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 “corporate america”

Pussyfoot Politics – Roger Ingalls

To the battlefields, it’s time for war…again.  It’s no big surprise; the banking community needs their year over year growth and profit margins. There’s no real growth markets so they need to be artificially created. War material is expensive and if the inventory sitting on the shelves can be turned, it can then be replaced. All the big publicly traded military contractors will again make the big bucks, keeping Wall Street, aka The Banks, happy. We’re just looking for an excuse to make war happen.

Good for Wall Street, bad for Americans.

Good for Wall Street, bad for Americans.

Unfortunately, this is the economic path that’s been crafted through systematic flipping of freedom. Personal freedoms have been greatly regulated since the 1970s while corporate freedoms have experienced supernovas through deregulation. It’s a freedom inversion; taken away from the masses and given to big corporations and financial industries.

It is what it is; money buys power and brainwashing spin. It will not change until the system collapses under its own weight and corruption. People will react when the pain gets too great. We are not there yet.

Back to the war effort. We need to quit the pussyfooting, the posturing and all the fakeness related to our war efforts. We need to be honest with ourselves and come clean with the international community. We need to proclaim our true war policy.

Proclamation of War

We, corporate America and financial controlling partners, in order to maintain our monetary growth charter find it necessary to create a constant state of war. We steadfastly ascribe to maintaining leadership in weapons technology and will create war to deplete previous generations of war-product inventory which further enhances our ability to finance war sciences. We resolve to make transparent, through period notice, our intent to make war on nations deemed obstructionist to economic exploitation. We further resolve to align militarily and financially with all for profit entities engaged in economic exploitation.

It’s no longer about a free world; it’s only about a free market for the select few. Maybe it’s always been and the enlightened Voltaire, Locke and American Founding Fathers, such as Jefferson, Paine and Franklin were just fictional characters.

In the Shadow of Giants

Unwanted Heroes was much longer before my editor got his hands on it. A number of chapters were cut because they do not directly move the plot along. They seem to have something in common – my desire to show the many facets of San Francisco. I would like to share then with you over the next few weeks.

There is nothing here that spoils anything in the book – which probably vindicates the editor’s decision.

Heroes Low Res Finished Cover 11.18

In the Shadows of Giants

            The Daily Grind survives in the shadow of giants. Peet’s Coffee and Starbucks rule the roost. I believe there are eight of them within the half-mile radius that defines the boundaries of San Francisco’s Financial District. As an independent coffee shop employee, I should have nurtured a healthy hatred for these monoliths of corporate America, who have turned the little guy into an endangered species.

The truth is, I have read Howard Shultz’s Building Starbucks One Cup at a Time, and I have to admit I harbor a grudging admiration. He and his colleagues are true connoisseurs who stood up for something they truly believed in: Coffea Arabica.

Every investor, market analyst and beverage manager doomed them to failure. The American nation was incarcerated by the instant coffee powder, addicted to the milk, the sweetness, the insanely cheap coffee and, of course, the instant powder. Why wait? Why grind? Why the extra roast?

But these men embraced a common vision, believed in the people’s finer taste buds and held a zero tolerance for compromise. They raised the bar and the people voted, with their travel mugs. There are those who blame these corporate monoliths for the scarcity of the local corner coffee shop. But the little guy can survive, only he must commit to two holy tenets: top quality coffee and kick-ass service.

And this is why, even the corner coffee shop has its barista and he, or she, must make it work. I put considerable effort into trying to make every customer welcome – an honored guest. I have a good memory for names or odd details; I throw out liberally, letting them know that I remember them and that they are individuals.

We all want to be remembered. We go into a restaurant, a shop we frequent, the gym and hope that there is acknowledgement on behalf of the maitre d’, the shop owner or the gym receptionist.

It allows us to stand out from among the masses. It reinforces that we are each unique, individuals with our own life, our own destiny. The swamp of urban anonymity has not swallowed us. We live another day as individuals. And it keeps us returning to the same shop, restaurant or gym. It creates brand loyalty that is different from a great product, an image or a good price. It fills a need in each and every one of us; we are members of the tribe. In this case the Coffea Arabica tribe. Here, every morning, for a few minutes, we belong. We feel validated.

There is one woman who frequents our coffee shop every weekday morning at 8.20am, orders the drip of the day and sits in the same seat where she can easily look out the window or survey the coffee shop with equal ease. At 8.55am, she tosses her coffee cup into the garbage can by the door, and leaves.

She is, I guess, in her mid-thirties, always impeccably dressed. She is attractive, not centerfold beautiful, but in a genuine, deeper sense. Her clothes, though business attire, reveal a full, well-maintained body and her hair is always tied back in a tight bun. She would pass for one of a thousand who frequent our coffee shop, if it wasn’t for her eyes…and her silence.

She never speaks; she doesn’t have to order as I have her coffee poured as soon as I see her. The change from the two dollar bills is dropped automatically into the tips glass and she retreats to her seat.

Her eyes haunt me. They seem…empty. I realize she is somewhere else as she stares out of the window. Her elbow is on the table, her chin cupped in a hand that boasts elegant fingers, notably devoid of a wedding ring.

I always look for an excuse to get closer to her. I pick garbage off the floor, wipe tables; whatever is necessary to sneak a view of her. I wonder if she suspects and, if so, whether she even cares?

Yesterday, we heard of yet another Starbucks opening in our area. That makes six within walking radius and there are two Peets’ and two Tully’s. The boss constantly frets, though The Daily Grind has held its own for several years.

The talk among the staff focuses on the new Starbucks. People worry about their jobs; many are students, or high school dropouts. Others like me are artists; none of us have employment skills that will make finding another job easy. Our boss is tough but fair and he cares about us, though he would never want to admit it.

A customer, who is sitting at the next table to the woman I have just mentioned, asks me if I am concerned about the new competition in our crowded neighborhood. I crack a joke, something about Starbucks just wanting to ensure that they have at least one store standing after the next big earthquake thereby ensuring they maintain a monopoly on the survivors.

He laughs and, as the businesswoman glances over at me, I see a crack in the frown. I jump at the opportunity.

“Why do you come here every day instead of Starbucks or Peets?”

She hesitates. Is she deciding why or whether she wants to even tell me?

“Because of you,” she replies, quiet but confidant. “The coffee is good, but I come because of you.”

I swallow, uncharacteristically lost for words. Thankfully she continues. “For a few brief minutes of the day I belong. You know me; know what I want to drink. You respect my boundaries, though you hover around cleaning and such. I feel comfortable,” she hesitates again. I see her swallow. When she continues, I can hear the emotion in her voice. “Over the past few years you have been my most consistent friend. Sad isn’t it.”           

“At the chain coffee shops, that is what I am: just another link in the chain. Still I’ve been wanting to tell you something for the last month.” She rises and throws her cup in the garbage can. Then she turns around and smiles. “I love that you have my drink drawn by the time I am at the counter, but I’d like to try the mocha one morning.”

With an uncharacteristic bounce in her walk, she leaves the coffee shop. I don’t need to check the time.  It is 8.55am.


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.  


A Safeway Fairy Tale

Fairy tales never come true, right? You know: the ones where a hero tries to save a damsel in distress (from dragon/bad prince/abusive boyfriend), gets wrongly accused by the all-powerful (insert king/queen/corporate boss), punished by (insert thrown in dungeon/sent on dangerous quest/fired from job in middle of recession), and finally vanquishes his foes (insert with magic sword/unicorn/mass movement from the people) for a happy ending.

Doesn’t happen, right? Wrong.

Ryan Young was working his shift at the meat counter of a Safeway when he saw a man repeatedly push and kick a pregnant woman. Ryan didn’t hesitate and, without regard for his own safety, stepped in to protect the woman from being beaten.

A hero right? His corporate bosses probably gave him a promotion, a raise and, we can forgive them if they exploited this to show that Safeway cares about its customers, plastering pictures of the hero in every place possible.

But Corporate America never misses a chance to do the wrong thing. Claiming that Ryan should have called security instead of stepping in himself, the suspended him without pay and, pending the results of an investigation, might fire him. He should, they said have followed company procedure and called security.

Ryan can be forgiven for being such a good citizen because his wife is also pregnant. They are expecting their baby in a few months, so this is probably as good a time as ever for taking away his income, as he prepares for the financial (as well as emotional) changes.

A Safeway customer, Doug Castro, who is also a security guard, believes Ryan did the right thing by intervening.  Had he called security and held back, the victim could have sustained serious injuries and endangered the life of her baby.

So Mr. Castro turned to Change.orgasking Safeway to lift Ryan’s suspension and give him backpay for the income he lost during his involuntary time away from work.

Indeed, local Police Chief Ron Langford has reviewed the security footage and believes the man who beat his girlfriend could be charged. He also told reporters, “In my mind, in this case Ryan did the right thing.”

Enter the magic sword/wise Jedi master/fairy godmother/whatever – lets call it Change.org and the army of good people form all over the country. Over 180,000 people signed Douglas’ petition asking Safeway to reinstate Ryan with full back-pay, and Safeway has acquiesced.

Ryan’s case became news on CNN and other national media including CBS and Business Insider.

Ryan says he’s “deeply grateful” to everyone who signed the petition. “Knowing that I had all these people standing behind me and that I wasn’t alone really helped me through this difficult time,” said Ryan. “Thank you again to everyone who took the time to help me out.”

And everyone lived happily ever after.

When my boys were younger and we would read them fairy tales and ideologically stories about peace and friendship (I know, poor kids – they have never quite recovered – And To Think That We Thought We Could Never Be Friends should be required reading for every citizen in the world!)  – I would often ask them what we could learn from the story.

So here we go:

– Corporate America can and does get it wrong.

– We can stand up to them when we stand together.

– The Internet can be a powerful tool for change.

– The folks at Change.org are awesome.

– Those who signed the petition are awesome.

– Ryan Young is a hero and should be recognized as one.

– Safeway did the right thing in the end.

And now everyone can live happily ever after.


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).


Roger’s Random Rants

At the beginning of the year I promised to be less negative and focus on positive developments and ideas that benefit mankind and the environment. Well, I lasted two months…it’s time for some ranting.

The big debate this week is the corporate tax rate. Like clockwork, the Republicans want to reduce the rate for the big guys from 35% to 25% which I find utterly grotesque. But wait, we have President Obama who will apply some sanity in Washington, right? Oh yes, he is fighting really hard. He’s stepping up to the plate to take a swing for the American working-class with a big fat wet noodle. The President only wants to reduce the corporate tax rate to 28%. I’ve been an Obama supporter but people, we are getting screwed.

Check out these three charts. The first one shows corporate taxes as a percentage of income for companies that reported profits. As we can see, the effective rate has been cut in half starting with the Reagan years (1981). They’re only paying slightly more than five percent today.

The second chart shows the rapid increase in the national debt thanks to the change in corporate tax rates, again starting in 1981 (Reaganomics-Era).

This last chart shows the growing wealth disparity between Middle America and the wealthy. Can you guess when this disparity starts? You got it! It starts in 1981 with the lower taxes for corporations and the wealthy.

The Conservatives are puking the same old story, “lower taxes for the rich and corporations will create jobs”. After thirty years of failure, it’s surprising that half the population still believes this economic vomit. Big business continued job outsourcing and, adjusted for inflation, Americans make less today than they did thirty years ago.

Let’s try a novel approach; instead of giving gifts to big business before they create jobs why don’t we let them earn it. Increase the tax rate to 50% and then give tax breaks based on year-over-year analysis of job creation. If they create more jobs in the US than overseas (on a percentage basis) they get a tax break. The more they create the bigger the break.

I don’t understand why more people don’t get Mad as Hell with these crazy conservative tax breaks. History has proven that the middle class must pick up the tab for breaks given to Corporate America.

How much more of an economic whipping are you willing to take?


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

Republican Debt Mantra: Build It Cuz They B Dumm


Tune into the news via the TV, radio or computer and all we hear is noise about the escalating national debt. We’ll hear the well-oiled Republican machine blaming President Obama and the Democrats for reckless spending. The conservative-speak by these silver-tongued devils is so finely tuned it makes Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address seem no more complex than a nursery rhyme.

I’m in awe of these self-proclaimed “Christian-valued” politicians that shift their guilt on to the innocent with such ease as if they were channeling Lucifer himself. I suppose this “self-proclaiming” is part of the facade. But how do they do it?  How do they sleep at night and how do they live in their own skin without wanting to crawl out of it? It’s creepy.

Michele Bachmann, US House Rep., MN, Republican

(click picure for scary surprise)

Surprisingly, this simple yet deceptive campaign actually works. Most Americans believe Democrats are the big spenders.

While at dinner with a friend this past weekend, we stumbled upon the subject of our national debt. He mentioned his amazement at the Democrats’ continued quest to add more to the huge debt they’ve already created—I almost choked. Wait, did I hear that right? Did this man, intelligent in many forms, actually say, “the huge debt the Democrats have created?”  Holy frickin’ crap, Batman, even he’s been brainwashed!

I knew, right then and there, something had to be done. These twisted words must be ripped from the devil’s mouth—torn out by its roots.  Many are trying to stop the Republican rewriting of history and I, too, must do my part.

Let’s keep it simple, let’s think like cavemen. Pictures, they’re worth a thousand words. These charts say it all (click image for larger view):

It doesn’t get any more obvious than this. As the charts show, Republicans historically increase spending and the national debt while the Democrats decrease them. The numbers don’t lie.

The purpose of this post is not to solely put the debt blame back on the shoulders of Republicans where it rightly belongs. It is also intended to highlight the importance of searching for truth. Don’t be led blindly by today’s politicians, they are salesmen for Corporate America—especially Republicans.

Whether you’re progressive or conservative, it should be vividly clear that we need revolutionary change within our political system. If a politician can tell a boldfaced lie without so much as a slap on the wrist, something is wrong.

-Roger Ingalls


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

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