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 “democrats”

New Author On The Block

My friend, John Byrne Barry has a novel coming out. John is a political activist and has channeled this passion into fiction. We bonded through a shared aspiration to help inspire people to act through affiliation with characters who fight for social justice. 

Perhaps you can join me at John’s book launch on Sunday at the Mo’Joe cafe in Berkeley – I can attest to the good coffee and healthy Middle Eastern food.   

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Alon Shalev is the author of the 2013 Eric Hoffer YA Book Award winner, At The Walls of Galbrieth, The First Decree, and Ashbar – Wycaan Master Book 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). Hang out with Alon on Google+

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. 

imgres

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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).

Whose Shutdown is it, Anyway? – Tom Rossi

The “debate” rages on. Are 1+1 really 2? Or are they 3? Is the Pope Catholic? Does a bear sh… Oh, forget it.

Here’s the “debate”: I want to cut off your legs with a chainsaw. What’s that? You don’t want to talk it over? You don’t want to sit down and negotiate? Hmmm… Well, let’s try something less extreme. I want you to give me 25% of your paycheck… every month. Whaaaaat? You don’t want to talk about that either??? Well, YOU are obviously the problem.

tom-toles-obamacare

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.

cryingboehner

The right-wing wants Obama to just turn around, let go of victory, and be defeated. And they want the same from the American people. Republicans (publicly, anyway) agree that health costs are out of control. But instead of making it cheaper for people, they want doctors and especially big medical businesses to be largely free from lawsuits, even when they do something terribly wrong.

Obamacare may only be a B- victory for the average citizen of the United States, but it’s all we’re going to get. We will not have “single payer” health care within the foreseeable future (unfortunately) so we have to hold on to our hard-won compromise like grim death.

obamacare card

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.

Obamacare-face-full

As a nation, we badly need to grow up. Countries with nowhere near our natural resource base have thriving economies and universal health care. Obamacare is an imperfect compromise, but a reasonable one. Let’s get on with our lives… and our health.

-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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You Are Too Stupid – by Tom Rossi

Despite hundreds of millions of dollars spent, despite all the threats of terrorism and economic disaster, despite the cries of socialism, fascism, and even communism, you still re-elected Barrack Hussein Obama. For this reason, the Republican party has decided that what is needed is to simply take away your voting rights.

Ho hum, you say? “Wake up, Tom! Republicans have been trying to disenfranchise African-Americans, Hispanic Americans and other groups for years, if not centuries!” Well, yes… there is that. Let’s not go into a long history, but just give a quick review before we talk about the Republican party’s inspired new ideas (don’t you wish we had a convention on sarcasm in text, like it always appears in some ugly color, like baby-shit yellow?).

623a

Republicans have sponsored and in many cases put through bills in almost every state requiring state-issued, photo IDs to be presented by voters. This may sound simple, but many voters (many of the poorest voters) face considerable difficulties in getting those IDs. Besides, actual voter fraud hardly exists. They have sent out letters to legal immigrants – naturalized citizens – that they and/or their families will be deported if they attempt to vote. They sent out letters claiming that people can vote by phone… the day after the election. Several Republican Secretaries of State have adjusted voting hours and polling-place personnel levels in order to cause hours-long waits to vote in poor or just Democratic-leaning precincts. My hands are getting tired from typing – so I hope you get the picture.

But now, ladies and gentlemen, comes the main event. An idea, a proposition, more evil than Scarpia, more conniving than Iago, more heartless than Dick Cheney… Because you, my friends, are just too stupid… too stupid to vote for who you’ve been instructed (at great effort, I might add), the power to choose your president will be taken away. Not completely, mind you. But just enough to tip the balance, and to make sure that there are no more Romney-style humiliations.

Here’s the ingenious plan: Even while most Americans want to do away with the electoral college and elect the president directly by popular vote, the Republican leadership in several key. “swing” states want to take the electoral college much further. They want to use the gerrymandered congressional districts, within their borders, to determine the winner of the state’s electoral votes.

If these rules had been in place before the 2012 election, Romney would have won the presidency, despite having lost the popular vote, 47% to Obama’s 51%, a difference of about 5 million votes.

The inescapable conclusion from all this is that the Republican party (I’m not talking about ALL Republican voters, but the party’s leadership) hates democracy. And while it’s true that the Democratic party also works to change the balance of who votes in America, they work to get more people to vote, not less. That actually (and obviously) increases democracy.

This picture may have been faked, but I think it captures some real sentiment out there.

This picture may have been faked, but I think it captures some real sentiment out there.

To my many, many Republican readers out there, I ask: Will you sacrifice democracy in order to get your way? I sincerely believe that the answer will, from most, actual Republican voters, be “No!” You can’t love America and hate democracy. That would be the ultimate hypocrisy.

polls_hypocrisy_3331_567160_poll_xlarge

-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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Fiscal Cliff: Elephant in the Room – Roger Ingalls

With all this hyped-out talk about the Fiscal Cliff, raising taxes, cutting Social Security and Medicare, why isn’t anyone talking about the obvious?

Yes, we need to let the temporary tax cuts given to the rich during the George W. Bush administration expire as originally promised almost a decade ago. And we need to cut some spending in the right areas.

Defense Spending

Defense spending is the elephant in the room. All the politicians are ignoring the obvious. The military budget has tripled since 2002 and is the significant contributor to the debt. Social Security and Medicare are not the evil entitlements as promoted by the Conservatives.

I do not believe defense spending will be reduced to appropriate levels. In time, many politicians get appointed to the boards of defense contractors and they also receive campaign contributions from organizations associated with them. It’s not in the best interests of our elected officials to reduce defense spending.

We all know the world is not going to end if Washington does not come to a Fiscal Cliff agreement by the end of the year. It’s just political rhetoric meant to draw our attention away from the real problems.

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?

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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).

Obama – Socialist? Or Conservative? – Tom Rossi

By my estimation, Barrack Obama is the second most conservative American president, at least since WWII. You could say he’s tied for second with Bill Clinton, both following George W. Bush, but leading the conservative icon, Ronald Reagan, by a longshot.

Republicans have seized on President Obama’s three-legged horse of a health program and the end of “don’t ask, don’t tell” to label him as a liberal or even a “socialist.” And the idea that Americans actually deserve access to decent health care even if they aren’t too well off, financially, is certainly a radical one. I can easily see why Tea partiers compare Obama to Hitler (why isn’t there a text treatment, along the lines of underlining or italicizing, to denote sarcasm?).

Obama went along with the bank bailout. He has nixed any prosecution of the corporate criminals in the banking and finance industries whose fraudulent con-artistry landed us in this economy. He has pushed “NAFTA on Steroids,” also know as the Trans-Pacific Partnership. He’s increased the secrecy of the government. He’s visciously persecuted “whistle-blowers.” He’s deported many thousands of immigrants. He has renewed the Bush tax cuts for the very wealthy. His economic policies are clearly designed to put the train back on the tracks that lead over a cliff – the same tracks George W. Bush and Bill Clinton had us on.

And when it comes to war… where do I start? He “ended” (sort of) the war in Iraq, while greatly stepping up the war in Afghanistan. He has employed the use of drone aircraft, basically to assassinate our enemies, along with anyone who happened to be standing around in the vicinity. All while curtailing attempts to get our war on the environment under control. He’s also allowed more oil drilling than ever in our history, allowed the insane patent-mania to continue and get worse, and allowed completely reckless genetic engineering to go even further. 

Liberal? Socialist??? Ha! This is why (and I’ve said this before) I’m voting for Dennis Kucinich. Or maybe Elizabeth Warren. Or maybe Bernie Sanders. Someone who actually wants to bring about some sense of balance to this country and not simply to let money determine our fate – as a nation and for every individual.

When I tell people of my little scheme, the reaction is often uproar, indignation, or disdain. “Think of what will happen if Mitt Romney is elected!” They say. “Think of how much worse things will be – for economics, for the environment, for women, for minorities…” To all of you who say these things to me, you… are right. The next four years would be even worse if Romney becomes president. And the effects could go on much longer.

Obama is clearly the lesser of two evils. It’s really a matter of how fast do you want to drive to hell? So am I giving up and saying, “Let’s just hurry up and get there?” No.

The time has come for drastic action. No, I’m not talking about any kind of violence. I’m saying that we need to convince the Democratic party that, if they keep just towing the corporate line (just a little less that the Republicans) then they will lose. If they continue to leave those of us who see a little further into the future, who actually care about the health and well-being of our grandchildren (or other people’s grandchildren), and who can actually imagine a world where war doesn’t take so many lives and take up so many resources completely unrepresented, they will lose.

There is little or no hope for a third party that will change things. The democrats need to know, beyond any doubt, that they lost by neglecting a huge part of their base. The Republicans and thinly-disguised Republicans, who go by various code names, will always stop their whining and unite. We’ve heard, over and over, about how disatisfied some Republicans and all Tea partiers are with Mitt Romney. But every single one of these people will still vote for him.

We need to stop voting for second-worst. We need for the Democrats to have the guts to say, “We want less war, more human well-being, and more justice. And if that makes us “liberals,” then we will live with it.”

These are the principles that liberals stand for. Not equal outcomes. Not rewarding laziness. Not government takeover. Those are all idiotic labels that the other side finds useful.

I want President Obama to come very close to losing because people voted for true progressives. If he actually loses, that’s fine. We must be willing to sacrifice four years for our long term future.

-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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Guest Post: Matt Fielding – The Accidental Activist

The following post has been written by Matt Fielding, the fictional protagonist of The Accidental Activist. The struggle by two young people not to cower to the bullying of a multinational corporation (the real McLibel trial) upon which the story is loosely based, is as relevant today as it was 15 years ago.

Over to you, Matt.

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Thanks, Alon. I am truly humbled that an author would stil feel so connected to his characters years after he finished writing The Accidental Activist. I feel that after the Democratic Party Convention (and the Republicans, last week) that our message is just as important today as then.

Don’t get me wrong. When the multinational sued my girlfriend, Suzie, and her colleague, Bill, I was stunned. How could the British judicial system not protect their rights, not provide legal aid,  not come to their aid. The reality is that this astonishingly became the longest trial in British history because many, many people got involved. This was always a grassroots campaign.

Shalev saw fit to make me his protagonist, not just because my role as the web designer was significant (the Oilspill.com website was probably the first ever interactive advocacy website, a conduit for the free flow of information on a global level,  that enabled Suzie and Bill to act and respond at the necessary legal level without any formal training), but because of who I was – a regular guy, just like you.

The real website – McSpotlight.org

Let me be honest: Before meeting Suzie, I couldn’t have told you the names of our government’s cabinet members. I knew more about Arsenal Football Club’s reserve side than our shadow cabinet and, being in opposition meant Chelsea, Manchester United, Barcelona, and Liverpool, not the Conservatives, Liberals or the Green Party.

I only got involved because I fancied Suzie (love came along, but much later) and wanted to date her. I can’t tell you at what point I became politically aware, or at what point it went beyond personal, but it did.

This reckless multinational corporation, like so many today, hurt many people I loved and respected. My friends became victims to a business model fueled by the pain and destruction left in its wake, the devastating effect these companies have on the individual who willingly or unwillingly gets in the way of their profit margin.

I admit I was a self-absorbed yuppie out to get laid. But it was when I read The Accidental Activist that I understood the personal transformation that I underwent. And if my story can in any way help someone else make the personal changes necessary to help this embattled world of ours become a better place, well, I am proud to have been the protagonist of The Accidental Activist.

The conventions were pretty, slick, and occasionally amusing. But they were made for TV, for the passive viewing of a population who have become desensitized to real advocacy and are willing to allow the politicians and mass media to spin whatever message they want. Accountability is almost non-existant as politician after politician,  who in any other work sector would have been fired a long time ago, continue to pass the blame and hide behind pretty rhetoric. The debt crises didn’t happen last night, neither did the social security fiasco, diminishing education and healthcare and…well you get the picture.

And the media lap it up. Why not? It makes their life easier. The Internet offers a chance to break this conspiracy. It has helped bring down dictators – it can change the face of our political system – but only if we the people want it bad enough.

The Accidental Activist is as relevant today as it was in the 90’s.

Matt Fielding
Oilspill.com Webmaster.

The real heroes – Helen Steel and Dave Morris

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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 ahttp://www.alonshalev.com/and on Twitter (#alonshalevsf).

Genocide of the Middleclass – Roger Ingalls

James Carville has just released a new book (It’s the Middle Class, Stupid) and the President is now shaping his re-election rhetoric around helping the middleclass so I feel it is prudent to repost (with edits) one of my earlier articles about the subject.

It is mind-boggling that so many Americans have a god-like fascination with Ronald Reagan. This is the man who set in motion the financial destruction of the middleclass. Unbelievably, a significant portion of Middle America still loves the man. Why? Is it some sort of Battered Wife Syndrome  or is the conservative middleclass too embarrassed to admit that they were duped by the Republican Party?

But, here we are, repeating stupidity. Instead of trying to reverse Reaganomics, conservatives are still trying to enhance it; more tax cuts for the rich and for corporations, more union busting, deregulation and privatization of government programs.

To increase our understanding, let’s review history: today, many Americans believe that middleclass society magically appeared with the birth of our nation and grew over time. This is not true. With the market crash of 1929 and the subsequent Great Depression, the country fell into economic chaos and floundered under Republican President Herbert Hoover. Prior to that, there were a few rich people, a lot of poor folk and a handful of in-betweeners. Franklin D. Roosevelt became president in March of 1933, quickly launched new legislation and executive orders that would become known as the New Deal.

The New Deal increased taxes on the wealthiest Americans, increased corporate taxes, regulated banks and Wall Street, created government programs (social security, unemployment insurance and minimum wage), and created pro-union alliances. FDR’s policies pulled our Nation out of the depression and gave rise to Middle America. In less than a decade, the middleclass would grow to become the largest demographic in the country and the envy of the world—The Great American Middleclass.

From the late 30s through the late 70s America prospered, the Middleclass would live comfortably and we became the undisputed world power. In steps the B-movie cowboy with his traveling show of Reaganomites and the genocide begins. Middle America was forced to save less just to maintain living standards, eventually leading to the necessity of financing their way of life. Wealth transferred from the Middleclass to banks, corporations, the rich got richer and this trend continues today. Wealth disparity now sits at the largest level since the robber-baron days of the late 1800s through the 1920s.

Americans need to act by educating ourselves on what policies actually work based on historic proof. We must not listen to money-influenced mainstream media. We must not let ourselves get polarized (against each other) through agenda promoted by today’s corporate-financed politicians—it’s their tactic to divide and conquer.

Genocide of the Middleclass, begun by Ronald Reagan, must stop. Hopefully the influential power of James Carville will help bring attention to proper change. And maybe, just maybe, the President’s renewed commitment to the middleclass is more than the normal lip-service.

The Third Choice – Roger Ingalls

We may have a legitimate third choice for President come November 2012. There’s an interesting movement underway giving all registered voters delegate power to select a candidate that will be placed on the presidential ticket. We’ll all have a chance to vote our choice during an online convention.

Before explaining further, I want to point something out about our traditional caucus/primary system that selects who goes on to the presidential ticket. California is the largest economy in the United States and if it were a country, it would be the eighth largest economic power in the world. However, California has no say when it comes to who should be on the Democratic or Republican ticket because the game is over before its primary takes place. For example: Mitt Romney is a virtual lock for the Republican Party but California’s primary is still six weeks away. The people behind the biggest U.S. economy have no choice… that’s ridiculous.

This new movement is called Americans Elect. Their goal is to nominate a presidential ticket that answers directly to the people and not a political system. Their slogan is, “select a president not a party”. To date, they have collected enough signatures in 25 states allowing the candidate selected during the online convention to be placed on the ballot in those states. It is forecasted that the signature quota will be met for all 50 states.

The concept behind Americans Elect is good. Our current process to elect a president is archaic and unfair to many regions of the country. Modernizing the process would save money, create election security and provide real choice and fairness for all. With that said, Americans Elect may be an elaborate setup to split votes in the 2012 election. Some of the original monetary backers behind the movement will not identify themselves. The Democratic Party’s demographic tends to be younger, more educated and open to change so they would be more likely to endorse Americans Elect. Conservatives may not recognize the true value of the movement or, in typical fashion, shy away from change. If only liberals and moderates jump onboard, it would fracture the Democrats and hand the election to the conservatives.

Conceptually, I like what Americans Elect is trying to do. It gives some power back to the people. Below are links to videos and their website. What do you think?

Website  http://www.americanselect.org/

Overview  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CuYKHnAVJ-Y

PBS Report  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VXPLYCPJnWU

CNN Report  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qYjnmpBwYd8

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