Thursday, December 09, 2010

Look who's trying to do a fact check

Squabbling Iraqi politicians are wrestling with a fresh question in efforts to form a new government here: How much is a cabinet post worth?
Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has the better part of this month to name government ministers from the big winning parties in March elections, after rival factions agreed to a power-sharing deal last month. To do so, he has fallen back on a controversial points system that seeks to match the relative prestige of each cabinet portfolio with a party's electoral performance.

The above is the opening to Sam Dagher's "A Formula to Get Power in Iraq" (Wall St. Journal) and it makes for a hilarious read of how Nouri is attempting to deal with his over-promising on cabinet positions.

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. November 10th a power sharing deal resulted in the Parliament meeting for the second time and voting in a Speaker. And then Iraqiya felt double crossed on the deal and the bulk of their members stormed out of the Parliament. David Ignatius (Washington Post) explains, "The fragility of the coalition was dramatically obvious Thursday as members of the Iraqiya party, which represents Sunnis, walked out of Parliament, claiming that they were already being double-crossed by Maliki. Iraqi politics is always an exercise in brinkmanship, and the compromises unfortunately remain of the save-your-neck variety, rather than reflecting a deeper accord. " After that, Jalal Talabani was voted President of Iraq. Talabani then named Nouri as the prime minister-delegate. If Nouri can meet the conditions outlined in Article 76 of the Constitution (basically nominate ministers for each council and have Parliament vote to approve each one with a minimum of 163 votes each time and to vote for his council program) within thirty days, he becomes the prime minister. If not, Talabani must name another prime minister-delegate. . In 2005, Iraq took four months and seven days to pick a prime minister-delegate. It took eight months and two days to name Nouri as prime minister-delegate. His first go-round, on April 22, 2006, his thirty day limit kicked in. May 20, 2006, he announced his cabinet -- sort of. Sort of because he didn't nominate a Minister of Defense, a Minister of Interior and a Minister of a Natioanl Security. This was accomplished, John F. Burns wrote in "For Some, a Last, Best Hope for U.S. Efforts in Iraq" (New York Times), only with "muscular" assistance from the Bush White House. Nouri declared he would be the Interior Ministry temporarily. Temporarily lasted until June 8, 2006. This was when the US was able to strong-arm, when they'd knocked out the other choice for prime minister (Ibrahim al-Jaafari) to install puppet Nouri and when they had over 100,000 troops on the ground in Iraq. Nouri had no competition. That's very different from today. The Constitution is very clear and it is doubtful his opponents -- including within his own alliance -- will look the other way if he can't fill all the posts in 30 days. As Leila Fadel (Washington Post) observes, "With the three top slots resolved, Maliki will now begin to distribute ministries and other top jobs, a process that has the potential to be as divisive as the initial phase of government formation." Jane Arraf (Christian Science Monitor) points out, "Maliki now has 30 days to decide on cabinet posts - some of which will likely go to Iraqiya - and put together a full government. His governing coalition owes part of its existence to followers of hard-line cleric Muqtada al Sadr, leading Sunnis and others to believe that his government will be indebted to Iran." The stalemate ends when the country has a prime minister. It is now nine months, two days and counting. Thursday November 25th, Nouri was finally 'officially' named prime minister-designate. Leila Fadel (Washington Post) explained, "In 30 days, he is to present his cabinet to parliament or lose the nomination." Steven Lee Myers (New York Times) added, "Even if Mr. Maliki meets the 30-day deadline in late December -- which is not a certainty, given the chronic disregard for legal deadlines in Iraqi politics -- the country will have spent more than nine months under a caretaker government without a functioning legislature. Many of Iraq's most critical needs -- from basic services to investment -- have remained unaddressed throughout the impasse." Jane Arraf (Al Jazeera) offered, "He has an extremely difficult task ahed of him, these next 30 days are going to be a very tough sell for all of these parties that all want something very important in this government. It took a record eight months to actually come up with this coalition, but now what al-Maliki has to do is put all those people in the competing positions that backed him into slots in the government and he has a month to day that from today."

The hilarity never ends. We try to be fair to Judith Miller -- failed reporter who once worked for The Progressive, NPR and, most infamously, the New York Times. We don't, for example, repeatedly call her a liar. We note that she was so stupid -- so very, very stupid -- that she believed the lies of the Iraq War, lies she repeated. She just stupid. She's an idiot. She disgraced herself and slit her own career wrists.

She'll never work for a reputable outlet again. She became the poster girl for bad reporting. (Which was very lucky for a lot of other bad reporters at other outlets because Judy Miller was far from the only stenographer repeating the White House lies as facts.) These days the world pretty much ignores Judith Miller except as a punch line. Unfortunately for her, she's failed to grasp that she will not overcome her infamy and believes redemption is, like 'progress' in Iraq, a turned corner just around the corner waiting to be discovered.

Today Judy Miller has a column in the Wall St. Journal which is an attack on the film Fair Game and she's such a bad writer (not just a bad reporter, a bad writer) that she includes this sentence which just begs for her to be seen as nothing but a narcissist: "There is no character based on me in the film—and that turns out to be a good thing." You sort of picture Judith at the local Borders, grabbing every book on the Iraq War and madly flipping through the index to see if she's mentioned.

And if you're not grasping the vanity on Judith, check out this statement: "I was a reporter who covered what the CIA said about Iraqi WMD prior to the war, and I wrote stories in the New York Times based on what turned out to be that flawed intelligence." She must be the only person left in the world who will cite the 'reporting' of Judith Miller as something to point to with pride. Did she miss the diss from Maureen Dowd when the paper kicked Judith to the curb or the brief statement the paper ran disowning her 'reporting'? Only in her mind does her work hold up.

The column serves mainly to demonstrate that when Miller operates a word processor, something always dies. Certainly Iraqis, US service members and many more died due to her Iraq War 'reporting.' Today, any chance for her to go quietly into late-life obscurity dies as she types a column that begs for fresh rounds of ridicule.

And then it hits you: Judith Miller is trying to do a fact check.

Judith Miller is trying to do a fact check.

Judith Miller is trying to do a fact check.

Look for her on open mike nights at your local comedy clubs.

We'll close with this on Veterans for Peace:

NATIONAL OFFICE: 216 S. Meramec Avenue, St. Louis, MO 63105
PHONE: (314) 725-6005 FAX: (314) 725-7103 E-MAIL:

December 3, 2010

Dear President Obama,

A week ago, I wrote you on this same subject but since I've not yet received a reply either personal or automated, I felt I should try again.

As president of Veterans For Peace (VFP), a national organization of military veterans, I want to convey to you our serious opposition to your administration's policy of ongoing wars, proxy wars, occupations and drone strikes in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Palestine and Yemen.

Your policies are taking innocent lives, causing untold, lifelong suffering, rapidly destroying our economy, our environment, and ultimately making all of us considerably less safe.

Since there are no logical reasons rooted in human or planetary betterment for these policies, we are left to conclude what is logical and obvious: that their purpose is to maintain and advance what has sadly become the global U.S. Empire.

VFP has voiced our opposition to these wars at every national demonstration and with countless local actions, letters, faxes, emails and phone calls.

We requested a meeting with you shortly after your inauguration, to no avail. We are now requesting another meeting. And since we have tried all the above many times over, this is what we now propose.

If, within 10 days from now, we do not hear a positive response to our request for a meeting, we are prepared to bring a large delegation of our members to Washington before the end of this month. We will come in person to the White House to meet with you or until we are dragged away in full view of our nation and the world -- military veterans, carrying their nation's flag, seeking a meeting with their president in the season of Peace.

Like the bonus marchers of the 1930's, we demand our bonus be paid. The bonus for our service and the many sacrifices of our comrades is peace.

In this season of Peace I remain

Most sincerely yours,
Mike Ferner, National President
Veterans For Peace
USN Hospital Corps 1969-73

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