Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Eeee-rahn, Numbah One

The iron cleric is now blinking. Get hot water quick.

Iran's Supreme Leader the Ayatollah Somethin' Somethin' Khamenei has agreed to a partial re-count of disputed ballots in Friday's divisive elections, although he ruled out an annulment of the vote.

Despite the Ayatollah's celestial right to govern, the presidency of Iran is far from unimportant. It is a critical part of the "managed democracy" that the ruling clerics have used to govern Iran for the last three decades. Khamenei himself is a former President. The job is important enough to have brought millions of Iranians to the polls on Friday, and thousands into the streets afterward — both supporters of the apparent loser--reformist candidate Mir-Hossein Mousavi--and members of the radical volunteer paramilitary forces who support the reelected President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

But the system is tricky. It actually allows the Supreme Leader to present different faces to the world. While he has strongly backed Ahmadinejad, for example, Khamenei also for a time designated one of the president's key pragmatist critics, Ali Larijani, as the point man in negotiations with the West over Iran's nuclear program.

I wonder, though, if the Obama administration wouldn't be under extreme pressure should Mousavi, the reformist, moderate candidate emerge victorious, while Iran's hard line regarding nuclear weapons is still maintained?

In dealing with Ahmadinejad, the administration has been able to gather international support and put enough pressure on Iran to at least soft-arm them into minute concessions. In the political milieu, we need to have a clear, defined enemy at the helm over there in order that we shine as the world's democratic example. And as all political establishments aim for status quo, I am suspicious of the United States' desire to truly oust Ahmadinejad.

In every fairy tale there is a clear good guy and there is a clear bad guy. Mir-Hossein Mousavi would muddy-up the equation enough to cause the administration severe migraines.

Monday, June 15, 2009


It's beyond obvious that since the inauguration we've all lost our verve around here. Personally speaking, it took a bit longer than the rest of the contributors, but it's happened. I've turned back to the wall of cynicism and distrust of politics and its actors.

It shouldn't be a surprise. I was raised and went to university in the Washington D.C. area, and the weight and influence of the political machinery churning its soul-sucking cogs drove me away from this most corrupt of disciplines for the two decades I spent in that godforsaken city. Life inside the Beltway is so exclusive and insular, fraught with backroom deals and chest-stabbing followed by luncheons and myriad cocktails at The Old Ebbitt Grill, that I thoroughly believe everyone encircled and entrenched in that insufferable layer of hell has lost track of life outside it.

Having worked within it for six years I can testify to the ignorance of politicians for their constituency outside the Beltway--no matter what they all crow about on C-SPAN. The fact is, a pol's main mission(s) is/are to either get rich (hello corporation lobbying), headline the revered Cocktail Circuit, or get on the list of Ben Bradlee's and Sally Quinn's frequent Georgetown parties. Bob Woodward has become such an elite stalwart on the D.C. circuit that he himself now hosts the second most popular annual shin-dig at his Victorian or Tudor or whatever the hell style townhouse he has on M Street.

But Woody is a...journalist, and we all know journalists have no power to influence, no matter how much access they're given to an administration or how many "inside scoop" - type books they pen. Yes?

Basically, what I'm seeing now is a half-assed push for change by the current administration, which is being met in typical, status-quo fashion by the good ol' boys (and some girls) in Congress. Make no mistake, I knew from the start Obama was Obama--a skilled, intelligent, forward-thinking...POLITICIAN. And so I didn't expect anywhere as much as was promised. But what I'm seeing now is our system's machinations working flawlessly to effectively cut off any and every thing. Sure, you can give me your examples of this and that being passed or worked through, but generally it's business as usual on the old hill.

And if this administration isn't successful in pushing anything through, then I will not see true change in my lifetime. Of that, I am confident. That may be cynicism, but you won't blame me for inaccuracy. You'll see. I'm an old dog with wide open eyes.

On the healthcare issue*, I recently found out that one of the more popular versions (if there exists such a term for this initiative here in the States) of coverage with Congress is the mandatory purchase of the government-sponsored plan (Public Option). That is to say, EVERYONE must at least pay the government-sponsored premium, otherwise they will be fined. So, basically, if you're too poor to afford health insurance to begin with, the government wants to give you the option to pay the mandatory premium for its plan, otherwise be fined--a la the IRS coming after you. In some cases, people have chimed that the government fine for NOT choosing an option is actually more affordable than its premium.

Ladies and gents, this has GOT to be the most idiotic, half-assed scheme I've heard. I was under the impression that "everyone will be covered" meant healthcare is given to EVERYONE who...stay with me here...CANNOT AFFORD A HEALTH INSURANCE PREMIUM OF EVEN $1. But no. In typical American fashion, we're going to make our citizens pay up, or be fined.

My friends, this is why I've said now for over a year that this system here, in this country, does not work for me and my family. It's compromises such as this that succeed in making me want to pick up that M-16, take the Orange Line to the Capitol South station, and pay a little visit to that revered hill. Say hello to my leeetle friend, you elitist, scheming, corporation and central bank-bought swine!

I am reduced to this. And it happens every time I dig down far enough into the nuts and bolts of our system. Fundamentally it doesn't work to help its citizens have a chance at a decent life.

And so I leave you with this cheery column on this soggy, cloudy Monday. I don't know what there is to be done about anything in Washington anymore. At this point, my personal answer to improving my life and my family's is to emigrate. All in due time; there are some loose ends that have to be slowly tied here, but the plan has been put into motion.

*Please note correction of single payer vs. Public Option note in the Comments by Teresa