The Violent Egyptian House of Mirrors

Deadly clashes erupted in Cairo and other cities over the last two days, leaving at least 10 people killed and hundreds injured.  Nevertheless, Kamal Ganzouri, the temporary PM picked by the military, insisted that there was no violence even as it continued outside his window.

A key tactic of the Egyptian military has been to play Egyptian against Egyptian first by attacking the Egyptian Coptic population and blaming it on supporters of the democratic movement, then by declaring election procedures aimed at spitting the secular democrats and moderate Muslims and yesterday,  by staging a pro-military demonstration Saturday morning.

Chaos is good for the military

And that’s what they want to show.  They want to confuse the situation and divide their opposition by appealing to the undeniable desire of the Egyptian public for normalcy after 9 months of upheaval.  But the military is going all-out, ignoring recommendations on how to end the violence made by a civilian advisory council it appointed within the last month.

It’s possible that the military has decided to switch tactics from compromising with the various pro-democracy factions fighting to clamping down on protesters and whipping up suspicion and division among them.

But it doesn’t come easily for the SCAF.  The military may have counted on violence right before elections to sow chaos into the multi-day, multi-provence process.  Instead, a determined population ensured the elections went smoothly.

Updates later.








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Florida: Epicenter of Bigotry

Inexplicably, The New York Times ran a fine expose of the Florida Family Association, which successfully petitioned Lowes Corporation to pull its commercials from the TV Show ‘All-American Muslim’ in its Religion section near the end of its ‘A’ section.

David Caton is the founder and only member of the co-called Florida Family Association, a split-off from the American Family Association.  Anti-Muslim bigotry is so intense in America today that one man with an email list scared Lowe’s Home Improvement into dropping sponsorship of the Learning Channel’s ‘All-American Muslim’ – a reality show depicting Muslims as regular Americans dealing with all the problems in life in the same way most of us do.

This is unbelievable.  First Florida gives us the pastor who announced to the world that he will burn a copy of the Koran.  Now we have one guy on his own campaign to cancel the one show on American TV that seeks to portray an honest portrait of Muslim Americans.

Why?  Because there are no terrorists in the show!  Caton ‘reasons’ that the show contains a corrupting, hidden agenda to make Islam acceptable in the US.  I guess once it is accepted as part of religious life in the US, the ‘hidden agenda’ will be released by ginnies inside a magic bottle.

I didn’t know it was so easy to fool American corporate executives.  Didn’t Lowe’s advertising people do a tiny bit of research? Where did their spokeswoman get the idea that ‘All-American Muslim’ is a ‘controversial show’?  I’ve never seen it but the only things I’ve seen written about it is that it’s boring.  The real live of Muslims are too boring for reality TV!

I don’t believe in one-person, moral boycotts.  But I know I’d never shop in a Lowe’s again.  Crass consumerism aside, this company is run by social  idiots.




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Syria Boiling – Death Toll Now 5,000

After the largest and one of the most deadly Friday afternoon demonstrations against the Assad government, the death toll has reached 5,000.  The Syrian opposition has increased its demand that the Arab League take action against Assad, including sanctions.  The League announced it would meet Wednesday, call for Assad to stop violence and begin negotiations and push for him to allow League representatives into Syria to monitor the situation and ensure compliance.

In the meantime, Russia offered its own Security Council resolution calling for all parties to cease violence and begin negotiations.  Neither asks for sanctions or foreign help.  Russian and China vetoed anti-Assad resolutions proposed by the European Union in October.

Assad has simply blown off all attempts by the Arab League to stop the violent clashed, first agreeing to a cease-fire and then clamping down on demonstrators the next day.  But the Syrian economy is hurting and Turkey, its neighbor and one-time ally, has even hinted about sending troops into Syria to prevent a wave of expected refugees entering Turkey as the situation worsens.

Members of the opposition and international communities are split on whether Russia’s proposal marks a real step on Russia’s part to rein in Assad or is window dressing.  If Assad goes down, Russia will emerged substantially weakened in its influence across the region.


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Obama Couldn’t, Maybe Paul Can

Once again, blogs are on fire.  This week, Andrew Sullivan, the maestro of the blogsphere, endorsed Ron Paul for the GOP nomination.  (He still supports Obama for the general elections.)  Others, including other media, criticized Fox News for their condescending and unfair coverage of Paul’s campaign, and Fox ended up giving Paul an unusual amount of time in this week’s debate to explain his ideas.

Jonathan Chait is astounded that many left-of-center politicos or pundits so appreciate a man whom he chronicles as promoting some serious racist views.  Frum blames everything sectarian about today’s GOP on the libertarian trend that Paul represents.

Wow! The ‘intellectuals’ -both right and left – seem obsessed with Paul.  Why? After all, Paul had an intense and vocal following in 2008 which got him into the GOP debates as a sid-show.

This year is different.  He may even win Iowa and has shown stamina in other states leading up to the primaries.  More importantly, at a time when it’s downright embarrassing to listen to what comes out of the mouths of each GOP candidate for the presidential nomination, Paul is at least consistent, humble and genuine.  This in itself is attracking attention.

But Paul’s real contribution to American politics in 2011 is his uncompromising anti-interventionist foreign policy framework.

In 2008, Obama held out the promise of the new path for US foreign policy.  He was against the Iraq war and pledged to ‘talk to’ enemies like Iran and to solve the Israeli/Palestinian conflict.

Obama instead has proved a ‘realist’ without the scope and vision that once defined realism nor does he offer an integral, unique vision arising from his own views.

Here comes Paul.  The Iraq war was a huge waste of money.  So are all the other costs of America policing of the world.  Iran isn’t a threat; it doesn’t even have the flying ability to reach the US.  In fact, Iran reacts to what it sees as American military moves all around it, primarily American troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, but this summer NATO actions in Libya, with threats against its ally, Syria.  Iraq is in defensive, not offensive, mode.

Israel is more a problem than an asset for the United States. Why should the US stay involved in the ‘peace process’?  Let them figure it out on their own.

Paul is the only politician within the Democrats or Republicans who can and does consistently advocate a new way of looking at the US role in the world.  His world view counters establishment ‘realism’, ‘neoconservatism’ , ‘liberal imperialism’, an ill-define and muffled ‘Obama’ doctrine and other theories so in vogue in America since it became a Great Power after WW2 – a phenomenal rise for a country not yet 200 years old!

Paul appealed to strong sentiments within the American electorate in last night’s GOP debate.  Why are we trying to change the world: we have too many problems here.  All the money going into war would be better spent here.

Paul ignores  ‘popular’ intellectual discussions about, say, Iran.  He offers up a completely different world view.  It’s no longer ‘should we have given more  support to the Green movement’ or ‘how close are the Mullahs to possessing a nuclear bomb’?

It’s ‘why are we in this conflict with Iran in the first place’?  Maybe Iran is reacting to the Anglo-American coup against their democratically-elected government in 1953; the forced installation of a brutal Shah; support for Iraq during the Iraq/Iran war; the rejection of Iran’s olive branch to the US after 9/11?

I voted for Obama because I thought he would put American foreign policy on a new track.  I thought he might actually do something with Iran on the same level that Nixon did with China.  But that takes skill, patience and sometimes years of preparation, not to mention a clear understanding on both sides of what each gets out of it.  It didn’t happen.

I thought Obama would actually work behind the scenes for a regional solution to Iraq and Afghanistan.  Deals with Assad. Deals with Saudi Arabia.  That did not take off.

Paul dismisses all that. As a candidate he asks: could America help build an international order based on trade that could move beyond the balance of power politics that has been the foundation of international relations for several centuries.

I may be reading too much into Paul’s views as well as Obama’s.  But the world went from a regional balance of power framework for understanding   foreign policy relations, into a two superpowers framework, and now into something variously described as a’unipolar’ model, a ‘multi-polar’ world or a ‘hyper power’ framework.  If not these, then the foundation is  ‘American decline’ and paralysis among everyone else.

This is too much, too fast.  Someone who can get the stage has to advocate for a competing world view.  That wasn’t Obama.  At least for a moment, it’s Paul







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Is Israel Out of Control?

Despite the early wars with Arabs, it’s invasion/occupation of Lebanon in the 1980s, its continued settlement building since it signed the Oslo agreements in the early 1990s, the brutal Olympic assassinations in ’68,  first infatada, the assassination of Rabin, the provocation by Sharon in 2000, the second infatada,  genuine yet failed attempts at negotiations in 2000 and 2008, continued settlement building, its atomic bombs, the justified invasion of Gaza in 2008 followed by the unjustified over-reaction by the military, despite the flotilla deaths, despite its break with Turkey, continued settlement expansion, the Arab Spring, Egyptian soldiers killed by the IDF – despite all of this, it never occurred to me before this year that Israel could cease to be.

I am neither Israeli nor Jewish and quite frankly, believe the way Israel was created in 1948 was problematic.  I  believe that both Jews and Palestinians have national claims to the same land and that a two state solution is the only way forward to resolve the conflict.

But reports of Israeli settlers ‘not only attacking Palestinians’ (going on for years) but now turning on the IDF (Israeli Defense Force) makes clear that Israel’s genuine  ‘existential threat’ is itself.

Netanyahu’s pledge to clamp down on the violence is transparently phony. when  through the lens of his government’s regime.  Mr. Netanyahu pays lip service to resolving Israel’s war on the Palestinians.

The Likkud Party and its rightist partners have instead ,treacherously set the settlers, and with them the Palestinians, up.  By allowing continued settlement authorized by the Israeli state, yet signaling ambiguity on how ‘unauthorized settlements’ are handled, the Netanyahu government – whether intentionally or not – has manipulated the settlers into violence.  And the Palestinians will pay not only in having their mosques and homes defaced. Netanyahu will use these latest episodes to cause fear within Israel of a complete breakdown is a peace settlement is ever reached.

Netanyahu wants Israelis to believe that Israel is on the verge of chaos.  But Hamas is arresting other militant parties involved in the latest Palestinian rocket fire into Southern Israel and observing a two-year old truce.  The PLA renounced violence years ago.

Netanyahu stirs the pot continually, and now use the Israeli on Israeli violence as his newest weapon in avoiding peace.


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Last GOP Debate!! Thank God!

All hail the last GOP debate!  I watched the first 1 1/2 hours of it.  Once again, Bachmann stood out as relentless.  Perry did better but not that much better.  I thought Newt got into a style of ‘explaining’ his positions instead of throwing them out as bombs.  Doesn’t work for him.  It got boring.  Sort of like: oh, here we go again, they’re distorting my words, I have to set them right, so here’s what I really said blah, blah, blah.  He’s too comfortable in his feisty skin.

Romney was on fire.  His response to Newt’s criticism of Bain Capital deals was inspired, especially bringing up how many jobs were lost by Obama’s restructuring of GM. ‘You win some, you lose some.’

Fox must have really be chagrined by the flack it took from other media about putting down Ron Paul in their highly condescending coverage of his campaign because Ron got a lot of face time and used it well, making a strong case about why Iran is not a threat to the US.

In short, the debate was predictable, covered no new ground and hopefully all participants went home and took a long shower with lye soap.  That’s what I’m going to do.  The new meme out there: the ‘cootie’ defense.



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Pentagon: Pants on Fire

(click to right under ‘featured’ for a previous article)

The Pentagon is itching to sell armed drones to NATO allies, supposedly to spread the burden of reconnaissance and direct hits on terrorists in Afghanistan and future war arenas.  The US already sells drones, also known as UNFs, for reconnaissance to many countries, but only the UK is authorized to receive the armed version.  The stakes are enormous.

Drones don’t spell out a new area of warfare in the same way the atomic and hydrogen bombs ushered in a new arena of war and war lexicon.  ‘Mutually Assured Destruction’ is the key strategic ‘insight’ atomic powers developed, particularly the US and Soviets, to manage and prevent nuclear warfare.  ‘Containment’ of another nuclear power became US policy against the option of appeasement of the USSR after WW2 or immediate preparation a new war over Europe.

If the atomic age made warfare too destructive for any power to unleash it, the drone age makes it more antiseptic and distant.  Big land, air and sea battles were fought to take out enemy defenses, equipment and offensive capability, always measured in terms of infrastructure destroyed and enemy killed.

What will become the measure of successful drone warfare?  So far, it’s been mainly used for assassination and highly targeted killings of individuals or groups of individuals without as much ‘collateral waste’ or civilian casualties associated with traditional warfare.

Does that mean that in the future the first goal in war will be cutting off an enemy’s head?  Will the initial knocking out the Pattons and McAuthurs and Petraeus’s, then the next five layers of leadership spell quick victory?  How would that reconcile with the truly vicious bombing of WW2 where high-tech equipment and distance from the target actually encouraged more carnage?

We don’t know the answers.  We haven’t had much of a discussion.  For the Defense Department to sell armed drone, even to allies  would be premature and dangerous.

Of course, even if armed drone become popular in the future, no one should doubt America’s resolve or technical know-how to build even more lethal, hidden and sanitary methods to kill enemy forces to stay one step ahead.



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Fox News vs. Ron Paul

Blogs are ablaze!  Media critics are circling Fox News for its smug, condescending and unfair coverage of Ron Paul’s campaign for the GOP presidential nomination.


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