The Weekly Tendown September 18-24 2011

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Dear Internet:

Here was my Larry David moment.

I gave my final exams this week; at the end of my Government exam Wednesday afternoon, with approximately 3 students left, a middle aged (meaning, he and I are probably the same age) African-American student with whom I have no particular familiarity other than he has taken a couple of my courses approached the front with his completed exam in hand.

When students approach to turn in their finals, my policy is to let them lead whatever dance we're going to do.

Yes, I have a policy for even the most mundane of professional interactions.  That's how I get down.

Some students want to thank me for the course; I reply by thanking them for their effort.

Some students want to tell me they'll see me next quarter for a different course; I reply that I'll look forward to it.

Some students want to quickly hand me the paper and run out of the room; I say thank you and let them flee to freedom.

Some want to shake hands.  So we do that.

Now, as this particular student approached, I reached out my left hand (I'm right handed) partially in a stretch, as I was (and am, always am) tired, partially to take the exam from him.

He didn't read the stretch that way however.  He read it as my initiating a 1970s style soul shake as if, looking at him, I saw Freddie Boom Boom Washington.

It was awkward. Awkward because I did not expect it; awkward because it was with my left hand; awkward  because my opportunities for that specific type of contact are limited these days to my monthly breakfasts with Oscar Gamble.

Moreover, my clear sense was the student was of the belief that I had initiated the shake; it wasn't just that a black man wanted to say goodbye to me in an unaccustomed way; it was that - I believe in his head, I was choosing, really out of nowhere, to inject some type of racially tinted gesture into the end of our professional transaction.  And this is significantly worse than the "I'm cool, right" nod that white men will often do to black men in passing, a nod that you never know the propriety of - is the nod a discriminatory head movement; am I segregating my casual interactions?  It was that - but it was endless, seemingly minutes of a convoluted handshake, and my growing sense that the student thought this was my idea.

The following morning, my last student in another exam was a different middle aged African American man.

As he approached, I quickly stuck out my right hand for a firm handshake.  One pump and we're on our way.  

I think I was looking for a make good; I think I was saying "hey black guys; I didn't lead that soul shake - I was the bottom - I was the bottom; I shake everyone's hand the same way - I'm an equal opportunity handshaker!  I didn't lead that soul shake!"

Keep in mind, no one saw either of the two handshakes.  And that these were two different guys.

Today's my 41st birthday.  Each year more awkward than the previous.

Here's Tendown 95.

1. The Great Emancipator?  
Here's a photograph I took of a magazine cover yesterday.

Here's Cris Collinsworth.

I'm willing to say right now that Cris Collinsworth is the reincarnation of our 16th President.

Consider the following:

It is better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to open one's mouth and remove all doubt.

"Look how Manning tells his center it's time to snap in all this noise...he just taps him on the hind-end there..

And in the end it is not the years in your life that count, it's the life in your years.

It was just one of those playground lollipoppers.

I defy anyone to spot a difference.

2. No Pun Intended
What's the analogue to "no pun intended"?

No pun intended is a phrase that, almost always, is used to mean exactly the opposite of what it says.

It's not like the word ironic, which is very often used incorrectly.  People mean "that's an unfortunate coincidence" instead of "this is the opposite of what one would expect would happen in this situation."

But "no pun intended" is almost always used to mean "hey, I just made a pun, please note my pun; if you consider the thing I just said, there was some type of wordplay."

The phrase no pun intended is almost always used ironically.  It almost always means "pun intended."

3. That Dude Died A Week Ago

On my way to work this week, I saw a car with a Memorial Decal, you know, like you see.

The date of death was the end of August.  Not the very end, but in the high 20s.  That means it was about 3 weeks from the day the guy died to my seeing the decal on the car.  And it was a young death, someone in his twenties, so it wasn't like the way news organizations will have obits ready for people who might reasonably die

So - at what point did the owner of the car get that decal?  Driving home from the hospital?  It had to be a helluva quick turnaround time.  People grieve in their own way; the car decal just seems to me a curious choice to make in the immediate reaches of young death.

4. Incognito
Did you know there are a disproportionate number of people who marry others who share their first initials?

Did you know a disproportionate number of people get divorced in their fourth year of marriage?

The reasons for a number of decisions that seem, on an individual level, to be matters of choice (whether one commits a crime, ones career) actually are related to brain function.

I've become increasingly interested in neuroscience; a particularly accessible account of the way your internal hardware impacts your choices is David Eagleman's Incognito, which I read this week and would recommend.

I'd also recommend Zooey Deschanel's New Girl, which may have been the best of all the sitcoms from this week, and easily the best pilot I've seen so far this season.

And a couple of sports pieces, this oral history of the Leonard/Hagler fight; probably my favorite sporting event not featuring one of my teams (professional wrestling excluded for purposes of that discussion) and Joe Posnanski's look at Bill James, whose early 80s work was the crucial piece in the paradigmatic shift in understanding baseball about which the book and now film Moneyball is centered and Taylor Branch, explaining that college sports is a plantation.

I wrote this week.  My all time 45 Man NFL roster is here; this week's NFL picks (I've been rolling) are here; my college picks from Saturday were here; and the latest chapter in my wrestling Counterfactual is here.

5. The Goldilocks Fallacy

I had dinner with my mother and my Ladygal last night.  We each had hamburgers.

My Ladygal ordered hers medium well, the way she does; my mother medium rare.

I ordered third - so I picked medium.  I Goldilocksed the order.

Hard not to - now had I picked second or first, I may have made a different choice - but we have a drive to uncritical moderation that I'm going to call the Goldilocks Fallacy.  The next time you or someone you know is tempted to say "well, the right answer is somewhere in the middle" not based on evidence that the middle is the superior resting place for this particular argument - but instead on some magical power given to moderation - that's the Goldilocks Fallacy.

Some say global warming is real - but then I hear it's not.  Probably they're both lying a little bit.

Some say the way out of our economic condition is government spending to stimulate demand.  Others say we need austere measures which will spur job growth.  Probably the truth is somewhere in the middle.

That guy says 1+1=2, but that guy says it's 6.  I guess that means it's 4.

Goldilocks Fallacy.

6. Class Warfare
As perhaps you noted, Obama taking my "tax millionaires" proposal got him fired upon with charges of class warfare this week.

Bill O'Reilly said if his taxes went up - he might have to quit.

I assume that's a threat of some type.

If you can think of a single millionaire who would quit if his marginal income tax rate went from 35 to 39% who would actually be missed by society, you let me know.

Elizabeth Warren, hopefully the next US Senator from Massachusetts, responded here, talking about government the way i do with my students, even the ones with whom I share awkward handshakes.

You built a factory out there? Good for you. But I want to be clear. You moved your goods to market on the roads the rest of us paid for. You hired workers the rest of us paid to educate. You were safe in your factory because of police-forces and fire-forces that the rest of us paid for. You didn’t have to worry that marauding bands would come and seize everything at your factory — and hire someone to protect against this — because of the work the rest of us did.
“Now look, you built a factory and it turned into something terrific, or a great idea. God bless — keep a big hunk of it. But part of the underlying social contract is, you take a hunk of that and pay forward for the next kid who comes along.”
Last week, in my discussion about the self professed libertarian ethos of Northwood University, I facetiously mentioned that I assume it doesn't accept student loans, given its belief that people rise and fall of their own merits, independent of government intrusion.  Like the school I work for, Northwood does not have a business absent those loans, the evidence for which is here.  That's always a point I look to draw in class, particularly when there's a discussion about drug testing those getting government assistance; college students are ready to drug test someone getting food stamps or even unemployment assistance.  They're less ready for a random drug test for someone getting a student loan.  And I'm guessing the future captains of industry educated at Northwood would be unlikely to support drug testing for defense contractors or professional sports owners who have taxpayer built arenas.  I wonder if the executives at Northwood, whose salaries and stock options depend on the flow of those federally guaranteed loan dollars, would support their own random drug tests.
The piece you should read this week about class warfare is here, by Richard Wolff.

Since the end of the Great Depression - and especially since the 1970s - the class warfare waged by business and its allies (most conservatives in both parties) was successful. For example, at the end of World War II, for every dollar Washington raised in taxes on individuals, it raised $1.50 in taxes on business profits. In contrast, today, for every dollar Washington gets in taxes on individuals, it gets 25 cents in taxes on business. Business and its allies successfully shifted most of its federal tax burden onto individuals.
Over the same period, the tax rates on the richest Americans fell from 91 percent in the 1950s and 1960s, and 70 percent in the 1970s to the current low rate of 35 percent. The richest Americans won that spectacular tax cut. Middle- and lower-income Americans won no such cuts, while paying a higher proportion of their income for Social Security that the rich were required to do.
In plain English, the last 50 years saw a massive shift of the burden of federal taxation from business to individuals and from rich individuals to everyone else. Class war policies, yes, but a war that victimized the vast majority of working Americans.

7. If You Cut Taxes, Will Unemployment Fall?
No.  From Colbert:
And taking a broader view.
In 1964, federal taxation as a share of the economy stood at 17.5 percent, while unemployment was at 5.2 percent.

Tax levels rose sharply, to 19.7 percent of the economy in 1969, while unemployment fell steadily, to 3.5 percent.

In 1981, President Ronald Reagan again slashed taxes. Taxation fell from 19.6 percent of the economy that year to 17.4 percent in 1983. The unemployment rate, however, rose over that period, from 7.6 percent to 9.6 percent. By 1989, taxation had drifted upward again, to 18.3 percent of the economy, but unemployment had fallen to 5.3 percent.

When President Bill Clinton raised taxes in 1993, the unemployment rate dropped, from 6.9 to 6.1 percent, and kept falling each of the next seven years. When President Bush cut taxes in 2001, the unemployment rate rose, from 4.7 to 5.8 percent.

Stop listening to right ring math.  They think 1+1=6.

8. The Best Moment From the Emmy Awards

9. Eliminated.

Here is, not ironically as the productive end of my team's season often arrives right around this time of the year, the headline I woke up to the morning of my 41st birthday:

             For Giants, season hits its darkest moment

Don't listen when they tell you it was injuries.  It was roster construction.  We got career years from Torres and Huff last season at leadoff and cleanup and pretended they'd happen again.  They didn't and we kept running them (especially Huff) out long after it was clear they were who they were.

Our World Series win was terrific.  But it's a fluke.  Our way of thinking of roster construction is as pre-Moneyball as one will find in MLB, and we have failed (not just didn't win the World Series, but failed) far more often than not under that strategy.  If the trade is we won the World Series and are now stuck picking up each season's version of Orlando Cabrera based on what he did 8 years before - I guess that's the trade, but if I were in the ownership group, 2011 would be the last season for Sabean and Bochy.

10. Thanks.

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

Your pal,



Anonymous said...

Happy Birthday Jim.

Unless your typing is up to 300wpm, you are spending an inordinate amount of time on these tendowns. I appreciate that.

Jim said...

It's a little heavier than is ideal.

Blog said...

I'm late to the party, but I brought a gift! A book idea that will make,!

You need to write the definitive expose on Post Game Show Stress Disorder (PGSSD; I think I just made that up now; if I did, you are free to use it) All we see on TV are the guys who avoid the Whammees, the girls who make deals with Howie for lime green Escalades, and the people who make that annoying siren ring when they win the Double Showcase. But what happens to these people a week, a month, a year, 10 years down the line? Was their brief encounter with this fantasy world a blessing, or a curse?

You could do this! People are voyeurs; they'd really want to read this book. You got the street cred to pull it off, and the wit to make it funny, sad, Shawshank Repemptive, or whatever you want to do with it. And I personally have wanted to read this book for a long time. You write it, and I'll buy ten copies straight off of you. Seriously.

Oh, and while I have you here, what do you think of 9-9-9?

Jim said...

9-9-9 was Glacier's debut, right? Blood Runs Cold on 9-9-9?

It's standard right wing flat tax stuff; let's dramatically cut taxes on the wealthy and raise them on everyone else. Make the poor pay more isn't the recipe for a robust economy.

I'd buy that book too; it would probably be an oral history I'd think, with multiple "here's what happened" to me perspectives. There's a documentary, Lucky, on lottery winners that's interesting.

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