Saturday, January 31, 2009

Health Care or Health Business Care

I am one of those who has been mostly healthy all of my life. I have friends who are not so lucky. While our State Legislature is posturing over a budget that Democrats don't want to deal with and Republicans wait for our government to fail (didn't Newt Gingrich give them any advice?) there are those whose only recourse is to look to the Federal Government.

There, again, we have the same deal making, only the Federal government can borrow or print money to make it work. After years of stalling... didn't Hillary promise to re-build America's health care system... it is still broken and people are still suffering, as you will find out if you click Read more!

I received this today from someone I have been associated with in the Green Party. Read it. It puts a person face on effects of all the posturing in Washington.


I am a 55 year old, disabled MediCare Beneficiary, and former US Army Veteran, Honorably Discharged. My only source of income is my Social Security Benefit. I get too much in benefits to qualify for low-income Governmental Assistance, but no enough to pay income tax, or afford to live comfortably.

It upsets me when I hear Republicans talk about people like me, "WHO DO NOT DESERVE A STIMULUS CHECK, BECAUSE WE DO NOT PAY INCOME TAX PRESENTLY!" Instead the Republicans want to continue to do business as in the past. Give the BAILOUT Money to the richest people, in hopes that it will Trickle Down to people like me! I can tell you first hand, nothing ever trickles down to people like myself, except higher prices.

In the last few years like for yourself, my own Gas Prices, Medical Co-Pays, and other Necessary Cost of Living expenses have all gone up dramatically. I am now facing possible bankruptcy, and loosing my home. If I got a "Stimulus Check" I would have to use it right away to fix stuff around my home that I have been ignoring due to lack of funds.

If You want immediate spending, of these Stimulus Checks, then they all should only go to Low-Income Senior and Disabled Social Security Beneficiaries. They have already proven their qualification, being they are already on a government program in which they PAID for when they were fully employed. Who is more deserving of this Government Stimulus, and will put it to use by spending it right away? Senior and Disable MediCare Beneficiaries!

Who would you rather see get a Stimulus Check, Millionaire Business Executives, or Senior and Disabled Social Security, and MediCare Beneficiaries? Which will help to Stimulate the Economy the FASTEST?

Billy Olson

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

How Come the 'Chattering Class' Doesn't Care About California?

California, home to 30 million Americans, is the largest state in the United States. If it was a separate country, California would be the fifth or sixth largest economy in the world. California is the largest center of so-called high technology. It is a center of aerospace technology. California is a huge agricultural state. It is the world's leading center of the film industry. California is a major destination for tourism in the U.S. California includes a couple of America's busiest ports. It is a center for rail, highway, and air transportation. California also has many key military installations and, for obvious reasons, is a strategic security zone.


Here are links to two news articles in two leading California newspapers in just the last week:

San Jose Mercury News, January 27th:

Starting in February, state Controller John Chiang plans to suspend some $3.7 billion in scheduled payments for at least 30 days... If the impasse stretches into March... the state may have to issue IOUs to vendors, taxpayers and other recipients of state funds...

Los Angeles Times, January 30th:

California officials must immediately implement Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's order that state employees take two days off without pay each month, a judge ruled Thursday, denying claims by unions and the controller that the governor's directive is illegal.

And yet...

For some reason the stupid, U.S. chattering class could not care less that California is on the brink of a total breakdown. As one who has lived and worked in both the Bay Area and Los Angeles area, up until now I've just been annoyed. Now with the state maybe weeks away from running out of cash, I am finally starting to get pissed!

All politics is local.

Unfortunately, for too many otherwise intelligent, sensitive political thinkers, all politics is presidential. Journalist and blogger, David Sirota, recently complained about

America's only authentic national religion... presidentiualism, the worship of the president as an all-powerful, all-knowing deity who is the only important political actor in our country.

Thus, at the very moment everybody is celebrating how "the system works" with the peaceful transfer of power from Republican George W. Bush to Democratic Barack Obama, nobody seems to care that the big state of California's dysfunctional system may run out of cash in a matter of weeks. All the Big League commentators care about is endless Washington gossip: Bush, Cheney, and their families and friends are about this; Obama, Biden, Clinton, and their families and friends are about that. They write about the adventures of Gov. Rod Blagojevich in Illinois only because of his connection to President Obama. They write about goings-on in Alaska only because of Gov. Sarah Palin's fifteen miniutes of fame as a vice-presidential candidate.

What is even more amazing is that even the most prominent California-based Web Sites are completely indifferent to our predicament. Go to the Web Sites and see for yourself.
Edited By: Robert Scheer
Contact Address:

1158 26th St., No. 443
Santa Monica, CA 90403

Among Recent Front Page Stories:
"Gore Lectures Congress, But Is It Too Late?"
"NFL Players Risk More Than Broken Bones"
"Blagojevich Pleads His Case"
"Colbert Turns O'Reilly Against Himself"
"Oprah for Senator?"

Mother Jones Online
Edited By: Monika Bauerlein, Clara Jeffery
Contact Address:

222 Sutter Street
6th Floor
San Francisco, CA 94108

Among Recent Front Page Stories:
"The Fed Awakens"
"Is Obama's Regulatory Czar a 'Radical Animal Rights Activist'?"
"A Silver Jew Fights Back: Indie Rocker David Berman"
"The People vs Dick Cheney"
"Paterson to NYC: Drop Dead"

Reason Online
Edited By: Nick Gillespie
Contact Address:

3415 S. Sepulveda Blvd.
Suite 400
Los Angeles, CA 90034

Among Recent Front Page Stories:
"The President is Not a Gunslinger"
"Obama, Race and Affirmative Action"
"Stimulus Won't Change the Education System's Status Quo"
"Bush Was a Big Government Disaster"

Edited By: Joan Walsh
Contact Address:

101 Spear Street, Suite 203
San Francisco, CA 94105

Among Recent Front Page Stories:
"Ted Haggard's 'Miserable' Exile"
"Armey's Behavior Proves 'Commmon Ground' Talk is Inane"
"Dick Armey's Mysogynist History"
"Paul Krugman Unfairly Slaps Obama Around"
"Young, Black, Sexy, and Sad in San Francisco: Indie Film Review"

Salon is a case that I find particularly interesting, since I have been browsing this web site since its creation. In late 2003, there was a bitter runoff election for Mayor of San Francisco between Democrat Gavin Newsome and Green Party Supervisor Matt Gonzalez. The race was almost dead even and the Democrats pulled out their "top guns" including Kennedys, Clintons, and Al Gore to stop the San Francisco Green Party insurgency.

Near the climax of this drama, one of my all-time favorite examples of an over-the-top commentary saying, in effect, the sky would fall if Green Party candidates were elected to office was written by none other than Ms. Joan Walsh:

Posted on Salon, December 9, 2003.
San Francisco's Greens vs. Democrats grudge-match
By Joan Walsh

"Thank you for supporting a racist liar tonight!"

That's what groovy young Matt Gonzalez supporters, all but one of them white and well-pierced, shouted at a multiracial crowd of Gavin Newsom backers Monday night, when former President Clinton came to San Francisco to endorse the embattled Democratic candidate for mayor over his Green Party challenger. Nobody bothered to explain why Newsom was a racist, or a liar. It was the Gonzalez campaign in a sound bite: Sanctimony over substance, personality over policy, and a good time was had by all of his supporters -- a helluva good time! -- as they vilified the opposition without offering an agenda for change of their own.
. . .
Bill Clinton and Al Gore, Sen. Dianne Feinstein and Rep. Nancy Pelosi: Democrats in the last few weeks have gone all out to elect Newsom and defeat the Green Gonzalez. After Arnold Schwarzenegger's storming of Sacramento, the party can't afford to lose another stronghold. Meanwhile, outgoing Mayor Brown, who's been savaged by Gonzalez, is making the Green's defeat and Newsom's election a test of his legacy. On the other side, local and national Greens have swarmed the city to try to elect Gonzalez, who'd be by far the highest-ranking Green if he defeats Newsom. And yet the Democrat-Green matchup doesn't fully describe the depth of the feeling catalyzed by the race.
. . .
And for all his lefty rhetoric, Gonzalez doesn't appear to have spent much time thinking about the issues that move many progressives, especially those having to do with poor children and families. By many accounts, he blew a chance to win over the liberal Human Services Network -- which still resents Newsom for his controversial "Care not Cash" homeless reform -- because when he visited the group, he simply hadn't mastered the details of service programs well enough to reassure even lefty program directors and agency heads he will do right by their clients.
. . .
Likewise Clinton worked the crowd, once he got there, with his trademark vigor and love of gladhanding retail politics. He stayed longer than anyone expected, telling campaign volunteers and reporters alike how much he respects Newsome. Outside, righteous young Gonzalez supporters heckled everyone leaving the building for supporting the "racist" Democrat. As I walked away, they were shouting down black minister and former supervisor Rev. Amos Brown, but they were calling him "Cecil Williams," the legendary leader of Glide Memorial Church, which Clinton visits on every trip to San Francisco. (The short, bearded Williams and the tall, clean-shaven Brown look absolutely nothing alike, except they're both black.)

You don't have to like Amos Brown or Cecil Williams to play a role in San Francisco politics, but you really ought to know who they are. But it was just another night of fun and self-righteous games for Gonzalez supporters. On Wednesday morning, we'll know whether it matters.

Since December 2003, Diane Feinstein and Nancy Pelosi spent five years not only enabling Mr. Bush's War, but also nodding and winking at secret domestic snooping, extraordinary renditions, etc. Gavin Newsome had his fifteen minutes of fame performing gay marriages before dissolving his own marriage, helping defeat Democrat John Kerry in 2004, and supplying "sound bites" for Proposition 8 opponents of gay marriage in 2008. Meanwhile, William Jefferson Clinton, the "First Black President" and dear friend of San Francisco's Rev. Cecil Williams went on to a vicious 2008 campaign in which, among other things, it was said Barack Obama could not appeal "to white people" with wicked friends like Chicago's Rev. Jeremiah Wright.

And by the way, that commentary way back in 2003 was the first... and last... time Cecil Williams has ever been mentioned in Salon and, as far as I know, the Green Party is the only Bay Area Institution (including the Bay Area Rapid Transit Police and the Mormon Church), that has ever been denounced in this way for being "Too White."

Let me be fair.

My purpose here is not to single out Ms. Walsh or Salon for criticism. The truth is that the passions of 2003 had nothing to do with any particular "issues" in San Francisco. Gavin Newsome and Matt Gonzales were "proxies" for Al Gore and Ralph Nader. And so, that long-forgotten election meant nothing but an opportunity for frustrated partisan Democrats to vent their hatred of Ralph Nader.

The "chattering class" didn't really give a damn about local issues "having to do with poor children and families" in 2003 and they still don't in 2009. Today, it really is true that the sky is falling in California for the poor, middle class, professionals, farmers, small businessmen, and even mainstream corporate managers.

But for the "chattering class" all politics is "inside baseball" around the Royal Palace on Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington.

Less Rain, More Water

That's right. The drought continues but we are told that we need more water. It is time to question that assumption. The largest use of water is for growing food in the arid Central Valley. That is exactly where we need to look for improvements in water management, from planning to usage.

That this can be done was the theme of a 2008 special report from the Pacific Institute. More with Less: Agricultural Water Conservation and Efficiency in California – A Special Focus on the Delta.
Like all good things, it is frequently mis-represented and criticized for a variety of reasons. A discussion of those reasons follows if you click Read more!.

The staff at the Pacific Institute addresses the four most frequently cited criticisms here. They miss the biggest one... the dysfunction that controls the State Government in Sacramento. In particular, continuing the water wars is viewed by the Republicans in the state legislature as a way to keep their constituents, dependent on agriculture, happy. Expenditures that are necessary to make anything work are not going to be made, or the money will be spent on the wrong this. As long as there is no budget, we have little hope on there being any action to solve these problems.

I fully agree with Pete Gleick and Pacific Institute on the need to move quickly.
So, let’s quickly adopt the cost-effective options that can help us grow more food with less water. Let’s reduce the barriers to improving efficiency by offering financial incentives for new technology, and by expanding extension services that offer better information on climate and weather factors, soil moisture conditions, crop water demands. Let’s improve markets so that the trend away from water-intensive field crops continues.

The alternative is to let California’s unofficial water policy continue to be hoping next year is wet, and to respond after crises develop rather than before. We don’t believe this is the best thing to do, and we don’t think the agricultural community does either based on the many farmers and irrigation districts that are already trying to do more with less. In the end, not only can we do more with less, but we must.

Media Coverage of the Drought.

Bloomberg published a story this week on the drought in California. Writers Jeran Wittenstein and Ryan Flynn did a good job of marshaling a bunch of facts about the extent of the drought and it's economic impact, especially on Agriculture. They even found a way to personalize the impact with details about the way it has affected the operations of Kevin Kester's cattle operation.

It looks as if Wittenstein and Flynn were sent out to write a story on the impact of the drought on California Agriculture and they did do that. However, they failed to report on what may be the more important aspects of this story:
  • that the conditions we now call a drought may, in a warming climate, be the new normal;
  • that the proposals from California's Water Bureaucracy might benefit some farmers, but will devastate others, forcing them out of business as bay waters intrude into the Sacramento - San Joaquin Delta and the land becomes increasingly saline;
  • that reducing the supply of fresh water through the delta in service of agriculture will have a devastating effect on the Pacific fisheries.

Click Read more! to see my letter to Wittenstein and Flynn.

For all of the detail that you marshaled in this story, it still misses several major financial implications.

Yes, the drought is going to have a significant impact on California Agriculture. California provides a significant percentage of our nations fresh produce and these impacts will be felt everywhere.

Why, then, did you treat this as a cyclical phenomenon, a multi-year drought from which things could return to normal? The implications of global warming are that this year's rainfall may, in fact, be the new normal or might in the relatively near future, be considered a "wet" year. The impact on our nation's food supply, and it's cost, would be staggering.

In your article, you cite the Dept. of Water Resources and that organization is doing nothing to address the long range problems other than to suggest we need more of the same 19th Century solutions: more dams, more canals. Neither are going to work. Why build more dams when the current rainfall does not even fill the ones we have?

In a similar fashion, should you not do a story on the fact that supplying more water for Central Valley Agriculture will inevitably cause damage to our Pacific Coast Fisheries and that increased salinity will take a lot of agricultural land out of production.

You only told half the story.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Telling it like it is

From time to time, I have inserted comments from Stephen Smoliar's blog, The Rehearsal Studio. It is a wide ranging application of intelligence to everything from music (Smoliar as composer and critic) to philosophy with a few skewers of wit for those with the chutzpah to say the wrong thing at the wrong time.

I wish that I had written his most recent entry regarding the fact that Obama ordered a number of his high ranking officials to stay at home rather than attending the World Economic Forum in Davos. You should just go to The Rehearsal Studio to read why Smoliar is Running out of Patience with the Rich and Might

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Alex Walker vs. Curren Price

I've been trying to figure out just what is going on in the SD-26 special election. I am trying to learn more about Alex's opponents, especially Curren Price who seems to be receiving all of the endorsement. So, I set up a Google Alert on Price's name. This is the result today.
Google Web Alert for: "Curren Price"
Curren D. Price, Jr. - Assemblyman for the 51st District of California
City Councilman Curren D. Price, Jr., is committed to the improvement of District 51 in the City of Inglewood, Gardena, Hawthorne, Lawndale, Del Aire, ...

However, following the link brings you to a page that says...

Account Suspended!!
If you are seeing this page, it means your hosting account has been suspended.

Please read below for possible causes and remedies:
It looks to me as if Price is going for the Cheap Price. If only he would have done that in the Assembly. Not the best way for Curren to start off his campaign. Some how it does not look like he has it all together.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Weather or Climate: Calilfornia's future at stake

There is a lot of speculation about the weather. We tend to think of the weather as being cyclical. Summer / winter. If you live in the Southwest, rain / drought. The rain that we are having this week removed the possibility that this will be the driest January on record, but the fact remains that the drought conditions from the past two years are still with us. Most of the rain soaked into the ground and there was little runoff.

Four major California newspapers remind their readers just what this all means. Follow me to the full story by clicking Read more!.

Four California newspapers have stories today on the rain and what it does not mean.

Mike Taugher, environmental reporter for the Contra Costa Times writes: Rain not enough to fix water woes
Depleted reservoirs, a snowpack that still is expected to be about one-third lower than average after the clouds blow away and a raft of new water rules meant to revive collapsing fish populations are combining to severely pinch water supplies.

The nation's largest irrigation district, the 600,000-acre Westlands Water District, told growers this week it expected to get zero Delta water this year, something that has never happened before.
This theme was echoed in the other stories.

