Monday, June 29, 2009

Myths, Lies and Damned lies

This morning, I received an information release from Bill Jennings, Director of the California Sportfishing Protection Association and long known as the Delta Keeper. With all of the manufactured news about the current drought, the situation with the endangered species act being used to protect the Delta Watershed and the impact of these on California's economy, Jennings has provided a quantitative way of evaluating that economic impact. At the same time, you might way that he is also evaluating the he-said, she-said style of reporting that passes for journalism these days.

Click Read more! below to gain real understanding and a feel for who are the guys in the white hats. Reproduced with permission.

Despite drought, Valley agriculture doing far better than rest of economy

Stockton, CA – Sunday, June 28, 2009. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar is in Fresno today to attend a meeting and listen to the economic woes of the south Valley. Newspapers and airways are awash with accusations that a three-inch fish has caused a man-made drought in California and that environmentalists and fishermen seek to “starve people in order to save whales.” Congressmen, farmers and water agencies claim that 450,000 or more acres of land have been fallowed and 35-50,000 people have been put out of work: all because of Delta smelt and the Endangered Species Act. But, facts are stubborn things. And the facts tell us that these accusations are lies – bald-face lies.

“We hope Secretary Salazar will seek out the facts and see through the transparent efforts by Governor Schwarzenegger, Valley elected officials and the hydrologic brotherhood to use the red-herring of economic recession as justification for depriving the Delta of essential water,” said CSPA Executive Director Bill Jennings. “Their efforts can only be successful if the Secretary, reporters and the general public ignore the facts,” he said, adding, “The truth is more water won’t wash away the Valley’s recession and endangered species are the victims, not the problem.”

According to official data collected by the California Economic Development Department, during three years of drought, between May of 2006 and May of 2009, farm employment went up 13.7% in Kern County, 12.1% in Fresno County, 19.3% in Tulare County, 2% in Merced County, 5.3% in Madera and 8.4% in Stanislaus County.1 Only in the smallest agricultural county of Kings, did we find a decline. While we’re told that 262,000 acres have been fallowed in Fresno County, the County’s Department of Agriculture was releasing a report that revealed 2008 was another record year with agricultural production dollars up 5.9% over the previous record year of 2007.2

San Joaquin Valley farm unemployment has always been high and, while the present economic disaster has exacerbated conditions, farm unemployment has not fluctuated according to wet and dry years.3 Indeed, agriculture has fared far better in the current recession than other segments of the economy.

While May 08 to May 09 construction, manufacturing, trade & transportation and financial employment in Fresno County dropped by 3,000, 2,300, 1,200 and 900, respectively: agricultural employment actually increased by 100.4 Tulare County reports that while, agricultural employment increased by 2,100 between May 08 and May 09, construction, manufacturing, trade & transportation, hospitality and financial employment was down 800, 1,100, 1,300, 400 and 500, respectively.5

Even in counties reporting slight declines in agricultural employment: other employment sectors experienced far greater drops. In the last year of a three-year drought (May 08-May09), statewide farm employment dropped by only 9,600 while nonfarm employment plunged 744,400.6 Indeed, employment figures for counties for north-of-Delta counties0 that are receiving full water allotments are showing similar employment impacts.

Who is not telling the truth: our elected representatives or the California Employment Development Department? And, who is distorting the truth about actual water shortages?

As Department of Water Resources Director Lester Snow pointed out in a 15 May 2009 letter to Senator Dianne Feinstein, Westlands Water District is expected to receive 86% of its normal water supplies in this third year of drought; Kern Count Water Agency is expecting 85% and the San Joaquin River Exchange Contractors will receive 100% of its non-drought supplies.7

The chart attached to Snow’s letter claims that Westlands’ 14% shortfall will force it to fallow 225,000 acres rather than its normal fallowing of 78,000 acres and Kern County Water Agency’s 15% shortfall will compel it to fallow 220,000 acres rather than the normal 100,000 acres.8 The numbers simply don’t add up.

Mr. Snow was candid when he wrote Senator Feinstein that, “I believe many have lost sight of the plain fact that we are in a hydrologic drought, and as such water supplies are simply limited for all users”9 and when he testified to Congress that, if there was no court order protecting fish, there would only be a 5% increase in water to the Central Valley.

Unfortunately, Mr. Snow and those who scapegoat fisheries seem unable to admit that water supplies in a drought are also limited for fish and wildlife and that recent biological opinions provide less water for the environment during shortages. Nor can they acknowledge that California has issued water rights for 8 _ times the average amount of water in the Bay-Delta watershed or that Valley farmers have recently planted hundreds of thousands of acres of perennial crops based upon the most junior water rights that assume interrupted supplies during the inevitable droughts that occur more than a third of the time in the state.

Those who accuse fishermen and environmentalists of trying to “starve families to protect whales” appear incapable of exhibiting compassion for the depressed communities along the coast and wrecked livelihoods of commercial fishermen whose boats are either dry-docked or repossessed by the bank or lamenting the 23,000 people out of work or the $1.4 billion lost to the state’s economy because of fishing closures.

And what of those on the Westside of the Valley who irrigate selenium laced soils that discharge toxic wastes back to the river and Delta? Do they believe they have a prerogative to water that leaves the Delta with salinity levels that threaten the existence of generations of Delta farmers who cultivate over 400,000 acres of some of the finest prime soils on earth?

There is enough water in California to provide for people and rivers, if it’s used wisely. Reclamation, recycling, groundwater banking, conservation and desalination offer a virtual river far larger than any additional supplies secured via new surface storage or a peripheral canal. Fish are not the problem. “A dysfunctional water delivery system, greed and failure to comply with existing laws have brought us to the edge of disaster,” observed Jennings. “Common sense, sound science and a proper respect for law can lead us back from the abyss,” he said.
CSPA is a non-profit public benefit conservation and research organization established in 1983
for the purpose of conserving, restoring, and enhancing the state’s water quality and fishery
resources and their aquatic ecosystems and riparian habitats. CSPA’s website is:

1 CSPA Table, Monthly Farm Employment (attached) extracted from EED Data,
2 2008 Agricultural Crop and Livestock Report, Fresno Department of Agriculture, page I, available on CSPA
3 CSPA Table, Industry Employment & Labor Force by Annual Average, 2000-2008, extracted from EED data,
4 CSPA Table, Farm and Nonfarm Employment May 08 v. May 09, extracted from EED Data,
5 Ibid.
6 Industry Employment & Labor Force, Employment Development Department, Labor Market Information
Division, June 19, 2009. (Attached)
7 Letter from Lester Snow, DWR, to Honorable Dianne Feinstein, May 15, 2009. Available on CSPA website:
8 Ibid.
9 Ibid.
CSPA Press Release, Myths, Lies and Damn Lies, Despite drought, Valley agriculture doing better than economy
28 June 2009, page 3.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Interior Secretary. Salazar comes of CA.

The following is Dan Bacher's view of the town meeting in Fresno. This will be a significant event for the media in the battle over California Water. Who will have the people there? Hopefully some will be wearing Green. Full story by clicking Read more!

Secretary Salazar to Speak at Town Meeting on Drought in Fresno

Valley Politicians Perpetuate the Myth of "Fish Versus People"

by Dan Bacher

Bowing to pressure from Representatives Jim Costa (D-Fresno) and Dennis Cardoza (D-Merced), the Department of Interior will hold a "town hall meeting on the drought in California" on Sunday, June 28, from 2:30 to 4:00 p.m. at the Fresno State Satellite Student Union, 2485 East San Ramon Avenue in Fresno.

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar is expected to announce new stimulus monies for the Central Valley and talk about the Bay Delta Conservation Plan process. Salazar, Deputy Secretary David J. Hayes and Bureau of Reclamation Commissioner Mike Connor are also expected to field complaints from corporate agribusiness interests that they are not receiving enough water from the Central Valley and California Water Projects.

You can expect San Joaquin Valley agribusiness representatives to blame all of their economic problems, real or imagined, on Delta smelt and the recent NMFS biological opinion to protect Central Valley salmon stocks. You can also be sure that Westlands and other agribusiness interests will put intense pressure upon Salazar and the other Interior officials to support the peripheral canal and dams proposal that Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and Senator Dianne Feinstein are campaigning for.

Since President Obama took office in January, Congressmen Cardoza and Costa have requested that the incoming Interior Secretary come to the San Joaquin Valley, according to a joint press release from Cardoza and Costa that falsely portrays the battle to restore the California Delta and the thousands of jobs that depend on it as a "fish versus peoples" scenario. They claim that unemployment is the result of a "regulatory drought" caused by relatively modest court-ordered restrictions on pumping to protect Delta smelt and Sacramento River winter run and spring run Chinook salmon.

"The San Joaquin Valley has been especially hard hit by drought in the past few years," their joint release opined. " Additionally, water deliveries to Valley farmers from the San Joaquin Delta have been curtailed by regulators who have placed an undue amount of blame on famers for declines in fish populations to the north."

“The Central Valley simply cannot continue down its current path," claimed Cardoza. "This regulatory drought is destroying our farmers, our families and our local economy. Further, we are facing a genuine risk of having to import additional food to supply our nation. I look forward to providing Secretary Salazar with as much insight as possible about the extreme hardship in our agricultural community and look forward to the assistance that he is capable of providing.”

"The Secretary knows about the hundreds thousands of acres of fallowed fields, the high unemployment and the possibility of a fourth year of drought,” said Costa. “The lack of water has rippled into every facet of our economy. We now have those who normally sow and reap our nation’s food, standing in food lines to feed their own families. As part of this important visit, I will be explaining to the Secretary the need for both short and long term water solutions in California, which include repairing the Delta, improving water supply and quality, and environmental restoration.”

Valley Democrats Cardoza and Costa have formed a de facto unholy alliance with far right Republican Congressmen Devin Nunes and George Radinovich as they bow down before Westlands Water District and corporate agribusiness. While falsely blaming modest regulatory protections for "fish populations to the north" for the Central Valley's problems, Cardoza and Costa neglected to mention the impacts that massive water exports out of the California Delta have had upon the thousands of people that have been employed in the commercial and recreational fishing industries and the coastal and Central Valley communities that depend upon healthy fisheries for their economic health. The closure of recreational and commercial salmon fishing season off California and Oregon this year and in 2008 has had a devastating impact upon coastal communities in both states.

"While they are bitching about fish protections robbing them of water (not true!), the Bureau of Reclamation is preparing now to ship 40,000 acre-feet of Central Valley Project water to Southern California – swimming pools and golf courses," noted Zeke Grader, executive director of the Pacific Coast Federation of Fisherman's Associations.

Cardoza and Costa were two of the 40 Democrats that voted for an amendment to HR 2847, sponsored by Representative Nunes, that would have yanked funding for a court-ordered federal plan to prevent the extinction of Sacramento River spring run and winter run Chinook salmon, Central Valley steelhead, green sturgeon and the southern resident population of killer whales (orcas). The orcas depend heavily on Sacramento River chinook salmon, including the imperiled fall run, as a food source. The odious amendment was defeated in a close vote of 208 ayes to 218 nos in Congress on June 19.

To see an outrageous rant by Devin Nunes falsely blaming the San Joaquin Valley's economic woes on a "three inch minnow," go to this video of the debate in Congress over the Nunes amendment:

It is crucial that recreational anglers, commercial fishermen, Indian tribal members, Delta family farmers, Delta farmworkers and environmental justice advocates suffering from the devastating impact of increased Delta water exports in recent years show up at the meeting in Fresno to counter the "fish versus people" lies of Valley politicians and corporate agribusiness. After all, what about OUR JOBS?

For more information including the place where the town meeting will be held, contact Kendra Barkoff at (202) 208-6416

The Real Facts about Unemployment in the San Joaquin Valley

Meanwhile, Dr. Mark Rockwell of the Northern California Federation of Flyfishers has compiled revealing data covering unemployment figures in the San Joaquin Valley and around California that counters the Nunes/Costa/Cardoza/Radanovich allegations of a "regulatory drought," the false "people vs. fish" argument that is now being pushed by agribusiness, Central Valley legislators and Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.

"Is it really 'fish vs. people' as the Governor and Representative Nunes say?" asks Rockwell. "To listen to all of the rhetoric these days you’d think that people are suffering only because a federal judge and the federal wildlife agencies decided to protect fish. Representative Nunes and our Governor are calling it a regulatory drought and families are suffering as a result. Articles in the L.A. Times and many other papers in California have picked up the story without really checking on data available from the state Employment Development Department records."

Here is a link that shows the data pretty clearly:

However, the raw data doesn’t tell the full story unless you dig into it, as Rockwell has done. "So, here are some of the facts from the data that brings some clarity to the issue," said Rockwell. "Make no mistake; unemployment is a problem in Mendota and Fresno County. However, it is a problem in almost all of California’s agricultural counties, and Fresno is by far not the worst. If you take the numbers as given for all counties in California for May 2009, and then look at the 9 previous years as well it is quite revealing."

• For Mendota, the town portrayed as the worst and where the Governor has visited twice to rail against the Endangered Species Act and his claim of regulation caused unemployment, it shows 38.8% unemployment for May 2009.

• For Mendota, the 9 year previous average is 28.1%. Mendota has led Fresno County in unemployment for the past 10 years.

• Fresno County, (Representative Nunes country, including Mendota) shows 15.4% unemployment for May 2009, with a 9 year average of 10.5%.

• Of the 18 most agriculture dependent counties in California the average unemployment rate is 15.6% for May 2009. Seven other counties have worse unemployment than Fresno (Imperial, Sutter, Alpine, Colusa, Merced, Yuba and Stanislaus), with the highest in Imperial County in the Southern California desert at 26.8%.

• Six of the seven counties with greater unemployment than Fresno are not heavily affected by the Central Valley Project water cutbacks - and many are able to compensate via groundwater and use cutbacks.

• Lastly, when looking at the 2008 unemployment figures and averages, Fresno County has the eighth highest increase in unemployment (2008 to May 2009), meaning seven other counties have a greater increase in unemployment over the last year than Fresno- Imperial, Colusa, Merced, Sutter, Yuba, Stanislaus and Tulare. Six of these have limited impact from Central Valley Project reductions or are not affected at all by them.

"What this data clearly shows is that unemployment is chronic in Mendota (28.1% average), worsened by the drought, as with all other agriculture dependent counties," disclosed Rockwell. "The owners of the big farms there are certainly not sharing their profits well with the labor community that serves them. There is much to be done to improve their plight, and it should not include disaster relief from the tax payers (as requested by the Governor and our Senators)."

DWR director Lester Snow testified before Congress nearly two months ago, essentially saying if there was no court order to protect fish, there would only be a 5% increase in CVP water to the San Joaquin Valley. "This shortage is drought caused, not regulation caused," noted Rockwell.

"Who really gets left holding the proverbial bag?" questioned Rockwell. "Of course, it is the federal taxpayer and the public trust. It is time agribusiness took more responsibility for the problem and started to work for a solution, not for the drought but to help the farm workers they sometimes employ."

Rockwell's conclusion? "This isn’t 'fish vs. people,', it is 'fish and people.' Both are suffering in this is the third consecutive low water year," said Rockwell.

The irony of this situation is that the same San Joaquin Valley corporate agribusiness interests that are claiming to speak out for farmworkers have kept farmworkers in poverty and misery for many decades. They have ruthlessly suppressed the right of farmworkers to organize, denied them decent housing, refused to provide them with safe and clean drinking water and sprayed fields with dangerous pesticides that sicken their children and threaten their lives. As documented in the books of Carey McWilliams and others, the big growers' grip on power in the Valley was based on a particularly vicious form of "Farm Fascism" that didn't hesitate to employ guns and clubs to suppress farmworkers' rights.

As during the 1930's when "Farm Fascism" reigned supreme in the Valley, corporate agribusiness continues to control the politicians from both the Democratic and Republican parties. Schwarzenegger, Costa, Cardoza, Nunes and Radinovich are doing everything they can to please their masters - corporate agribusiness giants - at great expense to fish, fishermen, family farmers and farmworkers and the California economy.

Note: Rockwell provides an interesting side note regarding subsidies to these farms: In 1978 the taxpayer subsidy to the Federal San Luis Unit of the CVP (which supplies water to the west side San Joaquin) was estimated at $770 million or about $1,540.00 per acre (United States Bureau of Reclamation figures).

Today that value would be about $5,227.00 per acre using the Cost of Living Calculator for 2007. Another interesting fact is that people in Madera, Merced and Fresno Counties received about $132 million in farm subsidies in 2006. People in Trinity County, where the water for the Western San Joaquin Valley comes from, received $585.00 (United States Department of Agriculture figures on the Environmental Working Group’s Website Feb 16, 2009).

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Schwarzenegger - Bush Republican Comes "Out of the Closet"

Latest news from the Great California Banana Republic: Our Dear Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has "come out of the closet" as a full-bloodied Bush Republican declaring he will veto the Democrats' budget plan if it includes $1.9 billion in new taxes on oil and tobacco, and fees on motorists to fund state parks.

"None of that will fly with me... It will be irresponsible after the largest tax increase in California's history just four months ago... I will without any doubt veto it."

Now, will the So-Called-Liberal-Media finally, stop calling this guy a "moderate" Republican?

I confess, the MSM habit of casually trotting out Mitt Romney of Massachusetts, Rudy Giuliani of New York, and Arnold Schwarzenegger of California as examples of the vanishing, precious "moderate" Republican has long been a big sticking point with me.

The awful truth is that Romney is a total, shameless opportunist (and people who've been paying attention in Massachusetts have known this for at least a full decade); Rudy Giuliani is an outright fascist; and Arnold Schwarzenegger is a total Bushie, the only difference that the wingnuts in California do not have the power to start wars on a pack of lies (though down in One-Party Republican San Diego County on the Mexican border they keep trying).

Here is a link to the Los Angeles Times story:

Published in the Los Angeles Times, June 18, 2009.
Schwarzenegger Says He'll Veto Democrats' Plan for Balancing Budget
by Michael Rothfeld and Shane Goldmacher

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger told the leaders of the Assembly and Senate on Wednesday to scrap their plan to raise taxes to help close the state's budget deficit, but the two Democrats insisted they would move ahead next week with a vote of the full Legislature.

With less than six weeks until the state faces insolvency, the governor appeared outside his Capitol office after a meeting with the lawmakers, promising to veto the plan completed Tuesday by a joint legislative committee if it reaches his desk.

The proposal included what the lawmakers said were $11 billion in cuts to programs dear to Democrats -- to education, healthcare and welfare -- along with $10 billion in accounting maneuvers and other financial moves such as selling state assets.

But it was the levies intended to raise $1.9 billion in new taxes on oil and tobacco, and fees on motorists to fund state parks, that Schwarzenegger said would be unfair to Californians after higher taxes were imposed on them in February.

"None of that will fly with me," the governor said. "It will be irresponsible after the largest tax increase in California's history just four months ago to go back to the people and to say we want to increase your taxes but we want to protect the salaries of state workers."

The Democrat-controlled budget committee Tuesday rejected the governor's proposal to cut state employee salaries by 5% on top of the two unpaid days off per month that they are already required to take. The lawmakers also dispensed with many of his steepest cuts to state programs, which would have eliminated California's welfare system, its health insurance for children and college tuition aid for low-income students.

"The price is too high," said Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento).

Schwarzenegger, however, criticized the lawmakers for employing accounting maneuvers to avoid some of the most painful decisions. One would push a month of state payroll into the next fiscal year. The governor acknowledged that he had proposed a gimmick similar to another the lawmakers employed: to increase tax withholdings and temporarily provide the state with more cash.

The plan to raise taxes, however, was the one the governor mostly strongly urged legislators to "revisit," saying, "I will without any doubt veto it, and I made that clear to the legislative leaders."

But at a news conference, Assembly Speaker Karen Bass (D-Los Angeles) said Schwarzenegger's message was not so hard-line in their meeting, and he did not threaten a veto.

"That was not the indication he gave us at all," Bass said, predicting that the stalemate would not be lengthy.

The lawmakers plan to meet with the governor again today. Steinberg held out the possibility that they could find common ground by next week on how to close the projected $24.3-billion deficit.

"We're going to surprise you all," Steinberg told reporters.

Republicans, meanwhile, said they were simply looking for a seat at the negotiating table.

"It's a very curious process when the majority party doesn't include the minority party in such important, substantive issues," Assembly GOP leader Sam Blakeslee (R-San Luis Obispo) said.

GOP lawmakers have enough votes to block a budget or tax increase, so their agreement will be needed. Yet they said they had learned the details of the Democrats' plan only as it was put up for a vote Tuesday.

The state may run short of money to pay bills if it cannot bridge its budget gap before the end of July. Schwarzenegger, who met with Republican legislative leaders Tuesday night, said he believed the state could avoid that fate if he and the lawmakers continue talks.

On the one hand, the pundits and the professors of the MSM scold the American people (and progressives in particular) for "single issue/identity" politics. Abortion, gay rights, and immigration should not be a political "litmus test" they all say.

Very well.

So, why, exactly, do the same pundits say the likes of Giuliani and Schwarzenegger are "moderate" Republicans instead of just plain old "conservative" Republicans? Only because Giuliani and Schwarzenegger are not right-wing crazies about abortion, gay rights, and immigration. And things will be exactly the same if a pseudo-moderate like Meg Whitman or Steve Poisner wins the GOP nod in 2010.

Next time they call Arnold a "moderate" we should unleash a hurricane of letters-to-the-editor how the Green Party is the only alternative to the Democrats in California.


This was also posted on The DailyKos at:

Sunday, June 14, 2009

How long can you tread water?

That quotation from Bill Cosby's well known recording of a conversation between God and Noah. I will use it as the point from which I dive in to a sequence of reviews of current issues. Of course, this one is Global Warming (Climate Change? Climate Disruption?) and it's associated Sea Level Rise.

Take the jump (Read more!) to get the story in a less entertaining presentation.

On Tuesday of this week, the US Global Change Research Program will release a report on Global Climate Change Impacts in United States. This is the subject of Joe Romm's blogging at Climate Progress today. Romm is putting his focus on Sea Level Rise and what we are learning from the fact that the Greenland Ice Sheets are melting faster than anticipated.

I suggest following the link and reading Romm's post as well as the sources he cites where subscriptions are not required. This is Romm's conclusion:
The entire U.S. should be planning on SLR of 5 feet by 2100 on our current emissions path. And the eastern United States should plan on the very real possibility that total sea level rise will exceed 6 feet.
There are many areas of California that will be affected, beach communities, homes on the edge of bluffs, but none of them is close to that which will be suffered by the California Delta. The oft-mentioned pumps at Tracy that suck the water from the Delta and send it down south for drinking and irrigation are only 7 ft above sea level. Salt water intrusion into the Delta will significantly raise the costs of providing water. Those who oppose desalination for environmental reasons may have no choice other than moving somewhere else.

I see effects from the changing climate all of the time. As a backyard orchardist, I note that the trees are having to adapt to different cycles of weather. On a recent weather TV weather report, they commented that the ocean outside the Golden Gate was 10 deg. F warmer than normal. Rather than warming the land, however, it is increasing out humidity allowing the fog to roll in further, deeper and holding down the temperatures now. Logical consequence, but not what many might anticipate.

As Greens we all need to step up our presence in this war. It is a war, against Planet Earth, and sadly, we are winning. As Willie Loman's wife says in Death of a Salesman, "Attention must be paid." Willie died a suicide. As a human race, might we also be suicidal?

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Do Progressives Bear Blame for Cal Woes?

Editor's Note:

Beyond Chron is one of Northern California's most influential progressive blogs. It takes its title as the "alternative online daily" to the corporate Establishment San Francisco Chronicle.
Beyond Chron claims to be "We provide coverage of political and cultural issues often distorted or ignored by the Bay Area's largest newspaper, the San Francisco Chronicle. Beyond Chron presents a critical look at the cutting edge issues of the day. Beyond Chron is published by the San Francisco-based Tenderloin Housing Clinic. Clinic Director Randy Shaw is the paper's editor. Shaw is a longtime San Francisco activist who has published three books on activism, The Activist's Handbook, Reclaiming America, and his new work, Beyond the Fields: Cesar Chavez, the UFW and the Struggle for Justice in the 21st Century. "

In the provocative article below, Randy Shaw makes many of the same points as my Green Party friends and I. Shaw specifically makes a charge against California's self-described "progressive" Democrats that I have been making for years: while the Golden State's well-to-do, well-connected liberals have made great contributions to the current resurgence of liberalism in U.S. national politics and the election of President Barack Obama, they have "dropped the ball" on the political disaster unfolding in California.

This is an interesting piece on a number of levels. Randy Shaw is, after all, a loyal progressive Democrat and it is instructive how even here he betrays some of the paralysing biases of the Democrats. Notice, for example, how he says L.A. Mayor Tom Bradley "did not emerge from the party's liberal wing." Never mind that it was Bradley's leadership that dragged right-wing Los Angeles, kicking and screaming, into the 20th Century in the 1970s. Shaw goes on to say California progressives include "three very powerful constituencies: labor unions, environmentalists, and women’s groups" with "Latinos, African-Americans, gays and lesbians, tenants and housing groups" stuck onto the end of his grand "progressive" coalition as an afterthought. He wrote a whole book about Cesar Chavez and the farmworkers in the 1970s but cannot imagine "progressive" leadership coming from anywhere else but people like himself.

Posted on Beyond Chron, June 2, 2009.
Progressives Bear Blame for California’s Woes
by Randy Shaw

As California faces a fiscal meltdown, Democrats blame Republicans for opposing essential tax hikes. But progressives own failures should not be ignored. California Republicans have been anti-tax zealots since the mid-1990’s, yet progressives failed to prioritize passing a ballot measure eliminating the 2/3 requirement for budget passage in 1998, 2000, 2004, or 2008, each of which offered a great chance for success. Progressives have allowed conservatives to put them on the defensive in the state initiative process, and have not mobilized on behalf of a politically viable progressive Governor candidate since Jerry Brown in 1974. And, if Brown and Gavin Newsom are the only major Democratic candidates in 2010, this pattern will be repeated. California progressives launched, created the electoral model for Latino political empowerment, traveled to other states for Kerry and Obama, and contribute massive amounts of money to progressive causes and candidates across the nation -- but when it comes to preventing conservatives from destroying our state, we have dropped the ball.

Clearly, Arnold Schwarzenegger and the Republican Party deserve overwhelming blame for the state’s budget crisis. Both led the recall of Gray Davis over the hike in the vehicular license fee, eliminating a revenue source that, if kept intact, would have virtually eliminated the state’s entire budget deficit. But progressives have long understood the Governor and Republican Party’s game, yet failed to implement strategies to overcome it.

Poor Leadership Choices

If you want to capture the sad state of progressive political strategizing/mobilizing in California, consider that the Democratic candidates for Governor since 1982 have been Tom Bradley (twice), Dianne Feinstein, Kathleen Brown (Jerry’s sister), Gray Davis (twice, plus the recall election), and Phil Angelides.

None of these candidates galvanized the progressive base, or emerged from the Party’s liberal wing. In fact, California Democrats have consistently nominated people to lead the party who lack charisma, the common touch, or any of the attributes that Barack Obama displays on a daily basis.

And now it looks like Democrats will choose between Gavin Newsom and Jerry Brown (Antonio Villaraigosa is rumored to not be running). The two California politicians who have shown the least interest in working with legislative colleagues, and who spent the least time in small meetings with constituents, will be progressives’ default choice.

We can’t blame Republicans for that.

Nor can we blame Democratic moderates, as progressives dominate the Party’s primaries.

Nor can we blame a lack of money. MoveOn, the Obama campaign, Act Blue and a host of other sites demonstrate that California progressives can raise millions of dollars online.

So what’s the problem?

Progressives Failure to Lead

California progressives include three very powerful constituencies: labor unions, environmentalists, and women’s groups. All three are financially and organizationally capable of mounting effective statewide grassroots campaigns, and have multiple alliances with related constituencies -- Latinos, African-Americans, gays and lesbians, tenants and housing groups -- that can ensure a progressive Democrat wins a contested primary.

What have these groups done to select charismatic, progressive candidates in Governor’s races?


California’s leading progressive groups have done nothing to recruit and back progressive candidates for Governor. Progressives did not even back a grassroots challenger to moderates Gray Davis in 1998 or Kathleen Brown in 1994 when the chances for a Democrat to prevail looked exceedingly strong when the year began.

Newsom and Brown: More of the Same

I must have missed the grassroots progressive convention that anointed Gavin Newsom and Jerry Brown the Democrats’ only major Governor candidates for 2010, but with Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa likely out of the race, that’s our field. The two have much in common.

Both are closely aligned with powerful real estate interests, and have proved hostile to legislation expanding tenants rights.

Brown staunchly opposed just cause eviction laws as Oakland’s mayor, and even vetoed a mild inclusionary housing law. He gave a blank check to real estate and development interests during his tenure in Oakland.

Newsom has backed landlords throughout his political career, and recently received a $25,000 contribution from Republican Thomas J. Coates of San Francisco’s
Jackson Square Properties. Coates spent almost $1 million on last June’s Proposition 98, the measure that sought to eliminate rent control in California. While Newsom publicly opposed Prop 98, Coates did not donate $25,000 because he thought that a Governor Newsom would sign bills restricting the Ellis Act and expanding tenants rights.

Brown and Newsom both ignore legislative bodies other politicians, ensuring poor communication and a lack of cooperation with state Democratic leaders. Democrats who complained that Gray Davis did not build relationships with legislators will find Newsom or Brown offering more of the same.

These are the leaders that California’s progressive community has allowed Democratic voters to choose from next June.

Progressives Stay on Defensive

Conservatives responded to their lack of electoral success in California by placing initiatives on virtually every ballot. When they lose, as in parental notification for abortion, they come back again and again.

What do California progressives do? We complain about conservative measures while avoiding the grassroots mobilizing to get our own to qualify and potentially effect major change.

Do we not believe voters agree with us? Or is it the cost of qualifying initiatives through paid signature gatherers? Or do our labor, environmental and women’s constituencies prefer funding politicians rather than ballot measures that could accomplish what elected officials have not?

I heard from one politician who bemoaned that collecting one million signatures for a state measure cost upwards of $3 million. I told him that I discuss in my book, Beyond the Fields, how the UFW gathered 720,000 signatures to qualify a measure in 1976 in only 29 days and with no paid gatherers!

Are today’s activists less dedicated than those of 1976? The Obama campaign sure says otherwise. Rather, it’s that progressives lack the leadership to inspire tens of thousands of people to hit the streets to collect signatures -- despite the fact that the state’s entire public sector is on life support.

It’s a tragedy. And until progressives start taking charge, the situation will only get worse.

Randy Shaw is the Editor of Beyond Chron, and author of Beyond the Fields: Cesar Chavez, the UFW and the Struggle for Justice in the 21st Century.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

The Report Card - Incomplete

In a recent post, I suggested that the Delta Vision Foundation would give the Governor and California State Legislature a mixed report card. They could not even do that. In a situation where the key issue is governance, all our politicians can muster is an incomplete. The have not even done enough work to be evaluated.
The Delta Vision Foundation analysis charges that in the six months since its release, the Governor has not responded to the recommendations and strategies documented in the Delta Vision Strategic Plan, which his Cabinet Committee reviewed and largely supported. In addition, although the Foundation gave the State Legislature credit for devoting an impressive amount of time and thought to state water policy, they say the current roster of water bills is inconsistent.

At the same time, I find that the Natural Resources Defense Council's Barry Nelson is far too optimistic in his assessment of what the legislature will accomplish this year.
In the next few weeks, legislators including Assemblyman Jared Huffman, Senator Fran Pavley, Senator Lois Wolk and Senator Joe Simitian will take the results of those internal discussions and amend - probably dramatically - their current governance bills, which have already begun moving through the legislature.
Nelson has named those who are tasked with developing the appropriate legislation, but I only have confidence that Lois Wolk will really try to deliver. Simitian has long been one to talk about the environment and then deliver whatever the water districts want. Pavley gave us the AB 32, designed to deliver maximum PR value while doing as little as possible. Huffman seems to be a darling of progressives, but has punted on the Delta Issues.

We really need to be getting Greens on to every Water District Board so that we can make sure the legislature is getting the right message. After all, they consider the water districts with their mandate to support whatever growth happens, to be the ultimate stakeholders.

Silence is the Enemy

I have the feeds of a few blogs on my desktop. One of them that I have frequently cited here is intersection, co-authored by Chris Mooney (journalist) and Sheril Kirshenbaum (marine biologist). The subject of the blog has always been the action at the intersection of science and politics. This week, Sheril has started a new project called Silence is the Enemy and that takes it beyond the original scope, but for very good reasons.

Kirshenbaum reveals a bit about her own past and takes up the cause of standing up to violence against women. In particular, she references such actions as the mutilations of women such as breast beating and the use of rape as a standard practice of warfare and subjugation. In this regard, I would call attention to Lynn Sherr's story on the women of Liberia that aired as part of PBS's World Focus several weeks ago. Kirshenbaum includes the forced marriage of very young girls to older men as "legalized rape."

There is no freedom unless all are free. There is no justice unless all are honored. All of Kirshenbaum's revenue from this month's ad sales at intersection will be donated to Doctor's Without Borders to continue their work. I don't have any ads on this blog. So, I ask all of you who would want to support Sheril's effort to go to intersection, read her entry and click through to one of the ads placed there. It is the least that you can do.

If you don't like the idea of using the advertisement mechanism this way, consider making a donation directly to Doctors Without Borders.