Archive for the ‘Political musings’ Category

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

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

 

Myuran Sukumaran takes an art class in Kerobokan

Myuran Sukumaran takes an art class in Kerobokan

 

Except it is perfectly right to do so.

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

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

As John Donne wrote centuries ago:

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

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

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

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

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

 

Andrew chan baptises a fellow prisoner inside Kerobokan jail.

Andrew chan baptises a fellow prisoner inside Kerobokan jail.

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Megawati - the hard woman behind the Widodo throne.

Megawati – the hard woman behind the Widodo throne.

 

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

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

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

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

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

Respect.

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

Now, and forever.

The controversial poster has since been removed. Photo: Facebook

The controversial poster has since been removed. Photo: Facebook

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We heartily agree.

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

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

(Yahoo and others)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Merlino labelled those comments ‘reckless and dangerous’.

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

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

(Yahoo and 7 News)

 

Kim Rose

Kim Rose

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

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

 

Jimmy White at UKIP event

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

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

 

Sausage rolls

Tempting.

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

When will this end?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

<iframe width=”640″ height=”390″ src=”https://www.youtube.com/embed/VS78MX8Zmdk&#8221; frameborder=”0″ allowfullscreen>

Primarily, because she’s smarter.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hillary-2

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

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

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

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

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

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