1st and Ten: The Weekly Tendown, February 14-20, 2010

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Dear Internet:

Hi.  I'm Jim and this is the 15th Issue of the Weekly Tendown; Last Week, Sarah Palin wrote on her hand; Peyton Manning threw the biggest interception in football history; and Hollywood Week from American Idol was better than the national touring company of A Chorus Line - what - what do you suppose we'll talk about this week?

First: Tiger Woods Was a Big Supporter of Waterboarding.

The country stopped this week for 15 minutes.  Four networks, all the cable news channels, every sportstalk radio program in the country - they all went live with the Tiger Woods statement on Friday in which he confessed to war crimes.

It was a startling fall from grace and I hope, once he apologizes to the public and goes through a personal journey of self-exploration where, hand in hand, he will walk with his spirit guide, that he is prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law and sentenced to play the rest of his life from the ladies tees at the Pelham Park public course in the Bronx.  Perhaps that seems harsh, but his use of notes instead of just speaking from the heart gave his statement the ring of inauthenticity that I just don't care for from my war criminals.  I need my heart talk.  I need Tiger's heart to reach out to my heart and caress it, slowly but confidently, then with increased intensity until it builds to a feverish crescendo of hot heart on heart spurtgasmic pleasure.  Mmmmm.  Oh - wait - I have a voicemail.  It's one of the new google "pimp my blog" accessories - you can leave me a voicemail right here at TBOR.  Let's see who it is:

Hey.  This is Tiger.  Can you please take my name off your blog?  My wife is going through my RSS feeds.  Thanks.

I just want to walk through this. 

Sunday, the former Vice President of the United States said, on ABC, "I was a big supporter of waterboarding."  Now, waterboarding's torture, by all international precedent (including our prosecuting the Japanese after WWII).  And Harpers identified specifically what US law it is that Cheney confessed this week to breaking.  Presumably, principled conservatives, who are now arguing that, while civilian courts were used to try suspected terrorists during the Bush Administration - that doing so now is a sign of terrible, near treasonous appeasment during the Obama Administration - presumably principled conservatives would say that Dick Cheney should face a military tribunal for his confessed actions.

If only there had a been a gathering this week of the very most principled conservatives to test the theory.

Cheney, like Bob Hope making an unannounced walk on to the Carson show during a San Diego zoo spot in 1977, magically appeared at CPAC this week to "thunderous applause". Not everyone at CPAC viewed Cheney's statements with such equanimity, Bob Barr, who just fifteen years ago was as red as a red state congressman could be, said "waterboarding is torture" and was resoundingly jeered, almost as if he had said "evolution is real."

(You see this poll from this week?  30% of Texans think people and dinosaurs lived at the same time).

Actually, I don't hate Cheney for this - I didn't anticipate that a debate over "is torture ethical" should be part of our national discussion, but clearly it should be.  That it's not isn't his fault - Cheney and the conservatives are very clearly taking a position that torture should be part of our prosecution of the war on terror (and perhaps normal criminal procedure; I don't know, I'd be interested in just how much big government conservatives believe in; how much power they want the government to have in criminal investigation.  The theme at CPAC this week was the liberal assault on the Constitution (Simple Jack used the word cancer). And as half of the Bill of Rights specifically speak to the limits on the power of government in its criminal investigative role, probably someone should ask them to reconcile these views).  What we need is another political party - one to the left of the Republicans, to challenge this view about torture - maybe we could have a clash of ideas about who we are, what we stand for, what are the American principles for which we continue to fight trillion dollar wars to uphold and defend.

Instead of that, we made Tiger put on the hair shirt this week.

Because that's who had to answer for his crimes.  Tiger Woods.

Some people thought he was sincere.  Others did not.  A thought commonly expressed by the sports media industrial complex was from the SF Chronicle; which offered that Tiger was still a "control freak" and if he wanted to prove that he was really trying to change, he could start by skipping the Masters.

One way to understand a society is how it manifests disapproval of behavior.

So - Tiger Wooods had sexual intercourse with women other than the woman with whom he is supposed to have sexual intercourse.  And the penalty for that is he should miss the Masters.  Got it.

What if he had only gotten to second base?

Let's say that on Deadspin tomorrow is a photograph of Vijay Singh feeling up an Applebee's waitress.

