Sunday, January 25, 2015

Boston 2024



Society, as always, it just terrific. This is made clear by getting the honor to live in a city that will be the U.S. contender for the 2024 Olympics. Terrific. The recent history suggests that the Olympics are a scourge on the cities that have hosted them. There are plenty of important resources to read in regards to this, but the evidence suggests that they cost billions more than they bring in and cities are left with vacant stadiums and buildings that have no long-term purpose that need to be maintained.

I will add as well that I think there should be real concerns over what will happen to Boston's non-profit sector should we be chosen as a host site. Much of the attention and philanthropy that might be going to our youth centers, food banks, crisis hotlines, homeless shelters and other vital organisations that are dependent on generosity might be in great jeopardy. Philanthropy is not an unlimited resource, and much of it could be diverted to the implementation of the Olympics.

I'm troubled (but not really surprised)  that the Olympic bidding process is emblematic of the fundamental problems in our society. Wealthy elites have a disproportionate amount of influence. Whether it's the IOC, Suffolk Construction, Boston 2024; these are powerful groups that have vast amounts of resources at their disposal and utilize their influence to change the course of policy in ways that benefit them at the expense of everyone else. This seems to unfortunately be the trend in our post-citizens united world where our country behaves more like an Oligarchy than a Democracy. We have a class of ultra-wealthy that control so much our countries financial wealth. They have plenty of opportunity to use this wealth to influence our elected officials to get the policies that suit them best and make them more wealthy. The Olympics is what you get.

This shouldn't be the case and I believe it doesn't have to be. Voices can and should be heard. Unfortunately, turnout really is low in a lot of non-presidential elections. We can change this by voting and getting other folks we know to vote. Unfortunately, it's the older folks who tend to be most  vigilant about voting but this doesn't have to be the case. We can make our voices heard. There are nine community meetings planned in regards to the Olympics. We can show up, learn a thing and share our viewpoint. We can write the Mayor and our reps. This is what it all comes down to. So much of the special interest money goes into influencing you to vote a certain way. The increased political advertisements are evidence of this. We can ignore these messages and vote based on what we know is happening on the ground in our communities and that's still what I think it mostly comes down to. 

We just need to participate or pretty soon we might not even have the opportunity to do so. Show up, make your voice heard, and let's make sure our Mayor knows that he should be planning to build a functional city, not an extravagant event. 


Sunday, May 25, 2014

Non-Profit Yields





One thing I'll mention about the non-profit field is how precarious it can be. There is significant struggle of finding and cultivating resources and being able to be able to sustain your services. It leads to this outcome where the most important people in these organizations are the development staff, the folks that get the money. The individuals who do direct service are not going to directly be able to keep the organization afloat in their efforts.

The problem is that the development folks aren't contributing to the non-profit's mission directly. They are not bettering society directly in anyway; they are bettering their organization by being present to sustain and grow it's work. However, what this means is that sometimes over half the funding that goes into a non-profit, goes to PR, HR and development costs to keep the organization running. That is what smart agencies will do. However, this really limits the reach of serving more of the community. It can be such a struggle to survive that as a non-profit, this is where you need to invest a lot of your funding.

There are other countries, where there is a lot more government support for the services that many non-profit organizations provide. However, we need more security in funding. The services that so many non-profits provide, whether it's food banks, shelters, crucial youth development services, mentoring, environmental protection among others shouldn't be thought of as "luxuries". These organizations are filling crucial gaps in societies' social fabric that are not being filled because of an immense amount of current and historic inequity. If we're going to allow these inequities to persist (which we shouldn't) through our tax and economic policies, then we need to at least provide resources for nonprofit and social service organizations to address the problems that are being created and exacerbated.

So, please, ask your representatives to provide more funding to the non-profit sector. Especially for a lot of the country that is struggling so much economically - we need these services and can't afford for them to not be available because the resources are not there. I would generally advocate that their should be more secured funding sources for non-profit organizations so that more of their efforts and intentions can be diverted into fulfilling their vital missions.

Ultimately, our tax policy needs to change. The 1% and especially the .1% need to be paying their fair share. It's disgusting how little they contribute. However, in the interim, please do your part financially, volunteering or through advocacy to support the organizations that are trying to keep up in fixing all of society's ills.




Sunday, April 27, 2014

I think it's Windier



Has it gotten windier? I think so, walk down some of the narrow, winding streets in the city, it's windy! Everyday is windy. Someday's I've had to better position my arms to be able to progress forward to make sure I'm more aerodynamic. Sources are not sure if it's climate related, or if it might be seasonal trends.

I've been mentioning this for awhile and there is some evidence:

"Despite large seasonal variations, the mean wind speed over the oceans hasn't changed much in the last two decades, the researchers report today in the journal Science. Speeds of the fastest winds, though, have risen by about half a percent each year, and heights of the biggest waves have risen by between a quarter and half a percent each year. Those trends have been strongest in the southern hemisphere (Discovery News 2011)."

It's problematic though for a number reasons. There will be bigger and more destructive storms when they do arise. More dangerous Hurricanes are becoming more prevalent. Also, I just think further issues of erosion and tougher agricultural conditions will be an issue. It's also just more of a pain in the ass as it always feels colder. 



Monday, April 21, 2014

Now That it's Spring Finally




Now that it's Spring, you can get outside  without a heavy jacket and simply walk around in a more care-free fashion without the fear that the wretched cold will soon descend upon your very being. People are out more and this is great! Embrace this change in environmental temperament.  

Good things to do as the weather changes!
  • Be nice to folks in your community around you. 
  • Engage with people around you. 
  • Say hello to strangers.
  • Talk with acquaintances.
  • Just get outside!
  • Volunteer!
  • Have a yard sale. 
  • Talk with and get to know folks at local businesses. 
  • Meet someone new.
  • Re-meet someone old! 
  • Explore some part of your town or neighborhood you haven't been to. 
  • Engage in a new organization or group. 
  • Learn more get involved in local government. 
  • Picnic it up
  • Help clean up a part of your street or yard.
  • Get the garden going
  • Make a bird-feeder.
  • Enjoy your local green space (when and if possible).
  • Support you local, state or national parks by using them (and not avoiding admission fees).
  • Check out a local museum.
  • Go to a local play. 
  • Partake in a  charity walk or run.
  • Get your writing or artistry on outside.
  • Help out a neighbor when relevant.
  • Get off the computer (lord knows I need to).
  • Smile a bit. 
  • Have a cookout.
  • Invite your people over for dinner.  
  • Do some outdoor photography, play a sport outside, notice the local flora and fauna.
Just a simple list of ideas - but with the warmth out, it's easier to come out of hibernation a bit and engage. This will pay off definitely for the warm weather but also give you some great memories and connections once the winter time comes around and you have to slow down a bit...


Thursday, April 17, 2014

So Much, So Good, So Often

Knows it's Good.
Too much time on the news perhaps but please, would everyone please stop carrying on like everything is just OK? Are we serious here... Look at this. Look at this! My god man, this whole civilization thing could be crumbling and we just carry on! We get the joy and pleasure of having all of the American cities where you can actually find a job dramatically rising in price and most folks utterly unable to afford them. How promising for our future...

Here, they're dumping out a whole reservoir of water in Portland because someone peed into it! All 38 million gallons because of a tiny bit of piss. Spiders lay a number of eggs in you while you sleep, you'll be find drinking the damn water with a fraction of a percent of piss! I'll drink the pee! Don't flush the water especially on that coast because THIS IS WHAT IS HAPPENING! You need water to live. That's one of the criteria for being alive. Only .007% of the water on Earth is accessible for human use. This is and is going to continue to be an issue!

You also need food to live. But we did a great job in the U.S. of cutting SNAP benefits. Let's just take the food out of the people's mouths... that's how we've advanced over the years. Don't look at our tax policy or the fact that Apple just passes it's billions of wealth around like a goddamn hot potato so it can avoid an astonishing amount of it's tax burden! How noble of them! Let's just keep putting the squeeze on really a wide majority of our citizens that have been squeezed for so long and completely divest into funding anything that will allow us to function as a whole. What we need is more E-cigarettes, casinos and more types of shit ass social media. That'll make it all fucking better.

Let's not worry about starvation or the changing climate that scientists speculate will reduce our foot output by 2% each decade! No need to give a flying fuck about that because look... here is a new app called locket  where you get a PICTURE ON THE SCREEN OF YOUR PHONE WHEN ITS LOCKED. THAT'S EXACTLY WHAT WE NEED TO BE FOCUSING OUR ENERGY ON! That'll do it... Problem solved. Fuck. 

Again it's extra good when the rising food prices are combined with the lessened social supports for food, coupled with the continually fickle economy and growing disparity of wealth. These are winning combinations for a healthy everything. On some days, it seems like the only people that are on the right side are the motherfucking ostriches that we see on the T.



So please, let's just do each other a big one and not just carry on with business as usual because you can't do that when well, things are highly unusual. It's not genuine... and the saddest piece about this is how bad at doing a thing about anything we've become. That's what's sad.

So please, don't just carry on as usual. Take the steps, any steps, something to get us back into being able to carry on usual, cause we are  just getting further away each and everyday. 


Sunday, April 13, 2014

Everything is just Great



So for a lot of non-profits, the pressures of budget season has swept over us like a northern gale... sorry, I actually don't know what that means. But essentially as the state budget is being released, more individuals are getting e-mails in regards to issues like this one. More and more non-profits that provide crucial services to the community are struggling to get the funding to stay viable.

A lot of these non-profits operate on budgets in the hundreds of thousands or tens of thousands in comparison to a state budget in Mass that can be around 30 billion dollars. If we're to do the math, when a lot of social service and non profit organizations ask for a half million dollars to disperse across youth development organizations, organizations that support the arts, health and human services we're talking about .0015% of the budget. That's a drop in a barrel that all these organizations have to then divert immense amounts of energies to advocate for that often seems futile to the legislatures representing us because it is just a drop in a barrel in funding. 

If as a society, we are tolerating the gross inequities in wealth that create some extremely dire circumstances for probably around half of our population, then at the very least we should  make sure that the very little needed to ensure service agencies to support those in these dire circumstances are able to function well. It's very little financially to ask, it's the moral thing to do and it's the economic thing to do. If we spend money on ensuring that the youth in our communities are well supported and have access to the adequate resource to function in today's information economy, than that's less money we have to spend on $20,000 - 30,000 a year on prison and other societal costs (though the prison industry might not be in favor of American society actually bettering itself as that's not profitable for them).

So in contrast to this, next year maybe in January, we'll have the pleasure to see the World Economic Forum in Davos Switzerland. There, you can meet the 85 people who have more wealth than HALF OF THE WORLDS POPULATION. These 85 folks who probably just have a lovely time together in Davos, have more money than 3.5 billion people and of course that makes sense and is how things should be.

Where dreams are made if you're richer than anything 
So look, some people might profess that values of the free market, but to these extremes, the effectiveness of society is extremely limited and the ability of a large portion of our world to pursue a better life is devastated. In the end it can just feel sad and pathetic.

In a report released by Oxfam in regards to the World Economic Forum held  back in January, Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis was quoted in saying, "We may have democracy, or we may have wealth concentrated in the hands of the few, but we cannot have both."

Friday, April 4, 2014

Steps




Throughout all of our tumultuous past 5 - 10 years, there hasn't been that much of a response to what has happened. Not a strong one at least. There hasn't been people coming together, protesting, taking a stand in any meaningful way, against the bankers who got bailed out, against the wage disparity, or against policies that cause this changing climate. I shouldn't speak of the number of groups that I'm overlooking that are probably doing all sorts of things that I just don't pay attention to in the e-mails that get filtered to the unimportant section of my inbox automatically by gmail. I also still think Occupy was pretty cool for the few months it lasted but it was only a few months.

But for the millions of people who lost their homes due to a shitty mortgage, the tens of millions of people who have lost jobs or are living at an unlivable wage and the general weakening of our society partially at the expense of those who want the conditions to make sheer billions; it doesn't feel like people come together. Where would we go to begin with? I think it comes down to the fact that our democracy is eroding as we just don't see or know the people around us. We aren't connected. The millions of people who got foreclosed on in many of the sunbelt states would have made a pretty good army. However, there is no connection in the suburban world of subdivisions where you can barely walks from one section of a neighborhood to the next. Nobody knows and feels as though they need to know each other. We're so connected to our digital world that we just don't have the chance to be tuned into an actual world around us.

I don't know if civic action really counts for that much anymore either. Obviously if you're the only one in a movement, it's not going to be that strong of a movement. However, money speaks really loudly and when you just have so much more wealth in people's hands and so much more ability for that wealth to equate influence on our elected representatives, then so much else can just be drowned out. I just imagine as well that things are maybe more complex now. It's hard to even understand why the repealing of Glass Steagall in 1999 might have been a really significant factor in allowing our financial sector to take such riskier moves. It's hard maybe to get passionate about the policy nuances or all the corruption that happens in such convoluted systems. It's also hard to maybe have enough people around you be able to be on the same page with it.

As usual, not much of a constructive solution will be posed. Maybe a few things though would be useful to encourage:

  • Write your representative with concerns. Especially at the state or local level. I think they like hearing from you, one wrote back.
  • Talk with and get to know your neighbors. Find ways to make connections and share concerns about what's going on in the community. 
  • Attend council meetings at the many levels of your government. 
  • Pay attention to what's going on - a lot of it sucks and is kind of negative (which might be a media thing), but still it's really important to know. 
  • Comment and share ideas in a range of venues. 
  • Sign or start an initiative in your town. 
  • Volunteer in your community. It really helps get you connected to it.
  • Definitely donate foods, goods and money to the right places. Just not Sheldon Adelson. That guy sucks.  
Enough of this man's preaching.