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Here's the thing. I'm watching one of these shows on the Cooking Channel featuring food trucks. There's a Scottish expat making fish and chips; in a thick brogue he somewhat wearily explains his irritation with Americans who habitually order a side of tartar sauce: "tartar sauce is basically gherkins." That's this blog. I claim no particular insight, no revelation. If you enjoy the flavor, great, but this blog is basically gherkins.

The Weekly Tendown December 5 --December 11 2010

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Dear Internet:


Bernie Sanders.  American Hero.

Here's Tendown 55.

1. Obama Admits He's a Muslim




My favorite take about the tax cut deal tentatively agreed to this week was from Andy Borowitz.


 In his latest effort to find common ground with Republicans in Congress, President Barack Obama said today that he was willing to agree that he is a Muslim.


Differences over his religious orientation have been a sore point between the President and his Republican foes for the past two years, but in agreeing that he is a Muslim Mr. Obama is sending a clear signal that he is trying to find consensus.


“The American people do not want to see us fighting in Washington,” Mr. Obama told reporters at the White House.  “They want to see us working together to improve their lives, and Allah willing, we will.”


But Mr. Obama’s willingness to back down on his claim of being a Christian does not seem to have satisfied his Republican opposition, as GOP leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) today insisted that the President must also agree that he was born in Kenya.


While Mr. Obama did not immediately agree to Rep. Bohener’s demand, he hinted that yet another compromise might be in the offing: “My place of birth has been, and will always be, negotiable.”


It's funny 'cause it's true.  Obama, predictably, explained the deal by ripping the left's opposition to it as sanctimonious.  Because that's what this Administration does, by name, blame progessives; such as in the health care debate - and that's what Clinton did as well, on NAFTA, on welfare reform - by name, blame the left.

Two Democratic Presidents in the past 30 years and they've both attacked the left.  Question - how often do Republican Presidents criticize "conservatives" or "conservativism"?  Not the very most extreme examples - but the fundamental ideological underpinnings?  We play the game entirely on their field - just as we do with Supreme Court nominees, where Democratic Presidents emphasize how friendly their nominees are to law enforcement and business - just as we do with foreign policy, where we emphasize militaristic responses.  Democratic Presidents express the same level of authoritarianism on civil liberties issues, start from the same "the business of America is business" premise on economic issues as does the Republican Party.

Obama, in frustration, said "this is just like the public option."

He's right.  What's astounding is he doesn't understand what that means.  Why did you vote for Obama?  Why did you, if you did (I did not) vote for Gore or Clinton?  If you are on the left, you voted for them out of specifically the understanding of political reality that Obama is saying you do not have.  Obama is saying "look, this is the best we can do - why don't you understand that?  Politics is the art of the possible."

But you know that.  You didn't vote for Obama (or Gore or Clinton twice) out of a belief that this was real change - you voted for them because, to use the hostage metaphor that Obama tossed onto the Republicans this week - because the Democrats hold you hostage.  Because the Democrats, since the end of the 60s, since the end of the Great Society, have said to you "sure, you don't love us - but what's your option?"

So, we compromise (actually, I held out through the past twenty years of Democratic Presidential candidates, giving in 2008) over and over again - we can't get what we really want, so we accept what is available.  And after 30 years of governing from two conservative parties, this country is in wreckage.  All we can do is go to war and find new ways to take wealth from the middle and working class and push it upward.  

At what point is it a bridge too far?  We're still in both wars, we're still committing war crimes, we're still transferring massive wealth to Wall St - the health care law enriched the insurance industry - and now, in the midst of the worst economy since the Depression the remedies that a Democratic President (with a Democratic Senate and still a Democratic House) agree to are tax cuts for the wealthy - agree to as friendly an estate tax rate as possible.  The Democrats are more likely, as indicated by this letter, signed by 14 Senators this week, to support austerity measures rather than stimulus.

The right wing in this country believes that a top marginal tax rate that is a third of what it was under Eisenhower is socialism, that Social Security and the Civil Rights Act of 1964 are unconstitutional, and that evolution, climate change legislation, and saying "Happy Holidays" are affronts to Jesus.  They simultaneously argue that nothing is more important than reducing the debt and nothing is more important than 700 billion dollars in tax cuts for millionaires. They look at the government regulation of our economy, structurally focused more than any in the western world on the accumulation of private wealth to large corporate shareholders an economy where working class Americans, in real dollars, have seen their share of the national wealth erode exactly at the same time unions power has been stripped and progressive regulations on business have been reduced and say "what we need is to get government off the backs of corporations."  Their essential world view is the opposite of what is true.

The right wing is burning down the country.  It's shock and awe.  There is literally no idea so disconnected from critical analysis that they won't offer - that won't be treated seriously by media - and that won't be considered by the Democratic Party as something to be co-opted.  Yesterday's neocon war becomes today's Obama war.  Yesterday's Bush tax cuts become today's Obama tax cuts.   Yesterday's Republican scheme to privatize social security becomes tomorrow's "only sanctimonious progressives would fail to understand the compromises that must be made."

Sanders could have spoken for another 8 1/2 hours and it still wouldn't have covered the full range of the objections the left should have about this Administration and the past 30 years of the Democratic Party.

2. Tax Cuts Forever
Here's Chris Hayes's take.


The Republicans have spent two years—an entire election cycle and postelection victory lap—repeating with tourettic persistence dire warnings about the existential threat posed by large deficits and mounting government debt.


And yet, amazingly, these same Republicans (and a few conservative Democrats), who love to offer lectures about the necessity of shared sacrifice, also spent the week demanding that all the Bush tax cuts be made permanent, a policy that would increase the debt over the next ten years by an astounding $3.3 trillion. Occasionally, you would find politicians oscillating madly between these two positions in the same paragraph or media appearance, reaching its reductio ad absurdum with a blog post about Kent Conrad's views on the matter that George Stephanopoulos headlined: Sen. Conrad: Extend All Tax Cuts; Time to Get 'Serious' About Deficit.


This apparent contradiction makes sense only if you understand what has become so manifestly obvious that writing it out makes me bored and angry: conservatives do not care about deficits or the national debt. Nothing they have done over the past several decades—from the record deficits of the Reagan and Bush/DeLay years to their party-line opposition to nearly every legislative measure (public option healthcare reform, cap and trade) that would reduce the deficit—suggests otherwise. The great spokesman for the so-called fiscal hawks in the GOP caucus, Wisconsin's Paul Ryan, not only voted against the largely conservative recommendations of the president's deficit commission but in 2003 cast the deciding vote for Medicare Part D, a corporate giveaway and entitlement expansion that was unfunded and will, according to the Washington Post's Ezra Klein, add "$400 billion to the deficit in the first 10 years, and trillions more in the decades after that."


What Republicans do care about is defending the incomes of the country's wealthiest, distributing income upward and cutting taxes in order to make progressive governance impossible. Obama was right to say in his press conference that tax cuts for the rich are the Republicans' Holy Grail.


3. Wikileaks
I think Wikileaks is journalism.  The mainstream media and both political parties think it's closer to terrorism, there are more calls for his execution on Fox News than suggestions that his exposure of a federal government that otherwise Fox has spent the past two years calling tyrannical, is journalism.

Here's Jay Rosen. tracing the death of American journalism to the post 9-11 decision to become partners as opposed to watchdogs of the authoritarian state.  Consider this nifty little site.

4. The Jannetty
In a recent Tendown, I coined the phrase "Moving to Hollywood" (a Laverne and Shirley reference) to refer to pressing a reset button on, for example, a television series.

Today, I give you "The Jannetty."

My wrestling literate readers know the reference, for the rest of you - it's easy, The Rockers were a prominent 1980s tag team, they broke up, one of the partners was Shawn Michaels, who went on to become one of the most notable professional wrestlers of all time; the other partner was Marty Jannetty, who did not.

Just in the past week, both major American wrestling promotions used Marty Jannetty references to describe the lesser half of tag teams that have broken up - but it struck me that reference could go beyond wrestling.

So, this week, I heard Peter Scolari do a radio spot for the Boston Medical Group.

He's the Jannetty.  Tom Hanks has won two Academy Awards; Peter Scolari's on AM radio talking about his
droopy wang.

Consider the possibilities for relationship breakups.  Tom and Jane are dating.  They break up. Both want to win the break up - want to be more attractive than the other, have a better future partner than the other, generally demonstrate "you should have never let me go."

And now - in one word, perhaps posted via tweet or facebook status update, they can do so.  Maybe one of them loses weight or winds up with someone superhot or achieves some sort of success.  They can say to the other one - "You're the Jannetty."

If I were to write a teen comedy - I'd call it The Jannetty, it's about a guy who is dumped by his first girlfriend and he becomes obsessed with winning the breakup.  Or maybe it's about a guy who always winds up on the wrong end of breakups - he gets cut from the team that wins the state title, he quits a job just before the company gets a patent on an invention that makes all of its employees rich, the girl he was dating winds up marrying Prince Harry.  It's not that his life is bad - it's fine - it's just that he keeps winding up on the losing side of every breakup.  The Jannetty.  Copyright - Jividen.

5. Match of the Year


This is just for the wrestling fans.  I'm almost through October (although I haven't gotten to the Devitt/Taguchi v. Ibushi/Omega match that won MOTY from Tokyo Sports).  I saw multiple 4 star+ matches this week; every 4 1/2+ match I've seen from last December on is here.

This week:
MCMG v. Gen Me 4 stars (TNA, Dec)
Kings of Wrestling v. Haas/Benjamin 4 stars (ROH, Sept)
Chris Hero v. Tozawa 4 stars (PWG, Sept)
Chris Hero v. Joey Ryan 4 1/2 stars (PWG, Sept)
Nagata/Kanemoto v. Go/Aoki 4 1/2 (NJ, Oct)
Kenta/Aoki v. Edwards/Strong 4 1/2 (Noah, Oct)
Kenta/Aoki v. Sasuke/Kenbai 4 1/4 (Oct, Noah)
Kanemoto v. Richards 4 3/4 (Sept NJ)
Makabe v. Tanaka 4 1/4 (Sept NJ)
Nakamura v. Goto 4 (NJ Oct)

10 4 star matches in a week!  10!  I watched 10!  The machine must be fed.

6. Andre Agasssi beat Jim Brown
I read both Andre Agassi's autobiography Open: An Autobiography (Vintage) and Dayn Perry's bio about Reggie Jackson Reggie Jackson: The Life and Thunderous Career of Baseball's Mr. October.  Both are worth reading; the Reggie book is particularly valuable both in contextualizing his career in a discussion of race (I would have liked to see more, with the story moving outside of sports in a significant way) and in allowing us to compare his behavior (and Billy's behavior) to today's athletes (it was worse, it's the coverage that has changed).

Agassi "Moved to Hollywood" twice in his professional life, when he shaved his head to abandon the "image is everything persona" and become "adult Andre" and then when he quit taking meth, divorced Brooke, married Steffi and opened up a high school in Vegas.  For me, the most interesting anecdote was his hustling Jim Brown in a tennis match when he was 9 - taking 500 bucks from Brown in a bet that was originally 10 grand.  The right answer to a future bar bet - "who's the best athlete Agassi ever beat" is Jim Brown.


7. Explain to me again why Reggie Bush had to give back his Heisman Trophy?
All I heard for months, hell, for years, is what a bad person Reggie Bush was.  So, USC got crushed, the football program hampered for years to come - and the response was applause.  Last night, more applause, when Cam Newton won the Heisman.  I heard many of the same media voices who excoriated Bush and USC express anger that anyone would ever think about refusing to vote for Newton.

It strikes me a challenge to maintain both positions.  Not as much of a challenge to say we need to vote down the extension of unemployment benefits because it adds to the deficit and we need to make the Bush tax cuts permanent (I don't feel like finding the links - but the Republican line "it's their money" so it shouldn't count as part of the deficit it maybe my favorite of all the utterly nonsensical things the right wing has said in recent months.

The Newton result seems reasonable.  Now, how about giving USC back some scholarships.

8. This Will Get More Pageviews Than Everything I've Ever Written.
Robots are writing sports stories.

9. Luke Scott, Dumbass.  
But not any more wrong than your average Republican Senator.  It's here.

10. The World Champion San Francisco Giants




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

Your pal,

Jim

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