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 “occupy Oakland”

Rodney King is Dead. Have We Learned Anything? – Tom Rossi

Rodney King died this past Sunday, June 16, 2012. His death brought back our collective memory of the riots of 1992 in Los Angeles. It brought back, for many, memories of struggles for racial equality (or just decent treatment without fear of unwarranted violence)… struggles that are far from over.

As I watched the replays, on the news, of the riots of 1992, a few things struck me. Riots are the temper tantrum of adult society. As I’ve said before, they happen when a group of people are frustrated, wronged, oppressed even… and realistically powerless to bring about real change through “normal” civilized methods.

But why are normal, civilized methods akin to banging your head against the wall? One reason is certainly money and the cemented power-structures it protects. However, another very important reason is fragmentation. African-Americans fight for their rights, Hispanics fight for their rights, gays fight for their rights, women fight for their rights, animal lovers, Asians, poor people, the disabled, older people, etc., etc., etc.

Each of these groups says, “WE are mistreated and downtrodden! OUR group must be treated better!”

What’s wrong with this picture? It would be as if my right arm started a fight while my left arm worked the remote control for the TV. Some of this fragmentation is encouraged and even instigated by the powerful, but some is completely and independently a matter willfull choice on the part of the disenfranchised themselves.

To a large degree, the Occupy movement has been the one to finally get the picture. When I have walked among Occupy protesters, I’ve always noticed the incredible diversity in their ranks. And it’s not just so-called minorities, but a heck of a lot of white people of all ages, many with good-paying jobs (I often ask, in case you’re wondering how I know).

The occupy movement is non-exclusive. The only thing most occupiers want to kick out is violence.

What we need is to get together and demand that people be treated… well, like people! This doesn’t mean that we should spread all the wealth out evenly. It doesn’t mean, “from each according to his ability to each according to his needs.” It means that one person equals one vote. It means that we are all Americans and the color of our skin means nothing. It means that we are teammates – some stronger than others, yes, but we work together and not against each other. Community is what economists call “non-rival.”

If all of these so-called minorities (women are THE majority for cryin’ out loud) join together, they would make a truly formidable team – a super-majority. But this would require a Herculean sacrifice, at least in the minds of many people. This is what I ask: stop fighting for yourself and your own, and join the fight for us all. Give up your sacred little battles that you will never win by yourselves, anyway.

Working together, people can build something much greater than the sum of each of their work done separately. We must stop these little, pointless mini-movements that get nowhere and see a common goal.

-Tom Rossi


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.


Occupy a Political Party

Last Wednesday, I shared my concerns for the sustainability of the Occupy movement as we see it now – without an agenda, a strategic plan, or a leadership structure. I suggested that an agenda be built around the demands suggested by Roger Ingalls.

This past weekend, I suggested to a friend of mine that the biggest challenge should possibly be bringing the Occupy moment, with its agenda and values, into the Democratic Party.

A Leadership Is Needed

He strongly protested. “Barack Obama has failed us,” he said. “The democratic leadership is part of the 1%,” he declared. “Once we join the system, we will be compromised and become a part of it.”

I tried to take him to task. I don’t believe Barack Obama failed us, I think we failed him. We created a mass grassroots movement to sweep him into office. We cried with pride at his inauguration, and then we went out for sushi and two years later, the Republicans were in a position to block everything the President had talked about during the heady campaign days.

Why did we let up? What on earth made us think that one man could change Washington? Where did we find the arrogance to think that the Republican machine would simply roll over and lick its wounds in silence?

As we celebrated the amazing Change We Can Believe In, and told ourselves that Yes We Did, the Republicans were plotting how to fight back. I don’t blame them; we would have done the same, no?

Whatever you might think of the Tea Party, they have galvanized the Republican Party. Whether this is good or bad, might be highlighted by who becomes the Republican presidential candidate. Actually it might be bad no matter who is voted in, depending on your political perspective. But for the Republican masses, they want the Tea Party behind the candidate, because these are engaged and empowered people.

So where do we take the Occupy movement? We take it into the Democratic Party and we decide not to hand over the keys. We become empowered partners who work not only for four more years of the most visionary and intelligent President that most of us can remember, but we fight on to give him a Congress that will work with him and not against him.

Occupy. Obama, Tea Party - somethings gotta happen!

There are those in the Occupy movement who will have trouble with this. They have worked hard to create a momentum based upon commitment and values, rather than power and ego. But their biggest test will be to continue to deny their own power aspirations and ego without getting disillusioned by entering mainstream politics.

This is a win: win for everyone who believes in a left or liberal agenda. For the Democratic Party to do this, they need an army of grassroots activists who are feeling empowered despite the blows rained down on us from Wall Street and big banks. They need the energy of the Occupy movement and the Occupy Movement needs a political party to let our President do what he set out to achieve.

Most of all, this is what America needs. It is what a sinking Europe and a poverty-stricken Africa needs. It is what those seeking to throw off the chains of autocracy and fanaticism need.

A strong, democratic, and moral democracy must emerge for the world. And it can begin with the next step that the Occupy movement takes. I hope they are willing to take that first step. And I hope the Democratic Party has a strategic understanding that they must welcome a new generation into their hallowed halls.


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).

Bank Transfer Day

A friend of mine was frustrated with the General Strike on Wednesday in Oakland and with the Occupy Wall Street in general. While a member of the 99% and sympathetic to the cause, she had just heard from a worker at the Port of Oakland, who is paid hourly and worried that he lost a day’s income that he needs to feed his family.

From Star Wars to General Strike.  – Thank you to Oakland Mofo for the beautiful photo. 

We are hurting the very people we are supposed to be fighting for, she said (these are my words). Do you really think we hurt the 1% at the ports? She went on to complain that it is frustrating that there is no clear agenda and no clear tactics that will hurt those we are challenging to change their selfish and greedy practices.

She is right. I think I argued with her and probably lost because I knew she is right (Don’t tell her I wrote this!). I reminded her about the post that my colleague Tom Rossi wrote with a clear list of demands, but I had to concede about tactics.

But today, we can do something…and I mean today. As part of the Occupy Wall Street campaign there is a call for people to move their money from for-profit financial institutions to credit unions. So far, almost 80,000 people have made the commitment on Facebook to “send a clear message that conscious consumers won’t support companies with unethical business practices.”

Patelco – my credit union


More than $4.5 billion have been moved into new savings accounts in credit unions according to CUNA. 80% of credit unions  are recording significant member growth since the campaign began at the end of September, which was a reaction to the debit card fees that have since been dropped. 

Skeptics say that even if the entire 80,000 were to move their money, this would represent less than 1% of just Bank of America’s customers. There is an estimated $7.5 trillion in banks, including loans and savings. B of A has 57 million customers.

However, there is potential here to make Wall Street listen, even if not to bring it to its knees. The rescinding of the debit card charges is a good lesson. Even when chasing the most profit, a company, even one the size of B of A has to listen to its clients.

And what if every one of those 80,000 who signed up persuaded 5 of their friends. 400,000 people could transfer $30 million. November 5th was the date set for protestors to complete their transfers because the organizers wanted to create a measurable impact. I regret not writing on this earlier. But even if you cannot get out today and transfer your money, or want to research deeper, the banks will take notice if more people continue to protest by moving money into the people-friendly (and people-owned) credit unions. 

Thought the organizers of Bank Transfer Day want to distance themselves from Occupy Wall Street, history (and even in a year’s time) just might record Bank Transfer Day as the most effective measure to come out of this time period. It might also be a turning point in the utilization of the Internet to make strategic strikes and to conduct dissent away from demonstrations, something which is often regarded by people as intimidating.

And perhaps in a year, my friend and I might look back on this period of time together as one of change and one of pride.




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).

Occupy Wall Street Means Business

Recent events – “evictions” (sometimes violent) of “Occupy” protesters, the statements of public officials, and many media reports, have revealed something about those in control of our so-called democracy.

“Occupy” protesters are doing what is just not allowed in the so-called, “Home of Freedom,” they are calling into question the assumptions of the power system, of the status quo, of the “free” market. Since the 1950’s and Senator McCarthy’s witch hunts, this kind of talk has been simply shunned.

The reaction of the “establishment” to this mass exercise of first amendment rights has been somewhat predictable. For weeks the protests were ignored and treated by the major media outlets as if they were just a few unemployed, pissed-off people venting some steam. Then, when the protests didn’t go away (and in fact started to grow) they were ridiculed. “The protesters have no demands, no agenda.” the press reported – over and over again.

The goal of major media corporations has been to marginalize the occupy protesters, to make them appear as a fringe group of malcontents – the losers of society that didn’t work hard or smart enough to make it in a completely reasonable and fair system. The message was clear: “These peopla aren’t like you. You’re not a directionless loser, are you?”

The establishment assumed that their efforts had been succesful – after all, the same methods had certainly been successful in 2003 in the lead-up to the Iraq “war.” And if they had been correct, the majority of Americans would have cheered when the police took advantage of the anonymity afforded by “riot” helmets and broke up occupy protests with arrests, nightsticks, rubber bullets, and tear-gas. But they were wrong.

The “malcontents” of America are legion. But wait, doesn’t everybody just want, well, what we’re all supposed to want? Money? Bigger houses? Bigger TVs? Bigger and bigger SUVs? Aren’t these people just pissed off because their march toward material bliss has been interrupted by a dip in our perfect, capitalist juggernaut? No. I’ve met many of these “malcontents” and they represent those who are immune to the brainwashing television commercials that are intended to define us so completely; the commercials that say: “Buy, and thou shalt be happy.” 

The lunatic fringe of America is made up of those crazy people who would be content with a decent place to live, a reasonable means of transportation, good, clean food, clean air to breath, the shade of some trees, and the love and companionship of family and friends. Maniacs to be hated and feared, for sure.

Why do these sociopaths question what is seen (by those who have a huge advantage in the current system) as “the Natural Order?” After all, capitalism is the system that most resembles the insect world – the strong eat the weak. Isn’t that the way things should be? If you “lose”, don’t you deserve to lose? 

That gets us to what might be the central question of our race – the human race: How do we want to live? If we had no laws and no organization I, as a 225 pound former college hockey player, could simply walk down the street, punch somebody in the face, and take their wallet. And a guy bigger than me could do the same to me, as could an eight-year-old girl with a gun.

My point is that we have governments and laws for the express purpose of rising above the “Natural Order.” We have decided, as a human society (in America and pretty much everywhere else on Earth) that the strong will not take advantage of the less strong. But this is not just true of physical strength, but of economic strength as well.

In simplest terms, I shouldn’t be able to pay someone to beat somebody up for me either. That’s pretty obvious. But why do we allow corporations to pay our government officials to take away our rights? To protect them instead of us?

This is the big-picture “demand” of the Occupy movement, and it has one weapon in its arsenal – persistence. The occupy movement looks to me like it’s here to stay and I give my heartfelt thanks to everyone who is willing to camp out in the streets all night and/or march in the daytime. Occupiers know that, if they allow the movement to deteriorate into violence or vandalism, they will undermine themselves.

Occupiers are out to change an ingrained pecking order. They are out to do away with the “survival of the fittest” mentality – especially when fitness has much more to do with inherited status than with original work or accomplishment.

Persistance… That’s the thing. The only thing.

-Tom Rossi


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


Occupy Anagrams – Roger Ingalls

The authorities in Oakland violently broke up the Occupy Protest and a handful of people got hurt, one seriously. Anger is everywhere. People are scared.

It’s been a troublesome day so let’s take a breath and not think about it for a few hours. Instead, let’s laugh at some Occupy Movement anagrams.

What is an anagram? It is a rearrangement of the letters of one word or phrase to form another word or phrase. A very simple example is rearranging the letters of “Evil” to get “Vile”.

Anagram: “Occupy Wall Street” becomes “Replace Slutty Cow”. Slutty Cow is a euphemism for politicians that prostitute themselves for corporate money. The Occupy Wall Street movement wants to replace the slutty cow.

Anagram: “Wall Street” becomes “Well Set Rat”. Well Set Rat is a euphemism for Wall Street fat cats that use tax payer bail out money to pay themselves big bonuses. They are well set.

Anagram: “Bank of America” becomes “Croak A Mean Fib”. Something a bank CEO does during a Congressional Hearing. They tell lies.

Anagram: “Bank of America” becomes “Fake Brain Coma”. Something bank executives do during a Congressional Hearing. Similar to pleading the fifth or using Reagan’s Iran Contra excuse, “I don’t recall”. They fake a temporary brain coma.

Anagram: “Bank of America” becomes “Mafia Con Break”. Mafia Con Break is a euphemism for a bank executive’s vacation.

Anagram: “Wells Fargo Bank” becomes “Grown Fake Balls”. Wall Street bankers know Congress won’t come after them for unethical business practices because elected politicians have grown fake balls.

Anagram: “Wells Fargo Bank” becomes “Legal Barf Wonks”. Legal Barf Wonks are corporate lawyers employed to keep bank executives out of prison.

Anagram: “Chase Bank” becomes “Bean Shack”. A Bean Shack is a place to store money.

Anagram: “Chase Bank” becomes “Bane Hacks”. The bane hacks on Wall Street destroyed the economy with reckless behavior.

Anagram: “Hedge Fund Manager” becomes “Greed-Fanged Human”. No explanation needed!

Anagram: “Bank Bailouts” becomes “Satan Bio-bulk”. Bio-bulk is a euphemism for feces.

Satanic poop is probably a good stopping point. I hope these anagrams made you chuckle at least once.


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.

Loser Hippies with Nothing to Say

I’ve been a part of several protests over the years, some with thousands of other people and some with only twenty or so. But I have to admit I don’t like it very much. I get tired of standing around the same real-estate, shouting the same slogans while holding a sign. So while I have been cheering the “occupy” protests on from my couch, I haven’t played much of a part and, like most, I have formed my own image of what these camps of protesters are probably like.

So, just a couple of days ago, I finally paid a visit to, “Occupy Oakland,” (basically an offshoot of Occupy Wall Street) taking place in Frank Ogawa Plaza which has been unofficially renamed, “Oscar Grant Plaza.” I knew, before my visit, that the media had played to the semi-conservative crowd in criticizing the occupy protests as being basically a bunch of disorganized hippies with nothing significant to say. I knew what the media were trying to accomplish and so I knew not to believe it. But I was still somewhat stunned by what I did see.

When I took a walk through the ad-hoc campground at Oscar Grant Plaza, I saw organization everywhere. There was an information center near the entrance with printed information and people to answer questions. Leaning up against the information center was a huge whiteboard with the day’s events listed. Then, as I moved into the camp, I saw the cooking operation – almost military in it’s efficiency if not its appearance. A saw people lined up in a civilized manner, waiting for their food, which had been donated by camp members and other well-wishers and some of it purchased with donations.

Then I spotted – not too far past the garbage and recycling center, the library. As you might imagine, the library did not contain the collected works of Shakespeare, but mostly political books and information. Outside the library, was the energy center. A guy was riding a stationary bicycle, rigged to a small generator that powered laptop computers and several other devices. There was a schedule of riders such that someone would always be pedalling and keeping the camp alive and connected. Next to the library was the supply tent. In front was a big chalkboard listing the items needed by the camp. Inside were the things that had been donated but not given out yet. There is no money exchanged in an of this. Have – give. Need – get.

Then I took a walk through the middle of the “residential” tent area. The path had been “paved” with wooden pallets so as not to turn to mud and leave the grass destroyed. Signs were posted along the way saying that quiet time began at midnight. Near the end of the pallet path was a first-aid booth. There was an EMT on hand and the booth was, at the moment, manned by a guy that had been trained as a back-country medic of some sort. The booth looked like a little drug store, with lots of bandages and the like. While I was standing there one of the supply guys came up with some pain-killers, Advil, Tylenol, etc., that had been donated.

As I was walking around I talked to a few people. They were not homeless. They could go home to their apartments or houses if they wanted to, but the chose to be here at Oscar Grant Plaza. This and the other qualities of the camp that I had observed led me to beleive that this was a movement – not just a protest, and certainly not a cool new fad. These people are in it for the long haul and that’s exactly what is needed. If they give in to the various pressures, the movement will accomplish nothing. The “establishment,” as it is known, has shown in no uncertain terms its anxiousness to ignore, dismiss, and even accuse this group. “They are the losers of society,” I have actually heard on the news.

Take a walk into an established “Occupy” camp. These people are anything but losers. They’re just not filled with the desire to win at any cost – even at the expense of their neighbors. Cooperation. Comeradery. Consensus. Companionship. I’d call these the goals of winners. I’d say that those are the foundations of a great community and a great way of life. Many have asked, “Will they be successful?” They already have. I’ll ask this: Will we all be successful?

 -Tom Rossi


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


Occupy Protest: The Demands – Roger Ingalls

Mainstream media is finally starting to cover the Occupy Protests but their reporting follows a common theme, “it’s a protest without a real purpose or demand”.

Well…here are the demands:

1)      Create a nationalized commercial bank to fund small businesses based on the prime lending rate plus overhead costs. Bank personnel wages and salaries must be similar to government or military pay grades. Most jobs in America are created by small business (70 to 80%). This will create jobs by providing affordable money to small business. The current Wall Street Institutions benefits from selling financial products back and forth to each other and therefore have little interest in small business lending.

2)      Reinstate the business and personal tax rates and codes (including write-offs and loopholes) used in the 1960s. This was a period of prosperity for both the general population and the business community. These tax rates will balance the budget without compromising public services and will stop the transfer of wealth from the middle class to the rich that has taken place since the early 1980s.

3)      Create a nationalized commercial bank for home ownership based on the prime lending rate plus overhead costs. This will revive the American dream, bring affordable money back to the housing market and separate housing finance from the risky investment banking practiced by Wall Street.

4)      Allow Medicare buy-in for all people regardless of age. This will provide affordable health care for more Americans. It will also bring needed funds to Medicare because the young and healthy will be participating along with the elderly (costs are spread).

5)      No individual person (real or artificial), company, corporation, PAC, Union or special interest group can donate more than $1000 to a political candidate. Organizations cannot be created for the purpose of funding candidates. Organization with multiple business units or multiple businesses owned by an individual or common group of individuals can only make one collective political donation of $1000 per candidate. This will remove the influence big business and special interests have on politicians.

6)      No artificial person, company or corporation can advertise in support or opposition to a candidate (directly or indirectly). This will remove the influence big business and special interests have on politicians.

7)      Political advertisements, candidates, PACs, special interest groups, supporters and opposition groups of ballot issues must maintain an easy-access website that clearly identifies financial contributors. This will remove the influence big business and special interests have on politicians.

8)      No lobbyist can aid a member of congress unless they have not lobbied in the preceding six years. This will remove the influence big business and special interests have on politicians.

Keep the faith, spread the word and keep fighting…it’s a good fight!

-Roger Ingalls


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.


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