Sunday, May 28, 2006

County Council Conundrum

The Green Party gives a lot of lip service to the idea of grassroots democracy and the view that politics is best conducted from the bottom up. The key organizational structure for this view is the County Council. This is the fist place where the needs of the local part members meets the needs of the Party as a whole. If this party is to be successful in implementing its view of politics at any level, the County Council must function effectively.

Why is it then that so many Counties in California are facing an election in which there are no candidates, not even write in candidate, running for County Council?

Mike Feinstein has documented the extent to which County Council's are attracting candidates, or not. I would note the following, based on casual observation...not polling:
  • County Councils seem to be most active where there is a larger pool of people from which to draw candidates.
  • County Councils are also very active where there are local issues that involved Green Party activists and keep them deeply involved between election cycles.
  • County Councils seem to fail when the members are too heavily involved in other roles in the party. For example, a county council member who might also be a member of the Coordinating Committee or a leader (CoCordinator) of one of the Standing Committees or Working Groups. The fact is that all roles demand a lot of time just to do the job and that doing more than one job means compromises have to be made.
I wonder how many different view we have on the role of the County Council. Maybe there are as many as there are active counties. There is a GPCA County Council Handbook (general password required) that addresses this directly. According to that document, many different roles are asked of the County Council.
A county councilmember must wear many different hats. At times you will be the chief fundraiser for your organization. You will have to recruit good, strong candidates. You will have to help mobilize and energize the party activists within your community. You will run regular meetings of your council and of the local. You will likely serve as one of the party's spokespeople. Quite often, you will also be a "cheerleader" and occasionally, a referee. And you must always act in a way that will do you and your county organization the most good.
If the basis of GPCA grassroots organization is the County Council, then it would seem that the organization is failing. It would also seem that there is one primary function for the GrassRoots Organizing Workgroup (GROW). That function should be County Council support.

It also seems to me that we have a similar problem with the role of the Regional Rep. The job description for the Regional Rep says that they are deeply involved in County Council operations.
2. Solicit the organization of inactive counties, and provide pro-active guidance and assistance to counties seeking active status.
3. Provide pro-active guidance and assistance to counties whose county organization is in need of support, restructuring or is malfunctioning.
6. Insure the flow of information between the GPCA and counties.
7. Help maintain GPCA databases regarding both active and inactive counties, e.g. county contacts, bylaws, county councils, etc.

Maybe there is an issue of accountability here. I would like to Coordinating Council to ask Regional Reps for a regular report on each of their counties. In some cases, that is realtaively easy, in other, such as for the Central Region, I have found regional reps who didn't even know what counties were in their region. In that case, how is it possible to do what needs to be done to ensure that County Councils are fulfilling their role?

If there is one thing that the GPCA must do in the next six months, it is to rebuild the county council structures in as many counties as we can. Maybe, having state wide candidates can help. I would like to see all of the State Wide Candidates make themselves avaialble to visit any county that wants to have a presence.

I surely don't have all of the answers, but maybe this is the start of a discussion that is meaningful.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Plenary preparation & reporting

One of my biggest complaints over the past couple of years is the fact that there is little or not feedback to any one regarding Green Party Business: not to registered members of the GPCA, nor to party activists, nor to county councils, sometimes not even to members of the Cordinating Committee. There is no better way to make people turn off, decide that what they think and do has no influence, seek other outlets for their activism, than to treat their interest with such disdain.

Mike Feinstein and members of the IT Committee set up an experimental online discussion space for the plenary that did not happen. Since it is now rescheduled for late June, I hope that this feature is exercised to it's fullest.

This is a much more well organized and functional capability than the basic Plenary Packet links that currently exist on the GPCA site itself, where you can't even tell by the file name (1.pdf, 2.pdf, 3.pdf, etc.) what the various sections are supposed to include.

It is also a way in which those who will not be able to attend the plenary can make their opinions known now, before it becomes yet another chapter in the history of our dysfunction. (Apologies to Hank, there is a lot of good history that he has collected, but here is also dysfunction.)

So, here is one way for all of us to participate. It may be the most open state political meeting, if we make it so. If we do not make use of this, first to provide opinion to inform delegate voting, and then to report back on the voting, then we have missed a great opportunity to demonstrate what grassroots participation really means.

I suggest that every county council make an effort to notify the Greens in your county and allow all of us to become vitural members of a great grassroots assembly of Greens.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Into Africa

When Bush was first elected, one of the few hopeful signs that I saw was the fact that he seemed to realize that the United States had a national interest in ensuring that African nations were able to raise their standards of living, of health care, of eduction. While Bill Clinton talks of the failure of the US to act in Rwanda as one of his biggest failures, Bush looked like he understood that we must not allow the conditions that gave rise to the Rwanda genocide to develop anywhere else.

While eating dinner the past two days, I have watched the Nightly News with Brian Williams on NBC. He has been on tour in W. Africa with Bono. The attention that Bono can bring to the situation in Africa is huge. The questions arise as to what we should, or can, do about it. Here are some suggestions:

At the previous G8 summit, the Bush Administration, along with the other countries, under the pressure of Bono's attention, promised to deliver aid to these countries. All of the G8 countries have forgiven African Debt. Only Great Britain has kept it's promise of aid. The Green Party should call on Congress to support President Bush's promise of aid. It is the Republican Congress that stands in the way. So, if you don't like to use Bush's name in a positive sense, just say "our country's promise."

The Sub-Saharan Countries of Chad and Mali have precarious economies. One of the few export commodities that they have is organic cotton. Yet, US Government policies subsidize cotton production in the US (especially in California) and we are able to sell US Cotton on the world market at less than the cost of production. At the upcoming plenary, there will be consideration of a new agricultural plank for the GPCA platform. It calls for the elimination of such subsidies. We must approve this new plank. Everyone has a responsibility to make sure that your county's representatives to the plenary understand this issue and will vote to approve it.

The Green Party needs to ensure that all humanitarian efforts are made to stop the suffering in Darfur. Whatever the causes, after turning our back on Rwanda and again saying "never again" we will have no credibility if we yet again turn our backs on such suffering. That phrase, never again, becomes like the key to open a door and free us from our guilt.

One way to gain understanding of what is really happening is to read fiction by writers from the area. Fiction tells you truths that statistics can never make you understand. I know that I learned a great deal from reading Nuruddin Farah's Blood in the Sun triolgy. Reading "Gifts" will give you a sense of female identity in this country without a government and allow you to feel the effefts of Western Aid on the people who need it most. You will not be comfortable with any of Farrah's books. He even gives you the viewpoint of one of those who helped to bring the Blackhawk Down.

If the ongoing question over Resolution 190 is the past tearing apart the present, the present is in sub-Saharan Africa, preparing to tear apart the future. Is the Green Party preparing us for that future?

Monday, May 22, 2006

Changing the Climate re: Climate Change

I am of the opinion that the GPCA has lost much of the focus that it once had on some of the values we claim, specifically ecological wisdom and sustainability. There are a number of indicators that this has happened, not the least of which is the fact that the three seats on the national GP Eco-Action committee are as of right now, unfilled. I have volunteered to fill one of them. I would encourage others to volunteer also.

Right now is the time that we should be taking action on this. On Wednesday, May 24, a new documentary film will be released in select theaters. An Inconvenient Truth by Davis Guggenheim aired at the Sundance Festival and almost made a movie star of Al Gore.

With wit, smarts and hope, AN INCONVENIENT TRUTH ultimately brings home Gore's persuasive argument that we can no longer afford to view global warming as a political issue - rather, it is the biggest moral challenges facing our global civilization.

Even environmental skeptics are changing their view, as Michael Shermer writes in the June 2006 issue of Scientific American.

Then, Al Gore also discussed the formation of a new "Alliance for Climate Protection" with Grist Magazine's Muckraker. This group is not fully funcitonal, but has enlisted even Carol Browner (head of the EPA under Clinton) and Brent Scowcroft (National Security Advisor to Bush I.)

What is GPCA doing? What should we be doing? Is this truly, as Gore suggest, a moral issue or just environmental politics?

I don't think that GPCA, as an organization is doing much. We should be taking the at least the same level of leadership here as he have done with the Fair Wage Initiative and the Clean Money Campaign.

And yes, it is a moral issue. I have been reading the Republican War on Science by Chris Mooney. The duplicity of some member of Congress is apalling. The ignorance of others is remarkable. This is unfortunately not as partisan an issue as Mooney claims, though those who would control congress for their own ends have focused on the Republicans. There are also Republicans like Roscoe Bartlett of MD and the retiring Sherwood Boehlert of NY who have stood up for doing what is right, not what is politically expedient, but their number are too few.

It is time to demand more from our lawmakers and policy brokers and to continue to be tellers of the truth. That is part of what being Green means.

Sunday, May 21, 2006


Well, we are going to have a plenary. The official word is out. It will be June 24/5 in Moorpark, Ventura County.

Here are some things to consider.

One of the agenda items will be to select new delegates and alternates to the GP US. As it stands, the only candidates are those in the current plenary packet. At the time the plenary date was announced it was too late for anyone additional to throw their names into the selection process.

It is also worth noting that term limits for delegates to the national apply to those we select. According to the bylaws 11-2.3, "delegates shall be limited to three full terms, including time already served."

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Progressive Politics

"The Green Party is coming of age as the foremost electoral arm of the progressive movement." - Dean Meyerson - 2002.

"Cobb called the Greens the electoral arm of the progressive movement..." Austin Chronicle - 06/14/2002

If this was the true vision of the Green Party, why was it not called something else? Has anything changed since 2002?

"Green Party: the electoral arm of the Progressive Movement" was rejected as the theme for 2006 National Convention. However, the fact that it was considered shows that this meme is very much ingrained in the membership of the Green Party.

The most recent online commentary from Green Horizon Quarterly is entitled The third party alternative is called "Green". It makes no attempt to define the party as "progresive."
The Green parties have a solid ideological foundation and raison d'etre precisely because they are the organizational manifestation of something distinctive, namely, the global Green politics movement. Greens worldwide share the understanding that we can only satisfy our long-term energy needs by learning to live sustainably.

Going well beyond that issue, Greens are in broad agreement around principles of peace, ecological responsibility, social responsibility, and the idea of a deeper, more participatory, form of democracy. Other values commonly shared include gender equity and respect for diversity.

However, to say, as did the author, Steve Welzer, that "Few Greens identify themselves with liberalism or with any of the old ideologies." requires us to consider liberalism in a farily narrow, historical context and not just the liberal / conservative divide so commonly invoked.

To be Green, rather than only progressive, is a hard choice. It means making decisions based on issues: problems and solutions to them. It may be that there is more in common with those who consider themselves "Eco Libertarians" or even (ghast) Republicans, depending on the issue. Consider the following statements:

  • Without a profound improvement in math and science learning, America will simply not be able to sustain its national security nor compete for high value jobs in the world market.

  • America will be stronger if it develops coherent technology and market-oriented solutions to environmental conservation and energy consumption.

  • A sound American energy policy would focus on four areas: basic research to create a new energy system that has few environmental side effects, incentives for conservation, more renewable resources, and environmentally sound development of fossil fuels.

Do these sound like the basis for a policy that Greens can endorse? How about this?

  • Promote increased use of alternative fuel technology.
  • Use state funds to clean up former industrial and commercial sites that are contaminated, unused, or abandoned.
  • Support a bond for clean air, parks, and water conservation programs.
  • State funding for open space preservation
  • State environmental regulations should be stricter than federal law

The first are the words of Newt Gingrich on his Web site, Winning the Future. The second are environmental issues taken from Pete Camejo's campaign web site.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Dan Walters on CA Democrats shrinking share

>Dan Walters: Democrats' shrinking share of voters may threaten their dominance
>By Dan Walters -- Bee Columnist

Orval Osborne responds:
Dan Walters is a relentlessly Republican pundit, so if there is something negative to say about Democrats, you can count on Walters to say it. I think this analysis is right, especially since it sticks closely to the facts, and not much to judgement. So the main trends are towards not voting or towards "Decline to state," which is less identification with Parties.

The Green Party is for some a last hope against total cynicism and dropping out of voting altogether. But this way (at least currently) only appeals to a small percentage of people. People know the system is broken, and voting does not work. The challenge is to persuade them voting *could* work if only enough people would trust us to fix it.

Identification with the Green Party is going against the large current of non-Party identification. However, this is the likely source of many of our votes. Consider an election where we get 3% of the vote, the Greens are 1% and we have a 33% voter turnout among
registered Greens. 8 out of 9 Green voters are not registered Green. Hard to say how many are Democrats and how many are decline to state. How do we appeal to the decline to state voter to register Green Party? How do we appeal to voters in rural and inland California? Perhaps we could take lessons from Greens in Texas or other "inland" areas on that score.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Factions are not just a Green thing.

When I lived in New Jersey, Christine Todd Whitman became the governor and, among other things, cleaned up a significant portion of Democratic Political Machine corruption. She did not last long enough as head of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) under during "W's" first term. I still follow what she is doing.

Whitman is now the driving force behind a PAC called "It's My Party Too." This was established to cure what she, and many others, feel to be the one cause of the failure of Congress, especially this Congress, to come to grips with America's problems. This was expressed in an OpEd she recently penned.

Just like GPCA, the Republican Party is divided and the best descriptions seem to be "acrimonious" and "self-righteous." These characteristics have always been at the heart of political divisions. But I don't think that they have ever been quite so strongly so as now. Whitman entitles her Op Ed "Meaningful Dialogue Sadly Lacking". In her case, it is the interaction of the Religious Right, the power politics of Tom Delay, the popularized propaganda of Rush Limbaugh and Michael Savage and the Balkanized nature of the blogosphere with idealogy enforcing sites like The Free Republic where the only thing that is not Free is the ability to hold a different opinion.

I question whether, like the Republican, the GPCA has lost the ability to hold a "meaningful dialogue" over solutions to California's problems, which should come before the GPCA's problems.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Paparian gets a key endorsement

Danny Bakewell Sr. has today endorsed Green candidate for Congress Bill Paparian -- giving the cold shoulder to pro-war Democrat incumbent Adam Schiff. Backwell is a key figure in S. California Democratic circles and the publisher of the Los Angeles Sentinel.


Sunday, May 07, 2006

Senate Candidates

I have tried to make this site a discussion venue. Only a few have really participated. Still, I will continue laying out my opinions for what it is worth.

Here is number one.

I will not vote to Todd Chretien for Senator. While he is running around acting the candidate, he does not communicate. Even his mentor, Peter Camejo, does a far better job and is willing to spend a little time when asked. When I asked Todd questions about his candidacy, directly or later through the Cal Forum email list, he has been silent. Oh, he sends out his press release messages, but has not engaged in any sort of conversation.

On the other hand, both Kent Mesplay and Tian Harter have given me good reasons to vote for them.

I would want a Green Candidate in this election to take on the issue of energy use in the united states. That is one issue that affects every one of us. In fact, if one were to decide which issues to emphasize based on public polling, then energy and gasoline prices would be at the top of the list.

Tian has long been associated with the campaign to "mend our fuelish ways." This terminoligy has been so identified with Tian from his long association with energy issues that you can not separate them. He makes his position clear on his profile at Among his priorities is the determination "To draw connections between good citizenship in daily life and doing political acts. We need to stop voting for oil companies at the gas pump." The facts of this case argue the Tian is right.

Another issue that is hanging over all of us is the specter of global warming. We may not want to think about it, it is too big, too abstratct, there is little that we perceive that we can do, and, besides big oil and the Bush administration tell us that there is not enough data on which to make any sound policy judegements so just keep on doing what you are doing. (Isn't that a poicy judgement?)

Kent Mespaly has identified this as a key priority for him.
that national government would do better to promote REAL physical security, including steps to mitigate the nightmarish consequences of global climate change. Absent leadership from Washington, D.C. we must do what we can within our state to become self-reliant down to the county level. When we do this we will grow the economy through job creation in vital sectors such as energy and small-scale agribusiness. We can have a physical security that is built-in, allowing the populace to feel more secure and reducing our reliance on the federal government in the advent of real terror.

While Todd is running a campaign from the left, both Tian and Kent are running for office based on a sense of the truth of all 10 key values. I can support either Tian or Kent and would work hard to get them as many votes as possible. I do not have the sense that Todd represents the Green Values that I am interested in.

This campaign is about more than a catchy phrase like "A Million Votes for Peace." All three Green Party Senate Candidates are in opposition to the War in Iraq but there is more to this camapign and Kent and Tian know that. If we are to make headway as a party in California, we need someone to make sure that our candidates are grounded in the principles of being Green, are capable of making the case that the environment is not something we visit but is where we live.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

El Futuro es Verde

The Furture is Green.

That is the theme of the 2006 national meeting of the Green Party. I like it. It sure beats The Green Party: "The Electoral Arm of the Progressive Movement." The latter allows just about anyone else who labels themselves as "Progressive" to define who we are and that would be a mistake.

Maybe there is some hope to put the factional fighting behind us, but that might not happen as long as some of the most strident factional agitators remain in the party hierarchy and continue to fight the battles of 2004 all over again.

In fact, when the GPCA finally gets around to holding it's plenary, we need to make sure that those who have been actively partisan within those factions, in fact to NOT get chosen as national delegates.

There are currently one vacant seat and one national delegate whose term is up in May 06 and 2 in June 06. That means the next plenary would need to choose four (4) new delegates. There are five people named in the plenary packet for these seats. They are Jared Lahti, Bud Dickinson (current), Steve Loebs, Marilyn Ditmanson, and Chuck Giese.

I would suggest that two considerations be given when voting for these delegates:
- their performance in current Green Party position (if any).
- their partisanship in aligning with any one of the factions whose actions currently are having such a negative effect on the party.

If any individual has not performed according to the expectations in a State Office, they should not be rewarded with a promotion to a (nominally, open for discussion) higher office. Similarly, if any individual has aligned themselve with a faction and supported it in a divisive manner, then they should not be given the right to be so divisive in the National.

Having said that, it is probably that delegates to the next plenary should execise the option to vote for NOC (No Other Candidate).

Monday, May 01, 2006

What price a convention?

It appears to me that April ended with two big non-events for the Green Party. The first was the scheduled plenary in Ventura. The second was the protest event at the Democratic Convention in Sacramento.

There will probably never be agreement as to the reason that the Venture plenary was rescheduled. From the scant list of conflicting emails that I have seen, it would appear that there were real scheduling problems at the local level confounded by the fact that there was a small but highly vocal element of the Green Party that wanted to be at the Democratic Convention in Sacramento and Ventura is just too far away to do both. (hmm, that might have worked if we had been in Davis again.).

It is also very plain to see that there are some for whom there is no such thing as a conincidence. They believe that everythign that happens does so because that was what was intended.

Therefore, since one of the factors that led to the cancellation of the Venture Primary was the fact the key players, e.g. candidates, chose to be involved in the Democratic Party process rather than their own party's membership meeting, then that group of candidates has to accept at least some of the blame for this fiasco.

While there are some who believe that any publicity is good, as long as it causes people to remember your name, I don't really buy in to that when it comes to politics. But, even if I did, the demonstrations at the Democratic Convention were a failure when measured by the amount of media coverage that they received, at least in my area of the State, Silicon Valley.

I saw a < 10 second clip of Peter Camejo with a Green Party banner and some comment about the fact that some people staged a protest.

- I saw no coverage as to what the protest was about or why it happened.
- The San Jose Mercury News had not a single word about Camejo, the Green Party or the demonstration. In stead, they noted the following Sunday Morning:

PORN STARS, STUDENTS AT CAPITOL: When the Free Speech Coalition bumped up against the World Strides Educational Tour this week at the Capitol, it was an icky moment for the ages.

The educational tour included hundreds of fourth-graders. The free speech coalition included porn stars.

At one point, the coalition's legislative director, Kat Sunlove, had to ask one group of children to back away so she could get the news conference going.

The big fault here is that there was really one big story, the Angelides vx. Westley endorsement battle, and that dominated the news. Protests are at best a side show unless you can turn out over 10,000 people like the immigration protests.

But, even more important, this protest failed to produce any message about the issues that supposedly drove it.

Still, Cres Vellucci, our Press Secretary, asked me a truly pertinent question:
How much media exposure did any other Green garner this weekend, or even in the last month?
It is my personal opinion that it would have been good for the Green Party to have held our plenary, outside the perview of media coverage (which we would not have gotten). We would have had a time to come together, to hear the candidates who are in contensted state-wide elections and to start healing the wounds of past contests. Maybe we are not ready for that yet.