01/27/14

Where I’m From

It’s sort of a joke among friends that I claim everywhere as my hometown.

So, I’m originally from Detroit. Well, actually I was born at the University of Michigan hospital in Ann Arbor. But, we lived in Pontiac. For four whole years. So, I’m really from Pontiac. But, I claim all three. And, I’ve seen 8 mile. And, I’m 1/16 Dodge Charger. On my mom’s side. So, all of Michigan. But, I’m pretty clearly Motor City.

But, I’m also from D.C. Actually, Northern Virginia. Or more specifically Burke, VA, in Fairfax County. But, I worked downtown two summers and went on a lot of field trips to see the triceratops on the mall. And, I vote fairly regularly. So, I’m pretty Georgetown. But, my grandparents retired to Harrisonburg, and I’ve been to the Luray Caverns. So, all of VA, basically.

I lived 8 weeks between the East Village and the Upper West Side. Plus, I saw Do the Right Thing. And, I love falafel. So, I’m NYC for sure. But, technically all white people are from NYC.

And, I’m from Charlotte.

And, Charleston.

My parents retired to Knoxville. Err, maybe not Tennessee.

But, my dad was born and raised in Alabama. So, Roll Tide. Or, I guess War Eagle. Or whatever.

And, my grandmother was born and raised in Greenville, SC. Where I live now. And, I eat boiled peanuts and cheer for something called a “gamecock.” So I’m basically deep south native.

When really pressed, I confess that I’m from the “Baltimore/Washington Metro area.” People know that place, right? Plus, it sounds way hip hop.

This gets the biggest eye roll from my wife and a quick, “You’re not from Baltimore or Washington.”

And, she’s right.

I’m from Columbia.

Maryland.

My last year of elementary school. Middle School. High School. First girlfriend. First Kiss. Learned to drive. Wore some rayon shirts. Played some ball. Made some friends. Wrote my first rap.

Columbia was part of the “New Town” movement of the seventies. It’s a planned community that prioritizes neighborhood autonomy and socio-economic integration through graduated housing and preservation of green space. And boredom. That’s not true. Columbia was amazing. In the belief of its founder, Jim Rouse, private developers “could plan and build an environment that nurtured the growth of people.” Pretty ambitious.

And, its neighborhoods sort of spoked around this hub called the Town Center, which featured a . . . get ready for it . . . mall.

But, don’t laugh. Malls were super cool in the eighties and all my best memories are from this one. It had giant glass pyramids coming out of the roof and a Spencers and Britches Great Outdoors and this hobby store upstairs that had one book of baseball cards that I checked every. single. week.

Unfortunately, this same mall was featured prominently this past weekend in national news when three individuals were fatally shot there. And, for better or worse this might be the last time my “hometown” makes any kind of significant news to cover here. And, so I’ve pretty unsympathetically bootstrapped my entire life’s story with it.

My deepest condolences to the families. I’ve tread the gun control issue before and won’t again. But, we clearly have a problem, whether or not it’s one that can ever be sensibly fixed.

Just like all hometowns, Columbia had its good and bad. In some ways it accomplished the diversity it promised and in other ways it was just more of the same.

But, Columbia reminds that for all our good intentions and smart design, you can’t demand community. Or good will. Or real understanding. You can’t make people like each other. Or promise never to shoot.

There are some things you just can’t plan.

Performed by theipoetlaureate. Music produced by Dalama Jones.

Today’s blong here:

01/31/13

Como say huh?

So the bipartisan Gang of 8 has proposed an immigration bill that would provide a “pathway to citizenship,” as they say, for many undocumented workers already in the country. To the extent it has some Republican support in the Senate, this represents a kind of reverse course. The November election, among other lessons, has conservatives revisiting their immigration views, in tone, at least, if not in substance. But, the gesture might not be as altruistic as it seems.

An interesting Congressional Weekly article discusses the boon, to the economy, alien legitimization might bring. A similar 1986 immigration act had the effect of raising wages of formerly undocumented workers by 15.1 percent. The Cato Institute has speculated that this present bill might add as much as $1.5 trillion to the gross domestic product over 10 years. But, critically, the article didn’t speculate as to whom specifically such benefits might actually inure — previously undocumented workers or the country as a whole.

So, does anyone recall why Emelio built you a fire pit last fall and not, let’s say, Jimbo Jones?

Anybody?

Nope, it wasn’t his outgoing personality.

Anyone else?

No, I don’t believe you preferred his automated help desk.

Another?

Good thought but I don’t think hair product was dispositive.

What did you say? Speak up.

You say he was roughly 20% cheaper than Jimbo? Huh. Interesting.

[As an aside, my wife and I lived next to an actual Jimbo Jones during law school. Every time you tried to pet his terrier it would unexpectedly choke up a mouthful of pine cone apparently having been lodged in its throat for hours.]

All things being equal — with respect to cost and quality, I suspect that most people are picking the guy who looks like them and who employs a language whose grammar rules recommend placing the modifier in front of the object not the other way around. “A plane of the air!” Not racism just sort of human.

So, what is actually being lauded about the new bill, in the prospect of higher wages, might not ultimately benefit these newly legitimized workers. It would seem that if wages of these laborers equalize with the wages of those already in the marketplace it will just make for a more crowded marketplace. And, as already implied, non-English speaking laborers may not continue to be the workers of choice, once all else is equal. Moreover, and I’m not any kind of economics anything, but it seems that this likely glut of new workers will drive down, generally, the market value of wages for all such workers in any particular industry. I think that’s just called supply and demand.

So, there are a couple of possible outcomes when they make Emelio “official” and the price for the services he traditionally rendered goes up.

1. Less fire pits are going to be built, overall.

2. Less fire pits are going to be built by freshly legitimized Emelio but more by Jimbo Jones.

3. Less fire pits are going to be built by legitimized Emelio but more by Estevez, Emelio’s, let’s just say, “less legitimized” nephew newly over from the motherland.

See a pattern? No Emelio.

So, ironically, this “pathway to citizenship” is really a kind of primrose one. I’m not accusing anybody, but in a sense, certain Republicans could be seen as co-opting undocumented workers in this move. Illegal aliens presently get the work because they benefit from less overhead — no taxes or labor laws. Their cost of doing business is less. Legitimization, however, would get them all on the grid, so to speak, especially their wages.

There are a lot of reasons to provide opportunities for amnesty and legitimization to so many of the individuals who have come to our country, including moral, political, and, yes, financial ones. It certainly might be a boon to our economy.

Just maybe not theirs.

victor cruz

Performed by ipoetlaureate. Music produced by Sundance.

Today’s blong here:

Victor Cruz

DOUBLE BLONG DAY! I’ve reposted Outskirters, below, from off my last full length record, Prince With a Thousand Enemies, which is loosely themed on Richard Adams’ literary classic, Watership Down. The song, itself, concerns our mounting attitudes and hostilities towards immigration in this country and the hispanic community in general. So, I thought I’d pull it out for an encore. The album and song can be purchased here or on itunes. Actually, I meant to say should be bought at one of those two places.

Outskirters

12/15/12

Connecticut

Because we see our kids in yours.

For all your loss and pain, we are so very, sorry.

To the clever and compassionate administrators and teachers that educate and protect our children every day, often under difficult financial and political constraints, our deepest gratitude.

UPDATE: Apparently, Westboro Church plans to protest a Sandy Hook vigil. I’ve spoken my peace before.

Performed by ipoetlaureate. Music produced by djclutch.

Today’s song blog here:

Home Room

05/8/12

For and Against Part Deux

North Carolina voted today to approve a constitutional amendment that would essentially prohibit same-sex unions of whatever name or design. The amendment reads: “Marriage between one man and one woman is the only domestic legal union that shall be valid or recognized in this State.” The language will effectively bar the state from giving legal recognition to civil unions between same-sex couples and likely has some far-reaching and even unintended consequences for families and children right now.

I don’t think I can say it any more diplomatically than I did when NY passed its same-sex legislation last June. So, I’ll self-plagerize and recycle the blong from that entry.

My audience is compromised of people who have deeply held convictions about this issue on both sides. And, many probably think they know my view. For personal and professional reasons, I am largely private about it.

Suffice it to say, I am for personal responsibility before God.

I am for self-determination in life and love.

And, I am for liberty in a pluralistic democracy.

Where these are found, I’m for it.

I am against bad and abusive relation.

I am against neglectful parents.

I am against failing our commitments.

Where these are found, I’m discouraged.

Many people believe that legal constraints, like the NC amendment, will preserve the sanctity of our traditional and heterosexual marriage. But, they are confused. Our modern marriage is already sick and soulless.

Let us all be for vibrant, committed, and God-fearing marriage.

Performed by ipoet. Music produced by Gudo.

Today’s song blog here:

A Little Less Somehow

04/16/12

A Cheeseburger in Paradise

Wait. Not the same Buffett?

Don’t lie. You thought that the “Buffett Rule” had something to do with prohibitions against trips to Margaritaville or otherwise getting drunk and turning repeatedly. Didn’t you? And, some, hopefully smaller, percentage of you thought it was a ban on one of any of the various forms of acquiring food along an alloy rail of successive vats of gelatinous food product. (Honestly, I thought it was a pro-shoeshine lobby. One too many? I know.)

So Obama has been stumping for the Buffett Rule, named for billionaire Warren Buffett. In short, the proposed legislation would set a minimum requirement that anyone who makes over 1 million dollars would be required to pay taxes at a minimum 30% tax rate. The Senate rejected the proposed legislation today.

I’m not an economist. I’m not even the dopest economics-conversant rapper, unfortunately. In fact, it could safely be said that rap has produced the most inexhaustible and salient library of songs touting our economic model at work the world has ever known. For its ubiquity, think C.R.E.A.M by Wu-Tang; for issues of the glass ceiling and gender equality, think Golddigger by Kanye; for monetary policy, think In Money We Trust by Bun B; for wage and hour policy, think Paid in Full by Eric B. and Rakim; for venture capital and hedge fund management, think Dead Presidents by Jay-Z; um, and, of course, for retail and marketing, consult The Ten Crack Commandments by the Notorious B.I.G. Keynes and Smith are turning their coffins into a from-the-beyond-kaleidoscope for the number of times this blong has made them roll over.

As usual, but maybe today more than ever, this site should not be the last word on the subject of the Buffet Rule in your life. In truth, it probably shouldn’t be the first or any of the interim words either. But, I think this is worth noting.

When we think about the “rich” evading taxes, we imagine a carnival of clever accountant clowns tandem-bike riding stacks of cash through a fiery loophole. As well we should. But, much of the perceived “evasion” enjoyed by the rich is actually a function of how they make their money rather than some sort of unknowable trickery. When rich people get a paycheck, that money, certainly at the marginal dollars, is actually taxed at a much higher rate than most of the income made by people reading this blog (except of course, for you Mr. Billy Gates! My man.) (You probably hear the term “marginal dollar” or “marginal tax rate” all the time without explanation. Most people’s money is not taxed uniformly. For example, and just to make it easy, let’s say $10 is a LOT of money in our hypothetical news rap economy. And, trust me, it is. The first 4 dollars might be taxed at 20%. The next $3 at 30%. The next $2 at 40% and the last dollar at 50%. That last dollar is your marginal dollar and 50% is your marginal rate.) But, rich people make MOST or at least a LOT of their money from interest and dividends and income made off of capital assets, like stocks and bonds. Some of that taxable income is called a “capital gain.” Because it is generated from money that has already been taxed once, i.e. your paycheck, the capital gain tax rate is lower than the regularly applicable rate. So millions of dollars of income for the wealthy are often taxed at this lower rate. I don’t think I’ve ever been out so far on a limb of ignorance. To my HBS friends, please, please show grace.

Anyway, like everything, there are two sides. Our current and graduated tax system recognizes a type of fairness that says people with little discretionary income, should not be taxed comparably to those who have a lot of it. The Buffet Rule is an extension of that idea. It effectively raises the capital gains tax for certain people and not others. At the same time, we understand that the wealthy in our country fuel the economy that gives the rest of us jobs and wealth. Their capital gains make our Capital gain. Of course, this is also all kind of political. And, in the ideological exchange, you can imagine that there are hopes for just good ol’ fashioned (U.S.) Capitol gains as well.

So, choose sides wisely, Blongorians (just coined that). Because, “I spent four lonely days in a brown L.A. haze and I just want you back by my siiiiiide!” Wait, that didn’t make any sense at all.

Performed by ipoetlaureate. Music produced by pumpknFoot.

