July 2012

Leading Climate Skeptic Changes Position: Global Warming is Real, and Man-Made

By David Dayen

This news from the Berkeley Earth Project should get more attention. Richard Muller, the head of the project, was a confirmed climate skeptic, and he got plenty of attention from the right side of the spectrum for his views. In fact he got funding, including $150,000 from the Koch Brothers, to study climate science and produce a set of conclusions. And after years of work, years of going through ice samples and carbon readings and all the rest, Muller determined that global warming does in fact exist:

$50 Billion Scheme Lets West Side San Joaquin Valley Growers Control More Water

By Barbara Barigan-Parrilla
Restore the Delta

Restore the Delta, local, state and federal elected officials, the Sierra Club, Food & Water Watch, the Planning and Conservation League, the Environmental Water Caucus, Friend of the River, the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations and a dozen other groups launched their campaign against the “Peripheral Tunnels” with a rally at the State Capitol on July 25. The “fatal flaws” of the tunnels would damage water, the environment, fish, and farming and impose billions of dollars of increases on water ratepayers.

Life After Murder; An interview with Journalist and Author Nancy Mullane.

By David Onek, Nancy Mullane

While on assignment for a story on California’s overcrowded prisons, journalist Mullane began interviewing men at California’s San Quentin prison who had been convicted of murder and sentenced to life without the possibility of parole.  Davis Onek spoke with Mullane about the book, the history of the parole system in California, and the power of redemption.  Please find an excerpt below:

Q: This book is about the lives of five men.  Could you choose one of the five and give us the basics of who they are, what their crime was, what legal process they had to go through to get out, and what it’s been like on the outside?

I’m going to start with Jesse Reed. I met Jesse Reed in 2008 in San Quentin State Prison, down on the yard, which is a massive yard where the men are allowed to walk around on a track. I was there doing a story about spirituality inside prison, and the prison public information officer said, “I want you to meet this guy. He’s been found suitable for parole. And he’s waiting the 150 days.”

California Democratic Party Announces Endorsements for November Ballot Propositions

By The California Democratic Party

The California Democratic Party’s Executive Board this weekend announced the Party’s endorsements for the November ballot propositions. Key endorsements include Yes on Props 30 (Protecting school funding), 34 (repeal death penalty), and 37 (GMO labeling) and No on Props 32 (assault on unions) and 33 (auto insurance rate hike). See more:

Proposition 32: Corporate Billionaires’ Quest to Force Workers to Shut Up

By Bob Balgenorth
State Building and Construction Trades Council

Apparently we union workers are far too successful at affecting public policy in California. Why else would corporate billionaires be gathering and spending huge campaign war chests, for the third time in 14 years, to pass a law that would force us to shut up?

In 1998 it was Proposition 226. In 2005 it was Proposition 75. Now, in 2012, it is Proposition 32 that will silence workers’ voices and destroy our political clout, unless we beat it.

Those previous measures would have prohibited unions from making political contributions with money collected from paycheck deductions. But after voters realized that corporate funds would continue to flow unabated, with workers left powerless to respond, Propositions 226 and 75 were defeated.

CA GOP Continues its Death Spiral, Seeks Help From Prop 32 Supporters

Brian Leubitz

CRP Chairman Tom Del Beccaro in SacramentoCalifornia Republican Party faces fiscal, organizing questions. Banks on Special Exemptions.

The California Republican Party is in something of a desperate situation. They hold no statewide offices, and then they had a story in the New York Times titled "Republican Party in California Is Caught in Cycle of Decline."

That's never a good thing, especially when it is combined with a follow-up from the San Francisco Chronicle with some worrying financial numbers. Without getting deeply into the nitty, gritty, it is pretty bad. They are expected to reveal a deficit of nearly half a million dollars, and are considering closing their Sacramento office.

School Reform: Why It’s So Hard

By Peter Schrag

Listening to even the best people in California’s school reform discussions doesn’t leave much clarity about the direction our money-starved education system school go or much confidence that things will get perceptibly better any time soon.

Many of those good people know what’s needed. It’s just that they don’t all know the same thing, or don’t know it at the same time. That much at least was apparent once again at last Wednesday’s Sacramento forum on school finance sponsored by PPIC, the Public Policy Institute of California.

What they agreed on was that the fixes of the last thirty or forty years – what state School Board Michael Kirst called “the historical accretion” of programs – wasn’t working. It’s become, someone said, “the Winchester Mystery House” of school finance, rooms added willy-nilly to solve one or another problem. 

Fishermen, Tribal Members and Enviros Blast Brown Tunnel Plan

By Dan Bacher

Over 300 people, including fishermen, environmentalists, family farmers, and a large contingent of members of the Winnemem Wintu, Pit River, Hoopa Valley and Miwok Tribes, protested Wednesday's announcement by Governor Jerry Brown and Interior Secretary Ken Salazar to fast track the plan to build the peripheral tunnels around the California Delta.

During a press conference at the California Natural Resources Agency Building in Sacramento, Brown announced his plan for the construction of two peripheral tunnels with a capacity of 9,000 cfs that would take water from three intakes on the Sacramento River near Courtland and Hood to deliver water to corporate agribusiness on the west side of the San Joaquin Valley and southern California water agencies.

Time to Ban the Bag

By Jenesse Miller
California League of Conservation Voters

It's time for the state of California to follow the lead of more than 50 of our cities and dump the plastic bag.

Named by Guinness World Records as "the most ubiquitous consumer item in the world," single-use plastic bags are a leading source of pollution worldwide, including in California. Californians use and throw away 12 billion (yes, that's billion with a "b") of these bags each year with devastating consequences for marine life.

Tracking the Impacts of Climate Change’s Evil Twin

By Madhavi Colton and Gretchen Hofmann

The ocean may seem timeless and impervious. Yet we are increasingly seeing that in the sea, as in the natural world as a whole, the only thing that is constant is change.

While some changes--like habitat loss or overfishing --have long been studied, we are only just beginning to understand emerging threats like ocean acidification. Sometimes described as “osteoporosis of the sea,” we already know that ocean acidification is impacting the health of shellfish and coral reefs. But we have as many questions as answers about the long-term implications for sea life and people.

Labeling Genetically Engineered Foods: Whose Side Are You On?

By Zack Kaldveer 
Yes on 37 Right to Know Campaign

This November, California voters will have an opportunity to vote on a simple, yet important ballot initiative called Prop 37 – the California Right to Know Act. If approved, it would require food sold in California supermarkets be clearly labeled if it has been genetically engineered.

There is no clearer David versus Goliath fight on this year’s ballot. On one side, is a truly grassroots people’s movement that generated over a million signatures in just 10 weeks, easily qualifying for the November ballot. On the other stands the largest anti-union, pro-pesticide, agrichemical interests in the world dedicated to saying and spending whatever it takes to hide the fact that some of our most important crops are being genetically engineered in a lab without our knowledge or consent.

Proposition 32 Group Was Behind Citizens United

By John MacMurray

Just mentioning the Citizens United case is enough to boil some folks’ blood. Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, No. 08-205 (U.S. Jan. 21, 2010) to use its full name, was the 5-4 U.S. Supreme Court decision that held that corporations and unions have the same political speech rights as individuals under the First Amendment.

The decision, equating campaign money with speech, opened the floodgates for, as some have put it, turning elections into auctions.

But, although a lot of us know something about the decision, mostly focused on its consequences, not enough of us know enough about the case itself—and some of the truly devious people behind it—and we should know.

But before we can begin connecting the dots, we need to identify the dots.

First Dot: Citizens United

US Secretary of Labor, Union Leaders and Workers Call on Congress to Bring Jobs Home

By Danielle Tipton
California Labor Federation

There is no issue more important in California and America right now than jobs. All of us know someone struggling to find one- you might even be struggling to find one yourself.  So why is our tax money helping to ship jobs to other countries?

On Tuesday, I joined hundreds of California labor activists, along with U.S. Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis and Communications Workers of America (CWA) President Larry Cohen, in San Francisco’s Union Square, where we rallied, chanted and danced to get our simple message across: Bring Our Jobs Home! It’s time to get rid of tax breaks that reward corporations that outsource jobs and ensure that taxpayer dollars are spent on creating American jobs, not shipping them overseas.

Communications technician and CWA member Christina Huggins has seen the impacts first-hand, as AT&T shipped jobs overseas before her very eyes. At the rally, she told me:

Providing All Californians with Retirement Security

By Teresa Ghilarducci
The New School for Social Research

In the past decade the number of California workers with access to a retirement plan at work has plummeted. A recent study by The New School’s  Schwartz Center for Economic Policy Analysis (SCEPA) shows that in 2009, 52.3% of California’s workers did not have access to an employer-provided retirement plan—representing a 6.5% rise over the previous decade in workers without pension access.

This increase poses a danger to the broader economy, which will suffer the destabilizing effects of mass retirement insecurity. Legislators can address this looming crisis with a fair, low-cost solution: opening existing, well-managed retirement systems to private sector employees.

Alameda County Ahead of Curve With Realignment

By Micky Duxbury

In May of 2011, the Supreme Court ruled that the conditions in California prisons were so horrendous that they violated protections against cruel and unusual punishment and ordered California to reduce its prison population by 35,000-40,000 inmates by 2013.

The order came at a time when the state budget could no longer afford the third-largest prison system in the world and the pressure was on to pass the responsibility to counties at a far lower cost. Another compelling reason was that the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation has failed at doing what it said it would do: rehabilitate prisoners.

Before the Fall: Possible Futures for Anti-Austerity Movements

By Amanda Armstrong

We’re passing through a low phase in Northern California – a lull that partially parallels those facing organizers from Madison to New York. The rebellious energies so evident recently seem scattered these days, dormant. The universities are quiet. And the forces that had gathered in city parks and squares, most massively at Oakland’s Oscar Grant Plaza, are largely absent. The encampments are broken up, the assemblies dissolved.

It’s hard to know whether this is simply a period of incubation, from which another, similar wave of class struggle will soon emerge, or if this moment of relative inactivity is allowing for the recomposition of our forces, our alliances, the ways we take action together. If the terrain of struggle we now encounter has been remade by the past year of action – by our effective acts of opposition, by new forms of state repression and co-optation, and by our own missteps – how can we most effectively intervene in the shifting political force fields we’re coming to inhabit?

Californians Stand up for Clean Air at U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Hearing

By Rachele Huennekens
Sierra Club

"I just want Max to be able to play sports without having to worry that he can't breathe." These were the plainspoken words of Stephanie Christensen, a woman who marched into the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) public hearing in Sacramento, CA, last Thursday with her adorable 5-year-old grandson outfitted in his Little League uniform, a light blue breathing mask, and a hefty bag of their asthma medications in tow. "If you can see the air,” Christensen said, “then it's definitely not healthy to breathe."

High Speed Rail and Global Warming’s Terrifying New Math

By Robert Cruickshank

Climate activist Bill McKibben has a new article out in Rolling Stone that has been generating much discussion and debate lately. Titled Global Warming’s Terrifying New Math, it shows how humanity is on pace to produce carbon emissions that will raise global temperatures significantly greater than we’ve already seen. Given that current temperature increases are already having devastating effects on climate, the economy, and society, unchecked carbon emissions would be catastrophic.

Voter Photo ID Laws Have Harsh Impact on Poor, Elderly and Minority Voters, Study Says

By Khalil Abdullah
New America Media

If no one provides him with a ride, Jose Zuniga, 83-years old and wheelchair-bound, would have to take two or three buses and travel 20 miles to reach the nearest south Texas government office that could issue the new photo ID he will need to vote in upcoming elections.

Zuniga is one of a particular sub-set of an estimated 500,000 eligible voters in 10 states who could be negatively affected by stricter photo ID laws. They do not own a car nor do they drive. They live more than 10 miles away from a state office that can issue the ID required to vote and that would be considered a fulltime facility, that is, one that is open more than two days a week.

In Texas alone, close to 13 percent, or nearly two million, of the state’s voting–age citizens live more than 10 miles from the nearest state office that can issue a voter ID.

By Texas Obsessed

By Peter Schrag

It’s been just a little over a year since Lieut. Gov. Gavin Newsom joined a covey of California legislators, all but one of them Republicans, to learn how Gov. Rick Perry pulled off his job-creating Texas miracle.

If you believed that their junket to the Lone Star State was anything but a political stunt you also had to believe in Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy.

But it worked like magic (yes, this is a joke). In the year since they returned, California has gained nearly half again as many jobs percentage wise as the nation as a whole – up 2 percent vs. 1.4 percent. The California miracle.