- Clifford May on Standing Up to Pirates Clifford May points out that if the U.S. really wanted to, it could dispatch with most of the Somalian pirate threat pretty quickly. He gives a brief history of the United States' approach to piracy in the National Review today. America's first foreign enemies were pirates, against whom "George Washington and Thomas Jefferson both believed it was right and necessary to use force." So May asks why today, when the U.S. has built up "the greatest navy the world has ever seen," we are not going on the offensive and attacking the people who, just last week, killed two American couples. "Such dithering is emboldening the pirates," he argues, noting that international law allows the U.S. to pursue the pirates, even into their safe havens. Shipping companies should be encouraged against giving into ransom demands and an international tribunal should be established to try these criminals. "We know what Washington and Jefferson would do," he writes. "The question now: What will Obama and Clinton do?"
- Anya Schiffrin on the Possibilities of Economic Journalism Anya Schiffrin, director of Columbia University's School of International and Public Affairs, spotlights the American press's shortcomings when it comes to covering ecnomic stories. At the Guardian today, she argues that the current debates in Wisconsin and DC "are a chance for US journalists to write about an economic story that affects everyone." But instead of presenting readers with "the big picture," journalists are getting bogged down by the day to day saga of whether or not legislation will pass. Schiffrin notes that this misguided trend in coverage took place surrounding the government stimulus plan of 2009. The coverage, she writes, "was in no way innovative or forward-thinking," focusing on the likelihood of the stimulus' passage rather than its effectiveness. "This time around, journalists have the chance to write more economic stories about what is actually an economic story," she concludes. "Let's hope they do."
- Doyle McManus on Why a No-Fly Zone Means Further Entanglement It didn't take long for members of Congress to sound the call for the easy-sounding "no-fly" zone as a way to deal with Qaddafi in Libya. Noting the two wars we're already tangled up in, McManus is unwavering: "Imposing a no-fly zone is an act of war," he says "the first step would have to be to knock out the country's antiaircraft batteries," and "that's an act of war too." McManus recounts a compelling list of no-fly zone situations that became much more: the First Gulf War, which tied up aircraft and crews for "more than a decade," for example, or Bosnia-Herzegovina in 1993, which eventually led to the "deployment of U.S. peacekeeping troops in Bosnia for more than eight years." As the situation continually develops and the oppositions appeals for help increase, it "won't be tenable" to sit on the sidelines for long. "But it's also worth counting to 10, slowly, before starting any war."
Gail Colllins on Women's Progress It's Women's History Month, and Barack Obama has commissioned a report on the status of American women. Collins runs down some interesting highlight while looking back at how far from the last survey, when Eleanor Roosevelt prepared a similar report for John F. Kennedy. At that time, only a little more than half of all federal civil service jobs were open to women for example, and "it was perfectly legal to refuse to hire a woman for a job because of her failure to be a man." The median age for marriage for a woman was 20, Collins says. While women currently still make on average 20 cents less on the dollar than men in comparable positions, men and women are increasingly sharing the role of supporting the family economically, and that's where the potential for progress on unequal pay lies: a turning point came on "the unknown day when the average American couple started planning their futures with the presumption that there would be two paychecks."
- Matt Miller on the Most Important Public Union Workers: Teachers Writing in the Washington Post, Miller says he understands the various nuances of the debate over public unions that has been fomenting since Governor Scott Walker's controversial actions in Wisconsin. He believes that both sides make some valid points: while "public-union work rules often create crazy inefficiencies," he says,"public workers ... didn't cause the financial meltdown that blew a hole in these budgets in the first place." There's one thing he thinks is unarguable: "The future of the country depends on the public-sector workers known as teachers," and teaching jobs are still not paid enough to "attract the kind of talented young people we need." Countries with strong education systems like Finland, Singapore and South Korea, all have strong teacher's unions. "Wisconsin's math scores put its students behind not only Korea, Finland and Taiwan, but behind Slovenia, Estonia and Lithuania," Miller says. That's something Governor Walker should think about fixing, too.
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Eli Rosenberg is a writer in Washington, D.C. whose work has appeared on Esquire.com, Salon, and The Onion's A.V. Club.