Monday, February 21, 2005

Sham Elections Update/Iran In The Crosshairs

Scott Ritter says (implying this is the stuff of an upcoming Seymour Hersch article) that the US cooked Iraqi elections results to get the UIA vote below 50% (and, I suppose, to get participation up). Of course, the UIA already 'cooked' the results with Badr Corps manning polling stations (shades of Germany 1933).

UPDATE 25/02: Juan Cole reports of similar rumours in the Iraqi press. (And he drinks the kool aid when commenting on it; beyond the fact that most election results falsibication methods have their limits, it is entirely possible that either a) the American vote count manipulators were just clueless about the fact that due to 'lost votes' for minor parties that weren't enough for even one representative, even in a proportional voting system the bigger parties' share of seats in parliament is greater than their percentage of votes; or b) they counted on Chalabi as agent saboteur. And why he thinks post-Baathist, secular Allawi's voters were all Shi'a is beyond me.)

Scott Ritter also says that Bush already signed the plan of a June 2005 bombing raid on Iran... and the situation reminds of 2002 and the run-up to the Iraq war also in how much the Bush admin tries to foil European efforts here, something that is apparent in DER SPIEGEL's English-language article on Bush's visit to Europe.

Protest on 19/20 March!

Gender Equality

This is one of the posts struck in my backlog.

A few weeks ago, someone came to my blog via this older post @ Fistul Of Euros, in which an American progressive living in Belgium (Scott Martens) sees French displays of naked women (like the bust of Marianne) as a sign of France being behind in gender equality. Well I'm not convinced that naked women in art and national symbols are really anti-feminist, but another measure that is unfavourable is women in politics.

On the other hand, I have another, ad-hoc measure of gender equality: look at the cars passing you on the street, focus on family cars and couples in cars, check who drives. By this measure, I evaluated France to be rather advanced, right there with Scandinavians - and definitely ahead of Germany.

* * *

A recent post by James Wolcott claims that women don't listen to advice on dating, or rather, listen and nick but then ignore it all. I'm not at all sure this is that universal (has Wolcott never dated the amateur intriguess who may later admit she read it in a women's magazine or someone told her?), but it is a good ocassion for me to present the train of thought below.

I noticed most (Western) people won't separate an emotion and its outward signs. Implicit in this is the assumption that the outward sign is always the same, and that it can always be interpreted unanimously. (In Far-Eastern culture, see f.e. Kurosawa's In The Woods, perspective is much more thought about.)

This is why, opposed to popular assumption, I don't think that women are more emphatic than men. If there is a pattern of difference, it is of more men not noticing at all, while more women noticing only what they want to see. And it's not just that.

Some women (and much fewer men) drove me crazy when they asked me something. They would nod attentively when I explain, but from talk thereafter it is clear they haven't understood a thing. But they aren't even conscious of that! And no, these people weren't all morons or, ehm, blondes. It was as if they have substituted the behavior of moving the head up and down (and the social function of signalling understanding) for the mental labour of understanding an argument, that is an abstract logical construct. (And, sometimes, it is also true for talk about how one feels.)

Service Update

Thumbs up for Blogger after all; they have created their own pop-up comments - it's not perfect yet, but I have now set my own blog accordingly. (I don't like Haloscan.) Old comments were retained.

Also, I changed font sizes slightly - but how it appears depends on the browser you use and the font size setting of that browser; so I'm sorry to those for whom it will look ugly from now on.

Sunday, February 20, 2005

Elections Day In Europe

I will add updates about results to each [done - hence bumped; later with commentary]:

Spain: first referendum about the EU Constitution (Lithuania, Hungary and Slovenia already accepted it by parliamentary vote); will surely pass but low turnout expected. [Final] results: participation was 42.3%, "Yes" vote at 76.7%. BTW, the Catholic Church and the postfascists (the forever-yesterdayer fans of Franco) campaigned for a boycott, which was said to be seen successful if participation got below 35% - it didn't, and I'm for once happy about a king, for Spain's Juan Carlos defied the boycott call and went to vote(which is quite something, he doesn't vote in general elections to demonstrate impartiality).

Portugal: the right-wing government (a minority government of a conservative party uniquely called Social Democrats; supported from outside by a far-right party) left behind by now European Commission President Juan-Manuel Barroso [see previous post] faces early elections with less than 30% in the polls, while the Socialists are put at 50% - the PM threatened pollsters with litigation should they have erred... and in their desperation, they started to copy the Ukraine and are campaigning in orange... Voting just ended, exit polls predict absolute majority for Socialists. [Final] indeed, 120 seats out of 230, with 45.0% of votes. Social Democrats got just 28.7%/72 seats, its former far-right outside supporter CDS/PP got 7.3%/12 seats, while the two radical-left small parties - the Green/Communist coalition CDU and the leftist block BE - got 7.6%/14 seats and 6.4%/8 seats respectively. Participation was 67%, a high for the country.

I am happy that the new PM, José Socrates, is an ex-environment-minister, tough the desolate economy Barroso left behind - almost no growth, large public deficit and joblessness - makes him vulnerable to demands of economists with bad advices. BTW, seldom noted, the losing government withdrew Portuguese forces from Iraq just before the elections, which didn't save it. Socrates commented: “I never agreed with the deployment of the national guards to Iraq,” he added. “I think that war caused much harm to the world. We were on the wrong side of history in this.”

Cyprus, Turkish part: the pro-EU PM is set to win, his nationalist opposition also campaigns in orange... The pro-EU PM indeed won [later]: his Republican-Turkish Party has 44%, the also pro-EU party of the President's renegade son got 14%, the nationalist Party of National Unity only got 32%. Participation: 74%. Now it is the Greek side's turn to show readiness for cooperation rather than issue ultimatums - while the international community shouldn't hamper efforts with strong-arming and ultimatums of its own.

Germany, Schleswig-Holstein province: the last polls showed the Social Democrats of incumbent Heide Simonis and her Green coalitioneers 3% ahead of the Christian Democrat+Liberal combination - however, there is a new scandal in Germany hitting the Greens (about too easily given visa at embassies) which the opposition tries to capitalise on. Indeed, exit polls show the opposition ahead by around 2% - but, strangely enough, the bigger swing was not from the Greens (last polls -1%) but the Social Democrats (-2%). [Later] In the end, the Social Democrats got more - 38.7%/29 seats, vs 40.2%/30 seats for Christian Democrats, 6.6%/4 seats for liberals, 6.2%/4 seats for Greens -, and due to just 70 votes, the opposition ended up one seat short of majority. The fifth force in the regional parliament, the party of the Danish minority which got 3.6%/two seats, announced its support for the Social Democrats and their school reforms. Thus the bruished Left will stay in government, and so will the pro-wind-power policy (Schleswig-Holstein alone has 2174 MW installed - a third of what is in the entire USA - which supplies a fourth to third of electricity there). Participation was 66.6%, an absolute low for the province (it was below 70% twice before, in 1949 and 2000).

[Now] Three-and-a-half good news! Hopefully, the centre-to-radical-left coalitions will regain France and Italy too; I'm resigned about the third-way-suicidal centre-left losing Germany and having another meaningless victory in Britain... but, my British readers, I'll be the first to admit I'm an idiot should your fellow voters positively surprise me.

Unlimited Hypocrisy

There just are no words left to describe it.

As zeynep @ Under The Same Sun notes it too, the US regime and its media accomplices accuse Syria of assassinating a political leader, or at least of being the source of instability by occupying Beirut, and remind of Syria's bloody crackdown killing thousands in a city where there was a fundamentalist Islamist uprising - while they maintain resp. keep on defending the occupation of Iraq and pretend that troops are there for security despite the total chaos, where political leaders are assassinated by various groups including US troops, which also levelled whole cities killing thousands after fundamentalist Islamist uprisings.

UPDATE: Calabamat Journal points to another angle of this hypocrisy.

Riverbend's Latest

I nodded and handed over the bags to be weighed. “Well… they’re going to turn us into another Iran. You know list 169 means we might turn into Iran.” Abu Ammar pondered this a moment as he put the bags on the old brass scale and adjusted the weights.

“And is Iran so bad?” He finally asked. Well no, Abu Ammar, I wanted to answer, it’s not bad for *you* - you’re a man… if anything your right to several temporary marriages, a few permanent ones and the right to subdue females will increase. Why should it be so bad? Instead I was silent. It’s not a good thing to criticize Iran these days. I numbly reached for the bags he handed me, trying to rise out of that sinking feeling that overwhelmed me when the results were first made public.

It’s not about a Sunni government or a Shia government- it’s about the possibility of an Iranian-modeled Iraq. Many Shia are also appalled with the results of the elections. There’s talk of Sunnis being marginalized by the elections but that isn’t the situation. It’s not just Sunnis- it’s moderate Shia and secular people in general who have been marginalized.

That sinking feeling.

Read the rest.

And if you think Sistani is a 'moderate', read this (via again naive Juan Cole).