Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Gerald Ford

The recent death of Gerald Ford has brought forth the usual set of commentaries from those who knew him. Not having had that experience, but having lived through the Watergate years, I can only rely on the comments of those who did know him. The one word that rund through almost every commentary, from Presidents (Carter, George H. W. Bush) to reporters (Charlie Gibson, Tom Brokaw) to his presidential photographer (David Hume Kennerly) was "decent".

Maybe that comes through a number of quotes attributed to Ford.

  • I have had a lot of adversaries in my political life, but no enemies that I can remember.
  • I would hope that understanding and reconciliation are not limited to the 19th hole alone.
  • The political lesson of Watergate is this: Never again must America allow an arrogant, elite guard of political adolescents to by-pass the regular party organization and dictate the terms of a national election.
  • Truth is the glue that holds government together. Compromise is the oil that makes governments go.
It appears to me that most of the traits that allowed him to serve his country are sorely lacking today, the administration of George W. Bush, the governance of the Green Party.

Friday, December 22, 2006

A Green Christmas?

Maybe it is doubly appropriate on this blog to make at least one comment about a Green Christmas. Not that the season can't be happy for people anyway, but isn't there at least a little more that we can do? So I made a list, did not even check it once and checking it twice would be a waste of energy.

Well, it is probably too late now. At my pace, I will be making Ground Hog Day resolutions, again... and again... and again.

Real life intrudes

As Greens, we seem to constantly deal with things that have nothing to do with real life. It is as if we become so frustrated with aspects of real life, things we feel powerless to change, that we construct obstacles that we feel there is a chance that we can handle. Maybe that is the reason so many California Greens spend so much energy try to deal with...
  • who is really the LA County rep on the CC.
  • whether Peter Camejo dissed the SF Green Party.
  • is David Cobb really a Demo-Green
Then, we get a reminder that that there are those dealing with real life. Mike Ewall, CoCo of the the national Eco Action Committee, sent out a note today in which he directed us to the plight of some Navajo Grandmothers who are acting in opposition to a proposed "dirty" coal plant on the Reservation. This was a subject of a number of my blog posts when PomboWatch was still up.

The basic problem comes because the Navajo Reservation has a lot of coal and a lack of jobs. Therefore, every time a new project comes along, it always has the promise of new jobs for an area the sorely needs them. Coal, however, is never a clean energy source.

The story is told from two sides. The link above gives a good story of those who oppose the new plant. The corporate story is another case. At least, on that site, you can also leave comments on the project by clicking on Comments in the top menu.

California has taken a stand in support of cleaner solutions for electric power. When the State of California told the Mojave Power Generating Station (Laughlin, NV) to clean up its emissions or they would not buy any more power from them, the plant ended up shutting down rather than clean up their act. Governor Schwarzenegger just leaned on the City of Truckee to persuade them NOT to sign a long term contract for power from a Coal fired plant in Utah.

With Pombo gone, we now have to watch what Democrat Nick Rahall does as Chairman of the House Committee on "Natural" Resources, as he wants to rename it. That Committee has oversight responsibility for our Resources and also for the Department of the Interior, Bureau of Indian Affairs. Rahall is from W. Virginia, a major coal state and has a long relationship with the coal industry.

Maybe we should introduce the Raging Grannies to their Navajo counterparts. And remind me not to get on the wrong side of a grandmother.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

The more things change, etc.

I grew up in a time that was essentially before television. I can remember going to a neighbor's home to watch the 1956 presidential conventions in b/w. Now, we have our airwaves filled with political pundits, comedy / variety shows, sports, sit-coms, etc. Before we had all of this we had to rely on radio and travelling vaudeville. Political Comedy came from the likes of Will Rogers, whom I quote here.
Everything is changing. People are taking their comedians seriously and the politicians as a joke.
He always found a way to skewer Congress.
And the thing about my jokes is, they don't hurt anybody. You can take 'em or leave 'em - you can say they're funny or they're terrible or they're good, or whatever, but you can just pass 'em by. But with Congress, every time they make a joke, it's a law! And every time they make a law, it's a joke!
Maybe we need a Green sit-com to reach today's public.

Political Interference in Science.

One of my favorite rant subjects involves political interpretations of scientific data. It is one reason that Chris Mooney's blog exists. I have just found that the Union of Concerned Scientists have developed a novel gimic for explaining the extent of this elemental strategy to subvert the truth.

For a wonderful exzample of how your tax payer dollars are being spent, you only need to look at the information package presente regarding Earth Day 2006.

Still, there are more examples of the fact that the tide is changing regards climate change and energy policy. I offer the following quote from one member of a discussion panel at last Weeks meeting of the American Geophysical Union.
"Climate change is real, and we clearly believe we are on a route to mandatory controls on carbon dioxide and we need to start now because the longer we wait, the more difficult and expensive this is going to be." - James Rogers, CEO, Duke Energy in NY Times.
I think that we need to provide a political action equivalent to the Union of Concerned Scientists Chart. Maybe we can get commoner1 to host it at Green Commons. Does anyone want to help with this?

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Every little bit helps.

All through my recent commentary has been the idea that the Green Party needs to get real about raising money in small amounts. In his recent campaign for Congress, Jerry McNerney (CA 11) raised a very large amount of money where the average contribution was under $150. So, it can be done.

Some simple math:

Were we to get $10 from all 141,451 registered Greens (10/23/2006 data) we would have added nearly $1.5 million in the state budget.

So, this is my challenge. Go here and donate at least $10. Then, get two additional Green Party members to do the same. Every little bit helps. I would love to have State GP Treasurer, Kenny Mostern, complaining about the gas he was burning going to the bank to make deposits.

If the Green Party is doing anything worth while, it is worth supporting with a cost of a few lattes at your local coffee house.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Are we ready?

There was an interesting comment by David Brooks on the Chris Matthews show this week. Brooks, a very conservitave NY Times Columnist, thought that the American public was more ready to accept an African American as President than they were to accept a woman. This went deeper than just the fact that Clinton has accumulated more baggage than has Obama. Now, I am seeing the first stirring of GP activist interest in another run by white, male Dennis Kucinich.

I find it very interesting that Greens seem to jump up and down to show concern for Democrat Cynthia McKinney, (link soon to disappear) especially after her parting shot introduction of an "Impeach Bush" bill in the House of Representative, and yet I hear so little support for Malik Rahim who seems to be working very hard to make New Orleans into a Greener city. Are Greens more comfortable with McKinney than they are with an ex-Black Panther? Is this only a question of the fact that, like many other Amercans, there is emotional room for only one issue and that is Iraq. It seems to me that Rahim is living Green and that deserves considerable support, now and always.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Greenback Dollars

Lisa left a comment to my previous post re: Greens and Money. It seems that one anthem of the party may come from the old Hoyt Axton song, Greenback Dollar. We don't seem to have enough of them. We seem to despise those who do, and who use the power of those greenbacks to influence opinon.

There are two thoughts that come time mind, each in a way that points to doing things differently. There is an image of the Green Party as being a bunch of older, have it made urbanites who are playing politics. Like most, that image is partly true. The one thing that is definitely not true is the "have it made" part. I would say that there are many Greens who would participate more if it were not for the fact that they have to earn a living. At the same time, there are those who have participated in the work of the party even though it meant that they set aside doing what should have been done to make sure that they and their family well cared for. Being Green is a family decision.

Another thought is that we do not have the proper focus within the organization. We have a finance committee that appears to function primarily as a "budget" committee. I make that differentiation without knowing anything that goes on in the finance committee, only on the fact that the only interaction I have had with the committee was to participate in the preparation of budgets for various working groups (GROW and GIWG).

If we are serious about being a party, we need to find better methods of fund raising than just having 2 donate links on the GPCA home page. The lack of anything other than that is one more evidence that we are not yet ready for prime time (you do need money for getting into prime time).

So, it is in that vein that I am soliticing ideas for fund raising activities that can be conducted by GPCA or any of it's locals. Just add them here as comments. I will make sure that the GPCA Finance Committee gets a chance to see them. No promises that anyone will do anything, but you never know unless you tell us.

