History Archive

1

Book Review: Midnight’s Furies: The Deadly Legacy of India’s Partition

Midnights-Furies-

 

Midnight’s Furies: The Deadly Legacy of India’s Partition is Nisid Hajari’s addition to the vast historical literature on the subject of the human tragedy resulting from the awkward birth of Pakistan and India. The story is well-known in general terms, but the scope of the massacre and human suffering is often overlooked. Hajari’s work adds significant detail and historical footnotes that give context to the story.

‘Partition’, in modern times, has an echo of heartache and immense loss to Indians and Pakistanis, for good reason.  Even by the standards of a century that included the Holocaust, World War II, and instantaneous losses of life such as Hiroshima and Nagasaki and the firebombing of Tokyo, the numbers involved with this period of India’s independence is outrageous.

Most estimates state that at least 1 million civilians died during the period beginning with the Calcutta riots of 1946, to the end of hostilities on December 31, 1948, and that may actually be a conservative estimate.  Approximately 15 million people left their homes and repopulated to the country of their stated religion, making it likely the largest forced human migration in human history.  It destroyed many of the long-standing inter-religious relationships that existed in India during British rule, including the close ties among Hindus, Muslims and Sikh members for the Indian contingent of the British army, who had worked side by side during both World Wars.  The repercussions continue to echo to this day, as it was the birthplace of the hatred and animosity that exists between India and Pakistan, all the way to the now prevalent nuclear race.

Hajari’s first goal seems so obvious in retrospect, after decades of distrust; but in 1947 there was a real debate that now resonates:  How could two nations (Pakistan and India) who had so much in common, and so much reason to become strategic partners if not allies, become enemies willing to fight to the death?

The answer lies in two areas: one personal, and one religious.

The personal side begins with the dynamic of the four central players involved in India’s independence.  Jawaharlal Nehru with his “high, aristocratic cheekbones and eyes that were deep pools — irresistible to his many female admirers”; the cold and stand offish Mohammad Ali Jinnah, “cheekbones jutted out of his cadaverous face like the edges of a diamond”; Lord Louis Mountbatten, great-grandson of Queen Victoria herself,  “tall and tanned,” the “Hollywood version of a British prince”; and finally, of course, the father of Indian independence and of nonviolent protest, Mahatma Gandhi.

The failure of these four men to understand their rivals and opponents, to misread their intentions at every turn, and underestimate the animosity that culture, religion, economic class, and simple personality conflicts ultimately lead to failure after failure, ultimately leading to the tragedy that became partition.

A quote echoes in my mind from the biographical tale The Pity of Partition by Ayesha Jalal. In the story, Jalal recounts a conversation between her uncle and his close Muslim friend after the riots. “I am a Muslim, don’t you feel like killing me?” her uncle responds solemnly; “Not now, but when I was hearing about the atrocities committed by Muslims . . . I could have killed you.”

This is a reality that each of the central characters in this story never understood…to the detriment of all Indians.

The religious bigotry and hatred that brought upon the violence among former friends, fellow villagers, neighbors, and even housemates has always and will always been a part of the reality of what India is, to this very day. India strives to be a secular country, which attempts to overcome these historic biases in order to create a union that allows more equal access to all. But always, bubbling under the surface, is this animosity.

Partition was a moment when that animosity broke through the surface, for the world to see. Nehru failed to understand Muslims fear of the massive Hindu majority, and his blind idealism blinded him. Gandhi was even a greater idealist, and his waning days, ill and weak, he didn’t have the power to intercede when needed. Mountbatten was the voice of a dying empire, who was more interested in their bankruptcy treasury than the small details that would have made the partition go smoother. And Jinnah, who often takes the brunt of the blame for many reasons (but probably in reality deserves less of the blame than he regularly receives) was arrogant, single-minded, and thin-skinned…all traits that served him ill.  The leaders at the time denied the reality of India and their own personal relationship with the greater nation, at great cost to the citizens of India and Pakistan.

If there is a weakness in this book, it is that Hajari does understate the case for partition, from the eyes of Pakistanis.  Key names in the origin of Pakistan, like Muhammad Iqbal, the philosophical founder of the country, were largely left out. Ultimately this doesn’t distract from the thesis of the book, but it does leave out nuance of the Muslim position that the reader would not have without reading from other sources.

The book is far from perfect, as any book that confronts such a divisive and partisan historical period would be. But in toto, the author does a magnificent job conveying the horror and immensity of the human tragedy that unfolded, and showing how the failures of a few, very mortal and imperfect men, led to not only that tragedy, but decades of distrust and even current hate for two of the largest countries on the planet.

Other recent books, including  Dilip Hiro’s The Longest August, Yasmin Khan’s The Great Partition, Patrick French’s Liberty or Death, and Alex von Tunzelmann’s Indian Summer are all fine alternatives, but simply put, none are as enjoyable or thorough as Hajari’s entry.

One question Hajari doesn’t really attempt to answer: whether partition was worth it.  The scale of the devastation possibly makes this question unanswerable, being too much for any single person to comprehend and allocate.

However, India is now an emerging superpower, who has had a female and Sikh Prime Minister, and a Muslim president; whose most famous actors/actresses are both Muslim and Hindu; and whose richest industrialists and business magnates count Sikhs, Jains, and Muslims among them. Pakistan continues to lag, largely because of religious forces, but also has always had immense potential. Both countries are nuclear powers, and thus, deserve a voice on the international stage.  The subcontinent teems with vitality and possibilities.

