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Posts Tagged ‘conspiracy theorists’

The Suleiman Funeral and the Problem of Who Will Attend

July 19th, 2012 Comments off

Today’s death of ‘Omar Suleiman, the Egyptian intelligence chief and, briefly., Vice President, has created something of a protocol quandary. He was, after all, Vice President of the country, in fact the only Vice President it has had since Husni Mubarak ascended to the Presidency. He also heald the rank of Major General in the Armed Forces, so he is of course being accorded a military funeral (tomorrow) and, unsurprisingly, Field Marshal Tantawi will attend.

But what about President Morsi? ‘Omar Suleiman’s record as an intelligence chief is mostly sealed, but of one thing he never made any secret: he was the inveterate foe of the Muslim Brotherhood, jailing them at home and working against their ally Hamas abroad. Will the Muslim Brothjerhood President attend the funeral of the man known for jailing Brotherhood members. (Morsi himself has spent short prisons in jail, though not the years of many of his colleagues.)

Early indications are, no: someone from the Presidential office will represent Morsi at the funeral. This could change, but it is the sort of awkward problem likely to crop up during Egypt’s transition. When Mubarak dies, the fact that he was convicted of a crime and imprisoned might mean a low-key funeral. But Suleiman is an ex-Vice President, with no convictions, though there was speculation he might have left Egypt to live in the Gulfs when he left the country after Morsi’s election.

And of course the conspiracy theorists are out in force, as is to be expected for a man with a spooky background like Suleiman’s. Either the US did him in (after all, this week’s conspiracy, as Hillary Clinton learned, is that the US is promoting the Muslim Brotherhood), or he actually died in the bombing in Damascus! 


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An Oddity Worth Noting: Rebels Claimed the Same Figures Killed Today Were Killed in May

July 19th, 2012 Comments off

 Here’s an oddity worth pondering. Back in May, some Syrian rebel sources claimed to have killed six senior security officials, and the list is almost identical to those actually killed and wounded today. I never posted on the earlier claim because it seemed unsubstantiated; here’s Josh Landis’ post on the claim back then, and here’s a report in French. According to the claim back then, the following were killed:

1) Asif Shawkat (Head of Syrian intelligence)[Actually now Deputy Defense Minister]
2) Mohammad Shaar (interior minister)
3) Dawood Rajha (defence minister)
4) Hassan Turkmani (vice president’s deputy)
5) Hisham Bikhtyar
6) Mohammad Saeed Bkheytan

The first four are confirmed dead today [update: not so clear about the Interior Minister] and the fifth is wounded. I’m not sure about number six, who’s a Baath Party official.

An earlier plot gone awry, but now carried through? The earlier claim completely bogus, and the identities just a coincidence? Make of it what you will; today’s deaths were confirmed by the state news agency. Will the conspiracy theorists suggest they really were killed in May and it’s only being acknowledged now? (And no, I’m not suggesting that.)


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Elliott Abrams: In Saudi Arabia, it is going to be a “a hot summer indeed”

July 17th, 2012 Comments off

“… First, there are conspiracy theorists who argue that the hardliners within the ruling family, such as the former Crown Prince and interior minister Prince Naif bin Abdulaziz, had been using Nimr to scare the Sunnis and oppose King Abdullah’s interfaith dialogue and tentative outreach to the Shiites. On this topic, Hamza al-Hassan pointed to “the regime’s talk of a conspiracy, which it views as undoubtedly coming from Iran.”The second theory is that “arresting Nimr earlier would have created heightened unrest”, which the government wanted to avoid, because he had only been appearing in large crowds at funerals or at his mosque. The third theory, which originates from a Wikileaks cable, is that “the government was always ultimately going to react, but on its own timetable.”
According to the US magazine, there is another, even more worrisome, dimension. The arrest of Nimr comes amid a military buildup in the Gulf and a similar crackdown in Bahrain. Whereas the exclusion of Nimr was expected to have positive results, things went in a different direction, and the conclusion is now unpredictable. Regardless, it is going to be a “a hot summer indeed” according to Elliott Abrams, researcher at the Council on Foreign Relations.…”



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The SCAF/MB Maneuvering: No Presidential Candidate=Forming Cabinet?

March 29th, 2012 Comments off

 The recent verbal and communique duel between Egypt’s SCAF and the Muslim Brotherhood continuyes, and now Al-Masry Al-Youm is reporting that SCAF has said it would allow the Brotherhood to form a new Cabinet provided it does not decide to run a candidate for President. Like many recent rumors it will be denied, and you can make up your own mind whether to believe it (let’s see what the decision on a candidate turns out to be).

Another report, that at first glance seems to contradict the above, in Ahram Online says  that SCAF may pardon Brotherhood Deputy Leader Khairat al-Shater, who is considered a possible Brotherhood candidate for President if they choose to field one. He spent plenty of time in jail and is thus technically barred from running, but SCAF could pardon him, as they did Ayman Nour yesterday, to let him run. But the two reports aren’t mutually exclusive, since Shater could be a Brotherhood choice for Prime Minister in a new Cabinet, and would need a pardon to take that job, as well, since he’s barred from holding public office.

Conspiracy theorists will no doubt try to put various spins on these reports. Does the military have a favorite in the race? If so, who? They’re not exactly transparent. Why would they oppose a Brotherhood candidate? Because they couldn’t count on controlling him?  Did the Ayman Nour pardon actually send some sort of subtle signal? Is SCAF ever subtle?

Meanwhile the Constituent Assembly is a mess.The liberals have walked out. The Islamists have elected People’s Assembly Speaker Katatni it’s chairman, with a quarter of the seats vacant. The liberals are talking about writing their own constitution. SCAF is calling meetings to talk about things, and others are challenging the Assembly in the courts.

Nobody said democracy is easy, but I must say, Tunisia’s post-revolutionary experience is a world away from Egypt’s. But even in Egypt, some interesting dynamics are going on.


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James Dorsey Weighs in on Port Said

February 2nd, 2012 Comments off

I mentioned earlier that the go-to person for soccer and politics in the Middle East is journalist/blogger James Dorsey. Dorsey offers his take at Foreign Policy on the Port Said violence. Key conclusions:

The violence of the ultras is directed as much against those of rival clubs as it is against the security forces. The anti-Mubarak protests of a year ago were the first time that fans of Ahly, which was founded in the early 20th century as the club of the nationalists and opponents of British colonial rule, and its fierce rival Zamalek, the club of the Brits, their Egyptian associates, and the monarchy, set their differences aside to stand shoulder-by-shoulder in Tahrir Square. Ahead of an upcoming match scheduled for Feb. 7, Zamalek’s ultras, the White Knights, last week called on their Ahlawy counterparts to agree to a truce. “We are asking for an end to the bloodshed and to reconcile and unite for the sake of Egypt,” the White Knights said in a statement on their Facebook page. Ultras Ahlawy replied with a smiley.

The match is now — wisely — suspended, but the exchange signaled awareness on the part of the ultras’ leaders that the time had come to bury their war hatchets. They know that Egyptians are growing increasing intolerant of their violence and militancy, as evidenced by recent Gallup and other polls. Wednesday’s violence suggests that the rank and file see matters differently, and will not take direction from anyone.

The conspiracy theorists may be on to something: The riots in Port Said will likely strengthen the hand of those in the ruling military council who want to crack down hard on the ultras, who have formed the backbone of street protests that have not quieted down even though Egypt has seated an elected parliament and will soon choose a new president. And this time, it seems, the Egyptian people will be with them.

Dorsey’s blog, The Turbulent World of Middle East Soccer, will no doubt be on the case over the coming days. The wonder of the blogosphere is that somewhere out there someone is a specialist on everything. In Dorsey’s case it happens to be the politics of football in the Middle East, so this is his moment.


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Birth Certificate just Jim Crow all Over Again

April 29th, 2011 Comments off

There isn’t actually any mystery about the phenomenon of birtherism, the denial that Barack Obama is a US citizen and has a right to vote and hold office, or why obnoxious billionaire Donald Trump is resorting to it in his farce of a presidential bid.

Birthers are concentrated in former slaver, former Jim Crow states, which were forced to stop legal discrimination against African-Americans by the intervention of the Federal government from the 1960s, but many of whom retain a commitment to race and caste hierarchies as a way of ordering their societies.

A “Research 2000″ opinion poll for Daily Kos, conducted 7/27-30, 2009, discovered the geography of this myth:

‘Do you believe that Barack Obama was born in the United States of America or not? [I am showing here poll results for “no” and not sure only – JC:]…

…No 11
Not sure 12

So 11 percent of Americans are Obama-hating conspiracy theorists. How do they break down?

………No… Not sure

Rep …28… 30
Ind ……8…. 9
Dem ….4…. 3

South ….23… 30
Midwest …6…. 4
West ……..7…. 6
Northeast 4…. 3 …’

The South can be defined as: Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi, Texas, Virginia, and South Carolina, which, save for Texas, Florida and Virginia, is still distinctive in having very low rates of interracial marriage despite having high minority populations:

interracial marriage US 2000

Interracial Marriage, US, 2000

Interracial marriage in Minnesota and Vermont is also rare. But 1/3 of South Carolinians are African-American, and in 2000, only 3.5% of Minnesotans were.

African Americans in the US, 2000

African Americans in the US, 2000

That is, to see the full extent of caste as it operates in the American South, super-impose these two maps on one another.

My guess is that interracial marriage in Texas and Florida is between people of northern European heritage and those of Latino heritage, not with African-Americans in the main; Virginia is skewed by Northern Virginia, which is like the Northeast. African-Americans marrying whites accounts for 11% of interracial marriages nation-wide, but the South clearly lags here.

Low rates of interracial marriage despite high rates of racial diversity map on to prejudice and concerns about racial status. And it is precisely the intersection of these two things that predicts where birthers will be found disproportionately.

Let us compare this geography of the denial to an African-American of the right to vote and hold office on grounds of unclear ‘citizenship’ to the remarks of James M. Nabrit, Jr. in his 1939 journal article, “Disabilities Affecting Suffrage Among Negroes,” The Journal of Negro Education, Vol. 8, No. 3, (Jul., 1939), pp. 383-394, this quote on p. 384:

‘It is interesting to note that the states which enjoy the most unhampered exercise of the right of suffrage and impose the fewest number of restrictions are the states which are furthest advanced economically, educationally, and socially; whereas the ten states, Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi, Texas, Virginia, Oklahoma, South Carolina, which have hinged the right of suffrage around and about by numerous restrictions such as reading and understanding tests of state and national constitutions, property qualifications (both real and personal), racial discriminations in registration, are those states of which the President [Roosevelt] asked that a study be made of their economic conditions, since they constitute, in his words, the “number one economic problem in the United States…” ‘

he adds:

“Although registration laws, poll-tax requirements, and reading and understanding constitution clauses have been upheld by the courts as reasonable exercise of legislative power for the purpose of preserving the purity of the ballot, the history of suffrage legislation in the South shows these provisions were not enacted for that pur- pose, but were designed solely to exclude Negroes from exercising the right to vote guaranteed them by the prohibition in the Fifteenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States.”

Indeed, when you bring up the idea of citizenship and the laws around it, it should be remembered that neither citizenship nor right to vote for African-Americans were considered in the early history of American naturalization law (see Charles H. Wesley, “Negro Suffrage in the Period of Constitution-Making, 1787-1865,” The Journal of Negro History, Vol. 32, No. 2 (Apr., 1947), pp. 143-168, this quote on 152-153:)

‘ The first Naturalization Law of the United States, which was approved by Congress on March 26, 1790, bestowed citizenship as a matter of right and established a uniform law. It granted this right to “free white” aliens who had resided within the jurisdiction of the United States for two years. This period of residence was lengthened to five years in 1795. The Militia Law of 1792 also contained the word “white.” The act to incorporate the District of Columbia of May 5, 1802, confined the franchise to “free white male inhabitants.” These acts and others indicate that Congressional trends were towards the restriction of citizenship to free white males. This explains in part also why no action is to be found providing for Negro suffrage. Nevertheless, the paradox of citizenship interpretation was still apparent, for a resolution of the House of Representatives on December 21, 1803, stated that the Committee to enquire and report on the effectual protection of Ameri- can seamen, resolved also “to enquire into the expediency of granting protection to such American seamen citizens of the United States, as are free persons of color.” While giving on the one hand some credence to the concept of citizenship for some, there was still the negation of suffrage participation.” ‘

Trump has gone on now to question Barack Obama’s intellectual credentials, which is sort of like Woody Allen questioning whether Arnold Schwarzenegger is actually physically powerful. He now wants undergraduate grade transcripts.

Late night talk show host David Letterman called this tactic what it is, racism.

Questioning whether an African-American can vote and hold office based on his academic accomplishments is again a way of pandering to residual Jim Crow sentiments.

The Georgia State constitution, Dr. Nabrit informed us in 1939, then had the following provision for ability to vote in that state:

‘ . All persons who can correctly read in the English Language any paragraph of the Constitution of the United States, of this state and correctly write the same in the English language when read to them by one of the registrars and all persons who solely because of physical disability are unable to comply with the above requirements but who can understand and give reasonable in- terpretation of any paragraph of the Constitution of the United States or of this State that may be read to them by any one of the registrars;

Just so the test could be targeted to the intended subset of would-be voters, the constitution further provided that:

‘F. Section 34-111 (44) Race to be noted in book. For the purpose of more easily identifying Voters, the officers in charge of the Voters’ book shall note therein, in connection with each signa- ture, the race of the person signing- that is to say, whether white or colored?

Trump is following the Karl Rove handbook, wherein you don’t smear your opponent where he is weak, you demean him where he is strong. Obama is the most cerebral president since Woodrow Wilson, so Trump-Rove (TRove?) decries him as an undeserving affirmative action baby. But where it gets really ugly is that Trump is playing to Old South conceptions of racial discrimination in voting and office-holding.

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Rediscovering the Uncovering of King Tut

December 10th, 2010 Comments off


bottom right, Car used to transport Lord Carnarvon to and from Tut’s tomb in the 1920s

Conspiracy theorists and Hollywood movie moguls love King Tut. Take a young boy who becomes Pharaoh at age 9, only rules for a decade, marries his sister, and whose long forgotten tomb with gold aplenty is discovered in full media light in the Roaring 20s … and what do you have: an Ancient Egyptian prequel to Star Wars. Add to it a curse like “Death shall come on swift wings to him who disturbs the peace of the king” and there is even more mummy stardust. But the curse has it wrong; it should have read “Profit shall come on swift wings to him who distributes as many pieces as possible about the king.” Millions of people worldwide have read about King Tut, stood in line to see the major exhibitions and come under the spell of the glittering gold. I remember the long lines outside the Met in 1976, the emptiness on descending tourist-style into King Tut’s tomb in the Valley of the Hidden Kings, and the less than spectacular ambiance of Tut’s remains in Cairo’s old museum.

Yesterday I had the opportunity to rediscover Tut in the exhibit still running at the Discovery Times Square Exhibition. But hurry, if you are in New York, because Tut moves on to another set of paying admirers after January 17.

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