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Monthly Archives: August 2007

Well Here I Am in Spain

August 28th, 2007 - 11:12 am

On the Costa del Sol, where I haven’t been for a very long time. I think the last occasion was in the winter of 1965-66, when I went to Marbella for a bridge tournament at what was then the first big resort hotel in the area. The airport in Malaga had a dirt runway, and it took hours and hours on a winding road through the mountains to reach Marbella. Now I’m told it’s half an hour, and the Malaga airport is super modern, like so much in Spain these days. So hooray for Spain, they’ve done a hell of a job, and Aznar actually brought Spain out of global isolation to rejoin the international community bigtime. Pity the current jefe is so stupid, but voters do make mistakes, as well know.

That first trip took place during Franco’s tyranny, and my memories of Spanish women are all about black, grey and white. No colors. When Franco died, suddenly Spanish women appeared in red, orange, yellow, you name it, and happily they still do. And that got me to thinking about how tyrants have to repress open sexuality, since sexual freedom is closely tied to political freedoml (read your Erich Fromm, please), which the tyrants don’t want any of.

This is actually one of the minor themes of my forthcoming “Iran Time Bomb,” since nowhere on earth has sexual repression been taken so such ludicrous extremes as Iran. That whole business about covering every centimeter of every strand of female hair–to protect the otherwise innocent males from the enormous sexual power emanating from the hair follicles–is totally nuts. And it’s obvious that there is a fundamental connection between terrorists and sexuality. They are mostly raised in an all-male society, which creates impulses among adolescent boys that they are told are unclean…you don’t have to be a Freud follower (although I am, mostly) to see how the repression involved in that sort of environment translates into enormous explosive violence.

Spain is a great country, and Juan Carlos, the king, is a great man who, contrary to all the conventional wisdom of the time, managed a graceful and peaceful transition from dictatorship to democracy, something most experts thought impossible. That became the template for a generation, culminating in the peaceful fall of the Soviet Empire. Now people get annoyed when force is necessary…as it sometimes is. Ask the Marines, bless them.

Another Dying Dictator

August 25th, 2007 - 11:46 am

So maybe Castro is dying, and then again maybe he’s not. Maybe the stories about his fading health are true, but then again perhaps they are “bait” being cast into the population to see who bites, and starts celebrating…or acting to support freedom.

The same could be said about similar stories in similar tyrannies, from Syria and Iran to North Korea. That is because the tyrants’ victims believe there is no hope today, but there might be tomorrow, if only the bastard were dead.

I understand this illogic, but it is misguided nonetheless. Unlike some of the despots of antiquity, modern tyrants no longer base their rule exclusively on their own personal charisma; they create a tyrannical system, which is designed to survive them. This is particularly true of the heads of highly ideological regimes, whether they are Islamists or Communists or Nazis.

Thus I would be surprised to see the collapse of the regime in Cuba after Castro’s death, just as I do not think that the death of Khamenei would precipitate the end of the Islamic Republic in Iran. Hafez al Assad died and his son smoothly took over; Kim il Sung died and was succeeded by Kim Jong Il. Stalin died…you get the idea.

Those regimes were created over time, with a lot of work. The goddess of history isn’t going to wave her magic wand and make them go away; we will have to work to bring them down.

I’m Traveling

August 22nd, 2007 - 2:12 pm

Leaving for the airport shortly, won’t be back online until Sunday…meanwhile you can ask your local bookstore whether they have received “The Iranian Time Bomb,” which the logistics officers at St Martin’s Press swear has been delivered…

Life Among the Mullahcrats

August 19th, 2007 - 3:26 pm

There is no denying the antic chaos that reigns in Tehran. If any Western government had a sense of humor, and a desire to challenge the legitimacy of Khamenei, Ahmadi-Nezhad and rest of them, we could have a daily Iran Comedy Hour, consisting of reprints from the Iranian press and its attentive bloggers.

This this, for example, from the failed reformists at Rooz:

A day after an advisor to President Ahmadinejad and the director of Iran’s Department of Environment denied reports of the dissolution of the High Council for the Environment, the department’s vice president resigned from his post in protest, and announced , “I am no longer willing to work with the Department of Environment under any circumstances.” Meanwhile, a spokesperson for the judiciary confirmed the reports that the husband of Ahmadinejad’s advisor was arrested for engaging in illegal financial activities.

