Monthly Archives: July 2013

Sequestration and You

With so much political theater happening in the United States right now, one of the biggest stories of 2013 has largely been forgotten about-the passage of a brutally restrictive budget by the United States House of Representatives, and its subsequent party-line defeat in the Senate. The budget plan, presented by House Budget Committee chair Paul Ryan (remember him?), features $5 billion in non-defense spending cuts. A whopping two thirds of those cuts are to social-service programs like SNAP (Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program) and Medicaid.

In their report on Ryan’s proposed budget, published in mid-March, Richard Kogan and Kelsey Merrick wrote that “Chairman Ryan claims $4.6 trillion in total spending cuts over this period, reflecting $3.9 billion of policy savings and $700 billion in interest savings.  Of the policy savings, $3.8 billion reflects cuts in non-defense programs and $150 billion reflects war savings.  But Chairman Ryan also starts from a baseline that builds in certain savings:  permanent sequestration, steep cuts in Medicare payments to doctors under the Sustainable Growth Rate (SGR) formula, and the expiration of refundable tax credit provisions after 2017.”

In other words, Ryan’s proposed budget would essentially have gutted programs designed to protect America’s low-income residents. The federal budget cuts known as “sequestration,” which went into effect March 1st, 2013, were much less draconian, but still resulted in a loss of resources for many social-service programs, including Section 8 Rental Assistance, Disaster Relief, Head Start, fuel assistance, and Meals on Wheels.  These programs will see an average of 9% cuts in their budgets this year. However, some aid programs, deemed “necessary” by the government, will continue to operate without budget cuts. These programs include SNAP and Medicaid. In addition to trimming already overstretched aid programs, the cuts in federal spending are projected by some to have a chilling effect on the overall growth of the economy, particularly in job creation.

If you are curious to learn about what effects the sequester will have on you as a Massachusetts resident, the state government has posted an excellent and accessible guide to the sequester at this address: http://www.massresources.org/sequestration.html#affected.

 

Additional Sources:

http://www.politico.com/story/2013/03/paul-ryan-budget-vote-senate-democrats-89187.html

http://www.federalnewsradio.com/?nid=534&sid=3393390&pid=0&page=2

Advertisements

Happy Birthday, Nelson Mandela!

Image

 

Community Works wishes Nelson Mandela a very happy 95th birthday! Today from 5:30 PM – 7:00, there will be a celebration of Mandela’s life at the Old South Church. Boston-based community organizations, elected officials, and activists will convene at the church to make this day an annual celebration in Boston and across Massachusetts. To learn more, check out:  http://www.oldsouth.org/events/nelson-mandela-day-celebration

 “Where there is poverty and sickness – including AIDS – where human beings are being oppressed, there is more work to be done. Our work is for freedom for all.” – Nelson Mandela

Opposing Dirty Oil

Feneralfuturemugshot

Though not widely reported by the mainstream press, protests to the Keystone XL Pipeline have been held all over the nation. In Massachusetts, this included a protest of about 100 people at the TransCanada headquarters in Westborough, which resulted in the arrests of 25 people. One of those arrested was Peter Malagodi, who heads a pro environmental band called Melodeego. Here is my interview of Peter. In it, Pete provides tribute to other social protesters who have inspired Melodeego to use music as a vehicle for raising social and environmental justice issues.

-David Adams, Co-Director of Emerge and Co-Chair of the Branding and Publicity Committee of Community Works

Question: Peter, you were one of 25 people arrested during a protest of the proposed Keystone XL Pipeline project in early March. What were you charged with?

Peter: We were charged with Trespassing because we were on private property

Question: How long were you detained?

Peter: It was about 8 hours.  All 25 of us were in the same cell. It definitely smelled like BO by the time they let us out! 🙂 Good company though.

Question: Well, I’m glad to hear that!  What was the primary goal of your protest and do you believe you achieved it?

Peter: The protest was deemed “Funeral for our Future” and the reason for that was to call out TransCanada for their disregard of the extreme long-term danger this pipeline will create for everyone. Another goal was to truly raise awareness of the importance of stopping this pipeline and inspire others to take action. I believe that because of the attention the action got from the Huffington Post, The Boston Phoenix and more it certainly raised some awareness with people to what’s going on and spurred more folks to step up. I’d also like to think that some of the employees at the TransCanada office might reconsider their career choice.

