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

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

David Broder, 1929-2011

David Broder at The Commonwealth Club in 2003. Photo by Paul Eric Felder.
Longtime Washington Post columnist and veteran political reporter David Broder died today at the age of 81. One of the giants of the political scene – he covered every presidential candidate for 50 years, beginning in 1956 – Broder will be missed.

Broder moderated a February 27, 2003, program at The Commonwealth Club of California concerning "Campaign Finance and the Drawing of District Lines." You can read a transcript of the event here.

Monday, February 28, 2011

President Obama Announces Support for Changes to the 2010 Health Care Law

President Barack Obama told the attendees of the National Governor’s Conference in Washington, D.C., today that he supports amending the historic health-care bill passed by Congress last year to allow individual states to opt out of some of the law’s requirements three years earlier than they are currently allowed to do so.

Under the proposed legislation, states can request federal permission to bypass the health-care law’s mandates if they can prove that they can find alternative ways to cover as many people as the original law would at the same expense.

Both Republican and Democratic lawmakers have praised President Obama’s announcement, because it will allow the states to enact health-care reform in an individualized manner, though states must do several things to obtain a waiver to opt out of the health care law’s requirements.

The Commonwealth Club has featured numerous programs related to health-care and health-care reform, which you can find on our special health-care resources page

–By Ella Arnold

Charles Ferguson's Post-Oscars Appearance this Wednesday in San Francisco

“Forgive me, I must start by pointing out that three years after a horrific financial crisis caused by fraud, not a single financial executive has gone to jail — and that’s wrong,” said Charles Ferguson, the documentary filmmaker who opened his Academy Awards acceptance speech last night with a declaration that encapsulated his Oscar-winning film's thesis.

That film, Inside Job, presents the case that the finance industry took advantage of a deregulated atmosphere and tried to get rich at the expense of others. In conversations with industry insiders and government officials, Ferguson's film calls the meltdown a preventable disaster that was created by greedy and deceptive men. And on a night dedicated to glitz and glam in Hollywood, it was his cry for accountability that left many in the crowd captivated.

Political speeches are nothing new to the Oscars, and they are often controversial. At an event where LA stars shine the brightest, it was a documentary filmmaker who stood out. Inside Job received Hollywood’s highest honor, and its director made the most of the moment, despite the decidedly uncontroversial nature of this year's program. Ferguson was greeted with cheers from the movie-making elite at Sunday's Oscars and was credited by some with breathing fire into the otherwise tame telecast.

With his film's stock on the rise, the filmmaker continues to spread his message to fans by coming to The Commonwealth Club this Wednesday.

He will be taking part in a Q&A with Fortune magazine Senior Editor Adam Lashinsky; the documentarian will talk more about his film and personal views. Ferguson will be heard by a sold-out crowd in The Commonwealth Club's San Francisco club office; but for those unable to attend in person, please join us for our live stream at BeNowTV. The program begins at 6 p.m. Pacific time.
–By James Dohnert

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

The Debate Over Public Workers’ Rights Comes to California

Over the past couple of days, the debate over the rights of public workers in America to collectively bargain has spread from Wisconsin, where GOP Gov. Scott Walker proposed tough union legislation last week, to Indiana and now California, where Republican state assemblyman Allan Mansoor (R-Costa Mesa) introduced a bill on Tuesday that would eliminate collective bargaining rights for California’s public school teachers, nurses and every other public worker in the state.

The bill proposed in California likely faces an early death, because the state’s legislature leans heavily Democratic, and Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown has already vowed not to target public workers to help solve the state’s monumental budget woes. Many of California’s Republican lawmakers, however, are calling for dramatic public pension reform as a component of the state’s budget negotiations. Despite the numerical advantage enjoyed by state Democrats in the legislature, Brown still needs a handful of Republicans to cross the aisle before his budget can pass, notes Reuters.

The Commonwealth Club of California has often examined the role of unions in California and across the country, and below are some examples of related material:

–By Ella Arnold

The Middle East in Turmoil

What started in Tunisia and blazed through Egypt is now showing itself in Libya, Bahrain and Yemen. Civil unrest against oppressive regimes is seeing a surge in North Africa and the Mideast. With citizens in the region taking steps toward over throwing leaders they view as unfit to lead. The poverty of their lands, the cruelty of their dictators and the ability to connect to others through social media have all played a part in getting oppressed people to pursue building the kind of government they want. To give you more background on the situation in the Mideast, please take a look at some Commonwealth Club materials on the issue.

