The Muslim Brotherhood Takes to the Streets (pt. 2)

This post is the second in a two-part series attempting to explain the massive crowds we see in Tahrir Square today in Egypt. In part one I tried to lay out the political-legal wrangling that has led to the dissolution of Parliament, the seizure of certain aspects of executive authority by the military, and the delay of the announcement of the winner of Egypt’s Presidential elections held last week. Continue reading

The Muslim Brotherhood Takes to the Streets (pt. 1)

In massive demonstrations of roughly 100,000 over each of the past three nights, Egyptians took to the streets. Demonstrations have become a regular feature of political life since the ouster of Hosni Mubarak in February 2011, but most of them these days number around 1-2,000. When numbers like this take to the streets, emotionally-loaded developments are usually a key cause.

So what caused this latest round of demonstrations? In the next two posts, I will try to answer this question by looking at two sides of the story. In Part One (today), I will try to summarize the political-legal wrangling taking place between Parliament, Army, Judiciary, and the (as of yet unnamed) President. In Part Two (tomorrow) we will look at the coalition-building taking place between the Muslim Brotherhood, young liberals, and supporters of a more radical fundamentalist interpretation of Islam in politics. Both sides together account for the story of these stunning developments. Continue reading

On the History of Egypt’s Constitutional Transition

the People’s Assembly, the lower house of the Egyptian Parliament

The big news coming out of Egypt today is that secular liberals have walked out of  the latest meeting of the Constituent Assembly (CA). This comes after a similar boycott of the last meeting of the CA in March 2012, and thus cast serious doubt on the ability of the Egyptian parliament as it is currently configured to write a new constitution. Continue reading

How did Ahmad Shafiq Succeed in the Egyptian Elections?

Wednesday March 2nd, 2011 was an historic night for Egyptian media in the midst of an historic period in Egyptian political life. Less than one month after Hosni Mubarak had stepped down from his thrity-year reign as President of Egypt, Prime Minister Ahmad Shafiq went on Egyptian news channel ON TV to debate noted author and liberal columnist, Alaa al-Aswany. In the days before the 2011 revolution, media engagements by government figures were done with pre-scripted questions and were tightly controlled. This program would have a different format. Continue reading

JPMorgan’s $2 Billion blow-up

For the better part of the past four years, Jamie Dimon has been known as the “King of Wall Street.” The company he leads, JPMorgan Chase, emerged from the carnage of the 2008 financial crisis with two new acquisitions: Bear Stearns and Washington Mutual. It is the largest bank holding company by total assets in the world. According to Ezra Klein, Dimon has been using the political capital he built up during the crisis to fight against the Volcker Rule, part of recent financial regulation efforts:  “Paul Volcker by his own admission has said he doesn’t understand capital markets,” Dimon told Fox Business earlier this year. “He has proven that to me.”

And then, last night, Dimon announced that JPMorgan Chase had lost $2 Billion so far this quarter on some very big hedges. I find this story to be a very illuminating case-study in the volatility of the American economy at the present moment, so I want to highlight some important aspects of it in this post. Continue reading

Reading Marx on May Day

A contemporary drawing of Marx as a young man

The name “Karl Marx,” especially when heard by a U.S. citizen, conjures a variety of images, or perhaps none at all. Marx as a figure was an important sign for the Soviet Union, which established a state ideology in his name. The Soviet Union was the sworn enemy of the United States for most of my parents’ lives. They have told me stories of how, when they were 7 years old, they would have “atomic bomb drills” when they would all simulate what would happen if the Soviet Union dropped atomic weapons on them by hiding under their desks. Can you imagine the psychological impact that would have on a seven year-old?

But the Marx I am reading wrote long before there was such a thing as the Soviet Union. And in reading him, there are things I want to preserve and things I want to firmly reject. Nineteenth-century German idealist philosophers were not very concerned with being legible to the uninitiated. I think, perhaps, it is the difficulty in reading Marx that produced the abomination of the Soviet ideology. But, if you are willing to struggle through this complex text with me, I think we can come out on the other end with a good framework for understanding a lot of the events we see unfolding around us today. Continue reading

May 1st: Occupy Your Life

On November 4th, 2008, I found myself in a room full of my friends openly weeping. That was the night President Barack Obama was elected to office. I felt I had somewhat of a personal stake in the Obama campaign. That, and I was a little drunk. I don’t claim to be an activist, but I had read his books. I had donated to his campaign back in May of 2007 when it looked like Hillary would win the nomination. Most importantly, I had just gotten back from Egypt, where I had spoken to dozens of Egyptians who liked Obama. I thought his election would send a great signal to the world after 8 years of Bush.

Today, I find myself frustrated. Continue reading