Sunday, October 23, 2005

Referendum Addendum

For the last week, there’s been so much in the news that I haven’t been following a number of stories very closely. For instance, they had this big constitutional referendum in Iraq almost ten days ago. I learned that they got a turnout comparable to an American presidential election, the polling was generally peaceful, and that a surprisingly large number of Sunnis turned out. Condeleeza Rice even more or less guaranteed a victory for the referendum, then mysteriously backtracked because they actually hadn’t finished counting the votes. Did they ever count those votes? The last I heard, they were getting some odd numbers out of districts likely to ratify the constitution anyway like 97% to 3% with 115% of all voters participating. I don’t have any problem with that myself. I figure if it’s good enough for large sections of Ohio and Florida, it should be good enough for a fledgling democracy. Besides, it sounds exactly like the elections Dickens described in Martin Chuzzlewit when America was still relatively new to holding popular elections for the presidency.

Second, I know that Congress has been having these bipartisan hearings to look into what happened or didn’t happen during Katrina. I thought it would be nice to have heard about what Michael Chertoff had fixed before Wilma makes landfall in the United States. I know it takes a lot of time to hear all those witnesses, write up the report, etc, but why am I not hearing about all the adjustments FEMA’s made in advance of the next hurricane. It makes me wonder about the issue with different emergency responders from different states not having a common radio frequency that came out after 9/11. I was shocked to hear that the problem hadn’t been fixed by 2005 since all those voters were so certain that they were voting for the candidate who would keep us safe.

Here’s another story. A United Nations report claims that Syria had a role in the assassination of the prime minister of Lebanon, talk about your state-sponsored terrorism. The president, who has repeatedly gone public with his confidence in the United Nations and its reports, immediately started urging his underlings and the world to act decisively and quickly on the Mehlis Report. A couple things seem strange here. Why is Mr. Unilateral so ready to accept a UN report and so anxious to go to the Security Council?
Second, if the evidence that Saddam was involved with Al Qaeda and terrorism against Americans was so tenuous, why did we invade there in the name of 9/11 and the International Struggle against Religious Extremism instead of say Syria? There was an odd story that Mehlis had prepared several versions of the report with varying levels of complicity from Syria and that only one of them got leaked. I’m not advocating invasions in either place btw, it’s more a question about the logic of preemptive war and what it implies. I’m getting this image of the Middle East as the instrument of US Foreign Policy modeled on Dot.Com startups. Invade, have a referendum instead of an IPO, even before the certificates get distributed and the democracy there has ever turned a profit or held a second election, you invest in an invasion in the next startup. I wonder who their accounting firm is going to be? Also, once we invade Syria, where do we get the next batch of troops um er human capital?

What I gather is that Theobertarian math simply works differently when it comes to counting millions of votes or spending billions of dollars. Traditional accounting is more or less a zero sum game. Whatever happens on one side of the ledger must have an equal and opposite effect on the other. That great far right economist John Maynard Keynes came forward early in the century to argue that governments might sometimes take a longer view of when it all needs to balance out, “priming the pump” or “deficit spending” became an honorable strategy under the four time elected Republican president FDR who saw us through a major war. It is, after all, FDR’s legacy that has made the Republicans the national security party for most voters. Many get confused and assume it has something to do with McCarthy or Richard Nixon’s notions of peace with honor, which made it possible to get manicures/pedicures for a reasonable price and high quality Pho in most any major American city. I do look forward to getting better Kefta Kebab in a restaurant in my hometown soon after we withdraw with honor once again.

Even though I haven’t been following the last week all that closely, the blog story one almost can’t avoid these days has been “Where’s Patrick and What’s He Really Going to Do?” I keep coming back to this one thought. The prosecutor needs to gather information to get a conviction, but we don’t need more information to have convictions of our own based on what’s already known. Why does the general public just seem to buy into the White House’s line that we can’t comment until the investigation is completed and possibly until after every one is indicted and all appeals are exhausted seven years from now? I’m thinking that’s like Laci Guerra Petersen’s mother saying “Well since Scott’s appeal of his conviction isn’t done yet, I guess I shouldn’t cross him off my Christmas list until the justice system completes its findings.”
When did indictment become the standard of fitness for holding public office? What happened to values like competence, trustworthiness, and foresight?

I do have a corollary to Collin Powell’s Pottery Barn rule. Now that I know what I know about Iraqi democracy, the President’s real willingness to trust UN reports about the Middle East, and how we got to war via forged documents, I don’t know if it’s “You break it, you buy it.”
I’d just suggest that we send the President, the Secretary of State, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Judith Miller, Karl and Scooter, out to live in what they created for six months. If there are any emergencies, now that Michael Brown doesn’t have any duties stateside, I’m sure they’ll trust him to help organize any relief operations if needed. I’ll even let them rehearse, should they broadcast this special edition of the “Surreal Life”.

postscript as of Tuesday 10/25

the referendum officially passed after an audit. It's worth noting that it took a 66% no vote in a given province for it not to pass. If 3 provinces had voted no, the referendum would have lost. 2 provinces clearly did. In other words, the referendum could have won with less than 1/3 of Iraqi voters nationally actually voting "yes". Nineveh was very close and there were accusations of ballot tampering. The AP story didn't give any actual vote counts. The NY Times story mentions the count in Nineveh, but doesn't mention alleged irregularities there. In Nineveh more than half the voters voted no on the referendum. The UN played a role in the audit. The national vote was in fact overwhelmingly "yes", but the result could be fodder for some interesting arguments.

President George W. Bush stressed (re Saddam) it was crucial "that there will be a fair trial, which is something he didn't give many of the thousands of people he killed".

Isn't this pretty much the same thing as saying "I can guarantee that he'll be convicted fairly..."

I have no great love for Saddam, but I'm wondering if the W understands the concept of a "fair trial".


At 10/26/2005 04:04:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'd only amend a few things, CL. I'd make it SursurReal Life. I haven't quite coined a term for weirderthanDali or morepitchforksinrumpsthanbosch, but we're definitely there with these skincrawling lizards.

As for names like Chuzzlewit, Dickens is in a tie with Tobias Smollett (a heck of a name itself) for Name God. Smollett has Roderick Random & Peregrine Pickle. (On my Improv show, Weasel TV, my doppelganger Dame Polly Pickle [pronounced pick-kell] was a tip of the hat to Smollett as well as to Dame Edna & Hyacinth Bucket pronounced Boo-kay. Apropos of nothing, Weasel TV was the first galactic TV channel, as CNN was the first global one. We had time travel facilities and a lot of other cool stuff. We would go back and interview the babysitter of Genghis Khan & so 4th.)

I used to think we were outre -- but that was before the BushCo Administration came a long as a Category 5 of bizarre. Of course we were never in competition. We had a lock on warm-hearted & pithy outlandish. They have a lock on coldhearted kukluxklan without the sheets.

At 10/26/2005 09:02:00 AM, Blogger Chancelucky said...

I walked into an episode of Weasel TV once. It was very frightening.

I don't think what the neo-cons are doing is quite improve or at least it wasn't. What they are doing now as they await the indictments probably does look more like improve. It seems like lots of stories are getting out there where they are pointing fingers at one another while simultaneously denying that any crime was committed.
Again, the standard of public trust is not indictment and conviction. It clearly got crossed a long time ago and the facts are already on the table.


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