Tuesday, March 09, 2010


Elections across this region have long been viewed as not much more than window dressing to tidy up the image of authoritarian leaders and absolute monarchs eager for greater legitimacy.
So from the outset, when Iraqis poured into the polls on Sunday to elect a new Parliament, the mere act of voting was not seen as a step toward democracy. That perception, combined with Election Day violence, American occupation and Iranian influence, left few analysts and commentators in the Middle East declaring the elections a success and Iraq on the road to stability.

The above is from Michael Slackman's "Region Unimpressed by Balloting in Iraq" (New York Times) and there are many reasons for neighbors being unimpressed including that Iraq remains occupied during supposedly "free and fair" elections. Nadia Taha (New York Times) noted already this week that an Al Jazeera poll found most respondents (over 90%) did not believe the elections would "end the crisis in Iraq." The international body monitoring or 'monitoring' elections in Iraq is the United Nations. Matthew Russell Lee (Inner City Press) reports:

While there is much to be said about the Iraqi elections just held, the UN can't seem to get it act together on what to say, or even what it should be talking about. Top UN envoy to Iraq Ad Melkert spoke for the second time in a month to correspondents at UN headquarters Monday, this time by video, and painted a rosy picture of the election.
Inner City Press asked about the sample complaints of Ayad Allawi, about irregularities and confusion at polling stations, and his call for an investigation. We are aware of points of various candidates, Melkert said. It is is not my task to comment on particular statements. Video here, from Minute 10:42.
But how could Melkert's rosy assessment not be seen as an implicit rejection of Allawi's complaints, Inner City Press asked. Video here, from Minute 11:52. It is not my task or UNAMI's task, Melkert replied, to assess complaints. I did not refer to fair elections, only that turn out was good, that it was a big day, Melkert said. "You cannot attribute to me any assessment."

Meanwhile Jane Arraf (Christian Science Monitor) reports that the ballot count is ongoing and she notes:

At the bustling headquarters of the Iraqi High Electoral Commission (IHEC), cheers went up as the first boxes of tally sheets from individual polling stations arrived. The boxes, from polling sites in the Rasafah district of Baghdad, were put through metal detectors before dozens of IHEC employees began unsealing the envelopes.
The IHEC said 62.4 percent of eligible Iraqis voted. That’s down from an official figure of 79.6 percent in the last parliamentary elections, when Shiite Arab and Kurdish voters turned out in huge numbers, but represents the first national parliamentary elections with wide Sunni Arab participation.

Arraf's report can also be found at McClatchy Newspapers and that link also provides you with a Real News video of McClatchy's Hannah Allam addressing the elections. Though there are no known results -- not even preliminary, Steven Lee Myers and Marc Santora (New York Times) report on the attempts by politicians to control the message and sidestep around other candidates as they portray themselves as the victors:

"I think we'll be neck and neck with Maliki," said Maysoon al-Damluji, a candidate and spokeswoman for the coalition led by a former interim prime minister, Ayad Allawi, referring to the incumbent prime minister, Nuri Kamal al-Maliki. "I think we'll beat him by a couple of seats or he might beat us by a couple of seats."
The two men emerged from Sunday's votes as the seeming front-runners to be prime minister, after campaigning as secular, nonsectarian leaders promising to unite all Iraqis. While that message appeared to have resonated with voters, neither man's coalition won enough to control a majority of seats in a new 325-member Council of Representatives.

Leila Fadel (Washington Post) explains
that attempting to win the press war has been going on since election day, "On Sunday night, both the State of Law coalition, led by Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, and the secular Iraqiya list, led by Ayad Allawi, predicted victory."

For a detailed discussion of the elections, you can stream yesterday's broadcast of The Takeaway which includes various soundbytes from US officials, guest analysis by Anthony Shadid (NYT) and Jim Muir (BBC) and others. The program is hosted by Celeste Headlee and John Hockenberry.

Along with the UN, the US had observers. Among them were members of the National Foundation of Women Legislators who issued "U.S. Elected Women Observe Iraqi Elections; Witness Fearless Determination" yesterday:

(WASHINGTON, DC) -A delegation of U.S. elected women from across the nation selected by the National Foundation for Women Legislators (NFWL) in conjunction with the U.S. Department of State served as official Election Observers in Baghdad yesterday.

The NFWL Delegation released the following statement:

We were honored to bear witness to the Iraqi People's fearless determination to exercise their right to vote, even in the wake of violence and bombs aimed at disrupting the election. We met a brave woman who assured us, "I voted today as a challenge to the terrorists!" She told us that violent attempts to scare Iraqis would only encourage more people like her to get out and vote. We witnessed a determined man named Ahmed bring his wife and 2 daughters ages 2 and 4 to vote. He was eager to tell us that, "For 30 years, we lived under Saddam's dictatorship without the freedoms we're voting for today. Even though there are bombs and violence, and people will die trying to vote today, the people of Iraq will vote because we see it as a tax for freedom that we are willing to pay for with our lives. We are on a train to freedom and my family and I will do our part in making sure we don't come off that freedom track." In the face of death and violence, today [March 7th] the National Foundation for Women Legislators proudly stood with courageous Iraqi voters as they cast their votes for democracy.

· State Representative Debbie Riddle (R-Houston, Texas), Chairman Elect NFWL

· State Representative Maria Chappelle-Nadal (D-St. Louis, Missouri)

· State Representative Bette Grande (R-Fargo, North Dakota)

· State Representative Gayle Harrell (R-Port St. Lucie, Florida)

· State Representative Helene Keeley (D-Wilmington, Delaware)

· State Representative Susana A. Mendoza (D-Chicago, Illinois)

· State Representative Diane Winston (R-Covington, Louisiana)

NFWL is one of only two groups of Americans that were invited to oversee Iraq's election on March 7th. The other group includes former Members of Congress.

NFWL has been asked to participate in the Iraqi elections due to the unique status of women in Iraq. There are over one million widows in Iraq, many very highly educated, and there is a requirement that 25% of the candidates on the ballot be women. NFWL is charged with bringing a calm and credible presence to the elections, and women leaders such as the hearty band of 7 women leaders representing NFWL recognize the importance of free and fair elections to the stability of Iraq and the United States' national security.

The women leaders were invited to join this delegation to lend their integrity and experience to a process that is new to the citizens of Iraq, and graciously answered the call.

"These incredible women have shown themselves to be strong leaders through NFWL and I know their presence in Iraq during this historic time will ensure the Iraqi people have a real chance at Democracy," stated Robin Read, NFWL's President and CEO.

NFWL has been invited by the U.S. Department of State and foreign nations to bring delegations of elected women together to monitor elections, mentor women leaders across the globe, and participate in important dialogues concerning free trade and other vital issues on several occasions starting in 1993.

"There is a sense expressed by our elected women that Iraq is an incredibly important place to reach out, not only because of the United States' current relationship with the country but also due to women in Iraq traditionally having enjoyed a unique level of education and public visibility." stated Read. "We see a wonderful opportunity to empower and support women in public leadership in Iraq."

About the National Foundation for Women Legislators, Inc. (NFWL)

Through annual educational and networking events, the National Foundation for Women Legislators supports elected women from all levels of governance. As a non-profit, non-partisan organization, NFWL does not take ideological positions on public policy issues, but rather serves as a forum for women legislators to be empowered through information and experience. www.womenlegislators.org

Now for an emerging problem. I know and like David Miliband who testifed before the Iraq Inquiry yesterday. Due to that, I not only disclosed that ahead of time, I outlined the intended plan for his testimony. I would either call out his testimony or just quote from it in the day of snapshot and, regardless, the next day's snapshot would excerpt press critiques of it to ensure that he didn't get favorable treatment. Yesterday, I think I did an okay job of holding him up to the same standards any official testifying before the Inquiry has been held to (by me). We called out a nonsense claim, noted he was parroting Tony Blair's infamous speech (The Blair Doctrine) and rejected his claim based upon various game theories of poli sci. I like David. He's a sweet guy and very nice. But we did our job here. Having spoken to some friends this morning (it's not morning in England), apparently David being liked gives him a pass -- among the working press. They're not calling him out, they're not fact checking him. Everybody Loves Dave. He's a loveable guy. But I didn't realize that gave you a License To Lie. Outside of England, Press TV offers a critique:

Miliband also claimed that the UK is now in a "stronger position," believing that UK decisions on Iraq have not "undermined our relationships or our ability to do business" in the region.
The top official meanwhile alleged that "many Iraqis" view Britain as having been instrumental in "freeing the country from a tyranny that is bitterly remembered."
This is while according to polls conducted by The Arab American Institute and the Pew Global Attitudes Project in 2007 and 2006, the majority of people in the Middle East and Europe viewed the war negatively and believed that the world was safer before the Iraq War and the toppling of Saddam Hussein.

Ruth Barrett (Sky News) offers a report (no critique) which also includes some video of David's testimony. We'll note Press TV in the snapshot today. I'll keep checking with friends to see if I'm missing some critiques but it doesn't appear there are any. (But I've got feelers out for international press.)

As usual, when work had to be done, it took a woman. Yes, let's talk about those scary vaginas. Kathryn Bigelow won the Academy Award for directing the amazing film The Hurt Locker. And it's time to pile on. And we're supposed to pretend like it has nothing to do with gender. As if Danny Schechter's called out any other Iraq film -- Green Zone's realistic, really? In the Valley of Elah was a documentary? Battle for Haditha, Body of Lies, The Kingdom . . . So today's piggie is Richard Adams. Who? Exactly, child, exactly. Little Dick Adams is an editor at the British Guardian. And today he wants to weigh in on The Hurt Locker. If you're as ignorant of film as Danny Schechter, that makes sense. If you're offering critiques of the Academy Awards that are such nonsense as "its parochialism" you really need to just sit down and stop embarrassing yourself.

But if you're the Guardian's Little Dick Adams, you're too smart to make that assertion because you'd be laughed at throughout England.

As you should be laughed at for 'tackling' The Hurt Locker today.

What's the problem?

For those in the know, the problem is Kathryn Bigelow won Best Director in January at the BAFTA -- England's equivalent of the Oscars.

"So! She won Best Picture too on Sunday!"

Uh, yeah, The Hurt Locker won Best Picture Sunday. It also won it in January . . . the BAFTA for Best Picture. Why didn't Little Dick write his piece in January? That's when the British awards were handed out -- the BAFTA is the highest honor in film in England. Where was Little Dick? Are you telling me this column took him over two months to pen?

It's not about The Hurt Locker. It's not about Kathryn's direction. If it were about either, Little Dick Adams would have rushed his column out in January. It's about a lot of men who are scared of the vagina and the snowball effect they're creating where a woman will be attacked relentlessly. It's really amazing when you think about it. Little Dick doesn't think The Hurt Locker deserves the Academy Award for Best Picture. British Dick doesn't think it deserves a US award. And yet when the British Academy of Film and Television Arts gave Kathryn Best Director in January and The Hurt Locker Best Picture, Little Dick had no thoughts. Had nothing to weigh in on. It was only after "Bash The Bitch" got rolling that Little Dick found the 'courage' to speak up. What bravery, what brave little boys.

If this continues, I think I'm going to address the male critic of Vogue and all the other sexist pigs, how they use claims of 'sexism' to target women. How they're 'concerned', for example, about sexism in a film that a woman stars in and then they go on to praise a pedistrian basic cable TV show -- and forget to mention how sidelined women are on the show due to its sexist storylines. Sexism only 'matters' to them when they can use to attack women. And, as Elaine's pointed out, we've seen the left attack three movies in the last few years online: the Sex In The City film, Stop-Loss and now The Hurt Locker.

But you'll notice, no left campaign mounted by these same brave voices for any other movies. Apparently, that's it. All the other films are brilliant. Of course, the other films are either directed by men or marketed to men. Sandra Bullock returns to romantic comedy at a time when women are not carrying films and we have to live through all the attacks on The Proposal -- one of the top grossing films of 2009. I don't remember any leftists calling out The Hangover or similar films. Not even the film where the woman's passed out while Seth Rogan's on top of her pumping away. It's interesting how the left and the 'left' works. And the sexism is getting real damn old.

Notice how I said "marketed to men"? I didn't accuse a film of being "male." The idiot Melissa Silverstein did that, though didn't she? And now Little Dick in England does the same. See there's a reason we don't endorse gender stereotypes, Melissa.

In the US, Ms. magazine is increasing their online presence by starting a new blog:

Ms. Magazine Launches the New Ms. Blog

On this International Women's Day, March 8th, Ms. magazine - the flagship feminist publication - launches the Ms. Blog, showcasing the sharp writing and informed opinions of a community of feminist bloggers from around the nation and the globe.

The Ms. Blog will be a hub for exchange, collaboration and discussion, introducing fresh perspectives on national and global politics, culture, media, health, law and life.

The range, diversity and quality of bloggers is already exceptional: In the months leading up to this historic launch, Ms. was inundated with blogging offers from academics, activists and journalists. There are contributors from seven countries and counting, and the overall contributors' roster ranges from well-known names to up-and-coming writers and thinkers. We at Ms. are thrilled about the prospects of intercultural and intergenerational exchange.

Among the bloggers who have signed on to this exciting new project are novelist Diana Abu-Jaber, sexuality author Hanne Blank, L.A. journalist and scholar Lynell George, health activist/author Paula Kamen, masculinity critic/scholar Michael Kimmel, environmental journalist Sonia Shah, feminist writer Deborah Siegel, sociologist Shira Tarrant, media scholar Ebony Utley, memoirist Aimee Liu, Chicana activist and "mommyblogger" Veronica Arreola, Moroccan feminist scholar Fatima Sadiqi, gender and global development expert Lina Abirafeh (reporting from Haiti), Iraqi activist Yanar Mohammed, Muslim feminist Melody Moezzi, Chicana author Michele Serros and law professor Pamela Bridgewater.

Recognizing that no aspect of life is immune from gender politics, the Ms. Blog will address the intersectionality of gender with race, class, nationality and sexuality. And although there will be personal talk on the Ms. Blog, it will always be with the recognition that the personal is political.

Ms. executive editor Katherine Spillar is available for interviews about the new Ms. blog.

Contact: Jessica Stites
P. 310-556-2515

The e-mail address for this site is common_ills@yahoo.com.