Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Update: Eye For An Eye - Acid Blinding Punishment in 2011

On May 16, 2011 I wrote about the controversy in Iran surrounding its first ever Blinding sentence.  The sentence that was set to be carried out on May 14, 2011 was postponed.  I am anxious to see the outcome of this story and in that regard would like to keep all who read my blog updated with any new information.  There has yet to be a new date set to carry out the verdict and both the opponents and proponents of the acid blinding ruling are still up in arms. 
From an American’s point of view the events that have unfolded are quite simply unbelievable.  It is hard to understand the controversy as neither side’s arguments are in line with a way of life we are familiar with.  That being said, I don’t live there.  I think when analyzing International issues you must leave your own ideas and perceptions at the door and be open to considering ideas that are extreme in order to understand the arguments of residents in other parts of the world.  You must understand that just as you grow up being taught and believing the laws of the United States, these nations have their own beliefs and laws that are no more outrageous to them than our laws are to us. 
That being said, an article was released on May 15 after the sentencing was postponed that gives one point of view to the philosophy that some people who oppose the ruling may hold.  In the article titled, “Amaneh and Those Two Drops of Acid”, the author Amin Bozorgian acknowledges the anxiety and criticism many Iranians express when it comes to Bahrami carrying out the blinding.   He posits if the subconscious ideals of a “blatantly honour bound society” could be the root of the resistance to the sentence.  He acknowledges male chauvinistic expressions in Iranian society and suggests that those challenging the judgment struggle with labeling a man culpable and administering such an egregious sentence when his only fault is defending his honour. The act of dishonor having taken place when Bahrami turned down her attackers repeated requests for marriage. Additionally, Bozorgian looks into the jurisprudential history of Ghesas and discusses how the ancient practice furthers violence by re-enacting the original crime (for more on Ghesas and the facts of this story please see my May Blog Eye for an Eye).
 In response to the article Bahrami’s sister writes a compelling and heartbreaking letter to the author which I have below in its entirety. 
Mr. Bozorgian! Understanding what you have only seen from a distance is very difficult. You have only read about it. You have not seen! You see the “crime” on paper and fail to understand its effects on our lives, capabilities, destiny and future. Talk is easy and lovely but acting is far more difficult. If you were my sister, you would not ask for ghesas? She is willing to settle for a punishment of life imprisonment but she knows that it is not possible. Therefore, she feels it’s better to cut off the invasive, male chauvinistic and selfish hand of Majid, as ghesas provides, so that he will never again assault or inflict harm on anyone.

You must remember that my sister never represented the so-called “honour” of Majid or anyone else; not even of her father or brothers. My father always stayed away from such words and brought us up with a belief in equality, away from fanaticism and all such patriarchal concepts. Your use of the word “honour” is revolting and nauseating to me. I apologize for saying it, but these words can only be found in the vocabulary of the uneducated and not in the minds of freethinking men and women who are suffering on the path of freedom and feel the boot prints of ignorance and oppression on their face. If you wrote your article just to attract readers, that’s another issue.

Do you guarantee that if Majid Movahedi is released without ghesas, my sister, my family and I, as the main plaintiff, will be safe? You cannot begin to understand the extent of Amaneh’s medical treatment, for which the Movahedi family has not even bothered to offer any help. Do you know how much each of Amaneh’s operations, even with all available discounts, has cost us? Anywhere from 2,000 to 7,000 euros. Add to that the cost of medication, ointments and creams applied over and over again each day. Where were you when Amaneh went to take a shower on her own and passed out when she found her eye socket empty?

Amaneh is very strong. She did not cry, or complain in front of us. She always consoled us instead. She does not deserve to be accused of vengefulness and cruelty, nor to be judged unfairly in order to secure an audience for someone.

You should think carefully before discussing something. This is not a story. It is something that actually occurred, completely crushing our lives and future. We nurse her day and night, always waiting and worrying that her situation will decline. With the disappearance of her eyes, eyebrows, cheeks and lips, she is constantly asking me if she is very ugly now. And what shall I say to my little sister? The truth, a lie or a meaningless conjecture?

Have you ever been in my shoes, feeling ashamed of being attractive and healthy? No! But I have been ashamed of my ordinary beauty, of the fact that I see and my little sister can’t. For years, I have felt guilty and ashamed.

When my sister asks me to describe a room or a space, I writhe in pain. When she walks into the door or the wall and apologizes when she walks into people, I suffer in silence. When she found herself alone and lost, trying to get by with a walking stick, I felt the world crumbling upon my head. I wanted to cease existence and disappear and just not witness such things. You speak of suffering but we have lived it.

Despite being taught to be civil with people, I have had to harshly put people in their place to stop them from voicing their dismay in front of Amaneh, my parents or my little brothers. You cannot imagine how I have suffered whenever people were awestruck at the sight of my little sister. I try to silence them with dirty looks, anxious that Amaneh not sense their pity.

I remember one day when my brother came home unexpectedly to surprise us after a three-month absence, and how he was surprised instead. My other brother could only look on in shocked and silent disbelief. The day Amaneh’s eyelid fell down and her burnt eye was revealed, my mother and brother were frozen stiff. None of us dared to touch her eye. We feared the burnt eye would ooze out any minute. But someone had to pull her eyelid up and cover the eye. I did it. And still to this day I tremble at the memory of that moment and many others that were similar or even worse. I had no answer when my brother asked why she was writhing so and couldn’t bear to stand still or sit. I should be thankful that Amaneh was not there to hear how we cried, her four siblings; she had gone to change the dressing of her wounds.

After that episode, we promised each other to be strong in front of Amaneh, to make her laugh and to give her hope. And yet you sit so facilely in “judgement”? What gives you the right?[1]

The article written by Bozorgian and the letter written by Bahrami’s sister leave no clear answer as to how this tragic case will end. Nor do they show a subjective right or wrong answer from the eyes of a Iranian citizen.  The works do showcase the battle between the archaic yet still surviving Iranian traditions and philosophies that emit an oppressive attitude toward women and the more liberal forward thinking stance based around equality that the younger generations of citizens are fighting to push forward. 

[1]Debate surrounding Iran's first blinding-by-acid sentence”, May 30, 2011,

Monday, June 13, 2011

Beat the Heat and Move to Dallas: My Mavs and Heat Analysis!

