Archive for ‘Revolution’

August 31, 2011

What Kind of Nations Will Come From The Twitter Revolutions?

by WIZ

Looking back on the world’s history, I have a funny feeling that today’s revolutionaries may not turn their countries into such benign places as we’d like to think. How do we know they will be able to put everything together and democratically operate? Will a new despot emerge from the rubble? This is not to say that I prefer Mubarak or Ben Ali or Gadaffi, but it is too soon it some regards to sound the horn of cheer. The real work may still be before them. Countries like Tunisia have a lot of problems and a charismatic leader may emerge with a scapegoat strategy for rebuilding. Aaron Brady is more optimistic:

[I]nstead of the personality cult by which Presidents-for-life like Ben Ali and Mubarak have ruled for decades, the masses of nameless Cairenes and Tunisians—assembled on Facebook and in the street—represents a kind of anti-personality cult. When everyone is “Khaled Said” (or “Mohamed Bouazizi” in Tunisia), after all, the story being told is not only that the nation is united, but that it is united by the common experience of having suffered at the hands of the state. In this sense, instead of “leaderless revolutions,” perhaps we might think about how Facebook helped facilitate a “revolution of leaderlessness“?…

In other words, what Gladwell flags as a weakness of social media—the difficulty of producing strong commitment to a single idea or plan—might actually be what makes it uniquely valuable. By uniting around the crimes of Ben Ali and Mubarak, the much more difficult political question of what kind of government was to succeed him could be deferred until later.

H/T: The Dish

June 30, 2011

Pride and Prejudice: Reflecting on New York’s Marriage Law (Part 3)

by WIZ

I want to focus on three pragmatic issue points regarding same-sex marriage. They may span the general topic of same-sex marriage or something specific to New York.

  1. “Same-sex marriage is doing a big no no: it is redefining traditional marriage”. This message has cropped up across the anti-same sex marriage spectrum, from Pat Robertson on the 700 club to intellectuals at the NRO. You can’t redefine traditional (American, not Biblical) marriage because it has never been done before in any civilization or nation. To some, America is doomed because we have opened the Pandora box and begun to accepted (and even show love, not bigotry (why do some Christians worship on Sundays their lord of love but flamethrow the other days of the week?) for) same-sex marriage couples and their relationships.

Steven Taylor explains just a smidgen of the falsehood in the claim that marriage has never been redefined before. His piece is worth a full read but I will give you a paragraph or so:

“…the very fact that there were laws forbidding interracial marriage demonstrates the degree to which marriage has been a creature of legislation.  And, as I noted the other day, the involvement of government in marriage is essentially escapable.  So, at least from a legal point of view, marriage hasbeen redefined in living memory.”

Taylor delves into the story of Jacob of the Torah who had an interesting “marriage”. Indeed marriage has evolved since the days of marriages arranged by fathers, bride prices, bigamy, and sanctioned adultery.

2. “Same-sex marriage was legislated by liberal thugs, liberal tyrants, and (insert any other foaming at the mouth ad hominem, non-reality based stereotype)”. These sad canards crop up at the NRO, even to the point of comparing the New York state legislative process to fascist North Korea.
Faith in Public Life has continually brought the cut throat discussions in politics back to where they should be: to a humanized form. Ad hominem stereotypes distort and distract conversations to the point that we are no longer are talking about humans equal to us (and made in the image of God: imago deo) but “the gays”. FIPL provided a few news ads and commentary that helps with the now everpresent topic of same-sex marriage post-New York.

3. “Gays are going to sue religious organizations for discrimination”. This was an issue for the four Republican legislators in New York. Would there be enough protection for churches and organizations that may have objections to serving same-sex weddings or events so that they are not liable for discrimination? In a brief paragraph, yes, those protections are in place:

One of the most striking things about the week-long battle was how much of it hinged on the canard that worked so well for anti-marriage activists in California: If gay marriage is passed, religious organizations will be forced to marry same-sex couples, and businesses that object to homosexuality will be sued for refusing to provide their services at gay weddings. Under current law, religious leaders already can’t be compelled to sanctify a same-sex union, making this bill’s provision a politically motivated redundancy. Whether passing a same-sex marriage law without a religious exemption for businesses makes a difference is a more murky question. City and state nondiscrimination laws might have required businesses to provide their services at gay weddings—a protection the law passed yesterday supersedes. But it’s hard to imagine too many people in the wedding industry turning down money, and which gay couple would want to hire a homophobic organization anyway?

June 30, 2011

Pride and Prejudice: Reflecting on New York’s Marriage Law (Part 2)

by WIZ

Let’s first take a look at Presidential candidate Rick Santorum’s lamentation over New York (this is almost the most foaming at the mouth pro-family you can get today):

I have long opposed the redefinition and nullification of marriage, the central building block for society. Indeed, as a U.S. senator I co-sponsored the Defense of Marriage Act and the Federal Marriage Amendment. As a citizen, I actively campaigned against the judges in Iowa who ordered gay marriage there.  I also was one of the first to step out and encourage the leadership of the House of Representatives to defend the Defense of Marriage Act in court when the president refused to do so. Unlike others in this race, I believe it is the role of the president to weigh in when states try to redefine the meaning of marriage. Marriage is defined in the federal law as a legal union between one man and one woman as husband and wife; any state that redefines marriage is wreaking havoc not only with the definitions of the federal law and the majority of states, but, even more importantly, with the single most important and time-tested institution of every successful society.

My emphasis is made on the last sentence. There is a general lamenation that traditional marriage is fleeting. To some, passing legislation to allow people of different sexual orientations dissolves traditional marriage. But wait, same-sex marriage has been legal in some states for some time now. Why has the family been doing better, not worse, since then? David Frum gives a personal take:

I was a strong opponent of same-sex marriage. Fourteen years ago, Andrew Sullivan and I forcefully debated the issue at length online (at a time when online debate was a brand new thing).

Yet I find myself strangely untroubled by New York state’s vote to authorize same-sex marriage — a vote that probably signals that most of “blue” states will follow within the next 10 years.

I don’t think I’m alone in my reaction either. Most conservatives have reacted with calm — if not outright approval — to New York’s dramatic decision.

Why?

The short answer is that the case against same-sex marriage has been tested against reality. The case has not passed its test.

Since 1997, same-sex marriage has evolved from talk to fact.

If people like me had been right, we should have seen the American family become radically more unstable over the subsequent decade and a half.

Instead — while American family stability has continued to deteriorate — it has deteriorated much more slowly than it did in the 1970s and 1980s before same-sex marriage was ever seriously thought of.

By the numbers, in fact, the 2000s were the least bad decade for American family stability since the fabled 1950s. And when you take a closer look at the American family, the facts have become even tougher for the anti-gay marriage position.

Mataconis sums up Frum’s point:

Indeed. We’ve lived with same-sex marriage, and more generally increasing acceptance of homosexuality, for long enough now to know that the gloom-and-doom preachers were wrong and that the world isn’t going to end just because two women, or two men, go down to City Hall and get a marriage license.

Kathryn Jean Lopez brings up a quote from George Weigel. She ends her post with no comment regarding his quote:

Marriage, as both religious and secular thinkers have acknowledged for millennia, is a social institution that is older than the state and that precedes the state. The task of a just state is to recognize and support this older, prior social institution; it is not to attempt its redefinition. To do the latter involves indulging the totalitarian temptation that lurks within all modern states: the temptation to remanufacture reality. The American civil-rights movement was a call to recognize moral reality; the call for gay marriage is a call to reinvent reality to fit an agenda of personal willfulness. The gay-marriage movement is thus not the heir of the civil-rights movement; it is the heir of Bull Connor and others who tried to impose their false idea of moral reality on others by coercive state power.

A humane society will find ample room in the law for accommodating a variety of human relationships in matters of custodial care, hospital visiting rights, and inheritance. But there is nothing humane about the long march toward the dictatorship of relativism, nor will there be anything humane about the destination of that march, should it be reached. The viciousness visited upon Archbishop Dolan and other defenders of marriage rightly understood during the weeks before the vote in Albany is yet another testimony to the totalitarian impulse that lurks beneath the gay marriage movement.

Because a same-sex marriage is not reality for some heterosexuals does not mean it is not reality for others. You gotta love the comparison of Bull Conor and the use of fire hoses (powerful enough to peel bark off of trees) on African Americans in preventing them to vote to marriage equality (legislatively achieved through many measures, not in totalitarian fashion by a dictator). As Sullivan notes, we live in a republic, not a church. I am left wondering what aspects of life are on the sacrosanct list never to be touched, altered, or changed for the sake of doing something about an ever growing group of humans

(Photo: A young boy waves a flag during the 2011 NYC LGBT Pride March on the streets of Manhattan on June 26, 2011 in New York City. Thousands of revelers had reason to celebrate since New York state legislators approved a bill legalizing same-sex marriage which Governor Cuomo signed in to law on Friday June 24. By Jemal Countess/Getty Images)

June 27, 2011

Pride and Prejudice: Reflecting on New York’s Marriage Law (Part 1)

by WIZ

The passing on Friday of the New York state law allowing same-sex couples to marry (which kicks in in 30 days) was monumental. The population of the Empire State alone (19 some million people) outnumbers the five other relatively small Northeastern states (and Iowa /D.C.).

This law, and many other important events, are going to be almost magnified in importance as we approach the 2012 election. Each candidate, including the incumbent, will be asked what they think about the new law in New York, if it should or shouldn’t come down to the state legislatures deciding on such matters, and if this could possibly be a national law in the coming decade.

One of the major issues that stood out in crafting the same-sex marriage law in New York was religious protections for churches, organizations, and the like. The Right has let out some steam on this issue, comparing New York to North Korea and insisting that anti-same sex marriage is not anti-homosexuality but really pro-marriage. What has been surprising and refreshing is to see many members of the Right and Republican Party rebuke their own side and agree with passing this law. This floor speech is worth watching for it captures some of the roots of the small government / libertarian in most Republicans as well as religious protection:

Even Presidential candidate Michele Bachmann has some nuanced respect for the New York law.

David True calls those paying attention to see that this law is not solely about saving same-sex couples from an encroaching government with its “moralistic” laws but ” it is about claiming the legal right (with the help of government) to make a huge commitment, indeed, one of the most profound and traditional commitments one can make.” True describes marriage as “an unfolding story”, one that can have “us appreciate what has come before” as well as recognize the “cultural revolution” upon us as part of the timeline.

Marriage in this view can even be compared to God. Both marriage and God are infinite spheres (the former of love and commitment, the latter of the same as well as a divine expanse of justice, judgement, and redemption). Neither can be fully grasped with words here on earth. If anything, words at times can hold these two back and muddle their true essences. In the end, participating with both provide more than words ever could.

(Pictured: The First Presbyterian Church of NYC on 5th Ave & 12th St., which was on the Pride Parade route. The congregants passed out water and hung a huge welcome banner, complete with triangles.

June 7, 2011

Picture of the Day

by WIZ

Pictured: An anti-government protester, center, wearing a red scarf, looks up while praying with other women during a demonstration demanding the resignation of President Saleh, in Sanaa, Yemen, on Wednesday, April 6, 2011. (AP Photo/Muhammed Muheisen)

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June 6, 2011

Why a Two-State Solution Won’t Come Soon

by WIZ

It is nothing less than throwing gasoline on a fire when Israel kills 22 unarmed, non-violent Palestinian protesters.

June 5, 2011

The Revolution Will Be Live

by WIZ

Paying respect to Gil passing the other week with a neat video to his one song “The Revolution will not be Televised”.

June 2, 2011

Syrian Torture of a 13 year old

by WIZ

This is pretty brutal stuff.

Many nations who use torture utilize it in a very discreet and clandestine manner. Not Syria. They are broadcasting it so to intimidate people. Here is the news of the 13 year old, Hamza al-Khateeb, who was arrested April 29 and returned to his family a month later:

The child had spent nearly a month in the custody of Syrian security, and when they finally returned his corpse it bore the scars of brutal torture: Lacerations, bruises and burns to his feet, elbows, face and knees, consistent with the use of electric shock devices and of being whipped with cable, both techniques of torture documented by Human Rights Watch as being used in Syrian prisons during the bloody three-month crackdown on protestors.

