Wednesday, September 09, 2015

Testing the World's Will

Television news does a very good job of covering disasters.  Now, it is the flow of refugees from Syria and other Middle East or North African countries streaming in to Austria, Germany... passing through Hungary where the government does not want more workers, but is willing to pass them on and the people are turning out to help in a humanitarian way.

Television news does not do a very good job of digging in to the root causes of the story.  The "fleeing ISIS" motive is real enough to be all they need.  It is easy to understand.  It has a villain to blame.   But the problems in Syria come more from the reality of a multi-year drought.  With flocks and fields failing to support the rural existence, many Syrians fled to the cities where there was no work.  The unrest that followed is what we have seen, again and again, whether you want to blame the Assad regime or ISIS. 

For this type of news, you need to turn to alternate media, such as this post yesterday by Joe Romm at Climate Progress.   He clearly links the Syrian crisis to climate change.  More importantly, he warns us all that, unless the US makes major changes, we will be the target of an even greater climate driven mass migration.  While Donald Trump is railing against our porous borders and the fact that they allow relatively easy access to the US for those willing to risk the desert, we find that almost all of the Republican Candidates for POTUS have prepared some version of a "stop the immigration" position. 

Romm makes our choices clear:
Given the current political debate over immigration policy, it’s worth asking two questions. First: if the United States, through our role as the greatest cumulative carbon polluter in history, plays a central role in rendering large parts of Mexico and Central America virtually uninhabitable, where will the refugees go? And second: will we have some moral obligation to change our immigration policy?
While every current candidate of the major parties is treating this as a policy, their basis changes.  Some would protect our economy, workers jobs, the rule of law, or in Trump's case, provide safety on our streets, not a single one has come forward to treat this as a moral issue.  To do so would have ramifications that they dare not consider. If climate refugees becomes a moral issue, then surely we must act to prevent it.  Leave the fossil fuels in the ground until we have no other choice would be a good beginning.  Do we have the political will to do this?

Tuesday, July 07, 2015

What "The Left" Should Be Doing in the USA in 2015

Check this conversation between Amy Goodman and Richard Wolff.

Instead of obsessing over sex and "race" this should be the focus of "The Left" in the USA today.

RICHARD WOLFF: I think what Syriza shows in Greece is the potential of a mass popular resistance, not only to the austerity policies that came in after the crisis of 2008, but even to the very basic system of the countries of Europe that divide people into a tiny number of very wealthy and a mass of poor, that the system is producing outcomes that more and more people are hurt by, are critical of and want to change. But the conventional politics, the Republican and Democratic parties here and their equivalents all across Europe, don’t see it, don’t act on it, don’t even speak about it. So it becomes a kind of a vacuum, where there’s no political expression of what a growing mass of people feel, both about austerity and about capitalism as a system. And so it’s like a solution into which you drop that last little bit of hard material and everything crystallizes. Everybody is waiting for the new political voice to emerge that speaks to and represents what the traditional politics have failed to do.

Bernie Sanders is doing that in this country, and he’s doing it very well, exactly like Syriza surprised everybody. Indeed, in England, there’s a struggle going on right now inside the Labour Party, where a candidate like Bernie Sanders, named Corbyn, is surprising everybody by the support he’s getting inside the struggle for who will be the new leader of the Labour Party. So you see everywhere the signs of an emerging left wing, not because of some political maneuver, but because of the enormous vacuum that a left leadership can take advantage of, given what has happened in the last eight years of this capitalist global system.

AMY GOODMAN: How does Bernie Sanders compare to Hillary Clinton?

RICHARD WOLFF: Well, she’s the old. She is the staid, do it by the books, the old rules, as Paul said so nicely. She is playing the game the way the game has been played now for decades. Bernie Sanders is saying the unthinkable, saying it out loud, saying it with passion, putting himself forward, even though the name "socialist," which was supposed to be a political death sentence—as if it weren’t there. And he’s showing that for the mass of the American people, it’s not the bad word it once was. It’s sort of a kind of position in which the conventional parties are so out of touch with how things have changed, that they make it easy for Mr. Sanders to have the kind of response he’s getting. And my hat’s off to him for doing it.

AMY GOODMAN: Explain what socialism means.

RICHARD WOLFF: Well, that’s a big one. Socialism has traditionally meant one thing, but it’s changing, as well. Traditionally, it meant that instead of private ownership of means of production, of factories and land and offices, you socialize it. The government takes it over. And instead of having bargaining in the market, buying and selling goods to one another, we work from a governmental plan. So it gives the government an enormous power. But the idea was, if the government owns and operates the businesses, and if the government plans how we distribute goods and services, it will all be done more democratically, more egalitarian, etc., etc., than capitalism. That was always the idea. The problem was, socialists have to admit, that giving the government that much power raises a whole new set of problems, which the Soviet Union and China and so on illustrate. So the question is: Are there other ways of understanding socialism that gets us the benefits without the negatives? And I think the new direction is the whole focus at the enterprise level, of changing the way we organize enterprises, so they stop being top-down, hierarchical, board of directors makes all the decisions, and we move to this idea which is now catching on: cooperation, workers owning and operating collectively and democratically their economy and their enterprise.

* * * 

Unfortunately, Ms. Hillary Clinton is not the only one in USA politics representing "the old... the staid, do it by the books...  playing the game the way the game has been played now for decades." The same thing can be said of the old activists and intellectuals who dominate Our So-Called Left in the USA. They have lived their whole lives playing the game of single-issue "Identity Politics" for decades. And just like mainstream Republicans and Democrats our "Lefty" leaders "don’t see it, don’t act on it, don’t even speak about it."

Sunday, July 05, 2015

Thinking About Thinking in 1776 and 2015

Haymo Schauer, a Green Party brother in San Francisco, posted a statement on the California Green Party Facebook page on July 4, 2015:
The USA was founded by wealthy men who wanted to have independence from other rich men in Europe. They did this so that they would have the freedom to act in any way they wanted to enrich themselves further. But the rest of us are not free of these ruthless free men since they violate the rights and boundaries of those beneath them. Until we the majority of the population are free of their tyranny then we have nothing to celebrate.

Such views are not uncommon on "The Left" in the USA. Thus, every thanksgiving, we note that many of our Indigenous brothers and sisters call Thanksgiving a "Day of Mourning". In my African-American community, we remember the July 1852 speech by the great abolitionist Frederick Douglas: "What to the Slave is 4th of July?" as if nothing has changed in the USA in the last 163 years.

I respectfully disagree with this project. I do not disagree on account of any sentimental attachment to the USA Establishment. I disagree because it is time to quit thinking about the thinking of 1776 or 1852 and start thinking about the thinking needed to save humanity and the planet in 2015.
In my humble opinion, we should remember and honor the revolution of 1776 as exactly no more... and no less... than it was. Yes, it was a no more than a "bourgeois" revolution of wealthy White men. But it was no less than the overthrow of kings, state church, and the nobility of what was then the world's most powerful empire.
Thinking About Our Thinking in 2015

I strongly believe that both "liberal" Democrats and "conservative" Republicans in the USA are incapable of grasping our unprecedented global crisis of the 21st Century.  I am a Green Party man willing to publicly declare that our 10 Key Values of the 4 Pillars of Green Parties around the world are superior... yes, superior... to the thinking of the "Old Liberals" and the "Old Left." 

The Four Pillars of the Green Party are a foundational statement for many worldwide Green parties as a future oriented movement based on the practical experience and wisdom of labor, civil rights, and peace movements.

  1. Ecological Wisdom
  2. Social Justice
  3. Grassroots Democracy
  4. Nonviolence 

The "Old Liberals" talk a good game about "the environment" to appeal to their base of educated middle-class voters. But they refuse to "connect the dots" between environmental issues and social justice. The "Old Left" has never really believed in nonviolence. My "Lefty" friends cherish the old dream of bloody, violent revolution. Never mind that in the USA violent radicalism is more likely to resemble the fascism our Left leaders fear than the revolutionary socialism  they say they want. Finally, one shocking thing is the general contempt of "Our Leaders" from Left, Right, and Center to democracy. They claim to speak for "The People" but their speeches, writings, and Internet posts and tweets are dripping with contempt for "The People" whom they regard as lazy, "dumb", rascist, sexist, fools. 

Give the people strong, independent progressive alternatives. Then, we'll see  who is the fool. 


Thursday, June 25, 2015

El Niño is not our savior.

California is in the 4th year of a drought. There is a lot of hope, speculation that El Niño conditions will last into early 2016 and end the drought. The last strong El Niño was in 1997/8 and the worries at that time were for floods.

This should not get us too excited. While El Niño may end the drought in CA, it is causing a serious drought in the Caribbean with reservoirs drying up, rivers running dry and crops failing. That is almost the conditions we have in California this year. ,

  Dr. Peter Gleick of the Paciific Institute has warned us that an El Niño event in the middle of a drought might not be the reason to become careless with our use of water. To begin with, the summer is not over. The Rain Year has not started and 2015 is already acting like the hottest year on record. It is going to get worse before the summer is over. My neighbors, most of who do not have lush lawns, are talking of just trying to keep trees and shrubs alive. So let's assume a strong El Niño continues. We get a lot of water. What then? How much do we use and how much do we store? Can we bank the water in the aquifers that are currently collapsing. According to a tweet from @PeterGleick "Tulare CA approved new 3284 drilling permits while 1,126 wells have gone dry.Unsustainable." http;//…"  They will not all fill up. Some of that aquifer capacity can never be reclaimed as the land above it has subsided. In some areas of CA, this is happening at a rate approaching 1 ft / yr. 

Then, we have to ask what happens following the rains of an El Niño year, assuming that they come as hoped for. Will we return to the averages of that past of have we gone through such a climatic shift that we return to an extension of the drought? I can see a lot of reasons to assume that the drought conditions return and very few, if any, downsides to basing water policy on that assumption. 

 With water policy on the agenda at the next GPCA meeting, we need to get this right. Martin Zehr and I worked very hard to get a new statement of water policy through the GPUS National Committee when we were both on the GPUS EcoAction Committee. I can see no reason why that should not guide us now. Failing to do so just adds to the problem of food scarcity.

I call attention to the very recent report Food System Shock published by Anglis Ruskin University and Lloyds of London Insurance Co. This report describes a realistic scenario of inaction on climate and then projects that out to 2040. The goal is to help the insurer make better plans for the future. The result is to scare the hell out of me, not so much because the ramifications are so severe (and they are, famine, riots, etc) but that we can see it starting to happen now, with this drought, here in California. You see the anything for a bigger profit corporate agriculture and its control over the political process. You see the manner in which so many are cut out our so called democratic decision making processes with secret closed door deal and a nod and a wink from Sen. Feinstein.

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.