Help bring democracy to the US
The citizens are stirring on both sides of the Atlantic in defence of democracy. In the US an eminent group, including Michael Rattner, Gore Vidal, Ramsey Clark and many others has just set up the International Endowment for Democracy -- an appeal for international help that
"asks the people of the world to contribute towards helping to save (and institute for the first time) democracy in the United States."
It only hurts when you laugh. Meanwhile, in Europe, where electorates appear to be equally turned off by the kind of representative democracy they have to live under, direct democracy is flourishing, according to a new report in Accountancy Business and the Public Interest, a journal that may not, hitherto, have been everybody's favourite beach read. This issue, though, is worth checking out for the substantial report on direct democracy in five countries in Europe, downloadable free here.
The New oD Today
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China's modernisation and its discontents
The catastrophic 50 mile toxic oil slick that is blighting Manchuria is only one symptom of the growing problems of China's modernisation. In openDemocracy earlier this year, the deputy minister of the environment Pan Yue warned of the limits to growth that China's disastrous environmental degradation will impose. Chemical spills pass, but the degree of air and water contamination, the falling water tables, the loss of agricultural land and the creeping desertification are not easy to reverse. There is a more fundamental problem at the heart of this and other obstacles to China's political and economic health -- the turbid official reaction, the continuing preference for cover up over action, the lack of transparency and acountability in the Chinese political system that magnifies the effect of such events. In another symptom of a dysfuntional system, the Chinese government has been battling to contain the damage caused by a copper trader who placed a series of wrong bets on copper futures earlier this year.
Hey Mac users and oD lovers, check out the openDemocracy widget by Marcus Gilroy-Ware. It gives you updates on new articles directly on your desktop. You know you want it.
Don't be a lawyer in China
President Hu Jintao's visit to the UK has stimulated a discussion in the British media about whether Britain should stand up to China on questions of human rights and the rule of law , thus risking China's disfavour, or whether it's legitimate to concentrate on expanding economic ties and keeping criticism private. Tony Blair, asked what he would talk about with Hu Jintao, began his list with economic issues. His list never did reach human rights, or China's public desire that the EU arms embargo, imposed after Tiananmen, should be lifted.
The strange ways of Falungong
Hu JIntao, the president of China, is due for a big welcome during his two day state visit to Britain: not only does he get to stay with the Queen at Buckingham Palace, but the town is to be floodlit in red, in perhaps a misjudged attempt to make him feel at home. The East, of course, isn't really Red any more. Perhaps it's a sign that Chinese Communism has morphed seamlessly from threat to heritage, without passing through anything as definitive as collapse.
There are vocal opponents of the state visit of course. Mr Hu is a particularily resonant figure for the Tibetans, for instance, since he was party secretary in Lhasa in 1989, when Beijing ordered a brutal crackdown on demonstrations and imposed martial law, months before the more celebrated repression in Tiananmen Square. Also much in evidence in London over the next few days, though he claims the timing is a coicidence, is Chen Yonglin, formerly the first secretary of the Chinese consulate in Australia, who defected in June and has since been a vocal critic of the regime. Mr Chen appeared at what was described as a press conference in London's Foreign Press Association, along with three British politicians. The press conference was sponsored by an organisation identified only as the FSC Centre. Inquiries produeced the response that this was the "Future Science and Culture Centre" in Cambridge. You may be none the wiser, and nor was oD. But it began to feel like Falungong. And so it proved.
Now there is nothing wrong with Falungong putting its case against the Chinese government: they have as much right to do that as anyone else. But why the subterfuge? And why the video crews filming the audience, as well as the speakers? And why the still photographer taking pictures of everyone who asked a question? If Falungong advocates democracy and truth, as they say they do, how about a little transparency in their own operations?
An Anti-Uribe blogger in Columbia, links to Isabel Hilton's article, Álvaro Uribe’s gift: Colombia’s mafia goes legit and says he feels it shows that scepticism in the world is greater than the Columbian press - or government - would make it seem.
openDemocracy event in New York
Obviously, everyone in NY should come to this. I'm very excited about the speakers. Check out Anthony Barnett's interview with Mary Robinson about her human rights work from 2003.
In New York, openDemocracy, the The Carnegie Council for Ethics and International Affairs, and New York Society for Ethical Culture present:
"Is a FAIRER Globalization Possible?"
*Mary Robinson, former President of Ireland, and President of Realising Rights: Ethical Globalisation Initiative
It's a pleasant surprise to see openDemocracy's RSS feed included on the ArabAmerican.net news portal (in the right hand column). It's really simple to set something like this up. With more than 4 new articles a day, it's a good service too.
Response to Barnett and Hilton
Marc Schulman on the blog American Future, carefully uncovers what he says are leftist, anti-American flaws in Anthony Barnett and Isabel Hilton's recent democracy article on openDemocracy. "Dangerously naive," he says. Him or them?
Singabloodypore rallies behind openDemocracy and says it's time to fight back against threats to democracy and human rights.