1st and Ten - The Weekly Tendown: December 6 -12 2009

Sunday, December 13, 2009


This is issue 5 of my weekly feature here at TBOR - The Tendown - where I count down the very best things that happened over the past week.  In Last Week's Issue, I talked about my mathematically precise dislike for Tim Tebow, Marc Maron's brother's wife-swap, and the grilled chicken wings at Pollo Tropical. 

How did this past week measure up?  Let's go to the Tendown - what was the very best thing that happened this week...

First...A Vote is a Terrible Thing to Waste.

The best thing I read this week was Glenn Greenwald's reaction to Obama's Nobel acceptance speech:

Obama puts a pretty, intellectual, liberal face on some ugly and decidedly illiberal polices. Just as George Bush's Christian-based moralizing let conservatives feel good about America regardless of what it does, Obama's complex and elegiac rhetoric lets many liberals do the same. To red state Republicans, war and its accompanying instruments (secrecy, executive power, indefinite detention) felt so good and right when justified by swaggering, unapologetic toughness and divinely-mandated purpose; to blue state Democrats, all of that feels just as good when justified by academic meditations on "just war" doctrine and when accompanied by poetic expressions of sorrow and reluctance. When you combine the two rhetorical approaches, what you get is what you saw yesterday: a bipartisan embrace of the same policies and ideologies among people with supposedly irreconcilable views of the world.

A friend from grad school and I are in a long running good natured debate over which of us is the more soft.  That's not a reference to my expanding midsection as I near the 40th year of my life; instead it's an historical critique of the radical left.  Karl Marx predicted the inevitably of western revolution; instead, what happened is the working class got bought off.  The rest of the west got health care and paid vacations; in the US, we got  three hundred forty seven different flavors of potato chips (I lean toward kettle cooked BBQ).   

The intellectual leaders of the left were (complicit would be the pejorative term) in the early 20th century; repeatedly backing away from the type of violence which would be required to challenge the legitimacy of western governments in order to earn seats at bargaining tables.  I don't have a rote answer on how favorably this should be viewed; it's easy from the safety of one's notebook to argue living wages and workplace health and safety regulations were small victories when ensuring perpetual enslavement to the corporate state, but if (for example) you're a 65 year old in the United States 80 years ago when senior citizens were the most impoverished group in the country, you'll correctly welcome the creation of the welfare state when it means a Social Security check each month.

People with full bellies don't so much take up arms against their oppressors.

My role in the great struggle is inconsequential.  I'm just an average man, with an average life. I work from 9 to 5, hell how I pay the price.  I'm a leftist; I see both church and state as hegemonic tools; and while I've spent the plurality of my waking hours in my almost 40 years plunged into sports and popular culture, I see all of that too as just the drug I find palatable.  I don't devote my life to invisible guys in the sky - but I do have a 30,000 word piece of wrestling fan fiction.  I don't tear up at displays of nationalism - there isn't a rendition of the Star Spangled Banner or an unfurling of Old Glory that will cause even the slightest lump to form in my throat - but you show me that tape of Joe Montana coming out to play that second half on that Monday night against the Lions in his last game as a Niner and I will sob like nobody's bidness.

It's all bread and circuses, but bread is tasty and I have a giant TV.

Where I had held out was in Presidential politics.   It's no more than an eggshell, but I had drawn the line at supporting political candidates whose views I found to be corporately controlled.  Over the two plus decades that I've been voting, occasionally a Democrat was closely enough aligned to my views that he received my support - but that had never been true for a winning candidate for the Presidency.

(Note the word "winning" - that's true for both primaries and the general election - I did unenthusiastically vote for Dukakis in the general election in '88, and I was even more uneasy about my vote for Kerry in '04).

Last year, I voted for Obama.  My grad school friend did not.  My argument was that it was necessary; that the divide between Republicans and Democrats had grown real (not as real as the public believes, but real) as the American right had pulled to an unrecognizable place that literally threatened the planet's existence.

My eyes were open about Obama, he's a businessman's President, but I did argue the possibility of growth within the office - that like FDR or LBJ, the enormity of his ability to enable some measure of economic justice would manifest in the types of  policies that make softs like me feel we're accomplishing something with our lives.

But a year in, instead what we have is a President who gave a Nobel acceptance speech saying that America's mission is to fight evil using its military.  A speech embraced by Rove, Gingrich, and Sarah Barracuda.  And we have a President who has presided over an enormous money grab by Wall St - one which has the feel of one last round of profit taking before our belly up, but one which, in the second best piece I read this week, Matt Taibbi writes is the same type of institutionalizing of right wing policy domestically as was articulated in the Nobel speech:

The extensive series of loophole-rich financial "reforms" that the Democrats are currently pushing may ultimately do more harm than good. In fact, some parts of the new reforms border on insanity, threatening to vastly amplify Wall Street's political power by institutionalizing the taxpayer's role as a welfare provider for the financial-services industry. At one point in the debate, Obama's top economic advisers demanded the power to award future bailouts without even going to Congress for approval — and without providing taxpayers a single dime in equity on the deals.

