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 “Roger Ingalls”

Not Ready for Hillary, and Other Basic Laws of Nature – Tom Rossi

It’s been a while since I copycatted one of Roger’s ideas. So here we go with a collection of mini-rants on things that seem obvious to me…

I’m not ready for Hillary. I know her people went through a lot of trouble to come up with that cute little piece of wit, but Hillary Clinton is a hawk and she’s also an unquestioning believer in the brand of economics that lead to disaster and is basically a system of justification for chasmic separation between the “haves” and have-nots.” Being a hawk, she is pro-war. That means that she has supported war as a “solution” where it was not even close to appropriate.

Ready for Hillary bumper stickers

I’m going to come into disagreement with a lot of liberals on this one, and maybe even some of my co-writers, here, but I just don’t get it. Hillary is your standard issue politician, unremarkable in any way whatsoever. People can’t tell me why they support Hillary, only that they do. People have told me that they are “fans” of Hillary. Yuck. Before the 2008 election, other people told me they were “fans” of Sarah Palin. That statement kept me awake at night for weeks.

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And why? Why, why, why, can you not buy a can of soup anymore that doesn’t have celery in it? I hate celery! I know some people like it, but it takes over the taste of a soup like putting a bunch of garlic in there would. Leave it out, people! It’s basically a cheap filler that makes it seem like there’s something other than broth in the soup. I’d rather have broth.

Another thing: It seems that, lately, the amount of time that television shows of all types spend at commercial has finally equaled the airtime of the show, itself. I’m at the point where I keep a list of things I see in commercials just so I can avoid those products.commimage I’m sick of hearing how my life will be a big dance party if I buy a friggin’ Toyota or how cool and macho I’ll be if I buy a Pontiac or what a unique individual I would be if I bought an Infinity. Is anybody really still stupid enough to think that their car defines or changes who they are? Really???? Save some money, go on a vacation to someplace cool. The end.

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And why do I keep seeing Dick Cheney on television?!?!? The GOP must pay TV stations directly to give us fake “stories” about his fake heart. The GOP doesn’t realize that, if you look really closely, you can see the spots where he shaves down the horns, every day. But hey, keep it up. He is about as effective a spokesman as Sarah Palin was. He’s so thoroughly un-charismatic that people naturally want to think the opposite of whatever he says. Keep it up.

-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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When Blogging Becomes A Way Of Life

Three years ago, when I signed with Three Clover Press to release The Accidental Activist, I made a commitment to reach 1,000 blog posts in three years. This was based upon the belief that the blog creates a live and interactive platform with ever-changing content and feeds the more static website. Left Coast Voices was born.

 “The richest people in the world build networks. Everyone else looks for work.” Robert Kiyosaki

I will get there by the end of the year, but I never expected to be as enthused today as I was when I wrote those first posts. At the time, I wanted to build a platform, to get my name out and direct people to my books. I wrote extensively about multinationals when The Accidental Activist was released – this being my favorite, and about war veterans after the release of Unwanted Heroes.

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At the time, I felt like one of a few who were consistently blogging and it wasn’t long before Lloyd Lofthouse, author and mentor to me, and I were being invited to speak about blogging.

But blogging has come a long way in these past few years and it is difficult to imagine how to get heard above the noise. There are a few who build a loyal following. I wake up every morning, make coffee and faithfully read the daily Arseblog post – which provides me with more than just the latest news of my favorite soccer team. A bloke in Ireland is pounding the keyboards every day. He has a podcast once a week and is now offering a Google Hangout where he brings other Arsenal bloggers on board. And I lap it up…every day without fail.

imagesAs I approach the 1,000th post, I am wondering where I want to take the blog. I love the contributions of Tom Rossi on Tuesdays and Roger Ingalls on Thursdays. Norm Weekes chips in every month or so with a powerful message, and it sometimes has a feeling of community.

So, if you have a minute, please answer the following three questions in the comments below:

1. What do you like about Left Coast Voices?

2. What would you like to see more of?

3. Are a variety of topics a good or frustrating thing?

If you are interested in joining the team and having a weekly post on the blog, please shoot me an email at alshalev at yahoo dot com.

Have a great weekend, everyone. Thank you for being part of this exciting journey.

This post was inspired by the great bloggers at Savvy Writers. Their post includes an excellent visual analysis of who is blogging and why. They also deserve the credit for the Robert Kiyosaki quote (as does Robert, of course for saying it!). Any author would be well-advised to follow their blog for really good social media articles.

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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).

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).

A Family Fun Garden – Roger Ingalls

If you’re contemplating a garden and want the entire family involved, consider building an aquaponic garden.

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Aquaponics is a constructed ecosystem based on fish, plants and beneficial bacteria that harnesses nature’s propensity to create balanced growth while conserving resources (water, nutrients and energy). Essentially, one life form benefits the next in a re-circulating system. Beneficial bacteria create a probiotic environment where fish waste (poop and ammonia) is converted into nitrite and then nitrate which is a usable form of natural fertilizer for plants. In turn, the plants remove the nitrate from the water to fuel their growth leaving clean water for the fish. Other than a little water, the only input is food for the fish. Since fish are cold-blooded, they waste no energy regulating their body temperature making them efficient consumers of food. On average, two pounds of food adds one pound of weight to a fish compared to 16 pounds of cattle feed to produce one pound of beef. Another benefit of using fish waste for fertilizer is there’s no risk of E coli poisoning commonly attributed to waste from warm-blooded livestock.

Aquaponic Benefits:

1)      Up to 10 times more vegetables per given space relative to standard soil gardening.

2)      The plants grow twice as fast because nutrient packed water is supplied straight to the root.

3)      Since there is no soil, there’s no soil borne pests, no weeds so no pesticides or herbicides are needed.

4)      Aquaponics uses 95% less water than conventional farming or gardening.

5)       No daily watering is required since plants grow in a re-circulating water system.

6)      Both plants and fish are grown creating two sources of food (meat protein and vegetables).

7)      Overall, aquaponics uses 70% less energy than conventional farming.

8)       It’s all organic, no fossil fuel based fertilizers or pesticide.

9)      It can be replicated anywhere on Earth.

The most productive farm in the USA is in the middle of Milwaukee WI. This three acre urban farm, Growing Power, produces one million pounds of food per year.

Go to youtube.com, type in aquaponics and you’ll be hooked. There will be videos and plans to build a system perfect for any household. It can be as simple as a small goldfish bowl, one goldfish, a $5 air pump, plastic tubing and a basil starter from the local hardware store. The little fish will poop which fertilizes the basil plant and the plant will clean the water to keep the fish healthy. All you have to do is feed the goldfish and added a little water now and then. The whole family will enjoy the experience and the organic basil.

Seriously, go to youtube and check it out. You will be amazed by the rapid growth of this new farming method.

The Three R’s – Adopt An Author

‘Tis the season of goodwill and I’m thinking we should share the love. 

In Judaism, the teacher Maimonides offered eight levels of giving – the highest being to help a person find a sustainable way to lift themselves out of poverty. I have written numerous times about micro-lending, which I think is an amazing solution, but I want to focus on the world of writers. There are many new authors out there and they need a lift up to be noticed.

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I want to invite you to adopt the three R’s and adopt an author for a few months. Disclaimer – you are about to discover I am dyslexic!

R – Read the work of the author. There is no bigger compliment for someone who has spent years writing a novel than to have others read it. Believe me – when I receive a tweet or email from someone I don’t know and they tell me they are reading my books, I get so excited. 

R – Rite about the person. No put away that athame (Pagan ritual dagger) away, but make your computer your sacred space. (W)rite to friends recommending the author, blog about her/him, or comment on other people’s blogs, take to the twitterverse – it works!

R – Review. Despite the controversy surrounding paid reviews, it is still one of the most powerful tools that helps a person perusing amazon, smashwords, B&N, goodreads, etc.

 

Here are a few other ways to help a struggling author (I couldn’t find an R to begin the sentence!): 

1.     Buy their book, if not for yourself, then as a gift for a friend’s birthday, or instead of a bottle of wine next time you’re invited for dinner. Maybe as a Xmas/Chanukah/Kwanzaa present. Did you know that you can buy an e-book as a gift and send it to your friend’s e-Reader?

2.     Know someone who is in a book club? Suggest that they nominate your friend’s book for the group to read.

3.     Donate a copy of their book in a fundraising raffle or silent auction as a prize. It is great exposure.

4.     Hug an author. It won’t propel them into the New York Times Bestseller list, but it means a lot.

This is my final post for the year. I want to thank each and every one of you for taking a few moments each day and sharing our blog posts, agreeing, disagreeing, laughing and sighing. Thank you to Tom Rossi and Roger Ingalls for offering different voices and enriching the discussion.

Wishing everyone a year of peace and meaning.

Alon 

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Alon Shalev is the author of three social justice-themed novels: Unwanted Heroes, The Accidental Activist and A Gardener’s Tale. 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).

 

 

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.

There Back: Killer Cantaloupe – Roger Ingalls

I’m starting to sound like a broken record with my reoccurring posts about the far reaching poisoning caused by industrialized farming. Today, a single mega-farm can have a single quality oversight and people across the country will get ill or die. It happens two or three times a year.

Here are my previous posts on the subject:

1)      Killer Cantaloupe, September 2011

2)      A Toilet Bowl of Food, June 2011

3)      Strawberries to Die For, September 2001

It’s August 2012 and here we go again with two more occurrences of produce poisoning; a lettuce recall due to E.coli and cantaloupe illnesses due to salmonella. These recent events have caused death and sickness across multiple states.

When will we learn that a centralized food system is not only environmentally disastrous but also puts too many people at risk? It’s amazing that we continue to endorse this food system.

Responsible farming has given way to energy intensive factory farms and as a result, there’s been a change in how food animals are raised and crops are grown. Instead of many decentralized mom-and-pop farms feeding the local population, we now have a small quantity of mega-farms supplying the far reaches of the country.

The solution is locally grown food. If an E.coli, listeria or salmonella outbreak does occur, it is locally contained and only a few people are affected. In addition, local production simulates the economy, creates jobs, uses less energy and has a smaller impact on the environment.

We have choices. Save your life, your family and the planet by buying locally produced goods.

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).

 

 

 

Tweeting Freedom of Speech Pt. 2

On Monday we delved into the potential of Twitter as an effective tool for social change and the legal measures that some regimes have taken to curb twitter in their country. Twitter complies with any legal demand that is not restricted to unrest but covers in this country copyright infringement and child pornography.

Twitter does seek to maintain an open trail. It shares all requests for removal though a website called Chilling Effects. This website was created to advocate for freedom on the Internet and, in fact, members of Twitter’s staff are active on the website. In fact, Alexander Macgillivray, a former Google lawyer, and now Twitter’s general counsel, helped create the chillingeffects.org website while at Harvard, as well as crafting Twitter’s censorship policies.

 Twitter stated in a recent post: “One of our core values as a company is to defend and respect each user’s voice. We try to keep content up wherever and whenever we can, and we will be transparent with users when we can’t.”

Twitter has received praise from a number of free-speech activists who suggest that Twitter’s attempts at transparency have helped them. One such activist, Zeynep Tufekci, who is an assistant professor at the University of North Carolina and a fellow at the Harvard Berkman Center for Internet and Society, was surprised to find herself praising, not condemning, the policies of an Internet company.

“Twitter is setting the bar as high as it can,” Tufekci said. “It does not deserve the reaction it’s getting.”

Jillian York, who is director for international freedom of expression at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, agrees with Tufekci. “Once people see how Twitter is implementing this, they will calm down.”

State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland credited Twitter with being transparent about its approach to censorship but said it was too early to tell if policy would harm users.

However, many remain angry with Twitter for what they clearly define as censorship and are demanding that the new policy is dropped.

Twitter’s executive chairman received a letter from Reporters Without Borders who summed up the sentiment on the street: “Twitter is depriving cyber dissidents in repressive countries of a crucial tool for information and organization.”

And this is why Twitter’s actions, which curtail instant self-expression and communication, have led to political protests throughout the world.

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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).

Tweeting Freedom of Speech Pt 1

I have been getting into Twitter over the past month, thanks to a workshop at a local brewery (always the best kind) by fellow Left Coast Voices blogger, Roger Ingalls. In a few months, I have steadily attracted more than 10,000 twitter followers and stream this blog to them (@alonshalevsf). In addition, I have gathered more than 8,000 followers for my @elfwriter twitter and blog.

I had originally dismissed Twitter as a platform claiming that it lacked depth. How can you have a conversation with 140 characters? I really began to reevaluate Twitter while watching its role and impact  in the Arab Spring. Suddenly this tool, as a focus for freedom of speech,  became particularly inspiring.

Twitter are well aware of this. Chief Executive Officer, Dick Costolo, refers to it as “the free speech wing of the free speech party,” and Jack Dorsey, the creator of Twitter, even named one of their conference rooms “Tahrir Square” as a point of pride at the role that Twitter played in the Egyptian uprising.

So I became somewhat disillusioned to read that Twitter are considering curbing our freedom. In what many view as an about-face, Twitter now says it has the power to block tweets in a specific country if the government legally requires it to do so, triggering outrage around the world, especially in Arab countries.

Dissidents and activists fear the new policy will stifle free speech and thousands of users are threatening to boycott Twitter.

“Is it safe to say that Twitter is selling us out?” asked Egyptian activist Mahmoud Salem.

Twitter isn’t alone in its struggle to find a way of maintaining its economic goals while considering itself the free speech platform. Facebook, Google and Yahoo all tentatively try and work around complex laws and state-imposed restrictions used to suppress dissident voices and spread the party line.

All these companies have taken down material posted through their sites because a regime felt threatened by the content or deemed it illegal.

However, Twitter insists that it remains fully committed to free speech. When Twitter removes a tweet, it no longer vanishes from the Web, like it used to. In other words, when a tweet violates the law in one country, it will  still be on the Internet in other countries.

The company will only remove tweets when there is sound legal standing in the specific country and claim this will happen only after an internal review. They will also post a censorship notice whenever a tweet is removed.

This creates an interesting dilemma. Tweets have a very short lifetime. They are soon buried under an avalanche of other tweets, whether from the same person or others in their following. This can often happen in under a minute and I am guessing that in a situation such as we saw unfold in Tahrir Square, it is a matter of seconds. How effective and timely can an internal review be?

More on Internet censorship on 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).

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