Monday, October 25, 2010

Iraqi Court tries to nudge out the stalemate

Ernesto Londono (Washington Post) reports that the Supreme Court of Iraq told MPs yesterday that they had to hold a session: "The ruling could add a sense of urgency to negotiations among political factions, because the court set a two-week deadline to resume parliamentary sessions." June 14th was the only time the new Parliament has convened -- they did a roll call, took their oaths and quickly adjourned, all in less than 20 minutes.

New parliament? March 7th, Iraq concluded Parliamentary elections. The Guardian's editorial board noted in August, "These elections were hailed prematurely by Mr Obama as a success, but everything that has happened since has surely doused that optimism in a cold shower of reality." 163 seats are needed to form the executive government (prime minister and council of ministers). When no single slate wins 163 seats (or possibly higher -- 163 is the number today but the Parliament added seats this election and, in four more years, they may add more which could increase the number of seats needed to form the executive government), power-sharing coalitions must be formed with other slates, parties and/or individual candidates. (Eight Parliament seats were awarded, for example, to minority candidates who represent various religious minorities in Iraq.) Ayad Allawi is the head of Iraqiya which won 91 seats in the Parliament making it the biggest seat holder. Second place went to State Of Law which Nouri al-Maliki, the current prime minister, heads. They won 89 seats. Nouri made a big show of lodging complaints and issuing allegations to distract and delay the certification of the initial results while he formed a power-sharing coalition with third place winner Iraqi National Alliance -- this coalition still does not give them 163 seats. They are claiming they have the right to form the government. In 2005, Iraq took four months and seven days to pick a prime minister. It's seven months and eighteen days and still counting.

In all that time, the Parliament has met only once. No, that's not how it's supposed to be nor is that what the Constitution demands of the Parliament. Londono reports acting Speaker of Parliament Fouad Massoum states, "I'm not going to disobey this decision. I will call for a session. But if the majority of the parliament doesn't show up, I won't be in charge." Anthony Shadid (New York Times) hypothesizes that one of the outcome's of the Court's decision may be to "perhaps set the stage for another constitutional crisis." And Shadid reports that the ruling resulted from a lawsuit brought "by a civil society group backed by the venerable but small Communist Party, against the acting Parliament speaker, Fouad Massoum." Liz Sly (Los Angeles Times) quotes that civil society -- Civil Initiative to Preserve the Constitution -- spokesperson Ali Anbori, "It doesn't matter if some political parties are happier than others. For us the most important thing is to observe the constitution and end this political crisis." She also notes concerns on the part of some that the Court's order will benefit Nouri.

Benefit Nouri? The way the US decision to go against the UN setting up a caretaker government benefited Nouri?

If there were a caretaker government right now, you can be sure Nouri would not be able to stone wall other parties. If there were a caretaker government, for example, it's very unlikely he could have spent months ignoring that Moqtada al-Sadr and Ammar al-Hakim didn't want him as prime minister (al-Hakim is still not on board). But retaining -- illegally retaining -- the position of Prime Minister has allowed him not only to ride it out but to have resources that others vying for the post don't have. When the US refused to go along with the creation of a caretaker government, that benefited Nouri but we've yet to see one US outlet point that reality out.

With no caretaker government in place, it is conceivable that Nouri could remain prime minister for years without the March 7th election results ever being decisive. He could just continue to hang on to the post he's in -- which expired some time ago -- and say, "Well I'm the last Prime Minister elected by Parliament so I'm still in charge." It was a huge, huge mistake on the part of the US to allow Nouri to delay the elections and then stall and stall on the election law. By doing that and refusing the creation of a caretaker government, they ensured that Nouri would be in office after the elections despite his term being up. They knew it took four months after the December 2005 elections to form a government. They had every reason to guess it would take at least that long again. Nouri's played the system very well but only after the US ensured the system was broken.

