Archive | April, 2011

Traveling to Israel and Palestine – Back May 9th

I will be in Israel and Palestine until May 9th and do not plan to post during that time, although I reserve the right to change my mind!  Thanks for visiting.  Tune in May 10th!

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Fatah and Hamas Agree on Reconciliation

In the ever-quickening pace of Middle East developments, today Hamas and the major PLA political group, Fatah, agreed on the basics of a reconciliation plan.  The news took the region by surprise.  Israeli PM Netanyahu pledged that peace with Israel is impossible if Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza reconcile.   Aljazeera reports:

Marwan Bishara, Al Jazeera’s senior political analyst, said: “It is important news … the geopolitical situation wasn’t exactly helpful [to reconciliation] and then we went through six months of upheavals, certainly sweeping through Egypt.

“At the end, you could say that President Abbas has lost his patron in Egypt, which is President Mubarak, and Hamas is more on less facing almost similar trouble now, with Bashar Al-Assad [Syria's president] facing his own trouble in Damascus.”  So with the US keeping a distance, Israel not delivering the goods on the peace process and the settlements, it was time for Palestinians to come together and agree on what they basically agreed on almost a year and a half ago.

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Kyl Want to Stike Planned Parenthood Comments from Congressional Record

This is disgusting.  Kly should be censured for making the comments in the first place (see below).  But now he wants to pretend it didn’t happen.  There seems to be a Senate rule whereby Senators can just erase and leave no track record of what they’ve said.  The Week ridicules the charade.

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Mortage Modification Works in PA

Disappointment in the Obama Administration’s home mortgage assistance program is high.  It has helped about 20% of its targeted load.  Pennsylvania’s come up with a different program that the NY Fed studies that cuts cost of loan modifications significantly:

The New York Fed study says the HEMAP program can be cheaper for taxpayers and help a large number of troubled homeowners. It compares the two approaches by evaluating costs on assistance for two hypothetical mortgages valued at $210,000 at the time of unemployment. The HAMP (federal) modification program, the report argues, costs the federal government $13,600 while the HEMAP (state) program cost Pennsylvania $1,620.

The HEMAP program is also liked by banks because, as news reports have shown, loan servicers cannot keep up with the number of loans eligible for modification.  Maybe the Feds should develop a best management practices (BMP) program for each of the thousands it administers.  If a state does things better, replace the federal with one patterned after the state.  There should be enough electronically captured data to do this program by program.

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Bashir Assad: How Long Can he Hold Out?

Despite warnings of government reprisal, demonstrators have become emboldened in recent days, escalating demands from the kind of changes Mr. Assad has announced to louder calls for the end of the regime. “The window of opportunity is closing for Assad. The government got behind in this race,” said David Lesch, a Syria expert and professor of Middle East history at Trinity University. “The opposition is not a monolithic mass and many of them have different agendas and objectives but more and more they are coalescing around the idea that Assad must go.”

WSJ

Over 80 dead are reported in the government crackdown on Friday April 22. The government is struggling to contain the demonstrations. Some think that they would not grow indefinitely were the government to permit them to go ahead. Who knows? Clearly the government is not prepared to find out. Many Syrians fear chaos and are staying inside. It is hard to figure out how many are coming out to demonstrate; the numbers continue to grow. The Maydan district at the heart of traditional Damascus was the site of several killings. [Correction the day after - Reuters: "In Damascus, security forces fired teargas to disperse 2,000 protesters in the district of Maydan." No deaths are reported today in the Maydan and only small numbers of demonstrators. This can be read as "good news"  for the regime because the demos were very small, or "bad news" because demos began in the heart of traditional Sunni Damascus.] -  Syrian Comment

Dozens were killed as protests in over 10 Syrian cities showed no sign of letting up.  Hundreds braved police lines in Damascus before being beaten back, as opposition forces clearly rejected the ending of the Emergency Law as too little too late.   Assad has failed miserably to strike a balance between repression and granting reforms to quell the opposition.   Now the democracy advocates want an end to the Assad regime.


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Mubarak-Israel Gas Deal Questioned

Persistent public suspicions about corruption and mismanagement that swirl around Egypt’s secretive deal to sell natural gas to Israel prompted Egypt’s public prosecutor on Friday to extend the questioning of former President Hosni Mubarak for 15 days, judicial officials said.The announcement, carried by the government-run Middle East News Agency, came after the agency reported that the former oil minister, Samih Fahmy, and five other top officials had been imprisoned pending an investigation of the deal.

Egypt is said to have lost $714 million on the natural gas line project.  Mubarak is being held for fifteen more days of questioning.  The former oil minister and his business associates are suspected of buying the gas below value and skimming off a handsome profit for themselves.  The secretive deal may have also diverted gas needed in Egypt to Israel, and was one of the corruption charges leveled by demonstrators at Tahrir Square.

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Arab Renaissance: “Forget about Nassar. Time for Arab Unity is Now”

Pareg Khanna of the New America Foundation writes one of the most insightful pieces I’ve read about a coming Arab Renaissance in Foreign Policy:

From the time that Gamal Abdel Nasser took hold of Egypt in 1954 to Muammar al-Qaddafi’s charismatic coup in Libya in 1969, a generation of leaders came to power riding the wave of anti-colonial Arab sentiment. But decades of post-colonial entropy and decay have culminated in collapse. The Arab world is now graduating from anti-colonial to anti-authoritarian revolutions.

I’ve thought that the rise of Al Queda and like-minded religious-anarcho groups gained steam in the last thirty years in the wake of a failed Pan-Arab nationalism as envisioned by Gamal Nasser.  Mr. Khanna traces today’s revolts and the promise they hold for the region from the post-WW1 partition through the betrayal of Arab independence by coups and autocratic power grabs during the ’50s and 60s.  He makes the case that today’s uprising can restore and complete the promise of Arab independence won over 50 years ago.

Why have these democratic movement swept the Arab world now, in the first months of 2011, and not five years or 8 or 12 years before?  That seems to be the burning question for academics and policy-makers.  The Nasser generation, like Mubarak and Seleh, would generally be the grandparents (maybe some the great-grandparents) of current pro-democracy activists.  They would have grown up under colonial regimes.  The current generation grew up under mature and ossifying autocracies who played the post-colonial powers against each other but couldn’t grow stuck in their shadows.

I’ve heard several Palestinians, now in the 40-50 age bracket, say that peace won’t come to the Middle East for at least two more generations.  The memories of  the past and current behaviors based on resentment of those memories have to die off with the generations that harbors them.  Only then will the new generations be able to solve the problems, even the Palestinian/Israeli conflict, for their own benefit and progress.  Maybe this generation is the first fully cleansed of historical demons.

 

 

 

 

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Democrats Finally Laugh at Republicans

watch?v=5z7FiBsR8OQ&feature=player_embedded

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