Democracy dawns in Egypt

Yesterday I was humbled talking by phone with a seventeen year old reporter (in the middle of the world's biggest breaking story) as I learned more from the vivid word pictures she portrayed than from watching days of TV. Bravo Jessica Elsayed and welcome to a better day as democracy dawns in your proud and plundered country.

Reality finally permeated the patriarch's delusions from decades of his mummified rule, when Mubarak's own military showed him the door. Now that he has been deposited in one of his many mansions in Sharm El Sheik, his successor and right hand man Omar Suleiman takes over, with Egypt now in the bloody hands of a torturer, and a hands-on torturer at that. 

 
Transition is the operative word here because the generation of educated and frustrated young Egyptians who led this revolution, will not stand for it if their hard-won battle is stolen from them in back room deals brokered by the same kleptocrats, thugs and courtiers who have been stealing their future since they won independence from their colonial overseers. Obama has clearly been navigating between the call of history and desperate calls from Middle East potentates and demands from the Israeli Right to back stability over democracy. 
 
But Obama appears to understand that our tired Realpolitik calculus no longer applies because acting according to our ideals and not in our so-called "interests", is the only chance we have to hold on to any influence we might have left in the Middle East after a precipitous and catastrophic loss of American hegemony in the region since George W. Bush and the neocons misapplied American power in Iraq and Afghanistan.
 
Thank God for the American media, and more importantly, social media like Facebook and Google. The young Egyptians are thanking us for that, not our government's mixed signals, today's inspiring speech by President Obama notwithstanding.. 
 
There is also a lesson for us at home as our own conservative revolutionaries gather in Washington at CPAC and fulminate against the very government they represent. Their anti-environment and alternative energy tirades can't disguise their budget priorities that are driven by big oil and dirty coal. They could not be more hopelessly out of touch, as they increase our dependence on foreign oil and cut funding for foreign aid which is what was missing from the quick victories followed by slow defeats we are suffering in Iraq and Afghanistan. Why? Because we did not deliver on the "soft power" we have in abundance. 
 
Also conspicuously absent from the Egyptian revolution was the Tea Party's second amendment solutions. This was an unarmed non-violent people power revolution. And while "the tree of liberty was refreshed by the blood of patriots", the tyrant was eased out by his own well regulated militia. But not only have the American and Israeli Right been shown to be irrelevant as recent events unfolded, Al Qaeda is also sidelined by history. Our values and our interest are, for the moment, one in the same, and that is a win-win we can live with.      

Budget Sanity, Anyone?

Speaking with a veteran Pentagon watchdog yesterday, I was struck by the irony that the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs' warning that we are jeopardizing our national security by spending too much on our national security, was not just being overlooked by the press, but is being wilfully ignored by those fired-up freshmen patriots in charge of our purse strings in the House.

I heard a very earnest and principled freshman Tea Partier on NPR explaining why he chose not to take advantage of the Congress's healthcare plan because it came from the evil government, but now he was being gouged by the health plan he's been forced to buy in the private market. His honest answer was we have to get government out of the healthcare business and the first way to reduce costs was tort reform. So it's the trial lawyers who are causing us to spend 16% of our GDP with the worst healthcare outcomes in the industrial world, not big pharma and big insurance? 

 
But today promises to be a beam-me-up day because we will be looking at the new Republican budget designed to address the national debt crisis that Admiral Mullen warned is a national security risk. So we cut a million dollar mohair subsidy, and red line every silly-sounding liberal indulgence as well as zeroing out that subversive underwriter of dangerous non-corporate speech, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, and we're king of the hill.
 
Reality check!!! 
 
You're only playing games with 12% of the overall budget. Shrinking the incredibly shrinking prime cuts while leaving the rump of defense and entitlement spending alone. What kind of hollow shell-game is this when you ignore the startling fact that we are spending $707 billion on defense today, that is higher than any time since World War II, more than all of our possible enemies combined, and almost as much as the rest of the entire world?  When we had a real enemy the Soviet Union, who could have wiped us all out in 30 minutes, our Cold War spending averaged $440 billion and that includes the Korean and Vietnam wars. So here we are chasing a few hundred hopeless fanatics in some caves in Pakistan in an endless war against a tactic, not a real military adversary, and nobody asks why? 
 
Ideology is obviously a great comfort to our fearless freshmen, otherwise they would have to deal with the real world and that's hard work. So let the follies begin as more public money gets shovelled into a few private hands. That's the real shell-game on Capitol Hill that's being played in the name of shrinking government. 
 
And who is writing the hymnal that is being so faithfully followed by the freshmen? Chuck and Dave - those billionaire boys the Kochs. You're doin' a heck of a job boys, and once you've got rid of pensions, Social Security, Medicare and public broadcasting, you'll be able to get on with the real project of Americans for YOUR Prosperity, the return of slavery. After all, wages are a cost. And costs hurt profits. And that's not good for free enterprise.