Saturday, February 28, 2009

A Conversation on Race

I started to watch Bill Moyers Journal last night and the first segment was so thought provoking that I turned it off and just sat in relative silence for a while. His guest was John McWhorters and the conversation that they had was on race, but it may not have been the conversation that Attorney General Holder meant in his Black History Month talk at the Justice Department.
Though this nation has proudly thought of itself as an ethnic melting pot, in things racial we have always been and we, I believe, continue to be, in too many ways, essentially a nation of cowards. Though race-related issues continue to occupy a significant portion of our political discussion, and though there remain many unresolved racial issues in this nation, we average Americans simply do not talk enough with each other about things racial.
The rest of this takes more than I want to put on this front page and so you need to click Read more! to follow it.

Through it all, Moyers prompted McWhorters to define what he meant when he said that Holder was making a coded statement, and then pushed McWhorters to have the conversation that Holder was looking for. As a result, what I got was portions of two different converstations. One that McWhorters wanted to have with Moyers, the other that he did not want to have with Holder.

The first, is pretty much summed up with this statement.
White privilege is the way sometimes it's more provocatively put. And those things are there. But my question is whether or not we can eliminate those things within any time span that is less than geological. And so, yes, I know that there are arguments that there is institutional racism. But in terms of helping people who need help, it seems that they are very practical, hands-on strategies that we can use and that we can teach people to use that have a more interesting effect to me than crusading against the fact that society isn't fair.

Basically, I can't imagine the playing field ever being completely level. I don't know how you can create that. And this is the crucial thing.
The comments to Holder did not come until the end, when Moyers asked him how he would begin a frank conversation on race with Holder.
If he was sitting in front of me right now I would say, Mr. Holder, Eric, whatever it would be, are you afraid of the prospect of black America having to move on without calling on whites to acknowledge their racism? Are you afraid of the fact that despite the nastiness of our history, despite the injustice of slave ships, the Jim Crow, and everything else, that we're at a point where even though we're still in a position behind telling white people that they're racist is no longer going to do the job. It's not that I find it unfashionable or distasteful. You're not going to help anyone doing that. Are you afraid of us really having to take responsibility for ourselves? And what's important is I would say, Mr. Holder, you know that our taking responsibility for ourselves will involve calling on the government to do things to allow us to do that. So this is not some bootstraps argument. But still are you afraid of no longer talking about racism? Why is it that when you made a speech you wanted to take that line after Barack Obama's been elected president? Isn't it time to knock this off? That is what I would say to him. And, and I want to specify. It's time to knock this off because it is not helping anyone anymore. That is what I would say to him.
I sense that there is a generational change between that of Obama or McWhorters and that of Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton. Those, like Holder, who bridge that gap seem to have a hard time finding the language appropriate to the occasion when falling back on easily invoked coded speech may or may not apply.

I was challenged by this entire episode. It made me question whether I had a right to express my own opinion and desires. I know that my Mother had a very race free outlook. Moving to Flagstaff, AZ in 1953 was a shock to her as Flagstaff had very distinct and strong race problems and even then there was no racial majority of population in the town, though it was clear that the power was with the whites. Still, she always said that she did not care who I married as long as they were a Christian and I could not even do that.

Still, coming from that background, I can never think of the subject of race without questioning myself. Maybe that is all any of us can do.

A woman's right to choose what?

Some time ago, when the story first broke, I posted the following note to a Green Party email list.
It seems to me that those who so loudly support a woman's right to choose in the case of abortion are silent as the media constantly harps on the criticism aimed at Nadya Suleman for her decisions to have a large family through IVF.

Is there some other standard at work that would take away her right to choose?

I know that my wife wants me to write to the television stations covering the story in this manner and to tell them to s-t-f-u. She is not a welfare mom. It is not costing me any more in my taxes. What is the deal? Someone in the media defined the story and it took on a life of her own. They only people I have heard really criticize Suleman are the media who make this the story as opposed to some other way of telling it.
From that, I have received only two comments, both from men. One implied that she had been coerced into the decision by her religion. The other, referencing the question of zero population growth (ZPG), said that "Ms. Suleman the Magnificent should be public enemy #1 through Green lenses."

It makes me think of the broader implication of just how far people are willing to go to achieve their goals. Where do we, as Greens, draw the line between the freedom to make personal decisions and the collective goals of society? Would we practice any form of coercion in this case? In this case, we have calls for her forced sterilization, so my questions is not a trivial one.

California Water Emergency

Within the past 24 hours, Governor Schwarzenegger has yet again declared a drought emergency for the State of California. The Federal Government has joined in with the Departments of the Interior and Agriculture issuing a joint statment to the effect that they have formed a California Drought Action Team.

While both of these actions are necessary, they both also mislead the public in that they treat the current situation as an abnormal weather event and fail to consider that they could be only the beginning of a significant shift in climate, a shift that would make permanent the restrictive measures that are now being implemented.

I explore the impacts of this failure to communicate but you need to click "Read more!" to read them/

To begin with, the precipitation situation in California is, like always, a mix. According to Accuweather, some reporting stations are well above normal for this year with Fullerton being at 124 per-cent of normal (PON). But a large majority of reporting stations are below normal with Paso Robles at 51 PON while not far away Salinas is at 100 PON. Thus, the public perception of the severity of the situation will vary across the state based on local experience.

This is not just a California phenomenon. Arizona is also experiencing conditions that range from abnormally dry to moderate drought.

It is clear that there is a disconnect between those with the most need and those who have the most power. The Central Valley agricultural interests are going to be affected more than any other sector of our population. Urban / suburban uses are not generally for agriculture and the lack of water is an inconvenience for most, but will not put them out of business. For the farmer, especially the smaller family farm that produces specialty crops, this may be the end of the road. Coming at a time when economic conditions may make it impossible to get a loan to survive until the rains return, many farms may not survive, selling out to large scale corporate agribusiness.

California's Agriculture is a $30 Billion plus industry. For some crops (almonds) California produces as much as 80% of the world wide market. The loss of any significant portion of California's Agricultural production would be felt all over the world. At least the coverage in Capital Press is about as factual as you can get on this issue and Capital Press's California Editor, Hank Shaw, is one of the more knowledgeable journalists on water issues.

The economic impact in California means that the budget deal which the state legislature is now congratulating itself for having reached is already a failure. With the ongoing drought and the loss of employment (I saw one estimate this AM that it would be 95,000 jobs) state revenues will be further depressed and societal needs will increase.

I used the links from Aquafornia this AM to survey the stories triggered by Schwarzenegger's declaration. Most of them miss what is going on behind the scenes. Water is the most politicized issue in California. It always has been and it will continue to be.

The San Jose Mercury News coverage provides one of the few glimpses into the direction of the political pressure.
In an interview with the Mercury News on Friday, Schwarzenegger said the water crisis is "self-inflicted, it's not mother nature's fault" and said he hopes to convince opponents of new dams and reservoirs that "the emergency presents an opportunity," including creating jobs. He also said the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta, which supplies water to much of the state, must be repaired.
There are many who feel that the Governor's declarations of drought emergencies have been part of a push for more dams and a peripheral canal. This, in spite of the fact that the idea of peripheral canal positions the small scale, specialty crop farmers of the Delta against the big corporate farms of the Westlands Water District. It is farmer against farmer fighting of the rights to use water. Westlands and it's political friends, especially Congressmen Radanovich, Costa, Nunes and Cardoza will try to make it into an issue over the Endangered Species Act, but that is just a charade to disguise their resource grab.

In reality, the massive expenditures for infrastructure are not affordable now. There is not stimulus effect when no construction will be able to commence for years. Even it these facilities are built, the benefit of these new facilities has not been demonstrated. If we do not now have enough water to fill the reservoirs that we have, how will we benefit by building new reservoirs for a dwindling among of precipitation. It just does not make sense.

Greens need to be the one party who is putting forward rationale solutions to these problems, solutions that recognize the true impacts of climate change. For some reason, probably political expediency, these ideas are not connected; not in the rhetoric of politicians, not in the coverage from the press and definitely not in the perception of the public. We must change that.

The Green Issues Working Group of GPCA needs to re-establish a presence, put together of team of knowledgeable people and start demonstrating to the people of California that only Greens can show them the way out of our troubles.

Do not just read this post and walk away. This is one battle that we need everyone to join. Take our story to every media outlet that you can contact, TV, radio (and not just Pacifica station where the listeners probably agree anyway). Schwarzenegger is going to push us to spend $ billions on a 19th century solution to 21st century problems and we can not afford to let that happen... not from an ecological viewpoint and not from an economic viewpoint.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Climate Change Conundrum

With every passing week, we get more data that should be driving home the reality of Climate Change and what it means for society. The fact is that opinions are not changing in relationship to the facts that we are discovering, documenting about how the world works. Quite the opposite is true. Most people now perceive that climate change is a political issue to be decided in the political arena, not subject to the practices of science, the search for a true explanation of our world.

Nothing illustrates this more clearly than the controversy swirling around George Will and the Washington Post over Will's very scientifically inaccurate, some say dishonest, series of editorials regarding climate change.

I have my own ideas about what has to happen, but you have to click Read more! to follow that thread.

It is obvious that the issues surrounding climate change have been highly politicized. The sources are pretty easy to follow. A Canadian blog site, West Coast Climate Equity, has done a good job of assembling information on this aspect of the situation. This week they ran two entries concerning an upcoming NY City Conference on Climate Change sponsored by the allegedly non-partisan Heartland Institute. This includes identifying sources of funding such as the Koch Foundation, wholly controlled by our largest privately held petroleum company.

Still, knowing who is behind some of the mis-information does little good if we are not in a position to take some action. Yesterday, I read two different articles in Orion Magazine that offer their own unique perspective. In fact, they were so good I became a fan of Orion Magazine on Facebook just to keep well informed since the online version arrives a long time before the print copy does.

In A Failure to Communicate, Flock of Dodos director Randy Olson reminds us of how we fail far too often.
I found myself looking at failed environmental communications campaigns and seeing the enormous amount of information—facts and figures—they were hurling at the public. I began hearing the humorlessness of so many environmentalists and wondering why they couldn’t just lighten up a bit. And while some great environmental writers know how to speak directly to and from the heart, so much of what gets communicated by large environmental organizations ends up devoid of passion and sincerity
. He offers a solution that made Flock of Dodos a success.
The object is to move the message out of the head and into the heart with sincerity, into the gut with humor, and if you’re skillful enough, all the way down to the lower organs with sex appeal.
The other article, Climate Revelations,was by Auden Schendler, Sustainability Director of the Aspen Skiing Company.
In theory, I work to address all aspects of the resort’s environmental impact, from weed control to cage-free eggs, from taking calls about new technologies to handling attacks about what a bunch of hypocrites we are. It’s fun. I enjoy it. But, to be brutally honest, I don’t care that much about those subjects. Twenty years ago, I took my first course in climate science. The news I read today is essentially the same. And I believe two things: First, to quote ABC newsman Bill Blakemore, “climate isn’t the story of our time; it’s the only story.” Second, it seems obvious that a ski resort should both care deeply about climate change and also be in the vanguard of solving it.
What Auden reports is not good. After all the work, after every little change of light bulbs, etc., they still use more energy than they did when they started. This is discouraging. Still, it is a situation that is repeated in company after company where we are all dependent on chasing the chimera of perpetual growth based on inexpensive energy.

Auden ends up asking the question of whether it is possible to talk about climate without talking about God. Now I know that religion is not a topic most Greens enjoy talking about. There are too many instances where the institutions of religion has become more important than the experience of religion, to the detriment of all. Then, there are the Marxist Greens who see Religion as an enemy to be attacked. Yet, we share common interests with many and should be working together. With Climate Change taking us ever closer to massive catastrophe, should we not be asking "What would Noah do?"

Tearing California apart

Many in the Green Party of California are getting excited about the prospect of a California Constitutional Convention. That idea has gotten significant support from such diverse sources as the Bay Area Council and columnist Dan Walters of the Sacramento Bee as was clear from the Summit held in Sacramento last week.

Some aspects of this are attractive for Greens, but there are also dangers that we should be aware of. Click Read more! to get the pros and cons.

Almost every Green discussion focuses on the possibility of changing the representation in the State Legislature to include proportional representation for some, if not all, state legislative offices. This would be attractive to those political parties like the Greens who are in the 3rd or 4th rank in terms of size. Greens have only elected on member to the State Legislature in Californian and she switched parties after election.

This may happen, it should at least be considered. However, it will take a massive effort to sell the public on it. In discussion with my neighbors, it is so far away from what they are thinking that it is not even visible on their radar screen. The general tone is to change the people, not change the system, or to find a way to make those in office do their job if they want their pay.

This latter point, no pay for legislators if there is no budget on time, has financial and organizational backing as an initiative measure. The California Grange, an organization that is basically rural, is backing it and has people to gather signatures.

At the same time, there are other solutions that are not likely to happen but which will come into play during a constitutional convention. Republican ex-Assemblyman Bill Maze is pushing very hard for splitting California into two states… not North / South as others have done, but Coastal / Inland. Under Maze's proposal, San Diego, Los Angeles, San Jose, San Francisco would be part of a Chile narrow, highly urban, large population, left leaning state on the edge. The rest of the state would be much more rural, agricultural and very likely on the political left.

Some may not consider this likely either, but maybe it is just as likely as proportional representation and the Fresno Bee takes it seriously enough to criticize it in an editorial this week.

If either are considered, then Greens need to be in a position to be much more active than we have been, especially with candidates for the state legislature speaking out every opportunity that they get. California is in a crisis and that crisis is an opportunity for those who want to change the whole ball game. It will not happen in any way that we want unless we become much more active that we have been, with much more organization than we have yet demonstrated on past initiative efforts.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Was Obama's stimulus package green enough?

No, says Katheryn Matthewson, a San Jose activist. Though she is not a Green in the sense of political registration, I think that she is really green to the core, from her activism to her real job as a landscape architect consultant in the use of bioremediation for superfund site cleanup.

Follow the jump by clicking Read more! and read her most recently written opinion.

By Kathryn Mathewson

The “American Recovery and Reinvestment Act” and its amendments do not go deep enough and are not addressing ecological systems especially as they deal with our cities. The Act is not yet listening to Main Street for the unique and creative green jobs and products which are in their infancy and need support. This discussion will affect our nation for the next century and, therefore, is important. The discussion should be how our future ecology and economy will come together. Fear without discussion is what led us into the Iraq war. Fear based decisions must not drive our country’s future. Keep up the discussion until we at least begin addressing these issues.

The discussion is currently too technological, energy, government, rural, building, big business. It appears to be a catch all for typical government programs rather than being driven by the unique green ideas being generated on Main Street. It should be more balanced and include urban land (Community Development Block Grants or CDBGs), small businesses (the drivers of most new job creation), biological research (the basis for new green jobs), manufacturing, land use, and a higher definition of green. It should have examples of complete sustainable processes (cradle to grave, closed looped systems) and not just a one idea project. This is how ecology and economy will come together. The word “eco” is from the Greek which means home, dwelling, and household affairs. It is a system and not a product or a single act.

Following are some thoughts which need to become part of the discussion:

  1. There are many low technology local green jobs and products that will solve sustainable problems for our country and the world. Some examples are: soil health as the best and quickest way to immediately sequester carbon; water-harvesting; soil biologists for bioremediation of urban Superfund and old agricultural pesticide sites, reduce water needs by 50 to 75 percent with healthy soil biology; solutions without pesticides/herbicides, weed reduction without herbicides along rivers and highways (hydro-mechanical obliteration), water purification system designs, retaining water on site with biological systems, green low tech job skills for prisoners, natural landscape solutions for biodiversity and less energy consumption.
  2. Sustainable sites are equally as important as sustainable buildings (see This program is to sites what LEEDS is to buildings. To exclude urban parks, fairgrounds, swimming pools and recreation sites from the Stimulus Package and lose the opportunity for them to develop more green ideas/jobs/products is ridiculous. Urban open space land is the best and quickest way to sequester carbon. The energy solutions will take years to reduce our carbon footprint. Healthy soil can become our quick fix but it will not happen until the development of public urban open space land stops. The Stimulus program could protect these treasured open spaces.
  3. Create urban centers to educate the public on sustainable issues. These centers should have sustainable examples for job training and for demonstrating goods and services. To stop urban green ideas because of the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) Community Development Laws and Regulations (CDLR) is neglecting the majority of urban U.S. citizens. The federal HUD and EPA programs desperately need these green ideas.
  4. In each large metropolitan city create entire private site sustainable communities as examples to emulate. Demonstrating examples of closed loop systems for future developments to emulate is urgently needed in all metropolitan areas because they are being forced to grow by state legislation.
  5. U.S. green conferences display thousands of small American companies with unique and good ideas to make America and every home/business greener. However, at these shows are increasingly found green/sustainable products from Europe, Australia, and Japan. This is a sign that we are beginning to lose momentum in the research and manufacturing green sector of our economy.
  6. Green elementary schools with an abundance of nature and not dominated by technology. Research proves that nature in young children’s lives will create adults who are more creative, better scientists, more balanced, and less susceptible to diseases and allergies.
  7. Instead of putting all the hospital funds into only technology we might want to consider placing some stimulus funds into alternative health research and centers using our natural systems (plants, soil, and horticultural therapy). The small Himalayan developing country of Bhutan supplies 100 percent health care for all its citizens. Through its Alternative Health Institute it provides native plant remedies for its citizens. They believe that modern medicine is too costly and not needed to solve all their citizen’s health problems. Increasingly American citizens are going in this direction. However, our government and the stimulus package is not in pace with this movement.

These ideas will stimulate hundreds of thousands of new and different kinds of sustainable and green jobs in research, manufacturing, product sales, and services. At the same time they also greatly help resolve our global warming problems. When we have recovered from this economic downturn with these jobs and products in place, we can become world sustainable leaders and export these new products and services worldwide. It is unfortunate that the Stimulus Package as passed does not help put us into this position.

Kathryn Mathewson
Environmental Planner/Designer/Biologist
San Jose, CA

Turning on the virtual river

The need for an comprehensive overhaul of our approach to water has never been clearer. While California is in the 3rd year of a drought, recent rains in the bay area have some people talking as if the drought were over and we can return to old ways.

In fact, the rains have been spotty at best, good in some areas like the Santa Cruz Mountains and still poor in others. The deficit is so great that some areas are not up to normal after five or more inches of precipitation in the past week. So, what should we do? Click Read more! to find out.

Barry Nelson runs the Western Water Project for the Natural Resources Defense Council. He did a very good job of describing our problem in his post at the Switchboard today.
There has been a Catch 22 in California's drought planning - or the lack thereof. During droughts, we are too narrowly focused on what we can do in a single year. The truth is, in a single year, our options are limited to strategies like water conservation and water transfers. After a drought ends, however, decision-makers tend to forget about water and turn to other pressing problems. What we need to do is to launch an ambitious effort to prepare for droughts and a drier future. Even in this crisis, perhaps because of this crisis, there is a great deal of agreement about the path ahead of us.
Nelson is saying that we all need to work together to fix things, and that is difficult when politicians with the power to reach the press, are pushing for yesterday's solutions to today's problems. While he describes a consensus around water, I don't see that in practice.
This takes us to the most important area of consensus - we need to be far more ambitious in our investments in a new generation of reliable water supplies. Water agencies, business leaders and NRDC agree that four tools - water efficiency, wastewater recycling, urban stormwater management and improved groundwater management - what we call the Virtual River - offer the largest, greenest, fastest and most affordable opportunities for making California's water supply more drought resistant.
If that were truly the case, then the Westlands Water District would not have their congressional lackeys pushing so hard for new dams, more canals in a time when the current level of precipitation will not even fill the reservoirs that we have.

Congressmen Cardoza, Costa, Nunes and Radanovich, make like the Big Ag Water Chorus, two Democrats and two Republicans singing from the same hymn book. They want to make this an issue of the farm economy vs. fish because that allows them to position environmentalists as the unreasonable tree-hugging bad guys, out to ruin the economy. The truth is that this is more about the small, specialty crop farmers in Delta region being forced out of business to sustain the corporate agriculture of growing cotton in the desert or pistachios on marginal lands along I-5.

The time has come when the only way to a sustainable future in the San Joaquin Valley, and through the balance of water use, for all California, is to put Green Party policies into practice. We have the solutions and need to be all over the Central Valley, talking to farmers about water, enlisting the support of Joe Sixpack who likes to fish and is wondering where he will get good food if he loses his job. They are all against the status quo and we need to be there, all the time. It is the greatest organizing opportunity that I have seen since returning to my California home in 1993.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Predator State

I have just begun reading James K. Galbraith's 2008 book, the Predator State. While he was writing mostly about the administration and policies of George W. Bush, what we seen now in California seems to me to be the death throes of a movement that has lost all pretense of relevance and is only holding on to the myths of a past era. The liturgy still demands that they chant "no new taxes" but no one is even reading their lips any more.

Click Read more! find out what I really think of California Republican's right now.

It makes sense to ask what the conservative economics, and by implication conservative politicians, have to say about any of our current concerns, as Galbraith did.
Do they have an alternative to our oil addiction, to imperial commitment, to global warming? No. Did they have a program of recovery for the city of New Orleans? No. Is there a realistic conservative plan for health care? No. There is merely opposition to everyone else's ideas. Predator State p. 8

In giving lip service to the power of the market to guide us, they replaced oversight and regulation with winks and nods, instead of even experienced technocrats, they gave us cronies and lobbyists as regulators all under the guidance of California Republican Christopher Cox. Californians hear the same script playing out in the rhetoric of a Chuck Devore who is clearly using the current budget crisis for his own political advantage, hoping to secure a place on the ballot of a failing party.

The world of free market excess that coalesced behind Reagan and Thatcher was an experiment that failed. It has been abandoned by policy makers at all levels and is no longer given more liturgical reference by policy makers at any level. Stripped of political power around the world, led in Congress by a John Boehner who seems to be such good fodder for comedy that he attracted Dan Akroyd back to SNL, they cling to those last few enclaves in which they can have any influence. Unfortunately, the only place where that seems true in in Sacramento.

From my own conversations with my State Senator, it feels as if Maldonado is un-Abel to give up on the idea of a political career... it beats farming... and knows that he as to have a big list of victories to show Republicans if he has any hope of winning a primary battle for statewide office. I believe that his tendency would have been to settle this long ago but that he has not the courage to lay his political career on the line for the sake of anybody, or in this case, for the preservation of a functioning state government.

So, we are left with a true predator state, and a predatory Republican Party, cornered and lashing out with the only weapon left, the ability to vote NO. Such predators are dangerous as they could do much damage before they die.

(Cross posted from Calitics.)

Monday, February 16, 2009

A Hostage Situation

CALITICS labels itself as a "progressive" blog. It generally is, but in the sense that there are some Democrats who can be considered progressives when they are not being too busy discussing Democratic Party internal factionalism.

But, tonight they have posted just about the best warning on the current budget stalemate in Sacramento and what needs to be done about it. There are warnings in here that we should heed including the fact that this would set aside environmental protections for some projects as yet another way for the State to save money. I urge all California Greens to read this.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Desalination - neither savior nor devil.

It is without question that, at some point, the citizens of California will need to drink water that comes from the ocean through a esalination plant to their taps. California has been in a long term drought cycle and that climate predictions indicate that it will not be long before today's precipitation levels will be considered normal or even those of a wet year.

Today's San Francisco Chronicle has a summary article about the manner in which water districts are turning toward desalination and others, mostly non-profits seem determined to stop it. It is unfortunate that the article is filled with misconceptions and error, generally in support of one group or another trying to reinforce their point.

This is an issue of major interest. The article has over 120 comments posted to the Chronicle's online edition. I wish that reporter Kelly Zito had the space or the inclination to challenge some of these idea. If you will click on Read more! I will try to do that.

There are really two issues to consider: (1) whether or not we can continue meeting demand through conservation and better utilization of existing supplies and (2) and the actual economic and environmental costs of desalinization.
"We should not be building desalination plants where other things make more sense," said [Peter] Gleick, president of the Pacific Institute in Oakland. "At the moment a lot of other things make more sense."
While Gleick is right on a state-wide basis he may not be right for specific watersheds or bio-regions in this state. In coastal areas of mixed farm / residential use such as Santa Cruz County, conservation solutions may not deliver all they promise. There, even current use rates means that there is increasing salt water incursion into the water table and that may eventually lead to the shut down of all irrigation. The ability to turn to dealinaton may mean much more there than in other locales.

If you only considered such plants as the proposed Posiedon facility in Huntington Beach, you would have to agree with the Sierra Club's Mark Massara.
"Desalination is still not priced competitively with traditional water costs, and we haven't even hit the tip of the iceberg on conservation."
Massara may be missing the point. The economic costs of dealinization are one of the most promising areas for ventue capital application right now. New membrane products from NanoH2O are many times more efficient than current technologies. New processes such as those being developed by Oasys in New England project a 90% reduction in energy consumption.

Industrial permaculture processes could reduce costs even more. Consider this scenario. Duke Energy has a huge gas-fired power plant at Moss Landing, CA. A start up company, Calera plans to take the CO2 out of the exhaust gas from that plant by bubbling it through ocean water and producing cement. They have a pilot plant that can produce 10 tons of cement per day.

There is a plan for a desalination plant at Moss Landing as well. Were they to take the water from the cement plant, a major set of minerals would have been removed, further reducing costs. Such approaches need to be supported and expanded, not shut down.

Once you push through the rhetoric you find that, like almost everything else, there are good and bad reasons to pursue desalination. Eventually we will need to do it, more quickly in some locales than in others. Efforts such as those I mentioned above need to go forward, stand along relics of old technologies such as Poseidon need to stay on the drawing board.

Yet, for some reasons, I have the fear that entrenched bureaucracies in water districts, boards with directors who have stayed around too long on conventional wisdom, will push us all to unsustainable solutions. We need to have Greens on every water board in this state, willing to take on those entrenched purveyors of old ways of doing things and to set this state on the path to a sustainable future.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Ideas that never come to pass

I have a history of bright (blindingly so to my mind's eye) ideas that never come to pass. Here is one.

After getting an email update from George Stephanopoulos about the upcoming This Week program on ABC, I sent back a suggestion that he have Energy Secretary Chu on next week. After all, energy, climate change and the latest version of a stimulus package are all top news now and who better to address them. If so, then I am sure that he would have George Will on his panel but they need a journalist who actually knows something about science. Will has proven that he doesn't. I then suggested that the ask Chris Mooney, author of The Republican War on Science to be there as a balance to George Will.

Where oh where has our money gone?

Paul Rogers of the San Jose Mercury News reminded me today that he worked on an analysis of California's economic mess and that I had missed it. He will be on KQED (Channel 9 - San Francisco) tonight, discussing this as part of their This Week In Northern California program.

The big numbers that most do not talk about are all there.
A Mercury News analysis of state spending since Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger took office in late 2003 found that he and the Democratic-controlled Legislature have spent money well beyond the rate of inflation and California's population growth — $10.2 billion more.
Click Read more! to where I try to figure out what this means.

One of the things we have to realize is there has been an expansion of spending beyond what the rate of inflation would seem to justify. So, there is a modicum of substance in the Republican position if only they had a solution other than to beatify Howard Jarvis.

This is the final culmination of decades of playing to the peanut gallery while the actors on the Sacramento Stage only read their lines without passion, hoping that no one would notice when it came time to run again. Every time it came to a hard decision, they passed the buck by putting it on the ballot. Well, if what we voted in is an example of what full citizen democracy can bring us, it is a good advertisement for a benevolent dictatorship.
"We got what we wanted and we've never figured out how to pay for it. And then we had this recession, and that made everything worse," said Stephen Levy, director of the Palo Alto-based Center for the Continuing Study of the California Economy.
There are no good short term solutions. That is why it is taking so long to get anything done.

Until we start answering fundamental question regarding the services we need from Government and how we are going to pay for them, we will be saddled with this problem. One sure way to differentiate Greens from other parties is to get beyond slogans and present new, well reasoned approaches to such difficult problems.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

The week of Darwin's Anniversary

This being the week for Darwin's anniversaries, the 200th of his birth and the 150th of the publication of On the Origin of Species, I thought it appropriate to point out a book that I found interesting, even if it was not published.

Lorna Salzman has, on her web site, an electronic copy of her own book: Politics as if Evolution Mattered. In a day when everything is political, it makes an interesting read.
Rehabilitating Darwin is a large task and one best left to evolutionary biologists in the boxing arena with creationists. Rehabilitating an understanding of evolution as the other side of the ecology coin, however, has practical implications for environmental and social justice activists, who sorely need intellectual rather than ideological weapons to turn back against corporate greenwashers and biased media. Ecological principles underlie ecological relationships, and practically every environmental battle revolves around such relationships, their character, their value and the threats thereto.

Environmentalists who are accused of being merely obstructionists, fearmongers and radicals with hidden agendas can dispel such charges only when they understand and utilize the tools provided them by the scientifically impartial concepts of ecology and evolution. A battle, not to mention a movement, founded on objective reality, on “real life” as it were, is not so easily lost as one founded only on abstract or subjective credos.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Drought vs. Species

While the drought in California definitely puts stress on some native species, some of our Congressional Delegation wants to finish the job. Click on Read more! to see the latest alert from Restore the Delta.

In particular, I would like residents of the 23rd, 38th and 43rd Congressional Districts to make sure the call their Representatives and make sure this bill never gets out of committee. Contact info is below. (McClintock - CA 4th CD is such a right wing ideologue that calling him will make no difference... other than to remind him that his election was tenuous.)

Anyone from Arizona (Grijvala), Washington (Hastings, Inslee) or Oregon (DeFazio) who reads this on Green Change... please contact these Water and Power SubCommittee members as well. This is a very bad bill that set a very bad precedent.

Water Exporters Want to End the Endangered Species Act

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

Dear Restore the Delta Supporters,

As reported in The Stockton Record on February 10, 2009, Congressman George Radanovich (R-Mariposa) has introduced a bill to bypass the endangered species law so exports of Delta water to corporate agri-business in the Central Valley can be increased during this period of drought.

Alex Breitler of The Stockton Record reports that Radanovich said that "pumping restrictions to protect Delta smelt and other species at the expense of farmers amounts to 'economic eco-terrorism'".

Of course Congressman Radanovich has forgotten the economic eco-terrorism that has been inflicted on commercial fisheries, the Delta sportsfishing economy, and Delta agriculture as a result of years of excessive water exports to support Central Valley agri- business.

Even more disturbing is that Congressman Dennis Cardoza (D-Merced), one of the bill's co-sponsors, has forgotten that he represents people who live in the secondary zone of the Delta and that the people he represents in central Stockton are alarmed over the condition of Delta fisheries and what water exports have done to our local Delta economy.

So, here's how you can help. First, call the eight sponsors of H.R. 856 to express your outrage at their disregard for the economic eco-interests of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. Tell them that the business as usual regarding California water policy must end. Direct them to the Restore the Delta website and tell them that Regional Water Self- Sufficiency, rather
than moving water from Northern California to Southern California, is the best way to meet California's water needs. Tell them that they need to focus on breaking dependence on the Delta to meet the state's water needs. It is the cost effective way, in these difficult economic times, to address our water problems.

In addition, contact the following members of the House Natural Resources Committee to express your opposition to H.R. 856. Let them know that increased Delta exports in a time of drought will deal the final deathblow to Delta fisheries. Let them know that the Delta's $2.5 billion economy is dependent on water flowing into the Delta for fisheries and Delta agriculture. Let them know that Delta farms are mainly family farmers also deserving of economic protection.

Thank you for your participation and support of this vitally important effort.

Yours in service,

Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla, Restore the Delta

Congressional Sponsors of H.R. 856

Representative George Radonovich (R-CA-District 19) - 202-225-4540;
Representative Ken Calvert (R- CA-District 44) - 202-225-1986;
Representative Jim Costa (D-CA-20) - 202-225-3341;
Representative Kevin McCarthy (R-CA-22) -- 202-225-2915;
Representative Devin Nunes (R-CA-21) - 202-225- 2523;
Representative Dennis Cardoza (D-CA-18) - 202-225-6131;
Representative David Dreier (R-CA- 26) - 202-225-2305;
Representative Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA-5)-202-225-2006;
Representative Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA-46) - 202-225-2415

Key Members of the House Natural Resource Committee

Representative Rick J. Rahall, II, Chair, (D-WV-3)- 202-225-3452;
Representative Grace F. Napolitano (D- CA-38) 202-225-5256;
Representative Lois Capps (D- CA-23) - 202-225-3601;
Representative Joe Baca (D- CA-43) - 202-225-6161;
Representative Elton Gallegly (R-CA-24) - 202-225-5811;
Representative Tom McClintock (R-CA-4) - 202-225-2511

About Restore the Delta

Restore the Delta is a grassroots campaign committed to making the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta fishable, swimmable, drinkable, and farmable to benefit all of California. Restore the Delta - a coalition of Delta residents, business leaders, civic organizations, community groups, faith-based communities, union locals, farmers, fishermen, and environmentalists - seeks to strengthen the health of the estuary and the well-being of Delta communities. Restore the Delta works to improve water quality so that fisheries and farming can thrive together again in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.

Monday, February 09, 2009

Peak Oil? Drill baby drill.

Joseph Romm's Climate Progress site has yet another reminder today that Peak Oil is a real consequence happening to us in real time. This one is based on a new report from Merrill Lynch that says we are there. This is similar to what George Monbiot got out of the International Energy Agency report back in December.

Some are concerned with the relationship of Peak Oil, the current economic crisis and the politics of both. Romm quotes from Greenwire (subs. req’d)
The global financial crisis has put a grinding halt to the frenzy in commodity investing seen for most of 2008.

This morning, CME Group — operators of mercantile exchanges in Chicago and New York — reported that trading last month fell 41 percent compared to January 2008 figures. Trading in energy futures and options at the New York Mercantile Exchange fell by 5 percent.

But output cuts by OPEC and the worsening oil production in countries outside the cartel could set the stage for another spike in energy and commodity prices in the years to come, experts say.

Analysts bullish on the long-term prospects of commodity prices say that oil could return to upward pricing pressure by as early as 2010 once demand growth returns to the world economy.
My response was left as a comment at Climate Progress.
We are now to the place where “drill baby drill” means “die, baby, die”.

We all know that oil is a finite resource. We all know that chasing the chimera of perpetual growth will, over time, increase demand, unless we do things radically different.

Why then do we fall for any effort that would take those resources that are becoming increasingly scarece and valuable and use them up as fast as we can. The only ones who will profit from this are those who are in a position to deliver the alternatives, or as the Oil Minister of Saudi Arabia told 60 Minutes, “Who has more sun than we do?”

When the American Petroleum Institute does their ad that says we have enough oil and gas in North America to fuel our cars and heat our homes for the next 60 years, why is no one asking “then what?”

I have asked this same question since I used it to ridicule Richard Pombo in 2006. The immediate economic gain of using up these resources as fast as we can is not worth the long term cost of having nothing left in the tank. I can think of no set of actions that is more likely to ruin the US economy as well as endanger all our futures, than this insane urge to drill more, use more. It is time to stop digging.
This is not just about some economic calculation. It is more like a political calculation. The economic point referenced above give no consideration to the costs of non-action on global warming. They seem to be issued with a prayer that the deniers be proven right. And in this, our "environmental" Senator Barbara Boxer says that there will be no action from Congress this year on Global Warming. I want to write:
Dear Senator Boxer,
When you grand children come to ask you what you were doing when you had a chance to make a difference, will you really feel good to say, "I did my best but there were just too many others who didn't want to go along." You are the one whose vote in the most recent farm bill was governed by the fact that, as you said, "We have our rice people and our cotton people." When it comes to climate change, what about our real people?

Are you willing to put your hold on this seat on the line in order to do what is right?

Yours truly,
Wes Rolley, Citizen.
Maybe we can all write a version of that… with a copy to your local paper, of course.

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Blame it on what?

We all know that you can not take any single weather event and make a climate story out of it. But people do. Such is the way that some would use this winter's cold weather in the Eastern US to say "see, I told you Al Gore had it wrong."

However, not everyone lives in the Eastern US. And when you start averaging what else in happening around the world right now, you will understand. Follow me to the rest of the story by clicking Read more!

Let us begin with the stories coming out of Australia where the most we heard in the US was about the heat taking a toll on the Australian Open. Now, after weeks of record breaking heat, it seems as if the entire state of Victoria has erupted in flames. As of the instant that I write this, the 12:00 PM report in the Sydney Morning Herald lists 126 dead, many critically burned, many others missing.

In another report that you won't hear on our national new, obsessed as some are with Barry Bonds and A-Rod, comes out of the Argentinian Pampas. According to the Seattle Times, Argentina is in a similar situation to Australia as pertains to heat and drought.
STROEDER, Argentina — Skeletons of livestock are piling up in the scorching sun of the Southern Hemisphere's summer as the worst drought in a generation turns much of Argentina's breadbasket into a dust bowl.

The nation's farm sector stands to lose $5 billion this year alone — a huge blow to the economy of Argentina, a top world exporter of soy, corn, wheat and beef — as well as to the government of President Cristina Fernandez, which faces billions of dollars in debt payments this year.
I am sure that there are many in Kentucky right now who would like to have averaged this out, but the climate does not work that way. Extremes seem to require the opposite extremes. Now, California is experiencing a drought. One estimate is that it will cost our local economy more than $1 Billion and some 40,000 jobs while we are trying to stimulate our way out of a recession. This, with Folsom Lake at only 25% of capacity.

I would question whether this drought is just part of the normal cycle, since it is also hitting China as well. BBC is reporting this as the worst drought in 50 years and in one province, without rain for 70 days, some 70% of the rivers have dried up.

What this all adds up to is a global condition, not local weather and that puts it in the realm of climate, not weather. The deniers will still deny, but it is time to increase the pressure on those in Congress who still claim to be friends of the environment. When Barbara Boxer said that they would be no climate change legislation this year, she showed that the only thing that changed in Washington was the name on the White House mailbox.

Saturday, February 07, 2009

The perfect place for Greens

The fact that Sandy Stiassni has joined a long list of people seeking to be appointed to the Irvine Ranch Water District Board of Directors. It seems that a recently (November, 2008) elected member has even more recently resigned and so there is a vacancy to be filled by appointment.

Sandy is taking on one of the biggest, and most important challenges that Greens can tackle in the coming years. Water, and how we acquire, distribute and use it is the determining factor for the quality of life in California, even the existence of our major cities. We should all provide whatever support we can for Sandy including showing up at the Feb. 9th meeting where he will be interviewed... along with nearly 30 others.

But there is more to this so follow me to the rest of it by clicking Read more!

The situation that created an opening for Sandy, a resignation that is filled by appointment, is not unusual. In my own area, the Santa Clara Valley Water District has a 7 member board. Five are elected by district and two are appointed by the Board of Supervisors as at large members for North County and South County respectively. Consider the elected five:
  • District 1: Rosemary Kamei. Appointed in 1993 and re-elected in 1994 and every terms since.
  • District 2: Joe Judge. Appointed in 1986 to an at-large seat for N. Country, elected to District 2 in 1996 and each year since.
  • District 3: Richard Santos. Retired Fire Captain elected in 2000.
  • District 4: Larry Wilson. 30 years Water Management Experience. Retired and on the board since being appointed in 1994.
  • District 5: Patrick Kwok. Appointed 2007.
Four of the five were initially appointed to the board and have used that incumbency and their supposed expertise to retain those positions. It is an ingrown organization that does not allow new thinking or new priorities to intrude on the way that they "know" the district needs to be run.

This pattern of vacancies being filled by cronies from the inside and then incumbents being re-elected is common all across the state. In normal times, it may not hurt very much. But these are not normal time. It is a time of water crisis and cronies will not provide the answers.

Last night, a friend emailed me the following comments on our own water district.
During that time and sitting in on the Little Llagas Creek Flood Control Meetings, and the Coyote Valley Task Force, I have seen the complete and total breakdown of the public's trust in the Water District. I have heard some things said both on and off the record that are hard to believe.

California is in the third year of a drought and the rains that came this week will not make a difference. Water Districts all over the state have failed to provide for such events and, even more to the point, have no plans to adequately deal with the impacts of climate change on their ability to supply the public with water.

The Green Party value provice an approach to developing sustainable water resources, one that recognizes that water belongs to all and should not become the property of any private entity. For those who seek entry into the ranks of elected officials, starting with a water district seat, campaigning for that seat based on Green values, just makes sense. We need to break with the status quo.

This is one role in which Greens have been successful in getting elected.
Kaitlin Sopoci-Belknap currently serves as a Director of the Humboldt Bay Municipal Water District.

The need is great. The future of California is at stake here as much as it is with the Sacramento Budget fiasco. I urge Greens to follow the example of Stiassni and take on the cronies ensconced on these water district boards.

Friday, February 06, 2009

That giant sucking sound...

When I first read Paolo Bacigalupi's story, The Tamarisk Hunter, I thought it was a good Sci-Fi depiction of one possible future for the American West, a stark landscape matching the bleakness of the tenuous relationships of those who inhabited it. As all water flows to a massive piping system known as the Straw, the only way to supply California and it's cities.

Given the realities of today's drought, the effects of climate change that some will not admit is happening and almost no-one is doing much about it, makes Bacigalupi appear to be more of a prophet than a spinner of yarns. When Dr. Steven Chu forecasts the demise of Agriculture in California, will Westland's Thomas Birmingham think much longer before he starts advocating to build the Straw.

That giant sucking sound is your water flowing down to preserve a California Culture and Agribusiness in the desert.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Now is the time to start making changes

As it is becoming increasingly clear that this is going to be the third year in row with below normal rainfall, I have spent a lot of time reviewing the manner in which the media around the state is covering this story. The story varies somewhat from paper to paper if they cover it at all. But, in general, most follow this logic. This is the third year of a drought. The effects are going to be felt most heavily on agriculture. Consumers will feel it in higher prices at the grocery store. Government ought to do something.

(reposted from the Morgan Hill Times... read it there or click Read more!)

This logic makes the assumption that what we are seeing is the low side of a cycle of drought and plenty and we would be OK if we only save more from times of plenty to use later. Even major news service, like Bloomberg, get the economic point. It will cost California Agriculture more than $1 billion and the California Farm Bureau Association estimates that it will cost 40,000 jobs.

I have two problems with this scenario. First, it leaves out a major part of the story, climate change. Then it leaves us with the impression that we can continue doing things in the same manner that we have done them in the past. That might be true if it were not for problem number one.

There is a high probability that what we are experiencing this year will not be viewed as an extraordinary event in the coming year. In fact, it may be the new normal in a warming climate. The impact of that on California Agriculture will be huge if nothing is done. Some farmers are beginning to plan.

Most newspapers do not cover the story in this manner, especially not the major papers in the coastal population centers. The Merced Sun Star emphasized the idea that current conditions may stay around for a long time. In discussing the impact of climate change on water resources, they write that "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."

It seems that most papers can write about water, or global warming, but have not yet grasped that watersheds and the climate are very dynamic, interconnected systems and we can no longer afford to treat them as little boxed problems to solve.

In September, 2008, the Pacific Institute, a Bay Area think tank, published a report that made the case that we can solve our water problems with better management of existing water, especially for agriculture; "More with Less: Agricultural Water Conservation and Efficiency in California - A Special Focus on the Delta."

As the title suggests, it is all about conservation. They got their hands dirty on farms, in irrigation ditches, all over this state before they came to the conclusion that it was possible.

We need, however, to start considering that some farmers may need to grow different crops. At a very simple level, even I have been doing that. We are replacing an olive tree with a jujube for the specific reason that it does well in dry conditions. U.C. Davis is working on a plan for some counties to switch their major crops as the climate changes, adjusting their agriculture to different temperature and water realities.

A public works officials once told me that they did not want to mention water conservation in a good year because then they would not have that tool to fall back on when a drought hits. This type of thinking is the epitome of bureaucratic thinking rather than ecological thinking.

Just like the farmers, we are all going to have to make changes, maybe even lifestyle changes, to ensure that we have the water we need. The days are over when we can assume that our water district will supply whatever water we want whenever we want it.

At least, the Santa Clara Valley Water District has good programs for water efficiency even though they do not promote them enough. Earlier this year, I wrote about taking out lawn and replacing it with a combination of pavers and bark. The project is completed and I have my rebate check safely in the bank. The only complaint that I had was the fact that it took too long to process the check after I submitted my paperwork and had the final inspection. Otherwise, the only pain was in my arms from carrying all of those pavers.

Finally, I would have to say that Congressman Jerry McNerney 'gets it." He introduced The Healthy Communities Water Supply Act, H.R. 700.

According to his press release, this act "will authorize $250 million - double the 2007 proposed authorization - in funding for projects that increase the usable water supply by encouraging innovation in water conservation, recharge, recycling, reuse, and reclamation."

One by one, we are all going to have to make changes and now is the time to start.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

What will we eat when California Ag disappers?

The title is a serious question that should concern all Americans. California is the largest agriculture producer in the United States. According to the California Department of Food and Agriculture:
With 88,000 farms and ranches, California agriculture is nearly a $36.6 billion dollar industry that generates $100 billion in related economic activity.

In a story in today's LA Times, Energy Secretary Steven Chu is quoted as saying that "'We're looking at a scenario where there's no more agriculture in California." This, in a state that can not even find enough money to pass a budget. When you take away the number one industry in the state, what future does it have?

What is our legislature doing about it? Not a damned thing. Even a normally progressive State Assemblymember, Jared Huffman (D - 6th AD) has introduced AB-39 that seeks to implement the very flawed Delta Vision Task Force Recommendations that, unfortunately, do not consider the impact of what Dr. Chu is saying.

I am too irate to write a plausible plan for what we should be doing. I just know it is not what we are doing now.

Peak Water?

This is just a short update regarding two significant water events… sort of a follow on to my previous post regarding Green Water Policy and an underscore of it's importance.

Today at 3:00 PM EST, Dr. Peter Gleick, founder of the Pacific Institute and a foremost authority on water will be webcast from the Woodrow Wilson International Center in Washington, D.C. One of the topics will be this question.
Have we passed a peak in the availability of freshwater for human use?

The webcast is supposed to be archived.

The second event is a California State Senate hearing on Improving Water Conservation and Management in Southern California: Successes and Opportunities This is the first big deal event in the tenure of Fran Pavley as Chair of the California State Senate Committee on Natural Resources and Water. I imagine that she will try to engineer the same type of solution for water that she did for the control of green house gasses in the well known AB 32. If she does, we are all in trouble as AB 32 will not come close to meeting expectations.

I urge all So Cal Greens to attend this if possible and to be attentive to the results if you can not be there. The hearing will be held on Friday, February 6th, from 1 pm - 3 pm, at Santa Monica City College, Business Building 111, 1900 Pico Blvd, Santa Monica, CA 90405

Green Water Policy

The EcoAction Committee, Green Party US, has presented to the National Committee a new resolution on water policy and associated Green Party actions. The full text of this resolution is available as a .pdf file here.

This resolution comes at a time when stories on our dwindling water supply in California are on almost every nightly news broadcast. This resolution has several unique aspects to it.
  • it commits the national party to actions rather than just setting a soft policy with no substance.
  • it provides for ongoing support for local candidates where the availability and / or quality of water is an important issue.
All three of California's members on the EcoAction Committee contributed to getting this resolution out, but especially Martin Zehr who was the principle writer.

Monday, February 02, 2009

LA Times: Begging Republicans & Democrats to 'Play Nice'

This is getting pathetic. The Los Angeles Times published another editorial begging and pleading our Republican and Democratic "masters" to "play nice" and set aside "political" agendas.

Published in The Los Angeles Times
"The Nation Needs Jobs, Not a Political Agenda"
Editorial, Monday, February 2, 2009.

Few things bring politicians together like a crisis. And by just about any measure, the worsening economy qualifies as one of those rallying events -- the gross domestic product just declined more than it has in 26 years, the number of people receiving unemployment benefits reached the highest level in at least 41 years, new-home sales dropped to the lowest level on record, the list goes on and on. The outlook is so dim, the Democrats who control Congress and the White House could have crafted the largest stimulus package since World War II and still garnered some Republican support. Instead, the House of Representatives approved the $819-billion American Recovery and Reinvestment Act on a party-line vote, with all 177 Republicans in the chamber opposing and all but 11 of the 255 Democrats supporting it. GOP lawmakers dissented in part because it didn't meet their predictable demand for more tax cuts. They also complained, however, that too many of the bill's provisions would advance the Democrats' agenda, not address the country's need for jobs. And on that point, they had a legitimate objection.

First, what's wrong with a "political" agenda? This country boasts of being "The World's Greatest Democracy" and even imposes its democratic notions on other countries by force. If democratically elected representatives should not passionately debate spending nearly a trillion dollars, then what should they debate? (oh yeah, gay marriage, abortion, and affirmative action "racial preferences" for "Those People").

Once again, the problem that writers of editorials and columns refuse to recognize is the monopoly of power artificially held by the morally and intellectually bankrupt Republican and Democratic parties.

At this point in our history, the problem is the same regardless of whether or not your personal philosophy is liberal, conservative, or middle-of-the-road. Entrenched incumbent Republicans and Democrats are simply incapable of debating anything without resorting to tiresome slogans and clich├ęs. Thus, for example, despite the legacy of both Republican President Bush and our Republican Governor Schwarzenegger of an ocean of red ink, we are still supposed to indulge this laughable nonsense the GOP is the guardian of “fiscal responsibility.” And even though Democrats have done next to nothing for working people these last thirty years, we are still supposed to accept on faith that Democrats are going to use this $800 billion to “empower” the poor and oppressed.

I had an interesting experience on Saturday, January 31st. I attended the “2009 Budget Summit” hosted by newly elected L.A. County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas at the Hawthorne Memorial Center. It was a good community event. There was a lot of information about how county government works and good breakout sessions on jobs, small business, and home ownership.

There was one problem: no discussion of what a realistic budget would look like. Why? Because the whole program was a Los Angeles Democratic Party "circus." The word "Accountability" was thrown around a lot, but if there was any real accountability, half the politicians in the room would join the ranks of the unemployed. Speaker after speaker talked about “Change!” and praised Supervisor Ridley-Thomas as the agent of “Change!” But, of course, none dared say that Supervisor Yvonne Burke, who held the 2nd District seat for sixteen years, or any other old Democratic incumbent, had ever done less than their best.

Notice how our Republicans friends have no problem denouncing federal money for head start and teacher quality as “pork.” But curiously, nobody is complaining about the Senate Appropriations Committee voting to increase nuclear loan guarantees by $50 billion. Since the “bipartisan” consensus is that 10,000 years worth of radioactive waste is good for us, there is evidently no need to “debate” this item at all.

Where is the incentive for Republicans and Democrats to alter behavior when their chances of being voted out in gerrymandered one-party districts is just about zero? Time to recognize that this unprecedented crisis demands some independent thinking. And recognizing truly independent progressive thinking means recognizing (shudder, gasp), the Green Party.

Sunday, February 01, 2009

Desmond Tutu at Davos

There was a lot of comment that President Obama would not let any of his high powered economists attend the World Economic Forum in Davos. Those NOT making the trip this year included Tim Geitner and Laurence Sommers. Fotunately, according to the BBC coverage Archbishop Desmond Tutu did make the trip and offered these two comments that sort of wrapped it up... even if he were NOT the last speaker.

According to the BBC's Tim Weber:
South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu said "we worshipped in the temple of cutthroat competition, and so some cooked the books, because the treasure is so great".

"We spend billions on banks," Mr Tutu said, "when we know that a fraction of this money could save all the children in the world."

Unfortunately, those who need to hear this are deaf… or at least tone deaf as evidenced the scale of bonus payments from Wall Street / banking firms that needed federal bailout money.

Lady Di wants us to fry

You have all heard about the Stimulus package and all of the Pork the Republicans claim is in it. They are not saying much about the huge boost for nuclear power this is included.

The link above is a post focusing on Senate Appropriations Committee voting "to increase nuclear loan guarantees by $50 billion." California's grand dame Senator, Diane ":Nevertalk to common people" Feinstein" is on that committee. It is time to let her know we are fed up with the nuclear soup they are serving in the Stimulus Cafeteria.

Call Feinstein's office and let her know it is time to retire either the nukes or herself.
  • Wasington, DC - Phone: (202) 224-3841
  • San Francisco - Phone: (415) 393-0707
  • Los Angeles - Phone: (310) 914-7300
  • San Diego - Phone: (619) 231-9712
  • Fresno - Phone: (559) 485-7430
Or email her through this online form: