Sunday, November 15, 2009

LA Times New Article

Mr. Daragahi has written a new article based on some new information. The note has appeared on LA Times Babylon & Beyond page.
I am very grateful for his kind attention and willingness to re-visit the subject. I also am glad there now there is something about the other side of story available to those who are interested.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

To Subsidize or Not to Subsidize

The debate over subsidization is getting tense, head of government and speaker of the house, Mr. Ahmadinejad and Dr. Larijani exchanged pleasantries over it. A. wants Majlis to give him full authority and do not bother him with formalities such as budgeting the money. It is getting interesting.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

An Article on Iranian Commercial Aviation

This is an interesting piece on Tehran Bureau. Apparently the website is part of PBS Frontline. As for the article conclusions, I think comments are informative. One person who had lost a dear one in Caspian crast says that gov't was aware of the airplane's technical problems. It is hard to say what caused that accident the black box was gone and experts are silent, too silent if i may say so. Enjoy
Read the article here.

By the way Aria Airlines resumed its flights using its Fokker 50s out of its base in Bandar Abbas. The call sign is on the air.

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Clayton State

Here I am, finally back in academia teaching at Clayton State University in Atlanta metro area. For a young institution Clayton State has a good infra structure and is in transtion (I am an Iranian, transition defines my life!) from a commuting college to a state university. Our new residential buildings are just lovely, newly designed and constructed they are really different from usual dorms. I also love the campus, it is gorgeous. The trees, the lake, the buildings and above all Spivey Hall make it a uniquely gorgeous campus.
Of course Clayton State still is in the shadow of its neighboring campuses: Georgia State and Kennesaw State, but its student population is growing and it becomes better known outside of Georgia. Clayton does offer many things: a recognized business program, easy access to Atlanta metro area and a peaceful environment. There is no wonder why we at Clayton State are so optimistic about the future.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

To LA Times I am ALIVE

I do not expect newspapers such as Iran Daily to bother with facts and checking their claims. However I used to think Los Angeles Times to be a professional journalistic institution. Their article on Iran Civil Aviation claims me dead, while I am alive. I have written them twice, contacted 4 different people there. I have not heard back from them except for a short email saying matter is being forwarded to their foriegn desk. Anyway this is my letter to them:

To Whom It may be concerned,

Times September 15th report on Iran civil aviation by Borzou Daragahi is simply untrue. It represents the biased approach of some Iranian officials and is not even well researched. The article claims Mr. Mehdi Dadpei (my father) was killed with his son in airplane crash in Mashhad. Since I am his only son, I can assure you I am very much alive as I am writing you these lines.

I found it appalling that Mr. Daragahi did not even bother to check his facts. A simple google search would have revealed how biased and fictitious the reports he relied on were. It also is an affront to the legacy of a well respected aviator and a great man. Mehdi Dadpay was a great pilot and leader who served his country and people to his outmost. Mr. Daragahi’s article is a miserable patchwork of official speeches and IRIB fallacious reports that were trying to white wash the grave conditions of Iranian civil aviation industry. All of the quotations in his article are already reported and printed in Iranian media. I am surprised why these officials wanted to stay anonymous, when they already have gone on record with Iranian medial saying the same things.

For Mr. Daragahi to offer my father as a scapegoat to be blamed for the present conditions of Iranian Civil Aviation is a betrayal of the simplest principles of decency and journalism. I consider it an insult and a misrepresentation of facts and reality.

Sincerely Yours,
Ali Dadpay

----I also would like to say to Mr. Daragahi that it is customary for college students to copy, he should have known better!

Friday, September 11, 2009

What a Summer!

What a summer was this summer of 2009! I spent its 3 months back home with my family after a long absence. It was indeed great to be back home, to be united with those loved ones whom one cares most about. And yet the Providence had something else in mind.
The election turned a page in history that proved to be the end of an old chapter and the beginning of a new one. And indeed this was an end, the Tehran of my childhood was long gone. Even in Mehrshahr that lovely suburb 40 km out of Tehran old villas were replaced by buildings and apartment complexes. The new generation only a few years younger than your correspondent, is more arrogant, confident, fearless and in the same time more pragmatic and realistic. To see them walking hands in hands in street of Tehran crowding the streets, the cafes, the malls and every else was to see a new wave getting ready to hit the shore.
And yet for me the end of old era was magnified by a personal loss. On July 23rd I lost my father in an air crash in Mashhad. He went like he wanted; flying, taking care of his crew and passengers. I should write more about him soon, the shock still is there, the loss still is too fresh. I miss him, we all do.
So here is one update after few months, i doubt if ever in history of our time we had such an eventful summer. The world is not the same any more.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Election Day in Tehran

Today temperature in Tehran rise to 90 F (32'C), warmer than all days before, and yet people were and are standing long lines in shade and under blazing sun. It is an odd image of Tehran: quiet streets, deserted shopping centers and yet crowded mosques, high schools, schools and colleges. It is election day. An unprecedented number of voters are casting their vote today.
I went to stations in Vanak and Yousef Abad, both in North of Center and North parts of Tehran, where fixed income middle class families mingle with high income households. The stations were and are packed with lines coming out of the building and going around the corner. The individuals waiting in them are from all walks of life, there are Chador wearing women, young ladies wearing the latest fashion and make up, there are old people walking with cane and there are young students with their notes and textbooks in their hands, it is a long wait. One voted told me he and his sister waited for 2 hours and half to cast their votes. There is an air of a united people present that makes one feel romantic.
I voted in Al-Zahra University station in Vanak Village, it took me 45 minutes waiting time. Most people around me were voting for Mr. Mousavi. They were chatting politics while their kids and children were playing in compound. Many were waiting in shade, since the sunshine was rather strong. Some were worried, since there was no representative of Mr. Mousavi campaign present there, the only representative present was from Mr. Ahmadinejad's campaign. This upset many, a young lady in a black chador was calling a friend to say that she would rather go to Bahaerstan, a location south of central Tehran in Old Tehran to cast her vote. But many chose to stay, the representative's presence is significant in counting the vote.
I gave my birthcertificate to the officer at the desk, wrote down the name of the candidate with his code from the ministry of interior information sheet and cast my vote. Leaving the station I noticed more people are arriving to vote. I just noticed there was no separate line for men and women, we all voted together.
The outcome is not certain yet, but it is certain that last week marches and debates have increased the participation to a new level. On Facebook, most of my friends are voting and they are on their way to vote. Some people are complaining that why more than a few are voting for Mousavi and not for Karroubi, although they approve of him. Those who did so, argue that winning in the first round is way more important than going to an uncertain second round. Although with number present today, one wonders if this is going to be a landslide. That is not unlikely.

Monday, June 08, 2009

Election Time

It does feel different. Walking through Vali-Asr square close to downtown Tehran, I had to pinch myself; "have we turned democratic and I missed it?" on the left side of the square there were dozens of Mousavi's supporters and on the right side dozens of Ahmadinejad's fans were shouting their slogans. Mousavi's supporters were waving green flags and holding posters, and so were Ahmadinejad's fans. On a corner people were arguing. A young kid was using his utmost energy to yell at someone: "how much was the price of an apartment when Khatami was the president? now it is so and so" the other guy, a bit shorter and with a beard was shaking his head and hands trying to say that Ahmadinejad was good to the economy.

Scores of young people, bikers and cars, marching and cruising through Tehran supporting this or that candidate. Green is Mousavi's color, White ribbons for Karroubi and blue for Rezaie, Ahmadinejad's fans are using national colors of green, red and white as their symbol and march to the song of Ey-Iran (Oh Iran) the unofficial national song, not very popular with the establishment. Debates are lively and sleeping is impossible, presidential candidates begin their debates 10:30 PM, after which people take to streets to dance and to blow their cars horns.

Girls are waving their hands and dance inside their cars, everything is loosened up, police officers and the elite squads standing by watching, but they do not interfere. A boy tells his worrisome girlfriend: "it is election time, they do not care if you are naked"

Well I have not seen anyone naked, but I have seen girls standing in streets to distribute leaflets, i have seen kids wearing green, white and tricolors ribbons running the streets, i have seen glimpse of hope and hope is such a rare thing, it is a good thing.

The election time is sure different and this one is very different than other ones.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Green is the New Fashion in Tehran

Driving in Tehran a sizable number of cars are carrying green ribbons tied to their antennas, there are buildings with green drapes falling from roof to the ground and there are young boys and girls wearing green scarves. Green is all the rage in Tehran, it is the color of MirHussein Mousavi the last individual to hold the premier office and the Prime Minister of wartime Iran. His hair has turned grey, but the youth, who mostly were infants in his days are wearing his color.
Of course Mr. Mousavi's economic policies are an old version of structuralist economic ideas and he speaks of "morality economics". Both are discomforting to those who advocate a rational and fact oriented approach to economy in Iran. However it seems that he does offer a progressive social agenda that would be an step forward. He has promised to stop morality patrols and to give more freedom to the youth. No wonder green is the fashion of Tehran's fashionable.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Obama's 100 Days in Iranian TV

This link is a 10 minutes clip from a debate between Dr. Zibakalam and a few other experts in Iranian TV about the first 100 days of Obama administration. It is most interesting, I wish someone to do an English translation. Dr. Zibakalam, Mr. Amir Mohebian, Dr. HajBabayi and Dr. Ashtari were debating. Dr. Zibakalam is saying that Obama administration has implemented changes in its first 100 days, which are significant. He says that shutting down prisons in Guantanamo Bay, focusing on Afghanistan and planning to withdraw from Iraq are most important. In response Dr. HajBabayi says that these are not important since these are new strategic moves to ensure that the United States will be in a better position to control India and Pakistan and to checkmate China. Dr. Zibakalam then asks that what Mr. Obama could have done to persuade Dr. HajBabayi that he is sincere about changes. Dr. HajBabayi answers that he should release Iranian funds blockaded in American banks. To this Dr. Zibakalam answers: "But we do not have any money left in America!".
The significance of this debate is in the single fact that it emphasizes how some groups need a hostile USA in Iran as much as some in DC need a hostile Iran! It is amazing how they actions and words actually reinforce each other's position. On the other hand it is a significant change to have this debate on Iranian TV, so a political scientist, in this case Dr. Zibakalam, can say what he actually thinks about the Iran-USA relations....well this also is qualified as a "change".

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Election and Video Clips

Presidential candidates in Iran are using internet and its venue as much as they can to publish their ideas and their campaign material. One of the most recent ones is titled: "From the past to the future". You can see it here:

The 16 minutes clip suggests Mr. MirHussein Mousavi's candidacy is the next step in Iranian people's 100 years long struggle for democracy. The clip begins with snapshots from constitutional revolution era then continues with clips from oil nationalization movement and Dr. Mossadeq, during which the music is playing "Ey Iran", unofficially considered to be the national anthem in Iran, then it shows the coup against him and his exile and then it moves forward to clips and photos from Imam Khomeini, then offers speeches by Mr. Bazargan, the first primier of Islamic Republic, and by Dr. Shariati, who is considered to be the ideologist of revolution . It covers revolution with movies and photos from 1978-1980 and songs from this era. It broadcasts a speech from Ayatollah Taleghani. Then there is war, reform movement and at the end a few minutes talks, clips and photos focused on Mr. MirHussein Mousavi himself. The clip is a beautiful one and could be considered as a musical history of the past 100 years.
However one has to take some parts of it with a grain of salt; Mr. Mousavi's government banned Mr. Bazargan's supporters' main party; Nehzat e Azadi ye Iran, and his minister of interior, Mr. Mohtashami, turned down their requests for permits for political activities several times and disqualified their candidates for parliamentary elections. Overall many might argue that this clip claims affiliations that one hardly knew anything about them when Mr. Mousavi was the prime minister... although this might be a too simplistic view of history, and main street people are not used to complicated analysis of historical events, which might justify such claims. However one must admit that he remains the man of hour, receiving support from students, intellectuals and old reformists.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

An Iranian Artist and Her Blog

Golrokh Nafisi was born in 1981, or 1360 according to Iranian calendar; 3 years after revolution and in the second year of war with Iraq. She probably went to the first grade in the first year after war. In her sketches she covers daily events, her errands, her activities and the politics of Iranian society. Her realism and use of colors make her sketches to stand out among the best of her generation.
This is one of her works about coming elections. You can see more of her works on her blog: Was Born in 1981...

Saturday, April 18, 2009

An Op-Ed Piece in the New York Times

Farnaz Calafi, Pouyan Mashayekh and I wrote a piece on Howard Baskerville, which is accepted by the New York Times as an Op-Ed piece today. This April 19th marks the 100th anniversary of his death. Remembering him, is remembering the ideals and the principles of humanity.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Back from Vacation

Iran has come back from Nowruz's vacation. Two weeks, no newspaper, no serious political meeting and no significant economic event. Right now the USA and Iran both are in the business of sending positive smoke signals, a fortunate development.
Economy...well economy is a rather strange affair in Iran. Dr. Larijani allowed a report on fiscal performance of the government to be read in Majlis. One must admit that Mr. Ahmadinejad's govrenment left much to be desired in this matter. Apparently government did not follow the budget in half of the places, where it should have.
On the other hand Dr. Mo'meni, Mr. MirHussein Mousavi chief economic advisor is adding to our concerns. Mr. Mousavi is running as the chief presidential candidate of reformist parties now, and has been endorsed by several groups so far. Should he occupy presidency it is speculated that Dr. Mo'meni would be his choice to run the ministry of economic affairs. Dr. Mo'meni has made no secret of his passion for protectionism and government's role in economic affairs.

Friday, April 10, 2009

New Weblog on Iran's Economy

Djavad Salehi-Isfahani, who is a professor of economics at Virginia Tech and a fellow at Brooklyn Institute, has launched his weblog on Iran's economy. He has called it: Tyranny of Numbers. Djavad's work on Iran is well recognized. He is one of few well informed economists on this side of Atlantic who painstakingly follow Iranian affairs and rely on domestic data sources for his research and studies. His most recent article is due to appear in the Journal of Economic Inequality. This is a great blog to follow.

Friday, April 03, 2009

An Observation: Makhmalbaf and Dehnamaki

Mohsen Makhmalbaf came to prominence as an independent Iranian filmmaker with an eye for social issues. However as a rebellious youth he was a radical revolutionary who once stabbed a constable with a knife in his revolutionary zeal. For a time during early days of revolution he symbolized what was called an ideologically responsible Muslim director in Iranian cultural society. His first movies were those of a revolutionary still fighting an Armageddon again evil. The change came later.

After making The Cyclist, a movie about the plight of Afghan refugees in 1980’s, he moved to work on social issues within Iranian societies. These proved to be too perceptive and too sensitive for the authorities. His movies; “Marriage of the Blessed” and “The Nights of Zayandeh-rood”, were banned. He discovered that he had crossed a line and now was on the other side of the table against the establishment. His later projects were mostly critically acclaimed and he boldly tried new topics and ventured the unknown. He even made a movie about the constable he once had stabbed, calling it "A Moment of Innocent". He is now a renowned filmmaker of international reputation.

While Makhmalbaf was embarking on his artistic voyage as a director, thousands and thousands of young men were volunteering to fight in a real war. Masoud Dehnamaki was one of these thousands. Young and passionate about his country and revolutionary ideals he joined Basij to fight invading Iraqis. He found his utopia among his fellow soldiers; ignoring the impossible, braving Iraqis tanks with AK-47s, finding themselves following the footsteps of martyrs of early Islamic history. He felt he was a crusader. When the war was over, that world came to an end. Dehnamaki found the normality of a peacetime society most disagreeable. It did not take too long for him to be outraged by what he considered to be a betrayal of wartime values and war veterans.

He became a familiar face in Ansar-e Hezbollah, a radical group, and started writing for their periodicals. While Makhmalbaf was a celebrity in Tehran’s movie festivals and cultural events, Dehnamaki was a protestor on the street denouncing these events, accusing them of immorality and ignoring the principles of martyrdom. Once he gave an interview to Christian Amanpour sitting in front of a wall of sandbags replicating a barricade at frontlines. He was fighting new enemies, his war had not ended.

Still Dehnamaki has a genuine interest in social issues and poverty. He entered the world of movie making and made a documentary about prostitution in Tehran, thus crossing the street to begin a career in movies. In 2007 he made a movie about war, a comedy called “The Outcasts”. The movie tells the story of a gang member who volunteered for the frontline so he could induce the father of the girl he loved to give his blessings to their marriage. The movie portrays his spiritual journey. It was a box office success and Dehnamaki complained bitterly that it could have set the record if the authorities would have let it stay while there was still demand for it. The success of “The Outcasts” prompted him to make “The Outcasts 2” which is now in movie theatres across the country, and is a box office best seller.

Both movies are popular with the public. Although both have been criticized by some for having too many silly jokes and portraying frontlines too jovially; disrespecting the martyrs and their spiritual journey to martyrdom. However Mr. Dehnamaki is happy with his success yet bitter with the cold reception of Iranian movie making circles. Many artists have neither forgot nor forgiven his actions. He considers himself an outcast in their world and complains from time to time. For him they represent an establishment he is opposing. Well no one claims Iran suffers from a lack of irony in any aspect of her affairs.

