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 “New York Times”

Misguided Medicaid Law 1

My daily commute involves picking up people from the Casual Car Pool and driving from the East Bay to San Francisco, enabling them to get a free ride (though many offer me $1 towards the toll) and for me to use the car pool lane and pay a lower toll.

Most times we sit in silence and listen to NPR, but occasionally I strike gold. When the gentleman in the passenger seat tutted at a report about President Obama and Medicaid, I discovered that he is a lawyer and actually preparing a case to go before the Supreme Court. He sent me a New York Times article on the topic.

Medicaid - helping those who need it most

I find it hard to believe that President Obama could possibly be an obstacle to low-income people receiving health care. But when it is the Democratic leaders of Congress told the Supreme Court on Monday that President Obama was pursuing a misguided interpretation of federal Medicaid law, it raises an eyebrow.

The case  focuses around the right of Medicaid beneficiaries to file suit and challenge cuts being made to Medicaid around the country on a state level when such cuts hurt their right to care.The Obama administration does not accept this right to sue claiming it “would undermine the effectiveness of Medicaid.” There is also a myriad of court precedents that allow people to sue to block state actions that are inconsistent with federal law.

The politicians behind the brief include many of our top West Coast Democrats, including Representative Henry A. Waxman of California, an architect of Medicaid; Representative Nancy Pelosi of California, the House minority leader; Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, the Senate majority leader; and Senator Max Baucus of Montana, the chairman of the Finance Committee.

“The issue, of immense importance to poor people and states, comes to the Supreme Court in a set of cases consolidated under the name Douglas v. Independent Living Center of Southern California, No. 09-958. The court plans to hear oral arguments in October, with a decision expected by the spring. The original plaintiffs in the case, Medicaid beneficiaries and providers, say they were harmed by California’s decision to cut payment rates that were already among the lowest in the country.

Children are one of the largest recipients of Medicaid.

The federal Medicaid law does not explicitly allow such suits. But the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, in San Francisco, said beneficiaries and providers could sue under the Constitution’s supremacy clause, which makes federal law “the supreme law of the land.”

More than 55 million people use Medicaid, which is often the fastest-growing item in many state budgets. It provides health  coverage to the most vulnerable groups in our society including children, people with disabilities and nursing home residents.

The problem is exacerbated because many states, desperate to make cuts, have reduced the payment rates to doctors who take in Medicaid patients. This has led to the doctors, dentists, hospitals, pharmacies, nursing homes and other providers often refusing to take these patients and Medicaid patients are finding it increasingly difficult to find the medical services that they need. The government is involved because they reimburse the state for between 50%-75% of the costs.

The question is: what accountability is there for the citizen (other than the ballot box, I suppose) if we are denied legal recourse? In fact, is there a place in a democracy for the government to tell its citizens who they can and cannot sue? And what does this say about our President?

Please Vote Today. Click Here

——————————————————————————————————

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).

Warren Buffet – Tax Cuts

A couple of weeks ago, Warren Buffet wrote an article in the New York Times that struck a cord. He begins:

“OUR leaders have asked for “shared sacrifice.” But when they did the asking, they spared me. I checked with my mega-rich friends to learn what pain they were expecting. They, too, were left untouched.
While the poor and middle class fight for us in Afghanistan, and while most Americans struggle to make ends meet, we mega-rich continue to get our extraordinary tax breaks. Some of us are investment managers who earn billions from our daily labors but are allowed to classify our income as “carried interest,” thereby getting a bargain 15 percent tax rate. Others own stock index futures for 10 minutes and have 60 percent of their gain taxed at 15 percent, as if they’d been long-term investors.
These and other blessings are showered upon us by legislators in Washington who feel compelled to protect us, much as if we were spotted owls or some other endangered species. It’s nice to have friends in high places.”

Warren Buffet - very honest account.

