New Clear Vision

constructive commentary for the chronically farsighted

Signs of the Times

February 01, 2017 By: NCVeditor Category: Economy, Family, Politics, Randall Amster

Reflections on a Society in Turmoil

by Randall Amster

Today we are confronted with a convergence of crises that is unparalleled in recent memory. Overtly discriminatory policies, the elevation of oppressive ideologies, ignorance and disregard as political virtues — these are among the hallmarks of this moment. As outrageous as this is, it is also important to remember that none of this exists in a vacuum, and that to some extent these patterns have been with us in various forms for a long time. In considering the cultural context for navigating contemporary challenges, I am drawn to recollections from not long ago…

Exiting a natural foods store in the southwest a few years ago, I noticed a person flying a sign on the side of the road. It was apparently a young woman, complete with piercings and other hallmarks of the disheveled look that is sometimes known as “crusty” or “gutter punk” in many cities. What stood out for me, indelibly in this case (in addition to the feelings I experience any time I see someone asking for help in such a manner) was the language on her sign, composed of three words in all: Broke. Hungry. Ugly. (more…)

The Working Dead

December 09, 2016 By: NCVeditor Category: Culture, Economy, Politics, Randall Amster

Signs of Life in Making a Living?

by Randall Amster

I’ve noticed a subtle shift in recent years that seems relatively minor but is perhaps quite revealing of larger trends. People rarely seem to ask the question anymore, “what do you do for a living?” Instead, it’s usually expressed in more transactional terms as, “where do you work?” or “what’s your job?” By itself this appears insignificant, except that when coupled with more macroscopic shifts in the nature of employment across a wide range of fields, it says something about the erstwhile notion of “making a living.” Indeed, with increasing routinization and the advent of 24/7 technology, work is becoming less about our living (as in, someone pursuing their “life’s work”) and more about trying not to let it kill us.

With all of the post-election analysis about the issues of the “working class” as a determinative factor, we now find ourselves in a liminal space between the reality of economic dislocation and the fantasy of redemption. How much disbelief needs to be suspended in order to buy the notion that (a) outmoded industrial jobs will literally be coming back, and that (b) a billionaire real estate magnate is the one to do it? The burgeoning Cabinet picks and associated rhetoric should be all working people need to read the tea leaves. As such, we are steadily traversing the fine line from fake populism to genuine dystopianism. (more…)

Riding Stylishly

November 20, 2013 By: NCVeditor Category: Community, Economy, Jay Walljasper

Do Bike Lanes Promote Gentrification?

by Jay Walljasper

While African-Americans comprise the fastest growing demographic of bicyclists, doubling from 2001 and 2009 according to U.S. Department of Transportation data, bike lanes proposed for African-American neighborhoods in several cities have drawn controversy.

There are widespread feelings in some African-American communities that bike lanes are the opening act of gentrification, says Adrian Lipscomb, a bicycle project coordinator for the city of Austin, Texas who is writing a Ph.D. dissertation on African-Americans and biking. One woman in the historically African-American neighborhood of East Austin told Lipscomb: “When the bikes came in, the blacks went out.” However, Census data shows the percentage of the population that was white in the neighborhood increased only one percentage point between 2000 and 2009, while the percentage that was Latino climbed eight. (The numbers of Latinos biking in the United States rose nearly 50 percent between 2000 and 2009, compared to 22 percent for whites. Whites and Latinos now bike at the same level.) (more…)

The Needy Rich

August 07, 2012 By: NCVeditor Category: Economy, Family, Pat LaMarche

Always Wanting Something to Help Them Get Ahead

by Pat LaMarche

Some guy asked me for help the other day. Considering the time I spend hanging with homeless folks that sentence likely wouldn’t surprise anyone. But this guy wasn’t homeless. In fact he’s not even poor. He’s got it “going on” with a great job and he’s well educated. He came from a good family and was sent to the finest schools. He got a great college education back in the day when I got mine. Back when all four years of private higher ed was cheaper than one year is now.

Seems his brains and good looks, comfortable station and high profile job just can’t get him what he really needs to move ahead. What can I do for a guy like that? I mean for all intents and purposes he and I are peers. In fact we even do the exact same job; we’re both talk radio hosts. We literally got our broadcasting start in the same small market, although he was a little before my time. (more…)

Love in the End Times

July 16, 2012 By: NCVeditor Category: Ecology, Economy, Jennifer Browdy, Politics

Tend to the Parts You Can Reach…

by Jennifer Browdy de Hernandez

The political horse race in American politics has begun, with both major Presidential candidates running full-tilt but ponderously towards each other like armored knights on horseback, wielding the lances of millions of dollars’ worth of attack ads and backed up by slick, smart campaign pages.

Meanwhile, it continues to be hot, hotter and unbearably hot here in the Northeast.  It was a blessing to wake up this morning to a brief soaking rain, breaking weeks of drought.

But there is no way to fool myself into hoping that things will go back to normal, weather-wise.

As many people have been saying lately, this is the new normal.

Just as we’ve gotten used to a political climate in which it’s normal for a Presidential candidate to hide his tax returns, refuse to comment on moving his millions into off-shore tax havens, and totally repudiate everything he once stood for in order to lick the shoes of his political bosses, we’re going to have to get used to a climate that lurches from one extreme to another — from blizzards to heat waves, from floods to droughts. (more…)

Diversity Is Strength

April 20, 2012 By: NCVeditor Category: Culture, Joel Olson, Politics

Whiteness and the 99 Percent

by Joel Olson

{Editor’s note: This is one of the last pieces written by NCV Contributor Joel Olson, who recently passed away and left us far too early. This essay, written in October 2011, indicates both Joel’s deep-seated radicalism and his abundant kindness of spirit. As Joel always reminded us with his words and deeds alike, “The only thing that can stop us is us.”}

Occupy Wall Street and the hundreds of occupations it has sparked nationwide are among the most inspiring events in the U.S. in the 21st century. The occupations have brought together people to talk, occupy, and organize in new and exciting ways. The convergence of so many people with so many concerns has naturally created tensions within the occupation movement. One of the most significant tensions has been over race. This is not unusual, given the racial history of the United States. But this tension is particularly dangerous, for unless it is confronted, we cannot build the 99%. The key obstacle to building the 99% is left colorblindness, and the key to overcoming it is to put the struggles of communities of color at the center of this movement. It is the difference between a free world and the continued dominance of the 1%. (more…)

Marching to the Music

November 02, 2011 By: NCVeditor Category: Economy, Politics, Robert Reich

The Occupiers Strike a Responsive Chord

by Robert Reich

A combination of police crackdowns and bad weather are testing the young Occupy movement. But rumors of its demise are premature, to say the least. Although numbers are hard to come by, anecdotal evidence suggests the movement is growing.

As importantly, the movement has already changed the public debate in America.

Consider, for example, last week’s Congressional Budget Office report on widening disparities of income in America. It was hardly news — it’s already well known that the top 1 percent now gets 20 percent of the nation’s income, up from 9 percent in the late 1970s. But it’s the first time such news made the front page of the nation’s major newspapers. (more…)