BULLY BOY PRESS & CEDRIC'S BIG MIX -- THE KOOL-AID TABLE
THE THING 1 CELEBRITY ALWAYS HAS TO FEAR IS NOT FAMINE OR NATURAL DISASTER, IT'S ANOTHER CELEBRITY.
AND CELEBRITY IN CHIEF BARRY O IS TREMBLING. AT A TIME WHEN ONLY 42% OF AMERICANS RATE BARRY O'S PERFORMANCE "GOOD OR EXCELLENT," HE REALLY DIDN'T NEED MORE BAD NEWS, BUT HE GOT IT.
BY CONTRAST, 51% OF AMERICANS HAD A FAVORABLE VIEW OF SARAH PALIN.
IN FOLLOW UP CALLS THESE REPORTERS MADE TO RESPONDENTS, WE FOUND A SIMILAR THEME BEST EXPRESSED BY STEVE JONES OF ALBANY, "I JUST WOULD RATHER GET A BURGER WITH SARAH PALIN. OR A TACO. OR PIZZA. OR SUSHI. I JUST KNOW IF I WENT OUT TO LUNCH WITH SARAH PALIN, WE'D HAVE AN ENJOYABLE MEAL. IF I TRIED TO CATCH LUNCH WITH BARRY O? I JUST SEE US CIRCLING FOR MONTHS AND MONTHS, NEVER GETTING ANY FOOD AS HE REPEATEDLY WONDERED WHAT GORDON BROWN WAS GOING TO EAT? HE JUST SEEMS UNABLE TO MAKE EVEN A BASIC DECISION."
FROM THE TCI WIRE:
Starting with the 'intended' elections in January. There was already objection to the law [yesterday's snapshot: " Waleed Ibrahim, Michael Christie and Micheal Roddy (Reuters) reports Iraq's Sunni vice president, Tariq al-Hashimi, has stated the law needs to be changed to allow external Iraqi refugees to participate and to be represented. If the law is not changed (by Tuesday afternoon), he states he will veto it. (The Presidency Council is made up of Iraq's President and two vice presidents. After Parliament passes a law, it goes to the council which decides whether to implement it or not.)"]. Today that's even more the case. RTT News reports that the KRG has "decided . . . to boycott the country's January national elections, protesting disparity in allocation fo parliamentary seats for the provinces." Jomana Karadsheh and Yousif Bassil (CNN) report that this is a threat at present, but one which is "casting further shadows over a vote" and note that the issue has to do with the perecentage of seats in the Parliament allocated currently for Kurds. Tariq al-Hashimi is also concerned with the allocation and the two reporters note, "He said the country's constitution stipulates that there should be one seat in the parliamentary Council of Representatives for every 100,000 Iraqis, but, he said, this does not take refugees -- or minorities including Christians into account." Equally true is that this 'development' is neither new nor unrelated.
Have we all forgotten November 2004? The lead up to the 2005 vote? What were some of the last minute objections? In that case, they were resolved in time for the vote. That may or may not be the case here. But this issue of the number of seats and representation popped up in 2004. That was when exiles, refugees and other groupings (such as "expatriates") suddenly became an issue and the US and the United Nations had to change their positions. The UN and the US had stated that no one not in Iraq would be voting. They had to change their stance (begrudingly) and the Independent Electoral Commission of Iraq set up polling places in Jordan, Syria, Turkey, the UK, the US, etc. Whty did that take place then?
The easiest reason is that the Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani called for it to. The reality was that, at that time, the bulk of Iraqis outside of Iraq were considered to be Shi'ites so it was thought that allowing voting to take place outside of Iraq's borders would benefit Shi'ites. (al-Sistani is a Shi'ite.) Little has ever been done, since the vote, on the press' part to determine whether that hypothesis was accurate or not.
After Shi'ites, the group then expected to benefit the most was the Kurds. So today's issues are not really all that 'new' but traceable back to 2004. The real changes are (a) that the persecuted who became refugees since 2004 have been Sunnis and (b) the number of seats. (Thank you to three Western correspondents in Iraq for walking me through the seats issue over the phone.) To dilute non-Shi'ite populations, the Shi'ite dominated Parliament is attempting to expand the number of seats in Parliament from 275 to 323. The press hasn't really gone into that and you have to wonder why not until you grasp that the US Embassy is air brushing in their statements to the press. The additional seats will go across Iraq; however, the Shi'ite majority provinces are the ones getting the most seats. That flies in the face of all logic and there's no way that anyone studing just the internal migration within Iraq -- forget the external -- would buy the percentage growth that the 'government' in Baghdad is attempting to claim. For example, northern Iraq is where a large number of Iraq's internal refugees have fled. And yet this northern region, the Kurdistan Regional Government, is seeing only 3 additional seats (3 out of the 48 that would be added)? That makes no sense at all to anyone who's followed the migration patterns within Iraq.
The allocation of the new seats becomes even more problematic when reviewing the press release the Kurdistan Regional Government issued today:
Dr Fuad Hussein, the Kurdistan Region Presidency's Chief of Staff, said that President Masoud Barzani has been closely following the mechanism recently put in place to allocate parliamentary seats to each Iraqi governorate for elections. He said that President Barzani believes that it is not possible to accept such a seat-allocation based on the food-rationing registry of the Iraqi Trade Ministry, because the mechanism is illogical, contradicts the reality on the ground and is a distortion of facts. Dr Hussein stated that the Kurdistan Region Presidency views this as an attempt to reduce the number of Kurdistan Region representatives in the next Iraqi parliament and diminish their achievements. He added that President Barzani is absolutely clear, that unless this seat allocation formula is reconsidered in a just manner, the people of Kurdistan Region will be compelled to boycott the election. As this is an historic moment in the history of Iraq, he also called on all political parties to shoulder their responsibility to promote democracy. He urges them to refrain from supporting a deceptive mechanism that obviously targets the Kurdistan Region, and which undermines the democratic achievements made so far.
The food-rationing registry? At this point, if you listen closely, you'll hear laughter.
The food-rations was a program (a needed one then and now) under Saddam Hussein that provided staples to Iraqis. The Kurdish north has never utilized it to the degree other areas of Iraq have. Why is that? Well, for starters, it was always a wealthier region than most parts of Iraq. Since the invasion, under US 'assistance,' the rations have been cut repeatedly to the point that they're nearly 60% less than they were under Saddam.
Now in 2004, the food registry was used (the cuts to the program hadn't been started yet -- despite efforts by Paul Bremer). And it was used with apology and, goodness, oh how, oh how will we ever do a census in time for an election, we have to use this!
The 2005 Constitution mandated a census. It has still not been done. So in 2009, it's pretty pathetic and a sign of how little 'progress' has been made in Iraq that they still haven't done a census.
Now the ration cards are impossible for refugees (for reasons we've outlined many times) and, for many, they're still listed in their old neighborhoods -- the ones they left. Which means a number of areas are being "padded." Not only that, what's not being told is that the registery got padded itself in the lead up to the 2009 provincial elections in 14 of Iraq's 18 provinces. This is an important point and since the press did such a lousy job in January covering those elections -- many news consumers WRONGLY believe that was elections across the country, it wasn't -- they'll probably continue to get it wrong. But [PDF format warning] you can review this United Nations document and you will see that the 'database' for the 14 provinces got padded. How? "Approximately 2.9 million Iraqis turned out for the voter registration update." This is, no doubt, part of that claim of population surge. But nothing equivalent took part in the four other provinces -- the ones not voting in January. Those were Kirkuk and the three provinces making up the Kurdistan Regional Government.
There is no national census. There is an effort by the Shi'ite dominated government to further increase their gains by expanding the number of seats in the Parliament and to do so by using the regsitry that was already laughable before the 2009 elections but that is completely unfair to the northern region which didn't do an 'update' to it. Before any vote takes place, the issue of the additonal seats should be resolved and the smartest thing to do would be to eliminate that, to add no new seats. But if they're going to try to push that through, they better be prepared to back up this alleged population growth. Without a national census, no respectable news outlet should accept any claims but do we have any respectable news outlets working in Iraq? (I'm referring to Western media.) If we did, maybe they'd be attempting to explain what's actually taking place instead of allowing spin from the US Embassy and their own desire to 'close the chapter' on Iraq to drive their 'reporting.' They might also note that a minister over the food ration program was among the ministers to have corruption charges filed against them. And this is the voter roll? Really? (That was Abdel Falah al-Sudani -- who resigned in disgrace in May of 2009. He was and remains a member of al-Maliki's Dawa Party.) Those who remember the problems with the 14 provinces voting in January may also remember the complaints that people had to go to one polling station only to be told go here, go there. This does not in any way indicate that the ration rolls are accurate.
In addition, the new seats and where they are going need to factored into Nouri's continued assault on minority rights. Not only has he and his spokesperson repeatedly stated that guaranteeing minority representation was bad for the government in recent months, the January 2009 elections saw minorities awarded less representation due to a law change that 'no one' had 'noticed' until it was too late. This is not a minor issue and it's really telling that the expansion of the Parliament didn't raise concerns from election watchers. One group that has voiced objection to the election law (and been ignored) is Iraq's Communist Party:
"The Parliament, in the first article of the law, cut down the number of compensatory seats, originally allocated to the lists that do not meet the electoral threshold at the provincial level but achieve it at the national level, from 45 in the original law to about 15 seats! And when we know that part of these seats will be allocated to quotas for some of the ethnic and religious minorities (8 seats), and for the deputies who would be elected by Iraqis living abroad who constitute more than 10 percent of Iraq's population, we can see how this reduction is arbitrary and irresponsible. The seven or eight remaining seats will not be enough to cover even the votes abroad." "On the other hand, this reduction (of the number of compensatory seats) effectively usurps the right of the lists that achieve the national electoral threshold to gain representation in Parliament. This reveals the selfishness of most of the dominant blocs and their disregard of plurality and diversity in the Parliament, their quest to extend full control over Parliament and the whole of political power, monopolizing and carving it up among themselves, in contravention of democratic norms." "In Article 3 of the law, the big parliamentary blocs went much further in violating democracy and displaying blatant disregard for the voters. They have imposed, once again, giving the vacant seats to the top winning lists, rather than putting them - as obligated by democracy, logic and justice - at the disposal of the lists that attain the highest remaining votes. They have thus opened the door again to a repetition of the infamous experience in the provincial elections earlier this year, when the big blocs stole the votes of more than two and a quarter million people who had given their votes to other lists. This was used by those big blocs to grab additional seats in the provincial councils."
Today BBC News reports the UN Special Envoy to Iraq, Ad Melkert, is dubbing efforts to ensure a free and fair election which will stand up to world scrutiny a "Herculean task." He stated that to the United Nations' Security Council where he put his concerns for emphasis on the time issue. Xinhua quotes him stating, "Success is far from guaranteed as inside and outside forces continue their efforts to impose an agenda of division and destruction."
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