Monday, December 7, 2009

banana phone continued.

the htc ads are so amazing. kudos deutsch, this is how you sell a phone...





i came so ridiculously close to getting the htc hero, but wowww. i would show you the ad, but its actually kind of embarrassing by comparison.

the phone i affectionately knew by its developmental codename, "rachael," is officially set to be released in the us q1 of 2010 as the sony ericsson xperia x10.

as i promised in my last banana phone post, i will wait for her.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

ub ah scumee.



ub- ah scumee... sorry i just had a huge kil- ub- basa for lunch. ub- ah...

slow motion for me.

the theme for today is... slow motion! k? got it? now hold onto it. its wiggling! keep it steady! did you drop it? no? good job. ok now watch...











you still have it right? ok great. now put it in your mouth.

Monday, November 16, 2009

an enriching engagement with iran.

an op-ed i wrote on iran...

An Enriching Engagement with Iran

Iran is having a blast stringing nuclear negotiations along, but this isn’t your typical bazaar negotiation and the world’s patience should rightly be wearing thin. Iran has a rare opportunity for a détente with the West, and opportunity is knocking hard, but Iran seems content to keep the world waiting for its ultimate response. The Obama administration has ushered in a unique US attempt to engage Iran with remarkable patience, but at this point, that patience is bordering on naïve.

Iran has a history of deceptively flouting international agreements. An Iranian dissident group, the National Council of Resistance of Iran, revealed the uranium enrichment facility in Natanz and a heavy water facility in Arak. In the run-up to the current negotiations, Iran was forced to admit the existence of yet another nuclear enrichment facility near the holy city of Qom. All of these revelations fly in the face of Iran’s obligation to notify the IAEA according to international agreements. Ongoing government-sponsored chants of “death to America” probably haven’t helped much either.

The revelation of Iran’s most recent deception has provoked stronger resolve in the West and a much tougher stance from the UK, France, and Germany. It has persuaded even its more amicable partners to reconsider their stance on the nuclear issue. Russia, one of the first nations to recognize Ahmadinejad after his joke of an electoral victory, has implicitly understood that Iran must make concessions by backing the IAEA deal.

The deal would have Iran outsource the most suspect phase of the uranium enrichment process to Russia and France, by shipping its low-enriched uranium to be further enriched abroad and returned to Iran as fuel for a nuclear medicine facility. One primary purpose of the deal is to remove enough of Iran’s uranium to bring the amount below the “breakout threshold,” the amount needed to produce a nuclear weapon, but Iran has indicated it will not agree to ship that amount of uranium all at once. Iran has instead proposed multiple shipments over time, negating one of the deal’s primary functions, the ability to deprive Iran of the threshold.

Iran is stringing the international community along for a ride, pushing back and ignoring deadlines, and it is getting away with it. The only consequence so far has been more time for Iran to continue its nuclear program. The original deadline for Iran to respond to the IAEA draft proposal was October 24th, but Iran is still equivocating and has not provided an official response. In the meantime, Iran’s conservative leaders have continued their game of “who can be more anti-Western,” which now has the parliament engaged in a variant of this game called “who can be more anti-UN brokered nuclear compromise.”

Enough is enough. As persistent opposition protests continue, an illegitimate regime is having a blast stringing the world along, and even the Iranian opposition movement is getting fed up. Iranian protestors hijacked the government-sponsored rally celebrating the taking of US hostages to chant “Obama, are you with them or are you with us?” It’s time to give Iran real consequences for its continued deception.

Friday, October 9, 2009

yes we can (lower our standards).

an op-ed i wrote on afghanistan...

Yes We Can (Lower Our Standards)

As the Afghanistan policy debate continues behind closed doors in Washington, I’ve been putting together the pieces of the Obama administration’s emerging Afghanistan strategy. I’ve written about Afghanistan before, and I’ll make no effort to hide what I believe: Counter-insurgency is nothing to be sheepish about. Obama should give General McChrystal all the troops he needs.

But as I read the headlines yesterday, Obama’s message of hope didn’t seem to apply to Afghanistan. One AP headline that stood out was “Obama focusing on al-Qaida, not Taliban.” It seems like the strategy is basically “Yes we can,” but only if we lower our standards. With a war weary public, I can understand the temptation to water down the objectives, but if history has taught us anything, it’s that seeking accommodation with Islamic militants is never a good idea. That’s how the Taliban came to power in the first place, and we’re still cleaning up that mess.

The U.S. aided and abetted the Islamic militants against the Soviet Union in the 80s, and turned a blind eye to Afghanistan once the project against the Soviets had run its course. The Soviet Union, in a curiously similar position to what the U.S. is facing now, watered down their objectives in Afghanistan after an unsuccessful attempt to hunt down Islamic militants along the Pakistan-Afghan border. As war weariness set in, the Soviets pulled back from the countryside and garrisoned the cities, gradually replacing their troops with Afghans.

The strategy worked in the short-run, and the cities held against the American-backed Islamic militants. Afghan President Mohammad Najibullah consolidated his control of the cities, much as President Hamid Karzai is doing now, mockingly earning him the title, “the Mayor of Kabul.” Najibullah also pursued the same strategy Obama seems to be proposing now, national reconciliation with the Taliban. With Najibullah in control of the cities and “peaceful” reintegration of the Taliban underway, the Soviets and the Americans packed up and went home. A few years later, the Taliban took Kabul.

So what went wrong? Well for starters, the Taliban’s ideology is a mixture of Wahabbism and pan-Islamism. Wahabbism advocates a strict interpretation of Islam and renders it permissible to kill non-adherents or “infidels,” which includes most of the world and even countless other Muslims. Pan-Islamism advocates the unification of all Muslims under one Islamic government, which would require the overthrow of countless peaceful governments across the Middle East. (I hear nuclear-armed Pakistan is looking good these days.) Does this sound like an amenable ideology that can be effectively mollified through power sharing?

For a more recent case, take a look at Pakistan’s Taliban experiment. The Pakistani government, secular by most accounts, has always been mixed up with Islamic militancy. They courted Islamic militants along with America against the Soviets in Afghanistan, and they used Islamic militants against India in Kashmir. Like America, lately they’ve been dealing with some serious blowback. Unfortunately for Pakistan, their threat is existential. One unintended consequence of the war in Afghanistan was to push thousands of Taliban into the already restive provinces of northwest Pakistan, further destabilizing its already shaky political foundations.

So last February, Pakistan tried a truce. Also last February, I wrote in my blog condemning it. Pakistan allowed the Taliban to create a haven in the Swat Valley, permitting the Taliban to govern and even implement their sick version of sharia law. (No Michael Jackson memorials.) After dozens of terrorist bombings and hundreds of innocent Pakistani civilian deaths, a cursory glance at the headlines shows how well that worked out.

So again, what went wrong? Well they can’t say I didn’t warn them. The Taliban’s radical Islamist ideology has never been pacified by letting them have their own little corner of the world. They’re not exactly the type of people who understand timeout in the corner (of the country). I hope the Obama administration keeps that in mind as the Afghanistan policy debate continues.

If a watered-down version of counter-insurgency does indeed become the U.S. strategy in Afghanistan, let me say that I’ll leave room for error and sincerely hope that I’m wrong. Unfortunately, I’ve been right about this before. In my humble opinion, appeasing the Taliban failed for the Soviet Union, placating the Taliban failed for Pakistan, and giving a failed strategy one more try doesn’t exactly deserve the Nobel Peace Prize.

Monday, September 28, 2009

the end of 21st century isolationism – unilateralism.

an op-ed i wrote on unilateralism...

The End of 21st Century Isolationism – Unilateralism

I just watched Obama’s UN speech, and it was everything I voted for. Obama has inherited a weakened America facing immense challenges, but despite my domestic policy disagreements, I am thoroughly impressed. Obama’s speech at the UN said everything that needed to be said, including an implicit apology for America’s missteps into the 21st century.

During the 2000 presidential primaries, I shuddered in fear when then Governor Bush was confronted by reporters on his lack of foreign affairs knowledge. I watched in disbelief as he failed foreign affairs quiz after foreign affairs quiz, frequently unable to answer questions that even I could answer just barely half way through high school.

I think at that point, a more humble person’s embarrassment might lead them to question whether they should really be pursuing the most powerful office in the world, but as we would all learn, Bush isn’t really the humble type. I decided during the primaries, when there was still a relatively wide field of candidates, that I would hope for only one thing… George W. Bush would not become president.

Well, that didn’t work out so well. I was still consoling myself with the relative stability of global politics when hijacked planes hit the World Trade Center in 2001. Now a conflict of epic proportions was emerging that intimately involved leaders like Pervez Musharraf, whose names eluded Bush just a year earlier. The path was predictable. Bush’s personal ignorance of foreign affairs yielded self-centered American policies that demonstrated a similar ignorance.

Bush made important foreign policy decisions by talking to God and trusting his gut, which a more scientific person might rightly describe as the amygdala’s projections onto the gut. (Think “fight or flight.”) Consequently, his policies used fear to send America’s amygdala into overdrive, and for the sake of simplicity and expediency, even people who knew better accepted the flawed perspective of foreign policy challenges existing in a vacuum.

As much as I appreciate that Bush rightly lambasted isolationism, sometimes in disagreement with his own party, Bush got it terribly wrong. In the days of Chamberlain, Churchill, and Hitler, Bush’s condemnation of isolationism would have confirmed the courage he saw in the mirror, but what Bush didn’t realize was that it wasn’t World War II and his detractors weren’t present day Neville Chamberlains. Bush was on the wrong side of history, just as Neville Chamberlain was. In today’s interconnected world, unilateralism is the new isolationism.

The flaw of isolationism in the 20th century was the false view that domestic affairs could exist in a vacuum, and a state could act without regard for consequences beyond its borders. It was promoted by oversimplifying foreign affairs, and subverting logical appraisals in favor of the instinctive amygdala. Sure enough, ignoring foreign affairs in the run up to World War II came at a sobering cost.

The flaw of unilateralism in the 21st century is the false view that international relations can exist in a vacuum, and a state can act unilaterally without regard for consequences on a global scale. It too is promoted by oversimplifying foreign affairs and subverting reason and deliberation in favor of “fight or flight.” The invasion of Afghanistan has destabilized a nuclear armed Pakistan, and the invasion of Iraq has strengthened Iran in numerous ways, the direst being America’s loss of credibility in enforcing the non-proliferation of WMD.

Luckily that chapter of American foreign policy is over, and hopefully for good. Obama’s UN speech described a radically different approach to international relations, centered on the recognition that 21st century challenges are global in nature and thus require global cooperation and compromise. America is still the preeminent power in the world, and Obama made it clear in no uncertain terms that he will serve the interests of his constituents, but his global perspective finally realizes something unilateralism didn’t: Our interests are shared, and best served through multilateralism.

Monday, September 14, 2009

waging peace in afghanistan.

an op-ed i wrote on afghanistan...

Waging Peace in Afghanistan

When it comes to winning the peace, the U.S. doesn’t have the best record, and when it comes to learning foreign policy lessons, the U.S. seems to have a steep learning curve. When major combat operations are over, the conflict is in many ways just beginning. The U.S. may not have learned the hard way, but America certainly found out the hard way after the 1980’s effort to supply the mujahideen in Afghanistan. Despite the frustration of many involved, the U.S. turned its back on the reconstruction after it drove the Soviets from Afghanistan, and left a vacuum that was occupied by the most brutal of the rebels, the Taliban.

After the blowback from a forgotten Afghanistan hit the U.S. on September 11th, 2001, one might think military planners would realize that military victory is only a means to an ultimately political end. It is in the U.S.’s interests to see a secure, democratic, and prosperous Afghanistan. However when the U.S. first invaded Afghanistan a month after September 11th, it had a troop commitment of only 1,300. When the Taliban fell, there were only 2,500 U.S. troops in Afghanistan. Though Afghanistan is a very different story than Iraq, the biggest mistake was similar.

The U.S.’s erroneous beliefs concerning the Iraq War’s immediate aftermath established a poor start for its most ambitious nation-building endeavor since World War II. Blind faith in the now defunct opinions of Iraqi exiles, who assured US officials that they would be “greeted as liberators,” caused them to neglect the need for a post war plan to maintain order following the collapse of Saddam Hussein’s regime. In what has been called a “catastrophic victory,” the U.S. was so focused on and so good at winning the war that it had forgotten about and wasn’t ready for winning the peace.

In the absence of a plan to win the peace, Iraq was a power vacuum. Scenes of chaos and looting filled the airwaves. The basic functions of the now absent state, such as protection of property, were opportunistically undertaken by Iraqi opposition groups, greatly consolidating their power. Unconcerned with and often openly hostile to U.S. interests, these groups found themselves in firm command and control of enclaves within Iraq to an extent rivaling the control of the U.S., CPA, and eventually the new Iraqi government.

Luckily the tide turned when General Petraeus took over. General Petraeus understands that victory in Iraq is not only a military challenge, and he inspired his soldiers by asking “What have you done for the people of Iraq today?” It is a good sign for Afghanistan that the similarly perceptive General Stanley McChrystal has assumed command there. He works closely with Karl Eikenberry, the U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan, and is concerned with the well-being of the Afghan people. And it doesn’t hurt that he is an expert in counter-insurgency and special operations.

Today there are about 63,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan, more than double the previous year’s amount as part of President Obama’s escalation strategy, but more may be needed. If one follows the polls, it seems war weariness is on the rise just as a torrent of other issues is overshadowing Afghanistan, but now is a critical time for Afghanistan and it is important America doesn’t repeat the mistakes of the past and let Afghanistan go adrift. As the memory of another September 11th anniversary fades, don’t forget the importance of Afghanistan, historically and presently. As I once argued for the President and Congress to give Petraeus all the resources he needed in Iraq, it is now time to give McChrystal all the resources he needs in Afghanistan.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

letters to the president.

so i guess ahmadinejads the president now. i caught letters to the president on hbo awhile back. its a toungue in cheek documentary about the presidents populism... pretty humorous.

speaking of documentaries, they actually caught a couple seconds of my parents in the queen and i, also on hbo. about 3/4s through, they caught my mom standing next to the queen at a charity dinner in dc, and my dads in the background... pretty cool.

btw... anyone catch this? kinda funny.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

banana phone.

my mind is blown...



but my heart is torn.



my dearest sony ericsson,

youve always been the one for me. ever since w810i, ive lusted for your companionship. it was the first time id ever known real phonelove, and then you just up and left me. when you turned w960i, you left me with a relic as a token of our love and never looked back. was europe worth it? was it worth all my lonely nights and all the tears ive shed to death cab for cutie's transatlanticism?


well i gave up waiting for you to look back. it was just too hard seeing all my friends breaking up with old loves and moving on to wifi, touchscreens, and new operating systems while i just sat at home, wondering why no one would invite me to the movies via twitter. i just couldnt take it anymore.

i rebounded to the iphone. she was popular, but when i got with her, she was as vapid and superficial as my worst nightmares. ill never know if i was intentionally patronized or just expecting too much of a stereotypical dumb blonde slut, but she treated me terribly.

she was paranoid, and demanded my undivided attention... she wouldnt let me copy/paste, forward messages, or multitask. she didnt trust me... she wouldnt even give me more than one button on the camera, thinking that i might mess up our pictures if she gave me any control. and you should see want she makes me do with itunes... its like everything has to be approved by her family first. and worst of all, the empty promises... after all our tug of war over copy/paste and landscape texts, im still waiting for mms. "august" she said. "its not my fault" she said. "at&t" she said. always with the "at&t".

well ive had it. no more. were finished. it was a rebound. a mistake.

sony ericsson, i just want you to know that... with every call and every touch, im dreaming of the love we lost. i want you to know that ive kept my ear to the streets just hoping to hear your name... and i have. they said theyre calling you "rachael". they say youre easy to get along with, but intelligent and layered, with multitasking and an 8mp camera. they say youre making all sorts of important and powerful friends, like android and senseui. and they say youre the most radiant of them all, with a 4in screen, the largest yet. you sound so beautiful.

my best friend andre told me theres someone looking to rescue me from this broken heart. he said her name is "hero", and shes coming soon. he said to forget about you, and move on. i think i knew deep down from the beginning that it was just a rebound with the iphone, but i think there may be something real this time with the hero.

but my heart still longs for you.

just a whisper... a cryptic haiku or twisted sonnet... and i will wait for you. please, i miss you so much. ive never loved the way we loved, and im afraid i will never love like that again. after all these lonely nights and missed picture messages... after all these feelings of abandonment and inadequacy... just a glance across the pond and i promise... i will wait for you. i will never forget you, my first phonelove. i cant forget you.

i love you now and forever,

smashkan

Thursday, August 27, 2009

what the health?

an op-ed i wrote on health care reform...

What the Health?

It was recently revealed at Congressman Barney Frank’s town hall meeting in Dartmouth, MA that Obama’s healthcare plan, covertly known to government agents as H.R. 3200, is actually a Nazi coup attempt against the American government. If only we’d known sooner. It has also been revealed that the proposed healthcare reform “will stop [the] rationing” of healthcare, which must mean H.R. 3200 will effectively limitlessly increase the supply of healthcare enough to satisfy every American healthcare whim thinkable. With that kind of supernatural power, I’m not sure I understand the need to pass a bill.

I am, of course, being sarcastic. This is not a Nazi plan and hopefully I don’t need to go into detail to prove that. But considering the source, the claim that this bill will end healthcare rationing approaches the same level of idiocy, which is why it gave me pause when I found it on the White House website’s healthcare reform “reality check” section. Anyone with a basic understanding of economics knows that healthcare is a scarce resource. It is impossible to satisfy the entirety of healthcare demand with a limited healthcare supply. Healthcare rationing, though it may take different forms, is inevitable. Anyone with a basic understanding of supply and demand knows that as the price decreases, the quantity demanded increases, or inversely stated, as the price increases, the quantity demanded decreases.

Pricing is a form of rationing, by willingness and ability to pay. For those of us romantically involved with the free market, a higher price conveniently provides a greater profit incentive to increase supply. Though healthcare is a unique product with unique characteristics, fundamentally healthcare is no exception. If the economic model is correct, and the quantity demanded increases exponentially with respect to a decrease in price, a nominal charge for doctor’s visits would make sense. Our neighbor to the north has learned this the hard way; where there is concern that some are using free Canadian hospitals as nursing homes. Even in France, caricatured as a bastion of socialism, there is a €22 charge to visit a general practitioner. It’s healthcare rationing.

As Peter Singer eloquently points out in his New York Times Magazine article “Why We Must Ration Health Care,” healthcare rationing in some form is necessary; be it price, queues, QUALYS (quality-adjusted life years), or even death panels. Without an unlimited supply, at some point we have to ask the question of how much we are willing and able to pay to increase the quality of life or increase its duration, and the answer has to involve tradeoffs. The healthcare reform debate should not be characterized by paranoid delusions of a socialist takeover versus free unlimited healthcare or callous profiteering versus altruistic selflessness, but over how best to ration the limited supply of healthcare. As far as I can tell, the healthcare reform debate has yet to fully recognize this.

Instead, the debate is being sabotaged by those on the fringes, who discredit and refuse to consider the merits of reasonable arguments. For those interested, I encourage you to examine the actual proposed bill, because I think it will become immediately apparent to you that partisans on both sides are full of… shenanigans. If you’re a healthcare fanatic, feel free to read all 1,036 pages, but I recommend reading and comparing a couple good summaries. Luckily, you can do all those things at opencongress.org. Furthermore, if you are interested in my humble opinion, a proper analysis must recognize a few important points.

Healthcare in the U.S. is not a purely free market system. An AARP town hall meeting erupted in laughter when President Obama described a letter from an elderly woman that wrote, “I don't want government-run healthcare, I don't want socialized medicine, and don’t touch my Medicare.” As a Cato Institute article by Michael Cannon rightly points out, “government tax, spending, and regulatory policies thwart [the] conditions necessary for a [completely] free market.” There are the obvious examples of Medicare and Medicaid, but there are more subtle examples. The private health insurance system we have currently did not arise organically through the free market. It has been heavily subsidized by the government, probably beginning with President Nixon when he signed the HMO Act of 1973.

That brings me to my next point; our private health insurance system is likely not the best answer to the question of how we should ration healthcare. A report on healthcare jointly published by the FTC and DOJ during the Bush Administration agrees that “third-party payment of health-related expenses can distort incentives and have unintended consequences.” As far as I can tell, these distorted incentives render it in your insurer’s interests that you die having received minimal medical care throughout your premium-paying life. To a private insurer, it’s profitable to thwart any treatment costing more than the premiums they would earn through extending your life, and that still ignores quality of life considerations.

Finally, I’ll give you what I consider to be the most sensible framework for the debate. This is a debate about how to ration healthcare, and the greatest consideration should be equity versus innovation, or providing more equitable access to healthcare in the short term at the expense of better healthcare in the long run. Part of what makes healthcare reform such an emotional debate is that healthcare is necessary to extending life, like food. But consider the path of this analogous good. In 1870, even with 70-80% of the U.S. population working in agriculture, starvation was a real and constant threat. Today, the U.S. is one of the world’s largest food producers, and this is possible with only 2-3% of the U.S. population working in agribusiness.

Acknowledging that we can never be certain of hypotheticals, and that the government is actually heavily involved in agriculture, I tend to believe that more equitable access to agriculture in the past would have reduced agricultural profits and production incentives. Thus providing more equitable access to agriculture in the past would have been at the expense of the long run productivity and innovation from which we now benefit. Regarding healthcare innovation, to quote Will Wilkinson, “It’s just a fact that much of the world’s medical innovation comes from the U.S. This goes a good way toward explaining why survival rates for many potentially mortal health problems are highest in the U.S., and also partly explains why U.S. costs are so high.” As we were once in the throes of the agricultural revolution, the biotech revolution has now become common lexicon.

In summary, this debate is moral politics gone mad, while in actuality it should be an essentially administrative debate. The moral decision on whether or not to ration healthcare has already been made for us by reality. What we are dealing with is the tradeoffs involved in answering the question of how. In answering this question, be reasonable, and keep in mind a few points. The U.S. healthcare system is not a free market. If you have private insurance, there is someone between you and your doctor; it’s just not necessarily the government. The U.S. private health insurance system has obvious costs, and is likely not the best answer. And finally, although I believe the most important tradeoff to be short term equity versus long run innovation, I’ll leave you with a quote from economist John Maynard Keynes… “In the long run, we are all dead.”

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

the environment.

ive been on something of a world tour so i havent been poking around blogs much, (or blogging much myself,) but i just read these two gems on brendans blog...

"One thing is sure. The earth is now more cultivated and developed than ever before. There is more farming with pure force, swamps are drying up, and cities are springing up on unprecedented scale. We’ve become a burden to our planet. Resources are becoming scarce, and soon nature will no longer be able to satisfy our needs."
-Quintus Septimus Tertullianus, 200 BC

"The Earth is degenerating today. Bribery and corruption abound. Children no longer obey their parents, every man wants to write a book, and it is evident that the end of the world is fast approaching."
-Assyrian tablet, c.2800 BC

...pretty much mandatory reading for any radical environmentalist with a convenient lack of perspective.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

stochasticity.

so tonight i got hit by a drunk driver running a red light.

luckily i glanced over soon enough to notice this ford f150 was not slowing down for his red light. i stopped w only my front end out in the intersection, and the car hit the fender instead of the cabin, which was carrying precious cargo, aka my little cousins and their friend, ages 14, 9, and 9 respectively.

this is the sort of situation that immediately lends itself to a million superstitions, of which my parents have plenty. the "why me? why here? why now?" type of thing.

im tempted. ill divulge the myriad coincidences soon, but the most important one is that on the way down from nyc to hang w the little cousins, i was listening to this...



its relevant.

(or not.)

ps... r.i.p. little jetta.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

the future of opposition in iran.

an op-ed i wrote on iran...

The Future of Opposition in Iran

In the days after the Islamic Republic of Iran’s election, I found myself, along with many others, glued to the internet and scanning unconventional sources like Twitter and Facebook for news about a conflict that was largely ignored by the mainstream media. The world over claimed they were caught off guard, from CNN to the CIA, but I’m not so sure they should be so surprised. Although the West’s perspective on the Islamic Republic may be skewed by the Iranian Diaspora’s perspective, which highlights their first hand experience with the regime’s callousness, the brutality of the Islamic Republic should not be underestimated.

The story of the Iranian Revolution is a familiar one. It began as a massive movement with an array of disparate political ideologies united against the regime, with plenty of good reasons. But like the French and Russian Revolutions, there was no clear plan beyond the immediate goal of removing the regime, and the revolution soon began to devour its own children. After the Shah fled, the alliance of liberals, communists, and Islamists found themselves confronted with very different visions of Iran’s future, and in a power vacuum like that of revolutionary Iran, the most brutal usually prevails.

In this case, the most brutal were those who could reason away their humanity because they had God on their side, and thus any measure of brutality could be justified. Anyone who opposed the Islamists was silenced, often by their disappearance. Anyone who did not fit in with their interpretation of Islam, like the Baha’i architect of Tehran’s ironic Freedom Monument, was deprived of even the Islamic Republic’s dumbed down version of basic rights. The Iranian regime came to power because of its brutality, and it will attempt to stay in power through brutality. For the safety of the protestors and the ultimate success of the movement, Iranians should never forget this.

I’ve seen the eyes of Iranian exiles light up when commentators compare the events on the streets of Tehran to 1979, but as much as I hope to live to see the end of the Islamic Republic, this is not 1979. The Iranian protesters are not up against monarchists, they are up against a regime that proudly sent Iranian children as young as twelve across minefields to clear a path with their bodies. These brainwashed children comprised the Basij, the same militia that has now opened fire on the protesters, triggering a flood of internet images depicting young Iranians dying in the streets.

Given the regime’s well established character, Mir Hossein Mousavi, a reform candidate with massive popular support who sought to “take the moral police off the streets,” would certainly clash with the regime’s conception of Islam. Given the regime’s denial of even basic rights like property, education, and expression to those who do not subscribe to their religious interpretations, one might predict that electoral rights are no exception.

The majority of polls and analysis, now well published on even mainstream media, point to a massive fraud. Although I did describe Iran, where most power lies in the hands of the unelected Supreme Leader, as a “joke of a democracy,” I’m embarrassed I didn’t predict the outright fraud better myself. I suppose even I thought Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei and the regime wouldn’t give Ahmadinejad a two-to-one margin of hand-written and hand-counted ballots within a few hours of polls closing, nearly uniformly consistent across every region.

The week following the elections saw hundreds of thousands of Iranians take to the streets in previously unheard of acts of defiance, watched and supported internationally by millions of people. There were chants on the streets of “death to the dictator” and even chants of support for discriminated religious minorities like Bahai’s and Christians. On Friday, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei’s speech warned that the regime would begin what we had anxiously expected, a brutal crackdown, where Khamenei indicated that the bloodshed would ultimately be blamed on the victims themselves, the protestors.

As the protests were brutally forced off the streets by Basij with live ammunition, this past week has seen the protests take a different form, with strikes, chants from rooftops at night, and memorials for victims like Neda, the girl whose murder was posted on YouTube. The regime is now conducting nightly raids into apartments, dismantling satellite dishes, and even blocking proper funerals for the murdered protesters. Prominent clerics are even calling for the executions of imprisoned protesters.

As much as it saddens me, it appears that the crackdown will become increasingly severe, but the Iranians and their supporters must know that the world is still watching. No matter how brutal the suppression, their cause, like so many movements before it, is ultimately on the winning side of history. So to the Iranians, don’t give up. Stay safe, but don’t give up. As a child of the Iranian Diaspora, as a hopeful supporter, and as a global citizen with a sense of what is decent, I implore the Iranians who have already been so brave, don’t ever give up.

“If you hear the dogs, keep going. If you see the torches in the woods, keep going. If they’re shouting after you, keep going. Don’t ever stop. Keep going. If you want a taste of freedom, keep going.” –Harriet Tubman

Monday, June 22, 2009

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

iranian protester demands.



heres a list of iranian protester demands that ive seen circulating...

1. remove khamenei as supreme leader because he doesnt qualify as a fair supreme leader
2. remove ahmadinejad as president because he took it forcefully and unlawfully
3. put ayatollah montazeri as supreme leader until a review group for the ghanooneh asasi (constitution) is set up
4. recognize mousavi as the official president
5. a goverment by mousavi and start a reform of the constitution
6. free all political prisoners without any ifs ands or buts, right away
7. call off all secret organizations such as "gasht ershad"

(i made some minor english improvements.)

i dont think ive ever fully understood twitter until now... the amount of tweets under #iranelection is mindblowing. oh and ahmadinejads twitter is amazing.

also, i think im going to set up a proxy so get in touch for the details. heres instructions on how to do it, and read this and this too.

anddd this.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

cornify.

given the gravity of my recent posts, i thought id let you lighten them up a bit.

Cornify (click and cornify away the seriousness of all things serious.)

Sunday, June 14, 2009

suspended disbelief.

tonight i heard so many people who lived through the revolution say the streets were starting to look like they did in 1979. tonight i saw people who havent been back since, who cant go back, with a glimmer of hope in their eyes. tonight i heard the exiles say the mullahs are too brutal... they wont hesitate to pull the trigger and murder all the students...

but i heard the quiver in their voices. i felt the hesitation of 30 years of disappointment... theyre hesitantly wondering an abused childs wonder.

so heres to the endless struggle and the refugees and the camps and the loss and the airdrops and the devil on horseback and the taliban and zionism and hezbollah and the mahdi army and the basij.

heres to the hope of giving them all proper burials.



"if you hear the dogs, keep going. if you see the torches in the woods, keep going. if theyre shouting after you, keep going. dont ever stop. keep going. if you want a taste of freedom, keep going." -h tubs

Saturday, June 13, 2009

velvet revolution.

its unlikely but possible, so im hoping for a velvet revolution.



video 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15

video channel 1 2 3 4

mousavis letter (in english).

(thanks to revolutionary road, dre, and everyone on the streets for the videos. check out the pictures, too. heres a really great flickr stream.)

Friday, June 12, 2009

mousavi.



in a joke of a democracy... where better candidates are barred from running, text messages and sites like facebook are blocked before the election, and elected officials including the president have little or no power compared to the unelected supreme leader... sometimes you have to take what you can get.

so mousavi has my vote. i have no idea how mousavi got mixed up w the islamic revolution, but good luck anyway.

(and heres a little more if youre interested...)





(oh and heres a lot more if youre still interested.)

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

biogerontology.

ive been pretty interested in biogerontology for awhile now, beginning in 2006 when i picked up a libertarians take on biotech, liberation biology.

its sort of an oddball topic for me, seeming to contradict natural selection and thus my neodarwinist perspective by way of participant evolution.

a full explanation might take a few seconds i dont actually have right now, but the short explanation is that i am a compatibilist about more than just determinism.

for all life endowed with free will, all evolution is inevitably participant evolution. once life gains even the most basic understanding of natural selection, or even of heredity, it actively chooses (perhaps unknowingly) to influence the course of evolution. consider a bird that chooses to kill off the weakest of its offspring.

the only difference between a bird that avoids death to remain a good steward of its genes, (taken to include instances of the same genes in other bodies,) and a human that seeks to live healthier and longer is the extent to which we humans are aware of our role in the long view of evolution. our motivation is still an evolutionary one. i dont want to quadruple my lifespan to party hard til i die. (though perpetual beach week is a motivating factor.) i want to live until i am satisfied with what ive contributed to my fellow man. (whether or not this would ever occur is another question altogether.)

and so here is a brief intro to why im into biogerontology...



i plan on blogging about this more often, enough to maybe justify its own section apart from ideas / ideology. expect me to someday soon blog about mitochondrial replacement and the ethics of transhumanism.

k thx bye.

ps... i made a bunch of notes in the margin of liberation biology about companies i wanted to invest in. heres an investment i for sure wouldve made if i had the money. (check out the 2 year chart.) apparantly glaxo smithkline beat me to it.

pps... give me money.

Monday, May 4, 2009

booty shakin beats.

i dont feel like uploading mp3s right now, so heres this and this. k thx bye. ♥

credit crisis visualized.

what triggered the recession? heres a pretty nice rundown.



(paul hiatt is full of gems.)

Friday, May 1, 2009

Thursday, April 23, 2009

r.i.p. ltte.

an op-ed i wrote on the tamil tigers...

R.I.P. LTTE

Conventional defeat seems to be all but inevitable for Sri Lanka’s Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). As a student of foreign affairs with a particular interest in guerilla warfare, the news coming out of Sri Lanka is nothing short of mind-blowing.

And even though you might not know it, this conflict has probably shaken and shaped you, too, in an even more literal sense. If you’ve ever gotten low to M.I.A.’s “Paper Planes” or T.I.’s “Swagger Like Us,” you’ve gotten down with the global cultural reverberations of one of Asia’s longest standing armed conflicts. M.I.A.’s father and the namesake of her debut album, Arul Pragasam, helped found the Eelam Revolutionary Organization of Students (EROS), which would go on to host Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) training of the LTTE and its reclusive leader, Velupillai Prabhakaran, as well as other Tamil militant groups.

Speaking as a completely detached observer, defeat for the Tamil Tigers would mark the end of one the most innovative and interesting guerilla movements of all time. Their soldiers are known to carry cyanide capsules that they are trained to swallow in the event of capture. The Tamil Tigers invented the suicide belt and were the first militant organization to use female suicide bombers, culminating the assassination of the ninth Prime Minister of India, Rajiv Gandhi, by a female LTTE suicide bomber. The LTTE, a secular national liberation movement purportedly representing a predominantly Hindu population, has conducted more suicide bombings than any other militant organization in the world, including Islamist organizations more familiar to Americans like Hamas and Al-Qaeda.

Though the history is complicated, the origins of the conflict can be traced back to Sri Lanka’s independence from Great Britain in 1948. Sri Lanka’s democratic system meant that power was held by the Sinhalese Buddhist majority, which instituted discriminatory practices during rising ethnic tensions like banning Tamil language publications, limiting the amount of Tamils that could attend university, and even denying some Tamil’s Sri Lankan citizenship. The ethnic tensions escalated into increasingly organized violence which led to Tamil separatism and the beginning of an all-out Sri Lankan Civil War in 1983.

Having a Baha'i family that fled comparable persecution by the Islamist government of Iran, my natural inclination is to feel sympathy for the Tamils. Ideally, unequal treatment on the basis of race, religion, or ethnicity would be solved without resorting to separatism. Instead, a discriminatory state that (de facto or de jure) represents one particular race, religion, or ethnicity would adapt and begin to govern for all its people equally.

If every instance of unequal treatment were solved by dividing and establishing separate states, our world would be plagued by state division on the basis of all our innumerable differences on an enormous scale. It seems obvious to me that if purportedly democratic states are not compelled to reconcile with their minorities through the restoration of equal treatment under the law, (I am reminded of Lady Justice’s blindfold,) then democracy simply means majority rule, no matter how benign or brutal.

That said, it’s an unfortunate reality that sometimes historical momentum makes this practically impossible, though I maintain that separatism only becomes necessary as a result of human intolerance, typically on all sides. Having admitted that separatism can become necessary, the critical question is, “When does it become necessary?” In that answer lies the ultimate historical legitimacy of Tamil separatism beyond the LTTE.

It seems to me the government of Sri Lanka can still influence the answer by the way it chooses to treat its Tamil minority in the aftermath of the LTTE’s impending military defeat. Should Sri Lanka choose to continue to persecute its Tamil minority, the Sri Lankan government will carve a favorable epithet for the LTTE that will inspire continued unconventional warfare. Should Sri Lanka instead choose to come to terms with its own mistakes and delegitimize the grassroots support for the often brutal LTTE by ensuring equal treatment for the Tamil minority, the end of the Tamil Tigers could be the beginning of an enduring and welcome peace in Sri Lanka.

As the Sri Lankan Army advances and refugees pour out of the last LTTE bastion by the thousands, the outcome remains to be seen. But if the trend is any indication, then the eulogizing might as well begin now… R.I.P. to the victims of the conflict, and R.I.P. to the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

awesome articles.

jocelyn just gave me an awesome article about neuroenhancers, which in turn gave me a couple awesome websites.

the boredat phenomenon is pretty amusing, which i think it started at columbia, but heres something of a boredat for uva. though i doubt itll get as big as facebook, it seems to be following the same path, spreading between college campuses starting with the ivies.

imminst pretty much blew my mind. being a little bit of a transhumanist myself, and definitely a dude trying to live forever, i almost feel ashamed for not knowing about it already... then again i guess it isnt the first time jocelyn has popped my cherry.

wait, what?

Sunday, April 12, 2009

all i do is...

rock and roll hotel was beyond ridiculous last night...

dcs looking pretty pretty these days. sorry nyc... dont worry, i still love you. i will party w you another weekend.



ps... fri night dance party @ my apt til the cops came = awesome.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

universes.

string theory is fun. ive kinda been immersed in it for a little bit. want to pick my path?



then i got interested and listened to this...



then i watched this, based on the interviewees book. its 3 hours long, so go to the bathroom first.

idiotsyncrasies.

ive existed every day in every way.

in another universe im intimately familiar with, ive died.

magical is usually a word too closely associated with superstition and irrationality for me... but its kinda hanging around these days, dangling in my lexicon.



Sunday, March 29, 2009

Friday, March 27, 2009

linky winky.

courtesy of alex fuller, i just chomped my way into this and this. yum!

buttt im having trouble reading them because im too busy bobbing my head to this...

and now its taco night! (one margarita please!) k thx bye. ♥

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

stephen colbert out of character.

wow. havent been waiting to see this for oh say 2 years...



(paul hiatt is full of gems.)

also... want.

illegally recorded in iran.



(via rockistani.)

probably not the best band ive ever heard, but their story is pretty tight.

Friday, March 20, 2009

nowruz!



did the president of the united states just speak farsi? omfg.

im about to go to the top of the cn tower and oh shit oh shit oh shit... we just got bottles and bottles for cut copy and matt and kim at circa in toronto tonight. nuts. but yea im all on beach weak 2k9 and shit so i dont really have time spew opinion now other than to say... ♥!!!

heres the economist... i skimmed but i cant imagine their analysis is too far from mine.

happy nowruz!

Monday, March 16, 2009

toronto!

just saw this...

(via blaaahg.)

totally reminded me of this...



see you in a couple days, toronto!

Friday, March 13, 2009

wanderlust.

roll through town, toss everything around...

mon nyc -> dc after the most ridiculous nyc trip ever... im pretty sure im not even allowed to say what happened so i wont.



now im in hiding studying like nuts til monday for maybe the biggest test f my life, o omitted intentionally. (via sass and trash.)

but then! omfg omfg omfg...

sooo psyched! toronto is going to be a victory celebration and a half, officially marking the end of the busiest month (and a half) of my whole life. im going to dance my fucking face off to this and this in toronto fri night. (autoerotique and nasty nav at the cobrasnake dance party in toronto.)

tues dc -> rva, thurs rva -> toronto!, sat toronto -> nyc, sun nyc -> rva, mon smashkan -> nap.

fuck yea.

jon stewart and jim cramer.

part 1...


part 2...


part 3...


my take? its a witch hunt. i mean i watched the whole thing so obviously i think its an entertaining witch hunt, but still.

heres a good article that i think explains it...

Who’s to blame for the current crisis? As usually happens after a crash, the search for scapegoats has been intense, and many contenders have emerged: Wall Street swindled us; predatory lenders sold us loans we couldn’t afford; the Securities and Exchange Commission fell asleep at the switch; Alan Greenspan kept interest rates low for too long; short-sellers spread negative rumors; “experts” gave us bad advice. More-introspective folks will add other explanations: we got greedy; we went nuts; we heard what we wanted to hear.

All of these explanations have some truth to them. Predatory lenders did bamboozle some people into loans and houses they couldn’t afford. The SEC and other regulators did miss opportunities to curb some of the more egregious behavior. Alan Greenspan did keep interest rates too low for too long (and if you’re looking for the single biggest cause of the housing bubble, this is it). Some short-sellers did spread negative rumors. And, Lord knows, many of us got greedy, checked our brains at the door, and heard what we wanted to hear.

But most bubbles are the product of more than just bad faith, or incompetence, or rank stupidity; the interaction of human psychology with a market economy practically ensures that they will form. In this sense, bubbles are perfectly rational—or at least they’re a rational and unavoidable by-product of capitalism (which, as Winston Churchill might have said, is the worst economic system on the planet except for all the others). Technology and circumstances change, but the human animal doesn’t. And markets are ultimately about people.


...

Why did Bear Stearns, Lehman Brothers, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, AIG, and the rest of an ever-growing Wall Street hall of shame take so much risk that they ended up blowing their firms to kingdom come? Because in a bull market, when you borrow and bet $30 for every $1 you have in capital, as many firms did, you can do mind-bogglingly well. And when your competitors are betting the same $30 for every $1, and your shareholders are demanding that you do better, and your bonus is tied to how much money your firm makes—not over the long term, but this year, before December 31—the downside to refusing to ride the bull market comes into sharp relief. And when naysayers have been so wrong for so long, and your risk-management people assure you that you’re in good shape unless we have another Great Depression (which we won’t, of course, because it’s different this time), well, you can easily convince yourself that disaster is a possibility so remote that it’s not even worth thinking about.

charles freeman.

sorry to see you go.

(mother fuckers...)

a closer look at what america lost.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

econ data galore.

want some data? because i just found more than i could ever know what to do with...

econmagic, damodaran.

im probably going to need help from these guys...

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

coke.

ill never look at a coke bottle the same way again.



so the other day, me and my parents were getting lunch at edos (best restaurant in richmond, says me) and i (unusually) ordered a coke.

when i got it, it came in one of those old fashioned bottles and my mom started laughing. i didnt get it.

then she and my dad explained how back during the days of the savak in iran, they used to torture people by forcing bottles and other random objects up their butts.

they told me that during the time of the revolution, there was a joke about a guy who (after being tortured) said "i was really glad when i saw it was a coke bottle, because i knew id get a break about half way through."

i laughed too.



Monday, February 16, 2009

pakistan.

are you serious?

the pakistani government, secular by most accounts, has always been mixed up with islamic militancy. for years, they courted islamic militants against the soviets in afghanistan (along with america) and they used islamists against india in kashmir.

like america, lately theyve been dealing with some serious blowback. unfortunately for pakistan, their threat is existential.

one unintended consequence of the war in afghanistan was to push thousands of ak-wielding quran-toting fanatics into the already restive provinces of northwest pakistan, further destabilising the already shaky political foundations in pakistan.

as much as i recognize musharrafs mistakes, he got one thing right when he warned that the country wasnt stable enough for free and fair democratic elections. he may have had his own motivations, but that doesnt necessarily make him wrong. despite the suspicion and conspiracy theories, i for one believe his opinion was vindicated by the bhutto assasination. im not saying its an excuse for dictatorship, but the threat from islamic militants is indeed too powerful for pakistanis to have truly free and fair elections. theyll probably have to be resigned to the next best thing, elections where leaders and their supporters are under constant threat of assasination by militants.

"Nonetheless, despite his mistakes, he has been that rare phenomenon in Pakistani politics — an honest man with good intentions who tried to serve his country to the best of his abilities. In a country that has suffered so much over the years from corrupt and self-serving politicians, there have been too few figures like him."


now that the musharraf era is over in pakistan, the question remains... how does an aspiring presumably liberal democracy confront a growing islamist threat from within? well heres a stupid idea i can almost guarantee will not work.

that said, pakistan is still at a crossroads. my hope and hers...


...is that pakistan might learn soon enough that these taleban wahabbi islamist fucks arent content hanging out in their own little corner of the world. theyre religious the way this guy was religious.

not exactly the type of people who understand timeout in the corner. (of the country.)

so lets hope her vision triumphs. and not just for pakistan.

coco jambo.



ummm... what?

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

the middle east getting graphic.

wow. (via mr bren.)

ps... some days are better than others. i feel like hamas just won again.

my only hope is that peres will give livni the first shot at forming a coalition. otherwise it looks like abbas and fayyad will have these tools as partners for peace.

if you look back in my blogs, ive been dreading the return of netanyahu since oh say forever... netanyahu and lieberman make those "no partner for peace" claims during arafats time seem almost hopeful.

lieberman, whose speeches are often segwayed with chants of "death to arabs," is now kingmaker for "americas strongest ally" in the middle east.

good luck obama... americas been making some interesting friends.

(ouch.)

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

dear iraq.

hey hows that whole sectarian thing going?




maybe you could vote secular. this guy did...



and look how happy!



fuck the united iraqi alliance and the iraqi accord front, my votes for iraqi national accord and the iraqi national list.

i hate to say it, but given the context, puffy might actually have a point here...



so dont be stupid. k thx bye. ♥

ps... i cant fucking wait to find out which islamic capital obama will speak in. my guess is amman, but baghdad would be the awesomest symbolism ever so im definitelyyy hoping baghdad.

oh and obama's first interview as president? al-arabiya. his first phone call as president? abu mazen. im fucking loving it. (and i dont mean mcdonalds.)



(sorry, the video quality on all the direct al-arabiya video is terrible so all i could get you is cnn. k thx bye.)

Thursday, January 15, 2009

gaza.

if you're short on time, watch from about 6 to 9 minutes in.



dead on. history has passed peace by.

want more? listen from about 12 to 14 minutes.

the idea that israel is a democracy is the biggest joke ever told. (not the funniest.) israel is an apartheid state. the number of people under israeli rule without basic "democratic" rights is rapidly approaching a majority. it's the demographic time bomb.

how do israelis rationalize this? they call those under israeli rule without rights "occupied," while the ruling class, soon to be the minority, are "citizens." occupied implies a temporary state of affairs, and so this claim is only legitimate to the extent that the israelis actually intend to leave the occupied territories.

in the days of yitzhak rabin, the occupation claim might have been credible. but the extremists took care of that, and we got sharon the butcher instead. not that there isn't any decent leaders in the middle east anymore, but they're mostly sidelined by the hardline.

every day, with every new settler and every new settlement, the occupation claim gets harder and harder to believe. no, the settlers don't represent the majority, but they are the minority in de facto control of a de jure apartheid state.

listen from about 20 minutes onward.



the islamist pm of turkey is rumored to have once said "democracy is like a train. you get on it, and get off once you reach your destination." israel is on that same train, and america is being strung along for the ride.



Tuesday, January 13, 2009