Dehnamaki and Makhmalbaf are two opposing sides of Iranian artistic scene now, but their journeys are similar: from violent activism to artistic creation, from approving stabbing and beating their opponents to criticizing them openly and strongly for their lack of humanity or their lack of respect for humanity, from preferring guns to using pens and cameras. Theirs should serve as a reminder to anyone who might fancy an Armageddon. You want to be merciless with your enemy, use a camera. It is much safer and way more rewarding.
* Photo is from galleries on "A Moment of Innocence"

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Rick Steves Talking about his Movie

I can't get enough from Rick Steves documentary on Iran. This is a talk he gave about it. Very interesting to watch:

Losing a Game

Iran lost to Saudi 2-1 in qualifying match. Well since President AhmadiNejad was in stadium watching the game, the political sms market is exploding in Tehran. Of course the scapegoat is Mr. Dayee now, the head coach of national team. Unfortunately he had made some adversaries by refusing to bring Ali Karimi to national team and by exercising a free hand. Now the blame game is on in Iran and well in the existing frustration one must accept that some would spice it up with some politics.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Juan Cole has a point!

Tonight I went to Politics & Prose where Juan Cole from University of Michigan was discussing his new book: "Engaging the Muslim World". His latest book is a study of the current status of USA relations with the Muslim world and a collection of suggestions as how to engage it. I have not read the book but whatever Juan Cole writes is usually worthy of a close examination. However I can't agree more with one of the points he made during his speech.

He noted that there is no American studies program in the native languages in the Middle East. While Japanese, French and Russian have developed academic institutes to study American history, economy and society in their native languages there is not an equivalent institute that does so in Arabic, Persian, Turkish or other languages of Islamic world. He mentioned that there is not one single translation of Jefferson in Arabic! He makes an excellent point. Ironically he has to blame the perspective on this side of Atlantic.

There are several media outlets funded by Washington DC and other western governments. I can name a few that broadcast in Persian for Iran without any search. There is Radio Zamaneh from Netherlands, BBC Persian Radio and TV from London, Radio Farda from Prague and of course Voice of America (VOA) Radio and TV from Washington DC and French Radio, German and .... so there is no shortage of western media presence in the Muslim World, or at least in Iran for that purpose. However instead pf talking Jefferson, Lincoln, Adams, Benjamin Franklin and George Washington these outlets talk about domestic issues of these countries. They try to act as domestic media, or Iranian media in this case. They are run by journalists from opposition or anti regime groups and usually are there to advocate their points of view. Treated by suspicion by authorities they always imply that they are advocating freedom of speech and democracy in Iran. Well if hearing that from a monarchist or a former Marxist, who used to advocate totalitarian regimes themselves, is not funny, I do not know what it is!

The truth of matter is that western governments by spending their cash on venues that turn into personal fiefs and good gigs for these groups, all with a political agenda of their own in the target country, do not help principles of democracy or freedom of speech for that matter. Yes, Jefferson is not translated into Arabic, Turkish or Persian because the academicians in these countries can not antagonize the authorities and endanger their careers by doing so. Those who can do it, waste their resources by joining the local struggle for power.

This reminds me of a letter allegedly written by Mr. Dehkhoda, first Iranian to write an encyclopedia. Responding in 1950's to invitation from BBC or VOA to speak in their Persian program for their Iranian audience, he wrote: " I rather you choose an American scholar to talk to us of Washington, of Franklin, of your history and how your founding fathers establish a functioning democracy. I myself prefer to talk to your people, of our literature, great poets, our history and our struggle for the cause of liberty. It just does not make sense for me to talk to my fellow Iranians through a foreign radio."

Juan Cole has an excellent point, but the solution is here not there!

A New Day

It is the first day of spring and the first day of Iranian New Year, an occasion to celebrate the rebirth of nature that symbolizes hope. It is Nowruz. Iranian new year is going to be an eventful one.
Politics: Iran's presidential election shall decide who will be the next president. In running there are three candidates: MirHussien Mousavi (former prime minister), Karroubi (former speaker of house- self acclaimed pragmatic reformer) and incumbent President AhmadiNejad.

Economics: Dr. Nili, a prominent Iranian economist and a former head of macroeconomic planning at Management and Planning Organization, identifies five potential crisis ahead of Iran's economy: budget deficit, balance of trade, volume of money in circulation, unbalanced consumption of energy and employment. The next president won't have any honeymoon with the economy.

International: President Obama in his Nowruz greetings spoke of new beginnings, some in Iran consider this a genuine opportunity to engage USA in diplomatic talks. His diplomatic approach has already disarmed radicals and calmed down many voices in Iran and encouraged many to speak for moderation (Is W. taking notes? in one Nowruz greeting Obama accomplished more than all threats his administration inclined). However it is unrealistic to expect 30 years of building suspicions to go away by a happy Nowruz. However it is indeed a new beginning.

This new year promises many new beginnings.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Economicly Indifferent!

