Saturday, December 22, 2007

AWAY . . .

I'll be away until mid-January (on my honeymoon!).

I'll be excited to return to your comments.

Some possible upcoming topics:
+more on Friedman's "national science project"
+discussion of possible energy alternatives, including raising some questions about corn-based ethanol (and the distortion of this political discussion caused by Iowa's early caucuses)
+???
A "NATIONAL SCIENCE PROJECT" 

OK, I'm on a Thomas Friedman kick . . .

Here he addresses how a "national science project" with regard to energy independence/alternative would be a powerful response to a number of national issues (energy, education, globalization, terrorism).  Another article of his humorously addresses many of these same issues in the context of a mock Iranian "National Intelligence Estimate" of the United States.

Yet another issue I'd like to highlight: It's become more difficult for talented scientists to come to the United States, post 9-11.  This has potential strategic significance for our entire country.

Amazingly, Friedman's national science project idea has implications for national infrastructure, economic innovation, labor, terrorism, the strength of the democratic world, the environment, and education.  I'll be excited to write/research more about this when I return from my honeymoon(!)


INNOVATION-BASED ECONOMIES

My writing on the intellectual stultification that can occur in oil-based economies and on the potential economic benefits of an American "Green Revolution" (see the Thomas Friedman link in the previous post) overlap in at least one way: They both point to the relevance of an "innovation-based" economy.

I've touched on the importance of an innovation-based economy in terms of its potential to promote democracy.  Friedman (in another article) addresses the importance of a culture of innovation for securing American prosperity as global economic competition intensifies.


TREE HUGGERS, HAWKS, (and LABORERS?)

The Set America Free Coalition aims to create links between environmentalists and security hawks interested in reducing American dependence on foreign oil (I would argue that domestically-produced oil would not be much better, environmentally or in terms of national security.).  Institute for the Analysis of Global Security (first referred to me by my brother, Jeremy) addresses some similar issues.

Thomas Friedman focuses on another aspect of the drive for alternative energies/energy efficiency:  potential benefits to the American labor force of environmental reforms.

How can we better develop coalitions between all of these communities and interest groups?
OIL and DEMOCRACY

Hmmm....  Let's think about the areas around the world that have presented the greatest challenges to a democratic world order in recent months . . .

My list would include Iran, Russia, and Venezuela.

What do they have in common?  All collect oil/gas revenues that pad economic growth even while repressing the innovation and citizen activism that underpin most dynamic and successful societies.

OIL and TERRORISM

The same trends apply to many Middle Eastern societies that are hotbeds for terrorism.  The resultant (1) lack of a strong civil society and of (2) a moderate middle class precludes those societies from presenting an organized response to disruptive, extremist elements.
THE PRESIDENCY

DISCLAIMER: I'm not a Bush-hater.  I support his vision of a global march to democracy and I think that he's been unfairly lambasted by many over the past seven years.

The lowest points for me, however, during the Bush presidency has involved the issue of checks and balances:

+I was willing to live with a panel that could secretly approve wiretaps of suspected terrorists; I cannot live with Bush's willingness to circumvent even that process.

+I was willing to live with the politically-motivated firing of US attorneys; I cannot accept Bush's defense of his prevaricating then-Attorney General (Alberto Gonzales) and the apparent willingness of the Bush administration to use a clause in the Patriot Act to subvert the traditional requirement of Congressional approval of US attorneys.

Venezuela and Russia have seen have seen dramatic challenges to their democratic institutions in recent weeks.  US democracy is much more mature and stable; still, we should therefore be reminded that institutions (e.g. Congress, the Justice Department) depend on citizen awareness and support for their strength and independence.
PORK

The engineering problems related to Hurricane Katrina and the Minneapolis Bridge Collapse caused me to pay closer attention to how infrastructure funds are distributed through Congress.  My sense has grown that the process is far from rational.  Congressional seniority and home state protectionism play too big a role in this process.

I'd like to share a couple of websites that show how the internet can open doors for citizens to follow their representatives' fiscal decision-making.  The Sunlight Foundation reports on legislative and business-related activities of members of Congress, and provides many useful links.  USAspending.gov is a governmental site that was started up in response to the "Transparency" Act of 2006.

Friday, December 21, 2007

The Great Oil Slick: Implications for Democracy, Terrorism, and the Environment

A recent John McCain article in Foreign Affairs magazine articulates some of the connections between energy policy, foreign affairs, and the environment:

"The transfer of American wealth to the Middle East through continued oil purchases helps sustain the conditions under which extremism breeds, and the burning of oil and other fossil fuels spurs global warming, a gathering danger to our planet." (Read the relevant section of the article at the bottom of the linked page.)

Future postings on this site will address (1) the links between oil-based economies, authoritarianism, and terrorism and (2) will include thoughts about how to promote ties between the environmental movement, pro-democracy movements, and national security hawks, with regard to these issues.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

OIL, PORK, and the PRESIDENCY 

I am concerned about the future of the United States economy and body politic. The following topics will be addressed

+dependence on foreign oil
+pork: Congress' addiction to budgetary earmarks and unjustified subsidies
+the presidency: threats to the system of checks and balances by overweening assertion of Executive power