Forever Under Construction

The Trap

Posted in History, Politics, Society by homeyra on June 1, 2009


The Trap: What Happened to Our Dream of Freedom is a 2007 BBC documentary series by English filmmaker Adam Curtis. (See his blog here)
Part 1: F*k You Buddy
Part 2: The Lonely Robot
Part 3: “We Will Force You To Be Free”

An excerpt from Part 1:

[…] “In 1979 Mrs. Thatcher has come to power in Britain. What she promised to create is a society based on the dream of individual freedom. People would be liberated from the arrogant elites and the State bureaucrats (…)*. But Mrs. Thatcher new she would have to find a new way of managing and controlling (…) in a complex society in order to avoid chaos. And to do this, just like the psychiatrists in America, she would turn to systems based on the objective power of numbers. But underlying the new mathematical models would yet again be the very dark and suspicious vision of human beings that the cold war strategists had assumed. This vision will now penetrate to the very heart of the British state.

Thatcher government began in the early ages by selling off many of the state owned interests. But it soon became clear that in the modern world there were large areas of the State which would have to remain under government control. Mrs. Thatcher was determined to free them too from the old forms of management.
To do this she would bring in a system no longer run by ideas of public duty, instead public servants would be encouraged by incentives to follow their self-interests.

buchC6It was all in keeping with the idea of the inventors of Public Choice: James Buchanan.
He believed that those politicians and bureaucrats who preached the idea of public duty that were the most dangerous, what he called the zealots. They have to be got rid of them.
Buchanan: […] If our success depends on the goodness of politicians and bureaucrats, then we are in real problem.
It was a dark and pessimistic vision of human motivation, but it was about to become the bases for a new system for managing the British state.
In 1988 Mrs. Thatcher announced the complete reform of the way the national health service was run. The fundamental (…) was to overthrow the power of the medical establishment and replace it with a new efficient system of management. To do this Mrs. Thacher turned to a man who had been one of the nuclear strategist of Rand Corporation at the height of the Cold War. (Alain Enthoven)

enthoven[…] Enthoven developed a technique he called system analysis. It was a technique of management that he believed could be applied to any type of human organization. Its aim was to get rid of all the emotional and subjective values that confused and corrupted the system, and replace them by rational, objective methods, mathematically defined targets and incentives.
Enthoven had first tried to apply this system back in the 1960’s when he was still in the military. The secretary of defense Robert McNamara asked him to help transform the way Pentagon was run. Enthoven began to get rid of the idea that Patriotism should be the guiding force of America’s defense and replacing it with a rational system based on numbers.
What replaced patriotism and notions of duty, were mathematically measurable outcomes.
But McNamara’s experiments had ended in disaster when he had tried to run the Vietnam war with rational mathematical way through performance targets and incentive. The most infamous example has been the body count. It has been designed as a rational measure of whether America was winning the war, but in fact troupes simply made it up, even shot civilians to perform (…)* targets. […]

(…)*= inaudible

Different times, same narrative

Posted in History, Middle East, USA by homeyra on April 4, 2009

10 minutes – Robert Fisk

To the governors of Baghdad:  “We come here not as conquerors but as liberators to free you from generations of tyranny.”
“If British troops are withdrawn immediately from Iraq they will be civil war.”
Terrorist are crossing Iraqi borders from Syria.” etc.
No, this isn’t GWB speaking. These are quotes from the official narrative right after the British invasion and occupation of Iraq in 1917.

More on youtube


Posted in History, Iran by homeyra on October 19, 2008

A new study in the Middle East journal:

Showdown at Doha: The Secret Oil Deal That Helped Sink the Shah of Iran by Andrew Scott Cooper, a contributor to the Autumn issue of the Middle East Journal and a PhD candidate at Victoria University in New Zealand, who has combed through recently de-classified documents tracing a secret oil deal that help explain Iran’s 1977 economic crisis that undercut the Shah’s power and eventually helped lead to the Iranian Revolution.

A 14 minute interview with Cooper

A review of this article: Nixon, Ford administrations undercut shah, report says: U.S. fumbling in Iran did not start with Jimmy Carter, says a scholar who reviewed previously secret files.

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Posted in History, Iran by homeyra on October 19, 2008

The Pueblo Chieftain – Sunday January 12, 1912

This clip was found and posted by blogger and “virtual” friend Neghneghoo.

American Morgan Shuster was the treasurer-general of Persia by appointment of the Iranian parliament from May to December 1911 and the author of Strangling of Persia. This is the end of the Iranian constitutional revolution.

The original post: پرشیا 1912

Caption from a 1911 English satirical magazine reads: “If we hadn’t a thorough understanding, I (British lion) might almost be tempted to ask what you (Russian bear) are doing there with our little playfellow (Persian cat).”

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Posted in Georgians, History, Iran, Iranians by homeyra on October 1, 2008

The adventures of the Omidvar brothers are a vivid part of my childhood memories. In 1954, Yssa and Abdollah set out on a ten year voyage all around the world – see map – by bycicle, motorcycle and car. Abdollah decided to settle down in Chile while Yssa returned to Iran.

A bilingual website is documenting their life and travels. A small museum within the Sa’dabad Palace complex showcases their adventures.

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Another Tricycle

Posted in History by homeyra on August 8, 2008

August 4th

Posted in History, Iran by homeyra on August 4, 2008

102th Anniversary of the constitutional revolution leading to the establishment of the first parliament


Posted in History, Iran, Map by homeyra on May 21, 2008

Click picture to see a larger image

Territorial Changes in the 19th and 20th Centuries. Thanks Servant.
Few links:
1813: Treaty of Gulistan with Russia
1826:Treaty of Turkmenchay with Russia
1847: Treaty of Erzerum with the Ottomans
1857: Treaty of Paris ending the Anglo-Persian War
1863-1872: First and Second Goldsmid Arbitration
1881: Treaty of Akhal with Russia
1893: Iran transfers to Russia additional regions near the Atrek River that were Iranian under the Akhal Treaty.
1905: Mc Mahon Arbitration of Sistan
1971: UN plebiscite

See also Greater Iran

The Blueprint

Posted in Education, History by homeyra on May 3, 2008

Why this isn’t taught in schools?

After reading the history of the Germany in early 30s, “Italy in the ’20s, Russia in the ’30s, East Germany in the ’50s, Czechoslovakia in the ’60s, Pinochet’s coup in Chile in ’73, the crushing of the democracy movement in China at the end of the ’80s“, American author, Naomi Wolf says ” that there is a blueprint that would-be dictators always do the same ten things, whether they’re on the left or the right […]”

  1. Invoke a terrifying internal and external enemy.
  2. Create secret prisons where torture takes place.
  3. Develop a thug caste or paramilitary force not answerable to citizens.
  4. Set up an internal surveillance system.
  5. Harass citizens’ groups.
  6. Engage in arbitrary detention.
  7. Target key individuals.
  8. Control the press.
  9. Treat all political dissents as traitors.
  10. Suspend the rule of law.

In this article in The Guardian, the author develops her idea with a focus on her homeland although the model is universal.

Related posts at 99

Film Links and More

Posted in Cinema, History, Iran, Music, Things by homeyra on February 14, 2008

Film society presents young Iranian filmmakers. (Synopsis, trailers here)

A World Between is the true story of a young Iranian American raised in the US, who travels to Iran to discover his father’s homeland. Sample video

Young republic by Nooshin J. Navidi: Navidi made her first trip to Iran in Spring 2006 to explore the country for sixth months. Born in Southern California to an Iranian father and Korean mother, Nooshin graduated from Stanford University with a Masters in Sociology and Bachelor in Communications.

More videos on Iran including American life in Iran, 1975

Link via Peyman

پيمان و تنبكش: نامه ي سرگشاده به كوبه اي نوازان ايران

Our Friend to Humanity gives some historical context for the current strained relations between America and Iran.

More links/events at Roshan Cultural Heritage Institute

Peace Corps Writers Blog: Iran

A Test from BBC-Science & Nature:
Can you tell genuine smile and fake ones?
(15 out of 20 for me)

Love mattress by Mehdi Mojtabavi


On The Couch …

Posted in History, Quote by homeyra on January 28, 2008

Here are a few quotes on history, more for later:

The historian lays humanity on the couch. Lynn White, Jr.

History is never antiquated, because humanity is always fundamentally the same. Walter Rauschenbusch

To remain ignorant of things that happened before you were born is to remain a child. Cicero

A nation that forgets its past can function no better than an individual with amnesia. David McCullough

Man is an historical animal, with a deep sense of his own past; and if he cannot integrate the past by a history explicit and true, he will integrate it by a history implicit and false. Geoffrey Barraclough

It has become too easy to see that the luckless men of the past lived by mistakes, even absurd beliefs, so we may well fail in a decent respect for them, and forget that historians of the future will point out that we too lived by myths.
Herbert J. Muller

When a person identifies himself with a group his critical faculties are diminished and his passions enhanced by a kind of emotive resonance. The individual is not a killer, the group is, and by identifying with it, the individual becomes one. This is the infernal dialect reflected in man’s history.
Arthur Koestler

It is striking how history, when resting on the memory of men, always touches the bounds of mythology. Leopold von Ranke

Legend: A lie that has attained the dignity of age. H.L. Mencken

The history of man is a series of conspiracies to win from nature some advantage without paying for it. Ralph Waldo Emerson

It may help to understand human affairs to be clear that most of the great triumphs and tragedies of history are caused, not by people being fundamentally good or fundamentally bad, but by people being fundamentally people.
Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett

Human history becomes more and more a race between education and catastrophe. H. G. Wells

Quote Garden
Wisdom quotes
The quotation page

Honourable East India Company

Posted in Books, History, India by homeyra on October 26, 2007

Corporatism, private army, drugs … does it sound familiar?


