Reidblog [The Reid Report blog]

Think at your own risk.
Tuesday, June 30, 2009
Would you pay $500,000 for a Michael Jackson photo?
OK Magazine did, in the latest sign of old media desperation. Says MediaBistro:
Money-hemorrhaging OK!, on the verge of being closed by owner Richard Desmond, reportedly paid $500,000 for a photo of Michael Jackson being whisked to the hospital. The decision was the head honcho's call, so he only has himself to blame if the strategy to sell more magazines backfires...
If this is the photo, somebody better tell Desmond it has already leaked ... for free ... all over the net

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posted by JReid @ 5:07 PM  
The next celebrity death: VIBE Magazine
Can't say I'll miss it, but the death of VIBE, which was founded by Quincy Jones in 1992, and then sold to others and turned into a really wide teen magazine, must be dutifully acknowledged.

Word was broken early this afternoon by the Web site and spread to other music and media news sites. The spokeswoman, Tracy Nguyen, said the Vibe staff would be formally notified in a meeting at 2 p.m. She said she did not know how many people would be laid off as a result of the closure.

The closure of Vibe leaves just one large-circulation music magazine, The Source, focusing on hip-hop and R&B. The Source has had its own troubles, going through a bankruptcy and emerging under new ownership last year. A rock-focused magazine, Blender, folded last year.

In a memo to staff members announcing the closure, Steve Aaron, chief of the Vibe Media Group, wrote that for months, the company tried in vain to either find new investors or “to restructure the huge debt on our small company.”

“The print advertising collapse hit Vibe hard, especially as key ad categories like automotive and fashion, which represented the bulk of our top 10 advertisers, have stopped advertising or gone out of business,” he wrote.

What these and other articles don't say, is that VIBE and other print magazines like it, have essentially been rendered obsolete by the Internet, as sites like Bossip, TMZ, Livesteez and on and on, can break entertainment news in an instant, and keep fans constantly supplied with dirt. The same death knell that newspapers are hearing is clanging in the heads of magazines, which don't even have newspapers' essentiality and news bureaus to keep them relevant. It's time for media to adapt or die.

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posted by JReid @ 4:55 PM  
Goodbye, Norman.
... and it only took a ruling by the Minnesota Supreme Court (and about of million dollars of the NRSC's hard-begged money.) So can we get this guy off the news cycle already? Per politico, the White House is nothing short of slap happy:
"I look forward to working with Senator-Elect Franken to build a new foundation for growth and prosperity by lowering health care costs and investing in the kind of clean energy jobs and industries that will help America lead in the 21st century." (4:14 p.m.)
MORE: A senior aide said there was a lot of joy filling the White House today upon hearing the Franken news.

"It's a new beginning," the aide said. (4:12 p.m.)
Yep. And now let's bring on the Franken Senate funny. (Okay, he probably won't be funny...) BTW check out the video of Coleman's concession: is it me, or does he talk like Elmer Fudd?

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posted by JReid @ 4:23 PM  
Pimps in the pulpit, volume XXIV
LiveSteez tells the truth (hat tip to
Mainstream politicians and Black community leaders are demanding a better accounting of the “return on investment” offered by churches to the communities that fund them. Meanwhile, legions of faithful churchgoers defend their pastors and accuse their detractors of applying a double standard that ignores the largesse of wealthy, white televangelists, while underplaying the economic development and social service functions provided by the Black Church.

“The church has gotten caught up in materialism and greed, a lifestyle. Many ministers today want to live like celebrities and they want to be treated like celebrities. In other words, instead of the church standing with the community, the church has become self-serving. It has strayed away from its mission” according to Dr.Love Henry Whelchel, professor of church history at The Interdenominational Theological Center in Atlanta.
Amen. BTW I don't know what "Black community leaders" they're talking about, because I haven't heard a soul (so to speak) speak out on this one, except the guy who wrote "Pimps in the Pulpit," but he didn't even get famous enough talking about it to become a regular commentator on cable news. There are intermittent complaints form some quarters of Black media, especially the Black blogosphere, but the complaints haven't altered the behavior of Black pastors, who seem to be in a headlong competition to be the biggest baller on the block, rather than the greatest advocate for the often economically deprived communities they're supposed to serve. So what is LiveSteez going to do about it?
LiveSteez’s investigative series will take a forensic editorial approach to quantifying the return to Black America for the $350 billion in tax-favored donations it has given to the Black Church, examining the arguments on both sides of the pulpit. In this series we will seek answers and advisory to the following questions:

- How often and how much do church leaders take advantage of the faith of poor black people?

-We will investigate and indentify the churches they are showing a strong return on investment that goes beyond inspiration.

- What does the black community have to show for the $350 billion in tax free dollars?

- Expert analysis on what could potentially be done with such a huge amount of money and how it could improve the state of our communities.

- Why do some church leaders refuse to participate in the Grassley congressional Investigation, which requested the financial records of several mega-churches.
Go get 'em, Steez. One other thing I'd like to see is what ever happened to all that Faith Based money the Bush administration doled out to try and buy support from church folk.

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posted by JReid @ 3:06 PM  
And nothing for dad
Talk about "crying on the inside!" Michael gets last licks on dad.

The WSJ writes extensively about Michael Jackson's assets, and his debts. And apparently, while his father Joe has creepily asserted that there is no will, apparently there is, and he ain't in it:
According to The Wall Street Journal, that version of his will might not include any provisions for his father. He did, however, leave about $1 billion to his mother, Katherine Jackson, his three children and a few charities.

The lawyer representing Michael’s parents, L. Londell McMillan, said the Jacksons thought Michael had died without a valid will. Two earlier drafts of the letter have surfaced since his passing on June 25.

Michael‘s lawyer, John Branca, uncovered the document from 2002, and he may file it with the Los Angeles Superior Court as soon as Thursday. This would effectively end any dispute over what document counts as his last will and testament.
Say the folks at (probably speaking for the Entire World):
Joe Jackson is the main reason Michael’s life was so tragic. The fact that he left his father out of the will comes as no surprise since Joe helped create the troubled man we all watched change before our very eyes. Pops is doin’ too much right now anyways. He doesn’t deserve a dime of Michael’s money.
Amen. Now, if Katherine can just keep Jackson's kids away from him...

Meanwhile, in ghastly news, there will apparently be a public viewing:

Celebrity website claims the Jacksons will take the body to Neverland, his fantasy ranch in southern California, on Thursday.

They will hold a wake on Friday or Saturday ahead of a burial at an undecided time and place, according to TMZ.

And from the TMZ's mouth:

Law enforcement sources tell TMZ upwards of a 30 car motorcade -- including Jackson's body -- will be traveling from Los Angeles to Neverland at 10 AM on Thursday.

TMZ also has what it calls exclusives about the search warrants issued for Jackson's rented house, and an alleged search for needles... And then there's this: TMZ claims the LAPD wants to talk to another Jackson doc about drugs he may have supplied the King of Pop. And this isn't just any doctor: it's the same guy Us Magazine claims is the father of Michael's two oldest children. Says TMZ:

We've learned the LAPD wants to talk to Michael Jackson's longtime dermatologist
Arnold Klein about drugs he may have prescribed or given Michael Jackson.

We're told Klein has already gotten a lawyer but as far as we know the LAPD has not spoken with him.
Jackson apparently had been frequenting Klein's office. Maybe he was sharing parenting stories???

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posted by JReid @ 2:41 PM  
A wise Italian judge?
A writer on Tapped makes a darned good point about intellectual honesty in the Ricci/Sotomayor debate. The right has been attacking Sotomayor for supposedly threatening to take her ethnic background into account on the bench, even though there's exactly zero evidence that she has ever done so. Meanwhile:

Of course, there is another justice who testified to how his ethnic background affected his jurisprudence, and that was Samuel Alito. Testifying in front of the Senate during his confirmation hearing, Alito said:

When I get a case about discrimination, I have to think about people in my own family who suffered discrimination because of their ethnic background or because of religion or because of gender. And I do take that into account.

Frank Ricci, the plaintiff in that case, is Italian American, just like Samuel Alito. Was Alito thinking about "people in his own family" who "suffered discrimination because of their ethnic background" when he cast his vote in the Ricci case? Was his ruling and concurrent opinion affected by his "taking that into account" as he says he does in such cases?

There's no way to know. But what I find interesting is that no one's even asking the question

Hm. And Scalia is Italian, too. The conclusion is pretty damning:

In our national conversation, bias is something people of color and women have toward white men, not the other way around, history be damned. This isn't a new phenomenon either, based on some sort of (nonexistent) "reversal of fortune" for white men in society--they asked the same questions of Thurgood Marshall that they're now asking of Sotomayor.

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posted by JReid @ 12:54 PM  
Michael Jackson: you are NOT the father
The Michael Jackson saga just gets weirder and weirder. From TMZ and Us Weekly comes the not exactly shocking allegation that Jackson was not the biological father of his children. But the new, kind of shocking allegation is that Debbie Rowe, who was Michael's second wife, is not the mother, either (which would explain why she seems to have no interest in getting custody of the kids.) Firt, TMZ:
We've learned Michael Jackson was not the biological father of any of his children. And Debbie Rowe is not the biological mother of the two kids she bore for Michael. All three children were conceived in vitro -- outside the womb.

Multiple sources deeply connected to the births tell us Michael was not the sperm donor for any of his kids. Debbie's eggs were not used. She was merely the surrogate, and paid well for her services in the births of Michael Jr. and Paris.

In the case of Prince Michael II (the youngest), we're told the surrogate was never told of the identity of the "receiving parent" -- Michael Jackson. Three days after Prince was born at Grossmont Hospital in San Diego County, Jackson's lawyer came to the hospital to pick the baby up and deliver him to Michael.

We do not know if Jackson chose the sperm or egg donors or if he even knew who they were.
TMZ goes on to add that under California law, Rowe could still be the presumed parent of the two oldest kids. Meanwhile, Us Magazine takes it even further, saying they know the real father of the oldest children, Paris and Prince, is:
Though Michael Jackson was wed to Prince and Paris' mother, Debbie Rowe, their biological father is Arnold Klein, Jackson's L.A.-based dermatologist and Rowe's former boss, multiple sources confirm to the new issue of Us Weekly.

"He is the dad," says a Jackson insider. "He and Debbie signed an agreement saying they would never reveal the truth."
That would explain this rather bizarre statement attributed to Ms. Rowe, who gushed about volunteering to carry Jackson's children years ago:
In an astonishing interview Debbie - mother of Prince, 12, and Paris, 11 - said she was artificially inseminated by an anonymous donor.

And she told how, despite Jackson's death, she does not WANT custody of the children and NEVER expects to see them again.

Debbie (who lives on a farm surrounded by animals) said, ""I was just the vessel. It wasn't Michael's sperm. Just like I stick the sperm up my horse, this is what they did to me. I was his thoroughbred."....

After Debbie gave birth to second child Paris, she couldn't have kids again, "The delivery was so hard. My insides were all torn up and I was barren. When he knew I couldn't have any more babies he didn't want anything to do with me."

Debbie says she will not fight for custody of Prince Michael or Paris, "I know I will never see them again. I was never cut out to be a mother - I was no good. I don't want these children in my life. My children are my animals now."
The interview, with "News of the World" was supposedly done in 2004. However, the link to the supposed story is not working as of this post (and the one on the Huffpo.) The reporter who says he conducted the interview reminds readers at that Rose is also the person credited with providing the testimony in 2005 that probably kept Michael Jackson out of jail.

The site has lots of MJ updates, including a report that Jackson did indeed name his mother, Katherine, his kids' guardian in his will, and an allegation (based on unnamed sources) that Jackson was spending $48,000 a month on prescription drugs.

And News of the World goes into excruciating detail about the day Michael died, as only a British tabloid can.

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posted by JReid @ 12:14 PM  
Shameless self-promotion: Joy on 'Issues' June 26
Viewer's note: I'm not sure what was going on in my head this episode, but I clearly had Venezuela on the brain. I think Hugo Chavez put a hex on me ... So kids, the word of the day is "Argentina."

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posted by JReid @ 11:56 AM  
Monday, June 29, 2009
How business gets done in Miami-Dade
Three stories over the last few days illustrate some of the reasons so many people are totally fed up with South Florida politics and governance. From the Miami Herald this weekend, a tale of how influence is traded -- carefully:
The two-year corruption probe of Miami Commissioner Michelle Spence-Jones yielded no criminal charges, but it did offer a rare glimpse of influence at work behind the scenes at Miami City Hall.

Witnesses told investigators how developers hired -- and fired -- consultants to curry favor with Spence-Jones when crucial votes were on the line, records show. Spence-Jones asked a developer to hire a former campaign staffer, and tried to steer another consultant to the firm, witnesses said.

Beyond the commissioner's role, the papers spotlight how private companies try to win votes by deploying the right mix of politically-connected consultants -- while treading gingerly around lobbying laws.

The Miami-Dade State Attorney's Office dropped its probe of the development deals last month, after investigators said they could find no evidence that Spence-Jones received any money or traded her vote for favors.

... Confounded by contradictory witnesses, the investigation unfolded like a children's game of telephone, with the whispers often leading back to one man: former City Manager Joe Arriola. In the spring of 2007, he recommended a Spence-Jones ally for a consulting job with a builder -- then called prosecutors weeks later with his suspicions of possible kickbacks.

''You know, you have no proof of this, but those are the rumors,'' Arriola told Assistant State Attorney Joe Centorino in an August 2007 interview, explaining why he came forward.

Over the course of the investigation, prosecutors chased vague rumors of payoffs and cronyism dating back to Spence-Jones' days as a City Hall staffer, the records show. Most tips were dead ends. Some leads were left unexplored.

''There were many inconsistencies -- which is code name for lies,'' said Spence-Jones attorney Richard Alayon.
So did the commissioner do anything wrong? Well, she didn't get caught doing anything wrong, so technically: no. then again, I'm sure it's not easy to get people to talk, even to prosecutors, when their bread and butter is city contracts. If you strike at the king (or queen) and miss, they're liable to apply the guillotine to your head at their next available opportunity. Financially speaking, of course ... But the overall theme of "pay for play" politics -- the all-encompassing search for government "contracts" and for financial gain, often with not a dime going to actually improve the community the money was ostensibly earmarked for, is way, way too familiar, particularly in the Black community, which is hurting like hell in Miami-Dade. You just get the feeling that's the way things are done around here, and that it will never change. That's depressing as hell, and it will also be true if the residents of that county don't stand up and start fighting for themselves, even if that means fighting their own Black "leaders." Read the rest here (pdf). If you're at all familiar with Miami politics, the names will be familiar.

The second story is about one of Commissioner Spence Jones' mentors, former Commissioner Barbara Carey Shuler, who left office a few years ago without ever being charge with a crime:
A confidant of former Miami-Dade Commissioner Barbara Carey-Shuler has told prosecutors that he delivered cash payoffs to her from a prominent developer during the late 1990s, according to a newly released report.

Antonio Junior, 51, made the revelations to Miami-Dade public corruption prosecutors last fall -- too late to levy any possible criminal charges against Carey-Shuler because the statute of limitations had long run out, state attorney's office spokesman Ed Griffith said.

According to the report:

Junior, a longtime Miami International Airport businessman, admitted to repeatedly accepting cash from late developer Lowell Dunn starting in 1997, with instructions to pay Carey-Shuler for her support of Dunn's projects. Junior said he gave the commissioner much of the cash -- including part of $30,000 Dunn gave him in the restroom of a Design District restaurant.

Junior also said he funneled money to the commissioner after he landed -- with her help -- a piece of a controversial $25 million county contract to build the Martin Luther King county office building in the heart of Liberty City in 1999. The payments continued until about 2003, he said.

Junior said his payments from the MLK deal to Carey-Shuler started when she began scribbling dollar amounts on small notes. Junior said he purchased so many money orders for Carey-Shuler that postal employees knew him on sight.

Junior detailed his relationship with Carey-Shuler in interviews with assistant State Attorney Richard Scruggs and investigator Robert Fielder late last year, just before pleading guilty to his role in an unrelated racketeering scheme at MIA. Their report was recently released at the request of The Miami Herald.

Ah, the good old statute of limitations ... Read the rest of that story here. And if you care to read more about the airport case in which Junior was implicated, here's a story from the Miami New Times back in 2005.

Now, a lot of folks in the Black community in South Florida are going to dismiss both of these stories as just further evidence that the Miami Herald hates Black elected officials, and is determined to take them down, one by one (you often here that from supporters of the late Art Teele, who famously believed that the Herald was out to get him.) And Carey-Shuler remains both popular and influential in Black Miami. That too, is the way things work 'round here.

Story three is a simpler tale -- of what looks for all the world like greed, and county collusion in screwing the little guy on behalf of a rich golden goose. It's long, published recently in Aviation Week, but well worth the read. Here's a clip:

The Miami-Dade County Airport and Seaport Committee meets once a month on Thursday mornings at 9:30 a.m. Present on April 16, 2009, was attorney Willie Gary, a famed trial lawyer whose victories in the courtroom (one of which, against Disney, brought in $240 million, according to a press release) provide him with the wherewithal to travel the world in a Boeing Business Jet named "Wings of Justice II."

On this day, Gary graciously sought a few moments of the committee's time in the interest of saving them some money. "These five minutes could save years of litigation," he said, along with "millions of dollars." His press release, issued later that day, upped the ante, citing "billion-dollar litigation."

Gary told committee chairman Dorrin De Rolle and the assembled commissioners, "Nobody needs this kind of fight" by way of informing them that a fight was what they would get. He was there representing his client, "Opa-Locka Flightline . . . the only African-American owned and operated FBO in the nation." He was there because his client was "not being treated fairly, plain and simple." Gary noted that if an airport receives federal funds, the law says there can be no discrimination. "We don't come seeking special privilege, but there should be no discrimination or favoritism, and that's the case we bring today," Gary said. "We must all operate under one set of rules."

What's at stake here are a group of vendors currently leasing space at the airport, and a big, well-off company, the Adler Group, run by a wealthy real estated developer named Michael Adler, who along with his company, is a major, major Democratic Party donor. The county gave Adler's company, AA Acquisitions, a 240-acre, 70-year lease at Opa-locka airport by the county, essentially making him the new landlord. Now, Adler wants the existing tenants out, so he can do some big time development at the airport, and the article alleges AA (with the county's blessing, or at least wihtout their resistance) is using rather ... let's say creative ... tactics to force them out. Of course, the deal means big money to the county at a time of economic hardship -- big, as in hundreds of millions of dollars. It's a sad story, and one in which it's doubtful the little guys will win.

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posted by JReid @ 11:16 PM  
Jim Greer's grovely pay-for-play gambit
Jim Greer likes Black people? Fo shizzle, my nizzle.

How do you make the head of the Florida Republican Party look like an idiot? Well ... let's ask the proprieters of certain Black media outlets:
Florida Republican leaders are trying to capture ground they've historically ceded to the Democratic Party — the black news media.

Friday, managers of black-owned newspapers and radio outlets told Florida GOP Chairman Jim Greer there's a simple way to get more attention for conservative issues and candidates: money.

"At the end of the day, it's about money. If you buy advertising, you're more likely to get coverage," said Johnny Hunter, president of the Florida Association of Black Owned Media and publisher of Sarasota's Tempo News.

Greer invited black-media news executives from across the state to a downtown Orlando hotel to hash out how the party can make inroads in the black community, which traditionally votes Democratic.
And of course, when confronted with what amounts to a blatant pay-for-play scheme, which is both unethical from a journalistic standpoint and just plain stupid, since Black people aren't dim enough to suddenly start supporting the party of "take that bone out of your nose and call me back" Rush Limbaugh because they read a few "positive stories" bought in their local papers by the GOP, Greer and his African American Republican Leadership Council chair state Rep. Jennifer Carroll stood up and walked the hell out of the room, saying they may be Republicans, but he's not that dumb ... right ...?
... Carroll, who helped lead the discussion, told members of the black media that they can benefit as much as the GOP from increased coverage.

"You're in business to make money, and you should look at avenues to increase your revenue if you can," she said.
Oh ... Of course, the case that was made to Greer and company was somewhat subtle:
All of the media representatives seemed to push for more advertising and agreed that the Republican Party and its candidates would receive more coverage if they bought ads.

They did not all agree about whether advertising would lead to positive news stories or endorsements, though some hinted that failing to buy advertising could bring negative editorials.
But at least Greer didn't make a horse's ass out of himself ... (gulp)
Greer promised that the party would stop ignoring black media. He said that mainstream newspapers such as the Orlando Sentinel, Tampa Tribune and Tallahassee Democrat cover the party's issues regardless of whether they advertise, but the party chairman nevertheless seemed willing to accept the quid-pro-quo arrangement.

"When I hear that when we advertise, the paper will be more likely to disseminate Republican issues, am I hearing right?" Greer asked. "I don't understand the legitimacy of disseminating information and having a tie-in to revenue — but I get it."
Oh dear...

Mr. Greer, you seem like a nice guy, so let me give you some advice, okay? And this from a Democrat, no less. Stop. Just stop. Not only is this story, which appeared in the Orlando Sentinel over the weekend, embarrassing for those Black media outlets (which I assume are mostly newspapers since there are only a handful of black-owned radio stations in Florida) and who should be ashamed of themselves for basically trying to hustle political parties for cash, it's also humiliating for you.

If you really think buying news coverage in Black papers will get you anything other than a bill, you don't know very many Black people. And I wouldn't go by those Black Republicans who are telling you that the GOP has a serious chance of gaining ground with black voters any time soon. Charlie Crist's 18-plus percent of the Black vote pretty much was unique to him, because he sounded, and continues to sound, basically like a Democrat. Short of recruiting more Charlies, which your party bosses won't do in the name of ideological purity, you guys are pretty much out of gas.

Meanwhile, we in the Black community need to have a serious internal conversation about our media -- including how Black-targeted, but not Black-owned radio and cable TV portrays, and fails to inform us, and why our media moguls, from Cathy Hughes to Bob Johnson, seem to have little interest in educating and edifying their customers, or giving them a strong political voice (as opposed to slapstick comedy and booty music.) Black newspapers are unfortunately suffering the swine flu while larger, better financed white papers just have the flu. But hustling political parties doesn't strike me as the best way to gain respect, especially when major Black media outlets have yet to develop a strong web presence, for instance, and when others are signaling that they need to be compensated to report the news. If something the Republican party is doing is newsworthy, any Black media outlet worth a damn will reported, regardless of ad revenue. If the GOP has been methodically refusing to advertise in Black outlets, do correct it. But this quid pro quo business is no way for either side to further its interests.

That said, do the Democrats have a problem with taking black voters and media for granted? Absolutely. Will that help Republicans going forward? Maybe. But it isn't how much money you buy in Black newspapers. It's the policies, stupid, and the people your party puts forward as spokesmen and leaders. Cheat sheet: most of them are jerks. And those about 14 times for Bill McCollum.

So there it is, Jim. Good luck. And I won't even charge you for writing this.

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posted by JReid @ 4:37 PM  
Katherine Jackson files for gets custody
... of all three of Michael Jackson's kids. Upside: she's their grandmother, and I'm sure they love her very much, and she'll provide some measure of stability for the oddly raised threesome. Downside, she's married to this guy:

Scary stuff. And Joe, who pointedly, does not appear to be named in the custody order, has surrounded himself with the cast-offs of Black American leadership: the politically neutered (but still publicity-hungry) Revs Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson. Well that should help him with his new record label venture that he chose to hawk on the BET Awards red carpet.

UPDATE: Joe Jackson cries on the inside, or so he just said on CNN. Poor Don Lemon. How does he keep from cursing? This blogger asks: is Joe Jackson high, or what?

... Meanwhille, Jackson's increasingly famous -- for the wrong reasons -- doctor, Conrad Murray, denies injecting the King of Pop with Demerol before his death.

in case you missed it (because like me, you're engaged in a permanent boycott of BET,) the Janet Jackson moment at the BET Awards:

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posted by JReid @ 1:40 PM  
Fox News: creaky old media giant?
Neilsen's next generation ratings system finds that while the Fox "News" Channel has more old, grumpy, computer illiterate viewers, CNN (especially) and MSNBC beat them handily when it comes to people who get their news online, rather than just "through the teevee..." Fox's response? Snark:
Fox, of course, views CNN's emphasis on a newfangled measurement as a mark of its failure to secure the old-fashioned ratings advertisers care about. "Apparently the sheer embarrassment of getting beat by both Headline News and MSNBC along with the continued implosion of Campbell Brown and Anderson Cooper has led CNN to its latest act of desperation," says a Fox News spokesman. "We wish Jack well in continuing to defend their battle for fourth place."
Keep entertaining the masses, guys, even as the masses you're reaching head off into America's nursing homes.

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posted by JReid @ 12:42 PM  
News blast: Billy Mays dead, Madoff sentenced, white firefighters prevail
The celebrity deaths are coming fast and furious, folks. Loud, exuberant Pitchman Bill Mays has died at age 50 of an apparent pulminary embalism. (Medical examiner press conference just wrapped up in Tampa.) Apparently he hit his head during a plane's hard landing, but the medical examiner says the bump on the head was not the cause.

In even bigger news ...

Bernie Madoff gets 150 years, after a morning of angry testimony from his victims. Bye, Bernie!

A weekend coup shakes up Honduras, before that country's president could hold a referendum that would bust the country's term limits. From the Economist:
THE scene was reminiscent of many in the 20th century, when military coups against democratic governments were sadly common across much of Latin America. At dawn on Sunday June 28th a group of soldiers barged into the residence of Manuel Zelaya, Honduras’s president, disarmed his guards, dragged him to an air base and flew him to exile in San José, Costa Rica. The army silenced the state television station, cut electricity supplies and the bus services in the capital, Tegucigalpa, and sent tanks and planes to patrol the city. “I was brutally taken out of my house and kidnapped by hooded soldiers who pointed high-calibre rifles at me,” said Mr Zelaya. “But until the next elections, I will continue to be the president of Honduras. Only the people can remove me.”

The toppling of Mr Zelaya took the region by surprise. Honduras, although small, poor and ravaged by corruption and violent gangs, has seemed a more solid democracy than, for example, neighbouring Guatemala. Mr Zelaya, a Liberal, alienated the leaders of the country’s main political parties last year by joining the leftist Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas, an alliance led by Venezuela’s populist president, Hugo Chávez. Yet Mr Zelaya’s policies have been only mildly social-democratic, such as an increase in the minimum wage.
The Bolivian government reacts strongly to the coup, and for good reason ...

Back here in the States, a group of white firefighters have prevailed in the New Haven promotions case. The Supreme Court ruled for Frank Ricci and 19 other firemen, saying the city was wrong to throw out a test that would have led to promotions for them, but none for African-American firefighters who also passed the test, but not with a high enough score. Somewhere out there, Pat Buchanan is mourning the loss of a 2010 election issue. Justice Kennedy was the swing vote:
The court ruled that New Haven was wrong to scrap a promotion exam because no African-Americans and only two Hispanic firefighters were likely to be made lieutenants or captains based on the results, the AP says. The city said that it had acted to avoid a lawsuit from minorities.

“Fear of litigation alone cannot justify an employer’s reliance on race to the detriment of individuals who passed the examinations and qualified for promotions,” Justice Anthony Kennedy said in his opinion for the court. He was joined by Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Samuel Alito, Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas.

In dissent, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said the white firefighters “understandably attract this court’s sympathy. But they had no vested right to promotion. Nor have other persons received promotions in preference to them.” Justices Stephen Breyer, David Souter and John Paul Stevens signed onto Ginsburg’s dissent.
The significance of this case now is that the conservative members of the court have reversed Judge Sonia Sotomayor, their very likely soon-to-be colleague. The right will make hay. It's what they do. But the real issue will continue to be affirmative action, and Frank Ricci has become the issue's new poster boy.

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posted by JReid @ 12:11 PM  
A military coup in Iran?
Protests resumed in Iran over the weekend.
Witnesses at the scene tell The Associated Press that some protesters claimed they suffered broken arms or legs in Sunday's clashes around the Ghoba Mosque.

They say some young demonstrators screamed at police and then attacked them after the officers allegedly beat an elderly woman.
Meanwhile, Former CIA agent Bob Baer thinks so. He says it appears that Iran's Revolutionary Guard, of whom Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is a former member, has taken over control of the country from the mullahs. Wouldn't that make Ayatollah Khamenei more of a captive than a leader? Watch:

Interesting, but Baer also admitted that the U.S., and he, have no clue what's going on in Iran. And he previously postulated that Ahmadinejad might have actually won the election. So a grain of salt may be in order. But Baer made a very good point about the Western prism and bias when looking at what's going on in Iran when he wrote this for TIME on June 16th:
Most of the demonstrations and rioting I've seen in the news are taking place in north Tehran, around Tehran University and in public places like Azadi Square. These are, for the most part, areas where the educated and well-off live — Iran's liberal middle class. These are also the same neighborhoods that little doubt voted for Mir-Hossein Mousavi, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's rival, who now claims that the election was stolen. But I have yet to see any pictures from south Tehran, where the poor live. Or from other Iranian slums.

... Some facts about Iran's election will hopefully emerge in the coming weeks, with perhaps even credible evidence that the election was rigged. But until then, we need to add a caveat to everything we hear and see coming out of Tehran. For too many years now, the Western media have looked at Iran through the narrow prism of Iran's liberal middle class — an intelligentsia that is addicted to the Internet and American music and is more ready to talk to the Western press, including people with money to buy tickets to Paris or Los Angeles. Reading Lolita in Tehran is a terrific book, but does it represent the real Iran?

Meanwhile in Tehrah, Mahmoud does his best O.J., vowing to find Neda Soltan's "real killer":

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, meanwhile, asked a top judge Monday to investigate the killing of Neda Agha Soltan, who became an icon of Iran's ragtag opposition after gruesome video of her bleeding to death on a Tehran street was circulated worldwide.

Ahmadinejad's Web site said Soltan was slain by "unknown agents and in a suspicious" way, convincing him that "enemies of the nation" were responsible.

The regime has implicated protesters and even foreign intelligence agents in Soltan's death. But an Iranian doctor who said he tried to save her told the BBC last week she apparently was shot by a member of the volunteer Basij militia. Protesters spotted an armed member of the militia on a motorcycle, and stopped and disarmed him, Dr. Arash Hejazi said.

And after warnings from the EU, Iran has released 5 British Embassy staffers. Four staffers, however, remain detained.

As usual, Nico Pitney has the most comprehensive compilation of news from Iran.

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posted by JReid @ 11:49 AM  
The Sanfords: more depressing than John and Kate
"For most Christians, at some point in your marriage, if you're married long enough, you do it because that's what we're called to do _ out of obedience instead of out of passion. And I think that's where Mark and Jenny are right now."
That's Warren "Cubby" Culbertson, friend and "spiritual advisor" to SC Gov. Mark Sanford and his wife Jenny. What he describes has got to be the saddest commentary on marriage I've ever heard, and I certainly hope it's not true "for most Christians" (if so, time to become a Buddhist!) Still, it's one more aspect of the TMI that's dripping all over this case (including this wrenching tell-all to the AP by Jenny Sanford.) Jeez, this marriage is becoming a more uncomfortable reality show than "John and Kate Plus 8" (and an un-pretty version of Brad, Jen and Angelina...)

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posted by JReid @ 11:40 AM  
Washington Bitchy: Nico Pitney smacks down Milbank
Mr. Washington Sketchy himself, WaPo king of snark Dana Milbank, takes one to the thorax from HuffPo blog reporter Nico Pitney, who went one-on-three on CNN's Reliable Sources. Milbank got called out for his whingeing over Pitney's Iran question at Barack Obama's recent presser, including getting called out on his past, gushing coverage of George W. Bush. Watch, and learn:

Afterwards Pitney says Milbank called him names under his breath. Pouty journalism at its best -- hating on new media because they can't BE new media.

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posted by JReid @ 12:42 AM  
Sunday, June 28, 2009
Downcast in Tehran
A New York Times story says a spirit of depression is setting in in Iran, as hope for change dwindles.
“People are depressed, and they feel they have been lied to, robbed of their rights and now are being insulted,” said Nassim, a 56-year-old hairdresser. “It is not just a lie; it’s a huge one. And it doesn’t end.”
Still, if this Guardian piece is right, there may be reasons for some hope that the blood-soaked Khamenei's days of ruling may be numbered (and his little friend, too ...) Meanwhile, President Obama praises Mousavi, and Ahmadinejad just won't stop talking. And is the neocon strategy working? Obama is apparently moving to fund dissident groups in Iran, just like Dubya. Confused yet? Like the Michael Jackson song says: you are not alone. (Post-Newsweek gives yet another neocon -- Saul Singer -- a platform to demand what the neocons have always demanded: no negotiations with Iran. Well, at least he didn't call for an invasion...)

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posted by JReid @ 3:45 AM  
The LA Times reluctantly gives TMZ its props (sort of)
The media hates to love TMZ, the site that broke the story of Michael Jackson's death (even as the MSM refused to pick up the story until the LATimes confirmed it) but they have little choice but to pay attention.

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posted by JReid @ 3:39 AM  
The big, fat, unsourced Michael Jackson expose
According to one British tabloid writer, Michael Jackson was schizophrenic, bulimic, anorexic, drug-addicted, suicidal, paranoid, lung diseased, unable to sing, unable to dance, thin-haired, enabled, broke and gay. All at once (and all according to unnamed sources.) He reports, you decide.

The London Daily Mail is just dripping with unsourced stories, including allegations from Jackson's fired nanny that his kids feared him, and lots of details about Jackson's alleged addictions, his fears that he wouldn't be able to pull off that 50 concert extravaganza, and an alleged prior overdose (plus a completely contradictory story quoting a friend of Jackson's -- on the record -- saying the singer couldn't wait to hit the stage ... hmmmm... more contradictions here...) The second Daily Mail story raises fresh questions about Jackson's "personal doctor." On a harder news front, the Jackson family has requested a second autopsy. And apparently, Jackson's will says his kids should go to his mother, and the children have requested as much, but Debbie Rowe may beg to differ...

Where will the kids live? Michael Jackson with Prince and Paris.

Also, TMZ reports the LAPD has finally interviewd Dr. Murray. The LAPD released this statement:
"Dr. Conrad Murray, the physician who was with Michael Jackson at the time of his collapse, voluntarily contacted the Los Angeles Police Department. Detectives assigned to Robbery-Homicide Division met with Dr. Murray and conducted an extensive interview. Dr. Murray was cooperative and provided information which will aid the investigation."
The LATimes has more on the interview. And they have an interesting piece on Michael's shifting cultural identity.

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posted by JReid @ 3:05 AM  
Saturday, June 27, 2009
Bonnie Fuller makes crack Wikipedia diagnosis
Doesn't Bonnie Fuller know that you're not supposed to make journalistic analyses based on Wikipedia? Apparently not:
Did you know that Michael Jackson, was the victim of a rare auto-immune disease called lupus? Yes, he was according to his Wikipedia autobiography and as it turns out -- lupus sufferers frequently die in their 40s and 50's from sudden heart attacks, caused by atherosclerosis.
Compelling, no? Well ... no.

And now, 12 actual facts about Michael Jackson (from the BBC) and the coroner finds no foul play in his death (and apparently, no lupus either, at least not so far as we know.)

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posted by JReid @ 1:25 PM  
As Michael's death sinks in
It's taken me a couple of days to become really, profoundly, and inexplicably depressed about Michael Jackson's death.

When it first happened, I was in absolute shock, but in the back of my mind, I couldn't help but think that it wasn't really that surprising -- not the way he had physically abused himself over the years (between the drugs and the plastic surgery.) I guess it was the timing -- he wasn't holed up in a rented mansion somewhere in Dubai, dressing in a woman's burqua and dragging his kids around the place in masks -- he was in L.A., preparing for a concert that was sold out to the tune of some 750,000 tickets. This was no time to die. And yet, he did. But for me, this death is becoming increasingly like a personal loss. I'm not one of those people who ever owned a glittery glove, or dressed in a general's jacket. I liked -- even loved -- Michael Jackson when I was in elementary and middle school, but had developed more eclectic musical tastes by the time "Bad" came out. And yet, I guess I am kind of a sap.

I cried like hell when John Lennon died, even though I was too young to have been a Beatles fan (they were out before I was born.) But he died on my birthday. And I loved the song "Imagine."

I cried when Princess Diana died, even though I'm not English. It was just so damned sad, especially for her kids. I could relate to them, losing a mother at a young age.

Those are about the only major deaths I remember. More recent shockers, like Bernie Mac, or Gerald Levert, were awful, but not tear-inducing; not for me, anyway.

But this? Wow. It's really hitting me now. Michael Jackson Is Dead. Fini. I think it might have been a bad idea for me to play my MJ master-mix this morning, especially one of my favorite of his songs, "You Are Not Alone," written for Michael's "HIStory: Past, Present and Future" album by one R. Kelly. The lyrics alone are devastating:

Another day has gone
I'm still all alone
How could this be
You're not here with me
You never said goodbye
Someone tell me why
Did you have to go
And leave my world so cold

Everyday I sit and ask myself
How did love slip away
Something whispers in my ear and says
That you are not alone
For I am here with you
Though you're far away
I am here to stay

But you are not alone
For I am here with you
Though we're far apart
You're always in my heart
But you are not alone

It's also a reminder that Michael, like other great singers such as Whitney Houston and Elvis Pressley, didn't actually write much music. He was a performer -- the consumate performer, of songs written and produced by others. He channeled the creativity of other people, but did so in a way that couldn't have been duplicated, probably not even by the songwriters themselves. Michael's greatness was in his ability to create cinematic drama in a song, even before he started practically inventing the music video (credit where credit is due, the Beatles beat him to the punch on music video moviemaking, with "Yellow Submarine," which I also remember watching, and marveling at, as a kid... ) Watch the music video for "You Are Not Alone"here, if you dare, but have some tissues handy. Then as a pick me up, watch Michael at his absolute finest, here. See a listing of all Michael's albums and their contents (with links to lyrics) here.

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posted by JReid @ 12:58 PM  
Friday, June 26, 2009
Burning questions: was Michael Jackson a Muslim?
His brother Jermaine, who converted to Islam some time ago, said to his brother, "may Allah be with you always" at the close of his press conference following Michael's death, and news reports last November did say Jackson made the conversion in Los Angeles at a friends house, which takes him a long way from being a Jehovah's Witness as a child. And if Michael was indeed a Muslim at the time of his death, what does that mean for his funeral arrangements? Islam has very specific rules for burial and for funerals, including a requirement that the body be interred within 24 hours. Obviously, with the coroner's inquest going on, that hasn't happened. And there are some disputes over whether his formal conversion took place at all, combined with what will surely be tremendous pressure to hold a traditional, public funeral. [Picture at left: Jackson seen walking with his youngest son Prince Michael II last year, wearing what looks like a Muslims woman's burqa...]

Among the global news reaction to Jackson's death was this tidbit from Russia:

The more sober state news agency RIA Novosti questioned, wrongly as it turned out, whether an autopsy would be allowed on Jackson — who had reportedly converted to Islam late last year.

Muslim cleric, Damir Gizatullin, vice president of the Russian Council of Muftis, told RIA Novosti that autopsies were forbidden on Muslims and, according to Islamic belief, Jackson should be buried within 24 hours of his death.

And some Muslims are indeed debating Jackson's religion online.

The plot continues to thicken.

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posted by JReid @ 4:51 PM  
Aren't we done with you yet? Perez attacks Jax (then covers it up)
Perez Hilton is like a junkie. He just can't put the needle down. Yesterday, Gawker busted the bitchy fat kid making fun of a dead man:

In the last hour Perez Hilton has taken down the photo shown here and amended his original post so he doesn't look as bad, but here's the text of what he originally posted.

We knew something like this would happen!!

Michael Jackson was taken by ambulance from his Holmby Hills home to a nearby Los Angeles hospital on Thursday afternoon!!

Supposedly, the singer went into cardiac arrest and the paramedics had to administer CPR!!!

His mother is even on the way to visit him!!!

We are dubious!!

Jacko pulled a similar stunt when he was getting ready for his big HBO special in ‘95 when he "collapsed" at rehearsal!

He was dragging his heels on that just like his upcoming 50 date London residency at the 02 Arena, of which he already postponed the first few dates!!!

Either he's lying or making himself sick, but we're curious to see if he's able to go on!!!

Get your money back, ticket holders!!!!

Yeah, you too, advertisers!!!! If this comment is really Will.I.Am, 'nuff respect to him:
WILL I AM says -

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posted by JReid @ 4:42 PM  
Michael Jackson's death: what the doctor knew
It's increasingly clear that Michael Jackson's personal physician is going to face some questions in his death. From RS:
The audio of the 911 call placed from Michael Jackson’s Los Angeles home in the moments after the superstar reportedly suffered a cardiac arrest is currently streaming on TMZ. The audio reveals that Jackson was unresponsive and not breathing before paramedics were ever called to the scene. “He’s not breathing, we’re trying to pump him,” the unspecified caller told the operator, adding that Jackson was unconscious. The caller also tells the operator that Jackson’s personal physician — identified as Dr. Conrad Murray (shown at left)— was with Jackson at the time, however Jackson was “not responding to the CPR or anything.” While the caller told the paramedics a 50-year-old man was unresponsive, he never mentioned the name “Michael Jackson.”

The caller said Jackson was lying on the bed, but the paramedic on the line told the caller to put him on the floor. Later, the caller said Jackson was “slumped in a chair.” When asked if anyone witnessed what happened, the caller responded, “Only the doctor was here.” The next question, whether the doctor witnessed what happened, went unanswered as the caller pleaded for the paramedics to arrive quickly
The caller doesn't sound like Michael's brother Randy, who reportedly was in the house with him when he passed out, and it's not clear who he is -- perhaps a member of Jackson's staff? BTW TMZ is continuing to beat the "old media" to the punch on this story, and I just know the old media is hating it. Hear the 911 call here. TMA iz also livestreaming the coroner's press conference.

Meanwhile, guess who will likely get custody of -- along with hefty child support for -- Jackson's two older children (Prince and Paris...) The answer may surprise you.

Over at the times, a very British view of Michael, and his curious relationship to the truth.

UPDATE: Jackson's former video producer tells ABC News Michael Jackson was addicted to Demerol and Oxycontin, (and Xanax and the anti-depressant Zoloft, too...) and had been for decades. And there are still more questions about that 'doctor':

Primary death from cardiac arrest with this cocktail of drugs is highly unlikely unless Jackson was also using amphetamines or had a history of heart disease, according to Dr. Darin Correll, an anesthesiologist at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston.

The 911 audio tapes revealed that a "personal doctor" was present when paramedics were called..

"This whole thing is a little bizarre," said Correll. "You'd think that person would have been able to adequately perform CPR and stop it. If it truly was from opioids, it's easily fixed."

An overdose can be "reversible," he said, by administering mouth-to-mouth rescusitation and then an antidote -- Naloxone.

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posted by JReid @ 4:21 PM  
Michael, unexpected
Michael Jackson on a television set in 1978, when he was a handsome, shy teenager.

Last summer, when Michael Jackson turned 50, Rolling Stone published what might be the best online photo gallery of Michael pictures from childhood on, including the above photo and lots more. Enjoy.

And check out the complete Rolling Stone Michael Jackson archive here.

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posted by JReid @ 3:17 PM  
Michael Jackson brings back the roar of the crowd
Jackson's performance of the Moon Walk at the Motown 25th
anniversary TV special on
May 16, 1983 rocked the world.
I was in junior high, and yeah, it was the shit.

When you talk to former performers, at any level of fame, they'll tell you that when their season comes to an end, it's hard to adjust to life without the attention, the recognition of people in the street, or the roar of the crowd. Michael Jackson never seemed to adjust to his fall from the center of our attention. In the ultimate twist of irony, by dying too soon, at age 50, he has found a way to get it all back. From the moment we heard the leak, and then the confirmation, of his death, the world, including the U.S., where his fame really had receded into a kind of uncomfortable infamy -- we just can't stop talking about him; we're grooving to his music again, and he is the center of all the world's attention.

I've got to think that somewhere up there, Michael Jackson is happy as hell.

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posted by JReid @ 9:05 AM  
Michael Jackson's death: the drama to come
It's not often that a 50-year-old man who isn't overweight, is a non-smoker and has no known history of heart problems dies of cardiac arrest ... especially when his personal physician just happens to be around to find him. Michael Jackson's death is about to go all Anna Nicole Smith on us. First, Entertainment Tonight claims to have the final photo of the fallen pop idol. And ET reports:

The Los Angeles County Coroner's office tells ET that Jackson was transported from his residence in full cardiac arrest on Thursday. They say life-saving efforts were made by paramedics throughout transport to the hospital and efforts in the hospital emergency room continued on unsuccessfully.

Jackson was pronounced dead at 2:26 p.m. at UCLA Medical Center in Los Angeles.

And then there are the hints, from a Jackson's apokesman, that he had been abusing prescription drugs (watch as the CNN Lou Dobbs fill-in completely misses the headline, after Brian Oxman tries to drop a bombshell about Michael's apparent abuse of prescription drugs, which he says makes the Anna Nicole Smith case pale in comparison.)

And the Murdoch tabloid The Sun has even more eerie detail:
PARAMEDICS dashed to dying Michael Jackson’s side after a panic-stricken phone call from the superstar’s Los Angeles home.

The dramatic call was made by a member of staff last night at just after 8pm UK time.

Fire Department medics responded to the alert and arrived to find the 50-year-old singer collapsed and not breathing. He had suffered a cardiac arrest.

The emergency staff rushed him to hospital in their vehicle, where a computer screen revealed chilling details of his condition.

A record of the call-out read: “50 year old male Not breathing at all.” It gave the time of the call- out as 12.21pm local time.

Medics administered heart massage and oxygen along the route. But they could not revive the star.
And the possible culprit?
An Emergency Room source at UCLA hospital said Jackson aides told medics he had collapsed after an injection of potent Demerol — similar to morphine.

A Jacko source said: “Shortly after taking the Demerol he started to experience slow shallow breathing.

“His breathing gradually got slower and slower until it stopped.

“His staff started mouth-to-mouth and an ambulance was called which got there in eight minutes “But found he was in full respiratory arrest, no breathing and no pulse. They started full CPR and rushed him to hospital.

“When he arrived they started resuscitation, giving him heart shocks and inserted a breathing tube and other supportive measures to try and save his life.

“He never regained consciousness.The family was told that he had passed.”
According to Oxman, older brother Randy Jackson was present when the 911 call was made. And other stories say Michael's personal physician was there, too. We don't know who the "staff" were at the rented home.

The Sun claims Jackson has been rumored to have suffered from both early stage skin cancer and that he did have some form of "heart trouble," something I've never heard before, and which is questionable after Oxman's assertion that Michael was "in fine physical condition" but for the drugs he was allegedly being "enabled" to abuse. ... Expect a media frenzy over his children, whose faces we may see for the first time at what I assume will be a lavish funeral. Their names: "Michael Joseph Jackson, Jr, Paris Michael Katherine Jackson and Prince “Blanket” Michael Jackson II." Wow.

UPDATE: An expert named Dr. Nancy Sniderman (sp?) on MSNBC is throwing in the possibility that Jackson suffered from an eating disorder, which may have been complicated by the use of prescription drugs, or by excessive workouts in preparation for his sold out European tour. The autopsy is being done tomorrow.

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posted by JReid @ 12:36 AM  
Thursday, June 25, 2009
Shock and awe: Michael Jackson gone at 50
Just when I was getting used to Farrah Fawcett being dead, this just blew me away. Michael Jackosn is dead? Seriously??? It doesn't seem real in a way, even though the way he had abused himself physically, it wasn't uncommon for lots of us, myself included, to say "man, Michael's not gonna make it to 50 the way he's going." Well, he made it to 50.

TMZ broke the story, but the mainstream media wouldn't believe it until they heard it from a "credible source" -- namely the L.A. Times. Well, welcome to the new media order fellas. TMZ had it right. I got a text from a friend of mine at around 5:30, and forwarded it to a few other friends, one of whom called me back doubting the veracity of the story. Sure enough, by the time I got home, it was being confirmed on MSNBC. The circumstances strike me as odd -- what was his personal physician during there? What were they doing "working on him" for an hour??? Did he have heart problems? I suspect there's going to wind up being more to it than we're hearing tonight...)

*****UPDATE: Just as I thought. There's more to it. A family spokesman is indicating Michael may have been abusing prescription drugs. Something tells me we're looking at an Anna Nicole Smith scenario unfolding here...******

*****Crowds gather around the world, from Harlem to London and beyond, to mourn the King of Pop*****

What's really important right now is to remember Michael, and to be awed by all that he accomplished. He seemed to have lived through it all: troubled childhood, child stardom, crazy father, breaking up the "Jackson Five," making movies, pioneering music videos, and selling 25 million copies of "Thriller." Jackson made money, squandered money, surgically altered his face, turned white, sang "Black or white", got accused of having a prurient interest in children, beat the rap, lost his American star power, and kept the star power throughout the rest of the world. He veiled his kids, dangled his baby, outraged and excited and rivited a planet full of people, and withdrew from sight.

****Check out the changing faces of Michael Jackson****

In short, Michael Jackson is the most famous person in my lifetime. Muhammad Ali was an icon for me, and there have been lots of others, but Michael Jackson was literally THE central figure in entertainment from the time I was a little kid, all the way through college, when his musical fame had begun to recede, and he was increasingly famous for ... well ... other reasons. Michael Jackson practically built MTV. His music videos revolutionized the genre -- created it, really. He crossed racial and musical barriers that put him in rare company in the history of modern music. His death is shocking, sudden and jarring -- like John Lennon, Elvis Pressley, or Bob Marley were for people a decade or more older than me.

**** UPDATE: Michael's famous friends react.****

I really don't know quite what to even say, and I'm probably saying nothing at all... it's just so damned shocking. So instead, I've decided to post some images of Michael the way I prefer to remember him: fine as hell when I hung the double-truck "Off the Wall" album cover up over my bed, the baddest dancer in the world at the time he did "Thriller" and "Bad," and as the scarecrow in what is still my favorite musical: "The Wiz." Yes, Michael was a troubled guy. Very troubled. But he was also, arguably, the greatest entertainer of his generation. I hope that's what people choose to remember.

A couple of great Jackson songs:

"Don't Stop Till You Get Enough"

"You are not alone"

The Huffpo has a retrospective of great MJ videos.

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posted by JReid @ 11:15 PM  
In what passes for a top story over at Politico these days, Eamon Javers gripes that Barack Obama is better than him ... er, I mean ... you.

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posted by JReid @ 4:28 PM  
Green balloons for Iran on Friday
From the Huffpo:
12:29 PM ET -- Solidarity. We noted earlier that Mousavi was calling on
supporters to release green balloons tomorrow and take video or photos of the
scene. NIAC translated the Mousavi Facebook message:
"Ok, now all the world are going to show their supports to Iranians... This Friday, We all are going to send GREEN BALLOONS to the sky to show that now ALL PEOPLE OF THE WORLD ARE IRANIAN. On 9/11 everybody was American, NOW THE WORLD IS IRANIAN."
Asked and granted.

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posted by JReid @ 4:12 PM  
Charlie's angel
Farrah was the stand-out "Angel" in the 70s hit. Pictured with
co-stars Jaclyn Smith and Kate Jackson

Farrah Fawcett, the "Charlie's Angels" star who inspired the hairstyles of every girl in my mostly black neighborhood who could grow bangs long enough to feather and who had been bravely battling cancer, has died at age 62. Farrah played Jill, and became THE bombshell of the 1970s. As a little kid, I had two "Charlie's Angels" dolls - Farrah's and Kate Jackson's (the sporty one.) But yeah, we all thought Farrah was the best Angel.

Rest in peace, Ms. Fawcett, and condolences to her friends and family.

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posted by JReid @ 3:50 PM  
Ahmadinejad to Obama: say sorry!
The Dubya of Persia attacks the U.S. president, using his political doppelganger as a foil. Ahmadinejad the Appointed begins his diatribe with a swipe at the Brits:
"They (The British) already have a bad record in these matters," he said, describing Downing Street as being run by "political retards". "But why did the US president fall into their trap?"

He advised Mr Obama to take a different approach from his predecessor President George W Bush.

"I hope you (Obama) will avoid interfering in Iran's affairs and express regret in a way that the Iranian people are informed of it," Mr Ahmadinejad said.

"Will you use this language with Iran (in any future dialogue)? If this is your stance, there will be nothing left to talk about. Do you think this behaviour will solve the problem for you? This will not have any result except that the people will consider you somebody similar to Bush."

I think the appropriate response to that might be laughter, but then I'm not a diplomat.

More updates:

70 professors were arrested in Iran for meeting with Mr. Mousavi, whose wife has stated that her country is now, for all intents and purposes, under martial law.

Also, the Soltani family forced out of their home.

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posted by JReid @ 12:13 PM  
Fifa ready to ban Iran over footballers
Fifa appears to be stepping up to the pitch (so to speak):

Fifa are ready to step in to the political firestorm in Iran and ban the national team from football until the Iranian football federation rescinds the life bans it has issued against four of its players.

Four Iranian footballers all of whom wore green armbands in their recent world cup qualifier against South Korea have apparently “retired” from football.

They include a 24 year old Hosein Ka’abi as well as Ali Karimi, 31, Mehdi Mahdavikia, 32 and Vahid Hashemian, 32.

Fifa does not allow political interference in football and have banned Iran before after claims of improper interference the Iranian regime.

Meanwhile, Iran's government is now denying it has banned the players at all:

TEHRAN (AFP) — The head of Iran's football federation has denied punishing players for wearing green wristbands in a show of support of the opposition during a World Cup qualifier, according to local media.

"The comments in foreign media are nothing but lies and a mischievous act," Ali Kafashin was quoted as saying. "The federation has not banned any player from the national team."

Really? So where are they, and why haven't they been allowed to speak to the media? The potential banning of Iran's soccer team could have particular sting for Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's government, since:

...Iranian sporting heroes have long been used as pawns to suit their government's propaganda needs.

Team Melli, as the national squad is known to its millions of adoring fans, has historically been one of the strongest teams in Asia, and regularly plays in front of crowds of over 100,000 at Tehran's Azadi ("Freedom") Stadium.

The team is so important to the people of Iran that before the elections, some commentators even went so far as to suggest that Ahmadinejad's success hinged on the national team's success.

Ahmadinejad, who regularly attends national matches and has even trained with the squad in the past, increased his involvement in the team's affairs leading up to the elections. He promised to personally help it achieve international success, and even sent his presidential jet to Pyongyang to fly the team back to Iran after a qualifying game.

And it wasn't just any players who protested:

Striker Ali Karimi, 31, once dubbed Asia's Maradona, and captain Mehdi Mahdavikia, 32, were among six players who wore the wristbands.

On Wednesday, both players resigned from the national team, known as Team Melli, saying they wanted to clear the way for younger players.

"I am sure that the younger players in the team and the ones who will join later can succeed in Team Melli," Karmi said, while Mahdavikia added: "Team Melli has to get ready for the Asian Cup 2011, and I believe I should give my place to younger players, therefore I am saying goodbye to the team."

... all of which makes the bravery of those players even more apparent. (The resignation statements of the leading players sound about like those "confessions" being aired on Iranian state TV, no?)

Meanwhile, if President Obama accepts the invitation to the World Cup opening ceremony in South Africa, look for it to be a blockbuster on the continent, something akin to when Muhammad Ali arrived in Ghana in 1964. Hope he goes.

UPDATE: The U.S. soccer team is urged to back-up their brothers in Iran:
To the U.S. soccer team players:

Please consider wearing green wristbands in your upcoming match in the Confederations Cup finale. It would be a sign of solidarity and compassion for your fellow soccer brethren who were banned from the game they love and face unthinkable repercussions for simply adorning a green wristband symbolizing peace and freedom. This is not politics, it is human rights. Any slap on the wrist you may face from FIFA pales in comparison to what the Iranian soccer team faced, and what the Iranian people face.

Make us proud. Make the world proud.
Send this message to the team here.

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posted by JReid @ 11:43 AM  
Iran's (accidental) Mandela
Mir Hossein Mousavi probably didn't set out to become the leader of the next Iranian revolution, but today, he finds himself a central protagonist in what looks for all the world like a struggle for the soul of Iran. The would-be president, who hasn't been seen in public for a disturbing amount of time and is essentially under house arrest, has the potential, at least on the surface, to become Iran's Nelson Mandela. That's both good news and bad news. The good news is that it means that eventually, he could win. The bad news is that it took Mandela more than 27 years.

The former hardliner who became a reformist during (and mostly after) the disputed election of 2009, defied his captors today. From the BBC:

Iran protest leader Mir Hossein Mousavi says he holds those behind alleged "rigged" elections responsible for bloodshed during recent protests.

In a defiant statement on his website, he called for future protests to be in a way which would not "create tension."

... A BBC correspondent in Tehran says the statement is a direct challenge to Iran Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei.

... "I won't refrain from securing the rights of the Iranian people... because of personal interests and the fear of threats," Mr Mousavi said on the website of his newspaper, Kalameh.

Those who violated the election process "stood beside the main instigators of the recent riots and shed people's blood on the ground", Mr Mousavi said, pledging to show how they were involved.

Mr Mousavi, a former prime minister, spoke of the "recent pressures on me" that are "aimed at making me change my position regarding the annulment of the election".

He described the clampdowns he and his staff were facing.

"My access to people is completely restricted. Our two websites have many problems and Kalameh Sabz newspaper has been closed down and its editorial members have been arrested," said Mr Mousavi, who has not been seen in public for days.

"These by no means contribute to improving the national atmosphere and will lead us towards a more violent atmosphere," he added.

Of course, there are differences, and the Mandela analogy isn't perfect (it never is.) For one thing, Mousavi is acting with at least the tacit support of very powerful insiders and leading clerics, including would-be "supreme leader" replacement, Ayatollah Hashemi Rafsanjani and former president Mohammed Khatami, and perhaps the speaker of parliament, who apparently was one of the 180 out of 290 members of Iran's parliament who snubbed Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's "victory party" this week. Mandela had no such official quasi-sanction. Still, like Mandela, the movement created in part by him has grown beyond Mousavi's person, to become an organic thing on its own, with his leadership, even in what looks like incarceration, combining with the support of people all around the world to give his supporters courage. And courageous they are.

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posted by JReid @ 11:15 AM  
Raise your hand ...
... if you think Michelle "Internment Camps" Malkin and her crowd really care one iota about the people of Iran. After all, we're talking about Michelle Malkin -- probably the only brown person ever published by the white supremacist site Vdare, who has never demonstrated any emotion toward Muslims outside of the narrow chasm between hatred and loathing -- theoretically being in favor of people who are out yelling "Allahu Akbar" -- a phrase that is an anathema to people like her. No, I'd guess that the wingers are really after with all their carping about Iran is a plan they can reproduce, and thereby pretend that at long last, they're freedom-fighters, too: fighting Barack Obama (of course) ... maybe even in the streets! Witness this interesting comment thread on Malkin's latest supposedly heartfelt Iran post:
On June 24th, 2009 at 5:47 pm, Elm Creek Smith said:

On June 24th, 2009 at 2:56 pm, MrOlympia said:
I reckon somebody is studying the Iranian situation so when he has to deal with it here…….his brown shirt Besij will be much better prepared. He knows many United States citizens are armed, therefore he will have to be even more brutal.

There are millions of us with military training (only 20 years, 22 days, in my case) who do not consider ourselves to be released from our oaths. There are hundreds of thousands in the active military who understand and honor their oaths. If civil war comes, and that is what you are postulating, the Constitution will win, in my opinion.

Hope is not a plan; not all change is good. WE are the civilian national security force! If you have any doubts as to why the Founding Fathers included the Second Amendment in the Bill of Rights, watch the Teheran coverage. “Who will be our George Bush?” The resistance is here; the resistance is now. RESIST!!!!!!!!!


Ladies and gentlemen, I think we may have spotted the next lone gunman. Hopefully someone who knows this weirdo "Elm Creek Smith" will keep one eye on his gun stash, and 911 on speed dial. And what's really scary is that his comments aren't all that far from the recent nuttiness Twittered by Florida's very own Marco Rubio.

By the way, on the not really giving a crap about Muslims but shooting their mouths off anyway front? Throw in the right wing local politicos who probably couldn't find Iran on a map, or think Barack Obama is a Muslim, and probably can't stand Muslims as a rule anyway ... or all three combined. Say ... I wonder if my old pal O'Neal Dozier is a member of the Southeastern Broward Republican Club ...)

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posted by JReid @ 1:03 AM  
Wednesday, June 24, 2009
Sanford's wife told him to take a hike (not a drive to Buenos Aires)
More excavation of Mark Sanford's shame:

COLUMBIA, S.C. – When South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford cheated on his wife, he also betrayed his top political adviser.

First lady Jenny Sanford told the world in a statement Wednesday that she had sent her husband packing nearly 15 years after she launched his political career.

Mark Sanford apologized to her and their four sons at a tearful press conference where he admitted a yearlong affair with a friend in Argentina whom he had visited on a secret trip.

His wife said in her own statement later that she kicked him out of the house two weeks ago and asked him not to speak to her while she tried to come to grips with his infidelity.

It was an abrupt and stunning — even if temporary — split for a couple who helped shape the state's political landscape.

During Mark Sanford's first gubernatorial campaign in 2002, Jenny ran the show from the basement of their Sullivans Island beach house while he fretted as the wind blew his charts off of tripods during outdoor press conferences.

And perhaps more importantly:

Jenny Sanford is a millionaire whose family fortune comes from the Skil Corp. power tool company.
Yep. He's a goner. Especially since Jenny Sanford's statement included the following:

I personally believe that the greatest legacy I will leave behind in this world is not the job I held on Wall Street, or the campaigns I managed for Mark, or the work I have done as First Lady or even the philanthropic activities in which I have been routinely engaged. Instead, the greatest legacy I will leave in this world is the character of the children I, or we, leave behind. It is for that reason that I deeply regret the recent actions of my husband Mark, and their potential damage to our children.

I believe wholeheartedly in the sanctity, dignity and importance of the institution of marriage. I believe that has been consistently reflected in my actions. When I found out about my husband's infidelity I worked immediately to first seek reconciliation through forgiveness, and then to work diligently to repair our marriage. We reached a point where I felt it was important to look my sons in the eyes and maintain my dignity, self-respect, and my basic sense of right and wrong. I therefore asked my husband to leave two weeks ago.

This trial separation was agreed to with the goal of ultimately strengthening our marriage. During this short separation it was agreed that Mark would not contact us. I kept this separation quiet out of respect of his public office and reputation, and in hopes of keeping our children from just this type of public exposure. Because of this separation, I did not know where he was in the past week.

The fact that Sanford spent his period of what was supposed to be reflection and healing, crying in the arms of his mistress cannot bode well for his financial ... I mean marital ... future. Read Jenny Sanford's full statement here.


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posted by JReid @ 10:45 PM  
Perez is burning
Perez Hilton has officially jumped the shark. Buh-bye, now!

Is it wrong that I'm really, really glad the Black Eyed Peas manager belted Perez Hilton, and that I wish to God I could move to Toronto and become a Canadian citizen just long enough to be on that jury, solely for nullification purposes? If it is, consider this my apology. Or not.

To recap: it all started when Hilton, real name something Lavandera, or something, blasted through his 15 minutes of fame by getting into a fight -- literal and Twitteral -- with the entire population of the Black Eyed Peas (whom my son informed me today actually consists of FOUR people. Who knew!? I thought it was just Will.I.Am, Fergie and that Latino guy with the long hair...! But I digress...) So rather than call 911 himself, Perez, for whom EVERYTHING is done mostly for publicity, Twitters his followers to do it for him. And they being the lefty-celeb-hating equivalent of Dittoheads, proceeded to do so, probably clogging up 911 for people with real problems. Per @perezhilton on the night of "the incident..."

--" I'm in shock. I need the police ASAP. Please come to the SoHo Metropolitan Hotel now. Please."

-- "I was assaulted by of the Black Eyed Peas and his security guards. I am bleeding. Please, I need to file a police report. No joke."

--" Still waiting for the police. The bleeding has stopped. I need to document this. Please, can the police come to the SoHo Met Hotel."

--" I spoke to my lawyer. I really need to talk to the authorities. Please come to the SoHo Met Hotel. Have called the police. Need them here."

-- "The Toronto police are here now. Thank you. Please stop calling them."

Well, at least he told them to stop.

Meanwhile, Perez's claims that Will.I.Am had beaten him up, went viral, causing Will.I.Am to feel the need to make his own video denying he'd touched a pink hair on Perez's head. ... oh, and Perez called Will a "faggot." To which Hilton responded with a 12-minute rant about what a bad person Will.I.Am is. Dude -- you're a blogger fighting with a pop group after you've just finished fighting with a beauty pageant contestant ... Which leads us to two conclusions. First, Perez Hilton is an idiot. He Twitted that Will.I.Am assaulted him, which it turns out, he didn't actually believe, since it's the BIP's bodyguard who has been charged with assault (presumably, Perez is the one who pressed the charges.) Second, Perez Hilton is an idiot. A gay guy calling someone a "faggot?" Does that even make sense??? Gay activists are not amused (and neither is John Mayer, which is a whoooole nother level of Perez jumping the shark-dom.) The story makes its way all the way to ABC News:
The openly gay blogger, whose real name is Mario Lavandeira, caught heat from the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, or GLAAD, Monday for his use of the anti-gay slur.

"These are vulgar anti-gay slurs that feed a climate of hatred and intolerance toward our community," Rashad Robinson, GLAAD's senior director of media programs, said in a statement, adding that the organization had reached out to Hilton for an apology.

In response to Hilton's latest statement, Robinson said, "Perez Hilton's acknowledgement that words can hurt is an important step in the right direction, and while his change of tone is welcome, he still seems to be justifying the use of the slurs. ... Now that Perez Hilton has acknowledged that words can hurt, GLAAD calls on him to take this opportunity to reflect on his use of demeaning and defamatory language against many different communities on"
And now, of course, Perez is suing ... although he can't sue the Black Eyed Peas and make soem REAL money, because despite his initial Twittering, none of the members of that group hit him. So, he's down to suing the bodyguard. Sure hate it! And as for that 12-minute rant? Breckin's is funnier.

Prescription: somebody else famous could belt Perez in the other eye so he can stay famous? Or ... let's just pretend he isn't there...

UPDATE: For the love of God make it stop! There's video of the alleged "confrontation":


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posted by JReid @ 8:18 PM  
Nixon approved of abortion if babies were mixed race
Barack Obama might never have been born if Richard Nixon (who otherwise opposed abortion) had his way. I can't help but wonder what Pat Buchanan's thoughts on this would be...

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posted by JReid @ 6:58 PM  
Violent clashes continue in Iran
BBC, Huffpo and AJE updates, including word that (no surprise) the Iranian mullahocracy are trying to blame the CIA for the uprisings, and this via Nico Pitney:
6:24 PM ET -- 70 university professors reportedly arrested. "According to the Kalameh website, this evening, June 24th, Mir Hossein Mousavi held a meeting with the university professors who are members of IAUTI. After the meeting, 70 attendees were arrested."
Also this:

6:07 PM ET -- "The Butcher" to oversee prosecutions of protesters. This does not look good.

The Iranian regime has appointed one of its most feared prosecutors to interrogate reformists arrested during demonstrations, prompting fears of a brutal crackdown against dissent.

Relatives of several detained protesters have confirmed that the interrogation of prisoners is now being headed by Saaed Mortazavi, a figure known in Iran as "the butcher of the press". He gained notoriety for his role in the death of a Canadian-Iranian photographer who was tortured, beaten and raped during her detention in 2003.

"The leading role of Saeed Mortazavi in the crackdown in Tehran should set off alarm bells for anyone familiar with his record," said Sarah Leah Whitson, the Middle East and North Africa director of Human Rights Watch.

The Guardian has a frightening headline saying Tehran "like a war zone" as citizens clash with police and Basij militia. Meanwhile, are Mir-Hussein Mousavi and his wife emerging as the Nelson and Winnie Mandela of Iran? From the Guardian story:

The latest confrontations came as the country's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, whose authority has been challenged by massive grassroots protests, said on state television: "I had insisted and will insist on implementing the law on the election issue. Neither the establishment nor the nation will yield to pressure at any cost."

But the opposition was just as unyielding. One of the defeated presidential candidates, Mehdi Karroubi, stepped up his challenge to the regime, describing the government as illegitimate. Rejecting the outcome of the 12 June vote, the reformist cleric and most liberal of the presidential candidates said on his website: "I do not accept the result and therefore consider as illegitimate the new government. Because of the irregularities, the vote should be annulled."

In another act of blatant defiance, the wife of defeated opposition candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi called on the authorities to immediately release Iranians who had been detained, .

In remarks posted on her husband's website, Zahra Rahnavard said: "I regret the arrest of many politicians and people and want their immediate release. It is my duty to continue legal protests to preserve Iranian rights."

And then there's the tale of the secreted Ayatollah:

Grand Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri, one of Iran's most senior clerics, who has been under house arrest for 10 years, called for three days of national mourning from today for those killed.

"Resisting the people's demand is religiously prohibited," he said on his website. Once the heir apparent to ­Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, Montazeri fell out with the founder of the Islamic republic shortly before his death in 1989.

If people begin to follow him -- via his website -- doesn't that further erode Khamenei's power?

Plus, what of the safety of those incredibly brave Iranian footballers who wore green wristbands during a World Cup qualifying match last week and who have now been banned for life from the national team by Khamenei, and had their passports revoked? Will they become special targets of the regime? Their names (for purposes of praying for them and their families):

According to the pro-government newspaper Iran, four players – Ali Karimi, 31, Mehdi Mahdavikia, 32, Hosein Ka'abi, 24 and Vahid Hashemian, 32 – have been "retired" from the sport after their gesture in last Wednesday's match against South Korea in Seoul.

The Iranian government is trying to sell the idea that the men were paid to wear the wristbands. Nice try, fellas. The Times of London makes a darned good point:

Just as the apparent murder last weekend of the student Neda Soltan lent a human face to the uprising in Iran, the controversy generated by the sportsmen's gesture of defiance has paraded Iran's turmoil to football fans across the world.

By stopping the footballers representing their country, Iran has worsened the prospects of an already faltering national team. Fifa, football's world governing body, banned Iran from international competition in 2006 after claims of improper interference by Tehran's rulers. That ban, later lifted, should now be reimposed until Iran learns to keep politics off the football pitch.

Fifa, are you listening? And while we're at it, the world ought to start looking at the old Apartheid South Africa model when it comes to participation in all sports, including the Olympics, until the war on its own people is stopped.

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posted by JReid @ 6:31 PM  
Fox 'News' does it again: Sanford labeled a Democrat
If this had been the first time the network has attached an erroneous Democratic label to a scandalized pol, it could pass for a mistake. But for Fox, it isn't the first time...

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posted by JReid @ 6:25 PM  
Eek ... and now, the Sanford Emails
The State has them, and you know? I kind of feel awful reading them. Way too much information ... and the newspaper offers additional details that, despite my knee-jerk Democratic schadenfreude over seeing another moralizing Republican bite the political dust, make me wonder whether this particular angle of the story is indeed newsworthy. The details in question:

Below are excerpts of e-mails, obtained by The State newspaper in December, between Gov. Mark Sanford's personal e-mail account and Maria, a woman in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

The State has removed the woman's full name and other personal details, including her address, e-mail address and children's names.

First of all, since the emails came from his personal account, and not the account used by Sanford as governor (at taxpayer expense) how are these emails news? Second, the deeply personal nature of them can only be of interest for the purposes of either voyeurism or ridicule. And third, if the paper had these emails in December, why didn't the paper report on Sanford's affair then? Surely they knew he was a potential 2012 prospect back then. And the fact that The State had these emails sure explains why they were such Johnny on the spots in grabbing that "exclusive" interview with him at the airport upon his return to the U.S. this morning. One is tempted to ask "what did The State know, and when did they know it?"

At issue, in the end, is not Sanford's personal life. That's between him and his wife (and cable TV, which wouldn't let this go if it was on fire. Too juicy.) But all the icky personal stuff is distracting, I think, from the central point, which is the lying: to his staff, and through them, to his constituents, and the rank irresponsibility of a chief executive falling off grid without taking the appropriate steps to ensure the continuity of government. That and the irony of a moralizing conservative who thought his state too upright to accept money for the unemployed turning out to be a rank sinner in his own right. ... But good luck keeping it to that.


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posted by JReid @ 6:06 PM  
Sanford: 'I spent five days of my life crying in Argentina'
If you missed the Mark Sanford press conference, you missed a hell of a news moment. Sanford rambled and rambled and rambled, about God and his family, and his friends, and all the people he let down, and then he announced that for the past year or so, he has been cheating on his wife with a woman in Argentina.

The liveblog as it happened here. (and yes, I managed to say "wow" instead of sh--")

Full story here. Sanford is done. I guess the right's John Edwards jokes are too. Not only has Sanford admitted to running off with his mistress, he essentially is admitting to lying to his staff in order to get them to help him cover it up.


BTW, Sanford is being given lots of credit by people on television for his "candor." But I think you'd have to call this "rolling candor," since earlier today, he was still claiming that he was on an exotic adventure trip.

UPDATE: in case you missed it, peep the video. If you listen through to the end, you'll hear what sounds like a basic admission that Sanford intentionally misled his staff, resulting in their lying to the media. And when he came back, Sanford continued to lie, telling The State newspaper that he'd decided to toss the Appalachian trail aside for a "more exotic trip" joyriding down the Argentine coast. Drip, drip, drip...

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posted by JReid @ 2:42 PM  
They have naked hiking in Argentina???
Mark Sanford is back! ... and he wasn't on the Appalachian trail. He was out of the freaking country (in Buenos Aires, Argentina, no less.)
Sanford said he had considered hiking on the Appalachian Trail, an activity he said he has enjoyed since he was a high school student. "But I said 'no' I wanted to do something exotic," Sanford said "... It's a great city."

... Sanford said he has taken adventure trips for years to unwind. He has visited such places as the coast of Turkey, the Greek Isles and South America. He was with friends sometimes and sometimes by himself.News conference in minutes.
Huh??? Are we talking with clothes or without!? Sanford says he doesn't know how this whole thing got blown out of proportion, and he seems to think it's perfectly normal for the chief executive of a state to exit the country without telling his staff, his wife, or frankly anyone, where he's going. Helloooo 2012!

Sanford press conference any minute.

Ane by the way, if you think the Sanford story has stopped getting weird, consider this: Sanford claims he was driving by himself along the Argentine coast. Okay, however:
Trying to drive along the coast could frustrate a weekend visitor to Argentina. In Buenos Aires, the Avenida Costanera is the only coastal road, and it's less than two miles long. Reaching coastal resorts to the south requires a drive of nearly four hours on an inland highway with views of endless cattle ranches. To the north is a river delta of islands reached only by boat.

A spokesman for Argentina's immigration agency wouldn't comment Wednesday on whether Sanford entered the country, citing privacy laws.
Hopefully at his presser, which we're still waiting on, he will explain why he told his staff he'd be hiking, why he didn't update them if he changed his mind and decided to leave the United States, and why he didn't place the lieutenant governor in charge during his absence. He might also explain how he proposed to drive this so-called coastal route, alone, with or without a map, and without any obvious way of being found should he get lost.

Meanwhile, BlackBook queries Sanford's possible sideline as a Peronista...

And Gawker lists some fun things to do in Argentina without your wife. Handy!

UPDATE: 2:26 - Sanford is talking now, and apologizing to his wife, kids and right now, his staff, saying he let them all down, and let down "people all across the state." He stressed the importance of "being a husband and father" and said that's job one (unlike job 2, which is driving aimlessly down the rambling coastline of Argentina, mostly off-road...)

2:28 - Sanford is now apologizing to his friend Tom Davis. And he's apologizing to his in-laws. (Wow, this is a lot of apologies!) His rambling apology to the in-laws includes strange references to past? internal struggles about "where my heart is." What??? Is this guy dumping his wife or what?

2:29 - Sanford just said "if you look at God's laws, they're designed to protect people from ourselves..." and that "the biggest self is self." Oh lord, is he gonna announce that he's gay?

2:30 - Oh, snap! Sanford just admitted that he's been cheating on his wife. Paraphrasing: "I've been unfaithful to my wife. I've developed a relationship with what started as a dear, dear friend, from Argentina ... it began very innocently as I suspect these things do, in just a casual email back and forth ... but here recently devleoped in this past year into something much more than that. As a consequence, I hurt her, I hurt you all. I hurt my boys. I hurt friends like Tom Davis. ... "

Wow. Wow. I just missed part of the presser because my cellphone rang. But Sanford is going to resign, but so far, only from the Republican Governor's Association, due to this affair. Wow.

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posted by JReid @ 2:11 PM  
Tuesday, June 23, 2009
Mark Sanford was just doin' a little hikin' ... on naked hiking day ...
The latest 2012 GOP hopeful to go down in flames does it big. ... Big and naked:

We’re not suggesting that the formerly missing Governor of South Carolina specifically ditched his family and security detail to go hiking on Naked Hiking Day. It’s just that one of the days he hit the trail also happened to be the aforementioned holiday. [Editor’s note: This paragraph was changed to make clear that the governor’s timing was a coincidence.]

Until late yesterday, no one would say publicly where he was. Poof. He just disappeared.

Poof indeed. Sanford is supposed to return to work tomorrow. Yes, I know you can't wait.

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posted by JReid @ 6:01 PM  
That's it, then. Neil Rogers puts down the mic
As the last entertaining (and practically the only local) talk show host in Miami goes into retirement, South Florida now officially has nothing on AM radio except right wing nuts and redundant syndicated sports shows. From the Herald:

Rogers, 66, and WQAM-AM 560 jointly announced that he is leaving the station and that his 10 a.m.-to-2 p.m. slot will be filled with a sports-talk show. His last show aired Friday.

''WQAM decided they wanted to go with an all-sports format all the time,'' said Norm Kent, Rogers' attorney. ``They made an attractive offer on the balance of his contract, and Neil took it.''

Though Rogers technically remains employed as a WQAM consultant, his website,, declared the buyout an ''early retirement,'' and Kent said his client has no intention of returning to the air.

''It's well known how much money he's made on radio over the years, and he's talked on the air for years about retiring,'' Kent said. 'When WQAM made its offer, he decided, `Why not?' If he wants to come back, there's no non-compete clause in the contract. I could get him a deal at [radio chain] Clear Channel tomorrow. But he's not interested.''

Well, maybe not Clear Channel in Miami... This comes weeks after WQAM fired Neil's sidekick, Jorge, and after Rogers himself was suspended for accidentally reading the F-word on-air. But neither of those things are the real reason Rogers took a powder...

The more likely trigger is a change in the technology that the radio-ratings company Arbitron uses to track audiences.

Arbitron has always compiled its ratings from written diaries kept by listeners, who often write down the names of familiar shows rather than keeping careful track of whom they actually listen to.

But now Arbitron is equipping its South Florida sample listeners with devices it calls ''portable people meters'' that clip onto a belt or pocket and -- using computer codes embedded in the broadcast -- record exactly what station or show is being listened to. The meters have jolted the radio world wherever they have been introduced.

''There are personalities all across the country, major names in major markets, who've lost jobs because the meters showed something the stations didn't want to see,'' said Perry Michael Simon, the news-talk-sports editor of, a website that reports on the radio industry. ``And South Florida stations are starting to see results from the meters.''

Kent acknowledged that WQAM executives mentioned the meters during the talks over Rogers' future that began about three weeks ago.

''They said they needed to juice up the station's ratings as the meters started,'' he said. ``They said they wanted a five-day-a-week host this summer.''

Apparently, the show was on the way out and Rogers took the jump, and the money. Good for him.

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posted by JReid @ 2:06 PM  
The president's press conference delivered
He smacked down John McCain ("only I'm the president...") apparently pleased the increasingly troll-like Krauthammer and his friends at Hot Air, explained the logic of competition ("if the insurance companies say they're delivering a great product, why can't they compete [with a public plan?]" and issued a strong statement on Iran, that in reality, is much like his previous statements, only not in writing. Had enough, neocons? (probably not). Best moment of the presser: when poor Major Garrett showed his Fox "News" creds by asking whether non-existent Iranian diplomats would be welcome at the White House on the Fourth of July ... Earth to Major: we don't have Iranian diplomats because we have no formal diplomatic relations with Iran.

Read, man. Read.

Meanwhile, a better liveblog at the NYT.

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posted by JReid @ 1:56 PM  
Iran's Dubya to be sworn in mid-August
Iran becomes a darker shade of America, circa 2000:

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the winner of Iran's disputed presidential election, is to be sworn in by mid-August, Iranian media reported today after the authorities ruled out an annulment of the result.

IRNA, the official Iranian news agency, said Ahmadinejad, who won a "closely contested and disputed 10th presidential election", would be sworn in before parliament between 26 July and 19 August.

... A spokesman for the powerful guardian council, Abbas Ali Kadkhodaei, was quoted by Iran's state-run English language Press TV as saying the organisation had found "no major fraud or breach in the election". As a result, he said, the outcome would not be annulled.

The move came after Iranian security forces yesterday threatened a "decisive and revolutionary confrontation" with opposition demonstrators if protests continued against the regime..

The BBC offers several expert views on what might happen next.

Previous: Well, if you insist ... Shah's son positions himself...

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posted by JReid @ 10:13 AM  
As Vibe wrecks itself (and hip-hop)
Vibe Magazine's "Best Rapper Ever" contest makes a mockery of hip-hop (in fairness, commercial hip-hop has been making a mockery of itself since the mid-90s, so I guess all's fair in love and wackness.) The first inkling I got that something was wrong was when people like Cowboy, Cannibus, Trina and MC Hammer (plus someone called Kid Cudl) showed up in the round 1 rankings, while people like Dr. Dre, Common, Mos Def and any member of the Wu Tang Clan did not. It was pretty much downhill from there. Take a look at "Round 2, bracket 1": it pitted Eminem against ... wait for it ... Will Smith. Huh??? Are those two even remotely equivalent? I mean, Will Smith is a great comedic actor and seems like a terrific guy, but how did he even get near that bracket? ...

Throw in Redman vs. Juvenile, Big Daddy Cane vs. Camron (another perplexing match-up) and get this: Grandmaster Melle Mel vs. ... um ... Mase. Seriously. Mase. In other words: it was a facile way to get Eminem to the semifinals (he beat Snoop for the "honor." Why not just put Puffy ... I mean "Diddy" in the finals and blow the whole thing up!? As for the semis? They pit Eminem against Jay Z and Tupac against the Notorious B.I.G. with no real explanation as to the methodology, but with the inexplicable result of eliminating either Biggy or Tupac before the final vote, and elevating the arguably very talented Eminem and Jay Z, neither of whom is Tupac or B.I.G. ... (not to mention the possible result of crowning white rapper Eminem the Greatest of All Time, via a voice vote of college kids and tweens.) Here's a thought, Vibe (the magazine that helped spark the Tupac-Biggie feud that left both men dead, and also contributed to the Miamification and Puffyization of hip-hop): quit now, declare BIG and Tupac the co-champions and get out while you still have some dignity.

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posted by JReid @ 9:26 AM  
Smart move: Chris Brown cops a plea

He'll avoid a nasty trial, and Rihanna having to testify. Plus he won't go to jail.

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posted by JReid @ 8:48 AM  
Say goodnight, Ed

Sad news. Johnny Carson's sidekick, better known as Ed McMahon, has died.

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posted by JReid @ 8:44 AM  
Well, if you insist ... Shah's son positions himself for restoration
Reza Pahlavi, the son of the former dictator of Iran, cries freedom

What does a guy who left Iran when he was 14, lives in Maryland, and whose father was the dictator deposed in the 1979 revolution have to do with the "green revolution" in Iran? Well ... in a word ... nothing. A glance at TIME's list (or anyone else's) of the top ten players in the Iranian political system doesn't even reveal his name. But that hasn't stopped former "Crown Prince" Reza Pahlavi from talking ... and talking ... and talking ... revolution. And he's weeping about it too. It's almost like he's positioning himself on the side of the uprising in order to be "available" to be restored to the throne ... should the Iranian people cry out for his return, of course. (ahem)

Did you catch Pahlavi playing the Iran expert on CNN this morning? It's hard to believe he knows any more about what's going on in his former country than you or I. What about his tear-filled speech at the National Press Club, in which he clutched a picture of Neda, the young woman who has come to symbolize the rebellion, and declared that she is like his own child (if for instance, his child was an Iranian woman who wasn't related to the last guy to order his military police to mow people down in the streets of Tehran...) During his speech, the Crown Prince spoke Big:
Bear in mind that for the great majority of Iranians born after the Islamic Revolution, the unfolding events are the most significant transforming experiences of their collective memory. The courage of their convictions gives hope for peace and democracy in the most troubling region of the world. On the other hand, their defeat will encourage extremism from the shores of the Levant, to the energy jugular of the world. At the very least it will threaten regional tranquility and global economic recovery through fears of terrorism, slowdown of globalization and steeply higher energy prices. At worst, fanatical tyrants - who know that the future is against them - may end their present course on their terms: a nuclear holocaust.
Wow ... a nuclear holocaust? Hadn't heard that before from the Iran analysts who have actually crossed the border into that country in the last 30 years... And Pahlavi's doomsaying wouldn't have aaaaaanything to do with his ties to the nihilist American neoconservative movement that up until about a minute ago was seeking an excuse to, in the words of one of their political people "bomb bomb bomb, bomb bomb Iran" ... would it??? Perhaps the most important sentence in Pahlavi's green serenade was "Iranians born after the Islamic Revolution." Said revolution is kind of a sore spot for our friend Reza. As Dana Milbank appropriately snarks:
Yesterday, the 48-year-old son of a dictator was merely voicing his hopes that what his countrymen have begun over the last 10 days will become a revolution. "However, I often don't use the word 'revolution,' because I think revolution has a very negative connotation in everybody's collective memory."

Particularly Pahlavi's. His family had lived a life of great extravagance until Ayatollah Khomenei deposed the shah in 1979, a year after Jimmy Carter hailed the monarch as "an island of stability." Even yesterday, the former crown prince was defensive about those days. "They had orders not to hit -- fire on people," he said of his father's troops, who, whatever their orders, managed to kill thousands.

Ah, the good old days. And of course, being a patriot, Pahlavi is only too happy to serve his country by restoring them. More Milbank:

Whatever the Iranian demonstrators are seeking, there is little evidence from their Twitter feeds that they are seeking the restoration of the monarchy -- and Pahlavi, who was a teenager getting flight training in Texas during the Islamic revolution, was shrewd enough not to propose it. "This is not about restitution of an institution," he said. But should a democratic Iran "choose to have me play a more prominent role," he added, "let that be their choice."
Yes, of course. "Their choice." And as to the potential nuclear holocaust that will ensue if the revolution he is most decidedly NOT a part of fail?

Luckily, Pahlavi had a solution: himself. While he said repeatedly that he is not running for any office, he also spoke of his "supporters" and even his "platform" of human rights for his homeland.

"People support me because of the very fact that we are talking the same language: freedom, democracy, human rights," the shah's son said. "I'm not demanding people to support me today because of me. I'm demanding people to support me so that I can best serve them achieve what their goal is, which is achieve freedom."

Pahlavi does have his supporters: about 500 of them ... in Los Angeles. Plus this guy in London. And coincidentally, the last time he stepped into the spotlight was back in 2001, following the September 11 terror attacks, as ordinary Iranians took to the streets to declare their love for America, causing Pahlavi to step forward and ... surprise! ... offer himself as a potential future leader of Iran. From 2001:

Despite his cold-generated cough, the prince spoke enthusiastically for almost two hours, about his vision of Iran and the progress of his campaign for democracy in Iran, whicj he discussed in an interview with the Middle East last year.

Commenting on what his mother Empress Farah Pahlavi, told London Arabic daily Asharq Al-Awsat two days earlier - that her son wants to return and serve his country like any ordinary citizen- the Shah in exile sys the important thing is that the people of Iran are given the right to chose how they wish to be governed. Whether the future for Iran involves a republic or constitutional monarchy, is not the issue at this time, he says. The first aim shold be for the wishes of the Iranian people to be recorded in a free and fair election.

"My mission in life, from the day I started 21 years ago, remains the same, " said the man who most Iranian liberals in exile, as well as an increasing number of Iranians at home, consider him to be the hope of salvation from what many describe as its current nightmare.

He outlines his vision for a comprehensive strategy to give Iranian people freedom of choice and real democracy, in his book, " Winds of Change: the Future of Democracy in Iran" published feb 2002 in Washington by Regency Publishing Inc., which he dedicated to the memory of all Iran's fallen heroes and patriots.

" My goal is to reach a stage when the Iranian people can go to a national referendum and vote their conscience and vote for their future. That day, the day the Iranians go to the polls, is the end of my mission in life. What they want to do afterwards is entirely up to them and I stand ready to serve them in whatever capacity that they see fit. "

So what are we restoring, my liege? From the book "Great Britain and Reza Shah: The Plunder of Iran, 1921-1941" by Gholi Majd, we learn of Reza's grandfather, Reza Shah:

In his 1946 book, Millspaugh provides an indication of the prevailing terror practiced by Reza Shah. Millspaugh states that Reza Shah "had imprisoned thousands and killed hundreds, some of the latter by his own hand." As the consequence of the terror, "Fear settled upon the people. No one knew whom to trust; and none dared to protest of criticize. ... Evidence also appeared abundant and pitifully convincing, that he (shah's) terror operating on a timid and sensitive people had shaken nerves and unbalanced minds. Moreover, he let loose a spirit of violence that lent sinister implications to the mercurial temperament of the people, the disunity of the country, and the disorganization and weakness of the government."

State Department records provide a vivid account of hte reign of terror inflicted on the people of Iran between 1921 and 1951. for twenty ears, the country was a complete and brutal military dictatorship. Parliament became a rubber stamp and complete censorship was imposed. Iran's newspapers and their editors were early victims of the dictatorship. The suppression of newspapers, the physical violence (specially the savage beatings administered by Reza Khan himself), and even the murder of recalcitrant editors are described in the records. There are many instances of arrest and subsequent disappearance of opponents, including numerous members of the ulema, the most notable that of Seyed Hassad Modarres. the arrests and extrajudicial killings of political personalities are described in detail in the American records...

And this about the ascension to the Peacock Throne (with help from the American CIA) of Reza's father, Muhammad Reza Shah Pahlavi, from the book "All the Shah's Men" by Stephen Kinzer:
One morning soon after his arrival, the new secret police, called Savak, organized a crude maneuver to impress upon him the terms of his incarceration. A gang of thugs turned up in front of his home, and they began shouting violent anti-Mossadegh slogans. At their head was none other than the gang leader Shaban the Brainless, who had become on e of the regime's favorite enforcers. Fora time the mob seemed ready to storm the house. It retreated after one of Mossadegh's grandsons fired several rifle shots into the air from inside. Several minutes later two Savak officers arrived and asked to see the prisoner. They carried a letter for him to sign. It was a request that Savak agents be assigned to protect him. Mossadegh, who understood the realities of power, signed it without protest. Within an hour Savak agents took up posts outside and inside the walled complex where he lived. their standing orders, which did not change for the rest of Mossadegh's life, were to allow no one other than relatives and a few close friends to visit him.

In the weeks following the coup, most of Mossadegh's cabinet ministers and prominent supporters were arrested. Some were later released without charge. Others served prison terms after being convicted of various offenses. Six hundred military officers loyal to Mossadegh were also arrested, and about sixty of them were shot. So were several student leaders at Tehran University. Tudeh and the National Front were banned, and their most prominent supporters were either imprisoned or killed.

Hussein Fatemi, who had been Mossadegh's foreign minister, was the most prominent figure singled out for exemplary punishment. Fatemi was a zealous antimonarchist, and during the turbulent days of August 1953 he had attacked the Shah, whom he called "the Baghdad fugitive," with special venom. .... In one speech, he addressed the absent monarch: "O traitor Shah, you shameless person, you have completed the criminal history of the Pahlavi regime! The people want revenge. They want to drag you from behind your desk to the gallows." Now that the tables were turned, the Sha had his chance, and he did not miss it. Just as he had promised Kermit Roosevelt, he arranged for Fatemi to be summarily tried, convicted of treason, and executed.

Fatemi had once compared the Shah to a snake "who bites mortally when the opportunity presents itself." In the end he was among those who suffered the deadly bite. Becasue of his fate, and also because he was the only member of Mossadegh's inner circle who was a descendant of the Prophet Mohammad, his memory is honored in Iran today. One of the main boulevards in Tehran is Dr. Hussein Fatemi Avenue.
Ah, the good old days!

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posted by JReid @ 7:24 AM  
Amid the neocon noise, smart takes on Iran
It's almost hard to believe, with all the GOPers out there demanding that President Obama demand a recount in Iran (as Rep. Mike Coffman, embarrassing my former state of Colorado, suggested tonight on "Hardball") that there are any non-Iranians out there with much to say about Iran that isn't completely idiotic. The idea that the American president should demand a recount in a country that isn't the United States is at minimum ironic, given what happened in our presidential elections in 2000, complete with five of our very own Republican mullahs putting their thumb on the scale on the side of their political compatriot. It's also insane. Watch Chris Matthews try to explain as much to a stumbling Coffman tonight:

Luckily, there are a few sane people left with access to the mainstream media. From TIME Magazine's Eben Harrell (in London):
So why has Europe, so often cast as the more timid side of the transatlantic partnership, responded more vigorously this time? The answer, according to Robin Niblett, director of the London-based international-relations think tank Chatham House, lies in the low-rumbling crisis in the background of the disputed election: Iran's nuclear program.

"The United States is the only country that can convince Iran that it is not as threatened as it thinks it is, and that's crucial to the negotiations [over Iran's disputed enrichment program]," Niblett says. "The Obama Administration is playing it absolutely right: it is determined to convince the Iranians that its goal is not regime change. Any public denunciations could damage Obama's efforts to coax Iran out of its defensive posture."
Meanwhile, over in Europe:
Domestic politics is also playing into the strong rhetoric on the part of European leaders like Sarkozy and Merkel, according to Niblett. "It is in Sarkozy's nature to be plain-speaking and tough, and that's played well domestically. His popularity has dropped recently, so his stance on the importance of free elections plays well. It does for Merkel too, as it distinguishes her from [Social Democrat Foreign Minister and Vice Chancellor] Frank-Walter Steinmeier, who has been more measured in his response."
Yeah, domestic politics is playing a big role here, too. It seems some of our Republican/neocon friends are more interested in attacking the president of the United States than in pursuing an intelligent foreign policy that benefits America's national security.

Next up, real, live Republican grown-up Peggy Noonan (who unlike the neocons, is a conservative Ronald Reagan actually bothered to listen to):

Stifling and corrupt religious autocracy has seen its international standing diminished, and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who is among other things a Holocaust denier, has in effect been rebuked by half his country, and through free speech, that most painful way to lose your reputation, which has broken out on the streets. He can no longer claim to speak for his people. The rising tide of the young and educated seems uninterested in reflexively hating the West and deriving their meaning from that hatred.

To refuse to see all this as progress, or potential progress, is perverse to the point of wicked. To insist the American president, in the first days of the rebellion, insert the American government into the drama was shortsighted and mischievous. The ayatollahs were only too eager to demonize the demonstrators as mindless lackeys of the Great Satan Cowboy Uncle Sam, or whatever they call us this week. John McCain and others went quite crazy insisting President Obama declare whose side America was on, as if the world doesn't know whose side America is on. "In the cause of freedom, America cannot be neutral," said Rep. Mike Pence. Who says it's neutral?

This was Aggressive Political Solipsism at work: Always exploit events to show you love freedom more than the other guy, always make someone else's delicate drama your excuse for a thumping curtain speech.

And she adds this:

Should there at this point, more than a week into the story, be a formal declaration of support from the U.S. government? Certainly it's time for an indignant statement on the abuses, including killings and beatings, perpetrated by the government and against the opposition. It's never wrong to be on the side of civilization. Beyond that, what would be efficacious? It must be asked if a formal statement of support for the rebels would help them. And they'd have a better sense of it than we.

Amen. And from the WaPo's Richard Cohen, the most obvious point of all:

The current policy, much criticized by prominent Republicans, vindicated Barack Obama's boast in his Cairo speech that he is a "student of history." The student in him knows that the worst thing the United States could do at the moment is provide the supreme leader and the less supreme leaders with the words to paint the opposition as American stooges -- or, even worse, suggest to the protesters that some sort of help is on its way from Washington.

Cohen then delivers a nice splash of cold water to Paul Wolfowitz's (surprise, surprise!) TOTALLY WRONG ANALOGY in his recent column comparing Ronald Reagan's intervention with a former colony with Barack Obama's positition vis-a-vis a government WITH WHICH WE HAVE NO FORMAL RELATIONS... (sigh)

Some of Obama's critics have faulted him for not doing what Ronald Reagan (belatedly) did following the fraudulent election in the Philippines in 1986. After some dithering, Reagan virtually forced President Ferdinand Marcos into exile. How neat. How not a precedent for Iran.

Marcos was, to exhume a dandy Cold War phrase, an "American lackey." The Philippines itself was a former American colony. We knew the country. Hell, at one time, we virtually owned it.

In contrast, not a lot is known about how Iran is actually governed. If, for instance, the White House asked the State Department to send over someone with on-the-ground experience in contemporary Iran, the car would arrive empty. The last American diplomats left Iran in 1979. The United States has to rely on foreign diplomats and journalists for its information.

Yet according to some of the dumbest elected persons I've ever heard on television, our president should take to the airwaves and ... wait for it ... demand a recount in Iran. Brilliant.

In the end, the Nation's Washington editor Chris Hayes got it right on Rachel's show tonight. The neoconservative movement is fundamentally about this weird, preening desperation to make every world event, every happening in every culture, even ones we fundamentally don't understand -- All About Us. Thus, the Iranian uprising is about Us (not about the economy, or joblessness, or frustration with the strictures of religious law, or the things the Iranians say it's about. Silly brown people -- they just don't get that it's really all about them wanting Us to guide them to freedom!) The protesters are speaking to Us (not to the Europeans who used to run the place, or to other English-speaking people, just Us. The color green is so close to the color blue that even THAT must ... MUST be About Us. This desire to jam the United States and our inflated self-portrayal as The World's Greatest/Only Defender of Liberty Everywhere into the center of every conceivable conflict is actually starting to look like a mental affliction, and it's one that I, for one, am very glad was not visited on 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue last November.

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posted by JReid @ 12:37 AM  
Monday, June 22, 2009
Marco Rubio pulls the pin on the crazy grenade
You've kind of got to feel sorry for Marco Rubio. His GOP Senate opponent Charlie Crist has got all the name recognition, all the money, all the big endorsements ... and all he's got are those losers at Club for Growth, the Limbaugh crowd and a couple of guys holed up in their mother's basements in Davie stockpiling guns (and teabags) ... waiting for the black helicopter invasion. So you'll forgive Marco if he's a little liberal with "the Twitter..."
Dropped a muffin on floor at airport. Was advised that 2 second rule applied but
decided not to risk it and bought another one. from TwitterFon

No... not that one ...
I have a feeling the situation in Iran would be a little different if
they had a 2nd amendment like ours. #sayfie #tcot #nra from TwitterFon

Yeah, that one. Marco? You're not suggesting that you wish the protesters in Iran could get into an actual shoot-out with the military, police and Basij militia, are you...? And worse, you're not suggesting that you generally support that kind of thing ... at the same time ... you're trying to become a United States Senator ... right?

You know, Twitter can be a darned dangerous thing in the hands of a politician... particularly a politician who probably couldn't find Iran on a map, let alone know a darned thing about the place, but who has been set free by social networking software to unleash his inner Limbaugh.


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posted by JReid @ 8:42 PM  
Charlie's Big List
(Sorry Marco.) Politico's Ben Smith reports on the who's who of GOP lobbyists and big-shots who are lending their names to a $10,000 a plate fundraiser for Charlie Crist. Expect Dems to be going through the list with a fine toothed comb looking for anyone scandalicious.

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posted by JReid @ 6:37 PM  
Compelling photos from Iran (and a question)
Incredible images of the protests over several days. From a post at the Twitter feed #IranElection.

And a great point from a Tweeter named Helen Barette:
I wonder how many of the people protesting outside of Iran would be willing to protest in the streets of Iran?
Probably not many, Helen. Many of the loudest American voices are from chickenhawks.

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posted by JReid @ 6:10 PM  
Did Will.I.Am clock Perez Hilton?
One can only dream...

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posted by JReid @ 6:07 PM  
Where in the world is Mark Sanford?
The stimulus money-hating South Carolina governor (and would-be 2012 GOP presidential contender???) has flown the coop. So it's time to ask: "Have You Seen This Man?" If you have, kindly tell his wife...

Meanwhile, the SC GOP is concerned:
... South Carolina state Senate Democratic Leader John C. Land III released this interesting statement about Mark Sanford's mysterious disappearance:
"We've been concerned by the Governor's erratic behavior for some time. We're praying for him and his family. I hope he is safe and that he contacts the First Lady and his family soon."
Milk carton, anyone?

UPDATE: Sanford's whereabouts have apparently been determined (well, sort of ... no one has actually talked to him...) His wife says she wasn't worried. I guess he disappears like this all the time???

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posted by JReid @ 6:01 PM  
Paul Porter speaks truth to Black radio
It's not what Black radio wants to hear, but my friend Paul Porter, the man behind the media watchdog IndustryEars, is telling the truth:

For decades, Black America has been the victim of all kinds of media distortion. It doesn't take a keen eye to see the regression of images in the past twenty years, in the eighties Cosby was America's number one sitcom and twenty years later VH1's "Flavor of Love" held television's highest rated African American program. Historically, one critical form of communication – Black radio - was the antidote to that distortion, consistently standing as a reliable source of news, information and culture throughout local communities nationwide.

Unfortunately, Black radio is swiftly becoming part of the problem, not the solution. It began, of course, with black-owned stations losing their independent voices and turning into sterile corporate jukeboxes limiting both information and community access, while feeding us music that reinforced the same stereotypes that for decades radio helped to defeat.

Now the few surviving Black-owned radio stations are abusing their unique influence in the community to misinform listeners about the impact of a new Congressional bill designed to support the kind of independent, creative and positive musical artists we all have demanding.

Cathy Hughes, Founder of Radio One, as one example, has been leading the charge against HR 848, an act of legislation that Hughes charges will “end black radio.” Nothing could be further from the truth.

The facts on HR 848 are clear if you take the time to read them. Formally called The Performance Rights Act, the bill proposes what should be simple - paying performers royalties for radio airplay. Only the United States, North Korea and Iran don't pay royalties for performers on free AM/FM radio. Currently performers and recording owners are only paid in the States when their songs are played on satellite radio, cable stations and internet radio.

Songwriters and publishers continue to be paid by AM & FM radio. So why should the performers be excluded? ...

Read the rest here. It's Cathy Hughes' party and she can certainly cry all she wants to, but at the end of the day, she and other purveyors of what passes for "Black radio" these days have to take responsibility for where they find themselves. They can hardly count on the same black public they themselves have helped to "dumb down" to suddenly stand up and fight their members of Congress over this (or any other) bill. Hell, half the people listening to joke/sex rap radio probably don't know who their Congressmen are. Meanwhile, the positive images black communities are being fed aren't coming from Black radio or God forbid, from BET. They're coming from the top: the White House. That, I'm afraid, makes much of Black radio virtually irrelevant.

For more info, read "who killed Black radio?" right over here.

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posted by JReid @ 3:29 PM  
Neda's revolution

Thanks to Kathy Riordan for correcting me (and everyone else) on the previous, erroneous, Neda photo. Read more about the photo snafu on her blog.

The death of a 27(?)-year-old Iranian philosophy student whose murder in the streets of Tehran, apparently at the hands of the "Basij" militia, was captured on cellphone video, has become the new rallying cry for Iranian protesters. With a name and face to put on the protests, it seems the Twitter Revolution is morphing into Neda's revolution, at least in the media...

There have conflicting stories about her age, with some news reports putting her age at as young as 16 (which is what CNN was still saying this morning), which may be part of the mythology that's building around the still boiling uprising in Iran.

Meanwhile, a man who says he was Neda's Fiancé, speaks.
"Neda wanted freedom, freedom for everyone," said Kaspeen Makan, who was engaged to Neda Sultani, 27, the young Iranian woman who has become a symbol of the reformist struggle in Iran after a video of her being killed by a Basij sniper during a protest on Saturday was posted on the Internet.

"She said a number of times that even if she dies and takes a bullet to the heart, which apparently is what happened, it will be a step forward. Neda, in her young age, taught a lesson to many people," said Makan in an interview with the BBC.

He noted that she was not affiliated with any political camp. "Neda's goal was not Mousavi or Ahmadinejad, but her homeland. It was important to her that the homeland advance a step forward."

Full BBC interview here. It's clear that one of the reasons that the Neda story is so affecting is that she was a pretty, western looking young woman. That's evident from some of the right wing blog reaction. Case in point (from The InQuisitor):
I think AllahPundit at HotAir put it so well:

I hope to god this isn’t really her…because the thought of her being so beautiful and dignified makes the murder somehow that much more obscene….If there’s any justice, there’ll be videos like this of Khamenei and Ahmadinejad someday soon.

Neda Sultani pictured without headscarf. AFP.

Yeah, that usually moves the wingers. For the rest of us, Neda's story is tragic and affecting just on its own, and our hearts go out to her family and to the people of Iran who are risking their lives for the future of their country.

Meanwhile, Iranian officials admit that ballot stuffing took place in 50 cities, to the tune of perhaps 3 million votes. Lucky for the regime they rigged the election by 11 million votes!

More liveblogging and updates on what's going on in Iran, where the government apparently put down Neda mourning protests yesterday with brute force, (though apparently, Islamic tradition states that mourning takes place 3, 7 and 40 days after a death, so there could well be more "Neda protests" coming...) from the Beeb (minus their reporter, who was kicked out of Iran over the weekend) and the Times of London. More opinion on Neda via Taylor Marsh, and of course the Huffpo.

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posted by JReid @ 1:53 PM  
From the 'thank God John McCain didn't win' file
John McCain thinks Barack Obama should order U.S. Navy personnel to board North Korean ships... which should work out nicely if you want to restart the Korean war. From CNN:

Appearing on the CBS program "Face the Nation," the Arizona Republican said the North Korean ship being tracked by the USS John McCain — a destroyer named after his father and grandfather — may be contributing to the spread of nuclear weapons to rogue states.

"If we have hard evidence that that ship is carrying technology equipment missiles that are in gross violation of the U.N. Security Council resolutions, I think we should board it," said McCain, who lost his presidential bid to Barack Obama in last November's election.

What is he, taking it personal??? Meanwhile:

North Korea has warned that any effort to stop one of its ships would be considered an act of war.

Thank you, thank you, 53 percent of America, for not giving this man access to the button.

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posted by JReid @ 1:49 PM  
New ReidReport Twitter home
Hear ye, hear he, you can now follow the Reid Report/Reidblog on Twitter at @thereidreport.

If you were previously on my list (pre-hack attack) kindly shoot me an email with your twitter account so I can follow you again, too.

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posted by JReid @ 1:32 PM  
George Will says it all: neocon Obama critics wrong on Iran
You're seeing the split again: neocon nuts versus actual conservatives, this time on the issue of Iran, in the persons of realists like Dick Lugar, old school ex-regime changers like (the awful) Henry Kissinger, and paleocons like Pat Buchanan and on Sunday, George Will.

What these guys seem to have in common is that they were part of the Nixon crowd -- people who in general are skeptical (if not downright disdainful) of neoconservatism and its interventionist, Wilsonian bent (not to mention the fact that the same neocons who are now screeching for Obama to help the demonstrators were rooting for Ahmadinejad to win the election...) Buchanan and others (including Zbigniew Brzezinksi) see the neocons hovering around the Iran situation, looking for an opening for military intervention. They've seen that movie before and don't want to catch another viewing. By the way Brzezinksi has to have had the quote of the weekend, when he appeared on the best of the Sunday shows, "Fareed Zakaria GPS," and conflated the right wing Iranian regime and our own neocons:
In Iran, we have two different forces at work. You have those who are for more democracy but who are also nationalistic and you have those who are supporting the regime who in many respects are ... very similar to our Neocons. They are Manichean, they look at the world as divided into Good and Evil and many of them see America as the personification of Evil...

[Obama] has struck exactly the right note. He's offering moral sympathy, he's identifying himself morally and historically with what is happening in Iran but he's not engaging himself politically, he's not interfering, because that would turn out badly and it could be exploited by the Neocons in Iran to crush the revolution ...

Meanwhile, the White House is reportedly getting frustrated with the lack of credit Obama is getting for the Cairo speech, which undoubtedly inspired reform-minded Iranians, at least according to Chuck Todd.

Double meanwhile, courtesy of Andrew Sullivan, Matt Steinglas wades into the muck that is the neocon mind.

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posted by JReid @ 1:05 PM  
From Fox News' lone news man
Shep Smith is an island unto himself at Fox. It must be awfully lonely over there.

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posted by JReid @ 1:03 PM  
Saturday, June 20, 2009
Iranians defy Khameini; Obama addresses violent reaction
More images available from the BBC

Iranian protesters came out in large numbers to defy the Ayatollah Khamenei. The response to their protests was brutal.

Iranian police have used water cannon, batons, tear gas and live rounds to break up protests over the presidential election, witnesses in Tehran say.

A BBC reporter said he saw one man shot and others injured amid running fights.

The BBC has video of what looks like a massive protest in Tehran, and another of a crowd being disbursed using tear gas.

Nico Pitney has all the updates, including Youtube video of disturbing, violent scenes of police beating women, and one woman who was fatally shot (warning: graphic) apparently by the pro-government "Basji" forces.

Meanwhile, Mr. Mousavi is said to have told some that he is preparing for martyrdom. Ominous. And he's now charging that the election was rigged months in advance.

President Obama issued a very strong, well done statement:

The Iranian government must understand that the world is watching. We mourn each and every innocent life that is lost. We call on the Iranian government to stop all violent and unjust actions against its own people. The universal rights to assembly and free speech must be respected, and the United States stands with all who seek to exercise those rights.

As I said in Cairo, suppressing ideas never succeeds in making them go away. The Iranian people will ultimately judge the actions of their own government. If the Iranian government seeks the respect of the international community, it must respect the dignity of its own people and govern through consent, not coercion.

Martin Luther King once said - "The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice." I believe that. The international community believes that. And right now, we are bearing witness to the Iranian peoples’ belief in that truth, and we will continue to bear witness.

Amen. Our prayers are with the people in Iran.

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posted by JReid @ 4:45 PM  
Friday, June 19, 2009
Iranian soccer players reportedly suspended
... for wearing green wristbands in support of the reform movement.

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posted by JReid @ 12:58 PM  
The ups and downs of being Kendrick Meek
The Orlando Sentinel's Mark Matthews breaks it down. Cheat sheat: The pros: his name is Kendrick Meek. The cons: his name is Kendrick Meek:
His mother's influence — along with a solidly Democratic voting record — has allowed Meek to quickly rise in Democratic ranks. His mother served on the Appropriations Committee with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who called him a "star."

"He has one of the best internal barometers," said U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, a South Florida Democrat who joined Meek on the House floor for late-night ribs at Republicans and has endorsed his Senate bid. "He really has just a good sense of what issues resonate."

An exception, though, was his vote to intervene in the legal battle over Terri Schiavo, the brain-damaged Florida woman caught in the middle of a national right-to-die debate.

"That's a vote I do regret," he said. "It was an intrusion on the Schiavo family."
And on the up- and downsides of name ID:
Lacking Crist's fundraising ability, Meek is crisscrossing the state to gather signatures so he can qualify to run without paying a $10,000 fee. It's also a way for the native Miamian to build name recognition in a state where polls suggest roughly half the electorate doesn't even know his name.

One reason for his anonymity: Meek has rarely faced any serious opposition. His first run for Congress in 2002 was made easy when his mother — whose name helped him easily win his first legislative race in 1994 — resigned just before the qualifying deadline. He has been re-elected easily since then.
"Rarely" is a term of art. The exact word I think the writer was looking for is "never." Which leads me to seriously question why the Democratic Party isn't welcoming the idea of an opponent, if only to give Kendrick the practice.

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posted by JReid @ 12:42 PM  
Are the neocons looking to hijack the green revolution?
The neocons sure seem to be itching for a fight in Iran (and confused as to how best to get us there...) Meanwhile, remember when the neocons in the Pentagon and Iranian spy Ahmad Chalabi cooked up a plan to bring regime change to Iran, perhaps including re-installing the son of the Shah? Well young Mr. Pahlavi, who has strong ties to the neocon/likud axis of war is still out there, weighing in on the green revolution (of which he appears to have no part,) causing neocons to drool, and perhaps dreaming of a return to the Peacock Throne. ... Said the "crown prince" on June 16th:
Asked if he aspired to return to Iran as shah and restore the monarchy, Pahlavi said it would be premature to answer. "The only thing that I'm concerned with -- which is my agenda, my political agenda -- is to end up with a secular parliamentary, democratic system," Pahlavi said.

Such a system could take the form of a parliamentary monarchy such as in Sweden or Japan, he said. "I'm not fighting for any job right now. This is not about me," Pahlavi added.
Aw, shucks.

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posted by JReid @ 12:08 PM  
A bit of palace intrigue in Tehran?
The temptation in the West (particularly in the media,) is to assume that the Iran situation is a straightforward clash between an incumbent regime and "the people." That's clearly true on a basic level. But as in all complex things, there is always more than one level.

The day before the Friday prayers by Ayatollah Ali-Khameini, a column appeared on Al Jazeera English that offers some tantalizing tidbits about the Ayatollah Khameini (not to be confused with the Ayatollah Khomeini who died in 1989 and whose authority one must assume would never have been questioned, particularly in the streets.) The current Ayatollah is another guy entirely, who was put in place after the previous "SL"'s demise, by a council of men who theoretically, can remove him from power ... read on ... [at left: you say Khameini, I say Khomeini. The current Iran "supreme leader" is pictured on the left, and the 1979 revolution leader on the right]

Not since the 1979 Islamic Revolution when Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini overthrew the shah has Iranian society been so rattled and divided.

According to the Iranian constitution, the Guardians of the Constitution are supposed to monitor and sign off on election results.

After the votes have been counted and the winner announced by the interior ministry, the Guardians have the responsibility to endorse the result within 10 days if there are no complaints from the defeated candidates.

The president-elect is then confirmed and later sworn in by Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

But last week's election did not follow these procedures.

Despite complaints by Mir Hossein Mousavi, Mehdi Karroubi and Mohsen Rezaei, the opposition candidates, Ayatollah Khamaenei congratulated Ahmadinejad in a public speech and pointed out that he had got 14 million votes more than the first time he was elected president four years ago.
What comes next, is an explanation of how Iran's governmental system works, which suggests that a truism of Western understanding about Iran: that the "supreme leader" is the top man in Iran, is not entirely true...

Many moderate clerics, some of whom are believed to be members of the powerful Assembly of Experts, have questioned the wisdom of Khamenei in hastily endorsing Ahmadinejad's "victory".

The Assembly, which selects the country's supreme leader, is chaired by Ayatollah Hashemi Rafsanjani who is considered by many as one of the pillars of the Islamic Revolution.

He was the man behind the election of Khamenei as supreme leader soon after the death of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeni in 1989.

In theory at least, the Assembly has the constitutional right to question and even replace the supreme leader.
Which brings to mind a couple of paragraphs from that profile of the opposition leader, Mr. Mousavi:
Mousavi promised economic reform, freedom of expression and a campaign against economic corruption.He also pledged to review laws that discriminate against women, remove the ban on privately owned television stations and curb the power of the supreme leader by taking control of security forces.
What? Could it be that Khameini, whose job description includes "commander in chief of the armed forces," and who served as president in the 1980s during the time Mousavi was prime minister (a position which afterward was eliminated) be fearful of his former colleague, and of being removed from power? That brings us back to the Al Jazeera article:
Some influential moderate clerics privately admit that Khamenei has not done "justice" to the presidential candidates and has not treated them with impartiality.

This behaviour, they believe, could jeopardise his position as leader since one of the main qualities required of the supreme leader is "justice".

Rafsanjani is also the chairman of the Expediency Council which is a body charged with the power to resolve differences or conflicts between parliament and the Guardians of the Constitution, but its true power lies more in its power to oversee the supreme leader.

It is a well-known fact that there is a lot of bad blood between Ahmadinejad and Rafsanjani whom the president accuses of corruption and aristocratic behaviour.

Ahmadinejad angered Rafsanjani when in his presidential television debate with Mousavi, he alleged that all the three opposition candidates had been put forward by Rafsanjani to defeat him.

He further accused Rafsanjani of unlawfully accumulating massive wealth over many years and putting his cronies in the way of the president.

The allegations prompted Rafsanjani to write a highly critical open letter to Khamenei, which the supreme leader ignored.

The result has been serious public rift within the establishment and many observers believe Rafsanjani may be encouraging the ferment among supporters of the opposition presidential candidates.

Mohammed Khatami, the former Iranian reformist president, has also been serving in the ranks of the "green movement" of Mousavi, who together with fellow candidate Karroubi, have been calling for the annulment of the election which they believe was rigged by Ahmadinejad supporters.

All this leaves Khamenei in a very difficult situation.

Difficult indeed... If Khamenei were to be removed, you know who would be the most likely next "supreme leader?" Why, Mr. Rafsanjani. I guess politics really is alive and well in Iran. From Bloomberg:

In 1989, Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, then the most powerful figure in Iran, supported Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s appointment as supreme spiritual leader.

Now, the two men are locked in conflict amid a wave of protests against the June 12 re-election of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, a Khamenei ally. Rafsanjani supports Mir Hossein Mousavi, who says that he won the vote and has drawn hundreds of thousands of Iranians into the streets to rally behind him.

Ahmadinejad and Mousavi are the public faces of a power struggle among Iran’s ruling clerics. As the country is swept up in protests not seen since the 1979 Islamic Revolution, the conflict risks undermining the regime’s existence, said Mohammad-Reza Djalili, an Iran expert at the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies in Geneva.

“The divisions within the ruling elite in Iran are making it very hard for the authorities to crack down decisively,” Djalili said. The regime “is going through its biggest crisis in 30 years. The divisions are getting deeper and deeper.”

Speaking at Friday prayers in Tehran today, Khamenei said Ahmadinejad’s re-election was valid and warned of a crackdown on “political elites” if the unrest continues. “Street demonstrations should end,” Khamenei said. “If they don’t, leading politicians will be held accountable for the chaos.”

Rafsanjani’s support legitimizes Mousavi’s fight against the regime, broadening his base and making it harder for the government to respond, said Cliff Kupchan, a senior analyst at New York-based Eurasia Group.

“Rafsanjani is extremely influential,” he said. “That is providing a degree of protection to the opposition.”

More intrigue:

“The political contest playing out in the election is, in fact, among rival factions of the same regime,” said Trita Parsi, an Iran scholar and head of the Washington-based National Iranian American Council, the largest U.S.-Iranian association. Ahmadinejad represents a view that “the established political class has hijacked the revolution,” Parsi said.

... Rafsanjani, imprisoned and tortured by the shah’s secret police, was an associate of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, leader of the Islamic Revolution.

Khomeini died in 1989 and Khamenei replaced him with the aid of an endorsement from Rafsanjani, who later that year became president. Rafsanjani remained the key figure in Iranian politics for at least four years because Khamenei lacked authority, Pedram said.

After 1993, Khamenei built up his own power base in the Revolutionary Guards, the Basij and other security structures by cultivating younger politicians who had served in the 1980-1988 Iran-Iraq war.

Rafsanjani was defeated when he tried to return to office in 2005 presidential elections by Ahmadinejad, 52, a former mayor of Tehran who promised to redistribute oil wealth to the people.

During this year’s presidential campaign, Khamenei and Rafsanjani took pot shots at each other, either directly or through Mousavi, 67, and Ahmadinejad. The president complained in a televised debate on June 3 that Rafsanjani was spearheading Mousavi’s campaign and accused the former president’s family of corruption.

Rafsanjani sent back an open letter to the supreme leader denouncing Ahmadinejad’s “lies.” He called for a “fraudless” election.

Khamenei endorsed Ahmadinejad’s re-election on June 13, calling it a “glittering event.” Amid escalating protests, Khamenei two days later ordered the top clerical body to investigate irregularities, and then requested a partial recount. Mousavi rejected those moves and is demanding new elections.

Allies of Rafsanjani and Mousavi include former president Mohammed Khatami, 65, who sought to promote social and political freedoms during his 1997-2005 administration.

Three senior religious figures in the holy city of Qom, the center of Islamic learning in Iran, have publicly supported Mousavi. They are Ayatollah Asadollah Bayat Zanjani, Ayatollah Yosuf Sanei and Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri. Rafsanjani is trying to rally support among the clerical establishment against the supreme leader, Pedram said.

Complexity doesn't make for good television copy, but it definitely gets you closer to the truth.

Like most people watching this drama unfold, I fully support the Iranians who are rallying in the streets and I'm rooting for them. Hell, I'm even tempted to break out my own green armband. But I'm also cognizant of the fact that as a Westerner, and an outsider, I don't fully understand all that's going on in Iran, nor its complexities and nuances. So like Obama, I think its best to root for the green revolution from a healthy distance. We should pay attention to what's going on, and offer our full moral support. But we should not to demand that American leaders start meddling in the attempts by a people -- any people -- to find their own way to freedom. If they want our help, I'm sure they'll ask for it.

In a sense, I guess you could say I'm taking what should by all rights, be the conservative position.

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posted by JReid @ 11:03 AM  
Now what? Khameini stands by Iran election

Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali-Khamenei delivered Friday prayers, along with a crushing blow to the reformist movement. From Reuters:
Iran's Khamenei demands halt to election protests

TEHRAN (Reuters) - Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on Friday demanded an end to street protests that have shaken the country since the disputed presidential election a week ago and said any bloodshed would be their leaders' fault.

(Editors' note: Reuters and other foreign media are subject to Iranian restrictions on their ability to report, film or take pictures in Tehran.)

He defended Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as the rightful winner of the vote and denied any possibility that it had been rigged, as Ahmadinejad's opponents have alleged.

"If there is any bloodshed, leaders of the protests will be held directly responsible," Khamenei said in his first address to the nation since the upheaval began.

"The result of the election comes from the ballot box, not from the street," the white-bearded cleric told huge crowds thronging Tehran University and surrounding streets for Friday prayers. "Today the Iranian nation needs calm."

Supporters of runner-up Mirhossein Mousavi have called another rally on Saturday. If they proceed in defiance of Khamenei's explicit warning, they risk a severe response from security forces, which have so far not tried to prevent mass demonstrations. ...

The speech had elements of the creepy:
At the sermon's end, Khamenei began lamenting his physical condition and weeping, a move which made the throngs of dignitaries and Basiji militiamen gathered before him weep in response. Observers said Khamenei's gesture, similar to one he made during the height of 1999 student protests, was a call for his loyalists to crack down on the demonstrators.

"Our vote is written in blood, and we gave it to the leader," roared the huge crowd, which flowed out of the Tehran University venue and into the streets outside.

Khamenei even took a shot at America's human rights record, sounding almost like an American right winger:
Khamenei blamed Western media and officials for stirring unrest by exploiting internal political differences over the election results. Such allegations have been running for days on state television. Khamenei singled out the U.S., mocking America's concern for human rights issues in Iran, noting that secretary of State Hillary Clinton's husband was president when federal forces stormed the Branch Davidian compound in Waco, Texas. Scores of people died after a fire ravaged the compound.

"Do you even believe in human rights?" he said, criticizing the U.S. for its involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan, and its support for Israel.

"The followers of the Davidian sect were staging a sit-in protest in a house," he said. "The authorities asked them to come out. The Davidians refused. More than 80 men, women and children were burned alive in this house."

He called the British "the most evil" of the Western governments, most likely for launching the highly influential BBC Persian satellite news channel months before the vote. Iranian channels have jammed the channel's signal. "Please see the hungry wolves in ambush gradually removing their masks of diplomacy and showing their true faces," he said. "Today, senior diplomats of some Western countries, who addressed us diplomatically up until today, have now removed their masks. They are showing their true faces." [BTW the British are not amused...]
And for a bit of bipartisanship, he added a shot at the Bush administration:
"American officials remarks about human rights and limitations on people are not acceptable because they have no idea about human rights after what they have done in Afghanistan and Iran and other parts of the world. We do not need advice over human rights from them."
Of the opposition, Khameini said:

Without naming the three losing candidates who have challenged the election results, he ordered them to "open their eyes" and see behind the demonstrations "the enemy hands working, the hungry wolves waiting in ambush".

He added, with distinct menace: "Those politicians who somehow have influence on people should be very careful about their behaviour if they act in an extremist manner...This extremism will reach a sensitive level which they will not be able to contain. They will be responsible for the blood, violence and chaos."

Mr Khamenei also blamed the deaths, violence and vandalism of the past week on "ill-wishers, mercenaries and elements working for the espionage machines of Zionism and western powers".

Consider the ante "upped." Robert Fisk sums it up:

The whole pattern of [the speech] is 'obey'.

So what will the opposition do now? If Mousavi goes ahead with planned protests, it's hard to imagine he won't be hauled off to jail. If the people go into the streets, one wonders whether the security forces will show their sympathy, or brutality. And while Americans, Europeans and much of the world may be rooting for the Green Revolution, only the neocons appear ready to see their blood shed in the effort.

This morning on MSNBC's very own mini Fox News Channel (also known as "Morning Joe,") Zbigniev Brzezinski and Pat Buchanan laid it out as plainly as I've heard it said. Both men agreed that there is an element in the U.S., which, apart from simply using the Iran situation to score political points against President Obama, wants to see blood running in the streets of Tehran so that they will have an excuse to say "see? we can't negotiate with Iran. I guess we'll have to bomb them and take out their nuclear capability." As Buchanan pointed out, that's why the neocons wanted Ahmadinejad to win, and why they, and Bibi Netanyahu's hard right government in Israel, is rooting for the forces of doom to prevail in Iran (a take explained thoroughly and succinctly in the Asia Times. Today's must-read.) The thirst for further Middle East "conquest" has even brought old Paul Wolfowitz out of the woodwork, packing completely asymmetrical comparisons between Iran and both the Philippines and the old Soviet Union, neither of which were theocratic republics steeped in an ancient Persian culture, at least the last time I checked... Wolfowitz's WaPo op-ed is helpful, however, in reminding us that he was indeed one of the nut-case neocons that Ronald Reagan thankfully ignored throughout much of his presidency, otherwise we would probably have wound up at war with the U.S.S.R ... President Obama should heed the late Mr. Reagan, and ignore the neocons, too.

Meanwhile, Democrats will likely cave in to the GOP's silly politicking on Iran's protests.

And now some video:

From "Morning Joe" (yech...) the smart take of Richard Engel:

And the very smart take of Dr. Brzezinski:

Assume Brzezinski will be summarily dismissed by the American Likud as Carter's minion, and mocked for his "fashionable sunglasses" comment.

And don't forget to get your daily Nico.

Meanwhile the BBC has comments from Iranian students who don't sound at all persuaded by the "supreme leader's" threats.

MSNBC has a story on Mr. Mousavi, the accidental revolutionary...
He's gone from colorless insider to political rock star — a graying, bearded veteran of the Islamic regime who now stands at the forefront of a youth-driven movement fighting for change.

Despite his newfound fame, Mir Hossein Mousavi still works out of his old office at the Iranian Art Academy and lives in the same unassuming brick home in a middle-class district of Tehran as before, according to an aide.

Only now, he travels with armed guards provided by the very government he is challenging. ...
For more updates: follow #IranElection.

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posted by JReid @ 9:43 AM  
Really, PETA? Serioiusly?
The animal rights group gets comprehensive in its defense of all animal life: they're mad at President Obama for swatting that fly. Seriously:
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, calling it an "execution," wants the commander-in-chief to show a little more compassion to even "the least sympathetic animals."

"Believe it or not, we've actually been contacted by multiple media outlets wanting to know PETA's official response to the executive insect execution," a blog on the group's website explained. "In a nutshell, our position is this: He isn't the Buddha, he's a human being, and human beings have a long way to go before they think before they act."

The group has sent Obama a device that traps a fly so it can then be released outside.

"We believe that people, where they can be compassionate, should be, for all animals," PETA spokesman Bruce Freidrich explained.

Jeez (eyes rolling) ... Maybe PETA was simply responding to their outraged constituency? Meanwhile, the saga continues as PETA attempts to further explain its position (probably just to make the ridicule stop...)

“As we all know, human beings often don’t think before they act. We don’t condemn President Obama for acting on instinct. When the media began contacting us in droves for a statement, we obliged, simply by saying that the president isn’t the Buddha and shouldn’t be expected to do everything right—if not for that, we would not have brought it up. It’s the media who are making a big deal about the fly swat—not PETA. However, we took the opportunity, when asked, to point out that we do offer lots of ways in which to control insects of all kinds without harming them. There is even a chapter in PETA President Ingrid E. Newkirk’s book, Making Kind Choices, about how to rid your home of “uninvited guests.” ‘

“We support compassion for all animals, even the most curious, smallest, and least sympathetic animals. We hope that everyone will take inspiration from Nobel Peace Prize winner Dr. Albert Schweitzer, who included insects in his realm of compassion and would stop to move a worm from hot pavement to cool earth.”

Well, at least their heads didn't explode like the folks at Newsbusters. Ohmmmmmm ...


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posted by JReid @ 9:16 AM  
Thursday, June 18, 2009
A day of mourning in Iran, neocon politics at home
From Al Jazeera English:
Thousands of supporters of Mir Hossein Mousavi, the man they consider the true winner of Iran's disputed presidential election, have held a rally in Tehran to mourn the recent deaths of protesters.

Thursday's gathering took place at the capital's Imam Khomeini Square in spite of a statement by the highest legislative body that it would meet the candidates to discuss their complaints about the vote.

... Mousavi had issued a statement on his website calling for Thursday to be observed as a day of mourning for those killed during the protests against the election result.

Chanting "Peace be upon (Prophet) Muhammad and his family", the opposition supporters, many dressed in black, marched in south Tehran, the witnesses said.

Mousavi had urged his supporters to wear black as a sign of remembrance and remain peaceful.

One witness said the marchers carried pictures of Mousavi and placards like "We have not had people killed to compromise and accept a doctored ballot box" and "Silent, keep calm".

Mousavi somehow managed to reach the venue and addressed the huge crowd.

He announced that a rally scheduled for Friday had been cancelled, and that his supporters should prepare for a major march planned for Saturday afternoon from Tehran's Revolution Square to Freedom Square.

Mousavi has applied for a permission at the interior ministry but it is unclear whether this would be issued.

About 100 people gathered outside the United Nations building in Tehran earlier on Thursday urging the Guardian Council to take action over the disputed poll.
Officials have barred the foreign media from covering such "unauthorised" events.
However, they are expected to ensure a heavy turnout for a special sermon to be delivered by Ayatollah Ali Khameini, the country's supreme leader, at the Tehran University campus on Friday. ...
Meanwhile, Republicans continue to play politics with the Iran situation here at home, in a most disgraceful way, starting with the serially respectability-challenged John McCain (who has revised his "we are all Georgians now" belligerent, foreign policy crazy-talk) and the other pro-Ahmadinejad neocons (who can't quite seem to get message discipline enforced on the Hill) and spreading even to some of the right's saner voices. Great updates on that, and on the protest, at the Huffpo.

For now, the only thing I'd criticize Obama for is stating that there's not much difference between Ahmadinejad and Mousavi. That may have been true before the election, but it's probably not now. Although, his saying what he did had the effect of distancing the U.S. from the opposition, which is probably what the administration wanted, and in the end, most probably the right thing to do. Let's let the Iranians speak for themselves. The neocons' days of treating Muslims like wayward children who must be given democracy by their western benefactors (usually at the barrel of a gun) is over.

Meanwhile, John Kerry bitch-slaps McCain via the New York Times.

And an Esquire writer advises Obama to let the Iranian red state die on its own.

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posted by JReid @ 1:11 PM  
Wednesday, June 17, 2009
More protests in Iran, soccer team has 1968 Olympic moment
From the BBC:
Tens of thousands of people have again taken to the streets in Iran's capital Tehran in protest at election results. It follows a call by presidential challenger Mir Hossein Mousavi for further peaceful demonstrations.

An even larger protest is expected on Thursday, which Mr Mousavi says should be a day of mourning for the eight people killed after Monday's protest. ...

... Heavy restrictions have been placed on the BBC and other foreign news organisations. Reporters are not allowed to cover unauthorised gatherings or move around freely in Tehran - but there are no controls over what they can write or say.
Opposition demonstrations gathered in force in central Tehran on Wednesday afternoon.

The BBC's Jon Leyne in the capital says it is difficult to verify the numbers attending. Some estimates say between 70,000 and 100,000, others up to 500,000.

The march was reported to be in silence to try to avoid provoking the authorities.

Meanwhile the BBC has amazing video of an amazing green wristband protest by members of the Iranian soccer team that in some ways, recalled the protests by Black athletes at the 1968 Olympic Games in Mexico City, though clearly, the soccer team members who did this protest are taking considerably greater risk with their lives... Watch:

Al Jazeera reports the Iranian interior ministry is cracking down on bloggers, and preparing to investigate an attack on university students. In fact, bloggers have been ordered to remove any offending posts.

Al Jazeera also plays up President Obama's comments about similarities between Mousavi and Ahmadinejad, which seem to be having the desired effect in Tehran:
The Revolutionary Guard has warned the country's online media it will face legal action if it "creates tensions".

Within the country, mobile phone text services have been down since the election. There is no access to Facebook, Twitter, or YouTube.

The interior ministry has ordered an investigation into an attack on university students in which it is claimed four people were killed.

At least seven people have been killed in recent clashes between the authorities and the opposition movement, according to state media reports, while hundreds more are thought to have been injured.

For its part, the foreign ministry summoned the Swiss ambassador, who represents US interests in Tehran, on Wednesday to protest at "interventionist" US statements on Iran's election.

Obama told CNBC there appeared to be little difference in policy between Ahmadinejad and Mousavi.

"Either way we are going to be dealing with an Iranian regime that has historically been hostile to the United States," he said.

So is Mousavi different? Christian Amanpour and Richard Engel, the two best American reporters on the case in my view, both say yes, on domestic issues, and increasingly as the revolution goes on. But his history is one of a hardliner, and an establishment figure. More on Mousavi here and here. One interesting note: Mousavi was prime minister when the current Ayatollah, Mr. Khomeini, was president. Hm... apparently, Khomeini isn't wild about the idea of having an Iranian president who is his peer...

Robert Fisk of the Independent has some compelling scenes from the front lines :
Fear has gone in a land that has tasted freedom

The fate of Iran rested last night in a grubby north Tehran highway interchange called Vanak Square where – after days of violence – supporters of the official President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad at last confronted the screaming, angry Iranians who have decided that Mirhossein Mousavi should be the president of their country. Unbelievably – and I am a witness because I stood beside them – just 400 Iranian special forces police were keeping these two armies apart. There were stones and tear gas but for the first time in this epic crisis the cops promised to protect both sides.

"Please, please, keep the Basiji from us," one middle-aged lady pleaded with a special forces officer in flak jacket and helmet as the Islamic Republic's thug-like militia appeared in their camouflage trousers and purity-white shirts only a few metres away. The cop smiled at her. "With God's help," he said. Two other policemen were lifted shoulder-high. "Tashakor, tashakor," – "thank you, thank you" – the crowd roared at them.

This was phenomenal. The armed special forces of the Islamic Republic, hitherto always allies of the Basiji, were prepared for once, it seemed, to protect all Iranians, not just Ahmadinejad's henchmen. The precedent for this sudden neutrality is known to everyone – it was when the Shah's army refused to fire on the millions of demonstrators demanding his overthrow in 1979.

Yet this is not a revolution to overthrow the Islamic Republic. Both sets of demonstrators were shouting "Allahu Akbar" – "God is Great" – at Vanak Square last night. But if the Iranian security forces are now taking the middle ground, then Ahmadinejad is truly in trouble.

John McCain, meanwhile, continues to make me very, very glad he was not elected president. McCain told CNN:
"On this issue, I do not believe that the president is taking a leadership that is incumbent upon an American president, which we have throughout modern history, and that is to advocate for human rights and freedom — and free elections are one of those fundamentals," the Arizona Republican told John Roberts on CNN's American Morning.

President Obama Tuesday said that he has deep concerns over the election results in Iran, but stressed that "it's not productive, given the history of U.S.-Iranian relations, to be seen as meddling, the U.S. president meddling in Iranian elections."

McCain disputed that assessment. "We're not meddling in any country's affairs when we call for free and fair elections and the ability of people to exercise their human rights," he said Monday. "And when they disagree with a flawed or corrupt election, as the Iranian people have, [not] to be beaten and even killed in the streets."
To which one astute commentator replied (with link added by me):
Yes, McCain, lets do get more involved. Shall we bomb, bomb, bomb Iran? Shall we tell Ayatolla what we want him to do, and then if he refuses, what, blame President Obama for not being forceful enough? Win win either way, right?

And as usual, the most comprehensive collection of info is available from Nico Pitney at the Huffpo.

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posted by JReid @ 11:46 AM  
Barack Obama: fly guy
Sorry, but this guy is just too smooth....

And now, the ninja version:

I think that's called 'unflappable.'

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posted by JReid @ 11:42 AM  
Reasons not to fire the spook photo lady?
I'm sure by now you know about the Tennessee State Senate staffer who e-mailed this "historical keepsake photo" of the 44 U.S. presidents, depicting Barack Obama as a "spook." (She says she sent it to the wrong list ... and the right list would have been, what ... David Duke, Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Michael Savage and you mama???)

Well, should Sheri Goforth, the staffer in question, be fired? Welll ... the Nashville Scene says she's just a symptom of a greater, nastier cause:

Think about the people she works for as a secretary. Since January alone, they've accused Barack Obama of being a foreign national. They've accused the federal government of turning socialist. They've tried to assert their sovereignty from the United States, playing the part of ingrate welfare client. (Last I heard, Tennessee gets $1.23 back for every dollar it kicks to the feds in taxes.)

They profess love for Jesus, but won't listen to what he has to say. They've tried to kill prenatal care, women's health clinics, and pre-kindergarten funding. They've even attempted to reject federal stimulus money for the unemployed. But they have tried to put a gun in every bar, park and playground. Jesus would have liked that.

One is a slumlord. Another smacked around his daughter for dating a black guy. Still another would like to tie Mother Nature to a tree and torture her with an arch welder.

These are the people Goforth works for. Is it any wonder she believes what she does? But to fire her only picks off a middle-aged lady. It does nothing to heal the greater wound, which is composed by the creeps, racists, half-wits and professional victims who make up the Tennessee legislature.

Here's Goforth's boss, Diane Black, on CNN:

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posted by JReid @ 11:16 AM  
Classy Palinites hold miniature 'fire Letterman' rally
I think at its peak, the angry crowd rallying outside David Letterman's show swelled to about 40 people, all defending Sarah Palin and the virtue of her ... well one of her ... daughters. A sample of the class level:
New York Magazine videographer Jonah Green was one of those press members, and he captured a disturbing video of several of those protesters in hate-filled rants against the CBS "Late Show" host.

Among the more alarming lines of attack -- particularly given that the rally was held because Letterman supposedly made a joke about Sarah Palin's teenage daughter Willow -- was that Letterman's son Harry was born out of wedlock (he recently wed Regina Lasko after dating for over a decade).

"Should we talk about his son?" one protester asked Green. "I believe his son was born out of wedlock. I believe there's a term for that."

"Is someone making jokes about his child?" asked another. "Especially, you know, when he had a daughter out of wedlock himself" (he didn't; 5-year-old Harry is his only child).

"How dare he?" asked yet a third, the most offensive of all. "When he has a bastard son, and a slut for a wife" (Letterman's wife Lasko has kept a notoriously low profile).
Jonah's summation:
...they watch Fox News, hate socialism, and think that Letterman "rapes children with his mouth." Oh, and they really, really like Jay Leno.

Okay, so wasn't the best part the tall guy who tried to throw a sistah-girl body wave at the black lady who he said thinks she "knooooow so much!"??? Classic.

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posted by JReid @ 11:02 AM  
Un-promise keepiers
John Ensign apparently didn't entirely buy into the whole "Promise Keepers" thing...

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posted by JReid @ 10:54 AM  
Tuesday, June 16, 2009
Stop making sense: Pat Buchanan on Obama and Iran
Pat Buchanan does it again, answering the neocon warmongering gobbledygook with a good, sensible column on the president's response to Iran in Town Hall. His opening:

The Obama policy of extending an open hand to Iran is working and ought not be abandoned because of the grim events in Tehran.

For the Iranian theocracy has just administered a body blow to its legitimacy in the eyes of the Iranian people and the world.

Before Saturday, the regime could credibly posture as defender of the nation, defiant in the face of the threats from Israel, faithful to the cause of the Palestinians, standing firm for Iran's right to enrich uranium for peaceful nuclear power.

Today, the regime, including the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, is under a cloud of suspicion that they are but another gang of corrupt politicians who brazenly stole a presidential election to keep themselves and their clerical cronies in power.

Meanwhile, the same neocons who a few days ago were rooting for Ahmadinejad, are suddenly demanding that Obama make Mousavi look like an American puppet. And John McCain wanders further and further away from reality. (Don't these people remember the last time we interfered in an Iranian election? How's that working out?)

As for me, I'm with Dick Lugar.

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posted by JReid @ 5:48 PM  
What is wrong with Sarah Palin?
She finally accepts David Letterman's torturous apology, but then she adds this:
"Letterman certainly has the right to 'joke' about whatever he wants to, and thankfully we have the right to express our reaction," Palin said in a statement. "And this is all thanks to our U.S. Military women and men putting their lives on the line for us to secure America's Right to Free Speech – in this case, may that right be used to promote equality and respect."
Huh??? So Sarah accepts on behalf of all women ... and then she uses the opportunity to exploit the military? I guess she's taking time off carting poor Bristol around on that publicity hounding "abstinence tour" to do something really useful with her time. Please sit down, Wasila woman. For your own sake.

Meanwhile, Roger Simon plays the role of Palin P.R. flak on "Hardball," but fails to make the case that Palin is the new Uber Defender of Womanhood. Earth to Simon: you're a guy. Most women have no time for a woman whose entire public life is devoted to having beef, with anyone handy, including comedians. If you missed, it, catch Tina Brown on the re-air. She makes good sense when she advises Sister Sarah to "shut up and study up."


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posted by JReid @ 3:28 PM  
Rubio gets some right wing love ... is that a good thing?
Marco Rubio has at times, been considered a potential GOP star: the young, Hispanic face of the Republican Party (well, maybe the only Hispanic face of the Republican Party, since that crowd never seemed to really be feeling Mel.) Now, his Senate run has gotten an endorsement from conservative South Carolina Sen. Jim Demint, previously known mostly for his bug-eyed entreaty urging tea partying wingers to "take to the streets!!!" to stop the Obamaian "slide toward socialism." Yes, yes, that should help Marco expand his base... (ahem) ... Says Politico:

The move is not out of character for DeMint, who often finds himself at odds with GOP leaders over thorny political issues.

But DeMint has a significant grass-roots conservative following, and the fight speaks to the larger struggle over the GOP’s tent: Should it be big enough to include more moderate candidates who have a better chance of winning but stray from the party’s principles? Or should it be mainly limited to bedrock conservatives who would help the party return to its socially conservative and limited government roots?

DeMint firmly believes in the latter. A leader of the conservative Senate Steering Committee, DeMint has started a political action committee — called the Senate Conservatives Fund — designed to prop up the candidacies of Senate incumbents and wannabes who adhere to conservative principles. So far, DeMint has backed former Republican Rep. Pat Toomey in Pennsylvania (he planned to do so even before the moderate Sen. Arlen Specter became a Democrat) and the staunch conservative Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), who is up for a second term in November 2010.

This cycle, DeMint plans to take a different tack with his Senate Conservatives Fund; instead of simply making donations to his preferred candidate, he plans to ask his 20,000 supporters to help raise the maximum allowable limit for the endorsed candidates — a process known as “bundling.” A person familiar with the PAC said that DeMint is expected to endorse between three and five candidates this cycle.

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posted by JReid @ 1:01 AM  
Wrong again neocons: Italy will take some Gitmo detainees
Slowly but surely, the Obama administration is emptying Gitmo.

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posted by JReid @ 12:31 AM  
Iran supreme leader blinks: phony 'probe' to follow?
The latest on Iran:

Protests turn deadly as one protester is shot dead. The Guardian has more. And the paper reports the death toll may include 12 Iranian students. (The BBC sets the death toll at seven.)

Video is still being sent out, despite the government crackdowns.

President Obama made a statement today saying he's "troubled" by the violence there, and enjoining Iranian authorities to respect the universal right of protest:
In his first public comments on the situation in Iran, Mr Obama said: "I am deeply troubled by the violence that I've been seeing on television.

"I think that the democratic process, free speech, the ability for folks to peacefully dissent, all those are universal values and need to be respected."

But the BBC's Jonathan Beale, in Washington, says the president studiously avoided any comment on the allegations of vote fraud.

"We respect Iranian sovereignty and want to avoid the United States being the issue inside of Iran," Mr Obama said.

Steve Clemons said on "Countdown" tonight that he thinks that Obama has struck the right note so far. He wants to avoid seeming to favor Mousavi outright, lest Mousavi be made to look like an American puppet.

Meanwhile, the mullahs must be worried, because the Ayatollah Khameini, who earlier declared the Ahmadinejad "victory" to be a "divine result," has now ordered a review:
The Guardian Council, the body tasked with supervising the electoral process, says it will announce its verdict on the results of Iran's presidential elections within 10 days.

Council spokesman Abbas-Ali Kadkhodayi said the body had received two official complaints from defeated presidential candidates Mir-Hossein Moussavi and Mohsen Rezaie.

The two candidates have questioned the legitimacy of the June 12 poll.

Kadkhodayi said the Council would review the appeals and announce its final verdict within 10 days.
It's tough to be optimistic, since the review would ostensibly involve the same entities who certified the current election votes faster than you can say Katherine Harris. From Wired:
Despite the fact that Iran uses paper ballots nationwide that have to be counted by hand, only two hours after the polls closed the state-run news agency was already claiming that Ahmadinejad won 69 percent of the vote to Moussavi’s 28 percent.

The speed with which the results were certified and the wide margin of victory, coupled with some statistical anomalies, have led many to believe the vote was rigged.
And from FiveThirtyEight:
A most strange storyline has emerged with regard to the provincial vote totals for the Iranian election. Around 1600 GMT Sunday, the ministry of Interior released the official vote totals by province. As others have mentioned, by law candidates have three days following voting to contest the result, before the final totals are approved by the Supreme Leader. As such, it is notable that both the aggregate totals and provincial totals were certified, approved and released before the three day deadline.

Another curious turn of events was that somewhere between 1600 and 2000 GMT, the provincial vote totals mysteriously disappeared from the English language (and all other languages other than Persian) versions of and other Iranian news outlets, where the interior ministry had distributed the results. As such, we are in debt to Daniel Berman and his colleagues for their translation of the official provincial numbers.
Although Nate Silver did find pre-election polling numbers that showed Ahmadinejad ahead (he says the polls are not dispositive in favor of an Ahmadinejad victory, though.)

The Huffpo still has a great liveblog going.

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posted by JReid @ 12:05 AM  
Monday, June 15, 2009
Oh, for the love of god, shut up already, Sarah Palin!

Are this lady's 15 minutes of fame up yet? Sarah Palin just can't stop talking, and it's almost always about trivia ... or about her kids ... or about both. She's like Kathy Lee Gifford with executive power! The Daily Beast takes up two entire posts to try and talk Miss Wasila down from her hillbilly header. The first TBD piece of advice: never debate a comedian. The second, from Tina Brown herself: learn some gosh-darned dignity from Hillary.

Meanwhile, David Letterman apologizes ... again...

Is "who cares," too strong?

UPDATE: Nope. Sarah and her people are not done yet. Now, her minions are planning a protest. Seriously folks? Seriously? With all that's going on the world, this is really what you're going to spend your time doing? Wow. I guess some people protest stolen elections in Iran, and other people protest obvious, deliberately misinterpreted late night jokes.

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posted by JReid @ 11:58 PM  
Baghdad: worst city in the world
... according to the Telegraph. And several cities in the Congo rank among the worst as well. Surprise! All ten "best" cities were in Europe, except for one: Vancouver, British Columbia.

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posted by JReid @ 1:24 AM  
Trapped in Dixie: SC GOP activist compares first lady to gorilla
Dissuade any remaining southern blacks from even thinking about the Republican Party? Check. Disparage the first lady by comparing her to a gorilla? Check, and double check:

And there's more South Carolina racial shenanigans to report...

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posted by JReid @ 12:58 AM  
Sunday, June 14, 2009
Netanyahu endorses a Palestinian state ... sort of
Benjamin Netanyahu's long-awaited speech regarding his government's intentions toward his Palestinian neighbors has landed with what can only be described as a thud. From the BBC:

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has announced he will back a Palestinian state - but only if it is completely demilitarised.

He said a Palestinian state must have no army, no control of its air space and no way of smuggling in weapons.

In a landmark speech, weeks after the US president urged him to agree a two-state plan, he said the Palestinians must accept Israel as a Jewish state.

The crux of the speech was Netanyahu's endorsement of what amounts to a rump Palestinian "state-light"... whose only possession would apparently be a flag, presumably of its own design ... From the speech:

"The key condition is that the Palestinians recognise in a clear and public manner that Israel is the state of the Jewish people. The heart of the conflict has always been the Arabs' refusal to accept the existence of the Jewish state.

If we have guarantees on demilitarisation and if the Palestinians recognise Israel as a state of the Jewish people, then we arrive at a solution based on a demilitarised Palestinian state alongside Israel.

Each will have its flag, each will have its anthem. The Palestinian territory will be without arms, will not control airspace, will not be able to have arms."

To which Palestinian leaders basically said ... well, they said this:

Saeb Erekat, the chief Palestinian negotiator, said Netanyahu had created new preconditions and that he seemed intent on setting a unilaterally dictated solution rather than a negotiated peace. "He announced a series of conditions and qualifications that render a viable, independent and sovereign Palestinian state impossible," he said.

He noted Netanyahu had not mentioned the Arab Peace Initiative, which first emerged in 2002, under which the Arab states offered Israel full diplomatic recognition in return for a Palestinian state in land Israel captured in 1967 with a capital in East Jerusalem and an agreed solution for refugees. Nor did Netanyahu mention the 2003 US Road Map, which also calls for a Palestinian state and a halt to settlement activity.

Mustafa Barghouti, a moderate Palestinian MP, said Netanyahu had not endorsed the creation of an independent Palestinian state. "He endorsed a ghetto," he said. "He endorsed a state that would be subject to Israeli control. Mr Netanyahu has proven that there is not partner for peace in Israel. His whole speech was about the consolidation of apartheid ... This will not lead to peace."

Not a good start, by any measure. And not winning him any allies on the Israeli left, including writer Akiva Eldar at Ha'aretz, who declared the speech positively neocon:

The prime minister's speech last night returned the Middle East to the days of George W. Bush's "axis of evil." Benjamin Netanyahu delivered a patriarchal, colonialist address in the best neoconservative tradition: The Arabs are the bad guys, or at best ungrateful terrorists; the Jews, of course, are the good guys, rational people who need to raise and care for their children. In the West Bank settlement of Itamar, they're even building a nursery school.

... The prime minister's declaration that Jerusalem will remain he "undivided capital" of Israel - only Israel - slammed the door before the entire Muslim world. And his Hebron is solely the city of the Jewish patriarchs; the Arabs have no such rights at all. The Palestinians can have a state, but only if those foreign invaders show us they know how to eat with a fork and knife. Actually, without a knife.
The White House reaction:
"The President welcomes the important step forward in Prime Minister Netanyahu's speech. The President is committed to two states, a Jewish state of Israel and an independent Palestine, in the historic homeland of both peoples. He believes this solution can and must ensure both Israel's security and the fulfillment of the Palestinians' legitimate aspirations for a viable state, and he welcomes Prime Minister Netanyahu's endorsement of that goal. The President will continue working with all parties – Israel, the Palestinian Authority, Arab states, and our Quartet partners – to see that they fulfill their obligations and responsibilities necessary to achieve a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and a comprehensive regional peace."

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posted by JReid @ 10:28 PM  
The Clinton-Obama establishments vs. the Obama generation
They're the best of buds, and now Bill Clinton is hoping to do for Kendrick Meek what he did for his other pal, Terry McAuliffe ... ok that's probably not such a good example ... but make no mistake, the Clintons are very much on the ballot in the Florida Senate race.

Meanwhile, the Democratic party elders (outside Florida at least,) wonders: how do you stop a problem like democracy? First up: Joe Sestak, who, God bless him, is going to challenge Arlen Switcheroo in Pennsylvania:
“I understand the very short-term, expedient desire to have the insurance of a 60th vote,” Sestak said, speaking of the implications of Specter’s April party switch and why the longtime senator was so quickly embraced by the administration.

But he added of Obama: “I believe in his heart of hearts, he really wants a real Democrat to win this race, and I think he very much respects that we are pretty independent-minded in Pennsylvania and we should have a choice.”

Asked directly if a plea from Obama would make any difference, Sestak shook his head and said: “No.”
In New York, it won't be a Senate walk for the party's designated Senator, Kirsten Gillibrand, either, since Carolyn Maloney seems to be very much in the race, probably with Joe Trippi as her campaign manager:
Maloney, a veteran member of Congress who represents much of New York City’s silk-stocking Upper East Side, dispatched longtime Democratic consultant and her likely chief campaign strategist Joe Trippi to state her intentions about a potential challenge to Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.).

“She’s way past all that,” Trippi said when asked about how Maloney would respond to a request from Obama to stay out of the race. “She really believes the people of New York deserve a choice. She’s not somebody who’s going to back down.”
This should all ring very familiar to our president:
For Obama, there’s an added irony that isn’t lost on some Democrats — that the ultimate insurgent candidate is now in the incumbent-protection business.

In the case of Sestak and Maloney, Obama may be reaping what he sowed. While Hillary Clinton wasn’t an incumbent in the presidential race, she was the establishment figure who many Democratic elites rallied around early on in the primary. But the president proved that an insurgent can win and that Democratic primary voters can buck their elected leaders.

“Who do they think inspired these people to run?” asked Trippi. “They started this. They took on the established order of the party. If they had listened to the establishment, Obama wouldn’t be in the White House. It’s hard for them to argue with this when they blazed the trail.”
Amen, and Amen. Like it or not, President Obama has inspired a new thirst for the democratic process inside this country and out. Let's have at it and let the voters decide.

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posted by JReid @ 9:50 PM  
Neocons AND Israel rooted for Ahmadinejad
First Daniel Pipes and the rest of the neocons, now this:
..paradoxically, it seems that from Israel's point of view the victory of incumbent President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is actually preferable. Not only because "better the devil you know," but because the victory of the pro-reform candidate will paste an attractive mask on the face of Iranian nuclear ambitions...

... Ahmadinejad, with his Holocaust denial and his long series of provocations, drew most of the attention, but apparently had less influence on the nuclear program. There are even senior members of the Israeli defense establishment who share the public stance of former Mossad chief Ephraim Halevy, who claimed that the Iranian president's behavior, perceived in the West as quasi-lunatic, advanced Israel's security interests.

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posted by JReid @ 9:49 PM  
Shameless self-promotion: Joy on 'Issues' 6/12
I was on with the fabulous Helen Ferre and Tony Mann of the Sun-Sentinel to talk about Broward Sheriff Al Lamberti's issues with his overtime budget. Check it out::

Watch Issues on WPBT Channel 2 every Friday at 7:30 p.m. (Sundays at 12:30) or watch it online here or here.

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posted by JReid @ 8:24 PM  
In case you missed it: Crist comfortably ahead in Florida, so far
The righties may not like it, but Charlie Crist still looks like a pretty good bet for Florida's GOP Senate nomination. A June 10 Quinnipiac poll finds him way ahead of Marco Rubio, and far ahead of Kendrick Meek in a general election match-up to boot. The same polls show Florida's political Don Quixote, Bill McCollum, surprisingly close of the less well known Alex Sink for governor, but the undecided in that race is a whopping 30 percent, meaning it's probably Sink who has more room to grow. The Qinnipiac poll finds that Crist's popularity is holding up, and even exceeds that of the president:
Gov. Charlie Crist swamps former Florida House speaker Marco Rubio 54 - 23 percent in the 2010 Republican primary for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Mel Martinez, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released today.

Kendrick Meek, a Congressman from South Florida, leads the field for the Democratic Senate nomination with 18 percent, followed by two other members of Florida's congressional delegation, Corrine Brown with 12 percent and Ron Klein with 8 percent. But 57 percent of voters say they don't yet have a candidate in the race, according to the independent Quinnipiac (KWIN-uh-pe-ack) University survey.

President Barack Obama remains very popular in the state of Florida with a 58 - 35 percent job approval rating. That compares to the less than 52 percent he received in Florida last November.

Obama's job approval rating, however, trails that of Gov. Crist, whose strength across the political spectrum would make him a difficult candidate to beat in a general election for the U.S. Senate. Crist has a 62 - 28 percent job approval rating overall, including a 59 - 30 percent thumbs-up from Democrats.

"Marco Rubio says there are many Florida Republicans who don't want Charlie Crist in the U.S. Senate. Depending on how you define the word 'many,' he might be correct. Unfortunately for Rubio at this stage, many, many, many more favor Crist," said Peter Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute.
For Meek, the big news is that no one really knows him or his current Democratic opponents (which is why he's doing that statewide petition drive.) Says Qpac:
While Meek is slightly ahead in a Democratic Senate primary, 80 percent of voters statewide, including 74 percent of Democrats, don't know enough about him to form an opinion. Brown and Klein do no better.
Meanwhile Quinnipiac finds Alex Sink slightly ahead of McCollum, 38 to 34 percent:
Sink leads 72-11 among Democrats, while McCollum leads 72-5 among Republicans and 32-27 among independents.

Eleven percent of voters said that the possibility of Sink being Florida's first female governor makes them more likely to vote for her. Eighty-one percent said it didn't matter.

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posted by JReid @ 7:29 PM  
The threat, and cause, of Obama Derangement Syndrome
Stipulated that people on my side of the aisle had no love for George W. Bush. But dislike of Bush was different from the current, truly scary, Obama hatred in a couple of significant ways.

First of all, Bush derision was initially based on the 2000 election, which was seen as illegitimate not because people didn't think Dubya eligible to serve as president, say, because he's secretly a foreigner or a Muslim or a terrorist ... but rather because the election was decided by the Supreme Court. After 9/11, even Bush criticism, let alone "bashing" was practically disallowed in public, and pressure was even extended from the deferential media to the entertainment industry. Once the fear of criticizing the president wore off, the lingering dislike (and in some cases hatred) of the former president was based on a collective alarm about such ephemera as his administration's massive domestic spying apparatus, the war against Iraq, which it turns out, was as unnecessary and ideologically driven as it was deadly, not to mention what turns out to have been a policy of American-made torture. In other words: "Bush Derangement" if you want to call it that, was based on a loathing of Bush administration policies. Attitudes toward Bush himself, if you have to characterize them broadly, tend to lean more toward the comical. And while derision of Bush as a dunce bugs those on the right, it's hardly the same chilling talk that derides our current president as tantamount to a Marxist, Socialist, anti-American Muslim terrorist. [Left: a leaflet distributed in Dallas on the day of JFK's assassination. Courtesy of Prose]

Obama hatred is based on something entirely different than Bush hatred: not anger at his policies, but a profound and irrational fear and loathing of the man himself, because of myths -- including some that were generated by Republicans during the 2008 campaign, in some cases to the point of hysteria -- about his background, "associations," plus paranoia about the dastardly things he's really, really planning to do to conservatives, up to and including confiscating their firearms and putting them in concentration camps... And rather than being scorned, minimized (or ignored) by the media, as opposition to Bush often was, especially in the two years between 9/11 and the start of the Iraq war, Obama hatred is being fueled in the hearts of the black helicopter crowd by elements of the influential right. Frank Rich concludes
WHEN a Fox News anchor, reacting to his own network’s surging e-mail traffic, warns urgently on-camera of a rise in hate-filled, “amped up” Americans who are “taking the extra step and getting the gun out,” maybe we should listen. He has better sources in that underground than most. ...

... Obama’s Cairo address, meanwhile, prompted over-the-top accusations reminiscent of those campaign rally cries of “Treason!” It was a prominent former Reagan defense official, Frank Gaffney, not some fringe crackpot, who accused Obama in The Washington Times of engaging “in the most consequential bait-and-switch since Adolf Hitler duped Neville Chamberlain.” He claimed that the president — a lifelong Christian — “may still be” a Muslim and is aligned with “the dangerous global movement known as the Muslim Brotherhood.” Gaffney linked Obama by innuendo with Islamic “charities” that “have been convicted of providing material support for terrorism.”

If this isn’t a handy rationalization for another lone nutjob to take the law into his own hands against a supposed terrorism supporter, what is? Any such nutjob can easily grab a weapon. Gun enthusiasts have been on a shopping spree since the election, with some areas of our country reporting percentage sales increases in the mid-to-high double digits, recession be damned.

The question, Shepard Smith said on Fox last week, is “if there is really a way to put a hold on” those who might run amok. We’re not about to repeal the First or Second Amendments. Hard-core haters resolutely dismiss any “mainstream media” debunking of their conspiracy theories. The only voices that might penetrate their alternative reality — I emphasize might — belong to conservative leaders with the guts and clout to step up as McCain did last fall. Where are they? The genteel public debate in right-leaning intellectual circles about the conservative movement’s future will be buried by history if these insistent alarms are met with silence.

So what is the right overreacting to? Perhaps it's to what they see coming, electorally and demographically:
Democrats have won the popular vote in four of the past five elections, though in one case (2000) they did not end up in the White House. In years in which they have also won the electoral vote, Democrats have racked up sizable margins. Obama bested John McCain by 365 to 173, and Bill Clinton's two victories were in the same range. George W. Bush's two electoral-college victories were narrow; he won 271 votes in the disputed election of 2000 and 286 in his 2004 reelection.

What has brought this about? It's not just one thing -- it's everything. Start with the Democrats' success in the suburbs. Lang's formula is that demography and density have combined to help Democrats: They dominate not just the cities but also the urbanized suburbs that contain the largest share of the suburban population in America.

Democratic strength in the counties around Philadelphia, around Detroit and in Northern Virginia have squeezed Republicans dramatically. Increasingly, Republican strength outside the urban areas counts for less. "There's just not enough rural folks and small-city people left in America in the key states that determine the electoral college to offset that difference," Lang said. "You're out of people."

That's one geographical reality. The other, which became acute in 2008, is that outside the South, Republicans are in trouble. McCain won the South in November, but Obama swept the rest of the country by an even bigger margin. The same pattern holds now for House and Senate seats. Republicans may continue to win governorships in Democratic-leaning states, but in congressional and presidential elections the geographic divides are sizable.

Brownstein reeled off a list of statistics that all arrived at the same place: The South now accounts for a greater share of Republican strength than at virtually any time since the party's founding. That base is too narrow, as even Republicans know.

Demographically, the forces at work have chipped away at what was once a GOP-leaning majority in the country. The most important is minorities' rising share of the vote. Whites accounted for 76 percent of the overall electorate last November, down from 85 percent in 1988.

In the last election, there were more than 2 million additional African American voters, about 2 million more Hispanic voters and about a million more Asian American voters. All are groups in which Obama increased the Democratic share of the vote over 2004. Frey estimated that minority voters in nine states made the difference in Obama's victory margin.

Republicans can't reverse the demographic trends; their only solution is to increase their share of the minority vote. Opposing Judge Sonia Sotomayor, Obama's Supreme Court nominee, because of her pride in being a Latina won't help solve that problem.

... Leading Mike Murphy to predict a coming Republican Ice Age. If you want to see what might be aptly renamed Republican Demographic Panic in action, you need only read anything by increasingly unplugged white nationalist Pat Buchanan.

Of course, not everyone agrees with this analysis, but those who differ had better come up with a good reason Republicans can win nationwide again, short of an absolute Obama meltdown. And while they're at it, they might want to chat with their highest profile people about perhaps not trying to bring about such a meltdown by vilifying the president of the United States in ways that riles up the scariest elements of their base.

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posted by JReid @ 9:33 AM  
Barack Obama's Axis of 'oh, crap'
Remember that deal North Korea made with the Bush administration to get off Dubya and David Frum's "Axis of Evil" baddie list? You know, the one that even Mr. Moustache thought was stupid? Well ... never mind. ... well, just add it to the pile...

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posted by JReid @ 3:43 AM  
Iran's 'green revolution' ... thwarted or sparked?
'The protests in Iran over an apparently fraudulent election turn bloody:

Meanwhile, Ahmadinejad remains defiant.

Is Mousavi under house arrest?

The HuffPo has the liveblog going.

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posted by JReid @ 2:51 AM  
Were neocons rooting for Ahmadinejad?
Signs point to yes ... all the better to scare the West into yet another Middle Eastern war ...


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posted by JReid @ 1:12 AM  
Saturday, June 13, 2009
Kenneth Quinnell of the Florida Progressive Coalition blog breaks down his linking strategy, and in the process provides a good breakdown of the Florida left of center blogosphere. Enjoy.

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posted by JReid @ 11:53 PM  
Doh! Iranians re-elect their Dubya
... or did they? ... Much like Bush's court-appointed victory in 2000, and his Ohio-tainted win in 2004, the opposition begs to differ with the result. From the Independent UK:

Supporters of the main election challenger to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad clashed with police and set up barricades of burning tires today as authorities declared the hard-line president was re-elected in a landslide. Opponents responded with the most serious unrest in the capital in a decade and charges that the result was the work of a "dictatorship."

Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, closed the door on any chance he could use his limitless powers to intervene in the disputes from Friday's election. In a message on state TV, he urged the nation to unite behind Ahmadinejad, calling the result a "divine assessment."

But Ahmadinejad's main challenger, Mir Hossein Mousavi, has rejected the result as rigged and urged his supporters to resist a government of "lies and dictatorship."

The clashes in central Tehran were the more serious disturbances in the capital since student-led protests in 1999 and showed the potential for the showdown over the vote to spill over into further violence and challenges to the Islamic establishment.

Several hundred demonstrators — many wearing the trademark green colors of Mousavi's campaign — chanted "the government lied to the people" and gathered near the Interior Ministry as the final count was announced. It gave 62.6 percent of the vote to Ahmadinejad and 33.75 to Mousavi, who served as prime minister in the 1980s and has become the hero of a youth-driven movement seeking greater liberties and a gentler face for Iran abroad.

The turnout was a record 85 percent of Iran's 46.2 million eligible voters. Two other candidates received only a fraction of the vote.

Protesters set fire to tires outside the Interior Ministry and anti-riot police fought back with clubs and smashed cars. An Associated Press photographer saw a plainclothes security official beating a woman with his truncheon.

In another main street of Tehran, some 300 young people blocked the avenue by forming a human chain and chanted "Ahmadi, shame on you. Leave the government alone."

And there are signs that the government is responding to the "Green Movement" in what you might call "the Chinese fashion"...

It was even unclear how many Iranians were even aware of Mousavi's claims of fraud. Communications disruptions began in the later hours of voting Friday — suggesting an information clampdown. State television and radio only broadcast the Interior Ministry's vote count and not Mousavi's midnight press conference.

Nationwide, the text messaging system remained down Saturday and several pro-Mousavi Web sites were blocked or difficult to access. Text messaging is frequently used by many Iranians — especially young Mousavi supporters — to spread election news.

... Mousavi's backers were stunned at the Interior Ministry's results after widespread predictions of a close race — or even a slight edge to Mousavi.

"Many Iranians went to the people because they wanted to bring change. Almost everybody I know voted for Mousavi but Ahmadinejad is being declared the winner. The government announcement is nothing but widespread fraud. It is very, very disappointing. I'll never ever again vote in Iran," said Mousavi supporter Nasser Amiri, a hospital clerk in Tehran.

Bringing any showdown into the streets would certainly face a swift backlash from security forces. The political chief of the powerful Revolutionary Guard cautioned Wednesday it would crush any "revolution" against the Islamic regime by Mousavi's "green movement."

BBC News has more on the street protests. TIME has more on the protesters, who find the election result impossible.

TWN's Steve Clemons discussed the odd election returns on "Countdown." He declared the Iran election to be:

... Historic because Ahmadenijad is getting election results that are just about impossible to believe. I always thought he would probably win -- but nuance and subtlety are not skill sets of the regime's election rigging operation.

To be up front, I never thought that Mousavi's strategic policy course would differ substantively from his now unlikely predecessor Ahmadenijad -- but a change in optics and posture, which Mousavi would have offered, might have yielded significant new opportunities down the road.

Iran will be tied in knots now -- for a long time. What worries me about this is the tendency of Iran's leadership to generate external crises and international focal points to try and distract a frustrated citizenry and unify the nation.

Even before the results were in, Foreign Policy predicted that Iran 2009 could wind up like Florida 2000, and explained how Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is a lot like George W. Bush:

Lastly there is 52-year-old Ahmadinejad himself, who despite his profound mismanagement of the economy and foreign policy adventurism seemingly retains the support of the Supreme Leader. An Iranian Joe Six-pack who intertwines religion and populism and infuriates urban elites -- think Ayatollah Khomeini meets Sarah Palin -- Ahmadinejad's supporters are the Iranian equivalent of American evangelicals: a small percentage of the population with outsize political influence given their high voter turnout.

While his divine inspirations, lack of introspection, and polarizing rhetoric have frequently earned comparisons to George W. Bush, what's unclear is whether Ahmadinejad is the Bush of 2004 (who got the benefit of the doubt) or the Bush of 2008, whose legacy was shunned even by his own party. There are increasing signs of the latter.

Absent credible polling, however, Iran's political landscape is difficult to decipher. In elections past, much has been made of the gap between affluent-middle class North Tehran, and working class South Tehran. The real disparity, however, is between Tehran and a few other urban centers (Iran's blue states) and the rest of the country (Iran's red states). Just as Staten Island residents probably have more in common with Manhattanites than Alabamans, South Tehran residents tend to have more in common with north Tehranis than with their rural compatriots who don't have access to the Internet and satellite TV and rely on state television as their primary source of information. [Note: Think Fox News...]

Because the last two presidents in Iran -- Mohammed Khatami and Ahmadinejad -- were both surprises, seasoned observers are loath to make predictions this time around. Based on media coverage coming mostly out of the capital, Ahmadinejad is looking like Jimmy Carter in 1980. But the vote of the provinces, and the potential for fraud, are impossible to foresee.

Given the depth of polarization in Iran, the final results will likely be hotly contested by the losing side. Florida in 2000 could be most instructive. But while in America the memory of unelected elders in robes deciding the country's outlook was an historical anomaly, for Iranians it has been, and will likely continue to be, a way of life.


You'll find excellent UPDATES and liveblogging of the apparent election fraud in Iran at the Huffpo.

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posted by JReid @ 4:04 PM  
Fascinating: Seven civil war stories you probably didn't know
From CNN via MentalFloss.

1. Lincoln's first solution to slavery was a fiasco

Early in his presidency, Abe was convinced that white Americans would never accept black Americans. "You and we are different races," the president told a committee of "colored" leaders in August 1862. "...But for your race among us there could not be war...It is better for us both, therefore, to be separated."

Lincoln proposed voluntary emigration to Central America, seeing it as a more convenient destination than Liberia. This idea didn't sit well with leaders like Frederick Douglass, who considered colonization to be "a safety valve...for white racism."

Luckily for Douglass (and the country), colonization failed spectacularly. One of the first attempts was on Île à Vache, a.k.a. Cow Island, a small isle off the coast of Haiti.


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posted by JReid @ 9:45 AM  
Friday, June 12, 2009
Has Pat Buchanan jumped the shark on Sotomayor?
Pat, the Sons of Confederate Veterans member and jovial face of the white power movement, has written a new piece for Human Events (the desperate right wing magazine that keeps filling my in-box with pleas for money and conspiracy theories about how the U.S. Postal Service is out to destroy them.) And this one goes right after the heart of the Angry White Man, with arguments that are straight out of the 1980s. In short: Pat Buchanan believes that Judge Sonia Sotomayor didn't really graduate first in her class ... anywhere. She stole the first place finishes of some downtrodden white guy. Read on:
Two weeks ago, The New York Times reported that, to get up to speed on her English skills at Princeton, Sotomayor was advised to read children's classics and study basic grammar books during her summers. How do you graduate first in your class at Princeton if your summer reading consists of "Chicken Little" and "The Troll Under the Bridge"?
After ridiculing Sotomayor's English speaking ability, Pat gets to his real point:

In video clips dating back 25 years, and now provided to the Senate Judiciary Committee, Sotomayor, according to the Times, even calls herself an "affirmative action product."

"The clips include lengthy remarks about her experiences as an 'affirmative action baby,' whose lower test scores were overlooked by admissions committees at Princeton University and Yale Law School because, she said, she is Hispanic and had grown up in poor circumstance."

"If we had gone through the traditional numbers route of those institutions," says Sotomayor, "it would have been highly questionable if I would have been accepted. ... My test scores were not comparable to that of my classmates."

Thus, Sotomayor got into Princeton, got her No. 1 ranking, was whisked into Yale Law School and made editor of the Yale Law Review -- all because she was a Hispanic woman. And those two Ivy League institutions cheated more deserving students of what they had worked a lifetime to achieve, for reasons of race, gender or ethnicity.

This is bigotry pure and simple. To salve their consciences for past societal sins, the Ivy League is deep into discrimination again, this time with white males as victims rather than as beneficiaries.

Pat concludes with the following bit of irony:

Lay out the Sotomayor record -- SAT scores, LSAT scores, bar exam score, law review articles and her opinions -- so that we can see up close what those who eviscerated Robert Bork regard as academic and judicial excellence.

No need for name-calling.

Well, no need for name calling after we give Pat a Mulligan for calling Sotomayor "Miss Affirmative Action..." The NYT article in question contains the following:

... Judge Sotomayor insisted that her test scores were sub-par — “though not so far off the mark that I wasn’t able to succeed at those institutions.” Her scores have not been made public. “With my academic achievement in high school, I was accepted rather readily at Princeton and equally as fast at Yale, but my test scores were not comparable to that of my classmates,” she said. “And that’s been shown by statistics, there are reasons for that. There are cultural biases built into testing, and that was one of the motivations for the concept of affirmative action to try to balance out those effects.”

... which Pat takes to mean that she scored lower than the required minimums to get into those colleges.

Well, as a former 4.0 high school student who scored in the 95th percentile nationally on the SAT (and the 98th percentile on the PSAT), and who then was admitted to Harvard, probably in part because they wanted the diversity of having a Black first generation American from the West (Colorado) on campus (in fact, we were told that they balanced our dorm assignments based in part on achieving such diversity...) let me assure you, Pat, that Ivy League colleges DO have a minimum test score requirement (at least for those whose parents and grandparents didn't attend the schoolo.) And as this issue of whether or not we belonged at the school came up almost immediately, in the first class I took at Harvard ("Ec-10," the Martin Feldstein economics course...) we did some checking around the Yard. And it turned out the Black and Hispanic students I went to school with had equal or even HIGHER average test scores than the white students. In fact, I went to school with more than one white student who had not only sub-par high school grades, but also sub-par high school test scores. What those students DID have going for them was a family name -- one that dated back generations at the institution. Hell, I knew one girl whose last name was the same as one of our freshmen dorms in Harvard Yard ... literally.

But Pat has no problem with the form of affirmative action known as "legacy," because it benefits people like George W. Bush -- he of the sub-par grades all throughout his young adult life, which led him to be admitted, not just Yale, but also Harvard Business School, where he still managed to emerge dumb as a post.

As Slate's Michael Kinsley once pointed out:

Sure, a C student can become president. It helps if his father was president first and his grandfather was a senator and he was born into a family that straddles the Northeast WASP aristocracy and the Sun Belt business establishment. And a C student at prep school can get into Yale by adopting a similar action plan of strategic birth control. (That is, controlling whom you're born to.)

Nor, apparently, does Pat have a problem with affirmative action as applied to Black conservatives. He fails, interestingly enough, to mention another sitting Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas in his Jeremiad, despite the fact that Thomas has admitted, just as Sotomayor has, to being a "product of affirmative action":

Indeed, Thomas' rise from his dirt-poor upbringing in rural Georgia into an elite Ivy League law school is an affirmative action success story. But don't take our word for it. Take his.

In a November 1983 speech to his staff at the federal Equal Employment Opportunities Commission, Thomas called affirmative action ''critical to minorities and women in this society.''

Then, his remarks got personal: ''But for them (affirmative action laws), God only knows where I would be today. These laws and their proper application are all that stand between the first 17 years of my life and the second 17 years.''

As an undergraduate at Holy Cross College, Thomas received a scholarship set aside for racial minorities. He was admitted to Yale Law School in 1971 as part of an aggressive (and successful) affirmative action program with a clear goal: 10 percent minority enrollment. Yale offered him generous financial aid.

Affirmative action can't guarantee success, but it can open doors previously closed to women and people of color. The rest is up to those who walk through the doors.

Indeed, once Sonia Sotomayor "walked through the doors" of Princeton and Yale, the grades she earned were a product of her own hard work. Even on the famous Ivy curve, it's not common to get so many As that you wind up at the top of your class, unless of course Pat believes the professors at Yale were engaged in a "racist" conspiracy to give automatic As to any Hispanic woman who showed up. (If that particular brand of affirmative action existed at Harvard, I want a re-do ... or my money back.) BTW Clarence apparently only turned on affirmative action when he graduated from Yale Law and says he couldn't find a job at a "major law firm." (Hell, I graduated during the Bush I recession. Cry me a river, man.) And retired Justice Sandra Day O'Connor faced precisely the same problem as Thomas did when she graduated from Stanford Law School. Thomas isn't special, he's just especially whiney. By the way, Thomas' trouble getting immediate employment may have had more to do with Clarence Thomas than with affirmative action...

In particular, the African-American justice has blamed Yale's affirmative action program for stigmatizing black graduates, and contends his law degree is worth only "15 cents" because of it. However, that just isn't true, in their experience, fellow African-American graduates of the law school say. Although Thomas has complained that he couldn't get a job as a starting associate at a major law firm because of the devaluation of his law degree by Yale's affirmative action program, classmates suggest other factors may have been the issue, reports American Lawyer in a lengthy article. Possibilities include Thomas' grades (they aren't publicly known), his then-counterculture persona and his apparent lack of knowledge and interest in networking effectively in the corporate world.

... not to mention the fact that Thomas' complaints are belied by the fact that his mediocre backside is now SITTING ON THE UNITED STATES SUPREME COURT... thanks to both actual affirmative action, and the kind George H.W. Bush employed when he nominated him.

Meanwhile, Sonia Sotomayor was clearly an outstanding student. And you get voted to lead the law review, not by some touchy-feely faculty, but by your peers. Clearly, they knew something Pat -- who went to Georgetown and Columbia School of Journalism, but still seems to be suffering from something like envy of Sotomayor's academic resume -- doesn't. Maybe we should open up the records of which undergraduate schools Pat applied to back in the day. Were Princeton and Yale on the list?

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posted by JReid @ 11:05 AM  
Iranians have voted. Now we hold our breath
Polls closed at about 10:30 a.m. EST, and the turnout has set records, forcing officials to extend the poll closing time. This will be a huge election, for them, and for us.

The BBC has great pictures. Steve Clemons wonders whether there will be an Obama effect.

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posted by JReid @ 10:46 AM  
Thursday, June 11, 2009
Roll over, Sonny: Chastity's becoming a man
Hold on to your "Sonny and Cher" re-runs: Chastity Bono's becoming a guy:
The 40-year-old, known to family and friends as Chaz, came out as a lesbian nearly two decades ago. Bono intends to make the transition from woman to man, publicist Howard Bragman said.

"Chaz, after many years of consideration, has made the courageous decision to honor his true identity," Bragman said.

"He is proud of his decision and grateful for the support and respect that has already been shown by loved ones. [Read more]

Oh go ahead, reminisce already:

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posted by JReid @ 5:17 PM  
How Wackenhut failed Stephen Johns
The security company that employed Stephen Tyrone Johns, the victim of white supremacist lone gunman James Von Brunn, was asked by the union representing its highly trained security officers to provide company-issued bullet proof vests. They're still waiting. [At left: shooting victim Stephen Tyrone Johns]

From ThinkProgress:
The security police professionals working at the Holocaust Museum are all members of the International Union, Security, Police and Fire Professionals of America (SPFPA). Yesterday, president David Hickey said that it was a tragic day for his members, who are “the first line of defense against a terrorist attack and put their lives on the line each day protecting our country.” [At right: gunman James Von Brunn]

... However, according to SPFPA Washington DC representative Assane Faye, the union had been pressing Wackenhut for “company-issued protective vests,” as a result of a rise in anti-Semitic remarks directed at the museum’s officers. “I hammered this in our negotiations two years ago because of how sensitive that museum is,” Faye told the Washington Post. Wackenhut has not yet issued the vests.
Thanks for nothing, Wackenhut. The company, by the way, describes itself this way:
Wackenhut describes itself as the U.S. government's "largest contractor for professional security services." An official with the union that represents Wackenhut employees at the museum said Johns was paid about $20 an hour.
...and he wasn't wearing a vest. So what other key buildings and landmarks in D.C. does Wackenhut service? Just asking...

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posted by JReid @ 5:09 PM  
Irony alert: Fellow white supremacist on Von Brunn
Via ThinkP, a friend of James Von Brunn worries that the white supremacist movement might have a bit of an image problem...
An acquaintance of von Brunn’s, John de Nugent, “who describes himself as a white separatist,” told the Post that von Brunn had been paranoid recently that “someone in Washington” cut his Social Security after “looking at his Web site.” De Nugent also tried to distance von Brunn from what he deemed “the responsible white separatist community”:

De Nugent called von Brunn a genius but described the shooting as the act of “a loner and a hothead.”

“The responsible white separatist community condemns this,” he said. “It makes us look bad.”

And apparently, Nugent is too radical even for some white supremacy websites. Wow.

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posted by JReid @ 4:52 PM  
Holocaust museum victim's final act of kindness was to his killer
From the NYDN:

The Holocaust Museum guard shot dead by a geriatric neo-Nazi opened the door for the rifle-toting gunman before the hatemonger opened fire, authorities said Thursday.

Stephen Tyrone Johns, 39, was gunned down moments after he helped James von Brunn, 88, inside the museum.

"Johns was kind enough to open the door to allow him to enter," said Washington Police Chief Cathy Lanier.

"As he entered, he raised the rifle, opened fire, striking Special Police Officer Johns."

Johns took a bullet in his torso and died a short while later. Two guards returned fire, critically wounding von Brunn, 88.

The Holocaust-denying, white supremacist will be charged with murder and using a firearm on federal property - capital crimes that could lead to von Brunn receiving the death penalty, officials said.

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posted by JReid @ 3:58 PM  
How Barack Obama hooked up Five Guys (and created 25 new jobs)
... now, if he could just visit every other American small business, we'd be in good economic shape in now time. BTW, the real credit goes to Michelle, who was the first Obama to discover the now very, very popular D.C. burger joint.

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posted by JReid @ 2:38 PM  
Rev. Wright: go ahead, say something stupid
Let's see, Rev ... can you give us something on... say ... President Obama? When's the last time you talked to him?

"Them Jews aren't going to let him talk to me. I told my baby daughter that he'll talk to me in five years when he's a lame duck, or in eight years when he's out of office," Wright told the Daily Press in Newport News, Va.

"They will not let him talk to somebody who calls a spade what it is .... I said from the beginning: He's a politician; I'm a pastor. He's got to do what politicians do," Wright continued.

Yep. That's pretty stupid. Good job, man (eyes rolling.)

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posted by JReid @ 8:31 AM  
Carrie Prejean fired, world struggles to go on
She's now free to launch her television career on the Fox News Channel. TMZ had the scoop, and the not entirely believable reason for the firing given by pageant officials:
Sources connected with the pageant tell us even Donald Trump has now had it with Carrie, because she's violating her contract by not getting clearance to do her extracurricular stuff.

We're also told Carrie has been a no-show for appearances she was supposed to make for the pageant organization.

The firing, we're told, is strictly based on Carrie breaching her contract. It's not based on her political and moral views.
Riiiight. I think it's fair to say that the Miss California organization wanted to fire Ms. Prejean the minute she uttered the words "opposite marriage." They just had to wait for her to do something silly, like posing semi-nude ... gaining too much individual notoriety ... acting like a diva and thereby pissing off Donald Trump.

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posted by JReid @ 8:27 AM  
Wednesday, June 10, 2009
James Von Brunn: another right wing nut acting out
This time in New York, at the Holocaust Museum in Washington D.C., where an Obama-hating anti-Semite white supremacist shot an (African-American) security guard to death as former Defense Secretary William Cohen and his wife Janet Langhart Cohen watched (or heard.) The interracial couple were preparing to enjoy a reading of her play about racial tolerance, in which Anne Frank has a theoretical dialogue with Emmett Till. Go figure. The attacker is named James Von Brunn. I'll bet you can take a good guess what's on his radio dial and reading list... His former wife had this to say about him:

The ex-wife of the racist who stormed the U.S. Holocaust Museum described him as an abusive alcoholic whose hatred against Jews and blacks "ate him alive like a cancer."

"It's all he would talk about," the ex-wife said of James von Brunn, 89, who was wounded in a firefight with museum guards.

"When I questioned him, he would get very angry and abusive."

Von Brunn is also apparently part of the Obama "Birther" movement: the wingnuts who question Barack Obama's citizenship ... still ... (led by their godfather, Rush Limbaugh) He even wrote a book about his ... um ... complaints... And his writings further reveal him to be adamantly pro-Bush and pro-Sarah Palin:
More about Von Brunn from the New York Times:
The gunman was identified by law enforcement officials as James W. von Brunn, who embraces various conspiracy theories involving Jews, blacks and other minority groups and at one point waged a personal war with the federal government.

... Officials and others who track conspiracy theorists have long been familiar with Mr. von Brunn, whose latest address is believed to be in Eastern Maryland, in part because he maintains a Web site. (Wednesday night, only an archived version of the site was available.) He has claimed variously to be a member of Mensa, the high-I.Q. society; to have played varsity football at a Midwestern college, where he earned a degree in journalism; to have been a PT boat commander in World War II; and to be a painter and an author.

Mr. von Brunn has also claimed to have been victimized by a court system run by Jews and blacks.

Before Wednesday, he was best known to law enforcement officials for having walked into the Washington headquarters of the Federal Reserve System on Dec. 7, 1981, with a bag slung over the shoulder of his trench coat. A guard chased him to the second floor, where the Fed’s board was meeting, and found a revolver, a hunting knife and a sawed-off shotgun in the bag.

Mr. von Brunn, who lived in Lebanon, N.H., at the time, told the police he wanted to take board members hostage to focus news media attention on their responsibility for high interest rates and the nation’s economic difficulties. He was convicted in 1983 and served several years in prison on attempted kidnapping, burglary, assault and weapons charges.
Hm ... guns ... anti-government paranoia ... federal reserve conspiracy theories ... white supremacist movement... hey, remember back when the righties got all hot and bothered about this?

The Department of Homeland Security is warning law enforcement officials about a rise in "rightwing extremist activity," saying the economic recession, the election of America's first black president and the return of a few disgruntled war veterans could swell the ranks of white-power militias.

A footnote attached to the report by the Homeland Security Office of Intelligence and Analysis defines "rightwing extremism in the United States" as including not just racist or hate groups, but also groups that reject federal authority in favor of state or local authority.

"It may include groups and individuals that are dedicated to a single-issue, such as opposition to abortion or immigration," the warning says.

Read the full report here. Janet Napolitano may want to take back that apology now. Michelle Malkin helpfully highlighted other increasingly relevant passages from the report:

From the report. p. 3:

(U//LES) Rightwing extremists are harnessing this historical election as a recruitment tool. Many rightwing extremists are antagonistic toward the new presidential administration and its perceived stance on a range of issues, including immigration and citizenship, the expansion of social programs to minorities, and restrictions on firearms ownership and use. Rightwing extremists are increasingly galvanized by these concerns and leverage them as drivers for recruitment. From the 2008 election timeframe to the present, rightwing extremists have capitalized on related racial and political prejudices in expanded propaganda campaigns, thereby reaching out to a wider audience of potential sympathizers.

(U) Exploiting Economic Downturn

(U//FOUO) Rightwing extremist chatter on the Internet continues to focus on the economy, the perceived loss of U.S. jobs in the manufacturing and construction sectors, and home foreclosures. Anti-Semitic extremists attribute these losses to a deliberate conspiracy conducted by a cabal of Jewish “financial elites.” These “accusatory” tactics are employed to draw new recruits into rightwing extremist groups and further radicalize those already subscribing to extremist beliefs. DHS/I&A assesses this trend is likely to accelerate if the economy is perceived to worsen.

Sounds about right ... Thanks, Michelle! BTW Ms. Malkin is strangely silent on Von Brunn today, preferring to devote her entire site to stupid posters opposing "Obamacare." UPDATE: Malkin did post about the shooting after all. But she claims, nonsensically, that Von Brunn was NOT, I repeat NOT ... a right winger. And this link-friend of Michelle's takes it one step further ...

Let's give the last word to the one good thing Fox News has going for it: Shep Smith, who reveals that the winger extremists are starting to creep him out, too...

As the right wing nuts react... Meanwhile, Irregular Times keeps tabs on the equally scary FReepers...

Meanwhile: Gawker muses about Von Brunn's Net savvy, and his artwork. ... and about the rise of right wing violence.

Now you see why the security was so unbelievably tight at the inaugural.

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posted by JReid @ 9:45 PM  
Tuesday, June 09, 2009
Mel Martinez defends Sotomayor, awaits Rush's condemnation
From The Hill's Eric Zimmerman:

"For someone who is of Latin background, personally, I understand what she is trying to say," Martinez said after meeting with Sotomayor today. "Which is, the richness of her experience forms who she is. It forms who I am."

I believe Martinez is the first Republican senator to actively defend Sotomayor. This could be one of those symbolic turning points.

Martinez also said he expects Sotomayor to be confirmed "with pretty good numbers."

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posted by JReid @ 7:07 PM  
Israel's 'Borat' problem?
Israeli foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman, a sharp tongued Russian emigre who may or may not be a money launderer, nurtures his taste for irony:
"The Arabs, our adversaries, have succeeded in doing to us what 'Borat' did for Kazakhstan", Ido Aharoni told the Knesset Defense and Security Committee on Tuesday, referring to the 2006 Sacha Baron Cohen film in which Cohen portrayed a Kazakh filmmaker touring the United States.

Aharoni, head of the Brand Israel project, said Arab public relations measures "have created an image [for Israelis] whose connection to reality is very weak." Aharoni's comments mirrored those made by Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, who said "we [Israel] cannot advance successful diplomacy if we don't change the way we are viewed."
Um ... paging Mr. Lieberman... your problem might be two-fold: your policies, your settlements ... and YOU. That's right sir. You ... YOU ... are Israel's Borat.

Some of Lieberman's "greatest hits":
  • In 2003 he advocated the drowning of Palestinian prisoners in the Dead Sea and offered to provide buses to take them there. When Jamal Zahalka, an Arab Member of the Knesset, criticised him for making this comment Mr Lieberman threatened his fellow Member of the Knesset by saying, "Let me tell you openly. As far as I'm concerned you're much worse than Arafat and Abu Mazen. If it was up to me you'd be sitting in jail, at best." (Haaretz 08/07/2003)

  • In May 2004, he said that 90 percent of Israel's 1.2 million Arabs would "have to find a new Arab entity" in which to live beyond Israel's borders. "They have no place here. They can take their bundles and get lost,". (Institue for Middle East Understanding 12/11/06

  • He is a staunch opponent of the peace process. He resigned his post and left the Likud party in protest over then-Prime Minister Netanyahu's signing of the U.S.-brokered Wye River Memorandum. (Institue for Middle East Understanding 12/11/06
  • The Jerusalem Post reported that Lieberman called for the execution of any Arab Members of Knesset who meet with representatives of the Palestinian government, saying, "World War II ended with the Nurenberg trials. The heads of the Nazi regime, along with their collaborators, were executed. I hope this will be the fate of the collaborators in [the Knesset]." (Jerusalem Post 04/05/06)

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posted by JReid @ 6:53 PM  
Hugh Hewitt to America: Drop dead
Right wing blogger and Salem Communications talk show host (they're the same outfit that bought my old station, btw...) has launched what might be the most un-American "campaign" since Strom Thurmond ran for president. He (and his fellow travelers on the right) want his listeners (and Rush's too) to boycott American cars. Hewitt wrote in the Washington Examiner on June 1st:
I won't buy a socialist car, which means I won't be buying a GM or Chrysler car for as long as the U.S. government owns huge blocks of the companies.
So what does Hugh want you to buy? The answer includes ... wait for it ... Japanese cars, made in the Republican south, where workers get paid whatever the Socialized government of Japan says they can make. Read on:
Any American who values their traditions of free enterprise and political freedom will urge the federal government to disinvest itself from these companies immediately. The federal government can quickly put its controlling stake in the companies on the market and do so at whatever price makes the market.
... Buy Ford. Buy Toyota. Buy anything that isn't owned and operated by the federal government. There are plenty of great cars out there. You don't have to buy one that costs not just your cash, but also your commitment to free enterprise and all the benefits that flow from it.
And then to prove his idea is popular, Hewitt writes another piece on his winger radio page in which he cites toootally credible numbers ... his own listeners!
In the two days since the nationalization of GM was announced, the callers and e-mailers to my program have been 10 to 1 against the Obamaization of the American car business.
And then, Hewitt shows his "human" side...

In the effort to reverse this lurch beyond the farthest left fringe of previous Democratic statist urges, individual Americans have a role to play. They have to say no to GM products and services until such time as the denationalization occurs. This is a painful conclusion for those of us with friends still working for the company, and who had supported aggressive efforts to help the private company restructure.

But there isn't any alternative, every dollar spent with GM is a dollar spent against free enterprise. Every car or truck purchased from Government Motors is one not purchased from a private car company that competes fairly against all other car companies.
Aww... Hugh is in pain... But he's apparently just fine with buying cars subsidized by Japan, or Germany, but not those made by American car companies. An interesting argument coming from someone whom I assume purports to be a patriot. Meanwhile, Boss Limbaugh weighs in (no pun intended):
Nobody wants to support an Obama company," Rush Limbaugh told his audience Friday, citing a poll showing that 17 percent of Americans backed a boycott of GM.

... The popular, controversial Limbaugh didn't outright call for a boycott, but said he understood why people would want to avoid GM vehicles. "They don't want to patronize Obama. They don't want to do anything to make Obama's policies work."

For Limbaugh, it all comes back to wanting Obama ... and any American north of the Mason Dixon line, apparently, to fail. It's getting tired now, dear.

UPDATE: Ed Shultz just lost his cookies on MSNBC responding to Hewitt, and railing that he's taking his show on the road. He also called for a boycott of Salem Broadcasting, which runs Hewitt's tiny radio show. So ordered.

The DNC adds:
"While it's not surprising that Rush Limbaugh would root for the failure of a national institution for partisan political gain, it is surprising that the other so-called leaders of the Republican party are silently going along with him given how many hard working Americans rely on GM for a living," said DNC spokesman Hari Sevugan.
And "the people" are weighing in, too, the old fashioned way:
So far, there is little evidence that the government's involvement is turning off buyers. In bankruptcy for the entire month of May, Chrysler had its best sales month of the year.
Meanwhile, the Garlic says of Hewitt:

Let's Hope The GM Boycott Goes As Good As His Palin Book

LOL! To whit:
Steve Benen, in his "SCHADENFREUDE WATCH: HEWITT EDITION..." explains;
In 2006, a few months before the midterm elections, conservative blogger/talk-show host Hugh Hewitt published a book on the drive for a "permanent Republican majority." Soon after, Democrats won a sweeping, historic victory, and reclaimed the majority in both chambers.

In 2007, a few months before the primaries, Hewitt published a book on Mitt Romney and the prospects of a "Mormon in the White House." Soon after, Romney blew leads in Iowa and New Hampshire, and withdrew from the presidential race after a surprisingly poor showing.

In 2008, Hewitt has a new idea for a book. It's called, "How Sarah Palin Won the Election ... and Saved America." There's a small problem: no one wants to publish it ...
Well, we all know how The Wasilla Whiz Kid made out.
Oh, no wait, John Cole's is even better:
The first thing I thought when I looked at DougJ’s post about these morons organizing a boycott of GM and Chrysler was that they just spent the last three weeks incorrectly screaming that Republican Chrysler dealerships were unfairly targeted by the Obama administration for closure, so now they want to boycott them and finish off the rest of them- “Republican dealerships were unfairly targeted! Let’s kill the survivors!”

I usually think it's a bad idea to call people "un-American," but in this case I'll make an exception. Hewitt and his gang, especially El Rushbo, is un-American.

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posted by JReid @ 6:13 PM  
Filed under: it sucks getting old
It's bad enough that you used to be in an 80s hair band and now you're playing at the Tony's with Liza Minelli, but this? This is just humiliating...

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posted by JReid @ 9:22 AM  
Monday, June 08, 2009
Change Lebanon can believe in
George Bush's invasion of Iraq, which was supposed to touch off a democratic tide that would sweep across the Middle East, instead contributed to the election Hezbollah MPs in Lebaonon, a Hamas government in Gaza, and a growing extremism in Iran's government. Now, with Obama in office, the opposite may be beginning to take place. Writes the Guardian's Simon Tidsall reports:
Lebanon feels the Obama effect

... It would be fanciful to claim that Obama's bridge-building speech to the Muslim world in Cairo last week, attractive though it was, crucially influenced Lebanese voters. But the calmer, unconfrontational tone adopted by Washington on Middle East issues since George Bush trudged home to Texas appears to have struck a chord in a country that was teetering on the brink of sectarian civil war one year ago.

Pre-election visits by Hillary Clinton, the US secretary of state, and Joe Biden, the US vice-president, underscored the importance that Obama attached to the poll. Some resented these interventions as unwarranted interference. But many Lebanese, particularly the nearly 40% of the population that is Christian, seem to have approved of Washington's increased engagement; and to have heard its implicit message that a vote for Hezbollah and its allies would be a backwards step.

That refrain was underscored by exaggerated claims that Hezbollah and its Tehran backers, if further empowered, would turn Lebanon into a second Gaza. And if that was not enough, an eve-of-poll demarche by Boutros Sfeir, spiritual leader of the country's Maronite Christians, may have done the trick. He warned the country was in danger. It was clear from whom he believed the danger emanated.

By giving the nod to Saad Hariri and his 14 March bloc of Sunni Muslim, Druze and Christian parties, which won 71 parliamentary seats against 57 for the opposition, Lebanon has provided Obama with his first significant regional policy success. The result is a setback for Iran, which has sought enhanced influence via Hezbollah. And it confirmed Lebanon's 2005 rejection of Syria as the master manipulator of its affairs, confounding suggestions that Damascus was inching back.

Meanwhile, the results in Lebaonon could have the effect of bringing on the isolation of ... well ... Israel:
In contrast, the rightwing Israeli government of Binyamin Netanyahu may view the vote with ambivalence. The prospect of the non-ideological Hariri as Lebanon's prime minister, a likely though not yet certain outcome, must be welcome in Tel Aviv. But this dash to moderation robs Israel's favourite contemporary narrative – the inexorable, region-wide advance of an existentially threatening, nuclear armed Iran – of some of its power to alarm.
Meanwhile, in Europe, which has often exhibited a certain coolness toward the Israelis, stories like this one don't help:
Two Israeli officers have testified that troops in the West Bank beat, bound and blindfolded Palestinian civilians as young as 14. The damaging disclosures by two sergeants of the Kfir Brigade include descriptions of abuses they say they witnessed during a search-and-detain operation involving hundreds of troops in Hares village on 26 March. The testimonies have been seen by The Independent and are expected to add fuel to the controversy over recent remarks by Colonel Itai Virob, commander of Kfir Brigade, in which he said violence against detained Palestinians was justified in order to accomplish missions.

Both the soldiers, from the Harub battalion, highlighted the tight tying of the plastic hand restraints placed on detainees. "There are people who think you need to tighten the restraints all the way, until no drop of blood will pass from here to there," one soldier said. "It doesn't take much time until the hands turn blue. There were a lot of people that you know weren't feeling anything."

He said about 150 Palestinians, some as young as 14, were bound, blindfolded and detained at the village school during the operation, which lasted from 3am to 3pm. He was told it was aimed at preventing village youths throwing stones against nearby settler roads. It was clear many of the people detained had done nothing wrong, but they were held to gather intelligence, he said.

Hang on, does Dick Cheney work for the IDF???

Meanwhile, in yet another irony of international current affairs, it seems that a particular form of right wing extremism is making a comeback due to the economic crisis: fascism.
This is a significant moment – the fascists have come in from the cold

A few weeks ago I attended a think-tank lunch held to discuss whether the rise of the left was inevitable in the wake of the banking crisis. After some discussion, Dominic Grieve, the cerebral shadow Justice minister, intervened. "I don't worry about the hard left," he said. "It is the rise of the far right that scares me."

They're baaack!

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posted by JReid @ 9:26 PM  
Current events: North Korea, torture, and more
Two American journalists are sentenced to 12 years hard labor in North Korea.

A former Gitmo detainee denies being a terrorist, and says yes, he was tortured.

The SUPCO has rejected a challenge to Don't Ask, Don't Tell. (Expect activists to lose their natural minds today at the Obama administration for fighting in court on behalf of the policy...) As is not uncommon, the Moderate Voice has a good post on the topic.

Laura Bush speaks up for the few remaining reasonable people in the Republican Party (did I mention she grew up a Democrat?) ... and for Judge Sotomayor.

More later.

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posted by JReid @ 12:23 PM  
If you missed the NBC News special on Iran...
You really missed something. It was a fascinating look at a fascinating, and in this country, largely unknown country, which by the way, appears to have more compassionate healthcare policies than we do. Go figure. Here's part one:

Watch the rest here.

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posted by JReid @ 12:09 PM  
Censored by the Huffpo: drunken, Obama hating Israelis
You may not have seen this video, which is why it's so dangerous to allow any single news site to set the agenda, whether it's the Drudge Report or the Huffington Post, which summarily yanked it down a couple days ago. And now we return you to the post, already in progress...

This video is no fun to watch, but watch it anyway. It's from journo Max Blumenthal, and is from his "Feeling the Hate in Jeruslem on the eve of Obama's Cairo Speech." Says Blumenthal:
On the eve of President Barack Obama’s address to the Muslim world from Cairo, Egypt, I stepped out onto the streets of Jerusalem with my friend Joseph Dana to interview young Israelis and American Jews about their reaction to the speech. We encountered rowdy groups of beer sodden twenty-somethings, many from the United States, and all eager to vent their visceral, even violent hatred of Barack Obama and his policies towards Israel. Usually I offer a brief commentary on my video reports, but this one requires no comment at all. Quite simply, it contains some of the most shocking footage I have ever filmed. Watch it and see if you agree.

Here it is:

And now, the remix:

That "political science major" was the BEST, wasn't she? (eyes rolling) Hopefully this is just an isolated group, and doesn't represent how most young Israelis feel, about the U.S., President Obama, or the very idea of peace with the Palestinians. One note: get a load of the accents on these guys. Most are straight out of Queens, New York...

UPDATE: The video's co-creator, Joseph Dana, explains its "news value," (are you listening, Ariana?):
Max and I went on to the streets of Jerusalem at ten o’clock on a Wednesday to ascertain the feelings of the young population about Obama’s upcoming speech in Cairo. As is often the case, the streets of central Jerusalem were not filled with native Israelis but American Jews. Doubtlessly anyone who has visited Jerusalem has encountered the droves of American Jewish kids that are sent to Israel to study for a period of time from Teaneck or Westchester.

... As a resident of Jerusalem, I can say that the people represented in this video are not members of a fringe group or simply drunk college kids. These people reflect the sentiments shared by many people in this country and this city. These people and their families are the core of the opposition to meaningful peace between Israel and her neighbors. This is what Obama is up against.

HT to the Koskids.

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posted by JReid @ 11:51 AM  
Sunday, June 07, 2009
Are white conservatives suffering from 'discrimination envy?'
//So I went and committed myself to taking part in this multi-part "conversation on race" over at Open Salon. (Had I known it was going to be this much work I might have thought better of it, but there you go...) Anyway, here's my entry. You can view previous parts the series here. //

I thought I'd heard it all when Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, the first state to secede from the Union over slavery, demanded that Judge Sonia Sotomayor... an Hispanic woman ... apologize, presumably to all white men for saying, as we've now heard umpteen times on cable news (and never in context,) that she would "hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experience would make a better decision than a white man who hadn't lived that experience."

Never mind the context, Graham was offended "as a white guy," and he was just one part of the feeding frenzy on the right which followed the unveiling of that statement. It was almost as fascinating as listening to conservatives try to explain that, really really, the underwhelming Clarence Thomas wasn't nominated to the Supreme Court pretty much just because he's black and conservative. Sotomayor has been called everything from an "affirmative action baby" (never mind her honors graduation from Princeton and seat at the head of the Yale Law Review) and most pointedly, a "racist!..." including by Newt "Tweets" Gingrich (who soon took it back...) and right wing radio jock Rush Limbaugh, whose racial bona fides include once telling a black caller to "take that bone out of [her] nose" and call him back. The Sotomayor Derangement Syndrome sprang in part from her daring to join organiations while in college that celebrated her Puerto Rican heritage, and for associating herself with the National Council of La Raza, which the arguably insane Congressman Tom Tancredo (who once called Miami a "third world country" because there are too many Latinos down rehe for his taste,) likened to the Ku Klux Clan. Well beam me up, Scotty.

The charges of reverse racism were made with such zeal and relish -- you almost begin to wonder whether the loud mouths were blowing the dog whistle or hearing it; somehow following what they knew to be an underlying and very real anxiety, even a kind of "discrimination envy" -- among white men of a certain age; plus a frustration about being the only group that doesn't get to cry "ism" when their feelings are hurt.

Indeed, for white men in America, it's been one hell of a half century. From desegregation to affirmative action to the Civil Rights and Voting Rights Acts of '64 and '65, the last 50 or so years have been a period of steady deterioration for the image of white man as America's boss and father figure. In America's collective theater of the mind, white men have traversed from Neil Armstrong and JFK to Al Bundy, Dick Nixon and Jimmy Carter. J.R. Ewing, Don Johnson and Ronald Reagan reinvigorated the brand for a while, but it didn't last.

On television in the 1970s, the fed up white guy was represented by Archie Bunker, who felt free to rail against blacks, foreigners, assertive women and all the rest of what was wrong with the Brave New multicultural world, but only inside his house. The Reagan era brought us a reinvented Archie named Rush Limbaugh -- far less lovable, louder and more blandly vicious than the Norman Lear character (and three times less capable of keeping a wife,) but still venting a real frustration at what seemed to be a world filled with teachers who want his kids to learn Spanish, Mexicans who are taking all the jobs (and not learning English), and Hollywierdos who fill his TV with blacks, browns and "queers", and who keep telling him, in ways large and small, that people like him -- meat and potatoes, Christian white men like the kind who "built this country" and who like their big cars, their cigarettes and their women in skirts -- aren't cool anymore. By the time Archie took its last Klieg lights in the late 70s, Title IX and affirmative action (whose dirty little secret is that it benefits white women more than any other group) had ripped June Cleaver from the kitchen and created a new generation of board room hustle-women who don't want to get married or have kids until they turned 40, or ever, and who don't like to be called "gal."

The 80s and 90s brought hip-hop, where a white guy pretty much has to muse about killing his mama to be taken seriously, and which stole a generation of young white college guys from good old rock and roll. Baseball was taken by the Latinos, basketball and football by the "brothas," hell even golf eventually fell to Tiger Woods (though he's not actually black according to him, he's "Coblanasian," which is black for "please don't call me black.") And there were the Cosbys, who forever replaced the Cleavers as the prototypical American TV family. (To add insult to injury, the show that for a long time was the lead in to Cosby was "Family Ties," in which the lone conservative white male character, Alex P. Keaton, was often the butt of the plot's jokes.)

In 2008, the real live Cosby family showed up. In a matter of months, as Barack Obama began to be taken seriously by the press, by voters, and by the Clintons, the cool white dude playing the sax and wearing shades on the "Arsenio Hall Show" was shoved aside by the even cooler Black/mixed dude with better shades, who was aiming to become the REAL "first black president." You could almost hear Bill Clinton's head exploding every day of the campaign. Clinton went from the guy who lamented the way politicians campaign among "all these insecure white folk" by scaring the hell out of them, to the guy trying desperately to scare the hell out of them on behalf of his wife's campaign.

It's cold comfort, it seems, that white men still controll 85 percent of the nation's board rooms, hold 84 percent of the highest corporate titles (CEO, COO and the like,) and that "just 6 percent of corporate America's top money earners are women," and "only 3 percent of board members are women of color." There is exactly one black female CEO of a major corporation in the U.S. (her name is Ursula Burns, and she now runs Xerox.)

Blacks and Hispanics may dominate on the diamond, court and field, but white men still control 95% of professional NFL, NBA and Major League Baseball franchises.

In Hollywood, Will Smith may have replaced Tom Cruise as the modern era's top earner and box office king, and Shonda Rimes ("Grey's Anatomy" creator") and Oprah may be at the top of the money market, but the majority of films featuring black actors are rehashes of "Boys in the Hood" or slapstick comedies, as Spike Lee has wryly pointed out. On television, the buffoonery is even worse, with not a "Cosby Show" in sight. (If you don't believe me, try being a black Hollywood actress for a day who isn't Halle Berry ...) And across the entertainment spectrum, don't let Diddy and Jay Z fool you, the vast majority of entertainment industry executives are NOT African-American (and neither are the vast majority of its stars.)

In fact, if you look at any statistic, from poverty, to unemployment to high school graduation rates, and on and on, and you'll find that in reality, black and brown people haven't even come close to catching, let alone eclipsing, white men.

So why all the gnashing of teeth It's called politics. In 2008, Barack Obama became the first Democrat to win a majority of the popular vote (53%) since Jimmy Carter. And while he didn't win a majority of the white vote, he won enough of it (43%) to carry him to victory, because he swept every other demographic group, particularly minorities and young people. There was a particularly fixation with white voters and their relationship to Obama during the campaign, and for good reason. Prior to last year, the notion of a black U.S. president -- particularly one named Barack Hussein Obama -- seemed almost absurd, mainly because it was assumed that white people would never vote for such a person (remember how wrong people like Pat Buchanan and Chris Matthews were about white voters in Pennsylvania and Ohio?) But the 2008 election proved a point that Buchanan, Gingrich and other seasoned politicos, and even the portly Mr. Limbaugh understand. Namely, the country's population, and voters, are shifting steadily brownward.

Thus the panic that Limbaugh, Buchanan, Gingrich, Bill O'Reilly and others are exhibiting, about "racism," about Sotomayor, the Ricci case (and "Lou Dobbs" nightly jeremiads about illegal immigration,) is not the panic of people who really believe that minorities are outshining white men economically or even socially. It's the panic of men who hear the drumbeat of the next national election, one that will be held after all the damage that's been done to the GOP, by the GOP with Hispanic voters (and long since with blacks.) Meanwhile, the percentage of white voters in the 2008 voting population shrank precipitously:

"The overall message is total ballots cast by white Americans was down, while African Americans and Latinos cast way more ballots than they did in 2004," said Jody Herman, a researcher with Project
. "And young voters, age 18-29, cast over 1.8 million more ballots than in 2005, which is a 9 percent increase. That increase was greater than any other age group."

... In contrast, 2.88 million more African Americans, 1.52 million more Latinos, 67,000 more Asian Americans and 1.32 million members of other minorities, voted this fall compared to four years ago. That is 1.18 million fewer white voters and 6.96 million more minority voters.

Moreover, precisely which white voters stayed home was telling:
"I think absolutely white Republicans did not show up," he said. "They were turned off, disillusioned. They did not turn out. Democratic voters did come out. They couldn't wait to vote."
When Ronald Reagan won the presidency in 1980, his voters were 98 percent white. Had he received the same turnout of whites, blacks and Hispanics as we saw in 2008, he would have lost the election. Which brings us back to Lindsey Graham, Limbaugh, Pat Buchanan, Gingrich and others, (plus this guy) plus the right's favorite drum major: Fox News. Their two-week orgy of Sotomayor condemnation seems tailor made to target the white guys out there who really do feel like so many Frank Riccis -- victimized by "Jim Crow liberalism," having studying harder and overcoming more obstacles than the pampered Princetonians and birth certificate hiding Harvard grads living at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, with their exotic childhoods and degreed pomposity, and yet, being denied opportunities at work, at colleges, in sports, and hell, in life ... wait for it ... because they're white. To those Archie Bunkers out there, who found their voices (and their pitchforks) at Sarah Palin rallies and who don't realize G. Gordon Liddy is an actual criminal (or that Limbaugh, Hannity and Beck are not actually delivering the "news,") and who wouldn't care anyway, because these people are speaking up for them, the leaders of the right -- such as they are -- are offering to lead a new civil rights movement, which shall consist mainly of voting Republican.

Cross-posted at OpenSalon.

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posted by JReid @ 3:19 PM  
Friday, June 05, 2009
The out CIA agents, don't they?
In yet another flailing attempt to defend the use of torture, Hill Republicans reveal classified briefing info ... on the record.

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posted by JReid @ 2:05 AM  
A tale of two Israels
The AP analysis that President Obama's success in remaking U.S. relations with the Muslim world depends largely on Israel sounds right to me. And how Israelis responded to President Obama's historic Cairo speech depends largely on which Israelis you're talking about. On the one hand, you have the hardliners, represented by the writers at the Jerusalem Post (and sometimes it seems, by CNN's Wolf Blitzer, who obsessed on Thursday over Obama's failure to use the word "terror" or "terrorism," and over the president's "provocative" comments about settlements -- Wolf really should give a disclaimer about his former work for AIPAC when discussing the Mideast ...) One JPost writer sums up the "problem" with Obama's words, from the right wing Israeli point of view:
... First and foremost was his linkage of the establishment of the State of Israel and the Holocaust.

Thus, according to Obama, Americans recognize that "the aspiration for a Jewish homeland is rooted in a tragic history that cannot be denied," an obvious reference not to the destruction of the Second Temple and the exile of the Jewish people from its historic homeland, but rather to the Shoa. The continuation of the speech, in which he refers to his visit today to Buchenwald and attacks Holocaust denial, make this linkage absolutely clear.

But besides being historically inaccurate, this false connection strengthens one of the strongest canards of anti-Israel propaganda in the Muslim world; that Europeans guilty of Holocaust crimes established a Jewish state in Palestine at the expense of the local Arab residents to atone for their World War II atrocities.

By ignoring three thousand years of Jewish history, by neglecting to even mention the unbreakable link, started long before the advent of Islam, between the Jewish people and Eretz Yisrael, Obama totally failed to deliver what should have been one of his most important messages to the Arab world.
... to which Gideon Levy of Ha'aretz responds:
The prime minister ordered the ministers to say nothing, but of course they could not help but invade the studios. Uzi Landau said that a Palestinian state is tantamount to an "Iranian state." Isaac Herzog appeared even more ridiculous when he said that the problem with the settlements is one of "public relations." In essence, both were busy with the same problem: How can we manage to pull the new America's leg as well? Israeli politicians have never before appeared as pathetic, as small as they did Thursday, compared to the bearer of promise in Cairo.
... and another Ha'aretz writer breaks down the stark choice facing Bibi Netanyahu:
Netanyahu now understands what he already knew before the speech: The moment of political reckoning that he so feared is now rapidly approaching. The thunder he hears in the distance is the sound of the Likud legions and the West Bank settler hordes rolling down the mountains. The light on the horizon is not that of a new day, but of a train coming right at him - a night train from Cairo.

Netanyahu will have to decide over the coming weeks whom he would rather pick a fight with: the powerful U.S. administration, whose president sees himself in an almost messianic role, or his own coalition and members of his party.
If people can't even agree on when and why Jewish people emigrated to what is now Israel, it's hard to see how any consensus can be formed. What's interesting, is that earlier Jewish leaders saw the issue with far more clarity, like this fellow, who said:
“If I were an Arab leader, I would never sign an agreement with Israel. It is normal; we have taken their country. It is true God promised it to us, but how could that interest them? Our God is not theirs. There has been Anti - Semitism, the Nazis, Hitler, Auschwitz, but was that their fault ? They see but one thing: we have come and we have stolen their country. Why would they accept that?”
That would be a quote from David Ben Gurion, Israel's first prime minister. And here are two interesting quotes, from the late Ariel Sharon
, on settlements:
“Everybody has to move; run and grab as many hilltops as they can to enlarge the settlements, because everything we take now will stay ours. Everything we don't grab will go to them.”
That, my friends, is what Obama is up against.

For a good, objective take on the history of the contested claims to the former mandate of Palestine, try this:

For a less objective take, check out the award winning film "Occupation 101."

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posted by JReid @ 1:16 AM  
Thursday, June 04, 2009
A wonderful speech, well received
With the exception of the "Palestinians are cockroaches" crowd among the Israeli far right, President Obama's speech was received in the Middle East mostly like this:
“I think his performance was marvelous,” said Khalid al-Dakhil, a professor at King Saudi University in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. “He seems so much more sympathetic, so much more understanding of the feelings, attitudes and perceptions of Arabs and Muslims. I think it was a speech with a vision, it was designed to set the stage for a new beginning.”

Even the way Mr. Obama began his speech, with his use of the phrase “peace be upon him” after mentioning the Prophet Muhammad, and his opening greeting — “Peace be upon you” in Arabic — struck a chord with many people, particularly in Saudi Arabia, the deeply conservative desert kingdom where Islam was born.

“Starting the speech with the words ‘salaam aleykum’ was a really good approach,” said Ghina Sibai, a 32-year-old art director from Beirut, Lebanon, in comments echoed by others across the Arab world. “Its kind of like a peace treaty. He’s trying to address the Muslim world through its own culture.”
But there were also responses like this, with the Times finding the most skeptics in Syria (or just happening upon some and reporting them as a generalized whole...):
“What is astonishing is that he condemned violence, but he didn’t say a word about what the United States did in Iraq,” said Khalid Saghieh, the executive editor of al Akhbar, a Lebanese daily newspaper that leans towards Hezbollah. “If you want to call for a new beginning, you should at least apologize for tens of thousands of victims in Iraq.”

... “I consider Mr. Obama’s speech a morphine injection to numb the minds of Muslim and Arab people,” said Mr. Abdullah, the Syrian electrical engineer, “so that they don’t mind so much the injustices carried out by the United States in the region, as long as Mr. Obama respects Islamic culture and heritage.”
I think overall, however, it's impossible to characterize the speech as anything but well received in the Muslim world, with caveats. Read more reactions, caveats included, at the Beeb.

Meanwhile, over at the Guardian, Michael Tomasky has an interesting take:

Obama told his audience, as I noted above, many things it didn't necessarily want to hear. Indeed the bulk of the 55-minute address was taken up by his discussion of the seven tough issues he identified: violent extremism; Israel; nuclear arms and Iran; democracy; religious freedom; women's rights; and economic opportunity and what he called a "fear of modernity."

But he also told his listeners a lot of things they wanted to hear – his refusal to castigate Islam, even quoting John Adams to that effect ("the United States has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion or tranquility of Muslims"), and his repeated invocation of the search for common ground. Obviously, I could hear the speech only through my ears, but it seemed to me that for the most part he found the tonal sweet spot: firm but respectful where in disagreement, asking people to think a little harder and engage in a little more self-contemplation.

Still, the most striking thing to me was the reaction inside that hall in Cairo, where Obama literally, got some brotherly love from the audience, which interrupted him with cries of "we love you!"

Damn, that must burn right wingers...

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posted by JReid @ 1:52 PM  
President Obama's historic speech in Cairo
The president delivered an historic address at Cairo University. The full text is here. It ended with an incredible flourish, that includes a quote from my favorite book of the Bible: the book of Mathew:
We have the power to make the world we seek, but only if we have the courage to make a new beginning, keeping in mind what has been written. The Holy Quran tells us, Mankind, we have created you male and a female. And we have made you into nations and tribes so that you may know one another.

The Talmud tells us, The whole of the Torah is for the purpose of promoting peace.

The Holy Bible tells us, Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.


The people of the world can live together in peace. We know that is God's vision. Now that must be our work here on Earth.
Here's the speech, courtesy of some diligent Youtubers (good luck trying to watch the speech on CSPAN's website. Their streaming absolutely, categorically, blows. BTW it's amazing, in the age of Youtube, how difficult it still is to get a full rebroadcast of anything newsworthy. Instead, what you get are small clips and soundbites, both on cable news and online...) Anyhoo...

It would, of course, be nice to have the whole thing in one file. If I find such a thing, I'll post it.

At last, the whole thing:

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posted by JReid @ 9:48 AM  
Wednesday, June 03, 2009
Cheney's dark arts
The Wapo details Dick Cheney's vigorous defense of torture ... not in his recent raft of media availabilities and speeches, but rather back in 2005, when he seemed to be scrambling to prevent Congress from either stopping, or investigating, his torture and domestic wiretapping program. According to the Post, Cheney personally led briefings of members of Congress, including John McCain:
One of the most critical Cheney-led briefings came in late October 2005, when the vice president and Porter J. Goss, then director of the CIA, read Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) into the program on the interrogation methods, according to congressional and intelligence sources.

One knowledgeable official described the meeting as contentious. Cheney and Goss, with other CIA officials present, tried to persuade the former Vietnam POW to back off an anti-torture amendment that had already won the support of 90 senators.

The McCain amendment would have ended practices such as waterboarding by forbidding "cruel, degrading and inhumane" treatment of detainees. The CIA had not used waterboarding since 2003, but the White House sought to maintain the ability to employ it.
Meanwhile, the story also offers insight into why Cheney seems to believe there is exculpatory evidence inside certain CIA memos:
Lawmakers at times challenged Cheney and CIA officials about the legality of the program and pressed for specific results that would show whether the techniques worked. In response, the CIA briefers said that half of the agency's knowledge about al-Qaeda's plans and structure had been obtained through the interrogations.
And the other interesting point: the timing and effectiveness of Cheney's efforts?
Cheney's briefings on interrogations began in the winter of 2005 as the top Democrats on the Senate and House intelligence committees, Sen. John D. Rockefeller III (W.Va.) and Rep. Jane Harman (Calif.), publicly advocated a full-scale investigation of the tactics used against top al-Qaeda suspects.

On March 8, 2005 -- two days after a detailed report in the New York Times about interrogations -- Cheney gathered Rockefeller, Harman and the chairmen of the intelligence panels, Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) and Rep. Peter Hoekstra (R-Mich.), according to current and former intelligence officials. Weeks earlier, Roberts had given public statements suggesting possible support for the investigation sought by Rockefeller. But by early March 2005, Roberts announced that he opposed a separate probe, and the matter soon died.

And last but certainly not least, there was the arrogance of the Cheney team:
Cheney's efforts to sway Congress toward supporting waterboarding went beyond secret meetings in Washington. In July 2005, he sent David S. Addington, his chief counsel at the time, to travel with five senators -- four of them opponents of the CIA interrogation methods -- to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. On the trip, Sen. Graham urged Addington to put the interrogations at secret prisons and the use of military tribunals into a stronger constitutional position by pushing legislation through Congress, rather than relying on executive orders and secret rulings from Justice Department lawyers.

Subsequent court rulings would challenge the legality of the system, and Justice Department lawyers were privately drafting new rules on interrogations. Addington dismissed the views of Graham, who had been a military lawyer.

"I've got all the authority I need right here," Addington said, pulling from his coat a pocket-size copy of the Constitution, according to the senator, suggesting there was no doubt about the system's legal footing.
And what's scary, is that the neocons actually believe that.

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posted by JReid @ 11:03 AM  
The Wednesday funnies: The Cheney Bunch
**Bump** Dick Cheney's newly public, chatty persona (and his daughter's) just begs for a parody. Here it is:

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posted by JReid @ 10:41 AM  
Unless of course, the judge ISN'T a racist...
Newt Gingrich, the disgraced former House speaker who would dearly love to be president ... but who never will ... is one of those conservatives who has spent their adult life tisk-tisking Black and Brown people for calling people who look and think like him, "racist," and for "playing the race card," also known as "race hustling." Well, a funny thing happened when Newt did a little race hustling of his own. He got backslapped by reality. So now, Newt is walking back his "Sonia Sotomayor is a racist" tweet, while also learning that Twitter can be dangerous to the verbally impuslive. Newt emailed the following mea culpa to supporters:
My initial reaction was strong and direct -- perhaps too strong and too direct. The sentiment struck me as racist and I said so. Since then, some who want to have an open and honest consideration of Judge Sotomayor’s fitness to serve on the nation’s highest court have been critical of my word choice.

With these critics who want to have an honest conversation, I agree. The word “racist” should not have been applied to Judge Sotomayor as a person, even if her words themselves are unacceptable (a fact which both President Obama and his Press Secretary, Robert Gibbs, have since admitted).
He then goes on to try and re-explain his opposition to Sotomayor like an adult, rather than an angry, screaming kid in the mall, like he and his winger friends have done so far. Good luck with that. So why the change of heart? Why, people whose support he just might need
when he runs for president in 2012 -- you know, the ones who actually have jobs in the Republican Party -- were not amused.

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posted by JReid @ 10:05 AM  
Monday, June 01, 2009
Democracy could use more Joe Sestaks
The retired admiral sounds like he's in against Specter the Seat Saver. If only we had some of that independent spirit down here in Florida, where our primary has already been rendered obsolete by the boys (and girls ... hello, Karen Thurman! ... in the back rooms.) Thanks, Democratic Party. And run, Joe, run!

Footnote: I like to win as much as anybody, and as a Democrat, I'd like to see this state elect more of us. But sometimes, Democracy requires that you have to bother with the actual voters. Had that not been the case, and the voters set aside by Ed Rendell and the other party bosses (who I'm sure warned Barack Obama not to run since it wasn't his "turn,") Hillary Clinton would have been the Democratic nominee. Instead, the majority of Democrats made the decision on our own. So anyway, next August 24th, I guess I'm going fishing. ... and I HATE fishing.

And another thing: the party should be aware that a lot of Democrats I know, who aren't "yellow dog" types like yours truly, only hang on to their voter registration cards in order to vote in primaries. If Florida had open primaries, I suspect it would also have far fewer members of BOTH parties. Just something to think about up there in Tallahassee (and in Washington) while you guys are divvying up the ballot spots and doing away with the one meaningful reason to register with a political party in the first place.

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posted by JReid @ 11:41 PM  
It didn't take long: RedState plays the Ayers card
What's the last refuge of right wing scoundrels when one another of their own runs amok and becomes a domestic terrorist? Bill Ayers. Of course.

Meanwhile, the phone number in the car story is confirmed. The notation, captured on tape by Kansas City TV station KMBC, did indeed contain the phone number of an Operation Rescue operative:
The phone number is written on an envelope with the name "Cheryl" and "Op Rescue." Cheryl is Cheryl Sullenger, Operation Rescue's senior policy adviser, who in 1988 was convicted of conspiring to bomb a California abortion clinic. She served two years in prison.

Sullenger tells The Pitch that she hasn't spoken with Roeder recently.

"No, he hasn't called me recently," Sullenger said. "No."

She went on: "You know, he's somebody who's been around. My name is on the Internet. It's on every press release. My phone number is on every press release it. It's all over the internet. I don't know. He probably has lots of people's phone numbers. You know? So I don't know. I don't have any more comment other than that."
I'll bet.

Meanwhile, the KCStar has more about the murder suspect, Scott Roeder:
Scott Roeder harbored a burning, “eye-for-an-eye” anger toward abortion doctors. He once subscribed to a magazine suggesting “justifiable homicide” against them, and apparently likened George Tiller to the Nazi death-camp doctor Josef Mengele.
And it appears Roeder had deeper problems:

Roeder’s family life began unraveling more than a decade ago when he got involved with anti-government groups, and then became “very religious in an Old Testament, eye-for-an-eye way,” his former wife, Lindsey Roeder, told The Associated Press.

“The anti-tax stuff came first, and then it grew and grew. He became very anti-abortion,” said Lindsey Roeder, who was married to Scott Roeder for 10 years but “strongly disagrees with his beliefs.”

“That’s all he cared about is anti-abortion. The church is this. God is this.’ Yadda yadda,” she said.

Lindsey Roeder said that the early years of the marriage were good and that Scott Roeder worked in an envelope factory. But she said he moved out of their home after he became involved with the Freemen movement, an anti-government group that discouraged the paying of taxes. The Roeders have one son, now 22.

“When he moved out in 1994, I thought he was over the edge with that stuff,” his ex-wife said. “He started falling apart. I had to protect myself and my son.”

Roeder was arrested with the bomb making materials in his trunk in 1996.

And get a load of Roeder's friends:
Some anti-abortion activists said they were familiar with Roeder. Regina Dinwiddie, a protester in the Kansas City area, said she had picketed a Planned Parenthood clinic with Roeder. She said she was “glad” about Tiller’s death.

“I wouldn’t cry for him no more than I would if somebody dropped a rat and killed it,” she said.

Meanwhile, Operation Rescue founder, and seriously deranged individual Randall Terry, isn't weeping for Tiller either. Instead, he's making creepy videos for his followers:

Scary stuff.


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posted by JReid @ 10:54 PM  
Fox News: the assassination station

... Secretary of State Colin Powell, National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice and others have appeared from time to time on { } shows. ...

Unfortunately, these episodic, and usually fleeting, appearances do not begin to match -- let alone to counteract -- the incessant drumbeat of { } victimization, anti-{ } vituperation and approval for acts of violence thus justified when perpetrated by terrorists.

Who do you suppose that passage is referring to? What about this one?

"It is a professional institution but it is a militant institution that wants to convey an ideological Jihadi message..."

If you answered Al Jazeera, score one for you. The first is from a strikingly Goebelesque Frank Gaffney post on the Fox News website at the height of the Iraq invasion in 2003 (a piece in which he was advocating bombing Al Jazeera out of existence, and taking over Iraqi television ourselves, to broadcast pro-American messages directly to the Iraqi people. Hey, it's Frank "Destroy the Arabs" Gaffney....) The second is a quote from Fox terrorism analyst Walid Phares (who was actually "discovered" by one of my mentors at NBC 6, Ike Seamans, back in the day) quoted in a "news story" about the dangers of PBS picking up Jazeera content. Phares was also describing Al Jazeera. But with a few tweaks, either man could have been describing Fox News itself, America's home grown right wing extremist network, broadcasting to the right's very own '"qaida" (the base.)

Keith Olbermann dismantled Fox tonight, for just one of its extremist veins: its jihad against the now very dead Dr. George Tiller. Keith's recommendation? Quarantine the bastards, just the way the right believes that an Arab news station which it says broadcasts extremist propaganda (though actually, Al Jazeera turns out to be more "fair and balanced" than Fox...) would have us do. In fact, they tried.

Watch Keith's excellent riff here:

Fox's hands have been busy in other Devil's work, from countenancing the vicious anti-Obama protests of the McCain-Palin nightmare campaign, to coddling ideologues who have accused Barack Obama of being a terrorist collaborator, a dangerous black nationalist, and even the anti-Christ. If you're a Fox News viewer: somewhere north of 60, longing for the "good old days" before the "hippies" took over, angry, isolated, and enraged by Obma's election, and a "news" channel existed that for 24 hours each day encouraged you to arm yourself with as many guns as you can get your hands on, to literally fear the president of the United States (a Marxist / Communist whose policies are akin to the 9/11 terror attacks...) to join the fringe anti-tax movement which is often tied to the militia movement, ridicule and indulge in veiled threats against the president, to feel that white people are under assault and that Obama is threatening to flood the country with immigrants, to stand up and "surround" your "enemies," who are also the enemies of your country and your children, and to hate people like Dr. Tiller, whom you are told over and over and over again are mass murderers, and in short, to believe, as PoliticalBase put it, that

Barack Obama is an evil Muslim socialist dictator who isn’t even a citizen! He is going to ration health care so people die, remove his enemies from the radio airwaves, impose communism, cripple businesses, slash defense, put terrorists on the streets, put Capone-like Chicago criminals in charge of the government, take everyone’s guns, force women to have abortions, rig the census, put our children in Communist indoctrination camps, and send gays in to destroy our army, invalidate all straight marriages and make all our wives whores and our children bastards!

... what might you do?

And what would you call the channel that incited you?

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posted by JReid @ 9:58 PM  
Tiller murder suspect believed killing abortion providers was 'justifiable homicide'
Murder suspect: 51-year-old Scott Roeder of Merriam, Kansas
is seen being driven away by police. Source: Kansas City Star

From the Kansas City Star:

In the rear window of the car that Roeder was driving when police stopped him was a red rose — a symbol that is often used by abortion opponents. On the rear of his car was a Christian fish symbol with the word “Jesus” inside.

Those who know Roeder told The Kansas City Star that he believed killing abortion doctors was an act of justifiable homicide.

“I know that he believed in justifiable homicide,” said Regina Dinwiddie, a Kansas City abortion opponent who made headlines in 1995 when a federal judge ordered her to stop using a bullhorn within 500 feet of any abortion clinic. “I know he very strongly believed that abortion was murder and that you ought to defend the little ones, both born and unborn.”

And this:

Roeder was a subscriber to Prayer and Action News, a magazine that advocated the justifiable homicide position, said publisher Dave Leach, an abortion opponent from Des Moines, Iowa.

“I met him once, and he wrote to me a few times,” Leach said of Roeder. “I remember that he was sympathetic to our cause, but I don’t remember any details.”

Leach said he met Roeder in Topeka when he went there to visit Shelley Shannon, who was in prison for the 1993 shooting of Tiller.

“He told me about a lot of conspiracy stuff and showed me how to take the magnetic strip out of a five-dollar bill,” Leach said. “He said it was to keep the government from tracking your money.”

Meanwhile the right is running, at full speed, away from Mr. Roeder; attempting to pawn him off on only the militia movement and escape the blame already being directed their way. Via LifeNews:
As has been the case with most previous incidents of abortion-related violence, Roeder appears to have an affiliation with extremist political groups but not with the mainstream pro-life movement.
Well, yes, Roeder was involved in the militia movement, and he appears to be a violent and disturbed anti-government conspiracy nut. But here's the thing:

In April 1996, Roeder was arrested in Topeka after Shawnee County sheriff’s deputies stopped him for not having a proper license plate. The deputies said they searched the car and found ammunition, a blasting cap, a fuse cord, a one-pound can of gunpowder and two 9-volt batteries. One of the batteries was connected to a switch that could have been used to trigger a bomb.

Roeder was found guilty and sentenced in June 1996 to 24 months of probation with intensive supervision. He also was ordered to dissociate himself from anti-government groups that advocated violence.

But in December 1997, Roeder’s probation ended six months early when the Kansas Court of Appeals overturned his conviction. The court ruled that evidence against Roeder was seized by authorities during an illegal search of his car.

Militia-nut? Check. And yet, even his fellow militia people seem to recognize that abortion was Roeder's main issue:

Morris Wilson, a commander of the Kansas Unorganized Citizens Militia in the mid-1990s, said he knew Roeder fairly well.

“I’d say he’s a good ol’ boy, except he was just so fanatic about abortion,” said Wilson, who now lives in western Nebraska. “He was always talking about how awful abortion was. But there’s a lot of people who think abortion is awful.”

Not sure there's far to run, guys.

Go to the full thread: abortion provider murdered

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posted by JReid @ 1:31 AM  
ReidBlog: The Obama Interview
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