Saturday, May 24, 2008

It scares the hell ouf of me.

The "it" is a talk given by the University of Arizona's Dr. Jonathan Overpeck, Director of the Institute for the Study of Planet Earth concerning Climate Change, Sea Level, and Western Drought: Dangerous Anthropogenic Interference. You can download it (which I recommend) or watch it online from this page. The reason I suggest downloading it is that you may want to watch it more than once, or to rewind and make sure you got his point as you go along. It you live in the West, it is that important.

Here is a list of things the got my attention:

  • a visual picture of the effects of the current drought on juniper / pinon pine forests in New Mexico. The pines are all dead.
  • A specific chart showing the current drought conditions as projected for 2035-2060 where the normal pattern will be worse than the current drought conditions in the West.
  • A general statement that the pattern of drought corresponds to the temperature change in the West.
  • A reminder that from 1130 to 1300 AD the American Southwest went through a megadrought that was one cause for the abandonment of Chaco Canyon, Mesa Verde and other sites by the Anasazi.
  • The projection of population increases:
    • Arizona: +5 million by 2030.
    • California: + 12 million by 2030.
    • Colorado: + 2.6 million by 2030.
It is clear that these population increases can not be sustained by anything resembling business as usual. In a yet to be published OpEd for the Morgan Hill Times (scheduled for 5/27) I suggested that we need to plan for water resources considering that this year represents the new "normal". Given the facts in Dr. Overpeck's talk, I was probably optimistic.

This past week (5/20) the California Department of Water Resources had the first meeting of a Climate Change Technical Advisory Group. I was not able to go to Sacramento to attend. I don't have a lot of confidence in the Department of Water Resources to do what truly needs to be done. Still from the presentations given (and available from this page) we know that they are expecting a 25 - 40% reduction in annual snowpack by 2050.

(Thought: if we have that reduction in snowpack, why would we add to the 1400 dams already in California?)

I find it highly suspect that DWR is using charts that project based on "No Change in Rainfall Pattern or Amount" (Chart 32 in Climate Change Science and the Department of Water Resources (pdf)
It would seem that the bureaucracy knows that answer that they want you to arrive at. It is not one that a responsible Green could conceive.

I am encouraged by the presence in the Technical Advisory Group of Kathy Jacobs from the Arizona Water Institute and previously a faculty member with Dr. Overpeck in the ISPE. She has a background of dealing with sustainability.

California law requires an update to the Water Plan every 5 years. The examination of climate change is part of that process. I am convinced that it should be most important factor under consideration.

The next meeting in this process is an "All Regions Forum" to be held in San Jose on June 2-3, 2008. Location:
Doubletree Hotel in San Jose
2050 Gateway Place
San Jose, CA 95110
(408) 453-4000

Announcement: (.pdf, 24 kb)

Handouts: Agenda (.pdf, 47 kb)

You may think that I have been giving too much credibility to one scientist. However, in all of the manufactured doubt surrounding climate change, there is one common thread. When the scientists have missed the mark in their projections, it is because they have underestimated the speed at which change in occurring. The Seattle Times carried a report that the sea water is becoming increasingly acid (due to CO2) about 100 years earlier than the scientists had predicted. (Tip of the hat to Aquafornia.)

It is the rate of change that concerns me the most. It takes time to re-shape public opinion. Then, we need to plan the necessary changes in infrastructure to accommodate what is going to occur. Many organisms, either on land or in the sea, do not have the capability to deal with those changes and so, will die out. Hopefully, we have the capacity to adapt, if we have the will.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Personal update

This is not about GPCA, but about me and how I don't always control the tasks that occupy my day. Take yesterday, for instance. It was sunny, temperatures in the mid-70's and a bit windy. My wife, Rumiko, and I had planned to go to the library and then stop for a little shopping. (Multiple tasks on one trip is very "green".)

