What is a Visionist?

"A visionist is an artist, a creator or an individual that sees beyond what is visible to the eyes and brains of human beings. Visionists are thinkers, they are the recognisable brains in soociety, but most times they are seen as absurd, "nerds" and misfits – they just don't fit into the societies. They are people with great dreams and minds."

The English Wikipedia

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Globalization 101 - The Threats, Parts I and II

Fragile, Failing, Failed States and Ungoverned Territories

–Weak state is either a result of or allows for internal ethnic or religious conflicts
–Anarchy results in human suffering, violence, criminal activities and trafficking
–Lack of governance results in non-existent or poor public services, corruption
–Allow safe havens for terrorist, extremist and criminal organizations
–Globalization makes negative impact on Rest of World (ROW), e.g. terrorism and piracy

Global Terrorism

•Harvard Political Scientist Samuel Huntington predicted a “Clash of Civilizations” between the West and the East
•Main threat is from Radical Islamic Extremism, e.g. Al Qaida and Associated Movements.
•Driven by a jihadist (religious war) ideology to create a modern Caliphate under sharia (Koranic) law.
•Al Qaida is “blowback” from war by US-backed Mujaheddin against Soviet aggression in Afghanistan in 1979.
•Resentment from “Arab Afghans” against resistance by own governments (Saudi Arabia, Egypt, etc.) to give them a political/security role; resentment against US dominance of Middle East; presence of US troops on Holy ground and control of Middle East petroleum.
•Promoted series of bombings—First World Trade Center bombing, USS Cole, US Embassies in Nairobi, Kenya, and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania and finally 9/11/2001 attack on the World Trade Center.
•US invasion of Afghanistan – Al Qaida leadership flee to Pakistan tribal areas
•Joined resistance to US invasion/occupation of Iraq.
•Continue to support Afghan Taliban and fight in Afghanistan
•Continue to plan and plot further terrorist attacks against Western targets
•Problem of terrorist presence on the WWW and of “home grown” terrorists in Europe and the US.
•First major national security reorganization in US forming the Department of Homeland Security.
•Other terrorist groups, Hizbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in Palestine Gaza Strip, represent state-sponsored groups supported by Iran and Syria, against Israeli and Jewish targets only.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009


Types of Globalization

Technological: IT, Biomedical, Green, Robotics
Population: Growth, Aging, Youth Bulge, Women, Labor, Migration
Economic: Commercial, Industrial, Communications, Services
Financial: Investments, Banking, Exchange Rates, Black Markets, Money Laundering
Cultural: Ideational, Ideological, Educational, Civilization, Pop Culture
Political, Democratic, Multinational Organizations, International Law and Regimes, Rule of Law, Civil Society
Military/Security: U.S. as a Super-Power, Nuclear Proliferation, WMD, Alliances, Rising Powers
Environmental: Global Warming, Bio-Diversity, Deforestation
Health: Pandemics, Potable Water, AIDS/HIV, Malaria
Resources: Water, Food and Agriculture, Energy and Fuels, Minerals
Terrorism: Islamic, Ethnic, Religious, National,
Crime: Organized Crime, Drug Trafficking, Piracy, Trafficking in Persons, Conflict Diamonds

Though there are specifically political forms of globalization, all globalization has political dimensions.

•The Threats:
–Sub-national Conflicts and Failed States
–Radical Islamic Terrorism – “Clash of Civilizations”
–Authoritarianism – From Self-Destructing Zimbabwe to Rising China
–International Organized Crime – Drug Trafficking
–Widespread Corruption
–Global Economic/Social Inequality - Displacement of Jobs
–Population Pressures
–Ecological Threats – Global Warming, Melting Ice Caps, Rising sea levels, Hurricanes
–Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)
–Resource Wars – Fuel, Water, Food, Raw Materials
–Human Rights Violations, War Crimes and Genocides

•The Benefits
–David Ricardo and comparative advantage
–Expansion of trade, industrialization, finance and GDP
–Expansion of International Law and Organizations
–Expansion of Freedom, Democracy, Civil Society
–Expansion of Development and Foreign Assistance
–Expansion of Western Culture and Values
–US a principal beneficiary of Globalization
–Empowerment of individuals, women, groups, minorities

Monday, March 23, 2009

Globalization 101 - It's A Small World After All

It's a world of laughter
A world of tears
It's a world of hopes
And a world of fears
There's so much that we share
That it's time we're aware
It's a small world after all

Why Globalization?

•Globalization – A “smaller world”
•People are closer together
•A world closer in time and space
•A world without borders
•Goods, services and ideas move faster or instantly.
•Driven by technology
–Transportation – Shipping, Containerization Accessible Air travel
–Communication – Television, the Internet, Cell Phones, PDAs

Globalizations I, II, III, IV, V, VI, VII

•Often speak of Globalization I (Pre-WWI) and II (Post Cold War), with a hiatus in the middle, but one can identify 7 phases of Globalization:
•I. Early Man: Globalization is inherent in the human condition; man originated in Ethiopia 200,000 + years ago and occupied the entire world 20,000 years ago.
•II. Ancient Empires: China, Rome, Italian explorers, Arab traders
•III. Colonial empires of Spain, Portugal, England, France, Holland – Mercantilism
•IV. British Empire - Naval Supremacy 18th /mid-19th Century to WWI
•V. Cold War – Post WWII - US vs. USSR, the UN, Decolonization, Independence movements, accelerated technological development, space exploration, micro processing, the internet
•VI. American Hegemony – Post Cold War, Rise of Islamic Radicalism, Transnationalism, NGOs, Uni-polarity
•VII. Post-Modern: 9/11, 2008/9 Recession, Multi-polarity, Uncertainty

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Globalization 101

I have said from beginning this blog that its principal concern is the issue of globalization and its implications for the people of the world and impact on the planet itself. Mostly, I am concerned with the political dimensions of globalization and will leave the economic debate over globalization to economists like Stiglitz and Bagwati. I have been preparing a slide presentation on the Political Dimensions of Globalization for a Globalization Seminar at Tidewater Community College, where I teach political science, and decided to share the content of these slides on this blog. This slideshow is still a work in progress, but I hope by presenting the content of one or more slides at a time, I can help others to understand what is meant by Globalization and how it is challenging the planet. Even more important, it will lead to my proposing more Out of the Box Solutions to these global problems.
. Defining Globalization
•No universal definition of globalization.
•Economic definition: trade, finance and communications
•Broader definition: Tom Friedman – an International System that replaced the Cold War
•A good definition I have found (Levin Institute, SUNY):
•“Globalization is a process of interaction and integration among the people, companies, and governments of different nations, a process driven by international trade and investment and aided by information technology. This process has effects on the environment, on culture, on political systems, on economic development and prosperity, and on human physical well-being in societies around the world.” (www.globalization101.org)

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Hopeful Choice for New Drug Czar

This news computes perfectly with the new "Drug War" philosophy I urged here two days ago.

Choice of Drug Czar Indicates Focus on Treatment, Not Jail
By Carrie Johnson and Amy Goldstein - Washington Post Staff Writers
Thursday, March 12, 2009; A04

The White House said yesterday that it will push for treatment, rather than incarceration, of people arrested for drug-related crimes as it announced the nomination of Seattle Police Chief R. Gil Kerlikowske to oversee the nation's effort to control illegal drugs.

The choice of drug czar and the emphasis on alternative drug courts, announced by Vice President Biden, signal a sharp departure from Bush administration policies, gravitating away from cutting the supply of illicit drugs from foreign countries and toward curbing drug use in communities across the United States.

Biden, who helped shape the Office of National Drug Control Policy as a U.S. senator in the 1980s, said the Obama administration would continue to focus on the southwest border, where Mexican authorities are facing thousands of drug-related slayings and unchecked violence from drug cartels moving cocaine, heroin and methamphetamine into American markets. But it remained unclear how the new administration would engineer its budget to tackle the problem.

Since President Richard Nixon first declared a war on drugs nearly four decades ago, the government has spent billions of dollars with mixed results, according to independent studies and drug policy scholars. In recent years, the number of high-school-age children abusing illegal substances has dipped, but marijuana use has inched upward, and drug offenders continue to flood the nation's courts.

"The success of our efforts to reduce the flow of drugs is largely dependent on our ability to reduce demand for them," Kerlikowske said yesterday at a ceremony attended by his former law enforcement colleagues. "Our nation's drug problem is one of human suffering, and as a police officer but also in my own family, I have experienced the effects that drugs can have."

Kerlikowske's adult stepson, Jeffrey, has been arrested in the past on drug charges, an issue that the police chief referenced in his remarks yesterday.
Kerlikowske's top deputy is expected to be A. Thomas McLellan, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania medical college and the chief executive of the Treatment Research Institute in Philadelphia, according to two sources in the drug control community, who said the selection underscored the administration's philosophy of rehabilitation and outreach.

On the campaign trail, Obama and Biden promised to offer first-time, nonviolent offenders a chance to serve their sentences in a drug rehabilitation center rather than in federal prison. In promoting wider use of drug courts, the administration is embracing an idea that has broad support in theory but has never been a main path for people with drug addictions who are charged with crimes.

The nation's first drug court originated in Miami in the late 1980s at the urging of Janet Reno, who went on to become President Bill Clinton's attorney general. By the mid-1990s, the federal government was providing money for communities to plan and set up such courts -- although not to help operate them in the long term.

John Roman, an Urban Institute researcher who has studied drug courts, said they now exist in most of the nation's medium and large counties, but they are used for only about 55,000 of the 1.5 million Americans with drug addictions who are arrested each year on criminal charges. The Obama administration has not said how much money it wants to devote to the courts' expansion.

In contrast to previous administrations, the Obama White House is not giving the position of drug control director a Cabinet rank. The move was intended to give a larger role on the issue to Biden, according to an administration source.

William J. Bennett, who became the nation's first drug czar during the George H.W. Bush administration, said he spent three weeks in a room with Biden, then chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, hashing out the scope of the new job.

Yesterday, Bennett called on Kerlikowske to "get the public's attention, get the president's attention, get the attorney general's attention and put this issue back on the front burner."

Scholars said that emphasis on the drug problem waned after terrorist strikes on U.S. soil in 2001, and never regained the spotlight or its slice of the federal budget as attention and resources flowed to national security.

John Carnevale, an economist who worked at the Office of Drug Control Policy under three presidents, predicted that the Obama administration would concentrate on reducing demand for drugs through high-impact law enforcement and prevention efforts targeted at communities at risk.

Under Bush, money to international programs doubled, while funding for prevention and treatment fell by one-quarter, he said. The Bush White House devoted much of its attention to developing the 2008 Merida Initiative with Mexico and Central American countries to support law enforcement training and equipment there. In recent weeks, Mexico's attorney general traveled to the U.S. to discuss ongoing cooperation with Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr.

"There was a complete mismatch between the rhetoric of the strategy, which emphasized treatment, and the budget," Carnevale added, referring to the Bush administration. "The long-run answer is for the U.S. to curb its demand or appetite for illicit drugs. . . . The national drug problem is a series of local ones, and they're not all identical."

The office has drawn controversy recently. The outgoing director, John P. Walters, was the subject of a congressional investigation for his role in announcing federal grants in states where Republican lawmakers confronted tight reelection efforts in 2006. Trade groups for narcotics police officers complained about Walters's reluctance to meet them to discuss policy and budget issues. Walters had written widely for the Weekly Standard and other publications advocating for stiff prison sentences and "coerced treatment."

Retired Gen. Barry McCaffrey, who served as drug czar under Clinton, said Kerlikowske's background as a street cop would give him special insight.
"I tell people, 'If you want to understand the drug issue, talk to any cop at random with more than 10 years on the force,' " he said.

Staff researcher Julie Tate contributed to this report.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Vision and Global Governance

In 1995, the UN Commission on Global Governance issued a seminal report. It was met with much skepticism and resistance by "pro-sovereignty" and conservative groups on the right and world federalists on the left. It is a report that deserves being resurrected, as it speaks clearly and eloquently of the issues that need to be addressed in the 21st Century age of Globalization. Following 9/11, the global financial meltdown and the looming threat of global warming and resource shortages, perhaps the world is ready for the report's recommendations.

The Commission had the following to say about the role of Vision"

"The last fifty years have radically and rapidly transformed the world and the agenda of world concern. But this is not the first generation to live on the cusp of a great transformation. The turbulence of the last decade is not unlike those that accompanied the rise of Islam in the century following the death of the Prophet, the European colonization of the Americas after 1492, the onset of the Industrial Revolution in the eighteenth century, and the creation of the contemporary international system in this century. Yet there is a distinction between the contemporary experience of change and that of earlier generations: never before has change come so rapidly--in some ways, all at once--on such a global scale, and with such global visibility.
"A time of change when future patterns cannot be clearly discerned is inevitably a time of uncertainty. There is need for balance and caution--and also for vision. Our common future will depend on the extent to which people and leaders around the world develop the vision of a better world and the strategies, the institutions, and the will to achieve it. Our task as a Commission is to enlarge the probability of their doing so by suggesting approaches to the governance of the global, increasingly interdependent human society."

I recommend that all read the full report. I will be coming back to it shortly on this blog.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Demand - A New "Drug War"

I spent three years in the 90's in charge of counternarcotics policy and programs at the State Department for South America, overseeing the principal source countries for cocaine. This assignment followed two overseas assignments that prepared me well for the job: three years in Bolivia, where a good deal of the raw coca leaf is cultivated, along with Peru and Colombia; and eight years in Brazil, a leading cocaine transit and consumption country, where cocaine had created a enormous market and fed a growing organized crime and gang culture in the poor shantytowns (favelas), many of which overhang the wealthiest beachfront boroughs along Rio's beaches.

During my time in Bolivia and at State's Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement (INL), we made some progress in beating back illicit coca production through eradication, interdicting semi-processed cocaine base and finished cocaine and working with democratic governments. Today, however, it appears as if the source countries, especially Bolivia where an anti-American President Evo Morales, has not only kicked out the US ambassador but also the DEA, are out of control and Brazil is becoming further overwhelmed by crime groups, engaged in activities from drug trafficking to kidnapping. Brazil's mayors have frequently called upon the military to assault drug gangs in the favelas. I just saw the popular Brazilian movie, Elite Squad (Tropa de Elite), which characterizes well the problems of heavily armed socially deviant traffickers, corrupt police and the incorruptible, idealistic special police unit, the Elite Squad, which, however, uses the worst methods of torture and summary justice to confront the traffickers. It is a lose, lose situation. I also know from friends and family in Brazil that things seem to be getting worse in confronting the crime problem there.

At the same time, the situation in neighboring Mexico is also becoming critical. Narcotics trafficking is one of the most devastating phenomena of modern day globalization. It has always been a national security concern, but today's situation is destabilizing two large blocs of countries in the Western Hemisphere the US-Mexico and Brazil-the Andeans-Paraguay.

Driving this national security threat has always been the fact that cocaine is consumed by Americans, Brazilians and Europeans. The late ultra-conservative Chicago School economist Milton Friedman shocked many of his admirers by coming out in favor of drug legalization. Friedman understood that the cocaine and other drug problems where a simple matter of supply and demand. Indeed, US official policy has always recognized that both supply and demand reduction of drugs is required, but it must be argued that not enough has been done to reduce demand in this country through public educational and health programs for youth as well as through legal and justice reform.

When asked last month about demand reduction, INL Assistant Secretary Johnson said that the US spent $1.4 billion on demand reduction and treatment. First of all, this is a drop in the bucket compared to the problem and to lump both educational programs and treatment programs together is not helpful. Certainly, successful treatment reduces demand, but we need to stop youth from ever engaging in high risk, anti-social behavior of using hard drugs. We also need to look carefully at legal reforms. It is ridiculous to outlaw marijuana and hashish. These are not addictive drugs, any more that alcohol or cigarette smoking, and have medicinal purposes. Going after such drugs simply displaces resources from cocaine and heroin, which cannot and should not be legalized. However, spending a lot of resources to chase traffickers, particularly street peddlers, and to incarcerate them for long periods of time is simply a failure. What we should be doing with police resources is to protect communities that voluntarily organize to resist drug trafficking organizations in their own communities. Plus, we should be encouraging communities to do so through vigorous civil society programs.

Until we can reduce demand, take economic incentives away from drug gangs and trafficking networks, the hills of Rio and the Mexican border are likely to continue to teem with traffickers and be alive with the sound not of music but of automatic weapons. A major international conference should be called to deal with the growing threat with a focus on its origins in consumption among the wealthy. The upcoming Summit of The Americas in Trinidad and Tobago in April would be a good oportunity for US, Brazilian, Mexican and other chiefs of state from this hemisphere to seek a new, more effective approach to drugs. This should be a topic of conversation when President Obama is visited by Brazilian President Lula next week.