“No One Could Have Predicted the Housing Bubble Middle East Status Quo Would Crash”

The WSJ has a fascinating narrative of how both the US and Mubarak’s government were utterly unprepared for a democratic revolution in Egypt. From a meeting two months ago at which Egypt again refused democratic reforms, after which Hillary declared Egypt to be the “cornerstone of stability and security in the Middle East and beyond,” to a meeting on Monday when when a Middle East expert asked Obama’s National Security Council, “Please tell me you have contingencies in case Mubarak’s regime collapses” (the NSC said they did not), our government’s certainty that it could depend on the status quo generally and Egypt specifically has utterly collapsed.

And it was not just the government generally; predictably, the intelligence services paid to anticipate such events had no idea it would happen, either. Just one week ago, the new head of Israel’s military intelligence, Major General Aviv Kochavi, echoed Clinton’s earlier certitude that Egyptian would remain stable.

…on January 25, the day when massive protests first erupted across Egypt, Major General Aviv Kochavi, newly appointed head of Israel’s Military Intelligence Directorate, told a Knesset committee that “there are no doubts about the stability of the regime in Egypt”…

And while he’s predictably using the observation to demagogue, Crazy Pete Hoekstra ascribes the surprise to same kind of group think that has long plagued our intelligence analysis.

We were blind sided on Egypt. Problem is group think and risk aversion in state/intel community!

Part of the problem may be that US intelligence services rely more on the Egyptian government than on talking to opposition figures directly.

For years, the US Central Intelligence Agency has worked closely with the Egyptian security establishment in the contentious context of Washington’s “war on terrorism”. But it is unlikely that the CIA has been as meticulous in developing trustworthy contacts inside Egypt’s fragmented but dynamic and energized Egyptian opposition. The latter, whether religious or secular, is naturally distrustful of American officials, whom it sees as longtime supporters of the dictatorial rule of President Mubarak, in the interests of what US Vice President Joe Biden has called “geopolitical interests in the region”.

But that’s definitely not the whole of the problem. As Wikileaks revealed, we know our government met with a youth activist in 2008, as well as other NGOs. Yet embassy officials deemed that activist’s assessment that the opposition would have to replace Hosni Mubarak with a parliamentary government before the 2011 elections to be “highly unrealistic, and [] not supported by the mainstream opposition.” (Dismissing the activist’s claims so easily undoubtedly also made it easier to dismiss the suggestion that the US should pressure Mubarak “by threatening to reveal information about GOE officials’ alleged ‘illegal’ off-shore bank accounts.”)

It appears, then, that the US has met with some of these activists; it just apparently dismissed them as a bunch of naive youth.

But, as the WSJ makes clear, a lot of the surprise simply comes down to a misjudgment about what ordinary people might do.

In Cairo, a beleaguered collection of opposition groups plotted another in a series of demonstrations, this time to coincide with Police Day, a national holiday to thank Egypt’s police forces. To activists, it was the perfect irony: Almost a year earlier, a young man from Alexandria with no history of political activism, Khaled Saied, had been beaten to death by police. Activists had managed to bring national attention to the case, and they intended to use Police Day to build on that.

Opposition activists rallied around a Facebook page called We Are All Khaled Saied. To call for a protest, Mr. Saied’s death became the focal point for people who hadn’t been involved in the rights movement before, says Ahmed Gharbia, an Egyptian activist associated with the page. “He was an everyman, and it was very difficult for people who wanted to paint him as an outlaw to do that.” In the past week, supporters of the page swelled from 75,000 members to over 440,000.


“More Egyptians were more angry than they’ve probably ever been, and not just activists, but ordinary people. And then came Tunisia, and suddenly people saw that maybe they could do something about that anger,” said Ziad Al-Alimi, an organizer for Nobel Prize Laureate Mohamed ElBaradei.


Broad swaths of Egyptian society were now in the streets. In Agouza, families with young children in tow marched into clouds of tear gas, toward the bridge over the Nile that led to Tahrir Square.

“I was shocked to see people on that bridge who had always been apathetic apologists for the regime yelling, ‘No’,” said Mr. Qassem, who himself joined the protesters for the first time in his life. Infuriated, he said he even threw rocks at police after he was tear-gassed and police fired rubber bullets.

Now, I made the analogy here with the elite surprise at the very foreseeable crash of the housing bubble they had blown up. And to the extent that a bunch of “experts” repeatedly insisted they were smarter than the people experiencing this stuff first hand, the analogy makes sense.

The self-declared smart people so sure they’ve got control over the situation are increasingly proving, of late, not to have that control.

But I also think Egypt must be a broader warning. The status quo everywhere–based on the Washington consensus economically and US hegemony geopolitically–may be a lot more fragile than the experts paid to sustain that status quo will admit.

I suspect Egypt is just one in a series of increasingly bigger surprises for our governing elite.

  1. Petrocelli says:

    The youth in Egypt by and large see no hope for the future & that is driving the call for change. Discontent has been festering for years and if U.S. Intelligence missed that, they really need to replace their Intelligence Staff.

    ElBaradei is very respected and Hosni’s son Gamal promises nothing different from his Dad. And the Egyptians won’t be cowed, like the Iranians were, last year.

    • emptywheel says:

      Apparently, MI is almost the only state in the MW that isn’t getting FEMA help, even though I’m due east of IL across the lake effect and less than an hour north of IN and SE of WI, where we normally get out weather.

      So apparently it’s not a snow day for me. Those 2 feet of snow are just for fun.

      • Rayne says:

        Hahaha – you need to explain that to my son who is whining fiercely about the amount of snow he needs to shovel just so the snowblower can tackle the rest. Snowblower can only manage 12″ deep, the layer above it has to get moved off first and there are 3-4 foot drifts in my driveway over here on the other side of the state.

        In re: the State Department’s lack of preparedness — my guess is they thought as long as the military supported Mubarak’s son, all would be fine, no extra effort needed. And they probably relied on feedback from uh, neighboring countries, to validate their decision.

        If they’d been paying attention, they would have seen Steven Cook (in Foreign Affairs) and Bruce Rutherford had written about a post-Mubarak democratic Egypt only weeks after Obama’s administration.

        Or maybe they thought Rutherford offered only a minority report not worth their time. Stupid; had they paid attention to his work, they would have been prepared to help the Muslim Brotherhood get a democratic alternative set up quickly to reduce volatility.

  2. wavpeac says:

    If a group of people have the illusion that they have “power” eventually the truth prevails…which is that no group can truly control another without escalating violence. This is what scares me. Eventually these cracks in the power structure begin to show and people will push against it. I worry who is behind Murbareks new power today. Right now…as the violence escalates…who is backing him and why?

  3. allan says:

    The Case For Abolishing The CIA

    But as Moynihan argued in his last book, Secrecy, there is a way in which the CIA’s peculiar structure and function has encouraged errors and magnified their importance. Moynihan described a “culture of secrecy” created by the CIA and other intelligence agencies. This culture produced a distinction between insiders and outsiders; and outsiders, no matter their experience or expertise, couldn’t possibly know with the same degree of certainty as insiders what was going on in a foreign country.

    • eCAHNomics says:

      Best book I ever read on the spook biz, Second Oldest Profession by Knightly, published in the 90s, made that as a generic criticism. Secrecy makes it almost certain to fail because there is no ability to oversee it, no competition, a host of moral hazards, like every failure is an excuse for a bigger budget (we coulda got it right but you didn’t give us enough money to do so), etc., etc.s

  4. MadDog says:

    Allow me to put on my cynic’s hat.

    I think that the “crackdown” on the Egyptian demonstrators was a deliberative manipulative act by a part of the existing Egyptian power elite (sounds just like something that the “cunning” Omar Suleiman would come up with) to do the following:

    1. Increase, or at least sustain, the fervor of the Egyptian demonstrators.

    2. Paint President Mubarak further into a corner as out of touch cruel dictator who must be removed from power now.

    3. Increase the anger in the Egyptian armed forces, and in particular, make the Egyptian armed forces leadership to get off the fence in pushing President Mubarak out now.

    Why else would the Egyptian Internet be turned back on at the very same time as this “crackdown”? The intent was that the news get out! To everybody!

    Why else would there be attacks on CNN reporters? To make sure that Mubarak, his policies and his supporters were painted as thugs in both the Egyptian domestic and international media.

    I’ve swum in the upper levels of organizations’ structures and I know from first hand experience that these types of manipulative bastards are just the kind who flock there. It’s one of the defining characteristics of folks who get to the top of power structures.

    Wounded and dead demonstrators? The cynical bastards who instigate these things have no concern. As a matter of fact, they consider a few martyrs as good for their gameplan.

    • Mary says:

      Some reports coming in indicate that the pro-Mubarak “protestors” may include some National Petroleum Co. employees who were ordered to protest in support of Gov. The fact that they just happened to have horses and camels when everyone else was on foot kinda helps seal the deal.

      There is a lot they can accomplish at one time with this, though. They can test out the military to see what they are going to do – it’s a lot easier to get that young military to sit back and let civilian dressed pro-Mubarak thugs beat up people than to get them to be the ones to fire on families. OTOH, once they’ve sat through that some, it loosens their bonds with the protestors and makes it that much easier to get them to the next step and the next one and the next one.

      • shekissesfrogs says:

        Those are two different groups. The oil workers have been on strike and have been subject to strike busting measures and broken promises. The guys on camels and horses are bedouin who work around the pyramids giving tours, rides, and selling trinkets.

        One reason they were caught off guard is that Jeffery Feltman is in charge of the Middle east desk and doesn’t even speak the language nor does he understand with any depth or breath the relationships of various factions.
        Since Clinton we have no arabists in the State Dept, they’ve been replaced by zionists. See Chas. Freeman. The whole apparatus suffers from neocon disease, making up their own reality.

        • Mary says:

          I was responding to MadDog’s observations so it probaly didn’t flow. The Nat Petro workers are just a “may include”

          The fact that the guys the horses and camels were able to show up without being thwarted, when all the other protestors were basically on foot, imo helped seal the deal on his spec that there was some gov connivance of some kind going on. So two different things – sorry if they came out conflated.

          It would have been nice, with the bizarre lineups of people lik Kagan getting kowtowed to at the WH, to see that they were also making as nice as they could and brining in someone like Freeman to give some insight and balance. Not likely with Obamaco.

          It is interesting to see how Obama cut Biden and Clinton completely off at the knees (Clinton especially) sending them out to pedal the “Mubarak is a great guy with a strong gov and he’s our buddy” line when he would just a few days later step up and act like he is the wiser man when he pushes for Mubarak to step down.

          It’s no wonder he doesn’t want a presser, he doesn’t want the possiblity of soundbytes that come from him, as opposed to his Cheneys, as events move on.

          It doesn’t help that Obama has viewed ambassadorships as nothing more than political payback positions that don’t really need any skills or insight and that he has steadfastly refused to assign any responsiblity or liability to executive branch crime. He can’t really hold his head that far above the dictatorial rabble he supports.

  5. readerOfTeaLeaves says:

    But I also think Egypt must be a broader warning. The status quo everywhere–based on the Washington consensus economically and US hegemony geopolitically–may be a lot more fragile than the experts paid to sustain that status quo will admit.


    I guess no one got the memo to ask Robert Grenier’s views. He saw it coming.
    And was fired by the same crowd that let Douie Feith run OSP – the same Feith who refused to hire Col Pat Lang because Lang spoke Arabic.


  6. b2020 says:

    The incompetence of Inbred Wealth and its retainers has always been backstopped by their confidence that they will find enough thugs cheaply enough to kill and maim enough of the ordinary people to “clean and sweep” all unexpected resistance. That is the script that is playing out now in Egypt.

    Of particular relevance is the “Who, me?” bystander posing of the armed forces. Despite much starched shirt kabuki regarding honor and sacrifice, it appears that the “ultimate ratio regum” defenders sworn to uphold order (and, on occasion, law) and protect the people cannot even bring themselves to stop primitive thuggery.

    Keep both developments in mind if you want to contemplate the possibility of an “unexpected” revolutionary bubble in the US. Those avalanches don’t happen very often, and maybe this once proud nation already had more than its rightful share. Even if the people of Egypt should ultimately prevail, at least with respect to the “out with the old”, that does not imply by a long shot something similar could happen here. Why, I don’t even see primary challenges on the horizon.

    • bluedot12 says:

      The lack of any primary challenge, and an opposition party on the side of the moneyied interests and the supremes in the pocket of their own self delusion and a dysfunctional congress can lead to hopelessness. After awhile, like 30 years, it can lead to what you see in >>>>

      • onitgoes says:

        The majority of US citizens simply aren’t hungry or cold enough yet to even consider “going Egyptian.” Let’s face it: citizens here, mostly, were thrilled to pieces with Obama’s last Ronald Reagan SOTU, which completely *ignored* unemployement, foreclosures, the looting at the top of the pyramid to the detriment of serfs, but heaped on lashings of ersatz “pride” in so-called American exceptionalism.

        The only big “complaints” I saw about the SOTU is that Obama simply didn’t extol American exceptionalism enough or in the correct wording as acceptable to Tea Baggerz.

        Citizens here are asleep at the wheel and still far to easily satisfied with crumbs and bones. And now they’ll be fed a load of bs propoganda about Egypt, and most of them will blissfully roll over and go back to sleep.

        Water cooler gossip where I work (high level of intelligence here, too) is all about some poor tyke who was kidnapped and killed recently. Regrettable and sad, for sure, but THAT is what is “of vital interest” to those around me… I’ve heard no one say squat about Egypt.

        • bluedot12 says:

          True enough, I suppose and for that we should all be thankful. But there is a huge underclass in the country. The question really is how long can we all be so dismissive of them?

          • onitgoes says:

            The question really is how long can we all be so dismissive of them?

            Not sure if I’m understanding you, but I’m not particularly “thankful” that citizens are asleep at the wheel and so easily satisfied that they cannot even consider lodging a primary against the likes of Barack Obama, much less don’t bother to get out and peacefully protest the shameful rip off by the fraudulent crooks on Wall Street and in the Banks. I am in no way advocating violence, I might add, but I would prefer to see some level of awareness amongst citizens about how badly we’re being ripped off by the elites.

            That said, the underclass is currently being “stroked” and “stoked” by the likes of the Koch brothers and Rupert Murdoch to focus on fluff and trivia, like how they’re 2d Amend rights are going to be “taken away” from them, as well as being pitted against others in the underclass – mainly minorities – who allegedly are all “slackers” who are ripping off the welfare system.

            It’s a neat trick to pit the serfs against one another because it distracts *all of us* from how the PTB have taken over out govt to our detriment.

            At this point, I *consider* myself as part of that “underclass,” since I certainly no longer have much, if any, say in the gov’t anymore, esp at the federal level.

            How long can this situation be sustained to the benefit of the elites, while avoiding sustained large protestes from the serfs??? Who knows? But my guess is for quite a while longer. As stated previously, citizens here are NOT hungry and cold enough yet.

            • Twain says:

              The time is coming though. The PTB don’t seem to realize that nothing ever stays the same. It changes constantly – sometimes slowly and sometimes very fast but change it will and they can’t stop it.

              • onitgoes says:

                I’d like to think so, and probably that’s true. The operative question, though, is how long will it take for citizens to “wake up.” They all seem like Rip Van Winkle to me, at this stage.

            • bluedot12 says:

              What is so troubling to me is that neither political party seems to really address the issues, particularly unemployment and poverty. But, you are right: the serfs are not hungry enough just yet, or so it appears.

              • onitgoes says:

                Yes, but that’s because there is virtually *no difference* between Republicans and Democrats these days. Both parties have been bought off and co-opted by the MIC, the corporations and the wealthy elite, who also *own & control* the vast majority of our media.

                Neither pol party gives a sh*t about the serfs because they work soley and only for the upper 2% of the elites. They all live in their opaque bubble, and they believe that they are immune from any trifling “problems” that might assail the lumpen proletariart (i.e, that’s you and me).

                Be aware that the so-called “two party system” is a sham. All those politicians at the federal level are millionaires, and they’re looking out for their own interests, not yours.

                • bluedot12 says:

                  Largely agree with that. But on the whole I would stick with the dems, though I am not at all happy with them. There just does not seem to be any decent alternative.

                  • onitgoes says:

                    Well good luck with that strategy. No offense, but the Democrats are NOT looking out for YOUR interets, and they do NOT intend to ever again.

                    Voting for the “Lesser of 2 evils” is still voting for evil, in my book.

                    There are loads of other alternatives, such as voting for Green Party candidates, or other third parties. With respect, I urge you to check out some of these candidates during the next election… at least: check them out; find out more about them; perhaps attend a forum where one of them is speaking. You might be pleasantly surprised.

                  • Bluetoe2 says:

                    The Dems are counting on many like you that figure “might as well stick with them a bit longer.” The Dems most likely call them Dims, no offense.

        • Knut says:

          I think this goes to the nub of it all. If there are, say, 12 percent of people unemployed, 88 percent are employed. The 88 percent have on the whole a high enough standard of living (or low enough expectations) to be oblivious to what is going around them past their immediate surroundings. Plus they play the musical chairs like everyone else: there’s a chair for me, but not for thee when the music stops. The American Ponzi society will someday come crashing down. But not anytime soon.

  7. Nell says:

    The conjunction of today’s thuggery against the demonstrators with the net being back on is food for thought. As is the army’s passivity in the face of the onrushing goon mobs.

    It’s hard under current conditions to put too much weight on the timing of any two events; lots of countervailing forces at play. On Al Jazeera Eng an hour ago or so an announcer preparing to relay tweets and pictures says that the net is still spotty; I believe it’s only one big provider that’s back.

    On the subject of the main post. In fairness, a lot of Egyptians didn’t see it coming, either. The ‘Facebookers’ who issued the call for Jan.25, one of the more optimistic of the activist sectors, were not prepared for the scale of the response (the number of ‘likes’), which indicated a possibility for mobilization in numbers that no one had seen in a looooong time. Naturally enough, it took actually seeing the people out on the day to galvanize the next step.

    When you drive heavy traffic over a bridge not up to the load, you know the break will be abrupt when it comes. But you don’t know when exactly it’s going to happen, so you tell yourself it won’t happen real soon, and you’ll get to that alternate route/replacement bridge later.

    Not that there weren’t plans available: there was apparently a fine bunch of apparatchiks* working on them, some of whom had a good idea how soon the bridge could go. But, alas, it was a back-burner project once the pretty words had been delivered by the president in Cairo. Like so many others.

    *Haven’t you missed the tasty imperial stylings of Robert Kagan? I know I have.

  8. earlofhuntingdon says:

    I think the challenge to that Washington economic “orthodoxy” is widespread, from popular anger in England over the closings of things as familiar and as necessary as libraries to Koch Industry plant closings across the US and Europe to the forty year dominance of a priority in government in Egypt that only the elite’s economic interests should direct government policy. It’s a dismissal of a failed priority that ought to become widespread here, too.

    That US military hegemony often harms more than it protects (and is commonly perceived that way, even among our friends) and that it is not economically sustainable (even as a means of forced access to scarce raw materials – witness the Chinese success in Africa with simple cash), seems obvious to everyone but those making a living inside the Beltway.

    • bluedot12 says:

      Yes, dismissal of necessary concerns in favor of ideology and/or in the face of science coupled with hubris in service of the military and our own egos will lead us ultimately to fail, no doubt.

    • one_outer says:

      Not gonna happen. They’re too busy watching Dancing with the Stars. And buying plastic Chinese crap. And spending three straight days at home in a Snuggie. And going to church.

      • bluedot12 says:

        Can’t argue with you, but no one saw the housing bubble/financial crisis or this thing in Egypt either until it happened. The seeds of discontent are in the ground. I simply cannot understand why we cannot fix the unemloyment problem, which is at the root of this.

        • onitgoes says:

          but no one saw the housing bubble/financial crisis

          With all due respect, I have to totally disagree with that statement. Won’t quibble about Egypt at this point, the PTB *most definitely* were aware of the housing bubble/financial crisis, but they powered full steam ahead anyway because they are crooks and knew without a doubt that they could rip off as much as possible and get away with it. And they did.

          Please see a recent FDL Book salon, if you don’t believe me:


            • onitgoes says:

              Not to sound whatever, but even I knew the housing bubble was a ridiculous, outrageous fraud. I’m not super genius or real estate guru, nor have I ever even owned property. It just seemed *obvious* to me that the wolf was in the hen house, and for sure, the wolf was going to get away with big bags of cash… whilst the “hens” would “eat it.”

              I wasn’t wrong. Frankly I don’t “get” why more citizens didn’t see it coming bc it was pretty much like the dot.com boom/bust of the late 90s/early 2000s. Same thing.

              Those who don’t learn from history are doomed to repeat it…. and those who are asleep at the wheel miss their history lessons.

              • bluedot12 says:

                Like the dot com bust, indeed. Hell, I counseled a friend not to buy a popular stock at the time b/c the valuation was insane. But you know what he bought the stock …. and so did I. Made me wonder if we ever really see things coming. There has to be some brakes on the insanity.

                • onitgoes says:

                  I *stopped* buying tech stock once it started ascending to the stratosphere, and I sold off some of my prior holdings. Don’t want to sound mean spirited, but ya gotta stick with your gut.

                  IF something seems “too good to be true,” then most likely it IS.

                  Americans, amongst others, are very much into “get rich quick” schemes. One would think people would learn, but they don’t. It’s like people who actually gave their bank account numbers to those Kenya email scams. I don’t want to sound rude, but how dumb can someone get??? But there you go: PT Barnum (or whomever it was) was right: there’s a sucker born every minute.

                  My advice (which is worthless): stay awake and be aware that there’s an unending and steady stream of con artists and flim-flam crooks just waiting to rip you off… and many of them where white collars, belong to all the right clubs, went to very high-falutin’ schools and go to church every Sunday. Just saying….

              • redX says:

                I also knew years in advance – thus damn sure knew congress, prez, et al knew.

                It was discussed a number of times by a few repoters as well – then the MSM always worked on shouting them down or drowning them out.

                • onitgoes says:

                  Yeah: tell me about it. That said, I saw waaaaaaaaaay too many people – friends, relatives, work colleagues, strangers on the bus, what have you – who got suckered in by the notion of “get rich quick without really trying.”

                  That was the crux of what happened with both the dot.com boom/bust and the housing boom/bust. Did some proles make out like bandits? You betcha. I have a friend who raked in barrels of cash through “smart” speculation during the dot.com. She “retired” very very young and proceded to lead the a life of liesure. At this stage, though, she’s scrambling (after years) to get back into the workforce, as many of her investmetns – including several properties she owns – are now in the toilet. I feel for her, but… otoh, she took a big risk with her money and “trusted” the system.

                  Guess that’s the difference between her and me.

                  Plus *most* citizens are NOT going to be even as successful as my friend was. I know or know of *quite a few* people who got *stuck* with real estate that they paid waaaaaaaaaay too much for, but were intending to “flip.” When the music stopped, they didn’t make it to the “chair.”

                  Now they’ve lost a bundle.

                  Way too many people get suckered in by “get rich quick” scams and schemes and flim-flam. In most cases, it’s only those at the top of pyramid that really make the money… as is the case in ANY pyramid scheme, like selling Tupperware, Amway, vitamins or what have you.

                  The concept is blindingly simple and obvious to me, but, truly, I don’t want to sound rude. I just don’t get why more don’t “see” these things.

                  Caveat emptor is my motto…

          • bluedot12 says:

            “but the powered full steam ahead anyway.” All apparently wishing for the crash, like a death wish? That is what makes no sense. I suspect that whatever they saw, they thought they could control it.

            • onitgoes says:

              I suspect that whatever they saw, they thought they could control it.

              Have you heard the term “Masters of the Universe”? I believe it was coined years ago by author Tom Wolfe in is excellent novel “Bonfire of the Vanities,” which was about the greed-head Gordon Geckos on Wall St in the 1980s.

              Well these folks have hubris that knows no bounds. Have you ever heard of the phrase: pride goeth before the fall??

        • one_outer says:

          Can’t argue with you, but no one saw the housing bubble/financial crisis or this thing in Egypt either until it happened. The seeds of discontent are in the ground. I simply cannot understand why we cannot fix the unemloyment problem, which is at the root of this.

          Aw, come on. Sure you understand. Employing more people would make the economic elite’s profits shrink. We can’t have that. It’s part of “stability”. Stability for owners, but “belt tightening” and “shared sacrifice” for everyone that has to live with the consequences of their actions without a say.

          The housing bubble and financial crash, I saw about six months out or so. T/L D/R, if you wish from here as I have a real story. In like late summer or early fall 2007 I realized there was an excellent chance we’d have at least a major financial panic stemming from a bubble in the housing market.

          I remember this because of the house my parents bought in December 2007. They bought a big place – even though it’s just the two of them. They spent 7 figures in a little town 45 minutes away from a city in Texas. I remember warning my mom in the fall that the real estate prices were way inflated, and eventually they’d crash. Also, at the time gas was pushing $4+ a gallon in most of the country and they were in a do-nothing state with no transit 45 mins out from civilization and it would cost a small fortune every month just to drive the big SUV she insists on. I think I mentioned global warming too as water is kind of necessary, and they wanted to stay there for good.

          They still bought the house. It’s value has dropped 40%. They bought at the absolute top, as it turned out. Only two more houses were sold in the half completed gated development after theirs, none recently. It’s not ghastly or anything – just half finished with complete streets. They’re not in foreclosure trouble, but they’re never going to get out of the red on the house any time soon.

          They watch Fox News. They openly worry about and wonder why Muslims in America aren’t more “respectful to the flag”. My only and younger brother just joined the military. I really have a problem with that, but he’s college educated, summa cum laude in English, and hasn’t been able to find a good job. He had two jobs – one kitchen job and one retail job before he joined. I’m concerned about my family. But they’re not really able to understand me, and I can only say so much to them because of that.

          But mostly I don’t want my brother to get blown up in Tehran.

          • onitgoes says:

            Best of luck to your brother! Sorry to hear that, but I can relate to your story on so many levels.

            HOW to get citizens to *wake up* is the big question. Your parents, like many I know, wish to *believe* in the fiction and pablum spoon-fed to them by Fox and similar media outlets.

            It was during the Reagan Admin when the vaunted myth of American exceptionalism got twisted into: become an authoritarian tool who never ever engages in critical thinking, never ever questions our dear conservative leaders (because they are like “Daddy” Reagan and only have our better interests at heart), only believe in a one-party conservative govt rules all system, and always hate and blame minorities and poor people as the root of all evil, and constantly laugh and mock the LIEbruls for being abject fools who cannot find their butts from a hole in the ground.

            So many drank the Kool Aid… and now here we are.

            There was a time when American exceptionalism – as crummy and Xenophobic and Imperialistic as it was/is – did actually mean that citizens were smart and more or less self-reliant and question things and learned new stuff. That went out the window with Reagan, albeit it’s certainly not just Reagan who’s responsible.

            • one_outer says:

              Thanks for your kind words.

              I didn’t see Tunisia coming. There were other protests before Tunisia’s revolution scooted Ali out. I think it was safe to assume that once he left, there might be one more. That it’s Egypt, the largest Arab country by far, is absolutely monumental. It’s so big I don’t think I would know to even think it, know what I mean?

        • Mary says:

          You obviously don’t watch/arent a fan of – Nouriel Roubini. He not only had it nailed down WAY in advance, he even called the worst to-be-hit markets pretty much on the nose. Absolutely agree with you on the jobs issue – but I think one of the reasons is that we have become such a militarized economy. When our domestic economy is so led by and tied up in the military industrial complex – we pretty much have to propagate an agenda that is contra to a good jobs/education agenda. And it will be economically painful to make changes. There are, after all, a fair number of US jobs reflected in things like our military aid to evil empires ##s.

      • hektor6766 says:

        Our massive domestic food production is subsidized. Being an internal producer, with these subsidies, is keeping our fat out of the fire for now. We also used to have limits on futures, thanks to FDR, but those were lifted, and now Wall Street is speculating on those futures like they have on energy and, coming back around now, mortgages. Places like Egypt don’t have the domestic production nor the subsidies; the oppressive regimes have used their money to buy our civilian control products. The reason we have been crossing our fingers and hoping the inevitable wouldn’t happen is because, once again, we are deeply, closely, connected to the problem.

        D. Ratigan had an excellent analysis of this on Cenk’s show yesterday.

  9. 300SDL says:

    Our “geniuses” in government figured this could happen—but fervently hoped it would not because of their infatuation with the myopic status quo which serves their personal interests, not our national ones.

  10. cbl says:

    Emptywheel –

    wired is just now reporting Ahmed Maher, Facebook Activist & CoFounder of April 6 Youth has been arrested by Egyptian Police

    he is mentioned in the linked Wikileaks cable as in hiding at time of cable

  11. Tracerfan says:

    Playing basketball and eating ice cream and taking vacations every month are a far higher priority than engaging in geopolitics.

  12. gesneri says:

    There’s more here than the failure of US intelligence apparatus. Many “great minds” in the US think the same blinkered way. Back in the 1970’s, I remember listening to a series of those early morning educational broadcasts on public television in which the teacher was expounding on the security of the Lebanese state and the careful balance of power in its government. Not six months later, the civil war broke out. I often wondered if that professor kept his job.

    • onitgoes says:

      Many “great minds” in the US think the same blinkered way.

      Agree: blinded by their hubris and their own drinking of the American exceptionalism Kool Aid. Plus the elite live in their own opaque bubble (tip of the hat to Margaret for that depiction). They think that they are invincible and indominitable.

      Have no idea how this will pan out and agree that it’s not always easy to “predict” events like this. Yet I do believe the elites always feel that the serfs can just be ground under endlessly, and they’ll never ever rise up in protest. THAT’s where the myopia lies, at least partially.

  13. eCAHNomics says:

    It appears, then, that the US has met with some of these activists; it just apparently dismissed them as a bunch of naive youth.

    But they are naive youths. That is precisely accurate. So naive that they don’t realize they shouldn’t challenge the PTB.

      • eCAHNomics says:

        Being misunderestimated doesn’t always lead to winning, but it gives you a sneaky leg up on victory.

        I’m more interested in your “Yes, we can.” Many revolutions come from the youth. Who else had the energy, the vision that is not yet jaded & cynical, etc.

        Just makes me so sad to think of yet another resource O squandered.

  14. jedimsnbcko19 says:

    Obama has no clue what to do

    it is like this, the USG supplies the Egyptian Police and Egyptian Military the weapons to keep their people under control and terrorize them from time to time.

    so Obama can’t scream freedom, when the Egyptian Military and Police are shooting USA tear gas at the Egyptian people

  15. eCAHNomics says:

    I’ll add one other general observation about why the system always fails to detect these dramatic foreign event. I learned it from listening to Condi’s speech about radical changes she was going to do to revamp State Dept. Now I’d never thought about what State officials did overseas, so it was all news to me. Apparently, all they do is eat cocktail weenies with govt & officials from other countries. Condi’s radical revamping was gonna get them outside the embassies’ walls to talk to real people. They were even gonna have to get out of the capital cities to see what was happening elsewhere. (And BTW, learning the local language was also in the plan.)

    I was agog. This is radical change?

    Of course, it would have been, had it ever happened.

  16. deep harm says:

    Of course, the U.S. government was surprised and unprepared. My contingency planning efforts for the U.S. government, spanning 16 years, were constantly thwarted by a rigid mindset among senior officials. And that was for expected emergencies like fires, tornadoes and chemical spills. Convincing them to plan for political, technological and social change proved impossible. I urged officials and Congress to monitor those kinds of trends using publicly available information, a practice that I had found productive and very inexpensive. Instead, officials chose to monitor individuals, radically changing U.S. laws and spending billions in order to find needles in a haystack. Using my technique, I predicted a terrorist attempt, a failed response to a successful terrorist attack, the failed response to Hurricane Katrina, a shuttle disaster, and the economic crisis….all later described by officials as “unforseeable.”

  17. bluewombat says:

    And it was not just the government generally; predictably, the intelligence services paid to anticipate such events had no idea it would happen, either.

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but didn’t the CIA miss the collapse of the Soviet Union? Maybe we should take our monstrously huge intelligent budget and distribute it to the American people so we can go out and buy stuff.

  18. mzchief says:

    A clip of PJ Crowley was up on Al Jazeera English a bit ago and shown again. Crowley stated Sec. of State Clinton speaking directly with Egyptian VP Sulieman.

    John McCain Tweets:

    Regrettably the time has come 4 Pres. Mubarak 2 step down & relinquish power. It’s in the best interest of Egypt, its people & its military. less than a minute ago via web

    (eye roll)

  19. canadianbeaver says:

    The more this ordeal gets weird, the more it feels like the CIA/US gov’t has it’s hands all over this Egypt disassembling. Way too many strange coinkydinks. Those who think otherwise really need to study the CIA’s history. If it looks and smells funny, they are usually in there, and this looks very very funny. Also explains why nobody in the media can name a leader of the protest movement. There HAS to be someone that started the ball rolling. Millions of people with no internet access and no cellphones because they can’t afford to eat, don’t just wake up one morning and all converge. It. Just. Doesn’t. Happen.

    • eCAHNomics says:

      Egyptians interviews on AJ had names. There is a committee of 10. EB is serving as head. The other members were mostly heads of ‘opposition parties.’ There is some sort of consensus that this committee has reached that might allow it to negotiate & oversee a transition. The last interview I heard the Egyptian named about 5 out of the 10, but didn’t remember the names of the others.

      The names that seem up in the air were the youth leaders, but that makes sense since they are new to the process & unlikely to be widely known. I have heard a couple interviewed (that is youth leaders, not necessarily those on the the committee), and they have been incredibly articulate & savvy.

      • canadianbeaver says:

        So. Opposing political parties staged this, yet couldn’t in the last 30 years? I’ve been flipping around the newsmafia channels including AJ, but haven’t heard that one. Must have missed it. But does beg the question, what took 30 years, and how did they get the word to millions that do not own phones or internet, much less television. A majority of Egyptians according to everything I’ve seen, are poor. Too poor to have cellphones. And if this was staged by the opposition leaders, would they not be all over the media?

  20. mzchief says:

    OT– “[..] events unfolding in Whistler Canada, the home of N America’s most expensive and elite ski resort. Well anyway as you may know Outdoor Adventures owned by Intra West Corp, have been implicated with the horrific killing of 100 of their loyal employees (100 husky sled dogs) [..]” (“Outdoor Adventures owned by Intra West Corp, have been implicated with the horrific killing of 100 of their employees.” on Feb. 2, 2011)

    Prior article:

    Post-Olympic slaughter of 70 sled dogs prompts rage, embarrassment
    Vancouver and Whistler, B.C.— From Tuesday’s Globe and Mail
    Published Monday, Jan. 31, 2011 11:05AM EST
    Last updated Tuesday, Feb. 01, 2011 10:59AM EST

  21. Adam503 says:

    WSJ: “…No one could have predicted the sun would rise this morning. Nobody has mirrors in orbit to watch the position of the sun on the other side of the planet…”

  22. Mary says:

    OT but related – despite Saleh in Yemen announcing that, in 2 and 1/2 years or so, he might not run again, students are still upset and the opposition block is refusing to attend the session he called to make it more formal.

    Meanwhile, he apparently has also thought it prudent to order the release of a journalist in Yemen who is claimed to be an Al-Qaeda expert and who had his home raided in August, was taken at gunpoint, got a quickie trial and a 5 year conviction.


  23. Mary says:

    BTW if I were focusing any of the response efforts (US or otherwise) one part of the story I’d be very focused on and trying to stay on top of would be what is going on at the port.


    A breakdown of goods and services getting to people or price impacts could have all kinds of reprucussions and could result in balls bouncing in ways that are going to be hard to judge. Who they blame, what they get out, what happens with prices, etc. – that’s going to be a part of the story imo over the next few days.