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What Happened?

I’ve seen and heard the usual suspects complaining that the administration and CIA “missed” what happened in Egypt.

Actually, it is quite understandable, because the US has been so focused on “terrorists” that they have stopped looking a societies. There aren’t a lot of social anthropologists or labor specialists at the CIA, and the administration believes in the the policies that created the unrest in Egypt and much of the Arab world.

Matt Stoller explains it at Naked Capitalism. The economic policies of the Obama administration were being followed by the Egyptians, and it resulted in high unemployment, just like in the US. Rising food prices tipped the balance.

Egyptian unrest is a labor reaction to wealth concentration. The people at the bottom got tired of waiting for prosperity to “trickle down”, and went into the streets to demand change.

Of course, the “War on Terror” means that US cable systems don’t carry Al Jazeera, or people would have been aware of the problems earlier. As Lambert put it at Corrente:

I mean, after live blogging AL Jazeera on the air, tracking their live blogs and tweets in real time, and doing the same for the BBC, Reuters, CNN, and the Times, for what? 18 days? during my waking hours, all when the story is a successful and non-violent revolution in the heart of 7000-year-old civilization in the Middle East… Well, coming back to the Sunday Bobbleheads of this world seems just a little…. Well, stale. Provincial. Insular. Like watching state TV and then phoning it in.

If the CIA and State Department would like to know what is going on in the Middle East, on the “Arab street”, they might consider this:


1 Frederick { 02.15.11 at 8:57 am }

The CIA has never lost control of what is happening in Egypt. Here comes the new boss, same as the old boss:



2 Steve Bates { 02.15.11 at 3:27 pm }

I discovered Al-Jazeera Online for the first time early in this Egyptian crisis, and I doubt I’ll ever look at news from the region in the same way again. Does the CIA have no one who watches A-J? or do they just ignore what they learn from it?

3 Bryan { 02.15.11 at 9:23 pm }

Frederick, Suleiman advanced to his present position through Mubarak, a former Air Force chief of staff, to whom he was totally committed. He is a Lieutenant General in the Intelligence Corp, and the power resides in the hands of the Army. The current heads of the military will ensure that Suleiman fades away, like all old soldiers, because he isn’t one of them and they don’t trust him.

If there is a threat, it will come from the Army, but I don’t think the general staff will try anything. Unlike the Air Force, Navy, and Intel Corp, the Army is based on conscription, and officers know you don’t give orders that you don’t think will be obeyed.

It is also known that the Army doesn’t like the Interior Ministry, so some of the changes may surprise people. Suleiman and the Interior Ministry have intruded on Army matters, and the generals resent it.

I don’t think the result will be a true democracy, but it will be a hell of a lot better than what the Egyptians had. The real problems are going to involve getting some of the loot back from the corrupt politicians so that the country can afford to move forward. “A billion here, a billion there, and pretty soon you’re talking about real money”, to quote Everett Dirksen.

I may be overly optimistic, but the military dynamics will make a difference.

Steve, they may have analysts who watch it, but their reports won’t be given any weight because they aren’t what the leadership wants to hear. It isn’t enough to know what’s going on, the people at the top have to be willing to accept the facts.

4 Kryten42 { 02.16.11 at 12:06 am }

I’m still waiting for the same thing to happen in the USA, not that I actually think it will… It’s definitely NOT the 60’s or 70’s there any more! Everyone is too scared of changing anything, so you are stuck with the *Status Quo* (and I don’t mean the band). 😉 😛

Maybe you need to get a few million Egyptians to immigrate?

And no… I will not be holding my breath a bit!

5 Badtux { 02.16.11 at 1:33 pm }

Kryten, we have a revolution here every 2 to 6 years, and all that happens is that the people choose whoever is most corrupt (i.e. has collected the most bribes err “campaign contributions”) to represent them in Congress. If Americans won’t even bother themselves to investigate the people running for office and vote for the best one instead of the most corrupt one (the one with the most bribes and thus the slickest ads), they certainly aren’t going to bother actually going out into the streets and, like, inconveniencing themselves, yo. Instead they’ll just gripe about “the government” over the watercooler as if “the government” is some dictatorship imposed by a hostile foreign power rather than elected by the majority of voters…

– Badtux the Cynical Penguin

6 Badtux { 02.16.11 at 1:35 pm }

Bryan, yeppers, the ideologues in power listen only to things that agree with their ideology, and if it doesn’t fit into their ideology, they reject it. My Russian friends just laugh and shake their head and say “Just like in the last days of the Soviet Union.” Indeed. Indeed.

– Badtux the Sovok Penguin

7 Bryan { 02.16.11 at 9:51 pm }

Things are looking up in the US, actually. The governor of Wisconsin wants to eliminate collective bargaining for public workers, and use the National Guard to replace them, just like in the 1920s and ’30s, and people are protesting at the state capital.

Egypt may have convinced some people that demonstrations can work. but I think they need to ask Al Jazeera to cover it, because the US media will ignore it as long as they can, just like they ignored the Great Depression for years.

