Today money isn’t the mother’s milk of politics; it is their politics.

– Rep. Charlie Rangel from And I Haven’t Had a Bad Day Since: From the Streets of Harlem to the Halls of Congress

Advertisements

Masters in Machiavelli

My graduate school teachers say group projects are where we learn to work with others in a collaborative, innovative environment. In actuality, group projects are where Machiavelli learned to conquer weaker-willed foes. The Prince is gone, the CEO lives – and he’s got all sorts of ticks up his sleeve. Here are the ones I’ve witnessed:

Hard ball: To play hardball you have to hold all the cards. If you’re holding all the cards, why are playing a game? Name your price and get on with it.

Charm: Sure, it’s important to know your audience in order to charm them into complacency. But more important: your silence. Silent enthusiastic agreement is a bridge builder. Say too much and you can set someone off. Silent? You might be thought wiser than you are. May that be the worst thing to happen to you.

Phantom: People don’t like you? Not a problem. Have someone they like talk to them. Even better, explain that a number of people have been suggesting – not you of course, you’d never think to question them – and you want to know how we, as a group, can best incorporate those suggestions. Best to try this one on a day when the sole beloved member of your group is absent.

Planting the seed: The people don’t hate you, yet. Play on their good graces, and make them think your idea was dreamed up by them. Phrase your idea as a question, and when they repeat it, jump on it as though you’d never thought of it. To seal the deal: praise their insight.

Prompt: Skip the planting and go straight to harvesting. Start the conversation by saying that you want to follow up on the group’s earlier idea. Who is going to deny having an idea once you’ve professed how its brilliance won you over – and would they be able to weight in on how you think it could maybe be expanded?

No alternatives: If you can all agree there’s a problem, you’re halfway there. Tell them there are a finite number of solutions, and propose truly horrendous ideas with no redeeming value. Remember, zero redeeming value, because people will fall on a weak idea like it’s a saving grace. Then, make the last option the only palatable one.

Booster club: If there’s a group project and you need a certain number of votes to go your way, cheer the influencers in inconsequential things. “Your hair looks amazing!” “Where did you get that coat? It’s divine.” “You led the last meeting with such a sense of command and insight, could you do so again?” When it’s go time, you’ve already made it clear that the two, or more, of  you are on the same team. You’re halfway there before you start. All that remains is to present your idea as building on something they’ve implicitly agreed to.

Scored earth: Tear down everyone else’s plans by any means necessary. It’s messy and potentially bridge burning. Do so only if the alternative is French occupation of invaded Russia.

Everyone but Me

Everyone is graduating. Except those people who already graduated. Oh, and me: still slogging through school.

My mind knows that there are other people still in school, I just find it hard to believe. There must be toddlers just starting on their academic career, high schoolers eager for college and even more for their senior year, and people I pass in my school’s hallways who have years to go before they earn their degree.

But I’m in my senior seminar. In the fall, every other person in that room will head out to work in the morning and home at night. They will not stop at school on their back. Instead, they’ll leave the office, go straight home, put on pjs, and fall asleep. Or maybe they’ll cook themselves a hot dinner. Or – possibly only the craziest among us – will leave their offices, drop their worries, and go out on the town. They’ll see a show! Get dinner with friends! Run through a sprinkler!

Meanwhile, come fall, I’ll go to work and will leave only to head back to school. I’ll have another semester of cold dinners – the kind that I cook on Sunday and hope aren’t rotten by Thursday. I’ll do all my errands on the way too, from, or at, work. Weekends, and any free nights, will be dedicated to homework and projects, and on those few precious weeks when I don’t have something due, grocery shopping.

One day, with god’s help, I’ll have those things again. Till then, run through a sprinkler for me.*

 

*I’m not actually a sprinkler-runner, but I’m happy to encourage fancy-free behavior if that’s your thing.

 

…That’s how we make an appeal to what is right and decent, and without anger. I did it for the framers of the Constitution, who intended that we would treat each other in a civil way. We call each other gentlemen to avoid being cantankerous. And no one person, Democrat or Republican, should ever call law enforcement on a colleague.

