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COMMONS MAGAZINE

Trade Deals Overturn Democracy

June 22, 2015 | By David Morris

On May 8th at Nike’s headquarters, President Obama denounced opponents of the hotly contested Trans-Pacific Partnership as ill informed. “(C)ritics warn that parts of this deal would undermine American regulation….They’re making this stuff up.  This is just not true.  No trade agreement is going to force us to change our laws.”

Self-portrait by the author's 15-year-old son.

Coming of Age in the Time of the Hoodie

June 15, 2015

Earlier this year I decided to read Joe Brainard’s cult classic, I Remember. The book had long intrigued me for I had heard that it was widely taught in creative writing courses and was a favorite of many authors, including several well-known authors whose work I admire. I was immediately drawn to Brainard’s style, each line starting with the words “I remember.” As I read it, I found myself jotting down remembrances of my own, complementing Brainard’s memories of America with my memories of Nigeria.

(Photo by Backbone Campaign under a Creative Commons license) 

Are Trade Agreements More Important Than Government By the People?

June 15, 2015 | By David Morris

For much of our history, trade agreements were considered treaties.  According to the Constitution they had to be ratified by a two-thirds vote of the Senate.  The House does not participate in ratification of treaties (Article II, Section 2).

By the late 19th century Congress realized it was far too cumbersome to require a Congressional vote to change individual tariffs, so they delegated to the President the authority to use tariffs as a flexible tool in the exercise of foreign policy. 

(By Woodley Wonderworks under a Creative Commons license)

The Ultimate Communications App

June 11, 2015

I’ve just invented a new communication app.  It can be used by almost everyone; It works anywhere and anytime, night or day;  It doesn’t need batteries, doesn’t need to be plugged in,  doesn’t even need the internet;  Once people start using it, it is so easy that it is almost impossible to stop using it;  it becomes indispensable, and you are hooked, you cannot be without it;  It can be tailored to suit any occasion;  Its use facilitates an expanding network of people; It’s use opens up incredible possibilities for creativity and cooperation.  

I Paint the Line Because Your Mine

June 2, 2015

Recently, I engaged in an act of reluctant civil disobedience.

Here’s why: a Texas-based energy corporation, Spectra, is about to break ground on a high-pressure gas pipeline in my neighborhood. We’ve done everything we can do stop it – and we have no further recourse.

All of our elected officials – city, state, and federal –have tried to stop this project. The City of Boston and our heroic Congressman Stephen Lynch have “intervener status” –and have tried to delay this project for further review.

Novelist and libertarian guru Ayn Rand considered altruism a form of "self-destruction." (Photo illustration by Playing Futures under a Creative Commons license.)  

Ayn Rand vs. Adam Smith

May 28, 2015 | By David Morris

 

(By Mary Crandall under a Creative Common license)

Your Land and My Land is Getting Fracked

May 19, 2015

The Protect Our Public Lands Act, which would ban fracking on all federal lands, was reintroduced recently by Congressmembers Mark Pocan and Jan Schakowsky, and 12 additional cosponsors.

 

Photo by Andy McLemore under a Creative Commons license.

What Was Obama Thinking?

May 19, 2015 | By David Morris

The Obamas are proving singularly inept at choosing appropriate venues to highlight their initiatives.   

Walmart & Food Deserts

(Photo by Ann under a Creative Commons license)

Sharing is Not Just For the Young

May 14, 2015

The Hopi Chief, Dan Evehema, said it for all of us prospective elders before he passed on in 1999 at age 108:

There is a river flowing now, very fast. 
It is so great and swift that there are those who will be afraid. 
They will try to hold on to the shore. 
They will feel they are being torn apart and will suffer greatly.

By Charamelody under a Creative Commons license.

We Need New Economics for a New Era of History

May 12, 2015

Let me tell you about my career in economics. It started when I was ten and my father, a real economist, hired me to crunch numbers for a book he was writing about the stock market. I used an old Friden mechanical calculator, which literally put the crunch in number-crunching. I had no idea what the numbers meant, but I really enjoyed crunching them.

The streets of Albert Lea. (Courtesy of Blue Zones)

Little City on the Prairie Steps It Up

April 30, 2015 | By Jay Walljasper

It’s like a small-town scene from Norman Rockwell, updated for the 21st Century. 

A Latino family strolls leisurely through the park, immersed in conversation. Coming up fast behind is a blonde woman in designer exercise gear and earplugs, intent on maintaining her power-walking pace. Bringing up the rear is a young man with his Husky, both of them staring up at a patch of sun that has appeared from behind the clouds.

(By Lindsay France, courtesy of Cornell University) 

(By Garry Knight under a Creative Commons license)

Save the Planet By Unleashing Our Dreams

April 12, 2015 | By Jay Walljasper

At a time when ecological destruction is more dire than ever, the work of  protecting the planet depends on dreamers just as much as of scientists, activists, public officials and business leaders. 

While it’s critical to wrestle power away from those who believe that corporate profits are all that matter, we won’t achieve a sustainable, just future without serious attention to imagining a different kind of world. That’s why it’s great to see artists playing an increasingly active role in the climate justice movement today.

Neighbors explore their community in Phoenix, one of many towns around the world hosting Jane's Walks in early May. (By David Crummey under a Creative Commons license)

Take a Walk on the Jane Side

March 29, 2015 | By Jay Walljasper

Spring is back, so here's a fresh idea to celebrate the season and discover hidden pleasures in your neighborhood-- organize a Jane’s Walk.

Since 2007, thousands of people in more than 100 cities around the world enjoy May exploring nature, culture, history and architecture in their own backyard as way to mark Jane Jacobs’ birthday.

Local residents were involved in the creation of the Campus Martius square in downtown Detroit, and they've embraced it as one of the city's favorite places. (By Michigan Municipal League under a Creative Commons license.) 

Placemaking---What Exactly Does It Mean?

March 28, 2015 | By Jay Walljasper

Placemaking is an evocative, inspiring word heard more and more these days to describe grassroots efforts to revitalize public spaces. And the term creative placemaking is emerging to describe the growing role for the arts in urban redevelopment. 

A Visionary Plan to Save the Great Lakes

March 28, 2015

Out of our love for the Great Lakes and our responsibilities to future generations, we are calling for a renewed relationship and mode of governance for the Great Lakes Commons. We are asking you to join us.

A place of one's own:  Boyce Park in Pittsburgh. (By Kevin Conor Keller under a Creative Commons license)

Commons Are For Kids!

March 27, 2015

The Rio Grande Bosque (forest) is one of the most beautiful and most loved open space areas in Albuquerque.  Here, large cottonwood trees, coyote willow, and New Mexico olive provide habitat for beaver, turtles, snakes, porcupines, and numerous species of birds.   A shady 16-mile multi-use path running through the Bosque is popular with hikers, bikers, skaters, bird watchers, photographers, and nature lovers of all ages. 

(By Graham Coreil-Allen under a Creative Commons license.)

America’s Most Walkable Suburb Offers Lessons for Towns Everywhere

March 25, 2015 | By Jay Walljasper

Suburban life has always been synonymous with long hours in the car-- going to work, school, the grocery store, the mall, soccer practice and friends’ homes. Some people even drive to take a walk.

While Red State public universities are fielding topnotch basketball teams, state politicians are slashing university budgets.  (By Brad J. Ward under a Creative Commons license)

Politics Boil Beneath Surface of NCAA March Madness

March 25, 2015 | By David Morris

When television cameras zoomed in on Kansas Governor Sam Brownback in the middle of the Kansas-Wichita State NCAA basketball game a thunderous chorus of boos broke out.  Viewers gained a rare glimpse of the politics behind March Madness. The announcers pointedly ignored the boos.

Public universities in Red States field top notch basketball teams, but state politicians in many of these states are slashing the universities' budgets. (By Brad J. Ward under a Creative Commons license.)

Politics Boil Beneath the Surface of NCAA March Madness

March 25, 2015 | By David Morris

When television cameras zoomed in on Kansas Governor Sam Brownback in the middle of the Kansas-Wichita State NCAA basketball game a thunderous chorus of boos broke out.  Viewers gained a rare glimpse of the politics behind March Madness. The announcers pointedly ignored the boos.