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Posted on on January 24th, 2017
by Pincas Jawetz (

Will now the US send its navy to conquer South China Sea oil?
Is a nuclear confrontation for oil, with China, in our future?


PowerPost – The Washington Post Daily 202 Newsletter

Tillerson approved by Senate panel as secretary of state

By Karoun Demirjian and Sean Sullivan January 23, 2017 at 6:57 PM

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee split along party lines Monday to endorse Rex Tillerson as the country’s next secretary of state, setting up a confirmation vote in the full Senate that is all but guaranteed to succeed.

Republicans unanimously backed Tillerson in the 11-to-10 vote, after key Republicans who had voiced criticism of Tillerson opted to support his nomination.

Chief among them was Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), a committee member who announced Monday morning that he would support Tillerson despite concerns about how Tillerson would approach Russia and other countries Rubio counts as human rights violators, resolving the final major question surrounding Rex Tillerson’s bid to be confirmed as the nation’s top diplomat.

“My concern was that Mr. Tillerson would be an advocate for, and would pursue a foreign policy of dealmaking, at the expense of traditional alliances and at the expense of the defense of human rights and democracy,” Rubio explained to the committee Monday.

Several Democrats on the Foreign Relations Committee expressed similar concerns, and elected not to support Tillerson’s nomination on those grounds. Democrats also complained that Tillerson had not answered many of their questions directly, and expressed alarm that the former ExxonMobil chief had advocated a military response to several conflicts, from the annexation of Crimea to the ongoing dispute with Beijing in the South China Sea.

“In my view the secretary of state should be leading with more diplomacy, and I found it disturbing that that seemed to be not his first reaction,” said committee ranking member Ben Cardin (D-Md.).

But Tillerson’s confirmation was effectively sealed on Sunday, when Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), both of whom had criticized him strongly, announced they would support his bid in the full Senate.


Posted on on January 17th, 2016
by Pincas Jawetz (

Investing Guide – CNNMONEY

Is it time to bail out the U.S. oil industry?

by Matt Egan @mattmegan5 January 14, 2016: 1:37 PM ET

America’s once-booming oil industry is suddenly in deep financial trouble.

The epic crash in oil prices has wiped out tens of thousands of jobs, caused dozens of bankruptcies and spooked global financial markets.

The fallout is already being felt in oil-rich states like Texas, Oklahoma and North Dakota, where home foreclosure rates are spiking and economic growth is slowing.

Now there are calls in at least some corners for the federal government to come to the rescue.


“It is time to send out an S.O.S., before it’s too late,” John Kilduff, founding partner of energy hedge fund Again Capital, wrote in a recent CNBC column. In the Kilduff dictionary, by the way, S.O.S. stands for “Save Our Shale” industry.

Related: Half of oil junk bonds could default

Kilduff fears Saudi Arabia’s strategy of flooding the world with oil to put pressure on high-cost producers in the U.S. will kill America’s shale business.

“While we are laughing our way to the gasoline pump now, we are heading back down the road to dependence on OPEC and foreign oil,” he wrote.


Greg Valliere, chief strategist at Horizon Investments, thinks an oil bailout could become the next big issue in Congress.

“If Washington can bail out big banks and the auto industry, why not a bailout for oil companies?” Valliere wrote in a client note on Thursday.

Sheila Hollis, an energy practice partner at the law firm Duane Morris, has also heard murmurings about an oil bailout. However, she doubts there’s the political will in Washington for one.

“It makes sense in theory, but they’d need some pretty impenetrable body armor to take this on,” she said.


Related: Falling oil means rising foreclosures in these states

To be sure, it’s early days for the idea of a federal rescue. A spokesman for the American Petroleum Institute told CNNMoney he hadn’t heard of the idea before.

There don’t appear to be any imminent legislative proposals in Congress for a full-scale bailout. However, Senator Lisa Murkowski and Rep. Fred Upton plan to meet to discuss an energy package that could include modest proposals such as expediting the process for exporting natural gas and loosening environmental regulations, according to The Hill.

Kilduff, the hedge fund manager, is proposing bolder ideas that include:
-Paying oil producers to shut down production, thereby reducing some of the supply glut
-Financial assistance to preserve wells for when prices rebound
-Loan guarantees to keep the industry afloat
-Revamp the bankruptcy code to help struggling oil companies restructure
-Enable the federal government to buy land with drilled-but-uncompleted wells


Does the oil industry even want a bailout?

Buddy Clark, a 33-year veteran in the energy finance space, doubts these ideas would be game changers.

“The problem with most of these companies is they are overlevered. Adding federal money doesn’t help the equation,” said Clark, a partner at the Houston law firm Haynes and Boone.

He also doubts whether fiercely independent producers in places like Texas would even accept federal aid.

“No one really wants to get in bed with the federal government,” said Clark.

The Independent Petroleum Association of America, which represents thousands of independent producers, told CNNMoney it’s not interested in a bailout from Washington.


Related: $10 oil: Crazy idea or the real floor beneath the oil crash?

Federal aid would face backlash; Many Americans would staunchly oppose any federal aid for the oil industry.

“The Democrats would turn it into a bailout of ExxonMobil (XOM). It would be a political disaster,” said Joe McMonigle, former chief of staff of the Energy Department who is now a senior energy analyst at Potomac Research Group.

THEN ALSO ENVIRONMENTAL GROUPS WOULD BE ENRAGED: Can President Obama would help oil producers he just referred to as “dirty energy” in his State of the Union address?

“It’s an outrageous proposal. We would oppose it, obviously,” said Athan Manuel, an official from the Sierra Club.

Related: Solar energy jobs double in 5 years

Job losses keep mounting

One idea that Kilduff proposed may generate more sympathy: give oil workers enhanced unemployment benefits or temporary government jobs as caretakers of the oilfields.

A stunning 130,000 energy jobs disappeared in 2015 as oil and natural gas companies slashed spending.

The pink slips will continue to fly as pain in the oil patch builds. Last year, 42 North American oil companies filed for bankruptcy, according to a list compiled by Haynes and Boone.

“The workers are going to suffer the most. Anything that can be done on their behalf would be great,” said Clark.

CNNMoney (New York) First published January 14, 2016: 1:37 PM ET


Posted on on July 27th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (

In the Shadow of the Storm

By Rebecca Solnit, Harper’s Magazine

26 July 2015

Ten years ago this month, on the day Hurricane Katrina struck the Gulf Coast, I was at Camp Casey, an informal encampment outside George W. Bush’s Crawford ranch, listening to a group of veterans talk about their opposition to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. By chance, it was also the day my first feature for Harper’s Magazine went to press, an essay about how people react in the wake of major urban disasters. It wasn’t until the following Easter that I went to New Orleans for the first of at least two dozen post-storm visits. The water had receded by then, and the houses had been searched by teams who left what became a familiar mark throughout the city: a big spray-painted x with data written in each of its four quadrants about who and what had been found inside, when they’d been found, and whether they were found alive or dead. On one boxy white two-story house on Deslonde Street, the word baghdad was also painted.

When I first visited that house, the city around it felt dead. Whether New Orleans would ever come back to life was one question. What kind of life might come back was another. Some people had fled before the hurricane hit, thinking they were only leaving for a few days. Others rode out the storm and then departed for what they knew would be an open-ended exile. Michael White, a jazz clarinetist and a professor at Xavier University, was among the former. After a few months in Houston, he came back to the wrecked, largely abandoned city that his family had called home for generations. As he told me recently, he returned to a profound loss of the past and deep uncertainty about the future. His home, near the breach of the London Avenue Canal, was almost completely submerged. The flooding destroyed a collection of musical material so rich and complex it took him several minutes to describe it: 5,000 CD recordings, 1,000 vinyl records, 4,000 books, 50 clarinets, historic photographs, sheet music, a Louis Armstrong film library, and a trove of artifacts related to early jazz greats such as Sidney Bechet.

Growing up in New Orleans, White, who is now sixty, went to school with Fats Domino’s children. Both a distinguished musician and a historian of New Orleans, he was befriended by and played with musicians born between 1890 and 1910, from whom he gathered the stories and sounds of the birth of jazz. In Houston he feared that the cultural continuity of his native city might be shattered, that New Orleans might never come back. His collection never would. And his octogenarian mother, devastated and strained by the destruction, died in exile.

People like White’s mother, of whom there were many, are not counted as part of Katrina’s death toll, but perhaps they should be. “Katrina” is less the name of a storm than it is a shorthand for a series of largely man-made catastrophes: the lack of an evacuation plan for the poorest and most vulnerable people in the city; the regularly predicted failure of the levees maintained by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers; the inadequate emergency management of city, state, and federal government; and the corruption and bureaucratic delays that hindered the rebuilding process. The “Baghdad” graffiti was a reminder that the two places were devastated by the same regime — and a suggestion, perhaps, that in the wake of the storm poor black New Orleanians were often treated like enemies.

Katrina and its aftermath can seem impossibly remote. The Bush Administration was then at the height of its powers; political dissent was largely silenced in the name of patriotism while those who thought we could win the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were still loud and confident. But disasters often undermine the credibility of people in power, and Katrina did a fine job of revealing the callousness and cluelessness of the administration, from the president to Michael Brown, the cheerfully unqualified head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Today, Brown is nearly as distant a memory as the image of George W. Bush as a competent centrist.

In another way, however, that time remains uncomfortably close, because it was the beginning of a series of spectacularly public episodes of American racism. As they were in Baltimore, in Ferguson, in Sanford, Florida, and in many other places recently, unarmed black people were shot by police and vigilantes in storm-soaked New Orleans. A vast population of mostly African-American New Orleanians was trapped on the rooftops and elevated freeways of a sweltering city that was 80 percent underwater and bereft of electricity and nearly all commerce and services. They were portrayed by the government and the media as too savage and dangerous to rescue or to allow to leave the city. New Orleans became a prison. The media fell back on the usual disaster tropes of looting, raping, and marauding hordes, and proved eager to demonize black people rather than see them as vulnerable victims of a catastrophe. They made news out of rumors, many of which turned out to be entirely baseless, about people shooting at helicopters from rooftops and corpses from imaginary bloodbaths piling up in the Superdome.

When I returned in February 2007, the Baghdad house looked unchanged. Its windows and doors were still missing, and there were weeds and wreckage all around. But I saw a man on a ladder working on the place. In June of that year, I found that the house had been painted a crisp white. It had a neat lawn and new windows, and the doors and staircase had been repaired. On the wall hung a banner for Common Ground Relief, an organization founded after Katrina by former Black Panther Malik Rahim and other activists. Common Ground was an improvisational organization of the sort that disasters often beget, a group that was able to respond to changing needs and local particulars better than the top-down organizations that arrived from outside. It began as a supply center in the Lower Ninth Ward, the mostly black neighborhood where the Baghdad house stands, but soon added a clinic providing medical care where none was available. It eventually expanded its mandate to gutting and rebuilding houses, coordinating and housing armies of young, radical volunteers, and providing job training.

The storm lifted up some lives and tossed others around and smashed them. Some people picked up where they left off, particularly those in the older, more affluent “sliver by the river” above the flood levels. Some found their lives taking another direction. Five years after the storm, the black population of New Orleans had fallen by more than one hundred thousand. Some who fled found good lives elsewhere; others did not but couldn’t afford to come home. There is no clear or easy story about Katrina’s consequences for New Orleans. It traumatized many of those who survived; it caused the death of nearly 2,000 people directly and many others indirectly. It also shocked a stagnant, corrupt city that was suffering a slow economic and demographic decline into reforming itself.

Naomi Klein coined the term “disaster capitalism” to describe the opportunistic way that free-market evangelists use crises to push their agenda. There was certainly some of that happening in New Orleans, where a conservative elite took advantage of the storm to convert the entire public school system to charter schools and fire all the unionized teachers, to shut down the city’s vast housing projects, and to close one of the country’s oldest public hospitals. (Neither the hospital nor the housing projects were seriously damaged by Katrina.) But Klein’s term doesn’t capture the full picture of what happens after a disaster, which is less a conquest than a conflict over who will determine the future.

The elites don’t always win. New Orleans has seen a number of progressive victories over the past decade. Exposure of the murderous corruption of the New Orleans police force resulted in a federal overhaul of the department. Alternative institutions like Common Ground still serve the needy. Katrina energized New Orleanians not just to reclaim their city but to rethink it.

The civic engagement of old-timers and newcomers alike has given the city an unprecedented dynamism, a practical democracy that’s rare elsewhere in the country. People in New Orleans always did show up: for parties and parades, for christenings and funerals, and for neighbors’ barbecues. A great many people have a deep sense of place and local history. They talk convivially with strangers and cultivate a wide set of acquaintances in the city. Now they show up in force when policy is being made and the city’s future is being charted.

Prisca Weems, an environmental scientist who has the confounding title of stormwater manager for the city, is trying to figure out how to build resilient water-diversion systems for the next century. That means engaging with climate change, coastal erosion, rising oceans, and the ways that the city’s storm water and groundwater have been mismanaged since the late 1800s

For more than a century, New Orleans had been at war with the water that surrounds it. The groundwater that remained in its marshy center was pumped out, deepening a below-sea-level basin that rainstorms and breached canals filled all too easily. At the same time, the city had pulled water in to ease shipping — notably through the Industrial Canal, which cut the Lower Ninth Ward off from the rest of the city and flooded that neighborhood during Katrina, and the Mississippi River Gulf Outlet, nicknamed the Hurricane Highway, which gave cargo ships and storm surges from the Gulf a shortcut to the city. The outlet also allowed salt water to reach the swamp cypresses that had served as surge buffers; their skeletal white stumps still stand on the far side of the levees at the north end of the Lower Ninth Ward. The Hurricane Highway was shut down in 2007, and a system of barriers has been built to replace it. Just as China built walls to keep out human invaders, so New Orleans now has its own great wall to keep out the water, what Weems calls a “one-hundred-thirty-three-mile perimeter-defense system, with levees, flood walls, pump stations, and gated structures.”

Weems told me that New Orleans is now hoping to take advantage of water in the city instead of being forever at war with it. Large numbers of New Orleanians routinely talk about subjects like hydrological management and study maps of potential transformation. It’s the rare urban area in which many citizens have become avid urbanists. Weems praised the city’s populist approach to recovery. “We had the downside of taking longer to recover,” she said, “but the upside was citizen engagement in planning processes, in discussing the future not only in the city but in specific neighborhoods. The government is accountable to the citizens of this city in a way it wasn’t before. We have worked hard to shape the future.” Post-Katrina New Orleans, she added, “was like a viral laboratory.

I’m not sure when the new houses started going up around the Baghdad house. In 2008, the place stood alone. By June 2010, a bright-pink house on stilts stood next door. It, too, had a Common Ground banner on its balcony. Lately, dozens of colorful new houses have gone up nearby. (They’re known locally as Brad Pitt houses, after the founder of the Make It Right foundation, the nonprofit that built them.) These houses are architecturally adventurous and ecologically sound, with solar panels above and stilts below that are built to ride out the next flood. There is a new energy in the city, albeit one that leaves some people out — it has raised housing prices, hurting those who’ve been left behind in the new economy. The Make It Right houses were subsidized for returning residents of the Lower Ninth; many others displaced by the storm could not find their way through the bureaucracy that was supposed to help pay for rebuilding or find funds to reclaim their homes. The neighborhood now includes a hundred pink, orange, green, blue, and yellow Make It Right homes, as well as a lot of green space where houses used to be tightly packed. It’s become a de facto wildlife refuge, thanks to the unpopulated landscape and its position near the bayous on the edge of town.

In 2007, I interviewed an older woman from the Holy Cross neighborhood in the Lower Ninth. She was one of the losers in Katrina’s reshuffle. Her house was swamped in several feet of water, her family was scattered, and her job as a high-school teacher had been eliminated. At the time, she was fiercely determined to rebuild her home and to reclaim her life, but wading through the bureaucracy and living in a ruined neighborhood had worn on her. She still lives in her house, but when I asked her recently about the past eight years, she said, “Oh, honey, I don’t want to talk about all that, about the devastation. I want all that behind me.”

After Michael White came back, he oversaw the gutting, cleaning, and restoring of his house, but he found he could not live there. He had nightmares about water, and about friends who’d drowned nearby. “Some people are back to where they were before, or better,” he told me. “Some are not quite back yet. I bought a house four years ago, but I’m not quite back yet, and I’m trying like hell to get back. In the next year or two I’ll be able to get to a state of normalcy, though I realize things will never be the same.” New Orleans is in transition, he said, and it is still impossible to know how the changes will affect the social clubs, brass bands, jazz funerals, and second lines of the city. White is still teaching and playing music in New Orleans and on the road, and he is still a conduit between the old world of the early twentieth century and the present. But he lost something.

Disasters begin suddenly; they never exactly end. You might be cured of your cancer, but you can never again be the person who never had cancer. New Orleans on August 28, 2005, was a city in many kinds of trouble. The fallout from the storm prompted soul-searching, transformation, and reform. Many things have been gained in the years since, but only after so much was lost. And so many. The city is in the process of becoming another place, and the answer to whether that’s a good or a bad thing will always be — both. There’s a garden across the street from the Baghdad house; it’s green and Edenic, but it’s also where several people had homes before they got swept away.

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Posted on on July 11th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (

BP Could Get Billions in Tax Breaks on Oil Spill Settlement

By Jennifer Larino, The Times-Picayune

10 July 15

Last Thursday (July 2), states attorneys general in Louisiana and four other Gulf Coast states celebrated an $18.7 billion settlement with BP over claims from the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill. A report from the U.S. Public Interest Research Group says the true value of the deal could be far lower after BP files its taxes.

Federal tax law prevents companies from deducting penalties paid for breaking the law from their corporate taxes. But damage payments — such as money paid for coastal restoration — can be treated as a business expense.

According to the Public Interest Research Group, at least $13.2 billion in the settlement is not defined as a penalty, meaning BP could potentially get tax breaks on that chunk of money. This includes payments to restore natural resources the spill damaged.

The settlement announced last week could wind up costing BP only around $14 billion after taxes assuming all those costs are written-off at the top 35 percent corporate tax rate.

Phineas Baxandall, the consumer group’s senior analyst for tax and budget policy, said a federal judge ruled that BP broke the law. The company must pay for its misdeeds, not shift the burden to taxpayers, he said.

“This is not just an accounting question,” Baxandall said. “There is a zero-sum game here between the American taxpayer and BP on this issue.”

The Public Interest Research Group has asked the Justice Department to include specific language in the settlement that prohibits BP from claiming tax breaks on payments. It also wants the full details of the settlement to be made public. The court has ordered most of the settlement details confidential for now.

The only portion of the settlement that appears excluded from tax breaks is the $5.5 billion environmental penalty BP has agreed to pay for violating the Clean Water Act.

Justice Department spokesman Wyn Hornbuckle declined to comment on Public Interest Research Group’s findings. He confirmed the Clean Water Act penalties cannot be deducted.

BP did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Ed Sherman, a Tulane University law professor and a complex litigation expert who has followed the BP case closely, said the company likely negotiated for a lower Clean Water Act fine and higher natural resource damage payments with the tax advantage in mind.

