“A government that is too incompetent to run things by itself is also too incompetent to ensure privatization works for the public rather than just for cronies; at least some increase in the quality of government is required if privatization has any hope of success.”—On Privatization (via n8han)
We all know the talking points. The benefits of bicycles have been tirelessly elaborated upon; bicycles improve health, ease congestion, save money, use less space, and provide efficient transportation with zero fuel consumption and zero carbon emissions. All of this is great, and the…
Seymour Hersh has written a clear-eyed and non-sensationalized analysis of Iran’s nuclear program in the latest issue of The New Yorker that came out today. A summary is pasted below. For the full text, click on the link above. In view of all the hype and fear-mongering, this is a factual breath of fresh air.
Summary: Is Iran actively trying to develop nuclear weapons? Members of the Obama Administration often talk as if this were a foregone conclusion, as did their predecessors under George W. Bush. There’s a large body of evidence, however, including some of America’s most highly classified intelligence assessments, suggesting that the U.S. could be in danger of repeating a mistake similar to the one made with Saddam Hussein’s Iraq eight years ago—allowing anxieties about the policies of a tyrannical regime to distort our estimates of the state’s military capacities and intentions. The two most recent National Intelligence Estimates (N.I.E.s) on Iranian nuclear progress have stated that there is no conclusive evidence that Iran has made any effort to build the bomb since 2003. Yet Iran is heavily invested in nuclear technology. In the past four years, it has tripled the number of centrifuges in operation at its main enrichment facility at Natanz, which is buried deep underground. International Atomic Energy Agency (I.A.E.A.) inspectors have expressed frustration with Iran’s level of coöperation, but have been unable to find any evidence suggesting that enriched uranium has been diverted to an illicit weapons program. In mid-February, Lieutenant General James Clapper, the director of National Intelligence, provided the House and Senate intelligence committees with an updated N.I.E. on the Iranian nuclear-weapons program. A previous assessment, issued in 2007, created consternation and anger inside the Bush Administration and in Congress by concluding, “with high confidence,” that Iran had halted its nascent nuclear-weapons program in 2003. Mentions the Defense Intelligence Agency (D.I.A.), W. Patrick Lang, and Lieutenant General Ronald L. Burgess, Jr. Thomas E. Donilon, Obama’s national-security adviser, said in a speech on May 12th that the U.S. would continue its aggressive sanction policy until Iran proves that its enrichment intentions are peaceful and meets all its obligations under the nonproliferation treaty. Obama has been prudent in his public warnings about the consequences of an Iranian bomb, but he and others in his Administration have often overstated the available intelligence about Iranian intentions. Mentions Robert Einhorn. Israel views Iran as an existential threat. Nevertheless, most Israeli experts on nonproliferation agree that Iran does not now have a nuclear weapon. A round of negotiations five months ago between Iran and the West, first in Geneva and then in Istanbul, yielded little progress. Mentions Benjamin Netanyahu. The unending political stress between Washington and Tehran has promoted some unconventional thinking. One approach, championed by retired ambassador Thomas Pickering and others, is to accept Iran’s nuclear-power program, but to try to internationalize it, and offer Iran various incentives. Pickering and his associates are convinced that the solution to the nuclear impasse is to turn Iran’s nuclear-enrichment programs into a multinational effort. Mentions a 2008 essay Pickering, Jim Walsh, and William Luers published in The New York Review of Books. Mohamed ElBaradei, a Nobel Peace Prize recipient who is now a candidate for the Presidency of Egypt, spent twelve years as the director-general of the I.A.E.A., retiring two years ago. In his recent interview, he said, “I don’t believe Iran is a clear and present danger. All I see is the hype about the threat posed by Iran.”
Congratulations to my good friend and long-time colleague Juan Cole. He has now joined an eminent group of thoughtful Americans who have been smeared by people in or around the White House. The best revenge would be that the neo-cons who tried to “get” him will now only increase the readership of his excellent blog. Keep up the good work, Juan!
The best answer to this little outrage is to put Juan’s blog on your daily reading list. It is at:
“Grothendieck came to consider the Institut des Hautes Etudes Scientifiques at Bures a gilded cage that kept him away from real life.
The solidarity of outcasts had created in him a strong feeling of compassion. Grothendieck had always been uncomfortable frequenting the “better” places and felt more at ease among the poor, even the impoverished.
The son of a militant anarchist who had devoted his life to revolution, Alexander lived as an outcast throughout his entire childhood. His home was always wide open to “stray cats”.”—
Pierre Cartier, A Mad Day’s Work. as quoted in Wer ist Alexander Grothendieck?
“…a creative reading of Gogol’s story reveals that here and there in the most innocent descriptive passage, this or that word, sometimes a mere adverb or preposition, for instance the word “even” or “almost,” is inserted in such a way as to make the harmless sentence explode in a wild display of nightmare fireworks; or else the passage that had started in a rambling colloquial manner all of a sudden leaves the tracks and swerves into the irrational where it really belongs; or again, quite as suddenly, a door bursts open and a mighty wave of foaming poetry rushes in only to dissolve in bathos, or turn into its own parody, or to be checked by the sentence breaking and reverting into a conjurer’s patter, that patter which is such a feature of Gogol’s style. It gives one the sensation of something ludicrous and at the same time stellar, lurking constantly around the corner— and one likes to recall that the difference between the comic side of things, and their cosmic side, depends upon one sibilant.”—Vladimir Nabokov on Nikolai Gogol’s “The Overcoat” (via fuckyeahrussianliterature)
“If the Iranian Genome Project reveals that we are, indeed, all mongrels, surely Hakim Abolghasem Ferdowsi, our land’s greatest author, who penned the 50,000 heroic verses of our Shahnameh, will be smiling from his grave in Tus. Ancestry was of course important to him, as it is for us. After all, we are puny creatures limited to a tiny sliver of time and space in this immense universe. If we are humble, we will recognize that our own parentage, culture, and language will never be trumped by pretensions of cosmopolitan intellectualism. But the same humility should induce us to recognize parochialism as a weakness and aspire to transcend it. The Shahnameh teaches us a simple lesson of immense value. What matters are not the facts of our genetic, cultural, and national heritage but what we do with them.”—From Frontline’s Tehran Bureau. Superb news source.
As psychologists will tell you, fear of loss is more powerful than the prospect of gain. The struggling middle classes look down more anxiously than they look up, particularly in recession and sluggish recovery. Polls show they dislike high income inequalities but are lukewarm about redistribution. They worry that they are unlikely to benefit and may even lose from it; and worse still, those below them will be pulled up sufficiently to threaten their status. This is exactly the mindset in the US, where individualist values are more deeply embedded. Americans accepted tax cuts for the rich with equanimity. Better to let the rich keep their money, they calculated, than to have it benefit economic and social inferiors.
As Runciman observed, “most people’s lives are governed more by the resentment of narrow inequalities, the cultivation of modest ambitions and the preservation of small differentials” than by the larger picture of social justice. That applies as much to the professional as to the working classes.