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 “President”

What’s In A Name – Obamacare, Shutdown, Blackmail, Extortion.

Tom kind of stole my post with his excellent Whose Shutdown Is It Anyway. Here are two memorable quotes.

“John Boehner, Rush Limbaugh, Fox “News”, and just about every Republican politician out there is trying to pin this shutdown on President Obama. This is due to the fact that Obama stubbornly refuses to accept a Republican-crafted budget that takes away the funding for the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, which Obama and other Democrats worked for years to make the law of the land.”

“It’s OK to disagree about this. It’s OK to hold the opinion that Obamacare is a bad thing. But don’t shut down the government and then claim it was the other guys’ doing. Though we can continue to debate health care, out here in the world, the law has passed. We supposedly have majority rule in this country, and the majority want serious health-care reform, and the majority made Obamacare the law.“ 

imagesI really want to hear from a coherent, thinking Republican (and there are plenty around to be fair), how s/he can justify shutting down the government to object to a democratically passed law? And how can our representatives have the audacity to deny government workers a salary, but continue to pay themselves? Leading by example? I think not.

But there was one thing that stood out for me and, as I listened to various radio stations, read a couple of articles, it occurred to me, that the President and the Democratic Party have lost the war on language.

Look again at the two exerts above. One talks about the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, while the other mentions Obamacare. One of the biggest mistakes this government made was to use and allow the use of the term Obamacare. I have yet to hear someone offer a coherent opposition to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act without using the term Obamacare, and using it often. 

images-1It makes for a nice legacy and might flatter our leader, but democrats should refuse to use the word. Every time a Republican uses that term, they should stop him/her and ask that the correct term is used. It’s easy. Just ask what Obamacare is.

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act is not defined as only for democrats. It is an essential tool to offer what is a basic human right: healthcare without personal bankruptcy. 

If we are going to discuss language, how about ditching the Government Shutdown – if this was a union, we would be calling it a strike. So the Republicans have gone on strike. Good luck dealing with labor disputes in the future!

And while we are at it, perhaps there are a few other words we might want to begin using to describe the shutdown: how about blackmail and extortion? Maybe callousness and immunity to suffering?

Not that I’m in favor of inflammatory rhetoric or imagery. Who had the audacity to design this? Thankfully, let it be said, many Republicans have come out against the comparisons of President Obama to Hitler. 

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Alon Shalev is the author of the 2013 Eric Hoffer YA Book Award winner, At The Walls of GalbriethThe First Decree, Ashbar – Wycaan Master Bk 3 – all released by Tourmaline Books. Shalev is also the author of three social justice-themed novels including Unwanted Heroes. He swears there is a connection. More at http://www.alonshalev.com and on Twitter (@elfwriter).

Random Thoughts and Sound Bites – Roger Ingalls

Obamacare

Why has the Republican Party turned into an uncoordinated group of domestic terrorists trying to destroy the US economy? It’s a thrash and burn tactic synonymous with defeat; it’s just like Saddam blowing up oil wells as his army retreated from Kuwait. The conservatives know the Affordable Health Care Act won’t cause the world to stop as they’ve predicted and the people will mostly endorse it once underway. The party will have major egg on their face and they know it.

Government Shutdown

Why is a small group of right-wing zealots allowed to do harm to the country? By definition, a group conspiring to harm the USA is committing treason. They should be rounded up and given due process. Calling yourself a political party doesn’t exempt you from prosecution for treasonous acts.

Global Warming

The IPCC has released their fifth report on climate change and it is now 95% certain that this cycle of global warming is being caused by humans. As I’ve said in the past, it doesn’t really matter what’s causing it, we need to prepare for it…build an economy for it. It is here to stay. However, I’m still amazed that pseudo-scientists are still trying to deny the cause. The fakes are now even generating their own report with an almost identical name to further confuse the truth. All one has to do is look at who is backing these deniers and it becomes obvious that they’re shadowy hired guns supported by fossil fuel based corporation.

War on Terror

Listening to the local radio talk show, I was surprised to hear a frank speaking person with opinions seemingly based on real information. Then it became obvious. He was an ex-military higher up who worked under Colin Powell. His name is Lawrence Wilkerson (retired Army Colonel). I didn’t agree with all he said but Wilkerson did confirm something I strongly believe in. The WAR on Terror is misguided. The odds of an American getting killed by a terrorist is less likely than being struck by lightning yet we spend billions on top of billions under this fear mongering program. The military spending serves another hidden purpose.

Blue Dresses and Saxophones – Roger Ingalls

Yesterday, standing with the parents who lost their young children in the Sandy Hook Elementary Schooling shooting, President Obama said: “All in all, today was a pretty shameful day for Washington.” I haven’t agreed with the President of late but his statement about the shameful voting of Senators to strike down background checks on gun buyers was on target.

According to a recent poll, 90 percent of US voters support enhanced screening of people purchasing guns. Yet, fifty-four Senators voted against the overwhelming will of the people.

The NRA stands against S. 649 even though seventy-four percent of their members support background checks. Going back on their word, the National Rifle Association threatened Senators in a letter prior to yesterday’s vote. Here’s one of their many statements, “Given the importance of these issues, votes on all anti-gun amendments or proposals will be considered in NRA’s future candidate evaluations.” The cowardly Senators decided it would be best to brown their noses in the buttocks of gun lobbyist rather than supporting the people they took an oath to represent.

For pleasuring the Saxophones (a.k.a. gun lobbyist), I give these despicable Senators the Blue Dress Award. A list of award recipients is shown below.

NAYS 1

Some may think my blue dress and saxophone analogy is disrespectful to the fifty-four nay-sayers but these political prostitutes were absolutely disgusting on April 17, 2013 for servicing special interest groups instead of representing their constituents.

Occupy Movement Endorsed by Washington – Roger Ingalls

After listening to President Obama’s State of the Union address, I couldn’t stop smiling. Similarly, I grinned during the last few months of the presidential election. The Occupy Movement is routinely portrayed by mainstream media and conservatives as a failure; however, reviewing the political chatter during the recent elections and the President’s speech on Tuesday, the Occupy influence is front and center.

Prior to the Occupy Movement, there was no media or political focus on the destruction of the middleclass, tax breaks for the wealthy, tax loopholes for corporations or the disparity between the 1%ers and 99%ers. The movement brought attention to all these topics and they were the main sound bites throughout the entire election season. Fast forward to Tuesday and a significant portion of the President’s time was dedicated to Occupy topics: 1) rebuilding the middleclass, 2) increasing wages for many Americans, 3) returning a fair tax burden to the wealthy and big business, 4) closing tax loopholes for corporations and 5) stopping corporate off-shore cash hoarding.

Poll-favoring-raising-taxes-on-rich

When comparing the Tea Party and Occupy Movements, the latter has been much more beneficial to Middle America. The Tea Party has done nothing but create gridlock in Washington, slowing economic recovery. They’ve also placed political handcuffs on Republican Speaker of the House, John Boehner. He’s ineffective because the fanatical right is holding the larger conservative party hostage. Even though the Occupy Movement hasn’t received due credit, its original talking points are on the tongues of politicians today. In addition, a fairer tax burden was realized in January when taxes were increased on the wealthy; an original Occupy demand.

The media is no longer discussing the Occupy Movement but Washington’s politicians are endorsing it through action and sound bites.

Will Obama Walk the Walk? – Tom Rossi

In now two-term President Obama’s inauguration speech today, he certainly “talked the talk” of a progressive, but will he “walk the walk?”

In some ways, he certainly already has. He ended “don’t ask, don’t tell,” he came out in support of marriage rights for all, he appointed two women to the Supreme Court, he finally ended the war in Iraq, and a few other things.

But President Obama has been quite conservative on some big issues. He’s, if anything, increased the country’s war activities, used pilotless drones to assassinate people from the sky, increased spying activities on our own citizens, raided state-legal medical marijuana dispensaries, deported many more aliens than Bush, refused to even consider meaningful legal action against the robber barons that screwed the middle class and our whole economy, and kept merrily in place the same economic voodoo shamans that President Bush had… the same people who enabled the robber barons in the first place.

EK-Phone-Home

And all this while supposedly being a communist. Wow!

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What I can’t help but wonder is, if Obama is a progressive, why has he hidden it so well, during his first term? I know the conventional thinking – he had to stay near the so-called “center” (which is far to the right of the center, even 15 years ago) in order to have a good shot at re-election. But why? What if he hadn’t been re-elected? Then we would have gone from center-right to far-right… and that means that every one of us except the 1% would have lost.

In addition, Obama now has just four years to accomplish anything, and most of the efforts and attention will be on what should properly be called “gun-mass-murder control” (not “gun control”). We have seen not one hint of consideration, by Obama, to the fact that our present economic pathway is still the same one that led to the current depression.

And it is a depression. Recessions are, by definition, short-term blips – speed bumps, really, in the path of our economic progress. Depressions mean long-term unemployment and long-term troughs in things like the housing market. We’ve had millions of people unemployed for a period of more than a year. That’s a depression.

We need a fundamental realignment of our capitalism away from concentrated profits and diffuse risks to stability and full employment. This is not “wanting ‘stuff’ from the government,” it’s wanting the government to stop working against the people. We’ve heard lots of talk about helping the middle class. Let’s see some real action.

Will the real Obama please stand up?

-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.

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Ann Bear – Another Angel In Heaven

Yesterday, a dear friend, mentor and philanthropist, Ann Bear, lost her struggle with cancer, and passed away.

Jewish texts teach of thirty-six light-bringers who wander the earth sharing love and compassion with all. Ann Bear was one of those people. After I got to know her better, I would watch her as she worked the room at a philanthropic event. She would leave a trail of positive energy in her wake.

I got to know Ann closely after her husband, Irwin, passed away. Irwin had been the President of the Board of Directors at San Francisco Hillel Jewish Student Center, where I work.

I happened to meet Ann on two consecutive days at Jewish events and then bumped in to her as I entered, and she exited, the building of the SF Jewish Federation. I was on a low professionally, and quite surprised when I blurted out how amazing she is to be all the time working for philanthropic causes.

She looked at me in astonishment. No, she told me, she is blessed to have a partner in Irwin who can put her in this position and who encourages her to spend her time in this way.

Anyway, she said, I am the one who is amazing, and went on to tell me of the important work I am doing and how inspiring I am to her.

I walked away, my body straighter, with a big smile on my face.

That is the effect that Ann had on many others and me. It is for us to learn and emulate the way in which she lived her life. It is what I believe she would most want.

I visited Ann last week and spent almost four hours with her. She insisted that we focus on a project that she was helping me with. When I kept asking if she needed to stop to rest, she refused. She felt a sense of urgency and the need to give as much as she could while she still could. She lived her life for others right up until the end.

We must celebrate her life and continue to walk in her path. There is no greater way to pay tribute.

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Alon Shalev is the author of The Accidental Activist and A Gardener’s Tale. His next novel, Unwanted Heroes, is due out in early 2013. He is the Executive Director of the San Francisco Hillel Jewish Student Center, 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).

 

Treading on States’ Rights – Roger Ingalls

The election is finally over and all the uber-conservative nut-jobs are freaking out. “We’re going off a financial cliff. Obama is a communist alien from Mars. Henny Penney, the sky is falling.”

Since the election, people in all fifty states have signed petitions to secede their individual states from the Union. Again, most of this is coming from the fanatical right crazy-folk but I do believe there is an important message here. The Federal government is unjustly stepping on States’ rights.

Our system of government was setup to allow people in different regions of the country live by majority beliefs appropriate for their corner of the world as long as it did not conflict with the Constitution. This makes sense. Governance that’s good for Alaska may not be good for Florida. In addition, people who live together start to think alike – generally speaking – so they may have values that differ from others that live thousands of miles away.

