The Weekly Tendown January 16 --22 2011

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Dear Internet:

A naked Lance Armstrong must mean its Tendown 61.

1. Lance Armstrong's Going to Jail.

There was a stretch in the middle of the last decade where I wrote about a half dozen letters to the editor for Sports Illustrated.  All were unpublished.  All went something like this.

Although it feels like SI, along with all traditional sports media, is speeding toward irrelevance, I would argue that talk radio, the blogosphere, and the balance of fan opinion still gets its cues from SI and ESPN.  Accepting that as true, I would like you to really reconsider the disparity in your coverage of Barry Bonds and Lance Armstrong.  A fair minded reading of the quality of the evidence against both would find  similarly strong cases, but that simply isn't reflected in your magazine.  Sometimes, within the same handful of pages, there seems a clear attempt to deify Armstrong while vilifying Bonds.  It could be, of course, that Armstrong is an innocent victim of a vast European conspiracy, and is a clean man dominating an otherwise dirty sport; and it could be that in a sport which has seen spitballs, corked bats, sign stealing, game fixing, Klansmen, segregation, xenophobia, bucketsful of clubhouse greenies and enough painkiller to dope up small countries, that it's Barry Bonds who should be expunged from the record books.  

But if it's not - you're gonna look awfully stupid in a few years.  History will not be kind to the era where we focused our national rage not on unwinnable wars, but instead on what particular athletes put into their bodies.

I kept it on my hard drive.

Here's what we now know.

 Between 2001 and 2004 the US Postal Service (that's us) spent over 30 million bucks supporting Lance Armstrong's racing team.

And that's important, because taking government money puts Lance in the cross-hairs.

From Sports Illustrated this week:

In the late 1990s, according to a source with knowledge of the government's investigation of Armstrong, the Texan gained access to a drug, in clinical trial, called HemAssist, developed by Baxter Healthcare Corp. HemAssist was to be used for cases of extreme blood loss. In animal studies, it had been shown to boost the blood's oxygen-carrying capacity, without as many risks as EPO.

(Floyd)Landis tells SI about the day in 2003 that he, Armstrong and team members flew into St. Moritz, where customs officials requested that they open their duffel bags for a search. "Lance had a bag of drugs and s---," says Landis. "They wanted to search it, which was out of the ordinary." Sifting through Armstrong's bag, agents found syringes and drugs with labels written in Spanish. As Landis recounts, Armstrong then asked a member of his contingent to convince the agents that the drugs were vitamins and that the syringes were for vitamin injections.

When Italian police and customs officials raided the home of longtime Armstrong teammate Yarolslav Popovych last November, they discovered documents and PEDs as well as texts and e-mails linking Armstrong's team to controversial Italian physician Michele Ferrari as recently as 2009, though Armstrong had said he cut ties with Ferrari in 2004.

In a letter reviewed by SI, Armstrong's testosterone-epitestosterone ratio was reported to be higher than normal on three occasions between 1993 and 1996

Stephen Swart, a New Zealander who rode with Armstrong on the Motorola squad in 1995, describes the Texan as the driving force behind some of the team members deciding to use the banned blood booster EPO. "He was the instigator," Swart tells SI. "It was his words that pushed us toward doing it."

Ten years ago, a French news crew taped Armstrong's team driving 90 miles to dump bags of syringes.  Greg LeMond, the second most famous American cyclist ever, clearly believes Armstrong to be untruthful.  Today, there is a grand jury empaneled to investigate and Floyd Landis has filed for whistleblower protection.

And maybe he's clean.  And even if he wasn't, maybe there's no reason to care.

But it would be nice to have had a different balance in the past ten years of coverage.

2. Who Got Axed This Week?

Seemingly out of nowhere, one of my favorite television hosts suddenly lost his job this week.  It really stunned and disappointed me.

I'm talking, of course, about Conor Knighton leaving Infomania.  He was the best of the hosts of those clip shows.

Oh, and MSNBC future endeavored their top rated show hours before it went on the air Friday night.

But it had nothing to do with the sale to Comcast being approved the day before.

Cable news cancels their highest rated show a year out of a presidential campaign all the time.  O'Reilly will probably get dropped at Fox this week.  Although, Olbermann is notoriously challenging to deal with, and its understandable if his baggage just became too heavy.  'Member how he settled a multi million dollar sexual harassment lawsuit against one of his former producers?  He really couldn't keep doing the news after that - it's a surprise he lasted this long.

Oh.  Yeah, that's right.

Here's why Keith mattered - Keith punched back.  What's always been the characterization about why talk radio is almost entirely right wing - those guys are aggressive, they hammer away at the opposition.  The left is all NPR-ish, looking for nuance and thoughtfulness and multiple perspectives.

Olbermann unapologetically went on television, every night, and called the liars, liars.  Showed contempt for the wise old men in their grey suits who lied us into war and bankrupted the country.  Look, Stephen Colbert is brilliant and I've already said Jon Stewart was the Entertainer of the Decade, but more often than not a Newt Gingrich can come plug his book and get away unscathed.  Keith Olbermann planted his feet on a truthful patch of ground and fired haymakers.

Sometimes it would make you cringe.  But sometimes it was astonishing.

Rachel's sharper than Keith and has a better show; if you promise me she slides into that number one spot on MSNBC and becomes their standard bearer, and that what this move does is open up a slot for a young progressive like Chris Hayes, then I'm cool.  I'm not on board; were I consulted (as I should be, honestly, about most things - decisionmakers really should start reading the blog; I'm hella-busy but not hard to find) I would have said there are 24 hours in the day, there's room for Keith on the channel.

But I don't think that's how it works out.  I think the wiggle room for someone who challenges corporate power as aggressively as does Keith is nonexistent, and even having the top rated show on the network isn't enough when Comcast sits in the executive suite.

It was the wrong answer, and I knew it at the time, but 11 years ago when I did my stint on ESPN and was asked who my favorite ever Sportscenter anchor was - I told them it was Keith.  One assumes this had nothing to do with my inexplicable mispronunciation of Tatupu.

3. Finally, a President Who Will Do Something About All that Regulation.
Well, here's the change I voted for.

This is a case of corporate blackmail pure and simple. The economy is sluggish because of a housing crisis that shows no sign of improvement. It stands history on its head to blame government financial regulations that had worked splendidly for six decades for the meltdown or the failure to fix a housing market that is the key to improved consumer spending.

Obama, and the party he heads, failed to provide a progressive narrative during November’s election holding the financial elite that created this mess responsible. The key issue is not big government or onerous regulation but rather transparency and fraud prevention. When you are evicted, it is a government agent, a marshal or sheriff, who will force you out, so shouldn’t the government also be involved in assuring that the consumer is protected by a properly vetted contract? Instead the U.S. Chamber of Commerce spearheaded the marketing of an alternative narrative, as successful as it was devious, by Republican candidates that held regulation—rather than deregulation—responsible for the mess. Now Obama seems poised to join their ranks. 

4. Finally, a President Who Will Get Tough on Terror
Okay, so I was being facetious in that last one; I actually think Obama's in the tank, in a Clintonian type way, for Wall St. and would not be surprised if he opens the door for the erosion of Social Security in his State of the Union.

But this one, this one I completely believe.

Aside from the repressiveness of the policies themselves, there are three highly significant and enduring harms from Obama's behavior.  First, it creates the impression that Republicans were right all along in the Bush-era War on Terror debates and Democratic critics were wrong.  The same theme is constantly sounded by conservatives who point out Obama's continuation of these policies:  that he criticized those policies as a candidate out of ignorance and partisan advantage, but once he became President, he realized they were right as a result of accessing the relevant classified information and needing to keep the country safe from the Terrorist threat.  Second, Obama has single-handedly eliminated virtually all mainstream debate over these War on Terror policies.  At least during the Bush years, we had one party which steadfastly supported them but one party which claimed (albeit not very persuasively) to vehemently oppose them.  At least there was a pretense of vigorous debate over their legality, morality, efficacy, and compatibility with our national values. Those debates are no more. Third, Obama's embrace of these policies has completely rehabilitated the reputations and standing of the Bush officials responsible for them.

5. He's Not Heavy, But Neither is he my Brother
I don't care even a little bit if the new Governor of Alabama doesn't want to be my brother.

So anybody here today who has not accepted Jesus Christ as their savior, I'm telling you, you're not my brother and you're not my sister, and I want to be your brother.

I've got brothers, I'm good, thanks.  So I'm not going to wave the flag of oppression on this one.

But do me a favor the next time we go through the "there's a war on Christianity in the United States" deal the right pulls out to fire up the rubes.  Imagine a governor in the United States saying:

So anybody who still believes in ancient fables about men who live in the sky instead of living their lives according to reason, who prefer superstitions literally no more relevant to the world than Zeus or Sagittarius to facts and evidence, I'm telling you, you're not my brother and you're not my sister, and I want to be your brother.

Because this is that.  That's what anti-Christian bias would look like - and even then, it would still just be equivalent to the anti non-Christian bias that exists in government today.  When that speech happens, get back to me.

6. The 3/5 Clause Was Actually Anti-Slavery!
That's the argument made by the former Ohio Secretary of State, and literally not a single reputable historian ever, here.  Slavery was protected by the US Constitution, without that protection, the southern states would not have agreed to the document.  This is a closed matter. Don't let them lie to you.

7. The Entire 20th Century is Unconstitutional .
A Utah Senator said federal laws regulating child labor are unconstitutional. 

I really like this and have enjoyed this aspect of John Birch Society 2.0.  Their arguments about health care reform, for example, are the same arguments they had about Medicare, and about social security and the minimum wage and health and safety regulations in the workplace.  It has always been true that if you take right wing constitutional interpretation at face value (as Clarence Thomas might do, were he the only justice on the Court) it would repeal much of the 20th century.

Between 1880 and 1900, 6.6 million American workers went on strike.  In 1900, skilled workers earned 20 cents an hour, unskilled workers 10.  Workers put in 10 hours a day, six days a week, worked literally until the day they died (which for African-Americans in 1900 was at the average age of 33).  Immigrants, veterans, children died every single day at work while the American Medici, untroubled by federal regulation, had parties in which their guests dug for jewels in troughs.  The idea that labor was a virtue to be exploited like all the other natural resources - stripmined until used up and then discarded, was viewed not just as a practical necessity, but as a moral good in a social Darwinist way.  Workers were farm animals.  We were worked until shot or eaten.  Through the mechanism of the federal government, we spent the first 80 years of the 20th century, slowly, working our way out of subordination - and then came the Republicans, and trickle down economics, and deregulation.  And now the top 1% of income earners in the US take home a quarter of all the income.  And now we don't have a political party that isn't a wholly owned subsidiary of the plutocrats.  

Maybe Obama will tell the Wall St. Journal he's not opposed to some child labor concessions.  Hey, we can't be too partisan.  Really, aren't both sides a little bit too extreme in this whole "how many hours a day should 12 year olds be working" debate?

8. I Saw the Social Network, and You Should Too.

It's like a really good episode of West Wing.  That's enough to make it the best movie I've seen in 2010.

I also saw Cyrus, which is good enough to watch.  And Youth in Revolt and An Education.  You can watch all of them.  And I read Patton Oswalt's book.  And watched the two new shows by The Onion; you should watch Sportsdome, it's funny.

Additionally, on Barefoot Contessa, Ina, in explaining that she likes a combination of high and low foods, said she liked truffled popcorn or baked potatoes with caviar - you know "nothing pretentious."

And then she threw to Mariska Hargitay who was setting her table.

'Cause what could be pretentious about caviar covered potatoes and Jayne Mansfield's daughter laying out the salad forks?

9. Thank God I'm an Atheist
Fortunately, Ricky Gervais is my brother.

If you thought he was somehow inappropriate in making pointed jokes at the expense of unbelievably rich and pampered celebrities, you are not.

10. The World Champion San Francisco Giants

You have to win 11 playoff games to win the World Series.  This was our fourth.

The fifth best regular season in SFG history (94 pythagorean wins) led to a NL West title, an NLDS win over the Braves and a matchup in the NLCS against the 2 time defending NL Champion Phillies.  The Giants came into the postseason hot, riding one of the great September pitching staff performances in MLB history - but as hot as we were - the Phils had been baseball's best team over the second half of the season, and at 95 pythag wins, the best team in the National League.

They were favored - and I picked them to beat us in 7.

I was wrong.  Fabulously wrong.

We won Game 1 4-3, our 7th straight one run postseason game dating back to 2003 - I'm saying it's a record, although, at the time of this writing, I haven't seen that articulated anywhere else.  Two time defending Cy Young winner Tim Lincecum beating the eventually named winner of the 2010 award Roy Halladay (I voted for Adam Wainwright).

We swapped third inning homers to open the scoring - Cody Ross, a surprise starter when Jose Guillen was left off the postseason roster, hit one in the top - Carlos Ruiz in the bottom - we escaped worse fate - they had two in scoring position when Lincecum struckout Ryan Howard to end the inning.  We put two on ourselves in the 4th on singles by Aubrey Huff and Pat Burrell - but a Juan Uribe groundout ended that threat.

We won the game in the fifth and sixth - Ross hit another homer in the 5th; and a Burrell 6th inning double scored Buster Posey to put us up 3-1 - which became 4-1 when Uribe singled home the pinch running Nate Schierholtz.

It wouldn't be 2010 Giants baseball without a little torture - Jayson Werth hit a two run homer in the bottom of the 6th to make it 4-3, but the Phils couldn't get a tying runner in scoring position over the final 3 innings, Brian Wilson closing it out with a 4 out save.

4 down.  7 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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