The Visalia Times-Delta headlines it as an economic problem with no immediate solution. Water shortage could cost 40,000 ag jobs, $1.15b in income. At least we know the scope.

The Fresno Bee also covers the agricultural impact. Forecast dry for West Valley: Growers could see no federal water deliveries if storms don't come.

These newspapers all treat our current rain as a weather event, part of the normal patterns and predictable. This just happens to be a year when La NiƱa effects control the rain.

The Merced Sun-Star points out the decisions that we need to make about using the water that we have. Water: Cities, agriculture compete for precious, dwindling resource
Ever-expanding cities in Merced County -- still minor users in the broader picture -- are increasingly competing for water with farmers and the environment. This urban-rural-ecological division wouldn't be as much of an issue if climate change wasn't bearing down on the age-old weather pattern people have come to expect.

Less rain in the future will mean less water for more people, crops and local ecosystems.

In preparation for this looming shift, state and federal authorities are trying to lessen the effects of both climate change and its human causes.

But local land use, development and their impacts on water planning comprise another issue. Today, a collection of interests compete over the same sources of water. The success or failure of local preparations for the impending water crisis will make all the difference.
Only the Merced Sun-Star gets to the real problem. Given the reality that the climate change is happening all around us, it is more likely than not that this year's rainfall will be the norm for future years. The land use / agricultural impact of such drastic change is still not being considered; not by the media, defintelyh not by our politicians.

This is a great opportunity for Green thinking, should we care to use it. Green candidates have a message that this state needs to hear and I mean all over this State. In the Central Valley, we need Green Party Candidates to pull back the curtain and reveal what others are afraid to deal with... that there is nothing in agricultural or natural resource policies that will provide for such changes.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Mark Twain never met Senator Inhofe.

Mark Twain and Senator James Inhofe lived in different eras and so never met. However, Twain would have recognized him immediately. Twain wrote:
The most outrageous lies that can be invented will find believers if a man only tells them with all his might. San Francisco Alta California, June 16, 1867
So we now have Senator Inhofe declaring victory over Al Gore, George Soros, Barbara Streisand and all those who support the idea of Global Warming.
I have in front of me just what’s happened this month in terms of the scientists that are coming over that used to be on the other side and have now become skeptics. And it’s overwhelming. The 650 scientists, and I quoted many of them, in fact, most of those are on my website. But I really think it’s important, first of all, for people to understand where the science is on this. Then understand where the money is. I mean, this whole thing started, like a lot of bad things in my narrow view, with the United Nations. And then of course Hollywood got ahold of it, and and Barbara Streisand and George Soros and the rest of them. So, it became a huge money thing.
That "I have in front of me" phrase echos of another Senator with a penchant for lying, Joseph McCarthy. I remember listening to the hearings with McCarthy screaming about his list of Communists in government. They had about the same reality as Sen. Inhofe's list of 650 Scientists. Must we suffer through this again? Where is the new Murrow? He obviously no longer resides at CBS or 60 Minutes would be doing a number on another Senator.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Big plans sinking

One of the big plans for San Francisco… at least big enough to get ex-Supervisor Tony Hall fired… has been the creation of a wonderful new development on Treasure Island. It was supposed to be an ecotopia. That was in 2005. We have heard about it for years.

Now, according to the San Francisco Examiner's John Upton, the developer is going to have to do a lot of filling just to get housing above the level of the rising sea. They claim it will be 3 ft in the next 70 years. Then, what are they going to do. The rising waters will not stop then. Will they build on hydraulic stilts?

Tell me one more time why it is too expensive to do anything about global warming now?

The politics of racial unity

I wonder if we have seen a tipping point in the political expression of race in America. At one level, there is the very fact that Barack Obama is now the President of these United States. As he remarked himself, 60 years ago his father would not have been served at many eating places in America. One commentator said that he grew up knowing, really knowing that no black child would ever become President. Now, his grand children will never think that way again.

At another level, though, was the way that Obama asked America to celebrate the birthday of Martin Luther King Jr. So many in my county have celebrated the day by taking a train to San Francisco and participating in celebration event there. This year was no exception. A Santa Clara County Green blogged about the 24th annual Freedom Train.
At the end of the train ride in San Francisco until 2 years ago used to be a march from the Caltrain station at 4th and Townsend to the SF Civic Center. The official line was that with the election of Obama the dream has now been 'realized'. Setting aside the debatability of what I take to be a vast overstatement of today's reality (ie. does an election of yet another Duopoly candidate to lead the Amurikkkan Empire, biracial or not really fully 'realize' Dr. King's dream -- No, I certainly don't think so -- one of our guides on the Freedom Train intimated that the politically impolite reality was that paying for the police to line the march and to seal off the route was too expensive at this time for the volunteer organization NorCalMLK to be able to pull off.
Let me contrast that perception to the reality that Obama had issued a call to celebrate the day by turning it into a National Day of Service, volunteering to help your community as a way of honoring not only the Dream of Dr. King, but also the knowledge that this dream can only be achieved by hard work.

To me, this feels like we have taken step beyond the old politics of racial divide and identity. Alex Walker was right to question the need for any people of color caucus.

The ground is shifting and we had better learn to dance to a new tune.


After listening to Obama's inaugural speech, I went out to do some work in the yard and then came back in at just the time to listen to David Brooks give his critique of the speech on PBS's Newshour.
What struck me is the celebratory nature of the crowd and, in some way, the optimistic nature of Obama's speech, but also within that a very wintry spine, where he said, "We've had a collective failure to take hard decisions. We must put away childish things." And then at the end, "We have to act more responsibly."

And that's really sort of a moral indictment of the country, not even a political indictment, but a moral indictment, and that preparation for tough times, time to get tough and get serious, is a wintry nature I think that the way Obama sees the country.
Most people heard what they wanted to hear. Many friend heard only litany of past trouble overcome and his positive spin for our future. Brooks heard a moral indictment, more for things not done than things done.

Yet, only once did he use any form of the word "accountable" in this speech.
And those of us who manage the public's dollars will be held to account - to spend wisely, reform bad habits, and do our business in the light of day - because only then can we restore the vital trust between a people and their government.
That signals a lifetime of frustration for those who would hold his predecessor accountable in ways far stronger than Obama's not so veiled criticisms.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Does a new president mark a new era?

The focus on the idea of change, the rhetoric that made The Audacity of Hope a common phrase, have all set the stage for the possibility that the next four years will be markedly different from the past 16, the time of the Baby Boomer Presidents, the first in a long time who new not the depth of the Great Depressions or the pain and common purpose of WW II.

I have a sense that most Greens expect Obama to fail. Some, unfortunately, see to want him to fail and in that they separate themselves from the vast majority of the American Public. A majority of Republicans who voted for McCain in the last election, who supported 'W' through two terms, still want Obama to succeed. The consequences of his failure would be the failure of these United States, a sign that we are so divided that we can no longer hope for achieving common goals.

Those of us who see problems with the policies of the Obama Administration must continue to articulate our misgivings, but do it in such a manner as to address the policies, not the persona. When Tavis Smiley berated Obama for not attending his State of the Black Union Forum, it backfired on Smiley and may have even helped Obama with other voters by showing that he was not pandering to the Black community.

The list of potential policy mistakes is long, and getting longer every day. Let me list a few.

Economic Stimulus: The Obama team is loaded with heavyweight economists. Most, Summers, Rubin, et. al. came from the Clinton Administration. That was when the seeds of our current problems were sown. The total unraveling of our financial regulations began then under the advice of the same people and the sainted Alan Greenspan. The media calls the massive government spending to stimulate a "Keynesian" action. Steve Loebs thinks that falls far short of being a true Keynesian prescription for what ails us. [Steve makes the 4th comment on this economist's blog.]

If Steve is right we will see a loss of confidence in the ability of government to change the current economic direction, which continues downward. The US economy is based on retail sales and consumerism. As more stores close, and more people lose their jobs, bailing out the financial system only treats the symptoms of our disease. This weekend the second largest electronics chain of stores, Circuit City, started liquidation sales and another 34,000 will lose their jobs.

Global Warming: Time after time, the Obama administration has called attention to the problems of Global Warming as the signature problem of our time, the problem by which future generations will measure our wisdom. Yet, his solutions seem calculated to not disturb the fragile economy rather than to give us the possibility of future.

George Bush believed that Bob Watson was too "alarmist" on Global Warming to function as head of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and maneuvered to have Dr. Rajendra Pachauri replace him. Dr. Pachauri wrote a challenging introduction to the State of the World 2009 report from the WorldWatch Institute.
The strongest message from State of the World 2009 is this: if the world does not take action early and in adequate measure, the impacts of climate change could prove extremely harmful and overwhelm our capacity to adapt. At the same time, the costs and feasibility of mitigation of GHG emissions are well within our reach and carry a wealth of substantial benefits for many sections of society. Hence, it is essential for the world to look beyond business as usual and stave off the crisis that faces us if we fail to act.
So far, I do not get the impression the Obama Administration has this level of urgency, being satisfied with cosmetic surgery when the patient needs a heart transplant. Dr. Pachauri commented that Obama's goals are not aggressive enough.
President-elect Obama’s goal of reducing emissions to 1990 levels by 2020 falls short of the response needed by world leaders to meet the challenge of reducing emissions to levels that will actually spare us the worst effects of climate change.
The implications of these two potential policy failures will play out over the coming years. Even before taking office, Obama is often compared to Abraham Lincoln. He has certainly emulated Lincoln in choosing to build his cabinet as a a Team of Rivals. Let us hope he also emulated Lincoln's pragmatism of continuing to change strategy, and generals, until such time as he found one that delivered success.

Carol Browner is to be the Assistant to the President for Energy and Climate. She was interviewed by the Washington Post's Lois Romano and at no time during this interview did I sense that she had the requisite sense of urgency. When she talked about a doubling of renewables I was convinced she meant more ethanol in our gasoline and that will not accomplish what we need.

Even in the last days of the Bush Administration, filled as they are with last minute rule changes on behalf of energy special interests, we note that the the US Climate Change Science Program produced a new environmental report that indicated just how high the cost might be. Today's New York Times summarizes it.
The rise in sea level is accelerating, the report said, because warmer water occupies more space and because of runoff from melting inland glaciers and ice sheets. The Middle Atlantic States are particularly vulnerable because the rates of rise are “moderately high” there, the region is subject to storms, it is densely populated and much of its infrastructure is in low-lying areas.

On both of these interlocked issues, economic recovery and global warming, Greens have yet to articulate an effective alternative set of policies to those projected on the public by an administration more adept at political calculus than producing the proper policies. We need to recognize that the costs of non-action or too timid action will be unbearable high and that the poorest will be the ones to suffer the most.

We must convene something more official than an ad hoc committee to begin articulating an alternative vision, one where hope is replaced with accomplishment and every person is afforded the same rights as our largest corporations.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Union of Concerned Scientists to Obama: Act Now

The Union of Concerned Scientist has sent out an action alert to tell Obama that now is the time to act responsibly on climate change. Their definition of responsibility is very much in line with what the Green Party's EcoAction Committee put out last spring as a 100 Day Action Plan on the Environment.

I urge all to check this out and take on any of their proposed actions. They make the point that so many others do not… "The most expensive thing we can do is nothing."

Friday, January 16, 2009

LA Times: Hand-Wringing Over the Budget

The Los Angeles Times published yet another in a long line of hand-wringing editorial over the California budget crisis:

Editorial: Listen -- California is Almost Broke and We Need a Budget
The Los Angeles Times, Friday, January 16, 2009

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger was right to devote his State of the State address Thursday to California's imminent fiscal collapse. The state is about to run out of money, and there is little point in laying out an ambitious legislative agenda if he and lawmakers can't even balance the current budget.

. . .

The masters of the message so far have been political opinion makers and special interests, who argue that any solution is fine as long as it doesn't raise taxes, or cut schools, or hurt the poor, or furlough state workers, or stall progress on the environment, or drive away business. The point Schwarzenegger tried to make Thursday is that all those interests have to take a hit for the long-term good of everyone.

True. However, one element is missing: those arguing any solution is fine so long as it maintains the undeserved monopoly of power by Democrats and Republicans. Editorials and commentary pleading for "bipartisan" or "post partisan" solutions that don't mention independent individuals, groups, and parties like Greens and Libertarians, aren't serious and usually a cover for taking one partisan side or another in the tiresome struggle between "liberal" Democrats and "conservative" Republicans.

How exactly do "masters of the message" work their wicked ways? For example, when Los Angeles paid School Superintendent David Brewer a jaw-dropping $517,500 just to go away, Republican "conservative" demagogues can argue taxes for public schools for "Those People" are wasted. When everybody racialized the Brewer debacle (like everything is racialized in L.A. politics), Democratic demagogues in my neighborhood can argue Admiral Brewer's golden yacht was about not "disrespecting" our community.

What rubbish.

Politicians win. Kids lose.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Constitutional Reform: 7th Generation and Ecuador Part 2.

In an earlier post, I commented primarily on the 7th Generation Amendment proposed for the US Constitution. In this post, I want to spend more time on the new Constitution of Ecuador. There are similarities, but the differences I believe are substantial and lead me to the conclusion that the 7th Generation Amendment is more in tune with the current US Constitution and more likely to find adherents in these United States.

Click Read more! for my rationale.

Let me begin this by again quoting a section from the new constitution of Ecuador.
Nature or Pachamama [the Andean earth goddess], where life is reproduced and exists, has the right to exist, persist, maintain and regenerate its vital cycles, structure, functions and its processes in evolution. Every person, people, community or nationality, will be able to demand the recognition of rights for nature before the public bodies.
There are three key aspects of that statement.
  • it extends rights to all of nature and not just to people.
  • among those rights is the right for any part of life to continue to evolve according to natural processes.
  • it gives non-citizens of Ecuador the right to provide representation for nature before any public body in Ecuador. This extension would, for example, allow lawyers for the Rainforest Alliance to bring suit in Ecuadorian courts for harm done to the rainforest's flora or fauna or any species of it.
This formulation would leave out two things that are specifically included in the 7th Generation Amendment, air and water. These may be dynamic systems but are not living in any sense of that word, especially not in the sense that they have DNA and the mechanism for evolution.

For all of their apparent similarities, these turn out to be very, very different. The essence of the 7th Generation Amendment is the fact that it places two very particular entities into the commons and then mandates that we protect the commons for posterity. It also provides that Congress can add to, but not subtract from, these common heritages.

Importantly for consideration at this time, the 7th Generation Amendment makes us consider the future without the necessity of having an to deal with the creationism vs. evolution controversy. For this very reason alone, the Ecuadorean formulation could never be enacted in these United States.

State of Arnold's State.

The Governor did a brilliant job of framing the issues as everyone's problem except his. He still does not accept the fact that he has done little to solve the problem other than to hold news conferences about an un-needed peripheral canal and veto bills.

The problem is that he is right. Sacramento is mired in an ideological war that may prove to be as intractable as the real war going on in Gaza. We have all seen the problems that are caused when politicians hold a hard line to their ideologies. That is governing in the manner of George Bush whose unwavering adherence to his outdated principles are the cause of most of the problems this country now faces. That is not an example for anyone to emulate.

Thankfully, Schwarzenegger kept his word to not give a list of programs. He replaced that with a list of "wants" that he said everyone had. I am not sure how a millionaire actor / real-estate developer can think he knows what the average person wants, but he gave it a try and some of them are OK. Clean air, water to drink and education are apple pie and motherhood for any politician.

What he neglected to mention is that we want those not only for ourselves, but for our children and grandchildren.. These are the blessings of liberty that our constitution would secure for ourselves and our posterity. We must solve this problem now so that it is not a
burden to our grand children in any way... not through the cost of our fiscal irresponsibility nor from the actions that we did not take.

I am amazed that, in the face of a crisis of their own making, our state legislature has accepted a pay raise and continues to draw per diem payments even if they are not even in Sacramento. While the amount may be small, the symbolism of this is that Bass and Sternberg still don't get it. Somehow, they act as if they are not like the rest of us.

And in all of this, he failed to call attention to the fact that his own party has been the obstruction to any resolution with their perceived goal of whittling government down to the size of a pocket handkerchief and their mantra of No New Taxes. If we were to make the upper 10% of the citizens of this state pay the same percentage of their income as tax that the bottom 10% does, we would have a manageable deficit problem.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

My take on James Hansen

I may have a different view of James Hansen than most. I have looked at a number of his statements / projections over time. Two things impress me.

While others call him an alarmist and worse, his projections have generally been about the most accurate description of what is happening and when they miss the mark, they are always too low. Climate Change is happening faster and with more effects than anyone anticipated. Obviously there are more positive feedback loops than known that are accelerating the process. So, when he says we need to get emissions back down to 350, I believe the number.

Secondly, I read Hansen as being very, very scared. His use of the term "Venus Syndrome" indicates the level of his apprehension and his view that we lack the political will to do what is necessary. Given that level of concern, I do not blame him for saying that we have to keep all options open, including CCS and nuclear. But, we had better do all of the other things to make sure that we don't really need those two.

A 10 Year Old on Global Warming

Thanks to LA Green Lisa Taylor, I became aware of this video, put together by a 10 year old boy and dealing with Global Warming.

After watching the posturing of some of the Senators at Dr. Chu's confirmation hearing this AM, I wonder if Niko does not understand it better than they do.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

US Energy Policy is ENRON on Steroids

I have to thank Lester Brown (Plan B, 3.0) for pointing out the analogy between the US Energy Policy and ENRON. In both cases, the true costs of what we do are "off the books". In the case of ENRON, a few got very rich and then went to jail while the rest lost homes and their life savings. In the case of our energy policy we are continuing the process that will threaten life on earth, or at least life as we know it.

Friday, January 09, 2009

Perspective on War, now and in the future.

Some people are probably going to write me off for this post, but when Leon Panetta quoted this … you shall know the truth and the truth shall make your free… in his talk after being officially nominated to head the CIA, I decided that I had to write my version.

The situation in Gaza is horrendous, and we are reminded of it again and again. That is what television news does best… it show you things so graphically that the image becomes the story. We see the loss of life. We see the loss of children, a loss of so much potential, and we are horrified. Or maybe they are horrified by the show of rockets fired at Israel. But it galvanizes many to action.

So far, around 800 have died and every one is a loss. But I want you all to consider this.
There is a 90% chance that 3 billion people will have to choose between going hungry and moving their families to milder climes because of climate change within 100 years, says new research.

3 billion people is about 45% of the world's population. That massive a dislocation can not be absorbed in any manner. Consider the news we have gotten about Zimbabwe, Robert Mugabe and the outbreaks of cholera. That is still going on, only no longer on television so we forget. But that will be the reality for maybe a third of the this planet.

I ask you to read The Road by Cormac McCarthy. It is perhaps the most bleak book I have ever read. But that also could be our reality.

Compared to this, why does Israel and the Palestinians waste so much time, energy, effort fighting a war that in this history of this planet is basically meaningless? There is no answer to that.

Stop Schwarzenegger Now.

In a note to the California Green Forum this afternoon, I asked people to call their Congress Critters, especially Senators Boxer and Feinstein, to express our outrage over the manner in which Schwarzenegger is trying to force a solution to California's Water Program. His latest step is to ask the Obama Administration to remove transportation and water infrastructure project from the need to comply with the National Environmental Policy Act. Net result: do what you want without any environmental impact assessment.

At that time, I promised a post on California Greening tonight. Well, this is it but I did not write it. Instead, let me re-post the alert sent out today by Restore the Delta. Click Read more! to do just that.

Help Stop an End-Run to Build the Peripheral Canal

Restore the Delta is asking you to take special action on behalf of protecting the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.

Dear Restore the Delta Supporters,

Governor Schwarzenegger has asked President-elect Obama to suspend or otherwise eliminate National Environmental Impact Review (NEPA) for the economic stimulus package projects for California, including some $8 billion in unnamed water and sewer projects. (The letter can be viewed at the Governor's website.)

The Governor has also been attempting to weaken the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) during the state budget process. It is the assessment of advisors working with the Restore the Delta staff that the Governor is trying to weaken federal and state environmental review standards in order to ease the development and construction of the peripheral canal, rather than following existing environmental laws and processes.

Please call Senator Diane Feinstein and Senator Barbara Boxer today and ask them to protect NEPA and all essential environmental laws while helping to develop the Federal economic stimulus package. Their numbers are below. And if you have time, please drop me an email to let me know that you called:

Sincerely yours,

Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla, Campaign Director

Senator Diane Feinstein:
Washington Office: 202-224-3841
San Francisco: 415-393-0707
Los Angeles: 310-914-7300

Senator Barbara Boxer:
Washington Office: 202-224-3553
San Francisco: 415-403-0100
Los Angeles: 213-894-5000

Restore the Delta
Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla
Making the California Delta fishable, swimmable, drinkable, and farmable by 2010!

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Constitutional Reform: 7th Generation and Ecuador Part 1.

I have been trying to get my head around the differences between two short statement about man and our relationship to nature. One has been around for a while. In fact, in one version, since before we became these United States of America coming from the tradition of the Iroquois. I have referred to it before here and here. It is called the 7th Generation Amendment.
The right of citizens of the United States to use and enjoy air, water, wildlife, and other renewable resources determined by the Congress to be common property shall not be impaired, nor shall such use impair their availability for the use of future generations.
The second is new but getting a lot of press recently in Nature or even the LA Times. It is a short section from the text of the new Constitution of Ecuador.
Nature or Pachamama [the Andean earth goddess], where life is reproduced and exists, has the right to exist, persist, maintain and regenerate its vital cycles, structure, functions and its processes in evolution. Every person, people, community or nationality, will be able to demand the recognition of rights for nature before the public bodies.
Both are short, simple statements. Both have their origins in the world view of the indigenous peoples of these countries. Yet, I find them to be very different. Click Read more! for a fuller discussion of the 7th Generation Amendment. I will have to post again tomorrow on the Ecuadorian Constitution.

I started this because I wanted to make the 7th Generation Amendment the focal point of Green Party Earth Day events. I believe in what it says. I also believe that the championing of ecological wisdom in this manner can being people back to the Green Party.

At the same time, I have a friend who told me that they much prefer the statement from the Ecuadorian Constitution and I want to understand why. The same person objected to the word "use" in the phrasing of the 7th Generation Amendment.

There is an easy argument for the 7th Generation Amendment based on it's long history in some segments of our population. I went back to the short explanation that Walt Bresette wrote for Synthesis/Regeneration 9. Bresette began by identifying the problem that he was trying to address.
State and national legislatures are gutting environmental laws in a misguided effort to in response to the populist "wise use" movement and their corporate backers. The momentum is strong as the political pendulum swings against the earth.

The movement focuses on market value of private property, arguing that environmental laws are unfairly devaluing private property. A too narrow, yet effective, campaign in today's political atmosphere.
If you don't understand this problem, or think that it was something that we have solved, you have only to read my previous post today regarding the way that two "wise use" lawyers sneaked their rhetoric into the San Francisco Chronicle posing as an "article". They are still around and still talking the same property rights line, forever questioning "takings" and, especially in the West, bringing a new "iminent domain" initiative to the ballot every couple of years.

Bresette said that the answer was finally, once and for all time, to define the common property that we all intuitively know exists. He began with the air we breathe and the water we drink and the sunlight that grows our crops and soon will bring energy to all. He stopped at that, but gave to Congress the right to add to, but not subtract from, that list.

The media tells us every day that this country faces the most important challenges in several generations; some go back to the Great Depression, others even further. We are on be cusp of economic collapse and at the same time we have nearly reached a tipping point in the warming of this planet where run-away heating is a real possibility. At the close of her book Field Notes from a Catastrophe, Elizabeth Kolbert made this predicament clear.
It may seem impossible to imagine that a technologically advanced society could choose, in essence, to destroy itself, but that is what we are now in the process of doing.
At question is the idea, drilled into us for so long, that environmental action always comes at the expense of the economy. It was every the same since the auto industry complained about the cost of Nader's seat belts. Again, Bresette was thinking of this.
By simply attempting reform with what is available today, we remain in a stagnated "jobs vs. environment" polarization. In these complex times we must be more creative, yes proactive, and indeed accommodate all of our interests and rights, especially those yet to come.
Even today, I read that economist are saying we can rebuild the economy or we can save the planet, but we can't do both together. Well we must try.

The 7th Generation Amendment is a reminder that we have such an obligation to posterity, an obligation that we must fulfill.

San Francisco Chronicle Prints Anyone

We all know that the current controversy about the California Delta is one of the most important water issues in the country. We will make a decision based on the data subject to scientific analysis or we will make a decision based on ideology and the pandering to political expediency. The point of the controversy is whether or not to spend $ Billions constructing a canal to divert water around (or through) the Delta with little regard for what happens to the delta, its fish, the livelihood of its farmers, the success of commercial fish industry.

Along comes the San Francisco Chronicle with an OpEd disguised as an article written by two flacks for the Wise Use lobby. If you want to know how embarrassing it is to see this stuff in a newspaper that you frequently read, click Read more! I'll spell it out.