Unfortunately for the World Champion Dallas Mavericks their underdog win over the Miami Heat in the NBA finals is not the primary talk of all the sports shows.  While the game is definitely today’s hottest topic the big story centers more around the Miami Heat loss than the Dallas Maverick win.  After all how could the Heat lose?  Lebron James sparked total unrest in Cleveland a year ago when he starred in his own special to announce he was “taking his talents to South Beach”.   Chris Bosh joined James and all-star Dwayne Wade and all but ensured victory when they had a parade to celebrate their union.  They had a great year that any team would admire ending the regular season with a 58-24 win/loss record.  So how could this happen!! Doesn’t a live ESPN special and a parade along with “The Big Three” guarantee victory? Not if you ask the older than old Veteran Mavericks.  They showed the Big Three how you play in the post season.  A lesson they will not soon forget.  Here’s my two cents on why Dallas reins champs and the Heat well…are steaming hot!
1.       Team Maturity -   The Heat are a great team. You cannot deny them that, but these are young players who are super energized and unorganized. They have the heart, but they need to learn to play together.  Three stars on a team need organization and each player needs to know when the other should shine.  Miami struggled with this in the Finals.  Many of the Dallas players have playoff and NBA Finals experience. Dirk most noticeably with the 2006 heartbreaker and Jason Kidd when he made his run with the New Jersey Nets. Shawn Marion has been in the league for years and is not stranger to playoff level basketball.  They all know you step it up in the post season.  Miami had to learn that lesson the hard way.  The Dallas Mavericks were unstoppable in the 4th quarter.  Last night when Miami started to throw up desperation three pointers with over two minutes left in the fourth quarter, I knew they were done. 
2.       Lebron James – While I would never say a series is won or lost by one player, one player can have a significant impact.  Lebron wasn’t just off.  He had games where he scored 20 plus points and he even had a triple double, but he wasn’t shining.  People call this guy the KING of basketball.  He has himself convinced at times.  I don’t think Lebron or Kobe or anyone else in the league is Michael Jordan so I don’t expect them to play like Michael Jordan.  I didn’t think I’d see Lebron have 60+ points in any game or do anything that Jordan has done, but I did expect to at least see Lebron James show up.  Even if he’s not Jordan he is fantastic.  He is a great basketball player.  He didn’t even live up to his own level of play.  He was at best passive.  He settled for jump shots when he did shoot instead of driving the lane like he has all year. I’m not a huge fan of his, but I hope he can regroup and salvage his image and brand. 
3.       Fundamentals – In today’s world of Blake Griffin style dunks and Allen Iverson (yeah I said it) handles, the pick and roll seems a bit dated.  Unfortunately for the Heat…it is still effective.  The Dallas team has the old school pick and roll down to an art.  And they should, they were all probably there when it was invented!  The veteran team had plenty of experience playing together and effectively ran the plays against the younger and faster kiddos.   Offensive rebounds were another key ingredient to the Miami demise.  You can’t give great teams second chances at the basket.  When they shoot 66% from the field if they miss the first time, odds are the second one is going in.  You have to stay and block out.  The snowbird style basketball play won’t win games.  As the saying goes. Offense sells tickets but defense wins games!
I was totally neutral during the series even though I’m from Texas.  I don’t really follow the NBA much.  What I saw was clear though.  All the above mentioned factors combined and Dallas was simply a better basketball team.  The Heat did not play horribly.  They had great intensity and effort.  Dallas was just hands down better in that series.  I’m happy for all the Maverick players and think Dirk Nowitzki just tripled his popularity as he played almost flawlessly even when his shots were off a bit.  Miami will get there.  Maybe they will get there next year, maybe in the next couple years. They are a great team and have all the puzzle pieces.  They just need to learn how to put them together consistently. They definitely have off season work to do. 
And those are my inside thoughts J

Thursday, June 2, 2011

The NFL Lockout - Why The Fuss

It’s no secret. By now everyone knows that the NFL season may not happen.  The Owners and Players are in a bitter dispute over various issues, but what it all boils down to is the money.  Shocking.  Billionaire owners want more money and Millionaire players do too.  I feel so sad for them.  Oh wait, no I don’t.
 I mean….. I love the Texans.  I’ll be a fan forever. I enjoy watching football as much as the next Texas girl, but if Sundays became more lackluster and NFL players didn’t suit up and spend the day captivating us with Blitz’s, sacs and hail mary’s, life wouldn’t end. (I’m sure some of my reader’s jaws just hit the floor. Lol).  I’d surely find another way to occupy my time and spend my money.   You see, if the football game was actually the underlying problem with an NFL lockout and the sole factor to consider I wouldn’t even waste my time writing about it.  However, the truth of the matter is that ensuring we have our Sunday kick off is not all this is about.  It’s more than that.  While the owners and players fight over who gets to take home more money so they can take more trips to Bora Bora and purchase more Louis Vuitton luggage this year, thousands of everyday average Americans wait on pins and needles to find out if they will have a way to support their families.  In an already depressed job market, we can’t afford to let this rich vs. richer money battle cost our nation over 117,000 jobs.  It’s simple math. Each of the 32 NFL teams employs nearly 3,700 people each year. Additionally, each city that is home to an NFL team will lose an estimated $160 million dollars in revenue.  That result is NO BUENO.    The problem is while WE can’t afford to let this happen, WE can’t do anything about it.  It’s all in the hands of the NFL players and the NFL Owners. I’ve got two words for that….Oh Great.
What It’s About:
Basically the biggest issue here is revenue sharing.  The NFL produces roughly  9 billion dollars per year in revenues and currently the owners take 1 billion dollars off the top.  The 1 billion goes to cover operating expenses etc.  The remaining 8 billion gets split between the Owners and Players.  Players currently get about 59% of the 8 billion in the form of the salary cap.  The Owners want to change the Collective Bargaining Agreement and take 2.4 billion off the top and leave the players taking the same 59% of 6.6 billion instead of the 8 billion they are used to divvying up. The players are mad about that.  The Owners argue inflation and increased expenses as a justification for the considerable difference in their current 1 billion and the proposed 2.4 billion “off top” revenue.  Players would like to do away with the whole “off the top” money to the owners in exchange for a only taking 50% of the revenue instead of the 59% they currently receive.  The owners scoffed at that offer.
Another issue is the season length. Owners wish to extend the season from 16 to 18 games without increasing player salaries.   The players of course would like more money for more time at work and feel the risk of injury for the added games and practices warrants the additional dough. 
Several lesser concerns also combine to generate heat behind the quarrel, but for the most part those are the issues. 
So Now What?
That is the argument in a nutshell so what can be done?  The NFL players are a part of a Union, the NFL Players Association.  Unions enter into Collective Bargaining Agreements in order to regulate work conditions for example, salaries, health and safety, hours etc.  It is a legally enforceable contract for a set period of time.  Without a union, employers cannot fix certain conditions. The fear is a monopoly over the industry.  It is illegal and an employee can bring an Anti-Trust suit against and employer if this occurs. 
The players have decided to attempt to dissolve the players union as a tactic to induce the owners to settle.  This is how the courts have gotten involved.  Under the National Labor Relations Act, members of a union can vote to dissolve the union.  If the members vote to do so and the National Labor Relations Board approve it, the Union is dissolved. Since only a union can collectively bargain to regulate wages etc. they will take away their own power to enter into another Collective Bargaining Agreement with the owners, but in turn take away the Owners power to do so as well.  The Owners also cannot lock out the players if they are not unionized and all regular worker rights that 99% of us regular Americans are entitled to, are automatically in place.  Think about it, your boss cannot lock you out, he can only fire you.  Other everyday worker rights  include the right to at least a minimum wage as well as overtime pay etc.   As I stated above, employers cannot impose a collective bargaining agreement or regulations found in them onto regular employees.  So of course, after dissolving the Union, the NFL players chose 10 players, who subsequently sued the Owners with an Anti-Trust Lawsuit.  The owners responded by not recognizing the dissolved union and locking out the players.  
To complicate matters, included in the antitrust suit  brought by the players was a request for a temporary injunction preventing the Owners to lock them out while the suit is pending.  The court sided with the players and they won! The Owners have sought review of that ruling by appealing it to the Court of Appeals. If the ruling stands, or in other words is not reversed by the Court of Appeals, the NFL season will proceed in the midst of total employee unrest. Likely the terms of last season would go into effect until they can all reach an agreement going forward.  If the ruling is struck down and the Owners are permitted to lock out the players, they will gain huge leverage over the players.  Not only would that open the door for preventing the 2011-2012 season, player paychecks, health insurance etc. would be halted.  Not to mention the wages of those nearly 117,000 NFL employees that have nothing to do with this dispute that I mentioned previously. 
While both sides have lots of money, the Owners make considerably more and can definitely outlast the players. The majority of low earning players won’t be able to financially withstand a long lockout and would have to agree and settle for some of the owner’s terms.   Boo hoo so sad.  The lowest paid NFL player makes a lot more than I do, so it is hard for me to feel his pain.
Joe the Concession Worker
So while this super dramatic men’s version of a soap opera plays out, 117,000 average Americans get to anxiously wait.  Players cry over millions and Owners pitch fits over billions without worrying about the $7.25 per hour someone is relying on to support their family.  Who cares about the fans that attend games, purchase jerseys, consume the refreshments, tune in at local businesses and generate that 9 billion dollars in revenue they are fighting over, and who cares about the support staff that work twelve hour days to earn an honest living to make every game happen.  While I’m sure both sides will say they have all that in mind, it sure doesn’t seem like it.  I think, it’s all about Bora Bora and Louis Vuitton.