25 June 2009

Iran: "Ahmadinejad's useful idiots"

Salon offers a compelling interview with Hooman Majd, an Iranian-American whose father was an Iranian diplomat and whose grandfather was an ayatollah.

Last year sawe the publication of Majd's study of contemporary Iran, The Ayatollah Begs to Differ: The Paradox of Modern Iran. The book examines Iran as,
a country that is fiercely proud of its Persian heritage, mystified by its outsider status, and scornful of the idea that the United States can dictate how it should interact with the community of nations. [. . . .] a country that is deeply religious yet highly cosmopolitan, authoritarian yet with democratic and reformist traditions—an Iran that is a more nuanced nemesis to the United States than it is typically portrayed to be.
It has been well reviewed. But it looks as though Majd's audience doesn't include some important US players. In Majd's view, folks like John McCain, Mike Pence, and Lindsey Graham might find it helpful to study up a bit more on Iran prior to vocalizing support for the anti-Ahmadinejad movement. Salon's Jeanne Carstensen posed a question to Mojd about such actions:

Would you say that the neoconservatives’ extremely vocal calls to intervene on behalf of Mousavi are playing into the hands of the most conservative forces in Iran?

The neocons know nothing about Iran, nothing about the culture of Iran. They have no interest in understanding Iran, in speaking to any Iranian other than Iranian exiles who support the idea of invasions — I’ll call them Iranian Chalabis. It’s offensive, even to an Iranian American like me. These are people who would have actually preferred to have Ahmadinejad as president so they could continue to demonize him and were worried, as some wrote in Op-Eds, that Mousavi would be a distraction and would make it easier for Iranians to build a nuclear weapon and now all of a sudden they want to be on his side? Go away.

I’m not saying Obama is the most knowledgeable person on Iran, but he’s obviously getting good advice right now. He understands way more about the culture of the Middle East than any of the neocons. For them to be lecturing President Obama is a joke. I have criticized Obama; for instance, I criticized him for having a patronizing tone in his Persian New Year message. But right now I think he’s doing a good job. The John McCains of the world, they’re Ahmadinejad’s useful idiots. They’re doing a great job for him.

This is something we've heard, continually, from Iran and from Iranians. How these Americans think they're actually serving the protesters puzzles me. Surely they knew, based on the USA's history with Iran, that the moment they opened their mouths the conservative ayatollahs would use them to discredit the opposition movement, to demonize its leaders, and to punish the protesters as traitors. And no, saying "well, they would have blamed America anyway" is no excuse. What McCain, Pence, Graham, et. al. have done is provided the hardliners with support for their false claims of US involvement.

Iran: The Heir

The L A Times has published an article on Mojtaba Khamenei, son of the Supreme Leader, and the would-be heir to Ayatollah Khamenei's position when he passes away. Analysts have conjectured that Supreme Leader Khamenei's insistence on Ahmadinejad's re-election has everything to do with the planned succession: allegedly, the Khameneis are not "popular in Qom," amongst the men who choose Iran's Supreme Leader (LAT). Mojtaba Khamenei, however, has allies in the Revolutionary Guard and the intelligence service, as does Ahmadinejad, who shares an affinity for "messiani rhetoric and Islamic fervor" with Mojtaba Khamenei (LAT). He could prove to be a useful friend.

Rather than comment on it at the moment (busy night), I'll leave you with another link. This one leads you to a profile of Mojtaba Khamenei at The Guardian, which describes him as "one of the driving force" behind the bloody crackdowns. Key quote:

"There has been a lot of talk lately that this is all about Mojtaba and the succession," said Ali Ansari, an Iran analyst at St Andrews University.

"He may be securing the position for the long term, and protecting it. The argument is that he is protecting his future."

So this all might be about re-establishing a ruling dynasty, if you will. According to rumor (let me re-emphasize: rumor) Rafsanjani and the clerics of Qon will be weighing in on the matter soon, possibly by Friday, when Ayatollah Khamenei will again lead prayers.

Added: The New York Times's Neil MacFarquhar offers a fine, but disconcerting, overview of Ahmadinejad, the Khameneis, and the anti-democratic brand of Islam they endorse.

24 June 2009

AWOL in Argentina

Four days after he'd vanished into thin air, South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford contacted people to let them know he was fine. He was hiking. After staying away for a few more days, Sanford returned to explain that he'd been visiting the woman with whom he's having an affair.

The media is focusing on the story's salacious elements (not only did he cheat, but he was cheating on Father's Day, etc.), and Sanford has held a news conference to admit to moral failings and to prostrate himself before the state's "people of faith." A South Carolina Republican appeared on CNN to publicly give Sanford the benefit of a doubt, because "life has its problems." Fair enough. We all fall down, and infidelity is not exactly a rare activity.

What's not being addressed, and what seems infinitely more significant to me, is that not only did Sanford up and disappear for nearly a week, but he up and disappeared out of the country. We're not talking Cancun or Toronto--he went to Argentina. Again, a state governor left the country (heck, left the continent) for a week without telling anyone where he was going or how he might be reached. He deserted his state, and he should step down.

I'll close with this, which might offer some insight into Sanford's mindset:
Heading to South Carolina from Georgia this morning, Sanford said: "I don't know how this thing got blown out of proportion." (LA Times).

Added: The entirety of the news conference shows that some reporters did ask Sanford about his disappearance (rather than focus explicitly on the affair).

Also, CNN's resident curmudgeon Jack Cafferty did a fine job airing views similar to my own. In fact, his featured question at the moment asks whether Sanford should be removed from office. Some of the comments are a hoot.

The Downing Street Memo: No One-Off

It emerged over the weekend (but largely missed because of media coverage of the Iran crisis), but it seems that the infamous "Downing Street Memo," which alluded to the manufacturing of the Iraq, has a successor, which pretty much confirms that the war was manufactured. A second secret memo has been released that must have both Bush and Blair cringing, for it further clarifies how the men, and their cabinets, considered how they might go about prompting a war with Iraq.

Excerpts from the "Downing Street Memo," 23 July 2002.
(full facsimile of the document at the Times)
John Scarlett [Director General of BSIS] summarised the intelligence and latest JIC assessment. Saddam's regime was tough and based on extreme fear. The only way to overthrow it was likely to be by massive military action. Saddam was worried and expected an attack, probably by air and land, but he was not convinced that it would be immediate or overwhelming. His regime expected their neighbours to line up with the US. Saddam knew that regular army morale was poor. Real support for Saddam among the public was probably narrowly based.

C reported on his recent talks in Washington. There was a perceptible shift in attitude. Military action was now seen as inevitable. Bush wanted to remove Saddam, through military action, justified by the conjunction of terrorism and WMD. But the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy. The NSC had no patience with the UN route, and no enthusiasm for publishing material on the Iraqi regime's record. There was little discussion in Washington of the aftermath after military action.
[. . . .]
The Defence Secretary said that the US had already begun "spikes of activity" to put pressure on the regime. No decisions had been taken, but he thought the most likely timing in US minds for military action to begin was January, with the timeline beginning 30 days before the US Congressional elections.

The Foreign Secretary said he would discuss this with Colin Powell this week. It seemed clear that Bush had made up his mind to take military action, even if the timing was not yet decided. But the case was thin. Saddam was not threatening his neighbours, and his WMD capability was less than that of Libya, North Korea or Iran. We should work up a plan for an ultimatum to Saddam to allow back in the UN weapons inspectors. This would also help with the legal justification for the use of force.
So it's established that in summer 2002 Blair and Bush had decided on war, were trying to find a justification for striking Iraq, and that "the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy" of war. This is well-known. Old news.

Well, it turns out that in January 2003 (when Rumsfeld had originally wanted to begin attacks), Bush and Blair again reviewed their plans. The problem was that no WMDs had been found, nor was it likely that they might be found. So they had to explore different ways to "legitimize" invading Iraq. A five page memo, from 31 January 2003, records their planning. From The Guardian:

Bush told Blair the US had drawn up a provocative plan "to fly U2 reconnaissance aircraft painted in UN colours over Iraq with fighter cover". Bush said that if Saddam fired at the planes this would put the Iraqi leader in breach of UN resolutions.

The president expressed hopes that an Iraqi defector would be "brought out" to give a public presentation on Saddam's WMD or that someone might assassinate the Iraqi leader. However, Bush confirmed even without a second resolution, the US was prepared for military action. The memo said Blair told Bush he was "solidly with the president".
[. . . .]
Paraphrasing Bush's comments at the meeting, Manning [the document's scribe], noted: "The start date for the military campaign was now pencilled in for 10 March. This was when the bombing would begin." [it actually began 10 days later--20 March]
[. . . .]
The memo notes there had been a shift in the two men's thinking on Iraq by late January 2003 and that preparing for war was now their priority. "Our diplomatic strategy had to be arranged around the military planning," Manning writes [essentially a repetition of ""the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy"]. This was despite the fact Blair that had yet to receive advice on the legality of the war from the Attorney General, Lord Goldsmith, which did not arrive until 7 March 2003 - 13 days before the bombing campaign started.

There have been rumors and allegations about the run-up to the war, but to have it presented so clearly, and cynically, is pretty gobsmacking. If they were aware that Iraq had no WMD, what in God's name was the point of the entire enterprise in the first place? They cannot hide behind "well, our intelligence failed" now. We've evidence of the cock up. It wasn't the intelligence. It was them.

No more sweeping under carpets. Let's have this out.

23 June 2009

Ed McMahon, 1923-2009

Ed MacMahon died in hospital this morning. He'd had a hard time since Johnny left The Tonight Show, but he always seems to retain the nation's affection. His last years were hard--much misfortune--but others rallied 'round. He will be missed.

(I could continue about how, when staying over at my late grandmother's house, I had to sleep on the sofa in the living room. Every weekday night, she'd sit on the carpet in front of The Tonight Show playing solitaire. It was her only "alone time" of the day. I was supposed to be asleep, of course, but I would draw the blanket right up to my eyes, and from that vantage, I'd watch the show, and my grandmother. I'll always associate Johnny and Ed with Grandma, and now I've gone all maudlin. Anyway, thanks Ed.)

22 June 2009

Iran: Rafsanjani Set to "Outflank" Khamenei

This, if true, is huge news. According to EurasiaNet, Iran's hardliners sense "that a shoe is about to drop."

Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani -- Iran’s savviest political operator and an arch-enemy of Ayatollah Khamenei’s -- has kept out of the public spotlight since the rigged June 12 presidential election triggered the political crisis. The widespread belief is that Rafsanjani has been in the holy city of Qom, working to assemble a religious and political coalition to topple the supreme leader and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Apparently, the hardliners in Khamenei's camp are more worried about Rfsanjani than about the popular uprising. And so they should:

Now that Ayatollah Khamenei has become inexorably connected to Ahmadinejad’s power grab, many clerics are coming around to the idea that the current system needs to be changed [. . . .]
A reformist website, Rooyeh, reported that Rafsanjani already had the support of nearly a majority of the Assembly of Experts, a body that constitutionally has the power to remove Ayatollah Khamenei. The report also indicated that Rafsanjani’s lobbying efforts were continuing to bring more clerics over to his side. Rafsanjani’s aim, the website added, is the establishment of a leadership council, comprising of three or more top religious leaders, to replace the institution of supreme leader. Shortly after it posted the report on Rafsanjani’s efforts to establish a new collective leadership, government officials pulled the plug on Rooyeh.

We'll know more later in the week. As it stands. Mousavi has called for a nation-wide strike on Tuesday the 23rd. More demonstrations are planned for the upcoming days, ostensibly as a display of mourning for the victims of the past week's brutalities.

Iran: Global Protest Thursday

From NiacINsight:
Mousavi’s facebook page just announced that they want to hold global solidarity demonstrations on Thursday “for the martyrs that have been lost so far in our fight for justice.” In Tehran, the demonstration will be held at Imam Khomeini Shrine, according to the announcement.
Considering the number of rallies in support of the opposition movement, there ought be no problems attracting significant numbers of people to a local demonstration Thursday.

Iran: National Strike Tuesday, 23 June (& Weds, Thurs)

It's been confirmed by several sources in Iran:

NATIONAL STRIKE TOMORROW (TUESDAY) in objection to the attacks & killings & the coup
(someone else adds: "People - no business in Iran TUESDAY - sorry we are all on STRIKE").

Added: extension of the strike to last throughout the week:


Getting Medieval at 3 A.M.

So I'm at the OED online looking up "medieval" as an adjective to check its usage history (for a project), and I find this:
b. U.S. to get medieval: to use violence or extreme measures on, to become aggressive.
1994 Q. TARANTINO & R. AVARY Pulp Fiction 131, I ain't through with you by a damn sight. I'm gonna git Medieval on your ass. 1996 Rolling Stone 13 July 85/3 And with the metal-on-metal grinding and old-school synth whoops..Faust and O'Rourke really get medieval. 1999 Washington Post 9 May F1, I have no idea why we're talking about sending ground troops to Kosovo when we can send a fleet of Ford Expeditions and Lincoln Navigators over there. What's Milosevic going to throw at them--Yugos? These things will get medieval with Yugos. 2000 N.Y. Times 5 May E8/1 The teenage crowd screamed and cheered--but only when Macbeth got medieval on someone.

Maybe it's just me being up at three a.m. and all, but I find this--and the illustrative quotes--hysterical. Pulp Fiction in the OED? C'mon. But I'm happy to know that teenagers are whooping it up at a performance of Macbeth (rather, they have done in the past ten years).

