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”

Join The Party

Left Coast Voices celebrates its third birthday this month. We are approaching 700 posts, have been viewed nearly 36,000 times, have over a hundred loyal followers, and have generally had a good time, offering our opinions without annoying too many people along the way.

What I enjoy about Left Coast Voices is that we attract people with a variety of views who can articulate their opinions. You can be a liberal but here that doesn’t mean you have to support everything about our president. Just because you are excited by the potential of the Occupy movement, doesn’t mean you agree with every action.

Our readers think. Our writers think. 

I want to take the opportunity to thank Roger Ingalls and Tom Rossi, who have become regular partners, tying up the Tuesday and Thursday slots. My only regret is that we have not hung out more often at Jupiters – micro-brewed beer, serious pizza, and great conversation. Norman Weekes has joined us on a less regular basis, but we are grateful for his contributions. You are always welcome, Norm.

I believe the diversity of writers is what makes our little community special. You never quite know what article or topic you are going to get and who is going to agree/disagree with whom.

I feel ready to offer up a slot to a fourth person. The criteria are that you write weekly (each contributor gets a consistent day: Tom – Tuesday, Roger – Thursday) and observe the three NOs – no racism, sexism, or homophobic comments. If you wish to write on a specific theme – gender, local grassroots, food justice, environmental, occupy etc., that would be great. If you prefer to choose a different topic each week, that works too.

I will teach you the mechanical aspect of blogging on WordPress and you will find a supportive team behind you. Along with the collaborative nature, there are other advantages. Left Coast Voices has its platform and following. We feed off each others followers  – you are not blogging for your mom and best friend (though they are both very important!). If you have a book or cause to promote in your signature, you are welcome to do so.

If you are interested, let me know in the comments below. If you have something to say, we can help you say it.

Have a great weekend, everyone.

Alon

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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).

 

 

 

Hand signals – a small/huge part of changing the world!

Nice insight into the ‘human’ aspect of the Occupy movement from Peggy Chinn.There is a lesson here far beyond those demonstrating.

Peggy L Chinn, RN, PhD, FAAN

There are several things about the Occupy movement that have intrigued me over the past several months, one of which is the practice of hand signals that has developed.  These hand signals are not totally unique to “Occupy” – some of them are familiar to folks in Quaker communities, hearing impaired communities, civil rights movements, and others.  Now, because of the world-wide use of these non-verbal signals that communicate in any language, and promote group cooperation and respect, these signals have a powerful potential to influence how “business” is conducted. Here is a video explaining the basics:

Of course part of my interest in this particular aspect of the movement is related to my long-standing commitment to create ways of working in groups that are based on principles of Peace and Power.  We have used a few hand signals in these groups, with the intention of turning away from…

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It’s OK to be Food Secure – Roger Ingalls

Have you seen or read the weather reports coming from America’s heart land? Heat and lack of rain are playing havoc with the crops. The prices for corn, soybean and wheat have jumped over the past two days (5.5%, 3.6% and 3.1% respectively). This may seem like a small increase but when you consider that 70% of everything we consume uses these three commodities in some way, it is a significant jump. Hot, dry weather is expected to stay with the nation’s breadbasket for awhile which may further impact crop yields and prices.

Picture from Standeyo.com

To those who understand our so-called modern food system, it’s obvious that we, the consuming public, have lost control of the basic necessities we need to sustain ourselves. The enticement of farm subsidies has created a corporate rush to drive out traditional local farmers. We now have consolidated and centralized mega-farms all practicing similar techniques. This lack of diversity exacerbates weather related events leaving the public at risk (food shortages and high prices). In addition, food prices are no longer solely established by supply and demand. Since deregulation under the Bush administration #2, it is now legal to speculate on food commodities in ways similar to stocks, hedge funds and oil which further drives the price of food. Yes, Wall Street is now gambling on our food. Lastly, corporatized or industrial farming is fossil fuel intensive so food prices are tied to oil and natural gas.

So how do we take back control of our food? This is really an economic and marketing question. We need to develop a substitute food system with value that will motivate consumers to switch.

It just so happens that an alternate food system does exist and has been successfully implemented in an American country very close to our border. Cuba had a farming system similar to the US, Europe and other industrialized nations but they relied on imports from the Soviet Union for oil-based pesticides, natural gas based fertilizers and diesel for transportation of goods from farm to city. When the Soviet Union collapsed in 1989, Cuba’s supply of fuel and fossil-derived chemicals dwindled to near extinction. Fortunately for the Cuban people, their government saw what was coming and developed a smart strategy to replace industrialized chemical farming. They rolled out a farming system based on biological fertilizers, biological/cultural pest control and implemented it right in the cities. Essentially, they created organic urban farming out of necessity. Here are a few amazing statistics and other information:

1)       With a workforce of approximately 4.8 million, they’ve created 350,000 new jobs.
2)       Local production of fresh vegetables increased a thousand fold, yields per square meter increased from 1.5 kilograms to 25.8 kilograms.
3)       Food production is local so transportation is eliminated, food is fresh and harvested when ripe and not chemically gassed to ripen as with industrialized farming.
4)       Diets and health of the Cuban population improved, food is nutrient rich and free from toxic petrochemical pesticides and fertilizers.
5)       Urban farmers earn more than government workers and are as respected as doctors.

