August 14, 2020 / by 

 

Predicting a New Paradigm

In my seven plus years of blogging, I’ve never done year-end reviews or predictions and I don’t intend to start now.

But I do want to point to two pieces taking stock of this moment in history–the AJE piece on the decline of the American empire above (the transcript is here), and Juan Cole’s piece declaring the end to US hyperpower.

The AJE piece is generalized and describes a decline in both our economic and military hegemony. And while Cole includes this generalized framework,

The end of the Cold War, which had stretched from 1946 to 1991, had left the political elites of the United States and Western Europe without a bogeyman or security threat on which they could run for office and through which they could funnel resources to the military-industrial complex that largely pays for their political campaigns. With Russia in steep decline in the 1990s and China still run as a small, cautious power, the US emerged as what the French called a Hyperpower, the sole superpower. US hawks were impatient that Bill Clinton seemed not to realize that he had complete freedom of movement for a brief window of time. It was the new US status of hyperpower that allowed the G. W. Bush administration to respond to the September 11 terrorist attacks by launching two major wars and a host of smaller struggles, all against targets in the Muslim world.

As of 2011, the age of the US hyperpower is passing, along with the possibilities for American wars of choice, i.e., wars of aggression.

He situates it, not surprisingly, in the Middle East.

Some years are pivotal and serve to mark off eras of history. 2011 saw the end of American hyperpower, and it announced the end of a decade of US-Muslim conflict that began with 2001. It saw the killing of Usama Bin Laden, the virtual rolling up of al-Qaeda, the repudiation of al-Qaeda’s methods by the masses of the Arab world, and the US military withdrawal from Iraq. The upheavals of the Arab Spring and subsequent elections have led to Muslim fundamentalist parties being drawn into parliamentary politics on a Westminster model, rather than remaining sect-like corporate groups outside the body politic.

While I’m not certain that, fifty years from today, 2011–and specifically our withdrawal from Iraq–will mark the end of our hyperpower or empire (we might measure that date from the financial crisis in 2008; there might be some more spectacular loss in the future that will have that symbolism; or it could be something else entirely), I do generally agree that we’re at the twilight of the American mode of power that has dominated since the end of World War II.

I think that’s why predictions looking forward will be so hard to get right. Partly because there’s no telling how Americans–both those who run our domestic and foreign policy, and those average citizens facing a future without the self-importance derived from the country’s dominance–will react as this new state of affairs becomes evident. At both levels, we could just get a whole lot more violent.

But also because, as Tom Englehardt says in the AJE piece, I don’t think we’re seeing a simple matter of imperial succession, as happened when England passed the baton of world hegemon to us.

I don’t think it’s like the US is going down and you’re gonna get a Chinese empire rising. I think you’ve got a planet in crisis and we’re just barely beginning to feel it.

Rather, I think we’re going to see a new paradigm, one that not only robs average Americans of the arrogance of being the “best,” but also robs many around the world of their traditional means of understanding the world.

So while it may be interesting to think about President Obama dealing with a Republican Senate or President Mitt dealing with Speaker Pelosi, while it may be interesting to predict how many TBTF banks will fail over the next year, even while it may be interesting to start thinking about what Europe will look like after the Euro zone ends, I think all those exercises might be end up showing far too little imagination about what the future holds.

As I’ve said before, it’s fairly clear that 2011–like 1968 and 1989–was a year of great historical importance. But I’m not sure if we can even conceive of just how important it might be or why.


In Egypt, Our Military Surrogates Crack Down on Our Civil Society Surrogates

Egypt’s Supreme Council of the Armed Forces raided 17 civil society and human rights groups yesterday, in some cases holding staffers at the NGO offices as the raid proceeded. The raid has the odd effect of pitting the Generals we’ve mentored and funded–to the tune of billions–against civil society experts we’ve also funded, through State Department funding streams.

The orchestrated move by Egypt’s generals, apparently keen to play up to anti-US and nationalist feelings in the country, will be seen as highly provocative in Washington, which underwrites military aid to Egypt to the sum of $1.3bn (£843m) annually.

“We are deeply concerned,” a State Department official told the Guardian.

And I suspect this won’t be the end of the demonizing of civil society NGOs. After all, these NGOs have been involved, for years, in training some of the activists who went on to lead the revolution. Even some of the activists (who may have been state operatives) have accused those with ties to these NGOs of “treason.” The State Department developed an explicit plan to foster reform in Egypt through these NGOs five years ago.

Technical support to legal political parties through IRI and NDI: Having assessed the elections, the institutes now recognize what the parties need. The NDP will likely not participate with other parties in the room, so it may be necessary to develop separate tracks in the program for the ruling party and the opposition. Even with the NDP on board, we can expect blowback by anti-reform elements. The institutes should keep their programs low-key and the USG apprised. Their programs should incorporate the full range of Egypt’s civil rights priorities, such as bringing more women and Christians into the political process. The 2007 Shura elections and the 2008 local council elections–and the development of the legislation promised to reform the later–will be the key medium-term tests. In addition to continued support for international implementers like NDI and IRI, we should also proceed with supporting additional engagement on Egypt by additional international NGOs such as Transparency International, Freedom House, and the American Bar Association.

So SCAF will presumably find plenty of “evidence” that the US supported democratic reform, in part, by supporting these organizations (though State has been pressuring the government directly as well, both under Mubarak and since).

And all that’s before you consider the past role that the International Republican Institute has had in regime change efforts like the attempted 2002 coup against Huge Chavez and the 2004 ouster of Jean-Betrand Aristide.

The point is not that our support of these NGOs is wrong (specific qualms about IRI and, to a lesser degree, Freedom House aside). Rather, it’s that the military leaders we’ve been sponsoring for years cannot distinguish between support for democratization and opposition to their rule. And that, in turn, can easily be spun as an opposition to Egyptian security, particularly given how much the US has turned Islamic terrorism into an all-powerful bogeyman.

It all seems so familiar, given our difficulty getting cooperation from our military surrogates in Pakistan.

Nevertheless, these very vivid examples of how paying to strengthen militarized authoritarians in “allied” countries can backfire didn’t stop us from finalizing a $30 billion deal with Saudi Arabia for F-15s yesterday, the same day of this SCAF raid.


A Rancid Foreclosure Fraud Settlement Trial Balloon, Herbert Obamavilles, What Digby Said & The Import of the Occupy Movement

I do not usually just post simply to repeat what another somewhat similarly situated blogger has said. But late this afternoon/early this evening, I was struck by two things almost simultaneously. Right as I read Gretchen Morgenson’s latest article in the NYT on the latest and most refined parameters of the foreclosure fraud settlement, I also saw a post by Digby. The intersection of the two was crushing, but probably oh so true.

First, the latest Foreclosure Fraud Settlement trial balloon being floated by the “State Attorney Generals”. There have been several such trial balloons floated on this before; all sunk like lead weights. This is absolutely a similar sack of shit; from Morgenson at the NYT:

Cutting to the chase: if you thought this was the deal that would hold banks accountable for filing phony documents in courts, foreclosing without showing they had the legal right to do so and generally running roughshod over anyone who opposed them, you are likely to be disappointed.

This may not qualify as a shock. Accountability has been mostly A.W.O.L. in the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis. A handful of state attorneys general became so troubled by the direction this deal was taking that they dropped out of the talks. Officials from Delaware, New York, Massachusetts and Nevada feared that the settlement would preclude further investigations, and would wind up being a gift to the banks.

It looks as if they were right to worry. As things stand, the settlement, said to total about $25 billion, would cost banks very little in actual cash — $3.5 billion to $5 billion. A dozen or so financial companies would contribute that money.

The rest — an estimated $20 billion — would consist of credits to banks that agree to reduce a predetermined dollar amount of principal owed on mortgages that they own or service for private investors. How many credits would accrue to a bank is unclear, but the amount would be based on a formula agreed to by the negotiators. A bank that writes down a second lien, for example, would receive a different amount from one that writes down a first lien.

Sure, $5 billion in cash isn’t nada. But government officials have held out this deal as the penalty for years of what they saw as unlawful foreclosure practices. A few billion spread among a dozen or so institutions wouldn’t seem a heavy burden, especially when considering the harm that was done.

The banks contend that they have seen no evidence that they evicted homeowners who were paying their mortgages. Then again, state and federal officials conducted few, if any, in-depth investigations before sitting down to cut a deal.

Shaun Donovan, secretary of Housing and Urban Development, said the settlement, which is still being worked out, would hold banks accountable. “We continue to make progress toward the key goals of the settlement, which are to establish strong protections for homeowners in the way their loans are serviced across every type of loan and to ensure real relief for homeowners, including the most substantial principal writedown that has occurred throughout this crisis.”

Read the full piece, there is much more there.

Yes, this is certainly just a trial balloon, and just the latest one at that. But it is infuriating, because it is the same old sell out crap repackaged and trying to be shoved down the public’s throat yet again. And who wants to sell this shit sandwich the most? Barack Obama and his band of Masters of the Universe, that’s who. It is also, of course, the fervent desire of Wall Street and their bought and paid for pols like Chuck Schumer.

Which is exactly why elected state Attorney General politicians (Hi Tom Miller), who are also generally on the political make, are so focused on getting a craven deal done, no matter how badly it screws the public and economy. If anybody has ever had any doubt as to why California AG Kamala Harris has been so slow, and so weak, in the matter this is exactly why. Harris is a political climber, and her fortunes and fame ride with the 1% and the politicians like Obama and Schumer that they control like circus monkeys.

Which brings me back to what Digby said. Digby, playing a notably tin-eared editorial by the Los Angeles Times off of a scathing comment on the American elite by Frank Rich, said:

That the LA Times is clutching its pearls over fig trees and grass while nearly 3,000 people have been arrested at Occupations all over the country world says just about everything you need to know about disconnect between elites and everybody else.

Yeah, that about sums it up. Do go read the full description of the “Hoovervilles” and what they really comprised, because it is far too close to home with the current time and place we occupy. By the same token, it is hard for many in the comfortably ensconsed traditional middle class to see just how heinous the situation is, and how necessary the “Occupy” movement may really be.

Trust me. I know, I am one of the uncomfortable. My natural predilections are within the system and rules. That, however, is no longer perhaps enough. Many of you reading this post may not be on Twitter, and thus may not have seen it; but I have in the last couple of days straightened out more than one pundit on the, and sometimes unfortunately so, real protection reach of the 1st Amendment. It is far less a prophylactic protection than most, and certainly the vocal proponents of the Occupy Movement, think.

Without belaboring the minutiae, the clear law of the land for over 70 years, ever since the Supreme Court handed down its decision in Cox v. New Hampshire, is:

Civil liberties, as guaranteed by the Constitution, imply the existence of an organized society maintaining public order without which liberty itself would be lost in the excesses of unrestrained abuses. The authority of a municipality to impose regulations in order to assure the safety and convenience of the people in the use of public highways has never been regarded as inconsistent with civil liberties but rather as one of the means of safeguarding the good order upon which they ultimately depend.
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If a municipality has authority to control the use of its public streets for parades or processions, as it undoubtedly has, it cannot be denied authority to give consideration, without unfair discrimination, to time, place and manner in relation to the other proper uses of the streets. We find it impossible to say that the limited authority conferred by the licensing provisions of the statute in question as thus construed by the state court contravened any constitutional right.

There is a long line of cases that ultimately extend the ability of cities and municipalities right to reasonably regulate time and place of free speech expression, so long as said regulation is content neutral, to public parks and all other sorts of publicly controlled spaces.

But those are “the rules”. When the politicians and corporate masters no longer are willing to play by the rules, how much longer can the “99%” afford to honor them? When the so called leaders will not abide by the norms and constricts of law, why should the average man still be held to the same?

Again, I fully admit just how much I struggle with saying the above. I really do; it is uncomfortable and discomfiting. I could go on, but my own thoughts pale in comparison with those similarly situated who have experienced first hand what the import and truth of the Occupy movement is.

I ask, indeed implore, you read this long, but telling, account from The Awl by Lili Loofbourow entitled “The Livestream Ended: How I Got Off My Computer And Onto The Street At Occupy Oakland”. There is literally too much to excerpt, and it would take away from the critically important slow progression the writer lays out for you, the reader.

So, while “the rules” may militate otherwise, and while “our Constitutional rights” go nowhere near as far as the psyched up Occupiers cry, there is something raw and necessary about the “Occupy” movement. It is necessary because the rules and “adults in the room” have sold their souls, and our lives, down the river of greed.

If not “the 99%”, then who? If not now, then when? It is time.


