Jan 312011

By GWYNNE DYER | Orange County Register  |  2011-01-28  [print_link]


By 3 p.m. on today, the protesters in central Cairo were chanting: “Where is the army? Come and see what the police are doing to us. We want the army.” And that is the main question, really: where is the Egyptian Army in all this?

Like armies everywhere, even in dictatorships, the Egyptian Army does not like to use violence against its own people. It would much rather leave that sort of thing to the police, who are generally quite willing to do it. But in Alexandria, by mid-afternoon today, the police had stopped fighting the protesters and started talking to them. This is how regimes end.

First of all the police realize that they face a genuine popular movement involving all classes and all walks of life, rather than the extremist agitators that the regime’s propaganda says they are fighting. They realize that it would be wrong – and also very unwise – to go on bashing heads in the service of a regime that is likely to disappear quite soon. Best change sides before it is too late.

The likely winner of a genuinely free Egyptian election, according to most opinion polls, would be the Muslim Brotherhood. The Brothers are not particularly radical as Islamists go, but the first thing they have promised to do if they win power is to hold a referendum on Egypt’s peace treaty with Israel. And most Egyptians, according to the same polls, would vote to cancel it.

Then the army, seeing that the game is up, tells the dictator that it is time to get on the plane and go abroad to live with his money. Egypt’s ruler, Hosni Mubarak, was a general before he became president, and he has always made sure that the military were at the head of the queue for money and privileges, but there is no gratitude in politics. They won’t want to be dragged down with him.

All this could happen quite fast, or it could spread out over the next several weeks, but it is probably going to happen. Even autocratic and repressive regimes must have some sort of popular consent, because you cannot hire enough police to compel everybody to obey. They extort that consent through fear: the ordinary citizens’ fear of losing their jobs, their freedom, even their lives. So when people lose their fear, the regime is toast.

It would require a truly horrendous massacre to re-instill the fear in Egyptians now, and at this stage neither the police nor the army are likely to be willing to do that. So what happens once Mubarak leaves? Nobody knows, because nobody is in charge of this revolution.

The first people out in the streets were young university graduates who face a lifetime of unemployment. Only days later, however, the demonstrations have swelled to include people of every social class and walk of life.

They have no program, just a conviction that it is high time for a change – Kifaya! (“Enough is enough”), as the nickname of an Egyptian opposition party that flourished in the middle of the last decade put it. Two-thirds of the 80 million Egyptians have been born since Mubarak came to power, and they are not grateful for the poverty, corruption and repression that define and confine their lives. But who can fix it all?

Washington and the other Western capitals that supported Mubarak for the past three decades are praying that the revolution will choose Mohamed ElBaradei, former head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, as its leader. He flew back into Egypt last Thursday, and the regime even takes him seriously enough to put him under house arrest. But he is probably not the Chosen One.

ElBaradei is a diplomat who has spent half of his life abroad and is seen by Western governments as a “safe pair of hands.” He would be at best a figurehead, but a figurehead for what?

Since it would be the army that finally tells Mubarak to leave, the military would dominate the interim regime. They would not want to put yet another general out front, so they might decide that ElBaradei is the right candidate for interim leader, precisely because he has no independent power base. But there would then have to be elections, and ElBaradei would not even come close to winning.

The likely winner of a genuinely free Egyptian election, according to most opinion polls, would be the Muslim Brotherhood. The Brothers are not particularly radical as Islamists go, but the first thing they have promised to do if they win power is to hold a referendum on Egypt’s peace treaty with Israel. And most Egyptians, according to the same polls, would vote to cancel it.

That would end the flow of official U.S. aid and private foreign investment that currently keeps the Egyptian economy more or less afloat, even though it would probably not lead to an actual war. And there is no reason to believe that an Islamic government could make the Egyptian economy grow any faster, although it would distribute the poverty more fairly.

These longer-term considerations, however, will have no impact on the events of the next few weeks, when Egypt’s example may ignite similar revolts against decrepit regimes elsewhere in the Arab world – or not, as the case may be. But it’s not just Tunisia any more. Egypt is the biggest Arab country by far, and culturally the most influential. What happens there really matters.

If you think this article is important, share it:
Jan 312011



Hundreds march outside Koch brothers’ retreat at Rancho Mirage

The billionaire conservatives hold a gathering of elected officials, political donors and strategists. Outside, liberals hold signs condemning ‘corporate greed.’ 25 are arrested for trespassing.



THESE YOUTUBE VIDEOS ARE INTERESTING.  The people are plenty justified to be mad. What more proof do we need to see that these scummy plutocrats are plotting against the interests of the broadest majority, with the practically open complicity of the establishment’s highest authorities? It’s a documented fact, for example, that US Supreme Court member Antonin Scalia has no problem showing his political colors when it suits him.  Besides speaking at the Federalist Society event last year, Scalia also devoted time to chatting up a private dinner (and possible fundraiser) hosted by Charles Koch in 2007. If you’ll remember, Charles and his brother, David Koch, were the ones profiled in the August 2010 New Yorker piece “Covert Operations: the Billionaire Koch Brothers’ War on Obama.” To bring things full-circle, the Kochs are also major donors to the Federalist Society, a group dedicated to right-leaning reforms to the American legal system. 

More recently, Scalia found time to speak to Republican Congresswoman Michele Bachmann’s Tea Party caucus. In an immediately infamous meeting Monday, the justice and conservative lawmakers (and four Democrats) spoke at length about the Constitution and where the country is headed, and the entire conversation was off the record and closed to reporters.


The L.A. Times filed the following report on the Rancho Mirage plutocrats’ conclave, which I copy in toto:

Hundreds march outside Koch brothers’ retreat

The billionaire conservatives hold a gathering of elected officials, political donors and strategists. Outside, liberals hold signs condemning ‘corporate greed.’ 25 are arrested for trespassing.

By Rich Connell and Tom Hamburger, Los Angeles Times

January 31, 2011  [print_link]

Reporting from Rancho Mirage and Washington, D.C.

Hundreds of environmentalists, union members and liberal activists converged on Rancho Mirage on Sunday to rally against what they see as the influence of two of the nation’s leading financial backers of conservative causes.
   The protestors waved signs condemning “corporate greed,” chanted slogans and surged toward a line of helmeted police officers at the entrance to a resort where billionaires Charles and David Koch were holding a retreat for prominent conservative elected officials, major political donors and strategists.
Protest organizers said they hoped to raise awareness about the Koch brothers and what activists portray as their shadowy attempts to weaken environmental protection laws and undercut campaign contribution limits.
   The brothers control Koch Industries, the nation’s second-largest privately held company. They have funded groups pushing a limited-government, libertarian agenda, helped organize “tea party” groups and contributed $1 million to a failed ballot initiative to suspend California’s law to curb greenhouse gases.
“We cannot have democracy unless everyone has a voice,” said Cathy Riddle, a Temecula website developer who held a sign reading “Corporations are not people.” Donors like the Koch brothers are “drowning us out,” she said. “Their voices are louder.”
   The orderly protest, involving 800 to 1,000 people, ended after the arrest of 25 people for trespassing, according to authorities.
   Koch spokeswoman Nancy Pfotenhauer said the closed-door meeting, the eighth of its kind, “brings together some of America’s greatest philanthropists and job creators … who share a common belief that the current level of government spending in our nation is simply unsustainable.”
   The meeting is focusing on ways to reduce the rising federal deficit, she said, as well as “strategies to promote policies that will help grow our economy, foster free enterprise and create American jobs.”
   The guest list was confidential, but attendees included House Republican leader Eric Cantor of Virginia. In past years, guests or speakers have included other GOP leaders and conservative commentator Glenn Beck.
Sunday’s rally outside the Rancho Las Palmas resort came after a midterm election year of unprecedented attention on the Koch brothers and their role in the nation’s politics. For decades, the family has underwritten conservative organizations and campaigns, providing significant funding for the Cato Institute, the Heritage Foundation and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
   Protesters held a Sunday morning panel discussion that mostly focused on a Supreme Court decision, Citizens United vs. Federal Election Commission, that permitted corporations and unions to contribute directly to political campaigns.
   Critics said Sunday that the Kochs, who have interests in oil, pipelines, chemicals and a range of consumer products, backed groups that supported the court’s decision.
   They echoed concerns of President Obama, who has criticized a group that David Koch helped form, Americans for Prosperity. The president cited AFP as an example of special-interest money that poured into last year’s campaigns after the high court decision. AFP had said it planned to spend $40 million in 2010 campaigns.
   This month, the watchdog group Common Cause delivered a letter to the Justice Department saying that Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas should have disqualified themselves from the Citizens United case if they had taken part in a meeting the Kochs sponsored. A Supreme Court spokesman said neither justice participated in the meeting but said Thomas “dropped by.”
   Bob Edgar, president of Common Cause and a former Democratic congressman, told rally participants that the Kochs “are at the center of a hard-core conservative political network” that wants to roll back consumer protections and undercut fair elections.
   “This is a fight for nothing short of the heart and soul of America,” he said.
   Republican defenders of the Kochs accuse Common Cause and other critics of being hypocritical, saying Democratic causes have similarly large donors.
   Grover Norquist, president of the conservative Americans for Tax Reform, has attended Koch meetings in the past. He said the brothers were simply encouraging political participation. (sic)
   “Common Cause pretends to be in favor of political engagement and free speech, and now they are shouting down a group that wants to be engaged,” he said.
   The Kochs “encourage people to get involved in politics, support think tanks, to start think tanks. It’s important work.”
   But Jeff McCall, 67, a retired Upland teacher who was near the crowded front lines of Sunday’s protest, said he felt compelled to demonstrate against the Supreme Court’s relaxation of corporate political contributing.
   “It’s putting American democracy in the hands of people like the Kochs and others,” he said. “It’s not who you vote for, it’s how much money you’ve got.”

Copyright © 2011, Los Angeles Times

If you think this article is important, share it: