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 tag “9/11”

Reflections of Heroes – Joshua P. Smith

Alon’s Introduction: I met Joshua P. Smith through the epic fantasy network. Joshua is the author of the upcoming Aelathia Chronicles.  He is currently completing the first novel, Weaving and Musings of Essencers.  You can follow him at www.aelathianovels.com and at https://twitter.com/AelathiaNovels or contact him at aelathiajpsmith@gmail.com.

He wrote the following article last week. I had planed for it to follow my own 9/11 tribute. Reading Joshua’s post, I can’t help feeling the greatest way we can honor the heroes of 9/11 is to emulate their bravery and sense of honor, and apply it to our own lives. Thank you, Joshua.

 Reflections of Heroes – Joshua P. Smith

Heroes aren’t just found in books. We learned that lesson twelve years ago after terrorists struck the Twin Towers in New York, the Pentagon, and a field in Pennsylvania, hijacking airplanes to cause mass casualties and creating a day that none of us will ever forget.

It was the heroes as well as the victims who stood out to us, like the emergency responders who rushed into crumbling towers to guide survivors out. Or the men and women on Flight 93 that realized the terrorist’s intent for their airplane, and fought back — a horrific sacrifice that saved untold lives and helped change the fate of America and other countries.

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Heroes. Every day we can see them, police officers, firemen, doctors and nurses, EMTS, our military men and women. It seems in a time of tragedy that we really focus on the people who stand out, who sacrifice to make a difference. Why?

I believe there’s something inherent in human nature that drives us to look for the remarkable, for people to be our role models. Heroes are people we long to emulate but sometimes are afraid to. Though we identify with the person “standing in the gap” to help those who cannot help themselves, we often throw up barriers to our ability to step up. We give excuses thinking that someone else will do the job, why should we step forward? Passivity can be worse than manacles connected to an iron ball at our feet. So, when we see someone doing something remarkable, out-of-the-ordinary, we cheer for them. We applaud and laud their work—because they broke a cycle of passivity, they remained cool under pressure, they sacrificed something so utterly dear to themselves that they earned the right to be heroes.

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What if more of us were to emulate them? What if we faced our fears, whether in the office or in church, in the factory or classroom as they face them on the field of action every day? What if we consistently decided to make not just the right decisions, but the good and just ones? What if we stood up to corruption, to evil, to injustice?  What if we deterred the bully? What if we helped someone in need? What if we sacrificed an hour or two of our time to help someone with a problem, or cook dinner for a sick neighbor? What if we learned to control our anger and seek peaceful resolutions to our familial strife, marital discord, and disagreements between friends? What if we decided to put others’ needs ahead of our own?

Wouldn’t that make us, in some small way, a hero too? We don’t need the lights, the cameras. We don’t need a parade. Sometimes we’ll never know if what we did had lasting impact on those we helped, but we can only hope. We can hope in some small way that we were a hero, and that someone else may want to emulate something from us, some small piece of good, so they can become a hero too. Consider how the world would change if each one of us decided, that for the good of humanity, we decided to make the right decisions, the good decisions, the self-sacrificing decisions. The type of action or situation where risk is high, where obstacles are threatening, where victory isn’t wholly certain, and fear is great.

If you’re in a situation like that, and it may be nothing like 9/11 or Iraq or Afghanistan, consider your options. Consider your decisions. The whole world may not be watching you, but someone is, even if it’s one single child.

Today, I’m thinking about heroes. Let’s join their ranks. 

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Alon Shalev is the author of the 2013 Eric Hoffer YA Book Award winner, At The Walls of Galbrieth, Wycaan Master Book 1 and The First Decree, both released by Tourmaline Books. Ashbar – Book 3 – is due for release in October 2013. Shalev is also the author of three social justice-themed novels including Unwanted Heroes. He swears there is a connection. More athttp://www.alonshalev.com and onTwitter (@elfwriter).

$10 a Gallon

Before the vacation, I suggested in a post, Changing The World, focusing on 10 actions that will make significant and sustainable change in our world.  Here is my first attempt.

I was walking with a friend down a main street in 2005 and asked him whether we would ever have true peace and what it would take. We passed under the price sign for a gas station, which was showing that gas prices had just gone above $2/ gallon and everyone was shocked.

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My friend shocked me when he replied that America would only be safe when we begin paying $10/gallon at the pumps. Now you should know three things:

  1. My friend is very smart.
  2. My friend is an environmentalist.
  3. We were much closer to 9/11 than we are now.

I fill a gas tank six times a month: so with prices above four dollars I am not a happy driver. The number on my monthly budget spreadsheet has ballooned. So why am I advocating for $10/gallon?

First, the only reason I am not focusing on public transportation is that for many it is not relevant. We need to get around during our workday. We need to avoid looking disheveled and sweaty – I love the bike-share initiatives popping up all over the place – but they are simply not practical for many. Neither do I have the time to coordinate a car share schedule, much as I admire the idea. So I am stuck with needing a car near me.

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I understand when we use certain technologies because there is no alternative. But there is an alternative now. The growth of hybrid cars, the electric car and other alternatives are all becoming common place. One of the most positive outcomes of the reinvention of the American car industry is the move towards gas-efficient cars. The Japanese, we all acknowledge, are years ahead of us.

But what if we truly laid a foundation for electric car by converting gas stations into recharging docks and, instead of one lane for hybrid cars during rush hour, it was the opposite? What if we taxed heavily the import and domestic production of non-electric cars?

And what if we raised gas to $10/gallon?

images-2My motivation is two-fold. I believe much of our foreign policy is designed to protect our domestic energy needs. Wars are fought and countries supported with foreign aid because many are in oil-rich regions. We ignore terrible human rights abuse in these and other oil-rich countries. The connection between global terror and oil are clear and our dependency makes us vulnerable.

The second reason is simply that the earth cannot sustain the effects of our oil dependency. In a sense, it is already taking steps to prevent us destroying it as supply dries up and the environmental impact, both of global warming and regional disasters, become greater.

What makes this so frustrating is that the alternative technologies are out there and I am left with the feeling that they are being held back. Why? Because a lot of people still stand to make a lot of money.

I do not care to prioritize the millionaires of today over the abilities of my children and grandchildren to live in a sustainable and healthy environment.

Government can turn this around with three easy steps:

1) Tax conventional cars (both domestic and imported).

2) Invest in a structure to sustain electric and other energy efficient cars

3) Raise gas prices to $10 – it may well go a long way to financing the change.

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Alon Shalev writes social justice-themed novels and YA epic fantasy. He swears there is a connection. His latest books include: Unwanted Heroes and the 2013 Eric Hoffer Book Award for YA - At The Walls Of Galbrieth. Alon tweets at @alonshalevsf and @elfwriter. For more about the author, check ouhis website.

Occupy Corvair – Roger Ingalls

If you read the blog last week, you probably understand the meaning of the title for this post. My plan is to rebuild and slightly reengineer a 50 year old Chevy Corvair as a protest against California’s crazy smog laws and the kissy-cozy relationship between Big Oil, auto manufacturers and their lobbyists. To understand why rebuilding an old car is a protest, read the previous post.

I did receive a few emails about last week’s post asking why the Corvair was selected for the rebuild protest project. The following few paragraphs explain the technical reasons. Keep in mind that this project is focused on creating a high performance hypermiling vehicle. In this case, high performance does not mean massive horsepower or super speed. It means long distance traveled per gallon of gas consumed or high performing efficiency.

Corvair

The Corvair is a rear wheel drive, rear engine vehicle. Since the engine is in the back and connected to the rear wheels, there is no heavy transmission and driveshaft running the length of the car. Less weight means more miles per gallon. The elimination of a long heavy spinning driveshaft is important. A pound of rotating mass, in automotive engineering terms, is equivalent to seven pounds of static weight. Again, reducing weight improves mpg because the engine doesn’t work as hard per distance traveled. With the engine in the rear, the Corvair is lighter in the front. The reduced forward weight means less down force on the front tires so turning takes less physical force. The Corvair’s easy steering eliminated the need for power assistance. Most cars have parasitic power steering that takes energy from the engine which should be used to propel the car.

The Corvair has an air-cooled aluminum engine that is lightweight, again, less weight more mpg. Air cooling is also important. No radiator, water pump, hoses or heavy coolant is needed making the vehicle lighter. In addition, the water pump is a parasitic device that must be powered by the engine which further robs energy that could be used to propel the car. One of the engineering modifications I will make is to the air intake that feeds the motor. The new intake will take hot air coming off the motor which is expanded and carrying less oxygen. This has the effect of making the engine smaller. To maintain the proper fuel to air mixture required to burn, less gas is used. This will reduce the horsepower but the project is designed to increase mpg and not for racing at a track.

The Corvair has four wheel independent suspension. Most cars sold in America have their suspension adjust with a toe-out (front wheel slightly pointed outward on the leading edge) to make them easier to handle for novice drivers. This creates rolling resistance which robs power. Since the Corvair has independent suspension, I will be able to precisely adjust all four wheels so they are pointed forward decreasing roll resistance all the way around. As an example of this resistance, try pushing a car with the wheels pointed straight and with them turned; you’ll instantly feel the difference.

The Corvair will be turned into a pseudo hybrid. Multiple car batteries will be put is the trunk (located in the front of the car). These will be used to operate all parasitic devices such as, air conditioning, heater, and engine cooling fan which are normally powered by the gas engine. In addition, the alternator/generator that normally charges the single car battery will be modified. It will be present in the car but not engaged and, if needed, a lever will engage it (an alternator/generator is a parasitic device). Lastly, I will make aerodynamic and overall weight reduction changes to improve fuel efficiency.

This will be a fun project that proves we’ve had the technology to increase gas mileage for over fifty years.

My Dream Protest – Roger Ingalls

My wife’s family is big into vintage American cars; they collect and restore the classics. My brother in-law builds hotrods, ratrods and some of his work has shown up in automotive magazines. I’m a car nut too so I fit right in.

Rat Rod

Prior to meeting my wife and her family, I would frequently hit some of California’s famous road course tracks with my 200mph Viper GTS ACR to release the pressures of corporate life. Later, thanks to my wife, I was introduced to dirt oval track racing and got hooked. I raced in the local series for about five years until a turn three incident at Antioch Speedway put me headfirst into the wall at speed, I survived but the car didn’t. The mangled mess still sits in the trailer exactly where it was dumped two years ago. She’s a sad sight; the only working piece was the battery which now starts my brother in-laws racer.

Finances don’t allow the rebuilding of my racecar and, realistically, I’m too old to compete with the young bucks that don’t give a hoot about destroying theirs or another’s equipment. But I still get the automotive urge to get my hands dirty.

Like my in-laws, I want to rebuild a classic. When talking about the make and model of vintage car I desire, everyone scratches their head and laughs as if I were crazy. But, what they don’t understand, there’s a reason for my apparent lack of coolness. I have a dream. A dream project that incorporates many of the things that I enjoy: cars, engineering and social activism.

At this point, you may be asking, “what the hell does social activism have to do with rebuilding an old jalopy?” The project will show how big business conspires to keep the demand for oil high by not engineering cars that can easily get 50 plus mph. It will also protest California’s draconian smog laws by avoiding the issue altogether due to the old age of the car. I’m all for clear air but anti-smog regulations should be based on actual engine emissions and not on tactics truly meant to raise revenue for the state (don’t mask a revenue generating tax under the veil of smog reducing propaganda).

Corvair

The desired car for my project that brings laughter to friends and family is…wait for it…a Corvair, the car that put Ralph Nader on the radar. The Chevy Corvair only had a ten year production run due to bad press, some deserved but most of it was hyped misinformation. The car was a technological marvel that was years ahead of its time. A list of design elements for a 1960 Corvair family car and the world famous Porsche 911 sports car, first introduced in 1965, are almost identical.

It’s my belief that with some engineering, this 50 year old car will get more than 40 mpg proving that technology has existed for many years to make automobiles more efficient. The only roadblock to improved mpg has been oil and automotive lobbyist. Since the Corvair was manufactured before 1975, it is exempt from CA smog requirements allowing me to give a big FU to the crazy smog regulation that have nothing to do with exhaust emissions.

This is my dream project, my dream protest. It combines cars, engineering and a little activism…fun stuff.

Special note: For those interested in knowing why the Corvair was selected for this project, leave a comment and I will explain the technical benefits of the car.

9/11 Still Empty Skies

Tomorrow is 9/11. It feels different this year as though the killing of bin Laden has offered some closure. It hasn’t though, not for the thousands of people who lost someone dear to then, not to the 9/11 responders who went into the fire to try to rescue the people trapped inside.

As we remember those who died at the hands of people who would deny us our freedom and reaffirm our fight against terrorism, we need to ensure that we provide comfort and aid to those left behind. I doubt there is anything substantial that we can offer a spouse, parent or child who will miss their family member for the rest of their lives, but we must ensure that they do not lack financially for their loss. This is something concrete that we can offer.

Moreover, the terrible treatment of 9/11 responders who are not receiving the help they need, is a shame on all of us, a national disgrace. I know that since last year, steps have been taken, but until every responder is receiving the help they need, physically, psychologically, and financially, we should not rest.

Once again, I will leave it to Bruce offer a fitting tribute.

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Alon Shalev is the author of The Accidental Activist (now available oKindle) 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).

It is Time – Relief for Victims of Lone-Wolf Killers such as James Holmes – Guest Blogger Lloyd Lofthouse

Alon: Last week’s post garnered a lot of attention - Who’s Afraid of the NRA - Guest Blogger Lloyd Lofthouse redirects our attention from the political outcomes to focusing on the victims.

It is Time – Relief for Victims of Lone-Wolf Killers such as James Holmes – LLoyd Lofthouse

What happened in that theater outside Denver, Colorado on July 25, 2012 or, for example, the terrorist bomb attack on the Alfred P. Murray Federal Building in Downtown Oklahoma City on April 19, 1995, were acts of terrorism and/or combat no different from what happened on 9/11 or in America’s foreign wars such as Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan.

In fact, twelve days after 9/11, the US Congress enacted the September 11th Victim Compensation fund of 2001. This $6 billion program was intended to compensate any individual (or the personal representative of a deceased individual) who was physically injured or killed as a result of the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2011. Source: Homeland Security: 9/11 Victim Relief Funds

We already know what happens to America’s combat veterans in similar situations—and US troops are trained, armed and ready.

In July 2010, PBS News Hour reported, “Of the more than two million men and women who served in Afghanistan and Iraq, it’s estimated one in five will come home with post-traumatic stress disorder or PTSD,” said health correspondent Betty Ann Bowser.

Bowser quoted U. S. President Barack Obama, who said, “I don’t think our troops on the battlefield should have to keep notes just in case they need to apply for a claim. And I have met enough veterans to know that you don’t have to engage in a firefight to endure the trauma of war.”

Before President Obama, the rules required veterans to document events like firefights or bomb explosions that could have caused PTSD. Such documentation was often time-consuming and difficult, and sometimes was impossible. … Under the new rules a veteran need show only that he or she served in a war and performed a job during which events could have happened that could cause the disorder.

But what about the innocent victims of combat in the United States?

I’m not talking about the homicide rate (which is in decline) or riots (which most people may avoid by staying away from the location of the riot). I’m talking about the victims of lone-wolf mass killings such as what happened recently near Denver, Colorado.


What Motivates “Lone-Wolf” Shooters – there are thousands hiding in public!

According to The Arizona Republic, “There has been no corresponding decline in mass murder—these sudden, stunning eruptions of violence with multiple victims, often perpetrated by gunmen who researchers refer to as ‘pseudo-commandos.’ Such a killer, clad in body armor and with a small arsenal of firearms, struck Friday in Aurora, Colo., leaving a dozen dead, 58 wounded and a nation horrified. …

“The United States experienced 645 mass-murder events—killings with at least four victims—from 1976 to 2010, according to Northeastern University criminologist James Alan Fox. When graphed, these incidents show no obvious trend. The numbers go up and down and up again. The total body count: 2,949.”

The total number killed in the terrorist attack in New York City on September 11, 2001 was 2,819.

If what happened in that Colorado Theater does not qualify as a homegrown terrorist attack by a ‘pseudo-commando’, what does?

Lone-wolf acts of violence in the United States must be considered the same as any disaster and be included under the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act of 1988. Under this act, the Federal share of the costs of such efforts is to be no less than 75 percent of the eligible costs. Total assistance under this Act for one emergency is to be limited to no more than $5,000,000, except when the President determines additional funds are needed. If additional funds are needed, the President must report to Congress on the extent of the additional need.

If what happened in Colorado is not covered under the Stafford Act, we need a new law that will. After all, it is the government’s responsibility to safeguard innocent, law abiding US citizens and in acts of lone-wolf violence, the government has failed 645 times since 1976.

It’s time to take care of our own in situations such as a lone-wolf mass-murder events. If the US Federal government can spend $49 billion for foreign aid in 2012, it must help the victims of acts of violence similar to what happened in Colorado in that Century Theater—the victims in such acts of violence should be treated the same as if they were 9/11 victims, wounded in combat or came home with PTSD from Vietnam, Iraq or Afghanistan.

This post is reprinted with permission from The Soulful Veteran

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Alon Shalev is the author of The Accidental Activist 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).

Real Men Don’t Cry

This is how we are brought up. Men used to wander around with a club, bringing down mammoths and dragging a female back to the cave. We have progressed a bit since then, what with vegetarianism and on-line dating, but there are certain mores that we don’t expect to cross. 

I’ve done the ‘man’ things – play and watch sports, hit the gym, enjoy beer, fish, served in a combat unit, wooed a beautiful woman, and fathered two wonderful boys. I have a good job and plenty of friends.

Last month, my eldest son had his bar mitzvah and put on a flawless display of teaching, chanting, and schmoozing. He stood before our community and talked about the need to educate and not punish, to pursue social justice, and his desire to make the world a better place.

He was great and I am very proud of him. He worked very hard for two years to reach the level in which he could achieve this. Then it was time for his parents to bless him.

My wife won the toss (soccer reference) and chose to go first, knowing that I am confidant and used to standing before an audience and speaking into a microphone. Her blessing was modest, genuine and heartfelt, a reflection of her as a mother, wife and friend.

Over the hump, right? Wrong. I had written my blessing for him a while ago. I told him meaningful the project we had pursued together (we wrote the first Wycaan Master novel together) and then imparted how I saw him as our coming-of-age protagonist. And then I choked up…and cried. When I stopped and stole a sip of his water bottle, he leaned over and gave me a hug.

The first thing that went through my mind was shock. I hadn’t expected this, even though I have been known to cry at a Simpson’s episode (another story). I actually wasn’t embarrassed for myself: I was embarrassed for him. I struggled through and he still talks to me. Moreover, many people came up to me and gave me loving reinforcement.

But it was the comments from the men that I remember. There were some who admitted to shedding a tear themselves, others who said that I had done something they would like to be able to do. Some admitted they could never allow their mask to come down like that in public, or maybe any time. 

In the struggle for equal rights between the sexes, we have seen a necessary push for women – equal opportunities, equal pay, and legal protections. All this stems from societal mores that favored men and allowed us to exercise a ‘power over’ that is unacceptable in a modern society.

But we, as men pay a price. Most of us still shoulder most of the burden of material provision, or at least feel we should even when our partners are better qualified and can pursue better jobs. We are mostly the warriors from defending our country to our family,

We all respected George Bush for shedding tears at 9/11 but we still expected him to go blow someone up as a consequence for us being attacked. President Obama’s status rose when we took out bin Laden. He did not gather the intelligence or undertake the mission, but in making the decision, he became a warrior chief.

I have worked closely with my son over the past few years, preparing him for this rite-of-passage, and I will continue to work with him, preparing him to enter society as a man.

To ignore our role as the hunter/gatherer would be foolish. To ignore our rights as men to be sensitive and nurturing would be sad.

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Alon Shalev is the author of The Accidental Activist 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).

Here We Go Again – Norman Weekes

One of the problems of age is living through the repeated mistakes of the past. Decisions that lead us down a road we’ve been down before only to ensure suffering, punishment and horror on a new generation. The inexplicable replay of a nightmare that surely once lived would never return. But we see the same policies and bloodlust for profit override common sense. And so the McRib returns.

I tried the McRib when it originally debuted. I admit it. I am ashamed that I would try a meat substance named a rib which has no bone put between two pieces of bread. I know the rib bone was put there by God so we could eat the meat without putting it between two pieces of bread. I know adding barbeque sauce can make anything edible. I also know McDonald’s would sell zombie meat if they thought people would by it. I know this and still ate (most of)  that thing. Yet the temptation to simplify something perfect was too much to resist. I won’t get fooled again. 

Really?

Celebrity newscaster Diane Sawyer publicly declared her affinity for the mystery sandwich. Her Nixonian roots lead me to believe she doesn’t really like the McRib (I just can’t see anyone making her salary eating anything from McDonald’s) and she’s practicing good old fashioned advertiser ass-kissing. That’s the problem with our propensity to make mistakes. Half of it is agenda driven and the other half is ignorance.

The McRib is only a symbol. Vietnam/Afghanistan, 1929/2008, The Gilded Age/The Present Age, Clarence Thomas/ Herman Cain. We don’t teach, we don’t learn, we don’t remember. We walk out of movie sequels saying, “That wasn’t as good as the first one.”  Style trumps substance, marriage becomes a business model, athletes are our spiritual leaders and there’s no national moral compass, GPS or iPhone voice to tell us how to behave. We should know better but we don’t.

Three-eyed-fish - from The Simpsons

Three weeks before 9/11 we were a country self absorbed with shark attacks in Florida. Then the planes exploded and we rallied around our president, our country and each other. Shortly after George told us to go shopping, invaded Iraq while we were at the mall and the feel good ended.

Now we feel good again because of the hope and awakening of the Occupi. The leaderless organization as an agent of international change is new and exciting. I hope it is successful. But if they anoint a leader and begin to “negotiate” I’ll politely pass on this sequel.

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Norman Weekes is a volunteer in social justice non profits, account executive looking for work and occasional political activist.

 

Obama and the Arc of Hopelessness – Norman Weekes

From Alon: I met Norman Weekes over the summer. He is a thoughtful, erudite man. I am very happy that he will write a  couple of posts a month for Left Coast Voices. Welcome aboard, Norm.

Norman Weekes

Norman Weekes

Obama and the Arc of Hopelessness

“He’s a nigga! Are you a nigga???”

I thought about my brief phone bank exchange with a voter from the Sunshine State while I watched Obama address the Grant Park crowd on election night at the Marriott in Oakland. I phone banked for Obama a few days before and thought about calling my Florida friend. It was a fleeting thought. This was a time for pride and promise.

I didn’t really know Obama then. I didn’t know his rhetoric concealed the fact that he has the guts of Urkel, the bravery of the Scarecrow and would lose a fist-fight to Betty White.

Why resort to name calling and personal insults you say? Why disrespect the man and the office like that? Don’t forget he inherited the Bush economy and the Republicans are bad people blah blah blah. Why? Because I have every right. I’ve been disrespected by Obama’s substitution for rhetoric over action. Name calling? I’d rather be called a punk than be called unemployed (which I am).

Personal? Long term unemployment is very personal. So don’t tell me about being too hard on the President. If you’re still hesitant to criticize the President you may believe OJ was set up and all the Jews working at the World Trade Center called in sick on 9/11. If so, I can’t dialogue with you. We can exchange food recipes but not talk politics.

A couple of weeks ago Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Ron Suskind started his book tour promoting Confidence Men, a behind the scenes look at the Obama Economic team. He had access to the team, interviewed the president and reported on the organizational interaction and leadership arc of Obama and his economic advisers. Suskind, a self proclaimed Democrat has been derided by the White House for his reporting and analysis. According to Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner the book is filled with “sad little stories” that do not resemble the reality of the time.

Confidence Men

One sad little story is the response by Obama to the banking crisis. In the fear filled days of the crisis the Obama economic team debated as to how to deal with the banks. After listening to his team debate Obama concluded the government needed to take action to boost confidence, hold banks accountable and take control of toxic assets. To simplify, the choice was to act like the government of Japan in the 90’s or Sweden in the same decade. Obama choose a more Swedish like approach and decided to break-up Citibank, at that time the weakest of the” too big to fail banks”. He ordered Tim Geithner, who disagreed with the President to draft a plan to break up Citi.

A few weeks later Obama asks about the plan at a follow up economic meeting sans Geithner. He was told by Christina Romer, Chair of his Council on Economic Advisers there was no plan. Obama replied, “Well there’d better be!” (Goshdarnit!). Suskind says Geithner “slow walked” the policy. Washington is paralyzed but is still great at manufacturing euphemisms: slow-walking a policy, re-litigating policy, uneven policy implementation, etc. Here on Earth it’s called insubordination and regular folk get fired for it every day.

Last I checked Citibank is still Citibank, toxic assets are still on bank balance sheets and Tim Geithner is still treasury secretary. The banks and their investors have still not suffered the consequences of risky investment strategies. It’s mind-blowing Geithner has the balls to blow off the President of the United States. It’s even more amazing he’s still on the team. How arrogant do you have to be to ignore the President on a policy difference rather than resign? What does  that say for Geithner’s opinion of the President? How conflict adverse do you have to be to not fire someone who openly ignored your order?

I’m beginning to understand why single payer disappears, financial reform is weak, job stimulus is loaded with tax cuts (which don’t create jobs) serious job creation is ignored, Bush-based foreign policy continues and Obama gets rolled by Republicans on the debt, tax cuts for the rich and program cuts for the poor and middle class. Obama allows this by not fighting back. It’s that simple. My son asked me a couple of weeks ago why Obama’s getting all this heat. I told him, “Obama’s the guy on the basketball court you can push around and elbow all day long and nothing will happen. People just want to see him fight back.”

Is it his expression or the grey hair?

Erudite criticism is ignored. Criticism from people who use oligarch in everyday conversation is not working. When he has an opportunity to acknowledge he tells the Congressional Black Congress to “stop whining.” There’s no fight in this guy. It’s as if he never had to turn back and fight the bully at school than take an ass-whipping at home. I’m past frustrated and angry.

Hopelessness in Obama is on the horizon. I cried the night Obama was elected. I’m still crying now.

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Norman Weekes is a volunteer in social justice non profits, account executive looking for work and occasional political activist.

September is Locovore Month

There is a lot going on in September, some of it heavy, some of it fun. 9/11 stands out this year of course. It is also back to school for children and students and sometimes there is a feeling that we spent most of the summer on snooze and now it is back to top gear. For the Jewish People, this is a time of preparation as we approach our New Year and soon after, Yom Kippur, which while known as a day of atonement, is actually the conclusion of a month of self-analysis (who can atone for all their sins in one day?).

Community Supported Agriculture

But I also discovered something else about September. It is Locovore (also spelled Locavore) Month. The Urban Dictionary defines Locavores as people who eat food that is grown locally. Food grown in your region not only results in fresher and tastier foods, but also reduces pollution, keeps dollars in the community and has fewer food safety risks.

So I thought I would brainstorm a few simple ways we could celebrate Locovore Month:

1) Consider joining one of your local Community Supported Agriculture programs, where you receive a box of veggies weekly from a local farm. I wrote about this model a few month back.

2) Go to a Farmers Market. Yes I am often critical of these because they seem so pricey, but you do make a connection with your local farmers.

Farmers Markets - making connections

3) Host a potluck and have all your friends bring dishes that include food grown in your area (allowing local microbrewery products is acceptable in my opinion).

4) Support a local community garden. One with a social justice message (as well as an ecological one) is Spiral Gardens in Berkeley. You can volunteer and get dirt between your finger nails or stop by at their stall on Tuesdays. I wrote about Spiral Gardens here.

I believe there is considerable merit in the Locovore philosophy. I am not sure that total adoption is the right way, given that there are clear advantages to having access to very healthy produce grown in climates different to our own, but becoming more aware of our local farmers and supporting ourselves with what grows in our region is a sound value.

Finally, a left coast perspective: I discovered in my research that the Locovre movement gives credit for its creation to Santa Cruz and San Jose. How’s that for some local pride!

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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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