Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Inglewood's Democratic 'Mayor-for-Life' Pleads Guilty to Corruption

The California Democratic Party Hack du Jour is Mayor Roosevelt Dorn of Inglewood. Inglewood is a traditionally working-class suburb of Los Angeles and the onetime home of the Los Angeles Lakers which relocated thanks to the (of course) taxpayer-subsidized Staples Center in downtown L.A.

Notice how even now the corporate MSM praises the "perp" as a "tough guy" judge who "kept juveniles on probation for longer than other judges" and for "delivering on his pledge to make the city more attractive to retailers." In fact, Mayor Dorn was a shameless flack for Wal-Mart and every other "big box" chain.

Inglewood has no term limits, and so, if this guy had just kept his hands out of the cookie jar he might have been 'Mayor-for-Life.' It's another example of my reality: In Los Angeles some of the worse political hacks look like me and why we need the Green Party as the 2nd Party in the big cities.

Published by the Los Angeles Times, January 26, 2010
Mayor Roosevelt Dorn of Inglewood Pleads Guilty to Corruption
by Jack Leonard and Ari B. Bloomekatz

Roosevelt F. Dorn, who earned acclaim and criticism as a juvenile court judge and was an equally polarizing figure in more than a decade as Inglewood mayor, pleaded guilty Monday to a public corruption charge.

The plea ends a political career that saw significant drops in crime, as well as Inglewood's attempt to bounce back from the loss of the Lakers and the Kings. But while supporters hailed Dorn's leadership, critics said he ran the city as a fiefdom.

Dorn, who stepped down Sunday evening, is barred from holding public office for the rest of his life as part of his guilty plea to a misdemeanor conflict-of-interest charge. He was also placed on probation for two years and fined $1,000. Dorn entered his plea as prospective jurors were set to be called for trial in connection with his acceptance of a $500,000 loan through a city housing program.

As a judge, Dorn won praise for his tough-love approach toward young offenders. But others viewed him as imperious, accusing him of stretching the law to fit his personal mission. The 74-year-old jurist displayed the same zeal in trying to reverse the slide of a city mired in debt and shedding retail businesses. He developed a reputation for doing things his own way.

Prosecutors alleged that Dorn betrayed his constituents in a scheme that allowed him to benefit from a low-interest city loan program he helped extend to elected officials.

"He got greedy," said Deputy Dist. Atty. Max Huntsman. "He used every tool in his considerable arsenal as a lawyer and former judge to convince people that he was entitled to this public money."

. . .

Saturday, January 23, 2010

How Green is our valley?

There are debates which rise to the fore that have not been addressed following elections of Green campaigns and numerous campaigns throughout the country. The question asked in Wes's post: "Who killed the Progressive movement?" should be preceded with the question: "Who created the Progressive movement?" The term progressive, like the term liberal, is the latest whipping boy in the media and was no more then an effort to avoid the label of liberal by substituting words. The strongholds of progressivism are the same strongholds of liberalism. The priorities of progressives are the same as the priorities of liberals.

The self-definition of the Green Party has not recognized the real social forces behind the political priorities of a green party. It has not matured sufficiently to distinguish between Greens and progressives at the political level. This accounts for the constant fusion issue and party jumping of activists, former candidates and elected public officials. This is no small obstacle. There are many who fear openness in this discussion. Acceptance of a third party strategy has to move to the point where we develop language in our campaigns, priorities in our issues work and reconstruct our own strategic political map and vision for the future. Our independence is our ballot line, our Platform, our base of support and our distinct ties to the communities that we live in.

There is a separate discussion to be held as to strategy, vision and priorities. It involves assimilating our electoral experiences, considering the political landscape and mapping out survival tactics in heavily Democratic states. If we see family farmers as a potential base of support in a given campaign, then we need to identify what are the critical issues of concern to them that are not represented by the Republican Party and are consistent with the Green Platform and Key Values. If we are addressing an urban context, we can provide leadership only if we present a distinct agenda of policies that differentiate the Green Party from the urban Democratic Party machines.

This goes back to my post on redefining the politics of bioregionalism. Resource management and renewable energies are critical areas where the Green Party is able to address both urban and rural residents with distinct policy proposals. They are also significant issues on the current political agenda. Our presentations need to be distinct; otherwise, we will be exposed as Bill Richardson did against the Green candidate for Governor. He said: “I am greener then the Green” because of his position of stopping the project on Otero Mesa. The Green Party candidate simply stated his desire to review the issue. On the one hand, this can be dismissed as a gaff that was seized on by Richardson, but on the other hand it demonstrated that Democrats can out-green Greens if we do not distinguish our positions fundamentally.

Today Richardson has been doing things on the state level that present him as a greener then Green and the Green Party of New Mexico has fallen off the ballot. There are windows of opportunity, but the windows are not open for long and there is a need to demonstrate the relevancy of the Green Party in concrete victories. Visibility and viability are based on our real role in politics and not simply our rhetorical flourishes condemning the other parties. Being called spoilers will be neutralized only if we demonstrate our relevancy in decisions being made and show our base on Election Day. You cannot be a spoiler if you are contributing to the decisions being made in demonstrative terms.

Democrats in California are losing a significant base of support in regards to the peripheral canal and the California Delta. But, without the concepts of adaptive governance and regional water planning being incorporated in the debate the distinctions between the Green Party and the Democratic Party will not prove sufficient to engage Delta stakeholders in the local Green Party work. Likewise, failing to distinguish the concerns of farm workers and family farmers in the Central Valley from corporate agribusinesses will only push those stakeholders into the arms of the Republican Party.

All of this requires a party organization much more rooted in our communities than is currently the case. It means seeing our electoral politics as connected to our distinct vision. It means recruiting candidates that have deep roots locally and have the capacity of presenting the need for structural reforms needed to implement a Green agenda. It means being there with the people when they are expressing their anger and frustration, while presenting new options that address the underlying concerns.

We are the only game in town capable of doing this. But, it does mean deciding as an organization how we can do this. Our state Water Planning Platform plank presents the vision, http://www.cagreens.org/platform/platform_ecology.shtml#water but it does not give us a roadmap forward. The window of opportunity is closing and if we cannot act decisively now, we will not be able to do anything when the window is closed and locked.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Campaign Finance after SCOTUS Decision - Citizens United.

I have managed to insert comments in multiple blogs on the subject of yesterday's SCOTUS decision. However, you will probably learn more from this discussion between Tom Hartmann and David Cobb.

Here is the link to YouTube.

Who killed the Progressive Movement?

Well, I am not sure that the progressive movement is dead… or if it even really existed.  But Princeton's Cornell West is trying to breath life back into it and told Obama so. West's Letter to Obama was broadcast on BBC World News America this week and asks a fundamental question about the focus of Obama's administration."How deep is your love for poor and working people?" 

I think that the events of the last 12 months have shown that there is much which the President can not control, Professor.  Was it Obama's fault that Max Baucus (D-MT) allowed the medical insurance companies write the health care legislation?   Obama saw what happened to the Clintons when they went outside of Congress and wrote their own version of the legislation. 

Determined not to make the same mistake, Obama ended up with an indigestible sausage whose making was all too transparent. We saw just how much the U.S. Senate marches to the tune of corporate protection.  Offered a wide range of health care funding options from many countries with better systems than we have, they chose none of them.

Put aside the problems with health care legislation and try to imagine what will happen to climate change legislation this year.  Once again, we will have legislation written by the very industries whose excess exhalations we need to control. 

So, here is a list of reasons why Obama has not lived up to your hopes, Professor.
Nancy Pelosi, Diane Feinstein, Barbara Boxer, Harry Reid…

need I go on?
Pete Stark, CA-13; Dennis Cardoza, CA-18; Jim Costa, CA-20

Beginning to get picture?
Max Bachus,  Evan Bayh,   Richard Dubin, Charles Schumer.

Here is a reminder, Professor.   Change from the top is always about power.  The direction of change must come from the people.  To the extent that we, the people, can rally around a few fundamental ideas, then we might accomplish what you desire.   Place your hope in the people, not the President.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Redefining the Politics of Bioregionalism

Greens have a stake in redefining our political philosophy. The existing premise of progressivism is simply not sufficient to establish a stable and broad-based ecological party. The political climate of the American people needs to be addressed as much as the global climate does. Working for grassroots democracy is not the same as upping the ante on the Democratic Left. Working for ecological wisdom is not the same as increasing a Federal role in environmental protection. Blending grassroots democracy with ecological wisdom means establishing new political entities, new sources for revenues, new local initiatives and new constituencies.

