Those protesting and fighting for reform and all that is right in Iran are going to pay. Big time. - sj
Saeed Mortazavi: butcher of the press - and torturer of Tehran?
from the Times Online - UK June 25th Jenny Booth & James Hider
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.
As prosecutor-general of Tehran since 2003 and as a judge before that, he ordered the closure of more than 100 newspapers, journals and websites deemed hostile to the Establishment. In 2004 he was behind the detention of more than 20 bloggers and journalists, who were held for long periods of solitary confinement in secret prisons, where they were allegedly coerced into signing false confessions.
Mr Mortazavi has also led a crackdown in Tehran that has seen women arrested for wearing supposedly immodest clothing.
Earlier this year he oversaw the arrest and trial of Roxana Saberi, the American-Iranian journalist sentenced to eight years for spying, and his name has appeared on the arrest warrants of prominent reformists rounded up since the unrest started, such as Saeed Hajarian, a close aide of Mohammad Khatami, the reformist former President. With more than 600 people now having been arrested, including dozens of journalists, many fear the worst.
Mr Mortazavi became notorious for his role in the death of Zahra Kazemi while in Iranian custody on July 11, 2003. Kazemi, a freelance photojournalist with dual Iranian-Canadian nationality, was arrested while taking photographs outside Evin prison, Tehran, during an earlier period of reformist unrest in the city, also ruthlessly repressed.
The first news of what happened to Kazemi, 54, came in a statement from Mr Mortazavi, which said that she had died accidentally of a stroke while being interrogated.
Two days later a contradictory statement was issued, saying that she had fallen and hit her head.
On July 16 Mohammad Ali Abtahi, the Vice-President, admitted that Kazemi had died of a fractured skull after being beaten.
Mr Abtahi, who is no longer in office, was also arrested in the round-up of hundreds of dissidents and reformists overseen by Mr Mortazavi last week.
Here's a little dose of reality for you. what a tragic mess. at least it's over. some have theorized that since he didn't really have a childhood, he had to live one as an adult, which would explain Neverland, the rides & toys, the sleepovers with kids, and even the mutual exposing between himself and some of those kids, as in 'playing doctor.' You didn't ask, but in my opinion, nothing more than that took place (that's enough, mind you, to be deemed a pedophile, I just don't believe there was any physical abuse). But based on the 8-figure payoff to one set of parents, and the testimony of a child who described precisely where a mole was on MJ's penis, at least that much took place. And no, none of that gets "in the way" for me, with regards to appreciating and enjoying his music, along with his phenomenal, original and artistic accomplishments. - sj Michael Jackson's celebrity suicide Born to stardom, he never knew what it was like to live or even behave normally By Bill Wyman Salon June 27th, 2009
CNN's coverage of Michael Jackson's sudden illness in the minutes before his death was reported captured nicely the way the media has treated him. Nutty people were allowed to talk at length, including a guy who kept saying his concerts in London were in 2010. (They were scheduled for next month.)
Wolf Blitzer looked into the camera to tell us earnestly that the head of the concert promotion company had told them that Jackson was in "tip-top shape," and that he'd passed a health exam "with flying colors."
Funny how an impossibly pampered 50-year-old guy in top-top shape could just keel over dead. We're supposed to live in an Age of Paparazzi. Isn't it curious how stars nonetheless manage to die right before our eyes?
They do it with our complicity.
Born not just to celebrity but to stardom, Michael Jackson never knew what it was like to live normally, or even behave normally. He was drafted into the family's musical act, the Jackson 5, while in elementary school, and taken to Motown records. He was taught how to live a manufactured image at the feet of Berry Gordy, who was quite good at such legerdemain.
If you're 9 years old and born to be a star, such training will definitely turbocharge the marketing of your record sales; as for the fact that almost all the money from those sales went to your teacher and not you ... well, that was his second lesson.
Trust, truth ... these were concepts Michael Jackson learned early on didn't have much worth. But of course he had his family, right?
His angry father beat him and his eight siblings with some determination, reputable biographers have told us. (Untrustworthy La Toya said that she and Michael were sexually molested, too.) On tour at age 10, Michael tried to sleep as his older brothers banged groupies in the motel rooms they shared. Then all the kids watched in wonder as their father took up with another woman and had a child with her.
Love, marriage, sex ... Michael Jackson learned early that those didn't mean much either. The Jackson 5 had a three-year run, not bad for a kid act. When the family, which realized it hadn't made any money, left the label, a vengeful Gordy exacted as a price not just a brother -- Jermaine, who, married to Gordy's daughter, stayed at Motown -- but even their name. When they moved to Columbia, they couldn't use the name the Jackson 5.
(if this link doesn't take you to the story, you can pick it up right here (not sure why link doesn't seem to be working):
In five years he collected himself, extracted himself from his father's control and recorded two albums that would change the music industry. The best was the first: 1979's "Off the Wall," a groovy, irresistible stunner. Blithe and implacable, sparkling and protean, it displayed a lean talent, feline in his sexuality and relaxed in his blackness. The round-faced, broad-nosed charmer looking out from the album's cover reeked not just of charm but confidence and, for the last time, normality.
Three years later, "Thriller" would take what became an epochal step forward in terms of commerciality. Viewed now, with the benefit of hindsight, we can see Jackson's evolving physiognomy is symptomatic of an insecurity we didn't think to question at the time.
His celebrity's toll on his own and his family's life became considerable. For some unaccountable reason, after "Thriller" he still lived at home, as his family busied itself with intrigues and cockamamie plans. One imagines him sitting in his room ignoring the knocks at his door as offers of millions came in to the family from across the country and around the world to do just about anything -- anything, that is, that Michael would do too.
With the exception of Janet, his youngest sister, who somehow managed to extract herself and create her own extraordinary career, virtually every member of his family managed to blemish their reputations; among other things, more than one of the boys, their father's sons, were charged with beating up their girlfriends or wives.
The story from that point is a bleak and unrelieved one. Superficial things: Michael's ludicrous trappings and entourages; the fetishization of the armed militias marching around in his videos; tales of his supposed bizarre doings leaked to tabloids; the grasping grandiosity of his public appearances. Jackson had a flair for exploiting the tabloid celebrity he had, but that was a skill he shared with Anna Nicole Smith and Paris Hilton, and it probably shouldn't be listed among his unique abilities.
More serious things: mismanaged tours; declining songwriting skills; ever-more erratic album releases.
Even more serious things: an entirely transfigured physical appearance, morphing from an engaging and handsome African-American man into a misshapen Eurasian woman; his skin bleached, his face resculpted; his nose, finally, needing to be practically taped onto his face. He left his race behind and, in a sense, his family too. (The nose, which seemed to have borne the brunt of his obsession with plastic surgery, was his father's.)
The master of crossover had seemingly crossed over for good.
And finally, a black moral hole, and a descent into a double life as a sexual predator. You've heard about not taking candy from a stranger; Jackson's candy took the form of literal amusement parks. There were nights of fun and sleepovers and inappropriate touching and ...
Accusations were leveled many times; most cases were settled; one case, gone to trial, ended in an acquittal in Santa Maria in 2005.
In the obituaries, writers will savor Jackson's talents, which were unquestioned; his ambition, which was otherworldly and a thing of awe; and his heyday, which lasted really just a few years, and encompassed perhaps two and a half albums. Others will reflect on the tragedies visited upon him and those he visited on others.
I think it's fair to classify Kurt Cobain's death as one brought on by medical problems, specifically the roiling interaction of depression and addiction. Jackson's death is in this sense more purely a suicide, just as Elvis Presley's was some three decades ago. Like Presley, Jackson at some point stepped through a door, closed it, and turned the key. What went on behind the door we'll never know.
Lobbyists on a Roll: Gutting Reform on Banking, Energy, and Health Care by: Arianna Huffington posted June 25th, 2009
Remember all that change Americans voted for in November? Well, there's been a change in the plans for change.
The detour has come courtesy of a familiar nemesis: DC lobbyists who, this year alone, have watered-down, gutted, or out-and-out killed ambitious plans for reforming Wall Street, energy, and health care.
The media like to pretend that something's at stake when a big bill is being debated on the House or Senate floor, but the truth is that by then the game is typically already over. The real fight happens long before. And the lobbyists usually win.
They're used to administrations and newly elected Congresses that come in with big plans for the future. But, as Obama and Congressional reformers are finding out, the future doesn't have a well-funded lobby. The past, on the other hand, is extremely well represented.
Look at the auto industry. For decades, Detroit and its lobbyists fought tooth and nail against efforts to improve mileage efficiency standards or to close tax loopholes favorable to gas-guzzling SUVs. They were very successful at holding off the future. Until they went bankrupt.
Ah, Mark Sanford...such a staunch opponent of millions of gay adults who mutually consent to spend the rest of their lives together in marriage; whom many times has stated the "sanctity of marriage" must remain strong! Ever notice for every one Dem (Spitzer) that compromises that sanctity, there are 10 Republicans (Larry Craig, Mark Foley, Dave Vitter, Joohn Ensign, et al..)? And from the 'pro-family party,' no less!
This is great; some of the more surprising/entertaining interview and press clips from the world of sports over the last few years, put to a hip-hop beat. Below is the only explanation/original description which accompanied original posting - sj
"In the immortal words of Nasir Jones, “F*#k Jay Z.” Sure, Jay can still bring it, but if everyone listened to him we wouldn’t have a gem like this from DJ Steve Porter. The video is heavy on AI (with good reason) before venturing into our domain. First comes the remix of Jim Mora’s legendary “Playoffs?” explosion, then there’s Mike Gundy’s fantastic rant. Eventually (around the 3:30 mark) we get to the good stuff. Namath. Kolber. Autotuned. Enjoy."
So I stumbled upon Louisa Jane Wilkinson yesterday in cyberspace. She's a gifted young artist from Sydney, Australia, who plays a bunch of instruments, is a very good video editor and quite funny. Here she's covering "I Found a Reason," which - I think - was originally written by Velvet Underground, although Chan Marshall's version (Cat Power) is much better (and the one Louisa is actually covering); and one of my favorite songs/performances of all time. - sj
Who are we to gripe about Iran's arguably rigged election? We most likely elected the wrong guy in 2000.
If the Supreme Court had not hastily short-circuited the Florida recount, we might know for sure whether another tally could have confirmed what we now know to be true -- that most of the state's voters really intended to elect Al Gore. Or we might have seen some meaningful scrutiny of suspiciously late-arriving military overseas ballots that actually delivered George W. Bush's last-minute margin of victory.
Under the circumstances we probably ought to leave the outrage about Iran's questionable balloting to nations with a better established record of putting the real winners in office.
I've been wondering the same thing for years now, seeing as these mainstream media types speak to millions and millions every day, consistently preying upon those less-educated throughout our country (red-staters, rednecks, other reds, et all...). Well check out this video and corresponding article (click on title of this post for full article) - sj
Can right-wing hate talk lead to murder? By Joan Walsh Wed, June 10th, 2009
I was on "Hardball" today talking about the climate of extreme right-wing rhetoric today, and whether it had anything to do with Wednesday's tragic shooting at Washington's Holocaust Museum, or the May 31 murder of Dr. George Tiller by an antiabortion crackpot.
I tried to choose my words carefully. Unless it's shown that either man had accomplices, we have to be clear that the men responsible for those murders are the ones who pulled the trigger. Still, it's hard not to think about the extreme right-wing rhetoric, especially about Barack Obama, and whether it could conceivably lead to more right-wing violence. You can see whether I succeeded here (more text follows the video):
The range of crazy ideas about Obama is broad and wide: He's a secret Muslim, he's going to take our guns, he's even the anti-Christ! James von Brunn just happened to be a "birther," one of the nuts who believe that Obama wasn't born here, his birth certificate is fake, and he thus isn't eligible to be president. I thought it was strange and maybe a little ominous last summer when suddenly Obama was labeled a "socialist" and a "Marxist"; Hillary Clinton and John Kerry are arguably more liberal than Obama; why did he get tagged with that sinister, subversive, alien ideology? It seemed linked to the fact that he's just so … different from other politicians, so easy to marginalize and, frankly, demonize.
ENOLA, Pa. (AP) - Police in south-central Pennsylvania say a drunken driver who was speeding in a police station parking lot and stopped his car between two marked cruisers so he could take a nap has been arrested. East Pennsboro police Chief Dennis McMaster said the 37-year-old man caught the attention of an officer Sunday night.
He said the officer saw the man park in a space reserved for police cars, turn off his headlights, recline his seat and close his eyes.
He said when the officer approached the car to check on the man he saw an empty vodka bottle on the floor and found a pipe with traces of marijuana.
The man has been charged with driving under the influence and possessing drug paraphernalia.
By Senator Bernie Sanders Independent U.S. Senator from Vermont
Let's be clear. Our health care system is disintegrating. Today, 46 million people have no health insurance and even more are underinsured with high deductibles and co-payments. At a time when 60 million people, including many with insurance, do not have access to a medical home, more than 18,000 Americans die every year from preventable illnesses because they do not get to the doctor when they should. This is six times the number who died at the tragedy of 9/11 - but this occurs every year.
In the midst of this horrendous lack of coverage, the U.S. spends far more per capita on health care than any other nation - and health care costs continue to soar. At $2.4 trillion dollars, and 18 percent of our GDP, the skyrocketing cost of health care in this country is unsustainable both from a personal and macro-economic perspective.
At the individual level, the average American spends about $7,900 per year on health care. Despite that huge outlay, a recent study found that medical problems contributed to 62 percent of all bankruptcies in 2007. From a business perspective, General Motors spends more on health care per automobile than on steel while small business owners are forced to divert hard-earned profits into health coverage for their employees - rather than new business investments. And, because of rising costs, many businesses are cutting back drastically on their level of health care coverage or are doing away with it entirely.
Further, despite the fact that we spend almost twice as much per person on health care as any other country, our health care outcomes lag behind many other nations. We get poor value for what we spend. According to the World Health Organization the United States ranks 37th in terms of health system performance and we are far behind many other countries in terms of such important indices as infant mortality, life expectancy and preventable deaths.
Ok, so Barack Obama threw down the gauntlet with an exceedingly blunt speech in Cairo that, while not a policy address in diplomatic terms, provided a road map for ending hostilities between Jewish and Arab interests.
If the President's direct words, holding both sides accountable for progress, are not soon echoed by mainstream Israeli and Muslim leaders then the world shall know that they are not now and perhaps shall never be true agents for peace.
If electing a Christian with Muslim and African heritage, who has repeatedly stood firm for the preservation of Israel's Jewish state, is not enough to promote an eventual end to this ridiculous conflict then what more can the American people do? We've tried everything, from Jimmy Carter's conciliations to George W. Bush's war mongering. This presidency could be your last chance, folks, or you're on your own.
Obama spoke essential truths on Thursday. He said things that neither side dares to say in public -- namely, that Arabs privately accept Israel's right to exist, and that Israelis privately acknowledge the inevitability of a Palestinian state.
"It is time for us to act on what everyone knows to be true," Obama said.
It is time for each side to step up and lead their peoples to the place that Obama described. If they don't, we can rightly conclude that neither side is worthy of American support.
Americans pining for a peaceful existence might consider moving to New Zealand, the most peaceful nation on Earth, according to the 2009 Global Peace Index released Tuesday by an Australian-based research group that counts former President Jimmy Carter, Ted Turner and the Dalai Lama among its endorsers.
The U.S. is 83rd on the roster, according to the Institute for Economics and Peace that rated the relative tranquility of 144 nations according to 23 "indicators" - including gun sales, the number of homicides, the size of the military, the potential for terrorism and the number of people in jail.
The index defined peace as "the absence of violence," and so far, things are a little dicey. Violence and instability have increased, respect for human rights has decreased. The researchers also calculated that the world's nations have collectively lost close to $8 trillion due to the complications of widespread violence.
After New Zealand, the top 10 most peaceful nations are Denmark, Norway, Iceland, Austria, Sweden, Japan, Canada, Finland and Slovenia. In the bottom 10 are Zimbabwe, Russia, Pakistan, Chad, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Sudan, Israel, Somalia, Afghanistan and, in last place, Iraq.
Traditional U.S. allies generally fared well on the list: Germany is at 16, Australia at 19, Spain (28), South Korea (33), Britain (35) and Italy (36).
Libya, Nicaragua, Jordan, Cuba, China, Peru and Ukraine all are rated more peaceful than the United States. Rwanda is rated 86, Syria 92, Iran 99 and Mexico 108.
"Because they can work better with others, peaceful countries can constructively work together on solving some of our most pressing economic, social and environmental problems. Indeed, peace is the prerequisite to helping solve today's major challenges, such as food and water scarcity, decreasing biodiversity or climate change," said Clyde McConaghy, a former advertising director and business executive who developed the index with entrepreneur Steve Killelea.
"Peace is a concrete aim that can be measured and valued, not just in social terms but in economic terms. There is a clear correlation between the economic crisis and the decline in peace," Mr. McConaghy continued, adding that peace tends to promote productivity and trade.
America's so-so rating on the Index is better than its grade last year, when the nation was ranked 89th.
The six-point jump is due in part to a lower risk of terrorism, said Leo Abruzzese, director of North American research for the Economist Group, which calculated the data for the index.
The Economist Group also publishes the Economist and Roll Call, among other things.
"Although the United States saw an increase in ranking despite the economic crisis, some factors - such as the ease of access to weapons, a large prison population and ongoing combat deaths - prevented it from ranking higher this year," Mr. Abruzzese said.
The index is primarily based on 2008 data from the International Institute of Strategic Studies, the World Bank, the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute and United Nations sources.
Is Michael Moore ever wrong? Seriously. This is an awesome analysis and forward-thinking piece by him. There is nothing else I can add to this! I love when he says, "we now own a car company!" - sj
two great excerpts:
"It is with sad irony that the company which invented "planned obsolescence" -- the decision to build cars that would fall apart after a few years so that the customer would then have to buy a new one -- has now made itself obsolete. It refused to build automobiles that the public wanted, cars that got great gas mileage, were as safe as they could be, and were exceedingly comfortable to drive. Oh -- and that wouldn't start falling apart after two years. GM stubbornly fought environmental and safety regulations. Its executives arrogantly ignored the "inferior" Japanese and German cars, cars which would become the gold standard for automobile buyers."
"we will have bullet trains criss-crossing this country in the next five years. Japan is celebrating the 45th anniversary of its first bullet train this year. Now they have dozens of them. Average speed: 165 mph. Average time a train is late: under 30 seconds. They have had these high speed trains for nearly five decades -- and we don't even have one! The fact that the technology already exists for us to go from New York to L.A. in 17 hours by train, and that we haven't used it, is criminal. Let's hire the unemployed to build the new high speed lines all over the country. Chicago to Detroit in less than two hours. Miami to DC in under 7 hours. Denver to Dallas in five and a half. This can be done and done now."