December 27, 2002

Hope in Iran.

I read somewhere that Iran is the one country America hasn’t messed with in the past 20 years, and it’s the only Middle Eastern country where the people aren’t violently anti-American. Maybe there’s a lesson there, I don’t know.

I don’t know much about this organization , the Student Movement Coordination Committee for Democracy in Iran. I don’t know if the ruling junta in Iran tolerates this sort of thing because it’s harmless or because they’re about to topple the rotted mullahcracy. All I know is it’s one of the few heartening bits of news to come out of the Middle East in a long time.


Iranian Students’ Movement: “Leave Palestine Alone, Think About Us!”

In the midst of the recent large-scale student demonstrations in Iran calling for freedom of speech and condemning the death sentence handed down for Dr. Hashem Aghajari, the regime’s leaders, notably President Mohammad Khatami, called on the students to demonstrate for International Qods (Jerusalem) Day against Israel and Zionism.

In response to these calls, the Student Movement Coordination Committee for Democracy in Iran issued a statement critical of Islamist terror groups and antisemitism in the Arab and Muslim world. The communiqué also harshly criticized the Iranian government regarding its policies. The following are excerpts from the statement, translated into English by the SMCCD authors themselves:

Honorable and freedom-loving people of Iran:

Day by day, the military and political crisis in the region of the Persian Gulf and the Middle East is getting deeper. In the region, every government and political force that is realistic... is looking for a logical solution to avoid a military clash... Under such circumstances, the usurpers of political power in Iran – that from the very beginning had based the establishment... of their inhumane order upon systematic government-sponsored terrorism against their own people – are attempting to shamelessly support the pro-war factions and the Palestinian terrorist groups through the forced gathering of government employees and Hezbollah thugs.

While the United States of America names the regime ruling in Iran as a member of the axis of evil, the European Union maintains that one of its preconditions for expanding its trade and economic relations with the Islamic Republic of Iran is the official recognition by Iran of the two governments of Israel and Palestine. At every opportunity the Iranian nation cries “Leave Palestine Alone, Think About Us.” But the rulers of tyranny with disregard for the demands of their own people as well as public opinion in the West, continue to gather their mercenary forces and government employees for their outdated play of the so-called Universal Day of Ghods [Jerusalem Day, an anti-Semitic hatefest instigated by Ayatollah Khomeini on the last Friday of Ramadan], and they continue with their shows and statements of antisemitism.

It is interesting that despite the expansion of the people’s outcries – with slogans such as “Khatami, Khatami, Resign, Resign,” “Leader: Get Lost,” and “Down with the Taliban, Whether in Kabul or Tehran” - once again, the powerless President of the regime [Khatami], who mutters about lawfulness and national interests, by shutting his ears and in order to fool the public, has invited the people to participate in the Ghods Day demonstration...

By labeling the U.S.... the “Great Satan,” and Israel... the “Occupier of Muslim Lands,” Iran has introduced them as the sworn enemies of Iran; and, subsequent rulers have honored this tradition.

Now that the people of Iran want to establish peaceful relations with the U.S. and believe that both the nations of Israel and Palestine have the right to exist, the Islamic Republic sees no choice but to launch widespread propaganda in the government-owned media and to release statements in support of the mandatory observation of the Day of Ghods.

The rulers of the Islamic Republic are incapable of understanding the simple fact that in a political environment where... opposing forces are gathering against one another, so that on one side exist the pro-war forces and the supporters of the culture of terror and violence, and on the other, exist the forces that desire a peaceful and constructive resolution to the Arab-Israeli conflict... observing the Day of Ghods in support of violence is a lunacy that is neither advantageous to the Palestinian nation nor does it coincide with the national interests of the people of Iran.

The defense of peace and calm in the Middle East is not attainable through the support for terrorists and war-mongering groups; rather, it is to be attained through the pursuit of political dialogue between the two sides while simultaneously removing the roots of fundamentalism, terror, and violence.

The Student Movement Coordination Committee for Democracy in Iran believes that in accordance with international charters, both nations of Israel and Palestine have the right and the capability to live alongside one another as two free and independent states. This committee, while condemning the agitating acts of the Islamic Republic, requests that the freedom-loving and struggling nation of Iran, especially the youth and the students, give a crushing response to the promoters of antisemitism and terrorism by boycotting the sham and mandatory demonstration of the so-called World-Wide Day of Ghods.

Long live Freedom!
Long live Secularism!

December 26, 2002

Sorry, but I don’t get it.

Hey I have as much disdain for Saddam Hussein as the next guy. If I could wave a magic wand and have him disappear in a puff of green slime I’d wave it. I think we should’ve taken him out in ‘91, I have no patience for the inept U.N. or custard-brained liberals who encourage some rapprochement with the filthy murderous thug. Any Iraqi children who do happen to be dying are solely the fault of Saddam Hussein, not U.N. sanctions.

That said, I don’t see the reason for a new Gulf War.

Bear with me on this. Let’s go through some of the pro and con arguments as laid out in a useful (late October) reason debate between John Mueller, who holds the Woody Hayes Chair of National Security Studies at Ohio State, and reason contributing editor Brink Lindsey, senior fellow at the Cato Institute. The full debate can be found in reason’s January 2003 issue.

Mueller argues that as crazy as Saddam is on any number of counts, he is remarkably clear-headed when it comes to self-preservation. This is correct. He’s likely to realize that any aggressive military action on his part will surely end with his ouster. As one American serviceman said recently “I almost feel sorry for those guys. This isn’t ten years ago. The weapons we have now don’t miss.” As strong a fantasyland as Saddam’s constructed around himself he must sense this.

He can’t trust his army – he keeps them away from Baghdad precisely because he doesn’t trust them. He remembers how they broke and ran and surrendered to Italian film crews in the last war – and that was when they were the fourth most powerful army in the world. They’re a shell of that today.

The main argument for war seems to be that we’re somehow striking a blow against al-Qaeda, against militant Islam, against international terrorism by doing so. How? I haven’t seen anything linking al-Qaeda to Iraq. Saddam fears militant Islam as much as the Saudis do, he’s not bulking up al-Qaeda. I haven’t seen any solid Iraqi links to 9/11 or even the failed first attack on the World Trade Center in 1993.

If it’s al-Qaeda and militant Islam you’re worried about, take out the House of Saud. Saudis fund terrorism to the tune of millions of dollars annually, Saudi Arabia’s an incubator for anti-American hatred, the vast majority of 9/11 perpetrators were Saudi, the Saudi government’s not doing jack to stop any terrorism, there’s your problem right there. Overthrow the rotted kleptocrat dictators in Saudi Arabia, remove the kingdom as the world’s primary source of terror funding and you’ve dealt al-Qaeda a vicious body blow.

Lindsey argues that the Ba’athist regime is guilty of numerous bloody atrocities. True, but they’re the only ones? Why didn’t we invade China over Tiannamen Square? Why don’t we invade North Korea? Zimbabwe?

Lindsey says that under Saddam Iraq has:

· Invaded two of its neighbors. Right. And got its butt kicked both times. Are we opposed to another Iran-Iraq war? I’m certainly not. And as far as I’m concerned if they invade Kuwait again they can have it and screw all those ungrateful little wretches, holding celebration parties in Kuwait City on 9/11. Tellwiddem.

· Lobbed missiles at two other countries in the region. To no discernible long-term effect.

· Systematically defied U.N. resolutions that demand its disarmament. And lost hundreds of billions of dollars for doing so. Shall we begin to count the number of times the United States has defied U.N. resolutions? Israel?

· Fired on U.S. and coalition aircraft thousands of times over the past decade. And scored their first and only success in that ten years by bringing down an unmanned drone last week. Here’s the drill: The Iraqis fire harmlessly on a jet. They miss. The jet destroys a radar installation. If Saddam wants to keep that game up more power to him.

· Committed atrocious human rights abuses… Yes. As did Pol Pot and there was no groundswell for invading Cambodia to take him out. As did the Soviet Union, atrocities many orders of magnitude greater than what Saddam has, and there was no serious talk of invading Russia. As did any number of South American dictators and America yawned. As did Marcos in the Philippines, China in Tibet, et al. Heck Turkey’s not exactly human rights-abuse free, and nobody’s proposing to invade Turkey.

· Tried to assassinate President Bush in Kuwait ten years ago And failed. So? For that we go to war?

The pursuit of the weapons of mass destruction are a concern. But you take care of that the way Israel took care of it – bomb a few reactors, factories, laboratories, presidential palaces, whatever infrastructural elements you need to. They’ll get the message sooner or later.

But let’s be clear: If thwarting militant Islam is why you’re going to war with Iraq, you’d get a lot more bang for your buck declaring war on Saudi Arabia. Of course the problem there is you can’t throw a bucket of M&M’s on any street in Riyadh without hitting a dozen foreigners. Actually all you’d have to do to bring down the House of Saud is revoke all American, Philippine and EU work visas for Saudi Arabia. Left to take care of themselves the whole place would collapse like a house of cards. Wouldn’t have to fire a shot.

So let’s be clear. We all want Saddam Hussein gone. Is it worth a war to knock him out? Not for the bite you’d take out of Islamic terrorism, which’d be minimal. Any other good reasons for invading? I can’t think of any.

More about Israeli and Arab settlements.

Ran across this piece from the Women In Green site about why so many Arabs try to move to Israel. Amazing that we don’t hear more like this from our own media, but have to ferret nuggets of truth out ourselves:

… just since the beginning of the Oslo Accords, hundreds of thousands of Arabs have entered the West Bank or Gaza – and never left. They have come from Jordan, Egypt and, indirectly, from every other Arab country you can name – and many non-Arab countries as well. These surely aren’t “Palestinians.”

Since 1967, the Arabs have built 261 settlements in the West Bank. We don’t hear much about those settlements. We hear instead about the number of Jewish settlements that have been created. We hear how destabilizing they are – how provocative they are. Yet, by comparison, only 144 Jewish settlements have been built since 1967 – including those surrounding Jerusalem, in the West Bank and in Gaza. Why is it that only Jewish construction is destabilizing?

The Arab “settlement” activity is not new. This has always been the case. Arabs have been flocking to Israel ever since it was created – and even before, coinciding with the wave of Jewish immigration into Palestine prior to 1948.

And that raises a question I never hear anyone ask: If Israel’s policies make life so intolerable for Arabs, why do they continue to flock to the Jewish state? Why aren’t they leaving in droves if conditions are as bad as they say?

The truth? There is more freedom under Israeli rule than there is in any Arab country. If you’re a headstrong Arab, bent on protest, this is the place to be. Don’t try throwing stones at Syrian police. You won’t live long. Don’t try publishing anti-kingdom newspapers in Saudi Arabia. You won’t live long. Don’t try fomenting revolutionary jihadism in Egypt. You won’t live long.

So, sooner or later, those who are determined to protest, the professional agitators, the future Arafats of the Arab world all come to Israel. The Arab world is happy to be rid of them. This exodus serves two purposes - limiting the threat to Arab regimes and fanning the uniting flames of anti-Israel hatred. It’s a population safety valve the totalitarian Arab world just loves.

Prior to 1900, the entire region was a barren wasteland with low populations of Jews, Muslims and Christians. No one had much interest in the Holy Land, as Mark Twain pointed out in his own travels to the area – until the Jews began to return.

Then the economic activity began. The jobs were created. The opportunities appeared. And then the Arabs came.

The “settlement” issue is a canard. It’s a propaganda ploy to suggest that only Jews are newcomers to the region. The truth is there are lots of “settlers” and would-be “settlers” in the area – including Arafat and his friends.

By the way, under the Oslo Accords, there are no restrictions whatsoever on Israeli construction in Judea, Samaria and Gaza. None. Zip. Nada. Zilch. These “settlements” are perfectly legal. And I, for one, can see no legitimate reason for them to stop.

December 25, 2002

Merry Christmas from Clubbeaux.

Merry Christmas from the Sims home, where once again bubble wrap goes unchallenged as the Favorite Gift of the Year. Were any of you wondering what to get us a roll of bubble wrap would keep us delighted for days on end.

My favorite actual gift this year was the Jumping Frogs game. Oh not for me, but it’s the gift my kids liked best. All the radio-controlled these and fancy-schmancy those, handmade theses and shipped-from-New Zealand thoses, their favorite toy – which you can tell because it’s the one they fight over – is the $2.98 twelve plastic jumping frogs you try to flick into a cup.

No, my favorite gifts for me were the Stones’ Exile On Main Street, the greatest album in the history of rock and a CD I’d lost a while back; the latest installment in The Complete Fawlty Towers on video and Joshua Muravchik’s Heaven On Earth: The Rise and Fall of Socialism (either that or Hot Young Nuns In Chains, I told my wife, whichever you see first at Barnes & Noble).

I won’t bore you with a lengthy rhapsody on why Exile’s the greatest moment in rock history (Merry Christmas!) or what I think of socialism. I’ll do that some other time.

I almost wish they didn’t deliver newspapers on Christmas Day – back when I was a paper boy I sure as heck wished they didn’t deliver papers on Christmas. It’d be nice, just for one day, to take a break from North Korea’s nuclear buildup, Yasser Arafat’s latest lame lies and hacked off liberals complaining about the government’s efforts to identify and track terrorists in the country, hacked off that Bush won’t accept their suggestion of asking every one (in their language of choice) politely if they’re a terrorist or not and respecting the cultural integrity of the answer and to continue making 81-year old white women take off their shoes in airports.

Sure the world’s going to hell in a handbasket, but it’s always been doing that, the names are the only things that change. Today it’s Iraq and North Korea, Christmases past it was Nazi Germany, Napoleon, the Ottomans, Alexander the Great, take your pick. S.S.,D.D.

Christmas and Easter are the two days of the year where we can be reminded that there’s a way out of the handbasket.

December 24, 2002

The Perils of Obedience

Read Dr. Stanley Milgram’s summary (thanks Rachel Lucas) of his famous obedience experiments and you can understand exactly why the Holocaust happened – indeed, why a great deal of world history happened.

The experiments began in July 1961, a year after the trial of Adolf Eichmann in Jerusalem. Milgram, a Yale University psychologist, devised the experiment to answer the question “Could it be that Eichmann, and his million accomplices in the Holocaust were just following orders? Could we call them all accomplices?”

The subject and an actor claiming to be another subject are told by the experimenter that they are going to participate in an experiment to test the effectiveness of punishment on learning behavior. Two slips of paper marked “teacher” are handed to the subject and actor, and the actor claims that his says “learner,” so the subject believes that his role has been chosen randomly. Participants are normal people, businessmen and housewives, workmen and secretaries.

Both are then given a sample 45-volt electric shock from an apparatus attached to a chair into which the actor is strapped. The teacher is given simple memory tasks to give to the learner and instructed to administer a shock by pressing a button each time the learner makes a mistake. After each mistake, the voltage is raised by 15 volts. The “teacher” is not told that there are no actual shocks being given to the actor, who feigns discomfort.

At 150 volts, the actor requests that the experiment end, and is told by the experimenter “The experiment requires that you continue. Please go on,” or similar words. He continues, and feigns greater discomfort, considerable pain, and claims he has a heart condition as the shocks continue. If the teacher becomes reluctant, he is instructed that the experimenter takes all responsibility for the results of the experiment and the safety of the learner, and that the experiment must continue.

By the last few shocks the subject isn’t even answering, there’s nothing but silence. The “teacher” reads the question, listens to silence, pushes the shock button, reads the next questions, listens to silence, pushes the shock button and continues all the way to the end.

In Milgram’s first set of experiments 60% of teachers administered the experiment’s final 450-volt shock, though many were quite uncomfortable in doing so. Nobody stopped before the 300-volt level.

Thomas Blass of the University of Maryland writes in the March/April 2002 issue of Psychology Today that he has collected results from repeats of the experiment done at various times since, in the U.S. and elsewhere, and found that the percentage of subjects who are prepared to inflict fatal voltages remains remarkably constant, between 61% and 66%, regardless of time or location – at one experiment in Munich over 80% of study participants followed orders and administered fatal voltages.

December 23, 2002

Joe Strummer, R.I.P.

Neil Young got it wrong – Johnny Rotten wasn’t the epitome of punk. Joe Strummer was. The heart and soul of punk died today.

But to call Joe Strummer a punk is to call Pablo Picasso a Cubist. Picasso, whatever word the art critics were enamored of when he came along, is an artist for the ages. When Joe Strummer co-wrote and recorded The Clash punk happened to be the word editors were badgering their hacks to work into copy. Joe Strummer doesn’t stand with Richard Hell, The Damned, The Minutemen and other forgotten punk acts. He stands with The Beatles, The Rolling Stones and Bob Dylan as someone who moved rock music forward.

Not that he was still punk at age 50. London isn’t burning forever, angry young men grow up and strike their bargains with the world. Some find peace, others simply find their place. Joe Strummer was the elder statesman for a genre which doesn’t allow elder statesmen.

Not that I cried when I heard Strummer died. For me a tragic death is an artist struck down during his artistically meaningful days – Buddy Holly, say. Christopher Marlowe. James Dean. Len Bias. I can’t think of any time I might cry when some rock star dies. Bob Dylan? Nah, I’d probably just take the day off.

Strummer was still making music with the Mescaleros. I haven’t heard any of that music. I don’t particularly care to, just like I don’t particularly care what my old girlfriends are up to these days. I’m sure it was nothing like The Clash, and I’m sure he was sick to death of people comparing it to The Clash. I probably wouldn’t like it but so what? He doesn’t need to please me. If what he did with The Clash isn’t good enough to last a lifetime that’s tough. Few musicians do so well once, nobody sustains that for a career.

I didn’t really get The Clash until 1983 or so, but when I did it was the last time I’ve ever felt like music could open up another world. “Complete Control” is nothing less than the greatest statement of punk and one of the most breathtaking songs of the rock era – barely-controlled bitterness exploding into a frenzied incoherence rarely achieved in studio or on stage.

I’m glad I don’t know the words to it, as I can put whatever words I need at the time to it. It’s a guy starting off a song thinking okay I’m going to try to say what I want to say within the boundaries of the genre but who halfway through the song realizes the genre doesn’t allow him to express what he wants to express so he rips the genre a new a-hole.

Sure a lot of The Clash sounds like a handful of spent matches today. Put me down as one Clash fan who really didn’t think London Calling was all that great anyway – a one-record distillation of Sandinista! would serve as The Clash’s finest sustained hour.

The Clash hung on a couple years too long. Okay, Combat Rock, cash in, fine, as long as you give us “Straight To Hell.” Even Cut The Crap had one indispensable song – “This Is England.” But it was clear Strummer was by then too rich, too jaded, too spent, too something to really feel it any more.

So he stopped. Played with The Pogues for a laugh and a pint. Put out Earthquake Weather which had one or two memorable songs, including the “Broadway” revisit of “Leopardskin Limousines,” but no punk. Produced the highlight tracks on former Clash bandmate Mick Jones’s No. 11 Upping Street. Had a family. Got on with life.

I’m glad The Clash never reformed for a Soak Your Wallet tour a la the Sex Pistols. Not that anybody took the Pistols seriously – they never asked to be taken seriously. What everyone missed with the Pistols is that they were one of the funniest rock bands ever. Which was fine, the world needed that about then.

Punk isn’t a complicated art form. Never Mind the Bollocks and The Clash said pretty much everything punk needed to say (that The Velvet Underground/Nico hadn’t already said). That both records came out in 1977 explains why the rest of it degenerated so quickly into marketing/New Wave.

I don’t know if Joe Strummer performed Clash songs in later concert appearances, I suppose he did. And I suppose it gave the veterans chills of remembrance. Of what once was. And of what will probably never be again.

Pete Rose voted into the Hall of Fame.

In a world exclusive Clubbeaux has learned that noted sports gambler Pete Rose has been tapped for induction in the Gamblers’ Hall of Fame, located in Reno, Nevada.

“Yeah, well, we was tired of seein’ Pete get beat up, y’know?” said Sammy Marcetti, curator of the Hall of Fame. “Dere was all dis talk about does Pete belong in the Hall or not. Hell, lemme tell you dere ain’t nobody alive who belongs in dis Hall of Fame more than Pete Rose.”

Hall of Fame guidelines stipulate that a gambler must have achieved at least $1 million in winnings to be considered, but that the rule was waived for Rose, who was known to have lost great sums of money. “We just thought it was the right thing to do, y’know? Our way of standin’ by a loyal, committed member of the gamblin’ fraternity.”

Rose thanked the Hall for the gesture, and said the honor couldn’t have been possible without legions of devoted bookies, underworld figures and sharks over the years. Rose paid tribute to noted Dayton, Ohio gambling kingpin Richard K. Skinner, to whom Rose owed $30,000, for dying in 1996 before he could collect the debt. “Sometimes you get lucky,” Rose said, smiling.

Skinner, whom the FBI said had close ties to the Mafia and cocaine trafficking secretly taped a 1986 conversation with Rose where the noted gambler discusses his debts and consuming gambling habit. A spokesman for Rose said while Skinner was known to law enforcement as one of the biggest bookies in Ohio, with direct links to a Mafia-controlled $1-billion-a-year gambling racket, Rose had always felt comfortable doing business with Skinner.

Skinner’s associates in the underworld assured Clubbeaux that they have not forgotten about the unpaid debt. “Debts are collected sooner or later,” said one associate who asked that only his first name, Vito be used. Tapping his kneecap he said “If we have to convince Mr. Rose that it’s not wise to welsh on debts I’m sure there are ways we can communicate the message.”

Other underworld figures holding outstanding balances with Rose applauded the efforts to reinstate Rose to baseball and possibly be elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y. as well. “It’d provide him some income, which we’d like to see,” one said, commenting on rumors that the Cincinnati Reds would be interested in hiring Rose as manager if Commissioner Bud Selig decides to reinstate Rose. “I think a few of the boys would get a kick out of hanging around a major-leage ballpark, keepin’ an eye on our investments.”