Tuesday, December 29, 2009

More Grist for the Mill

One of those I follow on twitter is Grist's Dave Roberts @drgrist. He is about as knowledgeable on energy politics as anyone and never afraid to speak his mind. Tonight, his tweets included this gem:
Added irony: French court nixes #carbontax because it has too many looholes. I thought only #capandtrade had those! http://bit.ly/8QsPU2
What Roberts and so many other apologists for the status quo fail to acknowledge is that legislatures, whether the US Congress or the Parlement français, whether Democratic or Republican, currently exist to create loopholes. A loophole here for a critical industry, a loophole there for a key constituency. That is how they try to stay in power. In America, it is all so commercialized. What price a vote for Climate Change?

Then, maybe Roberts's spelling "loohole" was a just bathroom carbon black humor.

Monday, December 28, 2009

60 Minutes of Fox News

I watched Leslie Stahl posture her way through the California Water Crisis last night on 60 Minutes.  To tell the truth, I found little difference between her coverage and that of Sean Hannity on Fox News, which I dissed here.  Well, maybe Stahl's was more visually impressive with her helicopter ride over the Delta with Schwarzenegger.

This is not just my opinion. One LA based freelance journalist, Elizabeth Green, managed to tweet "Hasta la vista, 60 Minutes". and linked to her short, direct criticism of Stahl.
On the subject of size, a couple of minutes, far less than 60, of checking crop output would have taken the steam out of what the program suggests is a looming almond crisis says On the public record. That and a half-way energetic intern might have put a question mark over the stuff about Schwarzenegger’s “unlikely” political alliance with the Latino Water Coalition. Here’s a Capitol Weekly report about the origins of the governor’s stage army, which the giant network credulously took as an authentic grass roots movement.
Green Party activist Lloyd G. Carter left some more direct comments regarding Stahl's in-over-her-head explanations at the CBSNews site.
For those who want a different view of what's really going in California water politics, I suggest you visit the following link to the Golden Gate University Law School Environmental Law Forum:

You will discover that the American taxpayers have showered a billion dollars of subsidies and cheap water on the problem-plagued Westlands. The fundamental problem of San Joaquin Valley agriculture is not lack of water, it is low prices caused by surplus. In the last four years, almonds have dropped from $4 a pound to $1-2 a pound. The San Joaquin Valley now has 650,000 acres of almonds. Do we really need to spend billions of dollars on new dams to grow more almonds? Which the Westlands should never have planted! Stuart Woolf should never have planted his almond orchards. At a congressional subcommittee hearing at Fresno City Hall a couple of years ago, Woolf threatened to take his 25,000-acre "family farm" operation offshore if he was not provided water.

Finally, Stahl failed to mention that big growers like Stuart Resnick, a confidante and major contributor to Sen. Dianne Feinstein, is making tens of millions of dollars re-selling farm water supplies to Southern California development interests so we can grow an ever larger population in the Mojave Desert. This is a prescription for disaster.

That is right, Lloyd. It is also an opportunity for Greens who are the only party with the ideas to make this state work.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Feelin' the Spirit

Winter Solstice, showers off and on. Sun came out, go pick some persimmons, rain starts gain. Quiet now, listening to Grant Green, Herbie Hancock and Billy Higgins Feelin' the Spirit (1962).

So what was so important to write about? Copenhagen COP15 meltdown? Health Insurance Company Bailout? Maybe this: The only answer to organized money is organized people. That is an idea so important that Bill Moyers repeated it three times in an address to students at Occidental College.
The only answer to organized money is organized people.


The only answer to organized money is organized people.

And again:

The only answer to organized money is organized people.
It was even the theme for his December 11, 2009 Journal on PBS.

I do not know of any description that is better for the predicament of the GPCA this year.  It is a year of statewide election where contestants are multi-millionaires like Poizner and Whitman, or have enough connections with said money as to be able to drive all contenders out of the race like Jerry Brown did... unless millionaire Diane Feinstein decides to retire from the Senate.

Greens don't have the type of money. We don't take corporate donations. So, we had better be a lot more organized than anyone else.  Greens have the long used the term Grassroots Democracy to describe their goal but some would seem to prefer grassroots anarchy, running away from the work of organizing, protective of some internal goodness that they would rather wait for self-organizing groups to come an ask for admission.  'taint gonna happen.

We are working toward a contested gubernatorial primary and that should be the impetus to do the organizing that our working groups have talked about but not done.

Here is a simple problem.  All of us have friends, family, neighbors, co-workers.  I am sure that we all know people who understand just how broken the current system is, how the lobbyists write our legislation, how we are so dependent on big money that even Ralph Nader says that Only the Super Rich can Save Us.  So let's each of us get one of those and convince them to register Green. I am not asking for much.  Just 1 new registration. A personal plea at the grassroots level.  You don't need a flier, you don't need a table in front of Safeway.  You just need to believe. 

You have until Jan 31.  I am sure that you can do it.  Just keep track of who you register because, come Feb. 1,  I am going to ask all of you, new and old,  to do it again.

Friday, December 18, 2009

We didn't get Single Payer. So now what.

We still don't have a health care solution. We still have politicians like John McCain talking about our having the best health care system in the world, even though the objective results of that system are not so good.

I listened to Shields and Brooks discuss this on the Newshour tonight. I thought David Brooks got right to the heart of the problem.
My fundamental problem is that it is a slow, gradual building on the current system. But the current system is so fundamentally messed up. The incentive structure is such that providers are penalized for being efficient. Everybody's got an incentive to get more and more care. We're all separated from the consequences of our choices, and that you can't build reforms on top of what is really a rotten set of incentives.

And so, at the end of the day, the question is, can you pass this and get toward real reform down the road? And I fundamentally don't think so. One of the Medicare actuaries reported I think last week or within two weeks that health care spending is just shooting upwards. Was 15 percent of the GDP. Now I think it's 17.7 percent of GDP. It will be up to 22, 24.

This bill will make it increase slightly faster, not slower. And if you care about things like preschool education, state spending on any other projects, that's all going to be swallowed up by health care. And if we don't address that problem, we have missed the central problem.
So, what are out Senators doing?

Boxer's web site provides a long list of prescriptions, all of which she tells us will not cost us anything. Or if it does, we can deduct it from out taxes... assuming we make enough to be paying taxes.

As for Feinstein, she gives us a list of priorities, but Health Care is not one of them.

Californians, this has been the major topic of discussion for most of the year.  The Senate appears now to be operating under the rule of filibuster, where every bill needs to have a 60 votes rather than a simple majority.  Neither of our Senators is really engaged in the process of making fundamental reform work. And all of the quasi progressive reformists tell us that they have to pass a bad bill because not passing it would be embarrassing.

I've had my differences with Dr. Henry Duke at times, but I think he has his sights in the right place on this one.
Corporate funded Democrats like Obama, Baucus, Clinton, Kennedy, Pelosi, are playing games with you and Obama/Baucus clearly decided in January that for health care reform everything would be on the table -- except single payer or the medicare-for-all real reform supported by a majority of Americans and American Nurses and  Doctors. The people behind this "urgent" blame onto Lieberman and the Republicans are these very same insurance company puppets and shock-troops.

HCAN or Healthcare for America Now is not for single payer, and you can bet they receive lots of Big Pharmacy, Insurance, and Hospital industry money laundered through non-profit 501c3 entities like the United Healthcare Foundation, California Wellness foundation, etc.

Good people but bad politics.

Lets break the co-dependency / addiction circle: ObamaCare, the Pelosi, Baucus, and Reid bill are all not reform, they're more bailout for big insurance finance requiring taxes and mandates for workers and consumers.
 I don't think either of our Senators can give us an answer without checking with their donor list.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

State of San Joaquin

I don't often comment on Republican races but now I am getting interested in the Republican Primary for the 18th Senate District. The incumbent, Ashburn, is being termed out and maybe no one will notice since he has been something of a non-entity, though no one can match Rep. Congressman Wally "Walleye" Herger (CA-02)for being invisible.

From what I read at swingstate project, the Republican Primary contest will determine the next State Senator in a district where registration favors the Republicans by 16.5%. The thing that makes this interesting is the campaign being run by Bill Maze, once the 34th District Assemblyman termed out in 2008. Maze has a plan to divide California into 2 states: a 13 county Coastal belt running from the Bay Area to San Diego and the rest of the state. He is actually making this a campaign issue.

Most think this is crazy. But, Maze currently has no announced opposition though the Bakersfield press thinks that Assemblywoman Jean Fuller (32nd AD and not termed out) will run for the seat. If it is a race, and Maze wins, I think that signals a move further to the fringes in the San Joaquin Valley and little chance for Democratic gains. Nothing but gridlock for another 4 years in Sacramento.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Green Party Governor's Race

It looks like the Green Party of California will have something that the Democrats don't this year: a contested race for Governor. Both Laura Wells (NoCal) and Deacon Alexander (SoCal) have taken the initial steps to challenge for this post and both seem to be headed for a formal announcement in early January.

I had to take a couple of days to think about this one. It is not usual for the GPCA to have contested races. But, I think that we should welcome this one as it gives a chance to let everyone know just what the Green Party is all about.

Laura Wells has run for Controller before, polling over 400,000 votes in 2002. That is the most of any Green in California Electoral History. She is a strong advocate for economic justice.

Deacon Alexander is just a strong advocate for social justice, especially when that is being denied on any of fraudulent basis that our society manages to come up with.

I need to admit here that I have agreed to assist Laura in her campaign, but either of these two candidates will be a refreshing change from the two major parties where Jerry Brown's fund raising has chased everyone else from the contest and Meg E-Bay Whitman is trying to buy the nomination outright.

Greens take no corporate donations and neither candidate is a wealthy as the millionaire list that the Republicans are running (Whitmen, Poizner, Fiorina for Senator). Rather Greens will win their votes the hard way. They will earn them listing to people rather than talking at them, on their feet rather than on the airways (may I never hear another Whitman ad again... they are as jarring when listening to KDFC as are the Coit rug cleaning commercials.)

Thursday, December 10, 2009

California's ARB fails again.

When Governor Schwarzenegger appointed Mary Nichols to head California's Air Resources Board (ARB), I was skeptical. In fact, I suggested that she be fired.

Since then, the ARB has muddled along. The strongest action they have taken was to put controls on diesel engine emissions, long known to be a health risk and particularly bad in the corridors leading to the ports in Oakland and Long Beach / San Pedro. Now, even that is falling apart.

To begin with, the retrofit to older diesel exhaust systems is costly, as much as $11,000 per truck. There was a $15 million fund to provide assistance to independent truckers, but that was exhausted long before most of them got around to applying. Now those trucks would be banned from entering the port after Jan 1.

Having long ago criticized the ARB for being in-effective, Green Party of CA continued their criticism yesterday. The fact is that even if the State Government were to line up the trucks and pay for the retrofit directly, it would save the California Economy so much that it might be a good deal. After all, a study from CSU-Fullerton Economists Jane V. Hall and Victor Brajer put the cost of our bad air at $28 billion per year.

If this were not enough, we found out yesterday that much of the ARB's analysis work on rulemaking for diesel exhaust was performed by a man who lied about his academic credentials, and ARB Board Chair Mary Nichols knew it. She just decided to let it slide. It is incomprehensible to this writer that a person in her position could be so tone deaf to the political realities that she would just pass this off or hide it.

Most would agree that there was nothing wrong with the analysis done, nor the conclusions reached by the ARB but Nichols must be politically tone deaf not to understand that this was dumb.

So, everything is now delayed even more, and the costs of California's health care wil go up, emergency room visits for asthma will continue high, some might die, and there is no one to blame other than Nichols. Once again, I will repeat what I said a year ago. Nichols should resign.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

"Farmer" Stewart Resnick -- the Joys of "Bipartisanship"

Almost every stupid thing that happens in California has the fingerprints of U.S. Sen. Diane Feinstein. However, the strange saga of Delta "farmer" Stewart Resnick illustrates the Joys of "bipartisanship."

Published in The San Francisco Chronicle, December 6, 2009

Major Donor Got Feinstein's Help on Delta Plan
by Lance Williams, California Watch
Wealthy corporate farmer Stewart Resnick has written check after check to U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein's political campaigns. He's hosted a party in her honor at his Beverly Hills mansion and he's entertained her at his second home in Aspen.

And in September, when Resnick asked Feinstein to weigh in on the side of agribusiness in a drought-fueled environmental dispute over the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta, this wealthy grower and political donor got quick results, documents show.

On Sept. 4, Resnick wrote to Feinstein, complaining that the latest federal plan to rescue the delta's endangered salmon and shad fisheries was "exacerbating the state's severe drought" because it cut back on water available to irrigate crops. "Sloppy science" by federal wildlife agencies had led to "regulatory-induced water shortages," he claimed.

"I really appreciate your involvement in this issue," he wrote to Feinstein.

One week later, Feinstein forwarded Resnick's letter to two U.S. Cabinet secretaries. In her own letter, she urged the administration to spend $750,000 for a sweeping re-examination of the science behind the entire delta environmental protection plan.

The Obama administration quickly agreed. . .

Resnick's Paramount Farms owns 118,000 acres of heavily irrigated California orchards. And since he began buying farmland 25 years ago, Resnick, his wife and executives of his companies have donated $3.97 million to candidates and political committees, mostly in the Golden State, a California Watch review of public records shows.

They have given $29,000 to Feinstein and $246,000 more to Democratic political committees during years when she has sought re-election. . .

In Los Angeles, Resnick, 72, is known as one of the city's wealthiest men and among its most generous philanthropists. He's given $55 million to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, and millions more for a psychiatric hospital at UCLA and an energy institute at Cal Tech.

His wife and business partner, Lynda Resnick, is an entrepreneur, socialite and writer. Her 2008 marketing book, "Rubies in the Orchard," had attracted blurbs from Martha Stewart and Rupert Murdoch, and her "Ruby Tuesday" blog is sometimes featured on huffingtonpost.com. The couple live in a Beverly Hills mansion that writer Amy Wilentz called "Little Versailles." It's the scene of parties for celebrities, charities and politicians - governors, senators and presidential candidates. . .

In the 1990s, they gave $238,000 to Republican Gov. Pete Wilson, records show, although Resnick says he doesn't recall giving to Wilson and doesn't think he ever met him.

The Resnicks also backed the Democrat who replaced Wilson, Gray Davis. They gave Davis $643,000 and $91,500 more to oppose Davis' recall in 2003.

With Davis gone, Resnick began donating to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger - $221,000, records show - plus $50,000 to a foundation that pays for the governor's foreign travel.

Other big donations include $776,000 to Democratic political committees, $134,000 to agribusiness political committees and initiatives, and $59,000 to Republican committees. . .

In August 2000, when the Democratic National convention was in Los Angeles, the Resnicks hosted a cocktail party for Feinstein in their home. Among the guests were the singer Nancy Sinatra, then-Gov. Davis and former President Jimmy Carter, the Los Angeles Times reported.

In 2007, they gave $10,000 to the Fund for the Majority, Feinstein's political action committee. In June, another committee to which Resnick has contributed, the California Citrus Mutual PAC, spent $2,500 to host a fundraiser for Feinstein, records show.

Feinstein also socializes with the Resnicks. Arianna Huffington, the blog editor and former candidate for governor, told the New York Observer in 2006 that she had spent New Year's with Feinstein at the Resnicks' home in Aspen. "We wore silly hats and had lots of streamers and everything," she said of the party.

Last month, state lawmakers enacted a package of measures aimed at reforming the state's outmoded water allocation system. The centerpiece - an $11 billion bond to build new dams and canals - must be approved by voters.

See, all we have to do to fix things in this country is to get the "best and the brightest" Republicans and Democrats to sit down at a big table and . . .

Obama administration sacrifices credibility

Once again, in a manner that only American arrogance can pull off, the Obama administration seems to be willing to sacrifice it's hard won world-wide credibility, an attitudinal change best reflected in his being a recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize. It must be worth a lot to sacrifice so much in the meeting halls of Copenhagen.

According to the Guardian, the text of an agreement involving the US, the UK and Denmark has been leaked to the attendees and the world wide press.
The UN Copenhagen climate talks are in disarray today after developing countries reacted furiously to leaked documents that show world leaders will next week be asked to sign an agreement that hands more power to rich countries and sidelines the UN's role in all future climate change negotiations.

The document is also being interpreted by developing countries as setting unequal limits on per capita carbon emissions for developed and developing countries in 2050; meaning that people in rich countries would be permitted to emit nearly twice as much under the proposals.

The so-called Danish text, a secret draft agreement worked on by a group of individuals known as "the circle of commitment" – but understood to include the UK, US and Denmark – has only been shown to a handful of countries since it was finalised this week.
Sen. Boxer should call for an immediate investigation of the role of the Obama Administration in this action. CA Greens should all call Boxer's office to demand that she begin to stand up for the future beyond the next election. If Fiorina or DeVore have her afraid of acting, then she should not be in the Senate.

Greens can reach their Congress Critters, including Boxer, by going here and filling in your zip code.

US Gov. settles Indian Trust law suit

I started my blogging in 2004 with long running commentary on my then Congressman, Richard Pombo. The only thing that I ever praised him on was the fact that he pushed to have the Government settle the lawsuit brought by Elouise Cobell on behalf of Individual Indian beneficiaries of a Trust Fund that was supposed to be administered by the US Government.

The basis of the suit was the mismanagement of funds derived from mineral extraction on Indian lands that was supposed to be held in trust by the Dept. of the Interior. Over the years, the accounting for those funds was lost to the point where no one could ever know just how much was supposed to be in the trust nor how the monies were managed.

That case was brought during the Clinton Administration and originally designated as Cobell vs Babbitt since Bruce Babbitt was then the Sec. of the Interior. We are now on our 3rd Sec. of the Interior since Babbitt (Gail Norton, Dirk Kepmthorne and not Ken Salazar) and the case has only now been settled.

Details of the settlement are to be found here. Suffice it to say that the Native Americans received only a fraction (~$3.5 Billion) of what they were owed. (once estimated at $170 Billion).

Monday, December 07, 2009

A Reply to Ted Glick's New Book


It is good to present a strategy for the future that is thought out and proposes organizational and tactical recommendations. http://www.tedglick.com/books.html The debate that needs to be held really needs to be public. I have written several articles in the GREEN HORIZON MAGAZINE that presented the particular strategy of building an independent political party, the Green Party. I would be more then willing to help build for a forum on strategy for the road forward in San Francisco. I am forwarding this for Greens on the Eco-Action Committee and others to review and consider the possibility of such a forum.

The idea is not to win a debate but to review the viable strategic options that have presented themselves and how to address the lack of progress from current tactics and strategy. As you know, no one strategy has demonstrated a degree of unqualified success that puts it beyond reproach. But there have been significant gains, increased electoral experience and lessons learned in regards to questions of organization and tactics that are worth summarizing. Your proposal of a United Progressive Alliance is by no means a new proposal. Internally, Greens have had those who promote a fusion strategy for years in many different political contexts. To date, the successes have not significantly impacted on the political debate of our times.

Issues that need to be raised include: the role of the Democratic Party in the marginalization of a third party option in states they dominate, the role of progressive advocacy groups in electoral campaigns involving the Green Party, the context and role of PDA and other Democratic Party political action groups, the lack of a broad-based constituency within the progressive movement and the deep environmental consciousness that exists among broad strata of the American public that has not been tapped politically in the past 2-3 decades. Strategically structural reforms necessitate an approach that works from the bottom up and establishes alliances with various public officials. Ballot access and proportional representation touch on the kind of changes needed to increase the representation of those currently marginalized in the decision-making processes.

It is a mistake though to take on campaigns that we are not prepared to win. Political viabilty will come with victories and by working in processes in which the global warming issue can be defined locally. Having spent much of my efforts in NM in water planning, there was a clear priority in that state and public awareness that presented itself for a process that developed a specific and holistic approach. The failure was the lack of awareness and willingness to formulate this experience into a political campaign that presented the options and built on the public engagement in the planning process.

There will always be contradictions between Greens and those promoting fusion. Bill Richardson can afford to present himself as a progressive to those outside of the state of NM, as he did in the primary, but his image in the state was far from that. At the same time, Democratic candidates, such as Richard Romero in his losing race for Congress, did the unthinkable by reaching out to Greens. Different candidates require different approaches.

What I am more concerned about is the inherent ideological definition of progressives being a pre-determined basis of unity. In California, groups have aligned with those in the Delta that included a variety of water-based recreational and sporting businesses. In NM, Republican farmers, local water managers, specialists, historical users and urban users were able to effectively minimize the influence of real estate interests and developers. In other words, strategic alliances need to be based on common issues of concern and not flow from a pre-set political agenda. If reduction of greenhouse gas emissions is the goal, then the analysis of who stands to benefit from this becomes a much more fundamental issue in electoral work and political action.

In an article in which I presented a strategic issue of energy transition, I presented the matter thusly:

" The development of a serious effort in this regard has not even begun. The first necessary steps is to establish a broad-based coalition of organizations that establishes a common, working strategy for the writing, passing and implementation of an Energy Transition Legislative Package. A five-year target date should be established at an appropriate Founding Congress of political action groups. Political action during that time needs to be prioritized in regards to the passage in Congress, and State Legislatures of the US...

"Time is not on our side. That does not negate the critical element of transformation that can take place rapidly and efficiently once the political will has been consolidated and institutionalized. The complexities are already being addressed.
The alternatives are already modeled in locales and nations around the world. Sweden, Germany, Denmark and the Netherlands have already established energy transition to renewable energy as national priorities.

"The first obvious aspect of any plan is that it needs to be approved with more than just a Democratic working majority. It requires winning over non-ideologues in both parties.... Actions are already being taken by the Western Governors' Association http://www.westgov.org/wga/press/plenary1-pr.htm and the U.S. Conference of Mayors http://www.usmayors.org/climateprotection/ regarding climate change. As momentum is building public officials need to be encouraged to move faster and implement the transition legislation needed."

The essence of the position is that there remain more strategic issues to move forward that cannot be found simply in an alliance of progressives. Priorities need to be established and reduction goals defined in the political context of candidate districts. States such as California, Texas, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania present themselves as the largest emitters of GHGs. As such, these states need to be prioritized in political work and electoral campaigns above and beyond work done at the Congressional level. In this context it is worth noting the recent consolidation and expansion of the Illinois Green Party on the state ballot and the election of Green candidates in California, though mostly non-partisan elections.

Defining the Mission of a unified alliance needs to be focused on the goals that we are striving for. Constituencies that we have worked with in the past need to be expanded based on common concerns and political action needs to be based on demonstrated common direction towards our common goal and not the entire Platform or political agenda of any one ideological or political group.

I welcome feedback.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Health care then and now.

Health Care: From the Day Books of Edward Weston.

March 22, 1929: Yesterday Brett and Merle went riding, - horseback -- the horse slipped, fell on Brett, breaking his leg --- he is now in the Monterey hospital. The X-ray shows the bone so twisted that only an operation can put it in place with any surety.

March 23, 1929: How cold-blooded hospitals and doctors can be, or seem to be: that is re: financial details, - I would not have wanted an emotional nurse, or physician. Well, they are in business, have to live. I ask a deposit on my work, why shouldn't they? But when I was told they wouldn't operate without cash on hand, -- $75, which, though I know it is a small amount, I have not, I asked, "If I cannot get the amount by Tuesday, what will you do,- send the boy away?"

Single Payer Health Care Now.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

GP Canada's Elizabeth May debates Climate Change.

Be it resolved climate change is mankind's defining crisis and deserves a commensurate policy response.

That was the proposition debated last night in Toronto. The participants were:

  • George Monbiot: author of the best selling books Heat: how to stop the planet burning;
  • Bjørn Lomborg: adjunct professor at the Copenhagen Business School. He is the organizer of the Copenhagen Consensus Center
  • Lord Nigel Lawson: was Chancellor of the Exchequer between June 1983 and October 1989
  • Elizabeth May: L eader of the Green Party of Canada and is an environmentalist, writer, activist and lawyer active in the environmental movement since 1970.
A running blog comment stream came from:
  • Dave Roberts (Grist.com staff writer), 
  • David Boyd (co-author, with David Suzuki, David Suzuki's Green Guide), 
  • Jim Harris (former leader, Green Party of Canada), 
  • Nic Rivers (co-author, with Jeffrey Simpson and Marc Jaccard, Hot Air: Meeting Canada's Climate Change Challenge), 
  • Peter Tertzakian (Chief Energy Economist of ARC Financial Corporation, Author, A Thousand Barrels a Second), 
  • Krystyn Tully (Vice President, Lake Ontario Waterkeeper)
Read the following comments about Elizabeth May's performance. Who in all of the Green Party US has the stature to be invited to debate and the capability to actually deliver?

David Roberts:
Crucial point from May: climate science based on multiple overlapping strands of evidence from multiple scientific disciplines. Not some fragile edifice based on one "hockey stick."

David Roberts:
May is kicking Lomborg's ass. Asks, pertinently, why is it only spending on climate change that he objects to? What about corporate bailouts? Fossil fuel subsidies? Military spending? He's curiously quiet on those.

[Comment From Doug Brown: ]
I agree with Elizabeth on this point -- I've lived and worked in Africa for many years and that is the same observation I would make on this point -- climate change is negatively impacting the very things related to poverty and underdevelopment that we are concerned about

MAy is getting close to the heart of Lomborg's duplicity. Why is the choice limited to spending money on foreign aid OR climate change? Added together, the amount of money needed to address the UN's Millennium Development Goals and climate change is a substantial yet affordable sum. We can and should do both!

David Roberts:

Good point from May: why aren't we talking about benefits? Efficiency is an oil well we could never exhaust, and provides energy cheaper than any other alternative. Why not tap it?

Krystyn Tully:

When May says we waste energy, she isn't kidding. Generating electricity on the Great Lakes consumes more energy than any other sector. Our current approach to energy creation is incredibly inefficient (p. 248) : http://www.epa.gov/solec/sogl2007/SOGL2007.pdf

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

A candidate for 2012? I think not.

Someone sent me the name of a potential candidate for 2012 and asked me what I thought of that person. After all, they are well known enough to produce OpEd material for the NY Times (the old Grey Lady) or The Nation. Barbara Ehrenreich would never be my choice. Click Read more! to find out why.

Ehrenreich is a good person to lob grenades from the sidelines, or even supporting the front lines, but would make a poor candidate if her message is represented by those OpEd styled pieces posted at her blog. I come back to one point again and again when I look at potential Green Party Candidates. Almost every one steps forward presenting a litany of what is wrong with America and offering absolutely no solutions. That is whining, not leadership (a phrase stolen from 49er coach, Mike Singletary), and yet it is the accepted posture and rhetoric of the so-called progressive left. It leaves me asking "progressing toward what?"

It reminds me of a quotation attributed to Julia Butterfly Hill. "Many of us have gotten so good at defining what we are against that what we are against has started to define us." This type of message will never win elections, not for POTUS, not for Congress, or Governor, not even for City Council.

In particular, Ehrenreich's various rants about unwarranted optimism may be accurate, but they will not win more than a couple of votes that she would have gotten anyway.

The Swine Flu Vaccine Screw-up
Optimism as a Public Health Problem

How Positive Thinking Wrecked the Economy

It comes across as smug without any answers nor any suggestions for how they would right the wrongs that they see, sort of a Carteresque Malaise and you know how far that got him.

For our candidates, we need truth-sayers with a plan. One without the other is not good enough.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Michael Moore: Begging Obama on Afghanistan

In 2004, Michael Moore and Bill Maher got on their knees on national television to beg Ralph Nader not to run for president again. Six years later, Mr. Moore is begging Democratic President Barack Obama *NOT* to escalate the war in Afghanistan. Behold the difference between Republicans and Democrats -- when Democrats are in power we get to beg on our knees facing the White House.

Nader, Moore, and Maher

Do you really want to be the new "war president"? If you go to West Point tomorrow night (Tuesday, 8pm) and announce that you are increasing, rather than withdrawing, the troops in Afghanistan, you are the new war president. ...
Michael Mooere's "Open Letter to President Obama" is a good letter. It is also a sad letter. It is sad that in 2010 after eight years of war that such a letter is even necessary.

Posted on MichaelMoore.com, November 30, 2009
An Open Letter to President Obama from Michael Moore
by Michael Moore

Dear President Obama,

Do you really want to be the new "war president"? If you go to West Point tomorrow night (Tuesday, 8pm) and announce that you are increasing, rather than withdrawing, the troops in Afghanistan, you are the new war president. Pure and simple. And with that you will do the worst possible thing you could do -- destroy the hopes and dreams so many millions have placed in you. With just one speech tomorrow night you will turn a multitude of young people who were the backbone of your campaign into disillusioned cynics. You will teach them what they've always heard is true -- that all politicians are alike. I simply can't believe you're about to do what they say you are going to do. Please say it isn't so.

It is not your job to do what the generals tell you to do. We are a civilian-run government. WE tell the Joint Chiefs what to do, not the other way around. That's the way General Washington insisted it must be. That's what President Truman told General MacArthur when MacArthur wanted to invade China. "You're fired!," said Truman, and that was that. And you should have fired Gen. McChrystal when he went to the press to preempt you, telling the press what YOU had to do. Let me be blunt: We love our kids in the armed services, but we f*#&in' hate these generals, from Westmoreland in Vietnam to, yes, even Colin Powell for lying to the UN with his made-up drawings of WMD (he has since sought redemption).

So now you feel backed into a corner. 30 years ago this past Thursday (Thanksgiving) the Soviet generals had a cool idea -- "Let's invade Afghanistan!" Well, that turned out to be the final nail in the USSR coffin.

There's a reason they don't call Afghanistan the "Garden State" (though they probably should, seeing how the corrupt President Karzai, whom we back, has his brother in the heroin trade raising poppies). Afghanistan's nickname is the "Graveyard of Empires." If you don't believe it, give the British a call. I'd have you call Genghis Khan but I lost his number. I do have Gorbachev's number though. It's + 41 22 789 1662. I'm sure he could give you an earful about the historic blunder you're about to commit.

With our economic collapse still in full swing and our precious young men and women being sacrificed on the altar of arrogance and greed, the breakdown of this great civilization we call America will head, full throttle, into oblivion if you become the "war president." Empires never think the end is near, until the end is here. Empires think that more evil will force the heathens to toe the line -- and yet it never works. The heathens usually tear them to shreds.

Choose carefully, President Obama. You of all people know that it doesn't have to be this way. You still have a few hours to listen to your heart, and your own clear thinking. You know that nothing good can come from sending more troops halfway around the world to a place neither you nor they understand, to achieve an objective that neither you nor they understand, in a country that does not want us there. You can feel it in your bones.

I know you know that there are LESS than a hundred al-Qaeda left in Afghanistan! A hundred thousand troops trying to crush a hundred guys living in caves? Are you serious? Have you drunk Bush's Kool-Aid? I refuse to believe it.

Your potential decision to expand the war (while saying that you're doing it so you can "end the war") will do more to set your legacy in stone than any of the great things you've said and done in your first year. One more throwing a bone from you to the Republicans and the coalition of the hopeful and the hopeless may be gone -- and this nation will be back in the hands of the haters quicker than you can shout "tea bag!"

Choose carefully, Mr. President. Your corporate backers are going to abandon you as soon as it is clear you are a one-term president and that the nation will be safely back in the hands of the usual idiots who do their bidding. That could be Wednesday morning.

We the people still love you. We the people still have a sliver of hope. But we the people can't take it anymore. We can't take your caving in, over and over, when we elected you by a big, wide margin of millions to get in there and get the job done. What part of "landslide victory" don't you understand?

Don't be deceived into thinking that sending a few more troops into Afghanistan will make a difference, or earn you the respect of the haters. They will not stop until this country is torn asunder and every last dollar is extracted from the poor and soon-to-be poor. You could send a million troops over there and the crazy Right still wouldn't be happy. You would still be the victim of their incessant venom on hate radio and television because no matter what you do, you can't change the one thing about yourself that sends them over the edge.

The haters were not the ones who elected you, and they can't be won over by abandoning the rest of us.

President Obama, it's time to come home. Ask your neighbors in Chicago and the parents of the young men and women doing the fighting and dying if they want more billions and more troops sent to Afghanistan. Do you think they will say, "No, we don't need health care, we don't need jobs, we don't need homes. You go on ahead, Mr. President, and send our wealth and our sons and daughters overseas, 'cause we don't need them, either."

What would Martin Luther King, Jr. do? What would your grandmother do? Not send more poor people to kill other poor people who pose no threat to them, that's what they'd do. Not spend billions and trillions to wage war while American children are sleeping on the streets and standing in bread lines.

All of us that voted and prayed for you and cried the night of your victory have endured an Orwellian hell of eight years of crimes committed in our name: torture, rendition, suspension of the bill of rights, invading nations who had not attacked us, blowing up neighborhoods that Saddam "might" be in (but never was), slaughtering wedding parties in Afghanistan. We watched as hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilians were slaughtered and tens of thousands of our brave young men and women were killed, maimed, or endured mental anguish -- the full terror of which we scarcely know.

When we elected you we didn't expect miracles. We didn't even expect much change. But we expected some. We thought you would stop the madness. Stop the killing. Stop the insane idea that men with guns can reorganize a nation that doesn't even function as a nation and never, ever has.

Stop, stop, stop! For the sake of the lives of young Americans and Afghan civilians, stop. For the sake of your presidency, hope, and the future of our nation, stop. For God's sake, stop.

Tonight we still have hope.

Tomorrow, we shall see. The ball is in your court. You DON'T have to do this. You can be a profile in courage. You can be your mother's son.

We're counting on you.

Michael Moore

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Sarah Palin- Before the Election

A recent web article is worthy of some review and discussion in regards to Governor Palin’s “Record on Alaska Native and Tribal Issues”. It is good when substantive policy issues are referenced in the discussion of Palin. A lot of people are unaware of the importance of indigenous issues in Alaska. In the 2000 Census, 15.6% of the Alaska population listed themselves as Alaskan native or American Indian. “While over 40% of the residents live in the largest city of Anchorage, most of the rest of the state is sparsely populated or uninhabited with communities separated by vast distances. 52.3% of the state population lives in frontier areas.” This makes for a significant percentage of the population in rural regions. There are also well-established tribal governments in Alaska. “There are 562 tribal governments in the United States with 225 of them located in Alaska,” explains Paul G. Moorhead, a Federal Indian law and policy attorney with the Indian Tribal Governments Practice Group at Gardner, Carton & Douglas in Washington, D.C.”

The most significant act in recent history that impacted indigenous and Native Alaskan peoples was “in 1971, the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act was signed into law by the U.S. President, under which the Natives relinquished aboriginal claims to their lands.[2] In return, they received access to 44 million acres (180,000 km²) of land and were paid $963 million. The land and money were divided among regional, urban, and village corporations.”

Criticism from a former Chief of the Neetsaii Gwich’in tribe from Arctic Village, Alaska and the current Executive Director of Native Movement points out: “The same piece of unilateral federal legislation, known as the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act (ANCSA) of 1971, that extinguished our hunting and fishing rights, also extinguished all federal Alaska Native land claims and my Tribe’s reservation status. In the continental United States, this sort of legislation is referred to as ‘termination legislation’ because it takes the rights of self-government away from Tribes.”

In the article the former Chief stated: “Governor Palin maintains that tribes were federally recognized but that they do not have the same rights as the tribes in the continental United States to sovereignty and self-governance, even to the extent of legally challenging our Tribes rights pursuant to the Indian Child Welfare Act.” Given the Federal interface required for indigenous claims it should be said that the state’s role in determining policies is strictly defined by litigation and federal statute. Much of the jurisdiction over subsistence hunting and fishing rights within Alaska has been federalized. “The secretaries of Agriculture and the Interior are legally bound to manage fish and wildlife for the rural subsistence priority on federal land and water because the State of Alaska is not able to do so under the provisions of the [Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act] ANILCA.” This is the substance of the court decision of May 2007 referred to in the article SARAH PALIN’S RECORD ON ALASKA NATIVE AND TRIBAL ISSUES .

A more comprehensive examination of the subsistence policy is available. This history indicates that the ongoing dispute is one in which a resolution has not yet been found in the courts or in the state legislature. As a result of the Katie John case a declaration was issued that ". . . subsistence is integral to the lives and essential to the survival of Alaska Native peoples and communities. The subsistence way of life for Alaska Natives and rural Alaskans is a unique and important Alaska value that must be protected by our state government. The Legislature shall adopt a constitutional amendment guaranteeing a rural subsistence priority for use of Alaska's fish and game resources." There has been no such adoption of a state Constitutional amendment to date.

This keeps the issue alive in state and Federal courts. Gov. Palin has NOT sought to pass a state Constitutional amendment that would address the matter of rural subsistence rights and is working in opposition to the efforts of most Alaskans to resolve it in this way. She stands isolated in this regard. “Prior to 2002, three governors, the Alaska congressional delegation, and a majority of State legislators supported a state constitutional amendment to resolve the conflict. “Although a majority of Alaskan citizens also appeared to support amending the constitution to allow for a rural priority for subsistence, this amendment was not able to achieve the required two-thirds majority in both houses of the state legislature and was not passed. No legislative or judicial solution is expected in the foreseeable future that would allow the State of Alaska to comply with ANILCA provisions and to manage subsistence hunting and fishing on federal public lands and waters.”

Even the majority of the court in the Katie John case declared: “If we were to adopt Katie John's position, that public lands include all navigable waters, we would give federal agencies control over all such waters in Alaska. ANILCA does not support such a complete assertion of federal control and the federal agencies do not ask to have that control. The issue raised by the parties cries out for a legislative, not a judicial, solution. If the Alaska Legislature were to amend the state constitution or otherwise comply with ANILCA's rural subsistence priority, the state could resume management of subsistence uses on public lands including navigable waters. Neither the heavy administrative burden nor the complicated regulatory scheme that may result from our decision would be necessary. If Congress were to amend ANILCA, it could clarify both the definition of public lands and its intent. Only legislative action by Alaska or Congress will truly resolve the problem.”

In fact, a website, addressing candidate policy positions, quotes specifically indicates Governor Palin’s opposition to just such a Constitutional amendment. This makes her MORE than just an observer on this matter. “Palin opposes a constitutional amendment, saying equality provisions should not be tampered with. She says the state should work toward another resolution that protects subsistence for those who need it most.” Alaskan Republicans have consistently opposed an amendment. Opposition to a state Constitutional amendment is also the position taken by the Alaskan Independence Party that sought to negate aboriginal rights in Alaska at its 2000 state convention in Wasilla, Governor Palin’s hometown.

In 2008, Governor Palin sent an official video welcome to the state convention of the Alaskan Independence Party. The article SARAH PALIN’S RECORD ON ALASKA NATIVE AND TRIBAL ISSUES presents the case that only Governor Palin stands between subsistence rights and indigenous peoples. “Palin continues to argue in the litigation that the federal subsistence protections are too broad, and should be narrowed to exclude vast areas from subsistence fishing”.

The fact is that there is a general recognition that the Federal jurisdiction in Alaska greatly exceeds its reach. In addition to the view of the Court of Appeals expressed above in the majority opinion, the dissenting opinion of the Court of Appeals in the Katie John case indicated a concern regarding the Federal authority in Alaska: “I do not think it is for us to decide, on the basis of these two factors, that Congress intended "interest" to be defined so broadly so as to bring all of Alaska's navigable waters under ANILCA. Such a drastic change in the amount of control exercised by the federal government over all navigable waters in Alaska can only come from Congress.” Judge Hall dissenting.

Governor Palin supports oil drilling in the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR). “Caribou from the Porcupine Herd, for which the Coastal Plain of the Arctic Refuge is critically-important habitat, is the key subsistence food resource for the Gwich’in Nation. There are about nine thousand Gwich’in people who live in fifteen small villages along the migration route of the Porcupine Caribou Herd in Northern Alaska and Canada… Since the beginnings of the political battle over the biological heart of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, the Gwich’in people have spoke in a unified voice in opposition to drilling on the Coastal Plain.”

“ANWR is 19.5 million acre refuge in the northeastern Alaska. Within those borders, there is a 1.5 million acre section called “1002.” …It is the lands within the 1002 area that would be opened for exploration and drilling. The Native-owned Arctic Slope Regional Corporation owns 92,000 acres of subsurface land and the Kaktovik Inupiat Corporation, also Native-owned, owns 92,000 surface acres of land within the 1002 area.” Many Inupiat people, perhaps a majority, who live in this region support oil drilling. Their view is expressed by former Mayor Benjamin P. Nageak: “ANWR holds resources that can be extracted safely with care and concern for the entire eco-system it encompasses. The Inupiat people, working through the North Slope Borough, will act in the same careful, caring and cautious manner we always have when dealing with our lands and the seas.”

“The Inupiat from Point Hope, Alaska recently passed resolutions recognizing that drilling in ANWR would allow resource exploitation in other wilderness areas. The Inupiat, Gwitch'in, and other tribes are calling for sustainable energy practices and policies. The Tanana Chiefs Conference representing 42 Alaska Native villages from 37 tribes oppose drilling, as do at least 90 Native American tribes. The National Congress of American Indians representing 250 tribes and the Native American Rights Fund as well as some Canadian tribes and International Tribal Organiza-tions also oppose drilling in the 1002 area.”

In reviewing the feedback of Native Americans on the nomination of Sarah Palin, there has been a diversity of views expressed. INDIAN COUNTRY TODAY reported differing opinions regarding Gov. Palin’s policies and actions as Governor. The article contains various statements by Gov. Palin and various people in the state of Alaska reviewing her positions. The article states: “Despite strong Indian support at the convention, Palin has drawn concern from some Alaska Natives, especially on issues surrounding an initiative to stop development of the Pebble Mine adjacent to the Bristol Bay fishing grounds, which is a prime area for both commercial and subsistence salmon fishing.”

Pebble Mine is not just a mine. It is to be the world’s largest open pit mine, situated immediately up-gradient of this renowned, salmon fishery that bolsters a $300 million economy on its renewable resource, and has been the livelihood and lifeblood of thousands of native Alaskans for centuries, and still is today.” “Northern Dynasty and its partners [mining giants Rio Tinto and Anglo American based in London- MZ] are continuing with efforts to assess the size of the deposits of copper, gold, and molybdenum. “The proposed Pebble Mine, which would be the first of many, would include the largest dam in the world, larger than Three Gorges Dam in China, and made of earth not concrete, to hold back the toxic waste created in the mining process.” Opposition has come from the Alaska Inter-Tribal Council.

“[Supporters of the mine- MZ] have been greatly helped by Gov. Sarah Palin — the Republican candidate for vice president — who, despite a constitutional ban [I have not found anything in reading through Alaska’s state constitution to confirm this- MZ] on state officials becoming involved in ballot initiatives, publicly expressed her “personal” opposition to the measure. Many say the popular governor’s stance was decisive. Before her comments, polls suggested that citizens supported the referendum. Afterward — and following the use of her picture in advertisements opposing the tough mining initiative — the measure was voted down on Aug. 26, with 57 percent against and 43 percent in favor.” See http://www.ktuu.com/Global/story.asp?S=8885438

Recently forces opposed to the Pebble Mine responded to the NO vote in the state referendum. In an Opinion piece by Verner Wilson in the Bristol Bay Times, Governor Palin and the Alaska Department of Natural Resources (Department of Natural Resources) were criticized for their role in defeating Ballot Measure 4, the Clean Water Initiative. “Before meddling in our livelihoods again with their powerful and inappropriate remarks, I hope Palin and DNR heed the facts that show the very poor and disturbing environmental compliance records and relationships that Anglo- American and Rio Tinto have or have had with indigenous peoples in the United States and around the world with many of their mines. I also urge Alaska leaders and anyone who voted “no” on Ballot Measure 4 to read a scientific article that shows Alaska does not have the capacity and proper regulations to protect drinking water and wild salmon from a large mine like Pebble, found at http://www.fish4thefuture.com/pdfs/ALR25P1.pdf .” Local opposition in the Bristol Bay mine region ranges from 70-80%.

On another issue impacting resource management, in February Governor Palin issued an Executive Order to transfer biologists from the Department of Natural Resources to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. “Some of Pebble project's biggest opponents in the Bristol Bay region recently began collecting signatures for a ballot initiative to force the state to return the biologists to Fish and Game -- an initiative that now may be moot. One of its sponsors, Bobby Andrew of Dillingham, said he is grateful to Palin for her decision but he will wait to see her executive order before deciding how to proceed.”

This step by Governor Palin stands on the record as an action by the Executive of the state that was supportive of concerns for ecological preservation. “Five years ago, [then Governor- MZ] Murkowski ordered the transfer of the habitat biologists to DNR -- which issues development permits -- claiming they had thrown up too many barriers to industrial projects such as logging and dam-building. Murkowski's decision prompted an outcry from five former Fish and Game commissioners, Democratic legislators and environmental groups, who said putting the biologists in the state's development agency violated the balance between resource protection and development.” There is no question of Governor Palin’s familial ties and her personal lifestyle. An article in INDIAN COUNTRY TODAY addresses Governor Palin’s personal views as the wife of a man who is mixed blood Yup’ik. “Palin has talked positively of her husband and children's heritage in the past. When running for governor in October 2006, she wrote a letter addressed to rural voters, saying she ''so very much appreciates Alaska's First People, their proud heritage and diverse cultures so abundant in the communities throughout our state.'' The article continues: ''I personally feel the language, stories, and traditions of Alaska Native cultures are a national treasure to be nourished and held close to our hearts,'' Palin added. ''It is our rural lifestyle and diverse cultural heritage that distinguishes Alaska from the rest of the world and makes it our wonderful home.''

The article SARAH PALIN’S RECORD ON ALASKA NATIVE AND TRIBAL ISSUES inquires as to the propriety of Governor Palin appointing an outside counsel for “Once in office, Governor Palin decided to continue litigation that seeks to overturn every subsistence fishing determination the federal government has ever made in Alaska. (State of Alaska v. Norton, 3:05-cv-0158-HRH (D. Ak).) In pressing this case, Palin decided against using the Attorney General (which usually handles State litigation) and instead continued contracting with Senator Ted Stevens' brother-in-law's law firm (Birch, Horton, Bittner & Cherot).” It is difficult to point to the role of the Governor in NOT assigning a case to the state Attorney General as evidence of corruption by itself, as alleged in , unless the case is made before a court. It is worth asking why this decision was made and why it was felt inappropriate for the State Attorney General to litigate the case. The case referenced in the article above in the article SARAH PALIN’S RECORD ON ALASKA NATIVE AND TRIBAL ISSUES regarding the use of the Yu’pik language on ballots was decided in a court case in which it was decided: “A Federal Judge has ruled that Yup’ik is not an historically written language. The ruling resulted from a lawsuit brought on by Yup’ik elders and tribes against the State of Alaska and the City of Bethel. The ruling by Judge Timothy Burgess did limit the kind of language assistance the state is required to provide.” The ruling did establish means for poll workers to increase ballot access for Native Yu’pik speakers.

An article in an Alaskan newspaper reported: “A federal judge in the suit ruled plaintiffs would suffer immediate and irreparable injury,” if not provided assistance to fulfill their right to vote in primary elections. He ordered the state on July 29 to remedy the situation in time for the primaries. The requirements included the placement of Yup’ik-English bilingual poll workers in every polling place with a significant number of Yup’ik voters – large portions of Western Alaska which are historically Yup’ik lands – and a standardized written Yup’ik translation of the ballots for poll workers to read aloud.

In testimony before the court, the state counsel for Alaska in July 2008 argued “the state of Alaska recently hired a Yup’ik translator to coordinate statewide assistance to Yup’ik speaking voters and that it now plans to provide a translator in all 38 voting precincts in the Bethel census area in time for the primary and general elections.”

The Bethel lawsuit was filed by the Native American Rights Fund (NARF) on behalf of four traditional elders and four tribal councils representing 1,000 people. The area affected was characterized by a NARF attorney, who represented the plaintiffs, as being one of only three census areas in the US which is not a majority English or Spanish-speaking area. Sixty-eight percent of the population speaks Yu’pik at home. There is an illiteracy rate of 21% and 89% of those over 55 have no high school diploma. The decision could also impact on Inupiaq speaking peoples in the Arctic Circle of Alaska. The report summarizing the state’s steps to provide support for Yu’pik speakers at the polling places for the primary election will be submitted to the court on September 26.

Some of the matters raised are still undetermined because of the failures of previous state legislatures and Governors in Alaska, as well as Governor Palin’s positions. Nothing in her record indicates that she will support indigenous subsistence rights in Alaska. The subsistence issues that remain unresolved present her with the opportunity to act decisively and affirmatively for Alaska’s future. The dependence of many in Alaska on hunting and fishing for subsistence and food supplies for the year are distinct characteristics of 60% of the state’s population that are NOT familiar to many in the lower 48. There appears to be a particular disregard by Governor Palin on defending the particular subsistence rights of indigenous peoples in Alaska that are protected under Federal law.

There are clearly constitutional and legal issues in Alaska that have yet to be addressed to the satisfaction of Native Alaskans and tribal peoples of Alaska. Clearly, Governor Palin has opposed any action that supports a state Constitutional amendment on rural and subsistence hunting. The state of Alaska will present a report to the U.S. District Court regarding the implementation of the court’s decision requiring assistance to Yu’pik speaking voters in the primary election. Governor Palin not only supports oil drilling in ANWR to increase the economic growth of Alaska, but looks to changing Senator McCain’s views on it as well. Governor Palin is on record denying that global warming is human caused. As global warming increasingly impacts on the Arctic icepack and the survival of polar bears, Governor Palin has opposed including the polar bear on the list of endangered species.

In elections, everyone makes choices regarding what’s important to them. Candidates are often chosen by their actions in one particular area, while other shortcomings are disregarded. There are NO issues in which there are NOT disagreements within communities, ethnic groups, states and nations. Some decide it is sufficient to vote for a candidate if a person is supportive of Second Amendment rights. Many prioritize land use and management issues in their decision. Others see ecological preservation as a significant consideration. And still others see tribal sovereignty as the singular issue. Governor Palin has taken action that has NOT furthered the rights of subsistence hunters or Native Alaskans. She has taken actions that could potentially damage the preservation of Bristol Bay and could endanger salmon hatcheries and wildlife in the region. She continues to feel compelled to give away Alaskan land rights to outside corporate interests in the ANWR.

Much has been made about how Alaska is simply a wilderness crying out for exploitation. This is reminiscent of the attitude in Brazil towards the interior rainforests. One should take note of the deforestation, forced displacements of indigenous peoples and the threats to native species that accompanied Brazil’s growth strategy before one looks to duplicate it in Alaska. Governor Palin has NOT shown herself up to the task of Governor and has failed to focus on defending Alaska’s natural resources, preserving its unique environment or protecting and enhancing the democratic rights of Native Alaskans. Most of the problems have NOT been of her making, but neither has she demonstrated the ability to “think outside the box” of the powerful economic interests seeking to come into the state for their own short-term profits. -->

Bio-regionalism or Classic Liberalism?

The more we tie the Green Party onto solutions that require massive federal programs, the less likely we are to minimize the centralization of the economy and our political structures. The debate to be had within the CA Green Party is: Reduce spending, improving infrastructure while restructuring and reforming our government. If bio-regionalism works for water planning, it can work for energy planning with adaptations for high volume users. Taxes need to be structured around ecological purposes so revenues are there to draw on.

We need to increase our voices locally and increase the ability to implement fair and equitable sources for revenues and stop the Gavin Newsome nonsense of "taxing 'em where they drop". Expensive fines for parking violations and bike lanes are not decreasing auto traffic. Just costing ordinary people more to come into town and endangering bike riders. We can agree with the intention without agreeing with the solution. What's bio-regional about importing our drinking water from Hetch-Hetchy? How do we start the transition to be self-reliant for electricity, when we get 25% of our electricity from outside the state and metropolitan areas like Los Angeles import 50% of their elctricity?

Priority #1: Get a swing vote in the state legislature. Priority #2: Get a new process for the state water plan; Priority #3: Increase mandatory electricity conservation in urban areas and water diversions; Priority #4: Implement royalties for oil drilling.

Friday, November 27, 2009

What's growth got to do with it?

I had an interesting exchange with Grist's David Roberts on twitter tonight.   It began when @drgrist came through with this tweet.
Dear Beltway journalists: economic slowdown, not increased spending, causing current deficit. Solution not less spending, but more growth.
I could not pass up the opportunity to question this chase after growth, and so I responded using the Green Party CA id, GPCA.…
@drgrist Isnt' the need for growth at all costs part of the problem? Energy? Population? Water? Food?
Roberts was attentive enough to reply.
@GPCA We need to decouple growth from resource consumption in long-term. Short-term, we need to save O's political bacon...or Pres Palin.
And there you have the Democratic Party platform if the race were being run now… and in many ways it is. Anybody but Palin.

This still sidesteps the basic question of when, if ever, will it be proper to talk about this decoupling of growth from resouce consumption. I listened to a piece on NPR about climate change and the tragedy of the commons this AM. That is what seems to be playing out here. We all know what is good for everyone. But our fears keep us from doing it, whether it is Roberts's fear of a President Palin, the Obama - Summers - Geitner group fear of an economy without growth to pay off our debts, or the Republican's fear that someone else will have the economic magic for the 21st Century.

So we muddle along. Politicians preen in public but compromise, shave the results, are satisfied with mincing little steps in the right direction because "that is what we can do this term."

Well, I am not satisfied and neither should you be. If politicians are not going to deliver a sustainable future, if they are only using that word "sustainable" to make us believe, then maybe we need to go watch The Road to get a reminder what what can happen. I have not seen that movie. I did read the book. The review in the Washington Post seems to remind us of just why Washington seems not to understand.

If leaders will not lead, then we need to elect new leaders. If some corporation would sell us the koolaid, then it is time to just stop buying. If growth would bring the end, then start planning for a steady state economy. It is no longer up to them. It is up to us.

Climate Change: an example of the tragedy of the commons

NPR this AM had an interesting discussion of climate change as an example of the tragedy of the commons, where everyone is better off if you act one way, but that a country might individually gain an advantage by doing the opposite.  I learned about this from Aquafornia, recommend that you listen to the short (4:30) discussion here

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

California Greening's 2009 Un-Green Product Award

California Greening's first Un-Green Product Award goes to Fiji Water. We could think of no single product that more exemplifies the total disregard that many major corporations have of the welfare of this planet and all of the species on it. Besides all of the problems that we find with this product, Roll International follows the typical greenwashing practice of trying to brand their product as actually being Green.

After sorting through a lot of products, here are the reasons we chose Fiji Water:

First, some of the problems belong to the bottled water industry in general.
  • The marketing of water in small bottles is just part of a wider movement to privatize scarce natural resources.  We know that water will be the oil of the 21st Century and having its production and distribution in private hand subject to the profit motive is an exploitation of those who will not be able to afford the price... and that is most of the population of the earth.
  • We object to the general practice of using petroleum derived plastic bottles designed for a throw away economy.  It is a truly wasteful use of the material and provide a large portion of the input to the Pacific Gyre Plastic Trash Island Island.  At this, they are no better nor worse than their competitors, but that is still bad. 
  • Use of plastic bottles seems to be a driver for the market of little blue pills.  I will hold this as an un-green characteristic of Fiji Water and all of it's competitors until they produce lab analysis that shows their bottles have no bisphenyl-A.

And then there are those characteristics which are unique to Fiji Water.
  • Fiji Water has to be shipped from Fiji to the United State for distribution.  Such shipping uses petroleum products, un-necessarily depleting the a resource that we know to be both in decline and increasingly expensive.  Those who talk of reducing our dependence on foreign oil will surely recognize this problem as being real. 
  • While Fiji Water claims to be working toward a Carbon Neutral position through the purchase of rip-offsets, their accounting makes no mention of transportation costs, only production and packaging costs.  That is part of the greenwash campaign to make them look green, but it makes us green at the gills. 
  • The import of any water takes jobs away from American workers.  It seems so un-necessary since Roll International controls an entire aquifer in California's San Joaquin Valley.   American workers could process Roll's American water.  That should make both the unions and the Republicans happy.
  • The idea that special water from Fiji is truly better than anything else on this earth, worth all of the troubles outlined above, only appeals to the snooty pseudo-sophisticate of exceedingly fine taste.  Let them try New Orleans tap water and I bet they can't tell the difference.  This is advertising driven consumerism at its worst.
We call for a national boycott of Fiji Water.  I know that no true Green would drink the stuff, but we need to bring the rest of the country to the same conclusion.  Spread the word.  It is easy.  If you find a store that sells Fiji Water, tell them you are not coming back until it disappears from their shelves.  Write a letter to your local paper and tell them how American water is not good enough for some elitists.  Now is time to get these wasteful, ecology damaging products off the market.

    A Public Television Series: California's Water

    I do not know anything about Huell Howser's politics, but I do know that he has a gift for presenting California history and culture in an easy popular format. Notice that this PBS series has been "generously funded" by institutions with a direct stake in this mess. Even so, anyone interested in a video overview might want to check out a PBS television series that you can view directly on your computer.

    A Public Television Series: California's Water

    PBS Series

    Climate Change: Trek high into the Sierra Nevada for a close look at the winter snow pack and how climate change may threaten its critical role as the state’s largest water storage reservoir. Trace the journey our melting snow takes from the mountains to rivers and streams, and ultimately into man-made reservoirs as part of our elaborate water supply system.

    The Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta: Visit the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta by boat and learn why it is the single most important – and most vulnerable – link in California’s water delivery system. Get a look at Delta levees and understand what experts such as UC Davis geologist Dr. Jeffrey Mount see as a growing risk to the water supply for 23 million Californians and millions of acres of farmland.

    . . .

    What's New on the Colorado River: Travel to the Colorado River Aqueduct and learn what California water agencies that rely on the Colorado are doing to stretch supplies in light of new rules governing the river. See how cooperation and innovation are helping to ensure we get the most out of every drop of Colorado River water.

    Using Water Wisely: Necessity is the mother of invention. To keep pace with a growing population and a fairly static water supply, water agencies are investing hundreds of millions of dollars in innovative hardware and cooperative programs that stretch supplies. See the latest in water-saving tools and technology, and learn why every drop counts.

    . . .

    In 2010, California's dysfunctional Republicans and Democrats are going to ask the voters to approve a half-baked, pork-laden, $11 billion package of water projects sealed in a classic cigar smoke filled back room. And again, as always, this "bipartisan" solution requires exploting the general ignorance, indifference, and prejudices of voters, like me, in California's big thirsty coastal cities.

    And here again, the California Green Party is the only organized political party that gives a damn about both the working and middle classes in the One-Party Democratic cities and also family farmers, migrant farmworkers, and "throwaway kids" without hope in the One-Party Republican countryside.

    Tuesday, November 24, 2009

    New water legislation already old.

    The recently passed and widely publicized wildly hyped water legislation is already out of date.  This is almost a full year before the voters are going to be asked to approve a bond measure that won't do what it is supposed to do even if that was not enough.  In order to follow this, you have to set aside any doubt you might have and just assume that the scientists are basically right about our changing climate.

    Buried in SBX7.1(pdf) are several references to climate change and one of it's major effects… a rising sea level.  Since the Delta is on the boundary between our rivers and the bay, any change in sea level is serious and major changes are potentially catastrophic.

     85307(c) The council, in consultation with the Department of Transportation, may address in the Delta Plan the effects of climate change and sea level rise on the three state highways that cross the Delta. (bold emphasis mine).
    We obviously do not want any highways to go under water, so that would have to be considered. But that items about consulting with the Department of Transportation is rather vague. In fact, the bill says only that they "may" do this.  Even more unclear is how they might arrive at the amount of change they have to account for.

    There is a clue to this in another section of the bill dealing with the possible design and construction of a conveyance through or around the canal.
    85320(B)(2)(c).The potential effects of climate change, possible sea level rise up to 55 inches, and possible changes in total precipitation and runoff patterns
    on the conveyance alternatives and habitat restoration activities considered in the environmental impact report.
    That sounds like a lot. In fact, the number is taken from estimates of sea level rise by 2100 and it to be found in a lot of the literature including some from the Pacific Institute that even provides mapping data of the areas of California to be inundated by 55 in.

    So, this legislation establishes a guideline for considering sea level rise for one use. I can even envision that State Senator Simitian, who is the nominal author of this, was quite proud of getting this recognition of a key environmental issue into the final version of the bill.

    The only problem is that the number is out of date. Two reports now available make it clear that we have to consider much higher numbers.  The first is a general report entitled The Copenhagen Diagnosis updating the 2007 IPPC information in preparation for the December IPPC in Copenhagen. The press release announcing the report calls attention to the areas where the original estimations of the pace of climate change were wrong.
    Global ice-sheets are melting at an increased rate; Arctic sea-ice is disappearing much faster than recently projected, and future sea-level rise is now expected to be much higher than previously forecast, according to a new global scientific synthesis prepared by some of the world’s top climate scientists.

    In a special report called ‘The Copenhagen Diagnosis’, the 26 researchers, most of whom are authors of published IPCC reports, conclude that several important aspects of climate change are occurring at the high end or even beyond the expectations of only a few years ago.
    Note: The Copenhagen Diagnosis was written before the next report was published.

    In the second, published in Nature Geoscience, it is noted that the East Antarctic Ice Sheet, once thought so cold as to not be a factor, has been show to have been losing mass (thawing) after all, contributing more fresh water to the oceans. The link above is to an abstract of the report (subs required). Joe Romm has an explanation at Climate Progress. The net for this discussion is that 55 inches is not going to be enough and it was naively stupid to put such in any legislation.

    The current thinking is that we need to plan for 2 meters of sea level rise by 2100 and those making the projections have consistently underestimated the effects.

    The final legislative mention of sea level rise in not so detailed, only part of the definition of the term, "Restoration" as in "Restoration of the Delta".
    85066. “Restoration” means the application of ecological principles to restore a degraded or fragmented ecosystem and return it to a condition in which its biological and structural components achieve a close approximation of its natural potential, taking into consideration the physical changes that have occurred in the past and the future impact of climate change and sea level rise.
    Taken all together we see that this legislation was just thrown together with not enough understanding of the forces they will have to deal with. For being so specific on this one point, a 55 in. sea level rise, it is surprising that there are so many unanswered questions which the California State Legislature left unanswered.

    • How much are we willing to spend to protect any part of California from the effects of climate change that we know are coming?
    • Where will we draw the line between that which we are willing to protect and that which we acknowledge that we will have to let go? 
    • Is it in the Bay (Alviso for example is already lower than current sea level.) 
    • Will we try to stop the salt water intrusion between Suisun Marsh and the Delta? 
    • Are we willing to let Bethel Island, it's homes and businesses, disapper forever, it's residents relocated at our expense?
    If we have not begun to think about the answers to these questions, it makes no sense to start building infrastructure for a future water world.  The entire water bond we will be asked to vote on lists project after project with no sense of prioritization, having been thrown together not to protect the water supply for Californians but rather to secure the votes of legislators who might otherwise have shown a streak of common sense and voted "no."

    A Green Party Approach to Oppose the Water Bond and Address the Budget Crisis

    The political solution for rational and sound water planning lies in structural reforms that establish bio-regional entities that represent stakeholders in the decision-making process. Such a solution would inherently impact on the character of water diversions that we have seen in the past and provide a new political landscape for Greens running for political office.

    Green Party candidates, who come forward in the next election cycle, need to oppose the bond issue, promote regional water planning and oppose continued diversions from one region of California to another. Greens running for the State Legislature can develop campaign strategies that focus on the environmental and budgetary issues around the theft of funds for education, the reckless spending for favored agri-business interests and the failure to end multi-billion dollar diversions without recognition of the needs of the regions impacted. Prioritization needs to be based on documented and consensual processes, not on back room deals made in the dead of night.

    Education and water are issues that California state government has failed to provide real solutions. The Green Party is willing to break from the failures of past policies and promote reforms that are long overdue.

    New support for the Green Party will develop based on our willingness NOT to repeat the hollow rhetoric of the Democrats and the Republicans. Too many times they have showed their true colors. It is time for advocacy groups to come forward and unions and other political action groups to step forward and support Green campaigns through financial support and to step forward in building and creating a new agenda for California.

    We have worked often with environmental groups, Constitutional reform groups, student groups, teachers groups and other political organizations. We have contributed to their efforts and continue to do so. But reforms will not happen without the representation in there willing to make it happen.

    In water there is no step backwards. Opposing the bond issue, as many environmental groups already have, is one step forward. The group RESTORE THE DELTA has been actively engaged in organizing based on the concerns of regional stakeholders. They have steadfastly opposed the water agreement when it was in the state legislature. It circulated a petition along with 23 other environmental groups stipulating:

    First, I oppose the creation of a Delta Council on which the Delta would only have one representative. Second, I oppose the authority the Council would have over all quality of life issues in the Delta as it would have the right to override approval of local agencies for all local projects. Third, I oppose the intent of the bill "authorization of new conveyance" as this would offer a new layer of super protection for the outcome of the Bay Delta Conservation Plan. Fourth, I oppose the idea that protecting the Delta, fisheries and communities alike, can be set as a co-equal goal with water exports to another region in California, all at a loss to the Delta's ecosystem and economy. And last, I oppose a general obligation water bond or bonds that will fund infrastructure and programs that will not restore the Delta, regardless of whether these bonds are offered as one large package or in future bond cycles.

    The work opposing the water bond is the next on the political agenda to oppose the agreement reached in the state legislature. RESTORE THE DELTA issued a statement following the passage of the water agreement by the state legislature that pinpoints the irresponsibility of the bill.

    “Restore the Delta Blasts Legislature for Boondoggle Water Deal”

    Today, Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla, campaign director for Restore the Delta, issued the following statement regarding the water deal that was passed early this morning by lawmakers:

    "The water package that passed in the dead of night epitomizes the dysfunction that has gripped our Legislative process," Barrigan-Parilla said. "The package lost any semblance of rational debate and turned into a pork festival with the water bond ballooning to over $11 billion dollars. With our state already facing a massive debt and more red ink on the horizon, how can we afford this?"

    Barrigan-Parilla added, "In addition, the one bill that would have required a full fiscal analysis and a vote of the state legislature before the peripheral canal could be built, Huber-AB 13 7x, was killed by Legislative leadership because Southern California water interests viewed it as a 'distraction.' Since when is it a distraction to require fiscal analysis?"

    "We will continue to use every means possible to oppose this package which sets in motion the canal and allows an unelected body to make key decisions that will impact our Delta Communities, while we are left on the sidelines," Barrigan-Parilla concluded. "It's no wonder Californians have such a low opinion of their elected representatives." http://archive.constantcontact.com/fs062/1102037578231/archive/1102807343943.html

    There are public forces and political representatives who have opposed the bond and the agreement. According to Restore the Delta public officials and groups opposing the bond include: Senator Mark DeSaulnier (D- Antioch), Senator Lois Wolk (D-Davis), Assemblymember Joan Buchanan (D-San Ramon), Assemblymember Alyson Huber (D-El Dorado Hills), Assemblymember Mariko Yamada (D-Davis)and Assemblymember Chuck DeVore (R-Irvine)

    The bond has been criticized from a financial perspective and its impact on funding of education and social services. In the RESTORE THE DELTA statement, officials from SEIU, AFSCME and Sierra Club were critical of the bonds impacts.

    Jason Dickerson, director of state administration at the Legislature's nonpartisan analyst's office, said "voter approval of the water bond would add to California's massive debt, which could soon require 10 percent of state revenue to pay down. Debt service on the water bond alone would likely cost between $725 million to $809 million a year after all the bonds have sold, he said". ("Calif. voters have final say over $11B water bond," Associated Press, November 4, 2009)


    Let it not be said that the Green Party stood silent in the midst of crises. Let it not be said that who dared to present new alternatives were disregarded by those whose support could make the difference between winning and losing.

    To the family farmers, the migrant farmworker, the unemployed, the student, from the Silicon Valley to the Central Valley to the Imperial Valley, from the Delta to Death Valley, from Orange County to Humboldt County: Green is the only real choice.