Different River

”You can never step in the same river twice.” –Heraclitus

May 31, 2006

Saved by a Defibrillator Salesman

Filed under: — Different River @ 12:13 am

Thanks to a reader for alerting me to this story, which is almost too good to be true:

ST. PETERS, Mo. — A driver who suffered a heart attack and crashed into a guardrail was saved by a defibrillator salesman and two nurses who happened to be passing by.

The salesman, Steve Earle, was transporting an automated external defibrillator, a device used to shock the heart into a normal rhythm.

This article has some more details, if less dramatic wording:

Four people stopped to help her. Two of them were registered nurses. A third was Steve Earle, who makes a living selling automatic external defibrillators, the devices used to shock a patient’s heart into a regular rhythm.

It was kind of crazy luck that it was me with the device and two nurses that were three of the first four on the scene,” Earle said.

Earle grabbed the defibrillator he uses for demonstrations and rushed to help. Meanwhile another motorist used a trailer hitch to break out the rear passenger window of Holt’s car, unlocked the front passenger door and dragged her to the pavement.

The two nurses – Mary Blome and a woman identified only as Laurie – started cardiopulmonary resuscitation, but Holt wasn’t breathing. Earle and one of the nurses hooked Holt up to the defibrillator and delivered a shock. Holt got a pulse back, and St. Charles County paramedics rushed the woman to the hospital.

She underwent surgery Tuesday to have an automatic internal cardiac defibrillator implanted and is expected to fully recover.

She’s got one built-in now, so she doesn’t have to depend on another defibrillator salesman to happen by if she ever has another heart attack. There’s gratitude for you! ;-)

Seriously, though — it’s really good to have one of these things around if you can swing it. It is probably worth having if you run an establishment with large numbers of people — or to have at home if you are have enough of risk of a heart attack, but not enough to get the built-in version. Amazingly, you can buy these things on Amazon.com — here’s a home model, another home model (with free carrying case!), and another model, I guess for when you’re not home. They start at $1,135, which I’m sure is a tenth or a hundredth of what the hospital versions cost a few years ago.

Marty Limpert, spokesman for the St. Charles County Ambulance District, said Tuesday he hopes the $1,400 devices will become as common at places of business as fire extinguishers.

And oh yes — get a fire exthinguisher, too. They’re a heckuva lot cheaper, and they can save your life, too. I have one for the kitchen, one for the room with the fireplace, and one for the car. If I could convince Different Wife, I’d have one for the van, too….

May 26, 2006

Georgia Judge Declares Constitution Unconstitutional

Filed under: — Different River @ 12:39 am

Yes, you read that right. Reuters reports:

ATLANTA (Reuters) – A Georgia judge on Tuesday struck down a ban on same-sex marriage that was approved by voters in 2004, saying it violated the Southern state’s constitution.

What Reuters calls a “ban” was in fact a constituational amendment. An amendment to the Georgia State Constitution. The judge declared this part of the Georgia State Constitution to be a violation of the Georgia State Constitution.

Here’s the “reasoning”:

Judge Constance Russell of Fulton County Superior Court ruled that the measure violates the state’s “single-subject rule” as it asked voters to decide on multiple issues in one amendment, said Jack Senterfitt, an attorney with gay rights group Lambda Legal Defense.

Now I can see the logic of having a “single subject rule.” But there are two problems with this. First, the amendment deals with only a single subject. And second, the Georgia Constitution specifically allows “related” issues to be considered together in one amendment.

Here’s the full and complete text of the proposed amendment:

Article I of the Constitution is amended by adding a new Section IV to read as follows:


Paragraph I. Recognition of marriage. (a) This state shall recognize as marriage only the union of man and woman. Marriages between persons of the same sex are prohibited in this state.
(b) No union between persons of the same sex shall be recognized by this state as entitled to the benefits of marriage. This state shall not give effect to any public act, record, or judicial proceeding of any other state or jurisdiction respecting a relationship between persons of the same sex that is treated as a marriage under the laws of such other state or jurisdiction. The courts of this state shall have no jurisdiction to grant a divorce or separate maintenance with respect to any such relationship or otherwise to consider or rule on any of the parties´ respective rights arising as a result of or in connection with such relationship.”

