Two climb-downs

Copious updates on Honduras in italics – but as of July 6th I’m stopping because this has more mainstream attention now, so hopefully the truth will out. But as Andrew Sullivan wonders, “Can you remember a story where pundits have varied so widely on the basic facts?”.

President Manuel “Mel” Zelaya of Honduras aims to return on Thursday (Update: Thursday became Saturday) from his brief exile in Costa Rica, to which he was removed by the military in his pyjamas. He has pledged to abandon plans to ignore the law of his country and carry out a non-binding referendum on setting up an assembly to rewrite it (in order to run for a second term). The constitution can be changed, but not in the way he went about it (update – or was it? What is the difference between a non-binding referendum and a constitutional, binding one? Is one answer that going about things the Zelaya way is either a waste of money, because in order to be constitutional there would have to be another binding referendum, or that he is in fact abusing the constitution in a way which makes him seem distinctly despotic? The Honduras constitution is available in Spanish, and running this through Google Translate suggests that Articles 4 and 5 regarding the constitution, and 237 regarding the Presidential term, are operative here.)

His political opponents perceived distinct shades of Chavez, the military performed a coup and moved to exile him before he could install himself as emperor-for-life. He had got as far as having the ballot papers shipped from Venezuela and distributing them himself, having sacked his Attorney General and despite a Supreme Court ruling against his conduct. Now he has abandoned the referendum and is asking to see out his term in office, which ends in January.

For obvious reasons – it’s a coup! (update – the US is avoiding ‘coup‘ – there are strings attached to that designation, the US is calling it ‘coup’) – here is little support for this coup, however. The UN is backing the Zelaya. Hugo Chavez backs Zelaya (update – Honduras is an important oil customer; Chavez threatens military intervention). The International Coffee Organization isn’t sure. Although the US President and Secretary of State have declined to meet Zelaya, the Wall Street Journal‘s Americas columnist is very frustrated with the double standard:

“Yesterday the Central American country was being pressured to restore the authoritarian Mr. Zelaya by the likes of Fidel Castro, Daniel Ortega, Hillary Clinton and, of course, Hugo himself. The Organization of American States, having ignored Mr. Zelaya’s abuses, also wants him back in power. It will be a miracle if Honduran patriots can hold their ground.”

It does indeed seem unsuitable for Chavez and Castro to be castigating Honduras for breaches of democracy.

Zelaya has already been replaced: Roberto Micheletti was sworn in yesterday as Interim Executive, strictly according to the constitution.

I’m not sure if Zelaya is being mistranslated or unsympathetically translated, but his words suggest he’s a bad combination of silly and tyrannical. Ah, OK – perhaps badly translated, that post had him referring to how on his return people would call him “Commander”, but this one, the less silly but still slightly pathetic-sounding “‘At your command, Mr. Constitutional President”. Update: aha – Wikipedia says: “The President is also Commander-in-chief of the Armed Forces”, and it was of course the armed forces who expelled Zelaya.

Like the worst of the left with respect to Iran, he is referring to his deposers as “elites” and himself as against “the system of privileges they upheld”. Update: but Roberto Micheletti comes from the same political party – the Liberal Party – as Zelaya. His supporters also lapse into dusty dialectic:

“It was a coup, Mel Zelaya did not resign,” agreed Amilcar Umanzo, brandishing a human rights manual in his hand. “The political and economic class united to overthrow the constitutional president.”

Update: the coup supporters are also sloganeers. Update 2: The coup’s new Congress has removed fundamental freedoms from Hondurans. This is not looking at all good.)

It is genuinely difficult to figure out what is going on in the time I have available. Update: disappointing that you can pretty well predict who supports the coup (mostly self-declared conservative sites). On the other hand Chavez supporters support an unconditional reinstatement.

The reinstated (according to Supreme Court Ruling) Honduran Attorney General insists Zelaya will be prosecuted for, among other charges, abuse of authority and violation of the constitution.

This leads to the obvious question: military coups suck, are totally undemocratic, so why was Zelaya exiled rather than impeached? There is a curfew and unrest in Tegucigalpa. How many of his supporters have been arrested, how many hurt and how many killed?

Update: it seems to me that Zelaya claimed undue power unconstitutionally and contra to Supreme Court ruling, that it is very ominous that he was exiled at gunpoint instead of being impeached which would have been the democratic way to deal with him, that calls for him to be unconditionally reinstated make little sense when he has fucked with the constitution, and that four years is a short amount of time but he left his attempts to change the constitution too late in his term to be credible. As you can see from the above, I have very little other context to go on.

Further update: Zelaya wasn’t unconstitutional and the coup was conducted by an undemocratic elite says Alberto Valiente Thorenson in a Counterpunch article you can find for yourselves; I don’t link there. He removes one motive for Zelaya by introducing the information he wasn’t going to contest the November 09 election, and gives a motive to the orchestrators of the coup:

“It is evident that the opposition had no legal case against President Zelaya. All they had was speculation about perfectly legal scenarios which they strongly disliked. Otherwise, they could have followed a legal procedure sheltered in article 205 nr. 22 of the 1982 Constitution, which states that public officials that are suspected to violate the law are subject to impeachment by the National Congress. As a result they helplessly unleashed a violent and barbaric preemptive strike, which has threatened civility, democracy and stability in the region.”

Final update: read Greg Weeks, academic and editor of the journal Latin Americanist. He is asking good questions and, speaking Spanish, equipped to get some answers. Good. Facts first, ideology later.

More – a photo essay, a chronology.

It’s bedtime now, so this post is about to reveal itself as obscenely imbalanced, much too internationalist, much too unprepared to engage with the complexities of far better-reported stuff here at home. I have really got to sort this out, and I take Barkingside 21 as my inspiration. But for now, the other climb-down is that it’s No to ID cards. Alan Johnson could simply have said “We can’t afford it” – instead he properly shafted it by admitting that the government had found it convenient to present ID cards as a panacea to solve terrorism. Update: excellent. If I had time I’d try to find out which lobbying worked and how.

Iran, the dead, and the withered

I found a blog which names the dead of Iran’s post-election riots. I wonder if we can find out any more personal about these people, to remember them by, other than that they rioted and were killed, sometimes after torture.

The blog’s author comments on another blog:

“Dear Azarmehr, the dead and injured are innumerable. I set up the site http://iranbodycount.blogspot.com and I just don’t have the time to post all the killed and injured, all photos and videos, they are soo much!!! I could do it all day and they won’t finish!

This is worse than anything before.”

Bob’s recent post on Iran and the left is depressing to the extreme, but perhaps the link to formerly imprisoned Soviet dissident Natan Sharansky will indeed prove prescient

Letter to Boris Johnson: no to Iranian government Press TV ads on London Transport

In typical limp and un-self-efficacious manner, I left my last blog post on Press TV at that.

Update: for readers who can’t tell the difference between the critique below and a call for a ban, the above post contained a condemnation of Press TV’s content and a defence of its right to broadcast.

Update 2: A donation to Avaaz’s ‘Break the Blackout’ is one way you can genuinely give “a voice to the voiceless”.

Press TV’s paltry, and then anodyne, coverage of the aftermath of Iranian elections has clearly demonstrated its potential, as an English-language propaganda organ of a repressive Iranian government, to undermine the building of solidarity between imperilled reformists in Iran and their supporters in this country and abroad.

I speculate that Iranian Trade Unionists would feel the same. In the post before last I mentioned a few of those who are being held for no good reason in Iran’s Evin jail for political prisoners.

Here are Drink Soaked Trots with an open letter calling for the Press TV ads which have recently appeared on London Transport to be pulled, and here’s Principia Dialectica leafleting versions of the letter with significant interest from the small number of people who attended the last Stop The War – No! Not That One – Coalition meeting.

See my previous posts and links on Iran for reports of the clerical leadership’s enforcers persecuting trade unionists and closing down channels for free democratic expression. Press TV is an accessory to this, actively inhibiting international solidarity with affected Iranians by censoring all news of such occurrences. Not only has Press TV been largely silent about the violence and deep unrest in Iran since the elections but, still dining out on long-past wrongs committed against Iran by the Great Powers in the name of imperialism, it is attempting to deflect internal criticism outwards towards Israel and the US. Needless to say, Press TV has failed to even note, let alone mark, Global Solidarity Action Day for Iran. Search the Press TV site for the people mentioned in my last post, whose denied freedoms are widely echoed across the world by people who want a free, democratic, egalitarian Iran. Try a few different spellings. You’ll be lucky to find anything, because Press TV has ghosted these important reformists out of Iranian politics. Search for Neda Agha-Soltan, whose death has become emblematic of the danger faced by protesters. I can’t find anything with the spellings I’ve tried (the ones used by the BBC, CNN, etc).

Uh, perhaps Press TV’s search is a bit fucked? Trying Google for Neda site:http://www.presstv.ir/, we get “CIA involved in Neda’s shooting?”. Oh sure, that’s much more likely than pro-Ahmedinejad vigilantes – maybe it was also the CIA who went clouting and killing students at Tehran University, prompting a mass resignation of faculty? We get nothing for “Mostafa Tajzadeh“. Nothing for “Abdollah Ramezanzadeh“. Nothing for “Farzad Kamangar“. Nothing for “Mansour Osanloo“. I’ll stop there. Press TV is not a station that can answer questions from people who are really thinking about Iran.

The front page is some indication of Press TV’s priorities at time of writing; Israel is mentioned 5 times above the fold and 9 times in total. On the other hand, Press TV’s headlines for Iran – you would never know that the country had been gripped by a popular spasm for the past few weeks, now repressed on the streets and continued by power-holding clerical factions behind closed doors:

  • US, Israel behind Iran vote-rigging rumors: Ejei
  • Report: Iran to end gasoline subsidies
  • Press TV to air ‘War; American Style 2′

It is the epitome of propaganda to whitewash what is damaging to the interests of the power-holders in a regime, and vigorously promote stories which support the opinions the regime wants people to hold. Contrast that with British media’s proud (if sometimes awful) critique of government.

And as I said in my last, Press TV has no governance documentation on its site, no charter, no statement of values. This is reason enough to disregard it – it has no value in a country which values transparency in its institutions and news organs.

I don’t want to see these adverts for Press TV. It is a propaganda channel for a violent and repressive regime.

Here’s one version of the letter to end its advertising run on London Transport – a version I think benefits from less antipathy (no matter how justifiably in general) to George Galloway:

Mayor of London,
City Hall,
Queen’s Walk,
London
June 2009


Dear Mr Johnson

We are writing with reference to the advertising of Press TV on London buses and on the London Underground. You as chair of Transport for London as well as Mayor have overall responsibility for transport in the capital.

We are obliged to point out to you that Press TV is a propaganda station for the Iranian government. It is funded by that government and was launched by Mahmoud Ahmadinezhad personally in 2007. By allowing these advertisements Transport for London are giving implicit support to that government and helping to promote their propaganda.

It claims to give “voice to the voiceless.” Yet the events of the past few days have shown the true “voiceless” are not the Iranian government, who have a whole phalanx of nauseating apologists outside the country, but the Iranian people who are being bludgeoned and killed by the regime’s thugs for trying to make their voice heard.

At a time when Iran’s bus drivers union leaders are in jail, foreign journalists are expelled from Iran, Internet is clamped down and satellite TV stations outside Iran have their signals jammed, to have London buses carry Press TV ads with the motto of ‘we give voice to the voiceless’ is an insult to the Iranian people who are killed and beaten up for their desire for a freer society.

Yours sincerely,

Hat-tip MJP.

Broadstairs is so lovely

This weekend started with winning a pub quiz. I guess we are all getting along a bit and have a fair few facts under our belts.

Then on Saturday we went to the seaside. About six drinkers-without-incumbents were supposed to be going, but in the end I fucked up on some dates and it was Matt, ‘Midge’ and me on the train at Victoria. The queues to get tickets were stupid, I mean stupid*. Nobody would tell me whether there would be a revenue collector on the train, I knew if we got fined I would seethe for the entire weekend, so I queued, commiserated with the similarly-discount-entitled pensioners behind me, loudly declaring that They would drive me back onto the roads, and planning arguments to persuade Matt and Midge to sit in First Class.

We were going to Broadstairs, Thanet, Kent. Unlike much of the South East coast there’s sand (which I prefer) and not only that, there’s everything else you might want at the seaside. There are flower-strung chalk cliffs, a lighthouse, smuggling history, several bays each with its own character and features including rock pools, surfing, hewn tidal swimming pool – well-placed toilets, festive beach huts and the Dickens Museum (Bleak House is there). The restaurants are mostly fish and chips and Italian. So despite intentions to explore, when we go to the seaside in our corner of England we almost invariably end up in Broadstairs – and if the tide is in  (unlike here) Stone Bay is good for swimming.

So we got to the town, had a veggie burger and the best chips I’d had all year sitting up on the cliff-top footpath in the town looking out to sea, backed by the fragrant roses overflowing through the railings of a little public garden, bathed in hot sunlight and flanked by two men singing unfeasible A-ha covers, accompanying themselves with a banjo and a guitar. The Irish women to our left sung along loudly and demanded Irish songs, to which one of the men lied “But all our songs are Irish”. Although I laughed a lot and sung choruses thickly through my chips, I managed to not spit any food down myself that day – Matt and I have been shaking our heads in disbelief recently, finding ourselves daubed in ketchup, sprinkled with crisp crumbs, mushy peas etc.

Then Matt and Midge extracted authorisation to watch the rugby in the Barnaby Rudge. I had an hour paddling and lying on the beach looking straight up at the gulls and kites in my field of vision and listening to the squeaking of the children. Wetsuits seem to have come down in price. Good idea at this time of year. The weather was perfect – hot sun, cool breeze, warming sand. I returned just as a very young man retched up a blue pool – of Wkd, I’d guess – on the steps. After a brief conflab, I decided to get Matt and me some swimming stuff, cos stupidly we’d assumed we couldn’t swim because, well, this is England and there are icebergs until the last two weeks in August. Midge had brought his. One thing I learnt this weekend (from a slightly uncertain source in a shop which dealt in homeopathy) is that beyond about factor 20 you don’t get much benefit from sun cream, that most of the benefit is anyway through reflection.

England lost the rugby by a whisker on the last goal-thing. Shrug.

Back to Stone Bay we went. The tide was starting to go out (it gets hard to swim at that bay when the tide’s out because of the rocks, but while it’s in, it is a beautiful sandy beach). Matt and I went in while Midge minded our stuff. I’m not sure why it was so warm. Perhaps there was a sandbank in the bay which had allowed the sun to warm the water. The sands round Thanet move a lot, which is why there’ve been so many wrecks. Anyway, it was lovely, and we played with the frisbee and swam for a long time.

Then our friends who live in a nearby village arrived and took us back to their place. We ate at their local pub, then after that closed, sat in their garden looking up at the layers of stars and counting satellites. We slept in their tent because their house is a building site at the moment. It was fresh but there was a double sleeping bag. Fantastic if short night’s sleep woken by the heat at about 7 (opened all the flaps), the lakeland terrier at 8 and some abysmally-rung church bells at 9. We decided to have a barbequed breakfast, and by the time that was finished and washed up in the bath it was 2. We got on a train at some station in the middle of nowhere at about quarter to four and back by 6.30.

The weather remained better than good. This is your English summer; you’d be mad to go anywhere else**.

* I have a goldcard which entitles me to 33% off and my fare up to boundary Zone 4. I have to queue and buy a ticket from a ticket officer in order to get this discount. I can’t win – either they rob my time or they rob my cash. Bastard Network Rail. Anyway, the queue for the Quick Ticket machines were also mad. And you know, after all that, how much my discount was? 55p. 55p. And the moral of this story is a) check prices on the web to see what your discount is and b) buy your ticket far in advance and have it delivered.

** We are going to Green Man again, this time better equipped. A Lazy Joe camping chair and rubberised army surplus hooded poncho, plus (possibly) modern beach windbreak. Green Man is of course in Wales.

Torture of Iranian reformists; international day of solidarity with the Iranian people

Mostafa Tajzadeh (reformist, former Minister of the Interior under Khatami) Abdollah Ramezanzadeh (spokesperson under Khatami) and Mohsen Aminzadeh (diplomat) are reportedly screaming in agony in Evin prison. Their friends say that the Iranian authorities are hoping to extract denouncements of the opposition candidate Mousavi. Mousavi’s wife Zahra Rahnavard may also have been detained. Efrafandays has news of another chilling disappearance. The possible purpose of the torture is to implicate Israel, the US and Britain in the post-election unrest and broadcast these confessions to the populace. A classic case of deflecting criticism outwards.

I hope I take a lesson from the fact that, while idly wondering over the past few days whether Twitter is the kind of safety valve that keeps people off the streets, I neglected to even mention the day of solidarity, scheduled before the elections on behalf of jailed Iranian trade unionists, with its hour-long lunchtime demonstration organised by Amnesty and the TUC at the Iranian Embassy in Knightsbridge. More here on Justice for Iranian Workers – the day is properly global, I hope this heartens them.

The trade unionists named by Amnesty are:

Amnesty have automated the sending of an email to senior Iranian government figures calling for their release.

It is good that the BBC is now broadcasting by satellite to Iran in Farsi (although it is illegal to own a satellite dish). ll reach many more people than mostly-Anglophone Twitter can, and the BBC with its charter and governance contrasts very  favourably with Iranian government TV here in Britain.

iRevolution is an important blog I’m going to look at as often as I can. So thankful for blogging academics.

The aftermath of the Iranian election in music

As Ben Capper said:

“Not much to say apart from poor old MJ…very sad but let’s not take the heat off #Iran #iranelection #michaeljackson”

To mark the final breaking of Michael Jackson‘s heart, my posts on Iran today are in the medium of music.

(Both via Free Lantern)

Chaos of Paradise by Axiom of Choice – ht Yish.

For communicators in repressive environments, the rules of Beeping (ht Patrick Meier and Yish).

Update: on History Is Made At Night, Transpontine links to Song for Neda:

And Harry’s Place, to Joan Baez with a verse in Farsi.