By duplicating something similar to the Cuban urban farming method we can take local ownership of our food, create jobs and enjoy healthier, tastier food. Just as important, we reduce the risk of shortages and high prices by decoupling food from the oil industry and speculative gambling by financial institutions. Urban agriculture is formed on multiple locations and managed by many small companies or sole proprietors. This creates additional diversity in produce and farming methods, thereby further improving food security.

Take a few minutes and really think about this organic local food system. It’s not a backward approach; it’s scientifically progressive with a thorough understanding of biology and how a living ecosystem really works. Imagine the positive benefits this would bring to your community: healthy food growing in every available space, people working and food secure, produce businesses or co-ops within walking distance for most everyone, a thriving self-made community.

It’s OK to say no to 1940s industrialized chemical farming practices, it’s OK to say no to market manipulation by financial institutions and IT’S OK TO BE EMPOWERED!

List of Shame: The 1%’ers Who Dodge Taxes

Let me be clear from the start: this post is not about all those who occupy (excuse the pun) the top 1% of our nation in terms of wealth. This is about those who pay taxes annually to the tune of $1. There are many who worked hard to amass their wealth and are incredibly philanthropic. As the director of a non-profit, I have been honored with many opportunities to meet and work with such people.

These generous people are propelled by a moral code and take a meaningful portion of their money and time to promote social justice issues, to support those in our society who need help – the elderly, the poor, the homeless etc., and provide cultural and educational opportunities that might not be business-viable without such support. This article is NOT about them. I am sure they pay their taxes, understanding that the services they receive – an army to defend them, a police force, fire and emergency response force, the roads they drive on, the street lights…do I need to go on?

But unfortunately there are those billionaires who seem to take pride out of not paying their taxes. These people manage to show a salary of $1. They include such individuals as Eric Schmidt and Larry Page (both Google), Steve Jobs (Apple) from 1997 until his death last year, Larry Ellison (Oracle) and Meg Whitman (Hewlett-Packard). And apparently, recently wed and start-up-turned-public Mark Zuckerberg (Facebook) is about to join this shameful club.

Ironically, these ‘poor’ folk might actually be eligible to receive the kind of government aid that is available for low-income populations. If they keep their personal income under $13,000 they would be able to apply for an Earned Income Tax Credit. While I am sure they won’t collect on this, I hope they appreciate that the taxpayers provide this safety net, but they probably won’t.

There are many ways to ensure that you can live the lifestyle of the super-rich, amass wealth, and not pay taxes. One of these, for example is to hold multiple home equity loans, which is (I think) borrowing money against the values of many of your homes and property. This is debt and therefore not taxable, but it is money for them to jet around and live the life they want. In a country where good folk are losing their homes (their only homes) to foreclosure, isn’t this ironic? There are many other ways and I am not the person to expound on them.

Let us assume that one day the Zukerbergs decide to purchase an island in the Caribbean. Most people who show an income of $1 might be more inclined to buy food, clothes, medical insurance etc., but someone with significant net worth need only cash in a few shares (Facebook anyone?) to make the purchase. For sure, he might have to pay 15% capital gains taxes, but ain’t life a bitch.

To be perfectly clear (once again), I do not resent these people their wealth. I have a deep respect for the philanthropists that I have a relationship with. But I believe in paying taxes and I want everyone who can afford it to pay their share and pay it with grace.

Those billionaires who take pride out of cheating (yes, cheating) our society out of their taxes are screwing not only those of us who pay taxes today, but also failing to help prevent the nation accumulate debt that our children will be saddled with.

For some reason, what hurts even more, is that these people are paying more money for financial advice that helps them avoid tax exposure than I earn in a year…before I pay my taxes.

I work hard for my salary and pay my taxes as I should. I have a right to be angry.

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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).

Occupy Report Card – Roger Ingalls

A few days ago I got into a mildly hot discussion with a few people over the Occupy Movement. It started due to a news report about protesters stealing property from a church that allowed them to sleep on the premises.

A few in the discussion group concluded that the Occupy folks were just a bunch of thugs causing problems and haven’t done anything worth noting. The rest of us disagreed and took the position that you can’t judge the whole movement based on a few bad apples that caught the eye of Mainstream Media.

picture from dawnstephensbooks.com

Our discussion then turned to accomplishments by Occupy Wall Street. The naysayers initially said the movement hadn’t done anything but eventually gave them some credit for helping with the roll-back of the $5 transaction fee proposed by Bank of America. After chatting further, many of us thought the rebirth of civil disobedience and mass public protesting in the U.S. were positives and should be credited to the Occupy Movements.

“The Tree of Liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants”, Thomas Jefferson.

A small group of us that are, generally, pro Occupy, thought the movements biggest accomplishment was education of the masses. Prior to the whole Occupy thing, the public, as a whole, never discussed the inequity of the Top 1% versus the Bottom 99%, rarely cared about how politician received money for campaigning or gave many thoughts to how Big Business sets government agenda. Now these issues are on the tongues of people everywhere, of all ages, races and economic standing. This is an awesome accomplishment. Awareness is the first step.

Occupy Revolution Year One gets an A+.

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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.

Wall Street – A Long-Term Occupation? – Tom Rossi

The Occupy Wall Street Movement, which significantly includes Occupy Oakland, Occupy San Francisco, and many other locations, is facing its biggest test, so far – winter. Not just the season winter, but a variation of the proverbial, “winter of (our) discontent.” 

I had written before that the movement’s only weapon was persistence, and this of course implies a measured amount of patience (but not complacency). Without a doubt, the goal of the “forces that be” is to make the Occupy movement into a fad, and then make it go away. The weather will test the resolve of Occupiers and we shall soon see if it’s a fad or not. Here’s a hint… it’s not.

But what might turn out to be a bigger threat is impatience – both on the part of city governments and Occupiers themselves. Cities all over America have used various tactics, including ridiculously inappropriate force, to “evict” Occupiers from the camps they have established as bases from which to get the issues noticed. Some of these tactics have been just effective enough to diminish the potential impact of the camps, even if they still survive through mutation and adaptation.

The impatience of the cities (and the police), along with the lack of any observable improvement in the ways in which our country operates, has led to some impatience among the Occupiers as well. This was inevitable, but this winter will be the test. If the movement survives, it will take root and become legitimate.

Occupiers are essentially the Rosa Parks of our time. Any observer of the civil rights movement will tell you that her brave moment sparked something incredible. But her courage certainly didn’t accomplish anything overnight. The civil rights movement has been decades in the process and is by no means over.

During World War I, as the opposing forces dug into trenches in France, the Allied forces had presumed that those positions would be fleeting – that one way or another, things would change soon. The Central forces, on the other hand, assumed there would be a long, drawn-out battle. As a result, the Allies lived the entire time in mud, with diseases like trenchfoot all to common, whereas the Central trenches were relatively luxurious, with electricity, etc. If the Central supply lines had not all passed through a bottleneck that was vulnerable to an Allied attack, the war could have dragged on for years longer with an unknown result.

Get comfortable. This will be a long, bloody (not literally, I hope) fight. Occupiers have to find the balance between imperative and acceptance. The change demanded by the Occupy Movement will take decades. It will involve fundamental shifts in ingrained patterns of thought. It will involve wresting power from the powerful. Who could have thought this would be easy?

-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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Occupy Starbucks

I know I am going to get into trouble for this post. Most people reading Left Coast Voices are more likely to drink their daily sin under a Starbucked notice than the green mermaid (or whoever she is). Yes I have stuck up for Starbucks in the past, but I have also been critical where I believe it apt.

And yes,I know it is Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, but a lot of the discussions around my family table were political and depressing. So let’s give a shout out for something positive, whoever is behind it.

Today, I want to highlight the positive. Many have commented on this blog that they want to see more concrete steps coming out of the Occupy Movement, steps that will impact the 1% or help the 99%. Bank Transfer Day was a great example (and its not too late!).

Starbucks have seeded money for a project called Create Jobs for USA. Starbucks have teamed up with Opportunity Finance Network® which is a group of community lending institutions who will help to finance jobs within the community. 

When we buy a wristband at Starbucks stores or online for a minimum of $5, these institutions will generate 7x the amount. In other words for every $5 we donate, $35 will be generated and invested in small business, affordable housing, commercial real estate, micro-enterprises, and non-profits.

Yes, those of us seriously Starbucked can find a way of being cynical, of showing how this is a sophisticated marketing move by the company. But right now there are thousands of people without jobs who are losing their dignity and their hope for a better life. 9.1% of the labor force, translates into 13.1% of the Hispanic community, and 16.7% of the African-American community. I am sure the numbers are worse when analyzed by geographical dispersion.

Let’s put our differences aside. Let’s ally with Starbucks and the Opportunity Finance Network® and help people get back to work in meaningful community businesses. On the bracelet is the word Indivisible. The logo has the word on an US flag. 

We don’t need to wait for government. The American people are strongest when we work together…when we are indivisible.

Happy Thanksgiving.

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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).

Ketchup Turkey and More – Roger Ingalls

I’m a guest blogger on Left Coast Voices and Thursdays are my day to post. Thanksgiving falls on Thursday and I feel like it is necessary to write something that honors this day. But I have nothing. I have no profound or original thoughts.

The only thing that comes to mind is the usual “I’m thankful for this, that and whatever”. So, here we go…I’ll try to make it interesting.

I’m thankful for:

1)      Ketchup because no matter how you cook turkey, it just doesn’t have flavor worth the multiple hours of effort it takes to prepare it.

2)      The Super Bowl Champ Green Bay Packers because it makes me smile, from head to toe, knowing a small town professional sports franchise owned by the community can beat the snot out of teams owned by Big Business fat cats.

3)      Knowing some Americans are finally recognizing the middleclass genocide brought on by the financial copulation between Wall Street and politicians.

4)      The smart and articulate people that are successfully bringing attention to the evils of the Citizen’s United decision made by the Supreme Court. Corporations are not real people and should not have the same rights as real people.

5)      Americans becoming more politically aware and that some are motivated enough to protest. Say what you will about the #Occupy Movement but at least they understand something isn’t right and they are doing something about it.

6)      Thomas Jefferson because without him we would not have a Bill of Rights. I’m also thankful that many of the nation’s grade school students will not receive textbooks written by conservatives trying to write Jefferson out of our history because he didn’t have orthodox Christian views. Without Jefferson, the conservative Christians would not have the right to write these books they’re trying to change history with – how ironic.

7)      Will Allen for turning inner-city food deserts into thriving urban farms that feed thousands of people. Urban farming is the next big employment opportunity.

8)      Occasionally getting ill overseas and experiencing, first-hand, the marvels of universal healthcare. It opened my eyes to the extensive lies told by our politicians just to protect the interests of big business.

9)      Being a senior corporate officer in a publicly trading company. The experience of stock offerings and investor relations exposed me to the unethical behavior of Investment Banks and their supporting partners.

10)  Alon Shalev giving me the opportunity to post on his blog. It has allowed me to vent frustration and hopefully entertain and educate a few people along the way.

I know it sounds like a cliché but most of all, I am thankful for my wonderful, caring and gorgeous wife.

Puts some ketchup on your turkey and have a Happy Thanksgiving!

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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.

Occupying an Agenda

I have posted frequently about my excitement over the Occupy movement. The ‘uprising,’ if I may use such a term, is both a shift of consciousness and a call for grassroots action. I am proud of those who are creating micro communities on these sites and seeking an inclusive culture that allows for everyone present to feel involved and listened to. I am sorry that the mass media do not seem willing to give this aspect the attention it deserves.

Occupy SF

This is the crux of the movement. What mobilized people is the rising frustration that the vast majority of us are simple pawns in a game played with impunity by corrupt big business principles and a failed political system where those sent to Washington do not represent those who voted to send them (and those who didn’t), but rather represent those who paid for them to get voted in.

People need to feel listened to. They have a right to know that if they work hard, save for retirement, buy a house, and then they will receive a minimal social network. Their children will have a good education, their medical needs will be taken care of, law enforcement are there to protect them, and that they can retire with dignity. If you play by the rules and participate in the system, surely you have entitlement to basic human rights.

The rains are coming and it is unclear how the Occupy movement will cope with the coming winter. What most worries me is that, as far as I know, there is no strategic plan. It is unclear who is the leadership and we will revisit next week on this blog whether there should be an agenda.

Will people come out in the rain?

This past summer, ‘Tent Cities” were created in most major towns in Israel. There was a huge outpouring from a disenfranchised and disillusioned public (many of them under 40) with a myriad of social issues represented. Some were similar to here in the US, others more unique to Israel.

There are many similarities to Occupy. There was no recognized leadership because there was a desire not to exclude anyone and creating a power structure, however open and inclusive, runs the risk of marginalizing people. Furthermore, there was no central agenda, again because of a desire to promote different social injustices and issues, according to those who stepped up to join the Tent City. There were also clashes with police.

Israelis of all ages, ethnic backgrounds and religions came together for a summer.

When the summer ended, the groups slowly lost momentum. I am afraid that without a framework and platform, then it might not be able to sustain itself. I believe the Occupy system needs to decide one of two things:

i) To create an agenda – and they might do well to read Roger Ingall’s suggestions.

ii) Decide to create a leadership structure and strategic plan, or take the momentum into the Democratic Party.

More on this second aspect next Wednesday.

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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).

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.

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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.

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