Monday, August 29, 2011

3D Politics - 'Political Compass' and Beyond

Dear Green Friends,

Scott McLarty, Green Party U.S. Media Coordinator, posted a Facebook link to an interactive web site known as Political Compass. According to Scott, the site returned these scores based on his reply to a battery of multiple choice questions: "Economic Left/Right: -7.12; Social Libertarian/Authoritarian: -8.05, which places me in the lower left corner of the chart (slightly more libertarian than left)."

I was not surprised Scott's results were similar to mine. People at Political Compass strongly believe the old one-dimensional "Left vs Right" model for describing political parties is obsolete. They believe the model should include a "Libertarian vs. Authoritarian" dimension with four quarants for "Libertarian Left", "Libertarian Right", "Authoritarian Left", and "Authoritarian Right." Hence, the depiction of the 2008 presidential candidates posted on the TrèsSugar Web Site.


I agree. Indeed, I'd go further for two reasons.

First, the conflict between so-called conservative Republicans and so-called liberal Democrats in the U.S. doesn't even make sense along the old "Left-Right" dimension, since both are clustered in the "Authoritarian Right" quadrant. The only difference is demagoguery. Republicans use Big Government authoritarianism supposedly to serve hard-working, taxpaying, Christian "Whites" in "middle-class" neighborhoods. Democrats use Big Government authoritarianism supposedly to serve that 70% of Californians labeled "minorities" including, allegedly lazy, welfare-dependent, savage "Blacks" like my family and me in the "ghetto."

Second, I am convinced the growing conflict between stand patters for "Gray" industry and innovators for "Green" industry constitutes a third dimension. And it's along this third dimension where the great 21st Century political struggles are forming.


Read more to see the Political Compass test prologue. Check it out, then post a comment.

The irrelevance and divisiveness of the phony debate between so-called conservative Republicans and so-called liberal Democrats is why I plead for Greens, Libertarians, and all other serious independents to quit propping up the One-Party-With-2-Names by framing our dissent with old clichés, slogans, and stereotypes.
Posted on The Political Compass
Welcome to the Political Compass

There's abundant evidence for the need of it. The old one-dimensional categories of 'right' and 'left', established for the seating arrangement of the French National Assembly of 1789, are overly simplistic for today's complex political landscape. For example, who are the 'conservatives' in today's Russia? Are they the unreconstructed Stalinists, or the reformers who have adopted the right-wing views of conservatives like Margaret Thatcher?

On the standard left-right scale, how do you distinguish leftists like Stalin and Gandhi? It's not sufficient to say that Stalin was simply more left than Gandhi. There are fundamental political differences between them that the old categories on their own can't explain. Similarly, we generally describe social reactionaries as 'right-wingers', yet that leaves left-wing reactionaries like Robert Mugabe and Pol Pot off the hook.

That's about as much as we should tell you for now. After you've responded to the following propositions during the next 3-5 minutes, all will be explained. In each instance, you're asked to choose the response that best describes your feeling: Strongly Disagree, Disagree, Agree or Strongly Agree. At the end of the test, you'll be given the compass, with your own special position on it.

. . .

Click here to start.

Check it out, dear friends. Then post a comment here.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Budgets Don't Balance Themselves

Public revenues need to be wrapped around their intended function in developing infrastructure. Taxing the rich is a slogan with no substance as to what the revenues will be used for. States, regions and municipalities are enduring budgetary crises, as well as the Federal Government. Investment multiplies capital accumulation. The point for me to focus on is net impact of those public investments. Have public schools gotten better, even before the massive cutbacks? NO. The restructuring of Federal Education funding was initiated by Reagan and GHW Bush. We are talking about changes that have been in effect for 30-40 years!

There needs to be a new context and a prioritization of where funds will go at all levels and a closer look at how to use them most efficiently. Ex. Teacher training in California has not demonstrated the capability to address the unique educational needs of the student population resulting from the demographic changes in the state. But, there is nothing inherent about the ability of oil royalties, that I support, that will address this.

Oil royalties could be used for energy R&D to move beyond the scenarios presented of windmills on every home. Unpleasant options such as desal for water and natural gas can raise the quantity of new supplies needed there. Tuition increases at state colleges and universities may be hard for all of us, but the stuff doesn't grow on trees. Am always willing to hear of better options. Changing PROP 13 is one for California. Public funds loaned to state infrastructure banks another possible recourse for the future. No Rachel Maddow, that doesn't mean we build Hoover Dams or expect that such projects will demonstrate our national greatness. Yes, Ron Paul the expense of U.S. militarism has caught up to us.

How to be lean, without being mean.There will be NO gain without pain somewhere. The tough nut to crack. Help me here people. It's a long and tortuous road ahead of us.

Friday, August 12, 2011

How Environmental Protection Really Works

Anyone who thinks that Environmental Protection agencies will really protect us as citizens should read Ken Ward Jr.'s most recent post on the Bee Tree public hearing: Does WVDEP listen to coalfield citizens about mountaintop removal mining?

Ward is an outstanding journalist and tell things like they are, not like you may want to hear them.
Dianne Bady with the Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition was asking O’Brien about whether the pillars holding up the roof in underground mines beneath the impoundment basin were strong enough — or whether they might crumble and damage the basin.

“You need to get your facts right,” O’Brien told Bady, shaking his head at her.

I was kind of surprised by O’Brien’s response, so I asked him: Are the pillars strong enough? What’s been done to test them? How are they being monitored?

Turns out that O’Brien, who works in WVDEP’s Office of Explosives and Blasting, was the one who didn’t have his facts right. He didn’t know the answers to my questions, even though he’d just chastised a citizen and environmental activist for asking those same questions.
This is just one more example of how the agencies that are supposed to regulate industry end up regulating the public perception of the industry instead. It is not always easy because everyone want to make sure that they get heard and so tend to speak louder. Ward notes:
Public hearings are a challenge, especially on issues that appear as divisive as mountaintop removal and when both sides are often gearing up to use the hearing more to get their message out to a larger media audience and less to actually provide meaningful input on the permit decision at hand.
You might ask what this has to do with California? Just follow any of the meetings, hearing on CA Water and you get the same effects. In both cases, we need more citizen involvement, let's call it grassroots democracy, not less.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Sustainable Growth is No Longer Feasible

This the latest in my columns from the Morgan Hill Times.

Last week's Times showed us two reasons that we need to be concerned about growth. One was the Times editorial focusing on the fact that there are so many housing allotments that have been awarded, but not built. The other was the fact that the Morgan Hill Unified School District is losing rather than gaining students. The combination illustrates two of the pitfalls in planning for growth.

Like any community, Morgan Hill would love to be able to digest population growth like a leisurely dinner with friends, filling allotted slots each year. We are told that builders are not using their allocations for economic reasons, that they can not afford to build homes when credit is not available or the foreclosures have made the current stock of housing more affordable.

Even if the rate of housing growth were constant, it still does not guarantee schools will be able to plan accordingly. There are, again, more options for families. Some will send their children to private schools. Other families will choose not to have as many children, a seemingly wise choice when the economy is no longer predictable.

Our president hardly opens his mouth without mentioning the need to grow jobs. In that, his detractors, both Republican and Democratic, seem to agree. But the supply of jobs is not growing in the US. Even in California where one would expect innovation to create new jobs faster than we can fill the old ones, unemployment remains higher than 10 percent and in neighboring San Benito County, it is higher than 20 percent.

Maybe it is time to stop and ask ourselves whether the historical rates of growth are really possible. Increasingly, we are seeing events that fall outside the expected range if one's only reference is the historical record. Considering climate, the current drought and heat dome that has engulfed Texas is unprecedented and nearly unbearable. The analysis provided by the Texas State Climatologist shows that the 2011 drought is clearly outside the range of normal event. It may be enough to change the way that people think about living in Texas, about the quality of life there, and that will surely affect growth and the finances of local government.

For growth to continue, we need to be able to provide physical material to support it. But since the Earth is a finite source of everything, it may not always be possible. The list of things currently, or soon to be, in short supply seems to get longer every day. Lithium for new batteries is limited currently to just two major mining sources. The rare earth materials used in our increasingly innovative electronics are currently 80 percent sourced from China and the only other known major source requires deep seabed mining technology to be developed.

Californians know that fresh water is in limited supply. And for energy, we have to consider that the supplies of both oil and coal have peaked while a recent analysis of well head data shows that the supplies of natural gas that have been so abundantly advertised have also been overestimated by 100 percent. Some have even made the case that we have already passed the peak of uranium production with a corresponding increase in the costs of nuclear power.

Any one of these limits could have a major negative effect on our economy. In particular, the costs of energy production are increasing. We have gotten to all of the easy oil, coal and natural gas while we seem unable to fully endorse the replacement from renewable sources. Taken together, these physical world realities also place limits on economic growth, if not now, then in the not to distant future. There is a special term for investments that can only return value by securing new investments. It is called a Ponzi Scheme. The same term could be applied to the idea that we can sustain perpetual economic growth.

It no longer makes sense for any political entity to base fiscal policies on the assumption that current spending can be paid for by future growth. We can see what this has done for the national economy and we are paying for the cost by shedding jobs and a Congressional Circus to distract us from reality. We can see what this has done for the State of California where we take the money from education. The problem we have to solve locally is how to provide for a slowly growing population with declining resources. It will require resetting our priorities and developing a new vision of what Morgan Hill needs to be.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Homework for Greens: Critique "California's Water Wars" by Victor Davis Hanson

Editor's Note: Wes Rolley, a onetime Goldwater Republican from Arizona, often says, Greens come by many paths to the Green Party.

Our challenge as Green Party women and men is to find the right words, metaphors, and narratives to apply our key values to our current global problems, especially environmental problems.

I am a Black man who was once a "good Democrat." Today I emphatically reject Barack Obama and partisan Democrats, including inner-city Democrats who look like me. In my insistence on total rejection of all mid-20th Century clichés and slogans of "liberals" and "conservatives" I ask others to do no more than what I try to do myself.

About Victor Davis Hanson -- Military historian and classics professor at Cal State, Fresno. A "Senior Fellow" at the Hoover Institute, he has written essays, editorials, and reviews for the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the International Herald Tribune, the New York Post, National Review, American Heritage, Policy Review, Commentary, National Review, the Wilson Quarterly, the Weekly Standard, Daily Telegraph, the Washington Times, and City Journal.

See below Hanson's analysis of California's "water wars" published in the influential Sunday Los Angeles Times. Here's my Homework for Greens: critique Hanson's analysis and post comments applying the 10 Key Values of the Green Party.

Published by The Los Angeles Times, Sunday, August 7, 2011 California's Water Wars
By Victor Davis Hanson

California's water wars aren't about scarcity. Even with 37 million people and the nation's most irrigation-intensive agriculture, the state usually has enough water for both people and crops, thanks to the brilliant hydrological engineering of past Californians. But now there is a new element in the century-old water calculus: a demand that the state's inland waters flow as pristinely as they supposedly did before the age of dams, reservoirs and canals. Only that way can California's rivers, descending from their mountain origins, reach the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta year-round. Only that way, environmentalists say, can a 3-inch delta fish be saved and salmon runs from the Pacific to the interior restored.

Such green dreams are not new to California politics. But their consequences, in this case, have been particularly dire: rich farmland idled, workers laid off and massive tax revenues forfeited.

You can learn an important fact about the water wars simply by driving the width of California's vast Central Valley, home to a large chunk of the state's $14-billion farm export business. What the drive teaches you is that there is no single Central Valley agriculture. Rather, the state is divided longitudinally, right down its middle, into two farming landscapes. These regions — the east and west sides of the Central Valley — differ not only in the crops they grow but also in the availability of water.

Start with the east side, which looks like a verdant, well-tended park from the air, thanks to the Sierra Nevada, which each spring sends copious snowmelt into the rivers that flow into the Central Valley.

Proximity to this guaranteed runoff from the Sierra explains why the east side's small towns favored permanent orchards and vineyards, which represented more than a single year's investment, rather than annual row crops, beef and dairy. In the early 20th century, power companies and the state improved on what nature had bestowed, tapping the massive snow runoff with an ingenious system of dams and gravity-fed canals that channeled the stored water to farmland below.

To this day, gravity-fed irrigation usually supplies the east side with enough summer runoff for its crops. But in rare drought seasons, farmers have a second resource: an enormous aquifer, originally perhaps as large as a billion acre-feet, with a water table close to the surface. The water is good and the cost of pumping cheap.

The far larger, far more fragile west side of the valley is a different story. It is too distant from the Sierra to easily tap much of the snow runoff. And the water table can be more than 1,000 feet underground.

Until the 1960s, this vast interior land was sparsely populated, mostly unfarmed and owned by large ranching concerns. But then the federal and state governments, in a series of complex partnerships, built the Central Valley Project and the California State Water Project — sprawling networks of dams, pumping stations and canals sending water from the north more than 400 miles south. Once west side farmland was brought into irrigated production, it proved to be some of the world's most fertile, and a multibillion-dollar farming industry was born from desert.

That industry, however, was dominated by massive corporate and family-held operations. Even as they found ways to produce an ever-greater variety of crops, they came under attack, particularly from California's vocal left, which harped that taxpayers were subsidizing corporate farming — that the $130 and more that farmers were charged per acre-foot of water represented far less than it cost to build and maintain the irrigation system. More recently, environmentalists have argued that diversion of the northern rivers degraded the ecology of the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta.

In late summer 2007, a federal judge in Fresno ruled in favor of an environmentalist lawsuit demanding that the government curtail water deliveries to the west side 80% and more. The suit involved salmon and the 3-inch delta smelt. The number of smelt in the delta had plummeted over the years, the environmentalists claimed, because water projects had diverted too much northern water. The solution, they argued, was to shut down the irrigation pumps.

So, in 2008 and 2009, water deliveries to farmers were drastically reduced. Chaos followed. Thousands of acres of crops were idled. Farmworkers were laid off. In some cases, newly developed orchards and vineyards on the west side died — often near the frequently traveled I-5, where thousands of passing motorists daily saw dead trees and signs erected by angry landowners proclaiming a man-made dust bowl.

Farmers are resourceful people. Some were able to switch to drought-resistant crops; others had reserves to pay the exorbitant costs of pumping scarce groundwater. Still others purchased irrigation supplements from east side canals. A variety of factors, including spiraling agricultural prices, helped them hang on, and in the winter of 2009 they got a lucky break: California entered one of its periodic wet cycles. The result is that, though the state certainly lost hundreds of millions of dollars in agricultural revenue, California will probably still export a record $14 billion in farm commodities in 2011.

At the end of my frequent drives across the state, I generally descend into the environmentalists' stronghold, the San Francisco Bay Area. Here, particularly at Stanford University and UC Berkeley, much of the environmental research and ideological advocacy took place that put the salmon and the smelt ahead of agribusiness.

California lakes and canals are a testament to our fathers' using nature to bring water, power and prosperity to the Central Valley. The state's visionary engineers and politicians saw the massive federal west side irrigation projects as the logical 20th century successors to smaller state and local enterprises that had irrigated the east side in the 19th century. But today, coastal scientists have tired of such visions. They consider them destroyers of nature, not catalysts of wealth, so they use their academic expertise to thwart them.

The smelt and the salmon are now back in court, thanks to a hypothesis that Bay Area wastewater, not just river diversions and massive delta pumps, is also to blame for their still diminished numbers. U.S. District Judge Oliver W. Wanger has approved a temporary compromise that tries, in wet years like this one, to grant farmers up to 85% of their contracted water deliveries. The deal has made environmentalists happy, since it keeps the rivers flowing to the sea. The farmers are less happy, reasoning that if they're getting little more than three-quarters of their deliveries during one of the wettest seasons on record, they'll surely receive even less in the inevitable drier years to come.

But in today's California — with vast Democratic majorities in the Legislature, statewide officeholders mostly Democratic, and a delegation to Congress that's also largely Democratic — there is almost no chance of restoration of the original 100% delivery contracts, no matter what weather the future brings. When the wet cycle passes, thousands of acres on the west side of the Central Valley will again become idle until Californians accept that unused farmland is a luxury that a struggling state can no longer afford.

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

Obama's Pig in a Poke

I am not in favor of the Tea Party but there is no purpose in using untruths to argue with them, as it only weakens your own argument when the truth is revealed. one thing we can say is that we have seen the significance of a swing vote. It is not a "hostage crisis". It is a brilliant political tactic that is legal and effective.

As far as defaults go, all lenders have the capacity to accelerate the payments on their loans and demand payment in full. THAT is a default. Giving the U.S. a 'D' rating is a default. Going from AAA to AA is a lowering of the credit rating. Lenders of consumer loans also have the option of accepting payments on the interest to move the account due date forward. People with auto loans often have paid the interest for a month to avoid a more serious delinquency status. Some financial institutions also have the option of moving the payment date forward into the next month. Anyone who pays late consistently loses their excellent credit standing that goes on the credit report. Past payment records impact on future interest rates and may discourage future lenders from approving new loans to higher risk borrowers. Sovereign debt rates have their own criteria but the principle is the same. The more the risk of the lender failing to repay in a timely and consisent manner, the worse the credit score. The credit rating is the result of an extended spending spree and a recent drop in income (revenues).

The drop in rating to AA is not a default. It is a grounding to establish real priorities and not try to prop up the failing urban economies dominated by the Democratic Urban Machines. What's on the plate now? Population growth has exacerbated the capacity of all institutions in the U.S. to function effectively. Too many, too fast. Resources have been taxed to the max. State budgets have been depleted and expenditures have accomplished little while states tread water with the number and severity of the increased demands on all systems.

Greens will lose the respect of voters if appear to be deliberately antagonizing and provoking the situation with rants about "wars on working people" which are straight out of a movement long since receded.. The political process is what it is and has many flaws. The American people do get the government they deserve. The responsibility of elected leaders is to work within that process to address the input of the American people as best they can. As someone who has been unemployed for months I do not accept the rhetoric of any talk show on the radio or TV at face value. I do suggest that we get over the fact that the Tea Party exists. For people who rarely invoke religion in political discussions, there is way too much preaching about the Tea Party being the anti-Christ for my taste.

This is a fiscal crisis and the Fed has taken actions to date with a monetary policy of flooding the economy with Obama dollars. The object is to prevent any increase in interest rates. The market is falling in response to Obama's "solution". This should be taken as feedback. T-notes are being scooped up, as higher interest rates are sure to result. As far as energy plans go- T. Boone has it right. As far as infrastructure goes- the infrastructure banks need to be developed in the states, not by the Federal government. Defense cuts have become modified pork and are long overdue to face the axe. The double dip has come in through the front door. Localization needs to produce sound policies that address the real economy and shift the political center to the center, the Green center.