Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Kucinich left, who will keep the Dems in line?

When Dennis Kucinich dropped out of the Dem Presidential race, he left a lot of activists behind... come convinced that they should still vote for him just to show the rest of the Dems what was right.

I have left a comment at OpEd News in a discussion of Where Do All the Devoted Kucinich People Go Now? I suggested that Kuchinich join the Green Party. That's not likely, but maybe some of the "Devoted" may read that and think.

Still the issue is being discussed, recently on KPFK (LA). Last years Green Party Congressional Candidate, Daniel Brezenoff provided some insightful suggestions. I suggest that you listen to the online interview.

Choose your future

While following up on an email from Architecture 2030 last night, I ended up on the web site of an organization that is trying to Focus the Nation. Right in the middle of the Focus the Nation home page is a big rectangle with text that reads "Choose your future: Vote."

Now that is rather ironic in that I have recently seen some Greens advocating that we do not vote, that our votes are in all cases meaningless. I can not think of any action we could take that is more meaningless than not voting.

I have already mailed in my ballot for the primary. I voted against every one of the ballot measures. I also voted for my choice for being the presidential nominee, Kent Mesplay.

Beyond that, I clicked on the "Donate" link in the right side menu and made a donation to the GPCA. I don't agree with many things that are going on. I especially do not like the continued infighting that has turned our focus inward, rather than outward. But, this party needs to have funds to support our candidates. Maybe one part of the reason that we can not win is that we do not have, or choose not to spend, money on running campaigns. If all campaigns had to be self financed, we would only have Mitt Romney's running for election. That is not the future I choose.

So, I encourage all of you to do as I did: make sure that you have voted and click on the "donate" button.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Coachella Valley won't last

It may seem incongruous to talk about saving water when almost the entire state has been deluged this past week. Yet the AquaMaven is catching and forwarding those stories that I would normally have missed.

Just how big is the problem? We supposedly plan for 100 year floods... how about 500 year drought?
The worst drought along the Colorado River in about 500 years has convinced communities throughout the Southwest to restrict how they use an increasingly scarce resource, water.
Of course, some areas like the Coachella Valley, once home to a pre-historic lake, sit on top of a large underground aquifer. That has been their primary source of water for a hundred years, allowing date palms and golf courses to grow in the desert.
Years of groundwater overuse is causing the valley to sink - literally. The subsidence, if unchecked, could cause millions of dollars in damage to roads, pipelines and other infrastructure.
The issues of water supply, growth and agriculture in this state are so intimately entwined as to be inseparable. They require nothing less than a fundamental re-thinking of the American Dream. If this is to happen, if it is going to be achievable through politics, then it must begin with the Green Party. There is no other choice.

Friday, January 25, 2008

The Year of Ignorance about the West.

I am going only to give you a teaser about the editorial comments at High Country News. It underscores just how far we have to go, especially in the way that some media tries to write the story, you know... make it interesting... and let the truth fall where it will.
This was supposed to be "the year of the West" in national politics. States that had been reliably Republican were suddenly competitive. Two Westerners -- Arizona Sen. John McCain, a Republican, and New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, a Democrat -- were credible candidates for the presidency. The Democrats are holding their national convention in Denver for the first time in a century.

So surely the candidates and the national media would take the trouble to learn something about the West?

Well, not exactly.
It would be funny if not for.....

The task of building a Jeffersonian "informed electorate" seems, at times to be Herculean. Maybe that is why we rely on others to do it. I read an email on a GP National Committee list from our national press secretary, Scott McClarty, reminding people that there was a lot they could do to help spread the word about the Green Party rather than relying on a national press release. I had to agree with him.

Erika McDonald sent our Media Committee links to two letters to the editor by San Francisco Greens today.
Let's all make an effort to put the Green Party into our local papers every week.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Institutionalized Racism is still with us.

Today, OpEd News published another of my commentaries, this time on the subject of the manner in which our federal government has dealt with the Indian nations. It is not a pretty story.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Winona LaDuke on GM Rice

There is so much happening that it is difficult to keep up with everything. It would require a full time staff. Once in a while something catches my eye and I decide to pass it on. Such is the case with the following excerpt from an article in Nation by Joliange Wright, Environmentalism with a Social Conscience. Most of the article is devoted to convincing us that Dylan was right.
The face of the environmental movement is changing. No longer strictly the domain of nature enthusiasts, a new socially conscious environmentalism is becoming mainstream.
Buried near the bottom of the article is a mention of Winona LaDuke and our favorite corporate target (even ahead of WalMart) Monsanto.
The new environmentalism also means recognizing the direct link between cultural diversity and biodiversity, a connection that indigenous activist Winona LaDuke is trying to bring into the public discourse. "Wherever Indigenous peoples still remain, there is also a corresponding enclave of biodiversity," she writes, and that variation of life-forms is vital to the health of any ecosystem. For twenty years she has fought to protect Manoomin, a wild rice that grows on the lakes in Northern Minnesota and is a sacred food to the Anishinaabeg people, from genetic engineering. Changing the DNA of traditional foods upsets the ecological systems in which they grow and impacts the people whose cultures depend on their cultivation. At the Bioneers conference LaDuke said: "I didn't know what seed slavery was until I met up with Monsanto." Keeping agri-giants like Monsanto away from traditional seed supplies and keeping Manoomin wild are two ways indigenous Americans are working to preserve native lands and cultures.
The implications for California a clear. It is one more reason why the California State Legislature needs to pass AB 541.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Restore the Delta and Dan Bacher

Two of my sources for information on what is really going on in the California Delta are Dan Bacher, editor of The Fish Sniffer magazine and Barbara Barrigan-Parilla, Campaign Director for Restore the Delta. If you read this blog, you see them each mentioned more than once.