First let me make a couple of points about the credentials of the authors.

Craig Manson is not a scientist nor a journalist. He is a lawyer who got a political job in Washington during the Bush Administration. While he is not one of the Dept. of the Interior officials so tainted by their association with Jack Abramoff, maybe that is only because he did not need to be bribed to do the damage that he did. It was enough, however, that a more reputable magazine, High Country News called him out for being part of the problems in Interior.
A Government Accountability Office investigator testified to Congress that other Interior officials should have been examined as part of the MacDonald investigation, including Craig Manson, Brian Waidmann, Todd Willens and Randal Bowman. Though the three were never actually accused of wrongdoing, some did their part aboveboard to stick it to endangered species. Willens was once senior staff advisor to Richard Pombo, the notorious California congressman who attempted to gut the Endangered Species Act. While at Interior, he pushed to remove the Florida manatee and other species from endangered species protection. Willens left Interior in 2008 and — you don't say!? — became a lobbyist.
Manson came back to his comfort zone in Sacramento to teach law.

Manson's co-author, Brandon Middleton is an attorney with Pacific Legal Foundation where a site search show his name attached to exactly one case. The Pacific Legal Foundation is key part of the Wise Use movement and has a long history of attacks on the Endangered Species Act and the Clean Water Act. Their claim is that they are "supporting freedom from environmental extremism." The reality is that they are the last desperate gasp of a 19th century mentality that saw all of nature as an abundance waiting to be exploited.

So, when these two lawyers say that
There is little science to support the notion that pumping restrictions will solve the problem of the smelt's decline.
they are not qualified to make that judgment.

What they do is to fall back on an old rhetorical trick. They demand absolute certainty that an action will produce results before any action that then don't like might be attempted.
In contrast, there is nothing close to a guarantee that increased pumping restrictions will help the delta smelt.
I will admit that they do list other problems with the delta, including contamination. Their reference to "a toxic water habitat for the smelt" seems a direct reference to the contamination of Delta waters through runoff from irrigation practices in the Westlands Water District. Just think of this. If the pumps that are referenced in this article are turned off, Westlands Water district would not have as much runoff and the water quality in the Delta would be improved. That would be a double benefit. Such goodness is too much to ask from a couple of lawyers.

It would also be much better journalistic practice for the Chornicle to have called this the the OpEd that it really is.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Will we have salmon in 2009?

The last two years have been a disaster for those who make their living from the sea. Fish populations, especially salmon, have plummeted. This year, the dungeness crab season might as well have never started off San Francisco. Jacoba Charles provides a good summary of the problem along with some speculations for 2009 in an article at Salon.
"This was the first time that I sat around San Francisco and wasn't out there catching wild California king salmon," says Larry Collins, one of roughly 1,500 commercial fishermen forced to spend summer on dry land.
But, there are problems with the article. Click Read more! to find out what.

Some data was left out regarding chinook salmon that spawn in the Sacramento and San Joaquin Rivers of California. This is not to refute Charles's story, only to point out that it was not complete.
Yet the common thread in the failure of the salmon seems to be the sea. Coho and chinook salmon from up and down the coast -- not just from one river or river system -- all declined. "When you start looking at what they have in common, it is that they share the same ocean at the same time," says MacFarlane.

The unfavorable conditions weren't in 2008 and 2007 when adult salmon failed to return from the sea -- but three years earlier, when the fish were only a few months old and the ocean's food chain fell apart.
The fault, we are told, is global warming. While that is true to some extent, Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla from Restore the Delta provide a slightly different opinion in the 3rd page of comments.
This article too easily dismisses what's happened with pumping water from the Delta

While I do not doubt that climate change is beginning to alter ocean conditions, what we do not know is how many of the 2008 juvenile salmon were ground up at the massive water pumps in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta several years ago when record amounts of water were being sent to irrigate San Joaquin Valley farms. If the juvenile salmon never made it to sea, then they could not return.

Our understanding at Restore the Delta is that Klamath salmon did just fine in 2008. Why would Klamath salmon thrive in poor ocean conditions while Chinook salmon, which pass through the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, perish under the same conditions?

Commercial fishermen, and environmentalists who are experts on Delta conditions, are skeptical of the climate change explanation -- and not because we do not believe that climate change is a threat to fisheries throughout the world. We just question it being used as a cover for bad environmental policies in the immediate present.
It is always better to look at all the data before writing your conclusions. It does create a problem for global warming deniers (many of which posted comments). It it wasn't global warming, then Barrigan-Parrilla must be right.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

The Long Road: Part 2. Pogo was right

The most quoted line from Walt Kelly's Pogo strip was surely "We have met the enemy and they are us." At the time, his comments were directed at the Vietnam War. Today, Kelly's target would surely be the manner in which our consumer society is driving us further and further along the path to 850 ppm of CO2.

There is a real question of whether or not we can solve this problem through technology. God forbid that we might have to change our lifestyle. For more of this discussion and some references to appropriate reading material, click Read more!.

Sorting through the various threads of meaning in the consideration of global warming, you find that while there is solid agreement as to the scope of the problem that we are facing, there is little agreement as to what to do about it.

There are now two books about global warming with the same title: Hell and High Water. One is by US physicist Joseph Romm. The other is by Alastair McIntosh, a professor of human ecology at the University of Strathclyde, Scotland. Both seem to be worth reading. I have just finished Romm's book but only have read reviews of McIntosh's.... including one by Romm.

The choice of titles is indicative of more than just the feeling of terrible consequences. If you read Romm's Hell and High Water you quickly understand just how much data from so many sources that all indicate what is happening to warm our world. When sea level rise inundates that entire countries; when it causes the mass migration of tens of millions of people; maybe then we will understand just what the high water is. You don't want to think about the meaning of hell in this context.

Romm never answers his real question. Will we have the political will to do what we know needs to be done. At the present time, I think that the answer is "not yet." When Nancy Pelosi can say that the House can pass a cap & trade bill, but not this year, you know it has not really sunk in. My source for that is Romm's Climate Progress site.

McIntosh has a different focus. He is looking at the human, individual, psychological aspect of the problem. Reviewer Simon Butler cites this passage.
McIntosh writes that “the central thesis of [his] book is that climate change cannot be tackled by technical, economic and political measures alone”. What is also required is a coming to “grips with the roots of life and what gives it meaning”.
So McIntosh subtitled his book Climate Change, Hope and the Human Condition. At least, he ends the book with some hope. I wonder if he asked Pelosi if she felt a sense of urgency about this or not.

My conclusion to this is that the politicians will never solve these problems left to their own devices. This is the time when people must change. More than any other politician I have read about recently, the Green Party Canada's Elizabeth May has the right attitude if not the power to implement the right policies. She understands that climate change and weather are not the same, but are connected. She understands that each of use have a role to play, including convincing our neighbors that it is time to get really, really worried.
So for all the reporters on your gift list, please send them a copy of Global Warming for Dummies. Early reports from those who gave it to sceptical in-laws are that they started worrying about idling the car and the life-cycle impact of the gifts they were giving. And a friend in BC has started a very handy reference site for the latest on climate science. Since she couldn’t get out of her house due to the snow, she had lots of time to post recent studies and graphs to the site:

I have a feeling that it will be in my lifetime, and I am drawing social security, when the problems we face now: the Israeli / Hamas conflict in Gaza, the genocide in Darfur, the War on Terrorism in Afghanistan, the attacks in Mumbai...the events that fill our news screen each day... will all seem trivial.

Undoing Bush's mess.

While the War in Iraq and all of the implications of the War on Terrorism have earned Bush the enmity of this generation, I think that future generations will be more inclined to blame him for his failure to act on global warming and other ecological issues. His administration provided the hopefully last gasp of a 19th century view of the world as a source of infinite exploitation for the pleasure of man the consumer.

I am thinking of that when I read the Washington Post story Forest Service that Marnie Glickman posted at Green Change. The goal
The tone of the article is anti-corporation and it points out the problems from Bush Administration last minute rule changes. But that does not begin to get at the heart of the problems which this administration has caused in the Forest Service, National Park Service and Bureau of Land Management of the past 8 years. Click Read more! to learn just how bad it has been.

In the comments following the Washington Post article cited above, I made reference to David Iverson and a blog that he ran called Forest Policy - Forest Practices. Last night, I found an article in High Country News (HCN) that began with another reference to Iverson. In an article headlined Up in smoke, HCN describes an organization that has lost its way, its sense of mission and is fast losing its experienced, professionals like Iverson. In a move of supreme audacity, the Bush Administration tried even to outsource as much as two thirds of the workforce of the Forest Service.
In 2006, the nonprofit Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility analyzed age trends within the "green agencies" - the Forest Service, Fish and Wildlife Service, EPA and BLM. They found that between one-third and one-half of all specialist employees - some 30,000 scientists, rangers, inspectors and enforcement attorneys - will become eligible for retirement by 2011. According to the Forest Service, 6,410 employees have retired just since 2004.
It will take a long time to recover from this. I am especially concerned with the effect on the EPA, an agency that is not now doing it's job and has been subject of law suits by the State of California to force that to happen.

Monday, January 05, 2009

7th Generation Revisited

The first 2009 issue of my home town newspaper, the Morgan Hill Times, had another of my columns. The subject was global warming and the 7th Generation Amendment. Click Read more! to read it here.. or go to the MH Times site.

Having the opportunity to write one of the first columns of 2009 is a privilege. It gives me the mental stimulus to think seriously about what I have to accomplish during the next year. The result is something of a list of topics rather than a coherent statement, but at some level it should make sense.

I spent much of Sunday moving a pineapple guava from a location where it got neither enough sun nor water to produce good fruit. By the time I finished, I was wondering why I even started the task. But then I came in and ate some roast beef with a pineapple guava chutney and I knew why.

There is nothing quite as good as the food you grow yourself. You know it is fresh. You know it is organic. You know it was ripe when picked rather than being picked green, shipped halfway across the country and allowed to ripen enroute.

My work with the EcoAction Committee of the Green Party this year has given me the impetus to spend more time than most on some issues, such as global warming. I guess that I was naive about just how much disinformation is promulgated by those in office.

One source of much obvious mis-information is Oklahoma Sen. James Inhofe who is the ranking member of the Senate's Environment and Public Works Committee. He continues to proclaim that "More than 650 international scientists dissent over man-made global warming claims" even though many of the names on that list have publicly demanded that he take their names off of it.

In other words, the man has no regard for truth or ethical conduct. It is embarrassing that he should have been re-elected.

It is possible that global warming is the most serious problem facing the world today. I would certainly put it far ahead of most of what we see as news on television.

Yet, we continue to get "on one hand or on the other hand" treatment of the issue, as if facts had two hands.

We can choose to act in whatever way we can or we can choose to ignore the issue.

We don't have to deal with the consequences now … but our children and grandchildren will.

I have also become convinced, mostly by hard facts, that there is not necessary antagonism between ecological sustainability and economic sustainability.

According to a study published recently by McKinsey Global Institute, the net economic cost to stabilize our climate is near zero.

The rhetoric to the contrary is always put forward by those who would rather sell you something than fix a problem.

Having gone through all of the above; developing our orchard, investigating global warming, checking the facts on the economy, studying the water problems that California can not seem to resolve, I have become convinced that we must treat some resources as part of the commons, owned by all.

I came to know of a man named Walt Bressette. A friend of mine knew him. Walt was a leader in the Chippewa spearing rights controversy in Wisconsin. My friend found him to be " … a wise, humorous, visionary man who was able to see through political baloney and get to the heart of situations."

Walt was also the head of a committee dedicated to enacting the 7th Generation Amendment to the Constitution. It makes a lot of sense to me.

"The right of citizens of the United States to use and enjoy air, water, wildlife, and other renewable resources determined by the Congress to be common property shall not be impaired, nor shall such use impair their availability for the use of future generations."

We use the the air every day … We change it by that use and, in doing so, we endanger the very life we would pass on to our posterity. Our Constitution would "secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity."

Somehow, we have forgotten that the blessings of our liberty includes the land in which we live, the air we breath, the water we use.

During the coming year, members of the Green Party will work to make the 7th Generation Amendment a reality. I ask you to join us in this.

The Long Road. Part 1.

Sunday Night, the ABC World News ended with a beautiful picture of a grim future. They show us one of the most remote areas of the continental United States, Glacier National Park. I urge you to follow the link and watch this. It gives a visual reference for the impact that global warming is having on our planet, our country, right now and not in some distant future. I was ecstatic over seeing a main stream media presentation that connected my two favorite issues: global warming and water. Don't bother to read the rest until you have those images in mind.

When you are done.. click Read more! To paraphrase Paul Harvey, you will know the rest of the story.

What was not there is are even greater impacts that never make it into the mainstream media.
  • Species are dying that we do not even know exist. Consider the fate of beetles that live in the extreme cold of the streams that run off the glaciers. When the glaciers dry, the beetles die.
  • The mountain pine bark beetles that live through our less cold winters are capable of doing significant damage. Expect 80% of British Columbia's pine forests to be gone by 2013... that is only 5 years from now. The economic impact is staggering.
  • California's so-called Green Governor plans to spend $ Billions that we do not have to solve a water problem with a fresh water canal through the ocean. The latest big fiasco water plan from Schwarzenegger / Feinstein plans for a 55 in sea level rise by 2100. This is what a 39 in (1 m) sea level rise will look like. That is the best farm land and fish nursery on the west coast, now under salt water and lost forever. How many $ Billions that we don't have are needed to mitigate a problem that we know is coming?
Sam Smith used the Progressive Review today to republish a segment of James Gustave Speth's piece (Global Warming and Modern Capitalism) originally in The Nation (Sept. 2008). The following can be found in both.
The never-ending drive to grow the economy undermines families, jobs, communities, the environment, a sense of place and continuity, even national security--but we are told that, in the end, we will somehow be better off. . . In affluent countries we have what might be called uneconomic growth, to borrow Herman Daly's phrase, where, if one could total up all the costs of growth, they would outweigh the benefits.
Even Science Dude at the Orange County Register says "global warming is real". We know what is coming. What are we going to do about it?

Tune up the fiddles

Over the weekend, Marnie Glickman initiated a poll at Green Change, inviting a selection between several attractive alternatives for the most important action by Obama in his first 100 days. You don't have to join Green Change to register an opinion though it would be a good idea to do so.

I voted for "Support reducing greenhouse pollution by at least 30% in 2020." My rationale is simple. I asked myself what would be the consequences if any one of these were not done. In the case of ghg reduction, the consequences are so horrendous that it is difficult to contemplate. The EcoAction Committee of the national Green Party already has a First 100 Days document that we offered to all Green Party presidential candidates. You can read that here. It was not strong enough about global warming, climate change, global warming and any associated issue.

During the next month, I will produce a series of posts regarding this issue and how we must act to avoid what James Hansen calls the Venus Syndrome. Stay tuned for more to come.

Sunday, January 04, 2009

Let the games begin.

One of the mistakes Greens have made in past years was to wait until everything else had fallen in place and then targeted a few electoral positions after is was already too late. Some appear to have learned from past history that this does not work...even for those with wider name recognition.

That is why I welcome the news that long time Fairfax (Marin County) political figure, Lew Tremaine, is taking a serious look at running for governor in 2010. The list of people who are casting their eyes on that job grows almost every time you pick up the paper. Gavin Newsom, Jerry Brown (again), John Garamendi, Tom Campbell, etc. I hope Lew is serious enough to put together the team to make a serious run at it.

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Toxic Sludge: Tennessee, West Virginia and DC.

I should not have read the latest post by Dave Roberts at Gristmill this late in the evening. This one suggests that there are more coal sludge disasters waiting to happen. We know about the recent containment pond spill at the Kingston Power Plant run by the TVA. Roberts and the rest of the crowd at Grist want us to keep on worrying. This time over a leaking pond in Raleigh County West Virginia. The problem with this is that there is a school and, for part of the day, 200 students directly in the path if it finally breaks loose.

What these Yes We Can blinded environmentalists don't say is that there is little hope anything is going to change. Much of what coal is allowed to do and the rules under which they have to operate is controlled by the House Committee on Natural Resources. That Committee is headed by Congressman Nick Rahall (WV-03) . There is little chance that any real oversight or real legislative leadership will come out of this Committee while Rahall is sitting in the Chair. I don't think that Massey Energy is going to miss much sleep.

Even as we are told that the new administration is taking science seriously... and it looks like that is the case with a Nobel Prize winner, Steven Chu named to head the Dept. of Energy and John Holdren to be Obama's Science and Technology Adviser... the funding for much work still has to come through the House Appropriations Commitee, where the SubCommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies, Alan Mohollan (WV-01) is sitting there to take care of making sure King Coal get its fair share of funding.

Then, if anything gets out of the House, we have the nominal Dean of the Senate, Robery Byrd ready to filibuster whatever coal does not like.

Now, you see why I am a Green, not a Democrat... and why I continue to push back at Roberts and all of the others when they forget how this really works. In order to get the right legislation regarding the Auto Industry, Waxman had to replace Dingell. If we want to get the right legislation and oversight regarding the Coal Mining Industry, we need someone to replace Nick Rahall. He is just too dependent on coal industry votes to be effective in doing what this entire country needs to have done.

Turning 350 into policy

In my previous post today, I allowed Lorna Salzman to articulate the criticism (one with which I fully agree) that the Left has failed to take seriously the implications of ecology. However, there is some hope that a new seriousness about science will help turn the tide of public opinion on this.

I first need to call attention to a letter that Dr. James Hansen has sent to PEBO through the man he named as his Science Adviser, John Holdren. This makes very clear the fact that much of what the Democratic Party seems to be planning for 2009, an environmental policy based on bowing to the Gods of the Free Market Economy and a cap and trade mechansim, is a recipe for failure. You can read it here.

You should also read Hansen's revision to an earlier open letter he had written entitled "Tell Barack Obama the Truth."

If Greens can only do one thing in 2009, it should be to hasten the change to a policy based on ecology, one that is designed to save the earth, not destroy it.

Green in 2009

I am beginning the new year as something of a curmudgeon. I cringed when Lake Superior State University published its list of words to be banished from the English Language for mis-use, over use and uselessness. It included "green". I guess that this is as in green coal At least, it was green and not Green that they wanted to banish.

One of my friends started the year by posting a note to a GPCA email list with the heading "Why I am green." It was a link to Chris Hedges's column the purported to explain why he was a Socialist. I guess that the implication here is that Hedges had defined the problem correctly but did not yet have the proper solution. Lorna Salzman, a former Green Party presidential candidate, goes even further in poking holes in Hedges's logic. Since she sent this out as an email and did not post it online, I am posting it here. I also happen to pretty much agree with Salzman on this. Click Read more! to see it.

Why I am Not a Socialist
Lorna Salzman

My most recent encounter with Hedges' thought processes was in Free Inquiry, where he attacked atheists and atheism, accusing them of being as fanatic and close-minded as religious fanatics. His arguments were not persuasive.

Similarly, his arguments for "democratic socialism" are no more persuasive, and arguably less so. When he mentions Cynthia McKinney and Ralph Nader in the same breath, he loses any credibility he might have had with regard to his political insights. Personally, I don't find it interesting to read about why he or any other individual is a socialist, any more than I find it interesting to read about why someone is a Christian or a vegetarian or an adherent to any other ideology or dogma. Anyone can have opinions. What makes a a statement worthwhile is a coherent and thoughtful analysis of the reasons and of the external social and conditions that led to these convictions.

Hedges' reasons and political analysis are old hat for the old left, and the new left too. Corporate greed, globalization, and a corrupt political process are indicted once again. Duh. The question is just WHY the left, in its lengthy history of protest and occasional stabs at political activism (most of which consisted of rationalizing why it was not forming a political party or running leftist candidates), has never been able to make headway of ANY kind, not just in the electoral arena but in the civic institutions and minds of the public in general, and even within the liberal and radical communities that fully accept his analysis of corporate tyranny.

Now, we must grant Hedges some credit, for identifying the statutes, policies and institutions that have allowed the corporations free rein, such as corporations being granted equal rights with individuals, lack of government financial oversight, and his observation of the failure of liberals and the working class to unite. But note he reason he gives for the latter: the failure of the former to adopt attitudes of the latter! He might as easily have written Workers of the World Unite. Indeed, he is writing of and for a condition that was first preached 150 years ago and which has NEVER EVER existed....and never will. And even if it did, it would fail as miserably as the left has. Why?

Some people question whether any proletariat exist at all; it certainly does not among union workers, who share middle class life styles of ownership and acquisition, and have done so for decades. Hedges has utterly failed to identify and indict other equally powerful forces and obstacles that have arisen under capitalism, and more importantly has failed to comprehend that virtually ALL Americans of all classes and races have bought into the capitalist dream system that thrives and persists only in the presence of CONTINUED UNRESTRAINED ECONOMIC GROWTH AND CONSUMPTION.

The corollary of this is that the earth's resources, species, ecosystems AS WELL AS the less privileged and powerful in the world will continue to be exploited, exported, sold, utilized and disposed of without a thought given to either ecology or social justice. As Australian Ted Trainer has shown so clearly, the capitalist growth society is inherently incompatible with ecological sustainability or social justice. And the corollary to this corollary is that those who are already beneficiaries of the industrial capitalist growth economy will not relinquish any fraction of their benefits without a bloody fight.

Hence, we will have the frightened auto worker unions demanding the same things they have possessed for decades, and let the environment and climate change be damned. True, Americans were justified in their outrage at the bailout of banks, insurance companies, brokerage firms and now General Motors. But Americans are never outraged enough to say Stop, because they have this irrational belief that eventually they will be "bailed out", that they will reap enough money and possessions as the Bernie Madoffs, so why rock and possibly overturn the boat that might bring them wealth in the future? This is what I call the Las Vegas mentality: overlook the thievery, bribery, deceptions and collusion that characterize the American Way of Business because eventually the Wheel of Fortune will land on your number.

Hedges refers to the anti -capitalist, anti-globalist forces operative abroad who have come together around certain policies. But what he ignores is the fact that unlike the American left, these forces (with a few exceptions, such as those who took control of the Durban conference to shift attention away from globalization and the environment and onto Israel) have not ignored the exigency of ecology. For them ecology and politics were never separate, and the direct connection of the decay of the earth's natural systems and of its components to corporations and the imperative of economic growth was recognized from the beginning.

This is not to say that some of these forces abroad were not socialist. Indeed, they were and some are, sometimes unwittingly because leftists, supremely alert opportunists, have always linked up with progressive movements when possible, as they have done with the US Green Party and as they did in England, where they destroyed the UK Ecology Party. But because the left has always been in the minority, they have had a harder time, particularly in western Europe, in taking over larger, more established progressive parties. (The present exception is in peripheral places like Norway and parts of Spain, where pro-Palestine Islamists have, like the American Green Party, made Israel-bashing and support of Islamist terrorists their trade mark). Here is one issue on which I do not fully agree with Salzman, and I don't think it belongs here, but deserves a separate analysis. - Wes

Nor is this to say that the left and non-socialist movements and parties do not share many objectives. This is, in fact, the problem: that people like Chris Hedges can articulate an analysis that will be willingly adopted by non-leftists, thus granting the left a growing body of credibility that it can use to enhance its own ideology that has no grounding whatsoever in the overriding moral, political and scientific issue of our day: The Fate of the Earth.

You can scan Hedges' statement below (I linked it instead) in vain to find any statement, much less inference, that environmental degradation and ecological principles have, or SHOULD have, any role in formulating our policies and reforming our institutions. This is at best abysmal ignorance and at worst studied cynical denial, a denial arguably intended to promote a political analysis and ideology, and therefore an analysis that is fully founded on a social justice agenda, not an agenda that involves anything but humans and their needs, in other words, a non-ecological view that is indefensible today.

Hedges concludes by urging a "viable democratic socialism", without defining its characteristics. He seems to be unaware of the growing grassroots and avowedly populist, decentralist participatory theories and movements in this country calling for a drastic down-sizing and decentralized economy based on economic relocalization. It is in this kind of system - the only system conducive of human survival, one could rationally argue - that the dual ideals of social justice and ecologically based endeavors can most readily and fairly be realized. Leftists who think like Hedges are advised to expand their reading and brain matter and to adopt this model - a new one only to leftists - in place of their antique and inappropriate remedies.

Lorna Salzman

I posted Lorna's comments because because one source of irritation to me has always been the climate of protest that that provides the left with it's own global warming. There are times when protest is not only proper but the only possible action, but protest without solutions will never be solve much. That was the major criticism I have always had, even of Nader. His campaign stopped at "Big Corporations are bad for you" and "the duopoly hates 3rd parties." He never showed us the promised land let alone telling us how to get there.

I agree with Lorna that on the direction that we must take... one based on ecology and holding that life on this Earth is something precious that we must protect.
It is in this kind of system - the only system conducive of human survival, one could rationally argue - that the dual ideals of social justice and ecologically based endeavors can most readily and fairly be realized."