Green Blogging

From the Courage Campaign
I thought I was doing a pretty good job of energy conservation.  I always turn off the lights when I leave the room, and I use those compact florescent bulbs to replace the inefficient incandescents when they burn out.  I’ve got a pretty good track record when it comes to turning off the TV.  I rarely get caught accidentally leaving the refrigerator door open.  And I’m very proud to say that my fan even has a thermostat.But this blogging business can really run up the electric bill!  I’ve got a power-intensive workstation.  My computer is nearly always on, because I hate waiting for it to boot up.  Recently, I got a second monitor — trust me, the benefits to having more than one monitor (especially if you’re a writer) are amazing, but I’m sucking down twice as much electricity!  I’ve got a speaker system with a 80 watt subwoofer.  Add a couple of external hard disks… yeah, I’m a bona fide energy hog.

What’s worse is that I’m apparently not alone.  A new study shows that when considering production, use, and disposal, annually computers put as much climate-change-causing CO2 into the atmosphere as airlines.  You read that right — computing worldwide hurts the atmosphere as much as the aviation industry.

Sounds like a huge crisis to me, and we as bloggers (and blog reading computer users) need to be on top of this. 

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While Rome Burns We’re Looking at Paris

I doubt when the Founding Fathers considered creating a democracy where an informed public decided its political, social and economic destiny, they had any inkling it would end up more interested in insipid gossip than real debate about what would affect the lives of those whose opinions and decisions would direct the fate of a nation and its people.
But here we are with more ink and video spent on Paris Hilton, Anna Nichole Smith and other irrelevant trivia than on whether we are willing to feed the homeless, educate our children and clean up a world we are polluting into oblivion. Why bother discussing these important, complex and critical situations when we can bury our heads in the sand and argue about whether Paris should do 45 days or 23 days in jail for being an over-hyped and talentless party-girl and thus wreaking havoc on the values of hard-work and responsibility we try to teach our children?
As Rome burns and the dream of a well-informed public drowns in this nonsense or the corporate take-over of the press, rendering it little more than pandering and propogandizing for the powerful and wealthy, we sit idly by. Democracy can only work if the people who are given the awesome responsibility of self-governance know what they are doing when they make their choices.
To remedy this, several on-line sites, including Speak Out California, are committed to providing information and honest discussion about just what IS happening in the halls of power; just what financial and political decision-making is taking place with our hard-earned dollars. To ensure that more Californians have access to that information, we’ve initiated what we hope will be a weekly (or bi-weekly)summary of the goings-on in our state capitol. We’re calling it, ” While California Dreams “. We launched our first edition this past weekend and hope you’ll take a look at it here newsletter_id=10533153 For the reasons discussed in this blog, we think it’s very important to provide an alternative to the cut-backs we’re seeing in the mainstream media as it down-sizes to increase corporate profits.

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Back to the Bottom

Now that the flurry of bill activity is over for the moment, the Legislature will be turning its attention back to the Budget for the fiscal year starting July 1, 2007. With a continuing budget shortfall of some magnitude still facing the state (no one is quite sure of the amount since the Governor recently announced a $700 million dollar hole he hadn’t seen before), it’s time to revisit some of the key priorities of the state.
We’ve asked one of Speak Out California’s newest Board members, Dyanne Cano, to post her thoughts in her capacity as an expert on service-learning and after-school programs in the LA area. In that realm she observes,
not surprisingly, that while California boasts of a huge creative industry supplying billions to our economy,our political leaders show a complete lack of vision when it comes to funding art programs in this state.

Here are her comments:
For the past 30 years, the California Arts Council’s mission is “to advance California through the arts and creativity.” However, CAC’s funding has been cut dramatically over the last few years (from $ 32 million in 2001 to $1 million in 2004 at its lowest–a 97% budget cut in just three years). According to the National Assembly of State Arts Agencies, California now ranks the lowest among the 50 states in arts funding. Mississippi, the District of Columbia and Guam give more per person to the arts; California gives a mere three cents per person.
Why is increased funding for CAC important? In a 2006 op-ed piece for the San Fransico Chronicle, Alma Robinson, Executive Director of California Lawyers for the Arts, wrote, “Since 2003, when the state’s General Fund allocation for the California Arts Council was reduced to $1.1 million, we lost most of the funding for arts education, artists’ residencies and fellowships, the arts touring program and grants for the state’s diverse arts organizations — from the mini to the major. Many arts presenters, community arts programs, local arts councils and arts-service organizations are on life support.”
To help increase CAC’s budget from its current budget of $5.1 million and to protect it from further cuts, there are ways you can tell your representatives that the arts do matter.

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Auto Industry stalls Global Warming legislation

(Rosemary Shahan)
Caving in to aggressive lobbying by auto manufacturers and dealers who profit handsomely from the sales of muscle cars and enormous gas-guzzlers, California politicians refused to pass legislation that would have curbed greenhouse gas emissions and made fuel-efficient SUVs, pickups, minivans, and sedans more affordable. However, the author has vowed to continue the fight and revive the legislation next year.
The Clean Car Discount Act of 2007, AB 493, is championed by Assemblymember Ira Ruskin (D-Redwood City). It remains a top priority for environmental and consumer groups, as well as socially responsible businesses and faith-based organizations. Consumers for Auto Reliability and Safety has been working actively to get the bill enacted.
Auto dealers made many legislators fearful of voting for the measure. Auto dealers are extremely active and well-connected politically. They spend heavily on political campaigns, and generally back conservative candidates. They take pride in punishing lawmakers who dare to stand up for consumers and the environment.
No Republicans were willing to vote for the bill, and a handful of anti-consumer Democratic lawmakers also voiced a reluctance to vote for it, despite polls showing strong public support for the measure.
“The Clean Car Discount program is designed to ensure choice by providing that some vehicles of every type will be unaffected or receive a rebate. Over 40 percent of the 1.7 million new vehicles purchased in California each year will be eligible for a rebate, and another 20 percent will not be affected at all. Given the breadth of choice, the Clean Car Discount program will help make cleaner vehicles more affordable for every California family,” said Ruskin in his explanation of the measure.
In their attempt to kill the bill, auto dealers stooped to misleading tactics. One auto dealer, Fritz Hitchcock, President of Puente Hills Toyota in City of Industry, claimed in a letter to lawmakers that AB 493 would “penalize” disabled Californians. But in fact the bill expressly exempts persons with disabilities from having to pay any additional charges, and would have made various models that can accommodate wheelchairs less expensive.
More information about AB 493 is posted on Assemblymember Ruskin’s website, at:
Auto interests also ran a deceptive ad in the Sacramento Bee the day before the vote. To get the scoop on the ad, check out the California Progress Report, at:
Posted in Consumer Protection, Environment

It IS Class size, of course!

Recently a long-awaited and highly anticipated report on the state of education in California was released. The findings presented lots of fodder for both sides. Our Governor, of course, chose to ignore the clear mandate that the state of California needs to invest more in our schools, instead insisting that money would only be considered after the “reforms” he cherry-picked were implemented. Predictably, he went after the teachers, and ignored the discussion that concludes with the lack of financial commitment that is required to increase academic performance, particularly in our underserved communities.
Our own former Assemblymember and education expert, Jackie Goldberg, responds to the report and the discussion about what is needed to make our schools better in the years ahead, especially for our poor kids.
Here is what she has to say:

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Whose life is it anyway?

By Patty Berg

Here’s an alarming little tidbit that should make you spill your latte all over the New York Times on the front seat of your Volvo:
The Religious Right is poised for a victory in Sacramento.
That’s right. With the help of conservative doctors and nervous politicians, the muscle and money behind the right-to-life movement is orchestrating an anti-choice victory on Death With Dignity in Sacramento.
Amazing as it may seem, the Right is just a few votes away from stopping a bill that has support of 70 percent of the state’s voters. We’re talking about the California Compassionate Choices Act, AB 374, which would give terminally ill patients the right to use medication to control their dying, just like the Death With Dignity Act allows Oregonians to make that choice.
If you think California should be immune to the anti-choice message, you’d be right. But that’s what makes this play so unnerving. Anti-choice organizers are keeping the zealots in the closet, and cloaking themselves as protectors of the underclass. In short, they’re using our progressive ideology against progressives.
They’ve managed to convince some Democrats who should know better that giving people a choice could end up hurting the poor. They’re trying to get good solid Demcrats to ignore the strong support of the ACLU, MALDEF, NOW, AFSCME, every major state Senior Citizen group and CAPG, the California Association of Physician Groups,one of the state’s largest physician organizations. Heck, the Speaker of the Assembly is one of the authors of the bill — when was the last time he did anything to hurt the poor?
They’re also using Astroturf politics, making something look like it’s a grass-roots movement when, in fact ,it’s being orchestrated by long-time campaign operatives. The Catholic Church hierarchy, in conjunction with a well-greased Republican machine, has unleashed a flood of e-mails, letters and phone calls, all designed to convince fence-sitting Democrats that there’s a price to pay at the polls for anyone who supports choice at the end of life.
Never mind that statewide polling consistently shows that 70 percent of California voters support choice at the end of life. Never mind that support among Democrats is closer to 80 percent. Never mind that the Democratic Caucus’ most trusted private pollster says there is no way anyone could be hurt politically by this vote – the anti-choice campaign is nonetheless gaining traction. We must stop this misleading campaign now!
We should know this week whether California is run by progressive thinkers, or whether a well-run conservative campaign can actually send progressives running. AB 374 should be heading toward a vote of the full Assembly in the next few days. We need your help right now!
Let’s insist that our end of life decisions belong to each of us, and not to strangers.
If you want to support AB 374 sign our action alert!.