What should be the penalty - that he, say, has to sit out Doral?  What if we just penalize him some strokes?  Golf's good like that - maybe he has to give up 3 shots a side in his next tournament.

Tiger's not a priest or a politician - he's a pitchman.  He's not Larry Craig, taking a wide stance in a Minneapolis airport bathroom stall after a career of anti-gay legislation; the bar for "it's not about the sex, it's about the hypocrisy" has to be a little higher than "he wasn't getting blown in any of those Buick commercials - I have been deceived and demand recompense!"

Or maybe it doesn't.  I don't know.  I don't make the rules; I just write Tendown.  This week, a former Vice-President confessed (without any enhanced interrogation, just freely of his own will) to torture and the response to his subsequent public appearance was tremendous applause - and a golfer went live on every channel on your television to apologize for having sex.  That's where we are today.  Right there.

After the jump - the rest of the Tendown.
 That was the first - now here's the and Ten:

1. I Thought the Rules Didn't Apply to Me

I went with the Cheney comparison because that also happened this week, but there are other peculiarities of our culture that the Woods reaction spotlights.  Charlie Sheen was accused of putting a knife to his wife's neck, only the latest episode in a two decade string of behaviors all arguably more harmful than Tiger's.  And check your local listings - Two and Half Men isn't on my DVR, but someone will be watching it Monday evening, despite Sheen's lack of apologetic press conference. 

And the language that Tiger used that most jumped out at me was that of entitlement, "I thought the rules didn't apply to me."  Because that's language of class - I think Tiger's looking to say to us, regular people of regular means, with our Dodge Chargers and our Dove Body Wash, who don't get to cheat on our Swedish model wives with multiple Perkins waitresses that hey, he knows we're really the same people, the residents of Mt. Celebrity and us regular folks.

That's important, Tiger recognizes.  That we see him as us.  That we don't think of the United States as having a first class section; we sit, huddled masses in coach, while once the curtain closes in front of us, the rich and powerful mock our values. 

The best piece I read this week was David DeGraw's examination of the American oligarchy, how the class divide in this country has reached unprecedented levels:

-50% of US children will use food stamps at some point in their lives (a program that, one assumes, the right would argue is socialism; in fact, they did argue it was socialism - like every other portion of the safety net ever created - the difference is that liberals used to accept that criticism as the cost of doing the people's work - believe me, if it was 1965 Fox News would have around the clock full throated opposition to the Civil Rights Act - that the right wing violently opposes something - like a minimum wage, or social security, or worker's rights - or universal health care - isn't a sign that the issue is too divisive to legislate - it's a sign that we're on the right track.  The New Deal - divisive.  The Great Society - divisive.  The last thing we need in 2010 is bipartisanship.  Bipartisanship is not passing anything and waiting for the Republicans to gain control so they can pass more tax cuts for the wealthy, cut back on more corporate regulations, curtail more non gun related civil liberties, and look for any excuse to scream "Bow Down to My G-O-D." 

-We have 40 million Americans without health insurance; 40,000 dying every year because of it, 1.4 million Americans filed for bankruptcy last year and medical bills are responsible for 60% of that, and despite Dick Armey telling the CPAC crowd that we have the best health care in the world - the last objective measure put us at 37th.

-Americans have lost 13 trillion dollars in the value of their homes in this economic crisis, 13 million families will lose their homes by 2014, there are currently 3 million homeless Americans.

-20 million Americans qualified for unemployment insurance last year (more socialism - goddamn Nazi Obama with his unemployment money - get a job, you lazy so and so).  Which has allowed business to increase the amount of hours we work, without a resulting increase in wages or benefits.  Corporate profits are up and up dramatically so.  And its on our backs.  Median income continues to fall while profit continues to rise.  As do the salaries and bonuses of CEO's.  From DeGraw:

From 1980 to 2006 the richest 1% of America tripled their after-tax percentage of our nation's total income, while the bottom 90% have seen their share drop over 20%." Robert Freeman added, "Between 2002 and 2006, it was even worse: an astounding three-quarters of all the economy's growth was captured by the top 1%."

Due to this, the United States already had the highest inequality of wealth in the industrialized world prior to the financial crisis. Since the crisis, which has hit the average worker much harder than CEOs, the gap between the top one percent and the remaining 99% of the US population has grown to a record high. The economic top one percent of the population now owns over 70% of all financial assets, an all time record.

