1st and Ten - The Weekly Tendown November 14-20 2010

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Dear Internet:

Go buy this book.  I read it this week and it's how we're going to begin Tendown 52.

The new America, instead, is fast becoming a vast ghetto in which all of us, conservatives and progressives, are being bled dry by a relatively tiny oligarchy of extremely clever financial criminals and their castrato henchmen in government, whose main job is to be good actors on TV and put on a good show. This invisible hive of high-class thieves stays in business because when we're not completely distracted and exhausted by our work and entertainments, we prefer not to ponder the dilemma of why gasoline went over four dollars a gallon, why our pension funds just lost 20 percent of their value, or why when we do the right thing by saving money, we keep being punished by interest rates that hover near zero, while banks that have been the opposite of prudent get rewarded with free billions.

I do a lot of grading; I'll ballpark this - grading takes up roughly 137% of my week.  Students, say in Ethics will occasionally ask something like "does it matter what we believe for our grade - is there a right answer"?

Often - the right answer is the consistent answer.  Say there are moral facts.  Say there are no moral facts.  Don't say both.  Demonstrate consistency.

Does the right wing want debt reduction?  Is reducing the debt, the burden that future generations will carry, the most important thing that needs done - which certainly was the battle cry since Obama was elected (in contrast to the battle cry over the previous 8 years, but let's put that aside).    That was the rationale this week when Republicans stopped the extension of unemployment benefits by saying we can't fund everything.

But one can't consistently hold the position that cutting the debt is the top priority and simultaneously say we need to extend the Bush tax cuts.

You can't hold both positions simultaneously.  You gotta pick.  Even if you take as an element of your faith, despite all of the years of counter-evidence, that handing money to the wealthy is going to have a stimulative effect that will juice the economy (not nearly as great, obviously, as unemployment benefits have.  Or food stamps.  But again, I digress) you can't hold the position that what it will do is reduce the deficit.  Incidentally, the archetype of the serious minded, principled conservative is to tsk/tsk at the concept of the "nanny state", that we grow weaker when we depend on government to do for us.  Let me suggest that all conservatives do is replace the teat; the right wing is constantly saying "give money to the wealthy and let them take care of you" - it's 30 years waiting for wealth to trickle down - and every year the gap between those wealthy and everyone else grows wider and wider - and somehow, despite this, conservatives remain able to get away with the tax cuts for the wealthy will create jobs canard.

You can't simultaneously wave your copy of the constitution, saying we need to get back to the principles of the founding fathers - while saying terrorism suspects don't deserve due process, or that Bush's admission of ordering torture should be celebrated. You're not against big government if you were for the Patriot Act.  I welcome the right wing criticism of the intrusive TSA patdown procedure this week; anytime they want to condemn warrantless wiretapping of Americans or the President claiming the ability to order the execution of US citizens without judicial oversight, they are welcome to join the cause.  Sure, when civil libertarians have been criticizing big government as overreaching in the war on terror for the past 8 years, the right called it treason - but when there's a Democrat in the White House and people are getting groped at the airport, now, suddenly, it's a constitutional crisis - but that's okay.  Better late than never.

You aren't in favor of a strict constructionist view of the constitution if you are for the show your papers law in Arizona.  And if you're going to campaign in favor of repealing "Obamacare" because:

the answer to the ever-rising cost of insurance is not the expansion of government-run or government-mandated insurance but, instead, common-sense market based solutions that ensure decisions are made by patients and their doctors

...then maybe demanding your special government provided health insurance sooner than the 30 days you have to wait for it after taking office is not the best way to kick off your congressional tenure.

Consistency may be the hobgoblin of little minds, but its opposite will earn you a paper filled with red marks.

After the jump - the rest of the tendown.  This week - you get 9.

1. Free Choo!  Free Choo!
One of the most underrated players in baseball, Cleveland's SS Choo., avoided compulsory military service this weekend by winning the biggest game of his life.

2. Compromise
Obama would like to end the Bush tax cuts for Americans who earn more than a quarter million dollars a year - raising their top marginal rate from 35% back to 39%.


Here  is the history of income tax rates since the creation of the progressive income tax.

-from '44-'63 the top marginal rate was 90+%
-from '63-82 the top marginal rate was 70%

Is the economy in 2010 better or worse than during those periods?

Consider this.

8 percent of all income earned in the US goes to people making a million dollars or more.  Their share of the income has quadrupled in the past 30 years.

The top 1% of Americans own 34% of our net worth.  The top 10% owns 60%.

Want a compromise on the Bush tax cuts?  Top marginal rates can stay at 35% for income earners of a quarter million dollars.  But for those earning a million - 50%.  And those earning 5 million - 70%. (I'm making those numbers up; it's designed less as a specific proposal and more to reflect that we shouldn't either be limited by 39% as the top rate nor be limited to thinking that people making a quarter million are the same as people making 5 million.  It's the same to me, I can barely make rent, but there is room to navigate here.)

Want a compromise on Social Security?  You can raise the retirement age to 69.

And raise the income ceiling, the level at which income stops being taxed for social security from one hundred grand to a half million dollars.  Heck - raise it up to a million and cut the social security tax rate by a third.    

3. Just as Mark Twain himself would Have Advocated.

PBS cut Tina Fey's politically charged jokes from her acceptance of the Twain Award last weekend.

4. For this they cancelled Running Wilde?

A show, if it is ever made, will be unwatchably bad.