Aside: sometimes I hate that I can get the OED is online. It's too easy. My beloved bought me a (used) copy of the two volume compact. I love it, and I enjoy the whole magnifying glass thing like crazy, but I tend to use it as a place to pile bills more than anything else. Pathetic.

21 June 2009

Chatham House's Iran Election Report (and Guardian Council Begins to 'Fess Up)

The Royal Institute for International Affairs has released its report on the recent elections in Iran.
From the Institute's site, Chatham House:
Working from the province by province breakdowns of the 2009 and 2005 results, released by the Iranian Ministry of Interior, and from the 2006 census as published by the official Statistical Centre of Iran, this paper offers some observations about the official data and the debates surrounding the 2009 Iranian Presidential Election.
You can download a copy here.

Added: This from Iranian state media organization Press TV:
Iran's Guardian Council has suggested that the number of votes collected in 50 cities surpass the number of people eligible to cast ballot in those areas.

The council's Spokesman Abbas-Ali Kadkhodaei, who was speaking on the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB) Channel 2 on Sunday, made the remarks in response to complaints filed by Mohsen Rezaei -- a defeated candidate in the June 12 Presidential election.

"Statistics provided by Mohsen Rezaei in which he claims more than 100% of those eligible have cast their ballot in 170 cities are not accurate -- the incident has happened in only 50 cities," Kadkhodaei said.
Even so, and even though "
the vote tally affected by such an irregularity could be over 3 million and the council could at the request of the candidates re-count the affected ballot boxes," the Guardian Council might not act. After all, three million votes won't change the ultimate outcome, which, they insist, results from a 10 million vote difference between Ahmadinejad and the oppostion candidates.

20 June 2009

Iran: Saturday Rally

Mousavi has not died, has not been injured, has not been arrested, and has not canceled the rally.

From a reliable, credible source in Iran:
confirmed - Mousavi - SATURDAY 4pm Enghelab Sq - HISTORY will be watching us

News reports, inside and outside of Iran, confirm that the government cracked down with tear gas, batons, and chains. Other sources claim that guns and unknown chemical agents were used (the latter apparently dropped on crowd via helicopter). Many killed, many others wounded. Still the protesters continue into the night. Some sold sources for up-to-the minute reports from Iran not issued by Iran's State media:

19 June 2009

Mousavi NOT Arrested (Updated)

Interesting how Twitter is quickly acting to turn misinformation into "real" news (because people are unable or unwilling to vet sources), and how eager some young Americans are to engage themselves in the Iran protests, but who get so caught up with revolutionary fever that they forget to think. Even well-intentioned misinformation remains misinformation, and in a situations as impassioned as Iran's, that misinformation can be destructive. Case in point:

Earlier today, someone on Twitter posted a link to an article at The Guardian by a friend of Mr. Mousavi's named Mohsen Makhmalbaf, which said the following:
I have been given the ­responsibility of telling the world what is happening in Iran. The office of Mir Hossein Mousavi, who the Iranian people truly want as their leader, has asked me to do so. They have asked me to tell how Mousavi's headquarters was wrecked by plainclothes police officers. To tell how the commanders of the revolutionary guard ordered him to stay silent. To urge people to take to the streets because Mousavi could not do so directly.
[. . . .]
Some suggest the protests will fade because nobody is leading them. All those close to Mousavi have been arrested, and his contact with the outside world has been restricted. People rely on word of mouth, because their mobile phones and the internet have been closed down. That they continue to gather shows they want something more than an election. They want freedom, and if they are not granted it we will be faced with another revolution.
The person who Tweeted the link to this article posted it with the assertion "MOUSAVI ARRESTED!!! RT RT RT," and
Okay, maybe I need to repeat this loudly to get it RTed: MOUSAVI AND STAFF HAS BEEN ARRESTED
As you can imagine, this caused a bit of a stir. When Twittering skeptics confronted the poster, he reacted with something like outrage at being challenged:
@[redacted] No, because I have as much confirmation on this (if not more) as on many other "confirmed" things. [he had one article that he misread]

@[redacted] Would you rather I stop reporting the news and leave you to wait 2-3 days if not longer for CNN to cover it?
Eventually, he admitted to misreading the article, apologized, and proceeded to retract the posts that directly asserted Mousavi's arrest. However, others remain, for example:
Mousavi's offices are trashed, Mousavi's staff in police custody, Mousavi is missing. #iranelection #gr88 #clarification
However, those posts caught the attention of others. It's now appeared at Daily Kos, and at least one American news personality (I will keep her anonymous) signaled interest in the story. If Ed Henry picks it up, Lord know what it will turn into (I think he still insists that the State Department shut down Twitter on Tuesday).

I'd like to add this: Mr. Makhmalbaf's column repeats old news.
1) Mousavi's office was "looked over" earlier this week (Sunday), and members of the opposition (e.g., "those who are close to him") have been arrested over the course of the week.
2) Mousavi has been pretty low key all week. Recall that similar reports of him being under house arrest showed up earlier this week). He's not addressed the media, and, excepting his appearances at rallies, he communicates to his followers via the Internet and through others (hence The Guardian article). Also, as he's been quiet over hte past day or so, it's useful to recall that recent news reports announced that Supreme Leader Khatemei had directed Mousavi to be quiet or else. It rather makes sense that he's keeping a low profile in the runup to Saturday's rally. Anyway, there's a difference between being arrested, being ordered silent, and being pragmatic (e.g., playing your cards close to your chest). My guess is it's a bit of the latter two mixed together.
Added: Mr. Makhmalbaf spoke with the AP via telephone today; the AP reports:
Mir Hossein Mousavi is not under arrest, but cannot talk with journalists, take phone calls or stand at a microphone at his rallies, his spokesman said Friday from Paris.

Faced with the limitations at rallies, Mousavi has had to speak "into a megaphone that can maybe be heard by 100 people, if everyone is quiet,"
[. . . .]
Authorities are closely watching Mousavi because arresting him would spark further outrage among his supporters, he said, speaking in Farsi. Makhmalbaf said he is in contact with people close to Mousavi in the capital Tehran, but it's become increasingly difficult to reach them.

Mr. Mousavi and the opposition have undergone an horrific week; that's for certain. My concern is that the tenor of the posts seemed design to inflame rather than inform, and that the poster's outrage at being questioned by skeptics illustrates that some people are relying on Twitter to become the news (e.g., so eager to "break" a story that he or she puts it out there without really thinking). Moreover, the story itself, coming after Supreme Leader Khamenei's uber-aggressive oratory, and at an especially heated, anxious moment in Iran, could have resulted in even more news--and little of it pleasant. Think--and verify--before you Tweet.

I've not linked to the Tweeter, nor given his name, because he has been helpful to the opposition, and I don't want to embarrass him further.

Several credible people in Iran have claimed that Mousavi is safe, and that the rallies planned for Saturday will proceed.

Update: 6/21:
Mir-Hossein Mousavi still not under arrest. This rumor emerged early last week, gained new life late last week, and refuses to go away. Approach Twitter with caution. There's some solid, verifiable material there, but there's a significant amount of disinformation as well (some of it from misinterpreting information [see below], some of it aimed at misdirecting protesters, but some of it for lulz: one Tweeter who sent out a version of the latest Mousavi "arrest" story, declaring that it had been "confirmed by BBC and CNN," has the following on his feed:
hipsters sitting at Starbucks tweeting about Iran, envisioning themselves as players in a revolution. Viva la revolucion! #IranElection
you RETARDS! There aren't "Spies" on Twitter - we're just dudes on computer fucking with you. Hee hee, "Spies" #IranElection
Worth keeping in mind.

Iran: Friday Opposition Events

News about Friday's events in Iran have been in something of a flux: it looks as though someone has been sending misleading information about the opposition leaders' plans for Fridays. Mir-Hossein Mousavi's website appears to have been hacked earlier today, and someone has been tweeting and retweeting misinformation over Twitter. The best I can ascertain :
People should attend Friday prayers.
All rallies have been postponed until Saturday, 4:00 pm (I'll post more later).
There seems to be a consensus about no Friday rallies. For information on Friday prayers, I've relied on reliable Tweeters as well as news sources that excel at vetting information, such as NiacINsight (a blog for the Iranian-American community) and Nico Pitney at The Huffington Post. See the following posts on Friday prayers:

From NIAC:
6:32 pm: What’s going on here?

Earlier in the day, we saw a message posted on Mousavi’s facebook page saying “Mousavi & Karoubi ask supporters NOT to attend Friday prayers (which is being delivered by supreme leader Ayatollah Khamenei).” We thought this was strange, since they were saying exactly the opposite just a little while ago. Now, Nico and the NYT both have commented about the same message going up on Twitter. [ed: NYT only posted the Tweeted message. No commentary]

Just as we were trying to figure out what was going on on Mousavi’s facebook page, the message was removed. This appears to be an organized attack on Mousavi and Karroubi’s facebook and twitter accounts to send misleading messages to supporters. We got the impression that they were trying to take these messages down as fast as possible, so we are pretty convinced they’re not legitimate.
And from Pitney at HuffPo:
5:58 PM ET -- Fishy. This was just posted on Mousavi's official Twitter account. "Mousavi & Karoubi ask supporters NOT to attend Friday prayers (which is being delivered by supreme leader Ayatollah Khamenei)." This seems quite unlikely to me, trying to get to the bottom of it.

Update: Patrick Disney from the NIAC says this message was also posted on Mousavi's Facebook page and then removed a little later. Seems like someone outside is trying to cause trouble.
Like I said, the message that Pitney posts has been tweeted and retweeted all night long, and it seems to have overwhelmed messages noting that Mousavi's sites have been hacked.

18 June 2009

Ohio Man Attacked. . .By Iran?

Here's a potentially frightening scenario--Iranians in the USA assaulting Americans sympathetic to the opposition.

Someone who has been truly helpful at helping Iranians with proxies announced on Twitter that he'd been on his way to university in Ohio was attacked by "Iranian or Lebanese" men. This appeared on one Twitter feed:
Leaving for college now. Not sure if I'll be permitted to tweet from class. If not, will write full summary of events between classes.

Am safe, hidden away. Will continue to post reports from Iran, no more info about me.

Details: was attacked by single vehicle throwing rocks while walking. Am safe now, though not in contact with anyone in Iran.

@[redacted] No, I live in America.

I'm fine, filed police report (though they seemed uninterested) Huffington Post will be posting more details at some point.
In an interview with a DailyKos diarist, the man elaborated, saying that his attackers were "a group of men that seemed to be either Iranian or Lebanese [. . . .] They drove up besides him and threw rocks at him while shouting, "Mousavi Fraud." Also, the man told the interviewer "that his personal information was leaked, and is currently being spread both online and inside of Iran amongst the government." The interviewer took this as "a strong indicator of how international in scope these events are. A [sic] American on American soil has already been attacked due to these protests in Iran."

As the man alerted folks on Twitter, The Huffington Post did post more details.
10:35 AM ET -- A word of caution. This DailyKos diary, now featured in the "recommended" section, reports that a man in Ohio who has been helping Iranians on Twitter had his personal information leaked, and then was harassed by three men shouting anti-Mousavi slogans as he walked to his university.

We heard the same rumors yesterday, and my colleague Sam Stein tried to figure out what happened. The Ohio college that the man told us he attended said they had no record of him as a student. And after saying he had called 911 to report the incident, the man gave a reason for why he thought that the police wouldn't end up having a record of the 911 call.

It's certainly possible that this attack occurred, which would obviously be unfortunate and disturbing. But more confirmation is definitely needed.
Indeed. It's horrific that this might happen; there's every chance that it did occur. However, it's troubling that nobody, besides Nico Pitney and Sam Stein, seems to have checked up on this story (e.g., checking with sources other than the alleged victim). People seem to prefer stoking paranoia.

Confirm. Verify.

Update: The story has now appeared at Democratic Underground and the commentators are, well, skeptical. It's also appeared at Slashdot, where the commentators are a bit more accepting. It's also being posted at Rush Limbaugh's site, as well as a few other places.

Fresh Air on Conspiracy Theories, Extremism, Racism, Violence

On the Fresh Air broadcast for 18 June, Terry Gross interviews Chip Berlet, a senior analyst at Political Research Associates who "has studied extremism, conspiracy theories and hate groups for more than 25 years." (NPR). The broadcast focuses on the links between conspiracy theories, extremism, and violence.

According to Berlet, there have been nine murders linked to white supremacist groups and/or prompted by conspiracy theories since Obama's election [correction: since the inauguration].

You can listen to the show here.

Aside: Berlet addresses both right wing and left wing conspiracy theories, extremism, and scapegoating.

And on a related note: The OC Weekly has published a profile of Dr. Orly Taitz, an anti-Obama activist and birth certificate conspiracy theorist, as well as an overview (and debunking) of her various claims. Read it here.

Iran: Fights in Parliament Over Attacks on Protesters

Etemaad.ir, a Farsi news site, recently posted an item describing an altercation that broke out in Iran's Parliament this week. The MP's had been discussing Basiji attacks on students. Nico Pitney has posted a translation of the story at The Huffington Post (see his update at 2:33 PM ET [6/19]). Excerpt:
After Ansari [MP], Abutorabi [Parliament Secretary] took the floor again and continued questioning the plainclothes security forces once again. At this point Hosseinian, Koochakzadeh, and resaee, the three biggest supporters of Ahmadinejad in the parliament, started a verbal argument which ended with a number of physical fights. As a result a number of pro and ant Ahmadinejad members of the parliament join the fight and start slapping and pushing each other.
Head to HuffPo for the rest.

Additionally, and significantly, MPs claim to know the identities of members of the Basij, and assert that "they will expose the identities of those behind the plainclothes security forces" (qtd. in Pitney). Whether because of these threats or because photographs of Basiji have been posted on the Internet, the forces have started covering their faces (see the 12:12 PM update here). Concerns over being identified suggests concerns about retaliation--either by protesters or, should there be a President, by imprisonment.

17 June 2009

Iran: Fax & Post Service

A new service for the Iranian opposition members who can't access the Internet! From Nico Pitney's update at The Huffington Post:
The revolution will be faxed. A valuable service being organized by Eric Purdy and his crew at the University of Chicago:
We have set up a website to receive faxes from Iran, which we will post online. Hopefully this will be another way for information about what's going on in Iran to make its way out of the country.

Please disseminate this fax number as widely as possible: 001 773 321 0202. We will post any faxes we receive at iranfax.org.

As long as you have a fax machine and a working phone line, you're golden.

Iran: Thursday Rallies (Updated)

From a reliable Iranian Twitter feed:

Events for Thursday(conf by Mousavi) at 14:00 Pasdaran, Shahrzad Blvd UN Building,17:00 Emam Khomeini Sq.

Updated: There's a change in plans:

Today's protest is ONLY in Toopkhaneh Sq at 4pm according to Kalameh. Mousavi is going to be there

The State Department & Twitter

This is kind of petty, but the State Department's claim of contacting Twitter about postponing its downtime irritates me. Here's why:

1) Monday, June 15, Twitter announces
We will have 90 minutes of maintenance starting tonight at 9:45p Pacific [8:15 AM Tehran]. Critical network upgrades will be performed during this time.
2) Immediately after the announcement appeared, people began to flood Twitter with requests to postpone the downtime because of the sudden rise in traffic to and from members of the Iranian opposition [requests made by email and on Twitter. See #nomaintenance].

3) Monday, 4:24 pm, Twitter announces:
"Downtime has been rescheduled for 2p Pacfiic [sic] tomorrow, June 16th" [5 pm EST, 1:30 AM Tehran time].
4) Tuesday, June 16th: The State Department claims that it had contacted Twitter about the Monday outage. According to Reuters, the contact happened "over the weekend." That is, before the downtime was announced and before Twitter exploded as a critical tool for communications between the Iranian opposition and the outside world. According to the New York Times, the contact happened on Monday afternoon, when a 27 year old State Department official emailed a Twitter co-counder to request a delay (in other words, he joined the Twittering throngs). Over the weekend or Monday afternoon--which is it?

5) Tuesday, 2:00 pm PDT, Twitter's delayed upgrade occurred as planned.

6) Tuesday, 3:21 pm PDT: Twitter denies that they shifted the upgrade because of the State Department. In fact, the Twitter blog features a delightfully ambiguous statement that alludes to the State Department, but that neither confirms nor denies the State Department's claims of contact:
It's humbling to think that our two-year old company could be playing such a globally meaningful role that state officials find their way toward highlighting our significance. However, it's important to note that the State Department does not have access to our decision making process. Nevertheless, we can both agree that the open exchange of information is a positive force in the world.
Now, it may very well be that the State Department official got in touch with Twitter on Monday, but it may also be that the State Department jumped onto the "mail Twitter about the Monday outage" after the fact: after Twitter had rescheduled and after the media began to report (or hype) Twitter's significance. Either way, the media reports the contact as though Twitter delayed the outage because of the State Department, and that's simply incorrect.

Like I said--it's petty. But it seems that the State Department is taking credit for citizens' initiatives. It also seems like a silly stunt (why would the State Department announce the contact? Especially when the President had repeated his points about not meddling. It might not be a huge deal to the general public, but the mullahs might see it differently).

Added: At Wired, Nicholas Thomson splashes some cold water on the Iran/Twitter hype.

Iran Wednesday

This morning, as ever, Nico Pitney has some fascinating entries on his Iran liveblog--go here to read up on the Iranian soccer team's show of support, Iranian authorities' threats against 'bloggers, and Rafsanjani's (alleged) emergency meeting with the Assembly of Experts (which, if true, is a huge deal), and a concrete example of how the army is protecting pro-Mousavi protesters from militia.

Also: this article from The Guardian reviews evidence of a purge of reformist figures in Iran, as well as this item:
There were also unconfirmed reports 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.
Mousavi has called for a silent protest today to honor those killed in the past several days. According to this Reuters story, the crowd measures in the "tens of thousands" (The Guardian estimates "more than 500,000") and is, indeed, largely silent.

Iran: Rallies Planned for Weds and Thurs

From Tehran Bureau's Twitter feed:
Tehran Rallies confirmed-Wed jun17. 5pm SILENT PROTEST 7 Tir Square . Tehran - Thursday jun18. 2pm bolvare sharzad sazmane melal

Keep It Classy, GOP

After a solid week of hearing about David Letterman's incredibly tasteless joke about a Palin daughter, we've got more bad comedy to talk about, and all of it involves race. Moreover, all of it came forth from Republicans. Anyway...

Mike Green, a GOP political operative in South Carolina, decided to Tweet a racist Obama joke over the weekend (the "aspirin" joke, which is kind of tiresome). TPM asked Green about the joke, and he's admitted he'd written it (and he's apologized).

Meanwhile, another South Carolina Republican, Rusty DePass, responded to "a report posted to Facebook about a gorilla escape at a zoo in Columbia, S.C., Friday, [. . .] DePass wrote, "I'm sure it's just one of Michelle's ancestors - probably harmless."

Oh, that's clever, DePass. The New York Daily News adds:
DePass told WIS-TV in Columbia, "I am as sorry as I can be if I offended anyone. The comment was clearly in jest."

Then he added, "The comment was hers, not mine," claiming Michelle Obama made a recent remark about humans descending from apes. The Daily News could find no such comment.
Can anyone point to any comments Michelle Obama has made on evolution? No? Okay, a cheap (and lazy) attempt to cover his arse (and appeal doubly to a certain crowd?) via Darwin.

Third, we've got Sherri Goforth, a senior staffer for a TN state senator, who thought it wise to send out an that "depicts the Presidents of the United States with President Barack Obama as a pair of eyes in a black background" (NIT).

It turns out that Goforth sent the image to the wrong group of people, which she regrets.

No, the GOP isn't itself racist, but here we've got three GOPers passing along racist material on Twitter, Facebook, and regular old email; that they're distributing this juvenile nonsense is disconcerting, but that they're doing it so sloppily is especially troubling--is this stuff so acceptable to them that they needn't even think about what they're doing?

