1st and Ten: The Weekly Tendown, August 1-7 2010

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Dear Internet:

My first and most enduring memory of Jerry Springer is from his running for the Democratic Party's nomination for Governor of Ohio in..let's say '82, if it turns out to be a year or two away from that, don't hold it against me.  Springer had to pull out of the race after a prostitution scandal, and either made a campaign ad or had a press conference that included a line that (except for the number I'll use in the quote, which I've forgotten) I remember verbatim, "About 9 years ago I spent time with a woman I shouldn't have.  I paid her with a check."  It was probably six months before I stopped saying that virtually every day.  That was probably the same time period where all I ate was canned chili.  My brain gets stuck in certain grooves. 

Today, Jerry Springer hosts a game show, Baggage; it's a Dating Game variant; a contestant picks from among 3 potential suitors.  The twist is they all reveal increasingly embarrassing details about themselves (hence - Baggage) that causes their eliminations until we have the winner.  One round contains blind baggage, where we are told the embarrassing detail (like, "I have never had sex, and I don't plan to" or "I spent 90 days in a Canadian prison..") but have to wait for the reveal of to whom it belongs.  That's the best moment of the show, where the potential suitors walk around the now opened briefcases, teasing to which they might be attached ("I slept with my landlord for cheaper rent." or "I have 8,000 Star Wars action figures") and every episode, they pull the What's My Line style fake out, standing momentarily next to what will turn out to be another contestant's briefcase before then moving to the correct one ("I shave all my body hair" or "I'm the new backup center for the Boston Celtics.")

Why it's the best moment is the audience (I don't know that there's an audience, it could be entirely a canned effect) always gasps when the fake out occurs ("!  Do you see what they did?  The guy who was standing next to the "I live with 8 other guys" briefcase just switched places with the "I've paid for sex." guy!  Craziness!").

I enjoy that gasp.  I heard it this week.

In explaining the concept of negative liberty to my American Government class, I talked about my taking this course as an undergrad and recalling that my midterm contained the question "What are the first five words of the Bill of Rights?"

Don't cheat. 

The answer is "Congress shall make no law" and, while I don't recall if it was contextualized in this way when I took the course, why it matters is the Bill of Rights were designed to put restraints on the power of government (yes, positive liberty exists as well, one doesn't preclude the other). I don't much like trick questions, but I do ask one on my midterm exam, "What constitutional amendment gives you freedom of speech.  This is a trick question." The answer is none of them - the Bill of Rights doesn't give you freedom - the United States government doesn't give you freedom - the Bill of Rights says the government can't take away your freedom of speech, "Congress shall make no law" - you have freedom of speech just because you're alive.

I took that American Government class the first quarter of my sophomore year, which was the fall of 1989.

And when I said that year, 1989, like a walking Public Enemy song, that's when I got the Baggage gasp.

I'm from the past.  I am a man from the past.

This week, I watched Hot Tub Time Machine.  It's not a particularly good movie, and Craig Robinson's Black Eyed Peas performance looked to me less like a Back to the Future homage and more like a lift, but what I did enjoy was that the 1980s were framed as Back to the Future framed the 50s - they are the past - the clothes, the music, the feeling of living in 1986 is as close to today as the Enchantment Under the Sea Dance felt to me when I was 15.

I come from the past!  Where we danced the Charleston and killed Injuns and sailed on Columbus's 4th ship that disappeared off the edge of the earth.  Welcome.

Let's do Tendown 38.

First:  The GOAT Goes to the Hall of Fame
At some point, I'll do a list of the Greatest Bay Area Athletes of all time; both for amateur and professional performances - so Bill Russell's college career would count, for example.

Spoiler alert - Jerry Rice is gonna win.

Aw, hell - off the top of my head:

1. Jerry
2. Barry
3. Willie
4. Joe
5. Rickey

I'll need to do more work on that; the point is that if you make me choose, just based on what they did in the Bay Area; I think it's Rice.  Sooner than later, I'll run the new numbers on the career value of the SFGiants, but I'd expect, even taking his Pittsburgh work out, that Bonds will come out ahead of Mays; obviously both are ahead of Henderson (I'm wrong, Barry is solidly ahead in WARP, but Mays is enough ahead in WAR to get past Bonds - flip them in the rankings)  I've got Jerry as the top WR ever by a distance that pretty significantly exceeds any of my other NFL positional rankings, which would slide him ahead of Montana. 

(Who else would be on the list - Niners...Tittle and Brodie and Steve; Cross and St. Clair.  BY, Haley, Wilcox, Nomellini. Ronnie. TO.  Dwight.  Jimmy Johnson, John Henry Johnson, Joe Perry, Hugh McElhenny, Roger...that's 19...Gene Washington. Done.  I'll do Giants and A's more systmatically.  I finished my look at every SFG team ever this week. GSW...Rick Barry, Mullin, Thurmond, Hardaway, Larry Smith, Purvis Short..Al Attles..Baron Davis..Jeff Mullins....Wilt.  Let's say that's the top 10.  Raiders, but not LA....Stabler, Plunkett, Upshaw, Shell, Otto, Tim Brown, Branch, Biletnikoff, Hendricks, Willie Brown, Casper, Lester Hayes, Lamonica, Guy, Dalby, Tatum, Lechler, Van Eeghan, Asomugha...let's say Blanda for 20).

But ahead of them all (and Mark Spitz and McEnroe, and Elway and everyone else you got) would be Rice.

Here's a ranking of the ten best moments of his career..  Here's some never before seen practice footage.

My baseball life has been largely solitary.  Baseball cards, Bill James Abstracts, scrambling to find out of town radio broadcasts - WLW in Cincinnati, maybe even KMOX in St. Louis - The Baseball Encyclopedia - keeping score during almost every game - I have always felt the very most like who I am when I am immersed completely in my head, and baseball has been the easiest delivery system for my solipsism. 

But football was different - most of my football memories are watching the Niners with my parents; if I spent 90% of the 1980s isolated, the other 10% was in one of our various living rooms watching the 49ers.  Those games are the very best memories of my childhood. 

Missed my dad yesterday.  Hard to be a person from the past some days. 

After the jump - the rest of the Tendown

1. Mildred and Richard Love Again
A little over 40 years ago, the Supreme Court said that the 14th Amendment prevents government from infringing upon the freedom people have to marry someone of a different race.  This was controversial; there were more than a few Americans who believed this to be judicial activism of the highest order - unelected judges telling the people of Virginia that they must sanction marriages that they felt were immoral.

My students are surprised when I present arguments that sound as if they are contemporary opposition to gay marriage or the repeal of Don't Ask Don't Tell - but in fact are from the past - about interracial marriage or desegregating the military.

Here's Mildred Loving, from 2007, discussing what happened to she and her husband after they returned home to Virginia after being married in Washington DC:

Not long after our wedding, we were awakened in the middle of the night in our own bedroom by deputy sheriffs and actually arrested for the "crime" of marrying the wrong kind of person. Our marriage certificate was hanging on the wall above the bed. The state prosecuted Richard and me, and after we were found guilty, the judge declared: "Almighty God created the races white, black, yellow, malay and red, and he placed them on separate continents. And but for the interference with his arrangement there would be no cause for such marriages. The fact that he separated the races shows that he did not intend for the races to mix." He sentenced us to a year in prison, but offered to suspend the sentence if we left our home in Virginia for 25 years exile.

That judge and the other forces of intolerance lost that argument - not only lost that legal interpretation of that argument, the Supreme Court ruling that the equal protection clause means that regardless of the religious composition of a community, regardless of local tradition, regardless of the preferences of a legislative body or even the majority of its constituents - the freedom that one has to marry another cannot be infringed by the government based on race -- but that judge and those ideas lost in the sweep of history.  In 2010, even in a US where the ugly, demonizing phrase "anchor babies" made its way into the mainstream this week, the right wing traffickers of hate would not think to say what that judge told the Lovings a little over 40 years ago. 
They lost.  The slaveholders.  The segregationists.  Jim Crow.  The Black Codes.  The KKK.  The Know-Nothings.  The Dixiecrats.  The opponents to Brown  and to the Civil Rights Act of 1964.  They all lost and their ideas don't even have traction on Rush Limbaugh's show
(Here was Limbaugh this week answering the question why the mainstream media was not outraged about Michelle Obama's trip to Spain - that due to America's "slave past" media effectively is offering a tacit endorsement of this trip as "It's only fair that people of color get their taste of the wealth of America, too"  That's why the Donovan McNabb controversy from several years ago was illuminating; that wasn't some wild card comment - the world painted by Rush Limbaugh for the past two decades for his millions and millions of right wing acolytes is one where African-Americans get unfairly benefited at the expense of his white audience by, among other institutions dominated by liberals, a mainstream media determined to deliver rhetorical reparations.  It's a world where the Donovan McNabbs and the Michelle Obamas get a free ride because of their race.  In the same way that working class white people are told that their economic anxieties are caused by illegal immigrants - they're told that reparations are what is underlying health care and financial reform and the repeal of the Bush tax cuts.  Look anywhere except at the corporations.  Look anywhere except at the exploding economic disparity between the wealthy and the rest of us.  The full economic might of the oligarchy - funding Fox News - funding Tea Party movement protests - fueling a three decade long creation of the mainstream "free market above all" paradigm that has directly led to the collapse of the US economy - that economic might coming with full force to paint the center-right Obama as a radical socialist out to destroy the United States from within on behalf of some shadowy militant black/Muslim anti-white, anti-Christian interests.  That world, as free of facts as could possibly be, is one in which much of the right resides in 2010 - but still - they don't say what that judge said a little over 40 years ago.  They still don't say "God wants the races to be separate."  That's how much that idea lost)
And it's going to happen to the discrimination against homosexuals.  
There will be a day where only the most radical bigots will be able to make the arguments that gay marriage harms children, that gay marriage harms heterosexual marriage, that gay marriage violates our national morality.  
Those were the arguments behind California's Proposition 8 - and they got brushed aside pretty resoundingly this week.  The bottom line from the opinion - there is no science behind a ban on gay marriage - there is only bigotry.  It's a long held bigotry, one favored by many and with the claim of religious support - but the interpretation of the court this week drew as clear a parallel which has ever been accepted in the US - in 2010, opposition to gay marriage is no different than opposition to interracial marriage in 1967. 
 40 years from now, perhaps Paul Katami or Jeff Zarillo will surprise students with the words of intolerance from the past. 
2. More Stimulus Please
Why aren't there more jobs?
Because there wasn't enough stimulus.  Something understood by the left upon Obama's election (actually, understood by the left upon FDR's election - never underestimate the power of the right wing to unlearn - to borrow from Chris Rock - conservatives love not to know). 
Here are 40 noted economists, including 2 Nobel Prize Winners, arguing the economy needs more stimulus now. 
3. Flimflam
One of those economists is Paul Krugman.  This week, in a takedown of the right wing's "tax cuts don't impact the deficit" sophistry, and the unwillingness of the mainstream media to call them out on it he wrote:
(There is an) unwillingness of self-styled centrists to face up to the realities of the modern Republican Party; they want to pretend, in the teeth of overwhelming evidence, that there are still people in the G.O.P. making sense.
4. 3 Day Weekend
They can't afford to go to school on Friday's in Hawaii .  And the Republicans were able to squeeze out some very important cuts in food stamps. 
5. How Would We Start To Make Things Better?
Appoint Elizabeth Warren. 
6. Sarah Palin - SuperSimple Jack
Sarah Palin's not very complicated.  You've met aggressively dumb people in your life; they're my least favorite personality type.  I'm good with disengaged - if you're disinterested in learning, disinterested in big ideas - just want to know what you know and do what you do and stay away from the rest of the world, I'm fine with that.  The kind of person who says "I don't watch the news, it's too depressing - I like happy thoughts."  I'm cool with you - we're different,  but that's okay. 
But that's not Sarah Palin - Sarah Palin is that person but with the kicker..."and that's all there possibly is to know - all those books I haven't read, all those degrees I don't have - meaningless."  She thinks like most of us drive - anyone slower than us on the road is a turtle, anyone faster is a menace. 
Here's Slate to amplify. 
7. This isn't Really a Crime, Right?
I'm assuming it's more complicated than this - mainstream news stories get the law wrong as a matter of course - but in Connecticut, there was an arrest of a man who said he "understood the mindset" of a recent
I'm going to assume that somehow there was an implied threat in combination with a police overreaction, like I'm fondling a gun and I say to you "you know..I sure do understand what could make a man kill like that.  I sure do." And then the camera focuses on my menacing eyes as I continue to fondle the gun before we cut to the Bounce fabric softener commercial.
So - at the risk of getting arrested - let me say the following.  I understand the mindset of many people who have commited many crimes in the state of Connecticut.  Do with that what you will.
8. A Good Step Forward
We sent an envoy to commemorate the anniversary of our atomic attack on Japan.  I'm in favor of this as a small step in what should be our ability to have a national conversation about American atrocities.  I'd argue that unlike Germany for example, our utter inability to take into our national consciousness that the United
States has a body count makes us more prone to the types of grotesque human rights violations that have occurred (and still are occurring, even under the Obama Administration) in the name of the war on terror.

My historical reading of the dropping of the bombs is a resoundingly negative one, that as opposed to it being done for national security - to save lives in face of what would have been a long and tortuous protracted period of fighting with Japan - that instead the bombs were dropped as the first shots of the Cold War, a warning to Stalin (and everyone else) that the US was now the to whom the global toll must be paid. 

But that's less my argument here than even were it a noble cause (like Dresden - I'd argue the targeting of German civilians was an immoral act within an otherwise noble cause, that being the fight against fascism) even if one were to accept the official American position on the dropping of the bombs - we would still benefit from sqarely accepting the consequences of that decision.  One could still hold the view that it was a good choice to make (I would not hold that view, but one could) but the gravity of the choice should be part of our national narrative. 

9. 'Cause Making Fun of People is Good to Do

10. Landry!
Landry hit the "72 yard field goal."  Riggins took the fall for his older brother.  Tears were shed in my house.
One more season for Friday Night Lights.  A great book turned into a good film turned into a tv show better than both.  Who knew?

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

Your pal,



Lance Cake said...

Just ran across your blog. Great stuff. I live in Atlanta and follow the Braves and Yankees. Sorry about that series beating we just gave you guys. I really am enjoying reading your blog. I write here: and on twitter : @LanceCake

Anonymous said...

This economist says that America is already broke, and thus doesn't have the means to stimulate itself further:

Of course, he's right. But I guess it's also valid to say that, as long as you're going to commit suicide, you might as well max out your credit line first.

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