Thursday, February 9, 2012

Four (Relatively) Easy Pieces

Events come thick and fast.  No time to write every day.  So here are four briefs, each of which do not, in my opinion, warrant 500 words from me, because others provide that.  What they don’t provide are the backstories:

1) Greedy Bastards: Kudos to MSNBC’s Dylan Rattigan for showing that there are solutions to most every problem, and when individuals decide to find them, they can.  One comment: greedy doesn’t just happen, didn’t even just happen because one thing led to another and people had fun playing with other people’s lives: American Greed is forged in the classroom: what else to expect when, from nursery school on, kids are taught to do better than their piers, to come out on top, to win the prize.  In the recent Nation (Nov, 16th 2011) marking 20 years since the overthrow of the Soviet Union, Russians are reported as often being nostalgic for the sense of solidarity that was part of the Communist ethos (if not always practiced by the State).  Anna Makarenko, the great Soviet educator of the early 20th century, gave Soviet education a firm basis in cooperation.  Our system couldn’t be more different.

2) The turmoil the world is experiencing has two layers(inadvertent shades of Marx...): the economic layer is recognized as a worldwide phenomenon, hurting the poor and the poverty-stricken in every nation.  But there is a deeper layer, whether North or South, East or West, and that is religion.  In the Middle Ages Christians fought Muslims for hundreds of years, embarking on veritable ‘crusades’.  But only listen to the Tea Party’s latest standard-bearer, Rick Santorum, and it’s clear that the United States is in the midst of a home-grown religious crusade, even while it fights Muslims abroad. And the fervor is matched.  (I agree that the religious war has been reawakened partly to counter improving employment numbers, with a view ousting Obama in November. (Although Born-Again Christianity has made inroads abroad, it is unlikely to every be as powerful in secular-minded Europe as in Africa or Latin America, but nonetheless, the world is embroiled in a financial crisis doubled with a multi-pronged religious war.)

3) Religions are not people. Probably inspired by Mitt Romney’s famous quip that corporations are people, Rick Santorum (again) appears determined to establish that religions, too, are people, and should not have to pay for health care items that contradict ‘its’ conscience. (We used to say, its teachings, but note the slippery slope among Catholic opponents of the President’s new initiative.)

4) Finally, to understand what is happening in Syria, look at Egypt.  These two countries are the most powerful of Israel’s neighbors: for decades we paid handsomely to keep Egypt at least neutral where Israel was concerned.  Now the Egyptian people have overthrown the ruler we pampered, and are determined to have their say in their country’s policies.  It’s not the Muslim Brotherhood that is to be feared, nor even the Salafists per se, but the momentum built up by people who have lost their fear. No matter who sits at the top of the pyramid, Egypt can no longer be expected to support Israel, as it continues to cut off it nose to spite its face.  By arresting NGO workers and threatening to put them on trial, Egypt’s new rulers are taking a page from Iran, which arrested and tried American tourists (who, contrary to the aid workers in Egypt, were most likely just tourists).


Whatever the way they treat their people, Egypt’s (‘interim’) rulers have every reason to suspect that with Mubarak gone, the United States is trying desperately to ensure their loyalty, by, among other means, enlisting the cooperation of NGO workers (such as the son of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood).


The situation in Egypt leads to a very plausible suspicion that the uprising in Syria has been aided and abetted by the United States.  It is likely that a considerable number of Syrians are fed up with their government for any number of reasons, be they religious, tribal or economic. But is it unlikely that American agents infiltrated from Israel - or when possible from Lebanon - have had a hand in encouraging and perhaps arming their discontent? I find that irresistibly plausible.  Just think of the increased danger Israel has been in since the birth, a year ago, of the Arab Spring. Aside from that, not a day goes by without Israel and its protector, the United States, threatening Iran, because that country could eventually produce the nuclear weapons that Israel already has.  If Israel were to give in to its worst demons and actually assault Iran, would it not feel more secure if the Egyptian and Syrian governments could be counted on to remain neutral?


The prospects are currently not good in Egypt.  All the more reason for the White House, yesterday, to have mooted, for the first time, the possibility of considering some form of armed intervention against Syria’s Assad. Several news channels (perhaps the BBC and CNN - or maybe Democracy Now) showed a young Syrian man pointing to what was either a wounded or a dead young child, asking “How many Syrians have to die before you come to our rescue?”


That sounded very much like the anguished plea of someone who was led to expect Western support.

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