Assemblywoman Patty Berg represents the 1st District, which includes a third of the California coast, from Bodega Bay to the Oregon Border. She is a joint author of AB 374.

The Republican Party Cages African American Voters

From The Courage Campaign

As Karl Rove's former right-hand man abruptly resigns, more details are emerging of yet another sly and illegal "campaign strategy" used by the GOP in the 2004 election. The basic idea behind the Republican strategy is to suppress the voting rights of African Americans. Why? Because African Americans overwhelmingly vote against the Republican Party. Tim Griffin, the Rove adviser who just resigned, is at the center of this brewing scandal. The practice known as "caging" is just the latest dirty trick to be uncovered in a long history of dirty Republican tricks designed to undermine not only the Democratic Party but also small-d democracy in America.

Dahlia Lithwick at Slate has an excellent article on how caging works. Basically, what happens is the GOP contacts local city clerks and election commissioners and gives them a list of registered voters that they want "caged." The election officials then mail a letter to the voters' address. The letter requires the voter to send back a reply card within a few weeks in order to confirm that the address is valid. No problem, right? Well, the problem comes in that the list of voters targeted by the GOP is specifically limited to African Americans, and that's a clear violation of the Voting Rights Act and the Civil Rights Act.

The GOP also appears to have especially targeted African American soldiers that are deployed abroad and people who don't have a home. This means that that the voter registrations of untold numbers of Democratic soldiers were canceled because the soldiers weren't at home to send a reply card back to the elections office.

How do we know all this? Well, there's documentary evidence including emails and spreadsheets of names and addresses that clearly show the GOP effort to clear the voter rolls of African Americans in Florida. Former top Justice Department official Monica Goodling was questioned under oath about this last week, and she appeared to admit that "caging" is a strategy employed by Republicans. I guess we shouldn't be surprised at yet another example of institutionalized racism perpetrated by people entrusted to protect voting rights. We shouldn't be surprised, but as Lithwick suggests, we should be "madder than heck."

Global Warming Action Alert

Auto manufacturers and dealers are trying to kill the single most important bill in Sacramento to reduce greenhouse gas emissions spewed into the air night and day by the leading culprits — motor vehicles. You would think this bill would be a no-brainer for any lawmaker who wants to keep his or her legislative district above water. But that would be to underestimate the ability of the auto Neanderthals to obfuscate.
The bill is up for a key vote next Wednesday or Thursday, so now is the time for those of us who are rather fond of life on our planet to take action. Call your Assemblymember and urge him/her to vote yes on AB 493.
The author is Assemblymember Ira Ruskin (D-Redwood City). If enacted, AB 493 will accelerate the availability of affordable low-emissions vehicles. Since the Bushites are in global warming denial, it falls to the states to act. Once again, California will be leading the way, but only if we win.
How it works is simple: AB 493 will add a surcharge onto the worst gas-guzzlers, and use the funds to provide rebates for gas-sippers. This will make lower emissions vehicles more affordable for moderate and low income consumers who also care about the environment. Each category of vehicle, including pickups and SUVs, will include models with either no surcharge or a rebate, preserving consumer choice. So if you want a minivan for your family, you can get, say, a Honda Odyssey at no extra charge. But if you hanker for a Hummer, be prepared to pay extra to cover the cost to the rest of the world for polluting our atmosphere.
AB 493 is supported by a long list of pro-environment, pro-consumer organizations. You can read more about it at the author’s website. To find your state Assemblymember, visit the website for the CA Assembly’s site here:
CA State Assembly
and click on “Find my district.” Plug in your address, and up pops the contact information for your state Assemblymember. Call and urge him or her to stand up to the auto interests and vote in favor of AB 493!