Could someone please identify for me the more-than-one issues in that amendment? It seems to be that the two issues to be decided are

  1. A requirement that the state recognize only marriages that consist of one man and one woman, and
  2. A requirement that the state recognize only marriages that consist of one man and one woman.

Can someone please explain the difference?

I can’t find the judge’s decision online (yet — the court’s home page is here), but Arthur Leonard of Gay City News has some more details on the attempt to carve out two subjects in that amendment:

The Georgia measure defined marriage for all purposes of state law as the union of one man and one woman but added a somewhat ambiguous paragraph that could be interpreted as barring the Legislature from creating domestic partnerships or civil unions or conferring anything that might be called a “benefit of marriage” on any “union between persons of the same sex.” That paragraph also stripped Georgia courts of jurisdiction to decide legal issues arising “as a result of or in connection with such relationship.”

Lambda’s challenge to Amendment One was based on two arguments—that the amendment language appearing on the ballot seriously misled Georgia voters by creating the impression that the measure dealt only with the definition of marriage, and that the state Constitution’s “single-subject rule” was violated because voters who favored civil unions but not marriage for same-sex partners would have to vote to ban both in order to prevent gay marriage.

[Judge] Russell rejected the first argument, finding Georgia law merely required that ballot language “identify which amendment they are voting on;” a voters are left to educate themselves about an amendment’s content.

However, Russell found merit to the single-subject issue, although she did not accept Lambda’s entire argument. Amendments can accomplish several goals, so long as they are germane to their central purpose, and the state contended that all aspects of Amendment One related to “the non-recognition of conjugal relationships between persons of the same sex.”

Russell agreed that this what the amendment would do, but found that the ballot question and the amendment’s text stated that banning same-sex marriage was its purpose; to the degree that the measure ventured beyond that purpose it was improperly embracing more than one policy question.

Lambda argued that the amendment had four policy objectives—to exclude same-sex couples from marriage, to prohibit recognition or creation of legal unions between persons of the same sex, to bar courts from recognizing certain official actions taken in other states and jurisdictions, and to divest courts of jurisdiction related to same sex relationships.

Russell found that the amendment measure fell short by addressing non-marital legal relationships, such as civil unions.

So we are expected to believe that “same sex marriage” and “same-sex civil unions” are two separate topics. Are they serious? Can they find a single context in which anyone — judge or otherwise — discusses “same-sex civil unions” without any reference to “same sex marriage”?

And even if those are, in some technical sense, separate legal issues, the consideration of related issues in a single constitutional amendment is specificall permitted in the Georgia Constitution. Article X, Section I, Paragraph II states in part:

If such proposal is ratified by a majority of the electors qualified to vote for members of the General Assembly voting thereon in such general election, such proposal shall become a part of this Constitution or shall become a new Constitution, as the case may be. Any proposal so approved shall take effect as provided in Paragraph VI of this article. When more than one amendment is submitted at the same time, they shall be so submitted as to enable the electors to vote on each amendment separately, provided that one or more new articles or related changes in one or more articles may be submitted as a single amendment.

Any reasonable reading of the last clause above should specifically permit “related changes” like “same sex marriage” and “same-sex civil unions” to be considered together — even if they are amending difference articles of the Georgia Constitution. (As it happens, the proposal amended only one article, by adding a single section with a single paragraph.)

This judge’s decision literally defies the plain meaning of the English language. It would be no less logical to claim that the “freedom of speech” clause of the U.S. Constitution actually mandated censorship. And the fact that a judge deliberately misread the constitution to overturn a vote that was specifically designated as an amendment to that constitution — that is, specifically intended to remove the issue from the discretion of the courts — and that was passed by 76% of the voters, can only show the deep contempt in which this judge, and likely a significant proportion of judges throughout the country, hold the voters.

UPDATE (7/7/2006):

The Georgia Supreme Court has overruled the lower court and allowed the amendment to stand,

May 24, 2006

Horrible Headline

Filed under: — Different River @ 2:53 pm

The New York Post has this headline:


On which the indefatigable James Taranto commented:

“Don’t Worry, Mr. Gore, He’s Dead.”

May 23, 2006

Canada Kills

Filed under: — Different River @ 6:32 pm

David E. Williams writes on the Health Care Business Blog:

A friend in Canada felt so sick that when she went to the hospital on Thursday she told the staff that she felt even worse than she had immediately after her two surgeries. They sent her home with instructions to follow up next Tuesday (tomorrow). By Saturday she felt even worse. Ambulance dispatch told a friend who called to expect an ambulance in 3 hours –the timing based on the perceived severity of the symptoms. The friend took her to the ER instead, where she was promptly taken into the ICU. But it was too late; she is in a coma and will almost certainly succumb to pneumococcal meningitis.

She died the next day.

She died because by Canadian standards, she was not sick enough to deserve a place in the hospital.

And lots of people here in the U.S. want us to adopt the Canadian system.

By the way, they are supposed to transplant her kidneys and liver. Someone is going to get some sort of brownie points for acquiring those organs. Would I be too cynical if I said the incentives to save a patient’s life are reduced when one benefits from that patient’s death?

Dismantle the Military!

Filed under: — Different River @ 5:03 pm

The San Francisco Board of Supervisors is considering banning Junior ROTC from San Francisco high schools because they think the military is “discriminatory.” And oh, yes, for one other reason as well:

Supporters such as [sophmore student Timothy] Twyman say the program helps students develop self-confidence and prepare for the working world, while opponents counter that it’s just an easy way for the military to get a foothold in public schools and encourage teens to enlist after they graduate.

Oh, really? I’d never have guessed that the purpose of JROTC is to recruit! Imagine that! And the real scandal is, the Pentagon hides that information, by posting it on their web site:

Although JROTC is not considered a recruiting tool, defense officials say about 40 percent of high school graduates with more than 2 years in the program end up with some military affiliation or continue with community service. They may enlist on active duty or in a reserve component, or enter an officer precommissioning program.

And one Supervisor has an even more, um, interesting reason for wanted to get rid fo JROTC:

In February, Supervisor Gerardo Sandoval appeared on Fox’s “Hannity and Colmes” show and said, “The United States should not have a military. All in all, we would be in much, much, much better shape.”

If Supervisor Sandoval thinks life would be better in a country without a military, perhaps he should move to one. I would recommend Somalia. Since they don’t have amilitary, it must be much more peaceful there … right?

(Hat tip: Thanks to reader “Bruce” for sending me the article link.)

May 22, 2006

Gore’s Contribution to Global Warming

Filed under: — Different River @ 12:33 pm

About the latest showing of Al Gore’s new movie about global warming, Comments (4)

May 21, 2006

A Lawyer’s View of Justice

Filed under: — Different River @ 3:59 am

Evan Savoie and Jake Eakin, now age 15, are on trial for murdering (when they were 12) a 13-year-old “playmate.” Because the witnesses are not allowed to be in the courtroom before they testify, the victim’s mother, who is a witness, can’t attend the trial. So the judge appointed a lawyer to represent the interests of the victim’s family.

Whereupon one of the defense lawyers for Evan Savoie, a certain Randy Smith, had this to say:

“It’s a sad state of affairs when you raise victims’ rights to the same level as the constitutional rights of the accused.”

And then they wonder why people think lawyers have screwed-up values.

Most fair-minded people will agree that the accused should be regarded as innocent until proven guilty, and as such, should have certain rights that convicted criminals shouldn’t have. But most fair-minded people still view the extensive rights held by the accused as a necessarily evil, necessary only because it is possible for innocent people to be accused.

Yet, lawyers are taught in law school to regard the rights of the accused as sacred in and of themselves. I have heard many lawyers justify the use of legal tactics to exclude from the trial definitive evidence of a defendant’s guilt with the argument that the the goal of a trial is not to discover the truth (how naive they thought I was for thinking that!), but to “force the state to prove its case,” without which condition the state “did not deserve to put someone in jail.”

It is quite odd, also, that several criminal lawyers who used language like that (which I heard in separate conversations, separated over many years, from lawyers who did not know each other) seemed to think that what is at stake in a trial is whether the state “deserves” to incarcerate someone. Here also fair-minded non-lawyers have a different view: The state doesn’t “deserve” to incarcerate anybody. The state has an obligation to protect its citizens from crime, which includes, in certain democratically determined cases, the obligation to incarcertain certain people; that is, those convicted of crimes deemed via a democratic process to be worthy of incarceration as a punishment.

But then again, there I go again, “rais[ing] [potential future]victims’ rights to the same level” as those of criminals, or prosecutors, or something like that. Can’t have victim’s rights raised to some level, can we now… Apparently, while most people view the rights of the victims as paramount and the rights of the accused as a necessary evil, lawyers — defense lawyers at least — think it’s precisely the other way around.

(Thanks to Randy Cassingham for pointing out the original AP story.)

May 18, 2006

Yes, I’m Still Alive

Filed under: — Different River @ 1:42 am

Not one, but two readers have written to ask what happened to me. The answer is: I’m OK, and I’m (unfortunately) not on vacation.

I’m just very busy at work. New Medicare payment rules are out for the next rate year, and we are busy calculating how much les our clients will be paid. So they can complain to their Congresspeople, I imagine. This is what replaces “marketing” when an industry is paid by the government for half its output.

I do have lots to say, though — as soon as I can find time to type it all in.

Unfortunately, I’m not a professional blogger. The ads below the blogroll on the right don’t even cover the costs — which fortunately are quite low. Of course, if anyone would like to “sponsor” a full day of blogging by replacing a day’s salary while I take a day of “leave without pay” I’m sure we can work something out. Heh. ;-)

May 4, 2006

Price Gouging

Filed under: — Different River @ 9:17 pm

Julian Sanchez repeats a version of this joke, which I rephrase slightly:

Three (former) business executives are in prison for “white-collar” crimes, and they are comparing stories.

The first one said, “I charged higher prices than my competitors, and I was found guilty of price gouging.”

The second one said, “I charged lower prices than my competitors, and I was found guilty of predatory pricing and unfair competition.”

The third prisoner said, “I charged the same prices as my competitors, and I was found guilty of price-fixing and collusion.”

Is it Genetics or Environment?

Filed under: — Different River @ 9:15 pm

Matt Drudge reports:

Police labor union officials asked acting Chief Christopher McGaffin this afternoon to allow a Capitol Police officer to complete his investigation into an early-morning car crash involving Rep. Patrick Kennedy (D-R.I.), son of Sen. Ted Kennedy.

ROLL CALL reports: According to a letter sent by Officer Greg Baird, acting chairman of the USCP FOP, the wreck took place at approximately 2:45 a.m. Thursday when Kennedy’s car, operating with its running lights turned off, narrowly missed colliding with a Capitol Police cruiser and smashed into a security barricade at First and C streets Southeast.

“The driver exited the vehicle and he was observed to be staggering,” Baird’s letter states. Officers approached the driver, who “declared to them he was a Congressman and was late to a vote. The House had adjourned nearly three hours before this incident. It was Congressman Patrick J. Kennedy from Rhode Island.”

Baird wrote that Capitol Police Patrol Division units, who are trained in driving under the influence cases, were not allowed to perform basic field sobriety tests on the Congressman. Instead, two sergeants, who also responded to the accident, proceeded to confer with the Capitol Police watch commander on duty and then “ordered all of the Patrol Division Units to leave the scene and that they were taking over.”

A source tells the DRUDGE REPORT: “It was apparent that the driver was intoxicated (stumbling) and claimed he was in a hurry to make a vote.

“When it became apparent who it was, instead of processing a normal DWI, the watch commander had the Patrol units clear the scene. The commander allowed other building officials drive Kennedy home.”

This morning’s incident comes just over two weeks after Kennedy was involved in a car accident in Rhode Island.

ADDENDUM (5/5/06): In all fairness, we have to give him some credit. At least he didn’t leave anyone to die at the scene while he ran off to call his political advisers.

Economists Don’t Think Everything is About Money

Filed under: — Different River @ 3:35 pm

One of the most common misconceptions about economics and economists is that we are concerned mainly, or even only, about money. Once when I was teaching an introductory economics class, on the first day I asked the class, “What is economics?” Eventually I got them around to the right answer, which is roughly, “The study of how people make decisions in response to incentives.” One student jumped in to clarify/correct me: “Financial decisions,” he said — no doubt expecting some brownie points for claifying what I really meant for the rest of the class.

No, I said — all decisions. And then I gave my now-standard introduction — a discussion of the decision whether or not to wear a seatbelt. That’s an economic decision — but it’s not a financial decision, at least, not in the way most people understand the word “financial.”

Donald J. Boudreaux of George Mason University has explained how economic — but decidedly not financial — thinking applies to the price of gasoline. He writes:

Contrary to popular misconception, economists do not believe that money is all that matters.

I remember during the 1979 gasoline shortage that many Americans opposed getting rid of the government-imposed price ceiling on oil and gas prices because, these people thought, lifting this ceiling would raise the cost of gasoline. Economists explained again and again that while lifting the price ceiling would raise the price charged at the pump, the full price of gasoline would in fact fall.

By bringing forth greater supplies of oil and gasoline, lifting the price ceiling would eliminate the necessity of waiting in long lines at the pump — as well as eliminate motorists’ anxiety of not knowing if they’ll be able to fuel their automobiles.

In short, the full price of gasoline was much more than the dollar amount charged at the pump; it included also the time spent waiting in long lines and the anxiety caused by the uncertainty of gasoline availability.

To suppose that the only cost incurred by motorists was the money they paid at the pump is to overlook the value of their time and peace of mind.

And here it is applied to wages and employment:

Recognizing that costs and values go well beyond those things whose prices are expressed in money is a key to the economic way of thinking.

For example, suppose that Congress raises the federal minimum wage from $5.15 to, say, $6 per hour. Further suppose that employers don’t fire a single worker in response to this minimum-wage hike [as economic theory suggests they will -- but for now assume they don't --DR]. Can we conclude that workers are made better off by this minimum-wage increase? No, at least not if we understand that workers value things in addition to the wages they are paid.

A worker’s job quality surely matters to him. How many breaks is he allowed to take while at work? How readily does his employer forgive him for innocent mistakes? How willing is his employer to allow him to take a day off to sit with his sick child? How comfortable and safe is the workplace? These and countless other “non-price” features of a job are vitally important even though they don’t show up in the wage figure.

If employers respond to this hike in the minimum wage not by hiring fewer low-skilled workers but instead by working their low-skilled workers harder, the quality of low-skilled jobs falls. Of course, these workers are now being paid a higher wage. But only those who focus exclusively on wages will conclude that this increase in the minimum wage definitely makes workers better off.

In other words, if your employer is forced to pay you more than is required to make you take the job, he or she may respond by making the job harder in a way that recaptures some of that “extra” wage. Or some nonmonetary benefits may be reduced. (Do you get free coffee at work? Free burgers if you work at a fast-food place?)

Why (Legal or Illegal) Immigrants Are Better for Texas than California

Filed under: — Different River @ 3:21 pm

Virginia Postel notes:

Texas has no income tax, which means public services are funded by sales and property taxes. Everyone, regardless of income or legal status, pays sales and property taxes, either directly or indirectly through rent. California, by contrast, relies heavily on a very progressive income tax that doesn’t fall on people who are paid off the books or who don’t earn much money in the first place. Liberals who support immigration should rethink their love of progressive income taxes.

The Dow Reaches Zero Return

Filed under: — Different River @ 2:30 pm

Well, that’s my financially cynical take, anyway:

Ron Scherer writes in the Christian Science Monitor:

Six years later, the Dow is back

Propelled by the economy, the Dow is nearing its all-time high of 11,723 from 2000.

By Ron Scherer | Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor

NEW YORK – Without much fanfare, the Dow Jones Industrial Average is closing in on its all-time high, set at the beginning of 2000 before Americans became disenchanted with stocks and turned to real estate.

