Should Every American Have an Income from the Government?

While I won’t vote for Trump, I am wary of voting for Hillary Clinton.  She is qualified for the position, no doubt, but in terms of policy, she doesn’t bring anything bold. Ideas like raising the minimum wage are fine, but does it go far enough to improve the economic lot of millions of Americans?

Perhaps an idea the Democrats should float is the universal basic income (UBI), where the government guarantees every citizen a money transfer equivalent to the poverty line. This way, starving artists don’t have to work to support themselves. Rather, artists can spend that time going to auditions, writers can work on their stories and novels, and musicians can practice for their live performances. Workers who have been left behind by neoliberal globalization can live with some comfort while they train for the jobs that the current economy demands. Poor students in college won’t have to take out cost-of-living loans: their basic income will take care of that!

This all sounds good, but implementation has been a slow process. In terms of worldwide political action, there has been little policy movement. Switzerland held a referendum on having UBI, but it lost: 76.9% of voters decided against the idea. Finland will implement the policy on a local level as a means of experimentation. Beyond that, little is being done in the way of policy implementation.

However, there are various measures receiving wider and wider support from mainstream governments. Mexico’s constitutional assembly is considering including a provision in its constitution making it a right for all Mexican citizens to a basic income in order to live a dignified life.

There are groups of people working worldwide to advance this idea. Basic Income Earth Network, a network of people who are interested in the implementation of UBI around the world, considers itself at the forefront of this fight for providing people with a modicum of social support. They are steadily supporting the cause. They see the defeat in Switzerland as a “formal defeat” that only highlights that there is more support for the policy than anticipated.

What about US?

What I would like to see is more widespread discussion of a basic income in the United States. As of now, libertarians (the Cato Institute being a proponent of UBI) have suggested the viability of a UBI, but as a means to gut other public welfare programs like public housing, food stamps, and even Social Security. UBI can be implemented as a main source of income for American citizens, while public housing can be offered to those who are in more need.

Perhaps the progressive movement can adopt UBI as part of a new governmental policy alongside criminal justice reform and electoral campaign finance. UBI can be part of a new economic and civil bill of rights that all Americans deserve.

Note: this blog post is not a comprehensive discussion of everything UBI. Rather, these are my musings on the subject.


Painting at Louvre Makes a Sudden Move

On June 6th, 2015, a beloved painting was found mysteriously on the Seine River. The American provocateur Paul Nikolai Alzate was spotted with the Minister of Culture’s daughter Marine De La Courvoisier laughing drunkenly climbing up the steps near the Pont Neuf by Parisian police. Near the steps was the Oath f the Horatii, a painting Jacques-Louis David. Fortunately, the painting was found in pristine condition. Needless to say, the Minister of Culture, Fleur Pellerin, was not pleased that the security of the museum (and the honor of his daughter) was compromised. Pellerin declared Mr. Alzate an outlaw, unwelcome in the city of Paris, citing that his presence would pose a threat to the cultural integrity of the city. Mr. Alzate declared that he would lay low in Morocco until things die down a bit.

Review of “Dubliners” by James Joyce

When we read a novel, watch the latest film or television series, we see it as a chance to escape our lives and to kill time for a few hours. Talking teddy bears, animated cartoons fighting the Big Bad, or a United States politician scheming his way to the presidency are situations far removed from our own. However little we actually relate to these characters or situations,  we seek the novel as a means of entertainment.

This desire for the new and stimulating doesn’t deserve our scorn as it is only human. The desire does lead us, however, to overlook the beauty and truth in the apparently mundane. The everyday struggles of regular people, at first glance, do not sound sexy at all. Many of the works we read in high school or university for English class probably bored us for that same reason: it was about commonplace situations, characters, and emotions. But these so-called ordinary tales can teach us something, whether about ourselves or people and society in general, if we only bothered to take the time and look for these wisdom nuggets.

