The Arab Spring Nearly Two Years on: What has Changed?

By anonymous analyst:

The full effects of the “Arab Spring” uprisings are still playing out nearly two years after the movement began, however; some change has begun to take shape. Governments throughout the world likely have learned of the risk of mass dissent proliferated by social media and unemployed young people. Although some regional transformation occurred, the outcome may not be what the participants of the uprising intended to see from their efforts at toppling regimes in Egypt, Libya, and Tunisia.

Those who took to the streets beginning in December 2010 did so in an attempt to bring about systemic change and an end to corruption within their respective political systems. The fundamental change resulting from the backlash that ensued, however; did not bring about the transparency, increases in personal freedoms, or economic prosperity that it sought out to.

Conversely, Egypt has fallen six places to 118th out of 176 countries in Transparency International’s corruption index in the year since Mubarak’s ouster, while Tunisia has fallen two places to 75th since its infamous fruit vendor kicked off the Arab Spring in 2010.[1]
Instead of a substantive political overhaul, as Graeme Bannerman of Reuters writes, the region has experienced a more nuanced, and arguably superficial, transformation. A formerly dominant regional Arab national identity has been replaced with a more Islamic identity.[2] An initially apprehensive Muslim Brotherhood dutifully stepped in to fill the void after the fall of Hosni Mubarak.[3] Similarly, the group’s affiliate in Tunisia, the Ennahda Party, has taken control of that government’s legislature.[4]

This regional transformation, or perhaps, lack thereof, is best illustrated by Egypt. Egypt was the epicenter of the Arab nationalist movement that swept the Middle East in the 1950’s. A group of Egyptian military officers, headed by Gamal Abdel Nasser, successfully unseated the Egyptian monarch in what is known as the Free Officers Revolution of 1952. Since 1952, the Egyptian military has remained the guardian of the state with the president traditionally coming from among the military’s ranks.

Protesters took to the streets in Tahrir Square Egypt in January 2011 in an attempt to bring an end to the country’s military rule. The result, much like that in Tunisia and Libya, was the forced resignation of the Egyptian President, Hosni Mubarak, in February 2011.[5] The fall of the Mubarak regime and, subsequently, the country’s first democratic presidential election were hailed as major successes in democratizing the region.

One underlying theme of the protests’ success in ousting the former dictator was the power of social media, which was reported as instrumental in organizing  demonstrations across the Arab world including Tahrir Square.

A recent study conducted by the London School of Economics and Political Science concludes, however; that there is “little evidence to suggest that future historians will rank the events of 2011 with those of 1848 or 1989. Simply too few of the fundamentals of social, economic and political organization in the Arab world have been successfully contested by the protests.”[6]

Furthermore, studies indicate that social media was not quite the catalyst behind the Arab Spring protests as was initially thought. This is evidenced by the continued efficacy of the protests even after the Egyptian government cut off internet and mobile phone access. Rather, Facebook’s event sites, purporting to indicate protest times and locations, were often decoys to enable the real demonstrations organized via word-of-mouth.[7]

Nearly two years later, fresh protests have begun to erupt in Egypt as Mohammed Morsi, the country’s first democratically elected president, issued an interim constitutional declaration granting himself far-reaching powers reminiscent of the Mubarak era.[8] Despite recent motions by the president, however; Egypt’s military, via the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF), remains the most powerful government entity—perhaps the most telling sign that little has changed since the 1952 Free Officers Revolution.

[1] Kirschbaum, Erik. “Egypt Slips in Corruption Index Despite Arab Spring.” December 2012. Reuters.
[2] Bannerman, Graeme. “The Key to Understanding the ‘Arab Spring’.” October 2011. Reuters.
[3] Natsios, Andrew. “How Will the Muslim Brotherhood Govern Egypt? Look to Sudan.” October 2012. US News.
[4] Gamha, Eymen. “Final Results of Tunisian Elections Announced.” January 2013. Tunisia Alive.
[5] Hendawi, Hamza et al. “Egypt’s Mubarak Refuses to Quit Hands VP Powers.” February 2011. Associated Press.
[6] Kitchen, Nicholas. “After the Arab Spring: Power Shift in the Middle East?” May 2012. London School of Economics and Political Science.
[7] Stein, Ewan. “Revolutionary Egypt: Promises and Perils.” May 2012. London School of Economics and Political Science.
[8] Staff. “Egypt: Who Holds the Power?” December 2012. BBS News Middle East.

The Return of West Coast Hip Hop Greatness

For the last decade or so, the hip hop sound has decidedly not felt the California Love. In the late eighties to mid nineties, the best rap was from the west or east coast. Fans of either coast did not associate and the animosity swelled to a battle. The battle was territorial. Not for the actual territory of a city block or even a state. It was for the title of authentic gangster rapper that blood was spilled. After the deaths of Tupac Shakur and Notorious B.I.G., the east west dichotomy was destroyed and with it gangster rap. The years since have seen a return to the roots of hip hop and has been a great time for hip hop, just not for rappers from the west coast.

The east coast mecca of hip hop is New York City. New York lays claim the birth of hip hop. Jay-Z, Nas, Wu-Tang, and 50 Cent, are just some of the great New York hip-hop acts that have dominated the charts. Also, the legacy of Notorious B.I.G. has grown in the 15 years after his death. But while the rightful appreciation of Biggie’s skills has waxed, that of his west coast competitor Tupac, has tragically waned. It’s not that east coast hip hop won the battle, it just seems that no one has carried on their torch into the 21st century.

The destruction of the east-west bifurcation allowed other sections of the country to be heard from. When we looked in other places for good music, we saw that styles and flows were developing in converging and diverging veins all across the nation. Kanye West and Lupe Fiasco broke open the Midwest as hip hop luminaries that were not from the coast but still able to headline. This lead to opportunities for driven Midwest rappers like Kid Cudi, Wiz Khalifa, Twista, and Chief Keef.

The south also had it’s time in the spotlight with quality artists like Lil’ Jon, Chamillionaire, T-Pain, and Slim Thug. The rise of southern hip hop was the most improbable trend in recent years, introducing levity and new slang into an industry that seemed to have lulled. When talking about southern rappers one must recall some of the artists we would rather forget; Lil’ Wayne, T.I. and Young Jeezy also saw commercial success riding the southern hip hop bandwagon straight to top 40 pop music acclaim.

It is true that there were moments in hip hop’s recent past that highlighted the golden state. The Game put out two good albums highlighting that Cali Sunshine, and Dr. Dre put out The Chronic 2001 before retiring to make expensive headphones. But in reality, rappers like The Game, Dr. Dre, and Xzibit were holdovers from the old west coast regime that revolved around money, cars, guns, and women. No more relevant or alive than Tupac’s hologram.

The old west coast motif of bling, sports cars and guns is dead. 2012 saw a crop of young talent that are threatening to return west coast hip hop to its once stellar state. Last year’s most acclaimed record was from Kendrick Lamar. Lamar hails from Compton, an old vanguard of hip hop that produced all-stars like Dr. Dre, Ice Cube and Easy-E. Lamar’s 2012 studio album good kid, m.AA.d city was rightfully lauded as the best hip hop album of 2012. The album’s gangster themes and Lamar’s unabashedly new school delivery made for excited listening. Lamar has the keen desire to connect to his audience like we only thought Biggie and Tupac could do.

The most creative new trend in hip hop comes from the daft collective Odd Future. The Los Angeles group is lead by Tyler, The Creator and incudes Frank Ocean and the underrated Earl Sweatshirt. Tyler is the most unconventional rapper in recent memory invoking fear, but also identification in a way that is rather disquieting. Frank Ocean came out of the closet in 2012, making him the first rapper of note to do so. The Odd Future collective has many releases set for 2013 and we look forward to hearing more sidesplitting, fearless, and unusual rhymes from them. The individuals members of this towering group should provide creative music for years after 2013.

If you listen to hip hop, it’s a great time to dig in and follow this trend to see what develops. My money says its going to get wilder before it gets plain. If you don’t listen, this is a good time to start following some artists. It won’t make any sense at first but soon, nothing will sound the same.

My man Ray

When Ray told me that he had gotten laid off from work, I didn’t think much of it. Not because it wasn’t a serious issue that he had to deal with, but because I had confidence in Ray. He was one of my closest friends of over 10 years, and I couldn’t think of a more intelligent and charismatic dude.

