Monthly Archives: June 2009

The Hero Twitterer

As covered ad nauseum in the press over the last two weeks, Twitter has been both an organizing force within Iran and a platform to broadcast injustice to the larger world. But it has never been a perfect source of reliability–while many reported with vigor and authenticity, others mistakenly posted false information, and still more used it inside the country to deliberately mislead.

But there was no one more accurate, more galvanizing, or more widely read than @Persiankiwi.

Both Andrew Sullivan and Nico Pitney quote him regularly and it is obvious many other reporters follow his lead. Often Persiankiwi posts news hours before any major news outlet does, always with a sense of optimism and hope,  and the posts are invariably confirmed and reported later as truth.

This is a small synopsis of the guy/girl/group who ran the feed, as well as reflections on today’s ramped up violent attacks and its impact on the movement.

And here are Persiankiwi’s final anguished–and poetic–posts, spanning a few hours, from earlier today:

just in from Baharestan Sq – situation today is terrible – they beat the ppls like animals -
I see many ppl with broken arms/legs/heads – blood everywhere – pepper gas like war -
they were waiting for us – they all have guns and riot uniforms – it was like a mouse trap – ppl being shot like animals
saw 7/8 militia beating one woman with baton on ground – she had no defense nothing – #Iranelection sure that she is dead
Allah – you are the creator of all and all must return to you – Allah Akbar -
so many ppl arrested – young & old – they take ppl away -
ppl run into alleys and militia standing there waiting – from 2 sides they attack ppl in middle of alleys
all shops was closed – nowhere to go – they follow ppls with helicopters – smoke and fire is everywhere
phone line was cut and we lost internet – #Iranelection – getting more difficult to log into net -
rumour they are tracking high use of phone lines to find internet users – must move from here now – #Iranelection
reports of street fighting in Vanak Sq, Tajrish sq, Azadi Sq – now – #Iranelection – Sea of Green – Allah Akbar
in Baharestan we saw militia with axe choping ppl like meat – blood everywhere – like butcher – Allah Akbar -
they catch ppl with mobile – so many killed today – so many injured – Allah Akbar – they take one of us
they pull away the dead into trucks – like factory – no human can do this – we beg Allah for save us -
Everybody is under arrest & cant move – Mousavi – Karroubi even rumour Khatami is in house guard
we must go – dont know when we can get internet – they take 1 of us, they will torture and get names – now we must move fast -
thank you ppls 4 supporting Sea of Green – pls remember always our martyrs – Allah Akbar – Allah Akbar – Allah Akbar

It is entirely possible Persiankiwi will be back tomorrow or some other time in the near future, there is no way of knowing. But if he is not, as his 37,000+ followers surely can attest, how extraordinarily tragic.

Are lagging poll numbers finally pushing Democrats towards supporting gay marriage?

A new trend seems to be emerging in Democratic politics. While Democrats are on target to win additional Governorships and possibly a few Senate seats in 2010, some of the old guard establishment candidates are seeing their polls numbers lagging in their re-election campaigns. And they are turning to a tactic that would have been considered political suicide just five years ago–they are coming out for gay marriage.

Just a few days ago, Connecticut Senator Christopher Dodd, trailing 45%-39% in this latest poll to his Republican challenger Rob Simmons in a race for Dodd’s Senate seat,  threw his hat into the equality ring.

My young daughters are growing up in a different reality than I did. Our family knows many same-sex couples – our neighbors in Connecticut, members of my staff, parents of their schoolmates. Some are now married because the Connecticut Supreme Court and our state legislature have made same-sex marriage legal in our state.
But to my daughters, these couples are married simply because they love each other and want to build a life together. That’s what we’ve taught them. The things that make those families different from their own pale in comparison to the commitments that bind those couples together.
And, really, that’s what marriage should be. It’s about rights and responsibilities and, most of all, love.
I believe that, when my daughters grow up, barriers to marriage equality for same-sex couples will seem as archaic, and as unfair, as the laws we once had against inter-racial marriage.
And I want them to know that, even if he was a little late, their dad came down on the right side of history.

Also trailing in his re-election bid, Governor of New Jersey Jon Corzine, behind ten points to his Republican counterpart Chris Christie,  pledged his full support to gay marriage as well.

Gov. Corzine has made “marriage equality” for gays and lesbians a prominent piece of his reelection campaign, taking another step in his conversion on the issue and encouraging gay-rights advocates who hope to see same-sex marriage approved in New Jersey this year.
In public speeches and private appearances, Corzine, who as recently as 2006 said he believed marriage should be between a man and a woman, has touted his support of same-sex marriage.
In raising the issue, he has tried to draw a bright-line divide with his Republican opponent, Christopher J. Christie, who has said he would veto a bill allowing gay and lesbian couples to wed.

Now, this could be a coincidence, but with support for gay marriage or civil unions growing by the day–at least in the Northeast–and gay fundraisers threatening to abandon the Democratic Party over their apparent apathy towards gay rights, politicians might be realizing they have no choice but to do the right thing.

So the question is who’s next?

My money is on Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, the only incumbent with worse numbers than Dodd and Corzine. Reid sports a whopping 34% favorability rating in his home state of Nevada. And just to be clear, that is five points lower than his Republican counterpart Senator John Ensign, who just admitted to an affair with his married staffer.

Unfortunately Reid is, as former Post columnist Dan Froomkin put it, “a spineless embarrassment,” who also has to deal with this guy, so no one should hold their breath. But if there’s one thing you can count on Harry Reid for, it’s a timely flip flop.

The Great Steriods/Hall of Fame Debate: Players have been cheating for more than a century

sammysosa1

Cubs great and Hall of Famer Ryne Sandberg said today that his fellow former Cubbie Sammy Sosa should not be barred from induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame because of his recent positive test in steriods:

“It’s something that’s against the law and against society,” Sandberg said. “It was cheating in the sport.
“I think it has to be spoken very loud and clear on the stance, and baseball needs to stand as they have. I’m very, very satisfied with the testing program they have in place now. For a guy who’s tested positive today under what happens now, like Manny Ramirez, it almost takes an idiot to participate in that. For the society, for the up-and-coming players and youth out there, I don’t think those guys should be recognized at all.”

Until recently, I would have agreed. In fact, my relative apathy towards baseball this year is in part due to the fact that virtually every future Hall of Famer currently playing has either already been busted for taking steroids or is under a giant cloud of suspicion. But my vehemence that all of these scammer should be banned for life subsided substantially when reading the Op-Ed page of the New York Times last week.

In it, baseball historian Zev Chavets argues not only have players always cheated at baseball, but it has been just as despicable, and more importantly, has involved most of the biggest names in the sport’s history. Now, I have always been aware of the vague allegations that players have been taking “greenies” for decades, but I did not realize, nor I’m guessing did anyone else, what else has been going on since the invention of the game. His whole column is eye popping. Here’s an excerpt:

Since the dawn of baseball, players have used whatever substances they believed would help them perform better, heal faster or relax during a long and stressful season. As far back as 1889, the pitcher Pud Galvin ingested monkey testosterone. During Prohibition, Grover Cleveland Alexander, also a pitcher, calmed his nerves with federally banned alcohol, and no less an expert than Bill Veeck, who owned several major-league teams, said that Alexander was a better pitcher drunk than sober.
In 1961, during his home run race with Roger Maris, Mickey Mantle developed a sudden abscess that kept him on the bench. It came from an infected needle used by Max Jacobson, a quack who injected Mantle with a home-brew containing steroids and speed. In his autobiography, Hank Aaron admitted once taking an amphetamine tablet during a game. The Pirates’ John Milner testified at a drug dealer’s trial that his teammate, Willie Mays, kept “red juice,” a liquid form of speed, in his locker. (Mays denied it.) After he retired, Sandy Koufax admitted the he was often “half high” on the mound from the drugs he took for his ailing left arm.

Sammy Sosa has been suspected of being the worst kind of fraud even before his test results leaked earlier this month. His bat once exploded all over the infield exposing cork he had been using to “bust out of a slump,” and in one of the most cowardly acts in perjury history, he claimed he did not speak English at the Congressional hearings on steroids, when he had been a gregarious favorite of reporters for close to a decade.

But if the sport’s philosphy has been “Anything Goes” for a century as opposed to just the last decade, then when it comes to the Hall, the standard should be should be the same: “Anyone Goes In.”

Quote of the day 6/23

And it’s a tie.

They also weren’t said today, but in the early 1970s. Unfortunately, the off-hand quips were not part of the public record until early this morning, as the National Archives released 150 more hours of White House audio tape. As a consequence, we now have two more gems to add to Richard Nixon’s treasure trove of dark and nasty quotations.

“There are times when an abortion is necessary. I know that. When you have a black and a white. Or a rape.”

“What I really think is deep down in this country, there is a lot of anti-Semitism, and all this is going to do is stir it up,” Nixon said. At another point he said, “It may be they have a death wish. You know that’s been the problem with our Jewish friends for centuries.”

Anytime Nixon is mentioned, of course, I can’t help but think of his lifelong arch nemesis Hunter S. Thompson, who wrote, among many other anti-Nixon diatribes, Nixon’s quintessential obituary entitled “He Was A Crook.” Though written in 1994–well past his prime–the eulogy still rings true, especially in light of today’s revelations. The whole piece is worth a read, but here are the final two paragraphs just to give you a sense of Thompson’s no holds barred style:

Nixon’s spirit will be with us for the rest of our lives — whether you’re me or Bill Clinton or you or Kurt Cobain or Bishop Tutu or Keith Richards or Amy Fisher or Boris Yeltsin’s daughter or your fiancee’s 16-year-old beer-drunk brother with his braided goatee and his whole life like a thundercloud out in front of him. This is not a generational thing. You don’t even have to know who Richard Nixon was to be a victim of his ugly, Nazi spirit.
He has poisoned our water forever. Nixon will be remembered as a classic case of a smart man shitting in his own nest. But he also shit in our nests, and that was the crime that history will burn on his memory like a brand. By disgracing and degrading the Presidency of the United States, by fleeing the White House like a diseased cur, Richard Nixon broke the heart of the American Dream.

Descent Into Madness

Christopher Hitchens wonders aloud about the mental stability of the ruling mullahs in Iran:

It is a mistake to assume that the ayatollahs, cynical and corrupt as they may be, are acting rationally. They are frequently in the grip of archaic beliefs and fears that would make a stupefied medieval European peasant seem mentally sturdy and resourceful by comparison.

It’s beginning to look like he has a point. It seems nothing the Supreme Leader has done can stop the people from protesting–whether he uses threats, intimidation, or outright killing. In fact, his tactics have been backfiring on him, like in the case of Neda, the unarmed girl caught on camera being gunned down by the Basij, who has become an international rallying cry.

So it’s on that note that yesterday he  not only to continued his ruthless and tyrannical crackdown on his own people, but he apparently decided to be a giant asshole about it as well.

The Iranian authorities have ordered the family of a student shot dead in Tehran to take down mourning posters as they struggle to stop her becoming the rallying point for protests against the presidential election.
Neda Salehi Agha Soltan, 26, was killed as she watched a pro-democracy protest, and mobile phone footage of her last moments have become a worldwide symbol of Iran’s turmoil.
The authorities had already banned a public funeral or wake and have prevented gatherings in her name while the state-controlled media has not mentioned Miss Soltan’s death.

Along with removing any posters of Neda and banning a public wake or funeral for her, the government also told the people they were not allowed to pray for her whatsoever.

That’s right–the Grand Ayatollah of a religious theocracy told his countrymen yesterday they weren’t allowed to pray.

Neda Agha Soltan, 27, was dubbed the Angel of Freedom after a video which appeared to show her being shot by a government sniper was posted on the internet.
Graphic scenes show Neda – her name means “the call” – walking with her father among demonstrators, then separately when she was shot as well as attempts to save her life.
The Iranian authorities have now sent out a circular to mosques banning collective prayers for the woman.

Now, the Wall Street Journal is reporting government officials are charging a “bullet fee” for the return of dead bodies killed by….the government.

Upon learning of his son’s death, the elder Mr. Alipour was told the family had to pay an equivalent of $3,000 as a “bullet fee”—a fee for the bullet used by security forces—before taking the body back, relatives said.

One has to wonder after this Basij militiaman was done going on this rampage, did he follow up by giving the car a parking ticket?

Khomeini, Khatami, and Khamenei

There have been many fascinating articles published over the last week that try to explain today’s situation in Iran through the prism of the country’s 1979 Revolution, and to better understand the situation they now face, you should read as many as you can get your hands on.

Unfortunately for the English reader, all the Kh names can get a little confusing. But it’s actually really simple. One was the Supreme Leader, one was the President, and one was the President who became the Supreme Leader. Get it? Good.

All kidding aside, know this: the key to the future of the country lies in the hands of another former President of Iran–and more importantly the current chairman of the Assembly of Experts–with an equally hard to pronounce name: Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani:

Looking past their fiery rhetoric and apparent determination to cling to power using all available means, Iran’s hardliners are not a confident bunch. While hardliners still believe they possess enough force to stifle popular protests, they are worried that they are losing a behind-the-scenes battle within Iran’s religious establishment.
A source familiar with the thinking of decision-makers in state agencies that have strong ties to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said there is a sense among hardliners 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.
“There is great apprehension among people in the supreme leader’s [camp] about what Rafsanjani may pull,” said a source in Tehran who is familiar with hardliner thinking. “They [the supreme leader and his supporters] are much more concerned about Rafsanjani than the mass movement on the streets.”

Detained Newsweek reporter just appeared on the Daily Show from Iran four days ago

Yahoo News:

WASHINGTON (AFP) – A Canadian journalist working in Iran for Newsweek magazine was detained without charge by Iranian authorities Sunday, the magazine said, adding that Maziar Bahari had not been heard from since.
Newsweek strongly condemns this unwarranted detention, and calls upon the Iranian government to release him immediately,” the New York-based weekly news magazine said in a statement.
It said Bahari, who has been living and covering Iran for the past decade, was “detained without charge by Iranian authorities and has not been heard from since.”
“Mr Bahari’s coverage of Iran, for Newsweek and other outlets, has always been fair and nuanced, and has given full weight to all sides of the issues. He has worked well with different administrations in Tehran, including the current one,” it said.
The statement noted that as many as 20 journalists and bloggers are reported to have been detained since Iran’s June 12 elections, which set off mass protests after official results gave incumbent President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad a landslide victory.

What makes this story even more curious is Mr. Bahari was featured in an interview done by Daily Show correspondent Jason Jones on his visit to Iran in the lead-up to the election. The segment just aired this past Wednesday.

In it, Mr. Bahari tries to clear up Western misconceptions about Iranians while emphasizing commonality with the United States. Of course, he does this as Jason Jones satirically tries to enforce every possible negative  stereotype Americans may have about Iran, and as you can see, Mr. Bahari more than holds his own.

I sincerely doubt that the Supreme Leader watches Comedy Central, but the timing is interesting nonetheless.

Amazing video of Iranian protestors beating back the military police

Andrew Sullivan on the most staggering footage he has seen yet:

And I’ve seen a lot. Just watch this pitched battle in the streets between a crowd and the riot police (via BBC Farsi). And watch it to the very end, as the police suddenly turn tail and run. Yes, you can hear the shouts ‘Hurrah!” and I confess I found myself yelling it at my lap-top as well. Let us hope this is a microcosm of the whole thing. Faced with so many with such determination, the will of the regime will crumble.

A final (delayed) thought on Kobe Bryant and the Lakers

kobe-bryant-lakers-vs-magic[4]

Since I can remember, I have always rooted against Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers. I cringed with disgust when Kobe threw that final alley-oop to Shaq that buried the Portland Trailblazers in 2000. I thoroughly enjoyed Phil Jackson throwing Kobe’s leadership skills under the bus in his book following his initial departure from the Lakers five years ago. And I thought the boos he has received throughout the league for years in response to his selfish play and passive-aggressive behavior towards his teammates were well deserved.

But even I cannot deny, as much as I pull for Anyone But the Lakers every season come playoff time, Kobe’s competitive spirit and fire for victory. It is second to no one. No one. This is an exchange he had with a reporter following Game 3, addressing criticism he ran out of gas in the fourth quarter:

“As far as me hitting the wall, so what if I did? I didn’t, but so what if I did?”
“What does it mean if you did?”
“It means nothing.”
“Because?”
“Because I’ll run straight through it.”

In the words of Wes Mantooth, in reference to the immortal Ron Burgundy, “At the bottom of my gut, with every inch of me, I plain, straight hate you. But dammit, do I respect you!”