Abstentionists: 30% of the population did not register and over 40% of those registered did not vote.
Polling centers were largely empty all day in many cities of the Sunni Triangle north and west of the capital, particularly Fallujah, Ramadi and Beiji, The Associated Press reported. In Baghdad's mainly Sunni Arab area of Adhamiyah, the neighborhood's four polling centers did not open, residents said. '
Dexter Filkins of the NYT wrote, ' In the town of Baji in northern Iraq, election officials did not show up. In Ramadi, where Iraqi officials set up a pair of polling places just outside the city, a total of just 300 ballots were cast, many of them by police officers and soldiers.
'The idea, mentioned by Condoleeza Rice on Sunday, that any significant number of Fallujans voted, is considered by many absurd. Most of the 250,000 Fallujans are still in exile, and the city is still occasionally the scene of fighting. There are reports of some voting in refugee camps outside the city. Many believe that is motivated by a desire to have a legitimate, elected government that could effectively demand a US withdrawal.
The more than a dozen parties and organizations calling to boycott the elections – including mostly Sunni parties and clerics, but also Christian and left leaning nationalist groupings as well as women's and human rights' groups -- will claim, no doubt, the allegiance of 50% of the Iraqi population.
A more objective assessment would establish that they, in fact, represent around 30% of all potential voters in Iraq.
"Iraq: Who voted and who didn't and why" by the staff of Frontlines working "with material from agencies"
Camille Dodero, The Boston Phoenix, reports on the crowning of the Bully Boy in "Thirty-six hours in the capital during the inauguration." Here's the start of that piece:
WASHINGTON, DC -- January 19, 6:30 p.m. The inauguration turns DC into a Republican prom. For the next two evenings, the capital city will be a slushy blur of recently retouched highlights, high heels, shiny patent-leather shoes, unwrinkled tuxedos, conservatively tailored suits, strapless dresses, black ties, top-shelf liquors, thick tweed pants, angular bow ties, pouffy Southern hair, twangy Texas accents, rolling limousines, and excited voices. There’ll also be more than a zoo’s worth of fur: mink, rabbit, chinchilla, fox, lynx, marmot, sheared beaver, longhaired beaver, reversible lambskin, Mongolian lambskin -- all wrapped around a special breed of well-to-do women.
10:45 p.m. On Inauguration Eve, the predominant protest form is art. Anti-war poets read in Maryland; anti-corporate troubadour David Rovics performs at a place called the Electric Maid; there's an underground hip-hop show on 14th Street; outside the "Black Tie and Boots" ball, a creative coterie of protesters dons cowboy hats, pink ball gowns, and pig snouts to demonstrate against war profiteers.
Also weighing in on the crowning is Eugene Weekly:
Three activists from Eugene -- Carol Melia, Willow Rose and Peter Chabarek -- traveled to Washington, D.C., to take part in protests of the Jan. 20 inauguration of President George W. Bush. "We could not sit on the sidelines for the coronation of mad King George, so off we went," Chabarek says. "We are just ordinary folks with draft age kids who are extremely upset with what this administration is doing. We planned a little surprise for Mr. Bush and his guests."
Last fall, Melia and Chabarek protested at the Republican National Convention and disrupted Bush and Cheney campaign rallies in Oregon with dramatic anti-war messages. Although Chabarek initially hesitated over the prospect of another grueling protest mission, unpaid time off work, and the threat of attack or arrest, he finally packed up his heavy winter gear and guitar and headed to D.C.
"This was a chance to shame and embarrass the administration in their moment of supposed triumph," he says. The activists nabbed seats about 60 yards from the podium for the swearing-in ceremony on the west lawn of the U.S. Capitol Building. Just as Supreme Court Justice Renquist was about to deliver the oath of office, they stepped into the aisle and started screaming, "Stop the war! Bring home the troops!" Melia had a video camera rolling. The activists could hear their voices echoing off the Capitol Building, so they felt sure they were being heard.
Although military ushers guarded the aisles, Chabarek describes a slow response from security personnel. "The military ushers next to us were stunned," he says. "They didn't seem to know what to do. They decided not to do anything."
The above is from Kera Abraham's "Taking the War to Bush: Eugene activists disrupt inauguaration ceremonies."
Geov Parrish, in Seattle Weekly's "Next Stop: Tehran," explores the "war on terrorism":
"It's a global free-fire zone." So says a source in a sweeping article last month by The New Yorker's Seymour Hersh, who reports, among other things, that the U.S. military has already begun covert operations in Iran in preparation for a military strike or invasion there.
The source is referring, narrowly and broadly, to the attitude of the Bush administration in the wake of its November re-election. Last-minute changes in the intelligence bill passed in December by Congress emasculated the CIA and allow for sweeping new powers for the Pentagon to conduct covert ops, without the oversight of Congress. More broadly, the vision of a sweeping democratic revolution in the Middle East continues to hold sway in Bush's second term, despite the disastrous experience in Iraq, and the "global war on terrorism" will be prosecuted aggressively anywhere and everywhere.
In the Syracuse New Times, Walt Shepperd weighs in on legal developments there that could effect the country in "Syracuse could be spearheading a nationwide dialogue regarding the unfair casualties from America's war on drugs:"
Can one city impact America's drug law madness? The question blared in a Jan. 3 Washington Post headline and amplified a Neal Peirce column: "Can a single city do anything to change drug policies that are delivering terror to our inner-city streets, diverting police, clogging our courts, breaking up families and making a once-proud America quite literally the incarceration capital of the world?"
A way tall order, he admitted, given the intransigency of state and federal drug laws. But Peirce also noted that with a detailed 2003 analysis of the drug laws' impact by outgoing City Auditor Minch Lewis, followed by a series of Common Council public hearings, Syracuse was "courageously asking tough questions and searching for alternatives."
Peirce also credited inspiration for Lewis' audit to local activist Nicolas Eyle, executive director of ReconsiDer: Forum on Drug Policy. "I've always felt that money was the key," Eyle says. "Money was the thing that would get everybody's attention in this issue. There have been many books published about all the suffering and the inordinately long prison sentences, but when it comes down to it, it's an incredible waste of money. You read in the paper about drug busts with 50 and 100 officers and three-month investigations. They must cost a mint."
Also addressing an important local issue with national implications is Pamela White with "A right to know" from this week's Boulder Weekly:
One-millionth of a gram of plutonium will kill you. The stuff has a half-life of 24,400 years, meaning that even the tiniest particles of plutonium will be dangerously toxic long after the United States of America has ceased to be even a memory. Most of us, if we had the choice, would rather avoid any exposure to plutonium. And we sure as hell would want to know if we were at risk of exposure.
That's why Boulder County residents need to support House Bill 1079. The bill, carried by newly elected Rep. Wes McKinley, would require the public to sign informed-consent waivers before entering the soon-to-be-opened Rocky Flats site for recreation. HB 1079 would also require that information about the history of Rocky Flats and the health risks of plutonium be available on site.
McKinley is a genuine Colorado cowboy, and he lives nowhere near Rocky Flats. He might seem an unlikely person to carry a bill like this—except that he served as foreman of the special Rocky Flats grand jury that spent three years probing environmental crimes at the former nuclear weapons plant. For their hard work, McKinley and jury members were placed under a gag order and their indictments and presentment were ignored and sealed from the public's eye—together with thousands of key documents.
To put it simply, McKinley knows things about Rocky Flats that you and I will probably never be allowed to know. Stuck between the gag order and his pressing desire to share the truth, he ran for office, was elected and is now pushing to make certain that when the site is opened for public recreation, people won't become unwitting victims of deadly contamination.
For those who are new to the topic, Rocky Flats once produced plutonium pits—triggers for nuclear bombs. During that time, there were two documented plutonium fires, as well as whispers of secret research and willful environmental contamination. In 1989, the FBI raided the facility, gathering documents and interviewing countless witnesses about alleged environmental crimes committed by people working for Rockwell, the company that managed the facility. Although Rockwell was eventually fined as part of a plea agreement, no one was charged with a crime contrary to the grand jury's indictments, which remain secret as part of what critics say is a government cover-up.
And we'll close with The New York Observer's "The Democrats Go Dean Crazy; Hil Tacks Right" by Lizzy Ratner and Ben Smith where Ratner and Smith address the DNC chair race andHillary Rodham Clinton's speech:
Should he win the final vote on Feb. 12, Dr. Dean will join Mrs. Clinton as two of the most prominent leaders of a party struggling to define itself.
The duo will pull the party between two ideological poles: Mrs. Clinton's conciliatory, pro-war centrism, and Dr. Dean's strident rejection of George W. Bush’s White House. But if Dr. Dean wins, he might be put in the unlikely situation of shepherding Mrs. Clinton through the 2008 Presidential campaign.
The two are already signaling how differently they will approach retaking the White House.
"We cannot be Republican lite if we want to win," Dr. Dean said, sounding the defiant themes that defined his run for President as he stood before a cheering crowd of D.N.C. members that had gathered in New York last weekend. "We can talk about our faith, but we cannot change our faith. We need to be people of conviction."
Mrs. Clinton has been talking about faith too, but in a very different way. Her new status as the nation’s first Democrat has made her characteristically cautious musings on such controversial subjects as faith (she's "a praying person") and abortion (she wants to seek "common ground") big news.
. . .
Even as Dr. Dean seeks to define a clear Democratic message, Mrs. Clinton is perfecting a new Clintonian magic trick. Her husband moved right while appearing to stay still. She appears to move toward the center, when in fact she’s been there all along.
Now the symbols of the Democratic Party’s two poles are approaching each other warily. The last time they fought, the Clintons backed Gen. Wesley Clark against Dr. Dean in the Democratic Primary. Both lost.
[Note: Thanks to Billie, Jimmy and ??? for sending in their choices. All three choices are included above.]