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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on July 8th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (pj@sustainabilitank.info)

Why is it that just about only two true liberal economists – Nobel Prize Winners Joseph Stiglitz and Paul Krugmann – seem to have it right on Greece vs. the German dominance of Europe?

With so much in the media – most of it telling about the writer – not the subject – we did not find it interesting to enter the fray. Looking up the subject in the SustainabiliTank.info memory – we found only one article to-date. It is: the January 26, 2015 article: “Can Bolivia Chart a Sustainable Path Away From Capitalism? Will Greece try to come up with a Pachamama and an ALBA Charge? In this Globalized economy can a State honestly drop out and isolate itself?”

 www.sustainabilitank.info/wp/wp-a…

I posted some excerpts of a very interesting and long article I picked up from Truthout – this with my thinking of the latest changes in Greece and wondering if rhetoric is true change – and how can Greece fare in a capitalist world with management outside its borders, but vested interests residing also in the country itself. Will there be a Greek Pachamama in Europe’s future? Will the Tsipris Greece be the Morales of an ALBA Charge of anti-capitalist rhetoric in Europe? The article I was looking at the time did not deal with Greece but with countries in Latin America that did shake off impositions from the globalization of capitalism.

The true problem in Europe seems to be that Ms. Angela Merkel just does not have the knowledge of European history. Having grown up under the Communism of East Germany, then liberated by the reunification process, she transferred the communist zeal into a capitalist zeal that basically says – all is well if you make money of it. What she does not understand is that the First World War caused the Second World War by imposing debt on the losing side Germany, but then after the Second World War, a Democratic Administration in the US, having learned from the previous experience, made sure that the rebirth of Europe, and Germany being a main ingredient of Europe, will be made possible by avoiding the sort of debt situation that the Treaty of Versailles allowed.

Besides finally annulling the German debt from WWI eventually in 1953 the European debtors of a reborn West Germany, including Greece, decided on writing off the major part of the new debt.

Sustainability is thus based on writing off debt, rather then in puritanical insistence on repayment. This is not just a matter of an uninformed Ms. Angela Merkel, but also of a large part of US politics – the present Republican party of all its streams.

We find today that my question of January 2015 is becoming very relevant in the European negotiations of July 2015, and the two above Professors seem to have reached some very similar conclusions. It just makes better sense for Greece to bail out from a system full of directives and regain their independence by printing their own money, and running their own country by themselves – and for themselves.

The problem with all those conservative-puritanical blind a-National capitalism adherents that were trained also in blind Business Administration – they have no feelings for social issues, and the understanding that good income for the lower classes creates the customers for the goods that are produced in the country that finds employment for its citizens. Making profits overseas and not paying taxes at home – just does not lead to sustainability of a Nation.

Providing fake “bail-outs” by providing money to pay for the interest on old loans, is only an illusion of help and leads only to further decline of the debtor Nation. The Greeks were totally right in voting OXI over NAI. Now Ms. Merkel wants to charm them back into submission – but only Debt forgiveness provides a path to a solution.

In absence of such an approach, the Greeks are advised by the above two professors to leave the EURO, create a NEW DRACHMA, devalue it to the point it hurts – but it promisses a better future for their children – something that is in their hands to achieve and not decided for them from outside by a non-Union that only rules but does not tend to their social needs.

We wish the best luck to Prime Minister Tsipras. He already sacrificed his finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis and brought in a milder speaking Euclid Tsakalotos, but the EU has not yet reciprocated by retiring Ms. Merkel. What Germany needs is a leader not afraid, or mentally opposed, to tackle their Bank Managers who on their own will never make the needed decisions.
Such decisions will have to be made with SUSTAINABILITY and the social needs of all 29 States of the EU with an eventual push for the creation of a true Union even if it is deemed to base it in a Federal System – something like the USE – the Unitted States of Europe. If not – the EURO has no place in their deliberations, and Tsipras might as well declare his admiration for the Bolivian Morales.

The Official debt of Greece is to:

Germany 68.2 bn EURO
France 43.8 bn
Italy 38.4 bn
Spain 25.0 bn

IMF 21.4 bn
ECB 18.1 bn

US 11.3 bn

UK 10.8 bn

Belgium 7.5 bn
Austria 5.9 bn
Finland 3.7 bn

Of these EU countries, Italy and Spain, are themselves heavily indebted and might very soon be in need of bailouts.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on July 23rd, 2013
by Pincas Jawetz (pj@sustainabilitank.info)


Toothless move? Experts doubt efficacy of Hezbollah blacklist.

July 23, 2013
By Kareem Shaheen
of The Daily Star of Beirut.

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, talks with Italian Foreign Minister Emma Bonino, and Malta’s Foreign Minister George Vella during the EU foreign ministers meeting, at the European Council building in Brussels, July 22, 2013 – as per an AP photo.

BEIRUT: The blacklisting of Hezbollah’s military wing is a message warning the party over its involvement in Syria and activities in Europe and would only have a limited effect, experts and analysts said Monday. Few saw a distinction between the group’s military and political wings, saying it would be prohibitively difficult to target military cadres and assets, and arguing that the party had few financial resources in Europe that could be subject to sanctions.

But they said the decision to blacklist the military wing would make it easier to carry out investigations in concert with European intelligence agencies into Hezbollah’s fundraising and militant activities.

“They distinguish between the military and political wing when in reality there isn’t much distinction,” said Nadim Shehadi, an associate fellow at the Middle East and North Africa Programme in Chatham House.

“But it’s a way of creating constructive ambiguity to maintain engagement at the same time as sending a strong message.”

The EU maintains contact with Hezbollah on a variety of issues, including the activities of UNIFIL, the peacekeeping force on the border with Israel, and on joint projects between the EU and Lebanon.

Shehadi argued the distinction made it possible for the EU to continue talking to Hezbollah, likening the measure to the U.K.’s decision to distinguish between the Provisional Irish Republican Army, which fought a protracted insurgency against British rule, and its political wing, Sinn Fein, allowing negotiations to end the fighting.

“The introduction of a separation between the military wing and the political wing gives a way out,” he said.

Hezbollah itself does not distinguish between its two wings.

“This is long overdue,” said Matthew Levitt, a former deputy assistant secretary for intelligence and analysis at the U.S. Treasury Department. “Hezbollah has believed that it could mix militancy, terrorism, crime on the one hand, and politics and social welfare on the other.”

“They felt that by virtue of being involved in politics they got a free out-of-jail-card and they could blow up buses of civilians in Bulgaria and try to do so in Cyprus, partner with Iran in Syria, and much more,” said Levitt, who testified recently before the EU Parliament in support of blacklisting all of Hezbollah.

But a senior Arab diplomat in Beirut, who declined to be identified because he was not authorized to speak on the issue, said this distinction meant the decision would have no impact on the ground.

“You cannot distinguish between the civil and military wing of the party,” he said. “How would you define that this person is a member of the military wing? And does the military wing have any exposed assets that you can restrict or freeze? It is very difficult to implement this decision.”

Levitt said the decision would have no impact on Hezbollah finances in Europe since there are few known assets belonging to the military wing there, but he said it would open up avenues for intelligence operations investigating the party and would send a clear deterrent message.

European countries have been reluctant to carry out “proactive” intelligence investigations into Hezbollah since it was not labeled a military organization, said Levitt, who is a senior fellow and director of the Washington Institute’s Stein Program on Counterterrorism and Intelligence. He has also written a book on the party called “Hezbollah: The Global Footprints of Lebanon’s Party of God.”

Such investigations will now be carried out if a link can be established to potential Hezbollah militancy, he said: “It is very likely that Hezbollah will curtail the amount of its activities in Europe having to do with militancy or fundraising because they know that these investigations are going to be run.”

Further, he said, Hezbollah could no longer treat Europe as a “near abroad” where it could carry out such activities.

He said Hezbollah was already under enormous pressure due to its involvement in Syria and the accusations against four of its operatives by the Special Tribunal for Lebanon over the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.

Domestically, the Arab official said the decision was likely to worsen the political deadlock in Lebanon, increasing what he termed “Hezbollah’s siege mentality” and compelling it to hold onto its political positions.

The party is now unlikely, for instance, to allow the government formation to go ahead without it being represented in the Cabinet.

Experts differed on the impetus and timing behind the decision.

Shehadi said the decision was the result of the party’s implicated in the Burgas bombing last year targeting Israeli tourists, and was part of an ongoing process that began after the assassination of Imad Mughniyeh. Mughniyeh, Hezbollah’s former military chief, was killed in Damascus in 2008, prompting the party to acknowledge his military role. He is accused of involvement in a number of attacks including the 1983 bombing of a U.S. Marine barracks in Beirut.

The Arab diplomat said the timing of the decision was likely the result of a combination of pressure by the U.S. and Israel to compensate for a recent decision by the EU to boycott products made in West Bank settlements.

He said it appeared to be influenced by Hezbollah’s involvement in Syria, rather any potential role for the party in the bombing in Burgas.

“I wouldn’t back something like this if there is no strong evidence that the party is involved in terrorist activity on European territory, and until now I can’t say there is enough evidence for an accusation,” he said.

The diplomat said that Hezbollah officials repeatedly said in meetings they had no assets or financial activity in Europe, so that any such freeze would have no impact on the party.

Legally, the decision will represent a greater challenge to the Lebanese government than to Hezbollah, said Chafic Masri, a professor of international law. He said the Lebanese government would have to help the EU distinguish between military and civilian cadres in the party.

Further, only the EU is legally empowered to add individuals to the list.

“It is challenging because now anyone who may be elected as a parliamentary member or selected as a minister will remain subject to the de facto approval of the EU,” Masri said. “This is not just confusing but embarrassing as well to the Lebanese government.”

———————–

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star of Berut on July 23, 2013, on page 3.

Read more: www.dailystar.com.lb/News/Analysi…
(The Daily Star :: Lebanon News :: www.dailystar.com.lb)

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

Israel’s Foreign Ministry had some help from Hollywood in convincing at least one country to label Hezbollah’s military wing a terrorist organization, according to Hebrew-language daily Maariv.

Actor Arnold Schwarzenegger, an Austrian by birth and the former governor of California, sent a letter to the country’s chancellor, Werner Faymann, to express his belief in the importance of an EU move to blacklist the Lebanese terror organization.

According to Maariv, Austria initially vehemently opposed the move, but Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke to Austria Chancellor Feymann and the country’s president Fischer, and with the help of Schwarzenegger was able to convince the Austrians to support the measure.

The decision to put Hezbollah’s military wing on the European Union terror list required the unanimous consent of the bloc’s 28 members and was passed unanimously.
Israel’s Foreign Ministry lobbied several EU holdouts, such as Ireland, in recent months to pass the measure.

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Hezbollah and its involvement in Syria have already bankrupted politically Lebanon – this starting with the killing On February 14, 2005 with Syrian involvement of Prime Minister Rafic Hariri. His son, Saad Hariri was Prime Minister 2009 – 2011 but for his personal security he prefers to stay in Saudi Arabia from where he manages his family wealth. The Hariris are Sunni Muslim billionaires and it would be dangerous for him to go back again to the Lebanese infighting.

This is described in the same issue of The Daily Star – at www.dailystar.com.lb/News/Politic…

The United Nations special tribunal (see Special Tribunal for Lebanon) investigating the murder of Hariri is expected to issue draft indictments accusing Hezbollah of murdering Hariri.

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

The UPDATE is today’s meeting of the UN Security Council and Israel Permanent Representative to the UN, Ambassador Ron Prosor, presenting the Israeli case:

To watch the live webcast, please see: webtv.un.org/

Attached are Ambassador Prosor’s talking points from today’s speech as received from the Israeli Mission to the UN.

Today, Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations, Ron Prosor, spoke during the UN Security Council’s Open Debate on “The Situation in the Middle East.” Please find the full text of his remarks attached, as well as a photograph (photo credit: UN Photo/JC McIlwaine).

In his speech, Ambassador Prosor commends the EU for labeling Hezbollah’s military wing a terrorist organization, but noted that the decision came after decades of allowing Hezbollah to operate freely on European soil. He said: “At long last, having realized how dangerous Hezbollah is and what it is capable of, the EU showed up late to the party to condemn the ‘Party of God.'”

He also said:

• Hezbollah “is as sophisticated as it is interconnected. Any attempt to distinguish between Hezbollah’s military wing and political wing, while politically convenient, is entirely impractical…Not even Harry Houdini could pull off the illusion that there is a difference between these two groups. Europe took a significant step in the right direction, but it must go one step further and demonstrate its unequivocal condemnation of terror.”

Ambassador Prosor also sharply criticized the EU for deciding to limit its funding for institutions in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and the Golan. He said:

• “While the United States has been working to bring the parties back to the negotiation table, the EU prefers to table harmful and divisive measures. Just as a window of opportunity opened for the resumption of talks, the EU seemed intent on slamming it shut. Instead of setting a course towards peace, the EU is steering the Palestinians in the wrong direction.”

Finally, Ambassador Prosor discussed the Iranian elections. He said: “For those who thought that the so-called Arab Spring sweeping the Middle East would cause Jeffersonian democracies to sprout, take note. [Hassan] Rowhani may have been given a starring role in the charade of Iranian democracy – but the fundamentalist Ayatollah remains its choreographer, director, and executive producer.” He also said:

“Even with a new conductor, Iran’s nuclear weapons program continues to advance at the speed of an express train. In contrast, the international community’s efforts are moving at the pace of a local train, pausing at every stop for some nations to get off and some nations to get on…The sanctions are working, but they are not enough. You must increase pressure on Iran until it stops all enrichment, removes all enriched material, closes its illegal nuclear facility in Qom, and ends its support for terrorism.”

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

Statement delivered by UK Ambassador and Permanent Representative Mark Lyall Grant to UN Security Council Open Debate on the Situation in the Middle East – 23 July 2013


Madam President,

I thank Robert Serry for his briefing and the Permanent Observer of Palestine and the Permanent Representative of Israel for their statements.

The government of the United Kingdom warmly welcomes Secretary Kerry’s 19 July announcement that Israel and the Palestinians have reached an agreement that establishes the basis for resuming direct final status negotiations.

We pay tribute to the efforts of Secretary Kerry and his team, and commend the leadership shown by both Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Abbas. The United Kingdom stands ready to do all that we can over the coming months to support the parties and the United States in their efforts to achieve a lasting peace for the Israeli and Palestinian people.

The European Union set out clearly its full support for US efforts at yesterday’s Foreign Affairs Council. There is also a vital role for Arab states to build on the constructive steps taken so far to reiterate the strategic importance of the Arab Peace Initiative.

Friday’s announcement is of course only a beginning, not an end. We welcome Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Abbas’ clear commitment to a two-state solution and to work to achieve peace for the Israeli and Palestinian peoples. Now more than ever, it is vital that both show bold and decisive leadership.

With this new momentum, the Israeli and Palestinian people must be able to trust that progress is possible. This would be undermined by a repeat of recent events such as further settlement announcements, the use of live fire in demonstrations by the Israeli Defence Forces and rockets from Gaza into Israel. We urge all sides to exercise restraint and look forward.

As talks resume, we should not forget Gaza. Gaza must be an integral part of any two-state solution. As our Minister for the Middle East saw last month, for ordinary Gazans the Strip remains a desperately difficult place to live. In the heat of summer, Gazans face very poor living conditions, including regular and sustained power cuts.

It will be important that Gaza benefits fully from any economic package which is being prepared to accompany the political track, including the easing of Israeli restrictions on movements of goods and people. The United Kingdom believes that an improved economy is not only essential for the people, including the children, of Gaza, but firmly in Israel’s security interests.

Current US efforts, and the strong commitment shown by the parties themselves, reflect the best chance for many years of securing peace. We must all unite to help reach our shared goal of a negotiated two-state solution where a safe and secure Israel can live in peace with an independent and viable Palestinian state.

Madam President, turning to Syria.

It was with great dismay that we heard Valerie Amos’ briefing before this Council last week. It is truly shocking that more than 6 million people require humanitarian assistance and that 4 million people are no longer able to meet their basic food needs yet the Assad regime continues to prevent the United Nations from delivering aid effectively inside Syria.

With the death toll now well over 100,000, the situation in Syria gets worse by the day. Since last July an average of nearly 200 people have been killed every 24 hours.

What started off as peaceful protests over two years ago has become a protracted conflict by a murderous regime, aided and abetted by Hizballah and Iran. The Assad regime has continued to ramp up its brutal military offensive over recent months, as witnessed today in Homs, where thousands of innocent civilians are currently trapped in their homes with limited access to food, water or electricity.

Madam President,

The countries of the region have already provided sanctuary to 1.7 million Syrians. More will come. We urge all neighbouring countries to keep their borders open for Syrians to escape the tragic and dangerous situation they are facing at home.

In response, the United Kingdom has doubled its support for humanitarian assistance, bringing the total to over half a billion dollars, including support for Syrian refugees and host communities in Jordan and Lebanon. G8 countries last month committed over $1.5 billion. Yet, the UN’s $5.2 billion Syria appeal for 2013 is only 35 per cent funded. The needs for aid in Syria will sadly only grow, and without help Lebanon and Jordan risk being destabilised. Member states need to contribute more, and encourage others to do more, now and in the long term.

Madam President,

The continuing deterioration of the human rights situation is also of grave concern. The Commission of Inquiry’s latest report found that the conflict had reached new levels of brutality. War crimes, crimes against humanity and gross human rights violations continue at a frightening rate. We remain at the forefront of the international community in calling for full accountability for all those responsible for human rights violations and abuses. This Council should refer the situation in Syria to the International Criminal Court without delay.

Madam President,

There is a growing body of limited but persuasive information showing that the regime has used and continues to use chemical weapons, including sarin. Use of chemical weapons is a war crime. We call on Syria to allow the UN unfettered access to investigate incidents of chemical weapons use in Syria.

On 17 June, the G8 re-affirmed support for a second conference in Geneva, leading to the creation of a transitional governing body with full executive powers. Yet the regime’s offensive of recent weeks has made it even harder for this conference to take place.

We continue to support the expanded National Coalition and its new president, Ahmed al-Jarba. The Coalition remains the most legitimate and credible representative of the Syrian people. They have made clear their commitment to a future democratic Syria in which the rights of all Syrians are respected. We must not conflate this moderate opposition with terrorist groups.

We must not accept what Assad wants us to believe – that the only alternative to his brutal regime is extremists and terrorists. There are millions of Syrians who want a peaceful and democratic future, and legitimate forces that are fighting for their interests. We should be on their side.

Madam President,

Despite our differences – this Council shares some fundamental aims: to end the conflict, to stop Syria fragmenting, to let the people decide who governs them and to prevent the growth of violent extremism. As a Council we need to recommit to working with the Parties in a meaningful way towards a viable political settlement, based on last year’s Geneva Communiqué.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on January 6th, 2013
by Pincas Jawetz (pj@sustainabilitank.info)

SOME MAY CALL THEM PIG TAXES – SO WHAT? JUST READ ON AND SEE THEY MAKE TERRIFIC SENSE AND BENEFIT US ALL LIKE THE TAX THE RICH CAMPAIGN DID.
NOW IS THE TIME TO PROCEED AND PRESIDENT OBAMA CAN LEAD THE WAY WITH HIS RIGHT FOOT  “FORWARD”  CRY.
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Economic View

Heads, You Win. Tails, You Win, Too.

Kyle Fewell
By ROBERT H. FRANK
Published on the New York Times on-line: January 5, 2013

NO one enjoys paying taxes — and no politician relishes raising them. Yet some taxes actually make us better off, even apart from the revenue they provide for public services.

Taxes on activities with harmful side effects are a case in point. Strongly favored even by many conservative Republican economists, these levies are known as Pigovian taxes, after the British economist Arthur C. Pigou, who advocated them in his 1920 book, “The Economics of Welfare.” In today’s deeply polarized political climate, they offer one of the few realistic hopes for progress.

To see how Pigovian taxes work, consider a driver checking out the offerings at his local auto dealership. He is trying to decide between two vehicles, one weighing 6,000 pounds and the other, 4,000 pounds. After comparing sticker prices, mileage estimates and other features, he views the choice as roughly a tossup. But because he has a slight preference for the larger vehicle, he buys it. His decision, however, could be viewed as a bad choice for society as a whole, because of the side effects. The laws of physics tell us that heavier vehicles tend to cause more damage in crashes. They also spew more emissions into the air and cause more wear and tear on roads.

By providing an incentive to take those external costs into account, taxing vehicles by weight would make the total economic pie larger. Those who don’t really need heavier vehicles could buy lighter ones and pay less tax. Others could pay the extra tax as fair compensation for their heavier vehicles’ negative side effects.

But the mere fact that Pigovian taxes produce greater benefits than costs doesn’t make them an easy sell politically. Like other changes in public policy, a Pigovian tax produces winners and losers. And it’s an iron law of politics that prospective losers lobby harder to block change than prospective winners do for its adoption. That asymmetry creates a powerful status-quo bias that makes even broadly beneficial policy changes hard to achieve.

Yet, in principle, any change that makes the economic pie larger makes it possible for everyone to enjoy a bigger slice than before. The practical challenge is to slice the larger pie so that everyone comes out ahead. A first step toward a vehicle-weight tax would be to make it revenue-neutral — for example, by returning its revenue in the form of lump-sum rebates to each buyer. That would soften the blow, while preserving the incentive to buy lighter vehicles.

For example, if the tax were 20 cents a pound, a 6,000-pound vehicle would be taxed at $1,200, as opposed to $800 for a 4,000-pound one. If an equal number of vehicles of each weight were sold, all buyers would get a $1,000 rebate when the total tax income was redistributed. The buyer in our example would thus be making a net payment of $200 because of the tax, but his total outlay would have been $400 lower if he’d bought the smaller vehicle instead.

Although revenue neutrality would help, buyers who really need large vehicles might feel aggrieved. Paradoxically, the key to mollifying them is to propose Pigovian taxes not just on vehicle weight but also on a swath of other activities that cause undue harm to others. We could drivers tax contributing to traffic congestion, for example, on the grounds that entering a crowded roadway causes delays to others. We could tax noise, carbon emissions and other specific forms of air and water pollution. Although some people would end up as losers under any single one of these measures, virtually everyone would come out ahead under a broad suite of Pigovian taxes.

That’s because adopting a large number of them is like repeated flips of a coin whose odds are stacked heavily in your favor. If someone offered a chance to flip a coin that paid $10 for heads and lost $1 for tails, would you take it? It’s an attractive gamble, obviously, but if there is only a single flip, there’s a 50 percent chance that you’ll be a loser. After many flips, however, you’d almost certainly be a net winner.

Likewise, any single Pigovian tax is an attractive gamble for the average taxpayer, who would get a rebate equal to the amount she’d paid in tax and would benefit from the resulting reduction in harm. Under a collection of such taxes, the odds of being a net winner go up sharply. Only the minuscule minority who cause much more than average amounts of harm in almost every category might end up paying more total tax than before. And even those few would still be net winners, because of the corresponding reductions in harm.

A BROAD slate of Pigovian taxes would thus meet the challenge of how to divide the larger pie so everyone comes out ahead. And because the prospect of a continued divided government makes short-run legislative progress unlikely on other fronts, why not pick this low-hanging fruit right now?

The case for Pigovian taxes isn’t easily reduced to bumper-sticker slogans. Still, the basic ideas are not complicated, and President Obama has the biggest megaphone on the planet. It should be easy for him to persuade rational voters to embrace policies that would make virtually everyone better off.

But he must also persuade House Republicans. Getting their votes will be the real test of his celebrated rhetorical skills.

Robert H. Frank is an economics professor at the Johnson Graduate School of Management at Cornell University.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on December 28th, 2012
by Pincas Jawetz (pj@sustainabilitank.info)

Elisabeth Rosenthal is a medical doctor (Harvard Medical School  – internal medicine and residency at The New York Hospital-Cornell Medical Center and worked at New York Hospital in emergency. She turned then to covering SARS and AIDS in China and stayed in Journalism – first with the Science desk of the New York Times then she became a crusader on environment and part of the Green Blog. Now we feel she takes on even something bigger – the sick US Congress.

WE SUGGEST THE FOLLOWING ARTICLE TO BE READ IN CLASS BY THE US SENATORS THAT CONVERGED IN WASHINGTON THIS WEEK FOR OTHERWISE NO GOOD REASON. THEY WILL NOT BE ABLE TO TOUCH THE FINANCIAL CLIFF IF THEY DO NOT THINK LIKE THE IRISH.

The following article is on the front page of the NYT today – page A1 – we did not change a thing except we used colors to highlight the problems (red), the solutions (gold) and the US inactions (violet). Good luck and good reading to all – and a healthy slip into the Obama II era.

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Carbon Taxes Make Ireland Even Greener.

By
Published by The New York Times: December 27, 2012

DUBLIN — Over the last three years, with its economy in tatters, Ireland embraced a novel strategy to help reduce its staggering deficit: charging households and businesses for the environmental damage they cause.

The government imposed taxes on most of the fossil fuels used by homes, offices, vehicles and farms, based on each fuel’s carbon dioxide emissions, a move that immediately drove up prices for oil, natural gas and kerosene. Household trash is weighed at the curb, and residents are billed for anything that is not being recycled.

The Irish now pay purchase taxes on new cars and yearly registration fees that rise steeply in proportion to the vehicle’s emissions.

Environmentally and economically, the new taxes have delivered results. Long one of Europe’s highest per-capita producers of greenhouse gases, with levels nearing those of the United States, Ireland has seen its emissions drop more than 15 percent since 2008.

Although much of that decline can be attributed to a recession, changes in behavior also played a major role, experts say, noting that the country’s emissions dropped 6.7 percent in 2011 even as the economy grew slightly.

“We are not saints like those Scandinavians — we were lapping up fossil fuels, buying bigger cars and homes, very American,” said Eamon Ryan, who was Ireland’s energy minister from 2007 to 2011. “We just set up a price signal that raised significant revenue and changed behavior. Now, we’re smashing through the environmental targets we set for ourselves.”

By contrast, carbon taxes are viewed as politically toxic in the United States. Republican leaders in Congress have pledged to block any proposal for such a tax, and President Obama has not advocated one, although the idea has drawn support from economists of varying ideologies.

Yet when the Irish were faced with new environmental taxes, they quickly shifted to greener fuels and cars and began recycling with fervor. Automakers like Mercedes found ways to make powerful cars with an emissions rating as low as tinier Nissans. With less trash, landfills closed. And as fossil fuels became more costly, renewable energy sources became more competitive, allowing Ireland’s wind power industry to thrive.

Even more significantly, revenue from environmental taxes has played a crucial role in helping Ireland reduce a daunting deficit by several billion euros each year.

The three-year-old carbon tax has raised nearly one billion euros ($1.3 billion) over all, including 400 million euros in 2012. That provided the Irish government with 25 percent of the 1.6 billion euros in new tax revenue it needed to narrow its budget gap this year and avert a rise in income tax rates.

The International Monetary Fund, which oversees the rescue plan, recently suggested that Ireland should “expand the well-designed carbon tax” and its automobile taxes to generate even more money.

Although first proposed by the Green Party, the environmental taxes enjoy the support of all major political parties “because it puts a lot of money on the table,” said Frank Convery, an economist at University College Dublin. The bailout plan for 2013 requires Ireland to embrace a mix of new tax revenues and spending cuts.

Not everyone is happy. The prices of basic commodities like gasoline and heating oil have risen 5 to 10 percent. This is particularly hard on the poor, although the government has provided subsidies for low-income families to better insulate homes, for example. And industries complain that the higher prices have made it harder for them to compete outside Ireland.

“Prices just keep going up, and a lot of people think it’s a scam,” said Imelda Lyons, 45, as she filled her car at a gas station here. “You call it a carbon tax, but what good is being done with it to help the environment?”

The coalition government that enacted the taxes was voted out of office last year. “Just imagine President Obama saying in the debate, ‘I’ve got this great idea, but it’s going to increase your gasoline price,’ ” said Mr. Ryan, who lost his seat in the last election and now leads the Green Party. “People didn’t exactly cheer us on.”

A recent report estimated that a modest carbon tax in the United States that increased incrementally over time could generate about $1.25 trillion in revenue from 2012 to 2022, reducing the 10-year deficit by 50 percent, based on projections from the Congressional Budget Office.

“I think most economists — on the right and the left — think a carbon tax is a good idea,” said Aparna Mathur, a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative research group that held a daylong seminar on carbon taxes in November.

Some economists estimate that a carbon tax could raise $400 billion annually in the United States, she said. But the issue remains a nonstarter in the American political arena. even though Gilbert Metcalf, the Obama administration’s deputy assistant Treasury secretary for environment and energy, long promoted carbon taxes as a Tufts University economist.

The Competitive Enterprise Institute, a conservative advocacy group, has even filed a Freedom of Information suit seeking the release of Treasury Department e-mails containing the word “carbon” to make sure that nothing is in the works. Like many other economists, Dr. Metcalf has argued that carbon taxation is preferable to government regulation or cap-and-trade systems because it sets a straightforward price on greenhouse gas emissions and is relatively hard to evade.

Although carbon taxes in some ways disproportionately affect the poor — who are less able to buy new, more efficient cars, for example — such taxes do heavily penalize the wealthy, who consume far more. As with “sin taxes” on cigarettes, the taxes also alleviate some of the societal costs of pollution.

For several years, the European Commission has encouraged debt-ridden members of the European Union to embrace environmental taxes, saying that its economists have concluded they have “a less detrimental macroeconomic impact” than new income taxes or corporate taxes.

“Europeans don’t like taxes either,” said Connie Hedegaard, the European commissioner for climate action. “But this is good for the environment, and also good for our competitiveness.”

Some of Europe’s strongest economies, like Sweden, Denmark and the Netherlands, have taxed carbon dioxide emissions since the early 1990s, and Japan and Australia have introduced them more recently.

Ireland took the plunge after its economy collapsed in 2008 as a result of loose credit policies that created a real estate bubble; in one year, tax revenues fell 25 percent. With a huge bailout in 2010 by the European Union and the International Monetary Fund, Ireland’s deficit soared to 11.9 percent of its gross domestic product, or over 30 percent with all loans factored in.

The environmental taxes work in concert with austerity measures like reduced welfare payments and higher fees for health care that are expected to save 2.2 billion euros this year. The carbon tax is levied on fossil fuels when they enter the country and is then passed on to consumers at the point of purchase. The automobile sales tax, which ranges from 14 to 36 percent of a car’s market price depending on its emissions, is simply folded into the sticker price.

That sent manufacturers racing to reduce emissions. Automakers like Mercedes and Volvo began making cars with high-efficiency diesel engines that shut off rather than idle when they stop, for example. “For manufacturers it’s all, ‘How low you can get?’ ” said Donal Duggan, a brand manager at an MSL showroom near central Dublin.

Other emissions taxes on cars, including the annual car registration fee, or road tax, are billed directly to customers, potentially adding thousands to annual operating costs. Ninety percent of new car sales last year were in the two lowest-emission tiers.

The taxes on garbage had an immediate impact. In Dun Laoghaire Rathdown County in southeastern Dublin, each home’s “black bin” for garbage headed to the landfill is weighed at pickup to calculate quarterly charges. Green bins for recyclables are emptied free of charge.

“There was a big furor initially, but now everything I throw out, I think, ‘How could I recycle this?’ ” said Tara Brown, a mother of three.

Of course, new environmental taxes bring new pain. Gas, always expensive in Europe, sells here for about $8 a gallon, around 20 percent more than in 2009 because of tightening market supplies and the new tax.

Still, Dr. Convery, the economist, is encouraging the government to raise carbon tax rates for 2013, declaring, “You don’t want to waste a good crisis to do what we should be doing anyway.”

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Goals for a New Term of the Obama Presidency:

President Obama’s legacy will continue to be shaped by what he and Congress tackle in the next four years. Here are the New York Times board of Editors recommendations – this is the heading of the paper today. The link is – Read the series »

Editorial

Time to Confront Climate Change.

Published: December 27, 2012

 www.nytimes.com/2012/12/28/opinio…

Four years ago, in sharp contrast to the torpor and denial of the George W. Bush years, President Obama described climate change as one of humanity’s most pressing challenges and pledged an all-out effort to pass a cap-and-trade bill limiting greenhouse gas emissions.

Then came one roadblock after another. Congress did not pass a climate bill, cap-and-trade became a dirty word, and, with the 2012 elections approaching, climate change disappeared from the president’s vocabulary. He spoke about green jobs and clean energy but not about why these were necessary. In the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, he spoke only obliquely about the threat of rising seas and extreme weather events, both of which scientists have linked to a warming climate.

Since his re-election, Mr. Obama has agreed to foster a “conversation” on climate change and an “education process” about long-term steps to address it. He needs to do a good deal more than that. Intellectually, Mr. Obama grasps the problem as well as anyone. The question is whether he will bring the powers of the presidency to bear on the problem.

Enlisting market forces in the fight against global warming by putting a price on carbon — through cap-and-trade or a direct tax — seems out of the question for this Congress. But there are weapons at Mr. Obama’s disposal that do not require Congressional approval and could go a long way to reducing emissions and reasserting America’s global leadership.

One imperative is to make sure that natural gas — which this nation has in abundance and which emits only half the carbon as coal — can be extracted without risk to drinking water or the atmosphere. This may require national legislation to replace the often porous state regulations. Another imperative is to invest not only in familiar alternative energy sources like wind and solar power, but also in basic research, next-generation nuclear plants and experimental technologies that could smooth the path to a low-carbon economy.

Mr. Obama’s most promising near-term strategy may be to invoke the Environmental Protection Agency’s authority under the Clean Air Act to limit emissions from stationary sources, chiefly power plants.

The agency has already taken a step in that direction by proposing strict emission standards for new power plants that virtually ensure that no new coal-fired plants will be built unless they capture their carbon emissions, which would require employing new technologies that have not been proved on a commercial scale. But that leaves the bigger problem of what to do with existing coal-fired power plants, which still generate roughly 40 percent of the nation’s power and obviously cannot be shut down quickly or by fiat.

The Natural Resources Defense Council recently proposed an innovative scheme that would set overall emissions targets but let the individual states — and the utilities that operate in them — figure out how to meet them by making their boilers more efficient, switching to cleaner fuels or by subsidizing energy efficiency and encouraging reduced consumption by individuals and businesses.

Any such regulations are likely to be strongly opposed by industry and will require real persistence on the administration’s part. If Mr. Obama takes this approach, he will certainly need a determined leader at E.P.A. to devise and carry out the rules. Lisa Jackson, the E.P.A. administrator who on Thursday announced her resignation after four productive years in one of the federal government’s most thankless jobs, was just such a leader.

She suffered setbacks — most notably the White House’s regrettable decision to overrule her science-based proposal to update national health standards for ozone, or smog. But she accomplished much, including tougher standards for power plant emissions of mercury and other air toxics, new health standards for soot, and, most important, her agency’s finding that carbon dioxide and five other gases that contribute to global warming constituted a danger to public health and could thus be regulated under the Clean Air Act.

That ruling, known as the endangerment finding, made possible the administration’s historic new emissions standards for cars and light trucks. It also provided the basis for the first steps toward regulating emissions from new power plants, and, possibly, further steps requiring existing plants to reduce global warming pollution.

In 2009, at the climate summit meeting in Copenhagen, Mr. Obama pledged to reduce this country’s greenhouse gas emissions by 17 percent below 2005 levels by 2020. This seemed an impossible goal once Congress rejected the cap-and-trade bill. But the increased use of cheap natural gas, the new fuel standards, the mercury rules and other factors have already put this country on track for a 10 percent reduction by 2020.

By some estimates, reaching the 17 percent goal is well within Mr. Obama’s grasp. He has the means at hand to seize it.

This is part of a continuing series on what President Obama and Congress should tackle in the next four years.


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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on December 21st, 2012
by Pincas Jawetz (pj@sustainabilitank.info)

We found this at – www.opendemocracy.net/fintan-o%E2… – Ye – at OpenDemocracy we like. It resonates with us as we saw this week the Israeli-Arab-French movie  “Le fils de l’autre” publicized as “The Other Son” – but actually meaning correctly “The Other’s Son.” And also after having read how  the White House sees “Congressional Republican “Plan B” Legislation: Cuts Taxes for Millionaires, Fails To Meet The Test Of Balance” leading obviously to a US Divide that nobody seems to be able to bridge.  But the real world of real people is different from what self proclaimed leaders want it to be. The two mothers and the two sons of the movie lead the way in the Middle East, Obama can lead the way in the US.

Chums?

Fintan O’Toole 20 December 2012

Given a choice, most people prefer a decent life to national or ethnic purity. Given a choice, most people like to get on with their neighbours, to fit in with their communities, to carry on with the business of going to work and raising a family and hoping for the best.

My first memory of being in England is from the hot summer of 1969. I know now that this was the summer that British troops were sent into Northern Ireland, but I don’t remember that at all. We were with my father in London and the thing he was most excited about was that he was going to see the West Indies play cricket against England. I remember certain names – Garry Sobers, Clive Lloyd – but I never saw them myself. Neither did I see the Rolling Stones, though my father dutifully asked my older brother and myself (I was 11) if we wanted to go to the free concert they were giving in Hyde Park. We declined the offer because we thought the place would be full of drug-crazed hippies. The memory I do have is much more banal than that but at the time the incident was overwhelming.

My brother and I are sitting on a low wall outside a pub in which my father and his cousin are having a drink. We’ve been given bottles of lemonade and we’re sucking through straws. We’re thrilled with the lemonade but a little scared to be on our own on an English street. In my head, there are nameless fears about England, all of them traceable to the fact that it is known to be full of Protestants and therefore entirely without order or morality. Around the corner, in the blazing sun, comes a huge African man in flowing white robes and a tall leopard-skin hat, followed by a small retinue of attendants. We stare at him. He stops and beams benignly at us. He raises his arm and extends his hand from the sleeve of his robe. He pats me on the head and says ‘Hello, boys. Are you enjoying your pop?’

Pop – the word belongs entirely to the English comics we read. We don’t use it in Ireland – all fizzy drinks are lemonade and we get them so rarely that one word for them is quite enough. It comes to me in a panic that he thinks we are English. He’s some kind of exotic foreigner – a king? a chief? – and in that moment, I decide that he’s visiting London and has deigned, graciously, to say hello to some English kids. But we’re not English, we’re Irish, which is, of course, the opposite.

I open my mouth to try to explain this to him – not, I think, for our sake but for his: this is something he should know. But it’s all too much – the pre-existing tinge of fear, the awe of his regal presence, the strangeness of his black skin, the confusion of this sudden and unprecedented experience. Nothing comes out except a short, high-pitched gabble. He pats my head softly again, turns away and sails majestically down the street.

My father and uncle come out of the pub. They ask us if we’re okay. Did anyone bother us? We don’t have time to confer but instinctively we both say that no, nobody came near us. We both feel that if we tell the truth we might get into some kind of trouble. For the rest of our first visit to England, I feel vaguely ashamed. I’ve somehow let Ireland down by passing as English and this seems to matter. Somewhere out there, there’s an African prince or king or chief who believes he has fulfilled his social duties by patting an English boy on the head and asking him if he’s enjoying his pop. And in fact he has encountered an entirely different brand of humanity. I should have said something. But, I ask myself, how could I ever have anticipated that anyone would know so little about the world that they would confuse Irish and English?

Yet, looking back, I must have known at some level that this whole notion was ridiculous, even for a child. Why shouldn’t a foreigner take us for English? For on that same week-long trip, we stayed with our English first cousins in Maidstone and our other English cousins in Manchester – one set from my father’s side of the family, the other from my mother’s. My Uncle Kevin, a court clerk in Kent, looked so much like my father that we laughed at the way even the backs of their heads, with matching bald patches and a few last wisps of curls, looked indistinguishable. But he was, of all shockingly English things, a Tory. My Uncle Peter, a bus driver in Manchester, had my mother’s soft eyes and gentle manner, but he expressed approval and enthusiasm with words like ‘champion’ and ‘belter’. And seeing us and his own children play happily together, he called us ‘chums’.

That word leapt out at me a few years later when I read Guests of the Nation, Frank O’Connor’s story, written in 1931 and set during the then-recent War of Independence. The story begins with ordinary human friendship – Englishmen and Irishmen calling each other ‘chum’:

“At dusk the big Englishman, Belcher, would shift his long legs out of the ashes and say ‘Well, chums, what about it?’ and Noble and myself would say ‘All right, chum’ (for we had picked up some of their curious expressions), and the little Englishman, Hawkins, would light the lamp and bring out the cards.”

When I read the story first as a teenager, it struck me as a little strange that O’Connor’s narrator picks up on ‘chums’ as a ‘curious expression’. It is, just like pop, redolent of Englishness and, for that very reason, you’d seldom hear anyone use it in Ireland. But it was hardly ‘curious’: it was there all the time in Enid Blyton stories, in The Beano and The Dandy, in Dickens, in virtually everything we read. And it is, after all, a warm, cosy word, implying a simple human (though especially male) affection, a familiar intimacy. It has a sense of ease about it; it is uncomplicated and unpretentious. It suggests something beyond – or rather below – politics, history, race, religion, identity. That, of course, is why O’Connor inserts it so prominently at the start of his story and draws our attention to it.

For the word will come back in a cry of terror. We gradually learn that the Englishmen are captured soldiers – hostages being held by the IRA, to be killed in reprisal for British executions of IRA prisoners. When told that they are indeed to be taken out and shot, one of the soldiers, Hawkins, gives a cry of despairing incomprehension: ‘Why did any of us want to plug him? What had he done to us? Weren’t we all chums? Didn’t we understand him and didn’t he understand us?’

The question turns on that little word – ‘chums’. Chums don’t shoot each other. Hawkins asks his captors if they could imagine, with the situation reversed, that he would shoot them ‘for all the so-and-so officers in the so-and-so British Army?’ The idea, like the word, is supposed to transcend politics and history, to make demands of a different order to those of states and armies and officers. Except, of course, that it can’t. Hawkins and Belcher must be shot and the narrator must help to do it. Historic imperatives are in motion and a little, silly, unpretentious word like ‘chums’ cannot stand in their way. It will be crushed and silenced.

O’Connor’s story is very simple but also very complex. For it entirely depends on something that is not supposed to be the case. Writing just a decade after the bitterness of the Anglo-Irish conflict in which he participated, O’Connor is able to make an ostensibly extraordinary assumption and take it for granted that it will be shared by his readers. What he assumes is this: ordinary readers, both Irish and English, will find it entirely credible that, given some time together, IRA men and British soldiers will become ‘chums’. This process has no drama or romance. It is treated as a normal state of affairs. It may be, in the context of conflict, fragile and disposable. But it is an everyday, unremarkable reality.

When I read O’Connor’s story for the first time – I must have been 15 or 16 – it did what good fiction ought to do – it put words on an unarticulated feeling. It was the first thing I read that captured so directly a deep ambivalence that attached to my Irish feelings about England. In the story, two entirely different attitudes collide. One is political and historic: English oppression and Irish resistance. The other is human and mundane: chums. One is big, powerful, coercive. The other is small, ordinary, natural. One is about ideas and identities. The other is just about living. One demands, even at its most benign, a large-scale language of negotiation, compromise and reconciliation. The other just is. It’s about getting along in both senses – surviving and co-existing. One is a very big deal. The other is a very small deal – but, perhaps, it is in such small deals that humanity endures.

Even as a teenager, I knew that these two realities did not cohere. For me, as for many Irish people, they had to exist in different spheres, one public, the other private, that have to be sealed off from each other. The public aspect consisted of all the stuff of inherited resentments and contemporary turmoil. Certain things just gave me the creeps: Stanley Baldwin’s ‘tinkle of the hammer on the anvil in the country smithy’; George Orwell’s ‘clatter of clogs in the Lancashire mill towns… old maids bicycling to Holy Communion through the mists of the autumn morning’; John Major’s ‘long shadows on the county grounds, warm beer, invincible green suburbs’; imperial delusions and patronising public school voices; the impregnable self-righteousness of a brilliantly self-serving ruling class; a tone, real or imagined, of benign condescension; a blithe assurance that Irish problems were purely Irish and that England was simply there to help. All of these aversions are (to me) perfectly rational, and I can defend them if need be, but in truth they are also pre-rational. They come with the territory – in my case a native terrain that was Irish, Catholic and working class. I can rationalise them all – but even if I couldn’t, I’d still feel them.

Growing up with the Troubles gave all of these instincts a focus and an urgency. British policy – swinging from utter neglect to authoritarian control, from reform to reaction – was, at best, inadequate. Disasters from internment to Bloody Sunday to the mishandling of the H-block hunger strikes seemed, fairly or not, to stem from a deep carelessness. It seemed that Britain had never collectively taken the trouble to really understand Ireland; that the ghastly mistakes came from a kind of laziness. Centuries of control had not been matched by centuries of real engagement. Britain, and especially England, seemed in this light very foreign indeed, so distant that all the nuances and subtleties that define a friendship were entirely absent.

But there was also that other Britain, or in my case, other England. It was barely foreign at all. I grew up reading Just William and Billy Bunter and The Famous Five; Desperate Dan, The Bash Street Kids and Dennis the Menace. I followed Nottingham Forest and adored Brian Clough (still do). The highlights of the cultural week were Monty Python, Top of the Pops and Match of the Day. The Beatles and the Stones formed the soundtrack of adolescence. I was taken captive by Shakespeare and Shelley, Austen and Hardy, Orwell and Huxley, Tom Paine and Christopher Hitchens. The first newspaper I decided to buy for myself was Harold Evans’s Sunday Times. I learned to write journalism from reading Charles Shaar Murray and Nick Kent in the New Musical Express. I learned about theatre criticism from reading Kenneth Tynan.

There was, in all of this, a kind of freedom. Irishness, in all its complexities and perplexities, is what you inherited. It was given to you and you had to make the best of it. You were stuck with it and, to a degree, responsible for it: the bad bits as well as the good. But English culture came free. It was a bonus offer, not an essential part of your own identity. You could take what you wanted and leave the rest – hang on to the anarchic genius of Just William and ditch the twee world of Enid Blyton; take David Bowie doing Starman and leave Edward Heath; adore the Shakespeare of King Lear and ignore the Shakespeare of Henry V; love the England of Blake, Shelley and Paine and loathe the England of Brideshead Revisited and the Bloomsbury group. You could construct your very own England from the bits that appealed.

The thing about all of the appealing stuff is that the imagined community it conjured didn’t feel like Them. It wasn’t Us either – I always had the sense of being outside of it. But it was entirely interwoven with daily life in Dublin. It didn’t set me apart – on the contrary, not to have read the comics or followed an English football team, not to have seen Top of the Pops or the latest Monty Python, was to be out of it. It wasn’t even glamorous or exotic – it was just there. In truth, it was even more there than most of traditional Irish culture was. It was much easier for me, as a kid on a Dublin housing estate, to connect with English urban culture than with what I later came to know as the majesties of sean-nós singing or Peig Sayers’s stories of island life. Boys from the Blackstuff was a much more pertinent reflection of the life I knew than The Riordans could ever be.

But it wasn’t just this sense that aspects of English popular culture were more resonant in the present. My sense of the past was also shaped in significant ways by English imagery. Thus, for example, Irish neutrality in the Second World War was entirely irrelevant to the mental universe in which I lived as a child and teenager. It was a huge historic fact – the most important single decision an Irish government had made up to that time. But it was completely supplanted at the imaginative level by English comics in which the war was still everywhere. We knew about rationing and the Blitz and the Battle of Britain and Dunkirk. We knew that German soldiers (‘Gerry’) said ‘Achtung! Schweinhund!’ and that the Japanese said ‘Banzai!’ The Emergency – a literal non-event – couldn’t compete with the visceral drama of Britain’s war. And it was a specifically British mythology of the war that shaped my early notion of what happened and what it meant. I remember watching Winston Churchill’s funeral on the television and knowing, at some level, that it was about something much more profound than the passing of another Tory toff – it was about the searing experience of the war.

This made complete sense to me because of another aspect of the private side of my relationship to England. Like almost everyone I knew, I had aunts and uncles – and therefore gangs of cousins – in England. And three of them had fought in the war: two in the army, one as a clerk in the Women’s Royal Air Force. For them, Irish neutrality was a fiction. Poverty at home on the docklands of Dublin and the opportunity of a decent wage and perhaps some vocational training in the forces drew them into that defining conflict.

It strikes me, in retrospect, that there was never the slightest sense of shame about this, or any obvious rupture with their Irish Catholic background. I’d like to think that this was because of the nobility of the fight against fascism, and I’m proud that my Uncle Kevin, who joined the Royal Engineers, helped to get troops through Rommel’s minefields at El-Alamein and to run the railway system in occupied Berlin. But I don’t think there was anything as fine as that going on here. Such grand thoughts are part of the large, public history. This belonged to the other, private history, the mundane normality of life. Joining the British army in wartime was simply much better than being unemployed on the Dublin docks. So far as I could gather, nobody in the flats complex they came from – an area in which nationalist sentiment was strong – thought it at all strange that three of the O’Tooles (and later a fourth) joined the British forces. If someone had asked them in a TV vox pop or an opinion survey, they’d probably have felt a duty to say it was a disgrace. In the private reality, it was unremarkable.

There’s no great mystery in any of this, no large moral or sententious conclusion. It’s just what people do. They do what they think is best for them at the time. Poor people, in particular, can’t afford too many abstract principles. I’m sure my uncles and aunts grew up with all the inherited hatred of England and Englishness – they’d been born in the decade after the Anglo-Irish conflict. But it made no difference to the decisions they had to make – decisions about survival and boredom and adventure and advancement. They made their choices and adapted their lives to the choices they had made.

********

It strikes me, indeed, as interesting that, of the four who joined the British army, two came home and two stayed in England. And that, in each case, they adapted happily to whichever place they were in. With the two who came home – one uncle, one aunt – you’d never have known that they had been, for a time, officially British. They slipped back easily and naturally into Dublin working-class life – their accents, their attitudes, their way of carrying themselves, all indistinguishable from those who had never left. But the two who stayed in England – one in Maidstone, one in Birmingham – slipped just as easily into English life. They didn’t cease to be Irish, of course, but neither did it particularly bother them that their kids would have English accents.

Why did it not bother them? Because, ultimately they – and many more of my aunts and uncles who left in the 1950s didn’t emigrate to England. They emigrated to social democracy. The place they wanted to be wasn’t Hammersmith or Ealing, Birmingham or Manchester, though they ended up in all those places and more. It was National Health Service Land, Free Education Land, Unionised Workforce Land, Jobs for Women Land, where being female didn’t mean your only choices were whether to be a housewife or a nun. It was a land of basic decency where ordinary working people believed they had a right to a reasonably tolerable present and the hope for a better future.

If, in the period between 1945 and 1979, you wanted to understand the difference between ideology and human realities, the question to ask was: what’s the difference between England and Ireland? In the realm of rhetoric and abstraction, the answer was to be found in endless discourses about history, religion, victimhood and oppression, the Empire and the Four Green Fields. But for those who grew up on small farms or in the working class ghettoes of Irish towns and cities, the answers were entirely different. You could get a job in England. Your kids could go to secondary school and, if they were smart, they had a good chance of getting to university. You could get your eyes tested and your teeth fixed. You could get some kind of a house. And in Ireland, if you came from those social classes, you couldn’t.

And all of these things trumped nationality and religion. It wasn’t that the hundreds of thousands who left for England felt less Irish – in many ways, they were forced to feel more so, to be suddenly and uncomfortably aware of the way they spoke and moved. Whether they liked it or not, they were Paddies, forced to deal with everything from outright racism to ‘good-natured’ joshing. (‘What’s the matter, Paddy, can’t take a joke?’) In relation to religion, it wasn’t that they hadn’t been force-fed warnings of the dangers of Pagan England to their faith, their chastity, their very souls. Irishness and Catholicism remained immensely important to the bulk of those who went. But ultimately they were less important than wages, houses, schools, prospects.

This is just the way people are. Given a choice, most people prefer a decent life to national or ethnic purity. Given a choice, most people like to get on with their neighbours, to fit in with their communities, to carry on with the business of going to work and raising a family and hoping for the best. They may have and hold an identity that is ethnic and political and religious and historic. But they also have an identity that is contingent, that they make up as they live their lives, that they form out of the daily stuff of coping and hoping. There are grand antagonisms and reconciliations but there are all those things implied in the word ‘chums’ – ordinary acts of getting along.

Here, though, is the big question: could these two kinds of experience be brought together or must they always occupy parallel universes? Must there always be a disjunction between the public and private sides of the relationships that tie Ireland and England together? Is it possible to imagine that the tragic disconnection that O’Connor dramatises in Guests of the Nation might be repaired?

Well, perhaps it is, and perhaps it has actually happened. Queen Elizabeth’s state visit to the Republic didn’t really change anything. But it did dramatise a change that had already happened. It gave a sharp, immediate focus to a process that has been slow and incremental. It had its lovely moments of graceful presence but what it really did was to embody a paradox – making an absence suddenly visible. What we saw were two things that were, astonishingly, not there: Anglophobia and condescension.

This took me by surprise. I was at Dublin Castle, blathering for some TV crew, and when I’d finished I was grabbed by another and put in front of a monitor with a live feed from the Garden of Remembrance in Dublin. I was doing the usual stuff: explaining that the garden was primarily built to commemorate the heroes of violent nationalism, and the resonance of a British monarch entering it to pay her respects… I was completely unprepared for the emotion of that simple but extraordinary moment when the queen laid her wreath and bowed her head. That moment appealed to something far beyond the rational. It reached into places where no speech or declaration could, or should, try to go: the irrational, psychological terrain of superiority and inferiority complexes, of inherited insult and thoughtless condescension. It hit all the raw nerves that lie just beneath the surface of this knotty relationship, delivering a shock that was, paradoxically, soothing.

Before the queen did that, the visit was overwhelmingly about us, the Irish. It was about the Irish proving to ourselves that we are mature, that we’re over all that bitterness, that the chip on our shoulders is now a mere mole. The visit seemed like a kind of immersion therapy: you cure yourself of Anglophobia by welcoming the queen in the way you might cure yourself of arachnophobia by walking into a roomful of spiders.

The ceremony in the Garden of Remembrance transformed the visit by making it also about them, the English. It wasn’t just the Irish who were being bravely mature: it was also the English. Generations of English superciliousness towards Ireland (the suave, upper-class, good-natured sort being the worst) was disavowed in that moment. The queen managed a dignified humility and simplicity that were the polar opposites of condescension. Her gesture was not, as some overexcited commentators and headline writers sought to insist, some kind of homage to the rebels who beat the Brits. It was more meaningful than that. It was a simple acknowledgment that Ireland is a different place, with its own history and mythology, its own encoded meanings. Different, that is, but equal.

And perhaps all we needed was that simple gesture of respect to bring the official and unofficial, the public and the private relationships, into alignment. For the trick was never to create an amity that did not previously exist. It was to evolve a politics that is adequate to the simple, mundane intimacy that has been there for generations. The need was not for something grandiose. It was for the possibility of going back to Hawkins’s terrible question: ‘Weren’t we all chums? Didn’t we understand him and didn’t he understand us?’ Only this time with the vivid likelihood that the answer might be ‘yes’.

This piece was first published in October 2012, in the fourth volume of the British Council series, Britain and Ireland: Lives Entwined, commissioned by openDemocracy Editor Rosemary Bechler.  She would like to thank the British Council Northern Ireland, the British Council Ireland and the authors, for the chance to republish here a selection of articles from the series.

About the author

Fintan O’Toole is literary editor of The Irish Times and Leonard L Milberg lecturer in Irish Letters at Princeton. Born in Dublin in 1958, he has been drama critic of In Dublin, the Sunday Tribune, The New York Daily News and The Irish Times, and Literary Advisor to the Abbey Theatre. He also edited Magill magazine. His most recent books are A History of Ireland in 100 Objects; Up the Republic!; Enough is Enough; and Ship of Fools.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on March 17th, 2012
by Pincas Jawetz (pj@sustainabilitank.info)

This morning I marched at 8:30am to the East 68 Street entrance of the Park East Synagogue, and when I left at about 3pm I entered on the a sea of green – I immediately congratulated an elderly lady for the green antennae she was wearing on her head and I quickened my pace when I saw some green bunnies standing at the crossroad at Lexington Avenue.

The reality must be nevertheless noted – this is that the US has had already its first Catholic President (JFK), but the Jews got closest only when Senator Jacob Javits would have been happy even with the nomination for Vice President in the days the US still had a Liberal Republican wing of the Republican Party, but he was blocked by the Ambitions of New York State Governor Nelson Rockefeller.

The United States were started by Anglo-Saxon Protestants and the thing to be was – be a WASP – White Anglo-Saxon Protestant male in order to get ahead.

In 1962 the Zichron Ephraim Congregation hired for its leadership position the Holocaust survivor Rabbi Arthur Schneier who was born in Vienna, on March 20, 1930, and whose Grandfather, in whose house he lived, was a Rabbi in Budapest who ended up in the extermination Camp Auschwitz in Poland. He belongs to a long line of Rabbis of East Europe and eventually young Arthur Schneier reached the US, after the war, in 1947, and did his studies in the United States. Ordained by Yeshiva University in New York City, he is by now the recipient of ten honorary doctorates. Under his leadership Zichron Ephraim became PARK EAST, and a main Jewish and New York Center for interaction with the United Nations here in New York, and at home capitals all over the world.


Rabbi Arthur Schneier  took his Congregation from being the quiet Park East Synagogue and placed it at the center of World attention for everything that has to do with oppression of Jews and Human Rights for all.

Starting with his first visit to Moscow in 1966, he has intervened with Soviet and Eastern European governments to ease the plight of religious believers; headed interfaith missions to Europe, Central Asia, Middle East, and Latin America; convened six international conferences with government and religious leaders from the former Yugoslavia and Southeast Europe to halt ethnic conflict and further reconciliation.

In April 2008, Rabbi Arthur Schneier hosted Pope Benedict XVI at Park East Synagogue, the first visit of a Pope to a synagogue in the United States. In February, 2009, he had a private audience with Pope Benedict XVI at the Vatican to reaffirm Nostra Aetate adopted by Vatican Council II, and was the Keynote speaker in 2008, at an Interfaith Conference convened by King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia in Madrid.

Rabbi Schneier is the recipient of The Grand Decoration of Honor in Gold with Star for Service to the Republic of Austria; Commander’s Cross with the Star of the Order of Merit of the Republic of Hungary; Dr. Karl Renner Prize of the City of Vienna, Grand Decoration of Honor in Gold for Special Services to the Province of Vienna; Order of St. Daniel of Moscow (Moscow Patriarchate, Russian Orthodox Church); Religious Liberty Award. He is a member of Council on Foreign Relations; Asia Society; United Nations Development Corporation; United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, Committee on Conscience; Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations; Joint Distribution Committee; Past President and Honorary Chairman, Religious Zionists of America, Honorary Chairman, World Jewish Congress American Section.

Rabbi Arthur Schneier was one of three American religious leaders appointed by President Clinton to start the first dialogue on religious freedom with President Jiang Zemin and other top Chinese leaders. As part of President Clinton’s delegation to China, Rabbi Schneier was privileged to present the Ohel Rachel Synagogue’ in Shanghai,  with the first Torah scroll in more than 50 years, donated by Park East Synagogue. He has served as a member of the U.S. delegation to the International Forum for Prevention of Genocide held in Stockholm in 2004, and Chairman of the U.S. Commission for the Preservation of America’s Heritage Abroad from 1991-1995.

Rabbi Arthur Schneier also served as U.S. Alternate Representative at the U.N. General Assembly in 1988 and as a member of the U.S. Delegation for Return of the St. Steven Crown to Hungary in 1979. He was appointed as a member of the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations High-Level Group in 2006, by Secretary-General Kofi Annan and in 2008, Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon named him as United Nations Ambassador to the Alliance of Civilizations High-Level Group.

Rabbi Arthur Schneier was awarded the Presidential Citizens Medal by President Clinton, who praised him for “his service as an international envoy for four administrations, and as a Holocaust survivor, devoting a lifetime to overcoming forces of hatred and intolerance and set an inspiring example of spiritual leadership by encouraging interfaith dialogue and intercultural understanding and promoting the cause of religious freedom around the world.”

Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney, in October 2011, introduced a bill to award Rabbi Schneier the Congressional Gold Medal for his multifaceted humanitarian work.

The Appeal of Conscience Foundation, founded by Rabbi Arthur Schneier in 1965, has worked on behalf of religious freedom and human rights throughout the world. This interfaith coalition of business and religious leaders promotes peace, tolerance and ethnic conflict resolution. The Foundation believes that freedom, democracy and human rights are the fundamental values that give nations of the world their best hope for peace, security and shared prosperity.

Appeal of Conscience delegations have met with religious and government leaders in Albania, Argentina, Armenia, Bulgaria, People’s Republic of China, the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), Cuba, Czech Republic, El Salvador, Germany, Holy See, Hungary, India, Indonesia, Ireland, Japan, Morocco, Panama, Poland, Romania, Russia, Slovak Republic, Switzerland, Spain, Turkey, Ukraine, United Kingdom and the former Yugoslavia. The Foundation also hosts delegations from abroad to acquaint them with the diversity of American religious life and its contribution to a civil society.

The Appeal of Conscience Foundation has long held that “a crime committed in the name of religion is the greatest crime against religion.” The struggle for human rights is ongoing and tolerance can be achieved by promoting open dialogue and mutual understanding. After September 11th, the foundation has rallied religious leaders worldwide to take a stand against terrorism and to use their influence to halt violence and promote tolerance.

But for the Congregation itself, the most important institution is its Day-School intended to help the survival of a Jewish culture in a free and democratic America – a very hard feat in itself these days.

Park East Day School. Click for home.

The Rabbi’s son, now Rabbi Marc Schneier, was born in 1959 and has now a Congregation with two seats – one in Westhampton Beach, Long Island, New York State – the The Hampton Synagogue founded in 1990 with a New York City branch – the New York Synagogue in Manhattan – with at the time people asking if the two were the Hampton Synagogue in Manhattan, or the New York Synagogue in the Hamptons – whatever the answer, above was a case of an independent  son following the grand ideas of his father.

While Rabbi Arthur Schneier was looking at the World at large – Rabbi Marc Schneier started to work with people like  Russell Simmons, who as Hip-hop’s master impresario brought marginalized voices to a mass audience. The two created the Foundation for Ethnic Understanding (FFEU) that works between Jewish and Muslim Communities in the United States, but as the following photo shows also with the President of Israel in even larger circles. Russsell Simmons is the Chairman of FFEU. With them works Martin Luther King III, President and CEO, “Realizing the Dream Foundation.” (I have in front of me my notes  at a January 14-15, 2007 meeting)

The photo actually was taken when Schneier and Simmons explain to President Shimon Peres the ways they work against prejudices of one community against the other and for Peace.

A third member in the Marc Schneier – Russell Simmons team is Imam Shamsi Ali of  New York’s largest mosque, the Islamic Cultural Center (ICC) on East 96th Street at Third Avenue – and their coooperation is a ray of hope that at least here in the US – Muslims and Jews can cooperate for mutual understanding.

I mention the above because we were involved in this effort at start, but I will not go beyond this here, simply, because the topic of this posting is the father and not the son – this except to mention that the father managed somehow to help bring up a son that will follow his family line, albeit in his own ways.

Rabbi Marc Schneier is already counted like his father, as one of the most influential Rabbis in the United States, and held positions with the North American Board of Rabbis and with the World Jewish Congress.


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Now to this Saturday service at the Park East Synagogue – the first half of the HALF CENTURY CELEBRATION OF RABBI ARTHUR SCHNEIER. Some specifics that made this Saturday service different then any other Saturday:

The two sections read as add-ons to this Saturday service – one from the book of the Prophet Ezekiel (36:16-38), and the other from the book of Numbers (19:1-22) contain the following excerpts:

I will take you from among the nations and gather you from all the countries, and I will bring you back to your own land.  I will sprinkle clean water upon you, and you shall be clean: I will cleanse you from all your uncleanness and from all your fetishes.  And I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit into you: I will remove the heart of stone from your body and give you a heart of flesh;  and I will put My spirit into you. Thus I will cause you to follow My laws and faithfully to observe My rules.  Then you shall dwell in the land which I gave to your fathers, and you shall be My people and I will be your God.

And when I have delivered you from all your uncleanness, I will summon the grain and make it abundant, and I will not bring famine upon you.  I will make the fruit of your trees and the crops of your fields abundant, so that you shall never again be humiliated before the nations because of famine.  Then you shall recall your evil ways and your base conduct, and you shall loathe yourselves for your iniquities and your abhorrent practices.  Not for your sake will I act — declares the Lord God — take good note! Be ashamed and humiliated because of your ways, O House of Israel!

Thus said the Lord God: When I have cleansed you of all your iniquities, I will people your settlements, and the ruined places shall be rebuilt;  and the desolate land, after lying waste in the sight of every passerby, shall again be tilled.  And men shall say, “That land, once desolate, has become like the garden of Eden; and the cities, once ruined, desolate, and ravaged, are now populated and fortified.”  And the nations that are left around you shall know that I the Lord have rebuilt the ravaged places and replanted the desolate land. I the Lord have spoken and will act.

Thus said the Lord God: Moreover, in this I will respond to the House of Israel and act for their sake: I will multiply their people like sheep. As Jerusalem is filled with sacrificial sheep during her festivals, so shall the ruined cities be filled with flocks of people. And they shall know that I am the Lord.


In addition, there is the special Torah reading for Shabbat Parah from the book of Numbers 19:1-22

The Lord spoke to Moses and Aaron, saying – This is the ritual law that the Lord has commanded:

Instruct the Israelite people to bring you a red cow without blemish, in which there is no defect and on which no yoke has been laid.  You shall give it to Eleazar the priest. It shall be taken outside the camp and slaughtered in his presence. Eleazar the priest shall take some of its blood with his finger and sprinkle it seven times toward the front of the Tent of Meeting. The cow shall be burned in his sight — its hide, flesh, and blood shall be burned, its dung included —  and the priest shall take cedar wood, hyssop, and crimson stuff, and throw them into the fire consuming the cow.  The priest shall wash his garments and bathe his body in water; after that the priest may reenter the camp, but he shall be unclean until evening.  He who performed the burning shall also wash his garments in water, bathe his body in water, and be unclean until evening.  A man who is clean shall gather up the ashes of the cow and deposit them outside the camp in a clean place, to be kept for water of lustration for the Israelite community. It is for cleansing.  He who gathers up the ashes of the cow shall also wash his clothes and be unclean until evening.

This shall be a permanent law for the Israelites and for the strangers who reside among you.

He who touches the corpse of any human being shall be unclean for seven days. He shall cleanse himself with it on the third day and on the seventh day, and then be clean; if he fails to cleanse himself on the third and seventh days, he shall not be clean.  Whoever touches a corpse, the body of a person who has died, and does not cleanse himself, defiles the Lord’s Tabernacle; that person shall be cut off from Israel. Since the water of lustration was not dashed on him, he remains unclean; his uncleanness is still upon him.

This is the ritual: When a person dies in a tent, whoever enters the tent and whoever is in the tent shall be unclean seven days;  and every open vessel, with no lid fastened down, shall be unclean.  And in the open, anyone who touches a person who was killed or who died naturally, or human bone, or a grave, shall be unclean seven days.  Some of the ashes from the fire of cleansing shall be taken for the unclean person, and fresh water shall be added to them in a vessel. A person who is clean shall take hyssop, dip it in the water, and sprinkle on the tent and on all the vessels and people who were there, or on him who touched the bones or the person who was killed or died naturally or the grave.  The clean person shall sprinkle it upon the unclean person on the third day and on the seventh day, thus cleansing him by the seventh day. He shall then wash his clothes and bathe in water, and at nightfall he shall be clean.  If anyone who has become unclean fails to cleanse himself, that person shall be cut off from the congregation, for he has defiled the Lord’s sanctuary. The water of lustration was not dashed on him: he is unclean.

That shall be for them a law for all time. Further, he who sprinkled the water of lustration shall wash his clothes; and whoever touches the water of lustration shall be unclean until evening.  Whatever that unclean person touches shall be unclean; and the person who touches him shall be unclean until evening.

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The two sections of above explain the return of Israel to its land that becomes again a source of plenty – and the fact that death of any human or animal is a course that makes you unclean. In our view an essence of what modern Israel stands for as an ideal.

We think that there is no problem with the first half – Israel did prosper. With the second half there are problems, and the two Rabbis of the family Schneier are fighting to decrease the losses from lack of cooperation between warring sides.
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The Saturday speakers were:
The Ambassador of Israel to the UN – Mr. Ron Prosor,
The Son, Rabbi Marc Schneier,
The Chief Rabbi of Tel Aviv, and Chairman of Yad Vashem – the Jerusalem Memorial to the Holocaust, Rabbi Meit Lau,
The head of the Congregation, an Emeritus President of the congregation, a guest who was Chief Rabbi of Venezuela
The Respondent – Rabbi Arthur Schneier himself.
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On Sunday the lineup of speakers included:
New York State Comptroller Thomas Dinapoli,
Hon. Edward I. Koch, New York Mayor 1978-1989,
Scotch Stringer, Borough of Manhattan, President,
Speaker of the New York State Assembly Sheldon Silver,
Ambassador Ido Aharoni, Consul General of israel in New York,
Hon. Malcolm Hoenlein, Executive Vice-Chairman, Conference of Presidents of American Jewish Organizations,
Ms. Karen Schneier-Dresbach, daughter of Rabbi Arthur Schneier.
President of the Synagogue – Mr. Hermann Hochberg,
Respondent – Rabbi Arthur Schneier.
On the original list for Sunday were also – H.E. Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan, Archbishop of New York, Senator Charles Schumer, and

Congressman Charles Rangel, but they did not show up. Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney, who was not on the list, came directly from the airport from her returning flight from a trip to Libya.  She was the one that asked Congress to honor Rabbi Arthur Schneier with the Congressional Gold medal.

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From the line-up of Speakers I will pick on the Son’s presentation:

He spoke of doubts a human can have as expressed by his asking “IF” – If I had not Done This, If I had Done That, What would have been my life then? Clearly a very normal situation and very human – we are never sure of our choices of actions except if guided by a clear moral vision that tells us what to do.

But then IF is just the middle – the heart – of LIFE. It is the IF that equals life and when looking at the Hebrew word for LIFE – it is HAIIM – which in Hebrew is written in four letters as well – like LIFE. It is (HA)IIM and in the Center there are the two “I” – II – which is the name of God.
So, here we have it – that the IF that is guided by morality is the ethics that God taught us.

But more:

In all languages Rabbi Marc Schneier was able to check out – LIFE is in the singular except in Hebrew – and I concur with him from those languages I know as well.

In Hebrew (HA)IIM is plural – Why?

And here comes the clencher – this because an ethic life is within a community – it is not an individual event. Marc Schneier says about his father that what he got from him is the way to always consider the community. The life of ethics must do something of value to the community and what his father did was good for Park East and built up that congregation.

Personally, what I heard here was a slap on the face of existentialism. Really, if we are here only to serve what is good to us as individuals, we did not read that second text contained in the add-ons to the service of this Saturday. If one commits murder he cannot just walk back to his community. Yes – and you are nothing unless you have a community. The way to the community is what guides you when you ask “IF.”
In his response on Sunday, Rabbi Arthur Schneier said that he lost his childhood in the Holocaust and what kept him going was the believe in God. His family came from Muncach  (a town in Northern Maramuresh that is now included in the Zakarpattia Oblast – Carpathian Mountains of western Ukraine – neighboring our own Northern Bukowina area, that is also now part of Ukraine under the name Chernivtsi Oblast.)   Now he believes in his heart that America is good – God bless America, let’s be positive about America – we are a a great people.
It was here in this Synagogue that he, Bobby Kennedy, and Mayor Lindsay started The Struggle for Soviet Jewry.
NEVER FORGET YOUR HOME BASE – BE ON CALL – THIS IS MY PHILOSOPHY, he said.
He continued – Yesterday we read about the Ark – the tabernacle – it was topped by the two Cherubs with their wings posted towards heaven, but the two were facing each other because we have to act together. That was the hot-line to God whose split tablets have in them – one with five commandments relating to God and Man, and the other one with five commandments about relations of Man to Man.
The Synagogue is a House of Prayer but also a House of Values and a House of Assembly – and it has become a HOME.
We are now nearing Passover – the celebration of Freedom he said. Freedom is the greatest export item for the US to the World, he said.
New York City has over 290 ethnic and religious groups right here in NY City, and it is a model of coexistence. If anything – Globalization has taught us – we swim together or we sink together, he said looking at the two rows of various religious prelates that are his partners in the Appeal of Conscience Foundation – that he founded and still chairs. On the side there was also a group of Holocaust survivors sitting together.



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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on July 20th, 2011
by Pincas Jawetz (pj@sustainabilitank.info)


This year marks the 150th anniversary of the publication by John Tyndall of his paper which identified the roles of atmospheric carbon dioxide and water vapour in determining the global temperature.

To celebrate this milestone of climate science, the Royal Irish Academy and the Environmental Protection Agency, Ireland, are holding a scientific conference on John Tyndall and his scientific legacy.

This takes place between 28-30th September in Dublin Castle, Dublin, Ireland.

As well as examining  the Tyndall climate legacy the conference will also explore current science on:

(1) Global warming potentials and common metrics for radiative forcing of climate and
(2) Key climate feedback issues.

The conference  has attracted  contributions from leading  international experts in these areas, and will provide stimulating discussion of these issues within climate science and  at the science policy interface. Details on the conference programme  and registration details are at:  www.tyndallconference2011.org

As attendance is limited, early registration is advised.

John Tyndall is an overlooked genius from Ireland whose work revolutionised science and created entirely new experimental techniques and scientific disciplines.   His work on infra-red  spectroscopy served to form the basis of our  understanding of the Earth’s climate system and  current awareness of the threats of global warming and climate change.   In this, he is ranked with  the greatest physicists of  19th and 20th century – “Fourier, Tyndall, Arrhenius, Kirchoff, Planck and Einstein”, (Ray Pierrehumbert, Physics Today, Jan 2011). In the 150 years since the publication of Tyndall’s seminal work, the sciences of atmospheric radiative transfer and climate have developed and deepened our understanding of the world we live in and our impact upon it.

This conference will celebrate Tyndall’s achievements and  examine developments in key  areas of climate science, current scientific issues and their  implications. It will also celebrate the increasing recognition of Tyndall’s work and reputation.

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from: Dr Frank McGovern,
Environmental Protection Agency,
Richview,
Clonskeagh Road,
Dublin 14, Ireland.

f.mcgovern@epa.ie

www.epa.ie

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on June 28th, 2011
by Pincas Jawetz (pj@sustainabilitank.info)

This lady replaces her country-man the disgraced Dominique Gaston André StraussKahn. She got prepared for the job while handling Euro’s crisis with Greece which is indeed the crises of Europe’s banks that are over-exposed to debt of the members of the EU.

The news these days in Europe is China’s move to buy Euro-debt and thus buy up European assets as well. This makes China a growing player in Europe’s financial system, as they already are in Latin America and Africa, not talking about the US itself. China will thus play the role of the IMF directly, and by gaining increasing power at the IMF as well.

China does this for many reasons but it is not the least of these reasons its Attempt to strengthen the world financial boat just to make sure that european banks do not go under. China needs them in order to keep growing worldwide while develop its own country internally.

With Ms. Lagarde’s appointment for 5 years, and doing what is needed while backing EU laggards, it seems just reasonable that next time around, or even at next year’s election of a new head of the World Bank, the major emerging States might feel strong enough to pick a choice that is different from what the old Transatlantic Alliance heads of State have in their   traditional minds formed at San Francisco in 1945 and later at Lake Success on Long Island, just outside New York City.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on June 5th, 2011
by Pincas Jawetz (pj@sustainabilitank.info)

Five reasons why Europe is cracking up.

by José Ignacio Torreblanca3 June 2011 on Open DEmocracy as

 www.opendemocracy.net/jos%C3%A9-i…

This article was first published in the El Pais daily newspaper, 15/05/11

José Ignacio Torreblanca joined the European Council on Foreign Relations as a Senior Research Fellow and Head of the Madrid Office in September 2007.

He found that:

In Germany, France and Italy, but also in many other places, we find ourselves confronted with a generation of leaders ever more shortsighted and given over to electioneering: among them, none speak to Europe nor for Europe.

Denmark has reintroduced border controls with the populist excuse of controlling crime. By taking the step, the country that was once a model of democracy, tolerance and social justice has placed itself on the frontlines of a Europe that is increasingly surrendering to fear and xenophobia.

Greece, meanwhile, has spent more than a year teetering on a cliff edge and few fellow European governments seem disappointed that it may abandon the euro – some of them are even secretly supporting the markets against Athens.

Finland has thrown itself into the arms of xenophobic populism and, following in the footsteps of Slovakia, has refused to finance the bailout of Portugal.

With elections around the corner, France and Italy have taken advantage of the Tunisian uprising to restrict the free movement of people within the European Union.

And Germany, unhappy at managing the euro crisis amid regional elections, has broken ranks with France and the United Kingdom in the United Nations Security Council, ignoring the Libya crisis and undermining 10 years of European security policy.

With the future of the euro in doubt and the Arab world erupting, European leaders are governing on the basis of opinion polls and electoral processes, hanging on to power through any means possible even if that results in undoing the Europe that it took so much time and so many sacrifices to build. Few times in the past has the European project been so questioned and its disgraces so publicly exposed. It would seem that in the Europe of today, having a large xenophobic political party is obligatory.

The truth is that Europe is cracking up along four fault lines: its values, the euro, foreign policy and leadership.

If there is no radical change, the integration process could collapse, leaving the future of Europe as an economically and politically relevant entity up in the air.

If interested to read further on issues like:

A project without fuel

Crisis of values and political shortsightedness

The end of solidarity

Absent from the world

The rebellion of the elites

please go to the original: www.opendemocracy.net/jos%C3%A9-i…

With every passing day, the sensation that Europe is fragmenting is more real and more justified. Can Europe break apart? The answer is evident: yes, of course it can. At the end of the day, the European Union is a human construction, not a celestial body. That it is necessary and beneficial justifies its existence, but that will not prevent it from disappearing. Just as a series of favorable circumstances led to the risky launch of this grand project, the unleashing of a series of adverse circumstances could very easily make it disappear, especially if those responsible for defending it shirk their responsibilities. Many committed pro-Europeans are conscious that the danger of Europe unravelling is very real, and they are duly worried about the course of events. However, at the same time, they fear that feeding pessimism with warnings of this nature could only serve to accelerate the collapse. But when, day after day, we see the red lines of decency and the values that Europe embodies being crossed by bigoted politicians who unscrupulously fuel the fears of citizens, it is impossible to continue looking the other way. Seeing the clarity of ideas and the determination with which the anti-Europeans pursue their objectives, it is hard to believe that mere optimism will be sufficient by itself to save Europe from the ghosts of doggedness, egoism and xenophobia that are haunting it at present. Without an equal level of determination and clarity of ideas from the other side, Europe will fail.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on May 30th, 2011
by Pincas Jawetz (pj@sustainabilitank.info)

On Monday May 24, 2011, while Prime Minister Netanyahu was speaking at the AIPAC Policy Conference in Washington, and nobody of that organization was speaking of President Barack Hussein Obama anymore, the Irish were laying claim to yet another White House occupant, Brack O’Bama – a distant relative also of such US Republicans of geopolitical  views AIPAC seems to prefer – George W. Bush and Dick Cheney.

The papers reported about Henry the Eighth – that is the 26 years young Henry Healy who is eighth cousin of the 44th President of the United States – Mr. Barack Obaman who cooperated with the local police and led 16 out of the 100 folks who claim relationship to meet with the President.

Olie Hayes, who happens to be 44, is the owner of the Monegall Pub, rechristened “O’Bama’s Irish Pub” for the day – is the social center of this 296 people village in the geographical center of Ireland. For the day the village grew to 3,000 people. Love was flowing like the pints of beer and the First Lady was told in pure Irish spirit: “You Look LOVELY!

Obama’s great-great-great grandfather, Falmouth Kearney, was a shoemaker in Moneygall and left for the United States in 1850 at the hight of Ireland’s Great Famine for which the Queen of England took finally official responsibility in her visit to Ireland just a week earlier.

We seem to remember Moneygall (a great name) having passed by years ago. I way even have had a pint at the pub. Now everyone going there will have the chance of seeing President Obama’s bust sitting on the bar and the village will never climb down from this high point. We are sure that similar places will stay for posterity also in Kenya and Indonesia – and the US is better off with a multi-cultural President when compared to some of his predecessors who had no understanding for the world raging out there.

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Above was just the spicy introduction to some further meaty topic:
Government debt in the United States, including state and local governments, is not far behind Ireland’s as a percentage of the nation’s economy. The figures usually given for the US do not include money borrowed from other government accounts, such as the Social Security Trust Fund. When one adds these the US is clearly just in such a bad position as Ireland with the one difference – the US prints the money that Ireland cannot do. Oh well – we plan some more postings on these topics.


Obama can learn from Ireland’s ‘tough slog’ of austerity.
Print
By Richard Wolf, USA TODAY, May 24, 2011.

The Ireland that President Obama visits for the first time today is down on its luck and therein lies a lesson for the United States.

Gone is the economic boom that transformed Ireland over the past decade. In its place: crushing government austerity measures following a sovereign debt crisis that required an embarrassing bailout from the European Union and International Monetary Fund.

Jobs have been jettisoned, salaries slashed, pensions and health benefits reduced. Unemployment hovers near 15%. The economy, which shrank 8% in 2009 and 1% in 2010, is barely back in the black and the government is paying 5.8% interest on its bailout loans.

With Greece and Portugal struggling under their own debt burdens and bailout packages, the 17-nation eurozone has put the brakes on government stimulus measures that were needed to climb out of the 2008 global financial crisis. They’re doing what the United States has yet to do cutting back.

“It’s a tough, tough slog,” says Michael Collins, the Irish ambassador to the U.S. “Everybody has had to take a share of pain.”

The austere times shared by Great Britain, which is not a member of the eurozone but has begun a program of deficit reduction can’t be good for the U.S. economy, either. Collectively, Europe is America’s biggest trading partner.

Financial experts and credit-ratings agencies say the mess is a warning for Obama and Washington lawmakers: Get your fiscal house in order or risk the same fate.

“In the United States, there’s more time than the Irish had,” says Moody’s senior credit officer Steven Hess. “But certainly, what has happened in Ireland is a demonstration of the kinds of pressures that the U.S. faces over the long term.”

Although Ireland’s debt crisis was caused by a housing bust and credit meltdown far worse and more poorly managed than the U.S. version, there is one haunting similarity: government debt, counting what’s owed by state and local governments, is in the same ballpark.

“How much worse does it get if instead of taking care of the problem yourself, you allow the problem to take care of you?” says Joseph Minarik, senior vice president at the Committee for Economic Development.

“Ireland got to the latter point. They had the situation rubbed in their faces,” he says.

Ireland’s debt was about 25% of its economy before the housing and credit bust prompted the government to bail out the banks. Now it’s 112% and rising.

“The banks ripped us off. The government ripped us off,” says Paddy Quigley, 56, a resident of Moneygall, Obama’s ancestral home. “Our economy is down, and we need something to boost us.”

The cutbacks are a heavy tax on Ireland’s 4.5 million people. “Adjusting one’s economy in the wake of a crisis inevitably entails a decline in the standard of living,” says Bruce Stokes, a trans-Atlantic economics scholar at the German Marshall Fund of the United States.

Even while visiting tiny Moneygall (pop. 296) and speaking at a raucous rock concert in Dublin, Obama is sure to see signs of Ireland’s decline. Experts hope it makes an impression on him.

“This will be an important chance for the president to see what this has done, politically, socially and economically,” says Heather Conley, director of the Europe program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. She cites the rise of nationalist, populist and anti-immigration groups.

Obama might rather study Ireland’s pro-business environment its 12.5% corporate tax rate is a major attraction. But some European officials have argued that the low rate should be raised to provide more revenue. Obama, caught in the middle, may sidestep the issue.

As Europe headed toward austerity in 2010, the Obama administration was still calling for fiscal stimulus measures on both sides of the Atlantic.

Today, not so much. The White House and congressional leaders are seeking ways to reduce a $1.4 trillion budget deficit just to win passage of an increase in the $14.3 trillion debt ceiling.

“I think we’re all talking the same language,” says Nigel Sheinwald, British ambassador to the United States.

Not a moment too soon, say ratings agency officials. When Standard & Poor’s said last month that its top (AAA) rating on U.S. debt was at risk, that was a signal that policymakers must get their act together.

European nations are cutting back and “that’s a striking contrast to where the debate still is in the United States,” says David Beers, S&P’s global head of sovereign ratings. “It seems to us that it requires leadership … and a kind of sustained effort to explain to voters what the choices are.”

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on April 25th, 2011
by Pincas Jawetz (pj@sustainabilitank.info)

 

We just had a peaceful day today, Monday April 25, 2011 – a floating brunch on the Admiral Tegethoff of the Donauschiffe.at  – upstream from Vienna on the Danube – and in the evening we saw the great new release of a 3D – real life size documentary – about the work of the great Wupperthal, Germany, modern dance choreographer Pina Bausch who picked up from where Martha Graham left us by moving from the classics to ourselves. With Pima it was what we feel rather then what Oedipus felt – and what we saw was a cyber-monument to that lady.

The documentary started with Pina showing how she boils down life to the cycle of the Four Seasons. With her Spring is rather the fourth Season – the one when life bursts into explosion and starts anew. The other three seasons are just the preparation for the Spring when we get into a full renewal made after evolutionary developments in our feelings – important as they are in themselves – but springs frees the energies that were pent in until this season arrives.

Having explained herself and brought her dancers into a line-up demonstrating they got the message, she moved to renew the Sacres de Printemps of Igor Stravinsky and created by Vaslav Nijinski for the Parisian Serge Dijagilev Les Ballets Rousses, and even without having at hand a  Nijinsky dancer she manages to express raw emotions that make her version even stronger then the original.(Others that tried their hand on the “Rites of Spring” were: Maurice Brjart, Angelin Prelocjaj, Martha Graham, Uwe Scholz and Emanuel Gat.)

Think of Pina’s Wuperthal Arts Center, a real United Nations of talent, and the German Government and people backing she got, and you start thinking that High Standards of Living require culture and expenditures.

My mention in the title of Easter and Passover relates to the fact that this is still the Passover week. The Seder we participate in was at the Vienna Reform Congregation led Rabbi Walter Rothchild from Liverpool, Berlin and Vienna. It was a memorable, humorous and delicious event – as far as public Sedarim this was the best we ever participated in. It was relaxed, all inclusive, and delicious.

— 

Yesterday, Easter Sunday, I went to “Heaven” – that is the Austrian place called Am Himmel. There, next to the “Oktogon” which is at the corner of the Hights Street (Hoehengasse) and the Heaven Street (Himmelgasse) I found the Lebensbaumkreis – that is the big eco-circle where 40 trees arranged in a circle, and from all over the world, tell us about themselves having been wired to microphones. There are also four trees in an inner circle. These are the trees of life that help us understand how our lives can be made more pleasant if we just accept nature and the way our natural world functions.  Actually, the whole thing is not plain environmentalism, but also a mixture with spiritualism and some inputs of ethics that can be acceptable to any religion. I found this noteworthy considering the David Brooks piece we will see later in this posting.

After the visit at the Circle of Life, and watching the families picnicking around the circle or sitting in the Octogon Restaurant,  I continued to walk in the Vienna forest for several hours with the help of my trekking sticks and ended up at the Little Haus in Heaven where I ate a Pongauer Wedding soup and drank the semi-obligatory quarter liter of Austrian wine – this time the one made from local Blue Portuguese grapes grown on the slopes of the Vienna woods.

To make sure I did make it clear – all the above was described to prove we know – Vienna and Austria are now at the front of quality of life – the global leader.

In between yesterday’s activities and today’s there was my obligatory Sunday night activity of watching CNN – to be exact 10:00 pm local Vienna time – the Fareed Zakaria GPS program. As always it was an eye opener with extreme relevance to global concerns – where does the global economy go from here and what will this mean to the possibility to continue good life in Austria or changes for the better to life in the USA.

We all know that the US has overspent itself and like Greece, Ireland, and Portugal, is in effect bankrupt. We also know that Finland Has just voted for a new government that wants to stop the payments to bail out weaker EU partner governments. This ethic of work and do not come to ask for our hand-outs is spreading in the EU. Even Austria is not immune to this sort of demagoguery – or if you wish sound thinking. The third largest party in Austria – the “Blues” – may yet overcome next elections the “Blacks” and even the “Reds” by bringing up  conservative arguments and finding voters’ agreement. The result will obviously be the weakening of the future of the Euro-currency. Today the Euro is doing very well compared to the US dollar because of the US debt, but if the Euro itself becomes questionable, it will not be in position to replace the US dollar as world currency. So what is the world economic truth?

Here comes Master Fareed and makes it very clear – THE DANGER IN WORLD ECONOMICS IS NOT THAT THE US DOLLAR WILL COLLAPSE – BUT THE REALITY THAT ALL OTHER CURRENCIES ARE ACTUALLY MUCH WORSE OFF AND THEREFORE EVERYONE WHO HAS MONEY FROM TRADE SURPLUS IS READY TO INVEST IN US SHORT TERM DEBT MAKING THE US LESS EAGER, SEEMINGY EVEN LESS IN NEED, OFF  DOING SOMETHING ABOUT ITS OWN PROBLEMS.
The bottom-line becomes thus that in short term the US has now nothing to fear from, does believe that it can muddle through, and increases its problems, and the world’s problems, in the long term.

The Euro or the Yen cannot become a competitor to the US as for now, the Chinese, Brazilians, Indians, will continue for the time being to buy US short term debt, and the US might let its own debt rise to heaven and be exposed to a situation when things do indeed change and the US is allowed to plummet if this short term loans via the buying of short term securities ends. Further, this fake US economy does not create US jobs and without jobs US consumers will also decrease their spending. The real economy declines and standard of living declines rather then improves – it is only a sliver of the US citizenry that benefits from the fake economy. High quality immigration to the US declines, and from where will come the innovators that the economy needs? Now we hear the wheels of the real danger squeak. Not the short term danger the politicians talk about, but the long term danger they refuse to do something about – the funding for education and the positive reforms in health and social security programs – and we add to the list the change to innovative and more sustainable technologies.  

Fareed Zakharia had Messrs. Robert Rubin and Paul  O’Neill – both former Secretaries of the Treasury – the one under President Clinton and the other during the first year of the  G.W. Bush presidency (a question that never came about in the program could have been – why really was his tenure with the Bush Government so short?). Both agreed to the need to come up with ideas to start now programs to decrease the debt in the future, but were in agreement to raise the debt ceilling for the present – as nothing can be changed right now with the 2012 election on the horizon. 

The Secretaries were not the real stars of this CNN/GPS Program – that honor in our opinion went to the Journalist David Brooks who just came out with a book analyzing the US problems and reached the conclusion that it is the education system that did in the US. He is known for his conservatism when  it comes to economics planning but he also backs values that are different from what America calls success. Brooks says that pushing youth to go to best colleges and move up the ladder according to lines prescribed by conventions creates success but limits innovation. It is rather the C+ students with networking skills that work outside the accepted common norms that come up with creative ideas, and he has the real people-cases to prove his point. Now that is another block to America progress under the present landscape of Washington. He speaks of a new form of spirituality – the recognition of the value of your fellow man. The fact that every person has experiences from which you can learn something. It is the networker who does this sort of learning who eventually wins – not just that he becomes successful in the conventional capitalist sense, but he innovates in his own terms in league with his fellow men and thus becomes the real leader of progress. He has examples of real success stories – seemingly including also a chapter on Fareed Zakaria and a chapter on innovators we met on our US State Department sponsored trip to Idaho. We have not read the book yet and are not willing to go further then what we learned from this recent Global Public Square (GPS) program. We also intend to pick up the TIME Magazine of this week that has more about these topics.

The new book by David Brooks is titled – “THE SOCIAL ANIMAL: The Hidden Sources of Love, Character, and Achievement.” Please see – www.npr.org/2011/03/07/134329412/…
 globalpublicsquare.blogs.cnn.com/…
 

Brooks explains how the dry push for achievements by the Washington political elite has destroyed education – this because one learns from someone he loves and respects – but love is not something that legislators are ready to budget for.

So let me now summarize – that today Europe is ahead of the US in many areas even though young Austrians say the words “it is cool” as often as they find an occasion to use them, listen to American music and adore everything American, while enjoying the highest quality of life right here in Vienna.

So far as the US is concerned, the lack of a European Healthcare system and of a good education system is stressing American families and lowering their standard of living to the point that something will have to give.

On the other hand, in the short term, the collapse of the economy of some EU States will cause a weakening in the trust in the Euro which will help the US get foreign short term loans as a safe heaven for accrued surplus of trade funds that will create a fake belief that all is well with the US. The internal imballance in the US will increase, and may lead to very serious upheavals in the future that will benefit nobody.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on March 26th, 2011
by Pincas Jawetz (pj@sustainabilitank.info)

We thank our friend that provided us with the following information.

These glorious insults are from an era before the
English language got boiled down to 4-letter words.

– – – – – – – –

The exchange between Churchill & Lady Astor:
She said, “If you were my husband I’d give you poison.”
He said, “If you were my wife, I’d drink it.”

A member of Parliament to Disraeli:
“Sir, you will either die on the gallows or of some unspeakable
disease.”
“That depends, Sir,” said Disraeli, “whether I embrace your policies or
your mistress.”

“He had delusions of adequacy.” – Walter Kerr

“He has all the virtues I dislike and none of the vices I admire.” –
Winston Churchill

“I have never killed a man, but I have read many obituaries with great
pleasure.” – Clarence Darrow

“He has never been known to use a word that might send a reader
to the dictionary.” – William Faulkner (about Ernest Hemingway).

“Thank you for sending me a copy of your book; I’ll waste no time
reading it.”
– Moses Hadas

“I didn’t attend the funeral, but I sent a nice letter saying I approved
of it.” – Mark Twain

“He has no enemies, but is intensely disliked by his friends.” – Oscar
Wilde

“I am enclosing two tickets to the first night of my new play; bring a
friend .. if you have one.”
– George Bernard Shaw to Winston Churchill
“Cannot possibly attend first night, will attend second ….. if there
is one.”
–  Winston Churchill, in response.

“I feel so miserable without you; it’s almost like having you here.” –
Stephen Bishop

“He is a self-made man and worships his creator.” – John Bright

“I’ve just learned about his illness. Let’s hope it’s nothing trivial.”
– Irvin S. Cobb

“He is not only dull himself; he is the cause of dullness in others.” –
Samuel Johnson

“He is simply a shiver looking for a spine to run up.” – Paul Keating

“In order to avoid being called a flirt, she always yielded easily.” –
Charles, Count Talleyrand

“He loves nature in spite of what it did to him.” – Forrest Tucker

“Why do you sit there looking like an envelope without any address on
it?” – Mark Twain

“His mother should have thrown him away and kept the stork.” – Mae West

“Some cause happiness wherever they go; others, whenever they go.” –
Oscar Wilde

“He uses statistics as a drunken man uses lamp-posts…. for support
rather than illumination.”
– Andrew Lang (1844-1912)

“He has Van Gogh’s ear for music.” – Billy Wilder

“I’ve had a perfectly wonderful evening.  But this wasn’t it.” – Groucho
Marx

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on January 28th, 2011
by Pincas Jawetz (pj@sustainabilitank.info)

Paul Krugman writes in the New York Times of January 27, 2011:
“President Obama’s State of the Union address was a ho-hum affair. But the official Republican response, from Representative Paul Ryan, was really interesting. And I don’t mean that in a good way.”
His Title is:

“Their Own Private Europe.”

and he means – The Republican´s own imagination of Europe – and if you are less kind – the Republican´s manufactured lies about Europe conviniently produced so they can make for arguments in their internal American political battles.

Not very nice!

I write this from Vienna having observed that none of what Mr. Ryan said is actually the case – Professor Krugman is right!

Europe has problems but they are different from what Mr. Ryan says. The problems are because the EU is not united – as such the EU cannot stand up to US intrusions in its affairs. The UK is of split personality – it is in the EU but seems to like it better being in the US. That is something that we would like Mr. Krugman would pick up someday. He could ask Mr. Ryan if he would like to suggest an expansion of the US to include the UK?

Anyway – please see the link to the excellent Krugman collumn:

www.nytimes.com/2011/01/28/opinion/28krugman.html?adxnnl=1&ref=general&src=me&adxnnlx=1296254875-kPCEbKRzak/X6BP8bA3aFA

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on September 13th, 2010
by Pincas Jawetz (pj@sustainabilitank.info)





































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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on July 26th, 2010
by Pincas Jawetz (pj@sustainabilitank.info)

We know that most paper nominated the American Robert Dudley to replace Tony Hayward at the helm of the sinking BP.
After all one third of the company’s oil and gas wells, refineries and other business interests are in the US, and no less then 40% of its shareholders are in the US – and you bet – the major known disaster they are part of is in the US. So, will an American at top help quiet down the anti-foreigner sentiment projected at Hayward?

But then the following article tells us that this is a case fit to push a woman to the top – if you wish – over the cliff – thus scoring points somehow in a lost situation. You see – women can advance and take over the job from failed men? Will this then hold up? Will it be a fitting American Woman of  Texas – or Alaska – may be?

Day 96 to the Macondo Blow-out: Tony Hayward Out at BP; Don’t Be Surprised If They Pick a Woman to Replace Him.

BY Anya Kamenetz July 26, 2010.

Tony Hayward

Tony Hayward is reported to be out as the CEO of BP, with a sweet 600,000-pound pension waiting for him (that’s $928K) as a “reward” for not only presiding over the Deepwater Horizon disaster, but performing like a whiny schoolboy in the weeks and months since. “I want my life back”? Congratulations, you’ve got it.

If history is any guide, BP may well choose a woman to replace him. During the recent financial crisis and recession, women emerged as the go-to turnaround leadership candidates for institutions and nations in trouble. Carol Bartz as CEO of the embattled Yahoo. Mary Schapiro as head of the beleaguered SEC. Elin Sigfusdottir and Birna Einarsdottir, appointed to run two (out of three) of Iceland’s nationalized banks (New Landsbanki and New Glitni), after the collapse of the country’s financial system and Johanna Sigurdardottir as the nation’s interim prime minister–both the first-ever female head of state in Iceland and the first openly gay head of state anywhere. Elizabeth Warren, currently the leading candidate to head the newly created Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and try to make sense of the hash of consumer financial protections. Even at BP itself, before Cynthia Warner left to head biofuels startup Sapphire Energy, she was made the head of a new health, safety, and security group in BP’s refining sector in response to the 2005 Texas City disaster (unfortunately, she apparently failed to have a lasting impact on the oil company with the worst safety and environmental record in the Big Six).

Michelle Ryan and Alex Haslam, two British social psychologists, say these kind of barbed opportunities are all too commonly offered to women. They call this phenomenon “the glass cliff.”

In 2008, the S&P 500 fell 38.5%, its worst year since 1937. But the average large company run by a woman was down four points more–42.7%. Women’s average tenure as CEOs tends to be lower and stock performance worse.

Ryan and Haslam’s studies have found the reason behind this: It’s not that women are categorically worse leaders, but that they are disproportionately hired as CEOs only at firms that have been struggling for years. High-flying companies almost never appointed women to top positions. Their controlled experiments confirm that professionals in the business, legal, and academic worlds are far more likely to choose a woman for a leadership role when the enterprise’s chances are dicey.

The glass cliff is a dangerous corollary to the glass ceiling. For many complex reasons, women–along with other outsiders like minorities–tend to be handed the chance to lead only when an enterprise is already on a downward spiral. If BP decides to go this way, you heard it here first.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on July 25th, 2010
by Pincas Jawetz (pj@sustainabilitank.info)

BARGEMUSIC REVISITED.

We posted the following two weeks ago, and said at the time that we will return to the Barge that is moored at Fulton Ferry Landing under the Brooklyn Bridge in Brooklyn, NY.

Our target was going to be “The HERE AND NOW Series in Celebration of Terry Riley’s 75th Birthday.

See also www.bargemusic.org

Our previous posting was:

UPDATED – With Climate Change and a local government that does not care, a decreasing quality of public transportation, scorched at 103 F (39.4 C), New York City has nevertheless BARGEMUSIC. The Innovative spirit of its people does not give up. Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on July 13th, 2010
by Pincas Jawetz ( PJ at SustainabiliTank.com)
Posted in Art Performance reviews, Eco Friendly Tourism, Future Events, New York, Reporting From the UN Headquarters in New York ?
 Meher Baba.

The performers where THE VOXARE QUARTET that included: Emily Ondracek-Peterson and Galina Zhdanova – violins,
Erik Peterson – viola, and Adrian Daurov – cello. The spirited young performers seemed to enjoy thoroughly the event and took turns in explaining the music’s background – something that in itself enhanced the audience’s understanding and enjoyment.

Legendary American composer, Terry Riley – DigiDan, 18 Mar 2010

Terrence Mitchell Riley, born June 24, 1935, in California, is an American composer associated with the minimalist school of Western classical music. He is usually mentioned together with Steve Reich and Philip Glass. However – His most influential teacher, however, was Pandit Pran Nath (1918–1996), a master of Indian classical voice, who also taught La Monte Young and Marian Zazeela. Riley made numerous trips to India over the course of their association to study and to accompany him on tabla, tambura, and voice. Throughout the 1960s he traveled frequently around Europe as well, taking in musical influences and supporting himself by playing in piano bars, until he joined the Mills College faculty in 1971 to teach Indian classical music.
Riley was awarded an Honorary Doctorate Degree in Music at Chapman University in 2007.

The Voxare presenters took the stand that it is incorrect to call Terry Riley a minimalist and at times it seemed indeed that he simply expanded classic music by introducing new elements and being ready to experiments that when picked up later by other composers led to the revolutionary 1960s in American music.

The first piece on Friday –  “Sunrise of the Planetary Dream Collector,” was composed in 1980 for the Kronos Quartet, a result of a longtime collaboration of Mr. Riley’s and included improvisations based on North Indian raga instead of formal composition, but then we were told that at Kronos’s insistence he notated the score for “Sunrise.” Still, as Ms. Ondracek explained gaily, he wrote sections of the score on different sheets of paper so the performers could decide the order of performance. The Voxare Quartet offered a high-energy performance, vividly conveying the work’s beautiful angles. It started with something that sounded like American folklore fiddles and felt like a wakening up. The two Russian-background violinist ladies really tore into the music with gusto, followed by the cello and then the viola. I got the impression that the music was debating with itself and had a lot of internal life. Eventually we had a return to the opening notes. Was this the improvisation of Voxare?

The second piece on Friday was the 1960 String Quartet. That was pure minimalism – or I do not understand the term. It was about the San Francisco Harbor foghorns. The sound came mainly from the cello, and the whole piece, considering the Barge-location was the most appropriate thing you could imagine The barge was swaying as there was a bit of rain outside – and it was a foghorn – pure and simple.

The third piece on Friday was “The Wheel / Mythic Birds Waltz.” This piece is post-Indian period of Mr. Riley and it was a result of improvisation on a piano with Indian and Jazz references and I felt that at times moved over to sound like bells and a Bela Bartok  gypsy ending.

After Intermission, on Friday, the fourth piece was G-song that  in effect was the result of a commission he got for music for a French movie. It had sort of a melancholic feeling to it and I wonder what was that movie about.

The fifth Terry Riley piece we heard on Sunday – it was “Cortejo Funebre en el Monte Diablo” from his 1998 “Requiem for Adam” the son of David Harrington of the Kronos Quartet. Young Adam died of a heart ailment.

The music starts with bell sounds and a tape of trumpets moves in. It turns out that what we hear are electronically generated sounds – this is music of a different kind. The violins move in – then the quartet stops and the funeral proceeds. It was an all around fascinating piece.

David Harrington formed Kronos after hearing George Crumb’s Black Angels, a powerful piece about the Vietnam war; ever since he has sought to give voice to twentieth century composers all over the world. At this moment there are hundreds of pieces being commissioned by them.

The Kronos have performed pieces by Thelonious Monk, John Zorn, Philip Glass, Charles Ives, Dmitri Yanovsky, Scott Johnson, Terry Riley, and a slew of European and African composers. With a balance of fervid dedication, spirituality, and a liberal sense of humor, the Kronos Quartet have taken on the awesome responsibility of saving an entire musical universe.

They have released Howl U.S.A, a grim portrait of the dark side of America, in which the The Kronos passionately accompany the voices of J. Edgar Hoover, Harry Partch, I.F. Stone, and Allen Ginsberg.

For the past twenty years the Kronos Quartet have performed music that expresses the anxiety, tension, ferocious energy and mystic yearnings in the twentieth century.

Single-handed they have saved a genre (the string quartet) that was well on its path to extinction.

With a cover Jimi Hendrix’s Purple Haze, spiffy outfits, and hip hairdos they have widened the audience of quartet music from those who were well schooled in public classrooms about classical music, to those who barely get the Bugs Bunny “Kill the Wabbit” reference to Wagner. Baby boomers and hip college students flock to the Kronos, craving music that is truly contemporary — a bracing change from dinosaur genres like classic rock. Terry Riley loved what they were doing.

The sixth Riley piece, or the second on Sunday, was “Cadenza on a Night Plain.” This is a masterpiece of early 1994 with Upper Mid-West and Native America influences. Each section is different – a different Cadenza. Mr. Peterson, the viola player, likened his section as “March of the Old-Timers.” He said that the directions say “Stoned Enthusiasm” then “Marching to more serious matters” – “which might mean smoking reef.”

————–

The add-ons were:

The Lou Harrison’s – 1917-2003 – striking “String Quartet Set” (1979), “Variations on Walter von der Vogelweide” revealed, we were told, Mr. Harrison’s joint interest with Terry Riley in nature and old music. The score had  five-movement piece ranges from the melancholy “Plaint” to the exuberant “Estampie,” which uses the cello as a percussive instrument. The performance was excellent, with distinctive contributions from each player. It ended with Usul – or a Turkish coda.

Steve Reich, the opening piece on Sunday, “Different Trains” of 1988 – for String Quartet and Tape – the Tape at times being just talk and at other times further sound.

Steve Reich, born in 1936, was recently called  “our greatest living composer” (The New York Times), “America’s greatest living composer.” (The Village VOICE), “…the most original musical thinker of our time” (The New
Yorker) and “…among the great composers of the century” (The New York Times)…  www.stevereich.com/

The particular piece we hear on Sunday has to do with his upbringing that involved commuting by train between New York and Los Angeles as his divorced parents, both of them, shared in custody over him – so – he was having this privilege of traveling often – coast to coast by train. That was until 1942 – eventually he learned about refugees from Europe arriving to New York and going also by train to the West Coast or wherever.

The piece has three parts – America before the war – Europe during the war – America after the war.

This is not just about a Jewish boy shuttling between his two parents – but about Holocaust and its effects – the fortunate ones traveling on the same train with him – here in the US.

It is a clearly difficult concept but he came up with some appropriate music. At times it sounded to me like Robert Wilson’s shows – whoever the composer – perhaps Philip Glass? There is a repetitiveness in the background that does not allow us to forget!

The second part – in what I heard – ended in Smoke. The instrumentation called for violins being stroked by the bows backwards – the resultant sounds quite unusual.

The third part – after the war – had happier sounds.

THE WHO –

The piece is based  on Graceland and Pete Townshend with a concept of a commune Rock farm in Ireland had it at 90 minutes length but Maher Baba reworked it and we had delightful 7 minutes. It was a real winner.

It started with Mr. and Mrs. Peterson fiddling with gusto the viola and violin and no joke – it seemed that as they went on with more force, the barge reacted and started to sway stronger – then a huge barge showed up and we realized that this was not from heaven. The piece was a clear winner and the applause laud.

 www.google.com/search?client=gmai…

Baba O’Riley” is a song by the English rock band The Who, written by Pete Townshend.

Roger Daltrey sings most of the song, with Pete Townshend singing the middle eight: “Don’t cry/don’t raise your eye/it’s only teenage wasteland”. The title of the song is derived from this combination of the song’s philosophical and musical influences: Meher Baba and Terry Riley.

Townshend originally wrote “Baba O’Riley” for his Lifehouse project, a rock opera that was to be the follow-up to The Who’s 1969 opera, Tommy. The song was derived from a nine minute demo, which the band reconstructed. “Baba O’Riley” was going to be used in the Lifehouse project as a song sung by Ray, the Scottish farmer at the beginning of the album as he gathers his wife Sally and his two children to begin their exodus to London.

When Lifehouse was scrapped, many of the songs were released on The Who’s 1971 album Who’s Next.

“Baba O’Riley” became the first track on Who’s Next. The song was released as a single in several European countries, but in the United States and the United Kingdom was only released as part of the album.

Baba O’Riley Lyrics
Artist(Band):The Who

Out here in the fields
I fight for my meals
I get my back into my living.

I don’t need to fight
To prove I’m right
I don’t need to be forgiven.
yeah,yeah,yeah,yeah,yeah

Don’t cry
Don’t raise your eye
It’s only teenage wasteland

Sally, take my hand
We’ll travel south cross land
Put out the fire
And don’t look past my shoulder.

The exodus is here
The happy ones are near
Let’s get together
Before we get much older.

Teenage wasteland
It’s only teenage wasteland.
Teenage wasteland
Oh, yeah
Its only teenage wasteland
They’re all wasted!

——————————————–

A trip to the lower levels of Brooklyn Heights is always a joy not to be missed. Slowly, the area is being reclaimed from the old port slips. Next to the barge there is the Ice Cream Factory, and on the other side the Bridge Cafe. You can get a bite and sip wine in the open – be it 98 degrees Fahrenheit. Further there is the Bridge Restaurant.

If you love Pizza – the best this side of the ocean is to be had at GRIMALDI’S – old country – real Coal-Brick Oven Pizzeria “Under the Brooklyn Bridge.” But know ye all – the lines to this pizzeria are a block long and you can rent a chair for two dollars if you prefer to sit rather then stand in line. But, trust me – it is worth the effort – once in your life-time. For me it was a Pizza pie with extra cheese and fresh garlic cloves and a Peroni beer for a total of $28.

If you really do not want to undergo the above – let me suggest the Tutt Cafe – as in King Tutt – www.tuttcafe.com, at 47 Hicks St. where I got an excellent Merguez Pitza (that must be the old Egyptian spelling of the pie, and the Merguez is Moroccan lamb sausage), and my wife got a spicy Falafel Wrap (not a pocket) – all of it for $16 total.

——————————————-


Richard Termine for The New York Times

Voxare Quartet: From left, Emily Ondracek, Galina Zhdanova, Adrian Daurov and Erik Peterson playing a Bargemusic concert in Brooklyn. The East River in the background. The picture was taken at the Friday night concert. During the Saturday afternoon concert – there was some rain and the visual effect grey.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on July 20th, 2010
by Pincas Jawetz (pj@sustainabilitank.info)

We did not post anything for a while on the Palestinian/Israeli front and now we find that the public opinion in Israel seems to move to a consensus strangely initiated by the person the Israelis mostly love to hate. Oh well, this is also progress.

———–

On Avigdor Lieberman – the man in Israel’s Foreign Ministry – Neither Yvet nor Rasputin.

Since his rise to power, Lieberman has crafted a double image, on the one hand he is a force strengthening the Likud, on the other he is virtually the only statesman with a sober, long-range view.

By Yoel Marcus of HAARETZ, Israel

July 20, 2010

 www.haaretz.com/print-edition/opi…

Shortly after Benjamin Netanyahu was elected prime minister in 1996 we had a conversation in his office. Before we parted he asked, “Have you met Yvet?” He meant, of course, Avigdor Lieberman, then the director general of the Prime Minister’s Office with the fearsome mien and Netanyahu’s right-hand man in his ascent to power. When I replied that I had not yet had the privilege, Netanyahu made a call on the inter-office phone and in a few minutes I found myself in Lieberman’s office. He rose from his seat like a gentleman and shook my hand warmly but we barely spoke except to promise to “keep in touch.” In effect, we have not met to this day. Yvet neither forgot nor forgave my criticism of Bibi’s lame performance.

With Bibi’s fall, the director general was also gone. But Lieberman, with his trim beard and deep bass, latched onto the left-hating, extreme right-wing Russian-immigrant voters, spinning them an ideology. Ehud Barak’s colossal failure as prime minister, Ariel Sharon’s evacuation of Gush Katif, Ehud Olmert and Tzipi Livni’s talks with the Palestinians and the rise of radical right-wing Russian power are what enabled Bibi to regain the premiership and to leave Livni outside despite the fact that she headed the bigger party.

The appointment of an extreme rightist, a declared Arab-hater, as foreign minister in the make-believe peace government, was a high price for Bibi to pay, though it was less foolish than David Levy’s term as foreign minister under Yitzhak Shamir. While Levy took himself seriously to the point of comedy, going in and out of Washington and creating embarrassing situations, as foreign minister in Bibi’s government Lieberman has focused on countries in Eastern Europe and South America and other places where no Israeli foreign minister had gone before.

In the public eye, he has crafted a double image, neither Bibi’s buddy Yvet nor a Rasputin who controls the prime minister. On the one hand he is a force strengthening the Likud, and on the other hand he is virtually the only statesman with a sober, long-range view. He approaches the Palestinian problem not with aspiration for a Greater Israel but with a desire to resolve the Israeli-Arab conflict in a way that leaves as few Arabs as possible under Israeli control.

In the meetings of the forum of seven senior cabinet ministers, Lieberman sounds much more realistic and forward-looking than the other members. He can be charming on the personal level, but without double-talk.

If he doesn’t like something, he doesn’t like it. From the start of his career as foreign minister he knew he would not reach the Elysee Palace or be photographed in White House drawing rooms. But he has become one of the three most influential figures in the government, when it comes to preserving its right-wing character.

Over time, as pressure from Washington grew and the idea of bringing Kadima into the coalition was broached in the media, Yvet’s relationship with Bibi cooled to the point that Lieberman was heard saying that Netanyahu is not a leader. The magic of Netanyahu’s first term in office was gone for him. He was willing to take Bibi’s agreements with President Barack Obama into consideration and not throw a wrench into the works, but he felt it was wrong for Bibi to make Barak a quasi-foreign minister, and for Netanyahu to not consult with Lieberman over the aid flotilla to Gaza, for example. He swallowed his share of insults even as half a foreign minister. Yvet did not know, for example, that Industry, Trade and Labor Minister Benjamin Ben-Eliezer had been dispatched to a secret meeting with the Turkish foreign minister. Certain figures say they heard Yvet, in a closed meeting, say: “We’ll teach Bibi a lesson he’ll never forget.” I do not know whether Lieberman’s declaration, just hours before Bibi left to meet Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, that Israel must unilaterally disengage from Gaza, was part of this curriculum.

Lieberman is not alone in thinking that nothing will come of the negotiations with the Palestinians, even in direct talks. Both Strategic Affairs Minister Moshe Ya’alon and Prof. Shlomo Ben-Ami, a former foreign minister, said in a Channel 2 television interview that no government will be able to reach an agreement with the Palestinians. It is no coincidence that Barak chose this moment for a conversation with Livni, but it’s not serious.

Netanyahu does not intend to add Kadima, with its 28 parliamentary votes, to the coalition and to lose Yisrael Beiteinu’s 15 sure votes. When you’re at the edge of the abyss, you don’t take a step forward.

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Lieberman introduced the idea: “Disengage from Gaza once and for all,” even Israel is not there anymore.

Israel’s left should support the idea of the European Union’s taking effective responsibility for the development of the Gaza Strip, even if Lieberman is the one who proposed it. Anyone who wants to view this idea as European neocolonialism is free to do so.

Even those who are not fans of Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman must admit that his plan to invite European foreign ministers to visit the Gaza Strip is a creative and positive step. The initiative could also symbolize Israel’s final disengagement from Gaza, the consummation of a process that was never completed, primarily due to opposition raised by a defense establishment that has tended to look at the Gaza issue solely from a narrow security perspective, while ignoring the tremendous damage that the blockade has caused to Israel.

If Israel claims that there is no humanitarian crisis in the Gaza Strip, there is no reason to prevent visits to the area, as it has tried to do in the past. As it turns out, after dozens of years of controlling Gaza, in an occupation that failed to prevent the rise of Hamas and the stockpiling and smuggling of arms, it seems that Israel is having difficulty freeing itself from a sense of domination and authority. Though we might quibble over Lieberman’s motives, it is now his turn to lead a complex series of steps that might bring to an end a policy that Ariel Sharon initiated, with wide public support: freeing Israel from control and responsibility in Gaza.

After evacuating Israeli settlers from Gaza, we found ourselves locked in an absurd predicament. Israel no longer occupies Gaza, but since it demanded that control over crossing points and the coast remain in its hands, it has created a situation that has no parallel in the world: Israel has no control, but is regarded as being responsible for Gaza. Similarly, the ludicrous idea of enforcing a blockade on 1.5 million people in order to “pressure” Hamas into releasing Gilad Shalit is a proven, unmitigated failure that is tainted by a fundamental moral flaw. And the notion that any sort of Israeli policy will determine who rules the Palestinians, and will weaken or strengthen Hamas or Mahmoud Abbas, is nothing more than sheer hubris.

Should the foreign minister’s plan win the support of the prime minister and the defense establishment and be implemented, Israel would allow the European Union to take responsibility for infrastructure development in Gaza and supervision of the cargo entering the region, in coordination with Israeli security officials. The implications of such a development would be complex; even were the EU not to maintain direct contacts with Hamas, clearly these steps could not be taken without some sort of coordination with Ismail Haniyeh’s government. The Palestinian Authority, and perhaps the Obama administration, would not be thrilled by such a development, but it undoubtedly would suit Israeli interests.

True, one of the foreign minister’s motives might be to reduce the chances of an agreement being forged between Fatah and Hamas, by enhancing the Gaza Strip’s status as a separate entity. But so far, even in the absence of Lieberman’s initiative, all attempts to obtain such an agreement have failed. Residents of Gaza and Israel are the parties who have paid the price for these failures. The State of Israel must get used to the idea that its border with Gaza should be viewed like its border with Syria.

Put simply, Gaza is a foreign country, and the fact that its government is highly unpalatable to Israel is irrelevant. After all, the government in Damascus is not exactly run by lovers of Zion.

Israel’s left should support the idea of the European Union’s taking effective responsibility for the development of the Gaza Strip, even if Lieberman is the one who proposed it. Anyone who wants to view this idea as European neocolonialism is free to do so. The important point is that after reaching a strategic decision to disengage from Gaza, and after coming to the brink of a civil revolt as a result of this decision, Israel should finish the job. And if the European Union is so concerned about humanitarian aspects of life in Gaza, it should take the reins of responsibility with its own hands.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on June 22nd, 2010
by Pincas Jawetz (pj@sustainabilitank.info)

I am starting herewith to report about the Richard Attias new New York Forum about which we have already four articles, or mentions, in the last three weeks. the Forum opened today and is very promising indeed, as we expected – so – please do not take this first article from the Forum itself as a negative to this excellent enterprise. Please, one has to start somewhere, and in the nature of journalism as understood by Mr. Rupert Murdoch, the billionaire Chairman and CEO of the News Corporation, the owners of the Fox Chanel among other properties, is that you go for the sensationalism and start with writing about the worse first. So Mr. Murdoch, please see that I am a good learner and I will start by writing about you first.

Dear reader, please note that we do not throw out the baby with the dirty water – we merely throw out here he dirty water first.

Also please note that 500 Executives registered for the two days meeting – 60% from the US and 40% from abroad. Also present 120 people from the media – from many countries.

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The 2010 New York Forum had two excellent introductory presentations by Mr. Richard Attias – one to the Media and the other to the Meeting’s Opening Plenary.

His two presentations were reinforced in the event for the Press by Mr. Richard I. Lesser, Chairman, North and South America, The Boston Consulting Group, and by the organizer of the Program, Mr. Lance Knobel who also led the following workshop (albeit – it was not the word they used).


INNOVATION LABORATORY ON REBUILDING TRUST!

OUR SPECIFIC EXAMPLE WAS  – REBUILDING TRUST IN FINANCIAL INSTITUTIONS – really, can you think of a more up-to-date subject theses days? Low and behold – we came up with many solutions, and the one our table dealt with made specially sense to me. But here I will leave you in suspense for a future posting.

How can you succeed engaging large numbers of people to rebuild trust in financial institutions by using a design thinking-based innovation methodology? The Design and innovation firm IDEO (obviously of Palo Alto)  led this interactive workshop to explore the issue of movement building and fundamental change in our financial institutions. Participants were introduced to the innovation practice of design thinking and then took part in activities focused on finding inspiration from real people rather than demographics or statistics.

Participants learned through a guided experiences on translating observations and insights into relevant ideas and design solutions to be able to use this methodology in their own challenges, beyond the specific case that the session covered.

This was facilitated by Doug Solomon, CTO, IDEO,  and Introduced by Lance Knobel, Director of the Program, The New York Forum.

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After the Introductory remarks by Richard Attias, we finally reach the subject of this posting:

Opening plenary titled –  “REINVENTION: THE CORPORATE IMPERATIVE.”

It said in the program: “Corporate and business leaders have always had to be agile and restless, rethinking their business models for survival as markets and technologies change. But the pace and pressures for change seem greater than ever. How do great leaders navigate through the uncertain terrain of today’s world? What are the key challenges that they face?”

The Moderator was Maria Bartiromo who is Anchor of the Business Program on CNBC.

From her original team she has lost Mort Zuckerman, Chairman and CEO, Boston Properties, and Publisher, New York Daily News, who for reasons unknown to me at this time was a no-show and he was replaced by: Mr. Philippe Camus, Chairman, Alcatel-Lucent, a global telecommunications corporation, headquartered in Paris.

We consider the above change very unfortunate, as it left Mr. Murdoch without any counter-balance on the program, and I am sorry to say that Maria Bartiromo did not stand up to his pressure. This program turned out rather about a discussion about business gripes and the raison d’etre of the event – REINVENTION – was forgotten in the process. But please do not despair. It was the excesses of Mr. Murdoch that eventually turned the event into a success, and it turns out that we had something to do with this.

The Other three members of the panel were:

Cathleen Black, President, Hearst Magazines
Rupert Murdoch, Chairman and CEO, News Corporation
Jerry Speyer, Chairman and CEO, Tishman Speyer

and as I am writing this late at night, please forgive me for focusing only on Mr. Murdoch.

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So, my notes tell me that Rupert Murdoch addressed at least the following points:

1. Brazil, India are doing well, Europe is doing badly except Germany, in the Us we will have to grow in the next year at 1.5 trillion debt – this must change!

2. We must have less government and less taxation. Otherwise business will take off to Hong Kong and with them the jobs.
We will see a lot of change to the bad. At mid-term elections things could change. Today we have 20 million out of job. You can change this by having mass formation of small businesses.

3. We need innovation. We educate people and they leave. it is ridiculous to send people away.

4. In the country education is a disgrace. We turn out people illiterate in Spanish and English. You see the single mothers.
The teachers union did unbelievable things.

5. He is skeptic of Climate Change – it is caused by the activities of the sun – we cannot do it by ourselves.

6. A billion people in China moving away from farms and building a coal plant each day. We can talk of G2 as much as we want but we cannot do it alone. Oil and gas will be here for a long time and we will have clean gas.

7.  Alaska – two pipelines through Canada. We did not buy Alaska to save the moose.

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I accept that a meeting like this should provide all points of view – but there is a limit to what a civilized stomach can take, and the comment about the moose did it for me – so I asked at the Q&A session directly from Mr. Rupert Murdoch something like:

Considering that you mentioned that the US did not buy Alaska for the moose, but as this meeting here is intended at the end to provide a missive to the G-20 in Toronto for the end of this week, what would be your advice to the G-20?

I got some more diatribe but no direct answer to my question. This caused me to ask a very short follow-up: “What do you understand by ‘clean gas’?” I got some more diatribe.

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When the meeting broke, several people came over to congratulate me – this included a green investment gentleman from Senegal and an interviewer that taped me for the New York Observer. Then at coffee time and dinner some 50-60 people congratulated me and said they felt exactly like me. I ran out of cards in the process.

There were only two people with whom I spoke that were not happy with my question. There was the US representative of a French newspaper who thought that I should have addressed my question to the moderator and not to Mr. Murdoch, as he thought it took away the possibility from the others to address my question. (this is not really correct because Mr. Speyer did actually enter the question. The other was a Deputy Ambassador to the UN.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on June 8th, 2010
by Pincas Jawetz (pj@sustainabilitank.info)

Weekend June 4th amNew York reported about the thousands of mourners that carried the nine coffins in Istanbul. The youngest killed was 19-year old Troy, New York State, Turkish-American high-school student Farkan Dogan. His father praised him for “dying in a just cause – God is great.”

On Sunday June 6th Fareed Zakaria on CNN/GPS preached WORDS – NOT GUNS and was not shy to state that Turkey is also playing a new and dangerous game before interviewing An important Turkish Ambassador – perhaps the real mastermind of The Newest Turkey. He is the personal advisor to the Prime Minister of Turkey.

Fareed said: Once an ally of Europe it is (Turkey) now playing games that are enemy more then friend, but Fareed was trying to understand the Turkish position and expressed also that during the Bush Administration, Turkey was treated heavy-handedly and expected to be an ally in Iraq. The Turks bulked. That is how friend became enemy.

Fareed looked at the “Quartet – US, UN, EU, Russia – and with Tony Blair in charge said that the best effort is to work with the Palestinians in order to prepare them for Statehood. Israel ifs fully responsible for the security of its citizens and has full right to protect them but is also to see that life is not made impossible in Gaza. In the end, it is up to Senator Mitchell to navigate for the evolution of a two-State hope.

The question about the blockade is semantics Fareed and Blair concluded – Israel has the duty to protect itself against weapons and arms that come into Gaza but rural life must return to Gaza. There are objects and materials needed to rebuild agriculture that should be allowed in.

The Palestinians can see that there are good things that happen in the West Bank, but Gaza is left out. People in Gaza have to understand that there is a better way then what Hamas is offering them now.

Tony Blair – on TV – refused to answer a value question saying that he knows Israel values the relations with Turkey.

There is a chance we get to a better way for a bottom up approach in Gaza, as in Palestine Blair said, once you get an alignment between the achievements on the ground and the hopes – there may then be a way for Peace. The Turkish Foreign Minister went to Jeddah for the Islamic Conference to discuss Gaza. As we wrote already, we know that Jordan with Saudi money may try to figure the incentive, the first time, that is after 60 years, for the people in Gaza to cooperate in a more peaceful way.

Ambassador Ahmet Davutgglu, came on the program and started by claiming a comparison to the piracy of the coast of Somalia, and asking what are we to do? Fareed did not take this bait and if I were that Turkish Minister I would have walked off – but he did not. He reacted saying that this is not between Turkey and Israel but between Israel and the World and Israel does not want an international inquiry. The man looked like a snake-oil salesman and we envision that as main strategist of the new Erdogan geopolitics, he actually knows very well what he is after – no simple bumbler here.

{Ambassador Ahmet Davutoglu, the chief foreign policy advisor to Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, visited Washington, March 17-21, 2009, to discuss critical developments in the Middle East before President Obama’s visit to Turkey on April 6-7, 2009. During his visit Davutoglu stated that “The U.S. and Turkey is at the historical moment that both countries have similar views at almost all issues.” Davutoglu underlined that Turkey is becoming a strategic location for regional energy infrastructure and further suggested “from now on, everyone sees the strategic importance of Turkey that increases as the days pass” (Anadolu Ajansi, March 19)  www.jamestown.org/single/?no_cach… tx_ttnews%5Btt_news%5D=34754 }

“Israel is standing up for one soldier that was captured by Hamas, what did they expect from us after killing nine of our people?”

Fareed reminded him that one student had also American citizenship and that the US could make a request regarding its citizen. To which the Ambassador said that Turkey has contacts with the US on this matter. Also, there is a Human Rights Council in Geneva that should take this up but Israel just said they will not cooperate. Did our citizens violate Israeli territory? No! There was even a Nobel Prize Winner on the boat he further said – the list of the passengers can prove they were not terrorists.

For decades Israel and Turkey were allies – i myself mediated between Olmert and Syria. What happened he said was the change in Israel politics.  Are you having problems with Prime Minister Netanyahu asked Fareed? His answer came that last Thursday he was supposed to meet with P.M. Netanyahu on negotiations with Syria, but on Monday this happened and they attacked the convoy. This can go on in circles – why then did Turkey organize the flotilla’s leading ship?

Fareed asked to the point: There are many people that believe you, as the architect for moving Turkey away from Western Policy? To that he gave a long list of Turkey’s work with the West – Syria, Pakistan, Lebanon, the Balkans, etc. only two weeks ago we had a Peace Conference in Istanbul he said. We are not trouble makers at all – he sad.

Following the interview – Fareed Zakaria had also two Jewish opponents – it was Republican Elliot Abrams versus Democrat Peter Beinart – but whatever policy differences they may have with each other, nobody was saying anything positive about Turkey’s recent activity though the door to future more positive intervention is left open.

Abrams, with a long track record on Middle East negotiations, under several US Presidents, made it clear that there is no International community that Israel can trust in the post-“Zionism is Racism” UN vote. In the light of this there is no way Israel can rely on the UN. Beinart said that he is not going to defend the Turkish action, but 90% of the water in Gaza is not drinkable – and to this both sides can agree that something must be done -HURRAY!

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Having reported on the above, let me add that we get mail regarding our effort at honesty in this debate. The most interesting came from Russia and had Russian text, though I would guess it originated with Russian speakers living now in Israel.

Please have a look at the video, and without prejudging what the Turks could actually achieve, we can nevertheless wipe out the last few weeks when thinking of their credibility. We will get back to this point in next posting.

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THIS IS A VIDEO WE RECOMMEND YOU WATCH!

We Con the World (LatmaTV production) –

We Con the World (LatmaTV production)

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2KUcv452KbU]

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on May 2nd, 2010
by Pincas Jawetz (pj@sustainabilitank.info)

This is a sequel that we announced in our article posted www.sustainabilitank.info/#14986 on the meetings at Columbia University on Friday, April 30, 2010.

This sequel  deals with the presentation, and the discussion following it, by the President of the European Parliament, Professor of Chemical Engineering Jerzy Buzek, formerly the Prime Minister of Poland (1997-2001). ( the speechwww.ep-president.eu/president/view/en/press/speeches/sp-2010/sp-2010-April/speeches-2010-April-3.html )

The European Parliament was created in 1979 as an eventual development from what was started May 9, 1950 – 60 years ago – by the Robert Schuman declaration that formed the coal community. The coal and steel industries of six European, previously warring countries, united to show that after WWII a new Europe was born. This led to new peaceful International relations as a way of reconciliation and eventually to the creation of the EU.

Jerzy Buzek was born on 3 July 1940 in Smilowice, a town in south-eastern Silesia which is now in the Czech Republic, to a prominent family, which participated in Polish politics in the Second Polish Republic during the period between the two World Wars. The family was part of the Polish community in Zaolzie. Buzek’s father was an engineer. After the Second World War, his family moved to Chorzów. He is a Protestant.

In 1963 Jerzy Buzek graduated from the Mechanics-and-Energy Division of the Silesian University of Technology in Gliwice specializing in chemical engineering. He became a scientist in the Chemical Engineering Institute of the Polish Academy of Sciences in Gliwice. Since 1997 he has been a professor of technical science. He is also an honorary doctor of the universities in Seoul and Dortmund. Mr. Buzek  told at the meeting that he went to study a hard science because in those days you could go nowhere with politics – politics were “of one color and falsified”he said, but in politics you can influence much more then in hard sciences he also said.

Solidarity was the first non-communist party controlled trade union in a Warsaw Pact country. In the 1980s it constituted a broad anti-bureaucratic social movement. The government attempted to destroy the union during the period of martial law in the early 1980s and several years of political repression, but in the end it was forced to start negotiating with the union.
The Round Table Talks between the government and the Solidarity-led opposition led to semi-free elections in 1989. By the end of August a Solidarity-led coalition government was formed and in December 1990 Walesa was elected President of Poland.

in December 1989 Tadeusz Mazowiecki was elected Prime Minister. Since 1989 Solidarity has become a more traditional trade union, and had relatively little impact on the political scene of Poland in the early 1990s. A political arm founded in 1996 as Solidarity Electoral Action (AWS) – a rather rightist or center-right party – won the parliamentary election in 1997, but lost the following 2001 election. Those were the years that Jerzy Buzek was Prime Minister 1997-2001.

In the 1980s Jerzy Buzek was an activist of the democratic anti-communist movements, including the legal (1980–1981 and since 1989) and underground (1981–1989) Solidarity trade union and political movement in communist Poland. He was an active organizer of the trade union’s regional and national underground authorities. He was also the chairman of the four national general meetings (1st, 4th, 5th and 6th) when the Solidarity movement was allowed to participate in the political process again.

Jerzy Buzek was a member of the Solidarity Electoral Action (Akcja Wyborcza Solidarnosc, AWS) and co-author of the AWS’s economic program. After the 1997 elections he was elected to the Sejm, the lower house of the Polish Parliament, and was soon appointed Prime Minister of Poland. In 1999 he became the chairman of the AWS Social Movement (Ruch Spoleczny AWS) and in 2001 he became the Chairman of the Solidarity Electoral Action coalition.

After losing the parliamentary elections in 2001, he stepped back from Polish political life (although he was elected a member of the European Parliament in 2004) and focused more on his scientific work, becoming the prorector of Akademia Polonijna in Czestochowa and professor in the Faculty of Mechanical Engineering of the Opole University of Technology in Opole.

Buzek was elected to the European Parliament (MEP) from the Silesian Voivodeship, basing his candidacy only on the popularity of his name and on direct contact with the voters. He received a record number of votes, 173,389 (22.14% of the total votes in the region). His current party affiliation is with the Platforma Obywatelska, the governing party in Poland, which is a member of the European People’s Party – rather to the right in the European Parliament.

On 7 June 2009, in the European Parliament election,  Buzek was re-elected as a Member of the European Parliament from the Silesian Voivodeship constituency. Just as in the previous election, Buzek received a record number of votes in Poland: 393,117 (over 42% of the total votes in the district).

In the 2004-2009 European Parliament, he was a member of the Committee on Industry, Research and Energy, an alternate member of the Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety, a member of the Delegation to the EU–Ukraine Parliamentary Cooperation Committee, and an alternate delegate for the delegation for relations with the countries of Central America. He served as rapporteur on the EU’s 7th Framework Programme for Research and Development, a multi-billion euro spending programme for the years 2007-2013.

On 14 July 2009, Buzek was elected President of the European Parliament with 555 votes, becoming the first person from the former Eastern Bloc and the first former Prime Minister since Emilio Colombo to gain that position. He succeeded the German Christian Democrat MEP, Hans-Gert Pöttering. He has pledged to make human rights and the promotion of the Eastern partnership two of his priorities during his term of office, which will last two and a half years until, due to a political deal, Social Democrat MEP Martin Schulz will take over.

At the meeting at Columbia University President Buzek said that we are in a time of transition period in the EU – going from treaty to treaty and enlargement. What does this mean for Europe and the US after Lisbon ? – and he will thus read from a prepared paper that said – A STRENGTHENING EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT IN THE TRANSATLANTIC PARTNERSHIP.

How does the EU work? – he asked. And proceeded explaining that it is in a rising curve of power in the last 25 years. We used to have a Council guided by a rotating Presidency and now we moved further on with Lisbon. To his credit, he sounded self-deprecating when mentioning that actually there will be now several Presidents. This because Lisbon still left intact that half-year-long rotating structure.

The EU Council is a system of Collective President. Europe 2020 is the project of how to learn to organize ourselves. There is still need for progress in the EU political system.

Will ever the collection of 27 proud Independent States really agree to give up some of their sovereignty to a Central Government? Will the Council agree to be a Senate to the Parliament’s House of Representatives?  How indeed can the US find its way across the Ocean and form a bridge with a body that has Three Presidents? THAT IS THE REAL QUESTION – and progress via just a strengthened Parliament will not do.

Nevertheless, Mr. Buzek pointed out that the European Supra-National level has been strengthened by doing away with the previous requirement of unanimity that is reduced now to a qualified majority. The inter-governmental contact at head of state level still exists – but it is less.

Passing on to the issue of Foreign Policy – with problems that are today global, there is the “Baroness” – Baroness Catherine Ashton or Lady Ashton – just one person now at the EU. She is a member of the Council and the Commission bringing thus one person to the position of power and the responsibility to deal in Foreign issues – and that is the point – unless the West is united – we will not be able to defend our interests in multilateralism at G8 or G20 etc institutions.

Then he digressed by saying that Transatlantic Community is not enough anymore – we need partners all over the world for a united purpose in democracy and civilization. He quoted by name an interesting  list of countries  – that we give here in the order he said them – Russia, China, India, Brazil, Saudi Arabia, South Africa – that have to become stakeholders in the new order – they must have a sense of owner on issues like climate change. Everyone must feel that they are responsible.

Then back to the topic – on the Transatlantic economic Council – we must have a more ambitious program.

There is already freedom of flow of products, goods, capital, people in Europe – the four freedoms we have – transatlantic markets could build on these great success stories he said. The business community looks at the 800 million citizens of the Common Market in Europe. We must think of this common space of the Community.

Then came the Q & A:

Q: One big difference is that the US Congress spends 25% of the GDP but the European Parliament only 1.5% – will the Common Agriculture policy (the CAP) be decided bythe Parliament or the council?

A: The answer is not about money but on the organization. Money and budget are not important but the “community.” Two World Wars were started in Europe and we have to change. We like diversity in language – we have 23 – you have one. We say it is our strength – “Unity in Diversity.” We have buses that leave the Parliament to the regions every weekend. They come back with ideas from home. We will have a European Energy Efficiency new Policy.

The Consul-General from Austria – Ambassador Peter Brezovszky, who was Consul-General in Krakow at the time Mr. Buzek was Prime-Minster,  asked about the priorities – in democracy, on enlargement and what can the Parliament do to support parliaments in other Nations.

As Europe does not pass the budget through the Parliament such activities are more limited, but he had interaction with his meetings in Washington  (actually that was his main reason for coming to the States and I will be attaching more material on this) he had a meeting with Nancy Pelosi to develop the Transatlantic Parliamentary partnership.

There are the European Energy Community, the European External Action Service, The European Human Rights activities.

Next step in enlargement will probably involve Croatia and Iceland. He said that Iceland being located right in the middle between the US and Europe, had a hard time in deciding where they belong, but then Croatia and Turkey have problems that stem from ethnic conflicts – Croatia because of what goes on with the Serb minority and Turkey because of Cyprus. There is the Non-Visa regime and then the further potential of Bosnia-Hezegowina, Montenegro under some name, and Albania.

Mr. Buzek further evaluated European recent history in periods – the 1950-1960s as French-German reconciliation. then came the 1980-1990s as German-Polish reconciliation. Now we need not only Polish-Russian reconciliation that might have been made easier because of the dignified way Russia reacted  after the terrible  recent air accident, but also the reconciliation with further border neighbors. The real problem is what happened in Katyn 70 years ago.

Asked about an EU constitution, the President said – look  the UK is doing fine and also has no constitution.

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These questions went on for an hour and Greece was not mentioned – this until someone observed the gap and said so!

Mr. Buzek said two words; SOLIDARITY and RESPONSIBILITY. We wish him luck and that this does the trick.

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As we said earlier, we found out that the reason for The EU Parliament President’s trip to the US was his opening a Washington liaison office for the Parliament with US Congress. This is the first office of the EU Parliament outside Europe. That was April 29, 2010. We have what was said there and the follow up speech at the Johns Hopkins University.

Also, the timing of this trip falls coincidentally when the EU is very much in the cross-hairs of the world economy because of the failure of Greece, the potential failure of Spain and Portugal, the danger to the EURO and what amounts – not to a strengthening of the EU, but rather to the unraveling of a system that created a common currency without having first secured a common policy. It is just inconceivable that voters in Germany can accept that their country pays tens of billions to save the people in Greece who enjoy much lower tax rates and get much better social conditions.

The same voters will not think that much of the Greek debt is actually owned by German Banks, while much of the losses of German banks came on because of a lack of regulation that did not stop them from buying low grade financial products that were inspired by the Wall Street self-enrichment gurus. Yes – we know – much of the global financial problem originated in the US, but then the EU had its own internal structure faults that created imbalances that were just as easy – foreseeable.

As Fareed Zakaria pointed out on CNN today the German voters talk of why they have to work for 45 years before being entitled to retire with a 46% pay, while a Greek worker gets 80% of his pay after only 35 years of employment. While the Greeks demonstrate now that they do not want a cut in their social conditions, the Germans by a majority of 92% say they will not let their leaders bail-out the Greeks. Is this leading to a call for the expulsion of Greece from the EU? The elimination of Greece from the EURO Club? The bailout by their own governments of German and French banks hurt by these debacles? Is it the end of the easy EU? Or are we moving into a stronger union where the member States give up some more of their independence?

All this shows that after all – the European Problematique has to do with money because they have not yet created the structure that some day may bring the EU into the China-US G2 league as a third partner to turn it into a G-3. Until then, we fear, the days of Transatlantic talk are over.

—————–

www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=126436512&ft=1&f=1004

Crisis In Greece Puts E.U. At Risk

May 1, 2010

Greece’s debt woes aren’t all that’s plaguing the European economy. Spain and Portugal have also seen downgrades in their credit ratings, and the response by the European Union to the crisis is being watched around the world. Host Scott Simon speaks with Jerzy Buzek, President of the European Parliament, about the financial crisis in Europe.

National Public Radio.

SCOTT SIMON, host:

We’re joined now by Jerzy Buzek, the president of the European Parliament. He’s at the European Union’s delegation to the United Nations office in New York. President Buzek, thanks very much for being with us.

Mr. JERZY BUZEK (President, European Parliament): Thank you for the invitation for this interview.

SIMON: You going to bail out Greece?

Mr. BUZEK: Yes. It will be a response as usual in the European Union. Solidarity is our main slogan in the European Union for last six years. And I’m confident that the decision will be taken during next days.

SIMON: I’ve read some opinion this week that suggests this was exactly what some people worried about with the euro, that thered economic problems in one, two or three countries and you couldn’t contain them because, of course, you had a common currency. And now you have Greece’s problems dragging in the rest of the eurozone. How do you address that concern?

Mr. BUZEK: First of all, we must say that we’re at the beginning of the process of organizing our eurozone. It’s less than 10 years yet, so it’s not so easy. On the other hand, we have very deep crisis all over the world. So, it’s nothing unusual is that also some countries from the eurozone are affected by the crisis. And I’m quite sure we can manage.

SIMON: But do you also, for example, in this case have countries with very different approaches to debt and spending? Say, between Greece and Germany.

Mr. BUZEK: Yeah, it’s also obvious because we are saying in the European Union that we, of course, base our community on solidarity. But responsibility every separate member state is also very important.

SIMON: May I ask, Mr. President, did the member states of the eurozone do a good enough job in checking out the Greek economy before they joined in 2002?

Mr. BUZEK: It must be checked maybe once again by the European Commission. I wouldn’t like to say anything about that being representative of European Parliament because it was not our responsibility. It will be not our responsibility in the future as well. But of course, as members of European Parliament, we are very, very interested in everything what is connected with the recovery from crisis, exit programs, and also about Greek’s crisis.

SIMON: So assuming a bailout for Greece, you think that that will have the effect of improving other particularly plagued economies in, let’s say, Spain, Portugal and Ireland, and that means they would be less likely to have to ever request a bailout?

Mr. BUZEK: I’m optimistic because if we solve, and I’m sure we will solve the problem of Greece, it will be much easier in other countries. I know very well. I talked to Mr. Prime Minister Papandreou a few weeks ago and they prepared a very tough, difficult program for Greece. It will be not easy, but if you start working, it would be great progress in Greece economy and then will be no danger for the whole eurozone.

SIMON: Jerzy Buzek, who’s president of the European Parliament, joining us from New York. Mr. President, thanks so much.

Mr. BUZEK: Thank you much.

———————————————————————–

Press Releases

Buzek to open the European Parliament Liaison Office with US Congress
Washington DC – Thursday, April 29, 2010

On Thursday 29 April European Parliament President Jerzy Buzek will formally open the European Parliament’s new Liaison Office with the US Congress, designed to help forge closer links between European parliamentarians and lawmakers on Capitol Hill.  The Liaison Office is the first office of the European Parliament in a country outside the EU.

The office will be opened by President Buzek at midday (US, East Coast time) on Thursday.

EP President Jerzy Buzek said:

“We have many ideas for deepening our relations.  The main purpose of the office is to build a much closer partnership between the European Parliament and Congress as the European Parliament is more powerful after the entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty.

The EU and the US need to be more coherent and well informed on legislation and political activity.  If we work together in advance of legislation we can improve the outcome for citizens and business in a huge transatlantic market.

Together, we must face the challenges that confront us across the Atlantic, from climate change to energy security, from maintaining free trade to improving global governance.”

Background

EP President Buzek has been in Washington since Monday for key meetings with the US administration including Vice-President Biden, Secretary of State Clinton and Speaker Pelosi.  President Buzek and will travel to New York for meetings at the UN, including with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon which will take place on Friday 30 April.

* * *

The Director of the new European Parliament Liaison Office with the US Congress is Piotr Nowina-Konopka, Ph.D.

Tel +1 202 862 4731
Cell +1 202 431 9433

Office details:
2175 K Street, NW
Washington DC 20037, USA

 www.europarl.europa.eu/us/ – website of the EP – Congress Liaison Office

For further information:
Inga Rosi?ska, Spokeswoman
Mobile: +32 (0)498 981 354
Richard Freedman, Press Officer
Mobile:+32 (0) 498 98 32 39

—————————————–

Press Releases

Buzek to open the European Parliament Liaison Office with US Congress
Washington DC – Thursday, April 29, 2010
On Thursday 29 April European Parliament President Jerzy Buzek will formally open the European Parliament’s new Liaison Office with the US Congress, designed to help forge closer links between European parliamentarians and lawmakers on Capitol Hill.  The Liaison Office is the first office of the European Parliament in a country outside the EU. The office will be opened by President Buzek at midday (US, East Coast time) on Thursday.

EP President Jerzy Buzek said:

“We have many ideas for deepening our relations.  The main purpose of the office is to build a much closer partnership between the European Parliament and Congress as the European Parliament is more powerful after the entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty.

The EU and the US need to be more coherent and well informed on legislation and political activity.  If we work together in advance of legislation we can improve the outcome for citizens and business in a huge transatlantic market.

Together, we must face the challenges that confront us across the Atlantic, from climate change to energy security, from maintaining free trade to improving global governance.”

Background

EP President Buzek has been in Washington since Monday for key meetings with the US administration including Vice-President Biden, Secretary of State Clinton and Speaker Pelosi.  President Buzek and will travel to New York for meetings at the UN, including with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon which will take place on Friday 30 April.

* * *
Notes to Editors:

The Director of the new European Parliament Liaison Office with the US Congress is Piotr Nowina-Konopka, Ph.D.

Tel +1 202 862 4731
Cell +1 202 431 9433

Office details:
2175 K Street, NW
Washington DC 20037, USA

 www.europarl.europa.eu/us/ – website of the EP – Congress Liaison Office

* * *

For further information:
Inga Rosi?ska, Spokeswoman
Mobile: +32 (0)498 981 354
Richard Freedman, Press Officer
Mobile:+32 (0) 498 98 32 39

— — —

President Buzek on “The New European Parliament: Politics and Power in Today’s European Union” at the School of Advanced International Studies – Johns Hopkins University
Washington DC – Thursday, April 29, 2010

Dear Students,
Dear Professors,
Dear Friends and Colleagues,

I am delighted to be able to address you today. As a professor myself, I always feel at home when I come to a university. My passion has always been knowledge and passing on knowledge to the next generation, my activity in politics only came later on in life.

I grew up in a system where art was censored, where history was falsified, and where politics had only one colour. This is why I chose the hard sciences and not political science – because even the Communists had to accept that ‘one plus one equals two’.

Or at least they accepted that most of the time!

Dear Friends,

I would like to make a few remarks about the political system in the European Union, following the entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty, and what that Treaty means for both Europe and the United States.

I will keep my talk fairly short. After that, I would be delighted to take questions or comments. I would be especially interested to hear your own views on these issues.

=European Parliament=

First, let me say a word about the European Parliament, which I now have the honour to chair. The Parliament has been on a rising curve of power over the last quarter century. The Lisbon Treaty takes that power to a new level.

Already in most of the routine areas of law-making – like the single market, transport, the environment, employment, development policy, and intellectual property – the Parliament has been co-equal with the Council of Ministers for many years. It has long enjoyed a right of veto over EU law – first introduced by the Maastricht Treaty 17 years ago.

However, now with the Lisbon Treaty, we move a step further. We are co-equal with the Council in law-making on agriculture and fisheries, international trade policy, and justice and home affairs. Nearly all international agreements, including all trade agreements, now need the Parliament’s explicit approval. We have a right of veto. We have already seen the implications of that on final data transfer (SWIFT or TFTP).

In effect, like in the United States, we now have lower and an upper chamber – the European Parliament and the Council – in a single, bicameral legislature.

=EU Political System=

In parallel, things have changed on the executive side. The meetings of heads of state and government – the European Council – have been split off to become a separate, formal institution, chaired by Herman Van Rompuy. This body gives overall guidance to the Union, setting the big, long-term priorities for the Union. The European Commission remains the administration, with the special right to propose legislation.

Simply stated, the Council of Ministers is now the counterpart to the European Parliament, as Europe’s legislative and budgetary authority. The Commission and the European Council jointly form the executive.

In this system, the member states still remain very important, but the European level – the supranational level – has been strengthened and the exercise of power is shaped more than ever by the ‘Community method’.

Now qualified majority voting, not unanimity, is the norm in the Council of Ministers. Now co-decision between the Council and Parliament is the norm.

The ‘intergovernmental method’ still has its place, but in a smaller sphere – in decision-making on foreign and security policy, the financial resources of the Union, and some aspects of monetary union.

=Foreign Policy Structures=

We have also put in place new arrangements in the field of foreign policy. We have a new High Representative, also Vice President of the Commission – Baroness Cathy Ashton. She chairs the Foreign Affairs Council and is a member of the European Council: she is thus the only EU person officially in three institutions – the Commission, the Council of Ministers and the European Council.

The external departments of the Commission and Council will be merged into a new European External Action Service. This will give the EU a more coherent structure for developing and implementing foreign policy – and present a more united face to our partners and allies around the world.

=Transatlantic Perspectives=

Dear Friends,

So we have a new design to the political system of the European Union. The Lisbon Treaty should help Europe better coordinate its policies both internally and externally, and to develop a better way of dealing with the rest of the world.

Critical to our success is the Transatlantic Partnership.
We need each other more than ever before. Neither of us is big enough in today’s global world is achieve our goals on our own.

In this second decade of the 21st century, the relative power of both Europe and the United States – and the rest of the West – is already decreasing.

By the year 2025, OECD countries are expected produce only 40% of the world’s output, compared to well over half at the moment. Asia’s share will increase to 38%, practically on a par with that of the OECD.

The rise of China, India and other new players makes this clear to Europe. In the United States, over the last decade, you have discovered the limits of American power.

How are we to respond? Together, I believe, that we need to take the lead in building and shaping a new form of global governance. I have always liked how my friend Bob Zoellick has put it – that we need to ‘modernise multilateralism’.

The hard truth is that unless the West is united, we will lose the ability to defend and advance our interests and values. If we are united, we can help define international responses, in the G8 or WTO or elsewhere.

Of course, we will not be able to solve all major international challenges on our own. We will need to cooperate – and should want to cooperate – with a range of new partners around the world. Our interdependence can and should make us stronger.

We need to use the Euro-Atlantic partnership to change the way global governance functions. The United States and Europe should play a key leadership role in defining the principles and structures of this new multipolar and multilateral world.

In such a world, America and Europe should still serve as an axis of global stability and enlightened values. I believe we need to use this partnership to put in place the right policies and the right institutions on a world-wide scale.

We all know the difficult challenges we face today – economic insecurity, energy independence, climate change, migration, money-laundering, piracy, and of course terrorism. Common action on these fronts is essential. And in addressing these issues, we will need to find ways of bringing on board, in different ways, Russia, China, India, Brazil and the other new regional powers.

They have to become stakeholders in the new world order, or disorder – so that they can expect to have a genuine sense of ownership in the way policy is set.

The time to do this is now, whilst Europe and America are still powerful enough to make a difference. If we fail, the 21st century will be a century of insecurity and instability for all of us.

Dear Colleagues,

Our transatlantic relationship is already very strong – we have the biggest trade and investment flows in the world. We share the same values – and very many of our interests are the same.

We do have some issues on specific areas of legislation and regulation. You all know the cases – Boeing vs Airbus; Chlorinated Chicken; the REACH directive and recently SWIFT.

We can address those in the Transatlantic Economic Council, but I think we should think bigger than that. We need to set ourselves a more ambitious challenge for the 21st century.

In ten years time let us implement a genuine transatlantic single market, based on the four freedoms which already exist in Europe – the free movement of goods, services, capital and (yes) people.

I would add a fifth freedom, the free movement of knowledge across the Atlantic.

A transatlantic market could build on one of the European Union’s greatest success stories – the single market that we have building continuously for over 50 years.

Yesterday I addressed the US Chamber of Commerce and challenged the business community to put forward their ideas and proposals to achieve such a free market, to look at both sides of the Atlantic as one space of 800 million citizens.

Today I challenge you, the next generation of Americans, to think of a Euro-Atlantic community – a common space where you can live, work and study on either side of this inner sea which is the Atlantic Ocean. That may seem a dream, but our challenge is to change the context and create a new reality.

Next weekend – on 9th May – we will celebrate the 60th anniversary of the famous declaration in Paris by Robert Schuman that lead to the European Coal and Steel Community.

Jean Monnet, who wrote that declaration, once said that ‘everybody is ambitious. The question is whether he is ambitious to be or ambitious to do’.

The pooling of sovereignty over coal and steel, which at the time was the core of a nation’s industry, was an incredibly bold and ambitious project. The six countries that took part changed Europe’s face and Europe’s future.

Today, let us also be ambitious to do. Let us dream not just of a strong Transatlantic Partnership – let us create a genuine Transatlantic Community.

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

Europe unravels in a tangle of national interests.

By Philip Stephens

Published: April 29 2010

Pinn illustration

Watching the slow-motion train crash that is the Greek debt crisis invites the question as to whatever happened to European solidarity. Listening to politicians in Berlin explain that parsimonious German voters will not stomach a bail-out of their spendthrift continental cousins offers only half an answer.

There is more to the story than an angry collision between Greek profligacy and German moral superiority. Behind the proximate threat lies a more unsettling truth. The crisis is symptom as well as cause. For all its upheavals, there used to be something reassuringly ineluctable about the European Union. Now the enterprise is beginning to unravel.

Greece’s predicament, and the response of its eurozone partners, holds dangers on many levels: a sovereign default within the single currency; contagion as markets test the resilience of Portugal, Spain and Ireland; and a breakdown of the political trust and mutual support mechanisms on which the monetary union depends.

As my FT colleague Alan Beattie observed in a searing commentary earlier this week, recent events have underlined also the sheer incompetence of those charged with stewardship of the eurozone.

Given Angela Merkel’s central role, perhaps we should not have been surprised at the vacillation. Berlin’s stumbling response to the collapse of Lehman Brothers provided a template for the ineptitude that has again left the authorities playing catch-up with unforgiving markets.

Lest I am accused by my German friends of taking the side of the sinner against the sinned against, Ms Merkel has right on her side in saying that Athens must not be rewarded for disdaining its solemn obligations to its partners.

It is no use writing cheques unless Greece has a credible fiscal plan.

As Berlin should have learnt, however, there comes a point when finger-wagging becomes self-defeating. The price of righteousness turns out to be chaos; and chaos does not discriminate – as the German banks holding billions of euros of Greek sovereign debt well understand. We sometimes have to live with moral hazard.

More worrying is what all this tells us about the fundamental cohesion of the Union. Until quite recently if someone asked what the EU would look like, say, 20 years hence my reply was that its essential contours would be pretty much unchanged. Sure, my argument would have run, the guiding purpose had changed with the end of the cold war, the reunification of Germany and enlargement to central and eastern Europe. But a collection of middle-ranking powers with common borders, values and interests had sensibly concluded that they were better together than apart.

The rise of new powers – China, India, Brazil and the rest – presaged a much diminished role for Europe on the global stage. Proud nations such as France, Germany, Britain or Spain would not surrender their identities; but they would pursue their interests collectively. Maddening as it could often be, “Europe” would always be around.

That is what I used to think. Even now, I still believe the logic is compelling. Look at any problem touching the peoples of Europe – from crises in the international financial system to global warming, from terrorism and uncontrolled migration to a newly assertive Russia – and they tell the same story. Europeans must act together if they want to exert influence.

For all that, Europe no longer carries the stamp of inevitability. Quite suddenly, it has become almost as easy to foresee a future in which the Union fractures. The risk is not so much of a great rupture – though if Greece defaults the immediate shocks will be profound – but of the atrophy that flows from the absence of political leadership.

European governments still pay lip service to the logic of co-operation; they are no longer willing or able – sometimes both – to admit its implications. They know where their national, and the continent’s, strategic interests lie, but they lack the purpose to marry them.

Germany relishes instead the chance to become a “normal” country, separating what it sees as its national from the European interest. Helmut Kohl’s historical insights are forgotten in the insistence that German taxpayers should not be asked to remain the continent’s paymaster. So too are Berlin’s long-term interests in European-wide political stability and in open markets for its exports.

France struggles with the dynamics of a Union in which more Europe no longer necessarily means more France. Nicolas Sarkozy’s admirable energy is unconnected to strategic purpose. Britain, as ever, stands half on the sidelines. Italy, led by Silvio Berlusconi, has removed itself from influence.

There have been moments of stasis before. But the rules have changed. The fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of communism have turned an enterprise of necessity into one of choice. If the Union falls into disrepair everyone will still be the loser; but the threat no longer seems an existential one.

The EU has become a victim of one of the awkward paradoxes of globalisation. Even as it robs nation states of power, global interdependence increases the domestic pressure on national politicians to shelter voters from the insecurities of a borderless world.

The response of Europe’s politicians has been to sacrifice the strategic to the tactical. They boast that they can “reclaim” power from the EU – and promise they will not be pushed around by Brussels. This explains Ms Merkel’s Germany-first approach to the single currency; and the reluctance of other leaders to match pieties about Europe’s role in the world with anything resembling common policies.

There is nothing strange or wrong about politicians pursuing national interests. That is what they are paid for. The problem for the EU is that governments now see this as a zero-sum game.

During the era of postwar reconciliation and the cold war the coincidence of national and European interests spoke for itself. Europe’s waning influence in a world no longer owned by the west means that the convergence is as powerful as it has ever been. But without the threat of war or invasion, it is harder to identify. It requires leaders of stature to make a case to their electorates. Look around the continent and there are no such politicians in sight.

philip.stephens@ft.com

More columns at www.ft.com/philipstephens

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Speech by Professor Jerzy Buzek,President of the European Parliament,Columbia University, New York City
New York – Friday, April 30, 2010

Dear Professors,
Dear Students,
Excellencies,
Dear Friends,

When I look back upon my life I sometimes have to remind myself of the journey we in Central and Eastern Europe took to get here.

As some of you may know my true vocation has always been that of a scientist and academic. I am an Engineer not a political scientist. The science of politics came later in life but my passion has always been knowledge and passing on knowledge to the next generation.

I grew up in a system where art was censored, where history was falsified, and politics had only one colour. I chose science, because even the Communists had to accept the iron discipline of mathematics.

One of your greatest Presidents, Abraham Lincoln, once said that “you can fool some of the people all the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you cannot fool all of the people all the time”.

The Communist regimes tried to fool all of the people all of the time, but they forgot that liberty, that justice, that human rights, that dignity and solidarity will always beat a lie.

With the entrance of ten new member states to the European Union in 2004 and Romania and Bulgaria in 2007, we have reunited our continent, but more importantly we have reconciled our continent.

Today, we live in a different European Union, one where the President of the European Parliament is from a country that not long ago would imprison me for speaking to you freely, and would probably not give me a passport to come to Columbia University!

Dear Friends,
Over a year into the new Obama administration and now that the new European Parliament, Commission and other office-holders are in place, I think that this is a good moment to reflect on our Euro-Atlantic partnership.

First, let me say a word about the European Parliament. We have been on a rising curve of power over the last quarter century. The new Lisbon Treaty takes that power to the next level.

Already, in most of the routine areas of law-making – such as transport, the environment, employment, the single market, development, intellectual property – the European Parliament has been co-equal with the Council of Ministers for many years. It has long enjoyed a right of veto over EU law.

Now, with Lisbon, we are also co-equal with the Council in agriculture, international trade, and justice and home affairs. Nearly all international agreements, including all trade agreements, now need the Parliament’s approval. We already saw the implications of that on SWIFT which the European Parliament rejected in February.

In effect, like in the United States, we now have an upper chamber and a lower chamber – the Council of Ministers and the European Parliament – in a single legislative system.

Dear Colleagues,
So now that we have an enlarged European Union with a new design to its political system, what are we to use this power in Europe – and your power in the United States – to achieve?

The Lisbon Treaty will help Europe better coordinate its policies both internally and externally – and we hope, help both of us to develop a new way of dealing with the rest of the world.

I believe that together we need a new form of global governance. We need to ‘modernise multilaterism’ – as my friend Bob Zoellick has put it. This is something I have said over the past couple of days in Washington.

In this second decade of the 21st century, the relative power of both Europe and the United States – and the rest of the West – is already decreasing. By the year 2025, OECD countries will produce only 40% of the world’s wealth, as compared to 55% in 2000. Asia’s share will increase to 38%, practically on a par with that of the OECD.

The hard truth is that unless the West is united, we will lose the ability to defend our interests and values. Even then, we will no longer be able to solve major international challenges on our own.

We need to cooperate – with each other, but also with our partners around the world. Our interdependence can and should make us stronger and should not be seen as a threat but as an opportunity.

We need to use the Euro-Atlantic partnership to change the way global governance functions. The United States and Europe can and must take a leadership role in defining the principles and structures of this new multipolar, multilateral world.

We all know the difficult challenges we face today – economic insecurity, energy independence, climate change, migration, terrorism. Common action on these fronts is essential.

And in addressing these issues, we need to find ways of bringing on board Russia, China, India, Brazil and the other new regional powers. They must have a sense of ownership since they too are stakeholders in this world’s governance.

I often use the small example of combating piracy in the Gulf of Aden. For the first time, Chinese war ships operate next to Russian, American, European and South Korean vessels. Why?

Because these pirates are a threat to the 30 000 ships which sail through this passage. Ships which are bound for Europe, and Asia.

But in such a world, America and Europe must still serve as an axis of global stability and enlightened values. We are home to the world’s most successful democracies. I believe we need to use this partnership to put in place the right policies and the right institutions on a global scale.

We represent 60% of the world’s GDP. If we have the right policies, the rest will follow. If we fail to work together the 21st century will be a century of insecurity and instability for all of us.

I believe fundamentally that the EU’s unique model of sharing sovereignty – of promoting common solidarity and common responsibility – is working well and can be a model for the rest of the world.

Dear Colleagues,
But we have to think bigger than that.

Next week is the 60th Anniversary of the Schuman Declaration, when six countries pooled sovereignty over coal and steel, making war between them virtually impossible and laying the foundation of today’s EU.

Schuman said that ‘Europe will not be made all at once, or according to a single plan. It will be built through concrete achievements which first create a de facto solidarity”  He was right.
.
We also need concrete achievements for our Euro-Atlantic relationship. It is time for us to think of creating a true transatlantic free market, so that the Atlantic Ocean becomes an inner sea, a mare nostrum, between America and Europe.

Our trade relations are already 95% problem free, we respect each others regulations, customs and laws. Our legislators and our executives talk and negotiate with each other non-stop.

It is time to create a space of freedom so that 800 million people can benefit from our relationship. An area based on the four freedoms we have in Europe – free movement of people, goods, services and capital.

I am convinced that this should be the next step in the evolution of our partnership. It is a dream, but it is up to you, the next generation of Europeans and Americans to make it a reality.

Thank you for your attention.

 www.ep-president.eu/president/vie…

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