If we dare to take California as a model for the existing political paradigm of green politics, we see it fails the tests for viability, sustainability and financial responsibility. The problems that confront the state of California are the products of unsustainable growth, political structures that are dysfunctional and a lack of prioritization of goals at the state and local levels. It is worth saying that mismanagement, political nepotism and corruption are in there as well. We should recognize that structural reform is absolutely necessary to rebuild the system of governing and the mechanisms for administration in this state. The recent upsurge of popular opposition in the Tea Party and the message of the Republican victory in Massachusetts are not simply demonstrations of a resurgent right wing. In fact, they are a demonstration of the failure of progressivism to have a link with the real needs, concerns and aspirations of the American people.

I have explained on prior posts my experiences in regional water planning in the Middle Rio Grande region of New Mexico. The depth of that experience flowed from the demonstration that its process established a working model that was able to integrate open input and transparency with a broad range of local stakeholders united around a common Mission and Goals. Its weaknesses illustrated the flaw in removing this process from political entities capable of implementing its wide range of recommendations. http://www.waterassembly.org Its strengths united community people, public officials, water users and advocates, specialists and managers towards a dynamic review of the water resource in the region. Its weakness led to the failure to get the blueprint off the drawing board.

There is a wide range of political discussion in regards to strategy, tactics and vision that Greens have not been able to grasp the significance of. Urban Greens would do well to recognize that the appeals by candidates might be better off in addressing constituencies who: 1) Promote brownfield restoration and public infrastructure maintenance and development; 2) Establish local sustainability, as distinct from Federal policies or huge state spending efforts through diversions; 3) Redefine growth in the context of renewable resources; 4) Establish local political entities that define stakeholder engagement and input.

Rural Greens need to be more cognizant of: 1) The positive role of family farms; 2) The diverse character of rural resource issues; 3) The integration of ecological awareness at the local levels that are often reflected by rural Republican representatives; and 4) The conflicts that exist between regions when water is diverted from one rural region to an urban or farming region.

It is not our goal to change people. We should focus more on taking people where they are and analyzing what are the fundamental issues that underlie their current outlook. Urban residents are Democratic simply because they promote the interests of the cities, and not because the diverse ethnic groups are inherently providing real input. People are not simply members of a given ethnic group. The problems they confront are not simply the inevitable product of the lack of economic or environmental justice. We do not live in such a one-dimensional world. Hispanic farmers and farm workers do not have the same needs and concerns as Hispanic urban dwellers simply because they are all Hispanic. The political bases of the existing two parties have carved up the pie of constituencies based on the political fait accompli that exists.

To address this is to redefine constituencies as a Green Party can do. As a political party it is up to us not to preach to people that they have to give up everything in order to live. It is up to us to re-carve the pie of political constituencies in a way that can bring together urban and rural dwellers by establishing a common framework for decision-making and a common set of principles where it is no longer a matter of robbing Peter to pay Paul. The discussions include: how can urban areas be restored to reduce sprawl, how can resource issues be effectively administered, managed and structured locally, how can rural needs be addressed absent a traditional urban-rural water war, how can Greens provide leadership in the development expanding the political base of the Green Party and how can we politically define and organizationally represent new constituencies.

We have to get out of the mindset of advocacy groups. This means not simply setting one group of stakeholders against the other. This means looking to regional planning for the value that it has in being able to present distinct differences in the context of community people working together. Structural reforms means being willing to give the people the benefit of the doubt in regards to the decisions that impact on their future. This means not having things fall out as WE would have done it. This means defusing debates while recognizing the substance of the concerns of all.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Environmental Attacks are no surprise

It should come as not surprise to anyone that there are major lobbying efforts going on all the time, that these lobbying efforts are well funded, that very large public relations firms make fortunes in running campaigns against the future.  What should wake people up is the ease with which these organized attacks can insinuate themselves into public discourse, easily gaining media coverage while the rest of us struggle to be heard.  I provide a good example.

Take a look at the web site for the AB 32 Implementation Group.  The banner on their home page says that they are "Working Towards Greenhouse Gas Emission Reductions and Enhancing California's Competitiveness."  The site lists all of the group's members, starting with the always retrograde California Chamber of Commerce.  However, journalists at California Watch have found that even this list is very suspect, some of them being no longer in existence and others surprised that their names were even mentioned.

It should also be no surprise that the list contains 22 of California's largest carbon polluters, as ranked by California's Air Resources Board, the organization responsible for the implementation of AB 32. So, the "implementation group" is, in reality, an effort to slow down, minimize or even prevent the implementation of CA state law, all in the name of economic effectiveness.

This issue is going to loom large in the upcoming gubernatorial election.  California has an economic crisis, there is not enough revenue for state government to provision all of the programs currently in place.  Republican candidate Steve Poizner has endorsed an initiative measure called the California Jobs Initiative that would set aside implementation of AB 32 until California's economy recovers.

Meg Whitman is only a little less strident in her opposition, limiting the suspension to a 1 year moratorium on "most" of AB 32's rules.  That is a position that has gotten her in trouble with some Republicans for not being aggressive enough.

Now, let me come back to the AB 32 Implementation Group and ask why it took an independent investigative reporting effort to publish this story. All of the state's major papers have written something about the politics of the governor's race but none of them have taken the effort to go beyond reporting what candidates said and giving us some hint as to what facts were being ignored.

Let me conclude by giving everyone a fact.  AB 32 was designed to reduce carbon emissions and help forestall the type of future you can see on the big screen in The Road. But that is a long way off in most people's minds.  AB 32 will also help clean up the air pollution that makes the San Joaquin Valley one of the more medically challenging places to live in the country.  Add in the South Coast and the cost to the CA Economy is $28 Billion per year.

This is what Whitman and Poizner want for CA. Just keep on letting all businesses do what bad business do, continue to pollute because clean up is too costly.  Well, the health effects are too costly as well.  They cost every one of us, every time we have to visit a doctor or a clinic.  They cost every business that provides medical coverage for their employees.  But then Whitman and Poizner don't really care about the public.

In contrast, Green candidate Laura Wells puts forward a platform with a range of actions on climate, energy and clean air.  AB 32 is just a good first step towards getting what California needs. The Cap-and-Trade system that is at the heart of AB 32 must not be allowed to become an excuse for continuing to pollute and raising consumer costs to pay for it. Wells says that …
A community already burdened by these emissions should not be harmed further as the result of a dubious industry-concocted market-based cap & trade plan.
Statistic: According to the CSU-Fullerton study linked above. CA's dirty air causes 3,812premature deathes of adults over 30 every year.  That compares to the 2,976 lost in the 9/11 attacks.  Yet, we would do nothing because it costs too much?

It should also come as no surprise that demagogue millionaire politicians will twist every event to their partisan advantage, playing off the emotions of a public that wonders if their job is secure or that they will be able to stay in their homes. 

Friday, January 15, 2010

Laura Wells and Main Stream Media.

For far too long, I have heard Greens talk about being given short shrift by main stream media. It has become such a truism that most Greens don't even try. 

Let me show you something what can be done if you try.  Laura Wells in the Sacramento Bee.  It can be done. All you have to do is become the story. In Laura's case, part of that story is having been the top vote getter for any Green in a CA partisan race.  That was as a candidate for Controller in 2002 when she out polled the top of the Green ticket, Peter Camejo.

 There is no secret to this.  Mainstream Media is always looking for a story.  So, give them one.  If you like this about Laura, then go visit her web site, become a fan of Laura on facebook, follow her on twitter.

More importantly, take some time  to Feel the spirit. Bill Moyers had it right.  We don't have the money to compete with a Meg Whitman or a Steve Poizner or a Jerry Brown with maybe $7 Mil in the bank.  But now one works their ass off like a Green.  We have to, but that is what is going to win elections and, who know, maybe make a heroine out of Laura.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Water legislation charade

Special Session 7 of the State Legislature was supposed to deal with California's Water problems.  All during the session, the media, both print and TV, kept telling us what the politicians were saying or they were showing us farms that were drying up... but not showing us the farms in the East side of the San Joaquin Valley that got 100% of their water allocation.  The media coverage on this issue would not win even a Columbia Scholastic Press Association award... normally given to High School newspapers.

As we learn more and more, it is not from the media.  Rather, we have to build up our own network of trusted sources who just might get it right. This is what an inquisitive citizen found.

We know that the water legislation was basically written by large water users... Metropolitan Water District and Westlands Irrigation District.  Knowing that, it is easy to see why they did not allow any input from those who live and work in the Delta nor from the legislators that represent them.  All of this was kind of covered by some of the media.  There are even follow up stories on the political ramifications for State Sen. Lois Wolk or the next actions by Assembly member Alyson Huber (though she had to write it herself.)

But, this highly touted legislation is really not worth much.  Consider the requirement to determine the "flow criteria" for maintenance of the Delta.  The initial hearings on this have begun, but it is only a show for the public.  Brian Poulsen of the law firm Somach, Simmons & Dunn provides more news than the media.
In late 2009, the California Legislature passed legislation requiring the State Water Resources Control Board (State Water Board) to develop new flow criteria for the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta (Delta) ecosystem to protect public trust resources.  As an initial step towards complying with this mandate, on January 7, 2010, the State Water Board held a pre-proceeding conference to prepare for and discuss procedural aspects of its upcoming informational proceeding to develop flow criteria for the Delta ecosystem.
OK, so they met on this big project and what did it mean?  Not much.  Poulsen (but not the media) reports what happened.
It is unclear at this time what impact the Proceeding will have on water users since the Proceeding may not ultimately result in numeric flow criteria for the Delta.  Further, and as explained by several Board members, whatever criteria are developed will not be binding in future proceedings.
I don't care how much Assemblyman Jared Huffman puffs about this bill, in the long run, it is a waste of taxpayer money holding hearings on something that is not binding, may or may not be used but boy did we every have a great show. Too bad that Huffman is seen as the progressive leader of the 6tj District.  With Progressives like Huffman, we will soon be back in the 20th Century.  It is too bad that none of the Green office holders in the 6th AD chose to run against him.

Monday, January 11, 2010

California Water Crisis Recap

State Senator Lois Wolk gave her 5th Senate District constituents a sobering assessment of the 2009 special session water legislation.
Now we are left with a new water policy full of loopholes, irresponsibly financed, and replete with vague promises unlikely to produce a positive outcome.
California Greening authors would agree with that as well as her call for a complete re-structuring of the process.

The problems with the recent legislation are easy to document.
  • The 5 delta counties were not part of the negotiations that led to Steinberg's grand compromise sell out.
  • There is no enforceable definition of the flow of fresh water required to keep the Delta from becoming a salt water marsh.  That has major consequences for all CA agriculture and even SoCal urban water sourcing. 
  • This significant increase in bonded indebtedness is irresponsible when the state is blocked by Grover Norquist aides in the Republican Party from balancing that with tax increases.  You can not continue to add to the indebtedness without providing a method of paying it back. 
  • The only way that the Safe, Clean, and Reliable Drinking Water Supply Act of 2010 made it through the state legislature was to load it up with more pork than an Iowa hog farm special projects so that each member could go back home and say "see what I got for you." 
We can not agree with Wolk when she addresses the highly politically charged system of priority water rights that is currently the law in California. Wolk mentioned water rights first in her list of problems.
Respected legal experts representing Northern California water agencies warned that the package lacked water rights protections and would uproot the decades old priority system of water rights, risking the municipal and agricultural water supplies of Northern California for the benefit of water exporters to the South. These legal experts were discounted and the protections were omitted.
She also made the continuation of the status quo as the key item in her list of actions required to set things right, combining it with the ecological protection requirement.
Water flows necessary to sustain the Delta's ecosystem and communities must be protected. Historic safeguards, including the priority water rights system, must be upheld to protect Northern California communities, save California's largest salmon runs, and restore the health of the fragile Delta estuary.
That only confuses the issue. We agree that we need to manage the flow of fresh water through the delta with an eye toward preventing the entire estuary from becoming too salty for use. But, the question of preserving historical water rights is quite separate and needs to be addressed separately. I suggest starting to read the comments on this from co-blogger Martin Zehr here.

Green Party positions on water planning are based on regional water plans that consider all of the uses and potential uses within a water shed. That will surely challenge the water rights of some. But anything less than that only puts off the water wars for the next decade and we show no signs of becoming magically smarter.

Friday, January 08, 2010

California Water Politics: Too much, too quickly

Coming in from NM several things really stand out in regards to the California water issues. One thing is the inordinate role of the state legislature in water management. Another is the reliance on diversions at every turn as the first option in allocating water to regions and urban areas. I have briefly seen the CA state water planning process, but really consider the state process to be way too removed from the regional realities to make it meaningful. Water politics in this state remain a conflict between urban users, environmental advocates and rural users. Distinctions are very sharp between users here and there are few concessions on any side in regards to their respective narratives.

In this context, I would like to grasp how political strategy and legislative actions develop in the state particularly as they impact on various users. California has lobby groups for everything and there appears to be few structural mechanisms to provide adaptive governance in decision-making. Within the Green Party I have worked to begin to address the water issue through regional planning processes that is growing in its application and working to increase our political presence in the debates. There appears, at least on the surface, to be fundamental flaws in the structure of CA state water management and administration (and there always has been). Add to this, the issue of antiquated rural-based water law is an aspect that haunts all Western states.

The fundamental flaw appears to be the lack of a common vision concerning the context of economic growth and development that inherently produces public relation wars, rather than coordinated management and administration. Arnold says that "We can have it all." when it comes to water supplies for urban, agricultural and environmental uses and then pushes through a bill that prioritizes agricultural use to the detriment of the Delta users.

It was relatively easy in NM to unite with rural and ag users in the Middle Rio Grande because all stakeholders were united about the regional priority of agricultural use. For one thing ag is on a much smaller scale. For another there is an active movement among them against sprawl and transfer of land use to housing and development. These folks actively opposed new power plants and proposed highway infrastructure to facilitate development. Greens have supported these efforts. Our focus on high volumne users were directed more at chip manufacturers and national defense labs. I have talked with a few Delta folks on the situation there and most of the active community forces appeared to feel that they are left with few options in addressing the planned peripheral canal diversion. They remind me of many folks in NM but lack a substantive political base that is able to translate their concerns into effective political action.

It appears that while in most states change takes place much too slowly, but California has a habit of changing much too rapidly when it comes to water. There appears to be so many ideas out there that are implemented so quickly that there is little time to establish mechanisms that can provide sound science in regards to their impact and coordinated efforts in management and administration. Without improved monitoring and measurement included in changes no one can really accurately demonstrate how to prioritize allocations or mitigate for the consequences of such decisions. While a bill is introduced in the state legislature to make water a human right, there is no bill that begins to address the myriad of federal, state and local agencies with overlapping authorities. This was also the case in NM.

Green Party candidates need to apply our holistic perspective for regional planning to their own campaigns. Recruitment of experienced water advocates need to expand the visibility of the water issue as a priority of the Green Party of California. We can engage in a campaign against the water bond. We need to establish sound processes for decision-making on water and get it out of the State Legislature. Sustainability is a goal that becomes real only only through the actions by users at the regional level.

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Stop the Water Pirates

Take some good information presented in a new light, add a bit of entertainment and you have the Water Pirates, a newly released (YouTube and Vimeo) video from Salmon Water Now.

You might ask why we should pay attention to Salmon Water Now when San Joaquin Valley Congressman Devin Nunes is making a big deal over fish vs. people? If you can't answer that question, then you need to pay attention to Bruce Tokars's Water Pirate production. It has all of the villains you need: Stewart Resnick, Sen. Diane Feinstein, State Sen. Darrell Steinberg. The heroes are those who watch the video and spread the word.

This is the a shot across the bow on the Nov. 2010 Water Bond. It will not be that last that we see nor will it be the last time that I comment here. In case you had any doubt about just how much the deck has been stacked against the public, you only need to read my previous post.

Note: the appearance of Fresno Green Lloyd G. Carter in this video.

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Cutting it on the bias.

We all know that lobbyist are at work in Washington, and in Sacramento. What we should not have to expect is for the Governor to appoint a lobbyist to head key commission or task forces. That is exactly what Schwarzenegger has done. Do you want to really influence government in Sacramento? Get yourself appointed to a commission that oversees the very area that you are lobbying against.

