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 “President Bush”

Hope from Our Youngins – Roger Ingalls

I’ve been racking my brains trying to come up with something to write about for today’s post. I wanted to do something positive because we’ve just concluded round two of the presidential debates and I was appalled at the inaccuracies by both candidates. President Obama didn’t create false statement but he exaggerated many points while Romney outright lied in traditional Republican grand standing fashion. The Republican leaders knows their followship will believe anything they say so truth doesn’t matter (it’s the conservative authoritarian belief system that creates blind followship).

I was about to give up on a positive subject and write about the stupidity of California Prop 30 but then a Facebook post caught my eye. An old friend posted a question to teenagers on her Facebook page asking which presidential candidate THEY would vote for, without influence from their parents.

Their responses were interesting. They almost apologetically assumed they were supposed to say Romney. All selected President Obama and their comments were telling. They were very logical and actually saw through the Republican Party’s false sound bites. I was amazed!

Here are a few of their comments:

1)      “It’s taken me more than four years just to pay off my little car loan, how is Obama expected to fix a trashed economy in such a short period of time”.

2)      “Obama inherited Bush’s mess, why is the Republican Party blaming him?”

3)      “Romney doesn’t truly believe in equal rights for all and would push back gains made by LGBTQ”.

Again, I was amazed. These young people were thinking critically and were not blindly following like many of their parents. They saw through the false sound bites; their brains were engaged.

This gives me hope…it really gives me hope.

Robin Hood Politics Pt. 2

On Wednesday I discussed the Robin Hood Tax initiative where I praised those, especially the rich people who are embracing the idea.

I portrayed the Obama administration as being against, primarily out of fear that investors would go abroad with their money. The case is not so clearly defined. According to one administration official, there is actually support precisely to curb the risky activities that led the crises in the first place.

“The president is sympathetic to the goals that a financial transactions tax is trying to achieve and he is pushing for a financial crisis responsibility fee and closing other Wall Street loopholes as the best and most feasible way to achieve those goals,” the administration official said.

Labor unions and groups are supportive and organizing demonstrations in favor, They envisage the taxes levied to help finance job creation programs.

“The tax is a good idea because banks are where the money is. It’s the same reason Jesse James robbed banks,” said Rose Ann DeMoro, executive director of National Nurses United, which recently held demonstrations at the offices of 60 members of Congress in support of the levy. “The thing about the financial transactions tax is it’s stunning how quickly people get it and how fast they embrace it.”

I got the impression that Bill Gates and President Sarkozy envisaged using the money to help development in the worst areas of poverty, which I assume mean in Africa and Asia. Other political leaders are probably imagining using this as revenue to help plug government deficits.

We should not forget that this is a tiny tax for the individual. The EEC proposed a tax of $10 for $10,000 worth of transactions throughout the European Union which could raise $77 billion a year just in Europe.

An American version of this bill (imposing a $3 tax  per $10,000 of transactions) might raise $350 billion over the next decade. Kudos for some rare bi-partisan cooperation to Representative Peter DeFazio, an Oregon Democrat, and Senator Tom Harkin, an Iowa Democrat.

Mr. DeFazio envisaged the tax could “raise money to invest in the real economy,” but even he and his partner are skeptical the Republican caucus in Washington would accept any form of new taxes.

The opposition is already gathering, citing a fear that people will slow their investment rates. Kenneth E. Bentsen Jr., executive vice president for public policy at the Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association, released a statement saying:

“At a time when we face a slow economic recovery, such a tax will impede the efficiency of markets and impair depth and liquidity as well as raise costs to the issuers, pensions and investors who help drive economic growth,”

The British Chancellor of the Exchequers, George Osborne, called the proposed tax “economic suicide.” In this time of economic crisis, he said, the European Union “should be coming forward with new ideas to promote growth, not undermine it.”

Opposition on this side of the pond comes from Glenn Hubbard, past chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers under President George W. Bush. He described the Robin Hood tax is a “monstrously bad idea.”

“Such a tax isn’t really going to get at the banks,” added Hubbard. “It’s going to hit the people who own the assets that are traded,” like investors.

If you think Hubbard is just crying from the political bleachers, think again. He is currently an adviser to Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney.

Ironically Britain, Hong Kong and Singapore (the latter two can be proud of the growth of their financial markets) all have such a tax in place.  In fact, and please don’t tell the Republicans, the US had imposed a tiny tax on stock trades between the years1914 – 1966. Socialists!

Finally, let’s remember why this tax is being proposed in the first place. There are too many people in this world who are starving, denied medicine and clean water, suffering from diseases that can be cured. And, as the British actor Bill Nighy, has described it, this is “a beautiful idea.”

“It would raise enough money to solve problems at home and overseas, and it could do it without hurting ordinary people,” Mr. Nighy said.

So simple. So true. So possible.

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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).

Robin Hood Politics Pt. 1

I grew up in England’s green and somewhat socialist land hearing stories and watching movies about one Robin Hood, who lived in Sherwood Forest and robbed from the despotic rich to give to the poor. When King Richard the Lionheart came home from the Crusades having either liberated or massacred everyone in the name of freedom (freedom to be a Christian), and forgave Robin, restoring him as a member of the English aristocracy and letting him marry the king’s niece. Trust me, the movies tell it much better.

Oh Kevin - your aim if not your accent was true!

However, Robin of Loxley’s name is now being associated with a new tax idea: a seemingly insignificant levy on trades in the financial markets which would take money from the banks (the despotic rich) and give to the world’s poor. This would apparently be a tax on trades of stocks, bonds, and similar financial tools of investment.

The reality is that most of this support stems from our anger and frustration at how the world economy collapsed without the rich taking a significant hit. Right now we would happily hang the bank and monetary institutions heads in the village square, or at least stick them in the stockades and throw rotten dividends and pink slips at them.

Sir Robin (who was originally a member of the landed class – the top 1%) has attracted an exciting band of merry men (and women): the leaders of France and Germany, the billionaire philanthropists Bill Gates and George Soros, former Vice President Al Gore, the consumer activist Ralph Nader, Pope Benedict XVI and the Archbishop of Canterbury.

Now personally I am suspicious that the Pope would associate with Robin Hood, given the latter’s allegiance to the Church of England, but perhaps the Pope is being more strategic than his predecessors.

German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, who I began to trust when she got annoyed at President Bush trying to give her a public massage, told the German Parliament that “We all agree that a financial transaction tax would be the right signal to show that we have understood that financial markets have to contribute their share to the recovery of economies.”

The Italian Prime Minister, Mario Monti, has jumped enthusiastically into the foray by announcing his plans to impose such a tax as one part of a broad plan to fix his country’s ailing economy. He further invited other European countries to endorse the initiative.

Other European leaders seem are not so enthusiastic which seems a shame given that a number of analysts believe a broad agreement could create such a tax while keeping the financial markets (or rather those who are making tons of money from it) relatively calm. 

Simon Tilford, chief economist of the Center for European Reform in London claims that “There is some momentum behind this…If they keep the show on the road, they probably will attempt to run with this.”

As the Occupy Wall Street movement seems to wind down, I believe this can be a rallying cry with a practical, measurable outcome. I have written previously about my desire for the Occupy movement to become more strategic (see here and here). Members of the Occupy movement were already sporting bows and arrows, along with green and brown Robin Hood outfits (I used to have one, but would never wear the tights – part of my repressed British childhood, I guess) at the G20 Nations summit last month.

Frederic Nebinger/Getty Images -Demonstrators in Nice, France, last month urged the leaders of the Group of 20 nations to do more to help the poor.

At the summit, Bill Gates, who as we know is quite well off actually presented a plan similar to the goals of the Robin Hood movement, including a modest tax on trades of financial instruments that could generate $48 billion or more annually from the G-20 countries. I want to take this moment and, with the greatest respect, doff my green cap and feather to Mr. Gates. He is a member of the 1% who really cares.

Charles Dharapak/Associated Press – Bill Gates talked with Nicolas Sarkozy about a tax on trades of financial instruments.

His proposal garnered support from Ms. Merkel and France’s president, Nicolas Sarkozy, There are, of course, those who oppose the tax initiative, not surprisingly from the rich and their minions in the seats of power of the UK and USA. Britain’s prime minister, David Cameron, expressed serious reservations, saying “Britain would embrace it only if it were adopted globally.” This stems from a fear that if England was to adopt such a tax, investors would simply take their business from the London Stock Exchange and head elsewhere to countries who have not adopted this tax initiative.

