US Plans to “Aid Democracy” in Egypt

With all the turmoil in the Middle East, it’s good to see that the US Government has learned a lesson not to repeat the same mistakes of meddling in other countries’ affairs … oh wait

Now that Hosni Mubarak is getting accustomed to life as an ex-dictator, Barack Obama and his foreign-policy aides have a new task. Washington has publicly called for an Egyptian transition to democracy, which Egypt has never known.

To avoid a continuation of dictatorial rule under a new strongman — or a dangerous power vacuum as weaker players try to seize control — Egypt will need to see the lightning-fast development of long-suppressed political parties.

So the U.S. is preparing a new package of assistance to Egyptian opposition groups, designed to help with constitutional reform, democratic development and election organizing, State Department officials tell TIME. The package is still being formulated, and the officials decline to say how much it would be worth or to which groups it would be directed.


The Obama Administration cut democracy-and-governance aid to Egyptian opposition groups in its first two years in office, from $45 million in George W. Bush’s last budget to $25 million for the 2010 and 2011 fiscal years. The Obama Administration also stopped providing aid to groups that had not registered with the Egyptian government, drawing criticism from human-rights organizations.

How someone can read/write this stuff and keep a straight face simply amazes me.

So the US government finally begins to wind down its meddling, a peaceful revolution ensues, and the first thing they want to do is step up their meddling again.

Guys, it’s fine. Just once keep your sleazy fingers out this one time. Is it really that hard to just let people live their lives and decide their own destiny?

Just look at Iraq. What has the maximum level of meddling accomplished for the people? Ongoing civil unrests, water and foot shortages and 5-20 Iraqis A DAY dying in battle.

Don’t get me wrong. I have no illusions. I’m merely attacking the abstract moral justifications for this endeavor. I am perfectly aware that foreign aid is in actuality nothing but another way to rip off US taxpayers at minimal to no oversight in order to shovel money into the pockets of lobbyists and contractors.

On, and in case it’s of interest, the US government owes the Egyptians over $34 billion. Go figure …

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Egypt – Food Prices Rise; Distribution Breaks Down

The New York times writes Political Crisis Starts to Be Felt Economically:

An army tank stands guard at the port of Alexandria to make sure no one gets in. The bigger problem is that next to nothing is going out.

For four days now, containers arriving on ships have been stacking up at Egypt’s largest port, shipping company employees and truck drivers here said. With distribution networks barely functioning and the Internet down since Thursday night, much of business in Egypt has nearly ground to a halt.

While protests remain at the center of attention, as jets fly over Liberation Square and escaped prisoners instill fear in the public, the political crisis could turn into a humanitarian one if the current economic paralysis continues.

A big part of the production system is government-run, and this is frozen, including many of the bakeries making the subsidized bread,” said Hoda Youssef, an economist at the Arab Forum for Alternatives, an independent think tank, and a lecturer at Cairo University. “Here in the short term — today, tomorrow, the coming few days — we might have a serious problem with shortages of food, water and fuel,” Ms. Youssef said.

May I humbly suggest a simply solution: Do away with legalized aggression, that is disband the government and all its “security” forces now, and supplies will start to flow again quickly.

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Egypt Debt Riskier Than Iraq; Instability Spreads in Middle East

To pick up on Government Collapses, Crises, and Protests Around the World

Bloomberg reports Egypt Riskier Than Iraq in Swaps as Protests Spread to Mubarak:

Egypt is riskier than Iraq in the market for credit default swaps for the first time in at least a year after protests denouncing President Hosni Mubarak.

The cost of protecting Egyptian debt against default for five years with the contracts jumped 69 basis points, or 0.69 percentage points, this week to 375 today, compared with 328 for Iraq, according to prices from CMA, a data provider in London. Just last week, Iraqi swaps cost 19 basis points more than Egypt’s, and in June, an average 240 basis points more, as Iraq recovered from the U.S.-led invasion in 2003.

The unrest, inspired by the revolt that toppled Tunisia’s leader, “does raise political risks,” said Eric Fine, a portfolio manager in New York who helps Van Eck Associates Corp. oversee $3 billion in emerging-market assets. “If this is a revolution, the price of risk for Egypt could go much higher, and if it’s a failed one” the cost will drop to 300 basis points and probably 250, Fine said in a phone interview.

Higher borrowing costs may crimp Egypt’s ability to meet its target of cutting the budget deficit to 3 percent of gross domestic product by 2015 from the current 8 percent. Yields at the government’s debt auction climbed this week. The average rate on 91-day bills rose 30 basis points from the previous sale to 9.5 percent, while the yield on 182-day bills advanced 20 basis points to 10.2 percent, data compiled by Bloomberg show.

Here’s an anonymous message:

In addition it seems like something’s happening in Yemen

Also on Thursday, thousands of protesters took to the streets of Yemen, one of the Middle East’s most impoverished countries, demanding the ouster of the 32-year-old American-backed government of Ali Abdullah Saleh, vowing to continue until the government either fell or consented to reforms.

… and in Algeria

Algeria’s President Abdelaziz Bouteflika is considering high-level cabinet changed in hope of showing a reformist bent after the country was shaken by riots, people familiar with the matter said.

There is no clear timing for the changes, but one scenario under consideration would include the promotion of Energy Minister Youcef Yousfi to be the new prime minister, replacing current Prime Minister Ahmed Ouyahia, they said. Such a move could be part of a broader reshuffle aimed at replacing officials with ties to political parties with technical experts whose reputations remain intact after the protests.

… and last but not least there are some really impressive pictures here.

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Government Collapses, Crises, and Protests Around the World

Something seems to be brewing these days, now doesn’t it?

January 12th: In Lebanon the unity government collapses:

Lebanon’s unity government has collapsed after the Hezbollah movement and its political allies resigned from the cabinet over arguments stemming from a UN investigation into the assassination of Rafiq al-Hariri, the former Lebanese prime minister, in 2005.

January 14th: In Tunisia the President has stepped down and a state of emergency has been declared:

Tunisian President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali has stepped down after 23 years in power as protests over economic issues snowballed into rallies against him.

Prime Minister Mohammed Ghannouchi has taken over as interim president, and a state of emergency has been declared.

Mr Ben Ali left Tunisia with his family, and has since arrived in Saudi Arabia, officials said.

Earlier, French media said President Nicolas Sarkozy had rejected a request for his plane to land in France.

Dozens of people have died in recent weeks as unrest has swept the country and security forces have cracked down on demonstrations over unemployment, food price rises and corruption.


The protests started after an unemployed graduate set himself on fire when police tried to prevent him from selling vegetables without a permit. He died a few weeks later.

Note what’s at the root of the outrage here: Government restrictionism in action. This is what governments do all over the world, from minimum wage legislation to union legislation to antitrust legislation, and what have you; interesting to see people wake up to the injustice of these concepts. Although I do of course realize that that’s not all that this is about. :)

January 20th: Irish government collapses:

Irish Prime Minster Brian Cowen has called an Irish election for March 11th.

Speaking to a packed parliament, Cowen stated that he was reassigning six cabinet portfolios after six of his ministers resigned.

His comments ended a day of mounting chaos in the parliament as it became clear that the Green Party were preventing the Fianna Fail party from replacing the minsters who resigned .

Opposition leader Enda Kenny of Fine Gael said he was delighted there was finally an air of finality because of the naming of an election date.

The Irish collapse of course has to be seen in light of economic difficulties coupled with political disagreements.

January 25th: “Unprecedented” protests in Egypt:

The scope of Egypt’s protests today, calling for greater freedom and downfall of strongman President Hosni Mubarak, is unprecedented.

Though tens of thousands took to the streets of Cairo in 2005 calling for democratic reform, today’s protests are far beyond the action in the capital. Reporters and activists on the scene in Cairo say there was a spirit of anger and defiance in the crowds and there were protests of varying sizes in at least a half-dozen Egyptian cities.

It will be interesting to see if other US backed dictators will soon face similar challenges across the middle east. In particular Pakistan will be interesting to watch.

In any case … what a turbulent start into the year 2011. What a close succession of government failures, collapses, and mass protests in Europe and the Middle East!

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