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 “April, 2013”

Satire Is Part Of Freedom

“Without Bassem Youssef and the journalists who took to Tahrir Square in protest, President Morsi would not be in a position to repress them.”

Jon Stewart – Morsi

I’m not sure that I can add anything to what Jon Stewart said in the above  clip – when he gets serious, it is very powerful (even if still funny). Freedom and democracy is a double-edged sword. Taking power, even through a legitimate vote, doesn’t make you a democratic state. Democracy is a marathon not a sprint.

Do the right thing, President Morsi. Egypt and Islam are strong enough to deal with satire. Are you?

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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 At The Walls Of Galbrieth. Alon tweets at @alonshalevsf and @elfwriter.  

Breaking: God to be Put on Trial in Iowa for Zygoticide – Tom Rossi

This just in from sAP wire (satirical Associated Press):

Dateline, 10/10/2014:

It was just over a year ago that the State of Iowa passed a law defining the abortion of a fertilized human egg (known to eggheads as a “zygote,” an egg that has been fertilized by a sperm) to be the equivalent of the murder of a child, teenager, or adult. Since then, Iowa law enforcement authorities have been made aware by those same egghead biologists and so-called “doctors” that most “abortions” of zygotes, and even morulae, blastulae, gastrulae, and embryos occur naturally, sometimes called a “spontaneous abortion,” a “miscarriage,” or, as Iowans say, as an “act of God.”

As a result, God has been arrested and, according to Iowa Attorney General Dick Rednecropper, will be put on trial for the crimes of “zygoticide, morulacide, blastulacide, gastrulacide, and embryocide.”

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Rednecropper, interviewed in the courthouse, said: “Essentially, my hands were tied when we defined zygoticide as murder. It would be easy for a person, whether it be a man or a woman, who got an abortion to say, ‘I was guided by God,’ or ‘If it happened, it must have been God’s will.’ We circumvented that problem by simply saying that zygoticide is murder, no matter what the supposed justification.”

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“Would you accept, as an excuse for murdering your wife, that the killer says, ‘She was ugly, and I just couldn’t look at her any longer?’ I don’t think so. We don’t accept God’s excuses, either. I mean, a tree would like to blame the wind when a branch falls onto your car or house, but it’s ultimately the tree’s responsibility to hang onto its limbs, isn’t it?”

Reporter Brent McStallwart asked, “So, is your office currently planning to prosecute trees?”

Rednecropper answered, “Don’t be ridiculous man. I’m just using that as an analogy. We don’t have the resources to spend on incidents like that.”

When asked how many counts of murder God would be charged with, Rednecropper replied, “Well, it’s hard to say right now. These here bile-ogists tell me it could be in the millions… maybe lottsa millions. It seems that, if a woman misses her per… I mean that time of the month where I sleep out in the shed, but then she doesn’t have a baby, there just mighta been a spotaneonous abortion. The egg mighta been fertilized, but didn’t stick where he’s supposed to. Either way, it’s an abortion, and that’s illegal.”

In describing the arrest, police officer Rip Burgundy said, “We had to spend almost half an hour searching for his hands in his long, flowing, white beard in order to put the handcuffs on him. He didn’t really resist, he just kept rolling his eyes. He has huge eyes. Everybody at the scene could easily see his reaction. It was kind of, you know, disrespectful to us as officers of the law.”

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Officer Burgundy added, “Usually, in these situations, we use our Tasers, but we knew that there were some liberal noise makers in the crowd that would just love to accuse us of police brutality. So, since he wasn’t black anyway, we decided not to do it.”

God’s arraignment is set for this Friday.

Meanwhile, upon further study of the phenomenon of spontaneous abortion, Iowa law enforcement officials discovered that virtually every woman may have had, at some point in her life, a spontaneously aborted zygote, morula, etc. When asked what this would mean for Iowans, Attorney General Rednecropper said, “We start rounding up the women next week.”

-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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Amazon and Goodreads

The book world (whoever that is these days) was rocked last week when Amazon announced it had acquired Goodreads. Chances are, if you own a credit card, you know who the first is, but you need to be a book lover to know the second.

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Goodreads is no small start-up. It boasts 16 million members who have added more than 530 million books to their ‘shelves’ and generated more than 23 million reviews. Basically, Goodreads has emerged as the world’s largest site for readers and book recommendations. There are more than 30,000 book clubs within Goodreads. Founded in 2007, Goodreads is also a place where more than 68,000 authors connect with readers. It is huge. Oh, and it was created and based in San Francisco – not relevant, but I feel a need to boast, though none of the credit is mine.

“Books – and the stories and ideas captured inside them – are part of our social fabric,” said Otis Chandler, Goodreads CEO and co-founder. “People love to talk about ideas and share their passion for the stories they read. I’m incredibly excited about the opportunity to partner with Amazon and Kindle. We’re now going to be able to move faster in bringing the Goodreads experience to millions of readers around the world. We’re looking forward to inspiring greater literary discussion and helping more readers find great books, whether they read in print or digitally.”

“Amazon and Goodreads share a passion for reinventing reading,” said Russ Grandinetti, Amazon Vice President, Kindle Content. “Goodreads has helped change how we discover and discuss books and, with Kindle, Amazon has helped expand reading around the world. In addition, both Amazon and Goodreads have helped thousands of authors reach a wider audience and make a better living at their craft. Together we intend to build many new ways to delight readers and authors alike.”

“I just found out my two favorite people are getting married,” said Hugh Howey, best-selling author of WOOL. “The best place to discuss books is joining up with the best place to buy books – To Be Read piles everywhere must be groaning in anticipation.”

I must admit to being conflicted. Having lived most of my life in two small countries, I believe competitive prices and customer service in the US is so good (generally) because there is healthy competition. If the customer has one bad experience, there are always other companies out there next time.

In fact, it is not hard to put your finger on areas where bad customer service and inflated prices are  prevalent. So I am not sure how, as a consumer, I feel about Amazon and Goodreads getting into bed together.

As an author, though, I am having a problem finding a downside. I have a profile on Goodreads, but have not put any effort into it. But it does seem that participants on Goodreads are more thoughtful and less hype-driven in their recommendations. It is interesting that many authors complain about a lower star ranking offered from Goodreads reviewers. Having read my share of 5 star books that were clearly undeserving of such hype, I have to agree. I have two three-star reviews for At The Walls Of Galbrieth – both with honest and profound observations. I have no doubt they were genuine. In fact, one sought me out to share more feedback and I truly appreciate the care and concern this stranger has for my craft.

New York Times contributor, Leslie Kaufman, writes that Amazon has unearthed a few fraudulent review ‘businesses’, whereby people are making money from offering five-star reviews.  Kaufman notes that book reviewers on Goodreads are clearly identifiable through their Goodreads social profile.

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If you are not comfortable with single industry sources this merger might not seem so exciting. But as Amazon and Goodreads combine their creative energy and synchronize their efforts (Goodreads were still directing you to buy books on Barnes & Nobles nook), I have little doubt the customer and author experience will become a richer experience. 

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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 At The Walls Of Galbrieth. Alon tweets at @alonshalevsf and @elfwriter.  

Drowned by a Fake Flood – Roger Ingalls

Many home owners in California are about to get screwed. Open your pocket books because soon you’ll need to come up with an extra $1000 to $2000 dollars per year.

The California Department of Water Resources and the US Army Corp of Engineers published a report about the state’s potential flood catastrophes. Fear sells, right? So naturally, KGO radio was blasting sound bites from someone in the above mentioned group saying we need to get prepared for the big one. The scary quote was, “it’s not a matter of if a flood will happen but a matter of when.”

One in five Californians lives in a flood zone, according to the report. The spokesperson making the scary comment above also said we need to create a budget so we can educate the people on potential floods, how to be prepared and have emergency services. This is a positively spun and coded message. What they are really saying is, “1 in 5 California home owners will be required to have federally mandated flood insurance.”

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The national flood program already collects 30% of its funding from residence in California. We give much more than we take. We are financing people who live in actual flood plains and zones.

When was the last time you heard of a major flood in California? Remember the Great Mississippi and Missouri Flood of 1993 in the Midwest? Or the Great Flood of 1927 in the same area? Remember Hurricane Katrina and the flooding in New Orleans? OK, one more…do you remember Hurricane Sandy and all the east coast flooding? Only a fraction of the people who live in these REAL flood places have insurance.

It pisses me off that we California desert dwellers must finance the flood dwellers living in other states. If you live in the path of four or five hurricanes every year than you need insurance. If you live in a house or farm that is below the level of the Mississippi River than you need insurance. Don’t expect someone that lives in a desert to pay for your insurance.

I live in a 1000 year flood plain and there is no recorded history of my area ever flooding. The federal government forces me to pay $1600 per year for flood insurance. If I lived on the east coast or in the Midwest where floods occur routinely, I’d pay less. On the Federal level, California is politically weak.

Based on the recent spin language used by the California Department of Water Resources, US Army Corp of Engineers and FEMA, here’s my prediction. “It’s not a matter of if California home owners will get screwed by more federally mandated flood insurance but a matter of when!”

Meet Lincoln Plair – Guest Post by Norman Weekes

I met a great kid earlier this week. His name is Lincoln Plair, a twenty year old from Richmond.

He’s the same age as my son. He works at Pogo Park, a non-profit in Richmond dedicated to rebuilding and restoring playgrounds for children.  He’s real popular and his personality attracts friends young, old, white, Latino, Filipinos and any type of human you can think of.  He was recently hired at Pogo Park after a year of volunteer service at the Elm Park play lot in Richmond’s Iron Triangle neighborhood.

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This is the perfect job for Lincoln because he loves working in his community. He loves the people of Richmond and it gives him the flexibility to be nearby to help his ailing father. This is good news in a place and time where good news doesn’t come easy.  Growing up he mostly remembers the good times with family and friends and the look back and laugh memories. Like the times his cousin would tattle to his Mom just to see him get a whupping, or the playful flirtations with real and would be girl friends, some more serious than others. While courting one of his paramours he helped her fall in love with the Lord and she now dedicates her life to making the community more peaceful through music and community activism.  One cousin always thought he was too soft for Richmond, a tough town where non-violence seems like the road less traveled.  She begged him to toughen up, take a harder line even with his own family if necessary. Lincoln would stand his ground saying, “I’m not trying to fight my own family.”

You don’t hear a lot about the 99% like Lincoln in Richmond’s Iron Triangle – the toughest hood in one of the toughest cities in our country. Young people like Lincoln who graduate high school, say no to the drug industrial complex and simultaneously avoid police and gangs while trying to climb up the ladder one rung at a time.

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Regretfully I met Lincoln through the stories of family and friends at his funeral.  He’s the grandson of one of the deacons in my church. On a Monday afternoon this March Lincoln was shot and killed while washing a car. Witnesses at the scene say he saved two little children from the spray of gunfire. The community was shocked by this senseless murder. 

One of his friends said when you hear about something like this it’s often expected and not a surprise. But this one was a shocker. Lincoln was not involved with the wrong crowd, not someone with known “affiliations”.  He was not a usual suspect.  At the funeral his family called for peace in the streets, for an end to the killing. His sister pleaded for no retaliation because Lincoln wouldn’t want that.

There was coverage of his murder because of the senseless nature of the crime and the quality of the victim. Documentary filmmaker Mariel Waloff  took footage during the funeral. The film will tell of the struggle to make positive change in Richmond. Lincoln’s positive life spread love and hope in twenty short years. One can only wonder how much better off we all would be if he’d have just another twenty.

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On Sunday after church Lincoln’s grandfather walked up and handed me a thank you card. A feeling of unease came over me.  It felt all backwards. I should have had a thank you card for him for the opportunity to meet Lincoln Plair.

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Norm Weekes lives in the East Bay and volunteers with non-profits working in social justice and digital literacy. He is a volunteer at The Mentoring Center and Oakland Digital.

From Someone More Qualified than Me – Tom Rossi

This week, I’ve decided to let my wife, Marianne, take my post once again. This is an email she wrote in the middle of the night, a week or so ago, when the weight of life landed on her mind at about 3am. She sent this out to several friends and family members. Their appreciative responses made us decide to share.

Here is Marianne’s email:

I feel compelled to write to you, all the women in my life, because I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what it means to be a woman. In part, this is because I’ve become an aunt again, as many of you know. But it’s also because next week I’m having a lump removed. Don’t worry, it’s nothing serious! It’s a benign tumor, not breast cancer, but it has made me pause and think.

As women we are very good at taking care of other people. We are nurturing (which is why more of us should be leaders, taking care of the planet and its people). Sometimes I think we forget to take care of ourselves, and our lives become unbalanced. Sometimes our bodies have to remind us to take care of ourselves first. For me that means having alone time, soaking in a hot bath, reading a book, playing the piano, setting aside time for my creativity, my writing. For you it may be something different, but the important thing is to do something for yourself on a regular basis.

As women we tend to think that we’re not good enough, not perfect enough. The things we say to ourselves we’d never say to our children, our friends, or even our husbands! The fact is that we ARE good enough, and we are not perfect; nobody is (especially not our husbands so we might as well give up on trying to make them so!). Let’s have compassion for ourselves, even for that inner critic; after all, she’s just trying to keep us safe. Rather than being critical and judgmental of her, or any part of ourselves, let’s be kind and accepting, just as we are (hopefully!) with everyone around us.

I guess what I’m trying to say with all of this is that if part of being a woman is being nurturing, then let’s not forget to be nurturing to ourselves!

Love,

Marianne

Back to Tom:

I hope the women who read this will find it uplifting. The men might even find it so, as well.And by the way, I think my wife is way beyond “good enough!” She’s also a very good writer (yes, much better than me), which you will be able to confirm when she finishes the massive project she’s working on. In the meantime, you could read this:

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-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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