Left Coast Voices

"I would hurl words into the darkness and wait for an echo. If an echo sounded, no matter how faintly, I would send other words to tell, to march, to fight." Richard Wright, American Hunger

Archive for the tag “foreign policy”

$10 a Gallon

Before the vacation, I suggested in a post, Changing The World, focusing on 10 actions that will make significant and sustainable change in our world.  Here is my first attempt.

I was walking with a friend down a main street in 2005 and asked him whether we would ever have true peace and what it would take. We passed under the price sign for a gas station, which was showing that gas prices had just gone above $2/ gallon and everyone was shocked.

imgres

My friend shocked me when he replied that America would only be safe when we begin paying $10/gallon at the pumps. Now you should know three things:

  1. My friend is very smart.
  2. My friend is an environmentalist.
  3. We were much closer to 9/11 than we are now.

I fill a gas tank six times a month: so with prices above four dollars I am not a happy driver. The number on my monthly budget spreadsheet has ballooned. So why am I advocating for $10/gallon?

First, the only reason I am not focusing on public transportation is that for many it is not relevant. We need to get around during our workday. We need to avoid looking disheveled and sweaty – I love the bike-share initiatives popping up all over the place – but they are simply not practical for many. Neither do I have the time to coordinate a car share schedule, much as I admire the idea. So I am stuck with needing a car near me.

imgres-1

I understand when we use certain technologies because there is no alternative. But there is an alternative now. The growth of hybrid cars, the electric car and other alternatives are all becoming common place. One of the most positive outcomes of the reinvention of the American car industry is the move towards gas-efficient cars. The Japanese, we all acknowledge, are years ahead of us.

But what if we truly laid a foundation for electric car by converting gas stations into recharging docks and, instead of one lane for hybrid cars during rush hour, it was the opposite? What if we taxed heavily the import and domestic production of non-electric cars?

And what if we raised gas to $10/gallon?

images-2My motivation is two-fold. I believe much of our foreign policy is designed to protect our domestic energy needs. Wars are fought and countries supported with foreign aid because many are in oil-rich regions. We ignore terrible human rights abuse in these and other oil-rich countries. The connection between global terror and oil are clear and our dependency makes us vulnerable.

The second reason is simply that the earth cannot sustain the effects of our oil dependency. In a sense, it is already taking steps to prevent us destroying it as supply dries up and the environmental impact, both of global warming and regional disasters, become greater.

What makes this so frustrating is that the alternative technologies are out there and I am left with the feeling that they are being held back. Why? Because a lot of people still stand to make a lot of money.

I do not care to prioritize the millionaires of today over the abilities of my children and grandchildren to live in a sustainable and healthy environment.

Government can turn this around with three easy steps:

1) Tax conventional cars (both domestic and imported).

2) Invest in a structure to sustain electric and other energy efficient cars

3) Raise gas prices to $10 – it may well go a long way to financing the change.

—————————————————————————————————–

Alon Shalev writes social justice-themed novels and YA epic fantasy. He swears there is a connection. His latest books include: Unwanted Heroes and the 2013 Eric Hoffer Book Award for YA – At The Walls Of Galbrieth. Alon tweets at @alonshalevsf and @elfwriter. For more about the author, check ouhis website.

Advertisements

Israel’s Election – A Path To Peace?

Israel went to the elections last month. Democracy is a beautiful thing to behold, especially in the Middle East. At the time of writing the parties are swiftly forgetting their pre-election promises and shamelessly bartering to be in the ruling coalition or in the vanguard of the opposition. It is a depressing process fit more as a soap opera than the establishment of a government.

Friends here in the US  ask me what the outcome of the elections might have on the peace process? It is difficult to answer because this election was never about foreign policy. There is a general consensus in Israel that there is no one to negotiate with, that every initiative is snubbed before anyone sits around the table. The instability in Egypt and the dreadful civil war in Syria (both border-sharing neighbors) do not add any sense of urgency to move the peace process forward. There is a sentiment that if a peace treaty is negotiated with one body, will they still be responsible for it six months later? After the recent campaign against Hamas in Gaza, the question isn’t whether they will return to launching missiles into Israel, but when. Partners for peace?

Israel’s economy has suffered in a similar way to the US. They saw an Occupy Movement emerge before it happened here in the US and the economy was the focus.

imgres-5

I understand the need to shore up the economy. Israel suffers from a huge gap between richest and poorest. At some point when I was living there, it was greater than anywhere in Europe.

Benjamin Netanyahu has two options: a right wing government that includes many extremist elements and there is no peace process, or a coalition with the center and moderate left. While Netanyahu is perceived to have lost considerable ground to the center and left as a rejection of his tight fiscal policy, there is one important glimmer of light in all this.

imgres-4

A right wing hawk with the help of the left and center signed peace with Egypt. If Israel can find a stable Palestinian leadership to negotiate with, perhaps there is a window of opportunity for peace.

——————————————————————————————————

Alon Shalev is the author of three social justice-themed novels: Unwanted Heroes, The Accidental Activist and A Gardener’s Tale. He is the Executive Director of the San Francisco Hillel Jewish Student Center, a non-profit that provides spiritual and social justice opportunities to Jewish students in the Bay Area. More on Alon Shalev at http://www.alonshalev.com and on Twitter (@alonshalevsf).

Roshaneh Gets What Politicians Don’t

Roshaneh Zafar is helping to fight extremism and create a sustainable model that will discourage recruitment to terrorist organizations by giving people hope that they can live a prosperous and stable way of life. Tell me this does not make political sense whether you sit on the left or the right, or balance precariously in the middle.

On Monday, I talked about micro-lending as a model to help our domestic policy, This American-educated banker is focusing her efforts on micro-financing and while she has found a way to empower some of Pakistan’s poorest women by giving them the tools and educational opportunities to create businesses and income for themselves and their families, I want to propose that this as a sustainable solution to cutting back our huge financial burden in foreign policy.

“Charity is limited, but capitalism isn’t,” Roshaneh told Nicholas D. Kristof in an interview for the New York Times. “If you want to change the world, you need market-based solutions.”

Micro-financing lends a small amount of money to impoverished people that will enable them to set up a business and have a stable income. I wrote about the mechanics in a post last year,

Ms. Zafar grew up in Lahore and took the opportunity to study business at the Wharton School and economics at Yale. She worked for a while at the World Bank before returning to Pakistan in 1996 to start the Kashf Foundation.

Below is an interview with Ms. Zafar. Make yourself a cup of coffee, then sit down and spend 7 minutes with this inspiring woman.

Despite many setbacks, Kashf can now boast 152 branches throughout Pakistan and has loaned over  $200 million to more than 300,000 families. Ever thinking ahead, Ms. Zafar is now studying how to leverage this model to encourage the poor to build up savings and accrue assets.

Ms. Zafar is not only helping people start businesses, create jobs and support education that will enable people to break out of the vicious spiral of poverty, but will offer an option to living that is neither violent, nor exploitative.

She deserves a Nobel Prize, in economics and in peace. Micro-financing is a tool to ending the very conditions that create terrorism and extremism. Every Western and stable country has an interest in incorporating her model into their foreign policy.

——————————————————————————————————

Alon Shalev is the author of The Accidental Activist and A Gardener’s Tale. He is the Executive Director of the San Francisco Hillel Foundation, a non-profit that provides spiritual and social justice opportunities to Jewish students in the Bay Area. More on Alon Shalev at http://www.alonshalev.com/ and on Twitter (@alonshalevsf).

 

A Serious Economic Agenda

I think I was exposed this weekend to the so-called Weekend Chat Shows. I won’t do it again (though I’m most perturbed that the soccer season is over and the NBA is coming to a close). I’m fed up with the way that we, the so-called informed population, allow our politicians and pundits to play out whatever fictional version they advocate to promote their own agendas.

Blaming President Obama for the economic meltdown a month or so after he took office is obnoxious – that many of the public bought it is truly stunning. Even today, when the President is still basking in the public’s praise regarding the assassination of bin Laden, a Republican politician, when asked if this gives Obama the Presidency in 2012, said Obama still has to account for the state of the economy.  As if these Republicans weren’t around for the previous eight years, or for that matter, in power.

I do not believe that the recession is about everyone having a hard time. Houses in Berkeley are selling quickly and financial coaches all agree that there is money to made in a recession. A recession is more about a sharpened distribution of wealth than wealth disappearing from the economy.

Neither do I think it is about Republicans or Democrats. There is a structural problem in our economy that needs and can be addressed quickly. Over the next couple of weeks, I want to focus on some of the following aspects.

1. Education  – a 21st century economy requires a 22nd century education system. It begins with creating a work force that is competitive and highly esteemed. The average teacher in California earns just under $69,000. I don’t believe they work more or less than the rest of us. Their challenges and pressures are simply different.

2. Taxes – Everybody pays their taxes and they are proportional to how much each person earns. There can be some flexibility for differing circumstances, but to allow the rich to pay less taxes proportionately than the poor is absurd. The fact that so many of the working and middle class accept this is unfathomable.

3. Energy – Moving away for an oil-based economy, or at least cutting it drastically has repercussions not only on energy, but also foreign policy. As the head of the multinational oil company said in The Accidental Activist – true change will only come when the public are challenged at the pumps.

We might not hold all the answers, but our worst enemy is apathy. Let the discussion begin…

——————————————————————————————————

Alon Shalev is the author of The Accidental Activist (now available on Kindle) and A Gardener’s Tale. He is the Executive Director of the San Francisco Hillel Foundation, a non-profit that provides spiritual and social justice opportunities to Jewish students in the Bay Area. More on Alon Shalev at http://www.alonshalev.com/and on Twitter (#alonshalevsf).

A Woman Changing the World

Roshaneh Zafar is helping to fight extremism and create a sustainable model that will discourage recruitment to terrorist organizations by giving people hope that they can live a prosperous and stable way of life.

This American-educated banker is focusing her efforts on micro-financing. She has found a way to empower some of Pakistan’s poorest women by giving them the tools and educational opportunities to create businesses and income for themselves and their families.

“Charity is limited, but capitalism isn’t,” Roshaneh told Nicholas D. Kristof in an interview for the New York Times. “If you want to change the world, you need market-based solutions.”

Micro-financing, as I discussed in a post on Kiva.org/, lends a small amount of money to impoverished people that will enable them to set up a business.

Ms. Zafar grew up in Lahore and took the opportunity to study business at the Wharton School and economics at Yale. She worked for a while at the World Bank before returning to Pakistan in 1996 to start the Kashf Foundation.

Below is an interview with Ms. Zafar. Make yourself a cup of coffee, then sit down and spend 7 minutes with this inspiring woman.

Despite many setbacks, Kashf can now boast 152 branches throughout Pakistan and has loaned over  $200 million to more than 300,000 families. Ever thinking ahead, Ms. Zafar is now studying how to leverage this model to encourage the poor to build up savings and accrue assets.

Ms. Zafar is not only helping people start businesses, create jobs and support education that will enable people to break out of the vicious spiral of poverty, but will offer an option to living that is neither violent, nor exploitative.

She deserves a Nobel Prize, in economics and in peace. Micro-financing is a tool to ending the very conditions that create terrorism and extremism. Every Western and stable country has an interest in incorporating her model into their foreign policy.
——————————————————————————————————-

Alon Shalev is the author of The Accidental Activist (now available on Kindle) and A Gardener’s Tale. He is the Executive Director of the San Francisco Hillel Foundation, a non-profit that provides spiritual and social justice opportunities to Jewish students in the Bay Area. More on Alon Shalev at www.alonshalev.com

 

Post Navigation

%d bloggers like this: