1st and Ten - The Weekly Tendown, May 2-8 2010

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Dear Internet:

I have no air conditioning.  Had no air conditioning for about a month.  I live in South Florida.  Yesterday it was 88 degrees.

I want you to know that's my circumstance.  The AC is beyond repair, but I'm moving soon; just as my car finally stopped running literally as I was about to trade it in; my air conditioner, which has limped along for the past half dozen years spurted out its last breath of cool juice a month ago.  Had my house not lost 75% of its value in the past 3 years, I assume I'd dip into my retirement fund (jokes, I tell the jokes; I'll never be able to retire) and pop down a few grrrrr on a new system (my AC was triple old). But as, one way or the other, I won't be the owner of this house by July, that's not an investment that makes a lot of sense.

So, I've just been sweating it out.  Yes, I'm miserable.  Yes, this is my life.  Yes, yes, that's how it is.  Everything's comin' up Milhouse.

But we got Tendown 25 today!  And this train don't pull no sleepers.  Let's get it poppin'!

First:  By the Time I Get to Arizona

Back in Tendown 24, I talked about the Show Your Papers immigration statute passed in Arizona, specifically casting it in a Tendown meme - the distance between right wing/Tea Bag rhetoric about the need to keep government small and to oppose tyranny with violence if needed and the reality of their support for the two decade long middle eastern wars and their worship of whatever type of skull cracking police procedure is in vogue. 

It's not exactly a conundrum worthy of great minds..  Government power is a problem if its intruding on your life.  But someone else's life?  Especially if that someone has a darker complexion than you?  Absolutely.  That's what government's proper role is.  When middle aged white guys want to load up their guns and go to a health care debate - that's the proper exercise of the 2nd Amendment.  But if police, based solely on their judgment, want to pull someone over in Arizona and demand papers, then the 4th Amendment takes a back seat.  After all, there are plenty of white people in Arizona who want to bring their guns to Starbucks without worrying about a brown skinned person ahead of them in line. 

But the story was advanced this week - this week, the Phoenix Suns wore their alternative uniform, Los Suns in a playoff game, expressly in protest of the new Arizona state law.

And that, I have to tell you, is amazing.

In grad school, one of my primary research interests (enough that had I decided to pursue a PhD, I would have made it the focus of my dissertation) was anti-establishment speech in sporting venues.  The examples, beyond Smith and Carlos in '68 are small.  The occasional flag salute protest by athletes (which never turns out well in the court of public opinion); the even more rare fan generated activism, and not much beyond that.  As a venue - the systemic pressure on all who enter it maintain a border between sports and state (despite the allowance of any form of establishment speech, pro-war, pro-military, pro-church, pro-government, pro-status quo, and the most obvious - pro-corporate, so pervasive it goes without political analysis) almost always serves to chill. 

But not this week.  With thousands outside the arena protesting against the anti-4th amendment law, with fans inside the arena making similar statements:

...the Phoenix Suns made an historic statement in opposition to a law of their own state this week.

The TNT pre-game show, as noted by lefty sportswriter (I bet he has air conditioning) Dave Zirin was filled with similar sentiments, with Barkley and Kenny Smith supporting the Suns choice of protest and Chris Webber referencing Arizona's previous refusal to recognize Martin Luther King Day as a historic analogue. 

It was exciting.  The most exciting sporting event of the year. 

After the jump - the rest of the Tendown.

1. William Howard Mays

I've almost finished the new Mays book; he turned 79 this week; his birthday was Willie Mays day in California.  It's a good book, worthy of the subject.  I learned things; the first is embarrassing to me that I was unaware of it - Mays was named after William Howard Taft.  It's dopey of me; I knew Mays's middle name and have for at least twenty years - I have a Masters Degree in American History - hell, I just taught Taft last week.  But I never put it together.

Taft was more progressive than you think - about twice as many more trusts were broken up during his Administration than in Teddy Roosevelt's 7 years. Taft didn't have Teddy's gravity (weight notwithstanding) and he got stuck between the progressive forces who wanted to increase reform and Joe Cannon's conservative forces looking for a pro-business retrenchment.  And then Teddy came back from safari and split the Republican vote which made Taft a one termer. 

An interesting Counterfactual maybe is what if Taft drops out of the race and Teddy wins again?  His was the most progressive platform in 1912 - and he was far more progressive on race than was Wilson - how does a 3rd Teddy term play out - what are the ramifications of a win from a third party candidate - if he's re-elected in 1916 how does that impact the US entry into WWI - and then Teddy dies in 1919, does having so many years of Republican rule mean that it's a Democrat, and not Harding, who is elected in 1920 - do the 20s become more progressive or do the Democrats become the receptacle of the corporate interests instead of the Wall St Republicans.  Do 4 terms of Teddy Roosevelt lead for a call for term limits - and then what happens to FDR; is there a New Deal (particularly the more progressive second wave of the New Deal) - how is WWII impacted --

Well, I could go on.  The point is Mays was named after Taft.  Additionally, I found out that Mays's mother died in childbirth when she was 37 (delivering a sibling); that the Marchical/Roseboro incident was 16 days after the signing of the Voting Rights Act, that a criticism, voiced in the major baseball press, of the Giants in the early 60s was that we had too many black players, and that Willie Mays day in his hometown of Birmingham was stopped personally by Bull Connor in 1955.

2. Slavery by Another Name
In the book was a passing reference to the convict lease system that was centered in Birmingham; a system in which during Jim Crow, African-Americans would be either railroaded or overly sentenced or squeezed into accepting terrible plea deals that would result in longer jail sentences than would otherwise be the case -- and then those prisoners would be leased as laborers to business.  Turns out that the big book in the field:
Blackmon's Slavery by Another Name, is going to be a PBS documentary next year - and I assume it will make Tendown at that time.  If you're unfamiliar with the issue, here's a February piece from the Birmingham paper.  And here's the site for the book and film. 

And as you take a look at it, remember, the biggest travesty of the American justice was the OJ Simpson verdict and it's today, in 2010, when the government in the US has tyrannically turned against its citizens. 

3. The Best Show on Television
 The best show on television is probably either Mad Men or Breaking Bad (which had maybe its best episode ever, at least its flashiest, last week) but my favorite show is Friday Night Lights - and I couldn't have been more pleased that it returned this week (no, it doesn't make much sense, given that I have a familiarity with current technology and, perhaps, a willingness to utilize it, that I waited for FNL to return to NBC to watch it given that the entire season has already aired on Direct TV.  I guess one could argue for HD quality, but I do have a DVD player in which I can place a flashdrive - so I could pretty seamlessly watch every episode prior to it airing).  But I don't.  So I just saw the first episode of the second to the last season, and it was terrific - they've turned the Dillon Panthers heel, which is such a terrific decision I can't even tell you.  Watch Friday Night Lights (and Breaking Bad, and Mad Men - and 30 Rock, obviously...what's my 5th favorite show...what's my 5th favorite tv show...yeah, I'd have to...I don't know, excellent question). 

I watched other good things this week; my Giants came down here and swept the Fish (something you insufficiently appreciate unless you're a Giants fan - and if you're a Giants fan, Jesus, make yourself known - you're my new best friend) is how terrible were the Giants losses to the Marlins.  Every single playoff game the Giants played down here we lost by 1 run.  I attended all 4 games.  Heartbreaking.

1997 - Game One: We had a 1-0 lead in the 7th after a Bill Mueller homer (my yelling "Bill Mueller" over and over again resulted in my getting popcorn thrown at me) but they got us in the bottom of the 9th with a walkoff Renteria single. Game Two: The lead changed a half dozen times, we tied it up in the top of the 9th and they got us again in the bottom; I can still see Billy the Marlin planting the enormous Marlins flag right on the mound after our walkoff loss.  I got into a parking lot slapfight with a guy who was antagonizing me throughout the game.

2003 - Game Three: We split the first two at home, then came down here for Game 3 - we took a 3-2 lead into the bottom of the 11th - and that's when Jose Cruz's kid dropped the ball and we got beat. I got shoved in the aisle after that one.  Game Four: We scored 4 in the 6th to tie it at 5, staving off elimination until they scored 2 in the 8th - we got one back in the top of the 9th - but Snow got thrown out at the plate, Pudge getting knocked over but holding onto the ball - to end the series.

Those are the only 4 Giants playoff games I've ever attended in my life.  All down here, all 1 run losses, 3 of them walkoff losses, one in extra innings after an error which would be iconic if it happened to an team in the AL East or the Cubs - and the other loss ended with a home plate collision.  3 walk offs and 1 home plate collision.  All down here.  I attended all of them.  I wonder how many Giants fans of my level of fervor are similarly situated?  I wonder if I'm singular.  Seriously - is my Giants debt/equity ratio as poor as how much I've spent on my house/how much its worth today?

Goddamn Giants.

4. I Heart Graps
I've seen some good, good wrestling since the previous issue of Tendown.  I've got 3 more matches at 4 1/2+ which means they enter MOTY conversation:  Dick Togo v. Billy Ken Kid from February (Osaka Pro, 4 1/2 stars), Yoshikawa/Usuda v. Hidaka/Sawa from February (BattleArts, 4 3/4 stars), and Goto/Nakamura from April (New Japan, 4 3/4 stars).  I've got seven MOTY candidates now, I think the Goto/Nakamura match and the Richards/Ibushi from the first Evolve show are the two best. 

Additionally, I got some other 4 star matches in - Go/Marufuji from Noah, I think in April.  Marufuji/Liger from New Japan (yeah, Jushin Liger can still work a 4 star match, incredible - and this has been Marufuji's year hands down thusfar), and Edwards/Richards from ROH TV a couple of weeks ago was 4 stars, and the best free US match of the year. 

Right now, as I write this, I'm also watching a terrifically entertaining shoot, Kendrick and London's Excellent Adventures, you won't be disappointed, and if you're so disposed, you'll like them even more than you did previously.  Right now, Kendrick is saying that the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cereal was the best cereal of all time.  Yes, that's the kind of thing I find entertaining, yes. 

5. The Top 24 American Idols...Ever.
Billboard put out a good list this week - a quantifiable ranking of the careers of the Top 24 American Idols.

It's Billboard, so the rankings just consisted of (1) album sales (2) track sales (3) radio plays. 

Here, absent the numbers, which you can find at the Billboard site, is the list.

1. Kelly Clarkson
2. Carrie Underwood

-They're pretty far ahead of everyone else, and Clarkson's radio plays are about double Underwood's, so Clarkson's pretty far ahead.  Considering awards and critical acclaim, you'd still rank them together and rank them together in this order - Underwood's a bigger star right now and you'd have to prefer her career trajectory to Kelly's.  Subjectively, I like Clarkson's music as much as everyone else on the list combined. 

3. Chris Daughtry
-Solidly behind the top two - but far, far ahead of number 4 in everything but track sales.

4. Jordin Sparks
5. David Cook

-My mother and I are having a debate on which was the worst Idol singing lineup ever, I say it was season 7 with Sparks, she says it's now - she wants to shoehorn into the discussion the rest of production, including the Paula/Ellen disparity and Simon's disinterest in the program, but my claim is limited to the singers - and specifically, that Bowersox is much stronger than Sparks, for whom I never cared.  She had a hit song though, and that puts her closer to Daughtry than to Cook, probably.  I wouldn't think there's a lot of career left for Cook, but as a guy he seems pleasant enough. 

6. Clay Aiken
7. Kellie Pickler
-This will be the high water mark for Aiken, still living off Claymate album sales.  All he'll do is work his way back down the list - I would not have predicted this level of success for Pickler, but even I know "Best Days of Your Life" and its tough for country music to penetrate its way into my brain.  She'll go past Aiken and Cook.  Sparks is a jump ball.

8. David Archuleta
9. Fantasia
10. Ruben Studdard

-I'm surprised that Archuleta got as many track sales as he did from his debut album, but I assume he'll take the Aiken trajectory, right down to the personal revelations.  Aiken and Studdard are going on the road together this sumnmer, which is smart - but he has no career left either.  Fantasia's talented - if the Color Purple movie musical becomes a thing, that won't help her on this list, but in terms of Idol careers you'd have to shoot her up into the top five. 

11. Kris Allen
12. Adam Lambert
-I was surprised at the order, but they're virtually tied. Lambert's a bigger star, you'd figure he has a bigger career, just based on listed criteria than anyone outside of the top 2.

13. Jennifer Hudson
-If you were ranking careers, she'd be first.  Subjectively, I don't think she's particularly talented, and I'd assume she's five years from being talked about as another totally forgotten Best Supporting Actress.  But an Oscar trumps a truckload of Country Music Entertainer of the Year Awards; you have to rank her at #1 of all the Idol careers.

14. Josh Gracin
15. Elliot Yamin
16. Katharine McPhee
-And here's where you get the people who only barely have careers.  McPhee's really hot, so that should rank her ahead of Elliot Yamin.  Come on Billboard!

17. Bo Bice
18. Blake Lewis
19. Taylor Hicks
20. Kimberly Locke

-I would assume Billboard would have just done a top 20, since the list is really starting to cough and wheeze at this point, except for the surprise at 21.

21. William Hung
-240,000 album sales.  Seriously.

22. Danny Gokey
23. Diana Degarmo
24. Alison Iraheta

Alison's talented, she's opening up for Lambert this summer, and that should be a good show. I prefer her to maybe 20 of the people ahead of her on the list. 

6. The Data Driven Life
The best piece I read this week was this from the NY Times Magazine; it's the Moneyball of self help articles. 

7. Moyers
Bill Moyers last show was a week ago Friday.

These were his farewell thoughts:

This marriage of money and politics has produced an America of gross inequality at the top and low social mobility at the bottom, with little but anxiety and dread in between, as middle class Americans feel the ground falling out from under their feet. According to a study from the Pew Research Center last month, nine out of ten Americans give our national economy a negative rating. Eight out of ten report difficulty finding jobs in their communities, and seven out of ten say they experienced job-related or financial problems over the past year. So it is that like those populists of that earlier era, millions of Americans have awakened to a sobering reality: they live in a plutocracy, where they are disposable. Then, the remedy was a popular insurgency that ignited the spark of democracy.

Now we have come to another parting of the ways, and once again the fate and character of our country are up for grabs. So along with Jim Hightower and Iowa's concerned citizens, and many of you, I am biased: democracy only works when we claim it as our own.

So, you know that George Rekers, the co-founder of the Family Research Council got caught with a male escort.

That made the news cycle.  What hasn't gotten national attention is this.

The state of Florida paid George Rekers over $60,000 to be an expert witness in defending its ban on gay adoption. 

Rekers testified that gays are incapable of "providing a safe and secure and emotionally stable environment for the child."

The tax dollars of the people of the state of Florida went to George Rekers to testify that homosexual couples should not be allowed to adopt children - and George Rekers was caught with a male escort. 

If gays took to the streets with guns, in the way that Tea Partiers have, would they be celebrated for that protest?

How about if African-Americans were to take to the streets with guns to protest the convict lease system?

What about the protests against the Arizona immigrant law - were they trumpeted by Fox News as a principled stand against tyranny? 

 9. American Exceptionalism
Here's what the Minority Whip, Eric Cantor, said this week:

What the President said in that speech [in Cairo] was that he hoped to return to the days when we had a partnership with the Muslim world. That America 20, 30 years ago enjoyed some type of good relationship that now has gone awry. I don’t see it that way. I don’t see that somehow we need apologize for anything that America has done. Are we a perfect nation? By no means. Are we better than any[one] else because of the exceptional nature of who we are? Yes.

Americans are better than anyone else.  Maybe he believes it or maybe he's just talking to the rubes - but that's the mindset that conservatives want to see embedded in history, embedded in law, embedded in the culture, embedded in schools.  Anything short of that means you hate America.

10. Dear Lee Marvin
A letter from Francis Ford Coppola to Lee Marvin offering him what would become Brando's role in Apocalypse Now. 

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

Your pal,



Blog said...

As a legal resident of a foreign country, I am required to keep documents on me proving my legal status at all times. Never once have I considered the need to carry around something the size of a drivers license to be an undue burden, nor the act of showing this identification to authorities when asked to for any reason. This is the price to pay for living in a society of law.

This op-ep piece sums up my feelings on the Arizona bill most aptly.

People always complain when the government does nothing to fix a problem, but they complain even more when anything is done to fix it, even something as reasonable as SB1070.

Jim said...

It's not reasonable. If we had a 4th Amendment pressure group like we have a 2nd Amendment pressure group, we'd all recognize that "show me your papers" is anathema in the United States. I do not have to provide identification to police simply because they want it. And unfortunately, the history of the United States (and the current experience for many) isn't that police will act capriciously - it's that police will use this power to target, to intimdate, to pressure - and to do so based in no small part on race. This is a club that we do not need to hand the police. It's a club that, I'd argue, is impermissible for them to take.

Blog said...

What you describe is not a problem with the law itself, but with the people that enforce the law.

The law itself states:


"Reasonable suspicion" already exists in a number of contexts of society. If you're driving and weaving around in a lane, the police have reasonable suspicion that you may be driving under the influence. The whole No Fly List is build around reasonable suspicion. None of this law creates anything new; it only enforces the laws that the federal government should be enforcing.

If this law is unacceptable, then the US government should be compensating the people of Arizona for the losses they incur as a result of the feds not doing their job.

Your view of unlimited civil rights is only valid in a world of unlimited resources. Until we start colonizing the stars, compromises will need to be made.

Jim said...

No, it's with the law itself.

Reasonable suspicion is an example of what was designed to be a rare, rare exception to the rule becoming the rule; it's the slippery slope in action. There's no consitutional basis for reasonable suspicion, we've crafted it to give law enforcement increased power in specific circumstances. The no fly list is a good example - the argument is "emergency, danger, in this circumstance let's put our civil liberties concerns aside and recognize how severely we need security". And then what happens is someone turns around and says "well, we already use it for the no fly list, now it's settled law."

Reasonable suspicion sucks. It's a standard that says "hey, cops know best."

If I give a six year old a mallet; it's not really a surprise when he uses it, my saying "don't use this mallet for harm, only for good" doesn't relieve me of the consequences. We have enough documentation about how this law would be used to recognize what the result will be. We've taken a "security is more important than liberty" standard like reasonable suspicion and handed it to police to enforce against brown people.

Blog said...

On a lighter note, here is my nomination for funniest baseball article of the year.

Jim said...

I was going to do that for this week's Tendown, 'cause Keith Hernandez fell asleep in the booth too. One Hall of Famer and another guy who should be borderline falling asleep.

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