The Happy Arab News Service

Sunday, February 27, 2011

The Art of Middle Eastern Haiku

Last updated: February 27, 2011

Hokusai, Boy on Mt. Fuji

February 16, 2010

Israeli Hitech Blues


Damned be Bill Gates and his "user-friendly" Windows

The last words of a Windows user

The splash of water

Free Style:


between the Heaven and Earth

I am,

Like the blue screen of Windows

that crashed on shutdown.

Like a zombie process

of an operating system,

overwhelmed by persistent

buffer stack overflows.


for the all powerful sysadmin

to come and press

on that fateful

Reset button.

Oh Samsara!

of my never ending

reboot reincarnations


The great tide of the Yangtze river

System log is swelling with kernel errors

GUI is the stillness of mount Fuji

burried under cover of winter snow

Oh Futility of the useless mouse

February 27, 2011

Summer season has arrived

Girls dress short. Militants

oil the barrels of their rocket launchers

(Originally published here)

Abu Hokusai, Boy on Jabel Fuji

My enemy is my enemy

My enemy's enemy is my enemy

I have no friends

(Originally published here)

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Because it's coming, ya baby!

According to the WSJ, the Palestinians in the West Bank have lost patience with negotiations and the US and are planning a new strategy that include non violent resistance against Israeli settlements and military presence.

"The message that Palestinians are getting back from the Arab revolutions is the power of nonviolence," said Mustafa Barghouti, an independent Palestinian politician who has organized recent protests and helped focus them on a demand to heal the split.

Source: WSJ

It's not clear what shape the new Palestinian uprising is going to take but I would bet on Fayyad and Abbas taking their people to settlements, roadblocks and military bases to simply lie or sit on roads to block access for supplies and troops. Basically, it should be another version of Tahrir or Pearl square, distributed in hundreds of mini versions. In the face of such a peaceful blockade, the army will have to use force to remove protesters. It goes without saying that cameramen and just regular protesters with cell phones will be present in droves and the international community will be watching this thing non stop for 24 hours via al-Jazeera's special live channel. For a detailed simulation of the approaching Palestinian campaign, check this.

Right now Libya is the main show in the region, but a cloud of potential revolutions is already mushrooming on the horizon. As Gaddafi keeps digging in and refuses to flee, he is running a huge risk to become the first Arab ruler to be not only overthrown by the mob, but lynched as well. Both Ben Ali and Mubarak have escaped such an ignominious end, even though in Egypt the protesters have basically sacrificed their entire revolution and the whole agenda on a pointless campaign to get Mubarak's head. In a region where personal vendettas are soap operas of the masses, having Gaddafi torn to pieces in front of al-Jazeera cameras is bound to leave a lasting impression for the generations to come. Once the revolution in Libya reaches its logical end, another round of the reinvigorated Arab revolution is to be expected elsewhere, including the West Bank.

The Palestinian leadership in the West Bank is presently struggling to recover from a massive fallout triggered by the publication of the Palileaks by al-Jazeera. From the leaks it appears that during the last years the PA has been basically negotiating away all sacred cows of the Palestinian cause such the right of return and Jerusalem. Amidst accusations of treason and betrayal of the Palestinian cause, launching such a mass protest campaign should be the next logical step for Abbas and co. to take in order to rehabilitate themselves. If the revolutionary potential of the Palestinian Street is not channeled against Israel, the street can easily take inspiration from the revolutions in Egypt and elsewhere and turn on the leaders themselves.

In many respects, it's a return to the first Intifadah that won the Palestinians the Oslo process and return of Arafat and his Fatah to Gaza and the cities of the West Bank. As the tide is moving their way, all the Palestinians have to do now is to take their place on the wave of history and ride it together with the rest of the region. It's hard to see how they can lose here, as long as they succeed to preserve a modicum of non violence. This time the Palestinians can rely not only on the public opinion in the West and elsewhere, but also on a reaction of the recently awakened Egyptian, Jordanian and other Arab streets who finally count for something. Given that escalations of protests usually happen after Friday prayers, the beginning of the third Intifada is likely to coincide with more protests on Tahrir squares of Egypt, Yemen and other Arab countries. In terms of the global public opinion, Israel can do little to avoid having itself nicely positioned alongside Mubarak, Ben Ali and their friends.

We should have it very clear that the current situation is the culmination of a long chain of mistakes that started almost from the day one of Israel's occupation of the West Bank. The first and single most important of these mistakes was this, but to sum it all up: It was all one big mistake! The plan to establish a Palestinian state on 50% of the West Bank, floated by Lieberman very recently, is unlikely to placate the Palestinians, but even reasonable offers are now likely to be rejected. There is little Israel can do to delay the inevitable or mitigate its effect, because it's simply too late.

It's hard to know when the third intifada is about to hit the West Bank, but it can happen as soon as this or the next Friday. It does not really matter when it's going to happen. What matters is that we recognize that it's going to happen, because... Well, because it's coming, ya baby!

:D :D

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Saturday, February 26, 2011

Warming up


A revolution after liberation:
Protesters gather for Baghdad's 'Day of Rage'

This one seems finishing warming up before the main action:
Thousands Demand Yemen Leader's Departure -

Clashes in Zawiya, 30 miles west of Tripoli, Feb 24


The young men of Benghazi pounded the dreaded military barracks in the city center with everything they could find. They threw stones and crude bombs made of tin cans stuffed with gunpowder. They drove bulldozers into its walls. All under a blaze of gunfire from troops inside that literally tore people in half.

Source: AP

The Palestinians:

"The message that Palestinians are getting back from the Arab revolutions is the power of nonviolence," said Mustafa Barghouti, an independent Palestinian politician who has organized recent protests and helped focus them on a demand to heal the split.

Source: WSJ

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Thursday, February 24, 2011

Shalom Brother Leader, but the show must go on

The unforgettable show this blog was promising to the readers in Libya has surpassed all expectations. In a spectacular outburst of madness Gaddafi ordered his air force and navy to bombard Libian cities. The death toll is running in thousands. Now it seems to be only a matter of time before the opposition storms Tripoli and dangles the Brother Leader from a lamp post. The opposition will have no other choice as attempting to try Gaddafi is risky of leading to hours long orations that would decimate the court and audience and overwhelm translators from Arabic assigned an impossible task.

The time has come to add another post to my Shalom Haver series where Gaddafi will join another great "son of Africa" Yoweri Museveni, George Bush and other distinguished individuals. As the time to bid Shalom is approaching, let me praise the Brother Leader by saying that he was one of those rare individuals who could either bore the living daylights out of his audience or leave you rolling on the floor laughing for hours. There seemed to be little left between these two options.

As a global entertainer, Gaddafi has left far behind the two other clowns from the holy trinity of the UN podium clowns, namely Hugo Chavez and Ahmalalah. The Brother Leader has been on the watchlist of this blog since years. I am sure that I am not the only one who is going to miss mr. The King of kings. As we are bidding farewell to the King of kings and the leader of the revolution, I would like to pay homage to the Libyan Brother Leader by linking here one of the last anthologies of his exploits compiled by this blog.

However, we should never forget that that incredible entertainment we owe not only to Gaddafi's personal talents, but to the countless politicians and diplomats, learned idiots from academies of international relations and foreign policy, and other well intentioned individuals around the globe, whose monumental effort finds its culmination in that global podium of psychos, clowns and psycho-clowns called the United Nations. As Gaddafi is steadily progressing towards that lamp post in Tripoli, I want to calm and reassure our readers that the death of Gaddafi will not make the show stop. This is because the show cannot be stopped. This is because the show must go on. This is because we have that theater of the absurd in New York as a guarantor of free global entertainment. Shalom Brother Leader, but the show will go on.

Labels: , , ,

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Wednesday, February 23, 2011

The second wave is coming

It's time for a summary of the first wave of Arab revolutions. The first wave swept the region and left the regimes reeling while Tunisia was left without a functional government and in Libya the regime of Gaddafi looks like living through its last days. In Egypt the military managed to get hold of the situation but their grip on power is probably a rather tentative one.

A strange situation is developing in Bahrain which is threatening to put all our notions about the region on their head. Of course, Bahrain is one of the most developed countries in the region. Nevertheless, it still looks strange. Basically, the Shia in Bahrain seem getting their way despite the security apparatus being firmly under the Sunni control.

The Arab economic reform appears largely dead by now with the regimes reversing years of economic reforms. Everywhere food and fuel subsidies have been reinstituted or increased. Many regimes are rushing programs to boost employment in the public sector and putting on hold privatization programs. Budget and trade deficits are rising. On top of this a wave of labor unrest is sweeping the region driving up labor costs and putting more pressure on the budgets. Capital flight from the region is accelerating and this list of negative economic consequences can go on. The present defeat of the Arab economic reform at the hands of the revolution ensures another round of revolutionary turmoil in a few years from now, when the unemployment crisis escalates again amidst severe inflationary pressures and economic slowdown.

Meanwhile the second wave of revolutions appears about to hit the region soon. Maybe in a matter of days.

The second wave is coming

I would stick my head out and predict that Israel and Iran will be hit during the second wave. I elaborated a bit on this point here. I would only add that as far as Israel is concerned, if not this Friday, then the next one or at some point later, but the blockade of Gaza will crumble on the Egyptian side. As a matter of fact, the first march may well be launched not in the West Bank, but against Egyptian part of the border in Gaza. Though I am not sure about from which side. As a matter of fact, the wall may come under attack from both sides.

We should also have it very clear that once the genie is out of the bottle, means once the Arab Street is unleashed, it's probably impossible to bottle it back. The Arab Street is euphoric and intoxicated by the feeling of people power. Basically it looks like the Palestinians and Muslim Brothers across the border are about to take hostage the two peace treaties Israel has respectively with Egypt and Jordan. Large scale military operations in Gaza and the West Bank are probably no longer possible. Unless of course Israel is ready to risk seeing the weakened regimes in Egypt and Jordan swept away by another wave of popular unrest.

The first wave left Yemen thrown off balance and as the protests in Yemen are continuing, the country looks increasingly teetering on the bring of disintegration and civil war. For some reason the protests seem to be failing to take off in Algeria and Iran. Nevertheless, I am still cautiously betting on a revolution to break out in Tehran and other Iranian cities (Maybe because I want to see it so much).

I would also make two more observations. First of all, even in Tunisia the post revolution has disintegrated into a mess. As far as Libya and Yemen go, I can only see no longer a mess, but a disaster. The collapse of both countries can seriously cool down the enthusiasm for more revolutions. Neither Egypt is likely to have a very inspiring post revolution given the already mounting economic losses and labor unrest. In short, whatever revolutions the Arabs and Persians are planning there, they should be executed now before the post revolutionary mess in Libya and elsewhere hits TV screens.

Two, a year and a half ago, when the first signs of an approaching destabilization became apparent, I said that the regimes seemed to be missing quite a few of their once formidable teeth. Information coming from Libya is sketchy but it looks like the Libyan regime is an exception to the rule. Gaddafi apparently threw everything, from fighter jets to navy, into a battle against the protesters. Nevertheless, despite an old fashioned crackdown, the regime has already lost control over large chunks of the country. My understanding of the situation is that by now some revolutions are being fueled by the pure revolutionary contagion. This makes it difficult to know for certain where this thing is going to strike next. Basically any country in the region can find itself on the way of the next wave.

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Tuesday, February 22, 2011

A king on a very big powder keg

Jordan can be much more of a powder keg than generally believed. And I am saying this as one who not so long ago wrote a post titled exactly A king on a powder keg. To put it short, to say that the king is sitting on a powder keg may be a serious understatement. That the king was recently threatened with revolt by leaders of major Bedouin tribes, the traditional supporters of the monarchy, has amazed many. The letter addressed to the king by the tribal leaders was referred to by the media as another sign of the freedom revolution spreading through the region. However this particular visit of freedom to Jordan, besides a regular mix of populist social and economic demands, came accompanied by ominous sectarian undertones, the tribal chiefs revealed intense hostility to the king's liberal Palestinian wife.

The royal couple

The reason for this divergence between the king and his traditional tribal supporters lies in the sectarian context of the economic liberalization the king was promoting in Jordan in recent years. A recent article in the National is right on target regarding the sectarian dimension of the economic reform in Jordan.

Don Duncan
Last Updated: Feb 16, 2011

. . .

Figures from a recent census have been kept secret, but most people agree that Jordanians of Palestinian origin now represent a majority and may even number as much as 70 per cent of the country's estimated 6.4 million people. This demographic divide has an economic dimension.

Traditionally, East Bankers have dominated the public sector, while Palestinian Jordanians commanded the private sector. This arrangement worked well until the late 1980s, when a financial crisis brought in the International Monetary Fund, which demanded that the government privatise parts of what was then a very large public sector. Jordan began selling off its profit-making state-owned companies and reducing the workforce in its government ministries.

. . .

Source: Upheavals highlight tension

The king's traditional support base are the East Bankers who are probably already in minority but assured overrepresentation in the political system by various means including gerrymandering of voting districts. The logic of the economic reform, dictated by the IMF and just plain common sense, favors the more urban and educated Palestinians. This is not to say that majority of the Palestinians should be necessarily happy about subsidy cuts for food and fuel. However, the majority of those, who were capable enough to take advantage of the reforms, are Palestinians. On the other hand, the East Bankers were not only left behind, but also have to face massive layoffs in the state sector and privatized companies.

Given that the reforms are primarily benefiting the Palestinians, the king would have probably found it easier to be a king of the Palestinians. However, the king lives in the Middle East, where sectarian cages are nearly impossible to escape. So now the king is stuck with his backward tribal constituency which is in revolt against his economic policies. The king started paddling back hard on economic reforms to placate his Bedouins, but surrendering the economy to the mob is not without consequences.

East Bank Jordanians like Mr Snaid are a key base for the monarchy and the cabinet. They occupy most of the crucial positions in government and the security services and are therefore integral to the maintenance of stability in Jordan.

To stave off an escalation of the protests, the king has responded to their demands. Earlier this month, he fired his cabinet, replaced his pro-privatisation premier, and promised to invest US$125 million in the public sector.

Mr Rahman, the University of Jordan economist, said: "There is a lot of pressure on the government to hire more and more, at least to lessen the tension and to reduce unemployment."

But Jordan is facing a $20 billion debt. The problem for King Abdullah now is that to pay for the reforms he has promised his East Bank constituents, he will most likely have to increase the taxes that have been slashed in recent years to promote private enterprise.

Basically, Jordan stands apart among others Arab countries by the virtue of its sectarian situation. Non sectarian countries have the pain of reforms spread across the population. In Jordan, on the other hand, the reform hurts first of all the monarchy's limited support base. This is not to say that sectarian structure is always an obstacle for economic reforms. For example, in the same Bahrain it's the more urban Sunnis who are benefiting from market economy and not the marginalized Shia majority. No wonder the Sunni king has succeeded to make Bahrain the freest economy in the region. In Jordan, however, the situation is reverse and the king's traditional support base is now up in arms against his free market economic policies.

So by now the king appears unable to proceed with economic liberalization due to the opposition by a key constituency. However, any delay or reversal of the economic reform would have a negative impact on Jordan's economy. In terms of demography, Jordan is no Tunisia and both the population and the workforce are growing strong. The kingdom can't afford absorbing labor surpluses in the state sector for any prolonged period of time. Without a rapid and sustained growth of the private sector, the unemployment can only explode, setting off another round of instability and popular unrest among both Palestinians and East Bankers in a matter of years.

Theoretically, Jordan is packed with oil shale that can be tapped both for producing alternative oil and for extracting conventional oil and gas. In terms of oil shale reserves, Jordan may not be the Saudi Arabia of oil shale, but she can easily become another Kuwait or Qatar. The population is relatively small, future revenues can provide a significant boost to living standards and relieve the strained budget. However, the technology for extracting oil shale is very recent and to the best of my knowledge right now there are no joint ventures which are about to start producing in the next few years. Time, however, is critical.

From the Israeli perspective, Jordan and Egypt are Israel's two most important neighbors. Jordan is probably even more important than Egypt because both Israel and Jordan are challenged by the Palestinian nationalism and engaged in containment policy vs the West Bank. There is an ongoing effort on both sides of the West Bank to confine the Palestinian nationalism to within the West Bank. It's not for nothing that, while Jordan is reportedly stripping thousands of her own Palestinians of citizenship, Israel, according to the Palileaks, was suggesting annexation of Israeli Arabs areas to the Palestinian Authority. Israel's plans in the West Bank are heavily contingent on Jordan keeping control of her side of the border to prevent arms smuggling and infiltration. A hostile Palestinian state in Jordan is likely to complicate plans for any future Israeli withdrawal from the area and leave Israel permanently bogged down in the West Bank.

Israel is understandably rattled by the revolution in Egypt, but Jordan is not safe. In fact, Jordan's future is more uncertain than the future of Egypt and some possible scenarios are so nasty that they can make even a takeover of Egypt by Muslim Brothers pale in comparison.

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Sunday, February 20, 2011

Next in line, please

Last updated: February 21, 2011

February 1, 2011

Yemeni opposition plans massive protests on Thursday

Southern separatists demonstrate in Aden, South Yemen

February 11, 2011

Gaddafi is ready

Gaddafi ready for Libya's "Day of Rage", reports Ashark Alawsat. The protests are to hit the streets of Libya on February 17. The old Gaddafi is crazy as hell and some estimates put Libya's unemployment at 30%. If the protesters manage to make it to the streets, this thing may become an unforgettable show.

By courtesy of MEMRI, one of Gaddafi's best performances ever

February 12, 2011

They are coming for you, ya Bouteflika

Algeria braces for anti government protests scheduled for today.

Bouteflika about to receive the famous kiss of Ahmadinejad


The kiss is widely believed in the Middle East to posses magic qualities such as bestowing sanity and a sharpened ability to think rationally, as well as casting on a political leader a magic spell that makes him invulnerable to green revolutions

February 13, 2011

If tomorrow is not the day, then this is not the new Middle East as far as I am concerned

Tajrish, Tehran last night

Clashes in Bahrain last night

February 20, 2011

Clashes are reported from the center of Tripoli despite the most ferocious crackdown. If they can topple Gaddafi, the most insane and ruthless of them all, then sorry Israel, but there are no rules here anymore. You may be the next in line. Prepare to be put to test.

In the next videos Palestinians can be seen marching towards a nearby Israeli settlement chanting "Peaceful, peaceful". It's unclear whether the march happened after the collapse of the Palestinian government in the West Bank or the march preceded it.

Some witnesses say that the march was against an Israeli military roadblock and the shots were fired from a nearby hill which is hosting an illegal settler outpost. After the shooting violent clashes erupted between the soldiers and demonstrators. As the death toll keeps mounting, the US government appears increasingly unable to resist international calls to drop its objection for the internationally agreed solution, which includes Israel's withdrawal from the West Bank, to be imposed on both sides. Meanwhile the Arab League backed by other Muslim nations and some European leaders called for sanctions against Israel unless the Israeli government reigns in its security forces and stops "the massacre of unarmed protesters in the West Bank".

February 21, 2011

After Yemen and Libya, protests hit Wisconsin.

By the CNN Wire Staff
February 21, 2011

MADISON, Wisconsin (CNN) -- Wisconsin's growing demonstration over a budget bill continues Monday with guitarist Tom Morello of Rage Against the Machine fame planning to play for the protesters a day after Republican Gov. Scott Walker signaled no retreat on the measure. Supporters call the bill vital, but opponents label it union-busting.

The growing crowds gathering daily in Madison, the state capital, over the issue exceeded 50,000 on Saturday, according to an official estimate, and shows no sign of abating.

Source: CNN

Last night thousands of demonstrators took to the streets of Madison, battling police and setting police stations and government buildings on fire. On the other hand, hundreds of pro governor demonstrators, led by the Tea Party, were reported massing in the suburbs of the capital where they were chanting "In our spirit and our blood we will redeem you Abu Wuker". Gunshots reverberated across the city amidst street by street battles. According to unconfirmed reports, Scott Walker, better known as the Mubarak of the Midwest, has fled to Saudi Arabia.

Meanwhile the protests in Yemen entered second week with the number of protesters swelling to dozens of thousands, while in Iran thousands of people answered the opposition leaders' call yesterday and demonstrated on the streets of major Iranian cities. Basically, as far as Arab protests go, the rule of thumb seems to be that once protests enter their third day, some kind of snowballing effect starts and the protests grow increasingly likely to become unstoppable. This rule does not necessarily apply to Iran where revolutions seem to take their time with protests going on and off for weeks. This difference in revolutionary patterns has probably something to do with a certain cultural gap between the Persian and Arab civilizations explained in the next video.

In short, Yemen looks increasingly as if sliding into another Arab revolution, which in Yemen's case means high probability of total breakdown and disintegration. The protests in Iran, while sporadic and failing to take off, persist. And as long as the protests persist, the Iranian regime should be worried that things can suddenly get out of control. Abu Wuker, if he is still in Wisconsin, may want to start getting worried too.

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Friday, February 18, 2011

This is NOT YOUR revolution!

Google executive Wael Ghonim, whose heart breaking appearance on TV reignited the protests leading to the ouster of Mubarak, is reported to have been barred from the stage in Tahrir, where hundreds of thousands have converged today to attend to the Friday sermon by a revered Islamic preacher.

Ghonim tried to take the stage in Tahrir, the epicenter of anti-regime protests that toppled President Hosni Mubarak, but men who appeared to be guarding influential Muslim cleric Yusuf al-Qaradawi barred him from doing so.

Source: Al-Masry Al-Youm

Deeply frustrated, Ghonim has apparently broke out of Tahrir with his face wrapped in an Egyptian flag.

We told you this is not your revolution. Now move aside

Besides Ghonim, al-Qaradawi also sent Hosny Mubarak packing with the following words:

There is no staying longer, Mubarak, I advise you (to learn) the lesson of Zine El Abidine Ben Ali,... Go Mubarak, have mercy on this people and leave so as not to increase the destruction of Egypt.

Source: AFP

Al-Qaradawi has just returned to Egypt after a prolonged exile in Qatar. According to Reuters, today's sermon was "expected to focus on telling the faithful about the importance of their role in building a free and democratic society in the world's most populous Arab nation". Often a controversial figure in the West, al-Qaradawi, in the words of some informed Western reporters, is actually "very much in the Sunni Islamic mainstream". This is quite true.

Al-Qaradawi in his own words

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Reform and Die

February 18, 2011

Getting ahead of the Curve

President Obama warned America's autocratic allies in the Arab World that they cannot crush the Middle East's youthful "hunger" for change and should get ahead of the reform curve. This "reform or die" narrative does not square with the obvious fact that political and economic reforms in the Middle East don't travel together. The youthful hunger for jobs and elections and the Arab Street's general hunger for bread don't equal hunger for more of the badly needed free market reforms. An article in Spiegel points to this paradox - the very opposition groups are a hindrance to progress, at least to economic progress.

"Many of them are not market-economy-orientated. They are dependent on religious or left-wing ideologies," says Assaad. Yet, in order to improve the living standard of their populations, these countries have to make an effort to attract investors. "I don't know how the leaders of the opposition can sell that to their base," he says.

Source: No Quick Fix for Arab Youth's Economic Woes

I was making the same point occasionally before. The anger overload that's driving the unrest in the Middle East and elsewhere is in part a result of socio economic conditions created by a demographic explosion. To be more specific, most Arab countries are having right now the biggest youth cohort ever born in the history of the region making landfall on the already stressed labor markets. Many regimes around the region have spent the last two decades reforming their economies and have achieved a significant economic growth. The unemployment and related social ills, however, persist despite these achievements because workforces around the region are growing too fast.

Spengler was ridiculing Thomas Friedman's "Egyptians want to shape their own destiny" in ATimes, arguing that "Unless Egyptian intelligence has secretly mastered weather modification, Egyptians have very little say about their own destiny". In reality, Egyptians and other Arabs have very little say about their destiny because they have no say about their past. It's impossible to retroactively cancel births that happened in the last 30 years. It's this fact, and not the lack of political or economic reforms, that drives populations around the region nuts.

On top of this, the reforms hurt the population. In some countries the reforms even exacerbate unemployment and job insecurity at the beginning. This is particularly true about countries like Egypt and Syria who are moving their economies away from the legacy of the socialist past. Privatizations, trimming of bloated bureaucracies and similar measures are accompanied by massive layoffs. The population obviously does not like it, never mind subsidy cuts, and the reform fatigue accumulated over the previous years seems tremendous. The popular support for the political reform comes in part from the desire to roll back the economic reform of the last decades. The catch22 here is that rolling back the economic reform can only slow down the economic growth and drive the unemployment to new records.

Basically, the political reform, if implemented right now, can only end laying ground for another escalation and instability, even more severe than the current one. With Egypt and Tunisia sinking in a sea of labor unrest and the latter probably already teetering on the brink of economic collapse, this is no minor issue. It's a vicious circle in which many countries around are about to lock themselves when the pain exacerbates the instability and resistance to the economic reform which leads to more pain and the cycle repeats itself. Tunisia may yet escape unscathed due to the more advanced state of its demographic transition, but it's hard to see how other countries can avoid this fate.
Some countries may find themselves driven beyond a pain threshold after which the system can't but disintegrate and collapse into chaos.

Of course, it's perfectly possible that destabilization is exactly what the region needs right now. Basically the Middle East has spent much of its recent history in a tight grip of autocratic regimes that in many places succeeded to literally stop history from marching forward. Many are the wars, civil wars and ethnic conflicts that were delayed for decades by this false stability and they are all still there waiting for their hour. The time may have come for this region to be fast forwarded through its long delayed history and the demise of the regimes is the first step in this direction. For some here, however, catching up with the curve of history should be really about getting ahead of the curve of self destruction.

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Thursday, February 17, 2011

The Empire strikes back

February 17, 2011

The king of Bahrain had to order crackdown on the Shia protesters in the capital after their demands have nicely progressed from more political liberalization to more jobs and better housing and finally to wiping out the entire royal dynasty.


After this and similar incidents I just can't but notice that it takes a rather healthy (or better unhealthy) doze of hash and cocaine to reach the conclusion that these people can have democracy.

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Saturday, February 12, 2011

Zionism's deadly zio zooweapons

Last updated: February 12, 2011

December 9, 2010

Enraged by the WikiLeaks allegations that Russia is a virtual mafia state, white tipped sharks went on rampage in the Red Sea mauling Russian tourists (a German tourist came under attack too, probably the case of misidentification). This blog salutes the awesome predator

December 11, 2010

Whitetips in the Red Sea face mass extinction after a marine biologist confirmed that the sharks, remotely controlled by Israel via GPS devices, are native to the Red Sea. The sharks face accusations of collaborating with the Israeli Mossad in staging attacks on tourists with a view of harming Egypt's booming tourism industry. To remind our readers, a long standing tradition in the Middle East is that natives caught selling their services to the Zionist enemy should be punished by death.

January 5, 2011

Saudi General Bureau of Investigation: Vulture is not spy

Saudi General Bureau of Investigation dismissed speculations about the Israeli spy vulture as ridiculous.

"It can't be a Mossad spy. If it was it would have forged identification from a university in the UK," said the Bureau chief.

"It's the vultures and other animals without Tel Aviv University legbands, who are the real Mossad agents" added mr. Al-Majnoun

February 11, 2011

Tunisia says to have detained a heavily armed group of supporters of the ousted president Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali. The group is suspected of involvement in a wave of violence that engulfed Tunisia in the wake of the revolution. All members of the group were found to be remotety controled via GPS transmitters by an identified foreign intelligence agency. Some militants were also tagged with legbands bearing the name of the Department of Molecular Biology and Ecology of Plants of Tel Aviv University.

TUNIS (Reuters) - Tunisian authorities said on Thursday they had detained an armed group, linked to ousted president Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali, which they suspected of involvement in a wave of violence.


February 12, 2011

The Department of Ecology of Plants of Tel Aviv University rejected allegations that it was involved in a recent wave of violence in Tunisia. Nevertheless, Israeli scientists stressed the importance that research of the migratory patterns of militant groups has for better understanding of the ecology of plants in the area.

As radical elements move around the region, they leave a certain impact on vegetation, if only by the mere act of trampling on it. Some studies suggest that militants may be facilitating pollination of certain species of plants. Another interesting theory speculates that militants are also contributing to the regionwide conversion of national floras as they cross borders between countries of the region while transporting seeds that get stuck in their military fatigues and footwear.



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Thursday, February 10, 2011

Sheep in Wolf's Clothing - II

The Jasmine Revolution's hidden champion

Two links on Tunisia's deposed dictator.


By Henry Samuel, Paris 5:29PM GMT 10 Feb 2011

Leila Ben Ali's words of "encouragement" to her husband, Zine al-Abidine as he refused to board the plane to spirit him out of Tunisia and to Saudi Arabia were reported as: "Get on imbecile. All my life I've had to put up with your screw ups."

. . .

As revolt rumbled in the capital, Mr Ben Ali, who was ousted after 23 years of iron rule on January 14, stood on the tarmac in Tunis airport with a small briefcase wringing his hands, and saying: "Leave me, I don't want to go, I want to die here for my country."

. . .

During the flight, Mr Ben Ali got up and walked to the cockpit every ten minutes, asking the pilot: "My son, you are going to take me back to Tunisia afterwards, aren't you?"

"Of course, I've received instructions to do just that," replied the pilot, briefed by the military to placate Mr Ben Ali until his arrival in Jeddah.

. . .

According to Trabelsi family members and palace officials, Mr Ben Ali was totally under the thumb of his wife, a 53-year old former hairdresser.

Diminished by prostate cancer, he had expressed the desire to end his rule in 2009, but Mrs Ben Ali ruled that out, as she allegedly harboured secret plans to rule in his place.

"In her mind, the scenario was clear: she would take care of the regency until her son Mohammed (today aged six) was old enough to reign," one family member said.

. . .

Source: Tunisian deposed leader dominated by 'Lady Macbeth'

Los Angeles Times

February 2, 2011
-- Batsheva Sobelman in Jerusalem

. . .

A comprehensive study of the Tunisian curriculum, completed in 2009 and presented before the European parliament, found that education in Tunisia cultivates equality and is much more progressive in teaching tolerance than any other Arab country.

But it wasn't always so, says Yohanan Manor, a retired Jewish Agency official and political scientist who established the research group a decade ago. According to Manor, Tunisia began instituting educational reform in the mid-1990s, when Zine el Abidine ben Ali (who was overthrown last month) appointed a political opponent as minister of education. Mohamed Charfi, who died a few years ago, was a lawyer and longtime human rights leader in Tunisia and a fierce critic of Ben Ali, in particular concerning human rights issues.

The now-deposed president had placed Charfi in charge of the education ministry, maybe so that he could keep an eye on him but also because Ben Ali was interested in letting the rights leader implement his agenda, which was separating religion and state, Manor said, noting that the issue is a longstanding one in Tunisian history.

The first phase was to extricate the school curriculum from the influence of the clerics -- not in an action against religion, but rather from the position that democracy and Islam can work together so long as "church" and state were separated. A second phase followed later on, geared to prepare for globalization rather than resist it.

The material still takes the Palestinian side in their conflict with Israel, researchers found, but not in a way that negates Jews or Israel. Above all, the study found the educational system to have a "profound understanding of equality and democracy."

Charfi's reforms shaped the younger generation in Tunisia that ultimately rebelled. "Mohamed Charfi is the true champion of Tunisia's Jasmine Revolution," Manor said.

. . .

Source: ISRAEL: Researchers see Tunisia as a textbook revolution

Of course, if it's true then the real champion of the revolution is ... mr. Ben Ali himself. And if it does not make sense to you, I can't be bothered. I am not blogging in order to help anybody to make sense of the reality.


This post borrowed its pic from another post with the same name

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Wednesday, February 9, 2011

This Revolution is NOT about to Stop

The United Nations issued a warning about a new global war about to erupt and plunge the Middle East and other parts of the world into chaos. A protracted drought in China is threatening to end in a massive crop failure and trigger a global war of food subsidies.

Since the beginning of the Arab Revolution, Arab and other governments in the third world have been increasing wages and food subsidies in order to stave off the wave of global popular unrest. Here, however, comes a giant that can easily outbid everybody on the market and send budgets around the region bust. If rains fail to materialize in China soon, a global war of prices and subsidies will erupt, a war that no government in the region can hope to win.

The New York Times
Published: February 8, 2011

. . .

With $2.85 trillion in foreign exchange reserves, nearly three times that of Japan, the country with the second-largest reserves, China has ample buying power to prevent any serious food shortages.

“They can buy whatever they need to buy, and they can outbid anyone,” Mr. Zeigler said.

. . .

Source: U.N. Food Agency Issues Warning on China Drought

Those, who worried that the Arab Revolution was running out of steam, can now breath a sigh of collective relief. They should only worry that, as China starts driving the prices up, the revolution for "social justice and bread to eat" doesn't spread to their own countries.

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A Revolution without End

Last updated: February 9, 2011

February 7, 2011

Tunisia's Economic Meltdown

Tunisia's interim PM called for international economic aid as the country is reeling from an economic fallout in the wake of its revolution. Besides massive loses inflicted by extensive looting and arson attacks, labor unrest is causing further damage to the economy through disruptions and escalating labor costs.

Financial Times - Elieen Byrne

. . .

Mr Ghannouchi, 69, who served the dictator as fin­ance minister before becoming prime minister in 1999, said Tunisia faced “a major economic challenge”

“The losses already registered are between $5bn and $8bn, and the needs going forward are even more significant,” he said. “Companies have suffered losses, because factories were set on fire, some employees were laid off, some goods weren’t exported, and tourists didn’t arrive.”

The government estimates that foreign tourism, which accounts for more than 6 per cent of the country’s $100bn economy, plunged by 40 per cent, in terms of both arrivals and revenue.

Public infrastructure suffered significant damage in the unrest, with police stations, national guard posts, tax offices, government employment centres and schools among the buildings burnt down.

In the weeks after Mr Ben Ali’s fall there has been a wave of labour unrest, triggered mostly by wage demands. After police went on strike on Monday and Tuesday, the interior ministry said it had raised the wages of all police, soldiers and customs officials.

. . .

Source: Tunisia appeals for aid to protect democracy

From its very beginning the Tunisian revolution was massively underreported and misreported in the Western media. In fact, at the beginning it has been barely noticed at all. The situation hardly improved since the flight of Ben Ali to Saudi Arabia. The country remains chaotic and deadly clashes persist, but the media attention has already turned to Egypt. However, if Tunisia fails, then there is no reason to believe that other Arab countries can do it better. Tunisia is probably the most Westernized and modern Arab countries. If not Tunisia, hardly anybody else in the Arab World can do it.

Basically and contrary to the often evoked image of the Berlin Wall, the Arab Revolution looks nothing like the anti Communist uprisings in Eastern Europe, with the exception of maybe Romania. Pro democracy movements in Eastern Europe were not used to demonstrations in which people were staging demo executions of their Communist rulers by hanging them in effigies, let alone after having painted them with stars of David. Looting and violence are going on for days and weeks, while the post revolution in Tunisia looks increasingly like a witch hunt against members of the Ben Ali family and just anybody associated with the regime. At one point the authorities closed a TV station run by a member of the Ben Ali family who was known for his opposition to the regime and his support for the protesters.

It's a safe bet that Tunisia's one party system forced many people to seek membership in the ruling party for considerations of promotion and career. The opposition itself was largely unable to field enough qualified people for ministerial posts in the interim government. Yet, the mob's hostility to anybody with ties to Ben Ali family or the ruling party left the process of the formation of new government paralyzed for weeks. The situation seems to have deteriorated even further with the arrival in the capital of protesters from the poor and underdeveloped periphery. The opposition leaders appeared reluctant to confront the crowds and explain the situation, fueling the confusion and paranoia. The quality of leadership provided by the opposition until now has been abysmal, though it's not obvious that the opposition has so much control over the masses anyway.

More importantly, Tunisian economy seems to have fallen victim to the revolution. Besides the GDP being wiped out by 4%-5% during the riots and looting, the food and fuel subsidy cuts were rolled back in order to placate the masses. Tunisian financial situation before the revolution was not a disaster, but neither was it brilliant. Now Tunisia's finances should be coming under real stress. If the opposition leaders don't tackle the problem head-on by calling for patience and restraint, trade unions may unleash a race of wages after prices, finishing off what has survived of the Tunisian economy.

Tunisia's economic meltdown and labor unrest are second in importance only to the beginning of the revolution itself, since they will largely determine whether the newborn democracy can stabilize or it keeps teetering on the brink of sliding into chaos. Yet, just like the beginning of the revolution, this aspect of the revolution receives little to no coverage by the global media, who in the meantime moved to celebrate the next triumph of the Arab democracy in Egypt.

It should be understood that a fiasco of the first Arab revolution in Tunisia will have a cooling effect on the enthusiasm it unleashed across the region. If the Western powers are serious about their desire to see democracy succeeding in the Middle East, they should already start readying a bailout package. Egypt is huge and its social and demographic challenges look unsurmountable, but Tunisia is a small and relatively developed country with an educated and largely secular population and a reasonable demographic profile. Transforming Tunisia into a show case for Arab democracy should not be very difficult nor expensive, while the payoff may reach geopolitical proportions. To put it short, if the West is serious about this democracy business, the time has come for a mini Marshall plan.

Looting a Ferrari of the former President of Tunisia

February 9, 2011

A Revolution without End

A Guardian reporter penned a fine piece from Kasserine, one of the hotbeds of the Tunisian revolution. When a good writer writes a good book, the book transcends the intellectual and circumstantial limitations of its author reaching levels often unaccessible to the person who wrote the book. Journalism is not very different in this respect from writing books. You don't have to rash to take the reporter's conclusions or the local talk at face value, but the article seems to capture the situation and the mood on the streets well.

From the article it appears that police force in Kasserine has largely or entirely disintegrated. This is not exactly surprising given that clashes and attacks on police stations are reported from Tunisia on a daily basis. It seems that not much of the security apparatus has been left intact and the remaining police are heavily demoralized and constantly harassed by the mob.

Kasserine, the rest of the periphery and even some coastal provinces, are evidently consumed by a wave of criminal violence with gangs having taken control of the streets. This is not unlike what was happening in Russia and some other Soviet republics shortly after the collapse of the Soviet Union. But in Tunisia the story seems to be taking the shape not of the anti Communist revolutions in Eastern Europe, but rather the Communist ones. Naturally, with the security apparatus in tatters and a massive escape of prison population, the security situation should be expected to deteriorate. In Tunisia, however, it appears that the conspiracy mindset has unleashed a witch hunt reminiscent of the Bolshevik struggle against anti revolutionary elements.

Now, it's perfectly possible that some former members of the security apparatus have by now joined the underworld. This trend was widespread in the post Communist Russia too. It's equally possible that during the first days of the revolution, security forces in many places collapsed and police turned to marauding before fleeing to their home villages or wherever they came from. Yet, it's not entirely obvious that a local governor, even a member of the now officially banned former ruling party, should be interested in hiring criminal gangs to burn schools and rob citizens. However, this is exactly what several ministers of the interim government have been repeatedly suggesting in public recently and this theory seems to be tremendously popular in Kasserine and elsewhere.

As a result, angry crowds ransacked offices of several governors precipitating collapse of the local administration. In a vicious circle the lawlessness blamed on police and local administration triggers new attacks and riots which in their turn render police and local authorities even less capable of maintaining order. In a last ditch attempt to get hold of the situation the government has called in army reserves.

Meanwhile in Kasserine the resolve to keep the revolution going is still strong. For many a revolution is never complete without jobs and expanded opportunities. Absent these, Kasserine's youth promise another uprising. Yet, even the best government in the world would struggle to effect an immediate change for the better in such a chaotic situation.

Historically, revolutions that didn't end on time tended to end in self cannibalism. This revolution increasingly looks as if it's forgetting to end.

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Monday, February 7, 2011

A Domino Too Far?


February 7, 2011

Zero attendance during the day of rage in Syria last Friday despite more than 16,000 who subscribed to the Facebook group.

. . .

Syrians are, generally speaking, far more fearful of their government than their Egyptian counterparts, and they have reason to be: they still live under an emergency law, enacted in 1963 and justified by Syria’s ongoing state of war with Israel, that suspends their constitutional rights. The Muslim Brotherhood, illegal but essentially tolerated in Egypt, has in Syria been effectively hounded out of existence. In Syria, membership in the brotherhood has, since 1980, been a capital offense.

I still remember how astonished I was when, visiting Egypt for the first time in the spring of 2005, I was taken to a meeting of Kefaya, a loose coalition of political groups opposing Hosni Mubarak’s presidency. The meeting, held in a large hall in the journalist’s union building in central Cairo, had attracted hundreds from across the political spectrum. I’d been living in Syria for nearly a year at that point, and I was already habituated enough to Syrian norms to be awestruck at the sight of these Egyptian activists, arguing and networking with one another in the lobby, swapping business cards and handing out pamphlets. Such a meeting would have been literally unimaginable in Syria, where all dissent is ruthlessly, and immediately, crushed.

. . .

Source: Damascus, A Domino Too Far?

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Sunday, February 6, 2011

Kings, Dictators and the Arab political reform

It's a sure sign of a massive degradation of political culture in the West itself that so much of the analysis of the Arab revolution has degenerated into demonization of personalities and recycling of Arab home grown conspiracy theories. The most astonishing of these pseudo analyses was the theory of organized looting. Weeks after Ben Ali was locked in a remote Saudi palace, arson attacks on a synagogue and schools in Tunisia are still being routinely blamed on Ben Ali loyalists. Western media was more than happy to join the party with many analysts suggesting that the regimes staged everything from disintegration of police and other security structures to mass escapes from prisons and looting. Large chunks of Western media read these days as a typical Arab blog where Arabs are letting their conspiratorial paranoia run amok.

The euphoria surrounding the revolution in the West is in part itself a result of the demonization, since its fundamental assumption is that people in positions of power are demons in flesh who are primarily busy with plundering their countries and torturing dissenters. This assumption leads to another misguided conclusion that the revolution is going to unleash democracy and liberalism in the Middle East and elsewhere. This is despite Iran and the currently unfolding disaster in Pakistan.

To cut the story short, the reality is, as always, more complex. The Arab World has all kinds of autocrats including the second generation kings and dictators. The kings of Jordan and Morroco, and probably Mubarak's son Gamal, are part of this second generation trend. Some of these people are Western educated, spent years living in the West and they are often very reform minded. Gamal Mubarak was the driving force behind a largely successful economic reform in Egypt. The king of Jordan from the beginning stated his vision as a constitutional monarchy in Jordan and embarked upon a series of political reforms. The new king in Morocco is a serial reformer too. In short, the Arab World knew several attempts at political reform initiated from the top in a very recent past.

That these reforms failed to deepen did not happen because of the lack of motivation at the upper echelons, however much the media and analysts would like to indulge in vilification of individual agents of power. The reform stalled because the reformers quickly found themselves under siege by Islamist, sectarian and populist forces they unleashed with their reforms. In Jordan for example Islamists and rejectionists largely took control of major institutions of civil society. In Bahrain Sunni and Shia fundamentalists dominated elections with secular liberals failing to win even one single seat. During a brief experiment by Mubarak in Egypt, Ikhwan basically took all 20% of seats that went to the opposition.

What the reformers discovered was that their economic and liberal agendas simply could not make friends with democracy and political reforms. The most spectacular example of this trend was the attempt by the king of Jordan to crack down on honor killings, sabotaged by the opposition in the parliament and judges who routinely refused to issue harsh penalties for offenders. The bottom line: It's not for the failure of revolutions to happen that liberal democracy failed to triumph until now in the Middle East. The pseudo analysts and arm chair revolutionaries in the West would do well to spend a while pondering this sorry fact.

Source: Muslim Publics Divided on Hamas and Hezbollah

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Saturday, February 5, 2011

Burn yourself down and be happy

Last updated: February 3, 2011

January 17, 2011

The mess in Tunisia is already producing spillover effects around the Middle East with the opposition in Jordan demanding from the government to resign over fuel and food price hikes. The misfortune of the "burn yourself down and be happy" revolution that befell the Arab World in Tunisia is that it's likely to enshrine the culture of rioting and delegitimize the economic reform desperately needed to deepen in many countries. I was arguing in the past that the political and economic reforms in the Arab world cannot proceed at the same time. Basically the economic reform should come and accomplish its objective first.

Tunisia may still get away with this revolution as the country is on the verge of exiting its unemployment crisis due to purely demographic factors. However, it's already obvious that the next government will find it virtually impossible to cut fuel and food subsidies, an act now permanently associated in the Middle East with the excesses of authoritarian rule. Jordan, however, may have no other option as it faces greater economic difficulties than Tunisia (of course it depends on how much of the Tunisian economy will survive looting and fires). Basically, Jordan is caught between letting the economy go down the drain and facing its own self immolation revolution.

The situation right now is such that those Arab countries who have already done away with the bulk of fuel and food subsidies and trimmed state sector payrolls should consider themselves lucky. Those on the way out of the demographic onslaught like Tunisia should simply go and borrow for infrastructure projects and spend their way through the next few years until they reach the light already visible in the end of the tunnel. But Jordan and others may find themselves in a deepening trap in which opposition is laying ambush to the economic reforms which are now in danger of becoming the symbol of despotism in the Middle East.

February 3, 2011

The Khat Revolution

Why Yemen Won’t Fall - an oped in the New York Times. The answer: Yemen won't fall because Saleh's dancing on the heads of snakes will either end in a massive crash or a massive Saudi bailout.

Published: February 4, 2011

. . .

Mr. Saleh continues to excel at the business of ruling Yemen, the Arab world’s poorest country, a task which he has often unflatteringly likened to “dancing on the heads of snakes.” Yet, since Tunisians sent their longtime president, Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali, packing, Mr. Saleh has been obliged to change his dance steps and quicken his pace; he has dropped income taxes, given out food subsidies and promised to raise the salaries of soldiers and civil servants and to provide jobs to college graduates.

. . .

Abdul Ghani al-Iryani, a prominent political commentator in Sana, told me that he believes Mr. Saleh will have to keep his promises this time: “The rules of the game have changed — he cannot not honor his word this time. Tunisia and Egypt have raised the bar.” He thinks Mr. Saleh has six months to prove himself trustworthy. At the end of that time, revenues from his two main sources — Saudi aid and minor oil exports — will not be enough to foot the civil service wage bill, or the diesel and food subsidies.

Then he will not be worrying about polite opposition politicians but more likely about bread-rioters, hungry and unmanageable, exploding into violence.

Source: Why Yemen Won’t Fall

The self immolation revolution will probably have two stages. The first stage is happening right now. The second stage will unfold when those who survived the first stage and new governments, that took place of the old regimes, run out of money to maintain wage increases and food/fuel subsidies. This is of course highly conditioned on what's going to happen with food and fuel prices globally. But as China, India and other developing nations keep surging economically, the long term trend is clear.

Yemen's social crisis, exacerbated by staggering demographic and environmental challenges, merits this country the top place in the region's watchlist. And if anybody by any chance thinks that the infamous plant makes dancing on the heads of Saleh's drug addicted snakes an easy task, then he should think again. Khat can be chewed everywhere.

By Sudarsan Raghavan
Washington Post Foreign Service
Saturday, February 5, 2011; 12:37 AM

. . .

Back at the university, the protesters sat on the sidewalk, clutching Yemeni flags. Sharabi vowed that if Saleh didn't step down, they would protest all day, until midnight.

"We will bring our khat here and make a revolution," he said, as another protester walked toward the khat stores.

Source: Washington Post

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Thursday, February 3, 2011

America's stooge against America's puppet

Those who are surprised by a sudden twist in Egyptian's revolution's saga should consider the following points.

First of all, contrary to how it may look on TV, the number of anti Mubarak demonstrators has never been really over the top. This became particularly clear during the one million march when the protesters seemed unstoppable as police disappeared and the army promised not to interfere. Everybody could make it to the square on that day, it was safe. The number of protesters, however, was estimated at a quarter of a million. This is a lot, but it's not a million and is nothing staggering by Egyptian standards. In the past Cairo knew public attendances measured in millions and that was long before the population of the city and its surroundings started reaching to 20 million. So it's not entirely clear what the majority of Egyptians think about all this.

Two, throughout this turmoil I don't remember coming upon even one article in which interviewed Egyptians had anything good to say about ElBaradei. The impression is that ElBaradei is widely resented across Egypt as an outsider and elitist. The opposition groups might have good reasons to converge on ElBaradei as a consensual leader, but from the moment the opposition started pushing for an alternative government led by ElBaradei, many ordinary Egyptians were bound to be upset.

Three, Egyptians can be pathologically nationalist. It's a combination of wounded pride and national inferiority complex that occasionally borders on sheer insanity. The rant below is nothing out of ordinary for Egyptians. Egyptians can hallucinate about foreigners patronizing and belittling them in the most impossible situations. It's not obvious that all Egyptians should be excited by the prospect of having their president humiliated under the US pressure by expelling him to Saudi Arabia and replaced by what many Egyptians perceive as the Western sponsored ElBaradei, even if only in the temporary capacity of the head of transitional government.

“The people are so nice”: Yes they are, it’s your ignorant self that assumed they are all terrorists and fanatics. What did you think? Glad you went to Egypt and found the Egyptians nice. After all, they do have a cosmopolitan civilization of over 5,000 years, yet you reduced them to “rag heads” , “jihadists”, “ali babas”, “terrorists”, the list is endless. Imagine saying this about African Americans? Asians? Nope. Just don’t fucking say it. It’s patronizing.

Source: How Not To Say Stupid Stuff About Egypt

As a matter of fact, Mubarak is not another Ben Ali. Mubarak is a military man who fought in wars against Israel. While many Egyptians may revile his rule, they may have a certain respect for the old man. The protesters, disorganized and lacking a clear plan, may have been pushing their demands too far by denying to Mubarak a graceful exit. Combined with the US pressure and ElBaradei, this could alienate many Egyptians from the protesters. Of course, at the beginning of the mess many Egyptians were accusing America of hypocrisy. However, people are not rational beings. Once the US started supporting ElBaradei and pressing Mubarak out, other Egyptians could find this... well, too patronizing.

Finally, there can be no denying that revolutions are damaging to the economy. This revolution was accompanied by massive looting and destruction of property. At some point police seem to have disintegrated for a while. Thousands of convicted criminals escaped. Tourism, one of the pillars of Egyptian economy, collapsed as foreigners rushed to flee Egypt. It's not sure that the camel riders from the pyramids, who attacked the protesters today, were paid by the security service to do this. They may well have a reasonable issue with the protesters. After all, tourism is what they make their living off.


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Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Why Russia/Belarus are not Egypt are not Tunisia?

It's the demography, stupid.


By Simon Shuster / Moscow Wednesday, Feb. 02, 2011

. . .

According to Transparency International's ranking of the most corrupt countries last year, Egypt was in the 98th place, tied with Mexico, while Russia was 154th. Economic troubles like rising food prices, unemployment, poverty and the vast gap between rich and poor are also comparable in the two countries. The latest data from the U.N. Development Program shows 16.7% of Egyptians lived below the poverty line in 2005, compared with 19.6% in Russia in 2007. The jobless rate is also about equal. In Egypt it was 9.4% at the end of 2009 and it was 9.2% in Russia at the start of 2010, according to most the recent figures in the CIA's World Factbook.

. . .

But for all their dramatic effect, comparisons between Russia and Egypt don't hold much water, as two of the opposition leaders admitted to TIME on the sidelines of Monday's rally. For one thing, the Arab world has seen a demographic boom in recent years that has made for a young and restless population. Many of the people setting fire to barricades and stoning police in Egypt are younger than 15, an age-group that makes up about 40% of the population. Russia is exactly the opposite, said Vladimir Ryzhkov, an ex-parliamentarian turned dissident. "Our people are aging and in decline," he said, looking around at the pensioners who made up the bulk of the meager crowd at Monday's event, a regular anti-Putin protest held on the 31st of the month. "Also," he added, "the high price of oil [Russia's main export] has allowed the regime a certain cushion of economic stability."

. . .

Source: Egypt Envy: Russia's Opposition Imagines Change

For the demography of slap revolutions, also check this and this.

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Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Domino Effect

Last updated: February 1, 2011


Jasmine Revolution or Slap Revolution?

“Do you really believe a woman can slap a man in front of 40 other people and no one would react?” he said.

Source: NYTimes

Domino Effect

It's not out of impossible that the first domino to be toppled by Tunisia's slap revolution will be the country's economy. The next government is very likely to find itself greeted by an avalanche of demands to raise wages and increase food and fuel subsidies. Even police, who just a few weeks ago were busy battling protesters, support democracy now.

Saturday's crowd on Avenue Bourguiba, where daily protests have been held, drew many plainclothe and uniformed police with red armbands. They sought to press demands like the creation of a labor union, better pay and — like other protests in recent days — the ousting of any members from Ben Ali's party from the government.

Officers climbed onto their official cars, blew their whistles and waved flags and signs. Some exchanged hugs to congratulate each other about their chance to protest. Many were joined by their families.

"I am not afraid to come down to the street," said Rida Barreh, 30, who has been an internal security officer for five years. "I work 12 hours a day and yet only get paid 500 dinars ($350, 250 euros) a month."

Source: Associated Press

Fossa Regia

After the Roman general Scipio defeated Hannibal in 202 B.C. outside modern-day Tunis, he dug a demarcation ditch, or fossa regia, that marked the extent of civilized territory. The fossa regia remains relevant. Still visible in places, it runs from Tabarka on Tunisia’s northwestern coast southward, and then turns directly eastward to Sfax, another Mediterranean port. The towns beyond that line have fewer Roman remains, and today tend to be poorer and less developed, with historically higher rates of unemployment.

The town of Sidi Bouzid, where the recent revolt started when a vendor of fruit and vegetables set himself on fire, lies just beyond Scipio’s line. Tunisia is less part of the connective tissue of Arab North Africa than a demographic and cultural island bordered by sea and desert, with upwardly mobile European aspirations.

Source: One Small Revolution

The next domino to fall comes in the form of a popular TV station as the revolution acquires an unmistakable aspect of a witch hunt.

Next dominoes to watch

One domino to watch is Yemen. This one can fall and soon. This is not because Yemen is very mich like Tunisia (though some people are trying hard), but because it's just falling apart.

And of course tomorrow Egypt is going to try its luck in slap revolutions.

The Day of Rage in Egypt

Here is an early demo release of Egypt's version of the slap revolution. Looks like a fucking intifadah. Enjoy

Egypt's a la Tiananmen Moment

January 27, 2011

January 28, 2011

Today should be the day of Intifada in Egypt

February 1, 2011

I stopped updating this post as, unlike Tunisia, this time the media coverage has become pretty extensive. As you probably know, the first wave of the protests swept the capital. As police disappeared from the streets, the protesters set fire to major symbols of power such as the headquarters of the ruling party. The opposition announced a million man march on Cairo for tomorrow and the army has already promised to hold fire. Mubarak looks increasingly spent force while the opposition is holding talks on formation of an alternative government.

In conclusion of this long series of updates, I would like to salute the pro democracy movement in Egypt and all freedom loving people of this planet by posting the following table from the latest Muslim public opinion poll published by Pew in December of 2010.

Source: Muslim Publics Divided on Hamas and Hezbollah

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