Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Mid-week Post

Remember that global warming? Yeeaaahhhhh....

If it helps, twelve out of twenty-four groundhogs predict an early spring.

How can anyone kill a face like this?

After handing a prize to Obama (of all people), this should be no surprise. If hacking into a series of computers and opening one's fool mouth is worthy of a prize, there is probably some Asian kid wondering why he is not getting a Nobel Prize for World of Warcraft.

Mubarak may have promised to step down but his supporters are still out in full force:

Backers of President Hosni Mubarak, throwing petrol bombs, wielding sticks and charging on camels and horses, attacked protesters in Cairo on Wednesday after the army told reformists demanding the president quit to go home.

Anti-Mubarak demonstrators hurled stones back and said the attackers were police in plainclothes. The Interior Ministry denied the accusation, and the Egyptian government rejected international calls for Mubarak to end his 30-year rule now.

This apparent rebuff along with the appearance of Mr. Mubarak supporters on Cairo’s streets and their clashes with protesters — after days of relatively calm demonstrations — complicated U.S. calculations for an orderly transition of power in Egypt.

In pointed comments, a senior U.S. official said it was clear that “somebody loyal to Mubarak has unleashed these guys to try to intimidate the protesters”.

Troops and tanks stood by as the violence raged.

The emergence of Mubarak loyalists, whether ordinary citizens or police, injected a new dynamic into the momentous uprising in this most populous Arab nation of 80 million people.

The protests broke out last week as public frustration with corruption, oppression and economic hardship under Mr. Mubarak boiled over. At least 140 people are estimated to have been killed so far and there have been protests across the country.

Contrary to pundits, it turns out that the Egyptian regime was neither stable nor secure. The lack of its stability is not a reflection of its weakness or lack of a resolve to oppress. It is a reflection of its inherent contradiction to the natural desire of men to enjoy their basic freedoms. Egyptians might not know what democracy actually means, but that does not make the concept any less desirable. Perhaps it is precisely its vagueness and abstraction that makes the concept all the more desirable....
It should come as no surprise to anyone that after 58 years of organized state propaganda, people would not believe for a second the government's media machine and its coverage of the events. Why they chose to believe the alternative propaganda needs more explaining. People believed the twitter messages and the facebook postings because they wanted to believe them. Tunisia had broken the barrier for many people. It mattered not that the situation and ruling formula in Tunisia is very different than the one in Egypt. Perceptions were more important than reality. If the Tunisians could do it, then so could we. With 15,000 demonstrating in Cairo, Egyptians were already texting each other with stories of the President's son escape. The only debate being whether Hosni Mubarak would escape to London or Saudi Arabia.

The next day the demonstrations continued with a promise of a return on Friday the 28th after Friday Prayers in Mosques. The regime started panicking at this moment. This was simply something they did not understand. Imagine for a second Mubarak's advisors trying to explain to the 83 year old dictator what twitter is in the first place. What was more worrying for them was that the only real force in Egyptian politics, the Muslim Brotherhood, announced its intention of joining the demonstrations. Suddenly they were faced with the prospect of hundreds of thousands of demonstrators from every Mosque in the country. They acted as every panicking authoritarian regime would act. They acted stupidly.

The internet was cut off in Egypt. Mobile phone companies were ordered to suspend services. With tools of communication disrupted the regime was hopeful that they had things under control. Simultaneously they started standard arrests of Muslim Brotherhood leaders. Things seemed for them under control. But they weren't. With every stupid panicking move by the regime, the narrative of its weakness was only reinforced for the people. People saw a regime that was scarred of the internet and they rightfully calculated that this was their golden opportunity.

Friday was an unprecedented event in Egypt. While it is impossible to guess the number of protestors on the streets that day, it is safe to say that they exceeded one million. Every Mosque was a launching site for a demonstration. The Islamists were out in full force. The slogans that day were quite different than the previous ones. Islamic slogans and activists were clearly visible. The security forces were faced with wave after wave of protestors that came from every street. In 4 hours, the security forces were collapsing.

Whether Mubarak was fully previously told about the deteriorating situation for the previous days or whether it was at this moment that he suddenly realized the gravity of the situation remains unknown. One thing is sure; the regime was not prepared for this. It is at this moment that the decision was taken to call in the army, announce a curfew, and withdraw the security forces. In reality the army did not deploy immediately. The troops and tanks that appeared in the streets were the Presidential Guard units deployed in Cairo.

The army was actually still far away from deploying in Cairo. Because no one had imagined that the situation would totally be out of control, the level of alert of the army was never raised. Officers were not called from their vacations and the whole top command of the Egyptian army was actually thousands of miles away in Washington for strategic prearranged discussions at the Pentagon. Moreover, the plan of deployment of the army never imagined a scenario where people would defy it. No one imagined that the army would be required to put a tank in every street. They thought that the mere mention of the army being called in, the sight of a few tanks, and the announcement of the curfew, would make people immediately go home scared. People did not.

The Egyptian army is hugely popular. This is due to the established mythology of Egyptian politics. The army, which is in all aspects the regime, is seen as separate by the people. The army is viewed as clean (not like the corrupt government), efficient (they do build bridges fast), and more importantly the heroes that defeated Israel in 1973 (it is no use to debate that point with an Egyptian). With the troops and tanks appearing in the streets, people actually thought the army was on their side, whatever that might mean. With an announced Presidential addressed that kept being delayed; Egyptians prepared themselves for an announcement of Mubarak's resignation.

Mubarak was at a loss. The troops could not possibly shoot people. That would not only destroy the army's reputation, but more importantly the troops practically could not do it. These guys after all were not trained for this. They do not have rubber bullets or tear gas. They only have live ammunition and tanks and the thought of actually using them in this situation was never an option. To the surprise of the regime, people just celebrated the army's arrival and started dancing in the streets defying the curfew. More importantly something else was happening as well. The looting was starting.

Read the whole thing.
And now, the obligatory Sarah Palin-related post:
Rachel Maddow is stupid. Don't just take my word for it:

So, in a segment making fun of rightwingers, the hilarious Rachel Maddow quoted liberally from a website called The website had urged Sarah Palin to call for invading Egypt – making her a mummy grizzly ripe for Maddow’s mockery.
Rachel had to run with it.

And boy did she enjoy it. A little too much, perhaps.

Too bad it ain’t real.

See, Christwire is a parody site – all the stuff is made up.

Still, she fell for it like a tourist pawing at a fake Rolex.

But that’s no big deal. It happens. We get stuff like this pitched all the time and we’ve almost been taken. And, I’m still convinced Fred Phelps is a left-wing performance artist. A damn good one, I might add.

Anyway, Maddow let her lazy assumptions about the right get the better of her. Dripping with disdain for Palin and conservatives in general – she can’t see the difference between what’s real and what’s phony.

"Okay, so Rachel Maddow's, like, "I'm reporting this Sarah Palin thing really fast because then I sound like I'm, like, wicked political or something," but I'm thinking: "Girl, the site is not even REAL!"

A happy Seolnal from me and from some others.

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