So the Dow is reaching it’s all-time high. This means that if you bought stock according to the Dow in January 2000, you are now back to where you started. You have had a zero rate of return over the last six years –which is really a loss, since that zero doesn’t account for inflation. Inflation is not too high these days, but after six years, even a small amount can add up. That 0% “gain” on the Dow is really, after inflation, a 13.8% loss!

The Dow Reaches Zero Return

Filed under: — Different River @ 2:30 pm

Well, that’s my financially cynical take, anyway:

Ron Scherer writes in the Christian Science Monitor:

Six years later, the Dow is back

Propelled by the economy, the Dow is nearing its all-time high of 11,723 from 2000.

By Ron Scherer | Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor

NEW YORK – Without much fanfare, the Dow Jones Industrial Average is closing in on its all-time high, set at the beginning of 2000 before Americans became disenchanted with stocks and turned to real estate.

So the Dow is reaching its all-time high, achieved in January 2000. This means that if you bought stock according to the Dow in January 2000, you are now back to where you started. You have had a zero rate of return over the last six years –which is really a loss, since that zero doesn’t account for inflation. Inflation is not too high these days, but after six years, even a small amount can add up. That 0% “gain” on the Dow is really, after inflation, a 13.8% loss!

What goes up, must come down

Filed under: — Different River @ 10:18 am

So this woman in Houston was the maid of honor at her best friend’s wedding, and what getting ready to try to catch the thrown bouquet, when all of a sudden her arm started bleeding. She’d been hit by a different flying object — a bullet.

Shot by whom? A crazed relative? A jealous ex-boyfirend of the bride? A rival gang member?


Some idiot fired his gun in the air, probably more than a mile away. The bullet came down through the roof of the ballroom, hit Kristin Campbell in the arm … and then fell out of her arm onto the floor.

The good news is, the bullet apparently lost most of its energy when it crashed through the roof, so Miss Campbell was not seriously injured. Those of you who once took a physics class might recall the Law of Conservation of Energy, according to which a bullet fired up will have the same amount of energy coming down as it did when it left the gun (before correcting for air resistance) — so a bullet coming from above would normally hit nearly as hard as one fired at point-blank range. Fortunately, in this case the roof took most of the impact. It would have been a lot worse had it hit someone outside.

I don’t know where people get the idea that they can fire guns in the air harmlessly, especially in a populated area. Do they think the bullet just disappears up in the sky? That it goes into orbit, or outer space? More likely, they just don’t think at all. The news story doesn’t have any definitive information on the shooter, or why he or she shot into the air. If he was confronting a mugger and fired a “warning shot,” take a lesson — shoot directly at the bad guy, not into the air — for your reticience might cause injury to an innocent person somewhere else.

May 3, 2006

In Memoriam, John Kenneth Galbraith

Filed under: — Different River @ 2:15 am

John Kenneth Galbraith has passed away. He was 97. Tyler Cowen has some comments.

May 1, 2006

A New Shah for Iran?

Filed under: — Different River @ 5:54 pm

Human Events has a fascinating interview with Reza Pahlavi, son of the late (and deposed) Shah of Iran. The Shah was deposed in 1979, in a revolution that brought the current Islamic/totalitarian regime to power. Here’s what he has to say:

Reza Pahlavi, son of the late Shah of Iran, told the editors of Human Events last week that in the next two to three months he hopes to finalize the organization of a movement aimed at overthrowing the Islamic regime in Tehran and replacing it with a democratic government.

He believes the cause is urgent because of the prospect that Iran may soon develop a nuclear weapon or the U.S. may use military force to preempt that. He hopes to offer a way out of this dilemma: a revolution sparked by massive civil disobedience in which the masses in the streets are backed by elements of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard.

Pahlavi, who lives in exile in the United States, said he has been in contact with elements of the Revolutionary Guard that would be willing to play such a role, and activists who could help spark the civil disobedience.

If this is true, I don’t know why he’s saying it in public — but if it’s not true, I don’t know what he could possibly gain by saying it.

Under any circumstances, would you support U.S. military action against Iran?

As a matter of principle there’s no way that I can support any kind of military intervention regardless of the crisis because as a matter of principle, and as a nationalist, I cannot even imagine the fact that my country could be attacked, and today it’s a very different scenario from, let’s say, the Second World War where you are occupied by Nazi forces and there’s a liberating force coming in. This is a strike against Iranian installations that are part of our national assets. That it’s used wrongly by the wrong people is beside the point. So there’s no justification as far as I’m concerned.

I’m not sure I see the difference he does.

You would be willing to renounce that idea that Iran could develop a nuclear weapon?

I’m against developing any weapons of mass destruction. I work to see the world develop a process of disarmament because otherwise it will be madness. If we build it, tomorrow the Turks will build it, then the Saudis want to build it, then the Egyptians want to build it. Believe me, in that part of the world, there’s some track record how stable the world will feel having a whole bunch of nuclear warheads in the hands of all these people. Forget it. I’d be the first one proposing a plan to reverse the cycle of proliferation.

He’s right about the track record, and that’s why people who support having the U.S. and certain other countries having nuclear weapons, but opposed allowing those other regimes to have them are not actually hypocrites.

I’ll pick one nit though — the Saudis will not build a nuclear weapon. They might buy one, but they will not build one. They don’t build anything.

Now, here’s where it gets really interesting:

You don’t believe Iran needs a nuclear weapon to balance Israel’s nuclear weapon?


You would not demand that Israel disarm?

Since when has Israel been a threat to anyone? Israel just wants to be left alone and live in peace side by side with its neighbors. As far as I’m concerned, Israel never had any ambition to territorially go and invade, I don’t know, Spain or Morocco or anywhere else. And let me tell something else about Iran: Unlike the rest of the Islamic or Arab world, the relationship between Persia and the Jews goes back to the days of Cyrus the Great. We take pride as Iranians of having a history where Cyrus was the most quoted figure in the Torah, as a liberator of Jewish slaves, who went to Babylon and gave them true freedom for them to worship and in fact helped them build a temple. We have a biblical relation with Jews, and we have no problem with modern day Israel. As far as regional politics, I believe, I think many Iranians believe so, that as much as Israel has a right to exist, so should the Palestinians. They have to work the problem between each other. And we have no business interfering, and we need to help get as much stability in the region.

A democratic regime in Iran would be doing that, but a clerical regime in Tehran that sends money to Hamas and to Hizballah and to all the terrorists around the globe obviously is not promoting stability and peace, it is doing the reverse.

Since when do Islamic leaders acknowledge that Israel just wants to be left alone?

That’s pretty amazing. And you know what? Based on every conversation I’ve had with Iranian emigres in the U.S., I believe he really thinks that. Because nearly all the Iranians I’ve met in the U.S. think the same thing, and they are all here for the same reason he is — because the previous government was overthrown.

Obviously there is some selection bias here — anyone who supports the current regime would not have left — but that doesn’t mean they take a concilliatory line on Israel. Most Arab emigres I’ve known despise the regimes they left, but despise Israel more. (N.B. Iranians are not Arabs. If you don’t believe me, ask any Iranian — and stand back!)

While you’re doing this, how concerned are you about your own security here in the United States?

Look it’s beyond concern. I put faith in the Almighty and I said whatever it takes. You know, what can you do? You cannot live in a shell.

In your Iran, Mahmoud Abdullah, the Afghan who converted to Christianity, would have every right to do that and the state would protect him from retaliation by radical clerics?

God, I hope so. I hope so. Because if we are basing our constitution on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights that’s one of the most fundamental rights that any human being should have. I’m sick and tired of hypocrisy and all this dubious attitude that is so typical of our region. If you believe in something you say it, you don’t fool around. I mean, that’s where I’m coming from. I haven’t lived 45 years of my life to fool around with these things. If I’m willing to lose my life for it, hell I’m going to fight for these rights, otherwise it’s not worth it. Frankly it’s not worth it! I might as well forget about Iran and become a citizen and live my life in this country. No. I want to have the same rights you have over here over there. That’s what I’m fighting for! Otherwise why bother?

Do you think the Iranian population as a whole agrees with you today or do you feel you have to convert them to your point of view?

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to find out that the minute you criticize any aspect of this regime you are going to be at the very least incarcerated, possibly tortured, and at the very worst, executed. Last week, there were six bodies of women found in South of Tehran, because of the new edict by Ahmadinejad—and I’m not saying “edict” as a cleric because he’s not, but the new law—to further strengthen the strict code of how you dress! People can be fined if they happen to have a dog on a leash because dogs are supposed to be bad in Islam. You cannot even walk your dog on the street and not be fined. Imagine if you were to criticize the regime! Don’t you think people get that? They do.

Would you rather participate in a democratic parliamentary election like Iraq or simply come back as a constitutional monarch?

I appreciate the question. I know what my function is today, and my function today is to be a catalyst that promotes unity as opposed to being an element that brings polarity. My role today is not institutional, it’s political. My role today is not someone who will be a symbolic leader under that institution, but a national leader that is fighting for freedom. … My job today is to be a liberator, as opposed to representing an institution. However, as an option, certainly the Iranian people should consider that beyond the content of the future, which I described to you—secular, democratic, based on human rights—what should the ultimate form be? Do we want to have a parliamentary monarchy like we do Sweden, or Japan, or Holland, or Belgium? Or do we want to have a republican system like you have in this United States or France or elsewhere? That debate is not today’s debate. That is the debate that will be the responsibility of the next constitutional assembly that will have to bring in a new constitution and draft a new one.

At that time, there probably will be a lot of debates between those who are advocates of a monarchic system and those who are advocates of a republican system.

But you don’t rule it out?

I think it is, in my personal opinion, I think that that institution will better serve the purpose of the institutionalization of the democracy in Iran rather than the republican form. I can, case in point, use the example, of a post-Franco [Spain] with King Juan Carlos.

You’re not renouncing the throne, in other words? You’ll take it, if—

Look, it’s not a matter what I choose to do. I think that if monarchy has to be decided it should be based on people wanting it, not me arguing it. I have faith that this is an appropriate institution. It’s not a coincidence it survived more than 25 centuries. It is very much imbedded in Iranian culture and tradition and identity. In modern days, it can play just as effective a role. And I think that one of the things that I often find, thinking of the way Americans look at monarchy, which is immediately George III in your mind, is that you should at least liberate yourself from that aspect and see that the name “republic” doesn’t mean anything. Most of your enemies are republics. Saddam Hussein is one. Syria is one. “Republic” doesn’t automatically mean democratic. The Soviet Union was a republic. Most of your allies in Europe and NATO, half of them were monarchies. … I think it’s not the form of the regime, it’s the content that matters. I think a monarchy is just as compatible to be committed to be democratic as a republic is. In some countries, a monarchy works better than a republic. Usually, history has shown us, in countries that are heterogeneous, in other words that have a lot of different groups, ethnicities and religion, the gelling factor, the unifying factor, has been the institutional mind, with the difference that this institution has to remain above the fray and not be engaged in the politics. That’s the big difference. Because the only time it can maintain neutrality and be for all is by not being engaged. Because the minute you become political then you have to take sides and that defeats the purpose, which is pretty much the problem we had under the previous regime, because the person of the king was directly involved in making policy, which is the last thing you want to do.
Having said that, yes, I’m fully committed to that. I’m ready to serve in that capacity. If the people so choose, it would be my greatest honor. But at the end of the day, what I tell them is, first and foremost, I’m an Iranian and I’d be just as happy to serve my country in whatever capacity. But if you give me that choice, that opportunity, I think I could do a good job for you.

BTW: To pick one other very small nit. It is close, but not precisely correct, to say that “Cyrus was the most quoted figure in the Torah.” Cyrus is the most quoted non-Jewish king in the Tanach (the Hebrew Bible, which consists of the “Torah,” the “Prophets,” and the “Writings”). He is also the only non-Jewish king to whom God is said to have spoken. And he is portrayed very favorably in the Books of Isaiah, Daniel, Ezra, and Chroncles.

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