And that's what got me this week.  When right wing policies come from right wing mouths, you can retain the argument that there's a possibility of change.  When right wing policies come from perceived left wing mouths, then they become normalized, embedded - they marginalize opposition, move it outside of what we allow as debate in our country.  Our national debate isn't going to change for the next three years - it's going to be "is Obama too liberal" - so the degree to which his right wing foreign and domestic policies become attached in the public mind to the Democrats, the further and further and further away from my preferred version of the United States we become.  Maybe the only way not to waste my vote is to vote for a candidate who can't win. 

On that discouraging note.  After the jump - the Ten Next Best Things that happened this week!

1. When People Feel Beleaguered They Will Turn to Whomever Seems to Represent Them.
-Howard Zinn said that on Bill Moyers' show Friday night; given the age of both men and that Moyers is retiring, that was probably the final opportunity to see together two of the greatest progressives of the back half of the 20th century.  Zinn was promoting the People's History show debuting on The History Channel tonight (look for that to appear on next week's Tendown) and specifically talking there about the Teabagging right wing populism of 2009; Zinn's always been optimistic about the power people have to claw their way toward justice, and is more hopeful than am I in thinking that 2009 is less a precursor of fascism and more the bubbling of popular anger that could be channeled to progressive ends.  Regardless here's Zinn from 2005 talking about the myth of American exceptionalism, which would be worth your 90 minutes this week.  Also, consider the link to Eric Foner's lecture which is also available from that page. 

2. I Am Not Your Rolling Wheels
So, I'm reading the current Rolling Stone, which includes a recap of the music of the decade (I'm not engaged enough in music to intelligently speak to their countdown of the best albums of the decade; I never loved Kid A as much as I was supposed to; if you make me say without putting in the time I'd have to spend on it for my opinion to have any value at all - I'd probably pick Tha Carter III or maybe Hot Fuss or, no, I'd pick the Once soundtrack; as that's the only music that impacted me in this decade - I was born in the autumn of 1970; so I get a bit of a rheotorical advantage when talking about decades ending - I spent my 30s in this decade; and as a person in his 30s, music does not have any emotional impact on me, certainly not compared to who I was in the 90s or 80s - but the Once soundtrack did.  So, suddenly, I have a top 3 albums of the decade, just like that.) Anyway, there's a tiny piece on the failed Chris Cornell/Timbaland pairing in 2008, which cemented in my mind a debate I've had with my lady type friend for awhile - about four months ago, I believe we ran into Cornell (almost literally) at an Anthropologie in West Palm Beach.   Here was the conversation then:

Me: I think that was Chris Cornell.
My Lady Friend:  No. 
Me:  Seriously, I'm not doing a bit - I think we just saw Chris Cornell at the Antropologie.  He was probably buying an enormous metal C.
My Lady Friend:  It's one in the afternoon on a Tuesday.  Everyone at the Anthropologie looks like Chris Cornell.  Stop it.
Me: I'm just sayin'.
My Lady Friend: Yesterday you thought you saw Keenan Ivory Wayans at Sloans Ice Cream. A month and a half ago it was Mariel Hemingway in line to see 500 Days of Summer.  You're unwell.
Me: I'm gonna put it in the blog.
My Lady Friend:  I have some thinking to do.

But now I'm like...65% sure I saw Chris Cornell at the Anthropologie in West Palm Beach.  And maybe Keenan Ivory Wayans too.  That one's harder to say. 

3. Journey of a Thousand Miles
It's a long way to equality, but Houston became the largest US city to elect an openly gay mayor yesterday. Congratulations to Annise Parker.  That serves as a counterpoint to an episode elsewhere in the south this week; North Carolina has a state constitutional provision which bars those who deny the existence of god the ability to hold public office, but this week, an atheist was seated on the Asheville City Council.  Hopefully, those who would like to challenge this election will do so - there's not even a colorable argument that the religious bar in the North Carolina constitution passes muster under the US Constitution, and that's the surest way to get it stricken.

4. James E.   
-My favorite podcast of the week was Jim Cornette's appearance with Meltzer and Alvarez; Cornette launched a pretty hearty broadside at Vince Russo, which is always appreciated.  I agree with Cornette about half the time; he's not Gabe-like in terms of understanding quality 21st century wrestling, but he's still far ahead of the guys in the writing rooms in either WWE or TNA.  What I found out during this podcast is that, like that city councilman in North Carolina, Cornette's an atheist, which raises his level of credibility for me.  Currently, Cornette's with Ring of Honor - which had a terrific show Monday on HD Net, giving us two 3 3/4 star matches.  In continued preparation for my upcoming list of the top 100 wrestlers in the world, I made my way through August and most of September this week.  I saw two 4 1/2 star matches from August (Ibushi/Harashima from DDT and Kaz/Kondo from All Japan) two 4 1/4 star matches from September (Bucks/Briscoes and Danielson/Aries from ROH) and then two 4 1/2 star matches from September - both of them Danielson/Hero matches, one from ROH and one from PWG.  For whatever percentage of you who watch WWE but have no knowledge of any of the independent companies, Bryan Danielson's been signed by the big company - I don't know when he'll start or what position he'll get put in, but if somehow he finds a way to get to do what he can do, he's likely to become your new favorite wrestler. 

5. Dumbest Anti-Atheist Question of the Month
-And that Cornette revelation led me to this youtube collection of Fox News clips, including this link to a regular feature, the dumbest anti-atheist question of the month.  An atheist group in Pennsylvania wants to put up a holiday memorial for atheist war dead, and you can imagine the Fox News view on that.  The question asked by the random blonde Fox News host (probably, the end of this Survivor season will find a spot on an upcoming Tendown; this is top end for Survivor given the tremendous heel developed this season in Russell.  Back in episode one, Russell referred to the group of seemingly interchangeable blondes as his "dumb ass girl alliance" and it struck me that's a useful way to think of many of the Fox News anchors) was (paraphrasing) why atheists, who don't believe in an afterlife, would bother mourning the dead?  Which brought forth the retort (which you can hear on the clip) by, I assume, the uploader, asking rhetorically if this random blonde anchor thinks the only reason people mourn the dead is because they believe the dead to be watching them? 

6. You pay anybody on any network and they say what you pay them to say.
Glenn Beck (who I call Simple Jack) ended any possibility he might have of running for national office, when he said this week that Medicare should be abolished. 

Let me say the first positive thing I have ever said about Simple Jack (aside from saying "I am positive Simple Jack is a sham, a full on charlatan, making coin {gold coin apparently, as there's also been some blowback this week from his getting paid to shill for gold while giving "editorial opinon" that people should buy gold - oh, terrific, just super illuminating quote this week from one of Beck's advertisers, the head of a financial services company, "You pay anybody on any network and they say what you pay them to say."} off the rubes.  You go rubes!).  I repect the intellectual consistency here.  Medicare is an effective (and popular) healthcare program - it was (of course) opposed vehemently by the right when it was proposed as dawn of government stepping in between doctor and patient to prevent the elderly from getting decent medical treatment (instead of the rest of us, which have insurance companies preventing us from getting decent medical treatment).  But Medicare turned out, of course, to be another web in the safety net that protects America's elderly; so, the right has taken great pains in this debate to separate their opposition to a public option for health care from the current public option that already exists for those 65 and over.

Beck though, this week, as the health care discussion turned to perhaps opening up Medicare to those 55 and up (I'd be in favor of Medicare For All) decided to go all in this week and call for Medicare's abolition.

Good for Simple Jack.  Next the end to socialized firefighting.  Why should the government get involved with stopping those fires?  Why can't you grab your own bucket?  And why did we get away from the barter system?  I have pelts!  I will exhange my pelts for some of your tasty foodstuffs.     

7. Cash Money.  Dollar Bill, Y'all.
-The Palm Beach Post had a college football picks season long contest, the way places do.  I won.  There was a gift card involved.  This will help offset, you know, the financial catastrophe that is my life in the south Florida housing market crash. 

8. Win and I'm In
-I don't have a cool name for my CBS Sportline fantasy football championships like the Sheva Cup, but last Sunday I moved a step closer to the playoffs with another win (in the league that still matters; I'm in 3 leagues this year, and only in contention in one).  My enthusiasm for this was tempered when the Steelers didn't show up Thursday night (I have Roethlisburger and Mendenhall) and at the very moment I write this I lead my win-and-I'm-in game by four.  An unsettling possibility remains for me, my opponent's QB is Alex Smith, and as you probably know I'm a Niner fan.  My best guess is it won't matter, my Steeler squadoosh will mean I can't hold him off and won't have any divided loyalties Monday night. 

9. Thanks, Dan.
The best show on television this week was not One Tree Hill (it might have been Better off Ted, which is another show you can put on the list of comedies you should be watching; the Glee finale was also excellent, as they put a knife in the other half of the misguided baby daddy plotline; also good was the finale to the best ever season of the Real World/Road Rules Challenge, and that would have its own spot on the tendown had the girls been able to hold onto their lead and win the final challenge.  The only reason left for Real World to exist is to serve as feeder show for the Challenges) in fact, although I've watched One Tree Hill from its conception, I'm unsure what my answer would be if forced to consider if it had ever actually been a good show.  It vaciliates between painfully earnest and complete camp, sometimes scene by scene - and in recent years almost whole shows have played over music beds that cause it to play as much like an episode of the Hills (speaking of now superfluous MTV shows) than another teen drama.    However, as Dan Scott, Paul Johansson has just, consistently, sold the hell out of every moment he has been in during the series.  Regardless of the story being told or the lines being delivered - Johansson committed 100% in a really commendable way.  It's hard not be be influenced by your surroundings; easy to let your work rest at the level of the room.  I never thought Johansson was doing that; he felt like Dan Scott in every season, every episode, every scene.  Quality comes in many forms.

10. One of those forms - fried broccoli
-One of the talking points regarding this season of Top Chef was the arrogance of the Voltaggio brothers (Michael beat Bryan in the final this week - I was for Bryan; one because he's the older brother - and I'm an older brother, and first born solidarity is important; and two, because Bryan weirdly looks like Simon, Tamra's husband from the Real Housewives of OC (this is a thought I've yet to hear expressed anywhere; if it turns out that at the Bravo holiday party Andy Cohen reveals some sort of incestuous Housewives/Voltaggio/Operation Smile tie in, you heard it here first) - the Housewives franchise is curious, as, off the top of my head, I'm not sure there's a babyface character in any of the cities - just one unpleasant woman after the next - but still - good TV.  Heels are more important than faces.  This is a good lesson).  I was solidly pro Voltaggios as I was solidly pro-Euros in the previous Top Chef season.  Excellence at your craft is virtuous; I can see not wanting to be married to someone who is the best in the world at what he does (Tiger Woods reference.  I'd like to see a Tiger heel turn now - just go full on Hogan joining Hall and Nash, "You know the best thing about this?  Not having to kiss up to you stupid mouth breathers anymore.  You don't want to buy my soda or razors or Buicks?  Yeah, somehow my billion dollars will comfort me at night.  I'm the best golfer who ever lived; I'm one of the most famous men in the world, and I can have any stripper or porn star or Perkins waitress I want.  I'm not gonna stop.  You think Jordan ever stopped?  You think Ali ever stopped?  You think the Babe ever stopped?  Who exactly are you measuring me against?  'Cause that's the mountain I'm on.  That's the club I belong to.  And membership has its privileges. Just because it's 2009 and now you're all on twitter you think Tiger Woods invented superstar jocks getting all the strange they can?  Now I'm gonna take some HGH like everybody else and go win some more tournaments.  You fans and sportswriters all belong in a Dumb ass dude alliance."  I've always been agnostic on Tiger, not on the talent, but on rooting for him.  If he shows a little bit of defiance in his return, I am full on board.) but I'd far rather watch someone good at his job on television who wasn't ashamed to let you know about it than someone of lesser skill who had a pleasant demeanor.  Inside your house - there's nothing more underrated than kindness - but in the rest of my life; I'll take excellence every single time.  Give me a grumpy pro every single time. 

Whew.  I gotta make these shorter. 

That's this week's Tendown.  See you next time...if there is a next time...


Blog said...

I'm all for gay mayors, lesbian mayors, black mayors, heck, any mayor of a marginalized minority. I figure that if they can get past the handicap of the those stereotypes and still receive a plurality of votes, then they must be pretty darned good.

As for Tiger Woods, I really hope that he takes this opportunity to work on his promo skills. Maybe he could bail out Ric Flair (kill two birds with one stone!) for a Nature Boy Boot Camp? Just a few months with Tiger, Natch, 500 cases of booze, and 12 of the finest harlots Sweden has to offer, and he'll have the talk to back up his walk.

Mark said...

I'm with you on the One Tree Hill thing. I've never been able to make up my mind on it. It has moments of genuine excellence - This is a show that once quoted Henley's "Invictus" in its entirety and does some really perceptive and heartfelt dialogue - but then it goes and does things that even the writers of post-Season 1 Dawson's Creek would have considered too schmaltzy. Strange.

Blog said...

Up to now, all of the Tiger Woods "news" has had absolutely no effect on his golf legacy, his 14 majors, his dominance of dozens of tournaments. But today:

After outdoing A-Rod, it looks like Tiger about to outdo Bonds as well.

Personal opinion: I'm about 95% sure that Tiger Woods has taken some type of performance enhancing drugs throughout his career. Now, with the finest paparazzi money can buy about to explore this angle, I'm fairly sure that enough will be exposed to the point that a reasonable person will believe that he's cheated on more than his wife (absolute proof, as always, will be difficult to come by, especially for someone as lawyered-up and moneyed-up as Tiger)

The last two weeks saw his image shattered. The next two weeks will see his legacy destroyed. He'll still keep all of his titles, but he'll be branded with the Scarlet Asterisk forevermore.

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