It's important to remember that everybody in our great republic has an equally important voice. [via Reddit]
in a democracy, the ordinary citizen is effectively a king, but a king in a constitutional democracy, a king whose decisions are merely formal
Berlusconi in Tehran by Slavoj Žižek in the London Review of Books
Slavoj Žižek recently gave five talks under the title Masterclass - Notes Towards a Definition of Communist Culture. It sez 'ere, "The master class analyses phenomena of modern thought and culture with the intention to discern elements of possible Communist culture. It moves at two levels: first, it interprets some cultural phenomena (from today’s architecture to classic literary works like Rousseau’s La Nouvelle Heloise) as failures to imagine or enact a Communist culture; second, it explores attempts at imagining how a Communist culture could look, from Wagner’s Ring to Kafka’s and Beckett’s short stories and contemporary science fiction novels." Audio of Zizek's talks and subsequent discussion is now online: Part I Utopias; Part II Architecture as Ideology; Part III Wagner’s Ring as a Communist narrative; Part IV Populism and Democracy; Part V Environment, Identity and Multiculturalism. Those who like to watch the beard in motion will find links to video of some of the talks posted here.
40 million Iranians watched a "remarkable, no-holds-barred" and nationally televised debate between President Ahmadinejad (blog) and his rival, former Prime Minister Mousavi (Facebook). [more inside]
Prelude to Federation - Like a neocolonial SEZ (or TAZ) Paul Romer, not to be confused with David, posits "less developed countries contract with capitalist nations to set up Hong Kong's for them... that we rethink sovereignty (respect borders, but maybe import administrative control); rethink citizenship (support residency, but maybe import voice in political affairs); and rethink scale (instead of focusing on nations, focus on cities—on city states like Hong Kong and Singapore)." cf. neocameralism [1, 2, 3] [more inside]
Consensual Living is an experiment in family democracy, where all family members are equally worthy of respect and participate equally in every decision. "When your child is unwilling to share her toy, instead of forcing, choose to listen and understand her point of view. Facilitate her need for playing with that toy, while helping the other child find something just as interesting. When your child skips dinner but is hungry before bed, instead of being frustrated, you can choose to share a quiet bowl of cereal and chat about the day. In each situation and the other unlimited examples out there, you always have the ability to choose joy and connection." Some are not impressed.
In a landmark defeat for the UK Government, the House of Commons has voted to allow all former and existing Ghurkas the right to live in the UK. [more inside]
The global financial crisis has severely affected the Russian economy. The unstable situation in the country has contributed to a growing rift between Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and President Dmitry Medvedev. As increasing numbers of Russians become disillusioned with Putin's promise of comfort and security in exchange for authoritarianism, Medvedev has shown some willingness to take the country in a more liberal direction. Some analysts, however, remain unconvinced.
Between 16 April - 13 May the worlds largest democracy will go into action. Being India the logistics are mind boggling. Over 700 million eligible voters who will vote in over 700,000 polling stations for 1,055 political parties. The BBC goes on to explain what makes Indian elections special. University of Maryland has Forecasts and Analysis and Trends in Indian Election Politics has both insight and an interesting blog roll. As Indian Politics are more than usually corrupt and thuggish there is website dedicated to information about candidates with a criminal history. Sadly in spite of this great democratic exercise, repression of speech and miscarriage of justice will probably still be around for a while.
Twilight Of The Autocrats: Will the global economic downturn usher in a new era of democracy, or will things only get worse? [first link via]
India’s New Face. "Meet Narendra Modi, chief minister of Gujarat and the brightest star in the Hindu-chauvinist Bharatiya Janata Party. Under Modi, Gujarat has become an economic dynamo. But he also presided over India’s worst communal riots in decades, a 2002 slaughter that left almost 2,000 Muslims dead. Exploiting the insecurities and tensions stoked by India’s opening to the world, Modi has turned his state into a stronghold of Hindu extremism, shredding Gandhi’s vision of secular coexistence in the process. One day, he could be governing the world’s largest democracy." [Via]
The Essential Parallel Between Science and Democracy. "[T]he restorative steps Obama has taken vis-à-vis science are praiseworthy not so much because they respect science as because they respect the grand institutions of democracy. This is no accident, because the very virtues that make democracy work are also those that make science work: a commitment to reason and transparency, an openness to critical scrutiny, a skepticism toward claims that too neatly support reigning values, a willingness to listen to countervailing opinions, a readiness to admit uncertainty and ignorance, and a respect for evidence gathered according to the sanctioned best practices of the moment."
Politics, the Press, and the Public. Bill Moyers speaks with Glenn Greenwald and Jay Rosen about the role of the establishment press in America’s dysfunctional political system.
Economist Bryan Caplan is author of the best contemporary critique of democracy and democraticness (previously), and therefore the person I'd most like to visit Singapore and share his thoughts. He recently took a trip to this quasi-democracy lauded for both its pro-growth policies and its strong, competent government (and criticized for its repression and its draconian penal code). The trip to what is in some ways an economist's utopia allowed Caplan to think about the implications of his own writings, and the validity of Churchill's dictum on democracy. Here's what he had to say: [more inside]
Today's featured article at Wikipedia concerns the United Nations Parliamentary Assembly: a proposed UN body which, according to its proponents, would eventually consist of representatives elected directly by the people of the world. Might this proposal be a viable plan for a more global expression of democracy? Or is it just one more Utopian vision of "world government" doomed to wither under the vociferous criticisms that such proposals seem, inevitably, to attract?
America has come a long way. There is the official version of history or the peoples' version. There are artifacts and rankings. They had some quirks and were occasionally men of their time. If you prefer audio or visual references those are available as well. Common knowledge has it that one GW was our first President but the title of first is under dispute. 230 years later another GW is making a run for worst. That is also under dispute by the nations best brains. For better and worse, the story of the Presidency is the story of America.
After the Imperial Presidency. "Will the new president and Congress undo the executive-power plays of the Bush era?"
A man carrying a musket rushed at him. Another threw a brick, knocking him off his feet. George Kyle picked himself up and ran. He never did cast his vote. Nor did his brother, who died of his wounds. The Democratic candidate for Congress, William Harrison, lost to the American Party’s Henry Winter Davis. Three months later, when the House of Representatives convened hearings into the election, whose result Harrison contested, Davis’s victory was upheld on the ground that any “man of ordinary courage” could have made his way to the polls. The New Yorker looks at how we used to vote. [more inside]
John McCain served on the advisory board to the U.S. chapter of an international group linked to ultra-right-wing death squads in Central America in the 1980s. As the head of the IRI, he helped finance coups against democratic governments in Haiti and Venezuela. Were those governments fairly elected? The 1984 elections were perhaps the freest and fairest in Nicaraguan history. Aristide...won the first free and fair election in the country’s history with 67 percent of the vote. In Venezuela, all of Chavez's victories in elections were monitored and certified by a variety of observers including the Organization of American States, the European Union and the Carter Center.
When Judges Make Foreign Policy. "In a globalized, post-9/11 age, decisions made by the Supreme Court are increasingly shaping America's international relations. When the next justice is appointed, our place in the world may well hang in the balance."
Time Capsule: the internet and E-democracy. “Peoples’ lives now are as dependent on the Internet as they are on the basics like roads, energy supplies and running water. We can no longer take that for granted and we must advocate for the Internet politically, and support its vitality personally.” - Susan Crawford, University of Michigan School of Law. In recognition and memory of the beginning and continuation of the political internet, they have organized a Time Capsule of e-democracy's beginnings - everything from using e-mail to plead your friends to vote to flash animations that set the web alight. It is to be sealed on September 22. Help tell the story of internet politics.
Amy Goodman Arrested! Amy Goodman, award-winning journalist and host of Democracy Now!, has been arrested after she tried to figure out why two of her producers had been arrested. Already people are responding. [more inside]
Can the Burmese people rescue themselves? A powerful piece by George Packer in the New Yorker on the recent history and current conditions in Burma.
"Like the dotcom bubble, the disaster bubble is inflating in an ad-hoc and chaotic fashion." Journalist Naomi Klein discusses how corporations and governments are working together more closely than ever, using the mandate of catastrophe — whether natural or man-made — to further concentrate power in fewer hands, with less oversight: from illegal sales of American police technology to China to avert hypothetical tragedies during the Beijing Olympics, to the privatization of water supplies in post-tsunami Sri Lanka.
Please Vote for Me (official site) is a documentary about Chinese third-graders electing a class monitor. [more inside]
A 15-year-old in London is being prosecuted for holding a sign calling Scientology a "cult", during a peaceful demonstration (0:55-1:40). The teenager refused to back down, quoting a 1984 high court ruling from Mr Justice Latey, in which he described the Church of Scientology as a "cult" ... The City of London police came under fire two years ago when it emerged that more than 20 officers, ranging from constable to chief superintendent, had accepted gifts worth thousands of pounds from the Church of Scientology. The City of London Chief Superintendent, Kevin Hurley, praised Scientology for "raising the spiritual wealth of society" during the opening of its headquarters in 2006. Last year a video praising Scientology emerged featuring Ken Stewart, another of the City of London's chief superintendents via
It stands as one of the more unusual turning points of the Cold War, thanks mostly to the surprise appearance of several naked middle-aged women. Taking The Cure: How a group of British Columbian anarchists inspired democracy in Russia. [more inside]
Vanity Fair has obtained confidential documents, since corroborated by sources in the U.S. and Palestine, which lay bare a covert initiative, approved by Bush and implemented by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Deputy National Security Adviser Elliott Abrams, to provoke a Palestinian civil war.
The Great Firewall of China (previously), the Games of the XXIX Olympiad, athlete bloggers (allowed for the first time by the IOC), visitors, and freedom in Beijing, 2008. [more inside]
Five myths about torture In a Washington Post column, Darius Rejali, author of Torture and Democracy, explains why five beliefs about torture are wrong. In a Harper's interview, he answers six questions. "Yes, torture does migrate, and there are some good examples of it both in American and French history. The basic idea here is that soldiers who get ahead torturing come back and take jobs as policemen, and private security, and they get ahead doing the same things they did in the army. And so torture comes home. Everyone knows waterboarding, but no one remembers that it was American soldiers coming back from the Philippines that introduced it to police in the early twentieth century." [more inside]
Kosovo is technically part of Serbia, but it's been governed by the U.N. since 1999, after NATO militarily intervened to stop Slobodan Milosevic's brutal suppression and expulsion of ethnic Albanian separatists. Now that it has declared its independence (with US support), the elephant in the room remains: Independent Kosovo? Why Not Vermont? "Why is statehood OK for some people but frowned on for others?" There is no internationally accepted standard for independence. "This is the great hole in democratic theory."
Opencongress.org is a website for keeping track of the U.S. Congress. (previously) But, now it also a social network. So, sign-up and see what your favourite Senator has been doing, track bills and, follow important issues. Then, share that information with your friends or write about it on your blog.
The Rise of China and the Future of the West: Can the Liberal System Survive? "China's rise will inevitably bring the United States' unipolar moment to an end. But that does not necessarily mean a violent power struggle or the overthrow of the Western system. The U.S.-led international order can remain dominant even while integrating a more powerful China -- but only if Washington sets about strengthening that liberal order now." [more inside]
Candidates on executive power: a full spectrum. Boston Globe reporter Charlie Savage, who won a Pulitzer Prize for his work on presidential signing statements, surveyed the major 2008 presidential candidates about their views on the limits of executive power. [BugMeNot, via Huffington Post.] [more inside]
Push Capitalism. Bill Moyers' interview with Dr. Benjamin Barber about the state of our modern capitalist society and how he believes capitalism threatens American democracy. PBS.org streaming video. [more inside]
The dangers of living in a zero-sum world economy - naked capitalism reprints (with added commentary) an FT article by Martin Wolf on why it's vital for (civilised) society to sustain a 'positive-sum' world, otherwise: "A zero-sum economy leads, inevitably, to repression at home and plunder abroad." Wolf's solution? "The condition for success is successful investment in human ingenuity." Of course! Some are calling for more socialism, while others would press on to build more megaprojects. For me, at least part of the solution lies in environmental accounting and natural capitalism :P
The Mammoth Cheese of Cheshire was the most unusual gift ever given to a President of the United States. In the aftermath of the "Revolution of 1800", the eccentric Baptist preacher John Leland decided to celebrate the presidency of Thomas Jefferson by convincing the predominantly Baptist farmers of Cheshire, Massachusetts to create a giant 1,235-pound block of cheese as a monument to small-"r" republicanism and religious freedom. [more inside]
Senator On-Line (‘SOL’) is a truly democratic party which will allow everyone on the Australian Electoral roll who has access to the internet to vote on every Bill put to Parliament and have its Senators vote in accordance with a clear majority view. They will be running candidates for the upcoming federal Upper House (Senate) elections.
“I will not let my country commit suicide,” says General Pervez Musharraf in an address to the nation, after declaring Martial Law, in Pakistan, yesterday night. Benazir Bhutto, who had earlier returned to the country to a large reception (and whose convoy was later attacked) along with former Prime Minister Nawaz Shariff, have condemned the act.
Yesterday, Ralph Nader sued the Democratic Party for conspiring to prevent him from running for president in 2004. The lawsuit alleges that defendants used “groundless and abusive litigation” to bankrupt Ralph Nader’s campaign and force him off the ballot in 18 states, and names as co-defendants the Kerry-Edwards campaign, the Service Employees International Union, private law firms, and organizations like the Ballot Project and America Coming Together that were created to promote voter turnout on behalf of the Democratic ticket. According to attorney Carl Mayer from the team that filed the suit, interviewed this morning by Democracy Now!'s Amy Goodman, "what this lawsuit will do, and the importance of it is, is to set a precedent so that the two-party monopoly system that shuts out minor parties in a way that other Western democracies never do, that this will set a precedent to prevent this type of intimidation and harassment."
Unqualified Reservations is a fascinating ongoing commentary on society and governance in postmodernity. He's currently on about the pwning of Richard Dawkins, after writing about Mediocracy and Official Journalism. It might be best to first read his earlier posts in which he defines the self-invented terminology he's fond of using, like: Formalism, The Iron Polygon, Universalism, Neocameralism, and The Rotary System. [more inside]
Two-time Former Pakistani PM, Benazir Bhutto Returns After 8 years. The leader of a Pakistan's most progressive and liberal political party, but tarnished by serious corruption and money laundering charges, Benazir Bhutto landed in Karachi today welcomed by thousands, reminiscent of her return to take on a previous military dictator in 1986. Bhutto has recently lost popularity because she has sought a deal with General Musharraf and tried to obtain an amnesty from corruption charges. Can she use her thunderous return to overcome such setbacks and lead the second largest Muslim country again?
Risking all: the Burmese jokers who laugh in the face of danger. In Burma (Myanmar), comedians are targets in the junta's war on words. [Via BB.] [more inside]