In a press release today, Bacher presents his Leaping Steelhead Conservation Awards for 2007, and here is his citation for Barrigan-Parilla.
Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla, Restore the Delta campaign coordinator, was a key leader in anti-canal efforts by issuing regular “Delta Flows” updates pointing out how a canal and increased exports weren’t the answer to the Delta’s problems. She convened a number of forums on the Delta, including superb presentations by Mark Franco, headman of the Winnemem Wintu Tribe, and Dante Nomellini, a water rights attorney and Delta farmer, in opposition to the canal. For her great activism, she receives the “Stop the Peripheral Canal” award.
Dan got this one right.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Finally some Engineererd sense from Sacramento

Apologies to the citizens of Sacramento. I was using the name of your city to refer to those visitors who show up and try to come to some agreement about the governance of this fine state. It is that latter body that so often fails to apply some sense.

That rather holds true for California Greens. Given that Greens are found where the population is found, most are in the major urban areas of the state... San Diego, Los Angeles, Bay Area. So we don't pay enough attention to what is happening in the rural areas and the legislation that passes through the Agriculture Committees of our state legislature rarely raises a ripple.

There is one bill that we should all be supporting. AB 541, introduced by Marin County's Jared Huffman, has as it's primary function to establish that the manufacturers of genetically engineered (GE) crops are liable for damages if the GE material contaminates crops on other lands and causes financial loss. This is the first state-wide legislation related to GE crops that has passed out of the Agriculture Committee. It is a hopeful sign that the first bill is one that is designed to protect farmers who choose not to use GE seed.

According to a press release from the Genetic Engineering Policy Project:
Specifically, the newly amended bill would provide for:
  1. Protection from patent infringement lawsuits for farmers unknowingly contaminated by GE crops. Currently, farmers with crops that become contaminated by patented seeds or pollen have been the target of such lawsuits without clear recourse or defense.
  2. The establishment of a mandatory crop sampling protocol to be used by patent holders when investigating farmers they believe may have violated patents or seed contracts. This protocol would require the farmer’s written permission for sampling, and provide for a state agriculture official to accompany the patent holder during the sampling and collect duplicate samples for independent verification if requested by either party.
The vote in the Committee on Agriculture was 5 - 0 with three members either absent or abstaining. Those three were Doug LaMalfa (R - AD 2), Jean Fuller (R - AD 32) and Cathleen Gagliani (D - AD 17). Gagliani's non-action is interesting in that she has just moved into the 12th State Senate District served by Jeff Denham, long a major fixture in agricultural legislation in this state but facing a Don Perata backed recall drive.

Most of the time, the Assembly Committee on Agriculture goes about it business out of the sight of our major media. The LA Times, SF Chronicle, San Jose Mercury New, San Diego Union Tribune are all urban papers and the don't pay much attention to agriculture unless that is a story on food contamination with which they can scare everyone.

Even the Committee on Agriculture likes it's relative anonymity. That have not seen fit to post their hearing schedules [click "Committee Hearings" in left side menu] since April 2005.

Among all of the other things we have to worry about, the changes we want to see, this bill is one for which I believe the Green Party should be active in it's support. We can not sit back in our comfortable (sub)urban homes and expect any legislature to do the right thing. There is a long way to go on this one and we have to keep pushing. You know that Monsanto will be doing heavy lobbying.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Science Debate 2008

As you can tell, I have been one of the bloggers hoping to see a Science Debate 2008 take place. The list of "big names" who have endorsed the proposal is growing each day. It now includes 20 Nobel laureates and 25 University President but no political pundits. So, maybe the organizers have a chance to manipulate opinion before it happens.

However, the mainstream media has not said a word about this. I mean not the NY or LA Times, not the Washington Post. I had to read about it in John Scholfields's column in the Wichita Eagle. He does a pretty good job of making the point.

Presidential race needs science debate

Science and technology are central to many of America's most pressing challenges and controversies: Climate change. Energy independence. Stem cell research. Nuclear proliferation. And on and on.

You wouldn't know that, though, by listening to the presidential debates so far.

If these questions do come up, they're often swiftly dispatched with a boilerplate answer or two.

Too often, science is pushed to the sidelines of presidential debates to make way for presumably weightier topics, such as whether Hillary Clinton is really likable or whether Dennis Kucinich saw a UFO.

In one forum, Mike Huckabee responded to a question about a proposed Mars mission by suggesting that Clinton should be the first passenger.

OK. But can we get serious for a moment?

The next president faces difficult, historic decisions in science and technology that will shape our country's future for decades to come.

That's why voters should support a bipartisan effort now gaining steam to hold a presidential science debate.
These are serious times and almost everything we talk about has roots in the reality of science. The role of the Science adviser in the Bush Administration has been to sell his neo-con policies, not to advise the president as to how science informs his decisions. The Democratic Congress has not seen enough value to re-establish the Congressional Office of Technology Assessment. It appears that they also like to put ideology ahead of the science.

Scholfield ends his column with some questions about which we need better answers. The pundits moderating MSM debates have not seen fit to ask them. For that matter, neither did the moderators of the Green Party Debate. It is time we found a way to hear just how well prepared the candidates are.
No one expects them to be experts on nuclear physics or the intricacies of evolutionary theory. But voters deserve to know whether a candidate has some scientific literacy, is comfortable discussing and evaluating technological issues, and employs good science and standards of evidence in decision-making.

Among the questions that could be asked at a debate:

Is it realistic for the United States to achieve energy independence? How do we get there?

What is the government's role in fostering innovation and the new generation of alternative energy technology?

How can our schools better prepare students to compete in science and mathematics?

Should creationism and intelligent design be taught in our schools?

How do you assess the evidence for climate change, and are specific measures needed to control greenhouse gases?

What is the future of NASA's manned space program?

How can we continue to attract the world's best and brightest scientists to study and live here?

Democrats charge that under President Bush, scientists' advice has been censored and politicized. Is that true? If so, what would you do to restore the integrity of science?

Americans deserve clear, specific answers to these and a host of other questions.

Admittedly, a science debate will be difficult to pull off amid the tight election-year schedule. Don't expect the candidates to jump at the opportunity. But a growing number of leading science organizations, university presidents, business leaders and politicians are endorsing the idea.

The timing is right for citizens to make a difference.

To get involved, check out the group's Web site at sciencedebate2008.com and sign the petition. At the very least, let the candidates and media know you want a more meaningful discussion of science policy.

We can't afford not to talk about science and innovation. America's future depends on it.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Indian Trust: not Indian Gaming

(Cross posted from Green Commons)

If you listen to main stream media, you would think that the only issue regarding the rights of Indian tribes have to do with Gaming. In California, where I live, there are four initiative measure on the ballot February 5 that would expand gaming for four tribes. The number of television ads that you see about these initiative measues far exeeds the number of ads you see for all presidential candidates combined.

Mostly hidden from publich view there is a fundamental issue about the role of the Federal Government in dealing with Indian Tribes that would bring shame to all of us were anyone paying attention. There is a long record of failures by the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA), US Dept. of Interior. In the Indian Land Trust case raised by Blackfoot activist Elouise Cobell, the self-protective nature of a failed bureaucracy been revealed for all to see. The last three Secretaries of the Interior (Bruce Babbitt, Elaine Norton and Dirk Kempthorne) have all had a chance to fix this problem and they have all failed.

For over a century, the BIA has been responsible for collecting the royalty payments for minerals removed from tribal lands and holding those funds in trust. For over a century, royalties have been collected but there is no money in the trust and there is no record of where the money went. Even in the middle of the law suit, valuable records, possibly pertintent to this case, were destroyed.

Today, the Green Party issued a press release supporting the tribal position in Cobell vs. Kempthorne, as the suite in now named. While I am not under any misconception that many will pay attention to this, I am proud that the Green Party has once again asked that justice be done.

If we can spend $ Billions per month on the war in Iraq, we can figure our an exitable settlement to this suit. Before we ask people around the world to believe in our system of government, we have to show our own citizens that our government can be trusted. The results so far show that it can't.

I know that we can not go back and re-write history. But, it is an interesting speculation to wonder if, had we done the right thing from the beginning, had we treated people with honesty and respect, might not the reservations been the site of economic development fed by these royalties; might we not have had job development rather than welfare payments; might not the tribes have had a path to prosperity that was not based on gambling?

It seems that the courts are having almost as much problem with the BIA as the tribes have been having and are getting impatient.
There is no compelling reason to postpone these [37] cases for six months while the defendant articulates its response to trust-related concerns the department has been aware of for at least twenty years.
Maybe this one act, just a press release, will not have a large effect on anything. It is not the news of the day. It won't lead because no one bleeds. It should, however, raise our level of concern and more than just a little outrage. I would encourage all to contact their congress critters and tell them that enough is enough: settle Cobell vs. Kempthorne.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Green Party Presidential Debate

The 1st Green Party Presidential Debate has come and gone. It did not get much media attention. The only major print media coverage was in the San Francisco Chronicle.

In some ways, this was a refreshing example of what Grassroots activism is all about. The committee that put this together was just a group of Greens who thought this needed to be done and so they did it. Some, but not all, had positions in the party. All were dedicated to making this as good as they could make it. Score on for the Grassroots.

Still, in my opinion, the debate brought to the forefront some of the real problems that we have as a party.

Candidate Status: All political parties have a problem when candidates pull out of the race late in the game. One might ask what will happen to the voters in Iowa who cast a ballot for Richardson, Dodd or Biden are going to do and how any delegates they might have acquired will be voting at the Democratic Nominating Convention.

The Green Party has the same situation with Elaine Brown who pulled out too late to have her name removed from the ballot. But, we confounded that problem by including the name of Ralph Nader on the ballot. There is no indication that Nader is going to run. While I understand his hesitancy to participate in the debate as if he were running, it does the party no good if this continues right down to our own convention. I can see nothing good coming out of a situation where, going into the convention, Nader has not yet declared. That will be a repeat of 2004 and a disaster for the party.

The Green Party has very few primaries. Only a few states (California, Arkansas, Illinois, DC and ???) We depend on the State Parties to deliver delegate votes that represent the real preferences of their members. I hope this happens. Because if it does not, then it leave the door open for a continuation of the intercine warfare that has gone on since Milwaukee.

Only Ralph Nader can control this. It is up to him what happens. But, I personally will not be voting for a candidate on the hope that they run.

Narrow Focus:
While we are scrambling for candidates, the question on farm policy opened up a failure for all of them. I don't think that any Green Candidate has a grasp of the range of policy issues that they need in order to win votes all across this land. The solutions are clear. Most are in our platform and those that are not will be in the national platform by the time the convention comes around. It is just not very high on the priority list for anyone, but it had better be if we want to continue growing the party in Illinois, in Iowa, in Minnesota.

I would include in this list the fact that environmental questions: those dealing with global warming and energy, were not very prominent in the debate. The Peak Oil question was not well thought out and combining it with the one of "what would be your first act" allowed McKinney to dodge it entirely.

The only response to the Peak Oil question video at YouTube was decidedly negative. "Looks like nobody here is really prepared...".

If we are to make headway as a party, we need to allow for no excuses in terms of being prepared. We have to be ready every time we open the door, or open our mouths.
At least, you could tell that Jesse Johnson and Kent Mesplay had thought through the issues and had something worth saying.

