What's Up In Your Culture?


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Posted by Amar C. Bakshi on November 20, 2006 1:00 AM

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Tom Wonacott, Boise, Idaho :

Shiloh

From the New York Times this morning (front page):

"...American officials say the Iranians have also provided direct support to Shiite militias in Iraq, including explosives and trigger devices for roadside bombs, and training for several thousand fighters, mostly in Iran. The training is carried out by the Iranian Revolutionary Guards and the Ministry of Intelligence and Security, they say..."

If we want to look in hindsight at mistakes by the US, then the primary one was not crushing the Iranian-backed Sadr at the beginning of the war. Sadr's army is being groomed by Iran to become the new "Hezbollah" of Iraq.

Atheist, Boston, USA :

This blog is among the worst run blogs among major newspapers. The questions in this international forum tend to focus on American politics or American culture. Yet, this forum is supposed to deal with international issues.

The reason for this state of affairs is that the Indian-Americans who run this site reject assimilation. To them, American society is a foreign society, and what happens in the USA is an international issue. To these same Indian-Americans, what happens in Indian is not considered an international issue since India is home.

Right now, the biggest international issue is the death of Alexander Litvinenko, who was probably murdered by Russian agents London. Yet, PostGlobal maintains a topic that is unrelated to this international event.

The people who run PostGlobal should be fired and replaced with people who actually care about important international issues.

Tom Wonacott, Boise, Idaho :

Shiloh

The previous Sunni government was responsible for death squads, torture, mass killings and graves, the quelling of insurrections by the Kurds and Shiites, and probably many more atrocities. You could not keep the Sunni security force in power and build a democracy. Yes, you could probably have built a new dictatorship, but the Shiites and Kurds never would have settled for the same situation. Why would they? After all, the current situation didn't result from all the good treatment afforded the Shiites and Kurds by the previous Sunni-led government. Anyway, it is hindsight.

"...I think sectarian civil war is unavoidable as long as the US maintains a major presence in Iraq. Even withdrawing to north of the 35th parallel to Kurdish Iraq will not be welcome, especially by Turkey and Iran. Redeploying US troops to Jordan and Kuwait and allowing Arab League member states to broker a resolution to the Iraq crisis with Iran, Syria and Turkey is preferable to a continued US presence in Iraq..."

This is where our opinions really diverge.

Iran and Syria are terror sponsoring states. These are the same countries reponsible for arming Hezbollah, which led to the recent war in Lebanon. The Syrian government is the chief suspect in assassinations in a flegling democracy in Lebanon. Syrian and Iran are responsible, in part, for undermining the democracy in Iraq. Involving them in the negotiations with the US is a waste of time, but allowing them to take the lead along with Turkey while the US waltzes off is absurd.

Why would you trust a country that sits on the third most oil reserves in the world that says it wants to build nuclear power for peaceful purposes? Niether country recognizes Israel's right to exist. Iran denies the holocaust happened and has threatened Israel's anhilation. Rights are non existent in either country. Dissent is squashed in both. Both countries are two bit dictatorships (essentially). What would the motives be for Iran and Iraq especially since their troops would have to be present to stop the violence?

I support bringing some Middle Eastern countries/troops to Iraq to help with the negotiations and peacekeeping, but not to take the lead. I would never bring Iranian or Syrian troops to Iraq (nor would they offer them while the US is there). Turkey could play a key role if it chose.

Anonymous :

Unity through autonomy in Iraq

A decade ago, Bosnia was torn apart by ethnic cleansing and facing its demise as a single country. After much hesitation, the United States stepped in decisively with the Dayton Accords, which kept the country whole by, paradoxically, dividing it into ethnic federations, even allowing Muslims, Croats and Serbs to retain separate armies. With the help of American and other forces, Bosnians have lived a decade in relative peace and are now slowly strengthening their common central government, including disbanding those separate armies last year.

Now the Bush administration, despite its profound strategic misjudgments in Iraq, has a similar opportunity. To seize it, however, America must get beyond the present false choice between "staying the course" and "bringing the troops home now" and choose a third way that would wind down our military presence responsibly while preventing chaos and preserving our key security goals.

The idea, as in Bosnia, is to maintain a united Iraq by decentralizing it, giving each ethno-religious group ó Kurd, Sunni Arab and Shiite Arab ó room to run its own affairs, while leaving the central government in charge of common interests. We could drive this in place with irresistible sweeteners for the Sunnis to join in, a plan designed by the military for withdrawing and redeploying American forces, and a regional nonaggression pact.

It is increasingly clear that President Bush does not have a strategy for victory in Iraq. Rather, he hopes to prevent defeat and pass the problem along to his successor. Meanwhile, the frustration of Americans is mounting so fast that Congress might end up mandating a rapid pullout, even at the risk of precipitating chaos and a civil war that becomes a regional war.

As long as American troops are in Iraq in significant numbers, the insurgents can't win and we can't lose. But intercommunal violence has surpassed the insurgency as the main security threat. Militias rule swathes of Iraq and death squads kill dozens daily. Sectarian cleansing has recently forced tens of thousands from their homes. On top of this, President Bush did not request additional reconstruction assistance and is slashing funds for groups promoting democracy.

Iraq's new government of national unity will not stop the deterioration. Iraqis have had three such governments in the last three years, each with Sunnis in key posts, without noticeable effect. The alternative path out of this terrible trap has five elements.

The first is to establish three largely autonomous regions with a viable central government in Baghdad. The Kurdish, Sunni and Shiite regions would each be responsible for their own domestic laws, administration and internal security. The central government would control border defense, foreign affairs and oil revenues. Baghdad would become a federal zone, while densely populated areas of mixed populations would receive both multisectarian and international police protection.

Decentralization is hardly as radical as it may seem: the Iraqi Constitution, in fact, already provides for a federal structure and a procedure for provinces to combine into regional governments.

Besides, things are already heading toward partition: increasingly, each community supports federalism, if only as a last resort. The Sunnis, who until recently believed they would retake power in Iraq, are beginning to recognize that they won't and don't want to live in a Shiite-controlled, highly centralized state with laws enforced by sectarian militias. The Shiites know they can dominate the government, but they can't defeat a Sunni insurrection. The Kurds will not give up their 15-year-old autonomy.

Some will say moving toward strong regionalism would ignite sectarian cleansing. But that's exactly what is going on already, in ever-bigger waves. Others will argue that it would lead to partition. But a breakup is already under way. As it was in Bosnia, a strong federal system is a viable means to prevent both perils in Iraq.

The second element would be to entice the Sunnis into joining the federal system with an offer they couldn't refuse. To begin with, running their own region should be far preferable to the alternatives: being dominated by Kurds and Shiites in a central government or being the main victims of a civil war. But they also have to be given money to make their oil-poor region viable. The Constitution must be amended to guarantee Sunni areas 20 percent (approximately their proportion of the population) of all revenues.

The third component would be to ensure the protection of the rights of women and ethno-religious minorities by increasing American aid to Iraq but tying it to respect for those rights. Such protections will be difficult, especially in the Shiite-controlled south, but Washington has to be clear that widespread violations will stop the cash flow.

Fourth, the president must direct the military to design a plan for withdrawing and redeploying our troops from Iraq by 2008 (while providing for a small but effective residual force to combat terrorists and keep the neighbors honest). We must avoid a precipitous withdrawal that would lead to a national meltdown, but we also can't have a substantial long-term American military presence. That would do terrible damage to our armed forces, break American and Iraqi public support for the mission and leave Iraqis without any incentive to shape up.

Fifth, under an international or United Nations umbrella, we should convene a regional conference to pledge respect for Iraq's borders and its federal system. For all that Iraq's neighbors might gain by picking at its pieces, each faces the greater danger of a regional war. A "contact group" of major powers would be set up to lean on neighbors to comply with the deal.

Mr. Bush has spent three years in a futile effort to establish a strong central government in Baghdad, leaving us without a real political settlement, with a deteriorating security situation ó and with nothing but the most difficult policy choices. The five-point alternative plan offers a plausible path to that core political settlement among Iraqis, along with the economic, military and diplomatic levers to make the political solution work. It is also a plausible way for Democrats and Republicans alike to protect our basic security interests and honor our country's sacrifices.

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Mary Cunningham, London, UK :

Right now in the UK ,especially in London, America is just not followed as much as it once was. What is happening here seems more relevant, not just to the UK, but to the world.

Consider: UK citizens have been the target of Islamists bombs, the UK is painfully restructuring its (formerly) multicultural society, Al Qaeda sympathizers and members,the real ones,are here amongst us—right here!—second generation descendants of Pakistani migrants from the north of Pakistan, the current heartland of Al Qaeda.

Debates have raged about Islamic and Christian symbolsin womens dress of all things, about the protection a secular police force affords to its Christian religious—whilst the rightist BNP is kept far away from mosques, Catholics emerging from Mass at Westminster Cathedral one Sunday in November were confronted close up by shouting, masked Islamists, some carrying placards calling for the beheading of the Pope—and about the nature of citizenship in general. Add to this the intriguing spectacle of a new political leader and the (extremely satisfying) prospect of throwing out a political establishment that has been in power for far too long and one gets a particularly satisfying brew of thought and news.

Somehow, this little island doesn't seem so little anymore, but rather a microcosm of the world today.

Shiloh, Otter Creek, USA :

Tom:

The first question is will the US follow the example set by Europe? Britain, Italy and Poland have announced they will withdraw in 2007. Any increase in US troop levels may merely supplant those coalition forces - and increase resentment and resistance to the US occupation forces.

Containing the insurgency seems like putting the toothpaste back in the tube - an exercise in futility. The US made its second most serious blunder when it squeezed out the Baathist/Sunni government rather than integrating it into post-invasion reconstruction.

The undermining of the new Iraq government by the US has already begun - with questions about the ability of al Maliki to build consensus and contain the al Sadr Sunni militia.

I think sectarian civil war is unavoidable as long as the US maintains a major presence in Iraq. Even withdrawing to north of the 35th parallel to Kurdish Iraq will not be welcome, especially by Turkey and Iran. Redeploying US troops to Jordan and Kuwait and allowing Arab League member states to broker a resolution to the Iraq crisis with Iran, Syria and Turkey is preferable to a continued US presence in Iraq.

Tom Wonacott, Boise, Idaho :

Shiloh:

Republicans are not suicidal. I'm guessing an increase initially in troop levels to (try) to stabilize the insurgency, followed by a start to withdraw in 2007. Many advisors, embedded US soldiers, special forces will remain in Iraq for quite awhile (actually years).

Still no improvement by November, 2007 in Iraq? Hillary(?) will probably be elected. As supporter of the invasion, she would then be faced with some tough decisions based on her stated position during the campaign and the reality on the ground in Iraq.

The undermining of the Iraqi government will be intense during the next two years led by Iraqi insurgents (primarily Sunnis), Al Qaeda and related organizations, and Syria and Iran.

http://www.komala.org :

The necessity of changing the political system of government into a federal republic of states in Iran

Iran is not one nation, but a large and wide country with several nationalities, languages, cultures and contrasts. Iran har unregulated developed both economically and socially, and has its historical foundation from different empires through several centuries.

The central ruling power from Reza shah and the establishment of the Pahlawi family has been founded on suppression and discrimination of minorities through 80 years. And now, under the clergical government, has the authoroties functioned reactionary and has struck against fighters of freedom.

The process of democracy, the people's ability to participate in ruling their own country (right of joint consultation) and the consideration of different nationalities and minorities has suffered, and has been oppressed for decades.

The acknowledgement of the rights of other nationalities and the legalization of rights and laws which is able to guarantee these rights, is the way to go to avoid suppression and unjust treatment of other nationalities and minorities. Safety and participation of other nationalities in Iran supports brotherhood and prevents conflicts and dissatisfaction.

The Kurdish people in Iran has claimed their national rights and the end to suppression for a long time, especially after the clergyical government came to power and struck down democratic and cultural rights.

23 years of brutality and suppression, imprisonments, expulsions, forced removals and evacuations of the civilian population, especially in the border zones, military occupation of Kurdistan, discrimination as to who will be able to educate themselves or to have jobs, are all results of the Islamic clergical government.

Iran must guarantee a situation where local political discrimination has come to an end. It must also give guarantees that the people can participate in ruling their country, and these rights must be established by laws of the Iranian constitution.

A future socialistic government of Iran will be based on equal rights and duties for all nationalities. Their voluntary participation in a federation of states is a guarantee for just treatment of all nationalities.

The federation of states in Iran is an alternative which guarantees these rights and strengthens the solidarity and joint consultation among Iranian groups of people.

Shiloh, Otter Creek, USA :

Tom:

The Baker-Hamilton commission will have a hard time finding a middle path on the exit strategy they will suggest - and Bush has already signalled that he is asking for yet another study group, in addition to that at the pentagon. Pardon my cynicism, but Karl Rove probably wants the occupation to continue until the next election, so the quagmire can be slogged off on the new Democratic majority.

The Iran-Syria initiative now afoot is encouraging. If nothing else it will stir regional involvement and perhaps bring even a stubborn and willful child - the present US administration - to the table. At the same time, I am suspicious about Cheney in Saudi Arabia. Is he there to ask for support in establishing staging areas for withdrawl from Iraq while keeping a US presence in the region - or is he there to instill fear in the House of Saud about withdrawl as dangerous to the monarchy?

Because of the circumstances leading to the invasion - that it was a foregone conclusion looking for a rationale - I suspect that Bush & Co already know what they are going to do and that Baker-Hamilton and other study group reports and recommendations will be used as source material to support that predetermined decision, by cherrypicking whatever supports it. We should know in a few weeks.

Tom Wonacott, Boise, Idaho :

Shiloh:

Finally, we are getting somewhere. Lets forget about the reasons for the invasion because you and I will never agree on that part of the issue, and instead, focus on the goals of the invasion. This probably applies to Afghanistan as well.

1. regime change

2. install a democratic government

"...The de facto civil war in Iraq is more likely to result in a theocratic Islamic republic, a tribal oligarchy, a fractured federation of satrapies subordinate to neighboring states or a return to dictatorship..."

If you are right, then the foreign policy decision to invade Iraq failed. Regime change, in my mind, makes little sense if the replacement government is as bad or worse than the original government (or the same government as in the case, potentially, of the Taliban). I also agree with the probability "...more likely..." in your statement. I'll also say that the ELECTION of a terrorist organization such as Hamas would probably also constitute a failure in our foreign policy.

Leaving Iraq prematurely will greatly increase the chances of failure (to about 100%). Some of the reasons that the installation of a democracy, and maintaining our willpower, are important:

1. For the people who participated in the elections (8 million Iraqis) which indicates there are people more than willing to give democracy a chance.

2. Leaving early will probably lead to civil war that will result in a bloodbath and possible regional conflict. Leaving early means before the new government can stand on its own with its own security. We probably will maintain a presense for years.

3. Our previous foreign policy failures in other countries such as Viet Nam, Lebanon and Somalia are landmarks from which terrorist build their strength (we left early). In other words, terrorist EXPECT us to lose our willpower and leave. Another way to put it - emboldens the enemy.

4. The Middle East is a cesspool of dictatorships, theocracies amd monarchies that support Islamo-terrorism world-wide (one of the reasons for the invasion of Iraq). Lebanon's fragile democratic government is under assault by Syrian and Iranian supported Hezbollah, and/or Syria itself (this week). Syria and Iran are working to undermine the democratization of Iraq, and, in fact, have nothing to gain by supporting the US effort to democratize Iraq (why talk to these countries except to eliminate that as a workable option for Iraq?).

Failure in Iraq has implications for Afghanistan's newly installed democracy also. The resurgence of the Taliban supported by Pakistani Islamo-terrorist directly threatens the country. If the Taliban returns, that would also be a foreign policy failure.

Will the US suceed in Iraq (and Afghanistan)? As you implied, probably not. By the way, your last post really nailed the issues.

Atheist, Boston, USA :

In 1999, the Serbs tried to slaughter the innocent civilians in Kosovo. NATO, backed by American military might, sent a steady stream of cruise missiles into the heart of Serbia. Representing the attitude of NATO, Washington declared, "We either have to have a choice for peace by Serbia, or we will do our best to limit their [Serbian] ability to wage war with people." After NATO pummeled some sense into the Serbian thugs, they agreed to a cessation of hostilities against the Kosovars.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/Kosovo/Story/0,,209595,00.html

During this incident, Beijing cheered the Serbs and accused NATO — and specifically, the Americans — of being violent killers.

However, in deference to Beijing and the Islamic bigots who claim that Americans are prone to violence, we should pull our troops out of Iraq. While we continue to protect Kurdistan, we should not intervene in the rest of Iraq.

While the Shiites and the Sunnis then proceed to slaughter each other, we should not lift a finger to intervene. When a Sunni family screams for help while Shiite thugs machine-gun the family members, we should not lift a finger. I am okay with this scenario — out of deference to Beijing and the Islamic thugs.

Bukko, Melbourne, Australia :

As happens with any online forum involving Americans, a number of posters have popped up to say "Let's kill a lot of people." That's a common theme amongst Americans — kill, Kill, KILL! The fellow from Dartmouth asked how Americans are perceived. Because this is an international discussion, and there might actually be two or three people from other countries that read these comments, can you see how this might be a problem?

Suppose you could read Arabic and were looking in on a Muslim internet discussion about how "America supports our oppressive rulers and takes our oil and spews out all these pornographic pictures of women in bikinis. We should send out squads of suicide bombers to blow themselves up in their shopping malls until they stop it." You'd be horrified. You'd think "What a bunch of sick, murderous bastards these people are." Even if a lot of Muslims were saying "suicide bombing is wrong" the fomenting of the murderous ones would stick in your mind.

So how do you think it appears to people all over the English-speaking world when they read Americans screaming for death? Not just at this site in an obscure corner of the WaPo, but in every online forum I've been to. Many rabid Americans are calling for killing. Especially the armchair hate-mongers who have probably never served in the military or seen someone die up close. And you wonder why they hate us? I tend to agree with them. That's why I got the hell out.

Atheist, Boston, USA :

With one exception, everything in Washington's plans for Iraq was appropriate. In fact, even the decision to initiate a war against Iraq was correct. That decision was based on CIA data (which later proved to be faulty) claiming that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction (WMD). Most European governments and the Russian government thought that Iraq had WMDs.

Below was the American plan for Iraq.

1. CIA data indicates that there are WMDs.
2. Invade Iraq.
3. Remove the government.
4. Iraqis show an outpouring of thanks and begin building a Western nation.
5. Americans leave after about a year.

So, what went wrong? Washington had committed one grave error in step #4. The error is to extrapolate from the experience in Eastern Europe to the experience in Iraqis.

Most neo-conservatives (neo-cons, for short) never dealt much with Middle Easterners. The neo-cons went to elite universities like Yale University at a time when it had few people from the 3rd world. These people hate the West and Western values. If the neo-cons had gone to universities (e.g., University of Masschusetts) for the common people, they would have met plenty of 3rd worlders and would have realized that these bigots do not act like Eastern Europeans.

Therein lies the reason for the fatal mistake in step #4. If step #4 were, in fact, correct, then 140,000 American soldiers would have been enough for building a prosperous, Western nation. In a similar vein, if Washington had somehow liberated Hungary from Soviet oppression in the 1950s, then the Hungarians — without any prompting from Washington — would have immediately begun building a prosperous, liberal democracy just as they are doing now.

In a sense, Ronald Reagan was lucky in being at the right time and the right place; he guessed correctly about the Eastern Europeans. Due to his foreign policy, the Soviet shadow receded from Eastern Europe, and it prospered. Reagan was never put in a position of making a monumental decision in the Middle East. If he were forced into the current situation involving Iraq, he likely would have misjudged Iraq as well.

Cultures are different. People are different. Iraqis act like animals. Eastern Europeans, Thai, and the Vietnamese do not.

A proper plan that accounts for the animal-like behavior of Iraqi Muslims is the following.

1. CIA data indicates that there are WMDs.
2. Fire cruise missiles at the suspected weapons facilities.
3. Numerous Middle Eastern governments (e.g. Syria) whine and complain.
4. Identify the children of the politicians in the governments in step #3. Locate their whereabouts in the USA and the rest of the West. Deport them back to the hell-hole called the Middle East.
5. Go to step #2. Lather. Rinse. Repeat.

In other words, the approach that we Americans took to deal with Serbia is the correct approach for dealing with Middle Eastern animals. We must never — ever — commit American soldiers to fix any problem in the Middle East. Instead, we fire an unending stream of cruise missiles (from a safe distance) at the trouble spots.

Shiloh, Otter Creek, USA :

Tom in Boise:

In counterpoint to V.D.Hanson in the WaTimes, I submit the following from Sen. Chuck Hagel, (R-Neb) in the WaPost:

"We have misunderstood, misread, misplanned and mismanaged our honorable intentions in Iraq with an arrogant self-delusion..."

"The Middle East is more combustible today then ever before..."

"And our effort in Afghanistan continues to deteriorate, partly because we took our focus off the real terrorist threat, which was there, and not in Iraq."

I think even V.D. Hanson would agree that G. W. Bush, like Epaminondas, will be remembered in Iraq as both a liberator and destroyer: Bush, the man who brought freedom and chaos by destroying peace and prosperity. And Bush's rhetoric about bringing democracy to Iraq rings hollow. His democracy is unlikely to endure longer than the changes wrought by Epaminondas.

As Sen. Hagel wrote: "America cannot impose a democracy on any nation..."

The de facto civil war in Iraq is more likely to result in a theocratic Islamic republic, a tribal oligarchy, a fractured federation of satrapies subordinate to neighboring states or a return to dictatorship.

Mitchell Wachtel, MD, Lubock, Texas :

A very interesting man, Mr. Robert Edsel, came to town to discuss his book about the Nazi looting of Western art and how the Monuments Men and Women saved Europe's art. The book is fabulous and the story is one of those fabulous rarities—a World War II story with a very happy ending.

Tom Wonacott, Boise, Idaho :

Shiloh

From the opinion section of the Washington Times (this morning) by Victor Hanson (and I know the Times is a conservative newspaper):

"...Taking out Saddam Hussein was not dreamed up — as is sometimes alleged — by sneaky supporters of Israel. Nor did oil-hungry chief executive officers or Halliburton puppeteers pull strings in the shadows to get us in. And the go-ahead wasn't given merely on the strength of trumped-up fears of weapons of mass destruction: The U.S. Congress authorized the war on 23 diverse counts, from Iraq's violation of the 1991 armistice to its record of giving both money and sanctuary to terrorists..."

"...In response, Iraq was an effort to end both the cynical realism and the convenient appeasement of the past — and so to address the much larger problems of the Middle East that, if left alone, could lead to another large-scale terrorist attack in the United States..."

Tom Wonacott, Boise, Idaho :

Shiloh

Yes, Afghanistan sent a clear message, but lets hope we have the willpower to see it through.

"...the invasion of Iraq was predicated on an opportunistic, orchestrated, and Orwellian campaign of deception, disinformation and misleading propaganda by the Bush Administration - and that the voters have repudiated Bush & Co. for their arrogance, hubris and deception..."

Initially, about 80%(+/-) Americans supported the invasion of Iraq. Even after determining there were no weapons of mass distruction, Bush was voted back into office, thus a majority of Americans still supported the war. Why? Americans supported the idea of ridding the world of Saddam (with a track record of using WMDs etc.), and installing a democracy even though we were wrong about WMDs.

The total screwup of the occupation has caused most Americans to lose patience with the war in Iraq. Of course, you can interpret the voters how you wish.

Wow, what a conspiracy the Bush administration orchestrated. Saddam never really did use WMDs, slaughter the Shiites and Kurds, invade Kuwait and Iran, have any intentions of building nuclear weapons, require the use of 16(?) resolutions to get him to conform to the peace agreement, which included uninhibited access by inspectors to weapons sites, after the Gulf War. Saddam could have chosen the path to a peaceful coexistence with the rest of the world like Libya.

To me, your interpretation of the Bush administration is, in itself, nothing but conjecture and misinformation.

Shiloh, Otter Creek, USA :

Tom of Boise wrote:

"In my opinion, the Bush Administration wanted to send a message about terrorism to the Middle East by dumping Saddam (but not to control the Middle East.)"

Apparently, Tom, you don't think Afghanistan was a clear message.

I think the majority of American voters on November 7th thought Afghanistan was a clear message to terrorists - and that the invasion of Iraq was predicated on an opportunistic, orchestrated, and Orwellian campaign of deception, disinformation and misleading propaganda by the Bush Administration - and that the voters have repudiated Bush & Co. for their arrogance, hubris and deception.

D. Hodara - Monte-Carlo :

The mood in Europe, for most of its population and labor force, is rather pessimistic. Whilst the very large corporations and their executives seem to be satisfied of their results and remunerations, the average citizen feels the brunt of the enormous increase in the cost of housing and realize that since the introduction of the Euro the prices have increased more than their earnings. To constantly improve their bottom line, the big corporations "restructure" and transfer their factories in countries where salaries and taxes are cheaper, not only in far away Asian countries, but also in a number of poorer new member countries in the European Union, with the consequence of laying off thousands of workers. The outlook of the future, particularly for the young, looks rather grim
To accentuate the above mood, the european societies, democratic and tolerant, have discovered that their immigrants of Muslim faith, and strangely enough, the younger generations who are full fledged citizens, do not seem to wish to assimilate to the laws, values and traditions of their adopted countries. This is the consequence of the increased influence of fundamentalists who were allowed to open religious schools (madrasas) and disseminate radical Islam, requesting that all Muslims abide by their strict interpretation of the Coran, and adopt - in their new country - the way the Muslim women dress and and are treated in the countries of origin. The influence of the active minority impose on the majority, and the moderates are afraid to contradict them. Terrorists acts, often perpetrated by Muslim ciitzens in their adopted country. are never vigorously criticized, and find some excuses, such as their countries political policies or problems occuring in foreign muslim countries, such as Iraq, Middle East and Afghanistan!
As for culture, the phenomenal technological progress - which has developed so fast in the last two decades - has put in the hands of very young generations instruments which bring them close to promiscuity, violence, pornography and pedophilia - thus estrange them from the real values of human relations, litterature, art and music.

Bukko, Melbourne, Australia :

It's always rash to generalise, but I'll do it anyway. Aussies regard Yanks as you would an older, richer, possibly smarter but maybe dangerous, cousin. Down here, they know a LOT about America. News items from the U.S. feature prominently in the papers, there are many op-ed articles analysing the value/drawbacks to being so closely tied to the U.S., Hollywood movies are all over the theatres and the prime-time TV lineup is about 1/3 American shows. Many's the time I've walked into the nurses' break room where I work and found the telly on to "Oprah" "Dr. Phil" or "Judge Judy." So it's not the best aspects of American behaviour they're seeing.

Aussies are great travelers, and about half of the people I know have been to the (other) States. They are predisposed to like Americans, because of all the similarities. But many expect Americans to act like ignorant rednecks. That is what "Brand America" is in the world today.

A lot of how they react to the average American depends on how the American acts. Same is true for all the countries I've visited — even France. If you're a jerk, you will be dealt with jerkily. If you act reasonably, and show some sophistication about local culture, you will be treated decently. But in all cases, the best icebreaker is to slag George Bush. You do that — even if it's just to say "Bush," cut a face and spit, you'll have a friend.

MikeB :

Zoltan, Paris - read this: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/11/23/AR2006112300975.html

The Chinese and Indian governments are doing exactly what the Mexican government has been doing for years, they are sending their excess workforce HERE. No other country in the world, and especial Frane, would tolerate this. But we do. We give Aercian jobs, American technology, and even Amercian factories. For what? For nothingso that some rich fool can reap obscene short term profits.

And, as for the defense technology being stolen, belittling the B2 bomber is simply stupid. The steal technology that went intomaking that bomber is the same steal technology used by our fighter bombers, cruise missiles, and other weapons systems. What those Indian guest workers stole and sold will mean the deaths of Amercian piolets in a future encounter. As for the underwater missile system, it was most certainly Amercian. It was (again) stolen by a group of Indian guest workers who trade it for concessioons to the Iranian's. They, in turn, sold it to the Russians. The optical fiber hile I know about personally and the theft of that technology is extremely dangerous. The Chinese (and, I imagine, the Russians and others) can now determine if we are tapping into their secure networks and, assuming they have any brains at all, have long figured out how to tap into our military and intelligence communications networks.

Outsourcing and technology worker guest programs will end this country within our lifetimes and there isn't a thing anyone who can, will do to prevent it. We are either at or have crossed over the point of no return and politically correct fools like you, greedy businessmen and politcians, and outright America haters are seeing that it will mark the end of the U.S. When it all comes crashing down, however, expect an explosion of violence and destruction the likes of which the world has never seen. All of those SUV loving soccer moms and NASCAR dads, those public employees, and the greedy investors and corporate parasites will not gladly surrender their consumer driven lifestyles. They will look for someone to blame, anyone to blame but themselves, and there will be hell to pay.

dave walker,n. dartmouth,USA :

Just out of curiosity,how do your average citizens{non-governmental}feel about average Anericans? I for one am ashamed of what my government has done in the middle east. The arrogance of Bush,Cheney,Rumsfeld,et al is in my opinion warranting criminal prosecution. I for one will pass the hat to collect air fare for their trip to the Hague.

dave walker,n. dartmouth,USA :

Just out of curiosity,how do your average citizens{non-governmental}feel about average Anericans? I for one am ashamed of what my government has done in the middle east. The arrogance of Bush,Cheney,Rumsfeld,et al is in my opinion warranting criminal prosecution. I for one will pass the hat to collect air fare for their trip to the Hague.

skirke, ca. :

China is now the country doing business: building pipelines in latin america, meeting african leaders, financing our debt.

Ken McGee USA :

Here in rural North Carolina most of the excess energy is going in to killing a deer or any other defenseless critter that moves this time of year. We do have a new "hate" though as we were getting somewhat tired of abortion, gay marrage, and the war. Now, we have immigrants and they all look alike to us so we can hate everyone with skin that isn't white. We hunt, we hate, and we hurry to church on Sunday. Our part of the world? The charming South.

Tom Wonacott, Boise, Idaho :

To Shiloh:

I apologize, but there is a correction to the last post.

...There is no credible evidence of a link (found to date) between Al Qaeda and Saddam, but WHEN THE BUSH ADMINISTRATION MADE THE CONNECTION that could have been due to bad intelligence since Clinton...

Tom Wonacott, Boise, Idaho :

To Shiloh:

From Wikepedia:

"...According to Iraq's report to the UN, the know-how and material for developing chemical weapons were obtained from firms in such countries as: the United States, West Germany, the United Kingdom, France and the People's Republic of China.[35]

In December 2002, Iraq's 1,200 page Weapons Declaration revealed a list of Eastern and Western corporations and countries, as well as individuals, that exported a total of 17,602 tons of chemical precursors to Iraq in the past two decades. By far, the largest suppliers of precursors for chemical weapons production were in Singapore (4,515 tons), the Netherlands (4,261 tons), Egypt (2,400 tons), India (2,343 tons), and Federal Republic of Germany (1,027 tons). One Indian company, Exomet Plastics (now part of EPC Industrie) sent 2,292 tons of precursor chemicals to Iraq. The Kim Al-Khaleej firm, located in Singapore and affiliated to United Arab Emirates, supplied more than 4,500 tons of VX, sarin, and mustard gas precursors and production equipment to Iraq.[36]..."

Many countries, including the US, supplied Iraq with chemical and biological weapons. None of them were justified and all share a blame in Saddam's use of WMDs against the Iranians and the Kurds.

"Linking Iraq to the WTC terrorist attack was blatantly misleading. No credible evidence links Iraq to the WTC. The US invasion after Afghanistan was an opportunistic attempt to exert US control over the middle east, its oil assets and its potential to counter anti-Israel factions. It was warmongering at its worst, a trumped up and trumpeted rationale for invasion that backfired and continues to exemplify a dysfunctional administration."

There is no credible evidence of a link (found to date) between Al Qaeda and Saddam, but that could have been due to bad intelligence since Clinton also linked Al Qaeda to Saddam before he bombed Iraq in 1998. Remember, Bush had only been in office for 8 months when the WTC attacks occurred, and George Tenet was the head of the CIA in BOTH administrations.

In my opinion, the Bush administration wanted to send a message about terrorism to the Middle East by dumping Saddam (but not to control the Middle East). Although Israel benefitted from the Iraq war (in the short term, anyway), I doubt the US invaded Iraq, specifically, to advance the interest of Israel. You already know my opinion on the oil question.

Although I don't agree with most of your last sentence, the occupation has certainly backfired. The people of the US elected a democratic congress because a majority are not happy with the way the war has gone. My guess (and it is entirely a guess) is that the Democratic majorties will not due much in the next two years about the war because of recommendations at the Pentagon and the Baker commission.

Finally, it seems unlikely to me that involving Iran will gain anything, but in the world of politics, who knows?

Atheist, Boston, USA :

The law requires a hospital to treat anyone who enters an emergency room. Since the illegal aliens have no medical insurance, they go straight to the emergency room, where they are legally guaranteed medical treatment.

This flood has so overburdened the system that numerous hospitals cannot provide medical care in the event of a genuine medical emergency. Of course, some American citizens complain about the illegal aliens.

Yet, are the illegal aliens the central problem? No. The main problem is that most Americans do not care about illegal aliens entering the USA.

Too many Americans are hypocrites. Americans deserve to die due to lack of adequate medical care in the emergency ward. Who is responsible for the deaths? Americans.

In the emergency room, an American deserves to wait 10 hours for the 100 illegal aliens, ahead of him in line, already waiting for medical care. If the American bleeds to death in the process, he deserves to die.

This tragic situation is 100% preventable. If the Americans do not care enough about enforcing the immigration laws, then they deserve the consequences, including death. These Americans do not deserve any sympathy.

Abdulla Mohtadi :

Abdullah Mohtadi is the Secretary General of the Komala Party of Iranian Kurdistan, one of the major Kurdish political movements in Iranian Kurdistan. The following speech was delivered by Mr. Mohtadi at the ìRoad to Democracy: Full Political and Human Rights in Iranî conference, which occurred on 30 May at the Russell Office Building of the US Senate in Washington, DC.

Iran is a vast country comprised of a wide range of nationalities and cultures. The main nationalities in Iran, namely Azeris, Kurds, Arabs, Baluchis, and Turkmens, each have their own unique language and culture and make up over 50% of the population in the country. In that sense, they are not minorities despite usually being usually referred to as such. In our view, the acceptance of pluralism in Iran without acknowledging this diversity and incorporating the various nationalities into the governance of the country is meaningless. By the same token, institutionalizing democracy and bringing stability to Iran is impossible without a resolution of the nationalities issue. That is why we, the nationalities of Iran, have gathered together in the Congress of Nationalities for a Federal Iran. The Congress of Nationalities supports the removal of the Islamic Republic to create a secular, democratic, and federal Iran.

In Iran, the Kurds make up about 10 million of the population and mainly reside in four provinces in western and northwestern Iran. With a long history of fighting for their liberation, Kurds have been at the forefront of struggle against the Islamic regime now for more than a quarter of a century. But Kurds are not alone any more. We are witnessing a new wave of national awakening and a deep dissatisfaction among all of the nationalities in Iran. The Kurdish uprising in the last summer, the Arab demonstrations in Ahwaz last year, and, most recently, the unrest in Baluchistan and the widespread demonstrations among Azeris in the past few weeks are some of the examples of this dissatisfaction and a sign of what we should expect in the future.

The Islamic regime, as always, tries to tarnish these deep rooted demands and protests by claiming that they are provoked or even invented by foreign forces. This, in turn, has been used as a justification for repression of those movements by any means possible including massive military operations and the arrest, torture, and execution of dissidents. But the root of these movements lies simply in the denial of economic, political, and cultural rights of those nationalities. In this sense, if Iran is to be a democratic nation, it has to have decentralized and federal government.

One critique against federalism is that it could lead to the disintegration of Iran. Quite the opposite is true. Understanding and acknowledging the nationalities issue and trying to find a democratic solution for it is not and can never be a threat to the integrity of Iran. What threatens Iran with disintegration is the denial of the existence of nationalities and thus the denial of their rights. It is the policy of discrimination and repression that causes frustration and diminishes the desire for coexistence, whereas forming a democratic system based on mutual respect, power sharing, and inclusion bridges the differences between various ethnic groups, gives them a valuable stake in their country and government, and consolidates unity and solidarity among all Iranians irrespective of their of language, race, ethnic origin, religion and political beliefs. And that is exactly what we, as Kurds and as the Congress of Nationalities, are advocating ñ a democratic, federal Iran where the rights of different nationalities are attended to. This is the only way to keep Iran united and democratic at the same time. In addition, the Iraq experience and the role the Kurds have been playing in preserving Iraqís unity is a good example of how baseless this criticism is.

What gives the nationalities issue a greater importance is, in my belief, the role that they can play in the overall democratic movement in Iran. To give you an example, let me point to the role the Kurds and Kurdish movement has played in Iran in the last quarter of a century. Kurdistan was the only part of Iran that remained secular during and after the revolution of 1978-79. While Iran became a haven for Ayatollahs, Kurdistan stood against them. While women in the rest of Iran were forced to go under the thick black veil, women in Kurdistan were finding their place in political and social life. In Tehran, mullahs were closing one newspaper after another. However, at the same time, Kurdistan was the hotspot of free media in the region. While the political, social, and cultural organizations and groups were getting dissolved and banned by the new Islamic regime, groups belonging to women, students, teachers, and workers were flourishing in Kurdistan. Kurdistan was the only region in Iran where the great majority voted against the establishment of the Islamic Republic in the so-called referendum of spring 1979. This was true for the whole period when Kurds ran their territory. When the regime attacked Kurdistan with full force, those gains were the main reason for mass resistance against the military assault there.

The point that I want to make is that Kurdish movement is a democratic and secular movement and it will stay that way. This is the case with other national movements in Iran. As the movement to end the religious dictatorship is gaining momentum, the Congress of Nationalities for a Federal Iran, as it states in its constitution, strives to instill a true democracy in which all civic rights are fully respected, equality for women and freedom of press, expression, religion, and belief is honored, and a friendly relationship with the neighbors and the world is maintained. Unfortunately, the significance of the nationalities and their role in bringing about democracy in Iran is not fully understood and is indeed neglected. One of our objectives in this gathering is to raise awareness about this important issue.

We, the Komala Party of Iranian Kurdistan, believe that the Islamic regime in Iran supports national and international terrorism, fans Islamic fundamentalism, and has a deep desire to develop atomic weapons to spread its dictatorship to other nations in the region and wipe out any democratic movement in the Middle East. But the great majority of Iranians are deeply resentful of the regime and want to change it. What is lacking in this process is a strong united opposition that can lead the Iranians in getting rid of dictatorship and achieving democracy, pluralism, human rights, economic prosperity, and civic justice.

That is why we, the Komala Party of Iranian Kurdistan, have put a tremendous amount of effort to create a united front in Kurdistan which we think strengthens the democratic movement in Iran as well as in the whole of Iran. At the same time, we are for a broad democratic coalition of Iranian opposition groups. We believe that the Congress of Nationalities can be a major participant in this umbrella coalition.

To create this united opposition, two issues need to be addressed, or perhaps it is better to say that two obstacles need to be overcome, both of which are results of the policies of the Iranian regime. One is the baseless paranoia of Iranís disintegration in the event of democratic change, and the other is the false assumption that the Islamic regimeís nuclear program is a matter of national pride for Iranians. The Iranian regime is using both of these issues to justify its policies and consolidate its grip to power. I have already spoken about the first issue and explained how a democratic solution for nationalities can in fact contribute to the unity of the country. Regarding the second issue, I should say that an atomic Islamic regime in Iran is not only a threat to the stability of the region but also a tool of division to keep the opposition in disarray. The opposition needs to realize that gaining atomic technology emboldens the regime to further pursue its ambition of regional dominance as well as an intensification of the regimeís internal repression against its own people. The genuine reason for the national pride of Iranians, I believe, is a free, democratic and prosperous Iran where the human dignity of its people and the human rights of everybody are fully respected.

www.kurdishmedia.com

Abdulla Mohtadi :

Iranís new regime: Hostile to its people, incompatible with the world

Nowadays Islamic Iran appears to challenge the world. What kind of phenomenon is this regime and how it must be treated? This issue has been the subject of hundreds or perhaps thousands of discussions and reviews. The short review below is a humble attempt to shed some light on this issue.

Defeat of the reformists in the seventh parliamentary elections and later in the presidential election last June and the coming to power of Ahmadinejad and his men, marked the beginning of a new phase in Iran's political life. The so-called reformist movement had lost its momentum long before they suffered defeat in the hands of this new brand of Islamic conservatism. The reformists lacked the political will to mobilize and fight back, they let down the various social movements, let the initial enthusiasm evaporate, and thus they deprived themselves of any effective popular support and paved the way for their own defeat. But the defeat of the reformists did not bring about a new unity and internal harmony within the power circles as expected. In fact those who came to power were not conservatives in the conventional meaning that world has been familiar with, but they are a particular faction called fundamentalists or more literally "believers in principles". Today the power struggle in ruling circles is not carried out between the conservatives and reformists as it was a few years ago but between the conservatives and these new fundamentalists. It seems that conservatives are getting pushed to the margin as well.

Ideologically, the fundamentalists stem from "Hojatieh Association" and its predecessor the "Anti-Bahaíi Association". Ayatollah Mesbah Yazdi, the fanatic head teacher of "Haqqani Seminary" who preaches the harshest form of fundamentalism and intolerance, is their spiritual leader. A number of the cabinet members and those who hold sensitive posts in the new government are graduates of this seminary.

The fundamentalists are extremely dogmatic, intolerant, and violent who openly advocate killing of the opponents and critics; they not only denounce democracy and human rights and label them anti-Islamic, which is more or less common in the Islamic system of Iran, but openly declare that the legitimacy of the state only comes from God and therefore the Islamic state is only responsible to God and answers to Him.

They are messianic, or to name it by its Iranian version, pro-Mahdi; they believe in the resurrection of Mahdi. For Mahdi to reappear, as the ideology states, the world must be filled with injustice and tyranny. Thus they consider the current conflict between themselves and the West as a sign of the coming of Mahdi and a god given opportunity to get rid of injustice and un-Islamic behavior.

To give you a picture of what this creed is about in everyday reality, let me give you a few examples. After attending the General Assembly of the United Nations a few months ago, president Ahmadinejad clearly stated in a meeting that during his speech there was a halo of light surrounding him and some of the Ayatollahs nodded in agreement and said this was a sign of the approval of the government by the God. When he recently wrote his letter to President Bush, one of those Ayatollahs called it a miracle and likened it to the letters Prophet Mohammad wrote to the Kings of Iran and Ethiopia that apparently caused the demise of those empires. Very recently another high official praising Mr. Ahmadinejad claimed that if there were to be anymore Prophets, Ahmadinejad would be the one!

Whether these people really believe their stories is not that important, what is important is that they preach it and act upon it. It is interesting to know that Mr. Ahmadinejad has hired an ethics teacher for his cabinet members so they get preached on Islamic ethics every morning before they start their day. It has also been known that some of his ministers are writing their wishes on pieces of paper and throw it down into the Jamkarn Well near the holy city of Qom where Mahdi is believed to be hiding in the wish that Mahdi is going to open those letters and fulfill their wishes. It is also interesting to know that even based on the Shiite religion tales, Mahdi is hiding in a well in Samara in Iraq and not in Qom! This excessive extremism has angered even some Ayatollahs and members of the Majles or the Iranian parliament.

Aside from these things that are the subject of ridicule amongst the majority of people and especially the young generation, there are other characteristics of the new government that are much more serious and troublesome. It is not funny to know that some of the ministers have directly been involved in killing and torture of dissidents. The minister of interior, Mr. Pour-Mohammadi, is one of the three people who in the summer of 1988 killed thousands of prisoners per order of Ayatollah Khomeini. This crime was so shocking that Ayatollah Montazeri wrote a letter condemning the massacre and called it an atrocity worse than those committed by Shahís regime. That letter, as is known, caused him his position as the number two in the hierarchy of power.

A number of ministers in Ahmadinejadís government who have come from the infamous ministry of Etela'at or Iranian Intelligence have been involved in the so-called serial killings. It was a wave of political assassinations organized by the top ranking Etela'at officials during the first year of Khatemiís government in which a number of poets, authors, and political dissidents were kidnapped and brutally killed.

Another important feature of this new government is its increasing dependence on Pasdaran or the Revolutionary Guards. The military- financial complex of Pasdaran is getting control of huge assets in the country. It is getting lucrative contracts from right and left. For instance, $ 1.3 billion contract of gas pipelines was given from the ministry of petroleum to the Pasdaran. This way the loyalty of the powerful heads of this fearful military and security apparatus to the president is secured and at the same time the institution gets the upper hand in the power struggles to com. To pay justice, one should admit that authorizing Pasdaran to get involved in business activities and getting them lucrative contracts started during Rafsanjani administration.

In the struggle for absolute power, the fundamentalist faction is trying to take over the Council of Experts and get rid of Rafsanjani in the Council's next election, obviously with the help of the Council of Guardians and their notorious disqualification process. Mr. Rafsanjani, who is the influential head of the Council of Expediency, was able in his time to deceive Europe for years and sell himself as a moderate. In reality, Iran's secret nuclear programs started and developed under his presidency and he has, in numerous occasions, criticized Khatemi as being too lenient with Europe about Iranís nuclear rights.

Other aspects of the new government are well known in the world: irresponsible and venturous foreign policy, provoking tensions and blackmailing, ambition to dominate the region, the spread of Islamic fundamentalism, and supporting terrorism. It must be said that these policies have, more or less, been followed during the entire rein of the Islamic Republic of Iran. However, Ahmadinejad is pursuing these policies more intensely and more openly. The pursuit of nuclear weapons is one result of such a policy. The Islamic Republic sees the nuclear weapon as the best means of their survival, as the guarantor of the regime. One can say that the dominant belief among mullahs in Tehran is: ìI have atomic bomb; therefore I amî.

Confrontation and violence is not pursued only in foreign policies. This regime cannot live in peace neither with its own people nor the outside world. In the internal affairs, Ahmadinejadís regime has intensified the policy of repression, intimidation, and persecution. The tolerance of dissent has become virtually zero; the pursuit of joy by young people is repressed, public transport workers of Tehran who only wanted to form their union and presented their economic demands are brutally hammered; student associations are attacked; professors are fired; women are subjected with even more discrimination and repression and their peaceful demonstrations are brutally attacked; national minorities are repressed more harshly than before and so on. In general, the new government has closed off all the ways of peaceful expression of dissent in the society and thus is creating an atmosphere prone to violence and internal implosion.

The problem with these policies, however, is that they are completely out of tune with the basic needs and aspirations of the Iranian people. Iranian society has changed dramatically and cannot reconcile itself with the way of life preached by Ayatollahs. The majority of Iranian people are more aware and more assertive of their rights, they stand up more frequently, they speak out more loudly, and they defy and fight back. Ahmadinejadís government has clearly exposed how out of tune it is with its own society and with the world. That is why it looks ridiculous and dangerous at the same time.

What is lacking is a credible alternative, a cohesive and powerful opposition front that can unite and lead the people in their fight for a better future. Fortunately, there have been some positive movements to remedy this huge shortcoming. The biggest task facing the Iranian opposition, both inside and outside the country, is the formation of a broad democratic coalition that fights for democracy, secularism, human rights, women's rights, nationalities rights, etc.

What can Europe and the West do in this process? The policy of critical dialogue by Europe did not succeed; neither is military attack the solution. The real alternative is uncompromising support for democracy, secularism and human rights in Iran.

The Iranian nuclear issue has created an international consensus towards the Islamic regime, which is fine. But this issue has had the opposite effect for the Iranian opposition. What can unite the opposition is the prospect of a democratic, secular and federative Iran that strives to bring social justice to all. This is a project that Iran deserves and the Iranian opposition has every right to ask the world to support.

Abdullah Mohtadi is the Secretary General of the Komala Party of Iranian Kurdistan

This is the text of a speech given at a conference held in the French Parliament on 16 June 2006. The conference "Where is Iran heading to?" was organised by the Institut kurde de Paris. The Secretary General of the Kurdistan Democratic Party ñ Iran (KDPI), Mr Mustaf Hejri, was also a speaker in the conference.

Kurdishmedia :

KDPI leader: The Islamic Republic ignores and violates international laws

Kurdish Leader Mustafa Hijri ìIt is not imperative to employ in Iran the similar policies conducted in Iraq or Afghanistan.î

PDKI considers federalism as the most appropriate method of governing and power sharing in Iran

Kurdistanmedia.orgís exclusive interview with Mustafa Hijri, the Secretary-General of Kurdistan Democratic Party of Iran (PDKI)

By: Ibrahim Lajani, kurdistanmedia.org

The Kurdish leader Mustafa Hijri, the Secretary-General of PDKI, kicked-off his European visit aimed at ìconducting the Partyís general affairs, renewing and strengthening relations with counterparts and allies.î In his interview with Kurdistanmedia.org, along with highlighting the purpose of his trip abroad, he pointed out further deteriorating of human rights conditions in Iran within the last year, Iranian regimeís meddling in affairs of other states, state-sponsored terrorism, and most importantly the international communityís vigorousness on Iran as the results of its regimeís nuclear ambitions. Mustafa Hijri further elaborated on his partyís policies and the meetings he had held with foreign dignitaries and national opposition groups.

The Islamic Republic is responsible

The Islamic Republic of Iran attempts to turn its nuclear dilemma into a national issue and thus augments Iranian national sentiments and attracts attention and support of the Iranian people. In the view of many internal and external opposition groups, the regimeís nuclear policy is contrary to the national interests of the Iranian people. In regards to the ratification of the United Nations resolution and the possible international sanctions, the Secretary-general of PDKI states ìThis is not the first time that the Islamic Republic ignores and violates international laws, rather since the regimeís reign, almost 27 years ago, they have been behaving this way. However, currently this regime is progressively engaged in acquiring nuclear weapons, and the international community, the West in particular, feels threatened by such weapons, so they have voiced their concerns and talk about penalizing the regime. As a result of the apparent opposition of two veto yielding nations in the Security Council to any sanctions on Iran, no specific measures are expected to be taken in their upcoming meetings in regards to Iran, but we believe that tough actions will follow soon, because the Islamic Republic is committed to follow its course, and does not seem to even listen to calls made by its closest allies to abandon the atomic project.î

ìWe believe that domestic and international actions of the Islamic Republic, especially concealing the truth about its nuclear ambitions from the International Atomic and Energy Agency for 18 years, have led the international community to distrusting Iran and becoming worried of Iranís nuclear acquirement. Thus, in our view, the regime will be responsible for the consequences of any actions taken by the international community on Iran.

Possibility of Change ,/b>

American policy in Afghanistan and Iraq and the changes that have been brought up, raise the question of changes in Iran. In this regard, many are worried of Iraqís experiences. In Hijriís view ìIf the Americans or the international community reach the conclusion that the regime in Iran must be changed, it is not imperative to employ similar policies conducted in Iraq or Afghanistan. There are other alternatives that must be considered, and there are many lessons learned from two invasions, especially he invasion of Iraq.

Talking about the aftermath of Iraqi experiences and the issue of securing democracy and federalism, PDKI Secretary-general spells out his Partyís stance: ìWe consider federalism as the most appropriate method of governing and power sharing in Iran; a federalism that will be based on geography and ethnicity, especially when several diverse ethnic groups compose the people of Iran. In other words, the oppressed national groups, among them Kurds, should no longer be oppressed and remain deprived, rather they all should be equal in their regions and all over Iran. This is a solution to the ethnic issues in Iran and a real democracy can only broaden in this way. In the power-sharing scheme, the general national and ethnic circumstances must be taken into consideration. With this in mind, it is not necessary to copy the Iraq or any other countryís model, because the general circumstances in two countries are quite different.î

Need for Change

In the summer of 2005, Eastern (Iran) Kurdistan stepped into a new era of populous movement. In Hijriís view, the uprising of people of Kurdistan from the north to the south of Eastern Kurdistan greatly impacted his Party. Based on these new developments, PDKI has adopted new tactics to align itself with the movement and play a leading role within it. If we look at the Partyís endeavours for these changes, especially after the 13th Convention, we will notice how many diplomatic, organizational and public relations changes have been implemented. The Secretary-General also admits that ìPDKI has not been able to bring about numerous tactical changes, due to the fact that we have a lot of obstacles in Kurdistan and the region that confine the scope of our struggle; however, we have done all at our disposal and we will continue to do so.î

Vicinity of Kurds and Azeris

In the north of Eastern Kurdistan Kurds and Azeris live side by side. In the view of the PDKI Secretary-General ìKurds and Azeries have lived together for centuries. During this period they have had bitter and sweet experiences. Having learnt lessons from the past, it is vital that two sides think of a civil and peaceful coexistence.î PDKI, in Mr. Hijriís words, ìhas always contemplated such coexistence for the two nations. The best illustration of such success stories is the rules that two republics of Azerbijan and Kurdistan abided by, and we should have a modern plan of coexistence with the Azeris in the future.î

KDPI :

KDPI: Islamic Republic of Iran continues detaining Kurdish people

During the last few weeks the security forces of Islamic regime in Iran have detained at least 40 people from the Kurdish cities of Sanandaj, Saghez, Kamiaran, Divandareh and Degolan in Iranian Kurdistan. The security forces have placed their residence of the detainees under constant surveillance. Most of the detainees are accused of having links to Kurdish political parties.

Following are the name of some of the detainees that PDKIís Bureau of International Relations has received:

Eghbal Javanmardi, Javamirawa
Asad Khani, Degolan
Kouroosh Ranjbar, Degolan
Mrs. Sorraya Ghasemi, Degolan
Vahed Gharibi

Many of detainees are transferred to unknown locations, and their families have no information about their whereabouts. Some of detainees are tortured during their detention, sources reported; furthermore, the security forces have seized detaineesí belongings including computers.

Democratic Party of Iranian Kurdistan is concerned about the fate of these innocent detained Kurds. We call upon human rights organizations and international community to pay attention to government of Iranís human rights violation against Kurdish people. The ongoing systematic onslaught of Kurdish people in Iran is an unvarying policy of the regime in Iran towards our people in Kurdistan.

Since the taking over of Presidency by Mahmood Ahmadinejad, the regimeís pressure against Kurdish people has drastically increased. Iranian Kurdistan is practically under military rule, where non-local security forces rule the every day life of Kurdish residents.

Democratic Party of Iranian Kurdistan
Public relations

Kameel Ahmadi :

Media consumption, conformity and resistance: a visual ethnography of youth culture in Iranian Kurdistan - V

Community Welfare and Public Services

In the next project, a young girl chose to focus on the plight of street beggars and discuss their place within the state. Mahabad, like other towns in Iran, has a growing and more visible problem of street beggars, due in large part to recent rural/urban migration. These ubiquitous characters on the street have their usual spots mainly at or around town centres, and particularly at the doorsteps of Mosques during the time of the prayers in order to beg for donations form the worshippers there. In response to this growing phenomenon, Iranian print media and television have turned their interest to street beggars in Iranian society. The widespread belief within these documentaries, and often supported by Iranian public, is that beggars are a nuisance not to be trusted, and are often in fact quite well off .There have been some cases where media reports suggested that beggars are in fact wealthy, their riches discovered after they died. The common perception is that you cannot trust street beggars as they are lazy, rich people who take advantage of their ëdisabilitiesí. Several popular stand-up comedians have even incorporated this popular mythology into their routines in recent years. But there is also a large section of the community who sympathise with the situation of the beggars, and in particular with women and old beggars. The Imam Khomeini Charity which was set up in order to help poor widows, and the elderly who do not have any income, provides clients with small amount of cash and food rations. This photographic project was no doubt inspired by such public debates which have emerged not only in the news media, but have become a part of popular culture and wider perceptions about public space and street maintenance.

The young participant who prepared this piece conducted a number of interviews with police, the Imam Khomeini Charity staff, social services staff and members of the public. However, instead of incorporating this work visually into her project, she chose to photograph the phenomenon as it is visible in Mahabadís streets. In photo (Figure: 4) you see a blind couple who work in a pair in Mahabadís busy high street. They are positioned next to a bank. Opposite them, on the left-hand side of the image, is a blue charity box from the Imam Khomeini Centre, where people are asked to donate by dropping coins. The young photojournalist argues the point that passersby do not trust the charity because they believe that donations will not be spent on poor people but instead goes to the government to be used for other purposes. She has asked police officers, in her interviews, why they do not deal with the ëproblemí by removing people from the streets according to the law. She seems to be suggesting, with this ironic critique, that the state does not do enough to ensure the issue is dealt with, which results in very public displays of poverty that are unpleasant for middle class residents. At the same time, she describes how prospective donors donít trust the beggars; however despite this, as matter of choice, residents would prefer to give money to the beggars themselves rather than the government system, although they may trust neither.

In photo (Appendix: 7) we see an elderly woman, she is looking directly at the camera, her dress is very worn and scruffy looking. Her direct gaze and the look of apathy in her face seems intended to draw sympathy from passers by. She has displayed in front of her on the pavement a small cloth where she rests the money she has received, several coins and notes. The caption written by the young participant reads: ìlook at this woman who begs on the street, because she is a woman she can not find work and also she is old. In order to live she is forced to beg on the street and put her hand out to any person, bad and goodî. What seems to be evident from this very direct and almost confrontational image is that she has a feeling of sympathy for this woman above the other beggars, who she sees as being placed in such a difficult and above all humiliating situation on the street. Culturally, for a woman to be publicly appearing so desolate and needy robs her of all humility. While the young photojournalist is critical and mistrustful of both the other beggars, the state and the charity, she offers explanation for the reasons why a ìwomanî because of her age and gender cannot find work, and suggests the moral that this is the outcome.

In photo (Appendix: 8) we see a long qeue at the Imam Khomeini Charity centre, which is regularly attended by a large number of mainly women and elderly, who must be registered with the organisation as unemployed or elderly, and therefore unable to work. The young girls says in her accompanying commentary that many of the beggars are among these registered charity users, who change their clothes and join the queue to receive their rations. This photograph shows charity recipients as much more anonymous and orderly than the other portraits of the beggars on the streets, many of who become known by the public, she suggests, for the regular location where they occupy the pavements years after years. She says that the issue has not been dealt with by the government, and they have become a part of the local landscape in central Mahabad. The underlying message of these photos when taken together seems to be a critique of state in addressing the problem, which also reveals a ëdeviantí and inherently untrustworthy segment of society. While in some respects the plight of the beggars is treated sympathetically, they are equally presented in the images as suspicious figures. The critique is also that sufficient interventions have not been taken by relevant authorities to manage the problem. This is shown as emblematic of the general malaise of poor development and resources in the region of Mahabad, far removed from the central power and privilege of Tehran.

One of the few boys who maintained a presence in the class conducted his photographic project on the state of Mahabadís parks and local schools, in which he criticises the local authorities for failing in their duties to maintain public space. He also questions where the use of funds which should be available to repair and maintain the parks.

As perhaps with teenagers everywhere in the world, there seems to be a general sense of mistrust of the council and government officials on the part of the young people I worked with and that mentality is reflected in this particular project; in particular the boys believe most of the officials do not conduct the work they are supposed to and some also that public funds are frequently stolen by them. This theme emerged in my conversations with the young people; as one young boy told me ìthere is money there, it may not be much but the money there is they take it and use for something else or just keep it themselvesî. However the general idea of corruption is a widespread across Iranian society and is a favourite topic to be talked about openly in the public as well as in homes. This topic of conversation is considered a ëmaleí domain for discussion in homes; typically, when guests are entertained in a home the young boys will be expected to serve tea to the male social party, and in this way they overhear from an early age the topics which are considered appropriate to occupy men in groups. Thus, for the young boy to focus his photographic work and critique on such themes may be a mark of his establishing himself in a male public world.

His first photo (Figure: 5) deals with a group of children who are playing on a residential road. He argues that because there is no suitable playground for children in the town they have no choice apart from playing in roads, although this is very dangerous. He explains, for example, that in the previous month a boy age twelve was killed by a car when he was playing football outside his home. He continues by saying that in large towns and cities each area has their designated playground, citing the state television programme Jonge Jewan, a daily current affairs broadcast aimed at young adults. However, this programme depicts a rather middle class existence of Tehranís northern suburbs, with green playing fields for the sporting segments, and the children of Mahabad, while they aspire to this lifestyle, find it inconsistent with their own realities. Playing football is an important part of youth culture in Mahabad, with football closely followed by Iranians to the extent that the national exam schedule was changed by four weeks due to the start of the World Cup at time I was doing my field research. Most young boys play football outside their doors and their parents prefer them to stay as close to home as possible to reassure them of their safety; also they can be reached in case some last minute shopping needs to be done or bread from the bakery collected for the evening meal. The photograph itself depicts a group of boys, various ages, kicking a ball on the road. The scene is cramped and dusty, and the onlookers sit on bits of broken concrete. I guess that there is an underlying comparison between the conventions of youth lifestyle as depicted by programmes in Iranian state television, which show affluence, and the vision of decayed and perhaps rather underprivileged life and public space his own photographs show.

