Saturday, February 14, 2009

The cost of homeownership

In response to Mr. Andrea Mitchell's reference to the "unquestioned value" of promoting homeownership, Atrios pretty much sums up the way I feel about the issue:

I have nothing against homeownership, but it isn't right for everyone. Obviously it isn't right for people who can't afford their mortgages after the teaser rate expires. It isn't right for people who need more geographic mobility due to the nature of their jobs or other reasons. It isn't right for people who don't want to invest time in being the "super" of their own building; houses require significant upkeep to main a roughly constant level of quality.
Look, I spent the first 18 years of my life in a home that my mother now owns outright. And though she might disagree, I think I spent enough time mowing the yard, watering the lawn and cleaning out the garage to complain about the difficulty in keeping up a house.

And to think: I never even paid insurance, property taxes or community fees. Not to mention the repairs needed for glass windows I broke in our garage door, or to replace the mailbox when our neighbor repeatedly drove over it in his monster pickup, or to fix the roof after another one of Houston's summer tsunamis.

To be frank, the First Lady and I disagree on the importance of owning a home. I don't disagree enough that I won't eventually relent and start pumping a hefty percentage of my paycheck into four or five-bedroom home on an overpriced piece of land someday. I understand that there's some benefit to being the "super" of your own building. But make no mistake: I see home ownership, in many ways, as a great financial boondoggle.

There's just as many drawbacks: it's a hefty anchor for people in professions that value mobility, the upkeep of a home can be extremely costly, and home owners really have limited influence on the value of their property given that neighborhoods can change dramatically within a span of 10 years. My old childhood neighborhood is a perfect example of this.

Eh. I should stop. It is Valentine's Day, after all. But you all know what I'm saying ...

Also, keep in mind: I'm a guy who has lived in five cities in the past eight years. In many ways, I'm a believer in the adage that "roots are for vegetables" and have little interest in the "profound romance in seeing nothing and going nowhere."

Here's a few folks, even smarter than me (believe it or not!), making the case against homeownership here and here and here.
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Plan DD?

Since I once - stupidly - explained what a lap dance sometimes involves to the First Lady, I doubt that I'll ever make a career power move like Michael Precker:

A graduate of Columbia Journalism School, he was a foreign correspondent for 11 years in the Middle East and wrote feature articles on countless subjects for the Dallas Morning News. One year, the paper nominated him for a Pulitzer Prize.

Now he has a new job: running a strip club. "I feel lucky," he says.

Once, in my younger days as a cub journalist in Dallas, I was a patron at the very club that Mr. Precker now manages. It was for a friend's bachelor party. Without being too lecherous or disrespectful about it, he is dead-on about being lucky. Continue Reading »

Friday, February 13, 2009

Oh no, I won't turn tha other cheek

Since it's Black History Month and I'm in store for a busy afternoon at work, I thought that I'd post a video of my favorite Tupac song (yeah, I'll admit that's a tenuous link).

This was back in the days before he found refuge with Suge Knight and Death Row Records. Mostly due to an upbringing by a former Black Panther, Tupac was much more interested in social issues in the early stages of his musical career.

I can only wonder how different Tupac's life might've turned out had he never been robbed and shot outside of that New York recording studio - his first flirtation with bullets and death. Like Biggie, Tupac's life was a candle that burned out much too soon:

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Celebrating Culture

Said a rep for the owners of a grocery chain that put collard greens, ham hocks, peanut butter and chicken on sale as part of the following Black History Month promotion:

I'm sorta "meh" about all of it. This is nothing that I'm going to get all worked up about - I can excuse clumsiness in this post-racial America. And what's more, I actually like fried chicken and collard greens. Watermelon, too.

Hawaiian Punch Cake? Can't say that I've ever heard of it. But I'd like to wash all of this down with some grape drink and St. Ides:

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Thursday, February 12, 2009

Colored folks and colas

Apropos of nothing really ...

Since this is Black History Month and all, can someone explain to me why an older generation of black folks seemed to universally prefer Pepsi over Coca-Cola?

I seem to remember my great-grandmother, who ran a small bar in Kerrville, Texas, stocking her coolers and vending machines with Pepsi. If there was a Coke to be found, I had to run down the street to get it from the corner store.

Which also makes me think of Kool Cups. Mmmm.

Anyway, if I'm right about this, seems like Coca-Cola has been making serious moves to make it up to teh negroes.

Pardon this really peculiar interruption. Continue Reading »

Me? Social Conservative?

Not really.

But I'm much more inclined to side with Ross Douthat than Ta-Nehisi Coates in this respectful debate about the relative importance of the nuclear family model and protecting the public good. Pardon me if I've covered this ground before.

First, TNC:

As much as I can recall, there were basically three reasons for us to get married. 1.) I might leave. Marriage would force me to do the right thing. 2.) To declare our commitment to each other before a community of people whom we loved. 3.) The business reasons--the legalities of your estate and guardianship. I found--and still find--the first two reasons were utterly unconvincing. The third held some sway, but with the help of a lawyer we've managed to take care of that. The first turned marriage into a kind of insurance policy, and I just believed that if you felt you needed insurance for the person you were having kids by to stick out, you needed to reconsider the whole proposition. The commitment and community reason held some appeal. But I believed, and still believe, that long-term romantic partnerships are between the two people entering into it.

