Archive for February, 2012

Bookmarks 02/29/2012

  • tags: scaf military GAFI executive law bullshit economy economics corruption

    • Law 4 of 2012 permits the General Authority for Investment and Free Zones, the regulator of investment and companies in Egypt, to settle with investors who have committed either in person, or as an accomplice of a government employee, embezzlement, theft, illegal acquisition or misuse of public funds and property, harming the public welfare, and similar offences, while undertaking any of the investment activities covered by the law, provided they restore the disputed amounts or reimburse the state for their approximate value at the time the offence was committed. The settlement can take place any stage before a defendant is convicted by the final court of appeal.
    • the investor and a GAFI representative sign a document together with the terms of the settlement, which is subject to the approval of the Chairman of GAFI. It need hardly be stated that this presents a conflict of interest, as the Chairman of GAFI, if not actually personally implicated by the crime in question, has a strong interest in protecting unfettered investment and avoiding legal issues with foreign investors in particular.
    • An even greater miscarriage of justice is that the amendment neatly circumvents the supervision of the judiciary, by stipulating that these settlement agreements will be binding and enforceable – and thus not subject to judicial review, placing entire responsibility for this process in the hands of one person
    • Essentially, the amendment defeats the three objectives behind all criminal laws: deterrence, punishment and rehabilitation.
  • tags: egypt politics military muslim-brotherhood

    • The ruler, recently arrived on the monarchial or presidential throne, reaches out to the Brothers to benefit from or at least neutralize the political support they command. For their part, the Brothers seek purchase within the state to ward off threats, obtain resources and gain footholds from which they may commence their final ascent to power. But this cooperation will not last, to judge by history — a history well-known to all players in today’s unfolding story.
    • But this time the outcome may be quite different.
    • The comparative evidence of relations in other authoritarian regimes between a ruling military and religiously based opposition parties is not as one-sided as the mongoose-cobra analogy implies.
    • The underlying political economy of the military-Brotherhood cohabitation similarly seems to favor the latter. The current division of the political system gives the military and Brothers control over the “hard” and “soft” states, respectively.
    • The Brothers are likely to attempt to begin to move against the armed forces simultaneously from the bottom and the top
    • The economic system is similarly, although not yet as sharply, divided into hard and soft components,
    • Another economic consideration is the Brothers’ ability to tap resources from the Gulf. While the Mubarak regime was kept on drip feed from Gulf sources and the SCAF has yet to obtain really major contributions from those sources, the Brothers’ prospects are considerably brighter.
    • This time, they will be the victorious mongoose and the military the defeated cobra. Egypt is thus at a historic turning point as profound as when the republican era replaced the colonial one. Will they try to directly control the cobra they have defeated, or will they seek instead to subject that military to institutional control within an at least quasi-democratic polity? In other words, will they opt for an Iranian-style system of control of the armed forces, thereby converting them into a base for their own power, or will they choose instead to depoliticize the military, thus making democracy possible? Here, finally, neither history, nor the mongoose metaphor, offers us lessons.

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

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Bookmarks 02/28/2012

  • tags: graphic marine geology ocean science

  • tags: food health unitedstates industry policy

    • Bon Appétit announced last week that it had implemented the most sweeping anti-cruelty policy in the food service industry. By 2015, all of the pork the company buys will come from farmers who do not confine their sows in two-by-seven-foot gestation crates. Similarly, all of its “liquid” eggs that come to its kitchens pre-cracked and in containers will be from cage-free hens, as its in-shell eggs do now. Veal from crated calves will disappear from Bon Appétit menus, as will the small amount of foie gras it serves.
    • A few years ago, I witnessed the domino effect of Bauccio’s big fork in the Florida tomato industry. Because of heinous labor abuses in the fields, Bon Appétit told the state’s growers that it would simply stop buying Florida tomatoes until it could find a producer whose labor practices were transparently fair.
    • Finally, not wanting to be shut out, virtually every significant grower came aboard. An entire industry was transformed.

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Bookmarks 02/27/2012

  • tags: environment activism finance fundraising unitedstates history

    • The left’s funders, on the other hand, have pursued high-profile national legislative wins. Their money is impatient and results-based. Institutions receiving the money are treated like untrustworthy employees, forced to submit endless progress reports and beg anew for money every year or two. The result is short-term thinking and number-pumping. Young people are treated like chattel, given unpaid internships and asked to accept poverty. Grassroots organizing and local politics are neglected in favor of D.C.-focused lobbying meant to influence elites.


      When it comes to environmental philanthropy, this familiar critique is, at least in broad outlines, correct. What’s more, environmental funding tends to be extremely siloed; there’s little overlap with broader issues of social and economic justice. Basically, a few big D.C.-based green groups get the bulk of the money, to be spent effecting federal legislation and policy, while smaller community-organizing groups go hungry.

