a jim jividen blog

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.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

The Weekly Tendown January 23 --29 2011

Dear Internet:

Tired this week.  8 courses and 200+ students has broken my will.  Here's what's doin' for Tendown 62.

1. My Super Bowl Pick






I've got football posts coming this week; Tuesday is a new ranking of every SB winner, by regular season pythagorean record.  Wednesday is a rank of the ten greatest matchups in SB history. Thursday the "Real Super Bowl MVP, where we look beyond simply the winning QB from each team and name, once and for all, who should have received the MVP Trophy in each of the 44 Super Bowls, and then Friday my pick post, where I'll officially pick both against the spread and the straight up winner of SB45.

(Also, an 11 page post in my other blog will hit on Tuesday.  And last week I posted my Royal Rumble preview and my Athlete of the Month for January.  For those of you not wrestling inclined, the Royal Rumble post also included my look at the most successful Real World alums from each of its 24 seasons and a joke with the punchline "Pedophile Harriet Tubman".  So there's a little bit for everyone.)

But - because, you (yes, you!) my loyal Tendown reader is the sweetest smelling of all my readers, I am releasing the SB pick to you right now.  Right now!  Right now! (with the caveat that it might change before Friday.)

Here it is:

Steelers +3.  Packers straight up.

I'm for the Packers, they're a non-profit, publicly owned team - let's say you're one of my lefty/pop-culture/let's talk about Toddlers & Tiaras readers - you have no interest in football, but it's the Super Bowl and, like a Papal selection, you have to pick a side.  Your favorite team is the Packers; they're the least evil empirish team in the NFL.  You can root for them with less chance of finding out they donated your merchandise money to some candidate trying to take away Medicare than any other team in the league.

Now, I'm for the Packers because I'm in the Niner legacy protection business, so my postseason choices for the past decade have largely been limited to which team I need to lose the least.  Here, I need the Steelers to lose- their aggregate total is now past our 5 SB Titles, and this would be a third for Roethlisberger, putting him uncomfortably close to St. Joe.

And they might win - this is a really tight Super Bowl, by all of the advanced metrics.  Here's an example - pythagorean win/loss, which I'll be using for a boatload of lists coming up, is the record you'd expect a team to have based on its points scored/points allowed, compared to the rest of the league.  It's crude, but useful, and I've spent lots of time with it in recent months.

Green Bay and Pittsburgh, by pythagorean record, both went 12.1-3.9 this season.

In SB history - here's the list of opponents who had the same pythag going into their matchup:

SB17 -That was the first Skins win, when they beat Miami.  That was the short season, barely more than half a regular season played, so much easier to have a dead heat.

SB22 - This was the second Skins win, when they beat Denver.  This was the replacement player season, so the regular season records of these teams was the least reflective of any in SB history.

That's it.  That's the list.

I'm willing to say, flatly, this is the tightest matchup in SB history.

That doesn't mean it's a close game.  The Redskins won both SB17 and 22 going away.

But it means you shouldn't be surprised by a win from either team.

I'm completely on the fence about the outright game winner.  But I'm not on the fence about the line - just today, the 2.5 number went up to 3, and that's a good price when you're looking at a game this even, like getting a weighted coin on a flip.

It doesn't mean you should invest - you should almost never invest in a single game - but you are getting these 3 points for free given the Packers status as the public's favorite team.  I don't see it going to 3.5, so if you're playing - play today.

I may flip my overall winner by Friday, that's how close it is.  But I am locking in my number against the spread.

Steelers +3.

2. Whip Inflation Now
Obama's State of the Union sucked.

You want to compete with the rest of the world?  In the way we beat the Russians to the moon?

Raise taxes on the wealthy.  We built NASA on 90% top marginal tax rates.  In 2011, we can't afford a police force in Camden, New Jersey.  Support unions.  Penalize business which outsources to avoid paying union wages.  Raise the ceiling on the social security tax to a quarter million in income.  Stop giving away public school money and blaming teachers for poor student performance.  Declare a war on stupid as aggressive as the war on terror. 

The State of the Union reminded me of a meeting we've probably all sat through at work, where the company's troubles are laid at the feet of the workers.  How about working a little harder?  We need everyone to buckle down.

When the company is successful, the executives take tremendous bonuses.  And when the company isn't successful - the blame lands squarely on your shoulders.  Heck, for most of us - we get hit coming and going.

Theoretically, one could be a faculty member of a school whose population exploded over the past few years, as people went back to school when they lost their jobs.  What would that mean for the faculty member?  More courses, course sizes doubling - tripling.  More students who were less academically inclined than might they otherwise be and taking refuge in a student loan.

What that wouldn't mean is a raise.  Despite the exponentially increased workload.  In fact, what it would mean is having your between academic quarter breaks cut in half without compensation, meaning that, given preparation needs, you've worked maybe 350 days a year the past two years.  More courses, in more subjects, to more students, without a break. 

And when that ends - when the student population returns to previous levels, what that will mean is faculty layoffs, is blame placed on faculty for any student who leaves the institution without graduating, is increased talk about tough times and belt tightening.

Congratulations America.  If you didn't get rich in the boom years, and you didn't, given how concentrated was wealth in the hands of the few - and you've spent the past couple of years losing everything you did have - and now are told by the President you voted for that it's your responsibility to be more competitive - congratulations, you now work with me.  I'll show you how to work the copy machines.

It's on Obama's head now.  It's not just Reagan/Clinton/Bush.  It's the last 9 months.

we are in the midst of a great shift in social wealth in the US. It means that the last 9 months have likely seen a massive upward shift in the distribution of America's wealth. We have seen massive increases in labor productivity with stagnant wages. We have surging stock and bond markets and struggling housing markets. The shifts in wealth and income over the last year will take a while to show up in national data. There are already being felt around many kitchen tables. It is likely that the wealth and income trends discussed above will have profound impacts on life for tens of millions of American families. It is also likely that these trends and public responses to them, will drive American political developments for the next few years. 


3. The Gilded Age on Steroids
I taught the Gilded Age last week in my US History course, and spoke about it the way I always have, a period of intense struggle for working Americans.

Now is just as bad.  Here's Russ Feingold, and his is the language you would have liked to hear, at any point, from the President you voted for in 2008.

this entire society is being dominated by corporate power in a way that may exceed what happened in the late nineteenth century, early twentieth century. The incredible power these institutions now have over the average person is just overwhelming: the way they can make these trade deals to ship people’s jobs overseas, the way consumers are just brutalized and consumer protection laws are marginalized, the way this town here—Washington—has become a corporate playground. Since I’ve been here, this place has gone from a government town to a giant corporate headquarters. To me, the whole face of the country—whether it be the government, the media, agriculture, what happens on Main Street—has become so corporatized that the progressive movement is as relevant as it was one hundred years ago, maybe more so. It’s the same issues. It’s just that [corporate] power, because of money, international arrangements and communications, is so overwhelming that the average person is nearly helpless unless we develop a movement that can counter that power. I know we’ve all tried over the years, but this is a critical moment. We need to regenerate progressivism and make it relevant to what’s happening right now. But there’s no lack of historical comparison to a hundred years ago. It’s so similar; the only real difference is that corporate power is even more extended. It’s the Gilded Age on steroids.

And when they call you a socialist - tell them to go to hell.  They think the minimum wage and the Civil Rights Act of 1964 are totalitarianism and torture is a necessary exercise of governmental authority.  They're the John Birch Society.  They think Joe McCarthy's an American hero and the Progressive Era was Stalinism starting an out of town run in Cleveland before heading to Red Square.  They're coming for Social Security.  They're coming for Medicare.  They're coming for everything but guns - which they want their supporters to carry every chance they get to intimidate you. 

You don't call for civility - you don't say we need a new tone.  You tell them to go to hell.  They stole a Presidential election in 2000; they've opened up campaigns to unlimited secret corporate funding, they have, in Fox News, a propaganda arm that has only the barest tether to the facts in the all too often correct guess that their viewers won't know the difference. 

A hundred years ago, Populist Mary Lease said farmers needed to raise less corn and more hell. 

That's what Feingold's saying.  That's what I will need to hear if I'll ever cast a vote for a Democrat again.


4. Eisenhower = Bernie Sanders


If there's one theme in the totality of the 61 issues of Tendown that I've tried to stress - it's been that critics of Obama from the right talking about his Administration as some type of socialist takeover of the American government are profoundly, demonstrably without any understanding of history.

Fortunately, there's Rachel Maddow.

You want to talk about red meat for the base? Listen to some of the language the president used. "Workers have a right to organize into unions and to bargain collectively with their employers. And a strong, free labor movement is an invigorating and necessary part of our industrial society." Wow.

How about this one? "Only a fool would try to deprive working men and women of their right to join the union of their choice."

Listen to the way he goes after the right here. "Should any political party attempt to abolish Social Security, unemployment insurance, and eliminate labor laws and farm programs, you would not hear of that party again in our political history. There is a tiny splinter group, of course, that believes you can do these things, but their number is negligible and"--and the president says--"their number is negligible and they are stupid."

That is not what Barack Obama said last night. That is way to the left of any national Democrat at this point. 

That was all Republican President Dwight David Eisenhower. That was all the stuff he said when he was president.

Republican President Dwight Eisenhower, president when the top tax bracket for the richest people in this country was 92 percent. President Eisenhower defended that tax bracket. He said we cannot afford to reduce taxes until, quote, "the factors of income and outgo will be balanced." Eisenhower insisting there must be a balanced budget and that taxes on the rich are the way to balance it. Dwight Eisenhower, you know, noted leftist.

The Republican Party platform of Eisenhower's 1956 called for expansion of Social Security, broadened unemployment insurance, better health protection for all of our people. It called for voting rights--full voting civil rights for D.C. It called for expanding the minimum wage to cover more workers. It called for improved job safety for workers, equal pay for workers regardless of sex.

This is the Republican Party circa 1956. The Republican Party.


The story of modern American politics writ large is the story of your father's and your grandfather's Republican Party now being way to the left of today's leftiest liberals. If Dwight Eisenhower were running for office today, he would have to run, I'm guessing as an independent, and not as some Joe Lieberman, in between the parties, independent. He'd be a Bernie Sanders independent. 


5. The Dream of the Nineties is Alive in Portland.


New shows you should be watching: Portlandia and Lights Out.  I love me a good sketch show and Portlandia's initial episodes are solid.  Lights Out is off to a strong start also - my Top 5 Sports TV Shows of all time can be found here; we're a couple of seasons away from considering Lights Out a potential contender, but it's off to a good start.

Also - the new At the Movies is worth watching - in the meantime, you can watch some clips from the old show.

6. Next Week - Santiago Casilla!






Giants closer Brian Wilson was on the George Lopez show this week.  He's in some sort of un-funny competition with Chelsea Handler, right?  'Cause I'm a pretty good Giants fan, and I still couldn't watch George Lopez.

It's behind the firewall, but Keith Law's look at the top 100 prospects in MLB is here. Two SFG on the list, Brandon Belt is 17th, and not unlike Posey in 2010, if you're a Giants fan a good, good sign is Belt being called up in the first half to take over either in first or left.  Zack Wheeler's 36th, you won't see him this year, but when Zito's deal expires (or perhaps when we deal Cain since we won't be able to afford keeping him) he'll join the rotation.

7. Would You Like to Talk About Rape?
Specifically, about how the Republicans would like to redefine it to change abortion law?


For years, federal laws restricting the use of government funds to pay for abortions have included exemptions for pregnancies resulting from rape or incest. (Another exemption covers pregnancies that could endanger the life of the woman.) But the "No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act," a bill with 173 mostly Republican co-sponsors that House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) has dubbed a top priority in the new Congress, contains a provision that would rewrite the rules to limit drastically the definition of rape and incest in these cases.


With this legislation, which was introduced last week by Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.), Republicans propose that the rape exemption be limited to "forcible rape." This would rule out federal assistance for abortions in many rape cases, including instances of statutory rape, many of which are non-forcible. For example: If a 13-year-old girl is impregnated by a 24-year-old adult, she would no longer qualify to have Medicaid pay for an abortion. (Smith's spokesman did not respond to a call and an email requesting comment.)


8. Have an Abortion!


Consider the following study of over 350,000 women.


Having an abortion does not increase the risk of mental health problems, but having a baby does, one of the largest studies to compare the aftermath of both decisions suggests.


The research by Danish scientists further debunks the notion that terminating a pregnancy can trigger mental illness and shows postpartum depression to be much more of a factor.




9. Minka Kelly - Smartest Person Alive



Turns out that more attractive people also have higher IQ's.  Which seems fair.

10. Your World Champion San Francisco Giants


It takes 11 postseason wins to become World Series Champions.  This was our 5th.  NLCS - Game 3.

Matt Cain (combined WAR/WARP 9.2) shut the Phils down in Game 3.  They got two on in the 3rd on a single and hit batsman; they got two on in the 4th on a single and a walk - but we scored first in the 4th; Edgar Renteria (2.2) moving into the starting postseason lineup after (correctly) being benched for most of 2010, led off with a single; following two outs and a Burrell (6.0) walk, Cody Ross and Aubrey Huff hit back to back singles to put us up 2-0; and that became 3-0 the following inning with an Aaron Rowand double/Freddy Sanchez single.  Cain put two on in the 7th, but again got out of it - Javier Lopez/Brian Wilson had a harmless 8th/9th to finish the 3-0 shutout.  5 down.  6 to go.


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


Your pal,


Jim