16 June 2009

Khamenei Fast Tracks Voting Fraud Investigation

An Iranian Tweeter reports: "Khamenei LIVE say he is re-confirming #iranelection was A'nejad win"

Everyone saw this coming. But it's important to note that Mousavi declined a recount and stated that only a re-vote could settle the matter.

In other news: Khamenei tries to discredit the protests by blaming any unrest on West--Obama played it right.

BBC Goes Green

Iranian protesters take this as a sign of support.
(I don't recall the BBC site's typical colors--it might always be green--but folks are taking its current shade as a gesture).

Iran: Rally and Counter-Rally

Shortly after the massive Mousavi rally in Tehran on Monday, people protesting the Iran election results arranged for a second rally on Tuesday. In response, the government arranged its own rally against the "revolutionaries"--a counter-protest--to begin in the same location and just shortly before the Mousavi rally was scheduled to begin. Many Twitterers wondered if the government hoped for clashes to occur between the two groups. Scenes from the pro-government rally were televised by Iran's State TV.

I haven't heard anything about clashes between the pro-and anti-government marchers, but according to eyewitnesses who Tweet, "The people are gathering around in front of Radio and TV HQ in Vali Asr St The situation is calm and everyone is silent," "nearly 4000 of mosavi's supporters are sitting silently in Azadi st."[updated: this source now estimates the crowd at 12,000]; and marchers are slowly making their way to the UN building in Tehran.

Added: BBC reports that eyewitnesses claim Tuesday's pro-Mousavi rally "was even bigger than Monday's - though this cannot be independently confirmed. "

Security forces are on the street, of course, and several human rights activists have been arrested. There are rumors that the army has turned on the pro-Mousavi protesters: while some report witnessing this, others respond that it's not confirmed and may be intended to frighten people away from the streets. Certainly there is a good deal of misinformation on Twitter, and some of it does seem designed to scare rather than inform.

Clerics Reject Ahmadinejad?

Now this doesn't look good for Ahmadinejad. The Wall Street Journal records this bit from Monday's pro-Mousavi rally:
A young cleric from the Shiite holy city of Qom addressed the crowd. "I have come to bring you a message from Qom," he said. "Without a doubt, all clerical scholars are against the current situation. The only person acceptable to them is Mr. Mousavi, they have rejected Mr. Ahmadinejad's request to meet them in the past two days."
[. . . .]
The 12-member council of clerics and scholars is required to approve elections, and technically has the power to nullify them, though it has never done so before. It is unclear how deeply the council would probe the vote, or what action it could take if it found irregularities.
What this might mean we'll have to wait and see, but if Ahmadinejad loses the Clerics' support, well. . .

Iran: Revolutionary Guards Arrested?

Okay no solid confirmation, but the following has cropped up on various sites--including The Washington Times--that "16 senior members of the Revolutionary Guard" were arrested Tuesday morning, and "these commanders have been in contact with members of the Iranian army to join the people's movement." They are now in an undisclosed location in Tehran.

The story's source is the Cyrus News Agency, which the Times links to. However, the CNA script is in Farsi. If you can translate, here's the link.

15 June 2009

Iran: Twitter Down Tonight (Updated)

The timing is pretty gobsmacking, but Twitter has scheduled a 90 minute outage for tonight.
Maintenance window tonight, 9:45p Pacific 16 minutes ago
We will have 90 minutes of maintenance starting tonight at 9:45p Pacific. Critical network upgrades will be performed during this time.
The information was posted around 4:30 PM EDT today (Monday).

Surely the folks at Twitter are aware of how crucial the service has been for the Iranian protesters? Twitter has been the only tool the Iranian government hasn't been able to block. Surely the service can postpone the upgrades?

Added: Twitter has noted the public's concern over the outage and has posted this followup:
Update (2:03p): Unfortunately the timing of this maintenance period is not within our control as our provider needs to perform these network upgrades. We apologize for the outage and hope to be back from the maintenance as quickly as our host can perform the work.
The shutdown is distressing because reports about armed militias victimizing protesters are increasing--all over the country, not just in Tehran.

If Twitter goes down, the protesters will lose their ability to warn fellow Iranians about the presence of Bajiji forces and about which areas come under attack by vigilantes. In ninety minutes, many youth could die because they took the wrong street in Tehran and ran smack into security.

They will lose the surest tool to debunk rumors generated by pro-government / anti-Mousavi forces (for example, yesterday's attempt to suppress Monday's via unverifiable stories that Mousavi himself canceled the march). And in ninety minutes, many rumors can take root.

They will lose their global voice, their ability to share the events in Iran with the world and expose the abuses that would otherwise be swept under the rug.

Twitter, please speak with your provider and postpone the maintenance. You are an indispensable medium of history.

Update: Twitter has postponed the upgrades! Thank you, Twitter!

UPDATE TWO: The upgrades are scheduled to occur Tuesday at 5 pm EDT. Protesters and their supporters remain concerned about losing touch with Iran.

Also, the U. S. State Department claims to have spoken to Twitter about delaying Monday's upgrade [Added: for more on that claim, see this post].

Iran: General Strike on Tuesday

Added: A source in Iran confirms that a second national strike will occur on Tuesday, 23 June:
NATIONAL STRIKE TOMORROW (TUESDAY) in objection to the attacks & killings & the coup.

Iran's protesters have planned a nation-wide strike for Tuesday, 16 June.

Another rally is in the works for Tuesday evening: 5:00 pm Valiasr Square

Iran: Monday Updates

The Iranian people have taken to their rooftops again to shout "Allah Akbar" and "death to the dictator."

The militia are targeting the students again: Madyer Tweets that two dormitories are under siege: Tarasht and Shiraz.

Tweets that sources in Rasht claim that authories are wiretapping phone calls, while others report that citizens are leaving their gates and doors unlocked so that people begin chased by vigilantes may escape.

PersianKiwi Tweets that while moving locations, "were attacked in streets by mob on motorbikes with batons - firing guns into air - streetfires all over town - roads closed; #Iranelection" These must be the same people whom CNN's Rick Sanchez identified on air as questionable members of the opposition. According to eyewitnesses, Basiji are in plainclothes and are attacking civilians.

Persian Kiwi also asks that pedestrians in Tehran be aware, and try to avoid, the area of the military barracks off Pasdaran Street. Tweeted: "large number of plain clothes with bikes hiding in military barraks off Pasdaran - dont know what they are planning."

StopAhmadi confirms that protesters have burned the Basiji headquarters in Tehran. Molotov cocktails.

Iran: Where's Obama?

He's being smart.

Some are demanding that President Obama issue a statement of support for the protesters in Iran. I'm inclined to back off on Obama for a bit. He's smart enough to observe and consider prior to making crucial statements that will ultimately impact foreign policy.