Celebrity Factor:
Greens continually criticize the Republicrats and Democans for choosing candidates who do not represent the people, who do not have the right position on issues. Yet, when we come down to choosing our candidates, we do the same thing. So far, I have seen no sign that Cynthia McKinney has any better grasp on the issues than most of the other candidates do. So, we have to ask on what basis do those who support her candidacy make that decision. The rationale that I hear generally comes down to her national name recognition and her ability to articulate a contrarian message, to "speak the truth to power" as it were. It sounds much like that rational given by Democrats for choosing Obama over Clinton. I guess that we are not so different.

Conclusion: Given the seriousness with which I take the issues around Climate Change and energy, given the fact that Nader has not yet announced if he is running and still does not mention ecology issues in his latest "critique" of the duopoly and their platforms, given that Cynthia McKinney seems to think that buying pollution credits is a Green thing to do, I found not reason to discontinue my support for Kent Mesplay. He is the only candidate who is clearly articulate on the one issue that means the most to me.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Once more wading through the delta quagmire

Unfortunately the quagmire in really in the politics of the Delta. I had missed this NPR program until reminded of it while reading Alex Breitler's blog at the Stockton Record.
[Dr. Jeffrey] Mount says climate change is conspiring against the fragile balance at work in the delta. In order to serve millions of Californians, the salty water of the San Francisco Bay must be kept away from the pumps that bring fresh water to cities and farms. It requires constant management and enough fresh water at all times to push the salt water back.

Dr. Jeffrey Mount is the Director of the Center for Watershed Management at UC Davis. He was, at one time, a member of the California State Reclamation Board. This agency has the following mission.
  • To control flooding along the Sacramento and San Joaquin Rivers and their tributaries in cooperation with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

  • To cooperate with various agencies of the federal, State and local governments in establishing, planning, constructing, operating, and maintaining flood control works.

  • To maintain the integrity of the existing flood control system and designated floodways through the Board's regulatory authority by issuing permits for encroachments.
When Dr. Mount, and other members, started to exert their authority to regulate development in flood plains, Green Governor Schwarzenegger fired them all and replaced them with developer friendly members.

Now, Schwarzenegger wants to build more dams that will provide for collection of more water without any concern for what is happening in the delta. The alternative, a Healthy Delta Community Plan, is not getting media attention. The news is always what the Governor says, what the Water Agencies say, what the California Farm Bureau says and rarely what the community says. Maybe we need a new narrative, one that tells the story of the people rather than the agencies.

Aquafornia gives us the media coverage in a nutshell. We have to begin to personalize this, to make people realize just what it will mean to meet this challenge after you strip away all of the hype.

Science Friday

This is a big weekend of important days, all leading up to the Green Party Presidential Debate in San Francisco on Sunday, Jan 13.

It really begins with NPR's Science Friday today.Science Friday Logo On today's show, Ira Flatow will devote the first hour to the discussion of a Science Debate 2008 (clock logo in right menu). If there were ever a time when it is necessary to have a basic understanding of science at all levels of government, it is now. If you have the opportunity, tune in at 11:00 AM PT. (2 PM ET). The same hour also includes a discussion of what we really need to consider about the environment right now.

I know it is the middle of the work day here, but I can't think of a better way to spend some time.

The second important activity is the GPCA Strategy Session in Palo Alto on Saturday. While the past history of these strategy sessions is that they have devolved into battlegrounds for other conflicts, I have the sense that this time, the absolute need to have a strong showing in this election cycle will make a difference in both the tone and the substance of the session.

As for the Presidential Debate itself, I have collected a number of suggested questions from around the country, questions that Greens would like to see asked, and answered. I hope that one of them, at least will recognize the importance of ecology and other sciences in the years ahead.

We also need questions on the economy as that is the number one issue on most voters minds right now. Three leading banks said that we are heading into a recession. Most voters are afraid of the consequences. Everyone is talking about the increasing disparity of wealth. What do our candidates have to say?

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Is the Immigration Debate Over?

The San Francisco Chronicle presented two OpEd columns today that give two very different positions on the issue of Immigration.

In the first, Victor Davis Hanson of the Hoover Institute, Stanford University, tells us that Supporters of open borders have lost on that issue.
Republican candidates must risk angering their base by ruling out mass deportation. Democrats should support closing the border tightly and quickly - and not cave in to open-borders pressure groups.

Making these tough choices now is what most voters want. The candidates of both parties in the next few months will either adjust accordingly or lose elections.
In the other column, Roberto Lovato of New American Media, believes that the McCain win puts the Latino Vote back in play.
During the 2004 presidential election, George W. Bush's Spanish-language appeals and promises of immigration reform won him somewhere between 37 to 44 percent of the Latino vote, a major increase from what he got in 2000.
So, the Latino vote is not something that Democrats can count on if McCain runs. However, McCain is probably the only Republican Candidate about whom that statement could be made.
But when Democrats are evasive - as in Clinton's driver's license flip-flop or when Obama vacillated after being asked by Univision anchors about his vote for the border fence - I see the moral and political opening exploited by Bush in 2004, and McCain before 2008. My father and most Latinos reject the wall as a muro de la muerte (wall of death). That the immigration debate merits neither Clinton's attention nor Obama's abundant rhetorical powers explains Latinos' frustration (documented in the recent Pew Hispanic poll) and leaves many of us outside the wave of Obama-mania.
Our Green candidates need to make it clear that we understand that the solution to these problems lies not in fences and deportation but rather in allowing Mexico and other national economies to grow, to not saddle them with so-called free trade pacts whose effects are so obviously one sided.

The immigration debate is not over. Greens have a unique message. It is not about protecting American jobs or even our fighting the worlds terrorists by building a muro de la muerte. It is about allowing all people to fulfill their own destinies, to build their own economic future without having American consumerism crammed down their throats.

Green Party Presidential Candidates Debate

Green Debate


SUNDAY, JANUARY 13, 2008 AT 2:00 PM



401 VAN NESS (Opposite City Hall)


(Public Transit: 3 blocks from Civic Center BART station, or by MUNI streetcar or bus)

(Parking available at Performing Arts Center Garage, 360 Grove St., 11 am to 7 pm, $12)

For More Details See Alameda County Greens Web Site At:

Climate Change and the Presidential Election

I think that the Green Party has a problem with Climate Change. I don't think that very many in the party would disagree with the fact that this is probably the single most important issue for the 21st Century. It truly is the "Inconvenient Truth." It is inconvenient because to address the issue in realistic terms may well be detrimental to our achieving the role that some see for the Green Party.

The emotional allegiance of many Greens is to the Peace Movement. Whether this manifests itself in terms of peace activism, or in terms of the effort to impeach Bush and Cheney, Greens are very much invested in action, driven by the immediacy of event. The Iraq War continues month after agonizing month. The Defense Department is now talking about a "surge" in Afghanistan. It is now and demands action now.

The climate crisis that we face has yet to achieve that level of urgency among the general public, and Greens are a part of that general public. As CoChair of the EcoAction Committee, I only hear from one activist who expresses this urgency, 2004 Green Presidential Candidate Lorna Salzman.

That sense of urgency is coming from the scientific community. Richard C. J. Somerville(Climatologist: Scripps Institution for Oceanography - La Jolla) was a member of the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and participated in the Bali Conference last December. He reflected on that Conference in the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists this week.
At subsequent climate negotiations, the important question will be whether governments are willing to implement and enforce an effective agreement to halt the rapid rise in atmospheric carbon dioxide and other pollutants that cause global warming. My personal view is that governments, especially democratically elected ones, will respond to the will of their people. And what will it take to make large numbers of people increase the priority that they now give to this issue? Perhaps it will take some sudden, shocking, and unambiguous climate event such as the destabilization of a large part of the Greenland ice sheet and a sharp increase in sea level. The ozone hole would be a parallel case historically. It would be a pity if we needed to wait for that, which is like waiting to have a heart attack rather than heeding a physician's warnings about cholesterol and weight. In climate science as in medical science, prevention is better than a cure, but not everybody is wise enough to act early.
The analogy to having a global heart attack is apt. It may be the metaphor that makes clear the seriousness of the situation for all. Even Governor Huckabee heeded the advice of his doctor to lose weight and exercise more.

Yet, if Green push this issue too hard, we may perpetuate the image that we are a group of "limousine liberals hugging trees." as Mother Jones writer Debra Dickerson commented on NPR this morning. This is all the more disconcerting in that the entire discussion on NPR revolved around the candidacy of Cynthia McKinney and this was the impression that influential black bloggers have of us.

This is overwhelming (to me)evidence that we need a new narrative.

The ecological view of the world is one where all things are linked together, complex perhaps beyond casual understanding, networks of relationship rather than hierarchies, dominated by feedback loops that can bring unintended consequences when we don't understand what we are doing. If that is the Green world view, then it isn't just about being tree huggers. It is about national security, as Kent Mesplay reminds us. It is about the economy, as in this question offered by EcoAction CoChair Frank Jeffers (GA) for the Presidential Debate.
If already existing houses were made more energy efficient to reduce electricity consumption it would have many benefits. These include increasing the true value of the house, not the speculative value. The true property value of a community would increase. The net worth of the owners would increase. The size of the estate they could pass on to the next generation would increase. Their effective income would increase. Jobs in the community would increase to get the work done, circulating money within the community.

The consumption of coal in power plants would decrease. This would decrease coal combustion wastes which are carcinogenic. This would decrease air pollution, that keeps kids from learning. This would decrease carbon dioxide production, helping the global warming problem. This would decrease mountaintop removal to mine coal.

The problem is how to finance the upfront cost of making existing houses more energy efficient.

What would you suggest to get this job done?

We must, in all of our dealings, begin to recognize that the solutions to may problems surface when you begin to think like an ecologist. We must begin to address the real problems of real people with Green solutions. Art Goodtimes has been elected to three terms as a County Supervisor in Colorado by first listening to the people's needs and then offering Green solutions. Hillary Clinton turned her New Hampshire campaign around when she stopped lecturing and started to listen.

While Al Gore's doomsday scenario may be the one to get press coverage, it may not be the one that gets everyone on board the train. As Jeffers explains (above) there are many problems that have one cure and that is to get better housing for those who can not afford it.

I think that we understand the problem. We need candidates who challenge us to be better than we have been, who call us to work together, who use the rhetoric of a Barack Obama but have put it in the service of a Green Future.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

100% Renewable Energy

I have had my disagreements with Gristmill's Dave Roberts from time to time, primarily over his unabashed promotion of everything labeled Democratic Party. However, his blog at Gristmill is a very good source of the latest information / discussion topics on the issues surrounding energy and Global Warming. It is one of three that I read daily. (The others are Chris Mooney's Intersection and Andrew Revkin's Dot Earth.)

Today, Roberts points us all to the University of Kassel in Germany and their discussion of the combined power plant. This is viewed as the first step in being able to deliver 100% if Germany's power from renewables by 2050.

Where the hell is the US?

The State of Massachusetts has just approved a major upgrade to the Coal Fired Somerset plant that will dump even more greenhouse gases into the atmosphere than it currently does. This prompted N.A.S.A.'s Dr. James Hansen to express his opposition in the Boston Globe.

California's Kalmran Alavi has talked about widely distributed power generation. However, the University of Kassel has essentially solved the problem at a much higher level, that of a fully operational power plant system. They even provided a short (7.24 min) film that gives a very clear explanation of how this can work.

Still, if you listened to ABC's Debate Night, every one of the Republicans talked about "clean coal" and "nuclear" solutions. Where is the vaunted American technology that we hear so much about? If the University of Kassel can do it, why can't MIT and Cal Tech? Have we fallen so far behind? Or have we become so inured to the blatherings of free-market ideologues who are afraid to challege the utility industry and the powerful coal state Senators like Byrd of W. VA, that we have just given up trying?

Here is yet another challenge to Green Presidential candidates. Build a new scenario for America's future. Clean, not dirty; growing corn for food, not for transportation; challenging us to be our best, not servile. We can do this. It is only a matter of want to.

Monday, January 07, 2008

Do we need a new narrative?

Maybe I am trying to hard and so finding connections that are not really there. This is one of those times where the book I read seems to connect to the blogs I read.

The book, in this case, is Bryan Caplan's The Myth of the Rational Voter. (short, early? version here). I have been doing some reading in Green Economics and Caplan's discussion of voting behavior in economic terms seemed to fit. His conclusions were that voting behavior is rationally unrational. In other word, it can better be explained after we stop expecting it to be rational as we vote against our self interest time and time again in very predictable ways. Just consider the way that illegal immigration will emerge as having a far greater role in the upcoming presidential election than it deserves.

Caplan uses the term preferences over beliefs to describe the fact that often we prefer to believe one thing about the way that the world works than the opposite, even when the facts say that we are wrong. The easiest example, in fact the one that he uses to describe how much this influences voting behavior, is that of the amount of foreign aid given by the US Government. Most people think that this is a huge problem when, in fact, it is less than 1% of government spending. Clearly, we should not give much credence to a Rush Limbaugh rant against foreign aide.

Having just finished this, I stumbled across Stephen Smoliar at The Rehearsal Studio where he comments on the media and the stories it tells: Hate Makes the World Go Round.
...the social system itself keeps going with the persistence of that pink bunny that commercialism has now embedded in our consciousness. I suspect the reason it prevails is that, while those who make it are always making messes, our culture seems to have been endowed with a talent for compensating for those messes. In other words, if we have any common goal at all, it is to apply our lives and fortunes to get out of a mess once we wake up to the fact that the mess is biting our collective asses.
I wonder if this talent is recognized by all and leads back to Caplan's problem. According to Caplan, the reason that we do not make wise choices is because the "cost" to an individual of a bad choice is very small, often orders of magnitude less than the "cost" to make a more informed decision. The personal cost to drive a gas guzzling SUV might be minimal but the social cost when a 1 million do is very high. So, the individual does not react "rationally" and prefers to believe that global warming is not real for any number of reasons.
All this, of course, is anathema to not just [journalist Bob} Franken but the whole culture of the mainstream media; and the problem has nothing to do with whether or not those media are being run by a handful of conglomerates more concerned with quarterly reports than with the concept of a "public trust." Rather, the problem is a narratological one: the need to deliver a "story" that not only addresses the classic 5WH formula of journalism (who, where, when, what, why, how) but brings the ingredients of that formula to some form of closure. Closure requires that any mess be "cleaned up" and delivered in a "neater package," under the assumption that readers do not want to be left feeling that the mess is still there.
If we indeed want to bring a larger electorate to a Green understanding, we may not be able to accomplish this only with facts and doomsday scenarios. We need a new narrative, one of challenge and triumph. It does not lead to utopia, but gives us a fighting chance to go on and meet new challenges. In any case, there are those who consider Utopia's boring.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Nixon was Bad. These Guys are Worse.

The title I used was the sub-title to George McGovern's OpEd in today's (January 6) Washington Post. I won't quote a lot of this. It is much better that you read the whole thing in his words, not mine. Still, for me, this was the heart of his message.
Of course, there seems to be little bipartisan support for impeachment. The political scene is marked by narrow and sometimes superficial partisanship, especially among Republicans, and a lack of courage and statesmanship on the part of too many Democratic politicians. So the chances of a bipartisan impeachment and conviction are not promising.

But what are the facts?

Bush and Cheney are clearly guilty of numerous impeachable offenses. They have repeatedly violated the Constitution. They have transgressed national and international law. They have lied to the American people time after time. Their conduct and their barbaric policies have reduced our beloved country to a historic low in the eyes of people around the world. These are truly "high crimes and misdemeanors," to use the constitutional standard.
Impeachment has not even been very high on my list of things to write about. I have been concerned that with so much focus being put on this one issue in terms of protest, that we were losing out ability to accomplish anything else. There were other Greens, especially Peter Thottham, who have done this well. It looks as if Peter has some good company in this effort.

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Energy Policy

At the end of his 2006 primary battle with Richard Pombo (CA-11), Pete McCloskey wrote an OpEd that I printed here in its entirety. Pete is a man who fervently believes in the potential of this United States and has, throughout his long career, always upheld the Constitution and challenged those who would besmirch the honor of either. He was not prepared for the degree of voter apathy that he found.
The recent poll showing that less than a third of the people respect what Congress has been doing is not as disappointing as the fact that half of the electorate doesn't seem to care enough to try to change it.
McCloskey's observation is only a year old, but there seems to be an energy for change that has flowed into this year's presidential election. Barack Obama has built his entire campaign around the idea of change. In many ways he has created the impression that he is the embodiment of change. So strong is this impression that some media have begun to use the term "cult of personality" to describe the phenomenon.
Among the Democrats, the momentum belongs to Barack Obama, who came out of Iowa like a freight train with his win. On his whistle-stop tour of New Hampshire, every event is a mob scene and his campaign for the presidency is fast becoming a cult of personality. - Charlie Gibson
It would seem that the Green Party lacks the charismatic leadership to challenge this aspect of an Obama campaign, should he win. However, I am more concerned about my growing suspicion that McCloskey has made an astute observation about our party, the people are no longer fired up about what our party can do, that apathy has replaced energy, not on the issue, but regarding the belief that this party, lacking the charisma of an Obama, can do anything to affect those issues. The most telling recent example is the fact that very few of our county councils have been able to respond to an internal poll regarding Green Party positions on the ballot measure in the upcoming election. The list of non-responding counties contains some of those counties on which we count for leadership: Humboldt, Los Angeles, Sacramento, San Diego, San Francisco, San Mateo, Santa Clara.

Yes, I know that some of this is a problem of timing, the county council's not having a meeting scheduled in order to take a formal position. I consider that an excuse for non-action, or rather a sign that developing formal positions on ballot measures is not a priority for the activists in these counties. If it were, they would have found a way to get it done.

This is particularly galling since Proposition 93 concerns Limits on Legislators’ Terms in Office. Initiative Constitutional Amendment. Those counties that did respond to the polling were overwhelmingly opposed to this measure. These was not a single indication that even one individual supported it. But, according to our bylaws, we will not take a position because we could not get a quorum of interest.

My real concern is not with the results of this polling, but rather my fear that is demonstrates a lack of concern for state and local issues as a complement to the energy that goes into such national, emotional, "progressive movement" concerns such as impeachment and the Iraq War.

Note, I did not place these as a either / or proposition. If we are going to be a party that is ready to practice governance, we need to be able to provide leadership and direction on a broad range of topics at all levels. In the terminology that I have used before, we need to move beyond protest to provide Green solutions to the problems that face our local communities, our counties and our state as well as being the voice of protest at the national level.

In my mind, this is a failure of local leadership to keep the focus on local concerns equal to the major protest issue. Remember the words of Tip O'Neil. "All politics is local." If we are not growing this party, it just may be because we are not fully engaged at the local level.

So, back to McCloskey's warning of the danger of apathy. Enough of the votes got the message to turn Richard Pombo our of office. There were a few, very local, media outlets that had the integrity to lay things out the way that they really were, without spin. Such was, and continues to be, the Tracy Press, whose editorial policy is to put the real welfare of the entire community above everything else.

I know that Lisa Taylor will remind me of all the good work that Greens are doing outside the party. That is wonderful, energy well directed. I only want to make sure that there is a little energy left to actually operate this party because that is the only way that real change will happen.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Support Winnemem-Wintu Tribal Petition

Until I started delving into the issue of California Water and particularly, the Delta, I had never heard of the Winnemem-Wintu tribe. However, members of this tribe have been at the forefront of the effort to Restore the Delta, to return salmon fishing to the Klamath and other water related fights that are vital to all California.

This tribe has a long history of recognition by the Federal Government until the early 1980's when they were suddenly dropped from the list of Federally recognized tribes. At issue is compensation for Winnemem-Wintu lands which now lie under water behind Shasta Dam. At risk is the further loss of their lands and sacred sites if Shasta Dam were to be raised, as has been proposed.

The Environmental Justice Coalition for Water provides a good short history of the issues surrounding the Winneman-Wintu and the Central Valley Indian Lands Acquisition Act. It is one more example of a governmental bureaucracy solving it's problems running roughshod over the rights of our citizens.

Recently, Marin County Assembly member, Jared Huffman, introduced AJR 39 which merely asks the Federal Government to restore the rights that have been denied, including the right for just compensation for lands lost to the Central Valley Project's Lake Shasta.

On Jan. 9, the Assembly Governmental Organization Committee will consider AJR 39.
In my mind, standing up for the Winnemem-Wintu in this effort is much more important than what we decide to do about the various Indian Gaming initiative measures. This is not about gaming. It is about basic rights and having a government that can live up to its treaty obligations and follow its own laws.

The Environmental Justice Coalition for Water has provided a sample letter that can be sent, or turned into an email and sent to the Committee. I provide that letter below. If you chose to email the Committee Chairman, Alberto Torrico, please cc Barry Nelson at the Natural Resources Defense Council. If you can fax a letter to the Committee at (916)319-3979, please also fax a copy to the Environmental Justice Coalition for Water as (510)251-2203 and they will hand deliver a copy. Another option is to call the Committee at (916)319-2020 to express your support for AJR 39.

Sample Letter:

Honorable Alberto Torrico
Chair, Assembly Governmental Organization
State Capitol
Sacramento, CA 94249-0020
RE: Support for AJR 39 (Huffman)

Dear Assembly Member Torrico:

I write this letter in support of AJR 39 introduced by Assembly Member Jared Huffman, of the 6th assembly district, which would codify California’s existing recognition of the Tribe as a legitimate California Tribe and urge the Federal Government to restore the Winnemem Wintu Tribe’s status as a federally recognized tribe.

The Winnemem Wintu, a Northern California Tribe whose home lies along the McCloud River in Shasta County, has a long history of promises broken by the federal government, the most recent being the unexplained loss of their Federal Recognition in the mid-1980s. In 1941, Congress passed the “Central Valley Project Indian Lands Acquisition Act” (CVPILAA) to secure the land necessary to complete the construction of Shasta Dam. Despite the requirements of the CVPILAA, the tribe has not been compensated for the loss of their lands, nor have they received replacement lands. The failure to fulfill the basic requirements of the CVPILAA has left the Tribe to struggle for its very existence.

While the federal government continues to create roadblocks to prevent the Tribe from regaining its recognized status, California state agencies and even federal agencies like the U.S. Forest Service recognize the Winnemem as a legitimate tribe. The Winnemem are included on the list of California Tribes held by the Native American Heritage Commission, and the Tribe has been issued state and federal permits reserved for federally recognized tribes.

The federal government has never terminated the tribe. The tribe believes that their status is the result of an error on the part of the BIA – an error made possible by the failure of the Department of the Interior to comply with the CVPILAA by replacing tribal lands lost when Shasta Dam was constructed and by holding a cemetery in trust by the appropriate Indian Services Agency. The cemetery was created to relocate the remains of tribal dead to make way for Shasta Dam. Because no “like-land” was ever provided and because the cemetery was incorrectly transferred to a federal agency not capable of holding land in trust, the tribe has a reduced role in federal decisions that affect them, and they are denied the basic health, education and housing benefits received by recognized tribes.

AJR 39 will help the Winnemem in their struggle to regain recognition by reinforcing the State’s de facto recognition of the Winnemem Wintu as a legitimate California tribe, and urging the Federal Government to restore the tribe’s Federal recognition. As a California State leader, you have the opportunity to help rectify an injustice long overdue, and we hope that you do.

We urge your aye vote on AJR 39.

Thank you very much,

Health Hazards of Global Warming

With attention focused on Iowa, with even Jay Leno entertaining us with Mike Huckabee when he ran out of jokes, little attention is being paid to stories that will have much more far reaching consequences.

One of those stories is the report in the Sacramento Bee concerning a new study of the Health Consequences of Global Warming released by Stanford Univ.
Vehicle and power plant emissions of carbon dioxide, the predominant climate-altering gas, are estimated to cause 1,000 additional deaths and many more cases of respiratory disease every year in the United States for each degree Celsius of temperature rise in the Earth's atmosphere, according to the Stanford study.

The bulk of those deaths - an estimated 300 - are occurring in California cities already socked with smog, said Mark Jacobson, a Stanford environmental engineering professor who led the study.
This is really a major issue for many. It does not fall on the urban power centers of this state: Los Angeles, San Francisco Bay Area, San Diego. Rather, its effect are more strongly felt in the Central Valley where we have 5 of the worst cities in the country in terms of air quality: Bakersfield, Visalia, Fresno, Merced and Sacramento, according to the SacBee report.

What that report does not say is that politics plays a very important role in how we deal with these facts. I received a recent email from Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla concerning those very differences. Barbara is the Campaign Director for Restore the Delta and the force behind their "Health Delta Communities" programs. Barbara wrote
"Kate, my five-year-old, developed walking pneumonia, then full-blown pneumonia, and severe asthma problems starting all on the 19th."
That is only a reference point for how serious this situation is for her family. The politics behind this is very much a power game, as Barbara made clear later in her note:
...why does the SJ Valley Air Pollution Control Board permit wood burning on moderate air quality days, when the Sacramento Valley restricts burning on those days? It seems that wood burning in our neighborhood is a major trigger for Kate, even though I am keeping her indoors. Her pediatrician at Kaiser says this is a major problem for asthma kids in Stockton.
This personalizes the facts. A 2006 study by California State University - Fullerton let us know just how gargantuan this problem really is. It costs California $3 Billion per year. There are thousands of families like Barbara's in the San Joaquin Valley and thousands of children like Kate.

The San Joaquin Valley would love for you to think that the primary cause of their ail pollution is from automobiles. That simply is not true. A much greater amount comes from agriculture. Methane from dairy operations is significant. So is the dust from discing; so are the pesticides from aerial spraying. No single source accounts for more than 35% of the air pollution. Yet, any attempt to increase regulation in the valley meets with stiff opposition from all levels of the body politic, right up to Congressman Devin Nunes (R-Visalia, CA-21).

His August, 2007 press release, New domestic energy production and air quality improvements the focus of Nunes legislation, is an example of his absolutely delusional propaganda. Other than this title, then entire release is about Coal Liquefaction, one of the worst technology solutions that gullible, scientifically challenged Congress Critters are talking about, but Nunes has no qualms in telling his constituents that this dirty technology will solve their air quality problems.
"Coal liquefaction has been proven as a viable fuel for decades. With today’s improvements in technology, we can produce domestic energy and improve environmental outcomes at the same time. This fuel would be particularly beneficial in the Central Valley of California, as we seek to address ongoing air quality challenges," said Rep. Nunes.
The counter argument comes from David Hawkins, Director of the Climate Center, Natural Resources Defense Council. In testimony before the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, April 2006, Hawkins gave a very different picture of the processes.
The impacts that a large coal-to-liquids program could have on global warming pollution,
conventional air pollution and damage from expanded coal production are substantial.
Before deciding whether to invest scores, perhaps hundreds of billions of dollars in a new industry like coal-to-liquids, we need a much more serious assessment of whether this is an industry that should proceed at all.

I would give Nunes a Climate Change Cretin award, except Oklahoma Senator Inhofe seems to win that every year.

More importantly, is we are are to truly reduce the costs of Health Care, especially for those least able to afford it, we have to address Air Quality. Some can keep their children indoors when air quality is bad. Those who can't afford health care may not be able to afford air conditioning in the summer either. Maybe they have to use wood for fuel because they can no longer deal with the rising cost to heat their homes in the winter We can not separate all of these problems into neat compartments and decide what solutions we need in a vacuum. We can not solve our health care crises now without addressing air quality. We won't be able to so do in the future unless we address climate change. We can not separate issues of social justice from the environment is we are going to have a future.

Five year old Kate Parrilla needs all of us to go to work for her. We need to get rid of bloviating demagogues like Devin Nunes. We need to make Schwarzenegger's new Queen of Air Quality do her job and forget about trading carbon credits. It there were ever a situation that cries out for the values of this Green Party to be implemented as policy, this is it. If we want to prove our abilities to practice governance, we need to be challenging the power structure of the San Joaquin Valley, to be "speaking truth to power", to become the agents of change that the Obama's of this world promise to be, but never will while still supporting environmentally destructive, unhealthy, unClean Coal and Ethanol from Corn for the sake of a few additional votes.