“Soft despotism is a term coined by Alexis de Tocqueville describing the state into which a country overrun by "a network of small complicated rules" might degrade. Soft despotism is different from despotism (also called 'hard despotism') in the sense that it is not obvious to the people."

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Mel Zelaya was attempting a soft coup of Honduran Constitution. Army stops him cold.

To maintain a credible constitutional democracy, it is necessary to have a slow and difficult procedure to change the constitution, otherwise you have a popular referendum, pack the ballot box and mob rule. The military in Honduras was right to have removed the Hugolito, Zelaya, and stop his Venezuelan mime. Of course our Acornated Master and Ruler objects. No shock there, as he is busy larding the electorate for his next election ascension.

Watch Obama go hard ass on this one to really make his lefty bona fides.

Dos amigos, Chavez y Zelaya. Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez (L) is embraced by his Honduran counterpart Manuel Zelaya upon his arrival at the Honduran Air Force base in south Tegucigalpa, 15 January, 2008. Chavez was in Honduras on an official visit to meet Honduran president Manuel Zelaya to sign a subsidized oil supply agreement between Honduras and Petrocaribe. No doubt they shared their thoughts and theories on constitutional democracy.


Monday, June 29, 2009

The National Debt explained in a way we can all understand.

Economic theory suggests that reasonable levels of borrowing by a developing country are likely to enhance its economic growth. Countries at early stages of development have small stocks of capital and are likely to have investment opportunities with rates of return higher than those in advanced economies. As long as they use the borrowed funds for productive investment and do not suffer from macroeconomic instability, policies that distort economic incentives, or sizable adverse shocks, growth should increase and allow for timely debt repayments. These predictions hold up even in theories based on the more realistic assumption that countries may not be able to borrow freely because of the risk of debt repudiation.

Why do large levels of accumulated debt lead to lower growth? The best-known explanation comes from "debt overhang" theories, which show that if there is some likelihood that, in the future, debt will be larger than the country's repayment ability, expected debt-service costs will discourage further domestic and foreign investment and thus harm growth. Potential investors will fear that the more a country produces, the more it will be "taxed" by creditors to service the external debt, and thus they will be less willing to incur costs today for the sake of increased output in the future. This argument is represented in the debt "Laffer curve" (Chart), which posits that larger debt stocks tend to be associated with lower probabilities of debt repayment. On the upward-sloping or "good" section of the curve, increases in the face value of debt are associated with increases in expected debt repayment, while increases in debt reduce expected debt repayment on the downward-sloping or "bad" section of the curve.

more at the IMF

US foreign indebtedness increased 62% in 2008

Back to the future?

As bad as that sounds, and it is, the situation is far worse for our significant others:

15. United States - 95.09%
External debt (as % of GDP): 95.09%
External debt per capita: $44,358

Gross external debt: $13.627 trillion (2008 Q3)
2008 GDP: $14.330 trillion

14. Norway - 114%
External debt (as % of GDP): 114%
External debt per capita: $118,353

Gross external debt: $551.59 billion
2008 GDP: $481.1 billion

13. Finland - 116%
External debt (as % of GDP): 116%
External debt per capita: $62,579

Gross external debt: $328.56 billion (Q4 2008)
2008 GDP: $281.2 billion

12. Sweden - 129%
External debt (as % of GDP): 129%
External debt per capita: $73,245

Gross external debt: $663.58 billion (Q4 2008)*
2008 GDP: $512.9 billion

T-10. Spain - 137.5%
External debt (as % of GDP): 137.5%
External debt per capita: $57,091

Gross external debt: $2.313 trillion (Q4 2008)
2008 GDP: $1.683 trillion

T-10. Germany - 137.5%
External debt (as % of GDP): 137.5%
External debt per capita: $63,767

Gross external debt: $5.25 trillion (Q4 2008)
2008 GDP: $3.818 trillion

9. Denmark - 159%
External debt (as % of GDP): 159%
External debt per capita: $107,026

Gross external debt: $588.7 billion (Q3 2008)
2008 GDP: $369.6 billion

8. France - 168%
External debt (as % of GDP): 168%
External debt per capita: $78,070

Gross external debt: $5.001 trillion
2008 GDP: $2.978 trillion

7. Austria - 191%
External debt (as % of GDP): 191%
External debt per capita: $100,787

Gross external debt: $827.49 billion (Q4 2008)
2008 GDP: $432.4 billion

6. Switzerland - 264%
External debt (as % of GDP): 264%
External debt per capita: $171,478

Gross external debt: $1.304 trillion (Q4 2008)
2008 GDP: $492.6 billion

5. Netherlands - 268%
External debt (as % of GDP): 268%
External debt per capita: $145,959

Gross external debt: $2.439 trillion (Q4 2008)
2008 GDP: $909.5 billion

4. Hong Kong - 295%
External debt (as % of GDP): 295%
External debt per capita: $93,539

Gross external debt: $659.93 billion (Q4 2008)
2008 GDP: $223.8 billion

3. Belgium - 327%
External Debt (as % of GDP): 327%
External debt per capita: $155,362

Gross External Debt: $1.618 trillion (Q4 2008)
2008 GDP: $495.4 billion

2. United Kingdom - 336%
External debt (as % of GDP): 336%
External debt per capita: $153,616

Gross external debt: $9.388 trillion (Q4 2008)
2008 GDP: $2.787 trillion

1. Ireland - 811%
External debt (as % of GDP): 811%
External debt per capita: $549,819

Gross external debt: $2.311 trillion (Q4 2008)
2008 GDP: $285 billion

Source CNBC

U.S.'s debtor status worsens dramatically

Foreigners hold 50 percent

By David M. Dickson Washington Times | Saturday, June 27, 2009

In the midst of the longest, and probably deepest, postwar recession last year, the U.S. investment position with the rest of the world sharply deteriorated.

At the end of 2008, America's net international investment position was minus $3.47 trillion, the Commerce Department reported Friday. That represents the difference between the value of U.S. assets owned by foreigners ($23.36 trillion) and the value of foreign assets owned by Americans ($19.89 trillion).

At the end of 2007, the U.S. net international investment position was minus $2.14 trillion. Thus, America's net indebtedness with the rest of the world increased by $1.33 trillion, or 62 percent, during 2008. It was by far the biggest annual increase in data that go back to 1976.

Foreigners now hold nearly 50 percent of the federal government's publicly held debt. If foreign investors significantly reduce their purchase of future U.S. Treasury debt securities, without even dumping their current holdings, U.S. interest rates could soar and the dollar could collapse, analysts fear.

At minus $3.47 trillion, America's net debtor status with foreigners represents nearly 25 percent of U.S. gross domestic product, the highest level in history.

"Three decades of massive [trade] deficits have converted the United States from the world's banker - able to 'pay any price and bear any burden in the cause of freedom' - to the world's largest debtor, utterly dependent on China and other foreign interests," said Charles McMillion, chief economist of Washington-based MBG Information Services.

Essentially, America's net international investment position is driven by what the United States borrows from the rest of the world to finance its ongoing trade deficit, said Brad Setser, a fellow for geoeconomics at the Council on Foreign Relations.

Over the 2003-07 period, however, foreign equity markets outperformed the U.S. stock market, and the dollar steadily depreciated. These two factors reduced the annual deterioration in America's investment position that otherwise would have been dictated by massive U.S. trade deficits during this period.

"Both of those factors reversed themselves last year," Mr. Setser said. The dollar appreciated, and foreign stock markets suffered bigger declines than America's. As a result, America's net debtor status worsened significantly more during 2008 than its nearly $700 billion trade deficit would have dictated, Mr. Setser explained.

Over the years, America's status as a creditor or debtor has changed enormously. In the early 1980s, America's net international investment position averaged $350 billion, or 11 percent of GDP, making the United States the world's largest creditor. Today, it is the world's largest debtor - by far.

As recently as 1996, America's net debtor status was minus $456 billion. Since 1996, it has increased by more than $3 trillion, or 660 percent, as America's 12-year cumulative trade deficit soared by $5.7 trillion.

Foreign governments have taken notice - in particular, China, which now holds more U.S. Treasury debt than any other country. In the 12 months through April, China's portfolio of Treasury debt securities has soared by more than a quarter of a trillion dollars to nearly $800 billion.

In its annual financial stability report issued on Friday, China's central bank once again declared there were serious problems with the global monetary system's reliance on a single dominant currency - the dollar. An estimated 65 percent to 70 percent of China's $2 trillion in foreign exchange reserves, the world's largest stockpile, is held in dollar-denominated assets.

The People's Bank of China also warned the United States on Friday about its very expansionary monetary and fiscal policies.

"We are so deeply in debt and this money is so liquid that it hamstrings our monetary, fiscal and trade policies," Mr. McMillion said. "We've really mortgaged our financial future."

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Honduran army sends their President to Costa Rica in his pajamas.

Ousted Honduran President Manuel Zelaya in San Jose, Costa Rica, 28 Jun 2009

Honduran President Ousted by Military
By Laurel Bowman
Washington VOA
28 June 2009

Honduran military forces have ousted President Manuel Zelaya and exiled him to Costa Rica hours before a controversial constitutional referendum vote was set to begin. Organization of American States met in emergency session while the Obama administration expressed concern over events in the Central American nation.

President Zelaya says Honduran troops forcibly removed him from his home in the dead of night and sent him to Costa Rica in his pajamas.

The expulsion came on the day Mr. Zelaya had chosen for a referendum on whether to change the constitution to allow him to run for a second term in office. The president pressed ahead with the vote in defiance of Honduras' Supreme Court, which had declared the measure illegal.

In a news conference at the airport in San Jose, Costa Rica, Mr. Zelaya said he is the victim of a coup d'etat.

The Honduran leader said he has been kidnapped with violence and brutality, which he termed an affront to the entire world that brings back memories of past dictatorships in the Americas. Appearing alongside Costa Rican President Oscar Arias, Mr. Zelaya said he wants to return to Honduras as president and that he is counting on the support of all democratic governments, including that of the United States.

In Washington, President Obama issued a statement saying he is "deeply concerned" by events in Honduras. He urged all political and social actors in the country to respect democratic norms, the rule of law, and the tenets of the Inter-American Democratic Charter. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called on Hondurans to respect their country's constitutional order.

Blocks away from the White House, the Organization of American States met in an emergency session. Honduras' ambassador to the body [Carlos Sosa Coello] demanded what he termed an 'emphatic condemnation" of the coup.

OAS Secretary General Jose Miguel Insulza echoed the call:

Inzulza said what has occurred is a military coup that must be condemned with energy. He said the OAS must issue a clear demand for a return to constitutional order and insist that human rights be respected.

President Zelaya is a political ally of Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez, who pledged to do everything possible to reverse the coup.

Honduras is to hold presidential elections in November. The country's 1982 constitution bans Mr. Zelaya's re-election.

The amazing political and judicial analysis of ordinary Americans

If you need a morning smirk, the Washington Post is a good place to start. The solemnity begins with the incredible headline: "Most Americans Want Sotomayor on Court."

"Soda who?" would be my guess for the most likely response. No one will convince me that more than 15% of most Americans could differentiate Sotomayor from soda crackers.


Most Americans Want Sotomayor on Court
Poll Indicates That 62 Percent Think Federal Judge Should Be Confirmed by Senate

By Jon Cohen and Robert Barnes
Washington Post Staff Writers
Sunday, June 28, 2009
Washington Post

A sizable majority of Americans want the Senate to confirm Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor, and most call her "about right" ideologically, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll Senate hearings on Sotomayor, President Obama's pick to replace retiring Justice David H. Souter, begin in two weeks, and 62 percent of those polled support her elevation to the court. Sotomayor, 55, is currently a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit in New York.

If confirmed, Sotomayor would become only the third female justice and the second on the current nine-member court. But there is no gender gap in support for her, with men and women about equally likely to be on her side.

Partisan differences, however, abound. Nearly eight in 10 Democrats and about two-thirds of independents said they want the Senate to confirm Sotomayor, but that drops to 36 percent of Republicans. Overall, most Republicans deem the judge a "more liberal" nominee than they would have liked.

But Obama's nominee also divides Republicans: While conservative Republicans are broadly opposed, most Republicans who describe themselves as moderate or liberal support her. More than seven in 10 conservative Republicans said she is too liberal, which is more than double the proportion of centrist or left-leaning Republicans who say so.

Some opposition to her, however, comes from the other side, as about one in five of those who want the Senate to reject her see her as insufficiently liberal.

Overall, 55 percent of Americans said Sotomayor is about right on a liberal-to-conservative scale. About a quarter said she is a more liberal nominee than they would have liked, about the same proportion who called Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. too conservative when President George W. Bush nominated them....But most Americans do not think her life experiences influence the way she decides cases: Fifty-nine percent said the fact that she is a women does not factor in, and 52 percent said the same about her racial and ethnic background.

Among the 33 percent who said her gender plays a role, more than twice as many say that is a good thing than a bad thing. The groups most apt to call her gender a factor are those with a postgraduate education and liberal Democrats, and they overwhelmingly approve. Here, too, is no gender gap in attitudes.

On race and ethnicity, however, some groups tip the other way: Half of Republican men and 59 percent of conservative Republicans said these play a role in her decision making, with most of those who do saying that that is a bad thing.

The telephone poll was conducted June 18 to 21, among a random national sample of 1,001 adults. The results have a margin of sampling error of plus or minus three percentage points.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Friday, June 26, 2009

Who will get more from Cap and Trade, Pennsylvania or Costa Rica?

Rip-off artist, President of Costa Rica, Oscar Arias, Nobel Laureate


Fifty-nine percent (17.0) million acres of Pennsylvania's total land area (28.7 million acres) is
forest land, an increase of less than 1 percent since 1978.

Of the 17.0 million acres of forest land, 93 percent (15.9 million acres) is classified as timberland
(formerly known as commercial forest land). timberland acreage is virtually unchanged since the
1978 inventory.

Seventy-nine percent (12.5 million acres) of the timberland area in Pennsylvania is privately

The oak/hickory forest-type group is the most common in the state, making up 47 percent of the
timberland area. Northern hardwood forests cover 38 percent of the timberland area.

Sawtimber stands make up 54 percent of the timberland area, poletimber stands 31 percent, and
sapling/seedling and nonstocked stands 15 percent

Costa Rica

Costa Rica Forest Figures

Forest Cover

Total forest area: 2,391,000 ha
% of land area: 46.8%

Primary forest cover: 180,000 ha
% of land area: 3.5%
% total forest area: 7.5%
Primary forest loss since 1990:-29.4%

Forest Classification
Public: 24.3%
Private: 75.7%

There are approximately 24 families that control the land and assets in Cost Rica. Those families are the same that made fortunes de-foresting Cost Rica. They will be the same group to be net recipients of US taxpayer money under cap and trade. The tax payers of Pennsylvania will not.

The broken Iranian revolution

The Iranian breakout did not happen. No police or army defections. No leader on a tank. No national strikes. What happened? Envy and fear.

Most of the Iranians, outside of a few cities, are poor and under the thumb and veil of the religious establishment. They did not see the street demonstrations of Tehran as being relevant to their lives and worse. They saw it as a threat. Better the devil they know.

Iran emerges as less credible and with a world less tolerant of its goal to be a nuclear power.

George Bush could never adequately explain why Iran was in the axis of evil; an axis of mullahs did it for him.

Israel and its casus belli against Iran advances.

Krauthammer argues that Mousavi needs to have a Yeltsin moment. He further sees Obama as having been dismissive to Mousavi as not that different from Khamenei-Ahmadinejad. Krauthammer believes it is still slimly possible for Mousavi to emerge.

Possibly I suppose, but not likely. More likely will be the dissipation of the dispirited, as many more will leave Iran and the economy worsens. After that who knows? Not me. Hope occluded observation.


Iran: Desperately Seeking Yeltsin

By Charles Krauthammer Washington Post
Friday, June 26, 2009

Iran today is a revolution in search of its Yeltsin. Without leadership, demonstrators will take to the street only so many times to face tear gas, batons and bullets. They need a leader like Boris Yeltsin: a former establishment figure with newly revolutionary credentials and legitimacy, who stands on a tank and gives the opposition direction by calling for the unthinkable -- the abolition of the old political order.

Right now the Iranian revolution has no leader. As this is written, opposition candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi has not appeared in public since June 18. And the Khamenei-Ahmadinejad regime has shown the requisite efficiency and ruthlessness at suppressing widespread unrest. Its brutality has been deployed intelligently. The key is to atomize the opposition. Start with the most sophisticated methods to block Internet and cellphone traffic, thanks to technology provided by Nokia Siemens Networks. Allow the more massive demonstrations to largely come and go -- avoiding Tiananmen-style wholesale bloodshed -- but disrupt the smaller ones with street-side violence and rooftop snipers, the perfect instrument of terror. Death instant and unseen, the kind that only the most reckless and courageous will brave.

Terror visited by invisible men. From rooftops by day. And by night, swift and sudden raids that pull students out of dormitories, the wounded out of hospitals, for beatings and disappearances.

For all our sentimental belief in the ultimate triumph of those on the "right side of history," nothing is inevitable. This second Iranian revolution is on the defensive, even in retreat. To recover, it needs mass, because every dictatorship fears the moment when it gives the order to the gunmen to shoot at the crowd. If they do (Tiananmen), the regime survives; if they don't (Romania's Ceausescu), the dictators die like dogs. The opposition needs a general strike and major rallies in the major cities -- but this time with someone who stands up and points out the road ahead.

Desperately seeking Yeltsin. Does this revolution have one? Or to put it another way, can Mousavi become Yeltsin?

President Obama's worst misstep during the Iranian upheaval occurred early on when he publicly discounted the policy differences between Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Mousavi.

True, but that overlooked two extremely important points. First, while Mousavi himself was originally only a few inches to Ahmadinejad's left on the political spectrum -- being hand-picked by the ruling establishment precisely for his ideological reliability -- Mousavi's support was not restricted to those whose views matched his. He would have been the electoral choice of everyone to his left, a massive national constituency -- liberals, liberalizers, secularists, monarchists, radicals and visceral opponents of the entire regime -- that dwarfs those who shared his positions, as originally held.

Moreover, Mousavi's positions have changed, just as he has. He is far different today from the Mousavi who began this electoral campaign.

Revolutions are dynamic, fluid. It is true that two months ago there was little difference between Ahmadinejad and Mousavi. But that day is long gone. Revolutions outrun their origins. And they transform their leaders.

Mikhail Gorbachev and Yeltsin both began as orthodox party regulars. They subsequently evolved together into reformers. Then came the revolution. Gorbachev could not shake himself from the system. Yeltsin rose up and engineered its destruction.

In the 1980s, Mousavi was Ayatollah Khomeini's prime minister, a brutal enforcer of orthodox Islamism. Twenty years later, he started out running for president advocating little more than cosmetic moderation. But then the revolutionary dynamic began: The millions who rallied to his cause -- millions far to his left -- began to radicalize him. The stolen election radicalized him even more. Finally, the bloody suppression of his followers led him to make statements just short of challenging the legitimacy of Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and the very foundations of the regime. The dynamic continues: The regime is preparing the basis for Mousavi's indictment (for sedition), arrest, even possible execution. The prospect of hanging radicalizes further.

As Mousavi hovers between Gorbachev and Yeltsin, between reformer and revolutionary, between figurehead and leader, the revolution hangs in the balance. The regime may neutralize him by arrest or even murder. It may buy him off with offers of safety and a sinecure. He may well prefer to let this cup pass from his lips.

But choose he must, and choose quickly. This is his moment, and it is fading rapidly. Unless Mousavi rises to it, or another rises in his place, Iran's democratic uprising will end not as Russia 1991, but as China 1989.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Why are Americans leaving? Iraqis having buyers remorse.

June 26, 2009
Iraqis have second thoughts over June 30 date for US troops to leave

Alice Fordham in Baquba Times on line

For six years Iraqis in this restless provincial capital have been waiting for US forces to withdraw, in the hope that the area will return to being Iraq’s sleepy rural backwater.

However, with only days to go before the last American soldiers are due to pull out of Baquba and other Iraqi cities, the residentshaving doubts.

There are fears that a premature departure will lead to a return of sectarian violence or allow al-Qaeda to re-establish itself. Many would like the Americans to remain until security is restored permanently.

“After you guys pull out from the city I don’t know what our enemies are going to do,Thaban Hassan said. The head of an Iraqi Army battalion in Baquba, he told the American soldiers gathered in his office that “safety is not 100 per cent . . . why are the Americans leaving?”

Colonel Burt Thompson, the commander of US forces in the area, whose troops still patrol Baquba, admitted that Nouri al-Maliki, the Iraqi Prime Minister, had taken a gamble by insisting that his forces take control according to an agreed timetable.

In the past few days a bomb hit a mayor’s convoy, another hit an Iraqi army patrol and there was a revenge killing of an al-Qaeda militant.

In line with the status of forces agreement between the US and Iraqi governments, which came into effect at the beginning of this year, all US troops will cease patrolling Iraqi cities from June 30.

Despite the spike in violence Mr al-Maliki has insisted that the withdrawal will go ahead as planned.

Colonel Thompson called this insistence political and said that he would prefer to keep US soldiers in Diyala province, which remains a hub for insurgents coming into the country, until after elections next January.

That view is shared by residents. Dhea Taha, 32, who lives with her children near Baquba, said: “The security situation is not stable in the first place ... there is an increase in terrorist activity.”

Mohammad al-Obeidi, the chairman of the Security Council of Qais and Khalis, areas of Baquba which still have sectarian tensions, said that Mr al-Maliki’s reassurances did not ease concerns.

“Iraq is like a baby right now," he said. "It needs people to look after it.”

The religiously and ethnically diverse province was split by sectarian conflict during the turmoil after the invasion and never fully recovered. Remnants of Sunni groups, including al-Qaeda in Iraq and Shia militia, are still active.

A Sunni in Khalis said that she fled after her house was hit by gunfire last year but when she tried to return two months ago her family’s homes and businesses were still occupied by a Shia militia.

First Lieutenant Hatem, head of an Iraqi Emergency Response Team in Baquba, said that his troops have been hit by roadside bombs and targeted by kidnappers. One soldier was seized last week and a ransom demanded.

“After you guys pull out,” he said to his American allies, “the situation is going to be bad.”

The border with Iran is patrolled by the Iraqi Army, but he had little faith in them, saying, “all insurgents escape from the country through the border ... and of course weapons are smuggled across the borders.”

“I certainly see that insurgent forces will perceive June 30 as a gap in our security plan,” said Colonel Shaun Reed, a battalion commander. “I think we will see a spike in violence based on the idea that the Iraqi security forces aren’t ready.”

Farrah Fawcett, sixties icon, sex symbol and actress, dies

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Just shut up.

Just shut up and spare us your stupid tears.

Mark Sanford needs a new faith
The threat of eternal damnation didn't help the governor of South Carolina to keep his pants on

Melissa McEwan, Wednesday 24 June 2009 22.15 BST

So. After a whirlwind few days of speculation regarding the whereabouts of Republican South Carolina governor Mark Sanford, we now have the answer. He was not, in fact, hiking on the Appalachian Trail clearing his head after a tough legislative session, as we were repeatedly assured by his staff, but was instead in Buenos Aires, Argentina, having an affair. Or ending an affair. Or something.

On Wednesday afternoon, Sanford tearfully took to the airwaves – sans stoic wife standing loyally alongside, in a refreshing change of pace – to hold a press conference in which he admitted the affair with a woman who became a "dear, dear friend" eight years ago after an incredibly earnest conversation about how she should get back together with her husband "for the sake of her two boys", then, in the last year, became his lover after their relationship "sparked into something more than that."

Five months ago, their relationship was discovered, since which time Sanford has been seeking help from a prayer group – but nonetheless spent "the last five days crying in Argentina" and ultimately deciding he's now "committed to trying to get [his] heart right in life." Whatever that means.

I won't belabour the obvious here: Sanford is a hypocrite in the extreme, not just any old family values conservative, but a Republican governor (contra Fox News) who also happens to be (until he resigned during his presser) the chair of the Republican governors' association. As one would expect from a professional member of the Sanctimonious Panty-Sniffers Brigade, he championed laws that seek to publicly legislate personal, adult, consensual sexual activities because they don't adhere to his preferred interpretation of one religious text, but now clamors for privacy to deal with his own personal, adult, consensual sexual activities, although they don't adhere to his preferred interpretation of one religious text, even as he would deny others the same right and respect.

One hopes he has the decency to revisit his position, and suspects he will not.

Because Sanford, you see, also took time during his press conference to assert: "There are moral absolutes, and God's law indeed is there to protect you from yourself." Ah, that old canard. We're all inherently disposed to do the wrong things and too weak to stop ourselves doing them on our own, so there must be laws – God's or otherwise.

It's the position of a man who cannot fathom that not all of us need the threat of eternal damnation, or the promise of salvation, to keep us in line, who cannot conceive that there are people who reject the idea of any one religion as the singular genesis of morality and have, instead, faith in humankind – faith that individuals can make the best decisions for themselves.

Sanford, on the other hand, subscribes to a faith that tells him humans, even himself among them, aren't worth having faith in. That's why he wants to legislate morality – because he doesn't trust people to make good decisions; he couldn't even trust himself and never had to, was never encouraged to have faith in himself to aspire to more. He needs rules, so he thinks we all do.

It's a terrible thing that the people who have the least faith in their fellow humans are most often called the "values voters", as if equality is not a value, and who have commandeered the term "faith", because, on this earth, humans are the only ones who can guarantee equality – and it's the humans who have the admittedly grotty and earthbound faith in one another who are the most likely to extend it.

Those of us who have faith in each other value a decidedly earthy humanness, with all its flaws and foibles. That doesn't sound particularly inspiring: there are no hymns, no psalms, no Hallelujah chorus for having faith in other people. But maybe there should be.

Maybe that's what Governor Sanford needs in order to change his tune.

Neda of Persia

Neda will not be sailing today, or any other day. She will never know the joy and sorrow of living a long life with the man she loves – having orgasms, making babies, raising children. She will never feel the wind blowing through her long black hair or the exhilaration of the spray of salt water on her face as she turns into the sunset...


Fort Lost in the Woods

Frankly, I never heard of it. But why should I have, since I was in the Air Force and my most enduring experience with the army was a recurring nightmare that I re-upped in the army by mistake. But it seems as two of our extinguished, check that, distinguished, repeat, distinguished board members are alumns.

Speaking of old mountains. Show a little more respect for your elders. The Poconos are the remnants of some of the greatest mountains this planet has ever scene, check that, seen, repeat seen. The Poconos are the debilitated veterans of climactic change, created some 12,000 - 15,000 years ago by the mother of all glaciers. The Wisconsinan Glacier carved them a new one, so speak.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Time travel and history adjustment.

Would you kill this child?*

June 23, 2009

The great time travel test

Daniel Finkelstein Timesonline

If you could travel back in time and intervene at one moment in history what would you do?

That was Michael Gove’s question in yesterday's Times, and one I’d now like to pinch for Comment Central.

“My own hunch”, writes Gove, “is you could avert the need for all of the above if you got between Gavrilo Princip's bullet and Archduke Franz Ferdinand. Almost all the miseries of the last century can be traced to the greatest civilisational catastrophe of all time - the First World War.

“There was a madness abroad in Europe in 1914, as the new Tate Modern exhibition of the war-worshipping Italian Futurists reminds us. Prewar Europe was a uniquely liberal and civilised place. And it was all swept away, in a ceremony of blood that ushered in eight decades of oppression.”

“So I'd wrench the gun out of Princip's black hand. And this is where the argument begins. I defy readers to think of a better use of a rent in history's tapestry. What's your answer to the Time Travellers' Test?”

Times writers give their own answers to his proposition below. But how about you? Would you assassinate Hitler? Catch a bullet for John Lennon? Ensconce yourself in the grassy knoll?

David Aaronovitch

Michael Gove seems to think that had the Archduke not been killed by Princip (and one should point out how nearly he wasn't) then the First World War would not have happened.

I wonder. Lenin's return to Russia is a better bet, though it was his second that year, and he might have kept returning, so the real need was to remove him permanently from the scene, which seems to be precluded by the terms of this discussion.

So I think we have to go with Von Stauffenberg's placing of his bomb on the wrong side of a solid table divide, thus saving Adolf from a certain death. That really was bad luck.

Oliver Kamm

The prudent course for the time traveller is to land in the French Legislative Assembly in time for the declaration of war on Austria on 20 April 1792, and refute with the benefit of hindsight the promise made by Jacques-Pierre Brissot and other republican deputies that victory would be easy.

The war was disastrous and it set off a virulent search for enemies of the revolution (which was stimulated by the inflammatory counter-revolutionary manifesto of the allied commander-in-chief, the Duke of Brunswick).

The consequences were catastrophic not only in the numbers of dead but also in the precedent thereby set for unconstrained actions of the revolutionary state. The brutality of the Bolshevik Revolution 125 years later was prefigured in this.

Libby Purves

I'd go back even further than Michael Gove and make repeated visits to un-invent guns.

People who kill people should have to get close enough to feel their breath and look them in the eye. Fewer would be willing to do it.

Graham Stewart

The French Revolution had disastrous consequences for Europe at the time and sowed the seeds of ideological thought that were eventually reaped in the totalitarian horrors of the twentieth century.

The revolution might never have happened if the French exchequer had not been bankrupted by Louis XVI's decision to declare war on Britain during the American Revolution. Louis was persuaded down this calamitous course by his Foreign Minister, the Comte de Vergennes.

My role in time travel would have been to demonstrate to Vergennes that for all the gain of poking George III in the eye, his actions would not only bring down the French monarchy, create anarchy and ensure the Napoleonic Wars, but also turn the thinking of the Enlightenment into a curse.

Although I admit this does raise the supplementary question - what would have happened if, denied French help, the American colonists had lost their fight with Britain?

Daniel Finkelstein

While tempted to intervene between the moment when Michael Gove wrote the word "civilisational" and the time when it appeared in The Times, or just before John Terry took his penalty against Manchester United in the Champions League final, advising him to take a different run up, I fear these would be frivolous uses of a wonderful power.

David would like to have moved Von Stauffenberg's bomb. I think we can do better than that. I feel it would be worth a throw of the Time Travellers' dice to have landed in the 1920s and killed Hitler in a glassing fight outside a beer hall.

Now, this might not have prevented the Holocaust. But actually I think there is a good chance that it would have done

* A photo of Adolph Hitler as a child.

Monday, June 22, 2009

The Axis of Evil

Eyewitnesses Say Iranian Police Use Force to Break Up Protest
By Edward Yeranian Voice of America
22 June 2009

Witnesses say Iranian riot police have fired tear gas to break up a new opposition rally in the centre of the capital Tehran, hours after a stern warning to protesters.

According to eyewitness reports, Iranian police Monday attacked hundred of demonstrators attending an opposition rally in a Tehran square with tear gas.

Demonstrators had gathered on Haft-e Tir Square despite the warning from Iran's Revolutionary Guards against holding unapproved rallies.

Earlier, defeated presidential candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi urged his supporters to continue demonstrating, but "with restraint."

"The country belongs to you," Mr. Mousavi told supporters on his Web site Kalam, adding that "it is your right to protest lies and fraud," in reference to disputed election results which gave a landslide victory to incumbent Mahmoud Ahmedinejad.

Iran's Revolutionary Guards, however, vowed to crush further protest rallies, telling opposition supporters to be ready for a "revolutionary confrontation" if they continue to demonstrate.

Iran analyst Mehrdad Khonsari with the London-based Center for Arab and Iranian Studies says that government tactics to quell demonstrations is having limited results.

"The authorities are succeeding in trying to prevent a mass congregation in one place, which means they're stopping people coming to a central location or a central point from various avenues, but they have not succeeded in preventing people from coming out, so instead they're trying to control the crowds arriving at that central point from a number of other streets and locations," said Khonsari. "This tactic has been successful in preventing huge numbers from gathering in one place, but this does not mean that the demonstrations have fizzled out or that people have lost their enthusiasm."

He also notes that there are similarities between the period leading up to the 1979 Islamic Revolution and events of today.

"There are similarities in appearance, but what separates the two is that the government at that time did not have the resolve to want to quell the rebellion at any price, and the Shah was seeking to make compromises with the opposition," he continued. "This time, the regime is bent on quashing the rebellion, and they don't want to make any compromises, whatsoever. Finally, the revolution was sort of aimed at opposing forces of modernity in favor of traditional religious values. This time, you see the forces of modernity challenging conservative religious forces."

Iranian state radio reported earlier that at least 457 people were arrested Saturday, a day marked by clashes between security forces and demonstrators that resulted in the deaths of at least 10 people.

Nit Picking

Some guy over at American Thinker is trying to make an issue out of the date sequence used by Obama, pointing out that it is like the European system. I use the same system, and I think it makes more sense, but not because it makes me feel European. I used it for seven years in the military. It is on my DD-214. Out of curiosity, does the military still use that system?


June 22, 2009
Obama's dating system
Ben Hershorin, American Thinker

I was browsing through some White House photos published online, and saw one of where President Obama signed a wall in a high school. The interesting part of the signing was not the note he wrote, but rather the way he wrote his date. Instead of putting June 11, 2009, he put 11 June 2009, which is how Europeans, not Americans, write their dates.

California and the State Public Employee Unions

To assist minority employment, federal, state, and municipal governments gave priority to hiring minorities. It was the right thing to do. The employees returned the favor. They unionized and joined Democratic politicians and formed a coalition of interest. The consequences are becoming obvious and expensive. It is a national problem. California is on the cusp. Hasta la vista baby.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Moral Equivalency

Unlike Obama, Ali Khamenei and Aquavellvajad don't do, 'Moral Equivalence'.

President Pantywaist latest: Iran unclenches its fist - to slap Barack Obama's face
Posted By: Gerald Warner at Jun 19, 2009 Telegraph

"To those who cling to power through corruption and deceit and the silencing of dissent, know that you are on the wrong side of history; but that we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist." That piece of classic Obamaguff, unloaded during his presidential inauguration, has come home to haunt President Pantywaist, as a consequence of the Iranian election.

Today Iran unclenched its fist - to slap President Pantywaist on the face. It seems, despite the chiding from Barack Obama, that Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad feel quite comfortable on the wrong side of history. At Friday prayers - accompanied by encouragingly reformist shouts of "Death to America!" - the Supreme Leader (Khamenei, not Obama) delivered the most intransigently authoritarian speech heard in Iran since the reign of Cyrus the Great.

From behind the stage set on which Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Mir-Hossein Mousavi have been acting as surrogates for the real power struggle between Khamemei and Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, the Supreme Leader injected a note of politically incorrect reality into the fantasy conjured by Obama and the Western media. The Basij militia will be unleashed on protesters. "If there is any bloodshed, leaders of the protests will be held directly responsible," announced the Ayatollah.

"Make my day!" is the American translation of this uncompromising challenge, to America as well as to the youthful protesters, by a regime emboldened by the patent weakness of President Pantywaist. Americans should realise, having undergone the Vietnam experience, that in the final analysis power does not depend on military hardware but on political will. The Islamic republic is not short of political will.

It could be, of course, that the threat of the Basij militia will turn out to be no more potent than the parading of the Shah's 'Immortals' of the Imperial Guard, shortly before they were annihilated and that a revolution will sweep aside the mullahs. But it does not seem likely. The auguries are not of revolution, but of either civil war or acquiescence by the reformers. Regime change will not be uncontested.

For America and the rest of the world, Iranian nuclear development is the supreme consideration. How many of those superficially Americanised young Iranians, so active on Twitter, does Obama think want to see their country stripped of the prestige of being a potential nuclear power, especially when Pakistan is already in the club?

This is a lose/lose situation for Obama. He is as flaky on Iran as on everything else. In 2004 he favoured "surgical" missile strikes against Iran. In 2007 he did not rule out force, but preferred "aggressive diplomacy combined with tough sanctions" - but that was for the ears of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee. Since he moved address from Chicago to Washington, his stance has become more nuanced (ie he hasn't a clue what to do).

He is trying to steer a course between appeasement and rhetoric about the Iranian "threat", while knowing he may eventually have to knuckle down and accept a nuclear Islamic republic, since Barack doesn't do war. If the Israelis do the job for him, that will be ten times more provocative in Middle Eastern terms. Look forward to change you'd better believe in.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Iran video links not shown on MSM. Warning very graphic videos

Iran Links- Warning-some very tough video and pictures

Iran is entering Hell

Hat tip: Doug for videos below:

It was not what the civilized world was waiting to hear but once again we heard it. Once again we learn that there are no moderates in the Iranian straight jacket of governance. 

Iranians are trapped in a religious sewer of repression. The sins of the fathers visited upon them.

Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the supreme leader, told the students to end their protests. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, was staying. No more discussion. 

At this time, the black shirts, the paramilitary Basij militia, are descending on Iranian cities like Mordor's Orks. It is hard to imagine there will not be slaughter as idealism gets bludgeoned by thuggery. 

Iran will show to the world it's true axis of evil.

Too bad that. 
Maybe next time. 

Never give up your guns.

Basij Repellant

Friday, June 19, 2009

The Pathos of the Mundane

The broken galley of the Air France disaster, found mostly intact, floating in the Atlantic.

Tragedy and pathos walk the same path; it leads to pity, but it takes the mundane objects of daily living to enhance the tragedy of a loss. We all experience the soft sorrow and sentiment of the little silly things you cannot bear to discard after the loss of a loved one. They remind us of the soft pleasures of the more mundane parts of a life. That is part of the power of this photo. It makes the tragedy personal. It somehow draws us into the terrible ending of that broken flight.

Enlightenment can be the compensation for sorrow and loss. A broken galley floating in the sea personalizes the terror of those lost and their terrible last moments.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Non-Chinese need not apply.

‘Buy China’ policy set to raise tensions
By Jamil Anderlini in Beijing
Published: June 16 2009 16:13

China has introduced an explicit “Buy Chinese” policy as part of its economic stimulus programme in a move that will amplify tensions with trade partners and increase the likelihood of protectionism around the world.

In an edict released jointly by nine government departments, Beijing said government procurement must use only Chinese products or services unless they were not available within the country or could not be bought on reasonable commercial or legal terms.

The government also said it was launching an investigation in response to complaints from domestic industry associations which accuse local governments of favouring foreign suppliers in procurement related to the country’s Rmb4,000bn ($585bn, €421bn, £356bn) economic stimulus package.

“From a domestic political perspective this makes some sense because local governments do tend to favour foreign products in some categories,” Dong Tao, chief China economist for Credit Suisse, said. “But given how important free trade is for China’s economy this is not the right message for them to be sending to the rest of the world right now.”

Just a few months ago Beijing was raging against a proposed “Buy American” clause included in the US economic rescue package.

“Some countries raised clauses to prioritise the purchase of products of their own countries in their economic stimulus packages,” Yao Jian, a Chinese commerce ministry spokesman, told reporters in February. “We express deep concern about these [measures] ... under the current financial crisis, measures issued by all countries should not cause negative impacts, and especially they should not send out wrong messages.”

Most economists agree China’s economy is starting to recover as a result of its aggressive stimulus package but the country is still struggling with unemployment and fears widespread layoffs could lead to serious social unrest.

“The whole world is dying to see China spread its orders around and save their economies,” said Mr Tao. “But what this policy reflects is heightened anxiety about these job pressures and the potential for social unrest.”

The edict was issued jointly by the legislative office of the State Council, China’s cabinet, the national development and reform commission (the country’s powerful state planning agency) and the ministries of industry and information, supervision, housing, transport, railways, water resources and commerce.

The new edict bans local governments and departments from discriminating against domestic suppliers in their procurement. Foreign companies operating in China argue that the opposite is in fact true and that they have been largely cut out of procurement related to the government’s stimulus package.

“We are puzzled by this discussion, especially since most European companies operating in China are locally incorporated and have not benefited directly from the government’s stimulus package,” said Joerg Wuttke, president of the European Union Chamber of Commerce in China. “Requiring government procurement to favour Chinese goods and services certainly won’t help to address China’s trade surplus of €170bn.”

Trade data in recent months show import volumes, particularly of raw materials, have stabilised and started to increase strongly, while exports have stabilised but remain very weak following precipitous drops in both exports and imports since the fourth quarter of last year. China’s trade surplus rose 15.7 per cent to $88.8bn in the first five months from the same period a year earlier.

“Any movement – overt or subtle – to discriminate against foreign products and services is protectionist and an inefficient use of stimulus funds,” said James Zimmerman, partner with the international law firm of Squire Sanders & Dempsey in Beijing.

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2009

"If the Iranian security forces are now taking the middle ground, then Ahmadinejad is truly in trouble."

Seven men killed by the Basiji at the end of Monday's march, were secretly buried by police in Cemetery 257

Robert Fisk: Fear has gone in a land that has tasted freedom

In defiance of the ban on foreign reporters, The Independent's Middle East correspondent ventures out to witness an extraordinary stand-off on the streets of Tehran

Wednesday, 17 June 2009 The Independent

The fate of Iran rested last night in a grubby north Tehran highway interchange called Vanak Square where – after days of violence – supporters of the official President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad at last confronted the screaming, angry Iranians who have decided that Mirhossein Mousavi should be the president of their country. Unbelievably – and I am a witness because I stood beside them – just 400 Iranian special forces police were keeping these two armies apart. There were stones and tear gas but for the first time in this epic crisis the cops promised to protect both sides.

"Please, please, keep the Basiji from us," one middle-aged lady pleaded with a special forces officer in flak jacket and helmet as the Islamic Republic's thug-like militia appeared in their camouflage trousers and purity-white shirts only a few metres away. The cop smiled at her. "With God's help," he said. Two other policemen were lifted shoulder-high. "Tashakor, tashakor," – "thank you, thank you" – the crowd roared at them.

This was phenomenal. The armed special forces of the Islamic Republic, hitherto always allies of the Basiji, were prepared for once, it seemed, to protect all Iranians, not just Ahmadinejad's henchmen. The precedent for this sudden neutrality is known to everyone – it was when the Shah's army refused to fire on the millions of demonstrators demanding his overthrow in 1979.

Yet this is not a revolution to overthrow the Islamic Republic. Both sets of demonstrators were shouting "Allahu Akbar" – "God is Great" – at Vanak Square last night. But if the Iranian security forces are now taking the middle ground, then Ahmadinejad is truly in trouble.

As the fume-filled dusk fell over the north Tehran streets, the crowds grew wilder. I listened to a heavily bearded Basiji officer exorting his men to assault the 10,000 Mousavi men and women on the other side of the police line. "We must defend our country now, just as we did in the Iran-Iraq war," he shouted above the uproar. But the Ahmadinejad man trying to calm him down, shouted back: "We are all fellow citizens! Let's not have a tragedy. We must have unity."

Clearly the decision of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei to instruct the Council of Guardians to recount Friday's election vote had done nothing to dispel the suspicion and anger of the reformist opposition in Iran.

First it appeared that the council would examine every election result. Then only a few. Then Iranians were told that it might take 10 days to learn their decision. It was as well, perhaps, that Ahmadinejad had flown to Yekaterinburg for the Shanghai summit to bore conference delegates with his speeches instead of the Iranian people whom he believes he represents. But on Vanak Square last night, all this meant nothing.

Plain-clothes cops – perhaps at last realising the gravity of a situation which their own obedience to Ahmadinejad's men had brought about – persuaded middle-aged men from both sides to meet in the centre of the road in the middle of Vanak Square's narrow no-man's-land. The Mousavi man, in a brown shirt, placed his hands around the arms of the bearded Iranian official from the Ahmadinejad side. "We cannot allow this to happen," he told him. And he tried, as any Muslim does when he wants to show his desire for trust and peace, to kiss the side of his opponent's face. The bearded man physically shook him off, screaming abuse at him.

The two rows of police were now standing shoulder to shoulder, their linked arms holding both mobs back, as they stared at their own comrades opposite with ever increasing concern. An American-Iranian a few metres away, shouted at me in English that "we've got to prove they can't do this anymore. They can't rule us. We need a new president. Either they get their way or we get ours".

It was frightening, the absolute conviction of these men, the total refusal to accept any compromise, one side demanding obedience to the words of Ayatollah Khomeini and loyalty to the ghosts of the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq war, the other – emboldened by their million-strong march on Monday – demanding freedoms, albeit within an Islamic Republic, which they had never had before. Maybe they now have the police on their side; if last night's example was anything to go by, either some senior officer – or perhaps the cops themselves, appalled at their behaviour over the past four days – decided that the special forces would no longer be patsies to the frightening power of Ahmadinejad's ever-loyal bullies.

Only hours earlier, seven men killed by the Basiji at the end of Monday's march, were secretly buried by police in Cemetery 257, a large graveyard close to the Khomeini shrine, where the founder of the Islamic Revolution lies beneath a mosque of golden cupolas and blue-tiled walls. No such honours for the seven victims of the Basiji. They lay beneath a covering of earth, no markers on their graves, no word sent to their families of their fate.

But the pro-government newspapers in Tehran did report their deaths and one even gave its front page to the outraged condemnation of Tehran University's Chancellor at the Basiji intrusion onto the campus on Sunday night, when the security forces killed seven young men, wounded several others and smashed and looted the university dormitories. Farhad Rabar said he would pursue the killers through the courts, adding that "the invasion of the University of Tehran, which is the symbol of higher education... has caused a wave of sorrow and anger in me".

Is it too late to end this fratricidal violence now? For each side, the integrity of their cause is fast becoming more powerful than rational dialogue. The freedom which Mousavi's supporters have tasted – to ignore and disregard and despise the clerical autocracy which has so humiliated them – is now so intoxicating that they are confronting their political enemies in the street with a strange, unnerving, but genuine humour.

At one point last night, men and women wearing the green ribbons of Mousavi's election stood on the pavement beside that chilling 100 metres of no-man's-land next to chadored ladies clutching the Iranian flag – Ahmadinejad's patriotic symbol. They even chatted about the outcome of this fearful confrontation between their two sides.

It was a different narrative three hours earlier when Ahmadinejad's men and women held their own demonstration in Val-y-Asr Square. No word was said of Monday's opposition mass rally, nor of the street demonstrations in the cities of Shiraz, Mashad, Babol and Tabriz. Indeed, most Iranians have no knowledge of these events; Ahmadinejad's censors have seen to that. The banners were predictable. "Death to the Traitor" – Mousavi, of course, was the "betrayer" of the Republic. "Death to anyone who is against the Supreme Leader" – which was a bit odd because neither Mousavi nor his millions of supporters are against Ayatollah Khamenei (albeit that the two men dislike each other); it is Ahmadinejad for whom they have a visceral hatred and whom they are trying to depose.

The former parliamentary speaker, Gholamali Haddadadel, spotted Mousavi's weakest argument when he addressed a crowd that could not have been more than 5,000 strong. "Does Mousavi know how many people voted for Ahmadinejad in the rural areas and in the villages?" he asked. "Iran is not just Tehran. We know that Mr Mousavi got 13 million votes, but Mr Ahmadinejad got 24 million." But of course, those are the very statistics which Mousavi and his allies dispute. Preachers and Sayads lectured the little multitude, their bodyguards – even paramedics – keeping careful watch over them. There was a famous Iranian religious singer to preach to this banner-shrouded audience.

It was on my way out of Val-y-Asr that I noticed a truckload of men, all dressed in camouflage trousers and white shirts, many carrying police clubs, setting off to north Tehran. They were followed by the newly energised Islamist demonstrators, off on the four-mile trek up to Vanak. Two conscript soldiers were standing amid the Mousavi supporters there when an old man asked their advice. Should he stay if the Basijis break through the cordon? "The Basijis beat people hard – very hard," one of the soldiers said. And he patted the old man on the shoulder and shook his head.

And the plot thickens:

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Iran, an analysis you will not find on MSM

Here is all you need to know about the Iranian vote. There were forty million paper ballot votes cast. The so-called vote count was done in four hours. Not possible.

The Obama speech was a pebble thrown into a lake created by eight years of George W Bush.

The short analysis is this is a military coup by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard and a counter revolution by the students. My anarchical heart is routing for the students. My street smarts tell me thay have a steep wall to climb, with a short ladder. No one can predict where this is going. All of us can hope.

The Ministry of the Interior was rumored to have authorized the use of live ammunition as the regime struggled to maintain control.

Supporters of Mr Mousavi, fought running battles with the police and Basiji, who have flooded into Tehran.

In one incident a witness told The Times how she watched from her car as riot police on six motorbikes opened fire on youths walking under a bridge after the rally.

“The riot police started shooting them with big guns,” she said. “It wasn’t like the films where there is just a small hole — the shooting was blowing off hands, limbs. It was terrible, terrible.”

The regime showed its first sign of alarm when Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the Supreme Leader, who at the weekend hailed the result as a “divine assessment”, instructed the Guardian Council of 12 senior clerics to investigate allegations that the election was rigged. However, the move was seen widely as a ruse to buy time.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Freedom for Iran

I am fascinated about what is happening in Iran. The main stream media coverage is disgustingly vapid. They really are contemptible. The Iranian government is doing their best to cut communications between the students, but videos and photos are getting out. I selected three that I feel are representative of the scope and tenor of the revolution. Now if only a face and a voice steps forward.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

West fooled again in Iran , but so was Sadegh Ghotbzadeh صادق قطب‌زاده

I was fascinated by Sadegh Ghotbzadeh. He was all over US television in the late 70's, urbane, witty, perfect English and the Iranian face seen by most Americans.

He was spokesman for everything.

He was also consumed by the revolution, tortured, forced to give false testimony, tried and shot. He has no grave and precious little video to recall who he was.

Once again Iranian Revolution stands.

No wishful thinking will make it go away. There is no internal actor tall enough, broad enough and bulletproof enough to make it go away. Obama may be as surprised as was poor old Sadegh at the enduring power of the mullacracy in Iran. He shouldn't be, but once again in his short rookie presidency he will have to backtrack on his new hopeful and changed way of doing business.

A Little history on Sadegh Ghotbzadeh


Around the World; Iran Legislator Accuses Ghotbzadeh of a Plot

NY Times
Published: April 16, 1982

Teheran newspapers quoted a member of the Iranian Parliament today as having said that former Foreign Minister Sadegh Ghotbzadeh had planned to blow up Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini's house with rockets.

The legislator, Movahed Savoji, was quoted as having told a rally in the city of Qum on Wednesday that the former minister had rented a house 150 yards from the Ayatollah's residence for that purpose.

Mr. Ghotbzadeh was arrested in Teheran last week and Iranian judicial authorities have accused him of leading a monarchist group plotting to kill Ayatollah Khomeini. According to the newspapers, Mr. Savoji said the monarchist group under Mr. Ghotbzadeh's direction had placed explosives in the house that were meant to go off before the rocket attack.

Mohsen Rezai, commander of Revolutionary Guards who arrested Mr. Ghotbzadeh in his house, said the former Foreign Minister had been arrested while smoking opium, the newspapers said. Mr. Ghotbzadeh faces a firing squad if convicted in the plot.

From Wikipedia:


As a student Ghotbzadeh was active in the Student Confederation of Iran. He attended Georgetown University's Walsh School of Foreign Service 1959-1963, but was dismissed before graduating due to his skipping studies and exams to lead protests against the government of Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, including storming a posh party put on by the Iranian Ambassador to the United States, the son-in-law of the Shah.[citation needed]

He was a supporter of the National Front of Iran and the Freedom Movement of Iran and was a close aide of Ayatollah Khomeini when Khomeini was in exile in France. He accompanied Khomeini on his travel back to Iran on February 1, 1979. After the Islamic Revolutionaries took power, Ghotbzadeh was appointed as managing director of National Iranian Radio and Television (NIRT) and tried to overhaul it to be in line with Islamic teachings, purging royalist, women, and leftists.[1] This was criticised by a group of Iranian intellectuals and also the Interim Government. He was appointed as Foreign Minister after Abolhassan Banisadr resigned as acting Foreign Minister amid heated disputes on the fate of the American hostages. He was "quoted by Agence France Presse saying that he had information that presidential candidate Ronald Reagan was `trying to block a solution` to the hostage crisis. ... Two friends of Ghotbzadeh who spoke to him frequently during this period said that he insisted repeatedly that the Republicans were in contact with elements in Iran to try to block a hostage release."[2] He later resigned when his diplomatic approach to resolve the crisis ended in a deadlock.

[edit] Arrest and execution

In April 1982, he was arrested along with a group of army officers and clerics (including son-in-law of religious leader Ayatollah Kazem Shariatmadari), all accused of plotting the assassination of Khomeini and the overthrow of the Islamic Republic. He denied the accusations but confirmed the existence of a plot to change the government, then led by Ali Khamenei as President. Ghotbzadeh's confessions came only after severe torture on the part of the Iranian government.

Further rumors include the story that Ayatollah Khomeini initially did not want to execute Ghotbzadeh; he was persuaded to do so after hearing a tape of Ghotbzadeh in prison agreeing to pay money and provide contact information of his allies in France in exchange for his freedom.[citation needed] Ghotbzadeh supposedly told this to a fellow prisoner specifically hired to entrap him.[citation needed] The veracity of these rumors is unknown.

At an April 1982 "press conference", hojjat al-Islam Mohammad Reyshahri, the chief judge of the newly created Military Revolutionary Tribunal, explained the plot with "an elaborate chart full of boxes and arrows linking Qotbzadeh and the royalist officers, on one side, to `the feudalists, the leftist mini-groups, and the phony clerics` and other side, to the `National Front, Israel, the Pahlavis and the Socialist International.` The last four were linked to the CIA."[3]

Ghotbzadeh was shot by a firing squad after a 26-day trial before the Military Revolutionary Tribunal found him guilty and sentenced him to death

June 14, 2009
The West fooled itself Iran would allow reform
Amir Taheri Times on line

Barack Obama found it “exciting” and Hillary Clinton saw it as “a positive sign”. Others, like Zbigniew Brzezinski, the former US national security adviser, went further and praised it as a “vibrant democracy”. A variety of useful idiots at home and abroad expressed similar illusions about the Iranian presidential election on Friday.

Many had hoped the exercise would dislodge President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the maverick who has vowed to chase the United States out of the Middle East, wipe Israel off the map and prepare the ground for the hidden imam, Shi’ite Islam’s “end of times” figure of retribution. In the event, the election turned out to be a choreographed affair designed to reinforce Ahmadinejad’s position as the leader of “resurgent Islam”.

Officially put at 85%, voter turnout was the highest in Iran’s history. Ahmadinejad won with 63%, collecting more votes than any of his predecessors. The results were arranged to give him a two-thirds majority among all categories of voters – men, women, young and old, poor and middle class, and in all of Iran’s 30 provinces. Whoever wrote the script also made sure that his three rivals, all veterans of the Khomeinist revolution, were roundly defeated even in their respective home towns.

Only one candidate, Mir Hossein Mousavi, the former prime minister, has tried to contest the results. Some analysts had tipped Mousavi, a cousin of the “supreme guide” Ali Khamenei, as the likely winner and the ideal partner for President Obama in his quest for unconditional talks with Iran. By midday Saturday it was clear that Mousavi would not try to rock the boat. Rather than calling his supporters into the streets, he wrote a letter to his cousin, pleading for “action to avoid injustice”. Ahmadinejad’s camp responded by announcing a rally in Tehran today to celebrate his victory.

Ahmadinejad’s narrative was simple. He presented himself as a man of the people with a mission to restore the purity of a revolution sullied by corruption and hypocrisy. He portrayed a ruling elite that spoke of the “downtrodden” but lived in palaces, of mullahs who spoke more of contracts and deals than of faith and doctrine.

Branded “a dangerous masquerade” by Mousavi, Friday’s election should end illusions about the possibility of changing the regime’s strategy through internal evolution and peaceful action. Ever since the mullahs seized power in 1979, Iran has suffered a crisis of identity, torn between its ambitions as a force for messianic revolution on the one hand and its interests as a nation-state on the other. Mousavi had incarnated the hope of Iran reaffirming its identity as a nation-state. Ahmadinejad’s victory symbolises the determination to emphasise the revolutionary aspect of Iran’s identity, even if that means sacrificing some of its interests as a nation-state. Iran may continue behaving like a cause rather than a country.

Ahmadinejad will have to cope with the deep divisions in the ruling establishment that he has brought to the surface. During his campaign he portrayed the terms of his two predecessors, Mohammad Khatami and Hashemi Rafsanjani, as “murky periods” when some mullahs and their associates “plundered” the nation’s wealth and kowtowed to “imperialist powers”.

The president has a mandate to purge the regime of its allegedly corrupt elements who tried to form a united front to defeat him. By focusing on an internal purge, Ahmadinejad may want to ease tension on the foreign policy front.

The United States under Obama is bending over backwards to open a dialogue with the Islamic republic. In his Cairo “address to the Muslim world”, Obama implicitly accepted Iran’s right to seek a nuclear capability. “No single nation should pick and choose which nation holds nuclear weapons,” he said. Since then Obama and Hillary Clinton, his secretary of state, have tried to repackage the Iranian nuclear issue not as a problem in itself but because it might trigger “a nuclear arms race in the Middle East”.

It is possible that Ahmadinejad, radical rhetoric notwithstanding, may try to ease tension with Washington provided he is allowed to pursue his nuclear ambitions. Days before the election he dispatched Manouchehr Mottaki, his foreign minister, to Paris to ask President Sarkozy to broker a telephone conversation between Obama and the Iranian leader. Paris and Washington dismissed it as “electoral opportunism”.

Ahmadinejad has won a massive victory over his rivals in the Establishment. But the Khomeinist regime remains deeply unpopular, especially among young Iranians, who account for two-thirds of the population. Yesterday Tehran and other cities witnessed antiregime demonstrations, mostly young people shouting, “Shame on you Ahmadinejad! Quit the government!” Although small and isolated, these protests could in time grow into a mass movement. Iran is also heading for economic meltdown, with a daily loss of 1,000 jobs and inflation of more than 20%. Ahmadinejad’s election slogan is “Ma mitavanim” (We can), like Obama’s “Yes we can”. Iran’s leader has been true to his slogan by showing he can fix the election results to the last detail. But can he cope with a restive population, a divided establishment and an economy heading for deep recession?

Amir Taheri is an Iranian journalist and author