Saturday, February 26, 2011

The anatomy of an $11 billion myth in New Jersey | NJ.com


Hello again everyone. I'm back after taking a week off that was greatly needed. I'll be adding some new and original posting very soon, but first I'd like to link up this January 16 post from The Star Ledger's Tom Moran.

Be sure to read this prior to watching this Sunday's edition of Face The Nation when host Bob Schieffer will interview New Jersey Governor Chris Christie. Moran's column explodes the myth that Christie reduced the state's deficit of $11 billion dollars. The real story, according to Moran, is that the deficit actually rose despite the draconian cuts made by the Christie administration and the deficit will be almost the same for the next fiscal year.

In a related story, yesterday about 3,000 public employees and other union members rallied in Trenton yesterday in a driving rainstorm with 35 mph winds to show support for public employees in Wisconsin. Some protesters displayed their anger at Christie, who along with Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, Florida's Rick Scott, and Ohio's John Kasich are at the forefront of an apparent assault on public employee unions' benefits and their right to collective bargain.



The anatomy of an $11 billion myth in New Jersey | NJ.com

Friday, February 18, 2011

Blogging "On Hold" Until Further Notice

I just wanted to touch base with my readers and followers and first say "thanks" for helping this blog become a success.

But because of several non-life threatening health issues primarily dealing with my father I'm going on a hiatus from blogging for awhile. He's in no immediate danger or anything, but the issues I'm talking about require some extra time from me. At the present when I do find time to try and write something, "the flow" isn't really there and the effort is forced. And quite frankly, my writing has not been up to par. There's one thing I've learned in the two and a half years since I started this....if "it's not there", you can't force the issue. It's best to back away.

Maybe in awhile I'll share more about what's going on, but as of now we're in the process of connecting dots. And just maybe it can help others who may be in a similar situation.

Right now the story of the year is probably the situation in Wisconsin and other states regarding Republican governors versus public employee unions and their respective budgets. I'll chime in on the issue eventually (and guess who's side I'm on?), but now isn't really a good time.

I might be back in 24 hours ( odds; 3 to 1) or 24 days (50 to 1), so it will probably be sooner rather than later. And I will be logged on to check for comments, and the proverbial spammers, and see what my bloggie buds are doing.

Seeya later....I promise!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Real Journalists Get Canned While Glenn Beck Just Gets Rich(er)

Real journalists continue to lose their jobs as newspapers cut staff in record numbers. And while this is happening hucksters like Glenn Beck continue to make millions playing on ignorance and fear

About a week ago I was on a Rutgers football message board where I read the sad news of the laying off of Home News Tribune sports reporter/columnist Paul Franklin and reporter/ columnist Rick Malwitz due to cutbacks and consolidation by parent company Gannett Co, Inc. Combined, these two journalists must have had 60 years of experience between them, but were let go, as have thousands of other newspaper reporters and columnists as that industry struggles to transition itself into the information age.

I'm a self admitted dinosaur who still gets two newspapers a day, the HNT and the Star-Ledger. I find newspapers a guilty pleasure instead of a necessity- most news I get is from the internet, or TV, or radio. But I love the tactile sensation of reading a newspaper while having my morning coffee- nothing beats it. The local newspaper will give me information about local stories that most other sources will not, and because of that newspapers will probably never become totally obsolete. Newspapers had to reinvent themselves in the 1960's when satellites were launched that could beam down to the world news as it happened.....the newspaper, until then the primary source of news for most people, had to become more opinion based and targeted to certain readership in order to survive. And the big fish ate the little ones; the number of newspapers in the United States began to shrink. In New York the decade of the 1960's saw the demise of the century old The Daily Mirror, The Journal-American, The World-Telegram &Sun, and The Herald-Tribune. In New Jersey we lost The Newark Evening News and The Elizabeth Journal. The Perth Amboy Evening News morphed into The News Tribune and moved to Woodbridge, and it finally merged with The Daily Home News of New Brunswick to become The Home News Tribune in the 1990's.

And in the new century America's newspapers continue to consolidate and reorganize, merge or fold, and send hundreds of respected professional journalists to the ranks of the unemployed. Advertising revenues for the print industry continues to shrink, so payroll is slashed.

Paul Franklin reported and commented on local scholastic and collegiate sports for as as long as I could remember. Most recently he was a beat writer for Rutgers Women's Basketball, and previously reported and wrote commentary about RU football. He's a big, gray bearded gregarious guy who could be seen in press row for most of the last two decades at The RAC, and though he was always objective and professional, the reader knew that this man was a fan of the games he reported on. He did his homework, never wrote "rip pieces" in order to sell papers, and always seemed to get an angle to a story from locker room interviews from student athletes.

Paul was one of the best....I miss reading his reports and commentary already.

Rick Malwitz is a real Central Jersey guy, and wrote about the issues that affect us locally in civil, rational tones and never ventured into sloganeering and character assassination. I mentioned Rick in this blog last summer when he broke down the root cause of high property taxes in New Jersey in a way few politicians would dare; Rick used the late New Jersey legislator Alan Karcher's premise of the insane number of municipalities in the state the bottom line cause of New Jersey's property tax woes. No one ever spelled out and defined the "whys" of the situation like Rick Malwitz, no progressive or conservative, and no governor of this state.....including the current one.

With these two gentleman, it was about integrity and journalism, not demagoguery.

The Gannett Blog does a great job at detailing the ongoing saga of Gannett's downsizing and the reaction of those affected by the cuts. I highly recommend the blog, it's great reading, and please take time to read the dozens of comments.

Which brings me to FOX News, and the Websters definition of demagoguery......Glenn Beck.

And in the spirit of full disclosure I'll have to admit....I never watch the guy. But I do watch the clips of his crazy rantings, of "Islamic- socialist" alliances out to conquer the world, all at the behest of President Barack Obama. The man is making a fortune appealing to fear and prejudice, and playing on the almost total ignorance of world and national affairs of his audience. Beck has become a multi-millionaire though spewing misinformation to his viewers, and throwing a nightly pile of horsecrap at his audience to see what sticks.

I'm debating in my mind on a daily basis....is this man demented or evil, or a little of both. More on Beck can be found at blogger pal Leslie's Parsley's Pics.

And you wonder...where is the justice?

Beck makes millions spreading hate and fear....and Rick Malwitz and Paul Franklin are looking for jobs after decades of good, solid journalism.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Hugh Jee Buys An iPod (Finally)- And The World Stops Spinning On It's Axis


I'm in sync!!!! Finally

And it feels good.....I think.

As of yesterday I still had a Christmas gift card from Tar-jay (and a few extra bucks) that was burning a hole in my Wrangler Relaxed Fits, so I decided to get myself a Valentine's gift. BTW.....Happy V-day, one and all.

After weeks of thinking about what to get with it, I decided against buying another camera or another guitar, and went boldly forward into the land of Apple, iTunes, and the wonderful world of digital music.

It was finally time to breakdown and buy an iPod.

Now, I'm admittedly an old dinosaur and have never even owned an MP3 player. When I want to hear music, I did it the old fashioned way....I threw on a CD, or listened to the radio.

And.....I utilized one last, somewhat antiquated piece of technology. I am the person who had the last fully functioning Sony Walkman Sports Edition in the Northern Hemisphere. It served me well from the last century, and it was part of my life since 1991. Forget that it was fragile, always needed new batteries, had crummy radio reception, and was the color of a taxicab from Istanbul.....it was a friend for nearly 20 years.

And sadly, last October, before the Rutgers- Army game, my friend passed on to that great Technology Graveyard in the sky, joining my late and lamented Toshiba Word Processor and a couple of hundred 8 track tapes. I never even knew my Walkman was ill until it just stopped working- it wouldn't pick up a radio station or play a cassette tape.

I still haven't scheduled a funeral for it.

About three or four weeks ago I was watching one of the local TV morning news shows, and the topic was outdated stuff from the past, like "the mullet", VCR's, Atari games.....and the Walkman. And it wasn't until that moment that I realized how totally un-twenty-first century I was. A Sony Walkman? I'm surprised kids didn't come up to me at football games and ask, "Hey mister.....what's in that big yellow thing that your listening to?".

So yesterday I finally took the plunge.....I looked at the iPod Classic but was not about to shell out over $200 for a piece of technology I was sure I would destroy accidentally, or at best confuse the hell out of me. The Shuffle seemed to be limited in what you could do with it, and it didn't have very much storage space for music.

So I decided on the iPod Nano (6th Generation) with the touch screen, It had 8GB of space and didn't seem too daunting or intimidating....and the price was right. With the gift card and a store discount, my total cost with tax was just over $100. Not bad.

I took Nano home yesterday afternoon, opened the small plastic box she was in and followed the directions from Apple that said START HERE.....I registered Nano, and opened an iTunes account. I found out later that you should let it charge for three hours (after checking out the manual online), but that little tidbit slipped through the cracks in the instructions that came with Nano. It really didn't hurt anything, and I continued on my merry way. It was time to add some music to the mix.

It was then that I had to come to terms with the term "sync".....iTunes found every music file on my computer, even some old samples that came with it at purchase, and stuff I downloaded years ago and had forgotten about. But what I really wanted to do is take an old playlist I had on an external harddrive and copy it to Nano. And that's where the fun began. I found out just how un-techy I really am.

What came next was about four hours of trial and error, ERROR being the operative word. I had to figure out how to get music from Point A to Point B, in order to listen to it on Point C. There were 15 files I wanted to move....so why does TUNNEL OF LOVE by Springsteen and PHILADELPHIA FREEDOM by Elton John show up, and nothing else? And why is Elton on there twice?

And why are these icons shaking back and forth? Are they being arrogant or something? Why did the screen just go black? Did I break the freakin' thing on the first day?

To hell with it! Go to POPEYES! Get chickened out!

So I had dinner....sat down, calmed down.....and I finally figured it out!

Oh.....I have to check the box EACH TIME I make a change, or else the other music doesn't sync to the Nano! Gotcha!

So I figured it out....very proudly. I added the files. And then I stated to copy some old CD's to Nano.

Adding Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers....Humble Pie....Led Zeppelin.....Heart....Fairport Convention....the Rolling Stones....the Eagles.....and of course, Bruce.

Yes...the 21st century. But it's obvious from some of my musical choices that my heart and head are still "back in the day".

So I was able to add about eight albums and an additional 15 song files on the first day, and I put on SHUFFLE...the touchscreen is so cool....and listened to music in bed before dozing off. But before going to sleep I thought about music, and what it used to be, and what it used to mean. Yeah, the Nano is great, and it's an amazing bit of technology. But I thought about a generation of young people who have known nothing but the downloading of songs and have no idea what it was like back in the days of vinyl, when a new record by the Beatles or Bob Dylan was cultural event.

I remember going to stores and buying those new releases, and then tearing off the cellophane, carefully holding the record by the edges (as not to get fingerprints on the tracks), and placing it on the turntable....never used an auto changer, because they might scratch the record on the bottom. In those days my collection looked like William's in the film Almost Famous; when I saw that movie I said to myself "That kid's got my old record collection!"....Joe Cocker, Joni Mitchell, Hendrix, The Dead, Joplin.

You'd listen to the music with friends....sometimes with "recreational substances"....and read the lyrics from the album liner or jacket. And you'd check out the credits as well. It was always interesting to find out who played on what track, and what instrument they played, and if there were any guest artists on the track.

Yep, I'm getting old and nostalgic. But sometimes I feel that in those days the music seemed to matter more, and there was more interest in who made it and how. I love the new technology, but sometimes when we go forward, we often lose something in the process.

The soapbox is now closed.

