Archive for the ‘Mubarak’ tag
“Broad Street exchange and curb brokers, New York City”
Ilargi: In the past few weeks, dysfunctional societies have become a very popular theme. So what makes them dysfunctional? Is it just about physical and mental suppression, or are economic factors just as important? How about Mubabrak’s rumored $40 billion stash outside of Egypt? Or the $170 billion the US estimates Kadaffi and his family control in funds invested in foreign nations? In a Wikileaks cable on Saudi Arabia, a prince is quoted as saying “the revenues from ‘one million barrels of oil per day’ go entirely to ‘five or six princes”. At $95+ per barrel, you do that math.
And if we can agree that things like that are factors in destabilizing societies, how can we not also look at the fast increasing inequalites in western economies? Incomes, job security, health- and other benefits, pensions, average pay, and of course jobs themselves, everything is rapidly deteriorating. While at the same time bankers and politicians are siphoning off what they can get away with from the public funds that by right belong to the same people who lose their jobs, health care access, pensions and homes. And desperately need those funds.
Are we really to believe that the reaction in the western world to these financial atrocities will forever be different from what they are elsewhere today? How, exactly, then are Jamie Dimon and Lloyd Blankfein different from Mubarak and Ben Ali? Is it because what they do is legal? That would be too easy; they make the laws. What Mubarak did was perfectly legal in Egypt; he too made the laws. Is it because Lloyd and Jamie wear no crowns? Are we that easily fooled?
Here’s Ashvin with the first part of this take on this.
It’s Not Rocket Science.
It’s just basic arithmetic. 2+2 = 4 …
Privately-owned central banks + discretionary monetary policy = systemic corruption/oppression.
If the Food & Drug Administration had 100% of its shares owned by private pharmaceutical companies, and, a few months after implementing some radical new regulatory directives, these companies began making record profits and their executives receiving record bonuses, then it wouldn’t be too difficult to understand why.
Well, that’s not necessarily a hypothetical as much as a sad representation of reality, but the connection is even more blatant in the case of the “Federal” Reserve. It’s 100% owned by private financial institutions, which receive 6% annual dividends on their shares, and have enormous control over the selection of its Board of Governors, who in turn have enormous control over its Open Market Operations.
After the Fed launched its “QE1” and “QE2” programs in 2008 and 2010, the two most aggressive monetary directives ever undertaken in America (they will combine to total ~$2.5T in debt-asset purchases ), the banks have posted “their two best years in investment banking and trading”.
For the five biggest institutions (Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan, Citigroup, Morgan Stanley, Bank of America), revenues generated in 2010 were only exceeded by those of one other year in history, 2009. . These two years just happened to follow the onset of the worst economic depression the world has ever experienced, which is still right on track to surpass the global financial and social turmoil caused by the Great Depression. If you think that is an irresponsible exaggeration, then just stop and reflect on the fact that Germany and Japan did not have any access to nuclear or biological weapons of mass destruction back in the 1930s.
Moreover, the worst financial effects of the Great Depression were primarily limited to the Americas and Europe, while the latest credit bubble had stretched its tentacles to every single corner of the globe. North Africa and the Middle East have already descended into the belly of the financial beast, and it is highly likely that certain parts of Europe (i.e. Greece, Spain, Portugal, Italy) and Asia (i.e. Vietnam, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, etc.) will shortly (within the next year) follow their footsteps down the beaten path.
We must remember that the financial elites running the Fed and IMF are not only concerned with making vast sums of money, but also retaining and expanding their grip on the global levers of power. So is it a coincidence that many of these politically unstable countries had been targets of American imperialistic (financial) domination for years now, and that their sociopolitical deterioration presents glaring opportunities for outright regional intervention by the U.S. military-industrial complex?
Perhaps not, since the U.S. has often used economic catastrophe to direct economic and political policy in other countries and concentrate ever-more financial wealth in the hands of a few global corporations. Naomi Klein briefly outlines the dynamics of this process in the Introduction of her acclaimed book, The Shock Doctrine, under the direction of its most notorious proponent, Milton Friedman:
“Friedman first learned how to exploit a shock or crisis in the mid-70s, when he advised the dictator General Augusto Pinochet. Not only were Chileans in a state of shock after Pinochet’s violent coup, but the country was also traumatised by hyperinflation. Friedman advised Pinochet to impose a rapid-fire transformation of the economy – tax cuts, free trade, privatised services, cuts to social spending and deregulation.
It was the most extreme capitalist makeover ever attempted anywhere, and it became known as a “Chicago School” revolution, as so many of Pinochet’s economists had studied under Friedman there. Friedman coined a phrase for this painful tactic: economic “shock treatment”. In the decades since, whenever governments have imposed sweeping free-market programs, the all-at-once shock treatment, or “shock therapy”, has been the method of choice.“
The invasion of Iraq was a more recent and brutal deployment of “shock therapy”, which was premised on the existential threat of Saddam Hussein in possession of imaginary WMD, and this time the U.S. military was directly involved (and still is). So there is no lack of credible evidence and common sense to suggest that such “shock” tactics are now being focused on both developed and developing economies in an attempt to create a new global, neo-liberal financial order. However, the scope, scale and specific consequences of the latest financial crisis are not things which can be easily controlled by a few powerful institutions such as the Fed, IMF, World Bank or even the Pentagon, if they can be controlled at all.
Many of the existing power structures in the oil-rich Middle East are clearly targets of destabilization by the financial empire, but it is unclear whether Egypt’s revolution was a part of the plan, since Mubarak has always been a tried-and-true ally of the financial elite, and surely the same is true of the House of Saud.
Mubarak’s departure may very well be a non-factor for the economic/political realities faced by the Egyptian people, but it can definitely be viewed as a deeply symbolic event. As I alluded to before, the once-propagandized threats of “WMD” and “terrorists” in the region appear to have manifested themselves as actual forces of disruption to be reckoned with. Libya’s Qadaffi has always been a stubborn thorn in the empire’s side, so he would not be missed, but if he were to actually blow up the country’s oil pipelines on his way out , the elites would probably not be very happy about it.
Then again, such a catastrophe could provide just the economic shock needed to justify more forceful intervention in the region, if any such justification is even needed at this point. The problem is that, while the original arithmetic is simple enough to understand, complex systems of nature always have a way of introducing unexpected variables into the equation. Are we just following the simple logic which dictates that every economic policy is crafted for the benefit of financial elites, or are we manufacturing an elaborate narrative in which every single event is a stepping stone towards a final pre-conceived destination? One thing we can be certain of is the fact that no complex network can be maintained without some level of integrity in its central hubs, where most of the activity takes place.
The major financial executives may be raking in record stacks of stolen dough, but average American and European citizens are intensely watching their wealth evaporate into thin air as they become increasingly desperate with every passing day. The same could be said of China and India, where there are enormous credit bubbles just itching to pop, and combined comprise more than 11% of the world’s GDP and almost 40% of the entire world’s population. , .
It will be increasingly difficult for any group of human beings, no matter how powerful, to maintain a global financial order as the masses wake up from their fleeting dreams of unbridled prosperity. Seated comfortably at my computer, writing about global financial trends marked by increasing wealth inequality, I can confidently say that two plus two always equals four. Sitting atop the ivory towers of Washington and Wall Street, the math is perhaps a bit more difficult and a bit less certain.
*Part II in this series will discuss the deterioration of ecosytems underlying the industrial/financial global economy, and how this dynamic introduces even more uncertainty for the financial elites.
By Giordano Bruno
There are many different kinds of revolution; some more effective than others. Telling the difference between a successful revolution and a failed revolution can be tricky. Often, on the surface, they look exactly the same. The secret is to set aside what we would “like” to see, and be brutally honest about what was actually accomplished in the course of the dissenting action. Has power been fully rescinded by the offending government or regime to the people, or, to yet another corrupt bureaucracy with a slightly different face? Have the puppet strings of corporate globalists been severed from your country, or do they remain strong as ever? Has ANY corrupt official actually been punished for the crimes that led to the insurgency in the first place, or, did they fly off scot-free to their million dollar villas in Ecuador, drinking mojitos in wicker recliners and watching the disaster they created unfold on CNN? Who ultimately benefited from the event?
