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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 28-Sept 3 2011

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Dear Internet:

This week, my Ladygal and I went to the art museum.

Sure, one could question the work of John Wayne Gacy being included in an art museum, but who am I to judge?

Here's Tendown 92.

1. White Flag
A week ago, my hope (it was a little stronger than hope, but a little softer than anticipation, so much like you want to mentally adjust for era as you watch sports, inflate the word hope appropriately) was that the World Champion Giants would enter today a game back.

That did not happen.

We dropped 20 of 29 through Wednesday, falling a half dozen out and responded by making a couple of long overdue roster movies.  The Snakes came to town for 3 this weekend, and in the desperate manner of those who should now know better given the flag flying above the ballpark, Giants Nation collectively said "if we sweep, we're 3 out and back in the race."

We didn't.  Lincecum appears out of gas, getting bombed for his second straight outing, and now, we're six out with 23 left, and that's the end of the fight.

The lesson unfortunately won't be learned; Brian Sabean has spent his entire Giants tenure acquiring veterans better liked by lay people than advanced metrics, "Orlando Cabrera, he's good, right?  'Member how the Red Sox won that World Series and then we paid Dave Roberts like Al Davis signing Larry Brown after those two Super Bowl picks?  That turned out good, right?  Let's keep doing that." and year after year after year, those moves failed.

Aaron Rowand
Ryan Garko
Jose Castillo
Charlie Hayes
Miguel Tejada
Dave Roberts
Ryan Klesko
Mark Sweeney
Mark DeRosa
Russ Davis
Steve Finley
Benji Molina
Tom Goodwin
Michael Tucker
Shea Hillenbrand
Neifi Perez
Tsuyoshi Shinjo
Rey Sanchez
Edgar Renteria
Omar Vizquel
Jose Vizcaino
Jose Guillen
Edgardo Alfonzo
Mike Matheny


And that's not including the 130 million to Barry Zito.  Or trading Nathan/Liriano for Pierzynski.  Or all the wasted at bats for Pedro Feliz.  Or all the starts we gave to Livan Hernandez. Or Wheeler for Beltran.

It's a symphony of busts.

But last year it worked, you go to the casino and sit at that roulette wheel long enough putting all your money on the same number, and maybe it comes up.

Does that make it worth it?  Absolutely.  I would not hop back in time to undo Brian Sabean's tenure; erasing those terrible decisions wouldn't be worth the risk of erasing the title.

But that doesn't mean that we should keep handing him our money to blow at that damn roulette wheel anymore.  Last year's freak seasons by veterans Huff, Burrell, Torres turned into more predictable outs and injuries.  Playing the lottery isn't a good approach to money management, even if you win.

And the payroll manager got arrested this week.   A fitting end to our title reign.

2. Kill the Wild Card
Joe Sheehan wrote this week that the Wild Card has done more harm than good.

This is a longstanding view of mine.  The gain of expanding playoff chances to a greater number of teams "look at how many cities can still be interested in baseball in September" has not been worth the loss of meaningful pennant races between great teams.  I say this as a Giants fan, having been on the losing side of the last real pennant race in baseball history in '93.  I think the best way to express the concept is while the width of the pleasure has expanded (hey, I'm only 4 out of the Wild Card, I can still make it) the depth of pleasure has been reduced - this year is an excellent example.  Right now, the Yankees are half a game up on Boston; yet there is zero national interest in that race, as both teams are headed for the playoffs.  My guess is that you (yes, you!) did not know what the AL East standings were unless you are a fan of one of those two teams, even if you're a significant baseball fan.  However, if only the division winner could go, Boston/New York would be the top sports story in the country, significantly over the start of both football seasons.  Every single game for both teams would be at the forefront of your brain.  You'd spend September talking baseball, even if your team had lost 21 of 31.

And that's true just about every year; the Wild Card, while giving you a greater chance of seeing your team in the postseason, has served to regionalize baseball interest - the national attention that would be paid, right now, to Boston and the Yankees is lost; there are great September moments that could have captured the attention of young fans, moments where baseball would not have been shoved off the stage when it's time for an opening week kickoff.  The Wild Card, universally hailed as a good, has been a mistake.

3. Also a Mistake, Voting for Obama
Regulation is not preventing job creation.  Taxation is not preventing job creation.  Corporations are enjoying massive, massive profits while cutting benefits, cutting their labor force, and squeezing more and more and more work out of those who are left.  If you have the experience of constantly seeing your workplace duties expanded, without pay increase and with benefit reduction, because you're able to keep your job while others lose theirs, you live the truth of this daily.  You and I are in the same bunker.

But yet - as opposed to driving squarely at the plutocrats - Obama decided to maintain Bush's smog emissions policy this week:

Bush-era smog standards, declared inadequate by government science advisers, will likely remain in effect until mid-decade if not longer.


Why have a Democratic President if he's going to pollute the air?

Also, this week, the FBI announced the arrest of a guy in Virginia for a youtube video, continuing an Obama Justice Department series of prosecutions of Muslims for engaging in political speech:

Perhaps the most extreme example of this trend is the fact that a Pakistani man in New York was prosecuted and then sentenced to almost six years in prison for doing nothing more than including a Hezbollah news channel in the package of cable channels he offered for sale to consumers in Brooklyn.  On some perverse level, though, all of these individuals are lucky that they are being merely prosecuted rather than targeted with due-process-free assassination.  As I documented last month, that is what is being done to U.S. citizen Anwar Awlaki due -- overwhelmingly if not exclusively -- to the U.S. Government's fear of his purely political views. 

Why have a Democratic President if he's going to violate the first Amendment?

On this coming week's Frontline, we're going to hear that Obama's prosecution of the War on Terror has essentially been the same as Bush's:

With a notable exception of the enhanced interrogation program, the incoming Obama administration changed virtually nothing with respect to existing CIA programs and operations. Things continued. Authorities were continued that were originally granted by President Bush beginning shortly after 9/11. Those were all picked up, reviewed and endorsed by the Obama administration.

Why have a Democratic President if he's going to use national security as pretense to ignore civil liberties?

Last year, GE CEO Jeff Immelt took home over 15 million dollars.  GE had 5 billion in profit.  GE got 3.3 billion dollars in federal income tax refunds.

Jeff Immelt is Obama's chairman of the Council on Jobs and Competitiveness.

And Immelt's not alone.

Last year twenty-five of the 100 most highly paid CEOs took home salaries greater than the amount their companies paid in 2010 federal income taxes. And it wasn’t because the corporations weren’t making dough—they averaged global profits of $1.9 billion, and only seven reported losses in US pre-tax income.


But these twenty-five companies shielded their profits in 556 tax haven subsidiaries in places like the Cayman Islands, Isle of Man, and Singapore, which proved to be a lucrative tax dodging strategy for the CEOs themselves: the twenty-five CEOs averaged $16.7 million in compensation.


For every dollar the average worker made in the "greed is good" 1980s, the average CEO made 40 dollars,.

For every dollar the average worker made when Obama took office in 2009, the average CEO made 263.

For every dollar the average worker made last year, the average CEO made 325.

Why have a Democratic President if he's just going to serve to line the pockets of millionaires and billionaires?

4. But Of Course, Obama's an Unparalleled Marxist. 

Despite those facts, the right wing continues to sell the argument that Eugene V. Debs was elected our first black President in 2008.

A week from today is the 10th Anniversary of 9-11.  Obama said it should be a day of service.  The right wing called him a socialist.

On Fox and Friends this week, Stuart Varney said Obama's committed to wealth redistribution.

From mid August, Limbaugh said Obama was the first Marxist President.  He then suggested maybe Wilson was as well.  The right, if you're missing the Wilson attack has decided that the Progressive Era, was the beginning of our slide into Stalinism.

Here's Fox and Friends from the middle of August, food stamps and unemployment insurance are socialism.

From August, here's my Congressman, Allen West, Obama's a low level socialist agitator.

From late July, here's a Republican congressman from Missouri, Obama's a flaming socialist.

According to an April poll, almost 80% of Republicans in South Carolina think Obama's a socialist.

How much more do CEOs have to make than workers before Obama is no longer a socialist?

How much more do CEOs have to make than their corporations pay in taxes before Obama's no longer a socialist?

5. If We Fail, It is Carlos's Fault
So, if you watch reality competition shows, you can spot this trope - the challenge in which the competitors are placed in teams, but then the losing team will have to account for their failure, resulting in the members turning on each other to avoid being the one who is eliminated.  That's the tension upon which the entire Apprentice game is based.

On the current version of Top Chef this week (it's a dessert based spinoff) came such a challenge, and one of the contestants pretty neatly summed up the element of the game that was being played:

                                                   If we fail, it is Carlos's fault.


So, that's now what I'm going to call such a task.  Carlos's Fault.  As in "hey, what happened on Runway this week"  "they did a Carlos's Fault."  You can find it in sports too, the next time some college football coach preaches "team, team, team, team" - and then has a press conference where he kills his quarterback for a late game pick.  It's a Carlos's Fault speech.  Look around the room at your next workplace meeting when you're all asked to pull the rope together during the tough times, or some bullshit designed to convince you to work harder without getting paid more.  Someone's going to get thrown over the side.  Figure out who the Carlos is and get ready to stick your boot on his neck.

6. The One Piece You Need to Read This Week
It's Jeffrey Toobin, penetrating the mistaken understanding many have of Clarence Thomas.

7. You Could also Read my Posts
I made five.  The athlete of the month is here. My week one college football picks were here (I'm currently 4-5 ATS). And you can get to my 3 posts in my series of 45 man rosters here.  Also, the latest chapter in the Counterfactual is here.

Coming every day this week will be NFL posts - the 100 best players in the NFL, my season long win total prediction, my fantasy draft board, my planned 17 week entry for a suicide pool, and presumably my Week 1 picks.  Expect something every day.  Additionally, I should get my hard drive cleared of the top wrestling matches I've yet to see from 2011, including the ROH title switch from Edwards to Davey, Taguchi v. Ibushi from BOSJ, two Yuji matches (against Suwama and Tanahashi), and five matches from NOAH.  I'll have star ratings for all in next week's Tendown and have added the relevant matches to the 2011 MOTY list.

8. If I Go to Jail, Here's Why.
I am not married, but live with my Ladygal.

In Florida, this is illegal.   Punishable for up to 60 days in jail.

And there are some Republicans who want to keep it that way:

Consider the response of state Rep. Dennis Baxley, R-Ocala, who previously headed the Florida chapter of the Christian Coalition: “I’m not ready to give up on monogamy and a cultural statement that marriage still matters,” he said.

If you ever hear Dennis Baxley talk about the need for "smaller government" - ask him to square that view with the above quote.

You are going to talk to Florida State Representative Dennis Baxley, right?  Am I confusing you with someone else?

9. The 50 Documentaries You Need to See Before You Die.
Current (that's a TV station, like ABC) did a multiweek countdown of the, well you can look at the subject of number 9 to see of what the countdown was.

I watch more than my share of documentaries, both for personal interest and work; I'm going to recount their full list, but to it, you'd have to add the following five:

Murder on a Sunday Morning
Why we Fight
The Corporation
American Movie
Maxed Out

Now - here's their list:


50. Spellbound 
49. Truth or Dare 
48. The Kid Stays in the Picture 
47. One Day In September
46. Little Dieter Needs to Fly
45. The Decline of Western Civilization Part II
44. Burma VJ 
43. When the Levees Broke 
42. Catfish 
41. King of Kong 
40. When We Were Kings 
39. Biggie and Tupac
38. March of the Penguins
37. Inside Job
36. Taxi to the Dark Side
35. Paragraph 175
34. Brother’s Keeper
33. Tongues Untied
32. Dogtown and Z-Boys
31. Jesus Camp
30. Fahrenheit 911
29. Man on Wire
28. Gasland
27. Tarnation
26. Murderball
25. Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room
24. Paradise Lost
23. The Eyes of Tammy Faye
22. Shut up and Sing
21. Exit through the Gift Shop
20. Capturing the Friedmans
19. Touching the Void
18. Food Inc.
17. Street Fight
16. Bus 174
15. Crumb
14. Dark Days
13. The Fog of War
12. Bowling for Columbine
11. Paris is Burning
10. Grizzly Man
9. Trouble the Water
8. An Inconvenient Truth
7. The Celluloid Closet
6. The War Room
5. Super Size Me
4. Waltz with Bashir
3. Roger and Me
2. Thin Blue Line
1. Hoop Dreams

10. Paying it Backward

I heard from an old student over the weekend, and I mean an old student - over a decade ago, from when I taught high school.  He had a project at work and was rewarded for his ability to write concisely - he credited a specific lesson I had taught a dozen years ago.

My first thought was, of course, how old I am that a student who has already seen his 10 year high school reunion is thanking me for having taught him something.  My birthday, which recall, doesn't count this year as I'm waiting to turn 500 months, is in just a few weeks, but there's nothing like hearing from a married man with a corporate job who is forever fixed in my head as a 15 year old to remind me of my age.  

My second thought was one I had just a few days before, I'm bone tired.  I had a guest speaker at the course I've been assigned to teach to brand new students (largely college acculturation with pep talks); and he made a better connection with them than I do.  My essential skill is verbal communication with groups, but I've become increasingly aware over the past, maybe 8 months, that I am not as good as I was a handful of years ago.  I feel a bit like I'm being worked until I can't go out in front of the people anymore, that without some time off there's going to be a real erosion of my ability to do that job.  It's a concern, as talking is the only thing I've ever been able to do that people will consistently pay me for, and I am of the mind that, like a manager who doesn't care about how many innings I throw, they're just sending me to the mound until my arm falls off.  If you've got a teaching job that includes time off, I am envious.  As a business model I understand, they've got me teaching more classes, they've essentially eliminated the time between academic terms; if they can work me more at the same salary, that increases my value to them, but they are burning a hole in my brain.  

My third thought, and the one I expressed to the student, was that the specific lesson he recalled from a dozen years ago - was a specific lesson I recall being taught in 1985, from Max Griffith at Elgin High School, when I was 14.  Some corporate executive compliments my former student, who thanks me - and now I thank my high school speech coach.  We're paying it backward.  

That's a specific lesson taught over a quarter century ago, still alive today.  The past isn't dead.  It isn't even past.

And having quoted Faulkner, I can bring the train into the station.

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

Your pal,

Jim

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