Hamza’s eyes were swollen and black and there were identical bullet wounds where he had apparently been shot through both arms, the bullets tearing a hole in his sides and lodging in his belly. On Hamza’s chest was a deep, dark burn mark. His neck was broken and his penis cut off.

His father supposedly fainted when he saw his son.

This has then been followed up with protests:

In a revolutionary season that has seen countless “Fridays of Rage” in half a dozen countries, Syrian activists marched on a day that some dubbed “the Saturday of Hamza.” … In the Damascus suburb of Douma, protesters marched through the night chanting “Leave! Leave!” to Mr. Assad while holding signs declaring, “We are all Hamza al-Khateeb,” according to a video posted on YouTube. Video from another suburb, Dereya, showed women and children demonstrating, with a chorus of young voices shouting, “The people want the overthrow of the regime.” They held aloft signs that read, “Did Hamza scare you that much?”

One final note: Syrians across religious, ethnic, geographical, and tribal lines are banding together in support against their government.

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May 27, 2011

The Many Nuances of the Arab Spring

by WIZ

Jeffrey Goldberg at TheAtlantic has a fine piece in this month’s issue on the many shades of the Arab Spring revolutions and how America fits into that mix. It is worth a full read but I will give my thoughts:

Throughout his piece, Goldberg delves into the matchstick nation that started the Arab Spring: Tunisia. He also explores the nuanced group, The Muslim Brotherhood, and how he is unsure whether they are good for the future of many Arab nations post-Arab Spring.

Ben Ali’s (former leader of Tunisia) wife, Leïla Trabelsi, an arriviste hairdresser who would dispatch government airplanes to Saint-Tropez for shopping trips, carried herself as if she were the uncrowned queen of Carthage. Her daughter and son-in-law maintained a mansion of extraordinary size and tackiness on the Mediterranean, whose grounds included a very Uday Hussein–esque enclosure for a pet tiger named Pasha. On at least one occasion they sent a government aircraft to Europe to fetch their favorite frozen yogurt. Before they fled to Saudi Arabia, Ben Ali and his wife reportedly looted the Central Bank, taking as much as a ton and a half of gold bullion. All told, the family may have stolen billions of dollars from the treasury. Thirty percent of young people in Tunisia are unemployed.

One of the main threads in this piece is the careful picking and choosing of who America sides and supports and who it leaves behind. I wondered about this in a previous post but Goldberg does a good job exploring these tough questions:

And of course, American diplomats understood that there was utility for the United States in maintaining close relations with Ben Ali. Like Mubarak (and even the late-stage Qaddafi, who enjoyed a several-year period of détente with the U.S.), Ben Ali was a foe of Islamic radicalism, and his intelligence services provided not-inconsequential help in the American campaign against al-Qaeda. “Whenever we raised issues of political freedom or corruption, the answers were always the stock answers: ‘We’re threatened by the Islamist party, we’re facing extremists, you Americans don’t understand that we’re your only true friends.’”

Of course, various American administrations, embracing the “realist” notion that stability in Middle East countries brought about through repression could be maintained in perpetuity, accepted Ben Ali’s self-interested analysis of his centrality to the struggle against terrorism, even though Tunisia has the most secular of North Africa’s populations, and one of the most highly educated.

The Jordanian monarchy represents the sort of regime the United States finds itself defending. It is not the most difficult regime in the Middle East to defend—throughout the early stages of the Arab revolt, Bahrain’s royal family, engaged in the often violent suppression of the country’s Shia majority, was the problem child of the American monarchy-maintenance program—but Jordan is still governed in a manner inconsistent with the spirit of Tahrir Square, a spirit appropriated by President Obama and Secretary Clinton whenever they speak of the Arab desire for democracy.

Hillary Clinton, as one would expect, doesn’t think much of the charge that the administration is engaged in a sustained campaign of hypocrisy. As the administration’s point person on the entire set of issues roiling the Middle East, she is perceived in dramatically divergent ways. In Cairo, many democracy activists believe she was overly coddling of Mubarak; at the same time, she is the object of an intense lobbying campaign by leaders of the Arab states of the Persian Gulf, who fear, according to ambassadors and foreign ministers I have spoken with, that she has become some sort of moralizing neoconservative. One Gulf official I spoke with asked me earnestly if Paul Wolfowitz, the leading neoconservative theoretician of the previous presidency, was now serving as her adviser. I mentioned to Clinton that she is seen in some quarters as a kind of wild-eyed Wolfowitz. “Oh, no, not that!” she said. “Call me wild-eyed, but not that.”

When I asked her how she squares the inconsistency—working to build democracies in some countries while keeping incompetent monarchs on their thrones in others—she rejected its very existence.

“I wouldn’t accept the premise,” she said. “I think we believe in the same values and principles, full stop. We believe that countries should empower their people. We believe that people should have certain universal rights. We believe that there are certain economic systems that work better for the vast majority of people than other systems. I think we’re very consistent.”

The U.S. needs to work with the monarchies to help them stay ahead of the unrest brewing in their kingdoms, Clinton said, but even if they don’t take American advice—and she was adamant (and the record does, in fact, show) that Hosni Mubarak was offered a great deal of advice that he consistently ignored—the administration will live with what she refuses to see as inconsistencies.

“We live in the real world, and there are lots of countries that we deal with because we have interests in common, we have certain security issues that we are both looking at,” she said. “Obviously, in the Middle East, Iran is an overwhelming challenge to all of us. We do business with a lot of countries whose economic systems or political systems are not ones we would design or choose to live under. We encourage consistently, both publicly and privately, reform and the protection of human rights. But we don’t walk away from dealing with China because we think they have a deplorable human-rights record. We don’t walk away from Saudi Arabia.”

I noted that the Chinese seem frightened by the possibility that the forces unleashed by the suicide of a Tunisian peddler could reach Tiananmen Square. “They’re worried,” she said. “They’re trying to stop history, which is a fool’s errand. They cannot do it, but they’re going to hold it off as long as possible.”

If it is true, to cite one of President Obama’s favorite Martin Luther King Jr. quotations, that the moral arc of the universe is long, but it bends toward justice; and if it is true that history will sooner or later catch up with the Chinese Communist Party, then why isn’t it also true that history will soon catch up with a collection of superannuated desert monarchs? The answer came, elliptically, when I asked Clinton whether she would be sad to see the disappearance of the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Not long ago, Clinton had been criticized for suggesting that Assad himself might be a “reformer,” though she acknowledges that Assad is anti-American in some very consequential ways (and not only in his service to Iran). “Depends on what replaces it,” she said, her answer combining disdain for Assad with a realpolitik understanding that some things out there are, despite the promise of the Arab Spring, potentially more dangerous to U.S. interests than certain dictatorships. For people who have known only dictatorship and who yearn for democracy, this is a hard swallow.

Striking this balance—understanding when the United States absolutely must support leaders it dislikes intensely—will remain the key foreign-policy challenge for the Obama administration, and perhaps its successors, in the coming years.


Now, on to the Muslim Brotherhood. I at first wasn’t down on them. I thought the revolution in Egypt that ousted Mubarak was good. However, I am having seconds thoughts:

The Muslim Brotherhood is a global organization with autonomous branches, some more radical than others (the terrorist group Hamas, in Gaza, is a Muslim Brotherhood offshoot, for instance). There is a diversity of opinion, but those who affiliate with the Brotherhood believe, generally, in the primacy of Muslim law; in the supremacy of Islam; and in the idea that women and men should play their traditional roles in society. They also tend to believe that the West (and Israel, the country they consider a Western outpost in the Middle East) seeks, through conspiracy, to undermine their way of life. American analysts are spending a great deal of time studying the Brotherhood in Egypt and elsewhere (the Brotherhood’s Jordan branch, the Islamic Action Front, is that country’s most potent opposition political force), and there is some debate, in and out of administration circles, about the true views of the organization, especially in Egypt. Since the Arab revolution began, the Muslim Brotherhood has shown signs of fracturing along ideological lines, but its leaders have proved somewhat adept at playing politics, particularly that aspect of politics in which hard questions are ducked.

It is worth remembering, particularly at a time when the Muslim Brotherhood is attempting to soften its image, that the group’s essential platform remains unchanged. The Muslim Brotherhood’s avowed creed is “Allah is our objective. The Prophet is our leader. Quran is our law. Jihad is our way. Dying in the way of Allah is our highest hope.”

I asked Clinton whether she worried about the rise of the Muslim Brotherhood’s ideology, particularly as it related to the future of women in the Arab Middle East. “Well, I think we don’t know enough yet to understand exactly what they’re morphing into. For me, the jury is out,” she said. “There are some Islamist elements that are coming to the surface in Egypt that I think, on just the face of it—they’re coming out of jails, coming out of the shadows—are inimical to a democracy, to the kind of freedom of expression, freedom of assembly, freedom of conscience that was the aspiration of Tahrir Square.”

This was, if anything, an even more measured answer than one expects from Clinton. But in this fluid period, when there is a reasonable chance—not a large one, but still a reasonable one—that the Muslim Brotherhood might splinter, or perhaps even find itself in vigorous competition with more-secular-minded parties, Clinton and Obama recognize that the Brotherhood could turn harsh American criticism into a campaign advantage, particularly among more rural, poorly educated, and traditionalist voters.

Finally, neo-conservative nation building under the frame of democracy seems to be the outlook of America towards the world. I never would have thought Hillary Clinton to buy into this, but then again it might not be a bad policy in some ways:

“What I want to see is the freedom to choose,” Clinton said. “My model would be our own country. Women are able to dress as they choose in accordance with their own personal desires, and I would like to see this available for women everywhere, so that there is no compulsion.” The Obama administration has maintained a flexible, even positive, attitude about the hijab (unlike the French government, which sees covered women, and particularly fully veiled women, as a threat to the country’s national security, and to its cultural identity). In a speech delivered in Cairo in 2009, President Obama, in the course of attempting to reset America’s relations with the Muslim world, even boasted of America’s tolerance for the hijab:

 Freedom in America is indivisible from the freedom to practice one’s religion. That is why there is a mosque in every state of our union … That is why the U.S. government has gone to court to protect the right of women and girls to wear the hijab, and to punish those who would deny it.

This particular assertion in the Cairo speech was not met with joy by some Middle Eastern women’s-rights activists I spoke with at the time, women who believed that the U.S. should do nothing to celebrate the hijab—something that many Muslim women hope to shed when they come to America.

When Clinton talked to me about the hijab, however, she made clear that an attempt to pressure women in any way to cover themselves—anything on “the continuum of compulsion”—would represent a red line for her. “When people start to say that there are certain things that women should not be permitted to do, and the only way we can stop them is pass laws, like you can’t drive in Saudi Arabia, or you can’t vote … that’s a red line, and that infringes on the rights of women. Therefore I am against it. Any society in the 21st century that is looking toward modernization, and certainly [any society] claiming to be democratic, needs to protect the right to make these choices.”

This was a blunt message, delivered, quite obviously, in the direction of conservative religious forces; the secretary of state, correctly, sees the forced imposition of the hijab as a proxy for the ascendance of fundamentalist Islamism. So I asked her about the rise of the Muslim Brotherhood, and of parties espousing ideologies similar to that of the Brotherhood. As winter turned to spring, it was becoming clear in Egypt that the Brotherhood, whose strength was downplayed by most Western commentators during the early days of the revolt in Egypt, was emerging as a power broker of surpassing importance.

On my most recent visit to the Middle East, I traveled from country to country asking essentially the same question of many different people: How could the United States best serve the interests of democracy and stability? Not a single person I spoke with believed that America was in decline; to a person, everyone agreed that American power was potent. Salafists believed it was potent and malevolent; secular democracy activists believed it could be marshaled benevolently. The most eloquent answer came from Ali Salem, a free-thinking Egyptian playwright whose plays and essays were periodically banned by the ancien régime. I met Salem in a café in the Mohandessin neighborhood of Cairo, on the west bank of the Nile. While we talked, various cartoonists, columnists, and Libyan resistance leaders joined us. Salem is an unusual figure, even among democracy activists in Cairo—he is frankly Americaphilic, in part because he was brought to the United States as a young man through a State Department visitors program. He was bursting with ideas about the roles the U.S. could play in the Middle East—in education, in agriculture, but mainly in teaching leaders about how power corrupts, and about building political systems that resist that corruption. “I believe you have a great thing,” he said. “The great thing is, you have a president for four or eight years, and then out. If you are an enemy of the minister of culture and he bans your plays, you will be banned for only four or eight years. The beautiful idea is to limit the damage one human being can do to another. It’s a beautiful idea. Do you know how beautiful it is?”

This all does come with an ironic contradiction (thanks to Joe Lieberman and John McCain for the example):

En route to Tunis, I had stopped off in Jordan, where I paid a visit to the royal palace. Senators John McCain and Joseph Lieberman had passed through a few weeks earlier, to see King Abdullah II. Their visit, I quickly learned, was simultaneously a source of bemusement and irritation for the Jordanian government. The two senators, of course, advocate an assertive foreign policy, and both are associated with neoconservative striving for robust and quick democratization of the Middle East. “They came in and said that Jordan should open up its political space for more parties, and be more aggressive about democratization within the parameters of a constitutional monarchy,” a senior Jordanian official told me. “And then they said, ‘But whatever you do, don’t allow the Muslim Brotherhood to gain more power.’ So they want us to be open and closed at the same time.”

May 26, 2011

Arab Spring Wrap-Up

by WIZ

This doesn’t mean it’s over, but just a general wrap-up of what has gone down so far.

May 26, 2011

Picture of the Day

by WIZ

Pictured: Libyan men react as the main fuel depot in Misrata, Libya burns after a bombing by pro-Qaddafi forces early Saturday, May 7, 2011. Witnesses say Qaddafi forces have bombed the main fuel depot in Misrata, intensifying the regime’s campaign against the rebel-held city that has been under siege for over two months. (AP Photo/ Ricardo Garcia Vilanova)

May 23, 2011

America and It’s Bride, Israel

by WIZ

Senator Marco Rubio writes the love letter.

In Rubio’s letter, he sees it as America’s duty to make decisions every time with Israel’s safety first (and by default everyone else’s safety as secondary). Next, he does not mention land grabs as acts of injustice towards Palestinians but gladly highlights Hamas’s terrorist  behavior. Why is one form of violence and unfairness essentially better than another form? Taking peoples land is not terrorism but isn’t just. Why is the former always blindly justified?

March 24, 2011

Candidate for America’s 4th War

by WIZ

Sure, why not? Pick Syria:

March 23, 2011

Before Bed Links

by WIZ
  • The Oxford University Press blog created a neat chart (above):
    Political discontent has cascaded across North Africa and the                Middle East. Entrenched dictators with decades of experience                controlling political life have fallen or had to make major                          concessions. In the West, some observers discount the role of              digital media in political change, others give it too much                        emphasis.
  • Filmdrunk – your one stop place for movie info.
  • Another site to peep – URLesque.
  • I’ll keep this coming. The Economist has a blog dedicated to charts and info graphics. How sweet!
  • Glenn Beck is thinking of leaving Fox and starting his own new channel. He could also want to start a new channel if Fox doesn’t renew his contract.
  • Finally, pole dancing…for Jesus?
February 22, 2011

No Desire for an Islamic Revolution

by WIZ

Matt Yglesias translates a French article for us:

This new generation isn’t interested in ideology, their slogans are all pragmatic and congrete; they don’t speak of Islam the way their predecessors did in Algeria in the late 1980s. Above all they reject corrupt dictators and demand democracy. That’s not to say that the demonstrators are secular, but simply that they don’t see Islam as a political ideology to be used to create a better order, they’re well inside a secular political space.

This is a continuation of Roy’s work over the past several years on “the failure of political Islam.” The basic idea here is that in part thanks to the example of Iran, you just don’t have a mass constituency that’s prepared to believe that Islam or Islamic rule offers answers to the concrete problems of poverty, corruption, and slow economic growth. People may be religiously observant or culturally conservative in ways that western liberals (or even western cultural conservatives) would find alarming, but the Egyptian people are asking “where are the jobs?” and don’t think the answer is going to be found in the Koran.