Friday, June 15, 2012

A Pantomime of Justice

by Francisco Toro

International Herald Tribune

June 15, 2012

The right to be present at your own trial is a core civil right. Certainly, article 125 of Venezuela’s criminal procedure code bans in-absentia trials. Which is why, when faced with an attempt to sentence one of his clients who was not in the courtroom, the Venezuelan defense attorney José Amalio Graterol objected forcefully and refused to participate in an obviously illegal procedure.

For his troubles, Graterol was immediately jailed for obstruction of justice. After eight days in one of Venezuela’s notoriously violent prisons, he was released on bail, but he still faces the possibility of a lengthy prison term on the original charge.

Within hours of his arrest the Geneva-based International Commission of Jurists was expressing concern for the abuse, calling it “the most recent of a series of violations to the fundamental principles of the rule of law in Venezuela in recent years,” while the chairman of the International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute, Sternford Moyo, declared that “Graterol’s apprehension is a clear breach of Venezuela’s own criminal laws, a clear violation of the fundamental principle of the independence of the legal profession and also represents as a serious infringement of firmly established international principles.”


Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Leaks and Press Freedoms

by Casey B. Mulligan

New York Times

June 13, 2012

Government leaks and a free press are not always compatible.

Democracy is said to depend on freedom of the press and other news media, especially the freedom to publish information and opinions without approval or censure from government officials. Empirically, there is a strong correlation between press freedoms and the fairness of elections, absence of autocratic leaders and other hallmarks of democracy.

Full and complete freedoms of the press and other news media are not an automatic consequence of economic development, education and other factors thought to foster democracies. For example, a 2001 World Bank study of 97 countries found that governments commonly owned their nation’s television stations.

Even in Western Europe, countries otherwise known for their political freedoms, government television stations made up more than half of the television market.


Sunday, June 10, 2012

Συνέλαβαν τους ηθοποιούς!

της Βένας Γεωργακοπούλου

10 Ιουνίου 2012

Νέο κρούσμα απόπειρας λογοκρισίας έχουμε από χθες να πορευόμαστε. Μόνο αυτό μας έλειπε την ιδανική περίοδο που ζούμε. Να ’ναι καλά η Εκκλησία. Μετά τη Χρυσή Αυγή, ανέβηκε και αυτή στη σκηνή για τη δική της ατραξιόν. Όποιος χάρηκε όταν εκλέχτηκε αρχιεπίσκοπος ο Ιερώνυμος, να σηκώσει το χέρι. Ο Χριστόδουλος μας ενοχλούσε, αλλά και ο καινούργιος δεν πάει πίσω. Να μάθουμε να μην είμαστε αφελείς. Όλες οι εκκλησίες, όχι μόνο η δική μας, τα δόγματά τους έχουν στο μυαλό τους. Τους τά ’θιξες; Είπες, για παράδειγμα, ότι ο Χριστός ήταν γκέι; Φίδι που σ’ έφαγε.

Δυο γυναίκες δικηγόροι, εκπροσωπώντας την Ιερά Σύνοδο, κατέθεσαν χθες μήνυση εναντίον των συντελεστών της παράστασης Corpus Christi, για τα γνωστά. «Προσβολή των θείων» αλλά και των αγνών ελληνικών μας παραδόσεων. Ό,τι πάνω-κάτω έλεγε στην ανακοίνωσή της την Τετάρτη εναντίον του «βλάσφημου» θεατρικού έργου του Τέρενς ΜακΝάλι η Ιερά Σύνοδος. Και η αστυνομία έκανε τη δουλειά της. Πήγε χθες το απόγευμα στο «Χυτήριο» ,όπου παίζεται αυτή η διάσημη γκέι εκδοχή της ζωής του Χριστού (τα γράφαμε χθες στο protagon), συνέλαβε όποιον βρήκε διαθέσιμο, ήτοι τρείς ανύποπτους ηθοποιούς, και τους πήγε στο τμήμα. Αυτή την ετοιμότητά της έτρεμε ο Κασιδιάρης και άνοιξε η γη και τον κατάπιε.

Μετά από πολλά, η δικηγόρος του Σωματείου Ελλήνων Ηθοποιών κατάφερε να πείσει τους ανόρεκτους και ευγενείς, έτσι λένε οι πληροφορίες μας, αστυνομικούς ότι η σύλληψη ήταν παράνομη χωρίς προηγούμενο εξώδικο. Οι ηθοποιοί απελευθερώθηκαν και επέστρεψαν στο θέατρο, όπου δόθηκε κανονικά η παράσταση.


Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Round-Trip Freedom

by Jianli Yang

Project Syndicate

June 6, 2012

Western media describe my friend and colleague Chen Guangcheng as a blind activist who made a flight to freedom when China allowed him to journey from Beijing to the United States. What is essential about Chen is neither his blindness nor his family’s visit to the US, but the fact that he upholds a vision of universal human rights, a vision that can be fully realized only when, and if, China honors its promise to allow him one day to return home.

China has a history of forcing scholars and dissidents like us into exile. When the Chinese student movement broke out in 1989, I was pursuing a Ph.D. in mathematics at the University of California-Berkeley. I traveled to Beijing to participate as an activist in Tiananmen Square, where I narrowly escaped the massacre and was able to make my way back to the US.

Due to my activism, however, China refused to renew my passport. So, when I returned to China in 2002 to help the movement for workers’ rights, I used a friend’s passport. China incarcerated me as a political prisoner for five years, until 2007. For a year and a half of that period, I was held in solitary confinement, without access to visitors, reading materials, or even paper and pen.

Upon my release, China renewed my passport on the condition that I return to the US. I have tried three times to return to my homeland, only to see China block each attempt at the Hong Kong airport.


Monday, June 4, 2012


by Richard A. Posner

The Becker-Posner Blog

June 3, 2012

I agree wholeheartedly with Becker that capitalism is a superior economic system to any other that has been tried, the others being mainly socialism and communism. The best evidence for this is that out of the 194 countries in the world, I can think of only two that are not capitalist—Cuba, which however is moving slowly in the capitalist direction, and North Korea, the greatest economic failure on the planet.

But this statistic indicates that capitalism is a necessary condition of economic success rather than a sufficient condition. Many of the world’s countries, though capitalist, are basket cases—not as badly off as North Korea, but plenty badly off. Per capita incomes in rich capitalist countries such as the United States, Canada, Germany, Britain, and Japan greatly exceed per capita incomes in poor capitalist countries, which are the majority of countries.

So the big question is, given capitalism, what else does a country need in order to prosper? We know that it doesn’t need abundant natural resources or a large population. But it needs a legal and political system that protects property rights, allows a large degree of economic freedom, minimizes corruption, controls harmful externalities (like pollution) and subsidizes beneficial ones (like education), distinguishes between equality of opportunity (which it promotes) and equality of incomes (which it promotes only to the extent of combating poverty), welcomes and assimilates skilled and wealthy immigrants, and (related to protecting economic freedom) avoids public ownership or control of economic enterprises. To create and maintain such a legal and political system a country also requires a culture of respect for business success, of competition and risk-taking, and of consumerism—since, as Keynes argued, consumption drives production.

Such a combination is difficult to achieve; no nation has achieved it. The variance across nations in culture and in institutional structure is very great, and determines the relative economic success of the different nations.

Since there is so much variance across capitalist countries—so much that can go wrong with a capitalist system because of the complex institutional structure and social culture that capitalism requires if it is to be maximally successful in contributing to social welfare—we need to avoid complacency. Complacency was a major factor in the surprising economic collapse that began in September 2008, a collapse the consequences of which are still very much with us.


Profits, Competition, and Social Welfare

by Gary S. Becker

The Becker-Posner Blog

June 3, 2012

The financial crisis and the resulting recession have led to a strong reaction in many countries against the profit motive and private enterprise. Left of center political parties are gaining office and power in France, Mexico, Greece, and elsewhere with the promise of much greater regulation of banks and other businesses, renationalizing some companies, and constraining profits through higher taxes and other ways.

It is easy to sympathize with the hostility to the many banks that behaved (in retrospect) so foolishly in ways that damaged everyone else as they took on excessive risk in their quests for greater profits. One can understand also the general reaction against capitalism and “market failures” since commercial and investment banks were in the past a leading example of capitalism at work. Yet anyone concerned about the welfare of the poor and middle classes should resist the temptation to attack competitive private enterprise and capitalism- monopoly or crony capitalism should be deplored. This is only partly because “government failure” also contributed in an important way to the financial crisis as regulators did not rein in the asset explosion of banks and households. Indeed, regulators often encouraged lending to lower income families to buy houses with low down payments, large mortgages and ballooning interest payments.

The main reason to be concerned about the attacks on competitive capitalism is that it has delivered during the past 150 years so much to all strata’s of society, including the poor. I will try to demonstrate this not with a general analysis, but with several rather impressive examples.

China in 1980 was among the poorest countries in the world. It had just gone through the Cultural Revolution and the Great Leap Forward that contributed to the deaths of tens of millions of rural and other Chinese. In desperation, a few farsighted Chinese leaders decided to allow private enterprise and capitalism to gain a toehold in its agricultural sector. To the great surprise of many Chinese political leaders, the result was an explosion in farm output, even though farmers had only tiny plots of land to work with. Seeing the success of the liberalization of farm output, China extended the incentive system to industry by encouraging the growth of private enterprises in some sectors. Again, the results far exceeded expectations as these private companies, many owned by Taiwanese and Hong Kong residents, were not only far more efficient than state owned enterprises, but they also became the leaders in the rapid expansion of exports from China to the US and other countries.