Egypt & the Middle East: Revolutions 2.0

Inspired by the Tunisian people, Egyptians took to the streets in protest of Hosni Mubarak and eventually toppled his 30-year rule. Through Google and Twitter, they began peaceful protests that led to a mostly nonviolent revolution. But just how big was the role of social media in the revolution? And how will the power of Facebook affect world governments going forward? Join The Commonwealth Club's Inforum division on March 10th for a panel discussion of journalists who covered the revolution as they try to answer those questions and others.

Reza Aslan: Bridging the Middle East and America Through Culture

The Arab world is bogged down with the stigma of being an angry society. But the non-violent protests in Tunisia and Egypt paint a different picture. As countries of the Arab world show themselves in a different light – trying to achieve their goals for more representative and responsive governments peacefully – the American media is beginning to see a different side of the region. With the Middle East demonstrating itself as something other than a stereotype, now is the perfect time to learn more about its culture. Listen to Reza Aslan and a panel of artists as they discuss some of the cultural luminaries of the Muslim world.

Middle East Discussion Group

Finally, take your chance to join the discussion. The civil unrest in the Middle East is at the forefront of global news, and now is your chance to take part in a conversation examining what it all means. Come to the Middle East discussion group at the Commonwealth Club on February the 28th.

–By James Dohnert

Friday, February 11, 2011

Charlotte Shultz Reappointed San Francisco Chief of Protocol

(Left to right) Charlotte Mailliard Shultz, Maria Shriver, and Maryles Casto at The Commonwealth Club's 2010 annual dinner. Photo by Lyra Frederick.
Charlotte Mailliard Shultz, a leading light of the Bay Area's and California's political and diplomatic circles, has been reappointed by San Francisco Mayor Edwin M. Lee to the post of the city's chief of protocol, a position she has held under eight different mayors.

Shultz, who is married to former U.S. Secretary of State George P. Shultz, is a longtime member of The Commonwealth Club's Board of Governors.

For details, here is the announcement from the mayor's office.
Friday, February 11, 2011


San Francisco, CA—Mayor Edwin M. Lee today appointed Charlotte Mailliard Shultz as Chief of Protocol. Shultz remains the head the Mayor’s Office of Protocol, which works in conjunction with the City to host foreign dignitaries, attract commerce and tourism, and promote diversity and cultural understanding. The Chief of Protocol also advises the Mayor on diplomatic and consular matters and works closely with the international business community to raise the profile of the City.

“Charlotte brings years of experience, tremendous stewardship, and an unparalleled commitment to public service,” said Mayor Lee. “She is a legend in our City Hall and a tremendous asset to San Francisco, showcasing our world class city around the world. I am proud to reappoint her to the position and grateful for her willingness to serve the people of our City.”

Through her work in the Mayor’s Office of Protocol, Shultz has served in eight mayoral administrations, helped to present San Francisco to distinguished and notable guests from around the world, arranged for its largest civic celebrations, and facilitated diplomatic relations with the San Francisco Consular Corps. Shultz has also served as the Chief of Protocol for the State of California from 2004-2010 appointed by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Shultz is the Chair of the San Francisco Host Committee and the San Francisco Special Events Committee, both of which work to lessen the burdens of the government of the City and County of San Francisco by providing financial support to the activities and efforts of the Mayor’s Office of Protocol.

Shultz currently serves as the President of the San Francisco War Memorial Board of Trustees, which governs the San Francisco War Memorial & Performing Arts Center. She also has the honor of serving on the San Francisco Opera Board of Directors, the San Francisco Symphony Board of Governors, the San Francisco Ballet Board of Trustees, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art Board of Trustees, the Commonwealth Club of California Board of Governors and the World Affairs Council of Northern California Board of Trustees. Shultz was Chair of the building committee of the new San Francisco Public Library and Co-Chair of the Committee to Restore the San Francisco Opera House and San Francisco City Hall.

Shultz has received numerous awards, including the State of California Woman of the Year Award in 1996 and 2000, the United Nations Association of San Francisco’s Eleanor Roosevelt Humanitarian Award for Lifetime Achievement, the Commonwealth Club’s Distinguished Citizen Award, the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce Outstanding Citizen Award and the Woodrow Wilson Award.

In 2007, Queen Elizabeth II bestowed on Shultz the title of Commander of the Royal Victorian Order for her long record of service in assisting royal visitors. In 2008, she received a Doctor of Humane Letters, honoris causa, from the University of San Francisco. Shultz is married to former United States Secretary of State George P. Shultz.


Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Mark Zuckerburg Tells Inforum in 2006 How He Created Facebook

Back in 2006, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg was on a panel discussing "Online Personas" at Inforum, the Commonwealth Club programming aimed at young professionals. Considering the tremendous growth of the site in recent years and the sometimes controversial role of Zuckerberg, we thought it was timely to share with you this video clip from the event, in which Zuckerberg recalls the early (and fast) creation of Facebook.

You can listen to the entire program from our audio archives.

Monday, February 7, 2011

South Sudan Votes to Become the World’s Newest Country

By Ella Arnold

The people of South Sudan, who have faced persecution from the north for more than twenty years, have voted in a landslide election to secede from northern Sudan, resulting in the creation of the world’s newest country later this summer.

The major source of the civil wars that have plagued the country of Sudan for more than two decades stems from the religious differences between Sudan’s mostly Arab northern region and its primarily animist and Christian southern region. More than 2 million people were killed in Sudan before a peace agreement was adopted in 2005. The president of Sudan, Omar al-Bashir, is currently wanted by the International Criminal Court on charges of crimes against humanity committed against the people of the Darfur region of Sudan.

Today officials announced the election’s final vote count from Sudan’s capital, Khartoum. Of the more than 3.8 million southern Sudanese, 98.83 percent voted to secede from the north to form their own country.

Official independence will be declared on July 9, 2011. Plans for a new capital building in South Sudan’s capital city, Juba, have already been proposed. Last month, the government announced that South Sudan has been suggested as the official name for the new country.

Issues such as citizenship and oil-revenue rights, however, still are significant hurdles that the people of South Sudan must overcome if they truly want to gain total independence from the north. Furthermore, South Sudan is one of the poorest regions in the world due to extreme poverty and the longstanding civil war with northern Sudan.

The United States has said that recognizing southern independence may eventually lead to the lifting of the economic sanctions previously placed on the north. And U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton praised today’s developments in South Sudan as “a historic step” toward the implementation of Sudan’s comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA).

For some related programs at The Commonwealth Club, see:
Land Grab in Africa: The Case of Ethiopia: 2/1/11
The Last Jews of Yemen: 3/14/11
Jesse Jackson's 2004 speech, in which he discusses the humanitarian crisis in Sudan
David Kay's 2004 speech, in which he includes Sudan in his discussion of failed states

Researching the Innovation Economy

By James Dohnert

In recent weeks President Obama has set his focus on economic growth and American innovation. Having put an emphasis on renewing the country’s infrastructure, the president is hoping the country can take the lead in the international business landscape. Speaking to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the president recently said, "We need to out-innovate, out-educate and out-build our competitors." But just how far has the U.S. fallen in the business innovation race? Has American innovation and entrepreneurship died? And what does the push for alternative energy mean for our countries economy? The Commonwealth Club has highlighted February lectures that may offer answers to those questions and others.

Environment and Natural Resources Planning Meeting

Consumer demand for viable fuel alternatives has never been higher. Business now must put an emphasis in understanding the future of energy. To innovate in the growing industry entrepreneurs must gain insight into what exactly is viable going forward. Keep that in mind when The Commonwealth Club holds an environment and natural resources planning meeting on Thursday the 17th.

Successful Strategies for Products That Win

With a new focus on homegrown business and American innovation, now is the time of an entrepreneurial boom. Facebook, MySpace, and many other American businesses have started out with just a singular idea and grown into multimillion-dollar businesses. To learn more about how you can take your idea and turn it into a viable business, come to our Successful Strategies for Products that Win seminar. Listen to author and entrepreneur Steve Blank as he discusses his strategies for creating a successful business on Tuesday the 8th.

