I too, think this article misses the point. What is going to happen is that insurance companies will simply STOP insuring industries and…
March 8, 2015 ==== In Florida, officials ban term ‘climate change.’ Also globsl wamig and Sustainability !!
Read more here: www.miamiherald.com/news/state/fl…
In 2013, Jim Harper, a nature writer in Miami, had a contract to write a series of educational fact sheets about how to protect the coral reefs north of Miami. ‘We were told not to use the term climate change,’ he said. ‘The employees were so skittish they wouldn’t even talk about it.’ John Van Beekum For the Miami Herald
By Tristram Korten, Florida Center for Investigative Reporting
The state of Florida is the region most susceptible to the effects of global warming in this country, according to scientists. Sea-level rise alone threatens 30 percent of the state’s beaches over the next 85 years.
But you would not know that by talking to officials at the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, the state agency on the front lines of studying and planning for these changes.
The policy goes beyond semantics and has affected reports, educational efforts and public policy in a department with about 3,200 employees and $1.4 billion budget.
“We were told not to use the terms ‘climate change,’ ‘global warming’ or ‘sustainability,’” said Christopher Byrd, an attorney with the DEP’s Office of General Counsel in Tallahassee from 2008 to 2013. “That message was communicated to me and my colleagues by our superiors in the Office of General Counsel.”
This unwritten policy went into effect after Gov. Rick Scott took office in 2011 and appointed Herschel Vinyard Jr. as the DEP’s director, according to former DEP employees. Gov. Scott, who won a second term in November, has repeatedly said he is not convinced that climate change is caused by human activity, despite scientific evidence to the contrary.
Vinyard has since resigned. Neither he nor his successor, Scott Steverson, would comment for this article.
“DEP does not have a policy on this,” the department’s press secretary, Tiffany Cowie, wrote in an email. She declined to respond to three other emails requesting more information.
“There’s no policy on this,” wrote Jeri Bustamante, Scott’s spokeswoman, in an email.
But four former DEP employees from offices around the state say the order was well known and distributed verbally statewide.
Former DEP attorney Byrd said it was clear to him this was more than just semantics.
“It’s an indication that the political leadership in the state of Florida is not willing to address these issues and face the music when it comes to the challenges that climate change present,” Byrd said.
Climate change and global warming refer to the body of scientific evidence showing that the earth’s environment is warming due to human activity, including the burning of fossil fuels and deforestation. It is accepted science all over the world.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, established by the United Nations, wrote in a 2014 report for world policy makers: “Human influence on the climate system is clear, and recent anthropogenic emissions of greenhouse gases are the highest in history. Recent climate changes have had widespread impacts on human and natural systems.” The report’s authors were scientists from 27 countries.
Still, many conservative U.S. politicians say the science is not conclusive and refuse to work on legislation addressing climate change. This type of legislation, such as a carbon tax or policies to encourage more sustainable energy sources, could be costly to established industry.
Among the politicians who refuse to acknowledge climate change is Gov. Scott. During his first campaign for governor in 2010, Scott told reporters who asked about his views on climate change that he had “not been convinced,” and that he would need “something more convincing than what I’ve read.”
In 2014, Scott said he “was not a scientist” when asked about his views on climate change.
In response, a group of Florida scientists requested to meet with Scott and explain the science behind the phenomenon. Scott agreed. The scientists were given 30 minutes.
“He actually, as we were warned, spent 10 minutes doing silly things like prolonged introductions,” geologist and University of Miami professor Harold Wanless recalled. “But we had our 20 to 21 minutes, and he said thank you and went on to his more urgent matters, such as answering his telephone calls and so on. There were no questions of substance.”
Read more here: www.miamiherald.com/news/state/fl…
Scott’s predecessor, Charlie Crist, had been proactive on climate change, forming a statewide task force and convening a national summit in Miami in 2007. But evidence the issue has fallen out of favor during the Scott administration is apparent.
One example is the Florida Oceans and Coastal Council’s Annual Research Plan, put together by DEP and other state agencies. The 2009-2010 report, published the year before Scott was elected, contains 15 references to climate change, including a section titled “Research Priorities — Climate Change.”
In the 2014-15 edition of the report, climate change is only mentioned if it is in the title of a past report or conference. There is one standalone reference to the issue at the end of a sentence that sources say must have slipped by the censors. “It’s a distinct possibility,” said one former DEP employee.
Christopher Byrd said that he was warned not to use “climate change” and related terms during a 2011 staff meeting shortly after Scott appointed Vinyard as DEP director.
“Deputy General Counsel Larry Morgan was giving us a briefing on what to expect with the new secretary,” Byrd recalled. Morgan gave them “a warning to beware of the words global warming, climate change and sea-level rise, and advised us not to use those words in particular.”
Morgan did not respond to a request for comment.
In 2011, Scott tapped Vinyard, a onetime law partner of powerful ex-Sen. John Thrasher, to lead the DEP in spite of a lack of experience with an environmental regulatory agency.
Under Vinyard, the DEP was repeatedly embroiled in controversies, from the suspension of its top wetlands expert after she refused to approve a permit to a failed effort to sell off surplus park land. Longtime employees, including Everglades scientists, were laid off or fired, while top jobs went to people who had been consultants for developers and polluters. Meanwhile the emphasis in regulation shifted from prosecuting violations to helping industry avoid fines.
DEP dismissed Byrd in 2013. His termination letter states: “We thank you for your service to the State of Florida; however, we believe the objectives of the office will be accomplished more effectively by removing you from your position.” Byrd, now in private practice as an environmental lawyer in Orlando, said he was fired because he repeatedly complained the DEP was not enforcing laws to protect the environment.
Although he disagreed with the policy, Byrd said he nonetheless passed the warning down to the various offices he worked with, including the Coral Reef Conservation Program at the Biscayne Bay Environmental Center in Miami.
“As you can imagine with the state of coral reef protection,” Byrd said, “sustainability, sea-level rise, and climate change itself were words we used quite often.”
The Coral Reef Conservation Program is where Jim Harper, a nature writer in Miami, was working as a consultant in 2013. He had a contract to write a series of educational fact sheets about how to protect the coral reefs north of Miami. Climate change was one of the issues Harper and his partner on the project, Annie Reisewitz, wanted to address.
“We were told not to use the term climate change,” Harper said. “The employees were so skittish they wouldn’t even talk about it.”
Reisewitz confirmed Harper’s story. “When we put climate change into the document, they told us they weren’t using the term climate change,” she said.
Harper and Reisewitz completed the assignment as instructed.
A year later, in November 2014, the Coral Reef Conservation Program held a meeting to train volunteers to use a PowerPoint presentation about the threats coral reefs faced. Harper attended the meeting, held at DEP’s Biscayne Bay office in Miami. Doug Young, president of the South Florida Audubon Society and a member of the Broward County Climate Change Task Force, also attended.
Two DEP employees, Ana Zangroniz and Kristina Trotta, showed the presentation to the volunteers and then asked if anyone had a question.
“I told them the biggest problem I have was that there was absolutely no mention of climate change and the affect of climate change on coral reefs,” Young said.
He continued: “The two young women, really good people, said, ‘We are not allowed to show the words, or show any slides that depicted anything related to climate change.’”
Young and Harper said they could not participate if climate change was not mentioned. “The women kept saying, ‘Work with us; we know you are frustrated,’” Harper said.
On Nov. 19, 2014, the DEP’s Zangroniz wrote Harper and Young an email stating she had talked to her manager about their concerns.
“Unfortunately at this time,” she wrote, “we can’t make any alterations or additions to the presentation. … If you do choose to continue as a volunteer, we would have to request that you present the information as is. If you choose to add in an additional presentation or speaker that addresses climate change and coral reefs, there would have to be a very clear split between the two.”
Trotta left her position as a field and administrative assistant in January. She told FCIR that when it came to scrubbing the term “climate change” from projects, she was following orders. Those orders came from Regional Administrator Joanna Walczak during a staff meeting in the summer of 2014.
“We were instructed by our regional administrator that we were no longer allowed to use the terms ‘global warming’ or ‘climate change’ or even ‘sea-level rise,’ ” said Trotta. “Sea-level rise was to be referred to as ‘nuisance flooding.’”
When staff protested, Trotta said, “the regional administrator told us that we are the governor’s agency and this is the message from the governor’s office. And that is the message we will portray.”
The order pained her, said Trotta, who has a master’s degree in marine biology, because she believes climate change is an imminent threat to Florida.
Walczak declined to comment citing DEP policy.
While state officials are still not using the terms ‘climate change’ and ‘global warming,’ any prohibition of the term “sea-level rise” seems to have ended. In a February press conference, Scott unveiled $106 million in his proposed budget to deal with the effects of rising oceans. But $50 million of that is for a sewage plant in the Keys, and $25 million is for beach restoration, which critics say is hardly a comprehensive plan to protect homes, roads and infrastructure.
Wanless, the University of Miami professor, said the state government needs to acknowledge climate change as settled science and as a threat to people and property in Florida.
“You have to start real planning, and I’ve seen absolutely none of that from the current governor,” he said.
In Florida it will be hard to plan for climate change, he said, if officials can’t talk about climate change.
“It’s beyond ludicrous to deny using the term climate change,” Wanless said. “It’s criminal at this point.”
Read more here: www.miamiherald.com/news/state/fl…
The Florida Center for Investigative Reporting is a nonprofit news organization supported by foundations and individual contributions. For more information, visit fcir.org.
Read more here: www.miamiherald.com/news/state/fl…
Without a Democrat Senate to worry about and diregarding Republican opposition to normalization of relations with Cuba, President Obama Acts Finally Like a Nobel Laureate says Scott Galindez, a co-founder of Truthout.
Obama Finally Acts Like a Nobel Laureate.
By Scott Galindez, Reader Supported News
18 December 2014
Normalizing relations with Cuba was an act worthy of consideration for the Nobel Peace Prize.
The diplomatic thaw can lead to more peace and justice if it is the first step. The most important move that can be made would be to lift the cruel and unjust embargo against Cuba. For over 50 years the embargo has made a poor country poorer.
The failed policy has not weakened the Castro Government, instead it has exacerbated poverty in what was one of the most vibrant economies prior to the Cuban Revolution.
According to the Smithsonian: “By the late ’50s, U.S. financial interests included 90 percent of Cuban mines, 80 percent of its public utilities, 50 percent of its railways, 40 percent of its sugar production and 25 percent of its bank deposits – some $1 billion in total. American influence extended into the cultural realm, as well. Cubans grew accustomed to the luxuries of American life. They drove American cars, owned TVs, watched Hollywood movies and shopped at Woolworth’s department store. The youth listened to rock and roll, learned English in school, adopted American baseball and sported American fashions.”
For the Cuban elite and American investors all was great. But for many in Cuba, the resources were concentrated in the hands of an elite class that was enjoying life with their partners, the American Robber Barons. The inequality led to the Cuban Revolution. When the Batista regime fell and American-owned resources were nationalized by Castro, the capitalists in Washington decided that they would do all they could to make sure the revolution failed.
The Cuba policy reminds me of the Republican strategy for dealing with Barack Obama’s presidency. They did everything they could to make sure more Americans would suffer and blame the President for their pain.
Regime change never came. Some would argue that the embargo helped Fidel Castro unite the Cuban people against the “real” boogeyman in Washington.
U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker said: “These historic actions by the President chart a new course for our country’s relationship with Cuba and its people. It will improve the lives of millions and will help spur long overdue economic and political reform across the country. Expanding economic engagement between the Cuban people and the American business community will be a powerful catalyst that will strengthen human rights and the rule of law.”
So buyer beware, while increased economic activity between the United States and Cuba could be a good thing, we must make sure it does’t lead to more exploitation by Cuba’s powerful neighbor.
President Obama said in Cuba yesterday: “There’s a complicated history between the United States and Cuba. I was born in 1961 – just over two years after Fidel Castro took power in Cuba, and just a few months after the Bay of Pigs invasion, which tried to overthrow his regime. Over the next several decades, the relationship between our countries played out against the backdrop of the Cold War, and America’s steadfast opposition to communism. We are separated by just over 90 miles. But year after year, an ideological and economic barrier hardened between our two countries.”
Those differences have hardened for many Cuban Americans, but at the same time younger Cubans living in the United States support the president’s actions. They are the future, voices of hope and reconciliation. Let’s not listen to the voices of the past, being amplified by politicians like Marco Rubio who I am convinced express the view of an ideological fraction of the Cuban American community that will soon become the minority.
If we follow the direction the Obama administration is taking on Cuba, one day liberal Cuban politicians will start prevailing in South Florida and extremists like Marco Rubio will be out of office.
In a statement on Cuban television, Raul Castro called on President Obama to lift the embargo through executive action. Many are saying it will require an act of Congress. Let’s hope we don’t have to wait on the “just say no” Congress – since this policy was initiated by Obama, we know they will do everything they can to reverse it.
Republicans were quick on Wednesday to accuse President Obama of appeasing our nation’s adversaries and showing weakness.
“First Russia, then Iran, now Cuba: One More Very Bad Deal Brokered by the Obama Administration,” blared the subject line of a release from Sen. Ted Cruz’s (R-Tex.) office.
“Unfortunately, this is yet another example of this administration continuing to show the rest of the world and dangerous leaders like those in Iran and North Korea that the United States is willing to appease them,” Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) said.
“It is par for the course with an administration that is constantly giving away unilateral concessions, whether it’s Iran or in this case Cuba, in exchange for nothing, and that’s what’s happening here,” Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) said on Fox News.
But there’s one very important way in which Cuba differs from all of these other bad actors on the world stage. And it’s this: Americans aren’t scared of Cuba — like barely even a little bit.
Despite Cuba’s proximity to the United States (about 90 miles from Florida) and its alliance with other antagonistic countries like North Korea and Russia, Americans have grown progressively less and less concerned that the island country actually poses a threat to the United States.
A CNN/Opinion Research poll earlier this year, in fact, showed that just 5 percent of people viewed Cuba as a “very serious threat” and 21 percent said it was a “moderately serious threat.” Another 72 percent said it wasn’t a threat at all or “just a slight threat.”
Back in 1983, two-thirds of Americans viewed Cuba as at least a “moderately serious threat,” but that numbers has fallen steadily since then.
In addition, Cuba today simply can’t be compared to the likes of Iran, Russia, North Korea and the others as far as the threat it poses. Seven in 10 Americans say each of those countries poses at a least a “moderately serious threat,” compared to 26 percent for Cuba.
As President Obama makes his case that normalizing relations with Cuba is a good idea, this is a major factor working in his favor. As long as Americans aren’t afraid of Cuba, they will likely be more accepting of a diplomatic relationship.
It’s no coincidence, after all, that the sharp decrease in fear of Cuba has coincided with a sharp rise in support for diplomacy.
World leaders have welcomed a historic move by the US to end more than 50 years of hostility towards Cuba and restore diplomatic relations.
Pope Francis joined leaders from Latin America and Europe in praising the “historic” deal which saw the release of prisoners from both countries.
Op-Ed Columnist – The New York Times, December 18, 2014
Sending in gunmen to liberate the Bay of Pigs failed, but perhaps we’ll do better with diplomats, tourists and investors.
Op-Ed Contributor – The New York Times, December 18, 2014
Instead of punishing my country, the U.S. should check its own record.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
In Qatar, this year, there will be a full five days observance of the Eid Al Adha – Sunday to Thursday October 5 to 9. Will there be a lull in the aggresiveness by the fighters that say they fight for Islam? In the US religious extremism seems now to be related to consumerism.
(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.
But then see also:
from The Huffington Post / By Charity R. Carney
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.
Professor Schiller of Economics at Yale University throws his hands up on Climate Change and recommends that individuals pay for insurance policies in order to allow the polluters to continue to make money by destroying the livelihoods of others. An ingenious way to redistribute wealth from the State to the rich.
Buying Insurance Against Climate Change.
The third National Climate Assessment report — released on May 6 by the White House, and representing the work of more than 240 scientists — warns us about our hazardous future and offers many good ideas for dealing with it. But a most important point may be lost in the crowd.
After discussing how to mitigate the coming dangers, the report says, “Commercially available mechanisms such as insurance can also play a role in providing protection against losses due to climate change.” That sentence should have been in big, bold letters and underlined.
BUT WE VEHEMENTLY DISAGREE WITH ABOVE – AND THAT IS WHY WE POST THIS MATERIAL.
That’s because of the substantial risk that efforts to stop global warming will fail. The implications are staggering, and we must encourage private innovation and government support to insure against the devastating financial losses that will result.
The problem is an age-old one: Each country has a strong individual incentive to take a free ride on the rest of the world — to find self-serving or nationalistic justifications for adding carbon dioxide and other pollutants to the global air supply. Such behavior, which in some ways might benefit the individual country while hurting everyone else, is known in economics as an externality problem, and the world has never solved one of this magnitude. We must face facts: There is a real risk of new kinds of climate-related disaster.E BLAMED
BUT THE PROFESSOR TALKS OF NATIONS – NATIONAL INTERESTS – IN A GLOBALIZED WORLD WHERE THE NATIONS WERE ACTUALLY REPLACED BY CORPORATIONS. SO ALREADY FROM START HE JUST GOES IN AN UNACCEPTABLE DIRECTION. IT IS THE CORPORATE INTERESTS THAT SHOULD BE HELD RESPONSIBLE – NOT THE NATIONAL GOVERNMENTS!
In his latest book, “The Climate Casino: Risk, Uncertainty and Economics for a Warming World” (Yale University Press), my Yale colleague William D. Nordhaus describes the uncertainty of global warming’s specific effects around the world. We are taking major gambles with our environment, he says. Expect surprises.
In March, a United Nations report identified with “high confidence” a number of risks that will be visited on different people unequally. It spoke of the “risk of death, injury, ill health or disrupted livelihoods” in low-lying coastal zones and on small islands — and that is just the start. Food systems may break down. There may not be enough water for drinking and irrigation. Ecosystems may be shattered.
In short, we need to worry about the potential for greater-than-expected disasters, especially those that concentrate their fury on specific places or circumstances, many of which we cannot now predict.
That’s why global warming needs to be addressed by the private institutions of risk management, such as insurance and securitization. They have deep experience in smoothing out disasters’ effects by sharing them among large numbers of people. The people or entities that are hit hardest are helped by those less badly damaged.
A CONCLUSION THAT HAS NO RELATION TO THE CAUSE OF FUTURE DISASTERS – PLEASE DO NOT TRY BAMBOOZLE ON US DEAR PROFESSORS!!!
But these institutions need ways to deal with such grand-scale issues. Governments should recognize that by giving these businesses a profit incentive to prepare for these unevenly distributed disasters. After all, fire insurance does no good unless you buy it before the house burns down. And you have to diversify your portfolio before the stock market crashes.
Fortunately, we aren’t too late to take action to insure against some climate risks. And yet this has not been a major element in most of the climate debate.
We already have weather derivatives that can help, like the 50 contracts in 13 countries offered by the Chicago Mercantile Exchange. A ski resort can already buy protection against inadequate snowfall and a city can buy protection against too much snowfall next winter by, in effect, taking the opposite side of the same futures contract (through the exchange), thereby pooling their opposite risks.
WHAT A CLEVER IDEA OF MAKING OTHERS PAY FOR THE SINS OF COAL AND OIL BURNERS? IT IS REALLY ELEGANT! WHY NOT FIRST GET THE SINNERS PAY – THEN FOR SMALL CORRECTONS THIS PROPOSED DELICACY COULD BE THE CROWN OF THE DEAL – NOT THE REPLACEMENT OF THE DEAL!
There are also catastrophe bonds, like the three-year, $1.5 billion Everglades Re Ltd. issue sponsored this month by the Citizens Property Insurance Corporation. It would provide relief to the insurer of Floridians hit by a bad hurricane; in such an event, the bond holders would bear losses.
But there is a problem with instruments like these: They tend to focus on relatively short-term risks, and don’t hedge against the increasing cost of disasters over distant future years. Yet if the problems of global warming become more serious, they will very likely be long-lasting, raising some complex, tough-to-quantify issues. Some kinds of crises, like hurricanes, may remain intermittent, but their tendency toward severity may build in a slow, hard-to-predict process and in complex geographical patterns.
Psychologically, it’s hard for most of us to take the initiative on long-term, ill-defined risks. Three scholars — Howard C. Kunreuther and Mark V. Pauly of the University of Pennsylvania and Stacey McMorrow of the Urban Institute — show this in their book, “Insurance and Behavioral Economics: Improving Decisions in the Most Misunderstood Industry” (Cambridge University Press). But they argue that if we’re aware of them, these psychological impediments can be reduced, and they urge the innovation of long-term risk management contracts that address the problem of climate change.
Some progress is being made: The Caribbean Catastrophe Risk Insurance Facility is one recent example of institutional sharing of climate risks. Then there is the Alliance of Small Island States, formed in 1990 as a response to climate change. The group represents 5 percent of the world’s population, and its island members are scattered around the globe. But if sea levels rise substantially, all of them will be affected. These countries generally aren’t big enough to have a heartland that can help coastal dwellers in a climate catastrophe. The alliance has been arguing for an international approach to dealing with such loss and damage.
These are only beginnings. We have a crucial need to bring innovation to our risk-management institutions. We need to make them flexible, to clarify their long-term international legal status, to develop mechanisms and indexes that can be the basis of long-term risk management contracts and to educate the public about them. Most important, we need concrete action now to build a mechanism that will provide real help for the victims of climate-change disasters.
ROBERT J. SHILLER is Sterling Professor of Economics at Yale.
A version of this article appears in print on May 25, 2014, on page BU6 of the New York edition with the headline: Buying Insurance Against Climate Change
Change can be bad, but change can be good. Dr. Shiller (like most) focus on the down side of a warmer climate, “The people … that are hit…
The costs should be put on the corporate masters & their politician toadies who have been denying climate change for decades. Once…
White House to boost use of solar panels.
12 May 2014 | William Brittlebank | Energy, Policy & Legislation, North America
President Barack Obama announced executive orders to increase the use of solar power, boost energy efficiency in federal buildings and increase the number of jobs in the renewable energy field on Friday.
The president made the announcement during a visit to Wal-Mart in Mountain View, California and highlighted commitments by corporations to boost solar generation at their facilities.
Wal-Mart, Apple Inc, Yahoo Inc, Google Inc and Ikea were among the companies making such commitments.
Obama said: “It’s the right thing to do for the planet. The sooner we work together to adapt the economy to this reality of climate change, the more likely it is that we do right by our kids, and leave a more stable world.”
The president also announced that an additional US$2 billion will be channelled towards energy efficiency upgrades to federal government buildings over the next three years.
The White House outlined how financial institutions including Citigroup Inc and Goldman Sachs Group Inc, are launching plans for “large scale investment and innovative programmes” to develop solar and renewable energy installations.
The Obama administration’s energy policies are also designed to support efforts at community colleges so that 50,000 workers can join the solar industry by 2020.
An Obama spokesman also announced the completion of a project to install solar panels at the White House itself. The panels were American-made and part of an energy retrofit that would improve the building’s energy efficiency.
“The project, which helps demonstrate that historic buildings can incorporate solar energy and energy efficiency upgrades, is estimated to pay for itself in energy savings over the next eight years,” spokesman Matt Lehrich said.
In case you missed it, a sitting United States senator just doubled down on doubting climate science.
Senator Marco Rubio said in an interview this week that he didn’t believe scientists are right in stating that human activity is affecting climate change.
Sometimes you just have to call it like you see it: Marco Rubio is a climate change denier.
By our count, there are more than 130 of them in Congress. For anyone who knows how serious this issue is, that denial is dangerous.
We need to fight back against climate change denial every single time we see it
For Senator Rubio’s home state of Florida, this isn’t an academic question.
Miami is one of the American cities most vulnerable to rising sea levels — they’ve already risen eight inches since 1870, and it’s speeding up: A recent report said they could rise another two feet by 2060.
Despite all that, Senator Rubio denies the science behind climate change.
If we don’t speak up against this nonsense from lawmakers in Washington, we’re never going to be able to seriously tackle climate change in Congress.
Add your name and help call out climate change denial wherever it rears its ugly head:
P.S. — There’s actually video out there of Senator Rubio denying climate change. You’ve got to see the video for yourself — then join the fight against climate change deniers in Congress.
Koch World 2014
25 January 2014
f the Koch brothers’ political operation seemed ambitious in 2010 or 2012, wait for what’s in store for 2014 and beyond.
The billionaire industrialists Charles and David Koch are convening some of the country’s richest Republican donors on Sunday at a resort near Palm Springs, Calif., to raise millions of dollars for efforts to shape the political landscape for years to come.
It’s the cash that can possibly kick Democrats out of the Senate majority this fall and shape the philosophy and agenda of the GOP conference – not to mention the 2016 presidential field.
The Koch political operation has become among the most dominant forces in American politics, rivaling even the official Republican Party in its ability to shape policy debates and elections. But it’s mostly taken a piecemeal approach, sticking to its sweet spots, while leaving other tasks to outsiders, or ad hoc coalitions of allies.
That’s changing. This year, the Kochs’ close allies are rolling out a new, more integrated approach to politics. That includes wading into Republican primaries for the first time to ensure their ideal candidates end up on the ticket, and also centralizing control of their network to limit headache-inducing freelancing by affiliated operatives.
The shift is best illustrated in the expansion of three pieces of the Koch political network expected to be showcased or represented at the three-day meeting in Palm Springs, whose evolving roles were described to POLITICO by several sources.
The Koch network raised an astounding $400 million in the run-up to 2012, spending much of it assailing President Barack Obama and congressional Democrats. After the Election Day letdown, the Kochs did an in-depth analysis to find out what went wrong and what they could do better. Among the areas identified for improvement were greater investments in grassroots organizing, better use of voter data and more effective appeals to young and Hispanic voters, according to sources.
Still, the big question was whether the donors who attend the conferences would keep stroking big checks or scale back their efforts. There’s no way to measure that definitively, since most of the groups in the network don’t disclose their finances regularly or reveal their donors. Early indications, though, suggest enthusiasm is high.
Groups in the Koch network – led by the brothers’ main political vehicle Americans for Prosperity – spent $25 million between the summer and early this month on ads bashing Democrats over Obamacare, which have been credited for hurting Democratic senators who are vulnerable in 2014.
James Davis, an official at Freedom Partners told POLITICO that his group has expanded rapidly, “and we expect to continue to grow.”