Suggestion #1: Subscription drive for Green Focus. We need to turn this into a revenue stream and paid subscription help.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Science and Public Policy

Just two additional comments here:

First, in yesterday's post I mentioned that I wanted to hear Al Gore's speech to the American Geophysical Union. Well, it is online, both text and video, at the KGO-TV. Maybe it is a bit long (52:18) on self-deprecating humor, and the audio has a large room echo, but interesting never the less. His point about the divergence of science and culture is well taken. He quoted someone as saying "John Stuart Mills was the last man to know everything."

Along with this disjunction, there comes the fact that we have politicized science so that (Yes, here he used that term.) inconvenient truths need not to be discussed. This is not a new, 21st Century phenomenon. The story of Gallileo attests to the fact that scientific truths, when convenient, are always challenged by some power structure. The question is rather what we do about it.

As Greens, we need to begin to take leadership in restoring a scientific view of the world as a basis for policy. What better basis is there for policy than a factual view of the world as it really exists, or as close to that as the best minds of our time can achieve?

I am not sure that many Greens are ready to do that. There is an orthodoxy in progressive thought that is just as rigid as the orthodoxy of church in Gallileo's time, one that would deny those truths that challenge their assumptions about how the world really is.

One of the things that I do is to watch the number of people who read this blog, especially those who read more than the latest post on the home page. Those numbers go up when I post about internal Green politics and go down when I post about ecology. From this I conclude that either people are not interested in the subjet or, conversely, assume that there is nothing that they can do about such big, not so easy to understand issues.

To return to Gore's speech, it is his view the the current "Climate Crisis" is only a symptom of a greater, underlying conflict between human kind as a species and our planet. If that is true, then there is no political structure that is better positioned to "frame" these issues and suggest solutions to the problems that they present, than the Green Party. I really pains me that we are not exerting any kind of leadership here.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

A Scientific Basis for Public Policy

The idea of basing public policy, when possible, on the best of what we know through science seems so sensible that I can not imagine anyone who would do otherwise. Still, we have an administration in Washington that seems determined to do otherwise.

Chris Mooney
, a journalist with a bent for science, has called this "The Republican War on Science." It is hard to understand what the government thinks they are doing, but when the Environmental Protection Agency is directed to shut down their libraries and to destroy the research that is currently available there, it is just about the last straw.

A few in government are fighting back in an organized manner. An organization of governmental workers called Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) sent out a press release last week that now says the EPA is "purging records from its library websites, making them unavailable to both agency scientists and outside researchers..". If it is toxic, if it can make you sick, better to not let anyone know about it. They might panic.

It is no wonder that the people of this country have lost their faith in our government.

Scientists, on the other hand, take it seriously in their own meetings. The American Geophysical Union is holding its 2006 Fall meeting in San Francisco this week. The lunch speaker on Thursday will be Al Gore. His topic is "Climate Change: The Role of Science and the Media in Policymaking".

With the Republicans waging their War on Science, we should find that the media would be representing the citizens, showing us where the truth lies. Instead, they find two experts with differing opinions, ask them the same question and call that "balanced coverage." I call it lazy journalism. We really need someone to identify for us just exactly where policy intervenes to alter the perception of fact.

This is one time that I would be willing to sit through an unexciting Gore speech, because he just might be one who will tell the truth.

Getting the Green for CA Greens

No one doubts that running in elections demand a lot of money. Greens don't have much. In fact, it seems to me that many Greens have moved from viewing "the love of money" as the root of all evil, to just "money".

The realist is that money has always driven politics. Will Rogers (1879-1935) had fun with this, as the following quotes are attributed to him.
  • A fool and his money are soon elected.
  • Politics has become so expensive that it takes a lot of money even to be defeated
Just remember that this was before the days of television and robo-calls. As regards the last quote, in the election that I am most familiar with, Jerry McNerney spent approx. $14 per vote to defeat Richard Pombo Pombo, on the other hand, spent just over $36 to lose. What is not included in this number if the amount of money that the Defenders of Wildlife, Sierra Club, League of Conservation Voters and the Humane Society dumped into the race in opposition to Pombo. That was easily over $10 for every vote for McNerney.

What do we need to think about as Greens? How serious are we about winning elections and how much money do we need to put in the bank to pull it off? If winning your election is going to take 80,000 votes, then you clearly need to think of raising $1 million to make it happen or have a very aggressive, very effective alternative strategy and friends with deep pockets.

The next thing to think about is where does the money come from. The Green Party has a formal position of not accepting money from corporations. That is reasonable. Other than that, I believe that we are governed by election law and individual conscience. Let me take the example of the Green Institute that was mentioned by a Humboldt County resident in previous comments.

Even in the non-profits that are beginning to show up around the Green Party, money is important to get started and keep it running. As a party we do not
  • have a full time press secretary;
  • have even a secreatary who can answer the phone, set up meetings, prepare agendas, etc.
  • have any on going data analysis of where our votes are coming from or where / why we are losing registration.
Maybe, this party would do better if we learned how to deal with money and its ethical use.

When we look at the Green Institute and those who were characterized as "Cobb Cronies", we find the following people on the board of directors: Gloria Mattera, Malik Rahim, Anita Rios, Audrey Thayer. Every one of these, have made significant contributions to the Green Party in their communities and to their communities themselves through grassroots activism. And yes, David Cobb is on the Board also. There is also a Board of Advisors that is possibly even more well known, including Medea Benjamin, Sam Smith and John Rensenbrink. So, this is the list of people who are called shills for the Demcrats.

I still don't buy all of the arguements. While I was not happy with the Republican effort to support Greens as an election strategy in Pennsylvania (and last election in Monterey County, CA), I don't find that the fact Dean Meyerson accepted money from people who were registered Democrats when starting the Green Institute was unethical. I have looked at the publications and collective work that Meyerson's group has published as part of the Green Institute's efforts, and there is nothing that I find which is so antithetical to Green Values as to be destructive. In fact, some of the members of the Advisory Board were notable for advising Cobb NOT to run on a safe states strategy.

If we want to continue to run this party on a purely volunteer basis, then we are also saying that we want a bunch of rich people running the party, because those are the only ones who have enough money to provide the full time effort required to do something right. If we are satisfied with half measures and sloppy work, poor communications, etc. then we have to accept the consequences.

And do not expect the public to bail us out with public financing of campaigns. Post election polling done by the Public Policy Institue of California indicated that this is an idea that does not have very good reception with the voters of California. This was discussed by Frank Russo in the California Progress Report.

So, if we want to start winning elections, we need to figure out how to raise money, ethically, and then come up with a way to measure the effectiveness of our expenditures. Sometimes allowing everyone to get "their share" does not make good sense.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Turning on the spotlight

As my previous post indicated, there are still people in GPCA who are fighing Cobb / Nader. Or maybe they are fighting Cobb / GDI. Or maybe they are just fighting David Cobb. I can think of nothing that we is more detrimental to the operation of GPCA than continuing this fight.

I keep hearing the term "future focus" in Green Party discussions, but when it comes to politics, we seem to be intent on invoking the past, even re-living it. When we should be dealing with the issues that most voters are worried about we spend too damned much energy in a circular game of Russian Roulette.

Now, the question du jour is one of which group of Regional Reps to seat for LA County. While this has been bottled up in Coordinating Committee, Bylaws Committee and other internal discussions, maybe it is time to shine a little light on it for all to see. This is rather like sending the Florida Election to the Supreme Court with the ByLaws Committee acting as the court. I am not sure that they have that power, nor am I sure that the outcome of such a decisions would be any more universally accepted by Greens than that of the Supreme Court decision of 2000.

In the mean time, this controversy is tying up the entire operations of the GPCA so that not even the next GA can be scheduled.

So, here is a suggestion to get past it. Everyone else in the State should shut up about GP in LA. All six of the regional reps should resign pending the election of a replacement. Then the LA Green Party should invite the Carter Center to supervise a new election as a guarantee of fairness. Let everyone campaign for the role.

Then, as is only fair, we should start holding all Regional Reps accountable for their performance accoring to the job description. It is clear to me that most Regional Reps fail to perform at least 50% of the tasks. I know that I could not, which is why I have not run for such an office. But I still have the right to criticize the performance of others.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Some people still fight 2004.