Bloomberg Averts Zuccotti Park Showdown as Occupy Wall Street Goes Global

A sign in Zuccotti Park on Thursday. (photo: NLNY, Creative Commons license)

At the end of the day yesterday, the burning question was whether New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg would send the New York Police Department into Zuccotti Park this morning to clear it of protesters under cover of a request from the owners of the property (although used as a public park, the property is privately owned).  This morning, we learn that the property owners and Bloomberg have backed down, postponing for now the planned cleaning which had been put forward as the reason for potentially clearing the park.  From CNN:

The New York mayor’s office said Brookfield Properties, the owners of Zuccotti Park, told the city late Thursday the scheduled cleaning is off for now and “for the time being” they are “withdrawing their request” made earlier in the week for police assistance during the cleaning operation.

“Our position has been consistent throughout: the City’s role is to protect public health and safety, to enforce the law, and guarantee the rights of all New Yorkers. Brookfield believes they can work out an arrangement with the protesters that will ensure the park remains clean, safe, available for public use and that the situation is respectful of residents and businesses downtown, and we will continue to monitor the situation,” Deputy Mayor Cas Holloway said.

There had been fears of a standoff between New York officers tasked with clearing the park early Friday and protesters who wouldn’t budge. The city had ordered the protesters to leave by 7 a.m. so crews could clean the park.

But the protesters mopped, collected trash and scrubbed the pavement in the dead of the night as the Friday deadline neared for them to leave the premises for a cleanup. When the word of the postponed cleaning filtered through the more than 1,000 protesters who filled the park, they were elated.

What began about a month ago with a handful of protesters in New York City is now spreading across the globe:

The Occupy Wall Street movement has sparked nationwide protests in more than 1,400 cities, according to Occupy Together, which has become an online hub for protest activity.

It also inspired solidarity rallies on Thursday that were due to take place at more than 140 U.S. college campuses in 25 states, according to Occupy Colleges. Some social media photos showed about a dozen or so protesters at various colleges.

According to the website of United for Global Change, 15october.net/, there are 869 cities in 71 countries where protests are being planning.[sic]

Even here in lowly Gainesville, a small blue dot in the middle of the reddest portion of Florida, the occupy movement is alive. A permit was granted for protesters to sleep overnight in the downtown Bo Diddley Plaza Wednesday night, but protesters attempted to stay overnight Thursday night as well, leading to the arrest of Bo Diddley’s son, Ellas McDaniel:

Ellas Anthony McDaniel, 56, said he was charged with trespassing around midnight Thursday because he refused to leave the Bo Diddley community plaza after it closed as is customary at 11:30 p.m. McDaniel said he complained to police that he had not been read his Miranda rights.

“They said if I go back in there, I’ll be arrested,” McDaniel said. “I’m not a vagrant. My father wasn’t a vagrant. If he was a vagrant, they wouldn’t have named this park after him. He didn’t raise no vagrants. He raised men. He raised me to stand up for what I believe, because he stood up for what he believed.”

The arrests in Gainesville do not stand alone.  Cities across the US have varied widely in their responses to the protests, with some large scale arrests (hundreds were arrested as they took to the Brooklyn Bridge) and some cities, such as Los Angeles, working closely with protesters to assure peaceful protests with few to no arrests.

With the large number of protests planned around the world for tomorrow, this weekend should tell us just how much momentum the movement is gaining.  One of the primary reasons Brookfield Properties and Mayor Bloomberg (whose girlfriend is on the board of Brookfield) may have backed down from a confrontation today is that there was a growing belief that there is now sufficient attention on the protest that a major crackdown would lead to a huge outpouring of support for the movement with overwhelming numbers of people joining the protesters on the streets.  At the time of this writing, unconfirmed reports on Twitter indicate a significant police presence around Zuccotti Park and a few reports of individual arrests, but no massive police action appears imminent.

If there are indeed over 1400 different protests in the US tommorrow and nearly 900 more in international cities, it is clear that the protests are striking a nerve across the globe.  Although some attack the movement as lacking a clear purpose or set of demands, it seems to me that the resonant theme is that Wall Street represents the hub of a system which for too long has enriched a very few while relying on lax regulation, poor law enforcement and a purchased government to deprive everyone else of their resources and their opportunities.  This movement represents a growing awareness among the” 99%” that this situation is no longer sustainable.

How far will the movement go and does it have the potential to lead to real change?  Only time will tell, but if the movement maintains anything like its current momentum for a few more weeks, the possibility begins to look more like a probability.


F1 Trash: Bernie Ecclestone Takes a Swing At Sultans of Bahrain

This week is the Canadian Grand Prix at Circuit Gilles-Villeneuve in Montreal. We will get to that shortly, but perhaps the most significant news from the Circus this week is the swing of F1 from reinstating the Bahrain Grand Prix, which was previously pulled from its season opening slot in mid-March due to civil unrest and corresponding governmental oppression, to again yanking it from the schedule.

The race was called-off Friday after Bahrain International Circuit (BIC) announced its withdrawal to stage the event in the wake of objections from the teams and its drivers. The FIA’s World Motor Sport Council last Friday had re-instated the race to October (28-30) but removal of it now is most likely to make way for the staging of the inaugural Indian Grand Prix on the same dates.

“We will be back to normal. We have to put it to the World Council. I sent something this morning, so it will be quick,” Ecclestone was quoted as saying by The Guardian Wednesday.

Ecclestone, while defending his earlier decision, said the teams had the right to object to the re-scheduling of the race that was cancelled in March due to anti-government protests.

“The truth of the matter is we put the calendar together and the teams race on the calendar,” he said. “We were trying to help Bahrain, who have been very helpful to Formula One, and hoping they could get themselves sorted out.

“I don’t know whether there is peace or not. I have no idea. The FIA sent somebody out to check and they said it was all OK. I think the teams had different information and they have the right to say they don’t want to change the calendar.”

Since not everybody can translate jive, here is the deal. After the Arab Spring uprising in Egypt began in late January and started to spread, there was a brutal crackdown on protesters in Bahrain. A wave of pressure was placed on F1 and its governing body FIA by supporters of the protesters and reform movement to pull the Grand Prix. I certainly doubt I was responsible for diddly squat, but I was among the early suggesters that putting the GP in play would be perhaps the biggest single blow that could be leveraged against the oppressive Bahraini government and the Khalifa clan that owns, runs, and dictates it.

They paid dearly and through the nose to build the facility and buy their way into the F1 schedule and, like the crown jewels to a monarchy, it is the very symbol of their belonging and relevance in the international community. It means everything to them. To Bernie Ecclestone, who does not just run F1, he IS F1, it is simply a giant wad of money. And Bernie likes money. Having seen Bernie in action over three plus decades, and casually meeting him a couple of times, my take is Ecclestone does not care about the Shia, Sunni, Arab Spring, oppression or anything else; the bottom line is his and F1’s deal. So, when Bernie said:

“The FIA sent somebody out to check and they said it was all OK. I think the teams had different information and they have the right to say they don’t want to change the calendar.”

What he meant was he sent someone to make sure the Khalifas had their little civil rights problem sufficiently snuffed out to allow the beautiful people to bring the circus to town. Here is how Foreign Poiicy’s Blake Hounshell aptly described it last Tuesday:

In making its decision, the FIA sent a “fact-finding mission” to Bahrain in late May to determine whether it would be safe to hold the race, which was canceled earlier this year amid the violence. According to Formula 1 chief Bernie Eccelstone, quoted in the Guardian, “The FIA sent people out there to check on the situation, they came back and reported everything is fine.”

The report, a copy of which was provided to FP by the New York-based human rights group Avaaz, was signed by FIA Vice President Carlos Gracia, who traveled to Bahrain on May 30 and May 31 along with an assistant, Carlos Abella.

It appears to be a complete whitewash.

According to the report, Gracia and Abella met with several government officials, including Minister of Culture Mai bint Mohammed al-Khalifa, Interior Minister Rashid bin Abdullah al-Khalifa, Public Security Chief Maj. Gen. Tariq bin Dana, Bahrain International Circuit Chairman Zayed R. al-Zayani, and BIC CEO Salman bin Eissa al-Khalifa — and seem to have accepted their views uncritically.

They also met with Tariq al-Saffar of the pro-grovernment National Institute of Human Rights, who was appointed in 2010 by King Hamad. (Saffar is also managing director of advertising firm Fortune Promoseven, which lists the F1 Grand Prix as a client.)

Gracia and Abella did dine with several unnamed foreign business leaders — a dinner arranged by their government host — but met with zero members of the opposition or with independent rights groups, and did not tour Shiite neighborhoods that have reportedly been under siege for weeks, though they did visit a shopping mall.

And that would have been fine for Ecclestone, but the drivers and teams had other ideas. When F1 constructors – the actual teams – and respected commentators and former drivers like Martin Brundle start jawing that it is a mistake to sully the F1 brand with a trip to the oppressive Bahrain, it starts to leave a mark. Heck even Max Mosely, who has some issues with repressive governments, slammed it as a stupid idea:

“By running the race they hope to show the world the troubles were just a small, temporary difficulty and everything is now back to normal” said the 71-year-old.

“By agreeing to race there, Formula One becomes complicit in what has happened. It becomes one of the Bahrain government’s instruments of repression. The decision to hold the race is a mistake which will not be forgotten and, if not reversed, will eventually cost Formula One dear.”

Ouch. And, so, Bahrain is pulled again. Good; Max Mosely is exactly right in the message and damage that would have been done. If only the US Government and Barack Obama would have the decency and balls to call out their little client oil sultans for who they are and what they are doing. When Max Mosely and Bernie Ecclestone are making you look like moral midgets, it is time to recalibrate. Let’s hope the US does just that.

Now, back to the Canadian Grand Prix that is up on the plate this weekend. As said above, it is at Circuit Gilles-Villeneuve in Montreal. It is a fast course, but not particularly exciting not overly taxing on the drivers’ skill set. With the new rules and tire situation in place in F1 for 2011, pit ability and strategy could be critical. The walls are also a little tricky and unforgiving, as even Sebastian Vettel found in practice. As seems to truly befit the talent that young Vettel is (seriously, the guy is on a Senna trajectory), he and Red Bull recovered to claim pole. That is six out of seven poles this year for the German, with the remaining one seized by Red Bull teammate Mark Webber. that is pretty dominating.

But Ferrari is getting its act together and closing the competitive gap with the Red Bull boys, with Alonso and Massa taking P2 and P3 respectively. Michael Schumacher, somewhat sadly, continues to be outpaced by fellow Mercedes driver Nico Rosberg, a nice little driver but, unlike Vettel, will never be compared to Senna or Schumacher in his prime. That said, as Brad Spurgeon notes, Michael is certainly not embarrassing himself and, while improved over the initial two years of his “comeback”, his Mercedes equipment is certainly no match for the Red Bulls, Ferraris or McLarens.

The race is broadcast live on Fox instead of SpeedTV this week, with coverage starting at 1 PM EST and 10 AM PST.


Egyptian Trash Talk

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Hi there denizens of this strange blog. I am a spooky hacker (No como se Adrian Lamo) and have determined there is far too much negativity in the common daily activities here. I protest. Like an Egyptian. Time to accentuate the positive and eliminate the negative. So here is a little music with which to celebrate what can be accomplished by the youth of a country when they are engaged, mad as hell and not going to take it any more.

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For years, we have been trying to figure out what it will take to wake up the American government, Congress, powers that be and get them to return to the ethos of what this country – the United States – is supposed to stand for and exemplify. Instead of watching Obamaco Organizing For America and Move On lamely and pathetically try to suck up and pray the youth will come out and vote for centrist, status quo, Bush-Lite bullshit in 2012, maybe we should be telling and encouraging the youth to figure out where the American version of Tahrir Square is and helping them get there. It is the least we can do. Seriously.

Our generation has borne the climate change deniers, Tea Party, evolution deniers, Andrew Breitbart and Fox News horse manure and propounded freaking Barak Obama as the hopey-changey salvation. In short, we are totally fucked. Turn the gig over to our kids and get out of the way. If Egypt has proven anything which can be taken home here, it is that we need to be talkin bout a new generation. We are done and have screwed the pooch big time; it is up to them, but we can help them and “prepare the battlefield”.

Okay. Here is the legal disclaimer. There is no way in hell I was going to post the fucking Bangles, even though I kind of like Walk Like An Egyptian. Not gonna do it. So, Live at Pompeii may not quite be Egyptian, but close enough for rock and roll. By the way, I think Suleiman is Pink.

Copyright © 2018 emptywheel. All rights reserved.
Originally Posted @ https://www.emptywheel.net/revolution/