Moon of Alabama Brecht quote
June 30, 2009

Five years of Moon of Alabama - Time to close it down

From the MoA About page:

Some time ago, the commenting at Billmon's Whiskey Bar became a bit excessive. Billmon therefore closed the comments at his place on June 29, 2004. The community of commentators was left behind to search for a new place.

Moon Of Alabama was opened as an independent, open forum for members of the Whiskey Bar community.

Bernhard started and still runs the site. ...

Now Bernhard stops the site. The decision to do so was taken six weeks ago and has nothing to do with recent developments in the world or any comment on this blog.

The main reason is financially. If there were a big, generous sponsor I could keep on doing this. Believe it or not, even while this is a small place, keeping it clean and posting on a wide range of issues makes it a full time job. Until recently I could sustain running it because I had reserves and a real job that allowed a lot of flexibility and a nice pay. Both are gone.

I now need to, again, 'get a life'. There are other issues too. Running such a blog is rather isolating. Being so much on the news and developing a bullshit detector as good blogging requires, creates too much distance from real, small issue social life around oneself. Psychologically it is quite a drag down. Read every line of The Daily Palestinian post from bottom to top and you will understand what I am thinking about.

In the total five years MoA got some 4,305,000 pageviews from about 2.1 million visits. Some 133,000 comments were posted and some 4,260 posts were published. Those numbers may sound big, but even with advertisement and small donations it would not be economically viable to run with this format and reach.

As this page view graph shows there were ups and downs but still a nice long-term up trend. A few more years on ... but who knows?


Thanks to all who came here, read and commented. A special thanks to those who have been around since the very first days. Dan of Steele, Juannie, r'giap, annie ond others come to mind.

In a few days, I will close the comments to this and other threads. I'll arrange something for b real to keep his Africa Comments alive and free of spam. I'll stop reading news.

I may, (may!) produce a CD with the archives of this blog plus the full Billmon archives. Check back in two or three weeks on how, maybe, you can get it.

To all of you, thanks!

And goodbye.

Posted by b on June 30, 2009 at 03:26 AM | Permalink | Comments (243)

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June 29, 2009

The Real Health Care Issue

The Economist has an interesting piece on The benefits, and the costs, of living longer. Part of it is a look at health care:

[A]s a rule of thumb, the bulk of spending on an individual’s health care is concentrated in the last year or two of life, and particularly in the final six months.

This leads, especially in the U.S. to some rather stupid rationing. Ron Beasly at the Newshoggers explains this well with a personal case:

My 86 year old mother is in really good health but had started to be short of breath. They ran some diagnostic tests and discovered she had a bad heart valve. She was referred to a cardiologist who was ready to split her chest open and replace the valve. I asked him several questions:

1. She is in relatively good health now – following the surgery will she ever recover to be as good as she was before? The answer was probably not!
2. I told the doctor that I heard that being on a heart lung machine can have a negative impact on memory and asked him if that was true. The answer was yes, especially in older people.
3. The next question was what will happen if the valve is not replaced? The answer was the shortness of breath may gradually get worse.
4. I asked him if it were his mother would he suggest the surgery? The answer was NO!

The bottom line is they were going to perform a procedure that would cost 50 thousand plus dollars that would have left my mother worse off after the surgery because Medicare would pay for it.

At 63 years of age I cannot get health insurance at any price. I am denied procedures that could keep me alive for another 20 or 30 years while Medicare pays for procedures that add little or even have negative impacts on the health of the patient. That's rationing and foolish.

My father was treated to death in a hospital where he was kept alive for three month with dialysis, which with a clear mind he had earlier rejected, while it was simply obvious that he was slowly dying.

A hospice where he could have died without pain and with good care would have been a tenth of the costs than the therapy to death provided to him. The saved money could have been used to provide better care for younger people.

The society must come to a better sense with the inevitability of death and stop spending money on people who are certain to die soon despite high-cost procedures.

Aging societies with negative birthrate like most of Europe and Japan will otherwise ruin themselves.

Countries like the U.S., which by a systemic failure provides full health care to elderly while denying it to its younger productive people, will cripple their population.

There are sound reason why health care insurance in the future will have to be public. As the private insurance providers get more sophisticated about their customers (DNA tests etc), they will not take any risky person at all but provide only to those who are expected to pay more in than they will get out. That isn't insurance, in which by definition risk gets distributed unevenly, but robbery.

The U.S. as well as other countries needs universal health-care provided by a public system. But that is not the only issue.

The real central issue in health care and the single most effective way to limit health care cost is to accept death as a natural occurrence and to stop to prolong live it at all costs by medical means.

Unfortunately the discussion about that are still missing.

Posted by b on June 29, 2009 at 02:27 PM | Permalink | Comments (30)

Africa Comments (6)

For b reals exhaustive coverage of Somalia and other Africa issues.

The previous Africa thread is here.

Posted by b on June 29, 2009 at 08:23 AM | Permalink | Comments (37)

Juan Cole - Neocon In Liberal Cloth

The original source is not online so I'll take this from Wikipedia:

While lecturing in early 2003 in a University of Michigan course focused on the impending conflict, Cole expressly stated that he thought the US should act to overthrow the Saddam Hussein regime, even though it might lead to unforeseen consequences.

Six years after that disastrous standpoint Cole today publishes a "Guest OpEd" from one of his colleges at University of Michigan at his widely read blog. That "Guest OpEd", from which Cole in no way distances himself, states:

It would be a mistake to think that people like Ahmadinejad are reasonable. It is counter productive to base policy on the untenable premise that he would be amenable to a cost-benefit analysis on the nuclear issue. Time and again he has announced that the nuclear issue is off the table. To believe or hope otherwise would be a profound and resonant error.

The option that is left for the United States is either to effectively support Mousavi’s camp today or risk a military confrontation with Ahmadinejad tomorrow.


How could the U.S. "more effectively" help an opposition candidate who lost an election? The U.S. already spends hundreds of millions to achieve "regime change" in Iran. What is more effective? Creating thousands of Nedas? And unless the U.S. does that it needs to bomb Iran and created ten thousands more?

The whole "Guest OpEd" Cole published is a collection of lies and assertions and its conclusion could well have been written by Ariel Sharon, Bibi Netanjahu and other right-wing other slaughterers. 

For publishing that and for his stand on the Iraq war Cole deserves to go to hell.

Posted by b on June 29, 2009 at 06:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (72)

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June 28, 2009

Coup In Honduras

The Honduran president, Manuel Zelaya, was ousted by the army on Sunday after pressing ahead with plans for a referendum that opponents said could lay the groundwork for his eventual re-election, in the first military coup in Central America since the end of the cold war.
President Obama said Sunday that he was deeply concerned by the reports from Honduras about the detention and expulsion of the president.
Mr. Zelaya, who has the support of labor unions and the poor, is an ally of President Hugo Chávez of Venezuela. During his three years in office, opposition to the president has mounted from the middle class and the wealthy business community who fear that he is planning to introduce Mr. Chávez’s brand of socialist populism into the country, one of Latin America’s poorest.
Honduran President Is Ousted in Coup , NYT, June 28, 2009


TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras, Jan. 30, 2009 – The commander of U.S. Southern Command arrived here yesterday to reaffirm the United States’ strategic partnership with Honduras and praise the solid bilateral and interagency cooperation that is delivering tangible success.
Declaring an “excellent state of cooperation between our two militaries,” [Navy Adm. James G.] Stavridis lauded tremendous progress within Honduras’ 11,000-member military.
“The future of national security is the interagency, all working together,” he said.
Stavridis Praises U.S.-Honduran Cooperation in Confronting Mutual Threats, Defense Link

I am confident that readers and commentators here are able to conclude the rest of this tale.

Posted by b on June 28, 2009 at 03:09 PM | Permalink | Comments (132)

Iraq After The U.S. Retreat

In two days U.S. troops in Iraq will have left most of the cities as demanded by the Status of Force Agreement (SOFA). Back in April General Odierno sounded reluctant to follow that agreement. But as the Iraqis insisted, Odierno's tone changed. Maliki is hailing the U.S. retreat from the cities as an Iraqi victory.

Next January the Iraqi people will vote on the SOFA agreement. If they reject it, the U.S. troops will have to leave within the next 12 month. If they accept, the troops will stay at least a year longer.

Over the last weeks Iraq experienced a fresh string of bombings. These may well have been initiated by disgruntled Sunni tribes who were bought off by the U.S. during the 'surge' but have now lost that income. They want their share of the oil richness in the very corrupt state. How Maliki will handle these in the short term is difficult to know. In the end he will likely have little choice but to accommodate their demands.

More serious trouble may come up in the north. The autonomous region of Kurdish adopted a new constitution which would include the oil rich province of Kirkuk as well as Nineveh and Diyala. Baghdad certainly can not accept that. I find it difficult to see how this can be resolved in a peaceful way.

All in all Iraq is in a terrible condition and will take years to regain some sense of normality and a functioning state. Without outer interference it will be a bloody and long process. With outer interference this will also be bloody and it will take even longer.

Posted by b on June 28, 2009 at 06:41 AM | Permalink | Comments (32)

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June 27, 2009

More Khobar Towers?

In 1996 a huge bomb exploded in front of the Khobar Towers complex in Khobar, Saudi Arabia. The complex housed U.S. Air Force personnel and the attack killing 19 U.S. airmen and wounded 372.

The political right wing in the U.S. blamed Iran for being behind the attack. When some of the alleged culprits, Saudis and Lebanese 'Hizbollah', were indicted in 2001, the NYT wrote:

United States officials have said they have evidence of Iranian involvement, and at a news conference announcing the indictment, Attorney General John Ashcroft charged that Iranian officials ''inspired, supported and supervised members of Saudi Hezbollah'' in the attack.

The F.B.I. investigated the attack with very reluctant assistance from the Saudis.

Ultimately, American officials said cooperation improved, and the Saudis are believed to have provided much of the evidence that led to the indictments.

The Saudis provided 'evidence' that Iran was involved, but the Clinton administration was not convinced. It asked Iran for help.

The letter was sent after the United States obtained convincing information that Iranian officials were behind the attack. The letter came in the midst of Mr. Clinton's broader efforts to reach out to Mr. Khatami and engage the reformist forces in Iran.

[F.B.I. director Louis] Freeh reportedly concluded that the Clinton administration was not serious about solving the case, and he is said to have waited until Mr. Clinton left office in order to try to bring charges in the matter. The indictment came in Mr. Freeh's last week in office as F.B.I. director.

The main figure who promoted the Saudi 'evidence' was indeed then F.B.I. director Louis Freeh. In March 2009 Freeh was hired by the Saudi Prince Bandar, longterm Saudi ambassador to the U.S., as his legal representative in a bribe case in which Bandar is accused of.taking money for arranging a huge BAE arms deal.

Historian and IPS author Gareth Porter recently investigated the tale. Porter, convincingly to me, proves that the Khobar attack was done by al-Qaeda and the Saudis were pushing to make Iran the culprit as a cover-up of their own involvement and to prevent a U.S.-Iran detente.

Here is his series:

The Saudis provided 'evidence' for Iranian and Lebanese Hizbollah involvement in the Khobar attack on U.S. forces just as the Clinton administration was trying to get warmer with Iran. The attack was likely carried out by some Saudi group, al-Qaeda or something similar. Porter concludes:

The result of Freeh’s blatant pro-Saudi bias was that Osama bin Laden was allowed more years of unhindered freedom in which to plan terrorist actions against the United States. Had Freeh not become an advocate of the interests of the regime whose representative in Washington eventually put him on his payroll, U.S. policy would presumably have been focused like a laser on Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda two years earlier.

And perhaps the disinterest of the George W. Bush administration’s national security team toward al Qaeda before 9/11 would have been impossible.

The Saudi motive for pointing to Iran as a culprit was to prevent a detente between the U.S. and Iran. Their own involvement and support for the attack is still unknown.

Can we expect some similar event as Obama tries to engage Iran?

Posted by b on June 27, 2009 at 03:48 PM | Permalink | Comments (7)

An Interesting Detail

A new interesting detail in a fresh NYT piece from Tehran:

The Expediency Council, headed by former President Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, issued a statement that called the supreme leader’s decision the final word on the election, although it still called on the government to investigate voting complaints “properly and thoroughly.” The group also asked the candidates to cooperate with the government in any probe.

Mr. Rafsanjani, though a consummate insider, has been one of Mr. Ahmadinejad’s strongest critics and one of the most ardent supporters of Mir Hussein Moussavi, Mr. Ahmadinejad’s chief rival in the election. Mr. Rafsanjani’s son had even financed an elaborate system intended to check for voting fraud before the election. But since the vote, the former president has been quiet, and many Iranians were hoping he could broker some compromise behind the scenes.

So there was a "elaborate" and "well financed" system not under government control to check for election fraud. Moisavi had over 40,000 election observers in the field who must have reported to some central entity. Where are its results? What are they? Why were they not released?

If Rafsanjani would have proof for election fraud, why would he not leak it too the public or hand it over to the guardian council? Instead he now agrees with Khamenei on Ahmadinejad's victory.

Of course there are again various conspracy theories one might (and some will) develop around this. For now I will go with the least conspirishy one and assume that, in absence of any proof,  there was no fraud at all.

Posted by b on June 27, 2009 at 01:57 PM | Permalink | Comments (49)

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June 26, 2009

Iran Election Wrap Up

It seems the Iranian election is now officially decided:

"After 10 days of examination, we did not see any major irregularities," Guardians Council spokesman Abbasali Kadkhodai told the state IRNA news agency, rejecting opposition allegations that have brought hundreds of thousands of demonstrators onto the streets.

"We have had no fraud in any presidential election and this one was the cleanest election we have had. I can say with certainty that there was no fraud in this election."

Well - who to believe? Unless we see some real proof of fraud I am content to believe that there was none.

The result is disappointing for the millions who voted for Mousavi and took to the streets in those big demonstrations. Pat Lang predicts:

I think there is likely to be a sine curve of resistance that fluctuates between relative quiet and street action. This will eventually either eliminate this [ruling] clique or cause a massive change in its policies.

I am not so sure. The last days' street action were mostly youth riots that can be seen on and off again in any normal state and with the usual outcome. They are no danger to the government.

Most Iranian people, after thinking through the issue in calm, will probably also wonder about the absence of any proof for fraud. So there is a chance that this really may quiet down. Some changes in Ahmadinejad's policies could help too. It will be interesting to see what modifications he will make in his cabinet.

To prevent a repeat of such protest, Iran should try to make the election process even more transparent. Publishing the local results immediately after the local counts are done by hanging them out at the front of each election place would certainly help to bring more clarity. Then, when the central tally is made and publish together with all local results on a website and in newspapers, everyone can compare and recalculate the totals.

We still do not know how much the whole protest was initiated from the outside. Those $475 million of U.S. government money invested into regime change in Iran certainly had some effects we may never learn about. What is certain is that official 'western' propaganda media like BBC Farsi and Voice of America's Farsi service did their very best to prepare and support the election fraud claims in Iran. In parallel the general 'western' mass media followed that claim to influence the 'western' public mind. Their lockstep has reached an amazing perfection that Hitler's best troops would have been proud of.

This week has been bad for Iran's international image in the 'west', but overtime the public will forget the issue. Therefore the people who want to attack Iran are preparing a new campaign. Lang again:

The war parties in the US and Israel have taken up a new propaganda theme. They are now saying that a "military coup" by the IRGC and other "radicals" has taken place and that the resulting regime is no longer under the influence and control of the Shia 'ulema. The new theme insists that the new "coup junta" symbolically headed by Khamenei is even more dangerous and more likely to rashly use nuclear weapons as an expression of their lunacy.

This is an obvious attempt to twist the situation in the best agitprop tradition for the purpose of obtaining American popular consensus for war against Iran.

Ahmadinajad is a fool and he will undoubtedly play into the hands of the propagandists.

Lang knows the neocons, but I am not so sure about his judgment about Ahmadinejad. Ahmedinejad is first and foremost a smart politician. Iran has term limits and he can not be reelected as president.  He now has no pressing need to keep up the vote winning rhetoric he used over the last years. I expect him to now take a much calmer and more realist rhetoric approach towards international issues.

MoA has seen a lot of comments on the Iran election issue. I am really proud of all your comments even when, in the heat of the discussions, some drifted too much towards personal accusations. The various threads and discussion certainly gave room for everyone to look at every side of the issue. What counts in the end are facts. Opinions can be derived from those. In my personal view Arnold Evans' conclusion is very fact based and his opinion will likely survive historic scrutiny.

To the people of Iran: I wish the very best for you. I hope your wounds, partly deepend by outer interference, will heal fast. Stay proud and confident in your abilities and independence.

Posted by b on June 26, 2009 at 12:24 PM | Permalink | Comments (138)


In your opinion, what was his best piece?

To me it was Dirty Diana:


Posted by b on June 26, 2009 at 07:38 AM | Permalink | Comments (29)

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June 25, 2009

Lenin's Red State Tomb

Lenin, the proprietor of the well visited British Lenin's Tomb blog, sometimes has some useful leftist thoughts and activism posts. He is on my blogroll for that reason. Lenin's real name, advertised at his own side, is Richard Seymour. He wrote a book :

Following the collapse of the Soviet Union, a number of prominent thinkers on the Left found themselves increasingly aligned with their ideological opposites. Over the last decade, many of these thinkers have become close to Washington; forceful supporters of the War on Terror, they help frame arguments for policymakers and provide the moral and intellectual justification for Western military intervention across the globe. From Kanan Makiya, one of the chief architects of the US invasion and occupation of Iraq, to Bernard Henri-Levy’s advocacy of “humanitarian” intervention, The Liberal Defence of Murder traces the journey of these figures from left to right and explores their critical role in the creation of the new American empire.

Lenin's book  The Liberal Defence of Murder seems to be about the travels of the neo-cons from the pseudo left to the militaristic right.

Today Lenin writes:

The attempt to drown the protests in rivers of blood have reportedly led to a "massacre" in Baharestan Square, outside the Iranian majles, today. Tens of thousands of basiji reportedly surrounded hundreds of protesters in this small square, and battered them, then opened fire on them. It's not just basiji - multiple reports indicate that young men without uniforms were given batons and let loose. How much of this is true is obviously impossible to tell, but given that dozens have been killed so far, the worst would not be surprising.

Okay - pretty energetic - now let's check Lenin's evidence.

The first link in Lenin's post is to a video that shows no violence at all but some 50 (stupid because they have no tactical advantage) young people advancing towards an equally strong line of riot police. In the background some teargas pops can be heard and some smoke is seen.There is no blood or violence in it at all.

The second Lenin link is to a Guardian live blog where a search finds these two 'blood' and 'massacre' items:

2.50pm: There are more disturbing reports on Twitter of injuries in Bahareston Square. One usually reliable source says it is like a war zone with blood everywhere and many nursing broken bones.
4.08pm: CNN just interviewed someone who was at Baharestan Square. She tells of a massacre and a massive assault by policemen. The witness was hysterical and speaking very fast.

Blood everywhere - via Twitter ... and an anonymous hysterical 'massacre' telephone account via 'someone' on CNN ...

Lenin's third link, to a different Guardian piece, has this 'massacre":

One woman told CNN that hundreds of unidentified men armed with clubs had emerged from a mosque to confront the protesters.

"They beat a woman so savagely that she was drenched in blood and her husband fainted. They were beating people like hell. It was a massacre," she said.

Yes, it is the same anonymous CNN caller as in the second link. Now that's confirmation!

Lenin's fourth link is to the Daily Mail,.one of those totally unreliable and lying British tabloids. But still the Daily Mail page Lenin links to says just simply nothing about "tenth of thousands of basiji" or "opening fire" at all. Where did Lenin get those fantasies from?

Now from less breathless accounts than Lenin's I gather that yesterday some 200+ people tried to demonstrate at the Baharestan/Parliament Square and that the small not licensed demonstration was send home by the typical means any police force on this planet uses in such cases. Up to now, 24 hours later, there is not one confirmed report that any shots were fired at all, that "rivers of blood" flew or that anything like a "massacre" happened there.

But starting from that linking fast of hearsay the very "leftist" Lenin criticizes the "left" and proclaims:

The bloodless lack of enthusiasm for what is manifestly a democratic movement in some of the commentary reflects not anti-imperialist sensibilities so much as political timidity.
The key here is universality: these protesters are no different from those who have been beaten or killed in Genoa, in London, in LA, in Athens, and everywhere that the state is challenged by a democratic movement and responds in this way. Their case for solidarity is not diminished by the fact that they live in a society that has been threatened by imperialism. On the contrary, it means we ought to redouble our efforts.

Sure - we certainly need more enthusiasm for a 'manifestly democratic movement' that wants one non-secular pseudo-democrat authoritarian, Mousavi, to replace another non-secular pseudo-democrat authoritarian, Ahmadinejad,  to redirect the oil-money flow from the Iranian military aligned faction, Khamenei, to the more theocratic aligned one, Rafsanjani.

Unfortunately Lenin does not offer at all what efforts he thinks should be redoubled. More protests in London? Walk outs in New York? Strikes in Berlin? But I am sure he is able double or triple his own. A copy of his post to Red State or the Freeper site would do just that.

And maybe he should reread and reflect on his book?

Posted by b on June 25, 2009 at 04:17 PM | Permalink | Comments (61)

Merkel Stands Besides Demonstrators - "in Iran"

Key Western powers urged Iran's leaders anew to ease up on the protesters and review the disputed election results.

"We stand beside you," German Chancellor Angela Merkel said in remarks directed to "all in Iran who seek to demonstrate peacefully."
Iran reform leader says he won't end his challenge

Notice that Merkel said "in Iran". She did not say "everywhere". She did not say "in Germany".

Last weekend in Berlin:

After a public referendum Tempelhof, the famous air-bridge airport in Berlin closed down last year. The buildings are now empty and the four square kilometer airfield is no longer in use. Business interests supported by Merkel's party want to reopen the airport, in the middle of the city, with public money but for private use only. Other plans, currently not fundable, include new public housing and a public park.

On Saturday 2,000 young people held a peaceful demonstration for an immediate opening of the empty and unused outdoor airfield space for public use. When they tried to rush the fence that encloses the airfield, 1,500 policemen attacked and used water-cannons, batons and teargas to disperse the demonstrators. A policeman in civil cloth threw one of the demonstrators on the ground. When other people rushed to help the policeman in civil cloth drew his weapon and threatened to shot them. In total 102 demonstrators were detained, many more got hurt. 

But sure, Merkel is really concerned. She stands beside people who seek to demonstrate. "In Iran".

All these pictures are from the event at Tempelhof.

Posted by b on June 25, 2009 at 11:54 AM | Permalink | Comments (21)

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June 24, 2009

Boeing's Very Bad Day

Not one of my usual themes for MoA but anyway:

Boeing announced today that it will delay the first flight of its new 787 Dreamliner. The reason is - again - a weakness in the 'wing box.' This is the crucial part of the plane where the wings connect to the fuselage and where the weight of the plane's body is transferred onto the wings. The 787 is the first major commercial plane ever to use a wing-box that is:

  • totally manufactured out of non-metal composite material ('baked' carbon-fibers).
  • manufactured by someone else than that plane's construction lead. (Boeing outsourced the wing box manufacturing to Mitsubishi Industries and Fuji Industries in Japan.)

The sales argument for the 787 is less weight and thereby less fuel consumption than competing planes. The sales/marketing demand led to efforts to decrease the material thickness of elements of the already lightweight composite wing box.

Apart from the difficult cultural communications between the individual partners of a highly complex part of a plane the composite material stuff is problematic for other reasons too. We pretty well know how various metals behave under stress. Humanity has used metals for thousands of years. With composites things are different. While metal bends before braking, composites tend to break with few warning signs before doing so. We have yet to find the right formulas and parameters to model composites through virtual computer load tests

Airbus (disclosure: I worked for them as IT consultant until recently) screwed up with the A380 development because of different IT CAD systems in Toulouse and Hamburg, its two main engineering sites. Hamburg engineers constructed electrical wiring that was impossible to fit into the structural body Toulouse had constructed and for other system parts it was just vice versa. That was an expensive mistake made because of incompatible data models but still those mistakes were never crucial to the basic plane layout and structure.

Boeing has a bigger problem. They planed and sold a plane (An amazing total of 863 options even while the first one has yet to take off) that is likely structural unsound or will need so much additional 'stiffening' that it will be non-competitive in weight and fuel consumption. Boeing now will add, again, metal stiffeners to the wing box or wings, i.e. additional aluminum structures that can carry the forces the composites as planned before obviously can not. This of course will increase the weight and lessen the fuel efficiency of the 787. The retraction of orders and the penalties to be payed for still pending orders but delayed delivery will be very severe.

Today Boeing got hit from three sides. At last weeks Paris air show the Boeing CEO emphasized that the first 787 flight would be on target with the already four times moved schedule. Today Boeing had to retract that and moved the schedule again. Also today a GAO report showed that the military Boeing V-22 Osprey did not at all perform to the announced parameters and a Congress man asked the Pentagon to stop new orders for the system. Additionally the Pentagon today officially shut down the Future Combat System, a multibillion racket that Boeing as lead contractor had hoped to feast on.

Meanwhile Airbus just delivered the first plane from its new A320 assembly line in China. That move will help to sell the plane there and will transfer some manufacturing knowledge to China. But the essential engineering and production knowledge will still be kept in Europe. To assemble is not to create.

Meanwhile Boeing's attempt to offshore a central construction and production piece to Japan is not going well at all.

I wonder how significant this may be in the long term.

Posted by b on June 24, 2009 at 03:32 PM | Permalink | Comments (13)

Iran Lost The Propaganda War

Der Spiegel once was a somewhat lefty German weekly magazine. Recently it turned into a propaganda tool of the right. It has quite an influence, its sold circulation is over one million each week.

The increase of such quite ridiculous but effective propaganda like the above is the direct consequence of Mousavi's challenge of the state of Iran. He declared himself the winner in the election even before the vote count began. When the results were announced he alleged massive fraud without presenting any convincing evidence.

That again triggered big demonstrations of people who believed his allegations. When these non-rebellions turned into violent youth riots the state of Iran, like any other state on this planet would have done, asserted itself and suppressed them.

This again was a real gift for anti-Iran propagandists and their work will hurt Iran's image in the 'west' for a long time. When Iran's leaders are openly associated with bin-Laden in major publications Iran has lost the propaganda war.

I will not be surprised to see Mousavi punished for the obvious damage he has done to his country. But that would again only play right into the hand of the propagandists. Maybe he should be send off to some small town in the counryside where he can learn how the people living there really think. Give him a stern advice not to talk to the media and let him paint more pictures.

Posted by b on June 24, 2009 at 12:42 PM | Permalink | Comments (302)

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June 23, 2009

Burqas, Law And Freedom

I am somewhat split on this Sarkozy initiative to forbid wearing burqas:

“The issue of the burqa is not a religious issue. It is a question of freedom and of women’s dignity,” Mr. Sarkozy said. “The burqa is not a religious sign. It is a sign of the subjugation, of the submission, of women.”

He is right, the burqa is a sign of submission and not of freedom. I certainly do not support wearing a burqa or even a headscarf worn on religious grounds. But on the other side there is the freedom to wear whatever one wants or not, though most countries restrict the last with some kind of public decency law.

But how exactly does one word a law that forbids a certain attitude without also restricting legitimate attitudes? Sarkozy is also planing (in German) a law to forbid wearing masks and to cover up ones face during demonstrations.

Germany unfortunately already has such a law. It prevents people, who would otherwise like to join a demonstration, to take part out of fear of being later discriminated against. It gets abused to pick people off the street who otherwise have not done or even planed to do something wrong. People who hid there face out of fear while fleeing from Nazi thugs they had protested against were put in front of a court. People playing clowns as protest against the last G8 meeting in Germany were threatened with arrest.

It may well be that Sarkozy's jihad against the burqa is just a ploy to get the other more controversial part of masking during demonstrations through the parliament. The NYT piece linked above of course never mentions that.

So while I am against the burqa I am also against forbidding it by law. It would give freedom to a few in one sense. But it would also take away freedom from all in a different sense. If burqas get forbidden can anyone ever again cover up in public? Also such freedom restricting laws, once enacted in principle but  on a small issue, often undergo a kind of mission creep over time and tend expend onto other issues too.

What is you opinion on this? Should France introduce a burqa restricting law? How would you word it?

Posted by b on June 23, 2009 at 02:22 PM | Permalink | Comments (58)


by Arnold Evans
lifted from comment 211

I want to say that I am in favor of change in Iran and think there are policies of Iran's government that are wrong both morally in respect to its citizens and also in practical terms as in they prevent Iran from being as powerful as I'd like it to be.

I am not a regime supporter on the basis of the enemy of my enemy is my friend.

But it seems plausible to me that Ahmadinejad won. The reports of the three million votes came with the explanation that they were the result of people voting away from their home district, which seems plausible in a very-high turnout election. I think it is possible that Ahmadinejad won the debates, despite the effect they had of turning you further against him, and Rafsanjani's letter against him may have made the aftermath of the debates more favorable to him still.

So there are protesters against Ahmadinejad and in favor of Mousavi. Mondale lost a landslide in 1984 and there was a large number of people who supported Mondale, enough to cripple the country if they organized together to do so. That did not mean they were the majority. I do not believe Mousavi supporters or protesters are the majority of the country.

The reports of Mousavi's claims of irregularities seem unconvincing to me. In his public complaint to the Guardian Council he did not claim that none of the votes were counted or that all local-based counting was suspended and even if he doesn't trust the Guardian Council, that was a place to give his best explanation of what exactly he believes went wrong with the election, why he does not trust it.

I feel that Mousavi is acting very irresponsibly, and that Mondale, in similar circumstances could have acted the same and gotten his supporters, especially his core supporters worked up enough that they would risk their lives, essentially for nothing, but Mondale could claim it is for fundamental change in the government or society or something.

If Mondale did that, I would wonder if he had some organized outside backing, but in Mousavi's case it could well be that his only backing is Rafsanjani and that faction, or it could well be that it is Mousavi's own ego driving this. Or it is possible, I don't claim and don't necessarily believe that it is driven by the CIA. But there are signs that Mousavi's tactics are similar to tactics of previous CIA-sponsored revolutions. But that could be coincidence. I don't think there is necessarily the connection.

I thought Mondale's supporters were right, and Reagan was a bad guy. I think Mousavi's supporters have a lot of valid criticisms of Iran's government.

I think Iran's government takes enough input a wide enough swathe of Iranian society that it is capable of change internally, and I do not see indications that Mousavi is more committed to the democratic process than Khomeini was. Khomeini could have transformed Iran into a hereditary dictatorship with no restraints from an elected Assembly of Experts and no input from Iran's people and did not because he felt it would have been religiously wrong to do so. I don't know that I would have trusted Khomeini to do that, but I don't trust Mousavi to do that. I see a Musharraf scenario, of ad-hoc usurpations of power and an indefinite suspension of any limitations on his office as just as probably under Mousavi.

To Mondale and Mousavi supporters I say, the vote indicates that you really do not have the popular support to win an election, much less complete a revolution.

Does Iran have a consensus behind a "go west" strategy as opposed to a "go east" strategy? No. If it did, Iran would go west. There is also no national consensus around relaxing religious restrictions, which I think is wrong but Iranians have to be convinced, and I'm sure the pro-Mousavi protests are not the way to convince them.

There is a consensus around reducing corruption, but Ahmadinejad and Mousavi both say they support that. Iran could easily believe Ahmadinejad, the one who carries his lunch from home to work and who named Rafsanjani by name, saying what a lot of people already knew but wouldn't say in public, is the best candidate to fight corruption.

By my understanding a major motivation behind Rafsanjani's support for a go west strategy is that he would benefit from it personally.

So those are my views on Iran's election and the situation today. I don't see a point in further protests. I expect a general strike to fizzle out, if it is really launched. I mourn all of the deaths. I wish they had not happened and consider them naive sacrifices to either Mousavi's ego or the forces behind Mousavi that I do not consider good, if they are the CIA or Rafsanjani.

Posted by b on June 23, 2009 at 10:25 AM | Permalink | Comments (188)

Just Another Hypocrite

Nothing contained in the present Charter shall authorize the United Nations to intervene in matters which are essentially within the domestic jurisdiction of any state ...
Charter of the United Nations, Article 2/7


U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon urged an immediate stop on Monday to use of force against civilians in Iran and urged authorities to respect civil rights in dealing with protests over presidential election results.

A statement issued by Ban's press office said he was dismayed by the post-election violence, "particularly the use of force against civilians."
UN's Ban urges halt to use of force in Iran


Dozens are reported injured after violent clashes between UN security forces and Kosovo Serb demonstrators in the divided city of Mitrovica in northern Kosovo. The violence erupted when UN police stormed a courthouse which was being occupied by Serb protestors.
After the UN police seized the courthouse, thousands of Serbs surrounded the compound and clashed with riot police and NATO troops. The UN forces used tear gas and stun grenades to try to ward off the rioters. UN police said 53 Serb demonstrators had been arrested.
UN Forces Clash with Protestors in Kosovo

Posted by b on June 23, 2009 at 08:17 AM | Permalink | Comments (5)

Links June 23 09

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Posted by b on June 23, 2009 at 02:24 AM | Permalink | Comments (17)

June 22, 2009

The Shanghai Cooperation Organization And The Dollar

About a week ago the Russian news agency RIAN wrote:

MOSCOW, June 16 (RIA Novosti) - The leaders of Shanghai Cooperation Organization countries backed on Tuesday Russia's proposal on using national currencies in mutual settlements and introducing a common currency for the group.

The common currency would be similar to the European currency unit, in use in the EC until the introduction of the euro in 1999.

The SCO, which comprises Russia, China and four ex-Soviet Central Asian republics - Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan - held a summit in the Russian Urals city of Yekaterinburg on Tuesday.

The summit's participants said that the current structure of the world currency system, dominated by the U.S. dollar as the major global reserve currency, was far from ideal and that the appearance of new reserve currencies was inevitable.

I did not make a fuzz out of that because I could not find any confirmation of it in other agency reports - especially not the usual Chinese sources.

But that news item must have hit a nerve or two in the United States. The usually well informed Washington Scoop remarked this weekend:

In earlier comment about the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, we have noted that US has been unconcerned about the rise of this regional organization in which it plays no part More recently, the financial crisis has prompted US officials to pay greater heed to potentially rival entities such as the SCO.
One aspect has become increasingly salient, namely the US dollar holdings. There is rising concern in Washington that efforts to diversify toward alternative currencies could put the dollar under severe stress.

Hmm - something is going on here ... a SCO dollar or SCO yuan supported by producing entities (China, Russia) as well as basic resources entities (Kazakhstan, Russia)  could really change the currency landscape.

What instruments does the U.S. have to counter that?

Posted by b on June 22, 2009 at 03:27 PM | Permalink | Comments (30)

Iran: 'There is very little logic at work'

[-c contacted me yesterday. She is a "perennial lurker" here and "an Iranian ex-pat living in the US". I asked her what she might want to add and the she wrote back the following . The text is unaltered  but for a personal closing paragraph directed to me which I decided to omit - b.]

by -c

I'm not really sure that anyone can add anything of value at this point. We have to wait to and see. Having said that, I will share my thoughts on what is happening now and what bothers me about what I see and hear. Apologies if my thoughts are disjointed; I've tried to lay them out as best I could. Believe it or not, I've also tried to keep it brief -- there are many aspects to what is happening, and I only touch upon one or two that resonated with me.

I don't want to address the issue of election fraud because, frankly, I don't have a favorite in this race (I had serious problems with both candidates) and I can buy plausible scenarios for both having won. I also don't presume to speak for anyone else with my remarks. The relationship that the people of Iran have with the government is, like most things in this world, more nuanced than people on both sides would like to admit, and if one person says that they know that the majority of people feel a certain way, that person is lying. In any case, it seems as though we might be seeing the end of the protests, so some of what I write is moot. (But I will write it anyway! ;-) )

The problem, in my view, is that there are three groups, all of whom are convinced that they are absolutely right and hold a majority: those who support Mousavi and think the election has been stolen from them, those who support Ahmadinejad and think that foreign elements are trying to steal the election from them, and those who hate the Islamic Republic and want it gone.

These people do not talk to each other, and they refuse to accept that the other side has valid concerns and/or solutions. No one in the country talks to those who have differing views, unless it is to insult them. Last week, I asked my cousin (a Mousavi supporter) what she wanted. She told me that she just wanted the government to count her vote, and she was upset that Ahmadinejad had insulted those who voted for Mousavi. She said that all they wanted was a re-vote, but when I asked what would happen if Ahmadinejad won the re-vote, she said that that would never happen. "But what if it did happen," I asked. "Would you accept the result?" Her answer? No, because it would mean that the government had cheated again. As has become clear to most people over the past week, there is very little logic at work in this situation, and it is that more than anything else that makes me despair for a solution to this conflict.