Turning to today's big laughs. There are two. First up, the US Embassy in Iraq's Thomas J. Raleigh takes to the Washington Post with his laughable "Iraq slowly builds a stable, prosperous democracy." That is rich. So is falsely calling Nouri's ongoing prime ministership a "caretaker government." Terms have definitions, you just can't willy nilly apply them as you'd like. What a moron. It's five months short of a year since Iraq held elections and Raleigh wants to pretend Iraq is a democracy. Grasp that our money goes to pay for government employees to lie to us. Second big joke? I believe that would be Hereafter which has crashed and burned in wide release. Ben Fritz (Los Angeles Times) reports that Matt Damon starrer with a $50 million filming budget has brought in a tiny $12 million in its first weekend of wide release -- far, far behind the weekend's big opener Paranormal Activity 2 ($41.5 million in tickets sold over the weekend). That is just completely shocking, that a Matt Damon film could crash and burn . . . Unless you analyzed the box office and realize that all films Matt carries fail to be blockbusters with three exceptions: The Bourne trilogy. And there, as we noted last March, the telling detail is that the second made more than the first and the third made even more money. That's not how sequels work. When they work that way, the reason is your star's not popular, your star can't pull in a crowd. What the Bourne trilogy proved was that people were attracted to Jason Bourne and overcame their aversion to Matt Damon with each sequel. We addressed this back in March -- back when Ben Fritz still had his thumb up his ass. The only really new detail to add would be that even when a marketing campaign features Matt Damon gussied up with enough make up to tape a Cover Girl spot with Queen Latifah and Faith Hill, he still scares ticket buyers away. Some people just aren't movie start. Ring, ring. Matt Damon, I believe that's Law and Order: Santa Monica calling.

Bonnie reminds that Isaiah's The World Today Just Nuts "Barack Wins The Terrible" and Kat's "Kat's Korner: Cher and the too far gone 70s" went up last night. And we'll close with this from John Anthony La Pietra's campaign:

John Anthony La Pietra for
Fairer, Better Elections
Secretary of State * Green Party
386 Boyer Court * Marshall, MI 49068

News Release: October 24, 2010

La Pietra Kicks Off Effort to Help Voters Get
a Fair Chance to Know About Write-In Candidates
Five Counties Have Responded Over the Weekend
After Friday's Deadline for Filing Paperwork

He's already working on a survey to see if voting conditions are good enough statewide, and fair to voters from precinct to precinct. Now John Anthony La Pietra, the Green Party of Michigan’s candidate for Secretary of State, has kicked off an effort to make elections fairer and better for candidates and voters.

4pm on Friday, October 22 was the deadline for anyone who wanted to be an official write-in candidate to file a Declaration of Intent form. On Election Day, November 2, each precinct will have a list of write-in candidates who filed the paperwork. If you write in someone's name, but they're not on that list as a declared write-in for that office, the write-in vote won't count. (The rest of your ballot won't be affected.)

But under the current administration’s interpretation, the names on those lists aren’t available to voters at the polls. The list isn’t posted next to that sample ballot that's always up on the wall, as you might expect it to be.

And if you ask the election inspectors at your polling place, they’re not allowed to tell you who's running as a write-in. You'd have to go to your local clerk’s office and ask there. “And who gets out of line to go do that?” John asks rhetorically.

John believes this is unfair to those candidates -- and it’s unfair to deny voters information about all of their choices. So he’s doing something about it.

Right after the filing deadline, he sent a Freedom of Information Act request to all 83 county clerks and to the Bureau of Elections in Lansing. He asked for computer files of their lists of declared write-in candidates they are required by law (MCL 168.737a) to prepare.

All the information he gets back -- names, offices, and contact information -- will be compiled in one big list and posted on his campaign Website, at

The page will also have links to information on how to contact the county clerks and the counties. That way, John says, citizens can thank the offices that have provided write-in lists, and make their own inquiries to the ones that haven't yet.

If any write-in candidates want more of their basic campaign contact information posted too, John will add that to his overall list. "I'm not trying to promote anyone's views -- I just want to make sure we the voters can see for ourselves."

A Good Start May Show Willingness
to Change Current State-Level Policy
Five counties have already sent John at least some response. He welcomes this good start -- both for itself and because it suggests election officials nearer the grassroots are willing to accept a change from the current state policy.

Michigan’s elections need to be fairer and better for everyone,” John argues. “Especially the voters -- we’re who elections are for. And if our top elections officials are denying us public information about legitimate candidates at precisely the time when we could use it, that’s bad and unfair for everyone.

“It’s a clear example of protecting established parties and interests against even the possibility of having to recognize a protest vote. And that’s the exact opposite of what an election is supposed to be -- the voice of the people, a chance for us to express what we want our government to be.”

For more information on John’s other ideas for non-partisan administration of fairer, better elections for the people, read his “discussion paper” on that subject at

A copy of John's FOIA request for the lists of write-in candidates is posted at

The e-mail address for this site is