Really there is not much difference between Mir Hussein Mousavi and Ahmadinejad when it comes to economy! both are for redistributing wealth and both have or had followed policies that encouraged and inspired rent seeking behavior in Iran. On another hand if we believe Mr. Mousavi would continue political reforms, we must ask how he plans to make them sustainable by ignoring expanding private sector and free markets?
There is a possibility that Mr. Karroubi would advocate some sound economic strategy, however that won't be very popular at the moment. Is it possible that economy continues on this path indifferent from who is the president?

Monday, March 16, 2009

Here He Abandoned Us Again!

Former President Khatami is about to issue a statement in Tehran, in a few hours, to announce that he will not pursue his candidacy for presidency. He made this decision after a conference with Mr. MirHussein Mousavi, Iran's war time prime minister and a much revered personality among the old guards, during which Mr. MirHussein Mousavi emphasized that he would continue his bid. Mr. Khatami had formerly announced that either Mr. MirHussein Mousavi or he, himself, would represent the reform movement in the coming election, now it seems he considers it his duty as a gentleman to withdraw himself.

By doing so Mr. Khatami represents the worst aspects of an Iranian noble character! In the name of duty and morality he is escaping his responsibilities and in the name of the reform movement he is abandoning his reformist supporters. Although out of power for 4 years and out of favor with the hard liners for much longer, he was a genuinely popular politician with a sizable following among the middle class, women and students. The news is heart breaking for the members of his campaign and his supporters, many of whom begged him to stay during an emotional farewell meeting last night.

Mr. Khatami is worthy of praise for his intelligence, excellent manners and his bona fide belief in civil rights and a democratic approach to government, however history will remember him as an indecisive politician who was more concerned with his personal vanity than his political agenda. Both as a president and as a politician he was more inclined to follow requests and to answer the calls of duty than gaining initiative and devising plans to materialize his goals.

May be he believes by doing this he has been selfless, as he should be according to Islamic morality code and principles. However he forgot that in the name of altruism no one could possibly forget or forego his duties and his obligations to his fellow citizens. Unfortunately Mr. Khatami has done just that. He might have many good reasons for it, but it will take time to get over this episode.

Thursday, February 26, 2009


It is the most absurd and the most ridiculous piece of news I have seen in a long time. Slamming sanctions on Sharif University of Technology is nothing but an act of unspeakable stupidity!
Sharif is Iran's best school and the only place with active academic ties with abroad, all established through individual initiatives and none because of Iranian government. It is the castle of rationalism in Iran and recently has launched a great program in economics based on American curriculum. To punish this school only weakens those who advocate moderation, liberalism and integration in global society and gives power to those who desire confrontation and violence. Whoever suggested this must be out of his freaking mind!!!!!!!

Monday, February 23, 2009

To Subsidize or not To Subsidize

Iranian legislative and executive bodies are exchanging pleasantries over a bill to eliminate government subsidization of products and services. Although this step has been advocated by many liberal Iranian economists, many are concerned by the potential consequences of a hasty action. Those concerns have forced many to caution government. This past week parliament has returned the bill to the cabinet. President Ahmadinejad announced that he would not resubmit it, if his original plan were not accepted. It seems that so close to an election, the government is very cautious and is using this opportunity to shelf the bill for now.
The reason is simple enough any increase in the prices will have dire political consequences for any candidate and right now the incumbent does not desire that.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Just Some Thoughts

Former President Khatami candidacy has sparked a rather lively debate in Iranian society and among bloggers about his performance, expectations and the future. The discussions remind me of a dialogue of a Polish movie called "Death of a President" (1977) about the first President of Poland, Gabriel Narutowicz, who was assassinated 2 days after assuming the office.
There is a scene where a conversation takes place among the members of parliament from a centrist part (I believe farmers party). The election is narrowed down to a right-wing candidate and Mr. Narutowics. An MP says:
"We cannot vote for one because of our honor, for the other because of our principles."
The leader of the party says:
"Then it is good, we still have our consciences."
Conscience is a strange thing, let's hope we still have it.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Monday, February 09, 2009

Let's Talk Issues not Illusions!

Hamed Ghoddous an Iranian journalist, a blogger and a doctoral candidate at Vienna Graduate School of Finance has written an open letter to former President Khatami; titled “Do not Disappoint Us”. He asked him to be clear on the issues facing the economy and to select a team of technocrats and professionals, instead of old acquaintances and friends and to dedicate his energies to expanding private sector and to battle the barriers ahead of economic growth. It is a good letter and summarizes some basic facts and issues. Interesting part is the reaction.

