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, May 8, 2011

The Weekly Tendown May 1-7 2011

Dear Internet:

I've picked up some contract work with a quick turnaround time; it's more work than the relatively small paycheck should warrant, but my hope is it will open a door for me.

How does that impact you?

Tendown gets even more link-y, probably through the end of June.  I have thoughts, serious, sexy thoughts, but time isn't going to permit my developing too many of them for a couple of months.

Here's Tendown 75.

1. We Killed a Man in Abbottabad Just to Watch Him Die


The guy I most agreed with about the killing of bin Laden?

Milwaukee Bucks guard Chris Douglas-Roberts.

(Coincidentally, I've found Serge Ibaka particularly perceptive about abortion.  Who knew?)



Veteran Tendown readers will know of my scholarly interest in sports as forum for political expression, as there really isn't another arena of American life where the numbers of people gather together as do they to watch a sporting event.  When they stand for the national anthem, or, since September 11, for God Bless America in the 7th inning at many baseball stadiums - that's political expression.

Sunday night, whether at the Mets/Phillies game or the WWE pay per view event Extreme Rules, tens of thousands of Americans reacted to bin Laden's death the way they'd react to an American winning a significant international sporting event; were I to say "where are you most likely to hear a chant of 'U-S-A'?" your response would be in some type of sports arena.

So, my initial processing of bin Laden's death was through that prism - as I watched shots of Americans in the streets celebrating as if their team had just won an NBA Title.   I recoiled a little bit - it seemed to trivialize human life; not bin Laden's so much as the hundreds of thousands of dead Middle Eastern civilians who are casualties of our post 9-11 wars.

There's a moral complicity to our response to 9-11; from the erosion of all of our civil liberties, to the lack of due process given to terror suspects, to our killing of civilians that I don't believe most of us grapple with in any sort of meaningful way.  Our response feels to me as an exercise of naked power - unconstrained by any sense of the United States being a principled nation of laws and not of men.

I don't see a lot of nuance in those U-S-A chants.  That's a hard boat for me to get on.

Douglas-Roberts didn't say that exactly, it's twitter after all - but he and Pittsburgh Steeler Rashard Mendenhall didn't join the rush of athletes who celebrated bin Laden's death, and for that they got crushed,  both for the substance of their thoughts and for having the temerity to express an anti-establishment political opinion.  And that's a note I play whenever germane - a vast majority of sports fans say something like "sports and politics shouldn't mix" - but they'll say that when yelling at you to take off your hat during the Star Spangled Banner.  Sports fans, sports media, sports leagues, sports corporate partners - almost all will say "don't mix sports and politics" and almost all actually mean "don't mix sports and progressive politics."

Mendenhall didn't just say "why are we cheering this" - he added a variation of "9-11 was an inside job" - and presumably it was that lack of critical thinking that cost him his job endorsing Champion apparel.  Mendenhall's wrong about 9-11, in the way that, in a piece last week, ESPN.com referenced Orioles outfielder Luke Scott's mistaken view that Obama was not born in the United States - the author, Amy Nelson's, "take" on Scott's demonstratively false belief was:

Scott is certainly not alone in those views, and he received a lot of support for expressing his opinion. But negative reaction cascaded, too, with some bloggers saying that evidence Obama was born in Hawaii is overwhelming...

You say tomato, Luke Scott says Obama's not an American, it's really just a matter of opinion.

Twitter, as a forum, received the lion's share of the blame for Mendenhall's reaction - it fosters immediacy and thoughtlessness, don't you know.  There wasn't a single Mendenhall discussion I heard all week that didn't involve some variation of "its twitters fault."

But what about the sports stadium as forum?  Does it foster quiet reflection about the magnitude of our times or groupthink/jingo/instant emotional explosion?  Would a U-S-A chant exist absent a culture so awash in sports?  Do college kids take to the streets to wave the American flag if championship celebrations didn't exist to ape?

I don't really have a beef with people who felt an emotional surge of pride or pleasure or whatever it was upon news of the killing of bin Laden.  It wasn't my reaction, and I question a little what percentage of that celebration was genuine belief that an evildoer had been brought to justice and what percentage was just an excuse to burn some cars in Los Angeles (I'm mixing the sports championship metaphor here, but you pick up what I'm laying down).  I prefer trials to not-trials; the actual events of the capture of bin Laden seem to be...evolving, let's say, but it would not surprise me if, back in days when calling waterboarding torture was a non-partisan issue, we would consider this a straight up execution.

And I don't do the wave outside the death-house door.  Not with the number of bodies stacking up inside.

2. Meanwhile, on Fox...


Don't ever change.

3. These Two Things I Know Are True
A. If A Republican Were In Office When Bin Laden Was Killed, the Right Wing Would be Doing an Unprecedented Victory Lap, And They'd Wave their Fist In Your Face as it Happened.  There Would Be No Level of Triumphalism Too Brazen.

B. If You Criticized That Republican President In Any Way In the Immediate Reaches of bin Laden being Killed - You Would Be Accused of Treason.

Somehow, they think Obama's doing too much celebrating by announcing it in a speech; that Obama is removing flags at ground zero; that his going to ground zero was disgusting, obscene, and grotesque; an example of Obama "pounding his chest"; and a national tragedy; that the only reason he approved the raid on bin Laden's home is to get votes; that the announcement was timed to screw Donald Trump;  that the real credit should have gone to the guy who ignored the "bin Laden Determined to Attack Inside US" memo and then said he didn't pay bin Laden much thought anymore.

That's in the week after bin Laden was killed.  Not a year later.  Or a month.  In the same week.

One more - if bin Laden's killed in 2003 - and Bill Clinton refuses George Bush's invitation to ground zero - what would the response have been?

Okay, one more - if the military operation fails, and the news this week was "Military Strike to Take Out bin Laden is failure" - would the right wing say "Obama didn't really have anything to do with that."  Or would he be Jimmy Carter when the attempt to free the hostages failed?  Come on.  Lets be honest. At least all they said about Carter was that he was incompetent - they would have called Obama incompetent, they would have demanded his resignation, and they would have hinted he had done it intentionally.

9-11 happened during a Republican administration and bin Laden was killed in a Democratic one.  The budget was balanced during a Democratic administration and the deficit exploded during a Republican one. 

But they will continue to say, as if an article of faith, that Republicans are obviously, naturally superior on foreign policy and economic security.  And the mainstream media will take that claim seriously.  "Some bloggers say the evidence is overwhelming the Republicans aren't really fiscally responsible..."

4. Some Video
Here's Greenwald and almost always wrong, but at least reasonably so, David Frum on the bin Laden killing; and here's Keith. Yay, Keith!

5. Meanwhile, in Florida
Down where I live, the unemployment rate is still over 11%.

Naturally, the right wing just passed a bill to cut unemployment benefits.

Why?

"It sends a very strong message to the business community that Florida is one of the most business-friendly states in the country," said Rep. Doug Holder, R-Sarasota, the bill's sponsor.


Well, there you go.

6. Unrelated to that Entirely...
Profits at Top US Corporations Up 81% in 2010!

If only that socialist Obama wasn't punitively taxing American corporations, they'd be able to unleash the power of the marketplace and create new jobs.

7. Let Me Speak For All of My Nerd Brethren
Hot famous women - you don't need to do any of this.

8. My Real Quick Reality Competition Update


A. Soul Daddy was an easy pick.  Let's see - who will they give the restaurant to, the rich guy who they keep saying doesn't seem to care a whole lot - or the guy who keeps crying about his kids everytime he talks about being a role model for everyone in Detroit.  But they gotta have fried chicken on the menu.  You can't start off as a chicken and waffles restaurant and then wind up without fried chicken on the menu.  It's madness.


B. The most likely outcome this week is that Haley goes home.  But for my money, she's been the clear top contestant for about a month.  I'm as surprised as you are.  Go Haley.


C. If Boston Rob makes the finals, he wins Survivor.  He's dominated this season in an all encompassing fashion; if Probst stopped the challenge next Thursday and said "look, everyone, Rob's decided every eviction, outlasted Russell by a month, built a six person alliance that thoroughly wiped out the opposing tribe after the merge, and has a hidden immunity idol that not even his closest friends know about - we're just going to call it here and give him the cash" I can't imagine what the opposing argument might be. Rooting against Rob this year is like rooting against Jordan in the '96 Finals; the guy went 72-10, just give him his goddamn trophy.

Additionally, the WWE PPV had two four star matches Sunday, Punk v. Orton and Christian v. Del Rio.  It was a terrific show; their best PPV in recent memory.  Additional 4 star matches I saw this week - a 4 1/4 NOAH tag from March, Marufuji/Aoki v. Ogawa/Marvin, and my second favorite match of the year so far, Yuji v. Tanaka from the March Zero1 anniversary show, 4 3/4 stars.

9. Christian Revisionism
Every year, a Republican congressmen from Virginia issues a resolution for a "spiritual heritage" week; every year, it is entirely full of crap.

10. Happy 80th Birthday.




Happy 80th Birthday to the second greatest player in the history of the National League (and the second greatest player in the history of the San Francisco Giants).  Hopefully one day there will be a similar statue for the greatest National Leaguer who ever lived. 

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

Your pal,

Jim