Thursday, July 23, 2009

HR. 2454 - American Clean Energy and Security Act.

There are many reasons to hate H. R. 2454 the American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009. For one, it contains ongoing funding for the dream of a clean coal future and totally fails the goal of setting realistic constraints on carbon emissions.

Architecture 2030, a leader in the effort to change our future, finds in one section of the bill enough benefit to call for it's adoption. In E-NEWS Bulletin 16 today, Architecture 2030 identifies the real value.
Buried deep within the 1,428-page Waxman-Markey climate bill (H.R. 2454: American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009) passed by the House and now on the Senate floor, is Section 201, pages 320-348. It is this section that makes H.R. 2454 worth passing.

No matter what else is compromised or changed in the climate bill working its way through the Senate, Section 201 must not be changed or weakened.
This bulletin is not yet on-line, but should be shortly. However, the real analysis in contained in a fact sheet that is currently posted.

According to Architecture 2030 Chairman, Ed Mazria, the entire effort falls apart if this portion of the bill is weakened.
It is clear that the building energy code targets set in Section 201 are not only essential for achieving the energy consumption and GHG emissions reductions needed, but that they also are the most cost effective approach for doing so.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

One Party with Two Names: Our Grinning 'Leaders'

Screw the Poor, the Frail, Kids, Students, and the Environment

A month late and several billion dollars short, California's Republican Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, Democratic Assembly Speaker Karen Bass, Republican Assembly Leader Sam Blakeslee, and Democratic Senate Leader Darrell Steinberg agreed on a budget deal that screws the poor, the frail, the young, the students, and the environment.

So why are these "leaders" grinning?

Maybe because they are "leaders" of California's One-Party-with-Two-Names?

Now comes the predictable, tiresome, hand-wringing "moderate" editorials from California's leading "respectable" corporate daily newspapers. Also, read the anguished cry of oppression and betrayal of our most vulnerable citizens.

Hand-Wringing MSM Editorials

Los Angeles Times --
"In dragging out the dickering and pushing California dangerously close to insolvency, Democratic legislative leaders insisted that they were protecting the safety net, knowing all the while that they were fraying it at the local end. They had few options, and it would be foolish for rank-and-file legislative Democrats to reject this budget based on the depth of the cuts. It's just that a little more candor about the limited nature of Californians' choices is in order.

That goes tenfold for Schwarzenegger, who insisted that the additional three weeks of parrying was an attempt to fix the state's structural problems once and for all. Nonsense. No once-and-for-all resolution was available. Despite the fantasies of would-be reformers, government cannot be remade in a few weeks during the middle of an economic disaster, a fact proved by the kick-the-can budget just announced. The real work comes over a period of months and perhaps years, as Californians turn their attention -- as they must -- to remaking our tax structure and reinventing our government."
San Jose Mercury News --
"Using veto power to rule out any tax increase, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Republicans guaranteed that the budget would be balanced by deceit and billion-dollar accounting gimmicks, like shifting the final payday for state workers to the next fiscal year. Like the Democrats, most Republicans didn't want to suspend Proposition 98 on school funding; they just didn't want to honestly fund it.

Instead of passing an oil production tax that many states already levy, California will grant new leases for drilling off Santa Barbara — if Schwarzenegger has his way."
Sacramento Bee --
"It is built on a base of billions of dollars in temporary tax increases approved in February and scheduled to expire in 2011, and temporary federal aid that is due to disappear even sooner. On top of that shaky foundation, legislative leaders and the governor have built a rickety house of borrowed money, shifted funds and old-fashioned gimmicks."
Finally, from One-Party Republican San Diego...

San Diego Union-Tribune --
"But whether the budget is approved tomorrow or in two weeks, it is essential that Schwarzenegger keep demanding reform in his final 17 months in office. His initial focus should be pushing hard for a two-tiered government pension system to reduce obligations to new hires. He should also continue to seek fixes to CalWORKS so that welfare reform can finally arrive in California.

But his broader focus should be on making the case as forcefully as possible that it's time for a new mind-set in Sacramento. For too long, the state has been run as if it were a jobs program, not a provider of essential services. This is why from 1997 to 2007, the number of jobs paid for entirely or largely by the state increased by nearly one-quarter, to 895,000.

It's time to roll back this huge growth. The idea that this will result in severe problems is a union-promulgated myth. All one has to do is look at the productivity revolution in the private sector in job areas that are essentially the same as in government: procurement, record-keeping, claims and payroll processing, inventory management and housing."
Cry of the Oppressed and Betrayed

Posted on L.A. Progressive, July 21, 2009.
The Republicans Win Big in California!
By Joseph Palermo

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and his horde of retrograde Republican lawmakers got everything they wanted in a horrific bargain with Democratic legislative leaders that has ended (for the time being) California’s budget impasse. Not only will there not be a single cent raised for the state by taxing oil or tobacco, Schwarzenegger and the Republicans privatized $1 billion from the workman’s compensation insurance system, gutted all levels of the education budget, pauperized state workers with a third "furlough" day each month, raided the coffers of local governments, and even gave away the first new oil-drilling leases off the Santa Barbara coast in 40 years...

Posted on California Progress Report, July 23, 2009
New Budget Plan Takes California Backwards
By Willie L. Pelote, Sr.
Assistant Director ASFCME

Perhaps the most irresponsible aspect of the latest budget deal between Arnold Schwarzenegger and the Republicans and State Assembly Speaker Karen Bass (D-Los Angeles) and State Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento), is that it utterly fails to deal with the structural nature of California's budget deficit, relying instead on one-time accounting maneuvers and the preservation of unnecessary tax breaks for multinational corporations that virtually guarantee the reemergence of future deficits.

The latest plan jettisons $2 billion of taxes on oil companies and alcohol producers supported by voters in favor of almost $16 billion worth of new cuts to education, health care, and social programs...
. . .
Schwarzenegger, the Republicans, Bass, Steinberg, and any other Democrat who votes for this budget plan will claim that they had no choice, that circumstances forced them to make these cuts to balance California’s budget.

This is untrue.

The decision to impose the lowest costs on the wealthiest among us and, thus, the highest costs on the least among us is and always will be a political decision.

Posted on the Web Site for the Western Center on Law & Poverty, July 24, 2009.
Legislature Guts The Safety Net
by Mike Herald

18 Democrats Vote for the Cuts That Start July 2011.

The Assembly just passed AB 8 4X by a vote of 44-21 to concur in Senate amendments that make historic changes in the state's CalWORKs program. The bill was supported by 18 Democrats and 26 Republicans. 20 Democrats and 1 Republican (Tran) voted no. The bill now goes to the Governor where he is expected to sign the bill.
. . .
But the damage done by AB 8 4X is extreme. The bill guts the safety net for the most vulnerable families by reducing children's grants for the first time in the history of the CalWORKs program. Grants will be reduced by 25% from a maximum of $566 a month for two children down to $420 a month if the parent can not comply with federal work requirements. These are parents who are either can not work legally or who have used up the 60 month time clock but are still so poor their children qualify for assistance. In reality, for most of these families they will see their grants reduced. Advocates implored Democratic legislators to not accept these cuts, particularly to immigrant families because politically it is nearly impossible to ever restore these benefits.
. . .
It is shameful, disgraceful and one of the lowest moments in the history of social welfare in California. It is deeply offensive to hear Democratic leadership claim to have "saved the safety net" or that they will undo this in the future. They will never have the votes to restore CalWORKs and they should stop trying to deceive the public about the harm they have done.

What is To Be Done? Reboot California Politics

Do you sincerely want to fix California's broken politics? How do you tell if somebody does? Fellow Americans, here's a simple rule: look to see if the thundering writer of editorials and commentary mentions a role for independents and third-parties. If the editorial or commentary stubbornly insists that in politics all is within Democrats and Republicans; nothing outside Democrats and Republicans; and nothing against Democrats and Republicans, and especially is they suggest that somehow this problem can be "fixed" by electing more Democrats or Republicans, then you know the guy is just a pompous blowhard and not to be taken seriously.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Battling intellectual smog

California's AB 32 was intended (so they say) to help this state battle global warming by controlling greenhouse gases. That would alleviate problems that we have with physical world smog.

Unfortunately, there a those who still believe Any Rand and that regulation is evil and they produce an even more insidious intellectual smog. It is reported that a CSU-Sacramento Report estimates the "cost" to small businesses from California's AB 32 at $50,000 per year.

UCLA Economics professor, Matthew I Kahn, provide a good analysis of why they get it wrong.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

What if it really is broken?

The saying that, "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" can not be used in California, except it might be revived by Jay Leno when his new show comes on. I would hope that he takes his shots at the sorry mess we are in.

To begin with, the budgeting system is broken, a pawn to special interests and partisan wrangling from both sides of the imaginary divide in Sacramento. Add to that the fact that the system by which California allocates and manages it's water resources is also broken and you have the outlines of a dysfunctional government heading into a drought that it did not ask for but for which it has not answers.

In the meantime the Green Party bemoans the fact that the electoral process is stacked against it (as well as Libertarians, etc.) We need to find a way to get at all of these problems before time runs out. Mike Feinstein has written a piece now online in the Santa Monica Mirror in which he describes how the public might participate in a Constitutional Convention for California. I would hope that all the readers of California Greening figure out how to do the same.

I can not think of any better way to address the failure of governance of this large state than to start with the basic structure of government itself. My one requirement is that anything stipulated in the new constitution would bear consequences if it were not adhered to... for example the fact that the Constitutional requirement for having a budget by a fixed time is routinely ignored without consequence.

The longer I consider this subject, the better it looks. I will start a series on the Constitutional Convention and hope to make it clear to all.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

July 1979 -- Jimmy Carter's 'Crisis of Confidence Speech'

SUMMER 1979: The Islamic Revolution in Iran creates an "oil shock" in the United States with long lines at gasoline stations. Democratic President Jimmy Carter is scheduled to address the nation, but cancels at the last minute. 10 days, Carter reemerges with a speech.

Carter addresses the energy crisis, unemployment, inflation and our "Crisis of Confidence."

The threat is nearly invisible in ordinary ways. It is a crisis of confidence. It is a crisis that strikes at the very heart and soul and spirit of our national will. We can see this crisis in the growing doubt about the meaning of our own lives and in the loss of a unity of purpose for our nation.

Ronald Reagan and the Republicans eventually triumph by, among other things, ridiculing Carter for his "malaise speech" and blasting him for "weakness" in Iran and Afghanistan. Thirty long years later the Republican so-called conservative clique, despite presiding over the worst administration in U.S. history and the election of a popular young Democratic president, still dominates the political debate in California and the nation while the weak, divided, pitiful, U.S. "left" struggles to find its voice.

Posted on NPR Web Site, Sunday, July 12, 2009.

Examining Carter's 'Malaise Speech,' 30 Years Later

"Jimmy Carter had grown increasingly convinced that Americans had to face up to the energy crisis, but they only could do this if they faced up to the crisis in their own values," says Kevin Mattson, author of "What the Heck Are You Up To, Mr. President?", which examines the underlying themes of Carter's speech. "He tried to push the energy crisis on to a kind of moral and civic plane, and the speech was used to unify around a sense of civic sacrifice."

Mattson tells NPR's Liane Hansen that Carter did some serious soul-searching before giving the speech, and he hoped to entice Americans to do the same.

"He wanted the country to become much more self-inquisitive," he says.

The reception to Carter's speech was overwhelmingly positive: Approving phone calls poured into the White House — more calls than when President Richard Nixon had announced the invasion of Cambodia — along with many letters of support. But the goodwill was short lived. Within days of the speech, Carter fired several members of his cabinet, closing what Mattson calls "a window of opportunity."

"It's from then on that Carter had a really difficult time at bouncing back and being seen on the part of the American people as a strong and significant leader — especially a leader that could take America through solving the energy crisis," Mattson says.

"Carter goes out there and he essentially condemns the American way of life," he says. "He says our consumerism, our materialism have really gotten in the way of this problem."

Mattson says the fact that Americans responded positively to a speech that berated their way of life suggests that they don't mind having their values called into question. In that way, he says, the malaise speech had the potential to effect a significant cultural change.

"[Carter] did blow the opportunity," Mattson says. "But I think the original success that the speech had symbolizes the fact that Americans will listen when they're being criticized and when they're being called out to their better selves."

Do America's marginalized and ridiculed green progressives have the right stuff to call out our countrymen to "their better selves" today?

Thursday, July 09, 2009

For and Against

Reading the current (July / August) issue of Orion Magazine, I found an opinion piece by Derrick Jensen headlined Forget Shorter Showers. It is really about the need to do more than change your lifestyle in order to combat corporatism, capitalism, global warming, etc. His closing call is to become an activist.
We can follow the examples of brave activists who lived through the difficult times I mentioned—Nazi Germany, Tsarist Russia, antebellum United States—who did far more than manifest a form of moral purity; they actively opposed the injustices that surrounded them. We can follow the example of those who remembered that the role of an activist is not to navigate systems of oppressive power with as much integrity as possible, but rather to confront and take down those systems.
I was more than a little disappointed in Orion for publishing it, though Jensen has far more supporters than critics if you go by the comments on this article. My concern is that Jensen is calling for actions in opposition to all of those things I listed but gives not even a glimpse of what he want to see take the place of all that he would tear down. While citing the power of activism against Tsarist Russia, he fails to note that such activism gave us the Stalinist Soviet Union.

Pollster Frank Luntz warns us that Americans react best when politicians are "aspirational" rather than merely critical... no matter how valid the criticism's might be. The message for Greens is that we had better start explaining how our path will take us to a far better place. Until we do that, we will remain a footnote to history. Until Jensen does that, he will remain on the sidelines of the debate.

Monday, July 06, 2009

Why We Need 'Media Matters' for California

Media Matters for America is one of my favorite progressive web sites. If the Mainstream Media (MSM) publishes a smear of President Obama or congressional Democrats, Media Matters will fact-check the story and post a rebuttal within hours. Unfortunately, these days there are so many smears and so little time. And so, to paraphrase Mark Twain, a lie about the world outside Washington is beamed around the world at the speed of light before truth can get its browser open.

THE NEW YORK TIMES has been called the "best newspaper in America." My wife, Cathy Deppe, and I used to live in New York and reading the Sunday Times is bad habit I haven't broken. Alas, Sunday's magazine cover story on California was s-o-o-o bad.

Published in The New York Times Magazine, July 5, 2009.
Who Can Possibly Govern California?
by Mark Leibovich

NYT Magazine

It's like celebrity fluff in People Magazine. Newsom's note-taking? Schwarzenegger's cigars? Brown's love for arugula? Whitman NOT owning a horse? My elementary school grandchildren could write a deeper analysis!

...the last time real life overwhelmed the state’s ability to govern itself — that’s when voters recalled their governor, Gray Davis, and once again looked beyond "reality," to Hollywood, for their next savior, Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Further down, Leibovich describes our budget problems in this way:

When the economy is booming, the stock market soaring and jobs abundant, relying on income taxes is not a problem. That was the case in the years after Schwarzenegger first became governor in 2003, and he was hailed as a “postpartisan” leader who cut taxes and appealed to Democrats by aggressively tackling issues like global warming. But in today’s cratering economy — in which California faces a decline in personal income for the first time since 1938 and unemployment sits at 11.5 percent — the state’s coffers have shriveled up quickly, along with the governor’s popularity.

The California economy was never "booming" and the stock market was never "soaring" at any time during the Schwarzenegger regime. California was in crisis throughout 2003, which is why Democratic Gov. Gray Davis faced a recall in the first place.

Leibovich parrots the conventional wisdom that California politics is hopelessly deadlocked between fanatical partisan ideologues "on both sides." And yet, he can write:

There is some consensus among people in both parties that Schwarzenegger has been genuine in his commitment to changing the system, particularly as it relates to fiscal policy. "He has done a very good job of getting the reform movement started," Poizner told me. Likewise, many Democrats say the governor has been more than sincere in his attempts to work with them (even hiring one of their own as his chief of staff). For the most part, though, Schwarzenegger is held up as the emblem of how impossible the job has become. He seemed to come in with every advantage — no debts to special interests, a nonideological orientation and a big, charismatic personality. "To see that he’s incapable of pulling this thing off suggests that you have a systemic problem, a governance problem," Newsom told me.

It was well known throughout the 2003 recall election that Mr. Schwarzenegger was totally in the pocket of California business interests. His only passions throughout the campaign were taxes and "the business climate." But of course, to the MSM, business interests are not a "special" interests.

In point of fact, the three most powerful daily newspapers in the country: The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and The Washington Post, have all published ignorant, silly partisan junk about California lately. I am not shocked that it was printed. I am shocked by the fact that nobody cares. Gentle reader, that's why we need a "Media Matters for California" and every state in the union.

Editorial: The Wall Street Journal, June 26, 2009
"How three liberal states got into deep trouble with 'progressive' ideas"

President Obama has bet the economy on his program to grow the government and finance it with a more progressive tax system. It's hard to miss the irony that he's pitching this change in Washington even as the same governance model is imploding in three of the largest American states where it has been dominant for years -- California, New Jersey and New York.

A decade ago all three states were among America's most prosperous. California was the unrivaled technology center of the globe. New York was its financial capital. New Jersey is the third wealthiest state in the nation after Connecticut and Massachusetts. All three are now suffering from devastating budget deficits as the bills for years of tax-and-spend governance come due.

These states have been models of "progressive" policies that are supposed to create wealth: high tax rates on the rich, lots of government "investments," heavy unionization and a large government role in health care.

The Washington Post, May 3, 2009.
"No More California Dreaming" by George F. Will

Under Arnold Schwarzenegger, the best governor the states contiguous to California have ever had, people and businesses have been relocating to those states. For four consecutive years, more Americans have moved out of California than have moved in. California's business costs are more than 20 percent higher than the average state's. In the past decade, net out-migration of Americans has been 1.4 million. California is exporting talent while importing Mexico's poverty. The latter is not California's fault; the former is.
. . .
Liberal orthodoxy has made the state dependent on a volatile source of revenue -- high income tax rates on the wealthy. In 2006, the top 1 percent of earners paid 48 percent of the income taxes. California's income and sales taxes are among the nation's highest and its business conditions among the worst, as measured by 16 variables directly influenced by the Legislature. Unemployment, the nation's fourth-highest, is 11.2 percent.
. . .
But what actually ails California is centrist evasions. The state's crisis has been caused by "moderation," understood as splitting the difference between extreme liberalism and hyperliberalism, a "reasonableness" that merely moderates the speed at which the ever-expanding public sector suffocates the private sector.

How long, O Lord, how long do we have to endure this "Big Lie" that California is a high-tax state? In an opinion piece published by the Los Angeles Times, Jean Ross of the California Budget Project directly addressed "The Myths of California's Tax Systems"

WTF does George F. Will mean by writing that California "is exporting talent while importing Mexico's poverty" ? I guess he means California is losing "White People Like Us" while gaining "Those People Like Them." But excuse me, I forgot. The only "racists" left in America today are "liberal" advocates of affirmative action. George F. Will has been obsessed with "race" for forty years, but he is not a racist. He's just a "conservative."

Why shouldn't the MSM write junk about California for a national audience? They know no no one is going to call him on it and most of California's big-league "progressive" activists are too busy worrying about East Jerusalem and the West Bank of the Jordan to give a damn about what's happening in East L.A. and the West Bank of the Sacramento River.

That's why we need "Media Matters for California" and a Green movement that matters for California.

Saturday, July 04, 2009

July 4, 1826

On July 4, 1826, both the 2nd and 3rd Presidents of the United States died, within a few minutes of each other. After many conflicts, these two friends passed away on the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence.

Another 183 years has passed and we would do well to go back and re-read that document that bears both of their signatures. Many seem to stop reading with these words.
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness
. They have been so important to this country's finally growing up about racial equality, especially as they were echoed by Dr. King. We are not there yet, but have come a long, long way.

The list of grievances against King George is long and little remembered. It was enough to justify the Revolution in spite of this caution penned by Jefferson.
Prudence, indeed, will dictate that governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shown that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed.
When we consider this list of grievances, maybe we should consider ourselves fortunate but acknowledge that we are yet threatened; threatened by a system that demands ever more growth to pay for all of our current excess, threatened by a politics based on media manipulation rather than a Jeffersonian ideal of an informed citizenry.

We in California have an opportunity right a lot of wrongs. Our current governance is broken and neither Gavin Newsome nor Meg Whitman will have the solution as both are locked into the old paradigm of left / right political slogans. The time to move forward is now if Greens have the courage to seize this opportunity.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

What is growth good for?

I have another Green Talk column online at my local newspaper, the Morgan Hill Times. I really believe that we must challenge the idea that Growth is Good. It is almost the Gordon Gekko line from Wall Street, "Greed, for lack of a better word, is good".

Not only do we have a better word, we have a better way. Green, for lack of a better alternative, is good. Read the full column here.