Dear Editor Salam,
Akbar Ganji's Very Excellent Question
Simply put, Akbar Ganji is being killed for asking Khamenei this very excellent and lucent question: “magar (Iran) erseh baabaateh?”
I recently visited a cemetary where some of my relatives are interred. Having paid my respects and offered a prayer for them and others in the graveyard, I couldn't help but look at the sea of headstones and notice the ages of those who had passed on: in their 20's, 30's, 40's, 50's, 60's, 70's….a quick calculation relative to my own age gave me an immediate sense of my own mortality, and how much longer I could expect to live if God chose to grant me a “natural” life span. More pressing, however, was the realization as to how short life really is, and the nagging need to “make a difference” in the remaining 20 to 30 years (and, boy, does time fly…I can remember 20 or 30 years ago as if it were yesterday!) I must concur that there is nothing like regular visitation to cemetaries combined with deep contemplation to help one get their life priorities straight.
The Larger Picture: A different tact
I was thinking to myself how Iran's “larger picture” and the nuclear “question” can be resolved in one package, for the benefit of the Iranian people and the world at large, and I think I have found the answer. Obviously, the world at large would feel differently about Iran's nuclear programs and its general scientific progress if the Iranian system were rooted in democracy with accountability and rationality as the basis of its politics [while tolerance for Pakistan — with its military dictatorship — might be the exception (and frankly that one slipped through the cracks), the case of many responsible “democratic” countries around the world with active and ongoing peaceful nucear power and programs attest to this.]
No one anywhere, in their right minds, wants to have a bunch of unelected, unaccountable, and irresponsible “loonies” with suspect agendas (and I am not talking about any one specific country or system in the world, but the world at large) being in a position to upset world peace and stability. At the same time, I really don't think there is a calculated hegemonic conspiracy to deny developing countries access to progress and technology (otherwise, Korea and Taiwan and Malaysia and… wouldn't be where they are today).
So I would suggest that the negotiating points on Iran's nuclear programs not be tied to technical or financial or energy or strategic trade-offs, but that Iran be allowed the full-spectrum of peaceful nuclear programs and technologies in return for measurable milestones to becoming a fully democratic and accountable and transparant country and system. Parallel to this a serious effort has to be made to make the entire world 100% nuclear weapons free, including the known nuclear weapons powers like the U.S., Russia, China, India, U.K., France, Pakistan, Israel, and North Korea… because the hypocrisy (and dangers) of allowing some to have the bomb while patronizing others about the evils of acquiring the bomb just doesn't hold water.
Game Theory: My Analysis
The long and short of it, based on my analysis, is that Iran has everything to lose and nothing to gain by pursuing a confrontation with the United States on the nuclear issue. Two stark realities are as follows:
(1) the U.S. has 4 billion barrels of oil stocked in its Strategic Petroleum Reserve which it could gradually release on the markets prior to any sanctions/confrontations with Iran to mitigate the loss of the 2 million barrels of oil Iran exports daily (also at these prices the U.S. would pocket a hefty profit selling oil it has been acquiring for as low as $6 per barrel in the mid to late 1980's, even helping slightly offset its recent run-up in national debt),
(2) with its overwhelming precision-guided missile inventory and technology the U.S. could take-out Iran's ENTIRE economic and industrial infrastructure (and even its leadership) without “boots on the ground”, leaving the country destitute for generations to come (much as when the Russians stripped eastern Germany of every brick, stick, and steel after World War II.)
So we come to the conclusion that in a confrontation where the balance of power is so asymmetric, the weaker power should acknowledge its vulnerability, step out of the way, and look for some diplomatic maneuver to keep the country and citizenry safe from irreparable harm.
When the French speak…. Iran should listen.
Everyone knows that the French and the Americans are not each others' biggest fans, so when the French insistently tell the Iranians to accept the EU-3 offer, one with any inkling of wisdom should assume that the alternative (i.e likely U.S. bombing runs on Iranian nuclear facilities) may be forthcoming and more harmful to Iranian interests. For example and starkly put, if Saddam had taken France's advice and pulled out of Kuwait when advised to do so before the outbreak of war in 1991, things might have been different for him and Iraq today.
Identity Crisis… or who am I?
I and a cousin of mine were conversing the other day, and we came to the realization that those of us who left Iran under difficult and traumatic circumstances around the ages of 9, 10 and 11 in the late 1970s and early 1980s are oddballs… we aren't quite Iranian as either those who were older than us when they left Iran at that same time (or those who continue to reside or have resided in Iran currently or since that time period) and we aren't quite American (or Swedes, Germans, French, British, Canadians, etc. depending on where we live), but a distinct mix whose values and identity only others with the same experience can kind of relate to. It will probably take a generation of integration for our descendents to establish an unconfused “new” identity.
Might versus Right
I find it more than a little ironic that Iran's regime is playing the “right versus might” card in its nuclear stand-off with the United States, yet the same regime insists on playing the “might versus right ” card against Akbar Ganji. Talk about wanting one's cake and eating it too.
In retrospect, the occupation of the U.S. embassy in Tehran in 1979 and its consequent hostage-taking and alienation of the United States, was Iran's single costliest foreign policy gaffe (on par with the continuation of the war with Iraq in 1982) of the past quarter century.
The illegal, unwarranted and diplomatically unacceptable act was particularly stupid in view of the fact that the Carter administration and the U.S. were friendly to the Iranian people and their cause, and could have done much to further Iranian interests… instead a handful of immature radicals engaged in behaviour which led to the U.S. not just sanctioning Iran, but openly supporting Saddam Hussein in his conflict against Iran (remember the Iraqis received satellite photos of Iranian troop placements prior to Iranian military operations.)
The U.S. has taken the first step of apologizing to Iran for its involvement in the 1953 coup against Dr. Mossadegh, now it is time for Iran to take the step of apologizing to the United States for occupying its embassy and taking its diplomats hostage.
“Shelang” is one of the great contributions of the recent Iranian Diaspora to the rest of the world and to general public hygene. I tell you, someone should get on the “loo” manufacturers and have them manufacture their potties with “shelangs” in place, it would save our community a ton in plumbers' charges and would contribute to the general health and welfare of humanity at large.
Be responsible… buy life insurance
I just wanted to take this opportunity to remind your viewers to be responsible and consider buying life insurance if they have dependents or obligations which might go wanting or unsatisfied in the event of an untimely or unforeseen death. Affordability, particularly for term life insurance, should not be an issue as 20 or 30 year term policies with coverage of upto $1 million can sometimes be acquired for less than $200 per month depending on the insured's health… it really is a small price to pay for the peace of mind it offers.
I had a business partner who died of a sudden heart attack at age 47 several years ago, leaving an immigrant wife with no marketable skills, very little familiarity with the language and culture, and virtually no local relatives, he also left behind a 7 year old daughter and a 4 year old son. My partner's unexpected and untimely death along with the difficult situation in which he left his wife and kids was not just stressful to them, but also to me: for nearly 3 years I chose to forgo taking a salary from the business in order to push more money down to the profit column, so that my deceased partner's family could take home more money from the business and so they could survive.
But what would have happened to his family had I chosen to take a salary, or had I been a dishonest man and cheated them in the business? Not everyone is like me and willing (or able) to make difficult sacrifices, which is why it is important (and responsible) to provide one's family with the protection that life insurance provides.
(1) Getting Akbar Ganji released from prison is going to require some form of extended pressure such as a nationwide transportation strike or a job walk-off by oil industry employees. My clear and simple message to Ganji is that if Iranians aren't willing to make at least some sacrifices on his behalf, then they aren't worth dying for.
(2) The international community should consider rewarding Iranian cooperation in its nuclear programs by (a) releasing frozen Iranian assets (less my personal claims of $6-$7 billion), with the first funds going to pay-off Iran's international debt obligations of over $30 billion and the balance going into a closely monitored UN trust fund to be expended on improving the quality and curriculum of Iranian education, schools and universities (b) facilitating the re-unification of Northern Azerbaijan back into Iran.
Water Water Water
I can't believe this monumental waste of resources on nuclear this and that. What matters at the end of the day is WATER. To those who have given up on Afghanistan, I beg to differ, who can put a price on the precious water that Afghanistan may someday pipe from the Hindu Kush mountain ranges to flourish the deserts of Iran, Pakistan and elsewhere?
Nothing to fear but “fear” itself
I recently had an experience which was somewhat disconcerting to me: someone whom I became acquainted with (who had grown up and intended to return to the “old country”) chose to sever communications because they felt that associating with me would “jeopardize their privileges back home.” Imagine that! Iranians have now been programmed (through fear) to view anything and everything as a “privilege” subject to being taken away from them, as opposed to a “right” to which they are inalienably entitled to.
Fear and the absence of the rule of law have created an atmosphere which denies the citizenry the basic ability to talk with people they might like to talk with, and do virtually anything else they might take pleasure in. How odd to have to live thinking that your ability to happily live, work, get married, have a family, help others, etc. is a “privilege” that can suddenly be seized from you on someone's whim because they don't approve of whom you communicate or establish a rapport with?!?!
How sad I feel for my acquaintance who won't allow themselves to get to know me better (and whom I won't get to know better) and more fully appreciate life because of “fear.” (As an interesting aside, the weakening of civil liberties here at home as a result of some of the shortcomings of the Patriot Act have created a similar atmosphere of fear among immigrant and religious communities within the U.S.)
Just plain interesting!
Did you know there is a law firm in Orange County named “Payne & Fears” (the actual names of the two founding partners!)?
My brother's friend is a dentist and his spouse is… a pastry chef (this dentist will never run out of business as long as his wife makes all those sweet and tasty confections!)
Fear, Sacrifice and Entitlement
I find it interesting that Iranians think that we should fear for ourselves for calling a murderer a murderer, and a thief a thief- after all, shouldn't it be the murderer and the thief who should fear for themselves for being such criminals? The reason nothing changes in Iran is because no one wants to “stick out their neck” in a collective and unified manner, everyone wants someone else to make the sacrifices while they safely, happily, and carefreely live their lives, make their money, and enjoy their families… then when things change they feel they are somehow entitled to some “action”.
That is not the way it works, the people entitled to “action” are the people who make the sacrifices… sacrifices in terms of their lives, their safety, their comfort, their livelihood and their families. If you want to keep away/ distance yourselves from us now because you fear the consequences and repercussions…then also keep away from us when we are in positions of power and authority… because our lives have no room for self-interested and inconsequential little men and little women.
PS: Did I mention that Iranians didn't remove Mohammad Reza Pahlavi to replace him with Ali Khamenei?
Can someone tell me…or where is Bill Nye the Science Guy?
Can someone tell me why my Jasmine (Yasmin) flower plant is more fragrant at night than during the day…what is the science behind this phenomenon…or is it that an individual's sense of smell is more powerful at night than during the day?
Ahmadinejad is starting to disappoint me, I would have thought that he and his associates would have already had Rafiqdoost et. al. in shackles and appearing before a magistrate to explain numerous inconsistencies (read: theft and fraud) in the affairs of the Bonyad Mostazafan during the latter's stewardship of that entity.
It is better not to drink
While there is some benefit in drink, there is more harm. Several months ago a relative of mine on my mothers side — a fine young man in his mid 20's, the prime of his life — was killed in Michigan in a horrific automobile collision. The culprit was the opposing driver who was intoxicated and who had three prior convictions for drunk driving. This young relative's father and mother are inconsolable. Make life easy on yourselves and others and don't drink. I am (and have always been) “dry” and feel no less the worse for it.
Let's go multi-media and add some more GMST at $2.85, and take an initial position in DLB at $16.45 for the Iranian portfolio. Having said that, no one should invest in anything without first consulting with their attorney, accountant, financial adviser, etc.
Lost and Found
Unlike some other countries which go out of their way to confiscate the fruits of their citizens' labor and their belongings (wink wink nod nod), here in California the government goes out of its way to help its citizens recover their lost and missing assets. Check www.scoweb.sco.ca.gov to see if you have some misplaced, lost or forgotten assets that the state of California is holding for you.
Real Estate: North Carolina & California
To those following my advice about investing in real estate in Western North Carolina, I recommend Beverly-Hanks as a good real estate brokerage firm (see: Asheville Real Estate, Beverly-Hanks and Associates), and Diane Demetris-Duermit (email@example.com, cell: 828-337-1747) as an excellent regional realtor.
Real estate/land has been appreciating at an average rate of 15%+ per annum in this part of the country for a number of years, and should continue doing so in the foreseeable future as large numbers of wealthy retirees continue migrating towards the “thermal belt” anchored by quaint and desirable communities such as Tryon, NC (see www.tryondailybulletin.com).
Investors cashing-out of over-inflated real estate markets elsewhere in the country — or looking for 1031 exchanges — may want to give consideration to re-investing in prime land in communities such as Tryon, NC through agents such as Diane.
California has a property tax dilemma. Since annual property taxes are typically approximately 1% of the purchase price of one's residence, an observer will notice that buyers who are new homeowners (typically young and not yet very financially strong) are, paradoxically, footing the lion's share of the tax burden, while more established homeowners (typically middle-aged and financially stronger) are not footing as large a share of the tax burden.
For example, an entry level home/condo in Orange County today approximates 1500 square feet and sells for $600,000 and the annual property tax on this house is about $6,000; however the annual property tax on a 3500 square foot home purchased in Orange County for $60,000 in 1975 is $600 (the current market value of that 3500 square foot home might be close to $1.4 million.)
One solution to resolving this inequity might be to scrap the annual property tax assessment and implement a property tax that takes effect at the time of a property sale and which represents a percentage of the sales price (for example 15%), other than being more equitable this approach has the benefit of assuring that property owners are never delinquent since money from the proceeds of a sale would be available (at the conclusion of a sale) to fund the property tax assessment.
I am tired of sounding like a broken record, so for the last time to humor those asking me for real estate advice:
(A-Z): Invest in growth markets which are land supply constrained and non-interest rate sensitive: i.e. invest where alot of either high networth individuals or cash rich retirees want to live and where good land is hard to come by.
On the West Coast: consider buying a house at Toscana Country Club in Indian Wells, CA (a beautiful new development by Sunrise Company – www.sunriseco.com – in a prime retirement/growth market.) I anticipate the average home price in this community to double from $1.5 million to $3 million over the course of the next 3-5 years.
On the East Coast: consider buying horse farms in the prime Hunting Country area of Tryon, NC (Diane Duermit, with Beverly-Hanks & Associates – www.beverly-hanks.com – in Asheville NC, is a local realtor there: she can be reached at 828-251-1800). I consider land at $200,000/per acre to still be a relative long term bargain here.