Thursday, November 30, 2006

GPCA Focus

Mike Feinstein has joined the blogger world. He has a new blog called A Global Green. It appears that Mike will be publishing stories about Green activity from around the world as well as using the site to promote the Global Greens Conference in Nairobi, Kenya in 2008.

I read the first post from Mike, a news story about the leader of the Green Party of Canada, Elizabeth May. It is good news to see that Greens can become at least the loyal opposition as May finished 2nd among 4 candidates in a partisan special election to fill a vacant seat in the Canadian parliament.

I find it striking that the basis of her relatively successful campaign is so different from the Green Party's focus in the US and especially that in the GPCA.
May was elected Party Leader at a national Green Party convention in late August in Ottawa. Since then, she's been shifting the focus of Canadian political debate around environment and economy.
I no longer find either the economy or the environment as being central to the debate in the GPCA. It is all about electoral reform rather than winning converts to our issues and programs. I wonder if that disconnect is why we are losing registration at a time when the majority of California Voters say that they support the rise of a strong third party. (p. 9 of the linked PPIC Survey Report).
The current favor for Democrats notwithstanding, a long-term challenge looms for the two-party system. Majorities of Californians (53%) and likely voters (56%) believe that the Republican and Democratic parties do such a poor job of representing the American people that a third major party is needed. Independents (72%) are far more likely than Democrats (52%) and Republicans (45%) to believe a third party is needed, but the numbers of voters who hold this view are significant across the board. "“The growing numbers of independent voters may drive this change, but the fact is that many Californians question the relevance of the current system," says Baldassare. (Research Director - Public Policy Institute of California).
If the GPCA wants a model of how to succeed, maybe we only have to look to Canada.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Third Party Thoughts

In late October, just a couple of weeks before the Nov. 7 election, the Public Policy Institute of California produced a report entitled Californians and the Future. This is a typical PPIC survey of attitudes coordinated by PPIC Director Mark Baldassare.

One of the interesting facts that fell out was that there is an increasing desire for a third party.

The current favor for Democrats notwithstanding, a long-term challenge looms for the two-party system. Majorities of Californians (53%) and likely voters (56%) believe that the Republican and Democratic parties do such a poor job of representing the American people that a third major party is needed. Independents (72%) are far more likely than Democrats (52%) and Republicans (45%) to believe a third party is needed, but the numbers of voters who hold this view are significant across the board. “The growing numbers of independent voters may drive this change, but the fact is that many Californians question the relevance of the current system,” says Baldassare.
This should be a rallying cry for us Greens, if we could get past our collective navel gazing and really look around at what is going on in around us.

In the recent efforts to unseat Richard Pomb, the environmental organization Clean Water Action Project managed to register 10,000 new voters in San Joaquin County and very close to 6,000 were Latino. I have been told that most of these registered DTS. Again, that should give us a reason to go to work, since it is the DTS voters who are more in favor of a third party.

If the leadership of the party is not going to act on this, then let them lead from behind.

Green Environmental Issues

I am increasingly of the opinion that the GPCA has lost it's focus on environmental issues. One note that I read on the very small (5 member) GPCA-Environment email list suggests that we need to identify a major environmental issue in California and to start working on that one issue. So, here is my suggestion, personal as it something that I am increasingly passionate about.

I want to see a Green Party of California focus on maintainting / improving the status of the California Delta. In many real ways, the Delta is the Hub of California's future. It is also at the nexus of many environmental practices:
  • increasing population in Southern California creates a bigger demand for diverting water from the delta.
  • if additional water is diverted, it takes away from agricultural use in the Centeral Valley.
  • additional water can be saved if people are willing to build more dams.
  • the reduced water flow from diversions and dams will affect fish populations, especially chinook salmon.
  • reduced water flows will allow more saline water from San Francisco Bay to enter the delta and affect water quality for both agriculture and human consumption.
  • additional pumping of ground water causes delta farmland to sink below sea level.
  • and it is all threatened by the rising sea level that is a result of global climate changes.
However, there are other issues and I am not the only one whose opinion counts. So, I ask you to comment on this post to identify other issues on which we might focus. Or, you can subsrcibe to the GPCA-Environment email list linked above and express your opinion there.

