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Posted on on November 4th, 2012
by Pincas Jawetz (

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 3, 2007
Comparing the Impact of Various Greenhouse Gas Policies
Which show that while Senators Sanders and Boxer, as well as Senators McCain and Lieberman (yes the same Republican John McCain who in 2008 competed against President Obama for the Presidency) tried to come up with a solution, it was the Senator from Fossil Fuels Mr. Bingaman who sat on top of the Energy Committee, and the Bush Administration at large, who preferred to do nothing.

Kristen A. Hellmer, a spokeswoman for the White House on environmental matters  said: “The Climate Action Report will show that the president’s portfolio of actions addressing climate change and his unparalleled financial commitments are working.” But when shown the report, an assortment of experts on climate trends and policy described the projected emissions as unacceptable given the rising evidence of risks from unabated global warming.

Mr. Mitt Romney now laughs at President Obama for having promised to slow the rise of the Ocean – unfortunately – something Obama failed to do in his first four years – but the Romney laugh disqualifies him from white House tennentcy.



March 9, 2007
New York Office of Emergency Management

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 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,

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:

“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,

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 …


Posted on on November 2nd, 2012
by Pincas Jawetz (


Uri Avnery’s Column


EVERYBODY IN Israel knows this story. When Levy Eshkol was Prime Minister, his assistants rushed up to him in panic: “Levy, there is a drought!”

“In Texas?” Eshkol asked anxiously.

“No, in Israel!” they said.

“Then it doesn’t matter,” Eshkol assured them. “We can always get all the wheat we need from the Americans.”

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.


Posted on on November 1st, 2012
by Pincas Jawetz (

All the voters who are aware of Romney’s fact-mangling, but vote for him anyway, must ask themselves this question:
are they granting him the liberty to lie?


Op-Ed Columnist

Will Climate Get Some Respect Now?


Climate change has virtually been ignored in this presidential campaign, but Sandy brought it front and center.


Campaign Stops

Liberty to Lie


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?


Op-Ed Columnist

Guess Who It’s All Up To?


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.



Romney Versus the Automakers

Mitt Romney can’t admit that the auto bailout helped Detroit and America, so instead he invents problems with it.


Worrying Beyond Hurricane Sandy

Could surge barriers be a bargain against future eruptions of nature?


For Builders, the Storm Is Good for Business


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.

Governors Promote Lower Deductibles for Homeowners


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.



New York Region Faces Rescues, Looting and a Rising Death Toll


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.


With Crane Overhead, Carnegie Is Off Limits


Carnegie Hall canceled all concerts on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday after the city cordoned off streets surrounding the hall and cut off utilities to the area for safety reasons.


New Jersey Is Reeling From a Fierce Storm’s Punch


Though Hurricane Sandy raged up the East Coast, it has become increasingly apparent that New Jersey took the brunt of it.

Long Gas Lines, Clogged Roads and Slim Hope for a Better Day


With some commutes into the city taking three hours, New Yorkers clung to news that some subway and rail service would be restored on Thursday.

An Unlikely Political Pair, United by a Disaster


President Obama’s tour of New Jersey with Gov. Chris Christie confronted Mitt Romney with a vexing challenge just as he returned to the campaign trail in Florida.


But above does not mean yet that the elections November 6th are a sure thing for the Democrats.

The issue is that the Metropolitan New York area is not yet the United States, and even a New York-New Jersey alignment may perhaps speak for the US North-East but that is all.

In effect, the moment you step out of this region you might feel that there is a complaint that those liberals of the North East, who are in the Democratic Column, speak only about themselves.

To check this one has to go no further then poltics savy Washington DC a nd look up the Washington Post:

As Obama tours storm damage, Romney steps carefully back on trail
Romney avoids mentioning the president while campaigning, but surrogates on each side let loose.
( by?Philip Rucker , The Washington Post)

Anne Applebaum

Anne ApplebaumAn election with little reach

The result will have little impact.

Matt Miller

Sandy’s closing argument

Why do its victims get our empathy while poor kids don’t?

We are specially upset with the Matt Miller piece that speaks for those that do not want to see change by assuming a make belief of attention to social welfare.

That sounds like Norway on the international stage, where the Oil industry interests rule, and whenever there was a danger that the world might indeed take to heart the climate change – anti-oil position – they would trump up the women issues for which they get lots of credit.

Similarly, the Matt Miller piece calls Sandy a NATURAL DISASTER and complains why we give attention more to its victims then to our daily poor children.
This is plain demagoguery, but it just tells us that the war was not won yet and there will be much more Romney obfuscation – some of it pure disenchantment of some folks out there in the sticks, affectionados of tea, with the East Coast.

Will April 6th turn out a lot of anti-Darwinians to turn the event into an anti-enlightenment vote? As said, we do not even go beyond the politically neutral Washington Post.


Posted on on October 27th, 2012
by Pincas Jawetz (

Sen. Bernie Sanders gestures as he speaks at the California Democrats State Convention in Sacramento, Calif., April 30. (photo: AP)

Massachusetts Senate Candidate Elizabeth Warren. (photo: Getty Images)

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

  1. Repeal all of the 2001 and 2003 Bush tax breaks for the top two percent.  Repealing the 2001 and 2003 tax breaks for the top two percent would reduce the deficit by about $1 trillion over the next decade.  After President Clinton increased taxes on the top two percent, the economy added over 22 million jobs.  After President Bush reduced taxes for the rich, the economy lost over 600,000 private sector jobs.
  2. Create an emergency deficit-reduction surtax on millionaires. Enacting a 5.4 percent surtax on adjusted gross income of more than $1 million would raise over $383 billion over 10 years, according to the Joint Tax Committee.  According to a February 2011 NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll, 81 percent of the American people support the creation of a millionaires surtax to reduce the deficit.
  3. End tax breaks and subsidies for big oil, gas and coal companies. If we ended tax breaks and subsidies for big oil, gas, and coal companies, we could reduce the deficit by more than $113 billion over the next ten years.  The five largest oil companies in the United States have earned about $1 trillion in profits over the past decade.
  4. Establish a Wall Street speculation fee of 0.03 percent on the sale of credit default swaps, derivatives, stocks, options, and futures. Both the economic crisis and the deficit crisis are a direct result of the greed and recklessness on Wall Street.  Establishing a speculation fee would reduce gambling on Wall Street, encourage the financial sector to invest in the productive economy, and reduce the deficit by $350 billion over 10 years without harming average Americans.
  5. Eliminate tax breaks for companies shipping American jobs overseas. Today, the U.S. government is actually rewarding companies that move U.S. manufacturing jobs overseas through loopholes in the tax code known as deferral and foreign source income.  During the last decade, the U.S. lost about 30% of its manufacturing jobs and over 56,000 factories have been shut down.  If we eliminated these tax loopholes, the Joint Tax Committee has estimated that we could raise more than $582 billion in revenue over the next ten years.
  6. Prohibit abusive and illegal offshore tax shelters. Each and every year, the United States loses an estimated $100 billion in tax revenues due to offshore tax abuses by the wealthy and large corporations.  The situation has become so absurd that one five-story office building in the Cayman Islands is now the “home” to more than 18,000 corporations.  The wealthy and large corporations should not be allowed to avoid paying taxes by setting up tax shelters in Panama, the Cayman Islands, Bermuda, the Bahamas or other tax haven countries.  Cracking down on offshore tax shelters could reduce the deficit by as much as $1 trillion over the next decade.
  7. Establish a currency manipulation fee on China and other countries. As almost everyone knows, China is manipulating its currency, giving it an unfair trade advantage over the United States and destroying decent paying manufacturing jobs in the process.  If we imposed a currency manipulation fee on China and other currency manipulators, the Economic Policy Institute has estimated that we could raise $500 billion over 10 years and create 1 million jobs in the process.
  8. Tax capital gains and dividends the same as work. Taxing capital gains and dividends the same way that we tax work would raise more than $730 billion over the next decade.  Warren Buffet has often said that he pays a lower effective tax rate than his secretary.  The reason for this is that the wealthy obtain most of their income from capital gains and dividends, which is taxed at a much lower rate than work.  Right now, the top marginal income tax for working is 35%, but the tax rate on corporate dividends and capital gains is only 15%.
  9. Establish a Progressive Estate Tax. If we established a progressive estate tax on inherited wealth of more than $3.5 million, we could raise more than $300 billion over 10 years.  Sen. Sanders introduced the Responsible Estate Tax Act that would reduce the deficit in a fair way while ensuring that 99.7 percent of Americans who lose a loved one would never see a dime of their loved one’s estate paid in federal estate taxes.
  10. Reduce unnecessary and wasteful spending at the Pentagon, which now consumes over half of our discretionary budget. Much of the huge spending at the Pentagon is devoted to spending money on Cold War weapons programs to fight a Soviet Union that no longer exists.  Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) and Lawrence Korb, an Assistant Secretary of Defense under Ronald Reagan, have estimated that we could achieve significant savings of around $100 billion a year at the Pentagon while still ensuring that the United States has the strongest and most powerful military in the world.
  11. Require Medicare to negotiate for lower prescription drug prices with the pharmaceutical industry. Requiring Medicare to negotiate drug prices, similarly to what the VA currently does, would save more than $157 billion over 10 years.
  12. Eliminate waste, fraud, and abuse within every federal government agency. Virtually everyone agrees that there is waste, fraud, and abuse in every agency of the federal government.  Rooting out this waste, fraud, and abuse could save between $150 billion and $200 billion over the next 10 years.


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.


Posted on on October 26th, 2012
by Pincas Jawetz (

We bring here the Uri Avnery article but present only the link to the very long and well researched New York Times article.

That link to the David Barboza article “Billions in Hidden Riches for Family of Chinese Leader ” of Friday, October 26, 2012 is:

Interesting how Communist China turned into star-student of capitalism and how anti-Communist Romney embraced them to the point that he did great business with them and instead of being the Mormon Missionary he trained to be, he is now a devotee to the class structure of the New China.



Damon Winter/The New York Times

President Obama cast his early ballot Thursday in Chicago.


from Uri Avnery’s Column


October 20, 2012 (after the Second US Presidential Debate and before the Third.

THERE WAS this young Israeli who was captured by cannibals. They put him in the cooking pot and were about to light the fire, when he expressed one last wish: “Please box my ears!”

When the cannibal chief obliged, the Israeli jumped up, leveled his Uzi and mowed down his captors.

“If you had the Uzi all the time, why didn’t you use it before?” he was asked.
“I can’t do this unless I am angry,” he replied.

BARACK OBAMA’s debating performance reminds me of this joke. At the first confrontation he was listless and lifeless. He just wanted the silly thing to end.

During the second debate, he was a changed man. Energetic. Aggressive. Decisive. In short: angry.

When the confrontation started, it was 3 a.m. in Israel. I could have recorded it and watched it later. But I was unable to wait. My curiosity got the better of me.

Of course, this whole performance is silly. There is no connection at all between talent as a debater and the ability to lead a nation. You can be an outstanding polemicist and unable to conduct a rational policy. Israelis have only to look at Binyamin Netanyahu. You can be a purposeful leader, and fail utterly at expressing yourself. YItzhak Rabin, for example.

Yet Americans insist that their leaders demonstrate their prowess as debaters as a condition for being elected. It somehow reminds one of the single combats of antiquity, when each side chose a champion and the two tried to kill each other, in place of mutual mass slaughter . David and Goliath spring to mind. It’s certainly more humane.

THE RHETORIC was not directed at the mass of voters. As has been said before, it was aimed at the “Undecideds”, a special class of people. The title is supposed to confer some kind of distinction. For me it makes more sense as an expression of contempt. If you haven’t decided yet, three weeks before the gong sounds, is that something to brag about?

At this stage of the game, both candidates must be very careful not to antagonize anyone. Which means, of course, that they cannot afford to present any definite, clear cut, opinion on anything, except motherhood and apple pie – or, in Israel, Zionism and gefilte fish.

You must beware of any new idea. God forbid. New ideas create enemies. You may impress a few voters, but most likely you will drive away many more. The trick is to express generalities forcefully.

Gun ownership, for example. Guns kill. In strictest confidence, I might disclose to you that guns are produced for this very purpose. Since you are not likely to be kidnapped by cannibals, why for God’s sake keep an Uzi in your cupboard? To keep the Bad Injuns away?

Yet even Obama skirted the issue. He did not dare to come out with an unqualified demand to put an end to this nuisance altogether. You don’t mess with the gun lobby. Almost like the pro-Israel lobby. Mitt Romney cited his experience in bringing pro-gun and anti-gun people together to work out a compromise. Like: instead of ten children with assault rifles shooting up their schoolmates, only five per year.

I MUST admit that I didn’t quite understand the bitter quarrel about the Benghazi incident. Perhaps you need an American mind to grasp it. My primitive Israeli head just doesn’t get it.

Was it a simple terrorist attack, or did the terrorists use a protest gathering for cover? Why the hell does that matter? Why should the President have bothered to falsify the picture this or that way? Israelis know from long experience that after a botched rescue attempt, security services always lie. It’s in their nature. No president can change that.

The idea that any country can protect its hundreds of embassies and consulates around the world against all possible types of attack is childish. Especially if you cut their security budget.

Apart from these particular issues, both candidates spoke in generalities. Drill, baby, drill! But don’t forget the sun and the wind. Young people must be able to go to college. And get a well-paid job afterwards. The devious Chinese must be shown who’s boss. Unemployment is bad and should be abolished. The Middle Class must be saved.

Seems the Middle Class (both in the US and in Israel) makes up the entire population. One may wonder what they are the middle of. One hardly hears of anyone lower or higher on the scale.

In short, both candidates made much of the enormous differences between them, but looked suspiciously alike.

EXCEPT FOR the color of their skin, of course. But do we dare mention that? Not if we want to be politically correct. The most obvious fact of the campaign is also its deepest secret.

I can’t prove it, but my feeling is that race plays a much bigger role in these elections than anyone is ready to admit.

In the presidential debates, one cannot get away from the fact that one candidate is white and the other black. One is a WASP (are Mormons protestants?), the other is half black. The difference is even more striking with the two wives. One cannot be whiter than Ann, or blacker than Michelle.

Not mentioning these facts does not make them disappear. They are there. They surely play a role in the minds of many people, perhaps unconsciously.

One can only wonder that Barack Hussein Obama was elected in the first place. It shows the American people in the best light. But will there be a backlash this time? I don’t know.

RIGHT FROM the beginning, I felt that Obama would win this debate. And win he did.

In a previous article, I mentioned that I have many misgivings about Obama. An irate reader asked me what they were. Well, Obama has been giving in to the anti-peace agenda of Netanyahu. After some feeble attempts to get Netanyahu to stop the building of settlements, Obama shut up.

Obama must take his share of the blame for the waste of four precious years, during which grievous damage, perhaps irreversible, has been done to Israeli-Palestinian peace. Settlements have been expanded at a frantic pace, the occupation has struck even deeper roots, the Two-State solution – the only one there is – has been seriously undermined.

The Arab Spring, which could so easily have been a new beginning for peace in the Middle East, has been squandered. The Arab peace initiative, which has been lying on the table for years, is still lying there, like a wilted flower.

American inactivity on this problem has deepened the despair of the Israeli peace forces on the eve of our own elections, removing the idea of peace altogether from public discourse.

On the other hand, Obama has prevented Netanyahu from starting a disastrous war. He may have saved the lives of hundreds, even thousands of human beings, Israelis and Iranians, and perhaps in the end Americans. For that alone, we must be profoundly grateful.

I HOPE that Obama wins the elections. Or, rather, that the other guy does not . As we say in Hebrew, drawing on the Book of Esther: “Not for the love of Mordecai, but for the hatred of Haman”.

(I am tempted to quote again the old Jewish joke about the mean rich man in the shtetl, whom no one wanted to eulogize as required on the occasion of his death. In the end, someone stood up and said: “We all know that he was mean-spirited, vicious and avaricious, but compared to his son he was an angel.”)

This is, of course, a wild exaggeration. I have a lot of real sympathy for Obama. I think that he is basically a decent, well-meaning person. I wish for his reelection, and not only because the opposing ticket is so worrisome.

IF OBAMA is elected, what will his second term look like, as far as we are concerned?

There is always the lurking hope that a President in his second term will be less subservient to the “pro-Israel” lobby – which is in effect an anti-Israel lobby, driving us on towards national disaster.

After being reelected, the second-term President will be relieved of his worry about the lobby, its voters and its money. Not entirely, of course. He will still have to worry about the mid-term congressional elections and about the fate of his party in the next presidential round.

Still, he will have much more leeway. He will be able to do much more for peace and change the face of the Middle East.

As our Arab cousins say: Inshallah – God willing.


Posted on on October 24th, 2012
by Pincas Jawetz (

The four debates between the two large US parties are over but then there are four parties that together could walk away with 5% of the vote and mess up the tables for the two big ones – to the point that they influence the results in some swing States. These little four have their own debate tonight in Chicago and the moderator is Larry King.

Previewing the third-party presidential candidates debate.

Posted by Sean Sullivan of the Washington Post, October 23, 2012 before the debate.


Third-party presidential candidates rail against Obama and Romney at debate (VIDEO)

Posted by Sean Sullivan of the Washington Post (THE FIX) on October 23, 2012after the debate.…

CHICAGO — Away from the bright lights and fanfare of the just-completed presidential debates, four third-party White House hopefuls debated Tuesday night, coming from starkly different political perspectives, but uniting in agreement that neither Mitt Romney nor President Obama can solve the nation’s biggest problems.

(Scott Olson/Getty Images)

A day after Obama and Romney debated for the final time, the long-shots took a turn. Here in a hotel ballroom just a block from Grant Park — where Obama delivered his victory speech in 2008 – they addressed many of the same issues the major party candidates have wrangled over — the economy, foreign policy, education — but also addressed matters, such as drugs, that have not been a focal points in the race between Obama and Romney.

Gary Johnson, the Libertarian Party nominee, earned the loudest applause during the debate’s opening moments. He railed against the domestic and foreign policy proposals both major party candidates have put forth, and called for the legalization of marijuana.

“In no category is marijuana more dangerous than alcohol,” said Johnson, a former governor of New Mexico who also wants to abolish the Internal Revenue Service and do away with income and corporate taxes in favor of an expenditure tax.

Johnson also railed against the length of the war in Afghanistan. “I thought initially that was totally warranted,” he said, before adding that we should “have gotten out of Afghanistan 11 years ago.”

The former governor saved perhaps his most memorable line of the night for the end of the debate, when he declared, “Wasting your vote is voting for somebody that you don’t believe in. That’s wasting your vote. I’m asking everybody here, I’m asking everybody watching this nationwide to waste your vote on me.”

Constitution Party nominee Virgil Goode, a former Virginia congressman and hard-line anti-immigration candidate, proposed a moratorium on green card admissions into the United States until unemployment falls below five percent nationally. He earned only a smattering of cheers when he pitched his plan.

Green Party nominee Jill Stein and Justice Party nominee Rocky Anderson rounded out the lineup on stage. Stein, who ran for governor of Massachusetts against Romney in 2002, called for free public higher education. “Let’s bail out the students,” she declared.

The candidates largely kept things cordial with each other during the debate, but there were disagreements from time to time. Goode was at odds with Johnson’s call to legalize marijuana. Stein and Anderson disagreed with Johnson and Goode on education spending.

The debate was moderated by former CNN host Larry King and presented by the nonpartisan Free and Equal Elections Foundation. Individuals submitted the questions via social media. The issues ranged from drugs, to the economy, foreign policy, and civil rights.

Absent here were the pre-game formalities that colored the much higher-profile debates between the president and his Republican challenger. There were no cable network countdown shows and no well-known pols reporting for surrogate duty. While the debate was streamed live online, the TV networks didn’t air it.

Time and again, the candidates expressed their dissatisfaction with both Romney and Obama. Goode blasted both Rep. Paul Ryan’s (R-Wis.) budget plan and Obama’s. Stein said neither candidate offered an acceptable way forward on the issues that matter.

“Things are not working and there is not a single exit strategy on the table being offered by Mitt Romney or Barack Obama,” Stein said in an interview before the debate.

At best, the four candidates who appeared together Tuesday are each expected to compete for single-digit percentage shares of the vote in the states where they will appear on the ballot. Not one has made a dent on the national radar akin to the success Texas billionaire Ross Perot found in 1992, when he carried nearly 20 percent of the popular vote. Goode, Johnson, and Stein each claimed one percent support in an early September Gallup poll of national adults.

But even if they only attract nominal enthusiasm, these longest of long-shots could become entangled in the race between Romney and Obama. Johnson will appear on the ballot in 48 states, including some key battlegrounds with independent streaks, where his blend of fiscal conservatism and distinctly libertarian social views could make him a compelling alternative for conservative voters not wedded to voting for Romney.

In Colorado, New Hampshire, and Nevada, in particular, Johnson could be a thorn in Romney’s side if the election is close. Johnson received just two percent support in a recent Suffolk University/News 7 survey of those likeliest to vote in New Hampshire. But the poll also showed Johnson hurt Romney more than Obama.

“Politics is full of ironies. Gary Johnson voters are predisposed to voting against the incumbent president, but Johnson’s presence on the New Hampshire presidential ballot is actually helping Obama,” said David Paleologos, director of the Suffolk University Political Research Center.

If Virginia is exceptionally close, Goode, despite attracting just two percent support in a mid-September Washington Post poll of Virginia voters, could be an also-ran to remember, causing some discomfort for Romney supporters. The state Republican Party tried to keep Goode out of the mix altogether earlier this year, alleging issues with the signatures he submitted to the state Board of Elections to get on the ballot.

Goode survived the scrutiny. Now, the former Democrat-turned-Republican-turned-independent congressman — who could benefit from residual name identification in the southern part of the state — threatens to steal support from Romney at the margins, potentially costing the Republican big in a tight race.

When asked before the debate about the possibility that he might play the role of spoiler, Goode said he was focused on policy matters. “I am focusing on issues. I want to balance the budget now. Romney and Obama do not,” he said.

The biggest question at the end of Tuesday night’s debate may have been who won. A spokesperson with the Free and Equal Elections Foundation said that viewers will have a chance to vote for their favorite candidate during the next 24 hours, and the top two vote-getters will debate once more this election season in Washington next Tuesday.



CHICAGO — President Obama squared off against Mitt Romney for the final time Monday night, but debate season in the presidential campaign isn’t quite over.

Four third-party candidates will take their turn here Tuesday night in a debate that should be filled with policy and political positions as different as can be from one another.

Constitution Party nominee US Congressman Virgil Goode – now Independent – previously Democrat then Republican – (Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images)

Libertarian Party nominee Gary Johnson, Green Party nominee Jill Stein, Constitution Party nominee Virgil Goode, and Justice Party nominee Rocky Anderson will participate in a session moderated by former CNN host Larry King will moderate and hosted by the nonpartisan Free and Equal Elections Foundation.

None of the four candidates are strangers to politics. Johnson served two terms as governor of New Mexico and pursued the Republican presidential nomination in 2011 before opting for the Libertarian nod. Goode represented a central Virginia district in Congress as a Democrat, independent, and Republican. Anderson was the mayor of Salt Lake City, Utah, while Stein ran against Romney in the 2002 Massachusetts governor’s race.

While each candidate has his or her share of loyal followers, polling shows they have barely registered a blip on the national radar. Goode, Johnson, and Stein each claimed one percent support in an early September Gallup poll of national adults. Johnson registered three percent support in an early September CNN/ORC survey of those likeliest to vote.

If the race between Obama and Romney is very close in some key swing states that have independent and libertarian streaks, Johnson’s presence on the ballot could affect the Obama-Romney matchup. In particular, Colorado, New Hampshire and Nevada are the battlegrounds where Johnson could prove a nuisance to his major party competition.

A survey of the Colorado race conducted last week by Democratic automated pollster Public Policy Polling showed Johnson pulling four percent support, while a recent Suffolk University survey showed the former New Mexico governor pulling 2 percent support in New Hampshire.

We’ll have a complete wrap of the debate — which begins at 9 p.m. ET – later tonight right here on The Fix.

You can also follow the debate in real time on Election 2012, where we’ll live blog it. We’ll also aim to bring you short dispatches throughout the day on Election 2012 and Twitter.


Posted on on October 23rd, 2012
by Pincas Jawetz (

from: Jamie Henn –  organizers at

For the first time in 24 years, climate change didn’t come up once in the presidential debates.

That’s after a year of record floods, crippling droughts, and unprecedented Arctic melting.

Beginning November 7, the day after the election, Bill McKibben and the team are going on tour to put climate back on the agenda in a big way. We’re hitting 20 cities coast to coast to build a movement that our politicians can’t ignore.

If you’re as fed up with the silence as I am, I’d like to invite you to be there with us.

Click here to get a ticket for the event near you in New York City:

The fossil fuel industry is spending over $150 million in this election—money that we’ll never be able to match.
Starting Nov. 7th, we’ll be fighting back with creativity, passion, and conviction.

It’s time to get loud,

Jamie is building a global movement to solve the climate crisis. Connect with us on Facebook and Twitter, and sign up for email alerts. You can help power our work by getting involved locally.


Posted on on October 22nd, 2012
by Pincas Jawetz (

The Caucus - The Politics and Government blog of The New York Times

October 21, 2012, 

Monday’s Debate Puts Focus on Foreign Policy Clashes

By DAVID E. SANGER  of the new York Times – in the paper and on his blog.
When President Obama and Mitt Romney sit down Monday night for the last of their three debates, two things should be immediately evident: there should be no pacing the stage or candidates’ getting into each other’s space, and there should be no veering into arguments over taxes.
This debate is about how America deals with the world — and how it should.
If the moderator, Bob Schieffer of CBS News, has his way, it will be the most substantive of the debates. He has outlined several topics: America’s role in the world, the continuing war in Afghanistan, managing the nuclear crisis with Iran and the resultant tensions with Israel, and how to deal with rise of China.
The most time, Mr. Schieffer has said, will be spent on the Arab uprisings, their aftermath and how the terrorist threat has changed since the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001. No doubt the two candidates will spar again, as they did in the second debate, about whether the Obama administration was ready for the attack in Benghazi, Libya, that killed J. Christopher Stevens, the American ambassador, and three other Americans. Mr. Romney was widely judged to not have had his most effective critique ready, and this time, presumably, he will be out to correct that.
The early line is that this is an opportunity for Mr. Obama to shine, and to repair the damage from the first debate. (He was already telling jokes the other night, at a dinner in New York, about his frequent mention of Osama bin Laden’s demise.)
But we can hope that it is a chance for both candidates to describe, at a level of detail they have not yet done, how they perceive the future of American power in the world. They view American power differently, a subject I try to grapple with at length in a piece in this Sunday’s Review, “The Debatable World.”
But for now, here is a field guide to Monday’s debate.
LIBYA AND BENGHAZI Both candidates will come ready for a fight on this topic, but the question is whether it is the right fight. Mr. Obama already admitted mistakes on “The Daily Show With Jon Stewart” and promised to get to the bottom of them, but the White House has been less than transparent about what kind of warnings filtered up from the intelligence agencies before the attack on the consulate, and whether there was a way that American security forces could have arrived sooner, perhaps in time to save some of the American lives. No doubt the argument will focus on a narrower issue: why the administration stuck so long to its story that this was a protest against a film that turned into something worse, rather than a preplanned attack by insurgents. For Mr. Romney, the task is to show that the Benghazi attack was symptomatic of bigger failings in the Middle East, a road he started down in the last debate, but an argument he never completed.
IRAN With the revelation in The New York Times on Sunday reported by Helene Cooper and Mark Landler that the Obama administration has secretly agreed in principle to direct, bilateral talks after the election, the urgent question for the candidates is this: in a negotiation, what would you be willing to let Iran hold onto in return for a deal that gave the United States and Israel confidence that Tehran could not gain a nuclear weapons capability? It’s a hard question for both men.
Mr. Romney has said he would not allow Iran to have any enrichment capability at all — something it is allowed under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty as long as it is abiding by the treaty’s rules — a position that would kill any talks. But Mr. Obama does not want to say the obvious: that he is willing to allow Iran to hold onto some face-saving enrichment capability as long as it does not retain its stockpiles of medium-enriched fuel, which can be converted to bomb-grade. Also, look for answers to the question of whether the United States would back up Israel if it decided to conduct a military strike against Iran. Mr. Romney wants to show that Mr. Obama has created “daylight” between the United States and Israel; Mr. Obama wants to demonstrate that while he has Israel’s back, he is trying to protect the country from taking an action he considers unwise, at least at this stage.
CYBERWAR Mr. Obama cannot talk about “Olympic Games,” the covert program that the United States has conducted against Iran, with Israel’s help, using a cyberweapon against another country for the first time in history. But do Mr. Obama and Mr. Romney consider cyberweapons a legitimate tool in America’s arsenal, or too risky, since the United States is the most vulnerable country in the world? We have never heard either candidate answer the question.
AFGHANISTAN There was a time when Mr. Romney declared that America should not be negotiating with the Taliban, but that it should be killing all the Taliban. He stopped saying that after his aides suggested that it sounded like a prescription for endless war. Now both Mr. Romney and Mr. Obama say they think that America should be out of Afghanistan by 2014, the internationally agreed deadline for the withdrawal of forces, though Mr. Romney has the caveat that he wants to hear from his generals first. (The generals thought that Mr. Obama’s insistence on setting a clear deadline for withdrawal was a bad idea — as did Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and many others.) So what do we want to hear from the candidates?
For starters, if it looks as if Kabul could fall back into Taliban hands in a few years, do either of them think the United States should re-intervene? It would be nice to know if Mr. Obama agrees with his vice president, Joseph R. Biden Jr., that all American troops should be out by the end of 2014, since the White House plan calls for an “enduring presence” of 10,000 to 15,000 troops that would back up the weak Afghan security forces and keep an eye on Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal. (The remaining base would also be a place to launch drone strikes into Pakistan and Afghanistan, when necessary.) And for Mr. Romney, if he believes the pullout in Iraq was too hasty, and the pullout in Afghanistan risks making the same mistake, what kind of continuing presence would he have in mind?
THE ARAB UPRISINGS Afghanistan is already in America’s rearview mirror, but the Arab uprisings are not. Mr. Romney says that the rise of Islamic governments is an Obama administration failure. The White House says that if you have free elections in Islamic nations, you cannot be surprised when the Muslim Brotherhood and the harder-line Salafists win control of the government. The question is how to deal with these governments: conditional aid, to ensure American values are respected? Trade restrictions? Gentle persuasion?
This would also be the area to understand when and why each man would advocate future interventions. Mr. Obama joined in the Libya strike, which Mr. Romney thought was a mistake. But Mr. Obama has been hesitant to do much in Syria — a very different kind of conflict — while Mr. Romney says he would arm the rebels with heavy-duty antiaircraft and antitank weapons. Since the light weapons are already going into the wrong hands, how exactly would he find a way to overthrow Syria’s president, Bashar al-Assad?
CHINA Perhaps the most important long-term subject of the debate. Mr. Romney promises a hard line, saying he would declare China as a currency manipulator from Day 1 of his presidency. But he has not said much about Day 2, or Year 2. This is the moment for each candidate to describe how he would counter China’s growing claims in the South China Sea and other disputed territories, how he would handle trade tensions, and how he would manage a world in which the United States, for better or worse, is going to be reliant on Chinese investment in American debt for years to come. And it is the moment for each to give his view of the leadership change under way in China, where three-quarters of the top political posts are about to change hands.
TOP NEWS of the Day:

Benghazi and Arab Spring Rear Up in U.S. Campaign


The attack in Libya last month has become the focal point of a fierce debate over what role the United States should seek to play in shaping the new order emerging from the Arab Spring.


Explanation for Benghazi Attack Under Scrutiny


As more information emerges about the American response to the attack on its diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya, the White House looks increasingly vulnerable to criticism.


George McGovern Dies at 90

George McGovern, the United States senator who won the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination in 1972 as an opponent of the war in Vietnam and a champion of liberal causes, and who was then trounced by President Richard M. Nixon in the general election, has died.


Op-Ed Contributor

The Lost World of George McGovern


Prairie populism, embodied by George McGovern, flourished in the 1970s. Not so much now.

{He lost the 1972 election in a landslide, but his liberalism helped change the Democratic Party.}


In Texas, a Legal Battle Over Biblical Banners


A school superintendent’s stance on religious expression has put him at odds with his students, his neighbors, the governor, the attorney general and, some in his town believe, his God.


ON THIS DAY in 1962 0r exactly half a century ago – a date that is not forgotten in Florida:

On Oct. 22, 1962, President John F. Kennedy announced an air and naval blockade of Cuba, following the discovery of Soviet missile bases on the island.


Further in the news:

MORNING MESSAGE: Romney’s Foreign Policy Hurts US Economy

Final Debate Tonight Focuses On Foreign Policy

Campaigns Still Battle Over Economy



Tonight’s final presidential debate between President Obama and Mitt Romney on foreign policy and national security at Lynn University in Boca Raton will hit six topics over the course of an hour and a half. Moderator Bob Schieffer of the CBS’ Face the Nation can’t possibly get in all the questions on the minds of viewers.

Here are seven questions policy experts think should be asked, but probably won’t:

Danielle Pletka, American Enterprise Institute: Mr. President, in June 2009 you gave your first speech in Cairo and were never heard to criticize long-time Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak. You only called for his ouster after it was clear he was on his way out. Do you believe, particularly in light of the rise of the Muslim Brotherhood’s in Egypt and current President Mohamed Morsi’s reluctance to condemn the attack on the U.S. Embassy in Cairo on September 11th of this year, that calling for Mubarak to step down was the right decision? And Governor Romney, what would you have done under the circumstances?

James Lewis, CSIS: The focus of global power and wealth used to be transatlantic. Now that focus has moved to the Pacific Rim, but a “pivot” is only a first step in adjusting to this shift. America’s traditional allies in Europe and Asia are getting weaker. New regional powers like China, Brazil, India, or Turkey don’t always trust the U.S. and look at global institutions like the Security Council or the IMF and say they need a bigger role in making the rules. How would you build serious partnerships with the new powers to gain their cooperation and support in a way that maintains America’s global leadership?

Sarah Jane Staats, Center for Global Development: President Obama, Governor Romney, you both acknowledge that U.S. foreign aid promotes America’s moral, economic and security interests. But the United States’ core foreign assistance policy was written during the Kennedy administration. How will you update foreign aid to tackle today’s global challenges?

James Carafano, Heritage Foundation: Few countries in NATO are meeting the target on defense spending established for membership in the alliance. Yet the EU insists on creating expensive duplicative military structures. Europe can’t afford both. Isn’t it time to tell the Europeans if they want to be serious partners in Transatlantic security to make a hard choice?

Sanho Tree, Institute for Policy Studies: Last month, the presidents of Mexico, Colombia and Guatemala – all three conservatives who have diligently fought the drug war alongside the U.S. – sent a letter to the Secretary General of the UN asking for a fundamental reevaluation of international drug policies. All three have talked about ending drug prohibition and exploring regulatory alternatives because the drug war provides an astronomical “price support” to drug traffickers against which many governments cannot compete. Will you engage them in a fundamental reevaluation or will you support more of the same policies?

Chris Preble, Cato Institute: Article 1, Section 8 of the Constitution vests the authority to declare war with the Congress. Is this provision is now obsolete? Should the president be able to initiate a war on his sole authority, as President Obama did in Libya? Or should he have obtained prior approval from Congress?

C. Fred Bergsten, Peterson Institute for International Economics: Developments in the world economy, especially the euro crisis and the showdown in China, could have major negative effects on our own economy and ability to create jobs.  What would you do to get both Europe and China to provide stronger support for global growth and stability?


What questions are on your mind?

New to Think Tanked? Follow Think Tanked on Twitter.


Posted on on October 22nd, 2012
by Pincas Jawetz (

THE INTERNATIONAL INSTITUTE FOR SYSTEMS ANALYSIS – IIASA – Celebrates its 40th Birthday at a Conference in the Rooms of the Austrian Presidency.

International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis
Laxenburg, Austria (22 October, 2012) How can science and policy come together to provide solutions to global problems? This week, international scientists, policymakers, and business leaders will come together to discuss our global future, as well as the latest findings from researchers who study global issues, at the IIASA 40th Anniversary Conference: Worlds Within Reach – From Science to Policy from 24-26 October, 2012.

The opening session on 24 October features speakers such as Austrian president Heinz Fischer, Nobel prize-winners Thomas Schelling, Carlo Rubbia, and international sustainable business leader Bjorn Stigson.

Media are invited to a press conference following the opening session to ask questions of high-level speakers.

IIASA, the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis, is an independent research institute that studies problems of global importance. Systems analysis combines detailed modeling work with a broad examination of interconnected areas. At the conference, IIASA scientists and researchers from around the world will present new findings in the areas of energy, climate change, food security, water resources, and ecosystems management.

IIASA Director and CEO Prof. Pavel Kabat will highlight the role of systems analysis in supporting the sustainability goals of Rio+20. He says, “Narrowly focused, single-disciplinary science alone cannot adequately underpin policies and solutions to resolve major sustainability challenges.”

IIASA Deputy Director Nebojsa Nakicenovic will describe his vision for a sustainable future, based on IIASA’s unique brand of systems analysis. If we can get away from business-as-usual practices and policies, and transform our old systems into sustainable ones, says Nakicenovic, we can find our way to a more equitable and sustainable world.

Keywan Riahi will discuss key findings from the Global Energy Assessment (GEA), the first comprehensive global assessment of energy challenges, scenarios, and pathways for change. The report involved 300 authors and 200 reviewers worldwide, and was made available for free as an online PDF on 20 October, 2012.

Wolfgang Lutz will provide new findings from IIASA’s  population projections to 2050, which project a world population of around 9 billion people in less than 40 years’ time. The projections have been analyzed by 600 international experts and their views will serve as the “human core” of new IPCC projections.

Michael Obersteiner will show that to balance the need for greater food with preserving the environment and biodiversity, we need a range of new efforts from  individual lifestyle changes, shifts in human diets, to scientific inquiry that improves our understanding of land cover. Improving data about land cover can help lands be managed more intelligently to preserve the biosphere while also providing sufficient material goods for our survival and wellbeing.

Zbigniew Klimont will speak about recent findings of 14 “win-win” measures that would simultaneously benefit the climate, the environment, and human health. These measures must supplement, not replace efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, says Klimont.

Sabine Fuss will present research showing how climate change will create more instability in many areas that link to food production, such as water, weather, and land use. Fuss’ research examines a variety of solutions geared towards several different climate scenarios, but finds that there is no one single solution that works across all possible scenarios.

David Wiberg will discuss the new World Water Scenarios project, a joint effort coordinate by IIASA, UNESCO, and other groups. The project defines a variety of scenarios, working with stakeholders and scientists to include the many factors, from climate, population, and agriculture, to determine how much water might be needed, and how much water will be available in 2050.  The project aims to provide a toolbox for decision-making at local and international levels.

The conference program is available at
A Media Kit will soon be available with story ideas, contact information, speaker information, and more.
The conference will be livestreamed via the web site:

On Wednesday, 24 October, media are invited to a press conference with speakers from the IIASA 40th Anniversary Conference.

Date: 24 October 2012
Time: 11:00-11:45
Location: Press Room, Hofburg Palace, Vienna

Q&A Session with High Level Speakers & Dignitaries

During the opening session of the IIASA Conference on 24 October, attendees will hear discussions from top policymakers and scientists. These three sessions will provide the background for the conference, and set the stage for more detailed discussions of global issues and potential solutions. Speakers in this session will address science and policy support for global transitions to a more sustainable and equitable world.

Following the first opening session, from 11:00 to 11:45, journalists will have the opportunity to participate in a Question and Answer session with key speakers from the three opening sessions. The press conference will include the following speakers:

  • Pavel Kabat is Director and CEO of IIASA, the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis. He argues that a systems analysis approach – science that takes a broad view of issues and their interconnections – is key to solve global problems.
  • Nebojsa Nakicenovic is Deputy Director of IIASA. Says Nakicenovic, if we can get away from business-as-usual practices and policies we can find our way to a more equitable and sustainable future.
  • Sergey Glaziev is Counselor of the Admninistration of the President of the Russian Federation. He is known for championing social justice and opposing political corruption.
  • Nina Fedoroff is a professor at Pennsylvania State University and King Abdullah University of Science and Technology. Federoff will discuss how human population growth is putting pressure on the food supply, the environment, and the climate.
  • Gusti Muhammad Hatta is the Minister of Research and Technology in Indonesia. He believes Indonesia should look to science and technology to add value to natural resources in the country.
  • Wolfgang Lutz is the head of IIASA’s World Population Program. He notes the importance of people in considering sustainability. His research suggests that the world population will grow to 9 billion by 2050.
  • Thomas Schelling is a Nobel Prize-winning economist at the University of Maryland, where he studies conflict and cooperation in problems such as climate change. Schelling emphasizes that the worst impact of climate change will be on the poor in the poor countries.
  • Bjorn Stigson,  is the chairman of Stigson & Partners AB, and was until 2011 the president of the World Business Council for Sustainable Development, which he founded. Stigson notes that the business community has a crucial role in the transformation to a sustainable world.

Moderator: Nisha Pillai, former BBC News anchor


For more information or to register for the conference please contact:
Katherine Leitzell, Press Officer and Communications Specialist
IIASA Press Office

Tel: +43 2236 807 316
Mob: +43 676 83 807 316

International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA)
Schlossplatz 1 A-2361
Laxenburg, Austria

Follow IIASA on Twitter:

Join us on Facebook:


Posted on on October 22nd, 2012
by Pincas Jawetz (

The Candidates on Energy Policy

Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) Issue Tracker – ENERGY.

Updated: October 21, 2012

The cost and availability of energy resources have become contentious issues in the United States amid slow economic growth and high unemployment. On the presidential campaign trail, Republican candidate Mitt Romney has blamed rising gas prices on President Barack Obama’s decision to temporarily block construction of the Keystone oil pipeline from Canada to the United States. Obama, meanwhile, has called for investing in alternative energy sources to reduce U.S. dependence on oil and gas.

Still, both candidates have advocated for a reduction in foreign oil imports and for an expansion of U.S. energy production in order to boost the economy and create new jobs. They also agree that increasing energy independence is critical to national security. However, Obama and Romney are at odds over the role government should play in subsidizing energy production–as well as which sectors should be favored–and regulating its environmental impact.


ENERGY was the subject of two Fareed Zakaria programs on CNN/GPS this Sunday.

The second hour-long program was titled GLOBAL LESSONS and told us for a starter that Bill Gates has a dream – HE WISHES ENERGY THAT IS CHEAPER THEN COAL AND IS CLEAN – this seems to be the only way to solve the problems for our aching world – for the US as well.

President Jimmy Carter has installed solar panels on the White House roof, but they were taken down by the Republican Presidents and never put back up by the Democratic Presidents. Those panels were a mere symbol but let us not fake it – their removal was and is a badge of dishonnor to the US Presidency since Carter.

Fareed did not dwell on this but gave positive examples of forward looking countries.

Denmark, after the 1973 oil crisis unleashed on the world after the Yom Kippur war that the Arabs unleashed against Israel,  decided to climb down from its energy reliance 99% on Middle East oil and developed a wind energy industry that made it independent of oil period – this even though later they found offshore oil and gas. They keep the alternate energy afloat thanks to solid taxation of the gas pump. It is $8/gallon in Denmark and there are no complaints. Vestas is the largest wind energy company in the world. 30% of the electricity in Denmark comes currently from wind power, they intend to bring this up to 50% by 2020 and plan for a totally renewable energy base by 2050. No CO2 emissions from Denmark by that target date – no ifs or buts.
I say this because like everyone else’s their wind industry is hurt by competition from government subsidized Chinese products – so without bickering – the Danes understand that they must subsidize their own products so they can compete with the cheaper imports.

Germany developed solar power in particular and surely it is not a very sunny country. What helped was the Feed-in-tariff that obligates an electric company to buy-back of electricity from homes and other solar collector devices. The repayment time for a solar installation is 7 years in Germany and after that it is all the investors gain. This amounts to an income equal to $3000/year after 7 years. The son is the free source of energy and 2% of the Sahara desert could provide energy for the whole world. Germany went solar after the Chernobyl disaster when it was decided not to expand nuclear power. In effect Germany is in the proces of decommissioning its nuclear plants.

France decided to go nuclear  and gets 75% of its electricity this way. After Chernobyl it developed the European Pressurized Reactor (EPR) and never had an accident.

The United States did very little and now fell upon the Fracking Gas – so the system moves on by replacing coal with natural gas that is produced from oil shale strata. This is a step in the direction of a cleaner fuel but it requires serious government supervision of the industry because if gas will come out from water faucets or fires from toilets, that will be the end of this industry – never mind what other pollution occurs to the drinking water from heavy metals and chemicals.

The fifth fuel Fareed talked about is EFFICIENCY or the reduction of the need for fuel. Better insulation of homes, lighter materials for motor vehicles with the introduction of parts made of carbon fiber. Visiting with Amory Lovins at his place in Colorado you see a tropical garden that provides him with bananas and you hear of the 240 miles/gallon vehicle.

In the first program this Sunday Fareed Zakaria hosted Mr. Fred Smith the Chairman and CEO of Fed Ex company who runs 90.000 motor vehicles and 500 planes and who saw his expenses for fuel move up in the last 10 years from 4% to 6%. He said this is a consumption $1300 tax on every American. The country pays for the imported oil $350 billion/year – so the shale gas and oil are going to get the US a turn-around he said.

Then he proceeded and said that the Prius and the Xgevy Volt are great vehicles and a step in the right direction. He also said that now it is 80% cheaper to operate an electric vehicle and the expense is in the vehicle itself – this expense will decrease with better batteries. He spoke of the battery exchange system operated by “Better Place” in Denmark and ended by talking of a great future in aviation for biofuels from algae, urban waste, etc.

Our question is now – will this become part of the US 2012 Presidential Debate on Foreign Policy? The reason why the country was kept in slavery by the oil industry so that it could not follow in the steps of a Denmark or Germany and left in limbo a company like Fed Ex and every single citizen of the US? Will somebody cross his heart and declare he will re-install the Carter panels on the White House roof? Pity there was not a Susan Katz, who asked about President GW Bush, that in a positive way could have asked about the disruption of the Carter efforts on true Energy Independence – the independence from the use of oil?


But then arrived the CFR primer for the Lynn University – Third and Final 2012 Presidential Debate, and though we all understand that historically Energy means Security and is this was always the most important ingredient of US Foreign Policy, nevertheless no mention of Energy was made in this primer. We did expect from CFR to include questions on energy, though we agreed that climate change and the global environment are no subject for the 2012 US elections – BUT ENERGY?

President Barack Obama and former governor Mitt Romney will face off in Boca Raton, Florida, tonight for the final presidential debate. Here is a nonpartisan guide from CFR and Foreign Affairs on the most salient campaign issues. These and other resources can be accessed on the Campaign 2012 Project page.

The Candidates, In their Own Words

A collection of the candidates’ major speeches, statements, and op-eds. Browse the Essential Documents

Comparing the Candidates on the Issues

Fifteen continuously-updated summaries of Obama and Romney’s positions on Iran, Pakistan, defense policy, Afghanistan, and other campaign issues. View the Issue Trackers

Get Up to Speed on Foreign Policy offers more than one hundred primers on a range of issues, from the eurozone crisis to al-Qaeda. Browse Backgrounders

Tonight’s Must-Ask Questions

Four CFR fellows weigh in on the questions they believe warrant discussion during the debate. Read the Roundup

Challenges for the Next President

CFR experts look ahead at the foreign policy issues confronting the next president, including Isobel Coleman on foreign aid, Stewart Patrick on the United Nations, and Elizabeth Economy on China. Watch the Video Briefs

How the Election is Viewed Abroad

Experts from South Africa, China, Brazil, Germany, and other countries share their take on the campaign, and what’s at stake for each country’s relationship with the United States. Browse the Views from Abroad Series


Posted on on October 20th, 2012
by Pincas Jawetz (

The Israeli navy boarded a ship attempting to break the sea blockade of Gaza on Saturday, and planned to take the passengers into custody.

Those aboard the ship were hoping to call attention to the blockade of the Palestinian territory, which has been under an Israeli blockade since 2007.

Vessels attempting to break Israel’s blockade of Gaza have sparked controversy — and violence — in the past.

In 2010, an Israeli raid on one flotilla ship resulted in the deaths of nine Turkish activists.


Even while the Prime Minister is considering bringing to his cabinet’s approval the report of Judge Edmond Levy, which asserts that the Palestinian territories are ‘not occupied’, Prime Minister Netanyahu, and his ally and rival Ehud Barak, have  ordered the Naval Commandos on a s resort to force, demonstrating that in effect  there is an occupation, and that the State of Israel is extending this occupation into international waters in the Mediterranean.Among the passengers on the Swedish ship “Estelle”, which is now being dragged to the port of Ashdod in Israel, are three Israeli peace activists – Elik Elhanan Reut Mor and Yonathan Shapira. They arrived at the boat a few days ago, going by speedboat from Greece, and dodging the Greek Coast Guard. Along with them came on board the “Estelle” five Members of Parliament, from Sweden, Norway, Spain and Greece.

Estelle’s passengers got yesterday a message from the Government of Israel, passed by the Finnish Foreign Ministry, in which they were warned that if they continue on their way they would be taken into custody in Israel and that they might be prosecuted for “illegal entry into Israel.” They asked the Finns to relay back their answer – that they have no intention of or interest in trying to enter Israel, and that their sole purpose is to reach the Gaza Strip which is not part of Israel and from whose inhabitants they got an explicit invitation.

Yonathan Shapira wrote that his decision to participate in an attempt to break the siege and bring humanitarian aid to Gaza, is a direct continuation to his taking part, back in 2003, in the “Refuser Pilot Letter”. Previous to the publication of this letter, Shapira had served in the Israeli Air Force as a helicopter pilot. Shapiro has been detained in the past when he sailed on “The Jewish Peace Ship” which was stopped off the Gaza shore in 2010.

The question is now how these events will impact the US electioneering debate.

from Adam Keller via
as posted on October 18th:

Swedish Ship to Gaza – Former Israeli Air Force combat pilot evades coast guards in Greece to get on Gaza-bound boat.

Former Israeli Air Force combat pilot boards Gaza-bound boat

Came by motor boat, evading Greek coastguard, greeted with cheers

“Estelle” due at Gaza shore Saturday or Sunday

Activists on board:”Determined to reach Gaza, consent to UN inspection”

Israeli peace activist Yonatan Shapira, who had been a combat pilot in the Israeli Air Force and refused to take part in the bombing of Palestinian cities, has arrived on board the Swedish boat “Estelle” which is making her way towards the coast of Gaza.

When the Estelle passed near the shores of Greece, Shapira and other activists made their way in a motor boat, evading vessels of the Greek Coast Guard which sought to bar their way. “Along with the Greek Coast Guard  we saw a ship which seemed very much like an Israeli Navy vessel, though it did not fly a flag,” said Shapira.

He was received with cheers by activists already on board. Shapira had taken part in a similar sailing last year, being taken off by Israeli Navy Commandos near the Gaza shore and spending time in police detention, but not charged with any criminal offence.

Meanwhile, Israel’s Ambassador to the UN Ron Prosor has sent a letter calling on the United Nations to stop the Estelle from reaching her destination. To this activists on board respond: “If this means that Israel has decided to cede control over Palestinian territorial waters to the UN, this would actually be a step forward.

The UN and many other representatives of the International Community have for years characterized the siege of the Gaza strip as inhuman and incompatible with International Law.

“Ship to Gaza Sweden” assumes that that UN will not take over the implementation of this policy, by itself preventing a peaceful vessel from delivering humanitarian supplies.

“Ship to Gaza and the Freedom Flotilla have never opposed lawful inspections of cargo and vessel by representatives of the UN, as well as  by national authorities in the ports and waters we have passed through. We welcome further inspections of this kind by the UN, once we have anchored at Gaza City. What we refuse to accept is something which also the UN and the majority of The International Community oppose: The illegal siege of the Gaza Strip, with its devastating humanitarian results.”

The Estelle has now set course to Gaza and, weather permitting, is due to get there on Saturday.

Adam Keller, Spokesperson of Gush Shalom, who is in ongoing contact with the Estelle activists, says that Israel’s Prime Minister and Defense Minister still have some forty-eight hours’ grace to make a wise and courageous decision, and let the Estelle dock at the Port of Gaza – while implementing a thorough UN inspection of her cargo, to which the activists  specifically consent.

Ship to Gaza-Sverige –


Posted on on October 19th, 2012
by Pincas Jawetz (

We posted the following on February 17, 2008 (four and a half years ago – still in the GW Bush Presidency days !) and we re-post this again – without any changes –  because of the flack that Al Gore gets now from the Romney campaign. Our own old posting came to our attention because of the amount of new visits it earned in the last few days.

————————-… is the reference for a Wall Street Journal Opinion piece (commentary), of March 28, 2006, by Al Gore and David Blood, the cofounders of Generation Investment Management LLP. David Blood is a former Head Of Goldman-Sachs. The Company is based in Washington, London, and will open this year also offices in Melbourne Australia. The President, working out of Washington DC is Peter Knight who has a history of over 30 years of having worked with Al Gore. The company was established already in April 2004. Comprised of a team of 27 people, the company includes 14 investment professionals. Out of profits, 5% are allocated to the Generation Foundation. The Generation Foundation is dedicated to strengthening the field of sustainable development and sustainability research worldwide.

The title of the WSJ article; “For People and Planet” comes about because the two authors believe that capitalism and sustainability are now increasingly interrelated and “not until we more broadly ‘price in’ the external costs of investment decisions across all sectors will we have a sustainable economy and society.” Until now, economists called externalities the costs created by industry but paid for by society. Pollution is such an externality. “The sad thing is that companies have been rewarded financially for maximizing externalities in order to minimize costs” – says the article. For saying this truth, as the joke goes, Generation’s founders were deemed as “Blood & Gore” by those that do not want to stare this reality in the face.

Now, with Global Warming upon us, “the interests of shareholders, over time, will be best served by companies that maximize their financial performance by strategically managing their economic, social, environmental, and ethical performance.” The “polluter pays principle – PPP – is just one example of how companies will be held accountable for full costs of doing business. Further, companies will have to design products so their clients can compete in a carbon-constrained world. Companies that do the right thing will not do this out of altruism – but this will be the way to make money for their shareholders. Ceres is just   organization that understands this reality ( Ceres is the Coalition for Environmentally Responsible Economies) and is just one NGO that deals with corporate responsibility and comes up with new business strategy. Other such NGOs include the World Resources Institute (WRI) and Transparency International (TI).… is the link to the May 10, 2005 speech by Al Gore at the Institutional Investors Summit on Climate Risk. That was nearly three years ago. This week’s presentation we presented in our own…


Posted on on October 18th, 2012
by Pincas Jawetz (

News Analysis

For the President, Punch, Punch, Another Punch.

Published: October 17, 2012

He waited all of 45 seconds to make clear he came not just ready for a fight but ready to pick one.

Richard Perry/The New York Times

Mitt Romney and President Obama clashed frequently during the town hall-style debate at Hofstra University. Mr. Obama repeatedly accused his opponent of being untruthful.

Second Presidential Debate: Full Video

President Obama, who concluded that he was “too polite” in his first debate with Mitt Romney, made sure no one would say that after their second. He interrupted, he scolded, he filibustered, he shook his head.

He tried to talk right over Mr. Romney, who tried to talk over him back. The president who waited patiently for his turn last time around forced his way into Mr. Romney’s time this time. At one point, he squared off with Mr. Romney face to face, almost chest to chest, in the middle of the stage, as if they were roosters in a ring.

“What Governor Romney said just isn’t true.”

“Not true, Governor Romney, not true.”

“What you’re saying is just not true.”

For a president teetering on the edge of a single term, making a more forceful case at Hofstra University on Long Island on Tuesday night could hardly have been more imperative. Thirteen days after he took presidential decorum to a Xanax extreme, he tucked away a dinner of steak and potatoes and then went out on stage with plenty of red meat for anxious supporters.

Whether it will decisively reroute the course of the campaign remains to be seen, but the president emerged from the encounter having settled nerves within his panicky party and claiming a new chance to frame the race with just three weeks left.

Heading into the evening, the Obama camp said that he needed at least a draw to mute the commotion over the first debate and drain some of the potential drama from the final meeting next Monday. But the risk, of course, was that an acerbic confrontation could turn off the very swing voters he covets.

The strategy for Tuesday night was clear: undercut Mr. Romney’s character and credibility by portraying him as lying about his true positions on issues like taxes and abortion. Time and again, Mr. Obama questioned whether the man on stage with him was the same “severely conservative” candidate who tacked right in the Republican primaries.

He painted Mr. Romney as a tool of big oil who is soft on China, hard on immigrants, politically crass on Libya and two-faced on guns and energy. He deployed many of the attack lines that went unused in Denver, going after Mr. Romney’s business record, his personal income taxes and, in the debate’s final minutes, his comments about the 47 percent of Americans he once deemed too dependent on government.

“Governor Romney doesn’t have a five-point plan,” Mr. Obama charged. “He has a one-point plan,” which is to help the rich, he said.

He mocked Mr. Romney by noting that he once closed a coal plant as the governor of Massachusetts. “Now suddenly you’re a big champion of coal,” he said.

As for trade, he said, “Governor, you’re the last person who’s going to get tough on China.”

And he pressed Mr. Romney for not disclosing how he would pay for his tax and deficit reduction goals. “We haven’t heard from the governor any specifics beyond Big Bird and eliminating funding for Planned Parenthood,” he said.

Mr. Romney held his own and gave as good as he got, presenting Mr. Obama as a failed president who has piled on trillions of dollars of debt, left millions of Americans without work, bungled security for American personnel in Libya, done nothing to reform entitlement programs and deserted a middle class “crushed under the policies of a president who has not understood what it takes to get the economy working again.”

But it was Mr. Obama who was the central story line of the night, his performance coming across as a striking contrast to that of his first face-off with Mr. Romney. For days leading up to Tuesday night’s encounter, Mr. Obama huddled in a Virginia resort with advisers to practice a more aggressive approach without appearing somehow inauthentic or crossing over a line of presidential dignity. It was a line he would stride up to repeatedly over the course of more than 90 minutes, and some will argue that he slipped over it at times.

Along the way, he ducked some questions. He never directly answered a voter who asked whether it was the government’s responsibility to try to lower gasoline prices, instead giving his stump speech on energy. Nor did he respond directly to another voter who asked who denied extra security to diplomats in Libya and why, although he did say, “I am ultimately responsible for what’s taking place there.”

Nor did he offer an extensive articulation of what his forward-looking agenda would be for a second term beyond, essentially, arguing that electing his opponent would be moving back to failed policies of the past.

His aggressive approach came as no surprise to Mr. Romney’s camp. It was clear from the start when Mr. Obama made sure to use the first question — from a college student worried about finding a job — to jab Mr. Romney for opposing the way the president went about the auto industry bailout of 2009.

With each question that followed came another attack. When it was not his turn, Mr. Obama sat on a stool and looked at Mr. Romney as he talked, rather than staring down and taking notes as he did in Denver. There was little smirking, though he did project at times an air of tolerant dismissal.

Evidently intent on redeeming himself by getting in all the points he failed to get in last time, Mr. Obama pushed right past time limits and at one point even refused to yield when the moderator, Candy Crowley of CNN, tried to rein him in.

“I want to make sure our timekeepers are working,” he complained when she tried to stop him on another occasion — never mind that at that point CNN’s time clock showed that he had spoken 19 minutes and 50 seconds, compared with 17 minutes and 17 seconds for Mr. Romney.

By the end, he had dominated the clock, consuming 44 minutes and four seconds to 40 minutes and 50 seconds for Mr. Romney.

If that sort of score keeping gave it the feel of an athletic competition, Mr. Obama might not object. Aides and friends have long said he is a clutch player on the basketball court, the kind who turns in listless performances during practice but raises his level when the game is on the line.

The game was on the line Tuesday night, and he scored some points. But the final buzzer is still 20 days away.


A Night of Laughs Amid a Bitter Run for President.

Published: October 17, 2012

Angry e-mails from conservative Christian organizations flooded Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan’s in-box in August, after he announced that he had invited President Obama, along with Mitt Romney, to speak at the New York Archdiocese’s biggest charity gala of the year, despite the church’s differences with the president over contraception, abortion and same-sex marriage.

Beth Keiser/Associated Press
Archbishop Edward M. Egan separated George W. Bush and Al Gore in 2000 at the Al Smith Dinner.

Alfred E. Smith IV is master of ceremonies for the charity dinner, which honors his great-grandfather, a four-term governor.

But something else also kept flooding in: donations. The archdiocese’s Alfred E. Smith Memorial Foundation, which will host the glittering dinner at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel on Park Avenue on Thursday, is on track to raise more than $5 million in a single night for charities that assist poor and needy children in the archdiocese, a record for the event, said Alfred E. Smith IV, who is the master of ceremonies in honor of his great-grandfather, the first Roman Catholic to be nominated by a major party for the presidency.

“You know, you are never going to please the people on the far left; you are never going to please all the people on the far right,” Mr. Smith said in an interview, adding that he knew of no donors who had decided not to come because of Mr. Obama’s attendance. “Everyone should be happy that we are able to pull this off to help so many people.”

Through its 67-year history, the annual Al Smith Dinner, as it is known, has attracted attention every four years as a lighthearted pit stop for presidential candidates in the heated final weeks of the campaign. For one evening, the candidates are supposed to put aside their differences and showcase their ability to vie for laughs, as well as votes, as they poke fun of themselves and each other to benefit charity.

The dinner, which this year comes just after the two candidates aggressively debated Tuesday night, will give Mr. Obama and Mr. Romney a chance to show voters that they can also be gracious and human.

“Last night, it was punch, punch, punch,” Thomas J. Moran, the chairman of Mutual of America Life Insurance Company and a foundation board member, said Wednesday. “And now we will get to see how good they are with punch line, punch line, punch line.”

Differences between the church and Democratic candidates have affected the dinner in the recent past, particularly when the archdiocese withheld invitations to John Kerry and Bill Clinton because of concern over their support for abortion rights. But this year, even though the archdiocese is suing the Obama administration over a contraception coverage mandate that applies to some employees of Catholic institutions, there was no discussion of withholding an invitation to the president, Mr. Smith said.

In response to critics, Cardinal Dolan, who is the archbishop of New York, wrote in a blog post that he wanted to be civil and inclusive. “If I only sat down with people who agreed with me, and I with them, or with those who were saints, I’d be taking all my meals alone,” he wrote.

Cardinal Dolan, a talented quipster who frequently speaks of the importance of humor, will close the event. He has already played cameo roles in the campaign this year: he delivered benedictions at the Democratic and Republican conventions. “I think the fact that it is a Catholic archbishop who is the facilitator for bringing together the two opponents speaks volumes,” his spokesman, Joseph Zwilling, said.

The event this year will have 1,600 attendees, who are paying at least $2,500 per head. (Some well-situated tables can cost up to $100,000.) Lamb will be served under the glow of crystal chandeliers, and the white-tie-clad guests on the tiered 70-person dais, including the candidates, are expected to linger at the dinner for its five-hour duration.

Though billed as nonpolitical, Mr. Smith said, the event has become an opportunity for political, labor and business leaders to chat and make deals. Among those listed on the dais this year are Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and Senator Charles E. Schumer, as well as the journalists Katie Couric and Chris Matthews.

The event’s $600,000 cost is covered by the board members of the Al Smith Foundation, meaning that the guests’ donations will go entirely to the 13 charity organizations serving children and families in the archdiocese, like Good Shepherd Services in communities throughout New York City, Incarnation Children’s Center in the Bronx, and the Elizabeth Seton Pediatric Center in Yonkers, Mr. Smith said.

In all, the money raised this year easily topped the $4 million record the dinner set in 2008, when Mr. Obama and John McCain took a break from the bitterness of their election battle to show off their humor.

“Even in this room full of proud Manhattan Democrats, I can’t shake that feeling that some people here are pulling for me,” Senator McCain said in his speech, quickly adding, “I’m delighted to see you here tonight, Hillary” — in a nod to Hillary Rodham Clinton, whom Mr. Obama had defeated in the Democratic primary.

The dinner was first held in 1946 by Cardinal Francis J. Spellman to honor the memory of Alfred E. Smith, a four-term Democratic governor of New York who ran for president in 1928. (Governor Smith died in 1944.) Its original fund-raising goal was to raise money for a new 16-story building for St. Vincent’s Hospital Manhattan. But the dinner’s tradition of bringing together politicians for charity quickly grew.

In 1960, John F. Kennedy and Richard M. Nixon became the first pair of candidates to attend in an election year, trading self-deprecating quips as television cameras rolled. Since then, five other sets of presidential candidates have taken the stage, including George W. Bush and Al Gore in 2000 and George Bush and Michael S. Dukakis in 1988.

One of the biggest surprises of the night is often how adept at comic timing even the most serious of candidates can be.

“Quite honestly, I didn’t think Al Gore could ever be funny, and he certainly managed,” said Mr. Moran, the foundation board member.


Joseph Scherschel//Time Life Pictures via Getty ImagesJohn F. Kennedy and Richard M. Nixon, flanking Cardinal Francis J. Spellman, spoke at the Al Smith Dinner in 1960. It was the first year a pair of presidential candidates attended the dinner and exchanged quips.


Today’s Schedule of President Barack Obama:
All times are Eastern Daylight Time (EDT).

9:35 AM: The President departs the White House en route Joint Base Andrews

9:50 AM: The President departs Joint Base Andrews

11:10 AM: The President arrives Manchester, New Hampshire

11:55 AM: The President delivers remarks at a campaign event

1:05 PM: The President departs Manchester, New Hampshire

2:00 PM: The Vice President delivers remarks at a campaign event
The New York City stop –
2:10 PM: The President arrives New York City

3:30 PM: The President tapes an appearance on “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart”

4:20 PM: The President attends a campaign event

7:55 PM: The President delivers remarks at the 67th Annual Alfred. E. Smith Memorial Foundation Dinner.

10:35 PM: The President departs New York City


11:30 PM: The President arrives Joint Base Andrews

11:45 PM: The President arrives the White House


But really much has changed in the last few years except Mr. Romney and some of his backers. The Church’s position on abortion is not the only issue that separates the candidates – look at the general topic of Equal Rights as in today’s New York Times editorial. Can the church keep pace with advances of equality?

The New York Times Editorial

Mr. Romney’s Version of Equal Rights

Published: October 17, 2012

It has dawned on Mitt Romney that he has a problem with female voters. He just has no idea what to do about it, since it is the result of his positions on abortion, contraception, health services and many other issues. On Tuesday night, he bumbled his way through a cringe-inducing attempt to graft what he thinks should be 2012 talking points onto his 1952 sensibility.


Related in Opinion


In the midst of their rancorous encounter at Hofstra University, President Obama attacked Mr. Romney for vowing he would end federal support of Planned Parenthood and for criticizing the provision in the health care law that requires employers — except churches and religiously affiliated institutions — to provide insurance coverage for contraceptives.

Clearly agitated, Mr. Romney said in response, “I’d just note that I don’t believe that bureaucrats in Washington should tell someone whether they can use contraceptives or not, and I don’t believe employers should tell someone whether they could have contraceptive care or not. Every woman in America should have access to contraceptives.”

Perhaps Mr. Romney forgot that he vetoed a bill as Massachusetts governor in 2005 that would have given women who were raped access to emergency contraception, or that he supported an amendment this year that would have allowed any business to opt out of the contraceptive mandate, or that he has said he would support a state constitutional amendment that would declare that life begins at conception — potentially making some kinds of contraceptives illegal.

Perhaps Mr. Romney was trying to say that the issue is who pays for contraceptives, not whether women can use them. But all those possibilities are just reminders of how hard it must be for him to remember where he stands at any given moment.

In any case, you cannot untangle access and money. Mr. Romney’s stated zeal to “defund” Planned Parenthood is either a rote ideological posture or a belief that it is right to end the federal support that gives many poor women access to mammograms, cervical cancer screening, family planning and other services. As Mr. Obama said: “That’s a pocketbook issue for women and families all across the country. And it makes a difference in terms of how well and effectively women are able to work.”

Having fumbled that one, Mr. Romney made things worse when he tried to talk about equal opportunity for women, which was made much harder by his opposition to the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act. He told a strange tale of his early days as governor of Massachusetts when he “had the chance to pull together a cabinet and all the applicants seemed to be men.” He said he went to his staff about it and was told that “these are the people that have the qualifications.”

So far, not so terribly bad.

But then he started a slow, painful slide into one of the most bizarre comments on this issue we’ve ever heard, which became an instant Internet sensation. “We took a concerted effort to go out and find women who had backgrounds that could be qualified to become members of our cabinet,” Mr. Romney said, sounding as if that were a herculean task. An appeal to women’s groups, he said, “brought us whole binders full of women.”

This was important, he said, because “I recognized that if you’re going to have women in the work force that sometimes they need to be more flexible. My chief of staff, for instance, had two kids that were still in school.”

At this point we could practically hear his political consultants yelling “Stop!”

But Mr. Romney did not. “She said, I can’t be here until 7 or 8 o’clock at night. I need to be able to get home at 5 o’clock so I can be there for making dinner for my kids and being with them when they get home from school.”

Flexibility is a good policy. But what if a woman had wanted to go home to study Spanish? Or rebuild an old car? Or spend time with her lesbian partner? Would Mr. Romney have been flexible about that? Or if a man wanted similar treatment?

True equality is not satisfied by allowing the little lady to go home early and tend to her children.



October 17, 2012, 

Blunders and Binders.

By CHARLES M. BLOW for The New York Times
Richard Perry/The New York Times
Now that’s what I’m talking about.

Tuesday’s debate went the way folks thought the first one would: with President Obama outmaneuvering Mitt Romney, defending his own record forcefully and not letting Romney slip away from his. Obama called Romney out on things that were “not true” — a phrase he used in some form at least six times. Romney, for his part, committed unforced errors, as is his wont.

The contest was a clear victory for Obama. Not a devastating loss for Romney, but a clear win for the president. Now the world makes sense again. Crestfallen Democrats took a breath. Giddy Republicans stopped walking on air.

Can someone get this man a binder full of facts?

The president came into the debate with lowered expectations, but he exceeded them. According to the Pew Research Center, people expected Obama to outperform Romney in the first debate by a margin of 51 percent to 29 percent. But after Obama performed like he was catatonic and Romney performed like he was over-caffeinated, things changed. The performance expectation gap going into the second debate was negligible, with just 41 percent thinking Obama would do better and 37 percent thinking Romney would win the day.

The president performed brilliantly, with force, verve and agility. As we used to say down south: he showed up and showed out. The base loved it.

Even the snap polls, which I take with a grain of salt because they can tilt Republican in their samples, gave the edge to Obama.

This time, it was Romney who did himself damage.

He completely flubbed his line of attack on Benghazi.

Then there was Romney’s odd “binders full of women” comment about seeking suggestions from women’s groups to “find women who had backgrounds that could be qualified to become members of our cabinet” when he was governor of Massachusetts.

He was laboring to avoid answering the actual question about pay equity for women.

But, according to David Bernstein of the Boston Phoenix, not even that dodge is true:

What actually happened was that in 2002 — prior to the election, not even knowing yet whether it would be a Republican or Democratic administration — a bipartisan group of women in Massachusetts formed MassGAP to address the problem of few women in senior leadership positions in state government. There were more than 40 organizations involved with the Massachusetts Women’s Political Caucus (also bipartisan) as the lead sponsor. They did the research and put together the binder full of women qualified for all the different cabinet positions, agency heads, and authorities and commissions. They presented this binder to Governor Romney when he was elected.

Can someone get this man a binder full of facts?

Romney has spent the last few weeks shedding his “severely conservative” plumage like the feathers from a molting chicken. But on Tuesday night the president reminded voters of who his challenger was a few months — and a few years — ago. The picture that emerged was Whiplash Willard, a man you can never truly love and about whom you can always find something to loathe.

The master stroke came at the end. Answering the final question, Romney offered a defense against an assault that had not yet been levied, a defense he had rehearsed for the attack he anticipated over his negative comments about the 47 percent. But Obama didn’t level this attack until his very last comment, when Romney could not respond. Crafty.

Even stylistically, Romney hit the wrong notes.

There is a fine line between feistiness and testiness. Romney has never negotiated that line well in debates and last night he fell over it again. At one point he scolded the president — the president of the United States! — “you’ll get your chance in a moment. I’m still speaking.”

Regardless of how it may have felt in the hall and how his base may have received his abrasive behavior, to most others watching it was déclassé and indecorous. When you’re challenging a sitting president for his job, you have to respect the office, even if you don’t respect the man.

Romney also kept standing when the president was speaking. They both did this at times, but Romney did it so consistently that at one point moderator Candy Crowley had to instruct him to take a seat. So much for all that debate training teaching him how to sit on a stool.

The overall impression left by the debate was of a president once again in control and a challenger out of control.

It is too soon to say whether or not this will arrest Romney’s rise in the polls. But it definitely re-energized the president’s supporters.


Posted on on October 17th, 2012
by Pincas Jawetz (

The Short News: During the Hofstra Debate, a forceful Obama defended his record and challenged Romney on shifting positions for 47 minutes of the  90-minute debate, arguing his Republican rival’s policies would favor the wealthy if elected.

Romney repeatedly attacked Obama’s record, saying millions of unemployed people and sluggish economic recovery showed the president’s policies had failed.

Obama was more animated and engaged than his understated and widely panned performance in their first debate nearly two weeks ago.

Romney lost the debate because of his insistence to criticize the Obama Administration and the President for what he called a late recognition that the killing of the US Ambassador to Libya was an act of terrorism.

A third and final presidential debate focusing specifically on foreign policy will take place October 22nd  in Florida – at Lynn University in Boca Raton, Fla. The moderator is Bob Schieffer, chief Washington correspondent for CBS News and moderator of “Face the Nation.”


The Washington Post evaluation of the Romney Libya debacle:

Toward the end of the second presidential debate on Tuesday night, the controversy over Libya was threatening to cast a pall over what had otherwise been a much-improved debate performance by President Obama.

By the end of the exchange over the issue, though, it was clear that Libya was not going to be Obama’s next undoing – and in fact, the moment probably cost Mitt Romney the most.

Asked a tough question about who is to blame for a lack of security at the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, where Ambassador Chris Stevens and three others were killed, Obama did what he had to: say the security of Americans’ overseas rests on his shoulders.

You could almost see Romney licking his chops. He proceeded to criticize Obama for holding a fundraiser the day after the attack and for not calling it an act of terror for two weeks.

But what followed was about the best Obama could have hoped for out of the exchange.

After Obama devoted some time to a stern and direct rebuke of Republicans and Romney for politicizing the issue – Obama looked directly at Romney while doing this, and it played well – Romney took his turn.

Romney took issue with Obama’s statement that he had called the attack an act of terror the day after it occurred. Romney even asked for Obama to repeat the claim, believing he had caught him in a lie.

Instead of trying to explain the exchange, let’s just go to the transcript:

ROMNEY: I think it’s interesting the president just said something which — which is that on the day after the attack, he went into the Rose Garden and said that this was an act of terror.

OBAMA: That’s what I said.

ROMNEY: You said in the Rose Garden the day after the attack, it was an act of terror? It was not a spontaneous demonstration? Is that what you’re saying?

OBAMA: Please proceed, governor.

ROMNEY: I want to make sure we get that for the record, because it took the president 14 days before he called the attack in Benghazi an act of terror.

OBAMA: Get the transcript.

At that point, debate moderator Candy Crowley inserted herself into the debate in a big way, pointing out that Obama had, in fact, referred to terrorism at the Rose Garden press conference.

(Here’s Obama’s quote: “No acts of terror will ever shake the resolve of this great nation, alter that character, or eclipse the light of the values that we stand for.”)

Crowley interjected: “He did, in fact, sir (call it an act of terror).”

Obama, clearly pleased with how the exchange had panned out, then offered: “Can you say that a little louder, Candy?” And she did.

For a second, the air went out of the room, and a key GOP attack was rendered less effective.

Now, Republicans will argue today (and argued late Tuesday after the debate) that Obama didn’t directly label the attack in Benghazi as terrorism in the Rose Garden, speaking only broadly about terror. They will also note that, for two weeks thereafter, he didn’t use the word “terror” while discussing the tragedy.

(Crowley even acknowledged this after the debate.)

But the fact is, instead of having a policy argument about what Obama did or didn’t do for Americans in Benghazi and how he handled the situation in the days after it occurred – a very tough issue and one that will undoubtedly be a major theme of the foreign policy debate next week – we’re going to have a process argument over whether Romney flubbed his attack on the issue and when exactly Obama called the attack “terrorism.”

And in a debate that was otherwise pretty tight (a CNN poll after the debate showed 46 percent thought Obama won and 39 percent said Romney won), the exchange over Libya turned out about as well for Obama as he could have hoped.

The question now is whether it remains a potent line of attack for the debate next week. It very well might be, but this is at least a momentary problem for the Romney campaign on an issue that otherwise will be tough for Obama to handle.

Republicans can still argue that Obama refused to use the word “terror” for two weeks and that he placed the blame on a spontaneous event rather than a coordinated attack. And that’s potent.

But for Romney, whose foray into foreign policy in the 2012 presidential race often hasn’t gone well, the moment served as an unhelpful side story.”

Full transcripts of the debate can be found on the CPD (The Commission on Presidential Debates) website –

The President’s annual salary is $400,000 plus a $50,000 expense account, a $100,000 nontaxable travel account and $19,000 for entertainment.
Why would Mr. Romney want this kind of job when he makes easily 20 million dollars for which he pays just 14% in taxes?


Our own impressions of what went on at Hofstra this day:

On campus, the AARP, C-Span, Sirius XM radio, and MSNBC have taken over the Student Center and the East Parking Lot, and dominated the activities at the Students Center at what was defined as Issue Alley. Students were walking around with placards said FORWARD for and America’s Comeback Team for MittRomney.vom – I also spotted a Gary Johnson, of the Libertarians  hand written placard while others marched around in a historic Jazz band format.

For fun I explained to a group of students that while the Obama people have a Forward looking perspective of four years with their candidate, it is them, the campus Republicans, that seem to pronounce a wish to return to the G.W. Bush years that are not very popular. So why not go back to the Madison Avenue advertisement consultants who have sold them on this rotten herring that will not help make popular their cause and ask for money-back.

At the Maurice A. Deane School of Law there was a full day teach in on – “How Should the Next President Balance Civil Liberties,Human Rights and National Security?”

“What Should the Next President Do to Defuse the Student Debt Bomb?’

and “Where Should the Next President Take Our Health Care System?”

At 3:15 PM the 250- 300 students that won the Lottery, among more then 6500 applicants, started lining up outside the Hofstra USA building to get the buss ticket to the 5 minutes buss ride to the sports arena where the debate will start at 9:01 PM.

My own activity started at the Students Center with the participation at a 4-5:30 PM panel discussion on “PRESIDENTIAL POLITICS, US FOREIGN POLICY and NATIONAL SECURITY” that was set up by Professor Meena Bose, the Director of the Hofstra U. Kalikow Center for the Study of the American Presidency. The panel included Senior Presidential Fellows of the Kalikow Center – Dr. Howard B. Dean III, a medical doctor and  the 12 year governor of Vermont till the 2004 Presidential elections when he ran in the Democratic primary (he then was named Chairman Emeritus of the Democratic National Committee, but currently holds neither elected office nor an official position in the Democratic party), and Stewart M. Patrick, who is also director of the International Institutions and Global Governance Program at the Council on Foreign Relations in Washington DC. Also on the panel the  Ambassador of Canada to the United States since 2009, Gary Doer, who was prior to his appointment  to Washington by Prime Minister Harper was Premier (governor) of Manitoba.

Dr. Dean said that with the rise of China, India, and Brazil the future of the US is in cooperation and not in confrontation. Dr. Dean, four years ago was at Hofstra in charge of organizing the first Presidential Debate that was held on the University.

International Security was the main team of the panel, but then, to my delight, the subject turned to green topics and Renewable Energy.

First we heard about the cooperation of 24 NATO countries and 4 Arab countries in the effort to remove Gaddafy, the Arab Spring and now the problems with Iran and Syria. We heard about Energy Security, the Canada -US cooperation and Energy Independence – Energy Efficiency, car mileage per gallon, and all sources of energy if produced safely. We heard about the future of hydropower electricity and all forms of renewable input in electricity production and electric cars. We heard about climate Change and the failure to put a price on carbon – the fact that we will feel like a frog who does nothing while the water is heating in the pot until he is boiled.

Director Bose said that in 2008 Obama energized the youth with the subject of climate change and this has to do with the long term economic health while Mr. Patrick insisted that energy is the sensitivity now rather then climate and that Obama opened 75% of the offshore drilling- though this is not as much as Romney wanted and is not covering on land drilling, this is the move Romney is talking about. The Ambassador picked up the participation in the Montreal Protocol on the ozone layer that will push down emissions.

The subject turned then to Latin America, Chavez, Correa, Bolivia and Brazil, the reintegration of Columbia into Latin America. The Brazilians watch over Bolivia’s Morales.

The student Center Theater was filled with students and media that came over from the media-filing center prepared for the evening’s Debate. Lots of questions were asked with many areas opened up – such as the European economy, the future of Pakistan, or the so called Financial Cliff. I congratulated the panel for having addressed the most orphaned topic of the Presidential debates – the question of Sustainable Energy – and mentioned the change of emphasis since Rio 2012 to Sustainable Energy for All and the fact that under UK, and now German leadership, the climate change issue is regarded as a Security issue and asked for the panel’s opinion. My question/comment was picked up by Stewart Patrick who at first did not tackle the security aspect, but when I said that what I am thinking about are climate refugees and wars – and that this is not an issue of foreign aid but of direct US security, he picked it up in this new direction without difficulty. In short – I wish that the discussion could be transferred to the Presidential Debate as well.

When this panel discussion ended I continued to occupy my seat for the follow up event that was the debate watch turned into an educational experience headed by University of Kansas Professor Diana Carlin and the Hofstra senior Presidential Fellows – Edward J. Rollins and Dr. Howard  B. Dean III . The Presider was Janet Brown of CPD while Professor Carlin is consider as father of Debate Watch, Rollins coached President Reagan how to relate to campaigns. He told that the Reagan and Mondale teams rejected 90 proposed moderators.

Dr. Dean suggests – forget what is said and watch without sound – look just at the visuals and you get the results accurately this way. Talking about the two contesters this time around – Rollins says that both, in their adds,  have not told you what they want to do, but spend a lot of money in advertisement.

The debates are very important and Carter lost mainly because he did not participate in the debate that had to have John Andersen as well.

Rollins evaluates President Obama as a great orator but poor debater. Obviously – Rollins is a Republican who thinks Obama is too slow and too long winded.

The media is very important and sells advertisement in close campaigns – so the media will reluctantly let someone run away with a clear sense that the election is over.

After these introductions and the suggestion by Professor Carlin of a questionaire she has prepared , time has arrived to watch on the huge screen the debate itself – then post-debate my going over to SPIN ALLEY – that is the empty half of the Media Filing Center where people will be standing with banners naming a Spin-doctor who is ready to speak to the cameras and explain what his or her candidate wants you to leave with.


Giving credit to the wide media coverage of the event – 3375  credentials issued by the Secret Service including 763 foreign Media counting in 367 Foreign TV – plus a further estimate of 125 online bloggers beyond 114 that had the Secret Service clearance, it is reasonable to assume that our readers know the simple facts of what has happened in the debate from the 3500 media people present, so I will just cherry pick and enhance the point where I might have an exclusive.

The main point of the debate that will influence the voters is the issue of Libya – the accusation that Romney made against the Obama Administration of having been negligent in its describing an act of terror as an act of terror, and the ease with which Obama was able to push this aside as factualy untrue. The arguments are unseemly and President Obama was right in saying that this was offensive – and use appropriate body language.

At Spin Alley I had the chance to ask about this the Republican National Committee (RNC) Chairman Reince Priebus – “my real question is why do the Republicans not include Development of Renewable Energy as a National Security issue and a second question which really is a matter of advice – why does the Governor insist on pointing a finger at the killing of the Ambassador in Libya, when this clearly becomes a turn-off because the voters will rather want to see a united stand and not this biting in the back?”

What I got in reply was that the Governor speaks a lot about energy security by speeding up the oil and gas development, and on the Libyan incident a flat – “Obama is lying ” – Priebus looked at the tape and Obama was talking there of 9/11 not Libya – it took him 13 days to cal this a terrorist act. I remarked that when I mentioned energy security I meant a decreased dependence on oil because of the sorce of international oil supplies being in countries that cause trouble, and on Libya, I thought this wil be self defeating to continue this line. He asked for where I am from – I said Sustainable Development and he walked away. I followed up on Renewable Energy with a friendly Republican Spin Doctor who I know has a lot of experience in the Middle East and he told me he has tried to influence the Committee on the importance of non-oil energy but they did not accept his ideas.

Bottom Line: Governor Romney is not alone – it is his party at highest levels that thinks that the electorate is not capable of wise decisions.


For Democratic U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, thinking about the Third Presidential Debate that will be held in Glorida, I had a different set of two questions:

First “How do you think that the debate tonight will play in Florida and then looking at next week’s debate on foreign policy, how will the Libyan issue the way it was brought up tonight influence that debate?”

Congresswoman Wasserman Schultz pointed out the issues of healthcare that are important to people in Florida, as well issues of immigration, education, family … of importance to the Latino population, but she was not ready to touch the Foreign Policy issue which we know is also of the highest importance to the pensioners living in Florida. How will the Middle East play in Florida nxt week?


Posted on on October 15th, 2012
by Pincas Jawetz (

With members of the media busy setting up for the Tuesday Presidential debate, I was the only media present at the students event though it was announced in the Campus Activities section of the Commission on Presidential Debates official booklet that all media received. We must say right here that with the elections being as close as they seem to be at this point, Gary Johnson, the former Republican governor of New Mexico, has the potential of being this year’s Ralph Nader of the Republicans – the candidate that might siphon off enough votes to sink the Republicans in critical States, and hand thus a clear electoral victory to President Obama. Media ought thus to pay attention to the Libertarian Party activities and note the way they feel about these elections as expressed in the statement that the debate is still one between Coke and Pepsi and not basic enough to their liking when it comes to economic matters and questions of Liberty of the individual.

The Libertarians at Hofstra meet every every Wednesday in room 141 in the Students’ Center, this week the obvious exception, and are listed as a club – “HOFSTRA STUDENTS FOR LIBERTY.”

The group was started by three students last year, and now, in its second year,  filled the Cultural Center Theater at the Axinn Library for the John Stossel lecture and large Q&A session – listed topic: “Debt, War, Recession, The Growth of the American Government,” in which the elections as such were not mentioned but the students were presented with arguments about the self-serving growing government that interferes with the well-being of the individual who left to his own crativity would have been doing much better. The implication thus that both parties did not act in the real interest of the individual.

Lavishly, free literature was distributed. It included:

the 280 page John A. Alison, President and CEO of the Cato Institute, Charles Koch, Chairman and CEO of Koch Industries backed publication – , “The Financial Crisis and the Free Market Cure – why Pure Capitalism is the World’s Only Hope” that explains how Destructive Banking Reform Is Killing the Economy;

“After the Welfare State” Students for Liberty volume edited by Tom G. Palmer and stating that Politicians stole your future – you can get it back” and from the same source – “The Morality of Capitalism – What Your Professors Won’t Tell You;”

The excellent Specially Abridged pocket book size “The Road to Serfdom” by Nobel Prize Winner Friedrich A. Hayek with an introduction by Edwin J. Feulner, President of The Heritage Foundation;

The United States Constitution and The Declaration of Independence with Foreward by Congressman Ron Pauk;

and to top it – a pocket version of The Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States of America.

The questions were all about economic issues like what do you think of a recovery? What about monopolies? And the answers were logical accepted helpful government but rejecting restricting legislation. The belief is in self correcting actions by the economy and a rejection of the dictum attributed to Tom Daschle who supposedly said – “What you can not professionalize – Federalize.”

As no mention was made directly of the debate and as one of the student organizers told me that the meeting was held in order to enlarge the some of the discussion on campus, I asked Mr. Stossel What he thinks of the debate – that is when he told me that he will vote for Gary Johnson but it is not important in new York State. Then he refused to speak any more substance to me because he wants to speak to the students – obvious voters and potential opinion builders as – do not forget – the debate this coming Tuesday will be in a Town Hall format and questions that were already vetted by moderator Candy Crowley, will come from the Nassau community including these students.

Further, at midnight – Sunday to Monday – Mr. Stossel was on Fox Business TV – in Manhattan this is Channel 44 – talking about the elections and how the form takes the place of substance. The program was impartial to the two parties in the running but critical of the system – so let’s say favorable to outsiders.


Coincidentally – This morning New York Times picked up the subject of the Libertarians – though obviously without having been at last nights meeting – Excerpts from this morning New York Times:

Mr. Gary Johnson said he had no problem being labeled a potential spoiler in an election that he views as “a debate between Coke and Pepsi.”
He said he viewed himself as Perrier.)

“Take the issue of Medicare,” he said. “Both parties are arguing over who is going to spend more money on Medicare when we should be having a raging debate in this country over how we’re going to cut Medicare.”

He admits he has only limited finances. The Federal Election Commission had denied his request for general election matching funds, ruling that he did not meet its requirements for third-party candidates. And his campaign filings show he had roughly $50,000 in the bank at the end of August, having burned through much of the more than $350,000 or so he raised in small donations that month.

He said that his campaign had found it hard to keep up with the offers of volunteer help, and that when it came to campaigning, “I think we’re going to stick with what we’ve been doing — stay flexible and take the most advantage out of media appearances.”

Democrats say Mr. Johnson could have the biggest effect on Mr. Romney in Nevada, where a Wall Street Journal/NBC News/Marist poll in September showed Mr. Obama and Mr. Romney effectively tied.

Mr. Roger Stone, a former long time Republican operative who has Nixon tatooed on his back,  said the campaign believed it had the potential to cut into support for Mr. Romney in three of his must-win states, Florida, Ohio and Virginia — where Republican challenges to the Libertarian candidate quickly failed — as well as in North Carolina and Pennsylvania.

There is very little polling on Mr. Johnson to bear all of this out, which his campaign points to as evidence that he is being unfairly ignored by the news media. However, The Miami Herald and The Tampa Bay Times have measured his support at about 1 percent — far more than the 537-vote margin that was ultimately deemed to have separated Mr. Bush from Mr. Gore in 2000.

“As we all learned in Florida, when something’s close enough, even small numbers can make a difference,” said Charlie Cook, the publisher of The Cook Political Report, which monitors electoral trends.

That appeared to be the thinking when Pennsylvania Republicans sought to go after Mr. Johnson’s petitions, which Mr. Gleason, the party chairman, suspected had been collected with help from Democrats. He noted that many of the signatures came from Democratic precincts of Philadelphia.

One petition gatherer, Tracey Norton of Germantown, said in an interview that she was a Democratic committeewoman, though she said she did not act in a partisan manner when being paid to collect petitions.

In court, the Republicans presented evidence that some petitions had been collected without the proper signatures. But some of that evidence was collected by the private detective, Reynold Selvaggio who, some of the petition workers said in interviews and testimony, flashed his F.B.I. badge “like he was law enforcement,” as one worker, Reynaldo Duncan, said in an interview.

In testimony, Mr. Selvaggio denied Libertarian lawyers’ suggestions that it was an intimidation tactic, saying his badge stated clearly that he was retired and that he said so in his interviews. The judge hearing the case, James Gardner Colins, a former president judge of the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania, seemed displeased.

“I have a badge that says I’m president judge,” he said, “but I don’t flash it to anyone, because I’m not president judge.”

His ruling in favor of the Libertarians came down on Wednesday.


Posted on on October 8th, 2012
by Pincas Jawetz (

Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney speaks at a campaign rally in St. Petersburg, Florida October 5, 2012.

  • Romney praises Jim Lehrer’s job

    As far as Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney is concerned, Jim Lehrer did a fine job moderating Wednesday’s debate between Romney and President Barack Obama.

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – As far as Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney is concerned, Jim Lehrer did a fine job moderating Wednesday’s debate between Romney and President Barack Obama.

Some liberals have complained that Lehrer, a veteran debate moderator and TV anchor on Public Broadcasting Service, did not ask enough follow-up questions at the debate in Denver and let Romney off the hook on several occasions.

Obama is widely viewed as having lost the debate to Romney with a lackluster performance. The debate victory for Romney has given his campaign a boost after a series of recent stumbles.

At a rally on the St. Petersburg waterfront in the battleground state of Florida, Romney said that he enjoyed the debate.

“I think that Jim Lehrer did an excellent job in raising issues and having the candidates talk about our views on issues, rather than just the ‘gotcha’ thing that sometimes happens with media interviews,” Romney said.

Lehrer, he said, let the candidates ask questions of each other.

Romney’s wife Ann was with him and she told the crowd of 5,500, “I’m looking forward to the next debate.”

The Denver debate was the first of three between Romney and Obama. A vice presidential debate between incumbent Democrat Joe Biden and Republican challenger Paul Ryan is next Thursday.


Posted on on September 3rd, 2012
by Pincas Jawetz (

The Republican National Convention, August 27-30, 2012.

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What if Jesus had been a Republican?

10:46 PM (33 minutes ago)

Editor’s Note: This was sent to Tikkun on email from Cath News and a column called “The Not-So-Social-Gospel.” It is a powerful reminder both of how far sections of the Christian world have strayed from the teachings of Jesus, and also a reminder of the tens of millions of Catholics who are deeply dedicated to social justice, peace, generosity and love (even though unfortunately they are stuck in a church whose leadership is more interested in demonizing gays and abortions and attacking American Nuns who take Jesus’ teachings seriously than in carrying on the progressive elements in Jesus’ gospel). It saddens us at Tikkun to see how twisted that Church leadership has become, just as we have been saddened by how twisted the Jewish leadership has become to give blind support to the oppressive policies of Israel toward Palestinians, and reminds us to once again invite all Christians who do feel connected to the social justice, peace and love oriented Jesus to join our INTERFATIH Network of Spiritual Progressives at ]so that we can work together to amplify these voices and provide comfort and support to those who are being “dissed” in their own religious communities for taking seriously the highest teachings of their God.–Rabbi Michael Lerner  Editor, Tikkun magazine [ ] and Chair, the interfaith Network of Spiritual Progressives.

The Lazy Paralytic

1. When Jesus returned to Capernaum after some days, it was reported that he was at his home. 2. So many gathered around that there was no longer room for them, not even in front of the door; and he was speaking the word to them. 3. Then some people came, bringing to him a paralyzed man, carried by four of them. 4. And when they could not bring him to Jesus because of the crowd, they removed the roof above him; and after having dug through it, they let down the mat on which the paralytic lay. 5. When Jesus saw this he grew angry, “Why did you wreck my roof? Do you have any idea how much that cost to install? Do you know how many tables and chairs I had to make in my carpentry shop to pay for that roof? The reeds alone cost five talents. I had them carted in from Bethany.” 6. The disciples had never seen Jesus so angry about his possessions. He continued, “This house is my life. And the roof is the best part.” The disciples fell silent.  7. “It’s bad enough that you trash my private property, now you want me to heal you?” said Jesus, “And did you not see the stone walls around this house?” “Yes,” said the man’s friends. “Are these not the stone walls common to the towns and villages of Galilee?” 8. “No,” Jesus answered. “This is a gated community. How did you get in?” The man’s friends grew silent. 9. Then Jesus turned and said to the paralytic, “Besides, can’t you take care of your own health problems? I’m sure that your family can care for you, or maybe the synagogue can help out.” 10. “No, Lord,” answered the man’s friends. “There is no one. His injuries are too severe. To whom else can we go?” 11. “Well, not me,” said Jesus. “What would happen if I provided access to free health care for everyone? That would mean that people would not only get lazy and entitled, but they would take advantage of the system. 12. Besides, look at me: I’m healthy. And you know why? Because I worked hard for my money, and took care of myself.” The paralyzed man then grew sad and he addressed Jesus. “But I did work, Lord,” said the paralytic. “Until an accident rendered me paralyzed.” “Yes,” said the man’s friends. “He worked very hard.” 13. “Well,” said Jesus, “That’s just part of life, isn’t it?” “Then what am I to do, Lord?” said the paralytic. “I don’t know. Why don’t you sell your mat?” 14. All in the crowd then grew sad. “Actually, you know what you can do?” said Jesus. “You can reimburse me for my roof. Or I’ll sue you.” And all were amazed. 15. “We have never seen anything like this,” said the crowd.

The Very Poorly Prepared Crowd

1. The day was drawing to a close, and the twelve apostles came to Jesus and said, “Send the crowd away, so that they may go into the surrounding villages and countryside, to lodge and get provisions; for we are here in a deserted place.” 2 But Jesus said to them, “Why not give them something to eat?” They said, “We have no more than five loaves and two fish-unless we are to go and buy food for all these people.” 3 For there were about five thousand men. And Jesus said to his disciples, “You know what? You’re right. Don’t waste your time and shekels. It would be positively immoral for you to spend any of your hard-earned money for these people. They knew full well that they were coming to a deserted place, and should have relied on themselves and brought more food. As far as I’m concerned, it’s every five thousand men for themselves.” 4. The disciples were astonished by this teaching. “But Lord,” said Thomas. “The crowd will surely go hungry.” Jesus was amazed at his hard-headedness. “That’s not my problem, Thomas. Better that their stomachs are empty than they become overly dependent on someone in authority to provide loaves and fishes for them on a regular basis. Where will it end? Will I have to feed them everyday?” “No, Lord,” said Thomas, “Just today. When they are without food. After they have eaten their fill, they will be healthy, and so better able to listen to your word and learn from you.” Jesus was grieved at Thomas’s answer. Jesus answered, “It is written: There’s no such thing as a free lunch.” So taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven, and took one loaf and one fish for himself, and gave the rest to the twelve, based on their previously agreed-upon contractual per diem. But he distributed none to the crowd, because they needed to be taught a lesson. So Jesus ate and he was satisfied. The disciples somewhat less so. “Delicious,” said Jesus. What was left over was gathered up and saved for Jesus, should he grow hungry in a few hours. The very poorly prepared crowd soon dispersed.

The Rich and Therefore Blessed Young Man

1. As Jesus was setting out on a journey, a man ran up to him and knelt before him, and asked, “Good Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” 2. And Jesus said to him, “What have you done so far?” 3. And he said to Him, “Well I was born into a wealthy family, got into a good school in Galilee because my parents donated a few thousand talents for a building with a nice reed roof, and now I have a high-paying job in the Roman treasury managing risk.” 4. Looking at him, Jesus felt an admiration for him, and said to him, “Blessed are you! For you are not far from being independently wealthy.” And the man was happy. Then Jesus said, “But there is one thing you lack: A bigger house in a gated community in Tiberias. Buy that and you will have a treasure indeed. And make sure you get a stone countertop for the kitchen. Those are really nice.” The disciples were amazed. 5. Peter asked him, “Lord, shouldn’t he sell all his possessions and give it to the poor?” Jesus grew angry. “Get behind me, Satan! He has earned it!” Peter protested: “Lord,” he said, “Did this man not have an unjust advantage? What about those who are not born into wealthy families, or who do not have the benefit of a good education, or who, despite all their toil, live in the poorer areas of Galilee, like Nazareth, your own home town?” 6. “Well,” said Jesus, “first of all, that’s why I left Nazareth. There were too many poor people always asking me for charity. They were as numerous as the stars in the sky, and they annoyed me. Second, once people start spending again, like this rich young man, the Galilean economy will inevitably rebound, and eventually some of it will trickle down to the poor. Blessed are the patient! But giving the money away, especially if he can’t write it off, is a big fat waste.” The disciples’ amazement knew no bounds. “But Lord,” they said, “what about the passages in both the Law and the Prophets that tell us to care for widows and orphans, for the poor, for the sick, for the refugee? What about the many passages in the Scriptures about justice?” 7. “Those are just metaphors,” said Jesus. “Don’t take everything so literally.”


James Martin, SJ/America Magazine [ ]


Posted on on August 31st, 2012
by Pincas Jawetz (


Photo by Austen Hufford.

Romney treats climate as a punchline

In the final speech of the party’s convention, the Republican candidate mocks President Obama’s pledge to deal with climate change.

Read more.

Republican National Convention sign

Energy and environment in the GOP platform: They said what?

We read the whole 62-page Republican platform so you don’t have to. Here are the good bits, by which we mean the bad bits.

Read more.

Photo by Dominic Gan.

Guess what’s coming to dinner? The unprocessed food challenge continues

Having sworn off of hot dogs and Doritos, Grist’s green-living pioneer, the Greenie Pig, sets out to a backyard barbecue at a friend’s house. Her mission: to pass on the processed foods without coming off as a jerk.

Read more.

white whale

8-year-old gets rich off whale vomit and decides to open an animal shelter

Charlie Naysmith is the sort of kid who, when he unexpectedly finds a rock-like substance worth tens of thousands of dollars, donates it all to help animals.

Read more.


Mr. Rand Paul wants you to be nice to Mr. Exxon Mobil

Mr. Gristmill scoffs, kicks sand in his face.

Read more.

Photo by campuspartybrasil.

Al Gore condemns media for dropping the ball on climate change coverage

The Goracle had some harsh words for the press after its tepid reaction to news of record Arctic ice melt.

Read more.


Curtain rises on California’s planned carbon market

From big emitters to tomato tinners, over 100 California businesses got their first taste of cap-and-trade. Here’s how it works.

Read more.


Posted on on August 31st, 2012
by Pincas Jawetz (


Report on Iran Nuclear Work Puts Israel in a Box


An International Atomic Energy Agency report detailing Iran’s ramped up nuclear capabilities may force Israel to strike Iran or concede it cannot act on its own, according to experts.


Summit Meeting in Iran Disrupted by Rebukes of Syria


At a meeting of world leaders in Iran, President Mohamed Morsi of Egypt denounced the repression of the armed uprising in Syria, a close Iranian ally.


U.N. Leader Broaches Delicate Topics in Meetings With Top Iranian Officials


The United Nations secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, met with Iran’s leaders Wednesday to address his concerns about the country’s nuclear program, the Syria conflict and human rights issues.


Al Jazeera, Seeking U.S. Viewers, Bets on Soccer


Al Jazeera’s beIN Sport subsidiary bought the rights to broadcast some of the United States national soccer team’s World Cup qualifying games and has paid heavily to show European soccer in the United States.



Mr. Romney Reinvents History

Republicans charted a course of denial and obstruction from the day Mr. Obama was inaugurated.


Romney Vows to Deliver Country From Economic Travails


Mitt Romney asked voters to consider whether their lives had improved over the last four years and urged them not to feel guilty about giving up on President Obama.


A Suitor Makes the Case for Divorce


The challenge for Mitt Romney may be that even Americans who are unhappy with President Obama remain attached to him.


At Convention, Lines Blur for Party and ‘Super PACs’


Over four days, the official and unofficial sides have all but merged into a unified conservative machine, mixing establishment and grass roots.


Facts Take a Beating in Acceptance Speeches


Mitt Romney’s and Paul D. Ryan’s speeches seemed to suggest concerns about fact-checking have been set aside.

G.O.P. Balances Ticket With a Picture of Diversity


Republican pollsters and strategists have been warning for years that a diversifying population could doom a party that cannot attract minority voters.


FRI AUG 31, 2012 AT 08:20 AM PDT

Romney campaign struggles to move past the Clint Eastwood debacle, while everyone else just laughs.

by Laura Clawson on



Renovating Mitt Romney


Do you feel as if you’ve met a new, improved, more lovable Mitt, people? If not, the Republicans failed completely.



Will They Decipher the Cipher?


Stuck between a rock and a hard race, will Mitt Romney be bold or boulder?


Court Blocks Texas Voter ID Law, Citing Racial Impact


A federal court on Thursday stopped Texas from enforcing a strict voter identification law, handing the state its second legal setback this week involving minority voters.


Judge to Toss Out Changes in Florida Voter Registration


A federal judge said he planned to block provisions that made it tougher for groups to register voters in the state.



‘Discriminatory Purpose’ in Texas

In a victory for minority voters, a federal district court rejected the Republican-controlled Legislature’s plans for voting districts.


Courts Reject GOP Voter Suppression Overreach in Four States

By Josh Israel, ThinkProgress

31 August 2012

ith Thursday’s ruling that a Texas voter identification law violates the Voting Rights Act, a pattern continues to emerge of Republican legislatures and governors attempting to enact illegal voter suppression legislation and courts striking them down. Among the recently rejected laws are strict voter identification laws, provisional voting restrictions, limits on voter registration drives, and reduced availability for early voting.

Here’s a partial roundup:

  • Florida: Gov. Rick Scott (R) signed a bill last year to impose harsh new restrictions on third-party voter registration groups, requiring them to turn in completed registration forms 48 hours – to the minute – after completion, or face fines. A federal judge blocked the law in late May and agreed to permanent kill its provisions this week. In a separate case, a judge rejected provisions earlier this month that would have reduced the number of days and hours available for earlier voting.

  • Ohio: A 2006 Ohio law, signed by then-Gov. Bob Taft (R), said that even in cases where poll-workers steer voters to the wrong polling place, provisional votes cast in the wrong precinct must be discarded. Monday, a federal judge granted an injunction to block this rule.

  • Texas: A U.S. District Court three-judge panel blocked a Texas voter ID law – signed by Gov. Rick Perry (R) last May, finding that it “imposes strict, unforgiving burdens on the poor” and that “a disproportionately high percentage of African Americans and Hispanics in Texas live in poverty.” Earlier this week, a different federal three-judge panel ruled the state’s gerrymandered redistricting law was also in violation of the Voting Rights Act.

  • Wisconsin: In July, a state circuit court judge blocked a voter ID law, signed by Gov. Scott Walker (R). In his ruling, he noted the law addressed a problem that was “very limited, if indeed it exists” and would create a “needless and significant impairment of the right to vote.”

In addition, a federal court in South Carolina is currently considering the legality of a voter identification law. South Carolina state officials have shown no examples of actual in-person voter impersonation fraud and have conceded that requiring a photo identification to vote would not actually prevent a determined voter impersonator from voting as someone else.

These illegal voter suppression tactics – ostensibly designed to solve the virtually non-existentproblem of voter fraud – are the real election fraud.



Party of Strivers


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A Night of Problems and Fixes While Keeping an Eye on a Storm


The Army Corps of Engineers nervously monitored water levels and the levees, gates and pumps intended to protect New Orleans from a repeat of the devastation after Hurricane Katrina.


Rain From Isaac Puts Wide Area at Risk


The storm’s once fierce winds slowed to 45 miles per hour on Thursday as it moved out of southern Louisiana and headed north, still bringing heavy rains and flooding.


Isaac Drenches Gulf Coast and High Water Cuts Off Many


Downgraded to a tropical storm on Wednesday, Isaac brought its own distinctive mode of destruction to the Gulf Coast seven years after Hurricane Katrina.


Jason Samrow uses a boat to leave home with his dogs Cubby and Moose in the Olde Towne area after Hurricane Isaac passed through Slidell, Louisiana August 30, 2012.   REUTERS/Michael Spooneybarger  (UNITED STATES - Tags: ENVIRONMENT DISASTER)

As of late Thursday night, nearly three-quarters of New Orleans had no power.

Given that Louisiana is still in the middle of its recovery effort from Hurricane Isaac and that Mitt Romney has no role to play whatsoever in that effort, this seems like an odd and self-centered distraction:

Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney will head to Louisiana to tour damage from Hurricane Isaac.Romney has scheduled a last-minute visit Friday to Lafitte, La., where he will tour damage with Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal – obviously – a Republican. The storm canceled the first day of Romney’s Republican convention, and his campaign has been considering a visit for several days. […]

In Louisiana, Romney will thank emergency first responders for their work.

As he thanks those first responders, I hope Mr. Romney will reconsider his words from just two months ago, when he mocked President Obama for seeking more funding for first responders.“He [President Obama] says we need more fireman, more policeman, more teachers,” Romney said on June 8 of this year. “Did he not get the message of Wisconsin? The American people did. It’s time for us to cut back on government and help the American people.”

Maybe with his tour today, Romney will realize just how wrong he was to mock President Obama for wanting to hire more first responders. But of course this really isn’t about them, it’s about the photo-op, and while Romney will make a big show of thanking them for their service, all the thank yous in the world don’t make up for a pink slip. And if Mitt Romney gets his way in November, that’s exactly what a lot of the people he sees today will get.


Further from Daily Kos:


Posted on on August 30th, 2012
by Pincas Jawetz (





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INTERACTIVE MAP:Map of Hurricane Isaac’s Path

Follow the path of the storm and the five-day forecast.