Politics and Grassroots, Sports

English, career advancement, and Jose Abreu

The idea that immigrants should learn English is easy to dismiss as a quasi-racist attempt to expunge foreign cultures from America. The pro-English crowd doesn’t do itself a whole ton of favors, either, even as Americans largely support the position.

Jose Abreu of the Chicago White Sox gets it. While some of his less-accomplished teammates might try to work on their baseball mechanics in the Arizona Fall League once the baseball season is over, Abreu wants to learn English:

“That’s my goal. I want to be a leader and I know that for that, I have to learn the language,” Abreu said through an interpreter Tuesday. “And that’s my focus for this offseason. It’s one of the things that I have on my list. I know if I can learn a little bit more of the language, I can express myself in a better way with my teammates and my coaches. It’s going to help our relationship.”

He’s already a great player, but Abreu wants more – and he understands that means understanding the country’s dominant language. That’s especially wise considering Abreu makes north of $11 million a year and is one of the up-and-coming stars of baseball, a sport which employs a high percentage of Spanish speakers as players, coaches, and managers. Abreu isn’t at a place in life where he needs to learn other people’s languages.

Yet, when Chicago’s 2015 season ends, Abreu plans to do just that – so that he can move beyond being an excellent player and become an excellent teammate as well. And when Abreu’s bat slows and his legs get achy and heavy with age, he won’t want for opportunities to stay in the game – whether as an announcer or in coaching, managing, or the front office.

Public services which cater to Spanish speakers without asking them to learn English promote the status quo. For Abreu, maybe the status quo is earning “only” $11 million annually, rather than getting a sweet franchise cornerstone-type of paycheck in the $20 million range. What about the status quo for a recent immigrant struggling to earn enough to support a family?

With his still-giant paycheck and an offseason’s worth of time to spend, Abreu has the means to take this initiative. It’s worth wondering who else might jump at a chance like this – and whether our public services do enough to nurture it.

Crummy Little Podcast, Politics and Grassroots

Debate recap and a farewell to Walker

Beverly Hallberg was super-nice enough to record this week’s Crummy Little Podcast right after the last GOP debate, and you can see some of her predictions are coming true already. She said people would start dropping off, and there goes Scott Walker.

Walker’s abrupt exit still leaves the Republican field crowded, and the big crowd includes a few well-funded candidates. Past primaries have served as surmountable obstacles for early favorites, providing just enough resistance to make the smart-money candidate break a sweat. This time, there isn’t a favorite, and a good chunk of the party finds the supposed front-runner less than ideal.

That’s a recipe for a brokered convention. If any four of Donald Trump, Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio, Rand Paul, Ted Cruz, Chris Christie, and John Kasich come into the Republican convention with a hefty amount of delegates. Trump has a plurality, but there’s no majority. How does that play out?

The easiest answer is the non-Trumps dropping out and throwing their support behind a consensus candidate. And if you want to be that consensus candidate, now is the time to drop out.

None of the candidates have lost any votes, yet – their greatest crimes have been poor poll performance. They could credibly blame lackluster fundraising for their exits (“money in politics” is an effective bogeyman). They can hope that their failures of 2015 are forgotten by the summer of 2016. The two who have dropped out so far – Walker and Rick Perry – boasted very successful gubernatorial records.

Could the busy, noisy, crowded field that drowns out the voices of accomplished candidates be the factor that re-opens the door next year?

Well… no. It’s probably more likely to be a House of Cards story arc than a real-life convention drama. But if there was a cycle where something this bizarre could happen, 2016 might be it.


September 12

It has been 14 years since the September 11 terrorist attacks. It’s the day each year when Americans share the answer to a very simple, basic question: “Where were you?” The question begs no further clarification needed, at least not today. Those who were alive and cognizant at the time remember just where they were.

For all the sadness, heartbreak, ugliness, and terror of September 11, something amazing happened on September 12. It’s a bit tough to talk about because of the gravity and the horror of the attacks themselves. It manifested itself in different ways, not all of them good. There was patriotism, and love of country. There was a resolve to fight the forces behind the attacks.

But in the days after September 11, we had more than blind patriotism. We had community. We had each other.

It’s easy now to write that off as a fad of the time, to point to the catchy post-9/11 country ballads, the now-onerous airport security, and most of all the unpopular wars that sprang from the attacks. Listening to today’s political rhetoric makes it easy to forget the unity America felt.

You can see the continuation of that each year on Facebook, when people share tributes to their lost friends and loved ones or simply relive the emotions and experiences of the day.

But as we remember the grief each year, so too should we remember that feeling of togetherness that outweighed our disagreements back then – because there’s nothing more singularly American, nor more human, than getting up after falling down.

We should remember that when we hear Lee Greenwood sing “God Bless the U.S.A.,” the very first thing he sings about – the very first thing! – is getting knocked down and getting back up.

We should remember that our national anthem isn’t a song about purple mountains and fruited plains. No, our national anthem is adapted from a poem about taking a bombardment from the dominant military power in the world at the time – and standing strong. (And we used one of their old drinking songs for the tune. Cheers, mates.)

And you know what happens when you sing the national anthem publicly, and get nervous, and mess it up? This:

We should remember that no matter how loosely stitched our seems appear, the thread that holds us together is strong. That no matter how horrible and scary a day September 11, on September 12 we were family.

We should remember all that – and never forget.

Crummy Little Podcast

Crummy Little Podcast Episode 8: Robin Speer

Canada is having an election. It takes our neighbors to the north just 78 days for their election cycle, and they are just now ramping up halfway through it. Luckily, Robin Speer joined the podcast this week to help me figure out what’s going on.

Seventy-eight days! Seriously. American media will spend the next 78 days talking about Trump, and even then we’ll be months away from any meaningful votes.

Crummy Little Podcast

Crummy Little Podcast Episode 7: Patricia Simpson

In college, I had a friend named Asif. Everyone knew him. So many people knew him that “Hey, do you know Asif?” became a conversation starter. In fact, five years after I got to D.C., playing softball with the local UMass Alumni group, I still ran into people who knew Asif.

Patti Simpson, this week’s guest on the Crummy Little Podcast, is the Asif of the conservative and Republican-leaning circles.

(Asif was and is a big Democrat, so if he sees this he’ll probably be upset. Whatever, he lives in Texas. If he comes after me… well, it will be good to see him, it’s been a while.)

Crummy Little Podcast, Politics and Grassroots

Crummy Little Podcast Episode 6: Chris Younce

This week’s guest on the Crummy Little Podcast is Chris Younce, who knows both grassroots campaigns and baseball better than most.

Having spent much of 2012 making sure the insurgent Ron Paul was on Republican primary ballots nationwide, Chris shared his insight into how difficult it would be for someone to jump into the Democratic primary at this stage.

Give it a listen here or on iTunes.