Just a t-shirt

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Slavery Shirt

Every Martin Luther King Day over the last few years, plus as many days as possible during February (Black History Month,) I have been wearing the shirt above and today is no exception. Mine is actually black, in some ways more fitting, but I wish I had seen the version above in wine-red first.

I bought it from the wonderful people at UrbanProfile.com, who also offer a wide range of other African-American themed t-shirts. For the inauguration this year, you could be wearing a shirt with the map of U.S.A. stamped “Under New Management” for example.

This particular shirt gets some of the strangest looks, not to mention some interesting reactions. This morning while lying down on my chiropractor’s adjustment bed, I noticed him reading the back out loud. He later insisted on reading the front before discussing my ever ongoing need for additional treatment.

Last year, while having breakfast out, a woman behind me couldn’t even wait that long and tapped me on the shoulder to ask if I could turn around for her to see the front!

What is on the back is a 1966 quote from writer James Baldwin. It reads;

America has created a state of mood, which is dangerous for the world. In order to buy and sell men like cattle one had to pretend they were cattle. Being Christian knowing it was wrong; they had to pretend it was not done to men but to animals. What has happened is that America, which use to buy and sell black men, still isn’t sure if they are animals or not.

But the most interesting reactions are usually drawn to the front, be it a supermarket cashier trying to read while avoiding my eyes, an African-American mother with kids being shocked first, then slowly realizing the point and looking up at me proudly and finally a young white dude that wanted to fight me, as he found it offensive.

Front of the shirt has a copy of an advertisement from Charlestown, carrying a date of July 24th, 1769. The text reads:

TO BE SOLD, ON THURSDAY THE THIRD DAY OF AUGUST NEXT, A CARGO OF NINETY-FOUR PRIME, HEALTHY NEGROES, CONSISTING OF THIRTY-NINE MEN, FIFTEEN BOYS, TWENTY-FOUR WOMEN, AND SIXTEEN GIRLS. JUST ARRIVED IN THE BRIGANTINE DEMBIA, FROM SIERRA-LEON, BY DAVID & JOHN DEAS.

I don’t wear the shirt to shock people. I wear it as a reminder. And it’s not just a reminder of look what YOU have done; it’s something we need to remember that many of us have also. For it, still goes on today, in many parts of the world, in many different forms.

Yes, as a nation, the United States needs to be held responsible for many atrocities, including its near annihilation of the first-nations, organized and sanctioned slavery of millions, multiple wars and military campaigns around the globe causing lives, economic catastrophe, famine, disease, and theft of other nation’ resources by force or deceit.

But if we start to hold such high standards, we better be prepared to look in the mirror to examine our own past, review our current conduct and keep an eye on the future.


On Hoder’s Disappearance and Possible Detention

Unfortunately, in recent years, numerous websites and blogs have been routinely blocked by the authorities, and some bloggers have been harassed or detained. Derakhshan's detention is but the latest episode in this ongoing saga and is being viewed as an attempt to silence and intimidate the blogging community as a whole.

Statement by Iranian bloggers on Hossein Derakhshan

We, the undersigned, view the circumstances surrounding the Iranian authorities’ arrest of Hossein Derakhshan aka Hoder, one of the most prominent Iranian bloggers, as extremely worrying. Derakhshan’s disappearance, detention at an unknown location, lack of access to his family and attorneys, and the authorities’ failure to provide clear information about his potential charges is a source of concern for us.

The Iranian blogging community is one of the largest and most vibrant in the world. From ordinary citizens to the President, a diverse and large number of Iranians are engaged in blogging. These bloggers encompass a wide spectrum of views and perspectives, and they play a vital role in open discussions of social, cultural and political affairs.

Unfortunately, in recent years, numerous websites and blogs have been routinely blocked by the authorities, and some bloggers have been harassed or detained. Derakhshan’s detention is but the latest episode in this ongoing saga and is being viewed as an attempt to silence and intimidate the blogging community as a whole.

Derakhshan’s own position regarding a number of prisoners of conscience in Iran has been a source of contention among the blogging community and has caused many to distance themselves from him. This, however, doesn’t change the fact that the freedom of expression is sacred for all not just the ones with whom we agree.

We therefore categorically condemn the circumstances surrounding Derakhshan’s arrest and detention and demand his immediate release.

Signed, in alphabetical order:

Arash Abadpour

Niki Akhavan

Hossein Bagher Zadeh

Sanam Dolatshahi

Mehdi Jami

Jahanshah Javid

Abdee Kalantari

Sheema Kalbasi

Nazli Kamvari

Nazy Kaviani

Peyvand Khorsandi

Nikahang Kowsar

Omid Memarian

Pedram Moallemian

Ali Moayedian

Ebrahim Nabavi

Masoome Naseri

Shahrnush Parsipur

Khodadad Rezakhani

Leva Zand

Excuse Me!!

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If I knew who this female soldier was, I’d send her a gift or better yet, a kiss. You can tell she’s not happy and there’s no way she’s going to let the Commander in Chief get in there for a cheap photo-op.


Latest Obama Ad

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Iranian flag?

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Pedram on facebook

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When you see me on a break from here on multiple days, chances are I’ve gotten too busy updating stuff on facebook. I don’t write there but try to add interesting links I come across the web as much as possible. Think of it as the ol’ ‘Linkestan’.


VP Debate 2008 on SNL

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Comedy Break

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My friend and very funny comic Maz Jobrani is back in this area with a few shows scheduled around Southern California. I missed his appearance below when he was on Spike Feresten’s Talkshow on my birthday last March 17th. So, I am going to do everything possible to make it to one of the upcoming shows. Watch this and enjoy, with everything else going on in the world, we can all use a break:

This may be the show to see.

Polls, Schmolls

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After offering my take on the first presidential debate, it was interesting to see most of those presenting opposing comments based their responses on the results of polls conducted after the debate, particularly one by CNN (not “Perception Impression” gadget, but actual polls.)

I do not mean to change anyone’s opinion at this point. It is clear that in regards to that debate and perhaps others to follow, if you’re an Obama supporter, your guy won. If you’re a McCain supporter, your guy won. As Iranians, have always been politically stubborn and perhaps we are stubborn Iranian-Americans now.

However, the nature of polling is still at question and for those who do not question it, often citing some magical “scientific” reason behind the numbers, just ask yourself one question; if the polls were such a science, why would campaigns conduct their own separate, rigorous, frequent and very expensive polling instead of just looking at the CNN results?

The answer has much to do with the same “science” behind the polls, for as everything so scientific also leaves an opening to be scientifically manipulated, and it often is. And the reason I turned off my television right after the debate to write my opinion was to not hear those polls as well as the spin-masters’ version of what took place.

There are many ways to manipulate the outcome of a poll. The most common are of course;

  • What questions were asked? In one of the campaigns I worked for, we got two separate results when asking whom “do you feel WON the debate” versus “do you feel CAME ON TOP at the debate”. The difference was close to a huge10-point margin when all else was equal and nobody could explain why. To this date I can’t understand why people responded so differently to essentially the same question.
  • In what order were the questions asked? It is known that you can “lead” a subject by just choosing the order you ask the questions. If you get 4 positive answers in a row, the 5th is most likely a positive also, for example. Or if you set up the interviews so your most crucial question (D) is always asked before (E), (G) and (Z) to get the result you want.
  • How random were the people interviewed? Again from my personal experience, I’ve seen media choose random phone-in interviews to conduct a very critical poll. What they didn’t take into account was that according to latest stats, 58% of renters in California don’t have landlines anymore and this was a poll that directly affected renters on a proposition initiative in CA. Needless to say, they had a list that excluded cell numbers, leaving the most important folks out of their poll. They were calling areas that had high renters, but mostly talking to their landlords that had 2-6 units for rent in, living in the same complex!

I am not suggesting CNN wanted to manipulate the results (although it would be naive to suggest any media is without a bias these days) or they are close-minded to such issues. But they are a news organization, filling their time and I am not going to let them tell me what I think. Poll or no poll, from what I watched, Obama lost round one. Sorry if he’s your candidate and hope he prepares better for round two.

============================

This post deals with traditional and accepted methods of polling and not what is used at most focus groups today with a small sample of people and a gadgets to indicate based their immediate responses.

=============================

McCain 1 – Obama 0

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Greg Craig - Barack Obamas Policy Advisor

Greg Craig – Barack Obama's Policy Advisor

Greg Craig would need to do MUCH better if his candidate wants any chance of winning upcoming debates. He has played the lead role in preparing Obama for his debates and even posed as McCain while they practiced.

Obama performed so poorly against a much weaker candidate, I feel obliged to offer a few points as a one time aspiring politician with some media training for such occasions:

  • Get your candidate in a jacket that is at least half a size too big for him. His thin, long stature could use the puffing up. Navy suits look Presidential.
  • Avoid a tie with small print. Light blue or red only and find someone in the campaign that can tie a perfectly straight and long half or full Windsor necktie.
  • When your opponent is deliberately avoiding looking at you, do not look at him as it comes across like you are begging to have a confrontation and he doesn’t see you as a worthy adversary.
  • If your opponent is successful at smiling confidently while you make your best points, return the favor and smile while he’s making his.
  • Stop enforcing what you have in common; unless you are so much better, he has a longer record and better credentials.
  • Take your shots while he lobs all those softballs (and gaffs) at you immediately and not a minute later when you remembered the right answer. He’s 72; you can’t afford to look 82!
  • Take that cane out of your ass and relax, be mildly animated and exude confidence.

Better luck next time!

Generation Tehran

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“Less Taxes, More War”

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Tough yet very very soft

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With hundreds of thousands of active blogs out there, who needs another one that focuses on all the doom and gloom of daily life?

Who cares if we give our money to banks to hold, they occasionally lend it back to us at outrageous interest rates, pay mind-blowing salaries out of it to their executives and dividends to their largest share-holders. Then when we need it back they say “oops, it looks like we may not have it anymore…could you bail us out with your tax money and basically just pay yourselves?”

Who cares if one candidate holds three separate news conferences in a day to put out three very different messages about the economy as the market plunges further while the other refuses to carry the “change” flag by pointing out the real reasons behind the collapse?

Who cares if an Israeli cabinet minister thinks kidnapping another country’s president is a good idea and an Iranian one keeps coming up with fake degrees to keep his job?

Not this blog! At least not at this very moment, before I change my mind! It’s time for only good news. We’re talking good words, thoughts and deeds. Things like; “sanctuary”, “quality time”, “extra fibers” and “softness.”

Aren’t those nice things? Well, that’s what the “toilet-paper researchers” have developed for us and it will be available as of Monday.

Yes, these may be tough times on many fronts. But at least for “women 45 and older”, there will be something soft available not only for its intended uses, but perhaps for other times also, such as crying when you open your next 401(K) statement.

Revolution & Superman

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Been watching this unedited and unfinished video on youtube for the past half hour or so. At 11, I was too young to attend all those demonstrations but along with my young uncle, we managed to escape the watchful eyes of my grandfather or mother enough times to still see plenty of similar scenes. I more particularly remember the smells, feel of winter clothes in close proximity of large crowds, the rush of people backwards and down as the sound of bullets picked up in unison to warn of an incoming barrage.

My most vivid memories prior to the final days involve inadvertently stepping in a pool of human blood, where an injured protester had just been removed. I am not sure if he survived, but he had lost plenty of blood in a rather short time.

I also remember another day when we had a third partner. Shahram was really a friend of my uncles’ with a great gift. He could draw really well. His talent, along with my own interest in drawing and calligraphy had made us friends also. But his art was very different than mine. He was great at drawing detailed cars, but I liked flowing animals. He drew exact copies of superheros in action, particularly Aquaman and Superman, while I experimented with abstract cubes penetrating spheres.

On this particular day, I had brought Shahram a surprise; a genuine American Superman magazine I can not recall where I had gotten from. He was beyond excited, of course, watching page after page of action shots and explaining how he could do it better or more likely; how it was already done so perfectly. All three of us where doing this right in the middle of a walking group of demonstrators that were chanting and carrying signs, going north from what was Fooziyeh square.

There was the occasional sound of shooting, not unusual for 1978 in Tehran, but for most part the demonstration had moved along uneventful with little interruption from soldiers based at the square who just watched as we passed them.

As the three of us were getting really into the Superman action, I suddenly looked up and it looked as if the three of us were standing in the middle of the street by ourselves. I then looked up and can still clearly remember the reflection of the sun off the helmet of a soldier on top of a personnel carrier with a mounted heavy machine gun pointed towards our general direction. There was also a caravan of other personnel carriers, jeeps, and tanks following them.

