Hustle & Faith

If a man hasn't discovered something that he will die for, he isn't fit to live. - Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.


To the person who stole my olive oil and my knife,

The olive oil is whatever. The knife was something that my Mom saved up to get me for Christmas. It represented, for both of us, a new effort to eat healthy in the new year. Maybe you thought I was a wealthy man and had expensive kitchen equipment? Maybe you thought I wouldn’t notice? Maybe you thought I wouldn’t care? 

I am not wealthy. I did notice. I do care.

Alas, I donate another item to the large pool of shit people have taken from me. May you serve your new owner well.

Sorry Ma, I’ll be more careful next time.


Knifeless in Seattle


Oh the irony of getting the short end of the Blount (pic from @sprflycat) #Patriots

Re-blogging my own meme. Today was a good day.


Oh the irony of getting the short end of the Blount (pic from @sprflycat) #Patriots

Re-blogging my own meme. Today was a good day.

Cover of Royals by Lorde with Expert Commentary 

We made a movie back in 2012 about poverty and love. Not much has changed.

Meet The Press 12/9

Congressman McCarthy (R) from CA is towing the same tired ass party line of loopholes. In what way have conservatives evolved? Where is their compromise? Obama ran on this issue and won. In this political climate, the taste for progress is so bitter. There is an aversion to substantive conversation in public, but one gets the feeling that behind closed doors and between aides, this conversation has a completely different dialect.

Here’s an idea, give Obama what he wants and conservatives get nothing. If all goes according to plan, the country will go to hell, tea party makes huge gains in 2014 and the presidency will be all yours next time around. There you go. Although, you had better hope Obama isn’t right. Or, is that why conservatives are so against anything he proposes? Because they know it will succeed and drive the GOP further into obscurity? Hmmmm, some food for thought to go along with your coffee.

Hillary in 2016. I said that once before. Than that dude who gave the speech came along. Who will Obama 2.0 be? Booker? Cuomo? Gillibrand? Hillary won’t go untested. Mark it 8 Dude.

My guess is, they get real close to the cliff and move the goalpost on the top earners and bring relief to the middle class.

One of the very few things that I have in common with Newt Gingrich? We both enjoy the political exercise of looking forward and theorizing.

In the spirit of Gingrich-like projection, what will the GOP use to try and destroy the legacy of Obama? (ala Lewinsky, oh so Gingrichy) Will they manufacture a scandal? Will it be adultery? Doubtful. Birth certificate? Been there. A Benghazi-esque foreign policy nightmare? Better, warmer. We’ll just have to wait and see.

Arbitrary Mention: David Gregory is living a mediocre dream. (CoughcoughChuckToddcough)

Supreme Court takes up the gays. Settle this and let’s move on. This is a non-issue. Love is love. Let’s solve actual problems.

I fear a Clinton run bringing a GOP White House. I’m all set with a Ryan or Rubio presidency. As long as tea party candidates are front and center (circular firing squad not withstanding. Huntsman, I’m looking at you), than I will get behind any Dem.

I swear to God, Christie would need to lose weight if he wanted to run. Hit the elliptical bud and you’ll be good.

If it’s Sunday, I miss Tim Russert.

Rachel Maddow Unpacks Why I’m a Liberal

Ohio really did go to President Obama last night. and he really did win. And he really was born in Hawaii. And he really is legitimately President of the United States, again. And the Bureau of Labor statistics did not make up a fake unemployment rate last month. And the congressional research service really can find no evidence that cutting taxes on rich people grows the economy. And the polls were not screwed to over-sample Democrats. And Nate Silver was not making up fake projections about the election to make conservatives feel bad; Nate Silver was doing math. And climate change is real. And rape really does cause pregnancy, sometimes. And evolution is a thing. And Benghazi was an attack on us, it was not a scandal by us. And nobody is taking away anyone’s guns. And taxes have not gone up. And the deficit is dropping, actually. And Saddam Hussein did not have weapons of mass destruction. And the moon landing was real. And FEMA is not building concentration camps. And you and election observers are not taking over Texas. And moderate reforms of the regulations on the insurance industry and the financial services industry in this country are not the same thing as communism.

We’re not going to have a supreme court that will overturn Roe versus Wade. There will be no more Antonio Scalias and Samuel Aleatos added to this court. We’re not going to repeal health reform. Nobody is going to kill medicare and make old people in this generation or any other generation fight it out on the open market to try to get health insurance. We are not going to do that. We are not going to give a 20% tax cut to millionaires and billionaires and expect programs like food stamps and kid’s insurance to cover the cost of that tax cut. We’ll not make you clear it with your boss if you want to get birth control under the insurance plan that you’re on. We are not going to redefine rape. We are not going to amend the United States constitution to stop gay people from getting married. We are not going to double Guantanamo. We are not eliminating the Department of Energy or the Department of Education or Housing at the federal level. We are not going to spend $2 trillion on the military that the military does not want. We are not scaling back on student loans because the country’s new plan is that you should borrow money from your parents. We are not vetoing the Dream Act. We are not self-deporting. We are not letting Detroit go bankrupt. We are not starting a trade war with China on Inauguration Day in January. We are not going to have, as a president, a man who once led a mob of friends to run down a scared, gay kid, to hold him down and forcibly cut his hair off with a pair of scissors while that kid cried and screamed for help and there was no apology, not ever. We are not going to have a Secretary of State John Bolton. We are not bringing Dick Cheney back. We are not going to have a foreign policy shop stocked with architects of the Iraq War. We are not going to do it. We had the chance to do that if we wanted to do that, as a country. and we said no, last night, loudly.” 

Listen, last night was a good night for liberals and for democrats for very obvious reasons, but it was also, possibly, a good night for this country as a whole. Because in this country, we have a two-party system in government. And the idea is supposed to be that the two sides both come up with ways to confront and fix the real problems facing our country. They both propose possible solutions to our real problems. And we debate between those possible solutions. And by the process of debate, we pick the best idea. That competition between good ideas from both sides about real problems in the real country should result in our country having better choices, better options, than if only one side is really working on the hard stuff. And if the Republican Party and the conservative movement and the conservative media is stuck in a vacuum-sealed door-locked spin cycle of telling each other what makes them feel good and denying the factual, lived truth of the world, then we are all deprived as a nation of the constructive debate about competing feasible ideas about real problems. Last night the Republicans got shellacked, and they had no idea it was coming. And we saw them in real time, in real humiliating time, not believe it, even as it was happening to them. And unless they are going to secede, they are going to have to pop the factual bubble they have been so happy living inside if they do not want to get shellacked again, and that will be a painful process for them, but it will be good for the whole country, left, right, and center. You guys, we’re counting on you. Wake up. There are real problems in the world. There are real, knowable facts in the world. Let’s accept those and talk about how we might approach our problems differently. Let’s move on from there. If the Republican Party and the conservative movement and conservative media are forced to do that by the humiliation they were dealt last night, we will all be better off as a nation. And in that spirit, congratulations…everyone!” 

A Brief History of Race Through My Eyes

Mookie and I

The following is a paper that I wrote for my sociology class:

One of the many things about having a child is that you are constantly re-living your own childhood through their eyes. So it goes with my five year old, Miles. As he grows, I am reminded of what it was like to see the world through the lens of a boy. Like my parents before me, I am trying to teach him to love all human beings equally, futile an exercise as that might be. Just like Miles, when I was five years old, I had no idea about the complexities of race and of the privilege that I had been born into. He is blessed in that, at the very least, he is being brought up around more people of color than I was.

I was raised in North Conway, New Hampshire. North Conway is one of the whitest towns in New Hampshire, putting it in the running for whitest town worldwide. I had no kids of color in my schools or in my community and no adults of color to look up to or teach me baseball at little league. My earliest memories regarding race would be given to me through the television and through the speakers of my record player. They would also be largely Black figures and I first fell in love with their talent. I awkwardly tried to moonwalk like Michael Jackson, (a move that eludes me to this day.) I wanted to be a part of the Huxtables. I wanted to play ball like Boston Celtics center, Robert “The Chief” Parish. Like most white kids in a place like North Conway, the first time I heard hip hop, it was Run DMC featuring Aerosmith on MTV. Though I was surrounded by exactly zero people of color in my community, why would I have any reason to believe they were the lesser? If there was racism amongst the adults in town, and I suspect there was, I never heard any of it and my parents never let that kind of hatred walk through our door.

As I got older and started looking at the world with a more critical eye, disturbing patterns started to emerge. I learned about historical markers like slavery, Jim Crow, segregation, and the civil rights struggle. They were fleeting chapters in my social studies class and those atrocities felt so far removed from my reality. Native Americans, I thought naively, were partners in forming a new world. My Mother had an affinity for Eastern culture, so I grew up looking at Asians through the hardly comprehensive window of Buddhism and meditation. The Latino community was a complete mystery to me. By the time I was twelve years old, I could comprehend the magnitude of America’s racist past and I would even say that I knew racism still existed, however, I was lacking a frame of reference. I also knew the continent of Australia existed, but because it was so far away and I would never go there, I was content to just know where it was on the map. What I hadn’t seen coming was Spike Lee’s 1989 masterpiece, Do The Right Thing

I can remember going to the theater with my Mom to see this movie, after spending a considerable amount of time convincing her that I could handle an R rated film like this one. I can also recall the scene that would change the way I looked at race forever. A stinging montage of vitriol: 

Mookie: You garlic breath, pizza slinging, spaghetti bending, Vic Damone, Perry Como, Luciano Pavarotti, Sole Mio, non-singing motherfucker.

Pino: You gold teeth, gold chain wearing, fried chicken and biscuit eating, monkey, ape, baboon, big thigh, fast running, high jumping, spear chucking, three-hundred-and-sixty-degree basketball dunking, titsun, spade, Moulan Yan. Take your fucking pizza-pizza and go the fuck back to Africa.

Stevie: You little slanty eyed, me-no-speaky-American, own-every-fruit-and-vegetable-stand-in-New-York, bullshit, Reverend Sun Myung Moon, Summer Olympics ‘88, Korean kickboxing son-of-a-bitch.

Officer Long: You Goya bean eating, fifteen-in-a-car, thirty-in-an-apartment, pointed shoes, red wearing, Menudo, meda-meda Puerto Rican cocksucker. Yeah, you!

Sonny: It’s cheap, I got a good price for you, Mayor Koch, how-I’m-doing, chocolate egg cream drinking, bagel and lox, B’nai B’rith Jew asshole.

Mister Señor Love Daddy: Yo! Hold up! Time out! Time out! Y’all take a chill! Ya need to cool that shit out! And that’s the double truth, Ruth! 

I was floored. It was the first time I had realized race in the context of the world that I was inhabiting. That night, my Mother and I talked about race for hours. I asked question after question about her experiences and how she grew up. I wanted to badly to have friends of color after seeing Do The Right Thing, however, we lived in North Conway and that wasn’t in any way possible. It was like having a bucket of ice cold reality dumped on my slumberous existence in northern New Hampshire and I wanted to live in the freezer. Without growing up around people of color, I was so curious about their culture and captivated by what it meant.

In the nineties, I soaked in as much culture as I could; reading the Autobiography of Malcom X, developing a refined taste for musicians like Aretha Franklin and Otis Redding, cheering on players like Red Sox ace pitcher, Pedro Martinez. Still, people of color only existed for me in a detached reality. That changed when I went started school in Fort Lauderdale, Florida as a nineteen year old in 1997. In terms of race, it was like going from zero to a hundred and fifty miles an hour in a Chrysler LeBaron. In the course of one year, I had friends of every kind of race. I had somehow convinced an indescribably beautiful Jamaican girl to be my girlfriend and subsequently had my heart ripped out by her. For the first time, I was eating dishes like, Sancocho, the Dominican stew of the Gods. I got into my first and only fist fight as an adult with an Asian guy, over something that, I honestly can’t remember and lost. I sat in a bathroom with six Black kids and smoked my first blunt. It was then that one of my fellow smokers looked at me me dead in my eyes and said, “Man, you a nigga’.” I can not express the feeling of validation this gave me at the time. Though I never finished my degree in Florida, it had finally given me the perspective and experience I had so desperately yearned for.

Throughout my twenties, I felt the need to grapple with what it meant to be a white person in America. I started to really see my poverty as different than the poverty of those in minority communities. I also started to become interested in race on a global scale. What did it mean in a place like Africa to live in poverty? I had learned from my experience in Florida that, for me, the only way to achieve real perspective was to immerse myself. So I worked hard, saved my money, and traveled to Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania for three months. 

It was life changing in all the ways that a white person talks about trips like these being life changing and at the same time, not at all. I was surprised at how easy it was to be myself in a place like this. Surprised at how few miserable faces I saw. Surely, this poverty was different than any I had ever seen and yet, these folks didn’t look anything like the miserable, fly on the face, Sally Struthers commercials from back home. There were times when I was the only white person around for miles and it felt that way. I wasn’t threatened, but I wasn’t at ease either. I just felt looked at, conspicuous. The way a person of color might feel when they are in a white neighborhood, except even then, I still carried my white privilege around me like a backpack. I was the minority, but the privileged minority and wherever I went, people asked me for money. Even as I tried to remain objective, there was no getting around the idea that race was different here. I was experiencing something new in Africa, not just white privilege, but American privilege.

Today, I am in my mid-thirties and in some ways, feel further away from my five year old self than ever before. My son just started kindergarten and I was struck by something on his first day of school. I looked around at all of the parents proud faces and noticed that ninety-five percent of them were white. It probably would surprise no one that my son’s school is a state of the art facility, for a public building. How has the socio-economic dynamic in America remained unchanged? Why is the unemployment rate so much higher in communities of color? Why have things stagnated? I try to stay humble in the face of such acute societal problems. The more I learn, the more I see direct lines from issues from the past, like slavery, to the issues of today, like minority incarceration rates. I see all of this through the sometimes naive and woefully ignorant eyes of a straight, white, American man, trapped in a straight, white, American man’s body. If society sees my son and I as the part of the problem, then what can we do? Could it possibly be the advice offered by Malcom X to a young white woman who asked what she could do to help his struggle? “Nothing”, he told her.

Since I need to live inside my own reality and help shape another, I will be vigilant and as wise as possible in teaching Miles to love equally and empathetically. I will be there to guide his sails, but not tell him what to feel. More and more each day, I see aspects of my character come to life in my son. Like me, he will have to unpack what it means to be born into privilege, to inhabit a world where racism exists. I will answer his questions, understand his mistakes, and expose him to as much of the world as I can. I will make an effort to give him the gift of perspective, because I know now what it has meant to me. Raising him is a profound, significant responsibility and oftentimes, I am reminded that I am learning as much today as I was when I was five. Contrary to what my boy may believe, I don’t have it all figured out. I listen intently to the stories I hear from people of color, question and analyze my internalization and observation of racial culture, and take Miles along for the ride. This is the way that I fight for a better future. This is how I hope that the imposing wall of racism is being slowly, painstakingly chipped away. I pray that my son will take a place on that wall next to me and someday, continue to break more of it down, long after I have put down my chisel.

David Brooks Is A Pimp

Just want to remind everyone, I got my picture with David Brooks. 

In 1980, about 30 percent of Americans received some form of government benefits. Today, as Nicholas Eberstadt of the American Enterprise Institute has pointed out, about 49 percent do.

In 1960, government transfers to individuals totaled $24 billion. By 2010, that total was 100 times as large. Even after adjusting for inflation, entitlement transfers to individuals have grown by more than 700 percent over the last 50 years. This spending surge, Eberstadt notes, has increased faster under Republican administrations than Democratic ones.

There are sensible conclusions to be drawn from these facts. You could say that the entitlement state is growing at an unsustainable rate and will bankrupt the country. You could also say that America is spending way too much on health care for the elderly and way too little on young families and investments in the future.

But these are not the sensible arguments that Mitt Romney made at a fund-raiser earlier this year. Romney, who criticizes President Obama for dividing the nation, divided the nation into two groups: the makers and the moochers. Forty-seven percent of the country, he said, are people “who are dependent upon government, who believe they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to take care of them, who believe they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you name it.”

This comment suggests a few things. First, it suggests that he really doesn’t know much about the country he inhabits. Who are these freeloaders? Is it the Iraq war veteran who goes to the V.A.? Is it the student getting a loan to go to college? Is it the retiree on Social Security or Medicare?

It suggests that Romney doesn’t know much about the culture of America. Yes, the entitlement state has expanded, but America remains one of the hardest-working nations on earth. Americans work longer hours than just about anyone else. Americans believe in work more than almost any other people. Ninety-two percent say that hard work is the key to success, according to a 2009 Pew Research Survey.

It says that Romney doesn’t know much about the political culture. Americans haven’t become childlike worshipers of big government. On the contrary, trust in government has declined. The number of people who think government spending promotes social mobility has fallen.

The people who receive the disproportionate share of government spending are not big-government lovers. They are Republicans. They are senior citizens. They are white men with high school degrees. As Bill Galston of the Brookings Institution has noted, the people who have benefited from the entitlements explosion are middle-class workers, more so than the dependent poor.

Romney’s comments also reveal that he has lost any sense of the social compact. In 1987, during Ronald Reagan’s second term, 62 percent of Republicans believed that the government has a responsibility to help those who can’t help themselves. Now, according to the Pew Research Center, only 40 percent of Republicans believe that.

The Republican Party, and apparently Mitt Romney, too, has shifted over toward a much more hyperindividualistic and atomistic social view — from the Reaganesque language of common citizenship to the libertarian language of makers and takers. There’s no way the country will trust the Republican Party to reform the welfare state if that party doesn’t have a basic commitment to provide a safety net for those who suffer for no fault of their own.

The final thing the comment suggests is that Romney knows nothing about ambition and motivation. The formula he sketches is this: People who are forced to make it on their own have drive. People who receive benefits have dependency.

But, of course, no middle-class parent acts as if this is true. Middle-class parents don’t deprive their children of benefits so they can learn to struggle on their own. They shower benefits on their children to give them more opportunities — so they can play travel sports, go on foreign trips and develop more skills.

People are motivated when they feel competent. They are motivated when they have more opportunities. Ambition is fired by possibility, not by deprivation, as a tour through the world’s poorest regions makes clear.

Sure, there are some government programs that cultivate patterns of dependency in some people. I’d put federal disability payments and unemployment insurance in this category. But, as a description of America today, Romney’s comment is a country-club fantasy. It’s what self-satisfied millionaires say to each other. It reinforces every negative view people have about Romney.

Personally, I think he’s a kind, decent man who says stupid things because he is pretending to be something he is not — some sort of cartoonish government-hater. But it scarcely matters. He’s running a depressingly inept presidential campaign. Mr. Romney, your entitlement reform ideas are essential, but when will the incompetence stop?