Sunday, August 2, 2009

Free the Tehran 100, Sarah Palin's Own Urban Legend

Leon Panetta
Sen Mark Udall
Sen Harry Reid

"I can't believe that the Iranian oppressive regime held "three American" tourists" at the Iran-Iraq border. I mean, if the US border patrol were to come across "three Iranian tourists" at the Canadian-American border, they would be treated with respect, hospitality, and dignity." - As'ad AbuKhalil

Now that Congress is out of session and every last one of them were gone early Friday afternoon, during the month of August there will be lots and lots of articles and opinions written about health care and the reforms that Congress is trying to pass. It will be confusing, contradictory, and a lot of it will be designed to scare us. Millions of dollars are being spent by the medical and insurance industries, going to lobbyists who then bribe members of Congress. Money is even going to web sites and bloggers. I have tried to get some of their money but I guess I'm too small to be corrupted or noticed...

The easiest to read argument over reform is made by Paul Krugman in the Opinion section of the NY Times: "The essence is really quite simple: regulation of insurers, so that they can’t cherry-pick only the healthy, and subsidies, so that all Americans can afford insurance.

Everything else is about making that core work. Individual mandates are a way to prevent gaming of the system by people who don’t sign up until they’re sick; employer mandates a way to hold down the on-budget costs by preventing a rush by employers to drop insurance; the public option a way to create effective competition and hold costs down further.

But what it means for the individual will be that insurers can’t reject you, and if your income is relatively low, the government will help pay your premiums.

That’s it. Any commentator who whines that he just doesn’t understand it is basically saying that he doesn’t want to understand it."

Next week will be ceremonies and the swearing in of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as the next president of Iran, and to celebrate, they are having a mass trial of 100 dissidents. About 3000 people were previously released from jail and the government had previously said that that only 20 people were to be tried, but it looks like they're going for broke on this one. They are being accused of: " conspiring with foreign powers to stage a revolution through terrorism, subversion, and a media campaign to discredit last month’s presidential election.

The accusations read out in the courtroom were a broadside against virtually every major figure associated with reform in Iran, going well beyond those actually arrested. State television broadcast images of the defendants, who included a former vice president and a Newsweek reporter, as well as some of the reform movement’s best-known spokesmen, clad in prison uniforms and listening as prosecutors outlined their accusations in a large marble-floored courtroom. Some were shackled."

Most of these prisoners are middle aged men, not hot headed young students. There have been several protests, most notably from: " Mohsen Rezaei, the only conservative challenger to President Ahmadinejad, sent a letter to the head of Iran’s judiciary demanding the government put people on trial who attacked opposition supporters and tortured detainees, The Associated Press reported. Mr. Rezaei said the trial must include those responsible for the death of the son of one of his top aides."

Iran reminds me of the manipulations that have occurred during the history of the Chinese Communist Party, as people stab each other in the back jockeying for power in a rigid, authoritarian structure. This is such an in-your-face sham trial and the obvious falseness of it reminds me of Aung San Suu Kyi's trial in Burma and the recent trial of the American journalists in North Korea. Except here there will be confessions obtained by torture which will be accepted by the court, something that their tip top grand ayatollah has said is not legitimate and is a crime. Boy, there really is an axis of evil...

To lighten things up, let's turn to Sarah Palin, who is always amusing and never is boring. Seems that blogging can be pretty powerful, especially if you make stuff up, as Politico reports: "Sarah Palin’s spokeswoman Saturday took the unusual step of posting a statement on Facebook denying an anonymous blog report that the former Alaska governor was getting a divorce and moving to Montana.

“Yet again, some so-called journalists have decided to make up a story,” wrote Meg Stapleton on Palin’s Facebook page. “There is no truth to the recent ‘story’ (and story is the correct term for this type of fiction) that the Palins are divorcing. The Palins remain married, committed to each other and their family, and have not purchased land in Montana (last week it was reported to be Long Island).”

Actually, no journalists had reported the allegations. They were made on an Alaskan blog called “The Immoral Minority,” and then repeated on other blogs, including Gawker, a well-trafficked New York gossip site."

How fast these rumors travel, and some can become urban legends. The comedian Paul Krassner once made up a story about buying a box of Kentucky Fried Chicken, opening it up and finding a battered, fried rat inside. It became known as the Kentucky Fried Rat story, and years later he opened his local newspaper to read his joke still being reported as something real. It also shows the durability of urban legends and how they can circulate through a population for years...

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