Monday, January 31, 2011

Jordan: In Bed With Islamists

Jordan: In Bed With Islamists

FYI for those buying the us or the MB argument.
In the aftermath of protests in Tunisia, the Jordanian public and activists groups have been engaging in sweeping protests against the extreme living conditions and inflation, and calling for the resignation of the government.

Amazingly, the Muslim Brotherhood was the only political faction in the country that announced boycotting the protests.

While this might come as a surprise to those outside Jordan, the Jordan's history with Islamic movements suggests an affair that is very different from what the supposedly moderate Jordanian government has been saying for decades.

It is not a secret that the Muslim Brotherhood has always been closer to the government than each side -- the Brotherhood and the government -- would like to admit. For a start, Jordan is one of the very few countries in which the Muslim Brotherhood is a registered charity with a legal political party.

What Can the Protests in the Arab World Achieve?

What Can the Protests in the Arab World Achieve?
The Obama administration has been slow to respond to the Tunisian and Egyptian uprisings, much like its slow response to the Iranian uprising of 2009. The Western democracies, spearheaded by the United States, must live up to their own values at this historic and troublesome juncture. Before it is too late, they must try to inaugurate changes that do not permit chaos and mayhem to come to this most strategic sphere in the world.
....must live up to their own values at this historic and troublesome juncture And Unitarian Universalists too.

Beyond Mubarak: ‘Twere Well It Were Done Quickly | The Weekly Standard

Beyond Mubarak: ‘Twere Well It Were Done Quickly | The Weekly Standard
Kristol on the Administration finally figuring out Mubarak's gone but way too slow on moving forward to elections.
But Secretary Clinton still seems to think that orderly implies gradual. Often, in life, it does. But we’re not in that kind of business-as-usual moment. In a crisis like this, moving quickly is often more important than moving in an “orderly” way. After all, an “orderly” transition is far less important than a desirable and orderly outcome. Trying to ensure now that everything is “well thought-out” to the satisfaction of diplomats can easily become an excuse for a drawn-out transition. And that means trouble. The more drawn-out this transition is, the more likely it is to end badly. The best case—the least radicalizing one for the population, the least advantageous for the Muslim Brotherhood—would be a quick transition now to an interim government, with the prospect of elections not too far off, so people can rally to the prospect of a new liberal regime. Uncertainty and dithering is what helps the Lenins and Khomeinis in revolutionary situations. Acting boldly to prevent more disarray and more chaos offers the best chance for an orderly outcome.

Helping Egypt transition to a liberal democracy is something worth doing. It should be the focus of major efforts, public and private, by the U.S. government and our allies. But precisely because it is worth doing, ‘twere well it were done quickly.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

White House Dossier

White House Dossier We need a little adversarialness here and some hard questions asked about what the United States doing in a good many places. Skip the parties...
The Washington A-List was out in force Saturday night at the farewell party for senior adviser David Axelrod, with a roster of guests featuring Cabinet secretaries, big shot journos and – President Obama.

As the most serious crisis in perhaps three decades engulfed the Middle East, the president was on view partying with the IN crowd.

The skepticism beyond the Beltway about whether Washington is just one big Love-In certainly gets fed by the sight – as conveyed by the press pool report – of reporters like ABC’s Jake Tapper, NBC’s Chuck Todd, National Journal’s Major Garrett, and John Harwood of CNBC and the New York Times emerging from a bash with the president that was held to toast his chief political fixer and leading spinmeister.

March 31, 2003 Egypt's Mubarak Warns '100 Bin Ladens'

Mubarak should have bailed out in 2003. It's Mubarak sticking around that's caused the damage. Time for the US to quit jumping when the likes of Mubarak play the Muslim Brotherhood card on us.
Egypt's president said he could not stop U.S.-led warships from crossing the Suez Canal toward Iraq, and warned a drawn out war would lead to increased Islamic militancy throughout the world.

"If there is one (Osama) bin Laden now, there will be 100 bin Ladens afterward," Hosni Mubarak said in reference to the al Qaeda terror network leader during a speech to army commanders in the city of Suez, some 80 miles east of the capital, Cairo.

Mubarak also warned that the war would have "catastrophic" effects on global economic, political and humanitarian conditions and that all Mideast states, including Israel, should be free of weapons of mass destruction.

President Obama, say the 'D-Word' - Opinion - Al Jazeera English

President Obama, say the 'D-Word' - Opinion - Al Jazeera English
It's incredible, really. The president of the United States can't bring himself to talk about democracy in the Middle East. He can dance around it, use euphemisms, throw out words like "freedom" and "tolerance" and "non-violent" and especially "reform," but he can't say the one word that really matters: democracy.
No way, that would sound too Bush. More.... very on target analysis from al Jazeera,
In fact, newly released WikiLeaks cables show that from the moment it assumed power, the Obama administration specifically toned down public criticism of Mubarak. The US ambassador to Egypt advised secretary of state Hillary Clinton to avoid even the mention of former presidential candidate Ayman Nour, jailed and abused for years after running against Mubarak in part on America's encouragement.

Not surprisingly, when the protests began, Clinton declared that Egypt was "stable" and an important US ally, sending a strong signal that the US would not support the protesters if they tried to topple the regime. Indeed, Clinton has repeatedly described Mubarak as a family friend. Perhaps Ms Clinton should choose her friends more wisely.

Similarly, president Obama has refused to take a strong stand in support of the burgeoning pro-democracy movement and has been no more discriminating in his public characterisation of American support for its Egyptian "ally". Mubarak continued through yesterday to be praised as a crucial partner of the US. Most important, there has been absolutely no call for real democracy.

Rather, only "reform" has been suggested to the Egyptian government so that, in Obama's words, "people have mechanisms in order to express legitimate grievances".

"I've always said to him that making sure that they are moving forward on reform - political reform, economic reform - is absolutely critical for the long-term well-being of Egypt," advised the president, although vice-president Joe Biden has refused to refer to Mubarak as a dictator, leading one to wonder how bad a leader must be to deserve the title.

Even worse, the president and his senior aides have repeatedly sought to equate the protesters and the government as somehow equally pitted parties in the growing conflict, urging both sides to "show restraint". This equation has been repeated many times by other American officials.

This trick, tried and tested in the US discourse surrounding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, is equally nonsensical here. These are not two movements in a contest for political power. Rather, it is a huge state, with a massive security and police apparatus that is supported by the world's major superpower to the tune of billions of dollars a year, against a largely young, disenfranchised and politically powerless population which has suffered brutally at its hands for decades.

The focus on reform is also a highly coded reference, as across the developing world when Western leaders have urged "reform" it has usually signified the liberalisation of economies to allow for greater penetration by Western corporations, control of local resources, and concentration of wealth, rather than the kind of political democratisation and redistribution of wealth that are key demands of protesters across the region.

The Syrians are watching - Features - Al Jazeera English

The Syrians are watching - Features - Al Jazeera English

In one of Old Damascus' new cafes, text messages buzzed between mobiles in quick succession, drawing woops of joy and thumbs up from astonished Syrians.

Suzan Mubarak, the wife of the Egyptian president, had flown into exile with her son - so the rumours went - driven out of the country by days of unprecedented protest against the 30-year rule of her husband.

The news from Cairo brought a flutter of excitement to this country, founded on principles so similar to Egypt that the two nations were once joined as one.

Like Egypt, Syria has been ruled for decades by a single party, with a security service that maintains an iron grip on its citizens. Both countries have been struggling to reform economies stifled for generations by central control in an effort to curb unemployment among a ballooning youth demographic.

Could the domino effect that spread from the streets of Tunis to Cairo soon hit Damascus?

"Perhaps the Saudis will have to build a whole village for Arab presidents once they run out of villas," joked a taxi driver, wondering if Hosni Mubarak would go the same way as Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, the Tunisian president who flew into exile in Saudi Arabia after street protests brought down his regime.
The Saudis might be place for a village for exiles. That's what London's for.

Faster, Please! » Egypt: Revolution? By Whom? For What?

Faster, Please! » Egypt: Revolution? By Whom? For What?

Michael Ledeen on what should be done:
It’s quite clear that Obama is totally bamboozled. He has no culture to deal with this situation, nor does Hillary. I wonder about Panetta. Does the intelligence community have people who know in detail who is who in the tumults? Historically we haven’t been great at this — the intelligence failures at the time of the Iranian revolution could fill a fat volume, with another needed to chronicle the failures during the following 31 years — but we’ve got a lot of Arabists and we may be lucky enough to have a few very good ones.

If we do, and if Panetta and General Clapper know who they are, then we can try to pick and choose, supporting real democrats and thwarting the likes of al Baradei, the love child of both the Muslim Brotherhood and the Tehran crowd. Surely we know who he is. We should broadcast it.

We have to play this game. Let’s hope there’s someone who can grab the president’s ears and explain the rules and the players. But the winning gambit — finally support democratic revolution in Iran — isn’t even being discussed. Paradoxically, this is a very good moment to endorse the Green Movement. I mean, if we’re going to praise the Tunisian and Egyptian freedom fighters, all the more reason to hail the true martyrs in Iran, currently being slaughtered in the country’s prisons at the blood-curdling rate of three per day. And that’s only the officially acknowledged executions.

So, having failed to do what we should have done for the past many decades, we should stick to what got us here: support democratic revolution. But not false revolutionaries.

Working Group on Egypt Calls for Suspension of U.S. Aid | The Weekly Standard

Working Group on Egypt Calls for Suspension of U.S. Aid | The Weekly Standard

The Statement,
Statement of the Working Group on Egypt, Saturday January 29, 2011

Amidst the turmoil in Egypt, it is important for the U.S. to remain focused on the interests of the Egyptian people as well as the legitimacy and stability of the Egyptian government.

Only free and fair elections provide the prospect for a peaceful transfer of power to a government recognized as legitimate by the Egyptian people. We urge the Obama administration to pursue these fundamental objectives in the coming days and press the Egyptian government to:

-- call for free and fair elections for president and for parliament to be held as soon as possible.

-- amend the Egyptian Constitution to allow opposition candidates to register to run for the presidency.

-- immediately lift the state of emergency, release political prisoners, and allow for freedom of media and assembly

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Yaakov Khuli on our end

From Yaakov Khuli's (1689–1732)Bible commentary titled Me'am Lo'ez (literally, "from a people of strange tongue") found in Ladino!.
His purpose, he writes in the introduction, is to inculcate four basic ideas: the wonder of God's creation, the centrality of Torah and its commandments, love of one's neighbor, and the fact of mortality. Armed with these, the reader "will know that man's end is to vanish from this world, and so he must take care to win companions that will stand with him in times of adversity, just as one does before embarking on a journey."
Those four ideas sum it all up.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Democracy comes in waves, and Tunisia's 'jasmine revolution' may be the Arabs' turn

Democracy comes in waves, and Tunisia's 'jasmine revolution' may be the Arabs' turn
The arc of history is for more democracy, not less. The next chapter may have started in Tunisia.
I'm not one for the Arc Frame as the upward bend dove deep into barbarism in the 20th century. There's always hope though.

Jeff Immelt and the Military Industrial Complex

Allow me to be the first Unitarian Universalist blogger to trot out The Military Industrial Complex with regard to this very Chicago style appointment. All that's missing is for Immelt to declare GE a minority/women owned business.
It is unclear how the administration plans to deal with the ethics challenges created by having a CEO whose income is determined by stock performance leading a panel designed to recommend government policies. G.E. (2009 revenue: $157 billion) is a huge government contractor and is always in the market for new subsidies and incentives.

Immelt’s shareholders certainly had to think that access had its benefits this week when the Obama administration signed off on a plan to allow the company to spin off under-performing NBC to cable giant Comcast.

Though intended to show Obama’s coolness with corporate America, the Immelt pick will likely reinforce the perception in American boardrooms that Obama likes to play favorites when it comes to the economy.

Read more:

Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan (1890 - 20 January 1988)

Some vidieos on his life on the anniversery of his passing.

Make sure to view the last part of this one....

A longish one but a good biography of his life.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Gaddafi: bring back Ben Ali, there's none better

Revolution shaking up Gaddafi. Via The Telegraph

Also check Michael Totten.
Col Gaddafi was described by President Zine al-Abedine Ben Ali as "not a normal person" in a conversation recorded in an American diplomatic cable released by WikiLeaks. But in a speech on state television he said he was "pained" by what was happening in the country on Libya's north-western border.

"You have suffered a great loss," he said. "There is none better than Zine to govern Tunisia."

The Libyan leader, who came to power in 1969, has reason to be nervous of popular uprisings. Like Tunisia, Libya has a young and relatively well-educated population with high unemployment.

He spoke for other Arab leaders in his caution over the rioting and looting that Mr Ben Ali's flight had unleashed. "Tunisia, a developed country that is a tourist destination, is becoming prey to hooded gangs, to thefts and fire," he said. He described conditions there as "chaos with no end in sight".

Tunisia and the Lessons of the Iranian Revolution

Tunisia And The Lessons Of The Iranian Revolution | The New Republic

I remember Carter bungling a response to the Iranian revolution. Let's hope Obama's more deft. Khairi Abaza writes,
And so, just like Iran in 1979, Tunisia now finds itself at a crossroads: Will it head down the path of democracy, or will there be a takeover by Islamists? In 1979, Europe and the United States missed an opportunity to stand with liberals at the time of the Shah’s overthrow, leaving them at the mercy of the Islamists. Now, the West must avoid repeating this mistake in Tunisia by clearly identifying with the liberals, and their demands for democracy and better governance.

The worst thing the West could do would be to support a cosmetic change in which another authoritarian figure replaces Ben Ali and makes only small concessions to ease popular discontent—granting the people some new liberties, while maintaining the authoritarian structures of the state. Such a move would signal to the Tunisian people that the West is not actually interested in promoting democracy in Tunisia, and would likely set the stage for the Islamists and their international sponsors to emerge as the strongest opposition. In the end, Tunisia would likely fall to the Islamists, another form of authoritarianism.

Some in the West have long argued that because of the lack of a viable liberal alternative, supporting authoritarian regimes in Arab countries is the only political choice against the Islamists. Now, in Tunisia, as people flood into the streets demanding democracy, we see that this is not the case. It was not the case in Iran in 1979 either, but the West was so invested in the Shah that it failed to strongly back the liberal opposition. We don’t have to repeat that error today.

MLK on tension

Chicago's Chuck Goudie (no Tea Partier for sure) writing on the Return to civility?
King said often that he was not afraid of the word “tension.”

“I have earnestly opposed violent tension, but there is a type of constructive, nonviolent tension which is necessary for growth.”

In the case of the Tucson slaughter, it is just opportunistic to redirect public attention toward the loud and angry voices of political disagreement than to focus on what actually happened: A disturbed young man with a gun opened fire.

Read more:

Nation & World | Rights group decries 'execution binge' in Iran | Seattle Times Newspaper

Nation & World | Rights group decries 'execution binge' in Iran | Seattle Times Newspaper

An issue for UUSC to consider comment on?
Iranian authorities have unleashed an "execution binge" with an average rate of one person hanged every eight hours since the beginning of the year, a rights group monitoring the Islamic Republic said Sunday.

"The Iranian Judiciary is on an execution binge orchestrated by the intelligence and security agencies," stated Aaron Rhodes, a spokesman for the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran.

A statement by the New York-based group said at least 47 prisoners have been hanged since Jan. 1, including a reported Kurdish activist accused of fighting against the state. It said other jailed Kurds also are at risk of facing the gallows for alleged links to a groups battling for greater rights for Iran's Kurdish minority.

NYT: Looking Behind the Mug-Shot Grin

So, will the UU Clergy putting Americans on-the-couch deconstruct this one please.
But Jared, a curious teenager who at times could be intellectually intimidating, stood out because of his passionate opinions about government — and his obsession with dreams.

He became intrigued by antigovernment conspiracy theories, including that the Sept. 11 attacks were perpetrated by the government and that the country’s central banking system was enslaving its citizens. His anger would well up at the sight of President George W. Bush, or in discussing what he considered to be the nefarious designs of government.

“I think he feels the people should be able to govern themselves,” said Ms. Figueroa, his former girlfriend. “We didn’t need a higher authority.”

Saturday, January 15, 2011

William Galston’s Advice to Obama: Articulate American Exceptionalism | The Weekly Standard

William Galston’s Advice to Obama: Articulate American Exceptionalism | The Weekly Standard
Galston’s prescription for Obama is a comprehensive agenda built on the dual foundation of long-term fiscal stability and economic growth. To make this agenda most effective, however, Galston urges the president to articulate a rare sentiment among his progressive political allies: American exceptionalism. Gallup reported as recently as December 22 that 80 percent of Americans believe “the U.S. has a unique character which makes it the greatest country in the world.” Only 58 percent think that President Obama shares their belief.
And how many Unitarian Universalist share the belief?

Belmont Club » Is Democracy Cool Again?

Belmont Club » Is Democracy Cool Again?
The Freedom Agenda is respectable again. After years of laughing at the idea that spreading democracy was America’s most useful foreign policy weapon and touting grand bargains with the worst regimes in world, even the New York Times sees in the departure of Tunisian President Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali the startling idea that Arabs will not necessarily tolerate tyranny forever.
Let's hope the administration doesn't bungle this one. It may be like Venona, the case for make wikileaks public was pretty strong.

My email to the UU PeaceMaker's listserv,

Revolutions are violent, and they can turn out badly, but right now it's hard not to be happy and optimistic about Tunisia. My blog post and the wikileak that may have helped spur the revolution:

The leak:

"Tunisia is a police state, with little freedom of expression or association, and serious human rights problems."

"The problem is clear: Tunisia has been ruled by the same president for 22 years. He has no successor. And, while President Ben Ali deserves credit for continuing many of the progressive policies of President Bourguiba, he and his regime have lost touch with the Tunisian people. They tolerate no advice or criticism, whether domestic or international. Increasingly, they rely on the police for control and focus on preserving power. And, corruption in the inner circle is growing. Even average Tunisians are now keenly aware of it, and the chorus of complaints is rising. Tunisians intensely dislike, even hate, First Lady Leila Trabelsi and her family. In private, regime opponents mock her; even those close to the government express dismay at her reported behavior. Meanwhile, anger is growing at Tunisia's high unemployment and regional inequities. As a consequence, the risks to the regime's long-term stability are increasing."

John Fea: An Evangelical Pastor Gets a History Lesson

Given the Alice-in-Wonderland like logic in some UU blog posts the past week, it's embarrassing to find an Evangelical who honestly admits when the facts in his narrative gone quite false. Via An Evangelical Pastor Gets a History Lesson

Footnote: From Martin Gilbert's reflections on writing history,
On the tomb of the nineteenth century Church historian Bishop Mandel Creighton are inscribed the words: "He tried to write true history."

Like the bishop - who was a member of my own college at Oxford - I believe that there is such a thing as "true history".

What happened in the past is unalterable and definite. To uncover it - or as much of it as possible - the historian has several tools, among them chronology, documentation, memoirs, and the vast apparatus of scholarly work in which others have delved and laboured in the same vineyard.


Not only do I believe that it is possible to tell a true and straight and clear tale, I also welcome any corrections and amendments and additions to what I have published.

My work has continually been enhanced by those who have written to me on matters of detail - to point out errors, or to correct lack of clarity, or to add new factual dimensions. Hopefully, this website will encourage such contact. No author can live in an ivory tower, free from the help and comments - and hopefully even the enthusiasm - of readers.
One can tell a straight tale. Sometimes there's fifteen tons of documents to wade through. Or sometimes just fifteen tons of bad vibes on Sarah Palin. Either way, get through it and tell the straight tale.

Rev. Dan O’Neal: Whoever would build permanently must build on the past

A quote from Rev Dan O'Neal from Holley Hewitt Ulbrich's: (it's a pdf) The Second Radical Reformation:The Unitarian Fellowship Movement
O’Neal suggests that the following statement be emblazoned on the doorway of Fellowships as a corrective:
“Whoever would build permanently must build on the past, he must take the foundation which is given him in the institutions and ideas of the Church, whose offspring he is. He must graft himself on the old stock, and know that he bears not the root, but the root him. It is easy, I say, to deny; a small modicum of talent is required to assail and repudiate existing beliefs. But the true reformer accepts existing beliefs, and unfolds the truth that is in them into new and nobler forms of faith.”
I suspect ...not the root, but the root him a tough concept for many UUs to accept about Church (or the United States). Too many of us have learned to be on the outside looking in. A 60's hangover we've aquired.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Peter Berger: Some Theologians Never Die—They Just Wait to be Googled.

Berger's conclusion on Rudolf Bultmann:
...suddenly Bultmann is becoming very relevant indeed. Stripped of his mistaken empirical view of modern man and of his implausible fascination with Heidegger’s obscure existentialism, Bultmann can be seen again as posing a suddenly urgent question: Is the mythological worldview of the New Testament a necessary ingredient of the Christian faith? The question becomes even more interesting as Jews and Muslims, in their own way, must raise similar questions as well. Put differently: What are the prospects of supernaturalism in the modern world? My own hunch is that the prospects are pretty good.
No need to google, read all of Berger here.

Gideon Rachman: America should give Assange a medal

Rachman in the FT a few days ago. Much like the Venona intercepts, sometimes the US better off with the secrets out there.

After two weeks of WikiLeaking, many Americans want to see Julian Assange locked up. Instead, they should give the man a medal. Of course, it is embarrassing and awkward to have all these secret diplomatic cables published. Mr Assange certainly seems to be no fan of the US. Nonetheless, he and WikiLeaks have done America a massive favour, by inadvertently debunking decades-old conspiracy theories about its foreign policy.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Newsweek’s Evan Thomas: ‘The health care bill is a disaster’

There's nothing Progressive about a disater and a least one Liberal's recognizing that sad fact. Obamacare ought to be repealed and replaced with sensible reforms.
Back in November 2009, Thomas admitted the health care reform bill had flaws, but still voiced his support for it. Now he has proclaimed it a failure.

“The health care bill is a disaster,” Thomas continued. “We’re sort of slowly learning – it’s not working. It’s interesting – they’re implementing it and it’s not working out at all as people anticipated. There’s all sorts of wildly wrong projections. As it’s being practiced – it’s failed.”

Read more: