1st and Ten - The Weekly Tendown June 27-July 3 2010

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Dear Internet:

Can't really complain about a week that saw the ends of both Mel Gibson's  and Michael Steele's careers.   All it will take is one leak of the Gibson tape and he moves to a hole from which he'll never climb; and Steele - Steele finally got something right - the United States isn't going to win the war in Afghanistan, and, one assumes it's going to cost him his job.  Telling the truth = not the best idea for a Republican in 2010. 

Lets do some Tendown 33

First: I Gave At the Office

I've written multiple times this week; here was my final selection for the 2010 MLB All Star Game; here was the first part of my five part look at the history of the San Francisco Giants (by WARP3 and WAR), and from the other place here was the final chapter in the road to counterfactual Summer Slam 2009.

Which means that's all the writing I do for the week.  Oh, sure, I could slap some links up - making fun of the right wing - talking about the four star wrestling matches I saw (From Big Japan in May - Takashi Sasaki & Yuko Miyamoto vs. Daisuke Sekimoto & Yoshihito Sasaki 4 1/4) and then I shut it down.  You don't want to read my baseball lists or the largest piece of wrestling fan fiction ever written in the history of the world - I got nothing for you this week.

I got nothing else!  Go away!  I gave at the office!

The other thing that happened was I finished my move; my Lady Type Friend and I are out of our old houses and now the 7 of us (5 of us are four-legged) are cohabitating.  Were I, in a Joan Didion type of way, to ever write a book about my 2010, I might entitle it ...And then My Glasses Snapped Clean in Half as that happened this week; in a year where I've already lost both my house and a parent; and had to increase my course load to 7 days a week to pay the monthly bills while my average class size doubled - I finished off a multi-month search for a house, and a back breaking move by simply pushing my glasses back from the bridge of my nose and watching them snap into pieces in my hands.  I stared disbelieving at my Lady Type Friend, "this is not a real thing that just happened, right - it just can't be that I'm holding my glasses right now."

But here we sit Sunday morning.  Move done.  Glasses fixed.  I've got to finish my preparation for the new academic quarter (starting online in 12 and a half hours - and in the classroom Tuesday) and the combination of all of the above factors is the most important thing that happened this week. 

Fine.  You're not gonna leave.  Fine. After the jump - the rest of the Tendown.

1. A Rose by any Other Name
I teach courses in ethics, critical thinking, US government, and American history - a commom element in all is my stated ideal to avoid privileging one's own position - it's at the heart of Kant's categorical imperative, of Rawls's Veil of Ignorance, and of my view of the proper role of the historian, which is (borrowing from John Quincy Adams) that he must "know no country."  I have positions about ideas - and necessarily so, as I've said in multiple contexts - you don't give equal time to 2+2=9, no matter how offended may be the sensibilities of those who believe it to be so.  Some ideas have greater evidentiary support than do others - but that's not based on loyalty to those ideas, it's based on their merit. 

This week a study demonstrated that the most credible mainstream American media outlets have historically referred to waterboarding as torture - right up until the point where the United States was doing it - and then that rhetorical condemnation disappeared.  Even now, however, when it isn't American waterboarding, those same outlets are significantly more likely than not to continue to refer to waterboarding as torture - it literally is as simple as this - when anyone else has ever waterboarded - it is unequivocally torture - and when we do it, then it is not.

The NY Times explained why.

“When using a word amounts to taking sides in a political dispute, our general practice is to supply the readers with the information to decide for themselves. Thus we describe the practice vividly, and we point out that it is denounced by international covenants and in American tradition as a form of torture.”

And that's exactly wrong.  Literally, exactly the opposite of how this should be approached.  The Times is saying it doesn't matter what the merits of those "disputed" arguments are - that as long as a dispute exists - its policy is to remain "neutral".  A practice is defined as torture for hundreds of years - prosecuted as torture - prosecuted by the United States as torture - but when it's committed by the United States under the claim that it isn't torture for no reason other than its the United States who is doing the waterboarding then, that makes it a debate. 

If the Republicans said 2+2=9 (or that global warming was a hoax) it wouldn't matter the merits of the evidence - the "liberal" media would stay out of the political fray.

2. Netherlands 2 Brazil 1
The question you should have asked after Brazil's startling elimination this weekend (although not as startling as the Germany/Argentina margin) was what's the level of Toxoplasma gondii  found in Dutch cats?

A Slate piece noted that 8 of the past 10 World Cup winners were countries where the level of a parasite which reproduces in cats and is thought to modify human behavior via dopamine impact were particularly high.  2 out of 3 Brazillians are affected by the parasite, and the argument made by the piece is:

We know that infection increases testosterone in male brains, making them more likely to get into car accidents, more attractive to females, and more prone to being jealous, dogmatic, and dismissive of authority. Evidence even suggests that motorcyclists are more likely to have Toxo. Something like a James Dean effect. Generally, males with Toxo are more aggressive and less inhibited. Keep in mind that FIFA, in line with most sporting organizations in the world, bans testosterone supplements of any kind. But they do not ban Toxo, and if Toxo increases testosterone levels, we may be dealing with a form of inadvertent, cultural doping

Bottom line - maybe you want to hop on Germany to close it out, nearly half of Germans have the parasite.

3. Or
The US loss to Ghana was easily predicted by toxo levels - and, if you missed it, you can watch it here, but played by Legos.

4. Down with Thurgood Marshall
We learned this week that the Republicans wouldn't have voted to confirm Thurgood Marshall either.

I enjoy moments like the first day of the Kagan hearings - it's an opportunity to pin the right wing to the natural conclusions of their arguments.  The 2010 Republicans have come out against medicare, social security, minimum wage, unemployment insurance, separation of church and state, laws preventing business from discriminating on the basis of race, public education, mandatory manufacture of seat belts, government regulations on the manufacture and packaging of food, and this week - turns out that even viewing Thurgood Marshall as a legal hero marks one as unqualified to serve on the Supreme Court. 

Too activist, after all.  Didn't want to defer his judgment about civil liberties issues to democratically elected legislatures.  If the people of the state of Louisiana want to have prayer in public schools - or no abortion - or to have separate hosptials for blacks and whites - who is the Supreme Court to tell them otherwise!

That's the states rights argument.  That's the "limited judiciary, strict constructionist" argument.  That's the Republicans. 

Except when it's about guns.  In the very same week, where the Republicans called Thurgood Marshall unacceptably activist - the Supreme Court said that every locally passed law which restricts gun ownership has to be subject to the right the Court first articulated just a couple of years ago that the second amendment confers an individual fundamental right to guns.  Doesn't matter what the people of DC or Chicago think - doesn't matter what are the laws passed by the democratically elected legislatures - 5 unelected judges on the Supreme Court have said they know better. 

That's activism.  It's what the Supreme Court does.  Sometimes you like the result.  Sometimes you don't.  But to say that it's the Thurgood Marshall's of the world who do it while the John Roberts's of the world just call balls and strikes is exactly the same level of intellectual honesty which leads the NY Times, et al, to call waterboarding torture except when we do it.

5. And They're Stuck With it In Montana Too
Students of mine are surprised when I tell them there were states where homosexuality was illegal until just a handful of years ago when the Court overruled Bowers v. Hardwick with Lawrence v. Texas.  And yes, that's activism I like - yes - there are states where, if you put an anti-sodomy measure on the ballot it would pass - as articulated this week by the Montana Republican Party.

We support the clear will of the people of Montana expressed by legislation to keep homosexual acts illegal.

There's merit to the idea that we should do all of this at ballot box - that if Montana wants to have homosexuality be illegal or South Carolina wants slaves - then they should be allowed to do so - but those are the consequences of the "Tenther" language that mysteriously has popped up since Obama's election - those are the consequences if you're serious about a judiciary that just "calls balls and strikes" - one might argue that an active federal government,  say through the mechanism of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, serves not to squash the will of a right wing public but instead as a safety valve.  When Rand Paul argued (and John Stossel agreed) that the marketplace would have been a better mechanism to move those businesses who discriminated against blacks - they do so in a contextless environment; consider how in 2010 the Republican candidate for Senate in Nevada talks about "second amendment remedies" when the tyranny being foisted upon a helpless public is the most watered down health care legislation of any advanced nation - what if the tyranny was a restaurant in the middle of Mobile, Alabama with a No Coloreds sign?  Would the response be "well, let's walk across the street" or would the response be more "second amendment-y".

The federal government, through the Congress and judicary, didn't cause more violence in the Civil Rights Era - it prevented it.  A hundred years before the federal government took a pass on the issue of slavery (Dred Scott - now that's strict constructionism - the Court in Dred Scott said - hey, slaves were property for the founding fathers - so they're property now - no "evolving standards" no "living constitution" for Roger Taney - hell no - that was a strict constructionist - and he looked at the plain meaning of the constitution and said  - "George Washington had slaves - good enough for me.")

Right Glenn Beck?  Isn't that how it's supposed to work? 

And the result was the Civil War.  A house divided against itself cannot stand. 

What the actions of the federal government in the Civil Rights Era - what the actions of Thurgood Marshall - did was help save the Republic.  You know - which the Republicans will tell you they put above all things, particularly on the 4th of July.

6. Did You Know that Jennifer Capriati Tried to Kill Herself?
Right down here.  Kinda looks like it.

7. Is Chris Brown out of Entertainment Jail?
If Radar plays that Mel Gibson tape - I'm telling you right now, he is never, ever getting out.  He used a word you cannot use in a context you cannot use it and he's enough of a rhetorical recidivist that he is facing a mandatory life minimum. But only if they play the tape. Chris Brown may have gotten released from that same entertainment jail a week ago. I'm a leave it to the legislature guy on this stuff - if people want to watch Charlie Sheen or Chris Brown, that's sort of up to them - and if corporations want to get into the Charlie Sheen/Chris Brown business, that's up to them too - I'm just interested in how we come to make those choices. 

8. Ants
It took Michael Steele saying that Afghanistan was unwinnable to make John Boehner's "this financial crisis is an ant" the second most staggering Republican quote of the week. 

It's the second worst economy of the last hundred years -  the lack of political will to pass a considerably higher stimulus dooms the job market to stagnate,  the Republicans who supported the Bush debt bomb (unwinnable) trillion dollar wars+tax cuts for the wealthy for a decade are now holding up unemployment benefit extensions because - gosh, how can we pay for it? - and even then, of course, all Boehner and his fellow plutocrats are saying is "don't regulate business!  Don't regulate Wall St.  Don't regulate BP.  We've spent the past quarter century systematically deregulating industries (or regulating them in a way entirely captured by the corporate entities involved) - in a way argued necessary by conservative philosophy and embraced by both political parties, who, since Reagan, have both existed on the right side of the ideological spectrum - and what we saw is the total bankruptcy of those ideas and those policies - whether it is the economic collapse or the BP oil disaster what we have seen is exactly this - exactly this - exactly this - everything conservatives believe and argue and have put into policy about the need to allow "the free market" to guide the country in place of a government is entirely wrong.  The conservative hegemony has failed the United States in every possible way - from the wars we cannot win to the oil we cannot stop leaking to the jobs we cannot get back to the torture we cannot say is torture. 

And the response from much of the electorate, instead of recognizing this truth - is somehow that it's excessive government that is at fault.  It's tyranny.  They're, quotting Boehner "snuffing out the America I grew up in."  They've been plugging in 2+2=9 for decades - it's clearly, in every possible way, been exposed as mathematical error - and they blame the calculators.

And that's the reason why we can't recover.  That's how far away we are from truth in this country.  John Boehner sees American waterboarding and metaphorically says "stop Obama's waterboarding of America!" 

That's where we are in 2010.

9. Maybe I could Move to Australia
A land ruled by atheists.

10. The Newest Member of the Tulane Green Wave
Tulane recruited a QB named Fudge Van Hooser.  Best porn name ever. 

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

Your pal,


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