– Rep. Charlie Rangel from And I Haven’t Had a Bad Day Since: From the Streets of Harlem to the Hall of Congress

NYC Error 404: Not Found

There are exceptions to every rule. The rule of New York City – that you can get anything, at any time, anywhere – is no exception. You can get a shark on the subway, a watch at the shoe repair, or a diamond in the rough. But you can’t get a decent bank, doctor, or hair dresser for love or money. That’s why city slickers have an ingenuity all their own.

You can get free checking – but only at banks with fewer than a dozen ATMs in a 10-mile radius. You can get free ATMs – but your savings account interest rate is approaching zero. You can use online checking – unless your employer refuses to use them for direct deposit. Solution: open accounts with multiple banks.

You can get wonderful medical specialists – but your PCP won’t return your calls. Your doctor might return your calls, but they won’t see you for a second longer than five minutes. Your doctor might be willing to see you for more than five minutes, but their tremors are so bad that a nurse has to write out their medical instructions for them. Solution: switch doctors every year.

You can get a haircut, but it’ll cost you $35 – before tip. You can get a cheap haircut but the hair dresser will give you a style all their own. You can get a moderately-priced haircut, but the hairdresser will laugh at you. You can get an expensive haircut, but you may not be able to eat that week. Solution: cut your own hair.

Every city has its limits, but the inventiveness of its people knows no bounds.

Out first job as Democrats must be not to do any more harm. True, we have to remain vigilant in getting rid of programs that don’t work. But as Democrats, we have to be prepared to truly believe that education is not just a headache we’re stuck with. In my opinion education and health care are national investments, as important to our national security as nuclear bombs, planes and armed forces.

-Rep. Charlie Rangel from And I Haven’t Had a Bad Day Since: From the Streets of Harlem to the Halls of Congress

I tell them I can yield on a lot of in which my district is not particularly emotionally involved. The liberal part of my party might have an ideological problem with some of these concessions, but if you can exploit the glaring need for decent education and employment opportunities, I’ll take the hit as the price of politically practical consensus. Because as long as Republicans keep saying that education is not an issue for substantial increased federal funding, then I believe that it’s in the best interest of business to step up to the challenge of providing for an educated, productive workforce, because it will serve to increase their profitability, productivity and competitiveness.

I, for one, want American business to have a fair advantage over foreign business, so they’re not going to have a great problem with me on matters of trade. I’m ready to give something up, but they’ve got to give up something for the larger good in return.

-Rep. Charlie Rangel from And I Haven’t Had a Bad Day Since: From the Streets of Harlem to the Halls of Congress

It is so easy for those of us who can no longer remember not being surrounded by professional people to take this simple truth for granted: You cannot imagine and dream what you haven’t been informed of.

-Rep. Charlie Rangel from And I Haven’t Had a Bad Day Since: From the Streets of Harlem to the Halls of Congress

How Not to Endorse Donald Trump

Donald Trump once asked me if I knew why he was so smart. He said he’s smart because people think he’s smart – he has the best developers from all over the world coming to him with projects, because they knew he can make the biggest and best of their ideas a reality. So he has the ability to take the very best that’s coming from the best, and put his name on it. In the end, it’s not about being smart, it’s about having the integrity not to skip over the best of the best in favor of the promoting your friends. It is recognizing that if you’re going to continue to enjoy this reputation for being smart, you have to work at it and keep it up.

-Rep. Charlie Rangel from And I Haven’t Had a Bad Day Since: From the Streets of Harlem to the Halls of Congress

How to Endorse Hillary Clinton

Politics has been called the art of the possible. Making consensus, creating such a political work of art, is the best way to describe my role in Hillary Clinton becoming the junior senor from New York, a platform that has put a serous run for the White House within her reach.

…Hillary Clinton was the big draw, and she was good as she always is.

-Rep. Charlie Rangel from And I Haven’t Had a Bad Day Since: From the Streets of Harlem to the Halls of Congress