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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.

The Weekly Tendown August 14-20 2011

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Dear Internet:


It's Tendown 90.

1. 67-60


This Santiago Casilla plate appearance from last Sunday was the high water mark for the World Champion Giants this week.

We've dropped 16 of 22.  Aaron Rowand (12 million a year) has struck out 23 times since his last walk.

Our closer's going on the DL today.  Our top set up man, who would replace said closer, went on the DL earlier this week.  Our catcher is on the DL; no, not that catcher, the one who has been on the DL all season, but his backup, he went on the DL this week.  Our center fielder, admittedly, who has been bad all year, went on the DL.  This week, we missed games from our second baseman, shortstop, and third baseman.  Our big trade deadline acquisition right fielder is on the DL.  Our fifth starter just came off the DL, pitched 3 innings and got hurt again; his replacement, the guy with the 122 million dollar contract, is on the DL.

We lost two walk off one run games in Atlanta; we've lost twice to the worst team in baseball.

Here's the snapshot of our offense.  By WAR, the unit of aggregate value used by (in this version) Baseball-Reference, our best position player this season has been Sandoval (3.7); our second best has been Schierholtz (1.8) and our third best has been Buster Posey (1.4).  Buster Posey, who got hurt 90 games ago, has been the third most valuable position player on the roster for the World Champions.  It's painful.

There are 35 games left.  We're 2 1/2 out.

You can also skip the second book written about the championship season; it's clumsily written, and wrong on Bonds, wrong on advanced baseball metrics, even wrong on politics.  Those wrongs are in small doses; it's really the laborious writing style that is the larger crime.
















2. Atheist Fantasy Football


I play in 3 fantasy leagues each season for each sport; that's been my fantasy workflow for the past handful of years.  For about a year and a half, I've won one league per season, a run that looks to be coming to an end with the current baseball season (I'm in the middle in the AL; I'm second but pretty far behind in the Mixed; I'm in play in the NL, actually, Brian Wilson's going on the DL might hit me there too).  This week, I picked my 3 fantasy football leagues.

I play in $ leagues at CBS Sports; so it's not as if I'm playing with the same group of people each year; largely, my choice of leagues is driven each year by the date/time of the drafts.  The leagues often have themes, so, there will be a league of Dallas Cowboy fans or retired military for example; but usually the descriptions are a more general "Play Hard, Don't Be a 'Tard" kind of thing.

I don't ever care about those descriptions.  I'm busy, I just want drafts that are after the final preseason game, but before Week One, that I can attend.

But this week, I joined a league at a terrible, terrible draft time for me, a draft time that ensures I'm going to get about 4 hours of sleep the night before a workday in a couple of weeks.

I did it because the league described itself as an Atheist Fantasy Football league, which is tremendous.  One assumes the league winner will credit reason, happenstance, and statistically driven decisionmaking for his success.  Amen.

3. Time to Pick a New Phone
CrackBerry's BlackBerry Bold 9900 Review
My phone contract ended almost a year ago now; I've been waiting for the new blackberry to arrive (and trying to find some money).  I'm married to a real keyboard; so my choice is between the new blackberry and the top Android with a real keyboard (probably the Motorola Droid Pro, the comparison between the two is here.).  I'm a longstanding blackberry guy; reviews for the new Bold are good, but the counterweight value of the Droid might push me the other way.   My working plan is to decide at the end of the month.  I'm 51/49 to stay with RIM.

4. I Sat Through a Meeting This Week
In which I was told about the corporate need to "right side."

That's a euphemism for firing people.  Now, I don't know if the corporation for which I work (I teach, but school's just a business model; I may as well be frying cheeseburgers or detailing sneakers) is in the red or the black.  I'd bet you a dollar, however, that it isn't the case that they're losing money; it's the case that they aren't making as much money as they would prefer.

Such is the case with the apparently ending Verizon strike. (Verizon's the carrier with which I'm most likely to make the Blackberry/Motorola decision). Why did the Verizon workers (unionized, unlike me; unlike most of us, which is as much a reason for our living in a Gilded Age as any other) go on strike:

The Verizon Corporation is asking its workforce to accept wage and benefit reductions—despite being a very profitable company. Morgan Stanley’s recent analysis shows Verizon’s net income from ongoing operations was $13.9 billion in 2010, up more than 16 percent from 2007. No wonder Verizon’s stock has outpaced that of the S&P index and other telecommunication’s firms, something Verizon itself brags about in its last annual report. How, then, can Verizon freeze current workers’ pensions and eliminate pensions for new workers? Ask their workers to accept reductions in holidays (to seven), reduced sick pay and the substitution of the current health plan with one having high deductibles and contributions? The unions involved estimate that benefit and wage reductions would total $20,000 per worker each year.