    • A new report from the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy puts some numbers behind these concerns. It finds that “in 2009, environmental organizations with budgets of more than $5 million received half of all contributions” in environmental philanthropy, though they represent “only 2 percent of the nearly 29,000 environment and climate public charities in the country.”
    • The Scientific Life tells two parallel tales, one about the evolution of academic and commercial science and the other about the role of personal virtue in the practice of science.
    • Surprisingly, he shows that industrial research, at least at some companies, was not invariably more regimented than that in academia.
    • First, to a greater extent than most appreciate, industry sometimes offered scientists intellectual freedom.
    • Throughout the twentieth century, academic science grew somewhat less free. One reason was money. Modern research is expensive and universities rarely, if ever, fund it fully. Scientists are thus obliged to seek outside support, usually from federal agencies.
    • The traditional tension between academic and industrial science has, in recent years, been complicated by the rise of a third species of science: that of the entrepreneur.
    • One consequence of the rise of entrepreneurial science is that the line between academic and commercial research has been blurred.
    • As the role of the scientist evolved, so too did the public’s perception of the scientist’s moral status. Early scientists, in the popular view, were not so much salaried members of a professional class as priests of nature.
    • This idea of moral equivalence between scientists and nonscientists ultimately became the new orthodoxy. As Shapin puts it, it appeared to many that 

      there were no just grounds in the nature of science—properly understood—or in the make-up of the scientist—properly understood—to expect expertise in the natural order to translate into virtue in the moral order.

    • (Ironically, the same event that ultimately led to the injection of vast quantities of cash into American science simultaneously helped rob scientists of their exalted moral status.)
    • More surprisingly, Shapin shows that the idea that scientists are like everyone else resulted partly from a deliberate propaganda campaign. During the cold war, American policymakers grew concerned about a shortage of scientists needed to combat communism. Unfortunately, several studies revealed that the public viewed the scientist as a creature apart. He was a paragon, an eccentric; he was contemplative and far too austere. Recognizing that this image jeopardized the recruitment of young people into science, a kind of marketing blitz began. As Shapin explains: 

      Leading spokespersons of government, industry, and the universities took it upon themselves to specify the ordinariness of the scientist and, therefore, the attractiveness of the scientific career to those who felt themselves to be neither geniuses nor morally special.

    • Shapin himself seems to have some doubts about the moral equivalence thesis (mightn’t scientists be morally special after all?). But this could reflect his relative neglect of one of the more obvious reasons for the rise of that thesis. During the twentieth century, it became painfully clear that scientists were capable of behavior that ranged from the dishonorable to the heinous.
    • Shapin sees the morality of scientists as part of a larger issue: the extent to which the personal qualities of scientists matter in the practice of science. His concern here derives from the claims about modern society of Max Weber and his disciples. These men maintained that one mark of the modern was a decrease in the significance of the personal and familiar and an increase in the significance of the impersonal and bureaucratic.
    • Instead, he concludes that personal qualities like virtue, trust, reliability, and familiarity continue to matter in science, perhaps more than ever.
    • As Shapin watched Internet and biotech entrepreneurs pitching their cases to venture capitalists, a pattern emerged. More than anything, venture capitalists weigh the personal qualities of the scientists that appear before them: their reliability, honesty, and creativity. As Shapin puts it, “judgment in these worlds of leading-edge technoscience and finance often implicates knowledge of the virtues of familiar people. People and their virtues matter.
  • tags: science technology capitalism finance history sociology academic

    • Yet Shapin is not so sure, and for him the persistence of a moral vocabulary in science is one of the key continuities between the 17th century and the 21st.
    • Moral vocation in science has never excluded its mingling with wealth and power. The monarchs who sponsored scientific academies in the 17th century were already looking for expert counsel on practical issues
    • Not least significant among the novelties of recent science, Shapin argues, is its social organization
    • collective organization of science was by no means confined to private corporations
    • Even those who have the status and resources to direct their own labs must choose problems and methods that promise quick results so that they will have something to report in the next round of grant proposals. Add to that the meddling of university committees, bureaucratic requirements and teaching, and the university is, so they say, even worse than a corporate employer.
    • He insists, against Weber, that scientific entrepreneurs have, in common with early modern natural philosophers, a sense of vocation, and that their more altruistic ambitions (typically, to save lives) are counted in their favor when venture capitalists (whom he also credits with a measure of idealism) decide which business plans to back.
    • On the goals of research and its practical contributions to our lives, Shapin tends to report the words and choices of the scientists and investors without endorsing or doubting them. In his preface he explicitly denies any wish to celebrate the role of technoscience in late modern American culture. On the whole, he leaves it to other scholars and social scientists to labor to determine how claims for entrepreneurial science stand up against the evidence of experience. It remains quite possible that its advantages have been oversold, and that our contemporary funding regimes are tending, subtly, to erode the integrity of science.

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

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Managing the tension between an activist heart and a critical mind is stressful.

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Bookmarks 02/24/2012

  • tags: canada government oil corporate conspiracy wikileaks

    • Collateral damage from Canada’s booming oilsands sector may be irreversible, posing a “significant environmental and financial risk to the province of Alberta,” says a secret memorandum prepared for the federal government’s top bureaucrat.
    • “While the industry has taken steps to reduce emissions, the shift from mining to in situ production, which is almost three times as emissions intensive as mining, is resulting in a continued acceleration of emissions from this sector,” said the memo.
  • tags: AlaaAswany egypt politics islamism muslim-brotherhood salafi

    • But does this admirable commitment to performing religious obligations affect the way Egyptians behave towards others? The answer is often no. There are many Egyptians who observe the superficial aspects of religion and pray regularly, but in their daily dealings are far from truthful and honest.
    • If the disconnect between belief and behavior were a matter of a few individuals, we would dismiss them as hypocrites. But when it afflicts broad segments of society, it constitutes a social phenomenon that has to be studied.
    • True religion requires us to defend human values: truth, justice and freedom. This is the essence of religion and it is much more important than growing beards or giving the call to prayer in the Parliament chamber.

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

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Bookmarks 02/23/2012

  • tags: conservation social activism life development

  • tags: israel palestine settlements solar energy renewable poverty aid international

  • tags: egypt police military politics

    • الشعب المصري بشكل عام يعاني من كارثة استشراء فاحش لجهل مدقع وفاضح وبالغ تمكن من قتل كامل لقاعدة الوعي السياسي والاجتماعي في البلاد، بل إنه نجح في أحوال كثيرة أن يقتل بعضا من ملكات التمييز الإنساني التي يكتسبها الإنسان بالفطرة عند مولده، وإن هذه الملاحظة بذلك القدر من التجرد لهي الحقيقة رغم كل ما يقال منذ اندلاع الثورة عن  شعب واع ناضج فاهم نزل إلى الشوارع في ثورة سلمية لإسقاط النظام، فلا الشعب واع إلا بحاجاته الشخصية
    • السبب الرئيسي في ذلك الوضع الحالي لأغلبية الشعب المصري هو علاقة الشعب بالدين (وليس الدين نفسه)
    • فالنخب من غير العسكر والإخوان مازالت تتصرف بما يدل على أنها تعتقد أن بإمكانها الوصول إلى عقول الناس وحشدهم عن طريق إقناعم بالفكرة فقط ومن خلال الخطاب الإعلامي دون أن يكون لهم نصيب في مقدرات البلاد الاقتصادية ومفاتيح السلطة والسطوة والثروة فيها
    • هناك وسط كل ذلك الظلام الحالك شعاع خافت من النور يشع بريقه بين الفينة والأخرى ليعطي أملا ولو ضئيلا في غد قد يكون أفضل، وذلك الشعاع يمثله هذا الجيل من الشباب الذي علم نفسه بنفسه، وثقف نقسه بنفسه
    • أما العدو الأول، وأقصد هنا تحديدا مشروع الإخوان المسلمين لاحتكار السلطة والثروة في مصر الذي يسعى لاستبدال شبكة مصالح الحزب الوطني بشبكة مصالح أخرى ترعاها عصابة أخرى، فقد بدأ مؤخرا في لفت الأنظار إلى خطره من خلال ممارسات ممالئة للعسكر داعمة لمواقفهم، ومن خلال أداء متخاذل في البرلمان، ولكن الأدهى والأمر لم يأت بعد، فقريبا سيبدأ هؤلاء في عمل ممنهج منظم حال استلامهم للنصيب الأكبر من الحكومة بغية اختراق أجهزة الدولة المختلفة وتعبئتها بكوادرهم وأتباعهم مما سيتيح لهم بواعث هيمنة مجتمعية طويلة المدى لن تكون مقاومتها سهلة، وخاصة أن السلاح الذي يستخدمه هؤلاء في بناء شبكات الولاء لا يقتنصر على المصالح المادية التي كان الحزب الوطني يستخدمها، بل يتعداه إلى الولاء الديني الذي يجعل ممن يجنده عبدا طيعا في خدمة أسياده لا يعصي لهم أمرا ولا يخالف لهم رأيا، وهل يعصي العبد سيده إذا كان دخول جهنم عقابه؟
    • ما العدو الأكبر والأخطر والذي ستؤدي هزيمته يوما ما إلى انتصار الثورة ودحر كل من يقف في مواجهتها فهو الجهل، وهو العدو الذي لم يلق أي انتباه بعد، وعلى عكس مشروع الإخوان لاحتكار السلطة لا يبدو أنه سيصل بسهولة إلى واجهة الاهتمام التي يستحق أن يكون فيها في المستقبل المنظور، ربما لأن كثيرين لا يزالون يتحرجون من الاعتراف بأن الشعب جاهل
    • يمكننا إذن أن نبقى إلى الأبد نتحدث فيما بيننا عن الرئيس التوافقي والدستور والبرلمان، ولكن يوم الانتخابات سيأتي دائما كما أتى قبل عدة شهور ليضعنا أمام الحقيقة، وهي أن ما نقوله كله لا يغير في طبيعة الاشياء إلا بمقدار ما تبقى أجهزة حواسيبنا مفتوحة عليه، فالصحيح أن خلف المشهد السياسي الذي قتلناه تحليلا وتنظيرا يوجد مشهد آخر أكبر تتحكم فيه ثقافات ومؤسسات وتوازنات أمضى وأقوى من كل تصوراتنا وحساباتنا
  • tags: egypt history pic pics cairo alexandria architecture

  • tags: france unitedstates education child

  • tags: ThomasFriedmanegypt democracy politics FayzaAbulNaga humanrights conspiracy

    • That is Abul Naga’s game. As a former Mubarak adviser put it to me: “Abul Naga is where she is today because for six years she was resisting the economic and political reforms” in alliance with the military. “Both she and the military were against opening up the Egyptian economy.” Both she and the military, having opposed the revolution, are now looking to save themselves by playing the nationalist card.

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

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Bookmarks 02/22/2012

    • Even though I’m one of many who believe the United States should stop bankrolling dictatorial governments, these threats won’t be enough to solve the impasse.
    • It may sound irrational for a client state to play chicken with its benefactor, but from its own perspective SCAF doesn’t really have anything to lose. That’s because SCAF isn’t betting with its own money: it’s betting with Egypt’s finances as well as its international reputation and credibility – but as it has repeatedly shown over the past year, these are things it doesn’t really seem to care about much.
    • There are, however, a few signs of hope. One of them is that the congressional debate about aid to Egypt may finally help Americans to comprehend the extent to which subsidizing a military dictatorship damages U.S. standing. If that actually comes about, then this whole crisis will not have been in vain.
  • on the history of freemasons, including good links.

    tags: freemason conspiracy egypt history

  • tags: egypt economy jan25 counterrevolution revolution neoliberal policy debt justice

    • one year after the toppling of President Hosni Mubarak, nothing has changed on the economic front in Egypt
    • n the “revolution budget,” education spending dropped from 3.5 to 3.2 percent of GNP
    • The choice was clear: either foreign borrowing or austerity. Successive governments desperately avoided any solutions that might entail any redistribution of resources.
      • That’s funny. Foreign borrowing always results in austerity, eventually. 
    • n any case, the sacking of Radwan changed nothing. He was dropped in a Cabinet reshuffle in July following protests demanding revision of the budget and the raising of the minimum monthly wage to LE1,200 (about US$200). Nevertheless, Radwan’s successor, Hazem Biblawi, pledged from the outset to keep the budget unchanged.
    • Biblawi, who was deputy prime minister for economic affairs as well as finance minister, also had a clear orientation. He was directly responsible for the government’s decision not to re-nationalize public enterprises that had been sold off corruptly under Mubarak. He insisted that the government contest court rulings that annulled a number of these sales.
    • Curiously, Ganzouri’s government returned to the path of borrowing. But it promised no new expenditure: it thereby managed to offer a combination of both indebtedness and austerity. It announced it was seeking a loan from the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the very organization which first pushed for privatization and a free market economy – under previous borrowing programs – during Mubarak’s reign.
    • the Popular Campaign to Drop Egypt’s Debts revealed that Egypt secretly borrowed US$1.2 billion in the past year. The group cited a rise detected by The Economist magazine in Egypt’s foreign debt from US$35 to US$36.2 billion. If an agreement is reached on a US$3.2 billion loan from the IMF, this year’s total external borrowing would end up reaching four times the annual average under Mubarak.
  • tags: islamism islamist tunisia egypt politics political democracy

  • tags: egypt development technocrat expert worldbank NGO

    • epresentatives from civil society assumed the role of development “experts,” out of a belief that public policies are the job of technical experts with superior academic degrees and activists with expertise in work with local communities of the poor and illiterate.
    • representatives from civil society assumed the role of development “experts,” out of a belief that public policies are the job of technical experts with superior academic degrees and activists with expertise in work with local communities of the poor and illiterate.
    • Besides their inability to conceive the major transformations Egypt is undergoing, civil society organizations are also dangerously heedless to the failure of the “state of experts” over more than two decades of authoritative development hegemonized by governmental and international bureaucracies (including the World Bank itself).
    • ome might ask about the role that the World Bank and its civil society organizations should properly play. The World Bank is a financial institution; its primary role is to lend money and to achieve development. It is an institution that should not exercise politics, even though all of its work is translated into policies — how paradoxical!

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