The Way Things Are, the Way Things Were, and What Is True

I think a lot about assertions, things that people assert as true, very often without acknowledging their personal bias. To be fair, most of us are so immersed in our ideologies that we’re not aware of how they are compelling us toward bias.

The title of this post refers to some of the kinds of assertions I hear, by which someone states something as a fact:

  • The way things are — some assertion about fact, whether it has to do with science, economics, politics, or some other sphere. One of my favorite manifestations is when someone begins an utterance with the stark word “Fact,” followed by a colon to emphasize the factiness of what follows, then followed by an unquestioned assertion.
  • The way things were — some statement about history or the past. For example, such and such Egyptian dynasty ruled in such and such time period, or some assertion about why humans came down from the trees to live on the savanna.
  • What is true — This is really akin to the other two kinds of assertions I’m pointing to, but maybe in this case I’m thinking about an assertion that goes beyond a mere statement of some fact. Some examples might be that God exists or that he doesn’t, or that evolution is an incontrovertible fact.

An assertion might be well supported, but what I’m trying to spotlight here is the common practice of making an assertion without acknowledging the background and context surrounding the assertion and the person making it. One result is that people get into fierce arguments even though they aren’t really arguing about the same thing.

Here are some of the kinds of influences that one might make clear to provide context to an assertion:

  • The lines of evidence behind the assertion — Is the assertion based on scientific or scholarly research? Sometimes a speaker will make an assertion, basing his or her statement on the consensus within a profession or academic field. (Academic or scientific consensus doesn’t always mean the same thing as the everyday understanding of what constitutes a consensus.) One of the problems here is that there may actually be a minority that disputes the consensus view. There might be a legitimate critique that isn’t getting acknowledged when the speaker makes the assertion.
  • Assumptions — Many assertions are based in part on ideas or constructs that are taken for granted. As with lines of evidence, there might be a legitimate minority critique of a given assumption. One example would be dating a past event based on the conventional chronologies hypothesized by historians and archaeologists.
  • Definition of terms — Often people get into arguments without establishing and agreeing on the meaning of the point they are discussing. For example, people argue about whether evolution is true without coming to a prior understanding of what they mean by evolution.
  • The ideological leanings of the speaker — For someone who wants to evaluate an assertion, it could be useful to know something about the speaker’s ideological convictions. Is the speaker a theist? An atheist? A free-market fundamentalist? An eco-socialist? One problem here is that many people don’t like to admit that they subscribe to an ideology or aren’t even aware of it.
  • The speaker’s authority for making the assertion — When evaluating an assertion, it can be useful to know the speaker’s credentials.
  • The speaker’s underlying agenda — As with ideology, many speakers don’t like to own up to their agendas, which are often political or ideologically-driven.

As is often the case with this writing project, my purpose here is to set out some basic ideas with the intention of coming back later to revise and add ideas and examples.

ARB — 3 Oct. 2013

Religion and Political Correctness

I’ve noticed that some people think being religious requires you to hold certain political views. I’ve been meaning to put together a post collecting some of those ideas. I plan to add to this post as I encounter new and interesting expressions.

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Gary Cass, head of the Christian Anti-Defamation Commission and a former member of the executive committee of San Diego’s Republican party, says you can’t be a Christian if you don’t own a gun:

You have not just a right not bear arms, you have a duty. How can you protect yourself, your family or your neighbor if you don’t have a gun? If I’m supposed to love my neighbor and I can’t protect him, what good am I?

via The Raw Story

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Bryan Fischer of the American Family Association says it will hurt God’s feelings if we stop using fossil fuels:

“And you think, that’s kind of how we’re treating God when he’s given us these gifts of abundant and inexpensive and effective fuel sources,” Fischer added. “And we don’t thank him for it and we don’t use it.”

via The Raw Story

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Radio show host Rush Limbaugh says if you believe in God you can’t believe in human-caused climate change:

See, in my humble opinion, folks, if you believe in God then intellectually you cannot believe in manmade global warming.

via Grist

— ARB

Three Types of Political Extremists

Here’s a possible classification of extremists:

1. True Believers — People whose extremism arises from a sincere belief in the extreme ideology being promoted.

2. Needle-Pushers — Cynical practicers of realpolitik who adopt the extreme position hoping to counteract extremists on the opposing side and “move the needle” toward their own position, getting partisans in power or policies enacted that are more desirable from their point of view.

3. Knee-Jerkers — Followers who are led to back an extremist position because that position’s arguments speak to their own prejudices or harmonizes with their cultural background.

AB — 2 December 2011

George Douvris Video Interviews About Terence McKenna

I just wanted to preserve and share links to a series of video interviews with my high school friend George Douvris, publisher of Links by George. As I understand it, these interviews were conducted in Hawaii recently. George is discussing his experiences with Terence McKenna.

First segment (scroll to the bottom for this video): http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1862402066/the-brotherhood-of-the-screaming-abyss/posts/78893

Second segment: http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1862402066/the-brotherhood-of-the-screaming-abyss/posts/78918

Third segment: http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1862402066/the-brotherhood-of-the-screaming-abyss/posts/78919

AB — 23 May 2011

John the Baptist’s Bones and BBC’s Quotation Marks

A BBC article today (3 August 2010) highlights the discovery of a small box of bones reputed to be the remains of John the Baptizer, who announced Jesus’ appearance as Messiah and baptized him, and who was later executed by Herod Antipas — see “Remains of St John the Baptist ‘found’.”

I’m always intrigued by archaeological discoveries that relate to Biblical accounts. The article includes a video showing the find, and it’s interesting to watch (aside from some silly clerical comments about the find’s significance).

But more than anything, what this article brought to mind was the frequent and peculiar use of quotation marks (or single quotation marks, more accurately) by BBC’s headline writers. Look at the headline again:

Remains of St John the Baptist ‘found’

Now in standard written American English, a writer would most often use quotation marks in this way to express irony or skepticism. (For example, “My neighbor plays that ‘music’ too loud,” perhaps referring to rap or heavy metal.)

But in the case of the story about John’s bones, what is the headline writer skeptical about? Maybe the writer is doubtful that these bones were really ‘found’? Perhaps the writer suspects that some Orthodox priest fabricated them?

I’ve noticed other puzzling uses of quotation marks in BBC headlines. Here are some examples:

  • BP ready to plug ‘biggest leak’
  • ‘Ground Zero mosque’ moves closer
  • State ‘can challenge health law’
  • Paraguay star Cabanas ‘recalls little’ of shooting
  • Schumacher ‘almost disqualified’

My best guess would be that this practice has something to do with attribution —  the headline writer is limited by a certain number of characters, but doesn’t want to stick his neck out by actually calling the Cordoba House cultural center “the Ground Zero mosque.” So he has decided to put quotation marks around the phrase to indicate that other people are calling it the Ground Zero mosque but that he doesn’t feel comfortable calling it that.

I’ll bet this practice has been thrashed out after many days of argument at the BBC offices.

After a little investigation I have found that quotation marks used to express irony or skepticism are called “scare quotes.” The gestural version is called “air quotes.” Somehow in all my years as a writer and English student, I have never come across these terms. See the Wikipedia article about “Scare quotes.”

The Wikipedia editors write that, besides denoting irony or skepticism, scare quotes can “serve to distance the writer from the quoted content” and to “convey a neutral attitude on the part of the writer, while distancing the writer from the terminology in question.”

This could be the BBC’s reasoning for the odd way it uses single quotation marks in its headlines. (These might be called “inverted commas” in the hallowed halls of the BBC.)

I also found a useful discussion of the BBC headline conundrum at Wordwizard, a surprisingly active discussion forum dedicated to English words and usage — see “The BBC’s use of quotation marks.” In the discussion, which took place in December 2009, Erik Kowal shares these insights:

This habit of the BBC’s web writers is difficult to understand. I presume that sometimes they are quoting someone without direct attribution, but this does not explain why they do it when the facts described within quotation marks are unquestionable and do not need to be signalled as being opinions or unchecked assertions (which the BBC should not be basing its news stories on in any case).

The practice makes it appear as though the BBC has no confidence in its own reporting, or that it is suggesting that its sources are not to be trusted. Regardless, it is highly irritating and even patronizing.

It also reminds me of the equally annoying habit that some people have of giving capitals For No Real Reason to Certain Words they feel are Particularly Important.

AB — 3 August 2010

Which evil and crazy movements have the potential to scale?

Which evil and crazy movements have the potential to scale?

There’s plenty of craziness in the world. But evil only has widespread effect if it finds a way to scale, as in Nazi Germany, Rwanda, and Al Qaeda.

So, my questions are,

What are the factors that allow evil movements to reach scale?

What are the crazy movements today that have the potential to scale and create havoc?

AB — 29 June 2010

A. Roy King Publishes Bible Quiz Book

Author A. Roy King has recently published The Bible Student’s Quiz Book, a challenging Bible quiz book. The book’s questions represent a range of difficulty but tend to be difficult — best to read it with Bible in hand.

King has used the classic Bible drawings by Doré to add some drama and design to the book, and some nicely done Bible maps. The quiz includes sections on Jesus’ Apostles, the Judges, the Prophets, Bible Bad Guys, Uppity Women of the Bible, and Famous Uproars of the Bible.

I’m told that the book will soon be available through regular retail channels like Amazon, but is available right now through Lulu.com.

AB — 4 April 2010

Social Critics on Social Darwinism: How Rushkoff and Wiker Converge

I recently completed two books by two very different authors, Douglas Rushkoff and Benjamin Wiker. However, the serendipitous fact that I read them one right after the other brought home to me some intriguing commonalities between the two, focusing particularly on the widespread societal effects of social darwinism.

The two books are:

Although I suspect that these two authors would be very far apart on political issues, my reading of these two books in juxtaposition emphasized two interesting commonalities:

  • Both authors comment on the origins and dangers of social darwinism.
  • The two authors both focus their historical analyses on roughly the same time period, from the Middle Ages to the present day.

In writing the above, I also came to an interesting realization on another more-subtle commonality: Wiker starts with the classic cynical treatise The Prince, by Niccolo Machiavelli. Rushkoff starts with the Middle-Age “princes” who created the corporation and imposed central currency in Europe.

Rushkoff’s premise is that the aristocracy in the Middle Ages devised the chartered corporation as a legal mechanism to give them control over commerce and wealth. Because of their privileged status granted by government, corporations have progressively gained more power, even becoming legal “persons” over time.

Rushkoff’s criticism is that Western society has become steeped in corporatism, and that this pits individuals against one another in a win-lose competitive struggle. People operate according to unconscious corporatist values and assumptions about how life should be and are prevented from connecting in a natural way through communities.

Wiker’s premise is that modern civilization has been affected by a materialistic, atheistic philosophical tradition preserved and promoted by a series of highly-influential thinkers and their books, starting with Machiavelli, then Thomas Hobbes, Rene Descartes, John Stuart Mill, Karl Marx, Charles Darwin, Sigmund Freud, Margaret Sanger, Margaret Mead, and Alfred Kinsey, along with others along the way.

As I said, where I see an important commonality between Rushkoff and Wiker is when it comes to their implications and comments about social darwinism: The modern world is strongly influenced by the idea that the natural order demands that the strong survive and the weak die off.

Ruskoff writes,

Richard Dawkins’s theory of the “selfish gene” popularized the extension of evolution to socioeconomics. Just as species competed in a battle for the survival of the fittest, people and their “memes” competed for dominance in the marketplace of ideas.

Human nature was simply part of biological nature, complex in its manifestations but simple in the core commands driving it. Like the genes driving them, people could be expected to act as selfishly as Adam Smith’s hypothetical primitive man, “the bartering savage,” always maximizing the value of every transaction as if by raw instinct.

Ironically, says Rushkoff, religionists were used to promote a compatible economic regime:

Right-wing conservatives turned to fundamentalist Christians to promote the free-market ethos, in return promising lip-service to hot-button Christian issues such as abortion and gay marriage.

It was now the godless Soviets who sought to thwart the Maker’s plan to bestow the universal rights of happiness and property on mankind. America’s founders, on the other hand, had been divinely inspired to create a nation in God’s service, through which people could pursue thier individual salvation and savings.

Rushkoff contends that

What both PR efforts had in common were two falsely reasoned premises: that human beings are private, self-interested actors behaving in ways that consistently promote personal wealth, and that the laissez-faire free market is a natural and self-sustaining system through which scarce resources can be equitably distributed.

Wiker follows the development of atheistic social darwinism from Machiavelli, but he takes considerable time to establish the connection between Darwin and eugenics. On pages 88 to 89 of 10 Books he quotes from Darwin’s Descent of Man (not as well known as On the Origin of Species):

With savages, the weak in body or mind are soon eliminated; and those that survive commonly exhibit a vigorous state of health …. We civilized men, on the other hand, do our utmost to check the process of elimination [by means of various works of charity and relief]. Thus the weak members of civilised societies propagate their kind ….

If … various checks … do not prevent the reckless, the vicious and otherwise inferior members of society from increasing at a quicker rate than the better class of men, the nation will retrograde, as has occurred too often in the history of the world.

Wiker argues that the writings of Darwin and other atheistic thinkers have led to a modern world in which the weak are seen as expendable for the good of human progress.

At the end of his book, Wiker comments:

We are so fond of thinking of our progress from the simple savage that we forget to take account of whether we are really progressing in some sort of virtue or rather becoming more complexly and deviously savage.

We have a higher regard for health than our ancestors did, and a far greater knowledge of biology. But when biology, rather than theology, becomes the queen of the sciences, then Christian prohibitions against eugenics, the elimination of the unfit or the unwanted through abortion or infanticide, or the elimination of diseased races or classes all become merely “medieval” and irrelevant.

Rushkoff and Wiker approach their analyses with very different objectives and foci, and it would be far from accurate to say that they reach the same conclusions.

But both Life Inc. and 10 Books That Screwed Up the World shine light on some of the historical and philosophical sources of the great streak of heartlessness evident in the modern world.

In about 1970, I was picked up hitchhiking on I-85 in North Carolina by an older fellow driving a sedan. We got into a conversation about the problems of the world. From his point of view, one of the biggest problems was welfare and charity — all the giveaway programs that are supposed to help the poor.

I raised the question, Well, what are they supposed to do? Suppose they need help to survive and get back on their feet?

His response was, “Who cares? Let ’em die. That’s the way nature works.”

I wonder who he had been reading.

AB — 4 September 2009

Hold on Tight, Boys, the Wind Is Picking Up!

[Note: The following is an essay I wrote in December 2003 put never published anywhere. I just ran across it and thought I would post it on Quriosity.]

Two months ago I stood in a cemetery in Wilton, Connecticut, looking down at the shiny wooden coffin containing the body of my wife Virginia’s uncle, Paul Lyon, soon to be lowered into the dug grave and covered with earth. Nearby the coffin stood an easel bearing a montage of photos from Uncle Paul’s life mounted on a sheet of poster board. A good breeze was blowing, so my chunky teenage nephews, Kellen and Tristan, trussed uncomfortably in neckties and sport jackets, stood flanking the easel like a pair of ushers, holding either side of the cardboard sheet to keep Uncle Paul’s pictures from sailing away on the wind.

