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 “government”

esaeleR sserP adirolF – issoR moT

From Satirificated Press Wire:

.drawrof gnivom si etats taerg siht taht desaelp si tnemnrevog adirolF ruoY

.etsaw ot enog ,gnol os rof ,evah secruoser niatrec taht dezingocer evah eW

.secruoser eseht ezilitu ot redro ni seicilop gnitnemelpmi era ew ,yhw si tahT

.sisnacirfa sunamuhbuS rof sesnecil gnitnuh gniussi nigeb noos lliw adirolF

“.elpoep kcalb” sa ot derrefer ylremrof erew sisnacirfa sunamuhbuS

.tsep a deredisnoc gnol seiceps a fo gnitsevrah eht wolla lliw sihT

.4102 ni detnemelpmi eb lliw ,yrevals sa nwonk ,margorp wen a ,noitidda nI

.ytilitu dessecca-nu ylremrof fo erutpac eht rof wolla lliw siht ,niagA

backward horseimages

.snoisiced truoc suoirav yb elbissop edam erew segnahc esehT

.gnitov no noisiced truoC emerpuS eht saw eseht fo tnatropmi tsoM

backwardsledimages

.snoitcele ni etov sisnacirfa sunamuhbuS tel ot deriuqer regnol on si adirolF

.srezilitu laitnetop sserppo regnol on nac sisnacirfa sunamuhbuS ,eroferehT

.elbissop stimrep gnitnuh edam snaidirolF sikamibab sunamuhimeS xis ,oslA

.ssecorp eht detidepxe tsael ta yeht ,rO

backwardsFlorida_in_United_States.svg

.snur selttikS egavas fo raef ni evil ot decrof eb regnol on lliw snaidirolF

.sgniht rehto gnomA

.erehwyreve snaidirolF rof modeerf drawot pets taerg a si sihT

-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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No More Nukes for North Korea… or for Anyone – Tom Rossi

The U.S. government and media, as well as the U.N. and many of its member nations, are up in arms over North Korea’s latest nuclear weapons test.

It seems that, despite his expensive Swiss education, Kim Jong Un is following closely in his father’s (Kim Jong Il) footsteps. The U.N. has approved major economic and trade sanctions against North Korea, as a result.

And why wouldn’t he? Why wouldn’t Kim Jong Un want to give himself and his nation nuclear capability? That’s the only way to guarantee the longevity of your dictatorship, these days. Well, either that or cooperate fully with America’s corporate-operated government, and that’s just not going to happen in this case.

mushroom-cloud

Let me make a dire, pessimistic prediction… There will be an explosion of a nuclear device, either here in America, or in Europe, in the next couple of decades. There is simply too much nuclear material out there, and the distribution of technology is getting harder and harder to control. And, lest we forget, there are many different groups out there, some with official flags (like Iran) and some without, that are, at this very moment, working as hard as they can to gain nuclear weapons capability. 

With the current state of affairs, this nuclear progress can only be slowed by our best espionage and military efforts. We try to keep our “enemies” out of the nuclear country club, while allowing our “friends.” But one day, there will either be a “leak” of materials and technology that will allow the wrong group to get what they want, or one of our “friends” will do something stupid.

There only one real solution to the threat of nuclear weapons eventually being used by either governments or terrorists – a complete, worldwide ban on any and all nuclear activity (mining, power, or weapons), except the tiny amount (with different isotopes) that’s needed for medical purposes and biological research.

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This would be the only plan that could actually be enforced, and even then, only with agreement from the world’s major powers, including China and Russia (I don’t remember saying it would be easy). It would be relatively simple, with remote sensing from satellites and spy planes, to find any and all mining of nuclear material.

This would mean that we would have to finally reject the dreamy tales of efficient, low-pollution energy (that weren’t true anyway) that have been the gifts of the nuclear industry’s PR machines. We would be far safer, in so many ways.

Nukes just might be one Pandora’s box that we can close again – at least most of the way.

-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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The Power of Power

If you have ever had a deeply spiritual moment when you just knew that all you believed in was in fact true…If you have ever looked at someone and known with absolute clarity that they are your soul mate…If you have ever stood in the presence of a great person, and known with total confidence that they are the real thing…

Such feelings rarely happen, but I am told that when they do, they are a moment of total clarity and that this is an awesomely powerful moment.

Last week, I was in Washington DC for work. We were able to sneak in a bit of sightseeing, a couple of monuments, and they were beautiful and poignant, even if I primarily discovered I possess a woeful ignorance of American history.

But when my work schedule had finished, a colleague invited me to meet a friend who works on Capitol Hill. We would get a tour and spend a few minutes chatting with him.

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Now I am no great admirer of this or any American government that I have experienced. But there was something incredibly powerful as we approached the Hill. We received a tour by a young tour guide, who was articulate and proud. He peppered his descriptions with caveats, jokes and stories. But he never strayed from the responsibility and the gravitas that he felt he was representing something sacred.

We were introduced to the new statue of Rosa Parks, which stands near a small room that contains a bathroom, library and I am not sure what else, but it is only for the women representatives. Is there a nearer, more convenient bathroom for women? Of course there is. Women have been leaders here for 97 years. A proper woman’s facility was installed in 2008. 

Then we met my friend’s friend, who works for a senator. He was a real-life West Wing person, only incredibly human. But between the jokes and the explanations, it became abundantly clear that he is deeply excited and honored to be a part of something special. He feels the thrill, every morning when he leaves the train station and sees the capitol building anew. He calls his senator ‘my boss,’ but does so with genuine love and reverence.

I would not consider myself someone impressed by beautiful domes, excited by statues and paintings, and especially not intrigued by men and women (but mostly men) in suits and ties with cell phones wrapped to their ears.

But there was something very powerful in the air: a sense of purpose, a sense of duty and responsibility. I know. I know, we are all so critical of these people and for good reason, but when you stand there under the great dome, in the marble halls, where numerous statues of great men and women stare down at you daring you to take courageous steps, you cannot but feel profoundly inspired.

 

You feel the presence of greatness, past and present, and it gives you hope for the future.

I have lived in the US for eight years, helped in two Presidential campaigns with only a twinge of remorse that I cannot vote. I have cheered my city’s team in the Superbowl and the baseball “world” (really?) championships without really understanding the rules or what we are eating.

I have criticized and campaigned against shameful flaws in this society. I have written novels where, under the guise of fiction, I have vented my anger at certain shameful traits of this society.

I have, I know, also seen beautiful mountains, lakes, forests, and oceans, but somehow they seem an act of God or something spiritual – beyond the realm of man.

But here on the Hill I met something built by the American nation. I experienced the heart of democracy and freedom, and for an hour, I truly felt its very pulse.

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And I want to feel more. My friend turned to me and said: ‘how can you not want to run for office, to be a part of this energy?’ He had felt it too and I told him on the spot that if he ran, I would write his speeches. We laughed, but a small part of me was serious (he would be – actually already is – a very good leader by the way). 

I am now back in California, in the city I love. But I have undergone a transformative change. I will campaign in the next Presidential election as a citizen and I will cast my vote. This month, I will begin the long path to citizenship.

After eight critical years, I no longer want to be an outsider looking in. I want to be a part. Even if that means learning American Football rules for when the ’49ers reach the Superbowl again next year.

I want to feel that heartbeat again, the exhilarating synergy of freedom and democracy. It makes what I write about, in my novels and my blog, all the more relevant. It makes me want to belong.

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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.  

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Scapegoat Hunter

Even if you aren’t a big fan of Jon Stewart and The Daily Show, there occasionally comes an episode that is much more serious than usual. Stewart, and his team, know when there is a need for a more cutting-edge episode and, when dealing with the outcry for a debate on gun control, he hit the mark on January 8, 2013.

http://www.thedailyshow.com/full-episodes/tue-january-8-2013-stanley-mcchrystal?xrs=share_copy

You know he hit the mark because of the furor that it stirred up. It is a touch ironic that it takes a comedian to create a debate. It is easy to claim that he showed us the extremists, but these were the heads of the NRA and national TV figures who reach millions each day.

imgres-7But it occurred to me that there must be a large group of gun-carrying people, who are not paranoid that they might need to overthrow the government, and who are not planning to go out and shoot one or many people. There must be a significant number of NRA members who have a gun in their house which they envisage using to defend their family should someone break in.

Where are they? Why are they not speaking up? Is there a fear-factor within the NRA that you can lose your membership, your gun license, or that you might be outright intimidated by the extremists?

No one should have a problem with gun debate. This is a democracy: we all talk, we all listen. No? What is the issue with opening a debate over automatic weapons? What is wrong with looking to how mentally unstable people get their gun license?

imgres-6None of the decisions that might come out of such a rational national debate will affect the average American of good standing and their genuinely perceived need for a gun in their home.

It was interesting that national hero, General Stanley McChrystal, was the Daily Show guest that night. Stewart could not resist asking the general and his answers were so articulate.

imgres-5“You can give the single individual the ability to do extraordinary damage – I just don’t think you can give everyone that ability.”

I want to believe that there are very few members of the NRA who believe a man should be able to walk into a public area and shoot off 30 rounds in 27 seconds, as happened in Aurora. 

Would the rational majority of the NRA please stand up – unless they are the ones feeling intimidated.

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Alon Shalev is the author of three social justice-themed novels: Unwanted Heroes, The Accidental Activist and A Gardener’s Tale. He is the Executive Director of the San Francisco Hillel Jewish Student Center, a non-profit that provides spiritual and social justice opportunities to Jewish students in the Bay Area. More on Alon Shalev at http://www.alonshalev.com and on Twitter (@alonshalevsf).

Street Protests – Both Sides of the Streets.

So I understand why big business and government (if they even are separate entities) are worried when the masses hit the streets in protest as we are witnessing with the Occupy movement. And I can see why the democrats and other liberals see the threat of the rising Tea Party.

Where I am stuck is the criticisms being leveled by Tea Party or Occupy activists at each other. Now to disagree about policy or ideology is a vital ingredient in a democracy, but it surprises me to hear criticism being leveled at tactics. After seeing a bevy of Tea Party activists denigrating the  Occupy people for err…mass protests. I shared their audacity with two (separately) friends who proceeded to level the same criticisms about the Tea Party people.

One side of the street

Now I don’t expect every Tea Partier or Occupier to meet each other, occupy a Starbucks or independent cafe, and discuss matters over a cup of tea. But thinking people on both sides must be aware that they share some things in common.

– They are angry, dissatisfied and frustrated.

– They have taken to the streets because it seems the only way they will be listened to.

– They believe in grassroots organization.

– They have lost faith in the stagnation of government.

...and the other.

Something awesome is happening. The generally stupefied, apathetic masses are stirring. Whether they head for one side of the street to protest or the other, something has galvanized them into action. I don’t believe there are many of us in the middle, but that doesn’t matter. Let’s keep protesting, keep fighting for change, keep hoisting our signs…

But let’s stop for one moment and acknowledge that we are all in favor of democracy and freedom. Let’s celebrate living in a society where we can protest and debate. Let’s even be proud that we are drawing people away from mind-numbing reality shows and soaps. It is a healthy sign that people are lining up on both sides of the streets.

Then let’s get back to debating the issues.

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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).

Declaration of Change

Too many Americans are suffering. Our unalienable rights – the right to Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness – whether given by the God of Creation or by Natural Law, are being violated. The self-evident truth that all REAL people are created equal is not recognized by the forces now governing us.

Our representative form of democracy – government of, by and for real people – has been corrupted. An insidious and deceptive process has transformed a government from one that once placed importance on real people to one that now favors artificial persons (corporations). Consequently, legislative reforms and laws, over the past 30 years, have benefited big business and the wealthiest Americans while burdening the middle-class and poor.

When any form of government becomes destructive to the safety and happiness of its real people, it is the RIGHT of the people and it is their duty to change or abolish the current form and implement a new government that effects and guards their future security.

Americans are suffering…suffering from the financial burdens placed on them as a result of tax rate changes, trade agreements and uncontrolled multi-national globalization. Long-standing corporate responsibility has eroded. Campaign contribution from big business, their PACs and lobbyists influenced politicians to make favorable financial legislation for corporations. The government represents the tyrant-will of artificial persons and the wealthy. It is now unfit to govern free people.

The people have been abused to the point of action. The winds of change are blowing and it’s time to support it. Occupy Wall Street is just one of many battles to come. This blog posting, which borrows key words and phrases from the Declaration of Independence, is my initial show of support for the brave individuals that are sleeping and protesting in the parks and avenues of New York.

It’s time to act. It’s our right and our duty to cast off tyranny.

-Roger Ingalls

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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.

Tax Mysteries Uncovered – Part 3

This is the continuation of the discussion started in part 1 and continued in part 2 of how people benefit from the services paid for by taxes and the simple principle that the people who benefit the most should pay the most. I have called this a corollary to the well known saying: “You get what you pay for,” and turned that around to: “Pay for what you get.”

Let’s look at some very basic government services (paid for by taxes) that benefit individuals or individual families as well as businesses – police and fire protection.

Of these, fire protection is the simpler example. People with more money generally have bigger, nicer homes and personal property (furniture and so forth). In addition, some people own more than one piece of real property – a second home, a business, etc. These all need to be protected from fire and, therefore, they add to the tax burden.

Owning more or better things also means more that the police are called upon to protect from theft, vandalism, and other types of property crime. What’s more, you can be sure that the police will put a lot more effort into investigating a stolen Lamborghini than a stolen skateboard.

People with more and better property obviously have more at risk and more that needs protection. But in addition, protecting this property actually costs more per person, and therefore more per taxpayer. So if you have more to protect, shouldn’t you pay more for the protection?

The government has also, with tax dollars, subsidized power-generation projects such as hydroelectric dams. I, for one, wish they hadn’t done this, but again – the people who have benefited the most from these projects are the ones who have used the most power. Large homes and businesses use a lot more power than a middle-class, three-bedroom tract house.

Also, remember that what you buy, you buy from businesses that depend on all these services and infrastructures as well. Their use of public services lowers their costs and, ostensibly, lowers the price you pay them for whatever you buy. And the more you buy, the more you benefit.

Anyone who has enjoyed success in this country has done so on the framework of its infrastructures, its resources, its people, and all the myriad of pieces that have been put together (many on the back of government) in the past. The idea that someone has “made it” all on his or her own, is an idiotic, narcissistically romantic hallucination.

So stop whining, and pay for what you get.

-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

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Tax Mysteries Uncovered! (part 2 of Why Some People Pay More Taxes…)

In part 1 I started to explore how a business owner benefits more than an employee from public roads. Let’s go a little further with this simplified example.

 We’ve already seen that an employee benefits from public roads in that he or she can get to work to earn some money. The business owner gets the same benefit from his trip, plus the benefit of the worker coming to work to do something of value to the business.

 But let’s look at other uses of roads by the business. We have already said that the business in this example is “old-fashioned” in that it actually makes something, in the U.S.A., and without the aid of robots or too much automation. Then the business sells its product to either consumers or retailers. How does the business get its products to buyers? Most likely in trucks.

 These trucks use the same roads that we all drive on and pay for through our taxes. So this use is a benefit for the business and the business should pay its “fair share” for the construction and maintenance of the roads.

 But it’s even bigger than that. Trucks loaded with cargo cause exponentially more damage and simple wear-and-tear on roads than do passenger cars – even big SUVs. Because of this, roads have to be built much thicker and stronger in the first place, but they must also be re-paved, have potholes and cracks fixed, etc. much more often.

 The result is a situation that mirrors the discussion in part 1: both the business owner and the worker use the roads to go to the store to buy things. But the business uses the roads to make a profit. Once again, the imperative is simple: Pay for what you get!

 Okay, we’ve mostly talked about businesses so far. In part 3 I’ll start looking into individual benefits from the things that taxes pay for. Again, this is not to say that some people are “bad” and therefore need to pay more taxes. It’s simply based on the same principle we all observe every day: Want two donuts instead of one? Pay for two. Want a Fat Tire instead of a Coors? Fat Tire is better (6,428 times better, by my calculations) and it costs more – if you want it, you have to pay for it.

-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

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Why Should Some People Pay More Taxes than Others? (part 1)

Lately, I’ve been hearing, over and over, about how those with more wealth “can afford to pay their fair share.” It’s as if there could be no motivation except “doing what’s right.” Well, I think it goes beyond that. There are solid reasons for our graduated tax system, and solid reasons that the wealthy and corporations should pay more than a middle class wage-earner.

We rightly think of taking what you haven’t paid for from a store as stealing. We also say that, buying something cheap gets you an inferior product – “You get what you pay for.” These two elements add up to this imperative: Pay for what you get. What I’m talking about here are the goods and services that taxes pay for: public roads, police, fire protection, education, and many others. We all benefit from these, but those with more wealth, property, or who own a business get more of the benefits than do wage-earners.

Let’s take the example of a small, privately-owned company that manufactures a product. Let’s also assume that this is an old fashioned company whose work is still performed by human beings rather than robots.

If the company makes a profit, (tricky accounting notwithstanding) then it essentially makes a profit from each of the individual activities that go into its products – at least on average. What this means is that, by definition, the work of an employee who is paid $50,000 per year earns the company some amount more than $50,000 per year. Otherwise, there would be little point in employing that person. Let’s drill down and examine this employee more closely.

The employee lives in a residential community that is some distance from the company. So, the employee has to drive to work, as there is no convenient public transportation option for the trip. The trip is made in the employee’s private car, but on public roads and, as we know, roads cost money. The road that the employee takes to work is paid for by taxes and, ostensibly, provides benefits to those who pay the taxes.

So let’s look at who gets the benefits from the road. The employee’s benefit comes in the ability to get to a paying job. But the work that the employee does at the company also benefits the owner – in an amount that exceeds the employee’s pay. Thus, whatever benefit the employee derives from the ability to drive to work on the road, the owner also derives some benefit from the very same trip because it allows an employee to come to work and produce.

The road enables the employee to do the work that makes $50,000 per year, which makes a profit for the owner. The owner get his or her own benefit from driving on the road, plus a significant benefit from the road use of each employee. So shouldn’t the owner pay a larger portion of the cost to build and maintain the road?

I’ll continue this analysis in part 2.

-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

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Don’t Blame The President

Personally I don’t blame the President. I know, I know, I’ve just lost half my potential audience (at least those in the US). So let me just add, I’m not sure that the once owner of the Texas Rangers is to blame either (and now I’ve lost the Texans).


I blame Aaron Sorkin. You can’t create seven seasons of brilliance, of optimism, of government making progress. It is simply not fair. It was a tease. I am, of course, referring to West Wing. It was so easy to watch while you had stodgy Republican governance. West Wing was about a visionary liberal President, whose staff was able to maneuver through the intransigence of opposition.

Fast-forward a few years and fiction has become reality…well sort of. We have a liberal and visionary President, but reality has a tougher script. Now you find that it is not so easy to negotiate ideas in to law and implementation.

West Wing generated a huge following. We recognized that some episodes were brilliant while others were merely excellent. We learned that most of the characters were far from perfect and sometimes the plot didn’t always have a happy ending. But we never stopped following season after season.

I don’t understand how someone can vote in the Obama Administration one moment, showing their disgust and discontent for a recession built upon at least two terms of fiscal mismanagement and blatant greed. Then they watch as the party who held the reins for most of the past decade, do their best to sabotage any realistic economic strategy without suggesting any constructive alternatives. Finally, a mere 20 months afterwards, these memory-challenged citizens have now created the perfect government framework to lead us nowhere but to an age of stagnation.

West Wing is no more. Seven seasons is all we have.  Now it is just a question of reruns and fond memories. Unfortunately, TiVo-ing government is not a luxury that any of us can afford.


Here’s to a year of change we all need to move forward.
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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 www.alonshalev.com

 

 

 

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