Archive for the 'Iran' Category

Whip It

He then prepared to move forward to Abydos, where a bridge had already been constructed across the Hellespont from Asia to Europe. Between Sestos and Madytus in the Chersonese there is a rocky headland running out into the water opposite Abydos. This headland was the point to which Xerxes’ engineers carried their two bridges from Abydos—a distance of two furlongs. One was constructed by the Phoenicians using flax cables, the other by the Egyptians with papyrus cables. The work was successfully completed, but a subsequent storm of great violence smashed it up and carried everything away. Xerxes was very angry when he learned of the disaster, and gave orders that the Hellespont should receive three hundred lashes and have a pair of fetters thrown into it. I have heard before now that he also sent people to brand it with hot irons. He certainly instructed the men with the whips to utter, as they wielded them, the barbarous and presumptuous words: “You salt and bitter stream, your master lays this punishment upon you for injuring him, who never injured you. But Xerxes the King will cross you, with or without your permission. No man sacrifices to you, and you deserve the neglect by your acid and muddy waters.” In addition to punishing the Hellespont Xerxes gave orders that the men responsible for building the bridges should have their heads cut off. The men who received these invidious orders duly carried them out, and other engineers completed the work . . . .

All that day the preparations for the crossing continued; and on the following day, while they waited for the sun which they wished to see as it rose, they burned all sorts of spices on the bridges and laid boughs of myrtle along the way. Then sunrise came, and Xerxes poured wine into the sea out of a golden goblet and, with his face turned to the sun, prayed that no chance might prevent him from conquering Europe or turn him back before he reached its utmost limits. His prayer ended, he flung the cup into the Hellespont and with it a golden bowl and a Persian acinaces, or short sword. I cannot say for certain if he intended the things which he threw into the water to be an offering to the Sun-god; perhaps they were—or it may be that they were a gift to the Hellespont itself, to show he was sorry for having caused it to be lashed by whips.

—Herodotus, The Histories


Buyer Beware

I am for sure believing that “a chaotic used car salesman, nicknamed ‘Scarface,’ with a string of failed businesses behind him,” is at the center of a Web Of Evil. The veritable vortex of a nefarious plot to blow up the Saudi ambassador to the US, as well as 120 or so other people.

Because this is just the sort of man I would want on my A Team, if I were about Big Badness:

“His socks would not match. He was always losing his keys and his cellphone.”

He was perennially disheveled, friends and acquaintances said, and hopelessly disorganized.

Many of his old friends and associates in Texas seemed stunned at the news, not merely because he was not a zealot, but because he seemed too incompetent to pull it off.

[H]e had no interest in religion or politics, and smoked marijuana and drank alcohol freely.

[H]e was hopelessly unreliable. Sam Ragsdale, who runs his own wholesale car business in Corpus Christi, had one word for Mr. Arbabsiar: “Worthless.”

[He] tried his hand at a number of businesses, selling horses, ice cream, used cars and gyro sandwiches, friends said. All of them appear to have flopped, and federal and state records show a trail of liens, business-related lawsuits and angry creditors.

But you know, in the intelligence biz, we just call this “good cover.”


America Held Hostage

Former ABC media personality Ted Koppel has taken to the Washington Post to cry in his beer that television news has been ruined—ruined, I tell ya—by the likes of sportscaster Keith Olbermann and falafel freak Bill O’Reilly.

Proving once again, I suppose, that it is an occupational hazard of being human that at some point you will start hallucinating that your own personal prime was a sort of Golden Age, and that everything since has gone straight to Hell.

And if and when I reach that point, I want the keyboard ripped out of my hands, and duct tape slapped across my mouth.

Anyway, Koppel in his Post piece portrays himself more or less as a Christ-like figure of journalism. He is apparently unaware that when he first stumbled onto the air, people like myself regarded him as more akin to Bozo the Clown. In my karass, Koppel for years was an object of rude mockery and derision; finally, we simply stopped watching him. The dude, we concluded, was a stooge.


Quiet Desperation

An Iranian court has sentenced journalist Jila Baniyaghoob to a year in jail, and decreed that she may not write again for 30 years. Her crime: “propaganda against the Islamic regime.”

The court ruled that Baniyaghoob had inscribed criminal word clusters involving last June’s disputed presidential elections and their bloody aftermath, for a variety of reformist journals and websites that have since been shut down by the government.

Baniyaghoob’s husband, economic writer Bahman Ahmadi-Amouie, is currently serving a five-year sentence for “conspiracy against national security.”

The Iranian government has been cycling Baniyaghoob in and out of stir since 2006. In that year she was arrested after attending a feminist rally in Tehran. In 2007 she was detained while covering a trial of Iranian women’s-rights activists. In 2008 she was interned for “disturbing public order” by attending another women’s rally. In June of 2009 she and her husband were carried off by Iranian intelligence officers, who raided their home in the wee hours of the morning, and deposited them in Evin prison. That year she was awarded the Courage in Journalism Award by the International Women’s Media Foundation.


Out Of The Mouths Of Bums

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is not a particularly palatable person. He is something of a ruffian, has a serious Jew problem, and I would definitely not want to be a woman, gay, or even just a person who likes to shoot his mouth off, within range of his regime.

But that does not mean he is incapable of saying right things.

At a two-day nuclear-disarmament forum held last week in Tehran—under the rubric “Nuclear Energy For All, Nuclear Weapons For None,” which sounds like only half a good idea to me—Ahmadinejad advanced two sound notions.

First, that if the United States is so all-fired interested in achieving a world without nuclear weapons, it should extinguish its own nuclear stockpile first.

This seems eminently fair, as the US is the only nation in history to deliberately use nukes as weapons of mass destruction, and its current nuclear inventory is far greater than that of any other nation.

Second, Ahmadinejad said that future nuclear-disarmament talks should be controlled by states that do not possess nuclear weapons. This also seems fair. I have always thought the lead here should be granted to South Africa, which is the only nation known to have deliberately destroyed its nuclear weapons, after once having produced them.

Neither of these things is likely to happen any time soon, but that doesn’t mean that they shouldn’t.

As A City Upon A Hill

Builders of states, architects of revolution: these are usually idealists, who believe that what they create shall be different, better, other, more, than all that came before.

If wishes were horses . . . .

CD2-01John Winthrop, Puritan prelate of the Massachusetts Bay Company, promised to plant on the shores of North America a beacon for all the world: “the eyes of all people are upon us,” he said, and “we shall be as a city upon a hill.” Yet before his people could even properly feed themselves, they were busy hanging one another for adultery.

Nearly 400 years later, the animatronic Ronald Reagan proclaimed that Winthrop’s fabled American city had taken on a glow—we were now “a shining city on a hill.” To which William Burroughs was heard to grumble: “America may well be the hope of the world. It is also the source of such emotional plagues as drug hysteria, racism, Bible belt morality, Protestant capitalistic ethic, muscular Christianity, that have spread everywhere, transforming this planet into an annex of Hell.” My own observation, expressed at the time, was that the only American city I could see with much of a shine, there during Reagan’s time, was Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, then all aglow from the near-meltdown of the Three Mile Island nuclear facility.

In a 1972 interview with the Italian journalist Oriana Fallaci, then-Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir confessed her deep disappointment with the reality of the Jewish state.

You’ll think me foolish, naive, but I thought that in a Jewish state there wouldn’t be the evils that afflict other societies. Theft, murder, prostitution. I thought so because we had started out so well. Fifteen years ago in Israel there were almost no thefts, and there were no murders, there was no prostitution. Now instead we have everything, everything. And it’s something that breaks your heart[.]

So too, Iran. 


Take Two

There are grumblings this morning that the United States should not accept the results of Friday’s presidential election in Iran, where incumbent Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has been declared the victor.

Appearing on Meet the Press, Vice President Joe Biden opined:

“It sure looks like the way they’re suppressing speech, the way they’re suppressing crowds, the way in which people are being treated, that there’s some real doubt.”

Maybe so, maybe so. Problem is that here, as in so many areas of human conduct, the US is precluded from objecting too loudly without prompting much of the world to snicker about American hypocrisy.

For in December of 2000, George W. Bush was selected as President of the United States, despite the fact that Albert Gore had won the election, if “winning” is defined, as it traditionally is, by receiving the most votes—which Gore did, in the disputed state of Florida, had every legitimate ballot cast actually been counted.

Those votes were not counted, however, because Bush operatives first forcibly shut down the counting of ballots, and then obtained a 5-4 ruling from the United States Supreme Court that permanently halted ballot-counting, effectively proclaiming Bush president.

Barack+Obama+Sworn+44th+President+United+States+GoTWPgeWK6GlThree of the five justices who installed Bush as president possessed conflicts that should have compelled them to recuse themselves from the case. Antonin Scalia’s son was a partner in the legal firm representing Bush before the high court. Clarence Thomas’ wife was busily processing applications for those seeking appointment to the yet-to-be Bush administration. Sandra Day O’Connor on election night had publicly exclaimed “this is terrible” upon learning that Gore had apparently won; she wished to retire from the bench, but would only do so under a Republican president.

Nonetheless, these folks, the supreme law of the land, declared Bush the victor, and so he was.

khameini-defend gazaNow, in Iran, the supreme law of that land, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khameini, has declared Ahmadinejad the victor. And so he is.

Both the United States Supreme Court and Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khameini may boast of the word “supreme” in their titles. Both wear robes. Neither were elected by the people they govern to the positions they hold.

Meanwhile, from the safety of the tubes, voluble keyboard commandos are urging the Iranian people to resist recognizing Ahmadinejad’s re-election, decreeing: “If it comes down to a violent revolution, so be it.”

Maybe these people should reflect that it was a violent revolution, in 1979-80, that brought the current Iranian regime to power.

When I Worked

September 2017
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