Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Blaming Capitalism for Corporatism

by Edmund S. Phelps and Saifedean Ammous

Project Syndicate

January 31, 2012

The future of capitalism is again a question. Will it survive the ongoing crisis in its current form? If not, will it transform itself or will government take the lead?

The term “capitalism” used to mean an economic system in which capital was privately owned and traded; owners of capital got to judge how best to use it, and could draw on the foresight and creative ideas of entrepreneurs and innovative thinkers. This system of individual freedom and individual responsibility gave little scope for government to influence economic decision-making: success meant profits; failure meant losses. Corporations could exist only as long as free individuals willingly purchased their goods – and would go out of business quickly otherwise.

Capitalism became a world-beater in the 1800’s, when it developed capabilities for endemic innovation. Societies that adopted the capitalist system gained unrivaled prosperity, enjoyed widespread job satisfaction, obtained productivity growth that was the marvel of the world and ended mass privation.

Now the capitalist system has been corrupted. The managerial state has assumed responsibility for looking after everything from the incomes of the middle class to the profitability of large corporations to industrial advancement. This system, however, is not capitalism, but rather an economic order that harks back to Bismarck in the late nineteenth century and Mussolini in the twentieth: corporatism.


Monday, January 30, 2012

Sarkozy Should Not Attempt to Legislate Turkey’s History

January 30, 2012

The president of France is getting ready to sign a bill making it a crime in his country to deny that a century ago, the Ottoman Empire committed genocide against Armenians. As President Nicolas Sarkozy’s own party proposed the legislation, we suspect that he will sign it. But it’s never too late to drop a bad idea.

Let’s start with the genocide -- it happened. Beginning in 1915, as many as 1.5 million ethnic Armenians living in what today is modern Turkey were killed or deported. The Ottoman Empire was falling apart, or more accurately was being dismembered by Britain, France and Russia. The authorities in Istanbul saw Christian Armenians as a potential fifth column and drove them out through executions and deportations. Greeks and Christian Assyrians soon followed.

This is a painful piece of Armenian history that continues to traumatize the families of its victims, now dispersed around the globe in California, France and elsewhere. Every April, there are battles in Washington as legislators with Armenian constituents lobby for the U.S. to formally recognize the genocide.

Turkey, the Ottoman Empire’s successor state, has barely started to deal with the essential process of facing the truth and bringing some kind of closure to the victims’ families. While it has recently become possible for Turkish historians to discuss the events of 1915 without facing jail, it was only in 2007 that Turkish-Armenian journalist Hrant Dink was shot dead in broad daylight for daring to write about the genocide.


Friday, January 27, 2012

Greece's Epidemic of Racist Attacks

by Eva Cosse

New York Times

January 26, 2012

When I tell people in Athens, my hometown, that I am doing research on racist violence in Greece, I am met with disbelief. There’s no problem, they say, and even if things sometimes happen it’s a temporary blip linked to the economic crisis.

The Greek government seems to share their view. It recorded only two hate crimes in the whole country in 2009 and one in 2008. More recent figures are not available.

I experienced the reality firsthand a week ago. I was interviewing Razia, an Afghan single mother, in the small apartment she shares with her three children in Aghios Panteleimonas square in Athens about the numerous attacks on her home since she moved in a year and a half earlier. Other Afghan migrants were visiting her the day I was there.

Suddenly masked thugs, who had been gathering outside, threw heavy objects at the front door, cracking the thick glass. During the few minutes the attack lasted, I could see the silhouettes of the attackers. People panicked and backed away from the windows, as the apartment is on the ground floor of the building, while Razia gathered up her scared children.


Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Egypt's Youth Mark Anniversary with Calls for More Changes

January 25, 2012

Wednesday marks the one-year anniversary of the revolution that ousted Hosni Mubarak from power. But, rather than celebrating, the country's idealistic youth are taking to the streets once again to protest military abuses and the army's continued hold on power.

Mustafa Kandil is standing on a traffic island in Cairo, tying a screen to the base of a monument. It's the statue of Umm Kulthum, an Egyptian singer venerated by all Arabs, as she faces the Nile with open arms. Kandil sets up a tripod, screws a projector into place and connects loudspeakers. He looks around. It's still quiet, but the crowd is growing larger. "Take a good look," he shouts, and switches on the projector. "This is our army."

Shaky video images flicker across the screen, showing soldiers kicking and beating protesters, people running away, the dead and dying, field hospitals, morgues and a lot of blood. A general says: "These protesters are troublemakers."

No, says Kandil: "These dead people include a sheik at Azhar University, a doctor and an engineer. Don't believe what the army tells you."

While the ruling military council in Egypt has state-owned television and the newspapers loyal to the regime, young people here have "Kazeboon." The word means "liars," and it's an attempt to refute the generals' propaganda, a grassroots form of government television, so to speak.

The Kazeboon campaign was launched in December, on the day an image of a young woman stripped down to her jeans and blue bra by soldiers circled the globe. Since then Kandil, a 21-year-old dentistry student, has been showing the videos in public spaces, and his activities have been copied by hundreds of others throughout the country.

Although Kandil and the others are often attacked, things remain quiet on this evening. After showing the videos, he and several dozen others march through the streets shouting: "Hey, you on your balcony! The army has killed a sheik, a doctor and an engineer! Tomorrow, it could be you!"


Afghanistan’s Terrorized Women

by Mohammad Musa Mahmodi

Project Syndicate

January 25, 2012

Recently, the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC) office in Kudoz province reported the rescue of a young woman who had been imprisoned in her in-laws’ dungeon for seven months. Fifteen-year-old Sahar Gul was forced to marry an older man who serves in the Afghan army. She was then kept in the dungeon by her husband’s family and brutally tortured for months, because she refused to work as a prostitute.

Over the past ten years, the AIHRC has received more than 19,000 complaints related to violence against women. Despite making some progress in investigating the complaints and referring them to the justice system, as well as in raising public awareness about the issue, the challenges remain huge.

Since 2002, many efforts have been made to improve women’s lives in Afghanistan. The country has enacted several new laws and established a fairly advanced legal framework to end discrimination against women, including a new law that criminalizes any act that results in violence against women.

But laws and policies alone are not sufficient to protect women from horrific domestic abuse. Indeed, the Gul case is hardly the only well-publicized case. There was also Gulnaz, a young woman who was jailed for adultery after being raped by a relative (she was recently released after a presidential pardon, but may be forced to marry her attacker). The husband of another young woman, Aisha, cut off her nose and ears when she ran away.


Sunday, January 22, 2012

Crackdown on Chinese dissidents

Washington Post
Editorial Board
January 22, 2012

“As far as we, state security, can tell, there are no more than 200 intellectuals in the country who oppose the Communist Party and are influential. If the central authorities think that their rule is facing a crisis, they can capture them all in one night and bury them alive.”

So said a Chinese state security officer to the dissident Yu Jie on Dec. 9, 2010 — the day before his good friend Liu Xiaobo was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in absentia. In a statement last week, Mr. Yu, a well-known writer and Christian activist, said that he was beaten nearly to death that night, then held under house arrest for more than a year. He finally was allowed to travel with his family to Washington on Jan. 11; in a news conference, he vowed to “make public to the international community all that I have endured over this past year” and to publish books about Mr. Liu and President Hu Jintao, whom he calls a “cold-blooded tyrant.”

Mr. Yu is having an impact. According to the Wall Street Journal, the phrase “bury them alive” has gone viral on the Chinese microblogging site Sina Weibo. And no wonder: In the past few weeks Mr. Hu’s regime has appeared to be implementing the thuggish cop’s threat, at least figuratively.

While Mr. Yu was pushed out of the country, three other pro-democracy writers have been given long prison sentences. The most recent is Li Tie, 52, who was handed a 10-year prison term on Wednesday in the city of Wuhan, in central China. Mr. Lie’s crimes, according to the regime, included joining the China Social Democratic Party and writing essays with such titles as “Human Beings’ Heaven is Human Dignity.”


Thursday, January 19, 2012

Καταδίκη της Ελλάδας για ανατριχιαστικά βασανιστήρια

Το Βήμα
19 Ιανουαρίου 2012

Ανατριχιαστικές σκηνές βίας, ακόμη πιό σκληρές από εκείνες με πρωταγωνιστές αμερικανούς στρατιώτες που βεβηλώνουν πτώματα νεκρών Αφγανών, ουρώντας πάνω τους - οι οποίες έκαναν πρόσφατα τον γύρο του κόσμου - έχουν καταγραφεί στην Ελλάδα, όπως προκύπτει, τουλάχιστον, από αποφάσεις του Ευρωπαϊκού Δικαστηρίου Δικαιωμάτων του Ανθρώπου που αποτελούν κόλαφο για τη χώρα μας.

Οι αποφάσεις αυτές που εξεδόθησαν στις 16 Ιανουαρίου 2012 αποτελούν, σύμφωνα με την Ελληνική Ενωση για τα Δικαιώματα του Ανθρώπου, που τις φέρνει στο φως, «την κορυφή του παγόβουνου σε ό,τι αφορά την υποδοχή και την στάση των διοικητικών και δικαστικών ελληνικών αρχών απέναντι στους αλλοδαπούς. Φέρνουν στην επικαιρότητα ζητήματα τα οποία συζητιούνται για λίγο και ύστερα χάνονται στην λογική της παράπλευρης απώλειας».

Η πρώτη υπόθεση, η «υπόθεση Zontul», όπως ονομάζεται, αφορά ένα περιστατικό που είχε σοκάρει την κοινή γνώμη: τον βιασμό του προσφεύγοντα - κρατούμενου μετανάστη χωρίς χαρτιά - με γκλόμπ από άνδρα του Λιμενικού Σώματος παρουσία συναδέλφων του στα Χανιά το 2004. Οι λιμενικοί στη συνέχεια χτύπησαν τους μετανάστες συγκρατουμένους του, τους κατέβρεξαν με νερό και τους περιέλουσαν με χημικές ουσίες.

Η Ελλάδα για την υπόθεση αυτή καταδικάστηκε από το Ευρωπαϊκό Δικαστήριο Δικαιωμάτων του Ανθρώπου για παραβίαση του άρθρου 3 της Ευρωπαϊκής Συνθήκης για τα Δικαιώματα του Ανθρώπου (απαγόρευση βασανιστηρίων και απάνθρωπης ή εξευτελιστικής μεταχείρισης).

Το χειρότερο για τις ελληνικές Αρχές είναι πως το Δικαστήριο έκρινε ότι δεν διεξήχθη επαρκής και αποτελεσματική έρευνα για τον καταλογισμό των ευθυνών στους θύτες και ότι η ποινή που επιβλήθηκε στον λιμενικό δεν ήταν ανάλογη με την πράξη βασανισμού!


Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Internet Censorship Is the Wrong Answer to Online Piracy

Cato Institute
December 13, 2011

Produced by Caleb O. Brown and Austin Bragg.

Friday, January 13, 2012

The Aftertaste of Goulash Communism

by Péter Zilahy

New York Times

January 13, 2012

The National Gallery at Buda Castle, once the residence of Hungarian kings, provided an apt location for the official celebration of Hungary’s new constitution. The government had requested 100 artworks defining 1,000 years of Hungarian statehood “to hold our ancestors as a shield against cynicism,” as Prime Minister Viktor Orban declared in his opening speech. The director of the National Gallery did not attend. He had sent in his resignation on Dec. 31, the day before the new constitution went into effect.

Several artists and politicians loyal to Mr. Orban’s Fidesz Party did attend, however, and were also able to marvel at the 15 new paintings commemorating events from Hungary’s recent past. The painting of World War I made a cavalry attack of Hungarian hussars look like a Sunday outing in the country rather than a bloodbath. My grandfather, an officer in the Austro-Hungarian Empire, could tell you a treasure trove of stories about the scars and bullet holes that made his skin seem like an old map of Europe. When I try to picture history, I see my grandpa sunbathing on the veranda.

Against the backdrop of Budapest’s stunning panorama, Mr. Orban announced “the re-establishment of the Hungarian state.” Then the celebrating crowd proceeded to the Opera, where they were met by an equally excited crowd of tens of thousands of people calling for the prime minister to resign. One banner read: “Happy New 1984!”


Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Το δικαίωμα στην αποδοκιμασία

του Πάσχου Μανδραβέλη


10 Ιανουαρίου 2012

Είναι εκπληκτικό, αλλά στην Ελλάδα ουδείς ενδιαφέρεται για τους νόμους που ψηφίζονται, πολλοί όμως δυσανασχετούν όταν αυτοί εφαρμόζονται. Αυτό συνέβη και με τη σύλληψη έξι διαδηλωτών στη Χαλκίδα οι οποίοι αποδοκίμασαν τον Πρόεδρο της Δημοκρατίας κατά τη διάρκεια της τελετής αγιασμού των υδάτων.

Κακώς συνελήφθησαν; Κακώς· σε μια φιλελεύθερη χώρα, οι αποδοκιμασίες, ακόμη και οι πλέον αισχρές, μπορεί να συναντούν τη βδελυγμία των υπολοίπων, αλλά όχι την ποινική δίωξη. Η ελευθερία του λόγου είναι από τα αξιώματα της δημοκρατίας και δεν μπορεί να έχει περιορισμούς αναλόγως των προσώπων. Ομως, η προσβολή του προσώπου του Προέδρου της Δημοκρατίας -μαζί με πολλά άλλα- δεν ποινικοποιείται μόνο από απλούς νόμους· η απαγόρευση προκύπτει από το ίδιο το Σύνταγμα.

Η ανελευθερία του λόγου στην Ελλάδα έχει βαθιές ρίζες και είναι συνταγματικά κατοχυρωμένη. Αυτό γίνεται ξεκάθαρο αν ρίξουμε μια ματιά στο άρθρο 14 περί Τύπου. Είναι ένα από τα μακροσκελέστερα άρθρα. Από τις 572 λέξεις, μόνο οι 33 κατοχυρώνουν την ελευθερία του λόγου. Οι υπόλοιπες 539 είναι απαγορεύσεις! Γράφαμε και παλιότερα ότι «η ελευθερία του λόγου είναι ναρκοθετημένη τόσο πολύ, που σε μια αντιδημοκρατική εκτροπή κάποιος δικτάτορας δεν θα χρειαστεί να αναστείλει την ισχύ του άρθρου 14, αλλά απλώς να το εφαρμόσει» (Καθημερινή 12.5.2006).


Sunday, January 8, 2012

The Random Horror of the Death Penalty

by Lincoln Caplan

New York Times

January 7, 2012

The Supreme Court has not banned capital punishment, as it should, but it has long held that the death penalty is unconstitutional if randomly imposed on a handful of people. An important new study based on capital cases in Connecticut provides powerful evidence that death sentences are haphazardly meted out, with virtually no connection to the heinousness of the crime.

A number of studies in the last three decades have shown that black defendants are more likely to be sentenced to death if their victim is white rather than black. But defenders of capital punishment often respond to those studies by arguing that the “worst of the worst” are sentenced to death because their crimes are the most egregious.

The Connecticut study, conducted by John Donohue, a Stanford law professor, completely dispels this erroneous reasoning. It analyzed all murder cases in Connecticut over a 34-year period and found that inmates on death row are indistinguishable from equally violent offenders who escape that penalty. It shows that the process in Connecticut — similar to those in other death-penalty states — is utterly arbitrary and discriminatory.

From 1973, when Connecticut passed a death penalty law, to 2007, 4,686 murders were committed in the state. Of those, 205 were death-eligible cases (capital murders that include the killing of a police officer, murder for hire, murder-rape and murder committed during a kidnapping) that resulted in some kind of conviction, either through a plea bargain or conviction at trial. The arbitrariness started at the charging level: nearly a third of these death-eligible cases were not charged as capital offenses as they could have been, but as lesser crimes. Sixty-six defendants were convicted of capital murder, 29 went to a hearing for a death sentence, nine death sentences were sustained and one person was executed.

Why was this small group of defendants singled out for death? Did their crimes make them more deserving of execution than all the others?


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