5 Best Friday Columns

On a transition for Egypt, a way forward for science funding, and the ingenuity of Somali pirates

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  • Mohamed ElBaradei's Plan for a Peaceful Transition to Egyptian Democracy  Following Hosni Mubarak's surprise decision not to resign, opposition leader Mohamed ElBaradei offers a plan in The New York Times for Egypt's next step, "a peaceful and orderly transition of power, to channel the revolutionary fervor into concrete steps for a new Egypt based on freedom and social justice." Under new leadership, he writes, Egyptians must be guaranteed all rights, meaning the current Parliament, "no longer remotely representative of the people," must be removed. "They will also need to abolish the Constitution, which has become an instrument of repression, and replace it with a provisional Constitution, a three-person presidential council and a transitional government of national unity." ElBaradei recognizes the importance and influence of the military in Egypt and insists that the new "presidential council should include a representative of the military." An interim government along with the presidential council should take over in the mean time and facilitate the democratic transition by "drafting a democratic Constitution to be put to a referendum, and preparing for free and fair presidential and parliamentary elections within one year." ElBaradei hopes that this new Egypt will signal "new era in which Arab society, Muslim culture and the Middle East are no longer viewed through the lens of war and radicalism, but as contributors to the forward march of humanity."
  • Leonard Pitts Jr. on Immigration  Writing in the Detroit Free Press, The Miami Herald columnist pens a searing critique of Arizona's attach on anchor babies. He's all for securing the borders, but says the state's plan to deny citizenship to babies born in the United States to illegal aliens is stupid for three reasons: first, Politifact has shown the anchor baby idea is a fallacy. Second, the current law takes care of this non problem quite nicely, requiring that parents have to leave the US for 10 years before becoming eligible to even apply for citizenship. Third, Pitt says Arizona's law seeks to overturn the 14th Amendment which stipulates that people born in the US are citizens. Throw this out, and the very rights of African Americans which were solidified by the 14th, 13th, and 15th amendments go out the window, possibly taking the Brown v Board of Education and the Civil Rights and Voting Rights acts along with them. Any judge would realize that, and that's why the proposed Arizona law probably wouldn't "survive its first court challenge."
  • Michael Boskin on Slashing Government Spending Right Now  George W. H. Bush's former chair of the Council of Economic Advisers takes aim at the current administration's plan to provide seed money for infrastructure projects as a path to recovery. Boskin's problems with this premise are multiple, among them that "government spending generally does little to boost the economy," as seen by what he calls the failed 2009 stimulus bill. Even casting this unfortunate legislation aside, Boskin says that it's critical to understand that the urge to spend money is based on the 1930's WPA programs. His point: the 1930s was when construction involved pix axes and shovels. Eighty some-odd  years later, construction uses more machinery that it does people, begging the question, where are all the jobs? Boskin says the problems that come with such misguided analogies are further compounded by the fact that such ambitions leave us with only debt. What we need, Boskin says, is to slash our overhead and cut government spending, because whatever short-term gains the administration may try to promote, it comes with debt, and debts have to be paid. "The immense growth of government spending and soaring public deficits and debt are the major sources of systemic economic risk, here and abroad."
  • Matthew Lynn on Somali Pirates' Great Grasp of the Global Economy  At the Financial Times, Matthew Lynn suggests a new way to look at the Somali pirates who continue to make news for their violent and ruthless tactics. This image is realistic, he writes, but so too is the idea that these pirates are "businessmen, who have smartly figured out the way trade is flowing, and how to get their share." Lynn goes on to explain how the "the daily battles between cargo captains and the pirate skiffs in the Somali basin" are a perfect metaphor for the global economy, evolving and ready to adapt. Also, like any good businessmen, pirates must stay ahead of the curve, so they hack into ships' identification devices to know exactly what products are aboard which ships, so as not to waste time stealing unsellable goods. And pirates have learned that to keep a good business going, you must "pay the staff right," even if this means hiring some "gung-ho youngsters, and allow them to take huge potentially lethal risks, with the promise of a vast bonus if by some miracle they get out alive." Finally, writes Lynn, "the pirates' success shows that trickle-down economics does work eventually ... it's just that sometimes you need a few AK-47s to make sure some of the wealth trickles down to you."
  • David Brooks: Time to Sacrifice Entitlements to Pay for the Good Stuff  David Brooks takes on the coming budget cuts and the people and programs they will affect--scientists, universities, Teach for America, foreign aid, and early childhood education. The cuts to these programs have "nothing to do with merit." They must be cut, rather, to preserve "politically untouchable programs" such as Veterans Affairs, Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, etc. In The New York Times today, Brooks insists that taking on entitlement spending is the key to making room for other necessary programs such as those mentioned above. The supporters of these programs cannot simply hope they will be spared from budget cuts, he writes: "they have to go on the offense. They have to embrace plans to slow the growth of Medicare, to reform Social Security and to reform the tax code to foster growth and produce more revenue." Being able to demand funding for worthy causes is "about freedom," Brooks urges. "It's about whether we get to make budget choices or whether we have our lives dictated by the inexorable growth of programs beyond our control."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.