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Reporting from Washington DC:

 

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on October 21st, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

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

PROLOGUE:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sponsor Company Profile

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

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

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

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

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


How Billionaire Oligarchs Are Becoming Their Own Political Parties

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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

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

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

Steyer leaned back in contemplation.

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

“Oh yeah, hate, fear —”

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Yeah,” Steyer said, “it feels good.”

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Biofuel Companies Look Beyond the Gas Tank

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Hilton St Petrsburg Bayfront


A Global Convergence of the Ocean Arts & Sciences

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

RESERVE NOW

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

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

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

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

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


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

UPDATED EVENT SCHEDULE AND SPEAKER LIST – CLICK HERE

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

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

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

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

BUSINESS LITIGATION CORNER

Responding to Stockholder Inspection Demands Under Delaware Code § 220

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sincerely,

The New Economy Coalition team

———————————

#NewEconomyWeek Day Two Responses

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

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

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

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

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

Five Metaphors for New Economies by Vanessa Timmer, One Earth

#NewEconomyWeek Day Two Featured Events

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

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

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

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

#NewEconomyWeek Online Panel Series

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

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

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

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

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

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


Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan Proposed for Southern California

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

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

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


Bernie Sanders vs. the Billionaires

By Andrew Prokop, Vox also on Readers Supported News

14 October 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The socialist senator

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Sanders agenda

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

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


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

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

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

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

Mayor of Burlington

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Political revolution

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A presidential run?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on October 12th, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)


Reducing Carbon Emissions Would Fuel Global Economy.

By Anastasia Pantsios, EcoWatch

11 October 14

Evidence is amassing to discredit those middle-ground politicians who say they think climate change is real but don’t think we should address it because of the steep economic costs.

Two reports issued today by the Climate Policy Institute add to the growing pile of studies showing that moving to clean-energy, low-carbon policies that help mitigate the effects of climate change could actually provide fuel for the economy.

They found that moving to such policies could save the global economy trillions of dollars in the next two decades to invest in economic growth. The reports were commissioned by the New Climate Economy project as part of the research conducted for the Global Commission on the Economy and Climate.

“For policymakers around the world wondering whether the transition to a low-carbon economy will help or hurt their countries’ ability to invest for growth, our analysis clearly demonstrates that, for many, the low-carbon transition is a no-brainer,” said Climate Policy Initiative’s executive director Tom Heller. “It not only reduces climate risks, its benefits are clear and significant.”

“Moving to a Low Carbon Economy: The Financial Impact of the Low-Carbon Transition” juxtaposes the costs of low-carbon electricity and low-carbon transportation system with the costs of the current system. “Moving to a Low Carbon Economy: The Impact of Different Policy Pathways on Fossil Fuel Asset Values” looks at the risk and extent of existing fossil fuel assets’ loss of value (aka asset-stranding), which would limit governments and businesses’ ability to borrow against them to finance growth and investment, including investment in a clean energy technologies.

The reports came to a number of conclusions about the positive economic impacts of shifting to policies that favor clean, renewable energy. They found that since governments worldwide and not private companies control 50-70 percent of oil, gas and coal resources, they also have the power to shape policies that can lead to savings or to asset-stranding. They also concluded that the savings in operational costs from renewable energy as opposed to fossil-fuel energy far outweighs the value of the stranded assets. And they assert that transitioning away from coal would provide the greatest benefits in emissions reductions with the least loss in value.

They also urge reducing the cost of financing renewable energy plants to lower the cost of transition worldwide, implementing a planning approach that includes taxes and innovation, and using gas as a bridge fuel in some regions—particularly China and India—until 2030 but saying gas use would have to decrease after that.

“Our analysis reveals that with the right policy choices, over the next twenty years governments can achieve the emissions reductions necessary for a safer, more stable climate and free up trillions for investment in other parts of the economy,” said Climate Policy Initiative’s senior director David Nelson. “This is even before taking into account the environmental and health benefits of reducing emissions.”

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on October 12th, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

From The Washington Post
The Switch/Innovations
It’s all about what’s next • Sat., Oct. 11, 2014

5 insights from Vint Cerf on bitcoin, net neutrality and more
When Vint Cerf, often called the “father of the Internet,” is speaking, it’s wise to listen. Earlier this week Cerf, who holds the title of chief Internet evangelist at Google, spoke at a Startup Grind event at Google’s office in Washington, D.C. Here are some of his thoughts, drawn from his remarks to the group and an […]


Why it matters that Microsoft is channeling the Star Trek holodeck

Instead of measuring innovation in terms of new products or services, maybe it’s time to start measuring innovation in terms of how companies change our perceptions of reality. Before virtual reality and augmented reality, there was simulated reality, immersive virtual reality, mixed reality and artificial reality. All of these iterations of “reality” represented new ways […]


Jeff Pulver opens up on Silicon Valley’s scorn for old entrepreneurs, and why every start-up needs a lead singer

Entrepreneur Jeff Pulver, best known for his role in a series of Internet communications companies including Vonage, spoke at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington, D.C., Wednesday. When discussing his involvement in the Israel tech scene he recounted a personal story about ageism in Silicon Valley: What I like about Israel — in many cases […]


America can’t lead the world in innovation if the FAA keeps dragging its feet on drone rules

As the latest revolutionary digital technology takes off, entrepreneurs are finding themselves battling federal regulators for permission just to experiment with new applications. This time, it’s not the FCC (smartphone apps), the FTC (the Internet of Things), the FDA (genetic testing), the Department of Transportation (driverless cars), the Federal Reserve (bitcoin), state and local utility […]


Why the mobile payments space is the most exciting space in tech right now

It seems as if every big player in the tech sector is developing a mobile payment solution. It’s not just Apple Pay, which was announced with much fanfare at the big Apple launch event in early September, and reportedly could go live as early as Oct. 20. There are now rumors that Facebook is working on […]


The glaring gender dilemma Silicon Valley venture capitalists are hiding from

The dominoes are falling in Silicon Valley: technology companies releasing their diversity data, apologizing for the sins of the past, and promising to do better. I know from my meetings with executives of Google and Facebook that they are dead serious; that this isn’t just a marketing campaign. They are looking into the sources of […]
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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on October 11th, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

Jenan Moussa is a reporter for the Arabic language TV network Akhbar AlAan out of Dubai.

For the past 48 hours she has been witnessing the battle raging in the Kurdish town of Kobane, just south of Turkey’s border with Syria.

At 07:00 EST she tweeted, “ISIS did not manage to enter Kobane yet, Kurdish activist Mustafa Bali just told me over phone.
He is still in Kobane. @Akhbar”

An hour later, she was the first to report: “I can confirm. I just saw an ISIS flag. It is flying on eastern edge of Kobane. Will try to tweet a pic in a sec.”

