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 “October, 2012”

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  Because this outdated strategy is only really effective in the South they’ve progressed to voter registration.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

——————————————————————————————————

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

RABMAD – Helping Authors Who Give Back

A fellow author visiting my website suggested this organization. It features authors who commit to donating a percentage of their royalties to a charity or cause of their choice. Here is how they describe themselves.

“What exactly is RABMAD? Well, other than being a semi-cool (and not completely forgettable) acronym, RABMAD stands for Read a Book, Make a Difference.  Shortening the name helps in a lot of ways: number of characters typed to arrive here, space on bumper stickers, etc. (For the record, you can also get here the intuitive, long-hand way—http://www.ReadABookMakeADifference.com)

RABMAD is the brainchild of author R.S. Guthrie. The concept is not new, however. Giving back. Returning success to the people.

Founder of Read A Book, Make A Difference

Writers making a difference.

The concept is simple. Most avid readers are going to purchase another book. Why not give them an additional option of supporting some up and coming writers, knowing that in doing so, their hard-earned dollars not only get them a great read, but will also help someone in need with their plight?

That is what RABMAD is all about. Promoting authors who are giving back from the sales of their books. Writers who give a percentage of their net proceeds to their own chosen cause,  non-profit, or charity.

What you will find on this site is an ever-growing portfolio of talented writers who care. You will be able to browse their bios, their books, and their causes. RABMAD will link you to their author websites, Amazon pages, twitter following, and other author-related places.”

Check out some of their authors and help those helping others.

——————————————————————————————————

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).

I Don’t Hate Capitalism – Roger Ingalls

As a former C-level executive of a famous semiconductor capital equipment enterprise, I’m often asked why I speak so negatively about the free market and public companies. In truth, I believe capitalism and investment into business by the public are fantastic ideas. However, I despise large corporations and Wall Street for collaborating to redefine the Constitution, undo worker’s rights, shift tax burdens and influence the judicial branch of government.

The foundation for big business collaboration was laid in the early 1970s and has grown into a monstrous institution over the past 40 years. Any conservative, professional or free-market fighter who does not believe large corporations and Wall Street have conspired to gain total financial control is not a true student of business.

All one has to do is read the Powell Memorandum of 1971 to realize that the seeds of collaboration were planted by a “soon to be” Supreme Court Justice (appointed during the Nixon administration) and then nurtured by his friend at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. It’s a great document. The memo defines the problem, identifies the enemies and suggests solutions. Unfortunately, the defined enemies were the Middleclass and their advocates. The Powell solutions gained traction under the corporate-friendly Reagan Administration and the downward economic spiral of the Middleclass began.

I’m not against business and I’m not against a free market. I’m against corporations conspiring to create great wealth at the expense of the Middleclass. I’m against Wall Street’s destructive and increasing single-minded focus that says monetary profit is the only measure of corporate success.

A return to shared prosperity is needed to recreate a healthy economy. We need an economy based on tangible products and services and not on speculation and not on financial transactions.

We need a Powell-esk agenda for the Middleclass and champion to nurture it.

Remembering Christopher Stevens RIP

Tomorrow is the 30th day since the murder of Chris Stevens, U.S. Ambassador to Libya, and three other members of his diplomatic staff. In Judaism, 30 days represents the end of the second cycle of mourning (7 days sitting shiva and the year anniversary when a stone is set on the grave).

I didn’t know Chris Stevens but he is from around my part of the world. He graduated from Piedmont High School, UC Berkeley, and UC Hastings College of Law (in San Francisco). I wrote about the violence itself, but I don’t want to let this date pass by.

Stevens was killed when the U.S. consulate was attacked in Benghazi, Libya, on September 11, 2012. Libyan protestors, provoked by insults against the Islamic prophet Mohammed in the US-made film Innocence of Muslims attacked the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya.

There were questions about this being a planned attack given that this happened on September 11th and that the murderers knew which safe house the staff had been evacuated to. At the very least, someone tipped them off where to aim the rocket propelled grenade (RPG), where the safe houses are.

Stevens loved Libya, he had worked there before. He passionately believed in cultivating close relationships between that part of the world and the U.S. America has lost a passionate, intelligent and articulate man, a leader of our country who’s path was on the ascent.

The true tragedy is that Libya has lost a very good friend. Please take a few minutes and watch the video that he produced only a few short months ago.

Chris Stevens RIP

——————————————————————————————————

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).

Top Ten Banned Books for Banned Books Week – Tom Rossi

Here are my top ten choices for Banned Books Week:

10. The Kid is not My Son by Arnold Schwarzenegger and John Edwards, with an introduction by Michael Jackson

9. Faithfully Yours by Bill Clinton

8. Uhhhh… What? by John Boehner

7. Face of a Bunny, Heart of a Hart by Newt Gingrich

6. How To Not Put Your Mouth in Your Foot by Joe Biden

5. Dumb? Who Screwed, and Who GOT Screwed? by George W. Bush

4. Liberals: Ha Ha! Suckers! by Barack Obama

3. Float Like a Butterfly, Sting Like a Bee by Mitt “Shifty” Romney

2. Idiot? You Betcha! by Sarah Palin

1. Meowch! Paul Ryan Shows There’s More Than One Way To Screw a Cat by Paul Ryan, with Michael Crichton

OK, OK… I kiiiid, I kiiiid.

Banned books week just ended (sorry, I was distracted last week) and is actually a really important event. From the Banned Books Week website: “Banned Books Week is the national book community’s annual celebration of the freedom to read. Hundreds of libraries and bookstores around the country draw attention to the problem of censorship by mounting displays of challenged books and hosting a variety of events.”

Here is the list of the most often “challenged” (attempts to ban them by various state and local governments or other bodies) books of the year 2011:

1. ttyl; ttfn; l8r, g8r (series), by Lauren Myracle

Reasons: offensive language; religious viewpoint; sexually explicit; unsuited to age group

2. The Color of Earth (series), by Kim Dong Hwa

Reasons: nudity; sex education; sexually explicit; unsuited to age group

3. The Hunger Games trilogy, by Suzanne Collins

Reasons: anti-ethnic; anti-family; insensitivity; offensive language; occult/satanic; violence

4. My Mom’s Having A Baby! A Kid’s Month-by-Month Guide to Pregnancy, by Dori Hillestad Butler

Reasons: nudity; sex education; sexually explicit; unsuited to age group

5. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, by Sherman Alexie

Reasons: offensive language; racism; religious viewpoint; sexually explicit; unsuited to age group

6. Alice (series), by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor

Reasons: nudity; offensive language; religious viewpoint

7. Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley

Reasons: insensitivity; nudity; racism; religious viewpoint; sexually explicit

8. What My Mother Doesn’t Know, by Sonya Sones

Reasons: nudity; offensive language; sexually explicit

9. Gossip Girl (series), by Cecily Von Ziegesar

Reasons: drugs; offensive language; sexually explicit

10. To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee

Reasons: offensive language; racism

The list of books that have been banned or challenged at least somewhere in America at some time in the past is shocking and includes such titles as, The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck, The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald, and… I’m not kidding about this one – the American Heritage Dictionary.

I implore you not to succumb to fear – fear of knowledge or fear of education, especially. Don’t listen when Republicans argue for technical training over real education. As the UNCF says, “A mind is a terrible thing to waste.”

Buy these books from the banned and challenged list. Give them to your kids. Have conversations. Let the gears of your and your kids’ minds churn. Not everything every author writes is an endorsement, nor a recommendation. Books make you think. Books are food for the brain.

Feed!

-Tom Rossi

___________________________________________________________________________

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.

___________________________________________________________________________

Litquake – When Literature Shakes/Shapes A City

Today kicks off Litquake, a week of literary readings, panels, workshops and talks, that has become a tradition of San Francisco. This week, there are 160+ events with 850+ authors presenting. 