Today’s song blog here:

The Capitol Gains

11/7/11

Allegedly,

Wow. This was nearly a new record. I sat down at my computer at 8:09 pm without a topic for today’s blong. Finished recording at 9:25 pm. My previous best had been High Alert Pt. 1, which I completed in roughly an hour, prior to trick-or-treating and then jumping on a plane. Today’s song was a little more involved and, for that, it felt a more impressive feat. I’m not sure that the writing and recording were not completed in comparable time. Some conceptualizing presaged that, of course. Regardless, either song will be hard to top in terms of efficiency. Like DiMaggio’s 56.

Anyway, even by America’s lurid and distractible standards, there are presently swirling a startling number of salacious allegations in the news. Justin Bieber. Herman Cain. Michael Jackson’s doctor, Conrad Murray. And, the most heinous, those levied by Hillary Adams and those against Jerry Sandusky, former assistant football coach at Penn State. The feeling I can never escape is the sort of collective guilt we all share in these terrible incidents. Although particular individuals bear the charge of any specific set of allegations against them, and rightfully so, there is this sense that all of humanity is indicted. Please don’t mistake the whimsy and snide in today’s song for some sort of flippancy or disdain for the accusser or their allegations. Quite the opposite. But, there is a kind of loopiness to it all to hear so much terrible accusation made at once, allegedly.

“Allegedly” is a quintessentially American word. It’s the last remnant of a disguise we use to publicly maintain our value that all are innocent until proven otherwise while privately assuming everybody’s guilt.

Performed by ipoet. Music produced by pumpkinFoot.

Today’s song blog here:

It Was You

10/19/11

BREAKING NEWS: An Occupy Wall Street EXCLUSIVE

The ipoet laureate has been given exclusive access to the previously mysterious demands of the Occupy Wall Street protests.

The OWS community has asked that the demands be read rhythmically to the following pumpkinFoot musical accompaniment. Weird, I know.

The List:

Bad Guy

09/10/11

CMXI

To me it was really difficult not to say something obvious and banal. All of the sentiments have been run. I thought about just telling my own story. Everyone has one, and sharing yours is quintessentially a part of the moment. I thought about trying to honor the major events and personalities of the last decade. But, that seemed too clinical. Everyone wants to somehow reflect afresh the sentiment and the pain and the loss. But you just can’t. Personal grief can’t be mediated well and observed grief is sort of condescending.

As I considered all the possibilities, I was desperate most of all to identify some unified theory on the matter. What is the particle that connects us in this tragedy, the enemy and the ally, the terrorist and the captive, the soldier and the civilian, the muslim and the Christian, the democrat and the republican, the martyred and the living, the atheist and the evangelical, NYC and PA and the Pentagon and the rest of us, the world and the United States. The sides and the versions and the moralities are too many and too nuanced and too at odds to be made to fit. And, then I thought about our moms. We all had moms. However you want to label us, saint or sinner, we all had a mom, if even for just for a moment. We all came from a place of nurture and charity. Of course, to varying degrees, all of us departed that space, some, maybe the 911 hijackers, to a greater extent than others. But, we all were there. In that moment, we were at our most similar. Possibly even at a near likeness.

I also wanted to say something of hope and joy. That, in our daily routine, we can feel alive and keep those fallen in unspeakable tragedy alive in spirit, as well. When we live in righteousness and peace and forgiveness, we honor them and ourselves.

May we all be thankful for what we have today, including country and global community, and let us remember the many heros and villains and loved ones that have blessed and marked this season of human expanse. May God have mercy on us all. This is my worship.

Performed by ipoet. Music produced by dj clutch.

Still Alive

06/25/11

For and Against

Friday evening, the New York legislature passed legislation permitting same-sex marriage. As the sixth state (plus D.C.) to actually allow it, the occasion was an historic one inasmuch as it came under Republican control and required votes from that party.

My audience is compromised of people who have deeply held convictions about this issue on both sides. And, many probably think they know my view. For personal and professional reasons, I am largely private about it.

Suffice it to say, I am for personal responsibility before God.

I am for self-determination in life and love.

And, I am for liberty in a pluralistic democracy.

Where these are found, I’m for it.

I am against bad and abusive relation.

I am against neglectful parents.

I am against failing our commitments.

Where these are found, I’m discouraged.

Many people believe such legal expansion threatens traditional and heterosexual marriage. But, they are confused. Our modern marriage is already sick and soulless.

Let us all be for vibrant, committed, and God-fearing marriage.

Performed by ipoet. Music produced by Gudo.

Today’s song blog here:

A Little Less Somehow