Category Archives: Activism

an affluent activist at occupy wall street says: raise her taxes!

Occupy Wall Street …

Here’s my latest article for The Valley Advocate, about 1%er Jessie Spector, the Program Director at Resource Generation, who was arrested participating in the Occupy Wall Street protests, against her financial interest.


Earlier this month, an estimated 700 Occupy Wall Street protesters were arrested while attempting to cross New York’s famed Brooklyn Bridge. It was one of the largest demonstrations to date by the amorphous “Other 99 percent” representing the majority of people who don’t benefit from the socioeconomic privileges enjoyed by the upper 1 percent of wealth holders in the country.

But among the protesters arrested was Northampton native Jessie Spector, who marched that day holding a most unusual sign: “I was born into the 1%, I want redistribution, we’ll all be better for it & Tax me!”

Why would Spector do this?

“I wanted to mix up the message,” she explains. “It’s important to show there are rich people in solidarity.”

Read on … 

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giving gay rights a sporting chance

Here’s my recent article for In These Times that is on newsstands (where they still exist) and online as of this month!


Before New York’s momentous legalization of marriage equality this summer, former New York Giants player David Tyree made a video with the National Organization for Marriage. “It’s a strong word,” said the wide receiver, but gay marriage is the beginning of America’s slide toward “anarchy.”

But his ominous warning may be becoming more of an exception than the rule in American locker rooms. Consider the emerging critical mass of athletes publicly supporting marriage equality and challenging homophobia: Baltimore Ravens linebacker Brendan Ayanbadejo and New York Rangers forward Sean Avery have made advocacy videos in Maryland and New York, respectively. Grant Hill teamed up with fellow Phoenix Suns basketball player Jared Dudley to film a “Think B4 You Speak” anti-homophobic language video in April. And several Major League Baseball teams, including the Boston Red Sox, Chicago Cubs and World Series champion San Francisco Giants, have shot videos for Dan Savage’s “It Gets Better” anti-bullying campaign.

Taken together, it’s a stunning amount of support from a sports culture that has historically been mired in homophobia.

Read on … 

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scott russell sanders breaks “the spell of money”

There’s an intriguing new essay by Scott Russell Sanders in the current issue of Orion, called “Breaking the Spell of Money,” which looks at an irony of wealth, and the corresponding challenge that the extremely affluent are failing to meet.

“The accumulation of money,” Sanders writes, “gives the richest individuals and corporations godlike power over the rest of us.

 “Yet money itself has no intrinsic value; it is a medium of exchange, a token that we have tacitly agreed to recognize and swap for things that do posses intrinsic value, such as potatoes or poetry, salmon or surgery. Money is a symbolic tool, wholly dependent for its usefulness on an underlying social compact. It is paradoxical, therefore, that those who have benefited the most financially from the existence of this compact have been the most aggressive in seeking to undermine it, by attacking unions, cooperatives, public education, independent media, social welfare programs, non-profits that serve the poor, land-use planning, and every aspect of government that doesn’t directly serve the rich. For the social compact to hold, ordinary people must feel that they are participating in a common enterprise that benefits everyone fairly, and not a pyramid scheme designed to benefit a few at the top.”

It’s easy to get lost, or dismayed, by statistics. This is especially true when trying to comprehend vast amounts of wealth. But by wondering “why … a billionaire [would] want more money” Sanders does a better job than most at illuminating the seemingly unrealistic reality of the insanely wealthy.

“Suppose you keep a billion dollars under your mattress,” Sanders explains, “where it will earn no income, and you set out to spend it;  Continue reading

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sports go green

Here’s my new piece on the efforts of several professional sports teams to make their stadiums and arena more environmentally sustainable. It ran in this morning’s The Valley Advocate.

Ah, sports …


It takes the viewing experience of approximately one commercial break of a televised sporting event to observe 90% of what defines sports culture in America: bad beer, big trucks, and scantily clad women. With only so many 24-hour ESPN channels, regional Comcast Sports networks, websites, fan blogs, sports sections in newspapers (yes, still newspapers), radio talk shows and glossy-print magazines, it’s easy to surmise that there isn’t room in our daily discussion of athletics for anything else. Just don’t tell that to Alan Hershkowitz, Senior Scientist for the Natural Resource Defense Council.

“If you want to change the world,” admits the crusading environmentalist, “you don’t emphasize how different you are from everybody else. You go to where Americans are at.”

A little environmentalism with your sports spectatorship, anyone? Just remember to recycle your Miller Lite can after washing down your Viagra pill, please.

It may seem unbelievable, but Hershkowitz is intent on infusing America’s spectator sports culture with an environmental ethic. And as the Senior Advisor to the Green Sports Alliance, a coalition of professional sports franchises, stadiums and arenas in the Pacific Northwest, he is attempting to do just that. And the environmental efforts are being felt far beyond the snow-capped Cascade Range.

Read on … 


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quote of the intermittent time period VII

More from Stephen Duncombe’s Notes From Underground: Zines and the Politics of Alternative Culture:

“There is something about the critique of and resistance to consumption that fails to command respect. Unlike challenges to the quantity and quality of work – which have a long and noble history embedded in working-class struggle – the critique of consumption seems a privilege of the privileged. With so much of the world desperate to become part of the consuming public, the idea of criticizing consumerism or voluntarily doing without such products seems absurd. But we live in a strange world today, where in the United States at least, poverty does not mean being locked out of the consumer dream. People may not be able to afford decent housing, education, or health care; but the latest sneakers, video games, and soft drinks are within the reach of all but the poorest citizens. Consumption has been democratized.” – Stephen Duncombe

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new orleans vs. bp

A few weeks ago I was in New Orleans with family to celebrate our recently graduated Tulane alum. I had never been to the Crescent City before, and I’m still slightly obsessed with its history and culture, and of course, recent catastrophic events (not just Hurricane Katrina, but the BP oil spill, as well) under which this impressive community endures. So, when I heard about a store selling “FU BP” t-shirts, I had to check it out.

These shirts are being sold at Crawdaddy’s, near Jackson Square and the French Market, in the French Quarter. As the photo below shows, “Crawdaddy & Co. will donate $1 for each shirt sold that is related to oil spill to The Gulf Coast Oil Spill Fund!!!!”

Why not contact them (Crawdaddy & Co.), order a couple dozen shirts, invite some friends over, blast a little Rebirth Brass Band, break open the liquor cabinet, and throw an FU BP party?

Or, visit Spill Baby Spill, and participate in a more sober, if not more effective, activist campaign on behalf of the gulf coast.

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a spot of tea for patriot’s day

Yesterday was Patriot’s Day. Here in Massachusetts, that means (Boston) Marathon Monday, the beginning of April Vacation, and the annual 11am Sox game.

But, social festivities aside, the day is, of course, named to commemorate the beginning of the American Revolution, which started with “the shot heard ’round the world” at the Battles of Lexington and Concord, back on April 19, 1775.

As we know (history geeks unite!), those battles were preceded and caused by the all-important Boston Tea Party, which, with the current Tea Party Movement hysteria, has drawn more than its usual share of attention of late. Today’s Tea Party heralds those early patriots for their direct action against overtaxation as the historical genesis of their own anti-taxation, anti-government ideals. But what if those at that original, infamous Boston Tea Party were not protesting against overtaxation, but performing a direct action against corporate tax cuts instead?

“The Tea Act,” states Thom Hartmann, “gave the world’s largest transnational corporation, the British East India Company, the biggest corporate tax break in world history. It was an actual tax refund on millions of pounds of tea they were unable to sell and were holding in inventory, and would have been billions in today’s dollars.”

Why was this so upsetting that it would lead the colonists to “commit a multi-million-dollar (in today’s money) act of vandalism”?

In the fascinating (history geeks unite!) video below, Thom Hartmann explains the largely unknown history of the Tea Party using a first-hand account, Retrospect of the Boston Tea-Party, written in 1834 by George R.T. Hewes, who was an actual participating member at that infamous revolution-stirring event, “a survivor of the little band of patriots who drowned the tea in the Boston Harbor in 1773,” as Hewes himself phrased it.

  Continue reading

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so much for death and taxes

As Ben Franklin famously observed, “Nothing is certain but death and taxes.” That is, unless you’re a large, powerful corporation type-of-person. In which case you can live forever, and completely dodge your tax-paying responsibilities.

So, this Tax Day, amidst a plethora of service-cutting budget proposals, here’s a medley of corporate tax-evading infuriation.

1. Chuck Collins, senior scholar for the Institute of Policy Studies urges us to “remember the tax dodgers” this tax day. “If you write a check over $10 to the IRS,” notes Collins, “you just paid more than Verizon, Boeing, Bank of America, Citigroup and General Electric combined [!] in federal taxes.”

Sounds unbelievable? It should. But unfortunately, it’s not.

2. The Nation magazine offers a slideshow of companies that made billions in profits, and yet received millions in tax breaks, including Exxon/Mobil, who reported “$19 billion in profits,” and received a “$156 million rebate from the IRS.” And General Electric, who got a “$4.1 billion refund from the IRS” despite raking in “$19 billion in profits,” as well.

One thing GE didn’t do, despite the recently-released (fake) press release stating so, was plan on returning their tax break in full by this year’s Tax Day.

3. Rather, the press release was created by activists at US Uncut to highlight the fact that GE and other “corporate persons” are avoiding their tax-paying patriotic responsibilities, despite the profits they are reporting. “No corporation is an island,” pointed out US Uncut spokesperson Carl Gibson, “even if they hide all their profits in tropical tax havens.”  Continue reading

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revolt at the waldorf! rich activists push for higher taxes on themselves

Two weeks ago, two affluent activists from Resource Generation joined a rally at New York’s prestigious Waldorf Astoria Hotel to protest Governor Cuomo’s proposed social service cuts combined with tax cuts for the rich. They carried with them a most unusual protest sign: “Another trust-fund baby for taxing the rich.”

Why would they do this? Read about it in my recent article for



A few weeks ago, outside Midtown Manhattan’s famed Waldorf Astoria Hotel, protesters gathered to rally against Governor Andrew Cuomo’s proposal to cut funding for public services, while also cutting taxes for the wealthy. Organized by New Yorkers Against Budget Cuts, the marchers represented several organizations joining together to “Demand That Millionaires Pay Their Fair Share.”

But amidst the chants of “Not another nickel, not another dime! Bailing out millionaires is a crime!” on March 31 were two protesters holding a very unusual rally sign: “Another trust fund baby for taxing the rich! Let’s pay our fair share!”

It certainly wasn’t the first time trust-funders have made their way up Park Avenue to the prestigious Waldorf Astoria. But it was probably the first time inheritors of wealth have publicly rallied in front of the esteemed hotel for an increase in taxes on themselves.

Who would do such a thing? Why would anyone actively advocate against their own self-interest? “Our current tax system perpetuates inequality,” states Elspeth Gilmore. “Wealthy people can really change that narrative.”

Read on …


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the sixties: living after happily ever after

I really try to avoid engulfing myself in The Sixties. Not because the era doesn’t have anything to offer. On the contrary, it continues to be a watershed moment/movement for all social change efforts that have been exerted since. Rather, I hesitate because learning about and emulating The Sixties seems to be such an easy, overly used reflex action for anyone interested in political activism and cultural change.

The Sixties, for better or worse, have become almost cliché. Overly romanticized and underappreciated at the same time.

But recently, I haven’t been able to ignore The Sixties. In fact, I’ve been (willingly) obsessed with various aspects of the decade/adent movement and its significance in our cultural history. Listening to the Grateful Dead and Jimi Hendrix. Watching the copy of Robert Greenwald’s Abbie Hoffman biopic Steal This Movie! that I had Netflixed (it had apparently, appropriately (?) enough, been stolen from the local library) months ago. And reading John McMillian’s recent offering Smoking Typewriters: The Sixties Underground Press and the Rise of Alternative Media in America, as well as Tom Wolfe’s classic The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test.

So much of the cultural debris leftover by The Sixties centers around the critiques of its generation’s political activists and counterculturalists. Specifically, are these critiques credible, and should we value them as tools to use in our own observations of today’s society, institutions and relative norms? Or are they the whiny criticisms of unappreciative inheritors of Postwar America, aka the most powerful country in the history of the world? Regardless of which viewpoint one tends to agree with, both versions speak to the role that those active in The Sixties played in our national consciousness, and which, half a century later, we seem to be still trying to sort out.

What happens when the ambitions of a society are achieved, and then those realized ambitions are experienced by the subsequent generation as a point from which to start?  Continue reading

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