Poem of the Day: The Universe Breathes

Louise Bogan, “Night” (1954)

The cold remote islands,
And the blue estuaries
Where what breathes, breathes
The restless wind of the inlets,
And what drinks, drinks
The incoming tide,

Where shell and weed
Wait upon the salt wash of the sea,
And the clear nights of stars
Swing their lights westward
To set behind the land;

Where the pulse clinging to the rocks
Renews itself forever;
Where, again on cloudless nights,
The water reflects
The firmament’s partial setting;

–O remember
In your narrowing darkhours
That more things move
Than blood in the heart.

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Not Yet

Something that is not yet can be–if you embody it.

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Poem of the Day: In honor of those who do the work behind the scenes and move the world forward

Marge Piercy,  “To be of Use” (from The Art of Blessing the Day:  Poems with a Jewish Theme: New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1999)

The people I love the best
jump into work head first
without dallying in the shallows
and swim off with sure strokes almost out of sight.
They seem to become natives of that element,
the black sleek heads of seals
bouncing like half-submerged balls.

I love people who harness themselves, an ox to a heavy cart
who pull like water buffalo, with massive patience,
who strain in the mud and the muck to move things forward,
who do what has to be done, again and again

I want to be with people who submerge
in the task, who go into the fields to harvest
and work in a row and pass the bags along,
who are not parlor generals and field deserters
but move in a common rhythm
when the food must come in or the fire be put out

The work of the world is common as mud
Botched, it smears the hands, crumbles to dust.
But the thing worth doing well done
has a shape that satisfies, clean and evident.
Greek amphoras for wine or oil,
Hopi vases that held corn, are put in museums
but you know they were made to be used.
The pitcher cries for water to carry
and a person for work that is real.

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Justice

Justice is rare, but always worth pursuing.  It is the hidden light we seek.

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Hamas, the Muslim Brotherhood, and Yusuf al-Qaradawi

Relations between the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas are close, as this article indicates.  And now Hamas has invited one of the charismatic leaders of the Brotherhood to Gaza, Yusuf al-Qaradawi.  Egyptian Qaradawi has frequently called for jihad against Israel and Jews, the destruction of Israel, and has said that he himself looks forward to coming to Israel to personally shoot Jews.

http://www.terrorism-info.org.il/malam_multimedia/English/eng_n/html/hamas_e137.htm

For more on Qaradawi and his hatred of Jews, see the following:

http://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2011/02/sheikh-qaradawi-seeks-total-war/71626/

http://www.camera.org/index.asp?x_context=2&x_outlet=35&x_article=2000 (this discusses not only Qaradawi’s anti-semitism, his love for Hitler and his hopes for another even more successful Jewish holocaust, but also his support for female genital mutilation and wife beating, suicide killers, the fatwa ordering the murder of Salman Rushdie, the execution of apostates, and laws treating religious minorities differently.  The author emphasizes the whitewashing of Muslim Brotherhood hatred and violence in the New York Times.

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Palestinian Youth Seek to End Gaza and West Bank Schism

This does not bode well for Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations.   There are also deep conflicts between Islamist Hamas and secular PLO/Fatah.

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/02/25/world/middleeast/25ramallah.html?hp

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Lara Logan and the Treatment of Women in Egypt

Why does the Western left rip Israel, but go silent on the treatment of women, minorities, and gays in Muslim countries?

The statistics are stunning:  about 35% of Egyptian wives report having experienced violence from their husbands. over 80% of Egyptian women have experienced sexual harassment, and over 50% of Egyptian women have been molested (many wearing modest Islamic dress).  And this just refers to reported incidents:  unreported incidents are likely to make the actual totals far higher:

http://www.boston.com/bostonglobe/editorial_opinion/oped/articles/2011/02/20/no_rights_for_women_no_freedom_in_a_nation/

And over 90% of Egyptian women from 15-49 have undergone genital mutilation: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/evelyn-leopold/female-circumcism—-90-p_b_822283.html

This does not mean that there are not wonderful things about Muslim cultures, but it means that we have to examine them honestly.  It also means that blanket criticism of Israel (without corresponding critiques of neighboring societies). is unwarranted and unjust.

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Israel’s Relations with Egypt

A discussion of Egyptian-Israeli relations.  A good analysis.
http://washingtoninstitute.org/templateC05.php?CID=3312

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Turkey as Regional Muslim Power

Turkey is growing in influence in the Middle East because of its closeness to the Muslim Brotherhood:
http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/n.php?n=arab-revolt-makes-turkey-a-regional-power-2011-02-16

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Iran Republican Guard Not To Participate in Crackdown

Iran’s Republican Guard is sending out signals that it will not participate in crackdowns on protesters:  a very positive development if true.

http://www.nypost.com/p/news/opinion/opedcolumnists/the_revo_guard_skips_crackdown_YtzutLv7pAzzVHZqZWVX7I

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Major Setback at Iranian Nuclear Plant

This is significant news, suggesting that Iran may lack technical nuclear competency and that the tech attacks may well have had significant impact.  It provides more time for peaceful change in the Middle East

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/02/26/world/middleeast/26nuke.html?hp=&pagewanted=all

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Syria’s Nuclear Plans

More evidence has emerged of Syria’s nuclear facilities, which Israel destroyed.  What Israel did here prevented a catastrophe.

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748703842004576163082774601552.html?mod=rss_middle_east_news

At the same time, Syria seems to have more nuclear plans:

http://isis-online.org/isis-reports/detail/satellite-image-shows-suspected-uranium-conversion-plant-in-syria1/


http://www.jpost.com/Defense/Article.aspx?id=209812

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Iran Republican Guard Not To Participate in Crackdown

Iran’s Republican Guard is sending out signals that it will not participate in crackdowns on protesters:  a very positive development if true.

http://www.nypost.com/p/news/opinion/opedcolumnists/the_revo_guard_skips_crackdown_YtzutLv7pAzzVHZqZWVX7I

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Wikipedia’s Gender Gap

Few contributors to Wikipedia are women.  Why, and what can Wikipedia do intentionally to change that? (via Dianne Bazell)

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/01/31/business/media/31link.html?_r=1

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U.S. Chamber of Commerce Hacks Activist Computers

We talk a lot about bullies in schools, but what about these bullies?

http://thinkprogress.org/2011/02/17/chamberleaks-malware-hacking/

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Koch Brothers Buy Wisconsin

This article discusses the enormous amount of money the Koch brothers invested in the Wisconsin governor’s race:  http://www.prwatch.org/news/2011/02/9964/cmd-special-report-scott-walker-runs-koch-money

And this was before the prank call!!

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Patterns of Meaning and Purpose

Every move we make, even the mistakes, fit into a pattern of meaning and purpose, which reveals itself in time through wisdom.

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Wisconsin: Fraying of Union Bonds


Very sad, because working people need to stick together.  But anti-labor forces (plus the ineptitude and corruption of unions) have managed to split union and non-union workers and the employed and the unemployed by creating envy and resentment:  if I don’t have a job, then you shouldn’t have any benefits.  This is self-destructive for everybody, except for the extreme wealthy and for corporations that run the show.  The last quote blows me away, where a woman says that we don’t really need unions anymore, because “there’s laws that protect us.”  Obviously she’s incredibly (obtusely) naive, but the forces of economic domination have tricked her and many others like her.  To quote the Pete Seeger’s song:  “When will we learn, when will we ever learn?”

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/02/22/us/22union.html?hp

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The Suicide of Dave Duerson and NFL Brain Injuries


Dave Duerson shot himself in the chest in order to preserve his brain for research.  Concussive injuries in football are increasingly implicated in brain disorders.

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/02/20/sports/football/20duerson.html

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Cairo and Madison: Common Dreams

Cairo and Madison share a common dream:  http://www.commondreams.org/view/2011/02/21-11

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The Muslim Brotherhood’s Internal Divisions

The Muslim Brotherhood is not monolithic, and it may receive less support when it is not the only alternative.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2011/02/21/AR2011022102498.html

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al-Qaradawi Returns to Egypt and Publicly Attacks Israel

This is a danger that the Egyptian democratic movement must confront clearly and courageously.

http://www.jpost.com/Opinion/Columnists/Article.aspx?id=209102

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Tunisia: Islamists Demonstrate Against Jews

This is the other side of Middle Eastern protests and freedom movements:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zQHdxYDTH_Y
http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-4030359,00.html

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Egypt Able to Use Internet Cut-Off Switch

I wonder if the U.S. has such a capacity.  Hmm . . .

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/02/16/technology/16internet.html?_r=1&hp=&pagewanted=all

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A Speck of Light

Finding a speck of light in the midst of darkness–sometimes that’s all we can do.  And that’s more than enough.

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Fallow

The fallow allows for the fertile.

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Why Isn’t Wall Street in Prison


No one from Wall Street ends up in prison.  Why?  Because the the politicians and government bureaucrats are bought off.  This analysis of Matt Taibbi says it all.

http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/why-isnt-wall-street-in-jail-20110216?print=true

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“Abbas’s Intifada: Isolating Israel and Unilateral Steps”

The strategy of Abbas is not violence, but the diplomatic isolation of Israel and the unilateral declaration of a Palestinian state, with borders and parameters not to be determined by negotiation, but by fiat.

http://www.hudson-ny.org/1899/abbas-intifada

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British Trade Union Movement, Israel, and Boycotts

The British Trade Union Movement has been co-opted by anti-Israel, pro-Palestinian activists, committed to ending the existence of Israel as a Jewish state.

http://www.jcpa.org/JCPA/Templates/ShowPage.asp?DRIT=3&DBID=1&LNGID=1&TMID=111&FID=624&PID=0&IID=6082&TTL=The_British_Trade_Union_Movement,_Israel,_and_Boycotts

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Israel Transit Ads War on US Buses


This reflects increasing polarization in our country and more aggressive anti-Israel campaigning.

http://www.jta.org/news/article/2011/02/08/2742900/battle-over-mideast-transit-ads-heating-up-across-the-country

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Another Thought on Israel-Palestinian Peace Negotiations

Recently a New York times articles explained how close Israel and the Palestinian Authority were to completing a peace treaty under Israel’s Prime Minister Olmert.  Upon further reflection, I have some doubts.  It is in the interests of both Abbas and Olmert to exaggerate the proximity of a deal.  Olmert wants to contrast himself  with Netanyahu and present himself as great Israeli leader.  Abbas wants the West to think how great he is for giving up so much to the Israelis.

But the question is twofold:  Is Abbas ready to give up the right of return for millions of Palestinians (which is the only way for Israel to remain a Jewish state), to reject the demands of militant members of Fatah,  to accept Israeli authority over some Jewish settlements in the West Bank and Jewish neighborhoods in East Jerusalem, to acknowledge that Jews have some rights on the Temple Mount (which is also the location of the Al-Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock), and to stop engaging in antisemitic rhetoric, particularly in its schools?  Is Israel ready to take a risk on a Palestinian Authority that has had a history of corruption and not following through on its commitments, to remove settlers who may well respond violently against the Israeli military, to remove its authority from sites and places that have a centuries-long Jewish presence, to surrender military and security advantages, and to allow East Jerusalem as the Palestinian capital?

I am not sure that either side is prepared to act at this time.  The biggest challenge for both will be the militant, violent opponents of peace and reconciliation:  some Jewish settlers, as well as  militant members of Fatah and Islamist Hamas.  I don’t believe that either Israel or the PA has confidence in taking that risk without substantial support from the U.S.  And even with it, the Palestinians may need to continue their economic and political development to a point where Palestinian political leaders can face down militant ideologies and where Israel can have confidence and trust in taking a substantial risk– both internally with some potentially violent settlers and externally with a group that has historically hated Israel and wished to annihilate it.

Still everyone knows the outlines of a deal.  While the recent tectonic shifts in the Middle East could usher in a period of instability and tension, they also have a real possibility of producing authentic democratic, free societies, capable of dealing with a Jewish state.  This could therefore be a time out of which a meaningful agreement might emerge.  We shall see.

http://mysticscholar.org/2011/02/11/israel-palestinian-peace-treaty-so-close/

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Protests Spreading Beyond Middle East–to China and Zimbabwe

Freedom is a global movement that has moved beyond the Middle East to China and Zimbabwe.

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/02/21/world/asia/21china.html
http://www.nytimes.com/2011/02/22/world/africa/22zimbabwe.html?hp

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Iran’s Nuclear Mining Deals with Ecuador and Venezuela


Iran attempts to gain access to uranium in South America.

http://shadow.foreignpolicy.com/posts/2011/02/15/irans_man_in_ecuador

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Bahrain and Iran


An excellent analysis of this potential social and religious powder keg, where ethnic and religious conflict lies just beneath the surface.  US policy has glossed over much of this, but the chickens are coming home to roost.  Now is the time to encourage peaceful, democratic change in order to avoid an extremist religious Shiite takeover.
http://jerusalemcenter.wordpress.com/2011/02/20/could-the-kingdom-of-bahrain-become-an-iranian-pearl-harbor/

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Economics and Our Op-Ed

Some doubt has been cast on the importance of Israel to the US economy and jobs.   However, many underestimate the importance of Israel in global technology, especially in computers, health care and agriculture.  It is large.  We live in an interconnected world, and our economic relations with other countries (including foreign aid) have an economic impact on our own economy.  We cannot go it alone.  No one can.

See http://mysticscholar.org/2011/02/22/aid-to-israel-protects-us-interests/

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Drones and Our Israel Op-Ed

Apparently drones bring forth a lot of emotion and strong opinion.   Here is my response to some of those who have questioned the drone example in the Lexington Herald-Leader op-ed.

Many drones are used for surveillance purposes, but drones are also used for attacks:  e.g. General Atomics MQ-1 Predators with Hellfire missiles (which have successfully killed a number of al-Qaeda and Taliban operatives, among others); and now the General Atomics MQ-9 Reaper.  I think that these weapons are just the beginning, and war will be fought increasingly virtually.  No question that this presents moral problems, but we cannot avoid questions by just saying “No.”  That’s not going to happen, nor should it.  In my view, drones save lives.  Strategic, tactical, and fighter bombers have a much greater likelihood of dropping their loads in the wrong places (in spite of major improvements in accuracy).  Ballistic missiles and artillery are not better.  Infantry operations can be even more dangerous for civilians.

The larger question is:  When military action is necessary, how do we have successful operations and minimize the killing of civilians?  The emotions that drones induce have more do with symbolism and PR than with actual facts on the ground.

I believe that drone technology is helpful overall, because it saves US and Coalition lives and because killing of civilians is less likely (even though it still tragically occurs). War has always been characterized by awful, hideous events.  Drones are not the reason they happen.  Nor do drones fuel insurgencies in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Yemen.  Problems existed in those countries long before drones.  Americans seem to think that we have this great influence on the world and that we are the main drivers of events–it’s a kind of imperialism that exists on both the right and the left.  But people all over the world have their own motivations and reasons for doing what they do that have nothing to do with the US or with Israel.  There are independent actors, and we don’t pull everybody’s strings.

Drone technology is simply one concrete illustration of military cooperation and research.  However, one could also pint to other military items that the Israelis have developed (or helped to develop) that the US employs:  Python missiles, Gabriel missiles, SMAW anti-tank guided missiles, Simon breach grenades, Samson Remote Control Weapons Stations, etc.  Of course, Israel also uses US weapons:  F15s and F16s, transport planes, Apache attack helicopters, transport helicopters, howitzers, missiles (including Hellfire, Maverick, Sidewinder, and Stinger) and now the Arrow Missile Defense System, among others.  The US military clearly understands Israeli weapons research as a major strategic advantage for the US, and the Israelis naturally know the importance of US weapons for them.  The relationship is symbiotic and a part of our economy–even though I would love to see a time when the need for this is greatly reduced.

The question is not drones.  The question is military action in general.  I agree that not every time is a military option the best option.  In my view, both the US and Israel have sometimes forgotten this.  Still military elements are a crucial part of self-defense.  Without them, Israel would be annihilated and Jews slaughtered. In other locations, projecting military strength is required (even though the US might sometimes overplay its hand).  Having weapons is often more powerful than using them, but that is only the case when at least occasionally we do use them.

UPDATE:  On March 1, 2011, the IDF employed a new, defensive weapon, called the Trophy active protection system, designed to protect tanks from missiles.   This is a significant upgrade for tank and armored car protection.  During the Lebanon war, Israeli tanks suffered damage from hand-held, rocket-propelled grenades.  The Israelis designed this system, and it will undoubtedly become important for the U.S. military as well.  There is further similar technology in the pipeline as well.

http://www.jpost.com/Opinion/Editorials/Article.aspx?id=210540

See our op-ed: http://mysticscholar.org/2011/02/22/aid-to-israel-protects-us-interests/

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Aid to Israel Protects US Interests

AID TO ISRAEL PROTECTS US INTERESTS

Lexington Herald Leader Op-Ed

By Linda Ravvin, Laurence H. Kant and Mike Grossman

Posted: 12:00am on Feb 18, 2011; Modified: 7:45am on Feb 18, 2011

Sen. Rand Paul recently stated that not only does he advocate cutting off U.S. aid to Israel, but he sees that aid as fueling a Middle Eastern arms race.

As a proportion of the total budget, aid to Israel is negligible. The Israeli military has been purchasing American military hardware for many years, and an elimination of this money would cost the U.S. many manufacturing jobs.

Additionally, Israel has been at the forefront of developing military technology, and U.S. military aid funds joint projects that the American military has taken advantage of in Iraq and Afghanistan. This includes drone technology, which has saved countless American and coalition lives.

It is safe to say that Israeli technological achievements (which are at least partially funded by U.S. military aid) have helped keep American troops safer.

Israel is the only full-fledged democracy in the region. Tiny as it is, with only 7 million people, its presence serves as a model for the development of other democracies and free-market societies in the region.

Its own Arab population (including Muslims, Christians and Druze) has more freedom, legal rights, social mobility and economic opportunity than the vast majority of Arabs elsewhere in the Middle East. Many Arabs (Palestinians and others) seek to enter Israel because of the work opportunities afforded by its vibrant, high-tech economy.

Per capita, Israel has the highest level of technological entrepreneurship in the world, supported by a deep commitment to education. U.S. military aid to Israel allows Israel to continue its leadership in this (in spite of Israel’s own large military budget) and work as a partner with the U.S. in creating a global high tech economy. This means jobs for U.S. citizens as well.

Israel’s neighbors dwarf it in both population and geographical size. Many of these neighbors are sworn to Israel’s destruction. While Israel will never have a quantitative edge militarily, Israel does have a qualitative edge, and it is this edge (partially due to U.S. military aid) that has prevented its destruction.

If Israel were to lose that qualitative edge, its enemies would certainly become emboldened, and the likelihood of a new and destructive war in the Middle East would substantially increase. Given our continued dependence on oil and our other strategic interests, this would almost certainly mean a much heavier financial and military U.S. investment in the Middle East than currently exists.

U.S. military support for Israel actually increases the likelihood for peace. Israel’s qualitative military advantage makes it significantly more likely that it will take the risks necessary for a comprehensive peace agreement with the Palestinians (and the Syrians as well). Should Israel lose U.S. military support, it would certainly not be willing to withdraw from any militarily strategic positions it currently controls, negating the land-for-peace formula of United Nations resolutions.

The main backer of state terrorism and global jihad is Iran, and a decrease in Israel’s military advantage (which would certainly occur should aid be reduced) would cause Iran to further fund anti-Israel and anti-American militias throughout the region.

Israel has been on the front line of the global war on terror for many years. Unfortunately, it appears that Israel will be forced to fight this war for many years to come.

Given the burgeoning grass-roots movements for freedom and democracy in the Arab/Muslim world (especially in Tunisia and Egypt), U.S. involvement in the Middle East and commitment to Israel are more important than ever. When a region reaches a turning point that has profound implications for the world and for America’s own interests, the U.S. should not retreat, but stay engaged.

Nobody disputes that fiscal responsibility is a vitally important goal for our nation and that we will have to make painful budgetary sacrifices. Aid to Israel is in the interest of the U.S. from a financial, strategic and moral standpoint. We encourage Paul to reconsider his stance on this issue and to support fully funding our commitments to Israel.

Linda Ravvin is president of the Jewish Federation of the Bluegrass; Laurence H. Kant is chair and Mike Grossman is co-chair of the Jewish Community Relations Committee.

http://www.kentucky.com/2011/02/18/1640058/aid-to-israel-protects-us-interests.html#more

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Tunisia: Secular and Religion


Tunisia has a very proud civil, secular tradition that includes women’s rights.  With the collapse of the dictatorship of Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali, Tunisian society and politics are at a crossroads.

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/02/21/world/africa/21tunisia.html?_r=1&hp

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Religion Not Important in Egypt Revolution


Despite the understandable talk about the Muslim Brotherhood, the revolt in Egypt (and throughout the Middle East) has not been about religion, but about economic opportunity and freedom.  This is a secular issue.  While this does not guarantee that religious extremists will not come to power in the midst of chaos, it suggests that there is tremendous pressure against that scenario.

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/02/16/world/middleeast/16islam.html?hp=&pagewanted=all

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Libya: Qaddafi and the Art of Violent Repression

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