Earlier this week, news broke out that the government intends to dissolve the High Council for the Environment along with 28 other government organizations. Nevertheless, an hour before the administration’s spokesperson Elham, confirmed the report, the organization’s director and Ahmadinejad’s advisor, Fatemeh Vaez-Javadi, claimed that the report was cooked up by “unemployed journalists.” Few minutes later, the administration’s spokesperson confirmed the news.

Maybe this all comes from the mullahs’ close working relations with the Chinese, who after all gave us the Marx Brothers’ routine known as the Chinese Fire Drill. But it’s also deep in Persian DNA. Have a look some day at the wonderful book, “”The Adventures of Haji Baba of Ispahan,” arguably the best treatment of Persian culture.

Hezbollah Confesses

August 18th, 2007 - 3:21 pm

Its supreme leader, Hassan Nasrallah, laid it all out in an interview with Iranian TV...which promptly censored it. Apparently it was just too candid for the mullahs.

The dangerous words are these:

“We are ready to be torn apart, spliced into tiny pieces, so that Iran will remain exalted. For if Iran remains exalted, we too shall be exalted. I am a lowly soldier of the Imam Khamenei. Hizbullah youths acted on behalf of the Imam Khomeini, with the aid of Imam Hussein, and sent their blessings to the Iranian people,” said Nasrallah in an interview with reporter Bijan Nobaveh on the day marking the start of the Second Lebanon War according to the Persian calendar.

Nasrallah also thanked Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and all the “brothers and sisters” in Iran.

Now you will say–and of course you’re entirely correct–that there is really nothing here that we did not know. But Iran’s behavior suggests that the mullahs think otherwise. They obviously feared that the publication of Nasrallah’s declaration of fealty to Supreme Leader Khamenei would redound to their disadvantage. If they had not been concerned, they wouldn’t have cut out the worrisome passages, would they?

Anyway, let’s hope that this remarkably clear statement of the truth will lead the MSM to constantly remind their readers that Hezbollah is not an independent actor, but does whatever it does “on behalf of the Imam Khomeini, with the aid of Imam Hussein…”

Journalism and the Academy

August 10th, 2007 - 9:30 am

If you don’t read PowerLine every day, you’re slighting your education. Take today, for example, and the wonderful piece by Scott Johnson, containing a longish letter from the wonderful William Katz, who among many other careers was an editor at the New York Times Magazine for a while. Katz bemoans the transformation of journalism into an instrument of indoctrination, rather than reportage and even helping good government. The new breed bring with them “the culture, attitudes, and arrogance of the academic world,” especially the elite journalism schools of the two coasts.

That leads Katz to remark

Just as Hollywood, in its hiring practices, has replaced talent with education, journalism is in danger of replacing experience with report cards. Journalism is not a profession. There is no specific body of knowledge required, and there is no licensing. What is needed is a sharp set of skills, high powers of observation, and a humility about how much we can understand quickly, and these come only from experience. But when you’ve gone through Yale or Stanford, when you’ve been told how smart you are, when you got 700s on your SATs, you start to believe what mom has whispered in your ear. You start to think that you “know.” It’s a kind of self-inflicted grade inflation. I’m bright, therefore I’m right.

The impact of this attitude has been profound. As reader Sparks said, there has been a separation between journalism and its audience, and I believe it derives directly from the separation between our universities and the nation. College graduates, especially from supposedly elite schools, see themselves as a class apart.

It’s worthwhile to remind ourselves that the “big idea” panaceas, when divorced from the rest of human activity, invariably lead us into a blind alley. “Education” was supposed to produce a more enlightened society, with more knowledgeable citizens, and thus better representatives, and thus better government. But, as it became increasingly separate from real life, as the ivory towers got higher and thicker, “education” produced citizens whose heads contained more theory than actual experience. Report cards-complete with grade inflation driven by the need for ‘self-esteem’ (code for narcissism)–became journalism’s SATs.

Removed from real competition, journalism has increasingly become politics, with the moral corruption that always flourishes among political classes. It can’t be an accident that phony journalism of the sort to which my old mag, The New Republic, has sadly fallen prey, seems to be increasing, in tandem with the new class of academics masquerading as reporters.

Read the whole thing. Please.

Michael Yon

August 8th, 2007 - 9:10 pm

For those of you who have not yet had the pleasure of reading and watching and listening to Michael Yon, he has just completed a little masterpiece of war reporting from Baqubah in Iraq. Michael is arguably our finest embedded journalist. A former special forces guy, he is respected by the troops and has managed to earn their trust, which he fully deserves. He’s quite willing to criticize Americans, and has proved it. But nobody sticks with a story so long, so tenaciously, and reports it so thoroughly as Michael.

His latest is worth your full attention. In it, you will learn the extent to which the Iraqi bureaucracy is one of the basic causes of trouble. This story has a happy ending, in which American military leaders found a way to thwart the efforts of cowardly, corrupt or just plain bad Iraqi politicos. It will do wonders to explain to you how this thing is working. And not.

The Sources of Freedom

August 8th, 2007 - 12:02 am

This from a letter I got today. The writer is of course from Hungary, a fine man who tries to educate me from time to time. Thought you’d enjoy reading a few of his lines:

There is a part of history the world quite literally little-noted nor long-remembered. After the Reformation, Hungary was Protestant. The Habsburg-led counter-Reformation gave people a simple, easily-understood choice: would you rather be Roman Catholic or dead. In parts of North Africa, you can still find descendants of those sold as galley slaves, fairer-skinned, and still retaining bits of Hungarian.

Stephen Bocskai led the uprising against Habsburg rule and is immortalized as one of the heroes of the Reformation in Geneva, alongside, Calvin and the rest.

Bocskai made possible two firsts, in the (related) secular and sacred realms. In 1568, Transylvania had the world’s first legally-guarantee of universal freedom (“faith is a God-given gift and thus an unalienable right” and ” everyone may follow the religion of his choice, and no one may interfere with persons professing any other faith”) and habeas corpus in 1606. (England introduced something similar in increments, beginning with the Act of 1641.)

I do wonder sometimes about the theories according to which the “anglosphere” or some such was the driving force of modern political systems. I was taught that the first truly tolerant European philosopher was Pierre Bayle, whose wonderful “Dictionary” has a place of honor on my bookshelf. But Bayle came nearly a century after the Transylvanians my friend writes about here. If only the language were more readily accessible, I guess…But then, hardly anyone looks hard at the glories of Rome anymore, except in the movies.

How Bureaucrats Help the Mullahs

August 4th, 2007 - 3:57 pm

My friend potkin azarmehr, whose blog is one of the very best, calls our attention to American complicity in the death of an Iranian dissident.

Majid Kavousifar, seen in these pictures before being hanged, left Iran for Abu Dhabi two days after the assassination of one of the corruptest and most repressive judges in the Islamic Republic. Judge Moghaddas who was assassinated by Kavousifar and his nephew, was responsible for handing out long sentences to many political activists. Moghaddas sometimes even boasted that he sentenced the accused without even reading their files!

Kavoussifar had introduced himself as the killer of Moghaddas to the American Embassy in Abu Dhabi, where he had applied for asylum. The embassy guards handed him over to the Interpol, which informed Islamic Republic’s authorities of the incident.
I thought it was just the Homeland Security at the US airports who were the thickest officials in the world!

Here, Majid Kavousifar is seen smiling and saying his last goodbye. Why are so many victims smiling in these latest round of public executions? Perhaps if there is any after life, it will be better than living under the mullahs.

We all know what the government lawyers will say: he was a known killer, his name was on the Interpol list, we really can’t give asylum to someone who has murdered a judge. All true. And yet he killed a killer and torturer, an instrument of mass repression. When is homicide justifiable?

I’m not sure I know the answer to that one, but I do think we should have taken him in, and if we felt obliged to have him tried, we could have tried him in America, where a jury could have heard the whole story. By turning him over to the mullahs, we validated their death warrant on the poor man.

But bureaucracies are famously uninterested in saving lives. I could write a sizeable pamphlet about the incredible reluctance of State Dept and White House officials to simply call our professionals in the field, and get them to issue a visa or two to people whose bravery and whose commitment to liberty are indubitable.