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 “republicans”

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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Whose Shutdown is it, Anyway? – Tom Rossi

The “debate” rages on. Are 1+1 really 2? Or are they 3? Is the Pope Catholic? Does a bear sh… Oh, forget it.

Here’s the “debate”: I want to cut off your legs with a chainsaw. What’s that? You don’t want to talk it over? You don’t want to sit down and negotiate? Hmmm… Well, let’s try something less extreme. I want you to give me 25% of your paycheck… every month. Whaaaaat? You don’t want to talk about that either??? Well, YOU are obviously the problem.

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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.

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The right-wing wants Obama to just turn around, let go of victory, and be defeated. And they want the same from the American people. Republicans (publicly, anyway) agree that health costs are out of control. But instead of making it cheaper for people, they want doctors and especially big medical businesses to be largely free from lawsuits, even when they do something terribly wrong.

Obamacare may only be a B- victory for the average citizen of the United States, but it’s all we’re going to get. We will not have “single payer” health care within the foreseeable future (unfortunately) so we have to hold on to our hard-won compromise like grim death.

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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.

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As a nation, we badly need to grow up. Countries with nowhere near our natural resource base have thriving economies and universal health care. Obamacare is an imperfect compromise, but a reasonable one. Let’s get on with our lives… and our health.

-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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Gun Control – A Picture Says A Thousand Words

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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 At The Walls Of Galbrieth. Alon tweets at @alonshalevsf and @elfwriter.  

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You Are Too Stupid – by Tom Rossi

Despite hundreds of millions of dollars spent, despite all the threats of terrorism and economic disaster, despite the cries of socialism, fascism, and even communism, you still re-elected Barrack Hussein Obama. For this reason, the Republican party has decided that what is needed is to simply take away your voting rights.

Ho hum, you say? “Wake up, Tom! Republicans have been trying to disenfranchise African-Americans, Hispanic Americans and other groups for years, if not centuries!” Well, yes… there is that. Let’s not go into a long history, but just give a quick review before we talk about the Republican party’s inspired new ideas (don’t you wish we had a convention on sarcasm in text, like it always appears in some ugly color, like baby-shit yellow?).

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Republicans have sponsored and in many cases put through bills in almost every state requiring state-issued, photo IDs to be presented by voters. This may sound simple, but many voters (many of the poorest voters) face considerable difficulties in getting those IDs. Besides, actual voter fraud hardly exists. They have sent out letters to legal immigrants – naturalized citizens – that they and/or their families will be deported if they attempt to vote. They sent out letters claiming that people can vote by phone… the day after the election. Several Republican Secretaries of State have adjusted voting hours and polling-place personnel levels in order to cause hours-long waits to vote in poor or just Democratic-leaning precincts. My hands are getting tired from typing – so I hope you get the picture.

But now, ladies and gentlemen, comes the main event. An idea, a proposition, more evil than Scarpia, more conniving than Iago, more heartless than Dick Cheney… Because you, my friends, are just too stupid… too stupid to vote for who you’ve been instructed (at great effort, I might add), the power to choose your president will be taken away. Not completely, mind you. But just enough to tip the balance, and to make sure that there are no more Romney-style humiliations.

Here’s the ingenious plan: Even while most Americans want to do away with the electoral college and elect the president directly by popular vote, the Republican leadership in several key. “swing” states want to take the electoral college much further. They want to use the gerrymandered congressional districts, within their borders, to determine the winner of the state’s electoral votes.

If these rules had been in place before the 2012 election, Romney would have won the presidency, despite having lost the popular vote, 47% to Obama’s 51%, a difference of about 5 million votes.

The inescapable conclusion from all this is that the Republican party (I’m not talking about ALL Republican voters, but the party’s leadership) hates democracy. And while it’s true that the Democratic party also works to change the balance of who votes in America, they work to get more people to vote, not less. That actually (and obviously) increases democracy.

This picture may have been faked, but I think it captures some real sentiment out there.

This picture may have been faked, but I think it captures some real sentiment out there.

To my many, many Republican readers out there, I ask: Will you sacrifice democracy in order to get your way? I sincerely believe that the answer will, from most, actual Republican voters, be “No!” You can’t love America and hate democracy. That would be the ultimate hypocrisy.

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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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Hatchets vs. Scalpels – Tom Rossi

Isn’t it a good idea to reduce the size of government? Well, I need to lose some weight. Maybe I’ll cut of an arm or a leg.

Think I’m exaggerating? The Republican dream is worse than cutting off your arm to lose weight. It’s more like cutting out half your liver, one of your lungs, and most of your small intestine. Half your brain must already have been cut out if you think this is a good idea.

Republicans want to cut the bread and butter of the majority of America’s citizens. They want to cut education, social services of many kinds, including services to disabled people, public safety, public transportation, food inspection, and environmental regulation. Some of these are actual sources of many people’s livelihoods, and others protect lives or livelihoods.

But worst of all, and so obviously, politically stupid as to amount to political suicide, is that Republicans want to cut Social Security (and/or privatize it) and Medicare. This would stab a large, jagged, rusty sword into the hearts of Republicans chief constituency: our growing population of those near or past the so-called “retirement age.”

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This group has largely supported the Republican party over the past several decades based on social issues: opposition to abortion, gay rights, etc. And, to some degree, this constituency has gone along with the ideas of personal responsibility, as opposed to having a government safety net to keep you from falling down the elevator shaft if you make the wrong choices. But cutting the sources of income and health-care for the top third of our demographic might be just the shock that would shake these voters loose.

It would be done on the promise that the United States would return to general prosperity if we just set free the incentives of huge, almost tax-free profits, while eliminating those annoying health, safety, and environmental regulations that are surely what are holding our economy back. The idea must be that the children of this age bracket would become so wealthy, with their shiny new corporate jobs that they would be able to buy houses, groceries, and box CD sets of the Beach Boys for their parents.

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Even if the theory were to magically work out, there would be a long lag time between dropping tax rates on the wealthy (even more), deregulating, and any theoretical benefits to the middle class. That lag time would be years, at a minimum. But, really, it would be eternal.

Let’s get real. If incomes are cut and/or costs for things like health care were to go up, a thing economists call “aggregate demand” would fall. In plain English, that means that people would have less available money to buy things. If they buy less, profits go down, not up. That means, according to conventional thinking, that they would hire fewer people, and maybe fire a few. That means that if you’re counting on sonny boy (or, uh, daughtery girl?) to finance your retirement, he’d have to prioritize that over replacing his kids’ shoes at least once a year.

There is certainly waste in our government which could and should be sought out and reduced as much as possible. But this ideology of cutting down the forests with machetes will do much more harm than good. We have been going down that path, farther and farther, for the past 40 years… and things have gotten worse or stayed flat for the middle class, while the very wealthy have raked in the cash and the improvements in standard of living.

We have to return to a reasonable balance in our country. Cutting off a limb is no way to achieve balance.

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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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Four More Years…Together

I realize this should be an emotional post but the truth is I’m exhausted: not burnt out, but simply running on empty. Given the prices of gas, that might not be a bad thing.

President Obama won. The Democratic agenda won.

But the reality is that we carried it with a little more than half the vote. 

America is slowly digging itself out of a deep hole. It is a hole that has taken its toll on 99% of us, many of whom did not vote for the President. The reality is that we must continue to dig ourselves out as one nation. There is not much of a margin of error, and we need to do it together. 

Many of the more extreme candidates lost and I believe this is important. We need a government that will work with the President and not against him. To do this, we need the support of those rational and patriotic Republicans, who did not vote for Barack Obama.

As such, it is not the time to be too self-congratulatory. It is not right to run the victory lap when there is still high unemployment, soldiers abroad, veterans suffering, rising homelessness, and an over-burdened education system.

It is time to reach out to our neighbors and harness the energy and commitment by activists of both sides, so that we can move this country forward together. Four more years yes…but together.

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Alon Shalev is the author of The Accidental Activist and A Gardener’s Tale. His next novel, Unwanted Heroes, is due out in early 2013. He is the Executive Director of the San Francisco Hillel Jewish Student Center, 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 – Socialist? Or Conservative? – Tom Rossi

By my estimation, Barrack Obama is the second most conservative American president, at least since WWII. You could say he’s tied for second with Bill Clinton, both following George W. Bush, but leading the conservative icon, Ronald Reagan, by a longshot.

Republicans have seized on President Obama’s three-legged horse of a health program and the end of “don’t ask, don’t tell” to label him as a liberal or even a “socialist.” And the idea that Americans actually deserve access to decent health care even if they aren’t too well off, financially, is certainly a radical one. I can easily see why Tea partiers compare Obama to Hitler (why isn’t there a text treatment, along the lines of underlining or italicizing, to denote sarcasm?).

Obama went along with the bank bailout. He has nixed any prosecution of the corporate criminals in the banking and finance industries whose fraudulent con-artistry landed us in this economy. He has pushed “NAFTA on Steroids,” also know as the Trans-Pacific Partnership. He’s increased the secrecy of the government. He’s visciously persecuted “whistle-blowers.” He’s deported many thousands of immigrants. He has renewed the Bush tax cuts for the very wealthy. His economic policies are clearly designed to put the train back on the tracks that lead over a cliff – the same tracks George W. Bush and Bill Clinton had us on.

And when it comes to war… where do I start? He “ended” (sort of) the war in Iraq, while greatly stepping up the war in Afghanistan. He has employed the use of drone aircraft, basically to assassinate our enemies, along with anyone who happened to be standing around in the vicinity. All while curtailing attempts to get our war on the environment under control. He’s also allowed more oil drilling than ever in our history, allowed the insane patent-mania to continue and get worse, and allowed completely reckless genetic engineering to go even further. 

Liberal? Socialist??? Ha! This is why (and I’ve said this before) I’m voting for Dennis Kucinich. Or maybe Elizabeth Warren. Or maybe Bernie Sanders. Someone who actually wants to bring about some sense of balance to this country and not simply to let money determine our fate – as a nation and for every individual.

When I tell people of my little scheme, the reaction is often uproar, indignation, or disdain. “Think of what will happen if Mitt Romney is elected!” They say. “Think of how much worse things will be – for economics, for the environment, for women, for minorities…” To all of you who say these things to me, you… are right. The next four years would be even worse if Romney becomes president. And the effects could go on much longer.

Obama is clearly the lesser of two evils. It’s really a matter of how fast do you want to drive to hell? So am I giving up and saying, “Let’s just hurry up and get there?” No.

The time has come for drastic action. No, I’m not talking about any kind of violence. I’m saying that we need to convince the Democratic party that, if they keep just towing the corporate line (just a little less that the Republicans) then they will lose. If they continue to leave those of us who see a little further into the future, who actually care about the health and well-being of our grandchildren (or other people’s grandchildren), and who can actually imagine a world where war doesn’t take so many lives and take up so many resources completely unrepresented, they will lose.

There is little or no hope for a third party that will change things. The democrats need to know, beyond any doubt, that they lost by neglecting a huge part of their base. The Republicans and thinly-disguised Republicans, who go by various code names, will always stop their whining and unite. We’ve heard, over and over, about how disatisfied some Republicans and all Tea partiers are with Mitt Romney. But every single one of these people will still vote for him.

We need to stop voting for second-worst. We need for the Democrats to have the guts to say, “We want less war, more human well-being, and more justice. And if that makes us “liberals,” then we will live with it.”

These are the principles that liberals stand for. Not equal outcomes. Not rewarding laziness. Not government takeover. Those are all idiotic labels that the other side finds useful.

I want President Obama to come very close to losing because people voted for true progressives. If he actually loses, that’s fine. We must be willing to sacrifice four years for our long term future.

-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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Guest Post: Matt Fielding – The Accidental Activist

The following post has been written by Matt Fielding, the fictional protagonist of The Accidental Activist. The struggle by two young people not to cower to the bullying of a multinational corporation (the real McLibel trial) upon which the story is loosely based, is as relevant today as it was 15 years ago.

Over to you, Matt.

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Thanks, Alon. I am truly humbled that an author would stil feel so connected to his characters years after he finished writing The Accidental Activist. I feel that after the Democratic Party Convention (and the Republicans, last week) that our message is just as important today as then.

Don’t get me wrong. When the multinational sued my girlfriend, Suzie, and her colleague, Bill, I was stunned. How could the British judicial system not protect their rights, not provide legal aid,  not come to their aid. The reality is that this astonishingly became the longest trial in British history because many, many people got involved. This was always a grassroots campaign.

Shalev saw fit to make me his protagonist, not just because my role as the web designer was significant (the Oilspill.com website was probably the first ever interactive advocacy website, a conduit for the free flow of information on a global level,  that enabled Suzie and Bill to act and respond at the necessary legal level without any formal training), but because of who I was – a regular guy, just like you.

The real website – McSpotlight.org

Let me be honest: Before meeting Suzie, I couldn’t have told you the names of our government’s cabinet members. I knew more about Arsenal Football Club’s reserve side than our shadow cabinet and, being in opposition meant Chelsea, Manchester United, Barcelona, and Liverpool, not the Conservatives, Liberals or the Green Party.

I only got involved because I fancied Suzie (love came along, but much later) and wanted to date her. I can’t tell you at what point I became politically aware, or at what point it went beyond personal, but it did.

This reckless multinational corporation, like so many today, hurt many people I loved and respected. My friends became victims to a business model fueled by the pain and destruction left in its wake, the devastating effect these companies have on the individual who willingly or unwillingly gets in the way of their profit margin.

I admit I was a self-absorbed yuppie out to get laid. But it was when I read The Accidental Activist that I understood the personal transformation that I underwent. And if my story can in any way help someone else make the personal changes necessary to help this embattled world of ours become a better place, well, I am proud to have been the protagonist of The Accidental Activist.

The conventions were pretty, slick, and occasionally amusing. But they were made for TV, for the passive viewing of a population who have become desensitized to real advocacy and are willing to allow the politicians and mass media to spin whatever message they want. Accountability is almost non-existant as politician after politician,  who in any other work sector would have been fired a long time ago, continue to pass the blame and hide behind pretty rhetoric. The debt crises didn’t happen last night, neither did the social security fiasco, diminishing education and healthcare and…well you get the picture.

And the media lap it up. Why not? It makes their life easier. The Internet offers a chance to break this conspiracy. It has helped bring down dictators – it can change the face of our political system – but only if we the people want it bad enough.

The Accidental Activist is as relevant today as it was in the 90’s.

Matt Fielding
Oilspill.com Webmaster.

The real heroes – Helen Steel and Dave Morris

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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 ahttp://www.alonshalev.com/and on Twitter (#alonshalevsf).

Final Gun Post (for now)

I realize that I have become rather obsessed with the topic but I will try and make this the final post for a while. I have a feeling that I know on what social issue the next novel will focus.

Sifting through the material that I collected are five more excellent articles regarding gun control that have appeared in the Atlantic.

Light  Reading (not). Enjoy.

  • · The Story of a Gun (1993) Erik Larson traces the history of a particular gun that was used to commit a school shooting.
  • · The False Promise of Gun Control (1994) Daniel B. Polsby argues against gun control by pointing out that criminals will always be able to find guns, but honest people won’t be able to defend themselves if restrictions are tightened.

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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).

NRA Supported Gun Control Pt. 3 of 3

This is the final part of a series from last week based upon a great article from The Atlantic by Adam Winkler  The Secret History of Guns. In the previous post, we discussed how the NRA have taken roles in the past to support gun control policy.

There are other historical examples of the NRA supporting gun control. In the 1930’s, the NRA endorsed the National Firearms Act of 1934, aimed at stemming the distribution of “gangster guns” like semi-automatic and sawed-off shotguns.

The NRA was not a blond supporter, objecting to including handguns, for example, but supported what Frederick defined as “reasonable, sensible, and fair legislation.”

In the aftermath of the tragic assassination of President John F. Kennedy in 1963 the NRA again supported gun control. The assassin, Lee Harvey Oswald, had purchased his gun from a mail-order advertisement in the NRA’s American Rifleman magazine. The NRA’s Executive Vice President, Franklin Orth, testified: “We do not think that any sane American, who calls himself an American, can object to placing into this bill the instrument which killed the president of the United States.”

The NRA did not favor stricter proposals such as a national gun registration, but did support the Gun Control Act of 1968.

What we learn from this historically is that the NRA and Republicans in general, do not have to automatically fight every attempt at gun control.

The US Supreme Court in 2008 clearly defined the Second Amendment as guaranteeing the rights of the individual to bear arms. However, Justice Antonin Scalia, pulled on this past realism when he wrote: ” should be taken to cast doubt on longstanding prohibitions on the possession of firearms by felons and the mentally ill, or laws forbidding the carrying of firearms in sensitive places such as schools and government buildings, or laws imposing conditions and qualifications on the commercial sale of arms.”

While the Founders did impose their own form of gun control, no law of their design compares to Scalia’s list of Second Amendment exceptions. “They had no laws banning guns in sensitive places, or laws prohibiting the mentally ill from possessing guns, or laws requiring commercial gun dealers to be licensed. Such restrictions are products of the 20th century. Justice Scalia, in other words, embraced a living Constitution.”

Ironically, in this lies our hope for a consensus. If Justice Scalia sees the need for limitations, then he is only following a long line of conservative, responsible thinks that include leaders of the NRA, Ronald Reagan and the Republican Party, and maybe even the Founding Fathers.

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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).

 

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