This was the height of the recession and people were losing jobs like crazy but this is Ray we’re talking about, a guy who can talk to you about 18th century Italian art or what happened in the latest issue of the Amazing Spider-man comic book. I have witnessed this guy go car shopping, and as another shopper mistakenly identified Ray as a salesman, watch Ray sell a car. He went through all the car’s features, talked about upgrading to leather and/or a GPS system, moon roof, the whole nine yards. And when the guy was ready to buy, he went to grab a real salesman to close the deal. That’s Ray.

I first met Ray when we were in college. He bumped into me at one of those frat rush parties. The ones where they made you wear a name tag in order to recruit morons, I mean candidates to abuse for four months or whatever.

“Dude my bad,” said this shaggy looking guy trying to regain his physical and brim filled cup balance. He squinted his eyes excruciatingly tight trying to read my name tag.

“Rosado?” he asked.

“What?” I replied, “no man, my name is Beisan.”

How he read my name was beyond me, but the guy was really funny. We hit it off in a strictly bromantic fashion. After graduating we remained close friends. He went on to work for a variety of investment companies. He looked the part too with his slick business attire and monkstrap shoes. A complete smooth operator, I could tell he was doing well. So like I said, when he told me he lost his job, I didn’t worry.

As the days turned into weeks turned into months, and Ray was still looking for a job, I became concerned. I could tell that he was concerned too. His voice had become defeated, and his spirit was completely deflated. And whenever we got together, I could see his demeanor was way off. He was flat out depressed.

“Maybe you’re shooting too high,” I told him. Grab whatever you can for the time being until something else comes along was my advice. That wasn’t an option he’d say. And little by little, Ray started to give me a clearer picture of what he was up against. Friends, no matter how, rarely get into personal finance conversations, and it was Ray who truly taught me why. Over time I found out that Ray was broke. And not only was he flat broke, he was in tremendous debt. I’m talking credit card debt in the 60 grand range, two car notes totaling 800 a month, college loans adding to roughly 90 grand, and add a 700 dollar mortgage payment into the mix besides all his utility bills. A take what you can get job wasn’t going to cover it. My man Ray was in trouble.

ManRay“What the hell happened Ray?”

“I overextended myself man,” he said.

He would go on to explain how easy it was for him to get into this mess. Yeah, he had a good job, but in reality, that good job just covered his expenses. He never really saved. Financing a 250 thousand dollar house was cake. Took him a total of a day and a half to apply, get approved, and sign the documents. Credit cards, they practically gave them away. The zero percent intro rates that popped to 29 percent in a few months didn’t help his situation at all. And now that he wasn’t working, he was using whatever credit that remained to pay his bills and keep a roof over his head. All of this floored me. I offered him to help him out where I could. But what I could offer was trivial compared to what he needed and he declined.

I truly felt for Ray because I could see how much he was stressing. I also felt disturbed a little. Here is a guy I know for over ten years, and I think I know him, I mean I’m confident that I know all there is I need to know. But here he was in this mess. And it was a serious mess. One afternoon I met Ray at a neighborhood bar and we drank a few beers. He was far from his usual self. He had this rigid demeanor that would only loosen up when I cracked a joke or pointed out how drunk some other dudes were at the bar. As it was getting close to last call Ray instructed me to look toward the bartender with a nudge of his head. I did.

“What?” I asked.

He took a swig from his beer and asked, “Do you think she closes the bar by herself?”

I looked over to her kind of dumbfounded. I said I didn’t know and asked him who cares.

“Because there’s no other staff here, and if she’s alone, that means she’s closing the bar by herself,” he said.

I put my beer down and looked at him.

“What the fuck are you talking about?”

He leaned over real close and in a hushed but serious voice asked, “ever thought about robbing somebody?”

Whatever Heineken feel good moment I had quickly vanished. But I could not tell if Ray was buzz talking or not. “No,” I replied. And then he continued, and I mean really continued.

“I have man. I have. You have no idea how easy it would be. Seems like everywhere I go, they’re just asking for it. Take this place, one bartender closing up. The place is busy man. You gotta’ figure there’s at least two grand in the reg. Man the other day I walk into the gas station, there’s this rinky dink security guy loading up the ATM with money. He’s got at least 20 grand laying on the floor besides him. Shit man. Cake walk. Put a snickers bar to the back of his head man, he’ll shit his pants. And banks, don’t get me started, a note, dump the funny money with the dye pack, and I know what a dye pack looks like, jump on my motorcycle and duuude I’m outta there.”

This line of thought was blowing my mind. Here’s one of my main dudes, with a slew of heists on his mind. Desperation got him thinking crazy. I laughed off his commentary. And told him, “dude your fuckin crazy.”

But my heart was broken a little. There’s always a little truth in drunk talk.

After that night I actively helped Ray look for a job. I figured maybe he had taken his foot off the pedal, now that he was casing banks and gas stations. And I stayed close to him, so that I’d make sure no capers went down on my watch. And after a few more weeks, he settled into a new job. It wasn’t his dream job or anything like that, but it was a decent start. And after some credit counseling he started back on the right path. It was a scary time for Ray.

Even scarier though, was that I never saw the signs. If Ray had a drug or alcohol problem, I’d know. But a problem like this, is practically undetectable. The things that got him into this mess usually indicate prosperity. The cars, the house, and all the material objects made it seem like the guy was doing great, but in reality these were so detrimental to him because he could barely afford it. I couldn’t help thinking of other friends in the same predicament, maybe family members, and even society at large. I realized how we place too much value on these material items that convey success, but aren’t really doing much to secure a solid foundation for our future. I thought of myself, guilty of the same lifestyle that tripped up my buddy. I had to make a few adjustments in my own life as well, so that I would never have to put a snickers bar to the back of rinky dink security guys head.

Drugs: the war, the addiction, and the law

“There’s no system in the United States more efficient at ruining people’s lives than the criminal justice system.”

This podcast jumps into the conversation of drug prohibition, treatment, and how governments of the world are working to solve collective problems. In many ways in this discussion with a criminal justice scholar, the drug war is not succeeding and is actually making the world worse. Also covered are the many contradictions of the drug culture in America.

“Very often, those who consume marijuana are liberal minded and eco-friendly, bNothingut are smoking something with a large carbon footprint.” Most suburban grow operations come in the form of indoor setups that consume far more energy than most other plants. Listen in for more and stay tuned for further conversation at Paper Campfire events. The solutions are in the present, but “we are too busy to care about things that do not directly effect us.”

If you have thoughts or concerns about what you hear in this podcast, email What is your primary issue? The Campfire hopes to jump start a mentorship program in the Cleveland area. We will help with jobs. We will help with addictions, or at least point you in the right direction. The primary goal of the Campfire is to cultivate our community. TBD on mission statement, but it is surely to involve balance and moderation and is found sporadically in this podcast.

Alcoholics Anonymous Cleveland Website – There are meetings every day at almost any time.

Narcotics Anonymous Meetings in Cleveland

Plank Road Tavern Lakewood, Ohio

Specials All Day Every Day

Specials All Day Every Day

The music had already ended and the playoffs were well into the final games Sunday evening at the Plank Road Tavern. This local Irish bar and restaurant is a hub for Cleveland’s westside Irish community in preparation for this summer’s national finals for Gaelic football. Under reconstruction, will showcase this effort with the Campfire to reinvigorate Cleveland’s community through whatever means, but mostly in the form of job networking so that we may all be around the right people, places, and things.

Stay tuned and visit good people up at the Plank for Thursday night Irish music sessions, coverage of local to international sports, and Cleveland’s finest cooked food. These winter months are important times to build up our capacity to have an awesome 2013 summer and even help push Paper Campfire out to the people and get us back to reading stories about each other in print rather than screened through Facebook marketing and infrequent physical interaction. Let’s work toward a better community, one evening, one conversation at a time. Come up to Plank to enjoy one of these moments and continue through the streets of Lakewood.

“want some chili fries”

Father John Misty in Beachland Ballroom

The band warmed up with a rotating crystal ball lighting up the empty wooden floored hall. Lead musician passes by interested fans, all the while she smiles and says let it be. So we left them to practice and journeyed westward and back to remember all that we should be grateful for with jazz at the Callaloo Cafe. “We have some great chicken and rice of Trini Rotis,” said Kelvin who introduced the cuisine as his hometown’s Trinidad and Tobago specialties. Real young and old in the middle feeling the beat of the jazz guitarists chords in line with an upward base and drummer seated in style against the backdrop of city streets on the East Side of Cleveland. Vibrant communities have literature strewn about and is missing the key ingredient of Paper Campfire. The here and now is by far more engaging and interesting then the recollection of the past or fear for the future. “We realize we are all one.” The Union has broken down many times and this financial hypocrisy is trapping millions in a capitalistic. Lincoln said he was given extraordinary power to change the world and today we see trillions of our dollars speeding through cyberspace all the while people overwork themselves to exist and persist in a society overcome by consumerism. “This part of town is a relaxing gift to have silent enthusiasm in the presence of poetry aligned music and masks hanging for the wall of the aged outlet near the ballroom.

The moment was coming soon though when we’d have to run and get on over to see Father John Misty perform his My Morning Jacket styled vocals and lyrics of hope and being in the present. We can live acoustic lives with the beat of a community’s heart and that is what Paper Campfire can provide. So much of our phenomenal capacity is waiting for the moment when lightening strikes and two people meet, ideas are exchanged, and the world slowly moves in a favorable direction. We can make a San Francisco jazz fueled night out of any city and the atmosphere of Cleveland is ripe for rock ‘n roll, international cuisine, the National Irish Football finals, and so much that cannot be explained. It’s all a feeling of the hemisphere that senses the now and awareness of a poet reactionary who warns of over indulgence.

The two week old Trinidad and Tobagan open Wednesday to Saturday. “This is the soft opening,” said Kelvin who was moving all over the dozen tabled film, coffee, and music cafe in an apparent sign to a possible Paper Campfire Eastside Bureau. “You Don’t Know JaC” could make it happen and we have so much ability to make the world a better place for each other.

to be continued…

The cafe closes at 11pm

The cafe closes at 11pm

Cleveland Job Networking

Paper Campfire began as a collection of writers who wished to publish their material and collaborate with like minded friends of the network on improving their works. As the Campfire concept grew we realized how we could “pay it forward” through employment assistance in the form of job opportunities, resume writing, and interview practice.

Still in the early stages, we hope to have an event at the Plank Road Tavern in Lakewood, Ohio in the near future. Until a time is set, we have an open invitation to the Plank’s Thursday night “sessions” where musicians play some Irish music and other tunes by various Cleveland players. Stay tuned for updates and ask about Wild Harmony if you make it to the Plank, which is located off of Detroit road in Lakewood, Ohio.

For more information, email

Wild Harmony Reading Podcast & 2013

Fourteen or so friends and acquaintances filled the second floor of Visible Voices Bookshop in Tremont last Saturday night. Photographs of Jack Kerouac, Hunter Thompson, and Bob Dylan hung from the walls of the well lit converted flat. The musical talent did not show, but the Wild Harmonians did well with wine and beer in an experimental (although probably done before somewhere that this writer is unaware of) podcast.


On the Road

A half century ago, Jack Kerouac had already been coast to coast and even set sights on overseas travel. It took many attempts and years of edits before On the Road reached the bookshelves. Initial reviews were positive, but misplaced. In a 1957 New York Times review, David Dempsey wrote that it is no longer “fashionable for the young and weary–creatures of Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald–simply to be “lost.” Generally, the Beats were discounted by the mainstream. By the time Kerouac reached fame, he had already written a dozen or so books that were then published back to back as if the author had written them over night.
Adapting On the Road for the big screen was not easy. After years of development with Francis Ford Coppola, billionaire director Walter Salles has created an original perspective of the Beat Generation by combining the uncensored story of the original scroll with the character names of the well known book. Other reviews of the film have been mixed between praise by Kerouac enthusiasts and criticisms similar to 1957 when many felt the young were complaining too much and producing too little.

There’s a little bit of everything in this film including Benzedrine inhalers, marijuana, Proust quotes, jazz, long roads of America, and a whole lot of sex. Does the viewer have to have some awareness of Kerouac and the Beat Generation to really enjoy the film? It depends. Initially released in France, the film inspired many to travel and that in of itself is an accomplishment. Although slightly biased, this reviewer gives four out of four stars across the board. The performances by Garrett Hedlund, Sam Riley, Kristen Stewart and Viggo Mortensen were strong, along with the “kicks” covered from beginning to end.