Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Join Us at Our New Blog!


The Commonwealth Club's blog has moved. With the launch of our redesigned, re-architected website in early April 2011, we have moved our blog onto the same website platform.

So you can find all of our latest blog posts at our new ongoing blog.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Members-Only Japan Teleconference

Today, Friday, March 25, from 3 p.m. to 4 p.m. Pacific time, The Commonwealth Club is holding a teleconference with a number of experts to discuss the situation in Japan and its implications for the world and for us here in California. Members of the Club received call-in information in a special e-mail yesterday.

Members can post questions for our teleconference panelists by putting it in the Comments section (click on "Comments" at the top of this blog post, right under the headline above).

Here's the background on the program:

The Tragedy in Japan: Lessons for The U.S. and The World

As Japan continues to grapple with the immediate impact of the earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear crisis, this situation raises long-term issues that affect the U.S. and other countries. What will be the impact of this disaster on the Japanese economy and society, and on the global economy? What are the current and future health effects of the released radiation? How can U.S. nuclear plants, especially in California, be made safe from major earthquakes and tsunamis? What will be the impact of the Japanese experience on plans for development of nuclear power and other forms of energy?


Glen Fukushima, Former President, American Chamber of Commerce in Japan. Participating from Tokyo.

Dr. Burton Richter, Director Emeritus, Stanford Linear Accelerator Center; physicist and expert on nuclear energy. Paricipating from Palo Alto, California.

Dr. Brian Tucker, former Supervising Geologist, California Geological Survey; Founder and President, GeoHazards International, nonprofit organization promoting earthquake and tsunami preparedness globally. Participating from Palo Alto, California.

Michael Zielenziger, Former Tokyo Bureau Chief, Knight Ridder Newspapers; Visiting Scholar, University of California, Berkeley; Author, Shutting Out the Sun: How Japan Created Its Own Lost Generation. Participating from Hong Kong.

Moderator: Dr. Gloria Duffy, President and CEO, The Commonwealth Club of California

During the program, you can submit written questions and comments for the speakers one of two ways:

• Here on The Commonwealth Club's blog, post a question in the comments section (click on "Comments" right under the Headline at the top of this blog post);
• If you have a Twitter account, tweet your question, and include #cwclub in the tweet.

We will be selecting questions from the Twitter feed and from the blog comments section for our panelists to answer during the program.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Is Tweeting News?

As allied forces begin to expand their involvement in the ever-changing situation in the Middle East, Americans find themselves going to a new source for up-to-the-minute news. Twitter and Facebook have quietly emerged as premiere destinations for information. With the help of social media, citizens have been able to spread news globally. Instantaneous and always on, new media has created an innovative way to stay on top of today’s headlines.

But with rapid-fire news comes a lack of editorial control. The information being received isn’t always the truth and, in some cases, is purely fabricated. So what is more important: information now or well-edited news tomorrow? Will Twitter ever replace CNN? Has society lost the need for the 24-hour news cycle?

The Commonwealth Club will host a lecture to help answer those questions: "News Media vs. Social Media: Can Both Survive?" will look at the evolving state of news in a constantly updated world. Join NBC news anchor Diane Dwyer for a nonpartisan discussion on the fate of the news industry on May 9th.

Also, be sure to check out just how much has changed by listening to a 2006 speech from journalist industry icon Dan Rather. With more than 40 years of experience, Rather has seen the evolution of the news media first hand. From the rise and fall of the newspaper industry to the creation of the 24-hour television news cycle, he experienced the highs and the lows of the industry. Hear what he has to say about the state of American news and where he thinks it’s heading by listening to the audio recording of "What is Happening to the American Media?"
–James Dohnert

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Warren Christopher, Former Secretary of State, Passes Away

Former U.S. Secretary of State Warren Christopher died Friday after a fight with cancer. He was 85. He served as the nation's top diplomat during President Bill Clinton's first term. Among many other positions in his career, he had previously served as deputy secretary of state for President Jimmy Carter.

Hillary Rodham Clinton, the current secretary of state, issued a statement in which she praised the late diplomat. "The longer I spend in this job, the deeper my appreciation grows for the giants who came before," Clinton said. "Warren was a diplomat’s diplomat – talented, dedicated and exceptionally wise. As well as anyone in his generation, he understood the subtle interplay of national interests, fundamental values and personal dynamics that drive diplomacy. "

In February 2001, Christopher spoke to The Commonwealth Club of California. His topic, "Chances of a Lifetime," covered his long career in politics and government. You can read a transcript of the event here.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Four New York Times Journalists, Missing in Libya

Journalist Anthony Shadid addresses The Commonwealth Club in September 2005 about the Iraq conflict.
Photo by Paul Eric Felder.
The New York Times reports that four of its journalists covering the fighting in Libya are missing. The paper said it is still trying to get information on their whereabouts, and it has asked the Libyan government for help locating them. There were unconfirmed reports that the four had been detained by the government forces in the port city of Ajdabiya.

The journalists are Stephen Farrell, Tyler Hicks, Lynsey Addario, and Anthony Shadid, the newspaper's Beirut bureau chief and the winner of two Pulitzer Prizes for foreign reporting. Shadid spoke at The Commonwealth Club of California in 2005 about "Iraq's People in the Shadow of America's War." At that time, he was with the Washington Post. You can listen to the audio of his speech online.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Philanthropist Tad Taube Profiled in San Francisco Chronicle

From his escape from Poland just months before the Nazi invasion to his successful career in business and philanthropy here in the Bay Area, Tad Taube told his story to the San Francisco Chronicle this past Sunday for an extensive profile.

Taube is the president of the Koret Foundation, chairman of Taube Philanthropies, and chairman and founder of Woodmont Companies. He is being honored with The Commonwealth Club's Distinguished Citizen Award at tonight's 108th Anniversary and 23rd Annual Distinguished Citizen Award Dinner in San Francisco. The other honorees include Mary B. Cranston, firm senior partner and immediate past chair at Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman LLP, and Janet W. Lamkin, president of Bank of America California.

Finalists Announced for the 80th Annual California Book Awards

The following books are finalists for the 80th Annual California Book Awards, presented by The Commonwealth Club of California. The winners will be announced the week of April 11th and will be celebrated in an Awards Ceremony on Thursday, June 2, 2011.

Camille T. Dungy, Suck on the Marrow. Published by Red Hen Press
Judy Halebsky, SKY=EMPTY. Published by New Issues Poetry & Prose
Barbara Jane Reyes, Diwata. Published by BOA Editions, Ltd
Alexandra Teague, Mortal Geography. Published by Persea
Brian Turner, Phantom Noise. Alice James Books

Yunte Huang, Charlie Chan. Published by W. W. Norton & Co
Don Lattin, The Harvard Psychedelic Club. Published by HarperOne
Julia Whitty, Deep Blue Home: An Intimate Ecology of Our Wild Ocean. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

First Fiction:
Angie Chau, Quiet As They Come. Published by Ig Publishing
Tim Z. Hernandez, Breathing, In Dust. Published by Texas Tech University Press
Zachary Mason, The Lost Books of the Odyssey: A Novel. Published by Picador
Suzanne Rivecca, Death Is Not An Option: Stories. Published by W. W. Norton & Co.

Zoe Ferraris, City of Veils. Published by Little, Brown and Company
Joan Frank, In Envy Country: Stories. Published by University of Notre Dame Press
Eric Puchner, Model Home. Published by Scribner
Adrienne Sharp, The True Memoirs of Little K. Published by Farrar, Straus &; Giroux
Karen Tei Yamashita, I Hotel. Published by Coffee House Press

Children’s Books:
Cecil Castucci, Grandma’s Gloves. With illustrations by Julia Denos. Published by Candlewick Beverly Gherman, Sparky: The Life and Art of Charles Schulz. Published by Chronicle Books.
Rene Colato Lainez, From North to South/Del Norte Al Sur. With illustrations by Joe Cepeda.
Barbara Kerley, The Extraordinary Mark Twain (According to Susy). With illustrations by Edwin Fotheringham. Published by Scholastic Press
Icy Smith, Half Spoon of Rice: A Survival Story of the Cambodian Genocide. With illustrations by Sopaul Nhem. Published by East West Discovery Press.

Young Adult:
Margarita Engle, The Firefly Letters: A Suffragette’s Journey to Cuba. Published by Henry Holt and Co.
Ron Koertge, Shakespeare Makes the Playoffs. Published by Candlewick
Dana Reinhardt, The Things a Brother Knows. Published by Wendy Lamb Books
Neal Shusterman, Bruiser. Published by HarperTeen

Monday, March 14, 2011

The White-Knuckle Worries about Japan and Nuclear Problems

As a terrified and grief-stricken Japan begins to rebuild, questions about what can be learned from this terrible tragedy are beginning to be assessed in our own country. The matter of nuclear power plant safety in America is slowly becoming a talking point of many U.S. politicians worried about issues similar to those Japan is facing after the quake.

Democratic Representative Ed Markey of Massachusetts has recently called into question the practicality of building a nuclear power plant in states prone to earthquakes. "We just have to call a time-out and examine whether or not those safety features necessary in the future are built into new nuclear power plants in our country," said Markey, who sits on the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

The question of nuclear power safety even reaches farther than just earthquake-prone territories, according to politicians like Senator John Kerry. “We clearly need to have a new generation of safer, more fail-safe plants if any are going to be built,” said the former presidential candidate in comments quoted on Politico. “Obviously this is going to go through a much greater scrutiny. It ought to. There’ll be a much tougher standard. There ought to be. Whether there’s any at all,” he added.

So as the fallout from Japan continues to be assessed and U.S. leaders begin to make plant safety an issue, people are asking: Is nuclear power worth it? With more than 70 percent of carbon-free energy in the United States estimated to be coming from nuclear power, we’ve clearly made nuclear energy a staple of alternative energy in America. But are we doing enough to protect ourselves, and should we continue down our current path of nuclear investment?

On April 8, the Commonwealth Club's Climate One series will hold a program on the viability of nuclear energy in California. "Nuclear Power: More, Less or the Status Quo" will examine if nuclear power is worth it for California and discuss viable options to improving it if it is.

Also join us for a discussion on green energy solutions other than nuclear power on April 5. Duke of Energy and Energy Policy: What's Next? will give a closer look at what’s next in the green sector. Learn what is possible and get an insider's look at what the future might hold for America’s energy needs.

–By James Dohnert

San Francisco Examiner Interviews Mary B. Cranston

Attorney Mary B. Cranston, firm senior partner and immediate past chair of Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman LLP, was profiled in the San Francisco Examiner yesterday. We heartily recommend you take a look at it and learn more about this leading legal voice and what makes her tick.

There's just a little bit more time to join us tomorrow as we honor Ms. Cranston with The Commonwealth Club's Distinguished Citizen Award at our 108th anniversary and annual dinner in San Francisco. She is being honored along with Janet W. Lamkin, president of Bank of America California, and The Honorable Tad Taube, president of the Koret Foundation, chairman of Taube Philanthropies, and chairman and founder of Woodmont Companies.

Learn more about our biggest fundraising event of the year.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Learning More about Learning

President Obama recently stated that the education system should be spared cuts in order to protect the country's future.I n a speech earlier this month, he stated: “A budget that sacrifices our commitment to education is a budget that sacrifices our country's future."

But his belief that our school system should be spared is not shared with some of his colleagues across the aisle. Governor Scott Walker of Wisconsin, for example, has been taking part in a heated battle with his state's teachers unions over the right of collective bargaining. The GOP governor believes the teachers' salaries and pension benefits are an indispensable part of curbing his state's spendig.

So who’s right? Depends on who you ask. While conservatives would likely agree about the importance of education for our future, they have long argued that we can fix the school system in ways that hold teachers more strictly accountable – with increased private schooling, for example. Many liberals, meanwhile, argue for a reinvestment in teachers and a system that promotes improvement while assisting teachers.

It’s a fundamental political battle consistent with the type of party politics that have defined our country for over 50 years. But what does it all really mean? How will the policies of today affect not only the people of today, but also the leaders of tomorrow? Can we fix the problems of 2011 without ruining the future of the country?

Well, according to upcoming speakers such as American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten, there is. Weingarten proposes a system of teacher evaluations that also allows teachers the ability to gain tenure. Supporting clear standards of what teachers should be able to do along with support groups to assist teachers deemed unsatisfactory, she hopes to create a system that holds teachers to a realistic code of accountable practice. Speaking on her plan, she's stated, "Our aim is to have a comprehensive, fair, transparent and expedient process to identify, improve, and—if necessary—remove ineffective teachers," noting that "neither drive-by nor test-score-driven evaluations" do that.

On the other side of the educational reform debate is upcoming speaker Michelle Rhee. During Rhee’s time as chancellor of the D.C. public school system, she implemented a system that she believes improves students' futures while holding teachers to a more productive accountability. She created a pay system based on “student achievement” and the removal of teacher tenure. Her evaluations were based on student test scores and a form of accountability akin to those found in the No Child Left Behind Act. The polices she implanted, and stands by, created a teaching environment that called for a quick turnaround on student success (a warning, followed by a one-year mandate for improvement) with bonuses for teachers able to improve students' test scores. She will be speaking along with Sacramento mayor (and former NBA star) Kevin Johnson about her system and its effect on her constituency.

Finally, come listen to Teach for America founder Wendy Kopp as she discusses what is going on with working teachers. Find out about the issues that she teachers face day in and day out and learn how she wants to use education to improve the lives of America’s Children.
–By James Dohnert