Blog Archive - 2011

Chomsky: Strategic and Economic Objectives, Not Anti-Islamization, Drives U.S. Policy

[While many are claiming that a central goal of U.S. policy is to minimize influence of groups like the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, Noam Chomsky contributed this to our blog]

It is well-established, including the major scholarly literature, that the U.S. supports democracy if and only if that accords with strategic and economic objectives.  Following that principle, in the Arab/Muslim region it has generally supported radical Islamists in fear of secular nationalism (as has the UK).  Familiar examples include Saudi Arabia, the ideological center of radical Islam (and of Islamic terror), Zia ul-Haq, the most vicious of Pakistan’s dictators, Reagan’s favorite, who carried out a program of radical Islamization (with Saudi funding), and many others.  The operative criterion is obedience, not religious extremism (rampant in the U.S., for example) or surely democracy.

Chomsky’s books include Deterring Democracy.

An Open Letter to President Barack Obama

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[To sign; for recent news releases on Egypt from the Institute for Public Accuracy]

Dear President Obama:

As political scientists, historians, and researchers in related fields who have studied the Middle East and U.S. foreign policy, we the undersigned believe you have a chance to move beyond rhetoric to support the democratic movement sweeping over Egypt. As citizens, we expect our president to uphold those values.

For thirty years, our government has spent billions of dollars to help build and sustain the system the Egyptian people are now trying to dismantle. [Read more...]

Report from Cairo

From Alex Ortiz in Cairo: “The army is beginning to come into Cairo … tens of thousands converged in midan al-gala’ coming from three different protest marches. Total communication blackout. Reports of senior police officers ordering their men to stand down and not beat or fire tear gas at protesters in Midan al-gala an hour ago.”

Report on Latest from Cairo

CAIRO, Egypt [11 p.m. local time] — 1-Some government media figures appear to be joining ranks with the protesters. Mahmoud Saad, a talk show host in the Egyptian state-run TV, has announced that he will no longer appear on TV starting tonight after he came under pressure from top government officials to report “untruths” about the protests. Mahmoud Saad, a popular TV host, has told other journalists that his disappearance from his daily show, Masr El-Naharda (Egypt Today), comes in protests against pressure to defame protesters as rioters “destroying the country”. The state is clearly starting to launch a media campaign against the protests. My guess is that they will try to scare off the rest of Egyptians from joining the protests in the future by labeling protesters “saboteurs”. [Read more...]

Police in Cairo Beating up Jounalists

[From 9:28 a.m. ET]: Police started beating up journalists protesting outside the Press Syndicate in downtown Cairo. They beat up women journalists too who were screaming and crying for help. “Do not club women. Do not club women,” some of the men rushed to the police asking them not to target women. “You’ll make things worse if you use violence” many journalists were telling police officers outside the building.

In the industrial city of Mahala, police virtually cordoned off the city. My sources in the city tell me the police ordered early dismissal of textile factory workers to preempt any organized protests of workers after work. They also blocked all traffic to some streets leading to the city center square, Al-Shoon Sqaure.

The protests are not asking for anything specific this time. They want the government out. It is that general.

Based in Cairo, Mekay reports for Inter Press Service and other outlets.

From Alex Ortiz in Cairo

[The Egyptian government has apparently block Twitter, Facebook (as of Wed. morn U.S. ET) and other internet tools, though apparently some people are able to get around such restrictions. Email from 8:45 a.m. ET:]

Downtown Cairo today remains in a state of high alert. There are many security forces and plainsclothed policemen visible on every street in the center of the city. There have been minor clashes with protesters in various parts of Cairo, as well as in Assiyut – a city to the south.

At the moment, security forces are cordoning off Tahrir Square. Private security guards in the immediate area claimed that they have heard through Central Security that clashes are expected later in the day.

More to come.

Also see: http://tweetchat.com/room/jan25

Ortiz studies at American University in Cairo; he graduated from Brown University in Arabic literary translation and Middle Eastern studies in 2009. Yesterday he succeeded in having a video stream of protests with thousands watching online.

Video from Cairo

Phone lines are intermittent and Twitter has reportedly been blocked in Egypt. Here is a live video feed: ustream.tv/channel/cairodowntown [update: ustream has been blocked, streaming now intermittently at livestream.com/cairowitness -- further update, now at: www.justin.tv/cairowitness]

Here is a YouTube video from earlier today:

Ukraine’s Assault on a Free Press

In Ukraine, where media diversity is often defined by which powerful oligarch controls which TV station, one network, TVi — known for its independent investigative style — is under intense legal pressure, with its owner not part of Ukraine’s power circles.

TVi faces a court hearing on Tuesday over a legal claim that the station’s frequencies were not legally authorized. But critics, including many from abroad, have accused the Kiev government of using the case as a way to bludgeon a troublesome media voice into silence. … [See full piece on consortiumnews.com]

Sorry, Census. Poverty Really Did Increase in 2009.

Shawn FremstadBetween 2008 and 2009, unemployment increased from 5.8 percent to 9.3 percent, the largest one-year increase on record (which goes back to 1948). Over the same period, the number of Americans without health insurance coverage rose by more than four million — from 46.3 million in 2008 to 50.7 million in 2009 — and low-income people lost insurance at a greater rate than Americans overall. Thus, it isn’t surprising that the Census Bureau’s official poverty estimates show that the number of people who were impoverished in 2009 increased by 3.74 million, and the poverty rate increased from 13.2 percent in 2008 to 14.3 percent in 2009.

More surprising is an “alternative” poverty estimate Census quietly released earlier this month. This estimate, highlighted [Wednesday] in a New York Times editorial, shows no increase in poverty between 2008 and 2009. Given the record increase in unemployment and huge decline in health insurance coverage, especially among low-income people, could this alternative estimate showing no increase in poverty really be correct? [See CEPR.net]

Bruce Reed Appointed Biden Chief of Staff Today

Alice O'ConnorIn light of his prominent role in deficit reduction and the ‘end of welfare’ in the 1990s, Reed’s appointment sends a clear — and troubling — signal about the administration’s domestic policy priorities in the years ahead.

Alice O’Connor is author of Poverty Knowledge: Social Science, Social Policy and the Poor in Twentieth Century U.S. History and professor of history at the University of California at Santa Barbara.