Reading the comments to this post, I am puzzled to see the lack of cohesion in economic thoughts and beliefs. While a number of people welcome his approach, a number scolded him for advocating free market, for putting the cause of economy ahead of that of liberty and some discounted Mr. Khatami’s achievements outright.

I do believe the approaching weeks are vital for Iran. They also can decide what the coming election is about. Although many suggest the coming election is about characters, that of President Ahmadinejad and of former President Khatami. And based on this argument they have made their decisions already. I would like to remind every one that the election could be about planning solutions and addressing issues, if issues are debated and discussed in media and weblog arena.

Should discussing issues become a priority for many who follow the events in Iran, then we have a genuine opportunity to transfer this election to a debate scene about solutions and not just illusions. If Iranian media and bloggers fail in this then the coming elections would be a contest of two populists; One running on a promise of a freedom he cannot deliver, the other on a promise of a welfare he cannot provide. It is time to talk about the issues. Putting economy ahead would help us to address the social issues from a stronger position. This is certainly not a time for the illusions of liberty, but a time for pragmatic planning and fact oriented approach to the issues on hand.

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Finally! Khatami is Running!

After weeks of half measures and dubious statements, former President Khatami announced that he is running for the office of presidency against President Ahmadinejad. Well let's hope in trading efficiency for the appearance of modesty he has not sacrificed his chances!

Friday, January 30, 2009

About an Industrial Career

If you are applying to enter job market this year and desire an industrial career, these are some suggestions.

1. Recruiters more and more use social professional network to find potential candidates. It is advisable that you create a profile on or careerbuilders or monster. In creating such profile please bear in mind:
a. How you present yourself is important. You are a doctoral candidate and thus a student, but also you are an analytical thinker with good command of quantitative tools. It will be helpful if you position yourself as such and not only a student.(for example do not put Doctoral Candidate in the title of your profile, put something like applied economist, econometrician, economic analyst that describes you as a professional!)
b. Highlight your software expertise and quantitative background as well as economic coursework that required you to write.
c. In mentioning econometrics be specific about techniques you know well. Remember there are different things about econometrics, it is good to be specific: are you good at panel data or time series, logistic regression or cluster analysis? say that, econometrics is a vast field.

2. It is important that you demonstrate ability in doing tasks such as data management and data manipulation using software packages such as SAS. If you do not have any experience about these, remember if you know SAS DATA step well (thos SAS users out there know what I mean by well), you are almost there. Read a help manual and perform a few codes that require you to merge or to split data sets.
a. Prepare yourself to answer questions such as: how do you merge two data sets? How SAS merges these data sets?
b. Learn a little bit of SQL (more than a little bit actually).
c. Find a business data, something with ID codes for consumers or geographical locations and exercise with it, it does help.

3. Highlight your experience building models and doing research. The market is competitive but your potential employers want to know how much training you might require. Show it that you do not need much.

4. Many employers accept online submission, when doing so do not forget to activate the alert for the new jobs, which keeps you aware of new openings.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

New Yorker's Article about an Iranian Economist

New Yorker latest issue has a very interesting report on Dr. Tabibian, an Iranian professor and yours truly professor in economics, when I was a graduate student at IRPD. As a professor he was inspiring. He encouraged us, his students, to write about economics and market ideas. (This resulted in three of us: Pouyan Mashayekh, Ali Farahbakhsh and me, to start writing for Hamshahri, this was late 1990's) A new phase in dialogue over economic issues was opened in Iran, which had been dominated by the leftist ideologies until then. Today two daily papers are committed to market ideas in economy in Iran and almost all have accepted its principles, although not practicing it yet.

He was a faculty member of Institute for Research in Planning and Development (IRPD), a pilot institute for economic studies and research that launched a master program in economics to teach it according to syllabus at Duke, MIT and UCLA. It was a great program to be part of and it accepted applicants from graduates of all fields, many of engineering students from Sharif University of Technology, University of Tehran and from Polytechnic University came to this institute to study economics. This was a new change in Iranian academic environment, where social sciences was the fiefdom of leftists and their ideas. To talk of free market was considered heresy. IRPD left an impact on Iranian academia. However the bureaucracy took care of that.

IRPD became Institute for Management and Planning Studies (IMPS) under President Khatami. Ironically reformists, particularly old leftists, treated him and his colleagues no better than the current administration, although may be less harshly. They blamed him for liberalization of market during President Rafsanjani's administration, and when the time came they forced a new administrator upon IMPS whose ideas could not have been more different. Today IMPS does not accept students. Sharif University of Technology followed that example by establishing its Graduate School of Management and Economics (GSME).

Dr. Tabibain's story is the story of those who wanted to make a difference through professionalism. They have witnessed how their agenda has been compromised by all political groups and how their careers have suffered from ideological animosity of their rivals. His is a true story, a story worthy of telling and reading. That is why you should read this article.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Thursday, January 15, 2009

We knew Beethoven because of Him

Someone might tell you a Mr. Karim ChamanAra passed away in Tehran, Iran. His name might not be among familiar names in media reports, or among Iranian directors and musicians who frequent capitals and metropolitans. Nonetheless generations of Iranians knew mighty names such as Beethoven, Bach, Brahms, Tchaikovsky and etc because of him. Karim ChamanAra dedicated his life to production and publication of music, both classical and Iranian traditional. His name is worthy of remembrance and our gratitude.

Mr. ChamanAra was the founder of Beethoven music house in Tehran, a company producing and distributing musical recordings and tapes. His store was also named Beethoven, in the crowded streets of central Tehran; there one could have found a different world. Rows and rows of masters, musical scores, performances, composers, for many going through his shelves was a study of classical music. Through him we heard Beethoven’s 5th and 9th, the thunder of artillery in Borodino as captured by Tchaikovsky’s 1812, the hymns of Bach’s baroque, Mozart’s geniuses and so many others. Located a few block from University of Tehran, a short walk from Alborz High School and Polytechnic University of Tehran (Amirkabir University of Technology), Beethoven was a landmark by itself. Many like your correspondent did not go there to shop; we went there to pay our respects on pilgrimage.

May be it is hard for you, my dear reader, to imagine the significance of his work, but in revolution and war, in social turmoil and midst political unrest keeping the gates of heavens open is no easy task. Because of his dedication many found moments of tranquility, many discovered the joy and passion of music. He will be remembered.

Photo is from BBCPERSIAN.COM

Monday, January 12, 2009

Khatami or MirHussein Mousavi

Former President Khatami told reporters On Monday that either he or Mr. MirHussein Mousavi, Iran's premier during Iran-Iraq war, will run for presidency against President Ahmadinejad. This is the first public announcement Mr. Khatami has made about his plans for coming elections. He also said that the current administration diversion from development plans and accepted 2020 vision has cost country dearly. He criticized the government by adding “instead of going forward for 4 years we went backward for 4 years."

Although Mr. Khatami has remained actively involved in Iran's politics since his second term ended as the president, Mr. MirHussein Mousavi has been considered retired. He led the government during the Iran-Iraq war serving as the prime minister, while Ayatollah Khamenie was the President of IRI. His government implemented centralist economic policies, limiting private sector to a few industries and expanding public sector to include several enterprises in different industries. His emphasis on a leftist approach to the economy caused several disagreements with conservative factions of Majlis. Trained as an architect he has a quiet professional life for the last 20 years, designing houses and holding art exhibition. Although his name always comes up when a presidential election is approaching.
* Photo is taken from BBC Persian website

Monday, January 05, 2009

Back from ASSA San Francisco 2009

This year Allied Social Sciences Association (ASSA) held its annual meeting in San Francisco, CA. The main body in these associations is American Economic Association. However several other associations were present, including Econometric Society (ES), Middle East Economics Association (MEEA) and etc.
For many this meeting is also known as the “Job Market" since several PhD candidates and recent graduates receive their first chance to talk to their potential employers. And for life of me I do not know how anyone can evaluate anyone as a potential colleague in 30 minutes! I believe that is why hiring committees intend to rely on brands and their instincts more than anything else. That is also why job seekers must have a network of connections before this event to make themselves known. Otherwise they are only another face in a line of dozens of talented candidates.
The recession and the recent economic events have caused tremendous distortion in the market this year. Several schools hiring budgets were frozen. Some received word in the last minute that they can hire, some heard that they could not.
The conference also is a place for the members of MEEA to meet and to have their annual gatherings. There were a few sessions including a poster session where researches from schools in U.S. and universities in Algiers, Egypt, Lebanon, Turkey and other countries presented their work (I presented in the poster session myself).
The quality of some of the papers was remarkable. I particularly liked a paper presented by Nagla Rizk from American University of Cairo on copy rights and the lack of demand for them in Egypt. Her argument is that the main source of income for many artists is their performances in the weddings and other social events and thus they are not interested in collecting loyalties from the sale of their products. I found this paper and a few others intriguing because of their insightful approach to the fabric of daily economic life in the Middle East.
Overall one must admit that there is an increasing interest in the Middle Eastern economies that goes beyond the traditional approach, which focuses on oil and nothing else.