Saturday, May 30, 2009

The issue is governance.

California has Congress Critters of both parties (Cardoza, Costa, Nunes, Radanovich) who have been pushing the water issue. We have a governor who wants to build major new water systems while the state has no money. We have the Secretary of the Department of Resources, Mike Chrisman, who is asking the EPA to set aside environmental regulations so that it is possible to pump more water out of the delta to agricultural interest on the West Side of the San Joaquin Valley.

The Delta has been the center of water problems for a long time. That is only natural since it supplies a major portion of the water that this state uses for both residential and agricultural purposes. Governor Schwarzenegger even commissioned a so called blue ribbon task force on the delta. On completion of their work, this group formed a non-profit called the Delta Vision Foundation to see that their recommendations were implemented.

On Monday June 1, they will hold a meeting in Sacramento to give a report card on the legislature and the governor. The word in the local press is that is will be "mixed." That link is to an artile by Mike Taugher on the Contra Costa Times. Taugher, along with Matt Weiser of the Sacramento Bee have emerged as the two most penetrating journalists writing on this subject now.

My own view is that the Foundation will take them all to task for ignoring the following in the task force recommendations.
Establish a new governance structure with the authority, responsibility, accountability, science support and secure funding to achieve these goals.
So far, I have not seen the leaders of this state, neither the governor nor the legislators, neither the Democrats nor the Republicans, have the courage to take those actions that are required. It seems that I am not alone in this assessment. William K. Reilly was one of the members of the Delta Vision Task Force and from 1989 to 1993 was the Administrator of the EPA, appointed by George H. W. Bush (Bush 42). In a May 27th OpEd in the San Francisco Chronicle, Reilly laid into the Ahnuld.
Schwarzenegger has called for a 20 percent reduction in statewide water use, a notably bold recognition that excessive water use and population increase are doubly threatening to our water future. But he and legislative leaders have not acknowledged that the critical missing ingredient in water management in the delta is governance.
I fully agree with Reilly. Only it has to be a Green Governance, one that considers not just the delta, but then entire bio-region, one that considers not just agriculture but all of the uses of the water, one that looks not just to tomorrow, but reasons to manage our resources until the 7th Generation.

Damned Culture War - the "Racist" Sonia Sotomayor

I don't want to get sucked into the Republicans vs Democrats "Culture War!" They are the one corporate party with two names.

But... so-called "conservative" hypocrites crying "Racism!" drives me crazy!

I don't want to get sucked into the Republicans vs Democrats "Culture War!" California is in chaos and the "chattering class" is delighted to have an excuse to quit taking about taxes, budgets, and the hard work of actually governing, to happily indulge in their little "Culture War."

But... so-called "conservative" hypocrites crying "Racism!" drives me crazy!

I don't want to get sucked into the Republican-Democrat "Culture War!" They are the one corporate party with two names. Sonia Sotomayor, President Obama's pick for the Supreme Court will surely be confirmed. Republicans don't give a damn about the average so-called "White" man; Democrats don't give a damn about working people of color. The bitching and moaning from the usual Republican "Angry White Men" is just for show.

But... so-called "conservative" hypocrites crying "Racism!" drives me crazy!

Alex, take a deep breath. I don't want to get sucked into the Republicans vs Democrats "Culture War!" I don't want to get suckered. . .

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Proposition 8: My Green Dissent

Once again, I must dissent from conventional Democratic Party so-called liberalism.

Read my lips: We are going to see gay marriage become legal in these United States.

This will not come from the courts. Indeed, it would be a disaster for civil rights to bring this matter before the current Supreme Court, even though our "liberal" lawyers, operating on auto-pilot, appear intent on doing so ("Rival Lawyers Team up to Appeal Same Sex Marriage Ban in Federal Court", L.A. Times, May 28th). American progressives are hung up on the mystique of the 1960s Warren Court. Today, Republican presidents and governors have packed the courts. Besides, where did we get this idea that law is a progressive industry? If you know your civil rights, woman's rights, labor, and environmental history you'd know judicial conservatism has been the "norm." The function of courts 90% of the time serving and protecting property and privilege.

Same sex marriage will be legalized by a "silent majority" of fair-minded, civilized, people in this country. 58% of Americans under age 35 back gay marriage today.

Posted on the Web Site for US News & World Report, May 5, 2009
Most Americans Oppose Gay Marriage, but Those Under 35 Back It
by Dan Gilgoff

As a slew of states move to legalize gay marriage, a new CNN poll finds that most Americans still oppose it, though those under 35 are solidly for gay marriage legalization.

The poll finds that just 44 percent back gay marriage, compared with 58 percent of those under 35. The generational gap over the issue is striking: Only around 4 in 10 Americans ages 35 to 64 back gay marriage, and the number drops to 24 percent for those above age 65.

The numbers raise an important question about the strategy of the pro-gay marriage forces: Is their move to start legalizing gay marriage in many states far enough ahead of public opinion to provoke a serious backlash? Or, given the dramatic generational shift in public opinion on the issue, is their timing just right?

In the near future democratically elected legislatures will legalize it, as in Vermont. Reactionary referenda will be *defeated* as Prop 8 would have been if California's so-called liberal Democrat Party wasn't run by cynical, cowardly hacks.

Progressives, let's rediscover the "small-d" in democracy.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Will "Intellectual Property" Hurt or Help "Green" Technology?

Does patent law, trade marks, trade secrets, and such hinder technical innovation? More particularly, will "Intellectual Property" hurt or help "Green" technology?

