1st and Five - The Weekly Tendown, Halfdown Edition. July 11-17 2010

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Dear Internet:

It's Tendown 35.  It's a Double Rainbow!

First - Don't Read George Allen's Book

George Allen wrote a book using sports as a metaphor for how right wing principles (which the right enjoys labeling as "American" or "founding" principles, in an attempt to elevate their ideology above politics) should drive government:

What Washington Can Learn From the World of Sports

I didn't read it, but what I did was watch Allen's Book TV lecture this week; so now you won't have to read it either. 

Allen prefaces the 4 part outline of his discussion by saying that sports are a meritocracy; the best win, the worst lose, competition drives all to be better - which is unlike the way "Washington" works (Allen used "Washington" or "government" as opposed to saying the Obama Administration or the Democratically controlled Congress, which has, again, the benefit of facially being beyond politics, but relies on his audience forgetting the right wing domination of the federal government for most of the past 30 years; sort of like Mitt Romney saying at the RNC convention in '08 that we needed to elect McCain/Palin to finally get those liberals out of power) which is to attempt to assure everyone equal outcomes, like a sprint where we all hit the finish line holding hands at the same time.

In 2007, the wealthiest one percent of Americans had almost a full 25% of all American income, the highest percentage (not coincidentally) since 1928, just before the Great Depression, our only economic collapse in over a hundred years worse than the one we're currently in - as Robert Reich points out:

But starting in the late 1970s, and with increasing fervor over the next three decades, government did just the opposite. It deregulated and privatized. It increased the cost of public higher education and cut public transportation. It shredded safety nets. It halved the top income tax rate from the range of 70–90 percent that prevailed during the 1950s and '60s to 28–40 percent; it allowed many of the nation's rich to treat their income as capital gains subject to no more than 15 percent tax and escape inheritance taxes altogether. At the same time, America boosted sales and payroll taxes, both of which have taken a bigger chunk out of the pay of the middle class and the poor than of the well-off.

Companies were allowed to slash jobs and wages, cut benefits and shift risks to employees (from you-can-count-on-it pensions to do-it-yourself 401(k)s, from good health coverage to soaring premiums and deductibles). They busted unions and threatened employees who tried to organize. The biggest companies went global with no more loyalty or connection to the United States than a GPS device. Washington deregulated Wall Street while insuring it against major losses, turning finance—which until recently had been the servant of American industry—into its master, demanding short-term profits over long-term growth and raking in an ever larger portion of the nation's profits. And nothing was done to impede CEO salaries from skyrocketing to more than 300 times that of the typical worker (from thirty times during the Great Prosperity of the 1950s and '60s), while the pay of financial executives and traders rose into the stratosphere.

But the right wing - in the midst of this - predicates it's tea-party anger on some mythical US federal government engineering the economy to ensure we all "hold hands at the same time."  George Allen's book could be called "Let Them Eat Cake" and not be further removed from reality. 
His four part lecture online, which I assume is captured to some extent, in his book:

A. Don't Punt on First Down
B. Fans Don't Pay to Watch the Referees
C. Defense Wins Championships
D. Home Field Advantage

A - Don't Punt on First Down was Allen's Drill Baby Drill section - we have natural resources that we are intentionally not exploiting, and instead mistakenly investing in alternative energy. As a percentage of GDP, you won't be surprised that the US spends less than Spain, China, and Britain in alternative energy r&d; and just a month ago, the Bill Gates fronted American Energy Innovation Council issued a report calling for the federal government to triple the amount of money we spend on energy innovation.  But Allen considers that punting on first down, so perhaps now they will reconsider.

Meanwhile, here's a piece about BP.

B. - Fans Don't Pay to Watch the Referees - this is Allen's call for a flat tax; the argument of course being that our punitive taxation restrains productivity. This was a bad, dumb week to be a right winger on taxation. In arguing that the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy should be made permanent, Jon Kyl and Mitch McConnell argued that it's only spending increases, such as extending unemployment insurance benefits, which need to be paid for via an offsetting spending cut - whereas tax cuts "pay for themselves" and therefore don't have a similar requirement.  Here's McConnell:

"That's been the majority Republican view for some time," Minority Leader Mitch McConnell told TPMDC this afternoon after the weekly GOP press conference. "That there's no evidence whatsoever that the Bush tax cuts actually diminished revenue. They increased revenue, because of the vibrancy of these tax cuts in the economy. So I think what Senator Kyl was expressing was the view of virtually every Republican on that subject."

As Krugman pointed out this week, this is in direct contradiction of the facts.  But as we know, the "view(s) of virtually every Republican" on that as well as most subjects, don't so much rely on facts. 

C. Defense Wins Championships - this is Allen's warning that we need to make sure to keep the military budget high.  As Sarah Palin wrote recently, Allen expressed concern that our current desire to cut the federal deficit (remember - only costs, like unemployment benefits matter - but not revenues, like taxes on people making over a quarter million dollars a year - that's right wing math on the deficit) might lead to a mistaken reduction in military spending when, to the contrary, we should increase our committment to missle defense.

Here's the discretionary budget for 2011; the Pentagon budget, projected at over 700 billion dollars, is more than all of our discretionary spending programs combined.  In real dollars, our military budget has doubled since 1998; even if you factored out our two endless Middle Eastern wars, the military still accounts for 42% of spending, and we've spent 700 billion in Iraq alone to date.   But that's right wing math too - it's not all spending that adds to the deficit, just domestic spending that actually aids the lives of regular Americans. 

D - Home Field Advantage - that's Allen's call for states rights; the federal government's usurped too much state power, don't you know - and we need to reverse that.

I mean, presumably not when it comes to guns - as the Supreme Court's ruled that federal 2nd Amendment protection of individual gun owners trumps local gun regulations - and then there was Bush v. Gore when the Supreme Court used the 14th Amendment's equal protection clause to stop the Florida Supreme Court's application of Florida law in permitting a hand vote recount - or when California passes laws legalizing medical marijuana or Oregon legalizes euthanasia, or, as happened just this month, the federal court in Massachussets says the Defense of Marriage Act intrudes into an area of state sovereignty in regulating against gay marriage.  But the rest of those times (at least when a Democrat is in the White House) those are the times we want "home field advantage". 

Thanks for playing, Governor.

After the jump, the rest of the Tendown.  Another halfdown edition.  Nature of my schedule.

1. Coward!

Instead of selling (for an apparently higher bid) to Oracle CEO Larry Ellison, Chris Cohan sold my Golden St Warriors this week to the guy who made Tango and Cash.  Rush Limbaugh attempted to make some sort of racially loaded joke this week after Steinbrenner died, the reference in which relied upon having an understanding about something called the New Black Panther party which the right wing has tried to prop up as a strawman to stoke the racial fears of the flock (the Southern Poverty Law Center calls them a hate group, which is good enough for me - the only time I ever hear anyone from the New Black Panther Party talk is on Fox News, gosh - why do you suppose that is?) but the substance of Limbaugh's reference - that Steinbrenner was the typical capitalist who lifted all around him, is immediately countered with the Chris Cohan example.  In 1995 Cohan bought GSW for 119 million - in the decade and a half since we have the second worst record in the NBA - and this week he sold the club for a record price of 450 million dollars.


Endless, desperate failure = a 300% return on your investment.  At least Cleveland got to watch the best basketball player in the world for 7 years before they got dumped.

2. I Write the Blogs
 I wrote about LeBron again this week; (Stern, Howard, not David, came back from a two week vacation and agreed with Jesse Jackson's slaveholder metaphor; Stern is usually reflexive in his disagreement with the claims of historically marginalized groups, so this was refreshing - I think it's more likely that Howard would agree with my take that race is subordinate to the labor/management dynamic in viewing Dan Gilbert's letter and the sports fan's dislike of empowered athletes) and also the NL winning the All-Star Game.  My Giants are 50-41 and have won 3 straight coming out of the break - my circumstances this year have resulted in my watching fewer Giants games than any season maybe of my entire Giants fandom, dating back to 1978.  The deal I've made with myself is if we are still playing well at August 1, I will purchase the MLB.TV package on the computer for the rest of the year.  It's lesser, I have a small monitor and my schedule requires that I time shift really all games, so I haven't worked out the specifics yet.  Further, if we're really playing well some degree of magical thinking will kick in and I'll wonder if I'm stopping our momentum by watching it.  It's the Observer Effect in action; the action of being watched changes the nature of an activity - my Giants will be worse just because my eyeballs are on them - I've witnessed too much Johnny LeMaster and Mike Sadek; too much Kelly Downs and JR Phillips - I was in the park for all 4 postseason end of game 1 run losses to the Marlins - it just might be a mistake.  My eyes are filled with the poison of years of disappointment.

I got in some graps this week - the PWG tag show from May; the TNA PPV last Sunday; the only 4 star match I saw was from the last DGUSA PPV, it was Pac/Doi v. Quack/Jigsaw which I had at four stars.  I'll get in tonight's WWE show at some point this week; my hard drive has some NOAH, some NJ, some DG, two ROH shows from May and the new Steamboat discs.  I'll get to it when I can.

3. I Been Writing the Blogs
I'm also in the middle of my project of listing every SF Giants team's WAR/WARP3 numbers.  I'll get back to it at some point; I have through '84 written longhand.

4. No One Else, No One Else Can Speak the Words On Your Lips

The Hills, pretty cynically, exposed the business in their final shot this week - panning away from an ostensibly tearful final goodbye from Brody and Kristin to show that it was shot on a sound stage with a mock Hollywood sign as a backdrop.  I like the meta-work aspect of reality non-competition, seeing the phenomenon of real life having storyboards as interesting - but what MTV did was ask its viewers to emotionally invest in people - and then, as soon as there were no more dollars left to mine from the show, pull back the curtain to effectively say, "gotcha, suckers - this didn't really happen." 

The irony that the theme song, Unwritten, of all six seasons of the Hills begins with the lyric:

                                  I am unwritten, can't read my mind, I'm undefined

...presumably was not lost. It's the primary reason, I'd suggest, for the downturn in the professional wrestling business - the industry constantly undercuts any attempts to emotionally connect its characters to the audience by, in numbers of ways, telling us that it isn't real - that the titles are props, that what we're watching is not a sport but a television show - that has ratings and networks and writers.  Professional wrestling in the US hasn't worked out, in a reality show drenched entertainment landscape, how to keep us from noticing the sound stage.. 

Big Brother's game got better this week; the misguided saboteur twist ended Thursday when the plant, Annie, was sent home.  Better than that was the Saturday night After Dark episode on Showtime in which many of the competitors engaged in a meta-discussion about the nature of the game as a television show, and trying to navigate how to play it within a reality that CBS is primarily not in the business of faciliating fair game show play and instead looking to provide compelling enough narratives that drive ratings.  It's not just Heidi and Spencer who look to conform their real lives to the narrative needs of a television program; it's competitors also - Rachel and Brendon are looking to be Jeff and Jordan, not just because Jeff and Jordan were able to take their Big Brother exposure for fifteen additional minutes of fame - but (and this is the point) because being watched changes the actions of those who are being watched - if Jeff and Jordan are good TV, then it's in CBS's interest to keep them in the game - and so if you are a competitor right now in Big Brother 12 and your goal is to stay in the game - as important as winning over your housemate-competitors such that they won't kick you out is winning over viewers such that they, and in turn the BB breakdown writers/producers and CBS want to keep you on the show.  It raises the other, more challenging matter if you're an actual person whose actual life is in that house - the Truman Show like level of scripting that goes on in a way that is outside of you.  Brendan and Rachel clearly were cast to develop a relationship - they're playing into it - but they were placed, manipulated in a way that leads them to this point.  And it's (or could be) an actual romantic relationship, but one that's engineered by production; there's a deep compatibilism to this relationship, and arguably to much of reality competition, that adds up to a scripting of even what seems nonscripted.  I don't know to what extent you and I have free will, to what extent our choices are dictated by forces...deeper than ourselves, but you can really see it in this season's Big Brother, as casting seems to have placed people together that maximizes their chances of forming not only television narratives, but real life relationships.

To use a sports metaphor - why do NBA stars get the close calls?  Because the NBA isn't pure competition - it's a tv show (Tim Donaghy told us that, in the most underappreciated story of recent years) it's not something that needs to be said explicitly, it's understood - sports isn't a pure meritocracy - no matter what George Allen thinks. 

5. The Right Wing Loves Black People.  Honest.

Right Wing Race Baiting.

Simple Jack Not Understanding MLK.

Racism in the Tea Parties.

  and here, too.

And of course, there was Mark Williams's letter this week, which was purporting to prove the tea parties aren't racist. 

Why did George Allen lose that last election again?  I can't recall.

6. Okay, One More
Career's over, Mel Gibson.  Bye-Bye.

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

Your pal,


1 comment

Blog said...

Here's a poll that won't be showing up in the next Halfdown: a plurality of Americans think that America would have been better off if John McCain had won the presidential election in 2008.

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