Thursday, June 29, 2006

Hope Dance

I would like to call your attention to the current issue of Hope Dance, a regional publication edited by Green Bob Banner. This issue is dedicated to money and livelihood. It is worth spending a few minutes online, or getting in print. We need to Use our Dollars to Change the World -- title of Banner's editorial comment.

What are we talking about.

I received an interesting note today from Alex Walker, through two different California Green Party elists. It was based on the current fact that the mayor of the 10th largest city in the US, San Jose, has been indicted on a range of charges including bribery. To quote from the note:
I want to know what Greens think about what is happening here. To date I have not seen or heard a single comment by any of my Northern California Green Party comrades. Instead, I read e-mails about tedious plenary minutiae and, frankly, meaningless resolutions to impeach President Bush.

I agree with Alex on this issue. One of my frustrations is that there is so much energy that goes into process, or rejustifying one's position vis-a-vis Cobb or Nader that, if redirected to current events, could produce growth in this party rather than declining numbers.

Maybe what we lack right now is relavance. I have some degree of vindication in the fact that I saw some very glaring weaknesses in the Green Party Platform re: agriculture, and then did something about it. One person, with initiative, was able to acquire enough support that, even though I was not at the plenary, the new platfrom wording was adopted. That is the power of initiative.

It is also the power of good arguement, since the one piece of information that I hid is the fact that this is exactly the public postion of George W. Bush. Had we mentioned that, it might not have passed since anti-Bush emotion might have turned people off and they might not have looked at the issue on the merits.

Be that as it may, it is really not very relavant unless this party is going to make some effort to organize and recruite members throughout the Central and Imperial Valleys. What is much more relevant is the campaign of David M. Silva for assembly in the 34th AD. Here, in the middle of Big Ag country, Silva is bringing forth a very relevant solution of part of the San Joaquin Valley's air quality problems.

The way that the Green Party supported the South Central Farm was relevant. It was also a big plus for Greens.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

One person, One vote

The entire discussion of internal democracy in the Green Party has some aspects that are troubling for me. They are easily stated.

The current organizational structure or the Green Party of Californian (GPCA) allows decisions ato be made by a representative body, either the General Assembly or the Coordinating Committee. We choose rep;resentatives on the basis of the the concept that those representatives have a brain and know how to use. Well, actually we choose representative to the GA on the basis that they have the time, finances and initiative to attend and we hope that they know how to use their brain.

There have been a number of situations in which there have been a claim of disenfranchisement of one group or another. The most recent involves the discussion of whether on County (or local) of the party is entitled to have as many votes as they send delegates, or as many votes as they are alloted delegates. Where one county does not have it's full complement of delegates, the decision was made to limit their votes to the number of delegates in actual attendance, even though these delegates had been entrusted with the power to act for all.

One of the answers to this problem was the suggestion to use electronic voting in a form of direct democracy. This eliminates the problem of self-selection in which outcomes are determined by those with the time and money to travel to meetings around the state. Direct democracy, with a true vote by all members, sort of an extension of the town meeting, would not necessarily disenfranchise anyone other than the disinterested.

In any version of direct democracy where all decisions are made by individuals at the lowest level, there are set of real problems that none of the the proponents of "one person, one vote" have even begun to talk about.

It is my observation that in all political parties there are a significant majority who do not put political activism at the top of their list of personal priorities. They never real the email lists. They don't browse the pertinent web site. In our case, they may never have even looked at the GPCA web site. Still, they are registered Greens and deserve a vote.

But, the best example to use against the implementation of an electronic vote, direct democracy, even in the Green Party internal decision making, is the California initiative process. This is as participatory as it gets. What is better than allowing the people of California to make their own laws, to decide for themselves what should be in the constitution. But the reality is that it concentrates power in the hands of those with money: money to pay signature gatherers, to advertise on appropriate media. It would be one of the unintended (I hope) consequences.

I would also caution against the tyranny of the majority, especially in situations where the power of money can warp public opinion. This concern is not new. De Toqueville wrote:
A majority taken collectively is only an individual, whose opinions, and frequently whose interests, are opposed to those of another individual, who is styled a minority. If it be admitted that a man possessing absolute power may misuse that power by wronging his adversaries, why should not a majority be liable to the same reproach?

Maybe I am a cynic, but one of my observations is that the only immutable law of politics is the Law of Unintended Consequences.
The law of unintended consequences, often cited but rarely defined, is that actions of people—and especially of government—always have effects that are unanticipated or "unintended." Economists and other social scientists have heeded its power for centuries; for just as long, politicians and popular opinion have largely ignored it.
If the GPCA were to go down this path, then we need to have some recognition that there are over-riding considerations that must necessarily thwart the will of the majority. De Toqueville suggests that there is always an appeal from the will of majority to the general will of mankind. In the United States, there is a Constitution that is intended to protect the individual and minorities from the will of the majority. In the Green Party, there are a set of values that belong to us all, but we have no mechanisms to decide whether the will of the majority has violated one of those values. Maybe we should.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Plenary Press Release

News Advisory

Tuesday, June 27, 2006
Contact: Sara Amir, spokesperson, 310.270-7106
Pat Driscoll, spokesperson, 916.320-6430
Susan King, spokesperson, 415.823-5524
Cres Vellucci, press secretary, 916.996-9710

Green Party of California delegates at state convention vote to impeach Bush and others for roles in Iraq war, attacks on civil liberties at home

MOORPARK, Ca. (June 27, 2006) – The Green Party of California General Assembly, meeting here over the weekend at its state convention, overwhelming voted to approve a resolution calling for the impeachment of Pres. George W. Bush, and other members of his administration, for "high crimes and misdemeanors."

Green delegates also endorsed their statewide candidate slate for November, headed by gubernatorial candidate Peter Camejo, and approved two new planks – one strengthening support for "Democratic Unionism" and another calling for an end to "agricultural dumping" of U.S. products that weaken agricultural economies of other countries.

The impeachment resolution calls for impeaching and removing from office of Bush, Vice President Richard B. Cheney, Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld and Attorney General Alberto Gonzales.

Most of the reasons cited in the resolution directly involved the war in Iraq, including the "deception" by the Bush Administration employed to start the war, the use of illegal chemical and biological weapons by the U.S., the targeting of civilians with military weapons, the torture of prisoners and violation of international treaties prohibiting those actions.

The resolution also condemns the increasing attacks on civil liberties in the U.S., specifically citing warrantless searches – including recent revelations of NSA spying on citizens, and the use of "indefinite detentions" of U.S. citizens without the right to a speedy and public trial.

The resolution specifically noted that the Bush Administration used "deliberate deceptions (by) repeatedly, consciously, and with forethought, lying to the American people and the U.S. Congress by providing false and deceptive rationales for an unjustified and illegal war in Iraq."

Finally, the GPCA added two more counties to its roster, officially recognizing county delegations from San Benito and Kern counties.

Monday, June 26, 2006


It may have been fitting that the Plenary was in Southern California this time. The feedback that I have heard sounds like a Beach Boys hit: Good Vibrations. That is great news.

One of my county's delegates has reported back that both Kern County and San Benito County were formally approved at this GA. After the tone of the Kern Count discussion, this is also goodness. It is difficult to grow this party in rural areas, so adding two new basically rural counties is goodness. We can look on San Benito County as a signal of things to come. Daniel Weintraub of the Sacramento Bee uses San Benito County "as the bellwether for election results watchers. As San Benito goes, so goes the state. " Maybe it is time for the state to go green.

Other accomplishments were, I have been told, were:

  • the adoption of a new agriculture plank for the platform,
  • ERWG authorized to move forward on trying to get a legislative sponsor for the draft Elections Code Sections.
  • All GPCA nominees for partisan office endorsed by acclamation of the delegates. GPCA budget approved after minor changes.
Is there any additional feedback? Open Comments.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

How Green is the Valley

I have just updated the blog for the Rural Green Caucus with information with a Califronia Connection. It contains a series of reports on the generation of electricity from green manure sources, a major problem with the dairy industry. There are a number of linked reports from both farm operations (Strauss Family Creamery) and the National Dairy Environmental Stewardship Council (yes, there is really an organization with that name.)

Friday, June 23, 2006

Eve of the Plenary

It is the eve of the plenary. I won't be there, but here are a few things that I would like to see happen.

  • Seat the Kern County delegates without a floor fight.
  • Pass the revision to the agriculture plank. It is time for the Green Party to have some view of agriculture other than just don't use pesticides or gmo's.
  • We can find a way to get behind the most electable candidates and concentrate resources on them.
  • Get everyone behind Forrest Hill's plans for electoral reform.
  • Find a way to introduce and approve a goal to have a million registered Greens by November, 2008, and then make it happen. That is 7 new greens for every currently registered one, less than one per month.

Water, water, everywhere Nor any drop to drink.

