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17 September 2008 Charles J. Brown
12:45 pm

Beyond November: David Sandalow


The Connect U.S. Fund has launched a new two-year initiative to help shape debate during the upcoming Presidential transition.  As part of this effort, they’ve asked leading thinkers and advocates to talk about what should be the top two or three foreign policy priorities for the next President.  They’ve also kindly allowed us to cross-post the responses here.

The series took a brief hiatus during the conventions, but it’s back and will continue from now until the election.  Today, we’ll hear from David Sandalow.  You can find the previous posts here.  Thanks again to Heather Hamilton and Eric Schwartz for making the cross-postings happen.

The dependence of our cars and trucks on oil weakens the United States and constrains our foreign policy.  The buildup of heat-trapping gases in the atmosphere threatens our national security and imperils the planet.  The next President has an unprecedented opportunity to tackle both problems.

Today, 96 percent of the energy in our cars and trucks comes from oil.  That dependence lies at the heart of many problems.  Oil dependence empowers our enemies, endangers our men and women in uniform and undermines democracy around the world.  It plays a central role in global warming. It strains family budgets when world oil prices rise.

(”Drill here, drill now” is not the answer.  The nonpartisan Energy Information Agency says drilling in new areas offshore would add roughly 0.3% to global oil supplies in 10 years, with little if any impact on price. Does anyone think Ahmadinejad and Chavez are quaking in their boots at the thought of the US drilling in additional areas offshore?  Offshore drilling is weak.  It’s like walking an extra 20 feet per day to lose weight.  Let’s hope our leaders have the courage to take more powerful steps to help keep the United States strong.)

And we face an even more epic problem.  Today, concentrations of heat-trapping gases in the atmosphere are at their highest level in human history — and rising sharply.  Unless we change course, rising sea levels, more frequent storms, more severe droughts and floods, the spread of tropical disease and forest loss will threaten lives and livelihoods around the world.  In the words of a dozen retired US military commanders including General Anthony Zinni (USMC-Ret.), “Climate change can act as a threat multiplier for instability in some of the most volatile regions of the world and presents significant national security challenges for the United States.”

Depressed?

There’s good news.  Solving these problems is the economic opportunity of the century.

From China to northern Europe to Silicon Valley, fortunes are already being made in renewable energy.  Thousands of companies are cutting emissions while increasing profits by improving energy efficiency and ending energy waste.  “Green collar jobs” are beginning to revitalize US cities.  Plug-in electric vehicles could revitalize the US car industry.

What should the next President do?  First, launch a crash program to end the utter dependence of our cars and trucks on oil.  Tax incentives, federal procurement and federal research and development funding should be marshaled to put millions of plug-in electric vehicles on the road soon.  The same tools should be used for advanced biofuels, dramatic improvements in fuel efficiency, natural gas vehicles and mass transit.

For decades, the U.S. government has heavily subsidized oil consumption.  (How does one value the subsidy to a commodity from having the US President fly to Saudi Arabia to try to talk the down its price?  Although the most recent effort by a US President to do this was unsuccessful, it has been a priority of Presidents and Cabinet secretaries of both parties for generations to promote the free flow of cheap oil around the world.)  The cost of programs to help break our oil addiction will be small in comparison.

In launching these programs, we should work closely with other oil-consuming nations.  Traditional oil diplomacy means securing adequate and reliable supplies.  21st century oil diplomacy should have an additional objective: reducing dependence in all nations.

At the same, the US must immediately take comprehensive steps to fight global warming.  In the past several years, dozens of States and hundreds of US cities have passed laws to control emissions of heat-trapping gases.  It is long past time for the federal government to do the same.  The next President should work with Congress to pass such legislation as a top priority, giving the US the strength to participate credibly in international global warming negotiations.

Neither oil dependence nor global warming can be solved overnight.  But dramatic progress is possible.  The unusually broad consensus concerning the national security threats from oil dependence, growing awareness of global warming, sharp rise in public attention as a result of high oil prices, and breakthroughs in clean energy technologies such as solar power and lithium ion batteries - in combination - create an unprecedented opportunity for change.

The transition to a clean energy economy will shape the first part of this century.  The next President can make history by setting the United States on the right course.

David Sandalow is Energy & Environment Scholar and a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution.  He is a former assistant secretary of state and senior director on the National Security Council staff.  He is the author of Freedom from Oil (McGraw-Hill 2007).

| posted in foreign policy, globalization, politics | 0 Comments

17 September 2008 Charles J. Brown
06:45 am

Morning Buzz: Silliness amidst the Ruins


Two hurricanes hit in the past week — Ike in Texas and Lehman Brothers in New York.  Both are deeply serious situations affecting the lives of thousands of Americans.

And yet there are those who cannot help but see an opportunity for mischief.  First New York:

Now Galveston:

Just wait until AIG fails — I’m betting we’ll see gay bears.

Hat tips:  Andrew Sullivan (bear) and Slog (dudes)

| posted in globalization, politics, pop culture | 0 Comments

11 September 2008 Charles J. Brown
08:55 pm

“Putting Government Back on the Side of the People”


An excerpt from Charlie Gibson’s interview with Sarah Palin tonight:

GIBSON: But this is not just reforming a government. This is also running a government on the huge international stage in a very dangerous world. When I asked John McCain about your national security credentials, he cited the fact that you have commanded the Alaskan National Guard and that Alaska is close to Russia. Are those sufficient credentials?

PALIN: But it is about reform of government and it’s about putting government back on the side of the people, and that has much to do with foreign policy and national security issues.

She then changed the subject to energy.

But hold on a second, Governor.  You said that “putting government back on the side of the people. . .has much to do with foreign policy and national security issues.”  I’m willing to take you on your word on that — at least for the moment.  But I have a few questions for you.

  1. Given that a majority of the American people believe that we should not have gone to war in Iraq, does that mean that you favor us getting out?
  2. Given that a majority of the American people want the United States to be an international leader on climate change, are you willing to support much more aggressive measures to combat global warming, even if it means cutting back on the use of internal combustion engines, thus hurting your state’s economy?
  3. Given that a majority of the American people support the end of torture, the closing of Guantanamo, and as you so quaintly put it in your acceptance speech, “reading their rights” to terrorist suspects, are you and Senator McCain in favor of ending the Bush Administration’s assault on civil liberties and the rule of law?  Would you prosecute those in the Bush Administration suspected of committing war crimes?
  4. Given that a majority of the American people want the United States to work within the United Nations system and with our allies, would you and Senator McCain support reengaging with the United Nations in a meaningful way, including an end to the rhetoric we saw at the Convention attacking the UN?  And if so, can you explain the presence of John Bolton as an informal foreign policy advisor to the McCain-Palin campaign?

Because, Governor, that’s putting foreign poicy back on the side of the people.  Because that’s what a majority of the American people want.

I didn’t think so.

By the way, on Pakistan, she agreed with Obama and contradicted McCain.

And she thinks we should go to war with Russia if it invades Georgia again (or Ukraine).

Last but not least, Governor Palin might want to check out this page before her next interview.

| posted in foreign policy, politics | 0 Comments

14 August 2008 Charles J. Brown
03:55 pm

Beyond November: Rev. Lennox Yearwood, Jr.


The Connect U.S. Fund has launched a new two-year initiative to help shape debate during the upcoming Presidential transition.  As part of this effort, they’ve asked leading thinkers and advocates to talk about what should be the top two or three foreign policy priorities for the next President.  They’ve also kindly allowed us to cross-post the responses here.

Today, we’ll hear from Rev. Lennox Yearwood, Jr..  Posts in the series will appears every Thursday from now to the convention.  You can find the previous posts here.  Thanks again to Heather Hamilton and Eric Schwartz for making the cross-postings happen.

The Hip Hop Caucus has always seen the Hip Hop Generation, those born after 1964,  as representative of what we like to call the “Dream Generation,” or the generation Dr. King prophesized, in which all people regardless of race, economic level, religion, or sexual preference, stood together to stand for Justice and Peace.

Throughout the world we find young people from diverse backgrounds who identify with Hip Hop culture and have similar local-to-global issues yet feel alienated or disenfranchised by political systems who do not address their issues.

As we move forward a progressive agenda, it is paramount that we are able to recognize the potential for a global movement around similar issues people face using an inside out approach. We must 1) address local issues that fit into a larger global context and 2) educate (Hip) people on the similarities and affects between local and global issues, and 3) mobilize and move (Hop) people to action so they are active civic participants and hold their elected officials accountable. By working an inside-out approach we have the ability to engage new segments of our democracy, who have not traditionally been engaged in matters concerning US global engagement into this process.

This upcoming presidential election is a unique and timely opportunity to engage new segments of our population into the political process and educate them on foreign policy. We recently launched our voter registration, education and mobilization campaign, “Respect My Vote!” to capture the energy surrounding this election. We are engaging 18-29 year olds–targeting those that did not attend college– in the political process and ensuring we can maintain contact with them beyond the presidential elections, and mobilize them to the polls. Our campaign is unique because we place equal emphasis on election and post election work. We have chosen this group because only 67 percent of people in this age group feel they can make an impact on their communities and we want to show them they can have an impact on their communities as well as the world.

As part of our voter education campaign we have selected urgent foreign policy issues and will begin familiarizing with the issues for future campaigns.

Climate Change, Food Shortages, and a Green Economy

Our incoming President must address climate change in a very real and urgent manner. No longer can we ignore or thumb or noses at international policy, we must work with the international community to aggressively address climate change because if we do not act now in the 21st century, there might not be a 22nd century for Humanity on this planet.

Without drastic shifts in emissions of greenhouse gases, we will continue to see shifts in rain patterns and temperatures which will deepen the food shortages and drought which we are already beginning to see, especially in parts of Africa. We are also beginning to see a rise in food prices here in the US which have acute impacts on disadvantaged communities

To curb climate change and oil dependence we must find new and creative ways to embrace the green movement, and build a broader social base for our movement. There is also vast economic potential in a green economy which would make way for new technology and industry which can provide new “green collar” jobs. The Hip Hop Caucus is working with organizations such as Green for All to ensure that disadvantaged communities are at the forefront of the emerging green economy, allowing us to fight both poverty and pollution at the same time.

Proliferation of poverty, Iraq war, and the Iraqi refugee crisis

We must recognize the Iraqi refugee Crisis as both a humanitarian issue and a national security issue.  While we hemorrhage resources to the war in Iraq, a October 2007 CRS Report cited that  2.2 million people have been Internally Displaced in Iraq and there are now 2 million refugees in Syria, Jordan, Egypt and Lebanon. We spend upwards of $12 billion per month on this war which has caused a humanitarian crisis and proliferated poverty onto millions of people in Iraq, while our communities in the US continue to suffer from inadequate resources. Anti-US sentiment created by poverty, instability, and our treatment of people combine to provide a great environment for potential threats to US National Security.

Yes, there are policies which need to be addressed the incoming president and 111th Congress but without an engaged citizenry to hold the accountable for their words and rhetoric there will be little change. This is why it is so important to engage our citizenry in meaningful ways. This is why we must make the connections between spending in Iraq and spending in our communities, or the effects of climate change and soaring prices of food as well as the opportunity for our communities to be at the forefront of the Green Collar job movement.

Rev. Lennox Yearwood, Jr., is a minister, community activist, and one of the most influential people in Hip Hop political life. Firmly grounded in his Caribbean and Louisiana roots, Rev. Yearwood is a fierce advocate for the human and civil rights in the 21st century.  A powerful and fiery orator, Rev. Yearwood works diligently and tirelessly to encourage the Hip Hop generation to utilize its political and social voice.  He currently serves as President of the Hip Hop Caucus, a national, nonprofit, nonpartisan, organization that inspires and motivates those born after the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s.

Rev. Yearwood is known for his activist work as the National Director of the Gulf Coast Renewal Campaign in which he organized a coalition of national organizations and grassroots organizations to advocate for the rights of Hurricane Katrina survivors.   Rev. Yearwood has become an important figure in the peace movement as an outspoken critic of the war in Iraq and the Bush Administration.  He was an Officer in the U.S. Air Force Reserve and led the “Make Hip Hop Not War” national tour to engage more young people in the movement for peace.  Rev. Yearwood was a co-creator of the 2004 campaign “Vote or Die” with Sean “Diddy” Combs.  He was also the Political and Grassroots Director for Russell Simmons’ Hip Hop Summit Action Network in 2003 and 2004, and a Senior Consultant to Jay Z’s Voice Your Choice.

| posted in foreign policy, politics, pop culture | 0 Comments

29 July 2008 Charles J. Brown
06:00 am

Not So Greenland


So The New York Times Magazine had a piece this weekend about Greenland’s path to independence.  Apparently the key is global warming:

Read the rest of this entry »

| posted in globalization | 0 Comments

20 July 2008 Charles J. Brown
12:31 pm

Baby Penguins


Unhappy news out of Rio de Janeiro:

More than 400 penguins, most of them young, have been found dead on the beaches of Rio de Janeiro state over the past two months, according to Eduardo Pimenta, superintendent for the state coastal protection and environment agency in the resort city of Cabo Frio.  While it is common here to find some penguins — both dead and alive — swept by strong ocean currents from the Strait of Magellan, Pimenta said there have been more this year than at any time in recent memory.

Speculation about the cause ranges from overfishing to pollution.  What’s not clear is whether this is a genuine spike in deaths or merely the result of changes in ocean currents.  Either way, it certainly is something to be concerned about, as would any report of a sudden die-off.

Penguins have enjoyed a huge pop culture renaissance in recent years, thanks in large part to Hollywood (March of the Penguins, Madagascar, Happy Feet, etc.).  Along with polar bears, they have become poster children for the threats posed by a range of environmental concerns, including global warming and overfishing.

My favorite example of this is the product of the first Citizens for Global Solutions flash contest, held back in 2005:

If you enjoyed this, it’s worth your time to visit animator John Cooney’s site to see some of the other cool stuff he’s done.

| posted in globalization, pop culture | 0 Comments

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