6/30/09

Our Long National Nightmare Is Over? [Update: Yes]

The Minnesota Supreme Court rules that Alan Stuart Franken is the winner of the 2008 senate race.

But will Norm Coleman concede? Update: Coleman concedes.

6/29/09

150 Years For Madoff

Bernard Madoff, the rogue financier who literally made billions of dollars disappear, received the maximum sentence allowed for his crimes today after a hearing that lasted only an hour and a half. Madoff had already pleaded guilty in March.

The New York Times reports that in handing down the sentence, Judge Denny Chin declared "no friends, family or other supporters had submitted any letters on Mr. Madoff’s behalf, attesting to the strength of his character or good deeds he had done."

An excellent Frontline documentary about Madoff details the scandal, including the many investigations that somehow failed to catch him. It provides a window, already closing, into a world of wealth that, like the stratosphere itself, is all but invisible.

6/28/09

Pride



Just to add to Madison's post, here are some well written pieces about the significance of Stonewall:
Michael Hamill Remaley
Frank Rich
The Advocate
Lucian K. Truscott IV

Iranian Poeple Take To The Streets Once More



Just this morning the Los Angeles Times declared, "The streets of Tehran are quiet once again." But what seemed to be extinguished has begun to burn anew.

The New York Times reports:
In spite of all the threats, the overwhelming show of force and the nighttime raids on private homes, protesters still flowed into the streets by the thousands on Sunday to demonstrate in support of Mr. Moussavi.

Mr. Moussavi, who has had little room to act but has refused to fold under government pressure, had earlier received a permit to hold a ceremony at the Ghoba mosque to honor Mohammad Beheshti, one of the founders of the 1979 revolution who died in a bombing on June 28, 1981, that killed dozens of officials. Mr. Moussavi used the anniversary as a pretense to call a demonstration, and by midday the streets outside the elaborately tiled mosque were filled with protesters, their arms jabbing the air, their fingers making a V symbol, for victory.
Meanwhile, many of the on-the-ground the sources of information have gone silent. Persiankiwi, one of most prolific and trusted of the Twitterers inside Tehran, has possibly been detained. Nico Pitney reports that another Twitterer claiming to be Persiankiwi has popped up, but no one could verify the authenticity of this claim. The Iranian authorities are known to have used Twitter and other forms of new media for disinformation purposes.

The disinformation campaign inside Iran continues with televised confessions; arrests of not only reporters, but Iranians working for British embassy; and even what the Los Angeles Times calls "the Orwellian twist taken by state and pro-government news media." Apparently Iranian news is reporting that Neda Agha-Soltan--the protestor who was fatally shot, her cell-phone-recorded image broadcast round the world--was a Basiji volunteer whose murder was arranged by the BBC.

40 Years Ago

In honor of the 40th Anniversary of Stonewall, a quote from an earlier post by Kiljan Zane Pyry about the current state of the struggle for LGBT rights:
While other factions of the GLBT community have fought tirelessly to empower themselves and join the larger movement, there continues to be a co-opting and morphing that happens to the narratives of divergent bodies. For example, the conflict at Stonewall has become a national story of resistance for gay and lesbians. The Pride celebrations that take place in June are scheduled loosely around the anniversary of the uprising. What very few resources on the subject will reveal is that the people who fought against the police at Stonewall were primarily homeless transgender youth of color who were completely fed up with the impossibility of survival.
And an acknowledgment of that very history that we found in a surprising place:

The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Jim Fouratt
www.colbertnation.com
Colbert Report Full EpisodesPolitical HumorMark Sanford

6/27/09

Did Justice Help Reelect Renzi?

An article by Maurice Waas in The Hill provides even more evidence of how the Bush administration dangerously politicized judicial proceedings to benefit a Republican congressman running for reelection.
In the fall of 2006, one day after the Justice Department granted permission to a U.S. attorney to place a wiretap on a Republican congressman suspected of corruption, existence of the investigation was leaked to the press — not only compromising the sensitive criminal probe but tipping the lawmaker off to the wiretap.

...the disinformation leaked to media outlets in October 2006 had the desired effect: Renzi won reelection by the narrowest of margins.
(Hat tip: Scott Horton)

6/26/09

So You Want To Be A Rock 'n' Roll Star

The Byrds, 1973:

6/25/09

A Quick Note On "New" Media's Effect on "Old"

It first occurred to me during the coverage of the Iranian uprising, but it seemed too trifling a thing to mention in that context: new media--tweets, Flickr photos, YouTube videos, Facebook posts and blogs--have fundamentally altered the "old" print journalism, including its online incarnation.

A few clumsily-edited cut-and-pasted articles appeared on the New York Times website as it sought to constantly update its stories, not as events on the ground unfolded, but as they could be confirmed (a word unknown to the purveyors of instant punditry and para-reporting). Striking a curious balance between web-friendly, up-t0-the-minute coverage and classic, old-media due diligence, the Times kept revising its front-page stories on Iran in real time.

Presumably, this is part of a broader campaign to remain relevant in a blog-based news cycle fueled in part by the viral qualities of a "Web 2.0" world.

Today, trying to compete with this even-more-instant-than-TV news cycle, the Times rushed to publish a piece on the death of Michael Jackson. The article sports a sentence fragment--"A young cancer patient who claimed the singer had befriended him and then sexually fondled him at his Neverland estate near Santa Barbara, Calif."--and then this muddled message: "Mr. Jackson had been scheduled to perform a 50 concerts in at the O2 arena London beginning next month and continuing into 2010."

The rest of the article contains more stylistic slips: repetitious sentences, run-on sentences with clumsy conjunctions ("...and the ranch became his sanctum"), and other errors rarely seen in the ink edition of the Times.

It's a little thing, really, but one wonders how else the electronic news era will affect the ink establishment.

Long Live The King

6/24/09

Media Blackout in Iran


The New York Times reports that "hundreds of protesters clashed with waves of riot police and paramilitary militia in Tehran on Wednesday." Other reports place the number closer to a thousand.

The article continues: "It was impossible to confirm first-hand the extent of the new violence in the capital because of draconian new press restrictions on coverage of the post-election mayhem."

From an interview on CNN (via the Guardian's News Blog), an eyewitness account of Wednesday's brutal crackdown on the demonstrators at Baharestan Square outside the national Parliament building:
The black-clad police stopped everyone. They emptied the buses that were taking people there and let the private cars go on. We went on until Ferdowsi then all of a sudden some 500 people with clubs came out of [undecipherable] mosque and they started beating everyone. They tried to beat everyone on [undecipherable] bridge and throwing them off of the bridge. And everyone also on the sidewalks. They beat a woman so savagely that she was drenched in blood and her husband, he fainted. They were beating people like hell. It was a massacre.
Meanwhile The Tweets coming out of Iran, as aggregated by Andrew Sullivan of The Atlantic, have become increasingly alarming:
they catch ppl with mobile - so many killed today - so many injured - Allah Akbar - they take one of us

in Baharestan we saw militia with axe choping ppl like meat - blood everywhere - like butcher - Allah Akbar

Everybody is under arrest & cant move - Mousavi - Karroubi even rumour Khatami is in house guard
The New York Times reports that phone calls from Iran confirm the use of live ammunition at Baharestan Square. "Lalezar Sq is same as Baharestan - unbelevable - ppls murdered everywhere," one Twitter user wrote.

"Neither the establishment nor the nation will yield to pressure at any cost," Ayatollah Khamenei said on state television.

A compilation video of the unrest--as recorded by individuals using cell phones--is available here, from The Guardian.

6/23/09

"The Great Backlash"



A well-argued if sometimes implausible argument for why 1979, not 1968 or 1989, was the epochal, sea-change year of the modern era (politically, culturally, economically), written by Christian Caryl for Foreign Policy.

6/22/09

"A Massive, Massive, Massive Police Presence"

The New York Times is reporting that a massive police presence has all but silenced the opposition in Tehran. Roger Cohen, reporting from Tehran, writes that, "Elite riot police with thigh-length black leg guards, helmeted Revolutionary Guards in green uniforms and rifle-touting snipers composed a panoply of menace." A few hundred to a thousand protesters remain where, by some reports, there were once hundreds of thousands.

The unelected Guardian Council, charged with certifying the election, has declared that the election is valid "despite an admission... that the number of votes cast in 50 cities exceeded the actual number of voters."

The Times goes on to report:
Abbas Ali Kadkhodaei, the spokesman for the 12-member Guardian Council... said that a voter turnout in excess of the registered voting list was a "normal phenomenon" because people could legally vote in areas other than those in which they were registered. Nonetheless, some analysts in Tehran said, the number of people said to be traveling on election day seemed unusually high.
Could the voting irregularities be attributing to a massive voter movement campaign, busing in votes to all but guarantee the outcome?

Nate Silver, election analyst extraordinaire, thinks that the Guardian Council has essentially admitted to election fraud, but he doesn't consider the possibility of vote rigging by busing.

Roger Cohen perhaps sums up the emotions best:
I believe the loss of trust by millions of Iranians who’d been prepared to tolerate a system they disliked, provided they had a small margin of freedom, constitutes the core political earthquake in Iran. Moderates who once worked the angles are now muttering about making Molotov cocktails and screaming their lungs out after dusk.

6/21/09

Crimson Gold

The Meaning of Consensus

Marc Ambinder has a great piece on President Obama's methods and possible reasons for the seemingly slow pace of change. It is a great reminder of just how much things have changed already--and how much more is at stake. Ambinder explains what he sees as Obama's methodology and the meaning of consensus:
It isn't simply that Obama feels constrained by political realities in Congress, although that's part of it. It's that he believes that the best way to accomplish the most change is to let Congress legislate and let the President build public support for the end product, which still conforms to the goals that Obama laid out during his campaign. Don't confuse bipartisanship with consensus; bipartisanship refers to outcomes, and the outcome here won't be liked by Republicans. Consensus refers to the process and to the way in which the public perceives the issue.
Does this explain the lack of movement on LGBT issues? Somewhat, but it still doesn't excuse the administration's recent actions and inactions. Especially since the vast majority of the public is already behind a repeal of the military's misguided Don't Ask Don't Tell policy.

6/19/09

Life and Nothing More

For the Warriors, Whose Strength Is Not to Fight

Bob Dylan sings "Chimes of Freedom" at the Newport Folk Festival in 1964.

6/18/09

Breathing Out



...listen do you hear the darkness blowing?
something is passing in the night
the moon is restless and red
and over this rooftop
where crumbling is a constant fear
clouds, like a procession of mourners
seem to be waiting for the moment of rain.
a moment
and then nothing
night shudders beyond this window
and the earth winds to a halt
beyond this window
something unknown is watching you and me.

- Forugh Farrokhzad, The Wind Will Take Us

In the past six days, those who constantly refreshed their Twitter feeds and reloaded the #iranelection hash tags, turned the medium, Twitter and social networks in general, into the message. Thanks to, of all people, The Falun Gong, the Iranian state has been unable to disconnect its people from the world, even if, at times, Westerners projected a rosier version of the situation.

How to digest all of this? For one, Twitter and global digital interconnectedness aside, President Obama handled his first 3:00 A.M. phone call well. In a well written Op-Ed in today's New York Times, John Kerry wrote:
If we actually want to empower the Iranian people, we have to understand how our words can be manipulated and used against us to strengthen the clerical establishment, distract Iranians from a failing economy and rally a fiercely independent populace against outside interference. Iran’s hard-liners are already working hard to pin the election dispute, and the protests, as the result of American meddling. On Wednesday, the Iranian Foreign Ministry chastised American officials for “interventionist” statements. Government complaints of slanted coverage by the foreign press are rising in pitch.

We can’t escape the reality that for reformers in Tehran to have any hope for success, Iran’s election must be about Iran — not America. And if the street protests of the last days have taught us anything, it is that this is an Iranian moment, not an American one.

America, just this once, needs to back off. Surely suggestive tones can be inferred and tech-savvy millenials can imply who Americans side with. But bravado, backed-up by apocalyptic rhetoric and militaristic threats, are a thing of the past: a calm, measured quietude may be the best medicine.

If you, like me, have been scouring the internet for images and texts of this incredible moment, here are some very worthy ones:
- Well known to A Shout In The Street readers, Andrew Sullivan's blog for The Atlantic
- Nico Pitney at The Huffington Post
- An interview with filmmaker and Mousavi spokesman Mohsen Makhmalbaf
- Channel 4 news
- #iranelection on Twitter
- an excellent Bloggingheads talk with Reza Aslan and Eli Lake
- Revolutionary Road, an invaluable blog by Saeed Valadbaygi
- ahriman46's YouTube channel, in many ways a reblogging of previously posted videos.
- Tehran Live

Image at the top by Flicker user Hamed

Non-violence and New Media

Considering the efficacy of the strategy of peaceful resistance used by Iran's demonstrat0rs, Yglesias writes:
The reality is that modern military technology makes it extraordinarily difficult to actually defeat a state on the battlefield. An [sic] dissident movement just isn’t going to be able to be able to [sic] blow up tanks and airplanes. Under the circumstances, strategic nonviolence is a vital tactic. If you were to try to fight the security forces—shoot some policemen, say—you’d encourage a more serious crackdown. It’s through nonviolent resistance that you heighten the psychological contradictions, and encourage the regime and its enforcers to blink. From the Velvet Revolution to Tiananmen Square to the Orange Revolution to what’s happening today in Iran, the brave dissidents are essentially daring the security forces to beat or kill them. The bet is that when push comes to shove, people in the Iranian security forces have some humane and patriotic instincts and will recoil from the idea of using mass violence against their fellow citizens. And it’s a terrifying bet. We’ve seen time and again that it’s a bet that often pays off, but as we learned in China 20 years ago there are no guarantees.
Yglesias is correct in recognizing that non-violence is often a more effective strategy than armed resistance, but he gets the reasons wrong.

It's not that non-violent demonstrators are daring security forces to not respond with violence, they are pushing them to act violently, revealing the illegitimacy of the regime and the severity of its repression. No one in Selma, Alabama believed that the white police--wielding clubs, tear gas and worse--were going to spontaneously see the error of their ways. The non-violent demonstrators had to push the police, through their very peaceful resistance itself, to act in such a manner that could not be mistaken for anything but brutal repression. The point is to create conflict that the world will find unconscionable.

It's important to note that the demonstrators don't necessarily create the violence; they create a situation in which it will be impossible to ignore the violence that has always been there, but was previously invisible.

In order for this strategy to work, however, you need a free press. Tienanmen Square didn't happen because the Chinese dissenters failed to create an empathetic response in the Chinese soldiers. Tienanmen happened because the Chinese regime assumed--correctly--that they could successfully use such a high level of repression without disturbing the balance of power. Today, barely anyone in China knows about Tienanmen. Someone I know, watching a BBC broadcast in Beijing on the anniversary of Tienanmen Square, saw the screen go blank at the first mention of the event. The program resumed as soon as the piece was over. Likewise, the Chinese regime remains perfectly content with the violent repression of the Tibetans and the Uighur people in the west. With no free press, there is no accountability.

What is so remarkable about the Iranian situation is that it seems new media have taken the place of the free press. Some foreign journalists are doing very good and very brave work, no doubt--Twitter alone does not a newswire make--but the flood of videos, photos and first-hand accounts has kept the movement very alive and very bright in the world's spotlight.

The Iranian dissidents have taught us all a lesson in non-violent resistance in the 21st century.

This post was written with the help of Emily Singer, based laregly on her reading of Walking With the Wind: A Memoir of the Movement, by John Lewis and Michael D'Orso.

6/17/09

Web 2.0 Counterattack

It seems that Iran has launched a disinformation campaign via Twitter. A list of the possible spy-tweeters can be found at Twitspam.

(Hat-tip: New York Times' blog, the Lede, which has been an invaluable source of up-to-the-minute information during the Iranian demonstrations).

6/15/09

Twitter


Overnight--and in 140 characters or less--Iranian protesters have changed the face of dissent.

http://twitter.com/mousavi1388/status/2184418876

http://andrewsullivan.theatlantic.com/the_daily_dish/2009/06/livetweeting-the-revolution.html

Image by Flickr user hapal.

6/14/09

End It... Again


Force feeding, although widely regarded as torture and a violation of Common Article 3 of the Geneva conventions, is still being practiced at Guantanamo Bay.

Here, Luke Mitchell asks the hard questions of Cynthia Smith, spokesperson for Dr. Ward Casscells, assistant secretary of defense for health affairs, whose term ended in April but has yet to be replaced.

How are we to reconcile an answer like this:
DoD takes very seriously its obligation to provide humane treatment, which includes protecting detainees’ physical and mental health and providing appropriate treatment for disease, guided by professional judgments and standards similar to those applied to personnel of the U.S. Armed Forces.
with a description like this, from Mitchell's article in the July issue of Harper's Magzine?
...Ahmed Ghap pour, an attorney with the human-rights group Reprieve, which represents thirty-one detainees at Guantánamo, told Reuters that prison officials were “over-force-feeding” hunger strikers, who were suffering from diarrhea as they sat tied to their chairs. He said in some cases officials were lacing the nutrient shakes with laxatives.
Where is everyone on this?

Pictured above: force feeding kit used at Guantanamo Bay. Pentagon photo in the public domain.
Thanks to Wikimedia.

6/9/09

Kandinsky/Obama

6/8/09

President Obama: Foodie



The world, it seems, wants what he's having.

6/2/09

Randall Terry and I



If the murder of Dr. George Tiller this past weekend has taught us anything, it's that the culture war fights of the 1990s are not over. Lake of Fire, a magnificent documentary about the climate of the abortion fight in the 1990s, chronicles the culture war arguments which include Tiller's. The abortion battle seems to flare up at the beginning of every incoming presidency, though especially at the beginning of the previous Democratic one and our current one. Also featured in Lake of Fire, and unfortunately in the news this past weekend, was Randall Terry, founder of Operation Rescue and pro-life activist. He popped up in the news in 2005, when Terry Schiavo's husband was allowed to remove her from a vegetative state and pass away. Randall Terry spoke on behalf of Schiavo's parents, who did not support her right to die.

In the 1990s, for those who lived in Upstate New York, the name Randall Terry was a familiar one. His residence was in Windsor, NY and his church was in Binghamton. He ran against Maurice Hinchey for the House and lost. His Operation Rescue protests were frequent and heated. For some reason, Binghamton was an epicenter for anti-abortion protests, though no violent incidents occurred here. His family were active members of the community, some of which were friends with my friends, whose parents were part of the church Terry was a part of.

My one encounter with Terry, however, is more anecdotal. I was a video store clerk in high school and in early college, where I developed my skepticism for corporate work and the establishment in general; I suppose that's why I accepted a managerial promotion. I would see Terry's family come in to the store, often renting children's movies or your typical PG-rated fare, though titles or specifics escape me. Around Easter of 2000, Terry came in alone. I recognized him and, admittedly, hoped he'd make some snide comment about how the content of the store, as mediocre as it was, was skewed against his values. Frequently, people would say such things. After a few minutes, Terry came to me and asked for one title:

"Where is your copy of Ben-Hur?"

Pointing to the Classics section, I replied "It should be here, sir." Walking over, I realized that the copy was not there and in fact the display box, which would indicate if the copy was rented or not, was missing. "I'll be right back, sir."

I walked to the computers, conveniently using Windows 95, and did a search. The copy, it turns out, was destroyed in a VCR and a replacement copy had not arrived. Explaining this to Mr. Terry, he looked at me, then wearing squarish glasses much like this picture, and scoffed. He placed his hands on his hips and promptly left.

Indeed, Terry would be censured from his church that year and would in 2001 divorce his wife and leave the Binghamton area. For residents of Binghamton, it's not often that our little city is thrust into the spotlight; it's even less likely that we see a familiar face on the news as often as we see Terry's. It's regrettable that Terry's language this week, while denouncing the brutal death of Dr. Tiller in his church, also called Tiller a "mass murderer." It's this tone-deaf radicalism that paralyzes both the far right and left and spins the wheels of 24 hour news and dead-tree op-eds. I almost feel a bit responsible for Terry's words, even if they are as far from mine as possible, just because he resided in the same city as me and walked the same streets. Back then, in my perpetual Ghost World stupor, I found Terry to be some kind of caricature from another world. I suppose I'm beginning to feel that way once more.

6/1/09

Today's Franken Fix

They're still slugging it out in the courts to see who gets to represent the great state of Minnesota in the US Senate for the next six years--or what's left of it at the end of the legal proceedings. The Los Angeles Times ran this very informative opinion piece about the process and the way to proceed after today's court hearing.