I'm guessing that he does stand with the Iranian protesters philosophically and emotionally. Pragmatically, however, he's got to play it cool because any support Obama shows might backfire: Ahmadinejad and Khamenei can spin any encouraging statement into evidence that the West orchestrated the protests. This would not only minimize the people's efforts and discredit the movement (by presenting protesters as dupes of the West), it would also provide the Iranian government with an excuse for an all-out purge.

Also, there's the nukes. We don't know how Iran's current internal strife will play out, and we don't know who we'll be sitting down to discuss nuclear terms with. Cold and unromantic, but that is the reality.

Update: Journalist Michael Scherer Tweets that President Obama will address the Iranian matter Monday evening at a press conference with Italy's Berlusconi. Of course reporters will deluge the men with questions about their stances on Iran. My guess? Any responses will be rather noncommittal; expect no Bush-like declarations of outrage or support for the protesters.

Iran: Post-Rally

Despite the rumors, the misinformation, and the threats, they did it. Thousands and thousands of them. And Mousavi attended. Sadly, violence erupted, and one protester was killed. But the Iranian people stood their ground [see The Huffington Post, Tehran Bureau or niacINsight for more].

Tonight, they refuse to back off. PersianKiwi confirms that "karbaschi and karoubi heading to Tajreesh sq tonight" to speak to supporters. The people have seen what they can do, and they know that the world is paying attention to, and standing with them all.

Khamenei threatens Mousavi and Supporters

Tweeters, including PersianKiwi, IranElection09, are reporting that on live television Supreme Leader Khamenei threatened Mousavi and his supporters. From PersianKiwi:
if Moussavi does not retreat he will be dealt with according to law.
No additional details at the moment.

The government is panicking. And Mousavi's supporters aren't backing down. They're still marching.

Khamenei to Mousavi: Pursue Complaints Legally

Iran's Supreme Leader Khamenei has agreed to investigate allegations of voter fraud. Well, that's how it's being spun. According to AFP, as reported by Iran state television on Sunday, he told Mousavi "to pursue his complaints over the election through legal means."

It's looking like the government is panicking over the people's responses to Ahmadinejad's "victory." The announcement of an investigation seems ot have been a ploy to buy some time and let people cool off a bit, but it's the government was playing chicken with the people, and the people didn't blink. Now they know just how much power they have.

Iran: Rally Misinformation?

Apparently a load of rumors have cropped up announcing that Mousavi or one of his spokesmen has canceled Monday's rallies. At this point, there's been no solid confirmation one way or the other (despite a BBC story which states that the organization "understands" that the marches have been canceled. The BBC neglects to name its source for the assertion, so people remain a bit uncertain). As the government has arranged for a communications blackout, it's a challenge for folks to determine what is truth and what is misinformation.

Per Twitter, numerous Iranians are negating the BBC's claim and continue to call for a four p.m. rally. Many folks point out that even if the march was canceled, it's a bit late to notify everyone. It looks like the rally will occur, in one form or another, regardless of any cancellation announcements. However, it appears that the government has blocked roads throughout Tehran, so arriving at the rally spot(s) will be difficult.

Update: Iranian Tweeters have generated the topic #BBCFAIL for reporting the rally's cancellation. For all intents and purposes, the rally is on [clarification: Tweeters created topic "BBCFAIL" to draw attention to the BBC's misreporting of the rally. Sorry. I was really wiped when I wrote this entry].

Update two: Mousavi & Karroubi will attend the rally with supporters. I guess this means the march is, indeed, still on.

Mousavi's Message & Monday's Protest Rallies

Per Andrew Sullivan:
Mir Hossein Mousavi delivered the following phone message to the BBC:
The exhortation to "stay in the streets" suggests that Monday's protests, scheduled to begin at four o'clock, will occur as planned. Indeed, an Iranian Twitterer, "IranElection09," also assures readers that, according to "sources close to Mousavi""today's [Monday's] rally will go on as scheduled regardless of government's permission."

Unfortunately, because Iran has been chucking the media out of the country, fair and accurate MSM reportage of the protests could well be nonexistent (or close to it).

Added: just Twittered by Justice4Iran:
The protesters' roses will reinforce the idea that the rallies are acts of civil disobedience (the government has banned the planned rallies, so these brave souls will be breaking the law).

Tehran Bureau's Twitter page includes this:
confirmed the Tehran protest from Enghelab to Azadi, tomorrow (Monday) and a national strike on Tuesday.
It looks like Tehran Bureau's website will be down until tomorrow.

14 June 2009

Iran: The Whole World is Watching

They're attacking students in their dorms.

Last night, vigilantes burst into a dorm at Isfahan Technical University. Tonight, a similar group has blocked any and all access to dorms at Tehran University. Students can't get out, and help can't get in. "Change_for_Iran", a Twitterer who claims to be in dorm at Tehran University writes that the forces aren't military or police--they'e Ansar-Hezbolah, a hardline Iranian paramilitary group. "Change for Iran's" Tweets are frightening and heartbreaking.

Update: "Change for Iran" Tweets the following:
if what gooyanews reported is true, the situation in other buildings are far worst than us #iranelection

according to gooyanews : in whole complex: 15 badly wounded, more than 100 arrested or missing. #iranelection
And "Iluvfreedom," aka human rights specialist Mariam Memarsadeghi, Tweets:
7students thrown from Kooye/Univ of Tehran dormitory; dozens injured; fully armed Ansar in dorm bldg # 23,18,17,16,14,7,5 #iranelection

Seriously? Sending paramilitary vigilantes after the kids?

I celebrate the courage of these protesters in their struggle to assert their voices. No matter how the government strives to silence those voices by taking web pages offline (Tehran Bureau is one example), by cutting cell phone access, by evicting the MSM, and by threatening violence, these Iranians, old and young, continue to tell their side of the story--by Twittering, emailing, uploading videos of horrific abuse--ensure that the whole world hears.

Aside: Tehran Bureau has been online only sporadically throughout the day. Earlier, someone posted the following on its Twitter page:
webmaster says the Iranian govt is overloading us with requests to disable our site: "denial of service attack"
The site is currently down.

Iran: "It Was a Coup"

Mir Hossein Mousavi's spokesman, Mohsen Makhbalbaf, calls the election a political coup. He provides details of the drama immeidately following the election here.

Also, for The Times's account on the brutality shown to protesters, please see here.

Iran: News Sources

Reports from Iran are slipping though.
Andrew Sullivan has regular updates from Iranian readers and links to commentary. The Tehran Bureau is a solid source, as is The New York Times' Lede Blog, which offers regular updates. The Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting has updates (albeit irregularly), and The Huffington Post is "liveblogging the uprising."

Perhaps most importantly, there is Twitter. Granted, it's hard to differentiate between rumor and fact, but recent Tweets claim that the Iranian army has declared itself neutral, that a young woman has been killed, and that tanks have entered Tehran.

Also find:
The Guardian has started a live blog here.
Here, the BBC's links to sites sharing information on events in Iran.
Here, a list of English language Twitterers in Iran.
"Revolutionary Road," an Iranian English-language blog, is here. Caveat: the blog includes many photos and videos of abuses.

Iran: News Coverage

Initially I thought the US media was just being lazy and avoiding coverage of what's happening in Iran, but it looks as though the Iranian government is blocking foreign news agencies from reporting the angry reaction to the election. Spanish reporters have had tapes confiscated, Al-Aribiya has been ordered to cease reportage for a week, one German journalist seems to be under house arrest--he's not allowed to leave his hotel, and Iran is jamming the BBC's Persian broadcasts (thereby breaking international treaties).

Added: Police have confiscated cameras and equipment of ABC and NBC. The BBC has been ordered out of the country.

12 June 2009

And The Rumor Mill Keeps A-goin'

Salon has compiled a useful list of myths about Obama--from the truly whacked out to the snoringly mundane.

Each entry details a rumor, who introduced / spread the story, and how well the story reflects reality (which isn't often). The list includes everything from Nostradamus "predicting" our President and "Obama is the Anti-Christ" to "Obama targeted Republican-owned car dealerships"and "Obama wants to get rid of the second amendment."

And there's a nice bit about the "President Teleprompter" thing as well.

11 June 2009

Match Up

News quiz: who said what?
A) “the Jewish vote, the A-I-P-A-C vote, that’s controlling him"

B) "Obama was created by Jews. Obama does what Jew owners tell him to do."
Yes, context is everything. A, Reverend Jeremiah Wright claimed initially that "them Jews" prevent communication with Obama, and then tried to walk that back by claiming he meant that Obama, being a politician, needs to cater to the Jewish vote. B, James von Brunn claims that Jews control the USA's money and media, hence Jews own Obama.

Would Wright endorse the murder of Jews? Of course not. But, in reality, we're still talking about the same thing, aren't we? There's but a degree of difference. Both seem to operate from the same, troubling mindset: Obama must do whatever "them Jews" bid him to do. But why are we still confronting this tired, ancient canard about Jewish cabals and Jewish control?

Let me recommend an article from a few months back. Frank Furedi's piece at spiked online, "What's Behind 21st Century Anti-Semitism," discusses the sudden rise, or at least the sudden vocality, of anti-Semitism--on the right and on the left. It's worth a read as it lays out a controversial discussion in a reasoned manner. Another recommendation: Philip J. Spencer's response to Furedi, "The Left Must Stand Up to Anti-Semitism."

By the way, apparently nobody has told the anti-Semites that they can relax. The Elders of Zion have decided to retire.


My deepest condolences to the family of Stephen Tyrone Johns, a hero by any definition of the word. I can't imagine the horror his loved ones must be living through.

My heart also goes out to those at the Holocaust Museum yesterday who witnessed the madman's assault.

10 June 2009

MS Yoda & English Word # 1,000,000

Here's a weird, and annoying, aside: Microsoft Word has gone all little-green-pointy-eared-master on me. It keeps tying to correct the phrase:

“What am I to do”
“What to do I am”

Fairly aggravating (this is just one example. Either Word's folks are jokers, unreasonably obssessed with Star Wars, or they're unfamilair with basic English grammar).

On another note: people who watch these sort of things (that would be Global Language Monitor) are anticipating the upcoming one millionth English word. Seriously? The millionth is coming just now? Woo hoo!

Eliot Among the Bovines

The BBC presented a programme on T. S. Eliot the other evening, which disclosed a previously unpublished poem by Eliot. The poem is about cows. Eliot didn't like them. At all. In fact, they seem to have made him distinctly nervous:

You may reply, to fear a Cow
Is Cowardice the rustic scorns;
But still your reason must allow
That I am weak, and she has horns.

True that. Okay, the poem is absolutely tongue-in-cheek, but, having walked alone through fields full of grazing cows, who lift their heads to stare, I concur that it can be quite unnerving.

I've been in the city too long.

09 June 2009

Fears of Neo-Fascism

What with two members of the British National Party, Nick Griffin and Andrew Brons, winning EU parliamentary seats, people are aflutter about a possible rise in British and, by extension, western Euopean, fascism. Granted, Griffin and Brons aren't the most charming of men, and they espouse some seriously abhorrent views. But how significant is their win? Probably, ultimately, not very.

The Guardian offers some reasonable debunking of fears about a rising tide of fascism. Noted historians, including Michael Burleigh and Eric Hobsbawn, chime in with their views. The consensus: don't get your knickers in a twist. The recent election has all the hallmarks of a protest vote: it's not a sign that "fascism is on the march again."

It is significant that these historians seem to agree that if neo-fascism is to gain strength, it might well be in Austria and the Baltic States because of severe "economic turbulence" in the region.

Anyways, it's a worthwhile discussion, so check it out.

08 June 2009

June 7th

"The Lane"

The lane runs deep in rabbit-riddled banks.
How many hundred years of wheel and hoof
And plodding feet that good cowhide makes proof
Have grooved this rut, which lurks and winds and thanks
The burly stools of oak, the lissom ranks
Of maple and spindlewood for eaves of roof
So large they almost fend high noon aloof?
Up in the hedge the wind may play his pranks;

Here the dead-calms of the after-sunset hour
Hold every scent afloat, immobilised,
Along the leafy-margin'd air-lagoon.
Briarbush and honeysuckle and elderflower --
Each in his turn, you capture, analysed
In such retort, the essential sweets of June.

--John Swinnerton Phillimore (1909)

(admittedly, it's a bit rich--'the leafy-margin'd air-lagoon"?--but there you go).

05 June 2009


(It's been a while. . . .)

My (recovering) beloved and I caught an intriguing film the other day, a documentary titled Constantine's Sword, a study of Christianity and anti-Semitism, as well as Christianity and militarism (be it the US Air Force, Medieval Crusaders, or "Hitler's Cardinal"[aka "Hitler's Pope]). An interesting film--heavy on talking heads and filmed evidnce (but retrospectively harmed, perhaps, by its use of interviews with the now-discredited Ted Haggard--although the film came out last year, the interviews were recorded before the Haggard-meth-and gay sex scandal broke loose). Overall, it was a valid, and valuable, examination of the historical alignment of Western religion demonizing "the Other."

I wonder, though, why Blockbuster (from whence I rented the item) places a "Youth Restricted" sticker on this film. I mean, this is a sticker they usually place on unrated horror films . . . and Constantine's Sword could easily play--unedited--on The History Channel.

Maybe it's just my local Blockbuster that qualifies the film as "youth restricted," but I'm not so sure.

BTW: husband has completed radiation. We wait for a bit, and then he begins chemo. He's doing well. Thank you, deeply and sincerely, for your good wishes.