By John Dangaran
Next 10, an independent and nonpartisan civic education organization, takes an interesting approach toward educating people and receiving public input about the California budget and its $20 billion deficit.
This upcoming Club event on June 14 will center on the “California Budget Challenge,” an online, interactive program that really puts California’s state budget in the hands of the people.
The simulation strives to balance the state’s $90 billion General Fund budget by covering 20 themes consisting of a single question for each topic, including issues such as education, health care, taxes and pensions. With every question, participants are provided the background of the issue along with each side’s arguments. Along the way, you’re able to follow the Budget Meter as it tracks the five-year projection your budget has against the current deficit.
After finishing the simulation, a detailed summary of your freshly made budget is shown alongside the status quo as well as the budget adopted for 2010-11 for easy comparison.
Once completed, you’re able to print your summary and graphs and send your results – or info on the Challenge - to friends and family. One of the simulation’s most remarkable features is that it gives you the option to send your summary to your legislators (depending on your zip code) and Governor Jerry Brown.
Though the program is only 20 questions, be prepared to spend a little time learning about these complicated issues before being able to make well-informed decisions. This isn’t a simple online quiz that can be completed in a few seconds, but rather a highly detailed tool meant for educating the people of California.
By James Dohnert
Navy officials recently changed course on guidance that would have allowed for same-sex marriages on military bases. In a memo last month, Chief of Chaplains Rear Admiral M.L. Tidd outlined guidance that would have allowed for gay and lesbian marriage ceremonies to be held in Naval facilities in states that allow same-sex unions. But the Navy suspended movement on the matter after critics warned that the plan would have violated the federal Defense of Marriage Act.
"There was some attention on the Hill," Pentagon spokesman Col. Dave Lapan told reporters Wednesday morning. "That raised the issue so that the (Pentagon) legal counsel then again took a look [and] determined it needed further review."
The Navy’s sudden change of heart ignited emotions on both sides of the same-sex marriage debate, with supporters of the guidance calling for congressional intervention and some opponents even going as far as to call the issue “silly”.
"At a time when the economy still needs attention, Osama bin Laden was just killed, and revolution and conflict continue to rage across a fragile Middle East, having policy makers spend valuable and limited time on whether a few gay couples may or may not use a Navy facility for a private ceremony at some point in the future is just plain silly," Servicemembers United Executive Director Alexander Nicholson told CNN.
But despite the criticism, supporters such as the head of the Center for Military Readiness, Elaine Donnelly, are calling for immediate action, “"Congress should not be misled by the Navy's equivocation. This weather-vane policy is likely to change back as soon as all the branches of service get on board and Congress looks the other way.”
While it is unclear what tactics the other branches of the armed services are planning going forward, it remains an issue fully within their purview according, to Human Rights Campaign spokesman Michael Cole-Schwartz: "The Navy was right in their analysis last month that nothing stands in the way of operating facilities without discrimination, and further review will no doubt validate that position."
But what do you think? Should gay and lesbian soldiers be allowed to use Naval facilities for same-sex marriage ceremonies? Is the issue a pressing one? Add your comments below or on our Facebook page.
Also be sure to check out upcoming Commonwealth Club events like these:
Jul 12 2011, 6:00 p.m.
Same-Sex Marriage and Its Equivalents: Recent Developments and Likely Future Trends
Civil Rights Attorney Fredrick Hertz Hertz summarizes recent developments and offers a framework for understanding the changing world of same-sex marital law.
Commonwealth Club of California President and CEO Dr. Gloria Duffy will be on NBC Bay Area TV news tonight (May 18, 2011) at 7 p.m. to discuss Pakistan, how the raid to capture or kill Osama bin Laden was carried out, and what it means for the war on terrorism.
The program will air on Comcast cable channel 186.
Last week, Duffy led a special teleconference for Club members only, in which she and a terrorism expert discussed the bin Laden killing and its likely impact on American foreign policy and the fight against Islamic extremists.
By John Dangaran
Continuing an 80-year tradition, the ceremony for the California Book Awards will be held on June 2 at The Commonwealth Club of California's downtown San Francisco headquarters. This year, 11 authors were chosen for their achievements in literature in fields including poetry, first fiction, young adult, nonfiction, juvenile and Californiana.
In the exploration of poetry, Alexandra Teague’s Mortal Geography ventures boldly into the realm of language. Through a lens as bright and colorful as a kaleidoscope, we travel around the world and find ourselves falling into the middle of people’s lives as they struggle with issues as diverse as grammar, correspondence with loved ones at war, and the beauty of nature.
Like Teague, Zachary Mason explores the use of language as he shines a new light on the epic of Odysseus and his journey home in a witty and playful way. This first time author takes on Homer’s Odyssey with The Lost Books of the Odyssey: A Novel. In this compilation of 44 discrete pieces, Mason places himself back in the shoes of a storyteller in the oral tradition. In this story behind the story, we learn who Homer really was, where he came from, and how the legend of Odysseus came to be.
The Things A Brother Knows, by Dana Reinhardt, tells of a soldier's return from war and the effects of his changed personality on his younger brother. The narrator follows the troubled older brother as he goes on a supposed camping trip, but instead ventures off to visit ex-Marines and the families of fellow soldiers. Along the way, the internal turmoil of the soldier begins to surface and the narrator begins to realize the truth his brother is trying to hide.
This concept of yearning to uncover the truth behind a familiar face is exactly what this year’s Nonfiction Gold Medalist did with Charlie Chan, the fictional Chinese-American detective of six novels and 47 feature films. Yunte Huang’s Charlie Chan: The Untold Story of the Honorable Detective delves into the history of America’s racial prejudices, the life and work of creator Earl Derr Biggers, and the real-life inspiration, Honolulu detective Chang Apana.
In her first children’s book, graphic novelist Cecil Castellucci plants a new classic on bookshelves. This Juvenile Gold Medal winner captures a young girl’s life and her time spent alongside her grandmother. The narrative gives voice to the love they share gardening, the life lessons learned while together, and ultimately the memories of lost loved ones. Illustrator Julia Denos brings Grandma’s Gloves to life beautifully in soft, delicate tones, and readers come to understand why we walk in the footsteps of those who came before us.
For her new book A State of Change, Laura Cunningham uses her paleontology and natural science illustration background to show us what California is like when we take away contemporary life. Throughout her journey of the Golden State, Cunningham takes photographs of downtown San Francisco, parking lots in the East Bay, and the expanding suburbs of the San Fernando Valley. Then, with her knowledge of California’s plant and wildlife, she recreates awe-inspiring landscapes with oil on cotton rag paper, traveling back in time 500 years when wolves, jaguars and grizzly bears roamed our rolling hills.
By James Dohnert
With a future filled with scientific challenges, it’s up to today’s young minds to prepare to solve tomorrow’s greatest mysteries. But with no moon landing to excite eager young minds and fewer opportunities to let them get motivated, how do you produce the next wave of scientists?
"First of all, we have to change what we expect of our students,” Michigan State University Professor Bill Schmidt told CNN. Arguing for a more challenging student curriculum for grades K-to-12, Professor Schmidt also hopes that the United States adopts a more demanding attitude of kids, not only at school but at home as well. "We have to have parents who say: This is important. We don't have the luxury of not challenging our children. If we don't challenge them, how will we ever know that they can't do it?" Schmidt said.
At the time of the first moon landing, the average age of NASA engineers was 26 years old; today the average age is 50. With fewer and fewer students deciding to major in science and mathematics, America’s edge in technological innovation may be slipping. And the need for scientific thinkers can’t be understated if the United States hopes to be the home to the next Internet revolution. “For more than 200 years, this country has been the birthplace of major technological triumphs that have revolutionized societies and cultures,” said FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) founder Dean Kamen in a CNN commentary. “However, these phenomenal successes will become distant memories unless America can re-ignite kids' passions for science and inventing.”
The future isn’t what it used to be, and great ideas require great science. Not everyone is Steve Jobs, but anyone has the potential to be an engineer at Apple. With proper education and motivation, maybe we can unearth the person who finds a cure for cancer, or at least a doctor to help treat it. Inquisitive and scientific minds are still being created, but without the proper tools they might never be molded. As questions of sustainable energy and global warming face the world, it will be up to today's children to be tomorrow's problem solvers.
What do you think? Why aren’t America's youth interested in becoming scientists or mathematicians? How can we make science interesting again? Add your comments below or on our Facebook page.
Also be sure to check out upcoming Commonwealth Club events like these:
June 7, 2011 - 6:00 p.m.
The Future of Innovation and Consumer Electronics
What lessons can be learned from the electronics industry that can be applied to other segments of the U.S. comeback? Come hear from the head of an organization that represents 2,000 technology companies and produces the International CES Conference.
May 25, 2011 - 6:30 p.m.
Jack Dorsey: 21st Century Visionary Award
Join us as Inforum gives Twitter Co-Founder Jack Dorsey its 21st Century Visionary Award, and learn more about the "technologist who thinks differently."
By James Dohnert
Americans of the Right and the Left both freely acknowledge today how Ronald Reagan left his mark on American politics. He reinvented the ways conservative politicians run for office and, even, changed the way they think. Reagan was one of the first modern Republicans to seek out the evangelical Christian voter, and he worked under a new economic platform that reduced taxes on the wealthy in hopes of reinvigorating the economy with investments. Today, many (maybe even most) conservatives use the former president as the ideal by which to lead. Not all conservatives agree, though, that GOP leaders today should ape the former president.
“I think it is wrong for us to look for Ronald Reagan; we were lucky to have him during our lifetimes," Ronald Reagan’s eldest son, Michael Reagan, told conservative media outlet NewsMax. "But if there is a role, look at who he truly was. Remember him for who he was. Don't try to redefine him in your image and likeness; define him in what and who he was.”
As many Republicans continue to use the name Reagan as a rallying cry to hold steadfast in the face of a tax hike, others have argued that they are missing the bigger picture of the former president's legacy. As governor of California, Reagan raised taxes. And in the White House, though he did cut taxes in 1981, he also raised them in ’82, ’83, and ’86. So while Reagan was also obviously a fiscal conservative, he was also a lot more pragmatic then some give him credit for. Well-liked by his peers in politics, the former actor was also very adept at opening up dialogues with adversaries.
“He was a man who changed the world and he changed it by building coalitions,” Michael Reagan went on to say. As president, he worked across the aisle and with other nations to get things done. “Margaret Thatcher, Mikhail Gorbachev, Tip O'Neill. To do these things he had to find areas of agreement and move forward,” continued the younger Reagan.
So as the legislative and partisan battles on Capitol Hill continue to get heated and bipartisanship becomes just a word, some observers are wondering if conservative leaders could still crib something from Ronald Reagan's gameplan: Compromise.
What do you think? Can bipartisanship still exist in the 21st century? Is Ronald Reagan’s legacy fully deserved? Does pragmatism still hold a place in American politics? Add your comments below or on our Facebook page.
You might be interested in listening to Tyrus Cobb's recent speech at The Commonwealth Club: "Ronald Reagan at 100: A Personal, Behind-the-Scenes Look"
And be sure to check out upcoming Commonwealth Club events on the topic for more insight into the future of the country.
May 26 2011 - 6:00 p.m.
Willie Brown Jr.: 2011 Annual Lecture on Political Trends
Former San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown gives us the inside scoop on what’s ahead for California and beyond.
Jun 3 2011 - 12:00 noon
Why Are Democrats Embattled, and How Can They Win Again?
University of California Professor of Law Joan Williams makes the case that Democrats can bridge the “class culture gap” and attain a new Democratic majority.
Jul 26 2011 - 6:00 p.m.
Come join Fox News contributor Margaret Hoover for an impassioned conversation on the future of the GOP and the country.
A federal judge recently turned down an effort by Planned Parenthood of Indiana to block that state's planned cutoff of public money for the organization. Planned Parenthood had argued that the cutoff would harm health care services for thousands of women on Medicaid. U.S. District Judge Tanya Walton Pratt rejected the group's argument, allowing the cuts to take place right away. Pro-life leaders in the state had argued that the matter was about abortion, not health care services to the poor.
Liberal critics have claimed that the legislation helps burnish Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels' standing with social conservatives as he contemplates a possible run for the presidency in 2012. Conservatives, interestingly, have said much the same. (As of this writing, Daniels has not publicly announced his decision on a national campaign.)
The recent congressional controversy over Planned Parenthood and the ongoing situation in Indiana are certain to be hot topics at The Commonwealth Club on June 14, when Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, speaks before the Club.
The Killing of Osama bin Laden: Implications for the fight against terrorism
DATE: Mon, May 9, 2011 TIME: 12:00 PM Pacific Time
The end of the decade-long hunt for Osama bin Laden this past week raises a number of questions. How was the operation to capture bin Laden conducted from an operational standpoint? Why did it take so long to find bin Laden? Will the death of the al Qaeda leader diminish the terrorist threat to the U.S. or could it trigger retaliation from terrorist groups? What are the greatest terrorist threats the U.S. now faces on an ongoing basis? How will the reshuffle of national security officials in the U.S., with Leon Panetta moving to the Defense Department and being replaced with a new CIA director, affect the fight against terrorism?
Club members were sent call-in instructions late last week. The teleconference begins at 12 noon today, and you can submit questions by writing a comment below to this blog post, or by tweeting and including #cwclub in your message.
The call will be led by Club President and CEO Dr. Gloria Duffy. Also on the call:
Brian Michael Jenkins, Senior Advisor to the President of the Rand Corporation; Director, The Mineta Transportation Institute's National Transportation Security Center of Excellence for both the U.S. Department of Transportation and Department of Homeland Security.
Dr. Duffy will ask Jenkins as many of your questions as possible, though please note that there will likely be more questions than there is time. Please keep your questions on-topic. Off-topic or offensive questions will be deleted from this blog.
By John Dangaran
In the wake of Osama bin Laden’s death, have we forgotten about the devastation in Japan? Nearly two months after the disaster, the citizens of Japan are still saddled with the damage and memories of one of the worst catastrophes in recent history.
On March 11 a 9.0 magnitude earthquake shook the island nation – but its effects were felt around the world. The massive quake prompted a succession of hundreds of aftershocks and tsunami waves that left thousands dead, hundreds of thousands homeless, and billions in property damage, and set off a nuclear crisis of an increasingly devastating magnitude.
Centered off Japan’s eastern shores, tsunami waves reached 29.6 meters high while traveling inland as far as six miles. With waves averaging 10 meters, the 6-meter seawalls, built to code, stood no chance against the bombardment they received that Friday afternoon.
As the tragedy continues to unfold, lingering questions still remain: What is the current status in Japan? What are the lasting effects? What does this mean for commerce? How can we take this sobering event and better protect California and other U.S. nuclear power plants?
Two short months after the catastrophe, Bay Area resident and one of the world’s leading voices in earthquake engineering, Kit Miyamoto, structural engineer and CEO of Miyamoto International, will visit The Commonwealth Club on May 19th to speak on Japan’s current status, his eyewitness account of the aftermath, and his company’s disaster relief effort.
Immediately following nature’s attack on Japan’s coastline, the Tokyo Institute of Technology played host to an earthquake engineering conference, in which Miyamoto was called to speak as a key presenter, and later asked to assess the country’s damage. On April 2 Miyamoto International published its 32-page, "2011 Tohoku Earthquake and Tsunami Field Investigation Report." This article evaluated the damage inflicted by the Tohoku earthquake and tsunami, while also going into detail on eight specific areas along Japan’s northeastern coastline and estimating various consequences endured.
In the report, Miyamoto stated: “The biggest issue that I saw was overconfidence with our current level of engineering knowledge. ... If someone had challenged the norm during the design of the nuclear plant, the meltdown could have been avoided. ... Fortunately, the sophisticated warning system saved hundreds of thousands of lives.”
Miyamoto International not only specializes in the building and consulting of world-renowned architecture, but also takes special pride in participating in disaster relief efforts through areas of response, reconstruction, and mitigation. It has made its presence known through its response to devastating events in Italy, New Zealand, and most recently, Haiti. In Haiti alone, the company participated in identifying 100,000 of the 400,000 damaged structures as repairable, and it embarked on its Haiti 100,000 Damaged Buildings Repair Program.
Join us Thursday May 19th for our 6 p.m. program with Kit Miyamoto, who will speak about Japan’s present condition and future prospects, and give a first hand account of the aftermath.
By James Dohnert
The PlayStation Network is an online gaming community that allows users to download movies and games, as well as play with other gamers. Late last month the network was hacked, leaving an estimated 77 million gamers as victims of cybercrime. The incident was one of the largest data breaches in history and is just another example of the world’s latest worry, cybercrime.
"This criminal act against our network had a significant impact not only on our consumers, but our entire industry. These illegal attacks obviously highlight the widespread problem with cyber security," said executive deputy president of Sony Corp. Kazuo Hirai, according to CNN. With stories like this, and others, cropping up, the question becomes: How do you we protect our information in the Internet age? As online stores become more and more prevalent in our daily lives, how do we protect ourselves from cyber theft? And is the trust we put in our online services warranted?
"The fault lies with the executives who declared a war on hackers, laughed at the idea of people penetrating the fortress that once was Sony, whined incessantly about piracy, and kept hiring more lawyers when they really needed to hire good security experts," said hacker George Hotz in a post on his blog. Sony recently sued Hotz for “jailbreaking” the company's PS3 video game console and allowing users to run the Linux operating system instead of the proprietary Sony OS on the machine. He lays the blame on the Japanese gaming company by saying, "Alienating the hacker community is not a good idea."
So with the hacker community calling the breach corporate hubris and Sony calling it a larger industry problem, what do you think? Would the security breach have been prevented if Sony spent more money on security experts and less money on lawyers? Or will cyber criminals always find a way to hack what they want? Add your comments below or on our Facebook page. And be sure to check out upcoming Commonwealth Club events on the topic for more insight into the discussion.
May 19 2011 - 6:30pm
Eli Pariser: What the Internet Is Hiding from You
With the Internet changing the way we shop, get our news and connect with friends, how can our privacy be protected online? Learn how to protect yourself and your personal information online with former MoveOn executive director Eli Parsier.
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