Friday, February 11, 2011

They Didn't Need A Second Amendment Remedy To Topple A Tyrant In Egypt


The 30 year regime of Egypt's Hosni Mubarak ended with his resignation today after 18 days of protests became a revolution; the strongman resigned his presidency with the tens of thousands of protesters never firing a shot. Today, the government has been turned over to the military, but Mubarak is out, and Egypt and Egyptians around the world are celebrating as if it were Mardi Gras and a Super Bowl win rolled into one.

And I could never be prouder of a people....a commitment to topple despotism with non violent protests worked. No guns or bombs were needed, no American flags were burned while crowds screamed about "The Great Satan", and the world watched in anticipation of what would happen next. And they got it done.

After the bungling of the Iraq war by the Bush administration when no weapons of mass destruction were found the Bushies and neocons shopped around for a new reason for the war; that aim became freedom for the Iraqi people. At last count 4,754 Americans and allies have been killed, as have tens of thousands of Iraqi civilians, at a cost of $773 billion to a nation fighting it's way out of a devastating recession. We have fought and had a presence in Iraq since 2003.

It took 18 days for the people of Egypt to decide ENOUGH and end 30 years of one man rule.

Last night I thought about the vague speech Mubarak gave concerning stepping down....and it appeared he had no intention of doing so. You know that small, still voice we have within? It started jabbering to me.....as Mahatma Gandhi, as portrayed by Ben Kingsley. It was the sequence when Gandhi appeared before representatives of the British government, and told them they must leave. The British commander asked Gandhi why should the forces of Imperial Britain leave India.....Gandhi told the man "Because we will not co-operate with you. And there is no way you can force 100 million people to co-operate if they don't wish to".

And that was the beginning of the end of British rule in the Indian subcontinent. The government knew Gandhi was right; the alternative was to fill the nation's prisons with protesters, and then face the prospect of protests involving those who were arrested.

India became a free and independent democracy largely thorough non violent civil disobedience and through non violent assembly.

History repeated itself in Germany in 1989 when the Berlin Wall fell; and 1994 in South Africa when apartheid went on history's scrap heap; Poland, Indonesia, Romania, Tunisia.....and in America's South, when Jim Crow was no more.

And of course, the big one....the fall of the Soviet Union

Today, the people of Egypt have risen, and seized their destiny.

They didn't need to assemble with automatic weapons and confront troops with "second amendment remedies", a solution suggested by Far Right American politicians to "take America back".

I'm still trying to figure out...."Take it back? From whom".

I became convinced that noncooperation with evil is as much a moral obligation as is cooperation with good. No other person has been more eloquent and passionate in getting this idea across than Henry David Thoreau. As a result of his writings and personal witness, we are the heirs of a legacy of creative protest. The teachings of Thoreau came alive in our civil rights movement; indeed, they are more alive than ever before. Whether expressed in a sit-in at lunch counters, a freedom ride into Mississippi, a peaceful protest in Albany, Georgia, a bus boycott in Montgomery, Alabama, these are outgrowths of Thoreau's insistence that evil must be resisted and that no moral man can patiently adjust to injustice
                                                                             Martin Luther King, on Henry David Thoreau

God bless the Egyptian people.

This is, indeed, a great day.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Keith Olbermann Heads to Al Gore's Current TV | Fancast News



Breaking news!!!!

KO to "get Current".

A very interesting move. More news to come.

Keith Olbermann Heads to Al Gore's Current TV | Fancast News

Monday, February 7, 2011

Declaring This "A Former Half Term Governor of Alaska Free Blog"!!!


Last week I posted two entries about Bristol Palin's mother, and after doing so I tossed and turned in bed and asked myself....."Why am I wasting my time on a person who knows so little about so much?" And I thought about getting out of bed, getting online, and declaring this an "SP free" blog for the immediate future.

But I didn't. And I should have.

I think the last straw was the botching of "the Sputnik Moment", and Greta Van Susteren giving her a pass on her ignorance during an interview on Fox News after President Obama's State of the Union message. And then came my moment of clarity....few Republicans or conservatives will publicly challenge her lack of knowledge on even the most basic concepts. And those on the left who criticize her are immediately labeled the enemy and the elites by the former Guv and her supporters.

So, again, I asked myself....why bother trying to shine a light on her ignorance to people who can't handle the truth, and keep on preaching to the choir again and again?

Earlier today, I mentioned my thoughts on Sue's blog in her comments section. I was feeling the effects of being Momma Grizzed out

And strangely....I wasn't alone. Little did I know Dana Milbank of The Washington Post had declared on January 21st that he was making February an "SP" free month. It seems that Milbank has written a whopping 42 articles or blogs about Momma Grizzly and has started feeling guilty about it.

Think about it. Every time any media pundit, journalist, talking head, or blogger mentions her she gets free publicity. And as it turns out, I'm as guilty as the next guy- between September 2008 and January 2011 this blog has tagged the former half term governor of Alaska 81 times!!!!!

Yeah, it shocked me too.

Dana Milibank has organized a campaign to make February an "SP" free month. And as I just TWEETED moments ago....I'm in!  Better late than never.

Momma Grizzly....no mas!!!!

Well.... at least through February....then go through Lent and on to Easter.

Let's take this one step at a time.

(Oh what the hell...I'll tag her! For old time's sake).

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Arizona, Idaho, and the Ghost of John C. Calhoun

Pictured- John C. Calhoun, former US Senator from South Carolina and Vice President of the United States

I'm no lawyer, nor have I ever played one on TV or even in community theater, but it's time for me to get up on the soapbox.............ready or not.

While American state legislatures spend their time ratifying ridiculous bans on the implementation of Sharia Laws inside the United States.....(wouldn't there have to be a Muslim majority in this country before it was even a remote possibility?)....and other wedge issues like gay marriage, there is a more serious matter going on in certain states. And it's an issue that though not resolved by our Civil War in the 19th century we assumed would most assuredly be resolved by the Constitution's 14th, 15th, 19th, 23rd, and 24th amendments. Those amendments referred to the voting rights of former slaves, minorities, women, residents of the District of Columbia, and of poll taxes used to deny or hinder the vote of those mentioned by the individual states.

Those amendments insured full citizenship to all Americans and were used to supersede state and local laws that would restrict voting rights to those mentioned- and in the case of citizens of the District of Columbia, Washingtonians were finally given the right to vote with implementation of the 23rd Amendment.

In the post Civil War and Reconstruction eras Southern states passed "Jim Crow" laws to prevent African Americans from voting, using the pretense of "state's rights" to keep the law of the land being applied in those states. "State's rights" had been the creed for individual states, primarily in the South, to ignore or even nullify what they saw as an intrusion into the affairs of states....more often than not this had to do with a federal mandate that wasn't popular in that state, and in the early 19th century that often meant laws limiting the growth of slavery. But often taxes and tariffs took the spotlight in that era.

And today in the 21st century we're seeing a new phase of proposed nullification of federal laws in certain states, some a result of opposition to federal healthcare reform, derisively referred to as "Obamacare" by it's opponents. But in Arizona and Idaho there are movements under way for their respective state legislatures to nullify all federal laws that may be deemed invalid or an overreach by the federal government, at the discretion of those state legislatures.

Reactions like those in Idaho and Arizona are almost as old as the republic itself. The Nullification Crisis of 1832 was the most famous instance in our history. Below, the story of the crisis from US History.com.

The Tariff of 1832, despite pleas from Southern representatives, failed to moderate the protective barriers erected in earlier legislation. South Carolina called a state convention that nullified the tariffs of 1828 and 1832 within their borders and threatened to secede if the federal government attempted to collect those tariff duties. Robert Hayne (of Webster-Hayne Debate fame) had resigned from the Senate to run for governor of South Carolina; John C. Calhoun resigned the vice presidency and took Hayne’s seat in the Senate. These two men spearheaded the nullification drive. A real possibility of secession and war existed.

Jackson immediately offered his thought that nullification was tantamount to treason and quickly dispatched ships to Charleston harbor and began strengthening federal fortifications there. Congress supported the president and passed a Force Bill in early 1833 which authorized Jackson to use soldiers to enforce the tariff measures.

Meanwhile Henry Clay again took up his role as the Great Compromiser. On the same day the Force Bill passed, he secured passage of the Tariff of 1833. This latter measure provided for the gradual reduction of the tariff over 10 years down to the level which had existed in 1816. This compromise was acceptable to Calhoun who had not been successful with finding any other state to support him on nullification. Jackson signed both measures.

South Carolina repealed its nullification measure, but then spitefully nullified the Force Bill. Jackson wisely ignored that action.

I'm sure no one is accusing members of the Arizona and Idaho legislatures of treason, but it's easy to see that those who propose nullification are shortsighted in their perspective, and to be blunt, have a very narrow grasp on American history.

In Idaho Tea Party members are urging the passage of House Bill 59 which would allow the state to deem federal laws "null and void". Below, a notice from Tea Party Boise (originally printed in The Miami Herald).

"This is the line in the sand. On one side is federal tyranny — on the other side is freedom. What do you choose? If it is freedom — then be at the Capital (sic) on Feb. 7th."

In Arizona, a proposal from Republican State Senator Lori Klein would set up a panel of 12 lawmakers to review federal laws and mandates, and decide if the laws are "outside the scope of the powers delegated by the people to the federal in the United States Constitution."

Below, a statement from Senator Klein (from azdailysun.com).

"We're not seceding. We're looking at nullifying laws coming from the federal government that are mandates that are not constitutional."

The defiance of federal law in the 19th century inflamed the open wounds that were already there and led to armed conflict in 1861. Being part of this union we call the United States of America is kind of like being pregnant.....you either are, or you aren't.

It's the "United States is", not the "United States are".

Let's say state legislators decide they don't agree with the repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" and decide not to allow gays to serve in the state's national guard?

Or in a national emergency a military draft is instituted....and certain states don't wish to allow their citizens to be drafted?

And if a state is free to nullify federal law without ramification, what is to stop the states from conversely instituting laws that are contrary to federal law, like an intelligence test for voting, or restricting full citizenship to American born children of undocumented immigrants?

If nullification of federal law is allowed to stand, then we fought a Civil War for nothing, and a century's worth of of domestic progress would be in jeopardy.

Maybe the adage is true.....we've seen the enemy, and it is us.

But we do have a constitutional mechanism in our system to resolve situations like this...it's called "the courts".

Once again....thank you, Founding Fathers.



Below, video of Lawrence O'Donnell on THE LAST WORD, with take on the new "Nullification Crisis".





Friday, February 4, 2011

On Super Sunday I'd Like Barack Obama To Ask Bill O'Reilly The Following Question


As most of you must know by now, Sunday is "The Big Game".....it's not clear whether I can type the word that rhymes with "Duper Dole" without being busted for some kind of copyright infringement, and being required to write a check to the National Football League for more money than I have.

At any rate, prior to the game President Obama will be interviewed by FOX NEWS contributor and "#1 New York Times Bestselling Author"....(I thought the guys on FOx hated The Times).... Bill O'Reilly.

I won't speculate on the nature or outcome of  the interview itself, but there is one thing I'd really like to see on Sunday. Hopefully the President of the United States will have a copy of O'Reillly's latest book. With any luck, the conversation will go like this.

Obama; "Bill, before you go on to your next question there is one thing I'd like to ask you."

O'Reilly;" What's that, Mr. President?".

Obama;" Well, your last book has a picture of me on the left on it's cover, and you on the right (he holds up a copy). The name of your book is Pinheads and Patriots. We're the only two people pictured on the cover. My question to you is....which one of us is 'the pinhead', and which is 'the patriot' ?".

And wouldn't 50 million people love to hear the answer to that one?

Sigh.....oh, to live in a perfect world.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Egypt In Crisis


When I was young I often asked the question of my parents, "How was some one as evil as Hitler ever able to get control of a country like Germany." No one was able to give me an adequate answer. In fact, it took many years before I found a cultural touchstone to illustrate in almost textbook form how a dictator gains control of a people, and how he is able to hold them under a crushing boot.

That example was the Star Wars prequels, of all things. To those one or two of you who are not into the universe of Anakin Skywalker and Obi Wan Kenobi as created by George Lucas, one of the secondary characters was Chancellor Palpatine, who's real identity was Darth Sidious, a Sith and the sworn enemy of the Jedi knighthood.

Palpatine gained power as a trusted lawmaker of the Galactic Republic, who behind the scenes clandestinely forged alliances with various enemies of the Republic and pitted one side against another, creating crisis after crisis in which he would emerge as the Republic's savior. In the climactic third film of the prequel Palpatine was able to seize control of the government and declare himself the first Emperor of the Galactic Empire, and order the destruction of the Jedi.

No one has been able to illustrate the birth of a dictatorship than this pop cultural phenomenon. Lucas used Hitler's rise as a template for Palpatine, but he just as easily could have used Julius Caesar, Lenin, or Napoleon; all seized power in a similar way. They arose in the midst of chaos....some or all of it their own making....and emerged as the strongman. Where there once was a republic and self determination, there became a dictatorship or the creation of an empire, with a new emperor to call the shots.

I remained quiet about the situation in Egypt for the past week, but like just about everyone else I have been following the crisis on the 24 hour news stations. That is, until the plug was pulled first on the internet (since restored) and then the recent crackdown and harassment of foreign journalists that has seemed to reach a new level today.

For the past week protesters have demanded the resignation of President Hosni Mubarak, the US ally who's ruled with an iron fist for 30 years. Tomorrow, Friday February 4, is the deadline demanded by the hundreds of thousands of anti- government protesters in Cairo. Though Mubarak has promised not to run again for the presidency, the protesters want him out now.

Yesterday pro-government goons were turned on the peaceful protesters, turning Cairo into a battle zone. The scene yesterday resembled a hybrid from LAWRENCE OF ARABIA and DR> ZHIVAGO, with men on horseback and camels riding into crowds of protesters, brandishing swords, machetes, clubs, and iron bars while the army stood by and watched. Later Molotov cocktails and other incendiary bombs were hurled into the crowd. In the words of NBC's Ron Allen, as I type this, the situation in Cairo has become "an armed conflict".

And today there were attacks on foreign journalist, and arrests. Katie Couric was harassed by a mob, Anderson Cooper was punched, Lara Logan "detained", with dozens of similar incidents to other foreign journalists and news crews. No pictures are coming out of Cairo, and most journalists are calling in their stories in from hidden locations, their lives being in jeopardy. Some journalists have been accused of being agents of the United States, or of other Western nations, and some have been called spies for Israel.

Since yesterday 13 people have been killed and 1,200 have been injured.

Over the weekend Richard Engel of NBC news was on MEET THE PRESS. Engel intimated that Mubarak just might try to exploit the crisis to have a government crackdown. He'd allow anarchy to take hold of the streets of Cairo and throughout Egypt, and then use military force to restore order. Though President Obama has called for a peaceful resolution to the crisis- hinting that it's time for Mubarak to step down- Mubarak appears to be defiant. The conventional wisdom is that the genie is out of the bottle, and it is indeed over for Hosni Mubarak.

What's next is anyone's guess. With hope, Egypt can emerge as a modern secular Muslim state like Turkey, Indonesia, or Algeria, and do so relatively peacefully. But then there is the other extreme....another Beirut or Tehran from a generation ago, with a similar outcome.

One thing is certain......we are closer to the beginning of this story than we are to it's end.

Let's pray and hope for a peaceful transition, and a move to a true democracy......and progression rather than regression.
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