Today we attended the House Veterans Affairs Committee and there's not really a great deal to note about it. John Buyer is the Ranking Member and, during his opening remarks, he kept talking about the need for scientific proof of this and that. As he was getting ready to leave, Chair Bob Filner noted that he should remember that scientific evidence the next time the issue was global warming. Then they let the VA Secretary speak and it was Charlie Brown's teacher rawh rawh rawh rawh.
Not a productive hearing in my opinion though it probably achieved whatever it intended.
Meanwhile, everything's gone crazy in Iraq. After a ruling yesterday that the banned candidates could run and the charges against them would be evaluated after the elections, Nouri and company went into overdrive and now the whole thing's a mess. This is from Nada Bakri at the New York Times and it just posted so it will be in tomorrow's paper:
Iraqi legal experts defended the court’s decision to postpone the determinations of the candidates’ eligibility, calling it constitutional, and said election officials should respect the ruling. “The appeals court didn’t find the candidates who were included in the procedures innocent yet,” said Tariq Harb, a prominent lawyer. “It just delayed its decision.”
C.I. covers this is the snapshot at length and also notes a letter Congress sent to the White House. If you're not getting it, Congress is (a) trying to restate that the withdrawal needs to happen (it may not, as they know since no plan has been presented to them despite repeated requests) and (b) trying to make sure something is done. We heard multiple Congress members today and yesterday mention the New York Times interview with then-candidate Barack that no one seems to have paid attention to in real time but are now discovering. Key point: Barack stated he had no problem sending troops back in if the 'security' 'situation' in Iraq got worse.
I need to stop here and call Cedric so we can work on our post or we'll end up posting tomorrow morning (like we posted this morning).Here's C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"
Iraq has a multiparty parliamentary system. Lawmakers choose the president, who in turn gives the largest coalition in the parliament the first opportunity to choose the prime minister and form the government. If Maliki's bloc can win the largest number of seats, a majority in the parliament will still be needed to endorse his government. Without alliances, that could prove impossible.
"He has to manage to get alliances with others or he's done," said Askari, the independent Shiite politician.
Erstwhile allies say they will not support Maliki this time around.
Fadel goes on to note that Moqtada al-Sadr supporters are among those who feel burned by Little Nouri. No surprise there after his assault on Basra which also added an assault on Sadr City at the same time (2008) when protests began there against the Basra assault. Distanced from many Shi'ite sects, never embraced by Sunnis and no friend to the Kurds, time for Nouri to stomp his feet and again reveal his nasty side.
New York, February 4, 2010 -- An Iraqi government plan to impose restrictive rules on broadcast news media represents an alarming return to authoritarianism, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today. CPJ denounced the rules and called on Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and his government to abandon their repressive plan.
CPJ's review of the plan found rules that fall well short of international standards for freedom of expression and that appear to contravene the Iraqi constitution, which provides for a free press. The new rules would effectively impose government licensing of journalists and media outlets, a tool that authoritarian governments worldwide have long used to censor the news.
The rules would also bar coverage that the government vaguely describes as incitement to violence. CPJ research shows that such broad and unspecified standards are often used by repressive governments to silence critical coverage.
A copy of the plan, obtained by CPJ, can be downloaded here as a PDF (9 MB, Arabic).
"The regulations suggest either a lack of understanding of the news media's role in a democratic society, or a deliberate attempt to suppress information and stifle opposing views," said CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon . "Either way, the rules should be rescinded immediately so that the media can do its job free of government intimidation."
The new regulations were drafted by the Iraqi Communications and Media Commission (CMC), a government body that does not appear to have legal authority to draft such rules, CPJ research shows. The CMC was created with a narrow mandate to administer broadcast frequencies and other technical issues.
CPJ's review found that the rules are replete with broad and vaguely expressed restrictions. While demanding that all local and international broadcast media be licensed and that all individual journalists be accredited by the CMC, the rules provide little information on the criteria the government would use in issuing such licenses. (All equipment must also be registered with the government.) The plan also states that news media must abstain from "incitement to violence," but it does not define what would constitute a violation.
Media deemed to violate the rules could face closure, suspensions, fines, and confiscation of equipment.
CPJ found other alarming aspects to the rules. They stipulate, for example, that media organizations submit lists of their employees to the government. While the clause raises privacy concerns, it is particularly ominous in light of the recent history of journalist murders in Iraq . Of the 140 journalists killed in Iraq since 2003, at least 89 were targeted for murder, CPJ research shows. Another 43 media support workers, such as drivers and interpreters, were also murdered. In case after case, CPJ research shows, these journalists were targeted because of sectarian or work affiliations; many have gone to great lengths to conceal their profession for fear of reprisal.
In discussions with foreign reporters in Iraq, CMC representatives made it clear that media organizations would have to reveal confidential sources if they sought to challenge a determination made by the agency. If the CMC finds that a media organization has published information it deems inaccurate or inflammatory, the identification of sources would be central to any challenge to CMC findings, journalists who attended the meetings told CPJ.
"The regulations themselves, and the explanations provided by CMC officials, suggest that sources could be compromised, reporting could be censored, and Iraqi staff could be intimidated," Simon added.
On Al Jazeera's Riz Khan yesterday, the issue of the elections were addressed with Riz Khan asking, "How free and fair is an election when a government bans certain people from running? Iraq goes to the polls on March the 7th but has barred more than 500 candidates which could ultimately plunge the country into chaos, even civil war." Steven Lee Myers (New York Times) reports today that the government has managed to avert "a political crisis of its own making" as a result of the ban being overturned today "by a panel of seven judges". The Economist calls it "Best news in weeks." Margaret Coker (Wall St. Journal) explains, "The decision now opens the way for full-fledged campaigning to begin, as scheduled, on February 7. It wasn't immediately clear how many of the banned candidates would accept the compromise decision, or how the decision might affect the election outcome itself." Scott Peterson (Christian Science Monitor) adds, "But if the ruling stands, there's a catch: those blacklisted will still be subject to investigation after the vote for past ties to the regime of Saddam Hussein." And what would happen then? Caroline Alexander and Kadhim Ajrash (Bloomberg News) observe, "Election Commission official Hamdia al-Husseini told Agence France-Presse that those later found to have links to the Baath Party would be 'eliminated.'" Martin Chulov (Guardian) reports, "The ruling enraged the architect of the blacklist, Ali Faisal al-Lami, who is a close aide of the head of the former de-Ba'athification Commission, Ahmed Chalabi. That commission, which was a signature body of the post-Saddam Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA), evolved into a contentious group known as the Accountability and Justice Commission." And to clear up a nasty rumor, there is no known sex tape of Ahmed Chalabi and his boy pal Ali al-Lami being distributed in Basra. Absolutely not. Nasty, hurtful rumors. Unless a tape should surface. Ammar Karim (AFP) notes, "Chalabi, who has close ties to Iran, was appointed deputy prime minister after the invasion but intelligence he provided in support of those claims in the run-up to war later turned out to be flawed and he subsequently fell out of favour with Washington." The decision is still being studied and Al Jazeera notes Saleh al-Mutlaq, of the sectarian National Dialogue Party and who was one of the banned, "declined to give an immediate comment."
Reuters reported this morning that Nouri's mouthpiece, Ali al-Dabbagh, posted to his website the following: "Postponing implementing the law of the Justice and Accountability Commission till after the election is illegal and not constitutional." Anne Tang (Xinhua) notes the cries of "illegal!" as well while Margaret Corker (Wall St. Journal) adds, "Faraj Al Haidari, the head of the electoral body running the election, says he has asked the Supreme Federal Court to weigh in on the political controversy to quell the mounting accusations among political parties that the closely watched poll set to take place on March 7 has been tainted by sectarianism." Corker explains that Al Haidari doesn't believe that this would delay elections but if elections are scheduled for March 7th and it's February 4th, exactly when would candidates campaign? While they were 'banned,' they couldn't campaign. Now with the question mark Nouri's throwing on them, they may not be able to campaign -- and certainly some of their time will be taken up with this mess even if they are campaigning. How do you have fair and free elections when candidates aren't even sure they're going to be on next month's ballot? How do you have fair and free elections when Iraqi voters are using their own limited time (just as limited as any American voter or any voter in any other country) to study up on the issues and deciding, "Well, if I have to cut back somewhere, maybe I just won't look into these candidates who might not even make the ballot"? That's not speculation, BBC News reports, "Iraq's electoral commission has said it will delay the start of campaigning for next month's parliamentary elections."
The objective of the Chilcot inquiry is to examine how Britain came to be involved in the Iraq war and identify what lessons may be learned. The official hope is that it will achieve "closure" by demonstrating to the British public and the wider world, and not least to the grieving relatives of dead British servicemen, that, however unhappy its consequences, Britain undertook military action in good faith. What is now overwhelmingly apparent, following Blair's testimony before the inquiry and the testimonies of fellow politicians, diplomats and civil servants, is that "closure" is not in prospect.
For many in the Arab world, its very personnel is bound to make it hard to respect the inquiry's bona fides. The fact is that two of its five members, Sir Martin Gilbert and Sir Lawrence Freedman, are Jews who supported the war. Yet the question of the propriety of including two such figures without any corresponding representation of the Arab point of view can hardly be raised in Britain without inviting the charge of anti-Semitism. The BBC reported that Sir Martin Gilbert told an online Israeli settlement radio station of his hurt at being named as a Jew by "anti-Semite" writing in British newspapers. Gilbert was referring among others to the former British diplomat, Sir Oliver Miles, whose manifest concern was not with Gilbert's Jewishness but the counterproductive consequences of including Jewish supporters of the war in the panel of an inquiry that is surely meant to command international respect. Not that you would have understood Miles' qualms from the BBC's tendentious report.
TV notes. NOW on PBS begins airing Friday on most PBS stations (check local listings):
Has the Democratic Party abandoned support of reproductive rights? Next on NOW.
To gain their historic control of Congress, Democrats fielded moderate candidates who didn't always follow the party line, especially when it came to abortion. Now that the Democratic Party has the legislative upper hand, are they willing to negotiate away reproductive rights for other political gains? On Friday, February 5 at 8:30 pm (check local listings), NOW goes to Allentown, Pennsylvania to ask: Are abortion rights now in jeopardy at the very hands of the party that has historically protected them? Among those interviewed are pro-life Democratic U.S. Representative Bart Stupak and former DNC Chairman Howard Dean.
"If there was a bill on the floor to reverse Roe vs Wade, and says 'life begins at conception,' I would vote for it." Congressman Stupak tells NOW.
Jen Boulanger, director of the often-protested Allentown Women's Center, says, "I would expect more from the Democratic Party, to stick to their ideals, not just throw us to the curb."
Has the Democratic Party traded principles for power? Next on NOW.