Thursday, March 18, 2010

The count goes on . . . and the count goes on

Iraq's electoral body said it would review all data in the recent general election, delaying yet again the declaration of a result that was expected and is thought to narrowly favour the coalition of the prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki, over his secular rival, Iyad Allawi.
The review falls short of the full recount demanded by Maliki's State of Law bloc, but adds another layer of uncertainty to a painstaking 11-day count that has been riddled with delays and claims of vote rigging. It also follows conflicting accounts of who is the frontrunner, with Allawi's entourage still maintaining they are within striking distance of the lead, with 80% of the national vote counted.
"It will be close, believe me," Allawi said on the eve of the election. "This could take many months to sort out."

The above is from Martin Chulov's "Iraq election result hit by fresh delays" (Guardian) and there is no total count of the ballots (not even an unofficial one) yet. AINA reports that Iraq's Independent High Electoral Commission has issued an announcement via Sardar Abdul Karim (who serves on the commission) "that IHEC will reconsider its decision to exclude votes from Iraqi expatriates." Ned Parker (Los Angeles Times) notes various thoughts and whispers on the potential outcomes. Stephen Sackur (BBC News' HARDtalk) interviews Ayad Allawi regarding the elections (a clip is available at link, interview airs later). Hannah Allam and Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) explore the terrain for Nouri al-Maliki:

Maliki has no outright majority, no mandate and precious little support from factions that would be the key to his survival. The campaign against him is so robust that members of his own State of Law coalition haven't ruled out dumping him as the prime minister nominee in order to lure partners that would give them a dominant voice in the next government, according to interviews with Maliki's allies, opponents and independent observers.
Even if Maliki pulls off a second term over the objections of rival parties, his opponents have said privately that they'd block his efforts in parliament and open up potentially embarrassing corruption inquiries, strategies that could lead to an even weaker and more violent Iraq just as U.S. forces prepare for a full withdrawal by the end of next year.
"There's a lot of resistance to him. There are a number of parties who'll find it difficult to strike a deal in a new government with him as prime minister, not necessarily with his coalition," said a Western diplomat, speaking only on the condition of anonymity because he isn't authorized to make public statements. "On the other hand, if he does especially well, a large seat differential between his coalition and the second-place finisher, that'll change the dynamic."

Andrew North (BBC News -- link is video) examines the waiting (for results) and where he sees the race (he sees it as a two-candidate race). Today on The Takeaway (streams online and is distributed by PRI to many public radio stations), among their guests are "Lubna Naji, a 24-year-old medical student at Baghdad Medical School, and with Waria Salihi, president of the Salihi Group, a company involved in Iraq reconstruction" to hear from Iraqis and their thoughts on their country's election.

Hari Sreenivasan (PBS' Newshour) speaks
with Deborah Amos about Iraq and the refugees. This is part of "The Rundown News Blog," part of The NewsHour's efforts to increase their online presence. Link is just video. We'll note it in the snapshot today but I've got one eye on the TV and a cell on each ear right now -- if you're catching the garbage on TV (or radio) this morning, Ava and I will tackle it Sunday and I'm not saying anything about until then. (But, yes, it was garbage.) Of the brain drain, Amos says that "these are the NPR listeners, if they were in the States."

For recap for the next item we'll note this from yesterday's snapshot:

Still in England, Gordon Brown testified to the Iraq Inquiry March 5th. Miranda Richardson and Ruth Barnett (Sky News -- link has text and video) report that while taking questions on Wednesday Gordon Brown's claim to the Inquiry that when he was Chancellor (under Tony Blair) defense spending rose each year ("in real terms") and confronted, with it today, Brown admitted he had mispoken. [PDF format warning] Sky News has posted the letter from Brown here. Richardson and Barnett point out, "The four-page document does not acknowledge that the Prime Minister made an error in the way he described defence spending." Chris Ames (Iraq Inquiry Digest) gets the last word on Brown's letter, "It is typical Brown -- no admission of error, no apology, a lot of spin. It may be Brown's way of limiting the political damage, but to puff such a letter out with so much spin must have seriously alienated the Inquiry." Polly Curtis and Richard Norton-Taylor (Guardian) explain, "The prime minister was forced to correct his official evidence to the Chilcot inquiry -- which he repeated just last week in the commons -- after Ministry of Defence figures revealed that once inflation was accounted for, the budget declined in 1998, 1999, 2000, 2002 and 2007. The revelations are particularly damning because some of the real-term cuts spanned years when the armed forces were at war in Afghanistan and Iraq." James Kirkup (Telegraph of London) terms the incident "an embarrassing retreat". Quentin Letts (Daily Mail) observes, "The truth was extracted by Tony Baldry (Con, Banbury), who put his question in an unhysterical but assertive manner. Mr Baldry spoke along the lines of 'come on now, there's a good boy, say you're sorry, then we can all start afresh and nothing more will be said of the matter'. Mr Brown hated admitting it. Shades of a child drinking its spoonful of cod liver oil." Cathy Newman (Channel 4 News) quotes MP David Cameron offering his thanks to Brown, "In three years of asking the prime minister questions I don't think I've ever heard him make a correction or retraction." Nico Hines and Philippe Naughton (Times of London) note that Brown's correction still wasn't accurate since he claimed that it was only one or two years that his statements were incorrect: "In fact, it fell in three separate years, according to figures compiled by the House of Commons library -- four years if 1997/98 is included, although the financial year had already started when Labour came to power." Jon Craig (Sky News) wonders what other things Brown might "own up to between now and election day?"

Jason Groves (Daily Mail) reports, "Gordon Brown is under more pressure to return to the Chilcot inquiry today after he was forced into an humiliating admission that he had slashed defence spending while British troops were at war in Iraq and Afghanistan." Emma Alberici (Australia's ABC) observes, "The mistake is a blow to Mr Brown, coming just weeks before a general election is due to be held." Staying on the topic of the Iraq Inquiry, Andrew Sparrow was among the reporters covering the Inquiry for the Guardian and he notes today:

Andrew Rawnsley should have been put in charge of the Iraq inquiry. I've only just started his 800-page book, The End of the Party, but I've already picked up three key facts about Tony Blair's relationship with George Bush that haven't emerged from the Iraq inquiry hearings. Many of the figures interviewed by Rawnsley also gave evidence to Sir John Chilcot and his team. But Rawnsley seems to have asked the more searching questions.

Here are the revelations that struck me.

1. Blair told Bush: "Whatever you decide to do, I'm with you."

The inquiry has heard about the private letters that Blair sent to Bush in 2002. Alastair Campbell told Chilcot that the letters were "very frank" and that the central message was, in Campbell's words: "We share the analysis, we share the concern, we are going to be with you in making sure that Saddam Hussein is faced up to his obligations and that Iraq is disarmed." But the letters have not been published and the precise contents remain a secret.

That's the opening. Use link to read in full. We note Sherwood Ross regularly. I am a firm supporter of affirmative action. I'm not stating he's not. I'm just noting that because of the topic of his article. From "MINORITIES GIVING UP AFFIRMATIVE ACTION HAVE RIGHT TO A LEVEL PLAYING FIELD" (The Christian Radical):

Minorities increasingly are going to have to push harder for their own advancement without affirmative action, says the cofounder of a law school purposefully dedicated to the education of minority, immigrant, and low-income students.
“The corollary is that unfair disadvantage which bars their (minority) advancement must ruthlessly be stomped upon---we must ensure that minority status is not a factor that harms,” writes Lawrence Velvel, dean and cofounder of the Massachusetts School of Law at Andover. “It will be essential that ability and willingness to perform, to get the job done, are all that counts."
Velvel said minorities have to drop any requests for special aid “simply as a matter of the practical realities of life.” He explained, “There is a point in time at which, and a level beyond which, people will no longer assist others. This is true in nuclear families, in extended families, among social groups, and among nations” and exists today concerning “the plight of minorities.”
Rightly or wrongly, dean Velvel writes in an article in his law school publication, The Long Term View, a very large number of Americans feel that minorities must do more to help themselves and that, in the course of this process, minorities will find it empowering. “They learn that they can do much more for themselves” and it will create “a wonderful sense of independence.”
Velvel challenged the idea that racial integration is always and everywhere necessary for progress and leads to progress. “The idea seems wrong. Integration of the public school systems, for example, does not seem to have led to better education, for minority groups or anyone else. On the other side, one often reads of defacto segregated schools in the inner city which are accomplishing wonderful things.”

The Democratic Policy Committee offers daily videos and we'll note this one of Senator Mary Landrieu speaking on small business and job creation.

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