The disparity of how much we all pay in taxes is incredibly annoying.  Again, Warren Buffet:

“Last year my federal tax bill — the income tax I paid, as well as payroll taxes paid by me and on my behalf — was $6,938,744. That sounds like a lot of money. But what I paid was only 17.4 percent of my taxable income — and that’s actually a lower percentage than was paid by any of the other 20 people in our office. Their tax burdens ranged from 33 percent to 41 percent and averaged 36 percent.”

Class Wars

I agree with the Republicans. I don’t want to pay more taxes but i do want everyone to pay the same percentage. I fail to understand how so many people who define themselves as patriotic cannot see that they are hurting their country. The pride that people take, the money they throw at accountants to help them find every loophole, disgusts me.
The problem is that those who legislate for us tend to be a part of this higher income group, or rely on their donations to keep them in power, since it is money not actions that fuel this democracy. Warren Buffet acknowledges as much when he says: “My friends and I have been coddled long enough by a billionaire-friendly Congress. It’s time for our government to get serious about shared sacrifice.”

The Majority Want Equal Responsibility

Who among the rich and the politicians would support paying the same percentage of taxes that I do? Probably only those who believe in their country and are patriotic. Sadly. wearing a flag pin on your jacket lapel is not enough.

Please Vote Today. Click Here

——————————————————————————————————

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).

London Riots 2

So yesterday’s article was a tad whimsical and here is a more serious  perspective. The question is who were the rioters and who is to blame.

Firstly, there is no excuse for vandalism and looting. There are laws and there are legitimate and more effective ways to express discontent. I almost stepped on a landmine speaking to a friend in the UK about this. In a time of economic distress, these actions have put a lot of good hard-working people either out of business or in more debt than they already face. Attacking the local ‘bobby,’ the policeman, with every intent of wounding him or her, is never justifiable.

For many, there are fingers being pointed to sheer greed and opportunism. The advertisers pound us with messages that we must have this electronic device and where these absurdly priced jeans or we are not cool is a terrible message to give a young, unemployed person, who is already suffering from low self-esteem and alienation.

The question is how to rein this in? The companies are just as desperate to sell their products to a public that can’t afford them. Business is business, but there is a larger price that all British taxpayers are going to pay for the millions of dollars of damage.

One of the owners of Big Green Bookshop, Simon Key, maintained that this was more about economics than pure consumer desire. “The people who were doing this were mainly going for phone shops, high fashion shops and HMV, looking for stuff that they could sell on,” he told The Financial Times.

Today, as the rioters spill into Britain’s courthouses, we’re gaining additional insight into who the young, enigmatic looters are and what motivated them to wreak havoc on England’s streets. The AP says that “the 1,000-plus people who have been arrested–some of whom are as young as eleven–share a deep sense of “alienation.” One 19-year-old looter who did not appear in court explains, “Nobody is doing nothing for us–not the politicians, not the cops, no one.” The AP adds that “the rage has appeared to cut across ethnic lines, with poverty as the main common denominator.” A BBC infographic today suggests the rioters are primarily young–anywhere from 15 to 24–and male.

An 11-year-old having his day in court - he was caught stealing a garbage bin. News.com.au

The New York Times points out that while the majority of those arrested are an “underclass of alienated young people, with no jobs and few prospects,” quite a few are affluent, middle-class, including “a graphic designer, a postal employee, a dental assistant, a teaching aide, and a forklift driver.”

Sky News highlighted a student from the University of Exeter and a daughter of a successful businessman. She reportedly stole $8,000-worth of goods from a Comet store (electronics). Sky also notes that many of these were first offenders.

I’ll finish with a story from The Guardian. When one looter saw a fellow looter reach for a hand-stitched wedding dress from a local fashion boutique, “an angry young black woman berated one of them. “You’re taking the piss, man. That woman hand-stitches everything, she’s built that shop up from nothing. It’s like stealing from your mum.”

Race, class, alienation – it is a sad lose-lose episode and one which leaves us all seeking a glimmer of optimism. One final thought – if most of these stolen items are going to find a market, will the same people who have criticized the looters have the principle not only to not purchase one of these bargains. Perhaps if the looters can discover that there is no market for stolen goods, they will think twice about taking this path in the future.

A final thought – why did this not spread to the continent? Why only in England? Any ideas?

——————————————————————————————————

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).

Author Sells One Million Ebooks

On Monday, June 20th, 2011, Amazon.com have recently announced that crime novelist John Locke has become the first independent author to sell more than one million ebooks through Kindle’s Direct Publishing program,

1 million ebooks sold - so much for needing an agent and publisher?

Locke points  to his $0.99 pricing model as a major influence and has self-published nine novels through the Kindle Store, including New York Times bestselling ebook Saving Rachel, as well as his first non-fiction title, How I Sold 1 Million eBooks in 5 Months. He has six novels in the Amazon Top 100 and has coveted the No. 1 spot.

A line of books seems essential to make serious money in this climate

Locke has never been signed by a traditional agent or publisher. He joins seven other authors, including Stieg Larsson and Nora Roberts, in the “Kindle Million Club.” Locke sells his books for $1 and makes 35 cents per book. That is hard for me to fathom – selling the books I have sweated and toiled on for at least a year, but I can’t question that it works.

Along with Amanda Hocking and J. A Konrath, Locke is creating a new reality in the ever-evolving book world. They all create a system, work hard to achieve their goals, and are now reaping the benefits. The rest of us would be foolish to ignore them.

Good luck to them.

——————————————————————————————————

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.

——————————————————————————————————

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).

A Chinese Spring?

I am intrigued by Chinaand have blogged about it many times. So I was excited to read an article by in the New York Times on a topic that has crossed my mind. How is the Arab Spring going to impact the world’s largest non democracy?

One of the most lucid social commentators today.

 

Now I am not a China-hater, far from it. There are many things we can learn from them. But my biggest bone of contention lies in the basic right of freedom. As a teenager I came of age politically with the anti-Apartheid movement and the campaign to free Jews from the Soviet Union.

With this in mind, I do wonder whether China, a country with extensive Internet resources can remain unaffected by the Arab Spring. warns that China cannot ignore the lessons of what factors serve as incubators to 21st Century revolutions or how these rebellions are being played out.

“Let’s start with the new. Sometime around the year 2000, the world achieved a very high level of connectivity, virtually flattening the global economic playing field. This web of connectivity was built on the diffusion of personal computers, fiber-optic cable, the Internet and Web servers. What this platform did was to make Boston and Beijing or Detroit and Damascus next-door neighbors. It brought some two billion people into a global conversation.”

The world is connected

The rise of  smarter cellphones, wireless bandwidth and social networks has brought a further two billion people into the conversation and these populations are often living in remote areas.

All this means is that the days when traditional forms of mass communication such as state-run TV and radio could ensure the people hear only the official party lines are over. “The Syrians can’t shut off their cellphone networks now any more than they can shut off their electricity grids.”

illustrates this by  pointing out that although Syria has banned all foreign TV networks, you only need go to YouTube and  search for “Dara’a” in order to see clear up-to-the minute video of the Syrian regime’s crackdown. These videos are all filmed using cellphones or flip-cams by Syrian protesters who upload them to YouTube.

Internet Police cannot be everywhere in this mobile world

  second lesson from the Arab Spring is “a manifestation of “Carlson’s Law,” posited by Curtis Carlson, the C.E.O. of SRI International, in Silicon Valley, which states that: “In a world where so many people now have access to education and cheap tools of innovation, innovation that happens from the bottom up tends to be chaotic but smart. Innovation that happens from the top down tends to be orderly but dumb.” As a result, says Carlson, the sweet spot for innovation today is “moving down,” closer to the people, not up, because all the people together are smarter than anyone alone and all the people now have the tools to invent and collaborate.

