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Thursday, 08 November

02:57

How can Europe survive the extinction of its ruling lite? openDemocracy

The problem of Europe is that it is like those Catholic marriages with no divorce clause which had the tendency to become a cage of mutual hypocrisy cheating, if not violent.

lead Still from Michelangelo Antonioni's L'Eclisse.What should Europe do in order to survive its darkest hour ahead of a European Parliamentary election that might deliver a stunning victory for those forces that oppose even the idea of the European Parliament itself? How can progressive intellectuals save ourselves from irrelevance and unearth the ideas that can relaunch values we have taken for granted for too long?

A spectre is, in fact, haunting Europe. Populists and sovereigntists are becoming the nightmare of the traditional European political parties, which are either melting away like the SPD in Germany, the Socialists in France, and the Democratic Party in Italy, or are in great trouble like the CDU in Germany or the Peoples Party in Spain. 

However, the real threat to those establishments are not movements that are too intellectually empty and too wideranging to present a coherent alternative theory to liberalism and to how the world has been governed thus far. The threat is their own intellectual obsolescence. Not one real idea, not even a small piece of strategy has been put forward so far by what used to be the European lites, by their think tanks, and academic circles. Consequently, any western intelligentsias have lost their footing: no longer can they make sense and communicate the complexity of our world, nor do they offer solutions or even visions of a future in which all can thrive.

Yes, Macron arguably the sole product of an Ancien Regime able to convincingly win an election has been talking about a re-foundation of Europe. And yes, the rather widespread, current consensus is that Europe can adapt to the twenty-first century only by radically transforming its nature and institutions.  

Yet where should these reforms begin?

We could probably start by saying that Europe is dying out of a twentieth century rhetoric that needs to be urgently refreshed. For too long European institutions have been burdened with too many expectations...

01:59

No way to run the world openDemocracy

 A decade after the financial crash, an epic repeat is on course.

lead United States President Ronald Reagan and Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher of Great Britain meet in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, D.C. on Wednesday, February 20, 1985. Arnie Sachs/ Press Association. All rights reserved.

Two reports by Swiss banks, published within a week of each other, offer further revealing evidence on the growth of a wealthy transnational overclass. Credit Suisse finds that the fortunes of the very wealthiest people in the United Kingdom (those owning over $50 million) have been growing at a much faster rate than the general population.

These ultra-high-net wealth individuals (UHNWI) number 4,670, an increase of 8.5% over the year. In the United States, the number is 70,540, with over 6,000 joining that group, making it the largest such category in the world; the next is in China at 16,510. In global terms the richest 1% own just under half of total assets (see Grinne Gilmore, "The world's super rich populations are growing but where is growth strongest?, KnightFrank, October 2018).

In parallel, a joint UBC-PwC report focuses less on UHNWIs overall than on the seriously super-rich, the worlds dollar billionaires. They now number 2,158 and collectively increased their wealth by $1.4 trillion in the past year. Much of the growth in wealth is taking place in the United States and western Europe, but a huge change in recent years is the increasingly transnational...

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Wednesday, 07 November

22:37

Why healthcare for all is a feminist issue openDemocracy

Health charges for migrants are hitting women hardest. Yesterday feminist activists changed the sign on the new Millicent Fawcett statue in Parliament square in protest.

Image: Protestors in parliament square yesterday. Credit: Feminist Fightback

Yesterday dressed as suffragettes, activists from Feminist Fightback changed the sign on the new Millicent Fawcett statue in Parliament Square from Courage calls to Courage Everywhere to Feminists demand healthcare for all, in protest against NHS charges for migrants.

We took this action because universal healthcare, like universal suffrage, is a feminist issue, explained Eleanor Smith, who took part in the action. This year marks 100 years since some women got the vote, but women under thirty and 2 million working-class women who did not meet the property qualification had to wait another 10 years. Today, there are exclusions too. Some people are eligible for free abortion and pregnancy services, which feminists have fought for, while others must pay enormous charges for the care they need.

Migrants who are not considered settled in the UK are now charged for these essential, life-saving services at 150% of the cost. Abortion is charged up front, costing 1,300 in an NHS hospital. Birth, including pre and post-natal care, is charged after the event and costs up to 7,000.

Hospitals may pass debts on to a debt collector who will harass the patient. In fear of debt, deportation or because they are unable to pay, some people do not access the healthcare they need, with devastating consequences. 

Beatrice came to the UK in 2012 from West Africa as a student and was disowned by her family after becoming pregnant. Because she did not have a visa, Beatrice was billed around 6,000 the day after her baby was born, a sum that is totally unaffordable for her. In the months after the birth, she was harassed by calls from debt collectors.

Its just me alone with my child. And theyre telling me you have to pay, when my child was four months. I almost went mad. I almost went crazy, Beatrice said. When they were calling me and saying I have to pay, I have to do this, there was a point I felt like just dying.

Beatrice ha...

19:00

From brothels to independence: the neoliberalisation of (sex) work openDemocracy

Sex workers in the UK are by now just another part of the online, freelance, customer-reviewed digital economy. Their story of how they got there exposes a dangerous shift.

Sex workers demonstrate in London in July 2018 against a possible prohibition of online advertising for sex work. juno mac/Flickr. (cc by-nc-nd)

On 8 October 2018 we published the BTS Round Table on the Future of Work, in which 12 experts explain recent changes to the nature of work and offer new ideas in labour policy, organising, and activism. This piece has been written in response.

For decades, the British sex industry has straddled both informal and illegal work. This is because while the buying and selling of sex is technically legal in the UK, everything that produces the exchange of sex for money advertising, employing support staff, renting premises, working collectively is criminalised. As a result, our workplaces in flats (small scale brothels), saunas, and hostess clubs have never been stable or safe places.

There has never been any job or income security in the sex industry. You only make money if it is busy, and the house takes a percentage of your earnings sometimes as high as 65-70%. However, up until recently, the way the system usually worked was that the flat manager would cover overheads. Buildings come with rent, utilities, and maintenance costs. Venues also need interior decorating, furniture, bedding, towels, equipment, and cleaning, and in our corner of the service industry also condoms and lube. Bosses would produce and place ads in newspapers and cards in red telephone boxes. They would provide security and often a receptionist, who would screen clients either on the phone or at the door. Similar arrangements existed for escort agencies, although in their case workers were often required to sort out somewhere to receive in-calls.

While we were never paid for the hours spent waiting for clients, and while we had to cover the cost of...

17:30

Degrowth as a concrete utopia openDemocracy

Economic growth cant reduce inequalities; it merely postpones confronting exploitation.

My Visit to the Mountain Homestead. Credit: Flickr/Eli Duke. CC BY 2.0.

The emergence of interest in degrowth can be traced back to the 1st International Degrowth Conference organized in Paris in 2008. At this conference, degrowth was defined as a voluntary transition towards a just, participatory, and ecologically sustainable society, so challenging the dogma of economic growth. Another five international conferences were organized between 2010 and 2018, with the latest in Malmo in August.

This year also saw the publication of Giorgos Kallis landmark book Degrowth, which opens with three bold statements. First, the global economy should slow down to avert the destruction of Earths life support systems, because a higher rate of production and consumption will run parallel to higher rates of damage to the environment. Hence, we should extract, produce and consume less, and we should do it all differently. Since growth-based economies collapse without growth we have to establish a radically different economic system and way of living in order to prosper in the future.

Second, economic growth is no longer desirable. An increasing share of GDP growth is devoted to defensive expenditure, meaning the costs people face as a result of environmental externalities such as pollution. Hence, growth (at least in rich countries) has become un-economic: its benefits no longer exceed its costs.

