Monday, December 31, 2007

With hope for the new year.

Reading Bryan Caplan's new book, The Myth of the Rational Voter. Since you can not escape the campaign news about the upcoming primary events, the follow quote is a very sobering thought.
When a consumer has mistaken beliefs about what to buy, he foots the bill. When a voter has mistaken beliefs about government policy, the whole population picks up the tab.
What is the probability of such mistaken beliefs? I would guess that even a failing student in Econ. 101 has a significant knowledge advantage over the average voter.

Green Governance in 2008

Because Roger Gray had not updated his One SoCal Green blog in months, I had dropped it from the blogroll here. Now, today, thanks to wifi and some time to sit and think, Roger has updated it with a new post worth reading.

Roger is one of those Green who has stepped across the threshold into the realm of governance in Pasadena, CA where is he is a member of the Environmental Advisory Commission. There are two additional things you should know about Pasadena. One, is that it recently had a Green Party Mayor, Bill Paparian. The other is that Roger has been on a number of different city commissions, always trying to recruit other Greens and mentoring them on to the commission before he moves on.

I am in full agreement with Roger on the idea that we need to be for something and not always against everything. Protest will only take you so far. It may, in fact, win an election for you but then you have to learn how to govern, to transform protest into policy.

I guess that Roger would call me a Generation 3 Green.

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Green Aesthetics

Two serendipitous events caused me to ask the question of whether their could be such a thing as a Green Aesthetic, or a Green Art. First, my wife and I visited the San Jose Museum of Art yesterday to view two small exhibits. One was a collection of lithograph's by the Spanish artist Joan MirĂ³ and selected works by Richard Diebenkorn, created in New Mexico between 1950-1952.

The second event was the fact that I spent more time looking at the Green Change web site. Actually I was prodded into doing this by Sanda Everette who thought I had missed putting a link into the right side menu here. (I had, but consciously... it is there now.)

The words that I am reacting to come on the "About us" page.
Green Change is a community of people with Green values: Justice, democracy, sustainability and non-violence. We work together to share Green art, politics and culture.
What would be the characteristics of a Green Art? I think foremost that is is not defined solely by the politics of it's content, though content is always a concern. There is a lot of so called art that people make that would never be called "green". In fact, most of it does not cross the threshold from being only propaganda to being art.

Art has the power to move us by its unique combination of aesthetics and concepts. Take away either one and it loses power. Take away all of the aesthetic communication involved and I no longer call it art, only propaganda.

I am not going to try to take readers from Aristotle through Kant to Clement Greenberg. Rather, I would like to suggest that the Japanese concept of wabi-sabi embodies the characteristic of a Green Aesthetics. I referenced the wikipedia article on wabi-sabi because it probably is better than more "arty" books at communicating the sense of wabi-sabi.

I recently picked up a book on wabi-sabi in Kinokunya book store. They made it all sound so easy with quick quotes from the likes of John Coltrane. "You can play a shoestring if you are sincere." While sincere expression is a part of wabi-sabi, they left unstated that Coltrane was a tireless worker at what he did.
I've been reading a Jerry Coker book on how to practice jazz and in it he describes that someone (Dave Baker?) observed John Coltrane practice during one of his 11 hour practice sessions and remarked that Trane, who by this time was already a colossal player, intensely practiced in C major the whole time.
Sincerity by itself is not enough. There is much art that is sincerely bad.

In a similar fashion, may American text emphasize the idea of being unfinished and imperfect and use that as an excuse for a total lack of craft. In terms of the pottery that was so highly valued by the tea masters of Japan, the imperfections resulting from the the firing, the accidental but aesthetically correct markings of that process were highly valued.
"It (wabi-sabi) nurtures all that is authentic by acknowledging three simple realities: nothing lasts, nothing is finished, and nothing is perfect." (Richard R. Powell, Wabi-Sabi Simple

Still missing from the wikipedia article is the sense that there was a value in being old, of having survived, of carrying a patina of regular use. It is not a degrading of art by use but rather an elevation of the useful to the status of "art". Maybe this is the one concept that seems the most foreign to Western artists and the reasons why so many are so wide of the mark when they try so hard to follow this aesthetic.

The O'Hanlon Center for the Arts in Mill Vally, CA has an annual show entitled Wabi-Sabi. From what I have seen, it rarely achieves its goal.

Why I think this is a Green Aesthetic

The emotional base of wabi-sabi comes from our relationship to nature.
Wabi-sabi values that which has a history of being useful.
Objects which are described as wabi-sabi are generally subdued rather than loud, simple if form rather than ornate.
Wabi-sabi recognizes the process of creation and the interconnectedness of

One of my vivid memories from five years of living in Japan was the experience of spending a dreary Autumn afternoon in the Nezu Art Museum which had a show of 16th / 17th Century ceramics. I don't remember any specifics. I only remember leaving the Nezu and walking through their garden. One shaft of sun broke the clouds, striking a small maple tree. One red leaf dropped, coming to rest on viewing bench in the garden. Simple, quiet, unforgettable.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Another Debate

While I am on the subject of debates, I want to call everyone's attention to the effort to establish a Science Debate 2008. What started as an idea between two writers has blossomed into a full fledged, well-organized effort. One of them is Michael Chapman, Great Grandson of Charles Darwin.

The list of signatories to this effort now includes:
  • 14 Nobel Laureates
  • 10 University Presidents (Duke, Princeton, Stanford, Cal-Poly SLO, Cal State Monterey Bay, Carnegie Mellon, Washington, Humboldt State, San Jose State, Cal State San Bernardino)
  • 8 Members of Congress (CA's Sam Farr (D-CA 17) included)
The CoChairs of this effort are now Congressmen Vern Ehlers (R- MI) and Rush Holt (D-NJ). Both are trained scientists. The press release that announced the new CoChairs made clear the rationale.
“When you think about it, nearly every major challenge the next President will face has a science or technological component,” said Lawrence M. Krauss, an astrophysicist at Case Western Reserve University and a member of the ScienceDebate2008 steering committee. “We owe it to the next generation to address these challenges responsibly.”
As we sit though our own Presidential Debates, maybe we should ask ourselves how our candidate would represent this party were they invited to be part of Science Debate 2008. I am challenging the committee to include the Green Candidate just as I am challenging our candidates to be prepared.

The feedback that I have from Science Debate 2008 is:
We have not as yet made a determination about venue or who will or will not be invited to any debate; however FEC guidelines suggest we base the invitation on objective, published criteria.

At this point in time, we are working to broaden support for the concept. Naming the two physicists in congress, who also happen to be respective members of the two major parties, signals a non-partisan approach, not an attempt to be exclusive of other voices.
In that response, it is easy to construe that the criteria will be set to preclude other parties. I emphasized their choice of the word "non-partisan" to indicate that it was not "bi-partisan." We can always hope.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Debate Questions

With the Green Party Presidential Debate now scheduled for Jan 13 in San Francisco, I am interested in giving the organizing committee some input on the questions that we, the grassroots of this party, would like to have answered by our candidates.

This is not a time for cheap shots, trick questions that might have come from the mind of an Ann Coulter or a even of a nice guy like James Carville. These should be serious questions that I would want to see any Green Party candidate answering so that I know, when I vote, that they will be representing me.

I will start this off with three question of my own. They represent several of the top concerns from a recent poll of likely voters. I would really like to have them all but I am limiting myself to only 3 for now. I have already solicited some questions from a few others and had a response from a 2004 Green Party candidate, Lorna Salzman. So, I will also list her's here.

After that, I hope that you all will use the comment capability on this blog to register your own.

My Questions:
  • There is no longer any doubt that the world is warming and the we are the cause. As Pogo said, We have met the enemy and they is us. As President, what steps would you take, what changes would you make in energy policy to reduce our contributions to Global Warming.
  • Immigration, trade policies and agricultural are all linked together. Changing one affect the others. Is there a way to achieve a satisfactory solution to all three? If so, what is it?
  • The effect of the Iraq war and the way that the current administration has pursued it's reckless war on terror, has lost America the moral standing that it once had. How would you restore this country's soul?

Lorna Salzman's questions:

  • Will you work for a universal single payer health care system?
  • Will you work for a carbon tax on fossil fuels?
  • Will you work for a revival and expansion of a government-run, national passenger rail system, including a high-speed passenger rail line on the east coast?
That is two takes on the debate. What do you want to hear about?

Green Party Presidential Debate

The first, and so far only, Green Party Presidential Debate will take place in San Francisco on Sunday, January 13. The announcement has not yet, as far as I know, gone out to press but it has shown up on the Alameda County Green Party web site and has been posted (by someone) to the Third Party Watch site as of very early this AM.
Time: 2 PM

Venue: Herbst Theater/Veterans Memorial Bldg
401 Van Ness (opposite City Hall)
San Francisco
If this announcement is correct, it is mostly good news.

I knew that the effort to organize this debate was underway. The last I had heard was the Nader's participation had not yet been confirmed. I hope that the inclusion of his name on the Alameda County announcement means that he has agreed to participate. His name is on the ballot for the California Primary. It is my understanding that he will be in attendance. What he does here will tell us a lot about what his intentions are.

This debate will take place on Jan 13. Absentee ballots will already be in the mail. Some may already have voted. Personally, I will not vote until after this debate and, if Nader wants me to vote for him, he will have to participate in this debate on an equal bass with other candidates. The risk that one would run is that Nader might choose NOT to actively seek the nomination as a Green and then my vote would have been wasted.

You may note that there are two candidates on the national GP web site whose names are not included in this list. I am assured by the organizers that they were invited and either had conflicts (Kat) or have not yet responded (Jesse).

I cross posted this at Green Commons. Some of the emphasis might change as these posts will be geared toward questions surrounding the California Primary. The one thing that will not change is my belief that a credible Green Party candidate needs to be able to respond to questions on a wide range of issues: Global Warming, Health Care, Economics including tax policies, Iraq War and other foreign policy questions, immigration and trade policy. This must not become only a matter of "electability" or in Green Party terms, of how many new voters they can bring in to the party. We need to recognize that we can only build this party based on what our candidates stand for now, today and what they will do to make this a better America, continent, world.

To that end, I will later today be posting at California Greening, a list of questions that I would like to see be answered by our candidates as well as soliciting questions from others.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Dam facts, dam lies

We should all admit that blogging is not journalism. To begin with, journalists often do a lousy job of fact checking... but they do it. They even love to do it regarding political campaign statements. But too often it stops there.

Bloggers, on the other hand, love to fact check politicians, journalists (ask Dan Rather), each other so they can gloat, but rarely themselves. Blogging is normally just a collection of disjointed, out of contest statements and factoids that the blogger tries to spin into a real narrative.

This time, I will give you the statements and let you play be the blogger. I read the following in a recent newsletter from Friends of the River.

Do you know that for 20 years, well, actually since the late '70s, they have not built a dam? I mean, think about that. They have not built a dam. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, July 14, 2007

California's population is growing rapidly, but our statewide water storage and delivery system has not been significantly improved in 30 years. Association of California Water Agencies, September 2007

According to Friends of the River:
In fact more that 6.2 million acre feet of water storage has been developed in California since 1990. This includes 5.3 million acre feet of groundwater storage in the San Joaquin Valley as well as 924,000 acre feet of surface storage behind the Los Vaqueros, Diamond Valley and Olivenhain Dams (all completed in the last 10 years).

What will it take to get someone to tells us what is really happening rather than just reporting what the Governor said.

Fact or not? You figure it out for the following:
About 500 farmers in the Westlands Water District in the Tulare Basin receive more water every year from the Delta than the Los Angeles, San Diego, and San Francisco Bay metropolitan area combined.

Bill Moyers on Steroids

The writings of Bill Moyers is a great source. full of things to think about, mull over, and then repeat... repeat often because they seem to fit so many situations. So it is with his recent essay on the Mitchel Report on the use of steroids in baseball.
There was a lesson in George Mitchell's report that I'm not sure even he recognized. The day Americans don't feel strongly enough about the need for level playing fields to fight for them -- the day when cutting corners and seeking an edge become the national pastime -- is the day democracy will be lucky even to find a seat in the bleachers.
I think that the term "level playing field" was chosen with great care. You find it often in the rhetoric of George W. Bush. It forms the basis of almost all discussions of Thomas Friedman's book, "The World if Flat". In the linked Harvard Business Review article, James Heskett asks a number of questions that we need to answer.
Who benefits most from a level playing field? A developing economy achieving productivity gains with volume increases achieved through low factor costs of production? Or a developed economy realizing productivity gains in totally different ways, for example, by leveraging already high factor costs through technology and the education and communication required to use the technology more effectively? Are these two types of economies even competing on the same playing field?
This goes beyond just an knee jerk anti-corporate reaction that I sometimes hear from Greens. I am not sure if that comes from a Marxist or an anarchist perspective and I doubt whether the protesters even know themselves.

If we want to make a serious run for national political prominence, we have start taking the answer to Heskett's question and translate that into specific policies. What do we do about NAFTA? Renegotiate, unilaterally withdraw from the agreement? Gleaned from the comments of those who responded to Heskett on the HBR web site:
Radhika Unni: That doesn't mean I feel that governments should stop the natural market dynamics, but at the same time it doesn't mean that countries should use the term "level playing field" as an excuse for exploitation.
Maybe it is time to re-examine the Platform of the Green Party, especially those section which deal with economic realities.

The Green world view, growing out of the vision of people grounded in the Deep Ecology of Arne Naess, recognizes the interconnectedness of things in the world of social / economic interactions just as much as we do in the world of nature. Not all Greens do. We can not deal with immigration and trade as separate issues. The roots are so intertwined that separation could be fatal to both causes. Does our platform call for a 30 hr. work week when most middle class families have to hold down three jobs just to maintain their standard of living and all the consumerism that this implies.

Moyers has a unique ability to cut through to the soul of this country, to understand and communicate those elements of our makeup that have mythic connotation. The American sense of fair play that Moyers fears we are losing has no better expression than the 10 key values of this party. If we want to move not to the right, nor the left, but forward to a new future, we had better figure out how to tap into these sensibilities.

Monday, December 24, 2007


This is a season for birthday celebrations. Mine is today. It will be very quiet, rather like the mood set by my daughter's email this morning.
Hope that you don't have to do too much yardwork or drying of fruit and get to relax today, perhaps kicking back and listening to some music with Mimi resting on your lap and Mom making your favorite dinner (what would that be?).

I'll be celebrating your birthday at the barn.
I don't know if the reference to the barn was a comment on the nature of getting older or just recognition that she has the responsibility for two horses on Long Island.

Tomorrow is a much more important birthday celebration, one that has a centuries long history of celebration. I am always reminded of a particular celebration of Chistmas, that which I experienced in Salzburg in 1960 while there on one of the "semester abroad" programs with the University of Redlands.

The evening of my birthday was one of those nights when the temperature hovered just above freezing. The sky was overcast, it was foggy and the chill went through to your bones. Two of us went to the late Mass at the Salzburger Dom. I remember that the Mass performed was the music of Michael Hayden.

I remember more explicitly the transformation I felt on walking out of the Church. The ground was covered with an inch or two of new fallen snow, the sky was clear and the stars shown brightly. A few large flakes of snow still fell silently to the ground and little other than a few wishes for joy and health between friends broke the silence.

Such wishes I have for you.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Indian Country Today Interview: Kent Mesplay

Since I gave my rationale for supporting Kent Mesplay for President, I should really follow up by calling your attention to an interview that was published today on the Front Page of Indian Country Today.

This will give everyone a very different look at this candidate. His life story is, to say the lease, unique.
'I didn't grow up on the reservation. I grew up in an environment that in many respects is even more primitive than some of our more isolated reservations. My dad picked the least hospitable place on the planet that you could think of: he chose Papua, New Guinea,'' Mesplay said with a laugh.

''So I grew up with Stone Age people in the middle of the rain forest. We didn't have television or even telephones. We captured rainwater for drinking and had a garden. There was a small air strip where we had provisions flown in, but we were largely self-reliant and that's part of who I am as a person.''

Sustainability and self reliance are crucial to security, Mesplay said.
There is much more in the interview that I would like to post, but that would violate their copyright. So, follow the link above and read it there.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

This time, it really is....

I find myself spending more time watching what the Green Party Candidates are doing, listening to what they say, reading their press releases. I spend too much time reading the sometimes brilliant writing, oft time petty pickering that takes place on internal email lists.

Some observations:
Progressive Greens may not even begin to have a finger on the pulse of what will motivate voters this year. The number 1 issue is coming as a surprise to many: Here is a list of issues that are NOT number One.

Iraq War: For all the duplicity of Cheney / Rumsfeld, this misguided, arrogant attempt at changing the nature of politics in the Middle East has failed in every way except militarily, and that was pretty much a shambles too.

Health Care: Any race with Hillary Clinton in it will always be, to some extent about Health Care and whether she can really get it right this time.

Immigration: The Republicans make sure that we hear a lot about this one. We even have Republican Tom Tancredo getting riled at Mike Huckabee because Huckabee has "stolen" the endorsement of the Minutemen.

The Tarrance Group released the bi-partisan Battleground Poll today and the conclusion is "This time, it really is the economy." Funny thing about that, this is exactly what Steve Loebs was saying in his post at Green Commons earlier this week.

BTW: Iraq War was #2,. Health Care #3 (Cost + Insurance + Medicare) , Immigration #4.

I believe that all our candidates need to start factoring in the effects of the credit crisis, the sub-prime loan scandal, and more importantly, what are the impacts of being a consumer driven economy. What are the ramifications of the fact that this country is "capital poor" and needs in a daily major influx of foreign capital just to sustain what we do. Such was the action today as a Chinese Government owned investment fund poured $5 Billion into Morgan-Stanley.

My real question is this: What is this party doing to talk to the number one issue on voters minds right. now? What message do we have? It is not even on the long range radar in most discussion. And we wonder why people are not listening. Maybe we need to ask our candidates to sign up for a seminar with Steve.

League of Conservation Voters

When someone forwarded me the press release through which the League of Conservation Voters announced the availability of their "Primaries Voter's Guide", I was not surprised to see it did not include any but Republicans to find fault with and Democrats to praise.

The Voter Guide, which takes a critical look at candidates’ plans for dealing with global climate change, makes clear that collectively, the Democratic candidates have outlined more comprehensive and aggressive plans than any presidential candidates in history and have made a point of telling primary voters that combating global warming is a top priority. Among Republicans running for president, the guide says, “Sen. McCain holds the distinction of being the only candidate to make global warming a part of his campaign agenda and to regularly address it on the campaign trail.”
There was a missing column on the site... the one headed Green Candidates. That is the one most frequently missing from LCV activity, even though many Greens are members of that organization.

My reaction was to write a response, sent first to the LCV's campaign manager, Kerry Dugan, and then posted at Op Ed News as an Open Letter to the League of Conservation Votes. I challenged them to live up to the words of their own press release, that "No matter who is nominated by each political party, LCV plans to work to elect the candidate best qualified to take on the issue of global warming as president."

There are many reasons that the candidate they seek would be the Green Party Candidate, especially as that candidate would not be beholden to corporate special lobbies.

I also challenged them to support Science Debate 2008, an effort that now has support from thirteen Nobel Laureates and at least two University Presidents (Princeton, Duke). With the challenges of Global Warming as primary, and with many other issues such as stem cell research going to be a factor, we need to have a true debate over questions of science. It would underscore that it is no longer possible to override scientific considerations to achieve partisan political ends in the manner of the Bush / Cheney Administration, as illustrated by this recent report from Rep. Waxman's Government Oversight Committee.

We have to learn better how to win before the LCV and other organizations will begin to even give us a courtesy call. We have to continue challenging these organizations to give full consideration to our policy positions.

The Third Party Argument

The PBS showing of "An Unreasonable Man" kept Ralph Nader and the discussion of the "spoiler" issue in the spotlight. The opinion expressed by many in the film is that the Democratic Party tries everything it can to stifle dissent once they choose a candidate.
“When people say, ‘Why’d you do this in 2000?’ and so on,” Nader explains in AN UNREASONABLE MAN, “I’d say, ‘I’m a 20-year veteran of pursuing the folly of the least worst between the two parties.’ Because when you do that, you end up allowing them to both get worse every four years.”
(Note: PBS has an online poll on with the following question: "Ralph Nader's candidacy in 2000 is the reason that George W. Bush won the presidential election." As I write this, the poll responses are running 92% "No.")

Last week, Op Ed News specifically requested articles, Op Eds on the issue of ""progressive" Democrats not running in the primaries and taking on the "corporate" Democrats that they frequently castigate in other media... e.g. DailyKos, Calitics, etc.

California (now) Green, Martin Zehr responded Monday with something that was the same argument that Nader made in 2000 and which was repeated in An Unreasonable Man. This is that you can never pull the Democratic Party to the left unless they perceive that there will be a penalty (like losing a constituency) if they do not act. Zehr changes the question.
Why are progressives so marginalized in campaigns and fail to come forward with significant constituencies capable of making an impact?

Maybe because it fails to examine the unstated premises of the resolution: that the Democratic Party is capable of being the agent for change in America and that the progressive agenda is a vibrant trend that is capable of exercising influence in the political arena in the electoral process. Does this make me on the negative side of the resolution? I would have to say so. No debate can proceed without agreement on the definitions and I for one cannot agree either that the Democratic Party is capable of presenting significant policy changes and structural reforms before the American people or that the Democratic primary system and candidates lie at the root of the failure to redefine the opposition in a manner to make it more relevant to the American people. [my bold emphasis]
Zehr took a lot of words to say the obvious. Nader would have been more direct. The result would have been the same.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

What gets me mad?

Since yesterday, I have engaged in a bit of dialog with Ben Malkin, Publisher, Southern California Life After 50 It all started when Lisa Taylor picked up the print version of his magazine with a picture of Al Gore on the cover. However, one part of what she read in Malkin's comments on Gore and Climate Change got her so upset that she emailed her comments to a few of us.

I wrote an answer to Mr. Malkin, he replied, I replied again. Then, we agreed that it made sense to run those comments on the magazine site and this blog. I hope that it creates some discussion on several levels.

First, there is the question of how we frame our positions, and our responses, as we engage with other media. If we get it wrong, we run the risk of doing more damage than good. If we get it right, then it should be good for the Green Party, good for this country if we have the right message. In fact, good for all.

Second. there is the fact that Climate Change is surely the number one ecological issue for decades to come. Most Republicans are a no show when it is time to provide solutions. Too many Democrats are corporate sponsored hypocrites. Thus, we need to keep this discussion in front of everyone.

The discussion began with a story that you can read in it's entirety on the magazine's web site. I want to extract two sections. I fully agree with the first. I chose to respond after reading the second.
Basically, we have to come to grips with how we as humans view our relationship with all other living things—animal, vegetable, earth, air and water. Our Western culture places humans above all else. As a result we are not in harmony with our environment. There are lessons to be learned from Native American cultures about balance and harmony. Luckily, it’s not too late to learn them.
Then, he added this bit of sharply worded opinion.
Let’s make sure that the idiots who populate the Green Party never get another chance to help elect someone like “Dubya” who stands for everything they supposedly oppose. Let’s use less energy (fossil fuel) in our daily lives. It will not only save some money, it will help us as individuals pollute less.
I don't accept the blame for Gore's loss. But, that is the past and there is a future to think about. Thus, this response.

I fully agree with the position you take concerning the need to do more regarding global warming. That should be obvious to all.

I don't agree with your assessment of the Green Party and what it might be able to accomplish if only people like yourself quit fighting the battles of the past and took at hard look at the current battle that you ask us all to join.

Do you really think that the current energy bill is going to fulfill all of the hype that the Democrats put around it? Do you really think that mandating a three fold increase in the use of ethanol is going to help? If you do, then perhaps you need to read this from Energy Justice. It is these very triangulated, overly hyped non-solutions from both sides of the political divide that has driven me away from both major parties and turned me into a Green Activist. There are only two good things that I can say about the energy bill. The first is that is is better than any that would have come out of a Sen. Inhofe (R-OK) run committee. Second, the CAFE fuel economy standards are good, even though a Democratic Sen. from Michicagan still voted against this energy bill.

Fundamental change will only be possible when there is a third way, an alternative that does not kow-tow to corporate special interests, an alternative that looks neither right nor left but to the future, an alternative that can say Yes to the Democrats when they get it right and Yes to the Republicans when they get it right. That alternative at the present time is only found in the Green Party. If only you can get over the battles of 2000 and start thinking about the America you want to see in 2020.

We have the energy plan that needs to be implemented. It is documented in the GP press release on the Bali Conference. "US Greens have called for an end to subsidies and tax breaks to fossil and nuclear energy industries; enactment of socially equitable carbon taxes; incentives, legislation, and reforms to provide renewable energy technologies; rejection of environmentally destructive 'alternative' fuels produced from unsustainable or toxic feedstocks; rejection of 'clean coal'; an absolute limit on CO2 emissions; reduced fossil fuel use and an 80% cutback within ten years (condensed from the Green Party platform and the EcoAction Committee's statement of goals, 2006 Earth Day Statement)."
Mr. Malkin replied this afternoon. This is why I suggested that we need to think more carefully about how we frame our messages whenever we write or respond.
Thank you for reading our magazine or visiting our website.

Today I have received a blizzard or Green Party emails. That must mean someone from your group must have spotted my article and email blasted your members. Good for our web traffic, so keep ‘em coming.

While I may agree in good part with your environmental agenda, the net, net of working on the fringes politically (at least the “left” in this country) is that all you ever seem to accomplish is the election of those who stand opposed to everything you believe in. Your members seem to hate Al Gore (based on all of the emails I received) as much as the mindless extreme conservatives who attacked my article in large numbers with great and acidic gusto. The facts are that by working within the system he has accomplished considerably more than the Green Party ever has. If his “sin” has been to work within the “system”, then so be it.

In addition, what all of you seem to have overlooked is that I called the liberals (Democrats), hypocrites. They are. The new energy bill is a gutted compromise that needed Democratic leadership that was missing when push came to shove. They seem to be biding their time until the 2008 elections. Well then, I guess we’ll see then. Unless the Green Party manages to help elect another version of George Bush. You would be better served to pressure (where your #’s can make a difference in a close election) the Democrats to do more than pay lip service to reforms. Political debts do get paid if they are negotiated with skill.

Thank you again for the first clear headed and logical response I received from members of your party.
That gave me a chance to explain who really won the 2000 election.
f someone sent a note that Gore did not get it, then they are not
thinking clearly. Most people in the Green Party believe three things
about the election of 2000.
  • Gore won but had it stolen.
  • The effect of Nader being in the race was to pull in a large number of voters, e.g. students, that would normally not have voted.
  • The Democrats lost because more of them voted for Bush than anybody voted for Nader. They could not deliver their own party members.
You encourage Greens to work together with other "Progressives" to achieve our goals, but there is a history that says we do. In fact, I worked very, very hard supporting Pete McCloskey in 2006, both as a Republican Congressional Candidate running against Richard Pombo and then continuing as he threw his support to Jerry McNerney, who eventually won.

I would like to see the next target be Dana Rohrabacher, a good old So Cal snakeoil salesman, much like Pombo. He also is an embarrassment. He has been quoted as saying that Global Warming might have come from dinosaur flatulence. There are not yet any announced Democratic candidates running against him. If things stay that way, would you then support the Green who is?

I will be trying to get an answer to that question again, and again, and again.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Being Green in the Inland Empire.

When I first joined the Green Party, I was confused by the fact that everything seemed to center on Los Angeles and San Francisco. In other words, the current population centers.

I argued that Greens should be focusing energy on those areas where there was congruence of forces that we could exploit.
  • a growing shifting population where movement had cut people off from old political allegiances.
  • a real need for Green solutions to local environmental and social justice concerns.
  • a real need for Green alternatives to the corporate growth myth that seems to be all we hear.
That all seems to play out in the Central Valley and Inland Empire sections of California, in Riverside, Fresno, Modesto, Stockton. I was told that this was wasting our energy, energy that could best be spent in building on the based that we had in the big cities.

In retrospect, I should have spoken up louder and longer. The party is not growing and many opportunities have been lost. But, then I find evidence that we are making progress. We have gotten into the local media in just those areas that I had called out for action. While the linked reference is from last year, it shows that we can make inroads where there is a real need.

We need a change in the political map of America: Red State, Blue State, Green State.

A Green Year

I have just finished reading, and commenting on, an editorial in the San Francisco Chronicle. They editorialize that we going to have a "very green year."
Trimmed from Washington's deliberations on mileage rules were tax credits for solar and wind power, a reduction in fossil fuels used by electric utilities, and an end to $13 billion in tax breaks for oil companies. All should be taken up again, as this state's senator, Barbara Boxer, indicates she will do. (California, no surprise, is on track to require 20 percent renewable energy from its power plants.)
While there is some goodness, every time there comes a point where doing the right thing runs up against a corporation with money or a narrow constituency with votes, doing the right thing loses. My comments were:
The assessment of what has happened is far too optimistic. The recently passed energy bill demonstrates that Democrats will accomplish very little. It is still filled corporate pork and a renewable fuel standard that Agribusiness loves. We need to learn how to differentiate the truly Green from mere greenwashing. My complaints against Washington can be echoed if you change the focus to Sacramento. Schwarzenegger is like the Hulk, only Green when he needs to be. Voting for real change will end up meaning voting Green and that will be voting for the Green Party. Unless we provide a third way, a real alternative stripped of the influences of corporate contributions, we will continue to get a green future through rose colored glasses.
Until we start getting Greens elected this will continue. We challenge the old ideas of political pandering with a new vision of a future, ecologically sound, sustainable, just.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Bromade - New Los Angeles Water Problem

Another day, another hassle in Los Angeles.

Published in the Los Angeles Times, December 15, 2007
L.A. Must Dump Water from Two Reservoirs

by Duke Helfand

In the midst of a drought, Los Angeles officials announced Friday that 600 million gallons of water must be dumped from two reservoirs that supply a swath of the city because an unexpected chemical reaction rendered it undrinkable.

Silver Lake and Elysian reservoirs registered elevated levels of the suspected carcinogen bromate between June and October, the result of an unusual combination of intense sunlight, bromide naturally present in groundwater and chlorine used to kill bacteria.

The reservoirs delivered water to an estimated 600,000 consumers, but state public health officials say the dangers were minimal. Bromate, they said, poses a small cancer risk only after being consumed daily over a lifetime. . .
We can all sleep better knowing "state public health officials" are on the case.

Green Change

The new Green Change organization announced its web presence yesterday over on Green Commons. For those of you who are not aware of Green Change, it is a new committee organized under the FEC Rule 527. That is an interesting choice, since 527's are somewhat controversial.

GPCA member Steve Loebs found reason to question that choice in his comment (#1) to Green Change's announcement.

For those of you who do not know about Green Change, there is a real California connection as Matt Gonzalez is on the Board.

Take a look at the site, think about what they are trying to do and weigh in. It is only the future direction of the party that we are talking about.

Green Debate

I won't copy the entire post here, but I used Green Commons to call for a debate among the Green Party Candidates for President. I mean a real, official debate, with a real moderator like Bill Moyers or Amy Goodman.

I would love to have people weigh in, especially over on Green Commons so that we can possible influence the National Party to do just that.

Climate Change Exchange

I received the following email from a GPCA associate today, posted to a Santa Clara County list.
According to the site in the URL at the end of that video, they did
reach some sort of agreement in the end:
This UN release casts the result is about as positive light as is possible. There are many other opinions, and the criticism of nations is spread equitably. My reaction was to send the following reply:
Everyone will call this a victory, but if it is, it is a very hollow one. It was an agreement to continue talking for another two year and to reach some sort of actionable plan before 2010,.

  • That is two years in which we will have continued to build up the surplus of Green House Gases.
  • That is two years in which US Government can swathe it's inaction and play Alphonse / Gaston with China.
  • That is two years in which the lack of American Action will increase the enmity that we have engendered throughout the world.
  • That is two years in which even a change in Administration, e.g. to a Clinton Compromiser or an Obama Dreamer, will continue to tringulate deals that allow multi-national corporations to continue screwing the planet or to move their operations to countries whose government regulators are more easily bribed.

I would suggest that everyone browse through the blog entries that Andrew Revikin has called for on his Dot Earth blog at the NY Times. Voices on Bali and Beyond is a collection of comments from people who were actually there. Here is a quote from the first responder, Dr. Thomas J. Goreau, the delegate from Jamaica, and representative of a Coalition of Caribbean nations: His target was the EU for its failure to stand up to the US stalling tactics. (Bold emphasis by me.)

This amounts to a real betrayal of all those who counted on the EU to do the right thing, and amounts to a capital crime against the environment, because millions will die as the result of unchecked global warming.

If there is a single issue that the Green Party needs to be very clear about, it is the one of Climate Change. What we do now, not what we begin to do in 2010 will have an effect on:
  • agricultural policy a swarming weather makes major changes to what can be grown where and how much food might each country have to import or be able to export as a result.
  • trade policies as competition for declining reserves of food and water, the basic essentials of life, make countries increasingly protectionist.
  • energy policy unless we take aggressive steps to get off of fossil fuels.
  • security as increased frustration with US arrogance sends an increasing flow of people towards Al Qaeda or other organizations.
  • health care as diseases once considered tropical become increasingly prevalent in the more highly populated, currently temperate zones.

Have we come so far from our roots as a party that we are not the leaders in speaking out?

Friday, December 14, 2007

UN Climate Change Conference

Feinstein on final negotiations
Cross posted from Green Commons

Mike Feinstein has given us another update from Bali. The results that he describes do not sound like this conference will produce anywhere near the results that were anticipated after Secretary General Ban Ki-moon raised our expectation with such a strong release on the day before.

Tie this to the inadequate provisions in the Energy Bill passed today and you have a thousand reasons to vote Green.

Bush Inc. will not bend its stubborn will and open its eyes to the reality all around it. While they leak speculations of premptive strikes against Iran, they squander the chances to show real leadership on the most important issue that we face. As Green Partry Presidential Candidate Kent Mesply pointed out today, Global Warming IS as security issue, much more so that whether Iraq gains a nuclear capability that they are not even working on.

While writing this short post tonight, lines from Shakespeare's Julius Ceasar flashed into my head.
There is a tide in the affairs of men,
Which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune;
Omitted, all the voyage of their life
Is bound in shallows and in miseries.

I feel that this is such a time for the Green Party. There is much work to be done. The question is whether we have the right pilot at the wheel and can all work together. Never have I seen an administration of one party fall on it face as Bush Inc. has done and the other control Congress but not be able to take advantage of it.

The only party that has the right message, that has cast off all ties to the corporations that have put a strangle hold on both Congress and the Bush Administration. If we can not carry forward with this message now, then the failure is our own.

Greening the White House

The Other Race: Greening the White House

“I’m tired of living in an Orwellian novel,” said Green Party presidential candidate Dr. Kent Mesplay, in response to the “Birthright Stripping Act” (aka the proposed AZ "Birthright Citizenship Alignment Act" initiative) requiring that happy parents and hospitals alike wade through yet more levels of bureaucratic muck to prove their patriotism. “Oppressive regimes scapegoat the dispossessed almost on cue,” continues Mesplay, who was himself born in a foreign land while his parents were stationed overseas.

In order to make the 14th Amendment effective in protecting our newest citizens, born on U.S. soil to parents from any nation, Mesplay proposes granting immediate, expedited duo citizenship to the parents thus strengthening the family unit and supporting the child in claiming allegiance to the United States. “It is best that we not continue to have a class of dispossessed, but rather that we do what we can to reunite all families struggling with the governments of the world and bring them into the same regulated, taxed, conscription-ready, documented system that the rest of us enjoy,” Mesplay adds.

Going further, the Green Party U.S. presidential candidate prefers that duo Mexican, U.S. citizenship would allow U.S. citizens to safely invest in Mexico, even as such a program would permit safe, fair, regulated labor to migrate north.

Mesplay, an advocate of decentralization and a limited Federal government, just days ago announced running as a Republican in Arizona in order to be on the ballot. “Our national party deserves national access to ballot lines” Mesplay added, runner-up to Nader at the 2004 Green national convention.

Healthy Delta Communities

I can only go so long without posting another comment on the Delta and the need for a sustainable water policy for California. So, once again, let me call attention to the work of Restore the Delta, especially their Healthy Delta Communities project.

This is a great example of the grassroots action that I hear talked about in Green circles but not so frequently practiced.

The most recent release from Restore the Delta is not yet posted to the site. It consists of a series of interview conducted with delta residents and business owners. I quote from one cited it that release: interviewee: Jeff Hart – Delta Nursery Owner.
Barbara Bowers: What would you like to see for the future of the Delta?

Jeff Hart: I would like to see the future of the Delta have sustainable practices. There would be no loss of soil in farming. Carbon would be sequestered with native plants on Delta levees. This could be a carbon offset so it could also be run for profit. Currently, grass on the levees is burned and soil erodes. Levees need “green engineering”.

Barbara Bowers: What is your greatest concern for the Delta?

Jeff Hart: Political stupidity is what scares me the most. My greatest concern is that people will remain wedded to an ideology and not be open to new ideas. Whether we retain the pumps or go around the Delta with a canal, there needs to be a quantity and quality of water that will sustain life in the Delta.
I could not have said it better myself. That interview was conducted in late June, 2007 and based on the failure of the Special Session of the legislature to accomplish anything, it appears that his fears were well founded.

Bali Low

I want to give everyone a change to view this report from California Green, Mike Feinstein. He is in Bali for the UN Framework Negotiaion on Climate Change. This is not what I am hearing regarding the meetings after it is filtered by some mainstream media producer.

At the same time, we need to be prepared to absorb a wave of triumphal press releases from a Congress that has just passed (86-8) a seriously flawed energy bill, one that we will pay for in the grocery store as well as at the gas pump. You know that any bill which gathers such a sizable margin on such an important issue is the product of significant compromise in search of election year votes.

Taken together, this is one more reason to that we need our Green Party candidates speaking out. Abject failure of a Republican presidency and an Democratic Congress and why are we not saying more?

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Health Care Troubles ahead.

Health Care is one of the issues that will garner a lot of scrutiny in the upcoming presidential campaign. For once, the Republicans have a real issue on which they could, if they wanted to, take the more high ground. That is the vile, evil business of Medicare Fraud. Instead, they seem to be running around screaming "your mother wears combat boots" at Chelsea Clinton.

If anything, California Greens should be taking up this issue as well and here is the reason why. Medicare fraud is proceeding at an industrialized pace and our Federal Government appears to be powerless to stop it. According to a report on NBC's Nightly News last night (12/11/07) Mart Potter reported.
Year after year government reports have complained about flagrant Medicare billing fraud including this year's Inspector General's report, which says in 2005 72% of all the Medicare billing nationwide for AIDS care, $2.5 Billion, came from South Florida alone, which has only 8% of the patients. Obvious fraud.

Putting politics aside, two questions have to be asked. First, is question of what effect this unchecked fraud has had on health care in general. What good might have been done with those $2.5 Billion? When AIDS research still in not where we had hoped it to be, what would an influx of $$ have accomplished? When ongoing care is still out of reach of many, how many more might be able to manage HIV as a chronic condition? How far might that money have gone toward funding S-CHIP?

The second obvious question is one of what kind of scum bags have turned MEDICARE fraud into an industry. On the show's blog, Potter writes...
In one building alone, I saw nearly 30 offices with signs saying they were either medical supply companies or medical billing companies. Most of the doors, however, were locked, with no indications anywhere of legitimate business. I saw the same thing in other buildings, and in shopping centers--row after row of supposed medical companies that, according to federal authorities, are billing Medicare for millions of dollars each, for services never rendered, for patients never served.
In the highly charged atmosphere of a presidential campaign, this will become a contest between Democrats who want to extend health care benefits to those without adequate insurance the Republicans who will use Medicare billing fraud as the primary reason to force solutions toward private insurance companies. Neither will deal with the real issues that are costing us real money.

What we, the people of this country, require is a system that both services those in need and protects against the scum who will prey on every weakness in the system, one that balances being easy to use with enough checks and validations to preclude industrialized fraud on the scale NBC and the Heath and Human Services Inspector General has found all too evident.

We need a few Republicans who will put true cost reduction ahead of Grover Norquist sloganizing and actually provide the authorization for effective review and approval of claims.

We need a few Democrats who will recognize that such fraud is taking the funding that would otherwise gone to providing services.

We also need more journalists like Carl Hiaasen gave the following sarcastic description of Florida to 60 Minutes.
"... if you took the continental United States and you tilted it a little bit, all the sludge would drip all the way down the peninsula, all the way down this highway … right past my house."

More than that, we need Greens in the government, representation that does not take corporate donations and is thereby free to do the work of the people. Wouldn't that be a welcome change. We need a single payer health care system with the ability to screen for fraud.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Hack du jour - Orange County's Chriss Street

The California Republican Hack Du Jour is Orange County Treasurer Chriss Street.

Chriss Street

Orange County Funds Hold SIV Debt on Moody's Review

by Michael B. Marois and William Selway
December 5, 2007

Orange County, California, the wealthiest U.S. municipality ever to declare bankrupcty, bought structured investment vehicles similar to those that caused a run on funds invested by local governments in Florida.

Twenty percent, or $460 million, of the county's $2.3 billion Extended Fund is invested in so-called SIVs that may face credit-rating cuts, said Treasurer Chriss Street. In all of its funds, the county holds a total of $837 million of SIV debt, including $152 million in its $3.5 billion of money-market funds that isn't under ratings review, said his spokesman, Keith Rodenhuis.
. . .
''We'll find out real quick if we have a problem,'' said the county's former Treasurer John Moorlach, who is now a county supervisor. ''But for now I need to be patient and wait and see.''
. . .
Moorlach sought to have Street stripped of his authority to manage the county's $6 billion of investments in September amid federal and local corruption probes. He said Street was too distracted by the probes to manage the county's money.
The U.S. Justice Department is investigating Street's spending from a bankrupt trucking company, allegedly for his personal use. . .

The name of the trust for the trucking company (you can't make this stuff up) is "The End of the Road Trust."

Let the whole church say "Amen" to those good old-fashioned Republican conservative "values."

Another reason why we need the California Green Party.

Read More at:

The LA Difference

The Greening of LA has, unfortunately, little to do with the Green Party. Oh, sure, there are a lot of individual Greens who are working hard to make things better. However, I am no ashamed of referring to Antonio Villaraigosa as the Mayor of LaLa Land. He seems to epitomize everything the rest of us think about Los Angeles; all surface, a suit and smiling face with no more real substance than a Saturday AM cartoon rerun.

Maybe I should take that all back, though, as it was his Million Trees Campaign, however misguided as I believe it to be, that brought together the thousands of students who walked past Lisa Taylor's table.

Further exploration leads me to conclude that there is a disconnect between the citizens of LA and the political leadership, one that may have serious environmental consequences. The LA Times has recently reported on Villaraigosa's attempts to encourage water conservation. It is clear that he may have talked but that no one was listening.
Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa's call six months ago for voluntary water conservation in a record dry year has failed to persuade Los Angeles residents and businesses to rein in water use substantially, city records show.
The groups that are trying to convince the smiling mayor to do something substantive, loosely identified by the Times as "evironmentalist" have formed a coalition called Green LA. The members of this coalition are what you would generally call the usual suspects: Sierra Club, Environmental Defense, Heal the Bay. There are also very local, active organizations like the Bellona Wetlands Land Trust (Green Party members in leadership) and the South Central Farmers for which Linda Piera-Avila has so effectively advocated.

I was more intrigued by the name of an organization called Global Green USA. Now this is not Global Greens (plural) as we might think of it, but rather the United States affiliate of Green Cross International, founded by Mikhail Gorbachev.

It would seem that in LA, the Green organizations getting press are not the Green Party, even though you would never know it by the name. It is almost as ironic as Global Green USA being so closely associated with a one time Soviet leader. You never know from a name what you are going to get. We go from Green LA to Global Grenn USA and never manage to identify this party. We have lost the "brand" or the identification with leadership on environmental issues.

Global Green USA has a lot to say about the importance of water as a Global Issue. That does not get down the the pipes and pumps of water in California. The environmentalists meeting with the Mayor are asking for more leadership.
"More than anything, I want a commitment from the mayor to work toward a more sustainable future and to reduce water use in Los Angeles," said Miriam Torres of the Environmental Justice Coalition for Water, who was among those at the meeting. "People in Los Angeles have to think of water as a precious resource and not a commodity."
I think that they are asking for active involvement in dealing with the issue and not to just treat this as a photo op. The Mayor has gotten enough negative press and it might do him good to be seen as actively involved in assuring LA's future. The idea that he would just now turn to substantive action illustrates that it was never really important.
Villaraigosa followed up Nov. 13 by resurrecting the Drought Busters program last used during the early 1990s. Six DWP employees are driving around the city in Toyota Prius hybrids, responding to more than 400 complaints about leaking sprinklers, missing sprinkler heads and other water waste.
I would encourage all So Cal Greens to follow up on their endorsement of Cal-WIN's Sustainability Principles with a campaign of letter writing, City Council calling, activism.

Oh my gawd

That was the reaction of Los Angeles Green Activist, Lisa Taylor, after she spent some very hectic hours tabling at this past weekend's LA City Environmental Youth Conference. According to Lisa, she was swamped.
I thought the crunch would be later in day, instead of early, so I was a bit overwhelmed. At 8:30am I had to hide half the sticker/button stock under the table so there would be some left later and I kept saying "please take just one and make sure you wear it or display the sticker!" It was wonderful and hopeful seeing all the interest from these kids! they stayed at the booth and talked/listened, they didn't just run by grabbing buttons like we have seen at other events.
I get two messages out of this story. One is that LA is truly different, but that is another post to come shortly. The other is that this is where the future of the Green Party can be found.

We need to focus more attention, more effort on reaching out to youth. We spend more time hashing through policy discussions and trying to be more right than the other parties while they are out organizing young people and keeping their majority.

It would be impertinent to ask Lisa what she was going to do as a follow up to this, so I won't. I will ask all California Greens what they are going to do to replicate this in other cities, other communities. Maybe one key is to set up local Green Speakers lists, those who can make time available to talk to students about Climate Change, Water Policy, the Iraq War, Environmental Justice and all of the issues on which we have the moral high ground and are not using it effectively.

Thank you, Lisa, for the work that you did in pulling this together. Having seen some of the notes flying around, I know this event would not have happened had it not been for your persistence.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Major Breakthrough in battling Climate Change

Those who come back to this column with any frequency know that I have advocated taking the Architecture 2030 targets for energy use in the building sector and turning them into law, at the local level. In the State of California, this requires some approval from the California Energy Commission.

Just this evening, I received a release from Architecture 2030 that this approval has been granted. According to the release:
On December 5, 2007, the California Energy Commission unanimously adopted the California Public Utilities Commission's (CPUC) plan for achieving zero net energy residential buildings by 2020 and commercial buildings by 2030. "The Energy Commission endorses these ambitious goals and will, with support from the CPUC and the utilities, strive to achieve them through successive cycles of the building standards and appliance standards in combination with other program efforts," according to The Committee Final Report.
The San Francisco Chronicle went even further into trying to predict the long range effects of this action.
California should make all new homes so energy-efficient by 2020 that they won't need to draw power from the state's electrical grid, according to a plan for meeting the state's future energy needs.
We know that this is the target. We know also that this action by the Commission is not binding. (read the full decision here.) However, this action appears to indicate approval of the Architecture 2030 standard adopted by the City of Santa Barbara last month.

Global Greens are directly involved in Climate Change at the meeting in Bali. The Green Party US released information to the press today on our stand.

Now, it is time for Greens in California to get organized and push every local City Council and planning commission to take the action that was taken by Santa Barabara. If we wait for actions to come out of Washington and / or Sacramento, for government to do it for us, we will be waiting until the rising sea level is waist deep on the Embarcadero.

Green Party Presidential Picks

I have, in general, refrained from a too obvious preference for one of the Green Party candidates over the others. However, the date has come when I can not hold back. I will outline a few of the reasons why I support Kent Mesplay and why I do not support some of the other candidates.

As I looked at the field of candidates, there are some obvious differentiations that can be made. The ones that I believe to be most important are these two.

  • Does the candidate have the ability to construct a nationwide organization, bringing together the best local Green Leaders in a movement that will help build, rather than limit, this part?
  • Does the candidate have a grasp of issues and policies such that they could acquit themselves well in comparison with the choices of other parties. be that Clinton or Obama, Huckabee or Romney or McCain?

There are only three candidates who, in my opinion, can provide positive responses to both. They are Nader, McKinney and Mesplay. Jared Ball and Kat Swift both provide good reasons that one might vote for them and Ball has an energetic group of volunteers. Neither of them have expressed enough understanding of or willingness to act on the major environmental issues that we are facing now starting with Global Warming. Jesse Johnson and Elaine Brown have not built enough of a campaign to be visible and neither says anything about the key environmental issues on their web sites.

Another way to look at these candidates is to look at the character and capabilities of their supporters. Those who externalize all failings rather than accepting any personal responsibility are not good advocates for a candidate. I am sure that, if some are not chosen, it will be called a plot rather than the fact that their volunteer supporters failed them.

Kent Mesplay is the one candidate who has consistently, from the beginning, has not played identity politics. He is the one candidate who has addressed a range of issues, from peace to the environment and will not be a single issue candidate. He is the one candidate who has published his position on energy policy at a time when the Democrats are playing with our heads and failing in their leadership after being given an opportunity.

I have no idea what Nader will finally do. His name is currently listed as a draft candidate on the national Green Party web site. I tend, however to favor a candidate from within the party rather than once again telling the world that we need a savior from outside.

I find that my judgement of Cynthia McKinney is biased by the fact that too many of her supporters are angry people too quick to blame others for "gaming" the system. I also find that those who speak for her are, in fact, rank amateurs whose presence in a campaign can only hurt the party. My association with Pete McCloskey and the team that he was able to assemble in 2006 makes this a very high bar as far as anyone achieving it. It give me reason, though, to question McKinney's judgment.

By the same logic, I find much positive about Jard Ball and little positive about Elaine Brown. Her most vocal supporters are the ones who do the most damage to her candidacy.

When working with McCloskey in 2006, I was amazed to find that there those who had supported him in the 1970's who were willing to take leaves of absence from work and come back to work for him again. It was all about his honesty in the way that he treated people, direct and not without leveling honest criticism when required. I sense the same honesty in Mesplay.

My absentee ballot will be in the mail by January 7. When it arrives, I will be voting for Kent.

California's Greenwashed Leaders

I am truly amazed that California's political leadership has so easily donned the mantle of "green" and have been allowed to get away with it without criticism. In fact, Schwarzenegger, Boxer and Pelosi have become the darlings of the environmental movement while selling out the public with flamboyant speech and flawed policies.

The list of examples is long. I will only focus on what they have said and what they have done regarding energy policy. The House of Representatives has just passed the CLEAN Energy Act of 2007 (HR 6). Speaker Pelosi announced this triumph with much rhetorical flamboyancy, calling it the "shot heard round the world" and holding up the baseball with which Bobby Thompson ended the dream of the 1951 Brooklyn Dodgers. It was truly an example of major arm twisting by a Speaker who rules with a heavy gavel.

I will admit that some of the bill is moving in the right direction. It does include new Corporate Average Fuel Efficiency (CAFE) standards for the first time in many years. It also has major flaws specifically in the manner that it has implemented a Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS). Pelosi considered that part of it's significant achievements.

MSNBC tempers their reporting of some of the benefits with the following:
"We will send our energy dollars to the Midwest, not the Middle East," countered House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, referring to the bill's emphasis on promoting renewable energy sources, especially ethanol, which would see a sevenfold increase by 2022 to 36 billion gallons a year.

Republican Roscoe Bartlett (MD-06), the most articulate and environmentally responsible Republican in Congress, found RFS to be a fatal flaw in this bill and voted, surprisingly to some, against the bill.

What Pelosi is not saying, but what everyone knowledgeable understands, is that you have to be very careful about the choice of technologies and the food vs. energy issues. Every kernel of corn that goes into ethanol is not going into our food supply where it is the primary food for raising livestock, it is a primary food for dairy cattle, it is a major ingredient in most packaged foods. The result, higher food prices for everyone and no reduction in polluting greenhouse gases. It is too bad we can not legislate away the gaseous content of political speech.

As for Boxer, one need look no further than her refusal to take substantive action against commodity subsidies. I have commented on this before. What I did not do there was to make the case that failure to act on subsidies has major environmental implications. We are facing serious water problems in California. The Federal Government and the California Water Project are subsidizing the water to farmers, subsidizing the electric power costs to pump that water and then we are subsidizing the growing of cotton in the desert with it's large scale need for irrigation. This is practicing environmental stupidity for the slight chance that Boxer will get a few more votes in farm country.

And don't get me started on our "green" governor. He is like the Hulk, green when he has to be. Yes, his efforts to improve the transportation sector are beneficial. But he has ignored the building sector and that uses almost twice as much energy as does transportation. In one situation after another, he has acted as a cheerleader for development, even in the flood plains of our rivers, even when we don't have the water to support it. His proposals for a peripheral canal, necessary in his mind to support continued population growth in So Cal, would be a long term disaster for the delta, for agriculture in that area.

Restore the Delta's most recent (12/03/07) newsletter should be an eyeopener to anyone who thinks that Schwarzenegger really cares about the environment. The conclusion here:
Without a doubt those who are pushing for a peripheral conveyance system are influencing each and every process currently unfolding. Yet, we still do not know how freshwater must pass through the Delta in order for the estuary to have good water quality.
At a time when "green" is the word everywhere, when even Honda declares that they are the "greenest car company in America" we need more than greenwashing. We need better leadership.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Climate Change and Green Economics

This week, United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon confirmed what the rest of the world knows and some of our own government won't admit, that Global Warming is real, that we, yes "we", are the cause and the consequences of non-action are serious. This was in an OpEd for the Washington Post that ran the day the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change meeting in Bali started.

Secretary General Ban ended his column with a call for action.
Our job, in Bali and beyond, is to shape this nascent global transformation -- to open the door to the age of green economics and green development. What's missing is a global framework within which we, the world's peoples, can coordinate our efforts to fight climate change.
I can understand what he means by "green development". The need for additional technologies is well documented. People are investing in solar, wind and wave technologies at an increasing rate. Just the need having a distributed electrical grid tying together these many sources of power rather than a hierarchical grid controlled from a few power plants and throttle points is a substantial challenge.

The data referenced by Secretary General Ban indicates that the potential is surprisingly robust.
Growth need not suffer and, in fact, may accelerate. Research by the University of California at Berkeley indicates that the United States could create 300,000 jobs if 20 percent of electricity needs were met by renewables. A leading Munich consulting firm predicts that more people will be employed in Germany's enviro-technology industry than in the auto industry by the end of the next decade. The U.N. Environment Program estimates that global investment in zero-greenhouse energy will reach $1.9 trillion by 2020 -- seed money for a wholesale reconfiguration of global industry.
However, I am not sure if the Secretary General has the same definition of "green economics" as I do. In fact, I am sure that I don't have a good definition of that term. It is, however, a term that we had better come to know if the Green Party is to participate in governance at any level.


You knew it was going to happen. We have had The Bachelor. We have had the Bachelorette. Now, according to Reuters, we have "Who want's to Marry a US Citizen?"

It trivializes marriage (I don't know if they will challenge civil unions.) It trivializes citizenship. I can remember that Green Card was playing around the time our oldest had a French jazz musician boy friend and that gave us pause. But, at least we knew that it was a fantasy rather than trying to pass itself off as a documentary.

The thought that passed through my mind just now came from an old Pete Seeger anti-war song.. "When will they ever learn." I guess, in this case, the answer is "never."

Monday, December 03, 2007

Hearing on Prospect Island Fish Kill

According to a news release that I just received from Dan Bacher (Ed. The Fishsniffer) Assemblywoman Lois Wolk will hold a hearing on the Prospect Island Fish Kill this week. Here are the particulars. It is open to the public.
WHEN: Thursday, December 6, 2007. 9:30 AM

WHERE: Rio Vista City Council Chambers
One Main Street, Rio Vista, CA 94571
I have just sent the good Assemblywoman the following note. I would be very pleased if more of the readers here send her a similar message.

Assemblywoman Wolk,

I don't belong to your political party. I am a Green.
I don't live in your district, I live in John Laird's.

Still, I hope that you will pay attention to this note, because you are the one member of our State Legislature who appears to be doing the right things regarding the Delta.

I believe that your hearing on the Prospect Island fish kill is an opportunity to make the point that the bureaucracies of Department Fish and Game and the Bureau of Reclamation care more about budgets than they do about results, more about protecting their turf than about the environment.

This problem was so avoidable. Every environmental and fishing organization in the State of California would have contributed to a solution, as they are doing after the fact. All it would have taken is for one person to decide not to go business as usual.

Please do not let the rest of us down. We care about the Delta. We care about biodiversity. We do not care about self-protective bureaucracies..

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Health Care or Health Care Administration

The entire discussion going on right now: Hillary Care, Single Payer, SB 840, Schwarzenegger's plan vs. Nunez's plan, has nothing to do with Health Care pe se. It is all about the Administration of Health Care. It is an issue of Social Justice that focuses attention on the financial ramifications of our decisions. That, in itself, makes change to the current processes mandatory in a compassionate society. But it is limited. After all, when government compartmentalizes health care as an issue, all it can do is to open or close the purse strings. Maybe that is why Democrats and Republicans fight so much a do so little.

While working on a different topic this morning, I came across the following statement about the role of academia in "speaking truth to power."
I argue that retreat to the study to compose analyses that "speak truth to power" is quite ineffectual in a world in which forces we wish to denounce have themselves become skilled players of multiculturalist politics. For all its difficulties, more active engagement in the messy realities of concrete situations is the only way forward."
The idea that I wish to call attention to is that improving, making more equitable, the administration of health care does not, in itself, improve health care. I would also argue that there are actions government must take that will go a long way towards making fundamental improvements in the health of our communities and their residents. The list includes:
  • removing the very worst causes of air pollution, since that leads directly to $ billions of costs just in the San Joaquin Valley.
  • combating (with more than ad campaigns) the overall problems of an America where too many citizens lead a sedentary life and are obese with direct health care consequences.

These simple statements make it clear that only a holistic, ecological approach to health care will result in a substantially better quality of life. Air quality is not just an environmental issue: it is a health care issue, an educational issue (schools lose ADA based funding due to pollution caused respiratory disease), an economic issue (lost work days due to pollution cause respiratory disease and premature death.).

Earlier, I referred to the "health of our communities and their residents." That is the clue to where Greens need to base their activism. The Campaign Director for the environmental group Restore the Delta, Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla, also started a Healthy Delta Communities project. Putting Green Party Locals in the center of similar efforts in every community would go a long, long way toward building up this party and, more importantly, finding the appropriate local solutions to those "messy realities of concrete situations".

It is truly the only way forward.