Pathological Greed & Electric


From TODD WALTON
Anderson Valley
UnderTheTableBooks.com

Repeat after me. Pacific Gas and Electric is not a public utility. They would like us to think they are a public utility, but they are not. PG&E is a huge amoral corporation owned by an even larger amoral multinational corporation with one goal transcendent of all others: to make obscene profits through the maintenance of energy monopolies.

A year or so ago I reported in these pages that one of those little slips of paper accompanying my PG&E bill, those slips 99.9% of us don’t read, informed us that PG&E would be raising our rates to pay for their new smart meters to improve PG&E’s efficiency and raise their profits and increase their control over our use of energy. I pointed out that the smart meters would pay for themselves within a few years, but we would continue to pay higher rates because of them for all eternity. Alas, my article did not incite a consumer revolt.

Now in last month’s bill, another of those little slips of paper informed us that PG&E is going to raise our rates to pay for the development of a wind power project. We will pay today so they can build wind generators that they, not we, will own forever, and we will pay again tomorrow when the energy from those wind generators we paid for (but don’t own) comes online. Good for PG&E, but not very good us.

And this month there were two more slips of paper accompanying my bill. One slip said PG&E is raising our rates “to recover costs associated with performing seismic studies at Diablo Canyon Power Plant.” DCPP is their (not our) nuclear power plant built on a major earthquake fault, a plant, by the way, that has never and will never pay for itself, and that our grandchildren will somehow have to decommission (at a cost of many billions of dollars) if the murderous thing doesn’t melt down first. The second slip said PG&E is raising our rates on top of the aforementioned raises to “recover costs associated with renewal of the Diablo Canyon Power Plant operating licenses.” As in, they’re going to pour even more of our money down their nuclear power toilet.

Terrible, right? We should create local community-owned power companies and develop solar and wind power that we, the people…hold on. PG&E has just spent several million of our dollars putting Proposition 16 on the June 8 ballot, a measure that would require a two-thirds majority of local voters to approve the creation of community-based power companies, as opposed to a simple majority. And PG&E plans to spend thirty to forty million dollars more of our money to make sure Proposition 16 passes.

Update on Prop 16: Worst Ballot Measure Ever


From  MICHAEL LAYBOURN
Hopland

[SFGate blog: “…Prop 16 isn’t just another battle in PG&E’s war on clean energy; it’s also an example of everything that’s wrong with the balloting system in California: Company buys its way to the ballot with a measure that would specifically diminish voters’ already limited influence over the company. That it will take a constitutional amendment to do so is just the putrid icing on the cake” -DS]

Update on Prop 16, PG&E’s irresponsible ballot initiative that wants to create a California constitutional amendment that would force local governments that want to establish local electrical service to win the approval of two-thirds of their voters first, rather than just giving consumers a choice. They just hate that nasty competition… 25-40 million dollars worth of hate.

Here are some updates on PG&E and its reckless CEO Peter Darbee…

John Geesman:
“March 8 was when PG&E filed its Preliminary Proxy Statement, detailing Darbee’s $10.5 million pay package for 2009 — some 8% more than Goldman Sachs paid its CEO.

March 11 marked the San Diego Chamber of Commerce Energy and Water Committee’s vote on Proposition 16:  22 to 0 to oppose, with 4 abstentions.

March 17 was the California Public Utilities Commission informational hearing on Proposition 16, which somehow Darbee deemed too unimportant to attend.  Odd behavior for the CEO of a regulated business which is dependent upon its regulator for its entire cash flow and which, for the first time in the CPUC’s 99-year history, is attempting to unilaterally write its own business advantage into the State Constitution.

Darbee has packed the four-member Compensation Committee with two of his telephone company cronies from his days at PacBell, including the Committee Chair.  Even with the two other members, the Committee is completely devoid of any professional experience in the regulated electricity or natural gas business.

While each of the newspapers that has taken up Proposition 16 has attempted to outdo its competitors in heaping scorn on the manipulative debasement PG&E has brought to the initiative process, the San Jose Mercury News is the first to specifically call out Darbee as the mastermind behind this brazen assault on his own electricity customers….

Why We Progressives Keep Losing


From JOHN ATCHESON
CommonDreams.org

Hurling Hail Mary’s — When is a victory more like a defeat?

[This is a good analysis of our “Progressive’s Problem.” I’ve added some of the comments that followed this post on Common Dreams. I’m sure the discussion there will be interesting… -DS]

At the risk of being churlish, passing this health care bill was the palest of victories.

Yes, it’s better than nothing, but as the President himself has pointed out, it’s largely made up of proposals the Republicans advocated a little more than a decade ago.

So, while this is certainly a political victory, it is far from a triumph of progressive ideals. Indeed, this Legislation is a sign of how far the political center has drifted to the right in the last three decades.

How did we let this happen?

Well, imagine playing a basketball game in which your team had to stay in the opponent’s end of the court on both offense and defense. Your opponent would be shooting layups and slam dunks, while the best you could hope for in terms of scoring would be one of those Hail Mary hurls from half court.

Think you’d win? Of course not.

Yet that’s precisely what Democrats and progressives have been doing for going on 30 years now. We’ve allowed conservatives to set the terms of the debate and shape the national dialogue.

For three decades, pundits and progressives have been struggling to explain why popular and much needed programs like health care, financial reform, and climate and clean energy bills keep getting scuttled, or compromised into inanity.

Let’s start with the health care legislation. As late as June of 2009, more than 70% of Americans still favored including a public option, and 66% favored Medicare for all. Yet after progressive compromises and an extensive “debate” over the summer, we were reduced to pursuing anemic health insurance reform. The one thing everyone seems to agree on is that we got beat at “messaging”, and it was this defeat that led to us celebrating passage of an essentially Republican proposal.

But we didn’t simply get beat; we refused to show up.

Or take financial reform. Here again, progressives are losing the debate on what is a popular idea – fix the system that brought on the Great Recession and that continues to take our collective money and shuffle it up to the top 1% of the economy. What’s not to like? Yet even a watered down version of financial reform – one that doesn’t fix “too-big-to-fail” or restore Glass-Steagall protections — is floundering in the Senate, and the House passed a tepid version that can only be called reform lite.

Ukiah Farmers Market Saturday 3/27/10


From SCOTT CRATTY
Ukiah

Friends of the Farmers’ Market,

We are definitely firing up early this year.  In addition to having the out Humboldt Bay oyster connection back early (a surprise last week), I now expect more farms back early this Saturday, one attending Ukiah for the first time.  Black Dog Farm from Willits will make its debut, Salt Hollow Farm from Redwood Valley will bring lettuce, radishes and various greens and Ukiah’s own Spiral Garden Botanicals will be there with herbal and vegetable starts.
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Don Willis will be back with his ever lively, on target and lovely accordion playing.

Holly passed along this article about the young farmers movement and Project Greenhorn.  Paula with Mendocino Organics, who you see handing out CSA baskets each week at the market, has been very much involved in the Greenhorn project and the related movie.  If the article inspires some questions, she might be willing to answer.

And now, for those of you who do not get the UDJ, here is this week’s Market Message:

Mollusks Invade Ukiah (Farmers’ Market)

It seems that many of you were too busy getting your gardens going to make it to the farmers’ market last weekend.  Vegetable sales were slow.  Many a robust and healthful chard, heroic and lion-hearted though it might have been, failed in its mission to find your dinner plate.

They will not give up.  Now that sunny days are back in vogue, ever more valiant young greens are packing away stores of vibrant, healthy energy and reaching for the heavens every week.  Some of this new crew will be at the market tomorrow, looking for you.  Cannot you hear them calling your name?

If you did miss the market last week, you missed the (surprise) early return of Aqua-Rodeo and their fresh oysters, straight from Humboldt Bay to our little market in Ukiah.  Try getting those out of your garden! Or, anyplace else.  We also had the largest selection of fish that I have seen in many a month.  Given the calm waters this week, I anticipate that both will return tomorrow.

I am glad to report that many of you who missed the farmers’ market seemed to be up to some good. The Gardens Project website reports that their Spring Garden Blitz, last weekend’s push to get a number of community gardens into shape all at one, was a success.  Over 88 volunteers showed up and put in 299 hours improving 10 gardens across the county.  You can read about some of the specific improvements on their blog.

The Looming Water Disaster That Could Destroy California, and Enrich Its Billionaire Farmers


From ALTERNET
Thanks to Janie Sheppard and Michael Foley

[More Privatizing B.S. exposed. -DS]

There’s a disaster waiting to happen in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, and a handful of wealthy farmers seem to like it that way.

“That, in your own backyard there, is the scariest place after New Orleans.” — Geologist Nicholas Pinder’s description of the precarious situation in the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta after the hurricane Katrina disaster.

Imagine the devastating flooding of Hurricane Katrina multiplied by epic sandstorms, drought and economic collapse of the Dust Bowl. Now picture it happening an hour east of Apple’s headquarters in Silicon Valley and spreading all the way down to the Mexican border. It’s not as far-fetched as you think. A routine 6.7-magnitude earthquake would be enough to set it off, liquefying the decrepit levee system that walls off California’s main source of drinking water from the Pacific Ocean and triggering a deadly flood that would submerge roads, destroy homes, wipe out thousands of acres of farmland, kill countless numbers and possibly cut over 20 million Californians off from their water supply for a year or more.

California’s politicians have known about this looming catastrophe for decades. They also have had the power to neutralize the threat. But no one has done anything to prevent it.

Just like the oligarchs who used the shock of Hurricane Katrina’s destruction to tear down public housing, privatize public schools and pillage the city’s poorest, California’s most powerful business interests have positioned themselves to profit from this disaster. A handful of billionaire farmers and real estate developers are in line to pull off the most brazen water heist in American history, seizing control over much of Northern California’s water supplies and do what they have always wanted: turn water, a shared public resource, into a private asset that can be traded on the open market.

At the center of this epic water grab is the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, a Yosemite-sized patchwork of waterways and farmland an hour east of Oakland that sits atop California’s single largest water source. Formed by the confluence of state’s two largest rivers as they flow out to the San Francisco Bay, more than half of all rainfall and snowmelt drains through the Delta, supplying two-thirds of California with water and irrigating most of the state’s farmland… More at Alternet
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An Absence of Class


From BOB HERBERT
NYT

Some of the images from the run-up to Sunday’s landmark health care vote in the House of Representatives should be seared into the nation’s consciousness. We are so far, in so many ways, from being a class act.

A group of lowlifes at a Tea Party rally in Columbus, Ohio, last week taunted and humiliated a man who was sitting on the ground with a sign that said he had Parkinson’s disease. The disgusting behavior was captured on a widely circulated videotape. One of the Tea Party protesters leaned over the man and sneered: “If you’re looking for a handout, you’re in the wrong end of town.”

Another threw money at the man, first one bill and then another, and said contemptuously, “I’ll pay for this guy. Here you go. Start a pot.”

In Washington on Saturday, opponents of the health care legislation spit on a black congressman and shouted racial slurs at two others, including John Lewis, one of the great heroes of the civil rights movement. Barney Frank, a Massachusetts Democrat who is chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, was taunted because he is gay.

At some point, we have to decide as a country that we just can’t have this: We can’t allow ourselves to remain silent as foaming-at-the-mouth protesters scream the vilest of epithets at members of Congress — epithets that The Times will not allow me to repeat here.

It is 2010, which means it is way past time for decent Americans to rise up against this kind of garbage, to fight it aggressively wherever it appears. And it is time for every American of good will to hold the Republican Party accountable for its role in tolerating, shielding and encouraging foul, mean-spirited and bigoted behavior in its ranks and among its strongest supporters.

For decades the G.O.P. has been the party of fear, ignorance and divisiveness. All you have to do is look around to see what it has done to the country. The greatest economic inequality since the Gilded Age was followed by a near-total collapse of the overall economy. As a country, we have a monumental mess on our hands and still the Republicans have nothing to offer in the way of a remedy except more tax cuts for the rich.

This is the party of trickle down and weapons of mass destruction, the party of birthers and death-panel lunatics. This is the party that genuflects at the altar of right-wing talk radio, with its insane, nauseating, nonstop commitment to hatred and bigotry.

The Story of Bottled Water


[More privatizing B.S. exposed. -DS]

See also The Story of Stuff and The Story of Cap & Trade here
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Are we prepared for whatever’s coming?


From ADBUSTERS

Just as in 1939 we had to give up on a massive scale the comfortable lifestyle of peacetime, so soon we may feel rich with only a quarter of what we consume now. If we do it right and with enthusiasm, it will not seem a depressing phase of denial but instead, as in 1940, a chance to redeem ourselves. For the young, life will be full of opportunities to serve, to create, and they will have a purpose for living.

– James Lovelock from The Vanishing Face of Gaia: A Final Warning

If people know anything about the British scientist James Lovelock, it is his theory of a living Earth, known as Gaia. Lovelock began formulating this revolutionary vision in the late 1960s while working at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. It was there, not far from the ground zero of West Coast counterculture, that he began to wonder: Might the Earth possess a sophisticated planetary intelligence, one that regulates the countless interactions of plants, animals, minerals, gases and the sun’s heat (all of the ingredients and products of ever-evolving life) in such a way as to maintain a climate homeostasis amenable to a lush, living planet? In short, does Mother Earth like life, and does she do her best to make us comfortable?

Once regarded as a quasi-mystical expression of longing more than a science-based insight, Lovelock’s theory has overcome the skepticism of his peers. Over the course of four decades of research and experiment, Gaia has officially graduated from a hypothesis to a theory. It is now widely accepted that the biosphere’s elements are no passive collection of independent actors responding to conditions but together form a living web that actively creates and maintains those conditions, including temperature. Lovelock has been compared to Copernicus and Darwin for fathering and nurturing the Gaia paradigm.

More at Adbusters
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Don’t Screw With The O-Man


From ANDREW SULLIVAN

Clinton, McCain, Now The GOP…

And yet no-one seems to get it:

I watched Obama’s rise from Hyde Park over the last 15 yrs. Two things stand out: his political rivals almost always, and fatally, underestimate the guy’s abilities. I sense there’s some racism there, and his opponents always try to smear him as a “radical black guy” but Obama has always positioned himself above racial street fighting. The fact is, Obama is not just smart, he’s brilliant.

Second, the guy constantly fights a war of attrition, staying the course, keeping his cool, but applying constant steady pressure to the abutments of the opposition, and over time almost all of them crumble.

I don’t think conservatives have yet figured this out about a guy, who now, is their biggest danger to future political relevance. He’s grinding them, slowly, into dust.

It’s why I supported him. Because he was change; and because he actually thought change was needed for substantive reasons; and because he had proven his capacity not just to argue for change, but to persist in it, zigging and zagging, waiting and holding back, but still persisting…

[Some call it Rope-A-Dope… -DS]
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