Monday, February 28, 2011

Something big happened, and it is not in the Arab World

"This week, something big happened. The Farm and Ranch Freedom Alliance (FARFA) published a letter on their website, written by Dr. Don Huber to Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack. The letter detailed preliminary findings that link the herbicide Roundup and/or genetically modified Roundup Ready crops to miscarriages in animals.
Stories pop up ALL THE TIME about GMOs causing this disease or that, and usually I don't believe them. This time, Judith McGeary of FARFA (a good friend of mine) was certain that this is a big story. The findings are preliminary. But Dr. Huber found them concerning enough that he wrote to Tom Vilsack asking that a major expansion of the use of genetically modified crops (the deregulation of GE alfalfa) be postponed until more research can be done." (Thanks Nahed)

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Blurred vision-The arab left calls for emergency meeting: the masses are NOT ahead of the parties

Read about it in Arabic here but honestly, look at the picture, not a single young person when the uprisings are youth-driven

Update on Tunisia from L&P's correspondent: discovering freedom-a la decouverte de la liberte

I hope you can read french because this update from Tunisia by Land and People's corespondent and dear friend is extremely important.
"5 semaines sans Ben Ali, 1 semaine sans Moubarak, le souffle de liberté se propage, hélas accompagné par encore des morts, des blessés.
En Tunisie, la vie reprend son cours. Nous avons toujours des manifs, des grèves, du chômage et de nouveau des embouteillages. L’autre soir la chaine nationale expliquait que le code de la route est toujours en vigueur et qu’il faut s’arrêter aux feux rouges.
La liberté toute neuve est là. Nous disons « Non » et « Dégage », et nous apprenons à nous exprimer, à dialoguer… parfois même à écouter ! Les situations dramatiques côtoient les demandes invraisemblables avec la dignité des uns et l’égocentrisme de beaucoup d’entre nous. Les journalistes apprennent leur métier et dirigent comme ils peuvent des débats sur les chaines nationales. Les ministères du gouvernement provisoires commencent enfin à communiquer et créent leurs pages sur Facebook et leurs comptes Twitter. Les partis politiques se multiplient, une vingtaine autorisés, au moins vingt autres en cours de constitution.
Malheureusement la violence, la bêtise et l’obscurantisme sont aussi présents et alimentent les drames, les faits divers et le discours des oiseaux de mauvais augure.
On assiste aussi à une éclosion de l’humour et de la générosité. Les idées, les blogs foisonnent. Les discussions portent sur notre vie, nos choix de société. Nous sommes enfin acteurs. Nous espérons que cette énergie positive prendra le dessus et permettra la construction d’une Tunisie nouvelle."

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Brilliant article on the links between capitalism and the Arab Uprising by Adam Hanieh

"So while the outrage at the wealth of Mubarak and the state officials associated with his regime is well deserved, we must not forget that Mubarak -- and the Egyptian state as a whole -- represented an entire capitalist class.  The result of neoliberalism was the enrichment of a tiny elite concurrent with the immiseration of the vast majority.  This is not an aberration of the system -- a kind of 'crony capitalism' as some financial commentators have described it -- but precisely a normal feature of capitalist accumulation replicated across the world.  The repressive apparatus of the Egyptian state was aimed at ensuring that the lid was kept on any social discontent arising from these worsening conditions.  In this sense, the struggle against the effects of the economic crisis would inevitably be compelled to confront the dictatorial character of the regime.

The Regional Dimension
This uprising cannot be understood without situating it within the regional context.  Once again, we can see here the intertwining of the political and economic.  U.S. policy in the Middle East is aimed, first and foremost, at keeping the oil and petro-dollar rich Gulf states under its influence.  This should not be interpreted as meaning that the U.S. wants to directly own these oil supplies (although this may be part of this process), but that the U.S. wants to ensure that the oil supplies remain outside of the democratic control of the people of the region.  The nature of global capitalism and the dominant position of the U.S. state within the world market rests significantly upon its control over the Gulf region.  Any move toward a broader democratic transformation of the region could potentially threaten U.S. power at a global level.  This is why the U.S. so strongly supports the dictatorships that rule the Gulf states and also why the majority of the labour in the Gulf is performed by temporary, migrant workers who lack all citizenship rights and can be deported at any sign of discontent." (Thanks Anne)

On violence and uprisings

There has been a lot of talk about the non-violent nature of the Tunisian and Egyptian uprisings and of the Western "civilizing" role in this achievement. Aside from the issue that the colonizing powers want to take credit for everything the natives do, I would argue that:

1. The protests were not non-violent. There were 300 dead and 2000 injured at least in the Egypt protests. The self-immolation by fire of Mohammad Bouazizi and others who have set fire to themselves are acts of violence directed towards one's self, because of the feeling of despair and disempowerment. The protests in Yemen are leading to violence, fomented by the rege, and so are those in Bahrain.

2. The regime in Egypt has not (yet) changed. Mubarak is gone, but for a regime change and a departure from the neoliberal domination in all its forms, the army, which is now in control, may have to be neutralized. It is the main source of potential violence, along with the security apparatus. I will be looking closely at the events as they unfold, especially at the continued strikes of the egyptian workers. I will also be looking at how the uprisings in other Arab countries wil be dealt with. I am, like everyone else, hoping for a non-violent transition towards Arab regimes that place social and other forms of justice at the top of their agendas. Somehow I doubt that the small group of beneficiaries from the neoliberal regimes will just watch this take place without reacting...violently. I would also argue that the Empire will use all forms of violence possible in order to protect its interests. Whether protesters can continue to confront these pressures "peacefully" remain to be seen.

Monday, February 14, 2011

The natives are restless and the empire is fidgety

As protests against autocratic regimes gain strength in Bahrain and Algeria today, the March 14 movement in Lebanon prepares itself for its annual self-celebration. This year it comes in the form of a seated dinner for 5,000 people in the BIEL complex, appropriately located in the Solidere area, the center of Beirut that was privatized by Rafic Hariri. The March 14 leaders are expected to give talks of eulogy to former prime minister Rafic Hariri who was assassinated on this day in 2005. They will also probably congratulate the Egyptian's people on their uprising from one corner of their mouth, while praising Mubarak and his regime from the other. Don't think it is impossible, just wait and see.

The March 14 discourse has been tainted with double talk since the beginning of the Egyptian uprising. On the one hand, some morons wanted us to believe that what was going on in Egypt was an extension of the US and Saudi planned, funded and promoted Lebanese "Cedar Revolution" of 2005. They conveniently forget that the Egyptian uprising had the backing of the majority of the people of Egypt and that its goal was to remove a regime installed and supported by the US and Israel, while the cedar thingie held a racist opportunist sectarian agenda that overlapped almost perfectly with the US-Israeli agenda in the region. They also forget that more than half the people of Lebanon were against them. On the other hand, former prime minister and March 14 pole Fuad Sanioura could not stop himself from offering some words of confort to Mubarak, praising him for his role and assistance over the years.

The duplicity of the March 14 camp and especially of the Future Movement leadership is understandable: many among the grass-root supporters of the Future Movement still identify with Arab nationalist culture, and they see the Egyptian uprising as a return to Nasser's values. However, these are critical times, and the last thing Hariri want is to upset the already very upset Saudi ruling family. There is also an element of recognition for services rendered in there: During the period 2005-2008, Egyptian (and Jordanian) mukhabarat were allegedly running the show in the March 14 security apparatus, and provided invaluable services to the anti Resistance camp during Israel's war on Lebanon in 2006. There are rumors that Omar Sulayman was personally in charge of overseeing all this.

But Lebanon is uninteresting at the moment with its petty sectarian dogfights over crumbs of a rotting regime. The Egyptian uprising and its outcomes and the further developments is what interests me at the moment, especially as I have only mistrust in the armed forces council. While it is too early to foresee clearly the post-Mubarak era, I found this limpid post by As`ad Angry Arab to be a very useful Guide to Reading the Egyptian Uprising in its First Week. I am concerned that the counter-revolutionary movement led by the army will diffuse the hard-won victory by the people. In essence, while Mubarak is gone, Omar Sulayman is just laying low; and the armed forces council is sending reassuring signals to the Empire. Contact has been established between the head of the armed forces council and zionist-in-chief Netanyahu, and it has been expressed that Egypt will continue to respect its "international agreements". I may have been foolish to expect a rapid cancellation of the Camp David accord, but I am certain it will come in due course. News are also filtering out from Egypt that embezzlers and crooks who made billions by staying close to the Mubarak regime wil be quickly forgiven, and that the economic system will continue on its neoliberal course. At least for the near future. I was nauseated by the appointment of Mubarak propagandist and vocal opponent of the Tahreer protests `Imad el Deen Adeeb as Minister of Information in the new government.

I am also concerned that the middle class feels it has achieved what it wanted, which is a sense of empowerment. It could end up playing the game of the armed forces council and accepting what is akin to a military government and trusting it to prepare for truly democratic elections. It has been argued that the middle class has led the Egyptian and the Tunisian protests, and that it did not come out in the street with a primarily social justice agenda, but with a freedom and democracy agenda, and that changing the economic regime is not one of its priorities (see previous post by Karim on this blog, but see also this article in Al Akhbar today). But great hope lies in the workers. They have been on continuous strike for a pretracted period, way before the uprising started, as Hossam El-Hamalawy reminds us in this brilliant article. Follow Hossam on twitter for updates on the Egyptian workers strikes and other Egyptian matters.

Meanwhile, it is not only the natives that are restless, the Empire is fidgety too, and for god reasons: look at the agenda. It has to try and hijack the Arab Revolutions, by propping up the middle class and arming it with vapid demands. It has to strengthen the protests in the rejectionist camps: Syria and Iran. It as to reassure the Arab dictators who have given years of servile and faithful services to the Empire that that they wont be abandoned like Mubarak. It has to mend to relationship with the Saudis who are, I understand, really upset at Barack and his crowd. That would explain the high level US delegation that has arrived to Amman today, seeking to strengthen its foothold in the kingdom.

In Palestine, the government of Salam Fayyad has resigned, leaving the space for another government headed by... Salam Fayyad. Truly, Palestine will only be liberated after all the Arab nation is free. But that, comrades, has already been said.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

On naked emperors and other revolutionary learnings

Karim sent me the following email in relation with my previous post on learning from the Arab Revolutions (I post with his permission)

read your post this morning which brought me back to yesterdays conversation.

When I said it seemed a very bourgeois revolution, it is because it
seemed to me that the aspirations of those that where most visibly
vocal during the last month, and those who seemed to be the ones
framing the demands and desires of the demonstrators, where very much
left liberal - we want to be free to live our cultural identities as
we please - types. My interpretation is that this is still very much
in line with neoliberal -  consumption oriented ideals of the world.

Obviously I am simplifying here, but with the type of people that will
have dips to take over power, (that is the peeps that are structurally
favoured to mobilize popular support and to frame an agenda) will
still believe in orthodox economics and a liberal world order. The
google guy Ghonim or so seems to be a good example or my cousins for
that matter, they will make sure that their middle class lives will
not be too disrupted.

This is not necessarily incommensurable with a changing stance on
Israel, it seems that the military is aware of the people's
inclinations, and the the people have shown that they are aware of the
power they have to influence the leadership. So Israel is under
pressure. I imagine another war on Lebanon would be much more
difficult to pull off without endangering destroying very fragile
relations with Egypt.

So while i see the whole situation as very fluid and i would not dare
make predictions, I am not sure how the country would break out of WB
/ IMF / USaid grips so easily, there is still a public debt around 200
billion $ with 30 billion of it being external debnt and the
restructuring of an economy to be done to actually become a sovereign

I don't know, I also don't want to be too pessimistic, I think there
is great opportunity and obviously I understand only half of what's
going on.

Point being I'd like to hear what you think about it.



P.S.: the more i hear these international leaders reminding us or
rather egyptians about the neccessity to abide by the peace treaty
with israel, the more I think we should thank them for so obviously
showing what side they are on, it actually couldn't be better. It is
the emperor getting naked and saying to everybody: hey look i am

Learning from the Arab Revolutions

I was on my way to Dahiyeh yesterday when the news from Egypt spread in Beirut: Mubarak was gone, gone too was goon-in-chief Omar Sulayman. The traffic in Beirut is never easy but I swear it was worse than usual, as if people had gone out into the streets. Then we started hearing fireworks, and then suddenly there were parties everywhere, motorcycles and cars carrying flags were circulating, bursting with young people celebrating the fall of the tyran. On Al Jazeera later I could see that similar spontaneous celebrations had also taken place elsewhere in the Arab World.

The elation of the Arab people is understandable: Tunisia was the spark and Egypt will fuel change across the region. There is no going back on that, whatever the outcomes of the uprising. And while it is far too early to try to discern the details of the future government of Egypt, there are learnings that have been achieved from the past month of Arab revolution.

1. The conspicuous absence of religious fundamentalism from both Tunisian and Egyptian uprisings. In spite of the repeated warnings by the ignorant liberal and not so liberal thinkers in the West, the great scarecrow they use to justify keeping the Arab people under dictatorships, islamic fundamentalism, was nowhere to be seen. Yes there are Islamic movements that are part of the uprisings. Yes Islam is a mean of organizing and educating especially among the poorer classes in much the same way as the theology of liberation was in Latin America. Yes, religious movements can go horribly wrong, and can become oppressive and criminal, but so can secular movements. Do you need a lesson in history? And lets remember that the most fundamentalist of the Islamic movements and regimes, including Saudi Arabia and its spores, were fabricated by the Empire to serve its purpose in the wars for world domination.

2. The Empire appeared totally taken aback by the events which caught it unprepared (in French, they say "depasse par les evenements"). It had a plan B and a Plan C, but it needed a Plan Z. The events happened so quickly and the protestors were so fierce and committed and focused that all available strategies to quell the wave sounded anachronistic. These were recipes from an age long gone. The only people who haven't noticed that this age is gone are the rulers of the empire, their media voices and the dictators of the Arab World. Every one else listened to them with awe, not believing that Clinton, Obama, Ben Ali, Sulayman, Mubarak or the mainstream media could be so silly. I think it will take them a while to recover from realizing the harsh truth: that their tactics don't work anymore. We are not scared of the 6th fleet. We are not scared of economic sanctions. We are not scared of the CIA "crisis unit" and other Blackwater-style experts. We are not scared of the cutting-off of aid money, bilions we never saw anyway, and which are used to fund the servants of the Empire. We are not scared of you anymore. Can you hear that? WE HAVE NO FEAR.

3. It is not only fear from the reprisal of the Empire that has dissipated. We have also come to realize that tyrans and dictatorships are weaker they appear. They can keep millions of us under their control only because they instill fear into us through extreme violence applied to a relatively small number of people, and then letting it be widely known. But the facts are here: a tyran's shelf life, once the people rise up, is about 18 days. This is what Tunisia showed us, this is was Egypt confirmed. Steadfastness is key.

4. Dignity is a prime mover of people. This is a very crucial realization, because it means that revolutions will happen in spite of truck loads of food aid or of the "donations" oil-rich regimes are now making to their people in the hope of keeping them quiet. I have long maintained that the success of the Resistance in South Lebanon was not due, as some detractors would have it, to its social institutions that offer services to the people who are affiliated with Hizbullah. The Resistance is powerful because it has given dignity to people. Mohammad Bou Azizi did not immolate himself with fire because he could not find a job, but because he was humiliated by the Tunisian police. If you listened carefully to what the people in the Tahreer squares of Egypt were saying, you could not but see this clearly (but you have to speak and understand Arabic). There are important implications to this: one is that we shall not accept humiliation anymore: هيهات منا الذلّة (Go look it up). And the other is that both the neo-liberal fallacy (everyone can be rich if they work hard enough) and its reality (to make lots of money you have to create injustice) cannot alone explain the immense desire of people for emancipation. The spiritual (in the sense of non-material) is at least as powerful as the material, if not more. Incidentally, this also poses serious challenges to the concept of "human security" that has been peddled by international organizations and especially by the UN as a means to pressure some regimes that are dictatorial and poor not those that are dictatorial and rich and of course serve the Empire.

5. In both the Tunisian and the Egyptian cases, the organization model of the uprisings is interesting to study: it is a cellular organization, that relies heavily on communication and uses a combination of old and very modern means and methods. Its leadership is extremely fluid, I would call it nodal, which gives it tremendous resilience, because there is no one central "brain" that can be destroyed, bought, or corrupted. In many respects, it has similarities with the way digital information systems are organized, and it is no surprise that these same systems played an important role in organizing action. I am not talking here only about internet and facebook and twitter, but also about cell phones and satellite media. The role Al Jazeera played in the Egyptian uprising will be the subject of many PhD thesis. This would also make for a very interesting study on how our ways of thinking and organizing, especially among the youth, has been influenced by the technologies that have changed our world.

6. And my final learning of the day: The days of the Zionist entity are numbered, and I may even see its demise in my life time. But this, the Zionists already know: I can hear their weeps across the border.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Has any one noticed?

Has anyone noticed that none of the Egyptian demonstrators interviewed on Al Jazeera or other channels talks about food prices? Everybody talks about dignity, freedom and the end of tyranny. People do not live by bread alone and bringing down food prices will not prevent our profound desire for emancipation. Meanwhile much of the foreign press keeps attributing the Arab uprising to escalating food prices. They can't understand the speeches, the comuniques, the chants and the slogans. 

"The recent political unrest in Egypt, Tunisia and Yemen illustrate that food price spikes are more than a blip on the Chicago board of trade, and we need to take it seriously. No one wants 2011 to be a repeat of the 2008 global food crisis when riots in 33 countries pushed more than 100 million people into deeper poverty. But one thing is certain: without action to address the underlying causes of the global food crisis, history is destined to repeat itself."

and here

"The dramatic rise in food prices is fueling a great deal of discontent in Tunisia, Egypt and elsewhere. It's a deep undercurrent propelling many of the poor, who face prospects of starvation to resort to the streets and to violence. According to the United Nation's Food Agency (Food and Agriculture Organization -- FAO) world food prices are up for the 7th month in a row and are likely to surpass the record high reached in December 2010."

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Knowledge is power

Yesterday's "Million People Protest" in Tahreer square brought together many of Cairo's protestors. It also brought down the image peddled by the Regime and its supporters in the Arab World and in the West that the Egyptian Uprising was being diffused. The reality is very different: after a first round of negotiations that went generally nowhere, the picture is becoming clearer. A leadership is merging among the protestors, and it includes among others, representative of the youth as well as representatives of the ikhwan (the Muslim Brotherhood). The Ikhwan were kind of keen on negotiating with the regime, and I think this has made them lose a lot of credibility and they have now shifted gears and are moving with much more care in the negotiations minefield.

Meanwhile, I have had the opportunity in the past few days to read the French press, especially the liberal press that would like to be thought of as the Left but is in fact left behind. I refer for instance to "Le Monde" and "Liberation". I focused on the coverage of the Egyptian uprising and I found it to be revealing: exceptions aside, the liberals are basically not too happy with the turn of events. Their general position can be summarized as follows: "We are not sure we like this revolution and maybe we'd rather keep the oppressive regimes because Arabs cannot deal with democracy and any revolution is bound to end up as an Islamic regime." This position is made clear through some news reporting, but mostly through opinion pieces written by a flurry of those new age media-craving philosophers who are willing to use their skills to please the rich and powerful. Their guru is Bernard Henri Levy, fierce defender of freedom and zionist massacres (and one of Le Monde's ombudsmen). These are "philosophers" and "thinkers" who are willing to do anything to get maximum media coverage in order to achieve recognition for their simplistic ideas packaged into convoluted sentences.

Through their actions and their steadfastness our Egyptian comrades will make sure to send the right messages to the world, philosophers and common mortals alike. But I want to tell these opinion writers a couple of things too: Who the fuck do you think you are? Do you really think you can stand on your decaying world, which remains in place only because it is propped up by hundreds of ballistic nuclear missiles, and lecture people about emancipation? You have no clue how irrelevant you are, to your own society as well as to a world that we, in the periphery, are creating. You are scared of the Arab revolution precisely because you don't see islamic fundamentalism in it. You see a genie you cannot control through power or money, through force or finance. You are scared because, from the height of your pompousness, you know that you have reached levels of decadence you never even dared to imagine. And you know that you have lost your youth and your soul to the demons of the material while we carry the energy and the hope of the youth.

But we have a position on you: We do not like your regimes. We do not like how you have built your world on the pillage of our resources, and how you have used our fathers and forefathers as cheap labour to construct your towers and you factories and your roads. We do not like how you continue to impose your power and control over our world by propping dictatorships that only serve your interests and those of your multinationals. We do not think you can handle democracy. You talk about it and you keep changing its meaning. You buy it and sell it through media and advertising and fund raising diners and money laundering. You manipulate and lie and use deceit in order to keep a small class in control. We would support you if you were to have a revolution, but we don't think you're really up to it now, as the way things are going it may turn into a western fundamentalist regime. With the far right on the rise everywhere, we would hate to see it come to power and destroy your hypocritical liberal world. Because last time it did, you nearly wrote off the planet. Oh, and remember: we speak your language and you don't speak ours. We know you far better than you know us. And knowledge, as you know, is power.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Days of Honey

A review of my friend Annia Ciezadlo's new book "Days of Honey" in the NYT. I am really looking forward to reviewing it for Land and People and Al Akhbar.

"There are many good reasons to read “Day of Honey.” It’s a carefully researched tour through the history of Middle Eastern food. It’s filled with adrenalized scenes from war zones, scenes of narrow escapes and clandestine phone calls and frightening cultural misunderstandings. Ms. Ciezadlo is completely hilarious on the topic of trying to please her demanding new Lebanese in-laws." (Thanks Deborah)

Friday, February 4, 2011

Spending grain stockpiles to ward off unrest

"Events in Egypt may turn out to have a greater impact on other commodities, notably food. High food-price inflation has cut spending power across emerging economies (seearticle), where keeping bellies full accounts for a much larger share of income than in rich countries. The high cost of food is one reason that protesters took to the streets in Tunisia and Egypt. The price of bread has shot up since last summer when a drought in Russia, one of the world’s largest wheat suppliers, hit harvests and prompted an export ban.
Analysts at Goldman Sachs point out that countries in the region may feel the need to head off political instability by spending to stockpile grain. Saudi Arabia, Algeria and Jordan have all stepped up efforts to build stockpiles. This could raise the pressure on other countries to hoard wheat, pushing prices even higher. In the short term this might even result in lower oil prices if OPEC countries pump more out of the ground to raise cash to assuage uppity populations."

Sow me on the barricades of Tahreer Square

Today Friday February 4 may well be remembered as the day the Egyptian people have evicted Husni Mubarak. Another million people march is planned and I don't think the obsolete Pharaoh will be allowed to remain on the throne. The Empire has decided to sacrifice him. The US mainstream media has been very open about this. I trust he has been given assurances that he will not be prosecuted and that he will be allowed to seek refuge, probably in Saudi Arabia. But, in exchange for this sacrifice, the Empire is requesting that the regime remains in power, albeit in a slightly reformed form. Omar Sulayman is the man pitted to take over. He is the US and Israel's man. He was selected because he will make sure that two essential tenets of the regime will remain untouched: the peace treaty with the zionist entity, and the neoliberal economic policies. The small cosmetic changes offered by the regime will be the participation of selected figures of the opposition in political life, and a temporary control of some of the most obscene expressions of corruptions. A couple of rich business people/politicians will be prosecuted, and may even end up in jail. Temporarily. But the essence of the regime will not have changed, and it will have bought the empire a small extra lease of life in the region.

This may well happen, and I can hear on the news eyewitnesses and reports that indicate that the demands have become much closer to: "end the Mubarak rule" than "end the Regime that has kept Mubarak as a straw man for the past decade" which was the prevailing mood earlier on. The ousting of Mubarak will be, of course, a victory by the people, but if the regime does not change, then our victory will be incomplete. The key problems of the Arab World are indeed exemplified by the two central tenets of the Egyptian Regime, both of which are imposed by the Empire. These are 1) normalization with Israel and 2) the blind adoption of the neoliberal economic doctrine. These afford the Empire military as well as economic control over the region: Israel scares the regimes and neoliberalism pervades into daily life and makes people dependent on a global market economy over which they have no control. All the rest is less important, as economic globalization, inherent to the neoliberal doctrine, will ensure cultural domination as well. The Empire is unconcerned with anything else.

But even if this scenario happens, and it might not, the Arab Revolution has started and it will not end. The Empire will fail to continue to dominate our World, not least because the central tenets of this domination are inherently flawed and viscerally rejected by the people in Egypt as well as in the rest of the Arab World. The Arab people's rejection of Israel has been amply demonstrated over the past 60 years, since the implantation of the Zionist entity in the region. And the spontaneous revolts our nation is witnessing against dictatorships, corruption, nepotism and poverty cannot but gain in strength as long as neoliberalism is the dominant economic doctrine. Injustice and corruption are intrinsic to neoliberal economy and to its market fundamentalism. No amount of cosmetic change can do anything to that. The winds of the Empire carry with them the seeds of its demise. And these have germinated on the barricades of Tahreer Square.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

From the Wall Street Journal, an article entitled: Mideast Turmoil: Made in America? You betcha as they say in the god old US of A
"In my column in today’s European edition of the WSJ, I’ve looked at the economic causes and possible consequences of the Middle Eastern political turmoil. The protests in Egypt, Tunisia and Jordan are all clearly rooted in deep political grievances against brutal dictatorships, but they have their origins in soaring food prices. The chart below from Absolute Strategy Research shows why: Egypt has one of the highest levels of spending on food as a proportion of total spending in the emerging markets. It is hardly surprising that huge rises in food prices should bring people out on to the streets. But the alarming thing from a global perspective is the number of other countries with similarly high levels of food spending, including nuclear powers such as Ukraine and Pakistan. If food prices carry on rising, we may see this turmoil spread.

I told you she was umm al dunia

Turmoil in Egypt is jolting grain markets in the Midwest.

وصلتني هذه الرسالة من فلسطين

كان هناك تجمع سلمي أمس الأربعاء الساعة التاسعة ليلاً على دوار المنارة في رام الله للتضامن مع الشعب المصري
إلا أن الأجهزة الأمنية للسلطة الفلسطينية قمعت هذا التجمع وفرّقته

اليوم هناك مشاورات في الضفة الغربية بين عدد من الأحزاب الفلسطينية المختلفة (لا تشمل حماس والجهاد)
لعقد مسيرة سلمية في رام الله ضخمة
للتضامن مع الشعب المصري
والنقاش دائر حول الشعارات التي يجب رفعها في المسيرة
فهناك من لا يرغب أن يرفع شعارات تطالب صراحة برحيل مبارك

الحديث الأولي أن المسيرة ستكون السبت الساعة الثانية بعد الظهر
وسنخبركم إذا تأكد الموعد

من المؤسف والمخجل أن لا يكون هناك مسيرات شعبية في جميع مدن وقرى ومخيمات فلسطين تطالب برحيل الدكتاتور مبارك
إذا كانت السلطة الفلسطينية لا تريد أن تصرّح بشيء فهذا شأنها،
ولكن أين الشعب الفلسطيني ومواقفه الداعمة للحرية وإرادة الشعوب؟
وهل نغمض أعيننا على بطش النظام المصري بشرفاء مصر
لأن السلطة لا تريد أن يزعل مبارك وطغمته الحاكمة

This guy is totally irrelevant

Why am I not surprised?

Egypt - U.S. intelligence collaboration with Omar Suleiman “most successful”

Omar Sulayman

I'm watching him on Al Jazeera. The guy is trying to sell us used cars. 

Make it a double!

I take a break from Egypt to post a small one about food. But it looks like double talk is the specialty of the US administration

"Currently, the U.S.D.A. counts among its missions both expanding markets for agricultural products (like corn and soy!) and providing nutrition education. These goals are at odds with each other; you can’t sell garbage while telling people not to eat it"
(Thanks Anne)

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

The Empire fights hard and dirty

So is that what it takes? Is that how the Empire intends to strike back at the demonstrators in Egypt? By unleashing goons and thugs, all paid members of the security forces (we saw the IDs) on camel back and horse back, and having them throw stones and molotov cocktails at the demonstrators in Tahreer? Oh I see the plot: now that the security forces are dressed as civilians, it does not matter anymore: the will of the People is prevailing, and some "people" want Mubarak to stay on. So is it Obama's and Ban Ki Moon's and all the other comparses fault in the "People" is divided? Now the demonstrators can be repressed by...other demonstrators, in reality members of the armed security forces in disguise. The Egyptian army can rest (it has been resting since 1973), it wil not interfere with the will of the people... What a good way out! What a grotesque ploy especially with the horses and the camels. It would be comical; if there weren't real people getting hurt and dying fighting for freedom and for freedom.

I knew the Empire would fight hard and dirty. I didn't expect it to sink that low. Another sign of the unavoidability of the demise of the global world order. Courage Egyptian comrades. Courage.

I have to say one thing though: This whole episode puts back into perspective the whole issue of non-violence and of "civil" disobedience. How can a regime accept its own demise when its power structure and its repression apparatus is still fully functional? I think it was Trotsky who said that for a popular uprising to succeed, the armed forces must be neutralized otherwise the power structure tilts in favor of those who are armed. 

Digital Darkness

Digital Darkness: U.S., U.K. Companies Help Egyptian Regime Shut Down Telecommunications and Identify Dissident Voices


To all those who ask themselves if Syria will be next in the Arab Revolution, I say no. Its turn may come, but the US-sponsored regimes serving Israel wil crumble first. Start trembling. 

At the center, Tahreer Square

(Thanks Fahed)

No battery chicken

I want to tell all those who would want to have us believe that the changes in the Arab World and the protests in Egypt can be solely traced to food prices are wrong. Panem and circences (bread and games, or carbonated drinks and satellite tv) can only work for a while. People need freedom, equity, justice, fairness, freedom. They want to participate in public decision making and want to have a say in managing their lives. To say it is just about food is patronizing and hold obvious racists undertones: we in the West protest for freedom, but you do it for bread. I can actually provide proof of what I am saying: in Egypt as in Tunisia, it is not only the poor and the hungry who are in the street. The middle class is represented en force, and these are not hungry for bread. It may come to some as a shock, but we are humans and not battery chicken.

It is hardly surprising the Egyptian people are angry: the country is one of the world's most vulnerable to rising food prices. Food constitutes more than 40% of Egypt's total final consumption—one of the highest levels among all emerging markets, according to data compiled by Absolute Strategy Research. The same is true of Tunisia, Algeria and Morocco. Worryingly, other countries where food is more than 40% of consumption include Pakistan and Ukraine, both nuclear states. The sharp rise in food prices in these countries has inevitably a much greater impact on living standards than the U.S., U.K. or Japan, where food is just 7.2%, 8.7% and 14.3% respectively. 

Arab dictatorships: double whammy

The Arab World is much more important to global food security than people usually think. The prevailing wisdom is that these are chronically and irremediably food insecure regions and that they are dependent on food imports and that they will continue to be. This may hold some truth in it as the region is water deficient and cannot rely on rainfall for feeding its population especially in view of shifting diets. BUT the region holds two major resources without which global food production and trade would plummet: oil and phosphorus. Read this article:

In his statement, Prof White pointed out that at present, the regions and specifically Morocco enjoy a near-monopoly hold of the world' high quality phosphate rock supply as he stressed that "even a temporary disruption to the supply of phosphate on the world market can have serious ramifications for nations' food security." 
But what a double whammy the Arab World has put itself/been put in: Not only does the Empire control its food supply, via trade and mega-corporations, but the Arab dictatorships have delivered to the Empire the key to their resources which are then used to produce the food it is held hostage with. Luckily all of this is changing, and one big mover of the protests in Egypt is not only the price of food, it is the rejection by people of a deal to sell Israel natural gas at a fraction of the international price when the people of Egypt have to pay full price! One day soon we shall control our oil and gas and phosphorus and establish fair trading conditions with the world. This is why the end of Arab dictatorships, plutocracies, corruptocracies is an absolute necessity. 


""I have not heard anybody say that it is a bad thing and that Mubarak should stay in power," said Rami Zurayk, a professor at the American University of Beirut, in Lebanon's capital, who has been supporting the protests via his blog."

Addicted to freedom

Millions of people in the streets of Cairo and of all the main cities of Egypt and the Egyptian regime plays it dumb. In his speech yesterday, Mubarak sounded as if he did not realize what was going on. Commentators on Al Jazeera explained this by saying that he was suffering from a psychological condition common to dictators worldwide which made him believe his own lies, especially when he tells he never wanted power. I think he is just blatantly lying, and that he does not believe a single word he utters, but it is neither here nor there. Mubarak sounded as if he was paternalistically scolding the protestors. He told them he will not seek power after September and asked them to go back home to their empty larders and hungry families in orderly fashion. The brouhaha that ensued could be heard in the four corners of the Arab World. What stupidity! What sheer patronization! The response from the streets was overwhelming: out now!

Meanwhile, two events are noteworthy: one, the US position which has apparently shifted. Now the US says it wants Mubarak out too. It does not want to bring the regime down yet, but it has given up on Mubarak. Well who wouldn't? I mean his sons fled to London long ago and his business associates are in Dubai. But the US is seeking to ingratiate itself with the people, so that it can push for a new "democratic" regime in which "democracy" has two intertwined goals: allow for uninterrupted plundering and control of resources and protect Israel. These are in reality one goal, as Israel serves as the bully who helps the US impose its imperial will.

Meanwhile, the US is considering a number of alternatives, depending on how the dynamics of the protests evolve. If the regime can clamp down, then the infamous Omar Sulayman, head of the mukhabarat and the man behing the Gaza blockade will lead the country towards US-style democracy. If the protests continue to gain strength, then Al Barade`i will be brought into the power game. He has already been positioned among the protestors. But the people of Egypt are not fools. They are automatically suspicious of anybody, of any regime, of any plan, of any politician who is endorsed by the US. This is what the US has done to itself after decades of unconditional support of Israel and of the Zionist project.

Meanwhile, in the streets of Egypt, the regime (possibly with support from the flurry of "advisors" who have flocked to the US embassy) has adopted a new strategy. Hired demonstrators (and there are plenty of those around, specialized in cheering for the leader, whoever this may happen to be) have been unleashed into the street. After Mubarak's speech, they have organized counter-demonstrations that go around chanting slogans of support for the regime, thanking Mubarak for his kindness and requesting an end to the protests. So these are protestors protesting protests, which makes an interesting philosophical case, but a very stupid practical situation. My sense is that the internal security forces are behind that. They are under Sulayman's direct orders and they are the real bad guys in Egypt. They outnumber the army (they are well over a million while the army is in the 600,000 if I remember well). First they sent in the looters, but these were exposed by the citizen who organized themselves to prevent acts of robbery and violence against civilians. So now they are sending political mobs. And these will be neutralized to.

The will of the people of Egypt is unshakable and they know we are all looking up to them. They sense they have taken the Arab World to a historic juncture and that there is no way back. The Arab World will never be the same. We have tasted freedom, and it is addictive. 

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

The $1.3 billions questions

As I write (it is just after 7 AM in Beirut), Al Jazeera is showing live footage of protestors gathering in Tahreer square in Cairo for the million people march planned for today. Last night a White House spokesman was cornered into admitting that the US has sent at least 40 "advisors" as extra staff to its Cairo embassy while simultaneously trying to reduce its "diplomatic footprint". Did they come to oversee the kind of transition Hillary Clinton would like to see, a transition that ensures that Israel will always be protected?  Did they come to advise the army about "showing restraint"? These are the $1.3 billions (per year) questions. 


"The country sees itself as the intellectual birthplace of pan-Arabism, and in spite of the fact that the Lebanese enjoy greater freedom of expression than elsewhere in the Arab world, events in North Africa have inspired many. At the weekend, hundreds demonstrated outside the Egyptian embassy in solidarity with the protesters in Cairo and other cities.

Egypt has not slept tonight and neither have I,” writes Rami Zurayk, a leftwing blogger. “I had dreams about the change that is sweeping through the Arab world, and about the hopes that the revolutions in Tunisia and in Egypt and the protests in Jordan and Yemen have instilled in each one of us Arabs.”

Street academics

"The metaphor moved into the Western mainstream media in the late 1980s. Prior to 1987, American journalists always referred to "Arab public opinion" rather than the street. The metaphor caught on when the first Palestinian Intifada broke into the news. Usage intensified during the original invasion of Iraq in 1990, and then again after 9/11. By 2006, journalists were using the street metaphor in the majority of their descriptions of popular sentiment in the Arab world, according to Regier and Khalidi's research."