Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Sen. Barbara Boxer Defends Filibusters, Suggests Reforms

U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) called for reforming but not eliminating the practice of filibustering in the Senate.

Asked about the controversial practice, in which a senator or group of senators can refuse to yield to the other party and allow a bill to proceed, Boxer said the filibuster has its place, but it's being abused. "It's being used on motions to adjourn," she said.

She suggested that the practice be reformed by, for example, reducing the number of votes needed to end a filibuster from 60 to 55 votes, which would still be high enough to "protect the minority" party. Boxer also said the filibuster should go back to its roots, when senators used to have to stand at the podium and read from phone books for hours on end in their efforts to stop a bill in its tracks. "I think you should have to stand on your feet all night if you want to filibuster," she said.

Boxer was speaking at The Commonwealth Club of California in San Francisco. The moderator for the event was Bob Saldich, (above, at podium), a former president of the Club's board of governors. Just slightly more than two months before the November election – in which she is vying for her seat against Republican businesswoman Carly Fiorina – the senator's appearance drew a sold-out audience and many journalists (see photo right).

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Photo Album: Former First Lady Rosalynn Carter at The Commonwealth Club of California

On Friday, August 13, former First Lady Rosalynn Carter spoke to The Commonwealth Club in San Francisco about an issue she's been working on for decades: mental health.

Ever gracious, Mrs. Carter also took time to meet with Club members and friends at the event, which was held at San Francisco's Herbst Theatre. The Commonwealth Club will post a complete transcript of the event in the future, but for now, enjoy these photos from the event.

Photos by Sonya Abrams.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Why Is President Obama Reading Ben Sherwood's "The Survivor's Club"?

President Barack Obama was recently photographed carrying a copy of Ben Sherwood's book The Survivor's Club. (To see the full photo, click here and scroll almost to the bottom of the page.)

You can find out what interested the president so much yourself on October 13, when Sherwood will be speaking at The Commonwealth Club in San Francisco. All are welcome to attend.

Even presidents.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

ABA Agrees with Richard Dreyfuss: American Schools Need Civics Classes

The new head of the American Bar Association took office recently, and among his top priorities is using the weight of the ABA's members to expand the teaching of civics in American schools.

He could have been taking notes from award-winning actor Richard Dreyfuss. Dreyfuss spoke to The Commonwealth Club in Silicon Valley on July 19, 2010, about his effort to promote civics education. You can watch the video below, and see for yourself if he's in tune with the lawyers' group.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Doctors Thwarted in Improving Service, Abraham Verghese says in SF Chronicle

Abraham Verghese, a doctor and the author of Cutting for Stone, argues that doctors need to spend more time with their patients, but the system prevents them from doing so. He makes this point in a timely essay in the San Francisco Chronicle.

Verghese will discuss this and related topics in a speech to The Commonwealth Club in San Francisco August 12.

Former First Lady Rosalynn Carter Tells SF Chronicle about Advances in Mental Health

Former First Lady Rosalynn Carter, who will be speaking at The Commonwealth Club this Friday at noon, was interviewed by Julian Guthrie in today's San Francisco Chronicle. She tells the paper about her decades of involvement in mental health policy (which she discusses in her new book, Within Our Reach), and she also shares her first memories of being in San Francisco – and being told she and husband Jimmy looked too young to drink.

It's a charming interview. And don't forget to get your tickets to see her in-person this Friday.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

L. W. "Bill" Lane, 1919-2010

The Hon. L. W. Lane Jr., the former publisher who built Sunset magazine into one of the country's leading regional publications and a pioneering voice of conservation, passed away July 31, 2010, at the age of 90.

The San Jose Mercury News noted that Lane was a Republican "in the Teddy Roosevelt model of conservation," and he gave generously of his time and money to regional conservation efforts. But he was a generous philanthropist for many organizations, including his alma mater, Stanford, where he donated $5 million in 2005 to endow the Bill Lane Center for the American West.

Lane was also a longtime member of The Commonwealth Club's Board of Governors – in fact, he was the longest-serving member of the board, where he provided invaluable help and expertise. For example, when The Club decided The Commonwealth magazine would begin to accept paid third-party advertising, Lane sat down with The Club's publishing staff to discuss pitfalls and potential, which included many of the lessons he and his family had learned through their long stewardship of Sunset.

But that was only one of his contributions to The Club. Lane noted that his involvement with The Commonwealth Club went all the way back to the 1940s, when his naval commanding officer assigned him to attend Club lunch meetings to keep track of what Club speakers were saying about the war and world events. From Commonwealth magazine redesigns to increasing the visibility of The Club's California Book Awards to underwriting radio broadcasts, Bill Lane left a great legacy – and a lot of friends – at The Commonwealth Club.

We will miss him very much.

Monday, August 2, 2010

David Boies (speaking at Commonwealth Club 8/5) Makes Case Against Prop 8 in Chronicle

In the Insight section of yesterday's San Francisco Chronicle, lawyer David Boies made "The Case Against Prop 8" as "Unconstitutional Bias."

Boies, a prominent lawyer who represented former Vice President Al Gore in the post-election Bush v. Gore case and worked on many other high-profile cases, raised a lot of eyebrows when he teamed up with Republican former Solicitor General Theodore Olson to make the legal case against California's Proposition 8, which bans same-sex marriage in the state.

Calling anti-gay marriage laws "one of the most invidious of the state-sponsored discriminations against gays and lesbians," Boies' Chronicle article provides a legal primer on recent history in anti-gay legislation. He also explains the tactics the team headed by Boies and Olson took in their arguments before the court hearing their Prop. 8 lawsuit.

Read the entire Boies article, and come hear him speak in-person at The Commonwealth Club Thursday, August 5, at 6:00 p.m.

His Club appearance is part of the Geschke Family Series on the U.S. Constitution in the 21st Century.