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 “Tom Rossi”

Tom Rossi R.I.P

I know its been a while since I wrote anything on Left Coast Voices but I feel compelled to. It’s 1am on Sunday morning and I am staring at the sad news: Tom Rossi, a contributor to the blog, passed away last week after a tragic car accident.

I admit we grew apart at some point, life just got in the way, as it does with so many friends. We only realize, of course, when it’s too late. I wish we had been in touch around the election – before and after. I could use his strength and sense of humor right now.

Tom wrote some great posts: politically cutting, cynical, funny, and satirical. He hid his frustration with the injustices of our world because he was too smart to be able to ignore it.He fought his own personal battles, but never gave up on the collective struggle.

I guess the best tribute I can manage right now is share some of his contributions:

Healthcare.gov, Oh My!

Technicolor Cough?

Left Coast Nihilism 

Tuolumne Meadows, Yosemite

… and my favorite:  Gordon Gekko Lives

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My thoughts and sympathy go out to Marianne Ingheim Rossi, his dear wife. I cannot imagine what it is like to lose your soul mate. I hope you will find the strength you need.

There will be a memorial next Sunday and details will be posted here.

R.I.P Tom! I’m sure you’re up there already campaigning for equal rights for angels. I hope we will honor you by continuing the good fight.

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Alon Shalev is the author of the 2013 Eric Hoffer YA Book Award winner, At The Walls of Galbrieth, and five other Wycaan Master books all released by Tourmaline Books. The link above takes you to the Kindle versions. For all other eReaders, please click hereMore information at http://www.alonshalev.com and on Twitter (@elfwriter).

 

 

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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.

Heroes Low Res Finished Cover 11.18

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).

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).

 

 

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).

 

 

 

Is Justice Roberts a Friend to Health Care? – Tom Rossi

Writers, pundits, television reporters, everyone in any kind of media, even those thought of as “liberal,” have all taken Justice John Roberts’ apparent break from the conservative cabal on the Supreme Court at face value. I’m shocked at the lack of conspiracy theories on this and, frankly, I’m bored.

The term “conspiracy theory” is used to instantly discredit an idea by ridiculing it as crackpot-ish. America is in love with the image of the lone, crazed individual, just like it’s in love with rugged individualism.

Fiction, not reality!

And we would love to think that Justice Roberts somehow and suddenly saw the light of reason, that he realized the importance of health care availability or, as Robert Reich said, the importance of the court’s public image. But Citizens United and Justice Alito’s subsequent mouthed denial of any reversal of precedent (at President Obama’s State of the Union Address) make those explanations seem unlikely.

There has been plenty of evidence that Justice Roberts and the other, even more hard-line right-wing ideologues on the Supreme Court bench have taken their marching orders from conservative strategists. In the Citizens United decision, the conservative members of the court took the opportunity to form a new doctrine that far overreached the case that had been presented to it.

Let me be clear about Citizens United and the Supreme Court – the aggravating thing wasn’t so much that the court found for what I or “liberals” would consider the “wrong side.” It was that the conservative wing of the court took a very narrow case with specific issues, and generalized the ruling in an expansive and even illogical way. It was as if they were called upon to rule on whether a runner had beaten the throw to first base and was therefore safe, but they also ruled that umpires could fly kites during the game and that the fans could wear blue on Tuesdays but not Wednesdays.

There is really no explanation for this other than that these justices were granting an unpublished (but obvious) corporate “wish list.” And even though I’ve semi-conflated “conservatives” and corporations, this, along with the outrage of everyday, non-super-wealthy conservatives, showed exactly who or what was being served.

This leads me to wonder about this mysterious decision on so-called “Obamacare.” Could this have been a strategy by conservatives? Could this have been an attempt to tip the scales in favor of Mitt Romney and other conservatives (who all vow to eliminate Obamacare) running for congress in November, 2012?

The following method is somewhat teleological, but let’s try to figure out how such a strategy would best be implemented in this case. It wouldn’t be shrewd to have all the conservative justices side with the legitimacy of Obamacare, that would give it real credibility. Much better to have one wildcat, one rogue justice who split, leaving conservatives in their cherished victim role.

And, in fact, it was Justice Roberts who was to write the majority opinion for this case. How different might it have been if Justice Sotomayor had written it? Or Justice Breyer? Roberts allowed the central principle of Obamacare to stand, the individual mandate, by calling it that dirtiest of words… a tax. In fact, he implied that it was a tax used as a punishment.

Within minutes, the Republicans, Senators, Representatives, governors, and the rare Republican bathroom attendants were crying: “Tax!” “Tax on the middle class!” I can’t say if this was prepared before-hand, or if it was deliberately orchestrated, but it was like the freakin’ Mormon Tabernacle Choir – perfect unison.

I don’t know what really happened inside or outside Justice Roberts’ round little head, but given what he and his court have done so far – followed an astonishingly blatant, conservative activist agenda while decimating the rule of law, I’m suspicious.

-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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Is the Tea Party Taking Over… Again???? – Tom Rossi

Here we go again. The press is all excited about the Tea Party because they ousted Richard Lugar as the Republican candidate for the Senatorial race in one of America’s reddest states, Indiana.

The Tea Party has garnered support from plenty of everyday Americans. These are mostly the people who look at their paychecks and see the amounts subtracted for various taxes and get extremely upset. All they can see is money being taken away from them and this is their primary concern.

What if, just for the sake of argument, we were to grant the idea that taxes are good for nothing and simply represent a “taking” by a government that is totally detached from the people? Then, what if taxes suddenly disappeared, with no measurable effects on daily life (somehow). Would people keep that money that had once gone to taxes?

The answer is no. Labor (whether it be skilled, unskilled, blue-collar, white-collar, or whatever) is a rare example of a principle of conventional economics that actually describes the truth. Labor works on supply and demand.

To keep the numbers simple, let’s just say that Joe the software engineer gets a salary of $100,000 per year. Under the “old” way, he paid $25,000 in taxes, after taking a few deductions, and so takes home $75,000. But now, after taxes have been done away with, he gets to keep the whole $100,000, right?

Wrong. Why would Joe’s company, Frustrating User Interface Incorporated, continue to pay him $100,000 when he used to be willing to work for $75,000 in take-home pay? They wouldn’t because they wouldn’t have to.

Companies pay the minimum that they can to get the labor that they need. It would be incredibly foolish to do otherwise. Workers determine the level at which they will accept a job by their calculated take-home pay – the net, not the gross. That’s the “supply” price for a worker’s labor.

Because of this, if taxes were eliminated, corporations would use the usual tricks, eliminating (then re-creating) positions, claiming hardship, etc., to knock their workers salaries down to the same old, “willing to work” levels. Joe used to take home $75,000, and now, without taxes, it’s the same.

Of course, the real story would be much worse than this. If taxes are significantly decreased, lots of people who work in the kinds of services that would be poorly provided by purely private enterprise would lose their jobs. This would flood the market with available labor (the REAL plan of the corporate masters) and salary levels would be pushed down even further than in the previous example.

And we would have no libraries, a lot fewer schools, little fire protection, and so many other deficits in our way of life.

If you’re proud to be an American, proudly pay your taxes. You are contributing to something imperfect but great.

-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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Occupying an Agenda

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

Occupy SF

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

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

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

Will people come out in the rain?

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

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

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

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

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

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

More on this second aspect next Wednesday.

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

Bank Transfer Day

A friend of mine was frustrated with the General Strike on Wednesday in Oakland and with the Occupy Wall Street in general. While a member of the 99% and sympathetic to the cause, she had just heard from a worker at the Port of Oakland, who is paid hourly and worried that he lost a day’s income that he needs to feed his family.

From Star Wars to General Strike.  – Thank you to Oakland Mofo for the beautiful photo. 

We are hurting the very people we are supposed to be fighting for, she said (these are my words). Do you really think we hurt the 1% at the ports? She went on to complain that it is frustrating that there is no clear agenda and no clear tactics that will hurt those we are challenging to change their selfish and greedy practices.

She is right. I think I argued with her and probably lost because I knew she is right (Don’t tell her I wrote this!). I reminded her about the post that my colleague Tom Rossi wrote with a clear list of demands, but I had to concede about tactics.

But today, we can do something…and I mean today. As part of the Occupy Wall Street campaign there is a call for people to move their money from for-profit financial institutions to credit unions. So far, almost 80,000 people have made the commitment on Facebook to “send a clear message that conscious consumers won’t support companies with unethical business practices.”

Patelco – my credit union

 

More than $4.5 billion have been moved into new savings accounts in credit unions according to CUNA. 80% of credit unions  are recording significant member growth since the campaign began at the end of September, which was a reaction to the debit card fees that have since been dropped. 

Skeptics say that even if the entire 80,000 were to move their money, this would represent less than 1% of just Bank of America’s customers. There is an estimated $7.5 trillion in banks, including loans and savings. B of A has 57 million customers.

However, there is potential here to make Wall Street listen, even if not to bring it to its knees. The rescinding of the debit card charges is a good lesson. Even when chasing the most profit, a company, even one the size of B of A has to listen to its clients.

And what if every one of those 80,000 who signed up persuaded 5 of their friends. 400,000 people could transfer $30 million. November 5th was the date set for protestors to complete their transfers because the organizers wanted to create a measurable impact. I regret not writing on this earlier. But even if you cannot get out today and transfer your money, or want to research deeper, the banks will take notice if more people continue to protest by moving money into the people-friendly (and people-owned) credit unions. 

Thought the organizers of Bank Transfer Day want to distance themselves from Occupy Wall Street, history (and even in a year’s time) just might record Bank Transfer Day as the most effective measure to come out of this time period. It might also be a turning point in the utilization of the Internet to make strategic strikes and to conduct dissent away from demonstrations, something which is often regarded by people as intimidating.

And perhaps in a year, my friend and I might look back on this period of time together as one of change and one of pride.

 

 

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

Exciting News! Please Help.

Yesterday I learned that Left Coast Voices has been nominated for CBS San Francisco’s Most Valuable Blog 2011. This is a huge compliment for Tom Rossi, Roger Ingalls and myself and I want to take the opportunity to thank Tom and Roger for their hard work.

PLEASE VOTE for our blog in the awards (you can vote once a day) at http://sanfrancisco.blogger.cbslocal.com/most-valuable-blogger/vote/misc/

My good friend, Kymberlie, also has her blog in the reckoning (at the same link). You can check it out here. She has a landmark birthday on Sunday, so I’ll be voting for her that day. Happy Birthday, Kymberlie.
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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 http://www.alonshalev.com/and on Twitter (#alonshalevsf).

Doing Business With Autocracies

In a recent blog post, my colleague, Tom Rossi, said that corporations are in existence solely to make money, not to better our society. I was thinking of this when I came across an article in the New York Times about American companies enthusiastically doing business with China, and in particular, collaborating on projects that provide effective tools to quash protests and free speech.

Installing surveillance cameras

Here are a few examples:

– Cisco Systems (among others) are creating the biggest police surveillance system in the world through a government contract in the city of Chongqing.

– Microsoft’s search engine, Bing, still censors searches in China. Earlier this month, it agreed to provide search results in English for Baidu, China’s leading — and heavily censored — engine. This is taking place 18 months after Google, to avoid aiding the government with such censorship, pulled its search engine out of China.

The Consequences:

1) Shi Tao sits in prison for a 10 year sentence after Yahoo provided copies of his emails to the government.

2) In May of this year, Cisco was sued by Chinese practitioners of Falun Gong who accused the multinational of abetting  the Chinese government through the creation and maintainable of the so-called Golden Shield system. This surveillance system targets and then follows dissidents communicating online, which has led to the detaining and torturing of Falun Gong practitioners.

Cisco took issue with the accusation. The company claims that it does not design it’s programs or equipment to aid the government censor content, intercept communications or track users. It sells the Chinese government standard-issue general network equipment.

In fairness, some of the multinational corporations did begin to take steps after Yahoo’s debacle regarding its role in Shi Tao’s arrest and conviction.  Yahoo, Microsoft and Google joined in the Global Network Initiative which tries to create guidelines to protect “the freedom of expression rights of their users when confronted with government demands, laws and regulations to suppress freedom of expression.”

But these commitments are voluntary. Should the government take a role in clearly setting boundaries? It happened following the 1989 Tienanmen Square massacre when companies were barred from selling such technology. Quite rightly, it has been pointed out that effective anti-spam and hacking technology could be adapted to aid repressive regimes.

One executive from Hewlett-Packard, who are bidding for a stake in the Chongqing surveillance project told The Wall Street Journal: “It’s not my job to really understand what they’re going to use it for.”

Really? Is there no responsibility beyond the profit line? Coming from a multinational, probably not. As stated at the beginning of this article, this is their sole reason to exist.

Which is why, if the United States truly sees itself as the leader of world freedom, it needs to create not guidelines or principles, but laws preventing American technology helping totalitarian regimes. However, we may discover that while our government cannot even get these companies to pay their taxes, they might have little power over such huge economic conglomerates and their powerful lobbyist allies.

And that is even scarier.

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

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