Monday, December 21, 2009

Grand Ayatollah RIP, Mumbling Innocent in Mumbai

Paul Krugman
E J Dionne Jr
Leslie Gelb

“Independence is being free of foreign intervention, and freedom is giving people the freedom to express their opinions, not being put in prison for every protest one utters.” - Grand Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri

It came as no surprise that tens of thousands of people have once again taken to the streets in Iran, officially mourning the deathof the Grand Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri. He started out as being the number two guy in the 1979 Revolution, and was supposed to be the next in line for the succession to the Ayatollah Khomenei after he died, but he fell out of favor because he disagreed with the repressive direction the regime was taking, and having Ayatollahs running the government.

He decided to become a more religious man, and moved to the holy city of Qum, where baby Ayatollahs go to be born, and recieved the ranking of a Grand Ayatollah, said to be higher and more influential than the current ruler, Ayatollah Khamenei. He was placed under house arrest a few times for making statements critical of the regime, and: "two weeks ago, he said that the Basij militia — which has brutally suppressed opposition street rallies — was forsaking the “path of God” for the “path of Satan.”

Of course their have been clashes with the police and those on Satan's path, but nowhere near the violent type of repression witnessed during the last protest. We will hear more reports for the rest of the week, culminating on next Sunday, the one week anniversary of the Ayatollah's death, and marks an important point in the mourning ritual for Shiites. The opposition movement has transformed, from protesting over the in-your-face fraudulent election and subsequent denials, to protesting the whole style of theocratic rule, military dictatorship, and repression of human rights and freedoms. They have been using religious holidays as excuses for taking to the streets, and now the Grand Ayatollah's death means that they have an even more legitimate reason to gather, making it more difficult to use brute force against them this week. Remember that over one half of the population is under 25, and one in twenty is a student. If they don't win in changing the government now, it will come soon, and should make their next cycle of elections a most interesting thing to behold if they allow foreign reporters to watch...

Speaking of Iran, it seems that they have been holding as prisoners, several members of the bin Laden family since 1997, maybe as a guarantee that al Qaeda will work with them and not attack them,  dogs that they are...: "the discovery Iran was holding members of bin Laden's family was consistent with reports "that Iran has been able to infiltrate al-Qaeda operations".

"They have been hosting key figures in the leadership structure of al-Qaeda for some time and they have been co-operating visibly with them in Iraq, Yemen and Somalia amongst other places," he said"

This was finally made public because the sister of Abdul Rahman bin Laden, the oldest son from Osama's first wife, gave an interview this morning, telling of his sister's escape and subsequent holing up at the Saudi Embassy: " Abdul said that Eman, his sister, one of his stepmothers and five of his brothers have been detained in Tehran since 1997. He alleged that his sister had managed to escape several weeks ago while on a shopping tour permitted by authorities every six months." He wants to pressure the Saudi government to guarantee his sister's freedom and not have her given back to Iranian authorities, which might have happened if it was never made public knowledge. Iran and Saudi Arabia are both trying to dominate the area, and have had bad relations.

Finally, from an editorial in al Arabiya, comes an interesting take on the recent Iranian incursion across the border to take over an oil well, that it was a blessing for the Iraqi voters in the upcoming election: "Accurate and informed observers know that the Iranians are plaguing Iraq in the same way that dental decay plagues teeth... Therefore the 11 Iranian soldiers who occupied the Iraqi oil well may have provided an important service to Iraq and the Iraqi people without knowing it. This Iranian occupation of an Iraqi oil well represents an account statement to those in Iraq today, for this allows the Iraqis to discover which of their politicians supports Iraq's interests and Iraqi unity and the integrity of its territory, and is prepared to defend this, and which of its politicians swallows their tongues and remains silent in the face of this new Iranian aggression, or even attempted to justify and explain this." Don't you just love all shades of democracy???

mumbling in mumbai...
The Massacre in Mumbai, India, produced one, lone gunman who was still alive. Recently in court, he revealed the new, imaginative defense for him that his lawyers have came up for him - it's all a case of mistaken identity and he didn't do it! "Giving evidence in court, Mr Qasab said that all previous confessions he had given in relation to the attacks were false and made under duress. He said that an identity parade in which he took part had been "manipulated" by police. He said that he had never been to any of the locations where the attacks took place and prior to his appearance in court had never even seen an AK-47 assault rifle.

He said that numerous eyewitness accounts of his role in the attacks were "completely wrong".
Mr Qasab said that Mumbai police had arrested him 20 days before the attacks on a beach in the state of Maharashtra and later went on to frame him. He said he was in custody when the attacks took place.
He told the court that the man widely photographed as the sole surviving gunman in the attacks "was not me, but someone who resembles me."

Ahhh yes, the evil twin defense. The cross-examining of the 186 eye-witnesses should prove interesting, as well as proving that he had been held in jail for 20 days previous to the incident. Mohammed Qasab "faces 86 charges, including waging war on India and murder. The November 2008 attacks left 174 people dead, including nine gunmen, and strained ties between India and Pakistan." This may be a case where you say something to yourself long enough and loud enough, you just might come to believe it, but the angry ghosts of 174 people may rise up to set the record straight, sweet dreams, Mohammed...

Just a few more days until the health care reform bill gets voted on in the Senate, then comes the committee meetings to reconcile the differences in the bills passed by the Senate and the House to get a final version. Its been a messy process, culminating with the threats by Democrats to keeo everyone in session on Christmas if it doesn't get on the floor for a vote. The Republican response was, we'll stay here until Valentines Day if we have too... We will experience a winding down time, as the media experiences a vacuum in coverage and they flail about trying to find something else to write about. So there will be a glut of that was the year that was, what kind of a decade it's been, the most famous faces, etc.

Both Parties will try to claim a victory even though we will be spending the next few years trying to correct the bad compromises that were made to the final bill, with all of the bribes to Congressmen and their states to get their damned vote. The drug and insurance industries spent millions and millions trying to influence how the bill would turn out, and thanks to Joe Lieberman and Ben Nelson, pretty much got their way. I was disappointed that they didn't send any my way, I was all set to sell out for a paltry few million, or even just hundreds of thousands, but I didn't even get any free drugs out of it... I think that witnessing the making of this bill during the 24/7 news cycle has made it frustrating for even the casual onlooker like myself, and much worse for those that have more invested in some kind of successful reform. It may form a backlash against those Senators who were the loudest on both sides of the aisles, resulting in the loss of incumbents and electing a bunch of new faces. We can then bet on how long it takes for them to be corrupted by their peers and the lobbyists, will it be a question of days or months before they sound as craven as a Chuck Grassley or beholden as a Joe Lieberman? Kinda makes you want to start some kind of movement, doesn't it...

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