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Scraping the Bottom of the Barrel

Reported by Nancy - August 24, 2005 -

Today (8/24) on FNL, Bob Sellers anchored the last hour of the program, & had the misfortune to conduct an interview that more properly belonged on a comedy show than a "hard news" program. The point of the exercise was allegedly to showcase how Kazakhstan, a "democratic nation with a large Muslim population", could be a "role model" for Iraq, but I don't think even FNL expected viewers to buy that, because while Sellers & his guest were busy trading bromides, FNL was busy running graphics promoting Bush.

At 12:12pm (EDT) Sellers interviewed Kazakhoman Tokaev (Kazakhstan foreign affairs minister). Tokaev is a very good diplomat who speaks English very well, & Sellers asked no uncomfortable questions, so the entire exchange was one long, happy "we're so swell" - "yes you are" routine.

During most of the interview, FNL ran a banner -- WAR ON TERROR -- plus a sub-banner: KAZAKHSTAN BACKS U.S. PRESENCE IN WAR ON TERROR. For a few seconds, FNL also ran a banner that said Tokaev was KAZAKHSTAN FOREIGN AFFAIRS MINISTER -- but his correct title is simply "Foreign Minister". Priorities, priorities: FNL saw fit to interrupt those banners for an extra-large banner: PRESIDENT'S WAR ON TERROR REMARKS AT 1:30.

Comment: Puh-leeze. Kazakhstan as a "role model" for Iraq? Is this the best (& newest) excuse they can come with for the mess in Iraq?

A little background: Kazakhstan was one of the member states of the Soviet Union, & declared its independence in December 1991. Since then, it has been ruled by its President, Nursultan Nazarbayev, who was elected to a second 7-year term in 1999 & has recently announced his intention to run for a third term.

Here's how the CIA Factbook describes the "Government type" of Kazakhstan:

republic; authoritarian presidential rule, with little power outside the executive branch

There is a bicameral Parliament: a lower house (the Mazhilis) with 77 members & an upper house (the Senate). with 39 members (7 of whom are appointed by the President). According to Wikipedia,

Elections to the Mazhilis in September 2004 yielded a lower house dominated by the pro-government Otan party, headed by President Nazarbayev. Two other parties considered sympathetic to the president, including the agrarian-industrial bloc AIST and the Asar party, founded by President Nazarbayev?s daughter, won most of the remaining seats. Opposition parties, which were officially registered and competed in the elections, won a single seat during elections that the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe said fell short of international standards.

Here's what Human Rights Watch had to say about those elections.

Also from Wikipedia,

In 1999, Kazakhstan applied for observer status at the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly. The official response of the Assembly was that Kazakhstan could apply for full membership, because it is partially located in Europe, but that they would not be granted any status whatsoever at the Council until their democracy and human rights records improved.

Curiously (or maybe not), there was an article in the Washington Times yesterday headlined: Kazakhstan backs U.S operations in Central Asia. The article turns out to be an interview with [insert drumroll] Kazakhoman Tokaev. Hmm. More than a coincidence?

As for those banners, what the heck is the "U.S. PRESENCE IN WAR ON TERROR"? Is there a way any nation, much less the US, could NOT be "present"? I'd wonder whether FNL can sink any lower in the swamp of self-promotion, but I'm sure they'll have a new wrinkle tomorrow, & the day after.

NOTE TO READERS: Please stay on topic (FNL's pro-dictator propaganda & self-promotion). O/T comments will be deleted. Thanks.