Saturday, February 19, 2011

Reading "The New Republic" for entertainment purposes

So Americans buying comparable coverage to what they have today -- I already said this -- would see premiums fall by 14 to 20 percent -- that’s not my numbers, that’s what the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office says -- for Americans who get their insurance through the workplace. How many people are getting insurance through their jobs right now? Raise your hands. All right. Well, a lot of those folks, your employer it’s estimated would see premiums fall by as much as 3,000 percent, which means they could give you a raise.
Obama's speech to his supporters

Will the 3000 percent reduction be effective in all 57 states?
Posted by mndasher  in response to Obama's prediction.

I assume that everybody is still allowed to buy more than one health insurance plan. I would like to become multi-millionaire and the sooner the better.
Posted by Observer Mar in response to Obama's prediction.

Reading "The New Republic" for entertainment purposes
People ask me from time to time - "Alex, why do you read liberal authors?". I normally reply that I like entertainment, and liberal authors are always entertaining. Their opuses are sometimes funnier than the best comedies. I remember some time ago there was a show on TV where they would roll a particularly bad movie and have two dolls comment on it. Naturally, most of what liberals write is of so low intellectual quality, that pointing out the fallacies in their articles is as easy as shooting the fish in the barrel. But still, someone has to shoot the fish in the barrel - where do you think you get your fish products from? More importantly, from time to time you need to open your soul and let Hannibal Lecter out, so he breathe some fresh air.

The article that spiked my attention this time was published in the ever-so-entertaining "The New Republic (for idiots)". It was written by Jonathan Cohn about evil republicans who are going to cut federal funding for some impossibly long-named government healthcare program. Here are a few selected quotes that capture the main gist of the article...
...the Republicans are also proposing a more immediate cut in health care spending--one that could impose real hardship on a population that can ill afford to bear it....

..How big is the cut? On paper, House Republicans propose to reduce clinic funding from current levels by $1 billion, or roughly a third of their total federal funding...

..based on estimates from the Senate Appropriations Committee and the National Association of Community Health Centers, it sounds like more than 100 clinics could close and more than 1000 clinics could reduce services, leaving around 3 million people without a regular source of affordable health care...

... Downsizing or shuttering clinics also means laying off some of the people who work there. How many jobs are we talking? The Center on American Progress pegs the loss at 178,000 in the next year....
Now, lets me summarize this. Evil GOP wants to cut 1 billion dollars from the federal medical funding. According to TNR, that would result in closing of 100 clinics, reduction in service for more than 1000 clinics, 3 million people would be left without affordable health care and 178,000 workers would be laid off.

Let's now look at the facts. Federal, state and local spending on Medicaid increased from 2006 to 2010 by a hefty 66.4 billion dollars (66 times more than the amount of money that GOP is willing to cut from the government medical care for 2011).  If Jonathan's numbers on the consequences of cutting 1 billion dollars from the government spending are correct, then during the last 4 years, 6600 new clinics were open, 199 million new people got access to "regular source of affordable health care", and nearly 12 million people were hired to work for the government health care.
(Note that the inflation during the last few years was pretty low, so I am not losing a lot of accuracy when I am quoting the nominal budget numbers.)

But this is hardly the end of it. In 2010, the total government spending on Medicaid was 335 billion dollars (which is 335 times the amount that the GOP is trying to cut). Again, if Jonathan is accurate in his dire predictions, then the entire Medicaid spending was sufficient to support 33,500 clinics, provide "regular source of affordable health care" to 1 billion people (that's "billion" with a very capital "B") and employ nearly 60 million people exclusively for Medicaid. On top of that, the government spent additional 452 billion dollars on Medicare - which at least would mean 45,200 more clinics and 80 million medical workers.

It's true that Jonathan Cohn made a number of weasel disclaimers:

Calculating the precise impact of those cuts is tricky...

Although I can't vouch for the precision of these figures...

I can't speak to that figure's veracity...

Disclaimers or not, but Jonathan was aptly described in a very good British movie "Snatch":

Doug (coming up with an excuse): Avi, I'm not telepathic.
Avi: You're plenty stupid, I'll give you that.

In all fairness, I need to remind everyone that it was Jonathan Cohn who actually published these ridiculous numbers on the pages of TNR, and it was his responsibility to check if they passed the laughing test. And indeed, the statistics he quotes fails the laughing test with flying colors - as one would expect from the data presented in a liberal publication. And if (there's a really small "if") Jonathan is completely lacking any common sense and skills to perform the most basic arithmetic operations, then TNR editors and fact checkers were supposed to check his numbers and tell Jonathan to drop the article (and hang himself). But neither of these things happened, and poor miserable liberals are consuming Jonathan's statistics without a single doubt in their minds - just check out the comments on the TNR website and note that not a single liberal was smart enough to question the numbers.

I want to end this article with a quote from a great American movie - "The Producers" - which pretty much illustrates fuzzy liberal math in general, and Jonathan's in particular (and don't forget Obama's 3000% cut in premium costs)...

Max Bialystock: Leo, how many percentage of a play can there be all together?
Leo Bloom: Max, you can only sell one-hundred percent of anything.
Max Bialystock: And, how much of "Springtime for Hitler" have we sold?
Leo Bloom: Twenty-five thousand percent.

Indeed, Jonathan Cohn has sold to his readers far more than 100% of the GOP proposed cut to the medical budget of the US government. It's probably close to the Leo Bloom's twenty-five thousand percent. But that's life, some people studied math in school, and some dreamed of becoming liberal journalists. You cannot have both.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

A few passing remarks...

JAY LENO: “Michelle Obama was expecting jewelry for Valentine’s Day but nothing extravagant. She says the president is very responsible when spending his own money.” (Via Andrew Malcolm on Facebook).

Lamestream Media
According to Kathleen Parker, we must judge the quality of a journalist by how many times he got hit in the head. Apparently, the more abused journalist produces better work. Moreover, according to Kathleen, journalists should be celebrated not because they seek the truth (and actually find it), but because they are good meaning people. Here is the appropriate passage:
There's something in the constitution of those who sign up for Journalism 101 that makes them want to be part of the action but also to do something of value. The bias so many recognize in the media is, among other things, a bias toward the underdog, whether that's an unwed mother or an oppressed people. That government thugs want to silence reporters in Egypt is understandable. The camera is focused on the powerless masses who want to unseat their pharaoh.
This surely explains why the lamestream media protected Obama and waged a war against Joe-the-Plumber - it's obvious that Obama is an unwed mother/underdog/powerless mass, while Joe is the pharaoh.

Last but not least, I love when a liberal feels superior - internet makes it easy to go back and mock her when reality gives a call. Kathleen feels rather boastful of the American journalists going to Egypt to report about the revolution. Compare Kathleen's appraisal of the Katie Couric and reality...
Watching Katie Couric being harassed and shoved by a crowd of angry men in Cairo was especially jarring. Our little Katie? Make no mistake Perky Katie is also brave Katie...
I'd wager that every reporter confined to a cubicle at this moment wishes he or she were there, even with a touch of quiet gratitude for being safe. It isn't only to be where the action is but also to bear witness to history and to the eternal human struggle to be free.

Well, Katie had enough history and enough human struggle, and obviously she is in no mood to stay there anymore. It's one thing to report about religion of peace - it's quite another to deal with it up close and personal. Katie Couric may be brave, but she would rather watch the Egyptian revolution from the NY cubicle. I assume it gives her some perspective - after all a few more days in Egypt, and perky Katie may lose all political correctness and multi-culturism. According to insidetv:
As violence against journalists in Egypt continues, Katie Couric and Brian Williams have left the country. Last night, Couric returned to New York City, while Williams reported live from Amman, Jordan. Anderson Cooper remains in Cairo, reporting from a dimly-lit, undisclosed location last night and admitting he was “a little bit scared”.

Liberal approach to education
University of Cincinnati  to drop computer science major:
The University of Cincinnati will stop accepting undergraduate majors in computer science starting in fall 2012. About 125 current students in the program will be able to complete their programs. The move by the College of Engineering and Applied Science is one step toward reducing the college's academic programs to 11 from the current 17, Dean Carlo Montemagno said. It's driven by impending budget cuts that could slice $4.9 million off this year's $24 million budget, he said.
For some reason, "Africana studies" and "Women's, Gender, and Sexuality Studies" are not affected. And that makes perfect sense. For example, students can still "specialize in Sexuality Studies or Transnational Feminisms. As part of the Transnational Feminisms specialization" - but they got no computer science. It should make you proud that in WGSS: "students have the option to study abroad in Canada or Mexico. The department explores the intersections of race, nationality, class, gender and sexuality.A commitment to social activism has been, is and always should be a dimension of a program based in large part on justice." And don't forget, that for Africana studies, "As we move into the next century, it will be extremely important for all of us, Black, white, Asian and others, to understand the interplay of forces that help to structure the existence of Black people." Surely, the rest of the world has moved to the new century 11 years ago, but who is counting - these guys are working on something really important, so don't expect them to update their calendar.

Last but not least (well, you cannot be less than Africana studies and Women's studies - it's impossible), there is the sociology department - and as the website says, students study "race and health care in the U.S., war and children's life chances around the world, urban inequality and segregation, and the politics of abortion and capital punishment."

I am sure we are glad that government funded University of Cincinnati chose to close computer science in order to fund liberal propaganda. Political interests Uber Alles.

Obama versus Carter
I am sure that my readers remember that in 1979, Iranian "students" led by the mullahs attacked the US embassy and seized 52 US citizens. Obama is trying his best to outdo comrade Carter - and finally he can boast that a US diplomat is held as prisoner by Pakistan. There is, of course, a rather stark difference between the two cases. After all, Iranian mullahs are/were sworn enemies of the United States, while Pakistan is officially a US ally, funded by the federal government to the tune of nearly 10 billion dollars lately. How many more US diplomats will be taken in the next 2 years?

The next big Obama's achievement in foreign policy will be the denunciation of the Camp David Peace Accords by the new Egyptian government. It's coming, and you know it...

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Revolution as good as its people, Part 3

This article is Part 3 of my series of articles (Part 1 and Part 2) on the Egyptian revolution.

The Luzhin defense, Fiddler on the Roof, Hollywood and Egyptian Revolution
Do you know what's the difference between art in America and everywhere else? I remember reading an article in a Russian newspaper - that was long time ago, maybe in 1991 or 1992. The author was describing a movie he had recently watched on the video - it was a Russian thriller, and I honestly don't remember the name of the movie, let alone its contents. What struck me then were the comments of the Russian movie critic - I will try to reproduce them as close to the original as possible. Of course, my reader should understand that the original article is impossible to find now, so I was complelled to rely on my rather faulty (but very inventive) memory.
The main characters of this movie find themselves in a situation where there is no way out. Mind you, if it were an American movie, a "situation with no way out" would simply mean that there is a way out but you need to work really hard to find it (and kill a bunch of bad guys in the process). But it's a Russian movie, so "no way out" means - NO WAY OUT, irrespective of how much you try.
Why am I telling you this? Please, be patient, comrades, ladies and gentlemen, the explanation is forthcoming....

When I was preparing the second part of my article on the Egyptian revolution, I decided to refresh my memory on Nabokov's immortal novel "The Luzhin Defense". What's more important though, I wanted to check the English spelling of the name "Luzhin". As I discovered, they've already shot a movie based on Nabokov's novel, and this made my search that much easier. I dutifully found the link to the movie, copied the title - and then my eyes scrolled down the page and I read the description of  the movie plot. I must confess that I was a bit startled by it. Let me compare the ending of the movie and great finale of the actual novel.

Here is the ending of the Western movie based on Nabokov's novel:
Luzhin, who is in his muddied wedding suit, sits in his room as Natalia and the hotel staff try to open the door. But before they can get in, the troubled chess grandmaster throws himself out of his bedroom window and dies. The tragic death is witnessed by Valentinov who has just arrived by car.
The film then concludes in the competition hall where Natalia completes the competition using her fiance's notes. Turati does exactly what Luzhin expected and loses. Katkov and Turati then leave acknowledging the Pyrrhic victory and the genius of Luzhin.
And here is Nabokov's version (my translation from Russian to English - with deepest and most sincere apologies to all Nabokov fans). This passage (last in the book) follows right after Luzhin climbs out the window:

Now both of his legs were hanging outside the building, and he had only to release his hold on the wall and he would be saved. But before letting the wall go, he looked down. It seemed like hasty preparations were ongoing: the reflections of the windows were leveling, and the abyss was falling apart into the pale and dark squares, and the very that instant Luzhin unclenched his hands, the instant that an ice-cold air rushed into his mouth, he saw the eternity that obsequiously and inexorably opened to him.

Someone kicked out the door. Several voices started to roar: " Alexander Ivanovich [Luzhin’s first and middle names], Alexander Ivanovich! " But Alexander Ivanovich did not exist.
In the movie you get if not the classical Hollywood happy ending - but something damn close to it. By all means, Luzhin commits suicide, but his genius is vindicated. Of course, this dilutes the entire theme of the novel - actually making the novel far weaker as a work of art. In the original, the chess match remains unfinished, and the chess experts cannot decide whose position is better - making Nabokov's ending far more dramatic. But Hollywood thinks it must make people feel better - and that certainly takes precedence over art.

Where the hell am I going with this, you may ask. Fear not, my readers, I will make my point when it's ready...

