Left Coast Voices

"I would hurl words into the darkness and wait for an echo. If an echo sounded, no matter how faintly, I would send other words to tell, to march, to fight." Richard Wright, American Hunger

Archive for the month “August, 2011”

Goodbye My Friend

Yesterday a close friend passed away after battling cancer for many years. Rebecca would have been 44 years old today and leaves behind a wonderful family who, however you try and positively frame it, have been denied an amazing, kind and loving mother and wife.

Last week, she lay in bed struggling to try and work out how to help my family what with my wife being away. That sums up who she was. When I came to the US, it was clear to her that I, and later my family, would live with them, until we found our feet, even though she didn’t know us very well (her husband and I go back 30 years and he and my wife are good friends).

I don’t really know what to say. There was no surprise and we have all been preparing for this for a long time. Except that you cannot prepare and right now it is just a colossal numb feeling.

No political blog today. It was supposed to be something more serious about the London Riots, but that can wait for tomorrow. This was a song that meant a lot to me back in the ’70’s when a friend’s parent passed away.

This is for you, Rebecca. You left behind a lot of friends who love you and love your family. We will help them all we can.

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Alon Shalev is the author of The Accidental Activist (now available on Kindle) and A Gardener’s Tale. He is the Executive Director of the San Francisco Hillel Foundation, a non-profit that provides spiritual and social justice opportunities to Jewish students in the Bay Area. More on Alon Shalev at http://www.alonshalev.com/and on Twitter (#alonshalevsf).

Exciting News! Please Help.

Yesterday I learned that Left Coast Voices has been nominated for CBS San Francisco’s Most Valuable Blog 2011. This is a huge compliment for Tom Rossi, Roger Ingalls and myself and I want to take the opportunity to thank Tom and Roger for their hard work.

PLEASE VOTE for our blog in the awards (you can vote once a day) at http://sanfrancisco.blogger.cbslocal.com/most-valuable-blogger/vote/misc/

My good friend, Kymberlie, also has her blog in the reckoning (at the same link). You can check it out here. She has a landmark birthday on Sunday, so I’ll be voting for her that day. Happy Birthday, Kymberlie.
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Alon Shalev is the author of The Accidental Activist (now available on Kindle) and A Gardener’s Tale. He is the Executive Director of the San Francisco Hillel Foundation, a non-profit that provides spiritual and social justice opportunities to Jewish students in the Bay Area. More on Alon Shalev at http://www.alonshalev.com/and on Twitter (#alonshalevsf).

London Riots

Really, there is nothing amusing about the riots on England and the looting of shoes, clothes, computers, and plasma televisions, . The damage, the carnage, the terrible impact on people’s lives and business. From another perspective, if this is the expression of an alienated generation who feel only hopelessness then it is even more problematic.

Was it greed or alienation?

However, The Economist took note that while these looters grab.ed clothes and electronics, they actually left the bookstore alone. Often two shops would be smashed while the bookstore in between them stood untouched. The only exception, and a sad one at that, was a gay bookstore Gay’s the Word. This shop was pelted with eggs and and had a front window smashed, though no books were stolen, leading to the obvious conclusion that it was a hate crime.
In one High Street, the only shop to escape damage was a Waterstones ( a bookstore chain), which led to one employee wistfully wondering that “If they steal some books, they might actually learn something.”

The Huffington Post picked up on this dilemma and asked the question: “Did the bookstores survive because the rioters respect reading–or because they simply don’t care about books?”

Where's the book department?

This leads to one of three alternatives:

1) Looters do not read anything longer than Twitter (apparently the forum where the riot coordination took place).

2) Their respect for the printed word and the hallowed role of authors in our society

3) They all have Kindles, Nooks, or iPads (which I hope they purchased) and only read ebooks.

It’s a tough subject. Tomorrow we will look at who these rioters, looters, and non-tree book readers are.

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Alon Shalev is the author of The Accidental Activist (now available on Kindle) and A Gardener’s Tale. He is the Executive Director of the San Francisco Hillel Foundation, a non-profit that provides spiritual and social justice opportunities to Jewish students in the Bay Area. More on Alon Shalev at http://www.alonshalev.com/and on Twitter (#alonshalevsf).

A Lesson from Mouseland

A friend of mine suggested this to me when I told him that I was baffled by the negotiation around raising the Federal Debt ceiling. I’m not sure there is much to add this 5-minute cartoon. Decide for yourself.

Have a great weekend – one with many creative ideas!

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Alon Shalev is the author of The Accidental Activist (now available on Kindle) and A Gardener’s Tale. He is the Executive Director of the San Francisco Hillel Foundation, a non-profit that provides spiritual and social justice opportunities to Jewish students in the Bay Area. More on Alon Shalev at http://www.alonshalev.com/and on Twitter (#alonshalevsf).

Political Anagrams by Roger Ingalls

Let’s put the serious blogging aside and make some smiles. Today I want to poke fun at conservative politicians by anagramming their names.

What is an anagram? It is a rearrangement of the letters of one word or phrase to form another word or phrase. A very simple example is rearranging the letters of “Evil” to get “Vile”.

Warning, these anagrams may not be politically correct and some may be a little crude!

Michele Bachmann (Rep. from Minnesota and Presidential Candidate)

Anagram: “Michele Bachmann” becomes “A Calm Bi-Henchmen”. Ironic since she and her husband believe a gay can be prayed straight.

Hench-men: n., a person who supports a political figure chiefly out of selfish interests.

Bi: slang n., a bisexual person.

George W. Bush (43rd President of the United States)

Anagram: “George W. Bush” becomes “Whose Bugger”. The story goes something like this; Little George got caught stealing funds from the church’s collection plate so the preacher held him up by the collar and asked the congregation, “whose bugger?” George’s mother, Barbara Bush, was too embarrassed to claim her own son.

Bug-ger: slang n., a contemptible or disreputable person.

Bug-ger: vulgar slang n., a sodomite.

Ronald Reagan (40th President of the United States)

Anagram 1: “Ronald Reagan” becomes “Adrenal Groan”. An adrenal groan is something Nancy Reagan never experienced while married to President Reagan.

Anagram 2: “Ronald Reagan” becomes “A Granola Nerd”. The President probably didn’t eat granola but his son, Ron Reagan, may have while practicing ballet.

Anagram 3: “Ronald Reagan” becomes “Anal Anger Rod”. An anal anger rod is something President Reagan gave to Mikhail Gorbachev during the USA-USSR Cold War summit meetings. I can see Ronny saying, “take this you communist bastard”.

James “Rick” Perry (Texas Governor and Presidential Candidate)

Anagram: “James Rick Perry” becomes “Scary Prime Jerk”. Rick Perry ignores the separation of church and state, and brings religious prejudice to politics. It is a scary thought that this prime jerk could become president.

Prime: adj., first in degree or rank; chief.

John Boehner (Rep. from Ohio)

Anagram 1: “Rep. John Boehner” becomes “John Horn Beeper”.

Anagram 2: “Rep. John Boehner” becomes “Be Her Prone John”. What a pimp says to his hooker’s client, “lie down and be her prone john”.

Prone: adj., lying downward.

John: n., a prostitute’s client.

Scott Walker (Wisconsin Governor)

Anagram: “Scott Walker” becomes “We Lost Track”. Before flushing him to Hell, Saint Peter asked Gov Walker, “why did you suck up to Big Biz instead of protecting the people of Wisconsin?” A slobbering Walker cried, “we lost track of our constitutional duty.”

Willard “Mitt” Romney (Former Governor and Presidential Candidate)

Anagram: “Willard Romney” becomes “Really Din Worm”. Mitt is a loud mouth squirmy worm.

Din: a jumble of loud, usually discordant sounds.

Eric Cantor (Rep. from Virginia)

Anagram 1: “Eric Cantor” becomes “Erratic Con”. Needs no explanation.

Anagram 2: “Eric Cantor” becomes “Cancer Trio”. Michele Bachmann, John Boehner and Eric Cantor are the Cancer Trio of American Politics.

Sarah Palin (Former Governor and Former Vice Presidential Candidate)

Anagram 1: “Sarah Palin” becomes “Las Piranha”. An Alaskan fish taco.

Anagram 2: “Sarah Palin” becomes “A Plain Rash”. A plain rash is what many Americans get when Sarah speaks.

Anagram 3: “Sarah Palin” becomes “Ah Anal Rips”. What Todd Palin says after passing gas from Sarah’s moose and bean stew, “ah….anal rips.”

Tea Party Nation

Anagram: “Tea Party Nation” becomes “A Potty Inane Rat”. 

Potty: adj., having a muddled confused mind, silly, foolish, illogical, crazy or addlebrained.

Inane: adj., lacks sense or substance.

The “Tea Party Nation” anagram is descriptively on target and a perfect closing to this post. They truly are a senseless addlebrained movement.

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Roger Ingalls is well travelled and has seen the good and bad of many foreign governments. He hopes his blogging will encourage readers to think more deeply about the American political system and its impact on US citizens and the international community.

Who’s Connected?

The Pew Research Center for the People & the Press “is an independent, non-partisan public opinion research organization that studies attitudes toward politics, the press and public policy issues. In this role it serves as a valuable information resource for political leaders, journalists, scholars and citizens.”

They recently issued three reports on which communication tools we are using.  Here is a very brief overview.

Smartphone Adoption and Usage

  • 35% of all US adults have a smartphone.
  • The biggest users — those with income of $75K or more, college degree, under age 45, African-American or Latino.
  • Some 87% of smartphone owners access the internet or email on their handheld; 25% of smartphone owners say that they mostly go online using their phone, rather than with a computer.

It's fast and smells good!

E-reader & Tablet Ownership

  • E-reader ownership has doubled in last six months, to 12% of US adults.
  • Tablet ownership, now at 8%, appears to be leveling off; 17% of those with $75K+ income own one, and 13% of college grads.
  • Confirming the overall trend toward adoption of mobile devices, laptop computers are for the first time as popular as desktop computers among U.S. adults.

Ebooks - the future is now.

Social Networking Sites and Our Lives

  • 47% of US adults use at least one social network site (SNS), close to double the number in 2008.
  • Half these users are now over the age of 35.
  • 92% are using Facebook, 18% LinkedIn, 13% Twitter.

However, here is what really excited me:

“At that time, 10% of Americans reported that they had attended a political rally, 23% reported that they had tried to convince someone to vote for a specific candidate, and 66% reported that they had or intended to vote. Internet users in general were over twice as likely to attend a political meeting, 78% more likely to try and influence someone’s vote, and 53% more likely to have voted or intended to vote.  Compared with other internet users, and users of other SNS platforms, a Facebook user who uses the site multiple times per day was an additional two and half times more likely to attend a political rally or meeting, 57% more likely to persuade someone on their vote, and an additional 43% more likely to have said they would vote.”

The premise of my novel, The Accidental Activist, written several years prior to this report, was the vision that the Internet and its various platforms would become a catalyst for more political and social advocacy.

It is still the beginning, but a very exciting beginning.

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Alon Shalev is the author of The Accidental Activist (now available on Kindle) and A Gardener’s Tale. He is the Executive Director of the San Francisco Hillel Foundation, a non-profit that provides spiritual and social justice opportunities to Jewish students in the Bay Area. More on Alon Shalev at http://www.alonshalev.com/and on Twitter (#alonshalevsf).

The American Left Part 2 – So What’s Important and What To Do?

A couple of weeks ago, I posted a critique of the American Left. I think these criticisms are valid and I stand by them completely. However, my own negativity has sunk into my brain and made me realize that I have only said half of what needs to be said – and maybe the less important half.

Here’s the other half…. or at least a decent start.

I was not specific about what I meant by “teammates” and our failure to accept them – and the consequences. I also complained that we have no coach, and yet I offered hardly a word of direction or encouragement myself. So let me say a little more about why we need to work together, and then I’ll do my best to say how we might start to do it.

Right now, we have many groups striving to be treated like human beings, or like human beings of equal stature to the almost mythical “great white male”. Of course this really refers to a very special class of white male – a class to which I do not belong.

Some of these groups represent different races, religions, or even ages, body-types, or sexual preference/status/identity. And let’s not forget the other class that is being thrown under the bus these days – workers. Some workers are members of unions, others are not. All are being downgraded in our economy. The worth of the American worker is at its lowest point in decades. Teachers and police officers (among others) are being “asked” (forced) to make sacrifices in order to avoid raising taxes on the rich by 3% or taxing corporations at all.

Each of these groups fights for recognition as “real” Americans and “real” human beings – and rightly so. But their fragmented, uncoordinated attacks on the status quo have made moderate gains on a time-scale measured in decades. This is because of a simple and obvious fact: when group A fights for group A, and group B fights for group B, each group is small and almost powerless. They have even been played against each other at times.

Aren’t all of these groups really fighting for the same thing? Don’t we ALL want to be treated like human beings and not animals nor robots? Don’t we all want fairness? Don’t we all want to live in peace, without fear of prejudice? Don’t we all want not to be stepped on by the police, nor by corporations, nor by our government? Don’t we all have a reasonable expectation that we should be able to provide food and shelter for our families? Don’t we all want the security that comes from our own hard work? Don’t we all want some assurance that our children and our grandchildren will live in a decent world with drinkable water and breathable air?

Then let’s work together!

Let’s get started. Today, I want every one of you to go out of your way to shake hands with someone different from you, but who might be a potential teammate in the battle against the status quo. Smile. Ask a question about his or her job, family, opinion on catsup vs. mustard, the weather, whatever! These people are your teammates. None of them is perfect and none of them is exactly like you, nor do they have exactly the same goals or abilities. Great! We NEED lots of different kinds of people.

