Wednesday, November 14, 2012

2 Local Issues in L.A. - Which Way for Greens?

All politics is local.  Forget "Robamney." Which way for a serious Green Party on two important local issues in the City of Los Angeles: 
  • Another sales tax hike
  • Another fight over public employee pension. 
 There are knee-jerk "liberal" positions on both in the One-Party-Democratic city. As an unapologetic Green Party man, I could argue for or against both propositions. Dear Green Friends, let's have a timely dialogue about this.

L.A. Moves Ahead With Plan to Increase Sales Tax
Los Angeles Times, November 13, 2012

The Los Angeles City Council agreed to place a half-cent sales tax hike on the March 5 ballot to avert new cuts in city services, drawing immediate opposition from critics in and outside city government.

Voters would decide the measure, which will boost collections by an estimated $215 million a year, on the same day they choose a new mayor. And there were signs the proposal already is influencing the race, which is expected to focus heavily on resolving the city's chronic budget crisis.

Mayoral candidates Jan Perry and Eric Garcetti, both council members, voted against the tax plan Tuesday. City Controller Wendy Greuel, another top mayoral contender, said she also opposed the tax hike, which would apply to millions of everyday transactions, as well as major purchases such as electronics and appliances.

. . .

Riordan Accepts Police Union's Pension Debate Challenge
Los Angeles Times, November 14, 2012

Multimillionaire businessman and former Los Angeles mayor Richard Riordan has accepted a police union's challenge to put his mouth where his money is.

Riordan agreed Wednesday to a series of three debates on the merits of a pension revamp  initiative that he is trying to get on next year's city election ballot. The measure would create a  401(k)-style retirement plan for newly hired workers instead of the current guaranteed pensions.

L.A. Moves Ahead With Plan to Increase Sales Tax
Los Angeles Times, November 13, 2012

The Los Angeles City Council agreed to place a half-cent sales tax hike on the March 5 ballot to avert new cuts in city services, drawing immediate opposition from critics in and outside city government.

Voters would decide the measure, which will boost collections by an estimated $215 million a year, on the same day they choose a new mayor. And there were signs the proposal already is influencing the race, which is expected to focus heavily on resolving the city's chronic budget crisis.

Mayoral candidates Jan Perry and Eric Garcetti, both council members, voted against the tax plan Tuesday. City Controller Wendy Greuel, another top mayoral contender, said she also opposed the tax hike, which would apply to millions of everyday transactions, as well as major purchases such as electronics and appliances.

The proposal also came under attack from former Mayor Richard Riordan, a Republican multimillionaire who is promoting his own ballot measure to roll back pension benefits. He accused City Hall leaders of foisting bloated employee retirement costs on consumers.

Left-of-center groups complained that council members had caved to real estate interests by dropping plans for a tax on property sales in favor of one that disproportionately hits working class Angelenos. "The process was entirely hijacked by the real estate folks," said Sunyoung Yang, lead organizer for the Bus Riders Union, an advocacy group for low-income residents.

A second and final vote on the sales tax ballot measure is set for next week. If approved by voters, the measure would leave Los Angeles with one of the highest tax rates in the state — 9.5 cents on every dollar of taxable sales.
. . .

Riordan Accepts Police Union's Pension Debate Challenge
Los Angeles Times, November 14, 2012

Multimillionaire businessman and former Los Angeles mayor Richard Riordan has accepted a police union's challenge to put his mouth where his money is.

Riordan agreed Wednesday to a series of three debates on the merits of a pension revamp  initiative that he is trying to get on next year's city election ballot. The measure would create a  401(k)-style retirement plan for newly hired workers instead of the current guaranteed pensions.

"Dick Riordan looks forward to the opportunity to share his views with the public about the dangerous path the city is going down when it fails to deal responsibly with its pension costs,'' his spokesman John Schwada said in a statement.
. . .

Union leaders want Riordan to back up his claims that unless changes are made, ever-increasing payments to the city's three pension systems could cripple the city's ability to provide services.

"Riordan has chosen to hide behind carefully orchestrated radio talk-show appearances where no challenging or insightful questions are asked, appearances before groups where he knows his ideas won’t be challenged, and well-crafted media releases that lack any pretense of substance,” the police union leader said.

Rising city pension costs have become a hot-button issue in next year's mayoral race. Two of the candidates, City Councilman Eric Garcetti and Controller Wendy Greuel, are backed by influential labor groups and have expressed concerns about Riordan's measure.

A third, Councilwoman Jan Perry, has sought to define herself as the fiscally conservative alternative, in part by setting out her own plan to trim pension costs. Kevin James, a lawyer and former radio host, said he will support Riordan's measure if it qualifies for the May ballot.
. . .

"People are fed up with waiting for their government to take action,'' Riordan told the John & Ken Show on KFI radio last month in announcing his proposed measure.
. . .

Monday, October 01, 2012

California Now Has Water as a Human Right. Oh, Really?

The headlines read: law passed in California to make water a human right.  AB685 does indeed have that language but California is far from that as a reality. The question really is whether this is a real breakthrough or whether it presents the potential of a creating a new maze of litigation in the future. From looking at the language of the bill, it would be a profound mistake to consider this a victory for poor people or an acknowledgement of their basic survival needs. It needs to be said that there are so many questions raised by such a law that are not addressed in the law that it will assuredly result in profound impacts on farmers and farm workers throughout the state of California.

Water as a Human Right has to be defined in the context of both drinking water and food production.

This bill needs to be repealed and the sooner the better. As someone who has written on water as a Human Right  and on its relationship to regional water planning, I have continued to advocate for political and structural reform that democratizes water resource management.   AB685 is bad law and bad law opens the door to litigation, protest, corrupt administration and usurpation of authority. Messing around with water supplies is a dangerous precedent that Sacramento has gotten in the habit of doing on a regular basis.

There is a profound mischaracterization of water use among urban users, academics and many Greens that singles out “agribusinesses” as the focal point of structural reform. This addresses corporate law, not water allocations. If we are to address the users of the resource even-handedly, we need to acknowledge that agriculture will always be the primary user of water. From there, we need to acknowledge not only the economic benefit of agriculture but also its social good in providing the food that supply both our urban and rural populations. Increasing dependence on food importations is not a sustainable alternative that develops and improves the quantity, quality and distribution of food to our growing population.

Water governance in the age ahead needs to be structured for open input and transparency. Adaptive governance needs to provide flexibility and input in water management in an effective manner. Administrative state agencies are not representative of users. Neither are they elected because of their distinct interests and concerns as stakeholders. No where does the bill provide for long-term regional planning or adaptive governance in this matter. Unintended consequences of this bill as written are so obvious it was opposed by water agencies in the state of California. This is not some classroom assignment or a slogan for some demonstration.