The climax is a crawl around the city to famous literary landmarks with events along the way. If you are interested (and it’s not like theres Fleet Week, or a free music festival to attend), you can pick up details at the Litquake website.

Hope to see you somewhere along the hilly streets of our fair city.

Alon

——————————————————————————————————

Alon Shalev is the author of The Accidental Activist and A Gardener’s Tale. 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).

 

The $0.99 Dilemma

I have a YA epic fantasy novel (I know, not exactly social justice -themed, but I have tried to drop a few values among the swords and magic) that will hopefully be published before the end of the year.

Give that is my first foray into the world of fantasy, it has been recommended that I offer the ebook for $0.99. I would receive only a 35% royalty rather than the standard 70%. The idea is that the first book is so cheap – Less than that cup of coffee you’re holding. And it doesn’t cool off as you read your way through – that genre readers will take a risk on an unknown fantasy author. The quality of the book will hopefully hook a sold readership that will buy subsequent novels in the series (there are already two more written and a fourth on the way).

It makes economic sense. I have invested my own money in a professional editor and an artist who is designing the cover. Otherwise, it is my time and the sweat of my loyal friends at the Berkeley Writers Group. There are hardly any costs involved after the initial set up – website overheads, promotion etc. – but no trees are being felled, replaced, distributed, returned and pulped.

As a consumer, I have found myself dismissing any fiction ebook over $10 on principle, and used to be skeptical about a book under $5, assuming the author might not be ‘good enough’ to sell his/her book at a respectable price. The latter assumption has been somewhat modified since reading a number of excellent books for less than a fiver.

Jeff Rivera wrote an interesting article: Writers: Making a Living Off of Kindle?. He intervieweJ. A. Konrath, the author of the Jack Daniels detective series. Mr. Konrath is making a living primarily from his ebooks and is justifiably proud of it. He points out that he is making more from his digital books than his tree books.

Mr. Konrath sells his latest novels electronically for $2.99. With Amazon’s royalty system, he will make $2.04 off each book. He sells his older novels for $1.99. The idea behind this is that people will probably hear of his latest and read that first. After enjoying the book, they can go in and order 5 for $10. They are now packed for their vacation! Even if they order them one at a time, his books are at the price level of an impulse purchase for most people.

But I am having a hard time offering up my baby for $0.99. It seems almost disrespectful to the characters after all I put them through. The book is 95,000 words long, has been critiqued, edited, have its cover professionally designed and undergone a manicure and pedi.

But this is where the businessman/woman comes in, where the agent steps back and sees the big picture. If this is the first in a series of exciting books that a large following will invest in and root for the characters, then there should be no barriers to the reader taking a chance with the first book.

So here are three questions that, if you are so inclined, I would appreciate you answering in the comments:

1) What is your first thought when you see that a book that caught your eye is priced at $0.99?

2) What is the highest price you would pay for an ebook from an author you have never read?

3) What is the highest price you would pay for any work of fiction in ebook format?

I appreciate your guidance. Happy to hear any feedback on the topic. For more on my foray into the world of fantasy, I blog weekly at elfwriter.com and tweet with the same handle.

Have a great weekend.

——————————————————————————————————

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).

Good from Bad – Roger Ingalls

I read an article a few days ago and it gave me hope so I’m going to redirect this post to that story after just a few short sentences. It’s a story about devotion to faith. It’s a story about inner development over outer beauty. It’s a story about ignorance, remorse and enlightenment.

It’s about an open mind and tolerance.

I hope these links below make you feel good and give you hope too.

http://www.uscatholic.org/blog/2012/09/religious-tolerance-and-education-making-headways-person-time

http://www.thestar.com/news/world/article/1263314–bearded-sikh-woman-post-goes-viral-anonymous-poster-apologizes

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/09/25/balpreet-kaur-sikh-woman-proudly-sports-facial-hair-faith_n_1913355.html

First Presidential Debate

Tonight is the first presidential debate.  I feel somewhat ashamed to say that I am excited. It is hype. There are strict rules, two very intelligent men have been prepping for sometime with teams of equally very intelligent professionals. 

I love sports, most sports, and it doesn’t take me long to get absorbed in a game on TV. Both teams or adversaries train and prepare for their specific opponent and we don’t know what the outcome will be, who will win, and what unexpected tactic or moment of brilliance will lead to the winning goal, points or knock out.

When you look at it objectively (and of course none of us do), this is one big show for the floating voter. I have mixed feelings regarding the floating voter, the undecided, and the independents. 

On the one hand I admire people who insist on analyzing policies or the integrity of a candidate, but are they really floating? A recent NPR clip interviewed several young independents, and after a few questions, declared them to be democrats. A friend who was listening with me commented wryly: “That’s obvious. These are thinking people.”

Having said that, I can understand why someone might change their vote because their circumstances have changed. A Republican supporter might have suffered from losing their savings, their house, or their job, without any hope of recuperating their losses, and consider the democratic agenda to be more reflective of their circumstances. A democratic voter might have come into considerable money, found God, or just set themselves up as a small businessperson, and figure the Republican agenda will help them.

Just to be clear, there are religious liberals and democratic entrepreneurs, and I am sure people who suffered from the Republicans irresponsible fiscal policies but stay Republican because of their values. 

If the candidates and their parties are not offering anything new, why are people undecided? We have spent a long time analyzing their policies, backgrounds, comments, and actions. And does it matter who wins the White House if the balance of Congress makes everything a stalemate anyway?

I have nothing to fall back on than sports and entertainment. This is what I would love to see happen:

Popcorn, anyone?

——————————————————————————————————

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).

Should the Cheats Define the Policy? – Tom Rossi

It seems that, for most of my life, I’ve heard a lot of whining about welfare cheats and people who cheat medicare, unemployment, social security, food stamps, and several other programs. Additionally, I now hear all about the people who misuse California’s medical marijuana law so that they can get high and have fun.

There really are people who fit these descriptions. But are these reasons to axe the whole programs? The Department of Labor, for example, estimates that 1.9% of unemployment insurance payments go to cheats. While that does add up to a significant amount of money, it also means that 98.1% go to legitimate, unemployed citizens who are in need of help.

Statistics on cheating in state welfare programs are considerably worse (and difficult to find research results on), but appear to be well below 25% attempts at fraud or at least minor tweaking, most of which are caught and stopped.

There can be no doubt that, even if at a statistically low level, this cheating is a drain on our financial resources that should not be ignored. But this is a problem of enforcement of the rules and regulations of these programs. Fiscal conservatives use these problems as justification to call for these types of programs to be shut down completely, or to cut the benefits as low as possible.

These programs are designed to help people in need. People who have lost their jobs, have had a serious illness in the family, are taking care of a special needs child (or adult), or single or just low-income parents. Can we turn our backs on these people because some people cheat?

There are societal costs – real costs – to ignoring the needs of our so-called less-fortunate citizens. It can mean that we lose whatever contribution a person might make if he or she is helped through a temporary setback. It can mean that people are carrying illnesses while mingling with the “rest of us.” It can mean that some (many) children never reach anything like their true potential and never make the contribution they could to our country. Or it could just mean unnecessary suffering by people suffering from anything from the effects of chemotherapy to chronic insomnia.

These are real costs that justify the costs of assistance programs. But I, for one, believe that the purpose of civilization and certainly of America is to insulate us from the brutality of life, or the “law of the jungle.” Otherwise, we could just fire all the cops and say, “If you can’t protect yourself, too bad.”

I want to live in a civilized country – as far from the law of the jungle as is reasonably possible. We can’t define our policies based on those (relatively few) who abuse them. That’s a separate matter. We must define policy based on benefits to our society and then work to keep the process honest. Would conservatives have us shut down the NFL because teams and players sometimes break the rules? Of course not. Think about this when you’re watching your next football game.

-Tom Rossi

___________________________________________________________________________

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.

___________________________________________________________________________

Post Navigation

%d bloggers like this: