Thoughts on "Dueling Videos"
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One of the stories du jour is the political headline of "Dueling videos", where both candidates, Mr. Obama and Mr. Romney, are making remarks that most commentators and observers are highlighting as "embarrassing", or "controversial".


Mr. Romney's video emerged first, from a campaign dinner four months ago, in which he's heard giving damaging comments about Palestine and their role in the peace-making process with Israel. Further, he goes on to talk about the "47% of Americans" who will automatically support Mr. Obama because their reliant on the welfare, social security, and disability paychecks that they receive each month and won't vote in any way that may jeopardize those checks. Mr. Romney continues, saying that this is negative redistribution of wealth and that it's a case of those not paying income taxes receiving the tax income from those who do pay income taxes.


Later, a video surfaced from Mr. Obama's state senator days where he's clearly heard supporting a "redistributing of wealth" in the state, and one would assume, the country. I haven't heard the whole video, so I can't give the context or further information, but I'm assuming it's a Robin-Hood style of redistribution of taxing those earning more to provide for those earning less.

 

I have a few thoughts about these two videos. For a more thorough analysis of Mr. Romney's video, @agnophilo has a pretty decent post. First, I don't think the impact on the Federal campaign will be that much. Those who agree or disagree with the sentiments expressed in the videos are likely to have already chose their candidates a while ago and are unlikely to change. However, I think that there are certain trends that are slightly worrisome, more-so in Mr. Romney's video than Mr. Obama's video. Mr. Romney's video does not help his campaign in trying to show that he understands and is sympathetic with the plight of the majority of Americans struggling in the current climate. It damages his credibility when it comes to wanting to help all Americans get back to work, get back to earning more, getting back to success. It disparages a great swathe of the population who are on government benefits through no fault of their own, or even because of their service to the country: disabled veterans, veterans who have left service, single mothers who need assistance to feed their children, and those who are fighting chronic medical conditions just to stay alive, let along trying to work to be productive members of society.

This leads to another aspect of the Mr. Romney's video - his point about income taxes. At first glance, it makes it seem that the 47% he's referring to don't pay taxes at all, which is patently false. Everyone who works pays payroll taxes - Medicare, Social Security, and such. These are automatically taken out of most paychecks, and there are few, if any, exceptions. Income taxes - taxes on the rest - are what is left, and what Mr. Romney is referring to when he speaks about "taxes". While it is true that most in the 47% pay little-to-no tax on their income, it is typically because they don't earn enough to be taxed, and a big reason why they're on government benefits to begin with! It's not that they won't pay taxes, it's because they can't pay taxes. To rub salt into these wounds, there are citizens - like Mr. Romney - who also pay little-to-no tax on their income since it's either considered "capital gains" or the money is in off-shore, tax-haven accounts found in places like the Cayman Islands or Switzerland. It is highly offensive to castigate this group for something they can't do just to try and survive when people like Mr. Romney avoid taxes because they can, even though they have more money than they know what to do with. Or more money than they need to run a Presidential campaign. Finally, in Mr. Romney's economic policies, he doesn't call for an end to the redistribution of wealth - just a different focus, where the money is accelerated up to the top, and away from those who actually need the assistance to get by in life. 

I'm not saying that the welfare and social security system is perfect; it's blatantly obvious it's in need for reform, but not the type of reform that Mr. Romney and Mr. Ryan are advocating, which will only make the current situation far worse. It's clear that the bureaucracy must be reigned in, and that all efforts to combat fraud and abuse must be taken to ensure that the best use of the funds is applied as possible. Gutting the system for the benefit of those who don't need the help is not the way to improve the system or the lives of those on that assistance.

 

Moving on to Mr. Obama's video. While it is a direct and unflattering statement, the simple fact of the matter is that redistribution of wealth is occurring all the time at all levels across the world. From dictators in Asian countries to Parliamentary democracies in Europe to capitalistic republics in the Americas, wealth is transferred across boundaries all the time. I once heard it said that in all forms of human leadership and governments they have at their foundation a humanitarian goal of helping as many people as possible. It's only the methods and strategies that change. This naturally involves the use of money, which needs to be gathered from somewhere and applied somewhere else. Politics is the difference in opinion in which strategies should be applied for that, and who should get the most benefit. While some would use this to paint Mr. Obama as a communist socialist anti-Christ who is out to gut America and weaken it from the inside-out, I have a much more benign and measured opinion: Mr. Obama is trying his best, through his worldview, to help the majority of Americans who most need help: the same group that through no fault of their own require assistance; the same group that Mr. Romney castigates as free-loaders and lazy bums. 

 

Now which video will be the most damaging? My opinion is that it will be Mr. Romney's, but that on the macro level it will have little-to-no effect as this election cycle seems to be one of the first where strongly-held opinions have already formed and are unlikely to change no matter what may surface or be released in the next six weeks.



A Personal Look at the Presidential Campaign
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Browsing my Facebook newsfeed, I came across this from Mike Huckabee. It is a personal story he was relating to his Fox show viewers recently, and here is the transcript:

Every week we hear the latest jobs numbers and they aren't good. In fact, they're dismal in fact. An estimated 23 million Americans don't have jobs. But beyond those numbers, there are real people and some of them are in a world of hurt. I have a special friend who lives in Ottumwa, Iowa. I got to know her and her family during the Presidential campaign of 2008.

Her name is Wendy, and she's a beautiful young lady who some might say is a special needs child, but I would prefer just to say she's truly special. Yesterday, Wendy went to work just like she has for the past 11 years at the local Wendy's restaurant in Ottumwa, but it was locked up and a sign on the front said it was closed.

The manager explained that even though the store was doing fairly well, the company had abruptly closed it because it needed renovations or rebuilding and in this economy, there just wasn't enough money to justify the cost or to build a new one. Her dad took her back home and she sat in her room for a long time, still wearing her uniform.

Then she said-- "I think God is telling me right now that I'm not feeling too good because now I've this Frosty key chain and now I cannot use it." You see she could always get a free small Frosty at the end of her shift with her key chain.

Now, whenever I've been in Iowa, her parents try to bring Wendy to see me. When I was there just last month, she came and gave me a big hug. And I sure wish I could give her one right now. More than that, I wish I could get Wendy her job back at there in Ottumwa.

Barack Obama and Mitt Romney will be slugging it out over the next 6 weeks and they're going to talk a lot about the economy and jobs and what they're going to do to make things better. I truly believe President Obama wishes things were better, but after watching his plans fail for 4 years, I doubt he's going to be able to make them better. I think Mitt Romney understands that if people don't have a job they can't buy even a hamburger at Wendy's and if Wendy's isn't selling enough hamburgers to pay for their building and utilities and insurance and employees pay and for the ever-rising food prices, then they will close and people like my special friend Wendy won't have a job.

I don't expect either Barack Obama or Mitt Romney to fix everything all by themselves and I know they can't personally keep every Wendy's open just so my little friend Wendy will have a job. But I really would like for both Barack Obama and Mitt Romney to be able to look Wendy in the eyes and convince her and me that they really understand who she is and that she matters as much as any banker or broker on Wall Street that got bailed out of their trouble. Cause you see it's not just about jobs. It's about people. And a lot of them don't care about the politics; they just want to feel good again.

It got me thinking, especially reading most of the comments. This was the comment I left:

I think (as well as a majority of Americans) that if it came down to either Barack Obama or Mitt Romney, almost 60% think that Mr. Obama would best understand the plight of your friend Wendy over Mr. Romney. This perception is going to be impossible for Mr. Romney to shift if he keeps going on the course he's going. What I would also like to see is the Republicans in the House to stop sitting on their hands, stop blocking absolutely everything that is proposed by Mr. Obama and the Democrats and actually compromise or let it through. THEN the GOP can say "Obama's policies have failed; here's our plans, give us a try" rather than "Obama's policies have failed, even though they haven't been enacted, and our plans consist of rolling back to pre-2008 policies that contributed to a WORSE situation than we're in right now". That's supposed to be able to win an election?

I wanted to share this, and get other viewpoints. I think it is clear that the economy is not improving as rapidly as some people would like, but I think it is missing the point: it is improving. It is a slow, sure, and steady improvement; small gains on small gains, a solid foundation being laid. The jobs reports are not the most thrilling in the world, but not only are they usually an underestimate, they are still positive figures. While Mr. Obama’s opponents want to point to the fact that workforce participation is declining, I rarely see any analysis given to the fact that more and more of the population are reaching 65, retiring, and thus leaving the workforce. I don’t know; is this factored into the figures of people who have “given up looking for work” or are otherwise not included in the official jobs reports?

Mr. Huckabee IS right in saying that Mr. Obama or Mr. Romney will not be able to fix the economy overnight, to suddenly create the hundreds of thousands of jobs that will solve the unemployment issue. At least something needs to be done, and all that seems to be the case is a strategy of treading water and doing nothing while people suffer, and it is unconscionable. If you are trying to paint yourselves as a party and a candidate who truly cares and understands the pain, suffering, and heartache that not having a job leaves people feeling, why would you block economist-backed plans to provide for more jobs? (Mr. Obama’s stalled, almost dead Jobs Act) It seems a gross violation of political leadership and representation that would allow people to suffer continually while having the ability to try to help… yet do not. Or will not. It is certainly not a case of “can’t”.

This is but one contradiction that separates the Democrats and the Republicans during this electoral cycle and I believe that it is better to do something than nothing, especially if you are going to point the finger and blame a “too-slow” recovery on policies that cannot be fully implemented.


A Look at Apple
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With the announcement of the widely-leaked iPhone 5 in the first product launch since the untimely passing of Steve Jobs last year occuring today, many are expecting Apple to bounce back and reassert itself in the consumer electronics sector.

However, some believe that this isn't the case, and that the typical pattern of Apple product releases - patterns of intense secrecy and few if any leaks leading to a complete media surprise at a Steve Jobs-led presentation - is over. That this is the tip of how Apple is evolving and changing, and some say for the poorer.

The statistics back this view up: the iPhone was out-sold in the US for the first time since it's launch by the Samsuns S series, and this trend is probably only going to increase after the intense exposure Samsung received during it's lost patent battle with Apple.

It is still possible that Apple may surprise, but it's unlikely. Steve Jobs was a visionary, a person able to hit just the right note with the population to identify a need before it was apparant and fill it beautifully. A once-in-a-generation character, and someone Apple is sorely lacking today.

Read this: http://www.bbc.com/news/technology-19557497 for a more brutal analysis of Apple's direction just before the iPhone 5 unveiling.

Writer's Block: My name's Forrest, Forrest Gump
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What’s your favorite Tom Hanks movie or character, and why?

I have several - obviously Forrest Gump springs immediately to mind: the range, power and emotion of the character combined with the numerous quotable lines makes it instantly recognizable.

However, the two roles that really elevate Tom Hanks to the pantheon of great actors are the role of a hitman on the run in Road to Perdition and his role as a "non-citizen" in The Terminal. Those two movies really struck a chord with me and it was Hank's acting ability that made the movies stand out and be so memorable.

Finally, it is Hank's portrayal of the chief guard on prison's death row in The Green Mile that makes it one of my all-time favorite movies.

Ultimately, his acting ability is so sublime in such a variety of roles that it is hard to choose just one and is why he will be remembered as one of the all-time great actors who has ever graced the silver screen.


Person of the Week #1: Major Richard "Dick" Winters
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Introducing a new (hopefully) weekly series: Person of the Week. This series will be designed to highlight significant members of society who are often glossed over, not known or otherwise not in the public consciousness. Partly inspired by this, the idea originally sprung after watching a KERA show - who will be next week's "guest".

Today, I want to honor Major Richard "Dick" Winters, a US Army veteran who saw combat in World War II and was involved logistically in the Korean War. Major Winters recently passed away - January 2, 2011 - and it was not surprising to those who knew him that he didn't want his death to be announced until after his funeral and burial. He was an intensely private individual who went out of his way to remain out of the spotlight.
Let me, briefly, shine a spotlight on this fine, charismatic individual.


Richard Winters was born just as World War I was ending, in 1918. He lived a relatively quiet life and decided to join the army prior to the bombing of Pearl Harbor in 1941.He eventually signed up, and survived, the relentless training for an experimental unit and commissioned as a 2nd lieutenant and was assigned to Company E, 2nd Battalion, 506 Parachute Infantry Regiment. This Company was to become the infamous "Easy Company" of Band of Brothers fame.

His World War II exploits are well known - thanks to Stephen E. Ambrose's book and later, the HBO miniseries of the same name co-produced by Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks. In particular, it was Major Winter's courageous leadership, personality and tactical nous that led to a significant step towards securing the Normandy beachhead on June 6, 1944 following the D-day landings: the capture and destruction of a battery of German 105mm howitzers that were dialed in on the main causeway off Utah beach. This assault, the Brécourt Manor Assualt, was so perfect that to this day it is still used a textbook case of assaulting an enemy fixed position even though Winters only had 13 men against a Germany platoon of 50. For this action, Major Winters received the first of two Distinguished Service Crosses - the second-highest military honor one can earn for acts of courage and valor. During this war Winters was first promoted to Captain and then to Major while serving in executive officer and commanding officer capacities at various points.

Following the war, Richard Winters separated from the army and while he served a short stint in the early 1950s in the lead up to American forces being sent to Korea, he remained largely out of the spotlight and spent his time raising a small family - a son and a daughter - and running a small business. Following a revival in the World War II historical field, particularly with events in Normandy, Major Winters became much-sort after member of the 101st Airborne. Following two books about his exploits, he co-wrote his own book from his recollections and started speaking regularly at the West Point Academy.

Towards the end of his life, he began displaying symptoms of Parkinson's disease but remained active until his death on January 2, 2011. He was buried in his family plot on January 8, 2011, a true American hero and a member of what many perceive to be the "Greatest Generation". If many of today's current generation could follow the example of this man, then the whole world would be a better place.

Rest in peace, Major Richard E. Winters. January 23, 1918 - January 2, 2011. Age 92.

Why I Blog/Write: Additional Thoughts
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I recently posted a few thoughts about why I blog and write on these sites (LJ and Xanga) and some new thoughts came to me that I wanted to briefly jot down and share.

Feelings
Writing is soothing. There's nothing like it. The feel of my fingers flying over the keyboard helps me to relax and makes feeling accomplished so much easier... not to mention it's a useful procrastination tool when I want it! I think that writing - on anything and everything, from someone's deepest feelings to self-righteous platforms to a place to bring together friends and family - is completely underrated and is a skill that everyone should be able to do, share and interact with.

Comments
I wanted to include this on my last blog, but I either forgot or didn't phrase it properly. I write for the comments. Now, it's not the primary reason why I write, but I'd be lying if I wasn't hoping to spark conversation, recieve feedback on my writing or just get differing opinions on the subject. I'm happy either way, honestly, but I think every blogger out there on the Internet who posts publicly craves a little attention and acknowledgement. I'm really no different.

Self-Improvement
I write to help improve myself. From framing arguments, to fluent prose, to making my rants more readable, I write. No-one learns from not practicing; honing a skill that is easy to learn but a lifetime to master - to borrow an oft-used cliche. It's true. My main goal in writing, especially right now, is to get back into the habit of writing - usually a lot, as my mind runs a million miles an hour - so that when I return to start my Masters here in the next 6-9 months it won't be such a shock to the system. So, if you have any pointers, advice or encouragement, I welcome it! There's nothing better than a little constructive criticism to really encourage and help each other along the path.

There we go: three more (hopefully coherent) reasons as to why I blog. What are yours, Dear Reader?


Why Do You Blog?

America in Decline? A Look at the Declinist Thesis: Part I of III
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As many of you may know, I'm an English-Australian expatriate living in the United States and will be (hopefully) gaining my permanent residency tomorrow. As such, I regularly peruse the BBC website for news, features and sport results. I came across this interesting article, read it and listened to the accompanying interviews:


It got me thinking, analyzing and had me heading back to my academic background and mulling it over. How true is it? Is it reversible? Is anyone to blame? So many questions! The purpose of this entry is to briefly outline the declinist thesis, provide an overview of it's history and then provide some thoughts of my own, augmented with the thoughts of the academics interviewed for The Today Show on BBC 4 Radio (A great show to podcast, if you're so inclined. I believe it's free). This will be the first of three posts. Tonight, I'll look at the thesis and it's history. Later, I'll look at the academics point of view, their thoughts and what I think can be done to reverse this trend, if indeed there is a trend to be found.

The Thesis: Challenges from Home and Abroad
At its most basic level, the declinist thesis argues that the United States of America is in a period - some say terminal - from its position of hegemony over the rest of the world. On most fronts - technological, economic, military - the proponents of this thesis state that the US is no longer capable of projecting effective power and will quickly be overtaken by emerging countries - primarily China and India - and that the US does not posses the will, capability or means to reverse this trend and reassert itself as the preeminent world power. This decline will result in the US losing it's prestige, power and security and having to adjust and learn the role of a significant power, but no longer the preeminent power.

History: Just Misplaced Pessimism?
This fear amongst Americans, particularly her academics, is nothing new. The first traces of the "America in decline" movement can be found in the early beginnings of the Cold War and the Space Race, where the Soviets were the first to launch an artificial satellite (Sputnik, 1957) and then a man (Yuri Gagarin, 1961) into orbital space. The pessimists tried to portray this supposed superiority of the Soviets over the United States as signs that America's glory days from World War II were over and a new world order was about to sweep the globe.
Then again towards the end of the 1970s this thesis emerged again, this time as a result of mismanaged events abroad that led some to say it was a result of America's growing weakness, especially during the oil embargo that severely impacted the economy. This was further strengthened with the rapid growth of the Japanese economy that began to challenge the US' position as the world's largest and most prosperous economy.
Both times these storms were weathered - first with the youthfulness, energy and optimism that erupted following the election of John F. Kennedy, which signaled generational change and his drive to push the US beyond the Soviet's technological exploits and culminated in the US being the first to put a man on the moon - Neil Armstrong in 1969. Secondly, with the election of Ronald Reagan in 1980 his bullish demeanor coupled with a relaxation of energy powered the US towards victory over the Soviet Union in the Cold War that capped a period of supreme confidence, strong leadership and clear direction in policy and politics that seldom portrayed an atmosphere of squabbling, bickering and general decisiveness.
The challenge from Japan diminished as the Asian economies suffered from growing too quickly without plans for sustaining that growth.

Next:           Causes of the current crisis, academic input and potential/possible solutions

Finally:      My thoughts, opinions and a look to the future

Decision Point: Evaluating the Bush Presidency
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Ever since January 21, 2009 when Barack Obama was sworn in as the forty-fourth President of the United States of America, the effect, legacy and final analysis of the forty-third President, Texan George W. Bush, started. This process received a significant boost with the release of Bush’s memoir, Decision Points in November of 2010.

Having just finished this book, I thought I would take some time to “review” it, and pen a few thoughts on the book, on George W. Bush himself and on his presidency itself. I hope that this proves as illuminating to my readers as reading the memoir was to me.

I will start this by saying as an historian-in-training and someone who maintains an active interest in current affairs, I felt the treatment, expectations and beliefs about George W. Bush were grossly exaggerated, misplaced and unfair. To me, too much emphasis was placed on late-night show hosts comedic sound bites, established preconceived notions and a general misunderstanding of George Bush and his place in the political process and discourse. This was the attitude I took into reading the book, and it was one that only solidified as I moved through the memoir.

One intriguing aspect of the memoir, and one I felt worked incredibly well was the choice to lay out the memoir through specific items, agendas or decisions that shaped the Presidency and what will be considered when evaluating the first decade of the twenty-first century. This meant that the entirety of a specific topic – Iraq, the Surge, Afghanistan, Katrina, stem cell research – could be contained within an individual chapter that helped maintain the cohesiveness of the subject matter while also providing an overview of the decision-making process and the events that shaped the Administration’s direction. For the reader, this creates a clear beginning, middle and end for each “decision” makes the memoir an easy and navigable read.

While it is an easy and obvious charge to say that the purpose of this book is to purely rehabilitate Bush’s presidency and be what will probably be one of many attempts to re-write history, that was not the impression I had while I was reading. While certain decisions and aspects can be colored by political-leanings, on the whole the impression I got was of a true Presidential leader: rising above petty party politics while drawing advice from both sides of the political divide to make decisions that Bush genuinely believed it was the best decision to make at the time for the benefit of all Americans and to the world as well. He admitted his mistakes and regrets, clearly explaining not only why the decision he made was the wrong one, or the inappropriate one but what decision he would make if he had his time over again. However, it is a great measure of the man that he stuck by many of the decisions he made and has even been vindicated by his choices.

Many of the gaffes and embarrassing points of his presidency are glossed over or used to illustrate the personalities of the people the President met and surrounded himself with, which I believe is a positive step that focuses on the seriousness of the job the role of President entails. Throughout his Presidency, George Bush rarely, if ever stooped to the level of his opponents, despite plenty of opportunities and justifications to do so. He was guided by his faith and this was made clear throughout the memoir yet it never became overbearing or a platform to preach and judge. Rather, it was used as a firm basis to begin the process of reaching and making a decision and as a pillar of strength while in a position that can be one of the loneliest in the world. It’s also my opinion that while the media and public opinion focused too much on Bush’s presentation skills (or lack thereof) they missed the substance of many of his policies by a large margin. It’s telling that many of Bush’s implemented policies that were initially incredibly controversial are now considered hugely beneficial and now are rarely debated or commented on – such as the No Child Left Behind education policy and the decision to Surge the troops into Iraq.

The relationship with foreign leaders was the most illuminating part of the recollection, and highlights several interesting and sometimes baffling partnerships but throughout shone Bush’s patriotism, dedication and no-nonsense manner that helped establish several key relationships that strengthened America’s position in the world if not methods and decisions that were the most popular in the court of public opinion and public assumptions.  If foreign relations with other, key countries it was not for lack of effort on Bush’s part, no matter what the common and popular opinions and assumptions that emerged and solidified throughout the Bush presidency.

In conclusion, Bush’s presidential memoir is a good read that illuminates many of the consequential and controversial decisions and aspects of the presidency. As I indicated in my introduction, I’ve always believed that George W. Bush was treated unfairly for the majority of his Presidency and only now with the passage of time are people reevaluating his time in office and his Administration under a new, fresh light. Out of many memorable lines in his writings, one stood out to me:

“I believe it will be impossible to reach definitive conclusions about my presidency – or any recent presidency, for that matter – for several decades. The passage of time allows passions to cool, results to clarify and scholars to compare different approaches.”


This is, I think, a profound statement that reflects the maturity and positive experiences Bush bought to the Presidency and helps ensures that the decisions he made during the 2001-2009 period where made with the long-term benefit to the United States – even at the cost, particularly the political cost, in the short-term. It’s a view I subscribe to, and I will not be surprised if the Bush presidency is ranked as one of the best presidencies in the 200-year history of the United States of America. The George W. Bush presidency will be viewed and venerated in the same way that the Reagan and Lincoln administrations are today.


Future Posting!
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Lets see how this writing-a-post-for-the-future lark works.

This week, I hope to accomplish the following:

On  LJ:
Start posting a bit more on here.
Blog. A lot. Subjects ranging from my honeymoon (belatedly), George Bush's memoir, my dabbles in The Folio Society (and how that'll impact future blogs), a sports-related post, and a personal post. Probably something along the lines of, "Why Do I Blog?" - it's been something that I've been mulling over and chewing over for quite some time now. I might even sneak in a bonus food/cooking related post as well, depending on the time.

At Work:
Keep running our program, the Emeritus College, as smoothly as possible - this includes contactor our speakers and keeping everything up-to-date and clearing my desk of everything as much as possible.

At Home:
Keeping it tidy. Blowing through the last of our laundry, and more importantly PUTTING IT UP! Put together all of our information for our mortgage application for our financial adviser and also carrying on cooking and making sure the rest of our apartment is clean.

That's quite a list, on reflection. If I'm able to accomplish everything in this post then I'll consider it a most productive week indeed.

What are you plans for the coming week, dear readers? Anything special or big or massive?
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Egypt: The World is Watching
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Hosni Mubarak, President of Egypt for the past thirty years resigned today after almost three weeks of constant protests from his citizens. Pretty much the whole world is rejoicing with the Egyptian protests, as by most accounts the Mubarak regime made a mockery of democracy and fostered a climate of fear to cement his rule. Once that fear began to dissipate, as everyday Egyptians took courage from the actions of their Tunisian brothers in North Africa, Mubarak's grip on power became tenuous, then untenable until finally he admitted defeat and resigned. While everyone else is rejoicing, I'm here to ask:

NOW WHAT?

Elections are not scheduled until September, and in the interim it looks likely that the military is going to take over and run the country until then. Right now, there are few candidates who look like they're about to emerge and ride the wave of popular protest to the Presidential Palace, although the new Vice-President, Omar Suleiman, could be one candidate. However, it's not yet clear whether he'll carry the tarnish from the last days of the Mubarak regime with him.

It is an extremely delicate and dangerous position right now: Egypt has been a clear ally of the US and Israel in the Middle East in recent decades, and now those relationships are completely up in the air. Depending on who takes control, it could be the start of a glorious renaissance of democracy in the Middle East or a reversion to the religious-dominated power structures similar to those found in Saudi Arabia and Iran - two other key players in the region.

The Israeli-angle in this whole situation has either been downplayed or forgotten. I believe that Israel has grown accustomed to a relatively stable and nonbelligerent neighbor to her south, allowing Israel to concentrate on her more dangerous northern border with Lebanon and the two Palestinian territories. With recent developments, Israel has to be extremely nervous as to which direction Egypt will now take and how this will affect the tenuous peace negotiations that have been on and off for years.

Finally, I believe that the momentous event the world has seen today sets a highly dangerous precedent: while the will of the people must be observed, there are proper mechanisms for the transfer of power and stepping outside of those clear boundaries must not be taken likely. This was clearly a different set of circumstances, but care must be taken that the Egyptians don't resort to these methods on a regular basis to voice their dissatisfaction with the direction their politicians are taking the country. Additionally, the fact that the military is now in power makes this a situation on a knife edge: will the army leaders relinquish power peacefully and absolutely, or will we end up with a situation like that in Pakistan when the head of the army, Pervez Musharraf took control of the government and led the country in both a civilian and military capacity - to the broad condemnation of the world.

The Egyptian people are now, rightly, celebrating a triumph of popular will over one man's stubborn opinion that he was best placed to lead the country. However, the battle is only just beginning and is far from over - the fight to shape a new Egypt and quite possibly a new Middle East is now on. Never before has such an opportunity arisen for true, Western-principled democracy to established itself in the Middle East as a result of a native-led uprising. Let's hope and pray that this opportunity will not be squandered.

Egypt: The world is watching. What are you going to do?

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