Free Markets, Free People

Freedom and Liberty

Iran: The Gauntlet Is Thrown – Power To The People

We may be getting ready to see a repressive regime underestimating the power of the people or we may be on the cusp of another Tiananmen Square.

Ayatollah Khamenei didn’t budge an inch in his speech today:

Addressing Friday prayers at Tehran University, the bearded septuagenarian offered no concessions to the millions of irate Iranians who have taken to the streets this week. Instead he issued an unmistakable warning to Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi, the defeated candidates.

“Those politicans who have influence on people should be very careful about their behaviour if they act in an extremist manner,” he said. “This extremism will reach a level which they will not be able to contain. They will be responsible for the blood, violence and chaos.”

“The Supreme Leader has drawn a line in the sand, and he has the muscle to back it up,” one Iranian analyst said. “His speech was a polite way of saying ‘Hey – there’s a coup and we’re in charge.’ It was an absolute declaration of power.”

Indeed it was. And Fox just had a correspondent on now in Tehran who has been seeing armed militias setting up at all the key intersections in the city.

Ayatollah Khamenei demanded the demonstrations stop. “I want to tell everyone these things must finish. These street actions are being done to put pressure on leaders but we will not bow in front of them,” he said. “I call on all to put an end to this method…If they don’t they will be held responsible for the consequences and chaos.”

“Consequences and chaos” seems a pretty clear indication that Khamenei plans on taking action of some type should the planned protests materialize tomorrow.

And the opposition?

But protestors said they would attend today’s rally come what may. “If the crowd is large enough there’s nothing they can do,” Bahrooz, an engineer, said. “If they start killing people that would bring about the fall of the regime.”

“All my friends are coming and they’re bringing their families,” Taraneh, an office worker, said. ”How many people can they arrest or kill?”

Brave words. Courageous intent. I wish them well and pray for their success.

But the bottom line is the guy who presently enjoys the monopoly on the use of force in that country has, in a somewhat nuanced way, announced he’s willing to use it.

But then the protester has a point as well. I believe we’re going to see a violent crackdown. The question then is do those who will have to inflict the violence upon the protesters have the will to see it through to completion – completion being killing and/or arresting enough protesters necessary to completely gut the protest movement.

I’m not sure, but I’m afraid we’re going to find out.

~McQ

Iran: Khameni Speaks

Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, head of the all powerful Guardian Council, gave his much anticipated speech in Iran today.

He effectively closed any chance for a new vote by calling the June 12 election a “definitive victory.”

The speech created a stark choice for opposition candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi and his supporters: drop their demands for a new vote or take to the streets again in blatant defiance of the man endowed with virtually limitless powers under Iran’s constitution.

This also leaves Mousavi with a very stark choice – back off and essentially support the regime, or put himself in a position to become an enemy of the regime. But what seems fairly clear is Khamenei isn’t going to sanction a new vote nor is he going to accept a different outcome. As proof of that, Khamenei essentially waves away the charge of voting fraud:

Khamenei said the 11 million votes that separated Ahmadinejad from his top opponent, Mousavi, was proof that fraud did not occur.

“If the difference was 100,000 or 200,000 or 1 million, one may say fraud could happen. But how can one rig 11 million votes?”

Of course we all know the arguments against this probability – i.e. Iran uses all paper ballots, polls were open until midnight and within hours the final results were announced (with skeptics pointing out it was physically impossible to count those ballots that quickly).

As was expected, Khamenei echoed the Ahmadinejhad charge of foreign (external) interference:

Khamenei blamed foreign media and Western countries of trying to create a political rift and stir up chaos in Iran.

“Some of our enemies in different parts of the world intended to depict this absolute victory, this definitive victory, as a doubtful victory,” he said, according to an official translation on state TV’s English-language channel. “It is your victory. They cannot manipulate it.”

Khameni’s speech sets up the possibility of a real confrontation between the regime and protesters:

Amnesty International said it was “extremely disturbed” by the speech, saying it indicated the “authorities’ readiness to launch violent crackdowns if people continue to protest”.

Amnesty says latest reports suggest that around 15 protesters have been killed and hundreds more injured or arrested by security forces.

A protest is scheduled in Tehran for tomorrow:

Demonstrators calling for a new election earlier vowed to stage fresh protests on Saturday.

But the governor of Tehran province, Morteza Tamadon, has said no permission has been given for such a rally and he hoped it would not be held.

The question, of course, is how will the regime react. Allahpundit at Hot Air has posted some interesting information about a rumored purge supposedly happening within the Iranian Revolutionary Guard. If true they indicate that the regime is planning a violent and lethal crackdown of the protesters.

Developing…

~McQ

Supporting the “Obama” of Iran?

I got a good laugh out of this particular characterization by Mohsen Makhmalbaf, the external spokesperson for Mir Hossein Mousavi. Foreign Policy magazine interviewed him in Paris:

FP: There has been growing criticism here in Washington that U.S. President Barack Obama hasn’t said or done enough to support those demonstrating in the streets of Iran. Do you think Obama is being too careful? Or even that he is helping Ahmadinejad by being cautious?

MM: Obama has said that there is no difference between Ahmadinejad and Mousavi. Does he like it himself [when someone is] saying that there is no difference between Obama and [George W.] Bush? Ahmadinejad is the Bush of Iran. And Mousavi is the Obama of Iran.

FP: Would Mousavi pursue a different foreign policy than Ahmadinejad?

MM: As you may know, former President Mohammad Khatami, who is supporting Mousavi at the moment, was in favor of dialogue between the civilizations, but Ahmadinejad talks about the war of the civilizations. Is there not any difference between the two?

We [Iranians] are a bit unfortunate. When we had our Obama [meaning President Khatami], that was the time of President Bush in the United States. Now that [the United States] has Obama, we have our Bush here [in Iran]. In order to resolve the problems between the two countries, we should have two Obamas on the two sides. It doesn’t mean that everything depends on these two people, but this is one of the main factors.

The only problem is there is nothing to really indicate that concerning the large issues – nuclear weapons, funding terror organizations (Hamas/Hezbollah) and keeping the Palestinian/Israeli situation stirred up, there’d be any difference at all.

As the Times of London reminds us:

Mr Mousavi, 67, is a creature of the political Establishment — a former revolutionary and prime minister who would like to liberalise Iranian politics but has never challenged the system in the way his followers are doing.

So the question remains who is this guy in reality? In fact he may be more like Obama than we imagine. He’s riding a wave of “hope and change” in Iran that may be completely different than what he’s willing or able to deliver. In other words, just as here in the US, he’s letting those who support him decide what “hope and change” mean for the purpose of putting him in power. He’d then govern as an establishment president albeit with a softer and more diplomatic touch.

The first indicator of his true colors comes today:

The moderate Iranian leader who says that he was robbed of victory in last week’s presidential election faces a fateful choice today: support the regime or be cast out.

Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran’s Supreme Leader, has told Mir Hossein Mousavi to stand beside him as he uses Friday prayers at Tehran University to call for national unity. An army of Basiji — Islamic volunteer militiamen — is also expected to be bussed in to support the Supreme Leader.

The demand was made at a meeting this week with representatives of all three candidates who claim that the poll was rigged, and it puts Mr Mousavi on the spot. He has become the figurehead of a popular movement that is mounting huge demonstrations daily against the “theft” of last Friday’s election by President Ahmadinejad, the ayatollah’s protégé.

Will he stand by Khamenei or will he defy him? My money’s on him supporting the regime.

~McQ

Republican Humor

It seems to be an oxymoron, like “military intelligence”.  Unfortunately, it’s not just an oxymoron with Republicans.  Democrats are similarly humorless, they just respond badly when different oxen are gored.  It seems to be a disease that patricularly affects the politically active, of aither party.

Steven Crowder makes the argument that conservatives should lighten up wqhen people like Letterman say something tasteless.

One of my goals in life is to watch political correctness shrivel up and die (as it should be for any true Conservative). I can’t do that however, if Republicans insist on resuscitating it back to life every time they want to act “offended.” Do we really want to be the person at the party around which everyone has to tiptoe around for fear of offending our sensibilities? Come on… We’re not supposed to be “that guy.” Leave that kind of crap to the Sean Penn pansies of the world.

It’s not an argument that some people want to hear, like. say Patterico:

I didn’t get outraged by Barack Obama’s Special Olympics joke (a position that, curiously, itself outraged some of the very people who today claim to back up Letterman’s right to tell an “edgy” joke). I just mocked Obama as someone less articulate than advertised — and then mocked him again. But there were those with ties to Special Olympians who were genuinely outraged. Their outrage wasn’t manufactured, and they weren’t being humorless — because, Crowder my pal, it wasn’t a funny joke.

My reaction to Sykes and to Letterman is similar. They showed a lack of class, and their jokes weren’t funny.

Yeah.  Because whenever you really want to get clued in the ultimate source of humor, who better than a prosecutor to track that down for you?  I think we all know that those guys are just a barrel of laughs.

First of all those jokes were funny.  When the people in question told them, they got laughs.  So clearly, they had an audience.  Moreover, in the case of Sykes and Letterman, you have two people who are genuinely funny.  They make extremely comfortable livings at being funny professionally.  So, either the free market is failing horrifically, or something else is going on besides their jokes not being funny.

And, frankly Patterico knows exactly what’s going on.

Proof that the way you react to a controversial joke is heavily influenced by your particular station in life…there were those with ties to Special Olympians who were genuinely outraged.

Sure they were.  It hit too close to home.  It’s always funny until someone loses an eye, or comes up with an extra chromosome.  Then it’s tasteless and insensitive.  And the Republican response to the Letterman/Palin thing is no different.  Patterico even says so:

While I disagree with some of the more violent reactions to Letterman’s joke, I can understand them, and will not be quick to judge the sincerity of my fellow Republicans — who, remember, still have a deep wellspring of genuine outrage to draw on, stemming from the way Palin and her family were treated during the campaign.

Shorter Patterico: Life’s not fair!

Cry me a river.

First of all, anyone who knows anything about David Letterman knows that he doesn’t, and never has, countenanced anything even remotely related to pedophilia in his show’s comedy.  And he has guys on like Louis CK and Jim Norton, who touch on subjects like that in their regular routines, who are told quite clearly that this is the case.

And, lest we forget, Sarah Palin does, in fact, have a daughter that got knocked up by an athlete, and ended up with an out-of-wedlock child.  That’s clearly the reference Letterman was shooting for, and all this talk of “jokes about raping a child” are intentionally obtuse.

And please: don’t tell me I’m humorless if the joke I’m laughing at isn’t funny. Sometimes it’s really the other guy who lacks the sense of humor.

Well, sorry, but the problem is you.  If the studio audience is laughing, then that’s a pretty good clue that the joke was funny.  You just didn’t like it because it hit too close to home.  But that’s about you, not the joke or the comedian.

And what, exactly is the principle you’re fighting for here?  Not to be offended?  Well, then you might as well sign on to the university speech codes, and all the other PC bullsh*t the Left pushes, because you want PC enforced just like they do.  You just want your version of PC to cover different things.  I say, emerods on both your houses.

The best statement I can think of is the one Sean Hannity made when DOn Imus was going through the “nappy-headed hos” fiasco.  “If you don’t like it, turn the dial.”

Why “Twitter” Became So Important In Iran

Some fascinating stuff here:

The state owned Data communication Company of Iran (or DCI) acts as the gateway for all Internet traffic entering or leaving the country. Historically, Iranian Internet access has enjoyed some level of freedom despite government filtering and monitoring of web sites.

In normal times, DCI carries roughly 5 Gbps of traffic (with a reported capacity of 12 Gbps) through 6 upstream regional and global Internet providers. For the region, this represents an average level of Internet infrastructure (for purposes of perspective, a mid size ISP in Michigan carries roughly the same level of traffic).

Then the Iranian Internet stopped.

One the day after the elections on June 13th at 1:30pm GMT (9:30am EDT and 6:00pm Tehran / IRDT), Iran dropped off the Internet. All six regional and global providers connecting Iran to the rest of the world saw a near complete loss of traffic.

Graphically, here’s what happened –iran1

Here’s a detailed look at the abrupt stop noted above –iran2

There’s no question, obviously, that internet traffic was almost totally blocked. And you don’t have to be a North Korean rocket scientist to know why.

So why has limited bandwidth been restored since?

I can only speculate. But DCI’s Internet changes suggest piecemeal migration of traffic flows. Typically off the shelf / inexpensive Internet proxy and filtering appliances can support 1 Gbps or lower. If DCI needed to support higher throughput (say, all Iranian Internet traffic), then redirecting subsets of traffic as the filtering infrastructure comes online would make sense.

Unlike Burma, Iran has significant commercial and technological relationships with the rest of the world. In other words, the government cannot turn off the Internet without impacting business and perhaps generating further social unrest. In all, this represents a delicate balance for the Iranian government and a test case for the Internet to impact democratic change.

Events are still unfolding in Iran, but some reports are saying the Internet has already won.

It would seem so, at least in this case, but I’m not so sure that a country which really didn’t care about maintaining the mirage of a “free” country, as does Iran, couldn’t and wouldn’t keep it shut down for a while longer than did Iran. China for instance.

What it does prove is how incredibly powerful and important the internet has become throughout the world, and how, as communications technology expands and networking options become more available (Twitter carried the day after Inet cutoff to the point that it can be asserted that there was no longer any positive reason to keep the Inet shut down), the ability of totalitarian regimes to control communications is degraded to the point of impotence. Someone is going to get the word out by some means, like it or not. And for the most part, Iran likes it not. But the ability of the communications network to bypass governmental blocks by other means may have been instrumental in making the mullahs finally take the sham election seriously and forcing them to finally address the alleged voting irregularities.

~McQ

Questions And Observations

Some conversation starters:

  • For new readers, the title is what the shortened “QandO” means.
  • I’m constantly amused by the anecdotal evidence I gather while on the road that says if you’re over 65 you have to drive a Buick.
  • One thing to keep in mind as you listen to all of these proponents tell you that government can do health care better than the private sector – The private sector is a net producer of wealth. The government sector is a net consumer of wealth. That’s why the more of the economy a government takes over the less wealth is produced and thus available within the economy.
  • Interesting chart showing the level of spending in the last 12 months compared to the spending over the last 206 years in inflation adjusted dollars.  How do people believe that such a massive increase in spending doesnt have to be paid for at some point?
  • Is Obama’s honeymoon over?  Is enough resistance building to derail some of these economy killing policies and programs now on the table?
  • Former President Bush speaks out, apparently tired of a president 150 days into his own administration continuing to blame the previous administration. Appropriate or should he remain silent? And interestingly, since the left excused Jimmy Carter’s criticism of the Bush administration, does that mean they’re fine with Bush speaking out?
  • Is it “IGgate”? What’s up with this story about the Americorps IG and are there more IGs with whom the administration has messed? Wasn’t this the administration which was going to “return” us to the “rule of law”? Why aren’t they following it?

~McQ

Health Care “Reform”: A Little History Is Always Useful

Daniel Henninger gives us a little walk down memory lane to remind us of the effect of our first attempt at “health care” reform.

Back before recorded history, in 1965, Congress erected the nation’s first two monuments to health-care “reform,” Medicaid and Medicare. Medicaid was described at the time as a modest solution to the problem of health care for the poor. It would be run by the states and “monitored” by the federal government.

The reform known as Medicaid is worth our attention now because Mr. Obama is more or less demanding that the nation accept another reform, his “optional” federalized health insurance program. He suggested several times before the AMA that opposition to it will consist of “scare tactics” and “fear mongering.”

Whatever Medicaid’s merits, this federal health-care program more than any other factor has put California and New York on the brink of fiscal catastrophe. I’d even call it scary.

Anyone who has paid any attention to the health care debate know full well that Medicare and Medicaid have become huge black holes with future funding obligations in the tens of trillions of trillions of dollars.

Now, pointing that out and doubting the government’s ability to do any better is apparently “scare tactics” and “fear mongering”. Reminds me of the AGW nonsense.

After 45 years, the health-care reform called Medicaid has crushed state budgets. A study by the National Governors Association said a decade ago that because of “new requirements” imposed by federal law — meaning Congress — “Medicaid has evolved into a program whose size, cost and significance are far beyond the original vision of its creators.”

There is nothing to convince anyone that the same won’t happen with a “public option”. And although the present plan is to have such an option pay for itself through premiums, there’s nothing to stop Congress from deciding the taxpayer should pick up the tab at some point in the future.

In his speech, Mr. Obama said the cost of the Public Option won’t add to the deficit: “I’ve set down a rule for my staff, for my team — and I’ve said this to Congress — health-care reform must be, and will be, deficit-neutral in the next decade.” If we’re honest, that means tax increases are inevitable.

The thing to remember – “deficit-neutral” doesn’t necessarily mean cuts in spending. It means that revenue must equal spending and that obviously means that spending increases must have added revenue – tax increases.

There is some resistance starting to form to the “reform”. The Democrats plan on rushing this through with limited debate. If they succeed, “Son of Medicare” will wander out the government lab and bankrupt this nation much more quickly than now anticipated.

~McQ

Hate To Say “I Told You So”

President Obama’s tapdancing attempt to avoid taking a stand on Iran has come to naught and made him look weak:

The Iranian government, meanwhile, accused the U.S. for the first time of interfering in the postelection dispute. Iran protested to the Swiss ambassador, who represents U.S. affairs in Iran because the two nations have no diplomatic ties. White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said that President Barack Obama stands by his defense of principles such as the right of people to demonstrate.

Even had Barack Obama maintained his silence, this was almost a given. Totalitarianism 101 – seek an external enemy to blame your problems on before you crack down hard internally (although the split in Qom among the mullahs is interesting and adds a new dimension to the story).

And I disagree with the talking heads that calling for free and fair elections is “meddling in the internal affairs of another state” such as Moorhead Kennedy was blathering on about on CNN this morning. That’s not meddling nor is it an attack on a state’s sovereignty – its a call for a state to actually do what they’re claiming they’re doing.

~McQ

Obama’s Visit With The AMA

I‘m not sure what part of this Obama doesn’t understand.

On the one hand, he told doctors at the AMA convention yesterday that he was not a fan of tort reform and felt that limits on malpractice cases was a disservice to those who were truly injured.

On the other hand he made this case:

Not long ago, doctors’ decisions were rarely questioned. Now they are being blamed for a big part of the wasteful spending in the nation’s $2.5 trillion health care system. Studies have shown that as much as 30 cents of the U.S. health care dollar may be going for tests and procedures that are of little or no value to patients.

The Obama administration has cited such findings as evidence that the system is broken. Since doctors are the ones responsible for ordering tests and procedures, health care costs cannot be brought under control unless they change their decision-making habits.

Somehow, apparently, he doesn’t understand the linkage. But AP’s Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar thinks there’s a much more basic reason than Obama not understanding the linkage:

If Obama announced support for malpractice limits, that would set trial lawyers and unions—major supporters of Democratic candidates—on the attack. Not to mention consumer groups.

Somebody has to go under the Obama bus and the apparent choice is doctors.

USA Today led its story about Obama at the AMA convention with this:

President Obama told wary doctors Monday that the nation’s health system is “a ticking time bomb for the federal budget” and said those who call his plan for a taxpayer-funded coverage option a step toward a government takeover of health care “are not telling the truth.”

Of course the one “not telling the truth” in this case is President Obama. Any “public” option funded by taxpayers is not going to be competing on the same level of the playing field as private insurance carriers. Right now there are 1,300 private choices out there. The introduction of a taxpayer funded “public” option will, according to many economic and health care experts, end up seeing employers dump private health care coverage in favor of public health care coverage and eventually see the system become a single-payer public plan.

That’s why there is such fierce opposition to this sort of an option. Even those in favor of the public option know it is a means to single payer and willingly admit it. So to have the President stand up in front of a group of doctors and tell the whopper he told yesterday is disappointing but not unexpected. He’s lowballed the cost, he’s dissembled about how it is going to be paid for and now he’s being totally disingenuous about the eventual end-state a public option would bring.

~McQ

Leadership, Obama and Iran

While I’ve been monitoring the upheaval in Iran, I’ve also been fascinated by the debate (and commentary) over what President Obama should or shouldn’t say about what is going on there.

Politico makes the point that the administration doesn’t want to become is part of the story. Consequently the State Department has been studying the situation, the White House was “monitoring” it and Obama had been silent. Finally, when the silence had become awkward, and other world leaders had spoken out, Obama finally commented:

“I am deeply troubled by the violence that I’ve been seeing on television,” Obama said Monday, more than two days after protests began to break out Saturday in Tehran. “I think that the democratic process, free speech, the ability of people to peacefully dissent — all of those are universal values and need to be respected, and whenever I see violence perpetrated on people who are peacefully dissenting, and whenever the American people see that, I think they are rightfully troubled.”

Not exactly the strongest statement in the world. Certainly better than silence, but not much.

You know, here’s a chance to show a little leadership, call on the ruling mullahs to do a careful investigation, invite in election monitors from around the world and have a run off so the world can see “the democratic process” actually works in Iran. Not that any of that would happen, but putting it out there as what should happen calls Iran’s hand, and puts pressure on the regime to respond.

Instead we get a statement that is more philosophical than practical, more general than specific. Something that can easily be waved away by Iran. Obama went on to say:

“I think it’s important that, moving forward, whatever investigations take place are done in a way that is not resulting in bloodshed and is not resulting in people being stifled in expressing their views,” he said.

Again, little of substance, carefully avoiding any condemnation or judgment concerning the events of the election. More talk about a process instead of the claimed irregularities.

The closest he got to actually criticizing the regime came when he talked about the desire to talk with Iran:

Obama reasserted a promise for “hard-headed diplomacy” with any Iranian regime and stressed that he wasn’t trying to dictate Iran’s internal politics, but he also expressed sympathy with the supporters of the opposition, describing “a sense on the part of people who were so hopeful and so engaged and so committed to democracy, who now feel betrayed.”

Again, very nuanced, and, at least in my opinion, very weak. Certainly I appreciate the concerns about being perceived as “trying to dictate Iran’s internal politics”, but condemning violence, election irregularities and arrests don’t really do that, do they? And while he hits around those things, he never does, in fact, condemn them. He’s “troubled” by the violence, he’s “sympathetic” with the “opposition”, and he hopes that those with dissenting views won’t be “stifled”.

Meanwhile other world leaders have spoken out more forcefully and specificially:

French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner called for an investigation of the election results, and German Chancellor Angela Merkel said flatly that there were “signs of irregularities” in the results.

“Expressions of solidarity with those who are defending human rights, with students and others, are important,” former Czech President Vaclav Havel said Monday.

And Obama?

“We respect Iranian sovereignty and want to avoid the United States being the issue inside of Iran.”

Really? The US has been the “issue inside Iran” for 30+ years. It has been the “Great Satan” since the revolution. It can’t escape being the issue even when it remains silent.

Leaders who claim to represent democracy step up when a crisis dictates a strong response. Apparently Rahm Emanuel’s “never let a good crisis go to waste” only applies domestically in the Obama administration. With the hope of engaging who ever comes out on top in Iran, Obama is content to only give tepid support to those actually engaged in trying to establish democracy in Iran.

That’s not leadership. But it isn’t unexpected either.

~McQ