Question:  If built, the Pipeline will carry so-called tar sands, which is essentially a blend of oil and the sand from which it is extracted, from across Alberta to Texas. What are the environmental risks that this poses?

Peter: The fact that this is no ordinary oil is significant. These companies do not know how to clean it up because is so thick and sticky. Take for example the pipeline spill from 2010 in Michigan. It’s still being cleaned up! Also, all pipelines leak and this one will be no different. Mainly, the environmental effects will be due to the amount of Carbon Dioxide emitted into our atmosphere by extracting, transporting, refining and then burning this dirty oil. This pipeline has become a true battleground to turn the tide on Climate Change!

Question: The protest was at TransCanada’s Northeast Regional Office. They have mounted a multi-million dollar campaign to promote the pipeline. Two of their main selling points are that it will create jobs and that Canadian oil will help to make us less dependent on ‘foreign oil’. What do you say in response to this?

Peter: While it’s true that the building of the pipeline will create many temporary jobs the truth is that it will create very few permanent jobs. In fact the State Department did a study in which it was estimated that only 35 would be created. As far as making the US more energy independent, TransCanada is a Private Canadian Company and has their eyes on selling this oil worldwide. This brings up the other issue of how messed up it is that people are being moved off their land to build this pipeline because of Eminent Domain. This is in support of a private oil company! It’s not right.

Question: Your band, Melodeego, is unique in using music as a vehicle to raise environmental and social justice issues. Tell us a little bit about its history and why this type of music is needed.

Peter: The band took part in something called “March to re-energize New Hampshire” about 4 years ago. Through learning more about climate change and its real effects on people as well as experiencing a real role for us a musical leaders for the movement we were “re-born” I guess you could say. When the BP Gulf oil spill happened in 2010 we were upset like many other people. As a response to the spill and the dangers of fossil fuels, the band began using a bike-powered sound system. It’s our small way of supporting clean energy solutions and we play all our concerts that way. We’ve been very inspired by the movement and the people fighting to fight climate change and create social justice. We now take part leading marches such as The Forward on Climate Rally in DC and we marched with Veterans for Peace in the St. Patty’s day parade.  And it was also a true pleasure to play some bike-powered music in the Memorial Day parade in Newton!

The band is inspired by people like Pete Seeger, Bob Marley and Marvin Gaye, to name a few, who truly understood music’s ability to inspire and inform. Music connects so directly. We’ve been told by many who were with us at the office in Westborough that our song “Digging us a hole” truly made the action. We were able to really capture the spirit of the group and through song that becomes truly powerful!! Because of this, we recently recorded a studio version of the song featuring many of the folks we got arrested with. It’s our gift to the movement to inspire folks around the whole country to stand strong against the pipeline and a part of the national Fearless summer campaign!

Question: Congratulations on your new recording! It sounds like your arrest hasn’t exactly hurt your reputation. In fact, has it added to your political cred?

Peter: Ha! Probably. That being said, there’s folks in this movement chaining themselves to bulldozers and in the pipes themselves that deserve the real cred. It’s gonna take a real mainstream acceptance of these kinds of tactics and more willingness to join in from everybody to stop this thing!!

Question: I noticed that most of the 100 or so protesters in Westborough were in their twenties. You were one of the elders! Do you think there’s been a resurgence of commitment to social protest and direct political action among young people?

Peter: Yes. There is a strong push from folks younger than I to really change the system. I think folks in their early and mid-twenties are feeling the urgency of the time and are acting. It’s a pleasure for me to take part in it. Fortunately I’m not the only Gen-Xer who’s jumped in the ring! We need everybody, including those who are much older than me!!

Question: President Obama hasn’t ruled out possible support of the Pipeline, and he appears to be facing pressure on both sides of this issue. Recently, some green activists have even lobbied Secretary of State John Kerry to oppose the Pipeline. For those of us who oppose the Pipeline, what actions do you believe might be most effective?

Peter: Take action! Get solar panels, support clean energy initiatives.  I think the most effective way to oppose the pipeline is to get involved. There’s a real community that’s growing! Local groups like 350MA are organizing many actions this summer as a part of the Fearless Summer and in fact, from June 24-29 there will be a week of action. There’s “a march from coal to wind” that’s going on from Aug 28-Sept 2 put on by 350MA that will be inspiring to be a part of.

David: Thank you Peter!

Thinking of Trayvon Martin’s family today.

“Out of our passion for justice, our demand for fairness, our need for each other, we band together to pray, to hope and to dream of a brighter tomorrow.” Kip Tiernan

CW Co-Founder Kip Tiernan on Justice and Community

College and Activism: Where Does it All Fit In?

By, Dylan Manderlink, Community Works Social Justice Blogger 

It has been a little over a year and we’ve seen the boom of KONY 2012 subside and Invisible Children’s ‘online activists’ retreat from their copy and paste Facebook status efforts. We observed an eager and loud generation quickly and virtually respond to a humanitarian crisis in a matter of 24 hours. Young adults were outraged by Joseph Kony’s child soldiers, they cried for the child brides who were being battered and abused, and sympathized with people who were their age and younger all the way across the globe.

A year later, we should all be asking ourselves if that’s what we should be considering activism and if so, where did it go?  Did our generation grow tired of clicking the keyboard and sharing statuses about the crisis in Eastern Africa? Did we realize that there is a stark difference in online activism and actually doing something about a societal or global problem? Or, as a collective generation, did we fail to notice why caring about issues bigger than ourselves is important in improving our world and in shattering the harmful cycle of ignorance that too often circulates within our college campuses? 

What the KONY 2012 campaign taught us about activism, among many things, is that the convenience of spreading awareness via social media can too often remove any meaningful contribution to an issue or can even substitute a call to action that goes beyond the internet. Although the rise in social media and technological advancements have helped increase the visibility of non-profits, social advocacy groups, and activists’ efforts, there’s also something to be said about the ingenuity and lack of commitment that can be produced from these generational developments. Many young people are growing up thinking that they are making a significant contribution to a local or global issue and/or society at large by posting a generically circulated Facebook status, subscribing to non-profit organization’s email updates, or following NGO’s on Twitter. But by doing this, we are creating a philanthropic and activist culture propelled by the over-simplified action of just clicking a button and typing a few words. 

Especially in a city like Boston, where there is a college every few blocks, it astonishes me that more students aren’t taking advantage of the community service opportunities, civic engagement events and functions, and grassroots activism that is readily available in our progressive and active city. And everyone knows the college students who talk about the causes they support on Facebook or charities they donate to online, but then when you ask them what organizations they are actively involved in, charitable events they’ve attended in the city, or community service they’ve participated in, their involvement is slim to none. With the increased use of social media and the convenience of sharing information, we have strayed so far from what it means to actually go out there and do something. Alleviating societal ailments and raising awareness of humanitarian and environmental issues are more complex than just a 140 character Tweet or a Facebook status. That’s not to say that using social media for social good is wrong, but rather, if we are using social media for social and environmental change, we should also be actively participating and making things happen outside of the virtual world. There needs to be a healthy balance and effective partnership between what is shared online and what is being done in person. When combined, every individual has a greater potential in making real and meaningful change in their community and beyond. We need to start informing our eager and driven classmates that if you want something to change in this world, it’s going to take more than just a retweet, Facebook status, or blog post. Use social media to increase the profile of an issue or to urge someone to take action beyond their computer screen, but remember that using social media is just a platform…not the actual change itself. 

Image

photo from google images – mediarising.ca

We are a busy, over-achieving, and energetic generation and we can extend those qualities beyond our individual social media outlets. We need to continue to inform and educate ourselves and others on what is going on in the world around us. It is our collective and individual responsibility as people on this planet to do our part to make this world a better place. Every day we are leaving our mark and making a contribution to this world, whether it’s virtual or person-to-person. It’s important for us to start asking ourselves if the mark we are leaving is benefiting the greater good of society or just ourselves. Is the footprint we’re leaving on our planet one that we are proud of? Is the contribution we are making to society one that inspires others to be a better person or to help the lives of others? And lastly, is the mark we leave on our society one that empowers others to engage in social and environmental change? Whether you aspire to be an engineer, filmmaker, computer analyst, secretary, or company manager…we all have a responsibility, no matter how big or small, to make a positive difference in our world. No matter your career, no matter your individual interests and passions, you can use your talents to improve the lives of others every day.

It just takes more than a click. 

Some Thoughts on Independence Day

Liberty is the breath of life to nations.  ~George Bernard Shaw

We on this continent should never forget that men first crossed the Atlantic not to find soil for their ploughs but to secure liberty for their souls.  ~Robert J. McCracken

We must be free not because we claim freedom, but because we practice it.  ~William Faulkner

The American Revolution was a beginning, not a consummation.  ~Woodrow Wilson