My holidays have been reduced without negotiation.  My health plan has high deductibles and contributions, and the right wing continues to fight tooth and nail to keep it that way, just pouring every ounce of their energy into branding as "Obamacare" a measure that would move us (allow not nearly as much as it should) away from being chained to our corporate masters through threat of taking our medical care away.

What would be better than Obamacare (and survive any Constitutional challenge) is what I called for in the health care debate, Medicare for All.

Here's Robert Reich.


Social Security and Medicare – the nation’s two most popular safety nets – require every working American to “buy” them. The purchase happens automatically in the form of a deduction from everyone’s paychecks.

But because Social Security and Medicare are government programs they don’t feel like mandatory purchases. They’re more like tax payments, which is what they are – payroll taxes.

There’s no question payroll taxes are constitutional, because there’s no doubt that the federal government can tax people in order to finance particular public benefits.

5. Unless You're Rick Perry, And then You Hate Social Security
Do we live in a world where a candidate (the current front runner for the GOP nomination) can survive saying this.

I think every program needs to stand the sunshine of righteous scrutiny. Whether it’s Social Security, whether it’s Medicaid, whether it’s Medicare. You’ve got $115 trillion worth of unfunded liability in those three. They’re bankrupt. They’re a Ponzi scheme. I challenge anybody to stand up and defend the Social Security program that we have today—and particularly defend it to a 27-year-old young man who’s just gotten married and is trying to get his life headed in the right direction economically. I happen to think that the Progressive movement was the beginning of the deterioration of our Constitution from the standpoint of it being abused and misused to do things that Congress wanted to do, and/or the Supreme Court wanted to implement. The New Deal was the launching pad for the Washington largesse as we know it today. And I think we should have a legitimate, honest, national discussion about Washington’s continuing to spend money we don’t have on programs that we don’t need.

The poorest Americans were once the elderly, that changed after Social Security, a program that isn't in danger for another quarter century (look around at the infrastructure of your town, fellow Americans, how many other government programs are safe for 25 more years) but Rick Perry calls it a "Ponzi scheme" and sounding the dog whistle the New John Birchers love to hear, says it was the progressive era (you know, where he got the first health and safety regulations on business in US history) and the New Deal (you know, where we got unemployment insurance and a minimum wage) that put us in the economic hole (as opposed to creating the idea of the American dream).  It's not 30 years of Republican economics - handing money in increasing percentage to the wealthiest Americans, wages of working class Americans, wages of the people in the heartland the right wing takes advantage of, stagnant - their standard of living supported by debt - that's not the cause of the economic collapse.  It's the New Deal.  That's what it is.  It's Social Security.  

The right wing has been fighting the same fight for a hundred years.  Don't pass a minimum wage, it constrains the job creators.  Don't give people social security or unemployment insurance, it reduces the incentive for the worker to produce.  Don't provide for health care for all, it's socialism.  And now they have their own cable news channel, and a Supreme Court decision allowing for anonymous, unlimited corporate funding for elections.  We are bombarded with corporate propaganda that overwhelms the electorate; and a Know-Nothing like Rick Perry, who talks about "holes in evolutionary theory" can be the leading contender to be the Republican nominee.

Perry, response, incidentally, this week, when asked to clarify his stance on social security, was to say he couldn't talk because his mouth was full.


Full of popovers, which are delicious.

6. Every Single Debate
Every single Presidential debate should ask the same question Mitt Romney was asked this week at the Iowa State Fair.

ROMNEY: There are two ways we could go, you can tell me your choice. One is we can keep Social Security –
ATTENDEE: Raise the cap.
ROMNEY: That doesn’t begin to solve the problem.

Because even though Social Security is solvent for a quarter century, healthier than any government program you could name - we'd like to keep it safe longer than that.  And as I've written multiple times, there's an easy fix, raising the ceiling on which income is taxed beyond the first $108,000.  The fair goer here is entirely right, and Romney, the least crazy of the top contenders for the Republican nomination - the least magically minded, the least captive to John Birch 2K - is entirely wrong.


Remember, the Social Security payroll tax applies only to earnings up to a certain ceiling. (That ceiling is now $106,800.) The ceiling rises every year according to a formula roughly matching inflation.
Back in 1983, the ceiling was set so the Social Security payroll tax would hit 90 percent of all wages covered by Social Security. That 90 percent figure was built into the Greenspan Commission's fixes. The Commission assumed that, as the ceiling rose with inflation, the Social Security payroll tax would continue to hit 90 percent of total income.
Today, though, the Social Security payroll tax hits only about 84 percent of total income.
It went from 90 percent to 84 percent because a larger and larger portion of total income has gone to the top. In 1983, the richest 1 percent of Americans got 11.6 percent of total income. Today the top 1 percent takes in more than 20 percent.
If we want to go back to 90 percent, the ceiling on income subject to the Social Security tax would need to be raised to $180,000.
Presto. Social Security's long-term (beyond 26 years from now) problem would be solved.

7. The New Operation Smile


In one of my first Tendowns, I noted that on multiple Bravo reality shows during the same week, there was discussion of Operation Smile, and I wondered about the undisclosed relationship between the organization and Bravo that might have facilitated that type of "product placement."  Operation Smile even responded with a comment, which freaked me out a bit, as I had virtually no readership at that point

(A quick note - last May I installed the pageview counters that you can find on this blog and the Counterfactual, this week, I hit 70,000 combined pageviews between my two blogs in those 15 months, so thanks, and whatnot)

Operation Smile's pretty easily regarded as a universal good, so their inclusion into multiple reality shows simultaneously isn't going to raise too many objections.

But this week - it happened again, on both Style's "Big Rich Texas" and the premiere of Bravo's "Most Eligible Dallas" were storylines uncritically revolving around the HCG starvation diet.

It went unmentioned if this was a cross-program product placement.

Also unmentioned was the recent flood of Dallas based programming.  Not just these two shows, but a CMT show, Texas Women, the next season of Logo's The A-List, which is from Dallas - and the next Top Chef.

The only investigation, of which I'm aware of those five nearly simultaneous reality shows centered in Dallas, focused on Top Chef, which got paid nearly half a million taxpayer dollars to shoot in Dallas.

But my guess is that like Operation Smile (and I'm assuming the HCG diet) nearly a half dozen reality shows branded as coming from Dallas at the same time isn't coincidence.  If we see Rick Perry appearing on any of them, then we can really tie Tendown 90 together.

8. I Write the Stories
I made 4, count them, 4 posts as I try to get through my All Time NFL rosters before Week One.  You can get to all of them through the link.  I also added to the longest piece of continuous single author fan fiction maybe in the history of anything, but certainly the history of sports or sports entertainment, The Counterfactual,  the Spoon Millionaires site got refreshed this week, and now there's a Facebook fan page that you could go ahead and join.

I also changed the name of the blog, as I indicated I might do a couple of weeks ago.  Even as a put on, the "revelation" aspect of the previous name had begun to grate on me, reflecting a level of bravado, of confidence in my own thoughts that I had in 2007 that I just can't access anymore.  I grow old, I grow old, I shall wear the bottoms of my trousers rolled and whatnot.

Also - graps.  Here are the 4 star matches I saw this week:

Two four star matches from Summer Slam:  Christian v. Orton (4 1/4) and Punk v. Cena (4).  And then six from earlier in the year that I caught this week: from Zero One in August, Sekimoto v. Tanaka (4 1/2, so it goes on the Match of the Year list) and Sekimoto v. Sato (4), two from New Japan (from June, Devitt v. Ibushi, 4 stars) and from August Tanahashi v. Makabe (4 stars). And two Roderick Strong matches, his ROH title drop to Eddie Edwards in May (4 stars) and a June Noah match against Kotaro (who might be the Wrestler of the Year) that one was 4 1/4 stars.

9.  Some Reading for the Week.


An oral history of the Dana Carvey show.

Chuck Klosterman's glowing review of Louie CK's show.

And this compilation of the rankings of the Coen Brothers movies.

I've done mine in a previous Tendown.  Here would be my revised list.

1. Raising Arizona
2. No Country for Old Men
3. Fargo
4. Blood Simple
5. Miller's Crossing
6. Barton Fink
7. A Serious Man
8. The Big Lebowski
9. Burn After Reading
10. O Brother Where Art Thou
11. True Grit
12. The Man Who Wasn't There
13. The Hudsucker Proxy
14. Intolerable Cruelty
15. Ladykillers

10. And Finally...


I want to end Tendown 90 with the one thing that most matters.  It's this:



You ask Americans how they think wealth should be distributed in our country, and you get the third bar.

You ask Americans how they think wealth is actually distributed in our country, and you get the second bar.

The first bar is how wealth is actually distributed in our country.

If you ask me (1) what's the most important reason for the Great Depression (2) what's the most important reason for the fall of the Roman Empire (3) what's the most important political issue in the United States today:

My answer is the same.  Extreme variance in wealth distribution.  An insufficient percentage of wealth in the hands of workers/consumers.

This is that.  That is us.  And the right wing says our current condition is socialism.  And any attempt even to discuss it is socialism.

They're stealing your money.  Don't let them.

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

Your pal,

Jim

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