Everybody makes mistakes

Yeah, everybody makes mistakes, but this one is pretty embarrassing, considering all the resources available to make sure you get a simple map correct. Clearly, this map is a little off “balance.”

Note that the top map places Egypt smack in between Iran and Syria. Which is fine, except that’s not Egypt. That’s Iraq. Egypt is the squarish hunk of land to the west (left, for the directionally impaired) of Saudi Arabia and separated by a body of water. Oh, and Egypt is ON ANOTHER CONTINENT.

Yeah, the general area is referred to the Mideast, but the Saudi Peninsula – including Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Jordan and tiny Lebanon and Israel– is part of Asia.

Egypt is part of Africa.

The maps situated below more accurately reflect the current situation.

The map below shows how Europe, Asia and Africa kind of converge, making clear distinctions (like, say, an ocean between them) a little tricky. I mean, is Turkey really Asian or European? It’s kind of a ‘tweener.

And Fox could be forgiven the mix-up with the maps if none of these states had been in the news much lately. Except that Iraq has been splattered across the world repeatedly for the last 20 years. Two weeks ago was the 20th anniversary of “Desert Storm.” Still can’t tell Iraq from Egypt? Really?

 

And more details below, such as the famed Newfoundland and Labrador regions.

 

Ha-ha-ha! I’m just messing with you. That’s Idaho.

Mubarak: I’m not dead yet

Hosni Mubarak has been on the world stage for nearly 30 years, but it’s safe to say he’s never been in the spotlight more than during this week.

My man, Hosni.

After several days of demonstrations against his government, culminating in widespread riots or near-riots in several major urban centers in Egypt, Mubarak finally addressed his nation and the world. He promised to reform his government and he pledged his support for freedom of speech. But he also said he ain’t leaving.

You can be sure that American officials are relieved that he hasn’t responded with the kind of brute force we’ve seen in Iran, Iraq or China when mass protests break out.

So far, the protests in Cairo, Suez and Alexandria have not met with a Tiananmen Square-style tanks-and-guns massacre.

Apparently Mubarak’s promises have not placated the angry mobs on the streets.

Which is worrisome.

If things don’t kick down a notch or two, Mubarak may yet respond with an iron fist. Let’s hope not. Too much is at stake.

A violent revolution in Egypt could destabilize one of the few relatively steady allies for the United States (and sane people everywhere) in a notoriously unstable and dangerous part of the world.

The last thing we need is another Iran. And don’t think that’s not possible.

It is.

Twenty-five years ago, we had another friend in nearby Iraq. The name should sound familiar: Saddam Hussein. As you probably know, things didn’t work out with Saddam.

Yes, that's Ronald Reagan chatting with his buddy Tariq Aziz, circa 1985.

Mubarak has not been as problematic as Saddam Hussein proved to be, and he doesn’t sound like he will be. But the photo above looks hauntingly similar to photos from the 1980s with Saddam and former Iraqi big shot Tariq Aziz making happy faces in photo ops at the White House.

OMG moment — Al Jazeera just mocked Mubarak as “presenting himself as the sharing, caring reformer” in his address. Gotta Tweet that …

Getting back on topic.

Folks who think Egypt doesn’t really matter, or who think Twitter and social media in general don’t matter, are sadly mistaken.

This revolution (might be a little premature with that term),  along with Tunisia and a few other hot spots that seem to be mostly in northern Africa at the moment, has very much been driven by communication technology — and when the Internet access was shut down, old technology filled in.

The most strident critics don’t want Mubarak to reform his government. They want him gone.

But again, who will replace Mubarak?

And that is why Egypt matters to us dumb and insular Americans. If the wrong leader replaces Mubarak, we could have another Iraq. Or another Iran. Neither choice is particularly attractive.

A funny side note. Aman Ali, a stand-up comic Muslim (I know, right? He coined the phrase “journalistic woody”) who was an intern at the Akron Beacon Journal five years ago, noticed how stylish many of the young protesters looked. And it’s true. I saw one angry dude sporting a stylish sweater.

Egypt’s benevolent dictator. Or not

Hosni Mubarak is in a difficult spot. Angry mobs are burning stuff in the streets of Cairo and riots (or near riots) are widely reported in Suez and Alexandria. Egypt has been an important center of stability in the Mideast, a moderate voice in relations with Israel and the West. Anwar Sadat paid with his life for Egypt’s peace treaty with Israel some 30 years ago. Mubarak, 82 (!!!), has ruled Egypt as a more or less benevolent dictator for the last 30 years.

He must be a tired old man. He’s 82 (!!) after all. Given that, why does he so stubbornly cling to power? He apparently has no plan for  succession. Maybe he believes there is no one capable of staying the course in Egypt. One of his sons occasionally is mentioned as a successor. We’ve seen how well that works in North Korea.

On PBS Thursday night, Vice President Joe Biden said, “Mubarak has been an ally of ours in a number of things. And he’s been very responsible on, relative to geopolitical interest in the region, the Middle East peace efforts; the actions Egypt has taken relative to normalizing relationship with—with Israel. …I would not refer to him as a dictator.”

My man, Hosni.

But most Egyptians would.

The Wall Street Journal reports: “A succession of rallies and demonstrations, in Egypt, Jordan, Yemen and Algeria, inspired by the popular outpouring of anger that toppled Tunisian President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali, pose a thorny problem for U.S. policy in the region.”

Egypt is one of those places most of us give little thought to until “it” hits the fan. And now that it’s hitting the fan, we’re getting crash courses on Egypt’s history. The grievances against Egypt’s government aren’t new. Protesters are angrily confronting police forces, ignoring a curfew declared by the government. Curiously, these crowds are decidedly more friendly to military personnel who have moved into these zones. Al Jazeera reports that soldiers in tanks in Cairo were surrounded by crowds, and the soldiers emerged from the tanks to shake hands with the crowds. Imagine that happening at Tianenmen Square in 1989!

A Tale of Two Cairos.

Egypt’s Internet has been shut down. Egypt’s leading television anchors have apparently been put “on vacation,” reports Al Jazeera. The official media are showing live video of a peaceful city, only hundreds of meters away from the scene of the riot, which Al Jazeera so clearly illustrates above. And live video-audio shows loud cheers in the crowd, occasionally punctuated by explosions and/or gunfire.

Clearly, Mubarak must act to calm the situation. What he’ll do is unclear. And it presents many problems.

United Nations chief Ban Ki-Moon (say that three times for a cheap laugh) urged Egyptian protesters and government forces alike to settle matters peacefully. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was equally milquetoast in her message: “As a partner of Egypt we are urging that there be a restraint on the part of the security forces, there not be a rush to impose very strict measures that would be violent and that there be a dialogue between the government and the people of Egypt.”

Sending in tanks is the more conventional method of quelling unrest.

The trouble in Egypt is just the latest focal point of what some pundits believe is the growing movement against dictatorships throughout the Arab world.

“A CNN analysis of secret and confidential cables published by WikiLeaks and its media partners reveals U.S. frustration with Mubarak’s lack of succession planning, concerns over stuttering economic reform and private criticism of the Mubarak government’s hard line toward domestic opponents.”

Egypt is an important piece in the global jigsaw puzzle, and if it should fall under the control of someone friendlier to anti-Western forces in the Mideast, the United States will lose a stable ally in this region. Mubarak is faced with a difficult choice: Use brute force to suppress the popular uprising, or resign and leave Egypt to an uncertain fate.

But something’s gotta give.

Internet Content Flowchart

And here’s another Internet, web, net, online, content, intellectual property, network, flow chart, flowchart, diagram, schematic, SEO.

Note: We apologize for the naughty language in the lower-right corner of the flow chart, although because we’re ripping this off from Roger Ebert, who ripped this off somebody else who may in fact have ripped it off himself/herself, we hereby issue a broad disclaimer of responsibility for any of the material on this particular blog post, or just to be safe, any materials ever posted on this blog or any other posted by this author, who prefers to remain anonymous just to be extra cautious.

Big Brother keeps getting bigger

Sure, there will be economies of scale with the pending takeover of NBC by Comcast. And, we really, really mean it, we’ll make sure Comcast plays nice with non-NBC content providers, right?

Jay Leno can tweak his bosses’ bosses with jokes about your Comcast cable guys.

Anyone else think this hits the spot?

But is anyone else uncomfortable giving that much power to one company? Comcast not only controls the vast NBC network, it will now distribute it through its vast Comcast cable network AND (lest we forget) its vast Internet network, which carried over the same cable lines. According to Wikipedia, Comcast provides cable to almost 23 million households and nearly 17 million Internet customers.

The FCC has already approved the move, which leaves 49 percent of ownership with General Electric, and Justice Department is expected later today. The lone dissenting voter on the FCC agrees with me. It’s too much power for one company.

Says NPR: “Among other things, the government is requiring Comcast to make NBC programming available to rival cable companies, satellite operators and new Internet video services that could pose a threat to Comcast’s core cable business.”

And, presumably Comcast won’t lock out TBS’ Conan O’Brien, even after the rancorous divorce between O’Brien and NBC last summer.

I don’t doubt that the FCC fully intends to make those terms happen. But lest we forget, regimes change. Administrations bring different ideas about regulating industries. And there’s still the tussle over decides who gets how much bandwidth online (net neutrality). Who’s to say a post-Obama FCC will give a hoot how Comcast exercises its control over all those millions of cable/Internet/TV customers? (Also, many homes bundle telephone service with cable and Internet).

We’re reached an age in which Internet access no longer is mere entertainment. Many people work out of their homes and depend on Internet service to function. More and more, medical information is becoming dependent on the Internet. It’s not just e-mail and Facebook (although that certainly is a factor). And then there’s the wireless networks, which raise a whole other set of issues.