Food Stamp series at Marketplace

9 Apr

The Secret life of a Food Stamp Series:

See the “wage wager” that helps set up a budget for a person on minimum wage. There are different stories, podcasts, and articles on this website, including ones on Walmart.

The Shocking Truth About What It Would Cost Us All If Walmart Paid A Living Wage

My wife and I do not shop at Walmart because it does not pay a living wage, which forces its workers to get on public assistance. But I am totally shocked by how easily that could change. This two-minute clip is da bomb.

(Oh, there’s also the fact that Walmart pretty much single-handedly created a good deal of China’s industry and shipping systems and thereby helped move a lot of our jobs overseas. But I digress…)

Marijuana laws and controversy in the United States

1 Apr

History of marijuana in the United States, in a timeline, recognizing the connection between xenophobia and drug laws. From “Busted: America’s war on marijuana”

Also check out “The house we live in” which discusses neighborhoods and crime in a more general sense.

American Winter, families struggling through the recession

19 Mar

Produced and directed by Emmy award-winning filmmakers, Joe and Harry Gantz, American Winter is a documentary feature film that follows the personal stories of families struggling in the aftermath of the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression.

Years after the recession began, millions of families are struggling to meet their basic needs, and many formerly middle class families are finding themselves in financial crisis, and needing assistance for the first time in their lives.  Meanwhile, the social safety net that was created to help people in difficult times has been weakened by massive budget cuts, creating a perfect storm of greater need and fewer resources to help families in trouble. 

Filmed over the course of one winter in Portland, Oregon, American Winter presents an intimate and emotionally evocative snapshot of the state of our economy as it is playing out in many American families.   

Working together with the nonprofit organization 211info in Portland, the filmmakers were given full access to monitor and record calls from distressed families who were calling 211’s emergency hotline in search of help.  They then began following the stories of some of these callers in more depth over several months.  The film follows multiple families in their daily struggle to keep their heads above water, while facing overwhelming challenges and dwindling resources available to help them, creating a powerful firsthand view of Americans caught in today’s financial undertow.  

The experiences of the families in American Winter are a vivid illustration of what has been happening to families across America, including working families losing their homes, people who remain jobless or underemployed, children going hungry, families getting their heat shut off in the dead of winter, and people with health issues overwhelmed by medical costs. 

Framed through the personal stories of eight families, American Winter puts a face on the country’s economic challenges and has the potential to humanize the discussion around these issues. When viewers see these hard working, relatable families in need, it breaks down stereotypes and makes it harder to justify cuts to social services, motivating and bringing together individuals and organizations working towards a new paradigm of opportunity for all Americans.

We are developing partnerships with local and national nonprofit organizations that can utilize the film to advance their specific missions. Additionally, American Winter’s social action campaign will focus on channeling the frustrations of struggling Americans into a movement for positive change, while also supporting legislators to pass bills that allow all Americans to have an opportunity to live a comfortable life and a chance at the American Dream.

Reaction to Coca Cola commercial during Super Bowl

7 Feb

Hop on Pop

Coca-Cola sparks a Super Bowl controversy with its unpatriotic ad featuring immigrants singing “America the Beautiful” while drinking Coca-Cola.  (05:17)

Features old ads from the US warning against various “dangerous” European immigrant groups.

Wage against the machine

30 Jan

Discussing how the increase of the minimum wage will benefit society, includes how the fast food industry benefits from welfare programs.

  • Tuesday January 28, 2014
  • | Views: 130,181
  • |Comments: 45

Wage Against the Machine

Samantha Bee explores the devastating economic effects of raising the minimum wage to the poverty level. (04:59)

Macklemore’s Grammy-Winning 16 Bars and the Search for Our 40 Acres

27 Jan

Nine years ago, now-Grammy Award winning rapper Macklemore wondered about his place in hip-hop. He’d probably done that for years, but this time he put it in a song called “White Privilege.” Its hook included the line: “I said I’m gonna be me, so please be who you are / but we still owe ‘em 40 acres now we’ve stolen their 16 bars.”

