Saturday, January 30, 2010

End of the Week Excursus: Countdown! AND Reelin In The Years, Stowin Away the Time

I suck at blogging. On some levels. I really need to work harder at integrating blog-time into my everyday rigmarole of life. Basically, I need to make sure my End of the Week Excursuses
(Excursi? Maybe? Eh? Any-takers?)

This week, my blogging PIC Abbigail and I have decided to do a top 5 and top ten. In honor of our President's highly, and inarguably, successful first State of the Union Address (followed by subsequent speaking engagements in which he outlined a high-speed rail funding program and then derailed ***pun*** much of the Congressional GOP political tatics) we are outlining our top 5 Acts of Congress to be legislated, passed and signed into law in 2010.

My five are:
1) A (SOME KIND OF) Health Care Reform Act that:
  • ensures the availability of affordable care to all Americans with no regard to income or pre-existing conditions
  • caps insurance costs through some Government regulated mechanism
  • increases quality of care for all patients
2) An Equal Pay Act that outlaws pay discrimination based on gender or sexual orientation. President Obama's first bill signed into law last year was the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which expands the statute of limitations for pay discrimination lawsuits. A great first step, it still is not enough. As we rebuild our economy, we need to ensure that pay is established in non-discriminatory ways. Women will account for well over 50% of the US American workforce in a few years.

3) An Act to End (or at least limit) the Filibuster in the Senate would diminish what has now become a counter-productive political tactic of the minority party. In fact, it has been utilized detrimentally by the Republicans since Obama has taken office. What was once a rule to prevent the majority party from ruling the policymaking business of the Senate has now become a deterrent of ANY party completing ANY policymaking business. In the 1950's filibusters were used once or twice, a practice and pattern that continued through the 1960's. In the 110th Congress, filibusters were projected to reach 153!!!

4) An American Energy Independence and Leadership Act because, well, our earth has been beat up enough by arcane energy sources and systems. The scientific evidence has shown that our current energy practices are environmentally unsustainable, and economic experts has asserted for well over a decade now (and mini energy crises, rolling blackouts, etc. have exhibited) that our practices are economically unsustainable. An act is needed that provides the President and agencies within the Federal government the resources and responsibility to increase our energy independence through establishing and bringing renewable energy sources to scale, while also establishing America as the global leader in efforts for climate change and advanced energy technology research. Our future as a global leader in every other capacity depends on this. (Check this article out:

5) An Act to Establish A Consumer Financial Protection Agency (with an incorporation of a Glass-Steagall inspired provision that separates bank holding companies from financial investment driven subsidiaries or companies). The final piece of the overall discussion on how the U.S. American economy wound up in a position where the same politicos and businessmen that built local and national platforms on the dangers of a Leviathan-inspired Federal government had to go to said Leviathan and ask for a quick, payday style loan is a discussion on regulation and the unnecessary and unsafe gaps that have existed over the past 20 or so years. The CFPA would be a step in the right direction by establishing an agency that informs & educates financial consumers on financial planning, financial risks, and what the two together mean for their financial future.

So those are my top 5 Acts of Congress for 2010. I'm wishing and hoping and one hand, and saving my pennies and nickels in the other hand. It's hard out here for a pimp.


In honor of the beginning of the New Year and the New Decade, we're also doing a top 10 for this month past. Look for these at the end of each month as we re-indulge in the things, people, events, cupcakes, and micro-brews that make each month even better than the last.

Top 10 for the first month of '10

1) New Year's spent as a grown up with my friends at a grown-up party in a grown-up restaurant.
2) Brooklyn Chocolate Stout at Eatonville in Washington, DC. I love stouts, usually dry stouts though, like Guinness. Eatonville changed the game for my beer-buds though, and I'm afraid I'll never be the same again.
3) Anniversary of Obama's Inauguration. I've never loved the world on the whole as much as I did last year leading up to the Inaug. One year later and it still looks pretty damn good.
4) Stickfly. A play I went to see last weekend with a friend of mine. Here's some info on it from the Washington Post. It opened my eyes to a lot of my own internal struggles relating to class, race, education and isolation.
5) New Orlean's Saints vs. Minnesota Vikings. Brett Favre is a phenomenal quarterback, no doubt. He had it coming though. Who dat say dey gonna beat dem Saints?
6) Learning that "Who dat say dey gonna beat dem Saints?" originated from a minstrel show during Vaudeville, but was a portion written by Paul Laurence Dunbar, one of my favorite poets. Dilemma? Oh, yeah.
7) Announcement of the Apple iPad. It's just so beautiful. I have a feeling that this is a tipping point for information and communication technology.
8) Ending the month with a great performance review at work, and getting to make a five-year career plan. This came with the realization that I have a career. A f*cking career?! When did that happen? When in the hell did I grow up...
9) DC Restaurant Week. Oya Restaurant. Great food, great date. Great sushi, great wine. Boss.
10) Obama's State of the Union speech, where he put the Republicans out to be seen for the misleading fear mongers they are, and also pledged a repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell". Both of those actions were long overdue.

Honorable Mention:
Corinne Bailey Rae's "The Sea" including this track, a brilliant and beautiful cover of Jimi Hendrix's "Little Wing"


Friday, January 22, 2010

End of the Week Excursus: Happy 37th Birthday Roe v. Wade...AND...Are We Really Living?

Let me begin with proverbial trumpets and symbolic confetti. This is the official launch of a joint partnership of soulful and insightful expression between me and one of my dedicated friends, fellow Eureka College alumni, compadres, confidantes, roommates, griots of the people’s stories, partners-in crimes, fellow rabble-rouser, and now tandem rogue journalist, Ms. Abbigail Stuaan-Cawley (Check out her blog, Attempted Domestication). Welcome to the End of the Week Excursus.

I am always exhilarated by the energy of Washington, DC. Every day I wake up and watch/listen to the local morning news for “inside the beltway”, I realize that the halls of power are not held up by the physical marble and granite the city’s ornate buildings are constructed with, but instead by the hearts and energies of the people that warrant its existence as a capital city.

Days like today, the 37th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, are those oft-dreamed shooting stars of civic engagement that speak truth to power. The ability to speak truth to power, in these halls of power, by the citizens that vest said power, is the aim of American democracy, and the hope of this American experiment in such a socio-political concept.

Today, I took the afternoon to run a couple of errands near Capitol Hill. I love to visit the lab of the above mentioned experiment. Where political and policy scientists such as myself
(yeah, I said it, check the credentials homies ;) exercise their licenses to apply social science frameworks and approaches to addressing the problems of our society, and developing the solutions that both solve those problems and establish the foundations for the next stage of the experiment, the very future of our nation-state. Roe v. Wade, the monumental '73 Supreme Court case is one of the finest examples of how that democratic experiment can bring together the proper social elements to create a new compound for application in the legal and political labs we all inhabit.

Oh, but what did I find on this Anniversary of that historic lab session. This:

Now, aside from the KKK members that you can find at about....ummm...0:19 into the video, what I found MOST disturbing was the critical mass of young, high-school aged Americans present in the protests. In fact, I am incorrect in referring to it as a critical mass. It was an overwhelming majority. Young, high-school aged Americans such as these:

I am, and have always been a firm supporter of civic engagement, regardless of age, wealth, race, religion, or any other socially constructed and socio-politically empowered symbol that we use to create parameters. Some of my fondest memories include times my mother involved me and my neighborhood friends in protests for better public education in Detroit. While I may not have known very much about the inner workings and political, or policy, dynamics of the issues themselves, what my mother imparted in me and my friends was that we were not protesting against anything as much as we were protesting for many things that would positively impact our lives, our futures and thus the future of the world she inhabited.

The principle of civic engagement by grassroots protesting has long been the hallmark of modern American social movements and, thankfully, remains so today. It is one of the last vestiges of the foundational elements of democracy that remains untarnished today. At first, I was thrilled to see so many young adults engaging this process, and hoped that they too would be impacted as I once was 10-15 years ago, so much so that they would end up where I am now at 25, here enthralled within the halls of power, speaking truth to it at every opportunity, through every medium available. That thrill made me feel very warm, and even smelt like jasmine, pina-coladas and pacific ocean trade-winds. Until the bricks hit me, and I started to smell the bullshit.

That fecal smell was residual of my critical realization that, like their parents, and many Americans under the novocaine of what is quickly becoming a myth of democracy, and mis-guided civic engagement, these young Americans were fighting for something that:

1) isn't an issue worth fighting for
2) is never going to change
3) would never be affected by the halls of power they are seeking to speak truth within
and, most disheartening
4) serves to distract them, at a very early and formidable age, from the true policy issues they should be protesting for

So the questions began to flood through my mind, like rushing waters of that same ocean breeze I smelled earlier. Who convinced these young adults that abortion should be made illegal? Who convinced them that a dedication to life is dependent on an inflexible stance against a woman's right to choose whether she gives birth to a child or not? Who convinced them that the Federal government has any role in legislating the availability of abortions in America, beyond the Supreme Court's precedent setting ruling that a woman's right to have an abortion up until the "point at which the fetus becomes 'viable?'"

Their parents? Their church? Their school?

Furthermore, who has now potentially tarnished a considerable number of those young and impressionable minds by distracting them from the numerous policy issues of the day that will truly affect their future lives as adults? Who has convinced them that abortion (an issues that, again, has already been decided upon by the US Supreme Court, the supreme Federal policy maker/breaker/re-maker) is worth a visit to the capital for protesting more so than last year's bank bailouts (err, excuse me TARP), by the legislative body, or the potential increasing of the federal debt ceiling (again, by the legislative body), when both of these policies would impact their lives and their life options far more than whether a woman has a right to exercise her natural right to determine what she will and will not allow her physical body to endure (or for that matter what kind of economic and social situation she will allow herself to be in as a result of childbirth)? That was a long one, I know. I apologize. Eat it up and let it digest before swimming.

All of these questions, have led to my final pondering. Where I find myself right now. My mental state as a human and as a civically minded and engaged American.

As Janelle Monae said (I always gotta end on a musical note):

Are we really living or just walking dead now?

Go to 2:31 if you want to get straight to the point.

"Day-Dreamers please WAKE UP! We can't sleep no more." They're getting the children. The seed corn. Once the seed corn is gone, there's no harvest for tomorrow.

Happy Birthday Roe v. Wade.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Resolute in my resolve to resolve my revolutions..OR...You've Changed

I haven’t blogged in a few weeks. Not gonna beat myself up about it though. This is a relatively new approach for me in life. Not beating myself up about things, even those things where I fall short, and there are many. Sometimes I am moody, enigmatic, even downright rude and selfish. I can also be highly supportive, a great listener and strike a balance between that listening and providing sound advise on life on a macro and micro- level. Sometimes I change, how I act, and even what I say. At the end of the day though, what you get with me is honesty as best as I can provide based on who and where I am at that given point.

I chalk it up to my having to be so bold and aggressive in life up until this point in order to survive the many gross abuses I suffered from an early age. I remind myself daily that at any given point within the past ten+ years, I could have given up on trying to make life work for me. I could have given up on my pursuit to become exactly who I wanted to become. I didn’t though. I stuck with life, so life has stuck on me. My reward is being who I am, even when who I am is in a constant state of change. This past year, I lost and let go of many friendships. Some were lost to life and its cyclical and recycling nature, some were lost to the winds of change. I can now count all of it all joy, because I needed to thoroughly examine myself and examine the relationships I’ve formed, the value they bring to my life, and the value I bring to them and those I share them with.

So the past few weeks, really since the new year & new decade began, have carried many external and internal lessons on friendship and companionship for me. I have seen people make major sacrifices for true and fallacious companionship, and witnessed my own weaknesses with regards to managing my own friendships and relationships. I came into this new realm of existence with a focus on myself, not realizing that I have been poorly managing many of the key relationships in my life.

1) I thought it safe to let the lines between romantic and platonic relationships remain blurred in certain instances. This was not healthy for me, for the companion, nor for the dynamics of the relationship as a whole. Taken care of as of December 31, 2009. This principle is now simply in a state of application. For the most part. Lord help me. Actually, I’m cool for now. Always gotta have a glitch in the matrix. As long as the glitch is nice and sexy...HAHA.

2) I also thought it safe to mix my multiple circles of friendships without any hands on management by me. I have been blessed with very rich friendships from the many different phases and places life has taken me. Ironically, I think my enigmatic and constant changing nature has led some of my friends (past and present) to note that it’s difficult to really “know” me, but at the same time I end up with very dedicated and loyal friends, from coast-to-coast, and cities, hamlets and small towns in between. For this, I’m very thankful (both the loyalty AND my enigmatic nature). This past summer, a good friend I made here in DC mentioned at a party that he didn’t know very many people that kept connections dating back as far as I did (we were all at a party with friends of mine from junior high school all the way up to my last job which was where he and I met) and could have them all together at one time. It was a moment that I realized how blessed I’ve been to have the love and support of friends at every junction of my life. I loved having so many cherished friends, and my greatest challenge, until this point, was managing to enjoy them all. So it became easiest, so I thought, to bring them all together as often as possible, allowing them to mingle and mix and for me to indulge the ones I’ve grown to love and appreciate thus far in my life.

Hindsight is 20/20 and I was clearly blind in taking this approach. My circles of friends can’t be mixed. The mixing leads to volatile situations, where hearts wind up broken, and people end up envious of my time and how it is spent. Additionally, it sets the stage for one of my greatest fears in life, having unnecessary and unreasonable expectations placed on me without being clearly communicated (even if they were clearly communicated though, the expectations themselves would send me flying away. I can’t help being a bird. I don’t do cages). All these sentiments translate to situations I refuse to deal with as an adult. There’s a point where you just have to grow up.

3) My relationships are still extensions of myself. I am picky about who I spend my time with, and who I let into my world. Primarily because I have never considered relationships a necessity. I can do fine by myself. In fact, I didn’t have very many friends for a really long time. Even when I did have a solid network of friends, most of what I dealt with in my life was in a realm far beyond what they could help me carry. It’s still even strange to me that people would want to be my friend. There’s still a little isolated and ostracized kid inside me that’s a little too peculiar for all the other kids to be comfortable playing with. As an extension of me, they [my relationships] must change as I change. As I grow, they must grow. If they can’t grow, then they must go.

And that last principle, more than anything in my life, is where I’ve probably changed the most. Some time ago, I probably would not have been so resolute in what I was willing to easily sacrifice for my own sanity, and happiness. That day has passed. No one is more important to me than me. I am selfish, and will continue to be. This is not to say that I’ll walk in selfishness. I will always be a loving, caring person. My heart will always bleed for those suffering, whether that suffering is in front of my face or only accessible through a news camera. However, I want to be the best I can be for myself at this point in my life. This requires a strong will for what I want in life, who I want to be and what I want to give and take in life.

It matters not how strait the gate
How charged with punishments the scroll
I am the master of my fate
I am the captain of my soul.

- Invictus, William Ernest Henley

I read some of my old posts from LiveJournal last night. I was specifically looking for a quote from one of Carnegie Mellon’s rooftop gardens. While searching for that I read some of my writing and realized that I am today exactly, EXACTLY who I wanted to be today. The dude from 5 or 6 years ago was in a wilderness, but had a vision of someone who was simply comfortable in his skin. I own this skin, the physical and proverbial forms. I take care of this body, and I choose not to at times. All in all though, I am happy and confident with who I am and where I am going. I’ve changed, for the better, and this is only the beginning. There’s so much more in store for me, so much more for me to become.

Sia has a new album coming out (WOOT WOOT! We LOVE SIA!!!). One of the first singles is “You’ve Changed”. Her voice frames every concept I deal with in life into a way that just fits. We must be soulmates on some level.

Mark, You’ve Changed…For the better…

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Move Your Money!

One of the most significant experiences I've had thus far in my life was my time as a fellow at The Greenlining Institute. Based in the San Francisco Bay Area (Bay Areaaaaaaaaaaa!), Greenlining has become a well-known force in the community reinvestment movement, what I consider the postlude to the Civil Rights Era of the 1960's. Community reinvestment, or "greenlining" is a public policy, and community/leadership development philosophy, in my opinion, that focuses on ensuring resources are invested in communities and micro-economies that will provide the highest yields to the broadest possible spectrum of those communities, particularly historically disenfranchised or "redlined" communities, that now tend to be our nation's lowest income areas.

Today, with the American economy in a historically lull (literally coming off a decade of zero-neted growth, WTF?!), the idea of redlining has grown and taken many different shapes. While we continue to work, toil even, our monies are transferred by the federal government into the hands of the already irresponsibly wealthy, only to have them not reinvest it back into our lives, our dreams, our communities. There are many issues with the way President Bush, President Obama, and the U.S. Congress have responded to the economic crisis. The saddest, and scariest, has been the inability to leverage their "bail-out" of U.S. American commercial banks into liquid funds reinvested by those commercial banks through small business, residential/commercial development and home mortgage loans at realistically competitive rates. Every American taxpayer is being redlined.

So, I'm moving my money! In protest of the poor and irresponsible practices of the past 20 years on the part of the Federal government (through Reagan-era inciting of deregulation and anti-government policies, incuding the repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act, particularly Reg Q) and commercial banks (recklessly seeking higher shareholder profits through "selling" banking and financial products, even at the expense of consumer's financial security), I am moving my money to a community bank.

My mom and I have been discussing the need for strengthening community banks over the past year, primarily since Lehman first started dipping low. This website, and my lover and soulmate Arianna Huffington, inspired me to actually take a step and DO IT, as well as further promote the need for consumers to speak with their money, and MOVE IT! The "too big to fail" banks that are left won't be too big to fail if we take all our money away. At least the money we voluntarily let them hold in accounts and through products such as credit cards.

Along with my own personal fiscal responsibility for this new year and new decade, I am also looking forward to knowing my money will be invested into a community bank that re-invests in the community they are serving and receiving monies from. All the while, growing in a fiscally safe and sound manner. The true aims of banks (Hamilton must be spinning in his grave right now seeing how this system he so intricately crafted has turned out).

BTW, I chose this bank: Burke & Herbert Bank & Trust. Conveniently located and renowned for being safe as a financial institution.


Play me out fellas...Pink Floyd - Money

Grab that cash with both hands and make a stash...
Money, get back. I'm all right Jack, keep your hands off my stack.