July 6th, 2009

Murasaki Shikibu

Leading Clerics Defy Ayatollah on Disputed Iran Election

Leading Clerics Defy Ayatollah on Disputed Iran Election

Published: July 4, 2009

CAIRO — The most important group of religious leaders in Iran called the disputed presidential election and the new government illegitimate on Saturday, an act of defiance against the country’s supreme leader and the most public sign of a major split in the country’s clerical establishment.

A statement by the group, the Association of Researchers and Teachers of Qum, represents a significant, if so far symbolic, setback for the government and especially the authority of the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, whose word is supposed to be final. The government has tried to paint the opposition and its top presidential candidate, Mir Hussein Moussavi, as criminals and traitors, a strategy that now becomes more difficult — if not impossible.

“This crack in the clerical establishment, and the fact they are siding with the people and Moussavi, in my view is the most historic crack in the 30 years of the Islamic republic,” said Abbas Milani, director of the Iranian Studies Program at Stanford University. “Remember, they are going against an election verified and sanctified by Khamenei.”

The announcement came on a day when Mr. Moussavi released documents detailing a campaign of fraud by the current president’s supporters, and as a close associate of the supreme leader called Mr. Moussavi and former President Mohammad Khatami “foreign agents,” saying they should be treated as criminals.

The documents, published on Mr. Moussavi’s Web site, accused supporters of the president of printing more than 20 million extra ballots before the vote and handing out cash bonuses to voters.

Since the election, the bulk of the clerical establishment in the holy city of Qum, an important religious and political center of power, has remained largely silent, leaving many to wonder when, or if, the nation’s most senior religious leaders would jump into the controversy that has posed the most significant challenge to the country’s leadership since the Islamic Revolution.

With its statement Saturday, the association of clerics — formed under the leadership of the revolution’s founder, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini — came down squarely on the side of the reform movement.

The association includes reformists, but Iranian political analysts describe it as independent, and it did not support any candidate in the recent election.

The group had earlier asked for the election to be nullified because so many Iranians objected to the results, but it never directly challenged the legitimacy of the government and, by extension, the supreme leader.

The earlier statement also came before the election was certified by the country’s religious leaders, who have since said that opposition to the results must cease.

The clerics’ decision to speak up again is not itself a turning point and could fizzle under pressure from the state, which has continued to threaten its critics. Some seminaries in Qum rely on the government for funds, and Ayatollah Khamenei and the man he has declared the winner of the election, incumbent President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, have powerful backers there.

They also retain the support of the powerful security forces and the elite Revolutionary Guards. In addition, the country’s highest-ranking clerics have yet to speak out individually against the election results.

But the association’s latest statement does help Mr. Moussavi, Mr. Khatami and a former speaker of Parliament, Mehdi Karroubi, who have been the most vocal in calling the election illegitimate and who, in their attempts to force change, have been hindered by the jailing of influential backers.

“The significance is that even within the clergy, there are many who refuse to recognize the legitimacy of the election results as announced by the supreme leader,” said an Iranian political analyst who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisal.

While the government could continue vilifying the three opposition leaders, analysts say it was highly unlikely that the leadership would use the same tactic against the clerical establishment in Qum.

The backing also came at a sensitive time for Mr. Moussavi, because the accusations that he is a foreign agent ran in a newspaper, Kayhan, that has often been used to build cases against critics of the government.

The editorial was written by Hossein Shariatmadari, who was picked by the supreme leader to run the newspaper.

The clerics’ statement chastised the leadership for failing to adequately study complaints of vote rigging and lashed out at the use of force in crushing huge public protests.

It even directly criticized the Guardian Council, the powerful group of clerics charged with certifying elections.

“Is it possible to consider the results of the election as legitimate by merely the validation of the Guardian Council?” the association said.

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Things are not over, not by a long shot.
  • Current Music
    Michael Jackson - Stranger in Moscow
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bin bons

Don Lemon thinks people who say there's too much MJ coverage are elitists

Appearing on CNN's Reliable Sources, CNN anchor Don Lemon emphatically defended the media's extensive coverage of Michael Jackson's death over the last two weeks. He argued that Jackson was an "accidental civil rights leader" and that critics of the coverage were "elitist."

Here's a bit of the transcript:

HOWARD KURTZ: Don't you feel deep down that this is overdoing it?

DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: No, I don't feel it's overdoing it. And I don't -- and when I hear people say that, I have to be very honest with you, Howie, I think it's elitist. I don't remember -- I'm sure there was some criticism when there was the coverage of Princess Diana's death, but I don't think that there was this sort of criticism that we're having with Michael Jackson.

Michael Jackson is an accidental civil rights leader, an accidental pioneer. He broke ground and barriers in so many different realms in artistry, in pictures, in movies, in music, you name it. So, no, I don't think it's overkill.

KURTZ: Okay. He did all of those things. He also was accused of child molestation, and was a seriously weird person. But he has been dead for more than a week and we are still going almost wall-to-wall.

LEMON: Well, he has been dead for more than a week, yes, but Michael Jackson twice -- well, once, I should say, he was acquitted of child molestation. The other time it was settled out of court.

KURTZ: Right.

LEMON: And if you talk to people who were involved in those cases, they don't believe that he did it. So let's put that aside.

The Pew Research Center released findings last week indicating that "nearly two-in-three Americans say news organizations gave too much coverage to the story. At the same time, half say the media struck the right balance between reporting on Jackson's musical legacy and the problems in his personal life."

Blacks followed the death of the African American singer - who had been on the national stage for four decades - more closely than the population as a whole. Eight-in-ten African Americans say they followed news about Jackson's death very closely, compared with 22% of whites. Women followed the story more closely than men (35% very closely compared with 26%). Close to four-in-ten (38%) of those under 40 say they followed the music icon's death very closely, compared with 27% of those between 40 and 64 and 20% of those 65 and older. [...]

About two-thirds of the public (64%) say news organizations gave too much attention to the death of the 50-year-old performer, who had been rehearsing for a major comeback tour. About three-in-ten (29%) say the coverage was the right amount. Only 3% say there had been too little coverage.


I find it amusing how Lemon is portraying CNN's coverage as a loving tribute, when in reality most of it has been devoted to uncomfortable speculation -- how many times did they show the interview with MJ's former nurse and discuss what drugs he might have wanted? If it's not uncomfortable speculation, it's also stupid fluff -- Anderson Cooper's report of "WHAT ABOUT BUBBLES?" comes to mind. Certainly the death of a worldwide cultural icon is important, but to treat complaints about the barrage of coverage as elitism is ridiculous. MOST of CNN's coverage has been more fitting for TMZ or the E! network. While losing a figure like Jackson is culturally relevant, speculating on whether or not Debbie Rowe wants the kids back is not. But, this 'debate' follows in the Reliable Sources tradition of everyone missing the point.
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    CNN, though I'm elitist so I still hate them.
Akuma River

Updates July 6th

We have confirmation that one of Mousavi's campaigners has died due to being tortured. (both links are in Persian and basically said that he died due to bleeding in the head)

Plans for a world wide rally on July 25th.
Join us in organizing a global day of action in solidarity with the Iranian people! We are coordinating a multi-city event July 25, and we need someone with superb online organizing skills who can hit the ground running now for a two-week all-out dash of blogging, twittering and online organizing to pull this thing together. Fast paced, fun, for an important cause. Gain experience and play a crucial role in organizing for this worthwhile cause! Contact united4iran@gmail.com.

Hot off the press, there are reports that the military is siding with the opposition! National Iran Resistance is a new movement & hashtag #NIR that calls on the military to ignore the orders that require them to turn against fellow Iranians.
The National Iran Resistance demands for brothers in arms, wearing the coat of arms of the Republic, to defy & resist orders which could harm unarmed citizens. The officers Corps are disgusted. So many lost children & relatives. We are fed up. We demand the Khobregan and Parliament to authorize the Armed Forces to apprehend foreign & domestic thugs killing our people.

User on iran.whyweprotest gives more information IRGC and NIR
NCR-Iran Is National Council of Resistance of Iran <- Got some interesting articles as well.
There is also a report that 30 IRG Officers were arrested for disobeying orders I've been hearing for hours today. So far there are no newspapers out to confirm it but if so this is HUGE!

July 12, 2009 post | July 11, 2009 post | July 10, 2009 post | July 9, 2009 posts | July 8, 2009 post | July 7, 2009 post | July 6, 2009 post | July 5, 2009 post | July 4, 2009 post

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So much is happening right now on twitter that it's hard to follow what is and is not being confirmed. So there is not so many vids this time. Sorry.

Mom makes webcast of herself sexually assaulting toddler, dog

Mom accused of sex with toddler, dog

Webcast leads to arrest

By Trevor Wilhelm, The Windsor Star
April 28, 2009

Police call it one of the most shocking and disturbing crimes they've seen after a woman allegedly broadcast herself on a webcam having sex with her toddler and her dog.

"It's one of those things that just makes your stomach roll," said Essex County OPP Const. Janet Hayes. "It's hard to believe there are people out there that can commit these despicable offences, especially against their own child. You can't comprehend someone that could do something like that."

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China says 140 killed in riots in west

URUMQI, China – Tensions between ethnic Muslims and China's Han majority in the far western Xinjiang region erupted in riots that killed 140 people and injured 828, an official said Monday, marking the deadliest unrest to hit the volatile area in decades.

A peaceful protest Sunday of about 1,000 to 3,000 people in the regional capital, Urumqi, apparently spun out of control, as rioters went on a rampage and clashed with police. The official Xinhua News Agency reported hundreds of people were arrested.

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CIA hiring Wall Street Bankers

NPR audio at this link: http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=106290889&ft=1&f=1006

Morning Edition, July 6, 2009 ·

The Central Intelligence Agency in recent years has taken on new assignments such as monitoring rogue regimes and tracking terrorists. The agency has another mission: analyzing the global economy. Intelligence officials say the global financial crisis has emerged as the top U.S. security threat. And to help figure it out, the CIA is recruiting Wall Street bankers.
♪ the greatest

We will return to where we started, and know the place for the first time.

Ex-Defense Secretary Robert S. McNamara Dies at 93

Robert S. McNamara, perhaps the most influential defense secretary of the 20th century, who helped lead the nation into the maelstrom of Vietnam and spent the rest of his life wrestling with the war’s moral consequences, died early Monday at his home in Washington, the Associated Press reported, citing his wife, Diana. He was 93, and according to the news agency, had been in failing health for some time.

Serving Presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson from 1961 to 1968, Mr. McNamara oversaw hundreds of military missions, thousands of nuclear weapons and billions of dollars in military spending and foreign arms sales. He also enlarged the defense secretary’s role, handling foreign diplomacy and the dispatch of troops to enforce civil rights in the South.

“He’s like a jackhammer,” President Johnson said. “No human being can take what he takes. He drives too hard. He is too perfect.”

As early as April 1964, Senator Wayne Morse, Democrat of Oregon, called Vietnam “McNamara’s War.” Mr. McNamara did not object. “I am pleased to be identified with it,” he said, “and do whatever I can to win it.”

Half a million American soldiers went to war on his watch. More than 16,000 died; 42,000 more would fall in the seven years to come.

The war became his personal nightmare. Nothing he did, none of the tools at his command — the power of American weapons, the forces of technology and logic or the strength of American soldiers — could stop the armies of North Vietnam. He concluded well before leaving the Pentagon that the war was futile, but he did not share that insight with the public until late in life.

In 1995, he took a stand against his own conduct of the war, confessing in a memoir that it was “wrong, terribly wrong.” In return, he faced a firestorm of scorn.

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If you haven't seen The Fog Of War, DO IT! it was really influential to me when it first came out, and it's still a powerful documentary. Also it has a sweet Philip Glass soundtrack.

Editorial: HELP Is on the Way

by Paul Krugman

The Congressional Budget Office has looked at the future of American health insurance, and it works.

A few weeks ago there was a furor when the budget office “scored” two incomplete Senate health reform proposals — that is, estimated their costs and likely impacts over the next 10 years. One proposal came in more expensive than expected; the other didn’t cover enough people. Health reform, it seemed, was in trouble.

But last week the budget office scored the full proposed legislation from the Senate committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP). And the news — which got far less play in the media than the downbeat earlier analysis — was very, very good. Yes, we can reform health care.

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MISC - moustache

Just how close is Dane County to getting commuter rail?

Madison, WI - Transport 2020 project manager David Trowbridge needs the fingers on both hands to count all of the mass transit and rail studies completed in Dane County in the past 30 years. Like clockwork, a study seemed to crop up every few years, with paperwork accelerating in the late 1990s as Trowbridge's work on the Transport 2020 project began.

On June 29, however, the Madison area saw arguably the biggest single step toward getting a regional transit system when Gov. Jim Doyle signed a state budget that included approval for Dane County to form a regional transit authority (RTA). It would have taxing authority within federally set boundaries, and discussion so far has centered around the idea of the RTA enacting a half-cent sales tax that would raise some $38 million annually.

But while Dane County leaders say there are still many details to figure out about what an RTA would fund before putting a referendum before area voters, critics say that the RTA has always been about trains and that they will be gearing up opposition accordingly.

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I don't know how I feel about this. Madison can't even run a bus service properly, I don't know how badly they'd fuck this up. Chicago's fail has infected us before we've even gotten started.

Fox News Contributor Rips Into Palin: "The Woman Is Inarticulate, Undereducated" (VIDEO)

Fox News Contributor Rips Into Palin: "The Woman Is Inarticulate, Undereducated" (VIDEO)

Even Fox News has started to turn on Sarah Palin.
In the midst of a segment about the Alaska Governor's battle against "liberal" attacks, Liz Trotta went off-message.

Frankly, "the woman is inarticulate, undereducated," Trotta said, arguing that for once liberal criticism was "well-deserved."

"I think all the liberal stylists ... really have a case. She just begs for adjectives like flaky and wacky." When pressed, she added, "We're talking about somebody who, right from the get-go, has been a flashy person who gets into a lot of trouble and really has no credentials for any job."



Remember when Sarah told Hillary to suck it up?

Sarah Palin Flashback: 'Whining' About Media Coverage 'Bothers Me' (VIDEO)

Sarah Palin has largely stayed under the radar since her surprising and rambling press conference Friday announcing that she will resign as Alaska Governor on July 26th, barely halfway through her first term. However, she has resurfaced a couple times in the form of messages: One on her Facebook page, the other a statement released by her lawyer. Both have taken hard shots at the media for what Palin perceives as unfair coverage.

In her Facebook message, Palin slammed the press for their "predictable" coverage of her resignation and for applying "different standards" when covering her:

The response in the main stream media has been most predictable, ironic, and as always, detached from the lives of ordinary Americans who are sick of the "politics of personal destruction". How sad that Washington and the media will never understand; it's about country. And though it's honorable for countless others to leave their positions for a higher calling and without finishing a term, of course we know by now, for some reason a different standard applies for the decisions I make.

Understandably, much of the media coverage has focused on Palin's reasons for resigning, as her lengthy goodbye speech did nothing to clear up the confusion. One oft-repeated theory is that there is a new scandal looming; talk of ethical problems has been swirling around in Alaska for weeks. Palin's lawyer released a statement threatening to sue various media, including the Huffington Post, for what he called "defamatory rumors."

Palin is known for her hostility towards the media. But she has not been so quick to decry tough scrutiny when it is pointed at other female targets: Hillary Clinton, example.

In August 2008, Palin lamented Clinton's complaints about unfair media coverage as 'whining' that is bad for female candidates everywhere (H/t Wonkette):

Fair or unfair, I think she does herself a disservice to even mention it. You gotta to plow through that. You have to know what you're getting into -- which, I say this with all due respect to Hillary Clinton, and to her experience and to her passion for changing the status quo also -- but when I hear a statement like that coming from a woman candidate with any kind of perceived whine about that excess criticism or you know maybe a sharper microscope put on her, I think, 'man that doesn't do us any good' -- women in politics, women in general wanting to progress this country, I don't think it bodes well for her, a statement like that. Because, again, fair or unfair, it is there, I think that's reality, and I think it's a given. I think people can just accept that she is going to be under the sharper microscope. So be it. I mean, work harder, prove yourself to an even greater degree that you're capable, that you're going to be the best candidate, and that of course is what she wants us to believe at this point. So it bothers me a little bit hearing her bring that attention to herself on that level.

Dean Baker: We need a new stimulus, and quick

Baker is possibly the most smart ass of the Krugman-Roubini-JK Galbraith-David Simon-Brad DeLong team of economists superheroes. Baker really did predict the housing bubble that caused the current econ. crisis. Peter Schiff just got lucky.

He is not as amusingly smart ass in this piece as he is at his blog. Paul Krugman also recently argued we need a new stimulus.

The green shoots are dead

The latest jobless figures show America's economy is stuck in the doldrums. The US urgently needs a new stimulus injection

by Dean Baker

The June US employment report should convince even the determinedly ignorant that the time has come for another round of stimulus for the American economy.

The economy is continuing to shed jobs and work hours at a very rapid pace. The unemployment rate is virtually certain to cross 10% by the end of the summer and will likely hit 11% before we are very far into 2010. This is a scenario much worse than the Obama administration had expected when it crafted its stimulus package.

It is time for it to adjust its plans accordingly.

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From: http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/cifamerica/2009/jul/06/us-economy-obama-stimulus
God Bless
  • lanrek

Oldest known Bible goes online

The world's oldest known Christian Bible goes online Monday -- but the 1,600-year-old text doesn't match the one you'll find in churches today.

Discovered in a monastery in the Sinai desert in Egypt more than 160 years ago, the handwritten Codex Sinaiticus includes two books that are not part of the official New Testament and at least seven books that are not in the Old Testament.

The New Testament books are in a different order, and include numerous handwritten corrections -- some made as much as 800 years after the texts were written, according to scholars who worked on the project of putting the Bible online. The changes range from the alteration of a single letter to the insertion of whole sentences.

And some familiar -- very important -- passages are missing, including verses dealing with the resurrection of Jesus, they said.

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Codex Sinaiticus Project
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NCIS - Gibbs &amp; Kate &amp; Tony

SC Serial Killer believed to be dead

GAFFNEY, South Carolina (CNN) -- The weapon found on a man killed in a shootout with police in North Carolina matches the gun used in a series of killings in neighboring South Carolina, investigators said Monday.

"We believe a killer is off the streets," said Reggie Lloyd, director of South Carolina's State Law Enforcement Division.

Lloyd said ballistic tests connect the gun found on a suspect in Gaston County, North Carolina, to five killings in Gaffney that began in June. The dead suspect and his vehicle also appeared to match descriptions circulated by investigators in Gaffney, he said.

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From CNN

Well ~*~that's~*~ good news...

Where are the poor and/or working class gays in the media?

Yes, this Village Voice article is from 2001.

Queers Without Money
They Are Everywhere. But We Refuse to See Them.

Amber Hollibaugh
published: June 19, 2001

I mean, homosexuals have high incomes, they have high levels of education; they're owners of major credit cards. There was a survey done. So you're not talking about poor people, homeless people living under a bridge. —Reverend Lou Sheldon, a conservative Christian leader

I lived the first year of my life in a converted chicken coop in back of my grandmother's trailer. The coop was hardly tall enough for my 6'4" father and 5'8" mother to stand up in. My dad, a carpenter, tore out the chickens' egg-laying ledges and rebuilt the tiny inside space to fit a bed, a table, two chairs, a basin they used as a sink (there was no running water), a shelf with a hot plate for cooking, and a small dresser. They used the hose outside to wash with, and ran extension cords in from my grandmother's trailer for light and heat. My bed, a dresser drawer, sat on top of the table during the day. At night it was placed next to where they slept.

I was sick the entire first year of my life. So was my mother, recovering from a nasty C-section and a series of ensuing medical crises.

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Palin Hit With More Ethics Charges....this time not from those meanie Libruls, either

In the wake of Governor Palin stepping down from her job, new allegations have surfaced today in Alaska charging Palin with additional violations of the Alaska Executive Ethics Act.

Zane Henning -- a conservative government watchdog from the governor's hometown of Wasilla and an oilfield worker on Alaska's North Slope -- asserts in a letter to Alaska Attorney General Daniel S. Sullivan that Palin has "been charging and pocketing per diem to live in her home and has used the process for a personal gain since being elected."

In a detailed press release accompanying the charges, Henning declared that:

Palin's use of the per diem is in direct conflict with Section 39.52.120. (a) of the Alaska Executive Ethics Act....More than a thousand state employees commute from the Mat-Su Valley daily and none of them get to pocket free money. Henning noted that "the State of Alaska provides housing in Juneau for the Governor."

If she chooses not to live there, Alaskans should not have to pay for it.
I am requesting that you and the Personnel Board direct Governor Sarah Palin to reimburse the State of Alaska all per diem funds, plus interest, and a fine that are related to charges while staying in her Wasilla residence.

Henning further argued that Alaska Statute 39.20.010 sets an "annual salary for the governor of $125,000."

Sarah Palin has collected more than the amount established by law by cashing in her per diem checks. Alaska Statute 39.20.050 (Exclusive Compensation) states that the compensation fixed by law for the governor and lieutenant governor is in full for all services rendered by each of them in any official capacity or employment whatsoever during their respective terms of office. Per diem is therefore any added expenses incurred while in travel status, not when living in your own home.