Next, we need to break free from the superficial games that our elections have become. We can no longer vote for or against someone because of the way he or she looks, because he or she smoked a joint a couple of times, nor even because he or she cheated on his or her spouse. These things are irrelevant. And we can’t be scared off by the anti-tax boo-birds. Nobody is talking about raising taxes on the middle class… NOBODY! We cannot be scared back into the status quo! We need to send a shockwave through our election system… We are here, and we won’t be screwed anymore!

I’m not nearly qualified to serve as this team’s coach. But maybe this team will have thousands of assistant coaches, and I’ll volunteer for one of those jobs. We all just need to keep it in our minds that, together, we can improve the situation of each and every one of the aforementioned groups – and each group will do BETTER FOR ITSELF as part of a larger team than it ever would on its own.

The mixed bucket of crises that we have all faced and are facing has bred a fair amount of fighting and blaming within our team. The opponent is not within. Let’s focus our efforts. Together, with some reasonable changes, we can have comfortable, secure lives in a sustainable world. It’s easy to see how a unifying set of principles could incorporate the goals of groups concerned with the issues of race and gender and such. It might prove more difficult to create a unified philosophy and calls-for-action which combine these types of issues with the imperative of managing our planet and its resources sustainably, but the potential is there and it must be done.

As it now stands, the resources of our country and of the world are being stolen from all of us and used up at a phenomenal rate in order to enrich those who are already very, very wealthy. The fight for the rights of minorities, or women, or whoever will be meaningless if most of us are living (and dying) in extreme poverty in the middle of a colossal toxic waste dump.

The process of taking our resources (unless we can slow it down) will further oppress those who are already oppressed. We’ve seen, recently, how crises are used to justify increased oppression of the lower and middle classes. We must re-prioritize PEOPLE OVER PROFITS. We must reject the lie that profits benefit everyone. It may have once been true in this country, but no longer.

If we can advance this simple set of principles, we will all benefit.

That black man, that white woman, that Chicano, or that Vietnamese woman standing behind you at the grocery store is probably your teammate. That “hippie,” that nerdy-looking scientist, or that artist sitting near you on the train might have some ideas you would be interested in – or might be interested in some of yours. Meet these people. Start talking. Start a movement.

-Tom Rossi

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Tom Rossi is a commentator on politics and social issues. He is a Ph.D. student in International Sustainable Development, concentrating in natural resource and economic policy. Tom greatly enjoys a hearty debate, especially over a hearty pint of Guinness.

Tom also posts on thrustblog.blogspot.com

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The New MidListers

Yesterday I highlighted John Locke as a successful ebook author who has sold more than 1 million ebooks. Along with Amanda Hocking and J.R.Konrath, they are the Grishams and Pattersons of the new book reality. Thinking gof this made me wonder whether there is an emerging ‘midlist’ in the ebook jungle. Gotta love Google – I came across “The New Midlist: Self-published E-book Authors Who Earn a Living” by Robin Sullivan.

Amanda Hocking - leading the charge.

Ms. Sullivan suggests that this is in fact the case and that these authors are able to generate income because of the high royalties. The traditional book model (the terms offered by the big six publishers) offers 25% royalty on net sales of ebooks. But Amazon.com offers 35% for books up to $2.99 and a whooping 70% for books that sell between $2.99 and $9.99.

The trick is to leverage the Internet to generate high volume sales that are attracted because of the price is allowing more self-published and small press e-book authors to receive five and six figure yearly incomes. Many of these authors are able to leave their day jobs and make a living by doing what they love most–writing.

Michale Sullivan - leading the mid-listers

Ms. Sullivan runs a small press, Ridan Publishing. Her husband, Michael J. Sullivan, has six books published. From January to September 2010, his income averaged just over $1,500 a month or around $10,700 in total (Amazon US Kindle sales only). Once he hit the tipping point  he earned more than $102,000 in just five months. For details on his monthly income see the following chart:

Michael J Sullivan Amazon Sales

A quick glance at Writer’s Café (a section of the Kindle Boards forums), shows that Michael’s sales increase is not an isolated phenomena.  The following graph shines light on the number of authors who sold at least 800 books a month (Data provided on Kindle Board).

Amazon author sales over 800

Ms. Sullivan estimated the income of several of these authors according to the sales and book price data that the authors were posting on the Kindle Boards for one month.

  • Michael J. Sullivan — $16,648
  • Ellen Fisher — $3,915
  • Siebel Hodge — $15,425
  • N. Gemini Sasson – $4,222
  • David McAfee — $6,085
  • David Dalglish — $12,132
  • Victorine Lieskie — $7,281
  • M. H. Sergent — $4,211
  • Nathan Lowell — $9,296

What I found interesting is that only Victorine Lieskie, from among those listed above, ever had a book that made the Amazon Top 100 Bestseller List. The other authors are selling at least 800 books a month.

It is possible to live the author’s life.

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Alon Shalev is the author of The Accidental Activist (now available on Kindle) and A Gardener’s Tale. He is the Executive Director of the San Francisco Hillel Foundation, a non-profit that provides spiritual and social justice opportunities to Jewish students in the Bay Area. More on Alon Shalev at http://www.alonshalev.com/and on Twitter (#alonshalevsf).

Author Sells One Million Ebooks

On Monday, June 20th, 2011, Amazon.com have recently announced that crime novelist John Locke has become the first independent author to sell more than one million ebooks through Kindle’s Direct Publishing program,

1 million ebooks sold - so much for needing an agent and publisher?

Locke points  to his $0.99 pricing model as a major influence and has self-published nine novels through the Kindle Store, including New York Times bestselling ebook Saving Rachel, as well as his first non-fiction title, How I Sold 1 Million eBooks in 5 Months. He has six novels in the Amazon Top 100 and has coveted the No. 1 spot.

A line of books seems essential to make serious money in this climate

Locke has never been signed by a traditional agent or publisher. He joins seven other authors, including Stieg Larsson and Nora Roberts, in the “Kindle Million Club.” Locke sells his books for $1 and makes 35 cents per book. That is hard for me to fathom – selling the books I have sweated and toiled on for at least a year, but I can’t question that it works.

Along with Amanda Hocking and J. A Konrath, Locke is creating a new reality in the ever-evolving book world. They all create a system, work hard to achieve their goals, and are now reaping the benefits. The rest of us would be foolish to ignore them.

Good luck to them.

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Alon Shalev is the author of The Accidental Activist (now available on Kindle) and A Gardener’s Tale. He is the Executive Director of the San Francisco Hillel Foundation, a non-profit that provides spiritual and social justice opportunities to Jewish students in the Bay Area. More on Alon Shalev at http://www.alonshalev.com/and on Twitter (#alonshalevsf).

 

 

Anne Braden Pt. 3

I hadn’t really planned this, but a few people mentioned that they had trouble understanding the lyrics of the Flobots which I wrote in two previous posts. Here is a You Tube file with the lyrics. I love how the Flobots added quotes from Ms. Braden herself. The lyrics are below if you wish to peruse at your own pace.

Anna Braden – Fight With Tools – The Flobots

from the color of the faces in sunday’s songs
to the hatred they raised all the youngsters on
once upon a time in this country long ago
she knew there was something wrong
because the song said yellow, red, black, and white
everyone precious in the path of christ
but what about the daughter of the woman cleaning their house
wasnt she a child they were singing about
and if Jesus loves us black or white skin
why didn’t her white mother invite them in?
when did it become a room for no blacks to step in?
how did she already know not to ask the question
left lasting impressions
adolescence’s comforts gone
she never thought things would ever change
but she always knew there was something wrong

she always knew there was something wrong

years later she found herself mississippi-bound
to help stop the legalized lynching
of mr. willie mcgee
but they couldnt stop it
so they thought that theyd talk to the governor
about what happened
and say were tired of being used
as an excuse to kill black men
but the cops wouldnt let em past and
these women they struck em as uppity
so they hauled em all off to jail
and they called it protective custody
then from her cell she heard her jailers
grumbling about outsiders
and when she called him out
and said she was from the south they shouted
why is a nice southern lady
making trouble for the governor?
she said, i guess Im not your type of lady
and i guess Im not your type of southerner.
but before you call me traitor
well its plainest just to say
i was a child in mississippi
but Im ashamed of it today

imagine the world that youre standing within
all of your neighbors and family and friends
how would you cope
facing the fact
the flesh on your hand
was tainted with sin
she faced it every day
people she saw on a regular basis
people she loved in several cases
people she knew were incredibly racist
it was painful
but she never stopped loving them
never stopped calling their name
and she never stopped being a southern woman
and she never stopped calling for change
and she saw that her struggle
was in the tradition
of ancestors never aware of her
it continues today
the soul of a southerner
born of the other america

Album- Fight With Tools – 2007

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Alon Shalev is the author of The Accidental Activist (now available on Kindle) and A Gardener’s Tale. He is the Executive Director of the San Francisco Hillel Foundation, a non-profit that provides spiritual and social justice opportunities to Jewish students in the Bay Area. More on Alon Shalev at http://www.alonshalev.com/and on Twitter (#alonshalevsf).

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