Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Special Election Opportunity: Alex Walker for State Senate

I am more than happy to post that my co-author here, Alex Walker, has tossed his hat into the ring for the Sate Senate Seat (26th SD) vacated by Mark Ridley-Thomas. I want everyone to know that Alex is a wonderful, very Green Black man. He will bring a breath of fresh air to a campaign and a district that has been under a cloud of political smog for far too long.

Check out Alex through his campaign site and/or his facebook group.

More importantly, figure out just where and how you can help elect the first Green State Senator in California's history.

Israel vs. Hamas... Palestine loses

The government of Israel has stated that they are in a battle against Hamas, not against the Palestinian people. They blame Hamas for locating weapons in apartment buildings, mosques and educational buildings so that civilian casualties are inevitable. Unfortunately, Israel is fighting a war it can not win and taking America with them.

Every image on Arab language TV showing Israeli pilots attacking Hamas in Gaza is a reminder to all that the planes came from the United States.

Greens all over the world are condemning the violence of the Israeli government, viewing the reaction of Hamas as justified by years of Israeli oppression and apartheid. It is messier than that and I hope that you click Read more! to follow.

The best policy for America that I have heard comes from a Palestinian Doctor, now on the faculty at UC San Francisco. Dr. Jess Ghannam writes from his experience in Gaza, setting up clinics. In an Op Ed that ran in today's San Francisco Chronicle, Ghannam gave his perceptive suggestion of a new US Policy.
For too long, American support of Israel has come without condition. Billions of our tax dollars have supported a state that betrays American values and engages in policies that harm America's image and interests abroad. Millions of Arabs and Muslims are glued to television sets right now. They are watching scenes of Palestinian men, women and children bathed in blood, aware that American-supplied F-16 fighter jets delivered the bombs. Imagine the difference if, instead, they saw an American leader declare that Palestinians - like Israelis - have the right to live in freedom and security. Imagine if those American planes were delivering much-needed food and medicine to people in Gaza.
We are still remembered for the Berlin Air Lift. As Green Party's Presidential Candidate, Cynthia McKinney is blocked from reaching Gaza to function as an observer, we are reminded again that there is a real need for purposeful action on the part of all.

In all cases, the need is to help the Palestinian people, but not to support Hamas in any way. The charter that founded Hamas shows little regard for anything but the way of Jihad. It calls for the elimination of Israel by force.
Israel will rise and will remain erect until Islam eliminates it as it had eliminated its predecessors.
It makes specific reference to the idea that peace initiatives and cease fires are not worthy of consideration.
Peace] initiatives, the so-called peaceful solutions, and the international conferences to resolve the Palestinian problem, are all contrary to the beliefs of the Islamic Resistance Movement.
This approach is not one that Greens can ever accept. If Israel sees Hamas as an enemy to be destroyed, they are correct. However, this enemy can never be destroyed by military force. You only pull its fangs by removing the obstacle to the fulfillment of the Palestinian dreams, that "Palestinians - like Israelis - have the right to live in freedom and security."

It is currently impossible to separate Hamas from the Palestinian people. The failure to recognize this, the failure to understand the every Palestinian civilian casualty creates 100 new converts for Hamas, is ultimately the great moral failure of Israel, one that the old testament God of Abraham would have punished. The failure of the United States to exert any pressure at all on the Israeli government is ultimately an act of cowardice in the realm of realpolitik. I am glad that Cynthia is there. I hope that she continues to talk on the need for Green Values to be represented by all.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Social Networks Revisited

While reading Matthew H. Kahn's "Green Cities", I have also been following his blog: Environmental and Urban Economics. Last Sunday, he wrote of the Dark Side of Social Networks. The issue: the ease with which Bernie Madoff used his social networks to expand his massive fraud.
Trust crowds out investor effort as households didn't bother to ask the tough questions and do the basic "due diligence" before investing their $.
As we expand our own Green networks through Green Change, Facebook and others, how do we shield ourselves from errors of the same class. I am not sure how I even get into some so-called networks. This past week I had an invitation to be a friend of Susan Eggman @ Reuniun dot com. Now, I know of one Susan Eggman, a city councilwoman from Stockton. She would be interesting to talk to but I fail to see a good reason to join yet another social network environment just for that. The real question is this: how many of the people in your networks do you really trust with the most important aspects of your life?

Thursday, December 25, 2008

The 7th Generation

I had the idea that it would be a good thing for Greens to make an issue over the 7th Generation Amendment. I first learned about it when reading more about Winona LaDuke. You can read her comments on the amendment here. I like the way that she starts.
The preamble to the US Constitution declares that one of its purposes is to secure "the blessings of liberty, to ourselves and our posterity." Shouldn't those blessings include air fit to breathe, water decent enough to drink and land as beautiful for our descendants as it was for our ancestors?
From that basis, she argues for the adoption of a 7th Generation Amendment to the Constitution. Please click Read more! to see what I can glean from that.

From what I can see, the major backers of the 7th Generation amendment were Native Americans. LaDuke was one. The late Walt Bresette also wrote well on this issue. He gave the background but also got the crux of modern legislative practice.
Iroquois Chief Oren Lyons, in an interview with Bill Moyers, said that Benjamin Franklin turned to the Iroquois among others in trying to shape a better form of government. Apparently he listened and included elements of Iroquois governance including the concept of posterity.

Franklin's posterity, found in the Preamble, was the Iroquois concept of providing for the 7th generation. Chief Lyons said that as the Iroquois leaders contemplate policy they must always factor in how today's decision will affect the 7th generation into the future.
It is clear to see that the questions of what would secure the blessings for our posterity do not come into the discussions about cleaning up the air from diesel smoke, or preserving the water in the California Delta. The future generations barely become a concern when talking about global warming even though that is the ultimate challenge for all future generations and most likely the one on which we will all be judged.

This will end up being a series of posts. There is too much to consider: politics, work load, group focus and on and on. Getting to into one single post is difficult. However, like they have written at Treehugger, the current burst bubble economic catastrophe may just be the impetus we need as well as providing the time to get something done.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Peter Camejo Was Right - California "Dysfunctional"

Peter Camejo, California's Great Green Prophet, was right.

The Los Angeles Times solemnly declares that "California government is arguably more dysfunctional now than it was when [Governor Gray] Davis, a Democrat, got the boot. The budget deficit has grown... Partisan gridlock grips the Legislature... as the state plunges into crisis."

It's five, long, bloody, wasted years late, but late, I guess, is better than never.

Peter Miguel Camejo



Click above to hear Peter's summary statement at the 1st Recall Debate on national television, September 3, 2003. Hear the Green Party candidate's prophetic remarks on budgets, fair taxes, universal health care, full equality, and his dream of seeing California "become the world leader in renewable energy"

"Look at this debate today. Do you really want to go back to when there's only two people allowed in them, where you hear the same points of view over and over again? We have a two-hundred year, dysfunctional, money-dominated, winner-take-all system"

-- Peter Camejo, September 3, 2003.

Published in the Los Angeles Times, December 15, 2008
Is California Too Unwieldy to Govern?
By Evan Halper and Michael Rothfeld

...But California government is arguably more dysfunctional now than it was when Davis, a Democrat, got the boot. The budget deficit has grown so huge that a shutdown of government services looms. Partisan gridlock grips the Legislature, and lawmakers bicker as the state plunges into crisis.

"The recall absolutely hasn't helped at all," said Gary Jacobson, a professor of political science at UC San Diego.

The state's latest collision course with insolvency has renewed the question in the Capitol: Has California become ungovernable?

...Others say this nation-state is so oversized, Balkanized and polarized that it is destined for dysfunction no matter who is in charge. They cite its influx of immigrants, its constant tensions over water supply and its large, self-contained regions that bear little resemblance to one another...

...Some of the political leaders who for years have been engaged in efforts -- largely unsuccessful -- to make state government run better fret that the current dysfunction creates a fertile environment for more shortsighted ballot measures...

Commenting on the hoopla over Barack Obama's election, David Sirota wrote that "America's only authentic national religion" is what he has dubbed "Presidentialism:"

the worship of the president as an all-powerful, all-knowing deity who is the only important political actor in our country.

Even now, with California facing a complete breakdown, Democrats and Republicans, and "liberal" and "conservative" intellectuals are obsessed with foreign affairs and Washington gossip. I confess to a sneaking envy for the good people of Illinois. At least the adventures of Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich got people talking about state and local government in Illinois (only because of the connection to Obama).

All politics is local.

Where Were You During the California Crisis of 2001-2003?

