Crazy in America

At the grocery checkout today, I snapped this photo of a tabloid cover:

Sarah Palin on the cover of Star

How perfect is that?! Surely Sarah Palin’s core demographic is the same segment of the population that reads supermarket tabloids!

But Palin may laugh last. Tabloid readers are voters — and there are lots of them.

Coincidentally, immediately after my shopping trip, I read a Washington Post article, “In America, Crazy Is a Preexisting Condition ,” written by Rick Perlstein.

The title refers to the healthcare protests (hence “preexisting condition” ). Perlstein argues that the craziness we’re seeing now is a perennial phenomenon in America. Actually, not quite perennial:  “the crazy tree blooms in every moment of liberal ascendancy”.

Perlstein gives a series of illustrations of his thesis. Here’s a sample:

My personal favorite? The federal government expanded mental health services in the Kennedy era, and one bill provided for a new facility in Alaska. One of the most widely listened-to right-wing radio programs in the country, hosted by a former FBI agent, had millions of Americans believing it was being built to intern political dissidents, just like in the Soviet Union.

So, crazier then, or crazier now? Actually, the similarities across decades are uncanny.


Blood continues to flow in Iran

Quote for the day:

Before this, everyone was saying the Iranian people are not ready for democracy, but we see now the Iranian people will die for democracy.

— Mohsen Makhmalbaf, a prominent Iranian filmmaker who is serving as a spokesman in the West for opposition candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi, speaking to the Washington Times.

From an interview with a student in Iran:

LN: How are the Basij trying to suppress the unrest?

Behnaz: They are beating demonstrators in a brutal fashion. They’re hitting people with heavy staves, to the head and to the stomach. Some people have been beaten to death. They have no reservations about attacking children and old people. There’s talk of a pregnant woman having been shot; she then gave birth on the street. Here in Isfahan, one person was first beaten and then thrown from a roof. I was at his funeral today [24 June]. His family can’t talk about the circumstances of his death with anyone; they’ve been threatened. I’m convinced that many more such cases will surface over time.

suppression of peaceful demonstrations in Iran

Tweets, via Andrew Sullivan:

• Govt. cracked down HARD today [referring to Wednesday — yesterday]. With force, arrests and pr campaign. Only very determined will protest tomorrow.

• Hearing indications today’s #iranelection protests are on, despite yesterday’s crackdown

• Clashes at Enghelab SQ, Spreading to Azadi St, People Pushed Back Anti-Riots Police at Jamalzade Junc. (not Conf[irmed])

More tweets, from today’s demonstrations:

• I see many ppl with broken arms/legs/heads – blood everywhere – pepper gas like war…

• saw 7/8 militia beating one woman with baton on ground – she had no defense nothing -… so many ppl arrested – young & old – they take ppl away

• just in from Baharestan Sq – situation today is terrible – they beat the ppls like animals

The number of deaths is unknown, since the Government of Iran is actively suppressing information:

Several independent sources in Tehran hospitals and clinical centres have counted the dead from Saturday at over 150; yes more than 150. Doctors have been silenced from speaking about it. In fact when less than a week before (16 June) the doctors and nurses of Rasul Hospital in west Tehran witnessed 8 killed and 28 wounded from the day’s demonstration, in their hospital, they came out on the street to inform people.

But on Bloody Saturday, the situation was totally different after Khamenei’s command to slaughter demonstrators. […] Security forces went to all the hospitals to which people themselves had brought the bodies, to gather all the wounded and dead; when paramilitary and military forces gathered the bodies, they sent them directly to military hospitals; they transmitted these bodies to their own centres too.

[…] Now, we have reports that when families went to collect the bodies of their relatives, security forces have urged them to sign appeals against Mir Hossein Mousavi and named him as responsible for the deaths of their relatives.

Utterly indifferent to human suffering:

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.

What to do with injured loved ones?

people are hoarding the injured in their homes because they’re afraid of going to hospitals

And an eyewitness account from one hospital:

I am a medical student. There was chaos at the trauma section in one of our main hospitals. Although by decree, all riot-related injuries were supposed to be sent to military hospitals, all other hospitals were filled to the rim. Last night, nine people died at our hospital and another 28 had gunshot wounds. All hospital employees were crying till dawn. They (government) removed the dead bodies on back of trucks, before we were even able to get their names or other information. […]

This morning the faculty and the students protested by gathering at the lobby of the hospital where they were confronted by plain cloths anti-riot militia, who in turn closed off the hospital and imprisoned the staff. […]

What can anyone say in face of all these atrocities? What can you say to the family of the 13 year-old boy who died from gunshots and whose dead body then disappeared?

injured man, defiant woman

A worrisome development

Andrew Sullivan is posting tweets commenting on Ayatollah Khamenei’s speech at Friday prayers. Khamenei is the Supreme Leader — he ranks higher than the President.

He has already declared President Ahmadinejad (the incumbent) the winner of the election, notwithstanding any irregularities:

Khamenei: We can talk about 1K, 100K, 1mil cheating but 11milions is not possible

This tweet is particularly worrisome:

The basij will be at Friday prayers today, their 1st public appearance in large numbers

The Basij are an unofficial police force. Whereas the regular police have been passive in their response to the mass demonstrations, the Basij have been cracking heads, and entering the homes of dissenters to arrest them.

The Basij are a tool of the Ayatollahs, but this appearance at the Friday prayers would seem to formalize their role. It’s an acknowledgement, by the clerics, that they condone the operations of the Basij.

Thus it could portend an escalation of the violent clampdown. Particularly when it is accompanied by statements like this from Khamenei, today:

Khamenei: Those politicians who make the situation chaotic, would be responsible for the bloods.

Power To The (Iranian) People

Day Five of the green revolution:  another day, another mass protest. An observer in Tehran estimated that 500,000 people marched from from Haft-e-Tir Square to Vali Asr Square.

Green Revolution, Iran, mass protest

Here are the Black Eyed Peas, sampling John Lennon’s “Power To The People” and adding their own vocals and music to the mix:

They say we want a revolution
We better get it on right away
You better get on your feet
And into the street
Power to the people …

This video gets rolling a little after the one minute mark. It’s not so dramatic. Just human voices, lifted up in protest. But Lennon would have admired their spirit.

And this video — of injured protesters, with gunfire in the near distance. Paul Wells says, “I just wanted to tip my hat to people who seek democracy in places where it’s harder than here.” My sentiments exactly.

The key to a successful revolution

Note:  i, Pundit has adopted a green header to express solidarity with the green revolution in Iran.
Today’s news from Iran, boiled down to two quotes and a photo.

First, from Michael Ledeen at pajamas media:

What’s going to happen?, you ask. Nobody knows, even the major actors. The regime has the guns, and the opposition has the numbers.

The opposition has the numbers, indeed! A photo via Paul Wells at Macleans:

Green Revolution massive protest

And the second, sobering quote, from the New York Times:

I received this note from an Iranian-American with family here: “The bottom line right now is whose violence threshold is higher? How much are the hard-liners willing to inflict to suppress the population and tell yet another generation to shut up? And how much are Moussavi and his supporters willing to stand to fulfill their dreams?”

How much violence can the regime stomach dishing out? How much violence can the people stomach absorbing? The key to a successful revolution — or a successful repression — may lie right there.


Bonus quote from Michael Ledeen. It’s a bit of a tangent, but a worthy point:

As most people have learned, the basic communiations tool is Twitter, which somehow continues to function. Bigtime Kudos to Twitter, by the way, for postponing its planned maintenance so that the Iranians can continue to Tweet. Would that Google were so solicitous of freedom. (emphasis added)

Change visits the Middle East?

I remember the collapse of the Soviet empire, the fall of the Berlin Wall, and the democratization of Poland. Those historic turning points looked a lot like current events in Iran:

What can police officers do against so many?

The first 3,000-4,000 people were met by armed forces in full riot gear and a number of Basij officials in street attire. By 4 pm, there were 100,000-200,000 people ready to attend the rally, and Mousavi, Karroubi, Khatami, Khatami’s brother, and Karbassji (former mayor of Tehran and affiliate of Rafsanjani) all showed up.

The armed forces did not engage the crowd and the crowd started to chant “arm forces, support support” i.e “nuroyeh entzammy: hemayat hemayat”.

Political and religious leaders ultimately depend on the police and the army to stifle dissent. When the police refuse to act, repression ends.

For now, the police are certainly striking wherever they can:

still hearing news about more deaths during last nights raid to dormitories and todays shootings.

more than 100 students missing from Tehran Uni dorms – reports of several dead from last night

God bless the university students, risking death to give birth to freedom and modernity in their nation.

Andrew Sullivan explains what’s at stake:

This blog has long been interested in Iran, especially in its younger generation so open to the West. Part of it is that I’ve long believed that Iran was much more likely to become a democracy than its neighboring Arab states – and that this might be the key to unwinding the clash of civilizations that was hurtling us toward apocalyptic scenarios.

Perhaps we all have a stake in the outcome of these protests.

It’s too soon to know what will result. As Laura Secor comments,

The big question is where we are:  Wenceslas Square [where Czechoslovakians protested against communist rule, successfully] or Tiananmen [where Chinese citizens protested against communist rule — and the resistance was crushed].

Tyrannical defenders of democracy

A quote from A Prayer For Owen Meany:

My Aunt Martha—like many Americans—could become quite tyrannical in the defense of democracy.

John Irving published A Prayer For Owen Meany in 1989. I guess tyranny in defence of democracy isn’t strictly a post-9/11 development.

The quote is from p. 114 in my edition of the novel.

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