Sunday, December 27, 2009
Thursday, December 17, 2009
Thursday, December 10, 2009
The problem with drinking is evident. Its signs are as clear as the drunk you need to avoid in the metro. Nicotine addiction is much more insidious. Its costs are not so immediate - but they are just as real and the threat to Russia is just as serious.
The column is fine - and I agree with its essence - about the importance of achieving real progress to address the problem of climate change. But the authors make an interesting point that highlights just how difficult the problem is. Understandably, they make reference to the critical issue of nuclear disarmament.
"In 1985 during the height of the Cold War, when negotiations were bogged down at the US-Soviet Union Geneva Summit, the negotiators were instructed by their leaders annoyed by lack of progress, “we do not want your explanations why this can't be done. Just do it!” And it was done by the morning. Today's leaders must come to Copenhagen and say, 'We want this done!'"
This is fine - but the analogy is not so apt. In comparison with the climate change talks, the bilateral negotiations between the USA & the USSR look almost simple. We had two principal actors in the negotiations. There were tangential economic issues, but they were not driving the argument against nuclear disarmament. The issue of reparations or compensation did not exist. The arguments about the certainty of scientific predictions were not relevant.
It's enough to make you nostalgic for the Cold War!
Monday, December 7, 2009
Wednesday, December 2, 2009
Sunday, November 29, 2009
I don't write much humor here - because writing humor is not my talent. It's not that I don't have a sense of humor, but writing humorous material is about the most difficult assignment I know. I'd rather perform maximum likelihood estimation equations.
But - just because I don't write it, doesn't mean I can't present it here. This afternoon I was looking at the website of my friend Jonathan Caws-Elwitt. He's a multi-faceted writer. He does write humor. Here's a link to part of his website.
Saturday, November 28, 2009
I travelled to Atlanta, GA, last week for the first time in 13 years. When I was in that city in 1996, I was impressed by 1. the heat, 2. the traffic, 3. the urban bleakness. I was in the city on business, and didn't know a soul there. This time, I was staying with friends, who showed me some interesting neighborhoods. Here's some of the art I found out and about . . .
Friday, November 20, 2009
Perhaps another question might be so obvious. Namely - "What does it matter?"
In my opinion, it matters quite a lot. I don't have strong feelings about Khodorkovsky the man. I've never met him. From what I've read, he is a man of strong will & character - who followed a familiar path toward amassing his billions of dollars. In other words - he used connections & some unscrupulous means to get his fortune started. All the oligarchs did.
He differed from the rest, however, in that he tried to stay & fight Putin & Co. Obviously, he badly misjudged his foes.
All this matters for Khodorkovsky, obviously, as he sits in his prison cell. But might not be so obvious is how it matters for Russia. As long as he sits in jail, we cannot possibly talk about the rule of law in Russia. We cannot talk about a level playing field for doing business. All this matters for Russia because without a functioning legal system and a predictable environment for investors, economic development in Russia will continue to be quite shallow. The country can continue to live off its oil and gas revenues, but this is not a growth strategy. If Russia is going to develop economically and politically, Khodorkovsky must be freed.
Wednesday, November 18, 2009
Here is a poll about their situation, and about the political climate in Azerbaijan generally.
Wednesday, November 11, 2009
Saturday, November 7, 2009
Thursday, November 5, 2009
Wednesday, November 4, 2009
Saturday, October 24, 2009
Thursday, October 15, 2009
Shared via AddThis
Tuesday, October 13, 2009
About 50 activists were arrested by police. Predictable. And now comes word that they are still being held. Also predictable.
Slightly surprising was word about the arrest of Valentina Shadrina.
The director of the Altyn jewelry company was accused of smuggling precious stones and jewelry. Since its start in Kazakhstan, the company has developed an international chain of jewelry stores favored for low prices on jewelry.
It's hard to believe that someone would have forgotten to pay off the necessary official, so the arrest could indicate some power shift within the FSB.
Finally, on an idealistic note, the St. Petersburg State University has organized a contest for young journalists. The Russian language details are here. The suggested themes of the contest are: "helping senior citizens, homeless children, former prisoners, cleaning trash, volunteering during the Olympic Games in Sochi in 2014, healthy lifestyle and others."
Nothing too much objectionable, assuming that the pieces are written "correctly."
Thursday, October 8, 2009
This guerilla theater troupe came to Boone, NC, yesterday. They spent a few hours rehearsing with students and members of the community, and then presented this show. I've only included the "fun" parts here. A very moving piece about Gaza was just impossible to capture because the lighting was so low.
Saturday, October 3, 2009
Friday, October 2, 2009
Thursday, October 1, 2009
Wednesday, September 30, 2009
Thursday, September 24, 2009
Thursday, September 17, 2009
Sunday, September 13, 2009
Friday, September 11, 2009
At the time, I had very mixed feelings about the article. On the one hand, I admired Perviz's courage in confronting an issue that deeply concerned him. On the other hand, I feared for the consequences if his article was published. I recommended that he pursue publication slowly - in order to double fact-check everything. As it turned out, by the time I made this recommendation, he was already getting the piece published.
Not surprisingly, the school authorities reacted sharply to the piece, which detailed the pattern of corruption from top to bottom. (Remember - the pattern of corruption begins at the very top. The boss of a company or a country sets the standard.) Before too long, Perviz was accused of starting a fight with another student, grounds for his expulsion. But - he didn't accept this fate quietly. He and his friends began noisy protests in Baku. He challenged the expulsion in court.
And - as we see - in the end this strategy was successful.
So far, the strategy of engaging in noisy protest has not freed Adnan and Emin. But - there's still hope!
Tuesday, September 8, 2009
Monday, September 7, 2009
Sunday, September 6, 2009
If Obama cedes an important part of this agenda, then he also deserves to lose a large part of the support that put him in office.
Saturday, September 5, 2009
It might seem to be a large rally, but it's a start. International pressure might appear to be ineffective at this point, but it's one of the few tools available to press for human rights in Azerbaijan. Azadliq!
Friday, September 4, 2009
For the few readers who are unaware of the situation, Global Voices Online has a good summary, including tweeted updates here.
In Washington and in London, protesters have denounced the repressive policies of the Azerbaijan government. But - in Azerbaijan itself? What reaction will there be?
An Azerbaijani friend of mine wrote me today about the situation in his country. These are dark and dangerous times for people who are vocal in their support for democracy, he said. For people who just remain quiet, however, it is not so dangerous.
So - how long will the people of Azerbaijan remain quiescent? Until the oil runs out?
In a side note - I saw that the president of Turkmenistan has invited the president of Azerbaijan for visit. How nice! They can compare notes on repression. Maybe Ilham Aliyev can learn some new techniques.
Tuesday, September 1, 2009
Saturday, August 29, 2009
Friday, August 28, 2009
Very sensible points made by Sen. Feingold. Discussion of withdrawal from Afghanistan should not be taboo. The US needs to soberly assess what are its goals there and how can they be achieved.
Thursday, August 27, 2009
Tuesday, August 25, 2009
I really don't know about the situation in Azerbaijan now. This video is full of images of revolution, but real progress has seemed unlikely in that country. On the other hand, sometimes situations can change very quickly. And sometimes martyrs can play an important role in galvanizing movements.
Monday, August 24, 2009
Saturday, August 22, 2009
Tuesday, August 18, 2009
Mammadov was one of roughly half a dozen journalists imprisoned in Azerbaijan, which has ranked at or near the top for European countries imprisoning journalists. This spring, two journalists were released, leaving five behind bars.
Then, of course, Emin and Adnan were arrested earlier this summer. They continue to languish in prison on trumped up charges, despite the international outrage caused by their arrests.
Monday, August 17, 2009
The writer of the NYT article appears to assume that the blast was a crime of insurgents. Perhaps it was. But I have a deep distrust of Russian security forces. I am still not convinced that the FSB was not connected to the series of blasts in 1999. The bombings preceded the first election of President Putin, who was able to use the violence as a rationale for an increasingly autocratic and repressive regime.
So - this latest bombing in Ingushetia is already being used as a reason for increased repression there. Very convenient.
Friday, August 14, 2009
This is a nice explanation of how the newspaper business got in its current state. Corporate consolidation is directly related the problems that journalism and democracy face today.
Tuesday, August 11, 2009
Off and on through the afternoon, I had been conducting an on-line “discussion” with a conservative distant relative. The discussion was centered around the health care legislation that is before the US Congress. I am in favor of very substantial changes in the system, even more substantial than that called for in the legislation. He thinks the system needs to be tweaked, at most.
The scope of our disagreement was clear before we started corresponding, but toward the end, perhaps from weariness, we found our area of agreement. He posited that he believes that government is simply too big, too powerful and too intrusive. I could agree with this in general, although we probably disagree about in which areas it’s too big and too intrusive. I posited that I also believe that private corporations are too big, too powerful, and too intrusive. And he agreed with that.
My flashback occurred when I realized that we unwittingly had followed instructions that I learned in a university classroom nearly a decade ago. First, find the areas of agreement. Then expand them. This approach is much more constructive than the demonizing and anger that is so seductive.
(One of the textbooks for the class, by the way, was Getting to Yes. I highly recommend it!)
As I was thinking this morning about the experience, however, I wondered what can we do when our negotiation partners do not cooperate in a constructive approach. This is a very real possibility, and I think we face that situation in the current debate over health care. (Two chapters of Getting to Yes, in fact, are entitled What If They Won’t Play and What If They Use Dirty Tricks.)
In the course of this on-line debate yesterday, for example, I visited Rush Limbaugh’s web page. I read the diatribes and distortions, and thought about their purpose and effect. I thought about motivations. I don’t think that Rush Limbaugh really cares much about anything ideologically. The main - and quite understandable - motivation is to make money. He makes money selling hate. And the people consuming his content get a rush from indulging in the hatred he sells. Years ago, I remember a young man trying to live without cocaine. He wasn’t doing cocaine, but he used his anger like a drug. Rush and others like him sell anger, just like Larry Flynt sells pornography. I don’t think either product is socially constructive, but anger may, in fact, be more destructive.
One of my favorite quotes came to mind when I was thinking about this:
“I let no man drag me down so low as to make me hate him.” - Booker T. Washington
This is good advice for contentious times. I must recognize hatred and anger for what they are, but I must also recognize that these are not entities that are separate from myself. I have that a capacity for anger and hatred too. It’s my choice whether I want to cultivate that capacity within myself or not.
On a completely different subject, I haven’t posted any random links here in awhile. No reason, really. Anyway, here are the sites of Dianne Hodack, a local painter; Matt McGuire, a local writer; and Seth Feinberg, who is an animator who is not local.
Thursday, August 6, 2009
Tuesday, August 4, 2009
My first impression was surprise. My second impulse was sympathy. But - I have to assume he did his research and knew what he was getting into.
The Telegraph is running a series of articles about the newspaper's correspondent, Douglas Whitehead, bicycling through Europe. One of his latest articles details his experience on the road to Baku. I've bicycled my share and I've traveled around Azerbaijan too. His impressions ring true to me. I easily can imagine the scenes he describes - the honesty of the people and the cultural differences about personal space and boundaries, the simultaneous hospitality and awkwardness.
Monday, August 3, 2009
Онень смешная песня. (Спасибо, Али!) Да, он прав. Когда закончится нефть, мир станет лучше. Я просто надеюсь что мы переживём до этой эпохи.
When the oil runs out, you will be with me again. When you gas runs out, you will return to me.
Yes, all these good things will happen - when the oil and gas run out. Until then.....
Funny and pointed little song. Such petrochemical wealth is a very mixed blessing. I think many people understand this instinctively. The mineral wealth most often fosters corruption, not sustainable development. And yet, to ignore these riches is impossible.
Friday, July 31, 2009
I want to know with whom they were talking. What language were they speaking? Did they have a government-supplied translator? I did not do any scientifically valid polling when I was in Azerbaijan, but I did talk to a lot of people. I certainly not say that more than 3/4 of the people I spoke with were supporting the leadership of the country. Of course, people didn't talk loudly about their dissent - but in private conversations they were quite honest about their dissatisfactions.
The recurring theme, however, was that people perceived that no realistic alternatives to the current regime existed.
It makes me wonder. Wouldn't Armenia have been better off negotiating from a position of strength? The country's military position is bound to weaken, given demographic factors and Azerbaijan's continuing petro-dollar fueled investment in military hardware. What sort of agreement will Armenia agree to when its hand is weaker? Or will internal politics in Azerbaijan move its rulers to force the issue? Nothing like a good war to distract people from corruption at the top!
EurasiaNet Eurasia Insight - Armenia: Military Planners Confront Conscript Shortfall, Mull an End to College Exemption
And here is an article about the current stalemate in peace talks.....
Thursday, July 30, 2009
This film has just been posted on YouTube. Emin and Adnan now have spent more than 23 days in jail. The government of Azerbaijan is effectively ignoring the protests against the imprisonment of these activists.
I continue to be both confounded and fascinated by the question of democratization. Too often, it appears that the rather deterministic views of Carles Boix, Daron Acemoglu, and James A. Robinson have the bulk of supporting evidence. I cannot do justice to their work here. Suffice it to say that they all focus on the impact that economic resources and distribution of wealth have on the democratization of societies.
Azerbaijan potentially has many different sources of wealth, but in recent history its primary source of income has been from petroleum and natural gas. These are resources that are immobile. The oil in Azerbaijan may be depleted, but it will not decide to emigrate because of repressive government policies. When the source of wealth is intellectual, however, the rulers of the country must act more carefully. Factories can be moved. Trading offices can be closed and re-opened easily. If the rulers of a country want to hold onto this type of wealth, they must be careful not to enact policies that will cause the sources of this wealth to move.
Where does this leave Azerbaijan?
Not in a good place. The rulers of Azerbaijan control the wealth of their country. It's not going away quickly. In fact, because of Azerbaijan's delicate position between Russia and the West, the rulers of the country are trying to play a delicate game, flirting with both sides in order to achieve maximum freedom of action within their country, while picking whatever benefits they can from Russia and the West. The winners in the game - so far - are the rulers of Azerbaijan, while the bulk of the population in Azerbaijan loses as the country becomes increasingly autocratic and the distribution of income becomes increasingly skewed.
The sad thing about the analyses of the above political scientists is that even revolution does not change the situation that much. When the wealth is immobile, the succeeding regime is likely to be just as undemocratic as the one it replaced.
Russia is a wonderful example.
Sunday, July 26, 2009
Their sentence came despite the fact that according to witnesses, they were the ones who were assaulted. That's the way it works in Azerbaijan. If you are a critic of the government, you are likely to be assaulted, and then be arrested for committing the assault. It's as logical as the rest of the governance there.
Since the arrest of the two young men, the action of the Azerbaijan government has been condemned by the representatives of the European Union and the United States. But this apparently has not changed the course chosen by the Azerbaijan government. They assume - probably correctly - that the fuss will settle down, and then sufficient punishment will be inflicted on Adnan and Emin to further intimidate the opposition with Azerbaijan. And the people running the country can proceed with their corrupt practices within their long-suffering country.
When I was working in Azerbaijan, I observed that corruption is useful to the authoritarian rulers in at least two ways. Most obviously, corruption personally enriches them. A huge chain of corruption has been built, and the top representatives of the government are the greatest beneficiaries. But secondly, corruption works to sap the strength of any opposition. If corruption is all pervasive, then even the opponents of the government can be snared in the sticky web. For this reason, true idealism - which is found most often in the young - can be the greatest threat to such a regime.
The persecution of Adnan and Emin may seem to be completely disproportionate to their offenses or the threat they posed - but their persecution is not directed at just two individuals. The rulers of Azerbaijan are intending to teach all young activists a lesson. To all those idealistic youths who took to the streets this spring, the Masters say, "Look at Emin and Adnan. This fate could be yours. Behave!"
Monday, July 20, 2009
One question was posed: What now? Someone suggested that the voting rights of Azerbaijan in the Council of Europe could be rescinded. I am by no means an expert in this - but this seems technically possible. Politically possible? That's another question. The government of Azerbaijan still seems to be successfully using its position between Russia and the West to its own advantage. Of course, also using its power as an energy exporter. While the government in Azerbaijan uses all its tools to cling to power, the people of the country endure a rule that is undemocratic and increasingly harsh.
Saturday, July 18, 2009
Does this international publicity help their cause? The experience of groups such as Amnesty International shows that such publicity, in fact, can put pressure on governments. If attention is really turned to the actions of Azerbaijan's government, plenty of more offenses against the people of Azerbaijan will be seen.
Speaking of publicity, there is a strong editorial in the Washington Post today about the murder of Natalya Estemirova. The Russian government apparently believes that such crimes carry no consequences for itself. This belief is mistaken. The Russian people as a whole suffer as their government conducts or condones brutal repression against crusaders for justice and human rights.
Friday, July 17, 2009
It's a cynical and shameless maneuver - not the defense of anyone's honor.
If there was any doubt about this, the scene yesterday in Grozny should have been sufficient evidence about the real dynamics of the situation. Police broke up the funeral procession for Estemirova - because the mourners did not have a permit! The police, I'm sure, were just following orders from their superiors in the government. It is not in the interest of the thugs running Chechnya to grant a respectful burial ceremony for the murdered human rights activist. After all, while Chechen President Ramzan A. Kadyrov may not have ordered the killing, it certainly could not happen unless the killers knew that they would be shielded by him. And Kadyrov cannot hold his position without the support of Putin.
As the old Russian proverb states: A fish rots from the head. And Putin is still the head of the Russian government, no matter the results of last year's sham election.
Wednesday, July 15, 2009
Fischer’s appointment makes sense, as the author of the RFE article point out, for a variety of reasons. One important point is that he has consistently supported Turkish membership in the the EU, and Turkey’s participation in Nabucco is absolutely essential.
Azerbaijan, meanwhile, is being noncommittal about favoring one option or another, as a previous article by Pannier points out. That said, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Azerbaijan under its current leadership align itself more closely with the Gazprom. The Russian government is less likely to raise bothersome questions about human rights and democracy.
Tuesday, July 14, 2009
The support for Emin and Adnan takes a new form as bloggers make videos to support their colleagues in Azerbaijan. Here are the instructions included with this video:
What can you do?
1. Take a camera
2. Introduce yourself: My name is ... I am from...
3. Send your support message to Adnan and Emin
4. Finish your video with the words: I call on Azerbaijani government to end this lawlessness.
5. Upload this video to Youtube with subject Support to Adnan and Emin
6. Send the link of the video to firstname.lastname@example.org
While polo played on bikes is considerably cheaper than equestrian polo, the players become just as tangled. There is also an element of risk, although I don't think it's nearly as dangerous as equestrian polo. (Now I can say that I have photographed both variations.)
Monday, July 13, 2009
I have to disagree respectfully with the author. I believe that in the struggle to improve democratic governance and safeguard human rights, every peaceful tool should be used. It appears that the author of the post believes that the activists of the Internet are not incurring enough risk to validate their activist credentials. In fact, as we can see the young people who are using the Internet to discuss democracy in Azerbaijan do incur significant risk.
Every peaceful tool should be used if we are to effect political change. We don't know which ones will be most effective. Also, not everyone has the same tools to use. For some people, attending a demonstration in Baku is possible. For others, circulating information about the human rights abuses in that country is a more feasible action.
In other news, I was glad to hear about this agreement being signed, even though many of the details remain to be ironed out. I am a supporter of democrats in Russia, and so I am all for creating some competition to Gazprom. Azerbaijan pay provide gas for the pipeline. It is one of the many details for Nabucco.
Finally, I expect to be reading this report tonight. The report was produced by Free Press, a media reform group started in 2002 by media scholar Robert W. McChesney. The article that John Nichols and McChesney wrote for the Nation earlier this year was thought-provoking and well argued. I expect that the new report will contain some similar suggestions.
Saturday, July 11, 2009
In other news, a businessman was convicted in U.S. court of conspiring to pay bribes to late President Heydar Aliyev and other government leaders. What is unusual about the case is that it actually went to trial! Will the case have any repercussions in Azerbaijan? I doubt it.
There is a movie called Absurdistan. Azerbaijan is perceived to be the model for the fictional country. It is such incidents that cause such perceptions. Yes, if you are assaulted in Azerbaijan, you will be jailed and your assailant will go free.
Of course, this is the case if you are a trouble-making activists like Emin Milli and Adnan Hajizada. Emin Milli was agitating on the Internet, using Facebook to get the word out about protests and the conditions in Azerbaiajan. Adnan Hajizada was one of the founders of OL Youth group. This group also used the Internet to publicize the problems that young people in Azerbaijan face. Radio Free Liberty has an article about the case. Global Voices and Flying Carpets and Broken Pipelines write about the case as well.
Officials from the US Embassy & the Norwegian Embassy are objecting to the persecution of the activists - but I don't hold much hope that external pressure will change things. To me, the case is a reminder that even authoritarian governments are not monolithic. Within the power structure, there may be different elements that have different agendas. Some people in Azerbaijan breathed a sigh of relief last month, when legislation concerning NGOs was not as restrictive as feared. As it was - it is plenty restrictive - but perhaps it was less than some hard liners wanted. Here is an example of the hard line elements in the government taking off their gloves - and showing human rights activists - and the populace in general - that they better not make noise about the thieves who are running their country.
Friday, July 10, 2009
Thursday, July 9, 2009
Here is the ANTV clip that shows an interview with one of the two activists beaten by thugs in Baku a couple of days ago. No charges brought against the people who beat them. Of course, the activists who were the victims are the ones who are presumed to be guilty. As one of my friends in Baku remarked, "Nothing new here."
Monday, July 6, 2009
Tuesday, June 30, 2009
Monday, June 29, 2009
The fact that he comes from a Hindu background might be seen as an influence on his understanding of Islam. Personally, I think that any theocratic state is bound to be undemocratic - Hindu, Buddhist, Christian or Muslim.
The analyst tends to speak from right-wing "realist" perspective. I don't agree with everything he says, but he makes some good points. The Russians understandably desire a "sphere of influence" to buffer their borders. Is it in the US interest to overtly thwart this desire?
The report comes a day before the parliament votes on a set of measures that will make operation of independent NGOs in Azerbaijan nearly impossible. (I've shared information about these proposals in earlier posts.) I have listened to friends in Azerbaijan who say that they doubt that the parliament will pass such extreme measures.
I'm not so sure. It seems that in recent history every repressive measure that has been proposed has, in fact, been adopted.
If these measures are adopted, it will probably mean more brutality by authorities against the journalists of Azerbaijan and against the population of that country in general.
Thursday, June 25, 2009
TƏHSİL XƏBƏRLƏRİ is written by students in Azerbaijan. The title means roughly "Education News." There is a "button" to provide an English translation of the site, although the translations are really brief summaries of the articles. Translating is a lot of work! Nonetheless, if you check it out you'll get an idea about what educated young people in Azerbaijan are doing. In my experience, they have a lot of idealistic energy, much of it frustrated by the government.
Even the summaries can give you a flavor of life there. For example:
"Head of press service of Tefekkur University Shirmammad Khanmammadov was arrested while selling forged diploma."
"Students of Chemistry faculty of Azerbaijan State Pedagogical University (ASPU) are forced to bribe."
"Illegal actions are continued at Baku State University (BSU)."
I commend the young people of Azerbaijan for persisting in their efforts to bring greater democracy and honesty to their society!
Tuesday, June 23, 2009
I met him nearly a year ago in a train compartment that smelled like an old shoe. Most of the sleeping berths on the Azerbaijani trains have this smell. It's not so bad. The ones next to the lavatory smell like ... the lavatory.
Reza was drunk, not obnoxiously drunk. Just happy drunk. He entered the compartment minutes before the train was scheduled to depart, and then sat next to the window, waving to his friends and sharing some last words with them. He also opened a final beer for the long night ride to Lenkoran.
This train ride, in fact, was just the first part of the journey home for Reza. He was going back to Iran, regretfully. He was able to communicate this to me in broken English. I do not speak Farsi and Reza spoke no Russian. I think we exchanged a few words in German and Azerbaijani, but mostly we managed with English.
He was very eager to talk with me, and to share his dissatisfaction with the ruling regime in Iran. His complaints were varied - but generally he was very unhappy about the lack of freedom there. One reason he liked coming to Azerbaijan was to drink and go to discos, for example. I think his dissatisfaction, however, was deeper than that. Reza worked as some sort of small businessman. I forget the details. The regime also made it difficult for his business.
At the time, George W. Bush was still the president of the United States, and we talked about U.S. politics. I lamented the course that foreign policy had taken under Bush, and also regretted that relations were not better between the United States and Iran. He agreed, and we toasted to international friendship, Reza drinking his beer while I drank my bottle of mineral water.
I had met Iranians before, but only emigrants and exiles. For me, it was quite educational to talk with someone who was currently living in the country. Some people in the United States pride themselves on the country's "free press," but in fact there are gaping holes in the press coverage provided to U.S residents. Iran is one of those subjects that is covered quite poorly by the U.S. press.
As I was thinking about Iran this morning, I was also thinking about history and historical cycles. There is a theory in political science that politics in the United States exhibits periodicity. The conventional understanding of these cycles is roughly 30 years. It's interesting to think back to the tumultuous period of the Iranian revolution. The revolution occurred nearly simultaneously with the ascendency of President Ronald Reagan and the conservative revolution he led. (Some people would argue that this was not a mere coincidence.) Both Reagan and the Mullahs led socially conservative forces. Perhaps we are seeing the natural end of that cycle? I don't mean that the current uprisings in Iran will lead to a re-vote, but the authorities have clearly seen their power and legitimacy compromised. Do they really think that they can force this genie back in the bottle? And what effect will the uprisings in Iran have on the Muslim world in general - if the quintessential Islamic republic is shown to disregard both morality and the will of its people?
Sunday, June 21, 2009
The world may seem to be a vale of tears, laden with conflict, and yet natural beauty can be found if we look for it.
I acknowledge - I think it's a little easier to find this beauty in the mountains of North Carolina. Here is some of the beauty I've found lately.
Saturday, June 20, 2009
Yesterday more than 50 NGO representatives demonstrated in front of the national parliament building to protest changes legislation restricting independent NGOs. . Baku city officials didn't give permission for the picketing, but it was held anyway. The protestors were not able to get into the parliament building, but Gubad Ibadoglu, a prominent dissident economist, was somehow able to enter and present this statement from the Civil Society Defense Committee.
Baku city 19 June 2009
We, the non-governmental organizations united in the Civil Society Defense Committee, condemn the proposed changes and additions to Azerbaijan Republic Law Non-governmental Organizations (Public Unions and Foundations) and strongly object to their adoption!
We declare that these amendments directly contradict Azerbaijan's professed political course, these changes, the Constitution and Azerbaijan's international commitments, and restrict significantly the fundamental human rights of freedom of association and expression!
We consider that these changes and amendments are intended to create serious restrictions for the establishment and work of non-governmental organizations and are a severe blow to the civil society!
Taking all of these things into consideration, and believing that the changes will be damaging to the international image of the government, we say NO to these changes and amendments and call on parliamentarians NOT TO VOTE them!
We declare that if the proposed changes and amendments are approved, we will use all legal and civil means to abolish them!
Trend News reported the existence of the picketing - very briefly:
Azerbaijan, Baku, June 19 / Trend News A. Huseynbala /
Azerbaijani NGOs failed to hold unauthorized piquet in front of building of the Parliament.
Police did not allow participants of the action coming closer building of the parliament, Trend News correspondent reported from the place of incident. Participants of the action protest against additions and changes in law bill NGOs.
Despite the action failed, economic research center chairman Gubad Ibadoglu was allowed submitting statement of members of protest to the Parliament.
Law bill on changes and additions to law bill NGOs was added in agenda of meeting of the Azerbaijani parliament on June 19.
They envisage limitations on cooperation of local NGOs with foreign ones.