That oft quoted line from Coleriges's Rime of the Ancient Mariner seems to describe what is going on right now in California's San Joaquin Valley. The problems seem to be too big for local governments to handle and there is a lot of money involved A good starting point for understanding just what is happening is a recent article in the Stockton Record, detailing the background of an 8 million gallon spill of partially treated sewage into the San Joaquin River, a spill that took 10 hours to identify and 3 days before the public was informed.

The key point is that this involves a private company that was given a contract to operate the water system for the City of Stockton. The company, OMI / Thames, is gaining such contracts all over the West, even though it has a long record of sloppy operations and allowing the facilities to run down while they pocket the profits.

You may ask what drove the City of Stockton to privatize the operation of their water system? It was the high cost of trying to purify water that is filled with pesticides, animal feces and other agricultural runoff. Again, turning to the Stockton Record, we find that the Central Valley Water Quality Control Board had given a three (3) year waiver to the farmers of the valley from having to meet Federal Clean Water regulations.

Today, the Record reports that the Board has just given the Farmers a five year extension, even though there was stiff opposition from environmental and fishing groups. No one will stand up to the economic power of agricultural interests in the valley. This is another example where someone tried self policing with no system of accountability. From today's article by environmental reporter, Warren Lutz:
Some experts believe farm runoff is the Central Valley's biggest source of water pollution, as waters seeped in pesticides, animal feces and sediment drain into waterways, the Delta and underground basins.

A 2001 state law made farmers subject to the Clean Water Act. But the board's so-called waiver program lets farmers avoid strict wastewater discharge requirements and monitor their own runoff by joining special coalitions.

Part of the problem is that there is no reporting and no accountability. Farmers could sign up into a coalition, do nothing, and no-one would know.

I am writing about it on a statewide list since +20,000,000 Californians drink the water that comes out the San Joaquin River Delta and pay for the costs of cleaning it up to be potable. It appears to me that every person who drinks water might want to pay attention to what is happening.

Anyone with a green or Green conscience should be looking at what their local water district or municipal water department is doing and making sure that they are not carrying the costs for cleaning up the San Joaquin River water.

A potential good source of information is the Planning and Conservation Leagues publication: Investment Strategy for California Water.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

The Progressive Party

Sometimes, you learn things by doing some linguistic analysis. I basically support everything that Forrest Hill has listed as issues for his campaign. In fact, his redistricting plan for California is brilliant. His newsletters are very much focused on those things that a Secretary of State can and should manage well. However, they are also focused on the positioning of his stance as Progressive, not as being Green. Here is a comparative Count of the use of the words Progressive and Green in the four newsletters that I still have in my inbox.

Green: Newsletter 5 (2), Newsletter 6(0), Newsletter 7(0), Newsletter 8 (1)

Progressive: Newsletter 5 (2), Newsletter 6(2), Newsletter 7(1) Newsletter 8 (0)

Total: 5 uses of the word progressive, 3 uses of the word Green.

It is just as illustrative to see how the words are used:
  • Newsletter 5, talks of progressive politics, and list Progressive Democrats, Independents and Greens as examples.
  • Newsletter 6, talks of Building a Progressive Future, no mention of the Green Party.
  • Newsletter 7, talks of the great progressive struggles, no mention of the Green Party..
  • Newsletter 8, mentions the Green Party to indicate support for Todd Chretien as the Green Party candidate
It might be better that the party were re-named the Progressive Party, as there is nothing that Forrest has produced which tightly associates him with the Green Party or green values. While, as I said, those things that he says that he would do: IRV, sensible redistricting plan, immigrant voting in local elections, proportional representation, make sense, I get no feeling from reading his material that these arise from the values of the Green Party, but rather that the Green Party is a convenient place from which to carry forward his progressive agenda. In other words, I feel that there is nothing in these newsletters that even clearly associates Forrest with the Green Party, that would help attract people to the Green Party among voters who happen to agree with his positions.

Maybe this is just one more sign of a trend toward people not aligning with any party, not believing that a specific party has earned the right to their allegiance. Yet, there is an underlying assumption that Republicans are all evil. "progressive politics has become heavily orientated toward a single short term goal - defeating the Republicans at any cost." That obsession, is what cause such consternation among bloggers like Kos of Daily Kos when the Sierra Club endorsed the candidacy of long time environmental advocate Republican Lincoln Chaffee.

As someone who has no allegiance to the progressive movement, but a strong belief in the key values of the Green Party, I would love to see the candidates of the Green Party convey the sense that they arrived at their positions as an embodiment of Green Party principles but that seems not to be the case

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Post Primary Depression

I was greatly disappointed in the results of the primary election. Partly I think that it was a reaction to the very low turn out. Any effort to try and anticipate what this means for the future will probably fail.

The following comment in an email to helpful volunteers from Helen McCloskey gives you the candidate's sense of what happened.
The real loser in these elections is the sense of commitment to voting among the electorate. Daily, we faced apathy, weariness and a sense of not making a difference among average citizens a mile deep and a mile wide. Truth and challenges to the status quo made few gains into this abyss of the psyche.

If we are to succeed, we need to find a way to return some sense of passion for the future into our message. Maybe I grew up in a time when Lawrence Ferlinghetti was at City Lights writing of the Dog that walked freely in the streets, when college students hung out in coffee houses where Joan Baez and Bob Dylan were the fresh new voices of truth. I even watched Glenn Ford and Sydney Poitier in the first run of Blackboard Jungle. How little has changed.

Somehow, all of our passion these days seems to be more manufactured as part of a smart media campaign. Where the enthusiasm is real, as at the South Central Farms in LA right now, it is a struggle to become a part of the media story when every day they could be featuring some protest somewhere and after all, what does it mean Bush and Rumsfeld can claim we killed Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. That, and the fact that the story sounds like something we have heard before.

So, we have to become more innovative in ways to carry forward our message. I like the idea that David Silva will be making a proposal for innovation in Green agriculture a part of his Assembly Campaign. I like most of what Bill Paparian is doing with his Congressional Campaign, and agree with all of his "No More" points. But I would ask what else he brings to the table other than opposition.

Newt Gingrich arrived on the Reublican Scene at a crucial time. The Democratic Leadership, especially in the House of Representatives, was collapsing under a series of scandals: postal violations by Speaker Rostenkowski, a banking scandal that caught many members of both parties, but mostly Democrats, and a long time, too cosy relationship between Democratic Committees and the lobby industry. He attacked all of that, but along with it, offered a new vision for America. In fact, he called it a Contract with America. Whatever you may think about the intent of that contract, its very truthfulness, it was a powerful tool for Gingrich and his followers. Not only was he pointing out the abuses of those currently in power, he offered an innovative alternative vision of a Great American Future.

I believe that we need a great symbolic alternative to what is going on in American Politics now. We have a Republican Party that has lost it's moral compss and a Democratic Party that has lost its rudder. It is not a wonder that this ship of state is floundering, losing the moral high ground in world opinion.

It is my fervent hope that or candidates find a way to articulate a vision for a future to go along with our exposing of the problems with the present. Give the electorate a real reason to vote FOR us and not just to vote AGAINST the current power. To do only the latter is to motivate us by fear. To do both is to give us hope.

Friday, June 02, 2006

Recruiting Republicans

Over the last 5 months, I have actively supported the campaign of Republican Pete McCloskey for Congress. There are no Greens running in this district (CA-11) and the incumbent Republican, Richard Pombo, is a big, fat target.

Over the last 2 days, the campaign has gotten really ugly, with Pombo campaign telephone calls to Republicans smearing McCloskey for accepting a campaign contribution from a person with an Islamic surname who was linked to an FBI investigation of Al Qaeda. The same person also contributed to the Republican National Committee, but Pombo did not mention that. McCloskey returned the contribution, the Republican National Committee, to my knowledge, has not.

There are a significant number of Republicans in the 11th CD who are fed up with corruption, fed up with a congressman who is viewed as being more for his corporate sponsors than for those who live in his district. I think that this is a group of people who are ripe for a major recruiting effort to bring them into the Green Party. I will be working to get that message into as many local media outlets as I can immediately after the primary results are announced.

As I do this, I also am rather intrigued with Assembly Candidate David Silva's campaign slogan propsal "Tool Up America". David mentioned this on the GrassRoots Organizing WorkingGroup email list.
Tool Up America, now that Greens are in so many races and getting so much attention even befoer the primary let us get clear on what we are asking the voter to support. I think the phrase, "Tool Up" speaks well to the future focus we have for transformation of our economic engine to sustainable energy, elegant technology and participatory management of a new post-industrial economic base.

Tool Up California
, now that it is established by the luke warm, lowest common denominator compromise between Swartznegger and the Dems to actually plan more than just a few years on building infrastructure, it is up to the Greens to make sure that this new spirit of fture focus includes alternative energy, mass transportation and telecommuting organized labor.

That should also play well for attracting those disaffected Republican into the third option. As Thomas Friedman said "Green is the new Red, White and Blue."