Monday, January 23, 2012


Only 20 days to the one-year anniversary of the day I started my countdown to Egyptian democracy. With all the euphoria about the "Arab Spring" and the many predictions of the imminent creation of democracy in Egypt and other Arab countries, I somewhat cynically initiated my countdown, giving the Egyptians one year to establish their democracy.

How is it going? Well, the run-up to the elections, during which the Egyptian army has ruled, did not inspire confidence. With the continuing violence, repression, arrests, attacks on Christians, and invasions of the offices of pro-democracy non-profits, Egypt did not look like it was on the verge of democracy.

However, the elections were held and it appeared that the atmosphere was generally free and non-violent.  The result, on the other hand, leaves many questions.  With the Muslim Brotherhood at almost half of the seats and the even more radical Salafists at nearly a quarter, the Islamists now have over two-thirds of the seats in the Parliament. 

Elections alone do not make for a democracy.  A free society before and after does.  Dictatorships are often elected democratically.  The question is whether that will be the last democratic election.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012


Somebody's head could roll--literally. It was recently reported that Kravitz pencils, manufactured in Israel only for its domestic market, somehow showed up on the shelves of Abu Rialin, a Saudi retailer that sells all of its inventory at the same price.

As befits a country with a major focus on hating Jews and Israel, Saudi authorities are quite upset that the Ministry of Commerce overlooked this major faux paus, especially considering the fact that the pencils were well-marked with a Hebrew logo.

The pencil affair was exposed by a Saudi reporter on the Saudi website Jazan.  The reporter wanted to know how such a major scandal could have been missed by the Ministry of Commerce. It's reassuring to know that hard-hitting, unafraid investigative reporting is being done in Saudi Arabia.