Archive for the ‘democracy’ Category

China hammers dissent despite looming UN review

February 6, 2009
Days before China‘s human rights record comes under scrutiny before a key U.N. panel, the government’s grip on dissent seems as firm as ever.

By AUDRA ANG, Associated Press Writer

A petitioner holds a paper with a Chinese character 'Injustice' ... 
A petitioner holds a paper with a Chinese character ‘Injustice’ as she with a group of about 30 people from around the country stage a protest in front of the State Council Information Office in Beijing Friday, Feb. 6, 2009. Police have taken away at least eight citizens trying to air their grievances in front a government building, days ahead of a key review of China’s human rights record by the United Nations.(AP Photo/Audra Ang)

Government critics have been rounded up and some imprisoned on vaguely defined state security charges. Corruption whistle blowers have been bundled away, while discussion of sensitive political and social topics on the Internet remains tightly policed.

 

On Friday, officers stationed outside a government building in Beijing took away at least eight people — members of a loosely organized group of 30 who had traveled to Beijing from around the country, seeking redress for a variety of problems, almost all centered around local corruption.

One member of the group, Li Fengxian, a gray-haired woman from the central province of Henan, held up a sign with the character for “injustice” painted on it.

Li, 65, said she has spent years fighting officials in her village who she claimed give away a poverty allowance allotted to her family to other officials.

The police response underscores the government’s determination to keep control over a fast-changing society — even in the face of a U.N. meeting to examine China’s human rights record.

Read the rest:
http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20090206/ap_o
n_re_as/as_china_human_rights_2

 

“Erroneous” Western democracy not for China

January 18, 2009

China must build defenses against “erroneous” ideas involving Western-style democracy, a top government official said in comments published on Sunday, shooting down recent calls by dissidents for political reform.

China’s ruling Communist Party has stepped up efforts to stifle dissent and protest ahead of politically sensitive anniversaries this year, and amid concerns that rising unemployment in a slowing economy could fuel broad social unrest.

Jia Qinglin, China’s fourth-most senior official, demanded officials throw their weight behind the one-party state in an essay in the Party’s main ideological journal “Seeking Truth” (Qiushi), which was reproduced on major web portals on Sunday.

A Chinese soldier looks into the camera at the India-China trade ... 
A Chinese soldier looks into the camera at the India-China trade route at Nathu-La, 55 km (34 miles) north of Gangtok, capital of India’s northeastern state of Sikkim, January 17, 2009.(Rupak De Chowdhuri/Reuters)

“Build a line of defense to resist Western two-party and multi-party systems, bicameral legislature, the separation of powers and other kinds of erroneous ideological interferences,” said Jia, who is also head of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), a largely toothless parliamentary advisory body.

“Consciously abide by the Party’s political discipline and resolutely safeguard the Party’s centralized unity,” Jia said, calling on CPPCC members to strengthen “ideological unity.”

The essay comes weeks after hundreds of scholars, dissidents and former Party officials signed “Charter 08,” a petition campaign calling for open democratic elections and an independent judiciary.

Authorities have since detained prominent Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo and other rights activists over the manifesto, and earlier this month launched a crackdown on Internet pornography and other “vulgar” online content.

China’s Communist Party leadership faces a number of politically sensitive anniversaries this year, including the 20th anniversary of the brutal crushing of student-led pro-democracy protests centered on Tiananmen Square in June, 1989.

Tianasquare.jpg

(Reporting by Ian Ransom; Editing by Valerie Lee at Reuters)

Ukraine needlessly pokes Russia

January 16, 2009

As in 2006, many in Europe are again shivering through a dispute between Russia and Ukraine over natural-gas prices. But if only money were at stake, this row would be easily resolved, and gas would be flowing freely to the 18 countries downstream from the pipeline disruption.

Europe receives about 25 percent of its gas from Russia, and most of it travels via Ukraine. Kiev and Moscow will talk again this weekend, but they’ll have to put aside deep political resentments if they are to reach an agreement.

From the Christian Science Monitor

Workers inspect gas tubes in the main gas station in Vodice, ... 
Workers inspect gas tubes in the main gas station in Vodice, Slovenia. Ukraine prepared Friday to host a summit of eastern European chiefs of state ahead of new talks on its gas war with Moscow, as Europe batted aside a Kremlin proposal for a summit in Moscow to resolve a feud that has left millions of Europeans freezing(AFP/Matej Leskovsek)

The gas interruption has gone on for two weeks, but the underlying tensions stretch back further: to Russia’s invasion of neighbor Georgia in August, to Ukraine’s NATO aspirations, and to its “Orange Revolution” in 2004 that set it on a westward democratic course away from Russia.

The crisis tests Russia’s role as a reliable energy supplier and responsible world player. Last week, the Monitor’s View suggested that if Russia held up a mirror, it would see that its own policies exacerbate its economic and energy woes.

If Russia hadn’t spent a gusher on renationalizing its energy sector, for instance, monolith Gazprom wouldn’t be so desperate to raise cash and gas prices. If the hefty bear weren’t so belligerent toward its neighbors, Ukraine might not now have its own hackles up.

Read the rest:
http://news.yahoo.com/s/csm/20090116/
cm_csm/eukraine_1

Group: China fails to improve human rights in 2008

January 13, 2009

China failed to enact democratic reforms in 2008 despite promises to do so, a private democracy watchdog organization said Tuesday.

The statement from the Washington, D.C.-based Freedom House came as the group unveiled its 2009 “Freedom in the World,” report, an analysis on levels of freedom in almost 200 countries around the globe.

By DEBBY WU, Associated Press Writer

Asia researcher Sarah Cook called China’s progress toward freedom in 2008 “disappointing,” particularly following its promises to expand opportunities for free expression in connection with the holding of the summer Olympics.

“There were restrictions on Internet access even after there was some opening of that when the Games first began, and … a lot of attacks and incidents of foreign journalists arrested,” Cook said. “Meanwhile, local journalists continue to face a very difficult environment, including arrests.”

Tuesday was the first time Freedom House publicized its annual report in Taiwan, which Beijing claims as part of its territory despite the fact the two sides split amid civil war in 1949.

Tianasquare.jpg
This year marks the 30th anniversary of the Tiananmen uprising in Beijing

Read the rest:
http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20090113/ap_o
n_re_as/as_taiwan_democracy_report_1

Rethink Practice of Governors Filling Vacant U.S. Senate Seats

December 31, 2008

Barack Obama’s U.S. Senate seat was allegedly for sale in Illinois.  Then the tarnished Governor made a circus out of appoining a new U.S. Senator and there seemed a strong message in his news conference that the seat was reserved for African Americans.  Only.

Why shouldn’t the people decide?

Blago’s pick said the appointment was legal.  Great: but it that how we want one of only 100 national lawmakers to get into office?  He’s legal?  So is a lot of seafood….
.

Above: Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich, right, named Roland Burris to replace President-elect Barack Obama in the Senate. Photo: Amanda Rivkin for The New York Times

In New York, a lady with a big name and not much to say is the leading contender for the U.S. Senate seat vacated by Hillary Clinton.  The lady with the big name and lots of money hasn’t shown much interest in politics or issues previously and seems unable to articulate positions on many topics today, you know?
.
So in New York we have a celebrity auction for the U.S. Senate.  Why not decide on “American Idol”?

Why can’t the voters decide?

Governors appointing U.S. Senators seems to make a mockery of democrocy and takes away a key right and priviledge of every voter: to see, evaluate and decide for themselves after a “campaign.”

What we have now in these two “appointment” capers is a media circus of attention and vote by writers, reporters and pundits of the “high profile” possibilities.

These are the last people on earth I trust with my vote…

And if the voters are not asked to decide then put into place a “caretaker” system that allows a person of stature, wisdom and skill to fill the Senate seat while promising not to run in the next election.  At that time we can go back to an elected Senator with unknown wisdom and skill….

John E. Carey
Wakefield Chapel, Virginia

Related:
Blagojevich Playing The “Race Card”? Hurting Illinois, Obama, African Americans?
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Caroline Kennedy Has “Nothing to Say” (And Says It Badly)
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From CNN:
http://www.cnn.com/2008/POLITICS/1
2/31/illinois.senate/index.html

New York Gov. David Paterson speaks during a news conference ... 
New York Gov. David Paterson speaks during a news conference in Albany, N.Y., Tuesday, Dec. 16, 2008. Caroline Kennedy has told Paterson that she’s interested in the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Hillary Rodham Clinton, making her the highest-profile candidate to express a desire for the job.(AP Photo)

Does the bailout spree signal the end of democracy?

December 22, 2008

“A democracy will continue to exist up until the time that voters discover that they can vote themselves generous gifts from the public treasury. From that moment on, the majority always votes for the candidates who promise the most benefits from the public treasury, with the result that every democracy will finally collapse due to loose fiscal policy, which is always followed by a dictatorship….

“Great nations rise and fall. The people go from bondage to spiritual truth, to great courage, from courage to liberty, from liberty to abundance, from abundance to selfishness, from selfishness to complacency, from complacency to apathy, from apathy to dependence, from dependence back again to bondage.”

These words – the author is unknown – are particularly sobering today. In the past few months, Uncle Sam has bailed out Wall Street, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, home-owners, banks, and US automakers, while the incoming administration promises a massive infrastructure investment.

Thomas Jefferson
Thomas Jefferson

Is it any surprise that cities, counties, and states are jostling for space at the federal trough? Who’s next? Big Media? Big Sports? Agribusiness?

By Randy Salzman
Christian Science Monitor

With the bailout “mother of all precedents,” it’s become difficult for Washington politicians to say “no” to any special interest that’s too massive, too economically important, or too well connected to fail.

Nor can politicians forget the poor. Or the crucial swing voters in the “struggling middle class.” And they can’t ignore seniors – AARP members are very vocal.

Virtually every group today is trying to meet with the Obama transition team to convey the urgency of its “crucial” spending requests. My local paper recently informed me that our area university is preparing its wish list for infrastructure dollars. Even the National Council for the Social Studies and the American Sportfishing Association have sent pitches to President-elect Obama.

Have we gone from “rugged individualism” to the complacency or even dependency of the national trajectory quoted above?

At the time of America’s founding, the Federalist Papers discussed the dangers of democratic politicians being forced to count on the votes and support of citizens or organizations too self-involved or uneducated to realize that short-term individual or group gain often precludes long-term prosperity.

And Thomas Jefferson sought to deal with politicians’ catering to their constituents’ convenience by founding the University of Virginia (UVA). He wanted an informed, intelligent, and thoughtful population in hopes of helping democracy survive. Today, sadly, UVA is the area university I read about in the paper seeking funds for its infrastructure wish list.

Read the rest:
http://news.yahoo.com/s/csm/20081222/cm_csm/ysalzman

Caroline Kennedy Registered in 1988, “Hasn’t Voted a Lot”

December 19, 2008

Many seem overjoyed at the notion that a woman who doesn’t vote much may become the next U.S. Senator from New York by gaining only one vote herself: the vote of the Governor of New York David Paterson ….

*****

Caroline Kennedy wants to be the next senator from New York,  but her voting record is already spotty, the Daily News has found.

City Board of Elections records show Kennedy has failed to vote in many elections since she registered in the city in 1988 – including votes for the Senate seat she hopes to fill and numerous Democratic faceoffs for mayor.

ByErin Einhorn and David Saltonstall  
New York Daily News

Caroline Kennedy lacks political experience but she brings the ... 
Caroline Kennedy, daughter of former President John F. Kennedy, listens to a reporter’s question.  Kennedy is campaigning for the open Senate seat vacated by Hillary Clinton.
(AP Photo/Don Heupel)

“It doesn’t speak to a deep-felt commitment to the electoral process,” Baruch College political scientist Doug Muzzio said when told of Kennedy’s ballot breakdowns.

Records show Kennedy did not pull the lever for any of her fellow Democrats in city primary races for mayor in 1989, 1993 and 1997 and 2005, which Republicans went on to win three out of four times in the general election.

She was also AWOL for the primary and general elections in 1994, when Sen. Daniel Moynihan was running for reelection to the seat Kennedy hopes to hold.

Read the rest:
http://www.nydailynews.com/news/politics/2008/1
2/18/2008-12-18_records_show_caroline
_kennedy_failed_to_.html

New York Gov. David Paterson speaks during a news conference ... 
New York Gov. David Paterson speaks during a news conference in Albany, N.Y., Tuesday, Dec. 16, 2008. Caroline Kennedy has told Paterson that she’s interested in the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Hillary Rodham Clinton, making her the highest-profile candidate to express a desire for the job.(AP Photo)

It’s Caroline Kennedy’s Sense of Entitlement or U.S. House of Lords?

December 19, 2008

idea, wrong argument. The problem with Caroline Kennedy’s presumption to Hillary Clinton‘s soon-to-be-vacated Senate seat is not lack of qualification or experience. The Senate houses lots of inexperienced rookies — wealthy businessmen, sports stars, even the occasional actor.

The problem is Kennedy’s sense of entitlement. Given her rather modest achievements, she is trading entirely on pedigree.

By Charles Krauthammer

I hate to be a good-government scold, but wasn’t the American experiment a rather firm renunciation of government by pedigree?

Yes, the Founders were not democrats. They believed in aristocracy. But their idea was government by natural — not inherited — aristocracy, an aristocracy of “virtue and talents,” as Jefferson put it.

Read the rest:
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/ar
ticle/2008/12/18/AR2008121803175.html?hpid=opinionsbox1

The Rev. Al Sharpton, left, and Caroline Kennedy have lunch ... 
The Rev. Al Sharpton, left, and Caroline Kennedy have lunch at famed soul food restaurant Sylvia’s in Harlem, New York, Thursday Dec. 18, 2008. The late President John F. Kennedy’s daughter acknowledged Thursday that she is seeking to be appointed to the U.S. Senate seat held by Hillary Rodham Clinton, who has been nominated by President-elect Barack Obama to be secretary of state.(AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews)

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“I don’t know what Caroline Kennedy‘s qualifications are. Except that she has name recognition, but so does J-Lo.”

Rep. Gary Ackerman (D-N.Y.)

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Caroline Kennedy Not A Regular Voter

ByErin Einhorn and David Saltonstall  
New York Daily News

Caroline Kennedy wants to be the next senator from New York, but her voting record is already spotty, the Daily News has found.

City Board of Elections records show Kennedy has failed to vote in many elections since she registered in the city in 1988 – including votes for the Senate seat she hopes to fill and numerous Democratic faceoffs for mayor.

“It doesn’t speak to a deep-felt commitment to the electoral process,” Baruch College political scientist Doug Muzzio said when told of Kennedy’s ballot breakdowns.

Records show Kennedy did not pull the lever for any of her fellow Democrats in city primary races for mayor in 1989, 1993 and 1997 and 2005, which Republicans went on to win three out of four times in the general election.

She was also AWOL for the primary and general elections in 1994, when Sen. Daniel Moynihan was running for reelection to the seat Kennedy hopes to hold.