Has China Surpassed the U.S. in Supercomputing?

Some members of the media have recently declared China the global leader in high-performance computing. As another major industry on the world's businesses front (and a point of global bragging rights), supercomputing is an industry that must remain viable. With China's continued growth in the market, now is the time to get educated to what business are doing both home and abroad in the field. It's even more important for those of us here in Silicon Valley. Coming up at the Commonwealth Club, the associate director of computation at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, Dona Crawford, will discuss how far we are lagging in the supercomputing race. With more than 30 years of industry experience, Crawford hopes to shed light on the global industry when she speaks on Wednesday the 23rd.

Club Space

Huffington Post Purchased by AOL, Reinforces Importance of Content

In the era of digital media, people frequently say that "content counts," but the reality is often different from the rhetoric. Online news in many cases is repurposed content from print or other "old" media, and original online content is increasingly produced by unpaid and heavily opinionated writers.

So news people might well be heartened by the report today that AOL has purchased The Huffington Post for $315 million. Namesake and co-founder Arianna Huffington will remain as editor-in-chief of the site. The liberal blog-and-news service has grown quickly in popularity in recent years, adding more paid staff, localized editions, original content, and special sections. Its acquisition is the latest sign that AOL sees its future in quality content, not in providing access to the internet itself, which was its former reason for being. The company made headlines last year with the purchase of TechCrunch, and it has been steadily building out its network of "hyper-local" news sites, AOL Patch.

For some background: Huffington has made numerous appearances at The Commonwealth Club of California. Below is video of Arianna Huffington addressing the Club in 2008, when she discussed her take on American politics and the old/new media divide.

Here is audio from her 2003 appearance at The Club. She returned in 2004 to discuss that year's political campaigns; you can read a transcript of her 2004 speech and audience question-and-answer session. And, finally, she spoke to a sold-out Inforum crowd just this past November, when she and moderator Raj Patel talked about everything from the Huffington Post's news choices to The Daily Show's John Stewart; you can read an extended excerpt from that event in the digital edition of The Commonwealth magazine.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Abbas Milani: The Shah, the Ayatollah and Iran's Nuclear Program

Below is video from the January 19, 2011, program at San Francisco's Commonwealth Club. Dr. Abbas Milani is the Hamid and Christina Moghadam Director of Iranian Studies at Stanford University and a visiting professor of political science.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Lessons of Tucson: Gloria Duffy's Latest Huffington Post Article

Mental illness and access to guns were more at the heart of the tragedy in Tucson than was the tone of political debate, Commonwealth Club President and CEO Dr. Gloria Duffy writes on the Huffington Post.

She notes that "guns and mental illness have a pretty high chance of colliding in our society to predictably produce the killing sprees and assassinations we are experiencing."

Read more.

Monday, January 31, 2011

From Ike to Obama: Bipartisanship at Home and Abroad

President Eisenhower addresses
The Commonwealth Club in 1960.
By James Dohnert

President Barack Obama recently gave a speech about political bipartisanship, the landscape of international affairs and the importance of an investment in science and technology.

But this wasn’t the first time a politician would give such a speech, nor will it likely be the last. At the Commonwealth Club, we have a recording of a speech given to the Club by President Dwight D. Eisenhower from 1960. In the speech the former president outlines the importance of cooperation, the concept of international bilateralism and the power of governmental investment in technology. Sound familiar?

Lets take a look at just how little things change in 50 years.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Egypt Today and Yesterday: American Involvement

While you follow coverage of minute-by-minute happenings in Egypt and elsewhere in the Middle East, where longstanding authoritarian governments are being rocked by mass street protests, we offer some background in the form of history of American involvement in the Middle East.

  • Audio of then-ambassador of Egypt to the United States Nabil Fahmy's February 21, 2006, program at The Commonwealth Club of California: "U.S.-Egypt Relations"
  • In 2007, Michael Oren discussed "America and the Middle East"; watch the video.
  • Jordanian diplomat Marwan Muasher spoke at The Club in 2008 on the need for moderates in the Middle East; watch the video.
  • Syrian ambassador to the United States Imad Moustapha addressed U.S.-Arab engagement in the Middle East at a 2007 Club program; watch the video.
  • Read the speech of Jordanian King Abdullah II, who accepted Inforum's 21st Century award on April 16, 2004.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

New Issue of The Commonwealth Magazine

The February/March 2011 issue of The Commonwealth magazine has been published and is appearing in members' mailboxes this week. Commonwealth Club members receive the magazine as a benefit of membership; they also get access to the digital edition of the magazine (via the weekly Club e-mail newsletter).

Here's a preview of this issue:

Cover story: U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner: "The Recovery, Part II"
Author James Ellroy: "L.A. Story"
Arianna Huffington: "Middle-Class Dilemma"
AEI President Arthur Brooks: "Earned Success and Happiness"
Reza Aslan and a panel of Muslim artists: "Cultural Exchange"
CDC Director Thomas Frieden: "The Economic Imperative of Preventive Measures"
Historian Simon Winchester: "Tales of the Sea"
U.S. CTO Aneesh Chopra: "High-Tech Health Care"
Plus: Dr. Gloria C. Duffy on why "Wikileaker Is No Hero," an interview with President Premal Shah, former First Lady Rosalynn Carter on national mental health care policy, the Club's annual report, complete Club event listings, and more.

New Republic's Martin Peretz Leaves Post after Nearly Four Decades

Martin Peretz announced that he will be stepping down as editor-in-chief of political magazine The  New Republic, a publication he has led as editorial voice and part-owner for 37 years. During that time, the magazine rose to prominence and controversy in the Washington, D.C., and political scenes, employing talents such as Michael Kinsley, Fred Barnes, Hendrick Hertzberg, Morton Kondracke, Andrew Sullivan, and others.

According to a statement quoted by magazine industry publication Folio:, Peretz tells readers that he wants to focus on writing for the magazine and its web site. He will be adopting a new title of editor in chief emeritus. Peretz moved to Israel earlier this year, and the Jerusalem Post reports that he keeps busy with his writing and teaching English to refugee children.

Peretz visited The Commonwealth Club on May 5, 2003, to speak about "Mirage and Reality in the Middle East." You can read a transcript of his speech here.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Your State of the Union Prep: Economic Outlook for 2011

The Commonwealth Club hosted a private, off-the-record panel discussion on the U.S. and California economies, prior to the member’s-only Bank of America/Walter E. Hoadley Annual Economic Forecast luncheon on Friday, January 21, 2011. Panelists included former U.S. Representative and California State Finance Director Tom Campbell, former Semiconductor Industry Association President George Scalise, Public Policy Institute of California economist Dr. Jed Kolko, and Brian Riley, managing director of Merrill Lynch.

In light of the expected focus by President Obama on jobs and economic growth in tonight’s State of the Union address, we thought some of the ideas and observations of the panelists last Friday might be of interest. Because the session was not for attribution, we have not identified the individual sources of the observations below.
• In California, increases in output are still outpacing employment growth. The latest statistics on California unemployment rates show a recent rise: the jobless rate in the state now stands at 12.5 percent.

• The semiconductor industry experienced 30-percent growth in the past year, and technology and electronics remains California’s largest export industry. There was 10-percent growth in both the film and tech industries overall. But with the manufacturing companies mainly investing in capacity overseas, the future picture is not so rosy. In the longer term, based on decisions that have already been made and are being made, the growth and the jobs will occur outside of California and much of that outside of the United States.

• The federal budget deficit is extremely worrisome. Currently 38 percent of our budget is borrowed. The national debt has escalated to $45,000 today for each person in the United States. This is about triple what it was in the mid-1990s. Investment by business, particularly by small businesses, is driven by future profit expectations; large federal budget deficits increase uncertainty about the future stability of the economy. The result — businesses invest less and thus hire fewer workers. This, in turn, impedes the economy's recovery.

• The budget deficit must be addressed through Social Security and Medicare means-testing, probably also through cuts in defense spending. Unfunded pension liabilities must also be addressed.

• One thing the federal government could do to encourage businesses to hire employees would be a moratorium on costs to hire new employees, for a year. The cost of a new hire now is $10,585 in addition to salary, with required benefits and other costs imposed by regulation.

• The government must create incentives for companies to build their facilities and base their business in the United States. A five-year tax holiday for companies would have a dramatic impact. The economic activity caused by the resulting job creation would compensate for the lost tax revenue three to four times over.

• There is $1.8 trillion of cash on hand in the private sector. Economic policy needs to take the appropriate steps to increase confidence and certainty, such as reducing the deficit and creating incentives for businesses to expand and do it here in the United States.

• The industries that have been hurt the most will be the sites of most growth in the future – e.g. housing construction.

• Expanding sectors will include professional business services. Health care and nursing will be important, due to the aging population.

• Agriculture is still the largest industry in California, but government policy is getting in the way. The limits of access to water (federal regulations) and labor (immigration) are limiting the growth of this industry.
• The underfunding of higher education in California is a serious threat to our long-term leadership in technology, medicine and the other fields in which the United States and California have been so successful.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

R. Sargent Shriver's 1963 Peace Corps Speech to The Commonwealth Club

R. Sargent Shriver, the Peace Corp's first leader and a longtime public servant, passed away earlier this week. We wanted to share with you a speech he gave to The Commonwealth Club of California on October 11, 1963, in which he discussed the volunteer organization.

Below are two scans from a 47-year old copy of The Commonwealth, the official magazine of The Commonwealth Club. Click on the images below to view them in larger size; you can print them out for clearer viewing, if you wish.

First sheet:

Second sheet:

Eric Schmidt Steps Aside as Google's CEO

Google's Eric Schmidt announced today that he was stepping aside as CEO of the online giant and assuming the role as executive chairman.

Schmidt reported that:
Larry [Page] will now lead product development and technology strategy, his greatest strengths, and starting from April 4 he will take charge of our day-to-day operations as Google’s Chief Executive Officer. In this new role I know he will merge Google’s technology and business vision brilliantly. I am enormously proud of my last decade as CEO, and I am certain that the next 10 years under Larry will be even better! Larry, in my clear opinion, is ready to lead.

Sergey [Brin] has decided to devote his time and energy to strategic projects, in particular working on new products. His title will be Co-Founder. He’s an innovator and entrepreneur to the core, and this role suits him perfectly.

As Executive Chairman, I will focus wherever I can add the greatest value: externally, on the deals, partnerships, customers and broader business relationships, government outreach and technology thought leadership that are increasingly important given Google’s global reach; and internally as an advisor to Larry and Sergey.

You can watch the video below of Schmidt's popular appearance at The Commonwealth Club's Climate One program on October 1, 2008, where he discussed "Where Would Google Drill?" – a look at innovative energy investments by the company.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Diane Ravitch Still Making Waves in Education After Decades of Work

 Photo courtesy pf the National Archives and Records Administration

Diane Ravitch, a scholar and advocate of improving education in America, has been finding herself on the opposite side of big issues from some longtime allies.

Early in 2010, The New York Times reported on the change of mind she's had on such topics as No Child Left Behind, standardized testing, and charter schools. Ravitch had once supported all of those efforts, but she told the Times that her mind was changed when she examined the data about, for example, how charter schools performed versus public schools, or how other countries' education systems performed.

In each case, she began to be concerned that, instead of improving public education, the reform effort in the United States was dismantling public education.

Ravitch served as assistant secretary of education in President George H.W. Bush's administration, and she is currently a research professor of education at New York University. She is the author of The Death and Life of the Great American School System: How Testing and Choice Are Undermining Education.

Ravitch will make her case about "The Paradox of Education Reform Today" during a February 24 event at The Commonwealth Club of California in Silicon Valley. This is a free program. For details, visit the Club's web site.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Remembering L. Jay Tenenbaum

The Commonwealth Club of California lost a treasured member of its Board of Governors January 16 when L. Jay Tenenbaum passed away in Woodside, California. He was 87.

A retired investment banker, Tenenbaum contributed greatly to the Club, chairing or serving on its development (fundraising) committee and its annual dinner committee. He was generous with his time and effort and, in the words of one Club executive, was a "gung-ho fundraiser" ready to call potential supporters of the Club and bring new people into the fold.

