Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Global warming is why you are freezing.

For anyone who has to deal with the climate deniers who, like Sen. Inhofe, would point to the recent cold weather storms as evidence that global warming is a hoax, there is a very good, easily understandable story in the NY Times this week. Juath Cohen manages to make it so clear that even Sen. Inhofe should be able to understand it.
All of this cold was met with perfect comic timing by the release of a World Meteorological Organization report showing that 2010 will probably be among the three warmest years on record, and 2001 through 2010 the warmest decade on record.
Read the full text here:

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Transition for my town

This is scheduled for the 12/31 issue of the Morgan Hill Times.

The history of the Santa Clara Valley is one of constant transition. Long gone are the days when the Union Pacific RR advertised it as the Valley of the Heart's Delight. Some of the agricultural economy has remained but the structure has radically changed. No longer do we have packing sheds next to the railway. Morgan Hill is not even just a bedroom community for Silicon Valley, as it was when I moved here over 30 years ago. Rather we are transitioning to something new and don't really know just what that will be.

One of the most important drivers for the past transitions has been the value of our land. How do we use it? How do we tax it? Is it more valuable for agriculture or for industrial development. You have only to examine the office parks along Cochrane Rd. to appreciate how we have answered those questions.

It seems obvious that we may not always answer those questions in the same manner, or that we will start asking new question. As our economic life changes, there will be new drivers for local decisions.

In a recent NY Times column, Nobel Laureate economist Paul Krugman discusses the new economic normal. “Oil is back above $90 a barrel. Copper and cotton have hit record highs. Wheat and corn prices are way up. Over all, world commodity prices have risen by a quarter in the past six months.” With changes like this, perhaps it will become more valuable to maintain agricultural land in close proximity to where we live.

Krugman gets right to the point. “What the commodity markets are telling us is that we’re living in a finite world, in which the rapid growth of emerging economies is placing pressure on limited supplies of raw materials, pushing up their prices. And America is, for the most part, just a bystander in this story.”

That is a big change from that past vision of America. How do we adapt to the reality of a finite world, one in which resources are limited, access to them is increasingly expensive when transportation costs are added, and America no longer has an inexhaustible supply. Politicians talk about meeting out energy needs through the exploitation of oil shale, but they never mention the costs, direct and indirect, that oil shale operations have. There is probably no single process that would destroy more watershed than a massive exploitation of the shale deposits in Colorado, Wyoming and Utah. This is water that would go to the Colorado River and make that water supply unusable.

There are other drivers that we have to consider; a changing climate is just one. The frequency of extreme weather events that we are currently experiencing around the world is on of the predicted results of increased greenhouse gas accumulation in the atmosphere. New York has been hard hit by a blizzard while Greenland continues to warm. In the Southern Hemisphere, South Australia has experienced their worst drought while Queensland had record rainfall and flood this week. It may rival the flood from Pakistan but affect fewer people. Remember: a warmer atmosphere will hold more water and that will fall somewhere.

We can no longer count on our state and federal governments to prevent future catastrophic events, or even to adapt to them after it happens. There is neither the fiscal capacity in either Washington or Sacramento nor the political will act if it costs money. We can only raise taxes so much and I doubt that the incoming Republican House of Representatives, filled as it is with new Tea Party members, is gong to do much of anything productive about energy or climate change.

Morgan Hill has to recognize that the future of this community depends on what we do, collectively, here and now. There is a good model for this cooperative community action in the Morgan Hill Community Emergency Response Team. ( This is how we take local action to deal with a sudden emergency because we know that immediate help will not be coming form State or Federal agencies. This is not because those agencies don't want to help, it is because the can't.

How will we deal with events that are not sudden, but rather assert themselves over time. There is a model for this as well. Morgan Hill is uniquely positioned to be a Transition Town, developing a local resilience that will see us through, transitioning to a newer reality. You can find more information about Transition Towns by following Hopedance, an online journal published by Bob Banner of Santa Barbara. (

The key objective of a Transition Town is to provide that local resilience. They begin by asking different questions: What is the true cost of consumerism? How willing are we to push down other people in order to maintain our idea of American Exceptionalism? How do we best adapt to this new world we have created? These are moral questions as well as economic ones.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Environment and Economics: a hot topic.

It may be that economists and ecologists speak very different languages. The gap of understanding seems as big as that between Vulcan and Klingon. Nowhere does this seem more apparent than in the exchanges between Dr. Joseph Romm (Physicist, owner of the Climate Progress blog) and Dr. Matthew E. Kahn (Economics, Professor at UCLA and owner of the Environmental and Urban Economics blog.

At issue is the question of whether the capitalist system of markets will enable us all to adapt to the realities of climate change. Kahn's main thesis seems to be that, "cities and regions will adapt to rising temperatures over time, slowly transforming our everyday lives as we change our behaviors and our surroundings". Maybe Miami will be under water, but spring in Fargo might be nice. He has described this at some length in a recent book: Climatopolis.

This is beginning to look like a pissing contest between two academics intent on preserving their reputations. It would be a mistake to leave you with that impression. This is very serious and we had better get it right the first time. There might not be a second chance.

T split the rest of this comparison as well as some comments on what it means for Green Politics off the main page and you can read it here:

Romm has reviewed Kahn's book twice. After the first scathingly negative review
(Climatopolis: How Our Cities Will Thrive in the Hotter Future [Not!}), Kahn accused Romm of the sin of reviewing a book that he had not yet fully read. So, Romm read it cover to cover, and then wrote another review that was sharper than the first.(Review: Climatopolis: How our cities will thrive in the hotter future by Matthew Kahn is not a good book)

Kahn could hardly be expected to refrain from a reply.
Joe Romm is a smart angry man. He throws some new punches at my Climatopolis. Under the scenario that greenhouse gas concentrations reach 1000 ppm (which sounds high and if we reach that number this would take place in the year 2200?), some of the scenarios he sketches may play out. He makes some reasonable points about tightening some of the raw calculations but he ignores two key facts about my book. In the next edition of the book, I will address his points but in no way do his points detract from the book's core thesis. Capitalism will help us to adapt to climate change. Out of self interest, we will rebuild our future cities in places that are less at risk from climate change and we will be pro-active in embracing strategies to protect ourselves from different dimensions of climate change . (Bold emphasis is mine.)

In particular, Greens need to sort this out clearly and to put forward candidates who understand not only the science that is telling us why our climate is changing, but also the long range economic issues at play. I am not convinced that we have found or developed more than a couple of candidates who might qualify on both counts. That will have to be the subject of later posts.

I will admit that I too have not read Climatopolis. I do follow both Romm and Kahn's blogs on a regular basis, especially since Kahn did some of the best initial economic analysis of the effect of California's AB 32 (p.55 of the PDF linked.)
While I support the Governor’s broad AB32 goals, I am troubled by the economic modeling analysis that I have been asked to read. AB32 is presented as a riskless “free lunch” for Californians. These economic models predict that this regulation will offer us a “win-win” of much lower greenhouse gas emissions and increased economic growth.

Kahn describes himself as a rational expectations economist. That is where my gut tells me that he is wrong. His expectations are that people and companies will have the economic ability to adapt, making rational choices for long range gains rather than taking. The trouble with climate change is that it does not respond to quarterly report. If capitalism and it's response to market signals is going to determine how we adapt, we had better have a longer range view than that of a hedge fund supercomputer tweaking seeking advantage in a fraction of a point.

Kahn talks about how we make decisions when "we know that we do not know." It is my experience that most of us do not do that very well, especially when the goal is for some general greater good rather than being specific as to our selves, our families, our work. People tend to delay those decisions until the threat is imminent. By the, with climate change, it may be too late.

I don't have statistics to back up my conclusions, only some observation of human behavior through much of my 70 years. If we can not count on governments having the financial ability to provide for adaptation, and we also can not count on corporate long term decision making, we had better be building resilient local communities that can whether the storms to come.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Even Silence Has an End

It may seem like a rush to judgment, but I will recommend a book for all to read after completing less that half of it (220 of 528 pages).

I'm currently reading "Even Silence Has an End" by Ingrid Betancourt. You may remember that Betancourt was the Green Party candidate for President of Columbia is 2002 when she was captured and held hostage by the FARC. This book tells of her 6 and a half years of captivity in Columbia's jungles and her final rescue.

More that a mere chronicle of events, or a political statement, Betancourt has written a spiritual memoir detailing her times of self examination and her effort to not merely survive, but to survive with her soul intact.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

At least Greens take a stand

I have seen multiple appeals for telling the California Air Resources Board to put some teeth into the regulations to implement SB 32's Cap and Trade program.  They have come from:

Now, you can add the Green Party of California to that list. 

If I get any calls on this, since I am so freely quote, I hope that I am equal to the task.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Giving away your future.

When the California Legislature passed AB 32, it was heralded as ground breaking and promising to be the model for other states, or countries, to follow.  In last month's election, the citizen's of California had to vote to protect the provisions of AB 32 from attack by unified oil interests (Valero, Tesoro and the Koch Brothers empire).

Having accomplished that much we seemed to breathe a collective sigh of relief and turned our attention to the next crisis du jour.  Wrong choice!  While we were media fed British Royal pablum or questioned whether Sarah Palin's visit to Haiti was intended to give her foreign policy credibility, California's Air Resources Board (ARB), the organization responsible for defining the rules under which polluters would be permitted to continue business as usual, was giving away those permits.  They make that intention clear on their web site as they publish the background information for Thursday Dec. 16 Board Meeting.  You can read the description of the free allocations here.

Next10 has posted the results of a recent study of implementation scenarios.  They find that "The research shows that giving away allowances for free helps energy-intensive industries, but this
strategy actually hurts the CA economy overall."  In fact, they find that both strategies will have a positive effect on employment in California, but that the free allocations will significantly reduce the number of net new jobs created.

I am increasingly doubtful that the public input will have much of an effect.  However, like chicken soup for the flu, it can't hurt. Contact your state legislators, and make sure that you have made it clear to the ARB that California jobs are more important than the financial health of major polluters but giving your comments here.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Climate Zombies

Think Progress has a list of the Climate Zombies in the 112th Congress. Not surprisingly, all of the CA list are Republicans.

There are some, like CA-02's Wally "Walleye" Herger who are so ineffective that the Washington Press named him as the Congressman who could disappear and no one would know. That is not the case with a few others.

Dana Rohrabacher
(CA-46) was considered for the Chairmanship of the House Committee on Science and Technology. The one selected, R. Holt from Tx. is marginally better in that he is a not a buffoon. We know that Rohrabacher got his political start with money from the Charles Koch of Koch Industries.

Darrell Issa CA-49 will likely be the Chairman of the House Oversight Committee. He has stated that he will frequently subpoena members of the Obama Administration to challenge their direction and how they are wasting spending public money.

Brian Bilbray was recently announced as a member of the Energy and Commerce Committee.  Here, he could easily use hearing after hearing to ask stupid questions in order to re-state long debunked ideas.

This is all the more reason that Green Climate Hawks need to take to the air… even to the airways if we can raise enough money… and make sure that our local communities are ready to transition to the new reality of 21st Century Climate.

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Chronicles of the Hydraulic Brotherhood

If you are a Green, live in California and care about the quality of water that you drink, you should get to know Lloyd G. Carter. Actually, if any of the above conditions, you should probably learn more about Lloyd and his Chronicles of the Hydraulic Brotherhood.

More than anything, I really want you to follow the leads that he has put in this post. Lloyd has pointed out the work of the Environmental Water Caucus to bring some sanity and common sense to the issues of the Sacrament / San Joaquin Delta, California Water, etc. Right now, all we have is corporate agriculture playing political games and sorting out their favorite legislator while the rest of us are forgotten.

I am of the opinion that CA legislators, especially the LA based Democrats, are too beholden to the contributions of Stewart and Linda Resnick to be very anxious to do what needs to be done.

I would not feel too badly for some of the farmers who might just have an out by taking their selenium befouled land and transforming that acreage into a solar farm.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

California's climate is changing. Will we?

Since my pessimistic post on dot earth's interview with Bill McKibben, I have been challenged by Gerry Gross to explain why he should listen to yet another session of gloom and doom Jeremiad. It made me do some additional thinking about what we should be doing. So this may ramble, but it hopefully provides energy of some kind for the work that needs to be done.

"more than anything, it's just a question of power." Another quote from McKibben that starts to explain why he started If it is a question of power… the fossil fuel companies have it and we don't… then McKibben wants to build an organization large enough to have power.

I see two problems here. The first is that McKibben has chosen not to come forward with a firm statement of policy. What changes do we need to make? When do we make them? How might government provide incentives to change in the right way? In one way McKibben is right. There are many solutions and every country, state, province, group has to find the one that works locally. One of the reasons that Copenhagen failed, and that Cancun promises to just a disappointing, is that there is no solution that works for everyone. That is addressed in the video segment I linked.

The other problem is essentially one for Greens to deal with, but also seems to apply to other progressives and independents. People don't really trust those in power. This distrust is one of the reasons for a lack of cohesion within various Green organizations. The devolution of power to the people rarely results in a unified sense of direction.

Let me ramble back to Gerry's original question. Should we be supporting the Million Letter March… an effort to send a million letters to Congress underscoring the need to act on climate change now. I guess that it is like eating chicken soup to fight a cold… it can't hurt but I would not expect it to cure H1N1. As it is, even with the names of Bill McKibben, Dr. James Hansen and Lester "Plan B" Brown attached to the effort, they have so far generated less than 400 letters from US Sources.

We have to acknowledge that our Federal government is not going to act at least for the next 2 years, since any action will be blocked in a Republican controlled House of Representatives. An examination of the people that are being selected to head committees in a Republican House makes it abundantly clear. A good example is the selection of Oil-Industry cheerleader Ralph Hall to head the House Committee on Science and Technology. Whatever action takes place will have be local, or at least at the state level.

For example, we should learn more about the Panoche Valley Solar Farm Project in San Benito County. This is a photovoltaic installation designed to eventually supply 420 megawatts of power when completely built out. There are pros and cons for the project, and some environmental groups would like to stop it over the question of habitat loss. You can read the draft Environmental Impact Report here. The scope of this project is such that we can not allow a mistake through ignorance or indifference.

Let me underscore the fact that most Greens acknowledge the importance of climate change. The draft of the 2010 version of the GPUS Platform clearly states that "Climate change is the most grave environmental, social and economic peril that humanity has ever met." On it's own, that will have as much political effect as a Million Letter March that only generates 400 letters.

If we believe, as I do, that the formulation in the platform is correct, then we need to organize around that fact. It is time for California's Green Climate Hawks to get together and start having an impact.

Monday, December 06, 2010

There’s no happy ending

There’s no happy ending where we prevent climate change any more. … Now the question is… is it going to be a miserable century or an impossible one and what comes after that. - Bill McKibben in an interview with Revkin(dot earth) in Cancun,
This is where I begin to sound like a broken record. But more and more I am convinced that McKibben is right. You can listen to the full segment below. This is his conclusion some 8 min. in.

I am also convinced that there will be no action from the U.S. Congress for the next two years. That means we have to focus what strength we have on local actions and supporting CA organizations that are doing things. If the Federal Government takes any action, it will be through Carol Browner's pushing the EPA to regulate GHG's. Congressional Republicans will try to defund the EPA. That can not be allowed to happen.

Then, we need to begin now targeting those legislators, State or Federal, who have the worst records and to keep up a relentless attack. It should start with Orange County's idiotic Dana Rohrabacher.
Memo to self: Start a target list.

Too much of what we work for is rather like re-arranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. It might make life pleasant if we survive. If Greens can not lead on this, we should rename our party.

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Gassed by ethanol

If Greens want to start making changes, especially as regards green house gas emissions, one way is to pop the corn lobby out of Washington. There are two distinct, but related issues we need to fight: subsidies for commodity crops including corn and renewable fuels standards that mandate the use of ethanol.

Most ethanol is manufactured from corn. That process is neither economic nor ecologically sound. It takes too much water and energy to produce the ethanol for the benefit received.

Most of you probably did not realize that ethanol was such an issue in California, but industry is at work lining their pockets with yet another bad idea. Haven't you heard of the California Ethanol Vehicle Coalition? Now, they even have announced a partnership between NASCAR and American Ethanol, all for the promotion of ethanol as a "healthy fuel."

Note, the featured photo is of the President of the National Corn Growers Association. This is very good. We subsidize corn production and then mandate the use of 45 cents/gal. subsidized corn based ethanol in our fuels. It would be a humorous sidelight of Washington Politics if it were not that Energy Secretary Chu has a very different opinion.
“Ethanol is not an ideal transportation fuel,” Chu said during a question-and-answer session at the National Press Club. Chu said synthetic fuels don’t require the specialized infrastructure, such as pumps and pipelines, that are needed for ethanol.
Green need to support policies that end both commodity crop subsidies and the support of dead-ended technologies.

Thursday, December 02, 2010

LATimes: 'Brown May Find It's Not Easy Being Green'

PRINCE EDMUND GERALD BROWN, JR has been elected the next Democratic governor of the great state of California. The long, expensive, insipid, 2010 election is over and so what's the first order of business? Screw the "tree-huggers" on green jobs for green energy. In a front page story the Los Angeles Times reports the Sacramento crowd is already nervous about green energy.
Published in the Los Angeles Times, December 2, 2010
Brown May Find It's Not Easy Being Green
By Anthony York

Jerry Brown ran for governor promising to revive the economy through an aggressive expansion of California's green-energy industry — but that agenda could prove costly to consumers.

Brown wants the state to make major new investments in solar and wind power: building large-scale power plants that run on renewable resources and placing solar panels on parking-lot roofs, school buildings and along the banks of state highways. Although advocates of renewable energy tout the long-term savings of going green, billions of dollars would be required to reach the governor-elect's green-energy goals.

Nobody knows if the program would produce the "more than half a million green jobs" Brown promised during the campaign, but many experts agree that it could lead to sharply higher utility rates.

How much higher is unclear, because the eventual cost of Brown's plan would depend in part on the mix of wind, solar and other renewable energy used. Other factors may lower that estimate, said Brown spokesman Sterling Clifford. It depends on "what kind of cost savings can be realized through reducing the regulatory hurdles, it depends on how quickly we can ramp up job creation…. All of this is somewhat speculative at the moment."

But state regulators have already crunched some numbers associated with the linchpin of Brown's plan: to generate one-third of the state's power from renewable sources by 2020. That could require rate hikes of as much as 14.5%, in addition to billions of dollars in private investment, according to an analysis by the state's Public Utilities Commission.

Staff at the commission, which regulates Pacific Gas & Electric, Southern California Edison, San Diego Gas & Electric and a handful of smaller utilities and sets rates for most Californians, estimates the cost of the plan at roughly $60 billion over the next decade. That is more than state taxpayers will spend on the University of California and California State University systems combined over the same period.

Clifford said the PUC analysis is not complete.

"One of the things that estimate does not take into account is the thinning of the regulatory thicket when it comes to renewable energy," he said. "We want to simplify the process by which renewable projects can be approved."
. . .
Clifford said the jobs plan is a priority for the incoming administration but promised that Brown would be "methodical" in setting its course.

"We want to do it, but that means doing it right — studying potential effects of legislation and regulation, figuring out which rules can be streamlined and which can't, ensuring an effective oversight process that allows for reasonable progress on construction projects," said Clifford.

Notice how defensive, even apologetic Brown's spokesman is about the Green energy agenda. There is no self doubt on the part of business interests adamantly opposed to the plan:
Meanwhile, a coalition of business groups that has fought Schwarzenegger's renewable energy proposal also opposes Brown's. "There is a lot of pure cost anxiety on our side," said Dorothy Rothrock, vice president of the California Manufacturers & Technology Assn.

Schwarzenegger vetoed a 2009 bill that would have required utilities to buy a third of their electricity from renewable sources in the next decade, saying the measure relied too heavily on creating expensive new power sources within California. In his veto message, he cited the "negative impact it would have had on California's energy markets and ratepayers."

So far, big labor is supporting Brown, but only so long as Brown delivers on high-paying power plant contruction jobs:
Schwarzenegger's plan opted for more power produced outside California, which he says is cheaper. That angered labor unions eager for power-plant construction jobs as well as environmentalists who say there's no way to prove that electricity generated outside California comes from renewable energy plants.
. . .
During the gubernatorial campaign, Brown called for developing 20,000 megawatts of new, renewable energy in California. Each megawatt of power would be enough to serve up to 1,000 Southern California homes. Brown said this new green power would be at the heart of his plan to create hundreds of thousands of jobs in the state.
. . .
"We totally support Jerry Brown's initiative … but you simply can't get there without" in-state renewable energy, said Scott Wetch, a lobbyist for the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, which supported Brown's campaign for governor.

This is a beautiful example of why California needs a green political force independent of both the Republican and Democratic parties. Our friends in the labor movement, God bless 'em, have come a long way since the "bad old days" when labor was routinely trotted out by big business to say environmentalism was bad for jobs. Unfortunately, the Democrats and their labor supporters, no less than the Republicans and their business supporters, are still organized around the old paradigmwhere "progress" is the work of big industry and big labor for the sake of short term profit. They cannot yet get their brains around the idea of building a green future with decentralized sustainable, local industry with green jobs for all, including chronically underemployed folks in inner-city neighborhoods like mine in Los Angeles.

One result of the 2010 election is that California stands out like a "green thumb" against the retro Republican wave. Greens must seize this unprecedented opportunity to go way beyond the Brown Democratic agenda and go all the way to making California a model for a new paradigmfor America and the world.

A climate of Green Change

One year ago almost all of mainstream media was focused on the Climate Change meeting in Copenhagen. Even Obama attended. The primary action was to kick the can down the road, promising solutions to be developed later.

This week, we have caught up to the can and climate change negotiators are meeting again in Cancun. The choice of location is much better in the winter than was Copenhagen. But there was a special irony in that an unusual number of tropical storms and hurricanes have just about washed away the beaches in Cancun and the loss of land mass threatens the existence of some of the hotels that are housing the conference's guests.

Much has happened in the mean time. Little of it was reported in the mainstream media and almost none of it has to do with the Green Party. Have we gotten so tired of this story that the have collectively decided that the world is not worth saving? Is it a only a ploy to allow for creative destruction of the existing culture? I hope that neither of these is truly what is happening.

The facts of climate change are becoming more certain with every new report that comes out, no matter that we are having a La Niña year cooling CA for 2010. Mother Nature bats last.

I would argue that climate change and its associated economic effects will create opportunities for the GPCA if we organize to take advantage of them. The economic effects of climate change will first be noticed in the agricultural sector and California has the largest economy in the USA.

Such changes have already been noted by agriculture in other states. The best example is from this NY Times OpEd by a farmer from Minnesota.
THE news from this Midwestern farm is not good. The past four years of heavy rains and flash flooding here in southern Minnesota have left me worried about the future of agriculture in America’s grain belt. For some time computer models of climate change have been predicting just these kinds of weather patterns, but seeing them unfold on our farm has been harrowing nonetheless.
Callifornia will see the flip side of what is happening in the upper Midwest, drought rather than heavy, flooding rains. It may be that the major basis of the current water war is that everyone wants to grab all of the water they can now because they know in their gut that that the current largess can not last.

If there was ever an issue for which the Green Party truly has the natural answer, it is climate change as it forces us to re-think, agriculture, plowing new political ground as it were. We have had relatively good success with voter registration drives in the Central Valley. We need to put more organizational focus on building the party there while the duopoly panders to the money from Big Ag donors.


Monday, November 29, 2010

Our Climate Future

I am fortunate enough to have a more or less monthly column in my local newspaper, the Morgan Hill Times. In a Green Talk submitted for publication on Nov. 30, I explain why I see the future of climate action to be at the local level, since Tea Party backed Republicans are pledged to ignore reality in favor of a near religious zeal to destroy all environmental controls that impinge on either personal or corporate freedom to screw the rest of us. Click Read more! for full column. In my previous column, I asked our three mayoral candidates to answer a few questions regarding their attitudes about climate change. On the basis of those answers, I came to the conclusion that only one, Steve Tate, was perceptive enough to deserve my vote. Even if your reasons were not the same as mine, thankfully enough of you agreed on that choice to re-elect Mayor Tate.

Yet, this goes against the prevailing voter response for most of America. In state after state, voters have elected champions of small government, free enterprise, reduced taxes and no regulation of business, backed by a loose coalition of organizations known collectively as the Tea Party. Almost universally, they echo the refrain that climate change is a hoax, isn't happening or could not possibly be caused by human activity. After all, we are too intelligent to do something like that... or are we?

Maybe the most extreme is Illinois Representative John Shimkus. His position is one of Biblical faith holding fast to the promise of Exodus where God told Noah that he would not destroy the earth again. The Bible says nothing about God preventing man from doing the job himself.

I would not be concerned about the Rep. Shimkus were it not for the fact that he could become the next Chairman of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce. If he gains that position, he will the ability to shape energy policies for all of us, determining which bills will come up for a vote and on what schedule. In that position, he would be dangerous.

It would seem that all of the Tea Party is following the scientific thinking of Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh and Sarah Palin, a trio of media personalities who will say anything to make sure that Obama will be a one term president. It has come to the point where Limbaugh has aimed his rant at Motor Trend Magazine for daring to name the Chevrolet Volt as their Car of the Year. Any deviation from the orthodoxy of revealed truth can not be tolerated.

If the Volt can be named car of the year, then you might have to agree with at least some of what the Obama administration is attempting to do and that can not be allowed. Motor Trend has even responded with the reminder that “driving and Oxycontin don’t mix.”

It does not take much effort to understand that the great hoax is really being perpetrated by those often labeled as climate deniers. Even when they do find errors in any of the science, the correction of those errors has only served to strengthen that case for climate change. When they proudly proclaim that the Arctic Sea Ice is expanding again, they fail to note that it is also thinning, having less “old ice” or volume than ever before. When emails between scientists were hacked and then leaked last year, the further investigation has shown that it was all much ado about little; that the claims of the deniers that the were proof of some perfidy were as bogus the various lists of names of scientists who supposedly oppose the idea that human activity is changing the climate. (Many of the names on that list were already dead before the list was first published, almost all of the others had never given their permission for that use of their names. Yet still, Sen. Inhofe has continued to publish it at government expense.

While Inhofe, Shimkus and their minions are all set to determine climate policy for this country, the Chinese have a different goal. They are investing heavily in Green Energy, even to produce the same forms of electric cars that Limbaugh feels in Un-American and the first step to something that he calls Socialism.

Which brings me back to the rational for why I made it into a local election issue. If the leadership of the Republican Party, especially those with Tea Party backing, have decided that rationality has no place in national policy decisions, then the future depends on what we do here, in California, in Morgan Hill. Make of it what you will.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Thankful for the rain.

Aquafornia is an indispensable site as Chris pulls together all of the essential water news for Californians and then links to the source. A good example is this story on the future of Lake Mead as covered by Las Vegas Channel 3 TV.
Lake Mead is at its lowest level since it was filled back in 1937. Most experts agree it will go much lower.
In the bay area we have had more than a normal November's rainfall. I have recorded some 2.5 in. on my deck. The ground is wet and I have captured some 200 gal. to make sure that our suburban lot sized orchard stays hydrated in the coming cold days. Still, this is a La Niña year and therefore somewhat unpredictable.

Water is political quicksand in California. I have yet to pay attention to the political action in Sacramento without getting the impression that it is all posturing for votes rather than truly planning for a sustainable California. Given that we have a new Governor, a Jerry Brown says that he is old enough to be able to do what is right rather than just what is politic, there is some scant hope, but I doubt it.

KGO-TV (ABC Channel 7 from San Francisco) will have a story tonight regarding California's Water Wars. I hope that Dan Ashley will act as an explainer rather than just be a mediator of a he said - she said special interest cat fight.

So, I guess that I am thankful for the water I have and conserve it as best I can. Being Green is about more than Politics.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Risking climate changer

We have just gone through an election cycle that saw Democrats lose seats in Congress as well as a large number of state legislature majorities. Greens had races where we came close, like Ben Manski in WI but it was an election when voters rejected liberal or progressive. candidates of any party.

One of the results was the ascendancy of a group of Tea Party backed candidate with a cheering section of ideological purists eager to "take our government back." A mixture of populism and near anarchic libertarian dogma, a majority of these new Congress Critters are so locked in to the ideal of a government so small that you can drown it in a bathtub that they ultimately reject anything that could possibly upset that view. The biggest threat to this view of government comes from Climate change where the financial risk is so great that it could bankrupt any government. They either hold on to the view that climate change is a hoax designed to continue public funding for university scientists or it is a Al Gore initiated plot to force socialism on the public.

In a must read post at Climate Progress, Joe Romm laments the fact that the media spends more time on climate scientists than on the climate science itself.
But for those interested in the real climate science story of the past year, let’s review a couple dozen studies of the most important findings. Any one of these would be cause for action — and combined they vindicate the final sentence of Elizabeth Kolbert’s Field Notes from a Catastrophe: “It may seem impossible to imagine that a technologically advanced society could choose, in essence, to destroy itself, but that is what we are now in the process of doing.”

So what can Greens do to save humanity from itself? It is not enough to just change your own personal life style and hope that it catches on.

Monday, November 08, 2010

Mass media sub-blime

Thanks to chance of rain, I figure out why I never watch pop TV. Product placement is rampant and expected... e.g. what car they drive, which soda is consumed, but to put it in the dialogue is going a bit too far. I really expected more from a show set in Santa Monica.

Sunday, November 07, 2010

Climate hawks arise

As the talking heads have had almost a week to analyze last week's elections, I guess that I can put in my two cents worth. It should be as valid as the pontifications that I have heard.

The one thing that almost everyone agrees on is that action on climate is dead. Joe Romm's Climate Progress made that point clear.

California came out fairly well. AB32 seems safe until the next election. Still there is a lot of work to be done and Greens had better be in the forefront or we should change our name. If the Democrats do not have the gumption to act, then Greens are the only political voice left.

I ask you all to consider the oped that Bracken Hendricks wrote in the Washington Post today.
Many conservatives say they oppose clean-energy policies because they want to keep government off our backs. But they have it exactly backward. Doing nothing will set our country on a course toward narrower choices for businesses and individuals, along with an expanded role for government. When catastrophe strikes - and yes, the science is quite solid that it will - it will be the feds who are left conducting triage.
While Greens are motivated by many issues, there is none so wide reaching as this. Hendricks continues to outline many of the results of listening to the Tea Party, Glen Beck, Rush Limbaugh echo chamber.
This is just the beginning. If conservatives' rosy hopes prove wrong, who but the federal government will undertake the massive infrastructure projects necessary to protect high-priced real estate in Miami and Lower Manhattan from rising oceans? And what about smaller coastal cities, such as Galveston and Corpus Christi in Texas? Will it fall to FEMA or some other part of the federal government to decide who will move and when and under what circumstances? Elsewhere, with declining river flows, how will the Bureau of Reclamation go about repowering the dams of the Pacific Northwest?

And while we're busy at home, who will help Pakistan or Bangladesh in its next flood? What will the government do to secure food supplies when Russia freezes wheat exports? Without glaciers, what will become of Lima, Peru, a city dependent on melting ice for drinking water? Will we let waves of "climate refugees" cross our borders?
As Greens sort through the results of this election and plan our next steps, we would do well to seek candidates who can articulate both the ecological and economic arguments for saving us all. Maybe we should start listing homo sapiens as an endangered specie.

Saturday, November 06, 2010

California Water Bureaucracy

I live in the living reality of "the bureaucracy reigns supreme". This impacts decisions on water, where projects are voted on every year and state employees and advocacy groups that are hired as contractors get out the vote to increase the bureaucracy. I live in a state where corrections unions increased the size and multitude of prisons for their members. I live in a state that can't balance its budget because of state employee pensions. I live in a state that uses massive diversions of water to allay political centres of power in Los Angeles and San Francisco. I live in a state where sustainability is defined by people living in San Francisco as the ability to get by with 85% of its supplies of water imported from Hetch-Hetchy. I live in a state where Owens Lake was drained for the benefit of Los Angeles water appetite. I live in a state where the city manager in Bell with a population of 37,000 received $787,637 a year. I live in a city that is planning to spend $4.6 billion dollars to "earthquake proof" its supply of water from the Sierras and spends $6.2 billion dollars on the Bay Bridge reconstruction. I live in a state where "San Diego imports 85-90 percent of its water" and then declares: "these conditions put considerable stress on the City's water system."

I live in a state where energy used for water pumping consumes about 8% of the total statewide electrical use.

I live in a state that never heard of regional water planning with transparency and open input such as the Middle Rio Grande Water Assembly had. I live in a state where administrators, such as those in Middle Rio Council Of Governments, reign supreme and legislators change the rules of governance every year through the referenda process. Little towns such as Antioch and Owens Valley have no say. The issue is not a liberal ideology. That is simply window dressing that stamps the character of public debates. The fundamental law of political physics in California is that those in power tend to stay in power, and those who are marginalized tend to stay marginalized.

We have seen this in the Middle Rio Grande already with the water plan and how it was drowned in its own tub.

Enough said.

Monday, November 01, 2010


Use the New Organizing Institute's Election Center App to find your polling place for the upcoming election. Simply enter in your address and this application will show your polling place.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Laura Wells, Green Party Candidate, Arrested at Sham Debate

Ms. wells was arrested at the final debate between Democrat Jerry Brown and Republican Meg Whitman. Ms. Wells had a valid ticket and had already gone through security.

The charge: Trespassing.

Democrat Jerry Brown has spent $10.3 million and has $22.5 million in cash, and has also received help from public employee unions, which have spent $13.8 million on his behalf.

Republican Meg Whitman has spent $140 million.

What are they afraid of?


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Climate Change is a local issue

In my previous post today, I talked about what we should be doing beyond events like those of One of my local actions was to use climate change as the determining factor for deciding which local mayoral candidate deserved my vote. The full rationale is in the Green Talk column of the Morgan Hill Times.

What to do after 10-10-10

There was a lot of feel good about participating in events on 10-10-10, especially those identified by and Bill McKibben. So, now that this has passed, what should we be doing? And why were we not doing that before?

One of the blogs that I follow the Climate Progress site led by Joe Romm. In response to one of Romm's posts today, Jeff Huggins provided a disheartening assessment of the current situation comment #7).

Finally — and maybe this is just the mood I’m in presently, or maybe it’s an early sign — I am starting to deeply wonder whether my comments are doing any good whatsoever. Indeed, or also, I spent Sunday at three 10/10/10 events, and enjoyed them all, but I’m also starting to wonder whether my activities in those sorts of things are doing any good whatsoever. I do not get the feeling that the movement(s) are thinking creatively, nor do I feel that any of the movements are reaching out to me for ideas in any sincere and interested way. The only things I hear from the movements are requests to stick with it, requests for donations, requests to participate in national listen-in conference calls (after which I have no idea whether anyone even considered the ideas I submitted afterwards), and encouragement to attend events that occur once every year.

In short, I am beginning to “run on empty”, both with respect to the activities and (sometimes) with respect to my involvement here. And I think that’s a sign, potentially. People are motivated by actual progress, by belonging, by feeling that they are being listened to, and by feeling that their efforts are making a difference. And as I said, I’m feeling like I’m running on empty, which isn’t sustainable of course

As Greens we should have a well thought out legislative agenda, a clear policy statement as to exactly what we should be doing... but we don't. That various efforts that arose since the 2008 Presidential Nominating Convention have not provided any more than a discussion platform, read by few and with only a minority of those contributing.

In California, we have a major policy issue right now. That is the defeat of Prop 23. Nothing on any current agenda has more long reaching impact, such a potential to lead us down a path from which it might not be possible to recover. It is an obvious issue for Greens. The vote against Prop 23 at the last plenary was essentially unanimous. We just have to stop being afraid of the environmental label. We have allowed our opponents to define who we are and we have not stood up to say that "I am proud to be responsible for the environment."

Just ask yourself which "regulations" would Meg Whitman remove first should she become Governor.

Monday, October 04, 2010

Whose rights are being threatened?

I follow Joe Romm's Climate Progress blog pretty closely. In one of today's posts, Romm points to a situation in Kentucky where rural resident's house burned to the ground while the fire department watched and did nothing because the home owner had not paid his $75 annual assessment to secure such fire protection.

This situation presents two issues. One is that of the Republican agenda to cur or eliminate taxes… putting every thing on a fee for service basis. That is what the South Fulton government had done. However, in this case, the unchekced fire spread to the neighbor's house and he HAD PAID his assessment. Note: had the fire department fought the first fire, the second home would, in all likelihood, not have burned at all. Romm takes this on as a Progressive vs. Republican issue.

However, the 17th commenter, nom de blog of wag, expands the issue as a matter of whose rights are being affected... or as an Arkansan boss I once had, said "whose ox is being gored." I reposted wag's comments because it goes to the heart of all of the rhetoric on climate change and especially, here in CA, is just about the best argument that I have heard as to why defeating Prop 23 just might be the most important thing we can do in November... along with voting for Laura Wells.
wag says:
October 4, 2010 at 3:13 pm

Here’s the global warming lesson: It’s less to do with the firemen not putting out the fire, and more to do with the fact that the guy’s NEIGHBOR’s house caught on fire because he hadn’t paid his fire protection fee.

It’s a lesson on the limits of rugged individualism: you’re free to do whatever you want on your property, until the effects of whatever you’re doing spread onto my property (or into a commons like the atmosphere or ocean). And in today’s interconnected world, where we find ourselves increasingly at the mercy of actions taken by people we’ve never met, we’ve all got a bit more say in the risks others take, whether with fires, finance, or fossil fuels.

Like fires, pollution doesn’t stay put—and like a fire spreading from your house to mine, as soon as the pollution leaves your property, I have every right to tell you to stop.

If my neighbor’s house catches fire, it could spread to mine—meaning I have a right to make that neighbor to pay for fire protection. If an Arkansas farmer dumps his farm waste into the Mississippi River, it travels down to the Gulf where it fertilizes algae and starves fish of oxygen—meaning that those fishermen have a say in what the farmer does with his waste (or else they must be compensated). And if a utility decides to burn coal to save money, the CO2 gets into the atmosphere and wreaks havoc on the climate other people depend on—meaning that we have a say in the utility’s choice of fuel.

I’m basically a libertarian: do what you want, as long as you only hurt yourself. I would be fine with other people’s right to burn coal and drive Hummers if they were the only ones who had to live with the consequences of global warming. But that’s not the world we live in. No matter how energy conscious I am, no matter whether I live close to work and don’t drive, my responsible choices can’t protect me or my children from the pollution-intensive lifestyles of others.

Like it or not, we’re all in this together. As the Cranick family found out, we now live in such close connection to others that one person’s rugged individualism can set his neighbor’s house on fire, mortgage loans in California can bring down banks in New York, and Hummer-driving soccer moms in Kansas can affect monsoon seasons in Bangladesh. And as soon as the CO2 exits someone else’s tailpipe and enters my atmosphere, it absolutely becomes my business.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Peak Coal?

The idea of peak oil is not new news, but the idea of peak coal might be. No journalist covers the coal industry better than Ken Ward Jr. at the Charleston Gazette. This is how he covers peak coal. For Ward, it is the future of Appalachia. For us, it is tied to energy use. As utilities switch from coal to natural gas, even the cost of heating our homes will go up.

With the future of energy production in the US questionable, how can Greens best act to ensure that we all of a future? In my previous post, I commented on the absolute necessity to defeat Pro 23. This time, I am going to suggest that we take the issue to local government. What are they doing to prepare our communities for a new energy future? In my community of Morgan Hill, the Mayor and half of the city council are up for re-election. I am asking each of the candidates to be very specific about what they are willing to do and whether they are willing to spend local money on it. Then, I will use a column in the local newspaper to try and make this a defining issue for the city council.

I hope that Greens all over this state are going to do the same. The more people who are willing to vote primarily on the basis of a candidate's position on climate change and energy, the more certain our future.

Monday, September 13, 2010

What to do about climate change?

It has been a long time since I posted to California Greening. That has given me time to think about a lot of things… more than I have time to write or you to read. But, I keep coming back to one question: Is climate change really the most important issue that faces the Green Party, America, mankind? I have come to the conclusion that the answer is “yes”. Now, what should we be doing about it?

It is pretty clear that the political right thinks that attacking the very idea of human caused global warming is good politics. David Roberts' recent Grist column outlines the denialist strategy. It is playing out here in California with the oil company backed proposition 23 on the November ballot.

The major Republican candidates, Whitman and Fiorina, dance around the subject, supporting Prop 23 while not being so silly as to deny that climate change is happening. They only say that we can't afford to do anything now since that would “be a job killer.” Of course, it has always been positioned as a job killer by those of a Libertarian bent and conservative ideologues. Taking action will never, ever be acceptable to them. So, the more they talk, the longer we wait until, eventually, it will be too late. Personally, I believe that eventually just about here.

It must be the prerogative of old people to tell the truth. So while many Republicans bow to the great god Reagan, his one time chief of staff and Sec. of State, George Schulz has some harsh words for the deniers and those like Fiorina for whom it is just a political ploy to garner a few more votes from the brain dead.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Maude Barlow and Water as a Human Right

My problem with Maude Barlow's presentation is not the concept that water is a common resource. My issue is what would be the legal ramifications regarding allocations to rural areas versus urban areas when water is made a human right. It needs to be said that water allocations will invariably have a disproportional allocation to agricultural use. Disproportional only in the sense that greater quantities and less efficiencies are characteristic of agricultural use. Even after every efficiency measure is applied this will be the case.

California has large scale agricultural use on a scale that is not characteristic of NM. This creates its own political issue as diversions between regions North-South are frequently the source of water conflicts. California has water rights defined in a complex structure that inevitably creates more conflicts than common understandings. The state has been provided with extraordinary power to divert the water resource that has been exercised in numerous large scale aqueducts. The state legislature is the ultimate authority in these diversions and bonds are the source of such funding. One such bond that includes the peripheral canal from the Delta for increased allocations to the Central Valley is currently on the ballot. The Governor is attempting to get this measure off the ballot now. Greens are encouraged to vote NO if this issue makes it to the ballot.

To get back to Maude Barlow, her position of water as a human right is a projected model that appears to be based on models and existing law in underdeveloped nations. One thing I do not understand is her failure to address the fact that US law already classifies water in the state and federal laws as a common resource. The Federal government and the state governments already have authority in interstate streams and rivers. The issue raised in the US against the concept of water as a human right includes the issue of how this would impact on the issue of paramount rights for tribal lands and reserves. That is a distinct issue but such lands are predominately rural with small scale agricultural use. We have seen in NM that when the legal issue of quantification of rights gets put on the table, that pueblos inevitably respond with golf courses as a measure that assures this beneficial use that will be included in the litigation. I would ask how one would distinguish the "human right" through a quantified yardstick. Would this simply be used to expand greenfield development and increase urban use in the same way as the pueblos worked to increase use?

The urban exponential growth in population is not addressed in the issue of water as a human right. It has been addressed through the regional water planning of the Middle Rio Grande Water Assembly (MRGWA) through the water budget and its Public Welfare Statement and recommendations. The shortcoming in the planning process has been the subordination of the structural political reforms needed to plan AND implement the regional plans themselves. Urban use can be argued to be more "efficient", and this was the debate often within Urban Users and Economic Development Advocates of the MRGWA in regards to quality of life vs. growth issues. (see page 17 of Executive Summary ) I see more support for the issue of human rights from those who are not users. The structure of political debates in this scenario inevitably repeat the classic urban-rural conflicts. That being the case I am reluctant to see it as a move forward in equitable allocations.

Grafting "water as a human right" onto the historical, statutory and constitutional structure of water management that will continue to exist does not legally guarantee clean water as is its claim. It will not end groundwater mining as is its claim. It will not provide the infrastructure needed to deliver water to users in remote regions or guarantee supplies for expanded urban areas. In terms of the character of the water issue in California, it should be noted that those reservoirs that Maude Barlow projected would go empty have been filled this year with the increased precipitation. Her characterization of a universal crisis is a projection of her political agenda not of the regional supplies available.

Missing in her discussion is the issue of population as a stressor on the carrying capacity of resource supplies. I, too have a political agenda. As a Green, I want us to structure our political entities based on common regional long-term planning. Maude speaks against urbanization but really promotes urban users. She mentions green spaces but fails to grasp the dynamics of aquifer recharge and presumes green spaces are inherently measures for such recharge that will demonstratively increase supplies. Planning will address that through the inclusion of the science in the process. Regional planning in NM demonstrated that it can address this and even resulted in a quantified flow model for the Middle Rio Grande region through the work of Sandia National Labs. The denial of the water resource in underdeveloped nations is a result of political structures weighted in favor of corporate interests as a key element of development. Bottled water is an issue where commercial interests from outside the region are provided access to regional supplies. It is not simply an issue of rich folks robbing poor folks but is fundamentally a product of "outside" users being given access to regional supplies. The West is filled with ghost towns, where gold mines once flourished. After extracting the resource the towns were abandoned. (think Intel here, where the town of Rio Rancho, NM grew exponentially as a result of the Intel chip plant that pumps an average of 3,000 acre-feet per year)

Maude Barlow's presumption that privatization is the underlying cause of water shortages fails to identify the failure of government to represent users as users and the failure to provide political representation in appropriate models to empower adaptive governance by stakeholders. The political issue is not the lack of entitlement or access for the poor, whether they are urban or rural to a common resource. That is primarily a pricing issue and Greens in Detroit have worked around the issue of water shutoffs to address the inequities that have resulted. In that regard, the argument is already presumed that water is a human need and denial of access, whether by private or municipal authorities, is an attack on the basic need for human survival.

The political issue is the failure to structure those entities responsible for water management in such a way as to be reflective of the region's water use. Maude Barlow fails to extrapolate her own critique of government to include its role in facilitating economic growth and increasing the exploitation of the resource. In our own planning process in the Middle Rio Grande, we saw how urban municipalities repeatedly worked to undermine the concept of balancing growth with renewable supplies. To predict a significant change of behavior by urban users and existing political entities based on codification of the concept of "water as a human right" is unrealistic and fails to present a significant change in the scenarios of the future.

Thursday, July 08, 2010

Too Old for a Job, Too Young for Medicare

Editor's Note: Sometimes you find something posted on the Internet that tells your own story better than you could tell it yourself. A big thanks to my friend, Carole Hanisch for sending me the link to the article by Dave Johnson of Redwood City, California below. I was a professional computer programmer for twenty-two years in Virginia, New York, and Massachusetts before settling in California's so-called Silicon Valley just in time for the big crash of 2000. Only two things I can add. First, as an African-American with some 1960s consciousness, even during the boom years I was never seduced by that "USA! USA! We're Number 1 'cause the USA today is the best of all possible words!" baloney. Second, as a Green Party man I'm not blind to the political fact that so-called Silicon Valley is One-Party Democratic territory represented by Congresswomen Anna Eshoo (D-HP) and Zoe Lofgren (D-Cisco Systems) who could not care less and where two Silicon Valley big shots, Meg Whitman and Carly Fiorina are running for high office as Republicans vowing to "get tough" with "lazy" Americans who don't want to work.


700+ Comments on Daily Kos
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Alex Walker

Posted on Campaign for America's Future, July 7, 2010

Too Old For A Job, Too Young For Medicare Or Social Security

by Dave Johnson

Here is a fact: There. Are. No. Jobs. I'm in Silicon Valley where the official unemployment rate dipped in May to 11.2%. This dip was, of course, because of so many people just giving up trying to get a job, certainly not because of some wave of hiring. The underemployed figure, known as "U-6," is 21.7% in California, 16.7% nationally.

You have to know someone to get a humiliating job standing on a corner waving a sign. And if you are over 40, things are even worse than that. Don't give me any conservative Rush Limbaugh-Ayn Rand dehumanizing nonsense about parasitic lazy people who won't look—there are no jobs.

I know so many people here who are over 40, were laid off in the 2000-era dot com crash, still haven't found a regular job and aren't going to. They have had occasional "contract" positions—which means no benefits, no security, a 15% "self-employment" tax and no unemployment check when the job ends. And now, 10 years later they're a lot over 40 and are not going to find a job because so many employers here won't hire people over 40.

And now there are so many more who lost their jobs in the mass layoffs of 2008-2009 and can't find a job. So many of them are also over 40. In fact, many were laid off in obvious purges of over-40 workers, offered a small severance that they could only receive if they promised to take no age-discrimination action against the employer. (I don't say "company" because some of these worked at nonprofits.)

Most of these people will not find another job, but are too young for Medicare and Social Security.

One Person's Story

I ran into a friend this weekend who I hadn't seen for a couple of years. He had been a computer engineer who had been making 6 figures in the dot-com years. Laid off in the 2000 crash, he moved in with his parents back in the Midwest and worked in a bakery. He came back out here when things picked up a bit and worked in one "contract" job after another. (Contracting is just a scam to get around employment laws—but the government doesn't enforce the rules.) But now he just can't find anything. He managed to get unemployment but now that is running out. He has no health insurance. He can't afford a place to live; he "house sits" for people or visits friends, and doesn't know what he is going to do even two days from now.

What is he going to do? Can you tell me? He has gotten a few interviews, and when they are computer-related is always told he is way overqualified, doesn't seem energetic, probably won't be willing to work 20 hours a day, doesn't look like he is up to date on things that are happening with computers, etc. (How many ways can you say "too old?") He's about 45. If things pick up he will get another job. But people just a few years older will not.

Blatant Age Discrimination

Age discrimination is a thing with me because it is so blatant here. It's the culture here, some even say that for programmers it is "35 and out." At various times looking for work I've been told I "seemed tired" and things like that. I was even told once that I wouldn't be able to market some software because I "wouldn't be able to get my mind around" how it worked—when I had designed and written part of it in a previous life. One company here is said to have only 200 over-40 employees out of 20,000.

But it certainly is not a problem that only exists in Silicon Valley. Tell your own story in the comments, please, get this discussion going!

What are people supposed to do? You can't get Medicare until you are 65, and Social Security until 67. But it's near-impossible to get a job or health insurance if you are over 50. I wonder what the effect would be if the government started again enforcing its own rules on age discrimination and contracting.

Among other things Congress needs to get things going by passing the George Miller "Local Jobs for America Act."

Dave Johnson, a resident of Redwood City, California, is a Fellow at Campaign for America's Future, the Commonweal Institute and a Senior Fellow at the Institute for the Renewal of the California Dream.

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

San Jose Considers Water Privatization

A recent article in the San Jose Mercury News provides a good opportunity to review and discuss the issue of privatization of water utlities in a concrete context. The reason for the proposed sale is the budget of San Jose, like many municipalities in California, is facing rough times. There are many details that Greens need to address. One is whether the failure to gain this $50 million by the city will result in the loss of services. This is the current claim by the city. Details need to be provided to get a clearer picture of this. Can these funds be used for public schools? Greens should ask this and establish public education as THE priority during these difficult times.

The article raises other issues such as the possible layoffs of 40 municipal workers. This also is an issue that can be raised in the discussion on the deal. There would seem to be a way to establish a mechanism, consistent with seniority rights to include existing municipal workers in the enlarged private system. The issue of water rates could be phased in after a review of the existing rates for the San Jose Water Company (SJWC) with a possible moratorium on shutoffs for the first year.

Structurally, the SJWC will provide similar services without the same system of "public accountability". At issue is state law and existing city ordinances in regards to rates of private water services. The leverage in going ahead with the sale might be to improve the engagement of rate payers in pricing issues. The issue of Hetch-Hetchy water use begs to be addressed through regional long-term water planning to move towards sustainable water usage and the development of a water budget that defines allocations and prioritization of them. The premise of San Jose's entitlement to Hetch-Hetchy water is the role of the Santa Clara Water District's (SCWD) ability to review allocations and its role in representing the public welfare. Our questions as Greens need to be "How does the SCWD define the public interest in water allocations?" "What is the existing mechanism for users and stakeholders in the region in water administration and management?" "What are the current conflicts between users in the region in regards to allocations and what needs to be done in the future to address water supply issues?"

There is no new water supply here. Whether there is a sale or not will not impact on the supply issue. Likewise, it is not primarily an issue of fighting cutbacks, unless Greens can make it so in regards to education funding. The SCWD has already cut 25 employees from its payroll. It is worth saying that the SCWD is entering its third year without rate increases and this certainly should be included in the debate. SCWD has implemented the state law in regards to conservation measures. One interesting side note is "Santa Clara County's civil grand jury has accused the chairman of the countywide water district of flouting state ethics laws by promoting a series of district projects likely to increase the value of his family's land holdings in Alviso." If anything this reinforces our own position of the need for planning to be integrated with management and inclusion of users, the environment and the science. it also provides a glimpse into the gap between existing "public" regulation and what is in the public interest as determined by the region itself. Accountability requires engagement of diverse users. This prevents phoney numbers games in the supply issue and present a dialogue directly with those on the ground (or in the water as the case may be).

Our position in the California Green Party Water Planning Platform plank provides guidance for Greens in Santa Clara in addressing the issue with clarity. "Integrate land use with water use for urban planning decisions. Political bodies, such as municipal water authorities, need to be more inclusive in the representation of users, hydrologists, environmental health professionals, and environmental advocates in the region and address the issues affecting the regional supply and demand of the resource, as well as water quality. Presently, the interests and concerns of real estate and development interests have a disproportionate voice in new allocations." The road forward has to be based on sustainability and establishing the political entities capable of integrating Grassroots Democracy and Ecological Wisdom.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Rescue the Gulf !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

There is an axiom utilized by many people that if you don't have anything constructive to add politically just up the ante of your favorite political party or publicly posture your indignation and scream louder than everyone else. People who advocate nationalization of BP are folks who come to the disaster with their own preconceived notions of the importance of public (read "governmental") control and jump in at every opportunity to present the same solution for every social ill or disaster. These folks would do well to learn that priorities need to be addressed in resolving any given situation. They would also do better to learn from previous experiences in regards to their proposed agenda.

In the case of the BP deep water oil gusher in the Gulf of Mexico, it would benefit all to recall the example of the PEMEX gusher in the Gulf in 1979. This nationalized oil company has the current record for the worst pollution of the Gulf that the Deep Horizon is trying to surpass. No claims were paid by PEMEX for the damages done to coastal areas and aquatic life. Zero. We might also recall the PEMEX gasoline leak that exploded in Guadalajara in 1992. The explosions crushed to death 206 people; injured 1,460 people; damaged 1,148 buildings; and destroyed 350 businesses and 505 vehicles. Eight government officials were jailed. In 1984, 500 people were killed by a natural gas explosion at PEMEX facilities in Mexico City.

One thing we accept as Greens is that "Money cannot buy everything". It cannot buy dead zones in the Gulf and transform them. It cannot restore the tidal basin and marshland ecosystems. It cannot replace the dead flora and fauna and it cannot bring back the sea life that so many are dependent on for their livelihood. The point right now is to demonstrate the capability of cleanup NOW. The point is to utilize the resources of the world community and send a 9-1-1 for the Gulf. The point now is to stop the gusher.

Government regulation did not prevent the financial crisis or the housing bubble. Why is it presumed to be anymore effective in addressing the environmental problems? At issue are the U.S. energy policy and the abysmal failure of the Minerals Management Service in enforcing regulations already in place. The corporate domination of the government does not end the day the government seizes the corporations. Audrey Clement, co-chair of the Green Party's Eco-Action Committee has indicated: "The fact of the matter is that the U.S. government bears the most responsibility for the disaster, having granted BP a categorical exclusion (CE) that exempted it from filing an environmental impact statement on the controversial project entailing the drilling of a 30,000 foot well 5,000 feet under. Exempting BP from filing an EIS constitutes a blatant violation of the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969, but the blame lies with MME, not BP. After all BP just applied for the CE, but MME granted it."

Whether through fault or folly, the Obama administration remains lurching from one option to the next with no solutions in sight. The fact is that this is an international problem that impacts the entire planet and not just the fishermen of Louisiana or the resorts on the coast of Florida. As such, the resources needed to address the ongoing gusher's impacts on the Gulf's ecosystems need to be made the priority.

Our work is to establish the political mechanisms needed that recognize the inherent corruption of the governments in our states and the Federal government and establish ones that substantively address the issues of who is making the decisions and why. Our priority is to mobilize emergency responses that are effective and massive in scope and scale. The political issue is that the incrementalist approach towards energy transition will perpetually put us behind the eight-ball in situations like this. The structural reforms needed means transforming the administrative and political mechanisms that currently shape policy.

As stated before, we have seen the failure of "government regulation". We have seen the failure of "Drill, baby, drill!" What we have not seen are the political, administrative, technical and scientific resources of the world focused on our common problem. We have seen how Nigeria has failed to update pipelines to prevent spills and how this has impacted on the people and the environment. We have seen how oil was spilled into the Persian Gulf by Saddam Hussein and oil wells were blown up in the war for oil. We have seen how BP is unable to put the oil genie back in the bottle, as the worst case scenario becomes reality.

There are enough attorneys in the United States who will spend their time litigating and focusing on BP's culpability in the gusher. Our most overriding message is that the damage being done to the Gulf now is irreparable and our priority task is to stop the gusher and mobilize the kind of resources needed for cleanup, containment, animal rescue and capping the hole on the sea floor. The damage is ongoing and worsening. It cannot be "undone".

Setting up an eco-emergency response corps that includes state national Guards, state and federal labs, international cooperation and volunteers ready to pitch in is the spirit of being Green. The extent of the response of the Obama administration has not been sufficient to demonstrate any effectiveness. There needs to be demonstrated a national and international response that is commiserate to the task at hand. No studies but applied solutions. No promises but a demonstrated, effective effort in the tasks at hand.

As the scale of responses needed to respond to our dependence of oil escalate exponentially, our response needs to be predicated on making the hard decisions needed to transition to renewable energy sources. As a people, Americans are made empty promises daily by politicians and public officials. The day is past when these are sufficient given the scale and scope of problems that we are faced with in the future. We need to understand the many of the problems we face are the products of our own actions.

This is how Greens are distinguished from the duopoly parties. We already know the problems that we can anticipate in the future and are prepared to develop the mechanisms needed to maintain the earth's eco-systems. We present a distinct voice in the political arena of the United States. It’s time to listen, to learn and to act with decisiveness. Solutions won’t be any easier in the future, but at the least, we can work on them without the disproportional influence of the corporations shaping policies and tying the hands of public officials.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Tea Party and CA Quality of Life Issues

When tea party folks speak out at an AARP meeting they are called "seniors". When they speak at a tea party meeting they are called "old white people". Oops. Is my Eurpean heritage showing? Oh, my, I have to cover that up.

There is much to be learned about the issues and concerns being raised by the tea party without taking the emotion as the same as the substantive concerns. Quality of life issues are becoming more important in the political arena. And political parties would do better to address them. San Francisco is a sanctuary city that has displaced its African-American population. Violence continues to plague the Bay Area and ethnic conflicts are increasingly seen as the cause. Just recently the Asian community made a visible presence at the Board of Superviors about the assaults on their elderly. Public schools in the city have experienced "white flight" due to their dysfunctionality.

Although immigrants are provided with sanctuary in some CA cities, immigrants often remain trapped in the drug subeconomy or the lowest paid jobs, due partly because there is no capability of integrating them and no transition based on their skill sets.

How does one address a migration which goes beyond the carrying capacity of resources and public infrastructure? Teaching has become a field for Teach America and AmeriCorps kids, so Spanish speaking children do not have the needed content instruction in Spanish nor the qualified ESL teachers to make the transition to English. People pitch tent cities in Fresno and Sacramento as homelessness takes a significant leap in its quantitative character. Water resources have become a regular urban vs. rural (Northern CA vs. southern CA) conflict as demand increases and overpopulation expand urban needs in the Central Valley and southern California. Again, quality of life issues.

Denying the problems is not the same as providing solutions to real concerns. Marginalizing people and ridiculing them allows public officials from ever addressing what people are trying to say and projects the Dem-Repug conflict as if it had real substance in the policy arena. That is my problem with the Arizona boycott that has such a following with municipal leaders in L.A., San Jose and San Francisco. It's easier to point to Arizona than for them to address the real impacts in their own cities. Posturing- it's the favorite pastime of the Urban Democratic Machine and enables them from addressing the consequences of their actions.

Greens need to be much more cognizant of the political manipulations of the duopoly. Repugs are trying to assimilate the tea party and align it with their corporate base. Dems are trying to discredit the tea party to mobilize their urban bases despite the rampant injustice that pervades urban communities. Greens can address the issues of concern raised by the tea party without promoting the ethnic divisions that certain leaders of the duopoly are using for their own gain. We don't need to try and make them into a "Green" tea party. But it is worth our while to listen to what they are trying to say.

Population is a Green concern. Social services and public education are Green concerns. Equal justice is a Green concern. Political representation is a Green concern. Let's demand accountability of public officials right where we are. Let's oppose laws that racially profile. Let's organize as if the people in America are not enemies to be feared but have something substantive to say that we need to listen to. And let's show people that real leadership means formulating sound policies that are just and deal with peoples' concerns. We are all Americans and our fate is intertwined.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Laura Wells, Green Candidate for Governor, Addresses Water Planning

Water Policy – Key Themes
•Better public understanding of the Myths and Facts
•More representative planning processes are needed
•Public benefit must trump water profiteering
California has gone through three years of drought, and there is no assurance that the problems will end anytime soon. Massive media campaigns are mounted as each segment of our state anxiously attempts to secure more water for itself in any way possible, spreading blame recklessly, claiming all of the benefits for their own local use, and creating imaginary problems that Californians are asked to solve with our pocketbooks.

We need to separate facts from fiction, expose the water myths for what they are, and insist on sound planning for a sustainable future.

Water Myths: There are many who would place all of the blame for unemployment in the San Joaquin Valley on the lack of water for irrigation. This is misleading. There are many sources of unemployment but water reduction is not one of them.

There is the fable of the Delta Smelt, the little fish that everyone blames for shutting down the pumps. However, only about one-third of the cutback in water deliveries to Westlands Water district could be attributed to environmental actions. The rest is attributable to the drought, while districts on the East Side of the San Joaquin Valley have been receiving 100% of their deliveries.

If California is to have a sound, sustainable water policy, then we must put aside these political water myths and begin to deal with facts.

Water Facts: There is only a fixed amount of water on this planet. Most of it is salty. The freshwater we use falls as rain, or as snow in the Sierras. Building more dams will not increase the amount of water that we have. It could be an overly expensive action, since there is already not enough rain to fill California's reservoirs now, and climate change threatens an even drier future.

We don't know how much water is required to maintain the Sacramento – San Joaquin Delta as a fresh water estuary. If we fail to answer this correctly, the salty water from San Francisco Bay will flood the estuary, ruining the farmlands there, and we will have to shut down the aqueducts to avoid sending that contaminated water to Southern California. That is an economic catastrophe that must be avoided.

For years, the taxpayers of California have been subsidizing the delivery of water for agricultural use. It is only in recent years that this publicly funded water intended for agriculture has, in turn, been re-sold for urban use at a significant profit. None of that profit was returned to the citizens of California.

The water that we pump from the ground needs to be replenished or the land will eventually sink. In some parts of the state, ground water pumping has left entire communities below sea level. Land subsidence due to ground water pumping has caused some parts of the San Joaquin Valley to sink over 20 ft. since records were initially kept. The Santa Clara County community of Alviso dropped below sea level and now must be protected by levees. Yet, California has never measured its ground water on a regular basis. We do not know how fast the aquifers are being depleted, or how much water is being pumped each year. Those who pump that water use all of their political might to make sure these measurements never happen.

What We Propose
Representative Water Planning
Planning for a sustainable water future for California requires that all interested parties have a seat at the table and come to a consensus as to what priorities will prevail and how they will be administered. Legislating solutions for the Delta water without involving those who live and work there will never accomplish this.

•California needs to change the way we plan for and manage our water supplies. The principle of bioregionalism - living within the means of a region's natural resources - should give direction to future water policies. It begins with the application of Green Values to water.
•California must develop regional water plans that assure public input into the state water plan that in turn must be based on sound science and on priorities that are in the public interest.
•Private profiteering must never be allowed from publicly subsidized water. If water secured at agricultural rates is re-sold at a profit for non-agricultural use, then the public must benefit -- not private profiteers.
•Environmental justice, ecological impact, and depletion of groundwater supplies need to be integrated with the ongoing process for approval of new water withdrawals.
•The legislature should re-work the 2010 Water Bond and improve it by revising the priorities, re-considering regional impacts, stripping out the special interests, and then re-submit it for public approval.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Arizona State Legislature Provokes New "War Between the States"

It is nice for people to realize that we need not accept behavior that restricts the movement of American citizens. This is the problem with the Arizona law and the many Chicano and Native citizens who live in Arizona are as likely to be subjected to harassment as the individuals who have been smuggled in for profit.

The jails of California are filled with those who are unable to find employment or depend on the drug subeconomy. The agribusinesses that continue to promote the human trafficing have increased the stress on public health and education. The increased violence in communities and the assaults on the elderly remain a profound source of concern. Addressing the needs of the our society due to the migration need to be done without the platitudes of moral superiority. Solutions to infrastructure problems have not come from either side of the immigration issue to date.

I have lived in NM on the border region and am opposed to the idea of a wall as mere posturing and pork for those regions, rather than a real solution. That does not mean that things can remain as they are. Hospitals closing emergency rooms, the inability to provide education of children without English langauge skills and the poverty and living conditions have been seriously impacted on the infrastructure of all border states. The carrying capacity of our water resource systems are being taxed beyond their ability to function sustainably. State budgets cannot address the profound stresses that have resulted from increased population.

The focus of the debate needs to address real solutions to the consequences of the migration. The border with Mexico will inherently be porous and will be circumvented. The government of Mexico is no more concerned about addressing the migration than the government of the United States is. It remains their own social safety valve in addressing the poverty of their own citizens and a source for revenues that are sent to family members in Mexico. This is the international context of the issue. It extends beyond the impact of NAFTA and the maquiladoras. Those fleeing poverty and oppression in Mexico are not to blame for their willingness to risk their safety for a brighter future in America. But we cannot absorb the profound impacts based on existing policies or continued massive influxes of people.

The Arizona law is indeed bad law and will not contribute to the real tasks ahead. A real discussion needs to be based on what is not working and why, as well as how can we begin to provide workable solutions. Polarization of ethnic communities is sharpening and the Arizona law has increased it. It is worth our while to seek the foundations of the conflict, grasp how to increase our abilities to recognize the social conflicts that have arisen and provide some real assurances that public officials are beginning to address real concerns of people on all sides of the issues. Repealing the Arizona law would be the first step in recognizing the dramatic impact of it on perceptions among Hispanics in America.

The recent passage of a ban on ethnic studies curricula in Arizona will not solve the problems of high dropout rates in Arizona and California. It will not address the lack of achievement of students in the United States. It might be worth mentioning the failure of public education in both Arizona and California. This new law against Chicano studies will not decrease drop-outs, or improve the skills of non-English speaking students or provide technological education for the future economy. Priorities need to be made. This is not an instance of funding priorities, and for that reason and others I would not support this law. It is solely intended to polarize Arizona's people.

The fundamental issue remains the failure of American public education and the failures of American students to achieve up to grade level. It is curious though when this bill becomes such a focus of the media when compared to Prop 100 in Arizona which seeks to protect funding for public schools. The resulting boycotts from California cities is increasing the volatility of the issue. I guess if you can't do anything about improving public education, it is more effective for politicians to posture and point their fingers of disdain at the "bad dogs" in other states.

Our infrastructure in California is becoming critically overburdened. California public officials would do better to address our significant needs in education and address the budget and public infrastructure issues with a real sense of priorities for Californians.