We saw this when Schwarzenegger appointed Catherine Reheis-Boyd, Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of the Western States Petroleum Association to chair the Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) Blue Ribbon Task Force. That is what we really needed to have, an offshore drilling loving petroleum industry lobbyist protecting our fisheries, kelp beds, etc.

What I did not expect was that he had appointed another lobbyist, Phil Isenberg, to head the Delta Vision Blue Ribbon Task Force, a group that heavily responsible for the mish-mash of legislation so hyped by State Senate President Darrel Steinberg.

According to a release from Restore the Delta, Isenberg had strong business ties to a Southern California Water District.
His lobbying firm, Isenberg/O'Hara Government Relations, has received more than $224,000 in payments for services rendered from the Irvine Ranch Water District during 2008 and 2009. Specifically, his firm received payments while he served as the Chair of the Delta Vision Blue Ribbon Task Force - which Mr. Isenberg has repeatedly held up in public testimony as a truly independent commission. (Click here to see the lobbying report filed by Isenberg/O'Hara with the Secretary of State.)
. In the first case, Reheis-Boyd did little to hide the connection. It was out there for all to see. However, Isenberg has frequently described the Delta Vision Task Force as independent, when it was not.

Now, the Governor gets to appoint 4 members of the newly created Delta Stewardship Council. Will that council get packed with the likes of Isenberg, a chameleon, a hypocrite who pretends to be above the politics but in reality proves to be just another hack with his hand out.

This is a day of great frustration. First, I was trying to come to grips with the specter of Richard Pombo back in politics since he could not seem to hold a job as a lobbyist. Then, to get this. No wonder Californians are looking for other alternatives to the politics of money.

Sunday, January 03, 2010

Citizen Journalism and Blogging

This morning I received yet another of the year end predictions for the coming year, this from change.org. Change.org featured a post by Noah Jennings that proclaims It's up to Citizen Journalists to Uncover the Face of Homelessness in 2010. It made me feel it necessary to comment on the explosion of what passes for journalism in this age of new media, whether at Huffington Post or the blogs by which every so-called old media tries to maintain it's importance.

It is very ironic to see Dorothea Lange's iconic Migrant Mother used as the image of citizen journalists. Lange was far from that, working for the Farm Security Administration of the US Dept. of Agriculture, along with other photographers: Walker Evans, Russel Lee, Carl Mydans, Ben Shahn, Arthur Rothstein and under the direction of Roy Stryker. That group of documentary photographers left an archive of over 160,000 negatives for the Library of Congress.

It was the availability of Federal funding that made this all work. Lange was so often on field trips that she would even return and then pay Ansel Adams to develop her film as she took off again.

As for the Migrant Mother, both she and Lange died of cancer and the two girls in that photograph long believed that Lange had gotten rich off of their plight. She didn't, as she was paid a flat fee per image and the government held the copyright.

A good new biography of Lange was recently published and would have been easily available had Noah Jennings bothered to fact check his own story rather than just accepting the myth that fit his preconception.
During the Great Depression, the photographer responsible for the powerful picture above, Dorothy Lange, completed an extraordinary body of work devoted entirely to share croppers suffering from lost farms. She gave her pictures to any paper that would take them because it was that important to her that people saw what was happening. That's some role model, right?
We can all agree with Jennings that it is a good role model. But his Lange is a mythal figure. Not only was her FSA work in the public domain, but Lange's photography covered a wider range of subject matter than indicated. Her very urban White Angel Bread Line is equally iconic of the Great Depression.

Here is the plight of the citizen journalist. It does not pay. It may lead to other things, just as every photographer mentioned above went on to greater fame, if not fortune. So, what we too often get is a flood of poorly written, invective laden prose supported by a series of links to whatever one finds on the internet that the writer believe someone else had researched. True investigative journalism is rare, and where it does exists, has very few readers.

It is so much easier to voice ones opinion than to research, document and report original material. The archetype of good, knowledgeable, investigative journalism on the internet is the Atlantic Yards Report, where Norman Oder has been a major pain in the ass to developer Bruce Ratner, Brooklyn Borough President Martie Markowitz and particularly to the NY Times whose every story on this issue is subjected to Oder's scrutiny and evaluated by his obviously higher standards of journalism. The are very, very few Norman Oder's around.

Jennings has a valid point. Homelessness is not adequately covered in print. It is seasonally covered by television with stories on food bank needs and Christmas turkeys. But the reality rarely seeps through and never in the manner that Lange caught the fact of poverty in her stark black-and-white images. Such a message did not need the creation of a mythical Lange.

Friday, January 01, 2010

It only looks like a vendetta.

I keep thinking that readers are going to get tired of hearing of Westlands Water District and Stewart Resnick. Both have figured significantly in my posts regarding water and California's Water crisis. You might need to get prepared to hear more, as I will be tagging these two again and again over the next year.

Let's start by the simple fact that El Niño is not going to deliver the snow pack that everyone hoped for, especially after the very heave rains of early October. At the first measurement around Tahoe, we have only about 75% of water content for this date.

So what is going to happen to the water? That is not sure. Some of it will go into the Kern Water Bank, controlled by Stewart Resnick whose orchards are the largest users. Even now there are questions about how that water bank is being used and how much water is being pumped. Communities in the Bakersfield area are finding that the water table is dropping to unprecedented levels and the local squabbles have begun. Some are shocked.

Now, after having to put up with Sean Hannity on Fox News, and Leslie Stahl on 60 Minutes of Fox News, telling us about the terrible conditions for the farmers of the San Joaquin Valley, we finally have a couple of journalists who have the knowledge to know where to dig for real information and not jut to repeat what some PR firm handed them... like Stahl appeared to do.

Dan Bacher does not have the national platform of a 60 Minutes or Fox News. He ends up publishing at IndyBay, but for factual information there is more here than in Stahl's report. Maybe that is because he relied on another old journalist, Lloyd G. Carter, and both of them understand what it means to fact check a story.
The "Astroturf" campaign by corporate agribusiness to build a peripheral canal and more dams to increase Delta water exports has relentlessly promoted the myth that crops grown on drainage-impaired land on the west side of the San Joaquin Valley "feed the nation" or "feed the world."

The corporate media and even some "alternative" media outlets have bought into this myth in their coverage of the California water wars, portraying the conflict as one between hard-working farmers like those portrayed in the classic Grant Wood painting who only want "feed America" versus "radical environmentalists" who want to protect a "minnow" like the Delta smelt.
When you take in all of the facts, fill the spreadsheet with the available economic data, it appears that the only reason the Westlands District agricultural lands are profitable at all is the fact that the water they use is subsidized and, for the cotton growers there, so is the product that they grow. Take away those subsidies and I wonder if any of them would stay in business. Even if they quit growing, it appears that we would hardly miss anything other than the noise they make.

Of course, our two Senators would never vote to take away those subsidies and give all farmers fair access to markets. The only thing that keeps Feinstein and Boxer in office is that their perennial Republican opposition is awful to tolerate and so we take the bad instead of the really awful.

In Defense of Michael Pollan

The Santa Clara County Library system has a program called Silicon Valley Reads. The idea is to have everyone in the valley read the same book, and then to participate in events or actions surrounding the themes in that book. For 2010, the book is In Defense of Food by Michael Pollan. I have read it. Good stuff. Synopsis comes from the introduction: "Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants."
Kick-Off of Silicon Valley Reads 2010

with Michael Pollan, in person, interviewed on-stage by Mercury News columnist Mike Cassidy

Wednesday, Jan. 27, 2010 7:30 p.m.

Heritage Theatre, Campbell Ave. @ Winchester Blvd., Campbell, CA

Free! First come, first seated!
Pollan's appearances can produce controversy. When he spoke at Cal.Poly SLO back in October, David Wood, the chairman of Harris Ranch Beef Company, threatened to revoke a pledge of major financial support to the university unless Pollan's appearance was turned into a panel discussion with representatives of BigAg to present a "balanced view".
I find it unacceptable that the university would provide Michael Pollan an unchallenged forum to promote his stand against conventional agricultural practices.
Read the story in LA Times which quoted from or San Luis Obispo Tribune where it generated a substantive discussion.

That is the way that our underfunded education system works on behalf of Corporate America.