Third, growth is always based on exploitation, because it is driven by investment that, in turn, depends on surplus. If capitalists or governments paid for the real value of work then they would have no surplus and there would be no growth. Hence, growth cannot reduce inequalities; it merely postpones confronting exploitation. ...

09:33

For the sake of British-Irish relations also, the backstop gap must be bridged Slugger O'Toole

The urgent task now is to close the gap between Leo Varadkars idea of a review clause for all-UK temporary membership of the customs union and Theresa Mays. The essential first move is to discover what each means.  Both leaders are under domestic pressure for compromising already. Both sides are desperate for a deal, both economies would suffer severely from the chaos of a crash-out no deal. Both leaders would experience the bitter taste of failure affecting their own positions and British-Irish relations.

The importance of getting clarity quickly cannot be overstated.

We learn that the cabinet will take its decision on the proposal for an all UK customs arrangement,on Thursday  leading to the meaningful vote in the Commons on 27th November. Thats the plan.  For the British, the issue is whether they can exercise their independent judgement in deciding when to leave the customs union without triggering the backstop and splitting the Union, or being bound to the customs union  forever and denying the result of the referendum.

At todays cabinet meeting the Attorney General Geoffrey Cox who is the arbiter on these matters assured its members that a unilateral withdrawal mechanism would be no panacea; it would require another body to rule that the talks had broken down and so the UK could exercise its unilateral right. Nor would a mutual consent clause provide the EU with an effective veto. So in this judgement, there is all to play for. As pro- Leave ministers didnt rebel today, the assumption is that they will swallow Mays plan on Thursday, even though final withdrawal may not happen until 2022, the year of the next scheduled general election. For Remainers that opens up the possibility not to withdraw after all.

What about Michel Barnier who negotiated for Ireland and 26 others?  So far hes declined to speculate about what form a review mechanism might take, sticking to his mantra of being willing to consider amendment to the backstop.

In todays post-Troubles world, although each side has buckets of goodwill for the other, residues of ancient grievances remain.  Nationalism is affecting a new found superiority over the old enemy and a touch of schadenfreude at its Brexit  indecision. British unionism has fallen into a bigger sulk with its little friend across the water  for thwarting its will, than seems reasonable.

Two pieces from learned professors of the constitution  epitomise  contrasting  attitudes. The first is from Vernon Bogdanor perhaps the UKs leading authority of the constitutio...

03:33

Whatever happened to the left in Peru? openDemocracy

The left in Peru lives in the shadows of radicalism and party disruption, which explains why its participation in the Latin American Pink Tide was almost non-existent. Espaol

A Quechua woman walks by a graffitied wall in Ayacucho, Peru. April 2011. AP Photo/Rodrigo ABD. All Rights Reserved.

In Peru, there is no left-wing political option representing the demand for greater distribution and inclusion. The weakness of the left there contradicted the regions "turn to the left" in the decade of 2000.

In Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Ecuador, leftist forces took advantage of the voters' discontent with the neoliberal policies of the 1990s to sail into government. They were able to benefit from a commodity boom to fund redistributive policies, which helped them expand their constituency.

Today, after the commodity cycle has come to an end, the political results of these forces are varied. They range from the Chavista governance disaster in Venezuela to the still highly popular Evismo in Bolivia.

But even in the worst case scenarios, the left still shows signs of being an alternative force and a viable electoral option in these countries. This does not happen in Peru however. 

The consequences of the absence of the left in any country are significant. Steven Levitsky argues that leftist governments tend to implement redistributive and socially inclusive policies which result in the gaps between the population and the government decreasing, thus strengthening democracy.

In addition, the extent to which the left can carry out its representative function through a party organization (more or less formally established) helps to prevent the emergence of populism and political instability.

The absence of this sort of representation in Peru has led to the channeling of the demands for the redistribution of income from the commodity boom through a conflictive, chaotic and fragmented process, which has produced no major social results loc...

03:07

A new tale of migrant struggles in Moscow puts poverty, motherhood and hope on screen openDemocracy

This Russian-Kazakh film explores how people who migrate to Russia are often subject to forces far greater than themselves.

Ayka. Source: YouTube. The opening scene of Sergey Dvortsevoys film Ayka sets the scene for a tough, realistic tale. A flickering image of newborn babies awakens Ayka, a Kyrgyz woman, from her hospital bed in Moscow. As she goes to the restroom to get changed, her plan is clear: abandon the baby she just gave birth to. Her dreams of success, of emancipation from an unwelcoming world, ride roughshod over her own health and her newborn child. The warmth of motherhood transitions to the agony and frost that make up Moscows winter season as the viewer runs and stumbles with Ayka, who picks up some icicles from the street to numb the pain in her abdomen as she gets to work in a dodgy chicken packing shop.

This, then, is the life of an undocumented migrant in Moscow, one whose registration card has expired and is thus at the mercy of both rogue bosses and violent police officers. Studies show that between 8 and 10 million foreign workers live in Russia, most of them hailing from Central Asia. While specific sectors attract certain types of migrants, men and women from the post-Soviet south interchangeably take up jobs in cleaning, hospitality and other services. Increasingly stringent residence rules have made it easier for foreign workers in Russia to become illegal. And the recent economic crunch in Russia has not halted the arrival of labourers from Central Asia. Money transfers from migrant labourers in Russia sustain the economies of the poorest Central Asian countries; Kyrgyzstan remains one of the most remitt...

00:41

Varoufakis and Sanders: how to organize a progressive international? A contribution openDemocracy

The precariat is a new global class. However, this class needs political representation and social power. Can the Progressive International be one way to do this?

DiEM25 flagging up the new series in The Guardian.DiEM25. All rights reserved.

It is from the champions of the impossible rather than the slaves of possible that evolution draws its creative force Barbara Wootton

In September, Yanis Varoufakis, leader of DiEM25 and MeRa, made a declaration in which he called for establishment of a new international. Soon after that, Bernie Sanders symbolic leader of progressives and democratic socialists in the US supported that declaration by underlining the need for an international movement that will fight against injustices emanating from late-capitalism and rising neo-fascism. Both of them emphasized that this new international front is a must for all progressives around the world because neo-fascists are very well organized and on the verge of  grasping political power everywhere that there is an absence of a strong response from left.

The argument of the declaration is clear: as progressives we need an urgent response and the international could be one way to do it! It is apparent that this joint manifesto by Varoufakis and Sanders came at just the right time. But are progressives ready for this international movement? How can we, disorganized progressives, fight against organized capitalism and neo-fascism?

We believe that progressives need an agenda committing us to action and to organising ourselves for a fightback against the establishment. This article aims to contribute to this agenda and the discussion around what further steps are needed to establish a progressive international.

Worldwide social and political injustice

We argue that the world entered a stage where the crisis of the different geographies has a common root: social and political injustice. That is why, the call for a new international is extremely necessary in todays world. On the one hand, people are exposed to the increasing anxiety, anger, isolation and the precarity in their everyday life: on the other hand, they suffer from...

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Tuesday, 06 November

19:00

The Sexelance: red lights on wheels openDemocracy

A converted ambulance, the Sexelance is a mobile sex clinic offering harm reduction to the street sex workers of Copenhagen.

The Sexelance. Malene Anthony Nielsen/Scanpix. Used with permission.

When you open the doors to the Sexelance, you step into a sterile looking room. Theres lube in containers attached to the walls and condoms in boxes. Theres a blue folding chair usually used for blowjobs mirrors, and a little red light on the back door that illuminates the interior when the doors are closed. Though thoroughly transformed, its obvious that this first ever Danish sex clinic on wheels was once an ambulance riding through the streets of Copenhagen to aid the sick.

