You Are Always A Child

No Smoking,” by John Schaff, South Dakota Politics,, 20 January 2005.

for the children… (and from South Dakota Politics).

According to the Sioux Falls Argus Leader this morning, the South Dakota legislature is considering a comprehensive ban on smoking in public places. I am sorry to see that two legislators from up here in Aberdeen are promoting the ban. Now, I am not pro-smoking, but I must say that I am anti-anti-smoking. I think it is a smelly and unhealthy habit, but I don’t think the public has any business telling private people in private places how they should deal with their own health

There is this cult of the body that suggests that anything we do that is unhealthy is not only imprudent, but immoral. Anyone who thinks Americans are no longer puritanical should consider the rhetoric surrounding smoking and fast food. One the sponsors of the bill says this: “I’m serious about this. Tobacco is killing our kids.” This is humorous because the picture that is included with the story is of a guy who looks to be older than spit smoking a cigarette in a bar. This elderly gentleman indicates that he is against the ban. I guess it depends what your definition of “kid” is.


Harvard Chief Says His Remarks on Women Were Wrong,” by Greg Frost, Reuters,, 20 January 2005 (from Drudge).

Harvard Univeristy demonstrates that it is a university in the truest sense of the world — it is a place for free expression of ideas, no matter how controversial.

Just kidding.

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. (Reuters) – Harvard University President Lawrence Summers has written a lengthy apology, admitting he was wrong to suggest women do not have the same natural ability in math and sciences as men.

In his third and most repentant statement this week, the Ivy League school chief sought to make amends to faculty not just at Harvard but across the country who were offended by his remarks at a conference last Friday.

“I deeply regret the impact of my comments and apologize for not having weighed them more carefully,” Summers said in a letter to the Harvard community posted on his Web site and dated Wednesday. “I was wrong to have spoken in a way that has resulted in an unintended signal of discouragement to talented girls and women.”

If I was snide, I would say this is great news. After all, now that Harvard University has made is clear that some speech is unacceptable, we can expect all anti-Semitic speech to end. Likewise anti-American will soon end on college campuses, because it is it an “unintended” signal of discouragement to our troops.

But that’s not going to happen, so I won’t say anything.

Surprisingly Good Guys

Benefits for tomorrow’s seniors cut under any Social Security overhaul,” by James Kuhnhenn, Knight Ridder,, 17 January 2005 (from Matthew Yglesias).

I’m no fan of Charlie Rangel, which makes his heroic stand all the more amazing

WASHINGTON – Whether or not President Bush succeeds in partially privatizing Social Security, any deal to overhaul the nation’s retirement system would make future guaranteed benefits less generous than they are now.

Even Democrats, who are assailing President Bush’s plan to remake Social Security, concede that any effort to improve the program’s long-term finances would reduce the growth of benefits, delay them or both.

“If Democrats were in charge, benefits would have to be altered,” said Rep. Charles Rangel of New York, the top Democrat on the powerful House Ways and Means Committee. “You cannot fix the system without pain, no matter how much money you borrow.”

There’s also word on AARP planning its compromise

How much pain and where it would be applied remain open questions. Proposals include indexing benefits to price inflation rather than national wage growth, increasing the retirement age, changing the formulas for calculating benefits or simply reducing benefits for new retirees across the board.

At the same time, however, some debate whether big changes are even required to fix the system.

And until the White House releases a specific plan, Democrats are reluctant to spell out what they might support for fear of alienating older voters and weakening their negotiating stance with the president.

Elderly advocacy groups such as the influential AARP are ruling out measures such as a higher retirement age, smaller cost-of-living adjustments or benefit adjustments based on income.

Still, even the AARP is trying to get a sense from its members of what benefit cuts might be acceptable. Organization officials point to the Social Security adjustments in 1983, when President Reagan and the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives negotiated a bipartisan deal that gradually increased the retirement age, delayed cost-of-living adjustments and accelerated scheduled increases in payroll taxes.

“If you just say to people, `Would you favor this one thing by itself?’ very few people are going to favor a benefit cut,” said John Rother, the AARP’s policy director. “But if you present it as part of a package that’s balanced, that seems fair, that protects low-income, then I think people will say, `Well, I’m not enthusiastic but I can see why this might be necessary.'”

Second Inaugural Address (Part 4)

Second Inaugural Address,” spoken by George W. Bush, 2005 Presidential Inauguration,,2933,144976,00.html, 20 January 2005.

Once more, greetings. This is the last exegesis on the President’s Second Inaugural address. While this last section of his speech does have international repurcussions, its much more domestic oriented than previous sections.

President Bush’s Second Inaugural Address
Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4
Not the Reagan Doctrine… but Better
The Reagan Doctrine
The All-Consuming Fire

Bush begins by clearly comparing his education, tax, and social security reforms to the domestic programs of other Presidents. All the ones listened are remembered as being empowering, which is what Bush wants to achieve by building an ownership society.

In America’s ideal of freedom, citizens find the dignity and security of economic independence, instead of laboring on the edge of subsistence. This is the broader definition of liberty that motivated the Homestead Act, the Social Security Act, and the G.I. Bill of Rights. And now we will extend this vision by reforming great institutions to serve the needs of our time. To give every American a stake in the promise and future of our country, we will bring the highest standards to our schools, and build an ownership society. We will widen the ownership of homes and businesses, retirement savings and health insurance – preparing our people for the challenges of life in a free society. By making every citizen an agent of his or her own destiny, we will give our fellow Americans greater freedom from want and fear, and make our society more prosperous and just and equal.

President Bush believes in a liberal society, but not a licentious one. He wants a strong civil society that does not need a strong government. In his speech he is ambiguous about how to get there. And here may be our greatest place of disagreement.

I am worried that President Bush believes he can use the government to create virtue. He tolerance of the drug war makes me fear this is true. But everywhere morality is legislated it falls apart. Franco’s Catholic Spain is now disturbingly secularist, and the Ayatollah’s Islamic Iran is amazingly nonreligious.

By being a social system that assuages problems, government replaces civil society. I hope I am not reading him optomistically, but his speech implies Bush realizes this. In his first line he says that the “ideal of freedom … depends… on the rule of conscience in our own lives.” Next he talks about governing the self, and recognizes the role that communities and families play in this.

I hope so much he means this. He will destroy virtue if he tries to impose it. With his power he can structurally change America to be less government-intensive, and more virtuous. But only if he’s smart about it.

On a Jesuitical note, I’m pleased that he sees that all faiths give a common tao — a similar way or sharia. Faith is an important tool in creating a civil society.

In America’s ideal of freedom, the public interest depends on private character – on integrity, and tolerance toward others, and the rule of conscience in our own lives. Self-government relies, in the end, on the governing of the self. That edifice of character is built in families, supported by communities with standards, and sustained in our national life by the truths of Sinai, the Sermon on the Mount, the words of the Koran, and the varied faiths of our people. Americans move forward in every generation by reaffirming all that is good and true that came before – ideals of justice and conduct that are the same yesterday, today, and forever.

Civil society is built on social bonds. Arbitrary hatred, and isolation, weakens these. A “soft” moment in the speech, but not bad sentiments.

In America’s ideal of freedom, the exercise of rights is ennobled by service, and mercy, and a heart for the weak. Liberty for all does not mean independence from one another. Our nation relies on men and women who look after a neighbor and surround the lost with love. Americans, at our best, value the life we see in one another, and must always remember that even the unwanted have worth. And our country must abandon all the habits of racism, because we cannot carry the message of freedom and the baggage of bigotry at the same time.

Repition that this is a long struggle, similar to the Cold War. Except again the Cold War was anti-communism, while we are pro-freedom. Our effort is even greater than the Cold War.

From the perspective of a single day, including this day of dedication, the issues and questions before our country are many. From the viewpoint of centuries, the questions that come to us are narrowed and few. Did our generation advance the cause of freedom? And did our character bring credit to that cause?

America is unique in that you can become American like one can never become Japanese, or German, or Brazilian. This is the source of our strength, both in workers and how it prepares us for an increasingly global future.

When we united with Mexico, it will be helpful for some of us to speak Spanish.

These questions that judge us also unite us, because Americans of every party and background, Americans by choice and by birth, are bound to one another in the cause of freedom. We have known divisions, which must be healed to move forward in great purposes – and I will strive in good faith to heal them. Yet those divisions do not define America. We felt the unity and fellowship of our nation when freedom came under attack, and our response came like a single hand over a single heart. And we can feel that same unity and pride whenever America acts for good, and the victims of disaster are given hope, and the unjust encounter justice, and the captives are set free.

Soaring rhetoric. Associationg with higher powers and great men of the past. Literally Machiavellian. Good show.

We go forward with complete confidence in the eventual triumph of freedom. Not because history runs on the wheels of inevitability; it is human choices that move events. Not because we consider ourselves a chosen nation; God moves and chooses as He wills. We have confidence because freedom is the permanent hope of mankind, the hunger in dark places, the longing of the soul. When our Founders declared a new order of the ages; when soldiers died in wave upon wave for a union based on liberty; when citizens marched in peaceful outrage under the banner “Freedom Now” – they were acting on an ancient hope that is meant to be fulfilled. History has an ebb and flow of justice, but history also has a visible direction, set by liberty and the Author of Liberty.

And it ends with optimism and a blessing.

When the Declaration of Independence was first read in public and the Liberty Bell was sounded in celebration, a witness said, “It rang as if it meant something.” In our time it means something still. America, in this young century, proclaims liberty throughout all the world, and to all the inhabitants thereof. Renewed in our strength – tested, but not weary – we are ready for the greatest achievements in the history of freedom.

May God bless you, and may He watch over the United States of America

This morning, I did not expect to hear a speech so great and grand. We have a great President. Hurrah!

President Bush’s Second Inaugural Address
Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4
Not the Reagan Doctrine… but Better
The Reagan Doctrine
The All-Consuming Fire

Second Inaugural Address (Part 3)

Second Inaugural Address,” spoken by George W. Bush, 2005 Presidential Inauguration,,2933,144976,00.html, 20 January 2005.

Once more, high again. This is the third piece in my exegesis of the President’s remarks. His Second Inaugural Address may be the greatest inauguration speech by any President in history. Here follows my humble interpretation of its meaning.

President Bush’s Second Inaugural Address
Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4
Not the Reagan Doctrine… but Better
The Reagan Doctrine
The All-Consuming Fire

The President compares freedom to a fire. This is very important, especially considering his earlier analogy of Communism to a ship. Communism was artificial. It was created by men and in calling it a shipwreck it was destroyed by Nature. It could not lost.

But freedom is a fire. It cannot be destroyed It is part of the nature of the world. Even in a nightmare future where all fire is extinguished it has to come back. Through a bolt of lightning it may come anywhere at anytime.

Fire burns its enemies. Fire consums and destroys. It is an elemental force. We are on the side of destructive grandeur of the world.

The analogy also echos the Chicago School of economic thought. During the dark days of FDR and Keynes, the economy was thought of as a giant machine that could be “fine tuned.” The 1970s in the West, and the entire history of the Soviet Union, shows exactly what “fine tuning” does. Chicago economists realized that the economy was an ecological system where there are forces and flows that are impossible to resist.

Today, I also speak anew to my fellow citizens:

From all of you, I have asked patience in the hard task of securing America, which you have granted in good measure. Our country has accepted obligations that are difficult to fulfill, and would be dishonorable to abandon. Yet because we have acted in the great liberating tradition of this nation, tens of millions have achieved their freedom. And as hope kindles hope, millions more will find it. By our efforts, we have lit a fire as well – a fire in the minds of men. It warms those who feel its power, it burns those who fight its progress, and one day this untamed fire of freedom will reach the darkest corners of our world.

Bush then kindly but onominously describes the CIA and State Department, the bane of his first term. Bush realizes that there work is important and often unrewarded. But it also is only important to the extent it labors under hsi vision of the idealistic work of helping raise up free governments… the dangerous and necessary work of fighting our enemies. Diplomacy for the sake of diplomacy or intelligence for the sake of inteligence is useless.

A few Americans have accepted the hardest duties in this cause – in the quiet work of intelligence and diplomacy … the idealistic work of helping raise up free governments … the dangerous and necessary work of fighting our enemies. Some have shown their devotion to our country in deaths that honored their whole lives – and we will always honor their names and their sacrifice.

A double meaning starts of the next paragraph. He simultaneously asks CIA and State, now under Goss and Rice, to open their eyes to the new world. But he is also openly talking to the young. His heroic message importantly combines the work of globalization with the work of fighting terror. Economic growth brings peace, and so economic development is vital to the war.

All Americans have witnessed this idealism, and some for the first time. I ask our youngest citizens to believe the evidence of your eyes. You have seen duty and allegiance in the determined faces of our soldiers. You have seen that life is fragile, and evil is real, and courage triumphs. Make the choice to serve in a cause larger than your wants, larger than yourself – and in your days you will add not just to the wealth of our country, but to its character.

Dr. Forbush and others have criticized Bush for not attacking dozens of nations simultaneously, because not all societies are currently free. Bush sees through this. We are in a war precisely because the war is not yet won. Our work is unfinished and the world is not yet at liberty, but is a world moving toward liberty

America has need of idealism and courage, because we have essential work at home – the unfinished work of American freedom. In a world moving toward liberty, we are determined to show the meaning and promise of liberty.

President Bush’s Second Inaugural Address
Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4
Not the Reagan Doctrine… but Better
The Reagan Doctrine
The All-Consuming Fire

Second Inaugural Address (Part 2)

Second Inaugural Address,” spoken by George W. Bush, 2005 Presidential Inauguration,,2933,144976,00.html, 20 January 2005.

Welcome back!

The next line is what caused me to stop in the first part. Bush obviously shifts to Iraq, and I needed to think a bit if I wasn’t going to ignore it. So I walked to the post office and found my lost sunglasses, and now.. back to blogging!

President Bush’s Second Inaugural Address
Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4
Not the Reagan Doctrine… but Better
The Reagan Doctrine
The All-Consuming Fire

The paragraph is short, and the first sentence sets the stage for the second. Bush talks about American resolve on his watch. He is focusing on Iraq with sidelighting for North Korea. Iraq is split into two areas — Bush’s resolve in military matters and America’s resolve to change the nation.

Bush’s resolve is clear. The Iraq War has been a constant drain on his popularity, yet he has not distanced himself from it. During the campaign he went out of his way to associate himself with it, which cost him politically. Yet it did not cost him his office. Bush has showed them that he (and by extension any American President) can stand up to them. That America can take more than a thousand of fatalities and thousands of casualties and respond by attacking, attacking, attacking.

America also has resolve as a great power. America supports its friends and prosecutes its enemies. Condi Rice’s dual-track political-military strategy worked for this. When there was political troulbe in Iraq in April, the U.S. sought to accomodate its enemies. Muqtada al-Sadr was not arrested for murder, and Fallujah was not seized. This acted like a conditional amnesty: those that wished to established themself as friendly had an opportunity to do so.

Sadr responded by converting his organization into a political apparatus and making his base of power, Sadr City, as one of the happiest and safest places in the nation.

Sunnis responded by escalating their brutal and murderous civil war.

Now there is concrete proof that the Shia will ever benefit from this, while the Sunnis will be ever hurt. The U.S. is becoming increasingly pro-Shia, to the extent that it enables free movement of Iranians into Iraq. Baghdad, former home to the Sunni Caliphate, shall soon be the capital of a Shia state that looks forward to the return of the Occulted Imam. We had the resolve to rearrange the world to help those who help us.

The North Korea jab is also a shot at Kerry. DPRK made no secret that were hoping for a software, weaker, more islated Ameica under Kerry. They chose poorly. Now a U.S. Representative in Seoul publicly states that an invasion of North Korea (and implied “reeducation” of its leaders) by the People’s Republic wouldn’t be so bad. North Korea and the Ba’athists-Salafists messed with Texas.

My most solemn duty is to protect this nation and its people against further attacks and emerging threats. Some have unwisely chosen to test America’s resolve, and have found it firm.

A bifurcated paragraph. Point one establishes the universality of freedom over all times and places. The second is a jab at Burma’s military government, an overzealous application of Sharia, and thuggery.

We will persistently clarify the choice before every ruler and every nation: The moral choice between oppression, which is always wrong, and freedom, which is eternally right. America will not pretend that jailed dissidents prefer their chains, or that women welcome humiliation and servitude, or that any human being aspires to live at the mercy of bullies.

The greatest call for human rights from an American President since Jimmy Carter. However, note a persistent feature of Bush rhetoric. No mention of “human rights.” Instead, “human dignity.” This pre-dates 9/11. My impression is that Bush fears “human rights” have been coopted by Europeans and social liberals to mean a licentious and economically controlled society.

More importantly, we seek a structural change. Short-term government decrees of freedom do not serve our purposes. We want to establish free expression and the participation of the governed. He didn’t say democracy. Hong Kong and, historically, Muhammed’s Medina “consulted” the governed. Regimes don’t have to end. But they have to listen to their people and set themselves on the right track in the right direction.

States like Singapore and China which are growing structurally more free are models for others to follow. Egypt, Libya, and Iraq are on the right track by not censoring the internet. Uzbekistan, which temporarily grants freedom when it wishes, and Venezuela, which is dismantling it, should not think that their regimes will always be acceptable.

We will encourage reform in other governments by making clear that success in our relations will require the decent treatment of their own people. America’s belief in human dignity will guide our policies, yet rights must be more than the grudging concessions of dictators; they are secured by free dissent and the participation of the governed. In the long run, there is no justice without freedom, and there can be no human rights without human liberty.

We are living in a great democratic revolution. Since the 1960s Empires have been crumbling. Brtish, French, Portuguese, Dutch, and Soviet systems have crumbled. Likewise, tyrannies are unacceptable. There can be no permanent tyranny. (The paranoid will note that Leo Strauss warned of a permanent tyranny and what must be done to prevent it).

Some, I know, have questioned the global appeal of liberty – though this time in history, four decades defined by the swiftest advance of freedom ever seen, is an odd time for doubt. Americans, of all people, should never be surprised by the power of our ideals. Eventually, the call of freedom comes to every mind and every soul. We do not accept the existence of permanent tyranny because we do not accept the possibility of permanent slavery. Liberty will come to those who love it.

To the hopeless: we are on your side. No nation is more of a “hopeless tyranny” than North Korea. The next few sentences are meant to scare regime leaders.

Today, America speaks anew to the peoples of the world:

All who live in tyranny and hopelessness can know: the United States will not ignore your oppression, or excuse your oppressors. When you stand for your liberty, we will stand with you.

About ten percent of North Korean flag officers have defected to either the People’s Republic or the United States since Bush took office. They are a military government in exile. Note the mention to prison….

Democratic reformers facing repression, prison, or exile can know: America sees you for who you are: the future leaders of your free country.

And what are the plans of our friends, those leaders in exile?

The rulers of outlaw regimes can know that we still believe as Abraham Lincoln did: “Those who deny freedom to others deserve it not for themselves; and, under the rule of a just God, cannot long retain it.”

“Ruh roh.” War is not inevitable. But it requires systemic changes in government. These will not be easy — new habits have to be learned. And it means the end of autarcky. Because we will be escorting them. Immediate and total change is not necessary. But the journey must be begun.

The leaders of governments with long habits of control need to know: To serve your people you must learn to trust them. Start on this journey of progress and justice, and America will walk at your side.

Free societies must attack their enemies together. When I heard this, I thought of George Soros’ Open Society Institute. While there is internal deliberation about the best course of action, the U.S., the E.U., and OSI worked together to bring democracy to George and the Ukraine. This effort should continue.

And all the allies of the United States can know: we honor your friendship, we rely on your counsel, and we depend on your help. Division among free nations is a primary goal of freedom’s enemies. The concerted effort of free nations to promote democracy is a prelude to our enemies’ defeat.

President Bush’s Second Inaugural Address
Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4
Not the Reagan Doctrine… but Better
The Reagan Doctrine
The All-Consuming Fire

Second Inaugural Address (Part 1)

Second Inaugural Address,” spoken by George W. Bush, 2005 Presidential Inauguration,,2933,144976,00.html, 20 January 2005.

Possibly, the greatest inaugural address in American history. I will try to comment on all of it. Here is the first section, from the opening formalities to the promise of a multigenerational struggle.

President Bush’s Second Inaugural Address
Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4
Not the Reagan Doctrine… but Better
The Reagan Doctrine
The All-Consuming Fire


Vice President Cheney, Mr. Chief Justice, President Carter, President Bush, President Clinton, reverend clergy, distinguished guests, fellow citizens:

On this day, prescribed by law and marked by ceremony, we celebrate the durable wisdom of our Constitution, and recall the deep commitments that unite our country. I am grateful for the honor of this hour, mindful of the consequential times in which we live, and determined to fulfill the oath that I have sworn and you have witnessed.

America’s past and present struggles

At this second gathering, our duties are defined not by the words I use, but by the history we have seen together. For a half century, America defended our own freedom by standing watch on distant borders. After the shipwreck of communism came years of relative quiet, years of repose, years of sabbatical – and then there came a day of fire.

Read closely — the source of our problems is not ideology. While we struggle against Ba’athism, Salafism, etc, they are not our ultimate enemy. Our true enemy is the cause of those ideas. The true enemy will ignore any border, no matter how closely guarded. Our true weapon is human freedom.

We have seen our vulnerability – and we have seen its deepest source. For as long as whole regions of the world simmer in resentment and tyranny – prone to ideologies that feed hatred and excuse murder – violence will gather, and multiply in destructive power, and cross the most defended borders, and raise a mortal threat. There is only one force of history that can break the reign of hatred and resentment, and expose the pretensions of tyrants, and reward the hopes of the decent and tolerant, and that is the force of human freedom.

The solution may be radical, but we are not revolutionary. We are not leading events — events are leading us. And our reactive strategy is connectedness. The struggle for the entire world was not started by us, and is thus a war of self defense.

We are led, by events and common sense, to one conclusion: The survival of liberty in our land increasingly depends on the success of liberty in other lands. The best hope for peace in our world is the expansion of freedom in all the world.

Our reactive war for the entire world is… ideological. In other words, this Global War on Terrorism must transcend realist principles. Short term safety, natural resources, even allies have to be submitted to the overwiding goal of human freedom. If the Cold War was a war against an ideology, the Global War on Terrorism is a war for an ideology.

Human freedom also entails no “American Empire” on the order of the British one. We shall not rule. We are establishing global conditions for minimal rule.

America’s vital interests and our deepest beliefs are now one. From the day of our Founding, we have proclaimed that every man and woman on this earth has rights, and dignity, and matchless value, because they bear the image of the Maker of Heaven and earth. Across the generations we have proclaimed the imperative of self-government, because no one is fit to be a master, and no one deserves to be a slave. Advancing these ideals is the mission that created our Nation. It is the honorable achievement of our fathers. Now it is the urgent requirement of our nation’s security, and the calling of our time.

Note every nation and culture, and the use of democratic movements and not “democracy.” The struggle entails both ending hells like North Korea and improving nominal allies like Ukraine.

So it is the policy of the United States to seek and support the growth of democratic movements and institutions in every nation and culture, with the ultimate goal of ending tyranny in our world.

We will fight in what Dr. Barnett calls “war in the context of everything else.” Peaceful efforts, such as expanding free trade and supporting democratic initiatives will be focused on more than war.

It also means that human freedom triumphs over liberal society. A clerical Shia Iraq is acceptable as long as it is a free Iraq. Likewise, an artificially western yet unfree society, say the old Shah’s Iran, is unacceptable.

This is not primarily the task of arms, though we will defend ourselves and our friends by force of arms when necessary. Freedom, by its nature, must be chosen, and defended by citizens, and sustained by the rule of law and the protection of minorities. And when the soul of a nation finally speaks, the institutions that arise may reflect customs and traditions very different from our own. America will not impose our own style of government on the unwilling. Our goal instead is to help others find their own voice, attain their own freedom, and make their own way.

The global struggle is similar to the Cold War in scope. It will not be won in any one theatre. It is huge.

The great objective of ending tyranny is the concentrated work of generations. The difficulty of the task is no excuse for avoiding it. America’s influence is not unlimited, but fortunately for the oppressed, America’s influence is considerable, and we will use it confidently in freedom’s cause.

President Bush’s Second Inaugural Address
Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4
Not the Reagan Doctrine… but Better
The Reagan Doctrine
The All-Consuming Fire

Peers v. Commons

‘Blogging’ Stirs Controversy in Iran,” VOA News,, 17 January 2005.

Ayatollah revives the death fatwa on Salman Rushdie,” by Philip Webster, Ben Hoyle and Ramita Navai, The Times,,,2-1448279,00.html, 20 January 2005 (from Fark).

Iran is a lot like Britain a century ago. An out of touch elite controls one body of council (The House of Lords / The Guardian Council) while everyone else wants to live their lives.

A fatwa against the author Salman Rushdie was reaffirmed by Iran’s spiritual leader last night in a message to Muslim pilgrims.

The Foreign Office said: “The key thing from our point of view is that the Iranian Government formally withdrew their support for the fatwa on Salman Rushdie in 1998 which is when Britain and Iran formally upgraded their relationship to the level of ambassador.” A senior official said: “The original fatwa was issued by Ayatollah Khomeini shortly before he died. It can only be rescinded by the man who issued it or a higher authority so in practice it will hold indefinitely.

“Almost every time that the current supreme leader, Ayatollah Khamenei, gives a sermon he mentions Salman Rushdie in these terms and denounces him as a man who has insulted the name of the Prophet and who can therefore be killed. It’s just the standard rhetoric.

Kill Rushdie again? Oh Grandpa…

Meanwhile, in the realit-based community

A battle is raging within Iran’s political leadership over a form of Internet communication known as a blog, a “weblog” that combines a publicly accessible online personal diary and a guide to other links on the World Wide Web. Some elements of the Iranian government have been supportive of the free and rapid development of blogging in Iran, while hard-liners in the Judiciary are trying to figure out how to control it.

Hossein Derakhshan, 30, is an Iranian who emigrated to Canada four-years ago. In 2002, he developed a simple way for people to use Persian language on the Internet, which led to the creation of an independent service in Tehran called

“After few months, launched its service and started with a fully Persian interface, in very simple language, to help Iranian people to start blogging. And it was a turning point for the Iranian blogosphere because, thanks to the ease of service and the easy interface of, many, many people who were not very familiar with technical issues on the Net were able to start blogging.” estimates there are now as many as 70,000 active Persian language blogs, both inside and outside Iran. These sites had basically been allowed to operate freely, until Iran’s Judiciary began an Internet crackdown several-months ago.

The apparent targets, according to Mr. Derakhshan, are blogs and websites with political content. But he says most of the Persian language blogs did not start out focusing on political issues.

A lot of them are just tools to facilitate dating, which is very important now in Iran, because there are not official dating services, or any official easy way for young people to socialize and to find new friends, new dates, and stuff like that,” he noted.

Mr. Derakhshan says the Judiciary’s attempt to block access to several of the main blogging services used by Iranians, such as, and, means that many of the existing blogs are turning political, even when they did not start out that way.

The Iranian Judiciary sounds a lot like Ashcroft’s Justice Department. Authoritarian? Yup. Way more strict in their religion than almost anyone else? Yup. Nightmarish goons like Saddam or Kim? Not by a long shot.

Kurdish Kirkuk

The Future of Tamin Province and the Future of Iraq,” by Spencer Ackerman, Iraq’d,, 20 January 2005.

Great, great, great news out of Iraq.

One of the tragedies of Ba’athi rule was the ongoing ethnic cleansing programs instituted by Saddam. Ancient cities, including the Kurdish city of Kirkuk, were cleared of Kurds are “Arabized.” In great, great, great news, the Iraqi government has announced that Kurds returning to Kirkuk can vote in the upcoming elections.

This all but guarantees the Kirkuk will eventually be the capital city of a future Kurdistan

THE FUTURE OF TAMIM PROVINCE AND THE FUTURE OF IRAQ: It’s looking more and more like the most important election on January 30 won’t be the one that determines control of Baghdad. It’ll be the one that determines who controls the northern province of Tamim. And a decision by the Independent Electoral Commission of Iraq makes that a foregone conclusion.

Tamim is the province that contains the multiethnic and oil-rich city of Kirkuk, which is claimed by Arabs, Turkmen and especially Kurds. The province has a population of about 1.2 million people, split roughly evenly between Arabs and Kurds. That equivalence, however, is in no small measure the result of Saddam Hussein’s genocide of the Kurds, which encouraged Arabs to move into formerly Kurdish areas. The Kurdish leadership, which routinely refers to Kirkuk as the Jerusalem of the Kurdish people, has as a first-tier objective the control of the city.

Control of the city is tied up in control of Tamim province. Since the invasion of Iraq, a delicate ethnic balance has held over the 40-seat provincial council: Fifteen seats have gone to the Kurds, eleven to Arabs, nine to Turkmen, and seven to Christians, with the remainder distributed amongst smaller factions. But also since the invasion, tens of thousands of Kurdish refugees have been returning to Kirkuk and the surrounding areas; in several cases, returning Kurds have in turn created Arab refugees. The electoral status of these refugees has been in question for months. Recently, the Kurdish leadership threatened to boycott the provincial election entirely unless their refugees were enfranchised in Tamim. This caused no end of bitterness among Kirkuk’s Turkmen and Arabs.

On Saturday, the Iraqi electoral commission, apparently deciding that the risk of a Kurdish boycott was unacceptable, announced a deal allowing up to 100,000 Kurdish refugees to vote in Tamim province. The deal effectively guarantees that the Kurds will dominate the Tamim council and the prized city it contains. And that, in turn, has massive implications for the future of Iraq: Under the Transitional Administrative Law, the final status of Kirkuk–that is, whether it is or isn’t part of Kurdistan–will be determined after the ratification of a permanent constitution and the holding of a census in the province and the city. That census is now guaranteed to show a Kurdish majority. As George Packer recently wrote in The New Yorker, what comes next is “a foregone conclusion”:

[T]he province of [Tamim] will vote to join the autonomous region of Kurdistan, and the city will go with it.

The article goes on with typically inane warnings of a civil war. There is a civil war on, now. Denying there is one, and preventing pro-democracy forces from achieving there due, is little more than pro-insurgent appeasement.

Europe on Red States

The American Scheme erm… I mean dream,” by Metin Danny Balli, et al, The Depixion, Metin Danny Balli,, 20 January 2005.

A fascinating discussion on the “red state phenomenon” on a blog hosted by a Britisher. It swings into UK politics a bit, but its very well worth checking out.

While at it check out Chad’s and my take on Red State welfare, or Parts 1, 2, 3, and 4 of my discussion of the President’s second inaugural address.