It is long past due for those who want to guarantee safe drinking water and sanitation for people to start looking at the consequences of their proposals when enacted into law. It is time for NGO’s to stop using environmentalism and social justice as rationalizations for promoting Democrats and recognize the distinct needs and concerns of diverse users. Water as a Human Right requires both the political and administrative entities that address water. As it stands, water is a function of partisan divides and not collaborative decision-making by users, the science and the environment. As it stands, the case made for Water and Sanitation as a Human Right holds its advocates with no responsibility towards allocations that are fair and equitable to all users.

Opponents of AB685 have raised the issue of the impact on pricing of the law. Given California’s financial status, it is reasonable to raise the issue of how future research and development for new sources, re-uses, desal, improved purification, sanitation and conservation are critical in addressing increasing demands for the resource. The presumption that AB685 will address this by supporters is myopic and fundamentally disregards the particular characteristics of regional supplies. There are positive local models as demonstrated by the Stanford groundwater study.   These initiatives will increase out of necessity. But, what AB685 does not do is establish a structural foundation for decision-making that addresses long-term planning and distinct concerns of regional users and stakeholders.

Do we injure the fundamental goal of developing Water and Sanitation as a basic Human Right by opposing AB685? Only if our putting the language into law is more important than addressing the underlying issues that obstruct the real implementation of that goal. If the object is to take water from agriculture to give to growing cities, then AB685 will be a tool with fundamentally conflicting consequences. The process of really making water a human right will require the restructuring of existing water law in California where rural users are under-represented in the debate. The presumption that drinking water will be a priority exists today. The failure in implementing this does not lie in the absence of AB685 in the vast array of water-related laws and regulations. Rather, it lies in the hands of the State Legislature’s proclivity towards diversions and politically based funding of existing infrastructures such as the upgrading of the Hetch-Hetchy aqueduct.

Will regional planning develop and improve the quality of decisions in regards to decisions made regarding use and allocations of our fresh and salt water supplies? We do have a learning curve here in the record of depletions and subsidence in the San Joaquin Valley and elsewhere, that suggests bad decisions and overuse manifest in agricultural uses as well as in urban uses.   Water planning is not simply an administrative matter where constituencies are not integrated into the decision-making process. The economic and social consequences of water allocations have distinct impacts that need to be recognized in the future through the development of regional governmental water entities. Water politics and governance are polarized as things stand today and benefit the two party constituencies only to the extent that they influence the State Legislatures.

Water as a Human Right has been qualified by the United Nations in regards to the characteristics needed to make it meaningful and implemented in a fair manner. “Human rights can be a powerful vehicle for change. However, they have to be enshrined not just in normative statements, but in legislation, regulatory systems and governance systems that make governments and water providers accountable to all citizens, including the poor. Too often, the language of human rights serves as a smokescreen behind which the rights of poor people are violated by institutions that have little or no accountability.”    In point of fact, the rural poor stand to gain more from a process that includes them as stakeholders in the decisions being made than does legislation that lack the means for input and implementation. The risk of AB685 is raised in the UNDP report as follows: “Water may be a human right, but someone has to pay the capital investments and cover the operating costs— either users or taxpayers and government.”  “Water is a human right. But human rights count for little if they are divorced from practical policies to protect and extend them—or from mechanisms for accountability that empower the poor to demand their rights.”

Furthermore, the UNHDP Report specifically cites issues in regards to agricultural users and even uses a California example of the impact on family farms by urban users. "The danger is fast growing cities and industries seeking more water will extend their hydrological reach into rural areas, reducing the access  of poor households to a crucial livelihood resource." Page 173, Chapter 5, "Water Competition in Agriculture, UNHDP Report. elsewhere in the report a California study is cited regarding the impact of urbanization on rural and agricultural poor and family farmers. "One study of the distribution of gains and losses from water transfers in Mendota, California, found that the  number of farms in water-exporting regions fell by 26%  between 1987 and 1992. But the number of small farms fell by 70% and labour demand fell even more as wholesale produce firms went out of business. While aggregate welfare increased, the losers included a large group of poorer producers."  Page 180, Chapter 5, "Water and Competition in Agriculture", UNHDP Report.

Lest anyone think we are omitting poor and working people, it is important to take notice of the population growth in the Central Valley and the growing political engagement around the water issue. Both the peripheral canal and the proposed sale of water by Modesto to San Francisco engaged local users and residents in the Central Valley. It is possible only in a political context to really unify urban and rural constituencies around the issue of diversions and Water as a Human Right. From the start, Water as a Human Right has to be defined in the context of both drinking water and food production.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Readers know that I consider climate change to be issue #1 for all.   It should be clear that solutions to the climate problem involves having a sensible energy policy.  Most Republican legislators seem to be locked in to the idea that it is necessary to kill the EPA in order to make our economy grow.  That is the essence of their "end unnecessary regulation" planes.

I ask you to watch this video segment of the July 10th Rachel Maddow Show.  It should show you all what ending environmental regulation will bring us.

Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Monday, May 14, 2012

Water Budgets Meet Financial Budgets in CA Water Wars

There is an increasing body of evidence that any resolution to the peripheral canal and Delta infrastructure is meeting a financial wall around which there is no room to maneuver. What is happening in California is no different in many ways from what is happening elsewhere. Water wars are driven by allocations, financial and hydrological. Coastal urban allocations in California are disproportional in their priority because of the use of geo-political entities. As the Central Valley becomes more urbanized there is an increase in their political representation. But as long as diversions are the solution of choice in California, regional planning will never be utilized to integrate urban users with agricultural and rural users in the decision-making process.

There is a real base of support here in California among ag and rural users for regional planning. At this stage, this is primarily to get the State Legislature out of the process. Politically, there remains the Arnold attitude towards water that “We can have it all.” This is simply because of the political control of the State Legislatures by urban users.

Establishing new geographical and political parameters for diversions would change this impulse. Coastal waters have not been included in the array of supply options in California.  There remain untapped potential supplies that have been modeled elsewhere. “Desalination systems account for a fifth of the freshwater used in Israel and, according to existing plans, by the end of the decade that amount will be doubled.” The freshwater fetishness has provided other options not previously on the table. Wastewater has been tapped by Orange County as a source for municipal water supplies. Pacific Institute concluded in a 2006 study: “Is desalination the ultimate solution to our water problems? No. Is it likely to be a piece of our water management puzzle? Yes. In the end, decisions about desalination developments will revolve around complex evaluations of local circumstances and needs, economics, financing, environmental and social impacts, and available alternatives. We urge that such decisions be transparent, honest, public, and systematic.”

Point being: that the tax structure has too long defined the water debates for revenues. No discussion of a tiered water severance tax has been broached. No local revenue raising regional bodies are being proposed to provide collaborative adaptive governance for long-term regional planning. Diversions will always prove to be projects with enormous price tags attached. California’s state budget has been the source of its system of aqueducts throughout the state. But that party is over. In November 2012, the Safe, Clean, and Reliable Drinking Water Supply Act of 2012 will be on the ballot in California. If passed, it will enable the state to borrow $11.1 billion for water projects. “The state makes yearly debt payments of about $10 billion on its $89 billion debt load.”

Fundamental questions to raise are: Will the charge of the project to users impact on local ag and urban water use in the Central Valley? Will this impact the economic situation and food production of the Central Valley? Are there any options that can address the issue of supply of water equitably for the Central Valley? I think I have included several of those options that have not been developed. A public planning process would certainly increase the options explored for their feasibility.

The concerns of the Delta residents are distinct and addressing them needs to acknowledge that existing political entities have not proven capable of addressing the complexities of infrastructure needs. As things stand the water war has benefited neither the Delta nor the Central Valley. It raises the question of whether the Central Valley Aquifer provides a hydrological linkage between the two regions that could bring them together in a regional water planning process. Is it possible for such diverse stakeholders to sit down together at the same table and map out a common future in regards to water management? Can they accurately gauge supplies, evaluate demand, establish a regional or sector-based annual water budget, improve measurement and monitoring, develop infrastructure, establish sustainable goals for conservation, maintain appropriate water quality guidelines based on the character of the usage, raise revenues, and work in conjunction with Federal and state agencies?

That’s a plateful. The questions that can be raised to get a clearer picture of the context faced by water users and the environment today are: Can the State Legislature continue to use the Public Trust Doctrine to build massive projects, more often than not, for California's coastal metropolitan uses from rural regions of the state? Can our state budget manage to come up with the funds needed to finance the projects as they have been developed in the past? Can the supplies address the demands of the wide array of beneficial water use in a sustainable manner? Can growth be balanced on the basis of renewable supplies of water? Can rural communities work in conjunction with long-term planners in developing rural conservation ordinances that don’t deplete the aquifer? Will urban users recognize their own responsibilities in adapting to local resources without depending on other regions of the state for their supplies?

These kinds of questions are centered on the issue of water governance and not simply diversions. The answers to the questions require a review of existing entities as they empower users and efficiently and effectively manage our water resource. It is becoming increasingly clear that the state of California cannot simply drop bonds out there to provide new supplies for coastal regions. The state’s regions need to develop the most holistic evaluation of their resources and establish their own priorities in regards to the maximum utilization and development of the resource.

Regions in California already have the resources, both natural and financial, to develop new long-term plans to be implemented in a fair and consistent manner.  It should be said that coastal regions and others have begun to demonstrate innovations in ground water management. “The regions are increasingly developing their own means of addressing water management that have produced new models of stakeholder engagement, Among other things, we see agencies using measurable objectives for limiting groundwater drawdown; analyzing suites of management options with transparent decision criteria and simulations; collaborating with neighboring agencies; involving a broad range of agricultural, municipal, environmental, State, and federal stakeholders in their planning decisions; undertaking groundwater metering as well as monitoring; actively controlling pumping to limit groundwater drawdown; and protecting hydrologically connected surface waters and groundwater-dependent ecosystems.”

Bad actors in water use should not be extended the continued graciousness of getting supplies from others as a reward. On the other hand, the potential for improving the employment situation in areas such as Los Angeles has been demonstrated to be the most effective in the development of water resources. In a recent study by the Economic Roundtable it is presented that: “Los Angeles is the most populous region of California, with average daily water use of 135 gallons per person – 49,275 gallons per person annually. Population growth and demands from other regions for an increasing share of the water that has traditionally come to Los Angeles is making it increasingly difficult and expensive for Los Angeles to import enough water to meet local demand…Periodic droughts and the high costs of importing water from the Sacramento Delta and Colorado River Basin make the need to achieve greater water use efficiency even more urgent.” “Findings from the Economic Roundtable’s study indicate that there are much greater local benefits from investing in local water use efficiency projects than from equivalent investments in massive statewide projects.”

The plentifulness of our resources and the resourcefulness of our people can effectively and efficiently be utilized at the regional levels. Whether in the Delta, the Central Valley or the metropolitan coastal regions, there lies the foundation for new and adaptive water governance that does not simply jump from crisis to crisis. Now, more than ever, we have to find new avenues for construction and development of our resource infrastructure. Those being impacted by decisions need to have political entities that are open, transparent and representative of stakeholders, managers, specialists and the environment.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

L.A. Times' Steve Lopez: Obama's 'Hollywood Hypocrites'

EDITOR'S NOTE: There are times when an MSM columnist really "gets it." This one by Steve Lopez about Obama's $40,000 a ticket fundraiser in the San Fernando Valley gets it right on the money

Posted on the Los Angeles Times Web Page, May 10, 2012
Clooney's Obama Party Full of 'Hollywood Hypocrites'
By Steve Lopez

They say tonight's soiree for President Obama at George Clooney's house in Studio City is supposed to gross $15 million, and the operative word is "gross."

Yeah, pardon me for being such a party pooper, but isn't it a little offensive that 150 of L.A.'s high rollers would shell out $40,000 to kiss Clooney's ring and get maybe 10 seconds of face time with Obama?

And what about the thousands of saps who pumped an average of $23 into Obama's campaign coffers for the chance to be one of the two peons chosen to break bread with the VIPs?

I'd rather watch the Lakers game from a bar stool, which in fact is what I may do.

I haven't seen Clooney's guest list, but I'd bet $2 -– and not a penny more –- that his house will be full of that particularly unctuous strain of liberals who live for events like this that make them feel good about themselves but don't really give a toss for their own community. Los Angeles could end up declaring bankruptcy and these posers will be telling friends about their big night at George's house.

Fifteen million dollars -– a third of it raised by the local big shots -– is peanuts to Obama, really. Another drop in a bucket the size of Santa Monica Bay. And isn't money the root of all evil in politics, whether it's from out-of-control "super PACs" or wanna-be-seen moguls who might be expecting something in return for ponying up?

Los Angeles is shutting school libraries, laying off teachers and shutting down fire houses. And VIPs are paying $40,000 for a Wolfgang Puck hors d'oeuvre and a silly photo with a president who only now has come to think it might be OK for gay people to have the same rights as straight people.

Open your eyes, Hollywood hypocrites!

If there's any justice, the traffic jam on Ventura Boulevard will be so horrific that you'll miss the party and end up crying over a Du-par's short stack.

[Updated at 5:26 p.m. Oh come on, give me a break, all you defenders of obscene excess.

The problem is money and the way in which it undercuts democracy. Money from the right. Money from the left.

Money, money, money.

Yeah, sure, Obama’s got to raise all he can to fend off Mitt Romney and hold onto his seat. But is that a race to the top or a race to the bottom?

If money buys victory and access, what about the masses who can’t afford a $40 fundraiser let alone a $40,000 party?

When do they get the president’s ear?

I suspect some of the self-congratulatory high-rollers at Clooney's house are paying more for two hours with the President than they pay their nannies, housekeepers and gardeners in a year.

I’m sure George Clooney and some of his pals are good people who want to save the world and even toss a crumb to a local charity now and again. But if they’re so desperate to celebrate their wonderful ways and important causes, why not a Hollywood fundraising party to save the libraries, rec centers or the parks. Or better yet, might Wolfgang Puck and all the beautiful people be available to stage a fundraiser for campaign finance reform?]


Columnist Steve Lopez joined the staff of the Los Angeles Times in May 2001 after four years at Time Inc., where he wrote for Time, Sports Illustrated, Life and Entertainment Weekly.

Prior to Time Inc., Lopez was a columnist at the Philadelphia Inquirer, the San Jose Mercury News and the Oakland Tribune. His work has won numerous national journalism awards for column writing and magazine reporting.

A California native, Lopez is the author of three novels and a book of non-fiction, "The Soloist: A Lost Dream, An Unlikely Friendship, And The Redemptive Power of Music."

Putting our House in Order

Let's start out with the premise that "business as usual" is getting nowhere in addressing the current economy. The defaults that are looming on housing, student loans and credit cards remain a dark cloud in regards to increasing consumption to increase demand. The market does work but it will always reflect the overall economy. Corrections are being made, but will not inherently produce a turn around. Obama is not a right-winger. He simply doesn't grasp the basic engine of the economy.

Let's start with the fallacy of "we can have it all- guns and butter". You cannot spend the same funds twice and there is a bottom to the barrel, no matter how many dollars you print. If there is not a change in the fundamental social forces that drive the economy, there will be no change in either the wage gap or unemployment. The focus of this election has been on minor changes in the tax code. The tax code is no more or less than a minor lift to peoples' ability to improve their standard of living or invest in the development of small businesses. If we use the WW2 model to demonstrate the key role of the Federal government in driving the economy, then we are left looking at the wage-price controls that were also a part of that model. If we use the New Deal as the model we are looking at a scenario without the debt/GDP ratio we have today.

"Business as usual" is trying to address constituency political demands the same as yesterday. As an example, the reality is that the political dynamics of "environmentalism" is constituent-based, not ecologically-based. They are resource battles and illustrate the conflict between urban and rural users. Water use, as an example, is confronting the fact that state governmental entities are dominated by urban users, so the "environmentally-friendly" proposal of instream flow is nothing less than the action by municipalities to get allocations previously used for agriculture.

"Business as usual" has addressed educational failings from the top down. We have long recognized the failure of urban public education but it has long-term impacts on our civil life and our society at large. But the solutions continue to make things worse instead of better. Making the situation worse, is the loss of value for studying by students.

The cultural revolution in the US has successfully crushed the old Protestant ethic in academics. In its place is more partying, less studying. It should be said that focus on personal behavior as a component of the political agenda has had many unexpected consequences. Among those effects is the rash of plagarism and cheating. We are seeing teachers cheat, as well as Wall Street brokers. Social workers have been caught robbing as well as Enron execs.

Not everything is economic and how we address charcter development has begun to demonstrate impacts on the focus of young people on their studies.There is something important that we lost with the Protestant ethic- that is a sense of individual accountability and responsibility. If the economy is going to get better than we need to improve our own conduct and expectations of each other.

We function as a small bit in a huge society of Gigabits. But if a virus robs us of our own sense of ethics, we ignore what is happening around us to our own detriment. Regional water planning taught me that people can work together when we agree on a common mission- a collective statement of individual shared values. We don't need to resurrect the Protestant ethic to define what we share as a nation. We do need to acknowledge the impact of our words and actions on others. Our economy is not something that starts from the top in some agency or corporate office, it begins with how hard we work as individuals and how we use the skills that we each have for the betterment of this world.

Friday, May 04, 2012

Professor Lakoff’s ‘Political Mind’

Editor's Note -- Scott McLarty serves as media coordinator for the Green Party of the United States and for the DC Statehood Green Party. This review of "The Political Mind" by George Lakoff first appeared in Green Horizon, Spring/Summer 2012.

Finding the Green Frame:
Professor Lakoff’s ‘Political Mind’ and the Green Party

By Scott McLarty

This past summer, some Green Party members opened up a dialogue with economic David C. Korten, who appeared via Skype on a screen before an audience at the party’s annual national meeting in Alfred, New York.

During one discussion with a few Greens, Korten said that the Green Party “must find its narrative.” People can grasp political ideas if they’re presented as part of a story. This makes sense. It’s impossible to think, for example, of the achievement of legal rights for black Americans apart from the dramatic narrative of the Civil Rights movement. Greens need to find their own story that places the party’s ideas and experiences as a growing political movement into a context that will enable Americans understand our claim to be the party of the 21st century.

Professor George Lakoff, a cognitive linguist and professor of linguistics at the University of California, Berkeley, has taken this basic idea much further in a series of books, one of which is ‘The Political Mind: A Cognitive Scientist’s Guide to Your Brain and Its Politics.” Like Korten, Lakoff’s sympathy is with progressives. He never mentions the Green Party and we can fault him from viewing US politics from within the restrictive two-party prison. Nevertheless, every Green Party member who thinks about how people think about politics should read the book.

According to Lakoff, progressives tend to subscribe to an 18th-century Enlightenment notion of reason, in which people make logical choices, especially political choices such as who to vote for, based on what’s in their own best interests. Lakoff says that this tendency among progressives is erroneous, demonstrably so, since Americans very often succumb to ruling-class propaganda and vote against their own interests.

Instead, says Lakoff, people think according to culturally-based conceptual frameworks and systems of metaphor. Reason and intellect are grounded in our emotions and our physical bodies — there is no difference between the mind and the brain. This doesn’t mean that humans are irrational. On the contrary, it’s rational to be disgusted and outraged by cruelty, murder, greed, and other evils. Our sense of justice and our political ideals are formed with the help of emotions, which are stimulated by the fields of metaphor in which such notions are communicated. Reason often takes place in the unconscious mind, where these mechanisms function most effectively.

Rightwing politicians and their think tanks have already figured this out. They know how to use the language of metaphor to reach and persuade the public. For example, Republicans describe their plans to lower taxes as “tax relief,” evoking a metaphor of “injury” that depicts taxation as an infliction from which we deserve relief, rather than something (when enacted fairly) that benefits all Americans. (An even more blatant example is the Republican decision to label estate taxes, which are applied only to millionaires, as a “death tax” that will affect all of us when we die, as if government were a vulture that feeds on our corpses.)

Progressives have been slow to learn the power of metaphor, which Lakoff called “frames” in an earlier and equally useful book, “Don’t Think of an Elephant.” For this reason, Republicans have been able to pull much of the public and most of the Democratic Party over their side when arguing for things like the invasion of Iraq, even when all the logical arguments were on the side of those who opposed President Bush’s war plans. The US troops sent over to depose Saddam Hussein were heroes fighting an evil-doer who, like a comic-book villain, was hiding weapons of mass destruction and conspiring with al-Qaeda to destroy America. When no WMDs were found and everyone realized that the Saddam-Osama conspiracy was implausible, the hero-versus-villain frame was discarded and replaced with one in which US troops were “rescuers” sent to bestow democracy on the beleaguered Iraqi people. Both of these frames leave out details like the drive to control Iraq’s oil supplies and assert political control over a large region of Asia.

While Republicans have excelled at exploiting frames, thanks to PR whizzes like Frank Luntz, Democrats have mostly relied on stale and ambiguous visions like “Bridge to the 21st Century” and “Hope is on the way.” An exception occurred with Barack Obama’s election victory in 2008, in which he was perceived as the conquering hero who delivered us after eight years of GOP misrule and the young “best and brightest” black man who carried the inherited mantle of Martin and Malcolm into the White House. These frames were effective because they convinced voters that Obama was the voice of progressive, antiwar Americans, even though his actual positions showed otherwise.

Logical thinking, dissociated from persuasive frames, motivates Greens to believe that we can convince the voting public to support us simply by communicating our Key Values and platform positions, along with some debate to support the ideas we stand for. The campaign brochures of Green candidates sometimes look like laundry lists of what they hope to accomplish if elected.

The Green New Deal, a useful distillation of Green Party agenda that many Green candidates have adopted as a sort of campaign manifesto, suffers from the same problem. It suggests President Roosevelt’s New Deal, which put millions of Americans to work and boosted productivity during the Great Depression, but this historical framework is a bit meager for people under 80 years old whose experience of the Depression is an essay they wrote for a high-school history class.

Greens running for office on the Green New Deal must find ways to turn it into a story that can involve voters personally and emotionally. I’m not sure how to accomplish this, but placing it in the context of documents that pushed America towards greater democracy and freedom might be a start: Tom Paine’s Common Sense, the Declaration of Independence, the Bill of Rights and passage of various amendments, the Emancipation Proclamation, Seneca Falls Declaration, etc. Or perhaps a grand dramatic action, with an element of civil disobedience, to publicize the Green New Deal in the spirit of Martin Luther’s nailing of his 95 Theses to the door of the Castle Church of Wittenberg in 1517, which touched off the Protestant Reformation.

The lack of cultural frames has stymied alternative parties for most of the last century. The Green Party is foreign to the two-party paradigm in which most Americans think about politics. There is nothing constitutional about exclusive rule by two parties, it’s simply a status quo that most Americans accept as natural.

Lakoff has famously compared the competition between the Republican and Democratic parties as a rivalry between the “strict father” and “nurturant parent” (usually mother) models that come out of the “family” frame in which government is perceived as the parents and citizens are the children. Alternative parties are irrelevant to this frame, just as Iraqi oil was irrelevant within the hero-villain frame used to promote the Iraq War.

This is why Green participation in elections seems to have the character of an eccentric distant relative who shows up at the front door when the family unit is about to settle down for dinner. When Greens remind other Americans that Green Parties exist and are often quite successful in elections in Europe, it only contributes further to the perception of the party as something foreign.

The spoiler accusation and other reasons people use not to take the Green Party seriously are informed by the idea that alternative parties are trying to interfere with something as natural as the family. How can the Green Party of the United States persuade people that we don’t only offer good ideas, we represent something that is authentically and indispensibly part of the American political landscape?

Greens must overcome the problem by developing our own frames. Occupy Wall Street provides some clues about how that might be accomplished. Occupy demonstrators seem to fit into a common narrative in US history, that of a popular uprising to defy the power of Wall Street and clear away the corruption of corporate-money politics. In the past half century, such uprisings have been marginalized and objections to the power of business elites have been relegated to the Democratic Party’s “nurturant parent” function, where such conflicts are resolved by the enactment of a few modest social programs while the power of elites remains unaffected. The Occupy Movement, if it can resist cooptation by Democratic Party front groups like that would turn it into “Reelect Obama,” has the potential to overturn these facades.

Lakoff writes:

"America is about empathy and responsibility: people caring both for themselves and for one another, and acting responsibly on that sense of care…. If progressives can stick to these basics, activate empathy in our fellow citizens, and frame issues so that they notice all the protection and empowerment that government affords in their everyday lives, then we have a fighting chance that the minds and the brains of our countrymen will align once more with the fundamental values and goals of American democracy. We need to say over and over that this is what true patriotism is. Moreover, we need language to evoke the frames that tell us why conservatism is destructive to democracy.

For Greens, enlightening Americans about the destructiveness of Republican-style conservatism isn’t enough. We must also enable people to understand that the Democratic Party shares much of the same mindset, even adopting many of the GOP’s agenda. Under President Obama, Democrats have devoted themselves to building the US war machine for deployment anywhere around the world for US interests, often on the basis of “preemption” as in the case of Iran’s alleged nuclear ambitions. Democratic leaders have also embraced the temptation to slash Social Security and Medicare, legally questionable mandates requiring everyone to purchase private health insurance, offshore drilling along US coasts, new nuclear power plants, privatization of publicly owned resources and services (including military), taxpayer-funded bailouts and virtual impunity for Wall Street firms whose fraud caused the 2008 economic meltdown but minimal assistance for working Americans hurt by the crisis, and too many other examples to be listed here.

In other words, Greens must introduce their own frames to persuade people that politics restricted to two corporate-money parties is un-American and has damaged our country. This will be difficult. According to the usual media script, bipartisanship is good and gridlock is bad. (We could have used a little gridlock when the US Senate confirmed George W. Bush’s 2000 election “victory” despite a possible election theft, when Congress was asked to cede war powers to the White House in advance of the invasion of Iraq, and when the Wall Street bailout was first proposed in 2008.)

Greens must also find frames strong enough to penetrate the psychology of progressives who are too relieved to have a Democrat in the White House, too ready to believe he shares their progressive agenda, and too loyal or impressed by his charisma when confronted with the need to register protest. Professor Lakoff shows the same tendencies when he writes in ‘The Political Mind’, which came out in early 2009, about Barack Obama’s impending move into the White House.

It’s important to understand that Lakoff is not talking about propaganda, although conceptual frames can be manipulated for such purposes, as the PR successes of the GOP have proved ever since Reagan was elected president in 1980. The flood of deceptive political ads we’re likely to see in the 2012 election, thanks to the Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United decision that removed limits on advertising by corporate PACs on behalf of candidates, will be a crash course on the use of frames. Some are already at work in the GOP primary contest, with Republican candidates accusing each other of being “Washington insiders,” which taps into the “federal government is evil” frame favored by Republicans. (Especially Republicans who work in the federal government.)

Rather, Lakoff means patterns of thinking and communicating that are built into our cognitive wiring, just as all humans use grammar when they speak, even though the particular rules and structures of grammar of a language are learned. Cognitive linguists like Lakoff compare their theory of innate brain structure for culturally learned systems of metaphor with Noam Chomsky’s transformational-generative grammar, which sparked a revolution in linguistics in the late 1950s.

Lakoff’s responses to Chomsky and other “18th-century Enlightenment” linguistics who are skeptical that there exist deep structures for metaphor and frames analogous to grammatical deep structures will be interesting to those (like me) who enjoy a good academic dispute, but these topics are only a small part of ‘The Political Mind’ and Green readers shouldn’t be put off.

Lakoff waxes too optimistic in the final chapter, where he looks forward to an era of truth in politics made possible by the New Enlightment understanding of metaphor and frames advanced by himself and his fellow cognitive linguists. The sophisticated use of frames by rightwing politicians, with the wizardry of Luntz and other PR experts, suggests that deception might become even more pervasive in this era of saturation propaganda. We’ve seen how easily the Tea Party movement was manipulated by GOP operatives into endorsing remedies based on deeper entrenchment of the very ruinous policies, like Wall Street deregulation, that triggered the recent economic meltdown.

But this is an argument for the Green Party and Green candidates to find more sustained and persuasive ways to bring the Green imperative to the public. ‘The Political Mind’ is indispensible for Greens who care about how we communicate.

= = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = Scott McLarty serves as media coordinator for the Green Party of the United States and for the DC Statehood Green Party. He has had articles, guest columns, and book reviews published in Roll Call, Common Dreams, Z Magazine, Green Horizon, The Progressive Review, In These Times, and several local and community publications. He joined the Green Party in 1996 and in 1998 ran for the Ward 1 seat on the City Council of the District of Columbia. Mr. McLarty grew up on Long Island and now lives in Washington, DC.

Friday, April 13, 2012

More than innovation

Many Greens have a gut level distrust of technical innovation as being able to ensure humanity's progress, even as they take advantage of the latest social media innovations that are part of America's love affair with technology.

When it becomes necessary to put forward a coherent policy that considers both ecological and economic concerns, Greens rely on the concept of sustainability to define their objective. However, we are not often clear about what policies we would put in place to become truly sustainable.

To that end, I suggest reading the full text of Gregory Wagner's article Innovation is Not Enough: Why Polluters Must Pay. Wagner is an economist teaching energy economics at Columbia University's School of International and Public Affairs. He summarizes his own article in this manner:
In short, we need to ramp up and be able to sustain R&D (&D) — and that is nearly impossible when all market forces are pointing in the opposite direction. We need to guide private research efforts, and we need to pay for public ones. The American Energy Innovation Council lists five ways for government to come up with the necessary funds, four of which point to increasing the price of fossil energy.
In this coming presidential election, Greens need to be clear that our energy policy will put a price on carbon in whatever form it is used.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Black Girls Code

I graduated from Flagstaff (AZ) High School in 1958. A recent story local San Francisco television about Kimberly Bryant and her organization, Black Girls Code, made me think about how much, and how little has changed since I was in High School.

Flagstaff was always a place where multiple races lived in a state of tension where harmonious relaxation never really occurred. It was not just White / Black. There were always sizable populations of Hispanic and Native Americans in town, and in the school. But something was happening that introduced some change, but not enough.

Most of the African American population lived in the SE part of town… south of Rt. 66 and the Santa Fe tracks, East of Agassiz St. Their children went to the Paul Lawrence Dunbar Elementary School where only they attended. The "Mexicans" and others went to South Beaver School. Only the latter still exists. Dunbar was shut as the result of Brown vs.Board of Education decision. It's last principal was Wilson Riles, later Superintendent of Public Instruction for the State of CA.

Those Dunbar students were my classmates at Flagstaff High School in the 1950's. One of them stood out to the extent that would occasionally check what happened to Joan Dorsey. When I knew Joan, she was a member of the National Honor Society and a leading singer in our school choir. Then we went our separate way, Joan to the University of Arizona and I to the University of Redlands. After graduating with a degree in education, Joan became the first black stewardess at American Airlines.

There are always those who break down barriers. Joan was one of those. It seems that Kimberly Bryant is another, only society has changed to the extent that now Kimberley is getting girls, black girls, interested in computers and engineering. It is a long way from aspiring to be a well trained waitress as a career goal. But there is still a long way to go and leaders like Bryant need support.

Now the old Dunbar School has been re-purposed and Joan and Wilson are getting a measure fo the credit that they deserve. Last August, the Arizona Daily Sun carried the story of a new mural on the old building... one with pictures of both Riles and Dorsey.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Duopoly's Diversions Drive Water in California

The oppressive character of a one-party system is that it does not incorporate input from other parties. There is nothing "supposed" about that circumstance. Greens know full well how it comes down. We are subjected to numerous administrative and legislative efforts to deny us ballot access in California. The record speaks for itself. Recent changes have further marginalized Green engagement.

The character of the water war in California is about allocations. It is demonstrated by various advocacy groups who have aligned with propositions that promote one group of users at the expense of others [see Pacific Institute's assertion linked below]. Los Angeles has taken water from the North for decades. San Francisco pipes its water from the east. The condition on the ground in California is that the drought is over and reservoirs are filled. The proposition for secession that was brought up by a Republican state legislator is based on lack of influence in the decision-making entities under the status quo. Now there is a move to restore Hetch-Hetchy coming from rural water users to increase their own base of support in the state.

The situation of the groundwater overdraft and the satellite monitoring of the Central Valley Aquifer presents a conumdrum to those who are hitting the bottom of the well as it were. (That would be the users east of the Sierras) The conflict over the peripheral canal is the same as has been addressed by the massive diversions to Los Angeles in the California Aqueduct and other projects including the Owens Valley diversion. Make no mistake about it, this IS a resource war. Notice the Delta would be included in the new state. This makes up the northern tip of the Central Valley Aquifer.

The largest metropolitan areas in California are located next to the ocean and yet continue to rely on freshwater sources from other parts of the state and have been financed through bonds. Even El Paso figured out how to access new supplies through desal of deep water aquifers. Their cry of poverty is inconsistent with their ability to utilize other sources. The state of Israel is looking to implement desal for 65% of its water supply. It CAN be done.

Population has increased throughout the state of California, including in the Central Valley. See the chart in regards to population growth in California . L.A.'s growth has been an exercise in failing to abide by even minimal restraints and it has long ago surpassed the carrying capacity of the bioregion. there is no question that these guys want all the gravy with none of the lumps.

California makes up about 17% of the U.S. population. Its crops also provide 17% of the U.S. produce. But there remains a belief, as Arnold himself put it that:"we CAN have it all". The Pacific Institute Report states: “The total volume of water withdrawn nationwide in 2005 was lower than it was in 1975, despite substantial economic and population growth. This is a significant achievement (my emphasis- MZ) that water demand can be successfully delinked from growth." (my emphasis) MUNICIPAL DELIVERIES OF COLORADO RIVER BASIN WATER, page 2-3 at . This sounds more like Arnold Schwarzenegger than John Muir.

The consequences of a state legislature that has a majority of urban users is the failure to establish and govern with the interests of others incorporated into it. California has manipulated its water law so that it means all things to all people. Public Trust Doctrine has been used to promote private interests receiving takings from other users as a result of state actions. Beneficial uses are so inclusive as to lack any real meaning in regards to distinguishing consumptive use. In California water law doctrine is inclusive of pueblo rights, riparian, prior appropriation and a separate one for groundwater. Fourteen Federal agencies and 15 state agencies (table 2.10, page 129, PPIC Report) put their hands in the waters of California and local authorities exist in nine distinct jurisdictional governmental entities (ranging from municipalities to flood control, sanitation and water districts).

The Department of the Interior under G.W. Bush that predicted regional hotspots and projected regions of conflict in the U.S. in the Water 2025. It remains to be seen if we are doomed to stay on the course that guarantees conflicts as growth proceeds unabated and resources continue to be depleted. No one can "have it all" when "it" is at the expense of others. It is long overdue for real prioritization of regional water planning to replace the continued expensive, massive aqueducts and diversions.

Sunday, February 05, 2012

Delta? Who dat?

About once a year I am reminded that the Stockton Record columnist, Mike Fitzgerald, is really good at what he does. Since most of that involves writing about San Joaquin County, I don't follow too closely until something sends me back and I am reminded yet again. This week it was this column on the Sacramento / San Joaquin Delta.

I am not sure how many times I have posted about the Delta. I know that there are 7 labels for posts that begin with "Delta". A search of this blog for the labal "Delta Vision" will get at least 10 posts. So, I was a bit surprised, as Fitzgerald seemed to be, that some 78% of California don't know who, where or what it is. I wish that I could deal with that as well as Fitzgerald does.
In the latest installment of "Invisible Valley," the saga of a region nobody pays attention to, a survey shows 78 percent of Californians don't know what the Delta is.

Or where it is. Or who it is.


Seventy-eight percent of the lotus-eaters in this state haven't got a clue the Delta even exists.

Even as they drink it, fill their swimming pools with it and live on food that couldn't have grown without it.
"Nothing is easier than self-deceit. For what each man wishes, that he also believes to be true." -Demosthenes

I really wish that every Green reader of this blog were part of the 28% who know a bit about where we get our water, and so, learned reader, I will continue to believe it.

What bothers me most is that it is just so damned difficult to make any progress at all toward a comprehensive negotiated settlement of CA's Water Wars and this lack of public awareness, or knowledge, is allowing that power brokers to continue doing what they have been doign for years, screwing the rest of us for relatively short term economic advantage. Even such an Green sounding organization as the Coalition for a Sustainable Delta is now what it purports but, according to activist Dan Bacher...
Three executives of Stewart Resnick's Paramount Farms in Kern County founded the Coalition for a Sustainable Delta. Resnick is the politically connected Beverly Hills billionaire who has made tens of millions of dollars annually from buying and reselling water back to the public for a big profit.
Then, Kern County isn't exactly part of the Delta either, is it.

It is fast becoming too late to do anything to stop the process currently under way, one that is aimed at giving the current Gov. Brown a legacy of building CA's infrastructure to match that of his Father. Unfortunately for us, if he succeeds, there will be hell to pay, and pay, and pay for years to come. We will be in bonded servitude to debts of a failed project.

In one more reminder of just how far things have gone awry and how little the bureaucrats care, I suggest your taking the time to read this post by Jane Wagner-Tyack at Restore the Delta.
Just to be clear here: Delta levee improvements, including seismically-resistant levees, were found to be less costly than conveyance and to have greater risk reduction benefits. So the risk-reduction benefits were misrepresented in both reports, and the seismically-resistant levees disappeared altogether from the second.
Oh yes. The fix is in and all the Good Dems will continue nodding to Gov. Brown's planned Big Dig.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Teachers' Woes Grow Ever More Intensely

Recent actions at the state levels have drawn attention to the role of teachers’ unions in the public education process. It should be said that most of this attention is unwarranted. The fact is that, in the context of education cuts, more demands are being made on teachers than they are able to deliver in the current public school setting. This has nothing to do with teachers' unions.

Regular education is facing the consequences of increased class sizes and pressures resulting from NCLB and state budget cuts. One consequence of this is the increasing turnover of teachers and the rising median age of teachers. Young people are more likely to avoid the profound difficulties of the current public school work environment in favor of other careers. It is worth saying that public school teachers have heard the message of the public - parents, public officials and public opinion. Teachers have always considered themselves as advocates for their students. But for the past 20 years this has turned into a situation where teachers are being scapegoated for the poor status of student academic performance.

The profound demographic changes in the nation have added basic language skills to the array of issues that impact on student performance. The ELL training is not proving sufficient in expanding the skills needed by non-English speaking students and ELL classes are inadequately constructed in numerous settings to address the issues of improving student achievement. “If mainstream teachers are to help meet the many challenges inherent in educating ELLs, one of many subgroups within a single classroom, a researched-based effective professional development source must be devised to create the workforce with the skills needed to teach these students effectively. Equity of education for ELL students will depend ultimately upon how schools respond to the individual student and his or her needs. The training, follow-through, and support of the mainstream teachers for English language learners are important to all Americans, as education is the pathway to employability, economic independence, and social wellbeing.”

Increasing teacher training will not benefit if new potential teachers see that the environment they are considering is so profoundly dysfunctional. Expectations on current teachers have been raised beyond the capabilities to achieve. This is resulting in teacher turnovers and cheating scandals such as the one in Atlanta.

Learning technologies are often pointed to as the silver bullet in public education. The fact is that these technologies have their own issues that include the difficulty in monitoring and the lack of personal interactions and dialogue between students and teachers. On-line schools and other alternatives have arisen and gained a certain popularity. It is not reasonable to presume that it will ever replace the public education system.

Increasing common core standards holds no solutions when they are not sufficiently relevant in the existing classroom settings. Standards in California have been raised in the face of repeated failures throughout the state public school system. One thing we are learning from the NCLB testing is how inadequate student performance is in meeting those standards. In this context, there is an increasing atmosphere of antagonism between teachers, parents and administration, not collaboration. Teacher demoralization is an issue in itself that will not be addressed simply by core standards. Training will help. There appears to be more training being expected of public school teachers than is being delivered by either public schools or higher education. Focusing solely on teacher training will not address the profound demands that are being made on teachers in the classroom.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

A clear article on the Peripheral Canal.

One of the things that California Greens need to think about is the long term effects of the decisions and planning for a new "conveyance" for water through, under or around the Sacramento - San Joaquin Delta. It was once called the Peripheral Canal and voters defeated it the last time Jerry Brown was Governor.
If you want to understand what is happen, you know, the basic questions like:
  • Who benefits? 
  • How much will it cost?
  • Who pays for it?
there is no better place to start that with Deanna Lynn Wulff's article in the Bilingual Weekly out of Stockton.  This quote tells you why it is important.
Nearly two-thirds of California residents and the majority of agriculture get their water from the Delta and its tributaries, which surround Stockton in an intricate pattern of levees, rivers and farms. But the Delta faces multifaceted environmental problems, which have led to a crisis for fisheries, wildlife and water quality.
The second place to look for information about cost / benefit is from Fresno friend, Lloyd G. Carter. His comments about the lack of any cost / benefit analysis regarding the State Water Project makes it sound like we are just replaying an old newsreel.
But, of course, Pat Brown and southerners in the Legislature ignored Ballis’s call for a cost-benefit analysis of the State Water Project and the problem has been beset by financial problems ever since, delivering half the water promised and costing twice as much as advertised, with many billions of dollars more need to actually finish it
. Greens need to be engaged in dealing with such major issues. It is what political parties do if they are relevant.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

How much regulation is enough?

It was clear from Obama's SOTU last night that governmental regulation is going to be a major issue in the 2012 presidential campaign. The Republican mantra of less regulation, especially environmental regulation, will flow easily from nearly every Republican Candidate and you even heard Obama cite a Republican President, Lincoln, to the effect that "That Government should do for people only what they cannot do better by themselves, and no more."

With that background, we need to be look at the economic impact of some problems that we try to resolve through regulation. That this for an example:
Study: Citrus Greening Cost State $3.6 Billion, 6,600 Jobs

some info from the article:
Citrus Greening (called Huanglongbing in it's contry of origin, China) has now been confirmed in Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, South Carolina, Texas and most citrus-producing regions of Mexico. It was discovered in Florida in Sept 2005. At the Second International Research Conference on Huanglongbing in January 2011, researchers estimated greening had already infected about 18 percent of Florida's citrus trees, estimated at 70.6 million trees last year. Some say as much as 25% are infected. Thousands of acres of citrus are no longer producing saleable fruit and are now abandoned, with the psyllids continuing to spread the disease to nearby orchards.
A UF study says that since the citrus seasons of 2006-07 through 2010-11, the disease has cost the state's economy $3.6 billion over five years, including 6,611 lost jobs in agriculture and related industries.

If this were anything else that you morning orange juice, I am sure that we would have heard about it through the morning news. In stead, we get a guessing game over the medical condition of Demi Moore. However, you don't hear about this type of work, and it goes on every day. But it is easy to find attacks on the Endangered Species Act or restraints of free trade.

Greens need to have a clear definition of the role of government regulation. Maybe Lincoln's thinking is a good starting point. We also need to clearly articulate how we can do this with community based economic development, because it soon become apparent that what is good for one community may not be good for it's neighbor. Lacking such an understanding, we will easily fall victim to the massive, industry financed publicity campaigns, not only as politicla voices, but as voters and consumers.

Friday, January 20, 2012

New directions in water policy, or just shirking responsibilities.

It is rare that I will use this blog to call attention to another blog, but today's post at On the Public Record illustrates the depth of the problem that Greens would have with a rational regional water management policy.
I’ve wondered about the State and Fed’s role diminishing, especially as the legislature and the agencies explicitly set their water management approach as ‘supporting integrated regional water management’. I worry about that some, since I believe that local governments generally don’t have the luxury to do anything more than work in their immediate self-interest and compete with their neighbors for “growth” and its accompanying new tax revenue, which will always require additional water sources. (emphasis mine)
However, regional, watershed based management the only way to ensure that Green Values will govern the development and use of this indispensable resource. My observation of the politics of water in California is that it will always be governed by urban growth. At time, urban needs are hidden in the demand to support CA's agribusinesses, but too often the subsidized agricultural water allocation is only resold to urban users at a bigger profit than can be made from using that water for growing food. If you care about water and politics in this semi-arid state, then On the Public Record is required reading. In this case, his concern is very real and probably even understated.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Kids Going 120 Miles to School

Do "minority kids" do poorly in school because "those people" don't have a high enough regard for education? You know you've heard variations of this argument about a 1,000 times. The L.A. Times published a story that I personally found poignant on a number of levels.

The Los Angeles Times, Thursday, January 19, 2012
Death Valley Students Face
Loss of Lifeline

By Teresa Watanabe

A school bus carries students from Death Valley High School in Shoshone to a Native American village in the national park. (Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times / January 10, 2012)

California has pulled funding for school transportation for the rest of this fiscal year and may eliminate it entirely next year. In Death Valley, where some students have a two-hour round trip, the cut is 'catastrophic.' ... It is 6:54 a.m. Marlee, a 14-year-old with raven hair and red nail polish, climbs aboard. She is one of nine students who spend more than two hours riding this bus 120 miles every school day to and from the Furnace Creek area to their school in Shoshone...

The long distance and light passenger load make this bus ride exorbitantly expensive. The Death Valley Unified School District spends about $3,500 a year for each of its 60 students on home-to-school transportation — compared with about $26 per student in more densely populated districts, according to data compiled by the California School Boards Assn.

So when Gov. Jerry Brown announced that lagging state revenue would require eliminating all school transportation funding for the rest of this fiscal year, it hit this tiny school district harder than just about any other in California. Death Valley Supt. Jim Copeland calls the cut, which took effect Jan. 1, "catastrophic."

For students like Marlee, the issue goes way beyond dollars and cents. The bus is her lifeline from the desolation of the desert to a wider world of teachers and friends, school sports and art projects and academic stimulation.

"School is the highlight of my life, and we can't get to school without the buses," Marlee said after a recent morning ride.

Educators statewide have decried the busing cuts as particularly unfair to small and rural districts that shoulder disproportionately high transportation costs. They are scrambling to reverse the move with legal action, letter-writing campaigns and legislative lobbying. Some are arguing that if cuts have to be made, they should be distributed equitably across the state ...

Of course, Governor Brown, like all the Democrats and Republicans in California, is playing games. The object of his game is to convince California voters to approve his retro tax plan. Meanwhile, he talks big about "investing" in big ticket projects for California's future [Translation: shoving a lot of money into programs favored by particular interests joined at the hip to the Democratic Party Machines].

There is no lack of criticism of California's once great system of public education. The problem is that most criticism comes from the so-called "conservative" side of the aisle. While everybody is busy obsessing over Barack Obama Democrats versus the barbaric Republicans we are in for another rough ride in 2012 at the state and local level in California.

Thursday, January 05, 2012

Ecology of the Gardens of Democracy

While eating a late lunch yesterday, I turned on the Dylan Ratigan show on MSNBC.  Luckily I caught his interview with Nick Hanauer, author (along with Eric Liu) of a new book entitled Gardens of Democracy.  I embed the clip below because I want you to hear how he argues for considering that the economy is truly an ecosystem or rather what that means.

;Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

This makes a lot of sense to me. For the most part, the Green Party has not been very adept at clarifying just what economic policies we want to put in place. This election cycle, with the lack of jobs being high on every candidate's list of talking points, it will be imperative that we find our economic voice. This just might be part of the story.