Wednesday, June 17, 2009

A Note from Tehran - "Meet Now at Afte-Tir Square"

This below from a friend of a friend in Tehran. Always good to hear from those folks. By the way I understand if lots of people set their twitter account to "location: Tehran" it creates extra work for the Basij who are hunting down the people who wear green. Accordingly, I've changed my location for this blog. Right now we're standing in Afte-Tir Square.

here are my observations from last night march in Vali-Asr

1) The crowed was much younger, and less diverse, but still very very large in numbers
2) Very well organized and disciplined, no side incidents and very very silent
3) Posters appearing calling Mussavi the Ghandi of Iran and Ahmadinejad as enemy of Iran.. no mention of Mr. K or the system at all
4) Things got tense as we approached Jame-Jam (the official TV and Radio)
5) Protesters in Green headbands had formed a human chain preventing other protesters from approaching Jame-Jam main enterance
6) Riot police and Bassiji were in full force behind the fence at Jame-Jam...with people taunting them to come out
7) People started shouting that they will take revenge for the killings of the day before
8) Amazingly right in the middle of this... Charles-Junior Burger restaurant (appearing in Iran as Super Star Burger) was open and doing brisk business, (got myself a coke and and cheese burger).
9) Today the news is to convene at Afte-Tir square after the Iran-South Korea world cup game......around 17

Sent from my TehranBerry® wireless device

1700! That's now. Better hurry...

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Hard Questions for President Obama

Last year I posted here, and at my blog at Standpoint Magazine, a series of "hard questions" for then-Senator Obama, who had shown himself during the primaries and election campaign unusually adept at avoiding such.

Herewith a new edition of Hard Questions for President Obama.

1) What are the US goals in Afghanistan?

2) What, so far as we understand, do the Afghan people want?

Given the degree and length of US and NATO involvement, answers to these questions should be clear, as for instance they are in Iraq, yet they are not.

Readers' answers in the comments section are welcome.

My previous "hard questions" posts may be found by following the link at the tag below.

Redux: Hard Questions for Senator Obama

Last year I posted, on this blog and on my blog at Standpoint magazine on-line, an occasional series, entitled “Hard Questions for Senator Obama."

Here were some I posted in July 2008:

1. Why does Senator Obama advocate a surge of troops in Afghanistan though he considers a surge of troops in Iraq to have been a mistake?
2. Why is a stable Afghanistan crucial to US interests while a stable Iraq is not?
3. How long does Senator Obama expect to keep troops in Afghanistan?
4. Why is an open-ended commitment in Afghanistan manageable while the same in Iraq is not?
5. How much does Senator Obama expect to spend rebuilding Afghanistan?
6. Why is rebuilding Afghanistan affordable while rebuilding Iraq is not?
7. Why does Senator Obama consider the ethno-sectarian issues in Iraq to be nearly intractable while in Afghanistan they are something we can overcome?
8. If leaving Iraq will make the Iraqi government behave more responsibly, how will an increased presence in Afghanistan affect the Afghan government?
9. Why does Senator Obama advocate a "surge in diplomacy" and multilateralism in Iraq while simultaneously advocating unilateral action in the Pakistani tribal areas?
10. How large of a "residual force" will be left in Iraq and for how long?

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Perspectives on Race

I'm constantly reminded that I give less thought to race and ethnicity than I should. Race is such a complex issue, especially, because of its history, in America.

That said, after reading the text of the 2001 Mario G. Olmos Memorial Lecture delivered by Judge Sonia Sotomayor (link below), I got to thinking... thinking in a whole new way.

Could it be, I wondered, that I as "a wise Cherokee" would offer better judgment on tobacco-related issues than the federal appeals justices now sitting?

Heck, "my people" invented the stuff!

Well, no, actually, I couldn't. Or not, in any case, because of my ethnicity.

Judge Sotomayor's lecture here.

Notes on Mount Parnassus

Strange doings in the world of English letters. During the run up to the election this year for the Oxford Professorship of Poetry a half dozen candidates withdrew to make way for the distinguished entry of Nobel Laureate Derek Walcott. Then, in the face of an energetic campaign to remind the Oxford community of ancient but credible allegations that the poet from St. Lucia, now an octogenarian, had sexually harassed students at Harvard and Boston University decades ago, Walcott himself withdrew. This left two candidates, one being Ruth Padel, who was duly elected.

This week, in the wake of admitting that she’d played a role in spreading the tittle-tattle about Walcott, Padel resigned the professorship before she’d even ascended to it.

I’ve always considered poets the unacknowledged legislators of our time (as noted here). That said, poets, or those in the world of letters, apparently don’t always have their eyes on the stars.

In an earlier career I edited a literary magazine in New York. More recently, I’ve written some screenplays. Apropos the Oxford contretemps, and having spent time in both realms, I’ve often said to friends that Hollywood is much less rough-and-tumble than what Terry Southern used to call “the quality lit game.” But no one ever believes me.

Meanwhile, this correspondent is going fishin’… this very weekend, in fact, on the River Test. As someone once said, “God never did make a more calm, quiet, innocent recreation than angling.”