The 2014 potential of AfP, Freedom Partners and the other groups in the network depends in large part on the reception they get at this weekend’s gathering – the annual winter installment in the Kochs’ long-running series of twice-a-year meetings. Koch Industries spokesman Rob Tappan declined to comment on the Palm Springs meeting, but the company’s website includes a statement describing the events as bringing together “some of America’s greatest philanthropists and most successful business leaders” to “discuss solutions to our most pressing issues and strategies to promote policies that will help grow our economy, foster free enterprise and create American jobs.”
Many of the right’s most generous benefactors – folks like Minnesota media mogul Stan Hubbard, Wall Street investor Ken Langone and Wyoming mutual fund guru Foster Friess – are regulars. The gatherings, which attendees call “seminars” and are typically held at tony resorts, routinely attract some of the top operatives and biggest names in Republican politics, as well as rising stars tapped by the Kochs’ operatives.
The last seminar, held in August outside Albuquerque, N.M., drew Rep. Paul Ryan, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez and Iowa state legislator Joni Ernst, who is running in a crowded GOP Senate primary.
The seminars typically conclude with pledge sessions that can raise tens of millions of dollars. In 2012, that cash mostly went into a pair of non-profit conduits – Freedom Partners and the Center to Protect Patient Rights – whose operatives then doled it out to a range of nonprofits blessed by the Koch operation, including some groups asked to make presentations to donors at the seminars.
But several sources suggested that Freedom Partners’ growth and expansion into a more central strategic role within the network means that the roles – and possibly funding – of the Center to Protect Patient Rights and other groups in the network will diminish. In other words, Freedom Partners will bring in-house many Koch network functions that had been outsourced. That could reduce the chances of a repeat of situations like that which the Center to Protect Patient Rights and one of its beneficiary nonprofits found themselves in California, where they paid $1 million last year to settle an investigation into alleged campaign finance violations. The settlement stipulated that the violation “was inadvertent, or at worst negligent,” but the investigation brought unwanted attention to the Kochs, who repeatedly stressed that they had no involvement in the matter and distanced themselves from the operative who ran the Center to Protect Patient Rights, Sean Noble, explaining that he was just a consultant.
Freedom Partners, by contrast, is run by Marc Short, a former Koch employee, and staffed by other Koch loyalists, although Koch Industries issued a statement saying the group “operates independently of Koch Industries.” The group, established in November 2011, is technically a business league, and its members pay at least $100,000 in annual dues. “Our membership has grown out of concern that the administration’s policies are hurting Americans by crippling businesses and our economy,” Davis said. The growth has continued since the 2012 election, he said, adding that the group is in the process of expanding its 50-employee staff.
It appears to be looking to hire a creative director to make videos for both Freedom Partners and other groups, as well as an executive to work with the groups’ donors and help raise money for it and other groups. Those postings are listed on the website of the Center for Shared Services, which sources say is filling an innovative niche recruiting talent for the entire Koch network.
The network’s ambitious plans are borne out in the Center’s job board, which has an array of posts that hint at major 2014 expansions that seem to track areas of improvement identified in the Kochs’ post-2012 analysis.
The website doesn’t actually list the groups for which it’s hiring, but sources say the Center — which was founded in mid-2011 and received $2.7 million from Freedom Partners in 2012 — is primarily devoted to boosting Koch-backed nonprofits. All the services it provides are “free or substantially below cost,” according to the group’s tax filings, which show it spent only $1.2 million through mid-2012. Center officials did not respond to requests for comment, but the group’s job board reads like a guide to Koch World.
“The leading data and technology provider for the pro-free market public policy and advocacy community” is looking to hire about a dozen positions, including developers to “help build data driven web and mobile applications systems.” The outfit is based in Alexandria, Va., where the Koch-backed voter data non-profit Themis and its for-profit arm i360 are headquartered.
A “youth advocacy organization” is seeking directors, volunteer coordinators and event coordinators in multiple states who have worked on national political campaigns, and have voter identification and turnout experience. The Koch network’s youth advocacy nonprofit is called Generation Opportunity and it, like the organization in the postings and many Koch-backed non-profits, is based in the Washington suburb of Arlington, Va. An organization dedicated to Hispanic voter outreach – much like the Koch-backed LIBRE Initiative – is hiring field directors in Colorado, New Mexico and Texas.
Americans for Prosperity, The LIBRE Initiative and Generation Opportunity have focused their efforts primarily on beating up Democrats over Obamacare, but after 2013 conservative operatives had studied the Koch operation for signs that it might throw its weight into Republican primaries. AfP’s president Tim Phillips had suggested that was a possibility for his group, which could have seriously altered the balance of power in the battle for the soul of the GOP. And, while POLITICO has learned that AfP ultimately decided against such a move, sources say that Aegis is envisioned as a way for Koch operatives to mix it up in primaries.
“They are the candidate-support operation of the Koch network,” said one GOP operative who has met with Aegis president Jeff Crank about his firm’s plans. “They’re looking at these races and looking to get involved in primaries.”
Crank, who ran twice unsuccessfully for congress in Colorado, was the director of that state’s chapter of Americans for Prosperity, before serving a stint as the interim chief operating officer for the entire organization after a post-2012 election shakeup. Another Aegis staffer ran AfP’s Nebraska chapter, while a third worked at Themis.
Crank didn’t respond to phone calls or emails for this story, but last week on the Saturday morning radio show he hosts on a Colorado station, he said one of the reasons he started Aegis was “because we’re trying to end that kind of nonsense from political consultants, who just go out and get a candidate so they can get a job.” On his show a week earlier, he praised the Koch brothers, calling them “some of the most philanthropic givers in the United States of America” — citing their donations to medical research, the Smithsonian and various arts programs in New York. “But they’re vilified if they give any money to try and keep America free.”
Sources told POLITICO that Koch network donors invested in Aegis. Crank told the Denver Post that he had financial backers, though he didn’t identify them, and said he also used his own money. He said his goal was avoiding GOP electoral meltdowns like Todd Akin, who won a Missouri Senate primary, only to implode in the general election campaign when he asserted that victims of “legitimate rape” very rarely get pregnant.
“Our effort is to find good candidates who are committed to pulling America off the fiscal cliff, whether they are gubernatorial candidates or U.S. House or U.S. Senate candidates,” he told the Denver Post. Mother Jones reported that Crank has touted his ties to the Kochs and their fundraising network and that its first client is a New Hampshire state lawmaker who has been an AfP ally.
It’s unclear if Aegis has signed any gubernatorial or congressional candidates yet, but POLITICO has learned that Aegis and i360 both made informal pitches to work for Ernst’s Iowa Senate campaign around the time that she attended the August seminar in Albuquerque, for which her campaign reimbursed Koch Companies Public Sector $242 for “event registration fee,” according to Federal Election Commission filings. They show the campaign also spent $884 on lodging at the Hyatt where the conference was held. Derek Flowers, an Ernst campaign staffer, told POLITICO that the payment to Koch was “to cover the cost of meals and expenses while at the retreat” which was paid for by the company, and said ultimately the campaign decided to go with firms other than Aegis and i360.
Ernst, though, said she was grateful for the chance to appear before the Koch network donors in Albuquerque, where she talked her campaign and why she thought she would be a good senator. “I do think it gets my name out there,” she said last year, in previously unreported comments. “Not everyone will jump on board and support just because of that, but it is good to get the name out, absolutely.”
Sunday New York Times Review | Editorial
The Koch Party
Only a few weeks into this midterm election year, the right-wing political zeppelin is fully inflated with secret cash and is firing malicious falsehoods at supporters of health care reform.
As Carl Hulse of The Times reported recently, Democrats have been staggered by a $20 million advertising blitz produced by Americans for Prosperity, the conservative advocacy group organized and financed by the Koch brothers, billionaire industrialists. The ads take aim at House and Senate candidates for re-election who have supported the health law, and blame them for the hyped-up problems with the law’s rollout that now seem to be the sole plank in this year’s Republican platform.
In one typical example, the group’s ad against Representative Gary Peters of Michigan, a Democrat who is running for an open Senate seat, is full of distortions and lies. It accuses Mr. Peters of lying when he said the law bars cancellations of insurance policies. Mr. Peters happened to be right, as millions of people who once faced losing all insurance after they got sick now appreciate. The 225,000 Michigan residents who the ad said received “cancellation notices” were actually told that they could change to a better policy; they were not told they could no longer have insurance, as the ad implies. And though the ad said health care costs are “skyrocketing,” national spending on health care is now growing at the slowest pace ever recorded, in part because of the reform law.
Democrats intend to counter this campaign with the facts, but few of the candidates have the money to do so now. As a result, the campaign is taking a serious political toll, increasing the chances that Republicans who support a repeal of the law will win back the Senate majority this fall.
Naturally, Democrats are using the campaign to increase their own fund-raising, begging donors to give unlimited amounts to left-leaning super PACs and advocacy groups. But it is unlikely that they will be able to match the resources or the cunning of the Kochs, who are using vast pools of money earned through corporate revenues to build a network unrivaled in complexity and secrecy. This weekend, they are bringing together some of the biggest Republican bank accounts at a resort in Palm Springs, Calif., to collect money and plan this year’s strategy.
As Politico described it on Friday, they have already set up an operation so sophisticated it rivals “even the official Republican Party in its ability to shape policy debates and elections.” Its components include a political consulting firm to recruit, train and support like-minded antigovernment candidates, which will be active in the congressional primaries. There is also a center that provides technology and administrative services to right-wing groups and candidates, an office that compiles and analyzes voter data and a youth advocacy group.
In 2012, as The Washington Post reported, the Koch network raised $407 million, which was secreted among 17 groups with cryptic names and purposes that were designed to make it impossible to figure out the names of donors the Kochs worked with. As one tax expert told The Post, “it’s designed to make it opaque as to where the money is coming from and where the money is going.”
The Democrats have smaller versions of these operations, though they are more focused on building a super PAC to collect unlimited donations supporting Hillary Rodham Clinton in 2016, and they lack the resources to compete with the Kochs at this stage.
The clandestine influence of the Kochs and their Palm Springs friends would be much reduced if they were forced to play in the sunshine.
The Internal Revenue Service and several lawmakers are beginning to step up their interest in preventing “social welfare” organizations and other tax-sheltered groups from being used as political conduits, but they have encountered the usual resistance from Republican lawmakers. Considering how effectively the Koch brothers are doing their job, it’s easy to see why.
The Poet Rumi, a Secular Islam meeting in Florida, an Iranian-American businessman Freydoon Khoie is campaigning for a new Muslim World.
Many who attended issued a declaration at the end of the summit. While many of the clauses of that declaration are in tune with Islam and its teachings, there were others that clearly are based on faulty and presumed premises (e.g. submitting Islamic practices to criticism or condemnation when they violate human reason or rights). The fact is that mainstream Muslims do not believe that any of it’s teachings violate human rights – rather Islam came and through its principles and teachings, it protected the weak, elevated the status of women, lay down rules for protection of minorities in Muslim lands and many other such principles.
The text of the declaration issued by the “Muslim Secularists” read as follows:
We are secular Muslims, and secular persons of Muslim societies. We are believers, doubters, and unbelievers, brought together by a great struggle, not between the West and Islam, but between the free and the unfree.
We affirm the inviolable freedom of the individual conscience. We believe in the equality of all human persons.
We insist upon the separation of religion from state and the observance of universal human rights.
We find traditions of liberty, rationality, and tolerance in the rich histories of pre-Islamic and Islamic societies. These values do not belong to the West or the East; they are the common moral heritage of humankind.
We see no colonialism, racism, or so-called “Islamaphobia” in submitting Islamic practices to criticism or condemnation when they violate human reason or rights.
We call on the governments of the world to:
Reject Sharia law, fatwa courts, clerical rule, and state-sanctioned religion in all their forms; oppose all penalties for blasphemy and apostasy, in accordance with Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human rights; eliminate practices, such as female circumcision, honor killing, forced veiling, and forced marriage, that further the oppression of women; protect sexual and gender minorities from persecution and violence; reform sectarian education that teaches intolerance and bigotry towards non-Muslims; and foster an open public sphere in which all matters may be discussed without coercion or intimidation.
We demand the release of Islam from its captivity to the totalitarian ambitions of power-hungry men and the rigid structures of orthodoxy like it is practiced in Iran.
We enjoin academics and thinkers everywhere to embark on a fearless examination of the origins and sources of Islam, and to promulgate the ideals of free scientific and spiritual inquiry through cross-cultural translation, publishing, and the mass media.
We say to Muslim believers: there is a noble future for Islam as a personal faith, not a political doctrine; to Christians, Jews, Buddhists, Hindus, Baha’is, and all members of non-Muslim faith communities: we stand with you as free and equal citizens; and to nonbelievers: we defend your unqualified liberty to question and dissent.
Before any of us is a member of the Umma, the Body of Christ, or the Chosen People, we are all members of the community of conscience, the people who must choose for themselves.
Now reluctant to return my country under the tyrannical regime, I formed Sood Industries in Los Angeles, and started my CNC machine tools business. The Registered Trade Mark was FreeMax Precision Machine Tools. By 1990, we had expanded into PC business, and we were selling IBM PCs to our customer base in California to CAD/CAM software sector which was a bundling strategy with our CNC machine tools to capture greater market share, and this led me into computer business which I took it one step further and decided to build my own PC brand and since East Asia was the place to go for cheap labor, I picked Singapore as our production base. By now, I had sold my IPC company in Tehran and had become an international entrepreneur.
In 1990, I established IMI Electronics in Singapore and started building IMI Computers into a global PC brand. Our principle activities involved the assembly, packaging, marketing and sales and distribution of microcomputer-based products as well as application specific products such as point-of-sale terminals and network systems. IMI’s broad product lines were distributed under “IMI” brand, through a wide network of appointed distributors and dealers to more than 38 countries around the world.
With $53 million confirmed orders for 1994 and projected sales of $80 million for 1995 and growing sales subsidiaries in Europe, Middle East, and our own East Asian markets, Australia and Iran, the company was attacked by a $2 billion conglomerate IMI PLC., ( a UK based Company) alleging Trade Mark infringement and after a protracted legal tussle and plenty of dirty tricks by them, we lost the and I learned a great lesson in trade mark protection. I restructured the company under UBIQ Computers and relocated our operations to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia and Brisbane, Australia and a year later in 1997 I sold the company and started planning my next move.
In 1997, having been away from Iran for 24 years, I decided to go back and explore business opportunities. The arrival experience was horrific. Finding my flourishing and rapidly progressing country of 1975 in a state of utter repression, poverty, depression, chaos and criminality was much painful but still I was hoping to find a way to help our people in any way possible. In my first month, I realized that the national car – Paykon – had no air conditioning and people in the heat of Tehran’s horrible summer were suffering. My quick research indicated that there was a niche market which I jumped on the opportunity and few months late I formed Neekon Automotive in Tehran, and invited Japanese Sanden Corporation to design an application specific A/C for Paykon and in matter of months I launched an aggressive marketing campaign and started selling our A/Cs, but just as I was warned by friends, the corrupt elements in the government owned Iran Khodro, the manufacturer of Paykon, attacked my company, demanding that I should give them our technology, and making all kinds of threats that if I refuse they will prevent us doing business. I could not believe my eyes that bunch of thugs and criminals were actually in charge of our greatest industries like Iran Khodro, Ministry of Industry, Ministry of Commerce that so blatantly and openly acted like communists and crushed private sector initiatives. After couple of years of confrontations I realized that everything said about this regime was true and the only solution for saving Iran was and is a total abolition of the Islamic Republic Constitution and removal of the state from power and establishing a new, multi-party, secular and modern democratic political system. So I closed down my businesses and decided to relocate to Dubai in the year 2000 right after our son was born.
I found Dubai to be absolutely the best of both worlds. A wise and forward looking leadership, tolerant and open minded had turned Dubai into a model state for all Muslim countries as center of excellence. The first thing I did was to establish Maxam Publishing House to produce two monthly English business magazines: The Middle East Entrepreneur and Digital Executive, and decided to get settled in this beautiful, business friendly, corruption free, dynamic country and since then I have built number of companies that form the Khoie Group today. Having identified the construction boom in Dubai and UAE, I formed such companies as Khoie Power, Khoie Trading, Khoie Properties, Khoie Education, Khoie Industries, and Khoie Media with variety of ventures and projects in the service of community and by 2011 we reached our $1 billion market valuation and growing.
In the meantime, like all other nationalist Iranians, I have been watching with deep concern the disastrous mismanagement of our country and her continued social and economic decline and political isolation and I have lend my support to the progressive green movement and other pro-democracy forces seeking change and reform in Iran to put an end to the mullah’s tyrannical rule and establish a secular, liberal democratic political system in which individual liberties, free market and peace are guaranteed to all citizens.
Jalal ad-Din Muhammad Rumi
Jal?l ad-D?n Muhammad Balkh?, also known as Jal?l ad-D?n Muhammad R?m?, and more popularly in the English-speaking world simply as Rumi, was a 13th-century Persian poet, jurist, theologian, and Sufi mystic.
Why would North-East Republicans stay under the flag of Mr. Boehner’s party that does not care about their woes? Revive the defunct Liberal-Republican label in order to survive in 2014 as predictions start coming that the 113th Congress will be no different from the 112th. The walk-away without looking at the ravages Hurricane Sandy left behind sealed the future of the GOP of today. UPDATED – three days later Mr Boehner brought up for a vote the Sandy Flood Insurance Bill. Will he ever allow prevention of Climate Change effects? This when it becomes clear that while total number of GOP Congressmen decreased, half of the incoming class seems to be from the Tea Party right and will be Nay-sayers at large.
THE FOLLOWING IS A COLLAGE OF ARTICLES FROM TODAY’S NEW YORK TIMES THAT POINT AT MORE DISCORD IN THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES AND THE LIBERAL’S HOPE THAT PRESIDENT OBAMA WILL REFUSE TO PLAY BALL WITH THEM. IT IS IMPERATIVE THAT LIBERAL-REPUBLICANS REBRAND AND FORM THEIR INDEPENDENT RANKS IN THEIR OWN INTEREST AND IN THE NATIONS INTEREST.
By MICHAEL D. SHEAR and JACKIE CALMES
Even as Republicans vow to leverage the federal borrowing limit in their demands for spending cuts, President Obama, who signed the tax bill Wednesday, says he won’t join in more charged talks on the issue.
By RAYMOND HERNANDEZ
The depth of the anger that followed the House’s refusal to take up a package of assistance for Hurricane Sandy victims was extraordinary and exceedingly personal.
By GARY L. ACKERMAN
“Who am I?” a departing congressman asks, after nearly 30 years of service in the House.
By CHARLES M. BLOW
Not only is the era of grand bargains over, but the era of basic governance is screeching to a halt.
Editorial | Dereliction Of Duty
The unwillingness of House Republicans to work for the common good suggests that the 113th Congress will be bitterly unproductive.
Editorial | Dereliction Of Duty
Speaker John Boehner failed the thousands devastated by the storm when the relief package that passed the Senate was ignored in the House.
By GAIL COLLINS
Wasn’t the 112th Congress something else? Well, don’t worry, people. The next one won’t entirely be more of the same.
By JULIET LAPIDOS
Does the Republican base crave pragmatism, or purity? With their fiscal cliff votes, three likely 2016 candidates indicated which way they think the wind is blowing.
Sandy Flood Insurance Aid Bill Sails Through House After Outcry.
Posted: 01/04/2013 11:54 am EST | Updated: 01/04/2013 12:25
A $9.7 billion bill to pay flood insurance claims from Hurricane Sandy sailed through the House on Friday with an overwhelming bipartisan majority, just two days after Republican officials in New York and New Jersey exploded in outrage after a much larger relief bill failed to come up for a vote before the end of the last Congress.
Friday’s 354-67 vote extends the borrowing authority of the National Flood Insurance Program, which the Federal Emergency Management Agency warned on Tuesday was set to run out of money next week without additional funds from Congress. If the mandatory insurance program went broke, payments on more than 115,000 claims from Sandy would be delayed, the agency said.
The flood insurance measure now goes to the Senate, which easily approved a $60 billion Sandy aid package in late December that leaders in the Republican-controlled House declined to bring to the floor.
Another vote is set for Jan. 15 on an additional $51 billion in Sandy aid, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said. That aid covers a wide range of needs related to the storm, including funds for financially-strained municipalities struggling with the recovery. More than half a million homes and business were destroyed or damaged in New Jersey and New York by Sandy, according to official estimates. New York City also suffered at least 11.7 billion in damage to its subway system and other infrastructure.
While the flood insurance measure had overwhelming support from both parties, Democratic legislators from New York and New Jersey on Friday continued to harshly criticize GOP leaders for the long delay in approving a comprehensive relief package for storm victims.
“It is a shame and an embarrassment for this institution that the House Republican leadership continues playing games with this essential assistance,” said Rep. Nydia Velazquez (D-N.Y.), who represents parts of New York City devastated by the storm.
“Today we are taking care of flood insurance. What about small business? The job creators in our community? They are getting nothing,” Velazquez added.
Many Republicans from the Northeast who blasted the decision by GOP leaders to scrap the vote on the original aid bill appeared largely appeased by Friday’s vote and the scheduled vote on the broader aid package later this month.
“While it is unfortunately long overdue, I am pleased that we are finally here to help,” said Rep. Jon Runyan, (R-N.J.), whose district includes parts of coastal New Jersey hard-hit by Sandy.
Some Republican members took to the floor to defend the decision not to bring the broader relief package up for a vote, saying the $60 billion Senate relief bill contained millions of dollars of spending unrelated to the storm.
“We need to get the pork out,” said Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), chairman of the House Oversight Committee.
But Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.), a powerful House Republican who represents New York’s Long Island, which sustained billions of dollars in storm damage, refuted those claims. “The House bill never contained any of those extraneous provisions,” he said.
King was among the fiercest critics of the GOP leadership for scrapping the aid vote earlier in the week, calling it a “cruel knife in the back” to the Northeast and urging his constituents not to donate to the Republican Party.
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) said on Wednesday that the failure to vote on the aid bill was the result of “toxic internal politics” in the Republican Party. He added that he would have a hard time trusting Boehner and other national party officials after the “duplicity” surrounding the dropping of the earlier aid vote. Christie did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
“Americans are tired of the palace intrigue and political partisanship of this Congress,” Christie said. “Disaster relief was something that you didn’t play games with.”
GOP freshmen: Even more tea party than 2010?
Posted by Aaron Blake on January 4, 2013
The Republican freshmen sworn into Congress this week might be even more tea party than the Tea Party Class of 2010.
The tea party influence on last year’s primaries wasn’t as big a story as it was two years prior, as the label lost its luster and the rallies stopped. But the anti-establishment fervor of that movement lives on in the crop of 35 Republicans joining the House.
And in fact, it may even be ratcheted up.
Tea party freshman Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R-Okla.) voted against John Boehner for speaker on Thursday and against a Hurricane Sandy aid bill on Friday. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)
Case in point: The vote Friday to approve a $9.7 billion aide package for victims of Hurricane Sandy, which some Republicans have criticized for not being accompanied by spending cuts.
In the end, 67 House Republicans voted against it. Of those 67, 19 came from the freshman class, compared to 22 who came from the Class of 2010.
Pretty close, huh? Well, when you consider that the 2012 class (35 Republicans) is less than half the size of the 2010 class (84 Republicans), things begin to come into focus.
In fact, while just more than one-quarter of 2010ers voted against the Sandy aid bill, more than half of 2012ers voted no. And while freshmen make up less than 15 percent of the GOP caucus, they comprised nearly 30 percent of the no votes.
(Also worth noting: four freshmen voted against John Boehner for speaker on Thursday — almost as many as the five defectors from the Class of 2010.)
Make no mistake: Even as the tea party isn’t as much of a thing any more, its ideals and anti-establishment attitude very much remain in today’s Republican Party and House GOP caucus.
And if the first votes of the 113th Congress are any indication, incoming members will continue to vote the tea party line — perhaps in even higher numbers than their tea party predecessors. Which make Boehner’s job very, very difficult going forward.
Who voted against Boehner for speaker and why?
Twelve Republicans voted against John Boehner’s second term as speaker Thursday, making for a very tense final few minutes of the vote.
At one point, in fact, the number either voting for someone else or not voting reached into the high teens, raising the possibility that Boehner wouldn’t secure a majority on the first ballot. Eventually, a few of those who hadn’t voted — including Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) — cast their ballots for Boehner.
Below is a look at the defectors, whom they voted for, and our best guess as to why it wasn’t Boehner:
Rep. Eric Cantor (3 votes)
Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R-Okla.) — conservative freshman who defeated Rep. John Sullivan (R-Okla.) in a primary
Rep. Steve Pearce (R-N.M.) — very conservative
Rep. Ted Yoho (R-Fla.) — conservative freshman who defeated Rep. Cliff Stearns (R-Fla.) in a primary
Former congressman Allen West (2)
Rep. Paul Broun (R-Ga.) — noted conservative maverick, Club for Growth favorite
Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Tex.) — outspoken conservative
Rep. Raul Labrador (1)
Rep. Justin Amash (R-Mich.) — libertarian ally of former congressman Ron Paul (R-Tex.), recently stripped of committee assignments by House GOP leadership
Rep. Jim Jordan (1)
Rep. Tim Huelskamp (R-Kan.) — very conservative, recently stripped of committee assignments
Former comptroller general David Walker (1)
Rep. Walter Jones (R-N.C.) — frequently votes against his party, recently stripped of committee assignments
Rep. Tom Massie (R-Ky.) — freshman conservative, favorite of the Club for Growth
Voting present (1)
Rep. Steve Stockman (R-Tex.) — has criticized Boehner for “being too harsh with conservatives“
Not voting (3)
Rep. Raul Labrador (R-Idaho) — conservative, frequent critic of Boehner
Rep. Mick Mulvaney (R-S.C.) — critic of Boehner’s “Plan B” maneuver on the “fiscal cliff”
Boehner — speaker traditionally does not vote for himself or herself.
And now a look at the Democrats who voted against Nancy Pelosi for speaker. Basically all of them are Blue Dog Democrats.
Rep. Jim Cooper (2)
Rep. Mike McIntyre (D-N.C.)
Rep. Dan Lipinski (D-Ill.)
Rep. John Dingell (1)
Rep. Jim Matheson (D-Utah)
Rep. John Lewis (1)
Rep. John Barrow (D-Ga.)
Colin Powell (1)
Not voting (3)
Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-Calif.) — her mother died recently
Lewis (D-Ga.) — his wife died this week
Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.)