Here’s my point. The Federal government has been heavily encroaching on States’ rights for the past 40 years. What we see is a country turning more and more divided because we are being forced to act more uniformly when culturally we are very different from state to state. People in Mississippi should not be forced to live like Californians if the majority of them don’t want to. It’s my belief that there would be less anger, less fanatical polarization if people were allowed to govern in a regionally appropriate way when democratically selected.

The next year will be interesting. I’m a liberal and an Obama fan but his big failing is mouthing the belief in State’s rights but then acting completely and thoroughly opposite. Don’t get me wrong, I believe it is good for the Feds to offer nationwide services as a competitive option to oligarchical industries, such as energy, banking and insurance since free market choices no longer exist. But it should be a choice. In this election, the people of Washington and Colorado voted to approve the legalization of recreational cannabis. Since 400 or so congressmen thought it was appropriate, in the 1970s, to broadly force their moral beliefs onto the entire nation and outlaw cannabis, it will be interesting to see how the President responds to the people’s choice in these two states.

If not in conflict with the Constitution, the will of the locals should be honored in a democracy. If not, let the secessions begin.

Why Obama Did Not Strike Back? Guest Blogger – Norman Weekes

Obama didn’t come back at Romney because he was afraid to offend white undecided voters. Not a widely posted theory but I think it’s true. Just for the record I get to play the race card because I’m black. 

This tepid approach was acceptable strategy in the first campaign because one Angry Black Man outburst would’ve cost him the election. Anger and black folk don’t mix. Why? Because we have every right to be pissed and no one wants to be reminded. Plus the riots of the sixties scared the crap out of white people. As a consequence we’ll never be able to be openly angry like Jim Kramer or viscous like Rush without backlash. Of course I don’t want my president acting like an over caffeinated buffoon but I do want him to passionately defend his policies. Obama has the ability to let it rip but it’s not who he is.

All his life Obama has been in a position where aggressive behavior was seen as a detriment. Sometimes aggression is warranted, even necessary. Obama came prepared to have a Marquess of Queensbury style debate and when Romney turned into a shape shifter Obama froze. He froze because was offended at the BS strategy and any display of anger or assertiveness may have been perceived as unbecoming to the undecided.  It is also obvious Obama believes he’s above debating an intellectually disingenuous power seeker with no political soul. Of course he’s wrong about the need to debate.

While Romney was busy turning Big Bird and Jim Lehner into a three piece chicken dinner with biscuit Obama withdrew into a defensive shell.  He should have reminded Romney of who he said he was before the debate.  Was he surprised Romney was bold enough to roll out fresh lies this late in the campaign? He shouldn’t be. These guys are still using the Lee Atwater playbook which thanks to attrition, is less effective each election.  Because this outdated strategy is only really effective in the South they’ve progressed to voter registration. I guess it’s how they do job creation.

Obama will come off much better in the next debate. The town hall format will favor his style and Romney will be nervous in a room of regular people he can’t fire or tip. Even so the stakes are too high to depend on format or logic. Obama’s sorry debate team better prepare him for a street fight because courtesy and facts are useless in this environment.

Norm Weekes

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

Defining the Genre – Transformational What?

This weekend I was asked me what genre I write.  I replied: “Transformational fiction.”

“What’s that?”

I was asking for it, since I have adopted a phrase I heard from the presenter of a workshop at the Santa Barbara Writers Conference.

“I write about change – people who want to help change the world and in doing so experience a change in themselves.”

I began to explain about the books I have published and in process. In A Gardener’s Tale, the mysterious protagonist empowers a young outcast to transform into an important member of the community. In The Accidental Activist, my main character is not one of the activists sued by the oil company, but a self absorbed computer programmer who takes up the struggle against the multinational in order to get laid (well kind of), but discovers that he can harness his talents to help improve the world.

I have written three other manuscripts and, in each, the protagonist goes through a deep transformation. As I wrote my novels, I never realized that this was a common theme until The Accidental Activist was being critiqued.

The discussion progressed into which social causes we each work for, and what organizations we are involved with. When we finished, I felt that he wanted to buy my book because of his newly formed connection with me. Best of all, I never felt as though I was trying to sell him anything. I was being me and, passionate as I am about social injustices, I was being genuine.

Brian Judd, a book marketing specialist, recalled in a recent CreateSpace webinar  a man who had written a children’s book about bananas. He would dress up as a banana, which naturally became a talking point.I have tried to dress up my website fit that transformational flavor: the Richard Wright quote, the request to purchase my book at an independent bookstore and showcasing non profits and causes that I support.

This urge to advance a persona behind the book and author feels right. It wouldn’t work if it wasn’t genuine, but since I have been a political activist and community organizer (no I’m not announcing my candidacy for President) for most of my life, it fits.

And so I will go out into the world and introduce myself: Alon Shalev. I write transformational fiction. And maybe one day, the person I am being introduced to won’t respond: “Transformational fiction – what’s that?”

Maybe one day they will even say: “Alon Shalev? Yeah I read your novels. One inspired me to…”

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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).

Who’s Afraid of the NRA?

I’m stuck on the topic of arms control. In the massive news coverage that surrounded the tragic shooting rampage in Colorado, I heard one comment repeated at least three times by different reporters and commentators. It went something along the lines of: “No presidential candidate would dare take on the National Rifle Association (NRA) during an election year” with one pundit suggesting that no elected president would either.

I am a great believer in pressure groups to protect our rights and advocate in an orderly and effective fashion. Being relatively new to the US (and I feel it politically when gun control is being discussed more than most other topics), I am not aware of the power of the NRA.

Their website is very impressive. They have launched a campaign to “Go All In’ as they actively push to get their members voting for their people at the polls. Now my stereotype of an NRA member has them firmly committed to heading to the polls in November, but it does look to be a slick campaign.

There is nothing wrong with that, by the way. This is a democracy and there are more than a few nonprofits that I support who could learn a lot from the NRA. Their page on the ‘Right To Carry’ laws looks very professional.

But it seems to be more than that. The NRA succeed by embracing two marketing principles: Their message is simple and it is repeated, repeated, repeated. Craig Montuori, apparently a left coaster himself sums up the messaging:

“The NRA boils issues down to one point–pro- or anti-gun–and takes a stand for the pro-gun side. Sometimes these issues are extremely complex. For example, gun trace data takes ballistic data from criminal cases, matches them to a gun, and matches that gun to a dealer. Then, the dealer can be checked out for whether or not they’re following proper sales procedure–background checks, hold periods, and the like, and oftentimes, the dealers do not. The NRA opposes this to the hilt, and annually, the Tiarht Amendment is proposed and adopted with their heavy lobbying support to restrict gun trace data from being used by police and the ATF to dry up criminals’ gun supply. The issue is boiled down to “restricting gun sales = bad, NRA oppose bad restrictions.”

Mr. Montuori then goes on to explain how the NRA has an effective direct mail campaign (and probably online as well) to swamp legislators with letters from the NRA’s huge membership list, giving the politician the clear message that s/he is going against a large number of his/her constituents. Now what politician doesn’t listen to this sophisticated message?

Members sign and mail prepaid issue cards telling their representatives that they oppose H.R. ____ that will restrict their 2nd Amendment Rights. They invariably warn the representative that they will oppose him/her if s/he doesn’t oppose the bill too.

Again Mr. Montuori: “Because the issue is so ‘hot,’ the NRA has an oversized effect on Congressional races, and many Members toe the NRA line to keep their support and avoid their opposition, further enhancing their lobbying chops.”

Mr. Montuori’s final point is that the NRA have such a huge membership and are very efficient at mobilizing and fundraising quickly. Given the emotional sensitivity surrounding the issue … “among certain American sub-cultures, especially in the South, and supposed threats to those rights can whip up a huge frenzy of feeling that is effectively exploited to raise large amounts of cash.”

In truth, I preferred him as Moses

While I have no doubt that this is so true, I am still left with the feeling that Presidential candidates also have a professional network, huge supporters and plenty of money. I am left with the nagging question: Why are even those at the very top scared of taking on the NRA?

Your opinion?

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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).

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