Iraqis Get Enthusiastic For Elections

Over the past three months, all we’ve heard about elections in Iraq is a steady drumbeat of pessimism — that the violence of the so-called insurgency will keep Iraqis away from the polls, and even that the Iraqis don’t truly want democracy. Despite our men and women in Iraq telling everyone they can that this meme doesn’t apply in their experience, the mainstream media in America insists on reinforcing this dreadful analysis with every terrorist bombing, making the Islamist strategy pay off in spades.
Tomorrow’s Washington Post takes a surprising point of view instead:

The number of Iraqis making sure they are properly registered to vote has surged dramatically, officials said Saturday, calling the rise evidence of enthusiasm for the Jan. 30 elections despite continuing security concerns that have blocked the process in two provinces.
After a slow start to the six-week registration process that began Nov. 1, the number of voters making corrections to official voter lists more than doubled in the final week, according to a final tally quoted by election officials Saturday.
Officials said that more than 2.1 million people went to local election offices to assure that eligible members of their households could vote. About 1.2 million forms were submitted to add names to the voter lists, an involved process that requires providing proof of identification and residence.

Iraqi voter rolls derive from food ration lists, so registration isn’t required. That piece of information from Karl Vick explains why the voter information centers didn’t get a lot of attention from ordinary Iraqis earlier on, a development that some media outlets apparently misinterpreted as a reluctance to register for the election. Having 2.1 million people out of 25 million take the time to confirm their status demonstrates a high degree of interest in the process and points to a rather large turnout.
The mainstream media intends on selling the Iraqis short, just as they did the Afghanis prior to their election. We heard nothing but how the clannish Afghanis would never embrace democracy, how the warlords would use violence to prevent the election, and how the Taliban remnants would overwhelm the voting centers with terrorist attacks everywhere except Kabul. It all turned out to be nothing but defeatist nonsense. Apparently, it looks like the same is true in Iraq.
One cheer for the Washington Post for finally reporting on the commitment of the Iraqis to govern themselves through democracy, even in the face of the Islamist lunatics. It would have been three cheers, except that they buried this story on page A12. At least they bothered to print it at all.
UPDATE: Welcome Instapundit readers!

Anti-Tobacco Efforts Get A Little Weird

I normally support efforts to remove tobacco influences from minors, especially as a former smoker myself. However, the lawsuits that plagued the tobacco industry for several years bothered me tremendously, as did the capitulation of the growers to what I felt was legal blackmail. After all, tobacco products have carried warnings about their deadly effects for over four decades — and anyone foolish enough to start smoking (or not to stop) should be understood to have willing borne the health risks.
The settlement proscribed the advertising that tobacco companies could use to promote their products, ostensibly to avoid the aforementioned influence on minors. Again, some of the restrictions made sense. However, the Ohio Supreme Court has managed to push the settlement into another expression of foolishness:

Matchbooks given out at bars and stores cannot bear advertising for cigarettes or other tobacco products under the 1998 settlement involving 46 states and the major tobacco companies, the Ohio Supreme Court has ruled.
Such promotional matchbooks fit the definition of merchandise and are governed by the ban on youth-oriented tobacco marketing in the settlement, which included Ohio, the court ruled unanimously on Thursday.

Matches as “merchandise”? The ban on merchandise intended on eliminating a promotional strategy by the tobacco companies to aim at younger smokers. Brand names turned up on jackets, caps, sports bags, and all sorts of other items, and smokers could use proofs of purchase for discounts or free items. Some of the less expensive materials were given away at promotions.
But matches have one purpose: lighting fires. Not even a tobacco-fighting lobbyist could imagine anyone handing out matchbooks to young kids for any kind of promotion. Restaurants hand them out for advertising — but not to teens! Merchandise restrictions were meant for those items whose primary use wasn’t lighting a cigarette. Indeed, one could say that the cigarette packs themselves represent advertising merchandise just as much as the matches.
The tobacco paranoia has long gotten out of hand, and the settlements states reached with tobacco producers have so many opportunities for mischief that Congress should look into the entire mess. (In Minnesota, the settlement did nothing but make Michael Ceresi richer than Croesus while the money that the state supposedly got for anti-tobacco efforts simply disappeared into the general fund instead.) These settlements promise more courtroom silliness in the years ahead unless Congress steps in and forces people to simply be responsible for their own actions. Smoking a cigarette is a choice, not something forced on anyone — and if we can’t accept responsibility for our own choices, the nanny state that proceeds from that will slowly choke off all our freedoms.

Northern Alliance Radio Today

Don’t forget that the Northern Alliance returns from its Christmas hiatus with a live show today, from noon to 3 pm CT. We plan on talking about the week and the year in review — and if Nick Coleman doesn’t figure in somewhere, pigs will fly over The Patriot today.
Be sure to catch us on air or over the Internet, and call in to chat with us at 651-289-4488. If you have a cell phone, you probably have free calling on weekends. We’ll look forward to talking with you!

Welcome To Idiotland

A Washington judge has denied a woman a divorce from the husband who beat her after she disclosed her pregnancy to the court. The Seattle Post-Intelligencer and the AP report that Judge Paul Bastine took the unusual step in order to, er, preserve the family unit for the unborn child:

A Spokane woman trying to divorce her estranged husband two years after he was jailed for beating her has been told by a judge she can’t get out of the marriage while she’s pregnant.
The case pits a first-year attorney who argues that state law allows any couple to divorce if neither spouse challenges it against a longtime family law judge who asserts that the rights of the unborn child in this type of case trump a woman’s right to divorce.
“There’s a lot of case law that says it is important in this state that children not be illegitamized,” Spokane County Superior Court Judge Paul Bastine told The Spokesman-Review newspaper.

The Left will take this story and decry the use of a fetus to deny a woman’s right to divorce an abusive husband, but in truth every party to this action is, to be blunt, an idiot. The woman’s unborn child isn’t her husband’s; the father reportedly is a gang-banger who shot and blinded an old man in 1998, making her claims of avoiding violence a bit hypocritical at best. The mother conceived the child while still married to the man who beat her. And Judge Bastine thinks that keeping all three of these so-called adults tied together serves the best interests of the child?
If Bastine wanted to do something positive for the unborn child, he’d have Child Protective Services remove the baby from the almost-terminally stupid mother and her violent paramours and start an adoption process instead. At the least, he should grant the divorce as quickly as possible. The longer these idiots stay together, Bastine included, the greater chance they can create more mischief towards the child.
What are judges in Washington drinking these days, anyway?

How Convenient

The United States has long opposed a second term as IAEA chief for Mohammed ElBaradei. The BBC now reports that the nomination period has completed, and only one candidate qualified for the post. Guess who?

The head of the UN nuclear watchdog, Mohammed ElBaradei has emerged as the only candidate for the post of the agency’s next director general.
Mr ElBaradei hopes to be re-elected for a third term, but the US does not want his mandate to be renewed.
Privately, some US officials have complained that Mr ElBaradei – who has held the post since 1997 – has been too soft on both Iran and Iraq.

The IAEA had inspectors in Iraq for years and yet did not ever resolve the issue of WMDs. For instance, Saddam managed to keep hidden all of the core research of his nuclear-weapons program from the IAEA and UN inspectors in the yard of Saddam’s program chief, along with a prototype centrifuge. In Iran, ElBaradei’s efforts have allowed the mullahcracy to employ stall tactics while they complete their work to build their nuclear weapons. The Iranians already have the launch vehicle, the Shahab-3, that has the range to strike anywhere in Southwest Asia and even into Europe.
Now, at the expiration of his term, it would appear the only way he could keep his job would be for no one else to apply for it. Not coincidentally, that’s exactly what happened. The sole nomination, the BBC reminds us, does not automatically grant ElBaradei a new term. However, it does make it rather difficult for the IAEA’s board of governors to select anyone else. We should prepare ourselves for another four years of appeasement and dilatory tactics.

Yanukovych Vows To Fight On Despite Resignation

Viktor Yanukovych vowed to fight on for the Ukrainian presidency despite his resignation as Prime Minister this week, claiming that although he doesn’t have much hope of reversing the election, he won’t stop trying:

Viktor Yanukovych vowed to fight on for Ukraine’s presidency, despite handing the opposition of this ex-Soviet Republic a begrudging victory by announcing his resignation as prime minister. …
The pro-Russian Yanukovych announced his resignation as prime minister on Friday in a televised address, his first significant concession since losing Sunday’s vote, but said he will maintain his claim to the presidency.
“I have made the decision to submit my formal resignation,” Yanukovych told the nation.
“We are still fighting, but I don’t have much hope,” he said. “I will act as an independent politician, as the rightful winner of the legitimate Nov. 21 election.”

Some speculate that the real reason Yanukovych resigned now is to avoid having to submit his resignation to President-elect Viktor Yushchenko after he gets sworn into office next month. He prefers to give his resignation to Leonid Kuchma, who told Ukraine in a televised speech that the nation must support the new president:

Later Friday, outgoing President Leonid Kuchma told the nation in a separate televised address that “in 2005, there will be a new president. Every region and every citizen of Ukraine must accept this democratic choice as their own because this person will need your support.”
Kuchma didn’t mention Yanukovych’s resignation in his speech.

The resignation automatically resulted in the dismissal of the Cabinet. Kuchma could now appoint a caretaker government — in fact, Ukraine law dictates that he has to do so within 60 days, but that’s well after Yushchenko will take office. Kuchma doesn’t appear to have much stomach anymore to hold back the Orange Revolution, and even if he did, Yushchenko’s ability to call out hundreds of thousands to the streets and bring the government to a standstill essentially checkmates Kuchma and his interests. Kuchma has shown that he has one essential quality of successful Western politicians after all: pragmatism.