Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Free Tibet! Will Tibet Be Freed John?

John Titor's Military Insignia

"Perhaps I should let you all in on a little secret. No one likes you in the future. This time period is looked at as being full of lazy, self-centered, civically ignorant sheep. Perhaps you should be less concerned about me and more concerned about that.

Imagine you are Jewish and you are able to travel back in time to Germany in 1935. All around you are the patterns of thinking and action that will lead to a great deal of harm, death and destruction in just a few years. You have the advantage of knowing what will come but no one will listen to you. In fact, they think you're insane and the situations you describe could never happen.

What I feel is not anger, it is sadness that you cannot see what I see."

It's been years since I've thought about John Titor, but the recent calls for boycotting the opening ceremony of the Olympics - and other factors - have compelled me to reexamine John's supposed journey into the past.

About 5 years ago I was surfing the internet, typing in random words in the Google search bar in the hopes that I would find something interesting to alleviate the acute form of boredom I had acquired waiting for my mother to finish preparing the ghormeh sabzee I had humbly requested.

Indeed, my online endeavor produced some fascinating results. Apparently, there was an enormous internet intrigue with a man by the name of John Titor. John was a man who claimed to have traveled from the year 2036 to the year 2001 in search of a particular cpu (IBM 5100) that is needed in 2036. Sounds preposterous, right? I thought it was, but my boredom compelled me to keep reading.

John was/is/will be a U.S. soldier on a secret military mission, but he kindly indulged the curiosity of those yearning to find out more. He posted operation manuals to his time-machine online (time-travel technology, according to John, was only possessed by the military at the time) and held an online dialogue where he answered every question asked of him.

At the time I figured it was a joke, but nonetheless, exponentially fascinating for a bored 18-year old. But now that seven years have passed since 2001, we can put some of John's predictions to the test. John claimed that the 2004 Olympics would be the last one held and that the 2008 Olympics would not occur due to increasing global civil and political strife - sound familiar? We can only wait and see if he was actually right about the Olympics, but there are other things we don't have to wait for. Seven years ago, John said that scientists would figure out how to create miniature black-holes and bend light by 2008 - a major step toward manipulating time and space to achieve time-travel.

The crazy thing is: They have! For those of you who think teleportation, i.e. time-travel, is a metaphysical impossibility - think again. Although humans aren't the ones being teleported (give it some time), scientists have successfully teleported photons. The teleportation is conducted through a subatomic wormhole (ever heard of quantum foam?) which may be a potential function of stellar black holes. They just haven't figured out how to make the subatomic wormhole (i.e., mini black hole) larger and keep it open long enough for more matter to pass through. There are also high hopes (and grim ones) for particle colliders being built around the world, like CERN.

Then there is the issue of invisibility. It was long thought that achieving total invisibility was a metaphysical impossibility - not anymore. Our optical perception of the matter that comprises our reality is based on the interaction of photons (light) with atoms. We see the sky as blue and a tree as green because of the way light reacts with the matter that makes up the sky, or the tree. Instead of the light being reflected , scientists have now figured out how to have the light bend around a targeted object so that the light engulfs it, and in effect, makes it invisible to human sight. Thus far, this can only be done with green light - but again, give it some time. I'm just saying, without getting too technical, that John hit the nail on the head - seven years before the nail even existed.

So now I find myself wondering, if he was right about that 7 years before it happened, is he right about the other things he said? John was asked a variety of questions, and he answered them all with rigid consistency - a consistency that has disallowed anyone to categorically prove him wrong, including physicists.

In a response to a question about U.S. politics and the global geopolitical alignment in 2036, John gave a particularly grim answer:

There is a civil war in the United States that starts in 2005. That conflict flares up and down for 10 years. In 2015, Russia launches a nuclear strike against the major cities in the United States (which is the "other side" of the civil war from my perspective), China and Europe. The United States counter attacks. The US cities are destroyed along with the AFE (American Federal Empire)...thus we (in the country) won. The European Union and China were also destroyed. Russia is now our largest trading partner and the Capitol of the US was moved to Omaha Nebraska.

After the war, early new communities gathered around the current Universities. That's where the libraries were. I went to school at Fort UF, which is now called the University of Florida. Not too much is different except the military is large part of people's life and we spend a great deal of time in the fields and farms at the "University" or Fort.

The Constitution was changed after the war. We have 5 presidents that are voted in and out on different term periods. The vice president is the president of the senate and they are voted separately.

Oh yea, and people like to wear hats in the future - but I'm not sure if Tibet was ever freed.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

The Islamic Republic: A Structural Time Bomb (part II)

Once Sayid Ali Khamene'i became the Supreme Leader, the office was irreversibly diluted. As Montazeri noted, he was not a marja' taqlid (source of emulation) and had not even reached the level of mojtahed (someone who makes a legal decision by independent interpretation of the Quran and Sunna). Instead, he was simply a compromise candidate entrusted with the power to steer the nation; a candidate that would be preoccupied with maintaining his own power instead of tending to the welfare of Iranians.

Yet, there were others not involved in the compromise who wield an incomparably higher degree of moral authority amongst pious Iranians, and they would be heard. They would initiate a "sacral defense of secularism," as Dr. Sadri has termed it, and rattle the very pillars of Khomeini's Islamic government.

First up: Mohsen Kadivar, born in Fars in 1959, he reached the level of ijtihad (the highest level of Shi'a theology) after studying in the holy city of Qom, and he would go on to publish nine books. He was arrested and sentenced to 18 months in prison for denouncing the murders of Iranian intellectuals and comparing the Islamic regime to the former monarch - but he would not relent in his criticism.

After determining that the concept of velayate-faghih is less than two centuries old, Kadivar intimates:

"The principle of Velyat-e Faghih is neither intuitively obvious, nor rationally necessary. It is neither a requirement of religion nor a necessity for denomination (mazhab). It is neither a part of shiite genral priniples (osoul), nor a component of detailed observances (forou). It is by mere consensus of Shiite ulama, nothing more than a jurisprudential minor hypothesis."

Ayatollah Kadivar is not the only religious figure challenging the totalitarian theology of the governing clerical elites.

Next up: Mohammad Mojtahed Shabestari, born in Tabriz in 1936, is currently a professor of theology at the University of Tehran. Shabestari's main contribution to Shi'a theology is his insistence on the limited nature of religious knowledge. He states,

"The meaning of perfection of religion (ekmal-e din) is not that it contains everything under the sun, so that if we are unable to find a specific item in it, we could go off calling it imperfect. It is not perfection for religion to function as a substitute for science, technology, and human deliberation."

He intensifies his assault on the Islamic theocracy by distinguishing between secular exigencies and religious abstractions,

"God has accepted for the world to remain itself (in the secular sense of the term). He has decreed to let the world be the world. I am of the opinion that it is high time that we let people know to what extent they can expect religion to solve their secular problems and to establish an advanced society . . . The necessity of a democratic government can not be derived from the meaning of faith or the religious texts. However, since social realities demand such a form of government, people of faith must forge a relationship with this reality, reconcile themselves with its requirements, and follow a faithful life along its riverbed.”

Mojtahid Shabestari and Kadivar are not the only high-ranking Shi'a theologians confronting the philosophy and absurdities of the politically empowered clerics, but they are amongst the most eminent. Their words are nothing less than intellectual bullets piercing the hollow facade of clerical leadership inside Iran.

As they and others of their ilk spearhead the theological opposition to the Islamic theocracy from within the clerical ranks, they have provided the hope that the regime will undercut itself and eliminate one of the ugliest manifestations of political Islam in Iran since the Safavids.

After all, it was none other than the communist Secretary General himself, Mikhail Gorbachev, that precipitated the fall of the Soviet Union - not the opposition.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

The Islamic Republic: A Structural Time-Bomb (part I)

"Ya marg, ya Mossadeq!" - It was shouted on the streets by Iranian protesters, spray painted on the walls, and seared into the minds of their children. The colonial yoke was to be shed and national independence restored, as the secular opposition thundered its way toward establishing Mossadeq's long-held belief that the Shah should reign but not rule.

Although Mossadeq's agenda was stymied by self-interested foreign actors at the time, the dramatic conclusion of the movement that originated with Mohammad Mossadeq would come 26 years later; but this time, the opposition would not be secular.

As demonstrations in the late 70s crescendoed and finally resulted in revolution, Islam became the fulcrum of opposition to the monarch, and the Ayatollah Khomeini eventually emerged as the victor by guile. His ascendancy to power would ultimately have regressive consequences for a nation with progressive hopes.

The most regressive act of his tenure was the establishment of the velayet-e faghih (rule by the jurisprudent) and the institutions that buttress it. It was a treacherous act that contradicted the objectives of the original revolution and led the first post-revolutionary Prime Minister, Mehdi Bazargan (appointed by the Ayatollah Khomeini) to lash out at his political father:

"With the help of numerous details and arguments, we have examined the velayat-e faghih from every side, both in its rational-political aspects, and from the angle of the Qur'an, Islamic tradition, and Islamic law (sharia), and we must judge it as 100 percent destructive. From a political point of view, the velayat-e faghih is despotism and means a regression back to the state we had hoped to overcome with the Islamic Revolution. From a religious point of view it is polytheism (shirk) and a totalitarian personality cult (far'uniyat)."

Mehdi was right; the nation had traded in a secular shah for a religious shah. And as time passed and war with Iraq raged, the new shah had to appoint a qualified successor; someone who had the same religious credentials as the esteemed Ayatollah, as well as the political savvy that the position demanded. He found those qualifications in a man known as Ayatollah Montazeri. But as political differences between the two manifested, his successorship was revoked. And upon Khomeini's death, the Council of Experts (majlis-e khobragan) appointed a theologically vacuous, but politically acceptable man by the name of Sayid Ali Khamene'i.

Motazeri howled at the development, saying:

"The ruling jurisprudent (vali-ye faqih) must be the theologically most highly qualified...Mr. Khamene'i, too, had insisted beforheand [that is, before his election in 1989] on the highest qualification of the source of emulation [marja'-e taqlid]. But I say to him: You are not a marja'-e taqlid and you bear no resemblance to one...The office of the source of emulation was a moral force and an independent intellectual authority. Do not attempt to infringe upon its independence, and do not change the center of seminaries in Qom into a ministry of government officials. That is a danger to the future of the Shi'a...Even if everyone praises you, their praise cannot make you someone who has reached the same theological level as Imam Khomeini."

The consequences of Khamene'i's appointment were yet to be apparent, but the words of the eminent Ayatollah Montazeri portended a sentiment that would be more elaborately, and less compromisingly, reflected in the views and writings of the apolitical clerical establishment. These vanguards of Shi'a theology would deliver stinging criticisms and potent pontifications about the decadence of Islamic governance. And they could not be ignored.

Their pontifications (discussed in part II), along with the present political realities - inside an overbearing historical context - would lead a proactive reformist, Dr. Mahmoud sadri, to aptly deem the Islamic Republic of Iran's form of government as a "structural time-bomb" awaiting its imminent implosion...

To Be Continued.....

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Five Years, $600 Billion, 100,000+ Lives, and Countless Speeches

Has it really been five years? I remember - when only a year into the war - a senior Bush aide, with confident arrogance, deflected criticism from a NYT reporter, referring to it as criticism from the "reality-based community." He said, "That's not the way the world really works anymore....We are an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you're studying that reality - judiciously as you will - we'll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that's how things will sort out. We're history's actors...and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do."

Well, I've studied - we've all studied - and the only new reality this administration has created is their own; a reality where lives are expendable, the truth is truncated, and where George Bush's speeches still have credibility. In George's reality, there is still a chance for Iraq - and some may still ask, "Well, isn't there? I thought the surge was working."

With history as my guide - and brevity as my objective - let me explain why there was never a chance to begin with - why countless scholars and Iraq experts warned us that such an effort would fail, as it had for the British.

In 1917, shortly after occupying Baghdad, the British Lieut. General Sir Stanley Maude declared to the people of Baghdad, "Our military operations have as their objective the defeat of the enemy, and the driving of him from these territories...but our armies do not come into your cities and lands as conquerers or enemies, but as liberators...Therefore I am commanded to invite you to...participate in the management of your civil affairs in collaboration with the political representatives of Great Britain who accompany the British Army..." It took nearly 40 years for the British to realize that their aspirations were in vain and to finally withdraw from Iraq after WWII. Upon their departure, the British-installed government was met with the all too familiar fate of past Iraqi governments and future ones to come: The coup d' tat.

There is not one instance in the nearly 100 years of Iraqi statehood in which the transfer of power between successive governments occurred in a bloodless and durable fashion. With the exception of Saddam (30+ years) and King Faysal (12 years), no other government lasted more than a decade - and all governments came and went via the coup d' tat. But why Saddam? How did he do it? Well, aside from killing any viable opposition, he established a process of "coup proofing" that, in a nutshell, involved overlapping the many security forces he had so that they were all being watched - and they were all watching - their counterparts. Apparently, it was quite effective.

But now that Saddam is history, what will come of the newly elected government of Iraq? And what will be the fate of Operation Iraqi Freedom? Optimistically speaking, suppose the "surge" works, violence dwindles, the Iraqi government reconciles their political differences to produce a functioning government, and the Iraqi security forces are now effective and have assumed the primary role in security operations, obviating the need for coalition forces. As U.S. forces inevitably leave Iraq (at the insistence of American and Iraqi domestic politics), will Iraq's government be confronted with the same fate as all its predecessors? As it happened when the British left, how can we be sure that it won't happen when the U.S. leaves?

At least one thing's sure, we won't find any answers in a speech given by George Bush.

U.S. Speaker of the House: "Eid eh Shoma Mubarak"

Dear Friends:

Eid eh Shoma Mobarak. It is my distinct honor to bring you greetings on the occasion of Nowruz, Persian New Year. As Speaker of the House, and the Representative from California's 8th Congressional District in San Francisco, I am proud to have a diverse constituency, including a vibrant Iranian-American community that represents the beauty and strength of our country.

Nowruz, meaning new day, is a celebration of the first day of spring. This day is celebrated by millions worldwide and symbolizes renewal, life and new beginnings. The 110th Congress is also about new beginnings and a steadfast commitment to a new direction. Just as Iranian-Americans set Haft Seen tables which symbolize health, happiness and prosperity this Congress has worked hard to pass legislation that espouses these very same values. We have passed legislation to reduce global warming and create energy security, increased the minimum wage and have passed an Innovation Agenda promoting 21st century jobs for a global economy. Over the course of our second session of congress we will continue to write a budget that highlights funding our priorities for a new direction and continue to question the administration's stance on torture and the war in Iraq.

There is a unique bond that grows out of the fundamental values we share. Our nation's growing Iranian-American population has not only contributed to our cultural diversity but has also strengthened our economy. Iranian-Americans continue to contribute to all aspects of our society from business to government to nonprofit and cultural organizations. That bond forms the foundation of our efforts for peace, democracy and human freedom.

Please accept my best wishes for good health and happiness together, surrounded by your friends and family, for many years to come. To contact me and learn about all of my positions on current issues, please visit my website,

Best Regards,

Speaker of the House


Friday, March 14, 2008

To Vote or Not to Vote?

Election pamphlets meet their fate :)

Let's be real, it's no Hillary vs. Obama - but the level of international press coverage the Iranian parliamentary elections has received is interesting, at the least. Even though the contest has largely been branded as an intra-conservative battle between proponents of Ahmadinejad's policies and the insurgent anti-Ahmadinejad conservatives, Iranians decided to do exactly what expat Iranians yelped and howled at them to not do; vote.

“I am voting because I did not vote in the two previous elections,” said Mohammad Hossein Fozi, 27. “As a result, people I don’t like were elected, and their policies have affected my life.”

People across the country shared Mohammad's sentiment; not in an effort to condone the Islamic Republic, but in an effort to show that they love the place the live, but are discontent with the people in charge. With an expected turnout of over half the voting population, one can draw two conclusions, I believe. One, that the Islamic Republic, after nearly thirty years, is progressively acclimating its population - of which 70% has lived under no other government - to its form of governance. Or two, that no such acclimation is occurring, and instead, people have determined that no benefit comes from voter inaction. Or maybe it's a combination of both.

What is abruptly apparent though, is that people like Mohammad (who is part of the demographic that represents 70% of Iran's population) believe their vote counts; why shouldn't we?