I hated the idea of public declarations, because the life blood of the relationship--what bills to pay, how to raise your child, your love life--all of that happened when no one else was around.

Now for Ross:

Yes, the best relationships shouldn't need institutional hedges against infidelity and/or abandonment. But an awful lot of relationships worth fighting for do end up benefiting from being hedged around with institutional supports - because life is long, people are complicated, and you don't always know when you're starting out what you'll need to reach the end of the road together. Yes, relationships are about the two people involved far more than they're about anybody else. But that doesn't mean that they aren't also about the community, particularly when kids are involved. The private is central and essential, but it still spills over into the public; your relationship is about you and your partner, but it's also, inevitably, about your friends and neighbors as well.

And these two points go hand in hand. When people don't do the right thing, whether by their partner or more importantly by their kids, it's by definition a problem for the community, because it's the community that's left to pick up the pieces. Which is why it makes sense for your community to ask you for a public commitment when you set out to rear a family, whether you think that you and the mother/father of your child needs such a thing or not. You may be sure that you're in the kind of relationship that won't benefit from an institutional commitment, but the community doesn't know that: It just knows that in the aggregate, public commitments tend to be stronger than private ones - and thus better for parents, for children, and for society writ large. So a community that asks for public commitments isn't disrespecting your potential exceptionalism; it's just asking you to respect the aggregate, and to set an example for the people who might not be as exceptional as you.

... most people aren't exceptional. ... And that's why norms matter, why institutions matter - and sometimes why stigmas matter as well.

Ross is right: in the aggregate, marriage is better for kids than single parenthood; better for men and women than long-term cohabitation; and better in a general sense as far as health, finances and general social well-being.

No doubt, I think people should do what they feel - especially in the privacy of their own homes and bedrooms - as long as their pursuit of freedom, love and happiness doesn't in any way infringe upon mine. And that's where this issue gets tricky.

Individual breakdowns in social norms may not pose much hazard or stress for you, yours and your exceptional situation but, on a macro level, that will cause trouble in most other neighborhoods. We know that broken families and their offspring generally make up the bottom strata of most socioeconomic indicators.

We also know that life generally does not unfold according to plan: loved ones stray, condoms break, promises of a lifetime of companionship are broken. The nuclear family should not be a mandate but more of a goal.

People should feel free to be a great single mom or a responsible father with weekend visitation rights or to make private promises rather than public declarations to their bethroed. I wouldn't want to take that right away. I wouldn't even bother with judging you - I've got a lot of life yet to live, you know?

But most importantly, I don't have a problem with public declarations. And if we're to ensure that those whom aren't so exceptional don't leave it to those whom are exceptional to pick up the pieces, we need some sort of social construct to assure that private failings don't become public problems.

Ross can close it out:
When people don't do the right thing, whether by their partner or more importantly by their kids, it's by definition a problem for the community, because it's the community that's left to pick up the pieces. Which is why it makes sense for your community to ask you for a public commitment when you set out to rear a family, whether you think that you and the mother/father of your child needs such a thing or not.
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Everyone Loves Lache

I know I've been very sportsy over the past couple of days but I'm in serious denial about the end of football season. Please bear with me through this post.

Anyhow, I just had to share this YouTube video of delightfully named Lache (pronounced like Lake) Seastrunk, a high school running back from the Central Texas town of Temple. This kid might be the best runner out of Texas since Adrian Peterson, aka Purple Jesus.

I'd love it if he'd put on another 15 or so pounds. As long as Lache doesn't lose his speed and sweet feet. Check out the clips (the producers could have done a little better - ok, a lot better - with the musical selections):

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Wednesday, February 11, 2009

(Used to) bang like T-Mac

When Hakeem Olajuwon was traded to Toronto in 2001, he also took along most of my rooting interest in the Houston Rockets. I guess I had outgrown the relationship.

But from time to time, I still feel those old sparks for my ol' hometown five.

I was taken back to that special time after I saw the sad spectacle of Tracy McGrady missing an open-court dunk the other night. T-Mac has struggled with injuries almost every year in Houston, and at 29, he's got more mileage on his odometer than most players his age.

So, in the first clip, I want to take out time to remember better days for one of the best dunkers to ever make his home off Highway 59. In the other clip, I'll have to honor the memory of the top dunker in Rocket history - Stevie Franchise.

T-Mac Note: I think this dunk might have ended Bradley's career.

Stevie Note: In my younger and dumber days, I honestly tried to argue that Steve was the best pg in the league. Even over Jason Kidd. That's what being a hardcore fan will do to you. Continue Reading »

Ok. This is it. For real.

I just saw a link to this new video a few minutes ago. Maybe this makes me a cornball, but I'm a big fan of Musiq Soulchild. I just can't help the way I feel:

Continue Reading »

This is it (what?)

I'm off on some professional development shyt at the Mothership, so posting will probably be light today. As always, I'll be back with a bundle of links and hopefully some improved writing skillz.

