Thursday, June 26, 2014


Vijay Seshadri reads The Long MeadowHe was recently awarded the 2014 Pulitzer Prize in Poetry for 3 Sections.


Clear Skies Ordinance

More than 200 supporters turned out at the Mahoney Middle School in South Portland, Maine on Wednesday night for a public hearing on a "Clear Skies Ordinance" that would keep tar sands out of the city.  Currently under consideration by the city council, the ordinance would prohibit the bulk loading of crude oil, including tar sands, and the building of infrastructure that would export the crude oil.  A similar, broader ordinance against the petroleum industry on the waterfront was closely rejected last November;  a moratorium on tar sands was then passed while the current proposal was developed, more narrowly targeting tar sands.  The city council will have an initial vote on July 7th and a final vote on July 24th.  Local television coverage here.

*Photo credit, top, via veooz, photographer - Danielle Waugh/twitter, large crowd for Clear Skies Ordinance at public hearing.

Editor's Update, 7.13.2014

The South Portland City Council voted 6-1 to pass the Clear Skies Ordinance.  355 people showed up for the meeting that was earlier postponed because it drew so many people, arrangements had to be made for a larger venue.  The Planning Board now considers the ordinance next Tuesday and is slated for final action of July 21st.  

“I am so proud to live in a city where democracy is truly alive,” said one attendee, Meg Braley of South Portland. “Tonight, the people of South Portland prevailed over one of the most powerful industries in the world to protect our health and community. It’s not over yet, but we’re thrilled about tonight’s victory.”

Editor's Update, 7.30.2014

300 people turned out for the final vote on the tar sands ban which was, once again, approved on a 6-1 count.  From The Portland Press Herald:
The South Portland Community Center gym erupted with cheers and applause when the council voted 6-1 in favor of a ban that may soon be challenged in court and at the ballot box if opponents move forward with threats of a lawsuit and a citizen-initiated referendum.
Councilor Tom Blake said opponents of the ban should not fight the “will of the people,” which could cost the city untold legal fees and “alienate yourselves even further.”
“If you fight this in court, you will lose,” Blake said, before voting to approve the ban along with councilors Linda Cohen, Patricia Smith, Melissa Linscott, Maxine Beecher and Mayor Jerry Jalbert.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Northern Gateway

Steven Harper's government approves the Northern Gateway tar sands pipeline.  In the video below, Chief Namox of the Wet'suwet'en tribe describes how the proposed route would illegally split the Wet'suwet'en territory in half while endangering and destroying the environment.  The Wet'suwet'en never ceded territory for the Enbridge Northern Gateway and were never properly consulted in accordance with treaty and Canadian law. 


Hundreds of Canadian towns rallied in Vancouver, British Columbia this month to protest the Northern Gateway Pipeline.  In the video below, a speaker tells the crowd, "They have lobbyists, but we have determination."  The crowd vigorously chants, "No! No! No! No!" to the Northern Gateway as an eagle, symbolic of strength, courage and wisdom, reportedly circles above the protesters.  

2/3rds of Canadians oppose the tar sands project. 

Editor's Update, 7.19.2014.  The Globe and Mail reports 7.14.14 a slew of First Nations court actions against the Northern Gateway, and which also "underscores the significance of a recent Supreme Court of Canada decision related to B.C.’s Tsilhqot’in Nation, which confirmed the group holds aboriginal title to a specific tract of land in the province and is being used as a springboard for new actions challenging Ottawa’s approval of Northern Gateway."

In this July 17th 2014 news video opposition leaders criticize the Harper government, including Thomas Mulcair who calls Steven Harper a politician "who doesn't care," and states,
"We're talking about a severe threat to social order, social peace - not only in British Columbia, but across Canada - if Mr. Harper continues to ignore science, continues to ignore First Nations, continues to ignore communities.  And that's his track record.  He doesn't listen to anyone.  He makes it up as he goes along and he decides in advance what it's going to be.  We all knew what today was going to be because he preordained it.  He had talked three years ago, in spite of the fact that there was supposed to be this big objective process, he had already talked three years ago about how he was backing it.  Not surprising that it wound up in his hands because he was going to approve it.  But you know what?  It's a poison chalice that he handed those companies that he thinks he's helping.  Because this is not going to move forward." 
 He then says that it will be going into the 2015 elections.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

The Good Life

A fabulous, must-see music video for a Basic Income Guarantee from Amsterdam - musical artists Pharaoh and Yara in, Het Goeie Leven, which, translated from Dutch means, "The Good Life."


You can enable the English language caption for this video (if you don't already see the translation on the bottom of the youtube screen); however, Artists For A Basic Income have also provided this google translation:
( Pharaoh )
I can watch the world
Complain about what I want
But it is only the actions
That make the difference
We can not sleep
Then we see the light
Labour is a choice
And nothing more is required
We are free -
( Yara )
Free because we choose a new beginning
For all of us
Team up
Create another system
Welcome to paradise
( Yara )
The good life
Life where I am entitled to
Just like you and like you
We're going to claim
Everything is now in place zn
We are finally free so free
( Pharaoh )
I have a right to leisure
I have a right to health and safety
Right to enough to live on
Because there is more than enough to divide
Yes , we can ensure that everyone comes around
No more hassles stress
- Basic Income - it makes you free
New approach to society
( Yara )
The good life
Life where I am entitled to
Just like you and like you
We're going to claim
Everything is now in place zn
We are finally free so free

( Yara )
Free because we choose a new beginning
For all of us
Team up
Create another system
Welcome to paradise
( Pharaoh + Yara )
I want a basic income - Oh Yeah
Do you want a basic income - unconditional
Basic Income - unconditionally
All - everyone
I want a basic income - unconditional
Do you want a basic income - unconditional
Basic income - oh yeah
All - everyone
( Pharaoh )
Free yourself , free the world . And live the good life

Also check out the video below from the campaign to bring a Basic Income Guarantee (B.I.G.) pilot program to local communities on Prince Edward Island, Canada.  Similar pilot programs in other countries have been successful in directly abolishing poverty.

The Canadian New Democratic Party is urging adoption of the pilot Basic Income Guarantee on Prince Edward Island since standard social service programs are (*shockingly*) not ending poverty (and that's what we want to do, and outright, isn't it?) ...
“The NDP firmly believes that the public health system can work well only if everybody can afford to be physically and mentally healthy. Each person needs the income to afford proper nutrition, education, recreation and community engagement,” added the NDP Leader.
In the last fiscal year, $2.3 million went unspent in the social assistance program and for this fiscal year, the same budget was cut by almost $2 million. In July 2013, a study by the University of Toronto indicated that 27% of Island children lived in households that could not afford adequate nutritious food.
“How can it be that we have so many people in need and not have the right programming to help them? Let’s move to a solution that will improve the health and well-being of our people as well as strengthen our local economy. Let’s move to the basic income guarantee,” concluded Redmond.

In the U.S., we need to learn from and join with this growing international campaign for a guaranteed basic income.  The interviewed Prince Edward Island women in this video could easily be American women sharing similar experiences living in poverty, when it can, instead, be directly abolished.

That Doesn't Include You

Following up on the Crème de la Crème figures reported by Bill Moyers, if it's harder to get into Walmart than Harvard, check out the even more staggering odds of getting a job at Starbucks.  

A little over 1% of applicants, that is.  

And, it seems those odds should become even more challenging since the company recently announced a program providing college tuition, with that program only covering workers at company owned stores.  That is, the baristers in Starbucks aprons at licensed stores, like that Starbucks at your neighborhood grocery, aren't entitled to company benefits, with Starbucks having a substantial portion of workers at 5,415 licensed stores compared to 8,078 company stores.  

Via Business Insider:

starbucks edited license stores

*Photo credit, via Malnutrition "Starbucks," photo of a licensed Starbucks store in a neighborhood grocerty, July 2010.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Crème de la Crème

Bill Moyers reports that it may be easier to get into an Ivy League than land a job at Walmart:
And how hard is it to land even a minimum-wage job? This year, the Ivy League college admissions acceptance rate was 8.9 percent. Last year, when Wal-Mart opened its first store in Washington, DC, there were more than 23,000 applications for 600 jobs, which resulted in an acceptance rate of 2.6 percent, making the big box store about twice as selective as Harvard and five times as choosy as Cornell.
Better to head for college then, right?  (For a while, at least.)

Meanwhile, executive footsteps on student loans:
Obama on Monday will announce he's expanding his "Pay As You Earn" program that lets borrowers pay no more than 10 percent of their monthly income in loan payments, the White House said. Currently, the program is only available to those who started borrowing after October 2007 and kept borrowing after October 2011. Obama plans to start allowing those who borrowed earlier to participate, potentially extending the benefit to millions more borrowers.
And, also plans to announce he’s directing the government to renegotiate contracts with federal student loan servicers to encourage them to make it easier for borrowers to avoid defaulting on their loans.

(That's if Walmart didn't want them college grads.)  

*Photo credit, top, via, Walmart job application; bottom, via StrikeDebtUK, "You are not a loan," student loan protesters with protest banner.

Ending Poverty Now

Thom Hartmann has this interview (video below) with economist and Professor Guy Standing, University of London, and co-founder and co-president of the Basic Income Earth Network (BIEN) on guaranteed basic income.  A guaranteed basic income is unconditionally distributed at a liveable level, regardless of whether or not an individual is employed, or how much an individual may or may not have;  i.e. you cut through all the red tape and basically, just give people the money.  In the United States, coupled with an improved Medicare for all, this would pretty much abolish poverty and economic insecurity outright, and Thom's guest points out that such measures also create new jobs and boost wages.

Professor Standing is the author of The Precariot: The New Dangerous Class, about "a growing number of people across the world living and working precariously, usually in a series of short-term jobs, without recourse to stable occupational identities, stable social protection or protective regulations relevant to them."  


The next BIEN conference, Re-Democratizing The Economy, will take place in Montreal, June 26-29, 2014.  A pre-conference day on the 26th will focus on strategies to activate and implement basic income policies in Canada and the United States.  The 27th-29th Congress "brings together academics, activists, policy makers, political representatives, NGOs, and interested members of the general public to discuss and debate how introducing a universal and unconditional basic income relates to the theme of Re-democratizing the Economy.“

From the website:
Topical streams of inquiry include (but are not limited to) the following considerations:
  • Which economic, social,  political or environmental changes would re-democratizing the economy require?
  • How would the institution of a basic income guarantee promote re-democratizing the economy, nationally or globally?
  • How would the combination of a (more) economic democracy and a basis income ensure ecological sustainability?
  • Which revenue models would help support a re-democratized economy?
  • How can we boost the political support for basic income at a time of inequality, austerity and economic exclusion?
  • What democratic and citizenship implications can we expect from a basic income guarantee?
  • What are the legal and constitutional implications of the right to a basic income?

*Image credits, top, "End Poverty NOW" protesters, via Popular Resistance, 11/2/2013, "America's Shame: Child Poverty Rises, Food Stamps Cut While Billionaires Boom"; bottom, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and quote, via The Wren Project, 8/13/2013, "B.I.G. Box."


D.L. Lang in "The War" from Tea and Sprockets.


Making History

Seattle City Council Member Kshama Sawant hails the city's recent and historic passage of a 15.00 per hour minimum wage - the highest rate for any major city in the country, and more than twice the federal minimum rate. 


Ms. Sawant, a Seattle spokesperson in the Fight For 15 campaign, recently made history herself, by becoming the first socialist elected to the city council in a century - and while running for office on a platform of raising the hourly minimum to 15.00 dollars.  The raise is incremental over almost a decade, a *minor* point critics (including Ms. Sawant) have decried, but nevertheless, it does seem a very important step forward, considering the monied strength of the opposition at a time in which U.S. income disparity is savagely developing.

I think a most important win Ms. Sawant mentions *is* the speed with which this has taken place, the historical perspective;  i.e. it is often "darkest before the dawn."  So, most certainly, affirm yourselves, Seattleites - and take heed, Americans, across this great land.  Keep on keepin' on with "the good fight."  Keep hope and optimism alive.  There *is* a way forward.  Things can change, for the better.  History says so.  

Monday, June 2, 2014

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Who Goes To Jail

From FreeSpeechTV, an update from the Cecily McMillan case and how no Credit Suisse executives will be heading to jail for facilitating widespread tax evasion, while the Occupy Wall Street protester was sentenced to three months in Riker's Island and five years of probation.

Justice4Cecily reports that the soft-spoken social justice activist has since been brought into court on an additional charge of obstructing a police investigation when two people jumped a turnstile at NYC's Union Square Station.  The prosecutor's office has offered a plea bargain of no additional jail time, community service, and anger management classes. The website reports that Ms. McMillan rejected that deal;  the next court date is scheduled for July 17th, at which time she is expected to be released for good behavior. 

Editor's Note. 6/2/2014 Update.  Occupy Wall Street reports that Cecily McMillan is now scheduled to be released on parole July 1st. 

Clad In Peace

Via FreespeechTV, selections from Maya Angelou readings, including her powerful delivery as the 1993 inaugural poet.  "Come, clad in peace, and I will sing the songs."