Category Archives: Politics

Who is Braddock, PA Mayor John Fetterman?

I interviewed Chef Kevin Sousa recently because he crowdsourced $310,000 to open a restaurant, farm and jobs program in Braddock, PA, a town 0f 2,200 that’s lost more than 90% of its population and buildings.

Sousa has three successful restaurants and a bar in nearby Pittsburgh, but Braddock Mayor John Fetterman helped the restauranteur see opportunities and possibilities in Braddock, even though median income is 77% lower than the state’s average.

For a small-town mayor, Fetterman draws national attention. He speaks plainly about the challenges facing Braddock and projects authenticity.

In our conversation, Chef Sousa shared an anecdote with me that I found, well, startling; I asked if it was OK to share it with a wider audience, and he consented:

“… The final day of our Kickstarter, we were in celebratory mode, it was a huge day for us. It was also -10 degrees in Pittsburgh. He called Equitable Gas, the local gas company — I was in the room — and he said, ‘listen, it’s going to be brutally cold today, and I need to find out if we have any Braddock residents that are on the shutoff list or have currently had their gas shut off.’

He got the list and leveraged the gas company to turn their heat back on though his sheer will of making shit happen. Then, he went to some of these homes and families and got kids and got them warm until their heat was turned back on. This was the same day that this national media blitz is happening, and he says, ‘Kevin, I got something to deal with, come over, and we’ll talk about it, but I got some issues.’

Braddock Mayor John Fetterman

Braddock Mayor John Fetterman (courtesy Town of Braddock)

Nobody prompted him to do that. He did that because that’s the kind of guy he is. You’ll never hear that story.

This guy is for real. I pride myself on the only thing I have to give, because I don’t have a lot of money, is my own integrity. Me and John, we’re cut from the same cloth. I don’t put myself anywhere near him, because he’s just a very, very special person.”

Watch Morgan Spurlock’s documentary,

A Day In The Life: John Fetterman

Leave a comment

Filed under Current Events, Politics

Chapter 5: Megyn Kelly’s “A Christmas Carol”*

Image

Running to the balcony of her Upper West Side co-op, Megyn Kelly threw open the doors and stretched out her soft, manicured hands to warm them in the sun; a lush view of the park; her bare feet warmed by terra-cotta tiles with underfloor heating; the doorman’s cab whistle. Oh, glorious. Glorious!

“What’s to-day?” she cried, calling downward to a homeless man rummaging through a trash barrel.

“Eh?” returned the man, with all his might of wonder.

“What’s to-day, my fine fellow?” said Megyn.

“To-day?” replied the man. “Why, Christmas Day.”

“It’s Christmas Day!” said Megyn to herself. “I haven’t missed it. The Spirits have done it all in one night. They can do anything they like. Of course they can. Of course they can. They’re free-market spirits. Hallo, you filthy beggar!”

“Look, I’m not breaking the law!’’ returned the man. “I don’t want trouble. I’ll just move along.”

“Do you know the Zabar’s, in the next street but one, at the corner?” Megyn inquired.

“They chase me away from their dumpsters all the time,’’ lamented the man.

“An industrious fellow!’’ said Megyn. “A remarkable man! Do you know whether they’ve sold the free-range Diestel Turkey that was hanging up there? Not the little prize Turkey; the big one?”

“What, the one that’s like 12 dollars a pound?’’ returned the man.

“What a delightful man!’’ said Megyn. “It’s a pleasure to talk to him. Yes, you smelly hobo!’’

“It’s still in the window,” replied the man.

“Is it?” said Megyn. “Go and buy it.”

“What, are you high?” answered the homeless man. “It’s Christmas! They’re closed.”

She ran back inside, grabbed her Hermès purse and rushed back to the balcony clutching a black AMEX card.

“No, no,” said Megyn. “ALL service employees now work on major holidays! Go and buy it, and tell ’em to bring it here, Come back with the turkey, and I’ll give you an O’Reilly Factor coffee mug. Come back with it in less than five minutes, and I’ll give you a genuine Fox News slanket!’’

She flicked her ebony AMEX card down into the street; the homeless man fished it out of a filthy snowbank, realizing that her instructions might land him a warm bed at The Tombs. He smiled and waved. “Merry Christmas!”

“I’ll deliver it to a grubby poor family. Brown ones!” whispered Megyn, rubbing her hands, and splitting with a laugh. “They sha’n’t know who sends it. It’s twice the size of Sarah Palin! But, wherever shall I find some deserving poors?”

Closing the balcony doors, Megyn shouted “Consuela!” until the children’s nanny appeared, flushed and out of breath.

“Señora, please: as I’ve said, my name is ‘Maria.’”

“Drop whatever you’re doing and make a list of some poor people you know. You know, real layabouts. And hand me the phone; I need to get a producer and a news van together.”

Megyn was better than her word. She did it all, and infinitely more. Her own heart laughed: and that was quite enough for her.

*with apologies to Charles Dickens, but I like to think he hated hypocrisy and sanctimony as much as I do.

1 Comment

Filed under Current Events, Personal, Politics

I’m Too Sexy for my Keffiyeh

I don’t think of myself as culturally insensitive, but I guess I am. Today’s news reports that that three men from the United Arab Emirates were expelled from a festival in Saudi Arabia.

Apparently, the men shipped home were just too damned good-looking — positively Dionysian. Clerics deemed that these dudes were so sploosh-inducing there was a danger Saudi women “could fall in love with them.” The same reports mentions several grafs down that a woman from the UEA was also traveling with these guys, which isn’t allowed in Saudi Arabia. In that frame, this just could be a reprisal. But it seems like something else as well.

In my bubble of San Francisco, that sounded like an episode of Star Trek in which Kirk unknowingly is forced to survive on a ice planet populated entirely by graduates of Handsome Boy Modeling School. It also made feel like Saudi Arabia is stuck in the past, much to its own detriment.

Is there a room at King Fahd Airport where someone decides the ratio of pug fugly to askoutable men passing through Immigration? Maybe’s there dark room with a panel of women watching monitors through their hijabs, pressing red buttons when they see a man whose kiss could be on their lips when they turn our the light. I’m also curious who’s on the list, naturally.

Channing Tatum? Bradley Cooper? Going on principle, anyone who’d ever been named People Magazine’s Sexiest Man Alive is out, right? Maybe the people who run this kingdom and rely on fundamentalist clerics to ensure peace and order on the Arab Street will let this one fly. After all, it’s not as serious as as beheadings.

Look, I hate to be conspiracy guy here, but is it possible that we’ve all just bought into the narrative that our presidents hold hands with Saudi princes because there’s so much durn Texas Tea under their sand? (I guess I should stop calling it Texas Tea , because I recently learned that also refers to a concoction of cough syrup and Sprite). But I digress.

The price of oil keeps going up and always will until we have we see dramatic cultural shifts in oil-producing nations, particularly the ones that rhyme with “Schmaudi Schrabia.” Or unless we start taking solar, wind and — ha, I was just kidding.

God knows, we haven’t cornered the market in the US dealing with racism, sexism. homophobia, but I believe rthat a little more exposure to Western culture couldn’t bad for a county that still literally treats women like minors.

We may turning the corner on marriage equality, but I’m not asking nations like Saudi Arabia and Iran to embrace that today. I’m just urging them to take a second look at how they’re perceived on the world stage. Someday, they won’t have all that oil, leverage, and they’ll have to start dealing with their citizens — and other countries on different terms.

(Sorry for the initial typos. This is what happens you try to write on public transportation.)

Leave a comment

Filed under Current Events, Personal, Politics, Uncategorized