Regardless of what happens, there needs to be fundamental changes in how society operates. This atmosphere of isolation and disdain for people who have differing viewpoints, and the idea that compromise is for pussies, if you will, will break the country in the long term. That way lies civil war and massive bloodshed. Nevertheless, if the government can successfully paint a picture of foreign interference in the short term, I think they will come out on top. Iranians across the political spectrum are incredibly nationalistic, and I'm not sure how much they will be willing to tolerate if they get the impression that Western nations, particularly Britain and the U.S., are benefitting from the current unrest.

I mentioned in my earlier e-mail that I was disturbed by coverage of the protests in the United States. More than that though, I am disturbed by, and skeptical of, the manner in which the opposition has proceeded. From the very beginning, there was a concerted effort to co-opt iconic images and chants of the 1979 revolution. For example, the AP, I think, had a neat page where they compared a photo of a gathering in Azadi from '79 to one from '09 and the staging was fairly close to identical. The shouting from rooftops and chants are eerily similar to or exactly the same as those used against the Shah. The Pinochet/Chile one was used originally in '79 as was the "I will kill whoever kills my brother".

I was a baby in 1979, but I do remember my childhood in Tehran. I remember how good people felt, not necessarily because of the new government (though Khomeini was incredibly popular), but because they had defeated a superpower that had crippled the country. I have always felt that the revolution, for all its faults, was an organic next step in opposition to the Shah. The chants, the gatherings, the shouting from the rooftops because of the oppressive regime, happened naturally because people had had enough. "Allah-o-akbar!" was chosen partly because of the Shah's offensive on religion. The Pinochet chant was used because Pinochet had come to power only a few years before with the help of the US government, and the people wanted to let the US know that Iran was different. This time, they trotted out these things one day after the elections ended. Being at least somewhat aware of their original meaning(s), it was jarring to hear them used in a situation to which they weren't really relevant.

The other day, one of my co-workers marveled at how organized the protesters were, and she said that some American movements could use organization like that. And you know what? She's right. But I believe that the movement (at least in its current incarnation, and assuming that we are not seeing a color revolution in the works) is doomed to failure precisely because of the spectacular organization. In 1979, the protesters formed the chants. In 2009, the chants formed the protesters. This may work in the short term, but the problems people have with the government, the reasons they poured out onto the street, will not be solved by Mousavi or Rafsanjani coming to power. And if the protesters do somehow overthrow the government, we'll be in this same spot ten years from now because a large segment of the population, the ones who really did vote for Ahmadinejad, will have been disenfranchised.

In speaking to my aunt in Tehran, her greatest desire is that things calm down. She is terrified for her children who have to go to the university, where much of the violence was happening earlier, and rapidly growing tired of the disruption to her life by both rioters and the Basij. Of course, as someone who wishes only the best for the country and its people, I certainly hope that the worst of the violence has passed. My own personal hope for the country is that Iran one day be allowed to govern itself without outside interference. I thought that day was here, but I guess not.

At the end of the day, while I have my own preferences about the kind of government I want, I don't really care about the political or social orientation of the person that can make that independence happen: communist, socialist, conservative, religious, secular. It doesn't matter to me. All I want is for the people of Iran to be able to choose whether or not they want a revolution, not to have one foisted upon them. If the Iranian people truly want a revolution, then by all means, they should go out and protest and try to overthrow the government.

Then again, if the Iranian people truly wanted a revolution, the protesters would not need to be begging for help from people in foreign countries.


Posted by b on June 22, 2009 at 02:37 AM | Permalink | Comments (221)

Links June 22 09

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Posted by b on June 22, 2009 at 02:02 AM | Permalink | Comments (15)

June 21, 2009

Is It Over?

Juan Cole headlines: Downtown Tehran Burning. That is wishful thinking and certainly not the only thing he got wrong.

Is the 'revolution' in Tehran that was none over as Arnold Evans assumes?

While not certain I think mostly yes.

With only 3,000 fighting in the streets yesterday there are too few willing to seriously challenge the government's authority. It seems that expressing discontent and frustration is one thing and risking ones health for a change in government something else. The police and other government forces have not turned on the government and as long as do not do so there is little chance that the few will have any effect but to disgruntle their compatriots by disturbing their daily business.

I doubt that a general strike Mousavi asks for will happen. He does not have the charisma, the numbers and cause to do lead one.

There will be a few more rowdy nights in Tehran, lots of faked or not faked violence videos for the 'western' voyeurs and the usual 'western' officials who will feign outrage.

But unless something really big happens, the crisis will now peter out. Unfortunately the damage done to Iran's image will only be repaired over a longer time frame. That was certainly not the intend of the people on the streets in Tehran, but likely the intend of the people who planed and started this.

Posted by b on June 21, 2009 at 11:44 AM | Permalink | Comments (123)

Links June 21 09

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Posted by b on June 21, 2009 at 01:31 AM | Permalink | Comments (30)

June 20, 2009

Parviz: Khamenei's Aura of Invincibility Shattered

[editorial note: I just received this email by MoA regular Parviz (not his real name) who lives in Iran and I decided to publish it immediately without any change or correction - b.]

Hi Bernhard,

Your monitoring has been atrocious but I submit the following as a new thread to redress the balance and compensate for all the doubts you have expressed about the genuineness and independence of Iran's reform movement:

TITLE: Khamenei's Aura of Invincibility Shattered

MoA threads and comments were so one-sided that I left the Blog, but I’ve decided to stop lurking and recommenced commenting out of a sense of responsibility to your armchair intellectuals, and especially in support of those non-Iranian posters (God bless them) who are continuing to ask the same questions I and others repeatedly asked and to which you pointedly refused to respond.

(Some examples:  How can you defend "counting" done in complete secret by security officials? What about Karroubi's missing 7 million votes? What about the statement of powerful Ayatollahs in the Holy City of Qom – Grand Ayatollahs Montazeri, Sanei and the Qom Seminary -- that the election was rigged? Why does the Guardian Council say it needs 10 days to check 10 % of votes when the ENTIRE election votes were allegedly counted in just one hour? Exactly how 'random' do you think those 'samples' will be? Why do all the titles of your threads invariably defend Khamenei/Ahmadinejad and cast doubts on Moussavi’s credibility and on the broad-based strength of the protest movement that reached 3 million on Thursday in Tehran alone? etc.,.):

Today I tried to participate in the peaceful demonstration (which is permitted under Article 27 of the very same Islamic Constitution that the Islamicists have subverted, meaning that no Interior Ministry permit is constitutionally necessary), and managed to walk past huge groupings of riot police, Revolutionary Guards and plainclothes militia (Baseej), plus huge numbers of Arab troops (I guess on loan from Hamas and Hezbollah), all heavily armed and wielding truncheons and other weapons. Near Tehran University (= 2 km from Enghelab Square where the peaceful demonstration was to occur) I was stopped by some ugly looking Baseej group which threatened to beat me and my friends up if we walked even one step further south.

When they drew their weapons we were forced to give up the venture, and the thugs probably inadvertently did my group a favour by turning us back before we could get anywhere near the proceedings, because many others who got through have been beaten up, many are missing and Tehran is in chaos and under military rule. I am now back home watching Al Jazeera that showed video footage of one young girl shot through the head by a sharpshooter, among other atrocities.

b, here is what the regime you inexcusably defend actually did today as reported by this eye-witness:
They had troops, Guards and militia stationed at every crossroads and along the length and breadth of every route from the very "upper-middle-class" North of Tehran down to Fadayeen Street (= a total area of about 200 square miles). I guess maybe up to one million regime "helpers" were involved in a Clausewitz-style show of overwhelming strength. This was because, as officially declared by the current Mayor of Tehran, the street protests reached a peak of 3 million on Thursday and were growing daily. As you correctly point out above (sometimes I can agree with you) the regime's aim was to PREVENT millions of people reaching the focal point, so they could kill and maim and arrest the few who actually made it. They closed off all approaches to the Square and then (as evidenced by the latest videos) picked off the demonstrators like penned-in animals.

I believe (but have no proof) that the 'coincidental' bomb explosion near Khomeini's tomb was set off by the regime itself as an excuse for an even harder crackdown. Khamenei mentioned the possibility of bombings at Friday Prayers, and right on cue the next day (today) such an event occurs 25 miles away from the demonstrators. Funny that it served the purpose of 'desecrating' Khomeini's tomb even though the bomb went off outside, giving the regime the excuse it needed to label the opposition 'Godless' and escalate violence even further against these clearly peaceful protesters.

If the regime hadn't cracked down so hard today the crowds in Tehran alone would have swelled to well over the earlier 3 million, as those not bribed/coerced by the regime are sick to death of 30 years of religious hypocrisy and misrule.

Anybody here still believe the Islamic regime is 'democratic'? It’s a regime of thugs, run by thugs on behalf of thugs. Any help to Hamas and Hezbollah is not to help Palestinians but a) for leverage against the U.S., and b) to generate ‘coupons’ that they can use in situations like this. Everybody I spoke to today thought we were in Lebanon after seeing so many heavily armed Arabs in and around Ferdowsi Square and Chamran bridge.

The main thing is that the aura of invincibility and (God forbid) ‘Godliness’ about Khamenei has been shattered. This won’t end until the regime is either overthrown or reforms dramatically and becomes part of the Revolution.

Nobody I know gives a damn about the U.S. or Israel. We are all simply fed up.

Best wishes to all,


[additional note: I do not have time today to respond to Parviz' note, but I promise to do so tomorrow - b.]

Posted by b on June 20, 2009 at 02:59 PM | Permalink | Comments (208)

The Real Clashes Have Begun

With Khamenei's speech yesterday the political stage is set and now the real clashes have begun:

Eyewitnesses described fierce clashes near Revolution Square in central Tehran after some 3,000 protesters chanted "Death to the dictator!" and "Death to dictatorship!" Police responded with tear gas and water cannons, the witnesses said.

Simple rioting will not achieve anything but a sharper crackdown.

To morally win, the demonstrators will have to convene peacefully in one huge crowd in one place. The police will try to prevent that by blocking the access roads to the possible places in question and by disbanding any infant formation of a bigger crowd.

Having been in several bigger conflicts with riot police forces I see no chance for the demonstrators to achieve that goal. In a determined demonstration one can defend the ground one has if one is willing to take and inflict some casualties. But even with violence it is nearly impossible to get to an area like a big prominent place if a competent police force is aware of that goal and is willing to employ the usual anti-riot measures like teargas and water cannons.

The policeman  in this picture seems confident and competent to me.

I'd think twice about outfighting this guy.

Posted by b on June 20, 2009 at 10:23 AM | Permalink | Comments (48)

Links June 20 09

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Posted by b on June 20, 2009 at 01:39 AM | Permalink | Comments (41)

June 19, 2009

A New Afghanistan Poll

A chart from a new Afghan opinion survey done by the International Republican Institute expresses how much the situation there changed over the last five years. While the people say that they are now economically better off, their biggest concern is security. In total they feel the situation is getting worse (DK/REF= don't know/refrain to answer).

As the WaPo documents today, despite lost of money spend, reconstruction and economic help was largely ineffective.

But what is to be done about security, the main concern? The poll, which is mostly about Karzai's reelection, has only one real question about that issue and I find the large approval thereto quite astonishing:

Answering another question people say they now have more personal freedom than under the Taliban. So do people prefer security over personal freedom?

My guess is they do. So Karzai should talk with the Taliban and find a compromise with them. But the Taliban's main demand is the withdrawal of the foreign troops and the U.S. is not yet willing to think about that.

The situation for the people will therefore likely get worse.

Posted by b on June 19, 2009 at 11:53 AM | Permalink | Comments (10)

Another Iran Election Thread

These have been so far intersting discussions. Let's continue them.

Here is a transcript of Khamenei's speech today, though I am unsure if line 177 is really the exact translation.

Three main points he made:

  • He alleges outer (media-)interference.
  • He criticizes Ahmadinejad a bit and highly lauds Rafsanjani as a pillar of the revolution.
  • He insist that the candidates follow the legal way and stop illegal activities.

I interpret that as an offer to Rafsanjani and a warning to Mousavi. Look for a compromise solution but within the existing system and rules. The ball is now back in the Mousavi/Rafsanjani camp. If they decide of further street confrontation it might well get very bloody.

The best I can tink of now is to really follow the legal procedures but to do so very publicly and openly. Only when most people agree on the facts and realities can further strife be avoided.

Posted by b on June 19, 2009 at 10:27 AM | Permalink | Comments (94)

Links June 19 09

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Posted by b on June 19, 2009 at 01:46 AM | Permalink | Comments (10)

June 18, 2009

Early Results No Sign For Fraud

Despite Mo-ha-med's advice I'll continue to discuss the situation in Iran.

One argument for fraud in the Iran election is that the vote count could not have been done as fast as the announcement of (partial) results were made. History belies that.

On Sunday May 26 1997 the New York Times reported on the election held May 23 1997:

Mr. Khatami won 20.5 million votes, or 69 percent of the 29.1 million ballots cast in the election on Friday, Iranian radio and televison reported early Sunday after the final tally. His closest rival, the Speaker of the Parliament, had 25 percent. About 90 percent of the eligible voters went to the polls, the radio said.

Khatami was elected for a second term on Friday June 8 2001. Published Sunday June 10 online and in  only parts of the print edition, the Times wrote:

Preliminary results released by the Interior Ministry today, with 23 million votes, or more than half the electorate, counted, showed Mr. Khatami winning nearly 18 million votes, or more than 76 percent.

The 2005 presidential elections in Iran took place on Friday June 24. The Times reported under the dateline June 26 2005:

According to final figures issued Saturday by the Interior Ministry, Mr. Ahmadinejad won 17.2 million votes compared with just over 10 million for Mr. Rafsanjani. The ministry said about 28 million voters went to the polls, for a turnout of about 60 percent, about the same as in the first round.

It seems to me that the speed of counting and tallying the votes increased over time.

Now to this election again from the Times:

Polls were originally due to close at 6 p.m., but voting was extended by four hours.
“I am the absolute winner of the election by a very large margin,” Mr. Moussavi said during a news conference with reporters just after 11 p.m. Friday, adding: “It is our duty to defend people’s votes. There is no turning back.”
The election commission said early Saturday morning that, with 77 percent of the votes counted, Mr. Ahmadinejad had won 65 percent and Mr. Moussavi had 32 percent, Reuters reported. Then at 8 a.m. Saturday, Iranian state media reported that Mr. Ahmadinejad had about 18 million votes and that Mr. Moussavi had 9 million.

Given the history of voting in Iran I find it very likely that the vote count, or more exactly, the reporting of the local counts to the Interior Ministry and the tallying there, was finished for 77 percent of the districts by early Saturday. The announcement of preliminary resultse arly Saturday is no indication for election fraud.

Like Mohammed of Vancouver at Mondoweiss I believe there was a campaign of expectation shaping by the Mousavi side. Expectation were shaped to a. suggest a Mousavi win and b. to suggest a voting fraud by the Ahmadinejad side. This expectation shaping took place in Iran but also in the western media.

The very early announcement of his "absolute win" by Mousavi reinforced those shaped expectations. But expectations shaped by clever marketing are just that. Reality usually does not meet them.

Posted by b on June 18, 2009 at 12:14 PM | Permalink | Comments (112)

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June 17, 2009

Christian Science Monitor's False Reporting

The Christian Science Monitor is producing a very distorted view on what is happening in Iran. Here I look at two pieces, one manipulated report of a severe incident, one of partisan reporting, to demonstrate that.

Let's start with a story from yesterday: Eyewitness: Iranian militiamen shot 300 rounds during Monday's protest. After two general news paragraphs on Iran it says:

An Iranian journalist who witnessed the shooting told the Monitor that, in fact, the gunmen were plainclothed basiji militia in riot helmets and body armor who fired an estimated 300 bullets from a rooftop – roughly half into the air, and the other half directly into the crowd, over the course of an hour.

"The guy shooting from the roof was very calm, not like he was shooting at people," said the witness. The ideological militiamen, who operate under the auspices of the Revolutionary Guards, fired as if "they were just trying to empty their guns into the ground, very cool, very relaxed."

Now that are very serious accusations and reading only those two graphs the only point one stumbles about is that "plainclothed" is a somewhat curious description of persons with body armor, riot helmets and guns.

The description is followed by thirteen (13) paragraphs around the situation in Iran but without revisiting  the above scene. Only then do we get more detail:

"They shot three people in front of my eyes [on Monday], while everything was going quietly and nicely," the witness told the Monitor. Despite the large numbers at the rally, it was a "silent" event in which there were deliberately few provocative chants.

A very peaceful scene, a silent event,  and the militia just killed people, "very cool, relaxed"  But now:

The witness said another building that served as a basiji base along the route had been surrounded by a human chain and had been presented with flowers. At the basiji base that was attacked, newswire photographs showed a militiaman throwing a stone at protesters over the fence – an act that may have provoked the crowd to attack the building. The building caught on fire and gunmen began shooting from the roof.

"Instead of tear gas, [they] started shooting in the air," said the witness. "That further agitated the people and they kept storming the building. Then they pointed without aiming [holding the assault rifles at hip level] and started to shoot."

Antiriot police wearing body armor and riding motorcycles came to rescue the basiji militiamen, but were knocked from their bikes by the crowd and beaten.

Now this sounds very different to me than the two quote graphs at the beginning of the piece.

Indeed the scene described has been caught on a British Channel 4 video which I urge you to watch and to compare with the CSM account.

A huge mass of people shouting loud, a two story building behind a metal fence, burning with flames coming out of the windows. On the flat roof one man seemingly confused, clearly in uniform, with a helmet and a gun and no body armor or tear gas grenates. Stones are flying towards him. He shots into the air, then rushes to the side (trying to escape?), he comes back and shots into the mass of people. In total some 20 to 30 shots, i.e. one magazine worth of ammunition - not 300 shots, can be heard. One wounded person can be seen getting carried away.

The CSM piece started with militia firing into the crowd without reason. Only at the end of the long piece do we get some of the important context. The building was attacked. From the video we can tell that this attack was serious and that the person an the roof had reason to be panicked.

That does not justify the shooting. I do not want to make excuses here. But the reporting from the CSM and especially the way in which it was written up with accusations upfront and real context at the very end is quite manipulative, i.e. propaganda.

Today the CSM questions the results of the elections in Iran: Was Iran's election rigged? Here's what is known so far.

Results from 39.2 million handwritten ballots came much more swiftly than in previous votes, emerging within hours. Detailed election data typically released has not been made public.

That is a somewhat funny claim. Prof. Walter R. Mebane, Jr. of the University of Michigan (political science and statistics) retrieved official data form Iran at election district level and on June 14th made statistical comparisons with 2005 data. He found (pdf) nothing abnormal, but of course would like even more detailed data at polling station level to confirm that.

Back to the CSM:

Farideh Farhi of the University of Hawaii, whose decades of studying Iran has included poring over data from Iranian elections, says the result was "pulled out of a hat." Here's why.
Ms. Farhi: My personal feeling is that Ahmadinejad could not have gotten anything more than 10 million. And I really do have the data from previous elections, each district, how they voted, each province, to make comparisons with these numbers that the Ministry of Interior have come out.

I am convinced that they just pulled it out of their hats. They certainly didn't pull it out of ballot [boxes] or even stuffed ballots, they just made up numbers and are putting it out. It just doesn't make sense.

I do take the numbers of the Interior Ministry very seriously. I pore over them every election. I did it last time in the parliamentary election, to determine the orientations and what they mean. I always do that.

In this election, I am not even going to spend time on this, because of all the [problems].

Okay. The "Here is why" reason consists of the personal conviction of a someone who does not even want to analyze the data that's available because - well, that's why. But Mrs. Farhi does give us one useful information:

Monitor: Weren't there party monitors at the polling stations, to watch the count?

Farhi: There were party monitors, and the boxes were all counted, and there were records made, and the information was relayed to the Interior Ministry on a piecemeal basis.

But at one point, immediately after the polls were closed, a very few people, without the presence of any monitoring mechanism, started giving out these numbers. And that's why I think this was brazen manipulation.

Now that is really information we were looking for. So the elections were monitored in local voting localities and local tallying but Mrs. Farhi doubts, for whatever reason, the tallying at the top of the reporting chain. With local results monitored a new top-tallying should be easy to do. Why isn't the Mousavi side, including obviously Mrs. Farhi, demanding that?

The first official numbers were given out two to three hours after the election closed, not "immediately after the polls closed", and were based on 20% of the election districts counted. The only one who immediately announced he had won a majority in a four horse race was Mousavi.

Those are two quite bad CSM pieces. One sensationally distorting the truth about a incident that, with some justification, could be seen as self-defense. The other one combined of simply telling the untruth with a interview of a partisan hack totally uninterested in the real issue.

Why again should I trusts such "western" media?

Posted by b on June 17, 2009 at 03:20 PM | Permalink | Comments (72)

What Are Mousavi's Plans?

This is bad:

TEHRAN, Iran – Iranian opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi issued a direct challenge Wednesday to the country's supreme leader and cleric-led system, calling for a mass rally to protest disputed election results and violence against his followers.

No government and especially not one that concentrates in on position like the supreme leader can allow such defiance to its authority.

Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has told Mousavi to pursue his demands through the electoral system and called for Iranians to unite behind their Islamic government, an extraordinary appeal in response to tensions over the presidential vote. But Mousavi appears unwilling to back down, issuing on his Web site a call for a mass demonstration Thursday.

The rally, if held, will inevitably see some violence. There are elements on both sides that want to and are able to escalate this. One stone thrown may end up in open shooting.

What does Mousavi want?

"We want a peaceful rally to protest the unhealthy trend of the election and realize our goal of annulling the results," Mousavi said.

But why exactly should the election results be annulled? I am still missing concrete evidence or witnesses coming forward with evidence of real election fraud.

Mousavi could demand recounts with some of his supporters taking part and verifying them. Allowing that would already be a further compromise for Khamenei but likely achievable. If serious miscounts could be found then a call for annulment might be justified. But without factual basis Khamenei has no reason to agree to that. Doing so would further damage his authority.

Open defiance against what the regime holds as the rule of law will only end in more trouble. Why does Mousavi and the power-people behind him want that? What is their planned endgame?

Posted by b on June 17, 2009 at 10:17 AM | Permalink | Comments (141)

Links June 17 09

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Posted by b on June 17, 2009 at 01:52 AM | Permalink | Comments (26)

June 16, 2009

Cognitive Dissonance II

Seems like I am in picture interpretation mode today.

What did the editors of Voice of America think when they selected this Obama picture to run with Obama Expresses Deep Concern?


Posted by b on June 16, 2009 at 01:53 PM | Permalink | Comments (43)

Cognitive Dissonace

The current LA Times World page reveals and induces cognitive dissonance.


How does the picture fit the text?

Posted by b on June 16, 2009 at 04:51 AM | Permalink | Comments (56)

Links June 16 09

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Posted by b on June 16, 2009 at 01:46 AM | Permalink | Comments (20)

June 15, 2009

Jones vs. Ross - Knock Out In The Third Round

As also posted some seven hours ago under today's link thread, Haaretz is reporting that Dennis Ross will be fired from his position as the Iran coordinator of the Obama government:

Dennis Ross, who most recently served as a special State Department envoy to Iran, will abruptly be relieved of his duties, sources in Washington told Haaretz. An official announcement is expected in the coming days.

The Obama administration will announce that Ross has been reassigned to another position in the White House. In his new post, the former Mideast peace envoy under President Bill Clinton will deal primarily with regional issues related to the peace process.

As of now the report is unconfirmed by other sources.

The current Haaretz piece is headlined: "Why is Dennis Ross being ousted as Obama envoy to Iran?" The earlier headline was: "Was Dennis Ross ousted as U.S. envoy to Iran because he's a Jew?". If I remember correctly the earlier piece did not include the second paragraph of the current one which says Ross will in future "deal primarily with regional issues related to the peace process."

We do not know why Ross was moved from that position. He should not have been put there in the first place because he is a. against talking with Iran, b. has never had success in achieving agreements in his earlier roles in the Clinton administration, c. has no experience on or with Iran at all.

Haaretz names several possible reason for this move. His open mistrust about talks with Iran, Irans alleged refusal to accept Ross in the negotiator role, his possible own dissatisfaction with his job and a rumored move of Ross to the National Security Agency where, a Haaretz source claims, he would work more directly under Obama.

The last claim sounds bogus to me. Ross does not have any experience as spy - at least not for the United States. The other ones are spurious too. Ross' positions towards Iran was known before he was put onto the job. They can not be reason to now remove him.

I for one assume something different. Over the last month a character assassination campaign was launched against the head of the National Security Council James Jones. It publicly started May 18 when Sally Quinn, conservative wife of former Washington Post editor Benjamin C. Bradlee, gossiped:

The knives are out. The tom-toms are beating. And by Washington standards it's soon. Usually the trashing of the national security adviser takes longer.

In recent days articles have appeared in The Post and the New York Times questioning the abilities of retired four-star Gen. Jim Jones, the former commandant of the Marine Corps and former NATO commander.
Today, the sniping is reportedly coming mostly from State Department officials and some staffers at the White House.
Obama has said many times that he wants to hear all voices. He famously assembled a team of rivals. And if those who are sniping think Jim Jones is not doing a good job, they should go directly to the president, not leak and spin to the press. That's their duty. Obama is not afraid to cut his losses.

In an earlier portrait David Ignatius wrote about Jones:

Jones is an activist on the Palestinian issue, which he lists as a top priority for the new administration. He wants the United States to offer a guiding hand in peace negotiations -- submitting its own ideas to help break any logjams between the Israelis and Palestinians. "The United States is at its best when it's directly involved," Jones says.

The second attack against Jones came in a Steve Clemons rumor piece at the Washington Note last Friday where he asked: Can James Jones Survive a Second Round of Attacks and "Longer Knives":?

I've received not just one email -- but three -- from prominent insider journalists and policy hands that Jim Jones' tenure as National Security Adviser is highly fragile.

One of these emails reports starkly:

         Knives getting longer

That's all my contact said. But other emails have intimated to me a serious tone-deafness by Jones about his role and responsibilities, his relationship with the President, and his relationship with younger, dedicated, hardworking and late-working staff.

That was followed by lots of assertions about how Jones' character and how he does his job. All of which were set out in a bad light even when one could argue that they are rather positive. Clemons ended:

Jones has structured an all views on the table approach to decision making -- quite evident when it comes to Middle East policy -- and the hawkish/neocon-friendly/Likudist-hugging part of the Obama administration's foreign policy operation may be engaged in a coup attempt against Jones.

I don't know if he'll survive this latest effort to oust him -- but folks need to know that those "longer knives", on the whole, do not have pure motives.

It seems clear to me that those attacks came from a high and well connected level at the State Department and as they are connected to Middle East policy quite likely directly from Dennis Ross who is also well known for bureaucratic infighting.

If so(and if Haaretz's sources are right), Ross just lost that fight by knock out in the third round.

As Pat Lang warned when the Quinn piece came out:

One should not confuse reserve with timidity. A former commandant of the US Marine Corps is a dangerous enemy.
Ross just learned that lesson.

Posted by b on June 15, 2009 at 10:58 AM | Permalink | Comments (29)

Debs Take On Iran's Election

by Debs is dead
lifted from a comment

I'm really reluctant to post on any of this because it is none of our fucking business and that includes the bourgeois sons and daughters of Iranian 'refugees'. What happens in Iran is Iran's business comment either way is mined and then used to develop talking points to bring the neo-cons, neo-libs, & national socialists onside for sticking their sticky beaks into Iran.

At most Oblamblam and co will be spinning up acceptance for more overt destabilisation of Iran, a full on attack is completely off the agenda despite however much Israelis, imperialists and pseudo leftie national socialists may want it. The plain fact is the odds of America and whatever other scurds of cannon fodder can be scraped out from under Oblamblam's fingernails after he has scoured the bottom of the foreign support barrel couldn't win a bar blue at happy hour, let alone take on Iran's well organised and well resourced defence forces.

And they, (the war mongers) know it. Consequently they are stuck with trying to organise a colour revolution in the hope that even if they don't get a puppet in, they may get the opportunity to leverage a bit more of an opening. One to either take over and at best install their trained chook or at least weaken Iran's defences.

Nukes and crap have about as much to do with this as WMD had with Iraq, they are an excuse not a reason.  The motive is exactly the same as that which has had Americans slaughtering native Americans from the Amazon to Angoon for the last 300+ years.

It won't stop - it can't stop, the empire must be fed or it will die, and Iran is much favoured sustenance.
Iraq was a stopgap, a small taster that fortuitously became available after the collapse of the Soviet Union, but Iran has been on the agenda since Stalin offered the loot up to Roosevelt in 1943 as payment for the material required to defeat Europe's national socialists.

Tehran's kids are an easy target for the quiet Americans, the situation parallels that of Moscow in the 80's where kids would sell their society for a few pairs of Levis. The Iranians regime know that and attempt to keep most consumerist stuff coming for the bourgeois youth, they know how this goes otherwise.

However the effect of the sanctions combined with the controls on the media the ruling elite believes they have to put in place cause they can see no other way of preventing the covert disinformation campaign America and co are running now from going right over the top, have combined to convince the kids that their own leaders are 'uncool' - which is probably true but nevertheless the alternative would be much less cool for a whole lot more Iranians - worse there would be no way back from it. Well no bearable way. Ask the Zimbabweans what happens if you close your legs once the gang has begun to bang.

Attempting to convince kids of this is likely to make matter worse, so the Iranian administration is forced to sit on it's hands and hope that if things go real quiet some of the kids might just hear the Americans and work it out for themselves.

Sometimes that isn't possible. Setting fire to buses and smashing windows provokes a crackdown anywhere in the world. When Tibetans protest that's good and the crackdown bad, but until recently protesting was frowned on in Nepal - the protesters were Maoist murderers on the streets of Kathmandu - until the Maoists won power that is, now Nepalese rioters are freedom fighters.
Same in Thailand, when the Bangkok middle and merchant class put their airport under siege for weeks so as to overthrow the democratically elected government - that was good, but when the rural people who voted for the former government arrived in Bangkok to protest the coup, the western media dubbed them illiterate peasants greedy for hand outs.

Still in Iran none of it will matter in the end. Ahmadinejad has got another 4 years and his mob was ready for the losers' dummy spit, the 'riots' will die down and things will be tougher for America next time round in Iran.

I'm betting that it will be the heroin the amerikans are smuggling into Iran that will likely bring them undone in the eyes of the young Iranians - they will get caught at it as they eventually always do.

There hasn't been much talk about this problem in the west (I wonder why not) and the Iranians are staying shtum for their own reasons, but since the coalition of the willing cranked up the Afghani 'O' cultivation racket, the bulk of that O has been refined into hammer and pushed into Iran.

The BBC ran a story a few weeks back saying Iran now had 4 million yep you read right 4,000,000 junkies. I have an Iranian student in one class who told me he reckons that Tehran probably has 4 million addicts. He said the real figure for all Iran is much much higher.

Smallpox in blankets becomes smack in bindles but this hammer thing won't work, it never really has. I suppose you could say that taking crack into Compton helped America keep it's slaves in their place, but the destruction of black society hasn't been anything like complete and has relied upon a number of other controls which cannot easily be replicated in a country whose leadership doesn't play ball.
For example the Iranians are treating the problem as more of a health issue than a good old American "war on drugs". They have been opening many treatment centres (altho without getting the "turn yourself into a pliant vegetable" Bill and Bob scam going)

In the end the young people will realise that their difference of opinion with Ahmadinejad is just a family dispute which America exploits for it's own ends. One is an overly authoritarian parent, the other a sleazy old sex addict whose seeming charm is just grooming in preparation for rape.

Posted by b on June 15, 2009 at 03:31 AM | Permalink | Comments (100)

Links June 15 09

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June 14, 2009

Some Dots You May Want To Connect

In any ordinary business, Manucher Ghorbanifar would cut an implausibly mysterious figure. Officially, he has been a shipping executive in Tehran and a commodities trader in France. By his own account he was a refugee from the revolutionary government of Ayatullah Ruhollah Khomeini, which confiscated his businesses in Iran, yet he later became a trusted friend and kitchen adviser to Mir Hussein Mousavi, Prime Minister in the Khomeini government. Some U.S. officials who have dealt with Ghorbanifar praise him highly. Says Michael Ledeen, adviser to the Pentagon on counterterrorism: "He is one of the most honest, educated, honorable men I have ever known." Others call him a liar who, as one puts it, could not tell the truth about the clothes he is wearing.
The Murky World of Weapons Dealers, Time Magazin, Jan. 19, 1987


On or about November 25, 1985, Ledeen received a frantic phone call from Ghorbanifar, asking him to relay a message from the prime minister of Iran to President Reagan regarding the shipment of the wrong type of HAWKs.
United States v. Robert C. McFarlane, Walsh Iran Contra Report, 1985


Franklin, along with another colleague from Feith's office, a polyglot Middle East expert named Harold Rhode, were the two officials involved in the back-channel, which involved on-going meetings and contacts with Iranian arms dealer Manucher Ghorbanifar and other Iranian exiles, dissidents and government officials.
The administration's reluctance to disclose these details seems clear: the DoD-Ghorbanifar meetings suggest the possibility that a rogue faction at the Pentagon was trying to work outside normal US foreign policy channels to advance a "regime change" agenda not approved by the president's foreign policy principals or even the president himself.
Iran-Contra II?, Washington Monthly, September 2004


Late last year, Congress agreed to a request from President Bush to fund a major escalation of covert operations against Iran, according to current and former military, intelligence, and congressional sources. These operations, for which the President sought up to four hundred million dollars, were described in a Presidential Finding signed by Bush, and are designed to destabilize the country’s religious leadership.
“The Finding was focussed on undermining Iran’s nuclear ambitions and trying to undermine the government through regime change,” a person familiar with its contents said, and involved “working with opposition groups and passing money.”
Preparing the Battlefield, The New Yorker, July 7, 2008


The Ukrainian Orange phenomenon was modeled quite explicitly on the example of the Rose Revolution, which featured a disputed election, massive youth-oriented street protests, and plenty of subsidies from U.S. government agencies.
The 'Color' Revolutions: Fade to Black, Antiwar, September 29, 2006


The Pentagon and US intelligence have refined the art of such soft coups to a fine level. RAND planners call it ‘swarming,’ referring to the swarms of youth, typically linked by SMS and web blogs, who can be mobilized on command to destabilize a target regime.
Color Revolutions, Geopolitics and the Baku Pipeline", Engdahl, (no date)


Even before the count began, Mousavi declared himself “definitely the winner” based on “all indications from all over Iran.” He accused the government of “manipulating the people’s vote” to keep Ahmadinejad in power and suggested the reformist camp would stand up to challenge the results.

“It is our duty to defend people’s votes. There is no turning back,” Mousavi said, alleging widespread irregularities.
Iran declares win for Ahmadinejad in disputed vote, Associated Press, June 13, 2009

Posted by b on June 14, 2009 at 01:00 PM | Permalink | Comments (71)

More On The Iran Election

There is a full effort of the "western" media and some expatriate Iranian organizations to de-legitimize the Iranian election despite the absence of any real evidence of voting fraud. These events show all characteristics of an engineered "color evolution". 

As said before I find the reelection of Ahmadinejad quite plausible. He has done a lot for the poor and the elections were for a decent part class based. As Robert Fisk relates from someone not-regime-friendly in Tehran:

But I must repeat what he said. "The election figures are correct, Robert. Whatever you saw in Tehran, in the cities and in thousands of towns outside, they voted overwhelmingly for Ahmadinejad. Tabriz voted 80 per cent for Ahmadinejad. It was he who opened university courses there for the Azeri people to learn and win degrees in Azeri. In Mashad, the second city of Iran, there was a huge majority for Ahmadinejad after the imam of the great mosque attacked Rafsanjani of the Expediency Council who had started to ally himself with Mousavi. They knew what that meant: they had to vote for Ahmadinejad."

My guest and I drank dookh, the cool Iranian drinking yoghurt so popular here. The streets of Tehran were a thousand miles away. "You know why so many poorer women voted for Ahmadinejad? There are three million of them who make carpets in their homes. They had no insurance. When Ahmadinejad realised this, he immediately brought in a law to give them full insurance. Ahmadinejad's supporters were very shrewd. They got the people out in huge numbers to vote – and then presented this into their vote for Ahmadinejad."

The myth in the "western" media is that Ahmadinejad is a "right-wing hardliner". While he asserts nationalism and sovereignty as any president should do, in interior politics and economics, dominant in elections everywhere, his position is more to the left of the typical "western" right-left scale.

The argument favored by Juan Cole and others that high inflation and high unemployment numbers should have favored Mousavi and the 'reformers' backed by Iran's richest man Rafsanjani. But those numbers, as asserted in the "west", are not what they are said to be.

Unfortunately the myth that is currently created, will likely be used to favor the agenda of the war mongers. We will all be in trouble if their argument wins. This whole issue will do wonders for oil speculators and thereby snuff up any "green shots".

Posted by b on June 14, 2009 at 04:42 AM | Permalink | Comments (116)

Links June 14 09

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Posted by b on June 14, 2009 at 02:18 AM | Permalink | Comments (9)