According to Henning:

State travel regulations say that per diem can't be claimed when travel is less than 50 miles from a state employee's workplace. The IRS and state finance officer have already determined that the per diem is considered income. The governor's workplace in Anchorage is only a 45-mile commute from her Wasilla home.

In February, Palin was required to pay back income taxes on thousands of dollars in expense money she received while living at her home overlooking Lake Lucille in Wasilla. Little more than two weeks ago she was forced to pay back the State of Alaska more than $8,100.00 for nine trips taken by her children that she had improperly charged as being part of official state business.

Henning contends the per diem is another way for the Alaska governor to line her pockets at the state's expense:

As a Wasilla resident I know that thousands of valley residents commute into Anchorage for work every day. They don't receive checks from their employers for sleeping at home. Governor Palin does. And it's wrong, not to mention unethical, for her to even submit these per diem claims. To me, this is a roundabout way for Palin to give herself a raise.

"The Governor is quitting her job," said Henning, "and now more than ever the State of Alaska, along with its residents, need to be reimbursed for the per diem charges, including interest and a fine...[I]t is up to private citizens, like myself, to hold our Governor accountable."


I remember this being an issue during the campaign, but don't think it had ever been pursued or followed up on like this before.  Don't think she can lay the blame for this at the feet of the "Librul Media" either, since the watchdog in question is apparently a conservative.  He makes some good points, particularly with regard to the many other State employees who don't get that per-diem.

Michael Jackson was a nice guy :(

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The last time I spoke to my friend Michael Jackson was about a month ago, 3 weeks before his shocking death. He had called me late one night to ask about another of my close friends who he had read about in the news. Laura Ling, a former colleague and friend, was detained originally by North Korean border guards along with her colleague Euna Lee on March 17th. Collapse )

source: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/gotham-chopra/michael-jackson-and-kim-j_b_225970.html

I know a lot of you are sick of MJ being on the news and everything, but I also know that a lot of you were interested in this case. I just thought I'd share.

Michael Jackson Fans Raise Money To Defeat Peter King

Michael Jackson Fans Raise Money To Defeat Peter King

There is, it turns out, a political price to pay when you make bold statements calling out Michael Jackson for some of the nefarious moments of his personal history.

Fans of Jackson are mobilizing to raise money for an opponent -- any opponent -- to run against Rep. Pete King, R-N.Y., following the critical remarks the congressman made about the recently deceased pop icon.

Over the weekend, King said that the media had gone far over the top in glorifying Jackson, who he deemed a "low-life" pervert who "may have been a good singer" and "did some dancing."

Now, an ActBlue fundraising site has been set up by "A fan of Michael Jackson" titled "Michael Jackson Fans AGAINST Peter King."

"Peter King ought to let Jackson rest in peace, and focus on the needs of his constituents. As we mourn the loss of an American legend, political grandstanding is not what we need right now!" the page reads. "Fans of Michael Jackson and his legacy stand united against Peter King's hateful words. Please donate here to show Peter King that true MJ fans won't stand for the smearing of a pop sensation!"

The fund is being set up to benefit the Democratic nominee for New York's third congressional district -- a reliable Republican stronghold. The problem is that at this time, there is no Democratic nominee. And King has flirted with a run for New York's governor's chair in 2010. Still, it will be interesting to see the extent to which Michael Jackson devotees can mobilize politically. Who would have thought that the King of Pop's legacy would become a partisan issue?

You know how politically humiliating would be if you got beaten because you insulted the King of Pop...

Anne Barker, Seasoned Reporter, Gets Harassed, Spit On At Orthodox Jewish Protest In Jerusalem

Anne Barker, Seasoned Reporter, Gets Harassed, Spit On At Orthodox Jewish Protest In Jerusalem

The ABC's Middle East correspondent Anne Barker became caught in violent street protests involving ultra-Orthodox Jews in Jerusalem at the weekend. This is her graphic account of her ordeal.

As a journalist I've covered more than my share of protests. Political protests in Canberra. Unions protesting for better conditions. Angry, loud protests against governments, or against perceived abuses of human rights.

I've been at violent rallies in East Timor. I've had rocks and metal darts thrown my way. I've come up against riot police.

But I have to admit no protest - indeed no story in my career - has distressed me in the way I was distressed at a protest in Jerusalem on Saturday involving several hundred ultra-Orthodox Jews.

This particular protest has been going on for weeks.

Orthodox Jews are angry at the local council's decision to open a municipal carpark on Saturdays - or Shabbat, the day of rest for Jews.

It's a day when Jews are not supposed to do anything resembling work, which can include something as simple as flicking a switch, turning on a light or driving.

So even opening a simple carpark to accommodate the increasing number of tourists visiting Jerusalem's Old City is highly offensive to Orthodox Jews because it's seen as a desecration of the Shabbat, by encouraging people to drive.

I was aware that earlier protests had erupted into violence on previous weekends - Orthodox Jews throwing rocks at police, or setting rubbish bins alight, even throwing dirty nappies or rotting rubbish at anyone they perceive to be desecrating the Shabbat.

But I never expected their anger would be directed at me.

I was mindful I would need to dress conservatively and keep out of harm's way. But I made my mistake when I parked the car and started walking towards the protest, not fully sure which street was which.

By the time I realised I'd come up the wrong street it was too late.

I suddenly found myself in the thick of the protest - in the midst of hundreds of ultra-Orthodox Jews in their long coats and sable-fur hats.

They might be supremely religious, but their behaviour - to me - was far from charitable or benevolent.

As the protest became noisier and the crowd began yelling, I took my recorder and microphone out of my bag to record the sound.

Suddenly the crowd turned on me, screaming in my face. Dozens of angry men began spitting on me.
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Iowa--Blue Myself

Wowie, Chuck's got ALL the answers!

Grassley tells constituent: If you want good health insurance, ‘go work for the government.’

During a townhall in Waukon, IA Tuesday, Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) was asked by a constituent of his: “Why is your insurance so much cheaper than my insurance and so better than my insurance?” When Grassley struggled to explain the details of his own health care plan, the elderly man followed up, “Okay, so how come I can’t have the same thing you have?” Grassley said, “You can. Just go work for the federal government.” Watch it:

Grassley has been at the forefront of railing against Obama’s health care plan, declaring, “We need to make sure that there’s no public option.” As Igor Volsky notes, there is an irony in government workers like Grassley complaining about “government-sponsored health care.” If Grassley wants to stand on principle, he could abandon his government-sponsored insurance and try his luck in the individual health insurance market.

Grassy Source

You FAIL, sir! Good day!

(ps, anyone have that gif?)
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Govt. poised to take over student loans?

[In recent months we have cast a critical eye on federal student loan guaranty agencies by taking a closer look at a few specific agencies to show how concerns about conflicts of interests and misaligned financial incentives operate in practice. Previous entries can be found here, here, here, here, and here. Today, our series continues with a look at the actual amount of subsidies and payments provided to these agencies.]

Guaranty agencies are paid to perform three basic functions within the Federal Family Education Loan (FFEL) Program: provide default insurance for lenders; work with delinquent borrowers to help them avoid default; and collect on or rehabilitate defaulted student loans. Though each individual purpose is important; entrusting a single agency to carry out all of these functions creates opportunities for conflicts of interest. Even worse, the financial payment structure provides guaranty agencies with the greatest compensation for letting a student loan default -- the worst possible outcome for borrowers and taxpayers.

According to the U.S. Department of Education, guaranty agencies received $1.57 billion from the federal government in fiscal year 2008 for dealing with defaulted student loans and working with borrowers. Guaranty agencies also ended the 2008 fiscal year with an additional $1.63 billion worth of federal assets held in trust to reimburse lenders for losses on defaulted loans.

A breakdown of the distribution of federal payments to guaranty agencies reveals why taxpayers and policymakers should be concerned about these companies' financial incentives. As the table below shows, 60.5 percent, or $948.8 million, of the federal payments guaranty agencies received in the 2008 fiscal year were for the collection and rehabilitation of defaulted student loans. (The Department of Education does not separate these payments out so we don't know how much agencies got for each function.) By contrast, they received only $177.3 million for helping keep borrowers out of default. In addition, guaranty agencies received $203.9 million to cover the cost of processing and issuing the initial default guarantee on new loans and another $237.9 million for maintaining existing loan accounts.

ga subsidies

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Basically, Obama wants to do away with the program described and replace it by expanding another where the loans are disbursed and held by the government directly. There's no benefit to the government to let loans go into default.

Sorry, forgot to include the source: