Adonis Diaries

Archive for November 9th, 2011

You may afford it, but would you be able to buy real estates in Bridgeport, Fairfield County, Connecticut?

Real Estates law says:  “You shan’t discriminate against color, race, genders, level of education, religion…What matter is: Can you bring the money to the table?”  This law is valid for the common people, but it is certainly the highest kind of bigotry to the richest old-money class in any society. This secret club of  old-money families decides on the critical directions in internal and external public policies.  Old-money club members are not necessarily the richest, but figure in the top 1000 list.

Old-money families acquired wealth by the blackest methods applied since time immemorial, they extended their acquisition into political circles, and “whitened” their money through the highest political charters and laws.  You may afford it, but would you be able to buy real estates in Bridgeport, Fairfield County, Connecticut?

Larry Bartels, a professor of public policy at Vanderbilt University, wrote: “One of the most important consequences of extreme economic inequality — and Bridgeport’s inequality is on a par with Guatemala’s or Liberia’s — is that it discourages people from thinking of themselves as part of a single community.”  Patrick Speer, a Bridgeport native who has been a professional organizer for religious congregations for 22 years, said:  “You’ve got the wealthiest State in the wealthiest country in human history, and coming home here, no one seems to have the brains or the will to change this.”

Do you think that apathy takes over most lower middle-income Americans because they believe that public officials don’t care what they think on reforming the social/economic/political system? What about  “Occupy Bridgeport” movement? Is there little local expectation that the income gap will narrow?

This corner of Connecticut has had Occupy Bridgeport events, but they have been sparsely attended. Andrea Arroyo, who organized a protest Friday, estimated that a dozen people showed up for the rally. She attributed this partly to lack of support from the suburbs. She said: “If you’re from Stratford or Fairfield, and you look at someone from Bridgeport, they look at you as a criminal because there’s a lot of crime in Bridgeport. When you’re hurt and angry, you blame the people closest to you.”

Think local and act global is a  fine statement economically and when serious reforms are on the table for detailed discussions, but in the case of local horror disparity in bigotry and indolence to the plight of the vast population, thinking global to acting locally is the best strategy available to people on the move.

BENJAMIN CARLSON published an article on Oct. 30 titled ” Gap of Luxury: Connecticut city has nation’s largest divide between rich and poor”.  The pictures look like a Real Estates brochure for promoting luxury property listed for sale, but maybe not. The Photos are taken by Brian Zak for The Daily Brian Zak for The Daily. I edited slightly and rearranged the post.

Image

The upscale Artisan restaurant in Southport caters to wealthy foodies.Image

The local pawn shop in Fairfield County, Connecticut.Image

“BRIDGEPORT, CONN. — One of the fiercest concerns of Occupy Wall Street — the stratospheric rise of economic inequality — takes its most dramatic form here, the most unequal city in America.According to newly released data from the Census Bureau, greater Bridgeport has the widest gap between the rich and poor of 516 metropolitan and micro-politan areas included in the survey. Stephen Adair, professor of sociology at Central Connecticut State University, said: “If you’re looking for ground zero for the growth of inequality in the United States, Connecticut is the place.  The top 20 percent in the Bridgeport area — which includes Fairfield County, one of the wealthiest areas in the United States — took home nearly 60 percent of the county income, while the bottom 20 percent took home 2.5 percent of the region’s money. In this nexus of billion-dollar hedge funds and bombed-out housing projects, the top 5 percent raked in a mean income of $685,000, while the bottom 20 percent’s mean income totaled less than $15,000. To put that in perspective, if the Bridgeport metro area were a country, it would rank 12th from the bottom in the world for economic equality — lower than Mexico, Papua New Guinea and Zimbabwe”.

The standard measure for comparisons is the Gini index — a 100-point scale where a 100 score indicates a country where all the income goes to one person and a zero score would be a country that divides up everything equally. Bridgeport’s Gini score is a 54, compared with 47 for the United States as a whole. By comparison, Russia’s score is 42, the United Kingdom’s is 34 and Germany’s is 27.

Over the past four decades, Adair said, Connecticut has gone from being one of the country’s most egalitarian states to the second-most economically polarized, after New York state. Traveling the few miles between Bridgeport proper and its suburbs can feel like crossing into different worlds.

On one side of the proverbial tracks, there are 50-foot sailboats, vintage Ferrari and quaint New England streets lined by immaculate colonial mansions. On the other, a quarter of the population lives in poverty, unemployment is 14 percent, and 95 percent of the kids in public schools qualify for free or reduced-price lunches.

In Fairfield, a quaint town bordering Bridgeport, there are the obvious markers of American affluence: white picket fences, jewelry boutiques and a Whole Foods with parking spots reserved for electric cars.
But a few steps from the main drag, a homeless shelter called Operation Hope caters to those lying on the opposite side of the wealth divide.

Randy Ryan, 48, comes to the shelter for two meals each day; he has lived in a tent on the outskirts of town for the last five years. Ryan said over a lunch of bow tie pasta and meatballs: “I see a lot more homeless people than five years ago. The rich are getting richer; the poor are getting poorer.” Asked what he thought of the vast mansions that surround his tent home, Ryan said: “They don’t need those big houses with 43 bedrooms. They don’t even live in half the houses! All I need is their garage or a shack on the lawn.”

One current real estate listing gives a sense of the grandeur of some homes in the area. A nine-bedroom waterfront “cottage” in Southport, featuring a spa, a tennis court and a private beach, is listed for sale at nearly $14 million.

While extreme, the story of Bridgeport is of a piece with what’s happened around the country. The gap between the top 1 percent and the rest of the country is the largest it’s been since the 1920s. From 1979 to 2007, after-tax income for the top 1 percent surged more than 275 percent while middle-class income growth remained flat, the Congressional Budget Office found in a study published last week.

How did this happen? Fabian Lange, an associate professor of economics at Yale University, argued that the gap is linked to the increasing value of a college degree and advances in technology that allowed some workers to reap greater rewards. For example: “One aspect that has been driving inequality in the last 30 years in the U.S. is that there’s a skill premium. The labor market is rewarding more highly skilled individuals today.” (How many of you believe that skilled labor is the main factor to accumulating wealth?)

Patrick Speer would like to blame it on the disappearance of factory jobs and the loss of tax revenue from neighboring towns. He said: “Connecticut abolished county government in 1960. So the suburbs zoned out all of the problems and kept them encased in Bridgeport.”

Bridgeport’s dysfunctional politics have not helped. Even with 10 times as many voters registered as Republicans, the city’s powerful Democratic machine faces no real competition, despite corruption scandals and the highest property taxes in the nation. In the last 10 years, one mayor went to prison on 16 federal racketeering charges, while another admitted to cocaine use while in office.

With such a government representing them, many residents see little hope for solving the city’s problems. At a library book sale, a sandy-haired 51-year-old local named John said, “Something needs to be done about inequality. I’m not about to become a Robin Hood.” He moved to Bridgeport for cheaper rent, he said, after taking a job as a waiter at one of the area’s numerous country clubs. He described his politics as “transcendentalist” and said he disagreed with the Occupy Wall Street protests.

This is perhaps the central problem of inequality: The bigger the gap is, the less people feel united enough to do anything about the problems associated with it.” End of article

Prosperous Syria (1833-1839): Who is Ibrahim Mehemet Ali of Egypt?

The modern-day Pharaoh of Egypt, Mehemet Ali (1805-1849), born in Kavala in Macedonia, and an illiterate soldier who ruled over Egypt, Sudan, the Arabic Peninsula, and Syria, declared in 1836 to Ferdinand de Lesseps (the French engineer who opened the Suez Canal): “Syria feeds my army. All that I dispatch to my troops are swords, fire arms and pieces of artillery…”

In 1832, Ibrahim Pasha, son of Mehemet Ali, lead his troops into Syria and defeated the Ottoman army in several battles. Ibrahim was 200 km from Istanbul and the way was clear to dethroning the Ottoman Sultan.  Mehemet Ali refused his son this strategic moment of pushing further in his military campaign: Mehemet Ali could not see himself proclaimed the caliphate of Islam.

Finally, Sultan Mahmoud II, with the support of the western European powers, agreed to relinquish Syria to Mehemet Ali to administer.  Ibrahim became the new administrator of Syria (which included current Palestine, Lebanon, and the southern part of Turkey, and the strategic region of Adana).

Generalissimo Ibrahim transformed Syria drastically: For the first time in its history, Syria enjoyed an efficient and real central government.  The Ottoman Empire in the last 4 centuries, and all the empires that ruled Syria, appointed governors to cities. Before Ibrahim ruled, the Ottoman Empire sold governorship for 100,000 ducats. Ibrahim eliminated governors and unified Syria under a single administration located in Damascus.

Syria became one vast internal market, and all barriers for commerce and trades were broken down. The Syrians were called upon, for the first time in centuries, to serve in the highest administrative civil posts and in the army.

The French traveller Mimaut wrote in 1836: “I travelled in all of Syria without guards or escorts. I had no fear of being ambushed or kidnapped…”  The British colonel Damis wrote in 1838: “Commerce in Syria and with Syrian merchants is brisk and increasing each year.  The British traders are benefiting the most from all other European traders.  Ibrahim Pasha has tamed all the virulent tribes, Bedouins, Kurds, and Turkoman. Trade is flourishing in Beirut, Alexandretta, Damascus, and Aleppo…”

Import/export taxes on products were set at 3%, instead of 30% during the Ottoman administrations. The ports of Saida and Alexandretta were made usable and functional. The port of Beirut witnessed a four fold increase in import duties of about 3,000 bourses.

Ibrahim focused on modern agricultural methods: Olive, mulberry trees for silk worms, vine orchards, and cereals production multiplied many folds.  Swamps were dried up. Canals were digged for irrigation, roads constructed, and the rivers of Tarsus made navigable…

Industry mushroomed: Damascus produced 400,000 pieces of silk cloth mixed with cotton, Hebron sold to all Syria and Egypt its blue-glass lamps and bracelets… Mines of iron, coal, porphyry were in full exploitation.

Pilgrims to Jerusalem, regardless of religious affiliations, didn’t have to pay a dime in order to enter the city. Christians in Syria were no longer obligated to wear distinctive clothes to discriminate them from Moslems, and they could not be forced to serve in the military. Ibrahim introduced libraries: There was not a single library in all Syria. Public schools were established for mainly military needs at first.

The most deadly mistake was a misconception of the Syrian customs of fighting any enforcement of military service and forced labor: No Empire or governor for thousand of years dared to force upon the Syrian military serve.  What exacerbated the discontent was that Ibrahim had to start disarming and collecting fire arms after the first insurrection:  Personal weapons were considered symbol of manhood and the honor of the family.

Mehemet Ali must have known this fact, but “necessity is the driving law”:  This vast empire, run from Cairo, needed a huge army to keeping security along its long borders, especially that the Ottoman Empire and England constantly conspired to destabilize the rule of Mehemet Ali.  The British Empire harassed Mehemet Ali in the Arabic Peninsula and in Yemen by supporting, funding, and arming the Wahhabi extremist Moslem sect in current Saudi Arabia.  The Arabic Peninsula became worse than Spain during Napoleon period, and exhausted the treasury.

Two vast mass insurrection in Syria convinced Mehemet Ali to cede Syria to the Ottoman Empire, in exchange of formal recognition of Egypt as a full independent monarchy to the dynasty of Mehemet Ali.

The first uprising started in Palestine, from Jerusalem and Nablus: Ibrahim had received an order from his father to recruit 120,000 men of war, as quickly as possible.  Apparently, Mehemet Ali had pieces of intelligence that the ottoman Empire was readying an army against his troops and was distributing money and arms in the Turkish provinces close to Syria.  The notables in Palestine begged Ibrahim to demand as much money they could afford, but to spare their sons from the army.  Ibrahim failed to temporize and find a smoother alternative to recruiting but to refuse the petition.

The insurrection in Palestine started in May 1834. Ibrahim managed to enter Jerusalem in June and disarmed the insurgents.  Another insurgent movement was beginning in south Turkey, and Mehemet Ali had to come personally with fresh troops.  The other more serious insurrection started in the Huran region (adjacent to the Golan Heights), mostly of the Druze sect: It was funded and armed by the British Empire.  Mehemet Ali had to assemble an additional army of 50,000 soldiers from Sudan and the Arabic Peninsula in order to vanquish this revolt, headed by Chibli al Eryan and which lasted two years, and cost Mehemet Ali in finance and soldiers more than the entire campaign against the Ottoman army.

This prosperity took a life of its own till the start of WWI, as Turkey joined in the war with Germany.  The population in Syria, particularly in Lebanon, suffered famine and thousands died and thousands more immigrated.  The less than 8 years rule of Ibrahim changed an reformed Syria: He tamed the tribes and feudal lords and instituted civic laws… and had significant impact on this region.  Just imagine if Ibrahim managed to govern Syria for another 10 years of his short life.  And our history books teach the secondary level students that Ibrahim is the villain and a monster…

Note: Although the British Empire was benefiting the most from the administration of Ibrahim to  Syria, and Mehemet Ali did his best to please the British, the long-term strategy was to avoid the creation of another younger and more vigorous Arab Empire in Egypt, and let the Ottoman Empire perish slowly but surely.  Mehemet Ali has worried the European nations by his successive acquisition of land, good management, and good foreign policies.  England didn’t want a secure Arabic Peninsula or a stable Egypt in order to maintain its dominance of the Indian trade.


adonis49

adonis49

adonis49

November 2011
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