Saturday, August 31, 2013

Syria: Putin as Raskolnikov

Syria: Crime and Punishment

In Dostoyevsky's "inescapable" Crime and Punishment [Преступлéние и наказáние, Prestupleniye i nakazaniye] a strangely unavoidable character, Raskolnikov, premeditates a murder to which he has been driven, in his view, as a redeemable necessity because of his his desperate condition.  He intends to stalk and kill a pawn broker from whom he has previously borrowed money, then, after the "deed," steal the broker's money and other valuables which had been pawned as security.

During the conduct of his carefully planned crime, unexpected complications arise, causing him to murder yet another victim before he can find and steal the pawn broker's purse.  Hearing the noise of the crime, the police are summoned, and Raskolnikov panics, making a clumsy escape -- all quite removed from the fantasy of his premeditation in which the event unfolded without incident.

This is not a post concerning classical Russian literature. However, all these brutally over-abbreviated details of the story are relevant to this post's topic.

The Inescapable and Unavoidable Syria

As more and more video accounts showing the agony and tortured death of those subjected to the Assad gas attack, Western electorates respond in a predictable way, although that "predictable way" is nothing less than painfully "purified antipathy."

To a single soul, those Western electorates are still quite broken and bruised from the Bush W. military oil adventures in Afghanistan and Iraq. Across the European continent and the Northern Hemisphere each of these voters still winces, embarrassed, mortified, by the naive credulity with which they were swayed by the outright lies of the Bush autocracy.  ["Autocracy?"  Recall that George W. Bush was appointed President by the political servants of the old Supreme Court -- not the electorate. In broad terms the event marked the official end of the representative democracy.]

All though the tormented years of the Syrian uprising, all through the long, horrific, day by day account of the "touch of the dark wind" on the broken bodies of one hundred thousand [plus] corpses, the Russian Federation has stood very steadfastly with the less and less lovable dictator, Assad.  The marching orders from the Kremlin specifically included the tacit, unbending litany supporting the Assad regime's constant claims that the opposition forces were foreign mercenaries.

Vladimir Putin As Raskolnikov

Through the dark lens of Dostoyevsky's novel, these were the days when Raskolnikov -- being Vladimir Putin cast in this more modern script -- quietly yet constantly justified anticipating his murderous plan with the mitigating promise that he would use his stolen loot to "help the poor."  Although President Putin has scarce evidence of even such imaginary, hollow altruism in his record, we must assume that so long as the Assad atrocities were maintained at a "toothache" intensity, and so long as the Western media's access to them continued to be censored by the regime, the violence was palatable enough for the Russian.

Russian President Vladimir Putin (image source)

On the sidelines the ever eager Iranians, driven by an unchanging insane hatred of the West, happily displayed their own impenetrable self-righteousness and encouraged the Russian by cheerfully volunteering to "take the heat" along with them.  This is not to say that the affection between the suspiciously popular leaders of the two countries was based on some organic infatuation.  Each represented a coldly useful opportunity for the other -- in this case, creating a "marriage made in heaven" deployed to embarrass the Americans.

The Russian Federation maintained a modern military presence in the country, while the Iranians, the "crazy uncle" in this play, would happily march an essentially endless supply of equally crazed troops to the combat theatre across Iraq, the newly hateful, fickle, synthetic ex-ally of the West.  The geopolitical temptation was simply too great -- for both of these otherwise unlikely "best buddies."

Putin at home faced the domestic demand for "respect" as the Russian Federation, in a sense, stumbled to its feet as a Phoenix following the ignominious fall of the Soviets. As the equivalent of an "international teenager," the newly born Russian Federation exhibited all the anticipated chest beating of an international, testosterone driven adolescent accompanied by just enough of the bully required to establish, at least as fantasy, its place among the adults at the table.

However, of course, this particular "teenager" was equipped with a few thousand ICBMs.

What had been a low level animosity grew Russian teeth when Mitt Romney finally "iced the cake" -- exactly the old Cold War cake that hundreds of US cracker politicians on the right had already carefully baked with far more salt than the recipe specified -- with his campaign statement classing the Russian Federation as "America's Number One Enemy."

Snowden's asylum was simply another candle.

Dostoyevsky's Raskolnikov (image source)
The Russian analogue to Raskolnikov's crime stretched out over the months. 

Monday, August 26, 2013

New Mexico: Climate Change, Infrastructure & Water

Before We Begin,
 A Quick Note On Climate Change

MeanMesa has posted a few apocalyptic essays before, notably There's Infrastructure, and Then There's Infrastructure (Doomsday Without the Lipstick), each one hopefully addressing tangible possibilities of infrastructure projects which  could be undertaken immediately, and which might mitigate some of the more catastrophic -- and lethally unpleasant -- impacts of global climate change.  [For the more ambitious MeanMesa visitor, a longer and more in depth post can be seen at Managing Global Warming Solutions.]

It has always been the "high ambition" of MeanMesa with respect to this topic to present solutions of the "engineering type" rather than plunge headlong into the details of planetary chemistry and meteorological physics or simply drone on endlessly about the hopelessness of it all. 

Technology's forward movement toward a solution is impressive, but painfully slow, encountering not only the anticipated difficulties of any new ideas, but also  further obstacles emerging from the social culture of money, power, politics and, in an unsettling way, meteorological illiteracy.  Precisely the same voters who will ultimately face the responsibility of financing the mitigation of the approaching threat are inundated in purposefully misleading propaganda designed to protect the wealth of a few from the massive expenditure inevitably required.

In simpler terms the coal mine owners, the petroleum nobility and a small collection of others with their personal wealth dependent on continuing the present self-destructive course intend to bring the rest of us down with them.  More immediately, it is precisely the accumulated wealth of this "new nobility" class which will be required to finance the planet's rehabilitation.

This last proposition is one largely unspoken in our class-war sensitive social culture, but, make no mistake, the currently grotesque results of wealth redistribution and concentration was created largely by the same social and economic factors which have created the present climate crisis.  Quite without regard to philosophical or ideological ideas of "right and wrong" or "legitimate and not legitimate," the political reality will ultimately dictate the allocation of this "privately held wealth" to planetary survival.

In a certain sense, while we may think of climate change as a matter of fossil; fuels, carbon dioxide and the like, it can also be seen as nothing other than the inevitable product of the long, rapacious avarice of this wealth obsessed class which has led us to this planetary precipice.

Infrastructure in New Mexico

The common story of infrastructure has, unfortunately, settled on a convenient list of project types -- schools, bridges, roads, hospitals and so on.  However, with closer scrutiny we rather quickly notice an interesting omission from that "standard list."

In fact, if we imagined ourselves in an alternate universe -- perhaps MeanMesa's "future history" department, we might encounter the following in a high school geography text book:

The US State of New Mexico, being in a region where water availability was a constant priority, very wisely invested its own state tax revenues in a series of water management infrastructure projects.  The State constructed not only water retention reservoirs to collect surficial run off during monsoon seasons, but also a  series of smaller flood control and distributed water retention projects across all the regions in the state which could route essentially all the year round precipitation into a number of lakes and reservoirs for local use.

As the climate change induced drought settled over the Western US during the first half of the 21st Century, New Mexico's water management infrastructure continued to provide communities and agricultural water needs while largely protecting areas of the state which had previously suffered from repeated flooding, also serving to protect New Mexicans from some of the worst consequences of the climate induced water shortages in the Western state region while promoting a continuous rate of common sense, sustainable economic development and growth.

Perhaps more than any of New Mexico's other resource development investments five decades ago, the extensive water management projects were the foundation for the state's exceptional prosperity in this current period of drought created economic collapse in the other states in the region.

Of course all this would cost money, but right there we immediately see an economically positive side -- in fact, we see economically positive sides.  Lots of them.  Right here we can trot out an old MeanMesa logo which has appeared on the blog in plenty of previous posts.

The very idea of a "demand economy" in New Mexico is literally "knocking down the door!"

In the first half of this year New Mexico's Republican Governor, Susana Martinez, "rolled out" $10 Mn in state funds for "job training."  She "rolled out" more than that for "economic development."  Of course no one walking the streets of Albuquerque or sitting in the State Capital have seen any of those jobs.

The tale of the "economic development" is even more outrageous.  Naturally, the "economic development" expenditures were legislative promises which were also well lubricated with the more alluring, gaseous promised of the creation of even more imaginary jobs.  When more sensible State legislators asked the Governor's office for an account of the expenditures, that is,  a look at the jobs created and examples of where the NM  "economy" which was developed, their request was refused.

At first the Governor insisted that her staff would analyze the progress and then "report" all the good news to the State Representatives, but later it became "necessary" for the job to be transferred to an expert consulting firm in Arizona with the "know-how" to make sure that everything was "examined correctly."

So much for jobs in New Mexico.  New Mexicans don't even get a few hours of paid work to establish why the "jobs program" didn't create any jobs.  If you are still not certain that you have an accurate "grip" on the total cess pool this has become, just imagine that you are in the Black Hole of Calcutta and start digging from there.

We're headed for the "climate change, infrastructure and water" in this post's title, but we have one more short stop to make first.

One More Time, ALEC New Mexico

Let's face a few facts.

1. Tax-wise, billionaires and corporations like it just the way it is.  They've spent millions of dollars in bribes -- ooops, campaign contributions -- for purchasing Congressmen and for purchasing tax laws, to get the taxes on their profits down to essentially zero where they are now.

2. Doing anything about the rapidly approaching impact of climate change will cost money -- tax money.  Steadily since Reagan's introduction of "trickle-down, voodoo economics," but especially in the economic wreckage of the Bush W. autocracy, the billionaires and the corporations have all the money.

3. Repeat number 2, above, but replace climate change with unemployment and national prosperity.  The economy of the United States today is crippled.  The oligarchs have emptied the shelves, the bank account and the cash register.  The United States will not be able to meet the challenges of climate change with a "basket case" economy.

4. ALEC -- both in states all across the country, but also in New Mexico -- offers "one stop shopping" for any billionaire or corporation with an appetite to own a Republican state Senator or Congressman.  ALEC's very most, most, favorite things are state financed "economic development grants" followed in by close second with deregulation of any regulation that costs any ALEC billionaire even so much as a single dollar, and third, more and more endless tax cuts on corporate profit, in each case ushered into law through a comatose state legislature bathed in the whimsical justification of creating jobs.

Interestingly, none of this stuff ever produces the effect promised, and in most cases is not the written legislation which is reported to the respective constituents.  All across the country, Americans are now painfully familiar with the effect that is produced from processes similar to those we see in New Mexico.  The other almost incomprehensible fact is that the Congressional constituents in these ALEC-victim states never actually wanted any of these bills to pass, that is, constituents did not ask their lawmakers to author these bills.

These bills came straight down the chute from the national ALEC think tanks into the hands of eagerly complicit state Congressional "leaders."

Here in New Mexico our ex-Democrat Republican Governor continues to pretend that she is "unleashing" the "free market," and that unbridled prosperity is "just around the corner," but we never get to see that "corner" or even get a peek at the "prosperity" there.  We have out of state suppliers furnishing everything from job training, weird Christian high school text books, consultants for every task possible, professional experts on deregulation, crooked "assistants" helping invest the New Mexico "rainy day fund" and plenty of ALEC campaign cash to grease the wheels -- not only providing the mimeographed legislation authorizing all this plunder, but also providing the Round House votes to put it in place.

The point here is simple.

Any effort to direct state resources to water infrastructure will be ambushed immediately by ALEC sponsored Congressional "temper tantrums."  The crooks and oligarchs who own ALEC -- along with the crooks and oligarchs who own the Republican Party -- have not positioned themselves to "drink deeply" from infrastructure money.  Should a piece of this kind of legislation actually survive the inevitable ALEC counter attack in the State legislature, the Governess would immediately want to take the contract to Texas or Arizona where her campaign contributors are.

In New Mexico, in the United States and around the entire globe we face monumental work.  It will all cost money, and the people who currently have that money are apparently not inclined to spend any of it on this until the planet is in shambles and the people of Earth are wallowing in violent, desperate chaos.  ALEC is both the active legislative voice of these people and the channel through which they can employ their great wealth against our common survival.

All ideology will have long ago melted two decades from now.

Drought, Dams and DimWits

What, exactly, is MeanMesa proposing here?

Beginning with a consideration of the economic impact resulting from all these decades of inaction, we can start by estimating the present cost of facing today's challenges.  We have flood damage across the state from heavy monsoon rains, but we also have gigantic reservoirs such as the one at Elephant Butte practically empty.

Elephant Butte in better days [Se: NASA]
Elephant Butte Reservoir is supposed to look like this when NASA photographs it from Earth orbit.  Because there has been a drought for the last few years, this reservoir, although not bone dry, has become an over sized puddle stuck in a low spot.

Caused by the drought?  Certainly, but this reservoir was going dry on precisely the same day that the monsoon run off was careening out of the state last year, the year before that and the year before that and so on.

Elephant Butte today [Se: NASA]
This is a photo was what Elephant Butte looks like today.  The State geologists tell us that it will take a series of strong monsoon seasons every year for the next few years to fill the reservoir back to what is shown in the top photo.

Just remember that this takes such a long time because most of the monsoon moisture drains away to the Rio Grande River where it almost instantly becomes the property of Texas and becomes included in Texas water rights.

In fact, the State of Texas is currently suing New Mexico because the Texans claiming that Albuquerque's new water treatment project, the San Juan Chama plant, is diverting too much river water as the Rio Grands flows sedately through the county.  If you feel that a troubling part of the autonomy of the State of New Mexico seems to also be draining down the Rio Grande into the hands of the same "free marketeer" Texans who financed Governor Martinez's campaign, MeanMesa could not possibly agree with you more.

Monsoon flow in Albuquerque - KRQE
The amount of infrastructure development required to "move" the water we see in the photo [right] to a place where it can be retained and used is significant.  Yet, when we consider the photos of Elephant Butte and the rush of New Mexico surface run off to Texas -- the ultimate destination of the water in the photo at the right, how can we miss the opportunity?

If the surface water flow running through the Albuquerque arroyos during a single monsoon season were captured in a reservoir prior to the point where it reaches the Rio Grande, this city would soon have its own lake.

Now, having that lake would not be an immediate solution to the area water shortage, but it would hold possibilities which are quite attractive.  Urban surficial run off is typically highly polluted with contaminants literally washed off the ground by the rain.  These include anti-freeze, motor oil, sewage effluent, fertilizer and pesticides, just to name a few. 

However, there is probably no place with more access to tremendous solar heat power -- precisely the kind of power with zero emission, low maintenance and low operating expense which is perfect for a high volume solar distillation facility.  Using solar heat, we can clean that surface water at a very low cost.  Further, we can distill water from our new reservoir all year long, contributing the perfectly clean distillate directly into the city's drinking water.

It would be the cheapest water flowing through our drinking fountains and taps -- cheaper than the aquifer well water, cheaper than the San Juan Chama water.

An Over Reaction to a Temporary Problem?

Hardly.  Although ALEC has largely adopted the climate change denying business as a full time hobby for fun and profit, MeanMesa visitors have known better for years.  The science paints a far bleaker picture.

IPCC predicts our future (article here)

[You will be able to read the chart  more clearly if you click the image.]  The alternatives connected to facing this type of a future are clear enough.  New Mexico can either take steps now to guarantee available water in our future or, -- we can plan on leaving.

This post isn't simply proposing a reservoir for Albuquerque.  The entire State needs similar projects from border to border.  The New Mexico of the future can be a lattice of dams, retention reservoirs, solar distillation plants and aqueducts.  Our State's agricultural production can increase exponentially with enough low priced water. 

Jobs, Jobs, Jobs

The engineering and construction of this type of vital infrastructure can be almost entirely sourced inside the State of New Mexico.  The $10 Mn "jobs training" expenditure the Governor is so proud of could make one hell of a down payment on the Albuquerque reservoir and plant construction, and -- importantly -- it would actually create jobs!  These would be jobs which didn't depend on the whimsy of distant markets or require expertise only available through the Governor's "out of state consultants."

Uh oh.

THIS would be the demand economy MeanMesa has been hammering about for so long.

ABQ Journal
The Albuquerque Journal photos [right] show scenes around Albuquerque during some heavy rains in this year's monsoon season.  We've already considered the infrastructure development possibilities with respect to retaining this run off water, but when it comes to job creation, we are also looking at a huge number of flood control projects, too.

If our State government committed itself to the design,  construction, modernization and expansion of flood control infrastructure across the State, there would be more construction jobs than there were construction workers. Of course, a little "macro-economic project scheduling" could easily solve the shortage, but -- WHAT A GREAT PROBLEM TO HAVE!!

The "icing on the cake" would be an economy increased not only by the pay checks New Mexicans would be getting from working on these projects, but also the "reserved buying power" made possible when New Mexicans were no longer facing the financial damage we see in the photos.

A demand economy runs on buying power.  New Mexico is no exception.

All the State money being plowed into "economic development" and "job training" could start this State-wide reconstruction program this year.  When the larger picture is considered, why would we be messing around with clusters of small minded, heavily looted "oatmeal" programs when such a great future is literally knocking at our door?

We haven't even thought about how a STATE BANK could finance this.

New Mexicans, don't create a future where you will have to explain to your grandchildren why, when confronted with this solvable future challenge, you did nothing.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Egypt: Yes, There Was a Coup, Just Not THAT One

A Shocking Corporate Media Failure

MeanMesa finds all the network media's embarrassingly frenzied, psuedo-academic hair splitting with respect to events in Egypt to be about as informative as listening to a speed freak juggling a marble in a mayonnaise jar.  Our corporate media has clearly reduced the story to a comfortable hand full of its favorite, fear provoking, over simplified equivalent of day old oat meal.

"Oh dear, was it a military take over?"

"My, my, after such a promising start, it's become another dictatorship."

"It's absolutely nothing more than deposing a democratically elected President."

Well, hitch up your knickers, take a deep breath and try to relax for a moment.  This story represents one of the most egregious "news" re-bundling episodes of recent history, and, as such, it more than deserves a bit of MeanMesa's "feet on the ground" analysis.

There aren't any shockingly revelatory secrets to unleash, either. We'll try to just take it from what we've seen.

The REAL Coup in Egypt

Although Americans expected Egypt to become something roughly akin to Duluth the morning after the election, the current situation unfolding in  Egypt should hardly be very surprising.  While there are not a thousand dead leading up to a typical local election in Duluth, the other structural, political and ideological similarities between the process in Minnesota and Alexandria are chillingly sinister.

This post's intention is to illuminate these troubling "similarities."

When Mohammed Morsi was campaigning in the country's first modern, actual democratic election, there was an understandable hesitation among Egyptian voters seeking to continue the country's more or less secular course set by the "retiring" dictator, Hosni Mubarak. This nervousness was based primarily on questions concerning the extent of the influence of Morsi's position in the Islamic Muslim Brotherhood might exert on his decisions as President of the country.

Candidate Morsi was fully aware of this "electoral reluctance," and he reassuringly addressed these concerns frequently in his campaign speeches.  However, it turns out that the dilemma arose not from something present, but rather, from something absent.

In a departure from conditions in Duluth [MeanMesa's apologies to Duluth.  This constant reference is nothing personal.  Please be assured that these references to "Duluth" are actually no more than an entirely coincidental "redirect" to establish a more or less "standard domestic base" to which Egypt's story may be compared for reference.] the voters in Egypt were understandably inexperienced at the task of democratically selecting their political leader.

This "inexperience" certainly included inexperience with the vagaries of campaigning and voting, but it extended beyond just the visible mechanisms of the process.  Voters everywhere who are more familiar with the process clearly understand the corrupting influence of political power, thus comfortably  embracing a healthy skepticism about candidates and campaign promises.

Remember, this was an absolutely new undertaking for most Egyptians.  Most of the citizens of the country were eager to fulfil their civic duties and do a good job even though they were brand new at it.

To a limited degree Morsi himself may well have also been somewhat uncertain about his future Presidential role as well -- especially with respect to ideas we Americans would casually consider "separation of powers" or  "limits to executive authority" and so forth.  Go ahead and toss in "separation of church and state."

It is this last element which has been at the heart of what's happening now.

Further, after decades of the suffocating Mubarak regime, Egyptian voters were also inexperienced with the unavoidable pall which shades every ballot cast by voters in any election anywhere, that is, the very present danger of hosting unrealistic expectations.  These would be wide ranging.  They would include such expectations about conditions in the country following the election, the behavior of those elected once they were in office and even the prospects for social and economic change afterwards.

A Few Thoughts About a Conversation
 with a Religionist Fundamentalist

Most MeanMesa visitors have had such a conversation here in the United States where "conditions" are still slightly different than those in Egypt.  Further, these domestic examples of such conversations would, most likely, have been with our own local brands of such religionists.

Still, the similarities easily over whelm the differences between what is found in a coffee shop in Duluth and one in Cairo.

When we converse with fundamentalists, it seems as if there is a "third party" at the table, a silent listener with great presumed authority and way too many absolutist maxims from centuries ago.  Further, it doesn't take long until we realize that these ancient maxims comprise the entire value set of this man across the table.

It doesn't matter if our conversation partner is Islamic or Christian.  Because of the maxims, our friend is not at all interested in negotiating.  Instead, his interest lies only with every possible means of enforcing his maxims.  Minor violent peccadilloes encountered along the way are merely insignificant details in the abundant "good" which will be the inevitable result of everyone being led, forced, coerced or tricked into "getting on board."

Of course, we are referring to Mr. Morsi in Egypt with such comments, but -- as for similarities -- we can quite effortlessly add  our own domestic political players to the list.  Consider for a moment these other names:

Virginia AG Ken Cuccinelli
Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell
North Carolina's Governor Pat McCrory
Texas Governor Rick Perry
Florida Governor Rick Scott
North Dakota's  Governor Jack Dalrymple
Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker

We know that this list could be extended to include many more, but the point here is that in each of these cases, the campaigns in each case "neglected" to inform the voters of the central underlying policy which would emerge once the candidate was in power or give any hint of the degree of egregious law breaking and arm twisting which would be expended to make that policy into law.

Voters in these states might have been led to think that they were casting ballots for a fairly stable, fairly reasonable Republican candidate, but a month after the election they found their state governments "in an all out war with the imaginary Edamites," and abandoning all other possible priorities for a convenient burial elsewhere in the pages of the Old Testament.

Predictably, with the eyes of the man [or men] behind the wheel closing abortion clinics, ignoring the Supreme Court's rulings, de-funding public education, obliterating pre-school, looting the health care money and subjugating women at the expense of the pressing state needs in each case, the already precarious state economies plunged further into the pockets of the "job creators" at everyone else's expense.

Texas, for example, is ripping the pavement off state roads and replacing it with gravel to save money -- tax money not collected from the heavy oil industry trucks that are wrecking them.  Tax cuts and zero regulation mean everything; state services mean nothing.  They're not ripping up roads in Egypt to save money.

If you are trying to live through the "new poverty" under one of these state level tea bag autocracies, you may have more in common with the Egyptians than you thought at first.  The greatest difference is that the Egyptians voted, while, as an average American, you probably didn't bother.

Morsi's Path to the Presidency

What we would consider the "primary" election was a race between roughly a dozen political parties in which Mr. Morsi drew roughly a quarter of the votes.  This is a more or less typical "learning curve" in newly democratic nations where no one is particularly sure that they know what polling numbers would be if they had credible pre-election polling.

Deposed  President Muhammed Morsi (image source)
After the chaos had settled, a run-off election was held.  It was specifically during this second campaign that Mr. Morsi was so reassuring about not governing as a single issue Muslim Brotherhood President.  We must also remember that the Egyptian military was exerting a "very strong hand" to keep things progressing, and that powerful remnants of the Mubarak regime were still in every corner and shadow hoping that things would get so bad that the old dictator might "rise again" to "restore order."

There were set backs and questions about the election of Parliament, too.  It's worth the effort to read the Wiki account of Parliamentary elections.  It's well written, and as far as MeanMesa can decipher, reasonably accurate and objective.  (Read the whole article here.)

The Muslim Brotherhood announced on 15 February it would form the Freedom and Justice Party to run in the election. Together with 27 other parties representing diverse political families, the Freedom and Justice Party formed the Democratic Alliance for Egypt. After several defections and entries, the Freedom and Justice Party-dominated coalition settled on 11 parties. The FJP fielded the overwhelming majority of the candidates, and all the Democratic Alliance for Egypt joint candidates ran under the FJP label.
As a reaction to this centre-right alliance, the different liberal democratic and centrist parties intensified cooperation. Five parties drafted a joint statement criticising the current electoral law and proposing a new one. On 16 August 15 political and social movements, some of which defected from the Democratic Alliance for Egypt, announced the Egyptian Bloc electoral alliance. It consisted of liberal, secularist, and centre-left political parties, as well as social organizations and labour unions, and also the traditional Islamic Sufi Liberation Party. Its main objective was to prevent an imminent electoral victory of the Muslim Brotherhood, and the Freedom and Justice Party. After suffering many defections, the remaining Egyptian Bloc parties were: the Free Egyptians Party, the Egyptian Social Democratic Party and the National Progressive Unionist Party (Tagammu).
Five socialist parties and movements formed the Coalition of Socialist Forces party alliance to contest the elections jointly. After defecting from the Egyptian Bloc, they formed the core of The Revolution Continues Alliance.

The liberal New Wafd Party announced on 13 June 2011 that it would contest the election in an alliance with the Freedom and Justice Party. The New Wafd later decided to abandon its alliance with the Islamists over discrepancies concerning the prospective constitution, and considered joining the new Egyptian Bloc liberal coalition instead. The New Wafd ended up running its own independent lists.

The Salafi Al-Nour Party withdrew from the Democratic Alliance for Egypt coalition due to disagreements with the Freedom and Justice Party over its share in the coalition’s joint candidate lists. On 12 August, three Islamic Salafi parties (Nour, and two unregistered groups that later became the Al-Asala Party and the Building and Development Party) announced that they would run a united candidate list. Their common list is officially called the "Alliance for Egypt", and is unofficially referred to as the "Islamist Bloc". The Al-Nour Party fielded the overwhelming majority of the candidates, and all the Alliance for Egypt joint candidates are running under the Al-Nour Party label.

The Al-Wasat Party, a moderate Islamic faction of the Muslim Brotherhood, was officially approved as a party on 19 February, fifteen years after its foundation. After withdrawing from the Democratic Alliance for Egypt, it formed an electoral coalition with the Renaissance Party and the Pioneer Party, both of which were founded by former members of the Muslim Brotherhood. The Al-Wasat Party fielded the overwhelming majority of the coalition candidates, all of which ran under the Al-Wasat Party label.

Some analysts voiced concerns that former members of the ruling NDP might gain a lot of influence in the newly elected parliament. Among the parties identified to have had a strong base in former NDP members were:

the Egyptian Citizen Party, led by former NDP secretary-general Mohamed Ragab (other former NDP members include Hamdi El-Sayed, Abdel Ahad Gamal El Din and Nabil Louka Bibawi);
Egypt Revival Party (Misr El-Nahda)/Union Party (Egypt) (Al-Etihad), led by former NDP secretary-general Hossam Badrawi; the party was officially registered under the second name on 20 September 2011;
the Freedom Party (Horreya), led by Mamdouh Ali Hassan, son of Mohamed Mahmoud (a large number of former NDP MPs joined this party);
the Nationalist Egypt Party, led by Anwar Sadat's nephew, the late Talaat Sadat; last chairman of the NDP

Further, the electoral process for establishing the government was complex, but not inordinately so.   (From the same article.)

The election to the People's Assembly took place on the following dates:

first stage: 28–29 November, run-off on 5–6 December;
second stage: 14–15 December, run-off on 21–22 December;
third stage: 3–4 January, run-off on 10–11 January.
There are a total 508 seats in the Lower house: 498 seats are elected, and 10 seats appointed, in this case, by the Military Council, and usually by the President.

Under the parallel voting system used, out of 498 total seats, two-thirds, meaning 332, were elected by means of party list proportional representation. For these seats the public voted for parties or coalition-lists and the result was determined by the largest remainder method with a 0.5 percent threshold, in 46 districts.

The remaining 166 seats were elected by bloc voting in two-seat constituencies, with the possibility of a run off In the election voters each cast two votes, which could not be for the same individual. These seats were open to candidates running as individuals, who might not be affiliated to political parties, numbering two per each of the 83 districts. Out of these, the new parliament must have at least half "laborers" or "farmers", while the "professionals" should constitute at most half of the parliament. If the winner of one of the two seats that are allocated to a certain district, is a "professional", the second seat in the district shall be handed to a "laborer" or a "farmer". Run-offs are assigned to the individual candidates who did not receive over 50% of the votes in the first round.

Additional requirements for parties include listing at least one woman and adopting a specific visual symbol, as an alternative detection to help the illiterate voters. The same voting procedures shall apply to the upper house's election, too.

The election for the upper house, the Shura Council ("the Consultative Council") are to follow on 29 January 2012, and will take place in 3 stages as well between 29 January and 22 February. (process was sped due to ongoing protests). Out of a total 270 seats in the Upper House: 180 seats are up for grabs and 90 seats shall be appointed after the presidential election, by the president-elect. Following these elections, the parliament shall select a committee that will draft a new constitution for Egypt. The new constitution shall than be submitted to a referendum. Only then will presidential election be held, "no later than 30 June 2012" according to Hussein Tantawi's statement.

