Friday, March 12, 2010

The gas baggery continues (and the damage it causes)

An e-mail from an irate NPR listener insists that there is nothing wrong with the "coverage" (gas bagging) of Iraqi elections and that it's just the way elections are covered in the US. A) Election coverage in the US are not the gold standard. B) No, it's not covered the same. You find a network that predicts the US president based on results -- partial results at that -- from 10 states. That's what's going on here. The US has fifty states, Iraq has 18 provinces. With partial results from five, the gas bags are predicting. But they're not even predicting what was voted on and try grasping that. No Iraqi voted for the prime minister in the elections. The Parliament votes the prime minister. The Iraqis were only voting on their Parliament member. The people do not choose the prime minister. It's a point that the Quil Lawrence coverage does not get across and it's really an intentional lie in the US when most people are not familiar with this system. It's not impossible to explain it, here's Tony Karon (Time magazine) doing just that:

In light of the ongoing power struggle between Iraq's communities and their regional supporters, the design of the country's democratic system may hamper efforts to build a strong government. Iraq's democracy is a parliamentary system based on the principle of proportional representation -- voters all over the country simply choose a party or bloc, whose list of candidates is then allocated the number of seats in parliament proportional to its share of the total vote. The Prime Minister is chosen by a parliamentary majority. While the system may be designed to promote consensus, in the absence of consensus it can be a recipe for weak and unstable government. (Ironically, Israeli leaders can sympathize: their own proportional-representation system gives massively disproportionate influence to smaller parties, who claim control over ministries and their power of patronage as the price for their parliamentary votes in a ruling coalition.)

This Quil Lawrence gas baggery is useless. But let's note Monday he was gushing about Nouri being the prime minister and today's he's still doing the same. And his 'evidence' is five provinces -- partial results in five provinces. It's not reporting. And it's really disgusting. This 'coverage' would be disgusting of a US election but try to grasp that we're repeatedly Iraq is a democracy -- newly born, with birthing pains according to Condi Rice. So what message is the Western media currently sending to Iraq with this lousy coverage. To this allegedly emerging democracy, what message is being sent? Are they learning the importance of issues and facts from Western media? No, they're learning that opinion trumps fact and that you can say whatever you want and pass that off as reporting, facts be damned. It is not a pretty message to send to any country but especially not one where journalists and journalism are under attack.

Caroline Alexander and Daniel Williams (Bloomberg News) report on Ayad Allawi's charges that voter fraud is taking place:

Electoral commission chief Faraj al-Haydari had said that the final results of the parliamentary vote, Iraq's second since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion, would take four to five days to announce, the Aswat al-Iraq news agency reported.
The coalition government that emerges from the election must resolve disputes over sharing oil revenue among regions and whether to include the oil-rich city of Kirkuk in the Kurdish autonomous region in the north, as well as cope with hostilities between Shiites and Sunnis. Fraud allegations may increase the risk of post-election violence.
Parties will probably spend months haggling over the makeup of a coalition government, said Wael Abdel Latif of the National Iraqi Alliance. "The formation of the government may face big problems if the results are close and there is no clear winner," he said this week in an interview in Baghdad.

For more on the allegations, see Oliver August's "Ayad Allawi accuses Nouri al-Maliki's group of fraud in bid to retain power" (Times of London). Contrast that with Quil Lawrence's bad gushing that repeatedly acts as if the whole issue is already sewn up. The US will pull out of Iraq. It might be 2011, it might by 2075. But at some point, they will pull out. The press needs to ask what their actions are doing? It is not their job to do propaganda for anyone. I'm not implying that they should return to Operation Happy Talk. I am stating that a large amount of time and money has been spent on training journalists in Iraq (and journalism was practiced in Iraq before the invasion) and the point there was an attempt to establish a strong, working press with real press freedoms. So the Western press in Iraq that's passing gas baggery off as reporting are setting bad examples. They should be chasing down news stories, offering human interest stories, etc. The last thing they need to do is take the worst of the US coverage at home and export that nonsense to Iraq.

This is embarrassing. If you doubt me, fine. So here's Liz Sly (Los Angeles Times), "But with only 17% to 30% of the votes counted in each of those provinces, the results are inconclusive." And on that laughably slim count, Quil Lawrence is going on NPR and speaking of the "presumed winner" of the prime minister position -- a position that the people don't even vote on. Where is the ombudsperson on this? Where are the standards? He should have been pulled aside a long time ago and told to knock it off. And, repeating, it's not just that it's bad 'reporting,' it's that Iraqis are watching and will take cues for their own future coverage from the way the Western media is covering the current election.

Other coverage is just confusing. We'll be kind and not link or call out because it may be a typo. But a major daily is reporting that X% from X of Iraq's 19 provinces . . . Iraq has eighteen provinces. That's basic. Let's hope it's a typo. Again, we'll be kind and not link or call out by name. Again, feel free to doubt me on that. But do your own research and you'll see it's 18. Or go to this report by Muhanad Mohamed, Waleed Ibrahim, Missy Ryan and Samia Nakhoul (Reuters) which notes this morning, "The race may remain too close to call until initial results are posted for all of Iraq's 18 provinces, including pivotal areas like Baghdad, the ethnically and religiously diverse capital city that is home to at least 6 million people." 18 provinces and too close to call.


March 20th, marches in DC, San Francisco and LA.

TV notes. NOW on PBS begins airing Friday on most PBS stations (check local listings):
Two men on a remarkable journey high in the Himalayas investigate
threats to global water and food supply. Next on NOW
change will cause some of the world's largest glaciers to completely
melt by 2030. What effect will this have on our daily lives, especially
our water and food supply? With global warming falling low on a national
list of American concerns, it's time to take a deeper look at what could
be a global calamity in the making.

On Friday, March 12 at 8:30 pm (check local listings), David Brancaccio
and environmentalist Conrad Anker -- one of the world's leading
climbers - trek to the Gangotri Glacier in the
, the source of the Ganges River, to witness the great melt and
its dire consequences first-hand. The two also visit Montana's Glacier
National Park to see the striking effects of global warming closer to
home and learn how melting glaciers across the world can have a direct
impact on food prices in the U.S.

Along the way, Brancaccio and Anker bathe in the River Ganges, view a
water shortage calamity in India, and see with their own eyes and
cameras the tangible costs of climate change.

"We can't take climate change and put it on the back burner," warns
Anker. "If we don't address climate change, we won't be around as

Visit right now to watch an extended
hour-long version of the program, and to access David's 12-day
photo-filled travel journal from their trek.

Staying with TV notes, Washington Week begins airing on many PBS stations tonight (and throughout the weekend, check local listings) and joining Gwen around the table this week are Charles Babington (AP), John Dickerson (CBS News and Slate) and Doyle McManus (Los Angeles Times). Remember that the show podcasts in video and audio format -- and a number of people sign up for each (audio is thought to be so popular due to the fact that it downloads so much quikcer). If you podcast the show, remember there is the Web Extra where Gwen and the guests weigh in on topics viewers e-mail about. And also remember that usually by Monday afternoon you can go to the show's website and stream it there (including Web Extra) as well as read the transcripts and more. They're beefing up their online presence and that includes highlighting archived shows and Gwen's weekly column which this week addresses Eric Massa. Jeanne Cummings (Politico), Michael Duffy (Time magazine) and John Harwood (CNBC, New York Times). And along with catching the show, you can click here for Gwen's take on two of the current political scandals (text report). Meanwhile Bonnie Erbe will sit down with a number of women on the latest broadcast of PBS' To The Contrary to discuss the week's events. And at the website each week, Bonnie and her guests offer an extra video on a topic not covered on the show. The current web extra is a discussion of sperm donors and privacy. For the broadcast program, check local listings, on many stations, it begins airing tonight. And turning to broadcast TV, Sunday CBS' 60 Minutes:

Inside The Collapse
Former trader-turned author Michael Lewis writes about a handful of Wall Street outsiders who realized the subprime mortgage business was a house of cards and found a way to make millions betting against it. He also talks about the current situation on Wall Street, the large bonuses still being paid and his predictions for the future of the industry. Steve Kroft reports.

Lesley Stahl profiles British musical savant Derek Paravicini, whose computer-like memory for music is matched by his creative abilities to play it in any style. | Watch Video

60 Minutes, Sunday, March 14, at 7 p.m. ET/PT.

Also on TV, Press TV has an interview with Jeff Gates here.
Radio notes. Today on The Diane Rehm Show (airs on most NPR stations and streams live online beginning at 10:00 am EST), Diane is joined the first hour (domestic news roundup) by John Dickerson (CBS News, Slate), Ron Elving (NPR) and Susan Milligan (Boston Globe). For the international round up (second hour), Diane is joined by Nadia Bilbassy (MCB TV), Michael Hirsh (Newsweek) and Warren Strobel (McClatchy).

I will hopefully add to the permalinks this weekend but I haven't had time so we'll again note
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

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