The Weekly Tendown February 13 --19 2011

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Dear Internet:

Is it wrong that I was rooting for the computer?  Am I a race traitor?  In the ultimate battle of men vs. machines, I gotta be honest, I'm likely to switch sides.  Slip them some launch codes.  Maybe hit a military commander on the back with a steel chair.  "Go to hell, Jividen.  Go straight to hell."  Sometimes when you root, you make a choice - in my SB45 piece, I said something to the effect of - if you're trying to determine who you're for, you're for the Packers - they're a non-profit, so its less likely that you'll be reading Slate on your gizmo in July and find out that the owners of the team you rooted for in the Super Bowl turned around and took away your right to collectively bargain in your $35,000/yr job (if I inverted that phrase and instead wrote "reading Gizmo on your slate" it sounds a little more intuitive; pick whichever makes you most comfortable.  We're closer to that being education than you think - I'm teaching the New Deal next week and I'll teach it as a flood of government stimulus that, in conjunction with 94% top income tax rates on the wealthiest Americans, stabilized the American economy until an even bigger torrent of government spending, a tsunami of government spending, WW2, pulled the US out of the Depression.  But someone will eventually tell me it was part of an Islamo-fascist-communist-homosexual-Bon Jovi plot to bring down the US - that actually the economy was just fine, thanks, until those deadbeats with the Tennessee Valley Authority sucked up all the Rockefellers hard earned money) but sometimes the heart wants what it wants, and I wanted Watson to whip some Mormon ass this week.  And that Brad dude too.  Whatever.

You ready to talk about Wisconsin?

Here's Tendown 65.

1. The Laboratory for Democracy
There used to be good Republicans.

   That's Fightin' Bob LaFollette.  A hundred five years ago, he was Governor of Wisconsin.  Without looking it up, I assume the building in Madison from which current Governor Scott Walker proposed to take away the collective bargaining rights of the public employees in his state has the name LaFollette on it a handful of different places.  When LaFollette, a Republican, was Governor of Wisconsin it became known as the laboratory of democracy, as so many of the protections that would later be won (and that's from where change comes - it's not ever given by a President, no matter how nifty is his campaign poster - it's won) for the rest of working Americans began  in Wisconsin.

-The first ever American government board that regulated workplace safety.
-The first sate ever with an income tax.
-The first state with a direct primary for all nominations
-Raised taxes on the railroads.
-Lowered the rates charged by the railroads.
-Controlled the level of lobbying in the state
-Significant regulatory reforms in controlling utilities, in public education, in providing workman's compensation.

There used to be good Republicans.

But they're all dead now.

2. Tax Millionaires.
That's my economic plan.  I've discussed it before.

If our problem is government is taking in less money than it spends - and taxes are how government takes in money - then lets raise taxes.

Not on you.  You don't have any money.

But some Americans have a ton of it.  Here's Bob Reich

Last year, America’s top thirteen hedge-fund managers earned an average of $1 billion each. One of them took home $5 billion. Much of their income is taxed as capital gains – at 15 percent – due to a tax loophole that Republican members of Congress have steadfastly guarded.
If the earnings of those thirteen hedge-fund managers were taxed as ordinary income, the revenues generated would pay the salaries and benefits of 300,000 teachers. Who is more valuable to our society – thirteen hedge-fund managers or 300,000 teachers? Let’s make the question even simpler. Who is more valuable: One hedge fund manager or one teacher?

LaFollette was a progressive; back a hundred years ago, reformers from both political parties recognized that our Gilded Age economy in which the wealthiest 1% of Americans were taking home 18% of the income wasn't an economy that could stand.  A hundred years ago, despite corporate objection, those entrusted with government power in our republic recognized their duty was to the mass of working Americans struggling daily to maintain a living.  When I was in school two decades ago, I learned about the Gilded Age the way most of us did - a time of unfair excess for some, massive wealth built upon the unprotected backs of the workers.  A time we learned from and grew out of.  It's how I learned it.  It's how I teach it.  Reforms worked.  By the beginning of the 1980s, the wealthiest 1% of Americans were earning 11% of the income.

Right now, in 2011, the wealthiest 1% of Americans take home 24% of the income.

Since 1980, over 80% of the increase in American income has gone to the top 1%

It's time for a dramatic tax increase on the wealthiest Americans.  I've previously argued for both an increase in the top marginal tax rate and an increase in the ceiling at which social security taxes are taken from paychecks.  But I'm not an economist, just a guy with a couple of graduate degrees who enjoys professional wrestling.

Reich, however, is:

The best way to revive the economy is not to cut the federal deficit right now. It’s to put more money into the pockets of average working families. Not until they start spending again big time will companies begin to hire again big time.

Don’t cut the government services they rely on – college loans, home heating oil, community services, and the rest. State and local budget cuts are already causing enough pain.

The most direct way to get more money into their pockets is to expand the Earned Income Tax Credit (a wage subsidy) all the way up through people earning $50,000, and reduce their income taxes to zero. Taxes on incomes between $50,000 and $90,000 should be cut to 10 percent; between $90,000 and $150,000 to 20 percent; between $150,000 and $250,000 to 30 percent.

And exempt the first $20,000 of income from payroll taxes.

Make up the revenues by increasing taxes on incomes between $250,000 to $500,000 to 40 percent; between $500,000 and $5 million, to 50 percent; between $5 million and $15 million, to 60 percent; and anything over $15 million, to 70 percent.

And raise the ceiling on the portion of income subject to payroll taxes to $500,000.

That's Bob Reich.  Agreeing with me.  Hooray!

That's exactly what I want to hear from a candidate for whom I vote.

If you, right now, make less than a quarter million dollars a year, your taxes go down under this plan.  If you make between a quarter million and a half million, your tax rate only goes back up to 1990s levels.  Even you folks making 15 million are still paying significantly less than you were 60 years ago when the Greatest Generation built the country - built it with strong unions and high top marginal tax rates.

That's how you come out of a Depression.

1. Government stimulus.
2. High top marginal tax rates
3. Strong unions and government policy that favors the American worker and that favors American corporations which work to support the American worker.

But won't the wealthy just stop producing, you're taught to say by the last 30 years of Republican propaganda that's worked its way into your brain?  If we tax our wealthy plutocratic overlords at that rate, won't they stop creating all those imaginary jobs that haven't trickled down money into our mouths?

Call their bluff.

And wave the flag.  Love it or leave it assholes.  You don't want to pay your share; move to a developed country that will allow you to make a billion dollars and pay a smaller portion in taxes than this plan does.

Good luck with that.

Limbaugh said this week that Obama and the protesters in Wisconsin were "hateful of this society."

Because to the right wing - the story of the United States isn't about regular Americans struggling, fighting for their rights - struggling for the 8 hour day, for a minimum wage, for minimum safety standards - not about worker's rights, not about civil rights.  It's about millionaires.  The America he loves is one of tramps and millionaires, and he's on the winning side.

But there are more of us than there are of him.  And if we wanted a progressive tax policy, we could have one.

And then we'd see who the patriots are.

3. First Amendment Remedies

It's the Gilded Age.  We're in the Gilded Age.  A hundred years ago - the response of the Governor of Wisconsin to the first Gilded Age was to fight for reforms for Wisconsin workers.

In 2011 - the response is to go after the pensions of schoolteachers.  To strip the ability of public sector workers in Wisconsin to bargain collectively.

It is part of a long assault right wing assault on workers and on the ability of any organization to raise money to support Democrats. From the Nation:

In 1975 the overall unionization rate in the private sector was 25 percent. Thanks to the class war that has been waged since then—involving trade liberalization, radical reorganization of global finance rules, unionbusting, deindustrialization, rejiggered accounting rules and more—Norquist’s goal is now within reach for the right. According to union expert and author Bill Fletcher Jr., “There has been a three-decade campaign by the neoliberal Democrats and the right wing to destroy the base of the strength of the American middle class, which can be boiled down to unions and government regulation of corporate excess. As a result, unionization rates and corresponding pay and benefits now appear higher in the government sector, and the same forces are now attacking government workers’ unions.” 

Where the campaign to gut public sector unions succeeds, Republicans will be poised for almost certain electoral gains. In general, across the nation, the lower the rate of unionization, the redder the state. And in the bluest states, the public sector dominates the union scene: in New York, for example, the most unionized state, the rate among government workers is 70.5 percent, next to 13.7 percent in the private sector. In California the unionization rate among government workers is 56.6 percent, compared with 9.3 percent among the private sector workforce.

There is a strong correlation, moreover, between red states, right-to-work laws, an overall worse quality of life for the average worker or poor person, and a more hostile climate for progressives, from environmentalists to civil rights activists. The average worker in a right-to-work state earns $5,333 less than his or her counterpart in a pro-worker state. Twenty-one percent more people lack health insurance. Late last year, immigration advocates anticipated Arizona-like measures in twenty-two states, eleven of which are controlled by Republicans. Of those, seven are right-to-work states. Not surprisingly, three that are not—Ohio, Pennsylvania and Indiana—are where the attack on government workers’ unions is the strongest.

80,000 protested the plan to gut Wisconsin unions on Saturday.

5. Whose Side Are the Super Bowl Packers On?
The people's.  Of course.  Here's Charles Woodson.  Who totally deserved that Heisman trophy.

Last week I was proud when many of my current and former teammates announced their support for the working families fighting for their rights in Wisconsin. Today I am honored to join with them. Thousands of dedicated Wisconsin public workers provide vital services for Wisconsin citizens. They are the teachers, nurses and child care workers who take care of us and our families. These hard working people are under an unprecedented attack to take away their basic rights to have a voice and collectively bargain at work.

6. So Be It
The Speaker of the House had a let them eat cake moment this week.

"In the last two years, under President Obama, the federal government has added 200,000 new federal jobs," Boehner said. "If some of those jobs are lost so be it.

Boehner completely made up the number, incidentally.  It's about 20,000.  But - good news for those holding those jobs.  If Republican policies of tax breaks for corporations and the wealthiest Americans and spending cuts cost you your job - you know - so be it.

7. The Amazing Race Returns
Amazing Race 18 starts tonight; it's unlikely to provide as much pure fun as the opening tribal council for Survivor this week ("Francesqua"?  "Francesca."  "Fraceseska"?  Francesca.  Seriously - it's the first elimination; don't go after Boston Rob in Week One.  Even assuming the show is on the up and up, unlike the dunk contest last night, it's Survivor, if you keep your head down and don't blow a challenge, you can almost assure yourself of getting to the merge.  Hide in the early portion of the game.  Maneuver into the right spot in the middle.  Fight down the stretch.  Next week - I teach you how to win America's Best Dance Troupe) but this is an All-Star season, and clips of the previous appearances of each team are here.

The site offers odds to win - I won't do that, but I'll tell you who I will root for.

Mel and Mike

Mike White wrote School of Rock, The Good Girl, and Chuck and Buck - his dad's a gay minister; here's a 2005 interview with the Southern Poverty Law Center.

I'm convinced that if you walk through the Holocaust Museum here in D.C. and substitute the word "gay" for the word "Jew" during those early years of the Nazi regime, you will be convinced that what [Hitler's chief propagandist] Goebbels did is exactly what Jerry Falwell and [Focus on the Family's] James Dobson and Pat Robertson and Pope John Paul II are doing now.
They are demonizing us. They are creating a case for why we're the problem, and why the nation has gone foul. They are describing us as disease-carriers, child-snatchers, money-grubbers.
All that demonizing creates a deadly environment. The killing here has been isolated and scattered so far, but it certainly has begun.
And you hold religious leaders primarily responsible?
It is the Christian Right movement that has become the number one enemy of God's gay children. Their churches are the primary sources of misinformation about gay and lesbian people that leads to suffering and death.
No longer am I afraid of Skinheads and neo-Nazis and white supremacists, by comparison to a church that's committed to the destruction of the civil rights and human rights and families of my sisters and brothers.
Skinheads and Klansmen I can recognize for the enemies that they are. But anti-gay Christians come in the disguise of love, and that disguise is a powerful weapon in itself. They demonize, but they don't see themselves as responsible for the violence their demonizing causes.  

8. The Dunk Contest Was Fixed

So, I wrote this week - here's the next chapter in my countdown of the greatest baseball players ever; here's every NBA Champ ranked; here's my piece on every dunk contest of the 80s. So, having just watched the '88 dunk contest between Jordan and Nique, I know when a dunk contest is fixed.

I actually think Griffin was the best dunker last night ( here are all of them) and I think his 360 was the second best dunk of the night (lots of good dunks - I'll take DeRozan's one handed swoop) and I don't think the finals were fixed - or rather, there's no evidence to suggest that they were fixed.

But the preliminary rounds were absolutely fixed.  Blake Griffin's final round dunk featured an entire choir and a sponsored car - had he been eliminated prior - then none of that winds up as part of the contest, an outcome that seems unlikely.  I'm in - I love me a dunk contest; I'm all for a good crazy performance dunk, but had I invested on one of the other three competitors last night, I'd be a little irritated today.

In addition to the writing I finally - finally finished the December, 2010 wrestling.  Here are all the 4 star+ matches I watched this week from last December:

Sugiura v. Morishima (NOAH 5 stars)
Morishima/Taniguchi v. Sugiura/Sano (Dec Noah 4 1/2)
Kenta v. Marufuji (Noah 4 1/2)
Generico/London d. Kings of Wrestling (PWG 4 1/2)
Strong v. Richards (ROH 4 1/2)
Yoshino v. Doi (DG 4 1/2)
Pac v. Yamato  (DG 4)
Open the Triangle Gate (DG4)
Hulk v. Yamato (DG4)
Steen v. Generico (ROH 4 1/4)
Goto v. Tanahashi (NJ 4)

The 4 1/2+ matches will head up the 2011 professional wrestling match of the year race (I'll start that post as early as this week) as my calendar year is Dec-Nov (except for WWE and TNA for which I use the actual calendar given the time lag in watching everything else).

And - there was a 4 star TNA match this week; the first 4 star match from either WWE/TNA this year - it was Hardy/Anderson at Sunday's PPV.

Yes, that Sugiura/Morishima being 5 stars is sort of a thing; I only had one match at 5 stars in all of 2010, that will almost certainly hold up as a top 3 match of the year 10 months from now.

9. Nick Lachey is The Jannetty
Jessica Simpson's fashion empire is worth a billion dollars.

10. The World Champion San Francisco Giants

It takes 11 playoff wins to become World Champion.  Here was number 8 - Game 1 of the 2010 World Series.

The first National League All-Star Game win since the Coolidge Administration meant that Games 1 and 2 would be played in San Francisco.  We hadn't hit a baseball in either serenity or anger with any consistency since Bonds was exiled, but batted around in both games.

Texas scored first, off the 2 time defending Cy Young Award winner Tim Lincecum (8.7 combined WARP/WAR) a single by Elvis Andrus, a walk by Michael Young, a single by Vlad Guerrero and we were down 1-0.

That became 2-0 just an inning later; Bengie Molina, only the second player in WS history to play against a team from which he was traded at midseason singled, went to third on a Cliff Lee double, and scored on an Andrus sac fly.

That was the worst it would get.

We got them both back in the third - Edgar Renteria (2.2) benched for most of the season (and correctly so) reached on an error and took second when Andres Torres (with a combined WAR/WARP of 10 was the best SFG CF in 20 years) was hit by a pitch.  Cliff Lee, who entered Game 1 on a multi-year postseason roll, then gave up a double to Freddy Sanchez (4.1) and a base hit to the rookie catcher Buster Posey (at 7.4, the best SFG catching performance in two decades - and one that he seems likely to surpass multiple times over) tied the game.

We sent 10 the plate in the 5th.  10!  In a World Series.  I'm almost certain it actually happened and wasn't part of a fevered dream.  

A one out double by Torres.  Sanchez's third double of the game to score him. An inning extending two out walk by Pat Burrell (6) then singles by NLCS MVP Cody Ross and Aubrey Huff (12 - the best SFG performance by a position player since Bonds in '04)  and a 3 run home run by Juan Uribe (5.5) made it 8-2 and just like that, Game One was effectively over.  

The final was 11-7; Texas scored 2 in the 6th that chased Lincecum - we got our 3 additional in the 8th with a Renteria single, a Travis Ishikawa pinch double, the fourth hit of the game by Freddy Sanchez (a SFG WS record, for those of you in the future searching for that improbable trivia answer) and a Nate Schierholtz single.  The bullpen blew up a little in the 9th; Texas tacked on 3 runs in a way only meaningful to their loved ones.

8 down.  3 to go.

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

Your pal,


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