A friend who analyzes Iran for a living recommends a new Web site called Where is My Vote? as an indispensable source of information coming out of Iran. Everyone involved with it is Iranian. Some of the contributors are inside. According to my source, who knows his chops, it’s accurate and up-to-date.
Posts For: June 16, 2009
I don’t know if overt support for Iran’s dissidents from President Obama, should he change his mind and decide to offer it, would backfire against them or not. President Bush’s vocal backing of the “March 14” revolution in Lebanon in 2005 did no harm whatsoever, despite Hezbollah’s portrayal of its foes as American stooges.
Iran, though, isn’t Lebanon. And I’ve been privately advised by sources I trust very much – and who aren’t generally supportive of Obama’s approach to Iran – that caution from the White House is the right move at this point. I don’t know and won’t pretend that I do.
Either way, the boogeyman of American “intervention” is bound to come up no matter what the president says. Here is Michael Moynihan at Reason:
[Iranian state] media is, as expected, already playing the “outside interference” card. While I understand (though disagree) with those who advocate a restrained verbal response from the administration, the argument that finger-wagging rhetoric will only serve to antagonize the regime misses the point. The “great Satan is fomenting revolt” nonsense is, quite simply, unavoidable (as it is to be expected from Chavistas, who pin inclement weather, food shortages, and poor baseball results on the golpistas up north). To crib from Jerry Rubin, if there isn’t Western involvement, if there isn’t American meddling, they’ll simply invent it.
I still struggle to see the downside in speaking out. If we speak out, what would change tomorrow that doesn’t already exist today? The Iranian government- largely discredited in the eyes of the world- would say “The Americans are behind the opposition” and… well, what? Shoot protesters? Shut down the universities? Stop re-counting their rigged outcomes? Not negotiate with us about nuclear weapons?
And what do we have to gain by staying silent? The opposition loses and we spend another decade tussling over “what ifs” until the opposition rises again (or if they do). The opposition wins and gains power and gives no thanks to us, because we stayed silent.
If it was true that Americans speaking up discredits the people we speak for, the best thing we could do is internationally announce that we recognize the outcome of the Iranian elections and call Ahmadinejad to congratulate him on his solid victory. But no one is seriously calling for that — why? Because if we speak up on behalf of Iran, that provides the legitimacy for the regime to smash the protesters. And if we speak up for the protesters, *that* discredits the protesters and empowers the regime to smash them. Is every outcome for America advocating freedom on behalf of the oppressed truly a setback for freedom globally? The freest nation on earth must be quiet? Even then silence would only become proof of our perfidiousness.
Somehow, it seems the idea that “if America shuts up, the protesters will be empowered” seems more and more like a ruse apologetic originated by backers of the Iranian theocracy that has wheedled its way into the western conscience, than an actual rational strategy. It’s time we realize that the people who want to hate us, will hate us, no matter what we do. We need to give a reason for the right people to admire us, and we do not gain the admiration of the noble by remaining silent like cowards.
The problem with identity politics — or merely one of the problems — is that one is forced to condone and indeed cheer for behavior that would be unacceptable in, say, white males. That’s one of the many lessons we are learning from the Sotomayor nomination.
Many have commented that if the “wise Latina” speech were given by a white male judge as the “wise white male” speech there never would have been a nomination. But now the issue of membership in exclusive clubs has come up. Sotomayor has been questioned about her membership in an exclusive all-women’s business organization. The New York Times reports on a letter Sotomayor sent to the Senate Judiciary Committee along with some additional documents:
“I am a member of the Belizean Grove, a private organization of female professionals from the profit, nonprofit and social sectors,” Judge Sotomayor wrote. “The organization does not invidiously discriminate on the basis of sex. Men are involved in its activities — they participate in trips, host events and speak at functions — but to the best of my knowledge, a man has never asked to be considered for membership.”
She added: “It is also my understanding that all interested individuals are duly considered by the membership committee. For these reasons, I do not believe that my membership in the Belizean Grove violates the Code of Judicial Conduct.”
The code says judges should avoid giving the appearance of “impropriety” by holding “membership in any organization that practices invidious discrimination on the basis of race, sex, religion or national origin.” An organization is said to “discriminate invidiously if it arbitrarily excludes from membership” on the basis of such factors “persons who would otherwise be admitted to membership,” it says.
A few things are noteworthy. First, the condescension toward men — we let the guys come to party — is reminiscent of the “we let women be social members” excuses that exclusive men’s clubs routinely gave for decades – and which were scorned by women’s groups. Second-class citizenship for thee, but not for me. Got it?
Second, the line about “no one ever asking to join” is rich. Certainly if one declares the organization to be “all men” or “all white” or “all anything” those not in the “all” group are going to be dissuaded from seeking membership. Isn’t the mere statement of exclusivity enough to raise concerns?
Finally, by repeating the catch phrase “invidious” she suggests, but does not come right out and say, that even if these gals discriminate it’s not “invidious” because it’s women keeping out men and not the other way around. This is the noxious double standard that many minority clubs and organizations operate under. Here, it falls particularly flat. Certainly many men would love to have the opportunity to network with rich and famous women in positions of power. Their careers undoubtedly would be furthered if they could belong to a club priding itself on its sophisticated membership. The Times explains:
According to the Belizean Grove’s Web site, the group is a “constellation of influential women” who are building “long-term, mutually beneficial relationships.” It was founded as a counterpart to the all-male Bohemian Grove, a legendary club of elite politicians, businessmen and other leaders.
The group’s roughly 115 “grovers,” as members call themselves, include ambassadors and top executives of Goldman Sachs, Victoria’s Secret and Harley-Davidson. They meet each year for an annual retreat in Belize or another Central American destination, as well as occasionally in New York and other cities for outings described as “a balance of fun, substantive programs and bonding.” The group’s Web site does not appear to mention any roles for men.
Let’s put it this way: imagine how Senator Kennedy would react if a male nominee were a member of the Bohemian Grove, explained that the ladies can come to the picnics and that, gosh, no girl ever asked to be let in. Enough said.
The idea expressed in the headline is not at all outlandish. There is a body of conventional opinion that suggests the only real way for the president to make a deal with Iran is if the hardliner remains in charge after the election, because the supposed “reformist” would have to stay away from the United States to prove his hard-line bona fides. This view is most plainly expressed in a piece in the new issue of Newsweek. Written the day before the balloting, the piece by correspondent Babak Dehghanpisheh offers this telling observation:
Any outreach to the United States…counterintuitively, is more likely with Ahmadinejad’s reelection. [The Ayatollah] Khamenei might have had qualms about allowing a more liberal president to initiate talks, but in Ahmadinejad he has a tough negotiator sure to drive a hard bargain on all issues, including the country’;s neuclear program. And it was on Ahmadinejad’s watch, after all, that the U.S. and Irans had their most extensive meetings in 30 years…
The rest of the article is entirely conventional in its make-up, which leads me to believe what Dehghanpisheh has written here reflects a certain kind of conventional wisdom in journalist-policymaker circles. In another example of this sort of thinking, the Leveretts, Mr. Flynt and Mrs. Hillary, have published a second in their evidently-never-ending series of paeans to the political skills of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, in which they praise Obama for apologizing for the 1953 CIA-led coup in Iran against Muhammad Mossadeq and criticize him for even suggesting on the day of the election that it was good there was a debate in Iran (“extremely maladroit…undercut the credibility of Obama’s acknowledgment…”) What the Leverett argument reveals is that there is a substantial body of opinion that believes the United States would do best to have Ahmadinejad as a negotiating partner—and given the conventional nature of this opinion, it might well have been expressed inside Obama’s high councils and thereby explain the president’s continuing refusal to take a moral stand in the midst of this major event.
Methinks that the normally astute Ben Smith of Politico is trying a little too hard to parse supposed disagreement on the right concerning Iran. He writes:
The Iranian election has produced a deep division on the American right, clarifying a rift between those forcefully backing the opposition and those who view the election as a sham and its outcome as an irrelevance in a irremediable conflict between the U.S. and Iran.
The split has elements of the old neoconservative/realist divide, but it doesn’t break down that simply. Congressional Iran hawks like Joe Lieberman, Eric Cantor, John McCain, and Mike Pence are arguing for, if anything, more vocal American support for the Mousavi-led opposition. Pat Buchanan is with Obama. Michael Ledeen is out-and-out hopemongering. Instapundit turned his website green.
The group United Against Nuclear Iran — which also has neocon credentials — by contrast, sees the election as just a symptom of the country’s deeper problems, and is taking the opportunity to make that public point. Max Boot is in that camp. John Bolton dismisses the election, and its “‘moderates,’” as a “sham,” and Dan Pipes was “rooting for Ahmadinejad.”
Rather than a split, this is an example of different analysts offering slightly different shades of analysis. I very much doubt that anyone on this list — other than possibly Pat Buchanan, who isn’t a conservative at all in the American sense (more like a populist reactionary a la William Jennings Bryan or Father Coughlin) — is against “forcefully backing the opposition.” I certainly am not. I think we should do a lot more to help the opposition and that Obama should speak out forcefully on its behalf. But I am against holding up Mousavi as a “reformer” or a “moderate,” because I don’t think he is. (Eric Trager makes the point well.)
Despite my doubts about Mousavi, I very much admire the people of Iran and hope that they will succeed — not in changing the face of the theocratic dictatorship but in overthrowing the dictatorship altogether. Unfortunately I think that’s unlikely, so my second-best choice is that at least they will succeed in undermining and discrediting the system, especially among Western lefties who thought, for reasons escaping me, that Iran was a “democracy.” As I’ve noted before, watching the back-flips among Iran’s apologists, has been grimly satisfying.
Mort Zuckerman pens a stunning piece on Israel, addressing many of the half-truths and distortions in Obama’s Cairo speech. In describing the present situation he reviews the history of Arab wars against Israel and Palestinian rejectionism. And he concludes:
That is why it was disturbing to read of President Obama’s rationale for the formation of Israel as a result of the Holocaust without referring to the 3,000-year-old connection that the Jews have to the Holy Land. It is but a short step from this historically inaccurate perception to conceive of the Jews as the guilty party. It is revealing that when the president speaks about daily humiliation of Palestinian Arabs, he ignores that every Israeli is searched numerous times during the day, even on the way to weddings or bar mitzvahs; that Jewish schoolchildren have to be protected by perimeter fences and armed guards at the schoolhouse gates; that guards are required in shops, cafes, restaurant, movie theatres. Arab villagers, on the other hand, do not need to have guards at their shops, cafes, or restaurants, or for children on the way to school or on hiking and camping trips. Why? Because the Israelis do not target the innocent. The president could have acknowledged the suffering of Israeli victims of Arab terrorism “for more than 60 years” when he talked of the “suffering” and “pain” of Palestinians “for more than 60 years.” Even more disturbing was the juxtaposition of his reference to the Holocaust, the deliberate murder of 6 million Jews for the fact that they were Jewish, and his assertion of Palestinian suffering in pursuit of a homeland.
During the campaign, Obama sympathized as a father with those whose children were facing daily danger from rockets which rained down on them. But as president his empathy for Israel is in short supply. Instead he has bought into the Palestinian canard that this is all about settlements — that would be settlements which were built after the 1967 war necessitated by Arab aggression and the refusal to recognize the Jewish state. (Obama leaves out the last part, of course.) The “suffering” — which he has the audacity to equate with the Holocaust — is a suffering, not of Jewish families fearing for their children, but of those who have to go through checkpoints because their comrades blow up pizza parlors. This is lunacy. But it comes from the lips now, not of the Palestinian propagandists, but of the President of the United States.
It is, as Zuckerman points out, perplexing how Israel is now the intransigent one:
It is extraordinary that a gullible world now regards Israel as rejectionist, yet it is Arab leaders who have rejected everything over the decades—rejected a partition of the land proposed by the Peel Commission in 1936; rejected the United Nations partition plan of 1947; rejected the Israeli offer after the 1967 Six Day War to return all the territories; rejected the major opportunity for peace after the Oslo agreement of 1993; rejected Ehud Barak’s proposal for a Palestinian state and President Clinton’s compromise proposals; rejected Ehud Olmert’s even more generous proposal for a Palestinian state. Sadly, President Obama seems to have drawn a moral equivalent between those who have been prepared to live in peace and those who have chosen war in 1948, 1956, 1973, and 1982, with follow-on campaigns of terrorism after every loss.
Israel has grown accustomed to Arab rejectionism. What is new is an American president going along with the a-factual narrative and suggesting it is Israel that hasn’t lived up to its bargains. That too is a distortion:
To appreciate what is at stake, we have to look at the record. Israel of its own volition withdrew settlers and settlements from Gaza, though this evacuation was not required by the road map. The Bush administration acknowledged in return that settlement construction in the West Bank would be permitted within the existing construction line—not new settlement but building to cope with the growth of families. This understanding was confirmed by senior members of the National Security Council and in letters from the office of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon to Condoleezza Rice, who was then national security adviser. Among other things, the letters said, “In the framework of the agreed principles on settlement activity, we will shortly make an effort to better delineate the settlement construction line in Judea and Samaria.” Former Sharon aide Dov Weisglass wrote recently reaffirming “that the administration recognized Israel’s right under the road map to development from within the existing construction line.”
It is any wonder the Palestinians greeted Netanyahu’s speech with anti-Zionist invectives? They think they are on the “winning” side now. With nary a concession they have convinced the American president to repudiate the U.S.’s understanding on settlements and make that issue the primary focus of American Middle East policy. Why should they do anything more?
President Obama’s unwillingness to offer full-throated support to the people of Iran against their theocratic masters wins kudos from (what must surely be) an unwelcome source: Chas Freeman, whose nomination to head the National Intelligence Council was withdrawn after the unearthing of a whole series of bizarre and offensive comments he had made over the years. The Financial Times quotes him as follows:
“I think they’ve responded in just the right way — neither swallowing the election results nor rejecting them,” says Chas Freeman, a former U.S. ambassador to Saudi Arabia. “The administration will still want to talk to Iran, and it cannot afford to close down that possibility.”
Naturally, Chas Freeman — who applauded the massacre at Tienanmen Square and denounced the supposedly insidious influence of Israel — would think so. But the Obama-ites should stop to ask themselves what they’re doing wrong if they’re winning Chas Freeman’s approbation.
Kevin Sullivan at RealClearPolitics thinks some of us are throwing around the word “revolution” a little too carelessly. He may be right. It’s hard to say in real time from thousands of miles away, and it probably isn’t much easier to say from inside Iran.
Some of the demonstrators are in a revolutionary mood. Others just want their votes counted, and the man they’re rallying behind is himself part of the regime establishment. A dizzying array of possibilities exist at this point, and none of us have a clue what the country will look like when it settles down.
From the president’s press conference with the president of South Korea today:
“It’s not productive, given the history of U.S.-Iranian relations, to be seen as meddling … in Iranian elections,” Obama said. “What I will repeat, and what I said yesterday, is when I see violence directed at peaceful protesters, when I see peaceful dissent being suppressed … it is of concern to me and it is of concern to the American people. That is not how governments should interact with their people, and it is my hope the Iranian people will make the right steps in order for them to be able to express their voices.”
President Nicolas Sarkozy sees things differently:
But while some governments tried to avoid taking sides, Sarkozy said the unrest was a direct result of Ahmadinejad’s failings in his first term.
“The extent of the fraud is proportional to the violent reaction,” said the French leader.
“It is a tragedy, but it is not negative to have a real opinion movement that tries to break its chains,” Sarkozy said.
“If Ahmadinejad has really made progress since the last election and if he really represents two thirds of the electorate… why has this violence erupted?”
The French president sees no problem with aligning himself clearly with the protesters and calling the mullahs out for their fraud and thuggery. Yet the U.S. President is tongue-tied.
It seems odd that the man who talks to the “Muslim World” and is convinced that he, by the very force of his personality, can engage not just countries but entire religions feels so constrained. Has he bought into the Left’s self-hating propaganda that America is so loathed it can only delegitimize the protesters by association? That doesn’t seem to mesh with last week’s propaganda — that the election in Lebanon was attributable to the Obama Effect. So which is it – is he powerless over events or is he all-powerful?
To say this is incoherent would be an understatement. The president once again seems to be tying himself in rhetorical knots to avoid offending the mullahs, whom he suspects may hold the cards when the dust settles. It seems a peculiar strategy for a man who devotes himself to soft-power. One would think that if he is going to take off the table a military option for Iran, he would employ other strategies calculated to protect Americans and our allies. Missile defense to deter a nuclear program? Nope. Regime change to disrupt the dangerous theocracy through measures short of war? Nope.
So what is the game plan for Iran? Ah — he’s going to rely on words of engagement. But those words are reserved for the mullahs — not the people of Iran, it seems.
President Obama, in explaining his approach to what is happening in Iran, does what comes most naturally to him: taking a (subtle) swipe at past American actions to justify his stand today.
According to Obama, given our history in Iran — he has in mind the CIA-assisted overthrow of Prime Minister Mohammed Mossadeq that occurred more than a half-century ago — we should not be seen as “meddling” in Iranian affairs.
I understand President Obama is making a judgment, in the midst of rapidly unfolding events, on what posture the U.S. ought to take vis-à-vis the Iranian elections. He thinks downplaying the rhetoric will be more effective than speaking in clear moral terms, as Reagan and others have done. That’s an understandable approach to take, though I differ with it. But in explaining his approach, we are once again seeing an Obama tropism: the tendency to highlight American failures in the past in order to (he thinks) advance American interests, or at least Obama’s interests, today.
But by Obama’s logic the United States, a slave-holding nation in the 19th century, cannot criticize other nations for human rights violations — after all, that would be “meddlesome.” To be consistent in his line of argument, we should probably remain silent on genocide in Sudan, or anywhere else for that matter. The United States was founded more than two centuries ago; there are plenty of mistakes we have made along the way that Obama can zero in on. Do they disqualify us from taking a stand, and taking sides, in the here and now? And certainly Obama should refrain from dictating to Israel what it must do with the settlements. How is that not “meddling” — and meddling with the policies of a nation that is light years more responsible and moral than the Iranian regime? Yet Obama is curiously eager to instruct Israel even as he is reticent to do so with Iran.
I would add one other thing: “meddling’ is an interesting way to describe what we’re talking about. What is at issue is not setting up voting booths or counting hanging chads in Tehran. What is being debated is whether the president of the United States should provide moral support for the forces of liberation in Iran when they are threatening to be crushed; and whether he should speak out against an election that appears to have been rigged and illegitimate. In his Wall Street Journal column today, Bret Stephens writes this:
Here’s a recent comment from one Iranian demonstrator posted on the Web site of the National Iranian American Council. “WE NEED HELP, WE NEED SUPPORT,” this demonstrator wrote. “Time is not on our side. . . . The most essential need of young Iranians is to be recognized by US government. They need them not to accept the results and do not talk to government as an official, approved one.”
Reasonable people can differ on what approach to take. Perhaps the Iranian regime will be so appreciative to Obama for his restraint that they will make concessions to him when it comes to their pursuit of nuclear weapons. We shall see. But the president should be careful to justify his position by making arguments that fall apart under scrutiny. And during his next press availability, perhaps Obama can explain to us when speaking out against the human rights abuse of a government against its own people is not “meddling.”
But I’m sure Khamenei and the “re-elected” president appreciate the tact and humility being shown by the world’s longest running democracy.
What are we to make of the new poll that supposedly shows a decline in American support for Israel? According to the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, the survey was conducted by the Israel Project and the results were leaked by someone who obtained the data immediately after polling last week.
Reportedly, the poll shows a precipitous drop in the number of those who call themselves supporters of Israel, with 44 percent believing the United States should support Israel as opposed to 69 percent last year.
However, not all the results in this poll are bad for Israel. Despite the decline in Israel backers, the Palestinians are still favored by only five percent of Americans with 32 percent saying they are undecided.
As for the question of the ultimate disposition of the lands disputed by Israelis and Arabs, 57 percent of Americans say that some of the West Bank should be retained by Israel for security – a position that dovetails nicely with the stand of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and seems to contradict the position of President Obama, who has called for a complete freeze in Jewish life everywhere inside the territories. Even more telling is that 66 percent of those polled do not believe that the creation of a Palestinian state or the freeze of Jewish settlement activity will lead to peace. And 85 percent believe that Iran is a serious threat to Israel.
So even if we accept the idea that support for Israel has declined, the poll still reveals that Americans are by no means sanguine about the Obama administration’s decision to feud with Israel’s government while seeking to appease Arab and Muslim opinion.
However, it would be foolish to dismiss the results showing lower figures of support for Israel and not to ponder what is responsible for such results. Two obvious answers present themselves to this question.
The first is the enormous damage done to Israel’s reputation by the media’s coverage of the fighting in Gaza in December and January. The failure of the media to adequately report the attacks on Israelis and their acceptance of misleading Palestinian propaganda about casualties was a blow to Israel. The willingness of many Americans to accept the lie that Israel’s counter-attack against a campaign of Palestinian terrorist rocket fire was disproportionate or unjustified has probably cost the Jewish state some support.
Second is the decision of President Obama to devote so much of his early presidency to fueling a dispute with Israel over settlements and a dead-in-the-water peace process while giving the Palestinians a pass over their complete lack of interest in peace. Obama’s personal popularity is a major factor when probing American opinion on any issue on which he has expressed an opinion. The administration’s clear decision to downgrade the alliance with Israel at the expense of ties with an undemocratic and largely unfriendly Muslim world has to have had some impact on American support for Israel. But given that the same poll figures still show majority support for Israel and against the Palestinians, should Obama continue to pursue these policies, there may eventually be a price to pay.
That said, the poll ought to be a wake up call to Americans who care about Israel, including the majority of American Jews who voted for Obama. Sooner or later, they are going to have to stand up and start holding Obama accountable on both Israel and Iran.
Photos and videos from Iran show its cities on fire, its skies smudged with smoke. Surely not every street is aflame. Blogging and other forms of “citizen journalism” are prone to sensationalism just as much as mainstream media reporting. I plead guilty myself.
An anonymous Iranian with the handle “Censored Name” posted something a little bit different on his Facebook page.
What I saw today was the most elegant scene I had ever witnessed in my life. The huge number of people were marching hand in hand in full peace. Silence. Silence was everywhere. There was no slogan. No violence. Hands were up in victory sign with green ribbons. People carried placards which read: Silence. Old and young, man and woman of all social groups were marching cheerfully. This was a magnificent show of solidarity. Enghelab Street which is the widest avenue in Tehran was full of people. I was told that the march has begun in Ferdowsi Sq. and the end of the march was now in Imam Hossein Sq. to the further east of Tehran while on the other end people had already gathered in Azadi Sq. The length of this street is about 6 kilometers. The estimate is about 2 million people. On the way, we passed a police department and a militia (Baseej) base. In both places, the doors were closed and we could see fully-armed riot police and militia watching the people from behind the fences. Near Sharif University of Technology where the students had chased away Ahmadinejad a few days ago, Mirhossein Mousavi (the reformist elect president) and Karrubi (the other reformist candidate spoke to people for a few minutes which was received by cries of praise and applause. I felt proud to find myself among such a huge number of passionate people who were showing the most reasonable act of protest. Frankly, I didn’t expect such a political maturity from emotional Iranians who easily get excited. My family and I had put stickers on our mouths to represent the suppression.
Nico Pitney is doing an outstanding job covering developments in Iran at the Huffington Post. Below is an email he received from a reader named Anif with family members in Iran. Information like this is critical now that the regime is imposing harsher restrictions on journalists.
Phones are horrible; it took me over 10 tries to get it ringing. He’s attended a lot of the protests, including the big one for Mousavi earlier this afternoon. Above all, he kept repeating how shocked he was at the peaceful and civilized nature of the protests. For the majority of the 3 hour march earlier today, he said everyone was completely silent and simply holding up the “V” while they marched. The Basij, which are comprised of hard-line Iranian civilians and Hezbollah-affiliated arabs, are causing the majority of the violence. Most of the police empathize with their own; the government knows this, and thus they’ve brought in foreigners (as they have for past protests) to take care of the dirty work. The shooting earlier today was an example of this.
I asked him how social life in Iran is right now, ie if people are going to work, etc. He said that probably half the stores are closed, but that unemployment is 40% anyway, so its not like protestors have anything better to do. These people are mostly young, unemployed, have poor access to higher education, and no foreseeable future prospects. All they had was their perceived voice in government, and since that has been so blatantly taken away, the situation is ready to explode. He’s also heard that in smaller cities around the country, the protests have become much more violent with a lot of skirmishes between the Basij and protestors. [...]
The focus right now seems to be in trying to channel all this frustration and anger into something positive and constructive. Iranians have experience letting these kinds of movements get out of control (the 1979 Revolution), so I think people in general are being cautious. No one, aside from the Basij, really wants any kind of violence. All the protestors want is democratic reform and to at least have their votes counted in an honest manner. In my cousin’s own words: “We must think of constructive and positive outlets for the pressure and momentum the people of Iran have found. We must put Iran on a path towards a first-world nation with national cohesion among minorities and equal rights for all.” The facts on the ground, though, indicate that the government may not give the people constructive and positive outlets, and we might descend into violence.
If you parse Barack Obama’s statements, and the talking points spouted in recent days by his surrogates all over Medialand, Blogostan, and Universitopia, you could be excused for thinking that health insurance companies are evil incarnate. Obama and his acolytes are saying that private health insurers need a massive government-funded competitor, in order to force them to reduce waste, embrace more risk, and be less profitable.
In recent days, I’ve been paying attention to the four largest publicly-owned health insurers: UnitedHealth Group, WellPoint, Cigna International, and Aetna. I’m curious for one thing to know just how much money Obama can save by forcing these companies to operate without making a profit. Answer: well below $10 billion a year. Considering that Obama’s own lowball bid for national health insurance is $1 trillion in new spending over the next ten years, he’s going to get less than 10% of what he needs by wiping out the common shareholders of these four companies.
So you’d guess they’re in big trouble, right? Think again. As I write around 1pm EDT on Tuesday the 16th, all four of those stocks are up sharply, anywhere from 3 to almost 7 percent. The other dominant companies in health insurance are the “Blues,” Blue Cross and Blue Shield. It’s harder to get financial information on them.
Something is going on here. I’ll let you know as soon as I figure it out.
The terrific folks at NOW Lebanon weigh in on the upheaval in Iran and what it means for their country:
Wouldn’t it be fitting if the inspiration for the protests came from events on the streets of Beirut over four years ago, when an unstoppable wave of people power succeeded in ejecting authoritarianism? There was strong evidence at the time to suggest that the Lebanese army was put under pressure by its Syrian overlords to brook no dissent from those who bravely demonstrated against the assassination of Rafik Hariri and the prolonged influence of Damascus in the country. Those whose decision it would have been to make that call knew that to order the soldiers to fire into the crowd would be cataclysmic. The rest, as they say, is history. In an extraordinary wave of public sentiment that became known as the Cedar Revolution, a new day broke over Lebanon.
The Iranian authorities appear to have more of an appetite for a scrap, and as blood runs in the streets of Tehran – and apparently in Shiraz too – it is worth remembering that such draconian measures issue from the leaders of a country that would have exerted not insignificant influence over Lebanon had the March 8 bloc prevailed at the June 7 polls. Events in Iran are a timely reminder of how the Iranian authorities, not unlike those in Damascus, do not tolerate dissent. If Lebanon needs to go shopping for a foreign patron, Tehran is not the place.
Those who insist the Iranian uprising in is only taking place in the liberal middle class enclave of North Tehran may want to watch this video from Shiraz.
The distinction of a powerful government – Islamic or non-Islamic – is its ability to heed both similar and opposing views and, with religious compassion, which is a prerequisite of government, allow all the strata of society, whatever their political beliefs, to participate in the running of the country, instead of totally alienating them and constantly increasing their [the dissidents] number. Since this government is known as a religious government, I fear that the conduct and actions of the officials may ultimately harm the religion and undermine the people’s beliefs.
It may be too late for that. Years ago, long before the uprising began, the Iranian writer Reza Zarabi said the regime had already all but destroyed religion itself.
The name Iran, which used to be equated with such things as luxury, fine wine, and the arts, has become synonymous with terrorism. When the Islamic Republic government of Iran finally meets its demise, they will have many symbols and slogans as testaments of their rule, yet the most profound will be their genocide of Islam, the black stain that they have put on this faith for many generations to come.
Alexander Pope decried the American Indian’s “untutor’d mind” that “Sees God in clouds, or hears him in the wind.” But Pope never encountered the Indian Health Service, which delivers what it is pleased to call health care to two million American Indians living on reservations in thirty-five states. “Don’t get sick after June” is the standard advice, for by then the money allocated by Congress has mostly run out.
Indians on reservations are usually poor and often suffer from very high rates of alcoholism, obesity, and the problems that come with those conditions, such as high blood pressure and diabetes. But as the Associated Press reports, “Indian health clinics often are ill-equipped to deal with such high rates of disease, and poor clinics do not have enough money to focus on preventive care. The main problem is a lack of federal money. American Indian programs are not a priority for Congress, which provided the health service with $3.6 billion this budget year.” That’s an annual budget of a measly $1,800 per Indian. No wonder the health statistics of a people that have been guaranteed free health care by the federal government since 1787 are so terrible.
An even larger federal health care system, for veterans, is hardly better. When it was found that thousands of veterans were put at risk for HIV, hepatitis, and other infectious diseases by improperly sterilized equipment used in colonoscopies last February, an investigation was ordered. Three months later, it seems that not much has been done about the problem.
I have an idea. Why not have the federal government demonstrate that it can provide adequate health care to American Indians, a promise it hasn’t kept for 222 years? Then demonstrate it can provide adequate health care to veterans, a promise it hasn’t kept for 79 years. Then demonstrate that it can reform and efficiently run the health insurance system called Medicare, which it has been been making a dog’s breakfast of for the last 44 years. And then, and only then, take over all of American health care.
Or even better, why not have the mainstream media do its job for once and vigorously investigate the federal government’s actual track record in regard to health care? It’s not an impressive résumé for someone applying to run the whole show. Indeed, it’s a more-than-two-hundred-year record of failure, inadequate funding, bureaucratic indifference, and broken promises.
Unfortunately, much of the mainstream media thinks, like Newsweek’s Evan Thomas, that President Obama is “sort of God.” So can you guess what they’ll be hearing in the wind as the nation debates the future of health care?