Friday, November 24, 2006

A Green Community

The Green Party of California (GPCA)has multiple online expressions. They reflect the divergent interests and many moods of Greens. If we were all the same shade of Green, there would not a need for such diversity of media expressions.

The most formal expression of GPCA Green-ness is the GPCA web site itself. This is the formal public face of the party. The platform has been provided by the IT Committee. It is stable and performs fairly well.

The GPCA Media Committee is responsible for the "content" that is one the site. That is not entirely true. Ever Committee and Working Group is responsible for their own content. But the overall structure, look and feel, basic information is put ther by the media committee, which is as it should be. Considering that the most visible work product of the Media Committee are the many press releases that go out, the definition of Green Activity to the press, it is only a simple extention to that to say that Media should also be responsible for the rest of the public content, defining Green Party activity to the rest of the world.

There is a second level of online expression that is encapsulated in the many email lists by which various subjects are brought up for discussion, sometimes to the point of open battle, sometimes to the point of boredom, but almost never is anything every brought to any conclusion. People just get tired of one subject and move on to another. However it takes little work to particpate. Emails show up in your inbox, you respond or not, but the material is pushed at you whether you want it or not. However, anyone can start a thread just by sending their own email with a different subject.

Then, there are the blogs. This one has three nominal authors, though only two of us (Oval and myself) have every written any material. Others could become authors by writing a note to me and explaining why they would want to. Unlike the email lists, only a very few people (authors) start a thread, though anyone can contribute. Blogs are also unlike the email lists in that they are a pull media. You need to decide to go to a blog and look at it. Otherwise, you would never know it is there. But, once it is there, it is there forever (or until the owner decides to shut it down.)

Now, on the GPCA owned cal-forum email list, there is a discussion about the development of a Standing General Assembley, an online, democratic, decision making function of the GPCA.

Since that is not so well defined, I suggest using this post as an open thread to collect suggestions about how we build the online community that a Standing GA requires.

Monday, November 20, 2006


As a member of the national Eco-Action Committee I should give California Greena a periodic update. Like the GPCA, the Eco-Action Committee suffers from a lack of direction.

Part of this comes from the very nature of the subject matter. While some issues, Global Warming is a prime example, has a universal scope, many others have very sepcific local or regional concerns that are the focus of attention. In California, one of the major concerns is water and the politics of water. However, switch to New England and water use is still something you drink, not something that you fight over.

Another issue that we have in California involves the relationship of water, climate change and agriculture. If agriculture is the enconomic engine for the Central Valley, we had better pay attention to what is happening. No matter what we do about global warming as a whole, the farmers of California will find that they have an entirely new set of challenges: changing crops, faster growing weeds, new preciptation patterns.

Solutions to these will not be found in pronouncements from minor parties. We need to be working with local coalitions (eg. Restore the Delta) to achieve our environmental objectives. Still, at the same time, we should not be shy about letting people know that we are Greens. To the extent that we contribute to the orgnization's success, then the Green Party will also share in that success and gain credibility as a political organization as well.

And never doubt that these efforts are political.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Endangered Science

In my odyssey toward understanding the real dangers of Pombo's work in the House of Representatives, I came across the writings of Chris Mooney, author of The Republican War on Science.

Mooney seems to be enthused over the prospect of a new Congress without James Inhofe as Chair of the Senate Commimttee on Environment and Public Works (it will be Sen. Boxer) or with Joe Barton as Chair of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce. He neglected to even mention Pombo, maybe because he was ultimately so ineffective.

There are still many issues that remain and powerful interests that are alreay lining up to lobby Democrats in the same manner as the previously lobbied Republicans. Speaker to be Pelosi promised lobby reform in the first 100 hrs of a new Democratic House. We need to watch how powerful she really is and whether she can actually deliver on that promise.

Mooney feels that the scientific issues are fundamentally partisan, that the Democrats are on the side of truth and the Republicans are not.
...the treatment of specific science-related issues--global warming, embryonic stem cell research, etc--will also change. In short, we're going to be in a very different world in terms of the relationship between politics and science in the United States. Some good old checks and balances will be coming into force--thank goodness.

By the way, all of this is proof enough--as if anyone ever needed any--that many core aspects of science policy are fundamentally partisan in the currrent political climate. That's why we expect them to change when Congress changes hands.
This is where I feel Mooney has too much faith in the power of scientific reasoning and too little apprehension about the power of money. The think tanks that fed the Republican agenda all had proper sounding names. The Annapolis Center for Science Based Public Policy was truthfully funded by Exxon-Mobil and the Pharmeceutical Industry. Their agenda had little to do with science, but rather they existed only to turn the term "sound science" into a code word for "scientists do not know everything so trust us."

The problems of land use, water use, agricultural land retention, energy and global warming can not be totally separated. There will be many special interests who will tell us all that there is no "sound science" on which to base any policy decisions. What that means is that we are supposed to deprive ourselves of the best tools available for shaping those decisions and rely on their judgement, not our own.

Greens need to demand that we start using the best science currently available in order to shape policy. Once we do, we have a chance to establish some sort of environmental justice in this country. Until we do, we have no chance.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Whither the Green Party?

Many people are looking for a new direction, believing that the Green Party is losing ground due to the Nader effect. While that effect is real, I only had to mention that I was a Green on Daily Kos to be invited to take a hike, or at least read the FAQ which said that it was a Democratic Blog.

One of the suggestions is that we focus on (a) electoral reform and (b) that we work on "the local, nonpartisan, level to elect people who agree with our values and goals." That is the gist of Orval Osborne's post earlier this week.

After participating in and observing the congressional races in the 4th and 11th Districts in California, I would also say that we need to imrove the manner in which we go about recruiting candidates, defining the issues on which to build a campaign and executing. I don't think that we do well enough at any of these elements of gaining political power to be able to call ourselve a party of the future.

The 4th CD has a 48 - 30 edge in registration, with the Republicans holding a 16 percentage point lead. Yet, in the last election, the results were Doolittle (R) 49%, Brown (D) 46%, Warren (Lib) 5%. While Doolittle is a seriously flawed candidate, the manner in which Brown was able take the battle into Doolittle's front yard was a wonder to see. Both Brown and Warren were able to pickup votes fare beyond their registration numbers (0.69% for the Libertarians.)

So, the opportunity is there for a well run campaing to do far exceed the party base.

Then, in San Joaquin County, the Clean Water Action Project did a great job of registering new voters. They worked form June through to Oct and registered over 10,000 voters, of which >5,900 were Hispanic. The interesting fact, though, is that most of the Hispanics did NOT register Democratic. They Declined to State their preference.

There is a great opportunity to build on that fact in the San Joaquin Valley. The area from Stockton to Bakersfield comprises 6 Congressional Districts and 5 State Senate Districts. The phrase that I have heard from Hispanic leadership in the Stockton area is that they are tired of the Democratic Party taking them for granted.

In the 34th AD, David Silva pulled 2,399 votes in a district with only 755 Greens.
So, I will continue to build up a list of people, issues, contacts and hope that we can take advantage of an opening that is truly there.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

A New Green Revolution, but....

Last year, I finally subscribed to High Country News. One of the first copies that I recieved had an article entitle "The New Green Revolution." This was about farmers in Montana who were dedicated to doing it the right way, with a respect for that land and a desire to ensure the future of the small town where they lived.

One of the ventures was named "Wheat Montana"/.
But vanguard agriculture is about more than just organics. Just ask Dean Folkvord, the 44-year-old CEO of Wheat Montana. He began by taking over his family farm, which his father started in 1958 with 250 acres. Now it’s 15,000 acres. Folkvord doesn’t see expansion as necessarily bad. "That’s the way the rest of the world works right now," he says. Efficiency matters, however: "When we started farming, we were getting 20 bushels per acre. Now we’re at 40, even 50 bushels per acre."

Wheat Montana brands its product with names such as "Bronze Chief Hard Red Spring Wheat." Although it’s not USDA-certified organic, Wheat Montana uses an independent lab to ensure that there are no herbicide or pesticide residues in its products. The company advertises its products as "Better than Organic."

Folkvord has also figured out something else. "One of the myths is that farmers produce food," he says. "That’s not true. They grow the raw products."

I was lucky to find Wheat Montana flour are a store in Gilroy recently. Since we bake our own bread, we tried their "Bronze Chief Whole Wheat" flour. It made great bread and it was worth paying a little more for a quailty product, especially when I knew a bit about the background of the company.

The problem... the only store carrying their product was WalMart.

Oh, well. Maybe I can talk Trader Joe's into carrying it when they open their store in Morgan HIll.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Some questions about the election

To begin, we can all celebrate the election of Gayle McLaughlin in Richmond. This is a city with many problems, but with a core of people who are willing to work for change. When Richmond makes the news, it is most generally for yet another gang related killing. Even when the citizens of Richmond set up a tent village and camped out at nights in a dangerous area, they ended up being less than a football field's length from yet another killing. Gayle has more than a normal mayor's job to do and deserves all the support that she can get, from everyone, all over the state.

Then, when looking at the statewide returns, we have the fact that most down ticket candidates had better success than those at the top of the Ticket, Peter Camejo and Todd Chretien. One possible explanation for this is to declare it pesonal dislike of the candidates. Another is that it is a repudiation of their positioning of the Green Party at the far left of the political spectrum. Camejo is at his best when he talks about specific solutions to specific problems. There, it is his intelligence that comes through. We did not see that often enough in this campaign.

The top vote getter, Insurance Commissioner candidate Larry Cafiero, may be been the beneficiary of the fact that the Democratic candidat, Cruz Bustamante, was very flawed. Having failed to succeed Gray Davis in the recall election, and then again for the office of Insurance Commissioner, Bustamante may need to find a real job, perhaps as a lobbyist.

My biggest disappointment was in the lack of support for Forrest Hill. I still think that his proposals for electoral reform were practical and need to be part of the Green Party goals as we go forward.

The time to start planning for 2008 was yesterday. I know that the supporters of Jerry McNerney have begun to put a grassroots organization in place to help maintain his newly gained CA 11 seat (Bye Bye Dick Pombo.) We need to find the bright spots in what we managed to do and to build on them.

Monday, November 06, 2006

The world does not stop Nov. 7

I have been so buried in CA 11 stuff that I failed to notice the fact that there is an important conference behing held in LA on Wednesday morning. This is the second in a series of converences on Visioning the Delta.

If there is one environmental issue that should consume Californians at this point in our history, this is it. Truly, the Delta is the Hub of California's Future. To have this session on the day after the election may be a way to suppress turnout, as all of the negative advertising is a way to suppress voter turnout. However, if LA Greens are not too hung over on Wed. AM to get downtown by 8:00 (HA!!!) then I hope that someone will attend and report.


If there is a time when Greens need to make sure that we vote, it is now. At a time of declining registration and overall declining voter participation, it is essential to show that we are still here and still mean something.

There were a number of Green candidates this year who are clearly worthy of election. Just to name a few, Bill Paparian and Byron DeLear for Congress. Both have run very good campaigns, a cut above many which I have seen in the past. Forrest Hill is the only one of the candidates for Sec. of State that has a rational, workable plan for solving the many problems associated with voting in California. No matter what happens with his candidacy, we need to continue the work to make sure that these changes happen.

A number of candidates will end up with debts. We need to have a way to help get them paid off quickly. It is not a good example to set for future candidates.

And then we need to begin working for 2008: identifying the key races where Greens can make a difference. Identifying those issues that can help build our presence. I may be a maverick, but I want to quote from a comment posted to my Anti-Pombo diary at dailyKos (yeah, I know... a Democratic blog that does not promote democratic value):

if democrats took the latino vote seriously in the central valley, especially the san joaquin half, and aggressively worked to recruit leaders and activists as well as voters from the community over the long haul (not just the weekend before election day), the central valley could end up looking a lot different politically.

the latino vote could be a real sleeper in this election, if macpherson hasn't already purged them from the rolls. spanish speaking canvassers and phonebankers are gold; if you know the language, please come out this weekend!

I know that Clean Water Action Project burned over $50,000 registering voters in San Joaquin county, mostly in towns with a high percentage of Hispanic voters. I still believe that a heavy focus on local issues and the Hispanic voters, that the Green Party can make major gains in the San Joaquin Valley.

Now, stop reading this and go help GOTV.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Apathy is the greatest enemy.

I want to pass on an OpEd written by Pete McCloskey and distributed electronically. The campaign to get rid of Richard Pombo began in the blogosphere. I started PomboWatch in 2004. That was followed by Then, another site, A Better Congress, and another blog, Say No to Pombo. It is only fitting that his last comments of this campaign end up in the blogosphere.

And if anyone questions why I would quote a Republican on a Green Party oriented blog does not know the man.

Apathy is our Greatest Enemy

The benefit of closely-contested elections cannot be better demonstrated than here in Northern California where we have been recently blessed with the visits and advocacy of not only President Bush, his lovely wife Laura, Vice President Cheney and Speaker of the House Hastert, but also by former President Bill Clinton. But now, as Rudyard Kipling once wrote: "The tumult and the shouting dies. The kings and princes do depart...."

And lest we forget, whether the powerful Richard Pombo and John Doolittle remain in office, and indeed, which party will control the House of Representatives next year, depends on the ordinary citizen who cares enough to vote. But here, unfortunately, apathy reigns supreme. It may be the greatest enemy of the democracy we are privileged to have inherited.

It is regrettable that the combination of gerrymandering, the recent Abramoff bribery, ethics and other scandals, coupled with the conduct of men like Tom DeLay, Robert Ney, Duke Cunningham and Mark Foley, all of whom have resigned in disgrace, seems to have deterred so many voters from participating in our country's greatest legacy, that of the free and secret voting process. Our various voting registrars say that we will be lucky to see a 50% voting turnout next Tuesday, despite the serious issues which face the next Congress. The turnout of our younger generation, those with the most at stake, may be less than 30%

The recent poll showing that less than a third of the people respect what Congress has been doing is not as disappointing as the fact that half of the electorate doesn't seem to care enough to try to change it. Even Iraqis participate more than Americans in the democratic process we have so proudly pioneered and have suggested is the answer to the world, enforced if necessary by the "shock and awe" firepower or other means to achieve regime change in governments we deem inimical to U. S. interests.

In part, I believe voter disinterest stems largely from the gerrymandering which has made most citizens understandably despair that their votes can make a difference. But that does not explain the widespread apathy in the 4th and 11th Districts.

Whatever may be the result of the November 7th elections, let us hope that the citizenry will now rise up and demand the creation of an honorable system of drawing congressional district lines The politicians of both parties have repeatedly demonstrated their unwillingness to do more than reassure their own re-elections. The result has been that of California's 53 congressional districts, in only 3 do voters have a chance to force policy changes in the People's House. It was the Democrats, after all, under the leadership of Nancy Pelosi, that made that unholy bargain back in 2002 to assure the retention of 30 Democrat seats in return for the guarantee of 20 Republican seats. That 2 of those seats, those in the 4th and 11th Districts, are occupied by avid supporters of the Iraq War and Jack Abramoff, and are challenged with vigor by two inexperienced but patriotic commoners, has brought great attention to us throughout the nation, but alas, is still unable to get more than half of our citizens to care enough to vote. Even Presidents and former Presidents have been unable to stimulate the other half to vote. It's sad. We owe more to the fine young men and women risking their lives for us around the world, whether in combat or diplomatic and humanitarian service.

