Wednesday, July 29, 2009

I'm Deeply Disappointed in Ezra Klein

Come on, Ezra, you must be joking:

"[E]ven if getting any bill called 'health care reform' passed would be good short-term politics," writes political scientist Scott Lemieux, "it's worth further emphasizing that signing a bill without (at a minimum) a public option would be a substantive disaster." Elsewhere, he says, "the public option is the core of the reform; a Blue Dog bill isn't so much half a loaf as a few meaningless crumbs." And, finally, "a bad bill would be worse than no bill."

The public option, as it exists in any bill moving through Congress, is not the core of reform, nor anything near it. It is, for one thing, limited to the Americans who buy into the Health Insurance Exchanges, and the exchanges are in turn limited to the unemployed, the self-employed and small businesses. In the House bill -- which is the strongest of the bills -- the Congressional Budget Office estimates that 27 million Americans would be in the exchanges by 2019. That's not nothing, but it's not much. Imagine half choose the public option (CBO estimates many fewer than that). You now have 13.5 million Americans in a public insurer with no substantive advantages over private insurance. That's not a gamechanger, it's a tweak.

But it's also worth offering a more general reality check here: The public option is not now, and has not ever, been the core of the argument for heath-care reform. It is the core of the fight in Washington, D.C. It is an important policy experiment. But it was not in Howard Dean or John Kerry or Dick Gephardt's plans, and reformers supported those. It was not in Bill Clinton's proposal, and most lament the death of that. It is not what politicians were using in their speeches five years ago. It is a recent addition to the debate, and a good one. But it is not the reason were are having this debate.

Rather, what has kept health-care reform at the forefront of liberal politics for decades is moral outrage that 47 million of our friends and neighbors are uninsured. That medical costs are one of the leading causes of bankruptcy in the United States. That an unemployed machinist gets screwed by fly-by-night insurance schemes while a comfortably employed banker need never worry. That the working class ends up in emergency rooms with crushing chest pains because they didn't have health insurance and didn't get prescribed cheap blood pressure medications five years before.

All due respect to a guy who got his start reading this very blog, but Ezra, are you high? Of course the Public Option is at the center of all this!

Without the public option—unless you strip out the mandates too—this whole thing becomes a bill that forces people to give money to the insurance companies! It's a gigantic handout of economic rents to the very actors who provoked the reform in the first place, and would ensure that so much insurance industry money floods into Washington that any and every attempt regulation would be made toothless within picoseconds!

And since when is it all just about the uninsured? It's not just the uninsured that is the problem. It's the underinsured: the people who can't choose their doctors, can't get the treatment they needed, and can't afford the immense co-payments for those procedures that they're lucky enough to actually get covered. I'm pretty sure that most liberals think about those people quite a bit. I imagine that a lot of liberals have been those people.

Why would Ezra, of all people, mischaracterize their concerns?

Yes, you could rationally argue—as Ezra did—that "[i]f reformers cannot pass a strong health-care reform bill now, there is no reason to believe they will be able to do it later." But what's being proposed isn't a strong bill. This isn't even a weak bill. It's billion-dollar pork to the real constituents of all those paid-for Democrats out there that might as well have"D-Insurance" next to their name.

And, sorry, but they damned well don't deserve it.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Dershowitz: Palestinians ‘Played A Significant Role In The Holocaust’

That title is verbatim from ThinkProgress. I only wish I were exaggerating:
Last week, responding to international criticism of Israeli plans to build new Jewish homes in an Arab neighborhood of Israeli-occupied East Jerusalem, Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman “ordered embassies abroad to use a photo of Adolf Hitler meeting a top Palestinian cleric.”
The decision to circulate a 1941 photo featuring the Nazi dictator sitting with the then grand mufti of Jerusalem Amin al-Husseini is aimed at easing pressure on Israel over a construction project on land in annexed east Jerusalem once owned by the cleric, [an Israeli] official told AFP.
Appointed “grand mufti” in 1921 by the British mandate authorities as a means to dividing and controlling competing Palestinian factions (the title and position itself was a British creation), Husseini eventually fled Palestine and attempted to form an alliance with Nazi Germany. Husseini hoped that, by collaborating with the enemy of the British, who he believed were facilitating the takeover of Palestine by Zionist settlers, he might be able both to prevent the creation of a Jewish state and establish himself as a regional power.

There is little doubt that Husseini had extreme, racist views of Jews, and that he gave support to the Nazis in hopes of gaining advantage against the British and Zionist forces in Palestine. What this specifically has to do with Israeli settlement activity in East Jerusalem, however, is less clear.

Doing his part to push the Israeli line, yesterday Alan Dershowitz took it even further. In his Jerusalem Post column — which, in a bit of unintentional irony, is called “Double Standard Watch” — Dershowitz questioned whether the Palestinian people, collectively, bore any responsibility for the Holocaust. “The truth,” wrote Dershowitz, “is that the Palestinian leadership, supported by the Palestinian masses, played a significant role in Hitler’s Holocaust.”

This claim is preposterous. And, needless to say, Dershowitz utterly fails to prove it, managing only to establish the already known facts that a Palestinian leader, Husseini, had a relationship with the Nazis, and that many Palestinians still consider Husseini something of a nationalist hero. The idea that Husseini, let alone the Palestinians as a whole, played a “significant role in Hitler’s Holocaust” is laughable, as if the Nazis required one of the sub-human races to sign off on their plans for mass murder.

This is obviously not scholarship, but nor is it simply polemic. It is the attempted slander of the Palestinian people, in order to diminish their historical claim to a state with Jerusalem as its capital. In his Cairo speech, President Obama importantly recognized this claim as being co-equal with Israel’s, and admirably rejected the childishly one-sided narrative of the conflict that Dershowitz is peddling.

It’s important not to lose sight of what’s really at issue here. Lieberman’s order to push the Husseini photo and its attendant anti-Palestinian propaganda is aimed at deflecting attention away from Israel’s extremely provocative efforts to thicken the Jewish presence in occupied areas of Jerusalem. These efforts inflict an enormous cost on Jerusalem’s Arab inhabitants, who are prohibited from expanding their homes and neighborhoods, even as Jewish residents are encouraged to — and aided in it by the Israeli government and private American donors.
People differ on the Palestinian/Israeli issue. But no matter where you stand on that, you should agree that this is odious if you pretend to even a shred of intellectual decency. This goes far beyond hasbara; it's quite simply the most vicious sort of libel imaginable.

I can understand why the extremist Lieberman would pursue it, but I would have thought that even Dershowitz would have had more sense than this. No such luck, I suppose.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Apologies Won't Help, Mr. Aso

Sure, Taro Aso has a lot to apologize for, but I honestly doubt it's going to help much:

Japan's Prime Minister Taro Aso has publicly apologised for what he called his failures and for his ruling party's string of local election losses.

He spoke hours after dissolving parliament ahead of an early general election scheduled for 30 August.

Opinion polls suggest the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) could lose heavily to the opposition Democratic Party (DPJ) in the election.

A DPJ victory would end five decades of almost uninterrupted rule by the LDP.

'"My shortcomings caused mistrust from the public and I apologise from my heart for this," Mr Aso said to his party's legislators in a televised speech.

"I reflect humbly on this situation and will fulfil my responsibilities while keeping in mind the people who support the LDP."

He also apologised for a series of LDP defeats in local elections. It was after losing control of the Tokyo assembly two weeks ago that Mr Aso said he was calling an election for 30 August.

Earlier on Tuesday, the cabinet gave its formal backing to Mr Aso's plan to dissolve parliament.

Declining support

Japan is in a deep recession and correspondents say that at times the prime minister has appeared indecisive.

Last week, Mr Aso survived a no-confidence motion put forward by the opposition in the lower house. But the upper house, which is dominated by the opposition, passed a similar motion.

LDP rebels tried unsuccessfully to remove him before he could dissolve parliament, believing he was leading them to a historic defeat.

Opinion polls published by the Asahi and Mainichi newspapers on Monday suggested that support for Mr Aso had continued to decline since previous surveys last month.

They showed him trailing Democratic Party leader Yukio Hatoyama.

Correspondents say the Democratic Party favours more independence from the US, a greater Japanese contribution to peacekeeping missions and a smaller role for government.

Mr Aso is the fourth prime minister since the party won the last election to the lower house of parliament in 2005.

Not only the fourth PM, but honestly a bit of a sacrificial lamb. He has a history of public comments that have been...poorly received, shall we say...among Japan's neighbors. He has never been the biggest mover-and-shaker within the LDP, and hasn't held the types of positions that are usually synonymous with being a power-broker in the party. He wasn't expected to do well, and doesn't appear to have done much to defy those expectations. The election is the DPJ's to lose.

And assuming they don't, we could be in for a very, very interesting time in Japan.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Iranian Protesters Assaulting Prison/Television Station?

It's hard to say, because it looks like communications in Iran got cut off again, but various accounts on Twitter seem to imply that masses of protesters are swarming the main state TV station and Evan prison.

New Protests in Iran

"The air was thick with tear gas, so much that you couldn't open your eyes."

Yes, there's been another protest—and another crackdown—in Iran today. No great surprise. The man leading friday prayers was Ayatollah Rafsanjani, the leader of the Assembly of Experts and the guy that a lot of people (including myself) have been looking towards to end the situation in Iran.

His speech today didn't necessarily live up to those hopes. He called for freedom of expression, legitimate government, and everybody to "obey the law". He said that there should be more and better investigation of the almost-certainly-fraudulent June election, and that the hardliners had gone over the line. All true, but he wasn't calling for Khamenei or Ahmadinejad to step down, and wasn't fully aligning himself with the opposition.

Still, it may have been enough, as anti-governmental protests were again sparked. Here's one video:

...and here's what they did in response:

You may have missed it, but that was indeed tear gas.

It gets worse. The basijis outside the university where the sermon was given were carrying knives:

7:14 AM ET -- A caller from Tehran to says that several women were stabbed by plainclothes paramilitaries outside Tehran University. "Blood everywhere," she says. "Please tell everyone to get away from the university."

A reader's contact in Iran says something very similar: "The basijis had knives with them. That's why everyone around the university has knives. He says its really bad."
And, apparently, Mousavi was there.

But here's the kicker: the Iranian mindset has changed. They don't trust the official line anymore. Even now, even this long after the protests were squelched and the repression got stepped up, they aren't buying it. They're criticizing the leadership, the system, and those who support it. Some are even bitterly saying "God has cursed Iran."

No, that isn't as good as one would have hoped at the height of the uprising. But it's still important. It says that the government lacks legitimacy. Now, that's a word that tends to get thrown around a lot: people will say that a president or prime minister lacks legitimacy, or that a congress lacks legitimacy, or that any number of other things lack legitimacy. But that isn't really what it means.

What legitimacy really means is that the government has an acceptable basis for the power it wields. A government isn't really anything other than a bunch of guys with guns and tanks unless people agree that it is. It's all smoke and mirrors, really, a kind of shared illusion. But it's a really good shared illusion, and one that makes society work.

Usually, people do grant it legitimacy. Either because of elections, or because of primogeniture, or because of nationalism, or just because it seems like the only available option. In Iran, it was because there was a modicum of democratic legitimacy, and a lot of religious legitimacy, and the two combined to buttress one another: the state could be Islamic because the people agreed it should be Islamic, and they in turn had the power to reaffirm and guide that state through having the power to elect its members, either directly or indirectly.

(Remember, even the Supreme Leader is the appointee of a democratic body.)

But, now, since they no longer believe they have that ability to reaffirm or guide the state, many clearly no longer believe that it's legitimate. That's no surprise: even Machiavelli understood that turning a Republic into a Principality is intensely difficult, and generally not worth the trouble, because people will remember that they once had rights and will not easily give them up. The Iranian leadership is learning that too.

The shared illusion is no longer shared. It's faded in the mind of many Iranians. They aren't going to believe in it again anytime soon. And even though some of their countrymen still believe, it's going to be harder and harder for them to sustain that illusion.

Some will bend. Some will break.

I still believe its just a matter of time.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

A Simple Question...

How on earth did this joker land the job of being the voice of "economics" on

Sure, the site's been in some decline of late. But you'd think they would have cast a bit of askance eye on someone who tries to criticize Paul Krugman on the grounds that "[w]hat Krugman is basically saying is that the last stimulus package raised real GDP but did nothing for employment. So in order to do something about employment we should have... another stimulus package!"

To which one can only respond with, well, this:


OK, not really. But here’s what the data actually look like:

(Picture removed of correlation between interest rates and unemployment.)

Of course, we all understand that the correlation runs the way it does because the Fed cuts rates in an effort to fight recessions.

But here’s the thing: a lot of people are asserting that because unemployment has risen along with the budget deficit, fiscal expansion has failed or even made things worse. Why don’t we apply the same standards to monetary policy?

OK, I actually know the answer: it’s ideological. Fiscal expansion bothers people because it violates the dogma that government is the problem, not the solution, whereas monetary policy has become accepted as a mainly technocratic thing without political implications.

But if we treated fiscal policy the same way we treat monetary policy, it would be clear that we need more stimulus, not less.

Of course, this guy teaches at the University of Western Ontario, which isn't exactly a bastion of Keynesian thought.

(Well, maybe I should say "teaches", as he isn't a professor. Or a doctor. Or an academic economist, arguably, since his Ph.D is going to be in Business Administration. When he finishes it. But, whatever, close enough.)

Still, his responses stand out simply because of how ludicrous they are. Sure, there's a cottage industry in really inept attacks on the man, but at least they make real arguments. The best this guy can come up with is this dribble?

Don't, aha, quit your day job.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

China, Iran, and The YouTube Effect

So as I said, the Internet is being blamed for the Chinese strife and is being shut down:

Chinese authorities blame foreign activists for inciting violent protests this week in Xinjiang, and say the Internet enabled them to do it. Uighur groups have used the Internet to rapidly get out images from what they say was a provocative government crackdown on a peaceful demonstration.

Following Sunday's violence in Xinjiang region, Chinese authorities were hasty to point fingers.

At a news conference Monday, Xinjiang's police chief Liu Yaohua blamed the World Uighur Congress, an international Uighur rights group.

Liu accused the organization of distorting China's ethnic and religious policy to stir up conflict. But he especially singled out the Internet, describing it as the main medium that foreign forces use to communicate with Uighurs in China.

Uighur activists say a peaceful demonstration Sunday in Xinjiang's capital, Urumqi, turned violent after police began cracking down. Chinese authorities accuse groups like the World Uighur Congress of masterminding a riot from afar, in an effort ultimately aimed at creating an independent Xinjiang.

The government has acted quickly to block access to information. Authorities acknowledge that Internet service in Urumqi has been interrupted, but they do not say how long it will be out. They say the interruption was done legally, and is necessary to maintain social stability.

Twitter disabled

In Beijing, the Twitter messaging system, which protesters in Iran recently used to report on police crackdowns there, has been disabled. And while cell phone connections in the Xinjiang capital, Urumqi, still operate, getting a call to the city, or making an international call from there, is proving difficult.

Xiao Qiang teaches journalism at the University of California at Berkeley. He also edits China Digital Times, a round-up of Chinese-language content on the Internet.

"Internet is playing a bigger role this year," Xiao noted. "Partially because what happened in Urumqi was immediately exposed by lots of cell-phone cameras, digital cameras, videos - there's a lot of witness(es), people [who] immediately wrote and sent out video images on the Internet."
The Green Uprising appears to be spreading, as is the response. They're blaming "foreign activists" just like Khamenei 'n Co, and are once again shutting down the Internet in a near-panic after videos started spreading of what was going on.

(Supposedly; the videos I've seen are a bit unclear as to what's going on. Lots of people, but no indication of the nature of the violence.)

Still, it does make me think. The biggest problem with mass protest these days is that it isn't massive enough. People tend to be either too insular or too spread out to be exposed to the site of tens of thousands (or hundreds of thousands, or millions) of people making their voices heard. The newsmedia has never been really comfortable with it, and tends to retreat to their talking heads and safe, comfortable "analysts" as soon as they possibly can. Because they were the gatekeepers, viewers were exposed to the analysts, and not to the protesters.

Looks like those days are over. Video is everywhere, that much is clear. Unless you shut down the Internet entirely, you can expect that there will be video of protests. Lots of video. High angles, low angles, in-crowd angles, anything you can think of, and rest assured that it'll all end up on YouTube and the like. (But mostly YouTube.)

There were a lot of articles written about "the CNN effect"; about how newsmedia could be used to affect foreign policymaking, and about how it can be and is manipulated to serve factional ends in conflict zones. With the newsmedia declining in relevance and discarding more credibility by the day, what's striking is that individuals are stepping up.

Call it "The YouTube Effect." It's like the CNN Effect, but many-to-many. There are no gatekeepers involved, except perhaps for the video hosts, and therefore nobody for powerful agents to spin or pressure. The video tends to be raw and powerful, so viewers don't think they're being manipulated, even if they are. The timing is instantaneous: you can have a video up within minutes of taking it. And thanks to the other tools available, distribution of the links and quick expert analysis can happen almost as quickly as the footage itself.

Most importantly, it's enormously difficult to stop. Look at the lengths that China and Iran had to go to. Yes, they eventually shut things down. But it takes so much time, so much work, and such heavy repression that they're practically forced to shut the entire Internet down, since a single hole will be used to sneak more information out.

But A modern economy can't function that way. It needs communication. It needs connectivity. Repressive agents are forced to make a choice: either cripple their economy, or open the door to footage getting out. In the long run, they must choose the latter. But because they do, and because there's no "news cycle" online, they run the risk of tension flaring up after they think it's all over.

At least the CNN effect could be handled by expelling the reporters. But the YouTube effect? Nobody really knows how to "handle" that. Or if they can.

It might have an effect in the west, too. The western newsmedia—especially American news—tends to discount or downplay protests as fringe and ineffective. Part of that is because people never really see the size of the protests, and are forced to rely on inaccurate descriptions by those "experts" I mentioned earlier. That's over. Video showing just how big a protest is can be out online within minutes. If there are tens of thousands of people, rest assured that you can easily show people that there are tens of thousands of people. That may—and likely will—revive public protest in the West.

Nobody can be fully sure where this will end up. Many-to-many video distribution is a new thing, and arguably a bigger deal than many-to-many text distribution was. We're moving away from YouTube-as-harmless amusement to YouTube-as-vital service. But where it goes after that? It depends on people react.

Timeline in Western China

Facts seem thin on the ground about the brutal and bloody conflict in Western China, but I found a timeline from The Australian that I think may help out:
The sequence of events is contested, but goes like this. In Shaoguan City in distant Guangdong province two Uighurs were accused of raping a Han Chinese girl. The Chinese authorities now say this accusation was baseless. However, it led to some kind of anti-Uighur pogrom and at least two Uighurs, and possibly a few more, were killed.

This led, the next day, to a demonstration against the general repression of Uighurs, China's biggest Muslim minority, in Xinjiang's capital city, Urumqi. The Uighurs have a lot of grievances. The Australian government clearly thinks some of them significant, as Uighur issues always figure in the annual Australia-China human rights dialogue. When the Chinese communists took control of Xinjiang in 1949, ethnic Han made up about 6 per cent of the population, with Uighurs the vast majority.

Today, the Han make up about 50 per cent, with Uighurs a minority in their own homeland. There are several other ethnic minorities in Xinjiang. It is now a very segregated province. Urumqi has clear Han and Uighur districts, and throughout Xinjiang there are separate Uighur, Khazak and Han villages.

The practice of the Muslim religion is very circumscribed. Individual visits to Mecca for the haj are illegal. Religion is discouraged in schools, religious festivals not fully celebrated.

The vast natural resource development has resulted in jobs for Han, not for Uighurs. Although Xinjiang is formally designated a Uighur Autonomous Region, all political power, most political positions, most jobs and most economic development has gone to the Han. Some Han are recent migrants, others were forcibly relocated to Xinjiang during either the Great Leap Forward or the Cultural Revolution.

The Uighurs say the recent violence began when their peaceful demonstration was met with savage brutality by Chinese police. We cannot know for sure what happened, but the Uighur claims are plausible as they would be consistent with Chinese police behaviour elsewhere in China and especially in Xinjiang.

The Chinese authorities say the violence began when the Uighur demonstrators went on an anti-Han rampage. Subsequently Han mobs went on an anti-Uighur rampage. If any other country were managing a minority region with this degree of crudity there would be immediate calls for greater autonomy and perhaps self determination. But, as usual, the Chinese have the international community bluffed. They have achieved this with Xinjiang in part by convincing the world that all Uighur activists are 9/11-style terrorists.

In fact, the Americans are trying to find homes for the Uighur residents of Guantanamo Bay because they have come to the conclusion that they pose no terrorist threat.

There have been Uighur separatist terrorist bombings in China, but independent analysts believe the number of Uighurs involved in international jihadist terrorism is tiny. However, by its recent behaviour China certainly risks radicalising young Uighur men.
No kidding. Leaving aside the anti-China stuff, it seems very, very unlikely that the Uighur are extraordinarily radical. The extent to which they're radicalized seems to be line with their difficult situation, not any kind of extremist Islamic theocracy.

But it's hard to say exactly what happened, because the Internet has been, you guessed it, blamed for this and shut down. More on that in the next post.

Monday, July 06, 2009

Franken in, Palin Out

There have been worse times. At least politically.

Massive and Bloody Repression of Uighurs in China

The BBC has the story:

Violence in China's restive western region of Xinjiang has left at least 140 people dead and more than 800 people injured, state media say.

Several hundred people were arrested after a protest, in the city of Urumqi on Sunday, turned violent.

Beijing says Uighurs went on the rampage but one exiled Uighur leader says police fired on students.

The protest was reportedly prompted by a deadly fight between Uighurs and Han Chinese in southern China last month.

The BBC's Chris Hogg in Shanghai says this is one of the most serious clashes between the authorities and demonstrators in China since Tiananmen Square in 1989.

Eyewitnesses said the violence started on Sunday in Urumqi after a protest of a few hundred people grew to more than 1,000.

Xinhua says the protesters carried knives, bricks and batons, smashed cars and stores, and fought with security forces.

Wu Nong, news director for the Xinjiang government, said more than 260 vehicles were attacked and more than 200 shops and houses damaged.

Most of the violence is reported to have taken place in the city centre, around Renmin (People's) Square, Jiefang and Xinhua South Roads and the Bazaar.

The police presence was reported to be heavy on Monday.

Adam Grode, an American studying in Urumqi, told Associated Press: "There are soldiers everywhere, police are at all the corners. Traffic has completely stopped."

A witness in the Xinjiang city of Kashgar told AP there was a protest there on Monday of about 300 people but there were no clashes with police.

It is still unclear who died in Urumqi and why so many were killed.

The Xinjiang government blamed separatist Uighurs based abroad for orchestrating attacks on ethnic Han Chinese.

But Uighur groups insisted their protest was peaceful and had fallen victim to state violence, with police firing indiscriminately on protesters in Urumqi.

Dolkun Isa, a spokesman for the World Uyghur Congress (WUC) in Munich, disputed the official figures, saying the protest was 10,000 strong and that 600 people were killed.

He rejected reports on Xinhua that it had instigated the protests.

Xinhua had quoted the Xinjiang government as blaming WUC leader Rebiya Kadeer for "masterminding" the violence.

But Mr Isa said the WUC had called on Friday only for protests at Chinese embassies around the world.

Alim Seytoff, the vice-president of another Uighur group - the US-based Uighur American Association - condemned the "heavy-handed" actions of the security forces.

"We ask the international community to condemn China's killing of innocent Uighurs. This is a very dark day in the history of the Uighur people," he said.

When asked about the rioting, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said that all governments must protect freedom of speech and "the life and safety of civilian populations".

A spokesman for UK PM Gordon Brown said Britain was urging "restraint on all sides".
The Chinese government must be on a hair-trigger right now, considering the Iranian case, their rising unemployment, and the growing sense that economic growth is not going to continue indefinitely. I'd be suprised if we don't see more of this. Unfortunately.

Edit: Subsequent stories put it across that the violence has ben primarily Uighur-on-Han, not Han-o-Uighur. I'm skeptical about that: this piece in the Brisbane Times compelling demonstrates victims on both sides. The problem, naturally, is that we don't know what's really going on. The censorship wall in China is too strong.

Anyway, I'm doing a follow-up.

Sunday, July 05, 2009

Key Iranian Clerical Group Says "Fraud!"

According to the New York Times, the Association of Researchers and Teachers of Qum has called the election of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad "illegitimate":

A statement by the group, the Association of Researchers and Teachers of Qum, represents a significant, if so far symbolic, setback for the government and especially the authority of the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, whose word is supposed to be final. The government has tried to paint the opposition and its top presidential candidate, Mir Hussein Moussavi, as criminals and traitors, a strategy that now becomes more difficult — if not impossible.

“This crack in the clerical establishment, and the fact they are siding with the people and Moussavi, in my view is the most historic crack in the 30 years of the Islamic republic,” said Abbas Milani, director of the Iranian Studies Program at Stanford University. “Remember, they are going against an election verified and sanctified by Khamenei.”

The announcement came on a day when Mr. Moussavi released documents detailing a campaign of fraud by the current president’s supporters, and as a close associate of the supreme leader called Mr. Moussavi and former President Mohammad Khatami “foreign agents,” saying they should be treated as criminals.

The documents, published on Mr. Moussavi’s Web site, accused supporters of the president of printing more than 20 million extra ballots before the vote and handing out cash bonuses to voters.

Since the election, the bulk of the clerical establishment in the holy city of Qum, an important religious and political center of power, has remained largely silent, leaving many to wonder when, or if, the nation’s most senior religious leaders would jump into the controversy that has posed the most significant challenge to the country’s leadership since the Islamic Revolution.

With its statement Saturday, the association of clerics — formed under the leadership of the revolution’s founder, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini — came down squarely on the side of the reform movement.
The news has been lighter than it was earlier, both because of the media crackdown and because the resistance has moved away from the gigantic open protests and because the repression of expression has been so terrible. And things have been discouraging.

But this is positive news. It demonstrates that despite the outward appearance of calm, many clerics recognize the dangers of a military regime with Ahmadinejad's face...and are cognizant of the public's anger bubbling below the surface.

Keep in mind that the last revolution fomented for over a year. This issue was never going to be resolved in a day, or a week, or a month. Yes, the western media has moved on to endless pre-scripted elegies of an entertainer. But as everybody with any sense has said since this begun, this is not the west's story. It is Iran's.

Thursday, July 02, 2009

The Post Really is Going Downhill

Oh, look, a discredited neoconservative advocating blowing something up for its own good. In the Washington Post. Again.

Remember when there used to be a difference between the Post and the Times?