The provocative article below was published by the Independent Institute. When I saw it posted on Dick and Sharon's LA Progressive web site, I remembered the interest of Wes, Cameron, and some of my other "Silicon Valley" Green Party friends in these questions. I am not familiar with the Independent Institute, but the arguments sound "libertarian." I would suggest that Greens throw away the naive libertarian's faith in the capitalist marketplace and keep what information and insight is useful.

= = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = =

Posted on LA Progressive, Tuesday, May 26, 2009.
Intellectual Monopoly is an Unnecessary Evil
by Art Carden

In a rush to stimulate the economy, the Obama administration is touting various “visionary” plans to make the American economy more progressive, more innovative, and more forward-looking by subsidizing politically-motivated projects like “green” technology. These hands-on policies will be ineffective. Recent research suggests that a much more effective way to accomplish the same goals would be to eliminate intellectual monopoly and to reduce the regulatory burdens on innovators.

According to conventional wisdom in economics, temporary monopoly rights—patents—are necessary to give people incentives to come up with newer, better ideas. After all, if people who came up with new ideas could see those new ideas copied without cost by competitors, why bother spending the time and energy? Hence, we have patents.

But the conventional wisdom is wrong. In their 2008 book Against Intellectual Monopoly, economists Michele Boldrin and David Levine dropped a bombshell that will, I hope, overturn the consensus about rights to ideas. Using carefully developed theory and a host of real-world examples, they show how patents actually reduce, rather than encourage, innovation. Innovators like steam engine pioneer James Watt, devoted enormous amounts of time and energy to defending monopoly rights rather than to creating new value. Innovation and growth proceeded apace once the patents expired. In Boldrin and Levine’s opinion, this delayed the onset of modern economic growth.

As these authors argue, intellectual monopoly is an unnecessary evil. Further, it is a relic of medieval and early-modern mercantilist regulations whereby kings and nobles granted efficiency-reducing monopoly privileges to favored constituents. Eliminating intellectual monopoly would reduce the incomes of the intellectual monopolists, but it would unleash new creative energies throughout the economy.

In his recent book The Gridlock Economy, legal scholar Michael Heller argued that intellectual monopoly reduces the pace of innovation. He notes that innovative rap music, like Public Enemy’s initial work, was an early casualty of intellectual monopoly. Demands that artists pay royalties for borrowed music sharply restricted rap musicians’ ability to innovate.

While some people might not care about innovative rap music, many care about access to life-saving new medical technologies. Heller explains how this industry is particularly susceptible to the “tragedy of the anti-commons” created by intellectual monopoly. If an invention requires multiple patented innovations to be implemented, then every individual holder of one of the necessary patents can block further innovation. This slows the pace of economic progress.

Consider another example. Would Britney Spears’s artistic output fall if her intellectual monopoly rights were rescinded? I doubt it. Ms. Spears is much wealthier than she would be in the absence of intellectual monopoly, but her wealth is largely what economists refer to as economic rent: income in excess of her opportunity cost. Eliminating her intellectual monopoly very likely would not cause her to choose another occupation, but it would lead to an increase in net creative output.

Progress is also slowed by the regulation of food and drugs, which requires years of extensive and expensive testing before a drug can be approved for sale. This means that some lives are saved because people are restricted to hyper-safe drugs, but the lives saved come at the cost of lives that are lost because the appearance of these drugs on the market is delayed. Further, other drugs that would be useful but might carry greater risks never make it to the market to begin with.

White House Chief-of-Staff Rahm Emanuel suggested that the Administration should not waste the opportunities presented by the present economic and political crisis. Right now, the administration has the opportunity to make a bold move that will stimulate the economy for generations to come. By eliminating intellectual monopoly and by liberalizing markets, we can encourage further innovation and greater prosperity.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

George Will v. Paul Krugman - Idiocy of GOP v. DEMS

Paul Krugman, the Nobel Prize winning economist, is my favorite "liberal" columnist. His column, "State of Paralysis" about California published on May 25th in the New York Times was not his best work.

George F. Will has been a pompous partisan Republican at the Washington Post for nearly forty years. It's not surprising to see such dreck from him as "No More California Dreaming" on May 3rd or "The Coming California Bailout" on May 21st. But I hoped for a deeper analysis from Krugman.

George F. Will says:

California is exporting talent while importing Mexico's poverty. . .

Flinching from serious budget cutting and from confronting public employees unions, some Californians focus on process questions. They devise candidate-selection rules designed to diminish the role of parties, thereby supposedly making more likely the election of "moderates" amenable to even more tax increases. . .

California has become liberalism's laboratory. . .

Paul Krugman says:

The seeds of California’s current crisis were planted more than 30 years ago, when voters overwhelmingly passed Proposition 13, a ballot measure that placed the state’s budget in a straitjacket. . . For California, where the Republicans began their transformation from the party of Eisenhower to the party of Reagan, is also the place where they began their next transformation, into the party of Rush Limbaugh.

With all due respect. Will and Krugman are both wrong. It says something about just how pernicious is this notion is that every political question that exists, has existed, or ever will exist anywhere in the universe boils down to a struggle between so-called conservative Republicans vs. so-called liberal Democrats.

George F. Will would have us pretend that forty years of Republican "conservative" domination, including the last ruinous years of Our Dear President Bush, just didn't happen. You would never know from such rants that our current economic depression was not caused by teachers, social workers, or Mexican immigrants, but by greedy bankers and businessmen. And you would never know that up till now, most calls for electoral "reform" in California has been by those seeking to elect more Republicans.

Paul Krugman ignores the inconvenient history of Prop 13. When Prop 13 was passed in 1978, homeowners, especially those on fixed incomes, really were getting squeezed by property taxes calculated from soaring housing prices. The problem with Prop 13 is that the situation has drastically changed. First, the housing bubble has burst and the real estate market is in a depression. Also, commercial business interests over time, as always, have learned to "game the system" by buying and selling the owners of commercial property rather than the property itself. The problem is not Prop 13, but the utter failure of the political class to adapt to changing conditions -- the very quality that defines "leadership."

Krugman either does not know or likely, does not care about the creepy politics of California Democrats. Barack Obama, the popular elected new Democratic president says:

...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...

Alas, the Califonia Democratic Party does not know the meaning of these words.

As I write this, the California State Supreme Court has just handed down a decision upholding Proposition 8's ban on gay marriage. Republicans put Prop 8 was put on the November 2008 ballot in a futile effort to draw more bigots to the polls to vote for McCain-Palin. Democrats let Prop 8 win because, as always, they lacked the guts to fight for unpopular minorities who, in any event, Democrats smugly assume will keep voting for them as the "lesser evil." Mark my words, over the next days and weeks, the horror of California's bipartisan misgovernance will be overshadowed by another battle in the "culture war." And hyping the "Culture War" is the one thing the so-called conservative Republicans and so-called liberal Democrats really know how to do.

The "California Dream" was based on an economy and a society enjoying cheap land, cheap water, and cheap energy. Here nobody cared where you came from because everybody was always on the move to being something else somewhere else. Those are the "Good Old Days" that are gone forever. The great challenge of California's leadership is not to raise more taxes or spend more money but to present a more noble, more green vision for the future. And for sure, neither Republicans nor Democrats are even beginning to talk about that.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Sustainable Living

Periodically, I have written about food and the influence of being a locavore, both here and at the Morgan Hill Times... my local community newspaper. The May 11 Issue of High Country News carries an article by Carla A. Wise that talks of the transformation of part of Oregon's Willamette Valley into sustainably operated farming operations. It is called the Southern Willamette Valley Bean and Grain Project.

Wise writes of "pioneering experiments" as part of a 9.000 acre operation that had previously been almost totally used for producing grass seed and of a 15 acre organic farm, both involved in creating change.

There are two key elements which are not often talked about. But which do show up in concluding line of this article.
MacCormack [owner of the organic farm] says the main obstacles remain mind-set and infrastructure. And, he says, those are obstacles that can be overcome.

It seems to me that Greens are in the right position to take advantage of a changing mind set. The Beans and Grain Project was fortunate to have a sponsor in Hummingbird Wholesale, an organic food distributor. Not all project can start with that in place. Still, it is one of the necessary ingredients of a decentralized, community based economy... a truly green economy.

Greens can also be a major force in changing people's mindset. Isn't that one of the reasons why we exists as a political party? I think that change is coming over rural America and Greens should be leading the way. The Beans and Grain Project is the anti-dote to CONAGRA, ADM and Cargill.

L.A. Times Editorial: California Needs a State Constitutional Convention

It is a pity that Peter Miguel Camejo did not live to see this. Every major newspaper in the state now agrees that the Green Party candidate for governor's warnings about a "dysfunctional, money-dominated, winner-take-all system" of so-called conservative Republicans and so-called liberal Democrats were prophetic.

Two days after the special election, the lead editorial in The Los Angeles Times calls for a state constitutional convention:

Published in the Los Angeles Times, May 21, 2009.
Editorial: California Needs a State Constitutional Convention

California is stuck. Schools are about to lay off teachers. Prisons are about to release inmates. Historic assets are on the block. Initiatives confuse. Revolts fail. No amount of electing and reelecting people who promise to fix things seems able to move us forward. It's time to reboot.

There have been calls for months now to convene a state constitutional convention and, in essence, start over. It's a good idea. . .

. . .The state Constitution runs to two fat volumes in print and is padded each year by new voter initiatives or legislative propositions. In the end, it's just a document. It's not the enemy. But retooling is one necessary step to make the state function better.

Of course, all kinds of things can go wrong. How would delegates be picked? Would unions control a convention, or union-busters, or Proposition 8 advocates or opponents? A poorly structured convention or one populated by self-interested fringe delegates could do more harm than good. Every care must be given to the details, and it is essential to include in the initiative that authorizes a convention -- alas, there must be a ballot measure -- restrictions on what it would be allowed to address.

One benefit: A convention could push the Legislature to accept deeper, more far-reaching reforms than it might otherwise. One provocative notion being floated by the reform group California Forward would devolve decision-making on taxing and spending back to counties and cities, realigning the relationship between state and local government. In another year, lawmakers might scoff at the prospect. Fear of a convention may encourage ingenuity.

The Bay Area Council, which is leading the charge for a convention, has put "proportional representation" in the Legislature at the top of its wish list. Interesting choice. We're curious to see whether voters already angry at Tuesday's barely comprehensible ballot measures will embrace something quite so cutting-edge.

No convention -- in fact, no statewide fix -- will work if it consists simply of one interest group's shopping list. The Times has made no secret of its position against the two-thirds legislative threshold for tax increases and budgets, and we will keep pushing to overturn it. But the point is to get more ideas on the table.

Prepare for the season of reform and reinvention. A tax reform commission is to release its report in July. Political parties and candidates will focus on next year's gubernatorial election. It's not time to back away from government; it's time to engage it, and change it. Over the coming weeks and months, this page will not be shy about asking questions and offering suggestions. Bring on the ideas. Bring on the convention.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

How many is too many?

I do not normally watch television on Saturday AM. (May 16) However, a late morning snack put me at the breakfast table while KQED was broadcasting To The Contrary with Bonnie Erbe. You many know that all of the commentary on this show comes from women.

The second half of this episode was the first of a three part series entitled POPULATION AND THE ENVIRONMENT. This promises to be "a historical look at the connection between population tabilization and the environmental movement."

I think that most who consider themselves to be progressives will have a difficult time aligning their ideas of social justice to those of ecological sustainability. To ignore one at the expense of the other will only ensure that we solve neither set of issues.

California does not have enough water for it's current population in drought years. With Climate Change happening as rapidly as it is, we may not ever catch up. According to the San Diego News Network report of a major scientific meeting held this month in San Diego...
“Water demand is projected to rise at a faster pace than that of the world’s population growth, the latter of which is expected to increase by 50 percent by 2050.”
This is a global problem to which we have not begun to supply the answers.
The panelists issued a declaration summarizing their research in four sections: the problem, progress, conclusion and the future. The declaration will be presented at the Science and Technology in Society 2009 forum in Kyoto.

“Human society and the global environment will be able to exist together, but this will only be achieved on a region by region basis as we saw at this workshop,” states the declaration. “A major failure in any one region will have serious global consequences.”
In California, the Democratic Party is so involved in building it's power base in the Hispanic / Latino community that they will ignore the ramifications of population growth. It will be a forbidden subject. Greens, on the other hand, have always worked for local and regional solutions and this issue is one where we hill have an advantage if we really stand up and tell the truth. Immigration reform requires that you learn to treat every individual as contributing to society and find a way to make that happen.

Community Based Economics
is a foundation of Green Values and that is where we must integrate the concerns for immigration and for the environment. It won't be easy.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Ecological Sustainability

As is usually the case on Friday evening, I made time to watch Bill Moyer's Journal. One of his guests was Daniel Goleman, author of a new book entitled Ecological Intelligence. You can read the transcript or view the video from here. Goldman's major points begin with our consumerism.
The sad fact is that what we see in the store, what we put in our homes, what we use every day, all those objects, all those friendly products that we're so used to, has a hidden legacy which has to do with their impacts on the environment, on our health, on ecosystems, on the people that made them, that starts from the moment that they start to extract the ingredients. Manufacture through transport, through use, disposal.
Given that, it is about being in informed consumer.
At every step of the way there are myriad impacts on the environment, on health, on the people involved, and so on. So, first, we have a vaster sense, and a much more accurate sense, of really what the impact is. And the second thing is, and this is the big breakthrough, that information is now available to you and me while we're shopping. So that we can use it to make better decisions.

I have happened to find a great (to my taste) California Cheese, called Dry Monterey by Rumiano Cheese Co., Grass Valley, CA. This is what they say about sustainability on their web site.
The Rumiano Cheese Company is committed to sustainability, supporting the local community with a quality workplace and an environmentally friendly operation.
After that, they detail 5 specifics: a new wastewater treatment facility, locally made with local milk and local workers, new water recirculation pumps, energy efficient lighting, no harmful dies and a company wide recycling program that includes old cheese. My question is how green is green and what is it worth. $8.00 per lb. on their web site and $9.99 at my local supermarket.

LA Water Grab

In yet another example of politicians not being willing to think ecologically, the City of Los Angeles is making yet another grab for the water in the Owens Valley. The Metropolitan Water District LA Department of Water and Power first did this in the early 20th Century. That happened long ago and led to the destruction / draining of Owens Lake and the near complete ruin of Mono Lake.

Now, even though the DWP lost a law suit and is being forced to restore the some flow of water into Owens Lake, the City of Los Angeles is now buying up land in the Owens Valley. By the time the colonize the entire valley, there will be no one to complain about shipping all the water down to LA.

Los Angeles has a Mayor who likes to make a lot of publicity for doing the right thing, like planting a bunch of trees, and then out of the clear light of publicity, they do what they really want which is to grab all the resources they can. Makes Villaraigosa look like Schwarzenegger. I am not sure this state can afford another Terminator clone.

Desperate Arnold/DEMS Make 'Terroristic' Threats

The nonpartisan Public Policy Institute of California found that Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's approval rating down around 34%. More than half of all Republicans, Democrats and independents disapprove of the job the "Governator" is doing. The same found that 80% of the voters disapprove of the Democratic Party-controlled California state legislature.

Now, on the eve of a vote on the "bipartisan" budget package, comes the "Governator" making threats about layoffs and cutbacks if Californians do not bend to his will

La Times Headline

Are folks finally ready to admit that Peter Camejo, our Green Party candidate for governor, was right when he said at the first recall election debate in 2003: "Look at this debate today. Do you really want to go back to when there's only two people allowed in them, where you hear the same points of view over and over again? We have a two-hundred year, dysfunctional, money-dominated, winner-take-all system."

The Green Party of California released a statement Friday blasting Arnold's latest move.

News Advisory

Friday, May 15, 2009
Contact: Susan King, spokesperson, 415.823-5524
Cres Vellucci, press secretary, 916.996-9170

Governor making terroristic threats, and may be
in delusional state in last ditch effort to intimidate voters
to approve ‘rotten' May 19 ballot props, charges Green Party

SACRAMENTO – Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's announcement that he will lay off
5,000 state workers and cut money to the elderly, blind and disabled if voters do not approve the ballot measures in Tuesday's special election are terroristic threats, the Green Party of California charged Friday.

"He's threatening the people of California, especially the poorest and sickest, if they don't bend to his will. This is just another form of terrorism," said Joe Feller, a member of the state party coordinating committee.

The Green Party opposes passage of all the propositions Tuesday because it says it's a "rotten deal" for Californians.

"The package is a rotten deal, and it gives voters no real choice, except to get shot in the leg or shot in the arm. Now the governor is using Hollywood scare tactics to threaten voters, and leave them without jobs and services," added Wes Rolley, co-chair of the U.S. Green Party EcoAction Committee.

The Governor is also delusional, said the Greens.

"He is delusional if he really believes that this is not, as he said Thursday, about him and the legislature. The voters of California know whose fault this mess is, and they'll vote that way Tuesday - terroristic threats or not," said Alex Walker, a Los Angeles area Green.

The Green Party insists there are many ways to cut through the budget gap, among them raising taxes on the very, very wealthy, and eliminating the huge tax breaks given owners of commercial property through Prop. 13.

"Democrats and Republicans are offering no fundamental fixes. There are billions of dollars in savings if we employ single payer universal healthcare, decriminalize pot and hemp, reform the prison industry and convert to green technologies. Until they are willing to do that, these ‘leaders' cannot be taken seriously," said Tom Bolema, a Sonoma County Council member.

Once again, I cannot overemphasize, that our current situation is not an acute "crisis," but in fact, a condition that well-informed Californians have been aware of for two decades. It didn't start with Arnold and it's not exclusively the fault of either "tax and spend" so-called liberal Democrats or "small government" so-called conservative Republicans.

I expect that Mr. Schwarzenegger's pathetic, desperate move will fail. Big city Democrats will blame the mess on "selfish, greedy" Republicans. Suburban and rural Republicans will rant and foam about "Liberals" wasting "Our tax dollars" to support the wicked "minorities" in the cities.
In certain One-Party Republican circles, aging reactionaries of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association will continue replaying "oldies but goodies" from their glory days as the avant garde of 1978 -- still raging about property taxes from the housing boom at a time when housing is in a depression. Meanwhile, in my One-Party Democratic predominantly Black Los Angeles neighborhood, our "Amen corner" of aging "Black Power" intellectuals will replay "oldies but goodies" from the Sixties how this whole mess is a conspiracy of "White folks." Last and least, the superficial mainstream media will continue prattling about Democrats versus Republicans over the size of government (See, for example, "California Government: Too Much or Too Little?" in the Los Angeles Times).

President Barack Obama, in his inaugural address declared the time has come to "set aside childish things" and recognize an historic turning point:

What the cynics fail to understand is that the ground has shifted beneath them — that the stale political arguments that have consumed us for so long no longer apply,” Obama said on the steps of the U.S. Capitol. “The question we ask today is not whether our government is too big or too small, but whether it works — whether it helps families find jobs at a decent wage, care they can afford, a retirement that is dignified. Where the answer is yes, we intend to move forward. Where the answer is no, programs will end. 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.

Words like "cynical" and "immoral" are, indeed, appropriate words for a Democrats versus Republican politics operating out of gerrymandered one-party districts based almost exclusively on a strategy of dividing and ruling Californians by race, religion, or tribe. This time, however, I think Schwarzenegger is delusional if he really believes that this is not, as he said Thursday, about him and the legislature. The voters of California know whose fault this mess is, and they'll vote that way Tuesday - terroristic threats or not.

Friday, May 15, 2009


The current problems with the Republican Party can truly be viewed in a capsule by listening to This Week with George Stephanopoulos on Sunday. This is from the promo.
On our roundtable: Democratic strategist James Carville, Republican strategist Liz Cheney, former McCain campaign adviser Steve Schmidt, The Nation's Katrina vanden Heuvel and ABC News' George Will join me to debate the week's politics and the future of the Republican Party.

So we have Liz Cheney as a stand in for her husband, Dick and James Carville to provide the humorous one-liners.

More to the point, I can not imagine any two representatives of the main stream media who are more out of touch with their respective realities than George Will and Katrina vanden Heuvel. Will, in particular, has such thick ideological lenses that his vision of the world is totally distorted. Case in point, his positions regarding climate change. If you want to know what is wrong with Republican Party? They listen to people like George Will. I have written to ABC News that I will not watch This Week for any session where Will is part of the program.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Health Care Cost Reduction

Today, I received another Green Party Release on Single Payer Health Care. I think that there is a great deal of benefit in the Single Payer Health Care system but those benefits are mostly from the fact that it is the only way to ensure adequate coverage for the entire population. It will, in itself, do very little to reduce the cost of health care in America.

In order to reduce health care costs, we need to improve the health of our population and that is not going to be easy. I will look at a few additional things if you click Read more!.

To begin with, it is necessary to pay attention to the links between health care costs and environmental action / non-action. A recent article by Sarah Boseley, Health Editor from The Guardian (UK) warns us that "Climate change biggest threat to health".
Rising global temperatures would have a catastrophic effect on human health, the doctors said, and patterns of infection would change, with insect-borne diseases such as malaria and dengue fever spreading more easily.

Heatwaves such as occurred in Europe in 2003, which caused up to 70,000 "excess" deaths, will become more common, as will hurricanes, cyclones and storms, causing flooding and injuries.
I don't think that America is ready for malaria to become a disease we need to be concerned about. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is, thankfully, pouring significant money into the research needed to end epidemic malaria. I hope that they do the job for all the world.

This is really old news. I mentioned in early 2008 that Stanford University has released a study on the Health Consequences of Global Warming. That same page called attention to the $3 Billion / yr cost of Air Pollution in the San Joaquin Valley and the direct effect it has on young children.

If we are going to make radical changes in the cost of health care, it means that we have to make radical changes in our attitude about ecological issues.

In a similar manner, we need to make changes in life style to reduce the amount of obesity that is prevalent in modern society. The rising rates of diabetes, a long term chronic illness, is a significant component of our rising health care costs.
This Highlight summarizes findings from AHRQ's Healthcare Cost and Utilization Project (HCUP) using hospital care data to examine how diabetes-related complications affect health status, hospitalizations, and economic costs. For example:

* Cardiovascular disease and lower extremity amputations are significantly more likely to occur in patients with diabetes than those without the condition.
* Multiple hospitalizations are common among individuals with diabetes and certain vulnerable populations are more likely to experience multiple hospital stays.
* The complications associated with diabetes result in significant costs to the health care system, particularly for public insurance programs, and are largely preventable.
(US Dept. of Health and Human Services)
We still seem to complain about the costs but are unwilling to adapt our own lives. We must begin to view the problems of health care as ecological as well as administrative. We need both sets of solutions.

Saturday, May 09, 2009


For a long time I viewed myself as a retiree, learning to be a potter, making a few things that, to my eye, had some value. You might get some idea of what I think about art by looking at a personal site I have maintained, but not updated recently. In the last few years, I have become an internet political activist who thinks about pottery.

This week, I had the notification of an exhibit of pottery by Lee Love being held at the Northern Clay Center in Minneapolis, MN. Lee is one of 6 McNight Fellowship artists involved in the show. He was also a very early member of the Green Party in Minnesota, spent a long period living and working in Mashiko, Japan and has recently returned to Minneapolis.

For his part in the Show, Love chose 55 tea bowls. You can view them all here. I sat and went through them several times with my wife last night. It was one of the best internet art viewing experiences I have had recently.

It is also the reason that I must re-order my own priorities to spend more time in the studio and less time at the terminal.

Friday, May 08, 2009

Civil Grand Jury blast Newsom

A civil grand jury has blasted San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom for his style of governance of San Francisco. According to a report at the Chronicle's Insider blog:
San Francisco's annual budget of $6.5 billion dollars would make it No. 376 on the Fortune 500 list, but Mayor Gavin Newsom and his department heads have made it almost impossible for the Average Joe to see whether that money's being well spent.
Given the circus show that passes for a State Legislature in CA, I am not sure that we can afford to have Gavin gallivanting around the state like an action hero movie star. Are there no good alternatives?

Water Districts failulre and media silence

I write a column for my local paper and always find it interesting to see how the editor writes the headline. In today's Morgan Hill Times, the headline was "Institutional Knowledge needed to make decisions". That is not what I would said, but on re-reading it, maybe he got the point.

When newspapers cut reporters, they lose more than the salaries. When term limits force out legislators, we lose their experience. But, in spite of this, I recommended a full house cleaning of the Board of Directors for the Santa Clara Valley Water District. These pseudo government districts are failing us and they get by due to voter apathy and the lack of a media that knows enough to hold their feet to the fire.

Click Read more! for the full text. While the examples are local, the same problem is to be found everywhere, from San Francisco (Chronicle had more layoffs today) to Boston (will the Globe stay in business?)

I had a lot of good intentions this week but as some say the road to hell is paved with good intentions. It may fit my subject today to note that this saying is often mis-attributed to Samuel Johnson.

Following the machinations of the Santa Clara Valley Water District means that I have to pay attention to what is on their agenda. That is easy, subscribe from the water district's web site ( and you get announcements of every meeting of the Board of Directors.

That is where I learned of Wednesday night's session at the Morgan Hill Community Center at which the Water District presented their Annual Report on the Protection and Augmentation of Water Supplies – 2009 and to explain their Recommended Groundwater Production Charges for Fiscal Year 2009-2010. It is a challenging subject but at least I was able to download the Report and their Recommendations and read them before the meeting.

The problem was that I was not able to attend the public hearing and that, in itself has consequences beyond the fact that I may have missed important updates to the document they provided. Surely, the presenters must have commented on the fact that a San Jose judge has ruled that the current method of computing and collecting groundwater charges is not constitutional in California. It violates the provisions of Proposition 218.

Just as importantly, the number of people who show up at a hearing is one indication of whether or not people care, and I did not do my part. I hope that the rest of you did. I know that two of the hearings on whether or not to apply term limits to Water District Directors had zero and two attendees respectively. That does not demonstrate a high level of civic participation.

Underlying this is another thought, one concerning the role of the media, especially in the coverage of our government and local issues. I digress a bit here, but will come back to the subject. It may be that one of my cultural losses was to not have been hooked on watching The Wire (HBO). I really began paying attention after listening to the show's producer, David Simon talk about it with Bill Moyers.

Simon, for two decades a reporter for the Baltimore Sun, is quite articulate about the importance of good reporting, good editing in local journalism. On Wednesday (May 6) he testified on this subject at a US Senate Hearing regarding The Future of Journalism. Simon rather blamed much of the problems of newspapers in America from the fact that they started cutting staff long before the competition from the internet took away much of the advertising revenue stream that funded good journalism.

According to Simon, “When locally-based, family owned newspapers like The Sun were consolidated into publicly-owned newspaper chains, an essential dynamic, an essential trust between the journalism and the communities served by that journalism, was betrayed.”

How do these subjects tie together? Well, I would be the first to admit that I don't have the institutional knowledge that Simon feels was lost. I don't think that many local journalists do, with the possible exception of the Mercury News's Paul Rodgers and he is now covering a broader list of topics just to be as indispensable as possible. Locally, Rober Cerrutti does, but has no regular journalistic outlet.

The result is that our community, no matter how broadly we define that term is not well served. We see many stories about the fact that farmers are not going to get any water this year and many of these stories contain the framing of jobs vs. fish. Nothing could be further from the truth.

To begin with, many of the farmers in the Central Valley are not going to be affected at all. Holders of senior water rights in the Sacramento River Valley will get 100% of their allocation. Those in the Friant block will get 80%. It is only those in the Westland's Water District that are so severely restricted. This is where farmers have been encouraged to replace row crops which could be fallowed for a bad water year with orchards that can not. It was a bad business decision and not one that should determine California Water Policy. Television shows us pictures of Latino works demonstrating for their jobs and never mention the fact that the United Farm Workers is not involved and has distanced themselves from the big agriculture promoted demonstrations.

Without the institutional knowledge that Simon values, we are not learning enough to make informed decisions should any of this come to a vote. Were the question of term limits brought to the voters here, I am not sure what I would do. In a certain sense, the Directors need to acquire that same institutional knowledge, of course with an informed media that can hold their feet to the fire.

I can say that I would not support the re-election of any of the current directors; those who have allowed an unconstitutional method of charging out costs to continue un-questioned for years, those who have failed to provide adequate long term, ecologically sound planning for meeting our true water needs.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

L.A. "Briefing" on Special Election

Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas is hosting a "briefing" on the May 19th Special Election.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009
6:00 p.m. -- 8:30 p.m.
(Registration at 5:30 p.m)

Wallis Annenberg Building
Muses Conference Room
700 Exposition Park Drive
Los Angeles, California

RSVP to:
or 213-743-7200

It will be very interesting to see how Ridley-Thomas "plays" this.

On the one hand, he is very close to Assembly Speaker Karen Bass, who endorsed him in his bitter fight with Bernard Parks in last year's supervisor election.

On the other hand, he is also very close to the leadership of S.E.I.U. and some of the other Labor Boys who mostly don't like these propositions.

I personally, think this would be a wonderful opportunity for our inner-city Greens to turnout in force and underscore how the "Green Brand" means something very different from "liberal-Democrats-in-a-hurry."

The Democrats are all over the map and the top leadership is completely out of step with the rank and file on this one. The Los Angeles Democratic Party Machine Bosses, including Speaker Bass, who helped negotiate the ill-fated budget deal, and Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa are holding their noses and urging voters to vote "YES."

Meanwhile, after painstakingly polling each county, the Green Party of California issued a statement urging a "NO" vote.


Green Party Turns Thumbs-Down to Propositions on May 19 ballot, Charge Plan is 'Rotten Deal' That Only Gives Voters 'Choice' of Being Shot in Arm or Leg

SACRAMENTO (May 4, 2009) -- The Green Party of California today -- after polling its members and county councils statewide for the past month -- strongly urged state voters to vote "no" on all propositions on the May 19 special ballot, calling the plan a "rotten deal."

"We oppose the cuts in transportation, education, social services and other humane services, and we oppose this deal even though we were told that great hardship would result if (this) rotten deal failed to pass," said Michael Rubin, who analyzed the measures for the Green Party of Alameda County.

"Even more we oppose the process which offers us a 'choice' of being shot in the leg or shot in the arm, but did not offer us the choice of using our collective wealth to meet human needs," added Rubin.

The Greens agreed with the California Nurses Association (CNA) -- which also opposed the entire package, and League of Women Voters that Prop. 1A should be defeated, saying it would create new problems and mandate more billions in cuts to needed social concerns.

And although some Greens polled believed that Prop. 1B looked good at first glance, they discarded it -- as did the CNA -- because it was only the "sweetener" for the rotten deal, especially Prop.1A. They rejected Prop. 1C for much the same reasons.

Prop. 1D and Prop. 1E were turned down because they steal money from two previous propositions meant to benefit children and families, as well as from mental services.

Finally, Greens voted to oppose Prop.1F because it is deceptive, and doesn't really prevent the politicians from receiving their normal salaries, per diem and other perks (like free use of automobiles, etc.). It only bars "increases" in budget deficit years."


Susan King, Spokesperson, 415.823.5524,
Cres Vellucci, Press Secretary, 916.996.9170,

The Green Party of California
PO Box 2828
Sacramento, CA 95812
Phone: (916) 448-3437

I cannot count how many times a few of us have pleaded with our Green brothers and sisters not to devote all to foreign affairs, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Gosh, whatever happened to "Think Globally, Act Locally?"

I mean, if our current situation right here doesn't make our case that the current two-party system of "liberal" Democrats versus "conservative" Republicans is totally dysfunctional and not remotely capable of dealing with the challenges of global climate change specifically as this global catastrophe will impact the delicate and complex ecology and society of California, then I don't know what will. "Liberal" and "conservative" populists can rant and foam all day about the evils of "Washington" but the awful truth is that our dysfunctional Sacramento politics is worse than the dysfunctional politics of Washington.

Saturday, May 02, 2009

Food Grows where Water Flows

I have never driven down the Central Valley without seeing sign after sign that reminded me that “Food Grow Where Water Flows”. They are posted along both I-5 and Rte. 99, covering old tanks and stacks of cotton bales.

There is a truth in that statement that we all understand. California's major food producing areas are all valleys: Imperial Valley, San Joaquin Valley, Salinas Valley. They all rely on irrigation. It is mostly through irrigation that California has become the number 1 agricultural state in the country, producing $36.6 Billion in revenue in 2007.

That is a big argument for maintaining the status quo. In fact, we a growing population to feed, there is pressure to extend agriculture in to ever more lands, some of which are totally unsuitable. The environmental consequences of that are routinely ignored. -- more --

The only problem is that nothing can maintain the status quo. Things are always changing, becoming something different. That is the lesson of ecology, a lesson that Greens have learned even if others have not. We all live in a complex system of things that are created and things that die. Our hope is that we are not the ones who will die.

Currently the major change is climate. The most recent forecasts indicate that we may not be able to avoid a temperature increase of 6° C. by 2100. Such a change would entirely disrupt all of our natural systems and California's agricultural industry is rather ground zero in this

That is why I call attention to those signs. Food Grows Where Water Flows. They are no longer a simple description of California's agribusiness. They are a political slogan. Perhaps they always were. You will hear the same story repeated again and again. California's Agriculture needs water. The environmentalists think a fish is more important than people. Let's set aside the environmental laws so we can build more, develop more, pump more, grow more.

It is never that simple. There is not going to be much more water. The water that we will get will not be stored in the mountain snow pack to melt for summer use. Building more damns and more canals to store and carry less water does not make sense, but that is what almost every politician in the San Joaquin Valley wants to do.

The campaign to flush the San Joaquin Valley with Delta Water is well organized and picking up more force every week. It has now taken on the overtones of ethnic conflict. The California Latino Water Coalition are doing all that the land owners ask, showing up at organized protests as though Cesar Chavez were still leading them. This has the makings of a major split between the interests of farm workers and urban dwellers, though both are Hispanic.

California's State Legislature has failed time and again to make the substantive changes in how we deal with water. Each time the problem is recognized, they end up negotiating some compromise like Cal-Fed that solves nothing. Cal-Fed was billed as a compromise and promoted as such by Senator Feinstein. In reality, it was a capitulation to agribusiness interests.

In a similar manner, the Delta Vision process initiated by Governor Schwarzenegger was directed to define a comprehensive solution for our water needs with a concentrated focus on the Delta. Once delivered, every interest group is picking and choosing from a menu of solutions, choosing only those that they were looking for at the beginning and ignoring the rest. Schwarzenegger wanted the peripheral canal. San Joaquin Valley Agribusiness wants more guaranteed water. The Metropolitan Water District wants to keep supporting unlimited growth. We can't have it all. There is not now enough water to do that, even in a good year and we have had three dry years in a row.

Unless the people of California decide to tell their legislature to get serious about our future, we won't have a very good one. If our legislature is not ready to apply real science and ecological systems planning to the management of our watershed, then it is time to elect someone who will.

Two Green Party candidates for the State Assembly, Lisa Green (53rd AD) and Jack Lindblad (39th AD), have started their campaigns with strong positions about the changes needed in our water management systems. The California Green Party is the only option if we want to secure a future before our economy dies of thirst. Join Lisa and Jack and let's bring ecological accountability to Sacramento.

Friday, May 01, 2009

California's Water Systems Broken

California's water systems are broken. In some cases, it is the physical system such as the long delayed upgrade and seismic retrofit of the Hetch Hetchy Aqueduct or the many miles of threatened levees in the Sacramento - San Joaquin River Delta. But mostly, it is the bureaucratic process by which water is governed, metered out, charged for and frequently fought over.

California's Little Hoover Commission has previously issued reports on water. The most recent, in January 2009 was Clearer Structure, Cleaner Water: Improving Performance and Outcomes at the State Water Boards. It's conclusions start with the recognition that California has an outdated system for dealing with a raft of threats to clean water, a crumbling infrastructure and a growing demand. Their solution involved a total re-structuring of the system of State and Regional Water Control Boards making them appointed by and responsible to the Governor.

Following that, the Commission has taken on the challenge to change the total governance of water in California beginning with a new hearing that was held April 23, 2009 in Sacramento. At that hearing, Phil Issenberg, Chairman of the Delta Vision Foundation, testified that the sum total of documented water rights in California is 8.4 times the average water flow through the Delta.

Even if the State Legislature were willing to undertake the task of reforming water governance, no matter what they decide to do, someone will challenge it in court. California's bureaucracies have some 200 different agencies and boards involved in the process of managing our water resources.

Much of the power over water use is devolved into a long list of local water districts, each with it's own set of directors and regulations. As far as I know, there are only four greens on any of these water district boards in the State of California. If there is any office that may be attainable, and which might have a long lasting effect on life in California, it is that of Director of a Water District.

The Green Party of the United States recently passed a resolution (#380) that outlines a new process of dealing with water issues. While Resolution authorizes action by the EcoAction Committee, GPUS, this will not happen without Greens everywhere becoming involved. We must all become active participants in solving California's problems.

We have seen that the California State Legislature is incapable of coming to any hard decision regarding anything of importance. If they can not enact a budget on time, how will they be able to deal with the restructuring of priorities between Central Valley Agriculture and Southern California urban users.

The problems associated with water, it's management and it's governance in California cry our for Green solutions. California needs the active involvement of Greens who will take bioregional approaches to the management of water sheds, who will involve the public in the decision making rather than relying on entrenched bureaucracies and special interests to determine our future.

Join the GPCA and the GPUS EcoAction Committee in creating fundamental change. EcoAction has set up The Green Party Water Works, a public blog at
That is one place to start. Another is to contact local Green Party councils and to tell them that you are willing to help protect California's future. It is clear that neither major political party is going to do that.