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 “Google”

Gaza and Facebook Pt. 2

This post follows on from Monday’s post regarding the progression of the Internet in Gaza,  a politically ravaged and poor country which has a huge proportion of its population under the age of thirty.

Dr. Saidam - the Palestinian Mr. IT.

The image that Gaza is a technologically backward country is wrong according to Dr. Sabri Saidam. Gaza has the largest number of Facebook users in the world per capita and (also per capita) the largest number of video conferencing in the world is also in the Palestinian territories. “The legislative council used to meet through video conferencing in the West Bank and Gaza,” says Saidam.

“There were medical exams conducted over the Internet. My mother, who lives in Gaza, has a heart problem. She comes to Makassed Hospital in East Jerusalem for treatment. And in so many cases, she was refused permission to go back to Gaza after treatment. That’s one of the reasons I was trying to promote Internet treatment so people wouldn’t have to travel. People take it for granted because the culture of IT is so embedded in society, but there are economic hardships that prevent people from acquiring technology, even though 94 percent use cell phones.”

Saidam has worked hard to teach about social media and the Internet. He launched an initiative to encourage those who use the Internet to teach their parents, as well as stay-at-home mothers, to use the computer and to surf the Internet. He also hosts a radio program in which he advises listeners about what should not be publicized on Facebook. If they surf in other countries, he tells them, they need to bear in mind that their boss has the ability to surf their page. He also warns that the Shin Bet, Israel’s security service, can monitor them as well.

This is no idol scaremongering as Saidam is keenly aware that it is Israeli companies who provide Palestinian telecommunication services. “This is a prime source of intelligence for the Shabak [Shin Bet], Mossad and whatever,” he says. “Everybody here publishes his or her beliefs and opinions and pictures and family news – everything. I tell them: You are the owner of the information. Whatever you are hesitant about – don’t release it.”

Saidam is frustrated that Palestinian politicians seem apprehensive about utilizing the Internet because they have no control over those who surf it. “But then they came to realize that it’s something that is totally out of the censorship scissors, nobody can gag anybody else, it’s a free world.”

The now infamous Third Intifada Facebook page that was closed by Facebook because it was inciting violence, Saidam points out, was created in Lebanon – not in the West Bank or Gaza Strip. However, once the page was closed this served only to excite young Palestinians who opened several more such pages and websites.

Internet communication has led to a number of peace initiatives that are coordinated between activists from all countries in the region. Whether this leads to more peaceful initiatives or a third Intifada remains to be seen.

Whichever way it turns, the potential for information to flow strengthens the hope that people on both sides of the conflict will have the ability to make more informed choices and possibly form low-barrier connections with those on the other side.

The Internet may yet hold the key to peace. But first, we need to ensure that as many people as possible are using it.

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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).

Gaza and Facebook Part 1

When you think of Gaza, many images come to mind: poverty, Muslim fundamentalism, frustration, unemployment, Facebook. Facebook? Yes, the Palestinians in Gaza, for all their challenges, are online and connecting.

Dr. Sabri Saidam, a former member of the Palestinian Authority government began getting involved in politics at the not so young age of 34. He was immediately appointed minister of communications and information technology and became known as “Mr. Technology.”

“Coming from the IT field, I can tell you honestly that I’ve always felt as if I were carving in stone – getting computers or talking about e-government in Palestine was mission impossible,” he says in an interview with Haaretz, an Israeli newspaper. “Now all the politicians are meeting bloggers and talking to them. There was no party interested in these people until the events in Tunisia and Egypt. They were considered to be time-wasters, kids.”

Saidam now works in Washington for the Aspen Institute where he continues to promote entrepreneurship among young Palestinians. “All of a sudden, everybody wants to know and have a private session to talk about Facebook and how they can open an account,” he says.

Saidam estimates that half of Palestinian households in the West Bank and Gaza Strip have computers and about 30% are connected to the Internet. As we saw in Egypt and Tunisia, however, this does not include cell phone connectivity.

“When the demonstrations started in Tunisia, there were 600,000 Palestinian Facebook users, and 200,000 of them were posting about politics. Each one of these 200,000 Facebook users is influencing five people around him. We’re talking about over a million Palestinians over the age of 18. In terms of population size, that’s 33 percent. In Egypt, that would be 28 million Egyptians, but there it took only 2,890 bloggers and computer activists to do what was done. The moral of the story is that there is a critical mass of Palestinians waiting to see how things are going to swing.”

Saidam believes that access to a wider discussion group and opinions will broaden the political debate within Gaza and include the younger generation, who make up the majority of the population in Gaza. “But there is no Palestinian Wael Ghonim [the young Google marketing executive who became a symbol of the revolution] . . . It’s the issue of getting bored of the fact that they see leaders who existed for dozens of years. They don’t want any leaders.”

It was the younger generation of Palestinians who marched on March 15 demanding an end to the conflict between Hamas and Fatah. This prompted President Abbas to decide he would go to Gaza and flesh out the subsequent agreement.

“The young people felt they had some influence on the decision,” says Saidam. “And I am telling my peers that they should not only passively listen but allow young blood to flow into the decision making of the parties.”

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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).

Denying The Denial in Durban – Neil Goldberg (Guest Blogger)

You would think that when high level delegations from 200 countries, as well as thousands of civic organizations (NGOs), and countless scientists descend on a conference to inform, discuss, propose and negotiate factors widely believed to be a threat to human existence, it would be newsworthy. Thousands of people gathering to build social and intellectual networks so that they can be prepared with proposals for solutions – in policy, funding, infrastructure, technology and programs to deal with the threat.

Such a gathering is in fact going on at this very moment at the U.N. climate talks in Durban, South Africa,   and has been for over a week. The shocker is, I can barely find mention of it anywhere in the MSM (main stream media), let alone screaming from banner leading headlines as I would expect it to be.

After all, whether one agrees that global warming is human caused or not, even most rabid right wingers and deniers are coming around to accept the evidence that the earth is in fact warming up. And to such a degree that it appear almost inevitable that it will cause major disruptions in the world economy and possibly an epochal shift in human culture.

I’ve been looking around for coverage, and finding very little. Certainly no screaming headlines in the vein “LARGEST THREAT TO HUMAN SURVIVAL SINCE NOAH RODE OUT THE FLOOD”. or, “OOPS”.

Not a single mention in my Yahoo newsfeed, which includes an AP feed (10 stories), NPR (5 stories), USA Today (5 stories), SFGate (5 stories) and The (British) Guardian (8 stories). And when I clicked through to the home pages of each of these venerable media outlets, I found – you guessed it, not a single mention of the conference. Not a single mention of global warming. Not a single tear jerking human interest profile of people struggling and winning against adversity. Not a single hero story. Not a single story about the massive amounts of money to be made on climate change generated business opportunities.

Of course there is room for stories of earth shattering import like “With His Past an Issue, Gingrich Spars and Parries” (NPR), and “Megachurch’s Future Uncertain After Pastor Leaves” (AP) and “Cain Accuser Bialek Say She Feels Vindicated” in the “Nation and World” headlines on USA Today. It’s such a busy newsday that important discussion about the imminent upending of human society just can’t make the cut.

I did a Google search for “Coverage of  climate conference, Durban”. Top item is an Adword (paid advertisement) for “Knowledge.Allianz.com”, the blog site of a major insurance company with extensive coverage on things like “Climate”, “Energy”, Mobility”, “Microfinance”, etc. But not a major journalistic organization.

Second was a piece called “What can Durban Climate Conference Achieve?” from ABC Online (their blog); a piece from Reuters India, one from Environment and Energy Publishing and another from a Canadian blog site called rabble.ca – News For the Rest of Us.

The first major news forum represented in my search is a story from LA Times who are reporting on…oh wait a minute. They’re reporting on what NPR previously reported in a story titled “NPR reports Kyoto Protocol in trouble in Durban”. I guess LA Times didn’t see fit to actually send their own reporter to Durban. What I particularly love about this story is in the opening paragraph, which sort it all:

“You may have noticed that news coverage of the U.N. climate talks in Durban, South Africa, has been minimal, at best, and that’s clearly because -– just like in Copenhagen last year -– there has been almost no mention of the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, which was put in place to set reduction targets for important greenhouse gases. Without a big, juicy target, the conference lacks the drama to merit mention on even the eco-blogs.”

So there you have it. Not worth reporting on because nothing is happening there. But I would guess, nothing much is happening there because by now, everybody believes the issue has gone away due to, well, lack of attention in the main stream media.

How DO you spell D-E-N-I-A-L!

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Neil Goldberg developed his political perspective growing up in apartheid South Africa which he left in 1982 when it seemed that democratic change was impossible. He is a designer of a wide array of products, environments and services. This experience has taught him that the limitations of imagination are the only thing standing in the way of just about any problem. Since becoming a father 12 year ago he has become convinced that a loving heart is the ultimate spur to imagination.

Kemble Scott – California Writer

I have already written about Kemble Scott and apologize (only slightly) that I am adapting a previous post. If we are celebrating California Writers Week and I am using this opportunity to focus on authors who write about San Francisco, then I think this post is even more relevant today.

SoMa stands for South of Market area. Riding on the riches of the dot com era, suddenly wealthy young people moved into fashionable lofts in a neighborhood that was known for the darker side of life. Many of the side streets are actually named after the prostitutes that frequented them.

SoMa remains an area of contrasts – one street boasting trendy clubs and organic grocery stores, while another is dark and used to sell drugs. Living and cruising the neighborhood are people who are pushing the limits of social norms, in terms of sexual practices and lifestyles and Kemble captures the atmosphere so well.

A different perspective on San Francisco

But Kemble is more than just your average author. If he has an ego from his gleaned success it was never on show when he addressed the California Writers Club. He took the opportunity to share with us his astonishing success as an ebook author and generously offered advice to other writers in a friendly and humble way. He shared his mistakes as well as his successes and I felt it was genuinely important to him to ensure that when someone asked a question that they got the best answer he could give. 

Since his novel, SoMa, was anything but mainstream, Kemble found it difficult to attract reviews. So he came up with this great idea to post short clips on You Tube of the different areas in San Francisco that the book explores. The 25,000 views of these clips helped create a following so when the book was launched it went straight into the Bestseller lists. Here is Chapter One. Be prepared – you will probably want to check chapter 2, 3 and so on.

Kemble often mentions his writers group helping to keep him real. When he told his group that people advertise in Craigslist’s Bay Area ‘roommate wanted’ section to meet prospective partners, two members of the group admitted that they had found their partners in this way.

SoMa can be hard reading. What keeps you involved is the knowledge that these fictional characters exist, and exist in our city. It is the story of desensitized people who are searching for emotion, and they need to seek this in ever increasingly challenging and dangerous ways. It recognizes that this generation is overloaded with choice, with communicating through screens multitasking and absorbing images and data.

Kemble has another similar novel that challenges our views of sexual practice. The Sower, like SoMa, is really well written, with characters that stay with you long after you finish the final pages. His writing also helps paint another layer in the many textures of the San Francisco tapestry.

Here is Kemble’s speech to Google employees.

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

The New MidListers

Yesterday I highlighted John Locke as a successful ebook author who has sold more than 1 million ebooks. Along with Amanda Hocking and J.R.Konrath, they are the Grishams and Pattersons of the new book reality. Thinking gof this made me wonder whether there is an emerging ‘midlist’ in the ebook jungle. Gotta love Google – I came across “The New Midlist: Self-published E-book Authors Who Earn a Living” by Robin Sullivan.

Amanda Hocking - leading the charge.

Ms. Sullivan suggests that this is in fact the case and that these authors are able to generate income because of the high royalties. The traditional book model (the terms offered by the big six publishers) offers 25% royalty on net sales of ebooks. But Amazon.com offers 35% for books up to $2.99 and a whooping 70% for books that sell between $2.99 and $9.99.

The trick is to leverage the Internet to generate high volume sales that are attracted because of the price is allowing more self-published and small press e-book authors to receive five and six figure yearly incomes. Many of these authors are able to leave their day jobs and make a living by doing what they love most–writing.

Michale Sullivan - leading the mid-listers

Ms. Sullivan runs a small press, Ridan Publishing. Her husband, Michael J. Sullivan, has six books published. From January to September 2010, his income averaged just over $1,500 a month or around $10,700 in total (Amazon US Kindle sales only). Once he hit the tipping point  he earned more than $102,000 in just five months. For details on his monthly income see the following chart:

Michael J Sullivan Amazon Sales

A quick glance at Writer’s Café (a section of the Kindle Boards forums), shows that Michael’s sales increase is not an isolated phenomena.  The following graph shines light on the number of authors who sold at least 800 books a month (Data provided on Kindle Board).

Amazon author sales over 800

Ms. Sullivan estimated the income of several of these authors according to the sales and book price data that the authors were posting on the Kindle Boards for one month.

  • Michael J. Sullivan — $16,648
  • Ellen Fisher — $3,915
  • Siebel Hodge — $15,425
  • N. Gemini Sasson – $4,222
  • David McAfee — $6,085
  • David Dalglish — $12,132
  • Victorine Lieskie — $7,281
  • M. H. Sergent — $4,211
  • Nathan Lowell — $9,296

What I found interesting is that only Victorine Lieskie, from among those listed above, ever had a book that made the Amazon Top 100 Bestseller List. The other authors are selling at least 800 books a month.

It is possible to live the author’s life.

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

Doing Business With Autocracies

In a recent blog post, my colleague, Tom Rossi, said that corporations are in existence solely to make money, not to better our society. I was thinking of this when I came across an article in the New York Times about American companies enthusiastically doing business with China, and in particular, collaborating on projects that provide effective tools to quash protests and free speech.

Installing surveillance cameras

Here are a few examples:

– Cisco Systems (among others) are creating the biggest police surveillance system in the world through a government contract in the city of Chongqing.

– Microsoft’s search engine, Bing, still censors searches in China. Earlier this month, it agreed to provide search results in English for Baidu, China’s leading — and heavily censored — engine. This is taking place 18 months after Google, to avoid aiding the government with such censorship, pulled its search engine out of China.

The Consequences:

1) Shi Tao sits in prison for a 10 year sentence after Yahoo provided copies of his emails to the government.

2) In May of this year, Cisco was sued by Chinese practitioners of Falun Gong who accused the multinational of abetting  the Chinese government through the creation and maintainable of the so-called Golden Shield system. This surveillance system targets and then follows dissidents communicating online, which has led to the detaining and torturing of Falun Gong practitioners.

Cisco took issue with the accusation. The company claims that it does not design it’s programs or equipment to aid the government censor content, intercept communications or track users. It sells the Chinese government standard-issue general network equipment.

In fairness, some of the multinational corporations did begin to take steps after Yahoo’s debacle regarding its role in Shi Tao’s arrest and conviction.  Yahoo, Microsoft and Google joined in the Global Network Initiative which tries to create guidelines to protect “the freedom of expression rights of their users when confronted with government demands, laws and regulations to suppress freedom of expression.”

But these commitments are voluntary. Should the government take a role in clearly setting boundaries? It happened following the 1989 Tienanmen Square massacre when companies were barred from selling such technology. Quite rightly, it has been pointed out that effective anti-spam and hacking technology could be adapted to aid repressive regimes.

One executive from Hewlett-Packard, who are bidding for a stake in the Chongqing surveillance project told The Wall Street Journal: “It’s not my job to really understand what they’re going to use it for.”

Really? Is there no responsibility beyond the profit line? Coming from a multinational, probably not. As stated at the beginning of this article, this is their sole reason to exist.

Which is why, if the United States truly sees itself as the leader of world freedom, it needs to create not guidelines or principles, but laws preventing American technology helping totalitarian regimes. However, we may discover that while our government cannot even get these companies to pay their taxes, they might have little power over such huge economic conglomerates and their powerful lobbyist allies.

And that is even scarier.

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

The Yelp Conspiracy

Yesterday, I posted a positive message about Yelp. While searching for images I came across the following image:

I couldn’t resist a little digging and here is the story. My source is a Boston Food Blog. I do not know the blogger, one William McAdoo.He is a self-confessed foodie, whose mission is to help people have inspiring gastronomical experiences. He found himself quoted in the Boston Globe saying:

“Some restaurateurs and staff who do not have a favorable view of these sites spoke to me under condition of anonymity. “There’s sometimes a faceless nastiness on the sites,’’ says one. “People will sometimes attack chefs personally in a way that’s baseless and cruel.’’ A well-known restaurateur who refused to put a Google sticker on his door says, “They collect personal information and sell it. Why should I help? They can manufacture popularity with these sites, but it can go the other way.’’

This quote stimulated an underground movement of alternative review sites such as Chowhound and eGullet which are national forums. For all my readers in Boston (are there any?), or people planning to visit that fair city, there are North Shore Dish, Eat Boutique, and the well-named: Fork It Over, Boston.

But what fascinates me is whether in the fiercely competitive world of gourmet restaurants, are owners sending people to post negative reviews? The mind boggles with possibilities. How about training rats to cook exquisite meals. Oh wait, that has already happened.

The question remains, however: in this on-line world where we are all increasingly checking reviews before buying a product or service, who is watching the watchers? And who gives reviews on them!

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


bin Laden Thoughts

I wanted to wait until the dust settled, at least somewhat. Like most people I felt a wave of euphoria when the news came through. I immediately googled the President’s announcement and waited with anticipation to watch The Daily Show live.

I dismissed the ethics of targeted assassinations, of whether we should have tried to capture him, and what the implications would be for world peace. I just wanted to bathe in the relief that the bad guy had been taken out and that the good guys had finally won. Most of all as I watched the reactions of people on TV, I felt that just maybe, those who have lost loved ones in the 9/11 attacks and other attacks perpetrated from this man and his terrorist organization, could find some quality of closure and be able to move on in their lives.

But now, less than a week later, I want to share five concerns.

1. It’s not over. Al Qaeda seems far too extensively organized to suddenly disappear because their ailing and sick spiritual leader of several years is dead. The money, fear and ideology is probably still there, and  the top-tier of management might not be anticipating a career change.

2. Targeted Assassinations – this is sticky. It is generally condemned by many who hold the political views of our readership. Where do you draw the line? In Judaism when someone approaches with the intention of killing us, we are commanded to strike him down first. Still, it is easy when clear-cut, but how often is that the case?

3. The media are going to milk this news-byte and as they do, the American people will become more divisive and our enemies will exploit this to revive extremism.

4. The end of terrorism depends on the outright rejection of extremism in whatever political and religious guise. As long as we turn a blind eye to poverty, exploitation and the materials being taught to millions of children in schools, we are allowing the next generation of terrorism to be bred.

5. The most effective players to counter religious extremism are the moderates of that religion. The moderate majority of Muslims, Christians, and all religions where there are extremists (probably most), must become more active and empowered in setting the limits of what is acceptable in the name of their religion.

I appreciate your skepticism when most of my political commentary is gleaned from The Daily Show and the wisdom of car bumper stickers. So I shall turn to another philosophical well of wisdom: Star Trek.

In one of the Next Generation movies, the Enterprise goes back in time to about 20 years in our future (it  seemed much further in the future when the movie came out a few decades ago!). Earth is reeling from nuclear war and environmental devastation. Commander Riker describes to a disenchanted man  how a few centuries later the people of earth all enjoy peace, freedom, have clean water and nutritious food, good education and health care, and a world free of NFL and NBA labor disputes (my artistic license, but you get the point).

The disenchanted man, staring at the devastation around him,  asks how they achieved this and Riker replies that everyone was made to see that this was the right way. This scene has always made me think – how did they do that? Sure, many saw the light, whatever that light is, but what about those who couldn’t be nicely persuaded? 

I believe in self-defense. I have justified serving in an army as the way to protect my family, my people, and my beliefs in freedom and democracy. I cannot tell you specifically where the line should be drawn wherein it is justified to use violence, but there are too-often occasions where I am sure the line has been crossed.

bin Laden crossed that line and we ended his life on Sunday. This is one such occasion where the line was clearly crossed. Let’s leave it there and focus on the future – offering positive options to those who choose peace and a clear, firm message to those who don’t.

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

Google Personalization, the News Media and Politics

Almost every day, I hear and see more evidence that we will soon be free of the burden of receiving news we don’t really want to hear. You can now choose media sources based on their ideological slant. If you’re a so-called conservative, it’s Fox “news”, Rush Limbaugh, and an endless stream of conservative websites. If you’re a so-called liberal, it’s MSNBC, and an equal supply of web sites.

But the big smoking gun is Google. Google is now offering ever-improving personalization in your searches. Google says it will now use your web browsing history in order to refine your searches and present you with the options for which you have shown a preference. In other words, you will be shown more of what you already think.

For example, a person who frequents Fox “News” on the web and/or conservative blog sites will likely see this page: Limbaugh: ‘Obama has yet to prove he’s a citizen’ at the top of his search and not this one on Snopes.com: Birth Certificate . Sure, the other result will probably still be in the search results, but it’s well known that people don’t typically go too far down the list – most take what’s near the top.

So now you won’t have to worry about information contradicting your own opinions. You can think whatever you thought yesterday, and probably find some information source to back you up. Of course, it’s long been known that the internet is a place (in cyberspace) where you could do exactly this – look only at the sources that you prefer. But now Google is making it that much easier. Google’s personalization mechanisms have actually been in place for some quite some time, but the system takes a while to “learn” whether you’re a redneck or a longhair (or whatever delineation you like) so the effects are probably seeping into society slowly.

What will be the psychological effects of search-engine personalization (that is, beside the creepy sensation that you are being watched – you are!)? It seems to me that if what you already expect shows up in all the highest-ranked results of a search, you might start to feel like there simply is no reasonable, intelligent alternative to your version of the truth. Because you have seen lots of “hard evidence” backing up your views, people who think otherwise must be stupid or crazy or both, right? They obviously haven’t done any real “research”.

So what about the “mainstream media”? How do they please those who like to be pleased and, at the same time, anger those who like to be angered? Well, the major networks’ news departments seem to have adopted a teeter-totter approach, with a story that sounds liberal (like that people die in wars) followed by a story that sounds conservative (like that people are angry at the government over unemployment).

It now appears that the profession formerly known as journalism has been infiltrated by politics. When I watch the news, my neck gets sore from watching the ping-pong ball go back and forth: “Since we just offended the half of our viewers who think that facts are partisan, we will now offend the other half with this story about a senator, an underage girl, and a member of different species.” I’m offended, all right. I’m offended by the game itself.

Welcome to the new America – where the cows run free (at least some of them) but the people have their feet stuck in partisan cement.

-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.

Tom also posts on thrustblog.blogspot.com

Socially Responsible Investing – Some Reading Material

Yesterday, I began a series on Socially Responsible Investing. Whenever I encounter a new topic, I look for books to provide a basic level of information. This is, I realize very different from the millennials with whom I work. They worship at the keyboards of the Goddess Google and pick up an initial picture with amazing ease. If you are considering investing and want to consider companies that live up to a level of responsible business principles, here are a few suggestions.

I generally love the For Dummies books. They give you a clear foundation for whatever topic they chose. There is no need to read in chronological order and the information is very clear. Socially Responsible Investing for Dummies, more than anything else, gave me the confidence to take a first step and begin investing.

The second book I used is Green Investing. This book profiles about 100 companies with an environmental emphasis. I used this book to decide on 12 companies that I was going to focus on. I did my due diligence by checking websites with more recent news or commentary, but the book gave me somewhere to start.

If you do decide to try investing in socially conscious companies, these are solid books to begin with. There is so much information out there that it can be daunting. The volatility of the market as we have witnessed is scary and, as most investors write on their site, you should not be exposing money that you cannot afford to lose. However, if you decide to invest, this is investing in the future. For many of these companies, without serious investment, they will not be able to research and market their products and we will remain with products that are not sustainable. If we are to move the economy on, it will be done by the grassroots decisions of millions of people who care.

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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 at http://www.alonshalev.com/

 

 

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