Just Above Sunset
May 8, 2005 - Nuclear Ambitions, Automotive Ambitions

Home | Question Time | Something Is Up | Connecting Dots | Stay Away | Overload | Our Man in Paris | WLJ Weekly | Book Wrangler | Cobras | The Edge of the Pacific | The Surreal Beach | On Location | Botanicals | Quotes

From United Press International (via WHAM in Rochester, New York) this bit of bad news –


United Nations inspectors have told the BBC Iran may be developing nuclear weapons.

In a documentary to be broadcast Tuesday night, U.N. Inspector Chris Charlier said the dismantling of a nuclear facility at Natanz raised suspicions the Iranians were trying to hide their nuclear activities.

"It was really, I believe, to conceal the program and their activities," he said. "And maybe there are still other things that they are doing and we couldn't find. And that's why we are getting suspicious, after 20 years of working with them, it takes time to repair confidence."

Washington is adamant Iran is trying to acquire nuclear weapons and wants to refer it to the U.N. Security Council. Britain, France and Germany persuaded Tehran to freeze its nuclear activity in November but senior Iranian officials have said some enrichment activities will soon resume at a uranium conversion plant near Isfahan.
German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer said if Iran went ahead with the threat it could lead to referral to the Security Council.


That was as of Wednesday, May 04, 2005.

Oh, there are bad times coming.

Then we find this from Daniel Gross in SLATE (also Wednesday, May 04, 2005) - "Britain may soon sell one of its most celebrated automakers to a charter member of the Axis of Evil. That little MG you've been coveting may soon be made in Iran, because it looks as if Iran will end up with the remnants of MG Rover, the last independent British auto manufacturer."

Say what?

Daniel Gross gives us background, via everyone’s favorite cooperative encyclopedia, Wikipedia


MG Rover is based in Birmingham, where the Austin auto company was founded in 1905. In 1968, it merged with several other brands to form the British Leyland Motor Corporation, which was nationalized in 1975. Later redubbed the Rover Group, it was privatized and sold to BMW. In 2000, a boom year for SUVs, BMW sold the Land Rover business to Ford. Then it gave away the rest of the company—the MG division (sporty coupes) and Rover division (classy sedans)—to a group of British investors for essentially nothing. Which is precisely what they proceeded to make it worth.

MG Rover went into "administration"—a kind of bankruptcy—on April 8. A week later, with efforts to find an immediate buyer or government funding having failed, the company announced it would start laying off its 5,000 workers. This loss of jobs—plus another 15,000 lost at suppliers—came at a remarkably inopportune time for Tony Blair's Labor party.

MG Rover is still looking for buyers, and it claims to have received some 200 inquiries. But firm offers from respectable investors have been slow to materialize. In fact, the only serious noises are coming from Iran. Iran is the biggest auto producer in the Middle East. In the 1970s, it acquired the manufacturing rights to Britain's Hillman Hunter and has been producing its Paykan cars in volume. According to an article in the Guardian, "Two million of the five million cars on Iran's roads are Paykans and sales were still 150,000 a year." Ironically, the Paykans are being phased out because "a model once regarded by Iranians as the epitome of British cool and manufacturing quality has been rendered obsolete by tougher environmental standards and the demands of Iran's younger generation for greater comfort and sophistication."

History is repeating itself. On April 26, the Financial Times reported that "Iran is considering a rescue of MG Rover" and might be willing to continue production in Birmingham. Sounding more like Lee Iacocca than Ayatollah Khamanei, Iran's Minister of Industries and Mines Eshaq Jahangiri told Reuters, "We reckon our auto industry is capable of reforming a troubled European carmaker and churning out a car to world markets under the same brand."


One hardly knows what to say.

Iran's younger generation has a yen for greater comfort and sophistication, and they’re turning to these machines?  Your editor, whose first automobile was a very used Triumph TR-4 (the one with solid read axle and leaf springs, not the TR-4A with the swing axle and independent rear suspension) suggests these Iranian folks keep working on the nukes.  Forget the cars.  As for manufacturing quality, well, all of us car nuts have one warning for them: Lucas electrical systems.

What are these people thinking?

Gross then points to this from May 2 in the Financial Times of London, the London in the UK, not the one halfway between Detroit and Toronto.  It seems Dastaan Industrial Development, an actual Iranian automaker, is seeking to buy several thousand unsold MG Rovers – and they are interested in buying more finished cars and kits.  The idea to assumable the kits domestically, in Iran.  And if that deal fails, they say they would be quite happy to buy the company's currently mothballed assembly lines and relocate them to Iran.

Given all this, perhaps we should not worry about Iran developing nuclear weapons.  They like these undependable fourth-rate British cars and want to buy the company and flood that part of the world with sputtering Rovers and often inoperable MG things?  What does that tell you about their level of engineering?

Perhaps we should all relax a bit.


A note about Wikipedia, that cooperative encyclopedia. Crispin Sartwell teaches political philosophy at Dickinson College in Carlisle, Pennsylvania (a good school!) and in the May 4 Los Angeles Times explains what that is about


"Wiki" is the Hawaiian word for quick, and it refers to a website that can be updated easily by anyone from any Web browser. The first wiki armature was developed in 1995, and Wikipedia — the brainchild of one Jimmy Wales — was founded in 2001. Under Wales' brilliant conception, anyone can go into Wikipedia (wikipedia.org) and create a new article or edit an old one: It is entirely accessible and entirely alterable.

This is anarchy, of course, and completely antithetical to the encyclopedic tradition, which has emphasized a kind of solemn definitiveness and authority. Britannica and Encarta, for instance, not only employ experts to write their articles but subject everything they publish to a rigorous review process. At Wikipedia, you (or any old maniac) can march right onto the "nuclear fusion" page and add your thoughts.

But as Wikipedia says about itself, the point is not that it's hard to make mistakes but that it's easy to correct them. Because thousands of people — ordinary, unpaid, outside participants — monitor and edit Wikipedia, errors and vandalism are often corrected in seconds. One feature of the site is a list of recently updated pages, so that one can keep track of changes. One can even revert to a previous version of an article if mistaken or malevolent parties have messed it up.


Cool, huh?


And a note on WHAM in Rochester, New York. They also report this along with the Iran article –


Salvia - A Legal Hallucinogenic Herb

Rochester, NY - There's a new way teenagers are getting high and so far, it's perfectly legal. People are experimenting with an herb called salvia divinorum. It’s a type of sage from Mexico that can cause hallucinations when smoked or chewed. …


Does salvia divinorum also grow in Iran?  That might explain the MG Rover stuff.

Riders of the Purple Sage...


Copyright 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006 - Alan M. Pavlik
The inclusion of any text from others is quotation
for the purpose of illustration and commentary,
as permitted by the fair use doctrine of U.S. copyright law. 
See the Details page for the relevant citation.

This issue updated and published on...

Paris readers add nine hours....