Thursday, December 23, 2010

The FCC’s New Years Regulations and the Future of Information

By Sally Schilling

The Club will be ringing in the New Year with discussions of one the most controversial topics of 2010: regulation of the Internet.

In what has been a year of contentious issues over Internet regulation – from China’s Internet censorship to Wikileaks’ exposure of secret government documents – this week’s actions by the Federal Communications Commission may have been a turning point in the future of the freedom of information on the Internet.

The FCC approved a “net neutrality” regulation that orders non-wireless Internet providers to ensure the free and equal flow of all content. But the new regulation does not require wireless Internet providers to do the same. In effect, broadband companies can choose to limit access to sites and applications. The New York Times has labeled the new net neutrality regulation as the creation of two classes of Internet access: fixed-line and wireless.

Yesterday, Craig Aaron, managing director of media reform group Free Press, told Amy Goodman, host of news program DemocracyNow!, that having loose rules for wireless Internet providers is an important issue because more and more people are using wireless Internet. “[This regulation] condones discrimination in wireless space, which is the future of the Internet,” he said.

According to Aaron, the problem with allowing wireless providers to prioritize content is that it will inhibit the benefits that the Internet can provide for the public. “[The new regulation] jeopardizes the growth of the Internet as an unrivaled source of economic innovation, democratic participation and free speech,” he told Goodman.

When Goodman – a major proponent of free speech – spoke to the Club back in April, she praised Internet site Wikileaks for its posting of an Iraq war video showing American soldiers murdering two Reuters journalists in Iraq. She said that if the American media were to expose to the public the truth about the wars in the Middle East for just one week, the American people would not allow the wars to continue. Unfortunately for Goodman, the future of controversial sites like Wikileaks may be subject to the selective priorities of Internet providers.

Recently, Apple dropped its Wikileaks application due to what Apple says was a violation of their terms of service. This action by Apple – and other large companies such as Amazon and Visa that have stopped Wikileaks services – along with the new net neutrality regulation, suggests that the future of the free flowing information on the Internet will remain a hot topic for a long time to come.

The Club is hosting Josh Silver, founder of Free Press, to talk about Internet and journalism policy in the public interest. Ask him what the real implications of the new “net neutrality” regulation are for the future of journalism and politics in America when he comes to the Club on January 31 at 6 p.m.

Amy Goodman spoke at the Club in April. You can watch her program here:

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Gloria Duffy to Discuss New START Treaty Dec. 23 on KQED's Forum with Michael Krasny

In a busy day on Capitol Hill in Washington today, the U.S. Senate passed a number of bills, with perhaps the biggest one being the ratification of the New START Treaty with Russia, which will lower the number of nuclear weapons each country is allowed to have and it will enable the return of on-the-ground inspections in each country.

The treaty was a priority of the Obama administration, which also drew on broad bipartisan support in its campaign to get the treaty passed. The bill passed today by a vote of 71-26. A two-thirds majority is required by the U.S. Constitution for the ratification of treaties by the Senate.

Commonwealth Club President and CEO Dr. Gloria Duffy, a former nuclear arms negotiator in the Clinton administration, will discuss this new treaty tomorrow (Thursday, December 24) at 9:00 a.m. Pacific time on KQED Radio's "Forum with Michael Krasny." That's 88.5 FM in San Francisco or 89.3 FM in Sacramento, or you can listen to live streaming from the KQED web site.

From Commonwealth Club of California

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Hillary Clinton's Commonwealth Club Remarks Continue to Spur Debate

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton (right) discusses U.S. environmental and foreign policy with Commonwealth Club Vice President and Climate One Director Greg Dalton. Photo by Sonya Abrams.
When U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton appeared before a giant crowd at The Commonwealth Club in San Francisco in October, she discussed a wide range of issues. Mexico's drug war, technology, expansion of diplomacy, Afghanistan, a crude oil pipeline.

It is that last item, the pipeline, that is causing lasting controversy. As – a Washington, D.C.-based political web site – reports today, critics such as Republican Sen. Mike Johanns (Neb.) have gone after the secretary for saying the Obama administration was inclined to approve a pipeline that would bring crude oil from Alberto into the United States.

Politico reports:
“The State Department and the Obama administration are in a real jam,” Sen. Mike Johanns (R-Neb.) told Politico. “They want to look very environmental, and I just think they’re just struggling on what to do with this thing.”

Johanns and other critics of the pipeline lambasted Clinton for comments she made in October suggesting the department was “inclined” to greenlight the pipeline even as thousands of comments were still being reviewed as part of an ongoing environmental assessment.

... Johanns has contended that Clinton’s remarks will inevitably lead to lawsuits citing that the department had come to a premature conclusion if it grants the pipeline. “For her to come out and say we’re inclined to grant it when the public comments had not been fully reviewed certainly is going to lay the groundwork for someone to claim that the process was arbitrary and capricious,” he said.

... Clinton has since emphasized — as recently as in a letter last week to Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) — that the department has not finished its review of the plan to build a 1,700-mile pipeline through five states — entering Montana, through South Dakota and Nebraska before meeting up with an existing pipeline in Kansas. It then continues in Oklahoma and into Texas.

“In order for the State Department to make a sound decision, it is important that we conduct our review in a thorough and transparent manner, taking into consideration all relevant factors, including both environmental and economic impacts,” Clinton wrote.
The Politico article does not quote Clinton's original comments at length. However, here is the original comment the secretary of state made in her on-stage conversation with Climate One Director and Commonwealth Club Vice President Greg Dalton:
DALTON: Another international issue that you signed in on last year was the Alberta Clipper, a pipeline from Alberta that brings tar sands, oil sands directly into Wisconsin to the U.S. Midwest. This is some of the dirtiest fuel in the world. How can the U.S. be saying climate change is a priority when we're mainlining some of the dirtiest fuel that exists?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, there hasn't been a final decision made. It is –
DALTON: Are you willing to reconsider it?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Probably not. And we — but we haven't finished all of the analysis. So as I say, we've not yet signed off on it. But we are inclined to do so and we are for several reasons — going back to one of your original questions — we're either going to be dependent on dirty oil from the Gulf or dirty oil from Canada. And until we can get our act together as a country and figure out that clean, renewable energy is in both our economic interests and the interests of our planet — I mean, I don't think it will come as a surprise to anyone how deeply disappointed the president and I are about our inability to get the kind of legislation through the Senate that the United States was seeking.
Now, that hasn't stopped what we're doing. We have moved a lot on the regulatory front through the EPA here at home and we have been working with a number of countries on adaptation and mitigation measures. But obviously, it was one of the highest priorities of the administration for us to enshrine in legislation President Obama's commitment to reducing our emissions. So we do have a lot that still must be done. And it is a hard balancing act. It's a very hard balancing act. But it is also, for me, energy security requires that I look at all of the factors that we have to consider while we try to expedite as much as we can America's move toward clean, renewable energy. And the double disappointment is that despite China's resistance to transparency and how difficult it was for President Obama and I to drive even the Copenhagen Agreement that we finally got by crashing a meeting of China and India and Brazil and South Africa, which –
DALTON: I would have liked to have seen that one.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Yeah, that was — [audience applause] — well, so we got the Copenhagen Agreement and China did sign up for it. But at the same time, they're making enormous investments in clean energy technology. And if we permit that to happen, shame on us. And it is something that United States should be the leader in. It is one of the ways to stimulate and grow our economy and create good jobs. So that's just a small window into the dilemma that we're confronted with.
You can read an excerpt of her entire program in the digital edition of the current issue of The Commonwealth magazine.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Elizabeth Edwards, RIP

Elizabeth Edwards appeared at The Commonwealth Club of California in Silicon Valley on October 24, 2006. Photo by Paul Eric Felder.

Elizabeth Edwards, an attorney and the wife of former two-time Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards, passed away today after a long battle with cancer. She was only 61.

Edwards discussed her book Saving Graces in her October 2006 appearance at The Commonwealth Club in Silicon Valley.

We're sorry to report that we don't have audio or video of that speech available. You might want to check out John Edwards' own 2006 address to the Club, which is available in streaming audio.

States Step out in Cancun

Greg Dalton, Club vice president and director of its Climate One program, is in Cancun this week for the climate conference taking place there. He blogs:
With international negotiations stuck in the sand and the political climate in Washington DC hostile to the reality of "global weirding," much of the discussion at the Cancun climate conference is about what states and cities can do to keep moving forward. Seen in that light, the United States looks firm around the edges and is starting to appear flabby in the middle.

California has been a bright spot at these conferences for the past several years and it's aura is shining even stronger these days following the results of this fall's election. Lauren Faber, Assistant Secretary of the California Environmental Protection Agency, crowed that more people (nearly 6 million) cast ballots to sustain the state's core clean energy policy (AB 32) than voted for or against any other candidate or issue around the United States.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Where Does Unemployment Rank Among Washington's Priorities?

By Sally Schilling

While Congress is focused on Bush tax cuts, former Newsweek senior White House correspondent Richard Wolffe says the government’s first priority should be addressing unemployment.

President Obama’s Council of Economic Advisors put out a report last week warning that if Congress does not extend unemployment benefits, which expired on November 30, two million people could lose coverage in December and as many as 600,000 jobs could be lost over the next year.

Facing an inevitable congressional stalemate on tax-cut issues, Obama told legislators that they should work beyond political lines on unemployment benefits. Wolffe told MSNBC that Obama’s optimistic “moving beyond party politics” message is not a demand for action so much as a political strategy.

Wolffe – who, at the very beginning of the campaign, was asked by the Obama himself to write a book about his journey to the presidency – said that though bipartisan action on unemployment benefits is highly unlikely, speaking about the parties working together is what Obama needs to do to get re-elected.

The president needs to appeal to independent voters, Wolffe said, and independent voters want to see the parties working together. Having the inside scoop on the White House (his new book, Revival, describes his first-hand look at the challenges Obama faced in the first two years of his presidency), Wolffe thinks he knows exactly what is behind Obama’s every move.

So is Obama’s focus on getting re-elected a sign that unemployment doesn’t merit immediate attention?

A recent New York Times article compared the unemployment crisis today to quicksand, and said if the issue remains unaddressed, could become more like cement. Catherine Rampell wrote in the Times that instead of resolving high unemployment, European countries have grown to just accept it, and the U.S. could very well do the same. “The real threat, economists say, is that America, like some of its Old World peers, might simply become accustomed to having a large class of permanently displaced workers,” writes Rampell.

Millions of Americans undoubtedly feel that the urgency of the unemployment crisis is real, but, Wolffe’s observations suggest, Washington is too tied up in politics to act. Does Richard Wolffe think there is still hope for Washington to make a move before high unemployment becomes a permanent fixture of our economy? Come ask him when he speaks at the Club at 6 p.m. on Tuesday, December 7.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Gloria Duffy to Discuss START Treaty, Koreas on Ronn Owens 12/2

Commonwealth Club President and CEO Dr. Gloria C. Duffy will appear on Ronn Owens' popular KGO Newstalk Radio program tomorrow at 10 a.m. Pacific time. She will be discussing the volatile situation on the Korean peninsula and the up-in-the-air prospects for ratification of a new nuclear arms control treaty with Russia.

San Francisco Bay Area audiences can listen on the radio at AM 810; out-of-area audiences can hear it live streaming from KGO's web site.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Milton Friedman at The Commonwealth Club: A Reader, Part II

This is the continuation of a previous post.

We decided to make Milton Friedman's Commonwealth Club speeches available here for anyone interested in what this guru of the modern market economists had to say. We think that even if you disagree with his politics and theories, you will find him to be an engaging speaker, and it might help people understand how Friedman's many acolytes in free-market circles think.

The speeches are presented here as scans of the published speeches and question-and-answer sessions from The Commonwealth, the official publication of The Commonwealth Club. We apologize if some of the quality of the scans are not the greatest; we did the best we could without doing damage to the bound copies of the publication. Unfortunately, we do not have audio or video files of these speeches, or we would gladly link to them here.

Click on the images to view them in larger sizes.

July 17, 1987: "In Defense of Dumping"

July 15, 1988: "Internationalization of the U.S. Economy – Fact or Fiction"

July 21, 1989: "Communism and the Market"

June 1, 1990: "A Welfare State Syllogism"

August 7, 1992: "Parental Choices: The Effective Way to Improve Schools"

August 14, 1998: "Two Lucky People"

See the first part of this Milton Friedman reader here.

Milton Friedman at The Commonwealth Club: A Reader, Part I

When conservative political satirist P.J. O'Rourke spoke at The Commonwealth Club of California in February 2007, he was asked who he thought was the modern equivalent of Adam Smith. O'Rourke replied, "Unfortunately, he just died. Milton Friedman was the guy."

More recently, a request for information about famed economist Milton Friedman's appearances here set us off on a mission to find all of his speeches at The Club, and we found he had spoken at The Commonwealth Club 12 times between 1977 and 1998.

We decided to make them all available on this blog for anyone interested in what this guru of the modern market economists had to say. We think that, even if you disagree with his politics and theories, you will find him to be an engaging speaker, and it might help people understand how Friedman's many acolytes in free-market circles think.

The speeches are presented here as scans of the published speeches and question-and-answer sessions from The Commonwealth, the official publication of The Commonwealth Club. We apologize if some of the quality of the scans are not the greatest; we did the best we could without doing damage to the bound copies of the publication. Unfortunately, we do not have audio or video files of these speeches, or we would gladly link to them here.

Click on the images to view them in larger sizes.

November 1, 1977: "Liberal McCarthyism: A Personal Experience"

October 31, 1980: "America: It's Economy and Government"

April 15, 1983: "The Real Threat to the U.S. Security"

July 27, 1984: "The Economy: Where Are We Headed?"

June 28, 1985: "Is Hyper-Inflation Necessary?"

June 13, 1986: "What We Know That Ain't So About Economic Policy"

See the second part of this Milton Friedman reader here.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

New Issue of The Commonwealth Magazine Now Out

Members of The Commonwealth Club should keep an eye on their mailboxes over the next week as the December/January issue of The Commonwealth makes its way through the mails.

The issue features U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton on the cover; inside, she speaks about expanding participation in – and the resources for – American diplomacy, and she answers questions about energy, Mexico, China, Afghanistan, and much more.

Also this issue: Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice discusses growing up in segregated Birmingham, Alabama; a bipartisan panel takes on the heated topic of solving America's burgeoning national debt and deficit; Swiss Federal Chancellor Corina Casanova compares and contrasts California's and Switzerland's experiences with referenda.

Plus, an expert panel looks at the challenges of funding current and future transportation needs; commentator (and aide to four U.S. presidents) David Gergen gives a sobering view of national decline; attorney David Boies discusses his work on the legal challenge to California's Proposition 8; The Commonwealth has a chat with conservative political satirist P.J. O'Rourke; chef Rick Bayless discusses food and cooking with fellow chef Joey Altman; and Commonwealth Club President and CEO Dr. Gloria Duffy looks at solving seemingly intractable urban problems.

It's all in the new issue of The Commonwealth. Members will receive the print edition in the mail, but they will also have access to the digital version of the magazine. They will receive a link to the digital edition in the weekly e-mail newsletter for members. If you are a member but have not yet subscribed to that e-newsletter, go to our web site and sign up on the e-newsletter box on the left side of that page.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Combating Islamophobia in America

“If you are painting 1.5 billion people with the same brush of violence and extremism [as al Qaeda], you’re a bigot,” said Reza Aslan, in one of his passionate television appearances discussing the American impressions of al Qaeda, which are frequently transferred onto the Muslim community as a whole.

A popular commentator on a heated controversy in New York – he says that the issue should not be spoken of as “a proposed mosque at ground zero” but rather an “Islamic cultural center (much like the Jewish cultural centers we see across the country) a few blocks away from ground zero” – Aslan aims to expose an unknown side of the Muslim world to the American people.

His intention to reveal the diversity of the Muslim population is apparent in his commentary, including one of his recent columns on The Daily Beast titled “Why Obama Can Be Proud of Indonesia”:
At a time when most Americans believe that Islamic values and democratic ideals cannot be reconciled, Indonesia has proved otherwise. Home to nearly 15 percent of all Muslims on earth, as many Muslims as there are in the entire Arab world, Indonesia is not only the richest, most stable, and most populous county in the Muslim world. It is the Muslim world. While Muslims in the Middle East are still fighting each other over whose vision of Islam will rule them all, Muslims in Indonesia have almost effortlessly fused their Islamic identity with the requirements of a modern constitutional state.”

Aslan is a scholar of religions and a contributing editor at online news site The Daily Beast. He will be speaking Monday, November 29 at the Club office in San Francisco. The Inforum program will begin at 6:30 p.m.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Hopeful Huffington?

By Sally Schilling

Arianna Huffington will speak to a sold-out audience at the Commonwealth Club on Thursday evening (check our web site, standing room tickets may still be available) about her new book, which has an off-putting yet increasingly relevant title: Third World America: How Our Politicians Are Abandoning the Middle Class and Betraying the American Dream.

A media innovator, Huffington is the co-founder of an extremely successful political blog which bears her name and which provides links to the political news of the moment. It boasts a large collection of liberal commentary on contemporary issues from noted scholars, actors, authors and political figures. “[The Huffington Post] has grown from a hyperspace operation with a cadre of volunteer journalists to a hefty organization with 6,000 unpaid bloggers and 186 paid staffers,” according to Forbes magazine.

In a recent blog post on her $100 million media blog, Huffington wrote that since writing her new book with a doomsday title, her outlook on the future of America is surprisingly optimistic. Huffington, the queen of the inventive online news medium, wrote that she finds hope for the future in the American citizens who are pulling together by creating their own media innovations, providing online forums for struggling Americans. Huffington cited, a blog started in Portland, Oregon, which lists volunteer projects happening around the country and encourages people who are unemployed to put their skills to work to help others in need.

Huffington will speak at the Club Office at 6:30 p.m.

George Weyerhauser Climate Program on KGO HD this Month

For those of you in the Bay Area who might like to catch The Commonwealth Club's program with George Weyerhauser ("Climate Countdown"), it will air on KGO HD Channel 715 on Sunday, November 28, at 10:00 p.m.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Theodore Sorensen, JFK's Speechwriter, Passes Away

Ted Sorensen, author of some of the most famous presidential speeches of the mid-20th century, died today at the age of 82.

You can listen to the audio of his May 17, 2010, Commonwealth Club program here, or you can watch the video of the event below:

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Video of Secretary of State HIllary Rodham Clinton

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton addressed Climate One at The Commonwealth Club of California in San Francisco on Friday, October 15, 2010. Here's the video:

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Condoleezza Rice Photo Slideshow, 10-18-10 at The Commonwealth Club

Former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice visited The Commonwealth Club of California in San Francisco yesterday, speaking about her new book Extraordinary Ordinary People. Photos by Ed Ritger.

Hillary Clinton Photo Slideshow, from 10-15-10 at The Commonwealth Club

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton's visit to a Climate One program of The Commonwealth Club of California in San Francisco last Friday is presented in photos in the slideshow below. Photos by Ed Ritger and Sonya Abrams.

Timothy Geithner on Recession, Recovery -- ABC7 News Video


Photo Slideshow: Timothy Geithner at Commonwealth Club 10-18-2010

Below are photos, by John Zipperer and William F. Adams, from the program in Silicon Valley yesterday featuring U.S. Secretary of the Treasury Timothy Geithner. The program was moderated by Sequoia Capital's Michael Moritz.

Friday, October 15, 2010

If You Missed Hillary Clinton Tonight at The Commonwealth Club ...

Then you missed a great program. Secretary of State Clinton addressed a sold-out audience of 1,400 people in downtown San Francisco this evening, talking about everything from Mexico's drug war to environmental needs; but the underpinning of her speech and conversation with Climate One Director Greg Dalton was the need for the United States to be engaged with the world's problems and to approach challenges intelligently, using all of the tools in the country's toolkit.

Stay tuned to this blog, as well as The Commonwealth Club's radio, podcast, television and online video networks. We'll be uploading audio, video, and still photos from this event in the near future.
Photo by Sonya Abrams.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Condoleezza Rice Establishes Peace with Jon Stewart

Former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice appeared on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart last night to discuss her new book, Extraordinary Ordinary People. Despite their differing political beliefs, Rice and the host clearly got along well, with Stewart noting that he had been charmed when he had seen her discuss her book at a book fair.

They spent most of the two segments on the program discussing Rice's childhood and family, which is the subject of her book.

Bay Area residents will get their opportunity to see Rice themselves on October 18, when she makes a noontime appearance at the Commonwealth Club of California in San Francisco.

Part one:
The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Condoleezza Rice Pt. 1
Daily Show Full EpisodesPolitical HumorRally to Restore Sanity

Part two:
The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Condoleezza Rice Pt. 2
Daily Show Full EpisodesPolitical HumorRally to Restore Sanity

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Timothy Geithner Addresses the Top "Five Myths About TARP"

U.S.Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner took to The Washington Post opinion pages this past Sunday to address what he calls five myths about the Troubled Assets Relief Program, known by its acronym TARP.

TARP has become broadly unpopular in the country, but Geithner and other Obama administration leaders have been working lately to get out the news that TARP will ultimately result in a much smaller cost to taxpayers than is popularly believed:
[T]he cost of the TARP, which succeeded in reducing the overall economic damage, will be considerably lower than once feared. In fact, the direct budget cost of the program and our full investment in the insurer AIG is likely to come in well under $50 billion -- $300 billion less than estimated by the Congressional Budget Office last year. And taxpayers are likely to receive an impressive return (totaling tens of billions) on the investments made under the TARP outside the housing market.

Even looking beyond the TARP to the losses associated with Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac's pre-crisis mistakes, the direct costs of the government's overall rescue strategy are likely to be less than 1 percent of GDP. By comparison, the much less severe savings and loan crisis of the late 1980s and early 1990s cost 2 1/2 times that as a share of our economy.
In the article, Geithner addresses other concerns of critiques, such as that TARP helped Wall Street and not Main Street, that it led to greater presidential control over the economy, and other claims.

Read his entire article here.

Bring your own questions for the Treasury secretary when you see Timothy Geithner live at The Commonwealth Club of California this Monday, October 18, in Palo Alto for a 1:00 p.m. program. Details and ticket information are now available.

Monday, October 11, 2010

U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner to Speak at Commonwealth Club Silicon Valley

Over the weekend, The Commonwealth Club of California announced that U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner will be speaking to the Club on Monday, October 18, in Silicon Valley.

Secretary Geithner will address the Obama administration’s proposals to help get more Americans back to work and help reinforce long-term growth at home as well as efforts to build a more stable financial system and to strengthen the global economy.

Don't miss this chance to get up close and personal with one of the most important figures entrusted with getting the nation’s economy back on track.

Generation Know

By Sally Schilling

Generation Me, Generation Y, Generation Q, iGeneration, Echo Boomers, Millenials, etc…

If you were born between the years 1980 and 2000, you belong to a generation that has been very difficult to define.

New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman has labeled this generation Generation Q, the “Quiet Americans.” Friedman argued that while students are increasingly engaged in service programs like Teach For America, they are not getting loud about our current crises.

Condoleezza Rice on TV This Week

Condoleezza Rice, former U.S. secretary of state, will be on nationwide TV this week, appearing on at least three big shows:
  • Tuesday, October 12: The Today Show
  • Tuesday, October 12: Live with Regis and Kelly
  • Wednesday, October 13: The Daily Show with Jon Stewart
That should whet your appetite for her appearance in San Francisco at The Commonwealth Club on Monday, October 18 at noon. Tickets are going fast, so reserve yours today.

Rice is professor of business and political science at Stanford University, a senior fellow at Hoover Institution, and author of the new book, Extraordinary, Ordinary People: A Memoir of Family. In addition, she is a member of The Commonwealth Club Board of Governors.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Campaign Finance - The Current Hot Topic


Campaign finance is a hot topic right now! Not to mention a very relevant one as we head towards November.

The New York Times published an article yesterday stating that the amount of money spent on television campaign advertisements by outside interest groups has more than doubled from what was spent in 2006. The article points not only to the Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling as a main reason for the more lax campaign finance regulations, but also to an array of other legal developments that have led to less regulation and less restriction regarding campaign financing.

NPR’s Fresh Air devoted Thursday’s show to the discussion of the new world of campaign finance that has been created as a result of the Citizens United decision. Terry Gross interviewed Peter Stone, of The Center for Public Integrity, Kenneth Vogel of Politico and Lee Fang of the liberal-leaning ThinkProgress to discuss new organizations that have been created since the ruling in order to finance advertisements for campaigns across the country.

The Oakland mayoral race recently had its own campaign finance drama. Oakland mayoral candidates Jean Quan and Rebecca Kaplan were denied their request to tighten rules on campaign finance spending before the Nov. 2 election. The two Oakland City Council members made this request to the Oakland City Council after the Sacramento-based Coalition for a Safer California announced it had exceeded the spending threshold of $95,000 allowed for an independent expenditure committee, in support of an Oakland mayoral candidate. Quan and Kaplan have alleged that Oakland mayoral candidate Don Perata worked with the coalition to get the spending cap broken. Perata has denied this allegation, but admitted on Thursday to exceeding the spending ceiling. Perata says that City Attorney John Russo told him that the spending cap had already been broken. Russo denies having said this. Once the spending cap is broken, mayoral candidates are free to spend more than the voluntary spending limit of $379,000. Read the complete story from the Oakland Tribune.

Join The Club and panelists Bob Edgar, Lawrence McQuillan and Jesse Choper to discuss this polemic topic, delving into the political controversies and the widely unpopular Citizens United Supreme Court ruling. This program will take place on Monday, October 11 at 6PM at The Club’s SF office.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Condoleezza Rice Remembers German Reunification

This month, Germany is celebrating 20 years since the reunification of East and West Germany.

Unlike British and French leaders at the time, the American administration of President George H.W. Bush encouraged the reunification of East and West Germany two decades ago, even if it wasn't sure how the details would all work out, says former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

In an interview with German news magazine Der Spiegel, Rice says there was only a short window of opportunity when "the Soviet Union had to be strong enough to sign away its powers and rights but not strong enough to stop it." As a result, when the opportunity presented itself and West German Chancellor Helmut Kohl went full speed ahead with plans for bringing together the two parts of the nation separated by the Cold War, the Bush administration supported his fast-track approach.

In fact, there was apparently only one moment of disconnect between the White House and the chancellor's office, when Kohl didn't consult with his American counterparts before he presented a list of 10 points to guide the reunification process. But that speed bump was soon left behind, and Kohl and his plans remained in good standing with Washington.

Read the full Spiegel article for more on Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev's surprising role, the Bush team's worries about Kohl's re-election chances, the centrality of NATO to American comfort about German reunification, and more.

Condoleezza Rice will speak about her life, work, and family in a special event at The Commonwealth Club in San Francisco on Monday, October 18.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Free Speech for Organizations, or Purchasing Congress? Big Money in Big Campaigns

By Camille Koué

Yesterday, the first Monday in October, the Supreme Court started a new session. The court will be hearing an array of fascinating and controversial cases, and everyone will be interested to see how the most female Supreme Court of all time will vote on such heavy matters at lethal injection and lifetime prison sentences for juveniles.

But before such matters could even be considered, a letter was delivered to the United States Congress on Monday asking that one of the court's most controversial rulings of this year, Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, be overturned with an amendment to the constitution.

The letter was submitted to Congress by, a campaign devoted to the cause of reversing the ruling via a constitutional amendment.

The Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission 5-4 ruling permits corporations and unions to promote and finance the campaigns of electoral candidates up until election day. The ruling overturned longstanding campaign finance rules and regulations, and it elicited outrage in many and applause from many others, dividing the country largely along party lines.

The idea of “corporate personhood” was protested across the country by liberal think tanks and politicians. President Obama called the ruling “a major victory for big oil, Wall Street banks, health insurance companies and the other powerful interests that marshal their power every day in Washington to drown out the voices of everyday Americans.”

Conservative think tanks and politicians applauded the court for overturning what they saw as years of unconstitutional obstruction to free speech. Mitch McConnell, Senate minority leader at the time, stated, “For too long, some in this country have been deprived of full participation in the political process. With today's monumental decision, the Supreme Court took an important step in the direction of restoring the First Amendment rights of these groups...”

This was the first Supreme Court case heard by Justice Sonia Sotomayer and the first Supreme Court case argued by then-solicitor general and now Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan. So the issues of this ruling touch even the newest on the court.

On Monday, October 11 The Commonwealth Club will have its own debate on this topic. The superb panel of Bob Edgar, president and CEO of Common Cause, Lawrence McQuillan, director of business and economic studies at the Pacific Research Institute, and constitutional law expert Jesse Choper, Earl Warren Professor of Public Law at UC Berkeley, will take on the question of the constitutionality of the recent ruling and discuss what is really electing our political leaders, money or merit?

Friday, October 1, 2010

C-Street Confidential: Which Family Is Real?

By Camille Koue

The recent New Yorker article on The Family by Peter J. Boyer paints a much different picture than that of the dictator-obsessed, wage-war-with-prayer Family portrait described by author and journalist Jeff Sharlet in his new book C Street: The Fundamentalist Threat to American Democracy. It’s Boyer’s good natured, supportive brotherhood, frat house made up of a well-intentioned, though sometimes naive, network of good-ol-boys, compared to Sharlet’s no-holds-barred, violent, win-or-die-trying secret bunker housing opportunistic, pulpit spewing religious fundamentalists.

The two images look very different and that is what makes Sharlet’s appearance at The Club on Oct 13 so interesting.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

P.J. O'Rourke on the Talk Show that Might Have Been

Political satirist P.J. O'Rourke visited The Commonwealth Club of California in San Francisco today (September 30, 2010). He was in town to discuss his new book, Don't Vote: It Just Encourages the Bastards. Following his speech and audience question-and-answer session, he sat down with The Club's editor for an interview.

You'll be able to read portions of the interview in The Commonwealth magazine later this year, and in The Club's column in the November issue of Northside San Francisco. The interview ended with one videotaped question and answer. O'Rourke – a popular guest on such programs as Real Time with Bill Maher and Wait Wait Don't Tell Me – was asked if he had ever been approached about having his own radio or television program.

In his answer, we learn that there was such an idea being hatched by O'Rourke and his friend Christopher Buckley at one point, but alcohol intervened.

The video:

We'll post the complete video of O'Rourke's Commonwealth Club speech and Q&A as soon as it is available.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

NEW: Sec. of State Hillary Clinton at Commonwealth Club October 15

The Commonwealth Club of California announced today that U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will appear at The Club on Friday evening, October 15, in San Francisco.

In what will be a much-talked-about event, Secretary Clinton will address important issues of climate change and women around the world, as well as the future of American leadership. She will be speaking at a special program of The Club's Climate One division.

With a bruised economy and developing countries on the rise, can the United States still lead the world in the 21st Century? What challenges do soaring budget deficits, globalization and an unstable climate present for U.S. national interests? Can America's tradition of innovative ideas and technology keep us ahead of the world's biggest problems? How can educating and empowering women around the world help reduce carbon emissions and raise living standards? Join us for a conversation with Secretary of State Clinton at the intersection of diplomacy, innovation and the prospects for a clean and safe future.

Tickets are certain to go fast, so order today.

Thomas Keller's Commonwealth Club Appearance on of Diablo Magazine's "Top Tickets"

Diablo magazine is including French Laundry chef Thomas Keller's September 30th appearance at The Commonwealth Club in Lafayette as one of its Top Tickets.

You can read the magazine's list here.

For tickets and details on the Keller event, visit our web site – but move quickly, because tickets are selling out fast!