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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

4 September 2008 Charles J. Brown
03:38 pm

Hurricane Cindy and the RNC’s Potemkin Gustav Relief


On Monday, I had this to say about the the Cindy and Laura show, a.k.a. the Republicans’ hurricane Gustav relief efforts:

Cindy McCain look like, uh. . . .  Well.  Hmmmm.

How do I put this?

She looks like she spent more money on her dress, pearls, make-up, manicure, and hair than the Republicans will raise on behalf of Hurricane Gustav victims.

Turns out I was more right than I thought:

Yes, something from Arizona was certainly shining at the convention, but it wasn’t the sun. It was Cindy McCain’s citrine dress from Monday night. And her three-carat diamond earrings. Oh, and don’t forget the Chanel J12 white ceraminc watch.

Cindy’s dress, designed by Oscar de la Renta, cost $3,000, and the watch, another $4,500. Her four strand pearl necklace cost between $11,000 and $25,000, and her shoes set her back $600. But the real whoppers were the earrings, priced at $280,000, putting the total cost of the outfit beteween $299,100 and $313,000.

Here’s the only press report I could find about the RNC’s hurricane relief campaign.  Just so you know, it’s from Fox:

As Gustav pummels the Gulf Coast, several delegates are missing the breezy, beautiful weather locally to man the phones at a telethon effort set up at the downtown Hilton in Minneapolis. About 150 red phones were set up in the ballroom and Cindy McCain not only helped make the calls, she and husband John McCain donated $25,000 dollars to relief efforts. In all, 90 delegates, volunteers, campaign staff and others in the Twin Cities for the convention were helping out at the telethon.

The telethon opened at 2 p.m. ET and had raised $1.165 million by 3 p.m. ET. One donation was in the form of $1 million, but officials would not release the identity of the donor.

If the $1 million pledge actually comes through, then the Republicans did a worthwhile thing (more on that in a second).  But if it didn’t, that means that they raised $165,000, or $140,000 if you don’t count the McCains’ contributions — or about half of what Cindy’s outfit cost.

But even if the $1 million pledge comes through — and even if the RNC/McCain campaign managed to raise more money than this report indicates, there is still one little fact that isn’t going anywhere:  Cindy McCain spent between twelve and fifteen times as much on her outfit as she and her husband donated to Hurricane Gustav relief efforts.

And they have the huevos to call Democrats elitist?  As Vanity Fair put it, “Wow! No wonder McCain has so many houses: his wife has the price of a Scottsdale split-level hanging from her ears.”

A couple of questions for the McCain campaign:

1.  How much did your relief efforts raise?

2.  Did your campaign donate the time, website server costs, and other associated expenses?  If so, can you account for it?  How do you plan to report these expenses to the FEC?

3.  Were the relief efforts run out of St. Paul separate from or part of the phone banks set up by the AidMatrix Foundation?  If separate, how did you arrange for these funds to get to relief organizations?

4.  Both FEC and IRS non-profit reporting rules require the identification of donors, particularly large donors.  Why are you not identifying the donor who made the $1 million pledge?

5.  How much did Cindy’s outfit really cost?

This whole McCain/RNC Gustav relief operation looks more and more unreal.  Not illegal, mind you, but suspiciously like a Potemkin Village.  Earlier this week, I raised other questions about the McCain relief effort, focusing on the relationship between he McCain campaign, the Bush Administration/FEMA, and AidMatrix, the charity that supposedly is managing the money (and which received a big FEMA contract in 2006):

Aidmatrix may be an entirely legitimate organization, but there’s a real lack of transparency regarding how they got the FEMA contract and how they got involved in the McCain campaign.

To learn the truth, Aidmatrix, FEMA, and the Bush Administration need to answer some questions:

1.  How did Aidmatrix get its FEMA grant?  Was it sole-sourced or competed?  How much is it for?  What percentage of Aidmatrix’s budget comes from the FEMA grant?

2.  If [Aidmatrix's] main focus is logistics — using “advanced information technology to create efficiencies between donors and those in need” — what are they doing managing donations for the McCain website?  And where will these donations go after they receive them?

3.  Did Aidmatrix get the hurricane relief gig because of [Aidmatrix CEO, McCain supporter and former Wisconsin Governor Scott] McCallum’s connections with the McCain campaign?

4.  If not, why did McCain choose Aidmatrix instead of better-known and more established non-partisan humanitarian relief organizations such as the Red Cross?

5.  Did AIdmatrix inform and/or clear its involvement in the McCain campaign with FEMA or other U.S. government officials?

To see the full post, go here.

| posted in media, politics, pop culture | 1 Comment

31 August 2008 Charles J. Brown
04:45 pm

Five to Watch: McCain, Bush, and Gustav


Here’s the latest tracking on Gustav.

New Orleans and Lake Pontchartrain are at roughly 30° North, 90° West on the map above.  They’re the part of the red line that appears to run inland from the coast.

Don’t be fooled by the fact it’s not heading directly at New Orleans anymore.  If anything, the current path is worse:

If, as currently predicted, Gustav lands west of New Orleans on Monday as a Category 4 hurricane with wind speeds up to 155 mph (249 kph), its 16-foot (4.9 metre) storm surge could break through the same levees that failed three year ago.

In the face of what is likely to be one of the worst natural disasters in American history, it may seem a bit insensitive and even vulgar to talk about the storm’s political implications. But the timing and location of the storm — during the Republican National Convention and on the same path as (and on the third anniversary of) Katrina — ensures that politics are inevitably part of the bigger story.

Right now, it looks like the Republicans are going to go forward with the Convention.  They have promised to make it a more subdued, muted affair, but you can bet that every media outlet in town (well, everyone other than Fox) is going to be cruising for revelers.

In addition, the White House has announced that neither President George W. Bush nor Vice President Lord Voldemort Dick Cheney will attend the convention (which doesn’t preclude their addressing it via a live feed or even videotape).  The Cheney announcement alone may lead some delegates to celebrate — the last thing McCain wanted (other than, of course, Hurricane Gustav) was that guy showing up.

John McCain has promised that the convention will not be a celebration, and is visiting the Mississippi Gulf Coast today apparently to show just how cynical he can be he really truly does care a whole lot about the danger Gustav poses.  Barack Obama, smartly in my opinion, is staying away and not criticizing McCain’s decision.

Here are five issues to watch as Gustav makes landfall:

1.  The mainstream media will portray McCain’s visit to Mississippi as a sign of leadership rather than as a cynical ploy or a foolishly rash act (after all, we’re talking about a person who wants to be the next POTUS putting himself in the way of a “monster” storm).  The one exception is Anderson Cooper, who may just go postal on McCain, just as he did three years ago on New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin, Senator Mary Landrieu, and others.

2.  No matter what the Republicans do in St. Paul, they’re facing a split screen convention, with coverage of the devastation competing with their rhetoric and ruffles.  It is a comparison from which they cannot benefit, no matter how muted or subdued they make the event.  And iff New Orleans is badly damaged by the storm — even if its residents evacuate — they’re going to find it almost impossible to hold the media’s (and by extension the public’s) attention.

3.  Gustav is both bad news and good news for the McCain campaign.  The bad news (other than the issue of a split screen convention) is that Gustav will cost McCain all or part of his convention bounce — even if it fails to hit New Orleans.  The good news is that Ron Paul’s alternative convention will disappear off the radar.

4.  No matter what happens — good or bad, direct hit on New Orleans or not — the Administration (and more than likely the McCain campaign) will attempt to portray the federal response to the crisis as fast, smart, and a reflection of the lessons learned from Katrina.  And chances are that it will be an outright lie.  The big question is not what the Administration will say, but rather how the media responds.  Again, Anderson Cooper will be a bellwether.

5.  Sooner or later, a prominent Democrat (not Obama or Biden, but someone) will be tempted to talk about how great it is that Gustav is hitting New Orleans just when the Republicans are holding their convention (much as Michael Moore did on MSNBC Friday night).  If that Democrat fails to shut the hell up, it will negate any and all bad publicity for the Republicans.  The most likely purveyor of such idiocies is New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin, who once again will be portrayed by Republicans as utterly incompetent.

Both parties have to be careful here.  Gustav is a potential tragedy in the making, and hundreds if not thousands of people will lose their lives.  Hundreds of thousands will at best find themselves displaced and at worst homeless.  Any effort by either candidate (or party) to use this terrible development for political ends will not play well either on the Gulf Coast or in the rest of the country.

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30 August 2008 Charles J. Brown
02:45 pm

Palin: The Polar Bears Respond


As you may have heard, Sarah Palin hates polar bears:

The entire world has seen animated holiday images of cute, cuddly, polar bears smiling and dancing — and pitching cold soft drinks on TV and movie screens.  That’s the closest most Americans will ever get to a polar bear. To steal a line from one of the commercials, it’s not “the real thing.” . . .

Listing the bears under the Endangered Species Act is the wrong move at this time. My decision is based on a comprehensive review by state wildlife officials of scientific information from a broad range of climate, ice and polar bear experts.  There is insufficient evidence that polar bears are in danger of becoming extinct within the foreseeable future — the trigger for protection under the ESA. And there is no evidence that polar bears are being mismanaged through existing international agreements and the federal Marine Mammal Protection Act.

Isn’t that like hating America?

I decided to reach out to the polar bears to get their reaction.  Here it is:

To express their concerns and ensure that they are heard, the polar bears have formed a new organization:

Polarbears United to Mobilize Against Palin, (PUMAP)

Be careful Governor Palin, the bears are furious.  Hundreds have decided to support Barack Obama even if it hurts party unity.  Although voter registration among polar bears has started to spike, it is still not clear whether they can vote.  Then again, if you were a poll worker and a polar bear showed up, would you say no to a polar bear?

I can’t wait to hear what fellow bear-hater Stephen Colbert is going to say about her on Monday.

Photo:  Cartoon_Lover via Flickr, used under a Creative Commons license.

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

27 August 2008 Charles J. Brown
08:45 am

Controlympics: Winners (#1 of 4)


Most of you already have forgotten all about the Olympics, but here at Undip, we already have London 2012 fever!  After all, who doesn’t want to see Jimmy Page balance his guitar on top of his walker while some eighteen-year-old in go-go boots mangles Whole Lotta Love?

Oh wait — that already happened.

All kidding aside, I’d like to share a few final thoughts on what arguably were the most discussed — and controversial — Olympics since Berlin 1936. First, let’s take a look at the winners.

1.  The Chinese government. Like it or not, the ChiComs pulled it off.  It was, in many ways, a spectacular show.  Despite some problems, embarrassments, and even a few unscripted moments, the Olympics that Hu Jintao and company wanted were the Olympics they got.  And most of the world bought their message hook, line, and sinker.

2.  Usain Bolt. The Jamaican sprinter not only captured three golds, but he managed to make Jacques Rogge cranky.  That alone made it a good Olympics.  Bolt looked particularly good when, a day after Rogge whined about his “antics,” a Cuban taekwondo athlete kicked an athlete in the face — and Bolt donated $50,000 of his prize money to earthquake relief as a “thank you to the Chinese people.”

3.  Michael Phelps (and his mom). Put it this way:  the Intertubes are still buzzing about the 100m fly.  Debbie Phelps will be the unexpected breakout star of the Olympics.

4.  Clean air. Does it matter whether the Chinese got lucky (rain at just the right moments) or actually knew what they were doing?  In the end, the pollution became a non-story.  And athletes who acted like it mattered — the American cyclists showing up in masks, the Ethiopian marathoner who passed on competing — looked foolish.

5.  Lopez Lomong. The Sudanese lost boy turned American flag bearer may not have won his race, but he had a gold medal moment.  Kudos as well to the American athletes who chose him for the job.

| posted in globalization, pop culture | 1 Comment

22 August 2008 Charles J. Brown
11:22 am

Breaking: Bush Signs Kyoto Agreement


Actually, this is exactly how my friends at the NSC got Clinton to sign the International Criminal Court treaty:

Enlisted by members of the House and Senate, presidential aide Rebecca Tandy brought a copy of the international climate-change treaty to President Bush’s desk Monday and asked him to sign a birthday document for a Japanese dignitary named “Kyoto Protocol.” “Mr. Protocol really likes treaties, so we got him this treaty instead of a card, so if you could just—all the other countries have already signed it,” a nervous Tandy reportedly said to Bush, who quickly scrawled his signature on the treaty and told her to tell Kyoto he said “hi.”

The Onion is two for two today.

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

14 August 2008 Charles J. Brown
06:50 pm

Controlympics: China’s 21 Rules


Via The Sydney Morning Herald, twenty-one rules for dating Hu Jintao’s daughter on Olympic coverage, issued by the CCP Propaganda Department:

1.  The telecast of sports events will be live [but] in case of emergencies, no print is allowed to report on it.

2.  From August 1, most of the previously accessible overseas websites will be unblocked. No coverage is allowed on this development. There’s also no need to use stories published overseas on this matter and [website] operators should not provide any superlinks on their pages.

3.  Be careful with religious and ethnic subjects.

4.  Don’t make fuss about foreign leaders at the opening ceremony, especially in relation to seat arrangements or their private lives.

5.  We have to put special emphasis on ethnic equality. Any perceived racist terms as “black athlete” or “white athlete” is not allowed. During the official telecast, we can refer to Taiwan as “Chinese Taipei”. In ordinary times, refer to Taiwanese athletes as “those from the precious island Taiwan…..” In case of any pro Taiwan-independence related incident inside the venue, you shall follow restrictions listed in item 1.

6.  For those ethnic Chinese coaches and athletes who come back to Beijing to compete on behalf of other countries, don’t play up their “patriotism” since that could backfire with their adopted countries.

7.  As for the Pro-Tibetan independence and East Turkistan movements, no coverage is allowed. There’s also no need to make fuss about our anti-terrorism efforts.

8.  All food saftey issues, such as cancer-causing mineral water, is off-limits.

9.  In regard to the three protest parks, no interviews and coverage is allowed.

10.  No fuss about the rehearsals on August 2,5. No negative comments about the opening ceremony.

11.  No mention of the Lai Changxing case.

12.  No mention of those who illegally enter China.

13.  On international matters, follow the official line. For instance, follow the official propaganda line on the North Korean nuclear issue; be objective when it comes to the Middle East issue and play it down as much as possible; no fuss about the Darfur question; No fuss about UN reform; be careful with Cuba. If any emergency occurs, please report to the foreign ministry.

14. If anything related to territorial dispute happens, make no fuss about it. Play down the Myanmar issue; play down the Takeshima island dispute.

15.  Regarding diplomatic ties between China and certain nations, don’t do interviews on your own and don’t use online stories. Instead, adopt Xinhua stories only. Particularly on the Doha round negotiation, US elections, China-Iran co-operation, China-Aussie co-operation, China-Zimbabwe co-operation, China-Paraguay co-operation.

16.  Be very careful with TV ratings, only use domestic body’s figures. Play it down when  rating goes down.

17.  In case of an emergency involving foreign tourists, please follow the official line. If there’s no official line, stay away from it.

18. Re possible subway accidents in the capital, please follow the official line.

19.  Be positive on security measures.

20. Be very careful with stock market coverage during the Games.

21.  Properly handle coverage of the Chinese sports delegation:

A.  Don’t criticise the selection process.

B.  Don’t overhype gold medals; don’t issue predictions on gold medal numbers; don’t make fuss about  cash rewards for athletes.

C.  Don’t make a fuss about isolated misconducts by athletes.

D.  Enforce the publicity of our anti-doping measures.

E.   Put emphasis on  government efforts to secure the retirement life of athletes.

F.   Keep a cool head on the Chinese performance. Be prepared for possible fluctuations in the medal race.

G.   Refrain from publishing opinion pieces at odds with the official propaganda line of the Chinese delegation.

I thought about putting this through the Diplospeak Translator, but it was just too much. The Chinese clearly haven’t learned the most important rule when it comes to propaganda:  don’t get caught issuing rules on propaganda.

A few observations:

  • They’re clearly most nervous about protests related to Tibet and Xinjiang.
  • They think that public interest, even in China, will wane as the Olympics progress.
  • China-Paraguay cooperation?  Apparently this is a reference to the fact that incoming Paraguayan President Fernando Lugo has expressed a willingness to switch its diplomatic recognition from Taiwan to the People’s Republic of China.  Who knew?
  • I also hadn’t heard of the “cancer-causing mineral water” question.  I did a quick check of The Googles, and the only stories about it are the few that picked up The Herald’s publication of these rules. And we thought pollution was a problem.
  • Speaking of which, it’s interesting that there’s no rule saying “don’t speak about the pollution,” unless the general prohibition against discussion of health issues applies.
  • We now know why China’s media didn’t cover the controversy over the little girl lipsynching or the computer generated fireworks: “No negative comments about the opening ceremony.”
  • The only specific case mentioned is Lai Changxing, a businessman now on the run after being charged with corruption.
  • There’s no specific prohibition against talking about political dissidents, but of course the journalists aren’t stupid — they can read between the lines.
  • Perhaps the most important sentence is “If there is no offical line, stay away from it.”  That encourages self-censorship to such a degree that it should cover all the issues not addressed by these rules.
  • The one rule they forgot?  Don’t leak the rules.

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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.

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5 August 2008 Charles J. Brown
04:03 pm

CSI: Madison, Wisconsin


Actually Linz, Germany.  From the Telegraph (UK):

The bloodcurdling mating cries of a German badger caused Rhineland police to deploy a helicopter search last night in the belief that a woman was being attacked…..But after the helicopters had thoroughly surveyed the area, they discovered a far less murderous cause of the chilling cries than had originally been feared.

Instead of a violent maniac and his terrified victim, they discovered a number of romantically inclined badgers engaged in the pursuit of love. “Subsequent enquiries found that the mating calls of a badger during the mating season in July and August are easily mistaken for human screaming,” said the police.

“There’s an overpopulation of badgers in this area,” an official later told the German publication Der Spiegel.

Well, this isn’t going to help matters much, is it?  Three words, people:  neutering and spaying.

I hear Jesse Jackson is available and more than willing to help.  All you have to do is rename all the male badgers “Barack.”

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5 August 2008 Charles J. Brown
10:30 am

Furious 5: What to Watch for at the Controlympics


We’re starting a new feature here at Undiplomatic, one we’re calling the Furious Five.  Periodically, we’ll put together a list of five questions or topics on diplomacy, politics, pop culture, or whatever else happens to be on our minds.  Regardless of the subject, it’s our hope to provoke discussion and debate.

This week, we’ll take a look at the Olympics — or what I’m now calling the Controlympics.  There are tons of sites out there where you can find out who are the favorites for the gold in each event, so don’t look for that here.  Instead, let’s raise some of the political questions.

1. Is the terrorism threat genuine? In recent weeks there have been a spate of bus bombings in China, albeit at some distance from Beijing, as well as a grenade attack in Xinjiang that killed 16 policemen.  A heretofore unknown Xinjiang separatist group has claimed responsibility, but the Chinese have dismissed their claims without offering a plausible alternative theory.  Although a major attack along the lines of Munich is unlikely, minor incidents like the bombing in Atlanta remain plausible.  In such a tense atmosphere, the security forces are going to be on hair-trigger alert, meaning that peaceful protests and even spontaneity and silliness might be suppressed brutally.

2. How will George Bush, Gordon Brown, Nicholas Sarkozy and other world leaders respond if a political protest takes place in their presence? There has been plenty of speculation about whether Tibetans, Falun Gong, and other groups will try to stage a protest of some kind, as well as questions about whether the Chinese response will distinguish between terrorism and nonviolent speech.  In addition, the Genocide Intervention Network and other groups have called on world leaders to boycott the Olympic Opening Ceremony to protest Chinese human rights violations — an effort that, with the exception of German Chancellor Angela Merkel, has largely fallen on deaf ears.  But the real question is what Bush and company will do if a demonstration takes place while they are present — especially if the Chinese respond brutally?  Do they walk out?  Do they feebly protest?  Do they leave the country?  This is no small issue.  The Chinese are prickly as it is, and any decision by world leaders to react negatively to a crackdown is likely to create a huge mess.

3.  How will Chinese officials react to athletes wearing masks? The issue is less the pollution itself than how it may affect Chinese sensitivities.  With pollution unlikely to abate significantly over the next few days, the odds are pretty good that some athlete is going to don a mask at some point.  How will officials react?  Will they take it away?  Ban cameras?  And how will the Chinese netroots react?

4.  How will the U.S.-China rivalry play out? The Olympics, for all the IOC’s protests otherwise, are about countries trying to outdo one another, not bringing the world together.  The Chinese have repeatedly stated their desire to win more medals than any other country.  That sets them up to compete with — and potentially come into conflict with the United States, the traditional medal leader.  As China and the U.S. trade medals, how will each country’s citizens respond?  What will be the reaction in the United States, if the Chinese boo an American athlete (or celebrate too boisterously a Chinese victory)?  Can the Chinese avoid the temptation to strut should they succeed in winning the most medals?  How will all this affect relations?

5.  Will the United States flag-bearer dip the American flag when walking past the review stand? This may seem like a minor point, but this single moment may crystallize how each country regards the other.  At the opening ceremonies, each team is led by a flag-bearer, each of whom traditionally dips their nation’s flag when passing the host country’s reviewing stand.  The one exception is the United States, whose flag-bearers have never dipped the flag at any Olympics — ostensibly to demonstrate our independence and strength.  If the American flag stands tall, how will the Chinese in the stadium respond?  And if it dips, how will Americans back home react?  The end result could be a miniature firestorm on the Internet, with China’s Anti-CNN crowd and America’s wingnuts lobbing verbal grenades at one another.

That’s it for this week — please share your thoughts below, as well as any ideas about future Furious Fives.

Photo:  via mashroms used under a Creative Commons license.

| posted in foreign policy, globalization, pop culture | Comments Off

1 August 2008 Charles J. Brown
06:30 pm

Obama’s Next Commercial: Political Jujistsu


If I were Barack Obama, here’s what I would say in my next commercial.

Hi, I’m Barack Obama.

You’ve seen a lot of commercials from Senator John McCain, lately.  Without exception, they’ve been attacks on my character, not my positions.  I was disappointed that John chose this tack, especially given his repeated promise to run a positive, issues-based campaign.

If my opponent chooses to run nothing but negative ads, avoiding real debate on what matters to Americans, that is his prerogative.  It would be easy for me to respond with similar attacks.  But doing so not only would run counter to my principles, it also would continue the divisiveness and distrust that have dominated our political discourse for far too long.

This does not mean I will not continue to challenge his misstatements and distortions. I will not let stand his attempts to disparage my character or question my love for this country.  But I will not make similar attacks against him.  Like John, I promised to focus on issues rather than personalities.  Unlike John, I will keep that pledge.

Earlier this year, John challenged me to join him in a series of town hall meetings held all around this great country.  We were not able to make that happen, in large part because our campaign staffs focused on petty details rather the big picture.  I accept my share of the responsibility for that mistake.  I hope that my opponent will recognize his role as well.

Today, I accept his proposition:  ten town hall meetings, to be conducted after the conventions, without moderation of any kind.  I hope that we can hold a real debate on the things that matter to this country:  the state of our economy; the worsening situation in Afghanistan; energy security; global warming; and yes, how best to disengage from Iraq.

I place only one condition on my participation:  that Senator McCain stop his deliberately misleading attack ads.  Then, and only then can we stop playing games and start focusing on what really matters: returning this country to greatness and its people to prosperity.

My name is Barack Obama.  I hope that you will support me this November.  I approved this commercial.

I think this would put McCain on the defensive.  I think the frame would become McCain’s attacks rather than the content of those attacks.  And I think that ultimately McCain would refuse because he knows he can’t win on the issues.  And that would make future attacks less credible.

Perhaps more importantly, it would allow McCain a credible way to reclaim his soul from the Rovian vampires now running his campaign.  Of course, that’s assuming he wants that.

I recognize that there are risks for Obama here:  some commentators will suggest that he’s avoiding the charges that McCain has leveled.  But with his new website and ad, he’s already tried that, and it’s done little other than encourage the McCain team to keep attacking.

Obama has an opportunity to demonstrate that old-style attack politics don’t work anymore. Yes, some people won’t get it, and some will criticize a change in tactics no matter what he does.  But the upside to this bit of political jujitsu is so great that it’s worth that risk.

| posted in foreign policy, politics, world at home | 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:

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| posted in globalization | 0 Comments

28 July 2008 Charles J. Brown
07:57 pm

Holding Their Breath


As if they didn’t have enough problems with threats of terrorist attacks and potentially disruptive nonviolent demonstrations, the ChiComs have not succeeded in taming Beijing’s notorious pollution.  This has been a major problem for some time now, but repeated measures to limit particulates and improve air conditions have not yet succeeded.

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| 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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