Nation of crazies and the OPPORTUNITY BECAUSE OF SANDY & SANDY – The Newtown Massacre Requires a call to action – not just TV tears. So did Hurricane Sandy or the threat of Filibuster in the US Senate. We call for Senator John Kerry to pick up a leading position in the 2013 Senate rather then weaken the Senate by bolting to the White House. The “Order of Urgentcies” are THE FILIBUSTER BUST, THE GUN CONTROL LEGISLATION, and THE FIGHT CLIMATE CHANGE EFFECTS GLOBALLY. All of these start in the US Senate before they can effect activities of the US Department of State. President Obama – please listen to the majority of your citizens.
President Obama used his weekly Saturday address to repeat his impassioned but vague call to take “meaningful action to prevent more tragedies like this,” some gun control advocates said they hoped the shooting would be a catalyst for change.
“We genuinely believe that this one is different,” Dan Gross, the president of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, said in an interview on Saturday. “It’s different because no decent human being can look at a tragedy like this and not be outraged by the fact that it can happen in our nation. And because this time, we’re really poised to harness that outrage and create a focused and sustained outcry for change.”
But supporters of gun control sounded similar notes after other recent mass shootings — including one early last year in Tucson in which six people were killed and Representative Gabrielle Giffords was wounded — only to see little or no action. And as governors condemned the Connecticut shooting and expressed sympathy for its victims, their statements, from Democrats and Republicans alike, were more likely to mention prayer than gun laws.
That same day, Ohio lawmakers passed a bill that would allow guns in cars at the Statehouse garage. Earlier in the week, a federal appeals court struck down a ban on carrying concealed weapons in Illinois. And Florida officials announced that they would soon issue their millionth concealed weapon and firearm license — or, as a state news release put it, the program would be “One Million Strong.”
Exception was in Colorado, which had started a debate on gun laws earlier in the week. Gov. John W. Hickenlooper, a Democrat, had said on Wednesday that he believed “the time is right” for state lawmakers to consider new gun restrictions.
Mr. Hickenlooper, who had appeared cool to the idea immediately after the shooting at a movie theater in Aurora that killed 12 people and wounded dozens, said he hoped lawmakers would take up the issue in the next legislative session, when Democrats will control both houses.
“After the shootings happened in Aurora in July, everyone was just so empty that it didn’t feel appropriate to start talking about racing right into the sometimes contentious arguments of appropriate gun control or inappropriate gun control, depending on which side of the fence you’re on,” Mr. Hickenlooper said Saturday. He added that he hoped lawmakers would examine issues like public access to assault weapons, magazines that hold a great deal of ammunition and armor-piercing bullets, and how the state can help the mentally ill and keep them from doing harm.
With gun control efforts seen as unlikely in Washington, where the Republicans who control the House oppose them, the next frontiers of the debate may be in states like Michigan, where the bill that would allow people to carry concealed weapons in school is being weighed by Gov. Rick Snyder, a Republican.
Don Wotruba, the deputy director of the Michigan Association of School Boards, said the group was calling on the governor to veto the bill. “Putting children in closer proximity with more guns is a risk that shouldn’t be taken,” he said in an interview.
The massacre at the Sandy Hook Elementary School has finally grabbed the Nation’s attention – something that Hurricane Sandy did not do.
The Republicans blame their loss in the Presidential elections on the Hurricane and we find no evidence that this was the case – but we say that had the elections been held today instead, they might have been wiped out – just a Sandy closer to home.
Today’s Sunday TV programs all dealt with the woman that collected guns and made them accessible to her sick-genius son.
New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, on Meet the Press, said that he did put his money to work for candidates to Congress that were ready to take on the National Rifle Association. He explained that good laws and readiness to enforce them have reduced killings by guns in new York City to the point that it is now best in the country on the reduction of crime. He said it clearly – The Comforter in Chief is first The Commander in Chief and criticized the Preasident for not having put forward an actual plan to combat what is killing per year in the US more people then all the Vietnam War did in its time.
Bloomberg said that he decided to back President Obama only after he interviewed both – The President and Mr. Romney – and had the feeling that Obama knew what he has to do. But then, Obama did not go come up with a program to back up his rhetoric.
In New York City, if someone is found with a loaded concealed weapon – he gets an automatic 3.5 years.
THE PRESIDENT HAS IN HIS POWER TO ACT UPON WHAT HE TELLS THE PEOPLE THAT HE INTENDS TO DO. HE FIRST HAS TO TELL THE PEOPLE WHAT HE WANTS TO DO, AND THEN DO IT THROUGH EXECUTIVE ORDERS. My feeling was that Mayor Bloomberg, now an Independent, is ready to take the argument on a ride to the White House in 2016. He has the money and made it clear in public that he has the readiness. While the NRA’s only reason for existence in 2012 was to try to unseat President Obama, Bloombeg sees them weakened now to the point that an Obama who is not up for reelection anymore, ought to push Members of Congress to fight as if the NRA has no power over them – and indeed it does not anymore.
David Frum, who worked for President G.W. Bush said that when he grew up in Canada nobody there understood the US interest in weapons. Recently 300,000 people bought guns in one day in the US. 31 Senators for the Gun-lobby refused to speak on the Sunday programs – so they are stiff scared finally! This at a time that there is evidence that 40% of the guns sold in the US are sold at gun-shows or via the internet – no documents of any kind needed.
What is needed? For a starter something like a drivers’ license that requires tests of health (specifically mental health), a test of skills, and a minimum age. Also, clear understanding of spacial exclusions – like schools.
We would like to see Senator John Kerry take over the leadership in Congress and the fight against folks like Senator John McCain.
For first horn – President Obama ought to nominate Susan Rice for the Secretary of State position and fight for her; forget the leveling off on the taxation of the rich. The specter of a Middle East Bazaar bargaining between positions saying that rich is an income of one million/year or a quarter million/year are just unseemly. We would say that a special extra gun-control security tax would be fitting the present need as a clear add-on. We would then suggest that a similar add-on would qualify for climate-change effects as well because of the delayed action of dealing with the subject. Rich should be defined at the $150,000 level and taxed higher as the income is higher. Running a State is indeed the responsibility of those that were privileged to get a higher income as they got were they are mainly not by wins at the lottery, but because of the sweat of the great majority – the “others” that make up more then 95% of the Nation. PRESIDENT OBAMA IS NOW IN THIS POTENTIALLY UNCOMPROMISING POSITION BECAUSE OF THE CONFLUENCE OF OPPORTUNITIES THAT SHOULD NOT BE MISSED – HIS CLEAR INDEPENDENCE OF NEED TO BOW TO HIS DETRACTORS, AND THE DISASTERS OF SANDY & SANDY.
The Effort to set back US Democracy continues: The US Supreme Court loaded with Conservative Republican Judges may now gut the the 1965 Voting Rights Act, which has been crucial in combating efforts to disenfranchise minority voters and helped in the Obama election.
Justices to Revisit Voting Act in View of a Changing South
By ADAM LIPTAK
The New York Times – Published: November 9, 2012
WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court announced on Friday that it would take a fresh look at the constitutionality of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, one of the signature legacies of the civil rights movement.
Related in Opinion – Editorial: A Supreme Test on the Right to Vote (November 10, 2012)
Three years ago, the court signaled that part of the law may no longer be needed, and the law’s challengers said the re-election of the nation’s first black president is proof that the nation has moved beyond the racial divisions that gave rise to efforts to protect the integrity of elections in the South.
The law “is stuck in a Jim Crow-era time warp,” said Edward P. Blum, director of the Project on Fair Representation, a small legal foundation that helped organize the suit.
“In the midst of the recent assault on voter access, the Voting Rights Act is playing a pivotal role beating back discriminatory voting measures,” said Debo P. Adegbile, the acting president of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund.
The Supreme Court’s ruling on the law, expected by June, could reshape how elections are conducted.
The case concerns Section 5 of the law, which requires many state and local governments, mostly in the South, to obtain permission, or “preclearance,” from the Justice Department or a federal court before making changes that affect voting. Critics of the law call the preclearance requirement a unique federal intrusion on state sovereignty and a badge of shame for the affected jurisdictions that is no longer justified.
The preclearance requirement, originally set to expire in five years, was upheld by the Supreme Court in 1966 as a rational response to the often flagrantly lawless conduct of some Southern officials then.
Congress has repeatedly extended the requirement: for 5 years in 1970, 7 years in 1975, and 25 years in 1982. Congress renewed the act in 2006 after holding extensive hearings on the persistence of racial discrimination at the polls, again extending the preclearance requirement for 25 years.
But it made no changes to the list of jurisdictions covered by Section 5, relying instead on a formula based on historical practices and voting data from elections held decades ago. It applies to nine states — Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, Texas and Virginia — and to scores of counties and municipalities in other states.
Should the court rule that Congress was not entitled to rely on outdated data to decide which jurisdictions should be covered, lawmakers could in theory go back to the drawing board and re-enact the law using fresher information. In practice, given the political realities, a decision striking down the coverage formula would probably amount to the end of Section 5.
In May, a divided three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia rejected a challenge to the law filed by Shelby County, Ala. Judge David S. Tatel, writing for the majority, acknowledged that “the extraordinary federalism costs imposed by Section 5 raise substantial constitutional concerns,” and he added that the record compiled by Congress to justify the law’s renewal was “by no means unambiguous.”
“But Congress drew reasonable conclusions from the extensive evidence it gathered,” he went on. The constitutional amendments ratified after the Civil War, he said, “entrust Congress with ensuring that the right to vote — surely among the most important guarantees of political liberty in the Constitution — is not abridged on account of race. In this context, we owe much deference to the considered judgment of the people’s elected representatives.”
The dissenting member of the panel, Judge Stephen F. Williams, surveyed recent evidence concerning registration and turnout, the election of black officials, the use of federal election observers and suits under another part of the law.
Some of that evidence, he said, “suggests that the coverage formula completely lacks any rational connection to current levels of voter discrimination,” while other evidence indicates that the formula, “though not completely perverse, is a remarkably bad fit with Congress’s concerns.”
“Given the drastic remedy imposed on covered jurisdictions by Section 5,” he wrote, “I do not believe that such equivocal evidence can sustain the scheme.”
The Supreme Court has already once considered the constitutionality of the 2006 extension of the law in a 2009 decision, Northwest Austin Municipal Utility District Number One v. Holder. But it avoided answering the central question, and it seemed to give Congress an opportunity to make adjustments. Congress did not respond.
At the argument of the 2009 case, Justice Anthony M. Kennedy questioned whether the distinctions drawn in the 2006 law reflect contemporary realities.
“Congress has made a finding that the sovereignty of Georgia is less than the sovereign dignity of Ohio,” Justice Kennedy said. “The sovereignty of Alabama is less than the sovereign dignity of Michigan. And the governments in one are to be trusted less than the governments in the other.”
“No one questions the validity, the urgency, the essentiality of the Voting Rights Act,” he added. “The question is whether or not it should be continued with this differentiation between the states. And that is for Congress to show.”
In the end, the court, in an 8-to-1 decision, ducked the central question and ruled instead on a narrow statutory ground, saying the utility district in Austin, Tex., that had challenged the constitutionality of the law might be eligible to “bail out” from being covered by it. Still, Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., writing for the majority, was skeptical about the continued need for Section 5.
“The historic accomplishments of the Voting Rights Act are undeniable,” he wrote. But “things have changed in the South.
“Voter turnout and registration rates now approach parity,” he wrote. “Blatantly discriminatory evasions of federal decrees are rare. And minority candidates hold office at unprecedented levels.
“The statute’s coverage formula is based on data that is now more than 35 years old,” he added,“and there is considerable evidence that it fails to account for current political conditions.”
Having said all of that, and acknowledging that the court’s alternative ruling had stretched the text of the statute, Chief Justice Roberts said the court should avoid deciding hard constitutional questions when it could. “Whether conditions continue to justify such legislation is a difficult constitutional question we do not answer today,” he wrote.
On Friday, in agreeing to hear the case, Shelby County v. Holder, No. 12-96, the court indicated that it is prepared to provide an answer to the question it left open three years ago.
The New York Times Editorial
A Supreme Test on the Right to Vote
Published: November 9, 2012
The Supreme Court decided on Friday to review Section 5 of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, which has been crucial in combating efforts to disenfranchise minority voters. The justices should uphold the validity of the section, which requires nine states and parts of several others with deep histories of racial discrimination to get permission from the Justice Department or a federal court before making any changes to their voting rules.
The case, Shelby County v. Holder, was brought by an Alabama county, which contends that Section 5 intrudes unconstitutionally on the sovereign authority of states and that federal review of proposed voting changes, once needed to end legal segregation, is no longer required.
Nothing could be further from the truth. Just this year, Republican efforts to block the votes of minorities and the poor — which were rejected again and again by federal judges relying on the Voting Rights Act, including Section 5 — have made that utterly clear.
Judge John Bates of Federal District Court in the District of Columbia, rejected Shelby County’s challenge last year, noting that Congress, in renewing the section in 2006, found that “40 years has not been a sufficient amount of time to eliminate the vestiges of discrimination.”
In May, the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia upheld his ruling, saying that discrimination in voting is “one of the gravest evils that Congress can seek to redress” and that Congress’s painstaking research in its renewal of Section 5 (22 hearings and 15,000 pages of evidence) “deserves judicial deference.”
In another voting rights case in 2009, the Supreme Court said there were “serious constitutional questions” about whether Section 5 meets a current need. That comment left some legal experts with the impression that the court came close to striking down the provision. But the justices did not do so in that case, and they have even less reason to in this case. Overt discrimination clearly persists and remains pernicious in places like Shelby County.
The US knew already in March 2007, before the Obama Presidency, the exact extent of damage an incomig Hurricane will have on New York City. We found printed evidence that looks like a Sandy Blueprint. All this still in G. W. Bush Days of Oil.
That is amazing! while cleaning an old box of newspaper clippings I fell upon a March 11, 2007 article that came to my attention because of the following terrific predictive map, but when googling for the article I did not find the map anymore. Nevertheless, a secondary posting by an environmental group had the map – and it turns out the map is actually from the New York Office of Emergency Management that released it already on March 9, 2007, which triggered then the NYT Real Estate alarming article.
The above is full proof that already the G.W. Bush Administration knew that parts of New York City are exposed to a serious Hurricane and had no doubt that such a Hurricane will eventually happen. This caused obviously worries with the Real Estate specialists and the ubiquitous question became “HOW SAFE IS MY HOME?”
Please look at the map – The red area is just any Hurricane which in the context of the other colors means our recent guest – Sandy – that was just a category 1 Hurricane.
Then we have Categories 2 and 3 and we see that in some areas Sandy performed more evil then expected. In Manhattan Queens and Bronx she ventured clearly into areas of the 2 anticipation – specially around the shores o f the Jamaica Bay region – something the city was slow recognizing as the extent of the damage in these areas is made known only now – days after the actual disaster.
The following article is a complete indictment of the Federal Government and of the City of New York for having sat five years on material that was public knowledge already march 2007.
To top this, I also found an Andrew C. Revkin article of March 3, 2007 – “U.S. PREDICTING STEADY INCREASE FOR EMISSIONS. REPORT TO U.N. OVERDUE – EXPERTS CRITICAL.” This turns the subject from not just a US crime towards its citizens – but towards the world at large as well.
Please see: that includes the charts: –
March 11, 2007, On the front page of the Real Estate section of the New York Times, and accompanied with a terrific map yjat 100% predited the damage from Hurricane Sandy.
The Real Riddle of Changing Weather: How Safe Is My Home?
By TERI KARUSH ROGERS,
BY now it is no longer news that people are jiggling the planet’s thermostat.
One response is to go green: New Yorkers who were terrified into action by Al Gore’s movie, “An Inconvenient Truth,” are shaping up their lives and homes with a compulsion formerly reserved for the Atkins diet.
All this carbon cutting is a boon, and it certainly provides a moral high ground. But it fails to address one pesky truth: no matter how green New York City becomes, it remains hostage to huge amounts of heat-trapping carbon dioxide emissions already in the pipeline and from the future environmental transgressions of others, facts made clear in the bleak conclusions of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, released last month in Paris.
With no obvious savior in the wings, there is a growing urgency that global warming be understood at a local level, right down to the block, starting with: How could a rising sea level and pummeling storms affect the trillion dollars’ worth of property New Yorkers call home?
“It’s all pointing in a bad direction,” said Stuart Gaffin, an associate research scientist at the Center for Climate Systems Research at Columbia University. “There’s nothing good to encourage you to think we’re going to avoid long-term flooding events.”
Estimates provided by the center, and relied upon by New York City planners, predict that sea levels will creep up about five more inches by 2030 and another few inches by 2050. More dire estimates call for 12 inches or more between 2030 and 2080.
But while widespread permanent inundation — the sort vividly illustrated in Mr. Gore’s movie — is possible, it isn’t likely to occur in the city in our grandchildren’s lifetimes, or even their grandchildren’s. And an extra 5 to 10 inches of water over the next few decades won’t pose devastating problems for most of the city.
The bigger threat to property is the possibility of more frequent and increasingly vicious storms that could propel already encroaching waters onto the shore, could dump larger amounts of precipitation, and could lash glassy skyscrapers and crumbling tenements.
And even before that happens, real estate values in low-lying areas could erode as heightened awareness of global warming draws attention not only to long-term exposure to storms but also to near-term damage from severe storms that could happen regardless of any long-term warming trend — like the major hurricane that experts say is overdue in New York City.
One Manhattan real estate agent said the fear was already weighing on some clients’ minds. “After Katrina, they saw how ineffective the U.S. is at holding back water compared to some other places, and it has made some people concerned,” said the agent, Tom Hemann of Brown Harris Stevens, who sells downtown. He said last month’s gloomy report on global warming prompted four former clients who had bought downtown to voice concern about living in low-lying neighborhoods.
Mr. Hemann — who said he was confident that there would be solutions before there was real trouble — is nevertheless working with a couple in their 30s who are selling their loft on Elizabeth Street. They had planned to buy again in Lower Manhattan, but the February report “changed everything,” Mr. Hemann said. “Now they’re telling us that one of the main considerations is to make sure it’s not an area of low ground. They’re also considering getting a smaller place here and investing in a property in a city way above sea level.”
Most urban planning and environmental groups have just begun grappling with how to protect the city’s property from climate change. Last fall, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg created the Office of Long-Term Planning and Sustainability and named as its director Rohit Aggarwala, a 35-year-old former McKinsey & Company consultant with four degrees from Columbia.
As part of the new office’s broad mandate to address housing, transportation and other infrastructure needs over the next 25 years, it will coordinate the development of a climate adaptation strategy.
Drawing on other city agencies, including the Department of Environmental Protection and the Department of Buildings, the new long-term planning office has also met with more than 100 advocacy organizations, conducted community meetings in each borough and digested thousands of individual e-mail messages collected through its Web site, nyc.gov/planyc2030.
The early fruit of these efforts will be a plan — or at least a framework for one, to be announced by the mayor in early April — to tailor the city to its future 25 years hence.
But like Mr. Hemann’s clients, some New Yorkers are not willing to bet their nest eggs that the dice will roll their way.
Among insurers, all of whom factor climate change into their risk assessments, some like Allstate are already refusing to renew homeowners’ policies in the eight downstate counties (including metropolitan New York) most vulnerable to hurricanes and other major storms that could proliferate in a warming climate. (Allstate continues to insure individual co-op and condo units.)
“When you have trillion-dollar exposure, it doesn’t take much bad weather to cause extensive damage,” said L. James Valverde Jr., the vice president for economics and risk management at the Insurance Information Institute, a trade group based in Manhattan. “That’s really on the mind of the industry. When you’ve got this kind of concentration of people and property in a very important sector of the country, the potential for economic and insured loss really is great.”
Structures at particular risk from storm-related flooding include tenements, brownstones and any building with old masonry foundations, said Joe Tortorella, a vice president and a structural engineer at Robert Silman Associates in Manhattan and a member of the Disaster Preparedness Task Force of the American Institute of Architects.
Mr. Tortorella noted that much of the West Village and Lower Manhattan — neighborhoods whose low elevation renders them vulnerable to flooding — is on a precarious perch. “It’s like the finest sand you can find, so that even if you could put it on a table, you can’t mound it up in a pile,” he said.
In a hurricane or severe northeaster, Mr. Tortorella said, “if the water moves fast enough and recedes fast enough, there could be scouring like a tide that takes sand with it on the beach. As the water recedes, it pulls silt out and could undermine the building. It could be a disaster of epic proportions in New York for the smaller buildings.”
Unlike New Orleans, where water from Hurricane Katrina was trapped in the city’s tidal basin, a hurricane storm surge in New York City would most likely retreat after a single tidal cycle, except for the water pooled underground, where it could disable power lines, drown the subway system and choke basements, among other things. Standing water in basements could breed mold, rendering entire buildings uninhabitable.
And flooding isn’t an issue just with hurricanes. Though climate models are at odds with one another, some scientists expect the number of northeasters to increase in the next several decades, along with the amount of rain they unleash. While the storms won’t push rivers and oceans as far onto land as hurricanes could, northeasters cover more territory and linger far longer, over several tidal cycles.
In a city increasingly fashioned of glass, there are also winds to consider. Category 3 hurricanes generate sustained winds of 111 to 130 miles per hour, and Category 4 hurricanes blow at 131 to 155 m.p.h. But the city’s building code requires that windows in even the newest buildings withstand winds of just 110 miles an hour.
“Glass is a hot thing in New York City,” Mr. Tortorella said. “There’s a lot of glass structures, and you get more aggressive with what you can do with glass — actually using it for structure as opposed to just a skin on the building. The biggest problem with hurricanes is a 2-by-4 or signage from another building that falls off and blows through the glass and creates interior suction — causing the windows to blow out, the walls to blow out.”
Stronger windows could keep the winds at bay, but what about the water?
“There’s not going to be anything easy or cheap,” said Mr. Gaffin of the climate research center at Columbia. “There’s not going to be a magic silver bullet.”
One long-term but unappetizing option is to ring the city with enormous concrete sea walls. In Manhattan, this would require a wall several dozen feet high and wide enough to fit a four-lane highway on top. The higher a sea wall or levee is, the broader it has to be, and in New York City, which is interlaced with rivers, such barriers would encroach on some of the priciest real estate in the world.
(In the Netherlands, in some otherwise picturesque villages guarded by sea walls, it is possible to hear the waves crashing, see the seagulls circling and smell the salt air but never see the ocean.)
Somewhat more palatable though infinitely more complex and expensive — and politically explosive, since some waterfront acreage would not be protected — is the possibility of erecting a series of storm-surge barriers in local waterways.
“What we’re talking about is a ring of protection for metro New York that would require four large barriers, like removable dam structures, that could block off the ocean when needed,” said Malcolm James Bowman, a professor of oceanography at the Marine Sciences Research Center at the State University at Stony Brook, N.Y., and the leader of the storm-surge group there that is studying ways to protect metropolitan New York and Long Island.
“You’d need four,” he said. “One close under the Verrazano Bridge. One in Perth Amboy behind Staten Island, because the water would leak around the back into the harbor from the ocean. A third from Long Island Sound in the upper East River, perhaps between the Whitestone and Throgs Neck Bridges. And then to protect Jamaica Bay and Kennedy Airport, you would need a fourth one across the Rockaway Inlet, but because the ground is low there, you would also need a sea wall running along the beach and up around Kennedy Airport.”
Such barriers, including lock systems to allow ships to pass through, would cost perhaps $10 billion each and take 5 to 10 years to construct. And that’s not including the 30- or 40-year prelude of engineering studies, debate, financing and court challenges.
“If you look at the European experience,” said Professor Bowman, referring to surge barriers built or under construction in the Netherlands, London and Venice, “it took up to 45 years in some cases, after a major catastrophe, before the barriers were built.”
Not that the surge barriers would be a panacea. Besides the ecological side effects like erosion, the barriers wouldn’t prevent wind damage and would fail to protect some areas, including the southern coast of Long Island. (There, said Professor Bowman, looking several decades ahead, “I think people will stay as long as they can and then slowly evacuate if it gets really bad.”)
Shorter-term fixes include mandating a costly round of retrofitting, intelligent land-use planning and reining in coastal development, or at least requiring wider buffer areas to absorb huge storm surges capped by breaking waves.
And then there’s the building code.
Even the city’s newest gleaming towers were constructed under 40-year-old rules whose own foundations seem rickety when it comes to withstanding — or even contemplating — damage from severe storms.
With regard to flooding, the building code follows Federal Emergency Management Agency regulations, which set forth a bare-minimum standard for construction in flood zones and rely on the emergency agency’s conservative flood maps drawn in 1983. Roughly translated, the maps identify areas that might be flooded by a Category 2 or 3 hurricane; in some places around New York City, the zones correspond to a mere Category 1 hurricane, with winds of 74 to 95 m.p.h.
Besides excluding areas that could be inundated by a severe hurricane, the flood zones are based on purely historical data and thus do not factor in climate change. That means that new construction may be inadequate to withstand the rigors of climate change 30, 40 or 50 years from now or the hurricane that could hit at any time.
Even the emergency agency’s newest maps, scheduled to go into use this fall — which show slightly enlarged flood zones on the south shores of Staten Island and Queens, for example; along the Hudson River in Lower Manhattan; and in Hunts Point in the Bronx — are still based only on historical data. (The new maps can be viewed online on the Buildings Department Web site: gis.nyc.gov/dob/fm/index.htm.)
“The future is just too theoretical, and FEMA maps have to tell people what has happened in the past,” said Paul Weberg, a senior engineer in the agency’s office that covers New York State. “We need something to hang our hat on.”
(Mr. Weberg himself made sure to buy a home in one of the highest neighborhoods on Staten Island. “As much as I like the water, I wasn’t going to buy a place south of Hylan Boulevard,” he said, referring to the island’s southern coastline.)
For New York planners, there are other options. “If there is a concern within a city or state about long-range planning or global warming,” Mr. Weberg said, “they can always go above our regulations. We go by minimum regulations. We are almost a compromise between environmentalists and builders.”
The city’s Buildings Department has been working to modernize its code for the last three years and expects to present a plan this spring.
One section will revise the criteria for deciding how much force a window should withstand. With regard to flooding, the focus will be on shoring up a small group of critical buildings — hospitals, firehouses and the like — and only those built within identified flood zones.
But if you believe that flood zones will expand along with the frequency of storms, these zones will be inadequate.
So who’s looking out for the rest of the city?
“I do a lot of work in the West Village in new construction, and the talk of storm surges is not even on the lips of anyone,” Mr. Tortorella said. “What’s in the code is flood zones that you have to obey, and you deal with that but nothing more.”
Homeowners curious about how vulnerable they are to flooding may not find even the newest FEMA maps especially useful. Besides failing to anticipate the effects of climate change, the flood zones merely calculate odds (again, based on historical data) that a particular area will be flooded. So while it may not seem very alarming that your home (or prospective home) is in a 100-year flood zone, the designation does not mean a flood will occur only once in 100 years. Instead, it means that a flood has a 26 percent chance of occurring in any 30-year period.
An arguably more useful gauge is the hurricane evacuation map that can be downloaded at the city’s Office of Emergency Management Web site, nyc.gov/html/oem/html/ready/hurricane_guide.shtml.
Dispensing with probabilities, it illustrates the areas expected to be affected by hurricane storm surges based on today’s sea levels — block by block and neighborhood by neighborhood. The agency itself takes the threat quite seriously: it not only redrew its disaster plan after Katrina, but will soon solicit designs for an urban alternative to the FEMA trailer — pods to shelter thousands of New Yorkers displaced by a disaster.
Along with global-warming talk, the hurricane map has surfaced often enough in the media to make at least some home buyers and owners aware of the potential risk. But if Lower Manhattan is an example, most people even in low-lying areas aren’t thinking about it too much.
Paddington M. Zwigard, an avid environmentalist and a downtown real estate broker with Brown Harris Stevens, just sold her $4.15 million “green” penthouse on Chambers Street between Hudson and Greenwich Streets. Though she was long aware that its location near the river made it vulnerable to flooding — either from a hurricane or a long-term rise in sea levels — she was willing to stomach the risk to live downtown and near the river.
When she decided to sell, she thought the apartment’s location would prompt at least some questions from buyers, though when it didn’t, she suspected she knew why.
“I’ve lived downtown for 20 years, and there’s definitely a new wave of TriBeCans — younger, self-absorbed, mass-materialist consumers who are really not aware of anything outside their whatever,” Ms. Zwigard said.
She speculates that the extensive condo development has attracted a certain type of buyer: wealthier, more mobile and disinclined to look more than a few years into his or her homeowning future. Ms. Zwigard is planning to buy other apartments downtown, renovate them and sell them — betting, in effect, on others’ short-sightedness.
Wayne Tusa, a former board member of the New York chapter of the United States Green Building Council, echoed that thought. “People generally think about what’s in their face today,” he said. “You’re not thinking: ‘Gee whiz, what will happen 30 years from now? Will the value suddenly go poof because my basement is flooded three times a week?’ ”
Mr. Tusa, who lives at the edge of a 100-year flood plain, on East 90th Street between First and Second Avenues, is looking for a parking garage on higher ground. He is also considering buying a second home in the Catskills to get away from the coast.
One downtown broker, Jon Phillips, a vice president of Halstead Property, said his buyers don’t worry because they reason that “the safest place to hide is in a bank.” In other words, with so much capital at risk, if New York City flounders, they believe somebody will do something before it’s too late.
What if somebody doesn’t? Is New York one catastrophic hurricane — or a few awful northeasters — away from a huge shift in ownership?
“There are several horror stories to be written,” Mr. Tusa said.
“How does New York City survive if 20 percent of it is flooded and nothing works? What if we lose one airport, or what if the subway system doesn’t work anymore? What if the waste-water treatment systems don’t work anymore? What if 50 percent of the time there’s waves on the F.D.R.? New York City would not be habitable —that’s really the worst-case scenario. And before that begins to happen, people will make different choices like, ‘Should I move my office?’ ”
But some thoughtful voices are being heard. “The fact that the city has started raising the question now is to their credit,” said Mark E. Ginsberg, a partner in Curtis & Ginsberg Architects in Manhattan and a leader of New York New Visions, a coalition of architecture, planning and design organizations concerned with rebuilding Lower Manhattan. “Do we deal with it before something bad happens, or as is often the case in human nature, do we deal with it after something bad happens? Look what happened to New Orleans.”
BY now it is no longer news that people are jiggling the planet’s thermostat.
One response is to go green: New Yorkers who were terrified into action by Al Gore’s movie, “An Inconvenient Truth,” are shaping up their lives and homes with a compulsion formerly reserved for the Atkins diet.
All this carbon cutting is a boon, and it certainly provides a moral high ground. But it fails to address one pesky truth: no matter how green New York City becomes, it remains hostage to huge amounts of heat-trapping carbon dioxide emissions already in the pipeline and from the future environmental transgressions of others, facts made clear in the bleak conclusions of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, released last month in Paris.
With no obvious savior in the wings, there is a growing urgency that global warming be understood at a local level, right down to the block, starting with: How could a rising sea level and …
Naturally – Uri Avnery of Israel gives us the best review of the ongoing US Presidential elections. Specifically he argues that Foreign Policy is too complicated for the politicians who pander to their ignorant electorate.
DROUGHT IN TEXAS.
That was some 50 years ago. Since than, nothing much has changed. The elections in the US in 11 days are more important to us than our own elections in three months.
I HAD to stay awake till 3 am again to watch the final presidential debate live. I was afraid that I would doze off, but I did not. On the contrary.
When two chess players are engaged in a game, there is often a person – we call him a “kibitzer” – standing behind one of them, trying to give him unsolicited advice. During the debates, I do the same. In my imagination, I stand behind Barack Obama and think about the right answer to Romney, before Obama himself opens his mouth.
I must admit that on some occasions during this debate, his answers were much better than mine. For example, I did not think up a stinging reply to Romney’s contention that the US now has less warships then it had a hundred years ago. Obama’s dry reply – that the US army now has fewer horses, too – was sheer genius. The more so since he could not have prepared it. Who could have foreseen such a dumb remark?
Also, when Romney slammed Obama for skipping Israel on his first Middle East tour as president. How to counter such a factual challenge – especially with thousands of Jewish pensioners in Florida listening to every word?
Obama hit the right note. Remarking that Romney had visited with an entourage of donors and fund-raisers (without naming Sheldon Adelson and the other Jewish donors), he reminded us that as a candidate he went instead to Yad Vashem, to see for himself the evil done to the Jews. Touche.
On a few occasions, I thought I had a better answer. For example, when Romney tried to explain away his comment that Russia was the most important “geo-political foe” of the US, I would have reacted with “Excuse my ignorance, governor, but what does ‘geo-political’ mean?” In his context, it was a highfalutin but meaningless phrase.
(“Geo-politics” is not just a juxtaposition of geography and politics. It is a world-view propagated by the German professor Hans Haushofer and others and adopted by Adolf Hitler as a rationale for his plan to create Lebensraum for Germans by annihilating or driving out the population of Eastern Europe.)
I would have talked much more about the wars, Nixon’s Vietnam, the two Bushes’ Iraq, the second Bush’s Afghanistan. I noticed that Obama did not mention that he had been against the Iraq war right from the beginning. He must have been advised not to.
ONE DID not have to be an expert to notice that Romney did not present original ideas of his own. He parroted Obama’s positions, changing a few words here and there.
Earlier in the campaign, during the primaries, it did not look like that. Clamoring for the votes of the right-wing base, he was about to bomb Iran, provoke China, battle Islamists of all shades, perhaps resurrect Osama Bin Laden in order to kill him again. Nothing of the sort this time. Only a meek “I agree with the President”.
Why? Because he was told that the American people had had enough of the Bush Wars. They don’t want any more. Not in Afghanistan, and certainly not in Iran. Wars cost a lot of money. And people even get killed.
Perhaps Romney decided in advance that it was enough for him to avoid looking like an ignoramus on foreign affairs, since the main battleground was in the economic sphere, where he can hope to look more convincing than Obama. So he played it safe. “I agree with the President…”
THE WHOLE concept of a presidential debate on foreign affairs is, of course, nonsensical. World affairs are far too complicated, the nuances far too subtle, to be dealt with in this rough way. It would be like performing a kidney operation with an ax.
One could easily get the impression that the world is an American golf course, in which the US can knock the peoples around like balls, and the only question is which player has the more skill and selects the best club. The will of the peoples themselves is quite irrelevant. What are the feelings of the Chinese, the Pakistanis, the Egyptians? Who cares?!
I am not sure that most of the American viewers could find Tunis on the map. So it makes no sense to argue about the forces at work there, make distinctions between Salafists and Muslim Brothers, preferring these or those. All in four minutes.
For Romney, obviously, all Muslims are the same. Islamophobia is the order of the day, and Romney openly pandered to it. As I have pointed out before, Islamophobia is nothing but the fashionable modern cousin of good old anti-Semitism, seeping from the same sewers of the collective unconscious, exploiting the same old prejudices, transferring to the Muslims all the hatred once directed towards the Jews.
Many Jews, of course, especially the elderly in the nursing homes in warm Florida, are relieved to see the Goyim turn on other victims. And since the new victims happen also to be the foes of beloved Israel, all the better. Romney clearly believed that pouring his bile on “Islamists” was the easiest way to garner Jewish votes.
Trying hard to look tougher than Obama, Romney did, after all, come up with an original idea: provide the Syrian insurgents with “heavy arms”. What does that mean? Artillery? Drones? Missiles? And if so, to whom? To the Good Guys, of course. And take care that they do not fall into the hands of the Bad Guys.
What a brilliant idea. But please, who are the Good Guys and who the Baddies? Nobody else seems to know. Least of all the CIA or the Mossad. Dozens of Syrian factions are at work – regional, confessional, ideological. All want to kill Assad. So who will get the cannons?
All this made any serious discussion about the Middle East, now a region of infinite variations and nuances, quite impossible. Obama, who knows a lot more about our problems than his adversary, found it wise to play the simpleton and utter nothing but the most fatuous platitudes. Anything else – for example a plan for Israeli-Palestinian peace, God forbid, could have offended the dear inhabitants of the one old people’s home which may change the outcome in Florida.
ANY SERIOUS Arab or Israeli should have been insulted by the way our region was treated in this debate by the two men, one of whom will soon be our lord and master.
Israel was mentioned in the debate 34 times – 33 times more than Europe, 30 times more than Latin America, five times more than Afghanistan, four times more than China. Only Iran was mentioned more often – 45 times – but in the context of the danger it poses to Israel.
Israel is our most important ally in the region (or in the world?) We shall defend it to the hilt. We shall provide it with all the arms it needs (plus those it doesn’t need).
Wonderful. Just wonderful. But which Israel, exactly? The Israel of the endless occupation? Of the unlimited expansion of settlements? Of the total denial of Palestinian rights? Of the rain of new anti-democratic laws?
Or a different, liberal and democratic Israel, an Israel of equality for all its citizens, an Israel that pursues peace and recognizes Palestinian statehood?
But not only what was parroted was interesting, but also what was left unsaid. No automatic backing of an Israeli attack on Iran. No war on Iran at all, until hell freezes over. No repetition of Romney’s earlier declaration that he would move the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. No pardon for the Israeli spy Jonathan Pollard.
And, most importantly: no effort at all to use the immense potential power of the US and its European allies to bring about Israel-Palestine peace, by imposing the Two-State solution that everybody agrees is the only viable settlement. No mention of the Arab peace initiative still offered by 23 Arab countries, Islamists and all.
China, the new emerging world power, was treated with something close to disdain. They must be told how to behave. They must do this or that, stop manipulating their currency, send the jobs back to America.
But why should the Chinese take any notice when China controls the US national debt? No matter, they’ll have to do what America wants. Washington locuta, causa finita. (“Rome has spoken, the case is closed,” as Catholics used to say, way back before the sex scandals.)
UNSERIOUS AS the debate was, it showed up a very serious problem.
The French used to say that war is too serious to leave to the generals. World politics are certainly too serious to leave to the politicians. Politicians are elected by the people – and the people have no idea.
It was obvious that both contenders avoided any specifics that would have demanded even the slightest knowledge from the listeners. 1.5 billion plus Muslims were considered to fall into just two categories – “moderates” and “Islamists”. Israel is one bloc, no differentiation. What do viewers know about 3000 years of Persian civilization? True, Romney knew – rather surprisingly – what or where Mali is. Most viewers surely didn’t.
Yet these very same viewers must now finally decide who will be the leader of the world’s greatest military power, with a huge impact on everyone else.
Winston Churchill memorably described democracy as “the worst form of government, except for all the other forms that have been tried from time to time.”
This debate could serve as evidence.
November 1, 2012 – Sit back, see the ugly, think of the potential of Hurricane Sandy as a mind opener and economic crutch, ask yourself and America QUO VADIS? But please, do not assume yet that the war against anti-Darwinism was won already.
All the voters who are aware of Romney’s fact-mangling, but vote for him anyway, must ask themselves this question:
WHAT FOLLOWS IS ALL FROM TODAY’S NEW YORK TIMES: THERE IS NO NEWS EXCEPT SANDY NEWS AND COMMENTS.
By NICHOLAS D. KRISTOF
Climate change has virtually been ignored in this presidential campaign, but Sandy brought it front and center.
By CHARLES M. BLOW
A significant number of voters who admit that they don’t trust Mitt Romney say that they’re going to vote for him anyway. What gives?
By GAIL COLLINS
Ohio has it all: a Real Recovery Road Rally, tons of TV ads and a problem with political lawn signs. People, if this election is going to come down to one group, let it be Ohioans.
Mitt Romney can’t admit that the auto bailout helped Detroit and America, so instead he invents problems with it.
Could surge barriers be a bargain against future eruptions of nature?
By CATHERINE RAMPELL and SHAILA DEWAN
Hurricane damage will help construction companies and the workers they plan to hire, many of whom have been idled and ailing from the housing bust for nearly half a decade.
By MARY WILLIAMS WALSH and SHAILA DEWAN
Homeowners who suffered wind and storm damage this week will get financial relief from rulings that insurers must treat Sandy as a tropical storm and not a hurricane.
By JAMES BARRON
New York faced horror in waterlogged neighborhoods, where rescuers pulled bodies from wreckage, and exasperation elsewhere as more than 3.75 million people entered a third day without electricity.
Senator Bernie Sanders, Senate Candidate Elizabeth Warren tell America that it is the Corporate CEOs that do not pay taxes and exported the jobs overseas that created the Financial Crisis of 2008. They should not lecture shamelessly now.
Reader Supported News
Sen. Bernie Sanders: Tax Dodgers on Wall Street Have No Shame.
By Sen. Bernie Sanders, Reader Supported News
25 October 12
en. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) today said corporate leaders should look in the mirror before lecturing the American people on ways to tackle the deficit.
The senator’s comments came after the heads of more than 80 big companies issued a statement on deficit reduction. Sanders released a report detailing how many of the companies headed by the same CEOs have avoided taxes, sent American jobs overseas and took taxpayer bailouts. Click here for the full report.
“There really is no shame,” Sanders said. “The Wall Street leaders whose recklessness and illegal behavior caused this terrible recession are now lecturing the American people on the need for courage to deal with the nation’s finances and deficit crisis. Before telling us why we should cut Social Security, Medicare and other vitally important programs, these CEOs might want to take a hard look at their responsibility for causing the deficit and this terrible recession.
“Our Wall Street friends might also want to show some courage of their own by suggesting that the wealthiest people in this country, like them, start paying their fair share of taxes. They might work to end the outrageous corporate loopholes, tax havens and outsourcing provisions that their lobbyists have littered throughout the tax code – contributing greatly to our deficit,” Sanders added.
Many of the CEOs who signed the deficit-reduction letter run corporations that evaded, in total, at least $34.5 billion in taxes by setting up more than 600 subsidiaries in the Cayman Islands and other offshore tax havens since 2008. As a result, at least a dozen of the companies avoided paying any federal income taxes in recent years, and even received more than $6.4 billion in tax refunds from the IRS since 2008.
Several of the companies received a total taxpayer bailout of more than $2.5 trillion from the Federal Reserve and the Treasury Department.
Many of the companies also have outsourced hundreds of thousands of American jobs to China and other low wage countries, forcing their workers to rely on unemployment insurance and other federal benefits.
“In other words,” Sanders said, “these are some of the same people who have significantly caused the deficit to explode over the last four years.”
Sanders, a member of the Senate Budget Committee, said the $16 trillion national debt is a serious issue. He has proposed specific ways to lower deficits. For details, click here.
A Progressive Deficit Reduction Plan
Elizabeth Warren on the Man Made Financial Crisis
By Charles Pierce, Esquire Magazine
25 October 12
ast weekend was a good one for Elizabeth Warren, the Democratic candidate for the U.S. Senate here in Massachusetts. She’d managed to crack open a slim, but noticable, lead over incumbent Scott Brown, who seemed bound and determined to demolish his own personal favorability rating and, as a result, had slipped some three to five points behind Warren, depending on which poll you read. Senator Al Franken came to a labor event in Worcester last Thursday to stump for Warren, and then she appeared with a number of other Democratic candidates, including congressional candidate Joe Kennedy, at the Laborer’s Hall in Hopkinton, which sits in the middle of a complex of playing fields and meeting halls that various unions tucked together behind the pines years ago as kind of a general headquarters.
In fact, it is the active involvement of organized labor, which was not there in 2010 when Brown upset Martha Coakley to take over the seat held for five decades by Edward Kennedy, that has,as we’ve seen in the course of following the race on The Politics Blog, energized Warren’s campaign in the last weeks before the election. Boston mayor Thomas Menino has swung a particularly heavy bat, both with his influence within the labor community, and with this own personal political operation as well. As we rode between the Laborer’s Hall and the next event on her campaign schedule Saturday afternoon, Warren talked about the events that first brought her to public prominence – the financial collapse of 2008, the Wall Street chicanery behind it, and the ongoing repercussions that are so much a part of her basic campaign message. Oh, and the former governor up here.
CHARLES P. PIERCE: How did we get back again to too big to fail? How did that happen?
ELIZABETH WARREN: I think it happened a couple of different ways. One of them was – and I think there was a miscalculation back in 2008, 2009 – a lot of people, at least I subscribed to it, a lot of people thought, Okay, we have 30 years of trying deregulation and to cut taxes and it has brought us to the biggest financial crisis since the great depression. So I thought what would happen over the next 50 years, we’d spend one year rewriting the financial rules and we’d be tough on the banks – as a country, we would be. And then the next 50 years, we’d concentrate on rebuilding America’s working families, creating opportunity and a better middle class, creating these opportunities for kids to rise out of poverty for all of our children to be included, because that’s what we do. I just truly believe that. I looked at that in 2008, 2009 and said, We tried the experiment…. Well, it just seemed so obvious to me! We had tried it, right? Coming out of the Great Depression to basically late ’70s, early 1980s, just almost every piece of legislation that passed through Congress was through the filter of: Does it strengthen the middle class? Does it create more opportunities for working families? And that was the litmus test. That switches in the early ’80s, when the Republican party says the role of government is to protect those who’ve already made it, let them keep more of the money, let them keep more power. And so we tried that for 30 years and ended up with an economy that almost ran over a cliff and crashed into the stone age.
So the deregulation starts. We start pulling the threads out of the regulatory fabric and we actually do it in two ways: one is to repeal certain regulation, Glass-Steagall is amended multiple times before it is finally repealed completely in 1999. As new financial products, as new innovations come along, there’s no regulation. So the regulatory fabric, you know, they just pull one thread out after another. And what happens? So there’s the savings and loan crisis at the end of the ’80s. They keep pulling the regulatory threads out, at the end of the ’90s, there’s long-term capital management, remember? Showed us that the whole world is stitched together economically. They keep pulling the regulatory threads out and then the next big crash is 2008.
This was not a natural disaster. The crash of 2008 was manmade. And that’s important because it has both halves in it. If we’re not careful, we create more problems,and it also means though it’s within our capacity to prevent this from happening. There were no financial crashes between the 1930s and the late 1980s until the deregulation started again. The relevance of this is what I think is so interesting about this: you know, there was a financial panic. They used to call it “panic,” roughly about every 15 years from the 1790s forward, and it was the insight in the 1930s that we can do better than this. We can put some basic rules of the market: transparency, a level playing field, which were the SEC rules; the FDIC, you know, to make it safe to put money in banks. And we bought 50 years of economic peace. But it’s always the case that the financial institutions, they’re always looking for the chink in the wall. They want everyone else to follow the rules, but, you know: Can they get one little advantage? Can they get one little exception?
(Warren became a national celebrity when she was called in to assess the damage, and to conduct oversight of the Troubled Assets Relief Program, aka TARP, aka The Really Big Bank Bailout. It was in that capacity that she first ran up against the nexus of financial and political power that had camouflaged the ongoing structural thievery of the financial-services economy.)
CPP: I just remember watching this thing on NBC’s evening news one night and the guy saying the entire United States financial system is on the brink, and I say, What?
EW: Yeah. Exactly.
CPP: But if what you’re saying is true, the crisis just exploded on the general public and then it was explained in gobbledygook.
EW: And then it was explained in gobbledygook, which is a way of saying: Be helpless. Leave it to a handful of insiders to solve the problem. We’ll take care of this, you know, and the rest of you relax. Just give us seven hundred billion dollars. But that was the point – that was the battle of whether it’s gonna be all about the experts and they’re going to go behind closed doors. I mean that metaphorically, but that’s really what was happening. How much crazy language and it makes no sense and it’s gobbledygook – that’s a way of telling everybody else: Be helpless.. And that means no accountability. Nobody’s accountable, you know? And then the metaphors, you know: This is like a big hurricane.
I was in Washington about 12 minutes before I figured out, Wait a minute, the financial rules will be rewritten following this crisis, so this is a chance, you know? The door is gonna open. I don’t know how wide or how long, but let’s get in. So, everybody’s talking about, in Washington, the top of the heap, the top of the pyramid, the top of the mountain, capital-reserve requirements for the nine largest financial institutions of the Commodities Futures Trading Commission, and I’m waiving my hands saying, But the market is broken at the family level, at the household level. Remember, this crisis started one lousy mortgage at a time. So if the so-called experts just go off and fix the top and don’t do anything about what’s happening in the consumer credit market, which had changed from a market where they looked at you and said, Well, you have a credit history, you’ve lived somewhere, I can afford to lend you this much money, you’re probably going to pay it back, to a market that was based – think about this, several of the largest financial institutions in this country had a profit model based on tricking their customers.
CPP: Would you have voted for the bailout if you were in the Senate?
EW: You know, without restrictions, no. So I’m going to put it this way: It was clear something had to be done. The part that I was just beside myself over was the lack of accountability. I mean accountability in every meaning of that word: how the money would be given out, whether or not the banks would be accountable for it. Go back and look at that first report, because that’s what that first report is about. I could not believe that, that the treasurer of the United States government was shoveling money out the door to the nine largest financial institutions on a no-questions-asked basis…. And in some ways it was worse than that, because it not only had no restrictions to speak of, it had no restrictions in the statute – it was a bait-and-switch. Do you remember what TARP stood for? It was to buy up mortgages – bad mortgages – and stabilize the system by buying those mortgages and riding them down. Remember how much of that happened? Pretty much nothing…. Not much was the answer, and it was much slower and much later. Instead, Paulson started pushing that money out the door to the financial institutions. So, first report, I would describe as: What’s going on here? The second report, I would describe as Paulson – as calling Paulson out for not making that clear. And then, third report: We had brought in our own economic team to look at this – the third report was showing how, by using the same terms for all nine of the big financial institutions, what they were really doing was bailing out the four in the most trouble, the one that was in the most trouble and then the next three or four and using the rest of them for camouflage for how bad the financial system was.
Now think about this. They all got it on the same terms. Why do you do that? It was to provide a bigger subsidy for the financial institutions that were in the most trouble and to provide camouflage so no one noticed. And that was our third report, and we raised holy hell.
(Not long before this particular afternoon, Warren had received the endorsement of Sheila Bair, the Republican who’d been chairman of the FDIC through the entire financial crisis. At one point, Bair, Warren, and Mary Schapiro, the chairperson of the Securities and Exchange Commission at the time, shared the cover of Time. Bair also had come to Massachusetts to campaign for Warren.)
EW: You’re gonna laugh. Adam was driving us, and, what was it you described it as, Adam? We were dishing on the other – we sat in the back seat, Shelia and I did, dishing on the other people in the financial system. But the thing is, it’s not just like we’re sitting around like a bunch of old people saying, Back in the day…. This is still going on. The financial system is still at risk and here’s what’s interesting: The ball hasn’t stopped rolling on financial reform. Watch what you wish for, right? So Dodd-Frank is this big complex bill, but, as you know, part of the goal is to bring these large financial institutions to heel, and the financial-services industry tries to roll that out, tries to create as many loopholes as it can. The Volcker rule as been much delayed and complicated and so on, but what it means it is it has kept open the question of what the new regulation’s look like.
Then, Dan Tarullo stepped out last week. Dan Tarullo is one of the governors of the Federal Reserve, and Turullo stepped out and said maybe we should consider capping the size of financial institutions, and he had a new way to do it, rather than doing it on deposits, which was the old way of doing it. He wanted to do it on liabilities, but Tarullo put back in play the idea of the break up of the big banks. That’s gonna cause a few hearts to skip a beat on Wall Street.
(Which is pretty much how she became a candidate, to try and control the uncontrollable and unaccountable forces of financial power. And, thus, she became a politician, and, by now, she’s a pretty good one. “Six weeks ago,” said an old political strategist at her Worcester event, “I wouldn’t have given her a chance. Now, I’d say she’s probably the favorite.” She’s also running so that nobody forgets how close we really came to losing it all.)
EW: I cannot believe that. The first time I saw the videotape of Mitt Romney saying, On the first day of his presidency…, I’m not kidding you, my mouth fell open. I thought, Wait a minute, this guy, four years after the greatest crash since the Great Depression, this guy is running for office? On embracing the rule that lead to the biggest financial crash since the Great Depression! Hello?
And that’s the thing that makes it so remarkable about what the Republicans are saying. They say they want to cut taxes and reduce regulation, right? Mitt Romney says on the very first day, what will he do? He will get rid of all the Dodd-Frank regulations, and that’s a way of saying that the Republican plan is to let the rich and powerful get richer and more powerful and somehow – that that will be America’s future and that’s their vision for America’s future. I just… I don’t know how we do anything other than get up and fight.
Charlie has been a working journalist since 1976. He is the author of four books, most recently “Idiot America.” He lives near Boston with his wife but no longer his three children.