Voting is Dangerous Sean Penn has switched careers: He is now a journalist. And his first assignment (we can consider his visit to Iraq more of a warm up to his current assignment) is to cover the elections in Iran which will take place on Friday. But covering elections in a country that only has show elections is dangerous. While covering a protest by women who claim to have lost political power after the downfall of the Shah at Tehran University Penn was briefly detained.
Chants and taunts grew louder and police surrounded the demonstrators and pushed people who were trying to join the group. In addition, authorities cut off cell phone service in the area and challenged reporters observing the protest.
Authorities briefly seized the video camera of Penn, reported Editor & Publisher.
For it's part, Iran is vowing to show the US that it's government is legitimate by promising a large turnout. However, pro-Democracy groups in Iran are vowing not to give Iran this kind of political victory: they are planning to boycott the election.
As the [women's] protest ended, another began on the other side of the street calling for a boycott of the election, to be contested by eight candidates who were approved by a clerical watchdog.
The problem they see is that those elected have no power compared to the unelected Supreme Council.
Ruling clerics are trying to consolidate their power following the departure of reformist President Mohammad Khatami, who is barred from seeking another term. Khatami came to power in a popular landslide in 1997, but hardline clerics led by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei have succeeded in stifling his program for political and social reform.
Still, some believe they have no choice and that to have any influence on the government they must participate. But according to the Student Movement Coordination Committee for Democracy in Iraq, lesser known Resistance leaders are being "suicided"
The body of a young man who was hanged from a tree has been found in the rebellious City of Eslamshahr which is one of the poor suburbs of the Iranian Capital.
Authorities are declaring the cause of death as "suicide" which is one of the most common labels used by the Islamic regime in order to justify the murders of its non-famous opponents.
The name of this new victim has been announced as "Esmaeel".
Eslamshahr has become a bastion of resistance against the Islamic regime and scene of violent clashes with its security forces.
Even so, the Iranian Government may be attempting to hedge their bets when it comes to promising turnouts. A series of bombs exploded in Tehran today killing 9 and wounding more than 70. The government, tellingly, is blaming
Sunday's attacks on exiled opposition groups, such as the People's Mujahideen Organization, and foreign agents seeking to deter Iranians from voting.
Perhaps an excuse if the boycotts succeed? The fact is, until now, no pro-Democracy groups have used such tactics and while protests have been violent at times, it has often been the Iranian police and "militias" that have perpetrated the violence. And it may very well be that pro-Democracy groups are not responsible for these bombs.
Meanwhile, Mr Penn is being lead by the nose interviewing those whom the government wants him to interview
Penn, 44, on assignment for the San Franciso Chronicle ahead of presidential elections on Friday, had already caused a stir by turning up to listen to worshippers chant "death to America" at Friday prayers in Tehran last week.
On Sunday he tackled Shi'a Muslim cleric Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, a former president who leads opinion polls, about United States criticism of the election after hundreds of hopefuls were barred from running by a panel of religious hardliners....
"If the number of candidates is a proof of democracy, we are better than the Americans in this regard," newspapers quoted Rafsanjani as telling Penn.
and blocking his reporting when it is unauthorized
Later on Sunday, security men briefly confiscated Penn's camera as he tried to observe a protest rally about gender inequalities in the Islamic state by 300 women.
Authorities had sought to ban the protest and scores of police formed a tight ring around the demonstrators.
What will be his final impression of the elections? Who knows. But if his report is critical of Iran's government, I would advise him to wait until he is out of the country before he reveals his position.
Because like the Canadian photographer who died of "natural causes" in an Iranian prison, Sean may find that he can't appeal to the American Embassy to help him if he's dead.
If Wishes Were Horses... It's been a long haul, but the media may be finally gaining ground. In a new Gallup poll conducted for USAToday, 56% of Americans now think going to Iraq was a mistake. After looking at the poll, the questions and the data, it is clear that the media has been able to make inroads regarding the "Bush lied" meme and the "hey, there's lots of Americans being killed over there" meme, both of which have hammered the headlines whenever possible.
A year ago, only 17% of the opponents of the war believed Bush lied about WMDs, now 24% do. A year ago 15% of the war opponents believed we should get out because we were taking too many casualties, now 24% do.
Seeing as how these are precisely the two subjects news organizations like the New York Times et al have focused on, I have a strong suspicion of causality.
The Media appears to be succeeding in undermining support for the war.
Interestingly, questions that were not asked were these:
1) Should America abandon the people of Iraq to terrorist?
2) Do you think that leaving Iraq now would increase or decrease the security of the United States with regards to the terrorist threat?
But again I am impressed by the wisdom of the American people in re-electing Bush. There is little doubt in my mind that these numbers would have pressured Kerry to withdraw. Bush will not withdraw. And even though the poll shows that 56% of the people would be upset if Bush put more troops in Iraq (though I'm not sure if this means overall troop strength or replacing current forces in rotation) Bush will do what he thinks is necessary not what people necessarily want.
He is not a rule by poll President as we got used to with President Clinton.
But it seems that the press has managed to put America in the same spot as other leaders who are doing what is necessary rather than what is popular.
And we won't be closing Gitmo either.
All of which is likely really pissing off the editors at the New York Times and the LA Times.