With that,  I recommend Dubliners by James Joyce the next time you want to pass the time. It is not too long, and the writing is approachable (compared to this other works. I’m looking at you, Ulysses and Finnegan’s Wake). The Modern Library edition is small enough so one may carry it on the subway or bus. The stories are laid out in an arc that resembles the human life span: the first story deals with the death of a priest, and the last deals with the death of a forlorn lover. In between are tales of adolescence and adulthood, and all the things these life phases entail. The stories are insightful and attest to Joyce’s understanding of folks, of the inhabitants of his native Dublin and perhaps of Ireland itself. There are issues of Irish nationalism and identity, but we should take this to mean that one needs to be Irish to understand what he’s trying to convey. Each tale capture an emotional snapshot of a character struggling with a problem that, however minor to us, takes on gravity because it shapes them as human beings.

One of the themes of Dubliners, which is that the past will always cast a shadow on the future, is a common one in literature but Joyce deals with it in a straightforward manner. In the last story, “The Dead”, the married couple cannot have a peaceful night together because the wife inadvertently recalls the death of a teenager during her youth. This teen so strongly loved her that he traveled far to try to see  her, despite the effect the cold had on his health and ultimately his life. The husband envies the dead youth, knowing he could never sacrifice himself that way for her. Here, Joyce points out that past memories will haunt a person’s future like an unwanted ghost.

It is not all melancholic musings, however, as there are stories of youth and children that capture the awkwardness and excitement of those phases of our life. Dubliners is a literary tapestry of different moods and colors. Each story changes in style to reflect the character at its center. The omnipresent narrator passes no judgment on the characters and their doings, allowing us to eavesdrop on their lives. The realism in Joyce’s descriptions ooze through the page without degenerating into the overwrought nature of purple prose. The hues and patterns of this tapestry are beautiful to behold without overwhelming the eyes.

If you’re looking for a painless good time, then be wary of this little book. If you have the time, however, then I urge you to invest the time and check it out. In an age of rapid messaging and massive amounts of data, Dubliners is the eye in the hurricane. If you put in the time, you’ll enjoy yourself too in the quiet it offers.

Django Unchained (2012)

I must watch Django Unchained. What’s wrong with me?

Wonderful Cinema

Original Large Theatrical Movie Poster Art Cinema Film 2012 Django Unchained Is there any limit to the fun you can have watching a movie!

Quentin Tarantino keeps banging out hit after hit which keep us rooted to our cinema seats and sofas. We are either grinning or grimacing, howling with laughter or on edge with tension. The only one of our emotions Tarantino does not seem compelled to manipulate is our heart strings; the scenes in his films are never tear-jerkers.

His filmography spans over two decades already. Sheesh, how time flies! Let’s briefly recap Tarantino’s greatest successes:

  • Reservoir Dogs (1992), wrote the screenplay and directed;
  • True Romance (1993), wrote the screenplay;
  • Pulp Fiction (1994), wrote the screenplay and directed;
  • Natural Born Killers (1994), wrote the story;
  • From Dusk Till Dawn (1996), wrote the screenplay;
  • Jackie Brown (1997), wrote the screenplay and directed;
  • Kill Bill: Vol. 1 (2003) and Vol. 2 (2004), wrote the screenplay and directed;
  • Death Proof (2007), wrote the screenplay and directed;
  • Inglourious Basterds (2009), wrote the screenplay and…

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What a TV Show Can Tell Us about Power and Survival

In a world where power is a zero-sum game, powerlessness won’t make you pure necessarily.

Overlooking his empire, but for how long?

The perception of power that is. Power is based on perception. Power only corrupts your principles if you perceive it as more important than those. Hobbes was wrong: only if we perceive ourselves as “powerless” will we break down. Frank Underwood and Francis Urquhart, respectively the protagonist of the US version of the TV series “House of Cards” and the protagonist of the UK version of “House of Cards,” are power-hungry: not greedy for money, which is concrete, but lusty for power, which is by definition abstract.

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