Archive for the ‘Political musings’ Category

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In yet another brutal so-called “honour killing” in Pakistan, a young woman was hanged to death by her two brothers for marrying the man of her choice in Punjab province.

Aslam and Waqas kidnapped their sister Ayla last week from her home at Bhowana in Chiniot district, 250 kilometres from Lahore, and hanged her to death at a deserted place before dumping the body in a canal, according to a statement filed by Ayla’s husband Ejaz Ahmad.

How many more times?

How many more times?

The body of the woman was found in a canal nearChak-144-JB. Ayla wanted to marry Ejaz but the family was against her choice. However, she had contracted court marriage after eloping with him some time ago, said Investigation Officer Faisal Majid.

“Her family then swore to kill her for preserving its honour,” Majid said, adding that the couple had left their locality after marriage and remained in hiding. Last week Ayla’s family got information of her whereabouts and her brothers kidnapped her. They also wanted to kill Ejaz but he was not present in the house when they arrived there, he said.

The women of the world need us all - and perhaps especially men - to stand up for them. When will the Government of Pakistan act to stamp out this scourge?

The women of the world need us all – and perhaps especially men – to stand up for them.

Police have arrested both the brothers and registered a murder case against them.

The accused told the police that they had taken their sister to a deserted place and hanged her from a tree until she died, before dumping the body in the canal.They said they had no regret for killing their sister as she ‘dishonoured’ her family.

Some 760 women were killed in Pakistan last year in so-called honour killings – the most dishonourable murders imaginable.

We cannot imagine the courage of Ayla and Ejaz. We cannot but wonder at the utter despair Ejaz must feel now. And we cannot fathom the depth of depravity of Ayla’s family.

You may care to urge the Government of Pakistan to act more decisively in these matters to protect the women of that country. If so, please address a courteous email to the Legal advisor to the President, Mamnoon Hussain. His name is Mr Muhammed Faisal Kamal Alam, Consultant (Legal Affairs) to his Excellency the President of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, and his email address is  consultant_law@president.gov.pk.

As we said, seemingly alone amongst politics-watchers, the storm in a teacup – albeit a very big, expensive teacup – is duly passing.

Greek prime minister Alexis Tsipras votes during a session at the Greek parliament in Athens early 23 July 2015

The Greek prime minister secured the votes after a debate into the small hours

Greece has taken a crucial step towards a bailout after its parliament passed a crucial second set of reforms.

The passage of the measures means that negotiations on an €86bn European Union bailout can begin.

The reforms include changes to Greek banking and an overhaul of the judiciary system.

Thousands demonstrated outside of parliament as the bill was debated, with protests briefly turning violent as petrol bombs were thrown at police by a few anarchists.

There had been fears of a rebellion by MPs but Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras was easily able to must the support required. In total, the measures received 230 votes in favour and 63 against with five abstentions. Among those who voted against were 31 members of his own Syriza party. However, this represents a smaller rebellion than in last week’s initial vote. Demonstrating the breadth of understanding that the reform package had to pass,former Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis was one of those rebels in the first vote who returned to vote with the government this time.

Speaking before the vote, Mr Tsipras stressed that he was not happy with the measures that creditors had imposed. Well, he could hardly have appeared chirpy, could he? That would have been political suicide.

“We chose a difficult compromise to avert the most extreme plans by the most extreme circles in Europe,” he told MPs.

Representatives of the European institutions that would provide the bailout funds will begin negotiations in Athens on Friday.

Last week, Greece passed an initial set of austerity measures imposed by its creditors. These were a mix of economic reforms and budget cuts demanded by the eurozone countries and institutions before bailout talks could continue.

This second set of measures passed early on Thursday morning were of a more structural nature, including:

  • a code of civil protection aimed at speeding up court cases
  • the adoption of an EU directive to bolster banks and protect savers’ deposits of less than €100,000
  • the introduction of rules that would see bank shareholders and creditors – not taxpayers – cover costs of a failed bank

More contentious measures – phasing out early retirement and tax rises for farmers – have been pushed back to August. As we said, these issues were always going to be the can that got kicked along the road. The political fallout will need to be managed by the Greek Government and that cannot occur in a few days.

Negotiations will now begin on approving the terms of a third bailout, with the aim of completing a deal by the middle of next month. It’s a tight timetable but doable. What is not clear is that Mr Tsipras still has to decide whether a successful conclusion of negotiations should be followed by early elections. Our bet is not.

The deal explained

On Wednesday, the European Central Bank (ECB) increased its cash lifeline to Greek banks.

The emergency injection of an extra €900m (£630m), the ECB’s second in a week, came just hours before the vote.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) confirmed on Monday that Greece had cleared its overdue debt repayments of €2.05bn and was no longer in arrears. The repayments, which included €4.2bn to the ECB, were made possible by a short-term EU loan of €7.16bn.

Greece’s next major deadline is 20 August, when it must pay €3.2bn owed to the ECB, followed by a payment of €1.5bn to the IMF in September.

Essentially, the deal is akin to a Bank lending money to a drunken defaulting home owner to repay the mortgage they unwisely lent them in the first place. There is a lot of talk about how irresponsible the handling of the Greek economy has been by successive Greek Governments – not to mention that tax avoidance is something of a national sport – and that is all true.work greeks

What has been especially annoying in much recent commentary has been the characterisation of the Greek people themselves as lazy. In fact, the opposite is true. They put in some of the longest hours of any workforce in the EU. Needless to say, the Greek people know this, and their anger at having to carry the burden of the stupidities of generations of those that rule them is justified. That they could be working more productively is hardly the point. At some stage, the role of both private management, union leadership and political governance needs to be taken into account. It’s not all the fault of the “bleedin’ workers”.

What also needs to be factored in is that for decades now Europe has been lending Greece money for Greece to spend on vanity infrastructure projects supplied to them by Europe – arms is a classic example, manufactured mainly in Germany – Greece has a ridiculously large navy, for example – so the EU is at the very least as culpable in helping the Greeks to get into this mess in the first place.

Historically, Obama’s intervention to urge the Europeans to settle with Greece will be seen, for those attuned to geo-political balances – as the tipping point. What is encouraging is that some of the other economic basket cases in Europe have not instantly put their hands up for extra funds. It appears that brisk diplomacy – along the lines of “Shut up, guys, we need to sort this out, we’ll look at your situation down the track” – has worked in a timely fashion. But the Eurozone is not out of the woods yet.

One good start for Europe would be to substantially reduce the overhead structure of running the EU itself. The peoples of the constituent countries might be more amenable to pulling their heads in if they see the bloated and out of control Euro bureaucracy being made to do the same. No matter how pro-EU anyone is – and we are pro-EU, for political reasons more than economic ones – the Eurocrats need a serious haircut, and fast.

Graphic: BBC

Graphic: BBC

 

(BBC and other sources)

The excellent article below – from the NY correspondent of the BBC – discusses the fascinating phenomenon that is Donald Trump, politician, businessman, and possessor of the most bizarre and oft-photographed hairpiece of all time.

For those of us wondering how this buffoon can suddenly look like the most popular candidate to lead the GOP into the next presidential election, it is chock full of good reportage and explanation.

We do not believe for a moment that donald-trump-bad-hairTrump will survive increasing scrutiny as the race progresses. We are still in the “silly season”. But he may, as this article points out, achieve something more lasting – the trashing of the Republican brand before the general election has even started. Because achieving knee-jerk popularity with the more fervent of the GOP’s right wing is not the task at hand. The GOP needs a candidate that can build a winning coalition in the whole country, and in America today, that means with the Hispanic vote. Calling Mexican immigrants criminals and “rapists” seems an odd way to do that.

Interestingly, the British Labour Party is currently mesmerised by a similar character on the other side of the political spectrum, the dyed-in-the-wool left-winger Jeremy Corbyn – a late entrant into their Leadership campaign – who unlike Trump increasingly looks as if he can win it. The right in the UK can hardly believe their luck – Labour would look marginalised and irrelevant to the mass of Britons in no time flat.

For the same reason, Democrats in America are hugging themselves with glee at Trump’s performance. He doesn’t have to win the nomination to deliver the White House to them on a plate for the third election running, he just has to make the Republican Party look un-electably bizarre. And unlike the UK, where any “Corbyn effect” could be dissipated by 2020 (especially if he didn’t survive all five years as leader) Trump has the money and the bull-headishness to keep campaigning till well into the Northern hemisphere autumn and beyond. The damage he does will still be causing the Republican brand to reek a year later.

No wonder party managers in democracies wince when someone suggests the membership should select their leader, and increasingly common phenomenon.

Those who are motivated enough to join a political party or register as a supporter are often the very worst people to judge who has both the gravitas and the broad credentials to win a general election.

Donald Trump: Master of the demolition derby

Donald Trump

And lately it has come to resemble a gruesome episode of Big Brother, where it becomes near impossible to evict a boorish and abusive housemate because of his popularity with viewers.

Trump, evidently, is more than a guilty pleasure, the political equivalent of a late-night fix of tabloid TV for those returning, drunkenly, from a long night in the pub or bar. Judging by his poll numbers, a significant proportion of sober-minded voters who will next year select the Republican nominee like both him and his take-no-prisoners message, even though to many it sounds deranged and racist.

The latest poll, conducted by ABC News and the Washington Post, shows him with a commanding lead: 24% of registered Republicans and Republican-leaning independents, compared with 13% for the Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker and 12% for the former Florida Governor, Jeb Bush. Labelling Mexican immigrants criminals and “rapists”, as Trump did in June when he announced his bid for the presidency, sounded like the demagogic rant of a fringe extremist.

To question the military record of Senator John McCain, a former prisoner of war tortured so brutally that he is unable still to raise his arms above his shoulders, would ordinarily have been suicidal. But Trump is operating under rules of his own making that are perfectly suited to the voracious metabolism of the modern media, and the hyperventilated style of modern campaigning. The more outrageous his remarks, the more coverage and social media comment he generates. And the more coverage he receives, the better his polling numbers seemingly become (though most of the polling in the latest survey was conducted before the McCain controversy). Increasingly, notoriety equals popularity amongst a large cohort of Republican voters.

 

Senator John McCain

Trump questioned Senator McCain’s war record

 

This was an equation that the Texas Senator Ted Cruz hoped to turn to his advantage, until he was trumped by Trump. Though easy to lampoon as cartoonish and crazed, the billionaire tycoon has come to personify the dilemma faced by the modern-day GOP. From the late-1960s to the late-1980s, when it won five out of six elections, the party dominated presidential politics largely by appealing to disgruntled whites unsettled by the pace of racial and social change – a constituency that includes many who agree with Trump’s hard-line stance on immigration. Nowadays, however, party leaders recognise that, after losing the popular vote in five of the last six presidential contests, the GOP needs to broaden its demographic appeal. It cannot rely on what was known as “the southern strategy”.

 

Jeb Bush and Scott Walker

Jeb Bush and Scott Walker are currently trailing Trump in the polls

 

Reaching out to Latino voters, who Ronald Reagan once memorably described as Republicans who didn’t yet realise it, has become an urgent priority. After all, in 2012 Mitt Romney secured just 27% of the Latino vote, proof of what Senator Lindsey Graham has called the party’s “demographic death spiral”. The GOP’s electoral conundrum has been finding ways of courting new voters without alienating longstanding supporters. Trump, who obviously runs the risk of erecting a wall between the GOP and Hispanic voters akin to the impregnable barrier that he wants to construct along the Mexican border, is single-handedly demolishing that strategy. Not only that. His early success suggests that the broad church strategy might be politically unfeasible.

Messenger or message?

If a quarter of Republican voters truly are embracing Trump – many presumably because of his nativistic rants rather than in spite of them – the outreach programme is in serious trouble. The party’s establishment will hope that voters are warming to the messenger rather than the message, but the two are increasingly entwined. Moreover, voters devouring the red meat being thrown them on a daily basis by Trump will surely look upon inclusive Republicans like Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio as kale-eating vegans. Now a major problem, a month ago Trump presented an opportunity writ large in the kind of large gold letters affixed to his hotels and office buildings.

 

Mitt Romney waits to address a campaign rally at Pinkerton Academy in Derry in January 2012

Mitt Romney notably failed to secure the Latino vote

 

Had the other candidates taken him down immediately after his “rapist” comments, they could have helped transform the Republican brand. Instead, figures like Jeb Bush hesitated. It took the former Florida governor, who is married to a Mexican, two weeks to come up with a strong rebuttal, calling Trump’s remarks “extraordinarily ugly”. Corporate America reacted more swiftly, with companies like NBC Universal quickly severing their ties with Trump, even though they know he is a ratings winner. There is an argument to be made that Trump helps the candidacies of Bush and Walker, the other front-runners, if only because he is eclipsing rivals, like Rubio, who pose a more realistic threat. But that line of reasoning surely underestimates the damage that he is doing, long-term, to the Republican brand. Here, the hope will be that Trump is seen as such an outlier, and such an outsider, that he does more damage to his personal standing than the party’s reputation.

Early impressions key

But early impressions are hard to shake, as Mitt Romney discovered in 2012 when the Democrats successfully cast him as an economic elitist long before he could define himself. Latino voters will surely remember the party’s rather feeble response to Trump after the media caravan has moved on. In the Twitter age, media cycles are so momentary that Trump could well turn out to be summer silly season special, much like Michele Bachman who unexpectedly won the Iowa straw poll in the summer of 2011. Certainly, party leaders will be hoping he follows the boom/bust cycle that was the hallmark of the 2012 race. Remember the Herman Cain surge or the Gingrich spike? But Trump is a seasoned pro, with more staying power and more money. His business empire has been built on his extraordinary gift for self-publicity – he is a human headline – and an ability to make improbable comebacks.

 

Nelson Rockefeller

Richard Nixon struck a deal with Nelson Rockefeller to secure liberal Republican support

 

Back in 1960, when Vice President Richard Nixon sought to tie up the Republican nomination, he ended up making a pact with the then New York Governor, Nelson Rockefeller, to secure the support of liberal Republicans. Because the two men met in Rockefeller’s luxury Manhattan apartment, it was dubbed the Treaty of Fifth Avenue. Arguably, the Republican Party needs a new Treaty of Fifth Avenue, the home of the famed Trump Tower, this time aimed at disembowelling “The Donald.”

Next month, he looks certain to appear on stage in the first televised debate of the campaign, qualifying as one of the ten most popular candidates.

That, surely, will be car crash television, and Trump has already proved himself the master of the demolition derby.

The statistics speak volumes about Speaker Bronwyn Bishop's management of the debating chamber, with 319 Labour MPs ejected under her rule, compared to only five Coalition MPs  as at  24.3.15. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen

The statistics speak volumes about Speaker Bronwyn Bishop’s management of the debating chamber, with 319 Labour MPs ejected under her rule, compared to only five Coalition MPs as at 24.3.15. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen

In many people’s opinion (just check social media) Bronwyn Bishop – long-standing Liberal MP and culture warrior – is one of the most partisan Speakers in recent Australian history. As this article shows, she seems much harder on the ALP than she is on her Liberal and National colleagues.

Now Labor frontbencher Tony Burke says Bronwyn Bishop will have to resign as Speaker if it is shown she signed documentation claiming $5,000 helicopter charter to attend a Liberal Party function as “official business”.

Bishop will be either extremely determined or very lucky to survive the rapidly escalating attack from Labor, who will go for the jugular with undisguised glee. They never could stand her, and even less so nowadays after their experience of her as Speaker.

The leader of opposition business, Tony Burke, called for the release of original documentation surrounding the taxpayer-funded travel and said there was “absolutely no way” Bishop could remain in the role if that were the case.

Bishop faced mounting political pressure this week about her use of entitlements, which included an expense of $5,227.27 for chartered flights from Melbourne to Geelong and back on 5 November 2014.

The Speaker announced on Thursday she would repay the charter flight money even though she maintained her belief that the travel “was conducted within the rules”.

 

Tony Abbott at the wedding of Sophie and Gregory Mirabella, at Holy Trinity Anglican Church in Wangaratta in 2006, alongside Bronwyn Bishop and another wedding guest. Photo: Rebecca Hallas

Tony Abbott at the wedding of Sophie and Gregory Mirabella, at Holy Trinity Anglican Church in Wangaratta in 2006, alongside Bronwyn Bishop and another wedding guest. Photo: Rebecca Hallas

 

Bishop must also pay a penalty of $1,307, because new rules implemented after a series of parliamentary expenses kerfuffles in 2013 affecting a number of senior figures including Tony Abbott (see here if you’ve forgotten) require politicians to repay an additional 25% of any adjustment to travel claims.

Labor continues to pursue the issue, pointing to a standard government form for charter certification for parliament’s presiding officers that says “office holders may use charter transport (including aircraft, helicopters and other vehicles) for their personal transport in connection with their office holder duties”.

According to that form, the office holder must certify that “knowingly giving false or misleading information is a serious offence under the Criminal Code Act 1995” and that they “travelled on the charter and it was provided for official purposes”.

Burke said on Friday that Bishop should release the document that she had signed. The contents of the form would determine whether Labor would demand her resignation from the key role of presiding over the lower house of parliament, he said.

“The normal form would say this was official business and would also say that there are serious criminal penalties if this is put in error,” Burke told Channel Seven’s Sunrise program.

“Now, if she signs it off in the normal form and it is, you know, a Liberal party fundraiser that she’s gone to, then that’s the end of the matter, she can’t stay as Speaker, absolutely no way.

“People make honest mistakes and we all know people can make honest mistakes but you don’t accidentally get on to a helicopter and turn up at a Liberal party fundraiser, so we need to find out and the government needs to release this document for us to work out exactly what it is that Bronwyn Bishop has claimed she has done.”

News outlets are seeking comment from Bishop’s office about which form she signed, whether she will release it, and how the event in Geelong was consistent with her office-holder duties.

The Speaker denied wrongdoing when she announced the plan to repay the funds on Thursday afternoon. “Whilst my understanding is that this travel was conducted within the rules, to avoid any doubt I will reimburse the costs,” she said in a brief statement.

The opposition leader, Bill Shorten, had earlier demanded intervention from the prime minister, Tony Abbott, saying the case showed that Bishop “thinks she is so important that she can’t even be bothered getting a car between Melbourne and Geelong, a one-hour car trip”.

The treasurer, Joe Hockey, added to the pressure by agreeing with a radio interviewer that the helicopter trip did not pass “the sniff test”. “Look, instinctively it doesn’t,” Hockey told 2UE. The treasurer responded to repeated questions about the Speaker’s expenses by calling on Bishop to explain matters.

Unsurprisingly, after the repayment announcement, senior ministers sought to move on from the matter.

The foreign affairs minister, Julie Bishop, said she would not pass judgment because she did not know the context or the circumstances in which the trip was undertaken. “But what I do know is that she has decided to repay the amount, including a penalty, so I think that should be the end of the matter,” the minister told ABC’s 7.30 program.

The leader of the house, Christopher Pyne, said the Speaker was “doing a superb job” and had his full support.

But the Government may find the matter is not swept away quite so easily.

For one thing, the case has eerie echoes of the problems in which former Speaker Peter Slipper found himself up to his neck, which resulted in on-going attacks from the Liberals and Nationals on his position.

On 8 January 2013 the Federal Police summonsed Slipper alleging three offences against Section 135.1(5)/ Criminal Code Act 1995 (Cth) in relation to allegations concerning the use of Cabcharge vouchers. Slipper was due to answer these allegations in the ACT Magistrates Court on 15 February 2013. According to documents released by the court, Slipper was alleged to have used Cabcharge to pay for hire cars to visit a number of wineries in the Canberra region in January, April and June 2010.

On 28 July 2014, Slipper was found guilty of dishonestly using taxpayer funds to visit Canberra wineries for his own enjoyment. On 24 September 2014, he was sentenced to 300 hours community service and ordered to reimburse taxpayers for the $954 total that was spent on the trips. Slipper appealed the sentence, and the case was heard in December 2014. Justice John Burns reserved his decision until 26 February 2015, when he ruled the appeal be upheld and the conviction and sentence be set aside.

Bishop may consider herself fortunate that the matter is breaking out on a Thursday and a Friday, as such stories can “die a death” over the weekend as the population turns its head to sport and relaxation. But Labor will be doing everything it can to ensure that doesn’t happen. Bill Shorten and his colleagues scent blood and they are overdue a win.

(Sources: Guardian Australia, Sydney Morning Herald, Wikipedia and others)

Gold medal winning Paralympian denied assistance because she wasn t disabled enough

Tracy Barrell is an Order of Australia recipient, a gold medal-winning Paralympian, and a strong campaigner for those living with disabilities.

A gold medal-winning Paralympian has been told by the Australian government she wasn’t ‘disabled enough’ to qualify for an assistance card. Tracy Barrell is an Order of Australia recipient, a gold medal-winning Paralympian, and a strong campaigner for those living with disabilities.

This is not disabled in today's Australia

This is not disabled in today’s Australia?

Ms Barrel was born with no legs and only one arm due to a medication her mother was given for morning sickness during her pregnancy. Despite her disabilities, in 1992, she won two gold medals for Australia at the Barcelona Paralympics in the Women’s 4×50 metre Freestyle, and the Women’s 50 metre Butterfly.

But when she recently went to apply for a companion card from the Australian government, she was rejected on the grounds she ‘didn’t have enough evidence’ and wasn’t classed as disabled enough.

A companion card allows people with disabilities to be accompanied to certain events and venues by a friend, family member or carer without them having to pay.

“I wasn’t able to receive one due to the ability that I was still able to use my prescribed aids – my skateboard, motorised scooter and modified car,” Ms Barrell told The Daily Mail.

The single mum-of-two used a combination of the above to live her life as independently as possible, but said she still faced hurdles every day. A friend has since organised a Change.Org petition to push for a review of the decision.

Ms Barrell’s two sons are her biggest help and she does not have a full-time carer. However she struggles to get out of the house and battles with situational depression.

The card would allow her to participate in more activities without the financial pressure of having to pay for someone to go with her, or help her out.

Champion.

Champion.

‘I do brave it and do these things myself, but it would be a hell of a lot easier if I had help,’ she said. Ms Barrell told The Daily Mail she felt she ticked all the boxes for the card eligibility and was ‘distraught’ when she found out she had been rejected.

“I cried all day,” she said.

She hoped her story would open up the conversation about the support disabled people receive in Australia, and help inform the public about everyday struggles people with disabilities face.

“It’s not even my battle anymore, it’s everybody else’s battle too and that’s what I really stand for.”

Wellthisiswhatithink update: We are pleased to report that following social media pressure a card has been awarded.

The key question is, of course, why it took a campaign to achieve this. Please share this story widely to ensure that other disabled people are not put through what Tracy went through.

(Yahoo, Daily Telegraph and others)

President Barack Obama unexpectedly led the crowd at Rev. Clementa Pinckney’s funeral in a stirring rendition of “Amazing Grace” last Friday. At the end of his impassioned eulogy for Pinckney, one of the nine people shot and killed in the racist terrorist shooting at Charleston’s Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church last week, Obama broke into the hymn.

To be a leader requires vulnerability, and authenticity. In this moment Obama shows himself perfectly in tune with his audience, with the wider audience in America, and his African-American roots. He is in one moment the leader of what is still one of the world’s most significant nations, and in the same moment a guy like the rest of us, finding solace in his faith, and perfectly understanding his role as the man who needs to bind his nation’s wounds.

Some will say it is mawkish. Mean-spirited people will say it is emotionally showy, or even unworthy of the dignity of a President. Some will say anything rather than warmly acknowledge that – at his best – Obama is a remarkable man.

We say “God bless the UNITED states of America”.

greek flag

The “bad news is good news” principle has been running hot again in the last couple of weeks with all the interest in Greece and its sovereign debt crisis. Economics reporters from around the world have been banging the drum with ferocity signalling that the end of the world is nigh. Very nigh. People gulp their coffee nervously. Stock markets are jittery.

But is a Greek exit from the Euro really likely?

The short answer is No. Oxi, in fact.

That the problem requires resolving is undoubted. Greek banks are very strapped for cash, and the stage is set for people being unable to access their savings. This is the nightmare scenario as far as civil peace is concerned, let alone international trade and business confidence.

But some factors are being ignored in the breathless doom-laden reporting. We summarise the key ones here.

The debt is unsustainable, so some of it will end up being written off. The question is when.

In or out of the Euro, Greek debt has reached levels that are unsustainable by an economy of its size, under any circumstances. It just can’t generate enough trade or tax receipts to pay it back at any sort of meaningful rate. Why this has been allowed to happen is another story, but it doesn’t matter now. It is what it is.

parthenonThe IMF has recognised this, and said that some form of “debt relief” is required.

In other words, writing off debt. (Probably about half of it.)

This will have to happen whatever the future relationship of Greece to the Euro will be, because unsustainable debt levels will make the Greek currency effectively worthless, which would be to no one’s advantage and would cause much greater ripples through the world economy than writing off some of the debt would.

The problem is political, not economic.

The money is, in effect, “gone” already, dispersed throughout the Greek business community and general population in lending, social support payments and so on. There’s no getting it back, and no way to generate it. What Angela Merkel and others have to do is “sell” retiring the debt to their own taxpayers, which is going to be made more difficult by the hard-edged rhetoric they have employed in recent months. Nevertheless, it’s worse than the alternative, so they will bite the bullet and do it.

What will happen?

A portion of the debt will be forgiven – probably about half – but to make this politically acceptable in the rest of Europe some or all of it may be theoretically rescheduled on the “never never” – the debt pushed out by 20 or 30 years – in reality, never to be repaid.

No one wants Greece in turmoil again.

The Greek civil war was recent, and very bloody, Here right wing militia display the heads of their victims.

The Greek civil war was recent, and very bloody, Here right wing militia display the heads of their victims.

It is easily forgotten that for the “mother of democracy”, Greece is a relatively recent convert to democracy. It was a military dictatorship as recently as the 1960s, and endured an horrendous civil war in the immediate aftermath of World War II. To see the country descend into chaos again is unthinkable for both the “European project” and for the geo-political balance in the region.

Long embroiled in conflicts with their neighbours, an aggressive dictatorship of left or right could spread uncertainty and trouble to Cyprus (dangerously near the Middle East), Albania, Macedonia, and worst of all, Turkey.

None of the people that really run the Western world are going to stand idly by and watch that happen over a pot of money, no matter how big that pot is.

What will happen?

The Western powers will stumble haltingly towards a solution to the debt crisis that keeps Greece stable. Expect to see the rhetoric and the bombast toned down significantly on both sides in the next few days, ahead of a compromise that sees Greece stay in the Eurozone and reduces the fractiousness inside the country. The unexpected discarding of the combative Greek finance minister Yanis Varoufakis by Greek Prime Minister Tsipras is a symbol that this process is already underway in earnest.

The Russia factor

Everyone in the West knows that a newly aggressive Vladimir Putin would like nothing more than to bail out Greece (which he has the money to do), both to thumb his nose at Europe (with whom he is enduring real on-going problems over Ukraine), and by bailing them out win an ally where he could base his Red Sea fleet actually on the Med itself. Which would be his price for the support.

What will happen?

America will never let Russia make such a move. So the lines are running hot between America and Europe right now telling the Europeans that they’ve had their fun and to pull their heads in. “Settle it before it gets worse” will be the message.

The European ideal

It is often forgotten – most often by those on the Right – that the EU is about much more than economics.

Greece suffered as much as everyone else in WWII. In 1953, they

Greece suffered as much as everyone else in WWII. In 1953, they “forgave” the new-born German state the debts it owed them.

It always was designed as a device to impose stability on a region that had been at war for thousands of years, and most horribly within living memory in 1939-45. It was rarely sold to the voters like that – who tend to be much more amenable to hip-pocket issues like how much tax they’re paying and whether or not they’ve winning or losing from EU contributions – but that is nevertheless the driving morality behind the whole project.

And as recently as the Balkan conflict Europe has been reminded of the capacity of the area to dissolve into internecine feuding. Issues of economic security dominate over economic efficiency.

That’s why the EU project consistently ignores bleating about “loss of sovereignty” from political parties and national parliaments and stresses instead the role each country plays in “running” Europe. This makes the EU top-heavy, over-centralised, frequently the butt of satire about its tortuous legislative burden, and unpopular. Nevertheless the blow to the European ideal of seeing a “Grexit” (which might lead to similar problems from other small countries) would far outweigh the benefit of disciplining Greece further.

What will happen?

The European ideal will triumph over neo-con economics. It won’t be sold like that, but that’s what will happen.

There is no legal mechanism to force Greek out of the Euro.

greece euro xendpayOne of the oft-repeated canards in the last few weeks has been that Europe will “kick Greece out”. The problem is, they actually can’t. There is no legal mechanism by which a member of the Euro can be made to exit it against their will.

As no-one in Greece actually wants to leave the Euro, whatever their attitude to the austerity measures Europe seeks to impose, Europe is stuck with Greece as a member whether Europe likes it or not. This scholarly article explains the law behind the situation.

What will happen?

The only way Greece can exit the Euro is if it chooses to. Greece won’t, as it knows a “New Drachma” does not have the gold backing to survive as a viable currency in world economy. The new currency would devalue by 25-50% overnight, destroying savings and making trade with Greece virtually impossible. No external traders or countries would trust the new currency. What’s more the very first step would be the IMF having to lend what has been estimated as $25 billion of new money to support the currency, which really would be good money after bad. It’s one thing to write off debts you’ve already factored into the balance sheet, quite another to keep making the balance sheet looking worse.

So what’s in it for Greece to leave? Nothing. So they won’t.

Commonsense will prevail.

In or out of the Euro, Greece is going to default in its debts, whatever it ends up being called.

It’s a bit like an ordinary working individual borrowing a home mortgage of ten million bucks to build a palace, and then turning round and saying “Oops, sorry, can’t pay you back. But the money’s gone: the home is built.

Sure, the lender can take back possession, but they still have to sell it to get their money back. Then they discover the home is actually made of ticky tacky and it’s really only worth $500,000. They’re going to eat the $9.5 million.

The bank can rail all it likes about how unfair that is, but the guy who built the house has now died, and his son is only 18. He claims – fairly – that he is not responsible for the lunacy of his father, over which he had no control.

Sure, be angry at the now dead home builder. And sack the idiot who gave him the ten million in the first place. But it still doesn’t solve the problem, and the bank still wants the son as a customer.

The only question at stake is by how much will Greece default, and when.

What will happen?

Given that Greece out of the Euro is even worse for Europe than Greece in the Euro, the hard heads are currently saying to each other “Damn, they called our bluff, we’re out of options, we have to make a deal.” What you will see (probably tomorrow night) is is a few crumbs thrown by the Greeks to the Germans so that the central bankers and Angela Merkel can save face.

The wash up will be that the Greek Government will appear willing to continue to reform the Greek economy and live in a $500,000 house rather than a $10 million one. And there are signs that, on their own terms, they are willing to continue the reform process, especially as regards fixing tax avoidance, which is a national sport in Greece. Whether they will increase their consumption tax or give pensions a hit is imponderable, but some small ground may even be yielded on those sticking points to sweeten the pill. And the lenders will settle for that. They have no choice. The money’s gone. What they will do is dress it up so that every other indebted country in the EU will not then immediately say “OK, us too, please.”

protestThe crisis will have to be resolved in the next 48-72 hours. We expect it will be. With Greece inside the Eurozone.

Which will be very boring for those journos that like nothing more than to stir up panic because it sells papers – or hits on websites, today – but there it is.

The long-term damage to the concept of Europe for its citizens is more difficult to predict. This heartfelt article should make us all pause and consider.

hanger

 

In a brilliant bit of agit-prop that we predict will give the lie to the arguments of pro-abortion activists in America, a pregnant woman has created a controversial website calling on pro-life advocates to pay $1 million to save the life of her unborn baby. As she says on the website:

The backward direction this country is headed in terms of its treatment of women I feel is due in large part to the influence of the religious right disguised as the pro-life movement. The pro-life movement cares very little about saving lives and far more about controlling women by minimising their choices in a wide variety of ways not the least of which is readily available reproductive health care. I will do my best to remain anonymous in this process as what I aim to prove has nothing to do with me personally. I hope to give the American public a concrete example that the conservative right in America doesn’t actually care about the life of a child, they care about controlling the lives and choices of women. We have to acknowledge this and we have to stop it.

The unidentified woman, who is seven weeks pregnant, says she will accept donations for 72 hours, which is how long women are required to wait for an abortion in some US states. If the target isn’t reached, the 26-year-old will go ahead with a scheduled abortion on July 10. The pro-choice advocate says she wants to draw attention to the “extremely restrictive” abortion laws that exist in the US state where she lives. “If one million dollars is raised in those 72 hours then I’ll have the baby, give it up for adoption and every cent of that one million dollars will be put in a trust fund for the child,” she writes. “Mathematically this means that every one of the 157 million Americans that identify as pro-life needs to donate less than one cent to stop this abortion.” As we have also often argued, the university student says the pro-life movement cares more about controlling women than it does about saving the lives of unborn children. “I hope to give the American public a concrete example that the conservative right in America doesn’t actually care about the life of a child, they care about controlling the lives and choices of women.”

This is an actual 7 week abortion.

This is an actual 7 week abortion.

Our position on abortion has been completely consistent. Women will get abortions whatever the law says, and we hope it is always safe, legal, and as rare as possible. When a woman does not want to carry an un-viable fetus to term that decision should be hers, and not one, I am sure, that the vast majority of women – or their partners – take lightly. This clever campaign – and the promise to donate the money into a trust fund for the child – is the perfect riposte to the hysterical animus of the “pro-life” campaigners. “Pro-life” campaigners who are very unlikely, you will note, to campaign against the capricious, racist and frequently incorrect application of the death penalty in the USA. Or to put it another way, hypocrites. As we have said so many times we are blue in the face, there is a difference between the potential for life, and life itself. Because I celebrate life I also celebrate the lives of women who won’t die at the hands of amateurs wielding knitting needles or coat hangers. Period.

kids_in_boat

 

There’s a lot of total nonsense talked about asylum seekers in Australia. Most of it whipped up equally by the deeply conservative Liberal Party and their weak-kneed Labor opposition.

Here’s a few things those who want to roll out the welcome mat to the world’s most desperate people need to know when cornered into an argument in the pub.

Fact 1: It’s not a crime to come to Australia by boat without a visa and ask for protection

But the Guardian found seven out of 10 people believe it is.

The truth is that it is not a crime to arrive here by boat without a valid visa and ask for protection. In the experience of  The Refugee Council of Australia and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees – in almost 100 years working with people affected by migration – those who do so often feel it is their only chance of finding a place where they’ll be safe from persecution.

asylum

Nor is it illegal to flee persecution, to cross borders without documents or passports in order to seek asylum – people have been doing it for centuries. Everyone has the right to seek asylum from persecution, which is enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Human rights are basic freedoms and protections that everyone’s entitled to.

Fact 2: There’s no “official queue” for people coming to Australia seeking a safe place to live

But six out of 10 people think there is.

The United Nations process of resettling refugees in other safe countries doesn’t operate like a queue. It’s not a matter of lining up, waiting for your number to come up like at the supermarket deli counter.

The resettlement system operates as a discretionary process, based on changing criteria. It’s more like a lottery than it is like a queue.

If this mythical global queue did actually exist, based on the number of refugees there are in the world, people joining the end might wait up to 170 years to get to the front. Which would be a bit pointless, really, wouldn’t it?

In many parts of the world – East Africa being a classic example – the asylum seeker process is total chaos, disrupted by lack of Government control, famine, terrorism and war.

Fact 3: We’re not being “flooded by people”. Only 1% of the world’s refugees is likely to be given safe haven in any given year

The Guardian’s survey found six in 10 people don’t know that.

Only a small group of countries offer resettlement through the UN system. Need consistently far exceeds supply and in any given year about 1% of the world’s refugees is likely to be granted safe haven in another country – in fact the UN says fewer than 1% of refugees will ever get a resettlement place.

Fact 4: There are almost 18 million refugees and asylum seekers in the world

According to the most recent statistics there are 16.7 million refugees and 1.2 million asylum seekers worldwide, most of whom are currently living in developing countries such as Pakistan and Iran who are among the least able to deal with the influx. Pakistan and Iran house at least 1 million refugees from the Afghan conflict alone.

The Guardian found close to one-third of Australians reckon there’s 80 million, more than four times as many as there actually are. And almost another quarter of people think there are 9 million, half the actual figure. How it is possible to have an intelligent debate in the face of such ignorance is another matter.

Of course, if some of these myths were dispelled we would have a more compassionate, understanding, welcoming and stronger Australia.

The advocacy groups know from decades of experience working with vulnerable migrants that the vast majority of asylum seekers and refugees flee to escape persecution, torture and death – dangers inflicted on them because of their race, religion, nationality, social group or political opinions.

Some have seen their closest relatives and friends murdered, and their homes and villages burnt to the ground. They’ve suffered torture and their bodies, like their minds, are covered in scars that will never disappear. They are survivors. They come from all walks of life, rich and poor. They flee, simply, because they want to live.

This year for Refugee Week (14 to 20 June) some of the myths and misconceptions that ultimately serve no one are being challenged. Not that we expect Tony Abbott and Bill Shorten to respond any time soon.

But the next time you find yourself in the midst of this debate if you don’t recall anything else at least remember these four basic truths.

Thanks to the Guardian, The Refugee Council of Australia and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees for the statistics and data referred to here.

At least 5,000 women are subject to honour killings every year, although it may be many more.

At least 5,000 women are subject to honour killings every year, although it may be many more.

A Turkish mother, 36, shot dead her daughter, 17, after finding out that she was three months pregnant, media reports said on Saturday.

The mother, named as Emine A., found out that her daughter Meryem A. was pregnant during a visit to neighbours, the Hurriyet daily reported.

She then went back home to find a gun and returned to shoot her daughter — who worked as a cashier in a market — five times, it said.

Bystanders outside the apartment block in the Selcuk district of the southern city of Nigde rushed to help and took Meryem to hospital but she died on the way.

The mother was detained by police but then had a nervous collapse and was hospitalised. The investigation is continuing.

Turkish authorities acknowledge there is a grave problem of violence against women in the country, although the vast majority of cases involving attacks perpetrated by men.

According to the non-governmental Platform to Stop Violence Against Women, 286 women were murdered in Turkey in 2014 and 134 so far in 2015.

(From AFP)

pat-robertson

 

The days must be drawing in, thank the Good Lord, on famed televangelist and former Republican Presidential candidate Pat Robertson, who recently told a grieving mum that God allowed her son to die because he may be the next Hitler.

A woman wrote into his show “700 Club” seeking comforting words for her friend who’s mourning the loss of her 3-year-old child. She admits she cannot believe in a God who could watch the child die.

“I told her that I don’t know why her child died, but God sees the whole picture, we see only in part. What can I say?”

Robertson could have answered anything – he could have said, for example, the standard Christian response to suffering for over 1800 years, to wit, “God didn’t design the world so that everyone lives for exactly 70 years and then drops dead, because that would make life pretty terrifying. That’s why some people live for three days, three years, thirty years, or a hundred and three years.”

What Robertson failed to explain, however, is why God didn't in that case "remove" the original baby Hitler. Or Stalin.

What Robertson failed to explain, however, is why God didn’t in that case “remove” the original baby Hitler. Or Stalin.

However, Mr Robertson bizarrely took the chance to say that God might have saved the world from the second coming of Adolf Hitler or Joseph Stalin.

“As far as God’s concerned, He knows the end from the beginning and He sees a little baby and that little baby could grow up to be Adolf Hitler, he could grow up to be Joseph Stalin, he could grow up to be some serial killer, or he could grow up to die of a hideous disease,” he said. God sees all of that, and for that life to be terminated while he’s a baby, he’s going to be with God forever in Heaven so it isn’t a bad thing.”

That’s just the comfort the people involved needed. In news to hand, as he’s now 85, the Good Lord tells us that it can’t be all that long now till he gathers Pat Robertson to Himself so that he can enjoy his eternal reward. Or whatever God has in store for him. Thank you, God.

Other Robertson controversies you may care to contemplate. Please note, these are sourced from other media and Wikipedia and we have not cross-checked them (we do not have the capacity to do so, even though we are aware of some of them already). Accordingly, we would, of course, remove and apologise for anything that is demonstrated to us as not true. But we do not expect to have to do so.

Banning inter-racial dating should remove your tax exempt status

Mr Robertson also made headlines this year after stating that Christian schools who ban inter-racial dating (really?!) should remain tax exempt stating that it was “chilling” to see the Internal Revenue Service punish Bob Jones University for their ban.

America is run by “termites” and “anti-Christian destroyers”

In an August 1986 New York magazine article Robertson was quoted saying, “It is interesting, that termites don’t build things, and the great builders of our nation almost to a man have been Christians, because Christians have the desire to build something. He is motivated by love of man and God, so he builds. The people who have come into [our] institutions [today] are primarily termites. They are into destroying institutions that have been built by Christians, whether it is universities, governments, our own traditions, that we have… The termites are in charge now, and that is not the way it ought to be, and the time has arrived for a godly fumigation.”

Sex before marriage

During Robertson’s unsuccessful presidential bid in 1987, Robertson told a Wall Street Journal reporter that his wedding date was actually five months after the date he had always maintained. Reporters said that the actual wedding date meant that his first son was conceived out of wedlock and that Robertson had lied about the date of his marriage in an attempt to cover the truth up. While conceding the reports were accurate, Robertson said that conceiving his son out of wedlock occurred before Jesus Christ had entered his life. Robertson denounced the media choosing to report on the issue as “outrageous” and “reprehensible.” Or good journalism, depending on your point of view.

Other Protestants are the spirit of the AntiChrist

 

"Go on ... let's have women bishops. I dare you."

“Go on … let’s have women bishops. I dare you.”

 

On January 14, 1991, on The 700 Club, Pat Robertson attacked a number of Protestant denominations when he declared: “You say you’re supposed to be nice to the Episcopalians and the Presbyterians and the Methodists and this, that, and the other thing. Nonsense. I don’t have to be nice to the spirit of the Antichrist.” You might not have realised you were praying to the Antichrist if you’re a member of those denominations.

Only Christians and Jews should hold Government roles

Robertson has frequently criticised other religions. In his book The New World Order, Robertson wrote: “When I said during my presidential bid that I would bring only Christians and Jews into the government, I hit a firestorm. ‘What do you mean?’ the media challenged me. ‘You’re not going to bring atheists into the government? How dare you maintain that those who believe in Christian values are better qualified to govern America than Hindus and Muslims?’ My simple answer is, ‘Yes, they are.'” David Cantor, Senior Research Analyst of the Anti-Defamation League, points out that such “religious tests for office are unconstitutional. It’s not just a purely a religious statement. It’s a political statement.”

On Feminism

Unsurprisingly, Robertson is opposed to abortion and same-sex marriage.

He has described feminism as a “socialist, anti-family political movement that encourages women to leave their husbands, kill their children, practice witchcraft, destroy capitalism and become lesbians.”

Wow. You might not have realised wanting equal pay and life opportunity means that, but there we go.

That’s why we need Pat Robertson, we suppose.

Deceptive appeals

Mark Earley

Mark Earley

An investigation by the Commonwealth of Virginia’s Office of Consumer Affairs determined that Robertson “willfully induced contributions from the public through the use of misleading statements and other implications” and called for a criminal prosecution against Robertson in 1999.

However, Virginia Attorney General Mark Earley, a Republican whose largest campaign contributor two years earlier was Robertson himself, intervened, accepting that Robertson had made deceptive appeals but overruling the recommendation for his prosecution.

Support for Liberian dictator guilty of “aiding and abetting as well as planning some of the most heinous and brutal crimes recorded in human history”

Robertson repeatedly supported former President of Liberia Charles Taylor in various episodes of his The 700 Club program during the United States’ involvement in the Second Liberian Civil War in June and July 2003. Robertson accused the U.S. State Department of giving President Bush bad advice in supporting Taylor’s ouster as president, and of trying “as hard as they can to destabilize Liberia.”

Robertson was criticised for failing to mention in his broadcasts his US$8,000,000 investment in a Liberian gold mine.

 

Charles Taylor

 

Taylor had been indicted by the United Nations for war crimes at the time of Robertson’s public support.

Prosecutors also said that Taylor had harboured members of Al Qaeda responsible for the 1998 U.S. embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania. According to Robertson, the Liberian gold mine Freedom Gold was intended to help pay for humanitarian and evangelical efforts in Liberia, when in fact Wikipedia reports that the company was allowed to fail leaving many debts both in Liberia and in the international mining service sector. Regarding this controversy, Richard Land, head of the Southern Baptist Convention’s public policy said, “I would say that Pat Robertson is way out on his own, in a leaking life raft, on this one.”

As regards Charles Taylor, in 2006, the newly elected President of Liberia Ellen Johnson Sirleaf formally requested his extradition, after which he was detained by UN authorities in Sierra Leone and then at the Penitentiary Institution Haaglandenin in The Hague, awaiting trial. He was found guilty in April 2012 of all eleven charges levied by the Special Court, including terror, murder and rape. In May of 2012, Taylor was sentenced to 50 years in prison. Reading the sentencing statement, Presiding Judge Richard Lussick said: “The accused has been found responsible for aiding and abetting as well as planning some of the most heinous and brutal crimes recorded in human history.”

Politicians’ stroke and assignation “judgement by God”

The lead story on the January 5, 2006, edition of The 700 Club was Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s hospitalization for a severe stroke. After the story, Robertson said that Sharon’s illness was possibly retribution from God for his recent drive to give more land to the Palestinians. He also claimed former Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin’s 1995 assassination may have occurred for the same reason.

Anyway, we could go on – there is much, much more – but we feel that adequately demonstrates just who exactly this thoroughly disreputable man is.

CBNThe 700 Club is part of the Christian Broadcasting Network.

On its website, CBN describes itself as “a global ministry committed to preparing the nations of the world for the coming of Jesus Christ through mass media. Using television and the Internet, CBN is proclaiming the Good News in 147 countries and territories, with programs and content in 62 languages.” The CBN website also proudly announces:

The 700 Club can be seen in 96 percent of the homes in the U.S. and is carried on ABC Family cable network, FamilyNet, Trinity Broadcasting Network, plus numerous local U.S. television stations, and is seen daily by approximately one million viewers. CBN International maintains 15 television production centers around the world that create indigenous versions ofThe 700 Club and other Christian programs in 39 languages.  CBN International programs are broadcast in 138 countries to an estimated yearly viewing audience of 360 million people.

Terrifying.

 

Panorama of Dushanbe

Dushanbe – next stop for IS?

This article by Deidrie Tynan from the impeccably credentialled crisisgroup.org makes sobering reading. In the West we have been focused on the IS threat to Syria and Iraq and some other concerns about the ideological cover they give other extremists in North Africa, Nigeria and the Arabian peninsula. But were the eschatological lunacies of the jihadists – obsessed with their “end of days” interpretation of Islam – to also take root throughout central Asia then the cataclysmic effect on their weak civic societies could be catastrophic. And then they will also be cheek by jowl with China, too.

This fearful tide is digging its roots deep into the disposessed and desperate minds of the young in many areas. It will only be rolled back by a whole of world effort. The world’s superpowers must immediately co-operate to crush the group and return the areas it now controls to normality. And then, crucially, economic aid must flow in to rebuild the countries and provide legitimacy for the removal of IS.

Tajikistan commander Gulmurod Khalimov, chief of Tajikistan's paramilitary police unit (OMON) appeared on an ISIS propaganda video released on 27 May 2015.

Tajikistan commander Gulmurod Khalimov, chief of Tajikistan’s paramilitary police unit (OMON), appeared on an ISIS propaganda video released on 27 May 2015.

The appearance of Colonel Gulmurod Khalimov in an Islamic State (IS) propaganda video on 27 May has sent a chill across Central Asia. The head of Tajikistan’s Special Assignment Police Unit (OMON), a key element in President Emomali Rahmon’s security apparatus, had disappeared shortly before. In the video he promised to return to Tajikistan to wage violent jihad.

A trained-in-Russia-and-America veteran of brutal Tajik government operations, Khalimov has the qualifications. And Tajikistan, a desperately poor country ruled by a venal elite, is a vulnerable target. As I drove to its capital, Dushanbe, last summer through the ancient city of Khujand and the rickety, fume-filled, Iranian-built Shariston tunnel, I saw poverty and isolation that eclipses the worst pockets of deprivation in neighbouring Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan.

Khalimov has been an intimate of that elite, but at 40 years old he is relatively young and forceful, unlike the elderly, usually corrupt figures who have previously promoted themselves as Islamist guerrilla leaders in Tajikistan. His defection is a blow to Rahmon’s regime on many levels. He speaks to the parts of the elite not yet bought off and to the alienation of a substantial segment of society.

His message may be draped in Islamic fundamentalist rhetoric, but it is based on some of the potent, more worldly aspects of IS appeal. “Going out to work every morning, look at yourself in the mirror and ask yourself: Are you ready to die for this state or not”, he said directly to the underpaid, overstretched Tajik security forces. “I am ready to die for the Caliphate – are you?”

More than one million Tajik migrants work low-paid jobs in Russia. The remittances they send back make up more than 40 per cent of its GDP. But the value of the remittances is plummeting as Russia veers toward economic crisis. Nearly 200,000 of the migrants went home to bleak prospects in the second half of 2014 alone.

To Tajiks still in Russia, the police commander’s message was “you have become the slaves of non-believers. Why do you humiliate yourself working for non-believers while they must work for you? Join us, brothers … there are no nationalities or states in the Islamic State and our nationality is Islam”.

The eight million people of Tajikistan have known much violence already in their quarter-century of independence since the Soviet Union’s collapse. Rahmon, the only president the country has had, consolidated his power in a civil war against Islamists that ended in 1997. By side-lining the relatively moderate Islamic Renaissance Party earlier this year, he further alienated the devout and gave plausibility to those who argue that with other options closed, extremism is only the politics of last resort.

IS and other foreign fighters, probably the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, are already operating on Tajikistan’s southern border, but that is not the only fault line. Gorno-Badakhshan, high in the Pamirs – a twelve- to fifteen-hour drive when roads are passable – is inhabited by ethnically distinct Pamiris, who were with the rebels in the civil war and barely accept central power today.

Badakhshan has a long, open border with Afghanistan to the south, Kyrgyzstan to the north and China to the east. The Taliban are already active on the immediate Afghan side of that border. It may only be a matter of time before IS is there too.

The Tajik-Afghan border already attracts Russian attention. Even two years ago, an official of the Moscow-led Collective Security Treaty Organisation (CSTO) of a half-dozen ex-Soviet republics told me it was uncontrollable and deadly. This year a Russian diplomat said privately that if the Tajik government requested it, Russia would return troops to it.

The apprehension does not stop there. Neighbouring Uzbekistan – Central Asia’s most populated and most authoritarian state – and chaotic, coup-prone Kyrgyzstan, would be deeply troubled by serious unrest in Tajikistan.

International Crisis Group has been in Central Asia for fifteen years, arguing that the West, particularly the U.S., is building a dangerous debit sheet here. To gain logistical help for war in Afghanistan, it has partnered with dictators like Rahmon and Uzbekistan’s Karimov, accepting excesses excused as counter-terrorism, including repression of peaceful Islamic manifestations.

If other security figures follow Khalimov’s lead, the bill to pay could be steep, and there will not be credit left to pay it with.

Albert Woodfox in 2012. Louisiana's Attorney General has called Woodfox the "most dangerous man on the planet."

 

BREAKING NEWS

A federal judge in Louisiana issued an unconditional writ of habeas corpus, ordering the immediate release of the Angola 3’s Albert Woodfox, and barring the State from creating a retrial. He could be released within hours or days after more than 43 years in solitary confinement. Sixteen years longer than the imprisonment of Nelson Mandela.

According to Tory Pegram, Campaign Coordinator for the International Coalition to Free the Angola 3, Judge James Brady of the Federal District Court in Baton Rouge “argues that this extraordinary remedy is merited due to the following 5 factors: Mr. Woodfox’s age and poor health, his limited ability to present a defense at a third trial in light of the unavailability of witnesses, this Court’s lack of confidence in the State to provide a fair third trial, the prejudice done onto Mr. Woodfox by spending over forty-years in solitary confinement, and finally the very fact that Mr. Woodfox has already been tried twice and would otherwise face his third trial for a crime that occurred over forty years ago.”

A federal judge argues that the State of Louisiana can’t be trusted to provide a fair trial. Think about that. Think about that hard.

A solitary cell in Angola prison in the 19970s

A solitary cell in Angola prison in the 1970s

Woodfox has been held in solitary confinement since 1972 for the murder of corrections officer Brent Miller at the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola.

Many believe that he and the other two members of the so-called Angola 3 were targeted for the crime, and subsequently held in isolation, not because of the evidence but because of their involvement in the prison’s chapter of the Black Panther Party.

Woodfox is the only member of the Angola 3 to remain in prison. Robert King was freed in 2001, following 29 years in solitary, after his original conviction for a separate prison murder was overturned. Herman Wallace, whose conviction for Brent Miller’s murder had also been overturned, died last year after more than 41 years in solitary and a few days of freedom.

In 2013 Judge Brady also vacated Woodfox’s conviction on the grounds that there had been racial bias in the selection of grand jury forepersons in Louisiana at the time of his indictment. Last November, the Fifth Circuit, considered one of the nation’s most conservative Federal Appeals Courts, voted to uphold Brady’s ruling.

The man most likely to abhor Judge Brady’s ruling today is Louisiana Attorney General James “Buddy” Caldwell. Caldwell has called Woodfox, now 68 years old, “the most dangerous man on the planet” due to his political beliefs. More recently, when Woodfox’s conviction was overturned last year, Caldwell immediately vowed to appeal, saying: “We feel confident that we will again prevail at the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. However, if we do not, we are fully prepared and willing to retry this murderer again.”

Caldwell asserts that the evidence against Woodfox is “overpowering”: “There are no flaws in our evidence and this case is very strong,” he said last year. But these statements belie the fact that much of the evidence that led to Wallace and Woodfox’s conviction has since been called into question. In particular, the primary eyewitness was shown to have been bribed by prison officials into making statements against the two men.

Solitary Watch’s James Ridgeway first wrote about the Woodfox case in 2009 in Mother Jones, providing a comprehensive history and analysis, as well as an account of the conditions in which Woodfox has lived for four decades.

Woodfox’s conditions of confinement have if anything deteriorated in the last five years: He was moved from Angola to David Wade Correctional Center in north central Louisiana, where, according to a separate lawsuit, he faced multiple daily strip searches and visual body cavity searches. Woodfox, along with Robert King and the estate of Herman Wallace, is also plaintiff in a major federal lawsuit challenging his decades in solitary on First, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendment grounds. That suit may also finally come to trial this year.

43 years in solitary confinement, always claiming his innocence, and patently obviously because of his political beliefs. Repeatedly denied proper reviews. Repeatedly denied a chance to get out of solitary. Suffering psychological scarring that can only be imagined.

43 YEARS.

In the land of the free. Bow your head and weep, America.

The cement stilts of the home belonging to the Carey family of Corpus Christi, Texas, are all that remain the home was swept away by the Blanco River early  Sunday morning during a flash flood in Wimberley, Texas, on Monday, May 25, 2015. The Carey and McComb family, from Corpus Christi, Texas, have been missing since.   (Rodolfo Gonzalez/Austin American-Statesman via AP)

The cement stilts of the home belonging to the Carey family of Corpus Christi in Texas are all that remain the home was swept away by the Blanco River early Sunday morning during a flash flood in Wimberley, Texas. The Carey and McComb family, from Corpus Christi, Texas, have been missing since. (Rodolfo Gonzalez/Austin American-Statesman via AP)

 

One of the effects of global warming resulting in climate change is that dry places may become drier – or ironically wetter – without warning, and to a greater degree.

This will have effects on agricultural production, although ironically some areas (a minority compared to the whole) will be improved agricultural production due to either greater warmth or greater rainfall.

But one of the most obvious impacts – and least talked about – is the effect of climate change on population, and specifically, on urbanisation.

At its most simple, people worldwide need somewhere to live. And despite the desultory attempts of local and State governments to put them off – desultory according to the dominant belief system and political will in any given area – people still want to build homes on floodplains, near rivers, in wooded areas prone to bushfire, on beaches, and so on.

NY TimesOver the weekend just gone, sadly large areas of Texas focused on Austin felt the brunt of those decisions, and on the failure to contain temperature rise.

This NY Times article (left) does an excellent job of both explaining the science, the politics, and the effect of the problem on ordinary citizens. We strongly recommend you read it. Just click the screen grab or click below.

In Texas the race to develop outpaces flood risk studies and warming impacts.

And this article, which we also suggest you read, gives a further scientific response to the contribution to climate change to the events of the last few days.

We have no wish to ride this article on the backs of those enduring a distressing situation – none at all – but comment needs to be made, if for no other reason that the world is at a tipping point where further warming will simply increase the effects now being seen, but we still have time to take effective action to turn the tide back, if you’ll forgive the pun.

We have dear friends in Texas, and we bitterly regret the growing number of deaths of those caught up in the flooding in that state, and those who have been injured or lost property. Our prayers and sympathies go out to those affected and if there’s a reconstruction or victim support fun we can be advised of, we will gladly donate to it.

We have recent endured the same in Australia and the community effect is awful. Like Texas, with whom parts of Australia share similar climactic profiles, we have always endured droughts, fires and floods.

But what is absolutely certain is that looking over the last decade or two such events are getting worse, and lasting longer.

Texan Presidential hopeful Ted Cruz

Texan Presidential hopeful Ted Cruz

In order to ensure that remedial action is taken, we now need some clear, unambiguous thinking. It must be said that “deep south” Conservatives have led the way in pooh-poohing the reality of climate change, or its effect.

For example, the absolute intellectual dishonesty of one Presidential candidate, Ted Cruz, on this issue, is skewered brilliantly in this analysis of his recent inflammatory, pseudo-science comments.

Former GOP hopeful for President and Governor of Texas Rick Perry  repeatedly questioned the science behind climate change — “I think we’re seeing almost weekly, or even daily, scientists that are coming forward and questioning the original idea that man-made global warming is what is causing the climate to change.”

Rick Perry

Rick Perry

Perry, along with energy companies, industry front groups, and other conservative politicians, sued the EPA in an attempt to block the agency from regulating climate pollution. Their argument was that climate science is a hoax.

Under Perry, Texas led the nation in carbon emissions and is home to five of the ten worst mercury emitting power plants in the country.

The governor called the EPA a “den of activists,” and in response to the Clean Power Plan, the governor said it was “the most direct assault yet on the energy providers that employ thousands of Americans.” He criticised the Obama administration’s delay of the Keystone XL pipeline and speaking at a trade association funded by BP, Perry called the 2010 BP oil catastrophe an “act of God” and his solution to the nation’s economic ills: “more oil drilling.”

Against this nonsense, a detailed examination of the impact of likely climate change on Texas can be found here, from the University in Austin, the city in which great swathes are now under water. It’s cold comfort to those who were hit by “a tsunami” of water according to the current Governor that some in the political establishment in Texas are cheerleaders in refusing to tackle climate change despite evidence like this being freely available.

In the past, we have been criticised for dismissing climate change deniers, refusing to listen to their ridiculous anti-intellectual and anti-science rantings, and refusing to countenance debating with them. We acknowledge this, but we refuse to apologise or change our view, for these reasons alone:

  • For the record, we acknowledge there is debate over the scale of man’s contribution to climate change. But to pretend it is none whatsoever is clearly ostrich-head-in-sand-like stubbornness, mindlessly disputing the opinions of tens of thousands of well-credentialled scientists across a vast range of disciplines, not just climatology.
  • We acknowledge that argument exists about the likely pace of climate change and the effects thereof. However: that there will be SOME change is undisputed, and even very small changes at the lower end of predictions are already having a profound effect on global weather, and the human population.
  • Many of the effects of global warming – such as ocean acidification – are just as serious as weather change, and constantly ignored by the climate change deniers. These changes could see the world’s entire food chain threatened and the extinction of thousands of ocean species, both vegetable and animal.

Given the foregoing, we should be taking PRECAUTIONARY climate change action.

Even if it turns out that our fears are over-complicated or overblown, to ignore the current signs is moronic, dangerous, and surely equivalent to dereliction of dutyfrom our legislators.

Politics has overtaken commonsense prophylactic government action, and that should be totally unacceptable to all.

An understanding that we need to be CAREFUL while we sort out the science still further is one that should be shared by all politicians, of all parties, on a non-partisan basis. To reduce the matter to a political football (presumably based on a belief that it will enhance election prospects) is stupidity of a near-criminal nature.

Is this really the best future mankind can hope for?

Is this really the best future mankind can hope for?

Because you know what, Dear Reader?

If we take action to combat climate change, and it turns out we were worrying completely unnecessarily, all we will have done is created a cleaner, less polluted planet.

And old, dangerous and polluting industries will have been replaced by others. And who would mourn that?

Where’s the loss?

Let us hope those now struggling with floods and storms in Texas remember who refused to do anything about the problem before it came to this – and who they want in charge of their lives in future.

MutluKaya

Screenshot of Mutlu from YouTube

 

Last weekend the world thrilled to the fun of the Eurovision Song Contest. But now the shooting of a 19-year-old woman following an appearance singing on TV is bringing violence against women in Turkey to light. Mutlu Kaya was shot in the head southeastern Turkey’s Diyarbakir, in what is the most recent in a string of high-profile attacks on women in the country. Her crime? Singing. That’s it.

Such cases have brought attention to a rising tide of violence against women in Turkey. According to Bianet, a Turkey-based NGO and news source, there was a 31 percent increase in murders of women by men between 2013 and 2014. Researchers place the number of women murdered in 2014 at nearly 300.

According to local media, Kaya began receiving death threats from her extended family after being selected to appear on national TV in Sesi Cok Guzel, a talent competition in the vein ofAmerica’s Got Talent. Kaya was shot in the head while at home early Monday morning. She was rushed to a local hospital before being moved to a larger hospital in Diyarbakir, where she remains in intensive care.

 Although it has yet to be confirmed, it is reported that Kaya was threatened by her extended family for going to Istanbul to participate in the contest — there is speculation that the attack was motivated by Kaya’s choice to step outside of traditional gender roles.
Degir Deniz

Degir Deniz

Kaya’s shooting comes on the heels of two other high-profile murders. On May 5th, the body of a popular 39-year old singer-songwriter, Deger Deniz, was found strangled in her Istanbul home.

And on February 11th, Ozgecan Aslan, a 20-year old psychology student in Mersin, was brutally assaulted and murdered after resisting a rape.

Her burned and mutilated body was later found in a creek outside of town.

Aslan’s murder sparked an outcry against violence against women in Turkey. Protesters – including men wearing miniskirts to show solidarity – took to the streets.

Ozgecan Aslan

Ozgecan Aslan

Hundreds of thousands women tweeted their experiences with sexism, gender-based violence and harassment under the hashtag #sendeanlat, which translates to “you tell your story too.”

In the aftermath of Ozgecan’s murder, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan stated that violence against women is Turkey’s “bleeding wound.” However, the AKP has repeatedly placed a paternalistic emphasis on women only within their context as mothers and daughters. Erdogan went on to call on men to protect women, based on their relationship to men: “I call on gentlemen occupying most of the important decision-making positions: This could have happened to our daughters as well.”

Erdogan’s conservative Justice and Development party (AKP) has been widely criticised for its stance on women’s issues. The party renamed the Ministry for Women and Family as the Ministry of Family and Social Policy, positioning their focus not on women’s rights but on women as just one of many at-risk social groups. And in 2014, one of the party’s most senior members, Bulent Arinc, said that women should “be humble and protect their chasteness. They should not laugh out loud in public,” prompting an avalanche of tweets of women doing just that.

At a women’s conference in Istanbul in 2014, Erdogan said that to put women as equal to men is “against nature” because they are “delicate.”

Speaking on a BBC podcast, The Inquiry: Is Life Getting Worse For Women In Erdogan’s Turkey? in March, Professor Deniz Kandiyoti, who specializes in gender relations in Turkey at the University of London, said of the AKP’s rhetoric: “what trickles down of course is that some women are worthy of protection. Other women: it’s open season.”

To see this happening in what was always touted as the most Westernised and secular Muslim state in the world is especially distressing. To be sure, familial violence against women is a cultural issue not a primarily religious one – it occurs in Christian and Hindu communities too – but it would be hoped that the fitfully modernising trend of a country like Turkey would reduce its prevalence and set an example of tolerance to the rest of the region.

Sadly, apparently not.

(From Think Progress and others)

It is now a matter of history that Ed Milliband failed to engage with the UK electorate, and has now resigned as Leader of the Labour Party, having overseen a very poor result for his party.

We discuss why in this article.

But we did think you might like to ponder this image, too. We saw it served to us on the Internet countless times.

 

The likeness is scary.

The likeness is scary.

 

Yes, yes – all well and good, and fair game, all’s fair in love and war etc – but we do wonder how ridicule like this seriously affects a politician’s chances, especially as our politics has become increasingly Presidential throughout the Western world.

After all, it’s legend that Nixon lost the crucial TV debate with Kennedy because he refused make up and so had a noticeable five o’clock shadow making him look older and unkempt. That hirsute shadow dogged him in virtually every cartoon of him from then till his death.

This pic would have been seen by a untold millions of Brits before last Thursday. It hardly enhances the poor chap’s dignity.

He can’t help how he looks, after all.

And we see these types of memes constantly – the world even had to invest the word meme to describe them – and after a while we are sure they have some sort of effect, and nearly always always negative. The fact that Wallace is a bit of a numpty working-class Northerner won’t have been missed by a few million sub-consciousnesses, either.

Hmmm. One of the commonest lines we deliver on this blog is “you can survive anything in politics except ridicule”. We are sure more serious matters were at play, too, but this can’t have helped.

And yes, we would be the last people to argue that humour and satire have no place in politics. They serve a valuable purpose and have done for centuries. Nevertheless, we also owe it to those who would govern us to look at issues more than their double chin (Jim Callaghan), the size of their hips or nose (Julia Gillard), their sticky-outy ears (Tony Abbott), their voice (Margaret Thatcher) and so on and so on endlessly.

Caricature is fun, but not if it overwhelms everything else. We dumb our politics down too far at our peril.

UK election results

The second question is easier to answer than the first. No, we were not. We predicted no overall majority with the Conservatives as the largest party, and they actually won an overall majority. So we have broken our winning run since 1979. Boo-hoo.

But we were almost right. We said that UKIP would win almost no seats, which was right. We said the Greens would only win one, ditto. We predicted the SNP would have a stellar night but not win Orkney and Shetland – correct. And we predicted that the Lib Dems would face a near wipeout, as we have been predicting like Mystic Meg for more than three years now. Correct. Indeed, their result was even worse than we had feared – while party grandees were blathering on about 20-30 seats or even 30-40 we were certain they would win under 20 – and their failure to keep their own seats was key to the whole election result, because if they had won 10 more of the seats they lost in swathes to the Tories throughout the West and South of the country they would probably now be in Government again. But we are getting ahead of ourselves.

You will find below the results of the Lord Ashcroft poll taken AFTER people had voted, asking them how, but more importantly, why. People have no reason to fudge or obscure their actions and reasons after they have taken place, so this type of poll is usually infinitely more accurate than pre-election polls.

Microsoft Word - LORD ASHCROFT POLLS - Post-vote poll summary.do

Microsoft Word - LORD ASHCROFT POLLS - Post-vote poll summary.do

Consistently one of the more accurate pollsters, Ashcroft himself would be the first to admit that he didn’t see a Tory majority coming either. Indeed, no one did. (This fact makes us feel slightly less aggrieved with ourselves.) But his post poll explains what happened with great perception. So before the myth making begins, this is what really happened last Thursday:

  • Fully 31% of the electorate decided who to vote for in the last week, with more than one in ten as they entered the poling booth. This shows that, certainly as far as Labour and the Tories were concerned, there was all to play for right up to the end.
  • Lib Dem votes from 2010 went flying everywhere – some to Tories, some to Labour, some to the Greens, and many to UKIP. The Lib Dem vote is thus revealed as very “soft”, ie not “ironed on”. Desertions from the party to major parties went almost equally to the Tories and Labour.
  • The slide of votes from the Lib Dems to UKIP simply reflects the obvious fact that a third party is a natural home for voters who are disaffected with the status quo, and this time round these “protest” voters found a newer and more dynamic home within UKIP. This effect can also be discerned with “swinging voters”.
  • The collapse in trust for the Lib Dems is highlighted by the fact that their “trusted their motives and values” measurement is the lowest of all the parties, with nearly a third of the electorate rejecting the party on this basis. The fact that their candidates were respected locally merely makes the loss of so many sitting MPs even more galling for the party. In simple terms, one factor outweighed the other in how people made their decision.
  • A large number of UKIP voters slid back to the Tories as their minds focused on a likely general election result and who they wanted as PM.
  • Question seven reveals that, as always, bread and butter issues dominated what mattered to people, the highest being Improving the NHS, Getting the economy growing and creating jobs, and Controlling Immigration (which is incorrectly, in our view, conflated with the previous issue in many peoples’ minds), and then a bunch of others.Interestingly, though, when the issue is switched from the “whole country” to “me and my family”, Immigration disappears off the top 3 list to be replaced by Tackling the cost of living crisis. Or in other words, many people have been doing it tough, and they blame that (erroneously, in our view, but consistently) on Immigration.
  • Then again, fully 88% bought Cameron’s view that they were either feeling an economic recovery or believed they would. Thus Milliband and Labour continually bleating about the effects of austerity measures was aiming at the wrong target. Indeed, a very large number of Conservative voters believe austerity measures should be continued (84%) although 54% of the population as a whole believe it has either gone on long enough, or should never have been employed.
  • Partly as a result of this, David Cameron was much preferred by voters as PM, Ed Milliband scored very poorly at 37%. In modern elections the “Presidential” element has become increasingly important.
    Like him or loathe him, Cameron had a good war.

    Like him or loathe him, Cameron had a good war.

    This factor in boosting the Conservative’s overall result cannot be under-estimated. Only 39% of Labour voters preferred Milliband as PM, less than 20% of Lib Dem voters thought Clegg would make a better PM. And staggeringly, only 26% of Labour voters thought Milliband’s senior advisers would make a good government – goodbye Ed Balls, nice to have known you.

    For these reasons we pick the following factors as the crucial, game-changing stats in last Thursday’s cataclysmic event.

  • The collapse in trust for the Lib Dems.
  • The failure of leadership to appeal to the public for both – crucially – the Labour Party, and also the Lib Dems.
  • A very creditable performance by David Cameron, in comparison, and especially in the last week. We saw one very combative performance he gave in a public gathering a few days before the election and thought “Wow, he’s got the bit between his teeth”. Maybe Central Office polling was giving him good news. He now has some political capital of his own he can burn if needs be, although a week, as Harold Wilson once remarked, is a long time in politics, and he would be wise to spend that capital in small increments on things that really matter to him.
  • A feeling that things aren’t quite as bad as they’ve been painted – a certain latent, if sceptical, optimism in the electorate.

Last but not least, of course, there is always the near impossibility for UKIP (or any minor party) to beat the antiquated FPTP electoral system. For the Lib Dems, in particular, the patient accumulation of respect and thus better prospects, assembled over a generation of community campaigning, has been almost totally washed away.

Whilst Labour will be distressed at having done, in reality, quite poorly, of all the parties the Lib Dems’ is perhaps the most bitter bill to swallow.

Interestingly, though, since election night, over 4,000 new members have joined the party, in an act of defiance and hope that is really quite impressive – to this writer, at least.

LGIt is too early to write their political obituary, although it would be equally foolish not to acknowledge that as a force, British Liberalism, that great and honourable political philosophy of Gladstone, Asquith, Lloyd George, Jo Grimond, David Steel and others, is currently looking pretty sickly on life support.

What do the Lib Dems do now? Here’s a refined Liberal message. It’s a starting point.

“We exist to protect those without power.

We exist to give them a voice.

We exist to ensure that Government serves them, not the other way round.

We do not hunt for some mythical place called the centre ground, we search for a place where there is justice, and compassion, and where the great talents of the people are liberated for the greater good of the community.

We do not seek to rule our people, we seek to give them the tools, the knowledge and the support so that they may rule themselves.”

Post it on your Facebook page, re-blog it, have it adopted by your local party, write to what’s left of the Parliamentary party to get them fired up and agreeing … The future starts today.

 

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