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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on October 24th, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

A while ago I received the following e-mail:

New World Disorder
with Kofi Annan

Please join the Foreign Policy Association for an evening with H.E. Kofi Annan, former Secretary-General of the United Nations and Founder and Chair of the Kofi Annan Foundation, who will discuss “New World Disorder: Challenges for the UN in the 21st Century.”

Mr. Annan will be speaking as part of the Andrew Carnegie Distinguished Lecture on Conflict Prevention in Honor of David Hamburg.

When
Thursday
October 23, 2014
From 6:00pm to 8:00pm
Where
PwC
300 Madison Avenue
New York City

I answered with an e-mail to the FPA addressed to Mr. McDara King, but as the place seems to be run by inexperienced interns that do not acknowledge mail and as it turned out did not list me either I got no notice about what turned out to have been a need to change the venue because so many people showed interest in the event. The event was moved to the old building of the Bernard Baruch College and nobody bothered telling this to the 6 guards at PwC.

I report this in order to say that I missed half of UNSG Kofi Annan’s presentation – but do not want to waste time in my posting about the event because I picked up there his very recently released volume:

“WE THE PEOPLES: A UN for the 21st Century.” by KOFI ANNAN

which is a collection of material including some of his original speeches or articles and some of others he obviously considers very pertinent.

I post this as I highly recommend this volume to anyone interested in how the UN works – or does not.

I am sure I will peruse the book going to original articles that point at things happening these days that were predicted and were avoidable – but this organization of Governments, not being turned in time to be an organization of Peoples as the Charter suggested, is like a huge ship running into icebergs and hard to steer.

Kofi Annan was the seventh Secretary-General of the UN and served two terms – January 1, 1997 – December 31, 2006.

In 2001 Kofi Annan and the United Nations under his leadership were awarded the Nobel Prize for Peace with the citation praising Annan’s leadership for “bringing new life to the organization.” Yes, looking at his record and his assembled material in the book it becomes obvious that even if much of what he tried he could not achieve, nevertheless, it is clear that it was not all a waste, and indeed he started to enlarge the scope of the UN by opening the door to Civil Society and by creating the Global Compact.

In the second half of his presentation above that I did hear – two innovation he promoted became clear points he prides himself with – but as he said – it is actually the R2P – THE RESPONSIBILITY TO PROTECT – that he was able to introduce to the UN – that becomes his personal achievement pride most important life achievement – that was tested in Kenya in 2008.

We believe that since the acceptance of the UN Charter in 1945, it was only the Addition of the Declaration of Human Rights, and Kofi Annan’s R2P that add up to the UN reality.

Looking at my notes from last night – I quote him “When the whole World has Changed You Can Not Have Static Institutions.”
This in regard to the need to give recognition to the importance of Latin America (Brazil), India, Africa (South Africa or Nigeria – and if they cannot agree – the unpretentious Gambia). They ought to get seats at the Security Council, The World Bank and The IMF.

He said that Iraq and Afghanistan have shown that you cannot have military solutions anymore.

President Eisenhower already told us not to lose sight of the UN as a means to achieve peace.

Dealing with Climate Change is absolutely essential for the future of mankind. Who could have predicted this i San Francisco in 1995, he said? No society can survive either without Sustainable Development and Human Rights. On the economy he said this is a story of subsidies – like in the case of gas (he meant gasoline and I assume diesel just the same) – these are subsidies for the middle class and the rich. This is not good for the environment, he said.

To a question about borders he answered by mentioning Syria and Somalia.

In the book, under the title NOT JUST A REGIONAL CONFLICT, I discovered that Kofi Annan’s last Address to the Security Council was about the Middle East and the Arab World and it looks like it was then a prediction of things to come.

=======================================

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on October 24th, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

The New York Times, Politics Column

Rick S. Piltz, Firebrand on Climate, Dies at 71

By DOUGLAS MARTIN October 23, 2014

Rick S. Piltz, a climate policy analyst who resigned from the administration of George W. Bush in 2005, accusing it of distorting scientific findings for political reasons and then releasing internal White House documents to support his contention, died on Saturday in Washington. He was 71.

The cause was metastasized liver cancer, his wife, Karen Metchis, said.

When he resigned, Mr. Piltz was a senior associate in a White House group that coordinated climate research among a dozen agencies. He quit, he told PBS in 2006, because he thought he could no longer be “complicit” in what he viewed as “a conspiracy of silence.” He said his bosses had watered down language in scientific reports to play down warnings of global warming.

The essential issue in the climate change debate is whether human activities — particularly emissions of so-called greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide produced by burning fossil fuels — will raise temperatures over the next century. Many in the Bush administration questioned whether existing scientific evidence justified spending billions of dollars to cut emissions.

Proponents of curbing global warming say there is already a scientific consensus that the problem is real and accelerating. In June 2005, Mr. Piltz sent The New York Times a fat FedEx package of documents that had been edited by Philip A. Cooney, a lawyer who was chief of staff of the Council on Environmental Quality, the White House office that oversees federal environmental initiatives. Some of the dozens of editing changes in the documents were as subtle as the insertion of the phrase “significant and fundamental” before the word “uncertainties.”


In an October 2002 draft report of a summary of government climate research, titled “Our Changing Planet,” Mr. Cooney amplified the sense of uncertainty by adding the word “extremely” to this sentence: “The attribution of the cause of biological and ecological changes to climate change or variability is extremely difficult.”

Mr. Cooney crossed out a paragraph describing to what extent mountain glaciers and snowpack were projected to shrink. His note in the margins said the report was “straying from research strategy into speculative findings/musings.”

The week that he sent the documents to The Times, Mr. Piltz, in a scathing memo circulated among government climate-change experts, declared, “Politicization by the White House has fed back directly into the science program in such a way as to undermine the credibility and integrity of the program.”

Before coming to the environmental council, Mr. Cooney had been a lobbyist for the American Petroleum Institute, the oil industry’s main trade organization, which opposes taking what it considers precipitous action on global warming. Mr. Cooney was “climate team leader.” Less than a week after the Times article, he resigned to take a job in public affairs with Exxon Mobil in Dallas.

White House press officers voiced full support for Mr. Cooney but declined to make him available for comment.

In testimony to a House committee in 2007, Mr. Cooney, a bearish, softly spoken man, said he had been trying to “advance the administration’s stated goals and policies” in making the edits, which he said were approved by James R. Mahoney, director of the Climate Change Science Program, for which Mr. Piltz worked. He said that Mr. Piltz had not complained to him personally before going public.

Writing in National Review in 2007, Mario Lewis, a senior fellow at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, a research organization that is skeptical of global warming, pointed out that Mr. Piltz, like Mr. Cooney, was not a scientist. Mr. Lewis argued that Mr. Cooney “did not alter a single data point or bottom-line scientific finding or conclusion,” making only slight changes in inflection. He suggested that Mr. Piltz seemed most disappointed that the Bush administration had disregarded a sweeping Clinton administration assessment of global warming on which Mr. Piltz had worked.

After resigning, Mr. Piltz spent the next nine months without income or benefits. He cashed in his retirement money and took out a loan on his home to start an advocacy group called Climate Science Watch. He blogged, did many interviews with the news media and testified before Congress several times.

In 2006, two liberal groups, the Fertel Foundation and the Nation Institute, which is affiliated with The Nation magazine, awarded Mr. Piltz their Ridenhour Prize for Truth-Telling. “Piltz was the first insider to expose how politics worked to undermine the integrity of the federal science program,” the citation said.

Frederick Steven Piltz was born on July 29, 1943, in Detroit, and earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in political science from the University of Michigan. He then moved to Austin, where he taught at the University of Texas, worked as a legislative researcher and joined the state department of agriculture when Jim Hightower, a liberal activist, was commissioner.

In Washington, Mr. Piltz worked for the Center for Clean Air Policy, a think tank; Renew America, an environmental organization; and the House Science Committee under the chairmanship of George Brown Jr., Democrat of California.

When the Republicans took over the House in 1994, Mr. Piltz moved to the Global Change Research Program in the Clinton administration. Its name was changed to the Climate Change Science Program in the Bush administration. Under President Obama, it went back to the original name.

Mr. Piltz lived in Bethesda, Md. Ms. Metchis, his wife, said he died at a hospice in Washington.

In addition to his wife, his survivors include a daughter, Shayne Piltz. A brother, James, died in 1975. A previous marriage, to Charlotte Crafton, ended in divorce.

Mr. Piltz’s allies say he coined the term “climate denier” to describe those who disparage evidence of planetary warming. Whether he did or not, there is little doubt that in his testimony, blogs and interviews, he helped popularize it.

————————–

A version of this article appears in print on October 24, 2014, on page A25 of the New York edition with the headline: Rick S. Piltz, Firebrand on Climate, Dies at 71.

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on October 24th, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

The info in our title, as based on reporting of the NYT on line, is tempered by our info as provided by the Austrian OERF:
orf.at/stories/2250813/2250848/ that informs us that there was no general enthusiasm with this compromise agreement that called for bringing down energy savings only by 27% – as compared to 1990 – from the anticipated 30%. Those that are in the 60% range as compared to the 50% average in the emitters’ list – will be helped free from a stash of 400,000 of certificates that result from an emissions trading system. The Austrians remark that this will help Poland that might continue to pollute..

Also before the Copenhagen COP 15 the EU had prepared a program of its membership but then found out that they were not able to get an agreement of the other major emitters. Thus the renewed effort must now watch how China, the US, India, Brazil, Japan, Australia will react.

———————————————————–

European Leaders Agree on Targets to Fight Climate Change.

By JAMES KANTEROCT. 23, 2014

BRUSSELS — The 28 leaders of the European Union agreed early on Friday on targets for protecting the climate and generating greener power despite deep divisions among their nations over how to produce energy.

The main target that won approval was a pledge to slash emissions by at least 40 percent, compared with 1990 levels, by 2030.

The new target “will ensure that Europe will be an important player, will be an important party, in future binding commitments of an international climate agreement,” Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, said at an early-morning news conference.

The accord makes the European Union the first major global emitter to put its position on the table ahead of an important United Nations climate meeting in Paris at the end of 2015.

“Deal!” Herman Van Rompuy, the president of the European Council, the body that represents European Union leaders, wrote on his Twitter account. “World’s most ambitious, cost-effective” climate policy agreed on, he wrote.

Related Coverage

For E.U. Climate Meeting, Deep Divisions and High Stakes OCT. 21, 2014
Goats grazing near wind turbines in Fantanele and Cogealac villages, Romania.
Europe, Facing Economic Pain, May Ease Climate Rules JAN. 22, 2014

Hopes are rising in Europe — as they were five years ago ahead of a failed United Nations climate conference in Copenhagen — for a global agreement next year in Paris that would oblige other parts of the world, like China and the United States, to do more to share the burden limiting the warming of the planet to under two degrees Celsius.


While most European Union states agree on lessening their energy dependence on countries outside the bloc, like Russia, cooperation is extremely hard because of sharply conflicting energy choices in Europe.

The pledge to cut emissions by 40 percent would eventually come with legally binding targets for each of the bloc’s member countries to share the burden equitably.

The bloc also agreed on a target of generating at least 27 percent of its energy from renewable sources, a goal that will be binding at the European Union level but not the national level. A separate target for improving energy efficiency by at least 27 percent was “indicative” only, meaning it would not be binding even at the bloc level. Both of those targets raised questions about their enforceability.

Curbing the emissions that contribute to a changing climate has long been a popular cause in Europe. Policy makers here frequently highlight how their industries and citizens emit lower levels of greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide than those of the United States and other industrialized countries. But there is not the same enthusiasm in Europe to embrace the green agenda as there was five years ago, before the climate conference in Copenhagen that ended in failure.

The protracted downturn in Europe set off by the sovereign debt crisis has crimped funding for green projects. Also, the takeoff of technologies to tap cheap shale gas — despite the highly uncertain future of that industry in Europe, where the technology is unpopular — has dented prospects for some renewable alternatives. { THIS LINE IS NOT CLEAR – THE WRITER OUGHT TO KNOW THAT FOSSIL GAS AND OIL RESULTING FROM FRAKING ARE NOT RENEWABLES – THOUGH THEY ARE AN ALTERNATIVE TO IMPORTED OIL AND GAS }

Another factor adding to the complexity of developing strategies to cut emissions in Europe is the disaster at Fukushima, Japan, where an earthquake and a tsunami in 2011 led to meltdowns at a nuclear plant. Germany has since stepped up its phaseout of nuclear technology even though it emits almost zero planet-warming gases.

Also hanging over the summit meeting was the standoff between the Europeans and Russia over its annexation of Crimea and destabilization of Ukraine.

For Poland, reliance on highly polluting coal is seen as a defense against the need to switch to natural gas, a resource that the government in Moscow has already used as a political weapon by cutting supplies, and a source of employment for the mining industry. But Poland’s stance put it at odds with countries like Sweden and Germany that were seeking far-reaching targets on energy efficiency and renewable sources.

“We could have envisaged getting more, but we, in the spirit of compromise, decided to agree on a 27 percent target,” Ms. Merkel told the news conference, referring to the target for renewable sources.

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on October 24th, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)


We ask above question in light of the Romanian Mission to the UN sponsored ASUA promoted UN event which we covered at large in our posting:

A laudable ECO-DRIVE training for petroleum fuel-saving of conventional motor-vehicles was presented at the UN in New York by the Japanese ASUA Inc., at a time the world is watching attempts at innovation that replace both – the conventional engines and the fuel. Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on October 20th, 2014  www.sustainabilitank.info/#34692

If this is the case, how will it impact the price of carbon in the EU and will emission savings outside the EU be allowed as carbon credits into this market or will it all be an internai EU market? These are points that we expect to be followed with interest by by the world-wide auto-motive industry.

We expect the EcoDrive caravan to make Brussels as their next target.

—————–

EU set to allow car emissions into carbon trading market

Date: 24-Oct-14
Country: BELGIUM
Author: Barbara Lewis
The European Union is set to make it easier to bring road transport emissions into the carbon trading market, a move that critics say could empower carmakers to push back against more effective curbs on greenhouse gases.

As posted by PlanetArk // Reuters from Brussels, EU leaders will attempt to agree on energy policy for 2030 when they meet in Brussels on Thursday and Friday, including an EU-wide cut in greenhouse gas emissions of 40 percent compared with 1990 levels.

The EU’s Emissions Trading System (ETS), key to efforts to reduce emissions, has so far excluded road transport. It has focused on curbing pollution from heavy industry and the power sector by forcing more than 12,000 power plants, factories and airlines to surrender an allowance for every tonne of CO2 emitted under a gradually decreasing emission cap.

But a draft of the EU’s 2030 climate and energy package, seen by Reuters, says individual member states can include road transport in the EU ETS if they choose.

It also calls on the executive European Commission to “further develop instruments and measures for a comprehensive and technology neutral approach for the promotion of emissions reduction and energy efficiency in transport”.

The phrase “technology neutral” is often used by business to champion using the EU ETS to tackle emissions, rather than sector-specific targets.

Transport is Europe’s second-largest source of greenhouse gas emissions after the power sector, and is also the fastest-growing one.

Bringing cars into the ETS could reduce the costs the car industry faces in meeting existing regulation as well as tackling the oversupply on the carbon market which has pushed prices of carbon allowances down to around 6 euros ($7.64) per tonne from more than 30 euros six years ago.

But the impact on emissions would be negligible, analysts say. A study published this week by consultancy Cambridge Econometrics estimated that bringing road transport into the ETS would curb emissions by 1 percent by 2030 at current ETS prices.

It also found that to achieve a vehicle emissions goal of 60 grams of carbon dioxide per kilometer (g/km) by 2030 — the logical extension of existing car emissions targets — carbon prices would need to rise to over 200 euros per tonne, imposing huge costs on heavy industry.

Climate campaigners say heavy lobbying from business has already ensured a proposed emissions cut of 40 percent will not include a sub-target for transport, whereas the current set of 2020 targets includes a 6 percent cut in road fuel emissions compared with 1990.

Existing EU law also includes emissions standards to limit carbon dioxide pollution from cars, which extend to 2021 and have attracted stiff resistance, especially from the German luxury car sector, led by brands such as BMW and Daimler.

Several EU officials said there was no unanimity on bringing road transport into the ETS, so member states were likely to agree on asking the European Commission to look at ways to expand the carbon trading scheme.

But green campaigners say even the mention of flexibility in achieving targets could give carmakers more stick to persuade lawmakers to drop efforts for any further car specific standards, which they say have had a major impact on reducing vehicle fuel use and cutting pollution.

“The draft text makes the theoretical possibility of transport in the ETS move closer to reality,” said Greg Archer of environmental group T&E. “It is a dangerous precedent that will undermine reductions in transport emissions while damaging EU growth and jobs.”

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on October 23rd, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

Mobilization and the March #IMarch10D

This December 10th, International Human Rights Day, the city of Lima will see a huge Global People’s March in defense of Mother Earth “Let’s change the system, not the climate”.
Do not hesitate in joining the preparatory action of November 10th and the big event on December 10th from your own community and follow the mobilizations on our live social hub

Seven Central Themes of The People’s Summit in Lima, Peru – the real COP20 of the UNFCCC:

A seventh theme “Women and the Sustainability of Life” has been incorporated into the Summit.

The official e-mail is  cumbredelospuebloscop20 at gmail.com.
Depending on the specific communication or requirement of information, you can send an email to:
General information, Logistics, Communications, International topics.

¡Cambiemos el sistema,
No el clima!

To remind you of all of the themes are:

1. Civilization Change and Development Models;
2. Global Warming and Climate Change;
3. Energy;
4. Food Sovereignty and Security;
5. Sustainable Land Management;
6. Finance, Technology Transfer, and Knowledge Exchange;
7. Women and the Sustainability of Life.

10th of November: preparing a preliminary day of global action – Let’s change the System, not the Climate!

This November 10th, with only 30 days until the “Global People’s March in defense of Mother Earth”, we are using the hashtag #YoMarcho10D #IMarch10D as a call to action on the road to the People’s Summit. We invite everyone who wants to take action to take a photo with phrases like “#YoMarcho10D #IMarch10D to change the system not the climate,” or otherwise allude to the process of struggle that is coming.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on October 23rd, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

Education for green growth – new issue of “Green Growth the Nordic Way”.

from Michael Funch
october 23, 2014


Education for green growth – new issue of “Green Growth the Nordic Way”.

In the latest issue of “Green Growth the Nordic Way” you can read about a number of projects the Nordic Council of Ministers has initiated or supported to secure a stronger focus on climate and sustainability issues in the school systems of the Nordic countries.

Read more at www.nordicway.org

===============================================

Feature articles:

1. “The Great Nordic Climate Challenge” aims at raising the awareness of secondary school pupils around climate issues in a fun and playful way, while giving them instruments to actually monitor and change their own activities in a more a climate friendly manner.

2. Adult education and university teaching is the focus of two other projects, one a follow up to the Rio+20 UN conference on sustainable development, the other part of the Nordic Prime Ministers’ green growth initiative that provides the mainstay of this magazine.

3. Finally, the Biophilia educational project aims to incorporate the teaching materials based on the singer Björks eponymous work into the teaching of children in Nordic schools to stimulate their curiosity and interest in the natural sciences.

Taken as one, these projects fall well in line with a Nordic tradition for encouraging an open and playful education system, with room for independent thinking and proactive initiatives.

Read the new edition of Green Growth the Nordic Way: www.nordicway.org

Follow us on facebook or find more background information at www.norden.org or www.norden.org

Venlig hilsen/Kind regards

Michael Funch
Seniorrådgiver/Kommunikation
Senior Adviser/Communication

Direct +45 21 71 71 43
 mifu at norden.org

Nordisk Ministerråd
Nordic Council of Ministers

Ved Stranden 18
DK-1061 København K
Tel +45 33 96 02 00
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Posted in Archives, Iceland, Norway, Scandinavia

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on October 23rd, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

From George Soros, October 23,2014

In an essay published in the New York Review of Books entitled Wake Up, Europe George Soros says that European leaders are failing to show adequate financial and military support for Ukraine. The situation there, he argues, presents Europe with what amounts to an existential threat from Russia. “Neither the European leaders nor their citizens are fully aware of this challenge or know how best to deal with it.” he says. Soros goes on to propose a set of actions that Europe and US could take to assist Ukraine and, ultimately, further their own interests.

All best,

Michael Vachon

*****

Wake up, Europe

New York Review of Books

By George Soros

Europe is facing a challenge from Russia to its very existence. Neither the European leaders nor their citizens are fully aware of this challenge or know how best to deal with it. I attribute this mainly to the fact that the European Union in general and the eurozone in particular lost their way after the financial crisis of 2008.

The fiscal rules that currently prevail in Europe have aroused a lot of popular resentment. Anti-Europe parties captured nearly 30 percent of the seats in the latest elections for the European Parliament but they had no realistic alternative to the EU to point to until recently. Now Russia is presenting an alternative that poses a fundamental challenge to the values and principles on which the European Union was originally founded. It is based on the use of force that manifests itself in repression at home and aggression abroad, as opposed to the rule of law. What is shocking is that Vladimir Putin’s Russia has proved to be in some ways superior to the European Union—more flexible and constantly springing surprises. That has given it a tactical advantage, at least in the near term.

Europe and the United States—each for its own reasons—are determined to avoid any direct military confrontation with Russia. Russia is taking advantage of their reluctance. Violating its treaty obligations, Russia has annexed Crimea and established separatist enclaves in eastern Ukraine. In August when the recently installed government in Kiev threatened to win the low level war in eastern Ukraine against separatist forces backed by Russia, President Putin invaded Ukraine with regular armed forces in violation of the Russian law that exempts conscripts from foreign service without their consent.

In seventy-two hours these forces destroyed several hundred of Ukraine’s armored vehicles, a substantial portion of its fighting force. According to General Wesley Clark, former NATO Supreme Allied Commander for Europe, the Russians used multiple launch rocket systems armed with cluster munitions and thermal-baric warheads (an even more inhumane weapon that ought to be outlawed) with devastating effect. * The local militia from the Ukrainian city of Dnepropetrovsk suffered the brunt of the losses because they were communicating by cell phones and could thus easily be located and targeted by the Russians. President Putin has, so far, abided by a cease-fire agreement he concluded with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko on September 5, but Putin retains the choice to continue the cease-fire as long as he finds it advantageous or to resume a full-scale assault.

In September, President Poroshenko visited Washington where he received an enthusiastic welcome from a joint session of Congress. He asked for “both lethal and nonlethal” defensive weapons in his speech. However, President Obama refused his request for Javelin hand-held missiles that could be used against advancing tanks. Poroshenko was given radar, but what use is it without missiles? European countries are equally reluctant to provide military assistance to Ukraine, fearing Russian retaliation. The Washington visit gave President Poroshenko a façade of support with little substance behind it.

Equally disturbing has been the determination of official international leaders to withhold new financial commitments to Ukraine until after the October 26 election there (which will take place just after this issue goes to press). This has led to an avoidable pressure on Ukrainian currency reserves and raised the specter of a full-blown financial crisis in the country.

There is now pressure from donors, whether in Europe or the US, to “bail in” the bondholders of Ukrainian sovereign debt, i.e., for bondholders to take losses on their investments as a pre-condition for further official assistance to Ukraine that would put more taxpayers’ money at risk. That would be an egregious error. The Ukrainian government strenuously opposes the proposal because it would put Ukraine into a technical default that would make it practically impossible for the private sector to refinance its debt. Bailing in private creditors would save very little money and it would make Ukraine entirely dependent on the official donors.

To complicate matters, Russia is simultaneously dangling carrots and wielding sticks. It is offering—but failing to sign—a deal for gas supplies that would take care of Ukraine’s needs for the winter. At the same time Russia is trying to prevent the delivery of gas that Ukraine secured from the European market through Slovakia. Similarly, Russia is negotiating for the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe to monitor the borders while continuing to attack Donetsk airport and the port city of Mariupol.

It is easy to foresee what lies ahead. Putin will await the results of the elections on October 26 and then offer Poroshenko the gas and other benefits he has been dangling on condition that he appoint a prime minister acceptable to Putin. That would exclude anybody associated with the victory of the forces that brought down the Viktor Yanukovych government by resisting it for months on the Maidan—Independence Square. I consider it highly unlikely that Poroshenko would accept such an offer. If he did, he would be disowned by the defenders of the Maidan; the resistance forces would then be revived.

Putin may then revert to the smaller victory that would still be within his reach: he could open by force a land route from Russia to Crimea and Transnistria before winter. Alternatively, he would simply sit back and await the economic and financial collapse of Ukraine. I suspect that he may be holding out the prospect of a grand bargain in which Russia would help the United States against ISIS—for instance by not supplying to Syria the S300 missiles it has promised, thus in effect preserving US air domination—and Russia would be allowed to have its way in the “near abroad,” as many of the nations adjoining Russia are called. What is worse, President Obama may accept such a deal.

That would be a tragic mistake, with far-reaching geopolitical consequences. Without underestimating the threat from ISIS, I would argue that preserving the independence of Ukraine should take precedence; without it, even the alliance against ISIS would fall apart. The collapse of Ukraine would be a tremendous loss for NATO, the European Union, and the United States. A victorious Russia would become much more influential within the EU and pose a potent threat to the Baltic states with their large ethnic Russian populations. Instead of supporting Ukraine, NATO would have to defend itself on its own soil. This would expose both the EU and the US to the danger they have been so eager to avoid: a direct military confrontation with Russia. The European Union would become even more divided and ungovernable. Why should the US and other NATO nations allow this to happen?

The argument that has prevailed in both Europe and the United States is that Putin is no Hitler; by giving him everything he can reasonably ask for, he can be prevented from resorting to further use of force. In the meantime, the sanctions against Russia—which include, for example, restrictions on business transactions, finance, and trade—will have their effect and in the long run Russia will have to retreat in order to earn some relief from them.

These are false hopes derived from a false argument with no factual evidence to support it. Putin has repeatedly resorted to force and he is liable to do so again unless he faces strong resistance. Even if it is possible that the hypothesis could turn out to be valid, it is extremely irresponsible not to prepare a Plan B.

There are two counterarguments that are less obvious but even more important. First, Western authorities have ignored the importance of what I call the “new Ukraine” that was born in the successful resistance on the Maidan. Many officials with a history of dealing with Ukraine have difficulty adjusting to the revolutionary change that has taken place there. The recently signed Association Agreement between the EU and Ukraine was originally negotiated with the Yanukovych government. This detailed road map now needs adjustment to a totally different situation. For instance, the road map calls for the gradual replacement and retraining of the judiciary over five years whereas the public is clamoring for immediate and radical renewal. As the new mayor of Kiev, Wladimir Klitschko, put it, “if you put fresh cucumbers into a barrel of pickles, they will soon turn into pickles.”

Contrary to some widely circulated accounts, the resistance on the Maidan was led by the cream of civil society: young people, many of whom had studied abroad and refused to join either government or business on their return because they found both of them repugnant. (Nationalists and anti-Semitic extremists made up only a minority of the anti-Yanukovych protesters.) They are the leaders of the new Ukraine and they are adamantly opposed to a return of the “old Ukraine,” with its endemic corruption and ineffective government.

The new Ukraine has to contend with Russian aggression, bureaucratic resistance both at home and abroad, and confusion in the general population. Surprisingly, it has the support of many oligarchs, President Poroshenko foremost among them, and the population at large. There are of course profound differences in history, language, and outlook between the eastern and western parts of the country, but Ukraine is more united and more European-minded than ever before. That unity, however, is extremely fragile.

The new Ukraine has remained largely unrecognized because it took time before it could make its influence felt. It had practically no security forces at its disposal when it was born. The security forces of the old Ukraine were actively engaged in suppressing the Maidan rebellion and they were disoriented this summer when they had to take orders from a government formed by the supporters of the rebellion. No wonder that the new government was at first unable to put up an effective resistance to the establishment of the separatist enclaves in eastern Ukraine. It is all the more remarkable that President Poroshenko was able, within a few months of his election, to mount an attack that threatened to reclaim those enclaves.

To appreciate the merits of the new Ukraine you need to have had some personal experience with it. I can speak from personal experience although I must also confess to a bias in its favor. I established a foundation in Ukraine in 1990 even before the country became independent. Its board and staff are composed entirely of Ukrainians and it has deep roots in civil society. I visited the country often, especially in the early years, but not between 2004 and early 2014, when I returned to witness the birth of the new Ukraine.

I was immediately impressed by the tremendous improvement in maturity and expertise during that time both in my foundation and in civil society at large. Currently, civic and political engagement is probably higher than anywhere else in Europe. People have proven their willingness to sacrifice their lives for their country. These are the hidden strengths of the new Ukraine that have been overlooked by the West.

The other deficiency of the current European attitude toward Ukraine is that it fails to recognize that the Russian attack on Ukraine is indirectly an attack on the European Union and its principles of governance. It ought to be evident that it is inappropriate for a country, or association of countries, at war to pursue a policy of fiscal austerity as the European Union continues to do. All available resources ought to be put to work in the war effort even if that involves running up budget deficits. The fragility of the new Ukraine makes the ambivalence of the West all the more perilous. Not only the survival of the new Ukraine but the future of NATO and the European Union itself is at risk. In the absence of unified resistance it is unrealistic to expect that Putin will stop pushing beyond Ukraine when the division of Europe and its domination by Russia is in sight.

Having identified some of the shortcomings of the current approach, I will try to spell out the course that Europe ought to follow. Sanctions against Russia are necessary but they are a necessary evil. They have a depressive effect not only on Russia but also on the European economies, including Germany. This aggravates the recessionary and deflationary forces that are already at work. By contrast, assisting Ukraine in defending itself against Russian aggression would have a stimulative effect not only on Ukraine but also on Europe. That is the principle that ought to guide European assistance to Ukraine.

Germany, as the main advocate of fiscal austerity, needs to understand the internal contradiction involved. Chancellor Angela Merkel has behaved as a true European with regard to the threat posed by Russia. She has been the foremost advocate of sanctions on Russia, and she has been more willing to defy German public opinion and business interests on this than on any other issue. Only after the Malaysian civilian airliner was shot down in July did German public opinion catch up with her. Yet on fiscal austerity she has recently reaffirmed her allegiance to the orthodoxy of the Bundesbank—probably in response to the electoral inroads made by the -Alternative for Germany, the anti-euro party. She does not seem to realize how inconsistent that is. She ought to be even more committed to helping Ukraine than to imposing sanctions on Russia.

The new Ukraine has the political will both to defend Europe against Russian aggression and to engage in radical structural reforms. To preserve and reinforce that will, Ukraine needs to receive adequate assistance from its supporters. Without it, the results will be disappointing and hope will turn into despair. Disenchantment already started to set in after Ukraine suffered a military defeat and did not receive the weapons it needs to defend itself.

It is high time for the members of the European Union to wake up and behave as countries indirectly at war. They are better off helping Ukraine to defend itself than having to fight for themselves. One way or another, the internal contradiction between being at war and remaining committed to fiscal austerity has to be eliminated. Where there is a will, there is a way.

Let me be specific. In its last progress report, issued in early September, the IMF estimated that in a worst-case scenario Ukraine would need additional support of $19 billion. Conditions have deteriorated further since then. After the Ukrainian elections the IMF will need to reassess its baseline forecast in consultation with the Ukrainian government. It should provide an immediate cash injection of at least $20 billion, with a promise of more when needed. Ukraine’s partners should provide additional financing conditional on implementation of the IMF-supported program, at their own risk, in line with standard practice.

The spending of borrowed funds is controlled by the agreement between the IMF and the Ukrainian government. Four billion dollars would go to make up the shortfall in Ukrainian payments to date; $2 billion would be assigned to repairing the coal mines in eastern Ukraine that remain under the control of the central government; and $2 billion would be earmarked for the purchase of additional gas for the winter. The rest would replenish the currency reserves of the central bank.

The new assistance package would include a debt exchange that would transform Ukraine’s hard currency Eurobond debt (which totals almost $18 billion) into long-term, less risky bonds. This would lighten Ukraine’s debt burden and bring down its risk premium. By participating in the exchange, bondholders would agree to accept a lower interest rate and wait longer to get their money back. The exchange would be voluntary and market-based so that it could not be mischaracterized as a default. Bondholders would participate willingly because the new long-term bonds would be guaranteed—but only partially—by the US or Europe, much as the US helped Latin America emerge from its debt crisis in the 1980s with so-called Brady bonds (named for US Treasury Secretary Nicholas Brady).

Such an exchange would have a few important benefits. One is that, over the next two or three critical years, the government could use considerably less of its scarce hard currency reserves to pay off bondholders. The money could be used for other urgent needs.

By trimming Ukraine debt payments in the next few years, the exchange would also reduce the chance of a sovereign default, discouraging capital flight and arresting the incipient run on the banks. This would make it easier to persuade owners of Ukraine’s banks (many of them foreign) to inject urgently needed new capital into them. The banks desperately need bigger capital cushions if Ukraine is to avoid a full-blown banking crisis, but shareholders know that a debt crisis could cause a banking crisis that wipes out their equity.

Finally, Ukraine would keep bondholders engaged rather than watch them cash out at 100 cents on the dollar as existing debt comes due in the few years. This would make it easier for Ukraine to reenter the international bond markets once the crisis has passed.

Under the current conditions it would be more practical and cost-efficient for the US and Europe not to use their own credit directly to guarantee part of Ukraine’s debt, but to employ intermediaries such as the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development or the World Bank and its subsidiaries.

The Ukrainian state-owned company Naftogaz is a black hole in the budget and a major source of corruption. Naftogaz currently sells gas to households for $47 per trillion cubic meters (TCM), for which it pays $380 per TCM. At present people cannot control the temperature in their apartments. A radical restructuring of Naftogaz’s entire system could reduce household consumption at least by half and totally eliminate Ukraine’s dependence on Russia for gas. That would involve charging households the market price for gas. The first step would be to install meters in apartments and the second to distribute a cash subsidy to needy households.

The will to make these reforms is strong both in the new management and in the incoming government but the task is extremely complicated (how do you define who is needy?) and the expertise is inadequate. The World Bank and its subsidiaries could sponsor a project development team that would bring together international and domestic experts to convert the existing political will into bankable projects. The initial cost would exceed $10 billion but it could be financed by project bonds issued by the European Investment Bank and it would produce very high returns.

It is also high time for the European Union to take a critical look at itself. There must be something wrong with the EU if Putin’s Russia can be so successful even in the short term. The bureaucracy of the EU no longer has a monopoly of power and it has little to be proud of. It should learn to be more united, flexible, and efficient. And Europeans themselves need to take a close look at the new Ukraine. That could help them recapture the original spirit that led to the creation of the European Union. The European Union would save itself by saving Ukraine.

* I am deeply disturbed by a report in the NY Times quoting the Human Rights Watch that subsequently – on October 2 and 5- Ukrainians also used cluster bombs, which I condemn. NATO should clarify both alleged Ukrainian and Russian use of such munitions.

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EU leaders gear up for heated climate summit

The EUobserver – October 23, 2014

By Peter Teffer

Brussels – The EU’s 28 leaders are meeting on Thursday (23 October) in Brussels for what are expected to be tough negotiations on climate targets.

The so-called climate and energy framework is expected to contain specific targets for 2030 in the form of percentages.

While the European commission, which did a sort of opening bid in January, emphasizes its targets are “in line with science”, the figures fall victim to political bargaining.

At least seven of the EU’s 28 member states, mostly central and eastern European countries, want a 25 percent target for energy efficiency by 2030, instead of the 30 percent proposed by the commission and laid down in the draft conclusions.

They fear too ambitious goals will harm their competitiveness towards non-EU states.

A diplomatic source from one member state predicted the negotiators will end up with an efficiency figure in the middle: “I guess it will be 27 percent.”

The talks of Thursday focus on three targets for 2030. In addition to the efficiency target, EU leaders will discuss what share of the EU’s energy should come from renewable sources in 2030, and by how much greenhouse gas emissions should be reduced.

However countries come with a shopping list of ‘wants’. The UK wants only a greenhouse gas target. Ireland wants its heavy dependence on agriculture taken into account. Central and easter European countries want “conditional targets” which can be adjusted depending on the outcome of global climate talks in Paris in 2015.

This is because the EU by itself cannot limit global warming – it will need to convince other countries to also cut back on emissions.

The average global temperature has already risen about 0.85 degrees Celsius between 1880 and 2012, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

The European Commission, the EU’s executive organisation, believes that to achieve the goal of not having the global average temperature increase by more than 2 degree Celsius (seen by experts as the minimum that needs to be achieved) the EU should reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 80 percent in 2050 – compared to the level in 1990.

The commission says that a 40 percent reduction of greenhouse gas emission by 2030 – again, compared to 1990 levels – will put the bloc on track for the 2050 goal of an 80 percent reduction, athough this is disputed by environmental groups.

Brigitte Knopf, researcher at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, emphasizes that science alone cannot be the only basis for policy-makers.

“How to distribute the burden? Who has to reduce how much of the emissions? These are ethical questions which clearly belong to the policy side.”

These questions will be discussed in Brussels starting Thursday afternoon, evening and possibly night.
Economy

While EU leaders will tackle climate change on Thursday, tomorrow will see them talk about the economy amid heightened concerns about the health of the Eurozone.

A special meeting of the 18 single currency leaders, as well European Central Bank Chief Mario Draghi, will begin at lunchtime.

Worries about the eurozone have begun to increase again amid fears of deflation and with Germany, the biggest economy, suffering a slowdown.

Last week, the International Monetary Fund warned there is a 40 percent chance of the eurozone falling into recession again.

The meeting also comes against the backdrop of highly sensitive assessments of national budgets to be taken by the European Commission, with France particularly on Brussels’ radar.
Ebola

EU leaders are also due to discuss how to increase their support for Ebola-stricken countries in west Africa.

UK leader David Cameron is set to ask EU leaders to follow the UK in screening air passengers coming from the outbreak zone. Only France and Belgium have screening at their main airports.

Earlier this week foreign ministers agreed to more co-ordination of resources to fight the disease.
European Commission

Finally, in what is mostly a formality, the council wll appoint the new European Commission under the leadership of Jean-Claude Juncker.

This summit thus also is a send-off for Juncker’s predecessor, Jose-Manuel Barroso. It is also the last council summit chaired by Herman van Rompuy, who will be succeeded by Donald Tusk.

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Lobbying for Sustainable Development and Sustainability in general go on in parallel – like in:

“Beim Europäischen Rat am 23. und 24. Oktober werden die Staats- und RegierungschefInnen der EU über einen neuen Rahmen für die EU-Klima- und Energiepolitik bis 2030 entscheiden. In einem Lobbybrief an Bundeskanzler Faymann weist die AG Globale Verantwortung auf die Auswirkungen der EU-Klimapolitik auf internationale Entwicklung hin und fordert ambitionierte Zielsetzungen.

Der Lobbybrief der AG Globale Verantwortung erging gemeinsam mit einem Brief des europäischen Dachverbands CONCORD an Bundeskanzler Faymann sowie in Kopie an Vizekanzler Mitterlehner, Bundesminister Kurz und Bundesminister Rupprechter.”

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on October 23rd, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

First our posting of October 21st – then the Jewish Week article reporting from St. Louis that was coincidentally written also October 21, 2014 and todate is the best article we found in the printed press.

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We saw last night the Metropolitan Opera’s opening of the Opera titled “The Death of Klinghoffer” and we came out with a firm conclusion that the roaring controversy is all nothing more then a misunderstanding created by an unfortunate choice of the name of the Opera.

PROLOGUE:

Yesterday my wife was having lunch with one of her lady-friends at EJ’s Luncheonette. Her friend, a New Englander, has a daughter who is media-correspondent in the Middle East and the family is very much aware of what goes on in that corner of the world.
She asked my wife what she thinks of the brouhaha that surrounds the MET, and my wife said that we are going to see it “tonight” as I saw it years ago when it was first performed and do not recollect that I had misgivings at that time. That was the era of operas like “Einstein on the Beach” and “Nixon in China.”

Another lady, seemingly a grandmother having pancakes with her grand-daughter, before leaving the restaurant, turned to my wife and said that she is going to the opera – “to demonstrate.” My wife asked her – “did you see the opera?” The lady answered NO!
My wife said then that she is going to see it in order to be able to make up her mind and the lady answered – “Fair Enough!.

I did see the opera at the Brooklyn Academy of Music September 1991 still the days of President Bush the First, and coincidentally, was also at a Chamber Orchestra semi-staged performance at a modern restored building in Geneva, Switzerland, (1998) that was funded in part by a rich local Jewish Real Estate man and his Israeli wife. There were really no accusations of antisemitism that I remember.

The work, composed by John Adams with libretto by poet Alice Goodman – the same team that also wrote “Nixon in China” (1987) -
is presented as the memory of the Captain of the Achille Lauro passenger cruise-ship that was involved in the October 1985 highjacking by four members of the Palestinian Liberation Front (PLF) that ended with the murderous execution of American wheelchair-bound Mr. Leon Klinghoffer.

First let us note that John Adams, besides the mentioned two operas also created “On The Transmigration of Souls” (2002) -
a choral piece that commemorates the 9/11 2001 events – for which Adams was awarded the Pulitzer prize in 2003, and with Peter Sellars as librettist he created the “Dr. Atomic” Opera (2005) on J. Robert Oppenheimer, the Manhattan Project and the development of the atomic bomb – all three operas mentioned were produced also by the MET.

The 1991 production of Klinghoffer was staged with the help of Peter Sellars and the present days MET production was done with staging by Tom Morris. I seem to remember that the 1991 production started with the image of the ship – something non existent in 2014. This production starts with people running around with green Islamic flags and inducting Omar into the group. He is then bound to be one of the four hijackers. Later we see him interacting with one of the two Klinghoffer daughters.

We find it unacceptable to focus on corners of humanity when centering on lamentations by Palestinians for lost homes when seeing them run around with those green flags as if they were doing Allah’s work. And that is really the point – it looks like real daily life as presented on our TVs. That PLF is now – 24 years since the take-over of Achille Lauro – morphed into Al Qaeda, Hamas, ISIL, the Al-Nusra Front …and yes – Boko Haram, the Somali Shabaab, the Libyan and Yemen Islamists as well.

Leon Klinghoffer told the hijackers that they were wrong in what they were doing – in some ways he was actually a hero tied to his wheelchair. He saw the reality. He was on a trip to Egypt with his family – he did not hate Arabs as such – he was on his way to see the pyramids. His antagonists did hate the Jews because thy were from abroad – no recognition on the Arab side that these Jews must be fit somehow into their life as they were actually people that came home to the region for which they have historic ties as well.

Look again at those green flags and think for a moment. If those flags represent real life so just stand up and acknowledge that the show before you is a negative picture not of Klinghoffer but of what the four hijackers stand for – and yes – THEY EXECUTE KLINGHOFFER BECAUSE THEY CANNOT ACCEPT THAT THIS MAN IN HIS WHEELCHAIR HAS THE STRENGTH TO TELL THEM OFF.

The 100 people outside Lincoln Center sitting in wheel-chairs under a sign saying “I am Klinghoffer” did not demonstrate against antisemitism. They actually spoke up in my opinion against the green-flag-waving lunatics.

It is not about the death of Klingoffer – but about the lunacy of his executioners – so for Pete’s sake object to all those Middle-Easterners running around with colored flags – green or black – but stop accusing the whole world of antisemitism.
RENAME THE OPERA AND CHANGE NOTHING FROM WHAT YOU SEE – Do you not realize that whatever is your cause – this opera actually helps you by the mere fact that the artistic creators aimed at pure neutrality and brought to us a documentary?

In the hall there was one demonstrator who shouted as long as he could:”THE MURDER OF KLINGHOFFER WILL NEVER BE FORGIVEN.”
His intervention had clear echos – at first we heard only three people clapping their hands after the run of the flags, but there was strong applause at the end of the performance. THE AUDIENCE ACCEPTED THE TOTALITY OF THE SHOW.

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‘Klinghoffer’ As Gateway To Dialogue

In St. Louis, the controversial opera served as a foundation for new relationships across faith lines.
10/21/14
Maharat Rori Picker Neiss, Special To The Jewish Week

For the past few weeks, my email and social media have been inundated with discussions and links to flyers, articles and events that all support the opposition, protest and even disruption of the New York Metropolitan Opera’s production of John Adams’ “The Death of Klinghoffer.” And I disagree with each one.

Like many, if not most, of the protesters, I have not seen “The Death of Klinghoffer” or read its libretto. I cannot comment on its content nor its staging. I make no judgment to classify it as anti-Semitic or to argue against such a classification. I also cannot make any determination of its commentary on terrorism, those who perpetuate those heinous acts, and those who fall victim to these horrific crimes.

My disagreement is not with the offense that they take to the performance — although I would hope that each person would choose to at least read the text for themselves before coming to a final conclusion — but with the chosen response.

The Jewish community in New York has chosen to launch a passionate protest against the performance and, in doing so, they have let a tremendous opportunity fall by the wayside.

In 2011, the Opera Theatre of Saint Louis staged a production of “The Death of Klinghoffer” — the first staging of the full opera in the United States in 20 years. The Jewish Community Relations Council of St. Louis did not object to the performance, but instead partnered with the Opera Theatre and other faith-based and arts organizations to prepare study guides, coordinate community events, organize roundtable discussion and engage in deeper dialogue around painful and difficult subjects.

Instead of igniting hatred or perpetuating anti-Semitism, as some protesters have predicted, the opera served as a foundation for new relationships across faith lines. In fact, these initiatives sparked a new nonprofit initiative, Arts & Faith St. Louis, based on the belief that the arts have a unique power to inspire thoughtful discussion among diverse audiences, to bring people together and to bridge divides through shared experiences. This initiative has brought together leaders across the faith communities of St. Louis (Jews, Muslims and Christians) with leaders in the art world to respond to pressing needs in our region and to create innovative approaches to difficult discussions.

These conversations are not easy. Often, they are quite painful. To engage in dialogue around such profoundly tender and traumatic topics such as terrorism, anti-Semitism, extremism, hate crimes, identity, abuse and fear, by definition, requires a person to be immensely vulnerable.

The bonds that can form between two people who strip away their protective shells and open their minds and hearts to one another, however, is immeasurable.

I admire the monumental efforts of the organizers in New York to raise awareness for their cause, to coordinate partners and organize demonstrations. I am confident that, as the objectors state, “The Death of Klinghoffer” is both disturbing and uncomfortable. But a protest is easy. To protest the opera is to express a voice — a unilateral opinion shared through words on a placard or the dramatic imagery of 100 wheelchairs staged at Lincoln Center.

Instead, I invite all those who plan to protest the production to choose to engage. To take the difficult, likely painful step, to opt for dialogue over demonstrations, proaction over protests.

The Metropolitan Opera in New York is the largest classical music organization in North America, with the capacity for nearly 4,000 viewers at each opera performance. The opportunity here is monumental. We can choose to seize the moment, or to stand on the sidelines, holding placards, as it passes us by.

Please, choose the difficult path. Choose the disturbing. Choose discomfort. Choose dialogue.

Maharat Rori Picker Neiss is director of programming, education, and community engagement at Bais Abraham Congregation in St. Louis.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on October 22nd, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

Will Israel build two new ports in order to answer the needs of an evolving Fly-to-Buy trend?

Everything shown in articlewww.npr.org/blogs/parallels/2014/…was bought in China, including the lights and flooring of the entryway, had to be partially paid for upfront. There are no refunds and no returns in this niche fly-to-buy industry. Everything for the bathrooms was bought on the 10-day shopping trip to China except for the tile, which came from a Palestinian factory. Adi Asulin, the woman in the story, is shown in the kitchen of her family’s remodeled apartment, in Raanana, north of Tel Aviv. She saved thousands of dollars by flying to China to buy furnishings and flooring directly from manufacturers.

Adi Asulin lives in a fabulous apartment on the top floor of a seven-story building in the Israeli town of Ra’anana, north of Tel Aviv. The entry hall is long and light. Windows open onto an enormous balcony, which wraps around three sides of her home. The decor is fresh and white.

“It’s all made in China,” Asulin says.

Not just made in China. Nearly everything — the floors, the lighting, the furniture — she bought in China on a 10-day shopping spree.

The day after Asulin and her husband got keys to the place, she got on a plane to Guangzhou, in southern China.

“An adventure!” she says.

The big appeal was the price.

“Forty, sometimes 50 percent off the prices in Israel,” Asulin says.

The savings add up the bigger the job. Her new apartment had been a rental and needed a lot of fixing. But buying plus remodeling seemed beyond the family budget.

From a friend, Asulin heard about Israeli companies that arrange trips for individuals to buy directly from Chinese factories. She signed up, getting tickets and booking hotel rooms for herself, an architect and her dad for advice.

Once on the ground in Guangzhou, the trio was guided by the owner of the Israeli company and local staff. Their first stop was a flooring factory bigger than Asulin had ever seen — half the size of her city, she says.

“And I can choose whatever I want,” she says. “Different colors, different materials, different prices.”

The factory was organized by style: marble in one area, dark wood in another, colored linoleum somewhere else. For Asulin, it helped to have done a lot of planning and measuring before she arrived.

She loved having the time to focus exclusively on shopping — and finish most of it in a short time. She says this made the remodel much easier for her, a 37-year-old working mother of three.

“If I was buying everything in Israel, it was after work, with kids, afternoons and every weekend,” she says.

Flying to China instead of letting Chinese products come to you is not the approach for everyone. Nurit Gefen, an Israeli interior designer, went on one China shopping trip with a client. She will not go again.

Gefen says it is the entirely wrong way to create a home.

“When you build a house, it’s like pregnancy. You have to think about it, you have to dream about it,” she says.

Plus, there are significant financial risks, she says.

“When you go to China, you have to buy everything in advance. Before you know the colors, before you know exactly what you want,” Gefen says. “And you can make mistakes when you buy things in advance. And you can’t exchange it afterwards.”

Partial payment in cash is often required upfront. Israeli newspapers have run horror stories of people who were ripped off on China shopping trips.

Still, they go. And Israelis are not the only ones doing their shopping directly in China. Israelis in the business say it’s popular among people from a number of places, including Russia, India and the Gulf states.

Economics professor Daniel Levy of Israel’s Bar-Ilan University says this service began because of structural problems in the Israeli economy. Israel started out socialist, and he says many practices of centralized control still affect the economy today.

“We don’t have what you are used to in the U.S.,” he says, “everybody trying to offer the best deal, which brings about greater efficiency and lower prices and happy customers. That’s not what we have here at all.”

This shows up most dramatically in grocery bills in Israel. Protests over the cost of food shook up Israel’s elections last year. A 2011 parliamentary report showed that just two companies controlled more than 80 percent of the domestic cheese and yogurt production.

But weak competition also affects imports, including nonfood items like flooring and furniture.

Shai Safran heads Basini, an Israeli company that takes about 10 customers a month to China to buy everything they need for home remodels or building. He doesn’t have a big showroom in Israel. He just treats factories in China as his own.

“Like my stores are the factories in China,” Safran says. “I don’t need 50 workers; I don’t need inventory. I can save the cost of the business in Israel.”

Even with his fee — for his contacts, logistics and know-how — Safran says he still beats the prices offered in Israel.

But that could change over time. Israel is building two new private ports and is hoping to reduce import costs in part by banning labor unions. A contract for the first port was signed last month — with a construction firm based in Beijing.

Emily Harris is NPR’s Jerusalem correspondent. Follow her @emilygharris.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on October 22nd, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)


U.S. Arctic envoy looks to 1970s New York for inspiration

Date: 22-Oct-14

Reuters Author: Timothy Gardner

As he contemplates dealing with crumbling shores, melting ice and other changes in the rapidly changing Arctic, Admiral Robert Papp looks back at the rough and tumble New York City of the 1970s for inspiration.

Papp, who became the first ever U.S. special representative for the Arctic in July, said he only needs to remember the first time he visited New York Harbor in 1970 for encouragement on tackling complicated issues. “It was disgusting,” he said about the industrial and other waste that wrecked the city’s shores.

Then the 1972 federal Clean Water Act began to turn things around and today the waterfront is an attraction to both locals and tourists. “We used to dump raw sewage into harbors, there’s no way we’d consider doing that now,” Papp said.

The Obama administration is about to take on a wider set of problems in the Arctic than city pollution. In May, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry will kick off two years at the helm of the Arctic Council, which since 1996 has linked the United States, Russia, Canada and the Nordic countries, to coordinate policy in the world’s air conditioner.

Papp said the United States will focus on three issues during its tenure as chair: Arctic ocean safety, mitigating and adapting to climate change, and exploring economic options for the people that live in the planet’s North.

“We are going to have the microphone for two years,” Papp told Reuters in an interview. “We are going to start a public relations campaign … to articulate the reasons why people should be concerned about the Arctic.”

Climate change is revising the way the world views the Arctic, creating new and far shorter sea lanes, and sparking interest in new oil drilling despite the region’s rough conditions.

Kerry who is very focused on climate change, will take the reigns from his Canadian counterpart, who focused heavily on energy and commercial development.

Believing that slowing climate change in the Arctic can reduce global warming in the rest of the planet, Papp wants to slash Arctic emissions of methane, a potent greenhouse gas, and black carbon, or soot, emitted by heavy fuels used by ships and machinery, that scientists blame for absorbing solar rays and melting ice.

Making development safer and cleaner for energy and other companies eager to uncover the region’s plentiful resources is also part of Papp’s job.

Not everyone thinks the Arctic Council is the best forum to take on difficult issues like climate change. Analysts have already said the group has yet to complete two other initiatives on search and rescue and oil spills.

But Papp said it is important to set the bar high to bring solutions to difficult problems. “If we set the bar low … you end up with a very mediocre product,” he said. “I’m willing to address anything we can.”

Among other issues, Papp said the forum should help mitigate the effects of climate change on residents of the Alaskan Arctic, including crumbling shores, melting permafrost and the flooding of traditional below-ground ice cellars where indigenous people store whale meat.

Papp acknowledged there are limits to how much Washington can hope to accomplish in the Arctic, however, saying the country will have to think hard about taking care of the basics in marine transport. The United States has not built a heavy icebreaker since the 1970s and only has one operational while Russia has up to 40. The ships can cost $1 billion each.

Still, any success in dealing with Arctic issues could lead to wider gains as the United States tries to secure a United Nations climate deal in Paris in 2015, a legacy-setting goal for Kerry and President Barack Obama.

Emerging powers India and China, two leading sources of global greenhouse gas emissions, earned places on the Arctic Council as observers last year. Papp said they could be encouraged to provide resources to help people adjust to the changing Arctic.


“If you want a seat at the table, perhaps you could provide resourcing as well as address some of the issues,” he said. The Arctic is a region “that advertises for the rest of the world” how things can begin to change, Papp said.

(Additional reporting by Valerie Volcovici, Andrea Shalal and Ayesha Rascoe

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Above article predicts enhanced US involvement with the Arctic region, but makes no mention of the Second Arctic Council Assembly meeting that will be held October 31 – November 2, 2014 in Reykjavik, Iceland, under the leadership of Iceland President Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson, whose leadership brought the Arctic to the world attention – he, not just Canada as mentioned in the article.

The Arctic will become focal point for those interested in stopping global warming and the Arctic Circle cannot be allowed to become just a supervisor of cleaner petroleum production. The issues are many and very complicated – rather well beyond natural freezers for storing whale meat. The US has to play catch-up to Russia in all Arctic and the US arrives now when China, Japan, Korea, Brazil, India are among claimants to participate in what they consider a region that is outside existing National Sovereignty rule – a truly global area of interest.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on October 20th, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

Friday, October 17, 2014, Under the Patronage of the Mission of Romania to the UN, and organized by the WAFUNIF Presidency at the UN – that acts in the name of the World Association of Former UN Interns and Fellows, at and of, the UN – The Japanese ASUA Inc. – the sponsors of the event – had obtained the opportunity to start their new World Campaign right here at the UN Headquarters in New York City.

Mr. Hiroji Maji established the ASUA Corporation in 1994, post-Rio I, in order to help the Japanese Auto Manufacturers Association in finding ways to decrease pollution and safety effects from running the motor-vehicles that tend to “despoil the beautiful earth.”

Mr. Maji says “We are committed to protecting the environment and to creating an accident-free society” and is set to achieve this by changing driving habits of those that use the commercially available conventional gasoline and diesel fueled motor vehicles. What he proposes is a driver education platform that besides saving fuel will also increase safety on the roads, saving lives as an extra-benefit from helping the environment.

ASUA has thus reacted with driver improvement activities whenever new questions about conventional transportation arose – cases like: The adoption of the Kyoto Protocol so corporate efforts called to address environmental issues when faced with important and challenging components of corporate social responsibility (CSR). The proposed answer being “Eco Drive” programs sponsored by the companies. It is reported that the “Eco Drive” program has not only been energy-saving but a tip of the hat to all ecology aspirations as well.

ASUA recognizes:
“With the rapid increase in petroleum consumption over the past 100 years, the average temperature of the Earth’s surface has increased by 0.3 – 0.6o degrees C. It is expected that, if this increase in global warming continues, the average temperature will rise by 2 – 4 degrees C over the next 100 years and that the sea level will consequently rise by 50 cm, causing serious problems for the inhabitants of lowland areas. The people of Tuvalu, a reef-fringed island nation in the South Pacific, suffered serious problems from February to April when a high spring tide produced waves which flooded over coastal areas and caused seawater to gush from the ground.
Any increase in global warming poses a crucial threat to low-lying countries because of the consequent risk that they may be submerged.
In addition, global warming has already caused many abnormal weather conditions and changes in the global ecosystem, requiring urgent, worldwide countermeasures.”

But its answer is:
“When you stop doing ‘jackrabbit starts’ and accelerating suddenly while driving, you consume less fuel. Making a conscious effort to adopt this sort of driving attitude is called the ‘Eco Drive’ way. According to the data obtained before and after it was adopted, ‘Eco Drive’ not only contributes to an improvement in fuel efficiency and environmental quality but also to a reduction in traffic accidents. Reducing traffic accidents is a societal challenge which companies that use automobiles must address and commit themselves to when implementing proactive preventive measures.”

And ASUA Inc. has worked out very well the data and teaches The correlation between improved fuel consumption and the ways the motor vehicle is being operated. An activity we admire but we were left amazed by the fact that at this time and age that was just all the company stands for.

The full day activity was advertised at the UN as: Special event on “The International Conference on Global Environment, Carbon Reduction, and Eco-Drive as Solution Towards Sustainability” – All are invited and further information at the Permanent Mission of Romania.

Before going further, for the sake of disclosure, I am compelled to mention:

(a) As the WAFUNIF Representative to the UN in Vienna, I take interest in all what goes on at WAFUNIF.
Further, my membership in WAFUNIF came about as I was a Special Fellow at UNITAR (The UN Institute for Training and Research) having been appointed by the UN Secretary-General, and working on the basis of $1/year with Under-Secretary-General Doo Kingue – manning the desk of Research with special interest in Renewable Energy.

(b) Beginning August 2014, WAFUNIF President Dr. Hassan told me that he would like to organize a one-day UN event – GLOBAL ENVIRONMENT – WHAT HAS TO BE DONE? and link this with the WAFUNIF role as Messengers of Peace. Furthermore, he checked with the UN and reserved space for October 17th. I said I would be delighted to help, added a parenthesis (Peace is a requirement for Ecology) and said that the timing is excellent as October 17th will be well after the UN Secretary General’s Climate Summit and the UN General Assembly debates, so we could analyze what was achieved at the 2014 meetings and come up with what has yet to be done, while including as markers cases that show progress is possible.

I drafted a one-page “Concept note” that suggested two morning session with academia and Think-Tanks on “The Wrong That Was Done and Policies for Redress” chaired by people from outside the UN. This followed by a lunch with a noted speaker for which I contacted the appointments coordinator of Professor Jeffrey Sachs, of Columbia University Earth Institute, to ask about his availability. Then for the afternoon I envisioned two sessions with speakers from UN affiliates – UNEP’s Industry branch and the Global Compact. This as my belief was that in the September UN activities regarding Sustainable Development, Climate Change, and the Environment – it will become clear that it will be communities and industry that will be the obvious carriers on a path to achieve global redress to the present unsustainable trends.

Dr. Hassan agreed to my Concept note and on August 14th I took Dr. Hassan to the UNEP and Global Compact offices at the UN, and we discussed this proposal. We encountered a very positive reaction in both offices and only when Mr. Georg Kell, Executive Director of the Global Compact appointed one of his people to work with us, and I suggested that this person ought to be the moderator of an afternoon session that will include some of the best examples of Corporate Responsibility, I heard for the first time from Dr. Hassan that he already had a relationship with Japanese interests that will sponsor the event and provide speakers.
This obviously dampened spirits. Back at WAFUNIF I asked Dr. Hassan why he did not tell me that he actually had already committed himself to an outside group that wants to set up an event at the UN. That is when I learned that already since January he, Dr. Valdemar Prado, and Ms. Liliana Bucur were in discussion with the Japanese.

At that stage I was clearly upset of not having been told all facts, but did not pull out yet; this happened only when in parallel, in order to register WAFUNIF with the UNFCCC in order to secure our attendance at the 2015 Paris Summit, we were asked to submit a financial statement of our Not-For-Profit NGO, and it turned out I could not get one. I informed the Global Compact of my decision as well.


TO THE ESSENCE OF THE OCTOBER 17, 2014 PROGRAM AS IT UNFOLDED – let me say here immediately that I do congratulate the organizers for having pulled together a quite interesting event which intended to serve its backers but has somewhat isolated them from the trend of events as they are unfolding on the path of UN negotiations on SUSTAINABILITY.

It was obvious and no effort to hide it – this was a meeting of the Automobile Manufacturers – Japan and US.
But what denigrated from its effectiveness was that it depicted a rear-guard of the “is” and not enough of what could be a path to innovation – though – thanks to some outside speakers – reality emerged at times.

With Dr. Prado as Rapporteur, THE FIRST PANEL included the Vice President for Environment at the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers (US)- Ms. Julie Becker; the Director of the Canadian Automobile Association – Ian Jack, and the Climate Change person from the Japan Automobile Manufacturers Association – Mr. Hirotsugu Mauyama.

THE SECOND PANEL – “Global Environment: Energy and Transportation” – had an excellent Moderator – Samuel Lee Hancock, President and Executive Director of Emerald-Planet, a worldwide environmental and economic development movement with headquarters and television production studios in Washington, D.C., but a burdened panel that included Dr. Timothy Weiskel – trained as an historian and social anthropologist he joined the Cambridge Climate Research Associates (CCRA) and consults schools, universities, corporations, municipalities, and national governments to create on-site and online training programs to help them envision the necessary transformations we must all now undertake to enable the human community to move to a post carbon-fueled world – he teaches Climate Change at Harvard Extension School; Dr. George A. Garland – an Independent Consultant who is treasurer of the UN Association of the USA and was involved in US missions to rural areas in developing countries; and a lady that replaced the Transportation Committee Chair of the New York City Council.

My following comments are not from the panel as such, but from interaction with two of the people on this panel.

Samuel Lee Hancock was in our evaluation the high point of the event – he remarked from the floor in one of the discussions that when he was invited for an activity to the State of Carinthia in Austria he learned that 1,000 old unused telephone booths were turned into electricity outlets on Carinthian roads – this so that electric vehicles can be recharged. Then in clear drama – he said that he remarked – “but there are no electric cars in Austria?” and he was rebuked by the Carinthian – yes, but we have tourists coming from Germany that use electric cars and would not come to us if we had no outlets for recharging their batteries!
Above comment was made when one of the speakers was rejecting the idea that there is an alternative to the diesel or gasoline engines used in transportation. Hancock, like a good diplomat simply made the point that there might be obvious ulterior reasons to get away from the present systems that are so dear to the sponsors of the meeting.

Timothy C. Weiksel was in our evaluation the low point of the event – he remarked from the floor the oil-industry dictum that there is more oil being used in the production of biofuels then it is being said they are capable of replacing. At the meeting nobody contradicted him, but I made it my business to talk to him at tea-time and tried to explain to him that it is only an issue if you insist on approaching it the wrong way. I tried to explain to him the case of using ethanol not as a fuel – but in small quantities as needed – as an octane boosting additive to gasoline. This resulting in displacement of extra-crude – both in the motor vehicle and at the refinery that can be allowed to market a first cut of gasoline of lower octane – to be corrected with the addition of the ethanol from biomass. He wanted to have no part of this – like a bad oil-man would have done 30 years ago.

Honestly, I honor a good car salesman that wants to sell his product, but cringe when an academic tries to bamboozle an audience with his position like shining medals. Many years ago I testified in a US Congressional hearing that the honorable gentleman, who was a professor emeritus at MIT that taught thermodynamics, who just testified that the lower BTU content of ethanol will cause us to use more gallons of ethanol then gasoline, ought to note that if he wants to fry an egg on his motor-vehicle engine he is right to measure this by calorimetry (BTUs), but if his intent is to run on that engine – he better measure the output in miles/gallon and will see that the difference in octane values will give better results then expected from BTU measurements.


After lunch – THE THIRD PANEL – titled EcoDrive AS A SOLUTION – was the obvious reason for the event.

Chaired by distinguished professor Yasuhiro Daisho, Dean Graduate School of of Environment and Energy Engineering, Director of Environmental Research Institute, Waseda University located in Shinjuku, Tokyo – introduced at the meeting as the School of Creative Engineering – it included – Keiji Endo, Director of Environment, Tokyo Trucking Association (TTA) and his American counterpart Glen P. Kedzie, Vice President for Energy and Environment, American Trucking Association (ATA).

Also on the panel: Mr. Brandon Schoettle, Project Manager, Sustainable Worldwide Transportation, University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute, and Yoshimori Suzuki, President Yamagata Branch of the Japan Automobile Dealers Association.
Yamagata is a one million people prefecture and later in the evening I was convinced it makes some of the best Saki in Japan.

Professor Daisho covers: Various types of engines’ performance, combustion, clarification of toxic exhaust element, energy saving, new combustion system, hybrid system, fuel battery system and new fuel. Experimental manufacturing and performance assessment of various types of new clean-energy cars. Suggestion for local traffic mobility system.

As the second private university to be founded in Japan, Waseda University is considered to be one of Japan’s most prestigious universities. The university holds a memorandum of agreement with Cambridge University, the University of Hong Kong, and Yale University among its 432 partnership institutions in 79 countries .

Japan is the fifth largest CO2 emitter in the world and the Tokyo area 80,000 trucks are part of the story.
In the US, ATA acknowledges for 2013 the use of 52.7 billion gallons diesel (72%) and 37.7 Billion gallons gasoline (28%).
Also we heard that the increase of the fuel cost in the US by 1 cent/gallon would increase the expense to the trucking industry at large by $350-375 million. This explains the importance of fuel saving when improving driving habits.

Mr. Schoettle told us that ExxonMobil and ARAMCO are members of his institute but we wonder if they pursue any interest in fuel saving? On the other hand we learned from the Yamagata source that the prefecture has no subways and that the population is the most aging in Japan – living in single homes and thus with highest number of cars/household in Japan, and highest CO2 footprint/person in Japan. Yamagata Prefecture is located in the southwest corner of T?hoku, on Honshu island facing the Sea of Japan.

A question from the floor was if there is any incentive from the government for more fuel efficient trucks and there was a positive answer from Japan only – not from the US. In the case of the US, because of a shortage of good young drivers, there is even no supervision of performance related to fuel saving. The average age for truckers is 53 and companies will not fire young drivers. So how can this training for better driving even make a dent in US trucks fuel consumption? According to ATA – thus clearly – there is really no eco-driving push in the US. ATA said that as an organization they are fuel neutral – diesel packs most energy. He sees no chance for electric trucks because of range. Bio-diesel is currently 3% of the fuel – this because of local laws. A hydrogen fueled truck costs $100,000 more – so no chance either. With all this – the conclusion is still that the only way to save fuel is eco-driving that could reduce consumption by 10%.

THE FOURTH PANEL was about ENVIRONMENTAL POLICY and was chaired by Kunihiko Shimada, President KS International Strategies Inc. (KSIS). KS stands for Kunihiko Shimada and they “provide strategic consulting and advisory services to corporations, other entities and individuals on environment strategies as well as environmentally-friendly management.” KS is involved in climate negotiations since 1997 (we assume since the Kyoto meeting) and since 2010 advised the Japan Ministry of Environment. He worked also for the UN and seemingly was instrumental in organizing the present event as he gave an end – summary before the Concluding Remarks from Mr. Hiroshi Maji – the President of ASUA Inc. – the sponsor.
This last panel included Mr. Hugues Van Honacker, Team Leader, European Commission’s Directorate of Mobility and Transport, and Dr. Ryutaro Yatsu, Adviser and Former Vice-Minister of the Environment, Government of Japan; William Milczarski, Urban Affairs and Planning, Hunter College, City University of New York.

Liliana Bucur was the Rapporteur for both these last two panels.

Van Honacker, from Germany, is part of the EU Directorate in charge of fuel alternatives and the needed infrastructure.

The oil bill for the EU is $1 billion/day – this is 94% for transportation. Air quality in cities is also a problem
How can one defend the European Automotive industry? What about the facts that 40% of the CO2 comes from road transport and 70% of other pollutants as well? So his major role was to develop an Alternative Fueled System of Transport. But the 28 States of the EU have different markets with different standards, approaches, etc. Even different plugs for electricity.

Natural Gas, biofuels, Biogas, CNG, electricity, H2 – all are considered. Biofuels fit best for airplanes. Some, like Germany and Austria already have CNG sysyems.

Professor Milczarski presented slides from a paper he co-authored with Peter Tuckel and asked if a Sustainable Transportation system can be of help at a local level, and came to the very logical conclusion that the problem is one of LAND USE POLICY.

HIS PRESENTATION WAS NOT ABOUT DRIVING DIFFERENTLY – BUT ABOUT DRIVING LESS.

His concept tackles city sprawl and he talks of households defined as a unit with 1-4 people living in a building and talks of walking and biking but wants stores and outlets to mingle with residence areas.

Ryutaro Yatso enlarged on the EcoDrive idea by talking Asia-Pacific regional conferences and the yearly event at Nagoya.
He pointed out at the importance of taking on the road the work done in Japan and see how this could help overseas – mentioning Vietnam as a first example.

It is at this panel, that from the audience Mr. Hancock made his comment about the Carinthian electricity refueling booths.

Following this fourth panel and an awards presentation interlude, our generous Japanese hosts treated us to music – a great instrumental trio from Japan led by Jiro Yoshida, a singer known in all of the Far East, and a surprise – a singing Romanian Ambassador H.E. Simona Mirela Miculescu – the UN host of the event. Then the Japanese made it possible for the participants to mingle in a nice environment across the street from the UN. The Japanese participants – and the audience was highly Japanese, were
open to discussion and those from motor-vehicle producing companies intent on hearing things that were not said in public.

Conference material is already available in part at  ecodrive-conference.com/login/in…

Sponsor Company Profile

Name ASUA,inc.
Company Address Headquarters
ASUA Building
1-11 Ougondouri, Nkamura-ku, Nagoya
Aichi 453-0804,Japan
Phone: 81-52-452-5588

Tokyo office
4F Sanshi-kaikan
1-9-4 Yuraku-cho,Chiyoda-ku
Tokyo 100?0006,Japan
Phone: 81-3-5220-3800

NY office
700 West 192nd Street, Suite 806
New York, NY 10040
Phone: 1-347-722-4252

Establishment Date July 15, 1994
President Hiroshi Maji
Number of employees 104

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on October 18th, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)


How Billionaire Oligarchs Are Becoming Their Own Political Parties

By JIM RUTENBERG OCT. 17, 2014 – The New York Times Weekend Magazine

In August, Tom Steyer and seven campaign advisers sat in a small conference room in Coral Gables, Fla., trying to figure out how to save the world. Steyer, who is 57, has a fortune of roughly $1.5 billion, and his advisers were among the most talented political operatives in the United States. Steyer is especially concerned about climate change, and his immediate goal, the object of discussion that day, was to replace the sitting governor of Florida, Rick Scott, a Republican who has questioned the very existence of anthropogenic climate change, with Charlie Crist, the previous governor, whose environmental views hew more closely to Steyer’s.

The lead Florida strategist, Nick Baldick, was running through the campaign numbers. “There’s a problem here,” he said, brandishing a printout. Two bars, blue and red, were labeled “Total Raised,” and the red Republican bar was notably longer. “It’s just ugly,” Baldick said, with a shake of his head: “$74 million to Crist’s $24 million. And they have $38 million cash on hand to his $15 million.”

Tom Steyer is expected to spend $50 million of his own money supporting candidates who have strong environmental records.

In the spring, when Crist was riding a double-digit lead, Florida looked like a safe bet, but then Scott unleashed an $18 million ad campaign against Crist, painting him as a hack careerist who loves Obamacare and lays off teachers. Not only had Crist’s lead vanished, now he was losing in the key swing district of Tampa, winning by too little in Democrat-friendly West Palm and losing by too much in Republican-leaning Fort Myers. And as Baldick’s numbers showed, neither the state Democratic Party nor Crist could match the barrage.

Baldick is stocky and bald in the way that suggests he should always have a cigar jutting from his mouth. He is known in Democratic politics for his irascibility. It’s part act — political consultants make their trade in bad news — but he was truly annoyed this morning, he told me, largely because I was present at the meeting. Steyer and his communications team had invited me into their inner sanctum partly to make a point, namely that Steyer was more transparent than his rival powers, the conservative billionaire Koch brothers. Baldick saw it as a needless risk. In his decades of experience (in the Clinton, Gore and Edwards presidential campaigns, to name a few), reporters were not invited into sensitive strategy sessions like this one. It wasn’t done and shouldn’t be done, he told me.

Steyer, though, saw visibility as part of the job. He made his money as the founder of a successful hedge fund called Farallon Capital Management and so had spent most of his adult life wading through prospectuses and annual reports. He seemed enthralled and energized by his new course of study in domestic politics, with its incongruent mix of idealism and cynicism. This was democracy in action, real people making real change, not just mysterious figures behind closed doors. Tall, with grayish blond hair and shaggy sideburns, Steyer was in constant motion: his arms waving, his hands slicing the air, his tie — always the same stiff, scotch plaid — swaying to and fro as he spoke. In talking about the political offshoots of his money, he sometimes had the air of a new father.


Steyer’s long-term goal was to build an organization called NextGen Climate Action, which could mirror and oppose the rival private interests who devoted their own fortunes to blocking any action on climate change. Chief among those rivals were Charles and David Koch, the brothers who run Koch Industries. Steyer was especially interested in enacting a cap-and-trade system, which would allow companies to buy or sell emission rights under a strict state or federal limit. The Koch brothers, meanwhile, have worked hard to prevent, among many other government interventions, the adoption of a cap-and-trade system, which they view as the ultimate in reckless government intervention.


If Steyer didn’t step in as a counterweight, he reasoned, no one else would; after all, no one else had so far. Steyer pledged to spend at least $50 million of his own fortune this election season by way of NextGen on behalf of Democrats or, perhaps more accurate, against Republicans, in Florida and six other states: Colorado, Iowa, Maine, Michigan, New Hampshire and Pennsylvania. Most of the races were for the Senate, which Republicans are in a position to retake this fall. But the race that was closest to Steyer’s heart was here, in the state “most vulnerable to climate change,” as he put it; a crucial swing state where the Koch brothers had already spent millions to establish a political presence. Charlie Crist himself journeyed to NextGen’s San Francisco headquarters in June, to tell Steyer and many of these same strategists about sea-level rise in Miami, its troubling effects on drinking water and flood insurance and about the many ways in which he differed from Rick Scott. (“There couldn’t be a clearer choice,” Crist told me later. “I’m, like, the opposite of this guy.”)

Crist had been a Republican for most of his long career in Florida politics — as a state senator in 1992, as an education commissioner, as an attorney general — but after a single term as governor, during which he later claimed to have become increasingly alienated from a party that he described as “anti-women, anti-immigrant, anti-minority, anti-gay, anti-education, anti-environment,” he sought an independent U.S. Senate seat instead. He lost that bid to Marco Rubio, and in 2012 he announced (via Twitter) that he had registered as a Democrat. In November 2013 after an encouraging meeting with Steyer, he announced that he would seek the governor’s seat again. In his last turn as governor, Crist took climate change seriously; he pushed through a law that authorized the state’s Department of Environmental Protection to develop a cap-and-trade system. Scott and the Legislature dismantled the law, and Scott redirected the agency instead to “ensure that Florida leads the nation in new partnerships between government and industry.”

At the cramped conference table, Baldick rattled off more news, both good and bad. A series of recent polls found that both candidates were extremely unlikable. (“Crist and Scott Could Make History by Being So Unpopular in Florida” was the headline of one recent report at FiveThirtyEight.com.) Baldick said this could actually be a positive development. “Both of them are not liked,” he explained, but “if you think people are going to show up because they hate, not love — I do — there’s more people who hate Scott.”

Steyer leaned back in contemplation.

“You think that’s what gets people to vote?” he asked.

“Oh yeah, hate, fear —”

One company to which Vinyard granted a permit was Georgia-Pacific — the permit it had been seeking for many years under the Crist administration. The Department of Environmental Protection under Scott required some containment and monitoring measures that environmentalists had sought — officials of the department say it was among the strictest permits they had ever issued — but not the extra dioxin test. The Legislature also passed a provision banning the state from requiring any environmental test that was not on its officially recognized list. In Rinaman’s view, this language seemed suspiciously designed to exclude the test that the Crist administration had been pushing on Georgia-Pacific. Scott signed the provision into law; he also instituted a freeze on any new regulations, and then shed existing regulations by the hundreds.

Scott’s deregulatory efforts did not go unnoticed. Americans for Prosperity invited Scott to speak at the group’s Defending the Dream summit in 2013. “Here we are, two and a half years into his term, and he’s created more than 370,000 jobs in the state of Florida,” Slade O’Brien, the Florida director of the group at the time, said by way of introduction. “And one of the ways he did that was by eliminating over 1,000 burdensome regulations.” When Scott spoke, he noted that the number had grown to 2,600.

At a NextGen fund-raiser in July, the host, Mitchell Berger, a prominent Florida lawyer, told a group of wealthy Democratic donors in Miami that the choice was stark: New ideas and new energy in direct combat with the old coal and gas barons — “Tom Steyer versus the Koch brothers, right?” Steyer, in the speech that followed, offered a gentle corrective to this. It was not just about him, he said; he was hoping like-minded donors would join him. Right now, climate change is nowhere near the top of the list of items that motivate people to vote. He knew that he would never create the sense of a consensus for action if only one billionaire was behind it.

Near the end of September, as the race was entering its final phase, Steyer met once again with his team, this time in a borrowed conference room on the campus of the University of South Florida in Tampa. NextGen data showed that in total, Crist and the local Democrats had raised $44.4 million; that was roughly half what Scott and the Republicans had raised, but still good news, considering how far down Crist had been just a few months before. The money was flowing. The Florida Democratic Party, still the big player, had spent $16.8 million thus far, and the Crist campaign was just behind, with $16.4 million. NextGen was in for $7 million so far, and about to commit to $5 million more.
Continue reading the main story Continue reading the main story
Continue reading the main story

Steyer got good value for his money. Crist now held a three-point lead in a head-to-head race; he and Scott were tied at 41 percent when the Libertarian candidate, Alfred Adrian Wyllie, was included. In the three markets where NextGen was advertising in August — Tampa, Fort Myers and West Palm Beach — Crist had moved into a lead of 2 percentage points from what two months earlier had been a deficit of 8. The Duke Energy ad, in particular, had been effective in dampening Scott’s support in Tampa. Scott had just $4 million more in his cash reserves than Crist, and Baldick predicted that Scott, who had a large personal fortune, might eventually be forced to cut himself a check.

“I mean, the bottom line is that what we did worked and worked in a fairly significant way,” his pollster, Geoff Garin, said.

“Yeah,” Steyer said, “it feels good.”

In fact, though, Steyer seemed tired. He had been traveling across the country, visiting his battleground states. He was also, as he would learn the following day, suffering from a kidney stone.

The campaign seemed to have pushed Scott to temper his image on environmental policy. Scott announced that he would reverse some of his earlier cuts to springs protection and the state’s land-buying conservation program. He also said he would get tougher on polluters. He had even agreed to meet with a group of scientists who offered to explain to him why so many of them thought climate change was a genuine threat. (The scientists were disappointed by the meeting, though; during its 30-minute duration, the governor did not ask a single question about the climate.)


With six weeks left before Election Day, NextGen and Americans for Prosperity were each gearing up for aggressive get-out-the-vote efforts, befitting their strange new role as political parties in all but name. A.F.P. had spent the year visiting 280,000 households as part of a “voter education” program, knocking on doors and leaving door-handle placards: “Thank you Gov. Scott for creating jobs.” Chris Hudson, the group’s Florida director, said he expected to follow up with as many as 120,000 of them before Nov. 4.

In Tampa, Steyer and his team were tending to some details about their last-minute commercial blitz. The Crist campaign, Baldick said, had asked if they would extend their advertising in Fort Myers and Tampa; he suggested Steyer do Tampa, but skip Fort Myers. The additional $2 million for new television and online ads would come out of Steyer’s own pocket. The big-money donors that he had hoped would join him had not yet materialized, at least as of mid-September, when federal and Florida election filings showed that Steyer had provided $31.6 million of the $35 million NextGen raised nationwide.

After the meeting, Steyer sat down with 10 student volunteers in the University of South Florida alumni hall. They told him about their interest in solar power and restoring sea grass, their hopes to reduce emissions in India and oil dependence in Trinidad. Steyer could not have been happier. “The younger you are, the more you agree, the more urgent you think it is,” he told them.

By the time he stood up and took a few of them to a NextGen call center near campus, the exhaustion I’d seen in him earlier that day had dissipated. The swing was back in his arms, in his gait. He took his place beside the students to hit the phones. This was democracy at work. “I know you’re in the checkout line, but. . . .” he said to one contact who picked up. Then, to another he said, “If you can believe it, I’m the person who started NextGen Climate Action.”

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on October 18th, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

AS PER NEWS FROM THE WASHINGTON POST – October 18, 2014 -

“The greatest threat to public confidence in elections . . . is the prospect of enforcing a purposefully discriminatory law, one that likely imposes an unconstitutional poll tax and risks denying the right to vote to hundreds of thousands of eligible voters,” Ginsburg wrote.

She said a panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit had shirked its duty, since Ramos had agreed with the challengers that the law could keep an estimated 600,000 registered voters from casting ballots. Texas disputes the finding.

U.S. Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr., who had challenged the law, called the order a “major step backward.”

“It is true we are close to an election, but the outcome here that would be least confusing to voters is the one that allowed the most people to vote lawfully,” Holder said in a statement.

Officials in Texas said they were pleased by the court’s decision.

“The state will continue to defend the voter ID law and remains confident that the district court’s misguided ruling will be overturned on the merits,” said a statement from Lauren Bean, deputy communications director for Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott, who is also the Republican candidate for governor. “The U.S. Supreme Court has already ruled that voter ID laws are a legal and sensible way to protect the integrity of elections.”

The Texas law, called SB 14, requires the state’s estimated 13.6 million registered voters to show one of seven kinds of photo identification to cast a ballot.

The state says the law will guard against voter fraud and protect public confidence in elections. But civil rights groups and the Justice Department said the state’s decisions about what kinds of identification will suffice — permits to carry concealed handguns qualify, for instance, while college IDs do not — are meant to suppress certain types of voters.

The Supreme Court’s unsigned order did not address the merits of the law, nor did it supply reasoning for the decision to allow it to be enforced.

The court has been called upon to make emergency decisions about laws in four states, including Texas, in recent weeks, and in each case has decided against intervening in a state’s plan for conducting elections so close to the start of voting.

In the Texas case, it was impossible to discern how each justice voted, although Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg issued a stern dissent, which was joined by Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan.

The Supreme Court’s order that Texas can proceed with its strict voter-ID law in next month’s election ended what is likely to be just the first round in a legal battle over election-law changes made by Republican-led legislatures around the country.

In an order released just after 5 a.m. Saturday, the court said Texas could use a photo-ID law that has been described as the toughest in the nation. A district judge had declared after hearing testimony about the law that it was unconstitutional, and would keep hundreds of thousands of voters from casting ballots and disproportionately harm African Americans and Hispanics.

OUR OPINION: We link the above to the information that the prospective new immigrant from Liberia who came to Texas on a tourist visa with the intent to marry the mother of his son – legal residents in Texas and US citizens – was not treated when he came with fever to the hospital emergency room.

We feel – admittedly without evidence in hand – that his rejection was part of the attitude in Texas towards the Mex-Tex (Texans of Mexican origin) and the people of color in general – the categories that the Texas State Government is trying to disenfranchise. NOW WE HAVE THE EBOLA SCARE AFTER HE SPENT DAYS UNSUPERVISED AND ALL PEOPLE OF TEXAS AND THE NATION WERE PUT IN CLEAR DANGER.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on October 18th, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)


Biofuel Companies Look Beyond the Gas Tank

By DIANE CARDWELL, for The New York Times, October 17, 2014

When it comes to the future of advanced biofuel production, Abengoa Bioenergy, the Spanish company whose $500 million plant in Hugoton, Kan., is opening on Friday, has just one word: plastics.

For many of the companies opening big new biofuel plants in the Midwest, executives are already shifting their focus to replacing petroleum not only in the gas tank but elsewhere as well. In Abengoa’s case, a big target is plastic bottles.

“There really is a huge upside potential in the nonfuel side of the business,” said Chris Standlee, executive vice president of global affairs at the company. “Hugoton is the step that allows us to move on to some of these other things.”

Other companies are joining in. DuPont, which is developing a plant in Nevada, Iowa, recently announced that it had reached an agreement with Procter & Gamble to funnel some of its ethanol into Tide Cold Water laundry detergent.

And companies using other technologies are pursuing similar paths. Under an agreement with Unilever, for instance, Solazyme, which uses microalgae to produce oils, is making ingredients for Lux soaps.

The ethanol companies are still relying on the fuels business for much of their sales. Of the roughly 25 million gallons of ethanol Abengoa plans to produce from agricultural waste — mainly the nonedible parts of corn plants — it will most likely sell the bulk to California, where a low-carbon fuel mandate is creating a stronger market for clean fuels. Since its technology can also transform municipal solid waste to fuel, Mr. Standlee said, the company could also open plants outside of the heartland.

But ethanol demand is limited, and it has turned out to be much more complicated and expensive to develop biofuel from cellulosic biomass like plant residue, wood chips and municipal solid waste. So despite millions in government grants and tax subsidies, many companies that originally aimed to make renewable fuel are also looking to make products and chemicals for which they can reap a higher price.

Abengoa plans to pursue supplying plastic for bottles, something beverage companies have been seeking to help bolster their green credentials, Mr. Standlee said.

This direction poses a problem for the Department of Energy, whose aim was to ignite the development of clean fuels, said Wallace E. Tyner, a professor of agricultural economics at Purdue. But the energy market may not be ready.

“Today, if you want to build a plant economically, it doesn’t work unless you can get a decent amount of higher value product in the product stream,” he said. “You would hope that the companies who are investing in these plants are learning a lot. Some of them — many of them, maybe — are going to fail. But maybe some of them who are making higher value products will learn enough that they can more efficiently get some fuels out of it too.”

Ethanol operators have faced a shifting landscape in recent years. The market for ethanol to be used in vehicle fuels is already saturated, analysts say, and the industry is waiting on a long-delayed decision by the Environmental Protection Agency on whether to cut the amount required to be blended into the fuels by more than 40 percent. On top of this, technical challenges remain.

Still, major plants, representing hundreds of millions in investment, continue to come online. In addition to Abengoa’s opening, a joint venture between Poet, an ethanol producer, and Royal DSM, the Dutch life and materials sciences company, held its grand opening in Emmetsburg, Iowa, in September. Together, they are expected to produce about 50 million gallons of cellulosic ethanol a year — all generated from agricultural waste like corn cobs, husks and leaves, known as stover.

The uncertainty has forced ethanol producers like Abengoa to broaden their horizons.

DuPont is even looking overseas. On Thursday, it announced an agreement with Macedonia to develop a commercial-scale plant in partnership with Ethanol Europe, to produce about 25 million gallons of cellulosic ethanol a year.

“This is yet another example of the market’s readiness for cellulosic ethanol and the global interest,” the company said in a statement.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on October 16th, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

[COP20-Lima] Por un Mundo habitable con justicia climática |
For Climate Justice and a World Fit to Be Lived |
Pour un Monde habitable et une justice climatique

Castellano | English | Français | Português

For Climate Justice and a World Fit to Be Lived
in Lima, December 8 to 11, 2014

In a spirit of solidarity, we call on all civil-society organizations, networks, social movements, research centers, and citizens in general to join in the Peoples’ Summit on Climate Change to be held from December 8 to 11, 2014. The Peoples’ Summit will be a major alternative event during the 20th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP 20) scheduled for the first half of December in Lima, Peru.
Read more

Welcome!
Welcome everyone to the official mailing list of the Peoples’ Summit on Climate Change – Peru 2014. This list is unidirectional and you will only receive summary information of the Communication Commission of the People’s Summit. With this message we want to bring information related to People’s Summit.
Six Major Themes
Debates and events will be organized under six major themes:
1. Civilizatory change and Development model.
2. Global Warming and Climate Change.
3. Energy
4. Food Security and Sovereignty
5. Sustainable Land Management
6. Financing, technology transfer and inter-learning.
Read more

Participation and self organized activities
The Summit is the independent space for civil society, an alternative space to the Twentieth Conference of the Parties (COP20) from the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). The People’s Summit will be held from December 8 to 11th in downtown Lima. The Central Mobilization will happen December 10th, Global Day of Human Rights. Participation at the people’s summit is completely free and open. You can register your event here. We recommend you review our list of FAQ.
Contact Us
contactoThe official e-mail is  cumbredelospuebloscop20 at gmail.com.
Depending on the specific communication or requirement of information, you can send an email to:
General information, Logistics, Communications, International topics.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on October 16th, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)


Hilton St Petrsburg Bayfront


A Global Convergence of the Ocean Arts & Sciences

November 3 – 9, 2014 / St. Petersburg / Tampa Bay, Florida

RESERVE NOW

Ocean all-stars to converge at 2014 BLUE Ocean Film Festival and Conservation Summit

Once a year, BLUE convenes a diverse ecosystem of ocean all-stars focused on the promotion of the ocean through film and media. Heads of state, celebrities, filmmakers, media scientists and global leaders have turned to BLUE as a platform for collaboration and progress, catalyzed by the dazzling, stunning and provocative films. From all walks of life, and from around the world, they arrive to be inspired by the content, get the scoop on new technology, hear about projects, share ideas and form partnerships that can change the tide.

“Our mission is to inspire people everywhere to connect with ocean conservation, and to serve as a catalyst for important discussions,” said BLUE Co-founder and CEO Debbie Kinder.

BLUE alternates between Tampa Bay and Monaco each year, attracting movie stars, explorers, governments, scientists, and filmmakers like no other ocean event to date. Among the film actors (subject to change) who plan to attend BLUE 2014 in person, or join Google Hangouts or participate by skype this year are Jeremy Irons, Richard Branson, Susan Sarandon and others – just the tip of the ice berg. It’s virtually a BLUE Who’s Who.

If you plan to attend BLUE, rooms are still available (for a limited time) at the BLUE Headquarters located at the Hilton Saint Petersburg Bayfront. Enjoy the surroundings as BLUE 2014 immerses in this vibrant ocean community of oceanographic institutions and museums located on one of the nation’s most strategic coastlines.


If you cannot attend the event, attend online – live broadcast, Google Hangouts and the EXPLOREBLUE2014 App will help you follow BLUE events throughout the week. Download the App for the latest schedule and update on speakers at BLUE.

UPDATED EVENT SCHEDULE AND SPEAKER LIST – CLICK HERE

BLUE – The Film Festival
Screenings of winning films and Q & A with film makers, ocean photography, marine technology and art exhibits.

The Industry Conference
Production and communication skills, underwater filmmaking technical expertise through hands-on master classes. The latest information on ocean issues and film projects, networking among commissioners and other media funding organizations.

The Conservation Summit
Lectures and panels impart the latest science, share insight, debate issues, and challenge audiences to be proactive. Some of the most dramatic and inspiring moments at BLUE.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on October 15th, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

BUSINESS LITIGATION CORNER

Responding to Stockholder Inspection Demands Under Delaware Code § 220

Delaware Code § 220 gives stockholders the right to inspect a corporation’s books and records subject to important limitations that have developed in the Delaware caselaw. This article explains the scope of and limitations on that right, and it also discusses the 10 questions that a corporation should consider upon receipt of such a request.
View the full article »

DELAWARE: Shareholders Entitled to Privileged Corporate Documents »
NEW YORK: Shareholders Allowed to Inspect Books and Records »

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on October 14th, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

In the late 1970s, U.K. Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher often repeated the phrase “There is no alternative” — meaning that deregulated capitalism was the only possible way of doing things.

It’s an idea that still carries a lot of weight today, stifling the popular imagination. The feeling that we’re stuck with the system is so embedded in the dominant narrative that when the economy collapsed in 2007 we couldn’t imagine an alternative to bailing out the banks and hitting restart on Wall Street.

Except that’s not entirely true. Communities and social movements have been imagining alternatives to capitalism — many alternatives — for centuries.

A major challenge for our movements is creating space in the popular imagination for these ideas to flourish so that when the next crisis happens the solutions on the table move us closer to the world we need.

This raises the question we’re wrestling with on day two of #NewEconomyWeek:

How can we catalyze public conversation about the need for systemic change and the viability of economic alternatives that put people and the planet first?

Today, and each day this week, we will be featuring written responses by NEC coalition members and allies. We are also thrilled to be partnering with Yes! Magazine to broadcast some of this week’s content on their website. Check out their #NewEconomyWeek page here.

Sincerely,

The New Economy Coalition team

———————————

#NewEconomyWeek Day Two Responses

We Can’t Talk About A New Economy Without Talking About Race by Anand Jahi

The Finite Planet Frame by Eric Zencey, Gund Institute For Ecological Economics

In the New Economy, Caring Counts by Riane Eisler, Indradeep Ghosh, and Natalie Cox, Caring Economy Campaign

Co-Creating a New Vision by Jonathan Cohn, Christi Electris, and Paul Raskin, Tellus Institute

A Mantra For The Movement: “More of What Matters” by Sarah Baird, Center for a New American Dream

Five Metaphors for New Economies by Vanessa Timmer, One Earth

#NewEconomyWeek Day Two Featured Events

Public Banking For Vermont
Tuesday, October 14, 6:30PM to 8:00PM EST
Woodstock, VT

Winning Hearts and Minds: Anti-Racism, Feminism and the New Economy
Tuesday, October 14, 6:30PM to 9:30PM EST
Medford, MA

Limits to Growth: Where We Are and What to Do About It
Tuesday, October 14, 10:00PM EST / 7:00PM PST
Vancouver, BC and Online

Visit www.neweconomyweek.org for the full list of over 90 events planned by NEC’s friends and allies!

#NewEconomyWeek Online Panel Series

Starting Wednesday, we will be hosting online discussions with new economy leaders from across the US and Canada. After checking out the line-up below, register today to access all of this week’s panels.

There Are Many Alternatives: System Change Not Climate Change
POSTPONED (Date/Time TBD) Tuesday, October 14 @ 3-4pm EST

Scaling Power for a Just Transition: Strategies to Catalyze the New Economy
Wednesday, October 15 @ 4-5pm EST

Honoring our Histories, Fighting for our Future: Learning From Communities on the Frontlines of a Just Transition
Thursday, October 16 @ 3-4pm EST

Displacing Injustice, Embracing Community: Lessons from Local and Regional New Economy Organizing
Friday, October 17 @ 3-4pm EST

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on October 14th, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)


Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan Proposed for Southern California

 www.drecp.org
Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan Proposed for Southern California

  Permalink | | Email This Article Email This Article
Posted in California, Reporting from Washington DC

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on October 14th, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)


Bernie Sanders vs. the Billionaires

By Andrew Prokop, Vox also on Readers Supported News

14 October 2014

On a recent Sunday morning in Waterloo, Iowa, about 150 people filed into the local arts center to hear a speech by the United States’ only socialist senator. Vermont’s Bernie Sanders, white-haired and 73 years old, spoke for about an hour in his gravel-voiced, thick Brooklyn accent. His views are, he said, “a little different than most views.” Sanders denounced the power of the wealthy, advocated for single-payer health care and the public funding of elections — and called for a “political revolution” in America.

The crowd of mostly-elderly, liberal Iowans seemed to like the senator’s pitch. When Sanders said the top 25 hedge fund managers last year made more money than 425,000 public school teachers, many gasped. When he said Wall Street bankers were “too big to jail,” many clapped. And when he opened the floor for questions, one from a younger audience member, Rachel Antonuccio, led to particularly loud cheers. “I have a very simple question,” she said to Sanders. “Will you please run for president?”

Once Sanders quieted the applause, he didn’t give the standard politician’s coy non-response. He admitted that he’s “given thought to” running, saying he was motivated by the “enormous problems” the US faces — but he then quickly veered into his misgivings.

“I’m not much into hero-worship and all this stuff,” he said. “If somebody like me — or me — became president, there is no chance in the world that anything significant could be accomplished without the active, unprecedented support of millions of people, who would be prepared to make a commitment — the likes of which we have not made!”

Sanders argued that his positions — critical of the wealthy and corporate power, supportive of campaign finance reform, skeptical of trade deregulation and cutting social services — had the support of most Americans. But, he said, more than half of the public remained politically apathetic. “60 percent of the American people are not likely to vote in the coming election,” he said. “You think you can bring around change with that dynamic? You can have the best human being in the world in the White House fighting all the right fights, and he or she will fail.”

The question, he said, was whether those average Americans would join the political process — because, if they didn’t, the power of billionaires and corporate interests would never be checked. He asked, “Will those people stand up and fight?” When someone in the audience yelled out, “Yes,” Sanders cut him off. “It’s easy to say that they will!” He raised his voice further: “But I know that I don’t wanna be in the White House taking on the Koch brothers, who’ll be running ads 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, trying to destroy me and my family and everything else that we believe in, and not have people getting involved. And I don’t know whether that can happen.” He wound down: “That’s what I’m trying to figure out.”

As Hillary Clinton prepares for another presidential run, most observers believe that she’s nearly certain to win the Democratic nomination. Yet over the past several months, progressive activists have grown increasingly unsettled by her positions on both economic and foreign policy issues. She generally takes a conciliatory, rather than confrontational, tone toward the rich — which is perhaps not surprising, since she’s accepted millions in speaking fees and donations from corporations and banks, for both herself and her family’s foundation. Like Obama, Clinton wants to win support from, and work closely with, many of the wealthiest people in the country.

Bernie Sanders offers a very different approach. Though he’s never been a member of the Democratic Party, he’s considering challenging Clinton for the Democratic presidential nomination. He believes the central issue in America today is that the nation is drifting toward oligarchy. To stop this, he hopes to mobilize the American public — including traditionally Republican constituencies like elderly, rural, and white voters — to back an explicit, full-on challenge to the power of billionaires and corporate interests. With Thomas Piketty’s book becoming a bestseller, and politicians like Elizabeth Warren and Bill de Blasio winning enthusiastic support for campaigning on inequality, could the Democratic electorate be ready for Bernie Sanders’ pitch?

The socialist senator

The word “socialist” is generally considered an epithet in the US, suggesting support for excessive government power or even Communist-style dictatorial abuse. But it’s a term Sanders embraces. A portrait of Eugene Debs, labor organizer and five-time Socialist Party candidate for president, hangs on a wall of Sanders’ Senate office in Washington, DC. Back in the late 1970s, Sanders created educational filmstrips for schools, and wrote and narrated one about Debs, in which he called him “a socialist, a revolutionary, and probably the most effective and popular leader that the American working class has ever had.” Sanders told C-SPAN in 2011 that Debs pioneered ideas like retirement benefits and a right to health care. When ABC’s Jeff Zeleny quizzed him about the socialist label in August, Sanders responded, “Do you hear me cringing? Do you hear me running under the table?”

Debs’ portrait is a reminder that, over Sanders’ four decades in politics — as a perennial third-party candidate, mayor of Burlington, Congressman, and then senator — he’s been laser-focused on checking the power of the wealthy above all else. Even as a student at the University of Chicago in the 1960s, influenced by the hours he spent in the library stacks reading famous philosophers, he became frustrated with his fellow student activists, who were more interested in race or imperialism than the class struggle. They couldn’t see that everything they protested, he later said, was rooted in “an economic system in which the rich controls, to a large degree, the political and economic life of the country.”

“Bernie is in many ways a 1930s radical as opposed to a 1960s radical,” says Professor Garrison Nelson of the University of Vermont. “The 1930s radicals were all about unions, corporations — basically economic issues rather than cultural ones.”

Richard Sugarman, an old friend who worked closely with Sanders during his early political career, concurs. “We spent much less time on social issues and much more time on economic issues,” he told me. “Bernard always began with the question of, ‘What is the economic fairness of the situation?’”

Sanders’ parents were Jewish immigrants from Poland, and his father couldn’t speak English. They lived in a small apartment in Brooklyn. “My mother’s dream was to own her own home, and she never achieved that,” he told me. “We were never hungry by any means. But money was always a major issue within our family. It caused a lot of tension between my mother and my dad.”

After college and a few aimless post-graduation years, Sanders moved up to Vermont permanently in 1968, and has lived there ever since. At the time, Vermont was viewed a rural refuge from New York, and a wave of migrants was reshaping the conservative state. Only a few years later, Sanders walked into a meeting of a local third party, the Liberty Union Party, and walked out its candidate for United States Senate. It would be the first of 20 third-party or independent bids for office — 14 of which he’d win.

Sanders’ first such victory — his election as mayor of Vermont’s largest city, Burlington, in 1981 — made national news. Dissatisfied with the rising cost of living, he had come out of nowhere to challenge an entrenched five-term Democratic incumbent, who basically ignored him. But Sanders had a keen political eye for finding defining issues. He opposed a plan to build high-end condos on the Burlington waterfront as a sop to the wealthy, criticized proposed property tax increases as too regressive, and won a crucial endorsement from the city’s police union. After a bitter recount battle, he ended up with 4,030 votes to the incumbent’s 4,020. Stories across the nation announced that a socialist would become the mayor of Vermont’s largest city. One report ran with the headline: “Everyone’s scared.”

The Sanders agenda

While Sanders is clearly to the left of today’s Democratic Party, the platform he laid out in Waterloo, Iowa, was not as extreme as the word “socialist” might lead people to think. “He’s a ‘small s’ socialist,” says Nelson. “He’s not, ‘Let’s totally revamp the government, break up the corporations, create five-year plans.’ He doesn’t get out too far on an ideological limb.”

The major issue on which Sanders embraces “full socialism” is health care, where he maintains his longtime support of a single-payer health care system. In Waterloo, Sanders called Obamacare a “modest step forward,” but called for expanding coverage and reducing the costs of care, much as candidates Obama and Clinton did in 2008. The problem is that in the current system, he said, “the goal is for the insurance companies and the drug companies to make as much money as possible.” (As a Congressman, Sanders brought a busload of breast cancer patients to Canada so they could buy cheaper prescription drugs.)


But support for single-payer isn’t so radical in Sanders’ home state, which actually enacted the nation’s first such system in 2011. After years of advocacy, and bitter disappointment at the compromises to the health industry that Bill Clinton and Barack Obama made, Sanders was jubilant over Vermont’s achievement. “If we do it and do it well, other states will get in line and follow us,” he said. “And we will have a national system.”

On other issues, Sanders is more like a traditional populist Democrat, willing to disregard the concerns of business and the wealthy in order to try and help the less fortunate. “I voted against all the trade agreements,” he told me. “Unfettered free trade has been a disaster for the American people.” He has no time for deficit hawks, and instead mocks “entitlement reform” as a “code word” meaning “cutting Social Security and Medicare.” Rather than cut Social Security, he says, we should expand it, after raising payroll taxes on the wealthy. On education, he says “it’s time we thought about” making college free for everyone. He’s argued that the government should spend billions more on infrastructure, to create jobs. And he supports amending the Constitution to allow for greater Congressional regulation of campaign finance, like the rest of his party.

Elsewhere, he is more cautious. He has not voiced support for increasing taxes on the middle class, arguing instead that they’re already getting squeezed. On social issues, like abortion, gun rights, and gay rights, he is squarely within the mainstream of the Democratic party — not to its left. And on foreign policy, while he opposed the war in Iraq, he voices sympathy with Israel’s security concerns and warns of the dangers of ISIS — positions that have sometimes led to awkward confrontations with a few more radical constituents.

“He knows the game,” Nelson says. “Most radicals don’t know the game and they don’t want to learn the game because it would compromise their purity. But he likes to win elections, and he has got a very good sense of what will work and what won’t.” In Waterloo, Sanders voiced confidence that the views he’s pushing were broadly popular. “What I believe is, on all these issues, we have the vast majority of people on our side.”

Mayor of Burlington

Half an hour before the Waterloo event, I met up with Sanders at a cafe downtown. It was a chilly, windy Sunday morning, and few places nearby were open. We sat at a table outside, Sanders ordered tea, and I asked him why Obama’s presidency fell short of progressives’ expectations. “I like Barack Obama. I think he is a very, very smart guy,” he said. “His views, his heart, while not terribly progressive, are more progressive than I think some of his actions have shown.” But his “major flaw,” Sanders said, was his “post-partisan” approach to Washington politics. “He believed that people could sit down in Congress and have serious discussions about serious issues and move forward. Well, he was wrong.”

Instead, Sanders said, “There was an unprecedented level of obstructionism” from the GOP, “starting literally from the day that he got inaugurated.” He argued that the GOP’s major strategy was trying to block action on any issue, so the American people would blame Obama for being a failure. “And I think he did not understand that,” he said. “That has been their political strategy, and by and large it’s been reasonably successful.”

If Sanders believes Obama should have been prepared for an immediate, tooth-and-nail fight, perhaps that’s because he himself faced one right after being sworn in as mayor of Burlington in 1981. His “most bitter enemies,” he told a reporter at the time, were the local Democrats, who controlled the city’s 13-member board of aldermen. Board members viewed Sanders’ victory as a ludicrous affront, and felt a Democrat was certain to retake the mayoralty two years later. So when the new mayor tried to replace city officials held over from the previous administration with his own appointees, the Democrats blocked nearly all of them, refusing even to hold hearings considering their appointments. Forget socialist reforms — Sanders couldn’t even get a staff. “He was operating without any kind of administration,” his first mayoral campaign manager, Linda Niedweske, said.

The atmosphere was tense. Early on, his political inexperience was mocked. In one embarrassing case, he nominated a man for a city position without realizing the man had died a month earlier. A Democratic alderman told a reporter that Sanders was “quite crude.” A leaflet dubbed the “Burlington Flea Press,” written anonymously by an apparent City Hall insider, spread rumors that Sanders was truly a Communist, not a socialist. He even got a ticket for parking his car in the mayor’s parking spot. “I guess now what I expect is that the Democrats on the board are going to attempt to make every day of my life as difficult as possible,” Sanders said at the time. “That’s fine. We will reciprocate in kind.”

Rather than sway his opponents by reason, or through compromise, he campaigned to get them kicked out of office — recruiting challengers, organizing volunteers, and working himself to exhaustion. Beyond that, he zeroed in on the tedious, day-to-day details of ensuring services were provided. “He understood that if you were going to be mayor of a city with a very cold climate and a lot of snow, that snow removal rather than ideology would most often prevail,” says Sugarman. He started to ride around on snow trucks to supervise the plowing, and even started a volunteer program called Operation Snow Shovel to help senior citizens.

The voters rewarded him. In 1982, most of his Democratic opponents went down to defeat, and Sanders’ appointees were soon confirmed. And when Sanders himself was up for reelection the following year, he won easily, with 52 percent in a three-way race. “We came close to doubling the voter turnout” compared to his initial election, Sanders told me. “Why? Because we kept our promises. We did pay attention to the low-income and working-class areas. They saw parks being improved, they saw their streets being plowed, and being paved. People saw — ‘Oh my God, government works!’”

While some of his most bitter enemies would never fully be won over, tensions with business interests began to cool when they realized Sanders wanted to bring jobs to the city, not confiscate their wealth. “Taxes went up and the government charged new fees for all kinds of things that kind of aggravated them,” Nelson said. “But the smarter businesses learned to live with Bernie.” The proposal for making high-rises on the waterfront was killed, but the developer behind it started to work closely with Sanders on other issues, and they became good friends. Sanders’ radicalism was mainly limited to foreign policy — yes, Burlington had one, including resolutions supporting the Sandinista regime in Nicaragua. (The mayor’s supporters were nicknamed the “Sanders-istas.”)

Sanders served four two-year terms as mayor, and left a legacy. “Had Bernie Sanders not become mayor, the city would have become hopelessly yuppified, with poor people being priced out of Burlington,” Nelson told the Washington Post’s Lois Romano in 1991. Still, nothing like a socialist revolution ever materialized. But Sanders had raised his profile enough to be elected Vermont’s sole Congressman in 1990 — the first independent elected to the US House of Representatives in 40 years.

Political revolution

Throughout his two and a half decades in Congress, Sanders has often worked with Republicans on individual issues. In 2005, Matt Taibbi dubbed him the House’s “amendment king” because, since the GOP takeover of 1994, Sanders had more amendments approved by floor vote than any other lawmaker. “He accomplishes this on the one hand by being relentlessly active, and on the other by using his status as an Independent to form left-right coalitions,” Taibbi wrote. Sanders looked for issues that would appeal to most Americans and be broadly popular, even if — especially if — the corporate-influenced leadership of both parties would prefer to avoid them.

But small wins haven’t been enough for Sanders, who’s always been obsessed with the big picture. He now says the trend he’s been warning about for decades — the rise of oligarchy — has only gotten more urgent and dire. Somehow, despite his belief that the American people agree with him, the Republican Party has won many elections, even as it’s moved further to the right. “The Republican Party right now in Washington is highly disciplined, very, very well-funded, and adheres to more or less the Koch brother position,” Sanders told me. They’ve “moved from being a right-center party to a right-wing extremist party,” he said. As with the Burlington Democrats, Sanders doesn’t believe they can be negotiated with on major issues — only defeated.

How would defeat be possible? Democrats already have some advantages among the presidential electorate, with large leads among racial minorities, women, and young voters. But in midterms, the electorate tends to be older and whiter. In 2010, Democratic Congressional candidates got their lowest percentage of the white vote ever, and in 2012, Obama lost whites and white seniors by the most of any Democratic presidential candidate since the 1980s. Plus, the GOP has a built-in edge in both chambers of Congress — from the gerrymandered map and natural geography for House districts, plus the overrepresentation of rural white states in the Senate.

Yet Sanders himself has repeatedly won double-digit statewide victories in Vermont — the second-whitest, second-oldest, and second-most-rural state in the nation. Accordingly, he believes that the only way to break the GOP’s power is to turn many of their own core voters — white voters, rural voters, and seniors — against them, and against the power of the wealthy.

This is the political revolution Sanders hopes to achieve, and this is why he’s repeatedly visited Iowa and New Hampshire this year. “I do not know how you can concede the white working class to the Republican Party, which is working overtime to destroy the working class in America,” Sanders told me. “The idea that Democrats are losing among seniors when you have a major Republican effort to destroy Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid, is literally beyond my comprehension.”


So why is it happening? “I think the average Tea Party person is angry because he or she has seen their family’s income go down, their college is unaffordable, that they’re struggling with health care, they’ve seen their jobs go to China,” Sanders said. “But the people who fund the Tea Party believe in all of those things! So I think the first thing you have to do is explain to them how they are being manipulated by the Koch brothers and the folks who put the money into the Tea Party.”

That explanation has recently been the main theme of Sanders’ political project. In Waterloo, Sanders listed a blizzard of statistics about growing inequality — diagnosing the problem. Then, he identified the culprit — billionaires, corporations, and specifically the Koch brothers, whose names he mentioned 18 times. He spent several minutes reading and criticizing the Libertarian Party’s political platform from 1980, when David Koch was its vice presidential nominee. He quoted sections supporting “the repeal of federal campaign finance laws,” “the abolition of Medicare and Medicaid programs,” “the repeal of the fraudulent, bankrupt, and increasingly oppressive Social Security system,” and the repeal of minimum wage laws and personal and corporate income taxes.

“The agenda of the Koch brothers,” Sanders said, “is to repeal virtually every major piece of legislation that has been signed into law over the past 80 years that has protected the middle class, the elderly, the children, the sick, and the most vulnerable in this country.”

Essentially, Sanders is calling for the Democratic Party to wage a rhetorical war on the billionaire class, to better mobilize the general public against them, and break their power. He believes the power of the rich is the defining issue of our politics, and wants to elevate it accordingly. The specifics of how this mobilization happens, and what the public does once it’s mobilized (beyond voting out Republicans), are less clear. Sanders’ generic suggestion tends to be for a march on Washington. “You wanna lower the cost of college? Then you’re gonna have to show up in Washington with a few million of your friends!” he told an audience member in Waterloo. “You wanna raise the minimum wage? Bring two million workers to Washington,” he continued.

Much of the party has already gravitated toward his rhetoric, if not all of his policies. In September, every Senate Democrat voted to amend the US Constitution to reverse the Citizens United Supreme Court decision on campaign finance. And lately, Harry Reid has been sounding positively Sanders-esque on the topic of the Koch brothers, mentioning their names on the Senate floor repeatedly in speeches. Though it’s just rhetoric, politicians who use it tend to elicit very strong reactions from their targets — Obama’s brief, one-time use of the term “fat-cat bankers” resulted in quite a backlash from bankers who felt offended.

But Hillary Clinton is extremely unlikely to take up the banner of class warfare in her presidential campaign. According to a report by Amy Chozick of the New York Times, she is currently exploring, through discussions with donors and friends in business, how her campaign can address inequality “without alienating businesses or castigating the wealthy.” Beyond Clinton’s desire to raise campaign cash, there’s a long-held belief among many Democratic political consultants that messaging critical of the rich simply isn’t effective in US politics. Instead, they argue, much of the American public actually rather admires successful businessmen, and aspires to be like them. And lack of trust in government is a real and consistent force in American politics and public opinion.

Sanders acknowledges all this, but wants to persuade people that they should blame the billionaires and corporations pulling the government’s strings and gumming up its gears. The problem, he believes, is that many Americans don’t believe the Democratic Party will fight for them — because, he says, “corporate influence makes the party more conservative, which raises doubts among people.” A campaign focused on issues of inequality and the power of the wealthy, he argued, can convince people Democrats will fight for them again. “You win because you are there fighting for working families all across the board, for seniors, for the children,” he says. “That’s how you win.” Beyond Vermont, though, it’s a theory that remains unproven.

A presidential run?

After Sanders laid out his misgivings about running for president in Waterloo, an audience member broached the question of whether he might run as an independent or a Democrat. “That’s a great question!” Sanders said, animated. “I’d love to get your opinions on it.” He laid out his thinking to the crowd. An independent candidacy could be appealing because of “huge frustration at both parties,” but it’s very difficult to get on the ballot in 50 states. And he emphasized that he would never run as a spoiler if it could lead to the election of a Republican president — “we’ve made that mistake in the past.” On the other hand, if he ran as a Democrat, “It’s easier to get on the ballot, you can get into the debates, and the media will take you more seriously.” The disadvantage? “People are not overwhelmingly enthusiastic about the Democratic Party.”

Sanders asked the crowd which sounded better, and about 80 percent of them raised their hands in favor of a primary contest. “I think you run as a Democrat, because you want to push the debate, with Hillary or whoever it is, in the direction you want to see it go,” an audience member said. “We need to hear the establishment challenged.” Sanders then asked the crowd another question. “I know Iowa does politics differently than other states,” he said, to knowing chuckles. “How many of you would be prepared to work hard if I ran?” A sizable majority raised their hands again.

If Sanders runs, his ideas could have their highest-profile spotlight in decades. In 2007 and 2008, the candidates in the Democratic presidential primary debated 26 times, though that number will surely be much lower next time around. Sanders’ best hope is that few other candidates besides Clinton, or none, enter the race. If there are 8 challengers on stage, he could easily be dismissed by the media as a kook, like Dennis Kucinich and Mike Gravel. If it’s just him and Clinton debating, that’s exactly the contrast he hopes for. “I think there’s a hunger for somebody who will take on banks and the corporations and the wealthy,” said Huck Gutman, Sanders’ former chief of staff.

It’s quite plausible that we’ll see a moment in 2015 when Sanders benefits from such a surge of attention, however brief it may be. “I have nightmares that someone like a Bernie Sanders will catch fire and cause trouble for Hillary Clinton,” a pro-Clinton Democratic operative told MSNBC’s Alex Seitz-Wald recently. But little-known challengers who go up in the polls are then likely to go down. In the GOP race in 2012, dissatisfaction with front-runner Mitt Romney led to a surge of attention and poll performance for several other challengers — Michele Bachmann, Rick Perry, Herman Cain, Newt Gingrich, Rick Santorum — who soon flamed out. Political scientists John Sides and Lynn Vavreck characterized this pattern as “discovery, scrutiny, and decline.” The GOP electorate learned more about an interesting new challenger, but eventually realized he or she wasn’t the right choice — perhaps due to concerns over electability.

Still, Iowa and New Hampshire could be two advantageous states for Sanders. Rural and white, they resemble Vermont demographically, and are filled with exactly the sort of voters he wants for his revolution. “A misconception about Vermont is that it’s a bunch of Volvo-driving liberals,” said Gutman. “A lot more people there drive patched up old cars than Volvos, and they’re the heart of Bernie’s constituency. Bernie appeals to working families, seniors, veterans — to people who say ‘I’m being pushed and shoved.’” But though outsider Republicans like Pat Buchanan, Mike Huckabee, and Rick Santorum have edged out victories in either Iowa or New Hampshire, true outsider Democrats have had less luck there in recent years. And afterward, the road will only get tougher.

Ideals are nice, but pragmatists deal with the world as it is. Bernie Sanders knows that very well — and so does Hillary Clinton. Even if the political revolution doesn’t quite materialize, Sanders, in positioning himself for a run, is reshaping the world Clinton will have to deal with by presenting a threat to her left. How she responds will have implications for her own candidacy, the Democratic party’s platform, and potentially even the presidency. “I like Hillary. I respect Hillary,” Sanders told me. “But it is important that we discuss issues. Which is what the future of America will be about.”

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