Friday, May 5, 2006

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When going to Brussels is a crime

I had the good fortune to attend the first-ever Brussels Forum last weekend. It turns out that at least one invitee was not so lucky, according to this e-mail from the Forum's conveners:

One of our invited guests to the Brussels Forum, Dr. Ramin Jahanbegloo, never made it to the event as he was detained by the Iranian authorities on the way to the airport to fly to Brussels. Dr. Jahanbegloo is a well-known Iranian intellectual and human rights advocate who currently heads the Cultural Research Bureau in Tehran. Over the weekend we decided not to make his arrest public in the hope that he would shortly be released by the authorities. This has since proven not to be the case.

Ramin Jahanbegloo is a Sorbonne-educated expert on German philosophy. He has also been a post-doc in Middle Eastern studies at Harvard University and a Reagan-Fascell Democracy Fellow at the National Endowment for Democracy. Dr. Jahanbegloo is a valued member of our intellectual community and a symbol of the universality of democratic and human rights. He is a frequent contributor to the many debates about human rights and democratic freedom in both Europe and the Middle East. Among his many books are Conversations with Isaiah Berlin and (as editor) Iran: Between Tradition and Modernity. At the time of his arrest, he was working on a study of Ghandi and peaceful resistance. He holds a Canadian as well as an Iranian passport.
It would be safe to say that the Human Rights Watch release on the arrest provides little comfort:
“The arbitrary arrest of Ramin Jahanbegloo shows the perilous state of academic freedom and free speech in Iran today,” said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. “This prominent scholar should be celebrated for his academic achievements, not interrogated in one of Iran’s most infamous prisons.”

The authorities detained Jahanbegloo at Tehran Airport on or around Thursday, April 27. Officials refused to acknowledge his detention until Wednesday, May 3, when Tehran’s deputy prosecutor general, Mahmoud Salarkia, confirmed Jahanbegloo’s detention in an interview with the Iranian Students News Agency.

Also on Wednesday, the Fars News Agency quoted the chief of prisons in Tehran Province, Sohrab Soleimani, as saying that Jahanbegloo is being held in Tehran’s Evin prison. Neither official gave any reason for Jahanbegloo’s arrest. An unnamed Judiciary official told the daily Etemad-e Melli that charges against Jahanbegloo “will be announced after the interrogations.”

“Iran’s Judiciary is notorious for coercing confessions by means of torture and ill-treatment,” Stork said. “We hold the Iranian government entirely responsible for Jahanbegloo’s well-being.”
Multiple press reports have Iranian authorities accusing Jahanbegloo of espionage. This makes perfect sense to me -- if I were the Iranian regime, the last thing I'd want is to have a scholar in my midst with deep knowledge of Isaiah Berlin and Mohandas Gandhi.

Needless to say, the Iranian blogosphere has been abuzz about the arrest, the first of a prominent intellectual since Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's election. This post by Shahram Kholdi provides the a sense of the Farsi blogosphere:

[T]hrough this post, I inform the readers of Free Thoughts on Iran that Dr. Jahanbegloo's arrest is a cause of concern and his release should become the goal of all who are concerned with the promotion of civil society, open public space for free political debate, and last but not least a space safe enough to conduct such debates in a non-violent manner. Dr. Jahanbegloo has taught, lived, and acted in a non-violent manner, and those who would like to rally for his release should remember one fact: He did all this without Media-Mongering and without recourse to Sensationalism.

Here, I join all those who are already active to do something to secure the immediate release of Dr. Jahanbegloo, and invite those who have not joined the rest of us yet, to join us. Also, I would like to ask all those who are willing to join the cause and care for Dr. Jahanbegloo not just as a scholar, intellectual, teacher, and a friend, but as a person who deserves due process, just representation, and freedom from arbitrary confinement, to join the cause in a non-sensationalist manner.

Kholdi provides more info here.

I am uncertain what useful non-governmental actions can be done with regard to Jahanbegloo's case -- but e-mailing Iran's Permanent Mission to the United Nations might be a useful starting point. They even have a "human rights" category in their subject menu.

posted by Dan on 05.05.06 at 10:29 AM


I am shocked, shocked to find out that Iranian authorities have arrested a liberal intellectual. In other news, water has been discovered to vaporize when boiled. The sun was observed to rise in the east. The French have appeased... bla bla bla...

posted by: Yawn on 05.05.06 at 10:29 AM [permalink]


You are a useless moron. Write a letter to the bloody embassy. Keep it polite.

posted by: Pithlord on 05.05.06 at 10:29 AM [permalink]

Pithlord, you want someone to write a letter to the embassy of a country that wants to nuke Israel out of existence, even knowing they themselves will be taken out in response?!?!?

I agree with Yawn: This is surprising how?

Yeah. Write a letter. I have an idea: Why don't we have a vigil? That will be helpful - or will it just make the participants feel better about themselves?

posted by: mrsizer on 05.05.06 at 10:29 AM [permalink]

Nathan Sharansky wrote that President Reagan's mention of gulag prisoners, by name!, in press conferences and when meeting foreign leaders always got back into the gulag, and greatly heartened the imprisoned. That the President of the United States took a personal interest in their plight was inspiring to the men and women who had no other external source of hope.

Perhaps emailing Iran's UN Mission actually is futile. However, if we all emailed Mr. Bush, perhaps Dr. Jahanbegloo would then occasionally appear in a speech by the man who is so committed to human freedom during his watch. A mention of Dr. Jahanbegloo's plight in every news conference and speech that Mr. Bush has to make about Iran in the months ahead might do wonders for Dr. Jahanbegloo's physical--and psychological--health while he is incarcerated.

I'll send an email to the White House immediately after completing this post. Anyone want to join in? If the Iranian blogosphere joined us and sent emails to the White House about Dr. Jahanbegloo, imagine the crescendo of concern descending upon the theofascist ayatollahs.

'Be free.'

posted by: a Duoist on 05.05.06 at 10:29 AM [permalink]


I apologize for posing an almost totally off-topic economics-in-the-news-related question here, but I figured a U Chicago economist's blog was the closest I'd come to expert opinion without, uh, having to schedule an appointment.

It's about the cessation of the M3 reporting by the Federal Reserve-- that formerly (supposedly) all-important indicator of the money supply that's now dropping off the radar screen. It's been popping up in the news a lot, and I've even heard some conspiracy-ish speculation that the M3 data is being concealed since it would effectively hide the true quantity of bank notes being produced by the Mint-- thereby buying a few months of secretive bank-note printing to cover exorbitant government costs and give a window for people "in the know" to move out of their dollar assets. To move out, so the theory goes, before everyone catches on that the US Treasury is trying to print its way out of an insoluble economic crisis, with resulting hyperinflation and the dollar dropping like a stone in a pond.

Now, I've never been able to fit a tinfoil hat on my head (or a pair of sunglasses, for that matter) so I tend to find some semi-instantaneous way to dismiss this sort of loudly whispered conspiratorialism. Problem is-- I can't figure out one good reason why they'd just up and stop reporting the M3 data. Is there a precedent for this, for just going hush-hush on a piece of data like that? I know, there's M1 and M2, but M3 has quite a few unique goodies in its tow.

So, acknowledging my general ignorance about economic arcana (and the probability that there really isn't more than meets the eye here, a cigar really is a cigar and all that)-- what's going on with the M3 data-reporting changes?

posted by: Wes Ulm on 05.05.06 at 10:29 AM [permalink]

Back to Dr. Jahanbegloo's case: The anti-apartheid movement's international letter writing campaign contributed to fall of the white minority government in Pretoria. The suggestion to send an email to Iran's UN mission could be a useful start. Even the most anti-democratic, rogue regimes can be influenced by international norms of conscience.

posted by: Donald Douglas on 05.05.06 at 10:29 AM [permalink]

Wes Ulm, great question, but I don't think Dan reads our stuff. I suspect he sees his role as instigator of thought-provoking threads, letting them take on a life of their own.

posted by: xyz on 05.05.06 at 10:29 AM [permalink]

Yawn and Mrsizer:

Yes, clearly doing absolutely nothing at all will have the best impact.

posted by: Randy Paul on 05.05.06 at 10:29 AM [permalink]

Hmm, you may be right, xyz, haven't seen Dan's insights here. In that case-- any words of wisdom from other economist-commentators here about why the M3 data are no longer being reported? Or from people with something resembling formal economics training (i.e. something far more than my WSJ-self-taught economics education)?

Honestly, I can't figure out this M3-reporting thing at all. I don't really buy into the conspiracies about how the cessation of M3 data reporting is a plot to print money with abandon to cover the deficit. In my experience, these sorts of strange happenings are almost never plots conceived by a mad power-hungry coalition of Illuminati, Venetian bankers and Donald Trump's apprentices colluding behind closed doors with their plans for world domination. Well, maybe I'm wrong, but... it just seems to me that 97+% of the time, these conspiracy-stoking events are more the mundane result of technocrats in high places in government with their own theories about The Way the Economy Actually Works as instilled in them by Professor I. Know Better in their Ivy League grad-school lectures. They're in the know in their own little niches, there's not much intense opposition on such arcana, so they put their esoteric predilections into practice.

That's the problem here and what's bugging the crap out of me on this-- I just can't come up with any such mundane reason for *not* reporting the M3 data. There were some mumblings on NPR some months ago about how somebody thought the M3 data weren't that useful or worth collecting, but I don't buy that for a nanosecond. There are a plethora of useful goodies in the M3 not included in the M2, and in fact, the EU countries AFAIK report only the M3 data when reporting money supply since they say it's so much more useful than the other data, and I think it's similar in most other places. Now, the good bankers in Frankfurt may have their quirks here and there, but it seems as though the M3 is a pretty standard piece of data.

So there's this nagging little inverse-skeptic in my mind saying, "Buddy, maybe the theories this time are true, the Fed doesn't want the public to know the M3 data because-- well, let's just say they'll be making 'adjustments' to the money supply that are best left obscured." Or maybe it's just because the officials responsible for compiling the M3 were getting annoyed at missing Monday Night Football every week when reporting-season crunch time came along. I honestly don't know, but I can't figure this one out. Any insights?

posted by: Wes Ulm on 05.05.06 at 10:29 AM [permalink]

I've always thought of Brussels as the sort of place one is sent for committing a crime.

posted by: Mitchell Young on 05.05.06 at 10:29 AM [permalink]

Mitchell Young,

Only if they make you eat Brussell Sprouts. Raw.

posted by: Randy Paul on 05.05.06 at 10:29 AM [permalink]

Interesting post from Paul Belein on Islam encroaching in Brussels. That's the impression I got ten years ago. The situation must be more...intense now.

posted by: Mitchell Young on 05.05.06 at 10:29 AM [permalink]

you want conpsiracy theories about the missing M3 data? try this one:

The Bush Administration may be destroying the US dollar.

Below from Sterling Seagrave, co-author of Gold Warriors and an extremely well-connected financial source in both the US and China as well as Europe.. We do not ourselves have direct access, but this is consistent with other lunatic signs we have seen. We've checked back against the possibility that it is an April Fool's joke (and wonder why anyone would do two trillion instead of a half trillion at a time), but the bottom line is that this Administration is so nuts and so out of control that this is both credible in context, and worth passing on simply to heighten awareness and concern. At the end of this "as is" notice is a further **speculative** explanation of how the Chinese are combining their blackmail photos of young Bush in Beijing with their not signing the treaty foregoing reparations, and their long-term strategy of acquiring gold certificates for Yamashito's gold stolen by McArthur for the US and placed with Citi-Bank. All of this is a "lay" alarm, that we place before the public, where real experts are to be found. Bush appears to have reached the bottom of the barrel, and may be about to both give away as much gold as he can get his hands on, and print worthless money that will destroy the US dollar. So much for dollarizing the global economy....

posted by: RC on 05.05.06 at 10:29 AM [permalink]

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