Author Archives: Justin Schon
This is not what I’m talking about
In my blog scanning (blanning?) today, I came across this post by Tom Englehardt, a blogger who works closely with The Nation. It reminds us of how inaugural addresses used to display great humility in our leaders, humility that would probably not be looked upon favorably today.
I have to say I agree with a lot of what the guy is saying. It would be nice to see some humility out of our president, or at least more than just passing recognition of the fact that the presidency is a job that entails a great deal of responsibility, power, and expectation. It is a job that has seemed to prove too much for many men, and most would say that a lot of our presidents have been average at best. To think that you can actually perform this job well inherently involves some degree of arrogance and elitism. Yes, we want our president to be confident in his abilities, but one’s confidence must be swollen indeed to convince oneself that they are truly worthy to hold the office of the presidency.
Barack Obama has already been accused of being elitist. Remember the primaries? Obama shook that off, but the proper response in my opinion would have simply been, “Of course I’m elitist! I’m running for president.”
As American automakers continue to try and dig themselves up out of the massive holes they’ve gotten themselves into, one issue that does not get nearly enough attention is health care. We heard a lot about the need for universal health care during the election, but the link to the automotive industry has not been discussed very often.
Pretty much, when the difference between labor costs for GM here and Toyota comes down to benefits like health care, not actual hourly wages, that should make you stop and think. Questions should pop into your head like, “Why is the difference in labor costs from $53 at Toyota to $69 at GM if hourly wages are about the same?”
One answer you could give to this question is that in Japan, Toyota does not have to pay for health care. The Japanese government pays for it. If the United States were to step up and take on the responsibility of providing health care coverage, companies like GM would not have to bear that burden, freeing them up to invest in what they need to turn themselves around.
This investment could then go into things like research and development of hybrid cars and other environmentally friendly technologies that are the future of the automotive industry. That kind of investment would bring about the change in the industry that people demanded while Congress was debating whether or not to bail out auto companies.
It’s about time to put the automotive industry on the right track. We need universal health care, so that we can remove the burden of paying for it from auto companies.
Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko discussing the gas dispute
If anyone read my last post on the dispute between Ukraine and Russia over natural gas, you may have missed why the United States should care.Â So, I’ll start that explanation with this map of the worst affected countries from the reduction in shipments from Russia. Then, I’ll broaden the picture with this discussion of how the impact of reductions in gas shipments is spreading across Europe. Among the more interesting tidbits in this article is that 25% of Europe’s gas shipments come from Russia, and 80% of that comes through Ukraine. Even countries like England that don’t get much of their gas from Russia are seeing higher gas prices and expect significantly higher prices if the situation continues.
The current global economic crisis is already causing everybody more than enough trouble. High natural gas prices, along with a shortage of natural gas, in Europe will only make the problems in Europe more severe, a development that is bound to work its way back to bite the United States at some point.
More talks are expected between Ukraine and Russia on Thursday. It should go without saying that they are crucial.
Did your New Year get off to a rocky start? If so,Â you are probably still having a better year than Ukraine, where it’sÂ year began with Russia shutting off natural gas supplies.Â Here is a video discussing the situation:
The violence between Israelis and Palestinians right now is not showing any signs of cooling off. Hundreds of people are getting killed, and both sides are crying foul against the other. Now that the international community is recognizing that it is going to have to get involved to help the parties stop fighting, one of the most obstacles is going to be getting Israel to move past its frustration over the 2006 war with Hezbollah. This link in Israel’s mind between Hamas and Hezbollah is documented very well here.
As the article points out, Israel is not fighting just to defeat Hamas.Â It is fighting for respect. Hezbollah embarrassed Israel and made it feel vulnerable. That memory is driving it now. With this in mind, don’t be too surprised if this round of fighting lasts for awhile.
Robert Mugabe; A Big Part of Zimbabwe’s Problems
Part of the change many are expecting to see under Barack Obama’s administration is a renewed focus on Africa.Â Yes, George Bush’s administration has been one of the more active and generous American administrations in Africa, but Barack Obama is expected to do far more. From stepping up involvement in DarfurÂ and the Congo to standing up to Somali pirates, there are a lot of actions that Barack Obama isÂ expected to take byÂ many of his supporters in the region.Â Lately, Zimbabwe has becomeÂ anotherÂ country in which the United States will have to play a crucial role.
As we talk about sending more troops into Afghanistan, it is important to realize that there are more problems than just the Taliban.
This may be far less common in Iraq very soon
For all of us who cringe in disgustÂ whenever we hear the name Blackwater, good news! A new report from the State Department’s inspector general warns that Blackwater may not be allowed to operate in Baghdad next year. In addition to this, employees of contractors as a whole in Baghdad, not just Blackwater, are likely to start leaving in force if they lose immunity from criminal prosecution under Iraqi law, as is very likely to happen.
Yesterday, the response of this blog to the shoe-throwing incident was laughter. Today, it is time to evaluate how serious this incident truly is, and whether or not the journalist who threw the shoes, Muntader al-Zaidi, was right to throw them.
Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki called Mr. al-Zaidi’s action “a shameful savage act” and has demanded a public apology. The incident has embarassed him, so this response of outrage should be expected.
On the other hand, his brother, Maythem al-Zaidi, said that he was “proud of his brother- as all Iraqis would be.”
About 100 American and Iraqi lawyers have already offered their services free of charge, including Khalil al-Dulaymi, the guy who defended Saddam Hussein. When asked whether or not he would accept the services of Mr. al-Dulaymi, Maythem said, “Why not, we are all Iraqis.”
Throughout Iraq, many people are forming strong opinions about the incident. The New York Times documents these reactions quite well. Here are a few samples: