" post, Moron-0 Klaus, lol. It's a post by AlexT, a draft dodging Canadian who fancies himself a Libertarian, lol.

Anyone who gets into a ring with heavyweight punchers like Sonny Liston, Joe Frazier, George Foreman, Ernie Shavers, Cleveland Williams is not lacking in courage. As for having or not having the courage to "serve his country" by murdering rice farmers, napalming children, or playing golf and boxing exhibitions to legitimize what even its architects knew was a dumb, pointless, and unwinnable war, who was it that said (I paraphrase) it sometimes take more courage to say this war is BS than to go ahead and do what the authorities want you to do (Bertrand Russell was the one who said it---he went to jail rather than "serve").

It was the 60's. You had to be there to understand.

Absolutely spot-on TC. You are a fine historian for being able to conjure this truth from an era before you.

AT that is, with my apologies.

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