Archive for the 'bipartisan politics' Category

Jeff Merkley For U.S. Senate

Jeff MerkleyJeff Merkley, of my home state of Oregon, is now one of the top hopes in the nation for the Democrats to take leadership of the U.S. Senate. Yesterday’s election results mean that he’ll be running against Republican incumbent Senator Gordon Smith in the November election. I want him to win!

I’ll be supporting Jeff with dollars and time, and so will my husband Thor. We got to meet him last summer at a big house party in the country. (A great thing about a state the population-size of Oregon is that elected officials and candidates are truly accessible to you.) When I shook his hand and spoke with him I was struck by his kind, sincere, soft-spoken manner. Jeff is not slick, not full of himself, not drunk with dreams of power. And his leadership as Speaker of the Oregon House has been excellent.

In theory, I favor bipartisan politics and avoiding the polarization that our two-party system creates. That’s one reason I support Barack Obama: he is inclusive and not entrenched in ideology. But it’s impossible to ignore that Democrats get global warming, and the urgency of acting on it NOW, while Republicans do not. While I could say the same thing about universal health care, and corporate responsibility, and ending the Iraq war etc., global warming trumps all those issues. Global warming threatens civilization itself, and dealing with it means retooling ourselves into low-carbon lifestyles. It’s doable.

photo courtesy of Thomas Le Ngo

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EcoProm: My Favorite Leaders

Part of the diamond-cut life, in my view, is taking responsibility for our democracy by being politically involved. We need candidates who support sustainability. That plus my fondness for sociability and community is the reason I host a table of ten each year at the EcoProm, also known as the Oregon League of Conservation Voters (OLCV) ‘s annual dinner for the environment.

Sam Adams and Alison Wiley at OLCV EcoProm 2008

City Commissioner Sam Adams has OLCV’s endorsement (also my vote) in the race for mayor of Portland. People say he tends to hold grudges, but I found him gracious and forgiving when I forgot to let him speak last summer at a transportation-options awards meeting. (I apologized profusely.) Sam’s my man.

Jackie Dingfelder, Judy Steigler, and Alison Wiley at OLCV EcoProm 2008

Jackie Dingfelder, running for Oregon state senator, is on the left and Judy Steigler (center) of Bend is running for the Oregon house of representatives. I got to know Jackie a bit recently at a house party, and discovered she shares my passion for renewable energy, transportation options and green-collar jobs. Judy is on a similar page; they both have OLCV’s endorsement and my own.

Alison Wiley and Scott Bricker at OLCV EcoProm 2008

I first met Scott Bricker, above, when he did legislative affairs for the Bicycle Transportation Alliance. Now he is its executive director, and Portland, with a whopping 6% of its population commuting via bicycle and another 10% using bikes as their secondary commute-mode, just earned the first Platinum rating in the nation for its bicycle-friendliness. Scott’s excellent leadership has much to do with that.

Chris Smith and Alison Wiley at OLCV EcoProm 2008

Chris Smith (aka Citizen Smith, above) is running for Portland city commissioner, and is strong on sustainability in general and transportation options in particular. I like both him and another excellent candidate running for the same seat, Amanda Fritz (not pictured).

Katherine Arnold and Alison Wiley at OLCV EcoProm 2008

Katherine Arnold, above, is a Beaverton city commissioner up for re-election, and has OLCV’s endorsement as another green elected official. She is one of the good folks who helped approve my motion for the Leadership Beaverton program to add a Sustainability Day to its curriculum. I had the pleasure of serving with her for a time on the board of Leadership Beaverton (until my new job and commute to Salem led me to resign from that commitment).

My cool blog assistant, professional photographer Hanmi Meyer, took all these photos. Thanks Hanmi!

I, A Tax Non-Begrudger

If you’re stressing over your taxes being due today, I empathize. I have SO been there (though not any more. Here are my tips on breaking free of credit card and consumer debt.) Now I am a tax non-begrudger. I willingly pay taxes because I want to live in the civilized kind of society they make possible.

I see roads and highways as the most valuable collaboration of all us U.S. taxpayers. They are also the biggest chink in the armor of the Ayn-Rand-libertarian-tax-begrudging folks. Try living a life without roads. We couldn’t get to work, school or grocery stores without the roads our taxes are buying. They cost trillions of dollars. Libraries and fire and police services are other cool value-adds that taxes buy, and that make me a tax non-begrudger.

HOWEVER. I do object to bad stewardship of taxes. The biggest offender is the Iraq war, costing us over 341 million per day. My strongest objection here is to the obscene loss of life. More insidious is the unprecedented national debt it is incurring, which my attorney friend Jack actually terms treasonous on the part of the Bush administration because it sabotages our nation’s future. I’d have to agree with his assessment.

That said, I still am a tax non-begrudger because taxes allow civilized society to sustain itself, allow things for the greater good to be financed. I reject the terms ‘tax burden’ and ‘tax relief’ because they pander to the irresponsible child in each of us. If you imagine you don’t need any greater-good things like roads, or fire and police services and a national legal system, please tell me your plan for staying alive. Taxes are just another cost of living that adults pay, like rent and utilities.

It’s easy to think we’d be happier if we got to spend all our money on luxuries instead of taxes. Read The Peak of Happiness to learn why that’s not true. Happy April 15th to you, and please post a comment if you like (right under the title of this post). Tomorrow I’ll report on my first meeting that I’m having tonight with my CRAG group (in which my household will pay self-imposed fines, like taxes, for using carbon over a certain amount.)

Photo courtesy of blmurch.

Spitzer, Sex and Sustainability

A weblink I’ll assume you DON’T need this morning is one taking you to more stories about New York’s now former Governor Spitzer resigning due to the discovery of his use of prostitutes.

What I imagine some of us could use instead is a broader perspective. These scandals are such a bummer, laying waste to public trust and creating more cynicism about all things governmental. We need a way out of these scandals. We need elected officials who can sustain themselves, and not crash and burn like Mr. Spitzer.

How about the idea of us electing our officials more carefully in the first place? While people’s sex lives will never be transparent to us (nor should they be), how they handle power and privilege is something we definitely can observe. Observe as in actions, not listen to as in speeches.

Do they show discipline and self-control in their behavior? Or do they act as if more is always better? Do they admit being wrong, even in small things, or always place blame outside themselves? Where do we see conscience operating in their lives? Most crucial in my view: Do their actions work more for the greater good or for their personal gain? It seems to me that ambition and aggression end up being the de facto requirements for elected office — when some humility and a strong record of (un-self-serving) public service might be some better criteria. Mr. Spitzer had plenty of ambition and aggression, but less humility and self-control.

For our own parts, i.e. the public, we need to stop looking to other people’s sex lives to supply our headlines and our entertainment. Back when I was an alcohol and drug counselor, we called this kind of obsession ‘defocusing’. Who goes to prostitutes is, pardon me, bullshit, compared to who is doing what to reduce the emissions that drive global warming.

Hillary and the Concept of Legal And Rare

I’m glad that Hillary Clinton is back in the presidential race. While I wish she would mount a a truly appropriate response to global warming, I respect the way she has reached across party lines in the past as a senator to help make abortion both legal and rare. (Repeated research has shown that is what most Americans would like abortion to be.)

Let’s run today with that concept of ‘both legal and rare’. It’s valuable and I like it. It encapsulates that there are lots of things in life that we want to have the freedom to do, but that are usually better left undone because they have a negative impact on society.

Here is a short list of things I’d like to see become legal yet truly rare within the next decade so that consumption starts aligning with the earth’s actual production of resources:

  • using disposable coffee cups instead of mugs
  • using fossil fuels for nonessential travel
  • eating meat from feedlot-raised animals
  • raising corn to feed engines instead of humans
  • using blowers instead of human energy to clear away leaves

What would you like to see become rare though legal? Coming up tomorrow: an on-the-ground post from rural Oregon as I travel out the Columbia Gorge.

Dining Out For Darfur Tonight

Want to go on a date? Those words still hold a primal thrill for me, even in my forties. I’m going on one tonight with my husband. We’re going to choose a restaurant from here so that 25% of our bill will be donated to groups working to aid victims in Darfur.

Now I’ll back up. I feel like a jerk for juxtaposing my frivolous pleasure with the Janjaweed’s campaign of systematically raping and murdering the population of Darfur. Those two things don’t even belong in the same paragraph. But then, we’re living in a pretty crazy world. I keep working to find the best path through it that I can.

And given that my household and most U.S. households eat out often, it’s literally the least we can do to choose a restaurant that’s willing to donate 25% of its gross for an evening to alleviate some suffering. The participating restaurants are the ones who are doing a little sacrificial giving here, especially given how small their profit margins often are. I really appreciate their involvement.

As for my own involvement with Darfur, I’ve written letters in the past to Congress and the White House with strongly worded requests to help stop the genocide. But in the last few years, as the atrocities have continued despite worldwide awareness (due largely to Nicholas Kristof’s excellent journalism), I have retreated into sadness and discouragement. If you have stayed hopeful and engaged, please tell me about that.

When I enter and leave Stumptown Coffee each morning where I do my writing, other customers and I typically hold the door for each other. It’s not a virtuous choice, just the most basic act of decency. I see dining out for Darfur to be also a basic act of decency.

Thanks to my friend Colleen Kaleda for bringing tonight to my attention.

Nader In The Race: Firebrand Or Fussbudget?

So Ralph Nader has thrown his hat in the ring, i.e. the presidential race. My question is whether that hat can ignite a fire under the feet of the other candidates to seriously consider a national carbon tax.

While Nader supports a carbon tax, the viable candidates do not. Rather, they have irresponsibly not taken global warming seriously. If there’s a more effective method than a carbon tax to reduce carbon emissions quickly enough to slow climate change, I haven’t yet seen it. A tax on carbon would slow our fossil fuel consumption and force us to innovate in the more sustainable directions of lowered consumption and renewable energy.

British Columbia enacted a carbon tax earlier this month, and the European Union started its carbon trading program in 2005. With all the brilliant minds, Nobel prize winners and history of innovation in our country, why are we laggards instead of leaders in dealing with climate change? John Edwards came the closest to a stand of integrity in this arena, and I regretted his exit from the ring.

Can Ralph Nader help us here? Two accounts, one for each side of his duality:

My friend Joe had dinner with him in Seattle in the 90’s. Joe said Nader kept dickering with the server over whether the fish was fresh or frozen, more rolls free of charge or not, and on and on, being a fussbudget. In contrast, I heard Nader speak in 2002 at Lewis and Clark college here in Portland, Oregon. But his haranguing style in this context was that of a big-picture warrior, attacking abuses, protecting the vulnerable, confronting powerful corporations.

There is no bigger-picture problem than global warming, no greater abuse than not curbing it, no way in which the poor are more vulnerable or corporations more needy of confrontation. If Ralph Nader can be an on-topic firebrand instead of an off-topic fussbudget, i.e. make a national carbon tax a hot topic, then I welcome his hat in the ring.


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