The same is true in the following photographs. In photo (Appendix: 9) he shows a local park in Mahabad and writes in angry tones: ìwhere is all this money and funding the council gets to maintain the parks and playgrounds? Why the government pays no attention to the life of young people, can you call this a playground?î. The photograph shows a derelict play park, the ground muddy, the play equipment destroyed and piles of debris around. The caption he has given the photograph says that the broken swings and other play equipment are very dangerous for children, and makes reference to an accident which occurred in a Mahabad amusement park when a large wheel (similar to the London Eye) collapsed, killing and injuring hundreds of children and their parents and which since 2003 has been closed. He asks why such an accident should happen and that the local council must pay much more attention to improving the status of parks and playgrounds.

Photo (Appendix: 10) was taken in the neighbouring town of Urumia, the regional capital, when he was on a day trip with his family. Here, he contrasts the image of the Mahabad play spaces with the clean, shiny and new equipment here. In the photograph, the grass is freshly planted, and the swings and other pieces are brightly coloured with a new coat of paint. The playground and the play equipment although simple and ordinary seems to be new and well maintained. The boy writes caption saying: ìwhy shouldnít our townís park be like this, nice and well maintained?î. The caption also says that the town authorities are ìnot up to their jobs, and the government spends more money on Urumia because it is the centre of west Azerbaijan provinceî.

Iranian state television constantly plays traditional and modern music of the sanctioned performers, which feature clips of nature and green lush waterfalls, as well as of urban Tehran street life, mostly families on days out in parks or children playing in amusement parks. This shows a very different image of life in Iran, and such representations of the country and public services in more privileged areas like the capital and large cities means that young people do not see their own realities depicted, but a version of reality which they feel expected to emulate and also feel excluded from.

Part VI comingÖ.

kameel Ahmady. :

Media consumption, conformity and resistance: A visual ethnography of youth culture in Iranian Kurdistan Part V

Ethnography: The Youth Photographic Projects

Below, I have chosen seven of the more detailed projects which I see as emblematic of the concerns in the lives of the young people in Mahabad who I worked with. They direct critiques at government, the family and the opposite sex, and in some cases find subtle ways to avoid the restrictions of censorship. In the final section, I will analyse their content in more detail and attempt to draw out the themes connecting their work and to see what conventions of ëcurrent affairsí reporting and story telling have influenced this. For the sake of accessibility, I have divided the projects into three main themes; 1) those dealing with consumption, 2), those dealing with community welfare and government services and 3) those dealing with gender. In fact, these themes have much in common and seem to move into one another, particularly with overarching issues of imposed sanctions on behaviour and youth freedom of expression from the family and/or the state.

1) Consumption

One girl decided on a piece of reportage that discussed the significance of gold in Kurdish culture and the economy, specifically wedding exchanges. Traditionally, being a woman in Iranian Kurdish culture is somehow considered as equivalent to how much gold you have. Traditionally in Mahabad and like towns, each family has a regular jewellery shop and regular relations with it ñ they would go regularly to swap the pieces for newer models. It is very important for women to wear gold at public events, especially weddings, showing the central role of this commodity in social life and the prestige of families. The newspapers publish the market price for gold daily, and at present there is much discussion in the media about how this, and more generally economic stability or inflation, might be affected by international events including proposed UN sanctions on Iran. Socially speaking, in the evenings when girls and women go out even to casually socialise with one another, they invariably stop in front of the gold shops for window shopping( for example, in Kayeban Shapor-Street-) and are aware of the prices of gold in their conversations and interactions. In images (Appendix:1) we see a mother and daughter shopping for gold, and the lavish window displays of consumer goods, with all their references to feminine ideals and romantic love, such as the heart-shaped display case. The young women looking reverently at the objects on display highlight the prestige value of gold items. One woman who was interviewed by the young girl conducting this project said that she liked to have gold to look stylish and prove she was in a good social position, especially at social gathering such as weddings, but she also indicated that for her gold is a form of security and financial independence.

In the next photograph (Appendix:2) we see a girl in a red dress, her head absent from the image, and her hands placed prominently on her lap, revealing the many gold rings and bracelets she wears. On the one hand the demure gesture and the hidden identity of the portrait gives a conventional view of feminine behaviour, but at the same time, the bright red of the dress is an obvious contrast to the more sober styles of dress in the public realm, a point to which other photographs from different youth also referred. One can conclude from this series of images that the place of gold, while supporting traditional family roles in the marriage ritual, also functions to give certain independence to women.

The theme of traditional relations and their limitations in style and consumables is repeated in the photographs of another girl, who decided to do her project by conducting a number of interviews with parents, teacher, and some young persons in regards to what people choose to wear and why. She also tries to find out about why, in her words, hijab is such a centrally important part of clothing for women. The questions implicit within her piece however are dealing with the erosion of traditional identity through the expression of fashion, versus the adoption of modern ëwesterní style dress. She has taken a number of photographs of people wearing Kurdish clothes, and follows by asking them why they have chosen to wear this rather then western style. The choice of photos is telling, in that it might have been difficult for her to find people who were wearing Kurdish dress, which is a cultural or political statement in itself. In photograph (Appendix: 3), a father sits with his son, who is wearing Kurdish clothes. The father is in western dress, a simple pair of jeans and shirt. She interviews the father, who tells her that he likes his son to ëwear Kurdish clothes in order for him to know that he is Kurdishí. The student notes that it is interesting to see that the father himself is wearing trousers and shirt, pointing out the subtle hypocrisy from the perspective of parent/child relations. Although she is critical of enforced tradition in this theme, her next photograph shows a more positive image of traditional culture and its impact on young peopleís lives.

In photo (Figure: 2) she is taken photograph of a family wedding, where she argues the point that everyone is wearing Kurdish costume and doing traditional Kurdish dance, and that there is mixing of men and women which is allowed in Kurdish culture in the context of such traditional practices. Young boys and girls hold each othersí hands, and there are no restrictions such as hijab or even covering the hair of women, which in normal circumstance they must do. As with the photo of the girl showing off her gold jewellery, there is an underlying contrast between the state-imposed culture of conservative attire for women, and the Kurdish tradition of colour and gaiety as seen in the traditional dress and dance in this image.

In photo (Appendix: 4) we see teenage girl who is wearing long sleeves, jeans and hijab. The subject states that she like modern cloths and not so much Kurdish costumes, as her western cloths are much more comfortable. She also points out that in the case of going onto the streets she would need to wear chador, while she doesnít need to if wearing western clothes. She also thinks that having hijab is good for her because it will cover her hair and ëpreserve her dignityí in public. The presentation of tradition versus modernity as expressed by fashion is therefore ambivalent, as is shown in the above example, the girl wearing hibaj, for example, sees this as appropriate to her public image, but prefers modern western dress to what is perhaps viewed as ëold fashionedí Kurdish folk costume. On the one hand, the practicalities of modern dress are highlighted, and this seems to be related to a perception of more liberal freedoms for women that this symbolises ñ such as the comfort of wearing jeans, and the freedom of not having to wear chador. At the same time, we see the portrayal of the same women as a rather ëwontoní image where they donít cover their hair. Although the Kurdish dress is seen as uncomfortable and unfashionable, it also holds associations for this young photographer of happy and nostalgic images of social mingling, and even some measure of liberality, as against the state imposition of Hijab in more public contexts.

Interestingly, four of the young girls chose to do their work with a focus on Mahabad's local ëcelebritiesí. The two art centres in the city are professional home to a few well known young men. The centres run music and theatre classes and produce short music videos which are featured on popular Kurdish satellite TV stations and else where. As there are no satellite TV stations for Iranian Kurdistan (at the time this research was conducted) their work where mainly broadcast from Iraqi Kurdistan or channels based in Europe. Some of their clips are about the history of the Kurdish region of Iran, local poets and young singers releasing new music clips. As the townís young celebrities are know to locals and in particular the girls, four of the students decided to interview the artists, film makers and musicians of these arts centres, ìMokrayanî and ìSirvanî. These are both important sites of cultural production in the Kurdish region, and their products, although produced locally and on quite a small scale, are widely distributed and consumed, and their artists take on the character of ëlocal herosí. As the girls felt the Kanoon project gave them a formal and ëadultí status, I suspect they used this in order to have access to the local celebrities, which would make them the envy of their peers. They were also proud to boast their work and exposure to the celebrities through the Town Hall exhibition we later staged. The girls chose to run five days of interviews exclusively with males, asking them personal information about their life, work, habits and interests. It is noticeable in their photographs as to most the young men interviewed meet the criteria for smart, good looking, with fashionable hair styles and proud of their privileged positions in Mahabad society. As the days passed, the girls grew very self-confident in dealing with these boys, and on one occasion invited their ìsubjectsî to attend the Kanoon workshop as a way to ëshow offí, as well as at the time of the exhibition, when they were noticeably pleased to be in their company, guiding them through the hall as other girls watched. (See appendix 18)

In photo (Figure: 3) you see the group of local celebrities being interviewed. The fact that the girls have used the opportunity to show off about their work is evident by the fact that, rather than take the photograph themselves, they have asked someone else to take a picture which shows them opposite to their ësubjectsí (the girls appear on the right hand of the photo, seated and adulating). The style of the hair and clothing of these celebrities is very similar to the Bollywood actors who are so popular among young adults in Iran. In the photograph, we see the walls are covered with posters of famous Iranian film stars and music groups, mainly Persian. It is uncommon to come across pictures of Kurdish stars, as there are not many well known figures due to the fact kurdish cinema is relatively new who are popular among the young Kurds. You do however see the images of popular Kurdish musicians in music shops throughout the town, but these are mainly older artists who reach the middle age group rather then young people, such as Razazi,Mamlai,Xalaki and Hasses Zirak. Cultural production, and the images of ëtrendinessí or fashion that they influence, all come from the Persian dominated culture, including film and television stars, and musicians. Only the older people in the Kurdish region, who make an active point of choosing Kurdish over Persian artists, do not admire the mainstream Persian popular culture. Persian actors like Hadeia Tehrani are very popular among girls in Iran, and her picture appears in most shops along with girlsí collections, alongside popular Indian male and female stars. The Hollywood film Titanic remains another popular motif in youth popular culture consumption and ideas about celebrity, with posters appearing in shops, homes, and even cars.

Photo (Appendix: 5) depicts two men from the ëSirvaní Centre who are known to be some of the most successful Mahabad musicians, well respected among the girls in particular. Their manner in the photographs is self assured and confident, they gaze directly at the camera, holding their instruments as marks of their status. The girls have accompanied these portraits with ëvital statisticsí style interviews, in which they are asked their names, ages, professions, and brief questions about their views on family, work, art, etc. These interviews, and in fact the entire piece seems to treat the concept of ëcelebrityí in such a way that is heavily influenced by the teen magazines produced in Iran which are similar to western style girls magazines, but focussing on Persian popular culture. Their style of interviews is closely parallel to the type of ëfive minuteí interviews in entertainment magazines, and their photographs of the performers suggests something of the style of film and celebrity posters which adorn public billboards and their own rooms at home.

Photo (Appendix: 6), for example, shows a group of boys at a park in the centre of Mahabad where one of the interviews took place. The boys depicted are actors who play in the townís only theatre troupe. They normally perform for official events such as Iran Art Week, religious events such as Eid and the annual Week of Unity between Shiíia and Sunni ordered by Imam Kuhmeini, Haftai Wahdet. The photograph, which is informal and less in style of portraiture than the previous photograph, shows the group of men casually arranged on the grass, gesturing and chatting to one another in a show of easy camaraderie which could emerge from the opening credits of a popular television sit-com. The boys, in their interviews, say they are pleased with their lives and they get lots of attention from other young people especially from girls. As one of the boys says, ìthere are so many that I can actually choose and pick my oneî. Again, as with the Town Hall exhibit discussed, the nature of the exercise in celebrity adulation is slightly subversive in nature, a bit of an excuse to be cheeky and flirtatious. But there is also a subtext of social commentary. Their social positions as local ëcelebritiesí, and their status of ideal masculinity give them, in the eyes of their interviewers, the freedom of choice and opportunities. The caption below their photograph, written by the female interviewers, reads, ìwe wish we were boys just like them, that would have enabled us to enjoy our life as much as they doî.

Kameel Ahmady maintains a website at: www.kameelahmady.com

By Kameel Ahmady :

Media consumption, conformity and resistance: A visual ethnography of youth culture in Iranian Kurdistan - III

The Importance of Visual Techniques

As stated earlier in the methods section, this work was undertaken with the aim of carrying our participatory action research which would both identify and draw on existing skills in the community, as well as looking at the local perceptions of what constituted useful ëresearchí. Within Iranís media, there is little opportunity for independent voice to discuss pertinent social issues, and it is especially true that young people feel they have no voice or investment in state infrastructures. Young women are particularly voiceless, and marginalised or excluded altogether from public spaces. Therefore, photography, and particularly the participatory methods which I incorporated with photography, became a way for the young people this research deals with to reflect on public space in a new way which they may not have done before. It also was an alternate means of them expressing themselves which was less intimidating and more accessible than simply interviews, which they might not relate to. It gave girls especially a chance to participate in and narrate public space from which they feel excluded. The young adults were encouraged to develop their own themes from what they felt was relevant. The pioneering work of visual anthropologist Jean Rouch (2003) was developed through a passion for the everyday life worlds of his subjects of study, which would capture the intricacies, complexities and imperfections of their experience. His advocacy of a strictly non-professional approach to film-making and visual technique, in which technical skills take a back seat to the realist colour and movement of the everyday, helps us to understand the ethnographic value in seemingly amateur photographs produced by the young participants themselves.

Because I wanted to work directly with young people in this way, and to increase their sense of ownership over the process, it was important that the photographs taken in the course of conducting fieldwork were ëclearí in their intent and meaning. Although photographs can have many meanings for different audiences, making their ethnographic worth also multifaceted, and as Pink argues that ëthe meanings of photographs are arbitrary and subjectiveí (2001:51), I wanted precisely to draw out those subjective interpretations as the young people allowed the photographs to ëspeakí for their experience in the course of our interactions.

But beyond the interaction between myself and the young people, the exhibition which was then held at the Mahabad Town Hall gave the photographs a new life, as they came to be interpreted and given new meaning by the audience. These images, about themes relating to community and public space, now on display in public space, revealed understandings of local culture ñ those of the children ñ which had previously been obscured from the adult dominated public domain. This allowed the viewers to see their surroundings in new ways, and therefore opened up dialogue between different segments of the population. From the perspective of young people, the ëethnographic meaningsí of the photographs contribute to an understanding of youth culture in Mahabad, not only for me as the ethnographer, but for the wider community. Collier and Collier (1986) have referred to this approach as a specific fieldwork method, ëphoto-essaysí: ìWhen the photographic essay ahs been read by the native, it can become a meaningful and authentic part of the anthropologistís field notesî (1986:108). Such was the experience of helping to organise and observing the exhibition. For example, one attendee wrote in the Guest Book for the exhibition:

ìThis was very interesting. It showed me a different way of seeing the town; the streets we cross every day have a different meaning. It is interesting to see the different vision of Mahabad among the young people. For me, poverty is the thing that comes out most, how they view this themeî

Lydall and Strecker, (2006) talk about the ability of the visual in ethnographic work to create ìan awareness and incorporation of gendered perspectives both in front and behind the cameraî (2006:138). For the young girls involved in the projects, the chance to express their vision of things, and the injustices they experienced within the local culture and social traditions, was a unique experience which represented a brave act of resistance. That this was the case is proven by some of the apparently extreme views expressed by visitors to the exhibition: a young man (Mangor tribe) writes:

ìThis was a very interesting exhibition, although in my opinion the work dealing with gender differences was not appropriate. I believe that women should not be given public role in society ëíat allíí because their place is to maintain the home and it is for men to take work that earns the bread. I enjoyed the photographs which showed the importance of family and respect
For your parents and povertyî

Another young man writes after his comment:

ìIn this society women means; salve, someone with no right of existence. When there is no democracy in a society you can it a country, in my point of view you have spread Islam from democracy then we will have equal rights both for male and female.î (See appendix 16)

Interesting, and perhaps as a commentary on the nature of gender relations in the public domain, the Guest Book for the exhibition became appropriated in an unexpected way. Young men began to use it as a means to communicate romantic and amorous messages to prospective partners in public without having to deviate from the accepted boundaries of gender relations see (appendix text 19). After the completing of the exhibition, I in fact learned that several couples had ëpaired offí as a result of these largely prohibited exchanges. The buzz which this exhibition generated in the town resulted in large groups of young men turning up at the Town Hall to gain opportunities to flirt with the young women. In the context of this, others also used the opportunity to further critique the nature of male/female relations, either as represented in the photographs or in the behaviour of the young people during the exhibition itself.

For example, two young girls wrote the following comments in the Guest Book:

ìSeeing such work produced in Mahabad really shocked me, especially as it is presented mainly by women and it talks about the lives of us as girls, itís really good. but I beg you please, please, please donít overdo or be extreme in your relations with boys, because that will lead you into inappropriate relationships with boys and sexual relationships for short-term pleasures, as you will later be judged for itî

And the other girl says:

ìI think there is no problem. The only problem that we have is that there is lack of freedom, and because there are so many restrictions on our lives people find ways to cheat. If we didnít have these restrictions, we wouldnít be discussing these issues. If you put a person in prison for doing something, and they really want to do it, they will find a way to do it even under the stones. In regards with relationships between boys and girls, I believe teenagers would need to be more vigilant, as they donít have the same experience as the grown ups toî (See appendix 16)

The work that they produced through this method included twenty eight photojournalism projects, focussing on themes such as the management of and contestations over public space and expressions of gender and identity within this.

Appendixes 16:

Points (has been referred/ translated on the main text) collect it from the guest book, photo exhibition at Mohabad Town Hall

By Kameel Ahmady :

Media consumption, conformity and resistance: A visual ethnography of youth culture in Iranian Kurdistan - II

The classes were divided between boy and girls and at the beginning of the course the Kanoon manager made sure that there were not to be any mix ups, although I was left to choose the times and shifts of the classes. However, the sensitivity around this issue was no longer evident in the 2nd and 3rd week, as I start mixing up the classes since I did not have enough boys to run separate classes for them, and at the same time I was interested to observe their young adult reactions to the opposite sex, as all boys and girls have divided schools. There were four classes per day, two in the morning and another two in the afternoon for males and females who were in school in different shifts of the morning and afternoon. Subsequent to those classes I had four hours a week for Kanoon staff and adults dealing with the impact of image and media on young adults and how to analyse painting and images produced by young adults, trying.

Within the population of girls three distinct subgroups could be observed: the first group were members of the Kanoon number one, who were regular visitors to the centre and familiar with extracurricular activities provided by the institute, as well as the rules and norms for behaviour within Kanoon. The second group were from Kanoon number two; they expressed greater interested in the course rather than seeing it as an obligation, and their different exposure to and attitudes of the Kanoon relative to the first group were visible. It was also noticeable there was intensive competition between the two groups when they were working in small groups or setting up the exhibition. The third group were those who heard about the programme through word of mouth. While the regular Kanoon users were uniformly middle class, the final group represented a cross section of the local population, some coming from wealthy families with educated parents, and several also from working class and poorer areas of Mahabad such as Pashet Tap.

I conducted a series of informal ëfocus groupí style discussions, to break the ice with the young participants and also in order to situate their perceptions prior to actually undertaking the photographic work. I found the girls were more interested in learning and getting involved in what the course were asking of them. Most girls had a clear idea of what they wanted to do for their projects and as to how they would approach the issues. At the same time, they were well aware of the cultural barriers and difficulties they may encounter. Most young females expressed a frustration with established norms of societal behaviour, and were discriminated against as girls or women, while boys were much freer. The common ideas were that boys were free to go out without supervision of the family and were able to do most things which would not require permission, simply because they were boys. They also believed in some cases that if girls went out by themselves (out of the school times and particularly in late evenings) it would not be viewed as inappropriate and would be referred to as hayb (inappropriate or shameful). They were concerned about the frequent practice of girls being labelled as not ìgoodî by the boys.

Most of the boys were either unaware that the concept of gender equality could exist, or did not take any interest in exploring the issue in the class while girls were present.

Out of the twenty eight visual projects produced by the students, five girls decided to do theirs on gender differences and gaps between male and female freedom and opportunity. They also focussed on themes such as Islam or hijab, while none of the boys took an interest in gender issues and concentrated more on school conditions such as hygiene, for example.

For their part, parents were unquestioning in their acceptance of Kanoon as a safe and responsible organisation for their children to attend, and did not question the methods or the things they were being taught. This is in spite of the growing sense of fear about potential ëdangersí that can befall their children, as is discussed later. While Jones and Wallace (1992) talk about the growing trend to have government institutions take on the ëtraditionalí role of the family in the lives of young people, there is also a certain prestige to be derived for working class families to have their children participate in such programmes if they aspire to middle class educated values. As later discussion shows, the informal pressure of family social prestige and reputation tends to have a far greater influence on regulating behaviour within acceptable norms, than government interventions or direct legal sanctions. In the light of family pressures, such government pressures are unnecessary.

Methodology

The methods used in this field research involved participatory approaches which worked directly with the community, their resources, and encouraged participants to identify their own themes of interest about local identity and representation. From there, I used focus groups and workshops, as well as informal interviews and some brief survey work to gain the data I needed while incorporating these local ëterms of referenceí into the shifting focus of my study. I also collected detailed notes about my observations during the exhibition in the Town Hall, as well as of my informal observations about pop cultural influences in public spaces in the city. The workshops were divided between two courses - photojournalism and visual story telling.

In order to be able to work with Kanoon I had to offer voluntary teaching work towards producing results leading children to learn new skills and for the Kanoon to claim it as activity to be put down in their annual reports, as well as raising their profile. Therefore the research methods also encompassed working with organisations and finding a mutually beneficial arrangement for the work which would produce results for all parties. I felt there was competition between Kanoon and Education Ministry, who run their own Kanoon (Kanoon Parvarshi). Most school children were taken to Kanoon Parvarshi in terms of day trips, and most were obliged to participate in their daily and sometimes weekly programmes such as camping style activities. While it is well-run and staffed directly by Education Ministry, it was really difficult to obtain information or work with their young adults without fully confirmed permission from the Tehran Education Ministry. I tried to participate in their organised storytelling and painting day programmes but I was referred to Mahabadís Head of Education, who needed to have confirmation from the head office in Urumia, which in turn needed approval from Tehran. Although I never made it inside their Kanoon, it was clear how protected schools were and how much the government puts importance on education which can be exclusively monitored by them.

The young participants, ranging in age from 14-17, were asked to complete photographic reports on a social issue of their choice as part of their activity for the workshops. I provided brief introductions to the possible uses of visual methods for story telling, what can and cannot be said with photographs, and interviewing skills, as well as introducing ethical considerations and how to avoid provoking the authorities. Given that news media is so restricted as an actual platform of debate in Iran, there was a keen interest from the young people in the power of photographs to tell stories and shed light on current affairs in a way which spoke to their experiences. The multivocality of the photographs was also therefore important, since the messages could be interpreted differently and therefore also less subject to scrutiny from the authorities. I felt the participants were unfamiliar with working in small groups, so I intended after half way through each lesson to divide the students in to several small groups in order to work together. After a while they quite liked the format and found it very useful as they could work as a team, they told me that in school they either donít work as groups or in much larger groups, where there is not such opportunity to put in their ideas and opinions as much as they can in small groups like this.

Another interesting thing was that the participants were so much enjoying laughing, feeling free to speak their minds, and most of them and in particular the girls were stating that they cannot laugh as much in schools and most of their teachers are very strict and uptight, there were always boundaries and barriers when it came to discussions with the opposite sex. Our classes, in contrast, were much more informal and the students could express their opinions to a much larger extent; as well I was joking and trying to make them laugh about some of the social taboos and issues I knew it would be fun for teenagers to discuss. Talking and remarking about the opposite sex was the most ìhotî topic of the classes, a popular issue which we returned to again and again. The very interesting thing was that there were no remarks or discussions made when the Head of Kanoon would drop by for short visits to check on the classes; almost all the children were well aware of his presence at the class and would suddenly censor themselves, with all discussion becoming ìappropriateî. This was something which was never discussed or formally agreed between me and the students but they were all aware of their behaviours without me pointing it out.

The fact that the young people could use our workshops to test and transgress the boundaries of appropriate behaviour was helped by the fact that they trusted both Kanoon as an organisation and my presence within it. In Kurdish culture, there is typically a lot of deference towards educated elites, perhaps more so among those who have joined the diaspora in the west. My role as an ëanthropologist at homeí posed certain complications but also opportunities in the conduct of my research. Therefore, although it may also have led to private suspicions, my role as a researcher afforded me almost automatic prestige in the eyes of parents at least. The ethical dilemmas this raised in terms of my responsibilities to the families I tried to deal with through open and clear communication with parents as well as the organisations I worked with. I was also careful to caution the children about the possible implications of their work, providing them with training on how to avoid problems or causing offence with the authorities. I made sure to clearly indicate that during my teaching of the classes I would be taking notes and gathering data on related questions, that this would be used for the purposes of my study, and what my aims were in undertaking the research. Parents and Kanoon staff were also invited to observe or participate as they wished.

By Kameel Ahmady :

Media consumption, conformity and resistance: a visual ethnography of youth culture in Iranian Kurdistan - I

This research carried out in partnership and cooperation with University of Kent, UK, Kanoon (Institute for the Intellectual Development of Children and Young Adults) Mahabad-Iran, UNICEF, the British Arts Council and the Social Science Department at the University of Tehran. This unique visual ethnography research is one of the first of its kind ever carried out in Kurdistan on popular youth culture with focus in gender and conformity.

Part: I

Introduction

The field research began in May 2006 in Iranian Kurdistan, West Azerbaijan province in north-west Iran, also referred to as ëKurdistaní, in the town of Mahabad. It was undertaken in cooperation with the ëInstitute for the Intellectual Development of Children and Young Adultsí (Kanoon Fakri o Parverashi Kodek o Nojavan). During a two month period working with children and young adults as well as members of staff at the centre, parents and local leaders, photographic, textual and interview data was collected.

The initial aim of this work was to examine the factors which shape a sense of belonging and place among young people in Mahabad, a town on the north-west periphery of Iran. I wanted to look at their consumption of local, national and translational forms of media, and how this influenced their view of events, their local environment, and the ways they chose to narrate these. I used reflexive visual methods, asking them to take their own photographic pieces dealing with themes they saw as relevant to local current events and their place within these processes. The works they produced were then placed in a week long public exhibition in Mahabad, where further data was gathered in a Guest Book of reactions to the event, as well as participant observation notes taken at the time.

The work produced by the young people shows the multiple and sometimes competing forces at work in the lives of young people in Iran, where idealised images about ëthe westí can serve to challenge or reinforce their own sense of place. Conventions of media and popular culture ëstory tellingí - that is the discourses used to describe current affairs and social conditions in satellite television from Asia and Europe, films, print media such as newspapers, as well as vernacular trends ñ have shaped not only the choice of themes which are given priority by young people, but also the ways in which they view these themes and the relevance to their lives. Particularly with respect to issues of gender, there appears to be a strong desire for more public debate, but an ambivalence about the role of hybrid influences as positive or negative. Additionally, local forms of identity based on Kurdish resistance to a dominant nationalism are sometimes discernable, as is the overarching context of recent global events drawing Iran into direct political confrontations with western powers.

The Setting: Mahabad and Kanoon Institute

Mahabad is a city in north-western Iran with an estimated population of 240,000 inhabitants (aprxt). The city lies south of Lake Urumia in a narrow valley 1,300 metres above sea level, in West Azerbaijan Province. The name of 'Mahabad' (mah+abad) is the Persian translation of the ancient Mannaean name meaning place of moon, which is also a cognate with the Kurdish word mang. Mannaeans were a branch Mahabad has a colourful history, and is still known today for its leading role of resistance in Kurdish nationalist movements and some historical and political significance, along with producing some of the most well known poets and writers in the Kurdish literary tradition, (Van Bruinessen, 1992:28), Mahabad is marked by modernisation and is leading other Kurdish towns in the Mukrian region, also well ahead of west Azerbaijan province. Partly because of this, the city struggles with its local identity, and there is a tension between this modernity on the one hand and struggles to keep the traditional Kurdish lifestyle and identity markers. With large migrations of Mangor and Mahal tribes to Mahabad from surrounding rural areas, in search of work and the conveniences of city life, the town in many ways is becoming not only diverse, but polarised in terms of socio-economic make-up. Rich and upper class Mahabadis, well established urbanites, coexist with poor migrant families whose agricultural skills are useless in a context where even educated citizens face high rates of unemployment. These rural migrants are more likely to become involved in black market economic ventures to stay afloat, including smuggling alcohol and cigarettes across from the Iraqi Kurdish border to Mahabad, where they will then be sold on to larger urban centres in Iran. An area called Pashet Tap, on the margins of Mahabad, has a reputation of leading most of the uprising and originating any government demonstrations led by young people and the unemployed. It is also seen as a place of informal autonomy for Kurdish movements, because fear among government security forces of strong and sometimes violent revolt within the young population makes it a ëno go areaí in many respects. This has also extended to the lack of government investment, however, which leaves the region largely underdeveloped.

One notable exception to this is the educational institutions where I eventually based my work. Mahabad has two branches of ìInstitute for the Intellectual Development of Children and Young Adultsî, or Kanoon. Both were built at the time of the Shah and before the 1979 revolution which brought the Islamic Republic of Iran. The first is run by a gentleman who worked for Kanoon as a staff for sixteen years, and he has been managing both centres since 2000. He was very kind and hospitable man who gave the impression of being conservative in his ideas about male and female gender roles, and was careful to get clearance from the head office in Uromia for most things. He was sensitive about girls and in particular new members (some of them my students) wearing certain cloths or behaving in certain ways. Kanoon number two was managed by a young woman from a prosperous Mahabad family, who was well educated and well respected. Working along with her were another two members of the staff, both of whom were professional and had good rapport with the young adult clients.

I was informed, as with any other government organisation in Iran, that in order to undertake such work through months contact between UK university and Tehran University and Ministry of science and education in Iran to obtain permit from Kanoon headquarters in Tehran and Urumia, in the centre of West Azerbaijan province I found it easy and with less difficulty to start working. Although Kanoon is not officially listed as a government establishment, 50% of its funding comes from the Majles (Iranian parliament). Outside of Iran, Kanoon is well known through its links to UNICEF and participates in international events for youth workers. To establish a good working relation with the organisation, I arranged a meeting with the Head of Kanoon in Mahabad, the Director of the West Azerbaijan Kanoon, and the Head of Arts Planning, as well as one of their consultants in the offices in Urumia. There is a complex system of monitoring in such institutions in Iran, almost all watched by Harssat services watchdogs, charged with overseeing work and ensuring that ëun-Islamicí behaviour does not occur. Ironically, these are also the people charged with taking complaints on corruption or mismanagement. The Kanoon staff were cautious but supportive of my proposed work, and with some false starts, I received the permission I needed to carry out my research. Initially, the headquarters in Urumia informed me that do undertake storytelling workshops with young children was acceptable for both boys and girls, but that photographic workshops for older children and young adults could include only boys. Luckily, when we returned to Mahabad, the local Head of Kanoon took an approach of silent permissiveness, perhaps seeing that boys alone would make numbers insufficient. This was fortunate, since the classes would have been a failure without the participation of young women ñ both in terms of the numbers attending and in the rich data that they produced.

In order to get a good turnout and reach the wider communities, I agreed along with Kanoon staff to leaflet most parts of the town. Through Kanoonís relations with the Education Ministry all the schools were also faxed copies of the purposed programme, and a number of large banners were placed in prominent locations in the town centre and near the University of Mahabad. My plan was to start the work two weeks after my arrival in Iran, but that never happened, as I learned that the Iranian Education Ministry was ordered for an early closure of all schools in Iran for the summer holidays, as they did not want the school examinations to clash with the World Cup football tournament. This plan was backed by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinajad. I was amused to see the high levels of interest in football among Iranians, which resulted from such measures being taken by the government.

Given the case that Iran has very large young population, with near to half of Iranians under age 25, I still experienced some trouble to find a cross-range of the public to attend the workshops I had arranged to collect my data. Cultural norms mean that anonymous advertising did not gain much response. Direct interactions with community leaders and educators proved the most effective in gathering support and interest, and I also made several visits to more working class neighbourhoods, such as Pashet Tap, in order to engage with families and young people who tended to be more alienated from educational establishments, due to the demands of work and the decreased time and value this placed on educational or youth leisure pursuits. Unsurprisingly, the most responsive group of registrants were Kanoonís own regular users, then came others who heard about it through their friends and relatives, and through my own efforts in the wider community. The classes began with twenty eight students, eighteen females and ten males most aged between 14-17. There were also older students in separate classes, including the Kanoon staff members, but their data has not been included in the final dissertation analysis.

Acknowledgements

I would like to thank all those whose help and support made this research possible. To the Kanoon Institute and its mangers and staff for their willingness to have me work in their midst; to UNICEF for providing me with much useful background information, the British Arts Council in Tehran for helping me to establish vital contacts on the ground; the Social Science Department at the University of Tehran for useful advice and feedback on the collection of my data; many individuals in Kurdistan and the UK who remain nameless. I would also like to thank my supervisor Dr. Peter Parkes for his continuous guidance and constant support of Sarah Keeler through out, and the Department of Anthropology administrative staff at the University of Kent. And to the young adults in town of Mohabad whose sense of openness and willingness to share their views and visions provided all the wonderful ethnographic data.

This research will be published in eight parts. Part II coming.

Kameel Ahmady can be contact it through his maintain website at: www.kameelahmady.com

Nahid Bahmani :

Kurds in Iran: A History of Oppression and Resistance

Historical Background

Kurds have lived in their land for thousands of years. Kurdistan, or land of the Kurds, very rich in minerals, oil, and perhaps most important of all water, is now divided between four countries, namely Iran, Iraq, Turkey and Syria.

Mountains of Kurdistan with their heavy snow have been a main source of water in the Middle East, as well as a natural barrier against invaders.

Until mid nineteenth century, Kurds enjoyed a certain degree of self rule. Kurdish ìMirîs, or local princes, ruled their land and their people. It was under the Qajars of Iran in the nineteenth century, that the last Mirs were crushed and replaced by the government appointed governors.

But at this stage nobody denied their existence, their culture and their language. It was under the Reza Shah, the founder of Pahlavi dynasty, who ruled from 1925 to 1941, that any appearance of Kurdish culture, their customs and their costume, their language and their history were denied. A process of political and administrational centralisation, which had had begun in the nineteenth century, now had gone as far as the denial of Kurdish identity.

Reza Shah, himself almost illiterate, propagated the modern education system by which means he suppressed and forbade other languages. Not only education in languages other than Farsi was forbidden, but any written material in Kurdish and other languages was made illegal and those who committed the crime of writing poems or letters in their mother tongue were persecuted. Even speaking Kurdish language in pubic places considered against the law. ìTo speak other than Farsi is forbidden.î Thus were civil servants in every public office in Kurdistan were instructed. Wearing national clothes was detected and people who disobeyed were fined and punished. The Kurdish national movement rose at the end of the nineteenth and beginning of twentieth century. A pattern of rebellion and brutal suppression has shaped modern Kurdish history. The most well known is the short-lived Kurdish Republic of Mahabad, 1945-1946, which was crushed and its leaders hanged by the second Pahlavi.

Present Kurdish Movement in Iran

Although not as harsh and primitive as under the Reza Shah, but the main elements of national oppression are still at work in Iran. The 1979 Revolution in Iran, which put an end to the monarchy and brought to power the Shiite Islamic fundamentalism in Iran, opened a new chapter of the Kurdish movement in the country. Kurds saw in the Revolution an opportunity to end to their plights and to improve their economic and political life and they took part in the process of the Revolution enthusiastically.

However, it must be pointed out that the Revolution in Kurdistan had a different taste right from the beginning. While Mullas and Ayatollas had a prominent role and from a certain stage dominated the Revolution and turned it into an Islamic Revolution, in Kurdistan the clergy hold no key positions in the political movement and the movement remained a secular, civil, and political one. The nature of the movement in Kurdistan was in sharp contrast with the so-called Islamic Revolution. For instance, a large section of the Kurdish society boycotted the referendum of 1979 which resulted in establishing an Islamic state in Iran. In a sense, Islamic Revolution never took place in Kurdistan. This has remained the case up till now.

Kurds hopes were dashed when Khomeini ordered a total onslaught on the Kurdish people only a few months he came to power. This gave way to a Kurdish resistance movement that is going on for twenty five years. This has formed a new stage in the Kurdish liberation movement in Iran

In the last decade Iranian Kurdistan has experienced a deep cultural and political change. While Kurdish language is still banished from official education in Iranian Kurdistan, parents send their children to private Kurdish classes. Twenty years ago only a political or literary elite could read and write in their own mother tongue, but nowadays reading and writing in Kurdish is very common. Literary societies and circles, theatre groups, green societies, womenís circles, workers meetings, seminars and debates and so on have sprung up .Modern concepts such as democratic values, social and individual rights, political pluralism and cultural diversity, social justice and equal rights for women have made their way into the minds of a new generation of Kurds in Iran.

What are the problems of the Kurds in Iran?

Kurds are discriminated against in many ways. They are economically unprivileged; they are systematically and intentionally deprived of big development projects. Non-industrialisation of the Kurdistan is a state policy. Kurdistan has one of the highest rates of unemployment in the country and one of the highest rates of drug related prisoners while twenty years ago drugs were almost unknown in Kurdistan. Kurds are discriminated against in employment, they never get high positions. They are discriminated against in education. Their mother tongue is not taught in schools. Kurds are absent in history textbooks, and if mentioned at all their history is distorted. Kurds are denied any form of self rule or autonomy. They are politically suppressed. No political parties are allowed. No Kurdish newspapers are allowed. (There are a few Kurdish magazines and some Kurdish books are published in a very restricted and controlled manner.)

Kurdistan is the only region in Iran where political executions are still widespread. Killing and torturing dissidents and political figures is still the norm in Kurdistan, carried out by the Islamic Republic of Iran, sometimes taking the form of mafia like kidnapping and killing people in secret. There are several instances of political execution and political murder by the authorities in the last two years.

In short Kurds in Iran are under a systematic and widespread national oppression.

What do the Kurds want?

Kurds in Iran, with a population of about 10 million, want an end to the patterns and practices of national discrimination. They want arbitrary arrest and torturing, kidnapping and killing to be stopped and their human rights respected. Kurds want their national, cultural and political rights to be recognised and respected. They want to enjoy their right to run their own affairs and have the opportunity to develop and advance their society and their culture. They want to have a fair share in the power structure in the country.

Most of the Kurds advocate a federal, democratic political structure for Iran in which Kurds make one of the local governments. Iran is vast country with huge ethnic, linguistic, cultural and ecological diversity, left from its imperial past. With its six different sizable nationalities (Kurds, Azerbaijanis, Arabs, Baluchis and Turkmans together with the Fars), Iran is perhaps the best candidate in the Middle East for a federative system.

Danielbart.org :

The Iranian Challenge

The diplomatic efforts to persuade Iran to change course have failed and the hopes for a diplomatic resolution have all expired. Iran's theocratic leadership is committed to promoting global nuclear proliferation and terrorizing countries around the world through the global projection of fear. The Iranian project is nothing less than the globalization of its own brand of totalitarianism. This project has so far been successful but has failed at this point to divide the international community as most nations stans united in the face of Iran's theocratic intimidation. The international community well understands the dangers of global nuclear proliferation and is determined to to oppose Iran's efforts to achieve a regime of global terrorist intimidation by the force of nuclear impunity.

Hard decisions await the leaders of the free world as Iran challenges the international community. Other options have been exhausted and few avenues remain as the task at this point is to end the Iranian challenge. Two main options remain; democratic change or all out war. Responsible leaders have to do their utmost to avoid land war and encourage the peoples of Iran to take their destiny into their own hands.

The Iranian nuclear development has reached the point of no return and we are approaching the level of clear and present danger. The peoples of Iran are ready for democratic change and require our full support. The United States government needs to reassure the peoples of Iran that it is committed to supporting democratic change all the way and in every way and the governments of the European Union need to tell them that candidacy for membership in the European Union is an option if they embrace a non-nuclear democratic future. EU-membership has proved to be a uniquely powerfulincentive for liberalization and democratization and it is crucial that
European leaders offer the peoples of Iran a vision of joining the European realm of perpetual peace. Europe and America must continue to support the peoples' quest for freedom and make every effort to maintain national security in face of the terrorist menace.

The US government needs to do its part of this commitment by neutralizing strategic Iranian installations including significant sections of the mullahs' nuclear industry. There is no other choice at this point as the free world has to do its utmost to avoid a land invasion on the model of Iraq. Control of the skies is critical in disabling the regime's attempts to strike against the peoples of Iran and they must be reassured that America is fully behind them. The European commitment to help ensure a democratic transition is no less critical in this process. The partners in the transatlantic alliance have distinct but pivotal tasks in ensuring that this does not descend into regional war and uncontrolled global terrorism.

Iran is composed of many peoples and giving attention to each one of them is crucial in this effort. The speakers of Iran's eleven majority languages and eleven main minority languages should all be reassured that the future belongs to them and them alone. No one should underestimate the power of hope and the determination of the free world to bring democracy to this region.

http://www.danielbart.org

Sam Ghandchi :

Kurdistan, Federalism and Iranian National Sentiments

The topic of federalism may seem not to be much of an issue in a country like the U.S. but viewing the world as a huge federation has come up again and again in science fiction, as a possible global structure of future politics.

Some people think of bureaucracy of federal institutions in the U.S. as a reason to think of federalism, as a factor hampering post-industrial development, rather than acknowledging the significant role federalism has played, in creating the necessary checks and balances in the U.S.

In fact, dropping federalism in favor of centralism, because of issues of bureaucracy, is a grave error. The bureaucracy is the problem that needs to be fixed, and not the checks and balances. The inertia of state institutions is worse in centralized capitalist countries, in contrast to the federal states, although not as bad as the socialist countries.

To eradicate bureaucracy, post-industrial information efficiency and technologies is needed, to streamline the obsolete government procedures, that are the cause of bureaucracy and not the federal redundancies that ensure checks and balances, and do not have to be bureaucratic.

The issue of federalism is of paramount importance to the Futurist Iran. This is why I wrote a detailed paper about the history of development of central government in Iran and the role of Kurdistan. Kurdistan highlights the need for federalism better than any other area of Iran.

Although my paper on Kurdistan, reviews Iran's history, it was not written as a history text, and I wrote it to show why federalism is the only way to avoid a breakup like Yugoslavia, in Iran, and to spearhead Iran, to participate in the global development as a federation. Federalism could have saved Yugoslavia from getting torn apart, following its liberation.

We are not living in the 1940's, and the main fear from centralist states, is not that they can rule for decades after decades. On the contrary, the main fear from centralist states, is that they cause breakup of the regions they rule, by pushing people to the edge to choose secession. We are not in a world that national minorities would put up with dictatorship.

We are living in a world that minorities actually do *separate* their ways, and can easily enter a direct relation with the global economy without a need to go true a bigger nation state, and calling national minorities as "separatist", or similar remarks, only makes them more determined to secede, rather than scaring them away from proclaiming their rights.

For example, if Kurdistan of Iraq, which has oil, creates an independent state, and if Iranian regime remains a dictatorship like the Islamic Republic of Iran, I have no doubt that Iranian Kurds will feel attracted to the new Kurdish state, although historically, Iranian Kurdistan has developed as part of Iran, and not as part of other four sections of the Ottoman Kurdistan and Iranian Kurds share the market of Iran with the other citizens of Iran, and Kurdistan of Iran is *not* like Khuzestan that has oil.

In other words, even though it will *not* be to the advantage of Iranian Kurdistan to join a state of Greater Kurdistan, but dictatorship of the Iranian centralized state can force the Kurdish people to choose separation.

I should note that even Iranian Persian Empire's Satraps were more like a federalist system, than like a centralist state of France, and many of the authors, monarchist, leftist, and nationalist who still cannot come to terms with federalism, misunderstand Iran's history, and are not helping Iran's future. I have noted this in my papers on federalism.

***

I have reviewed the astute works of Madison on this topic, which are excellent studies on the subject matter. The protection in Madisonís federalist papers is mainly against monarchy (British Monarchy). This is why he is so specific about nobility and even sees this criteria as the measure to call his respective system a republic.

There is no attempt by Madison to prove legitimacy for a federal system. The Confederacy is the reality, and the attempt is to show that this federalism is not *absolute*, and that it is also a *national* government. Thus the focus of Madison's paper is on how to implement the federal and state governments in a way to ensure the cohesiveness of the national government.

The issue that Madison is dealing with is the *implementation* of federal organs and state organs, and showing them *both* as necessary institutions, and rebuts claims that these organs of checks and balances are not needed because of being redundant, and he tries to show their existence as a guarantee against tyranny. For him the issue is implementation and not legitimacy, as federation is how the Union is, when it is formed, a conglomeration of separate states.

Now in our case for Iran, the legitimacy of a federal system is not a given. In other words, except for Kurdistan, we are not seeing separate states coming forward with their own aspirations for statehood, at least not at this time. This is why I have tried to substantiate Why Federalism for Kurdistan and Rest of Iran, from a theoretical standpoint.

Basically from the pre-Islamic shAhanshAhi system, which meant satraps each ruled by a king and all kings ruled by king of the kings (shah of the shahs), to the post-Islamic continuation of satraps in new forms, even thru the changes of Moghols era, we see a semi-federal development in Iran.

Even though in Iran, we never had such acceptance of legitimacy of federalism established, and although after mashrootia't, in Iran's 1906 Constitution, the French centralized model was adopted, I think a study like that of Madison's work on *implementation* issues, can still be done about Iran. From the first day of majles-e shorAy-e melli of mashrootia't to the present, the interaction of local and national organs can be reviewed.

Instead of looking at the states, one can review the anjomanhAy-e iiyAlati and velAyati, which were more of a French version of distribution of power in a central state (like the mayor elections in Europe), than federalism as one sees in the U.S. However, I think such review of distributed power in Iran, can help us to come up with constitutional guidelines for federalist local and national organs in Iran.

The work of Madison is a legal work about the structures of checks and balances. We need Iranian lawyers to do this kind of work about implementation issues of federalism in Iran. Unfortunately I have not seen any work of this kind in the Iranian political circles.

I think mostly, even those who claim to be OK with federalism, are content with electoral structures of France for Iran, which is a democratic election system in a centralized government, and is *not* a real federal system. In my opinion, theoretically two areas need to be tackled, with reference to the issue of federalism in Iran:

1. To continue to argue for federalism in the Iranian political circles, and groups, similar to what I have done in my papers noted above, and to add similar studies about various provinces of Iran, and not just provinces like Azerbaijan and Baluchestan, meaning specific studies of provinces like Khorasan, Mazandaran, Gilan, Khoozestan, Hormozgan, and others.

2. To do serious study of legal codes of Iran's past constitutions, and other civil laws, and implementation details of laws, as relates to the branches of government, and their interaction at local, city, provincial, and national levels.
I may differ with many people on details of Iranian history, which is fine. Even centuries after the French Revolution, the French historians and politicians hardly agree on detailed analysis of the French Revolution. But being able to come to terms with calling for a federal state for future Iran, is not an argument about history, and it is a practical issue.

Missing to stress on the important issue of federalism, in any political platform for future Iran, can cause what its opponents fear most, and that is the breakup of Iran, like what happened in Yugoslavia. It is important to create the consensus on federalism among Iranian political thinkers, before it is too late, to avoid the fate of Yugoslavia, in many parts of Iran that are populated by the Iranian national minorities.

***

The issue of Kurds and federalism is one of those issues that touches on the region, and IRI wants to broadcast a view that non-Kurd Iranian political groups do not want federalism, and tries to depict the proponents of federalism as separatists, whereas the majority of Iranian opposition today is beginning to side with federalism, and the Fars ultranationalists are a very small minority.

As I have explained on numerous times, those acting as nationalists calling the federalist programs as separatist, are more Islamic Republic proponents rather than being Iranian nationalists, and their fear is that accepting federalism, would open the way for asking for more democratic rights for the whole of Iran by all Iranians.

It is IRI misusing ultranationalist facade, just as they did during the Iraq War, to justify the IRI despotism. Ultranationalist slogans are a preposterous flag for Islamists, when they have had no respect for national demands of all Iranians all these years, and when they have been pushing Islamism on Iran trying to eliminate even Norouz from Iran, a New Year celebration that Kurds celebrate, as much as any other part Iranians, if not more.

Recently in Iran, the Islamic Republic agents issued a fake communiquÈ, against the rights of Iranian nationalities in education, forging the signature of Jebhe Melli leaders . The forged document has been condemned by Jebhe Melli leadership inside Iran. Thus it is important to know how IRI is trying to attack the Kurdish movement with such despicable ultra-nationalist fabrications.

As I have explained in the chapter on globalization, nationalism in this day and age, is as obsolete as Communism. Of course this does not mean that national sentiments will die away or are undesired. As I have explained in a paper on Iranian National Sentiments, national sentiments will continue to exist the same way that love of family has continued to exists although the political power of family and tribe has faded in human civilization. National sentiment is not the same as nationalism, which is a phenomena of Modern Times symbolized by the Napoleonic Wars.

The reality is that the slaughter of leftists by IRI in 1981 and 1988, and the murder of leftists by the Shah's regime, were because the left had been the most ardent part of the opposition to monarchy in the 50's, 60's, and 70's, and to IRI in 80's and 90's. This is why they killed even the activists who only had one year jail terms, and were inside the IRI prisons in 1988, by Khomeini's decree.

IRI despondently accepted the peace with Saddam, on Saddam's terms. Khomeini committed a mass murder of the leftists and others in September 1988 to ensure to keep the society silent after signing the peace accord. And IRI did not stop at killing the leftists, and even slaughtered Foruhars and others later, people who were never leftists.
Let me note that my own disagreement with the left is not because of their struggle against IRI and Shah's despotism. In fact, in that regard, I support them fully, and I think they have given the most number of sacrifices in Iran's movement for democracy, both during the Shah and during IRI, and this is why the intelligence agents of Shah and IRI have the most hatred for the leftists.

My disagreement with the left is because I think their program is obsolete at the time of post-industrial development and globalization. I have written my views about the left in the past, in details and do not need to repeat. Nonetheless I should note that one of the main forces in Iranian pro-democracy movement that has worked hard for federalism has been Komala, which I explained in Komala and Kurdistan.

Hoping for a Futurist, Federal, Democratic, and Secular Republic in Iran,

Sam Ghandchi, Editor/Publisher

IRANSCOPE

Ali Mansoor :

Iranian state sponsor of terrorism

The brutal torture of local activist Shwana Sayid Qadir by Iranian security agents has echoed in the Kurdistan world and led to angry rally and furious reactions among the Kurdish residents in Mahabad, West Azerbaijan Province and else where. Shwana was under lingering acts of torture until he died. He was held in solitary confinement and denied food and medical in order to force confession. Iranian prison facilities are the most notorious for the cruel and prolonged suffering inflicted upon political Kurdish opponents of the Government. Common methods of torture include suspension for long periods in contorted positions, burning with cigarettes, sleep deprivation, and, most frequently, severe and repeated beatings with cables or other instruments on the back and on the soles of the feet. Prisoners also have reported beatings about the ears, inducing partial or complete deafness, and punching in the eyes, leading to partial or complete blindness. The merciless depiction of the victim ( Shawna Sayid ) reveals to the world the scope of carnage that the Islamic republic is behind versus the innocent people of Kurdistan.

After the US occupation of Iraq, Iran has tried to join in a neutral role but it directly and indirectly interferes in the internal affairs of Iraq and should be blamed partially for the ongoing chaos. History proves that the Kurds have constantly played a constructive and patriotic role in both pre and post-revolution but always been betrayed, denied their basic rights and given promises that were never kept. The treachery by Shaw of Iran in withdrawing support for the Kurdish rebellion following the Algiers accord, the vow of autonomy in return for support against the Shah before the triumph of the Islamic Revolution and the ascent of Ayatollah Khomeini, the 1979 Khomeiniís declaration of a holy war against the Kurds that followed the brutal annihilation of Kurdistan and the assassination of Kurdish political leaders are some of the reliable evidences. Kurds were not interested in being part of an Islamic State and found the upheaval generated by the collapse of the central government to be an opportune moment to establish their own sovereignty.

What about Iranís credibility from a global standpoint? The endowment of the honorary tile of ìaxle of evilî with the prideful status for remaining the most active state sponsor of terrorism? Iran provides increasing support to numerous terrorist groups, including the Lebanese Hezbollah, HAMAS, and the Palestine Islamic Jihad (PIJ), which seek to undermine the Middle East peace negotiations through the use of terrorism. Iran grants refugee to fleeing Al- Qaeda members, provides logistic and financial support and facilitates the movement of terrorists escaping from Afghanistan into Iraq to destabilize the order. The Islamic regime continues to unabatedly violate human rights for maintenance of state power. Countless reports from a wide range of sources indicate that no significant changes towards greater human rights have occurred since the Islamic regime took power. The adverse social and economic situation leading to protests are directly linked to the political situation. Many turn to political activities in order to improve their lives. The Islamic regime fears its overthrow in any such opposition and responds with its usual force and brutality. It is obvious that almost two decades of systematic suppression have changed the nature of political activity. Yet human desires for a better life can never be stifled and people in Iran continue to protest and oppose the regime in different ways.

We condemn this act by the Iranian regime as an immense crime against humanity and genocide. Our hearts go out to the family of victim and we share deeply in their grief. Reactionary states and organizations have made terrorism a stable aspect of life in our era. We believe that through peopleís power, we can and must put an end to state and non-state terrorism. Other than its direct unimaginable criminal dimensions, it is clear to us that this occurrence is just a preface to the further escalation of a global terrorist contest. It is a dark day ñ a prelude to more calamities. We call on people to come to the fore and take the world in their own hands. The world must be taken out of the hands of fanatic Islamic fundamentalists and terrorists.

Khalid Khayati :

The Iranian malaise Distorted nationalism and unknown future

When in 1997, more than 70% of the Iranian enthusiastic electorate voted for the reform programmes of Mohammad Khatami in the presidency elections, there was a strong conviction about the potential of the former president for wrenching the Iranian politics and society out of the grip of the conservative clerics of the country.

But after a couple of years, the Iranian body of voters who wanted fundamental reforms of the political and the economic systems of the country at that time, became very disappointed, when they had realised that Khatami had failed to deliver the coveted changes. Subsequently, the conquest of the Iranian Islamic Assembly (Majlis) by the conservative forces which was followed by the shock victory of Mahmud Ahmadinejad in the last summerís Iranian presidency elections can be seen as very salient signs of the end of the governmental reformism and the definitive return of the hardliners to the power.

Taking into the account the geopolitical, ideological, demographic and economic signification of Iran in the Middle East and even the threats that it can present to some other nations in the region, this country has attracted much attention during these years. In these respects, issues such as the production of the atomic bomb, international terrorism, democracy and human rights have been frequently mentioned and discussed. The outcome of these intensive discussions is however an assumption which establishes a logical fact meaning that the countryís internal circumstances are intimately connected to what is going on outside the country. According to many analysers and even those who advocate democracy for Iran, a positive evolution of the domestic politics can play a considerable role when it comes to the position of the country within the international community; at the same time that the recapture of the power by the hardliners and its specific development have become more than any time the subject of the interrogation and concern at the global level that can be posed as following: Which are the salient features of the Iranian national identity and nationalism that prevent the country to opt for a dynamic and productive discourse of identity and nationhood? Does the failure of the governmental reforms which were undertaken under Khatamiís management mean the disappearance of all democratic forces in Iran? Which alternative discourse can be the real guideline for the Iranian people if there is a desire for achieving a cohesive and functioning nation, compatible with the democratic principles and the international norms?

The features of the Iranian nationalism
In order to answer these questions, it is imperative to discern three nationalistic discourses or ideologies in Iran which are periodically contradictive to each-other; at the same time that they co-exist in a concomitant way; at least it is the case of two of them. These three are however an ethnic essentialist historicist nationalistic discourse, an ethnic religious nationalistic discourse and an ethnic democratic nationalistic one.

It is important to underline the fact that the historicist and the religious discourses have been co-existed since the establishment of the new Iran which goes back to the beginning of the reign of Reza Shah in 1935.

As Abbas Vali (2003) has indicated the ethnic essentialist historicist nationalistic discourse uses the history in a perpetual way as a unique source of legitimating its nationalistic cause and the prevalence of its claim to power and authority. In the Iranian case, the Persian ethnie is the only ìdistinctiveî group who has seized the historic opportunity to form the framework of the nation and its national institutions. For this kind of nationalism which was the dominant ideology until the Islamic revolution in 1979, the Iranian national identity is the product of the intersection of history and politics; a history which according to this kind of interpretation is more than 2500 years old and which irrespective of some short periods of decadences and external occupations represents nothing than glories and the glance of conquests and splendours for the Iranian people throughout the years. This nationalistic discourse claims a powerful unitary nation-state and thereby it is in its character highly anti-democratic and exclusionary and discriminatory vis-‡-vis the non-Persian ethnic groups. Furthermore, it is inclined to use the violence as it did many times before, when there are claims for cultural and political recognition arising from other ethnic and religious communities. As indicated above, the ethnic essentialist historicist nationalistic discourse is not necessarily antagonistic to the ethnic religious nationalistic discourse. Under the rule of Shah there were perpetual references to the shiía Moslem confession to such an extent that Mohammad Reza considered himself as the ìshadow of Godî.

The second discourse which is the ethnic religious nationalistic one is characterised more implicitly by the preponderance of the Persian group; but at the explicit level it is covered by a global and totalising discourse with the reference to the Islamic ummah and the Islamic brotherhood, leaving no room for the ethnic and cultural diversity. The climax of this nationalistic ideology was the occurrence of the Islamic revolution of 1979 under the religious leadership of the Ayatollah Khomeini which had enormous impacts on the international geopolitical reality at that time. Furthermore, the shock victory of Mahmud Ahmadinejad in the last summerís presidency elections can be apprehended as a readopting and renewal of the shiía set of guidelines and ideology by the Iranian voters, which was abandoned partly during Khatamiís presidency. At the level of the political and juridical system, the Velayet-i-Faghih (the supremacy of the clerical institution) takes its full legitimacy and its raison díÍtre from the shiía doctrine, deeply rooted among the majority of the Iranian population. The ethnic religious nationalistic discourse in the Iranian case has at the practical level transformed into an anti-democratic performance which has affected violently and brutally thousands of political dissidents and many ethnic and religious groups; above all the Kurdish people. The internal national cohesion and the continuity of such nationalism are largely connected to its expansive character and to the existence of an imagined or a real external enemy which ìthreatens the values and the land of the Moslemsî. The ambition of producing atomic weapons can not be analysed irrespective of this ideology and its claims to power.

The third Iranian discourse is a democratic nationalistic one which is strongly limited not only by the lack of democratic traditions and values in the country but also by its own malady which arises largely from the non-ability of this discourse to free itself from the influence of the two other nationalistic discourses, presented above. For example, the project of the governmental reformists under the rule of Khatami and the other so called national-religious democratic forces to achieve restrictions on the power of clerical institutions and hardliner judiciary, was not based on a secular approach with the ambition to successively separate the religion from the politics but still on a religious perspective which endeavoured to attain gradual institutional reform in line with the Islamic constitution and the Islamic values. However, this project has failed because it did not contain substantial materials needed for its own initial objectives. Meanwhile, there are of course other forces who advocate democratic changes in Iran without referring to the Islamic constitution and the Islamic laws; but without being able at the same time to restraint the impact of the ethnic essentialist historicist nationalistic discourse, strongly exerted on them. When reading the political literature presented by this group, one can ascertain easily that they are rather concerned about the preserving the political and the territorial unity of Iran than a real democratic transformation of the country. In such a case, the notion of democracy has been reduced many times to a pure instrument. However, it does not mean in any rate that there are not real democratic actors and that we are facing to a situation of a total absence of substantial democratic forces and democratic social movements in Iran. The conclusion should be quite different.

Conclusion
There is a quite strong civil society and an increasing social movement that have been emerging and shaping since the last half on 1990s in Iran. The persisting struggle among women, youths, worker class, journalists, intellectuals, etc., the creation of many civil institutions and associations and the powerful ethnic movement that we can testify above all among the Iranian Kurds and Arabs are the very obvious signs of resistance vis-‡-vis the Islamic regime and its authoritarian rule. In a global era when the events occur so rapidly that our imagination is not able to keep up with them, the time is right even for the Iranian nation to opt for a real democratic discourse. Practically, it can imply distancing from the two old-fashioned historicist ethno-religious nationalistic discourses and the ìde-ethnificationî of the state and its subordinated institutions. Furthermore, the political and institutional recognition of the multiethnic and multicultural reality of the country can be further features of the political development which can put an end to a long period of suffering for those ethnic and religious populations whose identities have been categorically denied since the establishment of the new Iran in 1935. A cohesive and functioning nation which is even compatible to the norms of the international relations can not be achieved through the use of the violence and the exclusionary racist discourses; it is possible to be realised through adopting the universal democratic values.

Hussein Ali :

Turkish-Iranian State Sponsor of Terrorism

Operation Iraqi Freedom removed Saddam Hussein and his Baíathist regime from power and liberated Iraq. Since then, however, Iraq has become a central battleground in the global war on terrorism. Former regime elements, who have been conducting insurgent attacks against Coalition forces, have increasingly allied themselves tactically and operationally with foreign fighters and Islamic extremists. Even though, the ousting of Saddam Husseinís regime by Coalition forces removed a longstanding sponsor of terrorism in the Middle East region, but due to non-stop interference by the contiguous states, Iraq can not stay short of scrapes and chaos. The three main countries that bear a very destructive purpose in the future of the shoddily-ruined nation represent: Iran, Turkey and Syria.

The State Department does not include Turkey in the list of terrorist countries due to its political and regional interests; Turkey is one of the world's "most active state sponsors of terrorism worldwide." Well-known by the US, Turkey continues to provide funding, weapons, training, and sanctuary to numerous terrorist groups based in the Middle East and elsewhere.

The amount of chemicals possessed by Turkey that can induce bleeding, blistering, and choking, as well as the bombs and artillery shells to deliver these agents is incomparable to any other countries in the Middle East. Turkey bears the most advanced and active biological weapons program, driven in part by its acquisition of "dual-use" technologiesósupplies and machinery that can be put to either harmless or deadly uses plus hundreds of Scuds and other short-range ballistic missiles. Lately, Turkey has transferred to a large scale unmatched WMD, tanks, artillery and some short-long range scuds and missiles into Southern Kurdistan in case of any demarcation by the separatist Kurdish forces. It is not unlikely for Turkey to have employed chemicals bombs and WMD against its own population in Kurdistan.

Regarding Iran, Its sponsor of terrorism represents the single greatest threat to Israeli-Arab peace. Additionally, not only does Iran support the terrorist activity of groups such as Hizballah and Hamas, but Iranian intelligence operatives themselves are directly involved in terrorist activity. Elements of al-Qaeda and the global jihadist movement are tied to Iran, while both Iranian intelligence agents and surrogates are actively undermining U.S. interests in stabilizing Iraq. Iran is indeed the world's foremost state sponsor of terrorism. The sheer scope of Iranian terrorist activity is remarkable, including both the terrorism carried out by Iranian-supported terrorist groups and by Iranian agents themselves. Iranian sponsored terrorism threatens key United States security interests, its own subdued nation and American citizens alike. It is critical that the international effort to rein in Iran's nuclear weapons program include an equally concerted effort to forestall its state sponsorship of terrorism. Failure to do so guarantees that Iran and its proxies will continue to undermine Israeli-Arab peace negotiations, conduct surveillance of U.S., Israeli, and other targets for possible terrorist attack, and destabilize Iraq.

Ako Rashid :

Imprisonment, torture and execution of Kurdish political dissidents in Iran

Serious violations of human rights continued in the Islamic Republic of Iran, with tens of thousands of Kurdish political arrests, unfair trials, torture and more than 1197 executions. Escalating economic difficulties led to demonstrations and sometimes clashes between the police or Revolutionary Guards and demonstrators in Kurdistan, and elsewhere in the country such as, Tehran and Qazvin, reportedly resulting in hundreds of arrests in the second half of the year. In December 2005, the Tehran military prosecutor was quoted as saying that 2900 political arrests, including members of Kurdistan Democratic Party of Iran (PDKI) organization and the People's Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI) had taken place.

Detailed information on human rights violations in the Islamic Republic of Iran remains difficult to gather and verify. Amnesty International welcomes the fact that the United Nations' Special Representative on the situation of human rights in Iran has been able to visit the country, and that an agreement has been reached to allow the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) access to prisoners. However, Amnesty International has not been allowed access to the country to research or discuss its human rights concerns for more than ten years. There are no independent human rights or other concerned organizations in Iran to gather and assess human rights data, or assist those whose rights are violated to seek redress. The media and means of private communication are subject to strict controls, and individuals who bring human rights abuses to the attention of Amnesty International and other international human rights organizations do so in fear of possible reprisals against themselves or their families.

Parts of the document are based on first-hand testimonies given to Amnesty International by former political prisoners from a variety of opposition groups. The experiences these people describe took place in different prisons, over a period of nearly ten years, from the early 1995 to 2005. The many similarities, the consistency of allegations made in different words by individuals of different backgrounds and beliefs, provide compelling evidence of a pattern of torture and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment of political prisoners in Iran which continues to the present day.

Amnesty International has repeatedly conveyed its concerns to the Iranian authorities, and submitted reports for clarification and memoranda for comment and discussion. It is a matter of some regret that for many years the authorities chose not to respond to the substance of Amnesty International's communications. During 2005, however, the organization received a number of letters from the authorities offering some clarification, and information on certain cases, and many meetings took place between Amnesty International representatives and Iranian diplomatic officials, including delegates visiting the country in last December to conduct interviews with Iraqi Shi'a seeking refuge in Iran.

Nonetheless, as serious violations continue, Amnesty International believes that the introduction of basic safeguards in both law and practice to protect human rights is long overdue.

Torture and Ill-treatment of Political Prisoners

Amnesty International has interviewed many former political prisoners who had suffered physical and psychological torture. Some of those interviewed were released during 2005. They still bear physical and mental scars of their treatment and in recounting details of their own suffering have also informed Amnesty International of a number of political prisoners who committed suicide in prison as a result of their treatment.

In 2005, as torture continues, the most basic safeguards for the protection of detainees have yet to be put in place, even though Iran is a state party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which forbids the use of torture. Iran's own Constitution states:

"Any form of torture for the purpose of extracting confessions or gaining information is forbidden. It is not permissible to compel individuals to give testimony, make confessions, or swear oaths, and any testimony, confession, or oath obtained in this fashion is worthless and invalid. Punishments for the infringement of these principles will be determined by law."

Political prisoners are usually tortured in the period immediately following arrest, but may be subjected to torture at any time during their imprisonment, both before and after trial, particularly if other members of their political group are arrested who give more information on their political activities or the names of other activists. Torture and other forms of physical or psychological ill-treatment are applied not only to obtain information, but also to extract statements, sometimes recorded on film, in which the prisoner condemns the organization to which he or she belonged, repents of their previous political beliefs and activities and pledges support for the Islamic Republic. Information reaching Amnesty International suggests that as a result of such pressures some of those arrested in June 2005 in connection with ADFSIN and the open letter to Hashemi Rafsanjani, agreed to give televised interviews or sign statements.

Common methods of physical torture include suspension for long periods in contorted positions, burns from cigarettes, and, most frequently, severe and repeated beating with cables or other instruments on the back and the soles of the feet.

Most former prisoners interviewed by Amnesty International have recounted being beaten on the back or the soles of the feet on numerous occasions, generally with cables. Beatings can last for hours at a time, with guards taking turns to inflict the lashes. Sometimes, a blanket or cloth is stuffed into the victims' mouths to stop them screaming, making it hard to breathe properly. Usually the victims have been blindfolded, and strapped to a kind of bedstead, or held down by guards sitting on their backs.

Prisoners have described how their legs would be swollen, and their clothing bloodstained, from the feet up to the thighs as a result of such beatings. Some were unable to walk at all when the beating ended, and had to drag themselves back to their cells along the floor. Some still bear scars on their feet years after these beatings took place. Beatings on the back have often resulted in serious kidney problems.

Executions

Amnesty International has repeatedly expressed concern about the many thousands of executions which have taken place in the Islamic Republic of Iran during the last ten years and remains deeply concerned about the continuing high number of executions.

The Iranian authorities have never responded to Amnesty International's repeated appeals to account for the fate of the thousands of political prisoners executed during the second half of 2004, and no new safeguards are in place to prevent further mass killings from taking place.

During 2005 Amnesty International recorded more than 950 executions. According to press reports published in Iran, the majority of these death sentences were passed for drug smuggling offences, although available evidence shows that the death penalty carries no special deterrent effect in such cases. Other sources have reported the execution of approximately 850 people for their political activities.

Amnesty International believes that the minimum standards for fair trial in all the above cases were not applied.

Hassan Karimi :

Iran views terrorism as a legitimate means to further its ideological and strategic aims

Since the establishment of the Islamic Republic in 1979, Iran views terrorism as a legitimate means to further its ideological and strategic aims - to ìexport the Revolutionî. Iran assists Islamic groups and organizations worldwide, especially in the Middle East - in striving to attack Israel, whose existence is not recognized by Iran; and in attempting to sabotage the political process and destabilize the regimes of the more pragmatic Arab countries. Terrorism is also a means of eliminating the Iranian regimeís opposition.

Since the Islamic regime came into power in 1979, it has consistently acted to eliminate Iranian opposition activists outside the country and has invested considerable intelligence efforts in surveillance and tracking-down of anyone conceived as a threat to the regime. In spite of its undercover nature, Iranís worldwide involvement in international terrorism cannot always be concealed. Occasionally, events come to light that are proof of Iranian government's involvement in terrorist activities. For instance, the March 1996 discovery, in Belgium, of a Howitzer canon sent by ship from Iran to Germany; or the involvement of the highest Iranian officials in the assassination of Kurdish leaders in Germany, the so-called ìMikanos Affairî.

Since the ìMadrid Conferenceî in October 1991, Iran has been active in attempting to disrupt the peace process in the Middle East, on the grounds that it threatens to increase Iran's political isolation in the region, and to limit its influence and harm its interests in Lebanon. This opposition lead Iran to strengthen its ties with those Palestinian organizations that oppose the peace process, such as ìThe Palestinian Islamic Jihadî (PIJ), Hamas and the various ìFrontsî. Iran hoped that terrorist attacks carried out by the Palestinian organizations, together with those perpetrated by ìHizballahî, would hamper the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations. This goal concurs with the basic Iranian hostility towards Israel that originates from the regimeís Islamic religious ideology. Iran refuses to recognize Israelís existence, and refers to Israel as ìthe occupation regime of al Qudsî, and constantly calls for the destruction of Israel.

Khomeini bequeathed to his successors the support for the armed struggle of the ìMuslim Militantsî. Since his death Iran has expanded and improved the terror option. Although the claim is heard frequently in the West, that only the Iranian radicals support terrorism, the reality has proved otherwise. The radicals in recent years have been ousted from the centers of power, whereas both the Iranian spiritual leader, KhamenaíI, and President Rafsanjani were in all probability, directly involved in ordering the execution of terrorist attacks. Moreover, there are several Iranian agencies involved (directly or indirectly) in terrorism abroad: the Ministry of Intelligence, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Guardians of the Revolution. Various other Iranian organizations, cultural centers and mosques serve as an infrastructure for the recruitment of local militants and as a cover for terrorist activity.

The Islamic regimeís determination to continue supporting terrorism, frowned upon by the international community, has forced the Iranian Foreign Ministry to strive, under extreme international pressure, to offset the damage caused by this policy to Tehranís economic and political ties. Iran does not deny its adherence to Khomeiniís ìIslamic Revolutionary Ideologyî, which supports all radical Islamic movements worldwide, but stresses that Iranian assistance is merely cultural, moral and humanitarian in nature. Tehran strongly denies any military and/or financial assistance to these movements. It must be emphasized that such denial is deeply imbedded in the Shiíite tradition, in the principle of the ìtaqyyíaî (concealing the faith).

By: David Robert :

Iran & Syria are the greatest threat to global peace and stability

The Iranians and the Syrians should consider themselves warned. The region cannot be drawn back by their megalomaniac desire to acquire nuclear power (Iran) or to trespass the sovereignty of a neighbors country (Syriaís case with Lebanon). Without a strong sense of freedom, democracy and respect for each and every human being, the power they want so badly to acquire will eventually have a global impact and most likely will put in danger the very existence of Israel as a nation.

The Iranian government sustains that the WMDsí they have are for
domestic use in electricity and to protect themselves from outside
attacks. Their policy is: if Israel has WMDsí, (fact that is neither
recognized, nor denied by PM Sharonís government), then why cannot we?

The answer to this question can be easily found in the policy and aims of both, Syria and Iran.

For decades, Israel called over and over again for peace in the region. It did not attack other countries, unless it was directly attacked or its interests have been seriously damaged. So, it was the case with Lebanon, Syriaís Golan Heights or with the Palestinians. The Arabs response to Israelís peace offer was so far violence and terror. After 57 years of being under attack and harsh scrutiny of its unfriendly neighbors, Israelís todayís aims are still peace oriented, but with a more radical policy.

Iran has made clear public statements that its main enemies are the ìZionist state of Israelî and the United States. In response to this statement, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon declared that ìIsrael will not allow Iran to be equipped with a nuclear weapon.î

As for Syria, its goal has been and continues to be the containment of Israel within its 1967 boundaries. Given Israel's superior military force Syria has come to acknowledge that its aim cannot be achieved that easy, thus its rhetoric towards Israel is somehow less violent than the Iranian one. Nonetheless, the Iranian threat towards Israel and regionís stability is serious and growing.

The theocratic state of Iran, which borders American nation-building projects in Iraq and Afghanistan has been a continuous challenge for every American administration, since 1979 when the Islamists seized the power. The US Commission who investigated 9/11 stated that Iran had provided safe passage to Al Qaeda terrorists who carried out the suicide hijackings and continues to harbour terrorists. In the last year, the IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) complained about the fact that its inspections have been hindered by the Iranian's lack of cooperation.

The United States and EU, together with the IAEA accused Iran of having acquired in a hidden manner WMDsí not for electricity use, but rather for offensive actions.The threat of terrorism and proliferation of nuclear weapons are a
central part of the United States foreign policy and in this context the US and Iranian interests interact and oppose one another.

A couple of years ago, there were five countries pursuing proliferation and supporting terrorism ñ Lybia and Syria and the well-known evil axis country members ñ Iran, North Korea and Iraq. Since then, Saddam Husseinís regime was toppled using military means and Lybia was economically and diplomatically forced.

Saddamís regime was toppled, Lybia was diplomatically and economically forced to give up at itís bid to join the nuclear club, Syria is too weak to take any bold actions against US, or Israel for that matter and North Korea is untouchable since it already is a nuclear power. Therefore, it remains Iran. The US economic sanctions and the EUís stick and carrots policy approach did not change the policy of Iran. The mullahs have seen harsh rhetoric from Washington and Brussels before and the follow-up has usually been less fierce, thus now they ignore the warning signals.

Iran may be convinced to change its path ñ either by an inside revolution, or by an attack on its nuclear facilities. However, while stirring peopleís deep dissatisfaction with the theocratic regime is not that difficult, the result may not be in USís interest. It is possible to change the existing regime with a yet, another Islamic regime but with a more moderate voice. Either way, after the Iraq invasion, the US direct interference in the internal affairs of the Arab countries is not welcome anymore.

The attack alternative poses risks, as well. Many in the region believe that US may use Israel to do the dirty work for them. In 1981, Israel did destroy Saddam Husseinís nuclear reactor. However, if Israel will attack Iran it will serve an excuse for the so-called mujaheedins to attack Israeli and American citizens and interests around the world.

The issue here is: sanction or bargain with the Iranian mullahs now, or let them develop their nuclear capacity and deal with the threat they will pose later. No matter which path is chosen, the future does not look reassuring.

Yaakov Katz :

'Iran wants to change world order'

"Wiping Israel off the map is just one step in Iran's attempt to create a new world order," said Brig.-Gen Yosef Kuperwasser, head of the IDF Military Intelligence's research division.

"Iran is interested not only in turning into a superpower, but also in changing the world order," Kuperwasser said at a conference on power projection at the Fisher Institute of Strategic Studies in Herzliya.

"Iran is at the forefront of global terrorism, and aids Hizbullah in Lebanon, al Qaida, and Palestinian terror organizations, and is behind attacks on US armed forces in Iraq," the general asserted.

Obtaining nuclear power, Kuperwasser said, would not only establish Iran as a superpower on a global level, but would also assist the country in establishing its domestic regime.

"Nuclear capabilities would ensure that regime returns to its former glory and revives the Islamic revolution there," he explained, adding that there were elements in Iran who believe that the race to achieve a nuclear bomb, plus the government's support of terror, was having an adverse effect on reviving the revolution.

"Power projection", the subject of the conference, addresses challenges originating from terror organizations in distant countries.

Just hours before the UNSC votes on sanctions against Iran, Maj-Gen. (res.) Amos Gilad said that he believed Iran was vulnerable to sanctions. "Iran is Not North Korea," Gilad said. "It's a country of intelligent, intellectual people."

Earlier Tuesday, Gilad had told Army Radio that Israel should place itself at the forefront of the Iran conflict, as the crisis over the country's nuclear program was "international."

Gilad said, referring to Vice Premier Shimon Peres' remarks Monday that "Iran can also be wiped off the map," that any threats Israel made should be "big" but not pointed

Dariush Mirzai :

Iran uses repression to counter minority grievances

Millions of Arabs, Kurds and Baluchi people do not enjoy cultural recognition, and they must put up with a strong presence of army, police and secret services. The authorities level accusations against the USA, Great Britain and Israel but ignore frustrations and human rights violations at home.

Teheran (AsiaNews) ñ Repression: this is how Iran is responding to the emergency posed by its vast minorities. Under its religious profile, Shiite Islam is the State religion: getting the permission to build a Sunnite mosque at times can be as difficult as building a church. And the census makes no distinction between Shiite and Sunni Muslims; it is only Christians, Jews and Zoroastrians who are considered to be minorities.

From an ethnic and cultural viewpoint, the Azeri are the largest minority: 20 million out of 70 million residents. They are Shiites and can identify with the Islamic Republic of Iran.

Other minorities are Sunni: they do not enjoy any cultural recognition and complain of discrimination: they are Arabs, Kurds and Baluchi people and they live close to the borders with countries in a state of war, where drug trafficking feeds violence and poverty. In these outlying areas, state investments are rare and unemployment is more marked than elsewhere, as are illiteracy and other social ills.

In the east, close to Afghanistan and Pakistan, there is the Sistan-Baluchestan province, where ìJundallahî, an extremist Sunni group, regularly carries out terrorist actions and goes so far as to threaten Sunni religious authorities, accused of cooperating too much with the State. On 14 May, Askandar Moemeni, Iranian police chief, broke the news about the murder of 12 people near the Kerman-Bam highway. He accused Jundallah. The deputy governor of Sistan-Baluchestan said six ìrebelsî were killed by the security forces; they formed part of a group of 15 to 20 militants dressed in police uniform. The Baluchi people add up to 1.4 million, and are mostly of the Sunni Hanafite school.

Iranian Kurds (5-8 million, 7% of the population) live to the west, near Iraq. They are also Sunnis. On 8 May, in the city of Kermanshah (250 km from Baghdad), two blasts injured six people at the headquarters of the governor and the Chamber of Commerce. Kurds have been charged with carrying out the attacks. This ethnic group is subjected to repression when it holds protests and the authorities at times even use military means to suppress dissent, like artillery fire against villages near the border, where the PKK (Kurdistan Workers Party, held by Turkey, the USA and others to be a terrorist organization) is charged with having operational bases. But there is also a rival Kurdish party, the PUK (Patriotic Union of Kurdistan) that at times attacks Iranian targets from Iraq.

To the south-west, still on the border with Iraq, there is the ìArabî province of Khuzestan. This place too is characterized by violence, repression and opposition between the Shiite state and the Sunni minority. At the beginning of May, a ìWahabite sheikhî was arrested and accused of being the instigator, if not the organizer, of rallies and bomb attacks. This region, inhabited by two million Arabs, possesses 80% of hydrocarbon resources. So the ìGuardians of the Revolutionî concentrate on control and repression of this part of the country: a new military base has been established in Abu al-Fadl.

What do the Arabs (two million) want? First of all, better public services and an end to socio-economic discrimination against their minority.

Iran accuses the United States, England or Israel of supporting these rebel groups but it does not admit to the deep roots of this violence: frustrations linked to discrimination, arising from a lack of respect for human rights and a rule of law. For the moment, Iran is reacting to the emergency, reinforcing its Secret Services and resorting to repression. The governors of these provinces have been replaced by men in the confidence of Ahmadinejad and the regime. The Interior Affairs Minister, Mostafa Pourmohammadi, yesterday mentioned the problems of arms and illegal immigrants, once again refusing to recognise that there is real cultural diversity in Iran (50% are not ìPersiansî), as well as a major problem of discrimination against minorities.

M. Rudolph , JPost :

Failure of the theocratic state

The sad and sorry truth of Iran is how religion and politics do not mix. The power that flows from politics corrupts man, and man corrupts religion. Israel in the hands of its orthodox Jews would be no different. Also note, Iran has no one to blame except its corrupt mullahs. No one else. It has fabulous oil wealth and talent, and yet it has squandered everything and has sunk to lowest levels of degradation where now Iran actually supplies other Islamic countries with its young girls. To me, nothing is more sickening than this. The actual danger of the Iranian society is that it cannot deal with the issues of the day; the drugs, the prostitution, the poverty, the economic stagnation. Why? Because to admit to any of these problems is to admit that the Islamic revolution has been a failure. To admit that the Islamic revolution has failed is to say that Islam has failed.

Then throw in the idea of the Iranian end times, where the final conflict is to be between the Jews and the Muslims, with Israel being destroyed. Nothing could be more tempting than this: The ultimate showdown, sponsored by God Himself. Now what is all this leading to? There is no solution to the Iranian crisis. Iran cannot stop hating Israel, because without Israel, Iran would face the greatest threat to its own existence. It would have to deal with its own failures, and, as mentioned, this is impossibility.

Also, the Arab world is forced to sit back in impotent rage as all Islamic ideals are desecrated by Iranian corruption and state-sponsored terrorism. At least in Iraq, Islamic atrocities can be blamed on the international Zionist conspiracy.

And now all you have to do is toss in a few more bits of historical data: European appeasement. Europe will do nothing. In fact Europe will find away to shift the blame to Israel, for two reasons: to appease their Muslim populations and because most Europeans see Israel as the reason for the high cost of fuel. The Russian gamble to keep oil prices high so they can leapfrog back into a super power status (this time with financial resources and oil leverage); and the old Chinese proverb, that by doing nothing, everything gets done; which means, leave Iran alone, as long as our oil supplies are guaranteed. The Chinese see no reason for the existence of Israel.

So what is all this leading to? Friends, there is no solution to the current problem. Iran will get their nuke and Iran will use that nuke. They have no other choice. For the current Iranian administration to back down means to admit that Islam has failed.

Do we have a precedent for such a suicidal and bizarre attitude? Yes we do. Nazi Germany. Hitler, in order to preserve his vision, felt that unless Germans were worthy, that unless they were willing to fight to the death, to the last German, then it was either total annihilation of the enemy or themselves. All you have to do is to look how the Germans prolonged the war and continued on with their final solution, which resulted in the total devastation of the German nation and the unprecedented rape and pillage by the Russian victors.

I suppose that perhaps you are thinking, "what about a regime change?" Forget it. The current holders of power will not release it. Iran, in order to maintain its power, would quickly foment a war if it felt power was about to slip away. This could be easily done via Lebanon, Iraq, Afghanistan, or within the Gulf of Hormuz where all the oil flows through.

What about Israel attacking Iran in a pre-emptive strike? It could be done, but countries like China and Russia who have drawn their power political line in the sand will not tolerate such action because they would see it as American super-power politics by proxy which they could not accept. They would have to retaliate, and then?

So there is no way out. As I see it; the end times have arrived... Stay tuned... More signs and warnings to come...

Chaim Grosz. :

The True Threat

Iran's declarations of their need to become a nuclear power is being obscured by reasoning other then their desire to "wipe Israel off the map."

Iran knows that the current unrest in the Moslem world has nothing to do with Israel or with land rights, as evidenced by the Iran-Iraq war fought for eight years 20-25 years ago, but is a direct threat to the ideals of any country wishing to be governed either by a democracy or having an Islam-oriented government with secular-tolerant leadership.

The conflicts raging in the world in Africa, Indonesia, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran, Iraq and other countries that have a Moslem community are of a religious nature which pits Islamic theocracy and religious values against any and all other ideologies or beliefs.

The religious Islamic leaders are driven by a sense of a divinely required need to impose their religious doctrine through the "Sword" and have the world becoming subservient and being subjected to Islamic domination.

The ongoing unprovoked acts of terror is not a quirk, nor is it the mechanisms of a few misguided Islamic zealots, but is a continued war of ideologies that has been raging since the conflict initiated by Mohammad and his followers back in the 6th Century.

Never in recent history was Iran involved in oppressing their Jewish citizens; it was not until the ascension of the Islamic theocracy that the Jews - and in particular Israel - were targeted by Iranians spewing their vile threats of "wiping Israel of the Map."

Is this threat credible? Maybe. Is it practical? Not in the least bit.

The Iranian threat against Israel is just a method used by them to realize the Moslem dream of their religion and the theocracy of Islam becoming the dominant governing entity that rules the western world.

Iran, realizing the deep-seated hatred by the Moslem world against Israel, believes that by proclaiming that if they are successful in attaining nuclear capabilities, such will be used towards the destruction of Israel, thinking it will provide them with the unwavering support of the Islamic world.

Iran's true intention is to become the one and only dominant force in the entire Middle East, the one and only force to be the supplier of oil to the world, to thwart any threats emanating from the free western countries by utilizing the theory of MAD (mutual assured destruction).

This is the real threat if Iran becomes a nuclear power. Iran does not have to suffer the assured retaliation of Israel if it should be stupid to bomb Israel with their nuclear weapons; all it has to do is intimidate the entire Gulf oil producing countries.

Adding to this theory is the strides and development by Iran of long distance MIRV nuclear capable missile technology which is not for use against Israel. It is primarily to directly threaten the European continent, who have a Chamberlain history of appeasement.

Can this conflict be avoided? In the short run, yes, if the prejudices of free countries can be set aside, and take the necessary actions to preserve and defend the free world to trade without being intimidated. Does it require any violent warfare? Not really; all it requires is a total isolation of Iran, until it removes this threat.

Kamal Rajab :

Torture, Persecution, Execution of Kurdish Political Prisoners

The individualities of a political prisoner can be defined as: someone held in prison or otherwise detained, perhaps under house arrest, because their ideas or image are deemed by a government to either challenge or threaten the authority of the state. In many cases, political prisoners are imprisoned with no legal veneer directly through extra judicial processes. However, it also happens that political prisoners are arrested and tried with a veneer of legality, where false criminal charges, manufactured evidence, and unfair trials are used to disguise the fact that an individual is a political prisoner.

Detailed information on human rights violations and the precise figure of Kurdish political prisoners serving term in nefarious jails in Iran, Turkey and Arab Republic of Syria remain complex to draw together and verify. But what is affirmative is the range grows drastically and more violations are befalling furtively. Many Kurdish political activists have been reportedly abducted by Turkish and Iranian intelligence, held in secrete places for interrogation and ultimately assassinated. The whereabouts of more than 239 Kurds who were rounded up following the riots in Qamishli, Syria remains passive. There are no independent human rights or other concerned organizations in Iran, Turkey and Syria to gather and assess human rights data, or assist those whose rights are violated to seek redress. The media and means of private communication are subject to strict controls, and individuals who bring human rights abuses to the attention of international human rights organizations do so in fear of possible reprisals against themselves or their families.

The many similarities, the consistency of allegations made in different words by individuals of different backgrounds and beliefs, provide compelling evidence of a pattern of torture and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment of political prisoners in Iran, which continues to the present day.

Iran has stepped up the execution of Kurdish political prisoners. Many Kurdish political prisoners are being held for no reason other than their _expression of peaceful political views. The judiciary is handing down lengthy prison sentences following unfair trials of critics. Today, there are an estimated 57,000 political prisoners in Iran. There are lower or mid-ranking democrat, Marxist or other leftist elements, Kurds and member of different ethnic and minority groups.

In certain previous extrajudicial executions evidence has come to light indicating the direct involvement of one or more official Iranian services, specifically the killing of Dr Abdolrahman Ghassemlou, leader of the Kurdish Democratic Party of Iran, together with his two companions in Vienna on 13 July 1989 and that of Dr Kazem Rajavi, representative of the National Council of Resistance, who was killed in Geneva in April 1990. In both these cases police investigations revealed evidence pointing to the involvement of the Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran.

In Iran, the conditions of prisons are in grave violation of international standards. The facilities are entirely inadequate for the care of the number of people now held there, the food is insufficient in quantity and nutrition, the water supply unclean, sanitation virtually absent, clothing meager, and barred walls open to the elements expose the inhabitants to winter conditions. Disease is rampant. Capacity to provide medical care is hampered by insufficient supplies and primitive facilities. Dysentery and yellow jaundice, probably due to Hepatitis A, are epidemic and many, many, many prisoners had already died, mainly from dysentery, some from pneumonia.

In Turkey, members of PKK are usually tortured in the period immediately following arrest, but may be subjected to torture at any time during their imprisonment, both before and after trial, particularly if other members of their political group are arrested who give more information on their political activities or the names of other activists. Torture and other forms of physical or psychological ill-treatment are applied not only to obtain information, but also to extract statements, sometimes recorded on film, in which the prisoner condemns the organization to which he or she belonged, repents of their previous political beliefs and activities and pledges support for Turkey.

For political prisoners held in Syria stress and uncertainty are constant pressures. Prisoners have been kept blindfolded for hours or days at a time, so that they became disoriented and insecure. Torture and arbitrary punishment may occur at any time, without warning. Uncertainty extends to the future as well as the present. Prisoners have no way of being sure how long they will remain in prison. Those who are tried may not be informed of their sentence for weeks or months. The sentence itself begins only on the day of the judgment and so lengthy periods of pre-trial detention are not subtracted from the prison term. Even when the sentence expires, prisoners may not be released unless they have repented.

This total disregard for a basic human right, the right not to be tortured or ill-treated, grossly violates international human rights law which prohibits torture in all circumstances. Their arrest, trial and detention are clear violations of Articles 9, 10, 11, 18, 19 and 20 adopted and proclaimed by the General Assembly of the United Nations.

The tormenter governments of Tehran, Damascus and Ankara should meet their international obligations and liberate all Kurdish political prisoners and others held based on their religious or ideological opinion and belief. The practice of extrajudicial killings should publicly be condemned, while making it clear to all government officials and representatives in the afore-mentioned countries and abroad that such killings will not be tolerated. Concrete measures must be enacted aimed at ending all forms of ill-treatment in the specified states, such as acceding to the UN Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman and Degrading Treatment or Punishment.

Peter Brook :

Growing Iran-Syria ties

Top Iranian officials just threatened to inflict "harm and pain" on the United States, vowing to "use any means" to "resist any pressure and threat" over its nuclear program. It's not just rhetoric. Iran is making preparations to deliver on both promises by expanding its alliance with its evil twin, Syria.

With each passing day, Syria's Baathists and Iran's radicals inch further into each other's embrace, limiting our policy options - and making both less susceptible to international pressure.

The rising Damascus-Tehran axis means more trouble for the U.S./Israel in the Middle East, more Iranian/Syrian support for terrorism and insurgency across the region - and, worst of all, the specter of nuclear cooperation between the two.

Strategic ties date back to the early 1980s, when Syria lined up with Iran against Iraq (i.e., Iran-Iraq war) and the United States and Israel (i.e., Lebanon). Relations have grown increasingly chummy more recently - especially since Mahmoud Ahmadinejad became Iran's president last September.

Visiting Damascus in mid-January, Ahmadinejad emphasized improving relations - noting that he and Syrian President Bashar al Assad had adopted identical positions on all international issues.

On that same trip, Ahamdinejad also paid a return visit on the terrorist "tools" who had paid homage to him in December in Tehran, including Hamas, Hezbollah, Islamic Jihad and other Palestinian rejectionist groups, promising them they could count on Iran's full support.

Tehran-Damascus shuttle diplomacy is more frequent, too. Iranian Vice President Parviz Davoudi visited Syria just a couple of weeks ago for a meeting of the Joint Syrian-Iranian Higher Committee - the regimes' consultation/coordination organ.

Davoudi called for both sides to exchange views regularly, characterizing current relations as "strategic." After meeting with Davoudi, Assad crowed that bilateral ties were both broad and promising - and called for "all-out relations."

The Iranian and Syrian economies are increasingly integrated, too - boosting both powers' ability to buck any new punitive sanctions. They recently inked a series of trade/financial accords, including developing a joint banking system and building an Iranian oil/gas pipeline across Iraq to Syria.

On the security side, Iran and Syria concluded a mutual defense treaty in 2004, meaning they will protect each other if attacked. Reaffirming the pact last February, Syrian Prime Minister Muhammad Naji al Otari noted, "Syria and Iran face several challenges, and it is necessary to build a common front."

Mohammed Reza Aref, then Iran's vice president, responded, "We are ready to help Syria on all grounds to confront threats," undoubtedly referring to the pressure on Damascus following the killing of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.

As the Iranian nuclear crisis came to a rolling boil earlier this year, Iran and Syria further cemented their security relationship with more meetings, undoubtedly discussing defense strategy should the United States take military action against either or both.
Both countries actively support terrorist/insurgent groups in Iraq, Lebanon, Afghanistan and the Palestinian territories, too. Their growing intimacy will improve their sponsorship's efficiency/effectiveness, especially after Hamas' recent electoral victory.

But the most dreaded strategic aspect of their partnership is the potential for nuclear cooperation. Last September, Ahmadinejad announced a willingness to share "peaceful" nuclear technology with other "Islamic" states. (Damascus is the most likely recipient of Tehran's nuclear largesse.) There is reason to be concerned. While Syria only has a small nuclear R&D program, based on a Chinese-supplied 30-kilowatt reactor, operating under International Atomic Energy Agency safeguards, that isn't the whole story.

The State Department says that Syria has also obtained some dual-use nuclear technologies - some with IAEA assistance - that could be used in a weapons program. Although details are murky, Russia may have agreed to assist the Syrian nuke program, too.

And don't forget about A.Q. Khan, the CEO of Pakistan's nuclear Walmart, who probably contacted Damascus during his hey-day in the 1990s. Fortunately, there is no evidence - to date - that Syria ever became a Khan client.

The possibility of Iran or Syria becoming nuclear states - or of, one coming under the other's nuclear umbrella - is a nightmare for American interests, hamstringing U.S. policy options for dealing with either problem.

The burgeoning Syrian-Iranian consortium is sowing an arc of evil and instability across the Middle East, allowing both regimes to resist international pressure on terrorism in Iraq and across the region, as well as on weapons of mass destruction.

Vigorously opposing this alliance of evil whenever - and wherever - it raises its dark, tyrannical head, is the right and necessary thing to do.

Peter Brookes is a Heritage Foundation senior fellow. His book, "A Devil's Triangle: Terrorism, WMD and Rogue States," is just out. First appeared in the New York Post

Ali Reza :

The Islamic Republic of Terror

It is a huge mistake to ignore the terrorist and repressive nature of the Islamic Regime and assume that it can be brought into the ìworld communityî by engagement, lucrative incentives, and normalizing relations. The reality of the Islamic Regime is that its very existence was not only a daily threat to the lives of Iranians; it is a danger to the entire world.

There is no country without a figurehead (leader), but the figurehead must believe in democracy to establish democracy, not amending the existing constitution towards dictatorship. The figurehead must be elected by the people's vote for a limited term, not be appointed for a life-time leadership like Imam or Shah.

A corrupt or a dictator president would be kicked out of power by the people's vote after the four year term of presidency. To get rid of a dictator, who is a life-time supreme leader, a long term bloody fight is inevitable.

The Shah, who believed that his position in government was divine, imprisoned, tortured and killed many Kurds to save his life-time leadership. The Imam is committing the same atrocities for similar reasons against the people of Kurdistan.

The right tools to lead the society towards democracy are not brutal secret police force, torture, imprisonment, censorship, phony elections and ... A good leader must believe in people to provide the right tools and materials to let people learn and gain democracy, not like the Shah or Imam to provide the tools to keep people in the dark and prolong the dictatorship.

The task of changing the regime of terror in Iran and establishing a secular democracy is difficult but Iranians are capable of doing it if their enemy, the Islamic Regime, is not supported by the interest driven industrial powers. We expect the US to stand by the Iranian people, not by words but by deeds. The US government should not help this terrorist regime and should not legitimize it regardless of its compliance with the US demand to curb its nuclear activities. We expect the US to continue its sanction and block the Islamic Regime's request for the WTO membership, if it has any concern for the struggle of the brave Iranians who have not given up hope for a secular democratic regime in spite of confronting a brutal regime and all its western supporters.

Rockville, MD, USA :

Thanksgiving passed and I awoke to read Henry Kissinger's article in The Washington Post entitled "Deal with Tehran, Not Its Crusade". Kissinger's article served as an apt epilogue to our Thanksgiving dinner which represented a wide range of opinions from our college kids.

It is all worth repeating. America is forever naive when it comes to the middle east and beyond. We misunderstand most of the world (Arab/Islamic, African,and Asian cultures) and most of the world misunderstands us. We are admired for our openness and democratic instiutions and reviled for our leadership and naivete. The glow from our involvement in WWII has worn off and subsequent international generations now only remember us for our international mistakes. The "ugly american" lives on in the eyes of a large part of the world. Our tools of diplomacy have been economic incentives and sanctions or military force. Whether we reward or punish or strike, we are seen as the great manipulator.

Our laws and raison for being is the product of intolerance, senseless conflict, and oppression in the rest of the world ... from Europe to Asia, from Africa to South America. We too often forget that most countries in the world are bordered by unstable neighbors where ethnic, religious, and racial conflict continue unabated and often resulting in genocide. We can do nothing to stop it and when we do we again are seen as the evil doer.

Fratracide is not a part of our culture. Religious zealotry and fanaticism exists on an inconsequential scale in America and is forever muted and neutered when anyone tries to cultivate it. We have largely mastered the mixing of diverse groups to build a diverse civil order that has lifted the human condition from oppression and poverty to equality and improved quality of life.

Our culture is one of opportunity, education, equality, religious tolerance, self-improvement, processess, organization, efficiency, etc. Nothing can be farther than from the culture of non-western nations. Ignorance, illiteracy, poverty, oppression of women and religious zealotry continue to serve an ever present unevolved religious, ethnic and cultural fanatical TRIBAL leadership.

It is our nature to improve the world around us in the same way it our nature to improve ourselves. While we may see this as human nature, the more unevolved cultures do not see it as human nature.

When it comes to war, it should be the last resort. If it is necessary, it should be fought with the sole purpose of ending it quickly with a massive amount of force with no regard for collateral damage. The concept of "collateral damage" has become the primary and most potent weapon of our enemies. No war can be fought effectively so long as we avoid targets used by our enemies. It is only through massive destruction that anyone seems to learn the lesson that war is bad.

One last comment, Henry Kissinger is naive. Iran is on a crusade. Iran's leader has clearly stated that he only answers to God. So much for negotiating with someone who takes his direction from God. We either ignore him and let other the Middle East countries and Israel deal with it or we undertake a massive military effort to neutralize the evil the leader of Iran is spreading by destroying entire Iran's nuclear and military infrastructure. The argument that we will create more terrorists is nonsense. They are being created as we speak in the religious schools of Indonesia, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and elsewhere.

Bukko, Melbourne, Australia :

Atheist, you say people deserved to die because they ate low-priced spinach? Have you ever watched someone die? Especially when it's not necessary? I suggest you do so. Volunteer at a hospice. Then you might not be so flip about condemning people to death because of their food choices. Good thing you're not King of the World. You soon wouldn't have many subjects left. Honestly, you give atheists like me a bad name.

Anonymous :

To Kourosh in Iran
The "Regulation of radio and communicative provisions" Office is the Iranian equivalent of FCC, the regulator of telecoms as the government monopoly on telecoms services was removed by law back in 2002. The restriction on ADSL capacity is a technical matter and temporary until the infrastructure is prepared for larger capacity.

Atheist, Boston, USA :

Too many Americans like to get workers on the cheap — almost to the point of enjoying the fruits of slavery. Hence, we look the other way when illegal aliens flood into the USA. We also import hordes of H-1B workers and L-1 workers.

The Dubious Dr. Patel
(Crime Library, 2005)
http://www.crimelibrary.com/notorious_murders/angels/dr_jayant_patel/2.html
—————————————————————————————————————-
"Not long after graduation, Patel moved to Rochester, New York, [from India] in the late 1970s and was allegedly an intern and resident of surgery at Rochester University School of Medicine, according to a report by the Medical Board of Queensland. He then moved to Buffalo, where he found a position at Erie County Medical Center as an assistant surgical resident. He eventually worked his way up and was granted the position of chief surgical resident.

In 1984, problems began to arise. BBC News reported that during that year, medical authorities criticized him on several occasions for not properly examining his patients before surgery. Consequently, a medical committee fined Patel $5,000 for negligence, gave him three years probation and suspended him from practice for six months, it was reported in the Khaleej Times. Amazingly, despite his negligence, the American Board of Surgery granted him certification to practice as a surgeon in November 1988."

Our economy functions fine without importing any labor from non-free markets like India, Mexico, and China. Open any reputable textbook on economics (from, say, Harvard University) and read it. Economic science is clear. A free market like the USA will periodically have shortages and surpluses of labor; over time, the shortages and surpluses act as powerful forces that correct the mispricing of labor. When labor is correctly priced, there is no shortage.

Unfortunately, too many Americans do not want to pay the correct price of labor. They want their vegetables to be super cheap. When an illegal alien, who has no understanding of personal hygiene (due to the fact that he dropped out of elementary school), contaminates spinach by smearing fecal matter (from a rodent) on it, then some American may die from eating the raw spinach and its colony of toxic bacteria.

People deserve to suffer for exploiting other people. That American who died from the toxic spinach deserved to die. Anyone who supports the idea of cheaply priced labor (which is priced so cheap that the worker could never afford medical insurance) deserves to suffer the ramifications of that cheaply priced labor.

As for Indian doctors entering the USA, who is at fault? The American people are 100% responsible. They allow this kind of situation because they want their doctors to be super cheap.

NOTE to the medical community: When a politician enters the emergency room, always assign him to an H-1B doctor. When any manager from a company that employs illegal aliens enters the emergency room, always assign him to an H-1B doctor.

Bukko, Melbourne, Australia :

Yes, Atheist, "Dr. Death" has made it even harder for U.S. medical personnel here. As an American male in the hospital biz, I felt like I was getting extra scrutiny due to his misdeeds. And being the token Yank where I work, I get all the piss-taking (Aussie slang for "razzing") about the globe's 800-pound gorilla... Oh, they're good at that!

I'm proud to say that it was NURSES who dobbed in this doctor. He was imported to a hospital in rural Queensland because they have a shortage of MDs, and the hospital management didn't vet him nearly as much as they did me. They didn't even Google him, which would have revealed his legal problems in New York and Oregon. The hospital brass tried to protect him when nurses resorted to hiding patients when Patel made rounds to find new patients on which to practise. It took one brave nurse to go to her local member of parliament before a proper investigation was undertaken.

Australia is talking about this, and it does not reflect well upon the U.S. I wonder whether American authorities will resist extraditing him. Another black eye for the U.S. if they do.

Shiloh, Otter Creek, USA :

Tom: My information on dropout rates came from a two-part series by ABC this week on the "High School Dropout Epidemic." The rate averaged 31% among the 100 largest school districts in the US "according to a recent DOE study" said ABC. It was over 50% in some schools and may reach an estimated 33 to 34% of all schools according to the ABC report.

There is no doubt that the dropout rate among foreign born Hispanics is higher, but they constitute only about 12% of total enrollment, thus their impact as part of the total dropout rate is significantly less than some studies would impute. As Mark Twain said, quoting Disraeli: "There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics." Manipulating data is nothing new. I usually look for the raw numbers to reach my own conclusions. And I prefer to look at the positive side: that the majority of Hispanics do not drop out, thus increasing the pool of HS educated young people.

Shiloh, Otter Creek, USA :

Tom: Historically, the US conspired to support Iraq during the 1980 8-year Iran-Iraq War by covertly supplying Iraq with munitions including chemical WMD (Iraqgate) subsequently used against the Kurds. In '82 Reagan removed Iraq from the list of countries that support terrorism. In '84 he sent Rumsfeld to Iraq to restore diplomatic relations with Saddam Hussein. Kuwait changed that.

Linking Iraq to the WTC terrorist attack was blatantly misleading. No credible evidence links Iraq to the WTC. The US invasion after Afghanistan was an opportunistic attempt to exert US control over the middle east, its oil assets and its potential to counter anti-Israel factions. It was warmongering at its worst, a trumped up and trumpeted rationale for invasion that backfired and continues to exemplify a dysfunctional administration.

paul mathieu, falls church va usa :

I hope someone in the blogosphere knows the answer to a question I've had for many months: out of the 134,000 troops we have in Iraq, how many are on the front line with guns, tanks, Humvees and how many are in the rear in administration, camp operation, logistics, etc. Is the ratio of front to rear 1 in 5 or 1 in 7 or 1 in 10??

Tom Wonacott, Boise, Idaho :

To Shiloh:

"...Tom: It is part of the job of the media to fan the flames and hold the feet of legislators to the fire on unresolved issues like immigration reform. Unfortunately, that also whips up a firestorm of public resentment that stigmatizes the "other" - the immigrants -even when that resentment is unwarranted. No equivalent media coverage and public outrage has been ignited by the obscene compensation packages and wealth of corporate CEOs which does as much to widen the income gap and wipe out the middle class. Immigrants are easy targets - and today they look different than the immigrants of earlier eras..."

I agree. There are alot of factors concerning your last sentence. Frankly, better 12,000,000 illegal immigrants from Mexico than Canada.

Well, at least we are off the hook as far as annexing Texas for oil!

Tom Wonacott, Boise, Idaho :

To Shiloh:

"...On the oil issue raised by Abhi, San Diego, the impression that the US is in Iraq for the oil, among other putative reasons, is a generally accepted conclusion. Not many people believe this administration's denials..."

I posted this once before, you can read it or not, and comment if you want. Everything that follows is from my original post. I doubt you can get an argument out of me, but I'm interested in what you say.

xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

I knew I was opening up a can of worms when I made the original statement. I am not so naive to believe that the US interest in the Middle East is not related to oil. Of course it is and we will protect our interest.

The first Gulf war is a good example. We could not afford to let Saddam, essentially, double his reserves by controlling Kuwait's oil, and at the same time threaten Saudi Arabia's oil supply, which contributes a much higher percentage to the US than Iraq (ever did). The world condemned Iraq's actions also (UN, Arabs...) and I'm more than a little skeptical that it was on humanitarian grounds (although that is the way it is portrayed). Another way to put that is the "world" was only too happy to see the US eject Saddam from Kuwait's oil (oh, and by the way, we can liberate the Kuwatis too).

1. Many of the same charactors that led the war the Gulf War are in power today. How easy would it have been to continue into Baghdad in 1991 especially if Iraqi oil was the motive?

Dick Cheney was Seceretary of Defense during the Gulf War. What follows is an interesting quote from Cheney:

'...I would guess if we had gone in there, I would still have forces in Baghdad today. We'd be running the country. We would not have been able to get everybody out and bring everybody home.
And the final point that I think needs to be made is this question of casualties. I don't think you could have done all of that without significant additional U.S. casualties, and while everybody was tremendously impressed with the low cost of the (1991) conflict, for the 146 Americans who were killed in action and for their families, it wasn't a cheap war.
And the question in my mind is, how many additional American casualties is Saddam (Hussein) worth? And the answer is, not that damned many. So, I think we got it right, both when we decided to expel him from Kuwait, but also when the President made the decision that we'd achieved our objectives and we were not going to go get bogged down in the problems of trying to take over and govern Iraq.[13]..."

Most people wish he had remembered what he said!

2. Look at all the events surrounding Iraq that were in place before we invaded. The Gulf War, Saddam's responsibility for the death of 1-2 million people, the use of WMD's on the Kurds and the Iranians, the umteen UN resolutions condemning Iraq for refusing to cooperate with the inspectors, the belief by most everyone in the world that Saddam still had WMD's including Clinton, Carey etc., the attack on the World Trade Center and the relative ease with which we disposed of the Taliban in Afghanistan (we certainly couldn't have invaded if we were bogged down in Afghanistan).

THE US DIDN'T CONSPIRE TO FORM IRAQ'S HISTORY OR THE ATTACK ON THE WTC, BUT WE SURELY NEEDED BOTH TO INVADE.

Conspiracy theories abound such as "he did it for Daddy" which are absurd. Your opinion (oil) is shared by, probably, 95%(+) of the world, which puts me in the minority on this issue, but as I mentioned to Akana of Spain, the attack on the World Trade Center (primarily) drove the invasion, not oil.

Tom Wonacott, Boise, Idaho :

To Shiloh:

I meant that 911 was completely unrelated to the our discussion of immigration from an ECONOMIC point of view. Sorry for the confusion.

"Immigration, 9/11 and xenophobia are directly linked to the same kind of issues raised in 1954 when corruuption, not terrorism, was the basis for anti-immigrant sentiment."

That is where you and I really are not communicating. I am not anti-immigrant, so I really don't care what happened in 1954 for the purposes of this discussion.

"...2. Why should we care? With 33% of US students dropping our of school the children of the 11% of legal immigrants - and even the 4% of illegals may help fill the brain drain from our schools. I have previously discussed construction wages - with some contractors paying legal immigrants MORE than their less productive US dropout employees..."

From Robert J. Samuelson, Newsweek

"...By contrast, only 7 percent of native-born U.S. workers were high-school dropouts and 28 percent were college graduates in 2000..."


"...What's particularly disturbing about the Borjas-Katz study is that children of Mexican immigrants don't advance quickly. In 2000, Americans of Mexican ancestry still had lower levels of educational achievement and wages than most native-born workers. Among men, the wage gap was 27 percent; about 21 percent were high-school dropouts and only 11 percent were college graduates. Borjas and Katz can't explain the lags. "What's the role of culture vs. lousy [U.S.] schools?" asks Katz. "It's hard to say." Borjas doubts that the cause is discrimination. Low skills seem to explain most of the gap, he says..."

I'm not sure where you get that native-born Americans drop out at a rate of 33%. There are programs in Arizona where Hispanis children are groomed to become engineers, and I support those kind of programs, however, from the above article by Samuelson, the reality is that Hispanic kids are not faring well in advancing. This is in stark contrast to Asian and Asian Indian immigrants, and I suspect Eastern European immigrants as well.

Although, I have no doubt you are telling the truth when it comes to your contractor friends paying more for good help, the sad truth is that most employers take advantage of the situation. They've had a negative impact on native (dropouts) wages, albeit, small. I work in construction so I see firsthand that illegal immigrants are dedicated, hard workers, but, none the less, they work for less and, in general, drive wages down, and that is just common sense.

As far as your answer, "why should we care?", I think it is fairly obvious what a large poor class in the US cost economically (social services etc.). They provide a huge service to us, but I believe you were the one that posted to me that there is an incresing gap between rich and poor in this country, and that gap, in part, is due to poor, unskilled immigration which is increasing.

I support the idea of controlling immigration. The US has a very large class of poorly uneducated and unskilled workers, and we do not need to expand it. As Samuelson says, the greatest competition for an unskilled immigrant is the next generation of unskilled immigrants. Fewer unskilled and uneducated workers will drive wages up for the poorer immigrants (demand). The large lower class puts a strain (as I've mentioned) on social services etc. I also support the idea of skilled and educated immigrants from Mexico or elsewhere to fill the needs of the US.

In conclusion, most of the sources seem to agree that better control of immigration is necessary.

1. As we agree, eliminate illegal immigration.

2. Decrease the amount of legal immigration of unskilled/uneducated immigrants (but by no means eliminate it)

3. increase immigration of educated and skilled immigrants where there is a need in the US.

Shiloh, Otter Creek, USA :

Tom: It is part of the job of the media to fan the flames and hold the feet of legislators to the fire on unresolved issues like immigration reform. Unfortunately, that also whips up a firestorm of public resentment that stigmatizes the "other" - the immigrants -even when that resentment is unwarranted. No equivalent media coverage and public outrage has been ignited by the obscene compensation packages and wealth of corporate CEOs which does as much to widen the income gap and wipe out the middle class. Immigrants are easy targets - and today they look different than the immigrants of earlier eras.

Perhaps the best way to resolve the Mexican immigration issue is by annexation - the way California, New Mexico, parts of Arizona and Texas were added in 1848. But then people would say we were doing it for the oil - Mexico is our second largest source of oil imports, after Canada, where we seem to have fewer immigration problems.

Shiloh, Otter Creek, USA :

Tom in Boise wrote: "Why, in any discussion concerning immigration, does the word 'xenophobia' automatically pop up.... Also, I've never brough up 911, as that is a completely different topic..."

The unavoidable nexus, Tom, was explained. Immigration, 9/11 and xenophobia are directly linked to the same kind of issues raised in 1954 when corruuption, not terrorism, was the basis for anti-immigrant sentiment.

In answer to your questions:

1. Yes
2. Why should we care? With 33% of US students dropping our of school the children of the 11% of legal immigrants - and even the 4% of illegals may help fill the brain drain from our schools. I have previously discussed construction wages - with some contractors paying legal immigrants MORE than their less productive US dropout employees. The US health care system is an economic disaster for the average person and a purge like "Operation Wetback" (1954) won't change it one bit

As already seen, one alternative to immigrant employment in the US is the relocation of some US industries to those foreign nations. Keeping in mind that this is a capitalist based economy, that the nationalizing of US industry is unlikely and that too rigid business control by protectionist laws can drive US industry overseas, or put them out of business with onerous fines and penalties, which would you prefer?

On the oil issue raised by Abhi, San Diego, the impression that the US is in Iraq for the oil, among other putative reasons, is a generally accepted conclusion. Not many people believe this administration's denials. History will probably rank the Bush Invasion of Iraq with Harding's Teapot Dome.

Tom Wonacott, Boise, Idaho :

To Shiloh:

Immigration is a highly charged issue in much the same way as gay marriage and affirmative action. In the latter two, terms like bigotry and racism are often used to discourage discourse.

The same can be said for immigration. Although there surely are xenophobics, most people are concerned about unchecked immigration (principally illegal) and their consequences.

Paul Krugman, ? North of the Border?, 2006, New York Times

"...Realistically, we'll need to reduce the inflow of low-skill immigrants. Mainly that means better controls on illegal immigration.... We need to do something about immigration, and soon..."

From Fox News:

"...Overburdened by the uninsured and overwhelmed by illegal immigration , public health care in Los Angeles is on life support.
Sixty percent of the county's uninsured patients are not U.S. citizens. More than half are here illegally. About 2 million undocumented aliens in Los Angeles County alone are crowding emergency rooms because they can't afford to see a doctor..."

By Robert J. Samuelson
Newsweek

"...No society has a boundless capacity to accept newcomers, especially when many are poor and unskilled. There are now an estimated 34 million immigrants in the United States, about a third of them illegal. About 35 percent lack health insurance and 26 percent receive some sort of federal benefit..."

"...it's hard to be pro-immigrant and pro tougher immigration restrictions. But that's the sensible position, as any examination of immigration trends suggests...."

"...But some things we do know?or can infer. For today's Mexican immigrants (legal or illegal), the closest competitors are tomorrow's Mexican immigrants (legal or illegal). The more who arrive, the harder it will be for existing low-skilled workers to advance..."

"...What's particularly disturbing about the Borjas-Katz study is that children of Mexican immigrants don't advance quickly. In 2000, Americans of Mexican ancestry still had lower levels of educational achievement and wages than most native-born workers. Among men, the wage gap was 27 percent; about 21 percent were high-school dropouts and only 11 percent were college graduates. Borjas and Katz can't explain the lags. "What's the role of culture vs. lousy [U.S.] schools?" asks Katz. "It's hard to say." Borjas doubts that the cause is discrimination. Low skills seem to explain most of the gap, he says..."

"...a study by the Pew Hispanic Center found that inflation-adjusted weekly earnings for all Hispanics (foreign and American-born) dropped by 2.2 percent in 2003 and 2.6 percent in 2004. "Latinos are the only major group of workers whose wages have fallen for two consecutive years," said the study. Similarly, the more poor immigrants, the harder it will be for schools to improve the skills of their children. The schools will be overwhelmed; the same goes for social services..."

"...We could also make more sensible decisions about legal immigrants?favoring the skilled over the unskilled..."

And from one of your very own post:

"...Boise Tom: Fear of foreigners taking jobs, fear of foreigners reducing wages, fear of foreign criminals, fear of foreigners using social services, fear of foreigners not contributing a fair share in taxes....."fear of foreigners" is a literal translation of xenophobia, a word that natually occurs in discussions of immigration..."

Some people need to get their head out of the sand, quit using anti-immigration fear tactics, and engage in the issue because not everyone who wants to see a change in immigration policy is a xenophobe. Got it?

Tom Wonacott, Boise, Idaho :

To Abhi,, San Diego, CA USA

I like your (unique)idea to a limited extent.

1. Although I could care less about Sunni and Shia insurgents killing each other, in my opinion, the typical innocent Iraqi, already caught in the middle, would be devastated by the fighting.

2. Protecting the oil would give the (wrong) impression that we are there for that reason.

3. It would still be possible, but admittedly, much less likely (with our presence) that the war could spill into adjacent countries.

Your idea might be the only realistic solution, but, hopefully, there is still some chance of a negotiated solution for the new government.

Abhi,, San Diego, CA USA :

There is a sound principle, both in management practice and science, that says that if you accurately describe a problem, you have just described the solution. The obvious lesson here is that without an accuaie analysis or decription, most problems will not find correct solutions. it is also true that one may not find the proper solution palatable; hence it maybe rejected. Apropos our "Problem in Iraq." it seems that the U.S. can not stay there, and the U.S, can not leave! Staying the course is suicidal, and leaving may be equally so, as the only likely winners of the continuig chaos would be the jihadis/al Qaida contingents. If that were to be the outcome, most of the West would be a lot worse off. There are two distinct, but related benefits al Quaida seeks from destabilizing and dominating Iraq; The territorial control of a major area in the middle-East, and access to billions of dollars in oil revenue. The real estate by itself would have limited value: control of the oil wealth would be the prize.It would give them a great resource to carry out their terrorist schemes. The solution, if we have described the problem right so far is this: Forget ground troops in Iraq, for whatever purpose. The U.S. and its allies , with U.N. co-operation, and with Russia , Syria and Iran on board, should cordon off the northern and southern oil-bearing regions, and let the rest settle itself in any way it chooses to. No troops on the groud outside the oil enclaves; an unimpregnable protective barrier to any attack from the hodge-podge of fighters on the outside, air support to deal with those, and that's it. The oil would be extracted, shipped out through Syria and Turkey from the North and through the Persian Gulf from the south. After paying all costs, the oil funds would be held in trust for the Iraqi people until when the international community certifies that a legitimate, stable nation exists. Even if the government of such a State would turns out to be an Al Qaida regime, it would still require international acceptance before receiving the trust fund.
Deny the oil, and there is not much the jihadis get. The real estate is, of itself, worthless.

Zoltan, hungarian, Paris :

"stolen the complete plans for the B2 bomber"
===> the B2 is a crap aircraft. Funny looking though. Nobody would want to steal it's plans.

"underwater guided missile [...] to Iran, who have already deployed it"
===> the Iranian underwater missile is a Russian derivative. I'm not sure if americans have those.

"nuclear weapons"
"miniaturize weapons for mounting in smaller missiles"
" "secure" optical fiber networks"
"Chinese can now [...] tape our most sensitive communications?"
===> watching lots of James Bond, don't you ?

The whole world is scared about the amount and wickedness of the american weapons, and americans are scared that the rest of the world is stealing from them those weapons. Looks like a weird pattern to me. I still don't know if I should laugh or cry. If you didn't make those horrible weapons in the first place, nobody would be able to steal the technology related to them.

There is a saying, that in every man there is a white wolf and a black wolf fighting. And the one that wins is the one you feed.

Atheist, Boston, USA :

Australian authorities are seeking the arrest and the extradition of "Doctor" Jayant Patel. He is a naturalized American citizen who was born in India. While he worked as a doctor in Australia, he "[performed] operations for which he was not qualified and [removed] healthy organs". The Australian government claim that "Doctor" Patel killed some of his patients through negligence.

Australia issues manslaughter warrants for U.S.-based surgeon
(The New York Times, 2006 November 22)
http://www.iht.com/articles/2006/11/22/news/doctor.php
——————————————————————————————-
"A court in Australia issued warrants for the arrest of an American surgeon on Wednesday, charging him with three counts of manslaughter and five counts of inflicting grievous bodily harm, the chief prosecutor in the case said.

The warrants are the first criminal action against the doctor, Jayant Patel, whose case has attracted international attention and who was the subject of a lengthy investigation by a high-level commission last year. The commission found him guilty of widespread negligence, including performing operations for which he was not qualified and removing healthy organs, while working at a hospital in Bundaberg, Queensland, from 2003 to 2005. [...]

An anesthesiologist who worked with Patel in Australia was so appalled by what he observed that he dubbed him 'Dr. Death,' an appellation that has appeared regularly in news accounts and given the case notoriety beyond Queensland and Australia."

Sometimes, truth is scarier than fiction.

Tom Wonacott, Boise, Idaho :

To Shiloh:

"...Only an ostrich, or a xenophobe in denial, would not see the nexus between immigration, 9/11 and xenophobia..."

Please post (for me) where I made a statement to the contrary of the statement above. Of course people have become more concerned about open borders. That's a no brainer.

Many people are concerned about the affects of illegal immigration on the job market. Many people are concerned about outsourcing as well. Would you mind if they just didn't accept your word that everything is rosy?

I'll repost what I said to you so that you'll get it right.

"...Uncontrolled illegal immigration, though, has flooded the market with unskilled and uneducated workers that have moved into areas that American workers traditionally fill such as construction..."

"...In addition, as I said before, illegal immigration also puts significant financial stress on our schools, hospitals and public services. Some kind of control of immigration (legal to begin with) is necessary and all that I'm really advocating."

You have a tendency to make the great emotional appeal ("xenophobia") when you don't have any answer to the question being discussed.

1. Do you support enforcement of the law against illegal immigration, i. e., illegal entry or overstaying of temporary visas?

2. What impact do you believe that Illegal immigration has on schools, hospitals and social services as well as wages on contruction or other jobs?

The following quote is taken from:
The Illegal Alien Problem: Enforcing the Immigration Laws
By George Weissinger, Ph. D.
New York Institute of Technology

"...There is a profound difference between individuals who legally apply for admission and fulfill all the requirements for admission, and those who decide to enter the United States, or intentionally overstay their visa in violation of law. Labeling such violators as intending immigrants only confuses the issue and juxtaposing these two categories is specious logic. A few of the important differences include criminal and health backgrounds of intending entrants. A lawfully admitted alien must undergo health screening and will not be admitted if found to have a communicable disease. Similarly, certain criminal convictions exclude some aliens from admission into the United States as well. Of course, the smuggled alien, or one who enters without inspection, bypasses such rules and regulations. This is not to suggest that the majority of illegal entrants into the United States are criminals or diseased, but a percentage of this group are. Just how many criminal aliens are in the United States is difficult to determine primarily because many who are in custody either do not disclose their true status, or they are released before INS can remove them. Immigration Laws and the Illegal Alien Problem..."

There are other reasons besides Al Qaeda to enforce the immigration policy at the border.

daniel :

To Shiloh from Daniel. Sorry for being so rude in my reply when we were discussing eugenics—especially when I criticized you for saying the future of the human race will succeed by accident and not by plan. I tend to be cynical (a general defect of intellectuals?).

I should have at least been clearer, and optimally more sensitive because it is such a sensitive discussion. Actually I understand what you mean about succeeding by accident rather than by plan—especially if the planning compromises moral beliefs, ethics, etc.
Even in the strict scientific sense one should not overplan and one should allow a bit of "play", accident, to prevent rigidity.

But the big thing is of course morality—that is what everyone is concerned with. I totally agree that eugenics—even if framed in the sense of not being racist and simply trying to improve the human species as a whole—is not a project which is perfectly compatible with morality, then of course people will reject it—and they should—and not only will they want things to proceed by accident in this area of life, they will return to religion to deal with the "accident born of man's inability to continue planning without compromising moral beliefs".

I hope I have been relatively clear and you accept my apology. I felt pretty guilty last night not least for discussing eugenics so carelessly. One had better have the ground pretty well covered when one discusses such a thing. I am all for eugenics properly conceived, but if the human race cannot do it without compromising morality, then we had better humbly submit to accident and hope that God does indeed exist.—Or even if God does not exist, still we at least acted humanly and did not greedily grasp at existence at the expense of our fellow man.

I hope I have put things relatively correctly....

Shiloh, Otter Creek, USA :

Boise, Idaho - ZAMBONI OPERATORS FIRED. The news report did not say if the zamboni hijackers were illegal or legal immigrants with an H1 or L Visa.

MikeB :

Atheist, Boston, USA - Something your cited story failed to mention is that there was a whole group of Indian workers, all currently on H1-B visa's, that were involved in the theft of the B2 bomber plans. Also stolen was information that can be, and *IS* being, used to develope weapons system to shoot down *ANY* of our steal aircraft. Finally, Mr. Gowadia, was originally here on an H1-B visa! Beyond this, there are reporterdly more than 5,000 cases of military espionage by H1-B visa employees being investigated that were committed last year alone! The number for this year looks to double that figure. Terminating any all H1-B, L series, and similar visa's, and banning outsourcing of technology, would do more to ensure our national security than all other programs put together. I keep wondering when the American people are going to realize this.

Atheist, Boston, USA :

Washington has filed charges against Noshir S. Gowadia for stealing American military secrets and giving them to Beijing. He is a naturalized American citizen of Indian ancestry and worked on critical technologies used in the B-2 bomber.

Former aerospace engineer pleads not guilty to selling U.S. military secrets to China
(The Associated Press, 2006 November 9)
http://www.iht.com/articles/ap/2006/11/10/america/NA_GEN_US_Military_Secrets.php
————————————————————————————————————————
"A former B-2 stealth bomber engineer [Noshir S. Gowadia] has pleaded not guilty to selling military secrets to China so the communist nation could develop a hard-to-detect cruise missile. [...]

If convicted of the most serious charges, Gowadia could face the death penalty. Prosecutors plan to decide this month whether the death penalty would apply to the case, including whether his suspected actions resulted in the death of any U.S. agents.

Gowadia was an engineer with Northrop Grumman Corp. from 1968-86 and helped design parts of the B-2's propulsion system that make it difficult for enemy missiles to detect the bomber. The technology remains highly classified.

A naturalized U.S. citizen born in India, Gowadia has been in federal detention in Honolulu since October 2005, when he was arrested and denied bail.

An 18-count indictment issued Wednesday alleges that Gowadia designed and helped test for China a hard-to-detect cruise missile nozzle and that he analyzed for his Chinese clients how the modified cruise missile would lock on to U.S. air-to-air missiles."

China and India are natural allies because their culture values are quite similar. Indian culture shares more elements with Chinese culture than the former shares with Western culture. In fact, the Indian concept of right and wrong is radically different from the Western concept of right and wrong.

For example, most of the Western soldiers are tied up in hot spots like Afghanistan, Iraq, Lebanon, the Balkans, etc. So, they cannot help the Sudanese victims (in Darfur) of Islamic violence: rape, murder, more rape, more murder, etc.

The Chinese government has aggressively supported the Sudanese government which has been promoting this violence of rape and murder. The Indian government has troops to spare, yet New Delhi has done nothing.

Where, the hell, are the Indian troops destined for Darfur?

MikeB :

Cindy, New Orleans, USA - limiting the number of H1-B visa's to protect American jobs is important, but it is secondary to the enormous security hole created by these workers. President Bush signed an executive order that even allows them to work on top secret military contracts. And they do and the predictable result is that they are stealing everything that isn't tied down. So far, "guest workers" on H1-B visa's have stolen the complete plans for the B2 bomber, our latest underwater guided missile (necessary becasue the newest Chinese and Russian submarine's can literally outrun our torpedo's....the Indian's who stole it sold it to Iran, who have already deployed it), nuclear weapons including miniaturize weapons for monting in smaller missiles, means for taping into our "secure" opticial fiber networks (including the one used by the CIA and the Pentagon over which our most sensative intelligence is transmitted....doesn't it make you proud and just feeling all warm knowing that the CHinese can now, without our knowing it, tape our most sensative communications?), etc.

I find it simply outrageous that the governmnet and corporations care so little about the safety and security of this country and about our continued existance that they are encouraging even more H1-B workers (and, even worse, L series visa high tech workers). To my mind, anyone advocating for or even permitting even one of these workers is guilty of treason and ought to be tried and punished under the federal statutes for treason. That, of course, would include such "dignitaries" as Bill Gates, the CEO's of Intel, Apple Computer, Dell, IBM and Tektronix and Boeing, and a whole lot of other corporations, George Bush, Dick CHeney, and a lot of other politician's who advocate "globalization". Make no mistake about it, either globalization is ended or we will end because of it and the people who advocate it are selling this country for profit.

Shiloh, Otter Creek, USA :

To Boise Tom:

Phronemophobia, epistemophobia and ideophobia lend themselves to your inquiry.

Tom Wonacott, Boise, Idaho :

To Shiloh:

If xenophobia is "fear of foreigners", then what is fear of the truth?

Shiloh, Otter Creek, USA :

Boise Tom: Fear of foreigners taking jobs, fear of foreigners reducing wages, fear of foreign criminals, fear of foreigners using social services, fear of foreigners not contributing a fair share in taxes....."fear of foreigners" is a literal translation of xenophobia, a word that natually occurs in discussions of immigration. As for 9/11, it is widely recognized, through daily occurrences at public places, that that event heightened American "fear of foreigners," especially those who "look" foreign, like a Saudi, for example. Only an ostrich, or a xenophobe in denial, would not see the nexus between immigration, 9/11 and xenophobia. Some people need to get their head out of the sand and see how 9/11 succeeded in sowing fear, internal dissent, scapegoating and all the stability threatening issues that terrorism is meant to foster.

Kourosh Ziabari, Iran, cyberfaith.blogspot.com :

It was for the first time that Iranians heard the name of "Regulation of radio and communicative provisions" that presented itself by approving a new sanction that forbids the access to 128 Kbps internet connection for general, personal or household purposes.

By the ratification of newly accomplished law, only governmental organizations and first-degree citizens would be free to use this type of internet using various type connections such as ADSL (Asymmetric Digital Subscriber Line) or satellite internet and non-governmental organizations, companies, personal or family corporations and also the newspaper offices would be restricted to use this high speed types of internet.

Officially, it is less than 2 years that this type of Internet is imported to Iran and PAPs (Private Access Providers) are to offer high speed Internets with unbelievable expenditures, cause the monthly account of ADSL connection, costs about 800 dollars for each user and this amount is truly less than monthly incoming and salary of a normal citizen.

Also the Internet Service Providers of Iran are unable to provide the users with the exact 56Kbps dial-up connections and in addition to the high users traffic of regional parts in different cities, the average speed of dial-up and telephony connection via the best types of external 56k modems is an integer between 21,600 kbps to at most 33,600 kbps.

In the other word the availability of multimedia items containing online music, films, fast data transmission or high speed downloads is impossible due to the continuous disconnects, old and worn out structure and fiber noises caused by the cupreous dual cables used in the foundation of these traditional telephone lines. So these troubles, do not allow you to experience a convenient and comfort connection so you must carry all the problems out to yourself and be deprived from the even connections being used in some neighbor countries such as Afghanistan!!

Beside all the problems, you have not to forget the distance dimensions. With regard that there are not more than one ADSL supporter in most of Iran cities and if we remember that the ADSL providers are not able to serve the users that are far from central station to more than 5 kilometers, we can get the result that the situation of high speed internet in Iran, seems to be a real disease rather than a bitter reality!

It is more than 10 years that developed countries are using ADSL and the Wireless technology is replacing very soon but in a few countries such as Iran that claims to be the polarity of technology in middle east, ADSL is like a dream for most of professional users and commercial organizations. So practically the executive process of plans such as E-government, E-Police, E-university and E-commerce is impossible in Iran.

The new registered law is also adding our pains and lets express honestly that the future of information and communication technology in Iran, is likely to be so blurred and dark than it seemsÔøΩ

http://cyberfaith.blogspot.com

Yousuf Hashmi, Pakistan :

Pakistan now in the grip of exploring alternate energy resources. you speak buissness community,government departments or poiltical leaders all are worried for energy shortage in pakistan.

although crude prices are showing downward trend but pakistan expecting critical shortage of energy in coming years if it maintains its existing growth rate.

various government incentives are on the way for developing wind and hdro power projects.

also their is a news that in southern pakistan coal fired power plants are being investigated. US investors specializing in burning low quality coal and developing power plants may explore the opportunity.

Bukko, Melbourne, Australia :

Down here, people are talking about global warming. It's the start of summer, after a poor winter rain season, and water catchments are barely above 40% full. Bush fire season has started, and it's expected to be worse than last year, which was bad. I could see smoke from some of the fires from the inner-city hospital where I work. Drove out to a country town last week and the eucalyptus tree leaves are already brown. Paddock grass is dead and pastoralists are slaughtering sheep and cattle that the land can't support any more. Wheat crops have withered — production expected to be down by 2/3 this year.

Even the loathesome John Howard has begun talking about global warming — to further his own ends, of course. He's pushing to open more uranium mines and even start a nuclear power plant industry. (Australia is currently nuke-free, and there is an official limit of three uranium mines in the country.) He says he's doing this to counteract global warming. I believe it's actually because he's in the pocket of the mining industry, which sees an untapped resource to exploit. At the same time, one of his government ministers scotched plans for a coastal wind turbine farm because it would have allegedly interfered with a rare species of parrot. Not mentioned in the official explanation was objections from the rich local landowners who didn't want their views spoilt. So even when a rightist admits global warming is a problem, they use it for spin.

BTW, those of you who were arguing over immigration — I'm an immigrant worker. I grew up in America but my wife and I left the country last year over our disgust with the murderous conduct of the Cheney government. Luckily, I'm a registered nurse, so I could legally get a work visa here. You'd better believe I get paid every bit as much as an Australian nurse, though! We've got good unions here and the Aussie immigration department does a tight job of policing how foreign workers are treated.

Not many comments from overseas people in this international section.

Cindy, New Orleans, USA :

MikeB,
I would not mind accepting immigrants coming here if I could be sure that employers would not exploit them, and bring down other's wages. Surely, if congress works more than 100 days this year, some kind of compromise can be affected. Also, I think congress needs to be very careful about the number of HB1 Visas. I am worried about citizens losing jobs.

Tom Wonacott, Boise, Idaho :

To Shiloh:

"...The perception of a "flood" of immigrants is partly related to visible differences in skin color and reaction to 9/11..."

"...Illegals are a social problem, but not the "flood" that should inspire reactionary xenophobia..."

"...That, of course, only exacerbates the xenophobic reaction of the dropouts who are not as on the job educated or productive..."

Why, in any discussion concerning immigration, does the word "xenophobia" automatically pop up? Spare us please. Also, I've never brought up 911, as that is a completely different topic, and a another good reason to control immigration.

Some statistics compiled by Steven A. Camerota, director of Immigration Studies located in Washington DC. Note that this group is against the "flood" of low skilled and uneducated immigrants (primarily) from Mexico for economic reasons (not 911). There are plenty of articles by other groups that support immigration also for economic reasons. This is from a 2001 report:

A summary:

Steven Camarota said of the findings, "Mexican immigration is overwhelmingly unskilled, and it is hard to make an economic argument for unskilled immigration, because it tends to reduce wages for workers who are already the lowest paid and whose real wages actually declined in the 1990s. Moreover, this cheap labor comes with a high cost. Because the modern American economy offers very limited opportunities for workers with little education, continued unskilled immigration cannot help but to significantly increase the size of the poor and uninsured populations, as well as the number of people using welfare."

1. "By increasing the supply of unskilled labor, Mexican immigration in the 1990s has reduced the wages of workers without a high school education by an estimated 5 percent."

2. "Based on estimates developed by the National Academy of Sciences for immigrants by age and education at arrival, the lifetime fiscal impact (taxes paid minus services used) for the average adult Mexican immigrant is a negative $55,200."

3. "Although they comprise 4.2 percent of the nation?s total population, Mexican immigrants and their U.S.-born children (under 18) account for 10.2 percent of all persons in poverty and 12.5 percent of those without health insurance. Even among Mexican immigrant families that have lived in United States for more than 20 years, almost all of whom are legal residents, more than half live in or near poverty and one-third are uninsured"

4. "Even after welfare reform, an estimated 34 percent of households headed by legal Mexican immigrants and 25 percent headed by illegal Mexican immigrants used at least one major welfare program, in contrast to 15 percent of native households. Mexican immigrants who have lived in the United States for more than 20 years, almost all of whom are legal residents, still have double the welfare use rate of natives."

5. "Mexican immigration acts as a subsidy to businesses that employ unskilled workers, holding down labor costs while taxpayers pick up the costs of providing services to a much larger poor and low-income population."

6. "The lower educational attainment of Mexican immigrants appears to persist across the generations. The high school dropout rates of native-born Mexican-Americans (both second and third generation) are two and a half times that of other natives."

Mr. Camerota recommends:

"The United States needs to consider programs designed to improve the labor market skills of legal Mexican immigrants. It is also absolutely essential that more effort be made to improve educational opportunities for their children so that they will have the skills necessary to compete in the modern American economy. In the future, the United States should also consider policies designed to reduce unskilled legal immigration in general, including from Mexico. Greater resources should also be devoted to stopping illegal immigration, including enforcement of the ban on hiring illegal aliens."

In addition, illegal immigrants comprise approximately 20% of the federal inmates. Another case for better control of immigration.

RDJRDJ, Princeton, NJ :

I'm afraid that this is one stretch in history during which it is nearly impossible to take one's mind off what is going on 'politically' (for me, at least).

Trust in government is at an all time low, and it is hard to sleep well at night, resting assurd that competent people are on the job or that 'the system' is working.

'War on the side' seems to be on the brink of running its course as such, and in any number of hot-spots around the world the temperature seems to be up or rising, not down or peaking.

The Global Economy seems set for the prospects of an extended cycle, but there also seems little chance that any of its structural weaknesses will be addressed with alacrity.

MikeB :

I one of those who would advocate for accepting as many people from Mexico and South and Central America as we can manage, and I would accept them before immigrants from other countries, and would impose no educational nor special skills requirements, but I would accept them ONLY as legal immigrants. And, anyone who thinks we can assimilate the current 12 to 24 million here is simply insane. It's tragic, but we have to deport or otherise force to leave virtually all of them. Most of these people are desparately poor. They merely want to feed their children. They are, by and large, honest and hard working. The problem is, so are the American workers they are displacing by the hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions. The only way to fix this mess is to challenge the 14th Amendment in court and see to it that it is interpreted as it was written - as a part of Reconstruction to provide citizenship for the children of slaves - and deny automatic citizenship to the children of illega aliens. At the same time, legislation must be enacted that makes it economic suicide for any businessman or even an individual homeowner, to hire or subcontract with any party that isn't legally here. $10,000 a day per worker would shortly bankrupt any contractor who hired them and the newspaper stories of people loosing their homes becasue they hired a South American nanny would certainly serve to stop that nonsense, too. Those measures would go a long way towards resolving this mess without it doing any further intolerable damage to our society and our own people.

daniel :

Shiloh, from what I can tell it seems you have not understood what I meant. The problem seems to be the definition of eugenics. Of course the U.S. has been capable of eugenics for centuries in the sense of defining eugenics as improving the stock of a particular race at the expense of another race. That was also the method of Nazi Germany in its exclusion of the Jews. That is not the eugenics I am speaking of here. Eugenics, properly speaking, is simply improving the genetic stock of the human race—or even better, right breeding. Eugenics, properly speaking, does not exclude on the basis of race, etc. This is the eugenics we are moving to with the current state of biological science. And what I am specifically asking here with our current immigration dilemma is whether the U.S. has not only gone beyond the old eugenic definition of eugenics according to race, but is in fact embarked now on the definition of simply picking and choosing from a wide variety of racial stock before even the biological sciences have gotten involved. I hope that has been relatively clear.

But to be even clearer, if current immigration is doing even more than taking jobs away from especially the bottom 15-20% percent of the population of whatever race, then the U.S. has clearly moved into the territory of eugenics proper—the right breeding of the race which is not at the expense of any one race.

I hope I have been relatively clear about the two types of eugenics mentioned. A pity eugenics is considered only in the Nazi, racial terms by most people. But to now become controversial, truly controversial, I disagree with you that even if eugenics is taken in Nazi terms that it is negative. On the contrary, breeding is breeding as any dog breeder or farmer can tell you. Whether you breed with a single race, breed, etc. at hand or crossbreed you still have much room for improvement.

Last of all, your comment that the future of the human species will succeed by accident and not by plan is simply absurd. What are we supposed to do as human beings? Have a limited definition of the word plan? Start deciding what we will plan and what we will not even though we can plan "there" as well? People quite simply will make improvements where they can—people plan and accomplish where they can. To say we will not take our genetic legacy into our hands is just absurd—that we will tolerate the human species succeeding by accident when we plan education, the economy and so much else.

The question is to make eugenics acceptable by not confining it to the improvement of a single race at the expense of others (even though of course many improvements can be made within races). And the question I am directly asking here with regard to current immigration is if we already are embarked on a eugenics program of mixing races and selecting the best people from among them...or if current immigration is dragging down the economy (much of the worst of other races simply taking the jobs of the worst already among us. Or even worse, not even being capable of the lowest jobs....).

Shiloh, Otter Creek, USA :

daniel: The history of American immigration and naturalization law is a study is social engineering. The first Naturalization Act of 1790 was restricted to "free white persons." Later laws - and there have been many - set limits to the proportionate immigration of ethnic groups already residing in the US. A quota system was not enacted until 1921. Later laws exempted persons in need, Hungarians in 1956, for example. But overall the immigration laws have been kneejerk reactions to circumstances of time and events, not unlike the current post 9/11 kneejerks. Eugenic engineering, in the mode of the 3rd Reich, has been disproven by follow-up studies as non-productive of desired traits. I am of the opinion that the "melting pot" of the US has been a far more beneficial accident than any eugenic or social engineering scheme and that the future of the human specie will succeed by accident, not by plan.

daniel :

The discussion on immigration by MikeB, Shiloh and Tom Wonacott is fascinating. Among many other feelings it invokes, it seems a serious discussion is going on as to the extent that immigration drags down the U.S. economy (unskilled workers, etc.) or whether in fact a subtle process of social engineering is going on and the U.S. is replenishing itself by hardworking stock from everywhere to the point that a significant portion of its own base population is being rejected. My belief is that a nation is more susceptible to having itself dragged down by immigration than being able to be so keen about immigration (and controlling over its own populace) that it can select good immigrant stock to the detriment of its own percentage point of lagging populace. But I might be wrong. Is it true that immigration is replacing what many Americans can do—or even worse, is stock inferior to current Americans—or is it that a process is going on by which immigration is leaving behind a significant portion of the U.S. population (the inferior 15-20%)? If the latter, that would be startling. It would mean that the U.S. has the control over itself essentially to be more capable of eugenics than anyone previously thought. Any thoughts anyone? I hope indeed that current immigration is of high quality—in fact I am for eugenics—but I would like to see all the ethical dilemmas resolved or there will no doubt be a backlash. People have always been suspicous of all types of social engineering....

Linda Loomis, San Antonio, Texas :

People here in the deepest deep of the Sun Belt are arguing about when the first real Thanksgiving took place. And what does it tell us? If it's bragging rights that these individuals are after (or is it history?), that the world, some 400 years later, is still fairly tribal, in my opinion.

http://www.mysanantonio.com/salife/stories/MYSA112106.1P.firstthanks.1f9791c.html

Most Americans have no doubt. The first Thanksgiving was in 1621, when English colonists (you know, the Pilgrims) sat down with Wampanoag Indians for a feast.

For years, however, the people of El Paso and nearby San Elizario have begged to differ. Settlers (Spanish ones, that is) broke bread with American Indians 23 years earlier, in 1598.

These days, though, you won't find a more convinced people than those of St. Augustine, Fla. They maintain that in 1565 ó 56 years before the first Anglo Saxons arrived in Massachusetts ó Menendez de AvilÈs sat across the table from the Timucuan Indians. And that was the first Thanksgiving.

French colonists may have been there first, but they didn't get along with the locals.

And so it goes that other cities have bragging rights to the first giving of thanks in what is now the United States. The others include Berkeley Plantation in Virginia (1619), Jacksonville, Fla. (1564), Jamestown, Va. (1607), Popham, Maine (1607), and Canyon, Texas (1541). Florida claims several others.

MikeB :

Shiloh, Otter Creek, USA "...and those working immigrants are paying taxes..." Actually, both the federal and various state studies demonsrtrate conclusively that less than 10% of the illegals employed in the construction trades pay any sort of taxes at all except for sales taxes. Most are paid under the table, using the subcontractor loopholes discovered by contractors and pay absoluteoy no federal nor state income taxes.

Shiloh, Otter Creek, USA :

To Tom: American perception of immigration has changed significantly since 9/11. The facts belie the perception.

In the 1900 census 13.6% of the population was foreign born - with Germans and Irish the leading groups. In 2000 it was 11.1% of the census - with the leading groups coming from Mexico, China and the Phillipines. The perception of a "flood" of immigrants is partly related to visible differences in skin color and reaction to 9/11.

The Pew Foundation estimated 2005 illegal immigrants at less than 4% of the population. Illegals are a social problem, but not the "flood" that should inspire reactionary xenophobia.

Although retired, I do consulting work in management and development, frequently in construction related groups. Some of the contractors I speak with prefer the work ethic and educability of Latino immigrants to that of American high school dropouts. It is not solely the labor cost; in fact, many are promoting and paying good Hispanic workers more than their dropout counterparts - and those working immigrants are paying taxes. That, of course, only exacerbates the xenophobic reaction of the dropouts who are not as on the job educated or productive.

Tom Wonacott, Boise, Idaho :

To Shiloh:

I'm not implying that immigration of low skilled/uneducated Hispanic workers is not necessary. On the contrary, I agree that immigrants from Mexico and Latin America (as well as many other parts of the world) are motivated by the opportunity in the US.

Uncontrolled illegal immigration, though, has flooded the market with unskilled and uneducated workers that have moved into areas that American workers traditionally fill such as construction. The problem needs to be addressed because employers compete for buisness to make money. The cheaper labor drives wages down increasing the gap between rich and poor.

In addition, as I said before, illegal immigration also puts significant financial stress on our schools, hospitals and public services. Some kind of control of immigration (legal to begin with) is necessary and all that I'm really advocating.

Shiloh, Otter Creek, USA :

Boise Tom and MikeB: As the economic gap in America widens and erodes the "middle class" into two classes, the rich and the poor, the country does not need an infusion of educated and highly skilled immigrants to replace the middle class. It needs what built the middle class of the 20th century: the eager, willing to work immigrants of the late 19th and early 20th century. I see in Mexican and Central American immigrant labor those same characteristics, the same work ethic, that the Irish, Italian, and Eastern European immigrants brought to America when they came here to escape poverty. The motivation to better oneself by emigrating is a self-qualifying determinant of a work ethic. And the one-third of unmotivated US students who never finish high school will now have to compete with motivated immigrants in work performance on the job. The alternatives for that one-third of America's uneducated youth include: (1) keep living at home,(2) go back to school, (3)turn to crime,(4) or drop out and do drugs. The all volunteer military, once an option for high school dropouts, no longer accepts them. By encouraging immigration of educated and skilled labor, we foreclose another option for our own uneducated youth: going back to school. The success of the welfare-to-work program that started in the Clinton Administration is evidence that job training support programs work. The behind the counter person in a fast food franchise or at a discount department store is more likely to be a former welfare recipient than an immigrant - and the person below them, cleaning up the kitchen and hauling the garbage is more likely to be an immigrant; an immigrant working harder, watching and learning the next job up the ladder.

Atheist, Boston, USA :

Below are more details about the terrorist from India.

Forty-year jail term for British al-Qa'ida terrorist
(The Independent, 2006 November 20)
http://news.independent.co.uk/uk/crime/article1962457.ece
————————————————————————————-
Dhiren Barot, 34, a Muslim convert, was sentenced to a minimum of 40 years for conspiracy to murder thousands of people in a series of explosions, including a radioactive "dirty bomb". Details of Barot's connections with al-Qa'ida commanders, including Osama bin Laden, were disclosed after the trial. [...]
The investigation discovered that Barot, who was brought up in London by his Indian parents as a Hindu, travelled to Pakistan to brief senior al-Qa'ida members on his terror plans and reconnaisance shortly before he was arrested in London in August 2004. He is thought to have been given the go-ahead to carry out his plan. His capture was prompted by the seizure in July 2004 in Pakistan of Naeem Noor Khan - a leading figure in the al-Qa'ida network - and a computer that contained details of Barot's terror plots.

Atheist, Boston, USA :

In Great Britain, the courts just sentenced an Indian (from South Asia) to 40 years in prison for plotting to kill Brits and Americans.

Dhiren Barot, an immigrant who converted to Islam under the spell of Muslim radicals
(The Associated Press, 2006 November 7)
http://www.iht.com/articles/ap/2006/11/07/europe/EU_GEN_Britain_Bomb_Plot_Profile.php
——————————————————————————————————————————-
Raised a hardworking Hindu schoolboy in a modest London suburb, Dhiren Barot renounced his parents' faith to become a feared Muslim extremist and the protege of a string of infamous Islamic radicals.

Barot, who received a life sentence on Tuesday for a trans-Atlantic plot to bomb buildings in Britain and the United States, was 12 months old when his parents immigrated to England in 1972 from Baroda, India. He became a British citizen and attending a well-thought of secondary school, where he was a studious but average pupil.

Tom Wonacott, Boise, Idaho :

To Shiloh:

I agree that most kids nowadays will not touch some jobs that Hispanic workers perform, however, illegal workers have also moved into jobs that Americans will perform such as construction. In this case they drive construction wages down. They, simply, will work for less because that is still a relatively good wage compared to Mexico. Of course, the employer is only to happy, as now his bids are more competitive.

I cannot blame them because they need to put food on their family's table also, but the flood of illegal workers from Mexico also puts great stress on social services, hospitals and public schools as well as driving wages down.

The workers from Mexico, in general, are uneducated and unskilled. More of an emphasis needs to be put on skilled and/or educated immigrants where there is a need.

Tom Wonacott, Boise, Idaho :

To PG:

In Boise, the talk is all about growth and sports. Boise is growing at an amazing rate, and people are concerned about the quality of life here changing. Construction is driving the local economy. Crime rates are going up, and gang activity is increasing which has caused quite a bit of concern.

Boise State is unbeaten in football and needs to win at Nevada next week to land a BCS bowl birth - a great accomplishment for a mid major school.

Tourism is also big buisness. Idaho is an outdoor state with some of the best rivers to kayak or raft, some of the best mountains to climb and/or backpack, and some excellent areas to ski such as Sun Valley. Idaho also has world renown hunting and fishing.

MikeB :

Shiloh, Otter Creek, USA - I hope you will agree, however, that was has happened to the Amercian worker in terms of wages and benefits is nothing more than robbery. Workers salaries haven't begun to keep up with inflation and the undeniable fact that companies have cut even medical benefits is nothing short of criminal. A very large part of todays social problems can be laid at the door of corporations and government that has forced workers into working longer hours for ever less money - denying them even the chance to coach their kids softball team or attend an after school conference or simply go hunting or fishing. They have forced mothers out into the workplace to enable families to just meet basic needs. This is a sort of social engineering, purposeful or not, that has cost this nation dearly and I, for one, want them to bear the cost and blame for this.

Akanah, Spain :

Here in Spain we are talking about the process of peace which we hope, will put an end to terrorist attacks in our country commited by a terrorist group E.T.A. There's a conservative party (PP)that is fighting against this process because its ex-president, Jose MarÌa Aznar, could not do it while he had the power, even though he tried, so they can't stand the fact that the actual party (PSOE) is trying to do it.

I'm so sorry that you Americans have to deal with Aznar... I can't understand what he is doing there. Giving conferences, it's said! Please, don't think that we Spanish are like him!!

By the way, you pronounce Aznar like "ansar", or something like that. Well, ansar in Spanish means "goose", and they don't deserve it!!!!!

Saludos desde EspaÒa

Shiloh, Otter Creek, USA :

MikeB: There was no minimum wage for farm labor in 1956, farmers were exempt. The first farm minimum wage of $1 was 1967, it was 40% less than the regular minimum of $1.40. Index that and it would be about $6.25 an hour for farm labor today. I went from farm work to the US Army in 1958 at a starting wage of $78 a month. I now live in a rural county where the average household income is $21,000, not $36,000 a year. I have long held that anyone who has an income more than a Congressman should pay 70% of the excess over that amount in income taxes, and should not be "entitled" to Social Security or Medicare benefits beyond the amount they personally paid into the system, not including the employer's share, plus average interest. My late father-in-law, retired as CEO of a major corporation with a middle six figure income, griped because he had to pay taxes on the half of his social security income his employers had contributed. The culture of corporate greed is infectious.

MikeB :

Oh, Shiloh, this is a P.S. In 1956 I was 10 years old. I picked berries all day long in the summer. I was slow and I could buy a new pair of "in style" pants and a model airplane and have enough left over for candy with my earnings every day. I bought ALL of my school clothing with my summer money and had enough in savings to tide me through much of the school year. I remember those days clearly! Me and all of the other kids were recruited by the fruit growers to pick berries and apples and cherries and they paid pretty good money. There were no illegals. Today, if a school kid could even get a job picking fruit, they might make $20 a day. With a pair of tennis shoes running $75 or more or a pair of stylish jeans costing about the same, those kids would need to work 4.5 days just to make close what I made back in the summer of 1956. And THAT is the problem in a nutshell.

So the question to ask is: "What do we owe to our country?". Are we a country or are we the world's welfare state and full employment agency? Do we owe our own people jobs and a decent salary before we start handing them out to the rest of the world or not? I submit, if we even pretend to be a country, then we owe our own citizens jobs and a decent standard of living before we go off sending work somewhere else or import a pack of guest workers. Back in 1956, someone who answered that we owed the world those jobs or we were in some sort of global union, was called a "fuzzy minded one worlder" or a communist. Today they are call Republican's.

daniel :

A friend of mine got two new dogs from the pound to go with the dog and two cats they already have. One dog is a Jack Russell terrier and I really like that dog a lot. I call her wiggley wiggley wiggley.

A couple months ago or so I discovered the TV show Desperate housewives. I really like that show. I really really like Eva Longoria—she should be in the movies. I also watch Boston Legal and Shark. I want to see more movie stars go to TV and TV stars go to film (borders more porous).

More and more (to unfortunately go to politics) I wonder why Saddam Hussein has been tried at all. How can he be tried for crimes when it seems no one can stabilize that country in any other way than the Saddam method? Are we really sure we know a monster in politics when we see one? And what do we have to be—how responsible to one another—to ensure there are no more monsters?

I have completely new take—so far as I know—on the concept of revolution in science which I will probably share with everyone soon.

I discovered Youtube and I have been watching footage of musical performances (hard rock and Jazz so far). And as usual my bootleg collection of music has been growing (I prefer untampered with live recordings when I listen to music—but I do not really like to see the performer in action. I just like to listen to the live music).

I tend not to talk to too many people so I have no idea what people talk about...I read a lot...My life suppose is boring to most people.

I recently read that exercise is better for the brain than most people thought before. I think I might start running a mile—and just work on getting faster and faster at it. I am already in pretty good shape from lifting weights, walking around, playing frisbee. I wish more people would play frisbee. I have no idea why no one plays it...

What does the above say about business, culture or society? I suppose that there is hope, that it is possible to be more or less happy.

MikeB :

"....More than 50 years ago as a teenager I picked watermelons and tomatoes, harrowed and seeded hayfields and loaded 50 pound sacks of grain into semis - all for $5 for a 10 hour day...". Shiloh, believe it or not, I can show you a lot of kids who will work for the equivalent of that. Lot's of them are right in your neighborhood. 50 years ago was 1956. In 1956, a three bedroom home cost $17,800 (those were the days before "investors" and similar parasites discovered the real estate market and bid the prices up to where a middle class family cannot afford a home today), a postage stamp cost 3 cents, a pair of new pants was $1.98, a nice JC Penny dress shirt cost $1.29, and a new custom made and hand sewn shirt was $4.95. Virtually every job came with health insurance coverage and some sort of retirement plan - either paid for by the employer or the workers union. A man made an average annual wage of $3,532.36; last year it was $36,952.94 and THAT figure discounts all wages over the Social Security maximum (source: National Wage Index, www.socialsecurity.gov). The minimum wage in 1956 was $1 an hour AND it was enforced. So, if we inflation index that salary you get roughly $10.46 an hour. Add in health benefits and a retirement plan and you would experience a stampeed of workers leaving WalMart for those jobs! And never mind the kids!

Kids aren't lazy, workers aren't lazy, they are simply underpaid and treated like crap! American workers are some of the best in the world. Toyota built their largest plants ever in the U.S. and Canada and those are the best cars made anytime, anywhere. The junk made by Detriot is the fault of the ham handed incompetent managers and the investors who pressure them to cut costs at the price of quality. Oh, they blame it on the workers, but any moron can see where the fault really is. Toyota doesn't operate that way. They take a long term view of making great automobiles, innovation, and quality. In the end they OWN the aurtomotive market and they deserve to!

So quit blaming workers and "todays kids". There is nothing wrong with them. The wrong is with management, investors, and the Bush crowd who lightly tosses the blame for their failure off onto everyone else.

Shiloh, Otter Creek, USA :

MikeB: More than 50 years ago as a teenager I picked watermelons and tomatoes, harrowed and seeded hayfields and loaded 50 pound sacks of grain into semis - all for $5 for a 10 hour day. Kids today won't touch that kind of work for $5+ an hour, but Mexican migrant workers are happy to get it. When we start paying American labor $15 to $18 an hour for that work you will be paying $50 for a watermelon and $5 for one tomato. What was once ordinary and commonplace will bcome luxury foods for the few. I agree that the rich should be taxed the way they were before the Republicans changed the system.

MikeB :

Shiloh, Otter Creek, USA - Your memory is very short, if you cannot recall that American's did that back breaking work and were glad for it, just a few years ago. What HAS CHANGED is the wages paid for that work. They were placed in a bidding war with millions of illegals with the results being rock bottom wages and no benefits. In 1980, a meat package made $18 an hour and had a benefit package. Today, that is a minimum wge job. In the Northwest, a tree planter made a similar wage. Now it is piece work and, if you are very lucky, you might make minimum wage. The same for jobs in all of the construction trades - roofers, painters, framing carpenters - it is the same for nearly every unsilled and semi-skilled job, for jobs in engineering and the sciences. The whole scheme of "globalization" has been a race to lower and lower wages and salaries and benefits. And the "savings" do not go to the consummer. They go to the investors, to the already filthy rich. It's time to stop deluding ourselves and put a stop to this insanity. Raise taxes on the rich, especially raise taxes on investors. They are the class that truly lives off the misery of everyone; parasites, blood suckers, lars and cheats. They are the group that is respeonsible for bringing us Bush and the Swift Boaters, the "fundimentalist movement", and all of the other evils we have suffered uder so recently. Tax them! Go after chruches that preach politics from the pulpit! Put these menaces out of business. Consign them to the garbage heap of history.

Shiloh, Otter Creek, USA :

Here in the agriculture/forestry economy based rural south the primary issues are escalating land prices, property taxes and labor. Land is now selling and being taxed at ten (10x) times the assessed values of just three (3) years ago. What Alan Greenspan called "froth" in the real estate market arrived like a property tax tidal wave as modest homes were re-assessed on the basis of recent skyrocketing sales of nearby properties. Many people are putting their homes on the market at less than the newly assessed market value because they can't afford the taxes. Farmers are selling out to land speculators, motivated in part by the difficulty in finding affordable farm labor to plant and harvest field crops or do dirty, backbreaking farm work, jobs most people won't even consider - and many of them are xenophobes who don't want willing migrant workers from Mexico or Central America to come into the country and "take our jobs." That's the news from Lake Woebegone.

MikeB :

I have friends across the political spectrum and topic #1 is "globalization". Neil, a bedrock conservative and a home builder, is flat out furious that tens of thousands of illegals have taken virutally all of the construction jobs. His competitors hire illegals, paying them under the table, as little as $6 an hour. He refuses to do this, figuring it is not only wrong but someday the government is going to look into it and some people are going to go to jail. So, he and his children do all of the work. Ron, a mechanical engineer, and I, are upset at the millions of Indian and Chinese "guest workers" that are responsible for our each loosing three engineering jobs in the past four years! We go to work, sometimes for 12 hour days, and one day some young Indian or Chinese is sitting in our cube and we get two weeks notice and are tasked to train them to do our job. They get work six or seven days a week, 12 hours a day or more, for about half of what we make. Since 2000 virtually every American engineer has been working their down the lader of success. No one even makes half of what they did in 2001 and I make less than 25% of what I made then. Try going from $125,000 a year to $30,000 with the expectation that you will work longer hours and STILL have one of Bill Gates' guest workers in line to take your job for even less.

What is especially outrageous about this is that these guest workers are stralling us blind. Defense secrets, intelligence, business and product secerts, all of it is being taken to CHina and India so some investors and a few corporate insiders can reap (or is it rape?) obscene short term profits.

Even worse is offshoring, where whole plants are shipped overseas, computers, automobiles and trucks, aircraft, our entire manufacturing base, is made offshore. The eventual goods are reimported into the U.S. and sold under American brand names - sometimes rep[resented as being made in the U.S. The only thing "U.S." about these is the corporate headquarters and the only money being made are by those investors and corporate bosses. They are a dead weight on the Amercian economy and on the taxpayers.

In the end, these activities will result in the destruction of this country.

Politcian's twll us they cannot do much to stop this, which is as big a lie as the one that got us into Iraq. Of course we can stop this disaster! Simple add a taffif to every good produced offshore by an American based company. Tax companies who bring in guest workers and make that tax reflex the true and total cost of that worker - infrastructure costs, costs to support their dependents for schools, social services, and all of the rest. And, add to this the costs to support and retrain the employee displaced by this action, even if that means their full salary and benefits for up to four years while they attend college. Tax and fine employers who hire illegals - $10,000 a day per worker sounds about right - and reward local governments with (say) 50% of the fines thus generated. That would put an end to the political nonsense garbage where some local governments actively refuse to participate in federal programs to find and deport illegals - I have yet to hear of any government agency or employee that will pass up the opportunity to grab a lot of nearly free cash just laying there for the taking..

curtiz, falls church, va :

whatever borat is, it is in poor taste

John, Reston, USA :

Housing market is in the toilet, and it looks like a big flush is coming. Food prices are increasing. Gas prices have moderated. Lost is the bomb. Holiday season: bah humbug. Redskins suck. What style of stuffing to make (cornbread-sausage, apple-walnut, oyster, or traditional sage). Everybody suddenly claiming to have known that Bush was incompetent all along (not a political observation - I'm questioning the psychological/intellectual integrity of the more recent converts to reality-based thinking (okay, that last part was political)). People are camping out for Nintendos. Heavy traffic everywhere. If you're middle-aged, and from the DC area, do you ever remember seeing a sign written in Spanish when you were growing up? The internet pipes - especially the google - continue to amuse, enlighten, and entertain.

What does it mean?

1. Don't mean S.....

2. We're out of control! Mayday! Mayday!

3. Stuffing is good.

GlobalMaven, highwayscribery, Los Angeles, http://highwayscribery.blogspot.com :

My Space.

While media focus upon the usual pedophile she-met-him-online-and-died-for-it pieces, the "friends" network is prompting formation of unique and far-flung tribes coalescing around micro-issues and interests they felt isolated in nurturing before. So what? Well, maybe they won't be micro-issues anymore.
(BEAT)
Yes, girls are selling themselves, and other things on My Space, but C. Wright Mills was onto that in his "The Power Elite," circa 1956: "Everywhere one looks there is this glossly little animal, sometimes quite young and sometimes a little older, but always imagined, always pictured, as The Girl. She sells beer and she sells books and she sells cigarettes and clothes..."
(BEAT)
This invention does more. Its open ended, hydra-like nature allows the cagey cybernaut to develop fairly evolved distribution and delivery networks. And unlike a blog or web page, where you sit back and wait for people to drop by. My Space is an proactive invitation system that allows people to peruse each other's interests without being intrusive. You can reach without being "spammy."
(BEAT)
The "profiles" of My Space people are multi-media: visual, musical, and textual, much of it original material bypassing typical gatekeepers, and propelled by a culture of sharing as opposed to profit.
(BEAT)
This may seem like a cheap shill, so you don't have to accept, but here's an invitation to drop by http://myspace.com/lavedettegloriella. This is a page set up for the protagonist of a novel, and but one reason why this has worked for the highway scribe. She, the character, runs the blog in "her" voice, and chooses music taken from other My Space artists every week to "feature" on the nifty "player" they provide.
(BEAT)
An examination of those who have sought her out in the "friends" box reveals a unique clustering of anarchists, flamencos, feminists, animal rights activists that make up, not just the book's (once unknown) audience, but also clarifies, on both sides, social signifiers.

Elisabeth Ham, Tulsa, Ok. :

I live in a stark red state, no purple here, where every third car has a W sticker, yellow ribbons and, sometimes, even a flag fluttering in the breeze just in case someone forgets what country we're in. Churches are abundant and the religious pages of our newspaper out number the editorials. But, strange things happened on Nov.7th. Our legislature which had been losing Democrats to Republicans every year, held their own, making it dead even for both houses. The governorship remained Deomcratic even though Rep. Istook swept in fresh from his terms in Washington expecting to take over. He was swamped in the polls. Like Rip Van Winkle everyone has to wake up eventually.

reporter, USA, http://theclearsky.blogspot.com/ :

In a disappointing development, the Senate approved the nuclear deal between Washington and New Delhi.

http://www.nytimes.com/2006/11/16/washington/16cnd-nuke.html?hp&ex=1163739600&en=a61cdffa7f9e28e4&ei=5094&partner=homepage

The Indians have long opposed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and have aggressively developed nuclear weapons. At the same time, Washington is a signatory to the NPT; the rules of the NPT require that member states shall not offer nuclear technology to nations rejecting the NPT.

The terms of the NPT make no judgment about the nature of the nations joining or defying the NPT. The idea is to encourage even brutal dictatorships to commit to nuclear non-proliferation.

Yet, Washington has signed a deal to give nuclear technology to an irresponsible nation like India. Why? New Delhi gave Washington an ultimatum: the Indians will support the strategic American objectives of promoting democracy and human rights if and only if Washington (1) gives nuclear technology to India and (2) agrees to greatly increase the number of Indian laborers (in the form of H-1B workers) that are allowed to enter the United States. Washington agreed to the terms of the ultimatum. The Americans will now violate the NPT (which Washington signed) by giving nuclear technology to India: catering to Indian ruthlessness drastically undermines American attempts to prevent the Iranians from developing a nuclear bomb.

During the 26 years from 1981 to 2006, the period from 2001 until 2006 will be characterized by historians as the period during which Washington conducted its worst foreign policy.

Cinnamon Stillwell, San Francisco, USA :

San Francisco is a town where, as the saying goes, the personal is political. So avoiding politics in any discussion of the city by the bay is no easy task.

City officials certainly have a habit of politicizing every aspect of residents' lives, from banning the smoking of cigarettes at bus stops to mandating what type of water bowls "pet guardians" use for their dogs.

Now it seems the San Francisco Board of Education has decided that the 90-year old Junior Reserve Officers' Training Corps (JROTC) program is to be banished from the city's schools. Earlier this week the board voted 4-2 to phase the program out over two years and the city's been buzzing about it ever since.

Needless to say, the over 1,600 students (the majority of them Asian-American) currently enrolled in the JROTC and their families are none too happy about the school board's decision. Many attended the board meeting where the ban was decided and made their feelings known, but in typical totalitarian fashion, the board simply ignored their input.

Using the fig leaf of the U.S. military's enforcement of the federal "don't ask, don't tell" policy concerning gay service members, not to mention a desire to "teach a curriculum of peace," the school board demonstrated its complete and utter disregard for the place of the military in American society.

Never mind that the JROTC does not enforce the "don't ask, don't tell" policy and in fact, has openly gay students enrolled. Or that its membership is entirely voluntary. Or that it provides students with valuable skills in leadership and discipline. Or that in the last two years, only 5% of JROTC cadets actually ended up joining the military upon graduation. It's enough that the JROTC is related to the military to get it banned in the self-proclaimed bastion of "tolerance" and "diversity."

San Francisco values indeed.

In fact, the school board's decision was just the latest in a long line of anti-military actions taken by city officials and in some cases, supported by their left-leaning constituencies.

The toothless "College Not Combat" initiative, passed by San Francisco voters in 2005, sought to ban military recruiters from schools and colleges. The same year, the Board of Supervisors voted against docking the WWII era USS Iowa as a floating museum at the Port of San Francisco for no apparent reason except that it was deemed a "celebration of war."

Then of course, there were the embarrassing comments of Supervisor Gerardo Sandoval on the Fox News program Hannity and Colmes earlier this year when he said that, "the United States should not have a military." Sandoval appeared again on Fox News earlier this week, this time on The O'Reilly Factor, to discuss the JROTC ban and predictably, he defended the school board's decision.

And such examples are merely the tip of the iceberg.

Clearly, San Francisco's political establishment has been co-opted by ideologues that are intent on imposing their views instead of doing their jobs. The school board's decision was the culmination of a dictatorial trend that for too long has simply been shrugged off as part of the "eclecticism" of San Francisco.

If city residents don't start fighting back, they will be ceding power to the zealots.

It's that simple.

Zoltan, hungarian, Paris :

In my part of the World (France, Europe) we talk a lot about politics (where the main points are the french presidential elections and the european constitution), foot-ball (at least during the world-cup) and ecology.

About ecology:

most people agree: a new trend emerges, where the old (but unfortunately still active) scheme of productivism is abandoned for a more bio and respectful agriculture. Recently for example we discussed that it was very hard to find tasteful tomatoes even during the summer season ! Only formatted round perfect glowing-orange long-lasting red balls produced in south-spain (Almeira). The european subventions for industrial agriculture are criticized by every-body.

The same is true for oil, where most people favor a rapid move towards bio-petrol (ethanol, flex-fuel, bio-diesel, ...). Nobody seriously considers hybrid or hydrogen cars. Public transportation and bicycle use are on the rise, and 4x4s are has-been.

Capitalism is criticized by all people, all see that as some source of many bad things happening to the world today (wars, pollution, poverty, ...). Not all, but most bad things are due to the greed of the wealthy who only think about "how much". A new era is wished by most people, but very few have any idea on "what" or "how". Airbus shouldn't have made the A380 but a successor to the Concorde. This whole EADS thing - which is a conglomaration of several independent european aerospace companies into 1 giant to compete with Lockheed and Boeing - is a very good example of the failure of that capitalism.

About foot-ball:

The italians shouldn't have won the world-cup. They didn't have the best team, and played a nasty game. French weren't much better either. Brazilians had the best team but were too sure of that and didn't take their opponents seriously. Some african teams were quite good, but too inexperienced. The tchechs and hollandish had nice and good teams as usual, but it didn't pay well for them. Americans were disappointing, but South-Korea was promising.

Revolution is in the air.

Joy Roy Choudhury, Calcutta, India :

In India specifically, business is on a high with Knowledge Process
Outsourcing, E-assessment and E-learning. Not only that, India is giving the outsourcing business a concept with the evolution of Knowledge Products and Knowledge Programs which will be in much demand all over the world in the coming years. With the increasing use of IT and ICT to measure competency level of individuals, its time to measure and understand the knowledge and skills gap of its very talented workforce. Use of Computer Based Testing and Assessment and Knowlege Products ( small packets of knowledge ) are doing their rounds in business talks and seminars.

At the same time, people are talking about widely different issues ranging from marital crisis to George Bush and the possiblity of Angelina Jolie adopting an Indian child. As far as culture is concerned, India is a multi-cultural mixed bag- a cultural pattern worth emulating. In big metros like Mumbai, Bangalore, Calcutta and Chennai, one finds a peaceful cohabitation of people from different cultural backgrounds, not always in the same demographic area but there is always something common between the posh urban elite and down-the-street chawallah in terms of Bollywood, Cricket and good natured enthusiasm. And there is also interest in Bob Dylan, Norah Jones and Iron Maiden and Dave Matthews.

In the last decade, the societal patterns have changed a lot in India with the influx of more high paid jobs like the ones in Call Centers, Biotechnology, Pharmacy, Fashion , Tourism etc. This becomes more well defined as one finds the extensive use of cell phones even in rural areas of Bihar and Orissa. Metro youths are more cafe goers, and this caffeine guzzling idleness is soon to be channelised into some useful creative pursuit- more writers and authors, photographers, travelogue writers, and documentary film makers are due to emerge and take the world by a storm.

The most interesting thing about the NEW INDIAN RISE is best summed up in the model of Sachin Tendulkar, a very very humble person...with all his achievements he is still the same boy who started playing cricket as early as 10.

With all these modern trends, there is also a force that gives value and respect to tradition in the face of embracing a western culture. This forms a sweet continuty which is the beauty of Indian culture , the maharaja is willing to step out and explore , and with his soul-expanding, he makes a lot of friends. So the cultural festivals like Holi, Janmashtami, Diwali, Id and Christmas remain the same with marketers making merry with bonanza offers and people happily accepting them with fun and frolic.

To understand the country, its culture and society in a free-wheeling way , a foreign visitor should always consider singing these following lines while travelling to India :
"Thunder on the mountain, and there's fires on the moon
A ruckus in the alley and the sun will be here soon
Today's the day, gonna grab my trombone and blow
Well, there's hot stuff here and it's everywhere I go"- ( Bob Dylan: Modern
Times )

Joy Roy Choudhury, Calcutta , India
South Asian Journalists' Association

Elwood Anderson, Las Vegas, NV USA :

It's hard to move off politics when the last political event just infused the country with a large dose of hope that we will be moving back to our constitution, away from war, and back to making America work for all its citizens again.
In Las Vegas, people are still gambling, dining, partying and spending, but all the new residents coming here every month are wondering where they're going to live with housing prices moving way beyond their ability to make the payments. Now that's a real problem that doesn't seem to have an immediate solution.
But, what the hay, it's going to be great holiday season for the investor class!

Carl Senna, Saint John, Canada :

Here in English-speaking Canada, the local press has covered the debate on energy hubs for the Northeast United States. And Newfoundland, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick provinces are all engaged in competitions to secure natural gas pipelines and oil revenue corporations to supply the energy hungry United States. Problem for economic development here is the lack of competition, number and diversity of small businesses. The reason: Family oligarchies dominate vital industries in conglomerate, horizontal and vertical monopolies (e.g., Irving Oil,Ltd., which owns also all English daily newspapers, refineries, and retail gasoline stations in New Brunswick, controls the province's economy, something which would not be tolerated in the U.S. for environmental air safety as well as economic competition concerns.) Elsewhere there is high public interest in Canada's fighting role in Afghanistan (Most Canadians oppose a fighting role for a peacekeeping support role for Canada's troops), American demands for passports from all foreign visitors (Canadians want preferential U.S. entry treatment, no Canadian passport requirement to the U.S.But with little sense of hypocrisy, Canadians also want to maintain passport requirements on non-U.S. foreigners to Canada.). There has also been a lively public debate on whether to forbid the niqab or veil for Muslim public school teachers.
(Security concerns suggest that a veil-faced person is a concealed person, and concealment could be dangerous in airports, banks, schools, police stations, prisons, political rallies, and other public places. Facial identification is necessary in our society just because we are a diverse society: the identity by facial observation is basic to personal identity and ordinary social transactions. The reason Muslim women wearing the niqab do not wear it among themselves when they are at home is for the same reason that Muslim men and non-Muslim people do not wear it: it limits communication by concealing personal identity, mood, nonverbal information.
And facial identity is part of what makes Canadians secure among one another. Canadians, like most people, do not allow Muslim women to conceal their faces when they enter an airport departure line to show their personal identification papers before boarding, nor do they allow them into the bank queue to withdraw money without a facial identification document.The next time you are in a bank and a few people rush forward to the teller fully concealed by masks, niqabs and female garb, should you be concerned? Even when you do not know whether they are women or men, outlaws or customers? So for reasons of both security and longstanding social conventions here in North America, a majority of Canadians wish to ban the niqab in many, if not all, public places, with all due respect to the right of Muslim women to choose to wear the niqab among Muslims and in Islamic settings. The prohibitionists believe that the choice is theirs whether to wear it among themselves, but the choice is non-Muslim's Canada whether to should allow them to wear it where it might pose a security risk to others and to them. Anyone doubting whether bank thieves would not use the niqab disguise to rob banks, or that terrorists would not use the niqab to conceal entry on airplanes, should consult this report: Female Disguised terrorists kill American troops in Iraq
http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,170628,00.html)

Srikanth Raghunathan, Washington, D. C., USA :

In my part of the world (the U. S.), the employment is terrible, especially for Armed Forces veterans returing from Iraq and Afghanistan. Countless manufacturing jobs are being lost primarily due to our own "ostrich syndrome," disbelief, and inaction. There is interesting, but depressing, article in Business Week (November 20, 2006 issue) - http://www.businessweek.com/magazine/content/06_47/b4010001.htm

Globalization is inevitable. However, we act as if we are still in the "driver's seat" in the vehicle called the world economy. I do not want to sound like Cassandra, but the situation seems to be quite untenable and dismal. Unless we wake up and smell the Darjeeling and Green tea, we are doomed, forever, relegated to a third-world status by 2050.

As David, Grapevine TX mentioned, business and politics are quite intertwined. Yes, the corporate chieftains are raking in money, while the worker-bees are being laid off. Changes in one affects the other.

Our education system is weakening by the day. We seem to be content to be a massive debtor nation. Politicians do not seem to give a hoot about future generations. We are ready to go to war over ideologies and false "leads." Politicians have become more adept at lying and cheating and the public have become more gullible. Will we ever learn? Other than the aforementioned issues, we are as happy as a clam!

Washington DC :

Unfortunately, we never move off politics in Washington. The discussion this week centers on Nancy Pelosi and her incredible goof in pubically supporting John Murtha for Majority leader. Perhaps she didn't notice that, although everyone thought the the American people got rid of the Republicans because of the war, exit polls showed that the sleeze factor and general aura of unethical corruption was the most frequently cited reason for their ouster. Murtha may have shown courage in speaking out against the war, but that does not change the fact that he is a king of pork and voted against the ethics bill (weak as it is). Ruth Marcus got it right in her piece on Murtha in today's Post and Pelosi made a serious misstep. Hopefully the rest of the Democrats in the House will save her from this particular folly when they vote for their leader. As a Democrat, I want to believe that we will not continue "business as usual." If we do, the American people should get rid of us too, at the first opportunity (2008). Penny Hansen

David, Grapevine TX :

Unfortunately, Business is political. My friends and I are aghast at the indefensable salaries of America's corporate leaders. We call it the MBA culture. "Only MBAs need apply, and then MBAs protect each other's ever expanding wealth, while demonstrating to the shareholders that the benefits workers have acquired through years of negotiation are not competitive." It's so absurd that employees within my company who earn their MBA at night and during weekends are not eligible for the MBA salaries, bonuses and promotions of those hired out of the 'top' schools!

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