Sunday, February 16, 2014

California Water Crisis and What We Should Be Doing

It is hard to escape the fact that California is in a drought.  In one way or another, the subject of the drought makes it into the news every day.  Unfortunately, the events that the media covers are often staged and the media coverage is frequently very flawed, not mentioning the link between the drought and global warming and failing to acknowledge that the big agricultural operations plant inappropriate crops for the locale and exacerbate the problem through wasteful irrigation practices. I can't even begin to count the number of newspaper or television accounts I have seen that blame high unemployment numbers in the San Joaquin Valley on the drought and the lack of agricultural water allocation without letting you know that the same area has high unemployment even when the water is plentiful.

It is my intention to use California Greening as a platform to summarize much of the background that is required to develop, or understand, water policy in a geography that swings from extreme drought to seeming everlasting deluges.  If I can do that well, then California Greens might be able to formulate a policy that will ensure a better future if followed, or at least to give environmental activists an alternative to just voting for the latest Democrat because they are scared of a Republican bogeyman.

As I complete each section, I will post it here.  You can follow the blog if you want.  I will also tweet the link to each new section from @wrolley.  If you follow that, you will at least know when an update is available. 

The first piece of the puzzle that I will try to put in place will be to answer the question of whether there are technological solutions to water problems that we should be using, or at least planning for.  This is a rather clearly definable area but is not getting much attention unless it involves the perennial fights of the construction of desalination plants.  But even this is a large enough topic to require multiple posts if I want to cover it adequately.  There are others who are doing a good job of keeping us all informed as to the daily events.  Foremost among there is Chris Austin whose Maven's Notebook. is an essential resource.  If you care about what is happening in the California Water Wars, you should follow closely.


Wednesday, February 05, 2014

Good news for Resnick and Starrh, bad for us.

I mentioned farm subsidies in yesterday's post and mentioned a cotton grower named Starrh.   The story continues bleakly according to a release today from  the Center for Rural Affairs.  What Congress does behind closed doors is scandalous and, in this case, the effects are not limited to Rural America.  All of us pay subsidies to support major growers of a small list of commodity crops: cotton, sugar, corn, soy beans, wheat. 
Subsidy Reform - In a huge blow, the final bill cut historic reforms to commodity program subsidies that had passed in both chambers of Congress. They actually increased the limit, and they cut “actively engaged” language, which would close the loopholes that allow large, wealthy farms to collect many multiples of the current payment limit. 
I have posted about subsidies before, but the story never changes.   If Greens are going to fix our economy, subsidies to Big Ag and Big Oil should be a great place to start.

Monday, February 03, 2014

CA Drought News. Oil and Water mix it up in Kern County

The recent ruling by California's State Water Board severely restricted water deliveries in 2014.  In many  cases, they will be eliminated.  Part of the background for this is the drought declaration from Governor Brown asking all Californian's to restrict water usage by 20%.   It made me wonder just far that goes in restricting agricultural and industrial usage or whether it only applies to "citizens" like you and I.

I remembered reading about the use of water in oil extraction in a past issue of High Country News.  I quickly found the article declaring that Oil and Water Don't Mix with California Agriculture.  It begins with a narration of the troubles of a farmer on the eduge of Kern County's oilfields.
Starrh Farms has 6,000 acres of pistachios, cotton, almonds and alfalfa. Starrh proudly points out almond trees planted 155 to the acre with the aid of lasers and GPS. At the edge of his land, he pulls up beside 20-foot-high earthen berms, the ramparts of large "percolation" ponds that belong to a neighbor, Aera Energy.
From the mid-1970s to the early 2000s, Aera dumped more than 2.4 billion barrels (or just over 100 billion gallons) of wastewater -- known in the industry as "produced water" -- from its North Belridge oilfield into those unlined ponds, Starrh says. The impact became apparent beginning in 1999, when Starrh dug several wells to augment the irrigation water he gets from the California Aqueduct. He mixed the groundwater with aqueduct water, applied it to a cotton field beside the berms -- and the plants wilted. Eventually, the well water killed almond trees, Starrh says; he points out a few that look like gray skeletons.
If you wonder what Aera Energy was doing to that water it is just like fracking. The water inserted into the ground and petrolems is extracted along with most of the water.   In the case reported by High Country News, the water was left in unlined settling ponds.  In other cases, it is reinserted into old wells to disposal.  But that allows it to mix freely with the groundwater with disastrous results for Agriculture.

One good thing about recent CA legislation is that we can get a bit of a glimpse at what Aera Energy is using.   They now have to file a formal document with a water management plan.  On Dec. 11, 2013Aera Eenrgy filed an  "Interim Well Stimulation Treatment Notice" for a well in Kern County's South Belridge Fierld.   The attached water management plan stated that the water could be sourced from the California Aqueduct via Aera's interest in the Belridge Water Managent District.  So, if Oil interests are fouling the water for these big ag farmers, who is selling them the water?   The Board of Directors for the Belridge Water Management District includes Larry Starrh, brother and business partner of the Fred Starrh featured in the HCN news.  Also on the Board is William D. Phillmore, an executive with Paramount Farms, another Big Ag comrporation owned by Demorcatic Political players, Setward and Linda Resnick.  I am sure that you are familiar with the Paramount Farms brads: Fiji Water, Halos (used to be branded as Cuties) Mandarine Oranges, Pom Wonderful pomegranate juice and the entire Wonderful family of nut products,. pistachios and almonds.

It is pretty clear that we will be asked to save water while the politically connected Kern County Oil companies will continue business as usual.   Hell, the Starrh family will probably sell their water rights to Aera Energy and collect more money that they would growing crops in the desert. Have to see how much the Starrh operations collect in Cotton Subsidies.  Love the quote from Fred Starrh on that link as he discusses farm subsides with John Stossel.
 If they can't make a profit, I don't think they deserve a gift from taxpayers just so they can keep farming.

"Well I totally disagree with you John, and the legislature is with us
at this point, so we're winning, and you're losing," Fred Starrh said.
California Greens need to increase their level of knowledge on water issues.  With a few exceptions, we clearly do not have the expertise required to begin putting together  sensible policies.  Hopefully, a little outrage about how the arrogant affluent control our lives and isolate themselves from the consequences of their own actions through the exercise of political power.  After all, as Starrh says, the legislature is with them, not us.




Sunday, September 08, 2013

In a response to another Green on the  GPCA Forum email list, I suggested that Greens needed to read, asI have done, Supply Shock by Dr. Brian Czech. I have just completed a review of that book and posted it to Amazon. The review also recommends reading Herman Daly's earlier (1996) work, Beyond Growth.

Personally, I was fortunate to find Daly's book in my local public library, but not Czech's. Maybe I should be shocked at the lack of supply.

Taken together, these two books give the reader a lesson in why our economy is destined to falter. It takes both to cover the varied histories which Czech does deliberately and Daly more anecdotally. I know that I will read so called progressive economists like Krugman much more carefully. Krugman's policy prescriptions for the US Economy, while helping to enhance social equity, will only lead us further down a dead end path through growth beyond the carrying capacity of our planet.

Friday, September 06, 2013

Sierra Club Agrees with Glickman

Far too often I hear the Sierra Club condemned for not endorsing Greens. While it is not as common as we would like, since we believe that the Green Party has more in common with the goals of the Sierra Club than any other party, it does happen and even in partisan races. The most recent Sierra Club endorsement has gone to Marnie Glickman. While the Las Gallinas Valley Sanitation District is a not a partisan office, we know what it takes to gain these endorsements. 

I even remember Tom Hutchings, a San Luis Obispo County Green, getting Sierra Club endorsement for State Assembly Dist 33 in 2004 after years of supporting efforts to block the expansion, if not able to close, the Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant. It can be done, you just have to work at it.  

Friday, June 07, 2013

Democratic Party Hack Du Jour: George Shirakawa

The California Democratic Party Hack Du Jour is Disgraced Santa Clara County Supervisor George Shirakawa Jr. While awaiting sentencing for lying on campaign finance reports and gambling with public funds, Shirakawa is faced with a new charge that is downright bizarre: impersonating a political opponent. The critical evidence? Shirakawa's DNA pulled from a postage stamp on an illegal campaign hit piece. The new charges could get the supervisor-turned-defendant three more years in the pen.

Here is the part of the story relevant to our California Green Party: Shirakawa was a solid good 'ole boy in the San Jose Democratic Party Machine. He has been strongly backed by the big labor unions. His illegal campaign "hit piece" was on behalf of a former aide, Xavier Campos, who is, himself, a relative of Democratic Assembly Member Nora Campos. Finally, Shirakawa was one of those "People of Color" we are told all progressives, including Greens, should defer to without question. And what was in his campaign "hit piece?" The piece, written in Vietnamese, accused Campos' opponent of being a Communist (you can't make this stuff up).

Thus, Shirakawa's saga represents everything wrong with the Democratic Party Machine politics in the U.S.A. today.

News Report from KGO-TV in San Francisco, June 5, 2013
DNA Links George Shirakawa, Jr. to New Felony Charge



Published in San Jose Mercury News, June 7, 2013
Mercury News editorial: Shirakawa Corruption Plot Thickens with Charge of Slimy Campaign Tactics
The latest felony charge against former Santa Clara County Supervisor George Shirakawa Jr. probably marks the last time anybody personally licks a stamp for a sleazy campaign hit piece.

The only surprise is that DNA is the evidence apparently tying Shirakawa to the political slime that helped propel his former aide Xavier Campos to a San Jose City Council seat in 2010. Shirakawa's DNA was found on stamps used on mailers that made Magdalena Carrasco out to be a communist, probably sealing her narrow defeat, since many Vietnamese American voters see communists as a lower life form. The charge is impersonation because the mailer said it was from Carrasco's own campaign.

We hope District Attorney Jeff Rosen's office and the state Fair Political Practices Commission are continuing this line of inquiry. Mailers like the one on Campos' behalf are not the product of one person, and the fact that a similar hit was used against Shirakawa's opponent for supervisor in 2008 implies a pattern.

Dishonest campaigning on this scale poisons the well for honest politicians and makes it harder to attract good people to run for office. Some consultants and candidates treat it as a joke. We're glad our county and state criminal justice agencies do not.


My one frustration is that, once again, I have to read this news in the mainstream media after my son-in-law told me about it on a trip from Los Angeles up to San Jose. Why aren't California Greens monitoring this? We Greens will never achieve our goals so long as we continue giving our local Democratic Party Hacks a free pass. The Green Party is no longer an a;ternative. The Green Party is an imperative.

Friday, May 31, 2013

Snuggly the Security Bear - Tribute to Eric Holder

Animated Cartoon By Mark Fiore

Greetings, from the Department of Justice!
It's me, Snuggly the Security Bear-- here to tell you all about spying on the press!

See, I'm not scary, and neither is Attorney General Eric Holder!

So what if we secretly snooped into the phone records of a hundred or so journalists-- it was all to keep you snuggly and secure-- trust us! Heeheeheehee!

Those people in the Associated Press are helping the terrorists by protecting their sources and stuff.

We're just trying to keep you safe . . . from people in government who leak things to the media!

Which is why my boss Obama has prosecuted more whistleblowe-- er-- criminals-- than all previous presidents combined!

But before we nail 'em, we've got to find 'em-- by doing things like secretly looking into the phone logs of journalists . . . at the office, at home, at the capitol, or in the men's room!

Would you rather have Freedom of the Press or would you rather be more snuggly and secure with the most transparent administration ever!

Best part is-- my warm hugs of security, are bipartisan! Republicans are outraged now, and Democrats were outraged about two-thousand and four!

. . . which keeps them not-outraged in reverse! Partisanship can be so bipartisan.

So of course you can have your Freedom of the Press and confidential sources-- as long as your confidential sources don't mind the government having their phone numbers! Heeheeheehee!



Link to Original Post on Black Agenda Report:
www.marfiore.com




Editor's Note: The California Green Party could use this kind of media to ridicule Cal Democrats and Republicans. If you are a craftsperson who knows how to do this, then please step up.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

2 Local Issues in L.A. - Which Way for Greens?

All politics is local.  Forget "Robamney." Which way for a serious Green Party on two important local issues in the City of Los Angeles: 
  • Another sales tax hike
  • Another fight over public employee pension. 
 There are knee-jerk "liberal" positions on both in the One-Party-Democratic city. As an unapologetic Green Party man, I could argue for or against both propositions. Dear Green Friends, let's have a timely dialogue about this.

L.A. Moves Ahead With Plan to Increase Sales Tax
Los Angeles Times, November 13, 2012

The Los Angeles City Council agreed to place a half-cent sales tax hike on the March 5 ballot to avert new cuts in city services, drawing immediate opposition from critics in and outside city government.

Voters would decide the measure, which will boost collections by an estimated $215 million a year, on the same day they choose a new mayor. And there were signs the proposal already is influencing the race, which is expected to focus heavily on resolving the city's chronic budget crisis.

Mayoral candidates Jan Perry and Eric Garcetti, both council members, voted against the tax plan Tuesday. City Controller Wendy Greuel, another top mayoral contender, said she also opposed the tax hike, which would apply to millions of everyday transactions, as well as major purchases such as electronics and appliances.

. . .



Riordan Accepts Police Union's Pension Debate Challenge
Los Angeles Times, November 14, 2012

Multimillionaire businessman and former Los Angeles mayor Richard Riordan has accepted a police union's challenge to put his mouth where his money is.

Riordan agreed Wednesday to a series of three debates on the merits of a pension revamp  initiative that he is trying to get on next year's city election ballot. The measure would create a  401(k)-style retirement plan for newly hired workers instead of the current guaranteed pensions.

L.A. Moves Ahead With Plan to Increase Sales Tax
Los Angeles Times, November 13, 2012

The Los Angeles City Council agreed to place a half-cent sales tax hike on the March 5 ballot to avert new cuts in city services, drawing immediate opposition from critics in and outside city government.

Voters would decide the measure, which will boost collections by an estimated $215 million a year, on the same day they choose a new mayor. And there were signs the proposal already is influencing the race, which is expected to focus heavily on resolving the city's chronic budget crisis.

Mayoral candidates Jan Perry and Eric Garcetti, both council members, voted against the tax plan Tuesday. City Controller Wendy Greuel, another top mayoral contender, said she also opposed the tax hike, which would apply to millions of everyday transactions, as well as major purchases such as electronics and appliances.

The proposal also came under attack from former Mayor Richard Riordan, a Republican multimillionaire who is promoting his own ballot measure to roll back pension benefits. He accused City Hall leaders of foisting bloated employee retirement costs on consumers.

Left-of-center groups complained that council members had caved to real estate interests by dropping plans for a tax on property sales in favor of one that disproportionately hits working class Angelenos. "The process was entirely hijacked by the real estate folks," said Sunyoung Yang, lead organizer for the Bus Riders Union, an advocacy group for low-income residents.

A second and final vote on the sales tax ballot measure is set for next week. If approved by voters, the measure would leave Los Angeles with one of the highest tax rates in the state — 9.5 cents on every dollar of taxable sales.
. . .



Riordan Accepts Police Union's Pension Debate Challenge
Los Angeles Times, November 14, 2012

Multimillionaire businessman and former Los Angeles mayor Richard Riordan has accepted a police union's challenge to put his mouth where his money is.

Riordan agreed Wednesday to a series of three debates on the merits of a pension revamp  initiative that he is trying to get on next year's city election ballot. The measure would create a  401(k)-style retirement plan for newly hired workers instead of the current guaranteed pensions.

"Dick Riordan looks forward to the opportunity to share his views with the public about the dangerous path the city is going down when it fails to deal responsibly with its pension costs,'' his spokesman John Schwada said in a statement.
. . .

Union leaders want Riordan to back up his claims that unless changes are made, ever-increasing payments to the city's three pension systems could cripple the city's ability to provide services.

"Riordan has chosen to hide behind carefully orchestrated radio talk-show appearances where no challenging or insightful questions are asked, appearances before groups where he knows his ideas won’t be challenged, and well-crafted media releases that lack any pretense of substance,” the police union leader said.

Rising city pension costs have become a hot-button issue in next year's mayoral race. Two of the candidates, City Councilman Eric Garcetti and Controller Wendy Greuel, are backed by influential labor groups and have expressed concerns about Riordan's measure.

A third, Councilwoman Jan Perry, has sought to define herself as the fiscally conservative alternative, in part by setting out her own plan to trim pension costs. Kevin James, a lawyer and former radio host, said he will support Riordan's measure if it qualifies for the May ballot.
. . .

"People are fed up with waiting for their government to take action,'' Riordan told the John & Ken Show on KFI radio last month in announcing his proposed measure.
. . .

Monday, October 01, 2012

California Now Has Water as a Human Right. Oh, Really?

The headlines read: law passed in California to make water a human right.  AB685 does indeed have that language but California is far from that as a reality. The question really is whether this is a real breakthrough or whether it presents the potential of a creating a new maze of litigation in the future. From looking at the language of the bill, it would be a profound mistake to consider this a victory for poor people or an acknowledgement of their basic survival needs. It needs to be said that there are so many questions raised by such a law that are not addressed in the law that it will assuredly result in profound impacts on farmers and farm workers throughout the state of California.

Water as a Human Right has to be defined in the context of both drinking water and food production.


This bill needs to be repealed and the sooner the better. As someone who has written on water as a Human Right  and on its relationship to regional water planning, I have continued to advocate for political and structural reform that democratizes water resource management.   AB685 is bad law and bad law opens the door to litigation, protest, corrupt administration and usurpation of authority. Messing around with water supplies is a dangerous precedent that Sacramento has gotten in the habit of doing on a regular basis.

There is a profound mischaracterization of water use among urban users, academics and many Greens that singles out “agribusinesses” as the focal point of structural reform. This addresses corporate law, not water allocations. If we are to address the users of the resource even-handedly, we need to acknowledge that agriculture will always be the primary user of water. From there, we need to acknowledge not only the economic benefit of agriculture but also its social good in providing the food that supply both our urban and rural populations. Increasing dependence on food importations is not a sustainable alternative that develops and improves the quantity, quality and distribution of food to our growing population.

Water governance in the age ahead needs to be structured for open input and transparency. Adaptive governance needs to provide flexibility and input in water management in an effective manner. Administrative state agencies are not representative of users. Neither are they elected because of their distinct interests and concerns as stakeholders. No where does the bill provide for long-term regional planning or adaptive governance in this matter. Unintended consequences of this bill as written are so obvious it was opposed by water agencies in the state of California. This is not some classroom assignment or a slogan for some demonstration.

It is long past due for those who want to guarantee safe drinking water and sanitation for people to start looking at the consequences of their proposals when enacted into law. It is time for NGO’s to stop using environmentalism and social justice as rationalizations for promoting Democrats and recognize the distinct needs and concerns of diverse users. Water as a Human Right requires both the political and administrative entities that address water. As it stands, water is a function of partisan divides and not collaborative decision-making by users, the science and the environment. As it stands, the case made for Water and Sanitation as a Human Right holds its advocates with no responsibility towards allocations that are fair and equitable to all users.

Opponents of AB685 have raised the issue of the impact on pricing of the law. Given California’s financial status, it is reasonable to raise the issue of how future research and development for new sources, re-uses, desal, improved purification, sanitation and conservation are critical in addressing increasing demands for the resource. The presumption that AB685 will address this by supporters is myopic and fundamentally disregards the particular characteristics of regional supplies. There are positive local models as demonstrated by the Stanford groundwater study.   These initiatives will increase out of necessity. But, what AB685 does not do is establish a structural foundation for decision-making that addresses long-term planning and distinct concerns of regional users and stakeholders.

Do we injure the fundamental goal of developing Water and Sanitation as a basic Human Right by opposing AB685? Only if our putting the language into law is more important than addressing the underlying issues that obstruct the real implementation of that goal. If the object is to take water from agriculture to give to growing cities, then AB685 will be a tool with fundamentally conflicting consequences. The process of really making water a human right will require the restructuring of existing water law in California where rural users are under-represented in the debate. The presumption that drinking water will be a priority exists today. The failure in implementing this does not lie in the absence of AB685 in the vast array of water-related laws and regulations. Rather, it lies in the hands of the State Legislature’s proclivity towards diversions and politically based funding of existing infrastructures such as the upgrading of the Hetch-Hetchy aqueduct.

Will regional planning develop and improve the quality of decisions in regards to decisions made regarding use and allocations of our fresh and salt water supplies? We do have a learning curve here in the record of depletions and subsidence in the San Joaquin Valley and elsewhere, that suggests bad decisions and overuse manifest in agricultural uses as well as in urban uses.   Water planning is not simply an administrative matter where constituencies are not integrated into the decision-making process. The economic and social consequences of water allocations have distinct impacts that need to be recognized in the future through the development of regional governmental water entities. Water politics and governance are polarized as things stand today and benefit the two party constituencies only to the extent that they influence the State Legislatures.

Water as a Human Right has been qualified by the United Nations in regards to the characteristics needed to make it meaningful and implemented in a fair manner. “Human rights can be a powerful vehicle for change. However, they have to be enshrined not just in normative statements, but in legislation, regulatory systems and governance systems that make governments and water providers accountable to all citizens, including the poor. Too often, the language of human rights serves as a smokescreen behind which the rights of poor people are violated by institutions that have little or no accountability.”    In point of fact, the rural poor stand to gain more from a process that includes them as stakeholders in the decisions being made than does legislation that lack the means for input and implementation. The risk of AB685 is raised in the UNDP report as follows: “Water may be a human right, but someone has to pay the capital investments and cover the operating costs— either users or taxpayers and government.”  “Water is a human right. But human rights count for little if they are divorced from practical policies to protect and extend them—or from mechanisms for accountability that empower the poor to demand their rights.”

Furthermore, the UNHDP Report specifically cites issues in regards to agricultural users and even uses a California example of the impact on family farms by urban users. "The danger is fast growing cities and industries seeking more water will extend their hydrological reach into rural areas, reducing the access  of poor households to a crucial livelihood resource." Page 173, Chapter 5, "Water Competition in Agriculture, UNHDP Report. elsewhere in the report a California study is cited regarding the impact of urbanization on rural and agricultural poor and family farmers. "One study of the distribution of gains and losses from water transfers in Mendota, California, found that the  number of farms in water-exporting regions fell by 26%  between 1987 and 1992. But the number of small farms fell by 70% and labour demand fell even more as wholesale produce firms went out of business. While aggregate welfare increased, the losers included a large group of poorer producers."  Page 180, Chapter 5, "Water and Competition in Agriculture", UNHDP Report.

Lest anyone think we are omitting poor and working people, it is important to take notice of the population growth in the Central Valley and the growing political engagement around the water issue. Both the peripheral canal and the proposed sale of water by Modesto to San Francisco engaged local users and residents in the Central Valley. It is possible only in a political context to really unify urban and rural constituencies around the issue of diversions and Water as a Human Right. From the start, Water as a Human Right has to be defined in the context of both drinking water and food production.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Readers know that I consider climate change to be issue #1 for all.   It should be clear that solutions to the climate problem involves having a sensible energy policy.  Most Republican legislators seem to be locked in to the idea that it is necessary to kill the EPA in order to make our economy grow.  That is the essence of their "end unnecessary regulation" planes.

I ask you to watch this video segment of the July 10th Rachel Maddow Show.  It should show you all what ending environmental regulation will bring us.


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