I was living and working in San Jose, nearing the end of my twenty-year career as a computer programmer. Peter was the only one speaking "Truth to Power" about both the Internet crash and California's phony electric power crisis, Rolling blackouts; huge bailouts; massive "high tech" corporate fraud. Santa Clara County, s single county with barely a million people, lost 200,000 jobs. "For Sale" signs sprouted like mushrooms among the high-tech campuses. In 2002, Sobrato Development opened a gleaming blue-glass office tower on Almaden Boulevard in downtown San Jose that was unoccupied. It stood there as 17-story monument to the hype and the lies of the Internet bubble-blowers.

The amazing thing was in the One-Party Democratic San Francisco Bay Area nobody who was "somebody" gave a damn. Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren (D-Cisco Systems Corporation) and Anna Eschoo (D-Hewlett-Packard Corporation) with the support of their wholly-owned subsidiaries, i.e., the South Bay Labor Council, happily went about serving the interests of their masters. Big league journalists like Mr. Thomas Friedman of the New York Times, flew in, sat at the feet of the "Great Men" from Stanford University, kissed the rings of the gods such as John Chambers of Cisco Systems, Craig Barrett of Intel, Steve Jobs of Apple, and Carly Fiorina of HP and then filed a gushing story how the rich needed to get richer and the poor needed to get poorer.

Doesn't anybody remember this?

In 2001, California was plunged into an unprecedented energy crisis: rolling blackouts, soaring power bills, and Democratic Governor Gray Davis' panicked administration. Turned out the Golden State was being systematically ripped-off. Documents and audiotapes proved Houston-based Enron Corporation asked power companies to take plants offline - in order to make more money. In one taped phone call, an Enron employee celebrated the fact that a massive forest fire had shut down a transmission line:

ENRON EMPLOYEE 2: Now, the magical word of the day is "Burn, baby, burn."
ENRON EMPLOYEE 1: What's happening?
ENRON EMPLOYEE 2: There's a fire under the core line. This will delay us from 45 to 2,100.
ENRON EMPLOYEE 1: Really. Burn, baby, burn!

Doesn't anybody remember this?

Less than a decade later, with a terrifying spike in oil prices, the energy greedheads and carbon pushers applied the "shock doctrine" to stampede Californians into accepting offshore oil drilling and new drilling in old wells in places like inner-city Los Angeles, even though experts agree this will have no impact on the global marketplace for oil.

Five, long, wasted years Democrats and Republicans piled more debt, fiddled over water, denied the impact of climate change on their car-based development model, raised taxes as "fees," and continued coddling "Big Boys."

ONE-PARTY REPUBLICAN SAN DIEGO was devastated by wildfires in 2003. Developers and their wholly owned "conservative" county supervisors, ignored warnings about development in unincorporated areas. San Diego County had 5 percent fewer fire personnel than comparably populated areas and no county fire department.

In 2007 when wild fires blazed again, there was just one new city fire station. A ballot proposal to boost taxes for fire protection, of course, failed. Meanwhile, Republican "conservative" Mayor Dick Murphy resigned in disgrace and Republican "conservative" Congressman Randy Cunningham pleaded guilty to accepting bribes.

ONE-PARTY DEMOCRATIC LOS ANGELES, where my wife and I live today, has a grossly incompetent government presiding over bad schools, a shuttered King/Drew hospital, cops mishandling evidence, and a "perp parade" of unethical leaders. Plans for solar energy may be just a "greenwashed" boondoggle. In my African-American neighborhood, any criticism of Democrats on any issue is instantly condemned by their "Amen chorus" of intellectuals as a racist attack on "Our Community" in general.

Democrats and Republicans govern badly, but they know how to divide and rule us based on skin color, sex, or whether we live in town or country. Ensconced in gerrymandered one-party districts, they think they can hustle us forever.

There is a "hole", an empty space, where there ought to be an intelligent, grown-up, no-nonsense opposition to big city Democrats. But what are voters like me to do when Republicans are a joke and forty years of Republican "White Backlash" conservatism means everything written and said about African-Americans like me and my Black and Latino neighbors is based on stereotypes. Decades of Republican dominance has left us without even a language for reform. Thus, for example, all talk of "education reform" must genuflect to Republican hatred of public school teachers and the children of "Those People" in public schools with "reformers" absurdly holding up places like "conservative" San Diego as models of "good government."

A plague on both their houses!

Peter Camejo was right.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

The Venus Syndrome:

Dr. James Hansen (N.A.S.A.) gave a major speech at the annual convention of the American Geophysical Union. He changed the title of his talk after the program was complete, and so had to explain that fact. It is now entitled:
Climate Threat to the Planet: Implications for Energy Policy and Intergenerational Justice.

Those who are so inclined may download both the PowerPoint presentation
or as a PDF file. I have much more to say, and will call attention to those sections that really brought me up short. Click Read more! to understand just how dangerous these times are.

I want to talk about a single term from Dr. Hansen's title. Intergenerational Justice is not a phrase that I have heard before, but the implications are self evident to anyone who has read / heard Winona talk about our obligations to the 7th Generation.

For those who have talked about Ecological Wisdom on this list recently: Les, Howard, Linda, this is not new what is new is the following from Dr. Hansen's notes:
I will argue that we have a much sharper knowledge of global climate sensitivity than is usually stated.
Also the Faustian bargain that we have cut for ourselves is nastier than has been recognized.
And I will emphasize some important missing observations.
The scientific method and perspective have relevance that reaches beyond pure science. The urgency of implications for energy policy is not yet adequately recognized by governments, but it must be. The implications for intergenerational equity deserve greater attention.
There is a sense of urgency in what he says now, a tone that was not there before. In fact, the email that he sent out tonight with the links to his material was given the subject: The Venus Syndrome. Venus, the planet where a run-away greenhouse gas effect keep the surface temperature far higher than would allow human life to continue.

As I plowed through Hansen's presentation, I came to this point (Chart 43) where Hansen tells us what he really thinks about our "Faustian bargain."

In my opinion, if we burn all the coal, there is a good chance that we will initiate the runaway greenhouse effect. If we also burn the tar sands and tar shale (a.k.a. oil shale), I think it is a dead certainty.
From that event, there would be no return, no human life.

I stop at this point, not because I want to scare you, but rather because I want to call attention to an interview that Georges Monbiot conducted with Fatih Birol, chief economist of the International Energy Agency. I suggest that you watch the video that the Guardian put together. In this interview, Birol admits that for many years, his agency has been forecasting peak oil based on a rate at which existing oil fields are being depleted. In 2008, for the first time, they actually measured it and the difference was almost double. In other words, we will hit peak oil between 2020 and 2030 no matter what we do. According to Monbiot:
So burn this into your mind: between 2007 and 2008 the IEA radically changed its assessment. Until this year's report, the agency mocked people who said that oil supplies might peak. In the foreword to a book it published in 2005, its executive director, Claude Mandil, dismissed those who warned of this event as "doomsayers". "The IEA has long maintained that none of this is a cause for concern," he wrote. "Hydrocarbon resources around the world are abundant and will easily fuel the world through its transition to a sustainable energy future." In its 2007 World Energy Outlook, the IEA predicted a rate of decline in output from the world's existing oilfields of 3.7% a year. This, it said, presented a short-term challenge, with the possibility of a temporary supply crunch in 2015, but with sufficient investment any shortfall could be covered. But the new report, published last month,
carried a very different message: a projected rate of decline of 6.7%,which means a much greater gap to fill.

The alternatives that Birol was willing to discuss were to tap the Canadian tar sands.
Birol says we need a "global energy revolution" to avoid an oil crunch, including (disastrously for the environment) a massive global drive to exploit unconventional oils, such as the Canadian tar sands.

In other words, he is willing to strike the Faustian bargain that Hansen fears so much. If there were ever a time when we need to change our consciousness, when we need to call out again for a 7th Generation Amendment to our Constitution, that time is now. If not now, there may never be a 7th Generation.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Sam Smith Rediscovers Letter to Thomas Jefferson

Sam Smith has rediscovered a long ignored letter to Thomas Jefferson and re-published it at the Progressive Review today. It is an interesting read and reminds me of so much of the discussions in GPCA circles.

Monday, December 15, 2008

What to make of the DOE nomination?

The nomination of Steven Chu as Energy Secretary became official today. It has been rumored, written about, etc. for weeks. There are several items worth noting.

To begin with, every scientist I know, including one who works in DOE, are elated with Chu's nomination. It will be the first time that a scientist heads the department of government that has the most to do with science. It seems to many to be a final vindication for all that they suffered as they endured the Republican War on Science, as author Chris Mooney called it. Chu was one of the very active Nobel Laureate who supported and worked for a Science Debated 2008 as part of the presidential nomination process. It did not happen, though it should have. Mooney comments at DeSmogBlog.

There is another group of global warming activists, like Joseph Romm of Climate Progress, who are also laudatory, given the fact that Chu has always been very active in research for sollutions to global warming and energy. He gives us 5 reasons he thinks Chu is a great pick.

Yet I find the most vocal members of the EcoAction Committee of the Green Party to be adamantly against Chu for his being actively pro Nuke. Very few are looking at this objectively. Perhaps this post by Mark Flanagan is one. We have to consider that the previous name for the Department of Energy was the Atomic Energy Commission. So, it is worth watching.

It is my opinion that the story has yet to be written about Steven Chu. It would be nice to see a scientist work from the facts of the physical world rather than the political calculus of what is possible as they consider what needs to be done.

I look for Chu to do more work on nuclear storage. That is necessary in any case, especially if we move to decommission weapons. I would be very surprised to see even one new nuclear reactor break ground while he is Secretary. Then I have been wrong many, many times.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Changing the Climate, one state at a time.

I have to thank David Robers at Gristmill for showing me this one. Consider what is happening in Illinois, we have new meaning for Think Globally, Act Locally.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Let America be

My reading patterns are crazy, especially online where I skip, click, open another window until I hit on something that makes me stop a bit longer. Tonight, I hit on this by Langston Hughes, from which I only quote a bit. When I think of the political crap coming from Illinois this week, and New Orleans for a long time until this week, when I consider how everything is only so much spin and hype, I find it hard to be as optimistic as Hughes. But if he can be, the so must I.

O, let America be America again--
The land that never has been yet--
And yet must be--the land where every man is free.
The land that's mine--the poor man's, Indian's, Negro's, ME--
Who made America,
Whose sweat and blood, whose faith and pain,
Whose hand at the foundry, whose plow in the rain,
Must bring back our mighty dream again.

Sure, call me any ugly name you choose--
The steel of freedom does not stain.
From those who live like leeches on the people's lives,
We must take back our land again,

O, yes,
I say it plain,
America never was America to me,
And yet I swear this oath--
America will be!

Out of the rack and ruin of our gangster death,
The rape and rot of graft, and stealth, and lies,
We, the people, must redeem
The land, the mines, the plants, the rivers.
The mountains and the endless plain--
All, all the stretch of these great green states--
And make America again!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

What the Green Party needs is a Community Organizer

Reuben Navarette's OpEd in today's San Francisco Chronicle considers that there is a greater connection between Barack Obama's campaign for president and Caesar Chavez than most realize... including Navarette himself, it appears. For some it seems only to have translated Si, se puede! into Yes we can.

Today, I received a post election analysis of the Malik Rahim campaign for Louisiana's 2nd Congressional District. It was put sent by Robert Caldwell, Rahim's campaign manager and it underscores with hard numbers, precinct by precinct, the fact that there is nothing more effective than face to face community organizing, a particular style of involvement in issues and enlisting of everyone into taking responsibility for changing the status quo, confident that together, Yes, we can.

If there is a political model for Greens it is this. We do not accept corporate donations. We have almost no money. All we have are a comparatively few people and the best set of values of any US political party. When Bill Moyers told students that "The only answer to organized money is organize people" I felt he was talking to us.

We are all in this together

I am one of those Greens who believes that everything positive emanates from an ecological view of the universe. In simple terms, we can not achieve economic justice, social justice, world peace or any other positive goal unless we begin with the understanding that everything is connected in so many ways that to diminish one is to diminish all.

In some recent reading, I find that I am in good company. Click Read more! for a few well chosen examples.

Czeslaw Milosz won a Nobel Prize in Literature. The fist of his book that I read was The Captive Mind. Like Akshay Ahuja's personal commentary on this, I pick and choose. What I choose is maybe a minor point for Milosz.
Once he science of nature taught that a forest was a collective of trees governed by a few elementary laws. It seemed that if one cut out the forest and replanted it, after a definite period of years a new forest, exactly like the old, would appear. Today we know this is not so; a forest is an organism arising out of complicated interactions of mosses, soil, fungi, trees and grasses. The moment these mosses and fungi are destroyed by the cutting out of the forest, the symbiotic pattern is disturbed and the new forest is a completely different organism from what we might be expected by someone who ignored the sociology of plants.
This, from a book published in 1953. Milosz's intent was to criticize the stultifying effects of Stalinist Communism on the intelligentsia of Europe Europe. However, the view of what was considered to be "known" at that time has still not become a matter of political policy; not in the new states of Eastern Europe and surely not in the United States of the 21st Century.

The clearest, most recent commentary on our current situation came from Paul Nurse, Michael Novacek and Edward O. Wilson on the Charlie Rose Show Monday Night, Dec. 8, 2008. Novacek, Sr. Vice-president of the American Museum of Natural History states the situation clearly.
So, one of the keys there is to say that these problems on the environment are not really separate from many of these others, that there is a huge relationship, as Paul just explained, between biodiversity and the sustainability of ecosystems and biodiversity and our economic potentials, and our potentials in health, which is very high on the radar screen in terms of the problem.
Rose brought forward another aspect of the problem that faces us all.
One of the things I worry about with the economic crisis is that because it is so severe and so urgent and so pervasive, it’s pushing lots of things off the table right now.
I think all of these big named scientists missed the opportunity to state what is so obvious, at least to me. We need to change the manner in which we evaluate potential solutions to our problems. If we solve the economic problems today by killing off a few million species, then we are all made less than we should be. It is not so much the choice of goals but the methods we use to reach those goals that needs to change.

It appears that not much of what Milosz said that we knew in 1953 has really been connected to what we do, even after 55 years and several generations.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

What price a Senator?

Yesterday, Illinois Governor Blagojevich made news as he took advantage of the confrontation at Republic Window and Doors to chastise Bank of America for not doing the correct thing and providing additional money to a failing company so that they could pay their workers severance pay and vacation time pay that was owed.

Today, he makes news because he was trying to sell the Senate seat vacated by President Elect Obama. No matter what you think of Obama and his policies, I can not think of anything that does more to dishonor the rhetoric of Obama. Now, no matter who fill that seat, it will forever be tainted with ethical questions. Nothing less than a special non-partisan election with no party funding will be able to honestly select a new Senator from Illinois.

Ranked Choice Voting Evaluated

In today's San Francisco Chronicle, Steven Hill provides a review of the use of Ranked Choice Voting in the City of San Franicisco. According to Hill, it has been positively great.
We now have had five elections since 2004 using ranked-choice voting to elect the mayor, Board of Supervisors and other offices, providing some basis for assessing its impact. One significant difference between ranked choice and the old December runoff has been a dramatic increase in voter turnout. By finishing the election in November when voter turnout tends to be highest (because voters are showing up to vote for president or governor), a lot more San Franciscans are having a say in who represents them on the Board of Supervisors.

I find it interesting that the one election in San Francisco where the winner was actually determined by 2nd place votes, ended up electing Ed Jew who has since been booted from the Board of Supervisors for charges ranging from lying about his residence to run for a specific seat to soliciting a bribe. It was an example of identity politics (Jew is Chinese) rather than considered opinion.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Do you like fresh air and cool weather?

California has passed and Governor Schwarzenegger has signed a bill knows as AB-32. That was in 2006. Since then, it has become the shining star of climate related legislation even though nothing has yet to be implemented. However, it did help move Fran Pavley from the Assembly, where she was the author of the bill, to the State Senate where she has been named to Chair the Committee on Resources.

So, where are we in the implementation cycle, or what has California accomplished in 2 years? Click Read more! to find out.

To begin with, AB 32 mandated that the Air Resources Board start by putting together a Scoping Plan. This was to be an attempt to tell us all just how things would work and what it would finally cost. That plan is in the final review process. The 2nd and last public hearing on AB 32 will be held on Dec. 11 in Sacramento.

I have two serious concerns. The first is the simple fact that carbon trading schemes will not work, no matter how good the intentions or the goals might be. Schwarzenegger's pick to implement the cap and trade program, Mary Nichols, did similar work when an Assistant Administrator in the Clinton Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Not only did that fail, she neglected compliance issues at the same time as all attention was focused on the pollution credit scheme.

This post at Climate Progress make the point very effectively.
Q: What is the difference between carbon offsets and mortgage-backed securites?

A: Lipstick.

Carbon offsets and mortgage-backed securities are quite similar in that is impossible for the vast majority of people, even experts, to know what value they have, if any.

Similarly, Cap and Trade mechanisms in the Kyoto Protocol have not worked. It is too easy for major multi-international corporations to circumvent them and at least one organization that is supposed to police compliance has been booted from the job.

Then, in her effort to sell the plan, Nichols has done what they all do; exaggerate the benefits and ignore the rest. Before anyone takes this all seriously, they should read the peer review comments on the economic modeling that the Air Resources Board did to back up their pet project. Even those who are sympathetic to the goals of AB 32 has a hard time believing the case being presented. UCLA Economist Matthew Kahn is one.
In this review, I will highlight why I believe the current modeling exercise underestimates the cost of meeting
AB32’s goals. I will present a research methodology for cheaply collecting the necessary data to test whether the optimistic numbers reported in Table I-2 of
http://www.arb.ca.gov/cc/scopingplan/document/economic_appendix1.pdf could be accurate
estimates of the expected net costs of this regulation.

The first public meeting on the AB 32 scoping plan turned in to a bit of a circus. I would hope that this is a repeat, and that they repeat until someone gets it right. I doubt that Nichols is the one to do it.

Can Democrats vote their conscience

Today is the day we find out whether Democrats can vote their conscience, or if typical urban Democratic machine politics still trumps everything else. In Louisiana's 2nd Congressional District, indicted Congressman William Jefferson is running against a list of opponents who all talk about the history of corruption that has been the hallmark of Jefferson's reign. The fact that Jefferson has yet to come to trial is due to the constant stalling tactics used by his defense team, the latest over whether Brett Pfeffer, a one-time aide of Jefferson's and confessed participant in the bribery scandal, would be barred from testifying against he former boss on Constitutional Reasons.

I fully expect Jefferson to be re-elected even though Green Malik Rahim is clearly the one candidate who brings a history of community involvement, a progressive agenda and, most importantly, honesty to the voters of the 2nd District. If we wake up tomorrow and find that Jefferson has won, then the battle for clean government switches to California where we must pressure Speaker Pelosi to do the right thing and refuse to seat Jefferson, taking away all of his power to influence anything and thus his ability to continue his money hungry ways.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

The Banks of America

A lot of those I know are really upset that big banks are getting bailout because they are thought to be too big to fail or some such poppycock. However, the economic power of banks can also be used to do good, especially when they are convinced that there is a downside to doing otherwise.

Click Read more! and I'll give you a great example.

I was a strong supporter of Jesse Johnson as he ran for Governor of West Virginia. As far as I was concerned, this was the best shot to take political action against the mining political complex that dominates West Virginia, its politics, its economy, its life.

Of course, the best best way to influence an economic decision is to cut off funding, and that is beginning to happen. Thanks to Los Angeles Green, Lisa Taylor, I learned about the new "Coal Policy" at Bank of America.

From my role with the EcoAction Committee, GP US, I have pushed to take on coal on two fronts. First as a major contributor to greenhouse gas buildup in the atmosphere which we all know is a major contributor to global warming. The second is the fact that big coal companies in Appalacia have taken strip mining to entirely new levels. Now, they take the tops off mountains and fill in the surrounding valley's and streams, creating a new wasteland.

The first step may be to cut of devlopment funding and that is exactly what B of A is doing.
Bank of America is particularly concerned about surface mining conducted through mountain top removal in locations such as central Appalachia. We therefore will phase out financing of companies whose predominant method of extracting coal is through mountain top removal. While we acknowledge that surface mining is economically efficient and creates jobs, it can be conducted in a way that minimizes environmental impacts in certain geographies.
What ever you think about banks and bailouts, sometimes they do do the right thing. George Bailey would approve.

Now, however, we need to make sure that B of A is not the only one. Every bank needs to be pressured to follow their lead. If you have an account at a major bank, threaten to transfer it to B of A. In these times, no bank wants to lose a client.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

How Green are Biofuels?

The US Deptatrment of Energy (DOE) has opened a new research center in Emeryville, CA. It was lauded this week in the San Francisco Chronicle are representing the coming together of the economic and scientific realms to meet future energy needs. Of course, this was in an OpEd written by the Secretary of DOE, Samuel W. Bodman.

However, there are concerns for Greens that I will discuss if you click Read more!.

There are two concerns with the search for an energy solution through bio-fuels.
  1. BioFuels, while renewable to a certain extent, are still fuels that will contribute green house gasses (ghg's) to the atmosphere. The argument is that this will only be equal to the amount of CO2 that they take from the atmosphere while growing, a steady state equation.
  2. Plants produce sugars and other carbohydrates. Some are very efficient in doing this. Others may produce sugars or starches of various chemical formulas that may not be efficiently converted to fuels. One goal of this new center is to engineer plants that are both efficient in growing and which produce chemicals that are efficient in the production cycle. That is accomplished by modifying the genetics of the plants, in effect designing plants that are themselves one step in bio-fuel product.
Greens have a nearly universal antipathy toward GMO's of any kind. Is this an area were we should make an exception?

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

The path to oblivion

California is facing more crises than most of us can comprehend. The list includes an out of control State budget, a failed water policy, a near the bottom of the class educational system, health care costs that deny care to an increasing number of citizens, a total lack of appreciation for the effect of climate change and an unswerving faith in magical cures.

In the middle of crisis there is always opportunity. Yet the Green Party of California is nearly silent on most of these issues. It is no wonder that most citizens no longer see the Green Party as having a role to play in the future of this state as Green Party registrations are tanking worse than the Golden State Warriors in the 4th quarter. This must be turned around for us to continue. I have a few suggestions if you care to Read more!.

In the midst of all of these crises, the Green Party of California has turned inward rather than outward, regurgitating the past rather than advocating for a better future. On no issue is this more clear than regarding the budget making farce that plays daily at the Sacramento Theater.

Yesterday (Dec. 1) the San Francisco Chronicle wrote about the fact that the New California Legislature faces an old mess.
There is no escaping the grim math. The solution must involve a matter of addition (raising revenues) and subtraction (cutting spending). But the immediate challenge for legislators is to overcome the allegiances - to ideologies and to special interests - that prevent them from acting decisively on a crisis that is growing larger with each day of neglect.

If this is the most significant issue for California, you would never know it from the discussion on the GPCA email lists. It is as if it is unseemly for a Green to talk about the green, to actually discuss how we can solve the short run fact that the government of California is running out of cash, looking around for ways to borrow money that our children will pay back.

It is not as if we are out of people with experience. There are Green Party mayors and ex-city council members who fully understand the effects that our system of financing government is having on all level... but especially on local government who frequently see their revenues cut in order to satisfy State Government needs.

If we continue our silence on the issues of crisis, we will have missed the opportunities that they bring. We need an ad-hoc committee of current and ex-members of government to draft a position for the party and carry it to the public. Would it not be great if there were actually Greens in the Assembly who could provide a balance point between the ideologues whose political battles have paralyzed all action in Sacramento.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Water is not important until you are thirsty.

It's been a long time since I posted much about water issues, so this is a reminder that the problems are real, that Mark Twain was right and that we are all being sold a bill of goods starting with Senator Feinstein, flowing through the Delta and ending up in the San Diego like Delta Water.

Click Read more! to get the meat of this.

Some disjointed bits of information which I hope to bring together by the end of this piece.

Fresh Water: Where does it come from?
The availability of fresh water is one of the most important needs of all humans. Much of the fresh water in the world is tied up in ice, either at the North and South Poles, in the Greenland ice sheet or in glaciers. Six of the largest rivers flowing through the most populous countries on earth are fed by glaciers in the Himalayas. These are the Indus, Ghanges (India), Brahmaputra (Banghladesh), Mekong (Cambodia, Vietnam), Yellow and Yangtze (China). Hundreds of millions of people are dependent on these rivers and, during summer, on the glaciers that feed them.

The problem is that these glaciers are melting. In fact, the rate is fast enough that the changes can be observed from space. The dust layers that marked the US and Soviet atomic tests from the 1950's and 1960's are gone.

The potential dislocation of so many people due to a lack of water is a crisis that Obama did not even mention today. For India, the events in Mumbai, as horrific as they were, pale in comparison. Things that happen on climatic time scales do not make good news.

California's Delta is about more than fish.
In California, we are also facing a crisis due to local weather and the potential of a worse crisis due to global warming. I have written a lot about the problems of the California Delta. One reason that I don't cover this more is that the AquaMaven does such a great job at Aquafornia. In fact, I have this as an RSS feed so that I get so see it every day. The reason I said that we are being sold a bill of goods can be seen in this recent post on the status of the Delta. It is from the Stockton Record.
It’s a classic case of too many cooks in the kitchen. More than 200 agencies have some say on what happens in the vast Delta, and the product of their labors doesn’t seem to satisfy anyone, as fish die and the water supply shrinks.

So, what can an individual do other than shower with a friend or let the lawn turn brown. I pay attention to the weather reports. I live where I can see the area's largest reservoir from my family room window. It is below normal levels for this time of year. The Sacramento Bee reported today that we would have normal rainfall this year. Even that may not be enough to restore the reservoir from it's current condition.

While Governor Schwarzenegger has made a lot out of his Delta Vision Task Force, all of those involved knew that the only solution he would accept was a new "conveyance" through or "canal" around the Delta so that more water was made available for Central Valley Agriculture and Southern California suburban lawns.

One organization has managed to pull agricultural interests, some regional developer interests, environmentalist and sportsmen into a coalition for common sense. That is Restore the Delta. Today, they published a set of principles and a platform for 2009. I fully support this approach and reproduce the platform here as it is not yet online at their web site.
Restore the Delta's 2009 Platform

Over the last six months, Restore the Delta staff, board members, and advisors have worked to create a campaign platform that expresses our vision for restoration of the Delta. Below are the principles of this work. The campaign platform will be used as a tool to make our vision known to legislators and for organizing volunteers throughout the year.
To create in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta a world-class region in which productive agriculture and habitat protection are successfully interwoven, Restore the Delta advocates the following principles:

Restore the flow of fresh water by immediately reducing exports to a level compatible with protecting Delta communities. All proposals for long-term Delta management must be based on a firm understanding of Delta freshwater needs and must include strong protection of sufficient flows of water necessary for public health, agriculture, and habitat for native and desirable species. We advocate restoring enough Delta outflow pattern to return the mixing zone of salt water and fresh water to the western part of the Delta near Suisun Bay. We also advocate restoring freshwater flows to the San Joaquin River by retiring drainage-impaired lands loaded with selenium and salt in the Central Valley. Appropriate and sustainable water export reductions must be made before any proposals for alternative export conveyance or diversion are considered.

Protect the Delta from unrealistic water planning strategies and uses. The Delta is a common resource that should provide the same quality freshwater supply to all Delta users. The State Water Project will never develop all the water supplies outside the Delta on which the export program was based. We call on the State to recognize natural limitations on water supply and to enforce Water Code provisions that restrict exports to water not needed in the Delta itself.

Restore proper governance of the Delta.
The State Water Resources Control Board must be empowered to enforce existing water codes regarding water quality and quantity. A fully-funded SWRCB enforcement staff must operate independently of board members charged with creating regulations and water rights decisions.

Adopt flexible strategies for managing water and habitat.
All Delta planning must address increased flood risks, sea level rises, and peak river inflows that are likely to result from climate change as well as address possible seismic events. These plans must allow for incremental responses to ecosystem changes. Any isolated facility for moving water through the Delta is inherently inflexible, and we reject it. We advocate managing the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta as a primarily freshwater estuary. Proposals for facilities such as fish protection diverters, set-back levees, gates, and barriers should be evaluated with a view to the core principles of protecting the flow of fresh water and fisheries while maintaining flexibility of the whole system.

Respect the experience and expertise of Delta landowners.
We advocate creation of a conservancy that will ensure local control of the Delta, prevent forced access to private land, protect the continuity of the Delta, mediate purchases of agricultural land, identify restoration projects and enhance existing public access, and provide funding for levee maintenance. We urge support for Delta landowners who maintain levees for the benefit of the Delta, adjacent communities, and regional infrastructure.

Encourage regional self-sufficiency. We encourage statewide conservation, recycling, reuse, and regional self-sufficiency to generate up to 7 million acre feet annually in areas of need outside the Delta, using as a model measures instituted by the San Francisco Bay Area and Southern California urban agencies such as the Metropolitan Water District. We advocate replacing reduced exports and addressing potential flooding with flood plain recapture, ground water replenishment, and demand management initiatives, and we advocate use of recycled urban and agricultural water, ground water desalination, water use efficiency, and urban run-off management.

Ensure emergency readiness to protect the people, property, and infrastructure of the Delta and to provide for a healthy ecosystem.
In consultation with Delta experts, the State must immediately prepare and fully fund a comprehensive flood plan and emergency readiness plan.
The attitude of the San Diego Tribune stands in sharp contrast to the practical goals of Restore the Delta. It is much more of a gimme what want cause I gotta grow approach and places the growth over any ecological concern. Their November 26th editorial is headlined Give 'em the hook and they are not talking about fish. It goes on the verbal attack immediately.
Environmental activists continue to deny Californians more water in the name of saving fish.
How dare they deny us our right to use as much water as we want? Such a difference from Restore the Delta. Their timing was impeccable as another lawsuit was filed Monday, Dec. 1.
Calling it “the biggest lawsuit about the biggest ecological and legal catastrophe in California today,” the California Water Impact Network (C-WIN) and the California Sportfishing Protection Alliance (CSPA) filed suit in Sacramento Superior Court Friday, November 28, 2008, to protect Delta public trust resources—including endangered migratory fisheries of salmon and open water fish species—and to end wasteful and unreasonable diversions of water from the Delta by big state and federal water projects.

The suit also asks the court to halt irrigation of several hundred thousand acres of selenium contaminated lands on the west side of the San Joaquin Valley, the drainage from which pollutes
wetlands, the San Joaquin River, and the Delta.

Lastly, there are two conferences on Water taking place in San Francisco this week. In one, Corporate Users will learn how to manage towards sustainability. In the other, concerned groups will talk about the privatization of water and how that could deny water rights to individuals in the name of corporate earnings. If you think about the melting glaciers, it is not unusual that one of the organizations protesting privatization has connections to India.

We have already seen examples of failed water privatization in California, especially in Stockton where the city tried to outsource its water department to a private firm.

Clean coal is a dirty lie, or at least it was.

You gotta go over to Goat Blog run by High Country News to see what is happening to clean coal. They do a great analysis of a recent GE ad that is not to be missed. Sexiest ad I've seen since Chanel 5 showed us Nicole Kidmann's back. Well, maybe it is just dirty, sexy money... for GE.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Green Recovery

This is a little late form most. I just found out that there will be a live webcast from the Center for American Progress on the subject of Green Recovery tomorrow. It will run from 12:00 to 1:30 EST.

I mention this because the Center for American Progress has a very strong relationship to the Obama Administration. Many of the key figures (e.g. Podesta, Daschle) come from there and other are widely scattered throughout the second tier of both the transition team and incoming White House Staff.

Thus, when they get down to talking about the Green Economy, we probably ought to listen.
At a time of fiscal belt tightening, when some would put environmental priorities on the back burner, there are many who believe that investing in a green economy now is the best way to achieve both short and long term economic solutions. A recent paper by the Center for American Progress and the University of Massachusetts Political Economy Research Institute, "Green Recovery: A Program to Create Good Jobs and Start Building a Low Carbon Economy," finds that to promote economic mobility, growth, job creation, and regain technological leadership in the global innovation marketplace, we must fundamentally change how we produce and consume energy in this country and transform our economy to a low-carbon model. Investing in clean energy and efficiency will enable the United States to regain technological leadership in the global innovation marketplace, grow our economy, reduce global warming emissions, and invest in national security.
Introduction by:
Joseph Romm, Senior Fellow, Center for American Progress

Featured Speakers:
Governor Ed Rendell (D - PA)
Thomas Friedman, columnist, New York Times; author, Hot, Flat, and Crowded: Why We Need a Green Revolution -- and How It Can Renew America
Carol Browner, Principal, The Albright Group LLC

Moderated by:
Bracken Hendricks, Senior Fellow, Center for American Progress


Saturday, November 29, 2008

We may have taken a few steps

but we are not there yet. I hope that no one thinks the election of Barack Obama means that we have finally put race behind us in America. We are a long way from that goal. Click Read more! to see just how far we have to go.

A friend from a small town east of Denver told me this story.
A sixth grader told the art teacher that all the economic woes were Obama's fault. When the teacher pointed out to the eleven year old wheat farmer's son that it would be two months before Obama would be president, the kid replied "oh good then there is still time to shoot him."

That is just one more example of the casual racism that still inhabits so many minds and inhibits us from being what we could be. A writer at High Country News told his own story of the Persistence of Bigotry in America. This was from a rural community on the other side of Colorado. Paolo Bacigalupi writes about breakfast at a diner shortly after the election.
She turned to the other waitress, a soft woman with an apple-pie demeanor.

"What was that one about the Rose Garden?"

The other waitress came over, warm and motherly. "Why are they tearing up the Rose Garden at the White House?" she asked, smiling. A beat, and then, "Because they're putting in a watermelon patch."

"Wow, I guess that's sort of funny."

"You get it if you're from the South," she said.

"We've heard the stereotype," my friend scowled, but I didn't want him to cut short our little anthropological spelunking into casual racism just yet.

Reminder: Colorado voted FOR Obama. 54 to 46. At least San Miguel County, where Green Art Goodtimes in a County Commissioner proved to be more liberal than most.

The best thing for America would be for Obama to prove to be a damned good president. It won't be good for Greens, though, since he will have to act on many of our key issues to accomplish that. Then what will we do?

Secretary of Food

I have, on occasion, made reference to Michael Pollan and his ideas about food. My earth day comments included a reference to Pollan's statement that you can do more to combat global warming by planting a garden than by installing CFL's. More recently, I referred to his recent letter to President-elect Obama that was published in the NY Times Magazine.

Last night, I watched Bill Moyers Journal as Moyers asked Pollan what he would do were he to become the Secretary of Agriculture in the Obama administration. Click Read more! to get my take.

I rarely get the opportunity to get ahead of Moyers. Maybe this time I was successful because he was on vacation. My Green Talk column in the very local Morgan Hill Times this week got at the same issue, though not as directly.
Still, I am of the opinion that possibly the single most important appointment the new president will make is to the position of Secretary of Agriculture. We have gone through an era in which the family farm has disappeared, in which factory farms and multinational corporations like ADM dominate not only the market but also the politics of agriculture.

There are two issues here. One is the fact that, as Pollan told Moyers that
...you have to understand that that department of the government, the $90 billion a year behemoth is captive of agri-business. It is owned by agri-business. They're in the room making policy there.
I agree with Pollan that making change in Agriculture has to go through Nancy Pelosi. We not only need to watch Obama's choice for Sec. of Agriculture, we need to pay attention to Pelosi's appointment to the Chairmanship of the House Committee on Agriculture. In the past, that committee has been loaded with Representatives from the mid-western farm states and California's Centeral Valley. They represent farm interests meaning ADM, Cargill and Blue Diamond Walnuts. (Yes. it get's that specific.) No one on that committee makes a habit of representing consumers for any other issue than driving down the prices of food and driving the family farms out of business.

There are a couple of actions that we can take. The easy one is to go sign a petition to Obama to name Pollan Secretary of Agriculture. As he told Moyers, he won't take it but getting some names on the petition is one way to make a statement without having to really do anything else.

More to the point, we need to create pressure on Pelosi in every way that we can. That means writing letters / OpEds to the San Francisco Chronicle, Challenging Michael Krasny to put Pollan on KQED's FORUM program again and then following up with call-ins and email questions. As I said at the end of my MH Times Column...
Even in my own Green Party it is not easy to get people to think of agriculture in this way. It challenges many deeply held, but false beliefs in how the real systems work. I am working to change that, in my community, in my party, in the whole country. Join me.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Black Agenda Report supports Rahim

Maybe I should wait for Alex Walker to comment on this, but having gotten a news alert on the subject, I decided that this can not wait. In an editorial published yesterday in the Black Agenda Report, Managing Editor Bruce Dixon calls on people from all over to support Malik Rahim.

There are many things to be thankful for this season. One of them is that fact that there appears to be a crack developing in the automatic assumption that all who consider themselves to be black, or African America... the choice of phrase is theirs, not mine.... will vote Democratic. That assumption, putting identity politics at the top of election criteria, has led to the continued re-election of some very bad people. William Jefferson goes to the top of this list.

In the opening paragraph, Dixon lays out the basic question for us, will online support deliver the :
The December 6 New Orleans congressional election isn't just a local choice between a privatizing "minority" Republican, a notoriously corrupt Democrat and a caring, competent community organizer running on the Green Party ticket. In these times when anyone, anywhere can contribute to the efforts of real progressives with the click of a mouse, or volunteer to reach undecided voters, the days leading to this election are a test of whether there exists even the shadow of a national movement mature enough to hold any black Democrats the least bit accountable to the needs of his constituents

As is often the case, the Republican and the Democrat represent more of the same. But this time there's another choice. Emphasis is mine.
From that challenging introduction, Dixon goes on to develop the stark contrast between Jefferson and Rahim, focusing on their very different reactions to the plight of New Orleans following hurricane Katrina.

I noted one Green's name in the comments after this editorial, so I know that the word is getting out. There is not much time to do more... December 6 is not far off. Contributions will always be accepted and there is a real need for people to participate in phone banking, which you can do from the comfort of your home. It will do more to make you feel good than a second helping Thanksgiving dessert.

Monday, November 24, 2008

How smart is your grid?

UCLA economic professor Matthew Kahn has a blog devoted to Urban and Environmental Economics. According to today's post (linked above) IBM has been taking out full page ads in the NY Times, lobbying for a "Smart Energy Grid". This is not new from IBM. The company set up a coalition with Center Point Energy to digitize electrical grids.

I note that the idea of a smart grid has come out of the mouth of Obama on more than one occasion as a prerequisite for the deployment of wind and solar system.

Matthew Kahn is professor of economics at UCLA’s Institute of the Environment and a research associate for the National Bureau of Economic Research’s Environmental and Energy Economics Group. He’s author of Green Cities: Urban Growth and the Environment.

Kahn says that he will be on NPR tomorrow(Nov. 24th). The show is On Point and the subject is Obama and the Green Economy. Unfortunately it will not be carried from KQED or other local public stations. So, I will have to download it later if I want to listen, and I do.

Friday, November 21, 2008

How much change can we handle?

In my most recent posts, I have focused on the fact that the Democratic Party seems hell bent on returning William Jefferson to Congress from the 2nd Congressional District in Louisiana. This at a time when these same Democrats are cheering over their defeat of Alaskan Senator Ted Stevens. Both Jefferson and Stevens suffer from the same malady, they are apparently crooks. The only difference is that Stevens has been convicted and Jefferson still awaits trial, even though one of his aides has confessed, been sentenced and has agreed to testify against Jefferson.

This indicates that a lot of change is still required from both parties. There is one broad where the scope of the changes that this nations required so vast, the special interests so entrenched that you would question whether anything will change at all. I am talking about the conjoined problems of climate change, energy and the environment. Follow me to Read more!

Bill Becker, writing today at Climate Progress, makes the following assertion.
America’s de facto energy policy is a hodgepodge of self-defeating laws, programs and subsidies. Congress must make a critical decision: We either have to phase out fossil fuels or abandon any pretense that we care about climate change, despite its profound implications for public health, national security, peace and economic stability.
That hodgepodge has been crafted based on the inputs from all of those special interests that bring so much weight to bear on Congress, who can send armies of experts to testify at hearings and whose bottom line interest is just that, the bottom line.

Becker goes on to outline a basic action plan for the Obama Administration. As the head of the Presidential Climate Action Project, he has been responsible for the development of a series of policy statements that truly call for significant change.

What I fear is that we have a group of policy wonks who are buried in think tanks talking to themselves and nodding in agreement over the good things that they do. At the same time, we have an entire array of apparently well meaning people who are clearly not committed to any kind of change, conservative in the sense that they want to maintain the status quo, lacking the imagination to envision a new future.

Democrats talk about the need to support union jobs, while the Teamster's union calls for more drilling, more oil, exploitation of Canada's tar sands or the US large reserves of oil shale even though the results would be catastrophic, not only for climate change but also for fresh water supplies that need to be preserved as rainfall patterns change and our population continues to grow. I am not sure why we support unions that do not support us but that is a subject for a different discussion.

With think tanks policy wonks talking to each other and politicians making profound public displays of intention we often forget that the public is still not on board and that many legislators fear a public backlash that could cost them their seats. One of our Senators, Barbara Boxer chairs the Senate Energy and Public Works Committee and would appear to be in position to create the kind of forward thinking plans that we need. She surely sounded that way this week.

My skepticism about the wide chasm between public pronouncements and implementable policy is expressed in this week's GPCA press release, expressing the same agreement with the expressed intent of Governor Schwarzenegger's Global Climate Conference but asking that he replace Mary Nichols as Chair of the Air Resources Board specifically because the board has, under her leadership, abandoned compliance and put all of her faith in the same market mechanisms that failed when she introduced pollution credit trading as an assistant administrator of the US EPA.

We need to establish the fact that Green Change is somehow different, more attuned to the needs of the individual, of the public at large and not just another rant against the status quo. Rather than talking truth to power we need to be talking the future to the electorate; where are we going and how are we going to get there.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Fraud is the family business

I was highly motivated to get further into politics by Pete McCloskey and the Revolt of the Elders committee that he set up. The purpose was to clean up the Republican Party, especially to purge those members of the House of Representatives who had betrayed its purpose and trashed what honor it still had.

That same motivation led me to pay more attention to a Louisiana Congressman known as Cold Cash Jefferson who this month faces both a re-elect and a trial on corruption charges. Then, today, in the Times-Picayune, I read that fraud seems to be the family business. Details when you click Read more!.

I was really trying to confirm the trial date for Congressman Jefferson when I stumbled on this item about the trial of two others from his family.
The federal fraud trial of Mose and Betty Jefferson, two of U.S. Rep. William Jefferson's elder siblings, has been postponed until Feb. 9.

The trial had been set for Dec. 1, but the Jeffersons' original lawyer, Ike Spears, was disqualified from the case at the government's request. Mose Jefferson has since retained Arthur "Buddy" Lemann, while Betty Jefferson -- who is also the city's 4th District assessor -- is represented by Eddie Castaing.

Mose and Betty Jefferson , along with Betty Jefferson's daughter, Angela Coleman, are charged with bilking a group of charities they controlled of more than $600,000.
It is more than interesting to see an assessor on trial for fraud. It makes me wonder just how many tax dollars are being collected from those with the money to make a contribution. Such a contrast. Malik Rahim pours all he has into Common Ground Collective and the Jeffersons take a $600,000 from a charity.

This kind of corruption has to be stopped, now. This election. Tall everyone you know to contibute to the Campaign of Malik Rahim. You can read about the good he has done, in comparison to the Jeffersons, at this link and you can contribute here.

Malik Rahim Update

According to the Times-Picayune, early voting begins today in Louisiana's 2nd Congressional District. Now, more than ever, this campaign needs our help. If you have not yet done so, click Malik's name at the top of the right side menu's and contribute. Sending William Jefferson back to Congress would be a travesty of justice and bring even more shame on this institution. It will add his name to the list those who have soiled what should be the People's House of Representatives.

  • Dan Rostenkowski - "In 1996, he pleaded guilty to reduced charges of mail fraud. He was fined and was sentenced to 17 months in prison, of which he served 15. Rostenkowski was pardoned in Dec. 2000 by US President Bill Clinton." Source: Wikipedia.
  • Randy "Duke" Cunningham - "Cunningham resigned from the House on November 28, 2005 after pleading guilty to accepting at least $2.4 million in bribes and under reporting his income for 2004. He pleaded guilty to federal charges of conspiracy to commit bribery, mail fraud, wire fraud, and tax evasion." Source: Wikipedia

Monday, November 17, 2008

What is Pat LaMarche doing now?

I assume that you all remember Pat. She was the Veep candidate who tan with David Cobb in 2004. For some that put her on their enemy list just behind Buch, Cheney and Cobb himself.

Well, not being one to just talk about things, she is down in New Orleans helping out with Malik Rahim's campaign. The following was posted as being the contents of a note from Pat.
please tell everyone we love them and we have a campaign that actually could win.

please tell them that i was at the common ground collective today and met a woman returning to her home in the ninth ward tomorrow for the first time in three years. tell them that she was so happy and it was malik and common ground that made it possible. then tell them that after malik got her some lunch because her life is so hectic today... that she told me about her brother dying ... drowning as he helped her save their children's lives.

please tell everyone that this is a man they can help new orleans send to congress and we are doing the best we can... but we need the international leverage... money.

help!!!!! anyone thinking of coming here to hellp..... donate the amount you would have paid for your plane ticket. he has such a great organization here... it only needs fuel for the engine and unfortuantely that's money.

we can do this.
Thank you for the update, Pat... and for the story. We need to make sure that everyone understand the stark contrast that exists between Rahim and Jefferson. While one was rebuilding New Orleans, the other was stocking up his freezer.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Good Green Advice

I've been reading Green Collar Economy by Van Jones. In this book, Jones suggests that the environmental movement... and I am suggesting the Green Party... needs to change it's narrative. In biblical terms, Jones says that the story of environmental activism has been that of David and Goliath, of the individual against the big, bad corporation, Erin Brockovich, the career of Ralph Nader.

While there is a need for a David at time, he did not save the earth, Noah did. Jones suggests that we need to change our goals from those of David to those of Noah and offers a some principles to explain what that means. I would agree. I have challenged more than a few to consider global warming and to ask themselves "What would Noah do?" Click Read more! for a list and my interpretation of what that means for the Green Party of California.

Jones suggest that we need to deal with:

* Fewer "issues," and more solutions.
* Fewer "demands, " more goals.
* Fewer "targets, " more partners.
* Less "accusation, " more confession.
* Less "cheap patriotism," more deep patriotism.

This is a rich enough field that I will take his principles one at a time.

Fewer "issues".

Jones states the obvious when he says that "defining any cause based on a negative can lead to a great deal of negativity." Negativity may not get you to your goal. I offer the example of the efforts to stop all new nuclear power plants. While the rationale is obvious to those of us who would act on this, then answer is always "then how are you going to meet our energy needs." Would it not not be better to spend the effort on Green Solutions that make the nuclear option unnecessary?

If I look at the major problems facing California today: the annual conflagrations that sweep the state, the annual budgetary impasse in Sacramento as symptomatic of a failed fiscal policy, the every day growing problems to supply our state, both urban and rural with a supply of water for agriculture, industry and households, I find a singular lack of Green Solutions.

Jones quotes Julia Butterfly Hill as saying "Many of us have gotten so good at defining what we are against that what we are against has started to define us."

Over the next two years, we have an opportunity to make a major contribution in California by becoming advocates for sensible solutions at the nexus of global warming, energy and the economy. The risks of doing this are few. Politics as usual will not deliver solutions for the people, only carve up the economic pie in a different way. Republicans are afraid of the ghost of Howard Jarvis and will block any effort to introduce new taxes unless they are disguised as usage fees. Democrats will never back down on funding of government services where the service delivery is backed by large scale union demands.

In the past summer, California's legislature was over 90 days late in delivering a budget. When they did, we were already so far into a recession that they must have know it would not hold. However the pressure to pass a budget, any budget, was so great that they compromised by postponing the day of reckoning until they would all be out of office and someone else would have to clean up the mess.

While there is need to continue participating in the drive for equality under the law, something that those for Prop 8 lied about, we have to find the energy to do more than one thing at a time.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Sierra Club took on Big Coal and won... mabe.

Here is the original announcement from the Sierra Club site of an EPA ruling that may shut down all new coal fired power plants for a while. Rather strange that it comes so late in the Bush administration. Must be holdovers or else some Greens sneaked in there.

There is a discussion of this at Gristmill that offers some cautions about being overly optimistic. Read the comments on that story.

Malik Rahim has respect on the street, not in the media

I have written several times about Malik Rahim. Mostly, I am trying to make sure that he has the wide coverage of his campaign against Dollar Bill Jefferson in the 2nd Congressional District of Louisiana. I have encouraged people to respond with contributions. Some have. But Malik needs more to fund radio / television spots between now and December 6, when the real election takes place. Remember, this election was pushed back because Hurricane Gustave interrupted a primary runoff earlier.

Click Read more! for a report on the campaign was posted to the national committee affairs list today... and always I have a few additional comments.

By John Atkeison

Tuesday Last week the people of the USA elected a community organizer from Chicago, a Black man, to be our President. At the other end of the Mississippi River another community organizer named Malik Rahim will go before the voters in New Orleans in a Congressional election that was pushed to December 6 because of Hurricane Gustav.

If tonight’s meeting at the candidates home was any measure, it could be an unusual moment in the colorful history of Louisiana politics. (You can follow the campaign at voteMalik.com.) Of the 16 people who crowded into the room, most of them were native Black New Orleanians from the West Bank and the 9th Ward. Other areas of the city were well represented, but the core were from Malik’s neighborhood base. Participants included working people and academics, church members and family members.

Everyone was enthusiastic about Malik, and there was lively discussion about a range of tactical issues. The meeting was well run and began and ended almost exactly on time, something that is not always guaranteed in a Green campaign.

The December 6th election is at the end of a tough road that leads through people’s birthday parties, barbecues and seafood boils. When the people of Orleans and Jefferson parishes go to the polls on that day, they can choose an incumbent Democrat under indictment for corrupt paractices known as – I swear- Dollar Bill Jefferson or they can go for a little-known Republican or Libertarian. Or they can vote for Malik Rahim, a well-known Green community organizer. Malik is best known for his organizing immediately after the disasters followng Hurricane Katrina, the floods, and Hurricane Rita in 2005. He established the first health clinic, and began the rebuilding of the communities right away. Through his Common Ground Collective, he has touched the lives of tens of thousands of New Orleanians. (You can read more at voteMalik.com.)

But people need to know that this election has been postponed due to Hurricane Gustav, and that Malik is running. You can help! If you live in Louisiana’s Second Congressional District you can volunteer to help get the word out to your friends and their friends. If you live anywhere along the Gulf Coast, you have a stake in the election and should consider sending a contribution or coming to help inform your neighbors here. And if you live in the United States of America, you can send contributions or volunteer for the phone bank, donating those extra cell phone minutes to the cause.

Time is short and the opportunity is great. Let us hear from you.

John Atkeison
New Orleans, Louisiana

Then, it really get me riled when an AP reporter named Zinie Chen Sampson puts out a story, as she did this week, concerning Jefferson and the campaign and ignores Rahim completely. According to a copy posted to Green Change, Sampson wrote:
Meanwhile, Jefferson, 61, Louisiana’s first black congressman since Reconstruction, faces a Dec. 6 election against little-known Republican, Anh “Joseph” Cao in his New Orleans-based district. The district’s election was pushed back because of Hurricane Gustav.
That is not media bias. It is just a lazy reporter who did not do their job and no one calls them on it.

At least, I wrote to AP and chided them for their sloppy coverage along with giving some kudos to Erica Werner, who is an excellent reporter for AP. If you want to chime in, you can do so by writing their contact address.
For general questions and comments;or to contact a specific employee: info@ap.org
I mean, if Rahim can get on 20/20, AP should acknowledge that he exists.

Check out anything you can find about Malik. If there is any single contest that needs our care and contribution this year, it is this one.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Green activism, Green policy.

The hysteria of the election of Barack Obama has subsided. The celebrations are over, or never got off the ground as Obama himself nixed the idea of having fireworks in Grant Park. At this time, after this election, in which Green successes were all local, we need to turn our attention to our state, California, and the dramas being played out on the street and in Sacramento.

The success of Proposition 8 has surprised a lot of people, most of all those who ran the No on 8 campaign. As a result, people who are most affected, those who lost their rights, have begun a campaign of street demonstrations as well as starting the funds raising needed finance a long legal battle. With almost daily marches to be shown on the evening news, it will not go away, nor should it until there is true equality under the law.

I have seen some suggestions that California change it's laws to only issue licenses for civil unions, since the State is a civil institution. That would make sense were it not for the use of the term "marriage" in federal tax law and similar regulations in other states. Until this is resolved, there will never be equality.

Still, the progressive democrats who blog at Calitics seem to think that the No on 8 campaign organization must take a large share of the blame, citing the following as examples of a poorly run operation.
  • There was no GOTV operation either planned or executed.
  • With Obama pulling in many Black and Hispanic voters, there was no specific targeting of these groups with advertising or organizational outreach to change their perceptions. As is was, these two groups were the key demographics that favored Prop 8.
This is not over and will occupy attention until it is resolved in favor of equality.

The other element will not bring people to the streets, at least not for a long time. This is the ongoing budget battle in this state. This year, the legislature took a record time to produce a budget. It was locked in partisan bickering and political posturing with Republicans being adamantly opposed to any new taxes.

Now, less than two months after the budget was adopted, Governor Schwarzenegger has called the legislature back into session to fix the problems that remained unresolved the first time, basically the fact that the legislature ignore the economic situation that was approaching crisis status even then. Economic problems were a major factor in electing Obama but it had absolutely no affect on the California legislative election. We just did not make the connection and we still have not done so.

Even as Governor "Ahnuld" produced his own proposal, the battle lines were drawn much as they were all summer. Democrats refuse to make the steep cuts seemingly necessary in any services while the Republicans still refuse to consider any new taxes. It has all of the makings for another stalemate that will not be resolved in any special session. I have not completed my analysis, but I don't think any districts changed parties.

Sacramento has made a practice of balancing it's budget by cutting the amounts given to county and city governments for their use. The same is true for school districts who have no idea what funding will be available to them next year and still must negotiate with unions for new contracts on the basis of reading tea leaves.

In the case of Prop 8, the appeal is to the most progressive of the electorate. In the case of the budget fight in Sacramento, the appeal to decentralized power and an opposition to any mortgaging of our future are core Green concepts. If we are to have any ongoing role in California politics, we need to be strongly pursuing both goals: the return to equality under the law and the recognition of the new economic realities by a legislature that would rather rile up their supporters than solve problems.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

A Center - Right government?

In all of the excitement over the election of Barack Obama, with California focused on Proposition 8, the media never mentioned that there was another country that had an election on Nov. 4... New Zealand. I mention this because there were several things we should take notice of. Click Read more! and I will go through it.

The previous government in New Zealand was the Labor party. They had a minority government and worked with the aid of 6 Greens. In the most recent election, the Labor government was handed it's walking papers, but Greens added 2 seats.

The winner was the National Party, described as being "Center Left." According to the New Zealand Herald the incoming Prime Minister, John Key said "Hopefully just a change of government will give some confidence to the economy, that we are going to put economic growth at the top of the agenda."

Is this a characteristic of a Center Right government? to put economic growth at the top of the agenda? Isn't that what Obama said he would do in his first news conference as President elect? "I will confront this economic crisis head-on by taking all necessary steps to ease the credit crisis, help hardworking families, and restore growth and prosperity."

It sounds to me that New Zealand changed a leftist government for one whose policies are Center-Right. And in America, we bounced a far right Republican Party for a Center-Right Democrat. The really sound the same.

I think that a many members of the PDA are going to become frustrated. We need to welcome them with open arms.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Not the change you were expecting

NY Times columnist David Brooks used his election day column to express some of what I am feeling about the status of America right now.
In the next few years, the nation’s wealth will either stagnate or shrink. The fiscal squeeze will grow severe. There will be fiercer struggles over scarce resources, starker divisions along factional lines. The challenge for the next president will be to cushion the pain of the current recession while at the same time trying to build a solid fiscal foundation so the country can thrive at some point in the future.

I wondered if there were an answer, but I read one today that tells me Greens are the only hope.

The following is excerpted from comments by Lorna Salzman. The bold emphasis is mine.
Change doesn't come straight, on the rocks. It comes indirectly, because of the interplay of societal and individual values.If this weren't true, we would never have advanced beyond slavery. Human behavior doesn't exist in a vacuum. And politics doesn't either. They reflect and enhance each other.

What the USGP, the left and the liberals still haven't grasped, aside from their almost complete ignorance of and disdain for ecology, is that a change in one thing and in one direction often brings change elsewhere. This is why environmentally based policies and laws have the potential to bring about social change. This is why stopping global warming and developing a sane energy policy that halts fossil and nuclear energy will have enormous ramifications for society: in food supply, transportation, construction, community development, industry, employment, indeed in every aspect of our lives and society.

This is a lesson that environmentalists in the 1970s, myself included, learned early on but which was studiously ignored by the marxist ideologues, and still is. I still get emails from all parts of the world thumping the desk and crying out "socialism" as the answer. These guys never ask the right question though. That's why they will never get the right answer.

The notion that elected officials lead rather than follow is one of the most naive convictions of liberals and the left. So let us remind ourselves that in the area of environment, we do not have a constituency, much less a movement, that could force Obama or congress to carry out our wishes. We collectively allowed the achievements and exultation of the 1970s to carry us on through for a few years until the flame died out, the big enviros sold out, and issues over which we have no control (war, racism, israel) took precedence over issues over which we could have exerted influence.

Nowhere is this more true than in the US Green Party and the Nader campaigns, both of which steered clear of proposing an ecologically based paradigm shift for western industrial society and global capitalism, a shift that requires ending the fixation on economic growth and substituting sufficiency and regionalization of the economy.
I could not have written it better, nor do I have Lorna's experience with ecology. But this is the only way that makes sense.

We have become a society driven by consumerism and that is the most easily controlled behavior there is. It is so easy to say buy this, buy that, you aren't cool without your I-Pod. Just watch what our government is trying to do to perk us up. They want to give us money so that we go buy more things we don't need. This can not continue. One by one, stores are closing, people are losing jobs. Even the mighty Toyota announced a 69% drop in earnings this quarter. When people lose their jobs, they stop buying.

In Andrew Revkin's DotEarth blog today, he made this point about the world that expects Obama to lead.
President-elect Barack Obama on Jan. 20 will become the most important leader of a species that has exploded in just six generations from a total population of 1 billion (around 1830) to a point today when teenagers alone number 1 billion, a species that is on a path toward more or less 9 billion people by mid-century. In numbers, think roughly of adding two Chinas on top of the one that exists today.
Unless we start working to make ecology, sustainability the major focus of all that we do, the future that Brooks sees will last a long, long time.