Although this complexity might have intimidated American voters, accustomed to an established form of government, Egyptians very boldly embraced it, paid attention and participated even though at times in cross purpose. 

That first, all important referendum election was designed to invite all the political interests of Egypt as evenly as possible.  Given the wide plurality of campaigning parties, it is not reasonable to attribute too much mischief to the fact that the winner, Muhammed Morsi drew only roughly a quarter of the votes cast.

He went ahead to procure a fairly slim majority in the following run-off against opposing candidate Shafik -- 52% to 48%.  However, the voter turn out for this run off reflected -- justified or not -- what could be termed a stoic acceptance of very low expectations of the process by those who had voted for losing candidates in the first election.  Around 43% of Egyptians voted in the run-off.

In the first election, 23 million Egyptians voted, but 12 million of those voted for a candidate other than either of the run-off contenders.  Based on the low voter turn out and the lack of a country wide majority among either candidate's base, neither of the possible victors of the run-off could have claimed a groundswell victory in the election or a corresponding mandate for policies once in power.

Americans have elected Presidents in the past where the victor could honestly report that "more Americans voted for someone else than voted for me," but these cases were all ballot counts much closer than what occurred in the Egyptian election.

Now, to the Coup

The actual coup occurred essentially in the days immediately after the election, and the Egyptian military had very little to do with it.

Once Muhammed Morsi took office most of the already shaky ministerial seats were quickly and consistently reassigned to Muslim Brotherhood bureaucrats.  Predictably, the general course of the government followed.  Although these moves were made as subtly as possible in hope that they might be either missed entirely or that their gravity -- as threats to the representative nature of the still forming democracy -- might be under estimated by Egyptian voters unaccustomed to such processes anyway, the power avarice of this minority party gradually made the take over more and more brazen.

The coup in Egypt was by the Muslim Brotherhood, and it was designed and implemented by then candidate Morsi and those around him.

In no time anyone not associated with the Brotherhood faced more and more -- often endless -- difficulties at the hand of the minority government.

The Muslim Brotherhood had already accumulated a long history with the old dictator.  Hosni Mubarak, having neither misconceptions about the lengths necessary to maintain autocratic control over the country nor any particular reluctance to simply and harshly outlaw any competitors, had violently suppressed the Brotherhood for decades.

The Muslim Brotherhood's candidate was so successful in this election exactly because the Brotherhood was essentially the only functional political party participating.  Unlike the amateurish parties opposing it, the Brotherhood had long ago been hammered into a political weapon by Mubarak's abuses.

It is MeanMesa's suspicion that the ballot popularity for the Brotherhood which emerged in the election had much more to do with its image of organization and stability.  The Morsi voters were not zealous religious ideologues supporting the Brotherhood's rather meat handed tactics of the Mubarak era.  There were not enough official, full blooded Brotherhood voters alone to explain the Morsi victory.

Further, the Muslim Brotherhood had been re-imaged as a matured, reasonable alternative to the Mubarak excesses, a long suffering, violently suppressed troop of freedom fighters.  They weren't.  Also, there can be little doubt now -- in hindsight -- that the Brotherhood's leadership issued a very clear order for the whole party to be on its best behavior -- at least until the election was won.

This image lasted for a while, but within a year the country was plummeting -- unwillingly -- into becoming another Iranian style theocracy. The fragile Egyptian economy was in the predictable shambles nepotism always brings.  The police excesses were beginning to once again enter the daily lives of average Egyptians.

Now comes a testimonial from an unnamed Egyptian official via the Israeli politician Yossi Beilin in Israel Hayom:
Ahmed Shafik, the former air force commander and former president Hosni Mubarak’s last prime minister, actually won the race by a narrow margin. But the army generals—wanting to ensure that law and order would be upheld following the elections—feared that if Morsi was defeated, the Muslim Brotherhood would refuse to recognize the results and would end up conducting themselves just as they are now.
 The fully committed Brotherhood Egyptians began to show their true color as violent, fundamentalist theocrats even before Morsi was removed, and afterwards they transformed from a fairly stable looking political party into the violent urban equivalent of a insurrectionist jihad.

Abdul Fatah Khalil al-Sisi (image source)
The lesson is simple.  Mubarak had good reason to outlaw them, that is, a good reason if a dictator actually ever needed a good reason.  The Egyptian military also made a good judgement with its decision to suppress them after the violence had grown to a country-threatening severity.  The military decision appears quite pragmatic considering the possible courses otherwise, and, as is always the case with any military, that pragmatism reliably appears as conditions deteriorate. 


Egypt, a few decades ago, became a fickle client of the old Soviet Union, receiving both military aid and a more or less "normal" dose of Soviet expansionism's "nation building" largess with projects such as Aswan dam.  The Egyptians predictably created a massive military capacity, an understandable appetite for a nation with ambitions of leading the Middle Eastern coalition in the conflict with Israel and an economically savvy move intended to "pacify" the country's image as a safe tourist destination.

The Israeli-Egyptian Peace Treaty induced the country to move from the Soviet sphere of influence to a warmer relation with the West.  One element of the treaty was the promise of US financial support for the Egyptian military.  This is currently around $1 Bn per year.

Presently, however, the Egyptian military is receiving significantly greater military economic assistance from Arab states in the region [notably Qatar and Saudi Arabia] anxious to avoid the emergence of another Iran across the Persian Gulf.  Estimates of these military assistance amounts run around $17 Bn.

This is necessary for Egypt at this time because the tourist industry -- a major contributor to Egypt's economy -- has suffered an almost complete decimation due to the unrest and violence.  The only player remaining with a sufficient force to clear the streets and extinguish the fires is the Egyptian military.

Finally, just one more thing.

The Western Media Presents Egypt: The Comic Book

This post began with a derisive review of the domestic media's picture of all this.  Let's finish with MeanMesa's speculation concerning how in the world this story was converted into something so alien, so removed from the facts.  We will also have to consider the motivation for such a bizarre decision to be taken by the corporate oligarchs who control the domestic "news" networks.

For those watching the daily reporting on the crisis in Egypt there were the predictable scenes of grief stricken Egyptians, bullet ridden corpses and panoramas of "things burning in the distance" from the country's major cities.  The credible or objective aspects of the "news" pretty much ended there.

No fewer than a dozen hand wringing "news casters" were emitting deep sighs to promote the now quite familiar desolate hopelessness in their viewers.  They were all "very concerned" that what we saw could not possibly be absolutely anything else but a military take-over, a coup.  For a little extra spice an occasional aside was added "informing" us that an old Mubarak administration official had been placed in this or that critical position.

"Wha-a-a-a -- he was the elected President."
"Wha-a-a-a -- he was the elected President."  
"Wha-a-a-a -- he was the elected President.  Worry!  Worry!"

A total unilateral military power grab by the Egyptian military "junta" was presented as an inevitable outcome, and it was, of course, placed "just around the corner."  As it was implied by the corporate domestic news, our job as "informed Americans" was to immediately hurl ourselves into a pit of hopeless despair from which we might emerge later with a greater appetite for -- wait for it -- our own military intervention --  always a good money maker for the oligarch class.

The Republican "war experts," in this case Senators McCain and Graham, returned from their Egypt trip ready to, once again, politically attack the President [this is what the owners of the Republican Party pay them to do...] for not unleashing the US military on Egypt at once.  And, while we were in the neighborhood, according to war monger McCain, we should also just slip into Syria, painlessly and quickly "cleaning up that mess, too."

Further, the voices of those directing the media bias seemed to be confused when the Brotherhood started to rampage through the cities shooting at the police and torching government buildings.  Only a few days earlier the Morsi government and the Muslim Brotherhood had been the very promising "future of Egypt," thankfully and finally liberated from under the jack boot of the despot [that would be Mubarak who had filled the role as our best choice as the "future of Egypt" before].

It may require a very resolved effort at carefully analysing the chaotic wreckage of the "news" story, but that is exactly what will be required to parse out what motivates our oligarchs to be so flippantly hostile in their apparent hatred of Muslims.  MeanMesa can only conclude that just as these oligarchs really don't care a whit about issues such as abortion or gun control, they aren't really willing to commit the energy to actually hate Islam, but instead, find themselves narcotically drawn to to possibility of continuing to create a US population-wide despondency and stoic hopelessness.

They know this makes us far more frightened and manageable.  Forget about doing anything to help Egypt.  They have.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

MeanMesa: How To Be A Democrat

Snatching Defeat From the Jaws of Victory

In this season of political neglect it is, perhaps, only too easy to constantly focus on each new outrage in relentless purging of democracy at the hands of the Republican Party.  However, with this post, MeanMesa will "turn the lamp" just a bit to focus on the concurrent shambles of the Democratic Party, an admittedly already quit dull blade amid what swords remain to right the ship.

Very much more about the Republicans would, at this juncture, be essentially irrelevant.  The "Grand Oligarch Party" has made itself into a whisp, a gaseous sort of unpleasantness made tolerably palatable only by its continuing decline. 

There are no "conservative" ground swells languishing over the horizon to sweep the miscreants into office again.  The GOP's dismal outcome in the 2012 election left the wreckage of the Party hanging from a narrowing thread of gerrymandering assisted only slightly by the lesser "election crimes" the overly arrogant state level zealots have dared to impose on the growing number of their disenfranchised victims.

One would think that when the field of battle is now so quiet following the political suicide on one of the opposing armies, those opposing survivors would rush to make solid their coincidental opportunity.  Not the case.

The Democrats have, rather than exploit their good fortune, turned their sand dials back to the very same mindless, passion-less, 1950's irrelevancy, the same pointless fantasy and retrograde nightmare which has enamored the Republicans so much.  Now, the only combatants left standing, that is, the Democrats, have hypnotized themselves into a political coma with an unlikely and unworkable -- and shockingly artificial -- civility.

They have, instead, decided to "fiddle as Rome burns."

The Pretend World of the Invisible Democrats

Probably as a result of casual neglect, the modern Democratic Party -- along with its policy interests -- finds itself attempting to conduct politics without the benefit of media.  American voters essentially stare into a media void when their fickle curiosity occasionally leads them to inquire about the Democratic Party's agenda.

The six corporations which control 90% of the domestic commercial media share very few of the ambitions of the Democratic Party or the vast majority of the American people.  Not even the speeches of the President are commonly presented in full as "news worthy."  Instead, the most inflammatory -- and often the least factual -- utterances of Republicans fill the minutes and hours of what was previously considered more balanced "coverage."

The "directed interest" editorial policies of corporate networks shouldn't surprise anyone.  Between the inevitable phone calls from oligarchs' think tanks and the constant influence of the largest commercial advertising purchasers, the behavior of these corporations -- including the highly engineered subtlety of their perpetual bias -- is to be expected.

Corporate media propaganda naturally reflects the interests of those owning the corporations, and those interests predictable coincide with the wealth redistribution obsession of the Republican Party.

Dig out your stop watches.  Record the air time minutes of interviews or speeches delivered by Democrats with the corresponding minutes of comment or rebuttal by Republicans.  The Democrats are effectively invisible.

Immediately, we move to the next proposition, that is, that the Democrats, having forfeited any possible political advantage from a persuasive media exposure have no effective means to restore their media presence in an unregulated, hostile corporate industry.  The corporate ownership of Congressional minorities precludes any legislative remedy -- especially when those well funded minority caucuses are now firmly in control of Congressional agendas in both the House and the Senate.

Not entirely pure victims in this disaster, the Democrats have contributed their own part to the destruction of any sort of balanced "Fourth Estate."  While Republican tea bags have been quite dependable in their role of inane utterances, generally without fact, as incendiary fodder to their hill billy base, the Democrats have apparently cast a solemn vow to remain just as "ignorable" as the tea bags have been flammable.

Why would we expect that the corporate media would waste time covering politics in which no media consumers are interested?  Congressional Democratic policy has long ago ceased to provide that interest, any news captivating enough to tempt the corporate media editors or even any legislative results notable enough to peek any particular interest among the mindless hordes being dutifully frightened by the right every night.

If that kind of "interesting" policy were, in fact, moving quietly around in the "back circles" of the Washington Democrats, it still wouldn't matter.  The Republican minority remains firmly in command of the Senate with record numbers of filibusters, and the House hasn't passed any legislation which could, even conceivably, benefit any American family with a yearly income less that $200,000.

The American people are under attack from the oligarchs' puppets in the Congress.  That's nothing new.  But now the Democrats are now "sleeping, full steam ahead" to lose the 2014 mid-term elections, permanently cementing "minority rule" into the future political structure of what's left of the country after the Republicans finished looting it the last time.

Although it clearly didn't matter much, MeanMesa campaigned for both of the Democrats currently representing New Mexico in the US Senate.  As a result of this, "news" arrives regularly concerning the legislative work being undertaken by these two.  In the last week Senator Udall has informed New Mexicans that he has proposed a fiber optic cable network to serve the state and that he is "concerned" about government surveillance, etc.

In the past -- that is, in better days -- such positions would have been acceptable as the day to day work of a Senator.

These are not "better days." 

These are also NOT the issues being burned into the hides of the majority of Americans at the moment.  We don't care about this stuff -- at least not right now.

We know that Democratic Senators are unable to legislate anything which will benefit their constituencies.  We understand that.

What we can't understand is what world do these Senators inhabit? 

MeanMesa has collected just a few typical posts from Face Book, nothing special, nothing particularly note worthy, but a few things which typify the daily conversations between average Americans.  Have a look. 

Settle for 2nd worst?  (source: UNICEF]


1956 [source: Republican Party]


Representative Government?  Two Party system?


Just another "economic correction?"

So let’s see, Bush..
  • Started 2 wars, which have cost American taxpayers well over $1 trillion
  • Cut taxes, which reduced the revenue being brought in by the federal government to pay our bills, creating giant deficits
  • Used accounting tricks to push much of the costs for both wars to the end of his presidency so the next President would have to deal with them
  • Passed 3 different stimulus bills totalling hundreds of billions of dollars
  • Passed Medicare Part D, again totalling hundreds of billions of dollars
  • Deregulated Wall Street, leading to rampant corruption—which was the driving force behind our economic collapse
  • Bailed out Wall Street by passing the TARP bailout, also totalling hundreds of billions of dollars
  • Left office with a national debt nearly double what it was when he took office and destroyed a balanced budget in the process
In other words, Bush created a catastrophe the likes of which the world has never seen before.  This economic crash didn’t just take out our economy, it put most of the world’s leading economies into a recession.


Democrats just "standing by" for more of THIS?


These people are still willing to even show their faces at an election?

 MeanMesa's Message to Elected Democrats

When the elected Democrats do nothing with this wind fall of political opportunity, alleged people such as RNC Chairman Reinze Preibus can continue -- with a straight face -- talking about winning the entire Congress in 2014 and the Presidency in 2016.

This man and this Party shouldn't be able to file for a parking permit in Washington D.C. after what they've done -- to us!

After what they've done to the entire industrialized world.

Now, you Democratic Senators complain, if the voters knew this, they might stop voting against their own interests by electing these losers.  But here on the ground with the other little people, this isn't what's happening.  Instead, Democratic Senators are stumbling along as if everything is just fine, as if everything will -- sooner or later -- simply return to "normal."

You Democratic Senators find great comfort in the excuse that your "message just isn't getting out."   You're right with the "message is just not getting out" part, but you're dead wrong with the "comfort" part.

The billionaires are slaughtering us.  The country is plunging into poverty.  The children are hungry.  Wages are in the tank. Voters are losing the right to vote. Unions have become illegal in a third of the states of the union.  The banksters are careening to new highs of wealth, income and power.  The government is controlled by a savage minority Party that didn't win the elections to hold that power.

All while, Senator Udall is working diligently on the fiber optic cable network and is "concerned" about NSA spying.  This won't do.  It's not just Senator Udall, either -- all the Democrats are invisible.

Haven't any of you been to Face Book lately?  Have you been so busy collecting skanky campaign contributions and hiding under your desks that you've missed the picture of what it's like out here?

The Republican Party should be eating three meals a day from a steady, straight diet of George W. Bush's record.  The wars.  The debt.  The torture.  The hatred.  The poverty.  The hunger.  The 2008 Depression.  The unemployment.  The untended infrastructure. 

The class war.

Nobodies like John Boehner and Mitch McConnell should be in such a relentless state of political terror as to not have a single night's sleep.  They stink, but Democrats say nothing.  As their Party rips the ballots from the hands of Americans in their gerrymandered elections, Democrats say nothing.  As their unfortunate states attack women with language -- and laws -- which wouldn't have been acceptable dinner table talk three decades ago, Democrats say nothing.

As their heavily soiled, corporate fascist Supreme Court plunges one anti-democracy dagger after another into the belly of our nation, the Democrats say nothing.

Afraid to Listen to Us?

By the way, we are the majority.

What do Democratic voters want from elected Democrats in Congress?

Open your damned mouths.  Don't blather any longer about "bi-partisan solutions" or "reaching across the aisle."  Every time this happens, we get hit again.  There isn't anything for us "across the aisle."  Haven't you been paying attention?

Support our President.  He's the only one left we can count on now that you have all hidden under your buckets.  In the rare "interviews" of elected Democrats it's as if you've never heard of him.

Fix the damned economy.  If the billionaires block the way, villify them.  They've deserved open combat with the elected government for a long time.

Call out the racists and misogynists.  They don't belong in front of a microphone -- or in a governor's mansion beyond Alabama,  Georgia and Mississippi.

Repair the elections.  No excuses.  We can't do it, so it's going to be up to you.

Take some risks.  Quit being frightened mice.  The Republicans have really stepped in it this time.

Jump 'em while they're down.  Go ahead.

A MeanMesa Conclusion

We may need different Democrats.