Iraqi Constitution

A lot of news today about the development of the Iraqi Constitution, and the NYT magazine breaks down the difficulties:

For the Iraqis, the elephant in the room is the relationship between government and religion: can Iraq be a democracy and an Islamic state at the same time? When I worked as an adviser to the Iraqis who drafted last year’s interim constitution, this fraught question occupied the authors until almost the last minute. Leaked portions of the new constitution, still open to debate and revision, show that the matter remains as tricky as ever. Equality for all citizens is guaranteed, but Islamic law is also prescribed for marriage, divorce and inheritance. Of course, some elements of Islamic family law might mandate gender inequality; to address that possibility, one draft reportedly provides that religion would trump equality if the two conflict.

These tentative efforts to reconcile Islam and democratic equality ensure that future Iraqi legislators and jurists will have to figure out just what it means to treat Islam as ”a source of law” or, perhaps, ”a main source.” At this time, it is simply not possible to work out Iraq’s religious identity without alienating either clerics or secular rights organizations.

It has been slow going, and the WaPo is reporting that several of the authors are contemplating a delay:

Drafters of Iraq’s new constitution said Sunday they were considering a 30-day extension, in a potentially serious setback to a U.S. push to complete the charter on time.

The debate over extending the Aug. 15 deadline for drafting a new constitution came amid reports Sunday of continuing insurgent violence. At least 10 people were reported killed, including five U.S. soldiers who died in roadside bombings in Baghdad Saturday. U.S. Marines said they killed “several” insurgents early Sunday in a battle in western Iraq that involved U.S. aircraft and tanks.

Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld had made a special trip to Baghdad on Wednesday to press for completion of the constitution by the deadline, tying it to Washington’s hopes for significant spring troop withdrawals.

But Iraq’s Shiite Arabs, Kurds and Sunni Arabs have been unable to reach agreement on topics including a Kurdish-led push for a regionally-driven system of federal government.

Under an Iraqi timetable, any request to extend the deadline for writing the constitution must be submitted the National Assembly, or parliament, by Aug. 1.

Bahaa Araji, a Shiite delegate, said constitutional committee members had decided to ask for a 30-day extension. Araji said the 30-day delay represented a compromise with delegates of the Kurdish minority, whom he said initially had demanded a six-month postponement.

“Tomorrow this request will be presented to the National Assembly, and we hope they approve it,” Araji said. The Associated Press also quoted the committee chairman, Humam Hammoudi, as saying a 30-day extension would be sought. Hammoudi later denied making such a statement.

And Reuters news agency later quoted Araji as denying that an extension had been agreed upon. Delegates were still discussing it, Araji said.

I think the appropriate way to examine this is in the context of the entire reconstruction. This is a marathon, and while the development of the Iraqi Consitution is an important milestone (just like th January vote), the race will go on. The question is, which mile-marker is this?

Let’s just hope the Constitution is one they can live with, and things get better.

Could Capito Beat Byrd?

Via fellow WV Blogger Don Surber, this Charleston Gazette piece:

Sen. Robert C. Byrd, D-W.Va., could be in serious trouble if Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., challenges him for his Senate seat, according to a national columnist and pundit.

“If the Republicans get Capito, I think Byrd could very well lose,” said Eleanor Clift, a contributing editor for Newsweek magazine and a regular on Fox News and the PBS show “The McLaughlin Group.”

Clift spoke Saturday to more than 200 people at the Snowshoe Institute, an educational and cultural event at Snowshoe Mountain Resort.

Byrd alienated many West Virginians with his outspoken opposition to the Iraq war, Clift said. And Republicans will exploit his advanced age in the 2006 election, she said.

Meanwhile, Capito is a rising star in the Republican Party. They allowed her to vote against President Bush last week on the Central American Free Trade Agreement, Clift said, in order to bolster her political chances. CAFTA passed by a two-vote margin.

GOP leaders are pushing her to run, but Capito is reluctant to take on a living legend, for personal reasons, Clift said.

“She’s going to be a senator someday, why should she rush?” Clift said. “If she does, I think he’s in real trouble.”

This is going to be interesting. Should Capito choose to not run, Don has come up with a list of possible other GOP candidates.

Marketing Research

This is fascinating:

Two marketing professors — Barbara Kahn of the Wharton School and Elizabeth Gelfland Miller of Boston College — have conducted some experiments to try to figure out what sort of effect mysterious names of colors and flavors have on consumers. They divided such names into categories: typical color names might be either ”common,” like dark green, or ”common descriptive,” like pine green; atypical names could be either ”unexpected descriptive” (Kermit green) or flat-out ”ambiguous” (friendly green). Nars Orgasm blush is certainly an atypical name, although I will leave it to the reader to decide whether it falls under ”unexpected descriptive” or simply ”ambiguous.”

Kahn and Miller found that unusual names were more popular, unless the person was distracted during the process of choosing — that is, the unexpected won out when subjects were given the opportunity to think about it, as a shopper at a cosmetics counter generally does. Kahn suspected that certain words (like anything to do with sex) would always spark positive responses. But instead, the key seemed to be unexpectedness itself, which essentially engages the consumer in an attempt to solve the puzzle of the name. This rapid, essentially unconscious cognitive process, Kahn and Miller wrote recently in The Journal of Consumer Research, ”results in additional (positive) attributions about the product and thus, a more favorable response.” This seems to affect not only whether a person chooses to buy something but also, oddly, how much she enjoys it.

Kahn and Miller cite two theories of mental processing that may be at work. In the case of ”unexpected descriptive” names, we may be able to solve the puzzle to our satisfaction. With the more logic-defying names, we essentially conclude that there must be some reason for it, and given the circumstances (it’s a product for sale in a market society), the reason must be positive. A spokeswoman for Nars declined to share the company’s reasons for calling blush Orgasm or Deep Throat, perhaps sensing that the mystery is good for business.


But not as interesting as this examination of how our perceptions of color are shaped by the surrounding environment in which colors exist.

A Badge of Pride

Josh Trevino writes that we should treat our eviction from Uzbekistan as a badge of pride.

Everything Whedon

First, the new Serenity trailer is up. Check it out.

Second, I am finished Angel Season 5, and I am furious it got cancelled.

Empty Promises

Fabulous. Remember the donor conference held in 2003 that garnered all the promises of international aid?

How much financial aid for Iraq was pledged at the October 23-24 Madrid donor conference?

About $33 billion in grants and loans, almost two-thirds of it from the United States. The widely used estimate of Iraq’s reconstruction needs is about $55 billion over several years. Still, the Bush administration was pleased with outcome of the conference, because non-U.S. pledges totaled more than many U.S. policymakers had expected.

Not surprisingly, some countries appear to be holding back:

The U.S.-led effort to rebuild Iraq’s devastated infrastructure is falling short because of a lack of financial support from other countries, the head of the Army Corps of Engineers said.

“There’s lots of good news, and good things are happening,” Lt. Gen. Carl Strock, the Corps’s chief of engineers, told The Hill, “but on the international effort, there’s simply not enough to get the Iraqis to where they need to be.”

Strock, whose agency acts as a middleman between the Agency for International Development (AID) and U.S. contractors and oversees actual construction, said about 2,500 projects valued at $5.8 billion have been started as of June, with 3,000 or so others on the drawing boards…

“What happened was that we are standing by our commitment but we have not seen the donor nations stand by theirs. The Iraqis are generating some income, primarily from oil, but right now we are the only show in town. We’re not going to get to where we need, given the current level of investment.”

Strock’s downbeat assessment comes as the new U.S. envoy to Iraq, Zalmay Khalizad, told reporters in Washington that he wants to give Iraqis “greater control and responsibility” over the reconstruction effort.

However, the reconstruction efforts, which to date have been bogged down by the violence and bloodshed, appear to be continuing forward, albeit slowly:

One of the biggest problems is the poor condition of the infrastructure, Strock explained.

“First, there was a lot of damage caused by sabotage and looting, but the real problem was that just about every area of the infrastructure suffered from 35 years of neglect by Saddam. We went in with the idea of repairing the infrastructure, but when we got in, we found that it simply was not going to be enough.”

Strock pointed to the oil infrastructure as “the area where we’ve made the most progress. We’re up to the point where we are producing about 2 million barrels a day and we’re working toward 3 million.” Slightly more than half of the oil is exported, he said.

“The bottom line is, I think we’ve turned the corner,” he said. “I really do.”

Read the whole thing.

Originalists and the ‘Other Amendments’

Thousands of miles of column inches have been writen on the topic of originalism, and the question of whether or not Judge Roberts shares this perspective is receiving the same voluminous treatment. Wikipedia describes originalism in this manner:

The term originalism refers to two distinctly different ideas: One version, known as original intent, is the view that interpretation of a written constitution is (or should be) consistent with what it was originally intended to mean by those who drafted and ratified it. The other version, known as original meaning, or textualism, is the view that interpretation of a written constitution should be based on what it would commonly have been understood to mean by reasonable persons living at the time of its ratification.

Last week, Matt Welch suggested several questions he would like asked of Judge Roberts:

You’re on a lifeboat, but it can only hold 8 of the original 10 amendments without sinking, killing your whole family. Which ones go?

What about 20 of the 27? With that in mind, my question:

“Do originalists place more primacy on the bill of rights than they do the subsequent 17 amendments?”

Again, this may highlight my ignorance more than anything, but I am curious as to what you think.