5. Fight For the Rights of Every Man.
-I'm at the high end of rooting for TNA to succeed; even with their enormous flaws, generally speaking, I think it puts out a better product than does WWE.  I think.  It's hard to say. 

But this week, Hulk Hogan said wrestling was a "work", that the belts were "fake".  Which would be fine, because both those things are true, and given Hogan's casual relationship with truth, you don't want to criticize him too heavily when he finds some.  The thing is - he said it on a wrestling show - Hogan went on Reaction, TNA's post show, this week, and said what happens in the ring really doesn't matter.

Why should I pay for it then?  Jon Hamm doesn't stop a scene during Mad Man to remind me that it isn't really 1965.  And when that show wins an Emmy each year, part of the critical discussion of it isn't "but fewer people watch it than Two and A Half Men, therefore, it must not be as good" - somehow, a business as married to the bottom line as television can still find a way to separate critical evaluation from commercial success - but Hulk Hogan (and, more importantly, wrestling analysts) continually conflate the two things.  A match works only if it drew ratings.  A show is good only if a buyrate is high.  I understand if inside a corporate office all that matters is money.  But if Don Draper ever fired a copywriter saying ratings during his quarter hour were soft during last week's episode, everyone would think Matthew Weiner had gone insane. 

(Two matches joined the MOTY race - I saw Black/Davey from August (4 3/4) and Kenta/Kanemaru from September (4 1/2).)

6. Secret Kitten!

7. So, How Much Would They Stand to Make?

Whenever you hear about a Meg Whitman or a Linda McMahon spending tens of millions of their own dollars to win political office, don't you grow a little concerned?  How much could they stand to gain if it's worth it to spend that much money?

The heath insurance industry gave 86 million dollars. just last year to to the Chamber of Commerce to defeat healthcare reform.

8. Mea culpa
I don't like Mike Vick.  Talentless hack Rick Reilly wrote a weird piece at this week essentially arguing that everyone now needs to like Mike Vick, and partially because he's learned how to read defenses. I don't like him;  he's committed unforgivable acts, regardless of his touchdown to interception ratio.

But I didn't think he'd ever be able to be an effective NFL starting quarterback again - and I was wrong.  Mea culpa.

Sometime in September I made a reference to the television series Weeds, saying that the only reason left to keep watching was because of a longterm investment that had stopped paying off a couple of seasons previous.

The season finale (series finale?) of Weeds this week was its best ever episode.  Weeds has pressed the reset button on the series a couple of times - you know, obviously, the phrase "jumped the shark" to refer to the point when a series begins to go downhill; it's a Happy Days reference.  How about a Laverne and Shirley reference - in season 6, Laverne and Shirley pressed the reset button on the entire series by moving to Hollywood.  Unlike Happy Days, Laverne and Shirley intentionally, consciously decided "let's fundamentally alter the nature of this show."  They get jobs at a department store, they zip forward into the mid 1960s; Carmine gets a role in Hair.  It isn't just that they did a bad episode and then the series began a slow descent qualitatively (that's jumping the shark) - instead the show hit the reset, consciously deciding to radically change what it is they did.

Moving to Hollywood.  That's what I'm gonna call it.

Weeds has done it twice - burning down Agrestic at the end of Season 3 and then this season as the Botwins changed identities and went on the run.  The show about the mom who sold pot is long, long gone; it's as if Quantum Leap sent Sam home and focused on his political campaign.

Weeds hit the reset button.  They fundamentally changed their show in midstream.

They Moved to Hollywood.

And what it led to this week was an incredibly powerful episode, its best ever - Mary Louise Parker has always been better than the material (I don't just mean in this series, I mean in everything she's ever done regardless of how good the material - West Wing, Proof, Fried Green Tomatoes - seriously, there's a whole body of Mary Louise Parker work out there to consume, why are you here reading my attempt to become the next Jon Hein when you could be watching The Five Senses) but this was really an episode that, in a reasonable world, wins her an Emmy.

So - I was wrong about Weeds.  Mea culpa.

And see if you can get some movement on "Moving to Hollywood"  Off the top of my head  - the 49ers moved to Hollywood last season when they dropped their 3 yards and a cloud of dust philosophy and began a full on fast break offense throwing the ball 40 times a game - and FDR Moved to Hollywood in '35 when the New Deal moved from essentially conservative support for business to a more radicalized aid for working class Americans.  Moving to Hollywood!

9. World Champion Giants.

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


Blog said... is already taken. Do you have a more marketable catchphrase that we could sell to TV Guide some day?

And if someone does something that is unforgivable in your eyes, then, to paraphrase LeBron James, What Should He Do?

Jim said...

What should he do in order to....what?

If his goal is my forgiveness, doesn't matter what he does. It ain't coming. If his goal is anything other than that, then my forgiveness, not so much important.

I mean, if I steal ten grand from you and then the next day I help an old woman across the street - it's better that I helped her across the street than that I shoved her into traffic. I can do bad things and still then do good things. He should live his life the way anyone else lives his life; it isn't that anyone is trying to keep him from doing his job. If I'm hiring - I don't want him. If I'm rooting - he doesn't get my support. If I'm buying merchandise or a game ticket - I don't send my dollars his way. It's less about what he should do and more about what I should do - if someone does something I find unforgiveable, what I should do is not forgive him, no matter how late he stays watching game film.

Blog said...

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