Posts Tagged ‘energy policy

10
Sep
08

Saving U.S. Dominance and the Environment

Hegemony [hejuh-moh-nee] – leadership or predominant influence exercised by one nation over others, as in a confederation.

The Washington Post reported on the upcoming report “Global Trends 2025” by Thomas Fingar, “the U.S. intelligence community’s top analyst,” in which Fingar predicts U.S. dominance will decline in the coming decades. Fingar goes on to say that U.S. military strength “will ‘be the least significant’ asset in the increasingly competitive world of the future, because ‘nobody is going to attack us with massive conventional force.'”

“The U.S. will remain the preeminent power, but that American dominance will be much diminished,” Fingar said, according to a transcript of the Thursday speech. He saw U.S. leadership eroding “at an accelerating pace” in “political, economic and arguably, cultural arenas.”

In the years ahead, Washington will no longer be in a position to dictate what new global structures will look like. Nor will any other country, Fingar said. “There is no nobody in a position . . . to take the lead and institute the changes that almost certainly must be made in the international system,” he said.

The predicted shift toward a less U.S.-centric world will come at a time when the planet is facing a growing environmental crisis, caused largely by climate change, Fingar said. By 2025, droughts, food shortages and scarcity of fresh water will plague large swaths of the globe, from northern China to the Horn of Africa.

CNN’s Farheed Zakaria makes a very good point, WaPo points out, in his book, “The Post-American World,” in which he claims that the decline in U.S. dominance is due more to the rise of other economies (China, India) than an actual slide by the U.S.

The world is in fluctuation and always will be. What this means for Republicans – especially Old School

Republicans – who follow the “Might Makes Right” theory is that their views are growing antiquated and useless. The United States, especially under George W. Bush, has engaged in an arrogant, isolationist foreign policy that does not take into account global geopolitical currents or world opinion. McCain is obviously of the same fabric and same blind mindset. The United States must interact with and seek cooperation with foreign countries rather than spouting our view and vilifying those who disagree with us. It’s petty and unproductive.

Now we face a declining economy – which will result in a weakened military. And instead of working on new technologies, as Americans have always done, to progress our country and kick start our economy again, the Republicans are stupidly chanting “drill now, drill now.” By burying their heads in the sand and refusing to acknowledge the importance of alternative energy development, they are attempting to forfeit our future – and not just environmentally.

Alternative and clean energy development could be our next Dot BOOM, it could be our next technological breakthrough and economic stronghold. Americans have long dominated innovation and technological progress. Of the 4,222,954 patents in the world, 2,460,775 have come from the U.S. We are creatures of development – the discovery of electricity, the light bulb, the steam engine, the telephone, the television, the car, the computer – you name major technological advances in the last 200 years and the U.S. almost always has its stamp on it.

And its time we did again.

Let’s discuss our oil industry. Gas prices have risen so steeply largely due to growing global demand for oil – especially from China and India. Now that prices have slid a bit and the oil industry is learning where America’s pain threshold is in regard to oil prices – at least when we’re in an economic downturn – they will not allow prices to return to the days of cheap fuel.

Just today, OPEC decided to reduce overall output by 500,000 barrels a day to offset the recent decrease in prices – even though Ike is barreling toward the Texas coast. You see, even when prices are “outrageously” high, OPEC will still make sure that profits are maximized. So what’s the answer? Well, you saw what Republicans wanted to do.

The problem? First of all, drilling now solves nothing because we do not have the refining infrastructure to handle the increase in fuels – largely due to inattention by Washington and the whole Not In My Backyard argument. About a month ago, when a McCain spokesman (can’t remember his name, but he had ring-around-the-head and a goatee) was asked about the infrastructure issue, he said, “One problem at a time!” So, he was basically saying drill first, ask questions later. Not smart policy.

Secondly, oil companies are given leases – areas of land upon which they may drill – for around 10 years. There is plenty of hydrocarbon-rich land available to the oil companies now, but these lengthy leases reduce the competition by the oil companies and many hang on to the available land without ever drilling.

Our domestic oil companies like high prices as well and as soon as prices begin to slide because “we’re not dependent on foreign oil,” they will slow production enough to drive demand and squeeze more money from the consumer.

So, Americans are not just held hostage by oil-rich foreign countries, Americans are also held hostage by our own domestic oil companies.

But no one wants to tell you this – not Barack Obama and certainly not John McCain because they enjoy corporate donations.

What’s the answer?

Alternative, reusable, natural and clean energy. Not only does it lessen the grip oil companies have on our wallets and our economy, the entire world is in desperate need and want of alternative fuels. If we develop the technology that our global partners are clamoring for, we can not only save the environment, we can save our standing in the world.

We must not let the Right Wing – with their Big Oil cohorts – kill the most viable option we have for America’s future by closing the door to new clean energy. Furthermore, the dumbing-down of our children by the Religioners and their assault on our science classes has got to stop. We have a major fight brewing in the Texas Board of Education regarding the introduction of Creationism or at least the doubting of Evolution into our schools and I’m sure this is occuring in many other states. This will hurt America – culturally, economically and globally. Ensuring the best and brightest and most-prepared students emerge from our educational institutes should be a major priority because their actions will dictate whether our nation progresses or withers.

You want to protect America? Protect science classes, encourage serious scientific education, and support the development of clean energy.

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11
Jul
08

Did Obama Just Lose My Vote?

This is serious. I’ve been saying for quite a while that Obama has not yet earned my vote and I am quite happy voting for Nader to help strengthen efforts toward a multi-party system. However, I voted for Obama in the primary here in Texas and was excited to vote for the first viable African-American candidate in the U.S.

Also, this is the most important election in years, if for no other reason than the necessity to populate the Supreme Court with judges who will protect civil liberties unlike those Bush has appointed or McCain would appoint.

While I have continuously lambasted the lack of character Hillary Clinton and her husband have shown during the primary season, I would not say I have been sipping “Obama Kool-Aid.” I understand that his “Change We Can Believe In” slogan is only as effective as his ability – to put it simply – to get things done. And politicians have to work together to accomplish progress. (Unless you’re President Bush, in which case you use the 9/11 attacks and existence of terrorism to scare Americans and politicians alike into marching behind your efforts to make the U.S. more of an authoritarian regime than ever before. Ugh, the thought makes it difficult to keep my coffee and chocolate granola cereal down.)

Obama is a politician first. With a degree in Government, I never lose sight of this. While Democrats fall in love (and Republicans fall in line) we must not forget that politicians must operate within the existing confines of the Washington Dance. This will inevitably lead to widespread disapointment with Obama, when he’s president, because he simply cannot please everyone and will have to compromise in order to accomplish certain goals. A president must make decisions when no option is the right one. It’s a hard gig – the hardest one in the world; I thoroughly recognize this.

However, much of my free time this week has been spent trolling the internet for a reasonable justification for Obama’s approval of the new FISA Act of 2008. Of course, I already have my fair share of underlying bitterness because the Democrats have performed disgracefully since taking control of the Congress. They are inexplicably banner ankle-grabbers again and again despite Bush’s record disapproval ratings. Yes, they do not want to seem weak on national security, but they are greatly underestimating the American people’s desire to have their civil liberties protected in this era of heightened danger.

Congressional members have far more concern with the length of their federal careers than casting the appropriate vote – rendering them impotent in the areas of war profiteering (Diane Feinstein’s husband is a defense contractor and why she still enjoys support in California, I have no idea. BTW, she vote AYE on FISA as well), criminal activity at the executive level (erasing emails, Karl Rove and Harriet Miers refusing to testify, Valerie Plame, fixing EPA reports and much, much more), reforming health care and national energy policy, policing unfair lending practices and allowing the establishment of a credit industry that works against the American people, not for them. It inexplicable that Congress has utterly failed to inhibit Bush’s harmful activities when the majority of Americans do not favor his policies in the slightest. It is frustrating and goddamned ridiculous.

So, Obama is Change personified, right?

Apparently, not so. Yes, I have read his blog on The Huffington Post regarding his FISA vote, which proffered no substantial logic for his approval of the bill. A few gems from the piece are:

Given the choice between voting for an improved yet imperfect bill, and losing important surveillance tools, I’ve chosen to support the current compromise. I do so with the firm intention — once I’m sworn in as president — to have my Attorney General conduct a comprehensive review of all our surveillance programs, and to make further recommendations on any steps needed to preserve civil liberties and to prevent executive branch abuse in the future.

Democracy cannot exist without strong differences. And going forward, some of you may decide that my FISA position is a deal breaker. That’s ok. But I think it is worth pointing out that our agreement on the vast majority of issues that matter outweighs the differences we may have.

The problem with our agreement on the vast majority of issues is that his vote on the FISA bill illustrates his inherent weakness and willingness to compromise when no comprise is needed simply to prove (which he fails to do with this vote) that he is strong on national security. This “aye” was unnecessary, dangerous, wrong, hurtful and potentially, yes, a deal breaker. Especially when assessing the guts of the bill, along with those who voted against it. On The Huffpo website, David Bromwich provides a very concise, yet in-depth look at the governmental powers granted with this legislation. I strongly recommend reading the blog and the readers’ comments below.

Among the senators who opposed the vote are Biden, Boxer, Dodd, Clinton, Byrd, Durbin, Feingold, Harkin, Kerry, Leahy, Reid and Levin.

The bottom line is that political agreements with a candidate are moot if the candidate does not have the political strength or fortitude to operate in accordance with that agreement.

Of course, Obama’s folding on FISA was a political calculation – that’s practically consensus. And I wish he could offer an honest defense of his vote; but, alas, this theater of election season would lead any such candor to damage the candidate.

Obama will be elected president barring any unforeseen, intensely damaging and highly unlikely circumstances. Though the media portrays the presidential race as close – it is a facade. McCain’s chances of succeeding in November, in my opinion, are around 1 in 5. Incumbent parties do not win when the economy is in the tank – mentally or not (and it’s not mental, Phil, when milk, bread, cereal, gas and all other necessities are more and more expensive and the dollar is weaker and weaker). McCain is not galvanizing and voter trust of most election issues points toward Obama. I wish Obama the best and will be hopeful as he takes his oath of office.

Furthermore, I applaud Obama’s willingness to work across the aisle and understand there will be areas in which he will break with Liberals. Support of faith-based community initiatives, for one (and this coming from an agnostic).

The FISA Act, however, is so detrimental to democracy itself, my respect for not just Obama himself, but the very idea of Obama has been irreparably damaged. I would encourage hardcore Obama supporters to keep this particular vote of his in mind when daydreaming of the days to come as he takes on the heavy mantle of President of the United States of America. Perfection at this level does not exist and any romance with a candidate will certainly abate over time.

I would never cast a vote for McFlip-Flop, nor would I ever stay home and waste a voting opportunity. Also, I am a thorough, complete supporter of a multi-party system. While I wanted to vote for Obama – and was excited to vote for him – my decision was not cast in stone. It still is not cemented. However, the odds I would pull the lever in support of him this November are greatly diminished. Truthfully, I am ever more looking in Nader’s direction.

If Obama’s political contributions continue to decline, I encourage him to address his FISA ’08 support with increased seriousness. This is no small issue for those of us who follow politics and government activity.

This weekend, I plan on purchasing Obama’s two books and will begin reading them with a large grain of salt. Perhaps this will allow me some insight behind this recent mind-boggling decision of his.

As of this point, Obama is not Hope and he is not Change We Can Believe In. He is merely Better Than Bush, but isn’t everybody else?




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