The question is, as always: did partition serve either country well, or were they worse off for it?

Like most people confronting that question, I will defer to answer; I think that question is far above my pay grade.

 

0

2014 Musings….

2014-2015-calendar-hero

Some random thoughts on the year that has passed…

  • Personally, an excellent year, on all fronts.
  • For the country…not so great.  At the very least, it was troubling to watch a country attack its men on the thin blue line, instead of working with the police force to make reforms to better us all.  It was disturbing to watch many supposedly intelligent people on the left fall into the trap of believing emotions before facts.  And most troubling, it is worrisome that our leaders, especially the President of the United States, appears not to have any type of learning curve, as he proposes to make his old mistakes all over again.
  • 2014 was a horrible, no good, terrible year for liberalism, and as a corollary, President Obama and Democrats.  More and more of their views of the world, as is, was discredited.
  • On foreign policy, ISIS proved Obama’s view of the Middle East was incorrect from the beginning; and he appears to be ready to repeat the same mistake in Afghanistan.
  • On the economy, we continue in our relatively stagnant path.  You know things are bad when Democrats are celebrating sub-3% GDP growth; things are better, but that is a poor barometer when millions remain out of work and out of the workforce all together.
  • On many basic issues (police use of force stories, Keystone pipeline, voter ID/intimidation, minimum wage) liberals continue to hide from basic facts and reality, to the detriment of all.
  • The biggest success story for Democrats was Obamacare; and even that comes with caveats.  The easy part of the program, delivering relatively free Medicaid benefits to millions of poor, is largely over.  On the other hand, they are largely failing on making the exchanges more affordable for the middle class.  Premiums are not increasing (a trend that has been going on now since 2004, before Obamacare was even a dream) but that doesn’t mean the pricing pressures have gone away.  In fact, there is some evidence it is getting worse.
  • Republicans had a very decent year.  They had no major detrimental scandals, for the most part.  They carried out their plan for the midterm election, and brought it successfully to fruition, even though they were outspent in many cases.  The increased majority in the House, and the retaking of the Senate, was a major coup, and all honest assessments will admit they did pretty much as well as they possibly could have.
  • I didn’t bother to do a movie review this year…because I saw so few movies.  I will say that I loved Guardians of the Galaxy and the Winter Soldier.  The X-Men movie, as well as the Hunger Games sequel were solid.  Other than that, not many movies impressed me much this year.
  • On the TV front, we continue to see the golden age of geekdom.  Whether it is the Walking Dead, Game of Thrones, Agents of Shield, Arrow, The Flash…you are living in the golden age of science fiction and fantasy. Enjoy it.
  • For 2015, I doubt politically we will achieve much.  I think the GOP is going to propose (and likely pass) a fair amount of decent legislation; Obama will simply obstruct. I think Obamacare will muddle along, with many of the same problems, and a host of new ones (especially the IRS rules that are impending).  On foreign affairs, things will get worse with ISIS, because Obama isn’t serious about confronting them; Iran will come a year closer to the bomb; and our other enemies will largely ignore the US.
  • Economically, I do believe we are improving.  But that improvement will continue to be asymmetrically targeted to the 1%.  The rich and upper middle class are continue to do quite well, as stocks and real estate surge and rebound.  The rest of the country, sadly, will continue to lag.  Obama’s policies will continue to widen the wealth gap, as it has done since the beginning of his presidency.
  • On the sports front, looking very much forward to watching how Jim Harbaugh leads the Michigan Wolverine football team.
  • 2014 was a mundane year for movies; the same cannot be said for 2015.  Avengers: Age of Ultron, the final Hunger Games, Fantastic Four, Jurassic World, James Bond’s SPECTRE, Terminator: Genisys, Ant-man, Minions, Mission: Impossible V, Ex-Machina, Pixar’s The Good Dinosaur and Inside Out, Mad Max: Fury Road, Disney’s Tomorrowland…a fantastic list, all culminating in the king of them all, Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens.  My kid is giggling in glee for a movie that won’t come out for a year; that should tell you all you need to know.
  • 2015 looks to be a banner year on many fronts.  I wish all of you the best of luck in the coming year.
2

Persons Of The Year: The Tea Party Movement

It was the spring of 2009 when the Tea Party movement made its first impact.  Just weeks after Barack Obama took office, the public was already stirring.  After Congress passed a huge stimulus, and had promised to pass a budget with the largest deficit in U.S. history, the grassroots movement of the right and of disaffected independents started to take shape.  All through 2009, they fought the huge Democrat majorities from passing Obamacare, and were able to successfully kill off the public option.

In January, spurred by the support of the Tea Party, Republicans were able to elect Scott Brown to Ted Kennedy’s seat in Massachusetts…supposedly to be the 41st vote against Obamacare.  However, that would not be enough.  In February, Democrats were able to successfully pass their $1.5 trillion health care program through reconciliation, and against the opinion of the majority of Americans.

That was the final catalyst for the Tea Party to truly gain strength and momentum.   After almost a year of trying to convince the governing party that their health care policy was too extreme for the bulk of the nation, Democrats simply ignored them, and went against the wishes of a significant majority of the population.

Conventional wisdom from the left at the time was that the Tea Party would fade into oblivion.   However, they did not disappear.  Far from it.  Instead, they refocused their sights to the 2010 elections.  If they didn’t have the power to reform the entire country in a single move, then they would start with reform of their party.  Although not always successful, clearly the results were satisfactory.  2010 gave Republicans their largest gains since 1994, and significantly moved both Houses of Congress to the right.

When picking a person of the year (or in this cases persons of the year) one has to look at their large scale impact on society.  Within the United States, no movement or group has had the impact that the Tea Party has had over the past 20 months.  One could argue that they have done the impossible…and have successfully moved Barack Obama to the middle (well, maybe not the middle, but let us say, less far left).  They have given the Republican party focus that it had completely been lacking since the 2008 elections; some would argue that focus had been missing for much of the past decade.

If the Tea Partiers are able to keep Republican’s feet to the fire, and force them to make difficult decisions on spending, the deficit, and maintaining a small but efficient government, their power and influence will be greater than anyone else for the year 2010.

2

2010 Predictions…A Look Back

So you can see my predictions of the year 2010 here, if you wish.  My 2010 predictions weren’t too bad…but in hindsight, I have to say that I have outdone myself.  Regular typeface is my original prediction, and bold is my current commentary…

  • President Barack Obama will sign a health care reform bill…but not until well after the State of the Union, and only with a lot of difficulty.  Democrats will fight another civil war on the public option, taxes, abortion, and illegal immigrants.  CORRECT!
  • Democrats will try for a third stimulus, in which Obama will try to focus on tax cuts, but progressives in the House will push him to spend more on government programs.  CORRECT!  ASSUMING YOU ARE COUNTING THE CURRENT TAX BATTLE.
  • Obama’s Budget Director forecasts a 4.0% growth rate next year…the rate of growth will be much less, closer to 2.5% for the year.  SO FAR, ACCURATE.
  • We will see narrowing of job losses in the beginning of the year, but some of it will be smoke and mirrors as the government hires 700,000 temporary workers to carry out the 2010 census.  By the end of 2010, the overall rate of unemployment will still be in the double digits.  CLOSE.  WE ARE SLIGHTLY UNDER 10%.
  • The stock market will have a mediocre year, rising 7-8% to around Dow 11,300 by the end of next year.  Businesses, however, will again be profitable.  Hiring will start in earnest in the end of 2010.  NOT BAD…THE DOW IS UP ABOUT 8% FOR THE YEAR.
  • The Federal Reserve, in a bid to halt inflationary pressures, will increase Fed rates by middle of the year.  The dollar will actually gain value…and gold will stabilize or drop in price.  However, oil prices will rise to around $100/barrel.  WRONG.  THE FED IS STILL TRYING TO FLUSH MONEY INTO THE SYSTEM.  OIL IS AROUND $80.
  • Legislatively, Democrats will have greater and greater difficulty in passing anything.  Cap-and-trade, immigration reform, and card check will all die an ignoble death.  TRUE.
  • Obama’s attempts at budget deficit control will go to naught, as Democrats fight among themselves over which they should do:  tax increases or budget cuts.  Ultimately, nothing will be done, and the deficit for 2010 will be around $1.5 trillion…or about the same as 2009.  In other words, matching the largest national yearly deficit in world history.  CORRECT!
  • Almost nothing will get done by Congress, as Democrats (not Republicans) will virtually bring the legislature to a standstill.  FALSE.  REPUBLICANS STOPPED MOST EVERYTHING, TO THEIR CREDIT.
  • By summer, Tea Party protests will be ravaging the nation, as the protesters fight for control of the Republican Party.  Conservatives will be pitted against moderates, and in most races, the conservative will triumph; for example, Rubio probably will oust Crist in Florida.  Democrats will giggle in glee, remembering the outcome of NY-23.  But who has the last laugh?  ABSOLUTELY, POSITIVELY CORRECT!
  • Obama’s poll numbers will stabilize in the spring, as unemployment numbers artificially are leveled off.  However, as the year progresses, and unemployment stays in double digits, Obama’s popularity will drop below 40%.  As time goes on, Obama will be blamed more and more for the economy, and his laying the blame with the prior administration will sound more and more like whining.  FALSE.  ALTHOUGH MUCH IS TRUE, OBAMA’S POPULARITY HAS LEVELED IN THE MID-FORTIES.
  • Republicans will gain 8 Senate seats.  I will be more specific in my 2010 election prediction article, but briefly I predict Arkansas, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Nevada, Pennsylvania, and New York to flip (I know, I am an optimist).  I predict Republicans will pick up 40 seats in the House, just short of the majority, but will try to entice additional Blue Dogs to switch parties.  It will be that close.  2010 will be a historic landslide, ala the Second Republican Revolution.  NOT BAD!  REPUBLICANS GAINED 6, NOT 8, SENATE SEATS.   AS FOR CONGRESS, I WAS CLEARLY PESSIMISTIC, AS THE GOP PICKED UP 63 SEATS…BUT CORRECT ABOUT THE LANDSLIDE!

As for my ever pathetic sports predictions:

  • Alabama will defeat Texas for the BCS Championship.  CORRECT!
  • The San Diego Chargers will finally break through and win the Super Bowl.  NOT QUITE.
  • Kansas Jayhawks will win the NCAA Basketball championship.  NOPE.
  • Pittsburgh Penguins will repeat as NHL Champions; the L.A. Lakers will repeat as NBA championships in a classic series over the Boston Celtics.  LAKERS CORRECT, PITTSBURGH NOT SO MUCH.
  • The United States will finish 3rd in the medal count at the Olympics.  WAY TOO PESSIMISTIC!
  • The Red Sox will outduel the Yankees, and win the World Series.  NOT EVEN CLOSE.
  • O.K., my ‘homer’ picks were horrendous last year.  Here we go:  The Pistons will miss the playoffs, and get the 8th pick in the Lottery.  The Red Wings will lose in the 2nd round of the NHL playoffs.  The Tigers will miss the postseason once again, this time by 5 games.  The Lions…who cares; I am a Redskins fan!  The Skins will get Mike Shanahan as coach, dump Jason Campbell as QB, and will draft Sam Bradford with their first round pick, which will guarantee that he will be a major flop in the NFL.  And my beloved Michigan Wolverines will get back to a bowl…but only an average one.  FRANKLY, NOT BAD, NO?

Oh, and of course, the obligatory JibJab piece:

5

Should Obama Get Credit For The Iran Revolt?

I have heard numerous commentators state that Barack Obama deserves a lot of credit for giving his Cairo speech, which in turn caused people in Lebanon, and then Iran, to move toward the more western candidates.  Heck, this week the White House themselves gave Obama credit for the Iranian protests.  From the Washington Post:

Obama’s approach to Iran, including his assertion that the unrest there represents a debate among Iranians unrelated to the United States, is an acknowledgment that a U.S. president’s words have a limited ability to alter foreign events in real time and could do more harm than good. But privately Obama advisers are crediting his Cairo speech for inspiring the protesters, especially the young ones, who are now posing the most direct challenge to the republic’s Islamic authority in its 30-year history.

Right.  They don’t want to meddle…but are now stating that their Cairo speech meddled enough to create the largest protests in three decades…I don’t really understand the logic in that. Addditionally, they were even previously meddling. Just released were letters Obama sent to the Mullahs prior to the Cairo speech.  I guess it is o.k. to meddle, as long as people aren’t dying in the streets for freedom.

O.K.  Forget the politics.  Let us look at this factually and intellectually.

First, Lebanon is much easier to discount.  Voting in that country was going on as Obama was talking.  I am not sure I understand how Obama effected that .  Additionally, you had a ruling coalition (who was elected when George W. Bush supported them, mind you) that got re-elected.  And polls there showed them slightly ahead all along.  The economy is good, Beirut is booming, there is relative peace, the Syrians are gone…what isn’t there to like.  So commentators that say Obama was responsible for the re-election of a relatively popular government…that doesn’t make any sense.

Iran is a much more complex situation.

I think there is a valid case to be made that Obama had some significant influence in the Iran election; and maybe more than some, maybe quite a lot.

First, Mousavi and Ahmadinjead used ‘Change’ as their calling card.  Mousavi openly said he would like to negotiate with the West, especially the new American President.  Of course, Ahmadinejad, the voice of the regime, said otherwise.  Mousavi is far from a reform candidate that the U.S. would have picked; he has even been linked to the bombing of the Marine barracks in Beirut in 1983.  So, in a relative sense, Mousavi may be better than Ahmadinejad; but not by much.  So if this is the case, how much influence did Obama really have?  The influence he had, I would presume, was more toward the Mullahs than the general populace, which would mean that the Cairo speech had a negative effect for the U.S..

Second, Obama’s Cairo speech came at least 4 days before voting occurred.  Information travels much slower in other parts of the world than in the West, remember that.  In many of these places, the bulk of older people still get their news from newspapers (remember those paper things we used to buy on street corners).  For news to go through Lebanon is not realistic.  For it to go through Iran, however, is reasonable.

When the Mullahs decided, obviously, to rig the election, you wonder how much of a influence the Obama Cairo speech had.  Did they fear that a Mousavi victory would appear to be a victory for the United States.  Very probable.  I am sure, almost positive, it had some influence.

And when protesters took to the streets, I believe that a stronger statement would have had more resonance.

So I think Obama deserves some credit (sorry conservative buddies, but it is true).

But here is the dirty little secret:  so does George W. Bush and others.  Why?  Do you really believe that the Iranian regime would allow this level of protests if Iraq were still a threat on their border?  Of course not.  They would have crushed the protesters in the first few days, killed or imprisoned the leaders and moved on…that may still happen.  The removal of Saddam has given space to countries who felt threatened, and now can accept some level of dischord, because there is no real external threat.

The same can be argued, to some degree, in Lebanon.  Pushing Syria out was the key.  Israel and Hezbollah made things worse with their stupid war in 2006, surely, which also was a byproduct of Bush.  But that said, the reason democracy has a chance their is because Bush was able to get the international community to push Syria out.

That said, I still believe that in Iran, Obama deserves credit.  Yes, I wish he had spoken more forcefully, and still do.  He (finally) used the word ‘condemn‘ on Tuesday, 10 days after the revolt started.  That said, I do NOT want him to side with any side, other than generally supporting the Iranian people.  His press release on Saturday did that, but I would like to hear it from his own mouth.  At least, the word ‘condemn’ should come from his lips, don’t you think? (PLEASE NOTE:  Obama did use the word ‘condemn’ in his press conference today…)

An aside…it seems like the few days are the only ones of his presidency that he has been misssing on TV, by the way.

Finally, one last point.  I am willing to give Obama credit, but with that comes responsibility.  If the Iranian protesters win, Obama will deserve even more credit for providing a positive result in the Middle East.   If the protesters are crushed, however, Obama will deserve the same level of blame as the level of credit I am giving him now.  That is just rational.  Hopefully, I will be here in a week congratulating Mr. Obama, and not partially blaming him for a slaughter.

Michael Ramirez, IBD Editorial

Michael Ramirez, IBD Editorial

UPDATE:  Doesn’t it seem like Mr. Obama is now meddling, considering that he basically supported Mousavi in his last few statements?  And how does the White House defend that hypocrisy?

8

Iran Protests: The Regime Fights Back

IRAN-POLITICS-

UPDATE:  There are so many amazing reports from Iran, I can’t list them all.  Roger Cohen of the New York Times has an excellent piece on the events of Saturday.  Nico Pitney of the Huffington Post has done a wonderful job distilling the many twitter and facebook tweets since last week; I applaud him.  Andrew Sullivan has a number of great posts on this thread.  Mousavi has also released a statement (a pretty good one at that) that can be read here.

At least 19 people are reported to have died this weekend so far, though some estimates are rumored to be closer to 100.  Reports say doctors had been ordered to report protest-related injuries to the authorities, and that some seriously injured protesters had sought refuge at foreign embassies in a bid to evade arrest.  There were numerous break-ins by paramilitaries last night.

On Sunday, former Prime Minister Rafsanjani’s daughter was arrested.  There are rumor of Mousavi’s arrest, but that has been rumored before.  The BBC’s main reporter has been expelled, apparently, and the Twitter posts have certainly slowed down.  A Life magazine reporter is also missing.  That is worrisome, because you wonder if the regime’s final assualt is being planned.

Reporters Without Borders released a study, showing Iran as the leading repressor of journalists, right with China:  “The international community cannot continue to ignore the situation. It must have a clear and unanimous reaction that is proportionate to the gravity of these events. And there will never be any question of recognising the results of the 12 June election.”  Pretty tough statement, no?  Well, atleast stronger than some…

Grand Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri, the most senior dissident cleric, stepped up criticism.  “Resisting people’s demand is religiously prohibited,” said Montazeri, an architect of Iran’s 1979 Islamic revolution who fell out with the present leadership and has been under house arrest for some years.

Iran’s Parliament (Majlis) Speaker Ali Larijani, a Khameinin supporter but a man who detests Ahmadinejad,  said that “a majority of people are of the opinion that the actual election results are different than what was officially announced.”  Protests continued on Sunday, as can be seen below:

Worldwide support is growing, with protests around the globe. The leaders of France, Germany, Italy, and the EU all continued to ‘meddle’, and asked for open and transparent recount of the election results.  Barack Obama stated that the ‘world is  watching’ and that justice would eventually be served.  Even Israeli President Shimon Peres applauded the protesters.

Obama appears to be holding par for the course.  He had a slightly stronger statement yesterday.  His goal obviously is to be able to  have dialouge with the now illegitimate regime, regardless of the outcome of this revolt.  Senator Richard Lugar supported Obama on this today.

On that, I agree.  Frankly, we have and  do deal with regimes that are worse.  However, the miscalculation in my mind is that this is a lose-lose situation for Obama.  If the protesters win out (unlikely but possible), then Obama will get less credit than, say, the Europeans or even the U.S. Congress.  If the protesters are crushed, then Obama may be accused of doing nothing when their plight was the greatest.  I guess the ultimate question is, what would Mr. Obama say, sitting across the table from Ahmadinejad, if the regime, say, kills 10,000 protesters?

________________________________________________________________________________________________

This weekend, we are seeing the real force of the Iranian regime put into play.

First, Ayatolla Khameini stated the regimes views at Friday prayers:  that the protesters must stop, that the opposition leaders must stop the protesters, and all will be held liable if they don’t heed his calls.

To support this point, the regime has sent in large number of police and other forces.  There have been small clashes.  At the central Tehran site where a protest was to be held earlier, a few thousand protesters came into contact with riot police, with mild violence and the firing of tear gas.  A few thousand protesters have gather at Tehran University, which is close to the protest site.

Scarier still was a report of a bomb (rumors of a suicide bomber?) at the Mausoleum of Ayotallah Khomeini.  A few people were reported injured.   However, this site is highly sequested, and no independent news sources were available to verify the story.

There were mass demonstrations scheduled for Saturday, but they do not yet appear to be coalescing.  Mousavi and other leaders have been told they will be held responsible for the protests…which may mean their lives are at stake.  Mousavi apparently declared on his facebook page that he is now ready for martyrdom.  Mousavi has placed the blame for any violence on the regime itself.  “If the huge volume of vote-rigging — which has set aflame people’s trust in Iran’s ruling system — is going to be used as proof for the lack of rigging, then the system is going to the slaughterhouse,” the Facebook post stated. “It will also prove the incompatibility of Islam and democracy.”

There are reports of hundreds of injured.  Some are being taken and seeking refuge in foreign embassies.  There are a number of dead as well.  “Let the Qu’ran shield you. It’s a mortal sin to kill anyone holding the Qu’ran. BRING your Qu’ran to protest!!!” one person wrote on Twitter. “We will try 2 keep this rally peaceful/silent as usual at every cost. Cant give them excuse 2 use force. Hope they wont,” another said.  There are numerous videos of people being shot and killed.  I don’t feel right posting them directly but you can see them here and here.  Viewer discretion advised.

Ultimately, it will be interesting if this protest movement follows the path of 1999, when the protests died in a few days after regime forces clamped down, or is closer to the 1979 revolt.  The remainder of today should tell us a lot about the strength of the movement, and what price they are willing to pay.

Internationally, Europe has been very strong in their repudiation of the Iranian regime’s actions.  Angela Merkel, Nicholai Sarkozy, and Gordon Brown have given strong statements against any violence.  Barack Obama continues his patient vigil of noninterference, despite quiet protestations from allies in the inner circle who disagree with him, including Vice President Joe Biden and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.  One problem was the Ms. Clinton has been in the hospital for a elbow fracture, and so Mr. Biden has been the lone voice for a stronger statement…and his voice has lost much credibility in the White House at this point.

Ultimately, although a stronger statement by America would be better for longterm American interests, as far as the Iranian protests are concerned, it is doubtful that by itself it would make a difference.  It would provide moral support for people putting their lives at danger.  On the other hand, I doubt that an American President’s words are going to make the difference.  Mr. Obama ultimately should neither get the credit or blame if this protest movement fails.  It will be up to the protesters themselves to determine how much they are willing to sacrifice for freedom.

I will say this the Iranian protesters:  the World community is with you in spirit, no matter what our leaders will and will not say.  And I will leave you with a quote from Mahatma Gandhi:

“First they ignore you; then they laugh at you; they they fight you; then, you win.”

Keep the spirit alive.


2

US Backs Down to North Korea

After passing a UN resolution, and then getting permission to block North Korean ships that could be transporting weapons of mass destruction technology, now what happens?  The Obama Administration backs down.

The ship left North Korea last week, but it has been heading along the Chinese coastline, so far avoiding international water.  What the U.S. does once it catches up to the ship is another question all together.  Because of Chinese demands, the UN resolution does not allow the United States to board the ship forcibly.  Adm. Michael Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said Thursday that the United States would not forcibly board a North Korean ship but, in accordance with a recent U.N. resolution, would request permission to search the ship or press any port the ship docks in to inspect it for illegal materials. Permission from the North Koreans?  A highly unlikely scneario.

North Korea has stated that it will view any forcible action as an act of war.  They have said the will enact retribution 100 to 1000 fold upon their enemies if the ship’s ‘rights’ are violated.

All this comes upon rumors that Kim Jong-Il has ordered an ICBM missile to fired in the direction of Hawaii around the July 4th holiday; nice of him to celebrate our independence.  I am assuming (and hoping) that it doesn’t look anything like this:

Fireworks Show

Defense Secretary Robert Gates has ordered missile interceptors and radar equipment deployed in and near Hawaii.  “We are in a good position should it become necessary to protect American territory,” Gates said Thursday.  I point out, this is the same missile defense system that Mr. Obama denigrated in last years election campaign…

I had previously stated that I supported Obama’s strong stance on this.  Well, I equally dislike his backing down.  There is simply one word for this:  wimpy.  The North Koreans have been throwing threat after threat at the United States since this began.  They took 2 U.S. journalists prisoner.  And what does Obama do?  Admit defeat and surrender.

Obama was confronted with the first foreign policy test of his presidency, just like Joe Biden suggested would happen.  And apparently, he has failed.  He has given North Korea full reign to do as they wish, and he has no one to blame other than himself.

5

Medicare: The Preamble to the Public Option

c/o Michael Ramirez, IBD

c/o Michael Ramirez, IBD

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/06/15/AR2009061501545.html

The Health Care debate has been heating up in the last few days.  This week, the CBO estimated that Democrats plan to cover health care will cost, at the low end, $1.6 Trillion…or more than 50% more than Obama has stated.  Another CBO report said that if they implement the Public option, and slowly roll it in, that 15 million of the 45 million people now without insurance could be covered; at a cost of $1 trillion. $1 trillion for a 1/3 solution?  Not much of a bargain for a public option that is supposed to ‘reduce costs’.  And the public is starting to notice.

So when Democrats talk about the ‘Public option’ on medical care, what are they talking about?

Let us simplify it:  they are talking about making Medicare universally available.  They want a similar program to cover people from birth to death.

Here is the problem:  Medicare has no answers to the major problems with our health care system either.

That’s the message of a report yesterday by a commission that advises Congress on the federal medical program for older Americans.  To eliminate wasteful spending, policymakers must transform economic incentives for doctors, hospitals and other providers of medical services — though it isn’t clear how, according to the report.

To illustrate what it might take to save Medicare, the commission describes how primary-care doctors, specialists and hospitals could be reorganized into “accountable care organizations” (commonly referred to as ‘bundling payments’) whose members would receive bonuses if the organizations met quality and cost targets. To ratchet up the incentives, health-care providers that fail to meet cost and quality targets could be penalized, the report says.  Even then, any projected savings would be highly uncertain, the report says. What is certain is that Medicare cannot maintain its current trajectory, it adds:

“If current spending and utilization trends continue, the Medicare program is fiscally unsustainable. . . . Part of the problem is that Medicare’s fee-for-service payment systems reward more care — and more complex care — without regard to the quality or value of that care.”

Yes.  This is the system that Barack Obama wants to bring to your front door.  Some Democrats, including Tom Daschle, are asking Obama to move past the public option for a number of reasons.  Daschle has joined a bipartisan commission called the Bipartisan Policy Center with George Mitchell, Bob Dole, and Howard Baker calling for a much more conservative health care plan…one that is surprising closer to my own health care plan.

Even worse, Mr. Obama is not telling the truth on this issue.  Many groups (such as the American Medical Association and Insurers of America) are against this, because they believe that this will push private insurers out.  Mr. Obama accused people like me of lying about this.  Is he calling liberal Democrat Russ Feingold a liar? Because Feingold has clearly stated that the public option will lead to a single payer system.  I am sorry, but it is not me that is failing to tell the truth.  I ask one simple question:

How many totally independent health care plans are there for people over age of 65?

The answer is none.  Yes, there are some HMOs and others that work with the government Medicare system, and provide care.  But totally independent?  There are none. Why?  Because Medicare has such a price advantage and monopoly, that there is no competition to be had.  Second, the monopoly is like any other monopoly…smaller players have great trouble competing.  Furthermore, once you give a ‘free’ option, who would choose to pay for it?

People will argue that if Medicare is cheaper, why not continue with it?  Simple:  it is not significantly cheaper.  For one, many of the costs in Medicare are hidden costs; the government shows them in other accounting methods, and not clearly within the Medicare system.  Second, health insurers pay corporate taxes, while Medicare dollars don’t.  And since the Medicare fund is going to run out in less than a decade, those tax dollars are essential to the long term funding of Medicare.  Additionally, in some senses private insurance already subsidizes public insurance.  The public systems (Medicare, Medicaid, and the Veterans Affairs Administration) don’t pay enough to meet costs…so those costs are shifted to patients with private insurance.  Ed Morrissey at AIP has an excellent, more detailed explanation of this.

Second, how does Medicare keep costs low?  Easy:  they ration.  They ration care to patients, and ration payments to doctors.  It is estimated that doctors and hospitals only get around 30% of what they bill.  Let me ask you:  if you went to work , and your boss paid you 1/3 of what he said he would pay you, how would you feel?

Oh, and if you don’t think this is an authoritarian?  Listen to this:

Getting doctors to join accountable care organizations may require pressure, MedPAC Executive Director Mark E. Miller told reporters: “If you want people to voluntarily organize, you may want to make sure that the current system isn’t as pleasant a place to be.”

Understand the repercussions.  Doctors already are stretched to the breaking point, even though they make good incomes.  What will they do if you restrict their incomes even further?  They will provide less service.  They have no incentive to provide after hours services, weekend services, etc.  Right now, they do those things because it is financially beneficial for them to do it.  You think hospitals can or will maintain the same level of services they do now, if they get even less funding?  Of course not.  Government officials would like to think physicians would remain static in their actions:  that is a true lie.

So in short, we come down to the simple reality, no matter what name calling Mr. Obama is involved in:  the only way the Mr. Obama’s plan reduces costs is by rationing, one way or another.  That is a fact, Mr. President.

2

Obama’s Regulatory Reform: Who Is John Galt?

atlasjohngalt

Those that have seen my Current Books page know I have been reading Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged.  It is long, sometime boring tome regarding the ever increasing power of government, and how federal power can destroy capitalism.

It is scary how similar to reality it is.

Now, I am not saying that Barack Obama is the autocratic monster of Rand’s book.  But, the power he is trying to garner for the Federal Government?  For the first time in my life, I am really getting scared.  And I am not one of those ‘black helicopter’ or ‘new world order’ people.  In fact, I don’t think I have believed in any conspiracy theory in my life.

But I know that I love my country, and fear my government.  And I never felt that fear before.

The governmentpower to take over of banks, financial institutions, and car companies was bad enough.  At least you could see some short term benefit to these things.  Only problem?  Obama’s policy are almost certainly ensuring that these interventions will NOT be short term at all.

The administration’s proposal would give the government the power to take over and wind down a large financial company, a power that government officials lacked last year when the financial crisis was intensifying. It would also give the central bank more powers over the payments and settlements systems in U.S. financial markets to prevent a breakdown that officials fear could destabilize the economy.

But who would control that, and who would provide oversight?  The answer is, virtually no one.

Most of these powers would be entrusted to the Federal Reserve, who by design is required to speak to Congress but ultimately has total independence.  Therefor, the power to destroy large corporations and billions of dollars of value in a country lie in an unelected council with no checks and balances.  One new detail is that any large, interconnected company that the government wants to take over and break up could be pushed into government seizure by the Treasury Department, if certain conditions are met; those conditions, of course, defined by that same government. Once taken over, the companies would typically be run by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., but the proposal gives the government discretion to change the way this might work. The Treasury has said these powers were necessary, but the details of how they would work were unveiled for the first time in this proposal.

Sound like Ayn Rand’s world yet?

Here is my problem with all this.  First, there is a system to unwind corporations that have failed:  it is called bankruptcy.  Can anyone name me a corporation that went into bankruptcy that brought down a nation’s financial system?  Anyone?  It is a straw man.  Look, I am not saying that it would cause huge ripple effects, or that the government should not get involved at all.  But giving the government (an absolute power, as far as I can tell) to destroy and take over corporations based on their will is unconstitutional and unamerican.

Let us go back to last fall.  What effect would these regulations have had then?  Well, very likely the government would have stepped in and taken over Citibank, Bank of America, AIG (which they practically did anyway), Wells Fargo, and others.  Let me ask you:  which one of those companies caused the destruction of the U.S. economy?

In fact, all of those banks are on their way to solvency, or are already solvent right now.  So you are telling me, that after the once in a lifetime credit crisis of last fall, that the government needs even more power to handle a crisis that may not again occur in our lifetimes?  And additionally, despite how messsy and wasteful the bailouts and TARP were, didn’t it help us move past the immediate credit crisis?

I believe that we do need better regulations.  Better does not mean more. People without any intellectual drive just add regulation upon regulation.  In actuality, some of the regulations we had need to be thrown out, because they actually made things worsee.  More regulations by itself won’t solve the problem.  However, conservatives must understand that at the same time, the regulatory system is broken beyond repair, and needs to be built from the ground up.  Too many  interest groups have their paws on the regulatory system, which basically make it useless.

The pushback is starting, and starting from the most surprising of places:  Russia.  Vladamir Putin, autocrat extraordinaire, has warned Obama that he will fight any international regulatory system that covers corporations in his country.  Another shock?  Revolt from Blue Dog Conservative/Moderate Democrats. They are starting to feel the heat from their constituents, who are largely conservative and small government in belief.  These Democrats will have an increasingly tough time winning in these districts if they have to support such widening of federal powers.

I am deeply concerned about the federal power growing under this plan.  The power to tax is the power to destroy; but the power to destroy directly?  That is scary.  Oversight and limitations will be critical in this bill.  It must be highly limited, only to corporations about to declare bankruptcy.  If a corporation is profitable at all, the government should not be able to touch them, no matter what their opinion.  It should give the government the ability of oversight of large hedge funds, but should not stymie the investment dynamism of venture capitalists.  And most important, the government powers must have checks and balances.

Without those protections of individual rights, we should all be fearful of this bill.  I know Ayn Rand would.

0

Iran Divided

Tuesday's Unsanctioned Protest

Tuesday's Unsanctioned Protest

The political powers that be in Iran are becoming more and more divided.

Grand Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri, the country’s most senior Islamic cleric threw his weight behind opposition charges that Ahmadinejad’s re-election was rigged.

“No one in their right mind can believe” the official results from Friday’s contest, he stated. Montazeri accused the regime of handling Mousavi’s charges of fraud and the massive protests of his backers “in the worst way possible.”

“A government not respecting people’s vote has no religious or political legitimacy,” he declared in comments on his official Web site. “I ask the police and army personals (personnel) not to ‘sell their religion,’ and beware that receiving orders will not excuse them before God.”

Montazeri, who at one time was considered the most respected cleric in the country, has caused great division among the Mullah’s hierarchy.  There has been arrests of some second-line protest leaders, although Mousavi and his top associates remain free.  Also, some prosecutors are calling for the death penalty for certain ring leaders in the protests.  All of these events further erode the legitimacy of the current Iranian regime.

The day was littered with scattered violence.  The secret police (baseej militia and Etellaat) attempted to instigate violent protests by the Mousavi protesters, but appear to have been largely successful.  Large scale attacks occurred at multiple University campuses in Tehran.  At least 5 students were confirmed killed in University dormitories.

The government is pretty much conceding that it is losing the technology battle however.  Social media like Twitter have compeletely evaded all attempts at coercion.    The government is using traditional methods, such as arresting or deporting journalists, but that has done nothing to stop the news from coming out.  The Revolutionary Guard has tried to ban those sites...how successful they have been will remain to be seen.

Late in the day, there have been unconfirmed reports of army units moving toward the city, but the  army refusing to fire on protesters.  More rumors persist that several generals have been arrested.  And there are unconfimred repots that the regime is actually bringing in Hamas soldiers (aka Jimmy Carter’s buddies), because they trust them over their own soldiers.

Protests persist.  Mousavi called for wider (peaceful) protests today, despite increasing crackdown’s by government allies.  Yesterday, the Iranian Soccer team, beloved in the country, showed their support by wearing green on their jerseys.

Clearly, this is not going to end quickly or quietly.  And yet, the U.S. still sees fit to stay completely on the sidelines, instead of being the beacon of hope and freedom for the world.

Obama now argues that Mousavi is not a big reformer, so these protests are irrelevant. I agree that Mousavi is not much of a reformer…but totally disagree that the protests aren’t important.  First, Obama is worried that Iran will think that we are interfering; the Iranian government thinks that right now, and Obama has not said anything.  The Iranian Foreign Minister filed an offiicial protest with the Swiss ambassador (who represents US interests since we don’t have an embassy there).  So what is there to fear from a more profound statement?

Additionally, Mousavi’s election is just one step.  We want the Iranian people to understand that they, and not the mullahs and autocrats, ultimately should decide their country’s fate.  And we also want them to know that America will be supportive of their hopes and dreams, regardless of political expediency.  In the past, we did many things in Iran that were devastating to the people there to achieve our own goals. Obama, by remaining silent, is actually doing the exact same thing.  We should stand up for free expression of beliefs anywhere and everywhere in the world, even if sometimes it may be to our own detriment.

Page 1 of 1912345...10...Last »