Read the rest:
http://www.nydailynews.com/news/politics/2008/1
2/18/2008-12-18_records_show_caroline
_kennedy_failed_to_.html

Caroline Kennedy, daughter of former President John F. Kennedy, ... 
Caroline Kennedy, daughter of former President John F. Kennedy, listens to a reporter’s question during a news conference at City Hall in Buffalo, N.Y. on Wednesday, Dec. 17, 2008. Kennedy is campaigning for the open Senate seat vacated by Hillary Clinton.(AP Photo/Don Heupel)

China Promises Human Rights Based “The Basic Situation of the Country”

December 12, 2008

President Hu Jintao has vowed that China will work with the international community in promoting human rights, state media said Friday, but the promise follows recent arrests of leading activists.

Hu said China would “base its human rights development on the basic situation of the country,” Xinhua news agency said, a caveat used by China to apply its own human rights standards.

Hu’s comments came in a letter to the China Society for Human Rights Studies to mark Wednesday’s 60th anniversary of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Several Chinese dissidents have been detained in the lead-up to the anniversary, including prominent dissident writer Liu Xiaobo, a leading figure in the 1989 Tiananmen Square democracy protests.

The detentions drew criticism from the United States on Thursday, with the State Department expressing “deep concern.”

Hu’s letter said China would “strengthen international cooperation, as it has always done, in the human rights field,” Xinhua said.

However, he indicated China would prioritise raising living standards for its people.

Faced with criticism over its human rights record, China typically replies that lifting people out of poverty through economic development is its key human rights priority.

Read the rest:
http://news.yahoo.com/s/afp/20081212/
wl_asia_afp/chinarightshu_081212052037

Greek fighting: the eurozone’s weakest link starts to crack

December 10, 2008

The last time I visited Greece, I was caught in the middle of a tear-gas charge by police in Thessaloniki – a remarkably unpleasant experience, if you have not tried it. My eyes were in screaming pain for an hour.
Protesters smashed up the shops on the main drag, broke the windows of my hotel, and torched a few cars.

So the latest four-day episode in Athens and other Greek cities comes as no great surprise. The Greeks are a feisty people. This is meant as a compliment – broadly speaking – just in case any Greek readers should take it the wrong way. Hitler was so impressed by Greek bravery that he accorded Greek soldiers full military honours, almost the sole example among captive nations in the East – or at least professed to do so at first.

That said, these riots are roughly what eurosceptics expected to see, at some point, at the periphery of the euro-zone as the slow-burn effects (excuse the pun) of Europe’s monetary union begin to corrode the democratic legitimacy of governments.

By Ambrose Evans-Pritchard
The Telegraph (UK)

Gallery Photo
Protesters throw stones at police in the Greek city of Thessaloniki

Note two stories in Kathimerini (English Edition)

“Athens riots spin totally out of control”

And an editorial: “Greece has gone up in flames and the concept of democracy and law and order has been eliminated”

Without wanting to rehearse all the pros and cons of euro membership yet again, or debate whether EMU is a “optimal currency area”, there is obviously a problem for countries like Greece that were let into EMU for political reasons before their economies had been reformed enough to cope with the rigours of euro life –  over the long run.

In the case of Greece, of course, Athens was found guilty by Eurostat of committing “statistical achemy” to get into the system – ie, they lied about their deficits.

Be that as it may. Greece’s euro membership has now led to a warped economy. The current account deficit is 15pc of GDP, the eurozone’s highest by far. Indeed, the deficit ($53bn) is the sixth biggest in the world in absolute terms — quite a feat for a country of 11m people.

Year after year of high inflation has eroded the competitive base of the economy. This is an insidious and slow effect, and very hard to reverse. Tourists are slipping away to Turkey, or Croatia. It will take a long time to lure them back.

The underlying rot was disguised by the global credit bubble, and by the Greek property boom. It is now being laid bare.

Greece has a public debt of 93 per cent of GDP, well above the Maastricht limit. This did not matter in 2007 when bond spreads over German Bunds were around 26 basis points, meaning that investors were willing to treat all eurozone debt as more or less equivalent.

Read the rest:
http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/ambrose_evan
s-pritchard/blog/2008/12/10/greek_fightin
g_the_eurozones_weakest_link_starts_to_crack