Tenenbaum joined the trading and arbitrage business of investment firm Goldman Sachs & Co. in 1953, and he was made a partner in 1958. He remained head of trading & arbitrage until 1976 and became a limited partner in San Francisco.

Writing on, Robert Lenzner noted the loss of Tenenbaum, his former boss at Goldman Sachs in the 1960s. "Tenenbaum was an assiduous master to his apprentice, and I honor his crucial role in my development here in this writing," wrote Lenzner. "He chose to retire early and to become a pillar of San Francisco activities like the San Francisco ballet and his beloved Commonwealth Club, where he played a key role."

He made his presence felt throughout San Francisco. A former vice chairman of the San Francisco Ballet, Tenenbaum served on its board for 28 years. He also served on the boards of KQED and the Stern Grove Festival Board. He was San Francisco's deputy chief of protocol from 1992 to 1996. And for the past 12 years, he served on the Commonwealth Club's Board of Governors.

Tenenbaum majored in mechanical engineering at Vanderbilt University. He was a 1st lieutenant in the 10th Mountain Division during World War II and held the Silver Star, the Bronze Star, and 2 Purple Hearts. Serving in Italy, he earned one of his purple hearts when he was shot in the same engagement that saw the wounding of future Senator Bob Dole, who served in a neighboring regiment.

An avid tennis player, he had a clay court at his house where he liked to invite friends to play. His love for the game extended to his support for Youth Tennis Advantage, a group that taught inner city children to increase their skills and self-confidence through playing tennis.

We are sad for the loss of this local treasure, but we're heartened by the knowledge of all of the things he did for The Commonwealth Club and the people of the Bay Area.

Friday, January 14, 2011

David Brooks Talks Tucson, Mental Illness, Politics, & More

New York Times columnist and "PBS NewsHour" commentator David Brooks addressed a standing-room-only Commonwealth Club of California audience January 11 in San Francisco. More than 500 people showed up to hear the conservative writer cover some of today's most talked-about issues – and one of the least talked-about aspects of the current hot-button topic.

He began by talking about the recent shooting tragedy in Tucson, stressing the mental illness issue that likely caused the event. But he also spoke about a number of other important topics, such as the Tea Party candidates in office, his assessment of President Barack Obama, possibilities for cooperation between the two major parties in Washington, D.C., and much more. You can watch it all in the video below, courtesy of our video partners at

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

San Francisco Giants' Bruce Bochy, Brian Sabean at Commonwealth Club in February

Fresh off their World Series-winning season and right before heading to spring break to defend their title, San Francisco Giants manager Bruce Bochy and senior vice president and general manager Brian Sabean will appear together at a special Commonwealth Club of California event on February 3.

Photo courtesy of the San Francisco Giants
The noontime program will be moderated by Roy Eisenhardt – a man who knows a thing or two about Bay Area baseball, having served as president of the cross-bay Oakland A's.

Don't miss this opportunity to meet up close the two men running the team that brought the World Series trophy to San Francisco for the first time.

For more information and for tickets, visit our web site.

Watch Timothy Ferris: The 4-Hour Work Week (Video)

Author Timothy Ferris recently visited The Commonwealth Club of California's Inforum division. Our video partners at streamed the event live over the internet, and here is an archived version of the video from that program:

Watch live streaming video from commonwealthclub at

Friday, January 7, 2011

Protecting Seniors from Fraud and Abuse

We have received a number of comments from folks interested in the vexing problem of people who take advantage of seniors – fooling them into signing away inheritances, home-improvement frauds, insurance scams, and more. Commonwealth Club President and CEO Dr. Gloria Duffy related her family's own experience with this trend in her InSight column in the October/November 2010 issue of The Commonwealth.

Because we've received requests for this column, we are posting it below.

And if this topic touches your life, consider our February 28 program in San Francisco, "Protect Yourself, Family and Friends from Senior Fraud. Speakers Nancy Meyer and Robin Myers will discuss strategies for avoiding increasingly prevalent crimes that take advantage of seniors.

Click on the jpg image below to view a large size that you can read and, if you desire, print out.