First the irreplaceable hilzoy retires, then the always-awesome Cheryl Rofer leaves Whirled View. Quite the upheaval in the blogosphere today.
The good news is that Cheryl isn’t retiring, just relocating. Add her new site to your daily routine (and keep Whirled View in the mix, of course).
One of the best in the biz (I’d say the best in the biz), hilzoy, is retiring. There is no voice out there quite like hers – reasonable, measured, honest, uniquely (and penetratingly) insightful, widly intelligent, humorous (with a mischievous bent), open-minded, humble, etc. God I’ll miss her.
Over two years ago, I wrote this:
Sometimes you come across a piece that succinctly, and neatly, expresses otherwise amorphous ideas that have been circulating in your muddled consciousness. It’s like reading what the resolution of your inner debate would look like if you had been able to achieve such clarity yourself. Or how you would have liked to have formulated a hodgepodge of thoughts if you could have only organized them in such an eloquent, plainspoken manner.
But when it all comes together, reading such a work can be like reading yourself – only better. Even if it’s nothing ambitious or grandiose, it resonates.
Many times, those pieces are written by someone named hilzoy. Here’s one example.
But really, the examples are too numerous to list. It was my honor and extreme pleasure to share Obsidian Wings with her for a small part of her blogging career.
Here’s hoping she gets pulled back in. Soon.
The Christian Science Monitor highlights China’s growing economic influence in Latin America:
"Beijing’s main interest in Latin America has been guaranteeing access to the region’s raw materials – principally oil, iron ore, soybeans, and copper – to fuel its continued rapid growth. For many countries, there’s a downside in the China trade, through which cheap imports have displaced local textiles.
"China’s growing role has alarmed policymakers in Washington. However, China has been careful not to establish a military presence in the region, since doing so would antagonize Washington. The US has considered Latin America to be in its sphere of influence since the Monroe Doctrine of 1823.
"China ‘treats [Hugo] Chávez as they do [Álvaro] Uribe and Lula,’ said Alexandre Barbosa, a consultant to the São Paulo-based consulting firm Prospectiva, referring to the presidents of Venezuela, Colombia, and Brazil, respectively. ‘They’re interested in business’
"And what a voracious interest in business they’ve shown. Trade between Latin America and China rocketed from $10 billion in 2000 to $140 billion in 2008. China is buying zinc from Peru, copper from Chile, and iron ore from Brazil. It’s shipping electronic equipment to Brazil, buses to Cuba, clothes to Mexico and cars to Peru."
Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani will lead Friday’s prayers in Tehran:
"The next flash point in the face-off is expected this Friday during prayers at Tehran University when Ayatollah Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, an influential former president, will be leading them for the first time since the election a month ago.
"A strong supporter of defeated presidential candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi, Mr. Rafsanjani – a pillar of the regime for 30 years – has emerged since the contested June 12 election as one of the key figures in a power struggle with Iran’s supreme leader and his allies, including President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad…
"Posters titled The Promised Day Has Arrived are already being circulated ahead of Friday prayers. They promise the presence of Mr. Mousavi and former President Mohammad Khatami, and urge reformists to flood the prayer hall.
"Friday prayers at Tehran University have traditionally been a political agenda setter for the Islamic Republic and conservative rallying point. The open-air hall rings weekly with condemnations of the enemies of the Islamic Republic and cries of ‘Death to America.’ A week into the postelection rioting, Iran’s supreme leader, Ali Khamenei, took the unusual step of personally addressing Friday prayers and delivered a speech condemning the rioters as the unwilling pawns of a British-fomented ‘Velvet Revolution.’"
This is yet another astute move by the opposition.
(Crossposted to my blog)
Hugo Schwyzer has an important take on the Palin phenomenon:
"I found her politics crudely reactionary, and still do. But I was and am troubled by the way in which some of my fellow progressives have failed to recognize that, in many ways, Palin’s popularity with the “base” reflects a radical cultural shift among our conservative brothers and sisters: with some notable and defiantly troglodytic exceptions, most on the right were and are quite comfortable with the idea of this woman, a mother of five, serving as president. This reflects nothing less than the happy truth that, for the most part, we on the left have won and are continuing to win the culture war. A generation ago, far more pastors and conservative pundits would have railed against a mother of young children pursuing a very public career outside the home. Her ambition would have been decried; her husband Todd’s primary role as caregiver to the younger daughters (Willow and Piper) would have been blasted as a tragic refusal to submit to God’s plan for the human household. And though some on the very fringes of the far right did indeed make noises to that effect, I was pleased that a clear majority of conservative voters repudiated those traditionalist sentiments."
My trip back to the Midwest late last month broke my momentum in following Iran closely, and I’m only now starting to feel caught up enough so that my thoughts might be useful. Chief among those thoughts is the simple fact that the nature of the Supreme Leader’s office has changed, and perhaps with it, the range of potential futures for the Islamic Republic.
Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini’s concept of velayat-e faqih never had wide and deep theological support, but during the past 30 years, it has won acceptance, even if only passive, as a cornerstone of Iran’s political landscape. During the past month, however, that implicit authority has been weakened beyond repair. How many people, and I’m speaking specifically of Iranians, knew previously that the Assembly of Experts didn’t just elect the Supreme Leader, but also had the power to supervise and if necessary remove him? How many people, both within the government and outside it, have become his enemies now that he has openly become theirs?
The authority of his office weakened, Khamene’i now relies almost entirely on open displays of physical power, a development which grows out of the increasing Ahmadinejad-era militarization of Iranian politics that may have played a role in last month’s electoral coup to begin with. Two days ago, the Los Angeles Times‘s Borzou Daraghi reported this:
"The top leaders of Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guard publicly acknowledged they had taken over the nation’s security during the post-election unrest and warned late Sunday, in a threat against a reformist wave led by Mir-Hossein Mousavi, that there was no middle ground in the ongoing dispute over the reelection of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
"Maj. Gen. Mohammad Ali Jafari, commander of the elite military branch, said the guard’s takeover of the nation’s security had led to ‘a revival of the revolution.’
"’These events put us in a new stage of the revolution and political struggles, and all of us must fully comprehend its dimensions,’ he said at a Sunday press conference, according to reports that surfaced today.
"’Because the Revolutionary Guard was assigned the task of controlling the situation, [it] took the initiative to quell a spiraling unrest. This event pushed us into a new phase of the revolution and political struggles and we have to understand all its dimensions.’"
Digest that statement, and you start to see the difference between the principlists’ "Islamic Government" and the "Islamic Republic" of traditional conservatives and most reformists.
What, then, of the popular revolution which has coalesced around Mousavi? If, over the course of several months, they succeed in forcing some sort of change the nature of which becomes more difficult to see as time passes, the Supreme Leadership is further weakened, having gone all in on suppressing it. If they fail, then the present regime continues, but it is difficult to see much future for the evolutionary potential many saw within the republican framework. It was always plausible for a successful reformist run to, in alliance with pragmatic conservatives, make the Supreme Leader a mostly ceremonial figure who gave sermons, talked about values, and presumably had a plush lifestyle if he wanted it, but interfered in government no more than Europe’s constitutional monarchs. The office has no future, however, as the dictator-for-life of a government maintained only by the military, especially if it eventually winds up in Mojtaba’s hands as a family fiefdom.
I don’t have much to say about the role of social media in Iranian politics, or the politics of anywhere else for that matter. If the issue interests you, however, be sure to check out the on-line journal Arab Media & Society. Here’s the blogging tag, and you can get others from the sidebar.
There’s also a piece on BBC Persian.
My own view of some technological issues in society, written from a long-term perspective, is here, though I spend only a little time on the strictly political world.