Sherman said all sides benefit in ending what could have been years of litigation. But the tax breaks and the opportunity to make payments over 15 years — even longer for some payments — are distinct advantages for BP, he said.

“It was a fair settlement on both sides, but I think BP probably came out a little better,” Sherman said.

Baxandall said the way the Clean Water Act penalty would be distributed to states under the settlement could lead to more write-offs.

Under the terms of the agreement, 80 percent of the $5.5 billion penalty would be distributed to five Gulf Coast states under the RESTORE Act. Signed into law in 2012, the act establishes a fund for the penalty money and a framework to divvy up funds for restoration projects in Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi, Texas and coastal counties in Florida.

The funds are technically penalty money. But Baxandall said the way the money is used could be considered restitution, which would be a tax-deductible expense. He is worried BP could use that argument to press for more tax breaks.

This is not the first time settlement tax breaks have been called into question. The federal government’s $1.1 billion settlement with Exxon after the Exxon Valdez oil tanker spill in Alaska was reported to have an after-tax cost of only $524 million.

A bill now in the U.S. Senate attempts to tackle the issue, requiring federal agencies to state whether out-of-court settlements are tax deductible. Companies would also be required to disclose whether they claimed settlement deductions in Securities and Exchange Commission filings.

In the meantime, the Public Interest Research Group is calling on the Justice Department to be more transparent about the settlement details.

Baxandall notes agencies such as the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau promptly post settlements online for public scrutiny. The Environmental Protection Agency started in 2013 to include language in its settlements specifically banning parties from claiming tax breaks on cleanup funds.

The BP oil spill settlement announced last week is set to undergo a public comment period before being approved. Hornbuckle said the public comment period would begin after a final settlement is filed with the court, which is expected by early 2016.

“If there is enough outrage about this and people voice their discontent during that period, then I would hope the Justice Department would insert the few words it would take to save taxpayers billions of dollars,” Baxandall said.

If tax breaks are being used as a bargaining chip to finalize settlements, it needs to stop, he said.

“Everybody wins except for the public,” Baxandall said.


Posted on on January 23rd, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (

Blogger Who Uncovered GOP Leader’s White Supremacist Ties Had Home Internet Lines Cut.

By Aaron Sankin, The Daily Dot, 23 January 2015

Earlier this month, Lamar White, Jr. woke up to discover his Internet connection wasn’t working. He had just gotten a new cable box installed at his Dallas, Texas, home and figured his lines should still be in ship shape because it hadn’t been long since they were last checked.

Rather than just assume he had crappy Internet service, like you or I might, he thought his home computer system was on the receiving end of a denial of service attack. White, you see, is something of a major figure in the political media. And there are a good many people who may want revenge for the things he’s dug up.

Last month, the Louisiana native and current Southern Methodist University law student, set off a firestorm in Washington when a post on his personal blog revealed that House Majority Whip Steve Scalise, the third most powerful Republican in the House of Representatives, was a featured speaker at a white nationalist conference put on by former Ku Klux Klan Grand Wizard David Duke.

While Scalise retained his leadership position after conservatives from around the country quickly circled the wagons, the story has generated headlines for nearly a month—even causing a new round of controversy when left-leaning news outlets started making a fuss over Scalise’s multiple votes against making Martin Luther King Day a federal holiday. Nevertheless, when the cable guy came a few days later, and the first thing he asked after looking at White’s Internet connection was, “Do you have any enemies?” White couldn’t help but be more than a little surprised.

“I don’t have any scorned ex-girlfriends,” White recalled saying with a laugh. “Everyone I know in Dallas seems to like me.”

“[The cable guy] said that whatever had happened to me was the result of someone invading my backyard and using a power tool to cut the line,” he recalled. “There’s no conceivable way this could have happened on its own or been done by an animal. It wasn’t just that they cut it, they also tugged at the line [after it was severed].”

White was naturally pretty freaked out. He has since upped both his physical and online security. He’s replaced the security equipment on his house, changed all his passwords, and enabled two-factor authentication on every online account he could.

“I don’t think it was anybody associated in Steve Scalise’s office,” White insisted, adding that he’s not the type of person who tends to lean toward conspiracy theories. “I respect the folks that have spoken out in his favor. I think he has a lot of explaining to do. But I absolutely, unequivocally, do not think that he is in any way connected.”

“This just shows you the nastiness of some of the people who are associated with the white nationalist movement,” he added.

Even so, the direct attack surprised him. While the Scalise scoop certainly brought a lot of attention, it didn’t come with a significant amount of hostility directed against him personally. Some conservatives have attempted to poke holes in his narrative, but the focus of nearly all opposition was primarily the story rather than White himself.

White knows the difference first-hand because it stood in contrast to another media flap in which White was recently at the center. In the midst of last year’s race for Texas governor, White attended a campaign rally in support of gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis. Just prior to the event, an advertisement released by Davis raised eyebrows nationally for attacking how her Republican opponent, Greg Abbott, was being hypocritical for aggressively pushing tort reform after earning millions in a lawsuit when part of an oak tree fell on him, paralyzing him for life from the waist down. The ad was slammed as being insensitive to Abbott’s disability, and Davis responded with a event featuring a number of her disabled supporters—including White, who has cerebral palsy.

Some on the right blasted Davis for using White as a campaign “prop.” White naturally fired back with the line, “I am a human being, not a campaign prop,” which created another round of headlines.

He said that the criticism he received after that incident was far more vicious and personal in nature than what he experienced after publishing the Scalise story.

White first came to the story through a tip from a woman named Gilda Reed. A Democrat, Reed had lost a congressional election against Scalise in 2008. She had mentioned to White, who regularly does investigative journalism about Louisiana politics, about a connection between Scalise and David Duke.

Despite being the highest-profile Ku Klux Klan member in generations, Duke was a serious political force in Louisiana for many years. In 1991, he won 60 percent of the state’s white vote in an attempt to beat Edwin Edwards in the race for governor.

White started digging. He sat down at his computer and did a simple Google search for “David Duke Steve Scalise.” Within a few seconds, he came across a series of posts on the infamous white supremacist forum (slogan: “Every month is white history month”) indicating that Scalise had attended a conference put on by European-American Unity and Rights Organization (EURO), a group founded by Duke to promote white civil rights, while Scalise was a Louisiana state legislator.

A post on Stormfront, which has since been removed but is still accessible via the Internet Archive’s invaluable Wayback Machine, noted that Scalise spoke to the group regarding the “gross mismanagement of tax revenue.”

In addition to plans to implement tactical strategies that were discussed, the meeting was productive locally as State Representative, Steve Scalise, discussed ways to oversee gross mismanagement of tax revenue or “slush funds” that have little or no accountability. Representative Scalise brought into sharp focus the dire circumstances pervasive in many important, under-funded needs of the community at the expense of graft within the Housing and Urban Development Fund, an apparent give-away to a selective group based on race.

A second post, which is still up on Stormfront’s site, noted:

It was just announced that Rep. Steve Scalise, R-Jefferson will enter the race in the 1st Congressional District. Those that attended the EURO conference in New Orleans will recall that Scalise was a speaker, offering his support for issues that are of concern to us. I suppose if Duke does not make the election for whatever reason, this gentleman would be a good alternative.

Scalise has admitted that he spoke to the group, but maintains that he was there to exclusively speak about economic issues and was unaware of the organization’s ties to the white supremacist movement. “I didn’t know who all of these groups were, and I detest any kind of hate group,” the lawmaker told the New Orleans Times-Picayune. “For anyone to suggest that I was involved with a group like that is insulting and ludicrous.”

The tie between Scalise and EURO was there for anyone to find. White just happened to be the first person to Google precisely the right thing at precisely the right time. Of course, the axe swings both ways—the Internet is likely the tool whoever cut his cable used to discovered where White lives.

“It might not be the Klan or the white nationalists, it could just be a random person who found my address and didn’t like what I was posting,” he said. “I understand my address is public record. If someone wants to find where you live, they can find where you live, no matter who you are. I’m really not intimidated by that.



+12 # Billy Bob 2015-01-23 11:57
As someone who lived too long in Dallas, all I can say for it is that it’s a dirty city with a degree of corruption I don’t think you can match anywhere outside of hell.


” ‘I understand my address is public record. If someone wants to find where you live, they can find where you live, no matter who you are. I’m really not intimidated by that.’ “

-Well, White’s a hell of a lot braver than I am. I AM intimidated by that. I DO have scorned ex-girlfriends I’d like to keep in my past. I DO have children I’d like to protect from psychopaths. I DO fear for my “security” in a world where everyone seems to know personal information about everybody.

Your address and phone number were always, traditionally, public record, but I question the wisdom of that, in this day and age. In the past, there were never so many tools that could be used to destroy your life, simply through access to public information. I see no real reason why we shouldn’t be allowed at least some privacy, EVEN about our address and phone number.


Sorry, but one more thought:

If everyone can find everyone’s phone number and address, what’s stopping all of us from just dropping in Billy Joel? I’m just picking on him because I’d like to meet him, so, what’s stopping me? Could we all just decide to pay a visit to Bill O’Reilly?

My guess is, um, NO.

My guess is that there IS a way for someone famous to stay private. Am I wrong? If not, what is it? I’d like some privacy, please.


+2 # Banichi 2015-01-23 13:26
I once thought to find the addresses of a few of the justices of the SCOTUS, to send them a letter discussing the impact of Citizens United. I thought they might not be paying attention to the oaths they swore to ‘defend and protect’ the Constitution. But not surprisingly, such information is not easily available, not to ordinary citizens anyway. I admit I did not try too hard, since we are all watched over by too many government agencies and I don’t need to know that badly.

So yes, privacy does have a price…but if you are important enough, who can discover your information is a pretty small group, apparently.



Posted on on May 13th, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (

Bobby Jindal, raised Hindu, uses Christian conversion to woo GOP base for 2016 run.


Parker Michels-Boyce/AP – Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal delivers the keynote speech at the Liberty University commencement ceremony in Lynchburg, Va., on May 10, 2014.

By Published: May 12, 2014     


LYNCHBURG, Va. — A dozen politically active pastors came here for a private dinner Friday night to hear a conversion story unique in the context of presidential politics: how Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal traveled from Hinduism to Protestant Christianity and, ultimately, became what he calls an “evangelical Catholic.”Over two hours, Jindal, 42, recalled talking with a girl in high school who wanted to “save my soul,” reading the Bible in a closet so his parents would not see him and feeling a stir while watching a movie during his senior year that depicted Jesus on the cross.

“I was struck, and struck hard,” Jindal told the pastors. “This was the Son of God, and He had died for our sins.”

Jindal’s session with the Christian clergy, who lead congregations in the early presidential battleground states of Iowa and South Carolina, was part of a behind-the-scenes effort by the Louisiana governor to find a political base that could help propel him into the top tier of Republican candidates seeking to run for the White House in 2016.

Known in GOP circles mostly for his mastery of policy issues such as health care, Jindal, a Rhodes Scholar and graduate of the Ivy League’s Brown University, does not have an obvious pool of activist supporters to help drive excitement outside his home state. So he is harnessing his religious experience in a way that has begun to appeal to parts of the GOP’s influential core of religious conservatives, many of whom have yet to find a favorite among the Republicans eyeing the presidential race.

Other potential 2016 GOP candidates are wooing the evangelical base, including Sens. Rand Paul (Ky.) and Ted Cruz (Tex.) and Indiana Gov. Mike Pence.

But over the weekend in Lynchburg — a mecca of sorts for evangelicals as the home of Liberty University, founded in the 1970s by the Rev. Jerry Falwell — Jindal appeared to make progress.

In addition to his dinner with the pastors, he delivered a well-received “call to action” address to 40,000 Christian conservatives gathered for Liberty’s commencement ceremony, talking again about his faith while assailing what he said was President Obama’s record of attacking religious liberty.

The pastors who came to meet Jindal said his intimate descriptions of his experiences stood out.

“He has the convictions, and he has what it takes to communicate them,” said Brad Sherman of Solid Rock Christian Church in Coralville, Iowa. Sherman helped former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee in his winning 2008 campaign for delegates in Iowa.

Another Huckabee admirer, the Rev. C. Mitchell Brooks of Second Baptist Church in Belton, S.C., said Jindal’s commitment to Christian values and his compelling story put him “on a par” with Huckabee, who was a Baptist preacher before entering politics.

The visiting pastors flew to Lynchburg over the weekend at the invitation of the American Renewal Project, a well-funded nonprofit group that encourages evangelical Christians to engage in the civic arena with voter guides, get-out-the-vote drives and programs to train pastors in grass-roots activism. The group’s founder, David Lane, has built a pastor network in politically important states such as Iowa, Missouri, Ohio and South Carolina and has led trips to Israel with Paul and others seeking to make inroads with evangelical activists.

The group that Lane invited to Lynchburg included Donald Wild­mon, a retired minister and founder of the American Family Association, a prominent evangelical activist group that has influence through its network of more than 140 Christian radio stations.

Most of the pastors that Lane’s organization brought to Lynchburg had not met Jindal. But they said he captured their interest recently when he stepped forward to defend Phil Robertson, patriarch of the “Duck Dynasty” television-show family, amid a controversy over disparaging remarks he made about gays in an interview with GQ magazine.

Throughout his Lynchburg visit, Jindal presented himself as a willing culture warrior.

During his commencement address Saturday, he took up the cause of twin brothers whose HGTV reality series about renovating and reselling houses, “Flip It Forward,” was canceled last week after a Web site revealed that they had protested against same-sex marriage at the 2012 Democratic National Convention in Charlotte.

The siblings, Jason and David Benham, both Liberty graduates, attended the graduation and a private lunch with Jindal, who called the action against them “another demonstration of intolerance from the entertainment industry.”

“If these guys had protested at the Republican Party convention, instead of canceling their show, HGTV would probably have given them a raise,” Jindal said as the Liberty crowd applauded.

He cited the Hobby Lobby craft store chain, which faced a legal challenge after refusing to provide employees with insurance coverage for contraceptives as required under the Affordable Care Act. Members of the family that owns Hobby Lobby, who have become heroes to many religious conservatives, have said that they are morally opposed to the use of certain types of birth control and that they considered the requirement a violation of their First Amendment right to religious freedom.

The family was “committed to honor the Lord by being generous employers, paying well above minimum wage and increasing salaries four years in a row even in the midst of the enduring recession,” Jindal told the Liberty graduates. “None of this matters to the Obama administration.”

But for the pastors who came to see Jindal in action, the governor’s own story was the highlight of the weekend. And in many ways, he was unlike any other aspiring president these activists had met.

Piyush (Bobby) Jindal was born in 1971, four months after his parents arrived in Baton Rouge, La., from their native India. He changed his name to Bobby as a young boy, adopting the name of a character on a favorite television show, “The Brady Bunch.”

His decision to become a Christian, he told the pastors, did not come in one moment of lightning epiphany. Instead, he said, it happened in phases, growing from small seeds planted over time.

Jindal recalled that his closest friend from grade school gave him a Bible with his name emblazoned in gold on the cover as a Christmas present. It struck him initially as an unimpressive gift, Jindal told the pastors.

“Who in the world would spend good money for a Bible when everyone knows you can get one free in any hotel?” he recalled thinking at the time. “And the gold lettering meant I couldn’t give it away or return it.”

His religious education reached a higher plane during his junior year in high school, he told his dinner audience. He wanted to ask a pretty girl on a date during a hallway conversation, and she started talking about her faith in God and her opposition to abortion. The girl invited him to visit her church.

Jindal said he was skeptical and set out to “investigate all these fanciful claims” made by the girl and other friends. He started reading the Bible in his closet at home. “I was unsure how my parents would react,” he said.

After the stirring moment when he saw Christ depicted on the cross during the religious movie,
the Bible and his very existence suddenly seemed clearer to him, Jindal told the pastors.

Jindal did not dwell on his subsequent conversion to Catholicism just a few years later in college, where he said he immersed himself in the traditions of the church.

He touched on it briefly during the commencement address, noting in passing that “I am best described as an evangelical Catholic.” Mostly, he sought to showcase the ways in which he shares values with other Christian conservatives.

“I read the words of Jesus Christ, and I realized that they were true,” Jindal told the graduates Saturday, offering a less detailed accounting of his conversion than he had done the night before with the pastors. “I used to think that I had found God, but I believe it is more accurate to say that He found me.”



Posted on on January 13th, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (


BP appeal to stop ‘fictitious’ U.S. oil spill claims fails.

Date: 13-Jan-14

Authors: Alex Dobuzinskis and Sarah Young of Reuters’ Planet Ark.

BP appeal to stop 'fictitious' U.S. oil spill claims fails Photo: LEE CELANO
A hard hat from an oil worker lies in oil from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill on East Grand Terre Island, Louisiana

One of BP’s attempts to curb payouts for what it says are “fictitious” and “absurd” claims related to the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill has failed after a legal appeal was rejected by a U.S. court.

BP had argued in its appeal that the administration of a 2012 settlement agreement was faulty because it allowed claimants without actual damages to join in.

But a panel of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Friday affirmed a federal judge’s approval of the multi-billion dollar settlement between the oil company and businesses and individuals who lost money and property in the spill.

The ruling is a blow to the company’s attempt to curb payouts to what it says are undeserving claimants.

Two out of three judges on the appeals court panel rejected BP’s arguments. The court’s findings said that the company had failed to explain “how this court or the district court should identify or even discern the existence of ‘claimants that have suffered no cognizable injury.'”

BP said in an emailed statement on Saturday that it was assessing its legal options following the court’s decision.

“BP will continue to press its position on the proper interpretation of the settlement agreement’s provisions requiring a causal nexus between a claimant’s injury and the spill,” BP spokesman Geoff Morrell said.

BP had originally projected that its settlement in the case would cost $7.8 billion. As of late October it had boosted this estimate to $9.2 billion, and said this sum could grow “significantly higher” with billions of dollars already having been paid out to claimants who range from hotel owners to oyster gatherers.

Amongst the claims against which BP has protested are one for $21 million from a Louisiana rice mill which is located 40 miles from the coast and which earned more revenue in 2010 than in any of the previous three years.

Three years on, the shadow of the explosion of the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig continues to hang over the company. The blast ruptured a BP well killing 11 people and triggering the largest-ever U.S. offshore oil spill.

BP still faces potential fines under the Clean Water Act. It has filed numerous lawsuits to curb payouts related to the spill after taking provisions for $42.4 billion to cover the clean-up, compensation and fines.

(The story is refiled to clarify in headline one of several appeals)

(Reporting by Alex Dobuzinskis and Sarah Young in LONDON; additional reporting by Andrew Callus; Editing by Toby Chopra)


Posted on on January 12th, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (



CTMD Upcoming Events


Center for Traditional Music and Dance & Verite sou Tanbou present

Verite Sou Tanbou   


A conversation about Vodou and the Environment

followed by a Vodou singing session








Sunday, Jan 19th, 6:30PM
138 South Oxford Street, 2nd Floor
Brooklyn, NY
(Kindly RSVP by January 18th to
Your RSVP will be confirmed via e-mail.)
The Center for Traditional Music and Dance and its Haitian Community Cultural Initiative, Verite sou Tanbou (formerly known as Ayiti Fasafas), invite you to “Vodou Is Nature,” an educational workshop on Haitian Vodou practice and performance in New York City. Oungan (Vodou priest) Dieudonné Jean-Jacques and Manbo (Vodou Priestess) Marie Carmel will lead a conversation discussing the roots of Haitian Vodou with respect to the environment, in its “four elements” (air, earth, fire, and water), and the Vodou spirits (lwa) which guard and represent the powerful forces and precious resources of the natural world.  The conversation will be translated into English and Kreyol and will be followed by a question-and-answer session, plus a performance of traditional Vodou songs on nature themes. Audience participation is encouraged!
WikiCommons Tree



Verite sou Tanbou image design by Kesler Pierre.

Roots/water photo by Pam Fray, 2007 (public domain via Wikimedia Commons).

Support for this program is provided to the Center for Traditional Music and Dance and Verite sou Tanbou by the National Endowment for the Arts, New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature, and New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council, Con Edison, the Emma A. Sheafer Charitable Trust, the Fan Fox and Leslie R. Samuels Foundation, the Gilder Foundation, the Hearst Foundation, the Mertz Gilmore Foundation and the Scherman Foundation.

Find out more about CTMD!
For more information about upcoming events, what’s happening in New York City’s traditional music and dance scene, to join or to donate, go to CTMD’s website.  


Posted on on May 18th, 2013
by Pincas Jawetz (


A Black Mound of Canadian Oil Waste Is Rising Over Detroit

Fabrizio Costantini for The New York Times

Petroleum coke, a waste byproduct of refining oil sands oil, is piling up along the Detroit River.

WINDSOR, Ontario — Assumption Park gives residents of this city lovely views of the Ambassador Bridge and the Detroit skyline. Lately they’ve been treated to another sight: a three-story pile of petroleum coke covering an entire city block on the other side of the Detroit River.

   Fabrizio Costantini for The New York Times

Brian Masse, a member of the Canadian Parliament, wants a bilateral agency to investigate the pile accumulating in Detroit.

Detroit’s ever-growing black mountain is the unloved, unwanted and long overlooked byproduct of Canada’s oil sands boom.

And no one knows quite what to do about it, except Koch Carbon, which owns it.

The company is controlled by Charles and David Koch, wealthy industrialists who back a number of conservative and libertarian causes including activist groups that challenge the science behind climate change. The company sells the high-sulfur, high-carbon waste, usually overseas, where it is burned as fuel.

The coke comes from a refinery alongside the river owned by Marathon Petroleum, which has been there since 1930. But it began refining exports from the Canadian oil sands — and producing the waste that is sold to Koch — only in November.

“What is really, really disturbing to me is how some companies treat the city of Detroit as a dumping ground,” said Rashida Tlaib, the Michigan state representative for that part of Detroit. “Nobody knew this was going to happen.” Almost 56 percent of Canada’s oil production is from the petroleum-soaked oil sands of northern Alberta, more than 2,000 miles north.

An initial refining process known as coking, which releases the oil from the tarlike bitumen in the oil sands, also leaves the petroleum coke, of which Canada has 79.8 million tons stockpiled. Some is dumped in open-pit oil sands mines and tailing ponds in Alberta. Much is just piled up there.

Detroit’s pile will not be the only one. Canada’s efforts to sell more products derived from oil sands to the United States, which include transporting it through the proposed Keystone XL pipeline, have pulled more coking south to American refineries, creating more waste product here.

Marathon Petroleum’s plant in Detroit processes 28,000 barrels a day of the oil sands bitumen.

Residents on both sides of the Detroit River are concerned that the coke mountain is both an environmental threat and an eyesore.

“Here’s a little bit of Alberta,” said Brian Masse, one of Windsor’s Parliament members. “For those that thought they were immune from the oil sands and the consequences of them, we’re now seeing up front and center that we’re not.”

Mr. Masse wants the International Joint Commission, the bilateral agency that governs the Great Lakes, to investigate the pile. Michigan’s state environmental regulatory agency has submitted a formal request to Detroit Bulk Storage, the company holding the material for Koch Carbon, to change its storage methods. Michigan politicians and environmental groups have also joined cause with Windsor residents. Paul Baltzer, a spokesman for Koch’s parent company, Koch Companies Public Sector, did not respond to questions about its storage or the ultimate destination of the petroleum coke.

Coke, which is mainly carbon, is an essential ingredient in steelmaking as well as producing the electrical anodes used to make aluminum.

While there is high demand from both those industries, the small grains and high sulfur content of this petroleum coke make it largely unusable for those purposes, said Kerry Satterthwaite, a petroleum coke analyst at Roskill Information Services, a commodities analysis company based in London.

“It is worse than a byproduct,” Ms. Satterthwaite said.“It’s a waste byproduct that is costly and inconvenient to store, but effectively costs nothing to produce.”

Murray Gray, the scientific director for the Center for Oil Sands Innovation at the University of Alberta, said that about two years ago, Alberta backed away from plans to use the petroleum coke as a fuel source, partly over concerns about greenhouse-gas emissions. Some of it is burned there, however, to power coking plants.

The Keystone XL pipeline will provide Gulf Coast refineries with a steady supply of diluted bitumen from the oil sands. The plants on the coast, like the coking refineries concentrated in California to deal with that state’s heavy crude oil, are positioned to ship the waste to China or Mexico, where it is burned as a fuel. California exports about 128,000 barrels of petroleum coke a day, mainly to China.

Tony McCallum, a spokesman for the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, played down the impact of Keystone XL. “Most of the Canadian oil earmarked for the U.S. Gulf Coast is to replace declining heavy oil imports from Mexico and Venezuela that produces the same amount of petcoke, so it doesn’t create a new issue,” he wrote in an e-mail.

Much of the new coking investment has gone into refineries in the Midwest to allow them to take advantage of the oil sands. BP, the British energy company, is building what it describes as the second-largest coke refinery in Whiting, Ind. When completed, the unit will be able to process about 102,000 barrels of bitumen or other heavy oils a day.

And what about the leftover coke? The Environmental Protection Agency will no longer allow any new licenses permitting the burning of petroleum coke in the United States. But D. Mark Routt, a staff energy consultant at KBC Advanced Technologies in Houston, said that overseas companies saw it as a cheap alternative to low-grade coal. In China, it is used to generate electricity, adding to that country’s air-quality problems. There is also strong demand from India and Latin America for American petroleum coke, where it mainly fuels cement-making kilns.

“I’m not making a value statement, but it comes down to emission controls,” Mr. Routt said. “Other people don’t seem to have a problem, which is why it is going to Mexico, which is why it is going to China.”

“One man’s junk is another man’s treasure,” he said. One of the world’s largest dealers of petroleum coke is the Oxbow Corporation, which sells about 11 million tons of fuel-grade coke a year. It is owned by William I. Koch, a brother of David and Charles.

Lorne Stockman, who recently published a study on petroleum coke for the environmental group Oil Change International, says, “It’s really the dirtiest residue from the dirtiest oil on earth,” he said.

Rhonda Anderson, an organizing representative of the Sierra Club in Detroit, said that the mountain’s rise took her group by surprise, but it had one benefit.

“Those piles kind of hit us upside to the head,” she said. “But it also triggered a kind of relationship between Canada and the United States that’s allowed us to work together.”



Posted on on January 7th, 2013
by Pincas Jawetz (

On Thursday, January 3rd, 2013 we had the good fortune to sit in at the Jack Kleinsinger managed Early Jazz concert  – part of his Highlights In Jazz,
New York’s Longest Running Jazz Concert Series.

The program included:

Vince Giordano and the Nighthawks

Ms. Vinnie Knight

Jonathan Batiste and his New Orleans Stay Human Band.

This was an outstanding program and the big Nighthawks  band is giving some Mid-Manhattan encores at At Sofia’s Restaurant, 221 W. 46th Street (between Broadway & 8th Ave).

Jack Kleisinger’s events continue later with a 40 years  anniversary gala on February 14, 2013.

We learned about these further events coming up for Vince Giordano and the Nighthawks Orchestra in January and February – two evenings in particular: a Vaudeville night with “Three For A Song” on Jan 14, 2013  and Mardi Gras NY on Feb 12, 2013.

“THREE FOR A SONG” Join Vince Giordano and The Nighthawks, Monday, January 14, 2012

On the evening of Monday, January 14, 2012, Vince Giordano and The Nighthawks will be present a very special second set.  Starting at 9 p.m., they will share the bandstand with the Washington, D.C.-based musical trio“Three For A Song”.

Comprised of pianist Alex Hassan, tenor Doug Bowles and soprano Karin Paludan, “Three For A Song” will present “The Greatest Songs You’ve Never Heard” — a revue of quite unknown melodies of 1930s Hollywood and Broadway, including some songs that were written for films that never actually got filmed.  Michael Feinstein calls the revue “One of the freshest and most stimulating shows for lovers of vintage popular music performed by an outstandingly talented trio.”

“The Greatest Songs You’ve Never Heard” has received standing ovations at venues such as the Kennedy Center’s Millennium Stage Jazz Club, the Coolidge Auditorium at the Library of Congress, the Jonathan Club of Los Angeles, and The Arts Club of Washington, among others.

At Sofia’s Restaurant, 221 W. 46th Street (between Broadway & 8th Ave), 3 Sets: 8:00pm to 11:00pm (Doors open at 7:00pm; Three For A Song’s set starts at 9:00 pm)?$15 cash cover charge at the door covers all three sets + $15 food/drink minimum. For reservations: 212.719.5799


Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Vince Giordano and the Nighthawks: an Evening of Duke Ellington Favorites

For a special evening for dance fans and devotees of the Duke, Vince Giordano and the Nighthawks will present the Duke Ellington canon from the period of the 20’s and 30’s, such as “East St. Louis Toodle-oo” and “Black and Tan Fantasy”.  At Sofia’s Restaurant, 221 W. 46th Street (between Broadway & 8th Ave), 3 Sets: 8:00pm to 11:00pm (Doors open at 7:00pm)?$15 cash cover charge at the door covers all three sets + $15 food/drink minimum. For reservations: 212.719.5799

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Vince Giordano and the Nighthawks Celebrate the Birthday of Walter Donaldson

From “My Blue Heaven” to “My Baby Just Cares for Me”, Walter Donaldson wrote many of the most well-known jazz standards in the American songbook, and yet today, his name isn’t known like Irving Berlin’s or Cole Porter’s. Vince Giordano and The Nighthawks celebrate the life and work of one of America’s most prolific songwriters with an evening of Walter Donaldson’s music near the 120thanniversary of his birthday. .  At Sofia’s Restaurant, 221 W. 46th Street (between Broadway & 8th Ave), 3 Sets: 8:00pm to 11:00pm (Doors open at 7:00pm)?$15 cash cover charge at the door covers all three sets + $15 food/drink minimum. For reservations: 212.719.5799


Fat Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Mardi Gras in New York City with Vince Giordano and the Nighthawks

Join Vince Giordano and the Nighthawks Orchestra for a special evening of traditional New Orleans favorites from the 11-piece Nighthawks and for New Orleans-style jams from the “Dixie-Hawks” on Fat Tuesday at Sofia’s Downstairs.

At Sofia’s Restaurant, 221 W. 46th Street (between Broadway & 8th Ave), 3 Sets: 8:00pm to 11:00pm (Doors open at 7:00pm)?$15 cash cover charge at the door covers all three sets + $15 food/drink minimum. For reservations: 212.719.5799

For more information on Vince Giordano’s appearances, visit:

#   #   #

source of information – John Bianchi



Thursday, February 14th, 2013 – 8pm

Highlights In Jazz 40th Anniversary Gala

Barbara Carroll with Jay Leonhart

Bria SkonbergKen Peplowski

Harlem Blues and Jazz Band

Joey MorantFred StatonArt Baron, Zeke Mullins,
Jackie Williams, Bill Wurtzel, and  Michael Max Fleming

at – TRIBECA PERFORMING ARTS CENTER – 199 Chambers Street, New York (See Map).
By car take FDR Drive south to end, through underpass onto West Street, north to Chambers.
By Subway take 1, 2, 3, 9, A, C, E, J or M train to Chambers or N, R to City Hall stop. Walk west on Chambers.

For information call the box office at: (212) 220-1460


Posted on on November 10th, 2012
by Pincas Jawetz (

Justices to Revisit Voting Act in View of a Changing South

The New York Times – Published: November 9, 2012

WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court announced on Friday that it would take a fresh look at the constitutionality of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, one of the signature legacies of the civil rights movement.


Related in Opinion  – Editorial: A Supreme Test on the Right to Vote (November 10, 2012)


Three years ago, the court signaled that part of the law may no longer be needed, and the law’s challengers said the re-election of the nation’s first black president is proof that the nation has moved beyond the racial divisions that gave rise to efforts to protect the integrity of elections in the South.

The law “is stuck in a Jim Crow-era time warp,” said Edward P. Blum, director of the Project on Fair Representation, a small legal foundation that helped organize the suit.

Civil rights leaders, on the other hand, pointed to the role the law played in the recent election, with courts relying on it to block voter identification requirements and cutbacks on early voting.

“In the midst of the recent assault on voter access, the Voting Rights Act is playing a pivotal role beating back discriminatory voting measures,” said Debo P. Adegbile, the acting president of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund.

The Supreme Court’s ruling on the law, expected by June, could reshape how elections are conducted.

The case concerns Section 5 of the law, which requires many state and local governments, mostly in the South, to obtain permission, or “preclearance,” from the Justice Department or a federal court before making changes that affect voting. Critics of the law call the preclearance requirement a unique federal intrusion on state sovereignty and a badge of shame for the affected jurisdictions that is no longer justified.

The preclearance requirement, originally set to expire in five years, was upheld by the Supreme Court in 1966 as a rational response to the often flagrantly lawless conduct of some Southern officials then.

Congress has repeatedly extended the requirement: for 5 years in 1970, 7 years in 1975, and 25 years in 1982. Congress renewed the act in 2006 after holding extensive hearings on the persistence of racial discrimination at the polls, again extending the preclearance requirement for 25 years.

But it made no changes to the list of jurisdictions covered by Section 5, relying instead on a formula based on historical practices and voting data from elections held decades ago. It applies to nine states — Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, Texas and Virginia — and to scores of counties and municipalities in other states.

Should the court rule that Congress was not entitled to rely on outdated data to decide which jurisdictions should be covered, lawmakers could in theory go back to the drawing board and re-enact the law using fresher information. In practice, given the political realities, a decision striking down the coverage formula would probably amount to the end of Section 5.

In May, a divided three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia rejected a challenge to the law filed by Shelby County, Ala. Judge David S. Tatel, writing for the majority, acknowledged that “the extraordinary federalism costs imposed by Section 5 raise substantial constitutional concerns,” and he added that the record compiled by Congress to justify the law’s renewal was “by no means unambiguous.”

“But Congress drew reasonable conclusions from the extensive evidence it gathered,” he went on. The constitutional amendments ratified after the Civil War, he said, “entrust Congress with ensuring that the right to vote — surely among the most important guarantees of political liberty in the Constitution — is not abridged on account of race. In this context, we owe much deference to the considered judgment of the people’s elected representatives.”

The dissenting member of the panel, Judge Stephen F. Williams, surveyed recent evidence concerning registration and turnout, the election of black officials, the use of federal election observers and suits under another part of the law.

Some of that evidence, he said, “suggests that the coverage formula completely lacks any rational connection to current levels of voter discrimination,” while other evidence indicates that the formula, “though not completely perverse, is a remarkably bad fit with Congress’s concerns.”

“Given the drastic remedy imposed on covered jurisdictions by Section 5,” he wrote, “I do not believe that such equivocal evidence can sustain the scheme.”

The Supreme Court has already once considered the constitutionality of the 2006 extension of the law in a 2009 decision, Northwest Austin Municipal Utility District Number One v. Holder. But it avoided answering the central question, and it seemed to give Congress an opportunity to make adjustments. Congress did not respond.

At the argument of the 2009 case, Justice Anthony M. Kennedy questioned whether the distinctions drawn in the 2006 law reflect contemporary realities.

“Congress has made a finding that the sovereignty of Georgia is less than the sovereign dignity of Ohio,” Justice Kennedy said. “The sovereignty of Alabama is less than the sovereign dignity of Michigan. And the governments in one are to be trusted less than the governments in the other.”

“No one questions the validity, the urgency, the essentiality of the Voting Rights Act,” he added. “The question is whether or not it should be continued with this differentiation between the states. And that is for Congress to show.”

In the end, the court, in an 8-to-1 decision, ducked the central question and ruled instead on a narrow statutory ground, saying the utility district in Austin, Tex., that had challenged the constitutionality of the law might be eligible to “bail out” from being covered by it. Still, Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., writing for the majority, was skeptical about the continued need for Section 5.

“The historic accomplishments of the Voting Rights Act are undeniable,” he wrote. But “things have changed in the South.

“Voter turnout and registration rates now approach parity,” he wrote. “Blatantly discriminatory evasions of federal decrees are rare. And minority candidates hold office at unprecedented levels.

“The statute’s coverage formula is based on data that is now more than 35 years old,” he added,“and there is considerable evidence that it fails to account for current political conditions.”

Having said all of that, and acknowledging that the court’s alternative ruling had stretched the text of the statute, Chief Justice Roberts said the court should avoid deciding hard constitutional questions when it could. “Whether conditions continue to justify such legislation is a difficult constitutional question we do not answer today,” he wrote.

On Friday, in agreeing to hear the case, Shelby County v. Holder, No. 12-96, the court indicated that it is prepared to provide an answer to the question it left open three years ago.


The New York Times Editorial

A Supreme Test on the Right to Vote

Published: November 9, 2012

The Supreme Court decided on Friday to review Section 5 of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, which has been crucial in combating efforts to disenfranchise minority voters. The justices should uphold the validity of the section, which requires nine states and parts of several others with deep histories of racial discrimination to get permission from the Justice Department or a federal court before making any changes to their voting rules.

The case, Shelby County v. Holder, was brought by an Alabama county, which contends that Section 5 intrudes unconstitutionally on the sovereign authority of states and that federal review of proposed voting changes, once needed to end legal segregation, is no longer required.

Nothing could be further from the truth. Just this year, Republican efforts to block the votes of minorities and the poor — which were rejected again and again by federal judges relying on the Voting Rights Act, including Section 5 — have made that utterly clear.

Judge John Bates of Federal District Court in the District of Columbia, rejected Shelby County’s challenge last year, noting that Congress, in renewing the section in 2006, found that “40 years has not been a sufficient amount of time to eliminate the vestiges of discrimination.”

In May, the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia upheld his ruling, saying that discrimination in voting is “one of the gravest evils that Congress can seek to redress” and that Congress’s painstaking research in its renewal of Section 5 (22 hearings and 15,000 pages of evidence) “deserves judicial deference.”

In another voting rights case in 2009, the Supreme Court said there were “serious constitutional questions” about whether Section 5 meets a current need. That comment left some legal experts with the impression that the court came close to striking down the provision. But the justices did not do so in that case, and they have even less reason to in this case. Overt discrimination clearly persists and remains pernicious in places like Shelby County.


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 September 3rd, 2012
by Pincas Jawetz (

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

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In new window

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 (


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


The Republican Party unabashedly celebrates individual responsibility en route to material success, but our destinies are shaped by other forces.



The Medicare Killers


Paul Ryan’s big lie in his convention speech was his claim that a Romney-Ryan administration would protect and strengthen Medicare.



Mitt’s Mushy Moment

He got religion. He teared up. But the election won’t hinge on Mitt Romney’s humanity.


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 (





Rousing G.O.P., Ryan Faults ‘Missing’ Leadership


Representative Paul D. Ryan accepted the Republican nomination for vice president as his party embraced the gamble that his principles offer more political payoff than peril.


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.



Defeat, Introspection, Reinvention, Nomination


For three years after his failed 2008 presidential campaign, Mitt Romney sought to reclaim his public identity with the self-critical eye, marketing savvy and systematic rigor of the corporate consultant that he once was.



INTERACTIVE MAP:Map of Hurricane Isaac’s Path

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



Posted on on August 29th, 2012
by Pincas Jawetz (

The White House
Wednesday, August 29, 2012
Update on Hurricane Isaac

Yesterday, after receiving the latest update about Isaac from the Department of Homeland Security, FEMA, and the National Hurricane Center, President Obama spoke from the Diplomatic Room about the steps his administration is taking to prepare for the storm:

Yesterday I approved a disaster declaration for the state of Louisiana so they can get the help that they need right away, particularly around some of the evacuations that are taking place. And right now, we already have response teams and supplies ready to help communities in the expected path of the storm.

The storm, now a Category 1 hurricane, made landfall on the Gulf Coast last night.

Late last night, as Hurricane Isaac made landfall along the Gulf Coast, FEMA provided another update about the ongoing efforts from federal officials to respond to the storm.

Earlier in the day, FEMA Adminstrator Craig Fugate and National Hurricane Center Director Dr. Rick Knabb briefed President Obama on the expected track for the hurricane and the preparations underway to provide relief efforts.

The President has already signed emergency declarations for the states of Mississippi and Louisiana in order to ensure local leaders get the support they need.

Before Isaac made landfall, FEMA dispatched four Incident Management Assistance Teams to emergency operations centers in Gulf states and positioned two Mobile Emergency Response Support teams and additional resources in locations nearby the areas expected to be affected by the storm.

FEMA also has supply distribution centers in Georgia and Texas and has established additional supply sites Mississippi and Louisiana. Federal officials have also deployed an urban search and rescue team to Louisiana, and additional support teams are ready to deploy as needed and requested.

For those currently in the path of the storm, FEMA has provided some useful safety information:

  • Driving through a flooded area can be extremely hazardous. Almost half of all flash flood deaths happen in vehicles. When in your car, look out for flooding in low lying areas, at bridges, and at highway dips. As little as six inches of water may cause you to lose control of your vehicle. Remember – turn around, don’t drown.
  • The National Weather Service is the official source for weather information and severe weather watches and warnings, so follow your forecast at on your computer on your phone.

Rain and storm surge may make flooding possible. Here are the definitions of the types of advisories officials may issue:

  • Flood Watch: Flooding is possible. Tune in to NOAA Weather Radio, commercial radio, or television for information.
  • Flood Warning: Flooding is occurring or will occur soon; if local officials give notice to evacuate, do so immediately.
  • Flash Flood Watch: Rapid rises on streams and rivers are possible. Be prepared to move to higher ground; listen to NOAA Weather Radio, commercial radio, or television for information.
  • Flash Flood Warning: Rapid rises on streams and rivers are occurring; seek higher ground on foot immediately.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture is urging everyone to make food safety a part of their preparation efforts:

  • Store food on shelves that will be safely out of the way of contaminated water in case of flooding.
  • Group food together in the freezer — this helps the food stay cold longer.
  • Have coolers on hand to keep refrigerator food cold if the power will be out for more than 4 hours.

Finally, if the high winds and rain from Isaac cause the power to go out, remember these tips:

  • Keep refrigerator and freezer doors closed as much as possible.
  • A refrigerator will keep food cold for about 4 hours if you keep the door closed.
  • A full freezer will keep its temperature for about 48 hours (24 hours if half-full).

Read the USDA blog post for a full list of food safety tips.


Posted on on August 28th, 2012
by Pincas Jawetz (

As Storm Disrupts Plans, G.O.P. Takes Up Tensions.

By  and Published- The New York Times: August 27, 2012

Monday was a day of frustration for Republicans as the delay in beginning their convention deprived them of their national stage and brought a fresh airing of intraparty tensions.

It was supposed to be the start of their four-day effort to sell Mitt Romney to the nation, but Monday instead proved to be a day of frustration for Republicans as the delay in beginning their convention deprived them of their national stage and brought a fresh airing of intraparty tensions.

As Tropical Storm Isaac brushed past the convention here Monday, it moved slowly on a more dangerous path toward New Orleans, growing stronger by the hour. Forecasters on Monday afternoon predicted that the storm would land somewhere in southeastern Louisiana as a Category 2 hurricane, just as Republicans were set to kick their gathering into high gear.

While there were predictions of winds of 100 miles per hour accompanying the storm, most menacing was the prospect of the enormous amounts of water that Isaac will be bringing ashore. Residents in low-lying areas were urged to leave because of the possibility of storm surges as high as 12 feet along the Gulf Coast and heavy rainfall.

The full report is here:

but we are interested in particular in – “All of it unfolded before a restless audience of about 4,500 delegates and 16,000 journalists left with little to do but stare at television screens covered with images of Isaac bearing down on the Gulf Coast, a haunting reminder of Hurricane Katrina — and, in this context, the political damage its aftermath caused to George W. Bush.

“The fact that we shut down today is a great tribute to the ghost of Katrina,” said John Hager, a former lieutenant governor of Virginia who is also, it happens, the father-in-law of Mr. Bush’s daughter Jenna.

The storm also posed a delicate challenge for President Obama, whose efforts to manage the response may have given him a moment to look presidential in Mr. Romney’s absence, but were also fraught with the risk of appearing to take advantage of a natural disaster at a highly politicized moment.”


Tropical Storm Isaac Builds as It Churns Toward Coast


The tracking forecasts reached a consensus that the storm would land overnight Tuesday somewhere around southeastern Louisiana as a Category 2 hurricane.


Aug 28, 2012, 12:21 PM EDT

Storm Summary

Isaac Strengthens into a Hurricane

Peak impacts will begin to be felt along the northern Gulf Coast as Isaac finally marches inland.

Real-Time Updates

Real-Time Updates

Follow a Twitter feed with the latest information available on Isaac.

Live Tracker

Live Tracker

Exclusive: Track Isaac’s path as it nears landfall along the Gulf Coast.



The Storm, Again

Published: August 27, 2012

Tropical Storm Isaac is more than just a logistical inconvenience for Republicans gathered in Tampa: it is a powerful reminder both of Republican incompetence in handling Hurricane Katrina seven years ago, and the party’s no-less-disastrous plans to further cut emergency-related spending.

That is not something you will hear Paul Ryan talk about this week at the convention, nor any of the other lawmakers who make simplistic promises about the power of slashing government spending. But the budgets assembled by Mr. Ryan and warmly embraced by Mitt Romney severely cut spending for emergency preparedness, exactly the kind of money needed in Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and scores of other states for this and future storms.

Between 2010 and 2012, House Republicans forced a reduction of 43 percent in the primary grants from the Federal Emergency Management Agency that pay for disaster preparedness. That is $1.8 billion that will not be available for evacuation equipment and supplies, communications gear that lets first responders speak to one another, and training exercises. (House Republicans tried to cut $354 million more in this year’s homeland security spending bill, but Democrats restored the money in a conference with the Senate.)
That spending was enormously useful during last year’s tornadoes in Joplin, Mo., and Tuscaloosa, Ala. Although the effects of the cuts will not be felt yet as gulf states deal with this week’s storm, they will leave the region less prepared for future hurricanes, tornadoes and floods.

The New Orleans area, in particular, will rely this week on $14 billion in levee construction, pumps and other flood control structures built by the Army Corps of Engineers since Katrina. But the corps’s construction budget has been cut by 21 percent since 2009 because of Republican pressure, hitting flood prevention especially hard.
Even FEMA’s most important activity, its response to disasters, has been held hostage by the demands of Tea Party Republicans in the House — including Mr. Ryan — for smaller government. Last year, when it looked as if FEMA might exceed its budget after a spate of disasters, House Republicans demanded that any further spending be offset by cuts in other programs they disliked.
Squeezing one program to pay for another has become a familiar Tea Party technique, but it is particularly reprehensible when emergency response is at stake. Eventually, after Democrats refused to go along, Republicans backed off.

One of the themes of the Tampa convention will be the failure of government, and the prosperity that will result if it is cut to ribbons. But in a different corner of the television screen, the winds of Isaac are a reminder of the necessity of government — its labor, its expertise, its money — in the nation’s most dire moments. It is hard to forget what happened to New Orleans when that Republican philosophy was followed in 2005, and it will be harder still to explain how it might be allowed to happen again.


Posted on on August 10th, 2012
by Pincas Jawetz (

Eugene Robinson
Eugene Robinson
The Washington Post, Opinion Writer

Heating up debate on climate change.

Friday, August 10, 1:10 AM

Excuse me, folks, but the weather is trying to tell us something. Listen carefully, and you can almost hear a parched, raspy voice whispering: “What part of ‘hottest month ever’ do you people not understand?”

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, July was indeed the hottest month in the contiguous United States since record-keeping began more than a century ago. That distinction was previously held by July 1936, which came at the height of the Dust Bowl calamity that devastated the American heartland.

The average temperature last month was 77.6 degrees — a full 3.3 degrees warmer than the 20th-century norm for July. This follows the warmest 12-month period ever recorded in the United States, and it continues a long-term trend that is obvious to all except those who stubbornly close their eyes: Of the 10 hottest years on record, nine have occurred since 2000.

James E. Hansen, who heads NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, summed it up in a piece he wrote for The Washington Post last week: “The future is now. And it is hot.”

Hansen wrote that when he testified before Congress in 1988 and painted a “grim picture” of the consequences of climate change, he was actually being too optimistic. His projections of how rapidly temperatures would rise were accurate, he wrote, but he “failed to fully explore how quickly that average rise would drive an increase in extreme weather.”

Yes, scientists are finally asserting a direct connection between long-term climate trends and short-term weather events. This was always a convenient dodge for climate-change deniers. There might be a warming trend over decades or centuries, they would say, but no specific heat wave, hurricane or hailstorm could definitively be attributed to climate change.

“To the contrary, our analysis shows that, for the extreme hot weather of the recent past, there is virtually no explanation other than climate change,” Hansen wrote. “The deadly European heat wave of 2003, the fiery Russian heat wave of 2010 and catastrophic droughts in Texas and Oklahoma last year can each be attributed to climate change.”

Hansen went on: “The odds that natural variability created these extremes are minuscule, vanishingly small. To count on those odds would be like quitting your job and playing the lottery every morning to pay the bills.”

If you won the lottery yesterday, feel free to stop reading. If you didn’t, stick with me a bit longer.

The other escape hatch for deniers is the question of why the Earth’s atmosphere is warming. Yes, there may be climate change, this argument goes, but we know there have been ice ages in the past and other big temperature variations. What we’re witnessing is due to natural processes — perhaps some long-term cycle we are too feeble to comprehend. You can’t prove that human activity, specifically the burning of fossil fuels, is to blame.

Gallup poll last year found that this view — essentially, “You can’t pin it on our SUVs” — has been gaining traction in this country, even as it has become discredited elsewhere. Between 2007 and 2010, the percentage of U.S. adults who believed human activity contributed to warming declined from 60 percent to 48 percent.

I wrote a column last fall when University of California at Berkeley physicist Richard Muller, one of the leading skeptics on climate change, reversed field and announced that his own careful research indicated that the atmosphere is, indeed, warming rapidly. Last week, Muller announced in the New York Times: “I’m now going a step further: Humans are almost entirely the cause.”

Muller, who heads the Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature project, wrote that he and his team tried correlating the observed warming with phenomena such as solar activity and volcanic eruptions. “By far the best match was to the record of atmospheric carbon dioxide,” he wrote.

The amount of heat-trapping carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is rising because of human activity — the burning of fossil fuels. The more we burn, Muller wrote, the faster the atmosphere will warm.

And the crazier the weather will get.

We can’t do anything about the greenhouse gases we’ve already spewed into the atmosphere, but we can minimize the damage we do in the future. We can launch a serious initiative to develop and deploy alternative sources of energy. We can decide what kind of environment we leave to our grandchildren.

I’d like to hear President Obama and Mitt Romney talk about the future of the planet. What about you?





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

If interested – please read:

This is clearly the best event in North America – if you want to top it you will have to go to Brazil.

Years ago we visited and wrote about a simpler and perhaps more genuine event in Carriacou, Grenada, in the Caribbean.


Posted on on January 13th, 2012
by Pincas Jawetz (

WE POSTED THIS ARTICLE ORIGINALLY ON June 28, 2008 – during the days that G.W. Bush was the resident at the Washington DC White House. I decided to RE-Post this because of centrality of Iranian oil in global politics even now in the days of President Barack Obama. There is nothing is in the papers these days regarding a PRESIDENT’S CIRCLE of Oil and Weapons Corporations – as this was under the Busches.

We wonder what funneling channels the above businesses do have to the White House today. Do they still have an actual private back door entrance, or this is now simply a result of hesitance from enraging all those Members of Congress who get their election funding from Political Action Committees kept alive by these Corporations?


It was an amazing C-Span session, this Saturday, June 28, 2008 – but it was recorded actually, seemingly, already on March 17, 2008.

The Middle East Institute, Washington DC, was founded in 1946 by George Camp Keiser and former Secretary of State Christian Herter, and since then “has been an important conduit of information between Middle Eastern nations and American policymakers, organizations and the public.” Their website goes on to note that they “publish quarterly one of the most prestigious journals on the Middle East, The Middle East Journal.

The PRESIDENT’S CIRCLE is made up of Chevron Corporation, The Coca-Cola Company, ConocoPhillips, ExxonMobil, Raytheon, Saudi Aramco, and Shell.

Ambassador Wendy J. Chamberlin is currently MEI’s President and she chaired the meeting with Mr. Scheuer. She is a former U.S. ambassador to Pakistan – in effect she is the lady that was charged by President Bush to ask General Musharaf if he is with the US or against it – then she was blamed for the outcome. She also seems not to be thankful to the Administration for how she was treated.

Michael F. Scheuer is a former CIA employee.…

In his 22-year career, he served as the Chief of the Bin Laden Issue Station (aka “Alec Station”), from 1996 to 1999, the Osama bin Laden tracking unit at the Counter-terrorist Center. He then worked again as Special Advisor to the Chief of the bin Laden unit from September 2001 to November 2004.
Scheuer resigned in 2004. He is currently a news analyst for CBS News and a terrorism analyst for The Jamestown Foundation’s online publication Global Terrorism Analysis. He also makes radio and television appearances and teaches a graduate-level course on Al-Qaeda at Georgetown University. He also participates in conferences on terrorism and national security issues, such as the New America Foundation’s December 2004 conference, “Al Qaeda 2.0: Transnational Terrorism After 9/11.”

Scheuer is now known to be the anonymous author of both Imperial Hubris: Why the West is Losing the War on Terror and the earlier anonymous work, Through Our Enemies’ Eyes: Osama bin Laden, Radical Islam, and the Future of America.

Osama bin Laden stated in his September 7, 2007 message: “If you want to understand what’s going on and if you would like to get to know some of the reasons for your losing the war against us, then read the book of Michael Scheuer.”

Scheuer’s book, “Marching Toward Hell: America and Islam After Iraq” was released on February 12, 2008.

Not much is known about his personal history, though Scheuer was an analyst at the CIA and not a covert field operations officer. During a recent C-SPAN interview, he mentioned that he is a graduate of Canisius College. Scheuer received a Ph.D. in British Empire-U.S.-Canada-U.K. relations from the University of Manitoba. Scheuer a 1974 graduate from Canisius university master’s degrees from Niagara University (1976) and Carleton University (1981).

In the 9/11 Commission Report, Scheuer is featured in Chapter 4, where his name is given only as “Mike”. He is portrayed as being occasionally frustrated with his superiors’ failure to aggressively target bin Laden. He seems to be on the right and unhappy for the fact how the US and his geographical area of experteze was dealt with.

The Jamestown Foundation is a Conservative think tank claiming to report about events and nations strategically important to the United States.

We went to the length to understand this source because we were quite astonished with what we heard on C-Span as follows:

In the Sunni world the Al-Qaeda liberation is in fashion, and in their eyes we are on the right side of history. Bin Laden is extremely talented and he has identified issues in US politics. In the US – no politician will come out and say that we are supporting dictators in the Arab World because we needed the oil. So he knows our weakness and knows we serve his cause that is the cause of Arab liberation.

As an example, Scheuer brings up how the extraordinary problem that we pushed Obama to go on TV and say – I will never be a Muslim.
Scheuer says flatly – “I would better be inclined to kill Bin Laden then talk to him.”

Scheuer advocates a US disengagement from the Middle East, and says “if it was not for the oil, why should we care what they do when we leave?”… “Iran is in effect more of a participatory democracy then any of our allies in the Middle East.”

Scheuer’s main point is that if we did not care for their oil we really have no reason to care about them, and the US Republic has no business in spreading democracy.
The US is in business to do what is good for its people – fighting for oil, and being dependent on oil, is not good for the American people. We pay with blood for this dependence.

The Administration could have saved us a lot of problems in the last years with one bullet to Saddam’s head.


Scheuer wants the Restoration of our ability to decide when to fight and when not to fight. In that case we would not invest ourselves in Saudi Arabia or Kuwait.

So, let us say bravo Michael Scheuer – we always thought that real conservatives will want to see US independence of oil. And here is very important to note that Scheuer does not send us to drill in the Arctic or in the off-shore waters. The realist he is he knows that all that talk is hog-wash. He kept repeating INVEST IN ALTERNATIVES TO OIL. he never said just Middle East oil because he knows oil is fungible and as long as we remain dependent on oil we will remain dependent on Middle East oil.

As we posted this article before the 2008 elections – our original  ending is as follows and I leave it unchanged. Nevertheless, but now in January 2012 I make the only further  suggestion – please substitute Mitt Romney – or whatever Republican who survives their Party’s grueling trail of tears – to the article’s 2008 name John McCain.

Mind please that Sceuer said this at an institute that is frequented by the oil industry – that in Washington is part of the overpowering oil lobby. Ambassador Chamberlin was obviously compelled to note that any idea expressed at the meeting is personal, and not institutional. But then let us note that the Jamestown Foundation has also political power when it comes to US Presidential preferences.

We know where Obama stands on the issue, but what will McCains final stand be on the issue?

If he does not express clear – No Oil – Thank You – ideas, these Conservatives might find former Congressman Barr much more to the point. So, was this the thank you note from Ralph Nader to the 2008 elections? This Nader spells Barr.