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 “multinational corporations”

Guest Blogger – Suzie Thornton

Suzie Thornton is the female protagonist in The Accidental Activist. Being a fictional character has never stopped her expressing her own opinion.

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I couldn’t help myself. I couldn’t stand by and watch big business trample over individuals, communities, and villagers. Someone had to stand up to the multinational corporations and who better than me? Well many people actually, who are smarter, more articulate and strategic. But back then I was a young, single woman, with no assets that anyone could threaten to take from me. I was working part-time in a bookstore. And maybe, just maybe, I was looking for a fight.

Or so I thought.

Helen Steel – the real heroine

No one suspected that the Oilspill court case would become the longest in British history. No one imagined that I would be denied legal aid and forced to defend myself against the most accomplished lawyer in British libel history. It took a huge chunk of my life away from me, something I will never get back. But I had to do it. I simply wouldn’t be me if I had ignored or buckled to the threat. And I got to know Matt in a way that I doubt would have happened.

It’s funny but one of my friends who read The Accidental Activist claimed that it is a romance novel. Of course it isn’t (and don’t tell the author – he might try and sell more books this way). The Accidental Activist is a courtroom drama wherein a multinational corporation tries to crush a tribe in South America and anyone who tries to stop them, or highlight their injustices.

I studied Political Science at London University, but I never learned as much as I did taking on the big guys. You can never understand how the legal system helps the multinationals until you are on the inside. And then it is simply frightening.

I’m glad that The Accidental Activist focuses on Matt. He was an unsung hero, a man who not only changed the outcome of our court case, but changed the face of political advocacy. I’m glad Alon Shalev was able to get inside of Matt’s head and show his transformation from a self-absorbed yuppie to a man who was ready to harness his talents to fight social justice.

But the sex! Did you guys have to get so explicit about it? You know my mother will read the book, right?

This blog post is dedicated to Helen Steel – the real heroine in the real McDonald’ Libel case upon which The Accidental Activist is based.

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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).

 

Guest Blogger – Suzie Thornton

I couldn’t help it. Someone has to stand up to multinational corporations and who better than me? Well maybe many people who are smarter, more articulate and strategic. But I was a young, single woman, with no assets that anyone could threaten to take from me. I was working part-time in a bookstore. I was ready.

Or so I thought.

Helen Steel - the real heroine

No one suspected that the Oilspill court case would become the longest in British history. No one thought I would be denied legal aid and forced to defend myself against the most accomplished lawyer in British libel history.

It took a huge chunk of my life away from me, something I will never get back. But I had to do it. I simply wouldn’t be me if I had ignored or buckled to the threat. And I got to know Matt in a way that I doubt would have happened.

It’s funny but one of my friends who read The Accidental Activist claimed that it is a romance novel. Of course it isn’t. The Accidental Activist is a courtroom drama wherein a multinational corporation tries to crush a tribe in South America and anyone who tries to stop them, or highlight their injustices.

I studied Political Science at London University, but I never learned as much as I did taking on the big guys. You can never understand how the legal system helps the multinationals until you are on the inside. And then it simply gets frightening.

I’m glad that The Accidental Activist focuses on Matt. He was an unsung hero, a man who not only changed the outcome of our court case, but changed the face of political advocacy. I’m glad Alon Shalev was able to get inside of Matt’s head and show his transformation from a self-absorbed yuppie to a man who was ready to harness his talents to fight social justice.

The real website. It changed everything.

But the sex! Did you guys have to get so explicit about it? You know my mother will read the book, right?

This blog post is dedicated to Helen Steel – the real heroine in the real McDonald’ Libel case upon which The Accidental Activist is based.

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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 Great Deception

Who benefits from the childish playground feuds between the Republicans and the Democrats? While the two major political parties are busily spitting on each other and promoting their agenda like a Kardashian C-List entertainer, Big Business is quietly getting away with murder. Have our political leaders become so blind, they can’t see what Big Business is doing?

No, they know exactly what’s going on, it’s by design. It’s a deceptive puppet show. Our elected officials are willing marionettes controlled by corporate puppeteers, just like a junky is a willing slave to their dealer.

But why would Big Business produce such a show and finance politicians? One word – deception.

“All warfare is based on deception”, Sun Tzu, The Art of War.  Just like a magician uses a distracting hand motion to set up a trick, corporations steer their funded politicians into polarizing issues to create a media frenzy. While we’re all watching the show, the real action is taking place behind Washington’s closed doors. And don’t forget, your favorite media network or newspaper is probably a subsidiary of some big multinational corporation.

Let’s take a closer look at this deception by focusing on America’s largest company, General Electric. The top corporate tax rate is 35%, yet G.E. paid zero taxes in 2010 on $5.1B profits for its US operation and claimed a $3.2B tax credit. How is this possible? G.E. assembled a large tax department headed by a former Treasury official, and staffed by personnel from the IRS and Congressional tax-writing committees.

It’s been reported that General Electrics’ lawyers and lobbyists were deeply involved in rewriting portions of the corporate tax code that were signed into law by George W. Bush in 2004. When certain tax loopholes were set to expire in 2008, G.E. successfully persuaded Rep Rangel to keep them and shortly thereafter, G.E. announced a $30M donation to NY schools with $11M going to Mr. Rangel’s district. Of course G.E. says their tax benefits are good for American jobs, but they’ve reduced their US workforce by 20% since 2002.

By receiving great incentive to invest their money offshore, we are now facing, as a nation, one of the most jobless futures of the last eighty years.  We won’t hear it in the media – Big Business now pulls most political strings, and controls most “news” outlets – but soon we may be taxed so multinational corporations can receive subsidies to create jobs here in the US.

In other words, we’ll be paying to get our own jobs back.

–Roger Ingalls

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

Not My Fault

On Saturday, I made my debut appearance at a Borders bookstore. I was part of a panel of local authors featuring JoAnn Smith Ainsworth, Karin Ireland, and Christine London.

On Monday, Borders filed for bankruptcy. I have been assured that nothing I said on Saturday precipitated the decline of this multinational company despite the content of my books.

Truth is, although I am first and foremost a supporter of the independent bookstores, I have an admiration for Borders and Barnes & Noble. I enjoy spending time in their stores perusing and drinking coffee and writing.

Most importantly however, I feel for the people who work at these stores. Sure, they are there for the money, but they love working around books. They love the excitement of the public when a new Harry Potter comes out. When they hit the job market, they most probably won’t be able to stay in the book industry. Around 200 Borders are slated to close.

This isn’t the time to theorize about the advent of the e-book, or the archaic business principles of the industry. Neither is it the time to explain why, as a not-yet-on-the-A-list of authors, it doesn’t make business sense to expect to sell your book when it sits on a shelf alongside 100,000 other books.

Right now, I am feeling for those who work at Borders, who kept the place clean and orderly, who help you find a book. When Christopher Paolini released the third of his 4-book trilogy, my then 10-year-old stood defiantly at the front of the line in our local Borders, falling asleep on his feet literally as the clock approached midnight. I remember the lady who was working there, encouraging him to stay awake and hang in there. At exactly midnight, she put a copy that she had hidden under the counter into his hand and whispered that he should buy that very copy. It was the only book in the store that Christopher Paolini had personally signed.


Five minutes later, my son was fast asleep in the car clutching his autographed copy by his hero who was barely ten years older than him. Two years later, my son and I wrote a 90,000-word fantasy novel. The seed might not have been sown in Borders that night, but I have no doubt it was well-watered and nurtured.

To that lady and others who may well lose their job – Thank you. I hope you find something fast to help you on your way.

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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/

Books That Matter: The Appeal

Having written a novel about a court case involving multinational corporations as the Goliath to the little guy’s David, there is no way I cannot enjoy this novel. I happen to love John Grisham novels, legal thrillers, and admire his tight writing technique.

I believe The Appeal is important as it focuses on the ability of those with money and power to manipulate the legal and political systems. What gave it particular validity for me was a review by a 30 year litigator.

H. Lehmann has worked… as a plaintiffs’ trial lawyer, having worked in that capacity for well more than three decades. I’ve directly handled or closely supervised more than 1600 civil matters, and have had good outcomes on all but a tiny few, partly because of having a “no asshole rule,” about the clients our office will accept. In the past, I’ve been disappointed and offended by some of John Grisham’s books, as he has often characterized tawdry and wrongful conduct by lawyers, including the plaintiffs bar, as though such conduct were common, when, in my experience, the opposite is true.

No system is perfect, but few that I’ve known from my generation of lawyers chose the law with money as a primary motive, and those that focused on that have not tended towards competency or guts. Consistent with his apparent belief in redemption, Grisham has redeemed himself from the uninformed callousness shown in some other works. This tale of the human spirit, and of evil, is an accurate portrait of very real problems faced by our society, issues and problems that the general public barely even imagines.

The Supreme Court election which is central to this story is reminiscent of what happened in California, in 1986, when the then-governor, Mr. Dukemajian, working with ideas from a major Republican PR firm, and as orchestrated by a campaign professional from San Francisco, at a cost of many millions, convinced the people to refuse re-election to three purportedly “liberal,” Supreme Court Justices, Bird, Reynoso, and Grodin, based on their alleged hostility to the death penalty. In fact, the support for the process came from the insurance industry, which sought, with ultimate success (through Judges with insurance backgrounds) to undue several cases which had been to the benefit of insurance consumers, notably Royal Globe vs. Butte (construing Insurance Code 790.03 (h) in a way that forced fair settlements), Paul vs. State Farm and Davis vs. State Farm, cases which were de-certified for publication (erasing them from the law by fiat of the Chief Justice), where those published appellate decisions had found a fiduciary level of relationship between the carrier and the insured.

These humane cases had cost the insurance industry, by insisting on fairness, and through politics, these cases were undone. The Chief Justice of the California Supreme Court resigned his position, I believe for personal reasons, about six months after an official determination that, no, strictly speaking, he had not violated ethical standards by taking all expenses paid trips from major insurance companies at the same time he was making decisions which happened to be on their behalf.

My familiarity with this comes from deep practice experience in the affected areas, including involvement with two of the major cases which were de-certified by this process. The law was politicized, and still has not reached the impartiality that was present when I was originally in practice, though there have been, in fairness, genuine strides away from the dark. This story, in fiction, illustrates what is at stake when greedy preoccupation with material gain is allowed to have its way with law. Also, the legal analysis and issue handling shows a level of practical depth seldom seen in fiction. For these reasons, I have just purchased an additional copy of this book for our long time exchange student from Germany, as she is entering law school next year, and I do not know of a better tale to warn of the dangers which society faces when the high calling of honorable legal practice is subjugated to the goals of those who hold money as a life goal. This is an important and worthwhile book.

Click here for a review by Thomas M. Loarie on Amazon.com.

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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

 

 

 

Left Coast Voices

Alon Shalev is a left coast, social activist and fiction writer. His second socially conscious novel, Oilspill dotcom, addresses the power of multinational corporations and their power and abuses of individuals. This bi-weekly blog tracks the authors, organizations and events that are shaping the left coast culture, with an emphasis on the San Francisco Bay Area.


For more on Alon and his books, please visit http://www.alonshalev.com/
WARNING! This author believes that writing can help change the world.
To life and literature!

Guest Blogger: Professor McGoughen

I’m really excited tae be com’g tae California for the book launch of Oilspill dotcom in a co’ple o’ weeks. Once I finished teaching law at Oxford, I had planned tae visit ma wee grandchildren in Edinboro’, but I could nae resist seeing the book o’ the trial an’ how y’ Americans perceive such a shenanigan.

Ma role was a wee one. I canna nae believe that computer wiz kid got me soo wound up tae get back intae the ring. I spent ma whole life fightin’ the multinationals. Me an Oxford law professor, an’ I still can nae imagine how two yo’ng rebels could have pulled it off.

Certainly the Internet was a powerf’l tool that I nae had in ma day. But the way that laddie harnessed it to involve so many people from all o’er the world, he deserves all the credit that this wee book gives him.

An’ I hope it gives a new generation o’ lasses ’n ladies t’ aspire an’ fight for what’s right inna way that’s relevant f’ them. Your President understood this ’n that’s why soo many people got involved in his campaign that had nae done soo before. I hear he still sends out updates to his supporters, still keeps them informed.

I want this t’ be the message that y’ people will take from Oilspill dotcom, that it’s possible to effect change, that y’ can influence what is happening. Ya need to know what is happening. When them corporate types know som’n is watching them, they might think twice ’bout their actions.

An’ remember: this trial mae have happen’d in England, but many o’ these multi nationals operate outta the US. This is as relevant f’ yoo as it is f’ Britain, Africa or Asia. Our world is all connected an’ we noo got much time. This Internet might jus’ bee the tool f’ change – an’ this is what young Shalev is tryin’ t’ tell us.

Read the book. Y’ nae look at the web in the same wae again.

Alistair McGoughen
Professor at Law, Oxford University

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