I opened the door and was greeted with this. I gave you the view from the other side. No real damage to the house. The branches on the roof are very small. But it did take a while to turn those small branches into mulch (another "green" thing to do), clean up the damage to the nandina and rose underneath that olive branch. Could it be a sign that peace is at hand?

The trip to the library had been anticipated for a long time. Lorna Salzman had recommended reading Susan Jacobs's The Age of American Unreason. I put it on hold and was number 74 on the waiting list. Finally, I had a chance to check it out and then the above event. Oh, well.

The uncovered brick pillar in the lower right is another task delayed by my little emergency. Top had been painted, but not re-installed.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Is California Really Broke?

How Did This Happen?
What Can Be Done?


Thursday, May 22, 2008 7 pm – 8:30 PM Holy Faith Episcopal Church
260 N. Locust Street, Inglewood, CA

SPEAKER:Nancy Berlin, Director, California Partnership
CAP is a coalition of over 40 Californian anti-poverty grassroots organizations
Curran Price, CA State Assembly
Walter Johnson, Holy Faith Episcopal
Justice and Mercy Commission
ACTION STEPS:Cathy Deppe, 9to5 Los Angeles
National Association of Working Women

GET INVOLVED! Should California...

  • Reduce the number of teachers in our schools?
  • Eliminate health insurance for poor kids?
  • Reduce emergency services and cut housing for poor families?


Come, Learn More, and Write a Letter to the Governor!

Refreshments -- Kids Welcome -- Handicapped Accessible

Information: Walter Johnson 310-450-5017

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Assembly Speaker Karen Bass: Let's Talk Taxes

Sacramento, Tuesday, May 13, 2008 – Karen Bass was sworn in as speaker of the California State Assembly. She is the first African-American woman to hold such a legislative post anywhere in the United States. Speaker Bass says ready to begin tackling the many challenges facing California. Governor Schwarzenegger was scheduled to release his revised budget proposal Wednesday afternoon.

Karen Bass

Ms. Bass is a Democrat representing the 47th Assembly District in Los Angeles. The impression of this Green reporter is that Karen is more thoughtful, more honest, and more sincerely progressive than most Big City California Democratic Party pols. The Los Angeles Times published an op-ed by Ms. Bass proposing an "independent" look at the "Third Rail" of California politics: Taxes. Her op-ed includes a concise description of the paradox of California: a state with wealth, resources, and a productive work force that is somehow "a giant in crisis."

Peter Miguel Camejo, our Green Party candidate for Governor spoke "Truth to Power" about the budget way back in 2002, when Democratic Governor Gray Davis was lying through his teeth. Greens have earned the right to a seat at the table and we must seize this opportunity to engage in a little "triangulation" between the better elements of the California legislature and do-nothing, ethically-challenged "Regular" Democrats and Republicans.

. . .

The point is not that Camejo, Greens, or anybody else, has a "magic wand" to make our budget problems go away. The point is that the Green Party was straight with the people of California when Democrats, Republicans, including the phoney "post-partisan" Arnold Schwarzenegger, were all shucking 'n jiving... We have the duty to help save California and promote our key values to save the planet.

Read More

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Johnny Yoo... Who?

The name of current UC Berkeley Law Professor, Johnny Yoo, might not ring a bell for everyone. After all, you would have to be a devotee of PBS programming like Front Line to have ever heard of him or to understand just how much he has influenced events since the Iraq War started. His contribution? The justification of torture if the Imperial Presidency so chooses.

There are times that protest is the best way to call attention to something, particularly those things that have not gotten media attention at the level they should. For example, the tree sitting protests at UC Berkeley periodically make the big time media exposure, at least in the San Francisco Bay Area.

It seems very out of proportion compared to having Johnny Yoo as alaw professor at the Boalt Hall School of Law with his salary paid by our taxes. Some protesters need to get their priorities correct, as do the media. Thankfully, Act Against Torture is going to do something to raise the level of awareness. It is a much more appropriate action then the CodePink protest at the Marine Corps Recruiting Office. (And yes I know that there are many who are members of both groups.)

I would urge everyone in the area to join this protest if even to just to send a note of support... but be there if you can: Saturday May 17, 2008 at 8am (graduation starts at 9:00).

Monday, May 12, 2008

Environment vs. jobs... a false conflict

The last resort of those who would obfuscate any issue is to use the appeal to jobs. I watched it happen time and time again. In the world of politics, the terms "jobs" makes for some very strange associations. So does the funding of non-profits.

The first event that really drove this home to me was watching the leadership of the Teamsters Union line up behind the 2006 Chairman of the House Committee on Resources, Richard Pombo, to support drilling for more oil in the Alaskan National Wildlife Reserve. You would have thought that the normally Democratic leaning unions would have been the last person to support an ultra-conservative Republican, but this was about "American jobs" though most would have been in Canada.

Now, the latest person to jump into this fray, all in the interest of the poor, of course, is Roy Innes of the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE). This was reported in Mother Jones.
A civil rights group that dates back to the 1940s, CORE's agenda has taken a distinct rightward tilt under Innis' leadership, aligning itself with conservative activists opposed to the environmental movement. Speaking in March at a conference of global warming skeptics sponsored by the Chicago-based Heartland Institute, which has received more than $600,000 in funding from ExxonMobil since the late '90s, Innis announced that his organization, itself a recipient of Exxon funding, would sue the Bush administration if the polar bear were listed.
Innis begins to look like a Pomboid, maybe justifying his use of Exxon money because CORE does do good work. As one commenter said after the Mother Jones article...
To say that protecting the polar bear will adversely affect poor Americans skips a step.

There is a built-in assumption there that the industry lobbyists don't want us to notice: namely, that, of course, the oil companies will pass their higher costs on to the consumers, because, obviously, they can't afford to have their profits decreased even by a tiny percentage.

There is a choice here that is being hidden. Perhaps we could choose to make those profiting from oil pay for the true costs, including those to the polar bear, instead of asking the poorest Americans to do it for them.

In the mean time, Bill McKibben, writing in the Los Angeles Times this weekend warns us that this is not about jobs. It is about Civilization's Last Chance.
It's not just the economy: We've gone through swoons before. It's that gas at $4 a gallon means we're running out, at least of the cheap stuff that built our sprawling society. It's that when we try to turn corn into gas, it helps send the price of a loaf of bread shooting upward and helps ignite food riots on three continents. It's that everything is so tied together. It's that, all of a sudden, those grim Club of Rome types who, way back in the 1970s, went on and on about the "limits to growth" suddenly seem ... how best to put it, right.

All of a sudden it isn't morning in America, it's dusk on planet Earth.
We now have to face a mind-warping media blitz of political pandering to the very large bloc of coal mining voters in West Virginia and Kentucky the next two weeks. Yes, it is jobs that equal votes that equal getting elected, the future be damned.

I think that I will go read something cheerful, like Cormac McCarthy's The Road.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Flood Warning

Question: What is the United State's more flood threatened city not named New Orleans?

Answer: According to the LA Times, it is California's Capitol, Sacramento.
A recent state report predicts that the right combination of unlucky weather conditions could put some parts of the city under more than 20 feet of water, causing a $25-billion disaster that would cripple state government and ripple through the California economy.
It could be that the global warming associated predictions of increased drought in the West may be a saving grace, just not one that we should welcome with open arms. Read the promo or just view it (about 50 minutes).

As a matter of fact, one of the ironies of the situation is that the warming could result in a more rapid melt of winter snowpack in the Sierra's and, is spite of the drought, actually increase the chances for flooding.

For those with the time, and the bandwidth, there is a very good video available from the Joint Institute for the Study of Atmosphere and Ocean at the Univ. of Washington: Climate Change, Sea Level, and Western Drought: Dangerous Anthropogenic Interference? Read the promo or watch the whole thing. This is a lecture by Dr. Johnathan Overpeck, Director of the Institute for the Study of Planet Earth at the University of Arizona and a principle author of the UN IPPC Report.

If we are serious about planning for our future, we need to understand what is going to happen.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Identity Politics

Donna Brazile did a great put down of identity politics on NPR's Talk of the Nation Wednesday morning, while analyzing the North Carolina and Indiana Democratic Primaries. I don't remember the exact words, but the essence was...
I might like Hillary because I am a woman. I may like Barack because I am black. Then again, I may like McCain because I am getting old and grumpy.

News and OpEds:

The following two items ran in the Eureka (CA) Times-Standard today. Not your normal fare, but a quick comment on the intro statements makes it clear that both offer opinions... though in one case it is disguised as "news".

Newsworthy event: Green Party Presidential Candidate Cynthia McKinney is planning to visit Humboldt County.

The OpEd take on this comes from 2004 Green Presidential Candidate David Cobb, who has a regular column in the Times-Standard.

Peace candidate McKinney visits Humboldt
David Cobb
Article Launched: 05/08/2008 01:24:22 AM PDT

In a game of shameful political football, the U.S. House of Representatives (lead by Democrats) is scheduled to vote today to authorize more money to fund the illegal, immoral and unconstitutional occupation of Iraq.

This proposal will authorize an additional $178 billion of taxpayer money to this travesty.

At a time when money is urgently needed in our own communities, this new Democratic Party bill will bring the total cost for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to over $874 billion. These numbers boggle the mind.

For that amount of money we could have universal health care for all, begin to seriously address global warming, invest in schools and infrastructure, and have plenty left over for a tax cut for working Americans. (more...)

And then there is the news version.

Controversial Green candidate visits Humboldt
The Times-Standard
Article Launched: 05/08/2008 01:15:43 AM PDT

If you think the mainstream presidential race has been rife with controversy, wait until you get a load of Cynthia McKinney.

McKinney, who will pass through town today and Friday, campaigning as the presumptive Green Party presidential nominee, is no stranger to standing in the crossfire.

Statements implying the Bush administration was involved with the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center reportedly cost McKinney her campaign for a seventh term representing Georgia in the U.S. House of Representatives. (more...)
And no matter what you think of McKinney, you will surely agree on the fact that there is some truth in the following in the news story....
Campaigning on a platform of ending the war and promoting social justice, McKinney, a long-time Democrat, said she is now a proud member of the Green Party. The Democratic Party, she said in her announcement speech, has become corrupt and now feeds out of the same corporate trough as their Republican counterparts.

Unheard No More

For many, many years, decades even, Wendy Doromal has worked on behalf of those who have been, are still are being exploited in the Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas Islands (CNMI). The CNMI is a US Protectorate and you would think under US laws to some extent. However, the reality has been very different.

Finally, just today, Wendy has been able to announce a victory of sorts as President Bush signed into law S. 2739, putting the immigration policies that fed the sweatshops in Saipan under US Law. The entire story is a bit complicated. Maybe a good way to get a feel for the effort that went into this would be to read her announcement of the signing of this legislation from her own blog, Unheard No More. Wendy give a lot of credit to many other people and claims little for herself though she was the inspiration that kept everyone going.

I have friends who were, no, still are in frequent contact with Wendy. I know the great respect that Dennis Greenia (referenced in her post) has for Wendy.

I mention this because there is a lot of work remaining to be done. While Wendy names those in Congress who worked for the rights of these indentured workers, she did not mention those who are still in Congress and who should be retired. That list begins spans the country: Bob Schaffer (R-CO) now running for the Senate in that state; Dan Young (R-AK) and under fire for a lot of corruption; John Doolittle (R-CA-04) still in Congress but not running for re-election, Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA-46) - one of those who held up the CNMI as a crucible of capitalism to be emulated and a supporter of the CNMI's lobbyist, Jack Abramoff.

Doromal is not stopping work.
Now that the bill is signed, I will be carrying the petition from the guest workers to Washington, D.C. that requests green card status for the legal CNMI long-term guest workers. The guest workers have gotten over 5,000 signatures and are still working to get more.
We should not either. Everything that we can do to send Dana Rohrabacher back to the beach, to contemplate surfing, reefs and reefers, the better we will all be.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

No More Race Talk!


Wednesday, May 07, 2008
Enough about Obama and Wright. This election is about Bush.
by Alex Walker

This election is not about race.

I repeat, this election is not about race.

This election is about the worst president in U.S. history: George W. Bush.

A week ago, the New York Times published an editorial titled "Mr. Obama and Rev. Wright," asserting "this country needs a healthy and open discussion of race." The Los Angeles Times followed suit with "The Wright Choice," declaring race "is something the candidates should be discussing."

No. Candidates should be discussing the war, healthcare, schools and the catastrophic failure of President Bush's so-called conservatism. (Read More...)

Ralph and Matt

I will give Nader and Gonzales credit for making their position clear regarding the Green Party Presidential nomination.
Message from Ralph Nader to the Greens and the Draft Nader Committee

March 8, 2008

Matt Gonzalez and I wish to restate that we are not seeking the Green Party nomination in 2008 at the Chicago convention.

At our news conference last week, I wished the Greens and their four Presidential candidates good luck, and indicated that progressive campaigns with good agendas and issues can run parallel and forward to help strengthen democracy and subordinate corporate power to the sovereignty of the people.

These issues include single payer health insurance, a negotiated, expeditious withdrawal from Iraq and Iraq's oil fields, an aggressive crackdown on corporate crime, fraud and abuse, vigorous diplomacy toward a two-state Palestine-Israel settlement, electoral and labor reforms, and opening up the Presidential debates.

The savings from reducing the bloated, wasteful, military budge and achieving international arms control, will help rebuild public works and services in our country.

For other initiatives illustrating how the Nader/Gonzalez campaign is on the opposite side of the political fence from the two dominant parties, see

I want to thank the Draft Nader Committee for their encouragement and expect that they and others disposed toward our candidacy, will pursue options either inside their Green Party or with our independent campaign.
On re-reading this, I think back to my original position regarding Nader, offered before the debate in San Francisco. Nader is a one dimensional candidate, railing against corporate greed as he has always done. At the time I posted my endorsement of Kent Mesplay, I noted this about Nader. He did not refer to any environmental issue. If you read the note above, he still does not mention the environment at all. It is as if the Unreasonable Man had never seen An Inconvenient Truth.

There may not be any greater moral issue today than dealing truthfully and justly with the implications of Global Warming. It seems as if Ralph and Matt are living on a different planet that I am.

The World According to Cheney

PBS has re-run the Frontline report entitled Cheney's Law. That "law" from our Vice President is that anything a President wants to do is OK and overrides everything else including the Constitution. Unless you are following certain issues very carefully, you might be missing the extent to which Cheney's beliefs have shaped the current administration. And a lot of progressives need to pay attention to the fact that the one agency that has managed to act as the protector of the Constitution and laws on the books has been the FBI. Yes, the FBI that progressives have grown accustomed to protesting.

NPR is reporting on yet another case of the FBI raiding a governmental office because of the fact that the role of that office had been corrupted. The office? The Office of the Special Council that is tasked with protecting Federal whistle-blowers.
FBI agents on Tuesday raided the offices of Special Counsel Scott J. Bloch, who oversees protection for federal whistle-blowers. The agents seized computers and shut down e-mail service as part of an obstruction of justice probe, as first reported by NPR News.

A grand jury in Washington issued subpoenas for several OSC employees, including Bloch, according to NPR sources who spoke on condition their names not be used. Bloch's home was also searched.

Those developments came about on a Tuesday morning that had seemed no different from any other weekday in the Washington headquarters of the Office of Special Counsel. But at 10 a.m., the OSC's national e-mail system went down, and the FBI arrived.

There are some who would refer to the office has being that of Scott J. Bloch-head.

This is only one more example, coming as it does on the heels of Lurita Doan's wonderful testimony to Alzheimer's like forgetfulness in a Congressional Committee hearing on the politicization of the General Services Administration. It makes you wonder if the whistle-blowers who complained had worked for Doan.

I also note the specific sequence of events here... the email system went down and then the FBI arrived. Coincidence?

The second example I would want to cite is one that is more closely related to California and even to my home town, Morgan Hill. Once the site of a small manufacturing facility that made emergency flares for road side use, the ground water of Morgan Hill and surrounding areas is now contaminated with perchlorate, often referred to as "rocket fuel". According to the AP's Erica Werner (a very good reporter) the EPA is once again refusing to make a ruling regarding allowable levels of perchlorate in ground water. This is very much like their refusing to make a ruling regarding automobile emissions. It seems that every time something comes up that would actually help people, the EPA refuses to do anything.

I would not go so far as to say that these examples are directed from the Veep's office. I do say that they reflect a pervasive attitude, a cynicism about the role of government and the sense of some sort of Imperial Presidency entitlement that has been the hallmark of Cheney for a long time. In my case, cleaning up perchlorate creates a surcharge on my water bill every month.

What the hell, it's only money.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

LA Housing Plan ignores Water

I picked up a bit of information at Aquafornia today. The City of Los Angeles, following nearly a century of swallowing Mulhollands' Water now feels so comfortable in it's position that it can produce a Draft Housing Element for the General Plan that totally ignores the reality of water and the effect that a changing climate will have on it's supply. I'll quote the entire segment from today.
Los Angeles’ draft Housing Element ignores water issues, says the Westchester Parents blog: As water supplies are being sharply cut back and restrictions are being imposed on residents, the 225 page draft barely devotes a single page to the water supply system for housing. It begins by stating unconvincingly that the “water supply for new projects is generally adequate.” The entire section of the draft devoted to Los Angeles’s water supply is just four paragraphs and two bullet-points long while elsewhere, the document devotes a dozen pages to other forms of non-potable water such as grey water, storm water and waste water. The plan doesn’t safeguard the supply for current residents, says the blogger. Click here for more from the Westchester Parents blog.
Los Angeles Greens have shown more leadership and direction on Water issues than any other locals in the GPCA. They have officially endorsed the Sustainability Principles of the California Water Impact Network. I hope that they can organize some official push back on the LA Planning process so that the availability and distribution of water is more than an assumption, it is something that is calculated, planned for and that the distribution is both environmentally and socially just, considerations that have long been sacrificed on the altar of growth.

Getting it, correct?

I have more than once urged readers to contact their congress critters and request some action regarding a piece of legislation, normally one that was inspired by 19th Century Republicans or Dubya himself. This time, however, I want to turn that around. It is time to contact our President and ask him to veto a bill that passed Congress, one which is making true conservatives and true progressives nauseous just to think about it. I am talking of the current Farm Bill, a pork laden attack on our pocket books and common sense.

Before you do, you should read Carolyn Lockhead's story in Sunday's San Francisco Chronicle.
It is the rarest of moments: President Bush and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi are on a collision course over a giant farm bill, but it is Bush who is broadly aligned with liberal Bay Area activists pushing for reform, while the San Francisco Democrat is protecting billions of dollars in subsidies to the richest farmers.
The rest of Lockhead's story is a text book example of how nothing gets done in Washington for the needs of the people and everything happens in the way that it happens purely for the political advantage of one party or the other. Things are packaged together is such a way as to obscure what is really happening.
Pelosi touted a ban on payments to farm couples earning more than $2 million, 10 times higher than Bush's $200,000 income limit.

At the same time, she backed a 50 percent increase in the actual amount of money each farmer could get. The Senate added a new $3.8 billion "permanent disaster" program to bail out farmers of drought-prone land, intensifying the push to plow fragile prairie.
Probably nothing is as sneaky as putting an increase in food stamp programs in this package of pork and then threatening to blast the President over his treatment of the poor if he dared to veto it. Pure Pelosi playbook.
Pelosi threatened to blast Bush for killing the food-stamp increase if he vetoes the bill, issuing a statement urging Bush to sign the legislation to "ensure that 38 million Americans - especially children - have improved access to basic nutrition."
I have never seen a better reason to vote for Cindy Sheehan, since she is running.

If you want to make your voices heard, there is some possibility through the Conference Committee that is resolving difference between House and Senate Versions. There is a full list here. California members are Dennis Cardoza, Joe Baca and George Miller. All Democrats and all from areas with a vested interest in getting their own pork. It may help to comment on Lockhead's story at the Chronicle.

If you want to send a message to Bush, then I would ask you to call and leave comments. Here are the numbers:
  • Comments: 202-456-1111
  • Switchboard: 202-456-1414
  • FAX: 202-456-2461

Monday, May 05, 2008

Why the Delta

Back in September, the aquamaven at wrote a piece called Why the Delta Matters to Every Californian. For those who wonder why I keep returning to that subject, you need to read his summary.

Since then, little has changed. The politicians are still dancing their dance and we have had yet another winter with below normal rainfall. In fact, March and April were the driest on record.

Today, the Stockton Record has an editorial entitled Every Precious Drop. The conclude...
The fact is, conservation, recycling and quite possibly rationing are the only real tools we have, certainly the only tools we have today. We must treat water like the incredibly valuable life substance it is. That is especially true in California, with its huge population, huge farming industry and utter dependence on erratic weather cycles.
I could say That's All Folks except for one thing. Climate change is going to make this year seem like the rainy season. That means the balance between Agriculture and Urban Development is going to have to change. The products we raise will have to adjust to new climate realities. The longer we delay getting our minds around those facts and starting to work on solutions, the more expensive those solutions will be.

I would like to figure out if the GPCA is going to join the dance, start advocating for solutions or just let it happen to us.

Food Crisis Worsens

It seems a bit strange, but the San Francisco Chronicle is becoming the one major newspaper in this state that seems to understand what is happening to the world wide food supply and what needs to be done to fix it... starting with an overhaul of the current Farm Bill that only perpetuates the policies that got us into this mess to start with. It is their lead editorial today, headlined "A food crisis sweeps the globe."
Wheat fields get little rain in Australia. Rice in a Manila market stall jumps 20 percent due to shipping costs. Europe and the U.S. steer more acreage into biofuel-producing corn. Taken together these trends have produced the highest food prices in 30 years.

This "silent tsunami," as United Nations food expert Josette Sheeran calls it, has forced an estimated 100 million people worldwide deeper into poverty. Another 1 billion, many of them in Africa, are already skipping meals. In Haiti, people eat "mud cakes" made of dirt, sugar and food scraps.

It's a disaster that's brought misery, political strife, and few simple answers.
I don't have all of the answers myself. Some things are obvious: the end of subsidies for commodity crops, the end of corn based ethanol production, de-linking the president's proposed $700 Million request for world wide food aid from the Iraq War funding. (That is about as coldly calculated a proposal as I have see come out of Washington.).

More than anything, we need to see the Green Party admit that this is bad and getting worse. If there were ever two issues that cry for the Green Party to be talking about solutions, it is this food crisis and global climate change. Yet, for the most part the food issue is not even on a discussion agenda for anything other than "go buy at the local farmer's market".

California is one of the major agricultural producers in the nation. It is as key to our economy as as Silicon Valley. But, an urban focused Green Party is not paying attention and so, by default, the corporations win.

The House Committee on Agriculture has three members from California: Dennis Cardoza (18th CD), Jim Costa (20th CD ), and Joe Baca (43rd CD). All three are Democrats and all three, but especially Cardoza, have squandered the opportunity to make substantive improvements. Cardoza, admitting that he could not end commodity subsidies, fought long and hard to get even more subsidies for California Producers of "specialty crops".

