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 Obama”

What’s In A Name – Obamacare, Shutdown, Blackmail, Extortion.

Tom kind of stole my post with his excellent Whose Shutdown Is It Anyway. Here are two memorable quotes.

“John Boehner, Rush Limbaugh, Fox “News”, and just about every Republican politician out there is trying to pin this shutdown on President Obama. This is due to the fact that Obama stubbornly refuses to accept a Republican-crafted budget that takes away the funding for the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, which Obama and other Democrats worked for years to make the law of the land.”

“It’s OK to disagree about this. It’s OK to hold the opinion that Obamacare is a bad thing. But don’t shut down the government and then claim it was the other guys’ doing. Though we can continue to debate health care, out here in the world, the law has passed. We supposedly have majority rule in this country, and the majority want serious health-care reform, and the majority made Obamacare the law.“ 

imagesI really want to hear from a coherent, thinking Republican (and there are plenty around to be fair), how s/he can justify shutting down the government to object to a democratically passed law? And how can our representatives have the audacity to deny government workers a salary, but continue to pay themselves? Leading by example? I think not.

But there was one thing that stood out for me and, as I listened to various radio stations, read a couple of articles, it occurred to me, that the President and the Democratic Party have lost the war on language.

Look again at the two exerts above. One talks about the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, while the other mentions Obamacare. One of the biggest mistakes this government made was to use and allow the use of the term Obamacare. I have yet to hear someone offer a coherent opposition to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act without using the term Obamacare, and using it often. 

images-1It makes for a nice legacy and might flatter our leader, but democrats should refuse to use the word. Every time a Republican uses that term, they should stop him/her and ask that the correct term is used. It’s easy. Just ask what Obamacare is.

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act is not defined as only for democrats. It is an essential tool to offer what is a basic human right: healthcare without personal bankruptcy. 

If we are going to discuss language, how about ditching the Government Shutdown – if this was a union, we would be calling it a strike. So the Republicans have gone on strike. Good luck dealing with labor disputes in the future!

And while we are at it, perhaps there are a few other words we might want to begin using to describe the shutdown: how about blackmail and extortion? Maybe callousness and immunity to suffering?

Not that I’m in favor of inflammatory rhetoric or imagery. Who had the audacity to design this? Thankfully, let it be said, many Republicans have come out against the comparisons of President Obama to Hitler. 

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Alon Shalev is the author of the 2013 Eric Hoffer YA Book Award winner, At The Walls of GalbriethThe First Decree, Ashbar – Wycaan Master Bk 3 – all released by Tourmaline Books. Shalev is also the author of three social justice-themed novels including Unwanted Heroes. He swears there is a connection. More at http://www.alonshalev.com and on Twitter (@elfwriter).

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Gun Control Again – Roger Ingalls

The recent mass shooting at the naval shipyard in Washington DC is extremely tragic and the frequency of this type of murder is increasing. Also, the use of long guns appears to be the weapon of choice for these deranged killers. However, I will still argue that mainstream media and political focus on rifles and assault weapons is way off base. The long gun’s use as a killing weapon is insignificant compared to the hand gun. Unfortunately, mass murders are great money making events for the media and provide a good soapbox for politicians to show their face. The real problem – hand gun murders that occur at a rate of one every hour, every day, 365 days a year – gets ignored.

We can solve the real problem and maintain the integrity of the Constitution by leaving the legal status of long guns as is but outlawing hand guns.

Gun MurdersLittle CrossesThis is the problem

Crossing The Line

I realize that this post is not going to sit well with the audience of Left Coast Voices, and Roger, who already pointed towards the fact that big business is probably salivating at the prospect of making big bucks from another war, presents a scary scenario of those most motivated to crank up the war machine.

I get it and I am pretty sure he is right. But I am not sure that is reason enough to prevent intervention to not step in and stop the Syrian dictatorship from using chemical weapons again on anyone.

In the 1990’s I walked around with a gas mask in Tel Aviv, sealed up a room, participated in the drills, and sat in a shelter wondering if my family and friends were alright – if the missiles landing around us were regular scud missiles or tipped with chemicals.

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As a soldier, I trained with gas mask and in gas released scenarios. I will never forget the labored breathing and the sweat that gathered on the gas mask making it so difficult to see. I remember the sarcastic jokes – no wonder Darth Vader turned to the dark side!

I am not even sure I believe in the – It’s an internal matter, we shouldn’t get involved – excuse. Countries are very artificial entities, especially those carved out by colonialist interests. But people are human beings, whether Syrians, Afghans, Africans or Tibetans. The only thing that seems to differentiate is who sits in a country with oil.

With regard to Syria, I’m not even convinced that the line was not crossed long before the chemical attack.