Today, the Sexelance serves as an alternative to the harsh realities facing street sex workers. In the car, they can sell their services under safer, more hygienic, and more dignified conditions than those on the streets. Its an easy sell for to sex workers, but their clients rarely find it as appealing. Many do not want to come with them into the car, and then the sex workers must choose: lose the customer or follow them out into the night.

The moral discussion over prostitution keeps many good ideas for protecting sex workers from getting off the ground.

The sterility of the experience is off-putting. Its not as if the sex workers want it that way. Theyd prefer for the Sexelance to be more cozy and sexy, but laws make that easier said than done. One of the reasons behind the clinical looking interior is that the Sexelance runs the risk of being accused by police, critics, and the judicial system of encouraging prostitution. Thats illegal in Denmark, even though prostitution itself is not. Its a distinction rooted in the moral discussion over prostitution that keeps many good ideas for protecting sex workers from really getting off the ground.

Dont come knocking if the car is rocking is a phrase often used by the volunteers of the car. But the motivation behind the car is no joke, and the last thing it is trying to do is to encourage prostitution. Its instead trying make the sex already being sold safer by giving it a secure place to take place. During the many years I have researched migrants and sex workers in the streets of Vesterbro, Copenhagen an area known for its red-light district the hotels there have shut their doors to the sex workers and their clients. Places where sex workers used to take their clients have been shut down because they were accused of aiding prostitution.

For the sex workers who arent working in a licensed brothel, this means they have lit...

11:17

Even if Theresa wins cabinet support for her all-UK customs arrangement, time is running out to knock it into shape for the negotiations Slugger O'Toole

In a nutshell, this is   the first problem Theresa May will confront from up to a dozen cabinet ministers this morning.

 We must have control of the backstop. If Theresa doesnt stare down the EU and win a mechanism that does this, the whole argument is immaterial as there is zero chance of passing the Commons. 

The Taoiseach indicated an openness to consider proposals for a review mechanism, provided that it was clear that the outcome of any such review could not involve a unilateral decision to end the backstop.

Then the Sun reports the chief whips maths. He tells her around 40 Tory backbenchers plus the DUP are prepared to torpedo any deal which keeps the whole UK in the customs union until  the backstop can be replaced which they fear means forever. With only 15 Labour MPs prepared to defy their own party whip and support  the proposed future economic partnership, the maths alone spell defeat for Mrs May.

When it comes to it of course, the facts on the ground may change, such as what the  review  mechanism might produce.  Somehow though, this piece of Micawberism doesnt rise to the challenge of events.

The FT reports the cabinet struggle from the other end of the telescope .

The prime minister is expected to warn her cabinet that time is running out to agree a deal and that the government will soon have to tell businesses to start spending money on planning for a disorderly no-deal exit. She is set to tell her pro-Brexit ministers they will have to cede ground to get a deal, after Mr Varadkar said the UK would not be allowed to unilaterally walk away from a backstop deal to avoid a hard border in Ireland. Mrs Mays aides admitted that hopes of a Brexit breakthrough by mid-November had faded. They said Britain was aiming for a special European Council meeting before the end of the month to sign off the countrys exit terms. Shes going to try to roll the cabinet, said one Eurosceptic Conservative official.    .

But even if she does roll  the cabinet,  May runs into her second  problem shaping an improvised idea for a all UK temporary customs arrangement  into a detailed proposal  to place in negotiation. And time is running out, reports RTEs Tony Connelly in several tweets.

The big question is whether or not the UK insists on a time-limit or a termination clause for the UK-wide customs backstop....

08:13

Faro (Algarve) Jonathan Fryer

035A9793-0B17-4A9A-B40A-62102583C97BProbably like many Brits, I have always thought of Faro as an airport: the gateway to Portugals Algarve region (or Orpington-on-sea). And as Lisbon and the Estoril coast have been such a magnet for me over the last 20 years or so, I never really thought about coming here. But the serendipity of having to get from Lisbon (for an autumnal long weekend) to a conference in Madrid in a few days time, meant that I thought well, why not have a day in Faro en route? I duly took a coach from Lisbon this morning: a smooth 3-hour ride through ever drier countryside, with many lovely trees, while outside the thermometer rose slowly but surely to 18C. Blue skies in abundance on arrival, and a relaxed lunch of delicious ravioli washed down with red wine in a small, friendly restaurant near the bus station at a modest price I havent encountered in the capital for years. (N.B.: Lisbon, having been totally off the tourists radar when I first started going there has now, alas, been discovered big time, and the locals are not entirely happy, thanks to crowded pavements, rising prices and young people being excluded from renting downtown studios as so many have gone Airbnb).

...

05:12

Whistleblowers say Arron Banks misled viewers on BBC Andrew Marr show openDemocracy

Brexit funder said staff working for his controversial Leave campaign were put on different contracts, and declared to elections watchdog. But evidence seen by openDemocracy tells a very different story.

Arron Banks on Marr, BBC.

Arron Banks has been accused by MPs of not telling the truth after whistleblowers told openDemocracy that the Leave.EU founder misled viewers about his controversial Brexit campaign on Sundays Andrew Marr show.  

Banks, who is now under criminal investigation over his 8m Brexit donations, told the BBC that staff at his Eldon Insurance company who worked on his Leave.EU campaign were put on separate contracts. Banks also claimed that this arrangement was declared to the UKs electoral watchdog, as is required by law.

But interviews with former Eldon staff and documents seen by openDemocracy suggest that employees regularly worked on both Bankss insurance business and his political campaign. There were no separate contracts for the Leave work. None at all. You were just told to do that at the same time as working on the insurance business, a former Eldon staffer told openDemocracy.

The Electoral Commission also said that it "has no record of Leave.EU reporting services it received from Eldon Insurance for the referendum."

Banks has been under pressure to explain the relationship between his insurance business and Leave.EU after openDemocracy revealed that staff worked for both organisations ahead of the Brexit referendum. Any such work in the months before the election should be declared under electoral law, and Mr Banks has repeatedly denied any such work taking place. In June, he told parliament that there was no overlap between Eldon and Leave.EU.

Damian Collins MP, chair of parliaments inquiry into fake news, said that openDemocracys latest revelations show that Banks is not telling the truth once again....

Monday, 05 November

22:27

Stop and search doesn't solve knife crime, so why not try something new? openDemocracy

Stop and Search is to modern policing what bloodletting was to ancient medicine - ineffective, but clung to.

Image: Stefan Rousseau/PA Images, all rights reserved.

Stop and Search is to modern policing what bloodletting was to ancient medicine. An ineffective cure, which, in the absence of alternatives, gets tried again and again, despite its propensity to make the situation worse. Each failure causes its proponents to double down and call for more.

This week a sixteen year old boy was killed in Tulse Hill, the fifth in six days, bringing the total number of homicides in London to 119 this year. In response, calls for increased stop and search have become strident. The response from politicians and police has been at best confused.  

As a recent report from police reform campaign StopWatch, drugs charity Release and the LSE has demonstrated, stop and search remains wildly disproportionate, ill-targeted and harmful. Despite a drastic reduction in total levels of stop and search: which have plummeted 75% between 2010/11 and 2016/17, black people were stopped at eight times the rate of white people in 2016/17.

And despite continual concern raised about the prevalence of knife crime, the overwhelming majority of stops were for suspicion of low-level drug offences. Two thirds of all searches were for drugs in 2016/17. Black people were stopped and searched for drugs at nine times the rate of white people, despite the fact that self-reported drug use is lower within the black community than the white. The picture painted by these stats is one of ingrained, and persistent discrimination. Discrimination that harms community trust in the police while doing little to remove knives from the streets.

Evidence shows that stop and search is a blunt tool for tackling knife crime, and may even make things wo...

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