The regime of Hosni Mubarak of Egypt was just too dumb and slow to manage the unrest. The Tahrir revolutionaries were smart but chaotic, and without leadership. Therefore, the role of leaders today — of companies and countries — is to inspire, empower, enable and then edit and meld all that innovation coming from the bottom up. But that requires more freedom for the bottom.”

While reading this, I began to get frustrated that was focusing too much on technology which essentially is a means rather than an end. But he then moves on to quote the Russian historian Leon Aron who drew comparisons between the Arab uprisings and the democratic revolution in Russia twenty years ago. “They were both not so much about freedom or food as about “dignity.” They each grew out of a deep desire by people to run their own lives and to be treated as “citizens” — with both obligations and rights that the state cannot just give and take by whim.”

Aron added that “The spark that lights the fuse is always the quest for dignity. Today’s technology just makes the fire much more difficult to put out.”

In fact the slogan of the Tunisian uprising was “Dignity before bread.”

China has one of  the fastest growing economies and a standard of living that is probably greatly appreciated by Chinese citizens. But there is more to life than just economic factors. If a Chinese Spring is to be avoided, the first step forward is to acknowledge that maybe the Chinese people crave the values that have seen an amazing chain of events in the Arab world.

The first mistake would be to think that you can prevent them from hearing what is happening globally. The days when the Great Wall of China was its first line of defense does not have a place in the 21st Century. Not that it always takes technology…

——————————————————————————————————

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).

Clark Howard Leads The Charge

Clark Howard is the consumer advocate who took on Bank of America when they refused to help a man who incurred legal charges as a result of B of A calling in the police. They suspected the man was in the middle of a criminal act when he was innocently brought a fraudulent check. For more, see here and the post from yesterday.

Clark Howard

Howard is a nationally syndicated consumer advocate who “advises consumers how to save more, spend less and avoid getting ripped off.” He hosts a radio show that is broadcast every day on more than 200 radio stations throughout North America. After a career swinging between jobs in both the public and private sectors, he set up a travel agency business in 1981. Six years later, he retired at the age of 31, having sold what he had developed into a chain that spread across metro Atlanta.

A spontaneous guest appearance on a travel show in Florida led to his own program, The Clark Howard Show, which was soon syndicated by Dial Global. In early 2009, The Clark Howard Show was expanded to HLN (formerly the Headline News channel). He is the author of eight books, some of which sat comfortably in the New York Times Bestseller list. While his books are all available through GetClarkSmart.com, Clark tells his listeners that they are cheaper used and can be had for free at the public library!

I think this tells you a lot about the man. I also want you to know that my books are available new and in e-book form on amazon.com, so it shows what kind of man I am.

Clark also invests in his native Atlanta community. He started several civic programs, including Atlanta Volunteer Action, Volunteer Action, Inc., The Big Buddy Program and Career Action. Together with listeners, he has helped Habitat for Humanity built 30 homes in and around metro Atlanta.

Habitat - a great place to volunteer

I think in today’s economic climate, it is hard to act, hard not to just shut down and weather the storm. If you can do that and live with the clock that’s ticking for you, all power to you. For the rest of us, we could do worse than finding a teacher, someone we trust and can follow. This person shouldn’t make money out of your actions. Pay him/her for their time, books etc., but not the products or services that they advise you to buy.

When learning Tai Chi, I met a man who spent considerable money and time, going to every workshop and studying every form of Tai Chi  with every teacher he could find. When we practiced together, his technique was bad. I wondered how someone who learned from so many of the biggest names had failed to grasp the rudiments of the martial art. The answer comes in depth and not breadth.

Do Little, Achieve Much

Jewish proverbs teach us to find a teacher and learn everything we can from them. Only when we have mastered all they have to teach us, should we move on to another teacher. The trick, of course, is finding the right teacher and recognizing that they bring experience and knowledge, but not the gift of foresight. The best thing we can do for ourselves right now is to find the best financial teacher for each of us and then to listen.

——————————————————————————————————

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).

