Friday, December 30, 2011

Europe’s Squandered Minority

by Zeljko Jovanovic

Project Syndicate

December 30, 2011

Today, millions of Europeans are afraid and frustrated as they face unemployment, loss of savings and pensions, radically reduced social benefits, and other economic hardships. Their fears are warranted, because the current financial crisis is undermining the very union that was established to heal Europe’s wounds at the end of World War II.

But, in the midst of the general suffering, one group – the Roma – has been ignored. Europe’s largest and most disadvantaged ethnic minority, with a population equal to that of Greece, millions of Roma are trapped in extreme poverty and ignorance, compounded by widespread discrimination. Indeed, the 2009 European Union Minorities and Discrimination Survey found that Roma experience more severe discrimination than any other ethnic-minority group in Europe.

Hard times provoke aggressive, vindictive, and intolerant attitudes, and Roma have become scapegoats in this economic crisis. In fact, Roma-bashing is helping far-right political parties to mobilize and nationalist leaders to win votes. Even some mainstream political parties have resorted to using anti-Roma rhetoric that would have been inconceivable a decade ago. But the Roma have refrained from reciprocating the sometimes lethal violence inflicted on them.


The Freedom Writer

by Ellen Bork

Wall Street Journal

December 30, 2011

When the dissident Liu Xiaobo won the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize from his prison cell, the Chinese government reacted hysterically—denouncing the Nobel Committee, retaliating against Norway diplomatically and trying to intimidate foreign governments out of sending representatives to the ceremony. Mr. Liu had been arrested nearly two years earlier, just before the release of Charter 08, a declaration of democratic principles for China inspired by Charter 77, the Czechoslovak initiative led by the playwright (and later Czech president) Václav Havel that, 31 years earlier, led to the Velvet Revolution and inspired people throughout the Soviet bloc.

China's leaders should feel just as aggrieved by No Enemies, No Hatred, a collection that shows why the Communist Party fears this 56-year-old intellectual-turned-activist and his ideas. In essays on China's rise, Tibet, the impact of materialism and nationalism on morality and sex, the 2008 Olympics, and much more, Mr. Liu advances the antithesis to the Party line, writing "free from fear," as co-editor Perry Link puts it in his valuable introduction.

The essays appeared mainly in publications based in the U.S. and Hong Kong and found their way back to China via the Internet, which Mr. Liu celebrates, perhaps only half-jokingly, as evidence of a divine being. Interspersed throughout are poems, often searing, that attest to Mr. Liu's intellectual as well as emotional partnership with his wife, Liu Xia, an artist currently under house arrest. Rounding out the book are documents including the text of Charter 08, Mr. Liu's poignant statements at his 2009 trial and the verdict sentencing Mr. Liu to 11 years in prison.


Thursday, December 29, 2011

Greece must not leave asylum seekers at the mercy of extremists

by Hans Lucht


December 29, 2011

On the morning of 25 May, Kelly from Ghana was on the bus going to a pickup place at the outskirts of Athens, where African immigrants and asylum seekers go to look for work, when he was attacked by a mob. He saw them from afar, standing at the bus stop – a group of about 10 young men – but thought nothing of it. They were probably going to one of the demonstrations, he supposed. But as they entered the bus, they pulled out bats, iron rods and knives, and attacked him.

As Greece struggles to avoid economic meltdown, dark-skinned immigrants and asylum seekers have become scapegoats in racially motivated attacks that, according to the United Nations high commissioner for refugees, have become an almost daily occurrence in Athens.

Last week, in cases pertaining to asylum seekers caught entering the UK and Ireland, the European court of justice upheld that asylum seekers could not be sent back to Greece because they risk being subjected to "inhuman or degrading treatment".

Ninety per cent of undocumented immigrants enter the EU via Greece. The Greek response has been to announce the construction of a barbed wire wall on the Turkish border, though the EU has made clear that such a wall will receive no funding. The influx of migrants has not been welcomed by some segments of the Greek population. Thus the extreme rightwing party Golden Dawn won its first ever seat on the Athens city council in November 2010 on an anti-immigrant agenda.


Friday, December 23, 2011

Five myths about Margaret Thatcher

by Claire Berlinski

Washington Post

December 22, 2011

Britain in the early 1970s was decayed, ungovernable and globally irrelevant, done in by the cumulative effect of postwar socialist reforms. Margaret Thatcher, who came to power as the nation’s first female prime minister in 1979, returned Britain to the realm of the great powers. Worshiped, feted, loathed and mocked, she is one of the most controversial figures of the 20th century. And now Thatcher, as interpreted by Meryl Streep, will be coming to a theater near you in the movie “The Iron Lady,”opening Dec. 30.

But even those most sympathetic to her tend to misunderstand her personality, her governing style and her accomplishments. Let’s examine these misconceptions.

1. The Iron Lady never backed down.

Not true. Her genius was her gift for choosing her battles wisely and avoiding those she couldn’t win. In 1981, for example, the National Union of Mineworkers — Britain’s most powerful union — threatened to strike. Despite urgent warnings from her advisers, Thatcher had made no preparations to withstand a conflict with the miners, and she capitulated immediately to their demands. She spent the next three years preparing to take them on: Her government stockpiled coal, devised schemes to smuggle strategic chemicals into power stations, changed the trade union laws and infiltrated MI5 spies into the miners’ inner circle.

When another strike loomed in 1984, she was ready. Previous mining strikes had ended after only weeks. Not this one. Over the course of a year, as Britain waited to see who would break first, Thatcher proceeded to crush the strike with a brutal, calculating ruthlessness that stunned the public. Neither labor nor the unions ever recovered.


Monday, December 19, 2011

Martin Sutovec (SME Daily)

Václav Havel

Wall Street Journal
December 19, 2011

When Václav Havel and 241 others signed Charter 77 during the Cold War in 1977, they were denounced by the Communist regime in Czechoslovakia as "traitors and renegades" and "agents of imperialism." Such were the epithets by which some of the most courageous Europeans of the 20th century were known.

Why did Charter 77 so offend the Soviet-backed rulers? The charter's original purpose was merely to protest the harassment and imprisonment of a Frank Zappa-inspired Czech rock band. It explicitly rejected any interest in becoming a basis for "oppositional political activity." It called on the government only to fulfill civil and human-rights commitments ostensibly guaranteed under Czechoslovakia's own constitution as well as the 1975 Helsinki Final Act, which the regime had signed.

But the Charter also exposed the hypocrisy of a system claiming to speak for a "people" whose rights it comprehensively violated. And it was disgust with such hypocrisy that animated Havel's life, first as a dissident playwright and polemicist and later as a statesman who stood up for his convictions, whatever the personal cost.


Sunday, December 18, 2011

Riber Hansson

Help Wanted

by Thomas L. Friedman

New York Times

December 17, 2011

The historian Walter Russell Mead recently noted that after the 1990s revolution that collapsed the Soviet Union, Russians had a saying that seems particularly apt today: “It’s easier to turn an aquarium into fish soup than to turn fish soup into an aquarium.” Indeed, from Europe to the Middle East, and maybe soon even to Russia and Asia, a lot of aquariums are being turned into fish soup all at once. But turning them back into stable societies and communities will be one of the great challenges of our time.

We are present again at one of those great unravelings — just like after World War I, World War II and the cold war. But this time there was no war. All of these states have been pulled down from within — without warning. Why?

The main driver, I believe, is the merger of globalization and the Information Technology revolution. Both of them achieved a critical mass in the first decade of the 21st century that has resulted in the democratization — all at once — of so many things that neither weak states nor weak companies can stand up against. We’ve seen the democratization of information, where everyone is now a publisher; the democratization of war-fighting, where individuals became superempowered (enough so, in the case of Al Qaeda, to take on a superpower); the democratization of innovation, wherein start-ups using free open-source software and “the cloud” can challenge global companies.

And, finally, we’ve seen what Mark Mykleby, a retired Marine colonel and former adviser to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, calls “the democratization of expectations” — the expectation that all individuals should be able to participate in shaping their own career, citizenship and future, and not be constricted.


Saturday, December 17, 2011

Keeping the Arab Spring alive

Washington Post
December 17, 2011

It was a year ago Saturday that fruit vendor Mohamed Bouazizi set himself aflame in the Tunisian town of Sidi Bouzid, improbably providing the spark for what has become a regional revolution. The Arab Spring acquired its name in part because early commentators likened it to the upheavals that brought an end to dictatorship in other parts of the world — including the former Soviet bloc, East Asia and Latin America. It seemed logical that Middle Eastern states would, at last, follow the same path that led in other places from dictatorship and economic stagnation to free elections, free markets and integration into a global economy.

A year later, it’s clear that the Arab revolutions are different in some fundamental ways — and may not deserve the label of “spring.” Democratic transformations in other parts of the world since 1980 were largely peaceful, as autocrats from the Philippines to Chile yielded to “people power.” But while that paradigm mostly worked in Tunisia and in Egypt early this year, the subsequent months have been dominated by scenes of slaughter, as Libya’s Moammar Gaddafi, Syria’s Bashar al-Assad and Yemen’s Ali Abdullah Saleh have chosen to fight — even to the death — rather than give up. Mr. Gaddafi is gone, and the Assad and Saleh regimes may soon follow. But the thousands of deaths they caused have cast a pall over their countries; no one yet knows when and how the killing will end or whether there will be reconciliation.

A second difference in the Arab transformation is the worrying economic prospects of newly liberated countries. Eastern European and Asian countries adopted liberal market policies that led to booming growth; so, after a few years of drift, did most of Latin America. But Egypt and other Arab states so far are leaning toward a populism that could inhibit foreign investment and trade. They are also unlikely to receive as much Western aid as helped the new democracies of the 1980s and ’90s. Libya will prosper with oil. But many young Arabs may find that their aspirations for jobs remain unmet.


Sunday, December 11, 2011

Beyond Guantánamo, a Web of Prisons for Terrorism Inmates

New York Times
December 10, 2011

It is the other Guantánamo, an archipelago of federal prisons that stretches across the country, hidden away on back roads. Today, it houses far more men convicted in terrorism cases than the shrunken population of the prison in Cuba that has generated so much debate.

An aggressive prosecution strategy, aimed at prevention as much as punishment, has sent away scores of people. They serve long sentences, often in restrictive, Muslim-majority units, under intensive monitoring by prison officers. Their world is spare.

Among them is Ismail Royer, serving 20 years for helping friends go to an extremist training camp in Pakistan. In a letter from the highest-security prison in the United States, Mr. Royer describes his remarkable neighbors at twice-a-week outdoor exercise sessions, each prisoner alone in his own wire cage under the Colorado sky. “That’s really the only interaction I have with other inmates,” he wrote from the federal Supermax, 100 miles south of Denver.

There is Richard Reid, the shoe bomber, Mr. Royer wrote. Terry Nichols, who conspired to blow up the Oklahoma City federal building. Ahmed Ressam, the would-be “millennium bomber,” who plotted to attack Los Angeles International Airport. And Eric Rudolph, who bombed abortion clinics and the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta.

In recent weeks, Congress has reignited an old debate, with some arguing that only military justice is appropriate for terrorist suspects. But military tribunals have proved excruciatingly slow and imprisonment at Guantánamo hugely costly — $800,000 per inmate a year, compared with $25,000 in federal prison.

The criminal justice system, meanwhile, has absorbed the surge of terrorism cases since 2001 without calamity, and without the international criticism that Guantánamo has attracted for holding prisoners without trial. A decade after the Sept. 11 attacks, an examination of how the prisons have handled the challenge of extremist violence reveals some striking facts:


Tuesday, December 6, 2011

The long and winding road to cannabis legalisation

by Jan van Ours


December 6, 2011

In many Western countries, between one quarter and one third of the population admit to having used cannabis at least once in their lives – according to the official statistics. This column provides an in-depth review of existing economic, social, and media evidence for and against legalisation. It concludes that although there is of course uncertainty surrounding the long-term implications, prohibition is not working and it is time to legalise.

Although some countries have quasi-legalised cannabis use (the Netherlands), made cannabis available for medical purposes (California), or allowed the growing of a small number of cannabis plants for personal use (Australia), in most countries – the Netherlands included – cannabis supply, distribution, and use is prohibited (Reuter 2010). Nevertheless, in 2009, between 2.8% and 4.5% of the world population aged 15-64, corresponding to between 125 million and 203 million people had used cannabis at least once in the past year (United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime 2011).

Table 1 presents cannabis use statistics for a number of countries, distinguishing between lifetime use (ever), recent use (last year) and current use (last month). The range in lifetime use is substantial from a low 21% in Sweden to a high 42% in the United States. The range in recent cannabis use is also substantial from a low 1% in Sweden to a high 14% in Italy. Finally, current use ranges from 1% in Sweden to 7% in Spain and the United States. What is also striking is the big difference between lifetime use and recent use. In the Netherlands for example 25% of the population aged 15 to 64 has ever used cannabis but only 7% has done so in the last year. Apparently, for a substantial part of the users, cannabis is not very addictive (see also Van Ours 2006 for details).


Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Arab Women Fight to Defend their Rights

November 29, 2011

The Arab Spring seemed to herald a new era of emancipation for women in the Arab world. But Islamists are on the rise in Tunisia and Egypt, and there are worrying reports of sexual assaults on demonstrators in Cairo's Tahrir Square. Many women in the region fear a rollback of what rights they had under the dictators.

She looks serious in the picture she has posted on the Internet. She is also naked, a young Egyptian woman showing her body to her country. Aliaa Magda Elmahdy, a 20-year-old art student at the American University in Cairo, wanted to protest against the oppression of women and conservatism in her country. To achieve that, she did something that is almost unheard of.

"Undress and stand before a mirror and burn your bodies that you despise to forever rid yourselves of your sexual hangups," she wrote in her blog. In a country where couples cannot kiss in public, her act came as a shock.

Since triggering a scandal two weeks ago, the Egyptian woman has had to hide from the hatred of religious conservatives, and even secular Egyptians have distanced themselves from her. They don't want to be associated with her act, and they are afraid of being characterized as worldly, licentious and immoral.

There is much at stake at the moment for Egypt's young people, who are protesting once again on Tahrir Square, this time against military control of the country, as if the revolution of January and February had never happened. It is no longer merely a question of whether the country will achieve the transition to democracy, but also of what kind of society Egypt wants and what the status of women will be in that society.

There have been numerous reports within the last week of sexual assaults on women at Tahrir Square, assaults involving both security forces and protesters. The Egyptian-American journalist Mona Eltahawy, who had taken part in the protests on the square, was held for hours while blindfolded. Policemen groped her and broke one of her arms and a hand. "(They) groped and prodded my breasts, grabbed my genital area and I lost count how many hands tried to get into my trousers," she wrote on Twitter. "They are dogs and their bosses are dogs."


Sunday, November 27, 2011

Amnesty: why the pen is mightier than the sword

November 27, 2011

It has never been easier to support Amnesty International's campaigns. From sending tweets to signing petitions online, or even attending public rallies, people can demand action in a range of ways. So why does the pioneering human-rights organisation want us to return to old-fashioned letter-writing for its Write for Rights campaign? "It still works. It's still very important," says Kate Allen, director of Amnesty International UK. "In our 50th year, we are showing that our original founding idea, of writing either to authorities that are abusing human rights or to people who are on the receiving end of that, can still be massively powerful.

"If you're in prison, you're not going to get tweets and emails. But you may well get those letters and cards. And if you're not getting them, your family might be getting them.

"I can't remember how many times I have been told by a prisoner of conscience or an organisation like Women and Men of Zimbabwe Arise that our cards and letters bring real hope. They are a link to the outside world and give them knowledge that they're not struggling on their own."

Amnesty International has chosen 10 cases for its Write for Rights campaign, each championed by high-profile Amnesty supporters such as Ian Hislop and Saffron Burrows. It hopes that sending letters to those who can stop abuses will make a difference.

Here we profile four cases in the Write for Rights campaign, along with the names and addresses of the people you need to write to.


Carl Barât speaks about the plight of a Greek journalist

November 27, 2011

Manolis Kypreos is a journalist who got caught up in the unrest in Athens when reporting on protests against the Greek government public spending cuts. His hearing was permanently damaged after a stun grenade was thrown at him, reportedly by a policeman. Singer and guitarist Carl Barât, formerly of the Libertines, explains why Amnesty International is asking people to help Kypreos through its Write for Rights campaign.

More about the Amnesty International Write for Rights 2011 Campaign

More about the Manolis Kypraios case

See also

Friday, November 25, 2011

Fairness and the 'Occupy' movement

by Arthur C. Brooks

Wall Street Journal

November 25, 2011

The Occupy Wall Street movement has just passed its two-month anniversary. The protesters' calls for greater income redistribution and their denunciations of capitalism have become shriller, and the protests are becoming more violent and destructive.

A major topic of debate in conservative circles these days is how to respond. There are two schools of thought. One advocates the firehoses-and-handcuffs approach. The other is to ignore the movement and hope it fades away.

Neither is correct. Conservatives and free-enterprise advocates should seize the moment to show their own passion for the issues being debated—and, where appropriate, even embrace the protesters' moral critique of America's distorted and depressed system.

The most important area of disagreement concerns what our country needs today. The "We are the 99%" signs at every Occupy rally make it clear the protesters believe greater income equality—not more free enterprise—is what America needs. Unsurprisingly, the White House has found this class-struggle leitmotif quite handy to divert attention from its economic record. Last month White House spokesman Josh Earnest assured the public that the "interests of 99% of Americans are well represented" by Mr. Obama. This came after the president's well-worn attacks on "millionaires and billionaires," who, as we have heard many times, are not paying their "fair share."

Free-enterprise advocates should view this as a rare opportunity to expose mistaken and misleading arguments about income inequality. The dreaded top 1% earns about 20% of income today, we hear. Yes, and they also pay 37% of the federal income taxes, according to the Tax Foundation. Further, as my colleague Jim Pethokoukis has shown, wealth inequality is roughly unchanged from 20 years ago—and from 40, 60 and 80 years ago too, for that matter. According to the Congressional Budget Office, every income quintile has seen a real increase in purchasing power of at least 18% over the past 30 years.


Thursday, November 24, 2011

Ai Weiwei: 'Shame on Me'

November 24, 2011

The Chinese artist Ai Weiwei speaks about the changes in his life since the end of his detention in June and shows himself moved and surprised by a new culture of protest in his country.

SPIEGEL: Last week you made a €970,000 ($1.3 million) payment to the bank account of the Chinese tax authorities. You consider it to be a kind of guarantee, a deposit. Do they consider it to be an admission of guilt?

Ai: I cannot speak for them. But I can tell you a lot about the pressure from the tax bureau and the police department on me. They really, really wanted us to pay. They tried to push us hard. They said: Pay something, you should understand. But they did not tell me what I should understand.

SPIEGEL: So the fact that you finally paid is a kind of victory for them?

Ai: Well, it was desirable for them but we had no choice. They said: If you don't pay, we will bring your case to the public security office, and then you will be facing criminal charges. By law you have to pay first, and then you can make an appeal.

SPIEGEL: Have you ever seen any proof of your alleged tax evasion?

Ai: No, and it is ridiculous. The only reason why they put me in jail is my involvement in politics, my criticism of the authorities. Later the excuse for my detention became my "tax problem." But internally they never told me anything about it. I don't want to underestimate their intelligence, but up to this day I think what they did is very stupid. In fact, they even helped me in an ironic sense. They gave me a chance to explain what is happening with this system. They provided such a platform for me.


Thursday, November 17, 2011

Chinese Dissident Exposes Prison Brutality

November 17, 2011

Chinese poet Liao Yiwu recently moved to Germany, where his books are best-sellers. His self-imposed exile has allowed him to finally publish his memoir, which reveals the abuses and torture he suffered during his years in prison. The book is a shocking indictment of the Chinese justice system.

The old man seemed unflappable as he spoke. Sitting in a wheelchair, his wooden cane always close at hand and his thick, silvery gray shock of hair as neatly parted as ever, he talked about China, presenting himself as someone who knew the place well, having been there 12 or 15 times. "I admire what China has accomplished since Mao Zedong's death in 1976," he said.

But he didn't stop there. He continued on to say that, while it's true China isn't a democracy, the country has nonetheless managed to create an economic boom for itself, with the result that "hardly anyone living in China today could say they aren't doing better now than at any other point in their lives." This is "an enormous accomplishment," he added, and Chinese communism has been "successful." Then he raised his index finger, and, stabbing it in the air, said, in a reference to a famous quote by the Prussian king Frederick the Great: "They have the right to find their salvation in their own way."

This 92-year-old man wasn't just chatting by a fireplace somewhere, nor was he just anyone. The man in question was former German Chancellor Helmut Schmidt, celebrated as the grandfather of the nation. And Schmidt said all this as a guest on Germany's most important talk show, sitting across from Günther Jauch, the country's most respected talk-show host. At his side was the man who has set his sights on becoming the next chancellor, Peer Steinbrück. The talk-show host said nothing at all in response to Schmidt's theories, but quickly changed the subject. Steinbrück, for his part, suggested the theories were "in need of some fleshing out," then praised Western-style democratic rule of law in a roundabout way.

Schmidt got away with his statements without criticism, in front of more than 5 million viewers, and with applause from the studio audience.


Monday, November 7, 2011

Οι ζωές των ανθρώπων

του Αριστείδη Χατζή*

Books' Journal
Νοέμβριος 2011

Μια μέρα αυτός ο τρομερός πόλεμος θα τελειώσει.
Θα έρθει καιρός που θα ‘μαστε άνθρωποι ξανά και όχι μόνο Εβραίοι.
Άννα Φρανκ, 9 Απριλίου 1944

Ήταν η τρίτη φορά που βρισκόμουν στο Amsterdam αλλά η πρώτη φορά που επισκεπτόμουν το σπίτι της Άννας Φρανκ. Τα μουσεία για το ολοκαύτωμα που είχα ήδη επισκεφτεί (το μεγάλο στην Ουάσινγκτον και το μικρό στην Πράγα) με είχαν συγκλονίσει, αλλά στο σπίτι της Άννας Φρανκ τα πράγματα για μένα ήταν πολύ διαφορετικά. Βλέπετε την Άννα Φρανκ την γνώριζα προσωπικά. Από πολύ μικρό η μητέρα μου μού μιλούσε συνέχεια γι’ αυτήν και το ημερολόγιό της και έβλεπα σχεδόν κάθε μέρα όταν σκάλιζα τη βιβλιοθήκη του σπιτιού μου το προσωπάκι της στο εξώφυλλο της γαλλικής μετάφρασης που είχαμε. Το ίδιο ακριβώς εξώφυλλο, το ίδιο βιβλίο, την ίδια φωτογραφία, το ίδιο προσωπάκι, το ξαναείδα τώρα αλλά αυτή τη φορά στο δικό της σπίτι. Το δωμάτιό της, οι φωτογραφίες των ηθοποιών που κολλούσε στους τοίχους, το μικρό μπάνιο που περίμενε με τις ώρες τον Φριτζ, η βιβλιοθήκη που κάλυπτε την κρυφή είσοδο, η σοφίτα με το μικρό άνοιγμα, πάνω από το δωμάτιο του Πήτερ, όπου μπορούσε να δει τον ουρανό και λίγα κλαδιά από ένα δέντρο. Η Άννα Φρανκ πέθανε λίγες ημέρες αφού έχασε την αδελφή της στο στρατόπεδο συγκέντρωσης στο Μπέργκεν-Μπέλσεν. Άρρωστη από τύφο, αδύναμη, υποσιτισμένη, απελπισμένη, δεν ήθελε πια να ζήσει.

Δίπλα στο σπίτι της, πάνω στο κανάλι Prinsengracht, υψώνεται το καμπαναριό της Westerkerk. Είναι το ψηλότερο στο Amsterdam, τόσο ψηλό που μπορούσε η Άννα να δει το ρολόι του από το παράθυρο της σοφίτας. Έξω από αυτή την εκκλησία (που μέσα βρίσκεται ο τάφος του Ρέμπραντ) υπάρχει ένα μικρό αγαλματάκι της Άννας Φρανκ και λίγα μέτρα παραπέρα το Homomonument, το μνημείο με τα τρία ροζ τρίγωνα που είναι αφιερωμένο στη μνήμη των ομοφυλόφιλων που καταδιώχθηκαν για τις σεξουαλικές τους προτιμήσεις. Το ένα από τα τρίγωνα του Homomonument δείχνει το σπίτι της Άννας Φρανκ. Οι Ναζί έστειλαν χιλιάδες ομοφυλόφιλους σε στρατόπεδα συγκέντρωσης. Φορούσαν όλοι στη στολή τους ένα ροζ τρίγωνο. Εκεί τους εξευτέλιζαν, τους κακοποιούσαν σεξουαλικά, τους βασάνιζαν, τους χρησιμοποιούσαν σαν πειραματόζωα, τους ευνούχιζαν και τελικά τους εκτελούσαν.

Δεν θα βρείτε κάποιο μνημείο για τους Ρομά όμως. Δεν γνωρίζουμε καν πόσοι εξοντώθηκαν από τους ναζί. Είναι σίγουρα πάνω από 200.000 αλλά μερικοί ερευνητές επιμένουν ότι ο αριθμός των θυμάτων ξεπερνά το ένα εκατομμύριο. Ξέρουμε πολύ λίγα για εκείνους τους ανθρώπους. Οι ίδιοι δεν έχουν καταγράψει τις εμπειρίες τους και οι ερευνητές που ενδιαφέρονται είναι ελάχιστοι.

Πώς έφτασε ο γερμανικός λαός σ’ αυτό το παραλήρημα μίσους, φρίκης, θηριωδίας; Όποιος έχει επισκεφτεί το Μουσείο Γερμανικής Ιστορίας στο Βερολίνο θα δει να καταγράφεται με ανατριχιαστικό τρόπο η πορεία του γερμανικού λαού προς τη ρατσιστική παράνοια. Θα αντιληφθεί γρήγορα ότι η «κοινοτοπία του κακού» δεν περιορίζονταν σε μερικούς γκεσταπίτες και στα φανατικά SS αλλά διαχέονταν σε ολόκληρη την γερμανική κοινωνία που είχε διαποτιστεί με το μίσος, τη μισαλλοδοξία και την εθνικιστική μωρία.

Άραγε αυτό το μικρόβιο εξαλείφθηκε στη Γερμανία το 1945;

Δεν ξέρω πόσο μακριά βρίσκεται το Βερολίνο του 1933 από τη Αθήνα του 2011. Ίσως πολύ μακριά. Όχι και τόσο όμως όταν μιλάμε για τις ζωές των ανθρώπων. Ας αρχίσουμε λοιπόν:

O αντισημιτισμός στην Ελλάδα δεν περιορίζεται στη βεβήλωση μνημείων από νεοναζιστές ή στην έκδοση βιβλίων από τον Κ. Πλεύρη. Ακροδεξιοί, άνθρωποι αγράμματοι, ακαλλιέργητοι και ευήθεις υπάρχουν παντού. Αλλά εδώ υπάρχουν δικαστές που επιτρέπουν την κυκλοφορία του βιβλίου, όχι για να προστατεύσουν την ελευθερία του λόγου (ακόμα και του απαίσιου λόγου μίσους) αλλά γιατί το θεωρούν επιστημονικό έργο! Εδώ υπάρχουν δικαστές που (όπως καταγγέλλει ο Δημητρης Ψαρράς στην Ελευθεροτυπία) εκφράζουν στο blog τους απόψεις όπως αυτή: «Κωλοεβραίοι! Μακάρι να τους εξόντωνε τελείως ο Χίτλερ!». Εδώ ευδοκιμούν «διανοούμενοι» της συμφοράς και μητροπολίτες (ποιας θρησκείας άραγε;) που ξερνούν μίσος και ρατσισμό. Κυρίως όμως εδώ υπάρχει η εκκωφαντική σιωπή ή μάλλον η εκκωφαντική σιωπηρή αποδοχή.

Η ίδια σιωπή καλύπτει και την αναγνώριση των δικαιωμάτων των ομοφυλόφιλων ζευγαριών αλλά και των ομοφυλόφιλων γενικά. Το πρόβλημα δεν είναι απλώς ότι το σύμφωνο συμβίωσης ακόμα δεν έχει επεκταθεί στα ζευγάρια του ίδιου φύλου αλλά το ότι δεν γίνεται καμία σοβαρή συζήτηση έστω σε θεωρητικό επίπεδο. Οι έλληνες νομικοί (και ιδιαίτερα οι ακαδημαϊκοί) που έπρεπε να πρωταγωνιστούν, είναι σχεδόν όλοι απόντες.

Οι λιγοστοί Έλληνες εβραίοι και οι έλληνες ομοφυλόφιλοι αντιμετωπίζουν καθημερινά τον ρατσισμό της ελληνικής κοινωνίας που φτάνει μέχρι τα όρια της παράνοιας γαρνιρισμένης με θεωρίες συνωμοσίας για τους εβραίους και τους ομοφυλόφιλους που κυβερνούν την Ελλάδα και τον κόσμο. Καθημερινά σχεδόν λαμβάνω emails παρανοϊκής συνωμοσιολογίας που λερώνουν ακόμα και τα junk στο mailbox μου.

Αλλά για τους Ρομά τα πράγματα είναι πολύ χειρότερα. Οι Ρομά στην Ελλάδα υφίστανται πραγματικό διωγμό. Τον καταγράφει ο Παναγιώτης Δημητράς στο βιβλίο του Αναζητώντας τα Χαμένα Δικαιώματα στην Ελλάδα αλλά και στα σχεδόν καθημερινά δελτία τύπου του Ελληνικού Παρατηρητηρίου των Συμφωνιών του Ελσίνκι. Αστυνομία, τοπικές κοινωνίες, εκπαιδευτικοί, αντιμετωπίζουν τους Ρομά σαν ανθρώπινα σκουπίδια.

Και βέβαια η Αθήνα είναι η μοναδική ευρωπαϊκή πρωτεύουσα που δεν έχει τζαμί. Οι μουσουλμάνοι μετανάστες αναγκάζονται να τηρούν το πιο ιερό χρέος τους στις πλατείες, σε υπόγεια, σε κρυφούς χώρους, με το φόβο των τραμπούκων που δεν διστάζουν να τους επιτεθούν μπροστά στην αστυνομία και μέσα στα σπίτια τους.

Αυτά δεν είναι όλα απλά περιστατικά του αστυνομικού δελτίου, απομονωμένα στις μέσα σελίδες των εφημερίδων και στα αζήτητα των ελεεινών τηλεοπτικών δελτίων. Αυτές είναι οι ζωές ανθρώπων στην Αθήνα του 2011.

* Ο Αριστείδης Χατζής είναι Αναπληρωτής Καθηγητής Φιλοσοφίας Δικαίου και Θεωρίας Θεσμών στο Τμήμα ΜΙΘΕ του Πανεπιστημίου Αθηνών.

Κατεβάστε το άρθρο σε μορφή PDF (όπως δημοσιεύθηκε)

Friday, October 28, 2011

Liberty and the Path of History

by Tom G. Palmer

October 28, 2011

History doesn't have a direction. It isn't a steady movement toward any particular point. Instead, Tom G. Palmer argues, the history of progress—the historical growth of liberty—stops and starts, and often moves backwards. Thus, it is on those occasions when people stand up for their rights that we are most likely to see liberty flourish.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Πατριωτισμός εναντίον εθνικισμού

του Θανάση Γιαλκέτση

Κυριακάτικη Ελευθεροτυπία

23 Οκτωβρίου 2011

Η ιδέα της πατρίδας έχει υποστεί φθορές από την κάκιστη χρήση και την κατάχρηση που της έκαναν ο εθνικισμός και ο φασισμός. Ο φασισμός μιλούσε για την πατρίδα, έλεγε ότι πρέπει να θυσιάζουμε τη ζωή μας αλλά και να σκοτώνουμε για την πατρίδα και στο όνομα της πατρίδας εξαπέλυε τους επιθετικούς του πολέμους και τα πογκρόμ του ενάντια στους «απάτριδες».

Η ιδέα της πατρίδας παραπέμπει σε ένα σύνολο αξιών στο οποίο ο πατριώτης αποδίδει ένα ιδιαίτερα θετικό συμβολικό νόημα. Γι' αυτό και προσφέρεται για πολιτική εκμετάλλευση από μέρους εκείνων που κατέχουν την εξουσία. Ετσι, ο πατριωτισμός μπορεί εύκολα να εκφυλιστεί και να μετατραπεί σε πατριδοκαπηλία και σε εθνικισμό. Η αγάπη για την πατρίδα υπήρξε όμως και ένα σημείο αναφοράς του αντιφασισμού, που αντιτάχθηκε σθεναρά στο φασιστικό εθνικισμό. Η αντίσταση στο φασισμό και στο ναζισμό ήταν μια κορυφαία έκφραση πολιτικού πατριωτισμού, που κατέδειξε ότι η αγάπη για την πατρίδα μπορεί να οδηγήσει σε μιαν ανιδιοτελή, γενναιόδωρη και μαχητική στράτευση, σε πράξεις αυτοθυσίας και ηρωισμού με μεγάλη ηθικοπολιτική αξία. Στο όνομα της πατρίδας ο φασιστικός εθνικισμός εξαπέλυσε τους επεκτατικούς και κατακτητικούς του πολέμους, προκαλώντας μαζικές ανθρωποσφαγές και γενοκτονίες.

Ο πατριωτισμός του αντιφασισμού αντίθετα έδωσε ηθικό και πολιτικό περιεχόμενο στην πιο αδιάλλακτη και ηρωική αντίσταση στον επιτιθέμενο εισβολέα και στον κατακτητή. Ο πατριωτισμός του αντιφασισμού εμπνεόταν από την ιδέα ότι πατρίδα σημαίνει κοινή ελευθερία ενός λαού, ο οποίος θέλει να ζει ελεύθερος ανάμεσα σε ελεύθερους λαούς. Ανάμεσα σε αυτήν την ιδέα της πατρίδας και στον εθνικισμό, ο οποίος αναγορεύει σε πρωταρχική αξία όχι την ελευθερία αλλά την εθνική, θρησκευτική ή πολιτισμική ομοιογένεια ενός λαού ή το μεγαλείο, την υπεροχή και την επικράτηση του δικού μας έθνους στην αναμέτρηση με τα άλλα έθνη, υπάρχει μια ηθική και πολιτική άβυσσος.


Wednesday, October 12, 2011

The Death Penalty – Again

by Peter Singer

Project Syndicate

October 12, 2011

Three significant events relating to the death penalty occurred in the United States during September. The one that gained the most publicity was the execution in Georgia of Troy Davis, who had been convicted of the 1989 murder of Mark McPhail, an off-duty police officer.

Davis’s death sentence was carried out despite serious doubts about whether he was guilty of the crime for which he received it. Witnesses who had testified at his trial later said that prosecutors had coerced them. Even death-penalty supporters protested against his execution, saying that he should be given a new trial. But the courts denied his appeals. In his final words, he proclaimed his innocence.

The deliberate judicial killing of a man who might have been innocent is deeply disturbing. But the execution was consistent with something that happened just two weeks earlier, at one of the debates between Republican candidates for their party’s nomination to challenge President Barack Obama next year. Texas Governor Rick Perry was reminded that during his term of office, the death penalty has been carried out 234 times. No other governor in modern times has presided over as many executions. But what is more remarkable is that some audience members applauded when the high number of executions was mentioned.


Friday, October 7, 2011

Το Δόγμα της Άγνοιας

του Αριστείδη Ν. Χατζή

Books' Journal
Οκτώβριος 2011

Πήγαιναν οι αμαθείς κοντά του κι έδρεπαν ακόμη μεγαλύτερη αμάθεια. 
John Updike, Το Παζάρι στο Άσυλο

I. À la Recherche du Temps Perdu

Καθώς περνάνε τα χρόνια συνειδητοποιείς πόσο λίγος είναι ο χρόνος που σου έχει απομείνει να κάνεις όσα θέλεις. Αποδέχεσαι σύντομα την ιδέα ότι δεν θα μπορέσεις να τα προλάβεις όλα. Για έναν άνθρωπο που έχει σαν βασική του απασχόληση τις ιδέες, ένα βασικό ερώτημα είναι το τι θα προλάβεις να διαβάσεις και τι θα προλάβεις να γράψεις. Ας αφήσουμε προς το παρόν το δεύτερο. Κάθομαι λοιπόν στο γραφείο μου και βλέπω τα βιβλία απέναντί μου ξέροντας ότι πολλά από αυτά μάλλον δεν θα διαβαστούν ποτέ. Κάθε τόσο προσπαθώ να φτιάξω λίστες στο μυαλό μου με τα απολύτως απαραίτητα που πρέπει να γίνουν άμεσα:

Πρέπει να τελειώσω επιτέλους το Μαγικό Βουνό... Πόσος Ντοστογιέφσκι έχει απομείνει; Πότε επιτέλους θα βρω τον χρόνο να αρχίσω τον Proust (και θα μπορέσω να τον ολοκληρώσω); Θα πρέπει να βάλω τον David Foster Wallace και τον Jonathan Franzen σ’ αυτή τη λίστα; Έχω να διαβάσω την Οδύσσεια από το γυμνάσιο και ο Μαρωνίτης σε λίγο θα ολοκληρώσει και την Ιλιάδα

Το δυσκολότερο όμως είναι να επιλέξεις ανάμεσά τους. Ποιο είναι το κόστος ευκαιρίας του κάθε βιβλίου; Τι θα θυσιάσεις όταν το διαβάσεις; Τι δεν θα διαβάσεις και τι άλλο δεν θα κάνεις (γιατί στην ζωή δεν υπάρχουν μόνο τα βιβλία); Στο γκρεμό αυτού του σκληρού κόστους ευκαιρίας έχουν πέσει πολλές εναλλακτικές αλλά εγώ τον βλέπω περισσότερο ως τον Καιάδα των βιβλίων: Ο Οδυσσέας του Joyce έχει πέσει από τα πρώτα και χωρίς μεγάλες τύψεις. Τι θα κάνω με τον Shakespeare; Θα μπορέσω να τον διαβάσω κάποτε στο σύνολό του – κι αν απογοητευτώ όπως ο Tolstoy; Χωράει στο πρόγραμμα ο Τσίρκας; Να προτιμήσω τον Πλούταρχό ή τον Balzac;

Δεν συζητάω καν για τα αμέτρητα επιστημονικά βιβλία που θέλω και πρέπει να διαβάσω, τα άπειρα επιστημονικά άρθρα και κείμενα που έχω σώσει στον υπολογιστή μου και κυρίως τον χρόνο που απαιτείται για να σκεφτώ πάνω σ’ αυτά. Απελπισία…

Έτσι αγαπητέ αναγνώστη κάθε γραμμή αυτού του κειμένου είναι για μένα πολύ ακριβή γιατί πρόκειται να αναφερθώ σε ένα από τα χειρότερα βιβλία που έχω διαβάσει τα τελευταία είκοσι χρόνια. Δεν φτάνει που το διάβασα, γράφω τώρα και γι’ αυτό.

Διαβάστε εδώ το υπόλοιπο του κειμένου όπως δημοσιεύθηκε στο Books' Journal (PDF)

Ο Αριστείδης Χατζής είναι Αναπληρωτής Καθηγητής Φιλοσοφίας Δικαίου & Θεωρίας Θεσμών στο Τμήμα Μεθοδολογίας, Ιστορίας & Θεωρίας της Επιστήμης του Πανεπιστημίου Αθηνών. Από το 1993 έως το 1999 σπούδασε θεωρία δικαίου και οικονομική ανάλυση του δικαίου στο Πανεπιστήμιο του Σικάγο, από όπου έλαβε και το διδακτορικό του.

Εδώ θα βρείτε μια κριτική επιστολή προς το Books Journal για το άρθρο και την απάντησή μου.

Εδώ θα βρείτε την επίσημη ιστοσελίδα του βιβλίου The Shock Doctrine και εδώ την προσωπική ιστοσελίδα της Naomi Klein.

Εδώ θα βρείτε την εξαιρετική κριτική του βιβλίου της Klein από τον Johan Norberg και εδώ άλλο ένα σχετικό συντομότερο κειμενό του. Δες επίσης εδώ (NYT) και εδώ (TNR) για τις κριτικές του βιβλίου στα δύο σημαντικότερα κεντροαριστερά έντυπα των Η.Π.Α.

Εδώ και εδώ θα βρείτε δύο σχετικά κείμενά μου για την ψευδοεπιστήμη και τις θεωρίες συνωμοσίας και εδώ ένα αφιέρωμα στον Milton Friedman που δημοσιεύθηκε στην Ελευθεροτυπία μετά τον θάνατό του. Περιέχει μέσα και ένα δικό μου κείμενο.

Περισσότερα για τη σχολή του Σικάγο μπορείτε να βρείτε στις παρακάτω ιστοσελίδες:

University of Chicago
University of Chicago Department of Economics
University of Chicago Law School
University of Chicago Booth School of Business
George J. Stigler Center for the Study of the Economy and the State
The Becker Friedman Institute for Research in Economics
Wikipedia entry

Εδώ μπορείτε να δείτε ένα εξαιρετικό σύντομο video για τη σχολή του Σικάγο:

Εδώ θα ακούσετε μια πρόσφατη συνέντευξη στο Bloomberg ενός τυπικου μέλους της Σχολής του Σικάγο, του Καθ. John Cochrane.

Εδώ θα βρείτε το βιβλίο της Naomi Klein αλλά και σοβαρά βιβλία από και για τη Σχολή του Σικάγο:

Ενώ εδώ θα βρείτε τα σημαντικότερα έργα του Milton Friedman:

Who Are Iran's Political Prisoners?

by Roxana Saberi

Wall Street Journal

October 6, 2011

Just after my release from a Tehran prison in May 2009, an Iranian prisoner wrote an open letter entitled, "I wish I were a Roxana." Haleh Rouhi, a follower of Iran's minority Baha'i faith, was serving a four-year sentence for antiregime propaganda, although she said she was simply "teaching the alphabet and numbers" to underserved children.

She was happy I was released but wondered how her case differed from mine and why she had to remain in prison. "What kind of justice system condemned [Roxana] to such punishment," Ms. Rouhi asked, "and which justice freed her at such speed?"

I asked myself the same question. Why was I released after 100 days, having appealed an eight-year prison sentence for a trumped-up charge of espionage? What is clear is that as a foreign citizen, I was fortunate to receive international support, while the plights of other innocent prisoners were less known outside Iran.

Last month, two American men incarcerated in Iran on accusations of espionage and crossing the border illegally—charges they contested—were freed after being sentenced to eight years in prison. Their release is welcome news and cause for relief.


Thursday, October 6, 2011

Νόμος-τομή για τα ναρκωτικά

του Κωστή Παπαϊωάννου

Τα Νέα

6 Οκτωβρίου 2011

Σύντομα θα συζητηθεί στη Βουλή το νομοσχέδιο του υπουργείου Δικαιοσύνης για τα ναρκωτικά. Η ψήφισή του θα αποτελέσει ιστορική τομή. Επί σχεδόν έναν αιώνα η ποινική αντιμετώπιση της διακίνησης από χρήστες και η θεραπευτική μεταχείριση του εξαρτημένου παραβάτη παλινωδούσαν μεταξύ της πρόσληψης της εξάρτησης ως ιδιότυπης μάλλον ανίατης «ασθένειας» ηθικού χαρακτήρα και μιας «μεικτής» αντιμετώπισης του εξαρτημένου δράστη ως θύματος και ως θύτη. Αναπόφευκτο αποτέλεσμα ήταν το σωφρονιστικό μας αδιέξοδο. Το 2009 οι ελληνικές διωκτικές αρχές απήγγειλαν 17.535 κατηγορίες εις βάρος 16.469 ατόμων για χρήση, παραγωγή, καλλιέργεια και διακίνηση ναρκωτικών ουσιών. Ο πληθυσμός των φυλακών απαρτίζεται κατά τα 2/3 από άτομα που έχουν καταδικαστεί για παραβάσεις της νομοθεσίας περί ναρκωτικών και σχετικές με τη χρήση. Οι φυλακές μας είναι ένας ιδιότυπος «τόπος φύλαξης» εξαρτημένων ανθρώπων.

Η ισχύουσα νομοθεσία αναπαράγει την πλασματική εικόνα ότι ο χρήστης/θύμα και ο έμπορος/θύτης είναι δύο απολύτως διαχωρισμένες κατηγορίες, ενώ στην πραγματικότητα δεν είναι εύκολο να διαχωριστούν, ιδίως όσον αφορά τους κύριους αποδέκτες της καταστολής, τα «βαποράκια». Οι πολέμιοι κάθε ηπιότερης ποινικής αντιμετώπισης του εξαρτημένου χρήστη, είτε προέρχονται από τα δεξιά είτε από τα αριστερά, αναπαράγουν αυτή τη βασική σύγχυση και παραβλέπουν ότι και οι πλέον αυστηροί νόμοι δεν ανέστειλαν τη ραγδαία διάδοση των ναρκωτικών ουσιών. Αντίθετα, μάλλον συντελούν στη διαιώνιση της παράνομης διακίνησης, ενώ η εμπλοκή του χρήστη στον ποινικό μηχανισμό ευνοεί τη συνέχιση και όχι τη διακοπή της χρήσης.

Μεγάλη λοιπόν η σπουδαιότητα του νομοσχεδίου αφού κατοχυρώνει το δικαίωμα του εξαρτημένου χρήστη στη θεραπεία, εισάγει έναν αναγκαίο εξορθολογισμό των ποινών, προβλέπει προσεκτικό διαχωρισμό μεταξύ των ελαφρύτερων περιπτώσεων διακίνησης και των βαρύτερων και οργανωμένων μορφών, για τις οποίες διατηρεί την αυστηρή καταστολή, και εισάγει επιπλέον αποδεικτικά μέσα για τη διάγνωση της εξάρτησης, εκτός από την έκθεση πραγματογνωμοσύνης και μόνο, όπως ισχύει μέχρι σήμερα.


Wednesday, October 5, 2011

The democratic transition

by Fabrice Murtin and Romain Wacziarg


October 5, 2011

As witnessed during this year’s Arab Spring, democracy doesn’t always emerge smoothly. This column examines the long march toward political freedom since 1800. It argues that while both income and education affect democracy, the rise in primary education has been the main driver of democratisation over 1870-2000.

Throughout history the march toward political freedom has not been a smooth process. It has happened in fits and starts, in waves, and was often reversed or interrupted. The collapse of several Middle Eastern authoritarian regimes in the wake of this year’s Arab Spring illustrates the point clearly.

Political institutions have undeniably progressed from autocracy to democracy over the last 200 years. Figure 1 displays this democratic transition by plotting over time a commonly used index of democracy (the Polity IV democracy score, rescaled between 0 and 1), averaged for a balanced panel of 14 countries since 1800. The figure illustrates some fits and starts – for instance the interruption of the march to democracy during the interwar period – but also a generalised upward trend. Like the demographic transition, economic modernisation, and the globalisation of human activities, democracy seems to have pursued an inexorable march.

Figure 1. The democratic and economic transitions

Note: (Balanced sample composed of Austria, Belgium, Chile, Denmark, France, Japan, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Turkey, the UK, and the US over 1800-2000).

What factors determine the transition toward democracy and its durability? This is a classic question in political economy, but not one that has yet been resolved. On the eve of the 19th century, Thomas Jefferson was defending the view that mass education was the “the most effectual means of preventing tyranny” (Jefferson 1779). In line with the Founding Fathers’ vision, the US turned into a leading country in terms of educational attainment, leading Alexis de Tocqueville (1835) to note in Democracy in America that “the education of the people powerfully contributes to the maintenance of the democratic republic”. The idea that the accumulation of human capital and economic modernisation more broadly create the conditions for sustained democratisation found a more recent consecration in the writings of Seymour Martin Lipset, who in 1959 introduced the ‘modernisation hypothesis’, arguing that economic development is a precondition for democracy. While international comparisons initially supported this hypothesis (Barro 1999), scholars still debate the issue, as many argue that causality runs instead from institutions to development.


Monday, October 3, 2011

The Worldwide Decline in Conscription: A Victory for Economics?

by Joshua C. Hall

Library of Economics & Liberty

October 3, 2011

Conscription is the compulsory enlistment of individuals into government service. Historically, however, conscription has referred primarily to the military. While governments since antiquity have conscripted people into their militaries, the conscription of a large segment of a country's citizens to meet military goals is a fairly recent phenomenon. Prior to the French Revolution, conscription occurred but was fairly rare.

Beginning in 1793, however, Napoleon took conscription to an entirely new level. The recently expanded French administrative state with its armies of bureaucrats and its extensive information about citizens lowered the cost to Napoleon of implementing a draft. Mass conscription allowed Napoleon to raise an army of over 750,000 men by 1794. Napoleon then instituted a draft in regions under French control, such as the Italian Republic and the Kingdoms of Naples and Westphalia. France's subsequent success on the battlefield led other countries to see conscription as the source of Napoleon's military prowess, and they were quick to imitate—leading to mass conscription throughout Europe.

Over time, the forced enlistment of citizens into military service became both widespread and systematized, with conscription becoming the primary method of military recruitment worldwide during and after World War II. The U.S. government, for example, instituted a military draft in 1940 in response to the outbreak of the war in Europe and, for the next thirty-three years, with the exception of an eleven-month period spanning 1947 and 1948, the government used conscription to staff a portion of its military.

President Nixon's 1973 decision to end the draft and move to an all-volunteer army was an important step towards the worldwide elimination of conscription. Nixon's decision reflected, in part, underlying changes in citizens' attitudes towards the draft arising from the Vietnam War. But it also resulted from a better understanding of the costs and benefits of conscription relative to an all-volunteer army, thanks to the efforts of economists such as Milton Friedman and Walter Oi. In addition, a segment of the population that bears most of the cost of the military draft—18- to 20-year-olds—received the right to vote in 1971. Because an increasing number of countries are eliminating or considering eliminating military conscription, it is worthwhile to revisit the economic arguments against the draft and the role of economic analysis in its decline.


Friday, September 30, 2011

Saudi Women Can Now Vote. But Their Plight Remains a Human Rights Calamity

New Republic
September 30, 2011

Sunday’s announcement that King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia had granted Saudi women the right to vote and stand for office in municipal elections was big news around the world. At a glance, it certainly sounded like terrific news—what, after all, is a more direct emblem of the march of progress than the right to vote? But while the announcement may represent some very marginal progress, Saudi Arabia remains one of the worst places on earth to be a woman. Because the country’s ruling regime is, nominally at least, an American ally, the plight of Saudi women doesn’t receive nearly as much attention in Washington as it should. But it is truly one of the human rights catastrophes of our time.

Despite the king’s announcement, the women of Saudi Arabia remain second-class citizens. They are forbidden from driving, and the religious police—the Committee for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice—oversees their public behavior, enforcing public segregation between the sexes. This means that employment opportunities for women are extremely limited. Women are considered legal minors, under the control of their closest male relative. In court, the testimony of one man is equal to that of two women. The World Economic Forum Gender and Development Index ranks Saudi Arabia 129 out of 134 countries.


Tuesday, September 27, 2011

A test case for Europe's creaking asylum system

by Cian Murphy


September 27, 2011

The state of Greece's economy is not the only issue that is causing a problem for other European states. In late 2008, Saeedi, an Afghan asylum seeker, arrived in the EU via Greece before making his way to the UK to seek refuge. Under the Dublin regulation it is for the EU country of first entry to consider the asylum claim, so the UK sought to return Saeedi to Greece. Saeedi challenged his transfer by claiming that Greece was unable to process his case and that return would violate his fundamental rights. If he is successful, no asylum seeker could be returned to Greece under current conditions.

Given the human rights claim, Saeedi's case also affords the European court of justice the opportunity to decide on the legal status of the EU charter of fundamental rights in the UK. If the ECJ follows the lead of its advocate general, Verica Trstenjak, whose opinion was handed down last week, Europe's creaking asylum system will be put under critical pressure.

The legal dispute turns on how a member state may exercise its discretion under EU law. While the Dublin Regulation dictates which state must process an asylum claim, EU law allows a state to take it upon itself to process any particular application should it decide to do so. Saeedi argued that the UK was obliged to consider his application because Greece would be unable to. The advocate general considered the position of the Greek asylum system, and concluded that transfer to Greece would give rise to a real risk of violation of Saeedi's fundamental rights. Though the UK was ordinarily free to assume other member states would comply with human rights requirements, it was open to an asylum seeker to rebut that presumption – as Saeedi had. As a result the UK should be obliged to protect him against that risk by processing his asylum claim.


Monday, September 26, 2011

An Indefensible Punishment

New York Times
September 25, 2011

When the Supreme Court reinstituted the death penalty 35 years ago, it did so provisionally. Since then, it has sought to articulate legal standards for states to follow that would ensure the fair administration of capital punishment and avoid the arbitrariness and discrimination that had led it to strike down all state death penalty statutes in 1972.

As the unconscionable execution of Troy Davis in Georgia last week underscores, the court has failed because it is impossible to succeed at this task. The death penalty is grotesque and immoral and should be repealed.

The court’s 1976 framework for administering the death penalty, balancing aggravating factors like the cruelty of the crime against mitigating ones like the defendant’s lack of a prior criminal record, came from the American Law Institute, the nonpartisan group of judges, lawyers and law professors. In 2009, after a review of decades of executions, the group concluded that the system could not be fixed and abandoned trying.

Sentencing people to death without taking account of aggravating and mitigating circumstances leads to arbitrary results. Yet, the review found, so does considering such circumstances because it requires jurors to weigh competing factors and makes sentencing vulnerable to their biases.


Thursday, September 22, 2011

The World's Top Executioners

by Joshua E. Keating
Foreign Policy

September 22, 2011

This week's execution of Troy Davis has provoked an international outcry and renewed debate in the United States over the death penalty. With the fifth-most executions per year of any country, America finds itself on a list with some of the world's worst human rights abusers.

CHINA: Number of executions: Thousands -- reliable statistics are hard to come by.

IRAN: Number of executions: 252 in 2010

NORTH KOREA: Number of executions: 60 in 2010

YEMEN: Number of executions: 53 in 2010

UNITED STATES: Number of executions: 46 in 2010, 35 so far in 2011

All figures from Amnesty International unless otherwise noted.

Two Women Fined for Covering Faces

September 22, 2011

The new "burqa ban" in France has produced its first trial and convictions: Two women who staged a protest in May will have to pay fines. One defendant on Thursday promised to bring her case before the European Court of Human Rights.

A court in suburban Paris on Thursday handed out fines to the first two women tried in France for violating a ban on wearing face-covering garments in public.

Hind Ahmas, 32, and Najate Naitali, 36, were both cited in May for wearing niqabs, traditional Muslim face veils, while trying to enter the Meaux town hall with a birthday cake for the mayor. Meaux is a suburb of Paris, and its mayor, Jean-Francois Cope, helped push the "burqa ban" through France's parliament last year. He also leads President Nicolas Sarkozy's conservative UMP party.

Ahmas received a €120 ($161) fine on Thursday and vowed to bring her case up before the European Court of Human Rights. Naitali received an €80 fine in absentia -- after having been denied entry for refusing to take off her niqab.

"(This) violates European laws," Ahmas told reporters after the hearing in Meaux. "For us, the question isn't the amount of the fine but the principle. We can't accept that women are sentenced because they are freely expressing their religious beliefs."

They reportedly carried an almond cake for Mayor Cope as part of a symbolic protest, as the French words for both "almonds" and "fines" sound similar.


Βίαια καθεστώτα κι εμείς

του Κωστή Παπαϊωάννου

Τα Νέα

22 Σεπτεμβρίου 2011

Όποτε μετανάστες διαπράττουν κάποιο αποτρόπαιο έγκλημα, πολλοί σπεύδουν να μιλήσουν για λαούς συνηθισμένους στην άμετρη βία, για ανθρώπους που αψηφούν την αξία της ζωής. Μερικοί πάνε επικίνδυνα πέρα από αυτή την εν γένει εύλογη διαπίστωση. Υποστηρίζουν πως στα «συγκριτικά τεστ των πολιτισμών» μερικοί (ανατολικοί) λαοί αποδεικνύονται ντε φάκτο ανθρωπιστικά λειψοί.

Το θυμήθηκα αναλογιζόμενος τη δική μας στάση απέναντι στο αίμα που συνεχίζει να χύνεται στη Συρία και στην Υεμένη. Με τον τρόπο μας επιβεβαιώνουμε κι εμείς τη σχετικότητα της αξίας της ζωής. Κρίνουμε αλλιώς την εκεί βία σε σχέση με μια πραγματική ή υποθετική έκρηξη βίαιης καταστολής σε μια δυτική χώρα. Οι 3.000 χαμένες ζωές αντικυβερνητικών διαδηλωτών στη Συρία έχουν βάρος αμελητέο. Σε ό,τι αφορά ειδικά την Ελλάδα, έχει ενδιαφέρον η ανοχή στην αναίσχυντη υποστήριξη Κίνας και Ρωσίας προς το καθεστώς Ασαντ. Θα κάναμε το ίδιο αν ήταν οι ΗΠΑ που εμπόδιζαν κάθε αντίδραση του Συμβουλίου Ασφαλείας του ΟΗΕ; Εμείς, οι οποίοι αγανακτούμε δικαιολογημένα και γενναιόδωρα με την ισραηλινή πολιτική που οδηγεί τη Γάζα στην εξαθλίωση, γιατί τώρα αγανακτούμε με φειδώ; Πολιτικοί φορείς με πληθωρική ευαισθησία σε άλλα θέματα δεν έχουν ζητήσει εν προκειμένω ούτε τα στοιχειώδη: παραπομπή της Συρίας στο Διεθνές Ποινικό Δικαστήριο, εμπάργκο όπλων και δέσμευση περιουσιακών στοιχείων του προέδρου Ασαντ και των ανώτερων συνεργατών του.

Επί δεκαετίες Λιβύη σήμαινε «ηγέτης Καντάφι» (δεν τον λέγαμε δικτάτορα, ελέω διεθνισμού πρωτοπασοκικής κοπής). Αίγυπτος σήμαινε Μουμπάρακ και Συρία σήμαινε Ασαντ. Οι μακροχρόνιες δεσποτείες διεκδικούσαν την ακλόνητη μονιμότητα φυσικού φαινομένου. Τώρα που ανατρέπονται, νιώθω πως πολλοί δεν συμμερίζονται τη χαρά της μεγάλης εν εξελίξει αλλαγής. Εύκολα το πιάνει κανείς στην ατμόσφαιρα, δεν είναι καθολική η ανακούφιση για τους δικτάτορες που έφυγαν και ο θυμός για εκείνους που ακόμα φονεύουν κρυπτόμενοι. Αρκετοί, όταν προσεγγίζουν το θέμα, προτάσσουν στις τοποθετήσεις τους τα δυτικά συμφέροντα, τα πετρέλαια και τον ιμπεριαλισμό. Σωστά όλα αυτά, όμως η μονότροπη ανάδειξή τους εντέλει σχετικοποιεί την αξία της αραβικής εξέγερσης. Για να το πούμε σχηματικά, ούτε οι αποικιοκρατικές βλέψεις ούτε η δίψα για πετρέλαιο, ούτε η επί δεκαετίες λυκοφιλία των Δυτικών με τα καθεστώτα της ευρύτερης περιοχής μπορούν να επισκιάσουν την κρίση μας αναφορικά με ισόβιους μονάρχες που φλερτάρουν με την παράνοια. Βεβαίως και πρέπει να δούμε με ειλικρίνεια τις συνολικές ευθύνες της Δύσης για την κατάσταση στον αραβικό κόσμο. Αλλά, παράλληλα, να κοιτάμε τις αραβικές χώρες και κοινωνίες χωρίς εθελοτυφλίες και ωραιοποιήσεις.


Wednesday, September 21, 2011

EU border police 'turning blind eye' to abuse of migrants in Greece

September 21, 2011

Europe's fledgling border police force has been knowingly aiding and abetting the serial abuse of migrants during its first major deployment on EU frontiers, Human Rights Watch said.

In a 62-page report on conditions in Greek asylum and detention centres, widely known to be disastrously dysfunctional, the organisation on Wednesday accused Frontex, the EU's external borders agency, of turning a blind eye to the torture, beating, and systematic degradation of illegal migrants detained after crossing the border from Turkey.

"Frontex has become a partner in exposing migrants to treatment that it knows is absolutely prohibited under human rights law," said Bill Frelick, Human Rights Watch's refugee programme director.

The report highlighted appalling conditions in five detention centres in north-east Greece close to the border with Turkey, with males and females herded together in overcrowded cells, allegations of rape, unaccompanied minors also dumped in packed "cages" with adult males.

Beds were scarce, toilet and washing facilities almost nonexistent, medical help rare, and beatings common for protesters.


Read the Report

Friday, September 16, 2011

Making Tyrants Do Time

by Kathryn Sikkink

New York Times

September 15, 2011

Time is running out for former government officials accused of murder, genocide and crimes against humanity. In the past few months, the final Serbian war-crimes fugitives were extradited to The Hague, the trial of the former Egyptian president, Hosni Mubarak, began in Cairo, and the International Criminal Court opened hearings on the post-election violence that plagued Kenya in 2007-8.

These events have provoked a chorus of trial skeptics, who contend that the threat of prosecution undermines democracy, exacerbates conflict and could lead to greater human rights violations.

Critics argue that the threat of prosecution leads dictators like Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi of Libya and Omar Hassan al-Bashir of Sudan to entrench themselves in power rather than negotiate a transition to democracy. In El Salvador, where domestic courts have refused to extradite officers accused of murdering Jesuit priests 22 years ago, critics claim that such a prosecution would undermine stability and sovereignty.

But we do not know whether extraditions would destabilize El Salvador, or whether Sudan and Libya would have been better off than they are today if the I.C.C. had not indicted Mr. Bashir or Colonel Qaddafi.

Indeed, those arguments rest on proving or disproving a counterfactual. While the I.C.C. indictment may have prompted Colonel Qaddafi’s desire to hide once he left power, we do not know whether it shortened his last days in power or prolonged them.

Historical and statistical evidence gives us reason to question criticisms of human rights trials. My research shows that transitional countries — those moving from authoritarian governments to democracy or from civil war to peace — where human rights prosecutions have taken place subsequently become less repressive than transitional countries without prosecutions, holding other factors constant.