Keeping Up


How to wrap your brain around this mess in Iran?  Here’s my formula:

1) Nico Pitney – an Iranian national liveblogging for the Huffington post (good video content);

2) Juan Cole at Informed Comment – he’s a Middle East expert;

3) Talking Points Memo – scroll down the front page – stories are all grouped together;

4) al Jazeera English (last, but not least).

Finally, I found this from Pitney to be very powerful – a female medical student said:

photo: Newscom/AFP

I only want to speak about what I have witnessed. I am a medical student. There was chaos last night 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. What can you even say to the people who don’t even respect the dead. No one was allowed to speak to the wounded or get any information from them. 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. The extent of injuries are so grave, that despite being one of the most staffed emergency rooms, they’ve asked everyone to stay and help–I’m sure it will even be worst tonight.

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?


Any other sources that you like?


I suppose academics will study the role of social networking and the internet in general in not just reporting on but empowering what is going on in Iran, but for now all I can say is that the coverage in the links you mentioned is just fucking amazing.

I like Pitney’s live blog a lot, and I’m trying to free up time today to read the others.

Did you see this on Pitney? 12:00 PM ET — Seriously? GOP Rep. Pete Hoekstra, ranking Republican on the intelligence committee, tweets: “Iranian twitter activity similar to what we did in House last year when Republicans were shut down in the House.” From reader John.

@Dodgerblue: Pitney especially – I just keep hitting refresh.

@blogenfreude: The video at 12:14 is my fave. Not only does it provide helpful subtitles that appear as cartoon thought balloons, but at 6 seconds in a guy walks by the camera in a Troy Polamalu jersey! Football hooligans, indeed.

I can’t play it for some reason – I have “Invalid Parameters”. Funny, that’s what it said in my high school yearbook.


Next on twitter Hoekstra opines:

“Warsaw uprising in ’44 similar to our attempted filibuster of Sonia Sotomayor.”

Here’s something I don’t understand: Are international election observers permitted in Iran? If so, why were none present? If not, why? Isn’t that why we have, you know, the UN and such?

@mellbell: I think the country in question has to permit them to monitor.

OT – go watch this video – literally tens of insane people showed up to demand that David Letterman be fired. I hope none of them live near me.

Isn’t that why we have, you know, the UN and such?

Allegedly, but the UN is largely useless unless a country/dictator chooses to recognize their authority.

Damn. Pitney:

1:09 PM ET — 32 reported dead. The National Iranian American Council passes on the latest report on casualties by a trusted Iranian human rights organization.

@mellbell: No monitors, no permission.

Which raises a related question I could easily research, were I not swamped reading blogs: Does Iran permit IAEA monitors to peek at their nukes?

(And right on cue, the BBC has a new interview with the IAEA chief citing a gut feeling that Iran is nuke-bound. But that’s not really news, and the story doesn’t mention monitors.)

@blogenfreude: That would be the first well-sourced casualty count I’ve seen. And Mousavi’s called for a day of mourning at the mosques tomorrow.

I don’t know what number is the tipping point, but there comes a moment when the body count is too high for the protesters to stand down. And I fear the outcome is not revolution, but civil war.

@mellbell: As noted, the UN has to be invited. Electoral observers are more often than not organized either privately (see Carter, Jimmy) or through the EU, African Union or similar regional body, but always with agreement of the country in question. UN m0nitored elections are the exception rather than the rule.

@blogenfreude: Damn. Pitney

I had a wan hope (yes, wan is not the loneliest adjective in nojoland) that CNN would step up to the plate after the grown-ups returned to work Monday. But it was no better than the shameful weekend coverage, and I gave up on them.

Pitney & Sully & the NYT Lede blog are showing that you can aggregate and sort through the flood of raw intelligence — for that’s what Twitter has become — and take some educated guesses where the truth lies. Maybe you’re not reporting with traditional double-sourced accuracy, but you’re making informed judgments about the quality of information coming in, and presenting it with appropriate caveats: Here’s what we think we know.

CNN could easily do that with an army of experts guided by a well-grounded anchor. But instead, they’re caught up reading viewer tweets on air, which needlessly adds a lot of noise to the signal.

@blogenfreude: What is PETA’s position on mosquito abatement? Or are they pro-malaria?

Out of the shadows:

Iran’s most powerful military force is warning online media of a crackdown over their coverage of the country’s election crisis.

The Revolutionary Guards, an elite body answering to the supreme leader, says Iranian Web sites and bloggers must remove any materials that “create tension” or face legal action.

It is the Guards’ first public statement since the crisis erupted following the presidential election last Friday.

This is significant. Most of the violence we’ve seen has been attributed to the Basij, a “volunteer militia” controlled by the Revolutionary Guard, but not the Guard proper. Although the Guard warned last week against a “velvet revolution,” that was the last we’ve officially heard from them.

Now they’re starting to show their hand. The “warning” may not be in itself dire, but it’s something to note.

Sully: “I wonder if Hitchens will have to qualify his assertion that religion poisons everything.”

That’s twice he’s pulled that move, and it’s no different than the neocons he rightfully criticizes for (get ready) miscontextualizing the situation to score ideological points. Point of fact: People are protesting against a stolen election.

Or maybe that’s what Sully means when he quotes Orwell: “To see what is in front of one’s nose needs a constant struggle.” Well, no it doesn’t. Unless you’re inclined to distortion.

@nojo: Pitney:

The comedians of Iran. From reader Justin:

I spoke with my father last night who is [in Iran]… [He] told me the common sentiment among the protestors is that of incredible resolve. He said that from what he’s heard, this will not stop until the Ayatollah himself is overthrown. As he put it, “Even if a million people (Moussavi supporters) die, they will not back down”. And my father being a comedian from day one, also summed up the whole situation very eloquently…..”Only in Iran!”

Sounds like they’re not backing down.

@blogenfreude: Or running out of steam.

Thursday’s being treated as a day of mourning for the martyrs, and you might as well pencil in Friday at that point. Emotions are running very high, and a string of days with hundreds of thousands of protesters in the streets gathers its own momentum.

Vague thought in the back of my mind: The Revolutionary Guard not only has the guns, they also own about a third of the economy. Even though they backed the pipsqueak, rampant inflation can’t be good for business, and as rulers from Rome on know, it’s easier to control the populace if you throw some crumbs their way.

Mousavi was backed as the “reform” candidate because organizers saw him as their best opportunity to win, not because he has any progressive cred. He wouldn’t burn down the house, just remodel a couple of rooms.

So: While the Guard is now starting to make ominous noises, I can’t help but wonder whether they’ll go all realpolitik on us and switch sides. One of many possibilities still on the table, until options start being limited by events.


You’re gonna love this: Iran Crisis Temporarily Disrupts CNN’s Jon and Kate Coverage

CNN apologized to viewers last night after a story about the political crisis in Iran temporarily disrupted its 24-hour coverage of the “Jon and Kate Plus 8” reality show.

The disruption occurred during a broadcast of “Larry King Live” in which the host, Larry King, who was interviewing comedian Kathy Griffin about “Jon and Kate” at the time, inexplicably tossed to a story about Iran instead.

Viewers were forced to watch a story about the political unrest in Iran for several minutes before CNN returned to its regular programming.

CNN sources revealed that the network was “flooded” with calls from viewers outraged about the unprecedented disruption of its “Jon and Kate” coverage.

Is funny ’cause it’s true!!

A few weeks ago, I was at the grocery store, and I realized that pop “kulchah” has officially passed me by–I didn’t recognize anyone on the covers of the weekly scandal rags(!).

I have no idea what “Jon & Kate Plus 8” is, and more importantly, I don’t wanna know.

@blogenfreude: Okay.

1. Damn you for taking me to TMZ

2. PETA has zilch about this on their site that I can find.


3. I bought the damned book about Ivan Desinovitch or whatevs. ADD: Yes, through nojo’s beer fund link.

4. I’m following madyar, persiankiwi and mousavi1388 on Twitter. They are having proxy server issues, like, the servers are being shut down immediately. I haven’t check Twitter for a few hours, so I don’t know if they’re still on. Also using #iranelection.

@Original Andrew: Andy Borowitz shoots, he scores!

I learned at 40 that my vast encyclopedia of pop-culture knowledge was suddenly useless — that there was an entire generation ahead of me with completely different references. I retired Gilligan’s Island that moment, and have rarely returned to it in ten years.

But my fear of descending into Golden Oldie Hell goes back much further. Which is why I cling to Entertainment Weekly, just so I’m not entirely clueless.

@Original Andrew: I only know because they compete with funnel cakes and scrapple in the Jeopardy category “Pennsylvania Indulgences You Can Do Without”. Cristina Aguilera used to be in there until she became, like, pretty hot.

@nojo: The other thing that gots me a-wondering is whether Ahmadinejad’s departure for his summit with Russia will lead to an extended holiday that ends with him in exile in Switzerland, or if they’re just keeping him outside the country so he doesn’t leave any matches on the dry tinder.

@Nabisco: His Russian sojourn was pre-scheduled, and there’s narrative merit in keeping up appearances — staying home would have shown that he’s worried.

But I’ve also been thinking about Zhao Ziyang, who took an ill-timed visit to North Korea during Tiananmen. Result: Upon his return, he spent the rest of his life under house arrest.

So yeah, the neighbor and I have been wondering whether Ahmadinejad finds himself a comfy dacha on the Black Sea.

Pitney (2:51 EST):

“We warn the few elements controlled by foreigners who try to disrupt domestic security by inciting individuals to destroy and to commit arson that the Islamic penal code for such individuals waging war against God is execution,” [Senior Prosecutor] Habibi said, according to the Fars news agency. It was not clear if his warning applied only to Isfahan or the country as a whole, Reuters said.

@nojo: Never really read it, but it gets the benefit of the doubt because (a) Stephen King is an occasional contributor and (b) it seems way less sleazy than either People or US Weekly.


Entertainment Weakly is an omen of denial ’cause all entertainment will be pron in the very near future.

Poorly produced “reality” pron, I might add.

Fun fun fun, from one of Sully’s readers:

Famed film director, Mohsen Makhmalbaf, on behalf of Mousavi’s campaign, was on BBC just now, He accused Ahamdinejad of giving up Iran’s rights in Caspian Sea and other areas in the last 4 years and now is enjoying Russia’s firm backing. Then he called it a Russian Coup! He said he has information that high ranking Russian advisers are teaching Ahmadinejad’s thugs as to how to oppress the opposition effectively.

As Sully notes later, you don’t take an accusation like this at face value. Instead, you’re setting up a counter-narrative that Ahmadinejad is under the control of foreign agents. Don’t know how that plays in the street, but I’ll be adding it to my Agitprop Handbook.

A continuation of the “Great Game” II.

Central Asian intrigue.

@nojo: Ask your friend, but in my experience some Iranians are as prone to hyperbole and tin foil hat conspiracies as other Shrieking Sheilas ™.


I’m personally doing a pretty good job lining the pockets of Reynolds Wrap.

@Nabisco: Yes they are — the earlier line was that foreigners were being brought in to assist the overworked Basij.

But again, the point isn’t whether Famed Film Director is correct. Instead, propaganda cuts both ways. Perceptions matter.

@nojo: I didn’t read the entry carefully enough (damn work!). Indeed, it is the old “it doesn’t matter if it is true or not, make him deny it” ploy, and counters rather deftly the current party line that US America is somehow pulling the strings for Mousavi.

Damn, sure is good that the Axis of Evil has complex political theater to follow, because we’re kind of played out over here!

So I’m at this grassroots organization’s meeting last Saturday and this guy calling himself a “community organizer” is complaining about how difficult it is to get the message out to the community because the corporate MSM is agin ’em. He then turns his head toward the section of the room where those of us who don’t remember Woodstock were sitting and said with tremendous condescension that we could forget about facebook and the like because “the revolution will not be twittered.”

I really, really wish I knew how to contact him right now.

Geek notes from OpenNet Initiative, via HuffPo:

Over the past eight years, the number of Internet users in Iran has grown at an average annual rate of approximately 48 percent, increasing from under one million Internet users in 2000 to around 23 million in 2008. This rate of growth is higher than any other country in the Middle East. Internet users now account for approximately 35 percent of the population of Iran…

In October 2006, the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology (MICT) issued an order that appears to have been designed to thwart household access to broadband Internet, forbidding ISPs from providing Internet connectivity to households and public Internet access points at speeds greater than 128 kilobytes per second…

Commercial ISPs in Iran that offer Internet connectivity to the public are required to connect via the state-controlled Telecommunication Company of Iran (TCI). ONI research corroborates that ISPs offering Internet service to the public all connect via TCI…

Iran has promoted the development of domestic tools and technical capacity to carry out Internet filtering in order to reduce its reliance of Western technologies.

In other words: All land-based Internet goes through government routers, with government filters, at speeds dictated by the government. It’s the Great Firewall of Iran, and it’s impressive how much still gets out despite the control.

@Jamie Sommers: He didn’t give out his pager number?

@nojo: It’s the Great Firewall of Iran, and it’s impressive how much still gets out despite the control. Microsoft is still working on the security patches.

@Jamie Sommers: I’ll cut him just a little slack. Or maybe not. While the use of Facebook by Mousavi supporters was noted before the election, it wasn’t until Facebook access (and cell texting) was cut off that Twitter suddenly came into play.

On the other hand: Those Prop 8 vigils that suddenly sprang up around California last November? Facebook.

Translation from an Allah O Akbar video, from HuffPo:

The woman in this video is saying something that really touched me. She is saying that they can take our phones, our internet, all our communication away, but we are showing that by saying “allaho akbar” we can find each other. She ends it my saying that tonight they are crying out to god for help.

This crossed my mind the other night, and at the risk of being profoundly off-key: It’s the Twilight Bark from 101 Dalmatians.

@Nabisco: No, but he did give out his CB handle.

@nojo: This guy must have worked for Hillbot’s campaign last year. And learned nothing.

Another geek note: Most of what we’re seeing on YouTube are cellphone videos — in some vids, you can see everyone holding up their phones to the action.

I haven’t seen a point to cellphone video (nor Twitter, for that matter) until now, but under the circumstances, it’s striking: There’s the sheer convenience of toting your phone to the demonstration (as opposed to wielding a bulkier camera), and the inherent short length (and consequent small file size) of such video makes it easier to post to YouTube over those choked Internet connections.

So, word to the community organizer: Use all the tools of communication at your disposal. You — like me — might be surprised at their value.

@Jamie Sommers: He loses points for being a general douche, for being a troglodyte, for being a snotty-ass hippie and for bitin’ Gil Scott-Heron.


ADD: Ham radio? Passenger pigeon? Clairvoyance?

ADDD: Tin cups and string?

We had a ham radio operator in the neighborhood until the dude died. Fucking antenna made it look like the local NSA outpost. Not a covert means of communication at all. Plus that, all the geeks can get special license plates here in NM with their call signs punched into the metal by an inmate or whoever makes ’em these days. Most of them have big ass whip antennae on their old school Land Rovers or whatever looking like they’re off to fight Rommel in the desert.

@Jamie Sommers: BBS and CompuServe. Dude is still fighting research grants for ARPANET. Make sure your message is compatible with Eudora.

@nojo: I shot concert footage recently on my phone – not hi-def mind you, but suitable to show off to all my friends that I was this close to Mike Watt’s flop sweat – so I can understand the utility. The bouncers always check ladies’ bags going in, but they never ever confiscate cellphones.

Oh, and since I was a late adopter of the iPhone: free upgrade this week to the 3GS (with video)! The revolution will be phonecammed.

ADD: @redmanlaw: I still have Eudora on one of our home ‘puters.

@Jamie Sommers:

I love liberal thought and action, but liberals themselves give me the screaming hab-dabs sometimes.

@Tommmcatt doesn’t mind if he doesn’t make the scene: Granted, but Sully forgets that the dude in charge also carries the title of Ayatollah. Oh, and that the country fancies itself the “Islamic Republic of Iran.”

This just isn’t the moment for him to be scoring points against Hitch. Even if he’s right about the sincere faith of the folks in the street — and I have no reason to object — that’s not their issue with the stolen election.

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