Would You Pay To Meet An Author?

The average amount of books sold at a book signing is eight! When you take into account the luminaries such as Stephen King, John Grisham, J.K. Rowlings et al, then there are some very sad and frustrated bookstore staff and authors. When Christopher Moore launched his novel Fool in the heart of San Francisco, people lined up around the store and outside waiting for him to sign a copy of this or any other of his hilarious novels. There were a few hundred easily. It was a good night for Books Inc.

But many stores are getting tired of the publicity, room preparation, staff time etc. all for a handful of people. According to the New York Times, some independent bookstores have decided to charge admission (often a gift card that can be redeemed for the author’s or another book). Julie Bosman and Matt Richtel highlighted this in a recent article after the Boulder Book Store in Colorado announced in April that it planned to charge $5 a person to attend store events. In the same month, local Menlo Park bookstore, Kepler’s Books, began to charge a $10 gift card as admission for two people. if the customer bought the book at the store prior to entering the event, the fee was waived.

Alon Shalev speaking in a Barnes & Noble

One of the few advantages that the brick-and-mortar bookstores have over their online competitors is the ability to bring authors and readers face-to-face. 

Here are some reactions from the field (taken from the aforementioned NYT article):

“There’s no one right now who’s not considering it,” said Sarah McNally, the owner of McNally Jackson Books in the SoHo neighborhood of Manhattan. “The entire independent bookstore model is based on selling books, but that model is changing because so many book sales are going online.”

Is there still magic in meeting an author?

“We don’t like to have events where people can’t come for free,” Anne Holman, the general manager of The King’s English Bookshop, an independent store in Salt Lake City, said. “But we also can’t host big free events that cost us a lot money and everyone is buying books everywhere else.”

Bookstore owners say they are doing so because too many people regularly come to events having already bought a book online or planning to do so later. Consumers now see the bookstore merely as another library — a place to browse, do informal research and pick up staff recommendations.

“They type titles into their iPhones and go home,” said Nancy Salmon, the floor manager at Kepler’s. “We know what they’re doing, and it has tested my patience.”

Heather Gain, the marketing manager of the Harvard Book Store in Cambridge, Mass., said “We’re a business. We’re not just an Amazon showroom.”

Ouch!

Ann Patchett was interviewed while on her three-week book tour for her new book, “State of Wonder.” She was appearing at  such an event at Kepler’s. She understood the bookstores’ problem, but worried that this wold exclude those who can’t pay for a hardcover book such as  students or the elderly. “I wouldn’t want the people who have no idea who I am and have nothing else to do on a Wednesday night shut out,” she said. “Those are your readers.”

Alon Shalev speaking in Oakland

Publishers aren’t happy either since they often pay for the author to travel to the bookstore. If the bookstore is charging entrance, shouldn’t it at that point pay the author or publisher for the appearance?

Customers seem willing to pay when they know the author (and are probably going to buy his/her book) and some are willing to pay to support the independent bookstores.

“You get a real sense of community …” one said. “You get an intellectual community that gathers around books, and that can only happen at a bookstore.”

Others however have questioned this: “Who would the money go to? Not to the author?” he asked. “That’s terrible.”

What do you think? Are the independent bookstores just cutting off one of the only advantages they hold over the online stores? But if most of us do move over to Ebooks, will that spell the end of our local independent bookstores? And then, what else are we missing out on?

——————————————————————————————————

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).

Forgot my Birthday?

Last year, my birthday fell during the once-every-four-years World Cup (soccer). I thought I could slow the aging process down by deciding that, like the World Cup, I would have a birthday once-every-four-years.

A great tribute to the peaceful South African revolution

So what do I want for my birthday? Something between my own house, world peace, and one of my books becoming a New York Times Bestseller. If you can arrange any of those three, please do. If you feel you have to prioritize (really, how long have we been friends?) then I suppose world peace comes first,

Otherwise, I am going to list 10 organizations that I have highlighted over the past year. Instead of buying me a fine bottle of wine or a box of chocolates that will have me working out for hours at the gym (after thoroughly enjoying them), why not consider donating the exorbitant amount of money you were going to splash on me to one of these great organizations. Please click on the link to the organization that catches your fancy.

1. The Lower Ninth Ward Village – a community center that will provide the only way to keep children in a safe environment over the summer.

2. Save A Child’s Heart – a hospital in Israel that gives free medical heart procedures to children from any country or religion in the Middle East and beyond.

3. One Voice – helping Israeli and Palestinian youth demand a non violent and just solution to the Israeli/Palestinian conflict.

4. Jewish Funds for Justice – sending students to work in disaster-struck areas of the world and teaching the value of social justice.

5. World Reader – providing sustainable e-book solutions to children in Africa and other poor regions, allowing them to grow through reading and education.

6. Habitat for Humanity – a community helping to provide people with homes.

7. Jewish Heart for Africa – leveraging sustainable Israeli environmental technology to help the poorest rural African communities.

8. Darfur & The Berkeley Stove – providing stoves for women in Darfur, thereby avoiding the need to put themselves in violent situations.

9. Project Homeless Connect – offering bi-monthly services to the homeless of San Francisco.

10. Kiva Loans – a micro-loan organization that helps people create businesses to lift themselves out of poverty.

They are all good causes and I know there are many more. But it is amazing how just a small gift can save or change a person’s life. What a way to celebrate your birthday!

Thank you. Wanna slice of birthday cake?

——————————————————————————————————

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).

Oil sands in Canada – should we? RhondaJo Boomington

From Alon – RhondaJo is joining our team. Please click here (or scroll down) to get acquainted. Over to you, RhondaJo:

Last night, at dinner with a young fellow who is working at the Canadian Consulate this summer, I got a crash course on the Oil Sands of Canada.

The oil sands consist of oil that is encased in a type of thick sludge, which has the consistency of cold molasses at room temperatures. According to the New York Times, “Canadian oil sands are expected to become America’s top source of imported oil this year, surpassing conventional Canadian oil imports and roughly equaling the combined imports from Saudi Arabia and Kuwait”

Some people believe that oil sands are the answer to the United States’ unfulfilled need for oil that we can not produce. There’s no drilling in the ocean, no wrangling over supply from the Mid East. Just essentially an unlimited supply from a friendly neighbor.

Ah – but there’s a but. Isn’t there always – when we’re jockeying for the oil that we need?

The process of separating of the oil from the sludge  is dirty business, creating vast amounts of greenhouse emissions, far surpassing those created from drilling. And forests are ravaged in the process.

By 2030, oil sands are production may make up 36% of United States oil imports. There are plans to build a pipeline from Canada to transport the oil to Texas. The latest word is that the State Department is “inclined to approve the line on energy security grounds.”

Then the EPA will weigh in. The EPA may attempt to involve Obama – and Obama may simply stay out of the fray and suggest the two entities compromise amongst themselves.

I am not advocating for the use of oil sands. I am suggesting that oil sands are a reality about which we should learning more.

Yes, we should pursue biofuels (which is the research project of  another dinner companion that night). And electric cars and new fangled car designs that can ensure that our future is less dependent upon oil.

Cars of our future?

But in the meantime, my relatives, along with millions of others in middle America have to drive their older, gas guzzling cars to their job at the factory. To keep our economy going. To keep their families going.

Factory Worker

In getting the oil we need to live now – bad things will happen to the environment somewhere. It’s simply a fact.

—————————————————————————————–

RhondaJo Boomington landed in the haven of Berkeley six years ago and she never plans to leave. Formally a fundamentalist from North Carolina, she always voted for for Jesse Helms. Now she relishes her liberal lesbian life in the Bay Area. Her  J.D.  and a Masters of Divinity degree provides great material for her gigs as a stand up comic and solo performance artist.

Post Navigation

%d bloggers like this: