Protesters pack the State Capital building in Madison
On this edition of the There is No Spoon show, we discuss the organizing happening in Wisconsin to prevent the passing of a bill that would end public sector unions from being able to collectively bargain. We provide a basic overview of the situation, some stories from on-the-ground protesters, and historical context of labor unions and labor organizing in Wisconsin and beyond. Our guests, Awais Khaleel (long-time Wisconsin political organizer and Howard Law Student); Marla Delgado (UW-Madison graduate student and community organizer); and Michael Paarlberg(Georgetown graduate student and freelance writer for the Guardian) discuss important issues such as inconsistencies in budget deficit claims and blames as well as the truth behind who makes more - private or public sector employees. Now that the bill has passed the Wisconsin state assembly, tune into the podcast to understand the national repercussions if it passes the state senate.
I've been entertained by the comedian (he's not a journalist, people, he just follows some mainstream media news and talks about it with some celebrities, fake experts, and [occasionally] actual experts) Bill Maher for many years. I appreciate his show, enjoy that he uses his name and stage to bring about discourse on politics, and often find myself agreeing with what he says. However, on one specific topic, Maher makes me very angry...and, as Mr. McGee learned many years ago, don't make me angry; you wouldn't like me when I'm angry. You see, when it comes to discussions about Muslims and/or Arabs, Bill Maher is a bigot, or at the very least, bigot-ish. He's bigot-ish because he uses a level of analysis that would make most high schoolers uncomfortable. He uses this preposterous thinking to come to some really dangerous, reductionist conclusions that smell of the worst kind of Orientalism. And the audience ("liberals" who seemingly don't get it and enjoy cheering on their hero) goes along with the sham. Except it's not just a sham. It's quite dangerous. See the impact of Islamophobia on Muslims in America today? See the overt venomous racist discourse we see and hear so often right now? Well...Bill Maher is part of the problem. And somebody needs to call him on it and knock his discourse straight out. Enter (stage left): me and my foot to break off in Maher's ass.
It's celebration time! Hosni Mubarak has resigned and turned over the reigns to...the military. Oh wait...last three military rulers in Egypt? Nasser, Sadat, Mubarak. Oh right. Okay, so I do think this is still a big deal, and I'm cautiously optimistic the military will serve as a transition government until free and fair elections are held. They saw the numbers in the streets, and I do believe they realize those numbers will come out again, if not more, if they make this transition not happen. That being said, even if we see a move towards democracy in Egypt (after, presumably, civil institutions are rebuilt somewhat from their hallow roles during the rule of the semi-autocrats for so long), there is this problem. The Egyptian military is huge and probably doesn't want to see itself shrunk.
On this edition of the There is No Spoon show, we discuss the unrest in Egypt and how it relates to the region as a whole. We cover the Muslim Brotherhood, American foreign policy, authoritarian persistance, social movements, and political and economic roots of the uprisings. Our guest is Hesham Sallam, a PhD candidate at Georgetown who studies the persistance of authoritarian regimes, comparative Middle East politics, and is the co-editor of Jadaliyya, and online e-zine produced by the Arab Studies Institute - it is a great resource for analysis of the Middle East. Now that Mubarak has resigned, listen to the podcast and be informed about the issues that will develop in the coming days, weeks, and months.
To all our readers: we'll be making a big change to the blog in the coming week or two. While there will still be occasional posts on the site, we'll be shifting to a (we hope) every-other-week podcast. We enjoy blogging, but feel that it would be more efficient for us to do a talk show. It is probably going to be easier for all of you as well. Instead of reading through a post, you can simply download the mp3 file for each podcast and listen to it on your subway ride, car ride, gym workout, etc. We're planning on having guests on our show when possible. Think of Real Time with Bill Maher - except with smart people! Anyway, we're excited about this transition, and we hope it makes it easier and more entertaining for all of you. Expect our first podcast any day now. The first show will be focused on the revolts in the Middle East.
Al Jazeera has kind of owned the coverage of the revolt in Egypt, though apparently their Cairo offices were just raided (according to Amy Goodman on Democracy Now this morning). If you're like many in the U.S. who don't get Al Jazeera on TV, you can stream their around-the-clock coverage online here. Another one of my favorite sources is Democracy Now's Sharif Abdel Kouddous, who has been on many news shows in the past few days, including the Rachel Maddow and Ed Schultz shows on MSNBC. Sharif has been one of the best sources on the ground in Cairo, and his tweets have gotten picked up by everyone. Follow him on Twitter by clicking here. Sharif's latest tweet, as of an hour ago: "Thousands continue to stream across Kasr El Nile bridge. Very festive atmosphere. What a contrast to Wednesday's govt-sponsored brutality."
Wait a second...I though Arabs and Muslims and the Middle East region in general couldn't really handle democracy? That something about their culture explained that these people needed strong man running their states, not (real) popular electoral contests and a representative system of government. Well, I am shocked to see what is happening in the streets of Cairo right now. I am a bit surprised about what has happened in Tunisia, what is starting up in Yemen. Actually, I am a little alarmed by the level of repression used by the Mubarak regime in Egypt to try and silence the political dissent when it is clear the whole world is watching. But in terms of what is happening in the streets, this moment has been building for a long time. And no, Arabs, Muslims, and people in the Middle East are not predisposed to authoritarian rule. That's just the system that's been forced on them by force by some of their own elites and great powers abroad.