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..There's a little Samuel Pepys in all of us..

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Looking from it from the perspective of those who have grown, and have a history of democracy and Constitutional Monarchies, the events on Africa take on an interesting aspect. For years the Western lifestyle has been vilified by those who lead, and swallowed whole by their various populations. But since the event of the Internet, with it's quality of instant communication, those populations have apparently become exceedingly unhappy by what they now see as 'oppressive regimes'.. what was normal, is now obviously abnormal.. and the movements began.
Yet we are also seeing, in Gold Coast particularly, what can happen when a leader is outsted by popular demand and with public accord, the military has assumed control, with promises of open elections in the near future. In Gold Coast today, the crowds are now demonstrating against the 'caretaker' government, still demanding the same concessions they originally took to the streets for.
In all of these liberated countries, their respective armies are in control, and it is moot whether democracy is close at hand.
As for Libya, Gaddafi will certainly hold on to the reins as long as possible, and will then look for a safe haven to spend the rest of his life. Although Switzerland and the US have frozen his personal assets, it is a certainty he has millions upon millions salted away, in perhaps offshore accounts. These have not been touched..
Then again, the man may well be that megalomaniacal, that he would prefer to die as a martyr.. again, to what cause is unclear.
Can't be for Islam, for he has blamed Al Q'aida for fomenting this insurrection..
Curious man, that Mohammar..

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

It was 41 years ago that Colonel Gaddafi seized power in Libya, and it appears that his time may soon be up.. Not that the man's going to slip gracefully into the glim though.. at last count there have been 300 killed in protests against his regime.
Makes one wonder what the count will be, when the movement hits Iraq and Iran.. and what if it spreads to the lynch pin in the Middle East, Saudi Arabia...
But there's a certainty here, that the cost of oil is going up, again.. in fact there are those who say $150 for Brent Crude, and gods know how much for Saudi Sweet.. that country has already increased output..
Yet the question remains, how long will Mohammar hold out in Libya.. It has the largest deposits of oil and gas in the area, and while they only supply about 12% of exported oil from the area, that must be seen as a significant amount.. And while the UN, Britain, the US, have all vociferously condemned the violence.. there appears to be a spilt, right down the middle of the country..
The East, with Bengazi as it's centre, has seen military commanders destroying their own airfields, to stop Mohammar from landing mercenaries.. There, the army seems to be in accord with the people. But in the West, while there are still demonstrations with thousands of Libyans taking part, they are the ones being killed..
Mohammar came on State television this evening, and vowed he would never leave his 'sacred homeland', and added that he would prefer to die a martyr..
To what cause though, other than his own..
It is amazing how these relics of a bygone age cling to power, absolute power.. The Middle East finally seems ready to join the 21st century, and while countries might burn and people die, the citizens have voiced their discontent, and have the weight of numbers..
More later...

Friday, February 18, 2011

Another one of those dinner table debates touched on Kant's reasoning of an 'absolute imperative'.. a moral code that each will come to hold as their own, and who herd with those of like mind..
It was proposed that there be no 'absolutes', and thus left Kant's argument hanging..
Now when it comes to morality, one has to take into account the tribe mentality that drives the individual towards a community which hold similar values, and the history each individual chooses to be relevant.. Such can be easily seen from the US to the Middle East..
If there were to be a common ground that all accepted as moral, internecine disagreements would shrink to something the old men mull over as they debate the intricacies of their own peculiar views..
If there were..
More later..

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Rather strange that Barack himself came out to preach the gospel of peaceful transition in the case of Egypt.. that it's Hillary who has this time stated firm support for the protestors in Iran..'firm support'..
Even our own Foreign Secretary, William Hague, has stated baldly that there should be no harm done to peacefull Iranian protestors..
Now this is not the first time this has happened.. a while back in December 2009, thousands marched through Tehran demanding better wages..lower prices.. They were met with a police presence that utterly shattered the protest..
This time though, it's not prices or wages the crowd's demanding, it's a change in government, a fundimental change from a theocracy to democracy.. Komeini and Akmadenejad will not allow that, and this time the security forces are not with the crowd.. they appear to be in government hands.. and will not deal kindly with those on the street chanting 'down with the regeme..'.

But the phenomina we're watching in Africa and the Middle East, is something Western leaders have had on their wish lists for decades.. Their only concern is the possibility Arab Fundamentalist Brothers will have sway.. thus allowing Hammas a voice in any Parliament..
It has yet to be seen how far these popular movements will spread.. there's marches in Bahrain..Algeria..Yemen.. all asking for a voice in their government, or at least an honest group leading the country..
In all the cases in which governments have fallen the military took, and is keeping control, for the time being.. They have dissolved Parliaments, and suspended Constitutions..
We'll see how quickly those in control set wheels in motion which would roll on general elections and revamped Constitutions..
Something to watch.. and the show's not over..

Saturday, February 12, 2011

And just like that.. not with a bang, but a whimper..
And it has to be said, that one could wish Barack would shut up about what lies ahead for Egypt until a clearer picture emerges.. He's quoted as saying that "..there are hard times ahead.." for Egypt, but he's sure they're on the road to democracy and has implied Egyptians will embrace the Western lifestyle..
Facts are, we have no idea at this point what's going to come to pass, and it could be a wise step on the part of Western leaders to keep their plans for the country to themselves..
It's a volatile time in that country.. too much is at stake to be drum banging from outside..
A quiet 'congratulations' would be sufficient..

Friday, February 11, 2011

This from today's Toronto Globe and Mail.. Full quotations rarely appear in this peripatetic journal, but this is...
"Suleiman may have questioned tortured Canadian"
From Friday's Globe and Mail
Published Thursday, Feb. 10, 2011 9:11PM EST..
"Omar Suleiman – spymaster, CIA ally and heir apparent to Egypt’s throne – has been accused in the interrogation of a Canadian citizen tortured overseas.
The allegation appears in the federal findings from a former Canadian Supreme Court judge, who faulted Canadian intelligence practices for setting into motion a snowballing series of global investigations in the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks."
We've made a habit of strange bedfellows though..

Meanwhile, back at the ranch.. tens of thousands are in Tahir Square, at the Presidential Palace and the State Television building.. More are expected to come out again..
This is where the army is going to be a decisive point. The supreme military council yesterday assured the crowd they would 'get what they wanted', which of course included the immediate resignation of Hosni.. That's not the stance they've taken today though. They now say they'll be there to ensure full democratic elections will take place..the demands for democracy will be met.. but rather than have mobs running through the streets, the armed forces will allow the timetable set out by Hosni..
It's completely ambiguous. One hopes is doesn't come to Egyptians shooting Egyptians.
Odds are now, this will be a protracted process as Hosni's pushed out.

And as soon as that, Hosni leaves for his seaside residence, and steps down as Prime Minister.. Now, as the crowds celebrate their victory, the army will step in, with the supreme council administrating..
Omar Suleiman announced, ""In the name of God the merciful, the compassionate, citizens, during these very difficult circumstances Egypt is going through, President Hosni Mubarak has decided to step down from the office of president of the republic and has charged the high council of the armed forces to administer the affairs of the country.May God help everybody."
What remains to be seen is how the army follows through with preparations for a general election..
The politicians are speechifying already.. but there are those among those observing that commented on this being very close to a military coup..
It's getting hot in Egypt..
Mohammad el Baradei announced the 'country will erupt' following the last statement from Hosni.. and called for the Army to intervene.. meanwhile Vice-President Suleiman is pressing for 'an orderly transition', but the odds on that seem to be slipping... the White House is showing perhaps a tad too much in the way of 'forceful diplomacy'.. for it could , if escallated, be seen as a 'gunboat diplomatic' move..
This whole Middle Eastern brouhaha could have an enormous effect on our way of life, this popular revolt in a country that for 30 years has been a close associate of the West.. and while charging swingeing prices for their only commodity, we've been an eager customer.. Theirs is control of the Suez Canal.. the major shipping route for so many exporters that it would take some time to count..
As mentioned, both Israel and the US are watching this change closely, and with good reason.
Egypt is known for it's religious tolerance.. Copts, Roman Christians, Muslims, Jews, work, live, and accept each other, for the most part.. There are some places radicalization has opened rifts, but stability is the norm.. With the inclusion and concurrent recognition of the Muslim Brotherhood into the political forum, there is yet another volatile faction in that country..
There are some analysts who have announced their take on the subject to suggest either another dictator, or an army strongman can assume the reins and restore order, with the promise that elections will be held in September as planned..
But there is also a considerable pro-democracy group.. The youth of the country appear to appreciate a possession driven culture, which means if there is a move by the military, then they themselves will face mass demonstrations at some point. Once in place, it's so very difficult to remove an army..
This could be very interesting..

As the night has progressed, it's become clear that Hosni may well have an agenda, a 'to do list', before he relinquishes the title..
One issue he's carved in stone, is the peace treaty with Israel..
And another may simply be hubris.. not wanting to be seen as running from a mob..
There were Pharaohs who ruled shorter terms in office... and in fact he's a shell of a power, having handed over most of his executive powers to his Vice President, but the weight of the title 'President' is something Hosni, for whatever reason, is clinging to.. It might be as simple as removing evidence.. or as complex as Middle Eastern Security.. or a serious concern for a return to normalcy while preparations for a September election could be set into motion.. a concern that any knee-jerk reaction from his people could lead them into chaos, with no government in control any longer..
Interesting as well that Mohammad ElBaradai is wafting the flames, and calling on the Military to effectively stage a coup..

Also interesting is the lack of reports within Israel itself on Egypt's revolt.. News is thin on the ground.. not much media attention..
Of course there's the Net, and countless live feeds.. But the State itself has not made plain to the population just how important this 'revolution' in Egypt, is to them. While it is almost a given that the relationship between the two countries will continue as they have since Sadat was assassinated, there is always the fear, that something completely difficult might arise..

Thursday, February 10, 2011

No deal, says Hosni.. He's going in September when he previously promised..
Now, the largest rally yet is slated to hit Tahir Square, and they will not be pleased.
Just how this one will play out is moot for the moment, but consider what half a million people, with no interference from the army, could do to Cairo..
Indeed, to Hosni himself..
It's the late part of the night in Egypt, and what could dawn bring.. already reports are they're marching towards the State television centre..
Israel will be watching this closely, of that we can be sure..
If it comes to violent overthrow, the prevalent mood could work on the fanatic few..
An interesting debate in the Commons this afternoon, as to whether the European Courts have the right to demand legislative changes in the member countries..
Shadow Secretary of State George Osborne perhaps put it well in saying "If you break the Law, you can't make the Law.
That has always been one of the foundations of British Jurisprudence, that while prisoners do have the right to humane treatment while incarcerated, they lose the rights of law-abiding citizens, one of which is the franchise.
But perhaps the salient point, is how far are we as a nation going to be influenced by a foreign Court.. will Parliament itself be subject to the Hague..
Speaking as one who would prefer a return to the old Free Trade Agreement and a stepping away from the Eurozone, It is deplorable that we should abrogate, effectively, the right to govern ourselves..

It may be that we'll see Hosni retire today or tomorrow.. Reports are that he's about at the end of his rope, with the Egyptian Security Supreme Council announcing to the protestors that they have the army's support, and it appears Hosni's going, perhaps today.. Even the Director of the CIA agrees that today might be the day..although what part the CIA is playing in this drama is as yet, uncertain. We'll have to wait for Wikileaks to tell us..
Interesting as well is a phone conversation between Barack and high Egyptian politicians, again urging an 'orderly transition'..
But Hosni, through his media spokespeople, has said this all is so much bumph..
We'll see.. tomorrow's meant to be the largest demonstration yet, and if all goes well, it could be a gigantic party..

The Bank of England has held interest rates at 0.5%, and indicates there'll be no quantative easing for the time being..
Yet, small businesses are still paying some 14.5% interest on loans.. with many deciding to shut down for the time being until the economic situation in general improves.. One hopes they're a patient lot..
The head of the Bank of England, Mervyn King, indicated that this was a surprise decrease in GDP of 0.5%, coupled with a 3.5% increase in the Consumer Price Index..
Food, gasoline, heating oil, the basics on this island, have gone up exponentially over the past few months, and Mervyn says inflation could perhaps reach 4.5% to 5% next month.. bad news for those among us on fixed incomes..
Home grown terrorists appears to be the focus of the American Homeland Security people.. Janet Napolitano, who's the head of that agency, says more and more terrorist scenarios are from within, and they're monitoring the internet closely..
That gives one a certain feeling, perhaps not a comfortable one at that, knowing Big Brother exists, and is fully active.
What's happened to the Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave..?
Bad enough the knee jerk reaction in the 2d world war when they gathered up all those of Japanese extraction and interred them, flagrantly flouting the Constitution.. What they are doing now is immesurably worse, for it's all of us under the microscope not..
All in the name of 'security'.. to save us all..
Jesus wept..

Seems the US is willing to throw some weight behind it's 'suggestions' to Hosni to make a quick gettaway.. Joe Biden has asked for an immediate end to the manner in which Egyptian forces deal with protestors, with Egyptian Foreign Minister Abdul Abould Gheit firing back with 'sovereign rights' and reiterating Hosni's promise not to run again in September..
Although what that man hopes to accomplish by spending the next seven months in power is an utter mystery, unless it a plan to destroy in Egyptian economy entirely..
We need the Suez clear, and without threat. Our oil supplies depend on it. We need to see the Egyptian public assuming a regular lifestyle again, preferably with a government that represents them..
Interesting that the Muslim Brotherhood has been included in talks to re-stabalize the situation, for it's the Islamic threat that has Israel most concerned..
From Tunisia, or actually from the Gold Coast, revolutions have tossed incumbent politicians out.. Now we wait to see what 'reforms' are brought into effect.. whether the tribalism of that continent can be overcome..

Thursday, February 03, 2011

Egypt continues to dominate reports.. The battle for Tahrir Square in the centre of Cairo has turned worryingly violent, as those dubbed 'pro-Mubarak thugs' have introduced firearms to the equation.. 10 dead and more than 900 injured today..
This is a development that's costing the country billions of dollars.. The tourism industry is in tatters.. oil production has slowed.. the cotton industry has virtually come to a stop, with exports falling drastically..
Interestingly, while the Internet and mobile phone networks had been shut down during the peacefull demonstrations, are now back up, coinciding with the appearance of the pro-Mubarak movement. That, in itself, is to allow the 'pro' faction to release their own video's and messages. Another development is the growing inability of the army.. there are far too few deployed and those on the ground appear to be less and less effective
Somewhat dicey, that..

Yemen may well be the next to revolt.. Today was meant to be a 'Day of Rage', but while tens of thousands turned up to demonstrate..quietly.
However, it's early days..

A disturbing report released today, indicationg that fully a third of students attending British University are under qualified.. It may well be a fee issue, for there are many students here that come from abroad, where qualification levels could well be less than those demanded here. A British education used to mean the graduate had an excellent quality and well equipt to take on senior positions. This has changed to some degree over the past couple of decades, but figures the like of these will de-value our credibility even more.
Shame, that..

More later..
A somewhat disturbing trend developing in this country..
Some patients are simply too obese to fit in the normal size ambulances, so the NHS is planning to buy a fleet of what they call 'bariatric' vehicles to accomodate the growing number of overweight patients.
These bariatric ambulances cost £90 thousand apiece.. Might be cheaper to subsidise liposuction to all those who need it..

The appearance of government supporters has turned Egypts protests into something violent..
What were peacefull mass demonstrations has turned ugly, with the introduction of firearms..three are reported dead already, and more than 600 injured..
This would apparently show the lengths Hosni will go to, to retain power..Speculation is that thugs have been imported to brew trouble..
As mentioned earlier, he has promised to step down in September, but has made the same pledge three times before. These latest deveopments indicate the schism developing in that country between the young and the old, and as Mubarak orders more and more government workers, afraid of losing their jobs in a transition, the suggestion is that this will not be an orderly handover of power, but a running battle to oust the autocracy..
Shame, for the initial movement was a template for orderly protests, but again, the voice of the people has been drowned out by gunfire, and the promise of further confrontation to come..

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

A point to ponder..
Here, the Social Welfare system has an application of 'housing benefit' which allows those on the dole can stay in their rented accomodation without reducing their disposable income..This benefit is about to be capped, at £400 per week, causing some concern for landlords..
'£400 a week ?!' you say. Incredible..
Yet there's more to the system here. When you're chucked out of your home at 16, a common occurance over here, the system starts you on a treadmill. You start be being sent to bed-and-breakfasts 'til there's room for you at a half-way house. These accomodations can cost £20 to £25 a night. Then you are sent to the half-way house, where you will be paying upwards of £380 a week.. Once you have a Council House, unless you are on full benefits, you'll pay some £56, a week..a fair whack for those single folks, who bring in a total of £78 per week..
While appearing to be perhaps overly generous, in some cases this cap is going to be quite a hardship..
Perhaps it's time for the landlords, who've been raking in these fees, to cut their profit margin, thereby doing their own part in the recovery..
Yes. And that's going to happen.

Egyptian protests have taken a turn.. the pro-mubarak faction was out in numbers today, clashing in some locations with their counterparts..
The army has asked that people go home..start normal life again.
They have already achieved several concessions, the primary being a statement from Hosni assuring that he will not run again in September..
Mind you, this is the third time he's made that promise..

The largest cyclone on record has hit the northeastern areas of Australia.. There are some saying that in comparison to Katrina, this one has the capability of being even more damaging.
Considering the extremes we've seen worldwide weather of late.. record snowfalls in Britain and the Continent.. blizzards sweeping the American midwest.. drought in Africa..
It's apparently won't be long before, as in the late 17th and 18th Century, be roasting oxen on the ice covered Thames..
We appear to be witnessing another successful African coup.. Hosni hasn't much time left before he's removed. One would hope the mood on the street is one Egyptians embrace, that of a universal franchise and imediate elections.
Mohammad el Baradi would appear to be the front runner, and his leaning has always been towards a pro-West stance..
But Barack has also thrown the weight on the issue, having told Hosni it's time to take a powder.. calling for an orderly change in government, now..
And the trillion dollars p.a. the US gives Egypt may be on the line gives that man a stick to wave..
Interesting, the role of the military in this effort.. by announcing it would not use force against their own people it has prompted an amazingly orderly series of massive protests.
Any day now...
Although there is another point of view. The older generation seems for the most part, to be content with Hosnis word that he'll step down in September..and if these protests continue, they may well find their ranks dwindling as some return to work and get on with business. There's undoubtedly a hard core who will continue with their demonstrations, but there is the possibility this may come to nought, as far as an immediate end to Hosni's 30 year rule..

To watch the transition in North Africa is somewhat like watching a wave of mainly the young demanding an end to the inculcated attitudes of their parents.. It's a wave generated by this electronic medium, this internet.
It's beyond comprehension, the effect this medium has had on this movement.
Goes to show, that instant communication of information has an impact..

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Egypt appears to be the main topic of news reports these days..
With hundreds of thousands of Egyptians taking to the street in four major cities, it cannot be long before Hosni gives up the ghost and resigns.. But what happens afterwards is the major concern to the West. As Henry Kissenger, in an interview said, 'We don't truely know what the Egyptian people mean by 'democracy' and if there is a swing towards the Muslim Government in Septembers general elecions, Israel may well find itself facing new threats, something the US will not look kindly upon.
This spirit of insurrection has spread over these past few weeks from Gold Coast to now, Egypt, and the next regeme likely to be attacked is Jordan..
And what that will mean for the price of oil, we can only expect our household costs to rise, and rise again.
Even more ammunition for those lobbying for drilling in the arctic, and fuller fevelopment of the Gulf of Mexico. Alberta's shale deposits, dispite the extra costs involved in extraction, could once again be important..
We're in an interesting time these days..
It must be questioned by a number of people in a myriad of faiths, the nature of their peculiar gods.
Roman Christians live in guilt..the other Christian denominations live in the hope of life eternal, and are overjoyed to pray to a benevolent god.. Muslims believe of proselatizing the entire world and the re-establishment of the Caliphate, and are quite willing to die for it.. The Jews believe their salvation has yet to appear, while praying to a god who throughout history has led from from one disaster to another...Buddhist believe in reincarnation, as do Taoists.. yet another turn around the wheel..
But at some time throughout their lives, they undoubtedly wondered if they were following a dead end track..
It would require an epiphany not unlike that reported by Saul of Tarsus to bring each back to a stste of total confidence.
Especially with the world in it's present state.

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