This sentiment is supported here in the US by the Obama administration who fear that unless it is global, driving trading overseas would hurt pension funds and individual investors as well as financial institutions.

More on this on Friday.

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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).

 

Obama and the Arc of Hopelessness – Norman Weekes

From Alon: I met Norman Weekes over the summer. He is a thoughtful, erudite man. I am very happy that he will write a  couple of posts a month for Left Coast Voices. Welcome aboard, Norm.

Norman Weekes

Norman Weekes

Obama and the Arc of Hopelessness

“He’s a nigga! Are you a nigga???”

I thought about my brief phone bank exchange with a voter from the Sunshine State while I watched Obama address the Grant Park crowd on election night at the Marriott in Oakland. I phone banked for Obama a few days before and thought about calling my Florida friend. It was a fleeting thought. This was a time for pride and promise.

I didn’t really know Obama then. I didn’t know his rhetoric concealed the fact that he has the guts of Urkel, the bravery of the Scarecrow and would lose a fist-fight to Betty White.

Why resort to name calling and personal insults you say? Why disrespect the man and the office like that? Don’t forget he inherited the Bush economy and the Republicans are bad people blah blah blah. Why? Because I have every right. I’ve been disrespected by Obama’s substitution for rhetoric over action. Name calling? I’d rather be called a punk than be called unemployed (which I am).

Personal? Long term unemployment is very personal. So don’t tell me about being too hard on the President. If you’re still hesitant to criticize the President you may believe OJ was set up and all the Jews working at the World Trade Center called in sick on 9/11. If so, I can’t dialogue with you. We can exchange food recipes but not talk politics.

A couple of weeks ago Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Ron Suskind started his book tour promoting Confidence Men, a behind the scenes look at the Obama Economic team. He had access to the team, interviewed the president and reported on the organizational interaction and leadership arc of Obama and his economic advisers. Suskind, a self proclaimed Democrat has been derided by the White House for his reporting and analysis. According to Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner the book is filled with “sad little stories” that do not resemble the reality of the time.

Confidence Men

One sad little story is the response by Obama to the banking crisis. In the fear filled days of the crisis the Obama economic team debated as to how to deal with the banks. After listening to his team debate Obama concluded the government needed to take action to boost confidence, hold banks accountable and take control of toxic assets. To simplify, the choice was to act like the government of Japan in the 90’s or Sweden in the same decade. Obama choose a more Swedish like approach and decided to break-up Citibank, at that time the weakest of the” too big to fail banks”. He ordered Tim Geithner, who disagreed with the President to draft a plan to break up Citi.

A few weeks later Obama asks about the plan at a follow up economic meeting sans Geithner. He was told by Christina Romer, Chair of his Council on Economic Advisers there was no plan. Obama replied, “Well there’d better be!” (Goshdarnit!). Suskind says Geithner “slow walked” the policy. Washington is paralyzed but is still great at manufacturing euphemisms: slow-walking a policy, re-litigating policy, uneven policy implementation, etc. Here on Earth it’s called insubordination and regular folk get fired for it every day.

Last I checked Citibank is still Citibank, toxic assets are still on bank balance sheets and Tim Geithner is still treasury secretary. The banks and their investors have still not suffered the consequences of risky investment strategies. It’s mind-blowing Geithner has the balls to blow off the President of the United States. It’s even more amazing he’s still on the team. How arrogant do you have to be to ignore the President on a policy difference rather than resign? What does  that say for Geithner’s opinion of the President? How conflict adverse do you have to be to not fire someone who openly ignored your order?

I’m beginning to understand why single payer disappears, financial reform is weak, job stimulus is loaded with tax cuts (which don’t create jobs) serious job creation is ignored, Bush-based foreign policy continues and Obama gets rolled by Republicans on the debt, tax cuts for the rich and program cuts for the poor and middle class. Obama allows this by not fighting back. It’s that simple. My son asked me a couple of weeks ago why Obama’s getting all this heat. I told him, “Obama’s the guy on the basketball court you can push around and elbow all day long and nothing will happen. People just want to see him fight back.”

Is it his expression or the grey hair?

Erudite criticism is ignored. Criticism from people who use oligarch in everyday conversation is not working. When he has an opportunity to acknowledge he tells the Congressional Black Congress to “stop whining.” There’s no fight in this guy. It’s as if he never had to turn back and fight the bully at school than take an ass-whipping at home. I’m past frustrated and angry.

Hopelessness in Obama is on the horizon. I cried the night Obama was elected. I’m still crying now.

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Norman Weekes is a volunteer in social justice non profits, account executive looking for work and occasional political activist.

Obama Must Lose… to a Progressive

I’ve been “masterdebating” (debating with myself) on this one for several months, but it has to be said… it has to be done. President Obama has to lose – to a real progressive. I don’t mean just lose the primary – but lose California in 2012 and thereby lose the general presidential election.

Blasphemy! If that were to happen, the Republican candidate would win the national election and we would have a Republican president! Yes, I say with head hung low, that is exactly what needs to happen.

Wow. Has Rossi finally really lost it? What kind of craziness is this? I’ll tell you what kind of craziness: it’s a “queen sacrifice.” In the game of chess, a player sometimes has the opportunity to set up this bait-trap-kill strategy. The idea is to sacrifice (allow the other player to capture) the queen, the most powerful weapon on the board, and through this sacrifice, weaken the other player’s positioning and move in for the win: checkmate.

But the reasons for this go way beyond strategy. It’s true that the Republicans, and certainly the Tea Party, want to put the U.S. on a direct path into economic and social hell. They want unfettered corporate control, while the government only serves to control our behavior, words, and even thoughts, while ostensibly protecting us from outside threats. As opposed to the shortest route, President Obama has us on the scenic route to hell. He’s delayed, diverted, and shown us some dying flowers and falling trees along the way, but we are most certainly headed toward the same end.

Why? Because President Obama, while being accused of socialism and worse, has led our economy in the same-ol’ neoclassical direction. The same direction that got us into the current incarnation of a long-term, structural disaster. Obama has done everything to put a band-aid on the economy that got us here – the economy of doom. He’s done everything to build it back up, to make this jalopy run so it can take us off that cliff that was apparently the goal.

And I think it should be obvious by now to almost anyone that as the economy goes, so go the rights of the working class. The “bad” economy (really it’s great – if you’re already a billionaire) has been used as an excuse to make pensions disappear, to take health-care away from workers, to force us to accept lower pay and longer hours.

But my point is that what we have been calling a “good” economy is really not so good. Our “free market” economy (let me be the first to say that a free market not only does not exist, but CANNOT exist) is basically designed to suck money toward the top and out of the rest of us. In addition, the needs of our grow, grow, grow economy have justified our continued destruction of our planet and its resources – both its sources and sinks. Not only will this make life very difficult for coming generations, it’s already having a strong effect.

For all these reasons, we must abandon false hope. We also must accept that, in order to weaken the grip of conservative marketing double-speak, things have to get worse before they have any chance of getting better. The only way I can see forward is for the Republicans to really take over, and drive us off that cliff. Then and only then will the deluded masses see the truth. When unemployment hits 30, 35, or even 40%, people will start to see. When all pensions are gone, released in corporate bankruptcies, the people will start to see. When the brown skies of the seventies and eighties return, the people will start to see.

Besides, I’m really starting to think the Republicans WANT to lose in 2012. I’m not saying that Republican voters want to lose, but the strategists at the center of the party do. They know that the economy is going to get worse and worse (for most of us, anyway) and they want to be able to blame a Democratic president.

So who then? Who should we vote for to send a strong statement that we want a real progressive? Dennis Kucinich.

While he’s no perfect superhero, Kucinich is the one true nationally recognized progressive.

So how is this different from what happened with Ralph Nader in 2000? That certainly didn’t have a good result, did it? First of all, that election was different. The lines weren’t so clearly drawn between Al Gore and George Bush. Many accused them of sounding too alike. And Nader (as the candidate for the Green Party) was only a third uncharismatic candidate in the race.

At the time, the Green Party had told its members that Democrats and Republicans were essentially the same. That didn’t ring true in most people’s ears at the time. Now, we have seen President Obama seduced by our nation’s “leading” economists – convinced that free-market, free-trade growth is the answer. It now seems that the Green Party is right. They turned out to have been wrong in 2000, but they’re right now. While Obama and the Republican candidates trade barbs and insults, we are floating (precariously) on two different streams, but emptying into the same ocean.

I know Obama has tried, a handful of times, to do some actual good, as with health-care, but that doesn’t change the fact that he is under the spell of an economics that has proven itself a failure.

Let me be clear, Dennis Kucinich absolutely will not win the presidential election of 2012. But if Kucinich were to grab enough of the vote in California and maybe a few other states, Obama would lose, and it would be clear and obvious that he had lost because he had coddled the illusory “swing voters” that everyone believes are slightly right of center.

So, assuming he won’t appear on the final ballot, write in Dennis Kucinich. This would mean that the Democrats would HAVE to start paying attention to progressives. I want a Democratic candidate to run on the slogan: “People before profits.” And then I want that candidate to keep that promise.

-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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Breach of Faith

There is so much surrounding Hurricane Katrina that is irrelevant and distracting. When you go into You Tube there is an absurd amount about President Bush, Kanye West, Mayor Nagin, and the natural phenomenon – the hurricane.

So I want to share a book that I feel gets to the core of the issues, primarily what happened after the hurricane hit, without sanding over who shared responsibility for the disaster. Breach of Faith is a straight forward observation from a man who cares and a man who cuts to the chase.

Not that Jed Horne allows President Bush, the Army Corps, or Global Warming a “Get out of jail free” card. But it is clear that his beloved state is more important than writing a bestseller.

Here is a brief overview of a few books on the topic from All Things Considered on National Public Radio.

Whatever you choose to read, to listen, to watch, it is important that we bear witness, that we understand what happened here and what our respective roles were.

It can never be allowed to happen again.

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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

 

 

 

 

 

 

Don’t Blame The President

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


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

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

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

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

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


Here’s to a year of change we all need to move forward.
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Alon Shalev is the author of The Accidental Activist (now available on Kindle) and A Gardener’s Tale. He is the Executive Director of the San Francisco Hillel Foundation, a non-profit that provides spiritual and social justice opportunities to Jewish students in the Bay Area. More on Alon Shalev at www.alonshalev.com

 

 

 

Fool Me Twice?

This was the title of an editorial in the New York Times last week. In the article, the author refers to a deal made with President Bush’s government in which the multinationals offered to bring back billions of dollars to invest in the US economy, building new plants and stimulating employment.

Congress passed the Homeland Investment Act, which allowed companies to repatriate some $300 billion in 2005 and pay only 5.25 percent in taxes (instead of 35% which is the corporate tax rate imposed on overseas profits when they are brought into the country). The multinationals got their tax breaks: the stimulus failed to happen. Almost all of that money found its way to the shareholders.

Now, according to an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal, the chief executive of Cisco, John Chambers, and the president of Oracle, Safra Catz, suggested that American multinational corporations have about $1 trillion stashed abroad and that this money could be brought back for the general good if taxes were again lowered to 5%.

The audacity of big business astonishes me – and I wrote a book about their behavior. I should read it again. That they were able to get away with this in ’05 is hard enough to stomach. But that they feel they can do it again is … well you can slot in the appropriate word.

Many multinationals have large amounts of cash stored in the US should they ever really consider investing into the economy. They do not need to bring money in from abroad. In fact, perhaps tax breaks should be awarded to such companies to bring money into the US after they have invested into the economy, and perhaps there should be a logical link between each sum of money.

It seems that the Obama administration does remember how the government was fooled and is not showing any interest. Fair game, but I can’t help wondering where these multinationals get the chutzpah to even make the suggestion. ——————————————————————————————————-

Alon Shalev is the author of The Accidental Activist (now available on Kindle) and A Gardener’s Tale. He is the Executive Director of the San Francisco Hillel Foundation, a non-profit that provides spiritual and social justice opportunities to Jewish students in the Bay Area. More on Alon Shalev at www.alonshalev.com

 

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