As fighting raged, news came of the desperate situation of the Kurds.

One female fighter reportedly charged the advancing ISIS jihadists, hurling grenades at them and then blew herself up in their midst. Another reportedly shot herself rather than be captured by ISIS when she ran out of ammunition.

Moussa’s tweets from one of her Kurdish contacts from inside Kobane conveyed the sense of betrayal the Kurds felt because of the lack of American help. She tweeted: “Kurdish guy from#Kobane tells me: We hoped American planes will help us. Instead American tanks in hands of ISIS are killing us.”

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The US betrayal of the Turks is evident for decades – as the US is busy courting Muslim Arabia and no US President to-date has helped the only Muslim Nationality that is trying to emerge from this regressive Arab World that is advancing back into the dark ages in human development. This only Nationality are the Kurds -whose lands were carved up by the British and given to Turkey, Syria, Iraq and Iran. The fate of the Kurds is worse then that of the Armenians – and an ongoing example of what the Israeli Jews could expect from their Middle East neighbors as well.

———-

THE NEW YORK TIMES – The Opinion Pages | Editorial

Mr. Erdogan’s Dangerous Game: Turkey’s Refusal to Fight ISIS Hurts the Kurds.

By THE EDITORIAL BOARD October 8, 2014

Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, once aspired to lead the Muslim world. At this time of regional crisis, he has been anything but a leader. Turkish troops and tanks have been standing passively behind a chicken-wire border fence while a mile away in Syria, Islamic extremists are besieging the town of Kobani and its Kurdish population.

This is an indictment of Mr. Erdogan and his cynical political calculations. By keeping his forces on the sidelines and refusing to help in other ways — like allowing Kurdish fighters to pass through Turkey — he seeks not only to weaken the Kurds, but also, in a test of will with President Obama, to force the United States to help him oust President Bashar al-Assad of Syria, whom he detests.

It is also evidence of the confusion and internal tensions that affect Mr. Obama’s work-in-progress strategy to degrade and defeat the Islamic State, the Sunni Muslim extremist group also called ISIS or ISIL. Kurdish fighters in Kobani have been struggling for weeks to repel the Islamic State. To help, the Americans stepped up airstrikes that began to push the ISIS fighters back, although gun battles and explosions continued on Wednesday.

But all sides — the Americans, Mr. Erdogan and the Kurds — agree that ground forces are necessary to capitalize on the air power. No dice, says Mr. Erdogan, unless the United States provides more support to rebels trying to overthrow Mr. Assad and creates a no-fly zone to deter the Syrian Air Force as well as a buffer zone along the Turkish border to shelter thousands of Syrian refugees who have fled the fighting.

No one can deny Mr. Assad’s brutality in the civil war, but Mr. Obama has rightly resisted involvement in that war and has insisted that the focus should be on degrading ISIS, not going after the Syrian leader. The biggest risk in his decision to attack ISIS in Syria from the air is that it could put America on a slippery slope to a war that he has otherwise sought to avoid.

Mr. Erdogan’s behavior is hardly worthy of a NATO ally. He was so eager to oust Mr. Assad that he enabled ISIS and other militants by allowing fighters, weapons and revenues to flow through Turkey. If Mr. Erdogan refuses to defend Kobani and seriously join the fight against the Islamic State, he will further enable a savage terrorist group and ensure a poisonous long-term instability on his border.

He has also complicated his standing at home. His hesitation in helping the Syrian Kurds has enraged Turkey’s Kurdish minority, which staged protests against the Turkish government on Wednesday that reportedly led to the deaths of 21 people. Mr. Erdogan fears that defending Kobani would strengthen the Syrian Kurds, who have won de facto control of many border areas as they seek autonomy much like their Kurdish brethren in Iraq. But if Kobani falls, Kurdish fury will undoubtedly grow.

The Americans have been trying hard to resolve differences with Mr. Erdogan in recent days, but these large gaps are deeply threatening to the 50-plus-nation coalition that the United States has assembled. One has to wonder why such a profound dispute was not worked out before Mr. Obama took action in Syria.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on October 9th, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

Organizing for Action – OFA

Pincas –

Google just did something pretty cool: Along with other tech companies like Facebook, last week, they decided to drop their support of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a corporate-backed group that promotes right-wing legislation at the state and national level. That’s because, as one executive put it, “they’re just literally lying” about the realities of climate change.

Several companies have now taken action, after hundreds of thousands of Americans called on them to end their affiliation with ALEC.

This is the type of change that happens when ordinary Americans raise their voices. It’s why OFA is collecting signatures to submit to the EPA in support of President Obama’s Clean Power Plan.

More than 250,000 people have added their names — join in and tell the EPA where you stand.

Climate change deniers like ALEC are exactly the reason why this EPA comment collection period is so important.

The polluters and special interest groups have an outsized voice in shaping public policy. And you can believe they’re doing all they can right now to fight back against the President’s plan, which The New York Times called the “strongest action ever taken by an American president to tackle climate change.”

We want as many OFA supporters as possible to stand up in support before we cut off submissions.

You haven’t added your name yet — will you take a quick minute to fix that right now?
 my.barackobama.com/Support-Carbon…

Thanks,

Ivan

Ivan Frishberg
Climate Change Senior Advisor
Organizing for Action

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We add to this from:  www.ora.tv/offthegrid/top-3-clima…
that is a Governor Jesse Ventura TV program -

that Climate deniers John Boehner (R-OH), Joe Barton (R-TX), and Steve Stockman (R-TX)
are top deniers in US Congress and they will stand up for re-election this November. A better Congress would not miss them !!!

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on October 7th, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

Dr.Ernest Moniz, a nuclear physicist, Founding Director of the MIT Energy Initiative and Director of the MIT Laboratory for Energy and the Environment, a former Undersecretary of DOE in charge of disposing of nuclear materials including those of Russia, he came to Head DOE in May 2013 after Nobel Laureate Steven Chu decided to return to academia.

Prof. Steven Chu was a vocal advocate for more research into renewable energy and nuclear power, arguing that a shift away from fossil fuels is essential to combating climate change. For example, he has conceived of a global “glucose economy”, a form of a low-carbon economy, in which glucose from tropical plants is shipped around like oil is today. On February 1, 2013, he announced he would not serve for the President’s second term and resigned on April 22, 2013. The position then fell to Prof. Moniz who seems to be more in tune with the President’s “All of the above” energy concept.