Today, the entire Middle East is on the verge of complete destabilization and possibly civil war. Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Bahrain, Yemen, and other nations are experiencing a shockwave of unrest not seen since the 1970’s. Western media sources are calling it a “people’s revolt”, one which the Obama administration is heartily embracing like an old relative. But are we witnessing the democratization of the cradle of civilization, or something else entirely? How will we be affected by this tide of confusion? Instead of falling into panic and fear over the growing chaos, what can discerning Americans learn from a social implosion on the other side of the world that will help us to survive a similar occurrence here? Let’s examine some of the distinct moments that have characterized the Middle East debacle, the underlying and corrupt influences that surround them, as well as certain historical facts of the region that globalist engineers would rather we forget…
Molding The Arab World
Are globalist interests involved in the breakdown of the Middle East? Most certainly. However, this much widespread resentment and pent-up collective rage is not something that can be easily fabricated. It is far more likely that anger over the feudal governing tactics of dictators in the Arab world (many of which were installed or supported by U.S. and European interests) is very real, and has been building for quite some time. So then, why are Western governments applauding the overthrow of despots they themselves placed in power?
The Mubarak regime was the second largest recipient of U.S. financial and military aid in the world. One third of ALL publicly reported U.S. foreign aid goes to Egypt and Israel:
Without this vast military aid from the U.S., Mubarak would not have been able to maintain his 30 year reign. This is a cold hard fact. So then, why go against a leader you already have firmly in your grasp?
When the Shah of Iran (a violent madman we anointed) was overthrown by popular revolt in 1979, the U.S. government responded with vitriol and saber rattling. When Hosni Mubarak (a violent madman we anointed) was overthrown this past month, the U.S. government responded with cheers and warm regards. What was the difference between the revolution in Iran, and the revolutions all over the Middle East today? Insurance…
Like most puppet leaders and figureheads, Mubarak was an errand boy, a conduit for implementing globalist policies in Egypt. His relinquishment of power was in reality nothing of the kind, because the power was never his to give back. It is important to take note that Mubarak’s cabinet and most of the existing government and military structure remains firmly entrenched:
Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, who leads the ruling military council and has been defense minister for about 20 years, took “temporary” control of Egypt after Mubarak ceded authority. Tantawi retains very strong ties to Washington D.C. and an unerring loyalty to Mubarak’s policies, which is perhaps why Barack Obama seemed so jubilant about Mubarak’s departure. In the recent and controversial Wikileaks release of private diplomatic cables, Tantawi is famously referred to as “Mubarak’s Poodle”:
The key here is that globalist circles support the change in Egypt exactly because nothing will change for the citizenry. The Egyptian people will not gain true influence in the politics of their own country, and they may have even less influence over their own lives if a military infrastructure remains embedded within their government. Their entire rebellion was diluted and redirected, because they naively focused on Mubarak as the source of all their ills, instead of the corrupt system he was a mere front-man for.
What about Libya? Muammar Gaddafi, the crazy bag lady of third world dictators, was the darling of the UN in 2009 when he was nominated the head of the African Union. He was just as much a monster then as he is today, and as far as I know his human rights record has remained dismal, but then again, he was helping the globalists by paying the AU dues of numerous countries with Libyan oil money and luring them towards centralization:
Apparently, Gaddafi has outlived his usefulness as international bodies now fully support the rebellion in Libya.
