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Thinkwing Radio with Mike Honig (@ThinkwingRadio), a listener call-in show airing live every Monday night from 9-10 PM (CT) on KPFT-FM 90.1 (Houston). My engineer is Bob Gartner.
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For the purposes of this show, I operate on two mottoes:
- You’re entitled to your own opinion, but not your own facts;
- An educated electorate is a prerequisite for a democracy.
“Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable.” ~ John F. Kennedy, March 13, 1962.
Moji Agha (Mojtaba Aghamohammadi): Moji Agha is an Iranian-American reformist Muslim sufi “monk”, or dervish, and a bilingual poet/writer. He has had extensive academic, professional, and clinical backgrounds in psychology, cultural (and ecological) studies and conflict resolution. His 4-decades-long peace, democracy, interfaith dialogue, and Mother Earth activism has been endorsed by Noam Chomsky and Cornel West, among others. Among the non-profits Moji has founded are: Circles of Nonviolence/Community Collaboratives Initiative, Abraham’s Peace Tent, and Mossadegh Legacy Institute.
Dr. Muhammad Sahimi is a professor at University of Southern California in Los Angeles. For over two decades he has been writing about Iran’s its political developments, and its nuclear program. He has published extensively with Huffington Post, National Interest, PBS/Frontline/Tehran Bureau, Antiwar, and other websites.
MIKE INTRO: I’ve been tracking the news and deciding whether there are any domestic topics in the potential offing (i.e., “bombshells”) that I MUST cover on Monday, or whether we can do our Iran show.
The world does not stop for American news even though Americans often feel like it does.
As Moji Agha accurately put it to me, Iran, for all its flaws, is currently one of the most stable nations in their region Love it or hate it, the reality is that Iran is an important nation both regionally and internationally. That’s why, with consequential Trumpian news always breaking in the United States, I’m nonetheless willing to do our show tonight on Iran’s political climate and unrest. It might even be worthwhile in an oblique sense as a counterpoint to US news; political intrigue and unrest doesn’t end at our shores, and that’s worth remembering.
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- Both Moji Agha and Muhammad Sahimi have sources and made inferences which lead them to believe that Iranian hardliners attempted to force President Hassan Rouhani into retirement by fomenting street unrest to discredit his government.
- I tried to follow this story, but as things quieted down, coverage pretty much stopped. Iran is a nation of geopolitical interest to me, so when Moji offered me his theory I listened.
- I was very interested in views of the recent unrest, who/what triggered it, what/who tamped it down, and what political backstory may have fomented it.
- Worst since 2009
- The protests seem relatively spontaneous and leaderless, with diverse and seemingly uncoordinated demands ranging from better economic conditions, and an end to “foreign adventures” as in Syria, to even abolition of the Islamic Republic.
- There may be a ‘crisis of rising expectations’ after many economic sanctions were lifted, yet many Iranians feel they have not benefited as they might have anticipated
- Official unemployment is pegged at 11,7%.
- news (i.e., an attempted-but-failed-due-to-miscalculation “soft coup” by Iranian right wingers) sparking the recent protests inside Iran.
- The term “soft coup” was coined by Saeed Barzin, an Iranian analyst based in London.
- Large fraction of Iran’s national budget goes to Islamic ‘non-profits’ that are not accountable for how the money is spent.
- BUDGET $250-300b (depending on exchange rate): Defense 8%, Religious organization Budget @ $1.3b (~0.35%) Tax Exemptions @
- Iran’s hardliners are not monolithic, and many went along with varying degrees of enthusiasm
- Iran is surrounded by wars and disrupted states
- “Bread riots”
- Iran’s People Do Not Need U.S. Crocodile Tears, by Muhammad Sahimi (TRUTHDIG.COM) Jan 09, 2018
- SHOW ANNOUNCEMENT, We’ve Moved!: DEC. 11 & 18, 2013, 10-11PM On KPFT-FM 90.1 (Houston), TOPIC, PartS 1 & 2: IRAN: Dictatorship? Democracy? Theocracy? And how did it become what it is?”
- Iran FM warns neighbors against fomenting unrest
- According to the BBC, English is widely studied in Iran and is so popular in higher grades that classes started to be offered in primary schools. This has happened despite concerns expressed by Iran’s rulers, who have said that the teaching of English and other foreign languages amounts to a “cultural invasion.” In a speech to teachers in 2016, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran’s supreme leader, bemoaned the prevalence of English classes in Iranian schools, saying:
- This insistence on promoting the English language in our country is an unhealthy course of action. Of course, we should learn foreign languages, but foreign languages are not confined to the English language. The language of science is not only English. Why do they not specify other languages in school as language lessons? Why is there such an insistence? . . .
- I am not saying that we should cancel English classes shortly. This is not what I am saying. What I am saying is that we should know what we are doing. We should know what kind of generation the other side wants to be built in the country and with what characteristics. . . .
- Analysis: Iran protests show danger of economic woes, Associated Press via Washington Post
- The economic resentment seen in recent days could prompt the rise of another Ahmadinejad-style hard-line populist — if Iran’s clerical leadership allows such a candidacy.
- …Weeks before the protests, Rouhani publicly complained that large parts of the government budget went to religious institutions, largely seen as power bases of the hard-liners, seeking to deflect blame over the economy. From the other side, it is widely believed that the hard-liners were the ones who initially stoked the protests to embarrass Rouhani, only to see the demonstrations turn against the entire ruling establishment.
- PROTESTS WANE, ANGER REMAINS: Authorities managed to stifle the protests in part by blocking access to the messaging app Telegram, through which demonstrators organized the rallies and shared images from the streets. The Revolutionary Guard’s volunteer Basiji force also was deployed and police have arrested hundreds; more than 20 protesters were killed, although security forces did not engage in the level of bloodshed that followed the 2009 protests.
- Both U.S. President Donald Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said they supported the protesters, without apparently providing any aid. The protests quickly raised the hopes of those abroad who want to see an end to the Islamic Republic.
- There may be a ‘crisis of rising expectations’ after many economic sanctions were lifted, yet many Iranians feel they have not benefitted as they might have anticipated
- Official unemployment is pegged at 11.7%.
- China’s watchful eye: CCTV footage taken in Beijing uses the facial-recognition system Face++. China, unburdened by concerns about privacy or civil rights, is integrating private cameras and security cameras into a nationwide surveillance system., Story by Simon Denyer, Photos by Gilles Sabrié, Video by Joyce Lee, January 7, 2018 (Washington Post)
- Beijing bets on facial recognition in a big drive for total surveillance
- …who’s a criminal? In China, documents for the Police Cloud project unearthed by Human Rights Watch list “petitioners” — people who complain to the government about perceived injustices — as potential targets of surveillance, along with anyone who “undermines stability” or has “extreme thoughts.” Other documents cite members of ethnic minorities, specifically Muslim Uighurs from Xinjiang, as subjects of scrutiny.
- Maya Wang, a researcher at Human Rights Watch, said what sets China apart is “a complete lack of effective privacy protections,” combined with a system that is explicitly designed to target individuals seen as “politically threatening.”
- “In other countries, we are often concerned about the use of big data for deepening existing policing bias — for example, for targeting historically disadvantaged groups like African Americans in the U.S. context — but for the Chinese systems, the targeting of people of certain ethnicity is a fundamental function of the system,” she added.
- NET Neutrality: Why it matters.
- MIKE: Did your internet seem to slow down almost immediately the FCC’s net neutrality decision? If it did, you aren’t alone. I’ve seen many complaints online of people having the same impression
- America’s Cultural Revolution, by Catherine Rampell
- Last month in Shanghai, Chinese venture capitalist Eric X. Li made a provocative suggestion. The United States, he said, was going through its own “Cultural Revolution.” …
- Li said he saw several parallels between the violence and chaos in China decades ago and the animosity coursing through the United States today. In both cases, the countries turned inward, focusing more on defining the soul of their nations than on issues beyond their borders.
- He said that both countries were also “torn apart by ideological struggles,” with kinships, friendships and business relationships being severed by political differences.
- “Virtually all types of institutions, be it political, educational, or business, are exhausting their internal energy in dealing with contentious, and seemingly irreconcilable, differences in basic identities and values — what it means to be American,” he said in a subsequent email exchange. “In such an environment, identity trumps reason, ideology overwhelms politics, and moral convictions replace intellectual discourse.”
- 7 Reforms After Trump, by Keith Boykin (@keithboykin) 12/3/17, 19:31
- Repeal Shelby v Holder (LEGISLATE: Renew Voting Rights Act)
- Repeal Citizens United (LEGISLATE/AMENDMENT: Limit Money in Politics, abolish anonymous money in politics)
- Abolish electoral college (or can it be saved?)
- Apply anti-nepotism law to White House (It was WRITTEN for White House [Robert Kennedy serving with JFK])
- POTUS candidates must release tax returns (LEGISLATE/AMENDMENT: for how many years)
- Presidents may not self-pardon (AMENDMENT OR LEGISLATION: or pardon executive appointees?)
- Special counsel has power to indict president
- 2/3 Senate vote to confirm SCOTUS appointment
- Sex and Politics: Where’s the boundary between innocent and inappropriate?
KPFT is the Pacifica station in Houston, Texas
TOPICS FROM PREVIOUS WEEKS:
- TV Talk:
- “The Good Place”
- “The Orville”
- “Adam Ruins Everything”
SOURCES WHICH MAY BE RELEVANT TO OTHER DISCUSSION: