Daily Digest: Egypt’s moment, and the search for its analogy; National Signing Day, and the three Foer brothers

by Mike Mullen

Today’s Daily Digest, from editor Mike Mullen.

– In Egypt, embattled President Hosni Mubarak’s compromise to not seek another term of office has done little to quell ongoing protests. The addition to the Cairo streets of thousands of pro-Mubarak supporters has made things a bit more complicated, and a lot more dangerous: the Times describes a scene of flying “Molotov cocktails and rocks, while the military restricted itself mostly to guarding the Egyptian Museum and using water cannons to extinguish the flames.” On Tuesday, Mubarak pledged to step down in September – which, in the exhaustive state of turmoil Egypt is living, seems like forever from now – a rebuke to President Obama’s Tuesday command that the transfer of power “must be meaningful, it must be peaceful, and it must begin now.”

As the pan-regional antiauthoritarian wave hits Yemen, where the similarly-tenured president Ali Abdullah Saleh said he would leave office in 2013, let’s remember a couple things. One, in looking at who might assume power in the event of collapse(s), President Obama’s now long-forgotten speech in Cairo, in which he cautiously addressed democratic movements: “[T]here are some who advocate for democracy only when they are out of power; once in power, they are ruthless in suppressing the rights of others.” And second, a history lesson. As commentators search for the historical analogy, most are coming up with (optimistically) the fall of communism across Europe in the late 1980s and early 90s, and (pessimistically) the Islamic revolution in Iran in 1979-80. Let’s add one more example: the European revolutions of 1848, which swept the continent and threatened a system of militant kings that had lasted for centuries. After major successes, the revolutionary movement lost momentum, and the old systems crashed back into place. Some of them lasted another seven decades, and were only brought down by a world war.

– From Egypt, we go to something truly important: national signing day! Witness ESPN’s breathless, comprehensive coverage of the decisions of teenage football stars, who emerge, annually, from their holes and look for their shadows before deciding where they want to “attend college.” While the top-ranked recruit, defensive end Jadeveon Clowney, mulls a half-dozen southern schools, it’s worth noting the following trend: of the top 20 recruits, only two schools (Nebraska and Notre Dame) that aren’t in warm a climate have landed a recruit. So, how can Minnesota compete with the weather in L.A., Georgia, and Florida? Simple: when they bring in recruits, the Gophers should NEVER let them go outside. Straight from the airport, to a limo, to a series of heated garages and Hawaiian-themed restaurants. Turn up the thermostat, draw the shades, serve hot chocolate and spicy food. Always, always drape the recruits in heavy blankets! Either that, or Minnesota should finally recruit in the untapped talent streams of Siberia and Ulan Bator.

– Finally, from the sublime, to the ridiculous, to the sublime. Slate has a very cool look at “Caño Cristales, a strange little stream that has lately been having something of a Susan Boyle moment on the Internet and in Colombia’s national consciousness.” The story, which is the first of a 7-part series, and its (stunning) accompanying videos and photos are an outgrowth of Atlas Obscura, a sweet, user-generated website devoted to shining a flashlight on the nooks of the world. It’s worth noting that the website creator, and the series’ author, is Joshua Foer, the youngest brother among Franklin (the fine editor the New Republic), and Jonathan Safron Foer, who wrote a great book, “Everything is Illuminated,” in two and a half months, when he was 19 years old. (That book was then turned into a great movie, with a great trailer, which you’ll find below.) Your family sucks.