I now work 7 days a week; half of my annual vacation has been taken away - and taken away without so much as a discussion, much less a negotiation.  Each year, my health care benefits are reduced while my health care costs rise.  My townhouse is in a complex where 30% of the owners have stopped paying their dues (and understandably so, as property values have fallen by about 75% since 2006; which unfortunately was when I took out a mortgage to pay off my law school loans, my debt for which had doubled due to interest and penalties earned from my spending my 30s teaching as opposed to practicing law) resulting in dramatic increases - but still not dramatic enough to be up to either the local fire or water codes.  The value of my house will continue to drop (because, as I've painfully learned having my house on the market - there's not much incentive to buy my townhouse when all of the townhouses next to me are going through foreclosure sales) and the cost to maintain the complex will continue to shift more and more heavily to me until I have no choice but to lose my house.

And I have two graduate degrees, a Bar Association membership, and the same job for the past 6 1/2 years.  A job at which, not for nothing, I'm better at than you're aware.  But that's my spot.  I'm paycheck to paycheck.

I don't need an apology from Tiger Woods.  Tiger Woods isn't taking my house.   

2. Kevin Smith's Still Fat

I wrote last Sunday about Kevin Smith's getting kicked off the Southwest flight for being too fat (Southwest, unlike the metaphor for the United States, doesn't have first class - we're all together in coach - except for the fat people - screw those guys).  This means I won't be flying Southwest anytime soon - I'm not as fat, today, February 21, 2010 as Kevin Smith is - but I have been that fat, and as opposed to drinking or drugs, for example, my unhealthy method of coping with the pretty constant anxiety caused by Tiger's cheating on all of us is eating food I should not eat in amounts I should not eat, my weight has been steadily headed back up for about a year now so its only a matter of time.  But beyond personal concerns - it really sounds like Kevin Smith got screwed - and out of some sense of solidarity, I'm going to vote with my feet and stay away from Southwest.  This week, Smith did a terrific 90 minute podcast (it's number 106) on the entire epsiode, which was the best thing I heard all week. 

3. Unless This Was the Best Thing I Heard All Week
Brand New Diet Chocolate!

4. How to Be (un) Cool

I'm 39.  Ten years ago, I was 29.

Just wanted to see if you were paying attention.

Ten years ago, I won some money on the TV and bought the house I'm about to lose, and a car.

This car:

Okay, it wasn't that car.  It was instead a black 1999 Mitsubishi Eclipse.  And it was not a convertible. 

But it was cool.  And I liked it.  And I needed a car. 

Cool has been a very important part of my life since I was about 13 years old.  It didn't matter how much I weighed or how deeply in debt I was - didn't matter that I spent my Saturday nights in college studying alone instead of passing the dutchie from the left hand side, didn't matter that I skipped my own 21st birthday party or went years without dating, or created the world's most elaborate piece of wrestling fan fiction - in my head, in my head I was Sonny Crockett.

Or maybe Sonny Crockett mixed with David Addison, Eddie Murphy, and David Letterman.

I'm 39.  I'm a prisoner of my cultural prism.  The Soundtrack in my head is Rocky IV.

I bought a sportcar ten years ago because it fit with who I wanted to be in my head.  Last year, I put about 3 grand in that car trying to keep it alive.  Even after ten years, I'd still have the 22 year old guy at the security gate tell me "I really like your car, man."   Yeah.  Yeah you do.  I thought.  Now let me through so I can catch Calderon and feed my gator, Elvis.  It's the politics of contraband.  I belong to the city.  I belong to the night.  Livin' in a river of darkness.  Beneath the neon light.

Monday, I traded my car in for a sedan. 

I didn't do it joyously, that would be overly stated - but not begrudingly either.  I now own a thoroughly nondescript 2007 Honda Accord.  (a note - my lady type friend and I had a multi-day conversation about the merits of a Honda - which she preferred, vs. a Toyota, which would have been my choice; a decision which was then made for us by the recall - which shows you the lengths to which she will go to win an argument.  See?  I can do gentle middle aged comedy.  Where does the other sock go?  Why do you park on a driveway and drive on a parkway?  Am I right?  Am I right?)

It had low mileage, little wear and tear, and should be a perfectly reliable car throughout my 40s. 

And, you know - I like it. 

It's bigger.  It's more comfortable.  It presumably can stay out of the shop for a little while.  And it's suited for my new life with my lady type friend and a multitude of animals whose transporation occasionally will require a backseat. 

I drive a car with a backseat.  Sometimes, this week, I've jerked my head around in annoyance that something is tailgating me.  It's just the rest of my car. 

I needed a car.  And I bought a sensible car that I could afford. 

And it's not cool.  And I don't feel cool in it. 

But that's okay.  Sonny Crockett got old too.

5. While I'm Being (un) Cool...
I may never finish 2009, but I got a lot of 4 star professional wrestling in this week.  All from November:

-Ito v. Kasai, 4 star, Big Japan (this won MOTY from Tokyo Sports, I think - there were lots better BJ matches last year).
-Ibushi v. Ishikawa, 4 1/2 star, DDT
-Hulk v. Doi, 4 3/4 star, DGate (I added both of those matches to my 2009 match of the year post.
-Nakamura v. Makabe, 4 1/4 NJapan
-Nakamura v. Tanahashi, 4 1/4 NJapan

6. Baseball!!!
Pitchers and catchers reported this week.  But that's not the beginning of baseball season - the beginning of baseball season is the arrival of my Baseball Prospectus Baseball Prospectus 2010 annual. 

It arrived this week too.  This brings me much joy.

6. Also Bringing Me Joy

I'm also pleased about this campaign to bring back Better off Ted.  It will not be successful.  I did not see any Better off Ted this week, but I did watch much of Friday Night Lights: The Third Season.  And I saw two movies, The Reader, and Chris Rock's documentary Good Hair, which was good to watch - the
sight of the Indian infants getting their heads shaved (out of religious obligation) in order than their hair can be sold at incredible profits to African-American women is striking. 

7. You Need to Read This
It's the piece on Roger Ebert from the current Esquire.  I regularly read Ebert's terrific blog, as good a blog as you'll read, so I knew of the full range of developments in his life - but it is still a startling and dramatic portrait.  The graveyards, Churchill said, are filled with indespensible men.  Gene Siskel's been dead now over ten years - and Roger Ebert can no longer speak or eat.  There is a way to look, I suppose, at the essential human condition with something other than horror and dread, but I do not possess it.  Without making this a theological discussion, whenever anyone has ever argued for intelligent design by saying "how could there not have been some force behind something as majestic as a sunset" - my response has always been that the level of inescapable tragedy of life could have, if intended, have only been created by a force of incalculable malevolence.  Instead of that, I'd rather it were the case that existence is just happenstance. 

8. But While We're Talking Theology
The NY Times Magazine did an extensive piece on something I've been writing about for awhile, the battle over Texas textbooks - and more broadly in this piece, the degree to which the United States should be historically understood as a "Christian nation."

9. Solipsism
My last name, Jividen, is the 30,211 most common in the United States.  I recently looked for other Jividens on Facebook (there's someone with Jividen as a first name, which is wild).  There are a couple other Jim/James Jividens on Facebook - and they seem to have a common thread running through them - they are extra, extra conservative.  Friends of Sarah Palin, Friends of Fox News, Friends of Impeach Obama.  I feel a little like Howard Stern, sharing a name with the guy who killed Anna Nicole Smith (cough, cough, allegedly).

10. And Boner is Missing.

Kirk Cameron turns to dark magiks to find him.

That's all for this time.  I'll be back next time...if there is a next time...

Your pal,



Blog said...

Will the demise of Survivor Series have any impact on the 2011 Counterfactual?

Jim said...

This is an excellent question.

My current plan is to leave the name unchanged - but since I have to use the workers who are used in the event - it leaves me without an event.

So, my current plan is to adopt whatever their replacement show is as my new Survivor Series. Unless they decide to do a legends ppv or a ppv where they use an otherwise stripped down roster. Then I may move months.

It's a thing.

Blog said...

Just when I thought that the impending Shawn Michaels versus Undertaker match couldn't get any bigger, they use a Kate Bush song to throw some erotic undertones into the mix.

"Undertaker, I wish I could quit you."

Seriously, I say without hyperbole that HBK/Taker II will be the biggest Wrestlemania match ever between the two greatest Sports Entertainers of all-time.

And...I'm sure that you are as saddened as I at the passing of Mosi Tatupu.

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