Ed Note: See comments below to follow events into the third week of the Egyptian revolution culminating in the resignation of Mubarak and assumption of power by the so-called Supreme Council of the armed forces on February 11.
An amazing month, week and weekend.
Nobel Peace Prize laureate Mohamed El Baradei this Sunday evening in Cairo took leadership of the … revolution and told the world — Washington — there will be no going back to the status quo ante.
The Egyptian demonstrations that began on January 25 were inspired by the Tunisian revolution, itself inspired by revelations in the first huge batch of Wikileaks US diplomatic cables.
The Likud Lobby is surely telling Obama that Israel and the West cannot tolerate a democracy in Egypt — a fortiori in light of the Palestine Papers and the continuing stream of Wikileaks diplomatic cables.
Quite a pickle for the American president, a man of words and little action.
But if he continues to sit on his hands and allows Mubarak to enforce a crackdown, sympathetic eruptions seem certain to occur thru out Arab lands.
Mub’s appointment of intelligence chief Sulieman as vice president on Saturday seemed a step toward Mub’s departure. But now it’s now clear.
The regular army has been supportive of the demonstrations — which is to say they have not attacked. The violence of Thursday and Friday was initiated by various secret police forces. Al Jazeera reports that the elite Presidential Guard troops number 22,000. I wonder if that’s true. And wonder where the loyalties of all these forces now lie and how they’re divided.
Ayman Nour, another top opposition leader, speaks today of negotiating with the army and other leadership figures, to form a “national unity” government to cross the interregnum to the scheduled 2011 elections. Not clear if he sees Sulieman an acceptable interim leader.
Tourism is essential to Egyptian life. The current status quo cannot go on forever. It’s clear that el Baradei is calling on Washington to pull the plug on Hosni and move forward. We shall see.
In The Plague, it’s the rats who play harbinger on both ends of the disaster.
They are the first to die in agony on the streets, filling the inwoners with wondrous dismay. And then their reappearance on the streets, going about their business, is the first sign that the pestilence itself is dying out.
So yes, If rats all over New York are suddenly behaving in a sociable manner, why, I wonder what it means.
Years ago, while living on the expanding eastern edge of Chinatown in Manhattan, I was walking home from Wall Street late at night and rats must have been busy at work because as I strode along I was thinking about the portentous rodents of THE PLAGUE …
And suddenly a rat scurried out across my path, directly beneath my foot as it fell — and screamed as his spine snapped with a crunch then bounced straight toward heaven a yard and fell dead.
Perhaps as we are told the Evil flee where none pursueth, but see here too the innocent, the poor fool, mind boggled, who in panic was just trying to get out of the way.
I still recall the crunch of his spine and his scream.
Needless to say I felt terrible, and wondered what it meant.
A friend says the Chinese view rats with great favor.
For it is said that when all the animals raced across the river, the rat with its genius won out — by riding upon the oxen’s back and then at the last moment leaping from its head to reach the bank first.
So it is that to be born in the Year of the Rat is deemed a blessing.
How good of the Chinese to honor the rat. And how interesting to hear that the rat won the race …
The whole Get A Job business always struck me as futile, a poor expense of spirit.
Friends suggest that my encounter with this favored creature yesterday means that I’ve been forgiven for crushing, in my distraction, his ancestor during the 80s on a greasy Chinatown street.
Well and good. But why as a race are they behaving so sociably?
Perhaps the season’s record snowfall — the lack of accessible garbage on the streets — has them desperate?
Or does their frank boldness bode some eruption to our state?
Little wonder, of course, that the American media are all but silent on the truth of 9/11 and, now, the Palestine Papers.
One effect of the latter’s publication in freer worlds abroad seems all but certain: A true war of terror, born of final despair re the fate and treatment of the Arabs of Palestine, in the angry half of the Islamic world. Hope dies last, as Alexander Dubcek observed, but now it is dead.
No more Mr Shoe Bomb. No more Mr Underpants.
Itâ€™s well known amid intel types that nuclear devices are loose in the underworld. Every now and then an attempt to sell one surfaces. 1994 was the beginning of this game. It now seems to me only a question of time before angry young men try to set one off in Tel Aviv or New York.
Sabrosky is a Vietnam combat vet and a former director at the Army War College.
Also in the news today, the American ambassador to the UN, Susan Rice, a Chicago friend of Obama, calls for the head of a UN official who had the temerity to write that the US government seemed to be involved in a coverup of the 9/11 events.
I have been summoned to appear before a federal grand jury in Chicago on January 25. But I will not testify, even at the risk of being put in jail for contempt of court, because I believe that our most fundamental rights as citizens are at stake.
I am one of 23 anti-war, labor and solidarity activists in Chicago and throughout the Midwest who are facing a grand jury as part of an investigation into “material support for foreign terrorist organizations.” No crime has been identified. No arrests have been made …
Fracking — a method of drilling for natural gas — poisons groundwater yet is steaming ahead under Obama.
Here is an ACLU video about a Pennsylvania woman active in trying to prevent local Fracking getting targeted by Homeland Security, which lumped her with terrorists and proceeded against her as such, and passed intelligence about her to the corporation doing the local Fracking.
We are so far gone down the road to perdition. That fracking is alllowed to occur anywhere is itself something out of dystopic science fiction.
The “White House Cybersecurity Coordinator” practiced Doublespeak while breaking the news a few weeks ago, pointing out that the Commerce Department:
is “the absolute perfect spot in the U.S. government” to centralize efforts toward creating an “identity ecosystem” for the Internet ….
“We are not talking about a national ID card. We are not talking about a government-controlled system. What we are talking about is enhancing online security and privacy, and reducing and perhaps even eliminating the need to memorize a dozen passwords, through creation and use of more trusted digital identities.”
Minutes after the Jets shocking victory over the Patriots, he ran out in a fit of joy and took a leap with a snow coaster that seconds later had him skidding into heavy traffic on Cleveland Avenue, and there he died.
The characters in the Coen brothers film are geared to work against both the Old Testament bleakness of the novel and the Waynesian joie de vivre of the first film.
Mattie in the film, at fourteen, is a relentless robotic harridan-to-be, expressing thru caricature the bleak worldview that Stanley Fish here extracts from the novel and offers as the spiritual key to the new film.
Mattie’s been trained as a bookkeepper and, we find, knows nothing about life and justice on the great frontier. Most comico-tragically, she badgers the tumbleweeds of the prairie with threats or promises of treatment by her lawyer. Finally poor Ned shuts her up, for us all, by responding that what he needs is a “good JUDGE” — yearning, it seems, for the Good News god and His mercy as deadly accidents set in train by Mattie’s thirst for revenge snake about his neck like a noose.
Cogburn steadily provides the antidote of worldly experience to Mattie’s booklearning and naive rationalism. Eg, he instructs and insists that Ned Chaney hung in Texas for shooting a senator is as good as Arkansas for shooting Mattie’s pa — and that the financial benefits of the former settle the case. Let’s be reasonable.
The only bit of this Cogburn we see in Mattie is when she goes a bit soft on LaBoeuf, who, at the extreme from her take-no-prisoners egomania, espouses the chivalrous naivete of the Cavalier society that settled Texas. Cogburn, in between, does his best to moderate the romance, but Mattie’s headstrong stone-hearted quest for vengeance must leave Quixote in the dust. “Ever stalwart,” he sadly affirms, too late to be heard, as she rides into the sunset in search of her devil.
A quarter century thence, at film’s end, we see that Mattie’s blindered pursuit of her ideal brought her to a barren life. She is, at 40, an echo of Miss Gulch — from The Wizard of the Oz — an irredeemable witch peculiar to the frontier who demonstrates no more curiosity or compassion for things human than she did at fourteen. She strides through the colorful marvels of a city and a circus without a sidelong glance, and her very last line is an imperious insult — “Keep your seat, trash!” — to an old man who failed to rise in her bristling presence.
The film’s coda, then, cements the notion (which sprouted for me about halfway thru) that the last thing one must do with this story is respect the barbaric worldview of its motor-mouthed bookkeeping upstart protagonist.
Naturally, then, one looks elsewhere — to Jeff Bridge’s Cogburn, who shares the joy of John Wayne’s but whose every decision is shot through by social psychology, and who recognizes a good deal of himself in all the bad guys: “I know him!” he keeps moaning to Mattie as the hapless of the earth wander into his crosshairs.
In short: The last thing I see in this Cogburn is the amoral gunslinging paraclete that Stanley Fish is at such pains to paint.
Affinities between the Old Testament and the amoral Predeterminism of certain Christian schools are oft remarked. And it’s a familiar turn in American letters to use the Old Testament to gloss the New World.
Alfred Kazin was a master of this, and his essays on Lincoln — whom he finds caught between the South’s fundamental sin and the relentless paracletes of Abolition — are among the assessments of the American character that I treasure.
But Mr Fish, falling short of Kazin, offers an impoverished reading of the new film, whether out of doctrine (his distinctive nihilism) or innocently, as it were, I don’t know. What seems clear is that the Coen brothers set out to Deconstruct the novel’s heroine, as a spiritually barren witch — and it’s odd that Perfesser Fish of all people would not notice.
By film’s end I even wonder if she was telling the truth about her devil Ned Chaney.
However that may be, it’s odd to find her, twenty-five years later, venerating Cogburn’s memory and yet so unchanged, so blindly made of stone after all these years. T’would seem that authentic veneration might have tenderized her hide a hair. Perhaps we are to sense that subterranean guilt, for having dragged Cogburn and the rest into her hell, is the real reason she transports his grave to the barren hilltop where her parents lie.
In any case, I mourn for this Cogburn as he tries to rest in peace with Mattie Gulch’s blank stare and recitations from the Bible falling upon his bones.