06/22/2012 archive

A Brief History of Modern Egyptian Politics

As Mubarak Lay Dying

Posted by Lawrence Wright, The New Yorker

June 20, 2012

Sixty years ago, a group of military officers, led by Gamal Abdel Nasser and Anwar Sadat, forced Farouk I, an Ottoman leftover who styled himself King of Egypt and Sudan, Sovereign of Nubia, Kordofan, and Nubia, to rush to his yacht and seek exile in Monaco. In this effort, they were assisted by the C.I.A., which was dismayed by the decadence and corruption that characterized Farouk’s reign. The operation was known informally as “Project FF”-Fat Fucker. It was one of the many attempts to steer Egypt in what American policymakers think might be the right direction. They must look back at that period with a sense of woe-if, indeed, they ever reflect on history at all.

Nasser’s charisma and energy awakened the entire region to the postcolonial era, but he failed to find an accommodation with the Islamic trend, and he turned to Israel as a scapegoat. Sadat, his successor, had the courage to reach a peace treaty with Israel. He saw the foolishness of depending on the Soviet Union as an ally and socialism as an economic model. He also tried to find a way to incorporate the Islamists into civil society, at least by letting them out of prison, and they responded by murdering him.

Hosni Mubarak, who now may be dying-Tuesday, he was briefly reported clinically dead-was an excellent military officer, and a capable bureaucrat, but he had no independent vision and no idea how to escape the impediments to progress that the original coup had imposed. Immediately after Sadat’s assassination, in 1981, Mubarak imposed emergency rule, which essentially authorized unbridled dictatorial power masked by a façade of democratic elections. Under his rule, freedom of speech and assembly were tightly constrained. These restrictions on liberty crushed other forms of political expression, so that the Islamists-the Muslim Brotherhood and more radical forms of political Islam-became the only real way to voice opposition to Mubarak’s reign. Military dictatorship and Islamism became the axis upon which Egyptian politics revolved.

The decision by the Egyptian military to dissolve a freely elected parliament earlier this month-predicated on a court decision by Mubarak holdovers-amounts to a second military coup. Once again, it has been assisted by the American decision to continue to support the antidemocratic forces that have retarded the development of Egypt. A moderate Islamist government, responsive to the social needs of the country, is the best that the U.S. can expect now, and what the people of Egypt have demanded by their votes.

America is unlikely to have any influence on the future of Egypt if it continually opposes and demonizes the longing of Egyptians to achieve real democratic expression, with all its hazards. Sixty years of unaccountable military dictatorship have shown how sterile the alternative is. … (I)t’s time to pull the plug on American support of this antidemocratic, military regime.

Of course it could merely be a bathroom slip and fall.  Nothing to see here.

Punting the Pundits

“Punting the Pundits” is an Open Thread. It is a selection of editorials and opinions from around the news medium and the internet blogs. The intent is to provide a forum for your reactions and opinions, not just to the opinions presented, but to what ever you find important.

Thanks to ek hornbeck, click on the link and you can access all the past “Punting the Pundits”.

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Paul Krugman: Prisons, Privatization, Patronage

Over the past few days, The New York Times has published several terrifying reports about New Jersey’s system of halfway houses – privately run adjuncts to the regular system of prisons. The series is a model of investigative reporting, which everyone should read. But it should also be seen in context. The horrors described are part of a broader pattern in which essential functions of government are being both privatized and degraded. [..]

It’s a terrible story. But, as I said, you really need to see it in the broader context of a nationwide drive on the part of America’s right to privatize government functions, very much including the operation of prisons. What’s behind this drive?

New York Times Editorial: Void for Vagueness

It is not so common these days to see a near-unanimous Supreme Court ruling on an issue like regulation of the airwaves, but the justices issued such an opinion on Thursday that sensibly said federal authorities were wrong to conclude that Fox Television and ABC had violated indecency standards for a couple of fleeting expletives and seven seconds of partial nudity.

Writing the majority opinion (pdf), Justice Anthony Kennedy said the Federal Communications Commission’s standards were too vague and thus violated the broadcasters’ Fifth Amendment due process rights.

The narrow ruling did not address a broader issue: the government’s continued authority to regulate “indecent but not obscene” material on television. That was established in a 1978 Supreme Court case allowing the government to prohibit “indecent” speech (which the First Amendment protects) during hours when children are likely to be watching or hearing the broadcast.

Robert Sheer: Health Care: Give the People What They Want

The nutty thing about the health care debate that will play a prominent role in the next election is that most Americans want pretty much the same outcome: to control costs without sacrificing quality. And that’s not what either major-party candidate is offering. Few think that Obamacare, a Romneycare descendant that contains the same kind of individual mandate the then-governor of Massachusetts signed into law, will get us to that desired goal. Nor would Mitt Romney, who has been reborn as a celebrant of the old, pre-Obama system with a few nips and tucks.

As the nation awaits a Supreme Court ruling on the constitutionality of the Obama health care approach, a new Associated Press-GfK poll suggests that the vast majority of Americans want Congress to come up with a better plan. They know that the current system is unsustainable. Only a third of those polled favored the law President Barack Obama signed, but according to the AP, “… Whatever people think of the law, they don’t want a Supreme Court ruling against it to be the last word on health care reform.” The article continued, “More than three-fourths of Americans want their political leaders to undertake a new effort, rather than leave the health care system alone if the court rules against the law, according to the poll.”

E. J. Dionne, Jr.: We’re Not Greece

If the United States were still governed under the Articles of Confederation, might California be in the position of Greece, Spain or Italy?

After all, California has a major budget crisis and all sorts of difficulties governing itself. Its initiative system allows voters to mandate specific forms of spending and to limit tax increases and also make them harder to enact. Absent a strong federal government with the power to offset the impact of the recession and the banking crisis, how would California fare in a global financial system? [..]

But the metaphor is instructive because it turns on its head the usual nonsense from anti-government politicians that the United States is on the road to becoming Greece. No, we’re not. Our issues are entirely different. To the extent that the crisis in Europe has lessons for the United States, they go the other way.

Michael T. Klare: Is Barack Obama Morphing Into Dick Cheney?

As details of his administration’s global war against terrorists,  insurgents, and hostile warlords have become more widely known-a war that involves a mélange of drone attacks, covert operations, and presidentially selected assassinations-President Obama has been compared to President George W. Bush in his appetite for military action.  “As shown through his stepped-up drone campaign,” Aaron David Miller, an advisor to six secretaries of state, wrote at Foreign Policy, “Barack Obama has become George W. Bush on steroids.”

When it comes to international energy politics, however, it is not Bush but his vice president, Dick Cheney, who has been providing the role model for the president.  As recent events have demonstrated,  Obama’s energy policies globally bear an eerie likeness to Cheney’s,  especially in the way he has engaged in the geopolitics of oil as part of an American global struggle for future dominance among the major powers.

Ellen Brown: Why the Senate Won’t Touch Jamie Dimon

When Jamie Dimon, CEO of JPMorgan Chase Bank, appeared before the Senate Banking Committee on June 13, he was wearing cufflinks bearing the presidential seal. “Was Dimon trying to send any particular message by wearing the presidential cufflinks?” asked CNBC editor John Carney. “Was he . . . subtly hinting that he’s really the guy in charge?”

The groveling of the Senators was so obvious that Jon Stewart did a spoof news clip on it, featured in a Huffington Post piece titled “Jon Stewart Blasts Senate’s Coddling Of JP Morgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon,” and Matt Taibbi wrote an op-ed called “Senators Grovel, Embarrass Themselves at Dimon Hearing.” He said the whole thing was painful to watch.

“What is going on with this panel of senators?” asked Stewart. “They’re sucking up to Jamie Dimon like they’re on JPMorgan’s payroll.” The explanation in a news clip that followed was that JPMorgan Chase is the biggest campaign donor to many of the members of the Banking Committee.

Nathan Lean: American Enterprise Institute Embraces Islamophobia

The American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research (AEI) is one of the nation’s oldest and most influential conservative think tanks. It is a bastion of Republican values and has, since its founding in 1943, had its finger on the pulse of mainstream issues that have united the GOP. A number of U.S. presidents and presidential candidates have relied on the work of its scholars, and its board reads like a Who’s Who of red-state leaders.

But recently the AEI took a broad step to the right and firmly planted its feet on the other side of the line that divides the sensible Republican Party from fringe extremists. It announced that its resident scholar Michael Rubin would join blogger Robert Spencer, who is a vitriolic critic of Islam, and writer Claire Berlinski to lead a 10-day tour of Turkey. The excursion (whose participants must cough up more than $4,500 each) is being organized by the David Horowitz Freedom Center, a right-wing activist group named for its founder, who in addition to being Spencer’s sugar daddy (Horowitz funds Spencer’s blog Jihad Watch and publishes his articles on FrontPage Magazine) has led campaigns against the Muslim Student Association and said such things as Islam is a religion of hate and Palestinians are “morally sick.”

On This Day In History June 22

This is your morning Open Thread. Pour your favorite beverage and review the past and comment on the future.

Find the past “On This Day in History” here.

Click on images to enlarge.

June 22 is the 173rd day of the year (174th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 192 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1944, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signs into law the Servicemen’s Readjustment Act of 1944, commonly known as the G.I. Bill.

The G.I. Bill was an omnibus bill that provided college or vocational education for returning World War II veterans (commonly referred to as G.I.s) as well as one year of unemployment compensation. It also provided many different types of loans for returning veterans to buy homes and start businesses. Since the original act, the term has come to include other veteran benefit programs created to assist veterans of subsequent wars as well as peacetime service.

By the time the original G.I. Bill ended in July 1956, 7.8 million World War II veterans had participated in an education or training program and 2.4 million veterans had home loans backed by the Veterans’ Administration (VA). Today, the legacy of the original G.I. Bill lives on in the Montgomery G.I. Bill.

Harry W. Colmery, a World War I veteran and the former Republican National Committee chairman, wrote the first draft of the G.I. Bill. He reportedly jotted down his ideas on stationery and a napkin at the Mayflower Hotel in Washington, DC.[2] U.S. Senator Ernest McFarland was actively involved in the bill’s passage and is known, with Warren Atherton, as one of the “fathers of the G.I. Bill.” One might then term Edith Nourse Rogers, R-Mass., who helped write and who co-sponsored the legislation, as the “mother of the G.I. Bill”.[citation needed] Like Colmery, her contribution to writing and passing this legislation has been obscured by time.

The bill was introduced in the House on January 10, 1944, and in the Senate the following day. Both chambers approved their own versions of the bill.

The bill that President Roosevelt initially proposed was not as far reaching. The G.I. Bill was created to prevent a repetition of the Bonus March of 1932 and a relapse into the Great Depression after World War II ended.

An important provision of the G.I. Bill was low interest, zero down payment home loans for servicemen. This enabled millions of American families to move out of urban apartments and into suburban homes. Prior to the war the suburbs tended to be the homes of the wealthy and upper class.

Another provision was known as the 52-20 clause. This enabled all former servicemen to receive $20 once a week for 52 weeks a year while they were looking for work. Less than 20 percent of the money set aside for the 52-20 Club was distributed. Rather, most returning servicemen quickly found jobs or pursued higher education.

Doing The Unthinkable

First a bonus track-

Green Shoots

Doing The Unthinkable

Terence Burnham is dead wrong.  Krugman actually does prefer Option B (“devalue through a new Spanish currency”)-

What are Spain’s alternatives here? Well, if they still had their currency, their own currency, the answer would be devalue, let the peseta drop, Spanish exports would become a lot more competitive, they’d be well on their way to recovery. They don’t have their own currency, so people are saying: Well, you have to do all this stuff to stay within the Euro. At some point you say: Well, you know if your answer to our problem is just ever more suffering, ever more you know… 25 percent, 50 percent youth unemployment. If that’s your notion of a solution, then maybe although it would be a very terrible thing to have the Euro breakup, maybe that’s better than what we’re doing. So that’s becoming a real possibility now.