Category Archives: Social Change

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.

RAISE HER TAXES

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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Filed under Accountable Wealth, Activism, American Dream, Class, Economic Justice, Economic Opportunity, Fair Taxation, Social Change

guest post for classism exposed

Here’s the guest post I recently wrote for Classism Exposed, the blog of the economic justice organization Class Action.

SCHOOLING THE SYSTEM OF PRIVILEGE

This “back to school” season got me to thinking about my own formal education, and the teachers and professors I’ve known who have or have not used their positions of academic influence to challenge the status quo, especially the economic status quo.

The current issue of Boston Review features Noam Chomsky’s essay, “The Responsibility of Intellectuals, Redux,” which is updated from his original 1967 treatise. “As the Vietnam War escalated,” notes Boston Review, “Noam Chomsky penned … a stunning rebuke to scientists and scholars for the subservience to political power. Today we face a similar array of crises, from wars to escalating debt. What are the obligations of intellectuals in this day and age?” Which is a mighty fine question.

Read more … 

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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!

GIVING GAY RIGHTS A SPORTING CHANCE

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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Filed under Activism, American Dream, Economic Opportunity, Social Change

quote of the intermittent time period: james baldwin on the debt ceiling deal

Yesterday President Obama signed the bill that allows an increase in the debt ceiling. Yesterday was also the birthday of the late, great James Baldwin, who once made this comment, not about the recent political circus around the debt ceiling “negotiations,” but which I found myself thinking of nonetheless:

“People pay for what they do, and still more for what they have allowed themselves to become. And they pay for it simply: by the lives they lead.”

Do we have to be so blatant about which economic section of our populace our government is “serving”?

 

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Filed under Accountable Wealth, American Dream, Class, Economic Justice, Economic Opportunity, Fair Taxation, Social Change

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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Filed under Accountable Wealth, Activism, Class, Economic Justice, Social Change

olivia’s organics supports the food project

Upon opening the top of this (Olivia’s Organics) plastic lettuce container the other day, I was surprised, and pleased, to see a large, inside-cover-like sticker about The Food Project, which has long been one of my top five favorite (non-profit) organizations, since I worked with them almost ten years ago(?!). It turns out that The Food Project is one of several organizations supported by Olivia’s Organics.

As the large, inside-cover-like sticker notes, The Food Project operates urban farm sites on formerly abandoned blocks in the Dudley Square neighborhood of Boston. “On these farms you’ll find teenagers composting, planting seeds, watering, weeding and harvesting the fruits and vegetables that they have grown.” The Food Project, state the folks at Olivia’s Organics, “taught us about the power of urban farming, and the transformation that local, sustainable agriculture can have on neighborhoods and the children who live there.”

In addition to the lots in Boston, The Food Project has a 30-acres farm field in (suburban Boston’s) rural Lincoln. Both sites, suburban and urban, are cultivated by teams of teens from both urban and suburban neighborhoods (hence their moniker, “youth growing together.”)

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striking out sports sexism

As the weather heats up, the NCAA gets ready for next week’s Softball World Series, and the baseball season starts to hit its stride, I’m thinking of a TV commercial that regularly got air time throughout New England last summer, and lamenting the fact that I’ve yet to see such a promising ad so far this year.

A beer-gutted bunch of guys are getting ready for a softball game, when a young woman runs up to the huddle, hoping to join in the competition. “We already have someone who throws like a girl, right Murph?” one of them quips, as the rest join in with laughter at “Murph’s” expense.

And I’m reaching for my remote. To change the channel. To hit the mute button. Waiting for the televised production of that night’s Sox game to return from the all-too-familiar land of sexism in sports programming.

But then the commercial takes an unusual turn. The young woman returns (from the sports gear store, it is a commercial after all), shoves the man off the mound, and proceeds to strike out every one of the poor-swinging men. Turns out, she is Jennie Finch, US Softball Olympian and Gold Medalist. As the commercial ends, one of the men sighs dejectedly, “I wish I could throw like a girl.”

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Filed under Advertising, Consumerism, Social Change