Secretary Moniz appeared today, October 6, 2014, before the New York Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) in a conversation with Matthew A. Winkler, Editor in Chief, Bloomberg News. This was a very active day that started at NYU - energy.gov/epsa/agenda-energy-inf… -

Agenda: Energy Infrastructure Finance. A Public Meeting on the Quadrennial Energy Review, Hosted by the United States Department of Energy and with Opening Remarks by

The Honorable Ernest Moniz, Secretary, U.S. Department of Energy and
The Honorable Carolyn Maloney, Member from New York of the United States House of Representatives

The event dealt with: ATTRACTING AND MAINTAINING CAPITAL FOR ENERGY TRANSMISSION, STORAGE, AND DISTRIBUTION (TS&D); BANKABILITY OF ELECTRICITY TS&D INFRASTRUCTURE; OPPORTUNITIES AND CHALLENGES FOR NATURAL GAS AND LIQUID FUELS TS&D INFRASTRUCTURE.

The CFR meeting was titled “A Conversation With Ernest Moniz” and after a short lunch was followed at CFR by a Panel “The Battle of Interests Over the Post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals” where Ms. Gail Fosler, formerly President of the Conference Board and now provider of advisory service for global business leaders and public policymakers, presided over discussants: Carol Adelman, Director, Center for Global Prosperity, Hudson Institute; Laurie Garrett, Senior Fellow for Global Health, Council on Foreign Relations; and Fred Krupp. President, Environmental Defense Fund.

CFR showed interest also in the Arctic region emergence as a source of oil and gas as per: www.cfr.org/polar-regions/emergin…

In our posting we cover only the Ernest Moniz presentation before the CFR, as we feel this presentation introduced the Administration’s thinking without distraction from the conflicting interests of the 2014 various protagonists.

Asked what are the three main tasks of his Department, Professor Moniz opened by saying that a main task of his work is Energy Security, and going back to Jim Schlesinger who when the Department was established said this has to be considered in a collective context with the US allies, Moniz now mentioned the EU and specifically also the G7 and the immediacy of the need to assure heating gas for this winter for the Ukraine. In parallel he said he must devise a long-term plan on which he works with Canadian and UK experts even if the Russians do supply for now gas to Ukraine – the problem of energy security remains.

A second Question was if “All of the Above” is capable of handling the CO2 issue? The answer was that everything they do is geared to carbon reduction. Carbon sequestration is pushed with projects in this area involving enhanced oil recovery and oil production. Then there is the increased energy use efficiency in vehicles. Reduced dependence on oil is promoted and a new large bio-refinery will soon be opened in Kansas. So – it is nuclear, renewables, efficiency for the long-term and the use of gas in the mid-term. In the electricity production, wind use was increased by 45% and solar by 6%. LED is a great economic success. The stress is on aiming in 2015 to set goals of reduction in CO2 emissions by 17% in general with a reduction of 30% in the electricity sector. Most of this via sector by sector energy efficiency.

From here the discussion moved to the UN and the obvious that global challenges cannot be met without the Chinese and the European’s cooperation. “we saw at the UN strong statements by China, India, and he expects from these introductory statements a Paris outcome that has in it declarations of goals that are different by the different States. Asked directly if the target of 2 degrees Centigrade is realistic – the answer came in one word – “Challenging.” Then he enlarged by saying – “I would focus first on coal.” He feels bullish on solar – costs are coming down. 2000-2009 the US had no photovoltaic production now we have 9 plants and 12 under construction. He expects Europe to show leadership in the run-up to the 2015 meeting in Paris. “We will continue to encourage China, India, Brazil. and we will be a lot on airplanes.”

So far there was nothing new in what we heard except the emphasis on interdependence. Then came questions about exports from the US and about natural gas. His answers started by saying that the international market looks very different from 1975 when the laws forbidding exports of oil and gas from the US were passed. That is when we established DOE and the Petroleum Reserve etc. Ultimately exports are an issue for the Department of Commerce and not for DOE. There are also changes in production methods and at the petroleum refinery to be considered. He also pointed out that crude oil changed into products was not under those laws.

On the Keystone Pipeline he said that it was under the Secretary of State responsibility. On gas he predicted that exports cannot start before the end of 2015 – “so it is not an answer to Ukraine.”
Further, on a question about Eastern Mediterranean gas he said that this is also no answer for Europe’s needs. We consider these answers as newsworthy replies by the Secretary.

An added topic I was able to talk about with the Secretary after his presentation relates to the US position on supplies of oil and gas from the Arctic. He remarked that at the end of 2015 the Arctic Circle Council moves to the US for two years and he sees rather the subject from an environmental angle. To my great satisfaction I heard from him the old Sheik Yammani adage that the Age of Oil will end not because of a lack of oil. He also pointed at Shell Oil’s problems with their attempt at drilling for Arctic oil. With this attitude by the US I am now even more curious then ever of what will be the underlying spirit at the end of this moth’s meeting in Reykjavik of the 2014 Arctic Circle Assembly.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on October 5th, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

What Washington Does not Want to See Even in September 2014 was known to those with sight already in 2001 – The USA Has No Arab Friends or Even True Arab Allies in the Middle East. President Obama does see this, but seemingly tries also to ignore reality in order to avoid a consistently open oil trap.

It does not amuse us to find 2001 references that point to a total lack of understanding in Washington of events in the Middle East – on the meaning of the entanglement of the Saudi Royal family and Wahhabi Islam. It gets worse when we find direct 2001 references to Iraq and Syria under their 2001 ruling despots, as the beginning of the process that leads to what the present revolutionary force calls the Islamic State. Let us just say kindly that the US helped the Saudi Wahhabis fight the Soviets in Afghanistan, but then the US just allowed the Taliban to take over and open the land to Bin Ladin whose shadow continues the fight he initiated by bringing it back closer to the Arabian Peninsula. Washington 2014 seems not to realize the meaning of these forces that it discovered only in New York in 2001.

“TWO QUESTIONS have been raised about Osama bin Laden. First, if bin Laden opposes the Saudi regime, why has he never struck Saudi targets? Second, if he threatens Saudi Arabia, why has the Saudi government taken the lead in recognizing and funding the Taliban government of Afghanistan, which is entwined with bin Laden’s al Qaeda organization? The answer is: The bin Laden problem is deeply embedded both in Saudi religious and dynastic politics and in an effort by Iraq and Syria to shift the balance of power in the Middle East.”

The Above is from:
“The Saudi Connection: Osama bin Laden’s a lot closer to the Saudi royal family than you think.”
Oct 29, 2001, YJE WEEKLY STANDARD, Vol. 7, No. 07 • By DAVID WURMSER

The 2001 articles talk of -

“The Saudi Connection – Osama bin Laden’s a lot closer to the Saudi royal family than you think.”
Oct 29, 2001, The Weekly Standard, Vol. 7, No. 07 • By DAVID WURMSER

TWO QUESTIONS have been raised about Osama bin Laden. First, if bin Laden opposes the Saudi regime, why has he never struck Saudi targets? Second, if he threatens Saudi Arabia, why has the Saudi government taken the lead in recognizing and funding the Taliban government of Afghanistan, which is entwined with bin Laden’s al Qaeda organization? The answer is: The bin Laden problem is deeply embedded both in Saudi religious and dynastic politics and in an effort by Iraq and Syria to shift the balance of power in the Middle East.

To begin to unravel this murky business, it is necessary to go back to the mid 1990s, when a succession struggle was beginning in Saudi Arabia. This struggle pits the octogenarian king, Fahd bin Abdel-Aziz, and his full brothers in the Sudairi branch of the family (especially the defense minister, Prince Sultan) against their half-brother, Crown Prince Abdallah. King Fahd and the Sudairis favor close ties to the United States, while Crown Prince Abdallah prefers Syria and is generally more enamored of pan-Islamic and pan-Arab ideas. All of these contenders are old. Whoever succeeds in securing the crown after Fahd will anoint the next generation of royal heirs and determine Saudi Arabia’s future course–either toward the West or toward Syria, Iraq, and others who challenge the position of the United States in the region.

Abdallah is closely allied with the puritanical Wahhabi religious establishment that has underpinned the Saudi government for over a century. The Wahhabis are strident and hostile to a continued American presence in the Middle East. They made this explicit in 1990 in a pronouncement known as the Muzkara an-Nasiha, originated by Osama bin Laden and signed by virtually every sheikh in the Wahhabi establishment. It condemned Saudi Arabia’s decision to allow U.S. troops into the kingdom for the purpose of resisting Saddam.

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Saudi Friends, Saudi Foes – Is our Arab ally part of the problem?
Oct 8, 2001, THE WEEKLY STANDARD, Vol. 7, No. 04 • By STEPHEN SCHWARTZ

THE EXTRAORDINARY ACT of destruction seen on September 11 had a noteworthy harbinger in Islamic history. In 1925, Ibn Saud, founder of the present Saudi Arabian dynasty, ordered the wholesale destruction of the sacred tombs, graveyards, and mosques in Mecca and Medina. These are, of course, the two holy cities of Islam, whose sanctity the Saudi exile Osama bin Laden and other Islamist extremists ostensibly seek to protect from the defiling presence of U.S. troops on Saudi soil.

Saud’s armed supporters, in a frenzy of iconoclasm, first leveled Jannat al-Baqi, the “heavenly orchard” in Medina, where one of the original associates of Muhammad was buried under the prophet’s supervision. Other relatives and thousands of early companions of the prophet were also interred at the site, as were the imams Hassan and Hussein, venerated by Sunni and Shia Muslims. All these graves were wrecked by Saud’s minions, who then looted the treasure at the prophet’s shrine.

The Saud party went on to demolish the cemetery in Mecca where the prophet’s mother, grandfather, and first wife, Khadijah, were buried; then to smash many more honored sites, devastating the architectural achievements of Arabia, including mosques and even Muhammad’s house. Only the tomb of the prophet was spared, after an outcry from traditional Muslims.

This spree of vandalism was accompanied by wholesale massacres of Muslims suspected of rejecting Wahhabism, a fanatical strain of Islam that emerged in Arabia in the eighteenth century and has periodically disturbed the Muslim world. In the nineteenth century, it fueled the Arab nationalist challenge to the tolerant and easygoing Ottoman Empire; and it became, and remains today, the state-sanctioned doctrine of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, founded in 1932.

These events of 75 years ago aid in understanding the violence of bin Laden and other Islamic terrorists, who (since the waning of atheist leftism as a motivating ideology) are all Wahhabis. A direct line extends from the demolition of the holy places in Medina and Mecca through the slaughter of 58 tourists in Egypt in 1997, the orgy of killing in Algeria in this decade, and the bombardment of the Buddhist statues at Bamyan by the Taliban only months ago to the assault on the World Trade Center, symbol of Western wealth and power. In all these cases, unrestrained destruction and bloodshed were justified by Wahhabi doctrine.

Wahhabis, who regard the veneration of the prophet and of saints as a polytheistic corruption of Islam, are offended by the honoring of tombs and shrines, along with many other traditional Muslim practices. Observance of the prophet’s birthday, for example, is illegal in Saudi Arabia, although lately Prince Abdullah has introduced a novel concession: Observances in private homes will no longer be subject to suppression by the religious police.

Wahhabism’s bloodstained record explains why so many Muslims around the world fear and hate Islamic fundamentalism—and why certain marginal types are drawn to it. As an acquaintance of mine put it, in Muslim Morocco, the footloose young sons of the lower middle class and proletariat can take one of three paths. They may adopt Western ways, drink and acquire girlfriends, and be envied. They may take up the life of an ordinary observant Muslim and be respected. Or they may join the Wahhabis—funded by the Saudis and organized by such as bin Laden—and be feared.

This is the most important point for Western leaders to understand right now: The West has multitudes of potential Muslim allies in the anti-terror war. They are the ordinary, sane inhabitants of every Muslim nation, who detest the fundamentalist violence from which they have suffered and which is symbolized, now and forever, by the mass murder in New York.

There is another historical lesson to be drawn. Wahhabism—whose quintessence is war on America—seeks to impel Islam centuries back in time, to the faith’s beginnings, yet it is neither ancient nor traditional. Indeed, it achieved its culmination, the establishment of the Saudi kingdom, only in the 1930s, in parallel with fascism and Stalinism.

Although it appears to be a rejection of modernity, Wahhabism can usefully be thought of as a variant of the nihilistic revolutionary ideologies that spilled oceans of blood in the twentieth century but finally collapsed—truly, the discredited lies consigned to history’s graveyard of which President Bush spoke.

This analysis continues for two more pages starting -
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Posted in Arab Asia, Archives, Real World's News, Reporting from Washington DC, Saudi Arabia

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on October 3rd, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

(MENAFN – QNA – October 2, 2014) Qatar Stock Exchange (QSE) – according to Qatar News Agency – will remain closed from Sunday, October 5th to Thursday October 9th to observe Eid Al Adha, a bourse notification said Thursday.

The bourse cited Qatar Central Bank and Qatar Financial Markets Authority circular which said, “It’s decided the QSE holidays for Eid Al-Adha will be five working days”.

QSE management wished Eid Mubarak to investors, citizens and residents.

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But then see also:

from The Huffington Post / By Charity R. Carney
July 3, 2014 (and this had 500 comments!)

I Worked at Hobby Lobby and Saw the Troubling World of Corporate Christianity
Can Americans tell the difference between religion and consumption?

 www.alternet.org/economy/i-worked…

(A Hobby Lobby store is Pantation, Florida is shown seen on June 30, 2014 in Plantation, Florida)

It was the most difficult job I’ve ever had. I’ve been a history professor for years, toiled as a graduate assistant before that, and even did a stint as an IT technician. But the three months I worked at Hobby Lobby stocking googly eyes and framing baseball cards takes the cake. I wanted a break from academia but it ended up not being a break at all. I found myself deconstructing and analyzing all aspects of my job — from the Bible in the break room to the prayers before employee meetings and the strange refusal of the company to use bar codes in its stores. (The rumor amongst employees was that bar codes were the Mark of the Beast, but that rumor remains unsubstantiated.)

Three months was enough to convince me that there is something larger at work and the SCOTUS decision only confirms my belief that corporate Christianity (and Christianity that is corporate) has made it difficult for Americans to discern religion from consumption.

As a scholar of religious history, I observe the way that faith intersects with culture. I study and publish on megachurches and my interpretation of this week’s events is informed not only by my experiences as an employee at Hobby Lobby but also my knowledge of recent religious trends. My biggest question after hearing the decision was not about the particular opinions or practical repercussions (which are significant and have far-reaching and dangerous consequences). Instead, my first thought was: “What is it about our cultural fabric that enables us to attribute religious rights to a corporate entity?” In the United States we have increasingly associated Christianity with capitalism and the consequences affect both corporations and churches. It’s a comfortable relationship and seemingly natural since so much of our history is built on those two forces. But it’s also scary.

Hobby Lobby is a for-profit craft chain, not a church. I’m stating the obvious just in case there was any confusion because — let’s face it — it’s confusing. It’s as confusing as those googly eyes (do you really need three different sizes, Hobby Lobby, really?). Today, we see giant churches that operate like corporations and now corporations have some of the same rights as churches. Many megachurches adopt “seeker-sensitive” approaches to attract members, relying on entertainment and conspicuous consumption to promote their services. After a while, the spiritual and secular lines start to blur and the Christian and corporate blend. Ed Young, Jr.’s Fellowship Church, for instance, started a “90-Day Challenge” for members. The church asks congregants to pledge 10 percent of their income and promises “that if you tithe for 90 days and God doesn’t hold true to his promise of blessings, we will refund 100 percent of your tithe.”

Megachurches advertise on television, billboards, the Internet. They have coffee shops and gift stores. Some feature go-cart tracks, game centers, even oil changes. Many are run by pastors that also serve as CEOs. So when Hobby Lobby seeks similar religious rights as these very corporate churches, we have to reconsider our definition of religious organizations and maybe even say “why not?” We have normalized corporate Christianity to the point that the Supreme Court deems it natural for businesses to hold “sincere” religious beliefs. The religious landscape in the United States, including our familiarity with megachurches and celebrity pastors, certainly contributes to the acceptance of the church/company conundrum.

The “why not” can be answered, however, with the real costs of the decision. Women’s reproductive rights are compromised. The religious freedom of employees for these corporations is compromised. The sanctity of our religious institutions is also compromised. To protect religious pluralism and freedom of the individual we need clear demarcations between what is spiritual and what is economical. Otherwise, we sacrifice the soul of American religion and all that makes it good and why I study it on the altar of industry. I can’t get those three months at Hobby Lobby back (or the praise muzak out of my head) but I can see more clearly the dangers of allowing corporate Christianity to become the norm. Without clear boundaries, we risk distorting the very idea of religious freedom and the rich, diverse religious culture that makes us who we are. And that’s tragic — maybe not as tragic as praise muzak, but tragic nonetheless.

Carney is a historian of religion, gender, and the South.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on September 30th, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

We do not assume for a moment that we know the facts – this like when most patriotic Americans were stuck with the Joe McCarthy hearings. Most important – What were the convictions mentioned here? Not all convictions in the USA are born equal – who knows? Some might be badges of honor!! It would be interesting to find out!


Politics: Armed contractor with criminal record was on elevator with Obama in Atlanta.

By Carol D. Leonnig September 30, 2014 – THE WASHINGTON POST.


There were some heated moments Tuesday when Secret Service Director Julia Pierson testified before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee about two security breaches at the White House, one in 2011 and one less than two weeks ago. (The Washington Post)

A security contractor with a gun and three prior convictions for assault and battery was allowed on an elevator with President Obama during a Sept. 16 trip to Atlanta, violating Secret Service protocols, according to three people familiar with the incident.

The incident occurred as Obama appeared at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to discuss the U.S. response to the Ebola crisis.

The contractor did not comply when Secret Service agents asked him to stop using a phone camera to videotape the president in the elevator, according to the people familiar with the incident.

Agents questioned him, and used a database check to learn of his criminal history.

When a supervisor from the private security firm approached and learned of the agents’ concern, the contractor was fired on the spot and agreed to turn over his gun — surprising agents, who had not realized he was armed during his encounter with Obama.

Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) said he was appalled when whistleblowers came forward to him with this account. The Washington Post confirmed details of the event with other people familiar with the review.

“You have a convicted felon within arms reach of the president and they never did a background check,” Chaffetz said. “Words aren’t strong enough for the outrage I feel for the safety of the President and his family. “

Elements of the breach were first reported Tuesday afternoon by the Washington Examiner.



Chaffetz added: “His life was in danger. This country would be a different world today if he had pulled out his gun.”

It is the latest in a string of embarrassments for the Secret Service, whose director, Pierson, drew criticism Tuesday from lawmakers in both parties during a combative hearing that focused on her agency’s security lapses. The hearing focused on a man who was able to foil Secret Service officers by jumping the White House fence Sept. 19 and also a 2011 shooting at the residence that the Secret Service failed to identify and properly investigate.

The elevator incident exposed another serious breakdown in the Secret Service’s safety protocols: this one meant to keep the president safe from strangers when he travels to events outside the White House. In close quarters or small events, when the president is on the road, all of the people who could have access to him must be checked in advance for weapons and any criminal history.

In response to a question at the hearing Tuesday, Pierson said she briefs the president “100 percent of the time” when his personal security has been breached. However, she said Tuesday that has only happened one time this year: Soon after Omar Gonzalez jumped over the White House fence Sept. 19 and was able to burst into the mansion.

A Secret Service spokesman said the agency would provide a response soon.

Some elements of the Atlanta incident were first reported Tuesday afternoon on the Washington Examiner’s Web site.

Under a security program called the Arm’s Reach Program, Secret Service advance staff run potential staff, contractors, hotel employees, invited guests and volunteers through several databases, including a national criminal information registry, and records kept by the CIA, NSA and Department of Defense, among others. Anyone who is found to have a criminal history, mental illness, or other indications of risk is barred from entry.

Local police and federal officers are not checked in the same way under the Arm’s Reach Program, with the Secret Service presuming they meet the safety standards because of their employment. But private security contractors would be checked, two former agents who worked on advance planning for presidential trips said.

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REALLY?

Politics | News Analysis
Showing Concern for the President, Even While Criticizing Him

By PETER BAKER SEPT. 30, 2014

WASHINGTON — President Obama must be touched by all the concern Republicans are showing him these days. As Congress examines security breaches at the White House, even opposition lawmakers who have spent the last six years fighting his every initiative have expressed deep worry for his security.

“The American people want to know: Is the president safe?” Representative Darrell Issa of California, the Republican committee chairman who has made it his mission to investigate all sorts of Obama administration missteps, solemnly intoned as he opened a hearing into the lapses on Tuesday.
Continue reading the main story

Yet it would not be all that surprising if Mr. Obama were a little wary of all the professed sympathy. Although the target of the legislative scrutiny is the Secret Service, not the president, the furor over security has left the White House on the defensive. At Tuesday’s Capitol Hill hearing and at the daily White House news briefing, the questions fueled an air of scandal: Who knew what when, and was there a cover-up?

Democrats joined in the grilling, and some were as tough as or tougher than any Republican on the Secret Service director, Julia Pierson. . But privately, some Democratic officeholders and strategists have complained that the episode contributes to a broader impression that the Obama administration’s competence has come under fire on a variety of fronts, including last year’s botched rollout of Mr. Obama’s health care program, the breakdown of services at the Veterans Affairs Department and the handling of a series of international crises.

Coming just weeks before midterm elections, they said, the intense focus on the matter might further undercut confidence in the government Mr. Obama runs even though it was hardly his fault an intruder with a knife made it into the White House.

“This is an opportunity to make it seem like nobody’s in charge in the Obama administration, even though it’s almost certainly not the case that political appointees could have done anything to change the facts in this situation,” said Matt Bennett, a White House aide under President Bill Clinton and now vice president of Third Way, a political group. “I’m not surprised that they’re doing this.”

Like other Democrats, Mr. Bennett said Congress had a duty to exercise oversight over the Secret Service and investigate what went wrong, and he said serious questions had been raised in recent days. At the same time, Democrats said, if it happened to damage the perception of the president in the process, Republicans would not object.

“I do think for a lot of Republican congressmen, this is a twofer,” said Erik Smith, a former House Democratic aide and a campaign adviser to Mr. Obama. “The Secret Service may be in the line of fire, but they’re not the only target.”

Not every Democrat sees it that way. Paul Begala, no stranger to partisan warfare as a longtime adviser to Mr. Clinton, said Republican lawmakers were asking the right questions out of genuine concern. “This is totally on the level,” he said. “They’re acting like real human beings and patriotic Americans.”
Continue reading the main story Continue reading the main story
Continue reading the main story

Other Democrats said Republicans had good reason to preserve that impression. “So far there is bipartisan outrage and concern,” said Margie Omero, a strategist for Democratic candidates for nearly 20 years who has studied midterm voters in swing Senate races this year. “But at this time of year, candidates will try just about anything to find an opening. It could definitely backfire if Republicans look like they’re making political hay out of a threat to the president’s life.”

Republicans rejected the notion that their inquiry had any political implications. “This is not a Republican issue or a Democrat issue,” said Representative Jason Chaffetz of Utah, chairman of a subcommittee looking into the episode. “This is an American issue. I don’t want it to be the political football, but we in the United States of America are self-critical. It’s one of the beauties of our nation is we do hold ourselves accountable.”

And they were aided by the tough statements voiced at Tuesday’s hearing by several of the committee’s Democrats, who told Ms. Pierson that they did not have faith in her leadership and accused her of caring more about protecting her reputation than the president’s life.

While the director of the Secret Service is appointed by the president, the White House under either party typically defers to the agency on how to handle the president’s security. Even when a president is angry at missteps — as reports suggest Mr. Obama was after a 2011 shooting at the White House when one of his daughters was home — he rarely expresses that publicly. For one, it might come across as impolitic. For another, it might offend the very people a president depends on most.

So even though Mr. Obama had nothing to do with the various problems involving his security beyond appointing Ms. Pierson last year, his White House now finds itself in the position of defending the Secret Service to a degree.

At his daily briefing on Tuesday, Josh Earnest, the White House press secretary, was buffeted with sharp questions about when the president found out about the intruder and whether the Secret Service had been candid in describing that incident and others. While acknowledging concerns over the incident, Mr. Earnest gave Ms. Pierson an endorsement at a time when some critics are calling for her resignation.

“What we saw was a willingness that she demonstrated in testifying before Congress under oath on live television today, a commitment to leading an agency with a very difficult mission,” he told reporters. “She is somebody who took responsibility for the incident that occurred about 10 days ago. She also took responsibility for ensuring that the necessary reforms were implemented to ensure it never happens again. That is a sign of leadership.”

And that is a conclusion that Republicans can disagree with, all with Mr. Obama’s interests at heart.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on September 30th, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

We knew Hank as a friend and tennis partner of Ernie Schneider who was the editor of the writings of Mr. Herman Kahn of the Hudson Institute (the Herman on the Hudson). We met Hank at the house of Suzy and Ernie Schneider. Suzy who was a daughter to a honored Austrian family was a colleague of my wife at the Austrian Consulate General in New York City and the Schneiders and Laventhols lived in Croton on the Hudson.

Hank liked to talk politics but professionally was rather a relaxed painter who liked classic music and jazz. We praised his work, and for disclosure I must say that we are proud of one of his piano/Chopin prints that hangs in our Vienna living room next to a New Orleans Jazz scene done by our son Gil.

When I first wrote the review I wanted to make reference to Hank’s whole range of work and realized that some of the reviews of his work were under a wrong spelling of his name that used the letter “a” instead of the “o” in Laventhol. I did not think that he should suffer from that seemingly widespread mistake and mentioned this other spelling as well. It turns out that Ms. Laventhol is upset with this alternate spelling – so I am taking it of my posting but have no power over all those other articles one finds on the internet.

Also, and this is more substantial, I was not careful in giving credits to the source of the material I quoted in that first posting. Now let me add here that probably all the photos of the paintings by Hank Laventhol were taken by his wife – Josay Laventhol. Probably much of the data about him was also taken from biography written by his wife, though I am sure I peppered it with material from some of the other reviews as well. Sorry if all of this has hurt feelings of the family.


THE FOLLOWING IS PART OF OUR ORIGINAL REVIEW OF DECEMBER 26, 2011.

HANK  LAVENTHOL  

Birth name     Henry Lee Laventhol

Born               21 December 1927

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA

Died               21 February 2001

Somers, New York

Field              painting, graphics, sculpture,

photography

Movement     neosurrealism

Laventhol’s mysteriously romantic  landscapes and  multiple  images evoke dream states and double meanings.” Pictures on Exhibit. N.Y.C.

shell wars, oil on linen, 20”X26”        Image 1

Hank Laventhol, an American painter,   made his early career in Europe. Born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Laventhol graduated Yale University with a B.A. in Fine Arts and did post graduate studies at Columbia University. At age 32 he left his business life in New York City for Europe to pursue his early vocation and life long interest in art. He studied at the Academy of Fine Art in Florence, Italy and eventually spent ten years in Europe, making his home in Mallorca, Spain. He had four solo shows in London and exhibited in  major cities in Western Europe.  He returned to the United States for good in 1970, settling in Westchester County, New York, with his  Dutch born wife.

Trained as a sculptor he  worked in many other media, including painting, print making, drawing and photography.  He said “ they all mesh for me.” Laventhol painted on wooden panels prepared with gesso using the ancient egg tempera technique until he towed an American couple  in a failing rental car to a garage outside Madrid.  In gratitude, they sent him a roll of Belgian linen which started him painting on canvas using oil and acrylics.

He was a master printer,  specializing in multi plate color etchings and aquatints, a demanding and precise process that provided him with a variety of color and texture, unrivaled by any other etching technique. He owned two Wright presses and pulled his own limited edition  prints. Publishers include Associated American Artists,  New York Graphic Society, Original Print Collectors Group Ltd., Georges Visat, Paris, and Pierre Chave, Vence, France.  Laventhol was a guest lecturer at Pratt Graphic Center, New York City and wrote articles about print making,   specializing in how to achieve perfect register in multiple color aquatint.

In the United States, his work was seen at four solo shows in New York City as well as  one man and group  shows across America.

Laventhol’s work is in corporate and private collections, museums and libraries, including the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., the Yale University Museum, the New York Public Library Print Collection, the Free Library of Philadelphia and the Bibliotèque Nationale,  Paris, France.  Laventhol has been listed in Benezit, the definitive international  Directory of Artists.

Published illustrated portfolios include: “Le Miroir Aux Alouettes” by Georges Visat, Paris, with six color aquatint etchings and a poem by Andre Serini. Later porfolios include “Les Crises” and “Eyedeas.”

Eggs, eyes, roses, and flying torsos were recurring themes. Some critics considered him a surrealist. Laventhol, however, preferred to think of his work as dealing with fantasy realism.

* * *

Hank Laventhol, a gregarious,  kind man with a fine, broad mind  enjoyed life to the fullest. Besides being a disciplined, hard worker he had a wide array of interests and hobbies. His art was his passion, but he rarely started a day without an early game of tennis. He was an eclectic music lover and an opera and chamber music buff.  It was hilarious to hear him sing along with all the voices while listening to an opera as he worked. He was well versed in American folk music and loved playing  his classical  guitar  -  not well,  he admitted. During the 1960s he sought out small locales all over Europe to tape indigenous music – Flamenco in Spain, Fado in Portugal, Stornelli in Italy and jazz in Northern Europe – using a huge reel to reel recorder.  Mexican and South American indigenous music  was another interest added to his music  collection .

He spoke fluent Spanish and Italian and said he knew enough French,  Dutch and German  to defend himself. Whatever the topic, he communicated. His sense of humor got him past being embarrassed. An adventurous traveler with an infallible sense of direction, Laventhol met his Dutch born wife over a chessboard in Mallorca, Spain, and was kind enough to let her win a few times during the ensuing 40 years. An imaginative chef, he made up his own multi cultural recipes. Stuffed trout was served with the head on. Asian wok-cooked food was a treat. Dill, unavailable in Mallorca, was imported from the U.S. to pickle a fresh crop of cucumbers in large clay pots placed around his Mallorca rental house.  When  they started fizzing,  it was time to serve them to his  “expat” friends, together with his amazingly good  baked beans. He used a wood chip smoker to prepare  fish and fowl and made his own gravlax and seviche. He said eating Dutch New Herring in the Netherlands was a life altering experience.

Frugal artistic life never held his ingenious imagination back. Any potential problem or road block was dealt with and solutions found. The Mallorcan car mechanic built an hibachi that was carried from his tiny fishing boat, which he called,  a “one lunger”, to friends’ houses. The same mechanic fabricated a roof rack for a convertible VW beetle  to carry paintings to art shows. Laventhol’s talents  converted what he saw as poetry into striking atmospheric work with a touch of the mystical.

* * *

1991                                                                       1992 – self portrait
hand /eye wind mill

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on September 30th, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

Almonitor Week in Review
Monday, September 29, 2014

US leverages Iran-Iraq-Syria axis against Islamic State.

[Includes material from Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif address at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York, Sept. 17, 2014]

Last week – we saw US Secretary of State John Kerry’s remark to the UN Security Council on Sept. 19 that Iran has a role to play in the coalition against the Islamic State (IS) – “While the Obama administration has ruled out an alliance with Syria, Iran could be a bridge to Damascus within an international coalition against IS and in a subsequent political transition in Syria.”

This week, Reuters, citing unnamed senior Iranian and US officials, reported that the United States had informed Iran in advance of airstrikes against IS forces in Syria and assured Tehran that it would not target Syrian government positions.

Another bridge to Syria and Iran has been Iraq, according to Foreign Policy’s The Cable and The Wall Street Journal. Iraqi national security adviser Faleh al-Fayyad traveled to Syria on Sept. 16 to brief Syrian President Bashar al-Assad on the “latest steps taken in this regard, as well as discussing upcoming steps and possible measures to ensure the success of these efforts and eliminate terrorist organizations in all their forms.”

Although the deputy chief of staff of Iran’s armed forces, Gen. Massoud Jazayeri, said that Iran’s nuclear negotiating team at the United Nations has no authority to discuss the campaign against IS, as reported by Arash Karami, it is an open secret that US and Iranian officials have been talking about just that on the sidelines of the nuclear talks.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, in his remarks at the UN, opened the door to even further collaboration against IS once a nuclear deal is reached, as reported by Barbara Slavin and Laura Rozen.

The United States and Iran cannot formally link arms in Syria, especially given the lack of progress in the nuclear talks. Iran has been an adversary and enemy, not an ally, and still supports and shelters terrorists, according to The Daily Beast.

Nonetheless, the trend to watch is the tentative emergence of what may be a truly regional counterterrorism coalition, with potential for a transformation in regional security, if managed carefully.

This column speculated back in January that the “new pulse” of the Geneva II process would be addressing the threat to counterterrorism in the region, with an essential role for Iran.

The Iran-Iraq-Syria axis provides a sectarian complement to the primarily Sunni Arab powers backing US airstrikes.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, after meeting with Saudi Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal on Sept. 21, spoke of “the first page of a new chapter” in Iran-Saudi relations, with consequences for many of the region’s most vexing conflicts.

Iran is in the fight against IS for its own interests, not to cull favor with the United States. Its efforts have won praise from Massoud Barzani, president of Iraq’s Kurdistan Regional Government, who said at a press conference with Zarif on Aug. 27, “Iran was the first country to provide us with weapons and ammunition” to confront the IS advance toward Erbil.

While Zarif denied that Iran had provided any ground forces in Iraq, Gen. Amir Ali Hajizadeh, who runs the aerospace division of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), said this past week that IRGC forces were directly involved in the defense of Erbil, according to The Associated Press.

Iran was instrumental in the peaceful transfer of the premiership from Nouri al-Maliki to Haider al-Abadi in Iraq, and in managing the presidential transition from former President Hamid Karzai to Ashraf Ghani in Afghanistan. Cooperation in Afghanistan may be more urgent than ever, given the recent surge in Taliban violence in that country.

There are alternative perspectives on Iran’s role against IS. For some observers, the prospect of any type of accommodation with Iran is so alarming that they suggest giving a kind of pass to Jabhat al-Nusra, al-Qaeda’s affiliate in Syria, which has aligned with other so-called moderate Islamist rebel forces, because of the perceived greater good of toppling Assad, and to assure Iran does not get an advantage in Syria.

Just a quick fact: Al-Qaeda, not Assad or Iran, was responsible for the terrorist attacks against the United States on Sept. 11, 2001, and until last year, Jabhat al-Nusra worked hand in hand with IS. The break between the two groups, both of which are designated by the United States and the UN as terrorist organizations, is the result of a power struggle, not a change of heart in either its hatred of the United States or its ambitions to impose Sharia in those areas it controls.

If there are US-backed opposition groups that are aligned with Jabhat al-Nusra and advocating a go-easy approach on the terrorist group, then perhaps the United States should reconsider funding those “moderate” groups. This column warned in December 2013 that the emergence of the Islamic Front among the opposition would be a “disaster for Syria’s opposition and future,” and here we are today with some in the Syrian opposition seeking to mainstream an al-Qaeda affiliate.

This should be a huge, neon warning sign about the perils of playing in opposition politics, where anti-Western jihadists, not pro-US democrats, carry the most sway.

The actions taken by Iran against IS to date contrast with what Turkey has done, or not done, until now against the terrorist group. The release last week of the 46 Turkish citizens held hostage by IS in Iraq may signal a new Turkish approach. Mustafa Akyol reviews polling data that reveals jihadism is a “marginal trend” in Turkish society.

Semih Idiz writes that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan will need to overcome some troubling caveats in Turkey’s policies to date against extremist groups and step up against IS:

“It’s also not clear how the ruling Justice and Development Party’s Islamist roots will respond to active participation by Turkey against IS and other such Islamic groups, regardless of how radical they may be. Developments have shown, however, that Turkey is not as influential on its own in the region as it may have once thought, and that it has little choice but to move back to the multilateral track. This means it has no choice but to act with regional and global allies to confront situations that pose a danger to its national security.”

The trend toward a regional counterterrorism strategy is nascent and fragile, but — if managed carefully — has the potential, over time, of a breakthrough in regional politics, especially with a change in Turkish policies.

Despite the political constraints on Rouhani by hard-liners in Iran, his government is already taking its own initiative to battle extremists in the region and clearly signaling it is ready to do more. As Fareed Zakaria wrote this week: “When Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger decided in the 1970s that Iran would be one of their ‘regional policemen,’ they did so out of recognition of Iran’s geostrategic importance, not simply because they supported the shah.”

If Iran, over time, shifts from enemy to ally, beginning with a nuclear agreement and coordination in the fight against terrorism, then many of the region’s most vexing problems, including the role of Hezbollah, can be put in play. This column reported in February: “A discussion with Iran about Syria is a prelude to a broader discussion about Hezbollah, which is at the crux of the US tagging Iran as a state sponsor of terrorism.” That is the conversation that needs to be had during this transition. Given how far the US-Iran dialogue has already come, it is not out of the question to consider the potential of such a trend.

The Arab pulse

The trend toward a possible regional coalition against IS, under US leadership, could be the beginning of the end for the extremist force that, according to the latest US government estimates, number between 20,000 and 31,500.

While the threat of Islamic extremism will never be completely eradicated, there is a pulse among the peoples of the Arab world for a new politics, transparency and accountability from their leaders. The trend toward conflict resolution and good governance in the Middle East is fragile and not assured, but it can take hold if given a chance.

Look at Lebanon. More than two decades after a brutal sectarian civil war, the country today is a vibrant mosaic of its peoples and cultures. The leaders and groups that fought each other for decades now coexist, sometimes uneasily, but coexist nonetheless around a consensus on keeping the peace. It is fragile, for sure, but it is there. Lebanon’s universities maintain their reputation as a magnet for the best and brightest in Lebanon and the region.

Despite these nascent yet hopeful trends, there remains an approach to the region that pins the problems of the Arab world on its alleged “civilizational ills,” implying Arabs have a cultural predisposition to tribalism, corruption and religious violence, as if these phenomena do not exist in other cultures and societies. These culturally driven essays make good copy, especially when written by someone from the region who employs an abundance of “history” and metaphor.

A more helpful, and truly analytical, historical approach to what is indeed a crisis in the Arab region would include an assessment of the effect of colonialism and the postcolonial experience on Arab societies; the impact of oil on the international relations of the region; the consequences of rentier economies in the Gulf; the role of outside, non-Arab powers including the United States, Russia, European countries, Israel, Iran and Turkey on the region’s politics; the impact of the creation of Israel and the Palestinian national movement; the influence of the Wahhabist tradition on current jihadist groups; the role of states, institutions and individuals, in and outside the region, which have backed the flow and emergence of these jihadist movements; and the economic and demographic trends that may shape the Arab region in the decades to come.

Arab civilization is not “sick”; its peoples are in the midst of a struggle for identity and democracy, where the forces of extremism command resources and influence. The people of the Levant love their culture, their cities and their land, and there is much to be proud of. There is no reason to believe the Arab peoples of the Levant will not reclaim their place in the world, as happened in Lebanon, with the assistance of an international community and region that is ready to put an end to those fringe groups that prey on the forces of division, not unity.

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