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Posted on on May 22nd, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (


Organ Mountains

President Obama has just signed a proclamation designating almost 500,000 acres of the Potrillo Mountains, Sierra de las Uvas, Robledos Mountains and the surrounding desert in southern New Mexico as the nation’s newest monument — Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks.

Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks is the crown jewel of the Southern Rockies and is one of the most deserving iconic places in America to receive this designation. The monument is filled with majestic mountains, big horn sheep, pronghorn antelope, rare plant species, petroglyph-lined canyons, the Apollo Mission training sites and historical events in western history that include people like Billy the Kid and Geronimo.

Iconic monument designations don’t happen every day. It’s important the president knows that when he protects America’s special places we have his back.

In addition to protecting invaluable landscapes, wildlife and cultural areas — economic studies show this designation has the potential to add more than $7.4 million in additional annual economic activity — doubling the number of jobs supported by outdoor recreation and tourism industry in the region. This is a win-win for the environment and the economy.

This designation also represents years of hard work by local communities and lawmakers to protect this region and is the president’s first large, iconic, landscape-scale monument designation. More than 15,000 New Mexicans submitted public comments in support of a monument, adding their voices to those of business leaders, elected officials, recreation, conservation, Native American and Latino groups and leaders like U.S. Senators Udall and Heinrich and retired Senator Bingaman.

Monument designation is an important tool the president has to protect our wilderness heritage. And thanks to years of hard work by people like you this beautiful landscape will forever be protected and enjoyed by future generations.

Thanks to President Obama for designating Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks as our nation’s newest monument.




Posted on on May 11th, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (

U.S. Climate Has Already Changed, Study Finds, Citing Heat and Floods.

Declaring that the issue of human-induced climate change had “moved firmly into the present,” a major study released by the White House  found that water shortages, torrential rains, heat waves and wildfires were worsening.




Climate Change- And President Obama’s Action Plan.

President Obama has announced a series of executive actions to reduce carbon pollution, prepare the U.S. for the impacts of climate change, and lead international efforts to address global climate change.

The National Climate Assessment:

Watch Dr. John Holdren, Assistant to the President for Science & Technology, discuss the Report. 

On May 6, the Administration released the Third U.S. National Climate Assessment, the most authoritative and comprehensive source of scientific information to date about climate-change impacts across all U.S. regions and on critical sectors of the economy.
The report, a key deliverable of President Obama’s Climate Action Plan, confirms that climate change is not a distant threat — it’s affecting us now.
Explore the report

Due to climate change,

the weather is getting more extreme.

Temperatures are rising across the U.S.

Temperatures from 2001 to 2012 were warmer than any previous decade in every region of the United States. Explore this interactive map from the National Climate Assessment to learn more.

Globally, the 10 warmest years on record all occurred since 1998.

Source: NOAA

For the contiguous 48 states, 7 of the 10 warmest years on record have occurred since 1998.

Source: NOAA

2012 was the second most extreme year on record for the nation

Source: NOAA, U.S. Climate Extremes Index

Record Heat Across the U.S.

State-by-state temperatures in 2012 – graphs provided.

Also in 2012:

Warmest Year on Record for the U.S.

Doesn’t include Alaska, Hawaii, or U.S. territories.

Source: NOAA

Record High Temperatures Tied or Broken

One-third of the U.S. Population experienced 100 degree F temperature

Above Average

6th-10th Warmest Year on Record

2nd-5th Warmest Year on Record

Warmest Year on Record

Source: National Climate Data Center/NESDIS/NOAAV

Doesn’t include Alaska, Hawaii, or U.S. territories.

Droughts, Wildfires, and Floods are all more frequent and intense

Precipitation was 2.57 inches below the 20th Century Average

Source: NOAA

15th driest year on record

Source: NOAA

Wildfires burned more than 9.3 million U.S. acres

Source: National Interagency coordination center

Extreme weather comes at a cost

Climate and weather disasters in 2012 alone cost the American economy more than $100 billion

$30 Billion

U.S. drought/heatwave

Estimated across the U.S.

$65 Billion

Superstorm Sandy


$11.1 Billion

Combined severe weather

Estimated for incidents across the U.S.

$1 Billion

Western wildfires


$2.3 Billion

Hurricane Isaac


There are also public health threats associated with extreme weather

Children, the elderly, and the poor are most vulnerable to a range of climate-related health effects, including those related to heat stress, air pollution, extreme weather events, and diseases carried by food, water, and insects.

We can choose to believe that Superstorm Sandy, and the most severe drought in decades, and the worst wildfires some states have ever seen were all just a freak coincidence. Or we can choose to believe in the overwhelming judgement of science — and act before it’s too late.”
– President Obama

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We’re still contributing to the problem

Carbon pollution is the biggest
driver of climate change

Global temperatures and carbon dioxide levels are on the rise

The global annual average temperature has increased by more than 1.5 degrees F between 1880 and 2012. This interactive graph from the National Climate Assessment shows the concentration of atmospheric carbon dioxide over the same time period. Climate scientists say we need to avert an additional 2-degree temperature increase to avoid the most catastrophic impacts of climate change.

U.S. greenhouse gas pollution includes:

Carbon Dioxide (CO2), 82%

Enters the atmosphere through burning fossil fuels (coal, natural gas, and oil), solid waste, trees and wood products, and also as a result of certain chemical reactions (e.g., manufacture of cement).

Fluorinated gases, 3%

Hydrofluorocarbons, perfluorocarbons, and sulfur hexafluoride are synthetic, powerful greenhouse gases that are emitted from a variety of industrial processes.

Nitrous Oxide (N2O), 6%

Emitted during agricultural and industrial activities, as well as during combustion of fossil fuels and solid waste.

Methane (CH4), 9%

Emitted during the production and transport of coal, natural gas, and oil as well as from landfils.

Source: EPA

We’ve made progress thanks to:

Stronger Fuel Economy Standards

We set the highest fuel economy standards in American history that will double the efficiency of our cars and trucks by 2025.


Since President Obama took office, the U.S. increased solar generation by more than ten-fold and tripled electricity production from wind power.

Decreased Carbon Pollution

In 2012, U.S. greenhouse gas pollution fell to the lowest level in nearly 20 years.

Renewable Energy and Efficiency Targets

35 states have renewable energy targets in place, and more than 25 have set energy efficiency targets.

But we have more work to do.

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The President’s Plan to Cut Carbon Pollution in America

Reducing Carbon Pollution from Power Plants

Power plants are the largest major source of emissions in the U.S., together accounting for roughly one-third of all domestic greenhouse gas pollution.


In September 2013, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced proposed carbon pollution standards for new power plants.


EPA has met with more than 300 stakeholder groups from across the country to gather information on standards for existing power plants.

Continuing the momentum for the future:

Accelerating Clean Energy Leadership

During the President’s first term, the United States more than doubled generation of electricity from wind and solar energy.


The Department of the Interior (DOI) announced permitting the 50th utility-scale renewable energy project on public lands. The projects could support more than 20,000 jobs and generate enough electricity to power 4.8 million homes.


Since President Obama took office, the U.S. increased solar generation by more than ten-fold and tripled electricity production from wind power.

Continuing the momentum for the future:

Building a 21st Century Clean Energy Infrastructure

Heavy-duty vehicles (commercial trucks, vans, and buses) are currently the second largest source of greenhouse gas pollution within the transportation sector.


In January 2014, President Obama signed a Presidential Memorandum establishing the Federal government’s first Quadrennial Energy Review (QER) process, with an initial focus on our nation’s energy infrastructure.


In February 2014, President Obama directed EPA and DOT to develop and issue the next phase of heavy-duty vehicle fuel efficiency and greenhouse gas standards by March 2016.


In 2011, the Administration finalized fuel economy standards for Model Year 2014-2018 for heavy-duty trucks, buses, and vans. This will reduce green-house gas emissions by about 270 million metric tons and save 530 million barrels of oil.


The Administration has already established the toughest fuel economy standards for passenger vehicles in U.S. history. These standards require an average performance equivalent of 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025.

Continuing the momentum for the future:

Cutting energy waste in homes, businesses, and factories

Energy efficiency is one of the clearest and most cost-effective opportunities to save families money, make our businesses more competitive, and reduce greenhouse gas pollution.


Since June more than 50 multifamily housing partners – representing roughly 200,000 units and over 190 million square feet – have joined the President’s Better Buildings Challenge.


In President Obama’s first term, DOE and HUD completed efficiency upgrades in nearly two million homes, saving many families more than $400 on their heating and cooling bills in the first year alone.


In December 2013, the Department of Agriculture announced it will provide up to $250 million to help business and residential customers in rural areas cut their energy bills through energy efficiency and renewable energy use.


Since June, DOE has issued nine proposed and five final energy conservation standards for appliances and equipment. If finalized and combined with rules already issued, the energy savings will help cut consumers’ electricity bills by hundreds of billions of dollars.

Continuing the momentum for the future:

Reducing other greenhouse gas emissions

Emissions of Hydrofluorocardons (HFCs) — which are potent greehouse gases — are expected to double by 2020 and nearly triple by 2030 in the U.S.


Since 1990, methane emissions have decreased by 11% in part through partnerships with industry.


In March 2014, the Administration released a Strategy to Reduce Methane Emissions from landfills, coal mining, agriculture, and oil and gas systems through voluntary actions and common-sense standards.

Continuing the momentum for the future:

Federal leadership

Since 2008, federal agencies have reduced greenhouse gas pollution by more than 17 percent — the equivalent of permanently taking 1.8 million cars off the road.


In December 2011, President Obama signed a memorandum challenging federal agencies to enter into $2 billion worth of performance contracts for building energy efficiency within two-years.


On December 5, President Obama signed a Presidential Memorandum directing the federal government to buy at least 20% of its electricity from renewable sources by 2020.

Continuing the momentum for the future:

Even as we take new steps to reduce U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, we must also prepare for the impacts of a changing climate that are already being felt across the country.

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The President’s Plan Will

Prepare for the impacts of climate change

Moving forward, the Obama Administration will help states, cities, and towns build stronger communities and infrastructure, protect critical sectors of our economy as well as our natural resources, and use sound science to better understand and manage climate impacts.

Assess the Impacts of Climate Change


Provide an assessment of climate change impacts on the United States that translates scientific insights into practical knowledge that can help decision-makers prepare for specific impacts.


On May 6, the Administration released the Third U.S. National Climate Assessment (NCA), the most authoritative and comprehensive source of scientific information to date about climate-change impacts across all U.S. regions and on critical sectors of the economy. The NCA serves as a critical resource for informing climate preparedness and response decisions across the Nation.

Support climate-resilient investments


Remove policy barriers, modernize programs, and establish a short-term task force of state, local, and tribal officials to advise on key actions the federal government can take to support local and state efforts to prepare for climate change.


Federal agencies are working to ensure grants, technical assistance, and other programs support smarter, more resilient investments.


Established the President’s State, Local and Tribal Leaders Task Force on Climate Preparedness and Resilience, which is made up of 26 Governors, county executives, mayors and tribal leaders.

Rebuild and learn from Superstorm Sandy


Pilot innovative strategies in the Superstorm Sandy-affected region to strengthen communities against future extreme weather and other climate impacts and update flood risk reduction standards for all federally funded projects.


From HUD grants and DOT funding for resilient transit systems to a DOI competition for support for coastal resilience projects, over $10B in Sandy recovery funds is being used to increase resilience.


On August 19 the Hurricane Sandy Task Force delivered a rebuilding strategy that is serving as a model for communities across the nation.

Launch an effort to create sustainable and resilient hospitals


Establish a public-private partnership on increasing resilience of the health care industry.


HHS is on track to release a resource packet in fall 2014 providing best practices for increasing the resilience of healthcare facilities.

Maintain Agriculture Productivity


Deliver tailored, science-based knowledge to farmers, ranchers, and forest landowners to help them understand and prepare for the impacts of climate change.


USDA established seven new “regional climate hubs” to help farmers and ranchers adapt their operations to a changing climate.

Provide tools for Climate Resilience


Include existing and newly developed climate preparedness tools and information that state, local and private-sector leaders need to make smart decisions.


In March 2014, the Administration launched the Climate Data Initiative, bringing together extensive open government data and innovation competitions to develop data-driven resilience tools for communities.

Reduce Risk of Droughts and Wildfires


Make it easier for communities to get the assistance they need to adapt to drier conditions.


Launched the National Drought Resilience Partnership and released the National Wildfire Cohesive Strategy.

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Because climate change spans international borders, the President’s plan will also

Lead international efforts to address global climate change

America will continue to take on a leadership role in engaging the world’s major economies to advance key climate priorities and in galvanizing global action through international climate negotiations. The plan will:


Lead public sector financing toward cleaner energy


The President put forth an initiative to end public financing for new coal-fired power plants overseas, except in rare circumstances. Following the lead of the U.S., other nations—including the U.K., the Netherlands, and the Nordic countries—have joined the initiative.


Bilat cooperation with major economies


President Obama has made climate change a key issue in some of our most important bilateral relations, including China and India. Together, we are making progress around issue areas such as vehicle emissions standards, energy efficiency, and clean energy initiatives.


Expand clean energy use and cut energy waste


Facilitating the transition to a global clean energy economy, the U.S. Department of Energy is leading the Clean Energy Ministerial, a high-level global forum that promotes policies and programs aimed at scaling up energy efficiency and clean energy.




Building on the breakthrough June 2013 agreement on hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) by President Obama and China’s President Xi, G-20 leaders in September 2013 expressed support for using the expertise and institutions of the Montreal Protocol to phase down HFCs.


The U.S. continues to spearhead the Climate and Clean Air Coalition which has expanded to 88 partners, including 39 countries. The Coalition is implementing ten initiatives to reduce emissions of methane, HFCs, and black carbon.


Reduce emissions from deforestation and forest degradation


In November 2013, the U.S., Norway, and the U.K. launched a public-private partnership to support forests in developing countries, with the goal of reducing emissions from deforestation and promoting sustainable agriculture.




In January 2014, a U.S.-led coalition of countries—representing 86% of global trade in environmental goods—announced plans to launch talks aimed at eliminating tariffs on a wide range of environmental goods under the World Trade Organization.




The United States continues to play an active role in shaping the design of a new global climate agreement due in 2015, including through our chairmanship of the major economies forum on energy and climate.


Mobilize climate finance


In April 2014, the U.S., U.K., and Germany announced the Global Innovation Lab for Climate Finance, a public-private platform designed to spur private-sector investment in low-carbon, climate-resilient infrastructure in developing countries.


Lead efforts to address climate change through international negotiations

The United State has made historic progress in the international climate negotiations during the past four years.

Moving Forward

The U.S. has committed to expand major new and existing international initiatives, including bilateral initiatives with China, India, and other major emitting countries.

We will lead global public sector financing toward cleaner energy by ending U.S. government financial support for new coal-fired power plants overseas, with limited exceptions.


Posted on on March 17th, 2013
by Pincas Jawetz (


Op-Ed Columnist

It’s Lose-Lose vs. Win-Win-Win-Win-Win

by Thomas L. Friedman

Published by New York Times on-line: March 16, 2013
    Oliver Munday

 This Painted Graph catches our attention but we wonder what it means – given content, potentially some new shape, and potentially new colors, it could be the publicity weapon for new campaigns.   A majority of Americans, we are sure, by now understand that the good life in the future will be a life based on sustainability, and will be paid for by the citizenry as a whole.


ONE of my favorite quotes, writes Thomas Friedman, about the state of U.S. politics was offered a couple years ago by Gerald Seib, a Wall Street Journal columnist, when he observed that “America and its political leaders, after two decades of failing to come together to solve big problems, seem to have lost faith in their ability to do so. A political system that expects failure doesn’t try very hard to produce anything else.” That’s us today — our entire political system is guilty of the “soft bigotry of low expectations” for ourselves.

Readers shared their thoughts on this article. —— Read All Comments (7) »

I raise this now because it strikes me as crazy that one of the obvious solutions to our budget, energy and environmental problems — the one that would be the least painful and have the best long-term impact (a carbon tax) — is off the table. Meanwhile, the solution that is as dumb as the day is long — a budget sequester that slashes spending indiscriminately — is on the table.

Shrinking the tax deduction for charity is on the table. Shrinking Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid for the poor are on the table. But a carbon tax that could close the deficit and clean the air, weaken petro-dictators, strengthen the dollar, drive clean-tech innovation and still leave some money to lower corporate and income taxes is off the table. So the solutions that are lose-lose and divisive are on the table, while the solution that is win-win-win-win-win — and has both liberal and conservative supporters — is off the table.

Writing in this newspaper in support of a carbon tax back in 2007, N. Gregory Mankiw, the Harvard economist, who was a senior adviser to President George W. Bush and to Mitt Romney, argued that “the idea of using taxes to fix problems, rather than merely raise government revenue, has a long history.

The British economist Arthur Pigou advocated such corrective taxes to deal with pollution in the early 20th century. In his honor, economics textbooks now call them ‘Pigovian taxes.’ Using a Pigovian tax to address global warming is also an old idea.
It was proposed as far back as 1992 by Martin S. Feldstein on the editorial page of The Wall Street Journal.

… Those vying for elected office, however, are reluctant to sign on to this agenda. Their political consultants are no fans of taxes, Pigovian or otherwise.

Republican consultants advise using the word ‘tax’ only if followed immediately by the word ‘cut.’

Democratic consultants recommend the word ‘tax’ be followed by ‘on the rich.’ ”

Yes, to win passage of any carbon tax, Republicans would insist that it be revenue neutral — to be offset entirely by cuts in corporate taxes and taxes on personal income. But maybe they could be persuaded otherwise.

In an ideal world, you would have 45 percent go to pay down the deficit so that we don’t have to cut entitlements as much — appealing to liberals and greens — and have 45 percent go to reducing corporate and income taxes — to encourage work and investment and appeal to conservatives. The remaining 10 percent could be rebated to low-income households for whom such a tax would be a burden.

According to the Center for Climate and Electricity Policy at the nonpartisan Resources for the Future, a tax of $25 per ton of carbon-dioxide emitted — through the combustion of fossil fuels used in electricity production, commercial and residential heating and transportation — “would raise approximately $125 billion annually.” This $125 billion “could allow federal personal income tax reductions of about 15 percent or corporate income tax reductions of about 70 percent, if all carbon tax revenues were used to replace current tax revenues. Alternatively, the federal deficit could be reduced by approximately $1.25 trillion over 10 years” — roughly what we are trying to do through the foolish sequester. Such a tax would add about 21 cents per gallon of gasoline and about 1.2 cents per kilowatt-hour of electricity. It could be phased in gradually as the economy improves.

Experts believe that the mere signal of a carbon tax would get companies to become more energy efficient. And that’s the point. As part of any grand bargain — which will have to include spending cuts and tax increases — introducing a carbon tax into the mix makes all kinds of options easier and smarter.

Alas, right now both sides are trying to inflict maximum pain on the other, rather than framing the debate as: “Here’s the world we’re living in; here’s what we need to thrive; and, if we cut and tax here, we can invest in these 21st-century growth engines over here.” Our goal is not to balance the budget. It’s to make America great.

SO how come the best ideas are off the table? (Blessedly, Representative Henry Waxman, a Democrat of California, is now working to get some kind of carbon tax on the table.) Several reasons, argues Adam Garfinkle, editor of The American Interest and author of a smart new e-book, “Broken: American Political Dysfunction and What to Do About It.”

First, because our democracy today is perverted more than ever by deep-pocketed lobbies and oligopolies. So, “in order to get and stay elected today, you have to raise huge sums of money from corporations, wealthy individuals and dues-laden unions,” Garfinkle notes, and all that money leads to “twisted decision-making at the high-politics level” and “regulatory capture” at the bureaucratic-administrative level.

The fossil fuel, auto and power companies have bought a lot of politicians to block a carbon tax.

The only way around them, argues Garfinkle, would be for leaders to galvanize the public, but that requires building “governing coalitions” in the center rather than “political coalitions” that can get you elected but little else after that. Obama is belatedly trying to do that; the Republican Party hasn’t even tried. “This is what real leaders do,” said Garfinkle. “They change the conversation.” They don’t just read the polls; they shape the polls.

But we can’t put this all on lobbyists. It’s also our generation. “We’re the most self-indulgent generation in American history,” argues Garfinkle, always demanding more services than we’re ready to pay for. “Too many of us want to be unbound by broader social obligations, but the network of those obligations creates the moral ballast that makes good governance possible.” 

As Nathan Gardels and Nicolas Berggruen note in their insightful book, “Intelligent Governance for the 21st Century: A Middle Way Between West and East,” we prefer a “Diet Coke culture — sweetness without calories, consumption without savings and safety nets without taxes.” No wonder anything hard or smart is off the table. We pushed it there.


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 October 31st, 2012
by Pincas Jawetz (

From the Washington Post of today:

Romney’s expand-the-map strategy: Opportunity or necessity?

Mitt Romney’s campaign and its allies have now launched ads in four blue-leaning states with less than a week to go in the 2012 election.

The pro-Romney super PAC Restore Our Future is the latest to join the expanding-the-map craze, launching a $1.8 million ad buy in Minnesota and New Mexico starting Wednesday, the PAC tells The Fix. Elsewhere, Republicans’ spending has forced Democrats to match them dollar for dollar in Michigan and Pennsylvania.

The moves are at once borne of opportunity, but also of necessity.

Here’s why.

Romney’s campaign and its outside allies have money — lots of it. In fact, they just might have more than they need for the nine states that have been the focus of ad spending so far.

And as viewers in all these swing states can attest, there are only so many political ads you can air in one media market, and many markets are becoming saturated.

In addition, at some point, the law of diminishing returns takes effect. Rather than spend that extra $1 million in expensive areas like Northern Virginia or Columbus only to have it lost in a bevy of campaign ads, why not take a flyer in Minnesota, where polls suggest an upset is possible — if not likely?

The money also has the helpful side effect of making analysts like The Fix write about how Romney is expanding the map — a sure sign of momentum. That may be less the case than the Romney folks want us all to believe, though it’s clear that Romney has made up ground over the past four weeks in some or all of these states.

But while it’s nice to be able to try and expand the map, in Romney’s case, the move may be as much about what Romney needs to do as what he can do.

As we’ve written many times on this blog, the Electoral College math for Romney is, quite simply, very difficult.

According to the current Fix projections, Obama has 255 electoral votes either solidly in his column or leaning towards him (including Ohio’s 18), while Romney has just 206. So assuming Obama wins Ohio, he would need to win just 15 of the 77 electoral votes in the toss-up states.

Even if you consider Ohio a toss-up, Obama only has to win 33 of the 95 electoral votes in toss-up states.

But if you add any of the four blue-leaning states above to the list of competitive states, Romney’s chances improve significantly. Adding Pennsylvania’s 20 electoral votes would mean Obama needs to win 53 out of 115 electoral votes in toss-up states (including Ohio for the moment), adding Michigan’s 16 votes would force Obama to win 49 out of 111, and adding Minnesota’s 10 votes would force Obama to win 43 out of 105.

The Fix remains skeptical that any of these states will turn into toss-ups before Election Day, but if somehow they did, it would make the math much easier for Romney. And if he can’t win Ohio, he needs to win in one or more of these states even more.

Romney doesn’t absolutely need to add these states to the mix, but it’s probably worth the effort at this point.

Romney super PAC going up in Minnesota, New Mexico: As noted above, Restore Our Future is taking its turn at expanding the map, launching a $1.8 million ad buy in Minnesota and New Mexico.

The ads will cycle between a positive spot on Romney helping find his business partner’s missing teenage daughter and a negative spot hitting Obama’s handling of the economy.

Minnesota has been looking more and more competitive in recent days, with one poll showing Romney within the margin of error. New Mexico has been basically ignored for the entire campaign, even though it went narrowly for President Bush in 2004.

Obama won New Mexico by 15 points in 2008 and figures to do well again, given the state’s large Hispanic population. Most polling, including a recent Albuquerque Journal poll that had Obama up nine points, has shown Obama ahead by around double digits.

Mourdock poll shows virtual tie: Internal polling for Indiana GOP Senate candidate Richard Mourdock’s campaign shows he remains in a virtual tie with Rep. Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.).

The new numbers, shared with The Fix, put Mourdock at 45 percent and Donnelly at 44 percent. The pollster, McLaughlin and Associates, surveyed 600 likely voters on Monday and Tuesday.

Last week, a Mourdock internal poll put both men at 44 percent, while a Democratic poll showed Donnelly ahead by seven points.

The new poll shows Romney carrying the state 57 percent to 39 percent.


More expanding the map news: A Detroit News poll of Michigan shows Romney within the margin of error.

Romney ignores questions on his past position in favor of replacing FEMA with something from the private sector.

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) keeps attacking Obama on Libya — this time at a storm relief event in Ohio.

“Brownie” attacks Obama too — on storm relief.

Obama’s campaign says it is only making ad buys in states like Pennsylvania and Michigan because it wants to match any spending by Republicans.

Sandy’s biggest electoral effect could be in the Philadelphia area.


Op-Ed Columnist

Minnesota Mirror:

Published: October 30, 2012 

I was debating whether to go to the Turkish-Syrian border this week or to visit my old high school in Minnesota. I decided to make the exotic foreign trip and go to Minnesota. I thought it might be useful to look at this election through the window of my hometown of St. Louis Park. I have not been disappointed. I found in this little suburb of 45,250 people outside of Minneapolis — which was memorialized in the movie, “A Serious Man,” directed by the Coen brothers, who also hail from here — all the key trends impacting America.

For starters, there is the changing face of the town. We had two African-Americans among the 2,500 students at St. Louis Park High when I graduated in 1971, and everyone there was either Christian or Jewish. When I walked through the high school cafeteria on Monday, there were six teenage girls covered in colorful Muslim hijabs and the principal, Robert Metz, explained to me that “today we have more Muslim students than Jewish students.” This is the byproduct of the huge influx of Somali refugees to Minnesota. Metz said my old high school, which now has open enrollment and competes for students from around Minneapolis, attracts young people both for its academic rigor and because they want to go to a richly diverse school that mirrors the world in which they’ll be working. There are more than 30 languages spoken in the elementary school near my old house — exactly 29 more than when I lived here.

Mayor Jeffrey Jacobs of St. Louis Park notes that 85 percent of residents here today don’t have kids in local public schools, yet they regularly vote to increase real estate taxes to improve these schools, because they understand that “you cannot cheapskate yourself to greatness” and “they see value for their money.” But that attitude is no longer held statewide.

When I was growing up, my congressmen were liberal Republicans (there was no other kind in Minnesota back then) in a Democratic district. No one thought anything of it. Today my congressman here would be Keith Ellison, an African-American Muslim and one of the most liberal Democrats in the House, while liberal Republicans in Minnesota today are as rare as a two-headed moose. The State House and Senate Republican caucuses today are dominated by the Tea Party and libertarian followers of Ron Paul.

But here’s what’s telling. These G.O.P. hard-liners, while able to win their more conservative “exurbia” and rural districts, are not doing well when it comes to overall state politics. Minnesotans have not wanted to entrust them with the governorship or national Senate seats, which is another way of explaining why Mitt Romney only gained ground on Barack Obama when he started to market himself as a moderate ready to work with Democrats. Note to Mitt: Senator Amy Klobuchar, a Democrat, is up for re-election here and leading her libertarian G.O.P. opponent by 43 percentage points in the latest Star Tribune/Mason-Dixon poll (65 to 22) and in one report this summer was found to have $5.4 million in campaign cash on hand while her opponent had $5,800. That is not a typo.

Note to President Obama: Klobuchar built that lead by combining a moderate liberalism with a pro-business, pro-jobs agenda and a pragmatic problem-solving approach. All of Klobuchar’s campaign ads are positive, and many feature Republican business leaders explaining why they are voting for her. Most Minnesota voters “want their politicians to be problem-solvers, not ideologues,” Klobuchar said to me. Senator Al Franken, who’s also laser-focused on jobs, boasted to me that Minnesota is now “The Silicon Valley of windows,” because of all the high-tech window manufacturers are here. Franken, who’s also a St. Louis Park native, added, “Minnesota wants its politicians to operate on principles, but if one of your principles is to never compromise, they don’t want that.”

Many business-oriented Republicans here are not only voting for Klobuchar but are giving her money, because they’ve become frustrated by the far-right lurch of the state G.O.P., explained Lawrence Jacobs, a politics expert at the Humphrey School of Public Affairs at the University of Minnesota. The state is home to many global companies that would accept some tax increases to build better infrastructure and schools in order to have better-educated workers. And the Republican-dominated Chamber of Commerce here is leading the charge for open immigration, so Minnesota can bring in more knowledge workers from India to enrich its work force.

“In Minnesota, for many years, we had a party structure that was dominated by leaders who wanted to win and problem-solve,” said Jacobs. Now, he added, the State Republican Party is dominated by Tea Party and libertarian insurgents, not the business community, and their attitude is “we play for principles and if we lose so be it.” So there is a fight here for the soul of the Republican Party. In the 1990s, centrist Democrats, led by Bill Clinton, brought their party back from a similar ideological ledge; they and the country and my home state are better for it. The Republicans have not had their “reformation,” but it’s brewing here in Minnesota, and I hope it goes national if Romney loses — and even more so if he wins.


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

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

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

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

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


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

17 Oct 2012 3:30 AM…

Obama and Romney spar over energy in second debate, ignore climate yet again.

By Lisa Hymas

Mitt Romney and Barack Obama at second debate Reuters / Lucas Jackson

Energy issues were front and center at Tuesday night’s presidential debate, starting right with the candidates’ first set of answers. But that wasn’t good news for climate hawks.

Climate change got not a single mention — partly the fault of moderator Candy Crowley. After the debate, Crowley said on CNN that one of the town-hall audience members had wanted to ask a climate question, but she didn’t call on that person.

Of course, the candidates still could have mentioned climate change during their discussions about energy, and they didn’t. Instead, President Obama and Mitt Romney both reiterated their all-too-familiar talking points — Obama talking about an “all of the above” energy policy and putting some emphasis on a clean energy future, Romney talking about an “all of the above” energy policy and putting a lot of emphasis on the dirty fuels of the past.

Romney took some knocks from fact-checkers for his energy statements. Romney also took some knocks straight from Obama — but, depressingly, most of them consisted of the president defending fossil-fuel development.


Gas prices:

In an exchange over gas prices, Romney said that when Obama took office, gasoline was selling for about $1.86 a gallon and now it’s at $4.00 a gallon. As analysts have pointed out over and over again, that low price in January 2009 was an anomaly because the economy was in free fall and had sent demand plummeting.

That gave Obama a lead-in for one of his best lines of the night:

It’s conceivable that Governor Romney could bring down gas prices because with his policies, we might be back in that same mess.

A good moment for Obama — inasmuch as a president touting increased gasoline demand can be good.


Oil drilling:

The candidates got into a spat over oil drilling on public lands. Romney said “oil production is down 14 percent this year on federal land, and gas production was down 9 percent. Why? Because the president cut in half the number of licenses and permits for drilling on federal lands, and in federal waters.” When Obama tried to respond, Romney reverted to prep-school bully mode and interrupted over and over, but Obama finally got this out:

Here’s what happened. You had a whole bunch of oil companies who had leases on public lands that they weren’t using. So what we said was you can’t just sit on this for 10, 20, 30 years, decide when you want to drill, when you want to produce, when it’s most profitable for you. These are public lands. So if you want to drill on public lands, you use it or you lose it. And so what we did was take away those leases. And we are now reletting them so that we can actually make a profit.

Fact-checking site PolitiFact says that Romney’s 14 percent figure, which refers to the change between 2010 and 2011, is “cherry-picked,” and that the drop-off can be largely blamed on the BP oil disaster.

“From a statistical standpoint, to take one year out of three — one year is not indicative of a trend,” [said Jay Hakes, former head of the U.S. Energy Information Administration].

So we pulled the numbers from when George W. Bush was in office — January 2001 to January 2009 — as well as from when Obama was in office. …

• From 2004-08, well into Bush’s tenure, oil production on federal lands and waters fell in four of five years, for a net decrease of 16.8 percent.

• From 2009-11, the Obama years, oil production rose two of three years, for a net increase of 10.6 percent. [emphasis mine]

And, as Politico’s fact-checkers point out, a president can’t do much of anything about gas prices anyway.

So that’s a win for Obama — inasmuch as a president bragging about increasing oil drilling is a win worth winning.



At another point, Romney questioned Obama’s commitment to fossil fuels, saying the president “has not been Mr. Oil, or Mr. Gas, or Mr. Coal.” Obama couldn’t let that stand. He said it was Romney who has not been loyal enough to coal.

[W]hen I hear Gov. Romney say he’s a big coal guy, I mean, keep in mind, when — Governor, when you were governor of Massachusetts, you stood in front of a coal plant and pointed at it and said, “This plant kills,” and took great pride in shutting it down.

That’s true. In 2003, standing in front of the Salem Harbor Power Station, Romney did say “that plant kills people.” And Obama’s been using that line to bash Romney in a campaign ad, much to the chagrin of enviros.

Again, a hit for Obama — inasmuch as a president claiming to be the bigger friend to the coal industry is a hit worth hitting.


Keystone XL:

Romney said, once again, that he really, really wants to build the Keystone XL tar-sands pipeline:

We’re going to bring that pipeline in from Canada. How in the world the president said no to that pipeline? I will never know.

Obama responded:

And with respect to this pipeline that Governor Romney keeps on talking about, we’ve — we’ve built enough pipeline to wrap around the entire earth once.

So, I’m all for pipelines. I’m all for oil production.

Nice line about pipelines wrapping around the globe. But Obama really is all for pipelines and oil production. He had to be forced by mass protest to delay a decision on the northern half of Keystone, and he enthusiastically approved the southern half.

So another point for Obama — inasmuch as … oh, you get the point.


Wind power:

Finally, on the subject of wind power, Obama got a hit on Romney that didn’t involve defending filthy fuels.

[O]n wind energy, when Governor Romney says “these are imaginary jobs.” When you’ve got thousands of people right now in Iowa, right now in Colorado, who are working, creating wind power with good-paying manufacturing jobs, and the Republican senator in that — in Iowa is all for it, providing tax breaks to help this work and Governor Romney says, “I’m opposed. I’d get rid of it.”

Romney responded, “I don’t have a policy of stopping wind jobs in Iowa and that — they’re not phantom jobs. They’re real jobs.”

But Romney did call the clean energy economy “imaginary” in a March 2012 op-ed in The Columbus Dispatch: “In place of real energy, Obama has focused on an imaginary world where government-subsidized windmills and solar panels could power the economy.”

And Romney does oppose a key wind tax credit that’s due to expire at the end of the year — a tax credit that Republicans from wind-power states, including Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley, support. If it’s allowed to expire, it could wipe out 37,000 jobs.


The bottom line:

Obama did talk during the debate about building a clean energy economy: “we’ve got to make sure we’re building the energy source of the future, not just thinking about next year, but 10 years from now, 20 years from now. That’s why we’ve invested in solar and wind and biofuels, energy-efficient cars.”

But in today’s political climate, Obama just doesn’t believe he can turn his back on fossil fuels and still win the election. It’s not even clear that he wants to turn his back on fossil fuels.


Meanwhile, Jill Stein, the Green Party candidate who does repudiate dirty energy, got arrested Tuesday when she tried to enter the debate site.

Lisa Hymas is senior editor at Grist.


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

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

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

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

Lavishly, free literature was distributed. It included:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

REFF-West is only 4 weeks away – the 5th Renewable Energy Finance Forum – West.

THe revised agenda will equip you with take away strategies to improve your bottom line.

Where is it?         The Four Seasons Hotel, San Francisco, CA

When is it?          September 27 & 28, 2012


The 5th REFF West will put you face to face with other individuals who share a common ambition in financing and developing renewable energy projects on the west coast.

Don’t just take my word for it; listen to what others have said…

REFF-West brings together the leading participants in RE finance under one roof.”
Michael Mendelsohn, NREL

The quality of people and knowledge as well as the presentation approaches were thoughtful, informative, and entertaining.”
Leslie Solmes, LAS & Associates

If you haven’t seen the agenda yet, you can view it here in full.

There are three easy ways to register, simply:


Call: +1 212 901 382



If you’re not able to join us in September,  you could forward this email on to one of your colleagues at Independent Consultants.

I look forward to seeing you in San Francisco.

Yours sincerely,

Dawn Butcher
Director of Event Planning & Marketing
American Council On Renewable Energy (ACORE)


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

In sun-drenched land, Israel’s solar power industry stifled by government bureaucracy

By Associated Press, Published: August 28, 2012.

KVUTZAT YAVNE, Israel — Israel has developed some of the world’s most advanced solar energy equipment and enjoys a nearly endless supply of sunshine, but when it comes to deploying large-scale solar technology at home, the country remains in the dark ages. comment – Though Israel is at the head of the pack technology-wise, and active in its position business-wise outside the country, when it comes to review activities inside Israel, it is basically a government imposed desert in the Netanyahu years. So far from the understanding Ben Gurion had on these topics.

If you read this in the United States, think of Netanyahu’s Israel when imagining a Romney Administration in the United States – same government prejudices leading to same government inaction that feels like retardiness!!}

Solar power provides just a tiny percentage of Israel’s energy needs, leaving it far behind colder, cloudier counterparts in Europe. Israeli solar companies, frustrated by government bureaucracy, have taken their expertise abroad.

Fifty years ago, Israel was at the front of the pack, with simple solar water heaters on top of its apartment buildings. They’re still there, but little else has moved forward.

Advanced solar power has come to the tiny community of Kvutzat Yavneh, but its small scale is more an example of what can be done than what has been done.

Nestled in grape vines and pomegranate trees in south-central Israel, the 16 glimmering installations, each of them four meters (14 feet) tall, are an odd sight in this traditional collective farm, which also features a pickling factory and a barn.

The solar panels provide the community with nearly all of its hot water, and the electricity they generate is sold to Israel’s main energy provider, the Israel Electric Corp.

Miriam Schlusselberg, a secretary at the kibbutz, said the 320 residents are “very excited” to get solar power in their backyard. But she also acknowledged that solar energy on a large scale “is not going to develop on its own unless people start investing in it.”

The field in Kvutzat Yavne, built by the Israeli company ZenithSolar Ltd. in 2009, has a maximum capacity of about a quarter of a megawatt of combined thermal and electric power. That’s not even a dent in Israel’s overall capacity of some 12,000 megawatts.

“This is, unfortunately for us, our only project in Israel,” said Roy Segev, co-founder of ZenithSolar. “I think there was a poor policy from the Israeli government. It was a total neglect of the possibility to create a big industry in Israel.”

Segev said there has not been enough government investment in solar manufacturing or startup companies. He pointed out that industry leaders such as Germany and Italy have outpaced Israel in solar development, despite having fewer sunny days and less powerful sunrays. The Germans, for instance, generate nearly 12 times as much solar power per capita as their Israeli counterparts, according to official statistics from both countries.

Israel has a solar capacity — the amount of energy it could continuously generate in ideal conditions — of 212 megawatts, most of which comes from rooftop installations, according to the electric company. That accounts for less than 2 percent of the nationwide capacity and falls well short of the country’s 2014 goal of 1,480 megawatts from solar sources.

As a result, “no one in the international community is going to take Israel seriously going forward,” said Jon Cohen, CEO of the Arava Power Co. “The natural resource exists, the real national need exist — it’s really a mystery why (solar) is being blocked.”

Cohen spearheaded Israel’s first major commercial solar project, the Ketura Sun plant. The 5-megawatt facility is in the Negev desert, an arid, sparsely populated wedge of land that makes up the southern two-thirds of Israel. The area enjoys around 330 sunny days a year, making it an ideal site for solar power.

But no more large-scale projects have launched since Ketura Sun began operating in June 2011.
“We thought we’d be raising the pioneer flag,” Cohen said, pointing out that his company fought for four years to get the necessary approvals and permits for the field. “We were hoping we’d have more to show on the ground promptly, and here we are a year later, and we haven’t gone far.”
There are some signs of change.

In March, Ashalim Sun PV, a U.S.-Israeli consortium, won a government tender to construct three major solar power plants in the Negev that will provide a combined 250 megawatts of power. The plant is not expected to open until 2015 at the earliest.

Cohen has 10 projects in the works that envisage producing a total of 100 megawatts when completed. Three are still awaiting government approval, a situation he described as “tense and endless.”

Smadar Bat-Adam, chief of staff for Israel’s Energy and Water Resources Ministry, acknowledged that red tape has been an issue. “We are trying to solve the bureaucratic problems,” she said.
Bat-Adam said the overambitious 2014 target was set several years ago, before Israel had substantial solar infrastructure or regulation. While that may not be reached, she said Israel is on track to reach its 2020 benchmark of generating 10 percent of its electricity needs from renewable sources.

“When it comes to infrastructure projects, it always takes time,” she said.

Currently Israel gets most of its power from burning imported fossil fuels, but there is interest in developing alternative sources such as wind and solar. Israel is also rapidly developing natural gas reserves off its Mediterranean coast.

Recognizing solar power’s potential, the Israeli government set up a “feed-in tariff” incentive in 2008, agreeing to pay developers higher-than-retail prices for solar energy fed back into the grid.
Because the government does not want to overpay, it has repeatedly adjusted the tariff as solar equipment has gotten cheaper. As a result, many large projects are on hold, awaiting a firm price.
Many analysts and industry professionals believe this uncertainty has hindered investment.
“The sad reality is that we’ve raised quite a lot from Israeli investors, and we are taking this money and investing it overseas because the industries are more consistent,” said Nimrod Goor, a founding managing partner at Helios Energy Investments LP, an Israel-based infrastructure equity fund.

The situation has made some experts skeptical of Israel’s commitment to harvesting its ample sunlight.

Uri Marinov, an environmental management professor at the Inter-Disciplinary Center in Herzliya and a former director of the Israeli Environment Ministry, said decision makers are making “big, big mistakes” through unnecessary regulations.

“Anyone who wants to build a solar field should be able to do it,” he said.

Israel is still a leader in solar research and development. Segev teamed up with the Ben-Gurion University of the Negev to produce a little household system that reflects concentrated sunlight onto a receiver, producing electricity with roughly two times the efficiency of standard panels. Segev hopes the new model, named the Z10, will find a market in homes throughout Israel.

One of the Z10’s advantages? “It doesn’t need any government support or intervention to set it up,” Segev said.


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 January 3rd, 2012
by Pincas Jawetz (

Storehouses for Solar Energy Can Step In When the Sun Goes Down.

SolarReserve – A completed solar power tower at the SolarReserve Crescent Dunes Solar Energy Plant, Tonopah, Nev., expected to be in service in 2013.
Published: January 2, 2012

If solar energy is eventually going to matter— that is, generate a significant portion of the nation’s electricity — the industry must overcome a major stumbling block, experts say: finding a way to store it for use when the sun isn’t shining.

SolarReserve:  An artist’s rendering of the SolarReserve plant, which will absorb heat directed at it by mirrors and store it in molten salt.

That challenge seems to be creating an opening for a different form of power, solar thermal, which makes electricity by using the sun’s heat to boil water. The water can be used to heat salt that stores the energy until later, when the sun dips and households power up their appliances and air-conditioning at peak demand hours in the summer.

Two California companies are planning to deploy the storage technology: SolarReserve, which is building a plant in the Nevada desert scheduled to start up next year, and BrightSource, which plans three plants in California that would begin operating in 2016 and 2017. Together, the four projects will be capable of powering tens of thousand of households throughout a summer evening.

Whether the technology will be widely adopted remains to be seen, but companies like Google, Chevron and Good Energies are investing in it, and the utilities NV Energy and Southern California Edison have signed long-term contracts to buy power from these radically different new power plants.

One crucial role of the plants will be complementing solar panels, which produce electricity directly from sunlight. When the panels ramp down at dusk or on cloudy days, the plants will crank up, drawing on the stored thermal energy.

That job will become more important if photovoltaic panels, which have plunged in price lately, become even cheaper and sprout on millions of rooftops. As the grid starts depending more heavily on solar panels or wind turbines, it will need other energy sources that can step in quickly to balance the system — preferably ones classified as renewable.

Most utilities are trying to generate as many kilowatt-hours of renewable energy as they can to meet stiffer state requirements on incorporating more alternative energy, said Kevin B. Smith, the chief executive of SolarReserve.

“As we move forward, we’ll get more and more traction with the fact we can provide more capacity,” Mr. Smith said, referring to his company’s storage technology.

The Energy Department seems to agree: in September it gave SolarReserve a $737 million loan guarantee for its project in Nevada. The plant will generate 110 megawatts at peak and store enough heat to run for eight to 10 hours when the sun is not shining.

The public’s view on loan guarantees for solar projects has soured somewhat since the bankruptcy of Solyndra, a California company that received a $535 million loan guarantee to build a factory to make solar panels — only to see the market for the modules crash.

But the outlook has always been clearer for companies that make electricity, which, unlike solar modules, is generally presold by contract.

Technical details of the SolarReserve and BrightSource plants vary slightly, but both will use thousands of computer-operated poster-size mirrors aiming sunlight at a tower that absorbs it as heat.

SolarReserve absorbs the heat in molten salt, which can be used immediately to boil water, generating steam that turns a conventional turbine and generator. Hot salt can also be used to retain the heat for many hours for later use. BrightSource heats water that can be used immediately as steam or to heat salt for storage.

The plants rely on salt because it can store far more heat than water can. But once molten, it must be kept that way or it will freeze to a solid in part of the plant where it will be difficult to melt again. “You’ve made a commitment to those salt molecules,” said John Woolard, the chief executive of BrightSource.

The technology is not complicated, but the economics are.

The simplest, least expensive path for solar thermal is to turn the heat into electricity immediately. But the companies are a bit like the farmer who harvests the grain and stores it in a silo rather than shipping it straight to market on the expectation that prices will be higher later. They are betting that in revenue terms, the hour at which the energy is delivered will be more important than the amount generated.

The notion is that widespread adoption of solar panels — whether on rooftops or in giant arrays in the desert — will change the hours at which prices are highest.

Today, electricity prices usually peak in the late afternoon and evening on hot summer days. “Photovoltaic panels will do a pretty good job of chopping that peak” in the late afternoon, said Paul Denholm, a solar specialist at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Boulder, Colo.

In other words, the new price peak will be pushed to later in the day, to just before and after sunset, when solar photovoltaic production is small or nonexistent, he and other experts say.

Mr. Woolard said the chief goal of the new plants would be to produce electricity when the utilities need it most. “We’re optimizing around what is important for different times for the utilities,” he said.

His company’s contract with Southern California Edison still requires approval by California regulators.

Adding storage capacity helps keep the air-conditioners humming when solar panels are not producing, but there are other financial benefits.

The equipment that makes electricity from steam is the most expensive part of a solar thermal system, but if it is connected to storage technology, it can run almost twice as many hours as a plant without storage. That means the unit cost of electricity drops.

Another has to do with the arcane economics of electricity. A utility must assure a supply of electricity in two forms: energy and capacity. The difference has never meant much to most consumers, who directly pay only for energy, as measured in kilowatt-hours.

But capacity, the dependable ability to produce power, is becoming more important as renewable energy forms a larger and larger part of the grid.

Wind and sun provide a lot of energy but not much capacity. Today, backup capacity for wind and solar power comes in the form of expensive gas-fired generators, which sit idle most of the year but operate when the wind stops blowing or the sun stops shining.

Storage could cut costs by 4 cents a kilowatt-hour, Mr. Denholm calculates — a considerable benefit for a commodity that retails for an average of 11 cents. A big part of the savings is not having to build the gas-fired generators for backup.

For competitive reasons, neither BrightSource nor SolarReserve would discuss capital costs. But Mr. Smith of SolarReserve said that the storage technology amounted to less than 5 percent of capital costs. For BrightSource, Southern California Edison was willing to pay extra for a plant that could deliver when the sun was not shining.

The success of any given project may depend on the particular details, but other experts agree that a market is opening for plants with storage capacity. A study completed in July by Navigant Consulting, Sandia National Laboratories and Pacific Northwest Laboratory on the potential effects of adding large amounts of photovoltaic energy to NV Energy’s portfolio found that to integrate the new power sources, the utility would need more standby generation.

NV Energy would also need generation whose output could be adjusted over very short intervals to compensate for variability in solar photovoltaic production, the report suggested. The solar thermal storage system is designed to meet exactly those needs.


Posted on on October 7th, 2011
by Pincas Jawetz (

October 7, 2011, Atonement Day Eve – The 99% SILENT Public – Albeit still on the OP-ED or “ROOM for DEBATE” Pages.

New York Times OPINION PAGE – 


Is It Effective to Occupy Wall Street?

The protesters are getting more attention and expanding outside New York. What are they doing right, and what are they missing?



Confronting the Malefactors


Occupy Wall Street is starting to look like an important event that might even eventually be seen as a turning point.


Watching Washington the HOME NEWS are:

“To allay the concerns of Senate Democrats, Mr. Obama said that he could support their proposal to pay for the jobs plan by imposing a 5.6 percent surtax on individual taxpayers’ income above $1 million. A number of Senate Democrats had objected to Mr. Obama’s proposals to offset the cost of his plan by limiting tax deductions, including for charitable contributions, that could be taken by individuals making more than $200,000 and couples making more than $250,000. And oil-state Democrats opposed his plans to increase oil companies’ taxes.

Even as Mr. Obama took reporters’ questions, Speaker John A. Boehner, Republican of Ohio, rebuked him for his more confrontational tack. “Nothing has disappointed me more than what’s happened over the last five weeks, to watch the president of the United States give up on governing, give up on leading and spend full-time campaigning,” Mr. Boehner said during a public forum in Washington.

Mr. Obama, when asked by a reporter whether he should be talking to Congressional Republicans rather than traveling the country like a presidential candidate, responded that he had tried repeatedly to compromise with Republicans. His efforts, he said, were “sometimes to my own political peril and to the frustration of Democrats,” and Republicans rebuffed him even when he offered ideas, like business tax cuts, that Republicans had proposed in the past.”

“What I’ve done over the last several weeks is to take the case to the American people so that they understand what’s at stake,” he said. “It is now up to all the senators, and hopefully all the members of the House, to explain to their constituencies why they would be opposed to common-sense ideas that historically have been supported by Democrats and Republicans in the past,” Mr. Obama said.


Making Case for Jobs Bill, Obama Cites Europe’s Woes.

 Why look at the woes of Europe when there is plenty to see in the US itself?


NOW THIS! From –  New York spread Liberty to Washington DC:

Protesters began their occupation of Freedom Plaza, WASHINGTON D.C.,  on October 6 — and they plan on staying as long as it takes.

The Occupy Freedom Plaza protest in Washington DC kicked off on Thursday, October 6. The protesters were a diverse crowd; young and old, men and women, the jobless and the employed, all in solidarity with one another and those occupying cities across the country in protest of the corporate greed that has destroyed the lives of so many Americans.

Cancer survivor Carrie Stone said that over the course of nine days, she traveled from Wallace, West Virginia to Washington, DC by foot. The 56-year-old grandmother plans to stay in DC indefinitely, saying, “If I can do it, anyone can.”


Posted on on May 19th, 2010
by Pincas Jawetz (

Today the media is full of analysis of last nights results of political Super-Tuesday and the consensus is that America wants Jobs not new policies. What that implies is that all the great ideas that President Obama brought to the White House are immaterial – all what counts is jobs. But what kind of jobs – is this just a return to pre-economy-downturn? To jobs in the industries of the past in a world of make believe that cannot anymore support US consumption? There must be a better way we say and we call it Sustainable Development. Are there listeners out there?

Luckily I just saw on CNN – “Energizing a state’s job market is challenging during tough economic times. See how New Mexico’s governor leads the charge to create thousands of new jobs from the brightest natural resource. CNN’s Tom Foreman reports.”

This was about New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson, a former US Secretary of Energy and the former Chairman of the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico – he rode in to save the day that was described by all as the day America stood up to take on those rascals in Washington.

from  the “Great piece on CNN about recruiting clean energy companies to NM”  about 1 hour ago via web

also “Promoting two Northern New Mexico clean energy projects today in Questa & Taos” 9:11 AM May 13th – web

What we saw was from Santa Fe how “Schott Solar” talks Sun = More $ + More Jobs.

Solar is a buffer against stagnation.

It occurred to me if President Obama will now decide to take on Washington by pushing stronger for an Energy and Climate outcome in order to answer the JOB ISSUE in a positive way?

I moved then to look up the following from Bill Scher’s daily reports and decided to share it with our readers.

His report on Clean Energy dates back to last week – that is pre-history to some of those loses last night – but our belief is that after the Bank Reform, still before November 2010, Washington must tackle the Climate Bill so that when the folks go home to ask to be reelected they have something in their hand. They just cannot ask for sympathy after stretching out an empty hand. Washington is them – the only fight they have ahead of them is the fight against themselves!


Progressive Breakfast: Will Clean Energy Follow Bank Reform?

Bill Scher's picture

By Bill Scher

May 13, 2010

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Each morning, Bill Scher and Terrance Heath serve up what progressives need to affect change on the kitchen-table issues families face: jobs, health care, green energy, financial reform, affordable education and retirement security.


This issue starts with the topic – “Weakening Wall St. Reform Amendments Loom” – and includes also – “Time For Wealth To Be Taxed Like Work” – we deleted both as our interest was in the Energy and Climate issue!


Kerry-Lieberman Climate Bill Released

Sen. Kerry explains details at Grist: “this bill creates a major — mandatory — pollution-reduction program that sends the needed price signal on carbon, with carbon allowances auctioned in a heavily regulated market that doesn’t allow any speculators access … imports from countries that aren’t doing what we’re doing will need to pay a fee at the border or we will give our producers the resources they would need to keep from having their production shifted overseas to avoid the cost of polluting … inspired in part by the great work of Sens. Maria Cantwell [D-Wash.] and Susan Collins [R-Maine] [the bill] sends the bulk of the proceeds from the sale of the pollution allowances back to the American people directly in the form of rebates … This bill does not take the EPA out of the mix on regulating carbon. In fact, it strengthens the Clean Air Act by expanding the authority of the EPA and making that authority permanent …”

President praises: “I look forward to engaging with Senators from both sides of the aisle and ultimately passing a bill this year.”

TNR’s Brad Plumer on how the bill differs from the House version: “The Senate bill refunds a greater share of the proceeds from selling carbon permits back to consumers—75 percent versus 45 percent in the House bill … The Senate bill exempts manufacturers from cap-and-trade until 2016, so in this sense it’s a little weaker on pollution targets … more support for nuclear power, natural gas vehicles, and offshore drilling … a lot weaker on renewable energy mandates and efficiency standards … stricter provisions for overseeing the carbon markets…”

Earth2Tech gets reaction from green power advocates: “…significant provisions for electric vehicle development, manufacturing and infrastructure … a renewable electricity standard … is not included … Not everyone shares the utilities’ perspective that Kerry and Lieberman’s proposal will protect consumers. The American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEE) criticized the legislators for ‘gutting the energy efficiency provisions in their bill,’ …

Tenuous enviro-business coalition behind bill: “While the green lobby is already firing up grass-roots support and running ads to advance the bill, getting the 60 Senate votes needed to pass it will require help from corporate lobbying shops … While most business groups were poring over the proposal before taking a firm stand on it, the nuclear industry wholeheartedly embraced it.”

The Hill summed up enviro reaction: “Even though several left-leaning environmental groups, such as Greenpeace and Public Citizen, issued sharply critical statements, a broad swath of green groups backed the measure moving forward while calling for changes to it.”

Neutrality from many corporate interests seen as victory. CQ: “Two industry groups that led opposition to the House bill — the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the American Petroleum Institute (API) — praised efforts to write a Senate bill that is friendlier to business. While neither group endorsed the Senate bill, their neutrality was taken as a victory by Senate aides who worked on the legislation.”

Senate leaders taking cautious approach. W. Post: “Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) has made it clear that the climate bill needs to be within striking distance of 60 votes before he will bring it to the floor.”

Evangelical leader Joel Hunter, at climate bill announcement, urges Senate to put aside politics and protect God’s creation: “I don’t want to be standing before God on Judgment Day and be saying, ‘Gee the votes just weren’t there,”

Kerry insists Republicans are in play. The Hill quotes: “I have heard even several Republicans in these last days tell me in private that they are encouraged by what is in this bill, and they are anxious to review it and to work on it.”

Mother Jones’ Kate Sheppard gets positive reacts from key Senators: “[Graham] kept the door to a yes-vote slightly open … Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), an opponent of offshore drilling … appears to be satisfied by the actual draft … Bingaman (D-NM) … has been agitating for the Senate to vote on his energy-only bill rather than pushing through a bill with a cap on carbon this year. Although this draft includes a cap, he at least appears open to it … Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) … seems upbeat though he said he still wants more protections for manufacturing…”

And ClimateWire picks up some negative reacts: “Sen. Olympia Snowe of Maine, a moderate Republican whom Kerry has been seeking as a co-sponsor, said she remains concerned about ‘taxes’ … Cantwell, when asked by a reporter yesterday if it seemed like Kerry and Lieberman were bending to her concerns, said, ‘I doubt it.'”

GOP Sen. Voinovich opens the door a crack: “Voinovich, who is viewed as a possible swing vote, said the bill was put forward ‘in good faith and with much thought.’ But he also indicated he is leaning against it.”

Lieberman reminds obstructionists that the EPA won’t wait, on CNN: “There’s another clock ticking here besides the election. And it’s the clock that goes off on January 1 next year, when the Environmental Protection Agency has the power and has promised to begin to regulate greenhouse gas emissions – carbon pollution – by executive order.”

$6B in revenue from motor fuel pollution permit marked for transportation. Some say that’s not enough. CQ: “It is unclear how much money the motor fuels portion of the measure would raise in total, but transportation lobbyists said that in talks with Senate aides, the total has ranged from $20 billion to $60 billion. The American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) said all revenue raised from motor fuels should go into the [highway] trust fund…” Whereas Streetsblog finds transportation reformers pleased: “‘The authors deserve high praise for ensuring that revenues generated from the transportation sector go in part toward meeting the growing demand for more, better and cleaner travel options,’ Geoff Anderson, co-chairman of the advocacy group Transportation for America, said…”

TNR’s Brad Plumer says smart-growth proponents like the “holistic” transit approach: “… the climate bill also requires the Department of Transportation to develop a national plan for reducing emissions from the transport sector—everything from coordinating electric-car infrastructure, for instance, to setting standards so that, say, electric utilities and automakers are working together.”

“350” standard not met says Citizens Climate Lobby’s Steve Valk: “Any legislation to address climate change needs to have the overarching goal of getting us back to 350 ppm of CO2 and keeping us there. But you’ll find no mention of this in the Kerry-Lieberman bill for one simple reason: There’s no way in hell their bill can achieve this goal. What’s really scary, however, is that most of the politicians in Washington are operating under the assumption that we don’t need to get to 350. The real eye-opener for me came last fall when a Senate aide I met with said we just need to keep CO2 under 450 ppm.”

SmartPower’s Brian Keane says “we can’t wait for perfect”: “The bill seems to strike the right balance – focusing on climate change, but understanding that fundamentally this also needs to be about job creation.”

Blog for Clean Air’s Frank O’Donnell worried about scaling back of EPA authority: “The ‘Task Force’ (which includes EPA, but also some historic enemies of clean-air controls) is told to explore ‘existing programs’ and regulations for coal-fired power plants and the ‘effect’ those programs could have on the transition to lower-carbon plants … the attacks on the Clean Air Act’s smog, soot and toxics safeguards for power plants are officially underway.”

BP’s “fail safe” was a leaky test version with a dead battery. W. Post:: “In a devastating review of the blowout preventer that BP said was supposed to be ‘fail-safe,’ …Stupak said that the committee investigators had also uncovered a document prepared in 2001 by the drilling rig operator Transocean that said there were 260 ‘failure modes’ that could require removal of the blowout preventer. ‘How can a device that has 260 failure modes be considered fail-safe?’ Stupak said.”

Criminal charges in Gulf spill likely. McClatchy: “Federal investigators are likely to file criminal charges against at least one of the companies … raising the prospects of significantly higher penalties than a current $75 million cap on civil liability … under the Clean Water and Air Acts and other federal laws aimed at protecting migratory birds, an accidental oil spill of this magnitude could at least result in misdemeanor negligence charges.”


The Black Caucus Has A Jobs Plan

Black Caucus stepping up pressure for summer jobs funding. CQ: “… it is insisting quite publicly that Democratic leaders not allow Congress to start the one-week Memorial Day recess before spending $1.5 billion on a youth summer jobs program … noting that the unemployment rate for African-American teens is around 40 percent. The need to help them get work is so urgent, these lawmakers say, that the money should be exempt from pay-as-you-go requirements…”

House considering $85B research bill. CQ: “The America COMPETES Reauthorization Act (HR 5116) is aimed at boosting U.S. economic competitiveness through federal support of various science and technology education and research programs. It would authorize the spending from fiscal 2011 through 2015 for programs at the National Science Foundation, the National Institute of Standards and Technology and certain Energy Department research programs … Democrats said that the bill would create jobs … Republicans, however, criticized the cost…”

Congressional TARP oversight panel questions small biz strategy. Bloomberg: “TARP programs so far have shown ‘poor performance’ in helping small businesses because of low participation from community banks and other factors including weak loan demand, the report released today showed. Also, the Treasury Department’s small-business assistance has focused on providing capital to banks that supply loans, rather than assistance to companies with the potential to create jobs.”

UAW concerned auto workers won’t rebound along with auto executives. NYT: “As one automaker, the Ford Motor Company, restores some perks for salaried workers, [incoming UAW President Bob] King is putting the companies on notice that he expects hourly workers to be given back some of the benefits they surrendered as the bottom lines of all three car companies improve … The union is expected to ask that some of its givebacks be reversed during contract talks with the carmakers in 2011…”

Is the economy going through a major restructuring, risking leaving millions of experienced workers behind? NYT: “Millions of workers who have already been unemployed for months, if not years, will most likely remain that way even as the overall job market continues to improve, economists say. The occupations they worked in, and the skills they currently possess, are never coming back in style. And the demand for new types of skills moves a lot more quickly than workers — especially older and less mobile workers — are able to retrain and gain those skills.”


Breakfast Sides

Our government is back on the job protecting the public interest, and the corporate interests don’t like it. NYT: “The surge in rule-making has resulted from an unusual confluence of factors, from repeated outbreaks of food-borne illnesses to workplace disasters … Manufacturers, home builders, toymakers and others say that Washington has been overzealous about imposing new requirements … Obama administration officials reject the criticism, saying that the benefits associated with the dozens of major rules adopted between President Obama’s inauguration and the end of 2009 outweigh the costs by an estimated $3.1 billion…”

The immigrant crime wave used to justify Arizona’s anti-immigration law is a myth: “The main argument behind Arizona’s new law, SB 1070, is that the state’s presumed crime wave is linked to undocumented immigrants. But … crime across the state has consistently declined over the years despite an increase in the population.”


Posted on on May 17th, 2010
by Pincas Jawetz (

The CNN ireport – LIVING IN A TOXIC TOWN. CNN and Dr. Sanjay Gupta invite you to put on video what you know.….

Living in a toxic town

Many residents of Mossville, Louisiana, suspect their proximity to more than a dozen chemical plants may be responsible for what they say are high rates of cancer and other diseases in the area.

Is there a place near you where pollution is making people sick? CNN is investigating the environment’s effects on health as part of Dr. Sanjay Gupta’s Toxic Towns USA special. We want you to join us in the newsgathering process.

“Put yourself on video and document conditions in your area, or take photos of what’s around you. Tell us what industrial or chemical pollution may be contributing to health problems for you and those you love, and be sure not to put yourself in a dangerous situation,” CNN writes.

“Tell us about toxic towns near you and Dr. Gupta may report on your community.”


Posted on on January 29th, 2010
by Pincas Jawetz (

Washington, D.C. | January 29, 2010 |

In a meeting with Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano yesterday to discuss joint efforts against domestic violent extremists, Muslim, Arab, Sikh and South Asian American community leaders welcomed commitments by the Secretary to promote meaningful, positive and authentic dialogue.  Leaders from national and local organizations representing these communities expressed concern about DHS policies, such as racial, ethnic, and religious profiling at airports and the border, that have eroded the government’s trust and credibility with the communities.

The commitments Secretary Napolitano made to these community leaders include:

– Community participation in an anti-violent extremism task force of the Homeland Security Advisory Council, which reports to the Secretary;

– Regular, quarterly meetings with the Secretary

– Education and training for DHS leadership to promote understanding of the Muslim, Arab, Sikh & South Asian American communities and their concerns; and

– An honest and full discussion of legitimate grievances from members of these communities about DHS policies that are ineffective and have a deleterious, humiliating impact on Muslim, Arab, Sikh and South Asian American communities.

Community leaders believe that fulfilling these commitments would be a step forward in establishing meaningful, open and authentic dialogue between DHS and the Muslim, Arab, Sikh and South Asian American communities.  In addition, these leaders have called for changes to DHS policies that are ineffective and discriminate based on race, ethnicity or religion, including: Rescinding a new Transportation Security Administration (TSA) directive targeting travelers from or through 13 predominantly Muslim nations, plus Cuba.

Revising a TSA directive on religious headwear, such as turbans and headscarves.
Setting limits on interrogations and searches by Customs and Border Protection agents that probe an American’s faith, politics, finances or associations, as well as cell phones, laptops and electronic devices, without any evidence of wrongdoing.
Media Contacts:
John Showalter, Muslim Advocates, 415.336.1868; Amardeep Singh, Sikh Coalition, 212.655.3095, ext. 83; Deepa Iyer, South Asian Americans Leading Together, 301.270.1855; Louay Safi, Islamic Society of North America, 317.838.8130; Edina Lekovic, Muslim Public Affairs Council, 213.383.3443; Hossam Al-Jabri, Muslim American Society, 617.427.2636; Imad Hamad, American Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee-Michigan Chapter, 313.581.1201; Rebecca Brown, Arab American Institute, 202.429.9210; Kiran Ansari, Council of Islamic Organizations of Greater Chicago, 312.506.0070; Nawar Shora, American Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, 202-244-2990; Hannan Deep, Arab Community Center for Economic and Social Services, 313.842.5128; Mohamed Elibiary, The Freedom and Justice Foundation, 214-403-2652.

The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC), which is non sectarian and non partisan, is the largest Arab-American civil rights organization in the United States. It was founded in 1980, by former Senator James Abourezk to protect the civil rights of people of Arab descent in the United States and to promote the cultural heritage of the Arabs. ADC has 38 chapters nationwide, including chapters in every major city in the country, and members in all 50 states.

The ADC Research Institute (ADC-RI), which was founded in 1981, is a Section 501(c)(3) educational organization that sponsors a wide range of programs on behalf of Arab Americans and of importance to all Americans.

From Above description we are missing an effort to tell us that the ADC is worried like all other Americans by the fact that it is Arabs – mainly Islamic, but not only Muslims – also Christians and seculars – that initiated attacks against America on Americandiscomforted by this has no obligation to live in America. Having said this, it is clear that the great majority of Arab Americans do not support acts of terror – but many Arab-Americans donate money to organizers of acts of terror that hurt also Americans. Again – profiling is an act of self-defense. soil. Considering this profiling could be an important means in America’s self-defense, and who is indeed

We agree that Cuba should not have been on that list – they were not involved for years in acts of terror against Americans.

The time that concerned suspicious activities against the US and the Cuban anti-Castro refugies in the US are gone. Even many of  the former Cuban refugees in the US children say now – let us turn a new page. Do the people of the ADC say openly – let us fight previous positions taken by their  home countries or the home countries of their parents? For us to take to heart the ADC complaint – we need first a positive position on their side – not cries of discrimination alone.

For our website – to get close to us – what is needed on their part is some sort of recognition that US money spent on oil is a cause for US very serious discomfort – this even before looking at what this has done to the environment and Global Warming.

Does ADC believe that there is a Global Warming that kills world-wide over 100,00 people a year?


Posted on on October 30th, 2009
by Pincas Jawetz (


Climate Change Adaptation: It’s about Water! 
— Global Water Partnership’s contribution to the climate change dialogue

Water is central to the world’s development challenges. Whether it is food security, poverty reduction, economic growth, human health—water is the nexus. Climate change is the spoiler. No matter how successful mitigation efforts might be, people will experience the impacts of climate change through water.

The Global Water Partnership is participating in ‘Water Day’ at the climate change negotiations in Barcelona. GWP Executive Secretary Dr Ania Grobicki will be the lead speaker on water and transboundary issues on Tuesday, November 3. The venue is the Fira Congress Hotel, opposite the conference centre. The opening session starts at 9 am and lunch will be provided.

Recently, the GWP’s Technical Committee released its 14th Background Paper: “Water Management, Water Security and Climate Change Adaptation.” It argues that investments in water are investments in adaptation. The paper can be downloaded on or ordered free at

Climate Change: How can we Adapt? – a one-pager about GWP’s key messages on this subject – is available here:

GWP has been accepted as an Inter-Governmental Organisation with Observer Status at  COP 15 in Copenhagen in December and has submitted an article to the delegate publication. But more information on that will follow later. 

More resources about climate change and water and more information on GWP’s involvement in the global dialogue on climate change is available on this page:


——————————————————–Steven DowneyHead of CommunicationsGlobal Water Partnership (GWP)Drottninggatan 33SE-111 51 Stockholm, SWEDENPhone:   +46 8 522 126 52Fax:      + 46 8 522 126 31E-mail: steven.downey@gwpforum.orgWebsite:
A water secure world  the mission of the Global Water Partnership is to support the sustainable development and management of water resources at all levels.