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Mole's Progressive Democrat

The Progressive Democrat Newsletter grew out of the frustration of the 2004 election. Originally intended for New York City progressives, its readership is now national. For anyone who wants to be alerted by email whenever this newsletter is updated (usually weekly), please send your email address and let me know what state you live in (so I can keep track of my readership).

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Location: Brooklyn, New York, United States

I am a research biologist in NYC. Married with two kids living in Brooklyn.

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  • Sunday, January 30, 2011

    Progressive Democrat Newsletter Issue 287

    Now seems like a good time to remember:



    And for a bit of humor, as well as a reminder of who really supports Republicans and Teabaggers:



    Recent events in the Middle East have been astonishing...and have taken EVERYONE by surprise. What is happening is that democratic opposition to long-standing dictatorships has boiled over. In many ways this is a good thing. However, there is a very dangerous complication here. All too often dictatorships in the Middle East are allied with America and the West, which tends to throw together Islamists (who are by nature anti-democratic) and pro-democracy movements. In many ways we saw this in Iran back in the 1970's. A less well known example has been Algeria, where Islamicists have won elections only to have the French-backed military prevent (for better or worse) the Islamist take over.

    This has to be handled very carefully. The current situation in many ways can be best exploited by the Islamicists. And that is precisely what we don't want. If we can provide a truely democratic alternative, then the anti-dictatorship movements in so many Middle Eastern nations could lead to some real positive change. In Tunisia the initial movement seemed completely pro-democracy and spontaneous. However, now Islamicists are rapidly taking advantage of the situation. BBC News has a simple rundown of the key players in Tunisia right now. It seems clear the old guard is trying to hold on to power, but with the realization that they have to deliver at least some real change. Two movements in exile are rapidly trying to leverage power. Al-Nahda is an Islamist party in exile. They put on a moderate facade but I am highly suspicious of their motives. One hopes they are more like the Turkish Islamicists than the more radical Islamicists in places from Sudan to Somalia to Iran. The Congress for the Republic is a secular party in exile. They are already returning to Tunisia and eager to contest elections. And, of course, there is the army. It is clear that they have been playing a behind the scenes role, but it is not clear what their goals are.

    Egypt has some similarities with Algeria, with a military dictator holding the line against popular and radical Islamicist opposition. Again, this reminds me somewhat of Iran in the 1970's. In Egypt the Muslim Brotherhood has been the main voice of opposition, and they are a scary bunch. The initial spread of unrest from Tunisia to Egypt again seemed spontaneous and pro-democracy, but it is also obvious that the group most able to exploit the changes is the Muslim Brotherhood. Currently the best hope for a secular and democratic solution could be Mohamed ElBaradei, who was head of the UN nuclear watchdog organization and so is respected internationally...but would that translate into an effective domestic leader? As in Tunisia (and Algeria), I suspect the army will have a strong say in how things develop.

    And less well reported, Yemen has also caught revolution fever, with Tunisian inspired protests against their dictators.

    No matter how you cut it, the entire Middle East is largely split among military dictatorships with secular leanings (from the Shah of Iran to Saddam Hussein to the "presidents" of Tunisia, Algeria and Egypt), weak pro-democracy movements with secular leanings (often also socialist), and Islamicists. Usually it is the army that settles the question of who is in charge. But generally the only way that the military dictatorship can be overthrown is through a combination of the pro-democracy and the Islamicist movements. Needless to say, this doesn't lead to much of an improvement over the military dictatorship.

    So history is unfolding before our eyes. The army in each nation could probably rassert its control, either on behalf of the existing power structure or behind a modified powerstructure. But the Islamicists could come out ahead very easily, and I am sure that is what they are aiming for. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has her work cut out for her.

    But I think EVERYONE, from the military forces in each nation seeing these revolutions to our government to the pro-democracy movements to the Islamicists, has to keep in mind the trigger for these events. The precipitating event was a tiny and seemingly uninteresting event where local law enforcement destroyed a poor man's illegal market cart. A combination of poverty and corruption led to an act of desperation that inspired a whole generation of Muslims in several nations to say enough is enough. Whoever wants to bring peace and stability to the Middle East has to recognize that the combination of poverty and corruption has to be dealt with.

    Here is this week's newsletter:

    TABLE OF CONTENTS:

    Top American Rabbis Take on Fox News

    America's Real Entitlement Society

    Continued from last week: Better Banking and Better Credit Cards

    More from my blogger connection in Nigeria: MY ARREST AGAIN IN UYO...for more background on Leo Igwe and his efforts against both Muslim and Christian extremists, go here and here.

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    California 11th District Focus: San Joaquin, Alameda and Santa Clara Counties

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    Iowa Focus: Republicans cut preschools and give the money to the rich

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