Yes, Badtux, the majority of Russian analysts just shook our heads at the garbage that was spewed by Ronnie about the Soviet Union. Almost everything that was said, was nothing more than a fairy tale to support the absurd military build-up by the US to support the MIC.

8 Badtux { 02.17.11 at 12:43 am }

One problem is that much of what Ronnie was saying actually agreed with Soviet propaganda and was official Soviet doctrine. According to my Russian friends, it was official Soviet doctrine that Soviet weapons were superior to all Western weapons, the Red Army was an invincible wall of soldiers and tanks that could conquer all of Europe within weeks of setting out to do so, the Soviet economy was booming and was soon to overtake the U.S. economy, and so forth. Of course, the reality was that rather than Communism winning out because it was a superior system, it was disintegrating under the weight of its own contradictions. But you simply did not say that if you were a Soviet apparatchnik. Your superiors wanted to hear only officially sanctioned facts that matched official doctrine. One guy I worked with did the firmware for the computer in one of the Soviet Union’s last missiles. He was disgusted about the poor quality of their clone processors, having managed to gain the privilege of reading Western computer journals (as long as his ideological minder was present) and thus knowing what Western microprocessors were like by comparison, but the official word was that they were the best processors in the world, proof of the superiority of the Soviet system — and top Soviet officials actually believed it! And people who knew better, who could see the system crumbling all around them, could say nothing or else be punished with, at the very least, dismissal from their position. Which, given that there was only one market for software engineers with rocketry firmware experience in the Soviet Union, probably meant a one-way ticket to… well, actually, he was already in Kazakhstan so Siberia probably wouldn’t have been much worse :).

I see the same blanket refusal to acknowledge simple facts that contradict their ideology in our own leaders today. Thus why I sign this post as…

– Badtux the Sovok Penguin

9 Steve Bates { 02.17.11 at 4:56 pm }

Democrats in the Wisconsin legislature have gone a bit further now, Bryan. Look it up. It reminds me of Texas in 2003.

10 Bryan { 02.17.11 at 11:05 pm }

Badtux, Moscow didn’t have FM Stereo radio until 1970. From what they were buying in East Germany, we knew that they couldn’t copy many of the newer ICs. Apparently at the end their chip foundries were unable to duplicate anything beyond the 80286. Hell, they couldn’t manufacture standardized fine thread nuts and bolts with any consistency.

If you looked at the list of stuff one of the guys who was posted to the Moscow embassy in 1974 was told to take with him, as it was unavailable in-country, and the list of stuff that wasn’t worth taking because they didn’t have the technology available, you knew that they were in real trouble.

I knew it even earlier when I saw politicians referring to a particular missile as a MIRV. I knew for a fact that while it had multiple warheads, they were definitely not independently targetable, they were totally ballistic, like shotgun pellets. It took them forever to develop a guidance system that was small enough to work in the MIRV environment.

I notice your signatures, BT, even if I don’t comment on them.

Yeah. Steve, I saw them emulating the “killer Ds” and leaving the state to put on the brakes. I wish them well, because the US media is refusing to recognize the protests as significant. Their corporate masters don’t like stories about people complaining about their corporate overloads, and their political “fellow travelers”.

11 Badtux { 02.18.11 at 7:08 pm }

That particular Russian guy I was working with was, I think, involved with that MIRV project. One of his former KGB minders is now a manager here in the Silicon Valley and in fact was his manager for some time. She packs concealed heat, even though that’s very illegal here in California, one of my Indian co-workers saw her take the gun out of her purse once and freaked out but was scared to say anything about it except to me in private (luckily said former KGB lady moved on, apparently being miffed at being expected to, like, actually do *work* for us). He was understandably somewhat circumspect about actual details of what he was doing in Soviet times, not out of any sense of loyalty to his former country, but because of the fact that his former KGB minder probably now works for Putin’s gang and he didn’t want to cross them in any way. Probably not good for his health to do so, if ya know what I mean.

He was especially astounded that I talked to engineers in our Chinese subsidiary freely with no minders present. He explained that even for a telephone conversation with a Western engineer, it would have been very difficult for him to get permission to talk to said engineer, and a minder would have been required to to act as a “translator” even though he understood and spoke English perfectly well. And forget about actually visiting (as our Chinese employees sometimes did for training purposes), they would have been too afraid he would defect.

The big picture is of course the big picture, and you provided it. But it was interesting to get a view of the little picture from the point of view of someone who’d been inside that system, it gave you a real idea of just how fscked the Soviet Union really was by the end after so many years of denying reality, that even a mid-level engineer like my co-worker had to be put into a box for fear of learning too much about the outside world and disrupting the system. Hopefully the U.S. will wake up before reaching that point. I’m not feeling too optimistic, we have different minders here (called “television”, “teabaggers”, “freepers”, and “dittoheads”), but the effect is the same — people are afraid to talk about things that contradict official ideology, except in certain circumscribed circumstances such as on blogs, for fear that they’ll be ostracized, fired, have their homes and vehicles vandalized, or otherwise suffer consequences.

– Badtux the Pessimistic Penguin

12 Bryan { 02.18.11 at 8:08 pm }

One of my instructors at DLI was a former civil engineer, and as all buildings belong to the state he was officially listed as a member of the KGB.

He had to learn German in secret so he could make his break during a vacation to East Germany. Ordinary citizens weren’t allowed to visit countries where they spoke the local language, all interaction had to be through an official “translator”.

Soviet pilots are not taught to navigate. All long range aircraft have a separate navigator’s position which is filled by a member of the KGB. The KGB are also the only people authorized to have an accurate map of the Soviet Union. The standard maps that you can buy are wrong. I have a couple of Soviet maps in storage somewhere and their location of Moscow is off by at least 100 kilometers. The road signs were just as bad. Their geographic security in the age of satellites was paranoia run amok.

You friend is right to be worried, because any KGB in this country should definitely be assumed to be part of the “Russian mafia”, probably headquartered in the Russian section of San Francisco.

Self-censorship as practiced by the media is worse than government censorship. It is a sign of a slave mentality.

13 Badtux { 02.19.11 at 11:42 am }

To be fair, reporters that go too far in reporting things that the powers that be in our country don’t want reported get thrown under the bus, fired, ostracized, never to work for a major publication again. Case in point: Gary Webb. You can bet that whenever a reporter gets too dogged about a story that the oligarchy doesn’t want published, the editor ends up telling that reporter, “You don’t want to end up like Gary Webb, do you?!” The only reason Watergate got reported was because the FBI was upset that Nixon had put an outsider over them and leaked the story, it’s okay to print stories that are leaked by administration insiders.

If you’re going to set up a police state, that’s the smart way to do it — everybody’s an informant, everybody’s an enforcer, and Siberia is an economic class, not a geographic place. We could end homelessness here in America within months, even in big cities there’s plenty of empty commercial space that could be used to house the homeless in hostel-type settings, but the homeless are useful. “Don’t rock the boat, or you’ll be a miserable homeless spat-upon nobody just like them.” Thus the reason I blog as a penguin rather than as a member of homo sapiens, especially considering the industry I work in.

The mistake our oligarchs are making right now is that they’ve decided that keeping the general rabble fat and happy is no longer necessary, that they’ve consolidated their power so well that they can make things work in their favor even if they allow the rabble to become increasingly impoverished and desperate. This thirty-year project is new, and thus far seems to be succeeding… but we’ll see. The oligarchs in 1929 thought they’d arrived at a steady state where they could strip the assets of the general population away (via deflating the money supply) without repercussions too, and the end result was FDR and the New Deal.

— Badtux the Sovok Penguin

14 Bryan { 02.19.11 at 7:43 pm }

Down in San Diego county, when I lived there, one of the largest growers wanted to build what amounted to a college dormitory for his seasonal workers, and he couldn’t get the approval. People went ballistic over the concept of no kitchen, shared bathrooms, and NO PARKING facilities for anything in the county. The grower was concerned that the workers were sleeping rough to save money, because they certainly couldn’t find anything in the county that they could afford to rent, and the fact that he needed them to start work on time during the picking season.

A homeless group down here ran into the same problem trying to build the same kind of facility for day-laborers.

15 Badtux { 02.20.11 at 2:20 am }

But of course, if someone is poor it’s because they sinned against God, so it’s only right that they suffer ’cause then they might stop sinning. Haven’t you been listening to the prosperity gospel? Rich people are rich because they’re Godly, poor people are poor because they’ve sinned against God, I know it’s true because I heard a preacher say it on that thare tee-vee set, y’all! ;).

But anyhow, if we didn’t have the poor, we’d hgave to invent them as a warning to our children, “see, behave in school and study hard or you’ll end up like *them*!” It’s all about social control. The harder we can make it for the poor, the more we can use the threat of being poor as a lever to control our children and our employees. Don’t report corruption to the Feds, ’cause they’ll leak it to us and we’ll black-ball you in this industry and then you’ll be one of them.

The middle class hasn’t forgotten this lesson, that keeping the poor around miserable and downtrodden is both a threat over their own heads (“spout the official ideology, pretend that the bullshit we’re spewing actually means something, or else”) and an opportunity for themselves when it comes to their own children and subordinates. But our oligarchs seem to have forgotten. That’s the only thing I can think, given that they appear intent upon creating far more poor people than are useful or necessary for that object lesson / threat to hang over people’s head. Perhaps they’ve decided that they have sufficient armed thugs in their employ (many wearing badges) that they no longer need more subtle ways of control. Hosni Mubarak thought that too. Just sayin’.

– Badtux the Orwellian Penguin

16 Bryan { 02.20.11 at 9:46 pm }

It looks like that low-life in Libya may finally be getting what he deserves. That SOB sent fighters out to shoot down an aircraft I was in, so I take his continued existence personally.