Iraqi State of Emergency: The Parliamentary Occupation

Yesterday a large number of Iraqi Shi’a stormed into the Green Zone in protest and occupied the Iraqi Parliament. The immediate driver of this activity was a call by Muqtada al Sadr for the Iraqi Parliament to actually convene and take a vote on pending legislation to force Iraqi Prime Minister al Abadi to replace ministers with non-partisan technocrats. The real cause of the unrest is with the way power is currently portioned out within the Iraqi government, which is partially done by sectarian allotment among Sunni Arabs, Shi’a Arabs, and Kurds. When the current Iraqi government’s institutions and structures were being rebuilt one of the reforms was a very, very soft form of consociational (confessional) representation. Perhaps the best known example of this type of system is in Lebanon where certain numbers of seats in the Lebanese Parliament and certain ministerial and military positions are reserved for members of specific Lebanese sects in order to force power sharing, compromise, and the creation of a functional civil space among the often hostile and antagonistic Lebanese sects.

Iraq’s system isn’t a full consociational system as the elections to Parliament are based on party lists, not sectarian quotas regarding seats. Though in practice the party lists have produced a Shi’a majority bloc, with both Kurdish, Sunni, and mixed sectarian minority blocs within the Iraqi Parliament. Iraq’s consociational system instead focuses on having some ministerial positions allotted in a consociational manner to force power sharing and compromise. It has, unfortunately, not always worked effectively, and has been a source of serious contention, and a conduit for corruption. One of Prime Minister al Abadi’s goals has been the reform of this system by transitioning it away from consociationalism based on sectarian confession (Shi’a and Sunni) and ethnicity (Kurd) and towards a technocratic form of government. Unfortunately this has been stalled out; largely because those currently benefiting from the consociational system don’t want to give up those benefits so the legislation is stalled and a quorum cannot be produced in Parliament. The longer it drags on, the more the frustration grows. And today a lot of that boiled over. The good news is that the Iraqi Security Forces are not treating this as a type of activity that requires a counterterrorism response. This is a very good sign and watching the response of the Iraqi Security Forces and the Interior Ministry will provide us with important information going forward.

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Late Night Open Thread: Utah in Play… Maybe

Sometimes progressives assume — not without reason — that calling oneself a “religious voter” really means “I’m a narrow-minded bigot looking for an excuse to feel all superior about my racism and misogyny.” But there are people who won’t vote for Donald Trump because his loudly professed xenophobia is contrary to the teachings of their religion, and some of them are Christians.

On the other hand, since I’m not well-versed in Mormon theology, I’m not sure how Ted Cruz’s oleaginous Domininism measures up, or fails to, for Latter-Day Saints less bipolar than Glenn Beck…



Late Late Night Horrorshow Open Thread, Christianist Edition

This tweet has been bouncing around the ‘tubes, but since it’s Dinesh D’Souza, who knows whether “marrying” is a verb that applies to the present or the indefinite future? Wikipedia links to a wingnut-welfare-sponsored YouTube clip of D’Souza’s marriage proposal to Deborah Fancher, “conservative political activist and mother of two”, so at least she should have a pretty good idea of what she’s signing up for. Note, this is not the young groupie blogger for whose charms D’Souza divorced his first wife and ended his career with King’s College; perhaps Ms. Joseph failed to sever ties with her existing husband, or maybe she didn’t care to marry a convicted felon?
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Open Thread — Whited Sepulcher Edition

Since I’m old enough (barely) to remember how ecumenical the “good Christian patriots” were about John F. Kennedy’s allegiance to his weird foreign cult, that last tweet was my first thought, too. But there’s another new tidbit of Vaticanology that got pushed off the lead by Trump’s bluster… Read more



Tuesday Morning Open Thread: Happy Candlemas!


(Warning – turn down your volume control)

Imbolc marks the halfway point between the winter solstice and the spring equinox — too soon to celebrate a new season, but ‘winter’s back is broken’. Here in the Boston area, the official state whistlepig is almost certain to see her shadow, so it’ll be six more weeks of winter for us. As long as it’s not a repeat of last year’s February, we can live with it — it’s been an extremely clement season so far.

As for political news… from ground zero, the Des Moines Register:

Iowa Democratic Party officials worked into the early morning Tuesday trying to account for caucus results from a handful of tardy precincts in the extremely close presidential caucus race between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders.

By 2:30 a.m., the party announced that it had results from 1,682 of 1,683 precincts, and that Clinton had eked out a slim victory…

About 2:30 a.m. Tuesday, Party Chairwoman Andy McGuire released a statement saying the results were the closest in Iowa Democratic caucuses history. “After a year where Iowans took the time to see candidates, ask them thoughtful questions, and became volunteers and leaders themselves, tonight 171,109 Iowa Democrats came together with their neighbors to engage in a spirited discussion on the future of our country.”

If you believe NYMag, “Bernie Sanders owns the future of the Democratic Party.” If you believe the NYTimes’ Nate Cohn, a “‘Virtual Tie’ in Iowa Is Better for Clinton Than Sanders.” It’s more an argument over the arc of history than the November election, and right now it looks like both campaigns are working hard to make sure that their voters will show up in November to vote against the Repubs, whichever candidate ends up at the top of the ticket.

As for the Repubs — Alex Pareene, at Gawker:

[Monday] morning, the smart money had it that Donald Trump would win Iowa, and Ted Cruz would come in second—but it was possible that Trump could under-perform and Cruz would win. Well, Ted Cruz has won Iowa. Donald Trump is in second, and Marco Rubio is in third. But according to “the narrative,” Donald Trump is tonight’s big loser, and Rubio the upset victor.

The “expectations game” requires performing about as well as the polls said you would perform, or doing better. It is by that standard that Cruz and Rubio won, and Donald Trump swooned. Ann Selzer’s poll had Trump at 28 percent, Cruz at 23 percent, and Rubio at 15 percent. According to the results currently being reported on CNN, Cruz is at 28 percent, Trump is at 24 percent, and Rubio is at 23 percent…

What was wrong with the pre-caucus political analysis was the idea that high turnout would mean Trump was looking stronger. Turnout was high, and Trump didn’t surge. So either Cruz turned a lot more people out than anyone predicted, or a lot of soft “Trump supporters” showed up and were (rather easily) persuaded to switch to Rubio. If it’s the latter, that ought to make Trump worry about New Hampshire—but his lead there, so far, is massive, and primaries are very different from caucuses…

As I mentioned in my last post, the Trumpkins — with Breitbart.com cheerleading — are busy convincing themselves that Microsoft rigged the voting app to pump up results for their ‘water boy’ Rubio, in return for unlimited H1B visas come 2017. Carson’s voters, per Drudge, are upset that Cruz campaigners may have lied to caucus-goers about Carson dropping out prior to the tally. And everybody still hates the guy who actually got the most votes — Reince Priebus couldn’t even bring himself to mention Ted Cruz in the RNC’s official statement. So we got that going for us.

In happier parochial news, there’s a meetup this evening in Chicago, and I got an email from someone interested in adopting the Southside kitten (if his current cat housemate agrees).

Apart from all that, what’s on the agenda for the day?



Dropping the Seventh Veil: Christianists Embrace Trump

Why should the other bigots have all the fun? In case Sarah “Bible Spice” Palin’s endorsement wasn’t enough to make it official, the Grey Lady lifted her soiled skirts and stepped into the morass, to explain how “Evangelicals See Donald Trump as Man of Conviction, if Not Faith”:

Brash, thrice-married, cosseted in a gilded tower high above Fifth Avenue and fond of swearing from the stage at his rallies, Mr. Trump, who has spent his career in pursuit, and praise, of wealth, would seem an odd fit for voters who place greater value on faith, hope and charity.

Yet polls increasingly show Mr. Trump well in front of the crowded Republican field among white evangelical voters, despite competition including Senator Ted Cruz of Texas, whose father is an evangelical pastor; Mr. Huckabee, the 2008 Iowa caucus winner; former Senator Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania, a Roman Catholic whose story of raising a daughter with a disability struck a chord with voters and helped push him to victory in the 2012 Iowa caucuses; and Ben Carson, a Seventh-day Adventist who brought prayer into the operating room as a neurosurgeon and has spoken frequently about his Christian beliefs as a candidate.

A New York Times/CBS News poll last week showed Mr. Trump, a Presbyterian, dominating the field with 42 percent of evangelical voters; Mr. Cruz was second with 25 percent.

In dozens of interviews with evangelical voters in 16 states, from every region of the country outside the Northeast, those supporting Mr. Trump sounded a familiar refrain: that his heart was in the right place, that his intentions for the country were pure, that he alone was capable of delivering to a troubled country salvation in the here and now

And on Monday, Mr. Trump spoke at Liberty University, the Lynchburg, Va., institution founded by the late Rev. Jerry Falwell. Mr. Trump has been wooing Jerry Falwell Jr., and Mr. Falwell lavished praise on him, comparing Mr. Trump to Jesus and the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., for voicing unpopular thoughts…

Rev. Hucksterbee and Rick Sanctorum — let’s face it! — are luzers, and nobody likes that guy Cruz. Their god is a strong god, a winning god, one never hesitant to rain down destruction or crush another horde of unbelievers. Their god is YOOOOOGE.

And the Trumpenfuhrer is ready to lead them to glory, per NYMag:

“Christianity, it’s under siege,” the GOP front-runner said at the Evangelical college’s morning convocation. “We don’t band together. Other religions, frankly, they’re banding together … we have to unify. We have to band together, we have to do really, in a really large version, what they’ve done at Liberty.”…

The mogul further argued that “the Bible is the best,” though he had some difficulty in trying to quote it.

“Two Corinthians 3:17, that’s the whole ballgame. ‘Where the spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty,’” Trump said, inspiring chuckles from an audience that knows that chapter of Scripture by its god-given name of “Second Corinthians.”…

“In my opinion, Mr. Trump lives a life of loving and helping others … as Jesus taught in the New Testament,” Falwell said on Monday…

Second-gen religious hustler knows: Hustler Trump got serious game.

Our own Siubhan Duinne linked to Daniel Danger‘s amazing Storify post, “I went to a Donald Trump rally and saw a man wearing a plastic bag as a shirt”:

… I picked seats on the floor, partially to commit to simply being a bit more “in the shit”. I chose an aisle seat that had a clear open line of sight to the podium, and also offered a moderate amount of “phone privacy” by having an empty space to my right. Which turned out to be useful because the people behind me were actively trying to read my phone all night…

I missed who the speaker was, but he went on a whole bit about how there were Democrats hiding in the audience, and they probably wouldn’t/shouldn’t identify themselves due to “past incidents”, and because they were basically outnumbered in the room. And this was said in a joking manner to get a laugh from the room. Perhaps “past incidents” referred to Trump supporters beating and kicking a Latino man at a rally in Miami, The Black Lives Matter protester kicked and beaten at a Trump rally in Alabama, or the Trump supporters beating and peeing on a homeless Latino man because “Donald Trump was right.”… Read more



Long Read: “Wall Street’s Straight Man in Washington”

I appreciate a story that tells me something I didn’t already know. The capitalists on Wall Street have traditionally been tolerant about their captive politicians’ religious quirks, as long as those quirks didn’t get in the way of Wall Street’s religion — aka, The Almighty Dollar. Here’s a great tale by Joshua Green at Bloomberg Politics about another government Talibangelical whose existence had not previously crossed my awareness, Rep. Scott Garrett (R – NJ), “chairman of the powerful Subcommittee on Capital Markets & Government Sponsored Enterprises”:

Garrett’s committee is vital to Wall Street. “The rules of the road for handling money and anything with the SEC go through this committee,” says Marcus Stanley, policy director of the nonprofit Americans for Financial Reform. “There’s a ton of money at stake.” In Washington, the committee is known as the ATM, because banks and hedge funds shower the chairman with contributions. After the Dodd-Frank financial law forced hedge funds to register with the Securities and Exchange Commission, Garrett, already the recipient of more Wall Street money than almost any other member of the House, got millions more. The banks pay to have a voice, ensure they’re at the table when new rules are discussed, and insinuate themselves into the chairman’s good graces.

Much of the money Garrett collects from Wall Street is supposed to be passed along in the form of party dues to the GOP’s campaign arm, where it’s used to help other candidates get elected. So the committee is also important to Republicans because it binds the party with the business community in a mutually profitable arrangement. But back in July, Garrett threw a wrench into this smoothly humming machine.

At a private caucus meeting, he got into a heated dispute with his colleagues by declaring that he’d withhold hundreds of thousands of dollars in National Republican Congressional Committee dues to protest the party’s support for gay candidates. His outburst immediately caused a rift in the caucus…

Some of Garrett’s colleagues were simply upset that he was stiffing the NRCC. But others understood that he was jeopardizing the party’s electoral and financial fortunes: As the GOP struggles to widen its appeal, Garrett’s comments, which quickly became public, reaffirmed the impression of Republicans as stridently intolerant… Read more