Point of View Columns

Weekend Edition – February 18, 2011

The first tendrils of Spring appear in seeming defiance of Winter’s presence. The Arab world is simmering and no one knows what broth will ensue. U.S. states are returning billions of dollars to the federal government as their citizens search for jobs. And Donald Trump continues to act as if he was a direct descendant of Barnum.

The Missing Safety Valve

In all of the discussion and controversy concerning the political turmoil in North Africa and the Middle East there has been no shortage of theories and pronouncements as to what caused this frenzy of political awakenings. The internet and Facebook are given as major enablers of the ongoing rebellions and revolutions. The not so glowing example of democracy at work in Iraq is rarely cited.

But we should certainly consider the fact that over the past decade the United States and most countries in Europe have imposed more restrictions on immigration either through legislation or administrative practice. These restrictions have given special attention to those seeking to leave North Africa and the Middle East. Could there be a connection here?

After all, in the past educated and ambitious and eclectic men and women from places like Tunisia and Algeria and Egypt could emigrate to someplace and pursue their hopes and dreams.
Whatever their motives, many of them shared a common dissatisfaction with the status quo and the marble ceiling that was constructed over their ambitions.

Since 9/11, most of these “dissenters” do not have the option of moving to America or Europe. But their dissatisfaction with the status quo has not abated. The result has been the turmoil that we see every day and we will, in all likelihood, continue to see the drive for change.

It may turn out that Europe and America were the safety valves for the oligarchs and monarchs in the Middle East and North Africa. And it would appear that the safety valves just aren’t there anymore.

A Constant Struggle to Stay Behind

On November 2, 2010, the voters in Ohio, Wisconsin and Florida elected Republican governors who ran on very conservative platforms. These men all claimed that the root cause of many of the problems of the citizens of their respective states was the federal government.

Since their election, all three of these governors have rejected and returned billions of federal dollars that were intended to finance high speed rail systems. These dollars were also intended to provide jobs and income for men and women in Ohio, Wisconsin and Florida.

That would be Ohio with a 9% unemployment rate, Wisconsin with a 7% unemployment rate and Florida with an 11.6% unemployment rate.

The rail infrastructure of this country is woefully behind that of most of the developed world (including China) and it needs to be improved everywhere and now. The men and women seeking work, any kind of work, in Ohio, Wisconsin and Florida most certainly would welcome federal government “interference” that came in the form of a paycheck.

When ideology overcomes common sense, the outcome is almost always a poor one.

Donald Trump for Pope?

Two weeks ago Donald Trump announced that he was “seriously considering” running against Barack Obama in 2012. He clearly assumes that his serial corporate bankruptcies and thousands of stranded bondholders will somehow disappear from the national memory banks by November of 2012.

Last week Mr. Trump announced that he was “seriously considering” purchasing a controlling interest in the New York Mets. Presumably he doesn’t think that Mets fans have suffered enough.

Who know what’s next? But Pope Benedict should watch his back!

Have a great weekend!

Standard
Point of View Columns

Weekend Edition – February 4, 2011

As the first week of the second month comes to an end we should remember that Egypt and Tunisia are in Africa. Also, do we still care that the Republicans took over Congress one month ago and can anybody spare $3 million for a Super Bowl ad?

Egypt and Tunisia – A Lesson in Geography

In a little more than a fortnight the oligarchy in Tunisia collapsed and the ones in Egypt, Yemen and Algeria are teetering. Most observers correctly point to these events as a precursor to further seismic changes in the Arab world, places like Jordan, Syria and Saudi Arabia.

But these same observers seem to have forgotten their sixth grade geography lessons.
While Egypt, Tunisia, Algeria and Yemen are identified as Arab countries they are most certainly African. Their importance as a part of the African Union cannot be overstated.

So it is a mystery why none of the contemporary commentary points to possible seismic changes in the rest of Africa where there is also no shortage of oligarchies, ruling elites and one-party faux democracies. In this transglobal 24/7 news world in which we live it would be ludicrous to think that young men and women in many of these countries aren’t wondering why the miracle of change cannot visit them as well.

The serial tragedies that have visited Africa have many roots and causes. But in the present day the causal connection between elite oligarchies and the burdens of poverty, instability and economic dysfunction are crystal clear.

There have been references made to the “domino effect” in the Arab world as a result of what is happening in Tunisia and Egypt. Do not be surprised when some of those dominoes begin to fall in Africa.

Republican Countdown

Let’s see……..at the beginning of January 2011 the Republicans took control of the House of Representatives amid clarion calls for immediate and uplifting change. The G.O.Tea Party promised its supporters the red meat of defying President Obama and the potatoes of taking back this country.

It’s been a month now and what has happened? There was the grade school exercise of reading the Constitution out loud. The only real result was that the Americans that bothered to listen learned that the Constitution is not a series of commandments but it is a working document that was designed to be flexible.

Then there was the vote to repeal the recently passed health care reform legislation that the Republicans like to call “Obamacare”. Of course the vote passed in the House, went nowhere in the Senate and would never have made it past the promised presidential veto in any event.

The only other occurrences worthy of note were the dopey utterances of some Republicans to the effect that they would carry guns to town hall meetings in the aftermath of the Tucson Massacre.

Others have promised to shut down the federal government and evaporate the global financial standing of the United States as a serious strategy to accomplish their goals to restructure the federal budget.

In the meantime the educational system in this country is in need of immediate attention, unemployment continues to beleaguer too many Americans and there are wars in Iraq and Afghanistan that demand attention and treasure.

The crises in Egypt and Tunisia and elsewhere point out the urgent need to re-examine this country’s foreign policy. And where is the Party of No on the great issues of the day?

Gone missing.

Can You Spare $3 Million?

As a fan of the New York Jets I have to grudgingly and sadly accept the fact that the Super Bowl will be held this coming Sunday without the Jets.

In accepting this sad reality I have also learned that Super Bowl ads will be costing advertisers $3 million per minute! What on earth could they have to say that was so important that it would be worth spending that much money?

Is there a new kind of taco that flies? The Jesus hates Obama ad was banned, perhaps there are sneakers that make you invisible?

I guess we will just have to find out on Sunday.

Have a great weekend!

Standard