1st and Ten: The Weekly Tendown: March 7 - 13 2010

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Dear Internet:

Hi.  This is the 18th Issue of the Weekly Tendown, my look at all the very most important cultural happenings from the previous 7 days - last week, I discussed reconciliation, my superfungame Moratorium, that my lady type friend has never seen the Karate Kid, and an atheist's plan to take care of pets following the rapture. 

I spent the majority of Tuesday in a waiting area; the television was turned to Fox News - so I got the full taste of their morning programming; and despite this allegedly being the "Fair and Balanced" portion of the Fox News day, it was easy to see the plutocratic propaganda bombarding a captive public.  I'll be looking at a few of the stories covered that morning here - but it was actually mid-Tuesday that brought us the very best thing that happened last week...

First: The Rapture Generation

Here's Limbaugh talking health care on Tuesday: I’ll just tell you this, if this passes and it’s five years from now and all that stuff gets implemented — I am leaving the country. I’ll go to Costa Rica.

I've never played the "if this happens, I'll leave the country" card (I think Alec Baldwin's threatened to walk a half dozen times) its a low percentage play; like the religious leaders who build their careers on the world ending at a particular time; it makes that subsequent Sunday service a little bit tricky.  Lots of people trying to buy back appliances on craigslist, I'm guessing.  Some sheepish "why did I have last day on earth sex with that" glances across the hymnals.  Last week there was an end of the world conference in Columbus, Ohio (hopefully one of the speakers strongly encouraged the flock to spend some of their final days on earth anywhere besides Columbus, Ohio).  Here's conference host Rod Parlsley:

"The last pages of your Bible read like the front pages of your paper."  "You are here because you've been chosen to live in this final hour."

Another speaker, Grant Jeffrey, with whom I'm fortunately unfamiliar was similarly on message:

 This is the most exciting generation to live since Jesus walked the earth. We are living in the rapture generation."

I'm gonna use that phrase going forward, The Rapture Generation.  Because it's not just about the people hiring atheists to take care of their pets, it's one of the motivating issues underlying policy debate.  Here's Jeffrey about global warming:

Global warming has a hidden agenda. It's a pretext to achieve a socialist global agenda where America will no longer be the America you grew up in.

Running out of oil is nonsense. They have found hidden oil 1,000 feet down-in the U.S.-enough to fuel the whole world for centuries. America and Canada are absolutely oil independent if they want to be.

That's the nexus - that connection between the ideology of the true believing evangelical and the corporate interests that use the passion of the faithful as rhetorical cover for their profit driven agenda - that drives so much of modern politics.  The same interests that have spent millions lobbying against climate change legislation have dropped millions in the effort to stop the inclusion of a public option (like, for example, the kind that Costa Rica has,  sorry Rush - but I'm uncertain where it is he'd like to go with a lesser level of socialized medicine than the United States - and more broadly, where it is he thinks he'll find a government more dedicated to protecting the interests of the powerful at the expense of the citizenry) - but its not protection of corporate profits that are part of the debate - if you spend a morning listening to Fox News, you won't get a discussion of CEO pay or the increased disparity between the wealthy and everyone else, or the profits earned by health insurance companies in 2009:

WellPoint Inc., UnitedHealth Group, Cigna Corp., Aetna Inc. and Humana Inc. posted combined profits of $12.2 billion, a 56% increase over calendar year 2008.

During the same period of time, the big five insurers covered 2.7 million fewer Americans.

Instead the discussion is about socialism.  And big government coming between doctors and patients. 

And, of course, how universal health care is anti-Christian.  Suck up some crazy and let the juices drip down your chin:

Some may ask what does God have to do with our health care system. For one, He’s created the government as an institution in society to do certain things. When we reject His design for government, in a sense, we’re rejecting Him.

In Obama’s worldview, our trust is in government not in God. A denial of how God designed and created our economic and social systems to actually work in the real world. The result? The abysmal failure of government control of health care in socialist models. From the USSR which takeover [sic] everything, including health care, to our neighbors to the north, Canada and European countries such as the UK where rationing and massive waiting periods are the order of the day.

There's a picture I found this week that, even more than Limbaugh leaving the country, is really the best thing that happened this week:

That's the message I got as I sat and watched Fox News for 4 hours.  It's the subtext of every story; it's the essence of the worldview.  Don't think.  It can only hurt the ballclub. 

After the jump - the rest of the Tendown:
1. Deep In the Heart of Texas
The history textbook debate about which I've written in previous Tendowns reached Fox and Friends Tuesday morning - one of the empty hosts (Doocy - whose son, I think, "Lil Doocy" was on the scene in Texas) interviewed a guy from the Liberty Legal Institute who said the Texas textbook controversy was really about some "educrats" who wanted to (yes, I took notes; I took notes as I was grading student essays; this is my committment to you, the Tendown Reader):

Drastically change what our students learn about history and want to rewrite history to fit their agenda

(and how will they accomplish this?)

Remove references to Independence Day, Veterans Day, Washington, or Lincoln, or Patton.

The guest (without progressive counterpoint) then gave the names of 3 of his opponents - saying they were "attacking Christianity" and "want to attack every aspect of public schools and indoctrinate public education with their liberal ideology."

Doocy nodded vigorously.  These educrats who would take George Washington out of US History textbooks (not to mention, er...Patton?) certainly sound like terrible people.

Of course, what happened this week, is that the members of the Texas school board (not a single historian among them):

-voted down this proposal: examine the reasons the Founding Fathers protected religious freedom in America by barring government from promoting or disfavoring any particular religion over all others
(because the separation of church and state is a liberal myth, don't you know)

-voted in the requirement that students learn about "American exceptionalism."
(because the US is chosen by GOD to be the greatest country in the history of the world)

-voted out the word "Enlightenment" from the political philosophies that shaped the creation of the United States - and replaced Thomas Jefferson from the list of political philosophers in that creation with John Calvin.
(because the Enlightenment was a secular movement, and of course, the United States is a product of Christian thinkers - and Jefferson, you know, who brought the social contract theory from the Enlightenment and wrote the Declaration of Independence, since he created the phrase separation of church and state, it's just easier if he's not there to talk about)

-replaced the word capitalism with free enterprise
(because Michael Moore didn't make a movie critical of Free Enterprise.  Capitalism just sounds like another theory - but Free Enterprise, thats an inarguable value we can all share)

-from the list of required citizenship concepts for elementary school students, eliminated "justice" and "responsibility for the common good". 
(because then, some evil teacher might ask what justice requires - what justice means - if the United States achieves justice - and we can't have those kinds of discussions in classrooms, and obviously the common good sounds too much like socialism)

-added a requirement that students learn about Communist infiltration of the US government during the Cold War
(Joe McCarthy is a new American hero - after all, if communist witch hunts were a bad thing, that puts current conservatism in a bad light - McCarthy is the role model for Glenn Beck - McCarthy good - FDR bad, it's important to understand the New Right)

-added a requirement that American history students learn about conservative heroes and icons such as Phyllis Schlafly, the Heritage Foundation and the Moral Majority.
(if you're going to talk about Susan B Anthony, you've got to talk about Phyllis Schafly.  That's what fair and balanced means, after all.  You know who else deserves their fair representation by the textbooks?  Gas chamber attendants.  Too long marginalized by the liberal elite)

-replaced the word "democracy" with "constitutional republic" - and replaced "democratic societies" with "societies with representative government."
(because if you call something a democracy - that might mean the Democratic Party bears some relationship toward the people, instead of, as we know, being American Taliban)

-require that students learn about the "unintended consequences" of the Great Society and Title IX
-removed "hip hop" from a section about significant musical genres
-voted to use BC and AD instead of BCE and CE to note historical periods.
-replaced "imperialism" with "expansionism" to refer to the Spanish American War.

Conservatives love to complain about liberal indoctrination in college classrooms - because, of course, that's where students are encouraged to look for thoughts beyond what was handed to them as children - the bumper sticker pablum platitudes we receive from most corners of our culture - but the place that most people form the thoughts about their country that remain unshakeable is from the teachers and textbooks during their formative years.  Most people settle on their initial impressions and, as a college professor for the past six and a half years (teaching US History for the first time in a college classroom next term, coincidentally) the virtually impenetrable barriers to knowledge, analysis, and critical thought that I encounter were all set up long before students get to my room.

2. 9 and 3
Your San Francisco Giants are tearing up the Cactus League with a 9-3 record.

This is singularly unimportant.

But what does matter is this meeting between Willie Mays and Muhammad Ali

That's the full run of my sports content for the week.  I didn't see a single good wrestling match.  I watched a lot of college basketball and am ready to start making out my brackets.  After a quarter century of only making one bracket, in the past two years, I've made 2 or 3 with different tournament predictive models.  I'll pick whichever one I decide is my lead bracket and scan it here prior to Thursday's tip.  I just don't have time to post my bracket projection - but if Utah St. gets screwed by a Mississippi St win, it will be a bad thing. As my Trojans are on probation, I'll be strictly rooting for whomever it is I pick. Me, me, me.  I did, this week, post my 50 Best Players in Baseball and will put up the final step in the Road to Wrestlemania Silver over at the Counterfactual.

There were a couple of quarterback stories this week.  Tebow pulled a 22 (below average for his position) on the Wonderlic - and the football analysts predictably said it didn't matter and brought up Dan Marino, who scored like a negative 5.  Fair enough - except if he had scored a 37 the story would have been "see, see, even though Tebow can't throw the football - all of his other qualities, including the most important one, his brain - are well above average."  For the past couple of years, the NFL Network has conducted a jihad against the guys who don't fully compete in the Combine - but with Tebow this year - silence.  And it only barely matters except these are the qualities (intelligence, competitiveness) that they fellate Tebow with to the intellectual exclusion of everything else - I'd agree - they don't matter - but if they don't matter when they cut against Tebow, they don't matter when they work for him.  Too bad for Josh Heupel he didn't wear scripture on his eyeblack. And in a broader picture, it works with the more important construction of sports analysis - it's all good guy/bad guy.  Ben Roethlisburger gets the good guy label - all the way through the first rape accusation and now it finally stops with the second rape accusation.  Bob Ryan said just today on the Sports Reporters that the real disconnect between Big Ben's public actions and his football career - is he's so clearly leader guy - hard working, no nonsense, 2 time Super Bowl winning leader guy - and how can leader guy then be 2 time rapist (allegedly) guy?

Sports media builds these narratives - about leadership and guts and teamwork - and they create heroes to fit those storylines - Tebow becomes mythical figure - and the evidence entirely gets sent through those lenses - sports is reflective of the broader culture - but not in the way Bob Ryan thinks it is - the stories come first - the stories we decide we are going to tell come first - and then we see the world in a way that fits the stories - evidence that works within those stories becomes important - becomes a fact - finds its way into common circulation - and what doesn't fit that frame is discarded, marginalized, relegated to a bin.  One day, Tim Tebow will be Governor of Florida, or some similarly lofty position in which he can take Thomas Jefferson out of textbooks - and the fault will be the sportswriters.

3. America, I Think I have Wasted Your Time
-Fox News spent most of Tuesday morning pumping up the charges by Eric Massa (D, NY) that he was bullied by Rahm Emanuel and then forced out of his congressional seat by the White House given his being a no vote on health care reform.  Massa had gotten the right wing all extra foamy with this last Sunday:

You think that somehow they didn’t come after me to get rid of me because my vote is the deciding vote in the health care bill? Then, ladies and gentlemen, you live today in a world that is so innocent as to not understand what's going on in Washington, D.C.

So, at the top of every quarter hour there were Massa's words on Fox News - Massa was forced out - a naked Rahm Emanuel accosted him in the shower - when Fox (again, this is daytime, where they allege they aren't doing commentary, just straight news) wasn't saying the CBO was rejecting Obama's health care numbers - where they weren't saying the liberal college professors were trying to inject politics into high school textbooks - they were saying, Massa, Massa, Massa!

And then later that evening Massa met Simple Jack.  The Fox viewer had been primed all day - hearing all day (or at least until noon when I was released) that this was the great moment - two great men - two titans, like the right wing equivalent of Ali meeting Mays - would finally be together.

And then Massa talked about how his 50th birthday turned into a tickle party - and busted out a scrapbook of his Navy hijinks (which apparently included, as his former shipmates attested the next day "snorkeling" and "Massa Massages" - no one used my term "Brojob" coined in a previous Tendown.  Perhaps "Bangiversary" will get some cultural traction someday) and said he wasn't forced from his job and that some "salty" text messages may soon appear, because that's just how he and his crazy bros like to roll.  I'm not entirely sure what snorkeling is - but I think its related to Teabagging, and that puts Massa's naval career well within the current right wing landscape.

Beck still wanted the political dirt - tell me about the unions - tell me about the conspiracies - tell me about the corruption!  Come on, Massa!  You're a Democrat - a conservative one, but still a Democrat - tell me about how they're all tied up with the Maoist Co-operative Complex!

Massa said the main source of corruption was the way campaigns are financed in this country - that without changing that - we can't fix the system.

This was the wrong answer.  Simple Jack apologized to his audience that it had to hear such an answer. And that ended Massa's career as a Fox News commentator.

Simple Jack actually caught a break that he wound up looking so silly in that interview - because earlier in the day, on his radio show, he compared the Census to slavery.

Here he is, discussing why it is we are asked to give our race on the Census form:

BECK: Why were they asking the race question, you said when, in 1790? … Right, they want to know, do you count as three-fifths? Do you count at all? So, you have to know how many slaves did you have? People find that offensive today because the idea was, if we’re going to count, we want to know how many are here for services etc. etc. and slaves would get less. Well that’s not right. One. One. ‘I’m not three-fifths, I’m one. Whites are not worth than me.’ Now reverse it, why are they asking this question today?

CO-HOST: Because minorities are worth more than whites.

BECK: Exactly right. So you will get more dollars if you are a minority. So you are worth more as a minitory. Well there is no difference.

Presumably you'll soon be seeing that in your high school history textbooks. 

The Census - America's Shame.

Michele Bachman will be a 21st century Harriet Tubman, leading Americans to Costa Rica via a New Underground Railroad. 

Not for nothing - but if conservatives decide to ignore the Census, they'll be undercounted for purposes of Congressional representation.  And when the right wing complains about this - that it was some ACORN pimp plot to disenfranchise the white male Christian vote - just remember who it was who told you the Census was a tool of oppression.

Keep going, Simple Jack!  Tell it on the Mountain!

4. Bob the Wonder Poodle
You can register opposition to Simple Jack by friending this poodle.

5. I Watch Movies
Three of them this week.

Observe and Report - this was the far creepier version of Paul Blart Mall Cop that Seth Rogen did last year; the darkness made it too complicated for the viewing public - but it's the only thing that keeps it from being another awful, totally disposable comedy.  "Why is he making messianic pronouncements instead of talking out of his ass" said We, the People.  If you go in recognizing you really shouldn't like Rogen's character, you'll be fine.

Sugar - better is Sugar, the plot deteriorates into a "and then he takes speed!" stereoptype - but the mood created in this story of the way that major league baseball harvests its crops from Latin America and as quickly deposits the waste products makes it worth your time.

Capitalism, A Love Story - it's disappointing, maybe my least favorite of Moore's documentaries.  He's not wrongheaded in his narrative (the Reagan 80s and the ascendency of conservativism made virtuous the dramatic wealth shift to the corporations and the wealthiest Americans - resulting in the taking apart of unions, the deterioration of American infrastructure, the need to generate personal income through borrowing and the economic collapse at the end of the Bush Administration - Americans work harder to make less, with less protection, and less hope for the future, than any time since the Progressive Era installed those protections to begin with - which is why Simple Jack demonizes it - albeit without referring to specific advancements made in the era to which he objects.  Anytime the Republicans want to go full on board with the anti Social Security, minimum wage, no more FDA, or seatbelts, or unemployment or workman's comp, anti Medicare platform that would be great.  Then I'll have to leave the country.  Unlike Limbaugh, the places from which I have to choose that better reflect my values of {don't tell any elementary school kids in Texas} justice and the common good will include most of the rest of the advanced world).

I've gone off track - the critique of capitalism is too big for the narrative - everything there is fine - but this would need to be a Ken Burns length 16 part documentary for it to really have coherence.  Back in October, when the film was released, I wrote about dead peasants insurance - and I still don't have an answer as to why its legal. 

6. Handsome Men's Club
I do know some things, as you'd hope from the Blog of Revelation - my Oscar picks were pretty good - but not as good as as this, the Handsome Men's Club sketch from Kimmel's postshow.  If you've yet to watch - that's what you need to do now. 

7. Did You Know...

...that James Brown's body is missing? My theory, he's doing weekends at the Sands.  Hardest working corpse in show business. 

8. Also, in Death News...

Granny D, American hero, died this week. 

9. Another Anti-Gay, Gay
This Week In Gay (I can hear Mel Allen now..."How About That?") a California conservative who voted against every gay rights measure he could - got caught at a gay bar and came out of the closet. Meanwhile, across the continent - there's a measure in Florida to give filmmakers 75 million dollars to make movies down here, as long as those movies do not include "non-traditional family values."

State representative Stephen Precourt, whose district includes Disney World, says the purpose of the credit is to encourage movies to depict cinematic life from the 1960s. “Think of it as like Mayberry,” Precourt told the Palm Beach Post News. “That’s when I grew up — the ’60s. That’s what life was like. I want Florida to be known for making those kinds of movies: Disney movies for kids and all that stuff. Like it used to be, you know?”

This is occuring, by the way, at the same time that Florida is debating whether to take state funding away from public libraries. 

And when a same sex couple wanted to go to a Mississippi high school prom - the school, recognizing it couldn't just, you know - keep her from coming - just decided to cancel the prom. 

I was thinking about that in relation to the right wing belief that they have been persecuted - that Fox News and the Texas textbook standards are really attempts to balance the playing field - that's because if there were ever to be a movie about this - who would the good guy be - and who would the bad guy be?

That's what they mean.  This is a story that, if you're me - of course the school is wrong - just like the southern segregationists were wrong - when the Little Rock 9 showed up for the first day of high school in 1957 and Orval Faubus sends out the National Guard to stop them - that's a pretty clear case of right and wrong for me - and our culture, just as with this high school prom - would promote my view. 

But conservatives talked about the need for limited federal involvement in state issues (just as a decade later when they fought against the Civil Rights Act, conservatives talked about the rights of businesses to make economic decisions - note that's conservatives as opposed to Republicans - because like in the Progressive Era, there were Republicans and Democrats who believed that federal legislation for the public good was of benefit - that the government had a role to play in promoting social justice - now, even the words social justice were branded by Simple Jack this week as code for Marxism) and that view animates the current health care debate.  They were wrong about Civil Rights.  They were wrong 30 years before about Social Security.  And they're wrong now - wrong about health care - wrong about climate change - wrong about shutting down a high school prom because, god forbid, a girl wants to dance with another girl.  And wrong in exactly, precisely, the same way they were wrong then.

No matter what your high school history textbook is about to tell you.

Curiously, I didn't see those stories on Fox News Tuesday morning.  I've seen Rachel Maddow rip Charlie Rangel.  I' ve seen Keith Olbermann chastize the President for his lack of support of a public option.  But I don't so much see Sean Hannity talking about disgraced Republican politicians and Mississippi high schools shutting down the prom.  Unless it's to blame the gay girl for ruining everyone's fun, that is.

10. Team Bowersox~

It's the Top 12.  So get used to it.  I'm on Team Bowersox. 

That's this week - I'll see you next time...if there is a next time...

Your pal,



Kirk said...

I could point out four or five reason why I think that Baptist Church sign is a bad Photoshop job, but it'd make me look like a nerd.

Jim said...

I don't know if it's real or not -don't know if that's relevant given the way I'm using the sign; it isn't to say "there's a real church with this real sign" - I'm using the sign in the same way that, if it is photoshopped, presumably the person doing the photoshopping is using the sign - that this is the underlying message of much right wing argument.

Blog said...

Will we be getting a bracket from you before the Dance?

I have two 14's winning, and Oakland advancing to the Sweet Sixteen. But ultimately a more mundane Final Four that sees KSU beat Duke in the final.

Jim said...

Yes. I'll probably have Kansas beating Duke.

Anonymous said...

If that photo is a fake, then just use this one:

Blog said...

The great thing about America is that everyone has the chance to follow their dreams.

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