Massive Demonstrations, Arrest Warrant for Prime Minister Threaten Upcoming Pakistan Elections

For the first time in its 65 year history, Pakistan is poised to see an elected government fully complete its term in March. With chaos erupting on several fronts, though, the path toward electing a new government appears to be full of obstacles.

Last week saw sectarian bombings kill 96 Shi’ites in Quetta on Thursday alone, and tens of thousands of protesters filled the streets, refusing to bury the dead until Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf came to Quetta and agreed to fire the entire provincial government, as it was suspected of being involved in sectarian violence.

Ashraf finds himself at the center of a controversy, as well. The Pakistan Supreme Court issued a warrant for his arrest today in a long-simmering scandal dating back to when Ashraf was minister of water and power before he became Prime Minister. From Dawn:

The prime minister has been accused of receiving kickbacks and commission in the RPPs [Rental Power Projects] case as minister for water and power.

In the case, nine RPPs firms were accused of receiving more than Rs22 billion [1 R = .01 US $] as a mobilisation advance from the government to commission the projects but most of them did not set up their plants and a few of them installed them but with inordinate delay.

From the Reuters article on today’s developments in Pakistan, we have a description of how the election process is supposed to proceed:

The government and opposition are poised to start negotiating the formation of a caretaker administration to oversee the run-up to the polls as soon as parliament is dissolved, which is due to happen in March. An election date has yet to be announced.

The New York Times article on developments informs us that the elections are required to take place within 60 days of the end of the term for the parliament. Complicating the process immensely though, is the sudden appearance of cleric Tahir ul Qadri, who has returned to Pakistan from Canada to lead massive protests demanding that the government resign immediately, instead of in March. The Times explains that some see the hand of the military behind Qadri:

The court order came as an enigmatic preacher turned politician, Muhammad Tahir ul Qadri, addressed thousands of supporters outside Parliament and repeated calls for the government’s ouster. In earlier speeches, he said that a caretaker administration led by technocrats should take its place.

The confluence of the two events stoked growing speculation that Pakistan’s powerful military was quietly supporting moves that would delay general elections that are due to take place this spring, most likely through the imposition of a military-backed caretaker administration.

The AP has more on what Qadri had to say at today’s rally: Read more

Trailing Crist Badly in Popularity, Scott Does Sudden Reversal on Early Voting in Florida

Yesterday, just a few hours before Charlie Crist was set to deliver what would be damning testimony in a US Senate hearing on the 2012 voting debacle in Florida, Rick Scott appeared on CNN and suddenly reversed himself on the issue of early voting.

Recall that the Florida legislature passed a horrible bill shortly after Scott narrowly won the 2010 election, cutting early voting days from 14 to 8, restricting registration efforts and purging voter lists so dramatically that the Department of Justice intervened on several issues in the law. Scott stood firm in supporting it. Just a few days before the election, as ridiculously long lines were reported in early voting, AP had this report:

Florida Democrats say they’ve filed a federal lawsuit asking for the state’s early voting period to be extended.

Republican Gov. Rick Scott has stood firm against giving Florida residents more time to vote before Tuesday.

On Saturday, some Floridians waited for hours on the last day of early voting. State officials say nearly 4 million early and absentee votes have been cast.

Scott and state officials have insisted there were no reasons to keep polls open beyond the eight days authorized in state law. The GOP-controlled Florida Legislature last year cut the number of early-voting days from a maximum of 14 days to eight. That reduction was upheld by federal courts.

As can be seen in the video above, Scott avoided mentioning his role in passing and signing the bill that created this year’s fiasco until called out by Soledad O’Brien. He tried to sound like a reasonable person proposing reasonable changes that will improve the situation, completely ignoring his role as an extremist who was instrumental in attempting to suppress the votes of hundreds of thousands of minorities in Florida.

Also yesterday, a Quinnipiac University poll provided some context for why Scott would find it necessary to reverse himself. His approval rating is strongly negative, while Charlie Crist, who recently joined the Democratic Party, retains an overall favorable rating, as does Alex Sink, who narrowly lost to Scott in 2010 but has already faded from voter recognition. From the poll:

Florida voters disapprove 45 – 36 percent of the job Gov. Rick Scott is doing, continuing his almost two-year run of negative scores, and, as he enters the second half of his term, voters say 52 – 30 percent that he does not deserve a second four-year term, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released today.

/snip/

“Gov. Rick Scott’s ratings with voters are just plain awful. The numbers cannot be sugar-coated,” said Peter A. Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute. “When voters in a politician’s own party want him to be challenged in a primary by another candidate, it’s difficult to see it as anything but outright rejection.

/snip/

Crist, elected governor in 2006 as a Republican, has a 47 – 33 percent favorability rating from all voters, including 65 – 10 percent among Democrats and 48 – 33 percent among independents, with a negative 28 – 56 percent among Republicans.

By comparison, Scott is viewed favorably by 31 percent and unfavorably by 43 percent of all Florida voters. His ratings by party are 55 – 18 percent among Republicans, with negatives of 16 – 60 percent among Democrats and 25 – 48 percent among independent voters.

Ms. Sink is viewed favorably by 27 percent, and unfavorably by 14 percent, with 57 percent who haven’t heard enough about her to form an opinion.

Marc Caputo, in the Miami Herald, reports on Crist’s appearance later Wednesday in the Senate:

In a prelude to a long and bitter campaign, former Gov. Charlie Crist pointedly criticized Gov. Rick Scott during a U.S. Senate hearing Wednesday over an elections law that led to voting troubles and helped turn Florida into a “late-night TV joke.”

/snip/

Crist suggested that Scott was the one to blame because he signed the election law in 2011 and, this year, the governor refused to extend in-person early voting hours despite lines that stretched for hours and discouraged many South Floridians from voting.

Crist contrasted that record with his own as governor in 2008, when he extended early voting hours.

“As Gov. Scott refused to take action to ease the lines, in some cases, those lines extended to six and seven hours,” Crist testified.

“The outcome of these decisions was quite obvious,” Crist said. “Florida, which four years earlier was a model for efficiency, became once again a late-night TV joke.”

Writing in the Gainesville Sun, Lloyd Dunkelberger brings us a prominent Democrat’s reaction to Scott’s sudden reversal:

Scott’s comments stunned Democrats, who had been harshly critical of Scott and the Republicans for the shortened early voting period as well as other provisions in the 2011 election law that they said were designed to suppress Democratic voters at the polls.

“It’s bordering on an alternative reality,” said former state Sen. Dan Gelber, D-Miami Beach, who wrote Scott urging him to extend the early voting hours after witnessing lines of voters waiting six to seven hours in Miami-Dade County. “He and his colleagues in the Legislature created precisely what happened.

“It was done purposely and willfully and now to pretend like they were surprised by it is utterly ridiculous.”

Given the polling on Scott’s popularity, it would appear that many Florida voters join Gelber in blaming Scott for the voting fiasco last month.

The Gray Lady Falls Off the Balance Beam

Granted, it pertains to my right-wing governor, so it’s personal. But this NYT profile of Rick Snyder is a remarkable example of the perverse journalistic fetish for “balance” gone so badly awry it amounts to disinformation.

Let’s start with this summarized claim.

Republicans and business leaders here widely praise Mr. Snyder, crediting him with balancing the state’s once-troubled budget, dumping a state business tax and presiding over an employment rebound in a state that not long ago had the highest jobless rate in the nation. [my emphasis]

You’d think a newspaper might want to point out that MI’s unemployment actually turned around in August 2009–well before Snyder’s election in 2010 and not coincidentally the month after GM came out of bankruptcy. Unemployment dropped 3.3% before Snyder took over, dropped a further 2.6% after he did. But more significantly, unemployment in MI has started to creep up again–it’s up .7% since its recent low in April, to 9%.

Setting that record straight is critical to the rest of the article, since it repeatedly gushes about Rick Snyder refusing to deny Obama credit for MI’s turnaround.

Just before the Republican primary in Michigan in February, Mr. Snyder was asked in an interview whether Mr. Obama ought to be given credit for the state’s economic improvements. “I don’t worry about blame or credit,” he said. “It’s more about solving the problem.”

Nowhere in the article does “reporter” Monica Davey consider the possibility that Obama–and, in fact, Jennifer Granholm–have more to do with the turnaround than Snyder. Yet even many Republicans in this state would grant that the successful bailout of Chrysler and GM had a lot to do with the turnaround (though Republicans almost universally ignore the energy jobs Obama focused on MI).

So maybe Snyder refuses to deny Obama credit because such a claim would not be credible? It’s not a possibility the NYT article–which is supposed to be a celebration of a lack of ideology–even considers.

Which brings me to the other area where NYT’s idea of what constitutes balance is completely whacked: its treatment of the right to organize.

Read more

The Democrats Had Already Conceded the War on Women

Curiously, in his chronology of the talking point, “the War on Women,” Dave Weigel doesn’t mention the actual terrorist attack on a Planned Parenthood clinic a few weeks back. Nor does Marc Ambinder in his thoughtful piece on the outrage mobilized by the term. And these men commenting on the Democratic Party’s effort to mobilize its tribes by raising outrage over the GOP’s treatment of women are right, up to a point. In DC, that metaphor, “War on Women,” has been cognitively divorced from what happens when a man conducts a terrorist attack (one not treated as a terrorist attack, mind you) on a clinic designed to help women access the same life choices men get by default.

In their review of the outraged response to Hillary Rosen’s suggestion that Ann Romney had never worked a day in her life, neither Weigel nor Ambinder nor just about anyone else noted the unspoken implication of Mitt Romney’s defense of his wife that raising their five children (with help, mind you) was a full time job. Mitt effectively admitted that he wasn’t doing the child-rearing–still a common gender assumption among men of Mitt’s age, but nevertheless stunning in the way no one noticed that Mitt admitted his role as father involves outsourcing all the child-rearing to the mother. The true scandal of the Hillary Rosen poutrage, IMO, is that no one considered the flip side of Ann’s full-time job as mother: Mitt’s abdication of child-rearing as a father. Sure. When his boys were little, he was a busy man and all that–he had people to fire and jobs to outsource. But he was able to focus so closely on those things because Ann did the parenting work for the two of them.

Meanwhile, the Democrats are still going to use GOP attacks on women as a political stunt. DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz tweeted or re-tweeted 7 comments about women’s issues yesterday, in addition to the seemingly mandatory condemnation of Rosen.

I was particularly amused by this DWS tweet:

Bottom line: Choice, affordable contraception, and Planned Parenthood are at stake in this election. http://j.mp/I6A8c0

As it happened, a few hours after DWS sent that tweet, I went to a Debbie Stabenow event hosted by a local women’s group. As we were waiting for the Senator to speak, a top county Democrat was sitting several rows behind me trying to convince some of the women not to support Trevor Thomas. “There is absolutely no way he can win,” the guy said (the polling says he’s wrong, and I suspect he knows that). In addition to saying a gay man can’t win, he also said a pro-choice person can’t win in the district (his listeners pointed out that Stabenow herself had won the district; so have at least two other pro-choice candidates). Then he described Steven Pestka, using the line Michigan Democrats used to defend Bart Stupak as he was rolling back access to choice for women across the country.

He’s with us on everything else.

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Our Torturer, Omar Suleiman, Wants to Be President–Will We Help Him?

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After earlier stating he would not run in the upcoming Egyptian Presidential race, Omar Suleiman announced on Friday he would file to run for President (with the Army’s help gathering the 30,000 signatures he would need to collect in just one day).

Omar Suleiman, one of the most powerful figures of Mubarak’s regime, had said earlier this week that he would not run. But he said he changed his mind after hundreds of people rallied in Cairo to support a bid.

[snip]

Hundreds rallied Friday in Cairo to call for him to run for president.

Suleiman said that helped change his mind.

“I can only meet the call and run in the presidential race, despite the constraints and difficulties I made clear in my former statement,” he said in a statement carried by the official MENA news agency on Friday. He said he faces administrative obstacles, but did not elaborate.

The AJE piece above describes how the Presidential race has devolved into all sides responding to Islamists–who had a big win in Parliamentary elections–deciding to run. Suleiman’s decision seems to be just another step in that process.

Mr. Suleiman’s decision raises the possibility that, one year after an uprising that was spurred in part by the Mubarak regime’s brutality, torture, and oppression, one of the architects of that repression could become Egypt’s first post-Mubarak president.

Some see his candidacy as a response by Egypt’s military rulers to the Muslim Brotherhood’s recent decision to field a presidential candidate – a decision that broke a year-long promise to stay out of the race. Omar Ashour, a visiting fellow at the Brookings Doha Center in Qatar, says Suleiman’s candidacy raises the possibility that the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF), which is currently ruling Egypt, may rig the elections to favor the former intelligence chief.

Some observers suggest Suleiman’s move is just be an effort to make Amr Moussa look credible by comparison.

But as Jeff Stein reviews, in many ways he’d be the most palatable candidate to the West, largely because of our long history of cooperating with him on things like torturing Ibn Shaikh al-Libi to generate propaganda with which to start the Iraq War. People predicted Suleiman might succeed Hosni Mubarak long before the Arab Uprising.

“An open question is whether he can count on help from his longtime friends in the CIA,” I wrote back in January 2011.

“Ask who they posit as a possible successor,” a State Department expert on the region told me then. “Bet you a beer, the name Omar Suleiman comes up more often than most.”

Read more

Vagina’s Vengeance: Republicans Officially Killing Their Party for Birth Control

Last night,stupid Catholic commentators like Chris Matthews, tried to blame Rick Santorum’s loss in MI on his Kennedy comment. Santorum must have lost MI’s significant percentage of Republican Catholics, Matthews figured, because he said he had vomited after listening to a John F. Kennedy speech.

That ignored the fact that the tide had already turned against Santorum a week earlier. Both Catholics and women abandoned him after he started embracing medieval mores. (His speech last night feigned feminism, so it’s clear he knows what happened.)

But I’m more interested in the timing of Olympia Snowe’s decision to retire.

She cited excessive partisanship when she announced her decision yesterday.

I do find it frustrating, however, that an atmosphere of polarization and ‘my way or the highway’ ideologies has become pervasive in campaigns and in our governing institutions.

[snip]

Unfortunately, I do not realistically expect the partisanship of recent years in the Senate to change over the short term. So at this stage of my tenure in public service, I have concluded that I am not prepared to commit myself to an additional six years in the Senate, which is what a fourth term would entail.

That usually means the other party is being too partisan.

Except this announcement comes just two weeks after Snowe (and Susan Collins) at first broke with their party to announce support for Obama’s compromise on birth control. But both women quickly flip-flopped, basically opposing a policy they had once proposed themselves. Snowe has announced her opposition to the Blunt Amendment–which will come up for a vote on Thursday. We’ll see whether she follows through on that.

We shall see–but one way to show the men in your party that women have the ability to affect events would be to retire at a time that makes it much less likely Republicans will win a majority in the Senate.

How nice to see Republicans destroy their party by insisting that women lose all control over their bodies.

Four of Seven Dwarves: Consistent, Courage, Resolute, Cheerful

“Consistent” (Paul), “Courage” (Santorum?!), “Resolute” (Willard), “Cheerful” (Newt)

Those are the one word answers the GOP candidates gave CNN’s John King to explain themselves.

All I could think of where the seven dwarves remaining. (Bachmann? Crazy. Perry? Dummy. Cain? Slutty.)

That said, I’m not sure what service men and women think of Santorum claiming credit, presumably for his socially restrictive policies while never serving, is all that courageous. And Willard? “Resolute”? I guess that’s Mormon for “multiple choice,” right?

These people are clearly all too delusional to have their finger on the nuclear button.

MDP: Take Advantage of Taxpayer Funded Right to Screw with GOP Primary

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Michigan Democratic Party Chair, Mark Brewer just sent this video out with the following message.

Friends,

Republicans have extended an invitation to all Michigan Democrats to crossover and vote in the Michigan GOP presidential primary this Tuesday, February 28th. Yesterday, Republican Senators Rick Jones and Arlan Meekhof said they’d welcome Democrats to crossover. You can check out the invitation for yourselves by watching the video clip below.

Any Democrat who takes Senators Jones and Meekhof up on their offer will still be able to participate in the Michigan Democratic Party’s presidential caucuses on May 5, 2012.

If Democratic crossover votes affect the results of the GOP presidential primary next Tuesday, the Republicans will only have themselves to blame.

Sincerely,

Mark Brewer

Chair, Michigan Democratic Party

Now, as someone who proudly voted for John McCain in the 2000 primary, I’m all in favor of using MI’s cross-over primaries to screw with GOP primaries.

The thing is, I’m not convinced the presumed choice here–supporting the medieval Rick Santorum–is really a good idea. Sure, it might make Mitt Romney go bankrupt sooner. But I think Democrats underestimate Santorum’s ability to run against Obama.

And frankly, while Santorum’s regressive views are exposing the GOP brand in its true form, I’d sort of like debate to get beyond whether women have no rights, or just a few.

Vagina’s Revenge: MI’s Women Changing their Mind about Rick Santorum

Go figure. Us womenfolk don’t like people to tell us what to do with our bodies.

PPP poll, February 13:

PPP Poll, February 19:

And here’s an interesting detail from the February 19 poll: MI’s Catholics don’t like their fellow Catholic, Rick Santorum (or, for that matter, Catholic convert Newt Gingrich):

Rick Snyder: “Look at Me!!! And, Oh, BTW, Mitt Was Born in MI”

I was pretty gleeful when Romney’s folks hinted yesterday that Rick Snyder was going to endorse today. While Snyder’s approval levels are improving from abysmal levels, he’s still unpopular. Plus, he’s a rich man from liberal Ann Arbor; Snyder’s own biography will emphasize precisely the things conservatives distrust in the rich Governor from liberal MA. Most of all, it raises the likelihood we’ll have a replay of 2000, when McCain won the primary here largely because people saw it as a way to damage Governor John Engler, who had aggressively campaigned for George W. Bush.

Boy, the party must have pushed Snyder hard to endorse here, because there’s little upside to it for him.

I’m even more amused now that I’ve read what Snyder said in his endorsement.

The whole endorsement is just over 600 words long. Of that, the first 62 words blather about Snyder, not Mitt. After a transition finally bringing him around to Mitt, Snyder spends the first 130 words of his description of Mitt to explain that Mitt was born here.

Let’s start with one important fact. Our country has never elected a president born and raised in Michigan. Mitt Romney was born in Detroit. His father served with distinction as governor. Before that, he was president of American Motors. Mitt grew up with the prospects of the auto industry and of Michigan discussed around the dinner table.

He has deep ties to our state. Mitt understands the challenges confronting Michigan as few Americans do.

Snyder spends a paragraph transitioning back to MI again (effectively saying, “Mitt’s a businessman like me”–which brings me back to my earlier point about how Snyder will emphasize the reasons the GOP base is suspicious of Mitt). Here’s where it gets interesting: Snyder, as he often does, claims credit for things he had little to do with (notably, MI’s turnaround), and then says Obama–who should get some credit for it–is screwing up nationally.

Michigan has laid out an impressive game plan for success. Across both peninsulas, Michiganians are working together with relentless positive action to move our state forward. We’ve made the tough decisions and bold reforms that are rejuvenating our state, such as restoring Michigan’s fiscal integrity.

By eliminating a nagging $1.5 billion budget deficit last year, we’re now in the position of recommending strategic, long-term investments in priority areas such as education, economic development and infrastructure. Simply put, we’re getting it right and we’re getting it done.

In contrast to Michigan’s blueprint, Washington is still at the drawing board. Deficit spending continues to run rampant. For the first time since World War II, the nation’s total debt burden exceeds the size of our entire economy. With Washington running trillion-dollar annual deficits, our nation’s recovery has been the slowest since the 1930s.

Washington is not on a sustainable course. Mitt Romney will change the direction.

Another quarter of Snyder’s “endorsement” claims credit for himself and promises to put the plans that had been working before he cut them–education and business development–back into place.

Only then, almost two-thirds of the way into his “endorsement,” does Snyder get around to telling Michiganders (actually, he calls us “Michiganians,” which is a bit of a departure for him) why they should vote for Romney–aside from the fact that he was born here and therefore MI might claim credit for him if he were to win. Vote for Romney, Snyder gets around to exhorting after he spends large chunks of his op-ed begging readers first to support him, because Romney will cut taxes and address the deficit and not force all states to adopt RomneyC– I mean, ObamaCare.

I hope all Michiganians will join me in supporting the candidacy of this favorite son of our great state.

It doesn’t exactly read like a full-throated endorsement, even while Snyder’s pitching that Romney will do for the US what Snyder claims credit for doing for MI. More like a squeal of “don’t hurt me!!!!” while reminding us what we already know, that Mitt was born here.

Vote for Mitt Romney, Rick Snyder says, because his accident of birth is one of the best things I can think to say about him.

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