Saturday 27 July 2013

Good Grief

A massacre is taking place in Egypt.
At least 136 supporters of Egypt's ousted president, Mohamed Morsi, have been shot dead by security officials in what is the worst state-led massacre in the country since the fall of Hosni Mubarak, according to figures released by Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood.
The Egyptian health ministry said that it had counted only 20 dead so far – though their figures are only based on bodies delivered to state institutions. Reporters at the scene counted at least 36 corpses in a single room.
The massacre took place in the small hours of Saturday morning, at a sit-in at Rabaa al-Adawiya, east Cairo, where tens of thousands of pro-Morsi supporters have camped since Morsi was deposed on 3 July.
Brotherhood spokesman Gehad El-Haddad said the shooting started shortly before pre-dawn morning prayers on the fringes of a round-the-clock vigil being staged by backers of Morsi, who was toppled by the army more than three weeks ago.
It's hard to see how the West can stand back and allow this to happen, on top of the 50 odd Muslim Brotherhood supporters murdered a couple of weeks ago.

Surely even our spineless, hypocritical leaders must realise they must immediately severe support for the psychopaths who have seized power, curtail all aid and demand the immediate restoration of the democratically elected government of Egypt?  And that the criminals in charge are brought to justice?  Or would the last be a bit too much for countries that let George W Bush and Tony Blair walk free?

The Egyptian military has been described as a moderating force for order and decency as the brass were all educated in the west.  This was the reason that the coup-that-was-not-a-coup was not utterly condemned.  The theory was our (supposed) values and understanding of the role of the military would rub off. Clearly, this didn't really happen. They do seem to have learned one tip from the West, though - at all times, refer to the people you are killing as terrorists. Even when they are your own people.

I think we know who the real terrorists are.

Monday 22 July 2013

Labour Leadership, Part 561

I give up. I thought the insanity that seems to have possessed the post-Clark Labour party would have run its course after 2011. But it seems some can not sate their need to schism and plot against their own party, rather than their opposition.

Does anyone really think installing David Cunliffe or Andrew Little is really going to give Labour a real boost in the polls? That suddenly this brain dead, factionalised caucus will suddenly unite and start pouring out brilliant ideas? That suddenly the New Zealand public will realise what it has always wanted to do was embark on a Long March to the left? Get real.

Swapping out Shearer for Cunliffe will simply mean the current coterie around Shearer will become the scheming plotters trying to undermine the leader. The (possibly terminal) decline will continue. The polls will stay miserable, with the occasional 35% rating being greeted rapturously, while National pooter along quite happily at 48%.

Do you really think there are Brilliant Ideas - better than KiwiBuild and the NZ Power - that some members of the caucus have just plain forgotten to mention but will rediscover with Shearer out of the top spot? It seems rather unlikely, to be generous.

There isn't much to be said for Shearer; there isn't much to be said for Cunliffe. If Shearer is rolled, the electorate will not rejoice and switch from National to Labour. They will look on the conspirators as the Roman plebs looked on Cassius and Brutus - only they won't need an Anthony to rouse them. They'll see it for what it is - the petty politicking of little men who were so interested in advancing themselves they betrayed the movement they claimed to be part of. The electorate will be more firmly pro-Key than ever, because the NZ Labour party will have succeeded in becoming toxic as well as useless.

Cunliffe - and anyone else - would be a fool to roll Shearer now. it won't fix anything - not one of the buffoons put forward as a possible new leader has the wit or charisma to fix the problems of the Labour party. They are the symptom, not the solution. They will look at how few of those who strike the fatal blow go on to wear the crown. Brash rolled English and lost. Gillard rolled Rudd and lost. Rudd rolled Gillard and will likely lose - and if he does win, based on his moves against refugees, it will be a Phyricc victory as who would want to win on a platform of xenophobia and fear?

Cunliffe and the other contenders - pygmies all, but the Labour party is a party where pygmies are well represented - would probably prefer to wait until after 2014. They are none of them so stupid as to think substituting Shearer for any one of them would make a sufficient difference. But they also know that by 2014 they will be as stale and unappealling as Phil Goff in 2011. So they will perhaps be compelled to act now - before whatever miniscule talent they possess is completely over-shadowed.

I suppose being leader for a year and a bit would be preferable to never being leader at all.

Tuesday 9 July 2013

A sort of cautious defence of John Inverdale

John Inverdale has made a lot of people cross by commenting on the appearance of Marion Bartoli, the highly likeable and quirky Wimbledom champion.

He commented, 'Do you think Bartoli’s dad told her when she was little, “You’re never going to be a looker?"’ This has lead to all sorts of accusations of being mean to Bartoli, to promoting negative views of female athletes and sexism and so on. Male players, we are told, are not subjected to this. Bartoli has also been subject to a lot of hateful comments on the internet by trolls calling her ugly.

I think Inverdale was actually trying to compliment Bartoli on her skill and work ethic, in a clumsy way. If any insult was intended, it was towards the likes of Sharapova and Kournikova, who are popular and attract sponsorship and media attention disproportionate to their ability.

The comment was meant to convey that Bartoli would have to actually win tournaments and stuff, rather than looking lithe and flashing her knickers. I think he was trying to say that, to be famous and beloved, she'd have to do it the hard way. If everyone is talking about her, it's because of her success as a tennis player. The full version of his comment bears this out:
Speaking on the show yesterday, Inverdale had said: ‘I just wonder if her dad, because he has obviously been the most influential person in her life, did say to her when she was 12, 13, 14 maybe, "listen, you are never going to be, you know, a looker".
‘"You are never going to be somebody like a Sharapova, you're never going to be 5ft 11, you're never going to be somebody with long legs, so you have to compensate for that". ‘
"You are going to have to be the most dogged, determined fighter that anyone has ever seen on the tennis court if you are going to make it", and she kind of is.'
Also, worth pointing out that male atheletes are frequently criticised for their appearance - think of the comments directed at Waybe Rooney, or at the nickname the Sun came up with for Jerzy Janowicz (Murray's semi final opponent) - Frankenstein. Ivan Lendl was called 'Darth Vader' in the 80s because he was perceived as sulky and dour, as if smiling and waving was part of his job - a criticism still levelled at Andy Murray.

I can even recall it being said about Michael Chang that he "wasn't sexy enough" to attract the sort of sponsorship that Andre Agassi could, when they were both emergent players. So it does happen to male and female athletes.

Obviously, Inverdale was stupid and should have kept his ill formed thoughts to himself - but it is fairly common for people to comment on athlete's looks, and the exceptional fuss aimed at Inverdale is a bit odd.

The internet trolls, on the other hand, should be sought out and killed.

Saturday 6 July 2013

Tory Polling Blues


Or at least he should be.  According to a new poll, the Tories are not just 13 points behind Labour.  They are just one point ahead of the UKIP:
There is also a Survation poll out for the Daily Mirror which has topline figures of CON 23%, LAB 36%, LDEM 10%, UKIP 22% (Full tabs are here). It’s the lowest the Conservatives have shown in a poll this Parliament, and the closest UKIP have come to them, but that’s largely for methodological reasons because the Tories hate inducing scum that will soon be the third party of British politics. 
I may have adapted Anthony Wells's comments a bit, and Survation are a bit suspect compared to proper polling companies, but who cares? Since the anti-AGW lot have decided you can just pick what ever data you like and manipulate it whatever way you see fit, I'm happy to join in.

The response of the right?  To rave and scream about some miserable corruption in candidate selection in Scotland.  The Mail rather hopefully suggests this may be a threat to Ed Milliband's leadership.

Dave - or should I say Nigel Farage? - should be so lucky. No one cares about what happens in Falkirk. The desperation of the Tories is obvious from the eagerness with which they have seized on this.

With their polling numbers drifting towards the low 20s, you would think the Tories would be a bit more introspective.  Ostriches, Titanic, whatever metaphor makes you happy.

But respectable polling company with robust methodology shows the Tories at 23% and just one point ahead of the UKIP - and the right's response is to squeal about some tawdry little near scandal in Falkirk.  Those wondering where or even what Flakirk is should not feel ashamed.  No-one other than William Wallace has ever been at all bothered by goings on in Falkirk.

Do they really think that's going to win back the missing 10%?

Do they really think the British electorate will shiver in terror at the mere mention of the unions?

Amusingly, Thatcher broke that stick and the Tories will struggle to beat Labour with it. Yet it still seems to be the only one they use. "Vote for us, coz, coz ... UNIONS!! WAH!!"

Not suggestive a party bringing over with energy, hope and ideas, is it?


So, Egypt's short lived experiment with democracy appears to be over. Oh, I know, the army are saying they will be handling power back soon. Just like in Fiji.

I don't particularly like the Muslim Brotherhood being in power but they were democratically elected; collapsing democracy is a bigger problem than allowing some moderate Islamists the opportunity to disillusion their support base.

Revolution was necessary to get rid of Mubarak, but not so with the Muslim Brotherhood. A second revolution will probably condemn Egypt to either civil war or dictatorship - following the pattern of Russia in 1917. If you don't like the results of a democratic election, the solution is not to start a rampage to collapse the elected government.

It would have been be nice if the Egyptians had chucked out Mubarak and immediately started debates about the relative merits of Single transferable Vote as opposed to Mixed Member Proportional representation; but that was not exactly a realistic prospect. It was always going to be a bumpy road; the important thing is that the Egyptians stayed on it.

Morsi was always going to be divisive as almost as many people voted against him as voted for him. He lost the enthusiasm of some of those who supported him, but I don't think this could really be described as a 'popular' uprising.  Yeah, a lot of people are running about in the streets setting things on fire and scrapping - that's what you do when you are young and have no job and no hope of getting one.

Because the fundamental problem isn't Morsi's mildly silly Islamism.  People don't over throw their governments because they want to close all shops at 10pm.  They tell them to stop being silly.  Morsi's government fell for the same reason Mubarak fell - not enough jobs and high food prices.  And this will be the reason the next democratically elected government - if there is one in the near future - will be welcomed, become loathed and finally fall.  The example of China suggests a lot of people will put up with a lot in exchange for work, food, and a degree of security in exchange for following the rules.  Democracy is trumped by hunger.

One of two things will probably happen now, neither of them good. Either the military will keep power, while mouthing an intention to return to democracy when the 'national emergency' is over, which will always be '12-18 months from now'; or they will cede control back to an interim government, which will also rapidly become hated and unpopular, and the cycle will repeat.

And even if a stable government is established, the precedent has been set for military intervention at the whim of the generals. Not a good omen.

Yes, I know, that was one of three things. No-one expects the Spanish Inquisition, and all that.

So we've had a coup followed by mass arrests of the leaders of the democratically elected (until ver recently) governing party. Not looking too good, is it? Even if the army does cede power back to civilians, they appear to be setting things up so that the Muslim Brotherhood is too weak or intimidated to contest power again.

In Britain, the Tories are consistently behind in the polls. Will the British army heed The Will Of The People and oust these power crazed scum?

Jonathan Freedland makes a (for him surprisingly) good point in the Guardian. The impact of this coup may be more than just the stunting of Egyptian democracy, but a wider disillusionment with democracy among Muslims in the region. They tried, they won, they were run out of town:
To remove an elected president, to arrest a movement's leaders and silence its radio and TV stations, is to send a loud message to them and to Islamists everywhere. It says: you have no place in the political system. It says: there is no point trying to forge a version of political Islam compatible with democracy, because democracy will not be available to you.
Why bother trying if you are going to be overthrown when you try to actually use the power that was fairly won? I think this is important because democracy requires compromise. The Islamists just booted out in Egypt would - if they had been allowed to continue to participate - have discovered the necessity of diluting their plans, building consensus and accepting there are just some things that they can not do because the people will not wear it. Instead, they've been taught a blunt lesson on How To Do It - get the mob out, get the Men With Guns out, then you can do whatever you like. The next incarnation of Islamism in Egypt will be far harsher, and far less concerned with gaining power from the ballot box.


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