Friday, June 29, 2012

Why I Love P.G. Wodehouse and E.B. White

P. G. Wodehouse said, 'I believe there are two ways of writing novels. One is mine, making a sort of musical comedy without music and ignoring real life altogether; the other is going right deep down into life and not caring a damn … '

  • I have always felt that the first duty of a writer was to ascend - to make flights, carrying others along if you can manage it. To do this takes courage, even a certain conceit. ~ E.B. White
  • No one can write decently who is distrustful of the reader's intelligence or whose attitude is patronizing. ~ E. B. White

Wednesday, June 6, 2012


Perceval: I can't lose faith, Lancelot. It's all I have. 

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Egypt Between a Rock and a Hard Place

I'm Neal Conan in Washington. In another dramatic turn in Egypt, the first free democratic presidential election in the nation's history set up a run-off vote next month between two divisive candidates: Mohamed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood and Ahmed Shafik the last prime minister under former President Hosni Mubarak. Between them, the two top candidates received just under 50 percent of the vote.

But ultimately the trends and the polls were pretty much on the money, which is the Brotherhood ultimately, their candidate will do better than the polls were showing, but they will do considerably worse than they did in the parliamentary election because the trends were showing the public was really angry with them on several scores.
Seventy-one percent of our polls showed that - 71 percent of the Egyptians polled said that they made a mistake by fielding their own candidate after saying that they wouldn't do so. And the role of religion and politics, while it's important, was not in any of the polls showing up as a primary reason for voting, which is, you know, which is the way it turned out. But the biggest surprise to me and to, I think, everybody else, and I'm here with some prominent Egyptians here in the conference room mulling this over this morning, really is the good showing of the Nasserist Arab nationalist, secularist candidate Sabahy who almost pulled it off being top two. He's number three.
And the remarkable thing is that he did well in particularly Islamist strongholds, especially in Alexandria where he himself was surprised. He said, I didn't know I had so much support there. So that really was the big surprise and I think it kind of leads us into this thing of not labeling people Islamist, non-Islamist, just thinking that that is going to be the only or the principle dimension of the way they're going to behave. It's all about issues. That's what we've seen.
only 46 percent of Egyptians voted
He got people who were related to the security scheme, the families of security establishment members and he certainly did well among the Copts. We knew that he would do well. He was, you know, really catering them directly, at one point, even promising that he was going to put forth a Christian woman as a vice presidential candidate. And I think in the next round, he will probably do better even among women who may be disaffected by the Muslim Brotherhood.
So it's going to be a lot of lobbying, a lot of coalition building in the next two weeks in ways that Egypt has never seen. The liberals will be a critical force here..

A lot of what drives vote share is mobilization. And the Muslim Brotherhood was able to go out there and mobilize its voters. The thing about Ahmed Shafik, which nobody is really saying, is that he was able to use the apparatus of the state, not just the old national democratic party, but the old security apparatus that knows which families to buy off and which villages. And that really worked on his behalf in sort of mobilizing voters for him, particularly in rural areas where we thought the Muslim Brotherhood would dominate.

So anybody who takes over in Egypt in the coming period knows that the military is going to have a vast scope of power, and that is generally how it is in many places that are coming out of military dictatorship. Indonesia is a good example of this. But with time, the military's powers generally we expect to get clipped way, chipped away at, until it's no longer a dominant force.
CONAN: Turkey might be an interesting comparison, Steven Cook.
COOK: You just took the words right out of my mouth. Turkey...
MASOUD: Exactly.
COOK: the paradigmatic example of this kind of thing. The Turkish military broadly perceived to be all-powerful and dominant in the Turkish political system has, over the course of the last decade, been reduced in important ways to the extent that the Turkish general staff does not have the ability to drive and influence political events in the way that it once did.