Remember Tunisia? That fight for freedom that the mainstream media essentially ignored until it was almost over and the two decade rule of Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali (another despot with a history of human rights violations who was also installed with the help of Western interests, primarily Italy) was finally overthrown? Well, now globalist proponents suddenly “love” Tunisia and are promoting it as a “model revolution”. Why? Maybe because the dastardly duo of McCain and Lieberman are in town to offer the new Tunisian government “training from the U.S. to help Tunisia’s military provide security”:
Yikes. These are the same guys who drafted the ‘Enemy Belligerents Act’ which would allow the U.S. government to treat any American citizen as an “enemy combatant”, removing Habeas Corpus and all Constitutional rights to a fair trial. I guess the lesson to Americans and most importantly the Liberty Movement is that if they can’t beat you, they’ll try to join you, and then co-opt you. My hope is that the Tunisians will turn down the Trojan Horse offerings of sewer rats like McCain and Lieberman, but if they do, I imagine the globalists will not be quite so friendly anymore.
What is happening in the Middle East is a perfect example of the manipulation of existing dissent towards establishment ends. The surface trigger for these events is obviously the doubling of food prices across the world in the past two years (you can thank the orchestrated devaluation of western currencies for a large part of this). People have a bad tendency to weather all kinds of atrocities as long as they are fed, but once certain necessities are taken from the masses, they WILL act, usually in a violent and unfocused manner. These revolutions are, for the most part, legitimate when they begin, but are co-opted as they progress, chiefly because the cultures involved do not understand where the real threat is coming from. Is centralization of the Middle East through catastrophe the goal? Perhaps, though, when all is said and done, I think the upheaval in the Middle East is much more about the U.S., than the Muslim world…
Déjà Vu All Over Again…
For those who really want a comprehensive sense of what is happening in the Middle East and why, I suggest a look into the last major Egyptian revolution of 1952. At that time, Britain was still the preeminent western power in the Arab world, and its control of the oil supply was absolute, much like the stranglehold the U.S. has enjoyed for many decades. Oil was pegged to the British sterling and any trade in crude required a conversion to the British currency. In fact, it was often said that the British Empire’s power after World War II was entirely dependent on its reserve currency status in oil markets. Any of this beginning to sound familiar?
In 1952, a revolution against the Egyptian puppet monarchy and its British overseers burst seemingly from nowhere, led by a group called the “Free Officers Movement”. In reality, the insurrection, fed by years of corrupt Aristocratic rule, was initiated and in some cases funded by both U.S. and Soviet agencies in tandem! In 1951-1952, nationalist police officers backed by the U.S. and Russia began supporting fedayeen terrorist groups using false flag attacks to weaken the region (is this sounding even more familiar?). Interestingly, this era was the birth of the so called “Muslim Brotherhood”, a group which has suddenly resurfaced in media discussion today.
Riots spread through Cairo, King Farouk was overthrown, the British were eventually run out, and their control of the Suez Canal was lost. But the story doesn’t end there…
The British and the French wanted the Suez back (at least that’s what they claimed), for control of the Suez meant control of Middle East oil markets. A plan was initiated by the two European powers to take back the canal using an Israeli invasion of the Gaza Strip as a spring board. This time, Israeli agents were used by the British to conduct false flag attacks, which were presented as a pretext for Israel to move against Egypt. The British and French followed by landing troops near Cyprus and Algeria.
The plan would have worked, except for one thing, the British were financially weak after two world wars and were completely dependent on American investment in their treasury debt. In response to the British action, the U.S. along with the UN threatened to halt investment in British debt and to stop price support of the Pound Sterling. This led to the eventual fall of the pound as the world reserve currency, and the rise of the dollar.
Official history portrays this move by the U.S., Russia, and the UN, as an attempt to undermine the long reach of the English. It is rather convenient however that the pound was dethroned just as plans for the European Union were beginning to be implemented in the early 1950’s. It seems to me that the British elites were fully aware that their futile attempts to hold onto the Middle East would result in the fall of the Pound; it was simply the British people’s turn to be taken down a few notches, and centralized. The similarities between the British Empire’s decline over Middle East oil in the 1950’s and our decline over Middle East oil today, are startling.
If history was to repeat itself, I would guess that the U.S. will soon be embroiled in political or even military operations to control the Suez, and retain its dollar peg to oil, which will illicit a negative response by international investment, causing central banks to dump their U.S. treasury investments and the dollar as a reserve currency.
Think of it as a grand theater meant to amuse only global bankers…
Energy Crisis To Strike The U.S. And Protect Globalists
An unstable Middle East benefits very few people, and that, I suppose, is the point. As we have covered here in a multitude of articles, the U.S. is on the verge of engineered economic collapse, driven mainly by the steady and purposeful devaluation of the dollar and our quickly expanding national debt. If you are a corporate central banking group seeking the death of the greenback as the world reserve currency, you face the very serious problem of avoiding immediate blame or retribution for your actions. What better way to escape the torches and pitchforks of the furious populace than to find a scapegoat, or a distraction even more terrifying than poverty?
Middle East turbulence provides the perfect smokescreen for the inflationary destruction of the dollar.
First and foremost, it hides the already skyrocketing price of energy, which was inevitable due to our devaluing currency (oil is traded primarily in dollars), but can now be blamed entirely on “Middle Eastern instability”. Already, the cost of crude has spiked to $100 a barrel, with no sign of relenting. Certainly, many Americans will now blame Egypt or Libya for their empty wallets, instead of global banks.
To add to the confusion, various agencies are feeding the MSM with a rainbow of mixed messages, which leave Americans vulnerable to uncertainty, making them far more malleable. For instance, the IMF has recently stated that the world can easily withstand $100 oil (a lie), while the International Energy Agency has stated that $100 oil would be “very very bad”, leading to a complete derailment of the global economy (which was going to occur anyway):
Social and economic disaster ANYWHERE in the world today will invariably cut the thin threads of psychological faith in our so called recovery. The system was a sham to begin with, and the quantitative easing methods of the Federal Reserve were never intended to actually “save” our financial house from collapsing, just prolong the event until they were ready to sweep away the ailing remains and offer us an IMF controlled replacement. It is designed to fail, and fail spectacularly. However, these facts will sink into the fog of history if Americans are suckered into fixating on a single area of the planet as the sole source of economic catastrophe.
Finally, if the tension spreads to other nations such as Saudi Arabia and triggers violent in-fighting, or Israel is tapped as an asset to instigate wider conflict, we could be looking at all out war on an incredible scale. This would be the distraction to top all distractions.
Is American Upheaval Next?
If crude oil continues to climb above $100 for more than a couple months, the negative effects will be undeniable. If you thought we had inflation before, just wait until gas hits $5 to $6 a gallon, and shipping costs for goods explode. This doesn’t even take into account the very real possibility that once the Middle East is fully destabilized, and certain political influences are dissolved, OPEC will completely de-peg oil from the dollar. From there, the sky is the limit on gasoline values. Already, Mohamed El-Erian, chief executive officer at Pacific Investment Management Co. (PIMCO) is calling for a “stagflationary” market reaction to the turmoil in Libya:
What will be the U.S. government response to a crashing currency and climbing costs? Austerity! Although, they will probably use different terminology to describe it. The onset of cost cutting measures is becoming more visible, especially within the states, where municipal bond investment has run screaming off a cliff. Large scale protests are erupting in Wisconsin and Ohio due to state cuts designed to help them stay financially afloat:
The debate here becomes two sided; do state workers deserve to have their wages or benefits cut because state governments were fiscally irresponsible? Should states continue to run up incredible deficits just to appease state workers (who many consider overpaid) in the short term? They are both meaningful positions that need to be considered, however, these two sides miss the full picture.
The fact is, state governments are beyond broke, and eventually, they will have to nix spending and entitlement programs regardless of how anyone is affected, especially in the face of unchecked inflation. State employees and all people dependent on welfare are not necessarily the culprits behind financial clear-cutting either. The argument cannot be allowed to devolve into a mindless cage match over who deserves the money, because, first, there is no money, and second, this distracts from the original cause of the distress; the corporate banking elites who instigated the disaster in the first place. Already, I can see a certain subsection of the populace lashing out wildly at figureheads and opposition parties, just like in Egypt, instead of the corrupt system and the banking moguls who built it.
If an Egyptian or Libyan style revolt, driven by blind mob mentality, takes place in the U.S., we can expect several things to occur. Normal means of communication will be disrupted; both Egypt and Libya responded to protests by shutting down all internet and cell phone traffic. Martial Law will be enacted, and Constitutional rights suspended; continuity of government programs are already in place to legally bind states into bowing to DHS and FEMA authority in the event of any “national disaster”, including a dissenting citizenry. Immediate bank closures will follow, just as occurred in Egypt, causing a lack of liquidity in local markets and panic among those who were financially unprepared. Violence will unavoidably result, giving the Department of Homeland Security the perfect excuse to implement even more controls, all for our own “safety” of course.
Some may welcome such bedlam as a sign of change. I don’t see it that way. Revolution without direction, without a plan, and without a clear understanding of the source of the problem, is meaningless. We can allow ourselves to be herded by our own rage into even more pronounced tyranny, or we can stay focused, collected, and act with purpose by organizing our communities with the objective of self sufficiency and self protection. We can work with state legislators to bring support to Tenth Amendment issues, giving them the strength to withstand an economic collapse and the ability to turn down DHS or FEMA’s “help” when the time comes. We can organize intelligently, without centralized control, or we can hand over our destinies to yet another elite group of unaccountable autocrats. As impossible as it might seem, the choice really is up to us. How we act and react in the coming months will mean the difference between a free and prosperous America, or a scorch mark in the annals of history.
February 24, 2011
You can contact Giordano Bruno at: firstname.lastname@example.org
If you would like to contribute to our soon to be launched Alternative Market Project, visit our donate page here: http://neithercorp.us/npress/donate/
It’s official: as Egypt was burning, Mubarak was stealing the gold. When we reported, presumably jokingly, two weeks ago that the Egyptian Central Bank may have been plundered, it turns out we were pretty much accurate once again. For all those wondering why Mubarak was refusing to hand over power for the past two weeks as hundreds of people were dying, we now have the answer – it was all just to make sure he transferred his assets, especially gold, to safe regimes (in the process paying tens of millions in commissions to that most noble of jobs – the banker class). The Telegraph reports: “A US official told The Sunday Telegraph: “Hosni Mubarak used the 18 days it took for protesters to topple him to shift his vast wealth into untraceable accounts overseas, Western intelligence sources have said…There’s no doubt that there will have been some frantic financial activity behind the scenes. They can lose the homes and some of the bank accounts, but they will have wanted to get the gold bars and other investments to safe quarters. The Mubaraks are understood to have wanted to shift assets to Gulf states where they have considerable investments already – and, crucially, friendly relations. The United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia have frequently been mentioned as likely final destinations for Mr Mubarak and possibly his family.” As usual, we remind readers that according to the World Gold Council, Egypt had 75.6 tonnes of gold at the end of 2010. Should this number not be reduced following Mubarak’s plundering, we will know just how pervasive Tungsten is in the world central banking cartel.
The former Egyptian president is accused of amassing a fortune of more than £3 billion – although some suggest it could be as much as £40 billion – during his 30 years in power. It is claimed his wealth was tied up in foreign banks, investments, bullion and properties in London, New York, Paris and Beverly Hills.
In the knowledge his downfall was imminent, Mr Mubarak is understood to have attempted to place his assets out of reach of potential investigators.
On Friday night Swiss authorities announced they were freezing any assets Mubarak and his family may hold in the country’s banks while pressure was growing for the UK to do the same. Mr Mubarak has strong connections to London and it is thought many millions of pounds are stashed in the UK.
But a senior Western intelligence source claimed that Mubarak had begun moving his fortune in recent weeks.
“We’re aware of some urgent conversations within the Mubarak family about how to save these assets,” said the source, “And we think their financial advisers have moved some of the money around. If he had real money in Zurich, it may be gone by now.”
Perhaps Goldman Sachs can take a proactive PR step and disclose to the population that the flow trade-frontrunning hedge fund had nothing to do with facilitating the transfer of Mubarak’s billions in stolen wealth from point A to point B. And perhaps all other banks can follow suit. Either that, or we can all just wait for Mubarak’s sworn deposition when he is put on trial for crimes against the Egyptian people some time in 1-2 months. Doing text searches for “Goldman” in those thousand page PDFs will be breeze…
Dan from New York writes:
“Obama’s sycophancy toward the Muslim world is finally paying dividends: total lack of respect, or fear, for the President of The United States.”
The Times (UK), 2/10/2011
Saudi Arabia has threatened to prop up President Mubarak if the White House tries to force a swift change of regime in Egypt. In a testy personal telephone call on January 29, King Abdullah told President Obama not to humiliate Mr Mubarak and warned that he would step in to bankroll Egypt if the US withdrew its aid programme, worth $1.5 billion annually. America’s closest ally in the Gulf made clear that the Egyptian President must be allowed to stay on to oversee the transition towards peaceful democracy and then leave with dignity. “Mubarak and King Abdullah are not just allies, they are close friends, and the King is not about to see his friend cast aside and humiliated,” a senior source in the Saudi capital told The Times.
…President Mubarak has about as much chance of sticking around his presidential palace another fortnight as a bluebottle fly has of conducting the next Easter mass at the Vatican.
–Last week’s CFN blog
Oh well, poor call there. It seems that the College of Cardinals actually located an eager bluebottle fly named Franci Vafanculo in Naples and is having him fitted for vestments. The Latin instruction isn’t going as well as hoped, but he can always just stand there and buzz. Most people’s thoughts are on the ham dinner that follows, anyway.
Meanwhile, and speaking of hams, down in the Ancient Kingdom of the Nile, another curious transformation is taking place: Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak is metamorphosing from a flesh-and-blood pharaoh into that most enduring of Old World personalities, a mummy, to be entombed in the presidential palace for all time with his entourage of scribes, police captains, publicity managers, and boatloads of bejeweled scimitars laid upon him by fellow satraps and potentates of the region over the many years of his natural reign.
Mubarak-as-mummy will be much more comprehensible to his American auditors in the White House and Department of State, since the only things that Americans really seem to understand these days, or even care about, are matters supernatural. The regrettable piece of the story is that Mubarak didn’t turn into vampire or a zombie, two existential conditions that we are now the world’s experts in as we feast daily on the material remnants of our own empire.
Case in point: the Superbowl halftime show. My Gawd, what a farrago of auto-erotic triumphalism tarted up in the raiment of techno-grandiosity. The renowned Black Eyed Peas vocal krew descended on cables from the ethers of Cowboys Stadium stuffed into carapace-like costumes that lit them up like robotic waterbugs while something like a thousand worshipful myrmidons in LED-rigged suits capered about the pulsating stage like bits of discarded CGI FX from the latest installment of the Tron saga. Message: this is a nation so dangerously intoxicated on fumes from the arson of its own culture that it will soon melt down into a smoldering puddle of techno-narcissistic glop. Our bread and circus hijinks (or, should I say, Nacho and Fuhball), make the late Romans’ antics look like a simple summer evening at the frog pond. In fact, nothing would make me happier in 2011 than the coming-true of the threatened NFL “lock-out” – except maybe if Senator Jim DeMint (R-SC) were nabbed in flagrante delicto at a Super-8 Motel with a nineteen-year-old sheet-rocker of the undocumented persuasion. For that, I would definitely open the bottle of Lambrusco that somebody left at my Christmas party.
Back in Cairo, events have momentarily devolved to a standoff between the mummy’s minions and a lot of people who are, apparently, just sick of the old grinding status quo that had Mubarak-Ho-Tep funneling the endless fruits of their miserable labors into the vaults of banks here, there, and everywhere. The Web is notoriously shifty where facts are concerned, of course, but somewhere in The Cloud I saw the mummy’s ill-gotten family fortune estimated at around $50-billion. That’s a lot of tana leaves, any way you cut it, and of all possible outcomes in the script-factory, recovering the loot would seem the least likely scenario.
More interesting to watch right now are the peculiar gyrations of the US Government, which is acting a bit like a victim of Tourette Syndrome, with various figures up to the president himself emitting strange blurted squawks that resemble policy pronouncements but lack both conviction and official sanction. What it adds up to are the rather painful exertions of a world power that has lost its power to affect events in the world. I imagine that leaders in other nations – and even their rivals for leadership beyond the levers of power – have not failed to notice the American impotence over Egypt. But then, to me it’s not so much different than watching the US government’s ineffectual dealings with its own affairs, especially the ones involving money. Virtually everything about them is false, dishonest, mendacious, and ruinous.
The Middle East gives every sign of blowing up into widespread disorder these coming weeks and months. We hear other little splurts and wheezes from the media sidelines to the effect that all this hugger-mugger could end up expressing itself at the US gas pumps – the only touch-point in American life where reality meets perception. To put it a little more bluntly, you kind of wonder when the people around the region might really start blowing stuff up. Revolution, once started, is rather like the insidious invasion of water through the eaves of a house when the ice-dams build up (as they are doing now all over the northeastern US). Seeps appear here and there on the junctions between the wall and ceiling, and before you know it an electric circuit inside the wall starts sparking, and that’s all she wrote for your house. Water within, water without, first the flood, the fire next time….
But perhaps I wax a little too theoretical.As the week begins here, with all the smoke and confetti cleared from Texas Stadium, there is one sole dominating truth that really matters: the stock market only goes up.
There is supposed to be something of an Internet revolution going on right now in Egypt, but have you noticed that the Internet isn’t directly involved? Oh there’s plenty of Twittering going-on, but it is all about the demonstrations and civil unrest in Cairo — not from those crowds. The Internet was turned off, you say, along with the mobile phone networks, but that misses my point. I think the Internet component of this social movement is being overblown. While it may be easy for a reporter to say that the Internet or texting or Facebook or Twitter is at the heart of what appears to be a multinational revolutionary juggernaut, I don’t think that’s true. I think it was just ready to happen.
What’s taking place right now is very similar to the Revolution of 1848 and there was no Internet for that one.
Beginning in France, 1848 saw a social revolution sweep across much of Europe, toppling most governments of the time. Monarchies and ministers alike fell with some like Metternich of Austria having been in power as long as Mubarak has been in Egypt. Yet there was no Twitter in Vienna in 1848. No telephone (that was 30 years away), no telegraph (invented in 1844 but not yet deployed in Central Europe), railroads were just beginning to be built, and even Reuters’ carrier pigeons were a dozen years in the future. All communication other than oratory or theater was written in 1848 and went the slow way, by ship, horse, or foot. And yet, in a single year, nearly the entire continent saw revolutionary change.
The simple explanation for 1848 was that people had been unhappy for a long time and were ready for a change. They were angry and the power brokers of the time like Metternich were old, fat, and too used to power. Doesn’t that sound like much of the Middle East today? These nations have old leaders, rigid bureaucracies, and very young populations that don’t really know what they have to gain or lose, but just want something different.
So Tunisia fell and then maybe Egypt. The King of Jordan fired his cabinet, trying to look like part of the solution, not the problem. It will be interesting to see if that works. And did you read Colonel Gaddafi’s lament for the passing of the Tunisian dictator on his flank? I knew Gaddafi in the 70s and his sentiments weren’t for Tunisia but for himself.
The literal old man of the Middle East is Saudi Arabia, where the royal succession is from brother-to-brother — a system that literally can’t continue with the youngest son of the country’s founder, Abdul Aziz ibn Saud, now 67 years old. It will be interesting to see if the cousins are able to work that one out. I have my doubts.
Technology will play a role in all this, of course, but revolutions are conducted by people, not electrons, and even Twitter is just a tool.