Those bars have since made the Seattle-based MC the most popular mainstream rap act in recent years, a fact that was underscored last night when he and producer Ryan Lewis walked away with the Grammy awards for best song, best new album and best new artist. And after last night’s big wins, the rapper’s tune changed. “I understand how certain people have said, ‘Oh, it’s the white, gay-promoting rapper from Seattle. That’s weird, he doesn’t belong here.’ It is what it is, it’s always going to be that. But it is hip-hop music. I’m just trying to push the art, push the genre.”

The success that Macklemore’s had with pushing the genre, paired with his vocal awareness that his being white played a huge role in his success, brings up a question that my colleague Aura Bogado succinctly brought up on Facebook: Does he represent an indictment of white supremacy — or a celebration of it?

It’s what many black hip-hop fans find irksome about him, the fact that this 30-year-old white guy has gained so much notoriety for making a black art form palatable for white listeners. He raps of thrift stores and marriage equality and, don’t get me wrong, it’s good music, catchy; dude is undeniably good at his craft. But he wears his white privilege like one of his ironic fur coats, a gaudy reminder to show how the music industry’s racial inequities are still stubbornly in place.

He made headlines even before the show began when it was announced that Queen Latifah would marry dozens of gay couple’s during Macklemore’s performance of “Same Love,” his celebration of marriage equality. It was a move so calculated that you couldn’t help but roll your eyes, even if the intention was to put gay couples at the center of music’s biggest moment. It was, in many ways, too calculated, too obvious, a move that did little to shift attention to the plight of the black artists who are regularly screwed over by the industry that has so openly embraced Macklemore’s music. Perhaps a more meaningful act would have been to share the stage with a black queer artist, anyone from Angel Haze and New York-based rapper Le1f, who’s openly criticized him for profiting off of the plight of the LGBT community.

But I digress.

Macklemore’s whiteness has been a topic of conversation at least since he burst onto the national stage with his hit 2012 record “The Heist.” He’s addressed it directly in interviews with refreshing honesty. “We made a great album,” he said to Rolling Stone last year of the hit album he made with white producer Ryan Lewis, “but I do think we have benefited from being white and the media grabbing on to something. A song like ‘Thrift Shop’ was safe enough for the kids.”

And that’s what makes his success so hard to stomach for some black listeners who want to see their realities reflected and celebrated at music’s highest levels with a big win at this year’s Grammy awards. He’s calling out the systemic inequity in the music industry and is aware of how he’s benefiting from it.

It’s not just black fans that are conflicted. Days before the Grammy Awards, Vulture quoted a source close to the star-studded affair who described how many of the rap committee’s members didn’t want Macklemore included in the categories for best rap song and album because his music’s more pop than hip-hop. “It’s not that they don’t think he’s a rapper,” said the source. “It’s just that when you’re trying to protect categories and someone has become popular, it should be judged as much. … Where does their music exist? Who are their fans?”

Those fans, according to the New York Times’s Jon Caramanica, are “hip-hop aware” but not “hip-hop exclusive.” In other words, they’re white.

Caramanica wondered aloud about the authenticity of a hip-hop moment that featured predominately white artists like Macklemore and Baauer (whose song “Harlem Shake” soundtracked much of 2012). He notes that where Macklemore differs from other white rappers like Eminem, Yelawolf and Machine Gun Kelly is that his “rapping is merely a tool to advance ideas that are not connected to hip-hop to an audience that doesn’t mind receiving them under a veneer of hip-hop cool.”

To be fair, it’s a well-known fact that white kids love hip-hop. But what sets Macklemore apart is how willing he is to actually talk about how his privilege informs his popularity. A well-intentioned white artist can still, half a century after Elvis, suddenly become the face of a historically black art form. His intention may not have been to do that, but the impact stays the same. In the end, it’s important to keep in mind that it takes more than awareness to create real change. And, frustratingly, Macklemore knows, too. Again, here’s “White Privilege”: “Hip-hop started off on a block that I’ve never been to / To counteract a struggle I’ve never even been through / If I think I understand just because I flow, too? / That means that I’m not keeping it true.”

Oxfam: Richest 1% own nearly half of world’s wealth

21 Jan

Graphics displaying the global wealth disparity.


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