Tuesday, November 23, 2004
How Not to Run a Pop Stand
Damn, it's going to be a long time in the wilderness. Unless the wingnuts go completely over the top-- lose touch with reality so grossly and heinously that even the sheep in the media and the crypto-wingnuts abandon them-- the "D"s will end up living in cardboard boxes, hoping not to be hunted down and killed by the attack squads of the radical right.
What makes me think so? Stuff like this, for examples. And this. And also this. And let's not forget this. And let's not forget the decision to raise the national debt limit, and the "make Tom Delay immune" and a few other things.
When you're out of power-- when the other side can do whatever it feels like without having to cater to you one bit, you have exactly two options. One is to waste your time trying to devise moderate policies in a vain attempt to recruit allies. You waste weeks of time and burn what little political capital you have trying to produce alternative solutions that might be acceptable-- only to get slapped aside by the majority.
That's what the House Republicans did in the late 50's, in the 60's, in the 70's and the early part of the 80's under leaders wike Charlie Halleck, Jerry Ford and Bob Michel. And they were rewarded by being systematically punked by the majority.
Option #2 is to do what the wingnuts began to do in the late 80's, under the leadership of Newt Gingrich, Dick Cheney, Trent Lott and several other scumbags. You can recognize that you will never be allowed to govern-- that you won't get anything through-- and realize that you don't have to worry about the consequences of any or your ideas becoming law, so you can be as irresponsible as you like.
You don't need to make sure your proposed laws are constitutional-- much less if they can be reasonably implemented or easily enforced. able be responsible. In fact, you don't need to offer alternatives at all. All you need to do-- in fact, all you should do-- is stage public events designed to make your opponents look bad and make you seem reasonable and principled.
One of the ten best books ever written about American politics is John M. Barry's The Ambition and the Power. His chronicle of Jim Wright's speakership-- and Newt Gingrich's successful campaign to destroy Wright-- is brilliant. You'll never find a better book about the inner workings of Congress and the mindset inside the beltway.
The depth of the access that Barry got is mind-boggling. Wright gave him senior staff status. Gingrich didn't go that far, but he gave several long interviews and answered scads of questions at every milestone.
When he isn't bloviating about his wingnut beliefs, Gingrich is an astonishingly astute observer and historian. Given a chance to explain his vision, his strategies and his tactics to an intelligent observer, he laid out the whole plan and the reasons behind it.
And, boy, did it work. Came off almost exactly the way Gingrich plotted it, with only a few topical variations and missteps.
It's all there-- how to get the allies, how to work the media, how to dragoon non-profits and "good government" groups into carrying yiour water. The book tells you the blend of policy and political expedience you need to make it work, and how you sieze upon events to bolster your ideas.
You can argue that it's merely empty gestures-- the worst kind of divisive partisan politics and class warfare. But the problem is that it works-- it broke the Democratic stranglehold on the House, after decades of control. And given the mood of this electorate, it seems to be the only thing that will work.
By sitting on their hands-- by failing to start taking the fight to the opponents even after they've been given scads of ammunition-- the Democrats are off to a terrible start. The failure to put the gifts to their best use is disturbing-- it shows that the tactical skills just aren't there.
The failure to do anything suggests that they either don't understand how the strategy works, or they can't get into the right frame of mind to execute it. Neither is a terrib ly promising sign, given that they have a ten-year journey ahead of them.
Maybe they're just getting organized. Or maybe they just suck. Until I see something that demonnstrates the abiulity to be clever and forceful, I'm not going to ascribe one iota of intelligence or cunning to our side.
How to Run a Pop Stand, Part II
The most interesting part of NBA Commissioner David Stern's press conference was what he didn't say. After suspending the players, he stated emphatically that the fans have the right not to be molested by the players-- no matter what they might have done to provoke them.
But Stern also indicated that he wasn't done addressing the problem-- that the NBA Office intended to do other things. I'm pretty sure the other shoe will be "The players have the absolute right to play without being molested by the fans. No matter how horribly the players behave on the court, the fans have no right to physically abuse them." Here's what he's probably going to doto enforce that:
1. Announce that the NBA will insist that every fan involved-- anyone who threw things or went onto the court-- be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. No alibis, exceptions or mitigating circumstances allowed.
2. Starting today, any fan who throws anything at a player will be ejected and prosecuted, whether the object landed or not.
3. If the fan has season tickets-- or the seats are part of a season ticket package-- these seats and/or seats licenses will be immediately revoked without compensation.
4. The NBA will be drafting a set of laws-- the Fan Conduct and Behavior Act-- that makes unruly behavior at games (including shouting obscenities and public drunkenness) a crime. No need for "which local laws of did these guys break?" huddles with the local D.A.-- it'll all be spelled out with penalties attached.
5. All cities where NBA arenas are located will be required to pass the FCBA before the local team will renew its lease with the arena.
Nasty and vile as many of them are, the players are entitled to play without worrying about getting hit by flying objects. And yes, that includes fighting with each other. Which leads us to the last issue on the list:
6: Beginning next seasonm all tickets will contain a clause stating that "(a) any fan who leaves the seating area and enters the court does so at his own risk and without right to sue for any losses or injuries that occur after entering the playing area and (b) players on the playing area have the right to protect their physical safety-- including, if it appears necessary, force." In other words, if you leave your seat, it's your ass.
Probably going to take a while for that to come down-- the league's lawyers will have to look at a bunch of local and states codes to make sure they write something that can't be overturned. But it's got to be done-- it's only fair to the players.
How to Run a Pop Stand, Part I
. A long, long time ago, I talked with several senior people about violence and pro sports. It didn't take much effort for us to solve the problem-- it's a simple logic problem.
David Stern gets it. If you are running a professional sports league, there are two thoughts that you absolutely cannot allow fans to think-- two ideas that will kill your league in an instant:
1. "There's no reason to go-- the games are fixed."
2. "It's not safe to go to the games."
The NBA can't let fans think-- even for a second-- that the league will allow psycho players to go flying into the stands, punching the lights out of anyone they set eyes on. If people are afraid to buy tickets, you're screwed.
(At this point, it looks like the guy Ron Artest grabbed didn't throw anything-- though he might have been screaming obsecnities for all I know.)
And the suspension absolutely must be for the rest of the year (or a full year, if this happens 30 games in). And the sentences absolutely must run concurrently-- even though it turns Indiana (which was a championship contender) into a lottery team. And the sentences absolutely must not take provocation into account-- or remorse or pity or anything else.
Why? Very simply-- it's the only thing that works. 90 years ago (in the 1910's) gambling and game-fixing were fairly common in major league baseball. Once baseball's first commissioner-- Kennesaw Mountain Landis-- instituted a "no excuses, zero-tolerance death penalty", the problem ended.
If players (or their teams) think they can get around the punishment by pleading or bargaining or suing or making their case to the public, they'll keep doing it. If they know they're going to miss a full year, they won't.
The National Hockey League is always talking about how terrible it is to have fights in every game-- how much they want to make it stop. The day they announce that fighting will result in a mandatory 10-game suspension-- and that anyone who injures a player will lose ten games plus the amount of time the other guy is unable to play-- the problem will stop.
Actually, I think the other two guys-- who got 30 and 25 games-- got off lightly. Anyone who goes into the stands for any reason really deserves a year off without pay.
Stern's statement couldn't have made it any clearer: "Our players must not enter the stands whatever the provocation or poisonous behavior of people attending the games." That's how you keep the fans safe.