I’m a real crybaby, and that day was no exception; I thought about the cold body inside that wood box — a man I had known and liked, an affable man of my parents’ World War II generation, who had lived what I supposed was a basically decent life.

Two photos stuck to that cardboard matting also stick in my mind from that windy day in the cemetery:

One, a picture of Paul Lyon sleek in his airman’s uniform during the war, not much older than my willowy 20-year-old son Paul (named more for my father than for my wife’s uncle, and named even more for the apostle than for any relative).

The other, a photo of Paul Lyon at age 80, only a few weeks before his death, standing at his front door waving goodbye. Maybe when he lifted his hand to the camera for that wave, he had in mind the cancer that was spreading inexorably inside him.

I think a lot about life and death, and I find myself again and again coming back to photos and to numbers. I told you about some photos; now consider some numbers: At 52, I stand right about between son Paul and uncle Paul: age 20, age 50, age 80. Thirty years back and I am my son’s age, hitchhiking across the country with a duffle bag, tambourine, and five dollars in my pocket. Thirty years ahead and I am lying in a wooden crate.

I love to look at old photos from the 19th century, to leaf through a book and muse on the faces of people from that time. Their faces are fresh, the spark of life is in their eyes. In a moment, this man, I imagine, will turn from the camera, kiss his wife, walk home with her, have dinner, go to bed, and make love.

In reality, he is long dead, a pile of bones under the ground. In fact, all of these faces are gone, carried away on the wind across a cemetery. They are all dead, every single one. Maybe nobody now living remembers them or even knows their names.

And of course, the thing that I am trying to grapple with, to force myself to confront, is that, in the normal course of things, mine will become a face like that. Someone will look at my face in an album, wonder briefly who I was, then flip to the next page.

You should understand that I am speaking as one who believes that this life is not all there is, that there is a higher being who cares, who remembers us and will bring us back. And that belief underpins my life so I can live hopefully. But it doesn’t completely do away with the visceral reaction to the enveloping death that is moving toward me to cover me over and draw me down into the unthinkable sleep. It will flow over me, and I will be gone. How can there be a world, if I am not in it?

Last week I got in my car to drive up to New Hampshire to my consulting job at a graduate school in Keene. The Public Radio program Morning Edition was on, and because of the proximity of Christmas, the interviewer was speaking with bookstore managers across the country asking for recommendations of good books for gifts.

One store manager recommended a book called “When It Was Our War,” and my stomach dropped when I heard the name of the author, Stella Suberman. Jack and Stella Suberman were friends of my parents when I was growing up in Raleigh, North Carolina. I remember watching them play tennis with my mother and father, and I remember swimming in their pool, and I remember them from dinner parties and cookouts. They were two larger-than-life people, awe-inspiring and wonderful and frightening (well, Jack was scary, anyway — Stella was bright and beautiful and charismatic).

One of the devastating moments in my life (among many, admittedly) was when I told my mother I wanted to invite the Subermans to come to my high school graduation and she waved off the idea — the Subermans don’t really know me that well, she said, and they would think it odd if I invited them to my graduation. Suddenly I learned I was nothing in the eyes of these two marvelous people who had been giants to me.

So, sitting in the car last week, hearing a recommendation of Stella’s World War II memoir, I was affected … well, as I said before, I’m a real crybaby. First chance I got, I ordered a copy of “When It Was Our War” from Half.com and started reading it this week.

Reading Stella’s book I become a time traveler. It’s a story of the young wife of a soldier during the war. The fascinating thing is that I am peering into the lives of two people, important in my childhood, before I ever knew them, before I was even born. On the cover of the book are black and white photos, a small one of Jack in his uniform, a larger one of a gorgeous Stella in a short tennis skirt, leaning against a palm tree. In the photos, Jack and Stella are easily recognizable as the people I knew. Seeing their faces, I can hear their voices on the tennis court and by the pool.

But reading Stella’s reminiscence and seeing these photos gets me going playing with numbers as I am wont to do.

In these photos, Jack and Stella are about 20, the age my son is now. But they are actually the contemporaries of my father and Virginia’s departed uncle. So I can peek in on their lives and see them practically as children. When I knew them 15 years later, they seemed old and formidable to me. But even at that age, they were in fact youthful in comparison with my now ancient age of about 50.

So I take these odd jumps of 15 years backward and forward along the line of my life and that of the Subermans and somehow it emphasizes to me how fleeting it all is, while yet so rich and wonderful.

Here’s another game with numbers: I was born in 1951. Go back about five years and you’re at the end of the Second World War, which doesn’t seem that long ago to me but would to my 20-year-old son. Go back just 35 years from 1951, and you are at the end of the First World War. That does seem like a long time ago to me, but it’s a relatively short period of time compared to the 50 years that have passed (quickly it seems to me) since 1951.

I wonder if I’m making any sense.

What it kind of amounts to is that I am like the character Dave in the movie “2001: A Space Odyssey”: I’m a middle-aged man looking back at myself as a young man. But standing in the doorway is an old man, also myself, watching me as a middle-aged man. The whole thing passes in a flash. Day by day, the experience is sweet and incredibly deep. But all in all, 80 years is very short.

As we drove away from the cemetery in Wilton, I told my sister-in-law Natalie and my nephews, “You know, the Bible says it’s good to go to a funeral. And it says that the day of your death is better than the day of your birth.”

Natalie was intrigued by the idea. She thought maybe I was referring to the cycle of life, but that wasn’t what I had in mind. The point is that when you’re born, you could turn out to be anything at all, good or bad. But at your death, you’ve had a lifetime to show what kind of person you are — what you made out of that thin thread of years as they spun their way out.

It’s Ecclesiastes 7:1, 2 I was thinking of: “A name is better than good oil, and the day of death than the day of one’s being born. Better it is to go to the house of mourning than to go to the banquet house, because that is the end of all mankind; and the one alive should take it to his heart.”

So I look through the pages of photos and run through the numbers in my head. And I try to take it to heart. Because I can feel the wind picking up, and all-in-all I’m not much more than a picture taped to a piece of poster board.

AB — written December 2003, posted 26 June 2009

Iranian sources: Fatwa by Ayatollah Yazdi authorized rigging of election; Whistleblower Asgari was assassinated

[Updated 24 Sept. 2009]

An open letter purporting to be from a group of employees at Iran’s Interior Ministry says that a hard-line ayatollah authorized election supervisors to alter the election results so President Ahmadinejad would win re-election. According to contacts in the Iranian defense department, an IT (information technology) manager in the Interior Ministry was murdered after he leaked information about the fraud to opposition candidates.

The implications given in the paragraph above are difficult to confirm in depth, given the news blackout in Iran. However, I do have sources with connections in Iran that lend reasonable credibility to this account.

In terms of the fatwa authorizing election supervisors to rig the results, Tehran Bureau, a news organization reporting on Iranian affairs, has published an open letter purporting to be written by a group of employees in the Iranian Interior Ministry (the agency in charge of the country’s elections) — here is a link to a copy of the letter in Persian.

I don’t read Persian, but Tehran Bureau has furnished a partial translation — see “Open Letter: Fatwa Issued for Changing the Vote in Favor of Ahmadinejad.”

According to the translation, the fatwa came from a well-known cleric who previously preached about political philosophy at Friday prayers in Tehran, identified by Tehran Bureau as Ayatollah Mohammad Taghi Mesbah Yazdi.

The letter says that in May of this year the government realized that Ahmadinejad’s political support was waning in favor of opposers. This led Yazdi to meet in secret with election supervisors. Citing the Quran, Yazdi told the supervisors,

If someone is elected the president and hurts the Islamic values that have been spread [by Mr. Ahmadinejad] to Lebanon, Palestine, Venezuela, and other places, it is against Islam to vote for that person. We should not vote for that person, and also warn people about that person. It is your religious duty as the supervisors of the elections to do so.

After criticizing the other candidates, Yazdi said,

You should throw away those who are unqualified, both morally and lawfully. Your highest call of duty at this time is to preserve your achievement.

The open letter describes the election supervisors as “happy and energetic for having obtained the religious fatwa to use any trick for changing the votes,” and says they “began immediately to develop plans for it.”

Tehran bureau describes itself as “a virtual bureau connecting journalists, Iran experts, and readers all over the world.” A news release in February 2009 from the Columbia University School of Journalism says the bureau was started by Kelly Golnoush Niknejad, a U.S.-based journalist born in Iran. The release said that journalist Jason Rezaian would be covering the Iranian presidential election from Tehran.

I have sent an email to Niknejad asking more information about how her organization obtained a copy of the open letter, but she has not replied as of today.

In researching this story, I read in the Guardian about “unconfirmed reports” that an Iranian whistleblower had been murdered for revealing the election fraud — see “Iran protests: Regime cracks down on opposition as further unrest looms,” by Ian Black, Robert Tait and Mark Tran. Black and colleagues reported that,

Mohammad Asgari, who was responsible for the security of the IT network in Iran’s interior ministry, was killed yesterday in a suspicious car accident in Tehran. Asgari had reportedly leaked evidence that the elections were rigged to alter the votes from the provinces. Asgari was said to have leaked information that showed Mousavi had won almost 19m votes, and should therefore be president.

I found that it was difficult to get further confirmation of this report, but it seemed valuable to do so, as it in turn would confirm the implications of the open letter from the Interior employees.

Finally I was able to get in touch with Rob (Sohrab) Shahmir, an Iranian in Toronto, who is now chairman of E&I Renewable Energies and CEO of E&I Group. Shahmir was working in Iran from 1998 to 2007 in environmental services and removal of landmines and unexploded ordinance.

Shahmir still has contacts in the Ministry of Defense in Iran. He tells me that, according to his contacts,

Mr. Asgari was a manager at the IT department of the Ministry of Interior, he was one of the few semi-senior supporters of the moderates at the ministry.  After they ministry was ordered to flip the results and declare Ahmadinejad the winner by the office of the leadership, Mr. Asgari released the information to the offices of Mr. Mousavi and Karoubi.
According to my contacts, after the Revolutionary Guards Counter Intelligence Group discovered his identity, Sardars (Generals) Naghdi, and Safavi ordered his assassination.  Consequently, his vehicle was run over by a Truck (one the size of a coal truck).  The pic is of the acutal truck.

Mr. Asgari was a manager at the IT department of the Ministry of Interior. He was one of the few semi-senior supporters of the moderates at the ministry.  After the ministry was ordered to flip the results and declare Ahmadinejad the winner by the office of the leadership, Mr. Asgari released the information to the offices of [opposition leaders] Mr. Mousavi and Karoubi.

truck that killed AsgariAccording to my contacts, after the Revolutionary Guards Counter Intelligence Group discovered his identity, Sardars (Generals) Naghdi and Safavi ordered his assassination. Consequently, his vehicle was run over by a truck (one the size of a coal truck).

Shahmir tells me that the photo shown here is the truck that was used to kill Asgari.

Update 11 Sept. 2009: Jeremy Hammond at Foreign Policy Journal has written an extensive analysis of the coverage of the reputed Yazdi fatwa. See “The Case of the ‘Fatwa’ to Rig Iran’s Election.”

Update 24 Sept. 2009: Muhammad Sahimi of Tehran Bureau has responded to critics of the account of the Yazdi fatwa — see “America’s Misguided Left.”

AB — 22 June 2009