Thursday, June 25, 2009

If you're a Twin Cities MOB blogger, go! 

I wish I could join in this but St. Cloud commitments will keep me away. Nevertheless, go see Ed and Mitch:
We�ve talked about the brilliant new movie from Mpower Pictures, The Stoning of Soraya M, for the last couple of weeks. It opens on Friday in selected theaters across the country. How �selected�? Only one theater in the Twin Cities will show it during its opening week � the Landmark Uptown in Minneapolis.

Mitch Berg and I thought this would make a great occasion to get the Minnesota Organization of Bloggers (MOB) together for an evening. We plan to attend the 7 pm showing at the Landmark Uptown on opening night, one of the great, classic theaters of Minneapolis, and get the word of mouth going on this powerful film. If you want to join us, just show up at the theater on June 26th. If you�re a MOB blogger, be sure to put the invite up on your blog. We want to get a big crowd to make a splash � and to get together, too.

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Wednesday, June 24, 2009

A letter from Tehran 

Sent to me by a friend, this is a letter from someone running an ashram in Iran (a brave task in and of itself.)
A letter from Iran: Please Help

Dear friends,

These days our hearts are bleeding, and we can not stop crying for the lives being lost so brutally in this land once again. People you see on the media are risking their lives for the most basic human right, freedom to be. This has been taken away from us in a violent and bloody manner one way or another for the past thirty years. Once you walk with people in protest, it is inevitable to feel the depth of this yearning and the dimension of the pain they have endured by having it suppressed decade after decade. We have lost brothers, sisters, friends, children, students, fellow activists, writers, poets, Sufis, yogis, homosexuals, Kurds, Turks, Baloochis, Jews, Armenians, Muslims, Assyrians, Bahais, and other so called �minorities� to this simple quest for the right to be and live as we are in our society. We have been jailed, whipped, and publically humiliated for simple things like listening to music, socializing with the other sex, having parties, wearing jeans, growing hair, not covering our hair and body with the Islamic dark dress code. Our women, not our men, have been stoned to death for having extra-marital affairs. In our legal system women are officially treated as second class citizens, being worth half of a man�s voice when it comes to submitting evidence to a court of law as a witness. They can easily be divorced by men, but can not divorce as easily, and have no right to their children after divorce. They can not leave the country without written permission of their husbands/fathers.

Friends, the list is as endless as the degrees we differ from one and other. We have been suffering from this systematic utterly inhuman intolerance being forced at every level of our society down to our own families. No wonder young and old, men and women are out there walking surrounded by heavily armed and aggressive police, hit squads, and snipers on the roof shooting them down at random.

We are confronting religious intolerance and fantaicism of its worst kind in this land. Past thirty years tens of thousands have been lost, raped, and jailed for standing tall against this current. Its vibrations of hatred, war, and aggression have reached your home anywhere in the globe. There is no doubt that we are a global family being interrelated to one another closer than we know. This, we have experienced the hard way past few years.

I am writing to beg for your attention and assistance in any way possible. An innocent, peaceful, historic momentum, unprecedented in recent history, has come alive in our world that is being brutally put down with violence, lies, and dirty politics for power and riches. You, no matter where you are, have been inflicted by the evil nature of this current going round in our globe.

My brothers and sisters, come together in any way you can. Join the arms of our innocent people whose blood is being shed for peace and human rights which you may be blessed with elsewhere. Our hands are stretched out, reaching out for your support from outside. We are confronting a formidable power as ancient and infectious as hatred, tyranny, intolerance, prejudice and racism. We need your help.

If your heart prompts, please send this letter to your local newspaper, members of parliament, offices of your country�s Prime Minister or President. Let it be heard what we are facing and how important it is that we as the human body must shoulder this together. I can not do it alone, but we can do it.

We as a nation are pleading desperately to the world that we MUST not recognize this regime legitimate. We need to use all our strength and unity to pressure it to leave the office before our voice is shut down.

I hope you join us in prayers and firm peaceful steps towards a global village where we all can live in peace and harmony.

With love to all,
[name redacted]

Updates this morning from Tehran via Gateway Pundit show increased repression, shooting around the Majlis. I have been following Twitter feeds of ABC news reporters Lara Setrakian and Jim Sciutto since the beginning, and they confirm a massive crackdown going on at this moment. I agree with Mitch on the comparisons to Solidarity in Poland, but the key there was how long it lasted. You needed years to move Solidarity to power. It will take almost that long in Iran. (I now have the one pre-condition Obama should ask for: He will meet with Ahmadinejad only if he gets a meeting as well with Mousavi. There is a parallel there too with Poland.)

We can debate weenies all we like, but let's not lose sight of the larger story here. Meanwhile, don't forget to go see The Stoning of Soraya M this weekend (theater listing).


Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Review: The Stoning of Soraya M 

I confess: I tend to be emotional at movies. If you don't want to sit next to a man that cries, don't take me to a sad movie in a theater. It seems in fact that the sappier ones are the ones that make me cry more.

So when I was given an opportunity to screen Cyrus Nowrasteh's "The Stoning of Soraya M", I wanted to watch it alone. Surely the story, of a woman in 1986 Iran who is stoned to death for a crime she did not commit and, even if she had, would seem so out of proportion to the crime (at least to us in the West) would be done with enough sadness and emotion to get me to shed tears.

Amazingly, not a one. (And this was after I had read Ed's review from last September.)

The vehicle for the story is a woman, Zohra, Soraya's aunt, who tells the story to a French Iranian journalist, Freidoune Sahebjan, who takes the story out of the village in Iran and writes Soraya's memoir. (I have not read the book.) Zohra is played by Shohreh Aghdashloo, of "House of Sand and Fog" fame (and, for long readers here, Dina Araz in Season 4 of '24'.) A widow who lives on her own -- itself a rarity in 1980s Iran -- Zohra is the mentor of Soraya, who is in a cruel marriage to Ali. He has a position of power in the Revolution though no title and no sign of how he earns his money. You're left to assume that. They have four children, two sons and two daughters.

Ali wants to be rid of Soraya to marry another woman, and schemes with a man who wears clerical robes but was once a prisoner of the Revolution. It turns out in Iran that owning your own priest has its advantages. Ali makes use of that to finally scheme to use the law to condemn Soraya to death by stoning. (I am told by a friend that Ali and the two eyewitnesses were sent to prison later for obstruction of justice -- I find nothing on the Internet to verify this.)

Soraya is played by Mozhan Marno, a newer actress last seen in Traitor. Her character is engaging in the movie. She is kind and bears her burdens of having her sons turned against her by Ali and her sole care of the two daughters. The scenes with them are tender and gut-wrenching, knowing as you do what their fate will be. Ali, played remarkably by Navid Negahban (an absolutely perfect villain), turns her sons against her. I felt the most emotion for the two boys who too late seem to understand the injustice done their mother.

But somehow the movie is not maudlin. Nor is it an indictment of Islam. The mayor Ebrahim will remind almost everyone of Pilate, unsure throughout whether the decision to stone Soraya is just. (Ed describes him as "a good man who refuses to stop an injustice," but I think he's more torn by custom and religion than Ed's description suggests.) Zohra is as devout a Muslim as anyone in the film, surely more than the local mullah. The corruption belongs to a village caught in a time when women are chattel. As much as the women of the village try to accept that the stoning is just, the scene eventually turns them all away. Soraya is not even permitted a proper burial; the women take her body to a riverbank instead.

The movie's premiere in very limited theaters starts June 26 (including the Edina Landmark 4), and obviously could not come at a better time. Mir Hossain Mousavi's wife, Zahra Rahnavard, was insulted by Ahmadinejad in a public debate. Much of Mousavi's based of power is female, urbane, the very antithesis of the women of Soraya's village. Soraya will stand as the image of women as seen by the rural base of Ahmadinejad's popularity. Aghdashloo's Zohra will be instead the image of modernity. Because that's really what's at stake in Iran and the protests: Before you can expect them to be part of a solution to the Middle East's violence, you have to make them part of the modern, connected world. Soraya's village was not -- the final scenes show how the story gets out.

Sunlight is the best disinfectant. And this movie needs more screens, if it is to work best.


Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Iran's REAL Nuclear Goals 

This article in today's WSJ, outlines the moves being made by Iran to obtain the necessary components for very accurate missile strikes. These financial maneuvers, designed to hide acquisition of critical components, provide proof that the current US ostrich approach when it comes to Iran is innocent at best and very, very damaging to people of the free world. These two paragraphs summarize the situation:

Back when the Bush Administration was warning about Iran's nuclear progress, or its deadly meddling in Iraq, the typical Democratic and media response was to treat the Islamic Republic as innocent until proven guilty. This month, Democrat Robert Morgenthau supplied the proof.

In testimony to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that was largely ignored by the media, the legendary Manhattan District Attorney opened a window on how Iran is secretly obtaining the ingredients for an arsenal of mass destruction.
One can continue to behave naively or one can grow up and recognize the real world. Thank goodness Dick Cheney is trying to awaken those who refuse to believe that there are people who want to destroy all of us, regardless of our rhetoric. It would be nice if the DC Democrats and the mainstream media would pay attention and realize what is at stake.

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Wednesday, December 05, 2007

What to Do About Iran 

What to do about Iran? Given the NIE report released yesterday and these comments by Middle East expert Michael Ledeen, one answer could be, "Who knows?"

There is someone in the Cities who does have first hand knowledge and experience: A. John Radsan, the Founder and Director of the National Security Forum. He also is a former assistant general counsel at the CIA, a practicing attorney, and a law professor at William Mitchell Law School.

Dr. Radsan understands the culture, religion and politics of Iran. His main points at a luncheon at the Center of the American Experiment can be summarized as follows:
1 - Talk without action is useless - our enemy assumes we are weak.
2 - Perception is Al Qaeda (AQ) is the #1 problem - no, it's Iran's Islamic Republic. AQ has been damaged significantly but Iran actually is stronger than it was 9/11.
3 - Iran cannot be allowed to get nuclear weapons. Problem with destroying them is that they are located in multiple sites and thus, Dr. Radsan does not believe a military strike will work.

What will work?
1 - Dr. Radsan is a proponent of covert action, undermine Iran in a number of ways.
2 - Use media propaganda and blogs. Iranians read a lot of blogs, therefore, the US should use the blogs to discuss Iranian issues.
3 - Go after the Iranian financial assets, neutralize intelligence officers, remove diplomats. In other words, create hassles for their government.
4 - Iran, for all its oil, cannot refine it. Therefore, we should keep pressure on them to prevent refining it.

Why does he believe his suggestions can work?
Iranians blame their government for their problems, not the USA. If we attack overtly, it will cause major problems for their dissidents and they may turn against us. Iranians, 50% of whom are Persian, the others are Arabs, Kurds and other groups, have a very proud history. They understand the long-term and have long-term memories. We do not want to do something that will be to our detriment nor do we want to just sit on the sidelines and assume (ostrich position) that being nice will work. The political bosses of Iran want us gone.


Sunday, December 02, 2007

HUGE Breakthrough in Iraq 

More good news from Iraq. The the leading Shiite cleric in Iraq, the Ayatollah Ali Sistani, has just issued a Fatwa (ruling) banning the killing of Sunni Muslims. The announcement was made at a conference between Sunni and Shiite clerics in Najaf, Iraq, a religious city for Shi'a Muslims. In addition, Sheikh Khaled Al-Mulla, a conference leader, quoted Sistani saying, "I am a servant of all Iraqis, there is no difference between a Sunni, a Shiite or a Kurd or a Christian,"

We Americans rarely comprehend the impact these kind of religious edicts can have. For a leading Muslim cleric to issue a Fatwa banning the murder of other Muslims is simply huge. In addition, it appears the Ayatollah Sistani is being watched very closely in Shi'a Iran where another Ayatollah, the radical Khameini, is claiming the top position in Shi'a Islam. As a result of all the positive events and leadership seen in Iraq, many Iranians are sending their religious donations (not insurgents, thugs, murderers, etc.) to Sistani, the Iraqi cleric. A final point, Ayatollah Sistani believes in the separation of mosque and state, again, a huge breakthrough in thought.

These events follow an earlier breakthrough between the Iraqi government and the USA. In summary, Iraq is asking the UN to leave and the US to stay. They have concluded that the lies they heard over the years are just that - lies and that Americans are decent people. It would be nice if our mainstream media and Democrat Party could reach the same conclusion.

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Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Whaddya mean we can't trade with Iran? 

I was at the Patriot Saturday when Michael noted he received a press release from the Governor's office that said a deal he had agreed while in India regarding Essar Group's purchase of the Minnesota Steel and to construct a new plant in Hibbing. News reports describe the problem:

The Essar Group closed Monday on a deal to buy Minnesota Steel, planning to begin construction on a steel mill near Hibbing early next year -- a project that Pawlenty said holds great promise for the state of Minnesota. But later in the week, federal officials contacted the governor to inform him of Essar's possible ties to Iran.

Reuters reports that Essar plans to begin work on an $8 billion to $10 billion oil refinery in Iran early next year, working with the National Iranian Refining and Distribution Co. Such a deal may constitute or lead to business practices that are prohibited by the U.S. government. Pawlenty said Essar officials have confirmed talk in Iran, but say they do not have any commitments there.

If the federal government finds Essar's actions in Iran to be a violation of U.S. policy, Pawlenty said he would withdraw his support for the company's planned steel mill on the Iron Range.

The deal includes $30-60 million in state money for the Iron Range, and potentially scotching the deal has got the Ranger Mafia up in arms.
"It never ceases to amaze me how this governor can change his mind from one day to the next. It's frustrating that a project we've been working on for seven years is finally picked up on by the Twin Cities media a couple of days ago when the governor says it's going to be a good deal for the Range and state. Then days later, a complete reversal," said state Rep. Tom Rukavina, DFL-Virginia, in a telephone interview Sunday evening. ...

"I was stunned. This is so extraordinary. We were told the meeting with Essar went well (on Thursday) and then he gets back to Minnesota and immediately draws this line in the sand. I find it puzzling," said state Rep. Tom Anzelc, DFL-Balsam Township.

Anzelc said he had been out at some hunting shacks talking to some guys prior to next weekend's opening of the deer firearms season and had also been to an anniversary party.

"People are puzzled. But they're still upbeat. After all, we're Rangers," he said.
What on earth does that mean, "we're Rangers"? We're used to getting our way? We're used to getting easy money from the state?

So while the governor says "There are certain things in life that are more important than a steel mill," the Rangers think that trading with a company that deals with Iran is no big deal. All of a sudden, Rangers like globalization.
As to whether there should be a concern of a potential new corporation on the Iron Range and in Minnesota would have dealings with Iran, Anzelc said, "Sure it's a concern. But it's a concern that will always be there when you are engaging in a global economy with a very tense geo-political situation.

"We can't control all the countries of the world and all their actions. Essar is a company from India interested in building a steel mill using our iron ore because it's a steel company that has a market. Our traditional domestic steel interests don't have those interests available. That's why it's Essar," he said.

"Let's look at China. It's the largest communist country in the world with the third largest army. But we're sending them plenty of materials and they're sending back a lot of cheap goods that people buy ... not me. Look at Pakistan. Every T-shirt you see is made there and they're sheltering Osama (bin Laden, the architect of the 9-11 terrorist attacks that killed about 3,000 people in the United States). And we're worried about India building a refinery?" Rukavina said.
You know what? Give me a search warrant and fifteen minutes, and I bet I can find items from China and Pakistan in Rep. Rukavina's home.

But this isn't just trading any ol' thing. This is a refinery. One of the real possible places where the U.S. has leverage with Iran would be a military strike on the one refinery the country has. Iran would like very much to have another refinery to reduce that pressure; U.S. interests are clearly in keeping this from happening via peaceful means. Why the state of Minnesota should give money to that company that helps them build the plant is quite beyond my reasoning skills, but I'm no Ranger.

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