The Chronicle knows where action is required.
Solutions come with very high price tags, both financial and political. The UN and World Bank believe aid programs costing billions are needed to jump start small-scale farming in poor countries. Biofuel projects may need to be scaled back to allow other crops to replace a major spurt in corn plantings. Then there is the politically loaded topic of home-country protections against cheaper imports, a reality that has held back African agriculture from both U.S. and European markets. Also, the present farm bill in Washington, loaded with grower subsidies, looks especially foolish in an era of high prices.
But, Cardoza is in a safe Democratic District, Costa did not have any opposition in 2006. We must all work for change and means letting our individual congress critters know that all is not right down on the farm.

We also need to be developing the expertise and knowledge to recommend Green solutions for a World Food Crisis.

Friday, May 02, 2008

Parsing the 110 Congress Part II.

The second part of what could be a series. In the first post, we had a glimpse of how our Congress exposes incompetence in other branches of government rather like a George Foreman slowly grilling whole hog and enjoying every minute of it. But it is rare that they would turn such a spotlight on themselves, as that would threaten retribution in the form of not getting their own appropriations appropriated.

Maybe we should turn a little attention on Rep. Dennis Cardoza, CA-18. Cardoza was the Chief of Staff to Gary Condit when Condit was still in the California State Assembly. If you go to Cardoza's bio on his congressional web site, you find a long and varied political career detailed for you to see, but nary a mention of Condit. It seems that forgetfulness is a Washington convenience.

What you do see is a very opportunistic politician, using Condit's support, getting appointed to a position and then winning re-election with the name recognition of an incumbent. He is always one to stay close to the center, being a blue dog Democrat, and always delivering some benefit for the special interests in his constituency.

This year, he has delivered a pork filled farm bill, one in which he understood that it was not politic to fight the special subsidies in the bill so he worked to get more, but this time for the farmers in his district, those who provided not for commodities, but rather for "specialty crops".

As Carolyn Lockhead reports in the San Francisco Chronicle...

Prominent Los Altos developer John Vidovich and various family members in the Sandridge Partnership of Sunnyvale were the nation's biggest recipients of automatic government payments to farmers last year, receiving more than $1 million, according to a new analysis of federal data by Environmental Working Group.

Known as direct payments, the subsidies go mainly to big farms growing a handful of crops. In the Sandridge case, that is mostly cotton, wheat and peanuts grown on farms controlled by the partnership in the Central Valley.
To put this in perspective, we have a member of the Congressional Portuguese Caucus (all of whose members, Cardoza, Nunes, Costa, used to be Pombo, are Central Valley agribusiness / developers) who wants to buy his continues support by larding up a Farm Bill that continues to give commodity subsides to while the prices we pay for food skyrocket.

This makes political sense when trying to buy votes but makes absolutely no economic sense.

Unfortunately, about the only journalist telling the real story these days is Lockhead and she does not work for a Central Valley newspaper.

If there is one area of this state where we all need a great Green Party presence, it is in the Central Valley. The issues of Community Based Economics, of sustainable agriculture, of urbanization and growth are all issues where the Green Party has the right answers and yet, we are not there, not making noise, not getting attention.

If Cardoza is the best that a Democratic Congress is going to deliver, we are all going to be in greater trouble after we elect an even larger Democratic majority in the fall. I hope that Green voices do not stay silent on this issue.

Parsing the 110th Congress.

The President of the United States, the less than honorable George W. Bush, has some interesting traits, among them a certain blindness regarding proven ability when making political appointments and a fierce loyalty to these "Bushies" when they prove themselves to be less than up to the job. Then, you know someone must have been very bad for Bush to actually fire one of them, as he has done with Lurita Doan, head of the General Services Administration (GSA) which executes so many, many purchasing contracts. I don't have the reportorial style so I invite you to watch TPM's Paul Kiel recite the facts, as best as Doan can dis-remember them.

Just think how much these pandering political prostitutes must despise us if they think that our votes can be bought by delivering a few greasy pork rinds to our districts and saying "look what I have done for you." Unfortunately, they may be right.