Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Tebow, Potatoes, Islamists, and Gandhi (Link Round-Up 12/6/11)


Chuck Klosterman on Tim Tebow
Right now, whenever Broncos vice president of football operations John Elway gets asked about Tebow, he effectively says, "We have no choice but to play him. He wins games." It's not really a compliment. It's almost a criticism. But if Tebow did all this with a prison record, Elway would say the same thing in reverse order: "He wins games. We have no choice but to play him." Which is similar, but not the same.
Why analysts are overreacting to Islamist gains in elections
There are a couple of additional reasons for the alarmism. One is sloppy thinking in failing to distinguish radical Islamists (who of course have represented the most salient and worrisome form of transnational extremist violence in recent years) from all other political Islamists. A final reason is simple Islamophobia.
The surprising rise of the Egyptian Salafis
When I asked these bushy-bearded politicos how they had emerged from obscurity to omnipresence in a matter of months, they insisted that the Nour Party had organically grown from the bottom-up. “As Salafists, we are part of the Muslim community and we connect with Muslims as brothers, and there is a private connection as Salafists,” Mohamed Abdel Tawaq, the Nour Party’s 31-year-old Fayoum coordinator, told me. “We met each other through mosques and universities. We live in a Muslim society.” 
But the mass organization that they’d pulled off so quickly clearly requires money. Where is it coming from? “We pay zakat to an organization that belongs to the party,” said Abdel Tawaq. Rumor has it, I replied, that most of their funds come from Saudi Arabia, which—I didn’t say this part aloud—has a history of exporting its own Islamic radicalism elsewhere. “You see all the [Nour Party] branches around Egypt, and you think we have so much money,” said Ali Sharaf, a Nour party coordinator who was sitting nearby. “But we’re really struggling to pay the rent here. Our money comes from dues.” He said that dues were only 10 Egyptian pounds—roughly $1.75—each month, and that they had registered thousands of new members. (Given the ubiquity of the Nour Party’s banners and the scale of their operation, this is scarcely believable.)
How the potato changed the world
Many researchers believe that the potato’s arrival in northern Europe spelled an end to famine there. (Corn, another American crop, played a similar but smaller role in southern Europe.) More than that, as the historian William H. McNeill has argued, the potato led to empire: “By feeding rapidly growing populations, [it] permitted a handful of European nations to assert dominion over most of the world between 1750 and 1950.” The potato, in other words, fueled the rise of the West.
Anna Hazare, the Gandhi-like figurehead of the Indian anti-corruption protests
Two earlier Hazare fasts have already forced the government to act in ways it otherwise would not have. In April, it agreed to negotiate with Hazare's civil society supporters on terms for the anti-corruption agency, the Lokpal. In August, after the breakdown of those negotiations led to the brief imprisonment of Hazare and then a second fast, it agreed to pass a strong version of the Lokpal in the current parliamentary session. But the law has so far not passed. Now the clock is ticking again, with the government working to reduce the Lokpal's power and Hazare threatening to fast again.

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