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Archive for April, 2009

Busting a CAP?

280px-instrumental_temperature_recordTonight I’ll be attending a meeting of the Berkeley City Council, which is scheduled to discuss the latest revision of Berkeley’s Climate Action Plan (CAP).  Apparently there will be a lot of opposition voiced against the plan, as it will require Berkeley homeowners to bring their houses into conformity with rules designed to maximize heat efficiency (and thus minimize carbon emissions).  Also, some folks opposed the somewhat greater level of “density” proposed by the plan.  (The argument for greater density — besides that the word “density” reminds many of us of that great line in Back to the Future when Crispin Glover’s character tremulously says to his future wife, “I am your density!” (rather than “destiny,” as he was supposed to say) — is that you need a decent number of people to live around one particular area, or “corridor,” for public transportation to be most useful.)

My own opinion is that we need to change our habits big-time to save our planet, and that the CAP is a thoughtful and brave response to that challenge.  As a member of the Berkeley Energy Commission, I’ve seen how passionate the city staff has been about seeking (and incorporating) citizens’ input.  And after all, the citizens have tacitly demanded such action to be taken, by voting overwhelmingly (81 percent — a higher number even than Bush’s peak disapproval numbers) in support of 2006′s Measure G, which called for the city to reduce the city’s greenhouse gas emissions by 80 percent by 2050.  As I have learned, that goal will be very, very difficult to meet — and yet, we must get there, because we must do everything we can to reverse global warming.

You could argue that it doesn’t really matter what one granola-munching, sandal-wearing community does — that the whole thing is merely a symbolic exercise.  In fact, you could argue that tonight at the Berkeley City Council meeting, at 2134 Martin Luther King Jr. Way — probably no earlier than 8:30, as there are other topics likely to take up the Council’s attention till then.  Or could you say that you support this Climate Action Plan, and dearly wish it to be implemented — which, as you know, happens to be my position.  But isn’t it great that we get to participate in the fight to save our planet, rather than just make snide jokes about politicians and hot air and carbon emissions?

Coffee Party?

Patriot Mug

Patriot Mug

Given my self-documented misadventures in the bowels of the U.S. tax system, it should come as little surprise that I am late in filing even this little blog item about tax stuff. In fact, I’d count it as a victory that I’m posting it so soon after Tax Day.

Back on the 15th, people had those “tea parties” — and yes, they seemed quite silly, and the “protests” looked suspiciously like pre-fab events born in the boardrooms of right-wing think tanks and Fox News (which I guess could count as a right-wing no-think tank). And yes, I was predictably infuriated by this latest salvo from the toxically successful anti-tax movement that — ever since its angry birth in 1978, with the sweeping victory of California’s Proposition 13 — has helped decimate all the public institutions I love (schools, libraries, public transportation, etc.: all those cool public things that Ben Franklin introduced to us). And yes, I heartily agree with every point made so pithily by Robert Reich in the latest entry of his wonderful blog, titled “A Short Citizen’s Guide to Kooks, Demagogues, and Right-Wingers on Tax Day.”

And yet. … And yet I have to admit there’s an element of that resentment — that fury — that, albeit incited by Fox and friends’ faux populism, rings true to me.  In this sense: As passionately as I support Obama’s presidency (I’m writing this on a day when, for example, his administration has recently declared carbon emissions to be harmful and publicly released the previous administration’s unforgivable “torture memos”), a significant part of me also worries about the continuing aggregation of centralized power in the Beltway and (some) corporate suites.  It’s one of the ironies of liberal democracy, I suppose: as someone (who was that?) once said, it’s the worst possible form of government — except for all the other ones.

So of course, it’s silly — and worse — for people to talk of secession because the majority of Americans happened to disagree with them this time.  But in many important ways, “the people” don’t have the power.  After years of living underwater, we’re happy just to be near the shore — with a semblance of the basic functions of government being reasserted.  But many, many people are still drowning — poor, marginalized, sick — and it is not unreasonable for them to be agitated.

Still, those shindigs two days ago weren’t real “tea parties” — not in the revolutionary sense, anyhow — since their ire wasn’t directed at the true source of their monetary and political impoverishment: the actual “elites” (the folks who actually have almost all of the money and power) rather than the fake ones that Rush and co. had conjured for them.  So … how’s about this:  a “coffee party”!  (I sense that “klatch” might come off as too foreign).  There’s already a “fair trade” movement to latch on to, focusing on paying a just amount for people’s labor.  Follow the beans, my friends, and you will follow the money.  Plus, if you cover yourselves with coffee grinds, rather than tea bags, I’m pretty sure your protests will have even more of an edge to them.  And no one from the the 18th century will be tempted to claim trademark infringement.  It’s a win-win, especially if you leave room for cream.