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February 11, 2011

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Ah, but who's in?

Good riddance to the dictator. Meet the new boss? I hope for the best.

And that sound you hear is a thousand paper shredders starting up in Cairo...

And the sound in Washington is a sigh of relief as those shredders get to work on the documentation of our rendition program, where we kidnapped people from foreign nations and sent them to Egypt to be tortured for us.

But I'm very glad for the people of Egypt.

Yes, it's just fabulous that Mubarak resigned and handed over power to the one organization that, if they didn't care to, could not be made to relinquish it.

Watching and waiting, me. And hoping that things are not as bad as they could be.

Mubarak is actually out.
This is not quite true, it's far more complicated, and not something that can be explained more completely without going into explanations of how Tantawi is Mubarak's poodle, the internal dynamics of the army, various multiple sources, and what's happening minute by minutes, and I suggest that trying to break breaking news like this is apt to be more misleading than helpful, unless you're prepared to issue minute-by-minute updates, specifiying sources, or at least every ten minutes to twenty minutes, listing multiple sources, but naturally you should post as you want, and that's my suggestions and that's all.

Thanks for the post. But breaking news minute by minute, no matter what one live tv program says, given the conflicting reports, and the fact that more news and analysis, much conflicting comes in minute by minute, and without a thorough background on the working's of the military, the government, the personalities, and who to listen to, may not be the best approach.

Just a suggestion. Back when i can.

I suggest that multipe twitter reports and using several tv sources at once, plus watching AP, Guardian, middle east newspapers, all simultaneously is your best bet if you really want to make anouncements as to what's just happened in the last ten minutes or so, but meanwhile "out" is very ambiguous, and might be fairly accurate, but: it's really a lot more complicated than that for now, though I don't think it's an unreasonable declaration for the moment.

I think this is mostly a good development, probably, but what happens hour by hour for quite some time, several days, at least, is what's really important.

More on Hussein Tantawi.

For U.S., Egypt's Tantawi is resistant to change.

Field Marshal Tantawi Allegedly in Charge in Egypt—What's a Field Marshall?

Tyler Durden on Tantawni.

Wikipedia on Tantawi.

Al Jazeera English on Tantawi.

Same on current as of 06 Feb 2011 20:15 GMT.

Specics are good.

Background is useful.

I have no idea how familiar you are with his history, the Egyptian military, the cabinet, and so on, but I suggest this is highly relevant to evaluating what's going on.

"UPDATE"

It's a good practice to put a date and time-stamp on these, because otherwise no one but you have any idea as to how old or new the update is.

You won't hear me say this very often, but Obama's remarks on the Egyptian revolution just now were much better than I expected.

His clear call to military to end the Emergency Law, and his emphasis on the power of nonviolent resistance, both very welcome.

They inspire, among other things, a renewed enthusiasm for nonviolent resistance to this administration's own freedom-squashing policies.

Also reassuring, though by no means completely, is the military's 'communique #3', which emphasized that the changes they'll propose must have legitimacy with the people. The moment when the officer reading the communique saluted (literally) the martyrs of the revolution will build trust. But only prompt, concrete positive moves will keep the mood optimistic.

Obama's remarks: C-SPAN video text

Will look for a clip of the military's communique #3. Some concrete positive moves taken tonight are sacking the current cabinet and dissolving parliament (existing demands of the Jan25 revolution). But the one I hope tomorrow morning to hear has happened is the release of all the protesters and activists being held.

Blogger Kareem Amer was released tonight, that's a start.

On the other hand, no one seems to be particularly interested here, so see y'all later.

Sorry Nell -- I was staring fixedly at other things.

I was also waiting to see what the new day would bring.

Last night at dinner Sprog #2 (high school freshman) was talking excitedly about how great it is to be taking World History Honors right now. They've been studying the French Revolution, and then to see one happen, day by day, and know that a century from now kids will be studying it -- that's the best kind of history.

Bliss was it in that dawn to be alive,
But to be young was very heaven!

Just a few questions:

If 500,000 protestors camped out on the National Mall for 18 days demanding that President Obama resign, would he?

Would we think he should?

If they marched on the Smithsonian would we disband the DC police and call in the army because we didn’t want the protestors to get shot with rubber bullets or water cannons?

If the military moved in and chased the police off would we think that was ok?

Would we call it a revolution of the people?

Or would it be a coup by the military?

For good reasons or bad, a military coup just happened in Egypt and it seems like everyone missed it.

Before I get pummelled with the differences in Mubarak and Obama,let me assure everyone I understand the differences. I am just curious what it takes to decide whether this set of protestors represent enough of the country for the military to step in and bring down the government.

They didn't just replace Mubarak. They dissolved the equivalent of Congress and imposed military rule for some unknown period of time. Should we expect a million Tea Partiers on Pennsylvania Avenue? Or, subsequently, two million progressive youth from Move On?

On the other hand would either of those two groups be as well behaved, all things considered?

These are just some random thoughts I had last night.


Marty:

If millions of protestors assembled in our largest cities for days and weeks at a time, we would think we had a *problem*, a constitutional crisis.

And if Obama had been in power for 30 years, we *would* have a constitutional crisis.

These are just some random thoughts I had last night.

Respectfully, I doubt that. Your "random thoughts" are tracking FoxNews' (and Drudge's) talking points, not the more experienced and nuanced analysis of e.g. the BBC or the New York Times.

Yes, there is considerable worry that Egypt will end up with a military coup -- but to paint Mubarak, a frank dictator for decades, as being like Obama, who won an actual election, is a wilfull mischaracterization of both.

Last night at dinner Sprog #2 (high school freshman) was talking excitedly about how great it is to be taking World History Honors right now. They've been studying the French Revolution, and then to see one happen, day by day, and know that a century from now kids will be studying it -- that's the best kind of history.

Hopefully this one will be without a subsequent Terror, Napoleonic Wars, etc.


"Respectfully, I doubt that. Your "random thoughts" are tracking FoxNews' (and Drudge's) talking points, not the more experienced and nuanced analysis of e.g. the BBC or the New York Times."

Respectfully, I don't watch Fox, not sure what Drudge is, I have been travelling most of the last two days and haven't caught but glimpses and what I have seen here so go insult someone else that they can't have an original thought, or a question.


"but to paint Mubarak, a frank dictator for decades, as being like Obama, who won an actual election, is a wilfull mischaracterization of both."

And which part of this:

Before I get pummelled with the differences in Mubarak and Obama,let me assure everyone I understand the differences.

did you willfully ignore?

They dissolved the equivalent of Congress and imposed military rule for some unknown period of time.

Your question seems to imply an equivalence between Congress and Egypt's parliament. But one is a legitimate governing body and one is a sham. I mean, it has been widely known for literally decades that Egypt's parliamentary elections are fixed and manipulated. No one believes that about Congress. So the whole question doesn't really make any sense to me.

I am just curious what it takes to decide whether this set of protestors represent enough of the country for the military to step in and bring down the government.

It is strange to hear such relativistic talk from a supposed conservative. Some things are right and some things are wrong. Dictators who murder innocent people and steal their nations wealth are wrong. They should be toppled. And it doesn't matter how representative one group of protesters are: wrong things should be opposed, because they are wrong.

"Dictators who murder innocent people and steal their nations wealth are wrong. They should be toppled. And it doesn't matter how representative one group of protesters are: wrong things should be opposed, because they are wrong."

So how and by whom doesn't matter? Or do we believe that the military, in this case, has the support and backing of the people, so far? It seems to me they do. But, as you know Turb, I tend to ask questions when things don't seem to be as they are being presented.

The military seems to have backed Mubarak right up until he became too great a liability and then dumped him and took over themselves. While he took much of the wealth of the country, it seems much of it is also in the hands of the military that is now in charge.

So I don't see my questions as being so far out of left field. I wondered also if there was a real change in control or just a change in the face, based on many of the links that explained the players and the history.

But I guess these questions are being examined in other forums (based on DocSci's response)so I will go look there.

I have just been out of the loop for a few days so I was looking for feedback here.

Or do we believe that the military, in this case, has the support and backing of the people, so far? It seems to me they do.

My sense is that people in Egypt don't necessarily trust the military 100% but they trust it more than any other existing government institution because it is widely believed that Mubarak has thoroughly corrupted all government institutions with his cronies. I think the real concern here is avoiding the sort of mass chaos that engulfed Iraq after we toppled their government and refused to take responsibility for civil society there. Although most Americans are completely ignorant of what went down there, people in Egypt were paying close attention and I think there's a lot of fear of the kind of mass chaos that resulted.

In a way, perhaps our little war brought a new conservatism to people in the middle east: it made people more afraid of what can happen when power is overthrown without some sort of replacement. We've helped entrench authority figures there, no matter how evil they might be. Its amazing what kind of message you can send with a million corpses. USA! #1! USA! USA!

I believe that many high ranking military officials are deeply complicit in the regime and will try to maneuver for power, especially over their little economic fiefdoms. Whether they'll be able to successfully roll over a new more legitimate government is uncertain. One of the reasons they were able to get such concessions from Mubarak was that he needed their support in a way that a legitimate government would not.

In addition, the Egyptian military is not a monolith: high ranking generals who have been cashing in might do desperate things to hold onto power, but that doesn't mean that young captains commanding tanks will necessarily support them: their incentives are different.

The military seems to have backed Mubarak right up until he became too great a liability and then dumped him and took over themselves. While he took much of the wealth of the country, it seems much of it is also in the hands of the military that is now in charge.

I agree.

So I don't see my questions as being so far out of left field. I wondered also if there was a real change in control or just a change in the face, based on many of the links that explained the players and the history.

Well, the comparison of Mubarak to Obama and the Egyptian parliament to Congress does seem out of left field.

It is possible that the only lasting change here will be cosmetic, just window dressing. Or its possible that we'll get real democratic institutions that will eventually have enough power to claw back power from the military. On the other hands, we have failed pretty spectacularly at keeping the military industrial complex from seizing vast amounts of power and money in our society so I'm not sure we're in much of a position to lecture Egypt.

"we have failed pretty spectacularly at keeping the military industrial complex from seizing vast amounts of power and money in our society so I'm not sure we're in much of a position to lecture Egypt."

I am pretty sure we are not in a position to lecture much of anybody, although I do see differences in the breadth of power they hold in our society versus other societies.

Anyway thanks, Turb.

I'm inclined to think that Marty has been beaten around somewhat, for he raised some interesting points.

The only thing I can add to his and Turb's comments is that whatever mass protest that would take place in this country to the character we've seen in Egypt would most likely be bloodier, thanks to yahoos with guns who believe their own bullshit about the blood of patriots spilled (though I'm inclined to believe that while a few cops would get shot, more likely they'd shoot each other).

I too am not sure just how much of a victory it is for the Egyptian people rather than of yet another corruptable (and at least within some levels, corrupt) institution. So it may be the case that they trust it more than Mubarek's office, which I hope is something that won't be used against them, though it might.

But we really aren't in a position to talk. Hell, we worship at the altar of the market, and look at how thoroughly corroded and corrupted that is, with a big chunk of our country's population apparently content with it, and even screaming for more.

This is a really interesting article about Wael Ghonim and the Egyptian revolution.

Sorry, Marty, I'd just come here from seeing some really arrgh-worthy stuff at The Drudge Report, an extremely popular and even more influential news aggregator -- I don't understand why, either.

I was also frustrated because I'd hoped that my post made clear that talking about "the military" or "the police" in Egypt is inaccurate -- because neither is well-unified. And even if by "the military" you mean "the Armed Forces", they aren't really a *military* in the sense we know. Functionally, they're seem oddly like the knight class in medieval Europe or Ancient Rome: much more important as economic actors than as military actors. A "military coup" in Egypt would be more oligarchic than what we usually think of.

"UPDATE"

A reason I noted that these should be dated is because it affects the way comments were read. In this case, fortunately, I know it was

Between February 11, 2011 at 01:32 PM, when I wrote my comment, and there was no update. I know it was between February 11, 2011 at 02:41 PM when I wrote my second comment.

But if I hadn't written the second comment, it would have looked thereafter like I was pointing out a bunch of stuff for no reason.

I don't mind, because I'm used to being a punching bag. But it's unkind to make readers in general look like idiots for the next infinite set of decades as posts are googled, and reread, and what time something was known is debated, because that's what happens to posts: they're used for many years after the fact, and not making clear when something was posted causes lots of problems; it's best to take this into account at the time, and not cause those problems that quite quickly can't be fixed, when they're fixable at the start by not making them.

Just a suggestion.

"The Drudge Report, an extremely popular and even more influential news aggregator -- I don't understand why, either."

Because it did. Timing is everything.

Worried about his son’s aimlessness, Drudge's father insisted on buying him a Packard Bell computer in 1994.[4] The Drudge Report began as an e-mail sent out to a few friends.

The original issues were part gossip and part opinion. They were distributed as an e-mail newsletter and posted to alt.showbiz.gossip Usenet forum. In 1996, the newsletter transitioned slowly from entertainment gossip to political gossip and moved from e-mail to the Web as its primary distribution mechanism.

In March 1995, the Drudge Report had 1,000 e-mail subscribers; By 1997, Drudge had 85,000 subscribers to his e-mail service. Drudge's website gained in popularity in the late 1990s after a number of stories which he reported before the mainstream media. Drudge first received national attention in 1996 when he broke the news that Jack Kemp would be Republican Bob Dole's running mate in the 1996 presidential election. In 1998, Drudge gained popularity when he was the first outlet to break the news that later became the Monica Lewinsky scandal.[10]

I don't know if you weren't around to follow this, or never read up on it, or what, but that's why. If you were blogging yourself in 1998, and broke news, you could have become Drudge, too.

Ditto Instapundit, ditto... we could go on, but early adopters are, and then we're into the classic, basic, understanding of how blogs work, Clay Shirky's Power Laws, Weblogs, and Inequality from February 8, 2003, which I'd hope everyone who blogs has read and understands, or does now, or the whole world of blogging becomes kind of opaque and mysterious.

Similarly for not understanding how aggregators work, pinging, etc.

To be sure, to write content is one thing, and to be a writer doesn't require understanding how the universe of blogging works, but the person in charge of the blog certainly needs to understand how blogging works, because if it were just about writing -- well, then we'd be in the same area as writers who don't understand mass market publishing and wonder why they don't have careers.

The medium is the message before the message becomes the message.

Nell:

On the other hand, no one seems to be particularly interested here, so see y'all later.
Again, a blog that regularly updates every few minutes, or every hour or so, makes for useful discussion of breaking news. A blog where readership is dropping and low enough that people are only coming by every day or so, aren't going to be looking for breaking news every few minutes, and such stuff tends to not get discussed, because of the circularity: it won't be discussed, because no one will come back looking for an update a few minutes or an hour or so later, because that's not how that blog works.

It can change, but that takes either concerted effort to rapidly change, and then keep it up, and then for people to notice can take months, or years, once a reputation is established. The longer blogging has gone on, the greater this problem becomes, as fewer and fewer people get around the blogosphere, Shirkey becomes more and more relevant, and blogs have become more and more siloized.

These things can't turn on a dime, but even if they do, it takes a long time for people to notice. And a lot of patience.

Meanwhile, leaping to conclusions about who is interested in what based on a lack of commments isn't warranted, because number of comments and number of readers doesn't correlated, as anyone who reads referer logs, or in our case, SiteMeter (note link on right sidebar), attests, and has ever since -- I think it was me who nagged Moe into installing it, but I might be confusing that with the search bar.

But I entirely understand the frustration, Nell, since it's annoying to write something, and have no one respond.

Also, people tend to stop going back to older threads, which I have to admit annoys me, too, but it's observable consistent behavior, so either one is patient or frustrated, and the latter comes more easily, and I'm right there with you, but so: sympathies.

But, look, with patience, someone reads it, but, again: it's now way out of date, so what's left to say?

There is a cure, Nell: write a front page guest post that's timely.

Hint, hint.

The takeaway for Americans (and other outsiders) is to keep in mind that the phrases "the police", "the military", and "State Security" each lump together groups with diverging or opposed interests.
I'm not following this: I'm an American, and I understand this very well, and have for decades. You're an American, and are explaining it. So we get it. You're explaining it mostly to Americans. You're also it to an international audience.

So why should Americans tell us Americans what we should take away, and tell non-Americans that they should take away what Americans should?

Phrasing such as "what folks unaware might want to take away," on the other hand, make perfect sense.

Marty:

For good reasons or bad, a military coup just happened in Egypt and it seems like everyone missed it.
Really?

See, this is why time-stamps are crucial. Marty's comments aren't true.

Now.

But they were arguably so at February 13, 2011 at 02:22 PM.

This isn't irc. Or Twitter. Functionality of the software is crucial. (In this case, that's time-stamping, which thank god we do have on posts (save for updates, which have to be hand-entered, and really must be, which is why it's always been ObWi style to do so) and on comments. Or, again, commenters are made to look like idiots, and it's not their fault; but they'll leave if we make them feel like idiots.)

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