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.