Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Special Election Opportunity: Alex Walker for State Senate

I am more than happy to post that my co-author here, Alex Walker, has tossed his hat into the ring for the Sate Senate Seat (26th SD) vacated by Mark Ridley-Thomas. I want everyone to know that Alex is a wonderful, very Green Black man. He will bring a breath of fresh air to a campaign and a district that has been under a cloud of political smog for far too long.

Check out Alex through his campaign site and/or his facebook group.

More importantly, figure out just where and how you can help elect the first Green State Senator in California's history.

Israel vs. Hamas... Palestine loses

The government of Israel has stated that they are in a battle against Hamas, not against the Palestinian people. They blame Hamas for locating weapons in apartment buildings, mosques and educational buildings so that civilian casualties are inevitable. Unfortunately, Israel is fighting a war it can not win and taking America with them.

Every image on Arab language TV showing Israeli pilots attacking Hamas in Gaza is a reminder to all that the planes came from the United States.

Greens all over the world are condemning the violence of the Israeli government, viewing the reaction of Hamas as justified by years of Israeli oppression and apartheid. It is messier than that and I hope that you click Read more! to follow.

The best policy for America that I have heard comes from a Palestinian Doctor, now on the faculty at UC San Francisco. Dr. Jess Ghannam writes from his experience in Gaza, setting up clinics. In an Op Ed that ran in today's San Francisco Chronicle, Ghannam gave his perceptive suggestion of a new US Policy.
For too long, American support of Israel has come without condition. Billions of our tax dollars have supported a state that betrays American values and engages in policies that harm America's image and interests abroad. Millions of Arabs and Muslims are glued to television sets right now. They are watching scenes of Palestinian men, women and children bathed in blood, aware that American-supplied F-16 fighter jets delivered the bombs. Imagine the difference if, instead, they saw an American leader declare that Palestinians - like Israelis - have the right to live in freedom and security. Imagine if those American planes were delivering much-needed food and medicine to people in Gaza.
We are still remembered for the Berlin Air Lift. As Green Party's Presidential Candidate, Cynthia McKinney is blocked from reaching Gaza to function as an observer, we are reminded again that there is a real need for purposeful action on the part of all.

In all cases, the need is to help the Palestinian people, but not to support Hamas in any way. The charter that founded Hamas shows little regard for anything but the way of Jihad. It calls for the elimination of Israel by force.
Israel will rise and will remain erect until Islam eliminates it as it had eliminated its predecessors.
It makes specific reference to the idea that peace initiatives and cease fires are not worthy of consideration.
Peace] initiatives, the so-called peaceful solutions, and the international conferences to resolve the Palestinian problem, are all contrary to the beliefs of the Islamic Resistance Movement.
This approach is not one that Greens can ever accept. If Israel sees Hamas as an enemy to be destroyed, they are correct. However, this enemy can never be destroyed by military force. You only pull its fangs by removing the obstacle to the fulfillment of the Palestinian dreams, that "Palestinians - like Israelis - have the right to live in freedom and security."

It is currently impossible to separate Hamas from the Palestinian people. The failure to recognize this, the failure to understand the every Palestinian civilian casualty creates 100 new converts for Hamas, is ultimately the great moral failure of Israel, one that the old testament God of Abraham would have punished. The failure of the United States to exert any pressure at all on the Israeli government is ultimately an act of cowardice in the realm of realpolitik. I am glad that Cynthia is there. I hope that she continues to talk on the need for Green Values to be represented by all.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Social Networks Revisited

While reading Matthew H. Kahn's "Green Cities", I have also been following his blog: Environmental and Urban Economics. Last Sunday, he wrote of the Dark Side of Social Networks. The issue: the ease with which Bernie Madoff used his social networks to expand his massive fraud.
Trust crowds out investor effort as households didn't bother to ask the tough questions and do the basic "due diligence" before investing their $.
As we expand our own Green networks through Green Change, Facebook and others, how do we shield ourselves from errors of the same class. I am not sure how I even get into some so-called networks. This past week I had an invitation to be a friend of Susan Eggman @ Reuniun dot com. Now, I know of one Susan Eggman, a city councilwoman from Stockton. She would be interesting to talk to but I fail to see a good reason to join yet another social network environment just for that. The real question is this: how many of the people in your networks do you really trust with the most important aspects of your life?

Thursday, December 25, 2008

The 7th Generation

I had the idea that it would be a good thing for Greens to make an issue over the 7th Generation Amendment. I first learned about it when reading more about Winona LaDuke. You can read her comments on the amendment here. I like the way that she starts.
The preamble to the US Constitution declares that one of its purposes is to secure "the blessings of liberty, to ourselves and our posterity." Shouldn't those blessings include air fit to breathe, water decent enough to drink and land as beautiful for our descendants as it was for our ancestors?
From that basis, she argues for the adoption of a 7th Generation Amendment to the Constitution. Please click Read more! to see what I can glean from that.

From what I can see, the major backers of the 7th Generation amendment were Native Americans. LaDuke was one. The late Walt Bresette also wrote well on this issue. He gave the background but also got the crux of modern legislative practice.
Iroquois Chief Oren Lyons, in an interview with Bill Moyers, said that Benjamin Franklin turned to the Iroquois among others in trying to shape a better form of government. Apparently he listened and included elements of Iroquois governance including the concept of posterity.

Franklin's posterity, found in the Preamble, was the Iroquois concept of providing for the 7th generation. Chief Lyons said that as the Iroquois leaders contemplate policy they must always factor in how today's decision will affect the 7th generation into the future.
It is clear to see that the questions of what would secure the blessings for our posterity do not come into the discussions about cleaning up the air from diesel smoke, or preserving the water in the California Delta. The future generations barely become a concern when talking about global warming even though that is the ultimate challenge for all future generations and most likely the one on which we will all be judged.

This will end up being a series of posts. There is too much to consider: politics, work load, group focus and on and on. Getting to into one single post is difficult. However, like they have written at Treehugger, the current burst bubble economic catastrophe may just be the impetus we need as well as providing the time to get something done.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Peter Camejo Was Right - California "Dysfunctional"

Peter Camejo, California's Great Green Prophet, was right.

The Los Angeles Times solemnly declares that "California government is arguably more dysfunctional now than it was when [Governor Gray] Davis, a Democrat, got the boot. The budget deficit has grown... Partisan gridlock grips the Legislature... as the state plunges into crisis."

It's five, long, bloody, wasted years late, but late, I guess, is better than never.

Peter Miguel Camejo



Click above to hear Peter's summary statement at the 1st Recall Debate on national television, September 3, 2003. Hear the Green Party candidate's prophetic remarks on budgets, fair taxes, universal health care, full equality, and his dream of seeing California "become the world leader in renewable energy"

"Look at this debate today. Do you really want to go back to when there's only two people allowed in them, where you hear the same points of view over and over again? We have a two-hundred year, dysfunctional, money-dominated, winner-take-all system"

-- Peter Camejo, September 3, 2003.

Published in the Los Angeles Times, December 15, 2008
Is California Too Unwieldy to Govern?
By Evan Halper and Michael Rothfeld

...But California government is arguably more dysfunctional now than it was when Davis, a Democrat, got the boot. The budget deficit has grown so huge that a shutdown of government services looms. Partisan gridlock grips the Legislature, and lawmakers bicker as the state plunges into crisis.

"The recall absolutely hasn't helped at all," said Gary Jacobson, a professor of political science at UC San Diego.

The state's latest collision course with insolvency has renewed the question in the Capitol: Has California become ungovernable?

...Others say this nation-state is so oversized, Balkanized and polarized that it is destined for dysfunction no matter who is in charge. They cite its influx of immigrants, its constant tensions over water supply and its large, self-contained regions that bear little resemblance to one another...

...Some of the political leaders who for years have been engaged in efforts -- largely unsuccessful -- to make state government run better fret that the current dysfunction creates a fertile environment for more shortsighted ballot measures...

Commenting on the hoopla over Barack Obama's election, David Sirota wrote that "America's only authentic national religion" is what he has dubbed "Presidentialism:"

the worship of the president as an all-powerful, all-knowing deity who is the only important political actor in our country.

Even now, with California facing a complete breakdown, Democrats and Republicans, and "liberal" and "conservative" intellectuals are obsessed with foreign affairs and Washington gossip. I confess to a sneaking envy for the good people of Illinois. At least the adventures of Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich got people talking about state and local government in Illinois (only because of the connection to Obama).

All politics is local.

Where Were You During the California Crisis of 2001-2003?

I was living and working in San Jose, nearing the end of my twenty-year career as a computer programmer. Peter was the only one speaking "Truth to Power" about both the Internet crash and California's phony electric power crisis, Rolling blackouts; huge bailouts; massive "high tech" corporate fraud. Santa Clara County, s single county with barely a million people, lost 200,000 jobs. "For Sale" signs sprouted like mushrooms among the high-tech campuses. In 2002, Sobrato Development opened a gleaming blue-glass office tower on Almaden Boulevard in downtown San Jose that was unoccupied. It stood there as 17-story monument to the hype and the lies of the Internet bubble-blowers.

The amazing thing was in the One-Party Democratic San Francisco Bay Area nobody who was "somebody" gave a damn. Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren (D-Cisco Systems Corporation) and Anna Eschoo (D-Hewlett-Packard Corporation) with the support of their wholly-owned subsidiaries, i.e., the South Bay Labor Council, happily went about serving the interests of their masters. Big league journalists like Mr. Thomas Friedman of the New York Times, flew in, sat at the feet of the "Great Men" from Stanford University, kissed the rings of the gods such as John Chambers of Cisco Systems, Craig Barrett of Intel, Steve Jobs of Apple, and Carly Fiorina of HP and then filed a gushing story how the rich needed to get richer and the poor needed to get poorer.

Doesn't anybody remember this?

In 2001, California was plunged into an unprecedented energy crisis: rolling blackouts, soaring power bills, and Democratic Governor Gray Davis' panicked administration. Turned out the Golden State was being systematically ripped-off. Documents and audiotapes proved Houston-based Enron Corporation asked power companies to take plants offline - in order to make more money. In one taped phone call, an Enron employee celebrated the fact that a massive forest fire had shut down a transmission line:

ENRON EMPLOYEE 2: Now, the magical word of the day is "Burn, baby, burn."
ENRON EMPLOYEE 1: What's happening?
ENRON EMPLOYEE 2: There's a fire under the core line. This will delay us from 45 to 2,100.
ENRON EMPLOYEE 1: Really. Burn, baby, burn!

Doesn't anybody remember this?

Less than a decade later, with a terrifying spike in oil prices, the energy greedheads and carbon pushers applied the "shock doctrine" to stampede Californians into accepting offshore oil drilling and new drilling in old wells in places like inner-city Los Angeles, even though experts agree this will have no impact on the global marketplace for oil.

Five, long, wasted years Democrats and Republicans piled more debt, fiddled over water, denied the impact of climate change on their car-based development model, raised taxes as "fees," and continued coddling "Big Boys."

ONE-PARTY REPUBLICAN SAN DIEGO was devastated by wildfires in 2003. Developers and their wholly owned "conservative" county supervisors, ignored warnings about development in unincorporated areas. San Diego County had 5 percent fewer fire personnel than comparably populated areas and no county fire department.

In 2007 when wild fires blazed again, there was just one new city fire station. A ballot proposal to boost taxes for fire protection, of course, failed. Meanwhile, Republican "conservative" Mayor Dick Murphy resigned in disgrace and Republican "conservative" Congressman Randy Cunningham pleaded guilty to accepting bribes.

ONE-PARTY DEMOCRATIC LOS ANGELES, where my wife and I live today, has a grossly incompetent government presiding over bad schools, a shuttered King/Drew hospital, cops mishandling evidence, and a "perp parade" of unethical leaders. Plans for solar energy may be just a "greenwashed" boondoggle. In my African-American neighborhood, any criticism of Democrats on any issue is instantly condemned by their "Amen chorus" of intellectuals as a racist attack on "Our Community" in general.

Democrats and Republicans govern badly, but they know how to divide and rule us based on skin color, sex, or whether we live in town or country. Ensconced in gerrymandered one-party districts, they think they can hustle us forever.

There is a "hole", an empty space, where there ought to be an intelligent, grown-up, no-nonsense opposition to big city Democrats. But what are voters like me to do when Republicans are a joke and forty years of Republican "White Backlash" conservatism means everything written and said about African-Americans like me and my Black and Latino neighbors is based on stereotypes. Decades of Republican dominance has left us without even a language for reform. Thus, for example, all talk of "education reform" must genuflect to Republican hatred of public school teachers and the children of "Those People" in public schools with "reformers" absurdly holding up places like "conservative" San Diego as models of "good government."

A plague on both their houses!

Peter Camejo was right.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

The Venus Syndrome:

Dr. James Hansen (N.A.S.A.) gave a major speech at the annual convention of the American Geophysical Union. He changed the title of his talk after the program was complete, and so had to explain that fact. It is now entitled:
Climate Threat to the Planet: Implications for Energy Policy and Intergenerational Justice.

Those who are so inclined may download both the PowerPoint presentation
or as a PDF file. I have much more to say, and will call attention to those sections that really brought me up short. Click Read more! to understand just how dangerous these times are.

I want to talk about a single term from Dr. Hansen's title. Intergenerational Justice is not a phrase that I have heard before, but the implications are self evident to anyone who has read / heard Winona talk about our obligations to the 7th Generation.

For those who have talked about Ecological Wisdom on this list recently: Les, Howard, Linda, this is not new what is new is the following from Dr. Hansen's notes:
I will argue that we have a much sharper knowledge of global climate sensitivity than is usually stated.
Also the Faustian bargain that we have cut for ourselves is nastier than has been recognized.
And I will emphasize some important missing observations.
The scientific method and perspective have relevance that reaches beyond pure science. The urgency of implications for energy policy is not yet adequately recognized by governments, but it must be. The implications for intergenerational equity deserve greater attention.
There is a sense of urgency in what he says now, a tone that was not there before. In fact, the email that he sent out tonight with the links to his material was given the subject: The Venus Syndrome. Venus, the planet where a run-away greenhouse gas effect keep the surface temperature far higher than would allow human life to continue.

As I plowed through Hansen's presentation, I came to this point (Chart 43) where Hansen tells us what he really thinks about our "Faustian bargain."

In my opinion, if we burn all the coal, there is a good chance that we will initiate the runaway greenhouse effect. If we also burn the tar sands and tar shale (a.k.a. oil shale), I think it is a dead certainty.
From that event, there would be no return, no human life.

I stop at this point, not because I want to scare you, but rather because I want to call attention to an interview that Georges Monbiot conducted with Fatih Birol, chief economist of the International Energy Agency. I suggest that you watch the video that the Guardian put together. In this interview, Birol admits that for many years, his agency has been forecasting peak oil based on a rate at which existing oil fields are being depleted. In 2008, for the first time, they actually measured it and the difference was almost double. In other words, we will hit peak oil between 2020 and 2030 no matter what we do. According to Monbiot:
So burn this into your mind: between 2007 and 2008 the IEA radically changed its assessment. Until this year's report, the agency mocked people who said that oil supplies might peak. In the foreword to a book it published in 2005, its executive director, Claude Mandil, dismissed those who warned of this event as "doomsayers". "The IEA has long maintained that none of this is a cause for concern," he wrote. "Hydrocarbon resources around the world are abundant and will easily fuel the world through its transition to a sustainable energy future." In its 2007 World Energy Outlook, the IEA predicted a rate of decline in output from the world's existing oilfields of 3.7% a year. This, it said, presented a short-term challenge, with the possibility of a temporary supply crunch in 2015, but with sufficient investment any shortfall could be covered. But the new report, published last month,
carried a very different message: a projected rate of decline of 6.7%,which means a much greater gap to fill.

The alternatives that Birol was willing to discuss were to tap the Canadian tar sands.
Birol says we need a "global energy revolution" to avoid an oil crunch, including (disastrously for the environment) a massive global drive to exploit unconventional oils, such as the Canadian tar sands.

In other words, he is willing to strike the Faustian bargain that Hansen fears so much. If there were ever a time when we need to change our consciousness, when we need to call out again for a 7th Generation Amendment to our Constitution, that time is now. If not now, there may never be a 7th Generation.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Sam Smith Rediscovers Letter to Thomas Jefferson

Sam Smith has rediscovered a long ignored letter to Thomas Jefferson and re-published it at the Progressive Review today. It is an interesting read and reminds me of so much of the discussions in GPCA circles.

Monday, December 15, 2008

What to make of the DOE nomination?

The nomination of Steven Chu as Energy Secretary became official today. It has been rumored, written about, etc. for weeks. There are several items worth noting.

To begin with, every scientist I know, including one who works in DOE, are elated with Chu's nomination. It will be the first time that a scientist heads the department of government that has the most to do with science. It seems to many to be a final vindication for all that they suffered as they endured the Republican War on Science, as author Chris Mooney called it. Chu was one of the very active Nobel Laureate who supported and worked for a Science Debated 2008 as part of the presidential nomination process. It did not happen, though it should have. Mooney comments at DeSmogBlog.

There is another group of global warming activists, like Joseph Romm of Climate Progress, who are also laudatory, given the fact that Chu has always been very active in research for sollutions to global warming and energy. He gives us 5 reasons he thinks Chu is a great pick.

Yet I find the most vocal members of the EcoAction Committee of the Green Party to be adamantly against Chu for his being actively pro Nuke. Very few are looking at this objectively. Perhaps this post by Mark Flanagan is one. We have to consider that the previous name for the Department of Energy was the Atomic Energy Commission. So, it is worth watching.

It is my opinion that the story has yet to be written about Steven Chu. It would be nice to see a scientist work from the facts of the physical world rather than the political calculus of what is possible as they consider what needs to be done.

I look for Chu to do more work on nuclear storage. That is necessary in any case, especially if we move to decommission weapons. I would be very surprised to see even one new nuclear reactor break ground while he is Secretary. Then I have been wrong many, many times.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Changing the Climate, one state at a time.

I have to thank David Robers at Gristmill for showing me this one. Consider what is happening in Illinois, we have new meaning for Think Globally, Act Locally.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Let America be

My reading patterns are crazy, especially online where I skip, click, open another window until I hit on something that makes me stop a bit longer. Tonight, I hit on this by Langston Hughes, from which I only quote a bit. When I think of the political crap coming from Illinois this week, and New Orleans for a long time until this week, when I consider how everything is only so much spin and hype, I find it hard to be as optimistic as Hughes. But if he can be, the so must I.

O, let America be America again--
The land that never has been yet--
And yet must be--the land where every man is free.
The land that's mine--the poor man's, Indian's, Negro's, ME--
Who made America,
Whose sweat and blood, whose faith and pain,
Whose hand at the foundry, whose plow in the rain,
Must bring back our mighty dream again.

Sure, call me any ugly name you choose--
The steel of freedom does not stain.
From those who live like leeches on the people's lives,
We must take back our land again,

O, yes,
I say it plain,
America never was America to me,
And yet I swear this oath--
America will be!

Out of the rack and ruin of our gangster death,
The rape and rot of graft, and stealth, and lies,
We, the people, must redeem
The land, the mines, the plants, the rivers.
The mountains and the endless plain--
All, all the stretch of these great green states--
And make America again!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

What the Green Party needs is a Community Organizer

Reuben Navarette's OpEd in today's San Francisco Chronicle considers that there is a greater connection between Barack Obama's campaign for president and Caesar Chavez than most realize... including Navarette himself, it appears. For some it seems only to have translated Si, se puede! into Yes we can.

Today, I received a post election analysis of the Malik Rahim campaign for Louisiana's 2nd Congressional District. It was put sent by Robert Caldwell, Rahim's campaign manager and it underscores with hard numbers, precinct by precinct, the fact that there is nothing more effective than face to face community organizing, a particular style of involvement in issues and enlisting of everyone into taking responsibility for changing the status quo, confident that together, Yes, we can.

If there is a political model for Greens it is this. We do not accept corporate donations. We have almost no money. All we have are a comparatively few people and the best set of values of any US political party. When Bill Moyers told students that "The only answer to organized money is organize people" I felt he was talking to us.

We are all in this together

I am one of those Greens who believes that everything positive emanates from an ecological view of the universe. In simple terms, we can not achieve economic justice, social justice, world peace or any other positive goal unless we begin with the understanding that everything is connected in so many ways that to diminish one is to diminish all.

In some recent reading, I find that I am in good company. Click Read more! for a few well chosen examples.

Czeslaw Milosz won a Nobel Prize in Literature. The fist of his book that I read was The Captive Mind. Like Akshay Ahuja's personal commentary on this, I pick and choose. What I choose is maybe a minor point for Milosz.
Once he science of nature taught that a forest was a collective of trees governed by a few elementary laws. It seemed that if one cut out the forest and replanted it, after a definite period of years a new forest, exactly like the old, would appear. Today we know this is not so; a forest is an organism arising out of complicated interactions of mosses, soil, fungi, trees and grasses. The moment these mosses and fungi are destroyed by the cutting out of the forest, the symbiotic pattern is disturbed and the new forest is a completely different organism from what we might be expected by someone who ignored the sociology of plants.
This, from a book published in 1953. Milosz's intent was to criticize the stultifying effects of Stalinist Communism on the intelligentsia of Europe Europe. However, the view of what was considered to be "known" at that time has still not become a matter of political policy; not in the new states of Eastern Europe and surely not in the United States of the 21st Century.

The clearest, most recent commentary on our current situation came from Paul Nurse, Michael Novacek and Edward O. Wilson on the Charlie Rose Show Monday Night, Dec. 8, 2008. Novacek, Sr. Vice-president of the American Museum of Natural History states the situation clearly.
So, one of the keys there is to say that these problems on the environment are not really separate from many of these others, that there is a huge relationship, as Paul just explained, between biodiversity and the sustainability of ecosystems and biodiversity and our economic potentials, and our potentials in health, which is very high on the radar screen in terms of the problem.
Rose brought forward another aspect of the problem that faces us all.
One of the things I worry about with the economic crisis is that because it is so severe and so urgent and so pervasive, it’s pushing lots of things off the table right now.
I think all of these big named scientists missed the opportunity to state what is so obvious, at least to me. We need to change the manner in which we evaluate potential solutions to our problems. If we solve the economic problems today by killing off a few million species, then we are all made less than we should be. It is not so much the choice of goals but the methods we use to reach those goals that needs to change.

It appears that not much of what Milosz said that we knew in 1953 has really been connected to what we do, even after 55 years and several generations.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

What price a Senator?

Yesterday, Illinois Governor Blagojevich made news as he took advantage of the confrontation at Republic Window and Doors to chastise Bank of America for not doing the correct thing and providing additional money to a failing company so that they could pay their workers severance pay and vacation time pay that was owed.

Today, he makes news because he was trying to sell the Senate seat vacated by President Elect Obama. No matter what you think of Obama and his policies, I can not think of anything that does more to dishonor the rhetoric of Obama. Now, no matter who fill that seat, it will forever be tainted with ethical questions. Nothing less than a special non-partisan election with no party funding will be able to honestly select a new Senator from Illinois.

Ranked Choice Voting Evaluated

In today's San Francisco Chronicle, Steven Hill provides a review of the use of Ranked Choice Voting in the City of San Franicisco. According to Hill, it has been positively great.
We now have had five elections since 2004 using ranked-choice voting to elect the mayor, Board of Supervisors and other offices, providing some basis for assessing its impact. One significant difference between ranked choice and the old December runoff has been a dramatic increase in voter turnout. By finishing the election in November when voter turnout tends to be highest (because voters are showing up to vote for president or governor), a lot more San Franciscans are having a say in who represents them on the Board of Supervisors.

I find it interesting that the one election in San Francisco where the winner was actually determined by 2nd place votes, ended up electing Ed Jew who has since been booted from the Board of Supervisors for charges ranging from lying about his residence to run for a specific seat to soliciting a bribe. It was an example of identity politics (Jew is Chinese) rather than considered opinion.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Do you like fresh air and cool weather?

California has passed and Governor Schwarzenegger has signed a bill knows as AB-32. That was in 2006. Since then, it has become the shining star of climate related legislation even though nothing has yet to be implemented. However, it did help move Fran Pavley from the Assembly, where she was the author of the bill, to the State Senate where she has been named to Chair the Committee on Resources.

So, where are we in the implementation cycle, or what has California accomplished in 2 years? Click Read more! to find out.

To begin with, AB 32 mandated that the Air Resources Board start by putting together a Scoping Plan. This was to be an attempt to tell us all just how things would work and what it would finally cost. That plan is in the final review process. The 2nd and last public hearing on AB 32 will be held on Dec. 11 in Sacramento.

I have two serious concerns. The first is the simple fact that carbon trading schemes will not work, no matter how good the intentions or the goals might be. Schwarzenegger's pick to implement the cap and trade program, Mary Nichols, did similar work when an Assistant Administrator in the Clinton Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Not only did that fail, she neglected compliance issues at the same time as all attention was focused on the pollution credit scheme.

This post at Climate Progress make the point very effectively.
Q: What is the difference between carbon offsets and mortgage-backed securites?

A: Lipstick.

Carbon offsets and mortgage-backed securities are quite similar in that is impossible for the vast majority of people, even experts, to know what value they have, if any.

Similarly, Cap and Trade mechanisms in the Kyoto Protocol have not worked. It is too easy for major multi-international corporations to circumvent them and at least one organization that is supposed to police compliance has been booted from the job.

Then, in her effort to sell the plan, Nichols has done what they all do; exaggerate the benefits and ignore the rest. Before anyone takes this all seriously, they should read the peer review comments on the economic modeling that the Air Resources Board did to back up their pet project. Even those who are sympathetic to the goals of AB 32 has a hard time believing the case being presented. UCLA Economist Matthew Kahn is one.
In this review, I will highlight why I believe the current modeling exercise underestimates the cost of meeting
AB32’s goals. I will present a research methodology for cheaply collecting the necessary data to test whether the optimistic numbers reported in Table I-2 of
http://www.arb.ca.gov/cc/scopingplan/document/economic_appendix1.pdf could be accurate
estimates of the expected net costs of this regulation.

The first public meeting on the AB 32 scoping plan turned in to a bit of a circus. I would hope that this is a repeat, and that they repeat until someone gets it right. I doubt that Nichols is the one to do it.

Can Democrats vote their conscience

Today is the day we find out whether Democrats can vote their conscience, or if typical urban Democratic machine politics still trumps everything else. In Louisiana's 2nd Congressional District, indicted Congressman William Jefferson is running against a list of opponents who all talk about the history of corruption that has been the hallmark of Jefferson's reign. The fact that Jefferson has yet to come to trial is due to the constant stalling tactics used by his defense team, the latest over whether Brett Pfeffer, a one-time aide of Jefferson's and confessed participant in the bribery scandal, would be barred from testifying against he former boss on Constitutional Reasons.

I fully expect Jefferson to be re-elected even though Green Malik Rahim is clearly the one candidate who brings a history of community involvement, a progressive agenda and, most importantly, honesty to the voters of the 2nd District. If we wake up tomorrow and find that Jefferson has won, then the battle for clean government switches to California where we must pressure Speaker Pelosi to do the right thing and refuse to seat Jefferson, taking away all of his power to influence anything and thus his ability to continue his money hungry ways.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

The Banks of America

A lot of those I know are really upset that big banks are getting bailout because they are thought to be too big to fail or some such poppycock. However, the economic power of banks can also be used to do good, especially when they are convinced that there is a downside to doing otherwise.

Click Read more! and I'll give you a great example.

I was a strong supporter of Jesse Johnson as he ran for Governor of West Virginia. As far as I was concerned, this was the best shot to take political action against the mining political complex that dominates West Virginia, its politics, its economy, its life.

Of course, the best best way to influence an economic decision is to cut off funding, and that is beginning to happen. Thanks to Los Angeles Green, Lisa Taylor, I learned about the new "Coal Policy" at Bank of America.

From my role with the EcoAction Committee, GP US, I have pushed to take on coal on two fronts. First as a major contributor to greenhouse gas buildup in the atmosphere which we all know is a major contributor to global warming. The second is the fact that big coal companies in Appalacia have taken strip mining to entirely new levels. Now, they take the tops off mountains and fill in the surrounding valley's and streams, creating a new wasteland.

The first step may be to cut of devlopment funding and that is exactly what B of A is doing.
Bank of America is particularly concerned about surface mining conducted through mountain top removal in locations such as central Appalachia. We therefore will phase out financing of companies whose predominant method of extracting coal is through mountain top removal. While we acknowledge that surface mining is economically efficient and creates jobs, it can be conducted in a way that minimizes environmental impacts in certain geographies.
What ever you think about banks and bailouts, sometimes they do do the right thing. George Bailey would approve.

Now, however, we need to make sure that B of A is not the only one. Every bank needs to be pressured to follow their lead. If you have an account at a major bank, threaten to transfer it to B of A. In these times, no bank wants to lose a client.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

How Green are Biofuels?

The US Deptatrment of Energy (DOE) has opened a new research center in Emeryville, CA. It was lauded this week in the San Francisco Chronicle are representing the coming together of the economic and scientific realms to meet future energy needs. Of course, this was in an OpEd written by the Secretary of DOE, Samuel W. Bodman.

However, there are concerns for Greens that I will discuss if you click Read more!.

There are two concerns with the search for an energy solution through bio-fuels.
  1. BioFuels, while renewable to a certain extent, are still fuels that will contribute green house gasses (ghg's) to the atmosphere. The argument is that this will only be equal to the amount of CO2 that they take from the atmosphere while growing, a steady state equation.
  2. Plants produce sugars and other carbohydrates. Some are very efficient in doing this. Others may produce sugars or starches of various chemical formulas that may not be efficiently converted to fuels. One goal of this new center is to engineer plants that are both efficient in growing and which produce chemicals that are efficient in the production cycle. That is accomplished by modifying the genetics of the plants, in effect designing plants that are themselves one step in bio-fuel product.
Greens have a nearly universal antipathy toward GMO's of any kind. Is this an area were we should make an exception?

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

The path to oblivion

California is facing more crises than most of us can comprehend. The list includes an out of control State budget, a failed water policy, a near the bottom of the class educational system, health care costs that deny care to an increasing number of citizens, a total lack of appreciation for the effect of climate change and an unswerving faith in magical cures.

In the middle of crisis there is always opportunity. Yet the Green Party of California is nearly silent on most of these issues. It is no wonder that most citizens no longer see the Green Party as having a role to play in the future of this state as Green Party registrations are tanking worse than the Golden State Warriors in the 4th quarter. This must be turned around for us to continue. I have a few suggestions if you care to Read more!.

In the midst of all of these crises, the Green Party of California has turned inward rather than outward, regurgitating the past rather than advocating for a better future. On no issue is this more clear than regarding the budget making farce that plays daily at the Sacramento Theater.

Yesterday (Dec. 1) the San Francisco Chronicle wrote about the fact that the New California Legislature faces an old mess.
There is no escaping the grim math. The solution must involve a matter of addition (raising revenues) and subtraction (cutting spending). But the immediate challenge for legislators is to overcome the allegiances - to ideologies and to special interests - that prevent them from acting decisively on a crisis that is growing larger with each day of neglect.

If this is the most significant issue for California, you would never know it from the discussion on the GPCA email lists. It is as if it is unseemly for a Green to talk about the green, to actually discuss how we can solve the short run fact that the government of California is running out of cash, looking around for ways to borrow money that our children will pay back.

It is not as if we are out of people with experience. There are Green Party mayors and ex-city council members who fully understand the effects that our system of financing government is having on all level... but especially on local government who frequently see their revenues cut in order to satisfy State Government needs.

If we continue our silence on the issues of crisis, we will have missed the opportunities that they bring. We need an ad-hoc committee of current and ex-members of government to draft a position for the party and carry it to the public. Would it not be great if there were actually Greens in the Assembly who could provide a balance point between the ideologues whose political battles have paralyzed all action in Sacramento.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Water is not important until you are thirsty.

It's been a long time since I posted much about water issues, so this is a reminder that the problems are real, that Mark Twain was right and that we are all being sold a bill of goods starting with Senator Feinstein, flowing through the Delta and ending up in the San Diego like Delta Water.

Click Read more! to get the meat of this.

Some disjointed bits of information which I hope to bring together by the end of this piece.

Fresh Water: Where does it come from?
The availability of fresh water is one of the most important needs of all humans. Much of the fresh water in the world is tied up in ice, either at the North and South Poles, in the Greenland ice sheet or in glaciers. Six of the largest rivers flowing through the most populous countries on earth are fed by glaciers in the Himalayas. These are the Indus, Ghanges (India), Brahmaputra (Banghladesh), Mekong (Cambodia, Vietnam), Yellow and Yangtze (China). Hundreds of millions of people are dependent on these rivers and, during summer, on the glaciers that feed them.

The problem is that these glaciers are melting. In fact, the rate is fast enough that the changes can be observed from space. The dust layers that marked the US and Soviet atomic tests from the 1950's and 1960's are gone.

The potential dislocation of so many people due to a lack of water is a crisis that Obama did not even mention today. For India, the events in Mumbai, as horrific as they were, pale in comparison. Things that happen on climatic time scales do not make good news.

California's Delta is about more than fish.
In California, we are also facing a crisis due to local weather and the potential of a worse crisis due to global warming. I have written a lot about the problems of the California Delta. One reason that I don't cover this more is that the AquaMaven does such a great job at Aquafornia. In fact, I have this as an RSS feed so that I get so see it every day. The reason I said that we are being sold a bill of goods can be seen in this recent post on the status of the Delta. It is from the Stockton Record.
It’s a classic case of too many cooks in the kitchen. More than 200 agencies have some say on what happens in the vast Delta, and the product of their labors doesn’t seem to satisfy anyone, as fish die and the water supply shrinks.

So, what can an individual do other than shower with a friend or let the lawn turn brown. I pay attention to the weather reports. I live where I can see the area's largest reservoir from my family room window. It is below normal levels for this time of year. The Sacramento Bee reported today that we would have normal rainfall this year. Even that may not be enough to restore the reservoir from it's current condition.

While Governor Schwarzenegger has made a lot out of his Delta Vision Task Force, all of those involved knew that the only solution he would accept was a new "conveyance" through or "canal" around the Delta so that more water was made available for Central Valley Agriculture and Southern California suburban lawns.

One organization has managed to pull agricultural interests, some regional developer interests, environmentalist and sportsmen into a coalition for common sense. That is Restore the Delta. Today, they published a set of principles and a platform for 2009. I fully support this approach and reproduce the platform here as it is not yet online at their web site.
Restore the Delta's 2009 Platform

Over the last six months, Restore the Delta staff, board members, and advisors have worked to create a campaign platform that expresses our vision for restoration of the Delta. Below are the principles of this work. The campaign platform will be used as a tool to make our vision known to legislators and for organizing volunteers throughout the year.
To create in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta a world-class region in which productive agriculture and habitat protection are successfully interwoven, Restore the Delta advocates the following principles:

Restore the flow of fresh water by immediately reducing exports to a level compatible with protecting Delta communities. All proposals for long-term Delta management must be based on a firm understanding of Delta freshwater needs and must include strong protection of sufficient flows of water necessary for public health, agriculture, and habitat for native and desirable species. We advocate restoring enough Delta outflow pattern to return the mixing zone of salt water and fresh water to the western part of the Delta near Suisun Bay. We also advocate restoring freshwater flows to the San Joaquin River by retiring drainage-impaired lands loaded with selenium and salt in the Central Valley. Appropriate and sustainable water export reductions must be made before any proposals for alternative export conveyance or diversion are considered.

Protect the Delta from unrealistic water planning strategies and uses. The Delta is a common resource that should provide the same quality freshwater supply to all Delta users. The State Water Project will never develop all the water supplies outside the Delta on which the export program was based. We call on the State to recognize natural limitations on water supply and to enforce Water Code provisions that restrict exports to water not needed in the Delta itself.

Restore proper governance of the Delta.
The State Water Resources Control Board must be empowered to enforce existing water codes regarding water quality and quantity. A fully-funded SWRCB enforcement staff must operate independently of board members charged with creating regulations and water rights decisions.

Adopt flexible strategies for managing water and habitat.
All Delta planning must address increased flood risks, sea level rises, and peak river inflows that are likely to result from climate change as well as address possible seismic events. These plans must allow for incremental responses to ecosystem changes. Any isolated facility for moving water through the Delta is inherently inflexible, and we reject it. We advocate managing the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta as a primarily freshwater estuary. Proposals for facilities such as fish protection diverters, set-back levees, gates, and barriers should be evaluated with a view to the core principles of protecting the flow of fresh water and fisheries while maintaining flexibility of the whole system.

Respect the experience and expertise of Delta landowners.
We advocate creation of a conservancy that will ensure local control of the Delta, prevent forced access to private land, protect the continuity of the Delta, mediate purchases of agricultural land, identify restoration projects and enhance existing public access, and provide funding for levee maintenance. We urge support for Delta landowners who maintain levees for the benefit of the Delta, adjacent communities, and regional infrastructure.

Encourage regional self-sufficiency. We encourage statewide conservation, recycling, reuse, and regional self-sufficiency to generate up to 7 million acre feet annually in areas of need outside the Delta, using as a model measures instituted by the San Francisco Bay Area and Southern California urban agencies such as the Metropolitan Water District. We advocate replacing reduced exports and addressing potential flooding with flood plain recapture, ground water replenishment, and demand management initiatives, and we advocate use of recycled urban and agricultural water, ground water desalination, water use efficiency, and urban run-off management.

Ensure emergency readiness to protect the people, property, and infrastructure of the Delta and to provide for a healthy ecosystem.
In consultation with Delta experts, the State must immediately prepare and fully fund a comprehensive flood plan and emergency readiness plan.
The attitude of the San Diego Tribune stands in sharp contrast to the practical goals of Restore the Delta. It is much more of a gimme what want cause I gotta grow approach and places the growth over any ecological concern. Their November 26th editorial is headlined Give 'em the hook and they are not talking about fish. It goes on the verbal attack immediately.
Environmental activists continue to deny Californians more water in the name of saving fish.
How dare they deny us our right to use as much water as we want? Such a difference from Restore the Delta. Their timing was impeccable as another lawsuit was filed Monday, Dec. 1.
Calling it “the biggest lawsuit about the biggest ecological and legal catastrophe in California today,” the California Water Impact Network (C-WIN) and the California Sportfishing Protection Alliance (CSPA) filed suit in Sacramento Superior Court Friday, November 28, 2008, to protect Delta public trust resources—including endangered migratory fisheries of salmon and open water fish species—and to end wasteful and unreasonable diversions of water from the Delta by big state and federal water projects.

The suit also asks the court to halt irrigation of several hundred thousand acres of selenium contaminated lands on the west side of the San Joaquin Valley, the drainage from which pollutes
wetlands, the San Joaquin River, and the Delta.

Lastly, there are two conferences on Water taking place in San Francisco this week. In one, Corporate Users will learn how to manage towards sustainability. In the other, concerned groups will talk about the privatization of water and how that could deny water rights to individuals in the name of corporate earnings. If you think about the melting glaciers, it is not unusual that one of the organizations protesting privatization has connections to India.

We have already seen examples of failed water privatization in California, especially in Stockton where the city tried to outsource its water department to a private firm.

Clean coal is a dirty lie, or at least it was.

You gotta go over to Goat Blog run by High Country News to see what is happening to clean coal. They do a great analysis of a recent GE ad that is not to be missed. Sexiest ad I've seen since Chanel 5 showed us Nicole Kidmann's back. Well, maybe it is just dirty, sexy money... for GE.