Ignatius: The Arab revolution grows up

Egypt is the largest Arab country with about 80 million people. They have been an ally to the U.S. -- challenging as they have been under Mubarak -- for a long time. Coming from the turmoil in the Middle East now and into the coming weeks, perhaps months, my greatest concern is that radical groups such as the Muslim Brotherhood and Al Queda -- or any other extreme Islamist groups -- could advantage of any power struggle, or power vacuum, to come in Egypt. However, I think that all the pieces collectively show us that Egypt today is not the Iran of 1979. The Iran of 1979 is still a warning for us all with regard to Egypt, that we need to assure no repeat of what happened in Iran 31 years ago.

Wanted to share this: Some insightful words from David Ignatius, the very talented writer and author, on the Egyptian crisis. (Emphases -- bold or italics -- are mine.)

Nobody said it better than Hosni Mubarak: "Our eventual goal is to create an equal society, not a society of privileges and class distinctions. Social justice is the first rule for peace and stability in society." But that was in November 1981, a few weeks after he had become president of Egypt.

Over the next 30 years, Mubarak became a symbol not of equality but of a deep corruption -- financial, political and cultural -- that enveloped Egypt and other countries in the Middle East. He grew arrogant like a king, fancying that he could pass on his dynasty to his son; he ignored advice for reform, doing just enough to keep critics at bay; he shamelessly played upon Western fears of Islamic radicalism....

[Syria's] President Assad today is less vulnerable than Mubarak was: [Assad's] regime is at least as corrupt and autocratic, but it has remained steadfastly anti-American and anti-Israel. Hard as it is for us in the West to accept, this rejectionism adds to Assad's power, whereas Mubarak was diminished by his image as the West's puppet.

Washington debate about the new Arab revolt tends to focus on the U.S. role.... But this isn't about us. If ... former ambassador to Cairo Frank Wisner could help broker Mubarak's departure and a stable transition to new elections, so much the better. But Egyptians don't need America to chart their course.

It's encouraging to see that the demonstrators in the streets of Cairo, Amman and Sanaa are not shouting the same tired slogans about "death to America" and "death to Israel" that for several generations have substituted for political debate. And it's reassuring, as well, that the Muslim Brotherhood and other militant groups have so far played it cool. They know that the past "decade of jihad" was ruinous for Muslims and is unpopular.

"This is not about slogans," says Mroueh. "The real issue is life: I want an apartment, I want a job." And it's about the dignity that comes from these essential human needs. In reaching out to the military, the protesters have chosen the right allies for a path of stability and change.

Read the whole piece here (WaPost).

- jR

Oh, the Corporate Drama: History, other channels, pass on new 'Kennedys' drama

Late in January, History channel dropped a bio-pic on the Kennedy clan. The New York Times had a piece on it, "Dramatizing Camelot"

Concerns about accuracy led the History channel not to run "The Kennedys," a scripted mini-series starring Greg Kinnear.

The article:

The Times article explains that the program "was meant to bring History prestige, as well as to establish a connection to the 'Kennedys' producer Joel Surnow, an Emmy Award-winning co-creator of the Fox series '24' and outspoken political conservative. 

So, what are the great concerns with dramatic work being accurate, when their own documentary history series can be awfully juvenile? 

Accuracy or a balanced story about "us", the population of the United States from the origins of Native Americans to 20th century immigrants' families, did not seem to be a large worry during production of "America: The Story of Us". 

(Admittedly, this is a rant against evident lame media practices, not a deep critique, as I only managed to sit through about half of one episode, a few minutes of another, and I was through with it. Disappointed in it. (If it were a milk product, it would be cheese food product in a spay can, not even flavored cream cheese. Savvy?) 

That docu-series was using real, though a lot of small (or fairly even marginal?), historic events, and not using thespian portrayals, I don't think. It was marketed as a broad-brush telling of our story: Americans. It seemed like a lot of snapshots of us, not THE STORY of us. Should have called it "Some Stories of Us," or "A Story of Us," at least, for clarity (so no one would have expected what they promoted, which was big picture history). 

So, shown by this recent decision, one can assume that, at History, being clumsy with the historic impact of true events in documentary form is not toying with facts. But pushing dramatization is unsavory? For the HISTORY channel? I don't understand the struggle with facts in a drama after they pushed "The Story of Us" so hard. 

So long as it does not have an identity crisis as did the channel formerly known (or, prior to 2003, ACCURATELY known) as Bravo, an arts programming channel. 

Bravo is now one of many, many reality TV havens on the tube. And it is no longer a channel I watch. I had enough of overproduced reality TV segments after 10 minutes of the first season of "Big Brother", after experiencing "Cops", a little "Real Life",  after the first seasons of "Survivor" and "American Idol". 

No more identity-confused stations, please? Maybe at History they're having a hard time convincing themselves that original docudramas belong on History? Why not, so long as I may still enjoy my decent documentaries on there.

- jR

Obama Commented: Present

Obama commented on Egypt's Mubarak vowing to not run again. Wasn't much, seemed suited for a released statement than a live moment.

I guess if this were a vote, and he had to vote for Mubarak or for new, representative government, Obama would have voted PRESENT.

- jR

TSA shuts door on private contract airport screening efforts (via Aviation Business)

TSA shuts door on private screening program for airports 

By Mike M. Ahlers and Jeanne Meserve (CNN)

A program that allows airports to replace government screeners with private screeners is being brought to a standstill, just a month after the Transportation Security Administration said it was "neutral" on the program.

TSA chief John Pistole said Friday he has decided not to expand the program beyond the current 16 airports, saying he does not see any advantage to it.

Though little known, the Screening Partnership Program allowed airports to replace government screeners with private contractors who wear TSA-like uniforms, meet TSA standards and work under TSA oversight. Among the airports that have "opted out" of government screening are San Francisco (Rep. Nancy Pelosi) and Kansas City.

The push to "opt out" gained attention in December amid the fury over the TSA's enhanced pat downs, which some travelers called intrusive.

Rep. John Mica, a Republican from Florida, wrote a letter encouraging airports to privatize their airport screeners, saying they would be more responsive to the public.

At that time, the TSA said it neither endorsed nor opposed private screening....

Told of the change Friday night, Mica said he intends to launch an investigation and review the matter.

"It's unimaginable that TSA would suspend the most successfully performing passenger screening program we've had over the last decade," Mica said Friday night. "The agency should concentrate on cutting some of the more than 3,700 administrative personnel in Washington who concocted this decision, and reduce the army of TSA employees that has ballooned to more than 62,000."

"Nearly every positive security innovation since the beginning of TSA has come from the contractor screening program," Mica said.

... But Congress members have differed over the effectiveness of private screeners.

More: http://www.airportbusiness.com/publication/article.jsp?siteSection=1&id=42437

- jR