Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Venus and Serena Rule at Wimbledon in 2009! (Like Always)

The King is Dead, No More Kings, Please: A Threnody for Michael Jackson

By Rayfield A. Waller

INTERROGATOR (Arab soldier)
My main man. Tell me something,
OK? What is problem with Michael

TROY (Black American soldier)
What do you mean?

The King of Pop. 'I'm bad, I'm
bad, you know it --'
Michael Jackson is Pop King of
sick country.


[Troy is smashed in the face with the clip board by the interrogator. Blood drips
from his nose.]

Bullshit wrong, dude. A black man
make the skin white and the hair
straight. You know why?...Your sick
country make the black man hate hisself...

[from the film “Three Kings,” Screenplay by David O. Russell, 1998]

I meant to say nothing at all about the death of Michael Jackson, ‘King of Pop,” but now only twenty four hours after the news broke, and only five hours after the autopsy has been concluded and the coroner’s preliminary announcement that ‘more tests are needed before a cause of death can be determined,’ I’ve been convinced otherwise.

The LA coroner’s ‘more tests are needed’ is a long recognized code for ‘we might have another celebrity death caused by drug overdose here.’ While a snide undertone in coverage of Michael’s phenomenal talents, energies, and innovation is, predictably, starting to show through in the ironic smiles and crass humor of TV newsreaders. That undertone of contempt in Michael’s case, as in Richard Prior’s case before him, is for yet another dead Black performer’s ‘unfortunate flaws’ and ‘idiosyncrasies’.

Yet, as the above crib from the film, “Three Kings” implies, these very ‘flaws’ are endemic to the effects, of America’s film and music industry’s racism, on Black men and women who live inside the great meat grinder of the entertainment industry. The effects, if not the actual flaws (like Bird’s and Lady Day’s heroine addiction or Gil Scott Heron’s crack dependency), can be seen from Bill Cosby’s seething misanthropy disguised as humorous high jinks, to Will Smith’s obsessive-compulsive crossover mentality which leads him to do film after mundane film depicting Black men bent on ‘saving’ everyone (I Am Legend being the ultimate in that franchise), to Denzel Washington’s seeming inability to articulate anything culturally or politically critical and coherent in interviews other than his ceaselessly maudlin charity pitches, to Dave Chappell’s startling, self imposed exile from the same industry that had made him wealthy but clearly also had frightened him to the depths of his soul, to Oprah Winfrey’s manic agoraphilia and Angela Basset’s lonely crusade to hold onto her dignity against the misery and humiliation Halle Berry surrendered her body to in “Monster’s Ball” (Hollywood’s obligatory fetishisizing of the Black female body in proscribed, denigrating nude scenes, and prostitute, junkie, schoolmarm roles).

There is a familiar, racist double standard apparent in media voyeurism rather than any honest assessment of Michael’s talent. While Elvis’ physical addictions and psychological problems were and still are discussed in addition to his skills and his artistic significance, Michael’s shortcomings are treated as a negation of his expertise and historical genius.
This truculent lack of real or thoughtful context in both overt and slyly implied critiques of Michael’s sanity, his ‘morals,’ and his ‘self hatred’ (reflecting the sort of brazen contempt for his humanity that even the bloated, drug addled Elvis Presley, who did not have to suffer following his even more ignominious death at ‘Graceland’) has convinced me that I should write, to point out that lack of context. It only dehumanizes Michael to leave out that context, namely, America’s ferocious hatred of roots culture, of Black folk sources, and of the Afro-Soul origins that Michael drew from just as Sam Cook, and Ray Charles, and Al Green, and Cleavon Little, and Sammy Davis, and Bill Bojangles Robinson all had drawn from it. The hatred is equaled only by America’s simultaneous hunger for and desire to consume and exploit those sources, those roots.

The American entertainment industry is basically a public pillory, and no Black artist, no matter how rich and famous goes unscathed by the vicious duplicity of the industry’s failure to compensate Black artists equally, its subtle and gross humiliations of the Black image and disrespect for Black genius, its simultaneous praise and insult (and Michael, like so many brilliant Black performers, had grown toward the end to be no longer quite so rich, and less famous, more and more infamous). More and more over the coming days and weeks we will see it emerge: the implied, sometimes even literal smirk of ‘entertainment reporters’ and their sarcasm in mentioning Michael’s obvious psychoses, reflected in his peccadilloes with children, his addiction to Demerol and to plastic surgery, and his funny habits with elephant man bones, llamas, and Ferris wheels. That sarcasm—and the sublimated racism that it arises from, emerges as plain as the lack of a nose on Michael’s 49 year old face as these ghouls have been breaking the news of Michael’s death while transitioning into the sickening redundancy phase of their 72 hour news cycles, in which they will be re breaking and re breaking the news, shattering it, crunching it, and turning the shards into smithereens with relentless wall-to-wall coverage of the same old tired set pieces (here we are in front of the gates of the house where Michael died, the home he was renting in The Hollywood Hills that one or two ‘reporters’ have slipped up and referred to as ‘Neverland,’ an estate where Michael no longer lived; here we are in front of the coroner’s office; here we are in front of the Apollo theater where Al Sharpton belts out a spontaneous eulogy; now here we are back at the house again, still not ‘Neverland,’ and not located in ‘Brentwood’ as a dyslexic British reporter yammers, clearly reliving the heady days of the ‘OJ Affair’; always we are ‘out in front’, never inside, always fixedly gazing at a façade, as if meaning is about to emerge. but it never does; always we’re treated to a forest of microphone stands and to the same tired, chewed up looking cadre of ‘international journalists’ –i.e., glorified Paparazzi—droning on and on, and from the same Hollywood script at that).

The King, in short, is dead. But before the next Michael comes along to take his place in the public pillory of race, entertainment culture, and is chewed up and spat onto the plastic surgeon’s gurney, a few words from the REAL sponsor of the whole performance:

Even in this age in which Brittany Spears and Justin Timberlake announce their gratitude to Michael Jackson for providing the template they drew on to forge their careers, the abysmal ignorance of roots culture still motivates an equally abysmal disrespect for Blues, Jazz, Soul, and Hiphop, by implying for example that certain rap artists are taking their rap sensibility from popular mainstream film, television, and theater pieces like “Bring In Da Noise…” and that the monetary and psychic deprivation of Black artists like Michael can be lain at the doorstep of Motown (little by little, callow newsreaders and liberal talk show hosts are beginning to cite their freshly enlightened awareness of the injustice of the music industry through their single viewing of the single source, “Standing in the Shadows of Motown,” and the story of The Funk Brothers).

At the time of its 1990’s premiere of course, “Bring In Da Noise” was in fact, widely regarded in uptown Manhattan, in Detroit, Philly, LA, and Cleveland, as a bastardization of African American step art-dance, of Brooklyn radio-chant, and of James Brown-to-Ohio Players-to-Cameo-to-Jungle Bothers Black Funk roots culture. A lot of Black people across the country (Detroit, Chicago, Oakland, LA, Philly, etc.), not just in New York (Harlem, Bed Stuy, Bronx, ‘Strong’ Island, etc.) were sickened whenever we saw such drivel advertised incessantly on TV and Gods help us, even traveling throughout the country busting up into our communities, bringing out the corny white suburbanites who cruised into the theater districts under police guard to vicariously experience urban culture.

“…Funk…” is symbolic of many derivative cultural products manufactured in America, from minstrelsy to burlesque to John Phillip Sousa to Al Jolson, from Bing Crosby to Vaudeville to Elvis to Jerry Lee Lewis to Dinah shore to Madonna to Justin Timberlake. The simulacrum comes to be considered to be original (*groan*), not derivative, not a rip-off of the rural slave and urban wage-slave and Black street culture that it really is. Such theft feels to Black artists and writers like “Miss Saigon” must have felt to Asian Americans. The idea that the simulacrum is becoming the original is actually a sentiment which is gaining force in the culture right now with Hiphop just as it did earlier in the twentieth century with Jazz (by 1970 many Americans were convinced Jazz was a white art form courtesy of Benny Goodman, just as by 1950 they’d been convinced that Rock and Roll was invented by Jerry Lee Lewis).

I hung out with white cultural critic, Eric Lott (author of ‘Love and Theft’) when he was visiting the University of Miami a few years ago when I was an English professor there, and he remarked that he found it frightening how the culture was redefining cultural theft of Black art forms as ‘anti-racist’, ‘integrationist’ and progressive gestures, while simultaneously defining critiques of this long standing American crime as ‘racist’ (in other words, the victim who complains of being victimized is the real troublemaker here). To my dismay and my alarm, I ‘ve been noticing over the years while teaching at U Miami, FIU, at Barry University, and now at Wayne State University in Detroit, that my students have no idea that the white pop artists they love are actually culturally cleansed imitations of people like Aretha Franklin, Barry White, and Martha and the Vandellas (60’s and 70’s Black pop icons) via Peabo Bryson, Whitney Houston, Sister Sledge, and Anita Baker (the 80’s Black pop icons) and then later Bobby Brown, Ready for the World, Queen Latifah, and Roxanne Shante (the 90’s Black pop Icons). Sadly, they not only don’t know who Martha and the Vandellas are; they haven’t even been exposed to Queen Latifah! (They think she’s an actress, if they ever heard of her at all). Eminem (who is actually a quite talented Marshall Mathers underneath the candy coating) is only the latest evolution of an undeniable and inevitable process of taking rap, funk, and Hiphop away from African American roots sources, and culturally cleansing it (Backstreet Boys, Shakira, Brittany Spears, et al).

Not long after Lott had finished his visiting lecture at U Miami I was amazed to see in the Miami Herald (Sun Jan 19, 2003, Herald, pg. 9M, by Herald Music critic, Evelyn Mcdonnell), an article on composer Jon Larson, author of “Rent”, that mentioned the touring show, “Bring Da Noise,” while criticizing Hiphop impresario, Russell Simmons. The article featured the headline, “Copycats getting accolades for their predecessors’ creativity” as well as a caption beneath a photo of a white minstrel figure and a Black B Boy (‘Russell Simmons Def Poetry Jam’ takes its cues from Bring In ‘Da Noise, Bring In ‘Da Funk’). This sort of thing creates the impression that Jon Larson is an originator of Black urban Hiphop culture while Russell Simmons is an imitator getting rich off Larson’s art. The photo of the white minstrel figure and the Black B Boy figure reinforced this fallacious idea, because the juxtaposition of the photos made it seem as if Larson IS the white originator (the ‘white negro’ as it were) and that the Black B Boy figure is Russell Simmons. This is a typical kind of visual and semiotic distortion engaged in by unconscious editors.

On closer reading, the article was not really even about what the head announces—rather it was an homage to Jon Larson. The article carefully draws a distinction between Larson and the “Bring Da Noise…” ilk, and furthermore it attempts to do a subtle critique of those within the hiphop movement who profit off hiphop’s whitewashing. Yet, even such a rare thing as a major daily critic writing a piece approaching the entertainment industry critically and analytically, is erased by the inevitable meat grinder of context (heads and captions carry on their own discourse which is gleefully oblivious of the point being made by the author).

There is in fact a sub genre of pop music criticism that positions Russell Simmons as somehow being an outsider to the Hiphop movement when in fact he was right there at the founding along with Cool Moe Dee, DJ Herc, Grandmaster Flash, Eric B and Rakim, Mel-Mel, and all the rest—even Fab Five Freddie, clown that he was, was indisputably in the creative core of the music’s origins, and hell, I know close friends of some of these people, and I know that Russell paid dues, and did in fact economically support the music and support some of these artists in the 80’s). The positioning of such a crucial figure, however commercialized, as an outsider and imitator while positioning Larson as an originator, was galling to me, and far too representative of the backward notions of American Kulture.

The article, finally, offers a coherent defense of the Newyoricans poets’ movement of the 80’s and 90’s. Yet, this gesture’s meaning is lost in the appending of this portion to the larger issue of Larson. Thus are the sins of journalism: shallow treatment, hapless captioning, lack of historical detail and clarity. The article would have been decisively more credible had it been more clear and direct. When I called an editor at the Herald to ask why more figures within the movement were not mentioned, such as Pedro Pietri (“The Masses Are Asses”), I was refused access to even the voice mail of Evelyn Mcdonnell. Emails I wrote to her were never acknowledged, and I have no idea if they reached her. Ultimately, I felt, Mcdonnell was trying to say something in that piece about art and CLASS identity, transcending race: that the urban movements of the 80’s (which included Hiphop but also included the Newyorican school, urban chic movements, the poetics revival of the St. Marks Poetry Project, which I once did a reading for) fed into some of the off-off Broadway rebirth that gave us “Angels In America” (that Jon Larson can be contextualized by the new poetics of the 80’s). That multiculturalism is exactly what Hiphop began as in the late 70’s and early 80’s. The promise of all this cultural genesis was destroyed by the hijacking of Hiphop carried out by record companies and by individual Black thugs who gave us so-called ‘gangsta rap’ in the 90’s.

In an early 2003 NPR interview of Hershey Felder (who played George Gershwin a one-man theatrical piece which toured in the early 90’s) Felder recounted how Gershwin encountered Maurice Ravel and wanted to study with him, and Ravel admonished him by saying, ‘why would you want to be a second rate Ravel when you are a first rate Gershwin’? And indeed, Gershwin was little appreciated or understood in his lifetime, despite great commercial success. He was under appreciated as an ARTIST. People like Dvorak, Ravel, and Stravinsky would come to America, and would wonder why Americans were so far behind in understanding and appreciating AMERICAN musical forms as they themselves DID (the Blues, R&B, Soul, Rock and Roll, etc.) I have taught two very important books in the past few years. One is called “Blues People” by Leroi Jones, and the other is “The Death of Rhythm and Blues” by Nelson George. I once talked with Jones (Baraka) when he did a reading at Cornell University in the early 90’s, where I was a graduate student, and I got to talk with Nelson in the late 80’s when he visited Cornell. Both Nelson and Baraka mentioned Jon in conversation as a figure of importance in a multivariate, energetic, and far too brief period of American working class urban culture, which Americans have yet to take seriously or understand.

But then, they still have not really dealt seriously with figures such as Irving Berlin, Hoagie Carmichael, Gershwin, Sondheim, or for that matter, Benny Goodman, Duke Ellington, and Charles Mingus. I know that my students have never even heard of most of these people. It’s a sad state of affairs, since the rest of the world knows and loves all these people I have mentioned. Perhaps this is one reason the rest of the world dislikes Americans so much. We have so many riches, yet seem not to care about it or show any gratitude for being so blessed.

And the death of a Michael Jackson becomes just another occasion to sell soap with the promotion of spectacle, rather than taking advantage of the opportunity being presented by the event of his death, to examine the historical, political,and cultural context of his life, in all its glory and all its pain.

May he rest.

Michael Jackson: 1958-2009


Any way you look at it the death of Michael Jackson at such a young age is a tremendous loss to world music, to entertainment, to popular culture, and to society in general. Obviously the man was a flatout musical GENIUS (like Stevie, like Marvin, like Jimi, like Sly, like Miles, like John Coltrane, like Charlie Parker, like Sam Cooke, like James Brown, like Bob Marley, like Nat King Cole, etc. etc. etc.). On the other hand what's absolutely NOT surprising, given the truly fucked up society and world we live in is that Michael suffered such a tragically early death.

It's clearly no coincidence that black men like Michael are in many ways doomed by the objective political, economic, cultural, and spiritual deformities of a rancid, greedy, and often clueless society and culture that simultaneously despises and envies us and our talent and reduces ALL to mere commercial commodities and psychological cannon fodder for its pathetic and lethally neurotic fears, hatreds, anxieties, and insecurities masquerading as "superiority", "innocence" and "strength".

(Like always) All we can do now for Michael is to fiercely uphold and extend his tremendously liberating legacy as a great ARTIST (one of the most truly misunderstood and despised words in the the English language) and continue to spread the profound meaning of the word(s) and music that our brother fought so hard to enlighten us with in Life. I'm not afraid to admit that I shed a tear or two for Michael when I heard the news and sat back to reflect on what he was so generously able to give us all. We can never repay the debt we owe for the Joy, Insight, Energy, Understanding, and Light he brought to this world...REST IN PEACE BROTHER. WE LOVE YOU...


A Star Idolized and Haunted, Michael Jackson Dies at 50


Published: June 25, 2009
New York Times

LOS ANGELES — For his legions of fans, he was the Peter Pan of pop music: the little boy who refused to grow up. But on the verge of another attempted comeback, he is suddenly gone, this time for good.

Michael Jackson, whose quintessentially American tale of celebrity and excess took him from musical boy wonder to global pop superstar to sad figure haunted by lawsuits, paparazzi and failed plastic surgery, was pronounced dead on Thursday afternoon at U.C.L.A. Medical Center after arriving in a coma, a city official said. Mr. Jackson was 50, having spent 40 of those years in the public eye he loved.

The singer was rushed to the hospital, a six-minute drive from the rented Holmby Hills home in which he was living, shortly after noon by paramedics for the Los Angeles Fire Department. A hospital spokesman would not confirm reports of cardiac arrest. He was pronounced dead at 2:26 pm.

As with Elvis Presley or the Beatles, it is impossible to calculate the full effect Mr. Jackson had on the world of music. At the height of his career, he was indisputably the biggest star in the world; he has sold more than 750 million albums. Radio stations across the country reacted to his death with marathon sessions of his songs. MTV, which grew successful in part as a result of Mr. Jackson’s groundbreaking videos, reprised its early days as a music channel by showing his biggest hits.

From his days as the youngest brother in the Jackson 5 to his solo career in the 1980s and early 1990s, Mr. Jackson was responsible for a string of hits like “I Want You Back,” “I’ll Be There” “Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough” “Billie Jean” and “Black or White” that exploited his high voice, infectious energy and ear for irresistible hooks.

As a solo performer, Mr. Jackson ushered in the age of pop as a global product — not to mention an age of spectacle and pop culture celebrity. He became more character than singer: his sequined glove, his whitened face, his moonwalk dance move became embedded in the cultural firmament.

His entertainment career hit high-water marks with the release of “Thriller,” from 1982, which has been certified 28 times platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America, and with the “Victory” world tour that reunited him with his brothers in 1984.

But soon afterward, his career started a bizarre disintegration. His darkest moment undoubtedly came in 2003, when he was indicted on child molesting charges. A young cancer patient claimed the singer had befriended him and then groped him at his Neverland estate near Santa Barbara, Calif., but Mr. Jackson was acquitted on all charges.

Reaction to his death started trickling in from the entertainment community late Thursday.

“I am absolutely devastated at this tragic and unexpected news,” the music producer Quincy Jones said in a statement. “I’ve lost my little brother today, and part of my soul has gone with him.”

Berry Gordy, the Motown founder who helped develop the Jackson 5, told CNN that Mr. Jackson, as a boy, “always wanted to be the best, and he was willing to work as hard as it took to be that. And we could all see that he was a winner at that age.

Tommy Mottola, a former head of Sony Music, called Mr. Jackson “the cornerstone to the entire music business.”

“He bridged the gap between rhythm and blues and pop music and made it into a global culture,” said Mr. Mottola, who worked with Mr. Jackson until the singer cut his ties with Sony in 2001.

Impromptu vigils broke out around the world, from Portland, Ore., where fans organized a one-gloved bike ride (“glittery costumes strongly encouraged”) to Hong Kong, where fans gathered with candles and sang his songs.

In Los Angeles, hundreds of fans — some chanting Mr. Jackson’s name, some doing the “Thriller” dance — descended on the hospital and on the hillside house where he was staying.

Jeremy Vargas, 38, hoisted his wife, Erica Renaud, 38, on his shoulders and they danced and bopped to “Man in the Mirror” playing from an onlooker’s iPod connected to external speakers — the boom boxes of Mr. Jackson’s heyday long past their day.

“I am in shock and awe,” said Ms. Renaud, who was visiting from Red Hook, Brooklyn, with her family. “He was like a family member to me.”

Dreams of a Comeback

Mr. Jackson was an object of fascination for the news media since the Jackson 5’s first hit, “I Want You Back,” in 1969. His public image wavered between that of the musical naif, who wanted only to recapture his youth by riding on roller-coasters and having sleepovers with his friends, to the calculated mogul who carefully constructed his persona around his often-baffling public behavior.

Mr. Jackson had been scheduled to perform 50 concerts at the O2 arena in London beginning next month and continuing into 2010. The shows, which quickly sold out, were positioned as a comeback, with the potential to earn him up to $50 million, according to some reports.

But there had also been worry and speculation that Mr. Jackson was not physically ready for such an arduous run of concerts, and his postponement of the first of those shows to July 13 from July 8 fueled new rounds of gossip about his health. Nevertheless, he was rehearsing Wednesday night at the Staples Center in downtown Los Angeles. “The primary reason for the concerts wasn’t so much that he was wanting to generate money as much as it was that he wanted to perform for his kids,” said J. Randy Taraborrelli, whose biography, “Michael Jackson: The Magic and the Madness,” was first published by Citadel in 1991. “They had never seen him perform before.”

Mr. Jackson’s brothers, Jackie, Tito, Jermaine, Marlon and Randy, have all had performing careers, with varying success, since they stopped performing together. (Randy, the youngest, replaced Jermaine when the Jackson 5 left Motown.) His sisters, Rebbie, La Toya and Janet, are also singers, and Janet Jackson has been a major star in her own right for two decades. They all survive him, as do his parents, Joseph and Katherine Jackson, of Las Vegas, and three children: Michael Joseph Jackson Jr., Paris Michael Katherine Jackson, born to Mr. Jackson’s second wife, Deborah Jeanne Rowe, and Prince Michael Jackson II, the son of a surrogate mother. Mr. Jackson was also briefly married to Lisa Marie Presley, the daughter of Elvis Presley.

A spokesman for the Los Angeles Police Department said the department assigned its robbery and homicide division to investigate the death, but the spokesman said that was because of Mr. Jackson’s celebrity.

“Don’t read into anything,” the spokesman told reporters gathered outside the Bel-Air house. He said the coroner had taken possession of the body and would conduct an investigation.

At a news conference at the hospital, Jermaine Jackson spoke to reporters about his brother. “It is believed he suffered cardiac arrest at his home,” he said softly. A personal physician first tried to resuscitate Michael Jackson at his home before paramedics arrived. A team of doctors then tried to resuscitate him for more than an hour, his brother said.

“May Allah be with you always,” Jermaine Jackson concluded, his gaze aloft.

In Gary, Ind., hundreds of people descended upon the squat clapboard house were Mr. Jackson spent his earliest years. There were tears, loud wails, and quiet prayers as old neighbors joined hands with people who had driven in from Chicago and other nearby towns to pay their respects.

“Just continue to glorify the man, Lord,” said Ida Boyd-King, a local pastor who led the crowd in prayer. “Let’s give God praise for Michael.”

Shelletta Hinton, 40, drove to Gary from Chicago with her two young children. She said they had met Mr. Jackson in Gary a couple of years ago when he received a key to the city. “We felt like we were close to Michael,” she said. “This is a sad day.”

As dusk set in, mourners lighted candles and placed them on the concrete doorstep. Some left teddy bears and personal notes. Doris Darrington, 77, said she remembered seeing the Jackson 5 so many times around Gary that she got sick of them. But she, too, was feeling hurt by the sudden news of Mr. Jackson’s death.

“He has always been a source of pride for Gary, even though he wasn’t around much,” she said. “The older person, that’s not the Michael we knew. We knew the little bitty boy with the big Afro and the brown skin. That’s how I’ll always remember Michael.”

Michael Joseph Jackson was born in Gary on Aug. 29, 1958. The second youngest of six brothers, he began performing professionally with four of them at the age of 5 in a group that their father, Joe, a steelworker, had organized the previous year. In 1968, the group, originally called the Jackson Brothers, was signed by Motown Records. The Jackson 5 was an instant phenomenon. The group’s first four singles — “I Want You Back,” “ABC,” “The Love You Save” and “I’ll Be There” — all reached No. 1 on the pop charts in 1970, a feat no group had accomplished before. And young Michael was the center of attention: he handled virtually all the lead vocals, danced with energy and finesse, and displayed a degree of showmanship rare in a performer of any age.

In 1971, Mr. Jackson began recording under his own name, while continuing to perform with his brothers. His recording of “Ben,” the title song from a movie about a boy and his homicidal pet rat, was a No. 1 hit in 1972.

The brothers (minus Michael’s older brother Jermaine, who was married to the daughter of Berry Gordy, Motown’s founder and chief executive) left Motown in 1975 and, rechristened the Jacksons, signed to Epic, a unit of CBS Records. Three years later, Michael made his movie debut as the Scarecrow in the screen version of the hit Broadway musical “The Wiz.” But movie stardom proved not to be his destiny.

A Solo Sensation

Music stardom on an unprecedented level, however, was. Mr. Jackson’s first solo album for Epic, “Off the Wall,” released in 1979, yielded two No. 1 singles and sold seven million copies, but it was a mere prologue to what came next. His follow-up, “Thriller,” released in 1982, became the best-selling album of all time and helped usher in the music video age. The video for title track, directed by John Landis, was an elaborate horror-movie pastiche that was more of a mini-movie than a promotional clip.

Seven of the nine tracks on “Thriller” were released as singles and reached the Top 10. The album spent two years on the Billboard album chart and sold an estimated 100 million copies worldwide. It also won eight Grammy Awards.

The choreographer and director Vincent Paterson, who directed Mr. Jackson in several videos, recalled watching him rehearse a dance sequence for four hours in front of a mirror until it felt like second nature.

“That’s how he developed the moonwalk, working on it for days if not weeks until it was organic,” he said. “He took an idea that he had seen some street kids doing and perfected it.”

Mr. Jackson’s next album, “Bad,” released in 1987, sold eight million copies and produced five No. 1 singles and another state-of-the-art video, this one directed by Martin Scorsese. It was a huge hit by almost anyone else’s standards, but an inevitable letdown after “Thriller.”

It was at this point that Mr. Jackson’s bizarre private life began to overshadow his music. He would go on to release several more albums and, from time to time, to stage elaborate concert tours. And he would never be too far from the public eye. But it would never again be his music that kept him there.

Even with the millions Mr. Jackson earned, his eccentric lifestyle took a severe financial toll. In 1988 Mr. Jackson paid about $17 million for a 2,600-acre ranch in Los Olivos, Calif., 125 miles northwest of Los Angeles. Calling it Neverland after the mythical island of Peter Pan, he outfitted the property with amusement-park rides, a zoo and a 50-seat theater, at a cost of $35 million, according to reports, and the ranch became his sanctum.

But Neverland, and Mr. Jackson’s lifestyle, were expensive to maintain. A forensic accountant who testified at Mr. Jackson’s molesting trial in 2005 said Mr. Jackson’s annual budget in 1999 included $7.5 million for personal expenses and $5 million to maintain Neverland. By at least the late 1990s, he began to take out huge loans to support himself and pay debts. In 1998, he took out a loan for $140 million from Bank of America, which two years later was increased to $200 million. Further loans of hundreds of millions followed.

The collateral for the loans was Mr. Jackson’s 50 percent share in Sony/ATV Music Publishing, a portfolio of thousands of songs, including rights to 259 songs by John Lennon and Paul McCartney, considered some of the most valuable properties in music.

In 1985, Mr. Jackson paid $47.5 million for ATV, which included the Beatles songs — a move that estranged him from Mr. McCartney, who had advised him to invest in music rights — and 10 years later, Mr. Jackson sold 50 percent of his interest to Sony for $90 million, creating a joint venture, Sony/ATV. Estimates of the catalog’s value exceed $1 billion.

Last year, Neverland narrowly escaped foreclosure after Mr. Jackson defaulted on $24.5 million he owed on the property. A Los Angeles real estate investment company, Colony Capital L.L.C., bought the note, and put the title for the property into a joint venture with Mr. Jackson.

A Scandal’s Heavy Toll

In many ways, Mr. Jackson never recovered from the child molesting trial, a lurid affair that attracted media from around the world to watch as Mr. Jackson, wearing a different costume each day, appeared in a small courtroom in Santa Maria, Calif., to listen as a parade of witnesses spun a sometimes-incredible tale.

The case ultimately turned on the credibility of Mr. Jackson’s accuser, a 15-year-old cancer survivor who said the defendant had gotten him drunk and molested him several times. The boy’s younger brother testified that he had seen Mr. Jackson groping his brother on two other occasions.

After 14 weeks of such testimony and seven days of deliberations, the jury returned not-guilty verdicts on all 14 counts against Mr. Jackson: four charges of child molesting, one charge of attempted child molesting, one conspiracy charge and eight possible counts of providing alcohol to minors. Conviction could have brought Mr. Jackson 20 years in prison. Instead, he walked away a free man to try to reclaim a career that at the time had already been in decline for years.

After his trial, Mr. Jackson largely left the United States for Bahrain, the island nation in the Persian Gulf, where he was the guest of Sheik Abdullah, a son of the ruler of the country, King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa. Mr. Jackson would never return to live at his ranch. Instead he remained in Bahrain, Dubai and Ireland for the next several years, managing his increasingly unstable finances. He remained an avid shopper, however, and was spotted at shopping malls in the black robes and veils traditionally worn by Bahraini women.

Despite the public relations blow of his trial, Mr. Jackson and his ever-changing retinue of managers, lawyers and advisers never stopped plotting his return.

By early this year, Mr. Jackson was living in a $100,000-a-month mansion in Bel-Air, to be closer to “where all the action is” in the entertainment business, his manager at the time, Tohme Tohme, told The Los Angeles Times. He was also preparing for his upcoming London shows.

”He was just so excited about having an opportunity to come back,” said Mr. Paterson, the director and choreographer.

Despite his troubles, the press and the public never abandoned the star. A crowd of paparazzi and onlookers lined the street outside Mr. Jackson’s home as the ambulance took him to the hospital.

Reporting was contributed by John M. Broder from Washington; Randal C. Archibold from Los Angeles; Susan Saulny from Gary, Ind.; and Melena Ryzik, Ben Sisario, Brian Stelter and Peter Keepnews from New York.

This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:

Correction: June 27, 2009
An article on Friday about the death of Michael Jackson misstated the number of songs from his album “Off the Wall” that became No. 1 singles. There were two, not four. The article also misstated part of a comment that Mr. Jackson’s brother Jermaine offered for Mr. Jackson after speaking with reporters. He said, “May Allah be with you always,” not “May our love be with you always.”

This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:

Correction: June 30, 2009
An obituary on Friday about Michael Jackson misidentified the area of Los Angeles where he was renting a home. It is Holmby Hills, not the adjacent Bel Air.

This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:

Correction: July 3, 2009
Because of an editing error, an obituary last Friday about Michael Jackson misstated the title of one of his hit songs. It is “Black or White,” not “Black and White.”



One of my favorite MJ lyrics alltime (and I personally have many favorites because the man was also an absolutely brilliant lyricist in addition to his many other talents.) are the words of the stunning song "They Don't Care About Us" from his extraordinary 2 CD collection entitled HIStory: Past, Present, & Future, Book One recorded in 1995. Listen & Learn...RIP Michael...


"They Don't Care About Us"

Skin head, dead head
Everybody gone bad
Situation, aggravation
Everybody allegation
In the suite, on the news
Everybody dog food
Bang bang, shot dead
Everybody's gone mad

All I wanna say is that
They don't really care about us
All I wanna say is that
They don't really care about us

Beat me, hate me
You can never break me
Will me, thrill me
You can never kill me
Jew me, sue me
Everybody do me
Kick me, kike me
Don't you black or white me

All I wanna say is that
They don't really care about us
All I wanna say is that
They don't really care about us

Tell me what has become of my life
I have a wife and two children who love me
I am the victim of police brutality, now
I'm tired of bein' the victim of hate
You're rapin' me of my pride
Oh, for God's sake
I look to heaven to fulfill its prophecy...
Set me free

Skin head, dead head
Everybody gone bad
trepidation, speculation
Everybody allegation
In the suite, on the news
Everybody dog food
black man, black mail
Throw your brother in jail

All I wanna say is that
They don't really care about us
All I wanna say is that
They don't really care about us

Tell me what has become of my rights
Am I invisible because you ignore me?
Your proclamation promised me free liberty, now
I'm tired of bein' the victim of shame
They're throwing me in a class with a bad name
I can't believe this is the land from which I came
You know I do really hate to say it
The government don't wanna see
But if Roosevelt was livin'
He wouldn't let this be, no, no

Skin head, dead head
Everybody gone bad
Situation, speculation
Everybody litigation
Beat me, bash me
You can never trash me
Hit me, kick me
You can never get me

All I wanna say is that
They don't really care about us
All I wanna say is that
They don't really care about us

Some things in life they just don't wanna see
But if Martin Luther was livin'
He wouldn't let this be

Skin head, dead head
Everybody gone bad
Situation, segregation
Everybody allegation
In the suite, on the news
Everybody dog food
Kick me, strike me
Don't you wrong or right me

All I wanna say is that
They don't really care about us
All I wanna say is that
They don't really care about us

All I wanna say is that
They don't really care about us
All I wanna say is that
They don't really care about us

All I wanna say is that
They don't really care about us
All I wanna say is that
They don't really care about us

The Criminal Legacy of Richard M. Nixon

President Richard Nixon on television during his resignation speech in 1974


This lowly criminal asshole and Grade A Creep has always been near the very top of my all time "Worst Persons in the History of the World" list where he posthumously remains to this day. To think that this truly pathological racist, sexist, antisemitic, homophobic, and imperialist liar, thief, and mass murderer was actually elected President of this country not once, but TWICE (!) before he was finally forced to "resign" after being confronted with certain impeachment speaks volumes about what's really fundamentally wrong with this country and why it and vicious cretins like "Tricky Dick" (or NOXON--short for 'noxious'-- as Ishmael Reed and so many others used to call him) continue to run us all into the ground with their madness. The foul, destructive legacy that this maniac has bequeathed--represented by such insidiously disgusting and reactionary human and political vermin as Ronald Reagan, Karl Rove, Oliver North, William Bennett, D'nesh D'Souza, Phil Gramm, Trent Lott, Lee Atwater, Newt Gingrich, Abby and Richard Thernstrom, Dick and Lynne Cheney, Charles Murray, Robert Bork, Edwin Meese, Donald Rumsfeld, Sarah Palin, Clarence Thomas, Condoleeza Rice, Thomas Sowell, Debra Dickerson, Ward Connerly, Shelby Steele, John McWhorter, George Bush One & Two, Rush Limbaugh, Bill Kristol, and a long list of others far too massive to acknowledge here--is precisely why Nixon and everything he embodied, represented, and advocated remains by far the greatest and most dangerous enemy to this nation.

Real Terrorism comes in many forms--both foreign and domestic. THIS IS ONE OF THEM...



New Nixon audio reveals former President's skewed view on abortion 

WASHINGTON - President Richard Nixon saw abortion as a useful option for ending mixed-race pregnancies, newly released tapes Tuesday show.

"There are times when abortions are necessary - I know that," Nixon told aide Charles Colson on Jan. 23, 1973.

"That's the thing about a black and a white," Nixon explained in the secretly-recorded conversation, or "a rape."

"Same kind of thing, you know what I mean. There are times," Nixon told his aide in a hideaway next door to the White House.

Nixon did not elaborate on whether he actually favored ending interracial pregnancies or was simply acknowledging the prevalent social stigma of that era about black and white couples.

The 37th President did not foretell in the 150 hours of recordings released by his library, however, that the 44th President might be just such a child born of a white mother and black father.

President Obama was 11 when Nixon was caught on tape.

Nixon discussed his abortion views while otherwise lamenting the Supreme Court's landmark Roe vs. Wade decision that day, which legalized abortion.

To Nixon's mind, underage girls might be encouraged to quit using birth control and "go get knocked up" because of the high court's ruling, he said.

How American Racism & the Doctrine of White Supremacy Trumps the New 'Postracial Myth'



The ongoing stark reality vs. the illusory 'postracial' myth...



Even Now, There’s Risk in ‘Driving While Black’
Published: June 14, 2009
New York Times

The experience of being mistaken for a criminal is almost a rite of passage for African-American men. Security guards shadow us in stores. Troopers pull us over for the crime of “driving while black.” Nighttime pedestrians cower by us on the streets.

And black men who work as undercover cops are occasionally shot to death by white colleagues, as happened to a young officer named Omar Edwards when he was off duty and in plain clothes last month in New York City.

We have often been seen as paranoid for attributing these things to bias. But the racial stereotypes that link blackness and crime have recently become a hot topic in social science.

These pervasive and often unconscious biases affect social transactions of all kinds. They drive voting behavior. They make it likely that black defendants will receive longer sentences than whites for comparable crimes. They wreak havoc with the job possibilities of young black men. And they give the lie to the idea that the Unites States is becoming a “postracial” country.

The psychologists Gordon Allport and Leo Postman showed more than half a century ago that preconceptions about race distorted human judgment and sometimes caused people to recall things that had never happened. Their best-known study mimicked the parlor game “telephone.”

In this version, subjects who often included students were shown a now-famous slide depicting typical passengers in a New York City subway car. At the center of the image stand two figures: a black man dressed in a natty suit and a white man in shirtsleeves holding a straight razor.

After being shown the slide, subjects were asked to describe it to others who had not seen it. These people then described it to others, who then passed on their descriptions as well. Those who had heard the story secondhand were then asked to recount it. More than half the time, the razor was said to be held not by the white man but by the well-dressed black man, who was sometimes described as brandishing it wildly.

This country has changed considerably in the more than 60 years since these data were published. But the mental calculus that shifted the razor into the black man’s hand is still very much a part of the American scene. It comes into play every day in courtrooms, in city streets and especially in job interviews.

People who believed that racism was on the wane were mightily shocked by the research into the effect of race on hiring policies that appeared in the 2007 book “Marked: Race, Crime and Finding Work in an Era of Mass Incarceration,” by the Princeton sociologist Devah Pager. After sending carefully selected test applicants to apply for low-level jobs with hundreds of employers, Ms. Pager found that criminal convictions for black men seeking employment were, in many contexts, “virtually impossible to overcome,” partly because those convictions reinforced powerful, longstanding stereotypes.

The stigma of conviction turned out to be less damaging for whites. Indeed, white men who claimed to be fresh out of prison were just as likely to be called back for second interviews as black men with no history of criminal involvement. The young black men were best-case applicants — bright, well-spoken college students posing as high school graduates. But racial stereotypes prevented employers from seeing their virtues.

“Being black in America today,” Ms. Pager writes, “is just about the same as having a felony conviction in terms of one’s chances of finding a job.”

People who believe that blunt-force racism is a thing of the past tend to gasp when they see this data. But the findings are consistent with what black job seekers and community organizations have been saying about their experiences for a long time.

All of this should come as sobering news to people who believe that the election of an African-American president moved the country into a new phase beyond racism. We may yet reach that goal. But we won’t do it by pretending that centuries-old biases were magically swept away in a single election. We can do it only by exorcising poisonous preconceptions that go to the very heart of who we are.


This is the viciously racist and barbaric society we actually live in...


S.C. GOP Activist Calls Gorilla an "Ancestor" of First Lady
June 14th, 2009
By Pamela Gentry, Senior Political Analyst

June 15, 2009 - A South Carolina Republican has apologized for posting a comment on his Facebook page, he called a joke, suggesting the Gorilla that escaped form a local zoo was an ancestor of First Lady Michelle Obama.

But no one is laughing. The comment was racist and unacceptable.

Rusty DePass, a former state Senate candidate, is a former chairman of the Richland County Republican Party and the former State Election Commission chairman in South Carolina. DePass posted the controversial comment shortly after hearing of the gorilla's escape, saying: "I'm sure it's just one of Michelle's ancestors - probably harmless."

Following outrage over the remark, DePass removed the comment from the social networking site and apologized, claiming the comment was a joke and he was only referencing Obamas past comments on evolution.

When the local news station WIS TV 10, caught up with DePass about his comment he admitted it was a direct reference to the first lady, "I am as sorry as I can be if I offended anyone."

The comment was clearly in jest," DePass added. "The comment was hers, not mine," he said. DePass contends the first lady made statements in the media that humans are all descendants of ap-es

So far no one has found a comment by Mrs. Obama.

Columbia Mayor Bob Coble released a statement saying: "You know, I don't think there's anything funny about that comment. That is the first lady of the United States. We've had a long tradition of wonderful first ladies, and I don't think any of them deserve that type of comment."

The Vile Politics of Anti-Obama Racism: How Racial Hatred Guides the American Right



The disturbing reality of anti-Obama racism and the persistent ideological doctrine of white supremacy in the United Hates today...Stay tuned...



The Obama Haters’ Silent Enablers
Published: June 13, 2009
New York Times

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.
The anchor was Shepard Smith, speaking after Wednesday’s mayhem at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington. Unlike the bloviators at his network and elsewhere on cable, Smith is famous for his highly caffeinated news-reading, not any political agenda. But very occasionally — notably during Hurricane Katrina — he hits the Howard Beale mad-as-hell wall. Joining those at Fox who routinely disregard the network’s “We report, you decide” mantra, he both reported and decided, loudly.

What he reported was this: his e-mail from viewers had “become more and more frightening” in recent months, dating back to the election season. From Wednesday alone, he “could read a hundred” messages spewing “hate that’s not based in fact,” much of it about Barack Obama and some of it sharing the museum gunman’s canard that the president was not a naturally born citizen. These are Americans “out there in a scary place,” Smith said.

Then he brought up another recent gunman: “If you’re one who believes that abortion is murder, at what point do you go out and kill someone who’s performing abortions?” An answer, he said, was provided by Dr. George Tiller’s killer. He went on: “If you are one who believes these sorts of things about the president of the United States ...” He left the rest of that chilling sentence unsaid.

These are extraordinary words to hear on Fox. The network’s highest-rated star, Bill O’Reilly, had assailed Tiller, calling him “Tiller the baby killer” and likening him to the Nazis, on 29 of his shows before the doctor was murdered at his church in Kansas. O’Reilly was unrepentant, stating that only “pro-abortion zealots and Fox News haters” would link him to the crime. But now another Fox star, while stopping short of blaming O’Reilly, was breaching his network’s brand of political correctness: he tied the far-right loners who had gotten their guns out in Wichita and Washington to the mounting fury of Obama haters.

What is this fury about? In his scant 145 days in office, the new president has not remotely matched the Bush record in deficit creation. Nor has he repealed the right to bear arms or exacerbated the wars he inherited. He has tried more than his predecessor ever did to reach across the aisle. But none of that seems to matter. A sizable minority of Americans is irrationally fearful of the fast-moving generational, cultural and racial turnover Obama embodies — indeed, of the 21st century itself. That minority is now getting angrier in inverse relationship to his popularity with the vast majority of the country. Change can be frightening and traumatic, especially if it’s not change you can believe in.

We don’t know whether the tiny subset of domestic terrorists in this crowd is egged on by political or media demagogues — though we do tend to assume that foreign jihadists respond like Pavlov’s dogs to the words of their most fanatical leaders and polemicists. But well before the latest murderers struck — well before another “antigovernment” Obama hater went on a cop-killing rampage in Pittsburgh in April — there have been indications that this rage could spiral out of control.

This was evident during the campaign, when hotheads greeted Obama’s name with “Treason!” and “Terrorist!” at G.O.P. rallies. At first the McCain-Palin campaign fed the anger with accusations that Obama was “palling around with terrorists.” But later John McCain thought better of it and defended his opponent’s honor to a town-hall participant who vented her fears of the Democrats’ “Arab” candidate. Although two neo-Nazi skinheads were arrested in an assassination plot against Obama two weeks before Election Day, the fever broke after McCain exercised leadership.

That honeymoon, if it was one, is over. Conservatives have legitimate ideological beefs with Obama, rightly expressed in sharp language. But the invective in some quarters has unmistakably amped up. The writer Camille Paglia, a political independent and confessed talk-radio fan, detected a shift toward paranoia in the air waves by mid-May. When “the tone darkens toward a rhetoric of purgation and annihilation,” she observed in Salon, “there is reason for alarm.” She cited a “joke” repeated by a Rush Limbaugh fill-in host, a talk-radio jock from Dallas of all places, about how “any U.S. soldier” who found himself with only two bullets in an elevator with Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid and Osama bin Laden would use both shots to assassinate Pelosi and then strangle Reid and bin Laden.

This homicide-saturated vituperation is endemic among mini-Limbaughs. Glenn Beck has dipped into O’Reilly’s Holocaust analogies to liken Obama’s policy on stem-cell research to the eugenics that led to “the final solution” and the quest for “a master race.” After James von Brunn’s rampage at the Holocaust museum, Beck rushed onto Fox News to describe the Obama-hating killer as a “lone gunman nutjob.” Yet in the same show Beck also said von Brunn was a symptom that “the pot in America is boiling,” as if Beck himself were not the boiling pot cheering the kettle on.

But hyperbole from the usual suspects in the entertainment arena of TV and radio is not the whole story. What’s startling is the spillover of this poison into the conservative political establishment. Saul Anuzis, a former Michigan G.O.P. chairman who ran for the party’s national chairmanship this year, seriously suggested in April that Republicans should stop calling Obama a socialist because “it no longer has the negative connotation it had 20 years ago, or even 10 years ago.” Anuzis pushed “fascism” instead, because “everybody still thinks that’s a bad thing.” He didn’t seem to grasp that “fascism” is nonsensical as a description of the Obama administration or that there might be a risk in slurring a president with a word that most find “bad” because it evokes a mass-murderer like Hitler.

The Anuzis “fascism” solution to the Obama problem has caught fire. The president’s nomination of Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court and his speech in Cairo have only exacerbated the ugliness. The venomous personal attacks on Sotomayor have little to do with the 3,000-plus cases she’s adjudicated in nearly 17 years on the bench or her thoughts about the judgment of “a wise Latina woman.” She has been tarred as a member of “the Latino KKK” (by the former Republican presidential candidate Tom Tancredo), as well as a racist and a David Duke (by Limbaugh), and portrayed, in a bizarre two-for-one ethnic caricature, as a slant-eyed Asian on the cover of National Review. Uniting all these insults is an aggrieved note of white victimization only a shade less explicit than that in von Brunn’s white supremacist screeds.

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.

It’s typical of this dereliction of responsibility that when the Department of Homeland Security released a plausible (and, tragically, prescient) report about far-right domestic terrorism two months ago, the conservative response was to trash it as “the height of insult,” in the words of the G.O.P. chairman Michael Steele. But as Smith also said last week, Homeland Security was “warning us for a reason.”

No matter. Last week it was business as usual, as Republican leaders nattered ad infinitum over the juvenile rivalry of Sarah Palin and Newt Gingrich at the party’s big Washington fund-raiser. Few if any mentioned, let alone questioned, the ominous script delivered by the actor Jon Voight with the G.O.P. imprimatur at that same event. Voight’s devout wish was to “bring an end to this false prophet Obama.”

This kind of rhetoric, with its pseudo-Scriptural call to action, is toxic. It is getting louder each day of the Obama presidency. No one, not even Fox News viewers, can say they weren’t warned.

The Iranian State Fights Back Against Mass Demonstrations



First: The Bad News...



Leader Emerges With Stronger Hand
Published: June 14, 2009
New York Times

TEHRAN — The jokes among Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s detractors are legion. In one, he looks in the mirror and says, “Male lice to the right, female lice to the left.” In the West, one American tabloid rarely misses a chance to refer to him as “Evil Madman” and in the days before his re-election here he was taunted as a “monkey” and as a “midget.”

Whether his 63 percent victory is truly the will of the people or the result of fraud, it demonstrated that Mr. Ahmadinejad is the shrewd and ruthless front man for a clerical, military and political elite that is more unified and emboldened than at any time since the 1979 revolution.

As president, Mr. Ahmadinejad is subordinate to the country’s true authority, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who commands final say over all matters of state and faith. With this election, Mr. Khamenei and his protégé appear to have neutralized for now the reform forces that they saw as a threat to their power, political analysts said.

“This will change the face of the Islamic Republic forever,” said one well-connected Iranian, who like most of those interviewed declined to be named in the current tense climate. “Ahmadinejad will claim an absolute mandate, meaning he has no need to compromise.”

When he was first elected president in 2005, Mr. Ahmadinejad showed his fealty to the leader, gently bending over and kissing his hand.

On Saturday, the leader demonstrated his own enthusiasm for the re-elected president, hailing the outcome as “a divine blessing” even before the official three-day challenge period had passed. On Sunday, Mr. Ahmadinejad flaunted his achievement by mounting a celebration rally in the heart of an opposition neighborhood of Tehran, and holding a victory news conference where he scorned the West and made a joke out of his main opponent’s quasi-house arrest.

Commenting on the Obama administration’s conciliatory overtures, he also suggested that his willingness to reconcile with foreign governments would depend on their willingness to swallow his disputed election.

Asked about speculation that in his second term he would take a more moderate line, he smirked, “It’s not true. I’m going to be more and more solid.”

He can afford to be. With the backing of the supreme leader and the military establishment, he has marginalized all of the major figures who represented a challenge to the vision of Iran as a permanently revolutionary Islamic state.

In many ways, his victory is the latest and perhaps final clash in a battle for power and influence that has lasted decades between Mr. Khamenei and Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, the former president who, while loyal to the Islamic form of government, wanted a more pragmatic approach to the economy, international relations and social conditions at home.

Mr. Rafsanjani aligned himself and his family closely with the main reform candidate in this race, Mir Hussein Moussavi, a former prime minister who advocated greater freedom — in particular, greater freedom for women — and a more conciliatory face to the West. Another former president and pragmatist, Mohammed Khatami, had also thrown in heavily with Mr. Moussavi.

The three men, combined with widespread public support and disillusionment with Mr. Ahmadinejad, posed a challenge to the authority of the supreme leader and his allies, political analysts said.

The elite Revolutionary Guards and a good part of the intelligence services “feel very much threatened by the reformist movement,” said a political analyst who asked not to be identified for fear of retribution. “They feel that the reformists will open up to the West and be lenient on the nuclear issue,” he said. “It is a confrontation of two ways of thinking, the revolutionary and the internationalist. It is a question of power.”

Since the vote was announced Saturday, Mr. Moussavi has been the hero of seething antigovernment protests in Tehran, but so far they have been contained by legions of riot police officers and hampered by a shutdown of that critical organizing tool, text-messaging. Mr. Moussavi said he was being “closely monitored” in his home, but hoped to speak at a rally on Monday.

“He ran a red light, and he got a traffic ticket,” Mr. Ahmadinejad quipped when asked about his rival.

Unless the street protests achieve unexpected momentum, the election could cast the pro-reform classes — especially the better off and better educated — back into a state of passive disillusionment, some opposition figures said.

“I don’t think the middle class is ever going to go out and vote again,” one Moussavi supporter lamented.

When he first caught the West’s attention, Mr. Ahmadinejad had been plucked from an obscure provincial governorship and made mayor of Tehran. There he established himself as a promising populist politician. He refused to use the mayor’s big car or occupy the mayor’s grand office. He didn’t accept his salary.

Four years ago, the supreme leader anointed him as the fundamentalist presidential alternative to two candidates the leader thought less reliable, Mr. Rafsanjani and Mehdi Karroubi, a former speaker of Parliament. (Mr. Karroubi, a reformist cleric, tried again in this election, and on Friday was humiliated by the announcement that he had come in fifth in a field of four — after the invalidated ballots.)

Although his first election was marred by allegations of cheating, Mr. Ahmadinejad was credited with being genuinely street smart. He roused crowds with vague attacks on the corruption of the elite, with promises of a vast redistribution of wealth, and with appeals to Iranian pride. By playing to the Muslim world’s feelings of victimization by the West and hatred of Israel, he won adulation on the Arab street even as Arab leaders often disdained him, and that in turn earned him credibility at home.

“The old generation of the Islamic Revolution was going to die off,” said one Iranian analyst. “We thought they would inevitably give way to the reformers. But they found Ahmadinejad, and he was a wise choice. He was a new breed of populist — a new breed of demagogue.”

He is the son of an iron worker, a traffic engineer by education, but political analysts said that he might have been molded most by his experience in the Revolutionary Guards.

As president he has presided over a time of rising inflation and unemployment, but has pumped oil revenues into the budget, sustaining a semblance of growth and buying good will among civil servants, the military and the retired.

More important, he has consolidated the various arms of power that answer ultimately to the supreme leader. The Revolutionary Guards — the military elite — was given license to expand into new areas, including the oil industry and other businesses such as shipbuilding.

The Guardian Council, which oversees elections, had its budget increased 15-fold under Mr. Ahmadinejad. The council has presided over not only Friday’s outcome, but over parliamentary majorities loyal to Mr. Ahmadinejad.

For a time, it appeared that he was losing the favor of the supreme leader. Under Mr. Ahmadinejad, Iran was hit with sanctions by the United Nations Security Council, inflation and unemployment soared and unrest was rising at home as social restrictions were increased. Two of his own ministers quit, criticizing his management of the state, and Parliament discussed the prospect of impeachment.

The president seemed to stumble often. He raised tensions with the West when he told a United Nations General Assembly that he rejected the post-World War II order. He was mocked when he said at Columbia University in 2007 that there was not a single gay person in Iran. In April, nearly two dozen diplomats from the European Union walked out of a conference in Geneva after he disparaged Israel.

But political analysts said that back home, the supreme leader approved, seeing confrontation with the West as helpful in keeping alive his revolutionary ideology, and his base of power. President Obama’s conciliatory tone toward Iran, some Iranians believe, threatened to relax Iranian vigilance and the powerful forces to defend it.

Mr. Obama has made clear he still intends to explore an opening to Iran, though the questions of Mr. Ahmadinejad’s legitimacy and the consolidation of hard-line power could complicate his strategy.

“The coming period will not be an easy one,” said Gamal Abdel Gawad, director of the international relations section at the Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies in Cairo. “Any change will be slow and difficult because we have an elite that is very much united in its hard-line orientation.”

Bill Keller reported from Tehran, and Michael Slackman from Cairo.

Mass Demonstrations in Iran Question Government and its Clerical leadership



The fierce struggle for real democracy in Iran continues. Meanwhile the arrogant, reactionary Iranian government and their dogmatic religious sponsors will continue to try to hold back the tides of History but even they will ultimately fail...Stay tuned...


Top Cleric Calls for Inquiry as Protesters Defy Ban in Iran
Published: June 15, 2009
New York Times

TEHRAN — Hundreds of thousands of people marched in silence through central Tehran on Monday to protest Iran’s disputed presidential election in an extraordinary show of defiance that appeared to be the largest antigovernment demonstration here since the 1979 revolution.

The march was largely peaceful, but toward the end of the day, gunfire broke out in at least one clash between protesters and militia members, and one protester was reported killed. News photographs showed several people who appeared seriously injured.

The march began hours after Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, called for a inquiry into opposition claims that the election was rigged in favor of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

The ayatollah’s call — announced every 15 minutes on Iranian state radio throughout the day — was the first sign that Iran’s top leadership might be rethinking its position on the election.

Mr. Khamenei announced Saturday that the election results showing a landslide victory for Mr. Ahmadinejad were fair, but on Sunday he met with Mir Hussein Moussavi, the former prime minister and moderate who was the main opposition candidate, to listen to his concerns.

The silent march was a deliberate and striking contrast with the chaos of the past few days, when riot police sprayed tear gas and wielded clubs to disperse scattered bands of angry and frightened young people. In Isfahan, south of the capital, more violence broke out on Monday, with police attacking a crowd of several thousand opposition protesters with sticks and tear gas, and rioters setting fires in parts of the city.

The broad river of people in Tehran — young and old, dressed in traditional Islamic gowns and the latest Western fashions — marched slowly from Revolution Square to Freedom Square for more than three hours, many of them wearing the signature bright green ribbons of Mr. Moussavi’s campaign, and holding up their hands in victory signs. When the occasional shout or chant went up, the crowd quickly hushed them, and some held up signs bearing the word “silence.”

“These people are not seeking a revolution,” said Ali Reza, a young actor in a brown T-shirt who stood for a moment watching on the rally’s sidelines. “We don’t want this regime to fall. We want our votes to be counted, because we want reforms, we want kindness, we want friendship with the world.”

Mr. Moussavi, who had called for the rally Sunday but never received official permission for it, joined the crowd, as did Mohammad Khatami, the reformist former president. But the crowd was so vast, and communications had been so sporadic — the authorities have cut off phone and text-messaging services repeatedly in recent days — that many marchers seemed unaware they were there.

“We don’t really have a leader,” said Mahdiye, a 20-year-old student. “Moussavi wants to do something, but they won’t let him. It is dangerous for him, and we don’t want to lose him. We don’t know how far this will go.”

The protesters said they would continue, with another major rally planned for Tuesday. But it was too soon to tell whether Mr. Khamenei’s decision to launch a probe, or the government’s decision to let the silent rally proceed, would change the election results. Many in the crowd said they believed the government was simply buying time, and hoping the protests would dissipate, as smaller protest movements have in 1999 and 2003.

“Anything is possible,” said Hamid, a 50-year-old financial adviser who, like many protesters, declined to give his last name because he feared repercussions. “If the people insist on this movement, if it continues here and in other parts of Iran, the pressure will build — and maybe Ahmedinejad will be forced to resign.”

In Washington, a State Department spokesman, Ian Kelly, said the United States is “deeply troubled” by the unrest in Iran and is concerned about allegations of ballot fraud. But he stopped short of condemning the Iran security forces for cracking down on demonstrators and said Washington does not know whether the allegations of fraud are, in fact, true.

In Moscow, meanwhile, an official at the Iranian Embassy said that Mr. Ahmadinejad had delayed a visit to Russia that was to have started Monday. The meeting, in Yekaterinburg, is of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization that includes Russia, China and four Central Asian countries. He now plans to travel on Tuesday, the official said.

As concern about the vote spread among Western governments, the European Union’s 27 member states planned to issue a joint call on Iran to clarify the election outcome, Reuters reported. The French government summoned the Iranian ambassador to register concern about the fairness of the vote, and Germany planned to follow suit.

The Spanish foreign minister, Miguel Ángel Moratinos, told reporters in Luxembourg, “There is a need to clarify the situation and to express our concern that a sector of the population are having difficulties in expressing its opinion.” In Berlin, Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany called for a “transparent examination” of reports of irregularities.

The United Nations secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, said he had been “closely following the situation” and welcomed the announcement that there would be some manner of investigation. “The genuine will of the Iranian people should be fully respected,” he said.

Earlier, Reuters said stick-wielding supporters of Mr. Ahmadinejad clashed with marching backers of Mr. Moussavi. Other reports said some of Mr. Ahmadinejad’s followers paraded outside the British and French Embassies in Tehran following remarks by political leaders in London and Paris casting doubt on the Iranian leadership’s conduct.

There were reports of considerable violence overnight on Sunday, as opposition Web sites reported that security forces raided a dormitory at Tehran University and 15 people were injured. Between 150 and 200 students were arrested, by these accounts, but there was no immediate confirmation of the incident from the authorities. There were also reports of official action against students in the cities of Esfahan, Shiraz and Tabriz.

Iran’s Interior Ministry announced on Saturday that Mr. Ahmadinejad had won about 63 percent of the vote, after a hard-fought election campaign and the rise of a broad reform-oriented opposition that clearly had rattled Iran’s ruling elite. Opposition leaders have catalogued a list of what they call election violations and irregularities in the vote, which most observers had expected to go to a second-round runoff.

Opposition members from all the major factions were arrested late Saturday and Sunday and included the brother of a former president, Mohammad Khatami, opposition Web sites reported. Some were released after several hours.

In a press conference on Sunday, Mr. Ahmadinejad had dismissed the protesters as soccer hooligans who had lost a match, in a comment that appears to have stoked their determination.

“People feel really insulted, and nothing is worse than that,” said Azi, a 48-year-old woman in an elegant yellow headscarf who participated in the massive Monday rally. “We won’t let the regime buy time, we will hold another march tomorrow.”

At nightfall, large numbers of Tehranis took to their roofs for a second night, chanting “God is great!” and “Death to the dictator!” in neighborhoods across the city. The A.P., quoting residents, also reported that shooting was also heard in three districts of wealthy northern Tehran.

Reporting was contributed by Clifford J. Levy from Moscow, Alan Cowell from Paris, Sharon Otterman from New York, Victor Homola from Berlin, and Neil MacFarquhar from the United Nations.