Archive for the ‘Political musings’ Category

 

An artists works on a banner calling for the death sentence for rapists in Delhi, 16 January 2012

The December 2012 Delhi gang rape which resulted in the victim’s death shocked India

A 14-year-old Indian girl has died and her mother was seriously injured when they were allegedly thrown off a bus by the staff who tried to molest them.

Three men, including the bus conductor and his assistant, have been arrested.

The girl was travelling in Punjab’s Moga district along with her mother and younger brother. The bus had a few passengers at the time of the assault.

The crime is horrifyingly reminiscent of the widely December 2012 gang rape where a 23 year old student was assaulted on a bus in Delhi and subsequently died from injuries sustained during the attack. The crime shocked India and the world and raised an ongoing public debate over the treatment of women in the country.

In the latest incident, the girl’s family had boarded the bus from their village to visit a gurudwara (Sikh temple) on Wednesday evening, reports NDTV.

“They kept abusing us. No one helped. They first pushed my daughter off the bus, then me,” the channel quoted the mother, who has been admitted to hospital, as saying.

Police said they had seized the bus and were investigating the case.

Anti rape in India

Rape is virtually endemic in India, as is violence against women generally. The patriarchal attitudes that lead to this were exemplified by one of the men convicted for raping and killing a woman in a shocking and brutal 2012 gang attack on a New Delhi bus said in a TV documentary that if their victim had not fought back she would not have been killed.

Instead, the 23-year-old woman should have remained silent, said Mukesh Singh, who was driving the bus when the woman was attacked.

“Then they would have dropped her off after ‘doing her,'” he said in a documentary being released next week. The filmmakers released transcripts of the interview, which was recorded in 2013, in early March.

Singh and three other attackers were convicted in a fast-track court in 2013. The appeals against their death sentences are pending in the Supreme Court.

“A girl is far more responsible for rape than a boy,” he said, according to the transcripts. “A decent girl won’t roam around at 9 o’clock at night …. Housework and housekeeping is for girls, not roaming in discos and bars at night doing wrong things, wearing wrong clothes.”

The woman and her male friend were returning home from seeing a movie at an upscale mall when they got on the bus. The attackers beat her friend and took turns raping the woman. They penetrated her with a metal rod, leaving severe internal injuries that caused her death.

India, where many people have long believed that women are responsible for rape, was shocked into action after the attack. The Indian government rushed legislation doubling prison terms for rapists to 20 years and criminalising voyeurism, stalking and the trafficking of women. The law also makes it a crime for police officers to refuse to open cases when complaints are made.

In the interview, Singh suggested that the attack was to teach the woman and her male friend a lesson that they should not have been out late at night. He also reiterated that rape victims should not fight back: “She should just be silent and allow the rape.”

He also said that the death penalty would make things even more dangerous for women: “Now when they rape, they won’t leave the girl like we did. They will kill her.”

Singh’s interview is from the documentary “India’s Daughter” by British filmmaker Leslee Udwin. It was shown on March 8, International Women’s Day, in India, Britain, Denmark, Sweden and several other countries.

Yes means yes, no means no

Whoever we are, wherever we go, yes means yes, no means no.

As always, it is male attitudes that put women at risk, not womens’ behaviour.

If you want to make the point to those around you, we politely suggest you buy one of our most popular shirt designs and make your views known to the world

The male version of the shirt is here.

Other clothing items with the same message are also available.

The 2010 result - next Thursday will be wildly different.

The 2010 result – next Thursday will be wildly different.

Dear Reader, we have often claimed a 100% record for our election predictions around the world since around 1979. Of course, the fact that we haven’t managed to parlay these into a cushy job standing around in an ill-fitting suit on TV on election night is another matter altogether. Still, it’s a fun game: half political nous, half consumer insight, and half instinct.

Thus friends who have been following our prognostications for half a lifetime or more have been urging us to put up or shut up. Mostly, we suspect, shut up.

But this election in the UK is proving notoriously difficult to call accurately.

For those of you who aren’t following it with the same obsessive pleasure as your indefatigable correspondent, we will lay out the basic issues.

A majority government after next Thursday?

Will either Labour or the Conservatives get an overall majority of seats?

This is the easy one. No. The reasons are many and varied, but the essentials are that no one party is particularly popular in a country that is ravaged by political division and has endured tough times in recent years.

Normally, tough times would usher in the Opposition, on the basis that Oppositions don’t win elections, Governments lose them.

But there is the rather odd situation this time where none of the major party leaders are genuinely popular, and the electorate is also keenly aware of the fact that no major party seems to have a very clear idea of what to do to combat the general economic malaise affecting a Europe stricken with structural debt and over-spending, matched to low levels of productivity and innovation.

Labour would have won the election in the good old bad old days, but the seemingly unstoppable rise and rise of the populist, quasi-socialist Scottish National Party (and to a lesser extent their Welsh equivalent) will rob them of the seats in the major urban areas of of the Celtic states that they historically thought they “owned”.

The Lib Dems, although they have done a little better in the last week thanks to a creeping decline in the UKIP vote as the anti-immigration party come under greater scrutiny and a good performance from party leader Nick Clegg in a TV debate, will not win enough seats to make another straight Tory/Lib Dem Coalition a possibility.

So who will be the next Prime Minister?

That’s probably a rather easier one. If one adds the likely SNP wins to the likely Labour wins, then it will be Ed Milliband of Labour. Except that he has gone out of his way to insist (without any credibility) that he will not even consider an agreement where the SNP guarantee supply, let alone a full-blown coalition, so there is still some uncertainty. If Labour wins the popular vote (say by 35-34%) in the old days that would have seen them within a seat or two of a majority given the current standing of the Lib Dems and UKIP. The rise of the SNP is a new political reality that Westminster has to grapple with.

As we cannot predict with any certainty what politicians will do behind closed doors – who would have bet on the Lib Dems backing the pro-austerity Euro-sceptic Tories last time rather than their more amenable centre-left Labour colleagues? – we cannot predict what will happen after Thursday. But we suspect the outcome may be as follows, or something like it:

As the leader of the largest party, and the sitting PM, the Queen will invite David Cameron to try and form a majority Government – which may need to be tested on the floor of the Commons – but he will fail to pass a vote of confidence. The Lib Dems won’t have enough seats to get him over the line, even with the support of the protestants from Northern Ireland and a couple of UKIP MPs, and anyway they will abstain because of the current Tory insistence on an “in out” referendum on the EU.

The Queen will then invite Ed Milliband to do the same, and his motion WILL pass, but without a formal agreement with the SNP, putting him in power as a genuine minority Government – a situation almost unknown in British governmental history. Why will it pass? Simply because the SNP will calculate that they have more chance of negotiating successfully and informally with Labour, with whom they share many policy objectives, than they would with the Conservatives, who are anathema to them and their supporters. In effect – and this may be Milliband’s current calculation – they are pretty much caught in the cleft stick of their own anti-Tory rhetoric.

This process could take a long time, and will be the subject of fevered discussion in the media and the country. If you thought post-2010 was chaotic, it’ll be nothing compared to this.

So why not just call the election now? Isn’t that what you’re doing?

Well, sort of. Except when we make predictions we like them to be as accurate as possible, and there’s one factor that prevents a rush to final judgement.

The last weekend

One of the things most misunderstood by political pundits and commentators that have never actually been politically active themselves is the effect of the “ground game”, as the Americans call it. The Obama ground game – making sure one’s own supporters get out and vote in sufficient numbers, and getting waverers back into the fold – was the main reason he won re-election in 2012, for example, and it went to pot in the 2014 mid-terms, which is why the Republicans did so much better then.

(That’s a deep simplification, and other factors were at play in both elections, but it’s essentially a very true and much-ignored fact.)

Yes, the all-important ground game: that’s the effect on the electorate of the work done by political parties in each constituency. These can produce utterly skewed results, seat by seat. Taken over the country as a whole, they can affect the result significantly.

We won’t know the effect of the last weekend’s campaigning until polls are taken on Sunday night (by telephone) in key marginals, hopefully picking up any last minute impacts.

Similarly, whilst it might be hard for those of us obsessed with such matters to believe it, politics isn’t the most important factor in many people’s lives. So many people make their mind up in the last few days of an election, including, in the UK, whether to vote or not at all. We would normally suggest a low turnout for this poll, given the unpopularity of the main parties, but two other factors suggest it will be an average or even slightly higher turnout. One: other options now exist for disenchanted voters to express a protest vote, such as UKIP, the Greens and the Nationalists. Two: everyone understands the election is close, and therefore people feel their individual vote may carry more weight than usual. Those people are not yet reflected in polls – unless they are “Don’t Knows” – and in a tight election working out what they might do is central to understanding what will happen.

Sanders

For those of you who may never have lived in a marginal seat, here’s a brilliant example of what’s known as a “Last minute squeeze leaflet” employed by sitting Lib Dem MP in Torbay, Devon, Adrian Sanders. Normally, one would expect Sanders to be in trouble in this seat, which was a Tory fiefdom for decades, despite the fact that he is a hard-working local MP who is well-respected. But this leaflet makes it clear to all those who intend voting that only the Lib Dems or the Tories have a realistic chance of winning. Voters like being on the winning side – messages like this, if conveyed successfully, produce so-called “tactical voting” (aka I want the MP I least dislike) – which can boost the result for one of the main contenders or another.

Of course, the Tories can employ the same tactic against intending UKIP voters – and will, in this seat and others. Both Tory and Labour candidates will ruthlessly “squeeze” Lib Dem candidates and others in seats where they are going head to head.

How well each party makes this argument, seat by seat, will have a profound effect on the result. Pollsters will be seeking to track that effect from Sunday night onwards, which is why we will reserve our final prediction for a day or so.

We will note these general trends, which we expect to show up more clearly in polls over the next few days.

  • The number of “Don’t Knows” is falling, and this will increase as next Thursday approaches. Opinion polls that combine face-to-face interviewing with telephone interviewing, and which include constituency-specific data in their polling, will be more accurate, and are the ones to follow.
  • UKIP’s vote has peaked and is in decline. They have had, essentially, a poor campaign. Will probably only win two seats in England.
  • The SNP will probably not win all the seats in Scotland, as people have so breathlessly been reporting, but they will win a great many. The Lib Dems will retain Orkney and Shetland and maybe one more seat.
  • Nick Clegg of the Liberal Democrats is now marginally less likely to lose his seat of Sheffield Hallam than he was a couple of weeks back. The Lib Dem vote is trending up again, inch by laborious inch, and we expect it to end up on or near 9-10% nationally. Predicting their result nationally is fiendishly difficult because there are some seats – Eastleigh is a good example – where their ground game and local Government presence makes it almost impossible for them to lose, whereas on notional national swings they could. We have said all along they will end up with 20 seats or less – which will be a disaster for them – but we concede that other wise heads predict 20-to-30. We think we’re nearer right than wrong.
  • The Greens will only hold one seat after the election, the one they hold now in Brighton.

More news as it comes to hand. We will make our fearless prediction on Monday or Tuesday. Maybe.

Interestingly, The Independent newspaper’s poll of polls where they consult the heads of the ten largest polling organisations is headlined “A Tory lead but a Labour Government” and includes this very apposite comment from one of the pollsters, Michelle Harrison of TNS:

This election represents what happens when a country is not confident about its economic future, unsure of its place in the world, and fed up with the state of its politics.

The political stalemate at the centre, and the fragmentation of the traditional party system, has left us with a set of polls incapable of telling what will ultimately happen, when there are so many potential scenarios. What we can feel confident about though is that Thursday will be a seismic night for politics in Scotland. When the votes are counted, we expect the Tories to be the largest party, but that Labour should still have the greatest chance of forming a government. But how do we measure the advantage for the Conservatives of already being in No 10 in the days after the general election? The real drama will start on Friday.

We agree. Meanwhile, if you think you know better, put your assumptions into this rather excellent Election Predictor, one of many around. Here’s another good one. Hours of innocent fun for all the family …

Incidentally, putting an average of the most recent polls into predictors today (using different figures for Scotland of course) gives this result which would mean our predictions over the last year about most of the result have been well-nigh spot on. Long way to go yet though:

National Prediction: Conservative short 46 of majority

Party 2010 Votes 2010 Seats Pred Votes Gains Losses Pred Seats
CON 37.0% 307 33.5% 18 45 280
LAB 29.7% 258 31.5% 53 33 278
LIB 23.6% 57 10.0% 0 40 17
UKIP 3.2% 0 13.8% 2 0 2
Green 1.0% 1 5.1% 0 0 1
SNP 1.7% 6 4.1% 45 0 51
PlaidC 0.6% 3 0.6% 0 0 3
Minor 3.4% 0 1.4% 0 0 0
N.Ire 18 0 0 18

It might seem odd, Dear Reader, to campaign for convicted drug dealers to be spared from being shot to death when the world’s attention is focused on the tragedy in Nepal, where uncountable thousands have perished.

 

Myuran Sukumaran takes an art class in Kerobokan

Myuran Sukumaran takes an art class in Kerobokan

 

Except it is perfectly right to do so.

We will always be afflicted by the vagaries of the natural world. But mankind can choose how we treat one another. And the death of a single soul is as important as the communal deaths of thousands, who are, after all, individuals too, not statistics.

It is often said that “All politics is local”. But we have always preferred the notion that all politics is indivudal.

As John Donne wrote centuries ago:

No man is an island,
Entire of itself.
Each is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.
If a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less.
As well as if a promontory were.
As well as if a manor of thine own
Or of thine friend’s were.
Each man’s death diminishes me,
For I am involved in mankind.
Therefore, send not to know
For whom the bell tolls,
It tolls for thee.

The current obduracy of the Indonesian government in the face of imploring appeals from countries the world over not to execute the “drug smugglers” currently with less than 24 hours left to live is a matter of choice. President Widodo chooses not to listen to the appeals, just as he chose, with breathtaking callousness, not even to read the individual appeals for clemency on behalf of the accused, rendering, in and of itself, the Indonesian legal system into contempt.

We have always implacably opposed the death penalty in all circumstances, all our lives, if for no other reason because of the terrible things it does to us and our society, but other reasons there are many – such as that it is frequently mistaken, frequently applied unevenly across racial groups, and frequently excessive. And a system riddled with institutional corruption, such as in Indonesia, has no place putting people to death.

And we have discussed elsewhere why these executions in particular are so terribly wrong.

So as they walk into a field to be tied to a plank and shot in their choice of a kneeling, sitting or standing position, let us once more, out of respect for those about to die, remember why this action is so wrong.

 

Andrew chan baptises a fellow prisoner inside Kerobokan jail.

Andrew chan baptises a fellow prisoner inside Kerobokan jail.

 

Chan and Sukumaran, already jailed for as long as they would serve in any civilised country, are perfect examples of the notion of prison as reform. One is now an ordained Christian minister. One is a highly accomplished painter and teacher who has earned a University degree while in jail. Both have done such good work with other prisoners in their imprisonment that the prison governor asked that they be not executed, and prisoners offered to take their place at the stake. They have asked to be reprieved so they can continue their work.

The Filipina woman slated to die claims to have known nothing of the drugs hidden in her suitcase and the prosecution failed to prove that she did.

The French man who is still slated to die (although his execution is currently suspended) was a welder who had no idea he had been working on the construction of a meth lab for just three days.

The Brazilian man who will be killed tonight is a paranoid schizophrenic who doesn’t understand what is happening to him. He walks his cell talking to the walls and “ghosts”. Two men arrested with him were freed without charge after he exonerated them.

The family of Mary Jane Veloso arrive to say goodbye forever. The effect on her sons is incomprensible.

The family of Mary Jane Veloso arrive to say goodbye forever. The effect on her sons is incomprehensible.

On their last day together, the families, friends and supporters of the eight to be shot tonight gathered together in a small outdoor courtyard. Together. Initially the guards refused to take the handcuffs off the prisoners to allow them to embrace their families for the last time. All the groups, shorn of privacy in their grief, were together. Can one even imagine the communal pain of Andrew Chan, with his family and wife of one day at his side, next to the two young sons of the young Filipina woman and her inconsolable parents, next to Myuran’s family …

To read more about the tragic case of Mary Jane Veloso click here.

Frenchman Serge Atlaoui, 51, was among the group to be put to death after losing an appeal to the Indonesian Supreme Court last week. But officials told French news agency AFP Saturday that he will not be included in the batch of executions because he still has a legal appeal outstanding.

The move comes amid intense pressure from Paris on Jakarta. French President Francois Hollande had warned earlier Saturday of “consequences with France and Europe” if Atlaoui was put to death.

“We cannot accept this type of execution,” he told reporters during a visit to Azerbaijan, adding that the consequences would be of a “diplomatic” nature.

And so, back and forth, the awful slow-motion close-up circus of state murder rolls on, in its hideous rollercoaster fashion. And perhaps most frustrating of all, there is no evidence that these executions are having any effect on the prevalence of drugs in Indonesia, which is nothing like as dramatic as Presidential propaganda is saying anyway, and those caught are merely the foot-soldiers in this “war on drugs”, while the king-pins they work for – most of whom are known – walk free to enjoy the sunshine and their luxury lifestyle, protected by their ability to buy off the system.

Bottom line: this tragic farce – this excuse for law – is barbaric, and should have no place in a modern world. Anywhere in a modern world.

President Joko Widodo, playing to a domestic audience he believes will be pleased by the executions, (which is by no means certain), must never be allowed to forget his role in these judicial murders. He will be held to account. And Indonesia is about to step into a dark abyss of international condemnation from which it will not emerge while Widodo remains at its helm – actually controlled by former President Megawati Soekarnoputri, making a mockey of Indonesia’s so-called democracy.

The utter failure of his lacklustre and murderous Presidency is laid out in fine detail here.

 

Megawati - the hard woman behind the Widodo throne.

Megawati – the hard woman behind the Widodo throne.

 

“Megawati said to him at the party congress, ‘Why haven’t the executions been carried out already – you aren’t buckling to foreign pressure, are you?'” says Greg Fealy, a leading ANU scholar of Indonesia.

He continued: “The politics is that death penalty is extremely popular in Indonesia, Jokowi is slipping in the polls, he’s desperate to turn it around, and of the available issues this is the most readily available on which he’s looking strong, according to most Indonesians.”

In the meantime, Andrew and Myuran wait, comforted by their spiritual advisors, who will not only wait the last terrifying hours with them, but will witness them being killed, as well.

Sukumaran has asked long-time friend and supporter Christie Buckingham, a senior pastor from Melbourne’s Bayside Church, who has been visiting both men for years. Chan has nominated Salvation Army minister and family friend David Soper.

They, too, deserve to be remembered today. They are living their religious commitment in the most bare and painful way possible.

Respect.

Myuran Sukumaran has said he will refuse a blindfold when he dies, preferring to look his executioners in the eyes. We should all look his executioners in his eyes, on his behalf.

Now, and forever.

The controversial poster has since been removed. Photo: Facebook

The controversial poster has since been removed. Photo: Facebook

The Australian Vaccination Skeptic’s Network (AVSNI) circulated a controversial image on social media this morning, comparing childhood immunisation to rape.

The post, which has since been removed from the organisation’s Facebook page, featured a disturbing image of a woman in distress, with a man who is covering her mouth with his hand. The accompanying text reads:

“FORCED PENETRATION: Really- no big deal, if it’s just a vaccination needle, and he’s a doctor. Do you really ‘need’ control over your own choices?” Almost immediately, supporters expressed their disgust at the image.

It’s not the first time the controversial group have likened being pro-vaccination to rape. According to the Sydney Morning Herald the organisation compared the court ordering a five-year-old girl to be immunised to “court orders rape of a child” in a tweet in 2011.

More: Measles outbreak fuelled by parents who failed to vaccinate children

In this latest post, the group responded to one comment, defending its decision. “This post isn’t tasteless – it’s honest. What truly IS tasteless is our elected government trying to tell us that we have to vaccinate our children even if we don’t believe it’s the best for their health,” the organisation said.

The anti-immunisation group has been rallying against pro-immunisation views of the wider medical community by claiming that vaccination can lead to autism and should be a personal choice. It’s potential influence has led to government intervention and them being ordered to change from their previous name, the Australian Vaccination Network, after the Administrative Decisions Tribunal deemed it misleading.

While the group were obviously trying to use a provocative campaign to spread their message, it has clearly backfired. Quite apart from the trigger effect on women who have been assaulted or raped – a point they apparently ignored – the picture is not just tasteless, it is insulting to people’s intelligence. As one commenter wrote:

“This is disgusting. And here is a reason people will not listen to AV supporters. If you can’t have your argument respectfully, you’ve already lost.”

Parents in the "third world" know what internet-fueled idiot parents in the West have forgotten - preventable diseases kill. Here mothers in Zimbabwe queue for MMR vaccine in 2006 after a measles outbreak killed 16 children. Measles still has the potential to kill hundreds of thousands of children annually, and is currently held at bay by UN health campaigns.

Parents in the “third world” know what internet-fueled idiot parents in the West have forgotten – preventable diseases kill. Here, mothers in Zimbabwe queue for MMR vaccine in 2006 after a measles outbreak killed 16 children and maimed others. Measles still has the potential to kill hundreds of thousands of children annually, and is currently held at bay by UN health campaigns.

We heartily agree.

And for the record, we believe not vaccinating your children against preventable diseases that can maim or kill – when there is NO evidence that vaccination can cause harm except in a miniscule number of cases worldwide, far outweighed by the millions of children’s lives saved – is akin to child abuse. And when the direct result of your propaganda is that preventable diseases are returning, communal child abuse. When will you be satisfied? When we have iron lungs in our hospitals filled with children again?

Zero tolerance. Not interested in discussion. Anti-vaxxer comments will not be approved for publication, please don’t bother.

(Yahoo and others)

Girls at Islamic school banned from running over virginity fears: report

Vic Islamic college allegedly bans girls from running over virginity concerns.

The principal of an Islamic school in Melbourne’s west has allegedly banned girls from running in sporting events out of concerns it may cause them to lose their virginity, causing a huge community blowback at the worst possible time for local Muslims.

Female students at Al-Taqwa College, in Truganina, were also barred from playing soccer as a sports injury could make them infertile, Fairfax has reported.

School’s regulator, the Victorian Registration and Qualifications Authority, is reportedly investigating the claims levelled at principal Omar Hallak, who earlier this year courted controversy when he suggested Islamic State was supported by western countries.

In a letter sent to education ministers and published by The Age, a former teacher at the college said:

“The principal holds beliefs that if females run excessively, they may lose their virginity.

“The principal believes that there is scientific evidence to indicate that if girls injure themselves, such as break their leg while playing soccer, it could render them infertile.”

The teacher claimed Mr Hallak stopped the female cross country team from participating in a 2013 and 2014 district event, Fairfax reports.

The girls had been training hard for the competition when Mr Hallak realised they were set to compete and cancelled it.

The girls were reportedly distraught by Mr Hallak’s intervention and penned hand written letters of complaint in which they expressed their disappointment.

“It was really shocking to find out it had been cancelled because the excuse girls can’t run,” one student wrote.

The teacher claimed she had worked at another school where both boys and girls had equally been encouraged to take part in sporting activities.

“I look back on my time at Al-Taqwa with frustration and anger, which is how I felt most of the time while I was working there,” she said in the letter.

“I did my best to stay committed to the students however in the end, I was unable to provide the same opportunities to students that I was given when I was at a primary school, more than 20 years ago.

“It was really shocking to find out it had been cancelled because the excuse girls can’t run,” one student said in her complaint to the principal.

Education minister James Merlino has told 3AW the reports are concerning and the Victorian Registration and Qualifications Authority is investigating.

“If true these are very concerning reports and I have asked the VRQA to investigate and report back to me,” Mr Merlino has told 3AW on Thursday.

Mr Hallak courted controversy earlier this year when he reportedly told some students IS was backed by western countries as part of a plot to control Middle Eastern oil supplies.

Merlino labelled those comments ‘reckless and dangerous’.

“They’re reckless. They’re dangerous and it leads to confusion in young people … the best way to tackle radicalisation is through education of young people. The worst thing you can do is put reckless and dangerous ideas into their heads,” he told reporters at the time.

Wellthisiswhatithink doesn’t feel the need to comment further: frankly, we are speechless. In pursuit of fairness, we will provide a response from Mr Hallak if one is forthcoming and we are made aware of it.

(Yahoo and 7 News)

 

Kim Rose

Kim Rose

In what must be just about the oddest story that will come out of this year’s UK election, a UKIP parliamentary candidate has been questioned over allegations he tried to influence voters by giving away sausage rolls at a party event featuring snooker star Jimmy White.

Kim Rose, standing in our old stomping ground of Southampton Itchen, had to report to police over allegations of “treating”. Electoral Commission rules state food and entertainment cannot be provided by candidates to “corruptly influence” votes. Mr Rose said he held the event on 21 February at a community centre in Weston. He invited veteran snooker star Jimmy White, who he described as a long-time friend, to play pool with local youngsters. Adult entrants were charged £2 for the event. Veteran snooker star Jimmy White attended the event in February.

 

Jimmy White at UKIP event

Mr Rose said: “It was fantastic day. We laid on teas, coffees, sandwiches and some sausage rolls. Now I’ve been reported for allegations of treating. Maybe it’s a bit naive but all the intentions were good. It’s absolutely ridiculous. I’m sure people aren’t going to change their mind [over voting] for a sausage roll,” he said.

Mr Rose was contacted by Hampshire Constabulary’s Economic Crime Unit and asked to report to Romsey police station on Monday. At which point he was apparently counselled on the niceties of not entertaining people you want to vote for you.

 

Sausage rolls

Tempting.

 

The Electoral Commission said it was a police matter. Its summary of electoral offences states: “A person is guilty of treating if… they directly or indirectly give or provide any food, drink, entertainment or provision to corruptly influence any voter to vote or refrain from voting.

“Treating requires a corrupt intent – it does not apply to ordinary hospitality.”

We agree with the candidate. We don’t think anyone will be changing their vote to him over a sausage roll. It’s just silly.

An entire plate of sausage rolls every day for a year wouldn’t persuade us to vote for UKIP.

We do happily recall being a Parliamentary candidate in the UK deep in the last millenium. For five weeks one is unable – by law – to buy anyone a pint. Worth standing for that reason alone, frankly.

 

When will this end?

When will this end? When will the world truly care?

A Pakistani man and his father have been arrested in the country’s latest so-called “honour killing” after they set the son’s wife alight for leaving the house without asking his permission, police said Sunday.

Muhammad Siddique became enraged on learning that his wife, Shabana Bibi, 25, had visited her sister without first asking him if she could go out, her brother Muhammad Azam said.

Siddique and his father then beat Bibi before dousing her with petrol and setting her on fire in Central Pakistan’s Muzaffargarh district on Friday, Azam said.

Bibi had been married to Siddique for three years, during which time she had suffered repeated domestic abuse for the couple’s inability to have children, Azam said. Clearly that was the true “insult” received by the husband in this case.

Suffering burns to 80 percent of her body, Bibi died of her injuries in hospital on Saturday.

woman“We have arrested the husband and father-in-law of the deceased woman and charged them for murder and terrorism,” district police chief Rai Zameer-ul-Haq told AFP. The charge of “terrorism” is regularly applied in such cases so as to expedite the legal process.

Hundreds of women are murdered by their relatives in Pakistan each year through domestic violence or on the grounds of defending family “honour”.

The Aurat Foundation, a campaign group that works to improve the lives of women in Pakistan’s conservative and patriarchal society, says more than 3,000 women have been killed in such attacks since 2008.

honour-killing-jpgWellthisiswhatithink does not, as some do, accuse the Muslim religion of being responsible for these outrages – so-called honour killings occur in many countries, and many cultural groups, including amongst Christians. Sikhs and Hindus. But the world needs to apply implacable opposition to this appalling practice wherever it occurs, and especially in Pakistan which accounts for more than half of such killings, and also to the oppression of women worldwide generally.

As John Lennon deliberately and pointedly remarked, “Woman is the nigger of the world”. How true.  And as he most appropriately urges: ” Think about it.”

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Primarily, because she’s smarter.

Whilst Bill was always a policy wonk – and a consummate speaker and all-round good bloke, of course – it was always Hilary who had the big smarts in his State and Federal administrations.

And her biggest smart is listening to good advice: a characteristic she has honed in recent years, and which has become more obvious as she’s got older.

If you’re interested in politics, whatever your shade of political opinion, I recommend you watch the video.

It will be criticised, of course. It will be called bland. It will be called too carefully crafted. It will be called slick.

All true. But that’s to miss the point.

What most politicians and commentators generally misunderstand is that to win a GENERAL election, as opposed to a by-election, special run off, or any other “smaller” event – even mid terms – one needs to build a broad base of support. That requires a coalition of voters, many of whom are nowadays more interested in a single issue than the broad gamut of policies.

Let me just say that again. People now tend to vote on one or two issues, not a broad brushtroke opinion of whether they support an entire platform, or even any particular party.

Cheery chappie Farage appeals to anti-immigration and anti-EU sentiment

Cheery chappie – UKIP leader Farage appeals to anti-immigration and anti-EU sentiment like a cracked record.

Thus UKIP, for example, in the UK – and many other parties in Europe but especially the National Front in France and the Northern League in Italy – leverage anxiety about over-weening central authority in the European Union and about immigration. They still talk about a heap of other issues, but frankly pretty much needn’t to justify their existence.

Their core base of support is pretty much ensured by those two focii.

Not a difficult concept to grasp - Green party appeals focus on degrading habitat for major animals, and trees.

Not a difficult concept to grasp – Green party appeals focus on degrading habitat for major animals, and trees.

Green parties worldwide leverage fears about global warming and environmental protection generally. Yes, they project a wide variety of other issues into the marketplace, (usually connected to social justice concerns that sit well with their mainly left-wing membership), but again, if they didn’t their raison d’etre would still be clear to a large enough number of voters to see them wield serious minority influence.

But when it comes to a major party, it’s no longer enough to be simplistically “On the side of Capital”, or “On the side of Labour” as it was for most of the 20th century.

If those observations seem somewhat contradictory, let us explain further.

After a century of combat, voters generally realise instinctively that “big” politics is now played mainly in the centre, with only degrees of difference or application separating historically opposed parties that are now not generally in disagreement about the broad thrust of “mixed economy politics”.

Tweedledum and Tweedledee - a common (and probably fair) complaint made against major parties worldwide.

Tweedledum and Tweedledee – a common (and probably fair) complaint made against major parties worldwide.

This is often most obviously expressed in terms that imply dis-satisfaction – “they’re all the same”, for example – but without any great or obvious desire to do anything about that observation at a broad election.

To the intense confusion or annoyance of those who represent more minority viewpoints, the vast mass of voters coalesce into the middle when push comes to shove.

Occasionally – very occasionally – major seismic shifts occur and one of the two major parties in any western-style democracy is replaced, but what then tends to happen is that the new participants start to look very like the organisation they replaced.

Yes, needless to say, there are legitimate squabbles about the size of deficits and the balance of the roles of government and private capital in funding the economy, but in most countries, the difference between left and right is now one of degree, rather than core principle.

And yes, there are “small government” libertarians seeking to outflank conservative parties on the right, and neo-Marxists still clinging to the fringes of the left.

But the days when there was a massive, enduring and quasi-violent divide between labour and capital have surely passed. Today, almost everyone is middle class. Even if they aren’t. Even the reining in of government spending during so-called austerity measures in Europe has not produced a genuine meltdown in public opinion by those affected. Annoyance? Yes. Big demonstrations? Yes.

But Paris in 1968? Britain in the winter of 1979? No.

Those to the far right and left like to pretend that the consensus is breaking down. In fact, it is more solid than ever.

In these days of the comfortable centre a winning strategy is to hold the centre and then judiciously add to your collection of centirst voters those “single issue” groupings that circle around it without a natural home – single issue groups that you can support, and lend a voice to, without betraying core principles too obviously.

Thus Obama won (twice, but especially the second time) by stitching together two groups that historically have not necessarily shared goals, to wit the African American urban constituency and southern Hispanics. In Obama’s case he didn’t even need to be particularly activist in building the coalition. The Republican failure to appeal to the more business-oriented Latino vote by failing to deal with the GOP’s own right-wing’s obsession with restricting Latino immigration (and not normalising residency status for those already int he country illegally) delivered them holus bolus into the Democrat camp in large numbers, thus delivering Obama a second term.

Back in the day, the activist Christian vote in America helped deliver Ronald Reagan big victories not because the whole of America was to be found in the Bible belt, but because they seemed generally wholesome and mostly inoffensive and thus people found it easy to vote for an essentially centrist politician in Reagan with conservative Christian overtones which didn’t really rock their boat. Snaring their political support was a masterstroke for Reagan’s campaign managers. By today, though, fundamentalist Christian activists often seem shrill, rather extreme and frequently to be drilling down to a bedrock of anti-knowledge. This delights their core audience, and attracts all manner of opportunist Republican candidates to their conferences and meetings, but their obvious extremism terrifies the soft centre.

The same is true of some other single issue groups on the right. The extreme small-government brigade frequently seem loopy even in a country where paying tax is begrudged more than most, and where central government is intrinsically very unpopular as a concept. Similarly, the anti-vaxxers and some parts (not all) of the pro-gun lobby seem so actively bizarre that they are, again, hugely popular with their very narrow constituencies, but a complete turn off for mainstream people.

Republican theorists frantically seek to build a winning coalition by yoiking together all these disparate groups, imagining that this is how you build a winning coalition, but all-the-while while bleeding common-or-garden Republicans into first the “Independent” camp and then, as the psychosis intensifies, into the “Well, I’m not really a Democrat, but I’m not going to vote for that lot” column, resulting in a boost to the Democrat vote or (more likely, and just as damagingly) widespread GOP abstentionism.

To win, Hillary has to appear intelligent – which she has no difficulty in doing at all – and to target enough single issue voters which are not likely to “spook the horses”. So now let’s look at that Hillary launch TVC again.

In the old days, in the ad business, we would have said “Ooops, your strategy is showing!” But most people will consume this very professional piece of propaganda without blinking.

Besides people who think Spring is a positive new start to the year – geddit? – these are the groups it targets:

Single parents – note the first woman says “My daughter” not “Our daughter”. Due to marital breakdown, single parents (with women disproportionately represented in caring for children) are a significant and growing demographic.

Returning to work mothers – a key constituency as many middle-class families require dual incomes to cope, and as women born in the feminist era prefer not to stay at home for 18 years to raise their kids.

Latin-speaking people who are – note – in BUSINESS for themselves.

African American expectant parents. Of course, Hillary and her team want all expectant parents to vote for her, but so much the better if she chummies up to African Americans at the same time, so crucial to Obama’s election. Don’t want any black middle class voters being siphoned off to the GOP … notice the people seen here are clearly middle class and relatively well off, not sitting on crumbling concrete steps in Detroit.

An Asian American woman … talking about graduating, of course. Because Asians are all about education, right?

Soon to be retired white couple – very naturally a part of the GOP’s constituency (often called, recently, the “Old White Party”) – if she could get some of those over too it would broaden her overall constituency considerably.

Pet lovers. Well come on. Pet lovers for Hillary.

People going back to work after the economic hardship of recent years. Hillary needs them to forget the bad times and become ironed-on blue collar workforce Democrats again, especially in southern states.

And notice two gay families – one male, one female. Gay marriage – homosexuality generally – is a “light the blue touchpaper and retire” issue for the extreme right, but middle America really couldn’t care less. They just see it as a fairness issue. Yesterday’s news.

What’s more, anywhere between 2% and 10% of the American population self-identify as gay. Many of them are “Dual Income No Kids” – a natural constituency for the GOP, if it were shorn of its religious extremists. So Hillary wants to send a message: you all need to be voting for me. And the gay vote alone could tip a close election one way or the other.

Hillary-2

So in summary, Hillary wants the mainstream pro-Democrat vote (let’s call that 35% of working and middle class whites for argument’s sake) plus you: you Asian Americans, African Americans, Hispanics (especially Spanish speakers), blue collar work returners, expectant parents, near-retirees, dog lovers, and gays. Oh, with a strong implication that she wants women, too, but not too overtly, because that will piss off the men.

That’s a majority, right there. Very smart piece of work. Told you.

HorsehillsurreyApparently Obama has just ordered the Sixth Fleet to the English Channel to remove the dictatorial government of the UK with solid proof they have weapons of mass destruction.

The Australian Government are holding their hands up excitedly and jumping up and down at their desks wanting to commit resources to the Coalition attack force.

All joking apart, this is great news for the UK. Read the whole story here:

http://www.bbc.com/news/business-32229203

Death row Filipina s family begs Indonesia for her life

The family of a Filipina on death row in Indonesia made a tearful appeal for her life on Wednesday, insisting that an international drug syndicate duped the single mother of two.

Mary Jane Veloso, 30, has been in an Indonesian jail for five years after being caught at Yogyakarta airport with 2.6 kilogrammes (5.73 pounds) of heroin, and is among a batch of foreigners facing imminent execution.

But in an interview with AFP in Manila, her parents and sister said a crime syndicate involving a friend had deceived her, and she did not know the drugs had been sown into her suitcase before flying from Malaysia.

“Please don’t kill my sister. She is innocent. If you kill her, you will have blood on your hands,” Veloso’s elder sister Marites Veloso-Laurente said in a plea to Indonesian President Joko Widodo.

With tears streaming down his cheeks, Veloso’s father said the syndicate that used her as an unwitting drug mule had pledged to kill all family members if they reported the racket to authorities or went to the media.

“Life’s been hard. We’ve been living in fear. My daughter’s recruiters have been threatening us – they threatened to kill us one by one,” said 59-year-old Cesar Veloso.

The family is from a poor farming town about three hours’ drive north of Manila, and Veloso had sought to provide for her two young sons by working as a maid overseas.

The single mother initially worked for nine months in Dubai in 2009 but was forced to come home after her employer tried to rape her, according to her father.

A family friend then offered Veloso work as a maid in Malaysia.

When Veloso got to Malaysia she was told the job was no longer available but there was another one in Indonesia if she flew there immediately, according to her parents.

“My sister’s a loving person, she’s so kind. But she trusts too much. We don’t engage in vices or anything illegal, no cigarettes, no alcohol,” her elder sister said.

When Veloso was arrested, her sons were aged just one and seven and they too have become victims.

“It’s as if they lost all hope… they are worried about what would happen to them if their mother never came back,” the Veloso matriarch, Celia, said as her two grandsons sat quietly next to her.

She said the eldest son, Mark Daniel Candelaria, 12, was struggling at school and may have to repeat eighth grade.

Veloso’s youngest, Mark Darren, 6, copes by singing his mother’s favourite song, a Filipino ballad called: “Just wait”, which has become an anthem of hope for the family.

Veloso’s mother, 55, insisted that if her daughter was involved in the drug trade, her family would have seen some benefits of it.

Instead, she shares a cramped brick and wood shanty with her husband and six grandchildren, including Veloso’s sons.

“We beg you, Mr Indonesian president, if my daughter was involved in drugs, we wouldn’t be this poor,” she said.

About 10 million Filipinos work overseas, with most heading abroad to escape deep poverty.

Many work in menial jobs or face dangerous work conditions, but even salaries of $300 a month are more than can be earned at home.

The government has previously warned Filipinos heading abroad about the dangers of drug traffickers trying to exploit or dupe them.

The are 125 Filipinos on death row around the world, with many of them convicted of drug trafficking, Connie Bragas-Regalado, chairperson of overseas workers’ rights group Migrante, told AFP.

The Indonesian Supreme Court last week denied Veloso’s request to review her conviction.

The Philippine government said Wednesday it would file a second appeal.

Veloso’s parents and sons also visited the Indonesian embassy in Manila on Wednesday to lodge a letter appealing to Widodo for mercy.

Aside from Veloso, convicts from Australia, Brazil, France, Ghana and Nigeria are set to face a firing squad after they had their requests for presidential clemency rejected, although a further appeal in the case of the Australians Chan and Sukumaran is planned.

The death penalty was abolished in the mainly Catholic Philippines in 2006.

The obduracy of the Indonesian government in the face of serious concerns about either the guilt of the accused or whether they deserve being executed is disgusting.

Another of the batch to be executed suffers from paranoid schizophrenia: it is a widely accepted rule of law that it is wrong to execute someone whose mental impairment may have contributed to their behaviour, as it goes to the issue of their culpability.

Rodrigo Gularte is relaxed about the death penalty. He knows it has been abolished across the world. The people that monitor and control him via satellite through the microchip they have implanted in his head have told him so.

Gularte, 42, is a deeply disturbed paranoid schizophrenic who is facing imminent execution by firing squad, along with ten others.

He has no concept of what is happening to him. When his family visits, he is constantly distracted as he searches the skies over Nusakambangan prison for the manned satellite that is stalking him.

Gularte, from Curitiba in Brazil, was arrested in 2004 with two other Brazilian couriers bringing 6kg of cocaine into Indonesia. He’d been treated for depression since his teenage years. He had become a drug addict and was an easy target for Brazil’s drug cartels, looking for people to ship cocaine to Indonesia.

Troubled teen ... Rodrigo was struggled with depression Pictures: Supplied

Troubled teen … Rodrigo struggled with depression from an early age.

Proof that Gularte was unwell was evident by what he did when he was arrested: he told police that the two men with him had nothing to do with it. He took all blame.

The two were allowed to go home to Brazil and the following year Gularte was sentenced to death.

The hearing was itself a travesty. Gularte’s mother, Clarisse, now 71, and his cousin, Angelita Muxfeldt, 49, flew to Jakarta a week after his arrest. As they waited to see Gularte, a lawyer arrived for an unexpected late-night meeting.

The lawyer said he could get them into the police station, right at that moment, to see Gularte. He was trying to show them how influential he was. They were suitably impressed, and paid him “a lot” of money.

He then abandoned his client.

When Gularte was sentenced to death in 2005, he was totally alone. The lawyer had fled with the cash, failing to tell the family and embassy officials that he was to be sentenced. He did not stand a chance.

Alatoui's wife campaigns ceaseless for him to be saved.

Alatoui’s wife campaigns ceaseless for him to be saved.

Another inmate was arrested for working on a “drugs lab” as a welder, but had no knowledge of the eventual use of the construction site he was working on and had only been there three days: he had no involvement in drug trafficking whatsoever.

Serge Atlaoui, a father of four children, was arrested near Jakarta in 2005 in a secret laboratory designed to produce ecstasy. He was sentenced to death in 2007 on drug trafficking charges. Already imprisoned in Indonesia for ten years, he has always denied the charges saying he was installing industrial machinery in what he thought was an acrylics factory. What a nightmare for him and his family and friends. The French President and Foreign Minister have campaigned vigorously for him not to be executed.

It becomes increasingly clear that these impending executions have nothing to do with justice and everything to do with playing internal politics in Indonesia. Indonesian President Widodo did not even READ the case files on these poor people before rejecting their appeals for clemency.

In reality, the only thing that may be keeping these people alive is international attention. It needs to be more embarrassing for Indonesia to carry out the death penalty than it is for them to back down.

Wellthisiswhatithink urges you to share this story, and any others you see, to ensure that the visibility of these poor people’s situations is maintained. Tweet this story, Facebook it, re-blog it. Thank you.

(From AFP, Daily Mail, Australian Broadcasting Corporation, and others)

British leaders debate

Yes, well that’s pretty clear, then.

So seven leaders line up to give the country their vision for the future of the UK. Except that’s the UK without Northern Ireland, who weren’t given a guernsey because – er, well, who knows? Especially as Northern Ireland MPs could very possibly form part of the Government of the country after the May election, propping up a winning – but insufficiently winning – David Cameron.

Anyhow, this debate, and the public reaction to it as measured by innumerable polls, gave almost no insights into any of the leaders or their parties, and showed once more why the Nationalists are now so popular in Wales and Scotland. Their leaders were articulate and focused, and the English were mainly waffly and uninspiring. Cameron and Milliband could be bosom buddies – one could hardly get a sheet of paper between their positions on just about anything, and Clegg was just plain woeful, realising, perhaps belatedly, that he’s leading his party to an historic shellacking that is almost entirely his fault. The Greens were insubstantial and Farage of UKIP was just folksy and occasionally horrid.

In other words, as you were. And we’re heading to the closest election in British political history, with outcomes so multiple and impossible to predict that it is quite fascinating, although also worrying, as a country that has no confidence in its leadership is a country with problems.

Our prediction? Keep your eyes on the blog over the coming weeks, and we will give our fearless before-the-day forecast as always. But not just yet, thank you. One major gaffe either way could tip it. What is sad is that it is very unlikely, on this showing, to be one major burst of innovation and inspiration.

This is a photo of a young Syrian girl, taken by Arab photojournalist Nadia AbuShaban.

The child was terrified that the camera was a weapon, and “surrendered” by pushing her little hands to the sky, in a heart-rending exposition of what life is really like for so many children, throughout the Middle East.

Young Syrian girl

As of March 30, AbuShaban’s message had been re-tweeted almost 9,000 times and favourited another 4,000 times. Her Twitter profile has also been flooded with messages.

It has since also been shared to other social media platforms, attracting millions of views and thousands of comments on Tumblr, Reddit and other popular sites. And now this blog.

vietnamWe are reminded of the famous photo from the Vietnam conflict of the girl running down the track, naked from a napalm attack. and we suspect that AbuShaban has taken another of those impromptu, heart-rending photos that can change attitudes and opinions.

If the look in that child’s eyes, and the quivering terror of her clenched lips, do not melt some hearts on all sides of the various conflicts raging in Syria, Iraq, Yemen and Israel and elsewhere, well, then we have no hope.

It is a nightmare of Kafkaesque proportions.

Raif Badawi received the first 50 of his lashes in January

His family now say that Raif Badawi, already sentenced to a vicious public flogging and appalling ten years in prison, could also be tried for apostasy, which carries the death penalty.

The case attracted worldwide condemnation when he was publicly flogged in January.

Now his family say they have been told he is to be tried for apostasy.

“Apostasy charge is punishable under Saudi law with the death penalty by beheading,” they said in a message posted on Facebook.

“We also received confirmed information that the Supreme Court has referred Raif case to the same judge, who sentenced Raif with flogging and 10 years imprisonment.This judge is biased against Raif.”

Background to the case:

In July 2013 human rights activist Raif Badawi was sentenced in Saudi Arabia to seven years in jail, and 600 lashes, for insulting Islam. His sentence has now been increased to ten years and 1,000 lashes.

Raif and his children in happier times: one can hardly imagine how his family are suffering.

Raif and his children in happier times: one can hardly imagine how his family are suffering.

Badawi, founder of the Saudi Liberal Network, was convicted of “creating a website insulting Islam” and criticising the role of the notorious religious police. Before his arrest, Badawi’s network announced a “Day of Liberalism” and called for an end to the influence of religion on public life in Saudi Arabia. He has been languishing in jail since June 2012.

According to this report, the lawsuit against him was instigated by Saudi  by clerics. An appeals court overturned the original sentence and sent the case back for the case back for retrial, which culminated in the even harsher sentence.

A further court upheld the 10-year jail sentence and 1,000 lashes – also ordered him to pay a fine of one million riyals ($266,666).

The rights group’s co-founder, Souad Al Shamari said:

The only hope now is an amnesty from the king or a swift move by the justice minister to form a fair judicial committee. Even the worst terrorists have not received such a harsh sentence.

Mr Badawi, 31, received the first 50 of his 1,000 lashes in January. The rest of his punishment has been postponed because of injuries he sustained.

The flogging was surreptitiously filmed on a mobile phone, with footage uploaded to the internet.

It was conducted with a flexible stick, in front of a large crowd in the public square by the al-Jafali mosque in the Red Sea city of Jeddah. Mr Badawi was allowed to keep his shirt on, as is normal in Saudi Arabia, lessening the effects somewhat, but he can still be seen to flinch.

“Raif told me he is in a lot of pain,” Mrs Haidar said in an earlier statement released by Amnesty International, which has campaigned on his behalf. “He said that when he was being flogged he took the pain silently and rose above it, so that history will know that he did not react to their punishment.

Badawi was also given a jail sentence and a fine of £175,000 after being convicted of insulting Islam on a liberal online forum he created.

His family said he could not originally be charged with apostasy – abandoning his faith – because the criminal court could not deal with crimes that carry the death penalty. That changed with a new regulation passed last year.

Ensaf Haidar, wife of Raif Badawi, takes part in a news conference calling for the release of her husband in January (Reuters)

Ensaf Haidar, wife of Raif Badawi, takes part in a news conference calling for the release of her husband in January (Reuters)

They asked that Mr Badawi be pardoned and allowed to travel to Canada, where his wife and three children are now living.

“We call on the world citizens and governments not to leave Raif dragged by such bigots to death,” they added.

The death penalty is the standard penalty for apostasy in the Muslim world, though it is rarely carried out, even in Saudi Arabia which still carries out regular executions.

The Prince of Wales is believed to have raised the case during meetings with King Salman during a visit to Saudi Arabia in February.

How long will this courageous man be permitted to suffer?

How long will this courageous man be permitted to suffer?

We can only hope that the gale of protest around the world at the treatment of this entirely innocent man can cause the new Saudi regime to release him. These are our ALLIES, after all, with whom we have a huge trade relationship. That should count for something in asking them to listen to our concerns.

If you wish to do something, why not tweet your call for Badawi to be immediately released, using the hashtag ‪#‎Raifbadawi‬ ?

Alternatively, or as well, sign the change.org petition? Click below, and thank you:

https://www.change.org/p/free-and-safeguard-the-liberal-saudi-raif-badawy-no-600-lashes

Or perhaps you could simple share this blog on your blog, or on your Facebook page?

Whatever you can do to help, thank you.

One morning last week, Dear Reader, one found oneself up uncommonly early. On the freeway at a tad before 6am, the result of supporting a football team playing on the other side of the world. No sympathy required: and at least they won.

But it did give me the unusual experience of watching the world at a time when I am usually still snuggled comfortably under the goose-down doona. The freeway was full of traffic and moving very fast, with a much higher percentage of young adult male “tradies” in trucks driving like lunatics on their way to somewhere or other. It was like Monza for pick-ups, all doing a few mph above the speed limit about two feet from my back bumper, and, frankly, it was mildly terrifying to our rheumy middle aged eyes.

Heading into the City, I was also reminded of how many different types of people work at all sorts of odd hours, to convenience the rest of us. The rubbish trucks were well underway with their noisy stop-start rounds, cafés were already open with barristas blearily making perfect skinny cappuccinos for early-to-rise or late-to-bed forex traders, barrels of beer were being delivered to pubs, here a flower stall being set up, there some coppers guarding the as yet empty entrance to the State Parliament, and, incongruously, a lone TV reporter already practising her lines to camera for the morning newscasts.

One rather cold winter – I think it was 1977-78 – I found myself working over the Christmas period. Not coming from a wealthy background it was common for me to work during the school holidays, in fact I think I had done some work or other in every school holiday from the age of 14 onwards, and in this particular break, having reached the very advanced mark of 17, I found I qualified for work as a relief postman.

Postman with lettersIt’s hard for people to imagine nowadays (those below a certain age, anyhow) but there was a time when most homes had plenty of letters and parcels delivered almost daily, and at Christmastime a virtual blizzard of mail would arrive every day.

The advent of electronic greetings cards and social media has reduced “snail mail” to something of a trickle, and a “postie” has an easier job nowadays than then.

Not to mention they belt around on little mopeds rather than walking.

But way back when, deep in the last millennium, so many cards were posted that extra postmen (and I am not being sexist, as they were all men) had to be employed to get all the mail delivered to people’s homes in time for Christmas.

It was something of a culture shock to the 17 year old me. I had made cups of tea in a beach cafe, washed pots by the mile, waited on tables, sold ice-creams from a kiosk, even worked as a fruit and veg delivery van boy, but nothing prepared me for the rigours of being a relief postie.

BOURNEMOUTH38For one thing, I had to get up at 4.30 am, fling on some clothes and walk through the murky laneways that linked my home to the nearest bus route, and get the first bus of the day which was the 4.59 am, and it was always sepulchrally empty, except for me.

As the walk to the bus was about ten minutes in pitch darkness I think you can tell, Dear Reader, that I never spent long on personal hygiene, breakfast or my sartorial appearance. I took to going to bed in the clothes I needed to wear the next day. It was so damned cold the extra layer of sweat thus accumulated on my skin undoubtedly served a useful prophylactic purpose.

The bus trip into town was eerie at that hour. All the shops were still closed, of course, and this was before permanent retailer illumination and acres of neon became commonplace, so their windows seemed like so many dead eyes staring at us as the elderly yellow-paint-peeling Leyland double-decker lurched by, wheezing and coughing. Decades-old streetlights would struggle to do any more than bring a damp orange glow to the mist around their heads. Occasionally a battered old Austin or Morris would sneak past us in the other direction, puffing exhaust into the air, its driver swaddled in a bobble-hat, scarf and sheepskin overcoat. It wasn’t just me who felt the keen wind knifing its way inland from the English Channel.

Exactly 47 minutes later – never 46, never 48 – I would be deposited outside the central sorting office, wide awake now, but cold and hungry.

I recall the first time I went in with absolute clarity. Through a magnificent Victorian façade, the building opened up like some vast human zoo, packed with worker bees before dawn had even considered breaking, with vast clouds of cigarette smoke winding up to the distant frescoed ceiling. The regular postmen were already at work, each with their own little cubicle, busily sorting the post into delivery routes. A nervous enquiry at the entrance directed me to one of the cubicles, where I met the cheery, middle-aged chap whose deputy I would be for ten days.

sortingSizing me up in a glance that lasted mere seconds, he smiled and said “I’m not ready for you yet, go and get some breakfast and come back in 20 minutes” and went back to his work, filling a wall of slots with mail of all shapes and sizes from the pile on the counter in front of him. Every now and then he would put a rubber band around a bunch of mail. I didn’t know it at the time, but not only was this highly skilled individual organising the whole of his round (and mine) by putting the mail in some sort of logical street order, (requiring an encyclopaedic knowledge of his area that was at least as complex as the famed “Knowledge” of London taxi drivers) he was also sorting the mail within each street by house order, faster, it seemed, than the eye could follow. His hands flashed in front of him ceaselessly. Occasionally, with an irritated grunt, he would retrieve an elastic-banded packet, open it up and insert a letter he had missed the first time round, and return it to its little wooden home.

I wandered off in search of breakfast, following my nose, trying not to get in the way. In a side room off the main area I found Aladdin’s Cave. These were the days of “company canteens”, where vast quantities of very-bad-for-you food was served up for a few pennies to working men who were yet to hear daily from nutritionists and national health advisory boards why they shouldn’t start each day with two fried eggs, a mound of bacon the size of St Catherine’s Hill, and some steaming mugs of tea each sweetened with three teaspoons of sugar. I had never seen so much food in one place in my entire life, except just once in a NAAFI eatery on an army base which had a similar quantity-over-quality attitude to feeding the nation’s troops, which was warmly welcomed by a visiting bunch of schoolboy army cadets used to the more meagre rations served up by po-faced kitchen hands in the penny-pinching minor public school where I was perpetually hungry for seven long years.

beans_on_toastI found I could afford baked beans on two oil-oozing slices of fried bread for, if I recall correctly, three pence.

And it was unquestionably the best breakfast I had ever eaten, teaching me, for the first time but not the last time, that immutable law of the universe that asserts that timely, accidental simple pleasures outweigh more complex, well organised ones every time.

I sat at a plasticated trestle table wolfing down the beans, looking around me in amazement at the rows of black-coated men looking like a murder of crows bent over their plates and talking ten to the dozen, keeping my own counsel, much too frightened to speak to anyone.

When I returned to pick up my bag of mail, I discovered it was a large as me, and I could hardly lift it. I would have complained, were it not for the very obvious fact that my colleague’s bag was at least twice as heavy. “You’ll get used to it” he encouragingly said, although I was at that moment much more inclined to run for the hills than get used to this strange life. But the money on offer was excellent for a mere callow youth, so I hefted it on my shoulders and walked, bent double, back out the front door, and to the bus stop, where another bus waited to transport me to streets unknown. “Get off by the footie ground, and go from there” he advised, and settled down to do his pools entry.

I did as I was told, and he waggled his pencil at me by way of goodbye, not lifting his head from deciding whether Chesterfield were likely to execute a score draw with Newport County or not. Which is how I came to be standing at the beginning of a long street of fine middle class houses with a brown hessian sack bulging with mail, and very little idea what to do next. Deliver Her Majesty’s Royal Mail, I supposed.

Sink or swim training methods. I opened the sack, which had a flap over its mouth secured by a belt buckle, and found that on its inside face was a list of streets, with the first being the one I was perched on the edge of right then.

You get the picture.

You get the picture.

I worked out that I should deliver in that street order – someone had written the list for a reason – so I just started. Which led me to my next discovery: that not only were the letters sorted numerically, they were sorted into odds and evens, making it much simpler to walk up one side of the street and down the other rather than cross the road from odd to even each time. I breathed my thanks to my mentor, although I did notice that this would inevitably return me to the same point I was at already, and that the next street was at the end of the one I was in now, meaning I had to walk back again to deliver that street, thus doubling my walk.

In time I would learn to examine the mail for each street to evaluate in advance whether it would be quicker to cross the street as I go, or go up one side or the other and then retrace my outward steps. Of such problems was my teenage mind consumed, and especially when it rained buckets of ice-cold rain or sleet on my grumbling teenage head, which was often if not daily.

As I finished each street I noted that the next street was the next bundle down in the sack, followed by the next street, and so forth until the sack was empty. When I told my mother this breathlessly over the dinner table, she murmured “a stitch in time saves nine”, which was one of her many “little sayings” that leavened my youth.

On the days it rained, the hessian sack became progressively heavier and heavier and more difficult to swing up on my shoulder or to handle in any manner at all, especially when I was huddled into an anorak with a fur-trimmed hood pulled down around my face and using every excuse to keep my brown faux-leather gloves on.

Relief postmen didn't get hats - more's the pity.

Relief postmen didn’t get hats – more’s the pity.

I quickly learned to only open the sack under a spreading horse-chestnut tree or in the porticoed entrance on some of the larger houses, lest the mail inside become utterly sodden.

Nonetheless, sometimes, by the end of the round, it was like delivering a series of obscure papier-mache sculptures to the sentinel homes, watching me impassively as I struggled. Where the inky addresses had run so badly I couldn’t make out the intended recipient I simply delivered the whole remaining bundle to the largest home in the street, figuring that if they could afford a home that large they obviously had money, and money obviously meant time on their hands to sort out the mess, and anyway it would give the occupants a good excuse to actually speak to their less well-off neighbours when they found a letter or card from family members they didn’t know they had.

As one neared Christmas itself, one had the odd and oddly moving experience of receiving “Christmas boxes” – monetary tips, and sometimes quite substantial – from grateful householders who clearly assumed I was their regular postman.

One chap memorably came to the door in a padded dressing gown, bare-footed despite the arctic weather, and wearing a “Wee Willy Winky” sleeping cap. He could not have looked more alien to me than if he had announced he was from Venus. He was carrying a cut glass decanter of sherry and two glasses, and insisted I take “a little something to keep out the cold”, despite me being under the legal drinking age and it being 7 am. It did make the rest of the day a little easier, to be sure.

Incredible riches,

Incredible riches,

I always felt tips should not be given to me, so returned them, religiously, to the real postie the next morning, which mildly astonished him, I think.

On Christmas Eve he gave me a pound note, and then an additional ten shilling note, which was admittedly but a fraction of the whole sum collected, but which was nevertheless a small fortune for me, and probably half a day’s pay for him.

It was a cheering moment, and taught me something valuable about worker solidarity.

Didn't pick the right year to spark a demarcation dispute.

Did not pick the right year to spark a demarcation dispute.

This was, infamously, the “Winter of Discontent”, the biggest continuous episode of industrial tension in the UK since the General Strike of 1926, and the apogee of trade union influence in Britain, where “the dead lay unburied” and rubbish piled up in the streets. The chaos would usher in the Thatcher years and break the power of the unions forever, but we didn’t know that then. What seemed like the entire workforce was striking for higher pay, with their wage packets being eroded dramatically by a combination of short-time working and inflation at 26.5%.

To say that everyone was a little bit touchy is like saying that winter was cold and wet. There was one hilarious incident that made it all seem very real and close to home.

One morning, arriving early, I waited not in the canteen but by my chap’s desk, sipping a cup of tea and reading a copy of The Sun that had apparently been consumed and then abandoned in a nearby booth. A supervisor chappie breezed by self-importantly, and dropped a big bundle of mail on the desk.

“What are you doing?” he asked, snappishly. “Er, just waiting for Joe,” I answered, anxiously. “Well, sort those while you’re waiting,” he commanded. “Yessir!” I replied, and jumped to it compliantly. In those days any teenager would call an older male “Sir”. I still do, to this day, funnily enough.

When Joe arrived, he was aghast. Incredulous, he called his mates over to show them what the supervisor had ordered me to do.

Within seconds it seemed like the whole place was in an uproar. “You go and get some breakfast, Son”, he murmured in a friendly fashion, “I’ll deal with this.” And he bunged me sixpence. I wasn’t quite clear what was going on but I wasn’t about to turn down free baked beans so I trotted off cheerfully.

Within a few minutes, though, the whole depot was at a standstill. I had sparked – completely innocently – what used to be called a “demarcation dispute”. No mere yoof could be sorting the mail. That was a task reserved for the mailman on the route. This was long before computerised mechanical sorting, and it was part of their skill set, without which the entire Royal Mail service would descend into frightful disorder, and it was a jealously guarded activity.

Senior management came worriedly weaving into the canteen, and quizzed me on the story, which I related without embellishment. No one blamed me, but the supervisor concerned was disciplined, I learned later. After an hour or so of industrial argy-bargy everyone went back to work, but the mail was delivered late that day.

In the more mundane jobs she has taken on to supplement her soaring educational career, the Fruit of One’s Loins has worked in a retail bakery, usually arriving at work just as the bakers themselves were leaving, having started work at 1 am. She’s worked in other busy retail environments too, learning perforce that the general public can be as ornery (and stupid) as a bunch of mules, as well as occasionally charming and good-natured. And she’s often up at the crack of sparrow’s fart to head across town to “nanny” some kids who need to get to school while their parents are already at work.

She’s probably going to end up as a leading academic, a famous psychologist, or a top actor – or all three, knowing her. She’s a natural leader, and the sort of person who will change society for the better, given a chance.

But I particularly welcome her experiencing “real” life in this way. Indeed, I think all young people should. “Real life” is what happens to everyone else: those who aren’t comfortably ensconced in a “professional” career, relaxing over a warm computer screen, usually pushing money around and often making decisions high in their ivory tower.

A Saturday job for some: a life for others.

A Saturday job for some: a life for others.

Those who lead our society need to know what it’s like for the “little people”: we all need to know that there are skills and value in a whole variety of jobs, and it’s not only the Prime Ministers, the Bishops, the Captains of Industry, or Oscar Winners that have stories to tell, and that our common stories as people struggling to get by are what bind us together. Too often, in the political field, for example, we see people rising to the top who have never held “a proper job”, heading straight into their chosen party’s machine from school or University. Or we find medicos at the top of their profession that have never worked anywhere but a leading teaching hospital, or senior public servants who have spent their entire career in the cosseted marble clad halls of government, or educators who never went near a poverty-stricken school or funds-starved kindergarten in their life, and so on, and so on.

I am intrinsically disinclined to prescribe to society what an individual’s life should look like. So I am not about to propose “civil conscription”, where every late teen or early adult needs to spend at least a year working in their choice of society’s less glamorous and perhaps more demanding jobs. But it is a tempting idea, and one that would surely improve our society overall in countless ways in years to come.

But perhaps the next time little Joey or Jemima whinges that he or she hasn’t yet had his or her “gap year” lying around on a beach somewhere – and could Mummy and Daddy somehow magically produce a quick ten grand to make it happen? – more middle class parents should answer: “Absolutely, you need a gap year. Go and work as a postman for a bit and we’ll talk about it.”

I will end this article here, before I get to pointing out that at the age of five I had to shovel coal from the outdoors coal store for the heater/cooker in the kitchen every frozen morning before school, or there’d have been no hot water for washing, and no sweet cup of tea nor yet a plate of baked beans. But we should stop before we get to the seemingly inevitable “and we used to live in shoe box in’t middle of road” end of the tale.

I will content myself with: “Tell the young ones nowadays? They wouldn’t believe yer.”

Bali’s chief prosecutor says he plans to transfer two Australian drug smugglers out of their Bali prison in the next 48 hours in preparation for their executions.

Momock Bambang Samiarso is charged with the responsibility of transferring Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran to an island prison off Java to face a firing squad.


So far all plans Indonesian officials have announced for the executions have been delayed. The two Bali Nine members were due to be taken away to the island last month before the move was postponed.

But Mr Momock now says he has an order to transfer them this week, and plans to do so tonight or tomorrow night.

The elite police unit BRIMOB, which will handle security, and the prison managers are on standby for when the order comes through.

Lawyers for Chan and Sukumaran are still attempting a legal appeal, but the government was effectively ignoring that, saying nothing could stop the executions.

And contradicting more positive comments by Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott, President Joko Widodo has again lashed out at foreign intervention over the death penalty in Indonesia.

 

firingsquad

 

Mr Widodo warned a room full of high school students about the dangers of drugs and reiterated his commitment to show no mercy to drug offenders.

“About drugs, please be careful. Now there are more or less 50 people from our generation who die because of drugs, 50 per day,” he said.

Those figures are hotly disputed by many, but the president has been using them to justify his tough line on drugs and he rallied students for support. Meanwhile opinion polls in Indonesia suggest up to 70% of the local population may support the death penalty for drug felons, which is very probably why he seeks to remain so obdurate on the matter that he did not even READ the arguments in favour of clemency detailing the thorough rehabilitation of the two Australians.

In an ironic move, Myuran Sukamaran has been awarded a degree in fine arts by Curtin University in recognition of his progress in creating art in prison in Bali.

If he is shot, the world will lose a more than competent artist, the Indonesian prison system will lose a man who has helped dozens of his fellow prisoners to lead more fulfilled lives, in Andrew Chan they will lose a warm-hearted and dedicated Christian minister-in-training, and the drugs trade will continue unabated. What a terrible, rotten and extraordinarily stupid shame.

At this stage, when time is obviously short, probably the fastest way to make one’s feelings known is to directly “tweet” the President. His Excellency’s Twitter account is @jokowi_do2

 

A hundred thousand twitter messages might just help. Please show clemency, Your Excellency. The prisoners deserve it.

A hundred thousand twitter messages might just help. Please show clemency, Your Excellency. The prisoners deserve it.

 

Those in Australia and around the world who are deeply concerned that Indonesia should not shoot Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran because they are very obviously reformed and rehabilitated will be bouyed by the news in today’s media that Prime Minister Tony Abbott has actually managed to get through to President Widodo to discuss their case.

As the grim prepaprations for their executions by firing squad continue, Australians have been deeply shocked by the revelations that Widodo had not even considered the representations made to him on behalf of the pair before rejecting their plea for clemency.

You can read about the story of Abbott’s phone call here:

https://au.news.yahoo.com/world/a/26434903/jakarta-urged-to-respect-bali-nine-appeals/

Meanwhile the pressure on the two men themselves must be unimaginable. For a little while, Australia is experiencing the horrific “on-off” farce that the application of the death penalty everywhere so often becomes, as prisoners who have strong arguments against being executed watch their cases grind through the various courts.

We can only hope Australians continue to apply polite but firm pressure to Widodo to consider these mens’ cases with care, and with compassion. The Indonesia justice system will, in the future, allow clemency for death row cases where after 10 years in prison it can be demonstrated that the prisoners are rehabilitated. Yet this entirely sensible provision does not apply to Chan and Sukumaran! What a Kafkaesque nightmare they are trapped in.

At this stage, when time is obviously short, probably the fastest way to make one’s feelings known is to directly “tweet” the President. His Excellency’s Twitter account is @jokowi_do2

 

 

rape victim_b60e1Australians are already tossing up whether to avoid Bali as a holiday destination in light of the Indonesian government’s apparent intransigence over the upcoming execution of Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran for trying to import heroin to Australia, despite their obvious rehabilitation during ten years in prison.

News that Indonesian President Widodo did not even consider the facts of the mens’ case before rejecting their appeal for clemency – including urgings from their prison governor that they not be executed as they are so useful in the prison – has created considerable anger in Australia, and lawyers for the pair – the so-called “Bali2″ – are seeking to use the unseemly rush to shoot them as cause for appeal in Bali today.

Now news emerges that Indonesian police identified but let go a man accused of brutally raping a teenage Perth woman in Bali on Christmas Day, allowing him to escape the island.

The man allegedly assaulted the 19-year-old in a sustained attack that began in a villa and continued during a traumatic 30-minute taxi ride after she tried to escape.

When the woman reported the assault the next morning, she was subjected to a “virginity test”, watched on by medical students in Bali’s Sanglah Hospital. As if whether or not she was a virgin determined whether or not she had been raped.

She has been in hospital twice since her return to Perth for an aggressive sexually transmitted disease – “a revolting, painful reminder” – and must wait four months on an HIV test.

Her parents have now appealed for help to find her attacker.

Hours after the alleged assault, the woman named the man she said had raped her as Henry Alafu, identified him and led Bali police to the Jimbaran villa where the incident took place.

But police did not arrest the 25-year-old and told the woman they wanted to follow him to Jakarta so he would lead them to a “bigger network of criminals”.

The man is now believed to be on Java with a fresh warrant out for his arrest. “As the days and weeks go by we lose hope that there will be any justice,” the woman’s mother said yesterday.

The teenager said she was still fragile. She felt violated twice after getting no choice but to have the invasive virginity test she was told was necessary to report a rape to police.

“The hospital report confirmed I had been raped and assaulted,” she said.

“The police issued a warrant for his arrest. I don’t understand why he hasn’t been arrested.

“This man raped, threatened and humiliated me. He laughed in my face at my fear and helplessness.

“I was terrified. I have had my fair share of nightmares since the incident. Sleep is still difficult.”

In the days after the assault, the family employed a Balinese law firm to help. It billed them $US13,500 ($17,300) for six days work, including $US400 for replying to an email from the mother.

Her mother, who was holidaying in Bali with the 19-year-old and her younger sister, said the whole family had been traumatised by the rape and aftermath.

Young women, in particular, might consider that there are safer and equally inexpensive places to holiday in Asia than the island which combines a great sense of fun – as well as serene beauty in its hinterland, and the kindness of most of its people – with a very poor record for holidaymaker safety.

The White Rose

Sophie Scholl and members of White Rose

One of the most disturbing, heart-rending and thought-provoking films we have ever seen was “Sophie Scholl – The Final Days”.

The movie covers the efforts of a resistance group fighting the Nazis called “White Rose” Although the White Rose is well known in Germany, it is not well known overseas.

Der Weissen Rose was a group of mostly students at the University of Munich in Bavaria. Some were studying philosophy. Most, but not all, were religious in some way. Some of the boys had done military service but were allowed to do stints at university between stints on the Eastern Front. This experience provided them with more knowledge of what was actually going on than the average person living in Germany at the time, and it appalled them, but in their courageous resistance they still come across as young and somewhat naïve. It is this naivety that has made the White Rose so appealing. The operated from “pure” theological and philosophical intellectual opposition to National Socialism, to fascism, to dictatorship, to the war, and to the slaughter of Europe’s Jews.

To believe that there was very little resistance to Hitler inside Germany is a serious misunderstanding. Resistance to the Nazis began, of course, before they even came to power, and continued during the thirties and throughout the war.

Serving members of White Rose

Serving members of White Rose

Resistance came from political groups of the left, centre and even conservatives, from unions, from churches and religious people, from within the government and branches of the military. Several attempts were made to assassinate Hitler both by groups and individuals. Although it did not succeed in overthrowing Hitler or ending the Nazi tyranny, the resistance did have an impact on the war and the ultimate defeat of the fascist regime.

Why does it seem otherwise? Well, the Nazi regime set out systematically and ruthlessly to destroy all opposition. Thousands of the people who would have been part of an even more effective resistance movement fled into exile soon after Hitler came to power. Many more were perfectly understandably frightened by the danger and sank into silence and inaction.

Sophie Scholl was guillotined, as was her brother, another brother was lost on the Eastern front. In a final meeting, Scholl's father told her he was proud of her and not to regret her sacrifice. She replied that she would see them again in Heaven.

Sophie Scholl was guillotined, as was her brother, another brother was lost on the Eastern front. In a final meeting, Scholl’s father told her he was proud of her and not to regret her sacrifice. She replied that she would see them again in Heaven.

Yet many did not and paid the price. At least 5,000 were executed and many more spent time in prison. Some were simply murdered.

There was a feeling within Germany that people really shouldn’t undermine the government during wartime

Many ordinary Germans saw members of the resistance as traitors because that was what almost every source of information available to them told them they were.

Unlike in the countries Germany tried to conquer, the resistance had to assume that much of the population actually supported the government and would report their activities from a sense of duty or from totally justified fear, thus making their actions even braver. Nevertheless, their writings struck a chord with many in the community.

The nations fighting Germany during World War II also decided not to publicise the German resistance to Hitler during or after the war. The insistence on unconditional surrender and the strategic bombing raids which caused so many civilian casualties made it necessary to see Germany as guilty as a nation rather than as itself a victim of Nazi tyranny. The allied armies knew about the resistance and benefited from it but did not want to praise it, at least initially.

MovieSophieSchollSo the story of Sophie Scholl and her family and friends remained almost un-talked about until about the 1970s, when the German community started to discuss the war years more openly, and then again in 2005 when the remarkable film about the events was released.

You can watch the entire film, in its original German, with subtitles, below.

If you haven’t seen it, we cannot recommend it highly enough, but we warn you that it is gut wrenching.

Nevertheless, if you haven’t seen it, find a couple of hours, pour yourself a strong drink, and watch it. Those that died deserve to be remembered.


When people discuss the White Rose it has been suggested they were a brave but ineffective resistance movement. That is, in fact, not true. When they were active they caused the regime considerable annoyance. Although many who received the leaflets in the mail handed them in to police, many did not, and the regime had to deal with the fact that those who handed them in may have read them.

Sophie Scholl was an ordinary girl - devoutly Catholic, she fell in love with one of her fellow conspirators, she loved the countryside, she adored her parents. She was very ordinary, just very, very brave.

Sophie Scholl was an ordinary girl – devoutly Catholic, she fell in love with one of her fellow conspirators, she loved the countryside, she adored her parents. She was very ordinary, just very, very brave.

They managed to establish branches in Berlin and particularly Hamburg where sadly many of Hamburg White Rose met the same fate.

The White Rose also had a role in a student uprising in Munich— which was quickly suppressed.

After their execution graffiti appeared on walls in Munich: “Ihr Geist lebt wieter” “Their Spirit Lives On”.

Others carried on the fight. Copies of the leaflets were smuggled out to the Allies and later dropped in their tens of thousands by bombers over German cities.

An example of the leaflets (there were a total of five) is produced below. The courage of young people who could make these arguments against the might of the Nazi Reich simply beggars belief. Especially as they operated in the sure and certain knowledge that one day they must be caught, with their horrifying deaths as the inevitable result.

Many brave people died during the Second World War. These young Germans were amongst the bravest.

THE THIRD LEAFLET

Salus publica suprema lex (Public safety is the supreme law)

All ideal forms of government are Utopias. A state cannot be constructed on a purely theoretical basis; instead, it must grow and develop in the same way an individual human being matures. But we must not forget that at the beginning of every civilization the state already existed in a rudimentary form. The family is as old as man himself, and out of this initial bond man, endowed with reason, created for himself a state founded on justice, whose highest law was the common good. The state should reflect the divine order, and the highest of all utopias, the Civitas dei, is the model it should ultimately resemble. We will not compare the many possible states here—democracy, constitutional monarchy, monarchy, and so on, but one issue needs to be made clear and unambiguous; every human being has the right to a just state, a state that safeguards the freedom of the individual as well as the good of the whole. For according to God’s will, man should be free and independent, while fulfilling his natural duty of living and working together with his fellow citizens, and strive to achieve earthly happiness through self-reliance and self-motivation.

But the present “state” is the dictatorship of evil. “Oh, we’ve known that for a long time,” I hear you object, “and it isn’t necessary to bring that to our attention again.” But, as I ask you, if you know that, why do you not rouse yourselves, why do you allow these men in power to rob you step by step, both openly and in secret, of one of your rights after another, until one day nothing, nothing at all will be left but a mechanized state system presided over by criminals and drunkards? Is your spirit already so crushed by abuse that you forget it is your right—or rather, your moral duty—to eradicate this system? But if a man can no longer summon the strength to demand his right, then he will definitely perish. We would deservedly be scattered over the earth like dust in the wind if we do not marshal our powers at this late hour and finally find the courage we have lacked up to now. Do not hide your cowardice behind a cloak of expedience, for with every new day that you hesitate, failing to oppose this offspringof Hell, your guilt, like a parabolic curve, grows higher and higher.

Many, perhaps most, of the readers of these leaflets cannot see clearly how they can mount an effective opposition. They cannot see any avenues open to them. We want to try to show them that everyone is in a position to contribute to the overthrow of this system. Solitary withdrawal, like embittered hermits, cannot prepare the ground for the overthrow of this “government” or bring about the revolution at the earliest possible moment. No, it can only be done through the cooperation of many convinced energetic people—people who agree on the means they must use to attain their goal. We have few choices as to these means. The only one available is passive resistance. The meaning and the goal of passive resistance is to bring down National Socialism, and in this struggle we can’t shrink from any means, any act, wherever it is open to attack. We must bring this monster of a state to an end soon. A victory for fascist Germany in this war would have inconceivable and terrible consequences. The first concern of every German is not the military victory of Bolshevism, but the defeat of National Socialism. This must be the first order of business; its greater imperative will be discussed in one of our forthcoming leaflets.

And now every resolute opponent of National Socialism must ask himself how he can most effectively fight against the present “state”, how he can inflict the most damaging blows. Through passive resistance, without a doubt. We can provide each man with a blueprint for his acts; we can only make general suggestions, and he alone will find the best way to achieve them.

Sabotage armament industries, sabotage every assembly, rally, ceremony, and organisation sponsored by the National Socialist Party. Obstruct the smooth functioning of the war machine (a machine designed for war that is then used solely to shore up and perpetuate the National Socialist Party and its dictatorship.) Sabotage in every scientific and intellectual field involved in continuing this war—whether it be universities, technical colleges, laboratories, research stations, or technical agencies. Sabotage all cultural institutions that could enhance the “prestige” of the fascists among he people. Sabotage all branches of the arts that have even the slightest dependence on National Socialism or serve it in any way. Sabotage all publications, all newspapers, that are in the pay of the “government” and that defend its ideology and help disseminate the brown lie. Do not give a penny to public fund-raising drives (even when they are conducted under the guise of charity), for this is only a cover. In reality the proceeds help neither the Red Cross nor the needy. The government does not need this money; it is not financially interested in these fund-raising drives. After all, the presses run nonstop, printing as much paper currency as is needed. But the people must never be allowed to slacken! Do not contribute to the collection of metal, textiles and the like. Try to convince all your acquaintances, including those in the lower social classes, of the senselessness of continuing, of the hopelessness of this war; of our spiritual and economic enslavement at the hands of the National Socialists, of the destruction of all moral and religious values; and urge them to adopt passive resistance.

Aristotle, Politics: “Further….[a tyrant] should also endeavor to know what each of his subjects says, or does, and should employ spies everywhere…and further, to create disunity and division in the population: to set friend against friend, the common people against the notables, and the wealthy among themselves. Also he should impoverish his subjects; the maintenance of guards and soldiers is thus paid for by the people, who are forced to work hard and have neither the time nor the opportunity to conspire against him…Another practice of tyrants is to increase taxes, after the manner of Dionysius at Syracuse, who contrived that his subjects paid all their wealth into the treasury within five years. The tyrant is also inclined to engage in constant warfare in order to occupy and distract his subjects.

Please make as many copies of this leaflet as possible and pass them on!

abbott

According to the national Australian newspaper today, Australian PM Tony Abbot and his senior advisers seriously floated the idea that Australia attack IS in northern Iraq on our own with 3,500 troops.

In our opinion, that he could even think it, even in passing – even, if as charitably as we could put it, he was simply “floating options” – this lunatic suggestion proves him manifestly unsuited to high office. Blind Freddie could see that anything remotely resembling that action would be a suicide mission.

Personally we wouldn’t let him run a kindergarten, let alone a country.

How seriously Abbott considered the idea is hard to tell, but the story continues that this is not the first time Abbott has suggested committing troops to a boots on the ground deployment that the military planners had to hose down. He also apparently suggested that 1,000 Aussie men and women be sent to guard the site of the MH17 Malaysian airliner shot down over the Ukraine which killed 38 Aussies.

According to the Australian “leading military planners” had to point out to him that not speaking Russian or Ukrainian would have made their task just a tad tricky, and also that they would have had difficulty distinguishing between rebel and government troops.

The fact that they could have become embroiled in the conflict itself might have been a cautionary note, one supposes, although the story does not expand on that.

That somebody so ludicrously gung-ho could lead our Government and by implication our armed services is, surely, truly and deeply worrying. We can’t imagine your average service Joe or Josephine would be very happy at the news, nor their families and friends.

According to “insiders” quoted by the newspaper, Abbott sits for much of his day in Parliament House pondering national security, Islamic State, and reading Winston Churchill. A someone who is “weak on detail”, perhaps that’s an area he feels safe handling. Today’s revelations suggest his focus should be shifted elsewhere – fast.

The rest of the story by John Lyons, an Associate Editor of the paper, details in excruciatingly close focus the dysfunctionality of the current government, including ripping the coverings away from his much-disliked Chief of Staff Peta Credlin with a clarity we have not seen before, and how completely out of his depth Abbott seems to be.

And, of course, the near-inevitability of his replacement by the urbane and competent Malcolm Turnbull, which we have been predicting since before Abbott was even elected Prime Minister, for exactly the reasons that are now becoming so obviously clear.

But this latest revelation, we confess, has shocked even us, and we are old, wizened and cynical observers of the body politic indeed, Dear Reader.

What we wonder now is whether today’s revelations – carried, after all, in an outlet which is notable for its previous support of Abbott and the conservative side of politics generally – might be the final straw. Has a Murdoch-owned paper skewered yet another Prime Minister? We shall see.

You can read the “Exclusive” story in today’s paper. Online it requires you to subscribe – a detestable development in newspapers in our opinion – so we suggest you simply go and buy the paper.

As for when the axe should fall on the woeful Abbott, we can only urge the Liberal caucus to act. Enough is enough. We all know this is coming – get it done so the country can move forward.

It should be noted Abbott has subsequently denied the article. Does he really think anyone will believe him?

http://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2015/feb/21/tony-abbott-wanted-australian-ground-troops-in-iraq-reports

We have listened to his denial and are very doubtful.

As many commentators have noted, the Labor attack on Tony Abbott is carrying on with one hand tied behind its back. The restraint is easily explained. They don’t want Abbott going anywhere while his brand is so toxic. They know Tony Abbott is their best chance at springing an electoral suprise and winning the next election, and the last thing they want is to face the much more popular, amenable and centrist Malcolm Turnbull. Which is why, in Question Time yesterday, they bizarrely focused much of their attention on Turnbull, not Abbott. Attention which, it should be noted, Turnbull deflected with much more wit and aplomb than Abbott has been handling such matters recently.

Which is why the general public – who are heartily sick of Abbott – need to insist that the media and their politicians ask Abbot this question repeatedly until they get a decent answer, or until Abbott steps down or is pushed off his perch.

Almost three years ago, Tony Abbott, then-Opposition leader, rose in parliament to ask Julia Gillard a question that could and should come back to bite him in the coming days.

Ms Gillard had just faced down the first challenge from Kevin Rudd, who had days earlier resigned from his post as Foreign Minister and then announced he was running for the top job.

Gillard won the leadership ballot, 71-31. It was then Mr Abbott asked the fateful question.

“Given that one third of her parliamentary colleagues and a quarter of her cabinet colleagues have today expressed their lack of confidence in her, how can she claim to have a mandate to continue as Prime Minister?” he asked.

Well now Mr Abbott finds himself in a strikingly similar situation.

At #thespill the motion to unseat Abbott brought by West Australian Liberal MPs Luke Simpkins and Don Randall was defeated 61-39. So while the spill was averted, it still indicates almost 40 per cent of his colleagues had lost faith in the PM. A question repeatedly put to him last night by Leigh Sales on the 7.30 Report, and repeatedly ignored by the embattled PM.

Liberal backbenchers say they have sent a powerful message to Tony Abbott that they want to be consulted and policies need to change. And Mr Abbott said in a brief statement in a video message after the vote that the matter had been resolved.

“We want to end the disunity and the uncertainty which destroyed two Labor governments and give you the good government that you deserve,” Mr Abbott said.

The question to be asked is simple: How can you possibly struggle on when your own party is utterly split over your leadership? We cannot rely on Bill Shorten and his cohorts to hammer home that question in the coming days and weeks, yet it is the question that demands an answer.

Meanwhile, Abbott’s essential nature (and his nervousness) is revealed yet again in two more glaring examples yesterday. The first was the panicky “Captain’s Pick” to throw open the submarine tender – on the day that he ruled out any more Captain’s Picks for a while. The leopard has not changed its spots at all, apparently. The second was his appallingly laughable assertion that “Good Government Starts Here”, which led, entirely predictably to the blogosphere, twittersphere, and main media asking the obvious question. “What have we had for the last 500 days then?’ The glee at such rampant idiocy was hardly restrained.

We have a message for the Prime Minister. This isn’t over by a long chalk, yet.