Sunday, August 31, 2008

I'm making a new rule

If you're too busy to talk, don't answer the phone. But if you were stupid enough to answer the phone, don't get all stressed out and go into a long speech about how busy you are that you can't talk on the phone.

Can we do that? Would that be alright with you people?

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Exit threats don't work anymore

Crossposted to Daily Kos

Alec Baldwin made one in 2000. House Democrats walked out on the certification of election results in 2001. Joe Lieberman abandoned the party in 2006. PUMAs with "you better be nice to me and send me fruit smoothies every day for the rest of my life or I'll support the Iraq war for four more years" in 2008.

All of them have threatened a walkout/exit/take-my-ball-and-go-home threat, and some of them have followed through, while others haven't.

You know what else they have in common? They haven't accomplished much. And they either come off as bitter and cynical (for following through) or weak and incompetent (for capitulating).

This is not productive for a democratic society, and if the liberal philosophy is "we're all in this together," then we better find some way to air out our differences that don't include hissy fit ultimatums that amount to absolutely nothing.

Hirschman's Exit, Voice and Loyalty is one of the first, if not THE first, concepts every political science student learns about. Basically, if someone in an organization feels they're getting the short end of the stick, they can either leave outright (exit) or protest (voice). If voice proves ineffective, they can either exit or show loyalty to the organization, continuing the relationship.

Voice is a curious thing in a society with a blogosphere and 24-hour news. With so many avenues to express one's grievances, ironically some people just have no idea as to how to exercise their voice. Depending on who you believe, Baldwin's threat to leave the US if Bush won the election is either an on-the-record statement or an urban legend (the first mention came second-hand from then-wife Kim Basinger in a German magazine none of us have ever heard of). As you can tell, Bush won, Baldwin never left, and a not-so-insignificant portion of Americans thinks he's a bit eccentric at times (that's putting it mildly) along the lines of Tom Cruise being absolutely fruit loops. People don't like threats, but they really don't like threats that never get carried out.

There are other forms of voice. Political activism is the main weapon of Democratic base voters. Get on the ground, talk to people on various avenues about what the government and politicians are doing wrong, and create an awareness that should lead to a remedy of the problem. Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson are arguably two of the more influential forces in Democratic politics, with their message of social justice and equality. George Soros has more money than most of us will ever see, and has used it to advance liberal causes in America. Arianna Huffington is behind one of the most important news sources for American liberals on the Internet today.

All of these people have had serious disagreements with the way American politics is conducted during the Bush administration. Some of them have even had problems with certain Democrats, as we ordinary people do from time to time. They never exit, nor do they threaten to exit. They choose to remain loyal to the organization (American society, in this case). Their influence remains constant.

Then there are those who have little or no influence, or shouldn't have the influence they think they have.

Time and again, we've seen the occasional "boycott this media outlet" or "boycott that organization" for a slight, perceived or real, against Democrats. This is never more clearer than when MSNBC, with Keith Olbermann, Rachel Maddow and other liberal voices not having a place at CNN or Fox News, does the occasional piece that says good things about McCain (hey, even a straight-talking broken clock is right twice a day) or talks ill of some Democrats for things that we wouldn't be proud of if we were in their shoes. Or puts Joe Scarborough on the air. We all throw up our hands, pledge to stay away from television forever...then rejoice when Air America's leading lady gets her own show in prime time.

How's that boycott coming along?

On the other side, do you think Lou Dobbs, despite his television ratings and popularity, has been the least bit influential in getting viewers to boycott corporations who outsource jobs or hire illegal immigrants? For the last few years, it's been all theater for the supposed populist, but nothing really tangible beyond that.

And, oh, the PUMAs. The slighted, abused, wronged PUMAs. Just their very mention reeks of incredulity.

Say what you will, and probably the chances of putting Hillary on the Obama ticket were pretty low to begin with, but does anyone want to say how effective the most militant Hillary supporters have been in advancing what they perceive to be Hillary's causes in Obama's campaign? I'd say not very effective.

And do you think their threat to vote for McCain in droves makes them any more believable? Probably not.

Hillary's supporters probably had a chance to become an influential force in Democratic and American politics this cycle by redoubling their efforts for the Democratic cause (not necessarily Obama's cause, but the liberal, Democratic cause they have claimed to support) and working to defeat conservatism that seeks to magnify inequalities between race and gender, redistribute wealth towards the rich and the rich alone, and continue a war that even neoconservatives admit was not a good idea (on their way, paradoxically, to explaining that continued warfare is our only hope). Instead, they have become marginalized, in the media and in the blogosphere, dismissed and rightfully so as voters who could have been an important voice in political circles but will instead have to settle for voting for what they should perceive as the lesser evil.

That the last boycott to produce any real, tangible influence in American society was the Montgomery bus boycott of the 1950s and 1960s should tell you something: exit threats since then haven't been very productive. The Sharptons and Huffingtons and Gores of the world, on the other hand, have been nothing but steadfast in their support of America and its political processes, and one need only observe their effectiveness to realize how best to exercise one's voice.

That is not to say that people who exercise exit threats have fake, imagined grievances. Losing hurts, especially in a winner-take-all society (no two people can occupy the top of the ticket at the same time). But in a 162-game baseball season, everyone loses sometime, but eventually they, like real adults and professionals, hit the showers and gear up for the next game. The true losers stomp their feet, take their ball, and go home.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Always thought it would be there when I got back

If you're back home, you're going to read this and think this writer's the goofiest homer. But when you live out here, and everything about America and New York is a commodity, things seem a bit more valuable.

And man, I didn't even know until I went searching for a YouTube clip. Then I stumbled upon these:

Said Mike Francesa (emphasis mine):
First, I wanted to tell you that I know what you're feeling because I feel it too. I mean, this show has been a major part of my life, I mean, it's been my heart for 19 years. Not everyday is wonderful, not everyday in life is wonderful, but so many of them have been so special. Don't think for a second that I or Dog did not understand how foruntate we have been to have hit everything just right in New York when we were able to create this...

The most important part is when you have someone tell you, "You know, I grew up with your show, I learned about sports listening to your show, you've been a part of my day everyday for twenty years." [...] Frankly, that is what this show has given me for two decades, something very much to look forward to...

19 years is a long time, it's a long time to be part of a team, it's not always easy to be part of a team, it isn't. Maybe it should be...
I was stunned that I was three days late on this story. It seemed so sudden, and yet completely expected from this past June going forward (which means, you bet, there's no way I believe Chris' decision had absolutely nothing to do with WFAN or Mike - maybe a little, but not nothing).

Wherever I go in the world, I always look back at my life in New York, and remember my daily routine. In the twenty months I was back home for my Masters, I drove three to four days a week from Upper Westchester to the West Village for work and classes, listening to WFAN if I was on the way to campus in the afternoon.

I didn't agree with them on many things. Tiger Woods, the '07 Giants, Michelle Wie, Imus, I thought they were on the wrong side (the last one is more complicated, proving personal preferences trump right and wrong most days). And they were bad for soccer, as most everyone on WFAN (and, well, all sports talk radio) is.

That didn't stop me from listening, of course. I'm not going to explain it, but MMD was always part of my drive down to the city. It was essential, period.

So, from way out here in Japan, a long-time listener (no-time caller; I never beat the busy signal) is going to miss Mike and the Mad Dog.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

2-2. 93rd minute. ****.

I don't ******* believe it.


Saturday, August 02, 2008

Just breezin' on by

No one ever wants to be accused of being a Donny Osmond fan. But there IS one song that I keep running over and over lately, that being his remake of George Benson's Breezin', which is one of those instrumentals you're not supposed to ever, EVER cover, let alone add lyrics (I still can't get over learning that Take Five has lyrics).

Anyways, that's just how I've been rolling lately. One day (well, last Sunday for me) you think you're just the unluckiest guy in the world. The next problem. It's all good.

You wanna know why? 'Cause this is the life I chose. I knew this was a life that entailed very little in the way of riches. Not at 26, anyways. Consequently, you have to give up all the things that true financial security grants you, like the freedom to live in a larger home or the permission from a father to marry his little girl, because he's confident of the purchasing power behind your checking account.

It's not entirely about money, either. Doctors get clear cut results (namely the patient gets better or, uh, dies). Carpenters know when the house is built. Even burger flippers get to count how many patties they've cooked up.

For teachers, it's not impossible to determine all the good they've done, but one would have to work overtime and then some to do the numbers. Did my student get it? Does she understand what's going on? Did I crack all the cognitive and affective barriers, not to mention cultural walls, to get that light bulb to turn on?

Yeah, some days, I don't know.

That's fine. I'm cool with that. Part of it is I have to have faith that I did something good today, and I will be rewarded for it, not with a fancy sports car or a flat screen TV, but with the right to eat an adequate meal at least three times a day, with a roof over my head.

But also, this was exactly why I took AP Psych back in high school. I wanted to know all the things people do to get the things they wanted or express the ideas they had. Why do people kiss up and kick down? Why are people intolerably mean to some and unconditionally forgiving to others? Why do people preach standards and break their own rules when it suits them? Why do people want others to communicate without words whatever ideas could easily be expressed in a sentence or two ("I love you" comes to mind)? I wanted to know. (I told you Romo Lampkin was one of my inspirations)

I didn't have the patience to sit through neuroscience to major in psychology, and political science bored me to death. So I became a teacher.

I get to observe and influence, and in return someone else gets to learn something, if they're motivated enough to reach beyond that which they deem comfortable. I get to apply that to my own life, and see what happens. I get to see a little bit of myself in each student in each class, and I am free to be delighted or horrified, and change myself accordingly. I get to be me.

I couldn't do that while flipping burgers.

I love my job.

Anyways...I have a week's vacation coming up. If I'm really productive during that week, I'll work on setting up another blog, this one to cover the WCQs in the CONCACAF region (for the moment, I'm thinking the content will be more like Drudge, as in a huge link repository, but with the opening to add more original content as we go along and interest picks up).

No, do not ask me how I can watch US WCQs all the way out here.