If you've got any ideas for "Not Fulfilling the Dream," some links of interest, suggestions for my iPod or some thoughts, please e-mail them to or get at me in the comments section.

Until then:

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Lincoln Revisited

I can't wait to see this upcoming PBS documentary from Henry Louis Gates Jr. I've entered this into the DVR already:

The two-hour documentary arrives on the bicentennial of Lincoln's birth and after the election of the nation's first African American president, an Illinoisan who was sworn in on the Bible Lincoln used, was elected to the same U.S. Senate seat and has professed his admiration for Lincoln as a role model.

Yet few if any journalists have questioned Obama about the irony of his exaltation of a man who believed that African Americans were inferior, told "darky" jokes, used the "N" word, and for a time, believed blacks should be shipped to Africa in a colonization project. Not even Gates.

That contradiction — between the Lincoln of myth and the Lincoln as a man of his time, particularly on race — provides the centerpiece of Gates' documentary.

There was lots of talk about Obama's "team of rivals" in the days after the election. I'm not sure, nor do I really care if that meme really played itself out in the nomination process. Mostly, the Obama administration will be judged on what it does - or doesn't do - for the country.

But since we're in the midst of Black History Month and all, I genuinely like the idea of revisiting this idea of Lincoln as the "patron saint of race relations." Or the Great Emancipator, if you will. This holds a lot more interest, to me, than ad nauseam review of slaves, peanuts and the "I Have a Dream" speech.

For instance, this wasn't one of the Lincoln speech excerpts we were taught in any February that I was in school:
“I will say, then, that I am not, nor ever have been, in favor of bringing about in any way the social and political equality of the white and black races—that I am not, nor ever have been, in favor of making voters or jurors of Negroes, nor of qualifying them to hold office, nor to intermarry with white people; and I will say in addition to this, that there is a physical difference between the white and black races which I believe will forever forbid the two races living together on terms of social and political equality. And inasmuch as they cannot so live, while they do remain together there must be the position of superior and inferior, and I, as much as any other man, am in favor of having the superior position assigned to the white race.”

Needless to say, there's a lot more to the man than a childhood spent in a one-room log cabin, those debates against Stephen A. Douglas or the Gettysburg Address.

Not to mention, I thought Gates did some great work with his "African American Lives" series of documentaries. Really, how can you not appreciate a dude who was a court witness on behalf of 2 Live Crew?

Check your local listings.

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Shawty Say

Uh, did anyone else notice that Lil' Wayne was on "Around the Horn" yesterday?

Given his answers to some of the questions, I've got to think Tony Reali's scoring system was a tad off.

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Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Oh, all the places we won't go

Since I neither own a home nor feel all that wedded to my current career, I find myself initiating a lot of conversations with the First Lady about cities where we might want to live in the future.

Tampa is a fine place to live. I love the beaches, the weather, the culture, some of the people. But unlike many folks who come to the Bay Area, I don't see myself retiring here.

But as easy as I can tell you where I might want to live, I have a much tougher time writing certain places off of my list. Fortunately, Forbes has tried to help out with a list of the 10 most "miserable" metro areas in the country. They ranked the metros on nine factors: commute times, corruption, pro sports teams, Superfund sites, taxes (both income and sales), unemployment, violent crime and weather.

Must say, I was surprised to see Chicago and Miami make the list. Can't say the same for Memphis, Cleveland, Detroit and Buffalo.

Given previous experience and that sort of feedback, I'm not so certain that I could live many places north of Washington, D.C., unless it was the Pacific Northwest. Those winters, the cost of living and the overall bleakness just scare me. Continue Reading »

Monday, February 9, 2009

Brief thought about the Obama presser

It's nice having a president who doesn't require a series of scripted softballs to muddle through a press conference. After the past eight years, I'd almost forgotten what it was like to have an honest-to-goodness policy wonk and high-functioning scholar in the White House.

But I was a little more skeptical of this line, near the end: "I think over time people will respond to civility and rational argument."

President Obama is talking, of course, about a political party headed up by a guy who tried to argue - without a hint of guile - that teachers, cops, firefighters and postal workers don't really have jobs.

Eh. I suppose that's why he calls it the audacity of hope. Continue Reading »

Deep thought

If I thought someone had given me herpes, I'd be pretty pissed off too. Continue Reading »

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Nobody could have ever predicted

Oh noes!

In 2003, when he won the American League home run title and the AL Most Valuable Player award as a shortstop for the Texas Rangers, Alex Rodriguez tested positive for two anabolic steroids, four sources have independently told Sports Illustrated.
At a certain point, I hope we all become numb to these sorts of stories. Maybe this isn't the popular or right thing to say, but I think someday we'll all feel silly for having such antiquated ideas about performance-enhancing drugs.

Also, at this rate, it'll be a shock when we hear about professional athletes who weren't trying to gain an edge in this way. Not to be irresponsible here or anything, but I've always believed a solid 50 to 75 percent of pros use PEDs. And I think football definitely has more "users" than baseball.

As for A-Rod, even this guy wasn't surprised when he heard the news yesterday:

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