If DeToqueville were to revisit America today, he would probably conclude that Americans deserve what they get in the quality of their political leaders.

Pete McCloskey, Rumsey, California. November 4, 2006

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

I want to call attention to what a European Green activist, Markus Petz, has posted on the Rural Green email list.
If you want to develop red green alliances and fora why not!

The Social Fora that came out of the Port Allegre process - I never heard anything about the American (as in USA)social fora - what are you doing and are they as effective as ours are in europe, asia, africa and latin america? aimed to do just that. If you look at the ESF you can see how successful - or not that has been) in the face of entryism and attempts to push Green things off the agenda.

Similarly you can look around to some actual Green - red parties. Or even as in Russia where the Yabloko has just swallowed up the Greens (relegating Greens to "environment" and thus ignoring economic aspects (like LETS - Local Exchange Trading System), housing reforms (like co-operative housing rather than state owned) or small business policies (such as locally produced and sold food by growers directly as fair trade) to being irrelevant issues to the Green methods and messages.

Of course any union has compromises, but red green ones often sacrifice soem fundamental green principals of localization (english not french sense) and independence to solidarity and mass decsion making on behalf instead of by the peeople.
This should make an interesting discussion given the tendencies of some in the GPCA.

Why the Green Party and our priorities

Looking past this election, a review of why we need to support the Green Party. Plus what our priorities need to be.

1. Modern industrial societies, including America, are facing multiple crises (environmental unsustainability and poverty alongside wealth, etc.)

2. Only the government, not private individuals or corporations, can bring about the needed changes. American government is not responsive to the long-term needs of the majority of the population. The political parties, including the Democratic Party, are hopelessly captured by wealthy corporate and wealthy interests, which prevent the government from taking effective action to solve or even alleviate the crises. The two major Parties are part of the problem, and cannot be changed.

3. Therefore a new political Party, the Green Party, must get control of the government in order to implement solutions to the environmental and social problems. The Green Party is defined by our 10 Key Values.

4. In order for the Green Party to get elected, we need to reform the electoral system. The current rules are set up to maintain the monopoly of the Republicans and Democratic Parties.

5. A. The first electoral change needed is Instant Runoff Voting (IRV) a.k.a. Ranked Choice Voting. IRV is needed whenever there is a single winner. IRV provides a better manifestation of voter intent when there are more than two candidates in a race. In other words, IRV prevents "spoiling" where 2 candidates who share some positions divide the votes, and another candidate who represents viewpoints held by a minority of the electorate thereby gets the most votes and thus is elected under the current rules.
B. The likely path of implementation is for IRV to be approved by Cities and Counties, then by States, and finally for Federal races.

6. Proportional Representation should be used, in whole or in part, for legislative bodies with many members. Example: the German Parliament elects half its members in single-seat districts, and half by proportional representation using the Party Slate. If the Green Party got 10% of the vote, then 10% of the proportional seats would go to Green Party candidates.

7. The goal of our democracy is to reduce or eliminate the influence of money on political decisions.Other reforms to be considered are:
A. campaign financing reform, to restrict the maximum contribution from corporations and the wealthy
B. public campaign financing
C. media reform that educates voters and reduces the need for campaign spending.
D. Citizen Assembly, where legislatures are selected randomly (like a jury pool), whose recommendations are all sent to the voter for confirmation.

8. Once our government has established the above reforms, then the democratic process would implement the goals of the Green Party, primarily by the voters electing candidates of the Green Party. Once Greens start getting elected, other Parties will start agreeing with our policies.

9. The highest priority of the Green Party should be promoting these electoral reforms, by education and by lobbying politicians.

10. The other high priority should be working on the local, nonpartisan, level to elect people who agree with our values and goals. Electing people on the local level will make possible in the future electing people to partisan state and federal offices.

+Orval Osborne