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Monthly Archives: February 2011

In and Out of Eden

February 15th, 2011 - 1:21 pm

The world continues to simmer in interesting ways.

  • Iran lawmakers call for execution of opposition leaders — good thing they didn’t do that in Egypt.  Mubarak was a bad guy by Western standards, but he was probably not the worst of the characters in the region.
  • Obama calls for release of the U.S. diplomat in Pakistan who shot what he described as assailants. He is in Pakistani custody. The Taliban demanded that the diplomat be handed over to them. Machiavelli once wrote, “since love and fear can hardly exist together, if we must choose between them, it is far safer to be feared than loved.” In Pakistan the US has managed to be neither feared nor loved.


Making Sense of Things

February 14th, 2011 - 11:57 am

Skirmishes broke out between police and protesters outside Manama in Bahrain. “Shops stayed closed and shuttered, the streets were clear of cars amid a heavy police presence”. The NYT reports:

there were calls for universities to close in anticipation of what organizers here have called Bahrain’s own “Day of Rage,” a demonstration modeled after the uprisings in Egypt and Tunisia.

Similar scenes were being played out in Iran, Jordan and Yemen, according to the Los Angeles Times.


I Heard it on the Grapevine

February 12th, 2011 - 2:20 pm

Algerian authorities have sent out riot squads armed to the teeth and have shut down the Internet in an effort to avoid repeating the actions of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, the Daily Telegraph reported.

There were also reports of journalists being targeted by state-sponsored thugs to stop reports of the disturbances being broadcast to the outside world.

But it was the government attack on the internet which was of particular significance to those calling for an end to President Abdelaziz Boutifleka’s repressive regime.

Protesters mobilising through the internet were largely credited with bringing about revolutions in Egypt and Tunisia.

“The government doesn’t want us forming crowds through the internet,” said Rachid Salem, of Co-ordination for Democratic Change in Algeria.



February 11th, 2011 - 11:50 pm

When Iranian opposition leader Mehdi Karroubi called for a rally on Monday to support the popular uprisings in Egypt and Tunisia, he was put under house arrest according to the BBC. This came as Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, urged Egyptians to continue their protests and to “free” themselves and choose their own leaders and their own form of government. It seemed a case of “do as Teheran says and not as you see in Egypt”. An Iranian leadership eager to see unrest in other countries lost no time cracking down on its own dissidents for acting exactly on the same impulses they encouraged abroad. CNN rhetorically asks, “Will Iran change heavy-handed tactics against pro-reform protests?” Does a bear visit the woods? For the answer, see the previous paragraph and besides, CNN’s own coverage  says:


I Saw It On TV

February 11th, 2011 - 12:59 pm

One of the latest memes to come out of the Middle East is the possibility of a “digital revolution”; the emergence of a kind of leaderless movement which is united by an idea. CNN writes:

From the beginning, the revolution in Egypt was propelled by the use of social media. It at least partlybegan on Facebook with the creation of Facebook groups that gained hundreds of thousands of members and promoted the early protests in Cairo.

Events can move faster than government decision-makers can interpret them. For example, ABC News reported that “President Obama was informed of Mubarak’s decision to step down during a meeting in the Oval Office, and he watched TV coverage of the scene in Cairo for several minutes in the outer Oval office.” Even the most powerful political leader in the world now shares the same information pathways as the rest of us.

But the “digital revolution” in Egypt was not new. Its immediate predecessor was evolving right under the media’s nose in the USA under the loose name of the “Tea Party”, an appellation based on events which led to the American War of Independence.  That historical name concealed the fact that the Tea Party, like all leaderless movements, was a constantly evolving 21st century thing. The National Journal Reports that “like a fast-mutating organism, the tea party morphed from protesting in 2009 to politicking in 2010. Now, in 2011, it is morphing again, this time into a force attempting to shape national policy.”


After Mubarak

February 11th, 2011 - 10:32 am

One way to tell whether a regime has lost power is when its major symbols are overrun and no gatekeepers remain to stop it. Then the Berlin Wall is smashed down, Saddam’s statue is toppled, or Marcos’ palace is swarmed by crowds. In the case of Hosni Mubarak’s resignation, the singer is gone, but the song remains. The 82-year-old strongman is on the way out, but Egypt is still mostly under the control of the Army. This means that the story, far from having ended, is now moving into a second phase.

Time magazine reported the administration was preparing an aid package for opposition groups — but before Mubarak left.


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The Riddlers

February 10th, 2011 - 8:48 pm

President Obama, without mentioning Hosni Mubarak by name, expressed his impatience at the failure of the Egyptian government to act in an “immediate, meaningful or sufficient” way. It was the opening salvo in the bizarre code war between “they” versus “them” on behalf of the “all”.

Without naming Mubarak, Obama issued a written statement that criticized the leader for not offering clarity to his people or a concrete path to democracy. He called on Egyptian government leaders to do so, declaring: “They have not yet seized that opportunity.”

A former Bush official joined the battle of the anonymous pronouns by declaring that “he’s daring them”, probably implying that “the leader” in Egypt is daring “them” in the White House to do something about their refusal to leave.

Joel Rubin, a former State Department official under President George W. Bush, said Mubarak was directly referring to the United States on Thursday when he said he would not be pushed out by foreign powers. “He’s daring them,” said Rubin, deputy director at the Washington-based National Security Network. “The White House will have a harder time messaging now because he’s called their bluff.”



February 10th, 2011 - 1:35 pm

Although Saudi King Abdullah warned Barack Obama not to push Mubarak over the edge, according to reports by the Times of London, CIA director Leon Panetta believed the Egyptian president would step down.

Just a few minutes ago, the New York Times reported that Mubarak refused to step down. Not only did the speech prove U.S. estimates wrong, it casts doubt over whether their game plan was ever working at all.


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Middle East, Middle West

February 8th, 2011 - 10:00 pm

It’s a tale of two cities. Cairo, where a reporter is given the treatment under Mubarak, and Chicago, where a law school fellow is given the treatment under Daley. Bonus question: guess in which city the following incident happened?

The same woman reappeared, this time signaling to two plainclothes men to come up behind me where I was seated. The woman stated that only the press were allowed to ask questions and that I would have to leave. While she was speaking to me, one of the men gave me a couple of solid hits in my back and then pushed me hard on my shoulder, almost knocking me out of my chair.


Remembering Jonestown

February 8th, 2011 - 3:57 pm

When asked what I found fascinating about cats, I say “they’re still in Eden; the last link to the Garden.”  Watching cats is as far as many of us will venture to the time before Good and Evil. But in recent history the man who most tried to return to it in earnest was Jim Jones.  Alas, he failed. Until September 11, the greatest loss of American civilian life occurred at Jonestown, Guyana at his direction. Jones, mistakenly described as a “pastor” by those eager to direct readers away from the fact that he was a Communist,  was a self-described representative of the only world religion to ever arise in the West.


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