Earlier, I wrote about a senryu contest. The one reply, and subject of this post, that I have received so far was:

Stop this cowardice
Stand up to Cobb's evil
Fight the Democrats ... by anonymous.

I found this a bit ironic, that one would talk of cowardice and refuse to identify themselves.

To which they replied.

Either stand up to the Democrats or be abandoned as irrelevant. It's your choice.
No, it is those who continue to fight the 2004 election all over again who are irrelevant. Developing policy on the basis of opposing what the Democrats are doing is giving them control over your actions. What a stupid thing to do. It is worthy of Karl Rove.

It is time to start a new Green Revolution in CA and, if the Democrats don't want to join, it is they who will become irrelevant. Just as the Repbulicans are playing to their base to the point that they are in danger of becoming a minor regional (southern) party, those who continue to fight this idiotic battle are the ones who endanger this party.

A Green Revolution begins when we start defining what a Green California could become, and then begin to work toward that vision. All else is just pretense.

Your senryu will remain, as invited, but the other comment, having found a new home here, will be deleted from the senryu thread.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Global Greens

I find it somewhat ironic that Greens are so adamant in their opposition to globalization yet affirm the power of the Global Green movement. At least, to even have a Global Green Conference, we seem to need at least international (global) transportation companies / national airlines.

So, what is it about globalization that is so terribly wrong and which makes Thomas Friedman into an object of derision? After all, Friedman made quite a stir when commenting that "Green is the new Red, White and Blue." Of course he meant small-g green, a statement about ecology and technology and the role that it should play in the economy. Friedman even called for the creation of a Geo-Green Party.

[My apologies for the NY Times Select links... they now charge to view their archives but a web search will find lots of people who comment on both Friedman articles.]

Just taking a quick look at the work of the GPCA, I find that Friedman has some validity in making this call. There is little that the GPCA, or the GPUS, is doing in a positive manner to provide a vision of a Green future in either ecological or economic terms. The list of activities from the GPCA is relatively small.
  • Working to block the expansion of WarMart.
  • Campaigning for a higher minimum wage.
The evidence of a lack of concern for similar questions is abundant, but nothing is more clear than the fact that there are no "coordinators" for either Community Based Sustainable Economics or Ecology & Earth Stewardship within the Green Issues Working Group. It is as if, having written a good platform statement we are saying "been there, done that" and what is next.

If there is one thing about the Nature of Order, it is the interconnectedness of things. My best example came from the pages of High Country News. I read there of a company named Wheat Montana. A vertically integrated family business, they practice a "green" agriculture, keep the processing of the wheat to flour in the local community, and even have their own bakeries supporting a regional distribution. Knowing this, I started to look for Wheat Montana flour in my local stores. When I finally found it, we used it for baking our own bread and found the quality to be worth its slight extra cost. The other side of the coin is that the only store carrying it is WalMart.

I know that there are Green activists who push for specific programs. Anyone participating in the Rural Green discussion list has been well indoctrinated in the terminology of Georgian Economics, especially the phrases:
  • privatize what is socialized (negative externalities)
  • socialize what is privatized (economic rent)
The same individuals take this approach on the national Eco-Action committee email list.

I also know that there are individual, community efforts in the Northwestern counties (Mendocino, Humboldt) of California to establish a truly localized economy.

I still maintain that there is no easily understood vision of what a Green World would be like, no shared common understanding of what makes us unique. If one were to look at even the more intelligent (not Rush Limbaugh) Republican sites, they still use the term "greenies" to indicate a group of people who are against everything.

So what are we for?

Friday, December 01, 2006

Senryu contest

'This is a contest with no prize other than the fact that good entries stay on the site and bad ones get axed.

What, you may as, you may ask is a senryu? The link give a longer definition with example, but the short definition is that it is a short verse in similar struture to haiku. That is, a 5 - 7- 5 syllable structure. The difference is that the senryu is more like black comedy, ironic, sardonic, sometimes self-deprecating, at least comic.

I am soliticiting senryu on green themes, including the current state of affairs in the leadership of the party. My own paltry initial effort ...

Cold tonight. So bad
that even Al Gore asked me
to turn up the heat.

How creative are we?

Supreme Judicial Judgement

I check in periodically with Chris Mooney at Intersection on Science Blogs. He is now picking on poor old justice Scalia and his performance in the recent hearing on the question of whether the EPA has the authority to, or is compelled to, set standards for CO2 emissions under the Clean Air Act.

JUSTICE SCALIA: Mr. Milkey, I had -- my problem is precisely on the impermissible grounds. To be sure, carbon dioxide is a pollutant, and it can be an air pollutant. If we fill this room with carbon dioxide, it could be an air pollutant that endangers health. But I always thought an air pollutant was something different from a stratospheric pollutant, and your claim here is not that the pollution of what we normally call "air" is endangering health. That isn't, that isn't -- your assertion is that after the pollutant leaves the air and goes up into the stratosphere it is contributing to global warming.

MR. MILKEY: Respectfully, Your Honor, it is not the stratosphere. It's the troposphere.

JUSTICE SCALIA: Troposphere, whatever. I told you before I'm not a scientist.


JUSTICE SCALIA: That's why I don't want to have to deal with global warming, to tell you the truth
Mooney is not the only one to have trouble with this. Carl Pope also commented this week.
The important issue is not whether EPA must, or only can, regulate greenhouse pollutants-- what's also being decided here is whether the states can regulate global warming pollution themselves. If EPA can regulate CO2, then so can California and other states -- so their right to set emission standards for CO2 from motor vehicles would be protected as long as the Supreme Court concedes that CO2 is a pollutant. And the real reason the Bush Administration has fought against admitting that CO2 is a pollutant is its desire to block state action to clean up vehicle emissions.
So, in all of this, where is the Green Party? I don't see much going on. The Green Issues Working Group in CA has no one at the present time to function as a Coordinator for Ecology & Earth Stewardship. Maybe it not all that important for most. It were we would be doing some of the following:
  • Taking a public policy position in support of the current law suit.
  • Establishing an ongoing contact with the California Department of Resources.
  • Identifying a list of the top envioronmental issues in California with CO2 and methane emissions near the top.
  • Developing a close working relationship with the non-profits that are doing much of the advocacy work.
Anyone got another idea? I want to hear it.
The most kind descriptin term that I have heard used recently applied to the Coordinating Committee (CC) of GPCA is "disfunctional". There are now those who would call it irrelevant.

It is far from irrelevant as long as there are legal definitions for the Green Party in the State of California. It is not irrelevant as long as there is a legal relationship with the Green Party of the United States. If it has become completely irrelevant, then that would mean that the GPCA has become irrelevant and I will not accept that judgement.

However, the CC may not have much of a say as to what happens with the Green Party if effective leadership asserts itself at some other levels. There is a wide range of entities within GPCA that do not need any official sanction from the CC in order to operate.

County Councils operate on their own to reflect Green Values at a level just above the community. As such, they should be developing their own programs, finding their own candidates and establishing their own governance.

The Working Groups of GPCA need only to justify and receive a budget from the CC. They have their own set of concerns and can deal with them as time and energy permit.
  • Green Issues Working Group can, and has in the past, worked effectively independly of any CC involvement until GIWG comes forward to the General Assembley for approval of a resolution. Their only current problem is an overall lack of involvement in some of the current major issues in California.
  • GrassRoots Organizing Working Group is tasked"to provide resources for collaboration, skill sharing, and training in order to promote the strategic growth and diversity of the Green Party of California." This makes their role somewhat passive. What we need is for GROW to become more aggressive in identifying opportunities for GROWth and making getting the resources in place to make that happen.
  • Campaigns and Candidate Working Group - Now that 2006 election cycle is over, we need to start laying plans for 2008.
  • Electoral Reform Working Group - These activists are working for a political process that protects the rights of voting Californians. It is convenient that this also gives Greens a greater voice.
I believe that it is time for the activists of the GPCA to place their energies into local work with their county councils, or into work within the structure of the Standing Committees and Working Groups. If we place our energies into doing what needs to be done, that leadership will find it's way into the CC, while will follow. Isn't that the Green way, where the grassroots determine what the leadership should be doing?