But I’m also astounded at the United Nations. How we find ourselves in a situation whereby the world movement refuses to do anything but shake its head and wag a finger is beyond me. If the world expects America to police the world, a frightening prospect, why are we pumping money into the United Nations? If the US were to pull out, would the United Nations even exist?

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Brett D. Schaefer, the Jay Kingham Fellow in International Regulatory Affairs at Heritage’s Margaret Thatcher Center for Freedom claims that “the U.S. is currently assessed 22 percent of the U.N. regular budget and more than 27 percent of the U.N. peacekeeping budget” – source. If chemical warfare is a red line that has been crossed why is the US not giving 22% of a UN coalition?

Finally, the fact that President Obama felt he needed more than one man (namely himself) to makes the decision whether the US would strike Syria should not be construed as weakness … rather it is DEMOCRACY. I’m not sure how many 2nd-term presidents would take such a step. I doubt many and I support the President and his decision.

I care less for countries and more for the people who live in them. No one should have to live through a war, whether internal or not. If we truly treasure our freedom, we must understand that we are never free while others are not.

At what point in a war has a country (or faction) crossed the line? Probably when the first bullet is fired. What is clear: once you have fired chemical weapons, you are way past the line and must be stopped.

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Alon Shalev is the author of the 2013 Eric Hoffer YA Book Award winner, At The Walls of Galbrieth, Wycaan Master Book 1 and The First Decree, both released by Tourmaline Books. Ashbar – Book 3 – is due for release in October 2013. Shalev is also the author of three social justice-themed novels including Unwanted Heroes. He swears there is a connection. More at http://www.alonshalev.com and on Twitter (@elfwriter).

Next Stop – Fruitvale Station – Norm Weekes

I’d like to reach out of the screen of your laptop or phone and choke you by the throat until you promise to see the movie Fruitvale Station. But that would be wrong.

imagesFruitvale Station is the story of the murder of Oscar Grant by a BART policeman early New Year’s Day 2009. The audience gets to ride along with Oscar on his last day and reveals the imperfect but very human Oscar Grant. This is not a movie review. For the record it’s a stunning piece of filmmaking from the Bay Area’s own first time feature film director Ryan Coogler.

imgres-1Fruitvale Station also won the Grand Jury prize at Sundance so it’s not just me talking that talk. This transcends entertainment and becomes part of the discussion we won’t have about race in America. It’s the part of the race discussion about African American males as discounted, devalued and people to fear. Hard to emphasize with people you fear. If your empathy is missing Fruitvale Station will help you find it. Here is  an opportunity through the art of cinema to understand a segment of your community that you probably don’t know, may be terrified of and have trouble relating to.

Unless you work or live with the peeps you just know us from music, movies and News at 11. President Obama broke through the noise a bit in his “Listen Up White People” speech after the Trayvon Martin verdict but there will be no follow up. We always talk about having a discussion about race and never do it. I too am complicit. I think after the age of 12 it’s a useless conversation to have. The reason the Trayvon, Oscar and a long line of young African American men get murdered is because we’re demonized, stereotyped and dehumanized as part of the narrative. And the reason this continues is because we don’t know each other as people. We don’t break bread together, worship together or play together.

Fruitvale Station allows you, the good meaning person who is not racist but doesn’t really care about African Americans, a chance to relate without going through the trouble of actually having to spend time with us. It can’t get any more convenient than that. Want to get to know black folk without spending time with them?  There’s a not an app for that but there’s a movie for that!

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By the end of Fruitvale Station you’ll be balling your eyes out because you’ll know you have more in common with Oscar Grant and his family than you thought possible. Black kids have been killed and devalued in our society for longer than I can remember. See Fruitvale Station so the next time a cop, gang banger or neighborhood watchman executes an unarmed black kid you’ll feel the dimension of the tragedy.

If you want to connect with your fellow Americans start the trip at Fruitvale Station.

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Norm Weekes lives in the East Bay and volunteers with non-profits working in social justice and digital literacy. He is a volunteer at The Mentoring Center and Oakland Digital.

Morsi and Obama: A Tale of Two Presidents

I recently drove past a demonstration outside the Federal building in Los Angeles. A red stoplight had my car idling next to maybe fifty Egyptians and their allies. They were supportive of the army’s ouster of President Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood. Their signs showed their anger with President Obama who has called on the army to honor the democratic process. 

I have to admit that I am very torn here. The Egyptians did hold a democratic election. Sure, it might have been flawed with voter fraud, intimidation and other dirty tricks, and this should be condemned, but it was probably no worse than most other countries. Egypt has only just begun to walk the path of democracy. There will be bumps along the way. 

imagesOn the other hand, Morsi has done little to address the major problems facing Egypt such as poverty and the terrible violence on the streets, in particular directed at women, who are then shamed publicly after being raped and beaten. NPR have reported that more than 100 women who were at the demonstrations were attacked and many raped in public. 

President Morsi leads the Muslim Brotherhood, a popular Muslim organization that threatens all who fear religious extremisms and desire to live in a secular country.

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The fundamental question is whether the people (in this case led by the military) can justifiably remove a democratically elected leader if he is not doing his job. President Obama has weighed in and emphatically said no.

I understand his belief that only the democratic process can remove a leader. I think those who suggest that he is supporting a Muslim movement because of his past are being absurd and demeaning.

Many of us are frustrated that countries in Africa, Europe, and most recently in Syria, can destroy and massacre its people, without outside intervention. We draw red lines that are already baffling to the victims and then move those lines when it suits us.

I am not happy with religious extremism in any religion. I am deeply uncomfortable when a religious movement takes control of a country (in any way) and encroaches on the rights of those who do not follow that religion or are not as religious. 

But I am also uncomfortable with our government intervening with the internal affairs of other countries up to a point. I believe the United Nations (I know – I am referring to a fictitious effective organization) should set red lines and intervene when any government crosses that line.

Democracy is important and I believe I would take up arms to protect it. But a democratic government must protect its citizens and allow them to live in freedom, without intimidation or fear.

images-2President Morsi was democratically elected but he failed his people. And this is why he must be replaced. President Obama, who I unequivocally support, should make this distinction. Perhaps there is simply too much gray for us even to get involved.

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Alon Shalev writes social justice-themed novels and YA epic fantasy. He swears there is a connection. His latest books include: Unwanted Heroes and the 2013 Eric Hoffer Book Award for YA – At The Walls Of Galbrieth. Alon tweets at @alonshalevsf and @elfwriter.   For more about the author, check out his website.

 

The IRS “Scandal” – Tom Rossi

Bigger than the planet Jupiter! Heavier than the Sun! More important than World War II, the rise and fall of the Roman Empire, and Justin Bieber’s monkey problems, combined!

The “IRS scandal” is more in need of a cure than cancer. The Republicans and Tea Party types are pulling out their hair, running around in circles as if their hair were on fire, and screaming, “The sky is falling! The sky is falling!” Oh, how I’m enjoying the irony after years of hearing that environmentalists were “alarmists.”

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Not that this isn’t a serious issue, potentially. It would be pretty scary if the IRS could be used as a political tool. Just think of what that will mean the next time the pendulum swings back the Republican way. And, by the way, the same thing DID happen, in “reverse,” (and much worse) under the Bush administration. You can read all about it here.

But the key people at the IRS, at the time of the scandal, were either non-political appointments, or were appointed by President George W. Bush. For one thing, that tells me that they would be quite willing to tell us if they had been under pressure from President Obama to act in a certain way. But they aren’t saying that.

So then, one of two explanations must apply…

The first possibility is that these people at the IRS where doing their job. Who is more likely to cheat on their taxes than professed tax-haters? That’s one of the stated purposes of the Tea Party – activism against taxation. In addition, a tax-exempt entity must follow certain rules, among which being that any political activities undertaken must be in somewhat clear support of the group’s mission statement and, “We Hate Obama” is not an acceptable mission statement (nor is “We Hate Bush,” for that matter).

The second possibility is that this was the realization of a conspiracy against President Obama. The Republicans have been searching, waiting, and hoping for a “Monica Lewinsky” scandal that they could use to disable Obama’s presidency. People like Karl Rove don’t wait well. As one vulture said to the other, “Patience my ass. I’m going to kill something.”

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I actually think that the first possibility is more likely. The people who work for the IRS are very serious, boring, accounting-types. And the newer employees were essentially being tested on their ability to weed out those non-profit applicants that were pushing the rules a little too hard.

Some might raise a red flag, reminding us that big corporations and the super-wealthy get away with murder on their tax returns. This is true. But big corporations and the super-wealthy are powerful entities in this country. Powerful enough, in fact, that they don’t simply have to follow the law, they make laws. When they claim that they didn’t break any laws on their tax returns, they are mostly telling the truth. The corruption happened much further up the line. They have legalized their own tax cheating.

So, we have another hoax. And by “another,” I’m not referring to global warming which is, most unfortunately, real. I’m talking about things that supposedly prove a president is unfit to govern – things like the Lewinsky fiasco. This mainly happens because half of President Obama’s policies, like the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (now known universally as Obamacare) are actually what most of the people want, while the policies that aggravate the left, like continuing the permanent war doctrine, are things the Republicans want. So there’s nothing real that they can complain about and get any traction.

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So it goes. We are evidently incapable of having real discussions, in politics or in the media, about real issues. So we scream about haircuts and drinks of water and birth certificates, instead. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to seek some more intelligent entertainment. I think “Teletubbies” might be on the cartoon channel.

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-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.

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Blue Dresses and Saxophones – Roger Ingalls

Yesterday, standing with the parents who lost their young children in the Sandy Hook Elementary Schooling shooting, President Obama said: “All in all, today was a pretty shameful day for Washington.” I haven’t agreed with the President of late but his statement about the shameful voting of Senators to strike down background checks on gun buyers was on target.

According to a recent poll, 90 percent of US voters support enhanced screening of people purchasing guns. Yet, fifty-four Senators voted against the overwhelming will of the people.

The NRA stands against S. 649 even though seventy-four percent of their members support background checks. Going back on their word, the National Rifle Association threatened Senators in a letter prior to yesterday’s vote. Here’s one of their many statements, “Given the importance of these issues, votes on all anti-gun amendments or proposals will be considered in NRA’s future candidate evaluations.” The cowardly Senators decided it would be best to brown their noses in the buttocks of gun lobbyist rather than supporting the people they took an oath to represent.

For pleasuring the Saxophones (a.k.a. gun lobbyist), I give these despicable Senators the Blue Dress Award. A list of award recipients is shown below.

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Some may think my blue dress and saxophone analogy is disrespectful to the fifty-four nay-sayers but these political prostitutes were absolutely disgusting on April 17, 2013 for servicing special interest groups instead of representing their constituents.

Two Random Thoughts for the Week – Roger Ingalls

Background Check

Thought One: Gun Control

I’m pleasantly surprised. It appears two Washington politicians from different parties are advancing compromised legislation on a “kind of” gun control. I was stunned on two fronts. First, warring chieftains reaching across the Political Grand Canyon to strike a deal is amazing in today’s Washington environment. Second, the legislation they’re pushing forward is pretty good; in short, it requires background checks for gun buyers. This has an opportunity to pass and possibly keep weapons out of the hands of a few bad people. Anything else has no chance of getting through.

As I’ve said in past posts, it can’t hurt to make it more difficult for crazies and criminals. Also, I’m not in favor of outlawing assault rifles for law abiding citizen because they serve a constitutional purpose. However, handguns should be made illegal because they are constitutionally irrelevant (see past post).

It will be interesting to see how far this new gun control proposal makes it through the legislation process.

Planting

Thought Two: Planting Season

It’s time to plan your garden and get your seeds. Everyone should grow at least one green thing; a tomato bush or some basil. You’ll be amazed at the sense of empowerment, accomplishment and the ease of doing so. You’ll look at it and feel good, taste it and you’ll feel even better.

Just grow it!

Occupy Movement Endorsed by Washington – Roger Ingalls

After listening to President Obama’s State of the Union address, I couldn’t stop smiling. Similarly, I grinned during the last few months of the presidential election. The Occupy Movement is routinely portrayed by mainstream media and conservatives as a failure; however, reviewing the political chatter during the recent elections and the President’s speech on Tuesday, the Occupy influence is front and center.

Prior to the Occupy Movement, there was no media or political focus on the destruction of the middleclass, tax breaks for the wealthy, tax loopholes for corporations or the disparity between the 1%ers and 99%ers. The movement brought attention to all these topics and they were the main sound bites throughout the entire election season. Fast forward to Tuesday and a significant portion of the President’s time was dedicated to Occupy topics: 1) rebuilding the middleclass, 2) increasing wages for many Americans, 3) returning a fair tax burden to the wealthy and big business, 4) closing tax loopholes for corporations and 5) stopping corporate off-shore cash hoarding.

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When comparing the Tea Party and Occupy Movements, the latter has been much more beneficial to Middle America. The Tea Party has done nothing but create gridlock in Washington, slowing economic recovery. They’ve also placed political handcuffs on Republican Speaker of the House, John Boehner. He’s ineffective because the fanatical right is holding the larger conservative party hostage. Even though the Occupy Movement hasn’t received due credit, its original talking points are on the tongues of politicians today. In addition, a fairer tax burden was realized in January when taxes were increased on the wealthy; an original Occupy demand.

The media is no longer discussing the Occupy Movement but Washington’s politicians are endorsing it through action and sound bites.

The Gun Problem: Keeping It Simple – Roger Ingalls

Hand Gun Assault Rifle

Gun Suicides

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This is the problem

Closing note: Since the 27 deaths at Sandy Hook elementary school forty-nine days ago, more than 1400 peopled have been killed in the US with handguns (28 deaths per day for 49 straight days). A lot of energy, money and politicking is getting spent on the relatively insignificant issue of assault weapon deaths while the real problem of handgun killings is ignored. Sadly, political and media sound-biting wins the day. Please spread the truth, maybe we can focus attention on the real issue.

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