It turns out that everyone else had seen them coming and also noticed the soldiers at the square (now behind us) closing the road to trap everyone within a two or three blocked area. Many had sought shelter in stores on either side and a large number were trying to get inside a large hospital when the shooting began and the three of us were still frozen in the middle.

I don’t know which one of us started running and pulled the other two but it sure wasn’t me. We must have ran at full speed for about half an hour until we reached Shahram’s home on Gorgan avenue, way out of the danger zone.

We then sat on their front door step, watching the cars, people busying themselves on the small sidewalks and finishing our discussion on Superman.

Just another day during the last great revolution.

Zoltar Speaks!

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Zoltar Live!

My grandmother had a sort of her own spiritual advisor. It was a nomadic woman in her mid twenties that would stop by once a months or so to remove spells, get rid of a Jinn (Genie) or two that permanently lived in their basement it seemed, and finally write some prayers that my aunt in particular needed to wear around her neck until her next visit.

I never liked her and could copy a couple of her acts even better than she performed them but confronting her with all her tools was hard, particularly after she made a Jinn speak one day and even put imprints of her hoofs on a plate of soft flour as a form of a signature to promise to leave the family alone.

After her, my exposure with people of “celestial” powers has been limited to the Bahama Mama (her words) who tried to lift my wallet while performing her magic, the Toronto “Gypsy” (her word again) who made me leave upon seeing my palms and declaring my “evil” and “probably anti-Christ” and finally one last example that I will leave out as it involves the pubic area and not that fun to read.

But last week I’m in San Fernando Valley (I know, I got to stop going there) for an appointment and as soon as I get out of my car, somebody calls me from behind. I turn and this Sikh man about my own age in a light blue turban is rushing towards me. I am not sure if he was speaking to me in Hindi or his English accent was so thick I really didn’t understand what he was saying. When he got to me, he started with “you are a very lucky man”, pointing to a small mole on my forehead that presumably acts as a third-eye.

I thanked him and asked what I could do for him, thinking his car has broken down or needs to use a cell phone or any of other thousands of reasons we could need one another as human beings.

That’s when he crumbles a tiny piece of paper and puts it in my palm and while writing on another small yellow square piece of paper, starts to dissect my life, or at least my future:

• I am one lucky man (general.)
• 8/26/2008 will be a lucky day for me.
• Two garlic every morning (not clear as to cloves or whole pieces) good for my health.
• I have two children. You have none? Then you WILL have two.
• His prediction; my favorite color is blue and my favorite number between 6,7 or 8 is 7! I picked blue and 8 but he quickly scratched 8 and made my second choice 7!

No wishes granted, unlike Zoltar, the wish granting fortuneteller of Big.

Finally and after about 7-10 minutes of this, the main pitch comes. He opens the brown hand-made but inexpensive small folder he has been using all this time to write on to show me two of his pictures while sitting in a temple. “My name is Baba ___” (I can’t remember it) “and people help me with 100, 150” (never mentioning ‘dollars’) and closing with “what can you help me with today?”

With that, the back and forth volley of demands and excuses between us starts. I start with “got no cash on me” but he points to my hand “you have your checkbook”, ouch, a good shot but I’m not done. “I’m going to an appointment and that’s for them” forces him to back down and go back to a cash position: “what can you help me with right NOW?” I need to go for broke, besides I’m being late: “Right now? Nothing. If you’re still here after I get back in 20 minutes, I’ll help you with $5” He is disarmed but tries one last time “Okay, help me with $5 right now!” and I question his honesty next: “Why? Are you taking off and will not be here in 20 minutes?” He’s defeated. All he can do is threaten now: “I’ll see you in 20 minutes then!”

As I turn and within 20 feet, I see an older partner of my “Zoltar” with a similar handbag offering advice and seeking “help”. Seems like helping is a group sport.

Meanwhile, all I am thinking is that I wish they indeed had the ability to foresee the future. They would then know that my appointment is for two hours and I’m planning to get some food afterward.

In my head I say goodbye to them; “See you in 4 hours Zoltars!”

Los Angeles

12:22

Tehran

15:52

Toronto

08:22