Quote of the Day

“Also, ‘we’ did not unleash the Arab Spring, and ‘we’ could not have stopped it.  These uprisings began with fearless, authentic quests for dignity by Arab youths, seeking the tools and freedom to realize their full potential in a world where they could see how everyone else was living.  But no sooner did they blow the lids off their societies, seeking governments grounded in real citizenship, than they found themselves competing with other aspirations let loose — aspirations to be more Islamist, more sectarian or to restore the status quo ante.”

Thomas Friedman, “The Arab Quarter Century,” NYT

How Syria Looks From Moscow

From “Why Russia Is Backing Syria,” Ruslan Pukhov, NYT:

“Many Russians believe that the collapse of the Assad government would be tantamount to the loss of Russia’s last client and ally in the Middle East and the final elimination of traces of former Soviet prowess there — illusory as those traces may be.

“Such attitudes are further buttressed by widespread pessimism about the eventual outcome of the Arab Spring, and the Syrian revolution in particular.  Most Russian observers believe that Arab revolutions have completely destabilized the region and cleared the road to power for the Islamists.  In Moscow, secular authoritarian governments are seen as the sole realistic alternative to Islamic dominance.

“The continuing struggles in Arab countries are seen as a battle by those who wear neckties against those who do not wear them.  Russians have long suffered from terrorism and extremism at the hands of Islamists in the northern Caucasus, and they are therefore firmly on the side of those who wear neckties.

“To people in Moscow, Mr. Assad appears not so much as ‘a bad dictator’ but as a secular leader struggling with an uprising of Islamist barbarians.”


The Russians are backing Assad for the same reason we backed Mubarak for all those years.  We both fear the Arab Street.  The Russian have their bastards, and we have ours.

The Russians have never been fond of Islam.  Under the Czars, the Russians viewed the Muslims in their empire as a threat to Christianity.  Under the Communists, the Russians viewed the Muslims in their empire as a threat to atheism.

No Prez Announcement in Egypt

The Egyptian Election Commission was supposed to announce tomorrow whether Islamist Mohamed Morsi or former prime minister Ahmed Shafiq won the election for president.

They have now postponed that announcement indefinitely while they look into complaints from both sides.

The military remains in total control, and they will, no matter who is declared the winner.


SCOTUS Strips Us of Our Rights (and Dignity)

The Supreme Court has decided, 5-4 of course, that you can be strip searched when arrested for any reason, even the most minor of misdemeanors.*  The usual suspects (Roberts, Alito, Scalia, Thomas, and Kennedy) voted in favor of strip searches.

In his dissent, Justice Breyer wrote that strip searches should be allowed only for serious charges and then only if there is a reasonable suspicion that justifies the search, such as a concern that the person is hiding weapons or drugs.  Under the majority’s ruling, neither of these standards would have to be met.

Americans have been strip searched when they were arrested for driving with a noisy muffler, not using their turn signal, and riding a bike without a bell.  A nun was strip searched after being arrested at an anti-war demonstration.

In the case at hand, Albert Florence was strip searched twice when he was wrongly arrested for a ticket that he had already paid.  So if you think it can’t or won’t happen to you because you’re so law-abiding, think again.

This is a terrible ruling that will have a chilling effect on people exercising their First Amendment rights.  I think people are less likely to come out for Trayvon Martin or Occupy Wall Street or any other cause, if they face the indignity and humiliation of a strip search when arrested on even the most minor charge.

This is the sort of stuff that happens to those arrested under tyrannical regimes that don’t tolerate dissent.  We saw such tactics during the Arab Spring.  Apparently this is our American Spring.

* Florence v. Board of Chosen Freeholders of the County of Burlington

A Very Different Arab Spring

When the Arab Spring first emerged, Egypt’s Islamist Muslim Brotherhood said they would not run a candidate for president to replace Hosni Mubarek.  This promise was a boon to the more secular forces.

What a difference a year makes.  This spring, they’re saying, “Never mind.”  Having taken over Parliament and the group writing the new Constitution,  they are running Khairat el-Shater, a millionaire businessman and former political prisoner, for president.

We’ve all seen this movie before, from Czarist Russia to Iran under the Shah.  The idealistic, non-extreme folks start the revolution, and the fanatics finish it for them.