Live from Cairo (17)
6:28PM It seems that AJ had a cameraperson embedded with the April 6 Movement from January 25 on, and they just ran the documentary. Awesome material that I'll post on soon [here]. (Right now my kitchen is such a disaster area it's interfering with such ability as I have to think clearly.) Key takeaways: 1. A6M started in a textile strike in 2006. 2. A6M also sought to learn from success, and looked to Srdja Popovic of OTPOR for guidance. 3. Popovic shared that non-violence was key. 4. I can't help seeing AJ's airing of this show at this time as a response to Sul's musings on "dark bats."
Meanwhile, here's one of the screen-dumps I took:
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SUMMARY 2:12PM Wednesday Foreign Minister says Army could step in. Former Google exec, freed protester Wael Gholim makes a will, says he's ready to die. Cairo transport workers to strike for an independent (not state) union (and so no buses to TS?). 3:46PM Live fire in Wadi al-Jadid; 5 deaths. National strike by 20,000 factory workers over wages and working conditions. Candlelight vigil in TS. Ghonim calls for "world's largest funeral" Friday. 5:13PM Army involved in detention and torture of some protesters, says Human Rights Watch.
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4:19PM Wednesday Not to join the cult of personality, but this is interesting.
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SUMMARY 10:41AM Wednesday. New front opens: Strikes and work actions now. Second new front: Protesters settle in for long haul in front of Parliament building near TS. Protesters retain the initiative. Newest material at the end but do start at the top and read down for the sense of the events and how fast they are moving. 1:49PM New front opens: Farmers demand bread.
SUMMARY 7:52PM This is so not over. Sul mentions the possibility of a "coup" in a roundtable interview with state and independent newspaper editors (see here and here). Crowds in TS larger than ever and include many first-timers. Protesters have opened a new front before the Parliament building. Workers on the Suez Canal are striking over wages and working conditions. Meanwhile, the US demands that Mub lift the emergency law, and calls Sul's comment that the E people are not ready for democracy "not helpful." Ouch!
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Coverage emerges of Waed Ghonim's speech at TS. Pictured above, however, is one of Ghonim's listeners, who quoted Ghonim's words: "I am not a hero. I only used the keyboard. The real heroes are the ones on the ground," and said "I liked that." The idea of a leaderless revolution emerges very clearly from AJ's online coverage, and from interviews with Egyptians. The AJ anchors, however, keep pressing: Where are the leaders? Where is the strategy? Coverage in the West seems to focus almost entirely on the "emerging leader" narrative which, with Ghonim the Google exec, dovetails only too neatly with the "Facebook Revolution" narrative. Time will tell which narrative prevails, but it seems to me that if TS had actually "annointed" Ghonim as a leader, we'd be seeing him, well, lead. Which I thought might happen, but it didn't!
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SUMMARY 3:43PM As Jawbone notes in comments, the western live coverage is going dark; Guardian [No, it's live, hat tip jawbone], BBC, and Reuters live blogs are down. I'm not sure why this needs to be so. "Quiet. Too quiet." 3:43PM Meanwhile, there are reports that Mub will seek face-saving medical treatment in Germany.
1:31PM Trying to get a handle on what's happened in TS today. AJ and CNNI tweets are quite different on the role of Wael Ghonim, though maybe I've got the timing all wrong on Ghonim's visit. All agree, however, that the crowds are still huge.
11:13AM Crowds as large as ever in TS, says AJ:
Watching new ppl come to Tahrir. Shakespeare: And gentlemen in England now-a-bed/Shall think themselves accurs’d they were not here.
The crowd in Tahrir Square is HUGE today. More people than I've ever seen. Full from the north end all the way to the Egyptian Museum
The "ppl" are the drivers here still.
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OK, Wael Ghonim. Here's the background from AJ:
Wael Ghonim [Google's head of marketing for the Middle East and North Africa] was released on Monday by Egyptian authorities, sparking a fast and explosive response from supporters, bloggers and pro-democracy activists on the internet...
He said he was seized in the Egyptian capital, Cairo, late last month as he joined tens of thousands of protesters in the city's Tahrir Square, the focal point of protests aimed at calling on Mubarak to step down from his 30-year-rule in Egypt.
Ghonim said he was picked up by three plainclothes men on the street, pushed into a car and taken off for interrogation by state security members.
Why is is important? Two tweets from AJ:
RawyaRageh Wael Ghonim, online activist credited for spearheading #Jan25 movement, is free.
Followed later by:
abdullahmussa Wael Ghonim; new President of Egypt.
And one data point from AJ's live blog:
3:35am Since Wael Ghonim's release from Egyptian custody and emotional TV interview on DreamTV, thousands of supporters have joined the [FaceBook] page created. It's called: We authorise Wael Ghoneim to speak on behalf of the Egyptian revolution.
So, putting that together, there's a possibility that a Google Marketing Executive might become the leader of the TS protesters. Heck, Ghonim might be taking the stage in the Square while the Western world sleeps.
[Ghonim] I am not a hero. I only used the keyboard, the real heroes are the ones on the ground. Those I can't name. This is the season where people use the word traitor against each other. I wasn't abused, I was jailed, kidnapped.
Classy. True. And extremely validating to the people in the square.
I met some really intellectual people in jail, they actually thought that we were traitors, working for others. If I was a traitor I would have stayed by the swimming pool in my house in the UAE. What are called the "Facebook youth" went out in their tens of thousands on January 25th, talk to them. This is the era where people who have good intentions are considered traitors.
Well, not quite. It's those who express good intentions. That said, although the Security forces arresting Ghonim is so clumsy and bone-header that it makes me think it's all a set-up, the transcripts show the Ghonim just doesn't have his talking points together. So he's not a ringer. And at this point (can't find the quote right now) I remember that one of the activists AJ interviewed late last week said that a leader would emerge early this week. Did they have Ghonim in mind, one wonders.)
The Online WSJ (and not AJ; I can't find confirmation on AJ) wrote of Ghonim's online activism on February 7 (Monday):
Last year, Mr. Ghonim was one of four administrators running the first of the major Facebook pages that became a virtual headquarters for the protest movement, according to a collaborator in the political opposition, and also according to an Internet activist familiar with the situation. Mr. Ghonim also set up the official campaign website for opposition leader Mohamed ElBaradei and volunteered as a tech consultant for other opposition groups, according to Ziad Al-Alimi, a senior aide to Mr. ElBaradei.
Ghonim is a Elb supporter:
On Mr. Ghonim's Facebook profile, a photo dated April 10 shows him smiling broadly next to Mr. ElBaradei. "My name is Wael Ghonim and I publicly support ElBaradei," the caption reads.
(And at this point, one remembers ElB telling the protesters to hang on until Friday...)
Ghonim was among a handful of activists who created a Facebook page called "Ana Esmi Khaled Said," or "My Name is Khaled Said," according to people familiar with the group. According to Ali Kissam, Mr. Said's uncle and the family representative as it pursues charges against the officers, Mr. Ghonim was in regular contact about the case. "Every time there was a hearing or any activity on the case, [Mr. Ghonim] would call me about it," said the 65-year-old dentist.
Mr. Ghonim's page dedicated to Mr. Said was popular, but a short time later it was closed down by Facebook. A Facebook spokeswoman said, "The page was removed because of a violation of our terms and not because of contact from any government." She declined to describe the nature of the violation.
A new Facebook page, "Kalluna Khaled Said," or "We are All Khaled Said," was formed separately from Mr. Ghonim's and gained popularity after posting gruesome photos of Mr. Khaled's battered body from the morgue in Alexandria. Soon, an English-language Facebook page also popped up, aimed at drawing international attention.
It's unclear whether Mr. Ghonim was involved in the later pages dedicated to Mr. Said. [But see below] ...
As the Kalluna page gained followers, it played a key role in organizing protests in several cities where demonstrators denounced police brutality, a widespread problem in Egypt. Gradually the page became a wider forum for criticisms of Egypt's government. Over the months, the page gathered hundreds of thousands of members.
On Jan. 15, the Arabic version of the We Are Khaled Said page announced a rally would occur on Jan. 25. Quickly, the English language page listed an announcement as well, according to the administrator of the page. Soon, other political movements jumped on the bandwagon.
As the first of the protests in Egypt approached, Mr. Ghonim wrote on his personal Facebook profile, "Anyone going to attend the protests on Jan. 25 in Muhandseen?" a neighborhood in central Cairo. And by the 25th, Mr. Ghonim used his Twitter account to let his followers know, "Despite all the warnings I got from my relatives and friends, I'll be there on #Jan25."
The protests began, and his faith in online activism continued. "Revolution can be a #Facebook event that is liked, shared and tweeted," he wrote on Twitter. But as Friday, Jan. 28, approached—and it became clear it would become the biggest protest yet—Mr. Ghonim's tweeted messages began reflecting an increasingly ominous tone. "Pray for #Egypt," he said. "We are all ready to die."
He went to the main square in Cairo that morning, talking with a friend on the mobile phone before both Internet and cellphone networks were cut off by Egyptian authorities in the morning. That day, he vanished.
Which is all interesting, and I'm wondering why the heck the Online WSJ has this story. Perhaps it is already well known in the Arabic-language media? Because it's sure not available on AJ (8 hits, total, on "Ghonim"), so WTF?
Izvestia had this to say on February 5:
The most notable example is the long disappearance of Wael Ghonim, a Google executive and leader of the young Internet activists who started the revolt. Believed by many to be the anonymous host of the Facebook page that first called for the Jan. 25 protest that kicked off the Egyptian uprising, he wrote that day on his Twitter account, “We got brutally beaten up by police people,” and later, “Sleeping on the streets of Cairo, trying to feel the pain of millions of my fellow Egyptians.”
Except an admin is not, per se, a leader; an admin is a tech dude, period. And the protesters are not "Internet activists," they're activists who sometimes use the Internet as a tool. Nor did they have a leader before Ghonim was kidnapped, and they might not have one after he's released. We don't even know if Ghonim actually wrote the call for January 25, since the admin isn't necessarily the poster. And we don't even know whether the poster picked January 25 spontaneously, or was asked to. as usual, As usual, Izvestia's wrong about everything.
I'll leave you with a quote from the Online WSJ article:
Billionaire businessman Naguib Sawiris also said on Sunday that Egypt's vice president told him Mr. Ghonim would be released. "The boy is a hero," Mr. Sawiris said. "When he is released he will become the living hero of this revolution."
Well, I totally trust billionaires. Don't you? Especially Copt telecoms billionaires close to Gamal Mubarak who favor neo-liberal reforms. I hope the "boy" has a very, very level head. My take is that Ghonim, like ElB, is an innocent. But the United States isn't the only country where the players are as twisty as corkscrews.
Ghonim has become a hero of the demonstrators since he went missing on Jan. 27, two days after the protests began. He confirmed reports by protesters that he was the administrator of the Facebook page "We are all Khaled Said" that was one of the main tools for organizing the demonstration that started the movement on Jan. 25.
The unmasking of Ghonim as the previously unknown administrator of the Facebook page that started the protests could give the crowds someone to look to for inspiration to press on.
Whether Ghonim forcefully takes up that mantle remains to be seen, but he said repeatedly in Monday night's interview that he did not feel he was a hero.
"I didn't want anyone to know that I am the administrator," he said. "There are no heroes; we are all heroes on the street. And no one is on their horse and fighting with the sword."
Exactly. Nice guy!
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Oh, dear. BBC:
Meanwhile, leaked US diplomatic cables carried on the Wikileaks website have revealed that Mr Suleiman was named as Israel's preferred candidate for the job after discussions with American officials in 2008.
I get a little weary of people who explain everything in terms of I/P... But... Lordy.
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More from TS, via BBC:
The determination of people queuing to get into Tahrir Square in the late afternoon sun has not been dented by officials' announcements of a series of concessions.
"We don't care what they are promising. Our demand is the same: Mubarak must leave," says Mariam defiantly.
A man standing behind her says the authorities have ignored the views of young people for too long. "I am 55 years old, I have tolerated this president for 30 years. This young generation is braver than mine. They have motivated us," he insists.
Some demonstrators concede that plans to make constitutional changes - which the opposition has long called for - were a positive step. They say release of the Google executive and blogger, Wael Ghonim, was another boost. Now the hope is that more can be achieved by keeping up large numbers in the heart of Cairo.
As long as the regime keeps making, or appears to keep making, concessions, TS will continue. Why stop doing what works? And if the end game is not sending in the tanks, then what is? Is there one?
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A foreign exchange crisis lies immediately ahead, as food prices keep rising.
Watch that. Read the comment thread above, also, for a series of profoundly discouraging comments from "the left of the left." I don't have any problem with "class analysis" (see here) as long as the model built conforms in some reasonable degree to the complexities on the ground; my problem with the thread is that many seem to take the attitude that they are teachers or masters, when in fact, they should be students of the Egyptian people and the TS movement. After all, the history of the "organized left" in this country has been one of almost complete FAIL for a solid generation, where the (leaderless, unnamed) Egyptian movement has succeeded beyond anybody's wildest dreams, even if it's snuffed out tomorrow. One would think that an attitude of some humility and willingness to learn would be appropriate, instead of "Now! At last! My ideas are confirmed!"
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2:00PM Top of the hour, anch: 100,000s take to streets, despite announcements of reform. US criticizes Sul for saying E not ready for democracy.
Still demonstrating, mood spreading, crowds now outside Parliament.
Rep: Message to those saying protesters losing ground. "Our goal is not to oust but to change." System lost legitimacy. Mub decree sets up three commmittees: First, const form Second, investigate violence against protesters. Third, get people together to discuss future. Int: Investigate Mub family wealth. Alexandria. Concessions that 15 days ago seemed impossible.
Anch: Ghonim freed, addressed TS. Anch: Big demo, lot of first timers. Now crowd demos? Rep, live in TS: Yes. Fewer now, but more at this hour than other nights. Anch: Crowds outside Parl? Rep: Parl not far from here, 500 metres. About 1000 gathered there, spend the night as a sit-in. I asked them why? That Parliament they don't recognize, because the election is rigged. Anch: Resolve? How long go on? Rep: Nobody knows, both sides testing each other and seeing how long can resist. Sul saying Mub has signed decrees, but that move seen here as a move to pre-empt the protest, no need to join protest, but this not work. Road is very long on either side. Even if gov't truthful, only Pres (Mub) can make the constitutional changes. Here in the square, we don't want ANY of that, but at some point, when each side "milks" as much as they can from the situation, a compromise will have to be reached.
Anch: Mixed messages from the US.
Gibbs: More protesters than ever today. That's the answer to Sul's change. "Egypt not ready for democracy, not lift emergency law" is "unhelpful." That's not a timetable for progress.
Gates: Military conducted in exemplary fashion throughout this episode. Done everything we indicated that we hoped that they would do. They have made a contribution.
[Virtually no focus on Ghonim]
Anch: How representative are the protesters? Int: Well, they are. Where are the NDP demonstrators if there is so much support? They don't march because they don't want people to see how small their numbers are. Anch: Mub is entrenched. Protesters more success if they had been organized with strong leader to rally? Int: Issue is not leadership but united demands. Regime is quite adept at pressure tactics, which failed. Now try the carrot tactics. Not work because no trust [and why would there be?] Nobody knows what will happen if demonstrators go home. Revenge tactics like Nasser in the 50s? Much more than surface change is needed. The idea is that E needs a democratic transparent system
Anch: Some E say they are being plunged into poverty. Rep: Alexandria fishermen, things have gone from bad to worse. "We are sitting and not doing anything. We just want to feed our children. We have nothing to do with politics." Usual buyers are opting for cheaper food. In Giza, the camel drivers are hurting because the the tourists have left and the pyramids are closed. Small business owners saying "enough," the protesters have gotten more than anyone would have thought.
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Hundreds of thousands of demonstrators flooded Cairo's iconic Tahrir Square and towns across Egypt on Tuesday, in the biggest show of defiance to Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak since the revolt began.
In Cairo, the immense crowd hailed as a hero a charismatic cyberactivist and Google executive whose Facebook site helped kickstart the protest movement on January 25 and who has since been detained and held blindfolded for 12 days.
AFP journalists overlooking the square confirmed it was the biggest gathering yet in a movement which began on January 25. Witnesses in Egypt's second city Alexandria said a march there also attracted record numbers.
Many protesters carried the symbols of the Internet social networks Facebook and Twitter, which have become vital mobilising tools for the opposition thanks to online campaigners like Google executive Wael Ghonim.
It's almost like our state media is demanding a leader. AJ does this, too.
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A fine Suleiman take down, naming at least one person that Suleiman is reported to have tortured personally.
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3:32PM Anch: Before Parl, what's happening? Int, protester, activist blogger: A few thousand, people to stay the night. Anch: Army? Int: They are very relaxed, a couple of tanks, allow to hang signs. Crowds not occupy building "at least at this stage." Anch: Plan? Int: People talking, Parl easiest one, close to TS, Army present. Parl not present, easy target. An escalation. Dicuss more like this on Friday. Anch: Symbolic, then. Where's the leader? No coherent strategy? Ghonim? Int: Don't see this as a problem at all. There is no need for a leader at this stage. We have our demands. It is all a group effort. I don't see "any big deal." Focus now shifting to liberating institutions. So far it's working out very nicely. It's not stopping any of us. [So far, no "all power to the Soviets," meaning, no slogan like that, propagated by a vanguard of some sort. That we know of! --lambert]
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3:37PM AJ Tweet
Workers from five Suez Canal companies go on strike against poor wages, working conditions
Of course, these workers have the regime by the nads, because Suez is a major source of revenue for the govt, accounts for 2.5% of E's GDP, and carries 8% of world trade. But heck, the government workers got some concrete material benefits from the protests, so why not other workers? (And I most emphatically don't think that's a bad thing.)
That would be two ways in which the protests have spread today: First, from TS to Parliament (both as a location and an institution); second, to striking workers. This is a big deal, and it shows that the "we just want this to end" narrative has serious limitations.
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4:39PM That German rumor:
- Germany’s foreign minister Guido Westerwelle denies a press report that Mubarak has asked for medical treatment in the country, as his Luxembourg counterpart urges him to take in the Egyptian president if requested.
Qutar sourcing, FWIW. This from the Online WSJ comes up in Google, though behind the pay wall at the source:
"I see a trip to Germany" the fortune teller prophesied. Mr. Mubarak has made several medical sojourns to Germany, most recently last year for gallbladder
Seems like something's shaking, though:
“The federal government should give a signal to Mubarak that he can come to Germany if he wants to,” Elmar Brok, a conservative member of the European Parliament, told the Frankfurter Rundschau daily.
“If that is a way to help bring about a peaceful transition in Egypt, we should do it.”
Over the past few days, there has been intense media speculation Mubarak might leave Egypt and come to Germany for a prolonged medical check-up.
The New York Times reported that US government officials and Egyptian military officials have held secret talks regarding the matter. Der Spiegel [here] said that plans for a possible hospital stay in Germany appear to be more concrete than previously believed and that a luxury clinic near the resort town of Baden-Baden is being considered.
It would not be the first time Germany has put out the welcome mat for an embattled strongman. In 2003, the overthrown president of Georgia, Edward Shevardnadze, was given the option of coming to Germany after being forced to resign in the wake of the so-called Rose Revolution there. He did not accept the invitation. ...
Andreas Schockenhoff, the deputy head of Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservative parliamentary group, and Elke Hoff, security spokesperson of the Free Democrats, said over the weekend they were open to the idea.
Over to the left of the political spectrum, European parliamentarian Martin Schulz of the Social Democrats (SPD) said allowing Mubarak to spend time at a German clinic could be a good way to ease a very volatile situation in the Middle Eastern nation.
Another rumor from Wired, citing CIA sources: Saudi Arabia.
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Greenwald on "Look! Over there!" "reporting." Every happy oligarchy is alike; every unhappy oligarchy is unhappy in its own way. Are the E and the US oligarchies happy, or unhappy? Either way, they will wish to share their feelings with us!
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8:14PM Sul's coup remarks, in a meeting between the vice president and the heads of state and independent newspapers:
In the most disturbing development in days, during a private meeting today vice president Omar Suleiman warned of a coup "to protect Egypt" – the Associated Press has a piece reporting further details of Suleiman's hostile comments:
Vice President Omar Suleiman warned Tuesday that "we can't put up with" continued protests in Tahrir for a long time...
Suleiman said there will be "no ending of the regime" and no immediate departure for President Hosni Mubarak, according to the state news agency MENA... .
He told them the regime wants dialogue to resolve protesters' demands for democratic reform, adding in a veiled warning, "We don't want to deal with Egyptian society with police tools."
Nice little civil society you've got there. Shame if anything happened to it.
At one point in the roundtable meeting, Suleiman warned that the alternative to dialogue "is that a coup happens, which would mean uncalculated and hasty steps, including lots of irrationalities. We don't want to reach that point, to protect Egypt."
Pressed by the editors to explain the comment, he said he did not mean a military coup but that "a force that is unprepared for rule" could overturn state institutions, said Amr Khafagi, editor-in-chief of the privately-owned Shorouk daily, who attended the briefing. "He doesn't mean it in the classical way."
I don't know what that means. It seems to me that the only two forces who are "unprepared for rule" are the junior officers in the Army, and the protesters themselves. (Let's just leave the opposition figures aside, as I am sure Sul has, as negligible quantities. Ditto MB.) But I don't think Sul could have meant the junior officers, because the Nasser coup was led by junior officers, and Sul or the reporter would have mentioned that as a precedent. So perhaps the "not classical" aspect of the coup would be that a "leaderless" movement mounted it? That doesn't seem possible to me; but who knows what kind of bizarre conspiratorial mindset Sul intelligence chief and torture Sul has? See also more Sul remarks here.
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8:24PM Biden calls up Sul, demands that emergency law allowing detention without trial be repealed. [Great. Now, can we talk about the Patriot Act and being groped by the TSA at the airport? --lambert] Of course, that won't do a thing. What part of "Leave!" do these clowns not understand?
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Nice analysis from Not Billmon.
CFR's Steven Cook, "Reading Gramsci in Tahrir Square," paints a moving and revealing self-portrait of a not-illiberal think tanker encountering what an authoritarian goverment that he has supported for reasons of realpolitik looks like on the ground after its power has been threatened:
Cook, quoting Gramsic, is really quoting his own book:
It seems that that Antonio Gramsci's conception of the linkage between civil society and the state is more accurate than contemporary images of this relationship. In his critique of liberalism, Gramsci argued that it would be naive to assume that civil society could somehow disarm the "gendarme state." He based this claim on the contention that civil society may actually contribute to a more subtle and sophisticated form of state power. Indeed, contemporary Middle East politics vindicate Gramsci's insights. In recent decades civil society groups cooperated with the state as it pursued predatory policies. ... Egyptian human rights activists serve on the government-created National Council for Human Rights, which has no power to compel the government to change its policies and serves only as window dressing. ... Those elements of civil soceity that do not cooperate with state authorities have little power to resist the authoritarian order given the circumstances of "extreme compulsion" under which they live.
When Egyptian president Hosni Muburak first learned about the ostensible connection between political liberalization and civil society, he reportedly asked his interlocutor "What about 'military society'? Where do the military men fit in?"
Cook also has an interesting article on the Egyptian army, the likelihood that it would split were the order for a Tiennaman-style solution given, and how the generals are trying for the brass ring anyhow. Seriously, isn't an Army that won't shoot down the people just another element of civil society?
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Long list (granted, FP) of twitterers on the E crisis. This is why gawd gave us browser tabs!
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Wonderful photos of (a very gritty) TS. More in the style of "Let Us Now Praise Famous Men," than normal photojournalism. Oh, and from the photos I'm guessing this is not the "Facebook Revolution," but the SMS revolution. Cellphones are absolutely ubiquitous. I wonder if anybody has done a study of the communiciations efficiency of a phone tree, as opposed to graph structure of "social media"?
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If anybody says, "the protesters were violent, too" these are the statistics to quote. AJ tweets:
Human Rights Watch documents 297 deaths in #Egypt protests. By Jan30 we had at least 100 deaths reported in Alexandria alone.
IvanCNN Ahmed Ragheb of Hisham Mugarak Law Center says military police told him some 10,000 people detained in Cairo alone since Jan 25 #egypt
Again, it is not news that the regime does what it does. What is news is that the people ("ppl") took it on, knowing what the regime was, and still have the intitiative. Amazing and awesome.
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Wednesday starts here
[I'm combining the above, Tuesday, with today, Wednesday, because the difference between the competing narratives in Western media -- the young leader! -- and Egyptian media -- the ppl! -- is so compelling. More to come. Do start at the top and read down! --lambert]
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Fourth horseman of the Apocalypse spotted in TS?
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10:14AM AJ tweets:
workers join the fight, stage strikes nationwide in vrs fields.
thousands of factory workers have gone on strike now
More strikes taking place in Mahalla and Suez. About 10,000 workers at various factories in different cities on strike:
[This is huge, if only because it give the lie to the twin narratives "the protests are losing steam" and "the E people want a return to normality." In fact, it's "normality" that is the problem! --lambert]
Crawler: Public sector unions stage work actions on working conditions.
Crawler: Suez Canal revenue falls.
10:32AM AJ Anch: What about the unions? Int, E journalist: Everybody wants to join! Syndicates of judges, university protesters. People come to TS and then start protests elsewhere. They move from out of TS. Anch: But what power unions have? Tilt balance? Int: [bafflegab. No answer.] Anch: Govt cards left to play? Int: Waiting for people to get "fed up."
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Protesters outside the parliament building in Cairo are preparing for the long haul, according to Channel 4's Lindsey Hilsum
A thousand or so outside #egypt parliament #Cairo. Blankets being brought in so people can camp out overnight @channel4news
Soldiers outside #egypt parliament #Cairo very friendly. A General there this morning was hugging protestors. @channel4news
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26 of January Movement emails its Facebook friends, re-iterating that Mub must leave.
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State-run E media on the Suez strikes. Al Ahram:
Workers from 5 service companies owned by Suez Canal Authority in the cities of Suez, Port-Said and Ismailia began an open-ended sit in today.
Over 6000 protesters have agreed that they will not go home today once their shift is over and will continue their sit-in in front of the company's headquarters until their demands are met. They are protesting against poor wages and deteriorating health and working conditions and demanded that their salaries and benefits meet the standard of those working for the Suez Canal Authority.
"The strike will not affect the operation of the Suez Canal and movement of ships. These companies work in areas far from the canal zone and movement of ships," a senior official told Reuters.
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11:27AM Framing counts. Twitter #Tahrir:
LaraABCNews Watching our footage every green patch of #Tahrir is taken up by tent city. Protesters say it's a marathon, not a sprint for #Egypt.
11:28AM Anch: Three independent unions join protests. [Civil society! --lambert]
He also warned of chaos if the situation continued, speaking of "the dark bats of the night emerging to terrorize the people." If dialogue is not successful, he said, the alternative is "that a coup happens, which would mean uncalculated and hasty steps, including lots of irrationalities."
Suleiman, a military man who was intelligence chief before being elevated to vice president amid the crisis, tried to explain the remark by saying:
"I mean a coup of the regime against itself, or a military coup or an absence of the system. Some force, whether its the army or police or the intelligence agency or the (opposition Muslim) Brotherhood or the youth themselves could carry out 'creative chaos' to end the regime and take power," he said.
Suleiman, a close confidant of Mubarak, also reiterated his view that Egypt is not ready for democracy.
"The culture of democracy is still far away," he told state and independent newspaper editors in the roundtable discussion Tuesday.
[Obviously, in Sul's mind -- and Sul is not stupid -- the situation has a lot of moving parts. --lambert]
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[AJ now doing a documentatary on clear-cutting in Latvia. We've got the same problem up here in Zone 5b! --lambert
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Some 8,000 protesters, mainly farmers, set barricades of flaming palm trees in the southern province of Assiut, blocking the main highway and railway to Cairo to complain of bread shortages. They then drove off the governor by pelting his van with stones. Hundreds of slum dwellers in the Suez Canal city of Port Said set fire to part of the governor's headquarters in anger over lack of housing.
Do revolutions start when the slogans include the word "bread"? Further discussion of this issue here, including a great quote from David Cay Johnston.
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1:59AM Anch: Thousands protest, workers take industrial action. The "Wise Men" negotating to organize transfer of power. Int, Hazawi of Carnegie Endowment for Internatial Peace : Their position, Mub 'til Sept, he is responsible for putting country on right parth. Unaccpetable since we lack trust. The announced steps do not amount to a package. Minor. Rep: Wise Men put forward their demands, Mub is "entrenched." Attempt b regime to consolidate grip, and ppl have seem promises before. If Mub step down, transfer power to Parliamant speaker, and then election called under current rules that are rigged in favor of NDP. So, reason for delay to fix the Constitution! That's the "ace in Mub's back pocket.Meanwhile. Protesters moving to Parliament buildings. Thousands of workers now on strike. Could widen pressure.
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2:08PM AJ Live blog:
7:18pm The situation seems to have heated up in Ismailiya, where protesters stormed a government building and set fire to the governor's car. AFP reports that the protesters, angry that their requests for better housing had been ignored, came from a "nearby slum" where they'd lived in "makeshift huts for 15 years." Police, notes the agency, have "largely disappeared" from the town since the protests started more than two weeks ago.
[Lumpen elements. If I were Sul, that's what would truly worry me. Can he buy them off? Probably not. The move to increase pay for govt workers looks worse and worse; panicky. Now everybody else is saying "And we get?" which further delegitimizes the regime. --lambert]
2:14PM AJ twitter:
Egypt's foreign minister: Army could step in to protect "protect the country from an attempt by some adventurers to take power"
[One can only wonder if they have any particular "adventurer" in mind. --lambert]
[Wael Gholim] showed CNN on Wednesday a power of attorney that he had notarized, granting control of all his assets to his wife. Holding it up, he said, "I'm ready to die" to bring change to Egypt.
2:23PM Arabawy (via):
My sources has just confirmed this now… The Cairo Public Transportation workers, who started a strike today in five Garages: Nasr Station, Fateh Station, Ter’a Station, Amiriya Station, Mezzalat Station, Sawwah Station, have issued a statement with a list of demands, calling for overthrowing Mubarak. No public buses will roam Cairo tomorrow, except those buses that will bring the drivers to the central station in Nasr City’s el-Gabal el-Ahmar, where the strikers have announced they will declare an independent union.
Huge civil society move.
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Rereading Paul Amar's class and structural analysis of Egypt a second time, this jumped out:
Mubarak is already out of power. The new cabinet is composed of chiefs of Intelligence, Air Force and the prison authority, as well as one International Labor Organization official. This group embodies a hard-core "stability coalition" that will work to bring together the interests of new military, national capital and labor, all the while reassuring the United States.
Huh? ILO offfical? What's up with that? Could that have anything to do with the labor unrest, for good or ill?
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3:46PM AJ Live blog:
8:39pm Citing medics as sources, theAFP news agency now reports that at least five have been killed in Wadi al-Jadid after police fired live rounds into a crowd of proteststers.
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Egyptian labour unions have gone on a nationwide strike, adding momentum to pro-democracy demonstrations in Cairo and other cities.
Al Jazeera correspondents, reporting from Egypt, said around 20,000 factory workers stayed away from work on Wednesday.
Al Jazeera's Shirine Tadros, reporting from Cairo, said that some workers "didn't have a political demand".
"They were saying that they want better salaries, they want an end to the disparity in the pay, and they want the 15 per cent increase in pay that was promised to them by the state."
However, Tadros also said that some workers were calling for Hosni Mubarak, the Egyptian president, to step down.
The strike action came as public rallies calling for Mubarak to immediately hand over power entered their 16th day.
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Interesting article on the "Twitter Revolution"/"youthful leader Wael Gholim" narratives Tech President. Not entirely Internet triumphalism.
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4:11PM AJ live blog:
10:44pm There's a candlelight vigil going on at Tahrir Square tonight, in memory of those who have been killed in the 16 days of protest.
Canny public relations, as the photos show.
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Guardian (hat tip, jawbone):
The Guardian has spoken to detainees who say they have suffered extensive beatings and other abuses at the hands of the military in what appears to be an organised campaign of intimidation. Human rights groups have documented the use of electric shocks on some of those held by the army.
Egyptian human rights groups say families are desperately searching for missing relatives who have disappeared into army custody. Some of the detainees have been held inside the renowned Museum of Egyptian Antiquities on the edge of Tahrir Square. Those released have given graphic accounts of physical abuse by soldiers who accused them of acting for foreign powers, including Hamas and Israel.
Hoping this is "bad apples"...
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State journalists speak out:
Shahira Amin, a senior anchor on state television who resigned after 22 years to protest censorship of the protests, said media employees share the same hardships as other Egyptians. She said it's too soon to tell whether their anger would cost the government its conduit to the masses.
"Let's not forget that government employees and workers all over the country have borne the brunt of the financial crisis: prices of basic commodities have soared whilst their salaries have remained the same," Amin said. "In the past, they have not been able to publicly express their grievances, but now that the fear barrier has dissolved, they are finally able to express their anger and frustrations."
Two thoughts: (1) note the lack of agency; who did the dissolving? and (2) this seems a lot like the process of "coming out." Eh?
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3arabway tweets on social media:
I hate those who say social media "gave voice" to the Egyptian people. The people have a voice. It's your problem if u don't hear. #Jan25
#Jan25 In the midst of the mass strikes, the MSM is still obsessed with Facebook and online activism. #FAIL
Well, follow the money. And distract anybody who wants to educate themselves about what really happened. It's a twofer!