The corporation that changed the world
How the East India Company shaped the Modern multinational
Nick Robins

It all started with a walk. Back in 2000, […] I decided one lunch-break to walk to the site of the East India Company’s headquarters. I was in for a surprise. When I reached the corner of Leadenhall and Lime Street where East India House had stood for over 200 years, there was nothing – no sign, no plaque, nothing to mark the fact that this was the location where the world’s most powerful corporation had once been based. In a country that is drenched in the culture of heritage, this absence puzzled me: why had this historic company been so completely erased from the face of London?… read more in “In My Own Words: The global legacy of the East India Company“, Nick Robins


East India House, in the early 19th century

Excerpt from The world’s first multinational, Nick Robins, New Statesman:

[…] Nehru described the effect of the East India Company on the country he would shortly rule. “The corruption, venality, nepotism, violence and greed of money of these early generations of British rule in India,is something which passes comprehension.” It was, he added, “significant that one of the Hindustani words which has become part of the English language is ‘loot'”.

[…] the onset of globalisation has revived interest in a company that could be seen as a pioneering force for world trade. […] Its founders are now hailed as swashbuckling adventurers, its operations praised for pioneering the birth of modern consumerism […]

Yet the East India Company, romantic as it may seem, has more profound and disturbing lessons to teach us. Abuse of market power; corporate greed; judicial impunity; the “irrational exuberance” of the financial markets; and the destruction of traditional economies […]


In The Wealth of Nations (1776), Adam Smith used the East India Company as a case study to show how monopoly capitalism undermines both liberty and justice, and how the management of shareholder-controlled corporations invariably ends in “negligence, profusion and malversation“. Yet nothing of Smith‘s scepticism […] enters the speeches of today’s free-market advocates.

Smith‘s vision of free trade entailed firm controls on corporate power. And, as did his own times, subsequent history shows how right he was. If it is to contribute to economic progress, the corporation’s market power has to be limited to allow real choice, and to prevent suppliers being squeezed and consumers gouged. Its political power also needs to be constrained, if it is not to rig the rules of regulation so that it enjoys unjustified public subsidy or protection. Internal and external checks and balances must curb the tendency of executives to become corporate emperors. And clear and enforceable systems of justice are necessary to hold the corporation to account for any damage to society and the environment. […]

Today, we can see the East India Company as the first “imperial corporation”, the very design of which drove it to market domination, speculative excess and the evasion of justice. Like the modern multinational, it was eager to avoid the mere interplay of supply and demand. […] it also wanted to control the sources of supply by breaking the power of local rulers in India and eliminating competition so that it could force down its purchase prices.

By controlling both ends of the chain, the company could buy cheap and sell dear. This meant organising coups against local rulers and placing puppets on the throne. […] Combining economic muscle with extensive bribery and the deployment of its small but effective private army, the company engineered a series of “revolutions” that gave it territorial as well as economic control.

[…] in 1757, the company literally looted Bengal’s treasury. It loaded the country’s gold and silver on to a fleet of more than a hundred boats and sent it downriver to Calcutta. […]

It was the unrivalled quality and cheapness of textiles that had lured the East India Company to Bengal, and it would be Bengal’s weavers who felt the full force of the company’s new-found market power. Never rich, the weavers nevertheless had a better standard of living than their counterparts in 18th-century England. […] the East India Company eliminated the weavers’ freedom to sell to other merchants, and so crushed their limited but important market autonomy. […]

[…] the East India Company also engineered its own stock-market boom, ending in a share-price slump that rocked the world. […]

Yet the human tragedy was just beginning. In Bengal, the annual monsoon rains had failed. But what turned a manageable natural disaster into a catastrophe was the manipulation of local grain markets by East India speculators […]. Estimates vary, but up to ten million people may have died of starvation. When the full story became known in Britain, there was fury at the firm’s negligence. […] “We have murdered, deposed, plundered, usurped – nay, what think you of the famine in Bengal, in which millions perished, being caused by a monopoly of provisions by the servants of the East Indies.”

[…] “Every rupee of profit made by an Englishman is lost for ever to India,” (Edmund Burke ) a judgement that would probably be echoed today by millions of people working at the wrong end of the multinational bargain.

All the tools with which we are now familiar were deployed to tame the firm: codes of conduct for company executives, rules on shareholder abuse, government regulation, and ultimately, as with so many failed firms, nationalisation.

Government intervention over a hundred years transformed the company from a purely commercial institution to an agent of the British state. […] Direct control of the company’s territories passed to the crown, and the British Raj was born.

Yet in spite of all the parliamentary inquiries and waves of regulation, few of the company’s executives were ever brought to book. […] the parliament then turned its attention to Warren Hastings, governor-general of Bengal, voting twice to recall him for mismanagement. Both times this was rebuffed by the company’s shareholders and, as a last resort, and at Burke’s instigation, the medieval practice of impeachment was revived and used against him. Among the charges was that Hastings had introduced a company monopoly over the production of opium […] Hastings was also the first to seek deliberately to break China’s ban on the importation of opium. […]

[…] Hastings was acquitted of all charges […]

[…] In 1774, a group of Armenian merchants launched a civil case for damages against Hastings‘s predecessor, Harry Verelst. […] the merchants alleged that Verelst had arbitrarily locked them up in Bengal six years earlier, confiscating their property and removing their freedom to trade. […] in December 1774, the Lord Chief Justice decided in favour of the Armenians, judging that Verelst had been guilty of “oppression, false imprisonment and singular depredations”. […]

Many in business regard the current upsurge of global litigation against corporations such as Talisman, Unocal and Shell as somehow new and unjustified. Yet Verelst‘s case provides a powerful precedent, demonstrating that more than 200 years ago, a senior executive of the world’s first multinational was tried and found guilty of what we would now consider human rights abuses.

clove.jpg[…] (today) Robert Clive‘s (statue stands outside the Foreign Office in Whitehall). That such a rogue still has pride of place at the heart of government suggests that Britain has not yet confronted the connections between its corporate and imperial pasts. This is not mere forgetfulness, but the mark of a continued belief that the unrestrained pursuit of market power and personal reward is to be praised at the highest levels. In India, the East India Company‘s mismanagement remains part of the national consciousness; here, knowledge of the company’s corruption and abuse is almost entirely lacking. We still do not recognise the “imperial gene” that remains at the heart of modern corporate design.

Perhaps Nehru can help us. In The Discovery of India, he examined the consequences of England’s long domination of India in terms of karma, the spiritual law of cause and effect. “Entangled in its meshes,” he wrote, “we have thus struggled in vain to rid ourselves of this past inheritance and start afresh on a different basis.” Independence was a necessary starting point for India, wrote Nehru, but Britain, too, needed to “start afresh“. […] we do not need further glorification of the East India Company‘s contribution to consumerism or of the celebrity of its executives. We need an honest reckoning with the human costs of its quest for market domination. Read the article

Nick Robins’ articles in Open Democracy and New Statesman
Book review by Satya Sagar
Book review, The Hindu Business Line
Lesson of Empire: India 60 years after independence, Nick Robins and Patrap Chatterjee
Opium in global mercantilism

Once Upon A Time …

Posted in England, History, Iraq, Oil, WMD by homeyra on May 26, 2007

” Britain merged the Ottoman provinces Baghdad, Basra and Mosul into a new state of Iraq, inhabited by three different groups of people: Shi’ites, Sunnis and Kurds. Under British rule, the new Iraqis were subjected to more taxes than under Ottoman rule. Nationalist revolt rose against the new British rulers in 1920.

To crush the Iraqi national-liberation movement, Churchill, secretary of state for war, introduced new military tactics with massive bombing of villages as the original “shock and awe” doctrine, revived eight decades later by the US military. Churchill ordered the use of mustard gas, stating:

I do not understand the squeamishness about the use of gas. I am strongly in favor of using poison gas against uncivilized tribes.” Source

Relevant link:
Imperial parallels: Iraq

British Colonialism and Repression in Iraq: Winston Churchill, as responsible cabinet minister in the early years, saw Iraq as an experiment in high-technology colonial control.
Gertrude Bell: The Uncrowneded Queen of Iraq
When Oil and Water Mix: … “One drop of oil,” said Georges Clemenceau, the Prime Minister of France in the second half of World War I, “is worth one drop of blood of our soldiers.” … … … One has to wonder how many more millions have to be slaughtered before the collective consciousness of humanity is stirred into action. Has the ongoing stench of the genocidal concoction obscured our compassion? Perhaps the fatal potion brings with it another message – shame? Or perhaps even a glimmer of hope that there is still time. Soraya Sepahpour Ulrich