About a week ago I walked into the living room and found my wife watching "Fiddler on the Roof" on TV. I was rather perplexed - I remember reading the novel "Tev'e, the milkman" back in the 1980ies, and it was a rather unsettling experience. The novel is about a Jewish milkman, who lives in the Russian empire in the beginning of the 20th century. He has 7 daughters, a wife, and he makes money selling milk and butter and other dairy products (as the Monty Python said - "blessed are the cheesemakers"). At first his affairs go up a little bit, then things get worse, then his life becomes miserable, horrible, unbearable - and finally it gets much worse again. In short, if you want to keep your spirits up, I strongly suggest you don't read this book.

Anyway, after a couple of hours, when the movie was over, I asked my wife what in the hell she was thinking - why would she watch it? "Tev'e the milkman" would make even the most cold-hearted person feel bad for the Jews. "Well, it was not that tragic, really", she replied. "I mean, sure, things were kind of hard for Tev'e, but in the end he, his wife and his daughters leave Russia and move to America. You can even say he was lucky." Her answer puzzled me a bit. Here is the dialogue that pursued (my memory is a tad hasty, but that's how I remembered it)...

HA: Tev'e leaves Russia and moves to America?
HA wife: Yes, he does, with his daughters and his wife.
HA: No, he does not. In the end of the book, he is kicked out of his house, and he has no idea where he would go. Moreover, his wife cannot possibly follow him to America - she is dead.
HA wife: That's strange.
HA: Say that again. Anyway, I am intrigued. What did the director do with his daughters?
HA wife: They are okay, most of them are following him to US, and one of this daughters is waiting for her husband to be released from exile, so they could also join Tev'e in America.
HA: Hm. How about his daughter that had an affair with a rich youngster and drowns herself?
HA wife: That was not in the movie. BTW, his daughter Tzeitel and her husband Motel are moving to Poland, but later they plan to join Tev'e in America.
HA: That's impossible.
HA wife: Why?
HA: Well, for one, Motel is also dead.

In short, Hollywood took a very dark novel describing the life of a Jewish family and turned it into a light story with a happy ending. They even resurrected a few dead people to achieve this - definitely a miracle.

"Sure, we got it, but how does it have to do with Egypt?!" - you may ask me....

Well, it's time to put the cards on the table. I believe that Hollywood and the Western entertainment industry conditioned the common public to expect a happy ending. Indeed, after watching hundreds of movies, it's only natural to notice that every time a character finds himself in a sticky situation, he must choose the riskiest path possible - and that would be his 100% guaranteed ticket to success. And honestly, it does require a certain amount of sophistication to distinguish between the work of fiction that you see on TV and the latest reports from Egypt - which you also see on TV (and which too very often contain an unhealthy amount of fiction). Seeing the jubilant crowd gather in the Cairo downtown and hysterical media reporters shouting about democracy and freedom naturally makes you believe that things in Egypt will certainly get better once the hated dictator Mubarak is gone. As a side note I must add that only a few months age Mubarak was universally described by American media as a moderate Arab leader and a staunch ally of the United States - they loved to use this description when he was criticizing the Jewish State for her treatment of the palestinian arabs. But that is all gone and forgotten - today, Mubarak is the only one who is standing between Egypt and peace, prosperity and candy. "Oceania has always been at war with Eastasia".

But if I may go back to the original theme - it requires sophistication to see that Hollywood Happy Ending is a rather rare thing in real life - particularly when you leave the civilized world and move to the rest of the planet. What are chances that the latest commotion in Egypt will end well? There were plenty of revolutions in the last few hundred years, and only very few of them had a happy ending. It is quite typical to hear of a revolution which starts as a popular uprising against the oppressive regime and ends up with a bunch of psychopaths taking over the country and building an even more oppressive regime - so oppressive indeed that the people wish they never revolted against the previous oppressive regime. Let's go through the memory lane, and take a look at a dozen of significant revolutions.

Some people may reasonably say that "Past performance is not necessarily indicative of future results" - but surely it is quite instructive to look at past results ("Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.") It's also fair to ask - does Egypt have a better chance to succed than numerous Soviet "stans" (Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan) and become a prosperous free country? While you are pondering this, here is the poll of the Egyptian population - and this poll answers all the questions you may have on how Egypt will most likely look after genuinely democratic elections (which is what many people are pushing for)....

Percentage of Egyptians that have a favorable view of Hezbollah: 30%
Percentage of Egyptians that have a favorable view of Hamas: 49%
Percentage of Egyptians that have a favorable view of al Qaeda: 20%
Percentage of moslem Egyptians that think it’s good that Islam is playing a large role in politics: 95%
Percentage of moslem Egyptians who think it’s bad that Islam is playing a small role in politics: 80%
Percentage of moslem Egyptians that think Islam’s role in politics is positive: 85%
Percentage of moslem Egyptians that believe there is struggle between modernizers and fundamentalists in Islam and identify themselves with moslem fundamentalists: 59%
Percentage of moslem Egyptians that believe there is struggle between modernizers and fundamentalists in Islam and identify themselves with moslem modernizers: 27%
Percentage of moslem Egyptians that support gender segregation in the workplace: 54%
Percentage of moslem Egyptians that support stoning people who commit adultery: 82%
Percentage of moslem Egyptians that support whippings, cutting off hands of people for theft and robbery: 77%
Percentage of moslem Egyptians that support death penalty for people who leave Islam: 84%
Egyptian demographics: 90% of the Egyptian population is moslem.
Last but not least – about 95% of Egyptian girls suffer genital mutilation.

And if you are a bit more sophisticated than an average lamestream journalist and you want to know who are those people standing on the streets and fighting against Mubarak - I can tell you right now. These are the people who mutilate Egyptian girls, who support death sentence for apostasy, who stone couples for committing adultery and yes, they would also cut off hands of the people for theft and robbery. Who wouldn't wish such a crowd to run a country, right? Heck, an average Egyptian makes taliban look moderate.

Last but not least - in 2009 and 2010, liberal activists and their lackeys in the mainstream media were counting percentages of black people among the Tea Party (apparently they were not enough blacks according to the voluntary government diversity standards updated daily in the New York Times). There were unconfirmed reports that someone shouted "Nigger" at a black congressman - and that was considered to be the conclusive proof that the entire Tea Party was scarily evil. Egyptian protesters draw the Star of David on the photos of Mubarak (apparently it means he is evil) - and the media yawns.

Imagine the outrage if it were revealed that 10% of the people in the Tea Party (not 90% as in Egypt) were mutilating girls? Or what would the journalists say if they discovered that 10% of the Tea Party activists supported the murder of anyone who renounced Christianity? God Almighty, we would have heard non-stop stories about the evil, racist, misogynist, and fundamentalist Tea Party monsters. And yet, same journolistas find nothing alarming about the views of Egyptian people. Why is that? Is it because they are so conditioned to the Hollywood Happy Ending? Is it political bias? Is it because Egyptians are "the  other", the "noble savage" - and it's "politically incorrect" (i.e. blasphemous) to be critical of them? Or maybe, it's all of the above - the perfect marriage (in California and 5 other states - perfect civil union in the rest of the nation) of "Hollywood Happy Ending", "Political Correctness" and political bias.

And here is my conclusion:  infamous Hollywood Happy Ending plays a critical role in the current inability of the American cultural and intellectual elite to correctly estimate the inherent risks of the Egyptian revolution. In short - the guys who claim to be the smartest people in the room are stupid. And anyone who thinks that Moslem Brotherhood is a "largely secular group" is a f*cking moron who ought to have his head examined with a baseball bat - that would be the Russian-style Happy Ending.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

President Hosni Mubarak

Journalists: President Mubarak, is it true that you are preparing a farewell address to the Egyptian people?
President Mubarak, surprised: Why? Are my people leaving somewhere?

— Господин президент, — обратились к Хосни Мубараку журналисты. — Говорят, вы собираетесь выступить с прощальным посланием к народу?
— А что, мой народ куда-то уходит? — с удивлением ответил Мубарак.

Taken from here.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Revolution as good as its people, Part 2

"The time has come," the Walrus said,
"To talk of many things:
Of shoes--and ships--and sealing-wax--
Of cabbages--and kings--
Liberal radio talk show as free entertainment
I was listening to the NPR a few days ago (before the recent uptick of violence), and I caught the last few minutes of the Robert Siegel's show "All Things Considered". I must confess that this NPR anchor is adorable (they all are, but this one is really something special), his arrogance can only be matched by his ignorance and stupidity. And trust me, his arrogance is amazing - just listen to his voice when he introduces himself - this man is practically collapsing from a sudden realization of his importance. He can't even pronounce his name in one breath "Robert Siegel" - it's crucial for the listeners to remember his name, every syllable and vowel of it, for the rest of their lives - and thus he proudly presents himself as "Robert Sea-gul". Dale Carnegie famously quipped "The most beautiful thing a person can hear is their name" - but I bet he never expected Robert Siege to take this figure of speech so literally. Damn, I love Booby - he never fails to lighten up my day.

Anyway, Booby is interviewing an American student in Egypt, and two themes of the interview become quite obvious. On the one side, this student is very excited for the Egyptian people and is very happy that they are rebelling against Hosni Mubarak. The second theme - she feels compelled to cut short her studies in Egypt and to come home. The rather stark contrast between these two themes did not seem to bother neither the highly-esteemed NPR talk show host Robert See-eee-Gull, nor the American student (whose name escaped me because of its irrelevance).

Amazingly, same disconnect can be noticed in the reports from the mainstream media - on one side you can feel the euphoria of Western tourists in Egypt - but on the other side, it's clear that same euphoric tourists are getting into fistfights in the Cairo international airport for the right to get on the first plane out of Egypt. As the expression goes - those folks are voting with their feet (and fists), and their vote does not betray much confidence in the Egyptian revolution. And I can relate to that - after all, who wants to spend the next couple of years as a hostage in the dungeon run by the peace activists from the Moslem Brotherhood? It's not 1979, some people have learned their lessons about the "religion of peace" - at least as much as it may relate to their own ass. They may strongly support the Egyptian revolution, but they prefer to do so at a safe distance of at least 10,000 miles under the protection of Western troops. Even the most devoted multi-culturist knows the difference between theory and practice - Karl Marx called it "dialectics", simpler minds call it "hypocrisy".

Who among us hasn't lived through a revolution?
I will volunteer a guess and say that probably none of you have lived through a revolution, let alone two. I was lucky enough to personally witness the last two revolutions in Russia - in 1991 and 1993. And I must add, I saw them up-close and personal because at the time I lived in an apartment which was in a walking distance from the Moscow White House. To tell you the truth, living through troubled times provides you with a plethora of experience, knowledge and wisdom - which may not be in high demand when the things are quiet, but are golden when society enters turbulent times. Therefore I claim my expertise of the Egyptian revolution and compel you to read carefully this story about Kings and Cabbage that I am about to share with you.

A bit of self-promotion
I must confess that even though my education is purely technical (I earn my modest living as an Electrical Engineer working for a large corporation), I have a passion for history, economics and literature. I must add that my engineering background helps a lot in my non-technical studies - because I am trained to spot bullshit and notice patterns. If you add the fact that I was born, raised and educated in the USSR, then moved to the US and settled there - it's clear that I have a rather odd blogger, I may even be one of a kind. Kind of like Barack Obama - but with smarts, sense of humor and valuable personal experience. And yes, I don't need the teleprompter - I believe a baseball bat is much more handy. Speaking of the game of baseball - I've heard that in 2010, they sold in Russia one baseball glove, two baseballs and 100,000 baseball bats. Isn't it amazing?!

Where is this all going to?
I am writing this article to share my views on the revolution in Egypt and what we should expect from it. In summary - if Mubarak and/or his henchmen do not hold to power, and the protesters are successful, Egypt will see the rise of a theocracy much more reactionary than Iranian regime, and the war with Israel is inevitable. In the meantime, Egyptian people will suffer, and the Egypt will be a much more oppressive and poor society than it is today (and it's not like Egypt is a beacon of freedom and prosperity today). In the immortal words of Shenderovich, "In Tunisia, people are joyful from the fall of the authoritarian regime, and can see the return of their local Islamic fundamentalist. Soon, there will be such spiritual revival on the wreckage of authoritarianism, that you will wear yourself out burying all the corpses."

How do I intend to prove this thesis? My article will put together a potpourri of stories from the past and present, analysis of previous revolutions and a healthy amounts of speculation. The whole story will be told in concentric spiral - the way Nabokov wrote his famous novel "The Gift". Good luck digesting that mess.

Let's learn from the past: Communist revolution and Doctor Zhivago
There are plenty of books about the communist take-over in 1917, the subsequent Civil War, mass murder, starvation and destruction engineered by Lenin - the unhappy summary of the unhappy 74 years of communist rule. I would recommend reading Paul Johnson's "Modern Times", Alexander Solzhenitsyn's "One day in life of Ivan Denisovich", " Gulag Archipelago", "In the First Circle". Moreover, don't forget to familiarize yourself thoroughly with Michael Bulgakov's "Heart of a Dog", "A Dead Man's Memoir: A Theatrical Novel" and "White Guard" and Isaac Babel's "Red Cavalry".

I must confess that although all these books are excellent guides to history and some of them are true literary jewels (I believe Bulgakov is the best Russian writer of all times), "Doctor Zhivago" by Boris Pasternak is most relevant to our conversation about the revolution in Egypt.

The first time I read "Doctor Zhivago" in the 1990ies - and I could not get pass the first 100 pages. The plot was a bit too thick for my taste, too many characters, and the book as a whole was a mixture of Maxim Gorkiy and Vasiliy Aksenov. The second time I attempted to read it was a year ago - after all Pasternak was a famous Russian writer, and I felt ashamed that I was unfamiliar with his work. Moreover, I decided that I was too young 2 decades ago, and this time I would surely enjoy the novel by the Nobel Prize winner. And lo and behold, by the page 100 it all came back to me and I was ready to call it quits. The plot and the characters did not upset me (these were quite traditional and did not raise my ire), it's the number of cliches that suffocated me. For example the main heroine Lara, a young and bright girl, is wondering who is shooting at the tsarist police and the army during the Moscow uprising in 1905 - and answers her own question with a jaw-dropping banality. It goes like this:
"It must be the boys" - Lara thought... She was thinking not just about Nikkie and Patul, but about all the people in the city who were shooting at the army. "Good honest boys", she thought, "they are good - that's why they are shooting at the army".
This passage made me puke my guts out - damn, Pasternak was writing this in the 1950ies, when the criminality of the communist revolution was already apparent to all decent people (and decent people don't read the New York Times). But still, I decided to finish the book - this time there was no surrender, I would read the entire novel. And what would you think - it got only worse. By the end of the first 1/4 of the book, doctor Zhivago is singing a panegyric to the 1917 revolution calling it the breath of fresh air. Here is the quote which literally made me nauseous:
I could say the following: everyone had two revolutions, a private one and a common one. I believe that socialism is an ocean, and like an ocean absorbs the rivers, it will absorb all the private revolutions and become the ocean of life, the ocean of originality. The ocean of life, as I say, of life that you could see in the paintings, the genius life, an enriched life. But now people decided to try it not by reading books, not as a hobby, but in reality.
Damn, I was pissed after I read this crap. The communist revolution was a breath of fresh air?! How could he? How could he even write this? At this point I decided I needed to finish this book - I had to know what the hell Pasternak was thinking.

And then slowly but steadily things start changing. The life gets worse for Zhivago and his lover, Lara. Eventually they escape from the communist regime, and settle in a abandoned house. After a while, Zhivago is "nationalized" and forced to serve in a communist insurgent gang as a doctor, and he is lost for some years. When the gang falls apart, he comes back in search of Lara - and you can feel how all the characters steadily lose all hope to ever get back to a normal life, and death is creeping closer and closer to them. By this time, the inhuman cruelty of the communist regime was seen as a natural - as Dovlatov once said "cruelty was as common as humidity".

In one of the later chapters, doctor Zhivago is talking to the commander of a group of red insurgents, Pamphil Palyh - a devoted murderer, a man with the blood of thousands of people on his hands. The description given to this man is unbearable. Here is my translation:

At the beginning of the revolution [1917], based on the experience of the 1905 uprising, they [the communists] were afraid that the revolution would be a short-lived event in the history of educated elites, and won't touch the lower classes. This is why they tried to propagandize among the common folks, to revolutionize them, to excite them, to inflame them.

During the first days [of the revolution], people like soldier Pamfil Palyh, who without any need for persuasion deeply hated the intelligentsia the noblemen and the officers, seemed a rare find by the excited left-wing intellectuals and was highly valued. Their inhumanity was seen as a highest achievement of class consciousness, their barbarity - as ideal proletarian firmness and revolutionary instinct. That was Pamfil's fame. He was indispensable to the leaders of insurgents and the party leaders.
The end of the novel is instructive - the main characters finally realize not just the nature of the communist revolution - but also how they themselves were personally responsible for it. Lara's explanation for the horrors of the communist regime is quite instructive:

All of a sudden, there was this jump from idle, innocent life into blood and screams, total insanity and wilderness of every-day and every-hour, legalized and glorified murder. Maybe, this can never go by and be forgotten. I am sure you remember how everything started to crumble. The train schedule, the food supplies to the cities, the basics of the family foundation, the foundations of morality.

What came to the Russia was not truth. The worst horror, the root of the future evil was the loss of belief in the value of one's own point of view. People imagined that the time to follow the voice of one's own conscience is gone, that you must follow the opinion of someone else, and live according to the views of other people. The slogans took precedence over everything else, first the tsarist slogans, then the revolutionary slogans. Society's delusion became all-encompassing. Everything was under its influence.
The way the book turned around was absolutely amazing - and I had to read it in its entirety to comprehend that Pasternak was showing the process by which the pre-revolutionary views of intelligentsia in Russia were changing from radical pro-socialist romanticism to post-revolutionary skepticism (The New York Times intellectuals would call it "fanatical anti-communism").

On a lighter note, I must add that I could think of two other works of art which had a similar unexpected twist. The first of one is more obvious (and much more trivial) - "Fight Club". I am sure my readers remember the moment when it is revealed that the main protagonist Tyler Durden and the positive hero Jack are one and the same person.

Please return your seatbacks to their full and upright and locked position.
We have just lost cabin pressure.

It's called a "changeover". The movie goes on and nobody in the audience has any idea.

 The second example that comes to mind is Nabokov's novel "Luzhin Defense". In this book, the main character is a talented Russian chess player Alexander Luzhin, a man who has only only passion - playing chess. And this game drives him to insanity he starts seeing the whole world as part of a giant chess game. In the end, he attempts to leave the world of chess and live a normal life, but this proves to be impossible in spite of all his attempts. In the end, he finds the ultimate effective defense from the chess insanity - he jumps from a building with his head first. Apparently, the only defense that he could find was suicide - the "Luzhin Defense".

How does it all have to do with Egypt?
You may ask "What is the connection between "Doctor Zhivago" and the Egyptian revolution?" Well, the fundamental truth is - no revolution cannot be better than the people. And a revolution which involves the whole country cannot be better than the average citizen of the nation. If the average citizen is a neanderthal, then what you will get is a revolution that will inevitably promote the values of neanderthals - irrespective of the phraseology used by the leaders. Take a quick look at the latest
polling results of the Egyptian people:

Percentage of Egyptians that have a favorable view of Hezbollah: 30%
Percentage of Egyptians that have a favorable view of Hamas: 49%
Percentage of Egyptians that have a favorable view of al Qaeda: 20%
Percentage of moslem Egyptians that think it's good that Islam is playing a large role in politics: 95%
Percentage of moslem Egyptians who think it's bad that Islam is playing a small role in politics: 80%
Percentage of moslem Egyptians that think Islam's role in politics is positive: 85%
Percentage of moslem Egyptians that believe there is struggle between modernizers and fundamentalists in Islam and identify themselves with moslem fundamentalists: 59%
Percentage of moslem Egyptians that believe there is struggle between modernizers and fundamentalists in Islam and identify themselves with moslem modernizers: 27%
Percentage of moslem Egyptians that support gender segregation in the workplace: 54%
Percentage of moslem Egyptians that support stoning people who commit adultery: 82%
Percentage of moslem Egyptians that support whippings, cuttings of hands of people for theft and robbery: 77%
Percentage of moslem Egyptians that support death penalty for people who leave Islam: 84%
Egyptian demographics: 90% of the Egyptian population is moslem.

Last but not least - about 95% of Egyptian girls
suffer genital mutilation. Note, the people that you see on the streets of Cairo, demonstrating for democracy and freedom are the same people who would kill anyone who wishes to leave Islam. Same ones who cut of women's genitalia. Same ones who would stone people for committing adultery. Do you really feel like they are just like you, or maybe you are a tad more evolved than those people?

 In all fairness, I must note that cutting off female genitals is hardly the biggest concern for the people of Egypt - it is far more important to them that dictator of Egypt keeps peace with Israel instead of whacking those pesky Jews like Hitler did (or did not - depends who and when you ask in the Middle East). For example, while the moslem world is not currently known for its flourishing book industry (I
wonder if the whole moslem world of more than 1 billion people publishes more books than a tiny state of Israel), it surely spends considerable resources on publishing and popularizing Hitler's memoirs.

For example, recent Al Jazeera's
report on the Cairo book fair is a tad discomforting: "The fair also has its darker sides, with anti-Christian polemics advocating conversion to Islam as the only solution to a flawed religion and of course plenty of editions of Adolf Hitler's "Mein Kampf" for sale."

And sure, OF COURSE, there are plenty of editions of Adolf Hitler's "Mein Kampf" for sale in Cairo's book fair - what else would you expect?! That "Of course" from the Arabic meida outlet is worth more a thousands pages of research about anti-semitism among moslems, and what we should expect from the Middle East "Peace process". 
 And it surely is expected that when the Egyptian populace wants to show their dislike of their beloved leader, Hosni Mubarak - they OF COURSE draw a Jewish Star on his portrait. After all, calling someone a Jew is the ultimate insult, is it not (reminds me of Obama's spiritual leader, rev. Wright and his talk about evil "Jews" who don't let his favourite student talk to the teacher)? Just look at the photo from Reuters (a few more photos can be seen here) and wonder - why hasn't the media paid a little bit of attention to this nazi symbolism? But never mind the media - think what you are to expect from the Egyptian revolution if it is successful. I am not sure about you, but to me, this revolution speaks with a little bit of a German accent. And I don't mean to insinuate that Egyptian cars will soon be produced with German quality.
When I think of Hosni Mubarak and the Egyptian revolution, I remember Kissinger's wise remark on the Iran-Iraq conflict: "It's a shame they can't both lose".